"Miscellany" Archives

August 18, 2008
Not-so-fond farewells

Someone, I think it was Mark Twain, once said that we ought to live our lives in such a way that we wouldn't be ashamed to sell the family parrot to the town gossip.

Me, I'll settle for never having my eventual obituary read like this one:

Dolores had no hobbies, made no contribution to society and rarely shared a kind word or deed in her life. I speak for the majority of her family when I say her presence will not be missed by many, very few tears will be shed and there will be no lamenting over her passing.

Her family will remember Dolores and amongst ourselves we will remember her in our own way, which were mostly sad and troubling times throughout the years. We may have some fond memories of her and perhaps we will think of those times too. But I truly believe at the end of the day ALL of us will really only miss what we never had, a good and kind mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. I hope she is finally at peace with herself. As for the rest of us left behind, I hope this is the beginning of a time of healing and learning to be a family again.

There will be no service, no prayers and no closure for the family she spent a lifetime tearing apart. We cannot come together in the end to see to it that her grandchildren and great-grandchildren can say their goodbyes. So I say here for all of us, GOOD BYE, MOM.

Some people make us happy when they arrive, others when they leave.

Posted by Russ at 03:33 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
This is so wrong

It's just after 9am, and for the first time in I don't know how long, I have stayed up late enough after work — I usually finish sometime between midnight and 1am — to see a sunrise.

I didn't stay up in order to see the sunrise, I stayed up to take Mycah to the vet as soon as they opened their doors. The sunrise was merely an unpleasant side effect.

As was the morning rush hour traffic. Sure, it's nothing like the misery I endured for four years in San Jose, but it still sucks.

I've taken her in to the Cat Clinic and the wonderful Dr. Hodge early before, but I'd always done so after a couple hours of sleep. Not so today. I used the wee hours of the morning to clear my backlog of South Park and New Yankee Workshop episodes from the DVR.

Mycah is spending the day at the vet in order to generate a urine sample. She has, in the past, been notoriously uncooperative, so by keeping her all day — I won't go to get her until maybe 7pm — she ought to produce for them. She'd better — after the grief she gave me when it was time to bundle her into the PTU this morning, I'm not ready to put up with any "I refuse to pee" nonsense from her.

In the meantime, it's my day off and I'm going to bed.

Update: she cooperated, and according to the vet, there doesn't appear to be anything wrong. I'll just have to keep an eye on her for a repeat of last week's performance.

I'll be picking her up at about 6:30, and bringing Kismet in at that time for his rabies update. Plus, he's been sneezy and snotty lately — he sneezed up what looked like a banana slug the other day — so we'll have a chance to find out if he has kitteh hay fever, or if there's something else going on.

Posted by Russ at 09:11 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
August 14, 2008
The short version

I'm busy, due in no small part to a change in employment status. (This change, I might add, is a Good Thing.)

Mycah seems to be OK now. Her appetite isn't quite up to her usual standards, but she seems otherwise fine.

My lawn, on the other hand, is pretty much dead, despite the bits of rain we've been getting. Maybe I should go out and water it in the wee small hours every morning before I go to bed.

Posted by Russ at 04:54 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
August 09, 2008

Unbelievably busy at work tonight, from the moment I got home from errands and PT, right up to the end of my shift at midnight.

I'm wiped out, mind and body.

I obviously didn't get a chance to give status on my PT progress or Mycah's vet situation. It can hold until after I've had my night's sleep. I promise, I'll be more lucid then.

Posted by Russ at 12:13 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
August 04, 2008
Monday miscellany

Mondays. Ugh.

Most people dislike Mondays because that's when they return to their humdrum jobs.

I dislike them because Mondays are the days I do all my chores — take out the trash, vacuum the house, do laundry, and so on. I try to get groceries on Mondays, as well, but it doesn't always work out that way. So, for the rest of the day, I'll be puttering around the house.

On the whole, though, I'm glad to be able to do as much as I can. Not too long ago, of course, I was incapable of all but the easiest household task. They aren't easy for me now, but they're getting to be less difficult. I can't believe how much better I am than I ever expected, and I'm grateful for it.

Tuesday, though, I am going to try to have a little fun — I'm going to do my utmost to make a trip to the rifle range. It's been about two years since I've been able to go, and I have some much-neglected hardware that needs to be given a workout. I'm confident I can schlep my wheeled hard-shell rifle case from the parking lot into the range, and once there I ought to be able to handle the usual walking up- and down-range target placement and marking activities.

My only concerns are the temperature — the range, indoors, has fans but no A/C — and the smoothness/slickness of the concrete floor. Too smooth and/or slick, and my cane will be slipping around. That would be a Bad Thing, indeed.

I may have to postpone, though; Mycah's not being her usual self. She seemed to be a bit off her feed at breakfast time today, she hadn't used the litterbox since last night, she's not been so stand-offish with Kismet and Packet, and she's moving a bit slower than normal. I had to call her repeatedly to come down for breakfast; usually, she's there ahead of me meowing with anticipation. I need to keep an eye on her today and make sure she's just having a bad day, as opposed to actually being unwell.

She had her 13th birthday just a month ago, but that doesn't necessarily make her an elderly cat quite yet. I'm more concerned about the diabetes and, to a lesser degree, her hyperthyroidism. Kidneys are a cat's weak spot, I think, so I really need to keep an eye on her potty behaviour. I hope the old girl has a few more years left in her. Kismet and Packet need to be swatted from time to time, and she's just the girl to do it.

Coincidentally, she has a vet appointment for tomorrow for her 6-month checkup. We'll see what the vet says.

Mycah's Potty Update: She used the litterbox while I was off doing my chores. She didn't just whiz, she whi-i-i-izzed. No poo yet, though. And she refused to come downstairs for her evening feeding. Not good.

Posted by Russ at 03:28 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
August 01, 2008
I do have the legs for it

If I had one, sure, I'd wear a kilt in public.

This... not so much. Except maybe in Bermuda.

Posted by Russ at 12:07 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
July 01, 2008
 We  They are the champions

Congratulations to the winners of this past weekend's 2008 Firecracker Couples Golf Tournament in Santa Barbara.

Left to right: Eric and Jen Lovette, Holly and Brad Emerson.

I'm pretty sure that's the biggest trophy my brother has ever had his hands on.

Posted by Russ at 11:19 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
June 25, 2008
Wednesday is my Monday

Today is the first day of my work week, and, boy, has it started poorly.

Sometime yesterday evening, my upstairs A/C ceased to blow cold air. I didn't really notice it until I had to go downstairs... the temperaturre differential was immediately apparent. So, I left a message for my HVAC guys requesting service ASAP.

They called me at about 9 this morning. I was, of course, pretty groggy after only a few hours's sleep, but I got the message loud and clear: they are booked solid today and tomorrow.

Outstanding. It's supposed to get up to 95° today.

And I couldn't get back to sleep. Superb.

So, I headed over to SCOTUSblog to see if the Heller 2nd Amendment decision was published today. Nope. They're really drawing out the drama on this one.

Signs seem to indicate that Heller will be a win for those of us who support 2nd Amendment rights. The question, it seems to me, is how far the Court will go in our direction. I'm hoping to hear the words "strict scrutiny" somewhere in the decision.

I'm considering celebrating by acquiring another firearm. Maybe a nice (and inexpensive) Yugoslavian SKS from Classic Arms. Good place to do business with, if they have what you're looking for. Over the past few years, I got my Swiss K.31, Czech VZ.24, as well as some accessories there. Good outfit, yep.

And though it seems unlikely at this point, if the Heller decision goes the wrong way, I'll get two. And a bucketfull of ammo.

Posted by Russ at 12:38 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
June 16, 2008
Chore day

I don't know what I was thinking.

Today being the day of the week I set aside for chores and errands, I got started at the crack of noon. Up, shower, dress, feed the cats, and depart to run errands.

I didn't have that many things to do — pick up cat food and litter at the Petsmart, get Mycah's meds and prescription food at the vet's office, and pick up some carpet cleaning supplies.

I think I bit off more than I could chew. Kitty litter and food are, of course, all the way at the back of the Petsmart.

Carpet cleaning supplies are all the way at the back of the Home Depot.

And since I was passing by, I stopped at the Target to pick up a cheap-o DIY bookcase, since I have way more books than shelf space.

Furniture is alllll the way at the back of the Target.

Then home... to unload all the crap from the pickup. And then take the trash out and wheel the bin down my treacherously steep driveway to the curb. Dragged myself up same driveway.

Then fed the cats again. Then hauled myself and my acquisitions up the stairs.

Going up stairs ought to be easier for me now than in February, but it isn't; I'm still having strength issues.

I've spent more time on my feet today than I have in a couple of years. I'm absolutely whupped, and I pretty much need to hit the shower again.

And I still haven't done any actual housecleaning. Sigh. I guess that's my day tomorrow.

At least I haven't fallen down.

Posted by Russ at 06:55 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
June 14, 2008
Flag Day

Via Ace o' Spades HQ:

Posted by Russ at 05:21 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
June 13, 2008
Time flies

How did it get to be Friday so soon?

I guess Fridays would be a bigger deal if they signalled the end of my work week. As it is, I still have tomorrow and Sunday to look forward to.

Posted by Russ at 01:12 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
June 10, 2008
Nice way to start the day

I rarely get fan mail... of course, there's little enough reason for it. But when I do, especially first thing in the morning after a terrible night's sleep, it's a Very Good Thing.

Let's hope the rest of the day goes as well.

Posted by Russ at 12:15 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
May 24, 2008

There is an age after which birthdays should cease to matter as occasions for anticipation and celebration.

That age is twelve.

Sure, there are noteworthy exceptions — landmarks, if you will. 16, 18, 21, 40 (maybe), 65 (or whatever retirement age is these days) and 100.

I suppose that in my case, attaining 46 was perhaps the littlest teeniest tiniest bit in doubt a year ago. Well, I made it. I think I'll celebrate by having a steak, or maybe pizza... if I can squeeze in a break from work. It's just another work day (second shift) for me, though it is also another a chance to again thank Mom for everything.

I'll skip the cake and ice cream, though.

Posted by Russ at 10:00 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
April 21, 2008

I'm off from work Mondays and Tuesdays; they have become my "errand days."

Because of the night-shift work I do, I am usually comatose until about noon. [Due to a minor episode of insomnia, I was out until about 2 today. Ugh.] After I wake up, I have the three priorities that all right-thinking people have first thing in the morning: brew up a cuppa joe, feed the cat, and clean myself up such that I can go out in public without disgracing myself or bringing shame on the family name.

Mycah insists on being fed the moment I step out of my room. I almost have her trained to the point where she knows that nothing will happen until after I've had my coffee.

Once those three things have been done, I have the remainder of the afternoon to get done all those things that that can't be done from the comfort of my desk. Trips to the grocery store or to the Post Office, physical therapy sessions, occasional visits to the veterinarian... anything that requires I leave the house. And I only have a few hours to get everything done.

Still to do today: grocery store, Post Office (sorry Mom, I'm slow), gas station, pharmacy, and Petsmart... not necessarily in that order. And when I get home, I have a couple loads of laundry to do, and the weekly Running of the Vacuum.

It's good to be able to get out of the house again. By forcing myself to do a lot — go, go, go — I'm improving my physical condition and speeding my recovery.

But it sure makes for a busy day.

Posted by Russ at 03:22 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
April 15, 2008
Tax Day

I hope everyone is enjoying their April 15th.

I talked to my Mom last night, and told her I'd mail some packages to her today. Then I remembered the date, and called her back. There's no way I'm going anywhere near a Post Office today. Except perhaps with a camera to record the annual day of carnage.

Having done my taxes early this year, I've noticed feeling a great sense of relief at not having to struggle with a deadline.

For those of you so inclined, those who are as un-thrilled as I of having to hand over large percentages of income to the most wasteful money-handling institution on the planet, I recommend "celebrating" Tax Day by also making it Buy a Gun Day. It's empowering.

Posted by Russ at 04:50 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
April 10, 2008
Paying it forward

While I was in the midst of my medical problems, I received a lot of support from quite a few people. Mom, of course, came and stayed here in NC — bored out of her skull most of the time, I don't doubt, between rounds of driving me to the doctors and doing those things around the house which I was incapable of doing for myself. My sister, too, made a few stops here to help. The two of them were invaluable; without their help, I'd have had to sell my house and move to some sort of single-story assisted-living facility.

No kidding. I was unable to fend for myself.

Many others provided moral support. I can't count how many emails I received, all full of encouragement. And there was at least one church congregation praying for me regularly.

The medical care I received was top-notch. My regular doc was and is as good a GP as I've ever dealt with. The neurologist I went to is one of the best in the country, and the neurosurgeon who drilled me is arguably the best neurosurgeon in the world. Plus, there were really cute nurses all along the way. Hey, I'm a man... you didn't expect me not to notice, did you?

Further, when I had a fundraiser going here to help offset my massive medical bills (which so far have added up to over a year's pay... egads) more than just a few people made donations to help out. It made a difference.

Now I'm in a situation where my past medical bills are all paid up, where the minor ongoing treatment (physical therapy, mostly) is relatively simple for me to handle... and I have my tax refunds in the bank.

I've always tried to be a charitable guy; I could do a lot better. I want to do better. So, I've recently seen a couple of situations where maybe I could directly make a difference, where I could give someone with insanely high vet bills some of the same sort of support that I was blessed to receive when I was down.

Moki is a tough little fighter with an undiagnosed neurological condition. If you think this reminds me of my own situation, you'd be exactly right.

LillyLu is another cat with enormous vet bills... particularly since her human is getting ready to have twins of her own.

Both those linked sites have orange "Donate" buttons in the sidebars. Go on, hit them. Every little bit helps. Big bits help, too.

For those of you who are charitably inclined, but feel the need to have tax deductability, there is the newly-founded Cat Friends Helping Friends. There are plenty of people-oriented charities, but as far as I know, there's just this one that helps people with big veterinarian bills. Go help them out.

Posted by Russ at 07:09 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
February 20, 2008
Eat My Dust, Losers

I got my tax refund checks, state and federal, in the mail this week.

Plus I got a letter from the IRS saying I'd overpaid on my 2006 return; they're sending me another check (a whopping $137) in a few weeks. Why they bothered with a letter without including a check is beyond me.

Despite my detestation of the IRS, its employees, their families, their friends, and everyone who has ever spoken nicely or had a kind thought about them, it sure is nice to be getting money back from them.

Am I being too unkind to IRS employees (their families, etc.)? I don't think so. Go read Ezra Levant's thoughts on denormalization.

There is nothing "normal" about a federal agency seizing a part of your income before it ever passes through your hands. There is nothing "normal" about the government laying claim to the product of your labor. There is nothing "normal" about being taxed on your productivity.

When someone other than you has a prior claim on the fruits of your labor, it's called slavery, which historically may be "usual" but it certainly ought not to be "normal."

IRS bureaucrats should not feel any more comfortable in their positions than Levant's inquisitor was made to feel.

On the whole, I'd just as soon not have them withholding money from my paycheck and then making me explain why I want it back.

Taxing my behavior, sure, I suppose can deal with that — because I have a choice. I can choose not to buy a new car this year. I can choose to buy guns instead of butter... literally... if I want. On the other hand, choosing to have a job with a paycheck isn't really a choice, given the alternative, is it?

I'm beginning to think those various flat/fair tax proposals have some merit.

Posted by Russ at 01:46 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
January 31, 2008
I Lied

Tuesday's post was, in part, less than the truth.

In point of fact, while I wrote it my Mom was already in the air on her way back to California.

After she had been here for such an incredibly long visit — since June, you may recall — she thought it might be nice to surprise everyone with her arrival back home. The only one there who knew of her arrival was my sister; someone had to pick Mom up from the airport limo drop-off point.

I had promised, though, that I wouldn't spill the beans to my brother and his family, or to any of my Mom's friends who have been checking the site here for status updates.

I am pleased to report that the surprise was complete.

Posted by Russ at 09:17 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
January 02, 2008
Grindstone, Prepare to Meet Nose

It's been just six days since my corrective surgery, and I think I'm ready to go back to work this afternoon. I'd have gone back last week had it not been for the complication.

I wonder how many emails I have waiting for me?

I wonder if I can remember any of my passwords?

Posted by Russ at 11:15 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
January 01, 2008
That's Finally Over

Good riddance, 2007.

2008 has got to be — will be — better.

Happy New Year, everyone.

Posted by Russ at 12:00 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
December 25, 2007
Good News

The Gospel of Matthew, verses 18 through 25:

Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly.

But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. "She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins."

Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet:

"Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel,"

which translated means, "GOD WITH US." And Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took Mary as his wife, but kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus.

Posted by Russ at 09:00 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
November 22, 2007

There's no sadness like the sadness of waking up on Thanksgiving morning to discover there isn't a turkey- and stuffing-filled stocking hanging near the chimney.

On the plus side, I don't have a sudden surplus of coal, either.

Posted by Russ at 10:20 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
August 06, 2007
Happy Birthday, Sis

My little sister is having her ??th birthday today.

No, I'm not telling.

Posted by Russ at 12:37 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
July 24, 2007

I've just read that Mike Hendrix of Cold Fury lost his wife in a motorcycle accident last Friday.

Condolences are not enough.

Posted by Russ at 08:55 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
July 20, 2007
That Was Quick

Just how, will someone tell me, did the past week go by so quickly?

"Time flies when you're having fun," they say. Apparently the same holds true when all you do is work and sleep.

Posted by Russ at 04:17 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
July 07, 2007

Anyone feeling lucky today?

Posted by Russ at 03:23 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
May 18, 2007
Friday Thoughts

I haven't been out to see a movie in months, not since last August. I can't really go now, until my condition improves, which is a shame — there appear to be a number of big-screen-viewing-worthy flicks this year.

I've never been a fan of the franchise, but check this out. Awesome, indeed.

Jerry Falwell died, and his detractors on the Left went insane with glee. Had the situation been reversed, I don't think we'd have seen anything like glee from Rev. Falwell. Regret would seem more likely.

And that's the problem with the Left. (Well, one of the problems....) They cannot or will not make the distinction present in the motto "hate the sin, love the sinner."

To those on the Left, hate is to be directed at their opponents personally, rather than to their opponents' positions or behavior. And then they have the audacity to call those of us on the Right "mean-spirited" and "hate-filled."

Amnesty? No thanks. I'm with Bob at Confederate Yankee... though I'll hold my re-registration until after any voting.

Posted by Russ at 04:56 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
March 28, 2007
Ad Copy

My brother is in the auto finance business. From him:

I made a special arrangement yesterday with a Honda dealership that allows me to offer 2007 Honda Accords that he has in stock at incredible prices. I can definitely get these cars for LESS than dealer invoice. I would like to help this dealer friend of mine clear his inventory, and help anyone who needs or wants a new Accord get one at an outstanding price, without the haggling process. Please feel free to share this news with friends if you like. (Please note - this is limited to the dealer's stock in inventory!)

So, if you're in the market for a cheap 2007 Honda Accord, drop me a line. Tell your friends.

This is my brother. Yes, he's reputable.

Posted by Russ at 03:44 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
December 25, 2006
Good News
For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given:
and the government shall be upon his shoulder:
and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor,
The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
Isaiah 9:6

Posted by Russ at 09:00 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
September 29, 2006

How did I go all week without posting anything?

Oh, yeah. I've been working on a project that has turned into something more difficult than I had anticipated. Well, I hope to be done with it within 4 or 5 days.

At which point, I'll have no more excuses for not posting.

Posted by Russ at 02:13 PM
September 21, 2006
The Malady of the Beast

Sick. Sick. Sick.

That's all. I'm going back to bed.

Posted by Russ at 01:46 PM | Comments (2)
September 07, 2006
If I knew anything about Zen Buddhism, I'd have called this post "A moment of Fruit Zen." But I don't, so I didn't.

Mmmmmm... watermelon.

Posted by Russ at 12:23 AM | Comments (1)
August 23, 2006
Not Posting, But Not "Not Writing"

I haven't been posting much lately, though not due to a lack of anything to say. I'm doing plenty of writing. The problem is, it's all for work, and it's all company confidential.

I just spent an hour writing an email to my management, detailing the perceived problems with a new and hugely unpopular automated system we have here, and making a number of suggestions for improvement.

I'm getting so loopy from looking at this problem, I actually suggested, using an "Old Yeller" metaphor, that the project be taken out behind the barn and shot.

Maybe I need a vacation.

Posted by Russ at 06:35 PM | Comments (1)
August 09, 2006
Nothing Comes To Mind

It's late. Too late. And I have a headache. But aspirin might give me an upset stomach.

I wonder if there's a remedy out there that doesn't involve taking pills. Maybe something I could apply directly to the forehead...?

I can't think of any such thing.

Posted by Russ at 04:00 AM | Comments (4)
July 08, 2006
Bits, Pieces

• An old friend of mine from college days, Colonel Mark Inch, recently assumed command of the United States Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth. There couldn't be a better man for the job.

• Be careful to whom you give your blog's keys while you're away.

• It has occurred to me that I had better not be required to evacuate a building in a hurry any time soon. The broken foot is something of a hindrance.

• Bill Whittle keeps teasing us. Have patience, grasshopper.

• How about "My boot. Apply directly to your ass." I'm with Beth: yet another product I refuse to buy because their commercials suck.

Victory is sweeeet.

Steve has too much money. Or time. Or both.

Posted by Russ at 10:33 AM
July 04, 2006
Happy Fourth!

Gigolo Kitty has a Very Special Holiday Message.

Posted by Russ at 09:29 PM
June 28, 2006
Light Posting

It's been pretty busy around here with the family visiting. So much on which to comment, so little time....

They're leaving this week, which takes away my excuse for not posting. And it's not like I'm going to be out training for a marathon....

Posted by Russ at 10:19 AM
June 21, 2006

The barbecue was good, though I think I overcooked the brisket. Bad, bad me.

The visiting family members are off doing things for a few days — my brother is golfing at Pinehurst, the rest of the family is off to Asheville.

Me, I'm just tired.

Posted by Russ at 12:21 PM
June 19, 2006

So... how 'bout them 'Canes?

Posted by Russ at 11:26 PM
April 17, 2006

Posted by Russ at 12:45 PM
March 27, 2006
Inciting to Yawn

I'm home from work. I haven't slept yet.

See "Pooped."

Posted by Russ at 09:43 AM | Comments (3)

Yes, it's 3am.

Yes, I'm still at the office.

Yes, as a matter of fact, I do want to soundly thrash the people responsible for my still being here, thankyouforasking.

Yes, I'm cranky.

Posted by Russ at 03:07 AM
March 14, 2006
Weird Referrer of the Day

I do not, in fact, have the answer to the question:

does bird flu start from blowing in chickens butts?

There are some mighty strange people out there.

Posted by Russ at 04:11 PM | Comments (1)
February 24, 2006
Rudy, Rudy, Rudy

Here's a great story.

Senior Jason McElwain had been the manager of the varsity basketball team of Greece Athena High School in Rochester, N.Y.

McElwain, who's autistic, was added to the roster by coach Jim Johnson so he could be given a jersey and get to sit on the bench in the team's last game of the year....

Go read the whole story, and be sure to watch the video.

I hope selling the film rights will set the kid up for life.

Posted by Russ at 10:40 AM | Comments (3)
January 04, 2006
Not Really

New Year's resolution: stop procrastinating.

Posted by Russ at 08:15 PM | Comments (1)
January 01, 2006

Happy New Year!

OK, enough cheeriness... I have to get ready to go to the office.

Posted by Russ at 01:24 PM | Comments (3)
December 01, 2005
The Gift

The following exchange took place earlier this week between my sister and my young niece.

Sister: "So, honey, what would you like for Christmas this year?"

Niece: "World domination."

*sniff* She makes her uncle so proud.

Posted by Russ at 04:31 PM | Comments (6)
October 31, 2005
Happy Halloween

Posted by Russ at 05:36 PM
This is Not Going To Be My Week

I've been overlooked for the Supreme Court yet again.... I figured third time might be the charm. Well, Alito looks like an exceptional pick.

My truck died today, too, so I'm thinking I might as well go for the "bummer, dude" trifecta.

What will be next, I wonder?

Posted by Russ at 02:08 PM
September 19, 2005
Yo Ho Ho

My broadband has been out all afternoon and evening. Just got it back. Someone at Time Warner Cable needs to walk the plank.


Yes, it is indeed International Talk Like A Pirate Day.

Now, where in North Carolina might a fellow find a dead man's chest and bottle of rum at this time of night?

Posted by Russ at 11:11 PM | Comments (2)
July 21, 2005

In naval parlance from the age of sail, the term "pooped" is used to describe what happens when a ship is struck from the rear by a large wave – travelling faster than the ship itself, obviously – which breaks over the poop of the ship.

Ha-ha-he-said-poop. Grow up, people. Think "poop deck."

In those days of yore, being pooped could be a disastrous occurrence. The wave could break through into the stern galleries (which were usually lightly-built glassed-in enclosures, like this) and flood the ship, doing rather a lot of damage along the way.

Not only could the mass of water damage the stern – invariably the weakest part of the structure of the hull – it could also push the ship's stern sideways, slewing the ship around, leaving it broadside to the next oncoming wave.

This is the deadly part. Since the only time swells or waves were likely to be higher than the stern of the ship was during a storm, the next wave striking the ship broadside had a very good chance of being big enough to actually lay the ship on its side, if not completely capsize it.

With the ship laid over, cannons weighing 5500 pounds or more could break free from their lashings – thus becoming the proverbial "loose cannon" – and severely damage the internal structure of the ship or, more dangerously, punch a hole through the side. If the ship happened to be laid over by a wave and a cannon went out through the side, water would rush in and the ship would be doomed.

Even if the cannons' lashings held, and even if all the other heavy objects aboard stayed in place, the framing and planking of the hull could be sprung loose, allowing seawater to flood through the gaps. The ship would be doomed.

Clearly, being pooped was an exceptionally bad thing.

This is the kind of thing you think about when you've gone all night without a wink of sleep.

Man, I'm pooped.

Update: Wow, it's a regular link-o-rama around here. Be sure to check out all the fine blogs that have tracked back.

Update 2: Welcome, MSNBC visitors – glad to have you here. Stick around, take a look around; lots of good stuff in the blogrolls.

And if you feel compelled to hit the Amazon or PayPal tipjars, I'm not going to stop you.

Addendum: If you'd like to learn a little bit about the "Age of Sail" without cracking open a book, I'd highly recommend giving this movie a viewing.

Posted by Russ at 09:49 AM | Comments (11)
July 12, 2005
Just Because I Can


Say that five times fast. I dare you.

Update: Floccinaucinihilipilification. I double dare you.

Posted by Russ at 02:27 PM | Comments (1)
June 28, 2005
Another Test

Move along....

Posted by Russ at 04:10 PM | Comments (1)

Just a test... nothing to see here.

Posted by Russ at 03:16 PM
April 28, 2005
Not Vacationing

Sorry for the lack of posting... I've been busy this week, and too tired at night to think straight.

In lieu of original content, here's a picture of naked chicks with guns:

Posted by Russ at 04:44 PM | Comments (3)
April 21, 2005

At the grocery store, beef was on sale in a big way. Full sirloin primals*, ranging from 10 to 15 pounds, on sale for $1.79/pound. Since ordinary ground beef was selling for $2.59, I figured the worst that could happen was that I'd have ten pounds of inexpensive ground beef. I searched through the refrigerated bin for a small one with minimal fat. No sense paying for something I wouldn't be eating.

I asked the butcher what my carving options would be with such a hunk of beef, and he was good enough to show me the right places to slice to get steaks and roasts, and even a combination thereof.

Armed with this knowledge and, as soon as I got home, my trusty toadsticker chef's knife, I went to work on the sirloin.

I knew I was in trouble when, after trimming off the fat that can never be completely avoided, I realized that half an hour had passed. Half an hour? How did that happen?

Following the trimming, slicing the steaks off was simplicity itself. Separating the remainder into roasts, however, was a challenge. Frankly, I don't know how the guys working behind the meat counter do it. OK, OK, sure — they do it all the time, but still... this wasn't easy. It was like performing surgery while wearing boxing gloves: you can see where you have to cut, and you can see the little bits you ought to remove, but actually doing it is a different matter altogether.

It's a good thing I never wanted to be a butcher.

Suffice it to say, however, that I now have about 8.5 pounds of beef bagged and tagged in the deep freeze, and about 3/4-pound of fat in the garbage.

There was a nice 12-ounce steak too, but it seems to have disappeared.... along with the horseradish. It's pretty odd how that happens, isn't it?

* If you watch Good Eats, you know what a "primal" is. If you don't watch, shame on you. The primal is the large chunk of cow from which the cuts one normally buys — sirloin steak or rib roasts, for instance — are butchered.

Posted by Russ at 11:01 PM | Comments (1)
April 15, 2005
Easily Entertained

I'm half tempted to grab my camera and head down to the post office this evening to observe all the people posting their tax returns at the very last minute. I'd laugh and laugh and laugh.

Sometimes the simple pleasures are the best.

Posted by Russ at 03:39 PM
March 19, 2005
I Knew It Was Good

Well, this BBC item is cool:

South Korea's spicy fermented cabbage dish, kimchi, could help to cure bird flu, according to researchers.

Scientists at Seoul National University say they fed an extract of kimchi to 13 infected chickens - and a week later 11 of them had started recovering.

Kimchi is a preparation of pickled and spiced cabbage (radish and cucumber are also popular) which is then fermented (though it is quite good fresh, too.) By "spiced," I mean hot — hot red peppers seem to be the main spice, though garlic is also involved.

I first sampled it when I was a student at the Defense Language Institute back in '86, and there was no looking back. My subsequent 2½ years stationed in Korea were gustatory heaven for me. Korean food remains one of my favorite cuisines.

And now here in North Carolina, I can get kimchi by the jar at the nearby Lowe's grocery store. It goes great on hamburgers, though when I have it I usually eat it straight, as a side dish with pretty much anything.

I am safe from the bird flu. [Not that we humans actually get the bird flu... uh... do we? Oh, dang.]

Just don't stand downwind of me.

Update: I see Kevin at Wizbang has also noted the story.

Posted by Russ at 06:09 PM | Comments (2)
March 17, 2005
Wearing of the Green

Is there enough green on this page?

Being Dutch on my Mom's side, I grew up with the notion that we were supposed to wear orange instead of green on Saint Patrick's Day. Perhaps that's a by-product of the intense anti-Catholicism of the Dutch Calvinist camp. That sort of attitude is understandable, given the anti-Reformation persecution conducted by Rome in centuries past.

But those centuries are past. The differences between Catholicism and mainline Protestantism are not actually numerous, though they are doctrinally profound... but burning at the stake does not exactly remain a threat to those of us who dissent.

In Ireland, sectarian differences are used as rallying cries for partisans on both sides, though I think it's been fairly well established that the IRA is primarily not a religious group but a Marxist-leaning political group that cynically uses anti-Protestantism as a surrogate for its anti-British agenda. In turn, their political opponents have turned to anti-Catholicism to energize their followers. As a result, honest Catholics and Protestants both suffer.

There is much more that binds Catholics and Protestants to each other than separates them, and many people would be better off if we all started acting like it. Compared to the differences between Christianity and (e.g.) Islam, denominational differences within Christianity are nearly trivial.

Posted by Russ at 10:24 AM | Comments (3)
March 12, 2005
Pre-dawn Bloggery

You know you're tired when you collapse on the bed and fall asleep while fluffing the pillows.

That's not bad, really, but it always feels weird to wake up at 4:00 in the morning fully-clothed, with the lights and TV still on.

Sunrise is at about 6:30 this morning. I wonder if I should just stay up to go out and watch it.

Posted by Russ at 04:35 AM | Comments (1)
March 11, 2005

Ah, yes... it's that time of year again.

I'm either going to have to work up more Scotland-relatedness [if that's possible... I think I used it all up last year], or I'm going to have to invest in more of this sort of thing.

Do I hear The Macallan calling my name?

Posted by Russ at 06:44 PM | Comments (1)
March 10, 2005
No no no no no...

Why is Darius Rucker doing cheesy Burger King commercials?

Whether you actually like Hootie & the Blowfish or not, you have to admit the man has talent. How he ended up selling burgers is beyond my ken.

Posted by Russ at 12:05 AM | Comments (3)
February 25, 2005
Capital Idea
Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

— the 8th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States

For many people, the "and" in "cruel and unusual punishment" is read as if it were an "or" — if the punishment is either cruel OR unusual, it fails to pass Constitutional muster. Even the Supreme Court has gone down this path in the past... leaving us with the annual spectacle of Charles Manson's parole hearings.

But the more I consider the 8th Amendment, the more I think the Founding Fathers intended the expression "cruel and unusual punishment" to be used exactly as written, in Boolean fashion; that is, a punishment must be both cruel AND unusual to be Constitutionally prohibited.

In Boolean logic, the AND means that both the expressions to be tested ("cruel", "unusual") must be true for the whole expression to evaluate as true; if one expression is true and the other false, the entire expression evaluates as false. This would give us four ways to evaluate whether a punishment for a crime meets my 8th Amendment test:


Would it be unusual to sentence a petty shoplifter to have to wear a sign on his back proclaiming his status? Perhaps. But cruel? No.

Now, I said all that to say this: despite the qualms of a sizeable number of people in this country, I never have had a problem with the death penalty.

Is it cruel? Perhaps — it is certainly extreme. It would depend on the method used to carry out the execution, I suppose... but we don't have a history of putting people into shredders for their crimes. The needle is alleged to be humane, but I don't see how it is any more humane than, say, a properly administered hanging or firing squad. I will grant that it's not as messy....

But is it unusual? The principle of "letting the punishment fit the crime" emphatically says no. That "no" makes it an acceptable punishment, in my opinion.

Indeed, I would go so far as to suggest that capital punishment ought to be extended to crimes other than intentional homicide. Crimes which ruin lives ought to be liable to the same punishment as crimes which end lives. Violent rape and child molestation come immediately to mind. I suspect a large percentage of people might agree with me on those, and perhaps on others as well.

I'm partial to the idea of treating massive cyber-vandalism the same way we treat terrorism, for instance. Virus writers can all die now, as far as I am concerned.

If you steal a little old lady's life savings, forcing her into poverty for the remainder of her life, I might sponsor the necktie party myself. Horse thieves used to be hanged in this country, after all.

I wouldn't object to a few prosecutions for treason, either.

Or am I totally off-base here?

[Welcome, Wizbang readers!]

Posted by Russ at 07:04 PM | Comments (1)
February 24, 2005
Hiatus... not.

I'm not on hiatus, or sabbatical, or vacation, or anything of the sort. I've simply been uninspired.

Actually, that's not quite right. I am inspired — there are plenty of things I'd like to say — but I seem to have some version of writer's block. Shouting poorly-crafted slogans is about all I'm capable of this week, it seems, and that's hardly what I'd call good writing. It's certainly not worth memorializing with a post here.

[OTOH, if I were a lefty bomb-thrower, poorly-crafted slogans would be my stock-in-trade.]

As one who has done rather a lot of rather good academic and technical writing (my professors and customers thought so, at least) I've rarely been unable to gather my thoughts in written form. Indeed, I'm usually far better at communicating serious thoughts in writing than via the spoken word... probably because in over two dozen years of adult life I have mostly lived the life of a hermit, crowded barracks and apartments notwithstanding.

So when I can't string together intelligent commentary despite my sincere desire to do so [Ward Churchill, I'm looking at you] it's like a mental version of my periodically recurring back injury — when bedridden, I can only watch the world go by my window, but not participate.

That stinks.

Posted by Russ at 05:23 PM
February 16, 2005
Dating Preferences

Steve of Hog on Ice, while pointing out the obvious disadvantages of dating divorced women with kids, correctly notes:

There are worse things than being alone.

He's right.

But there aren't many things worse.

Trust me on this one. I am, after all, an expert on being alone.

Posted by Russ at 07:05 PM | Comments (2)
February 14, 2005
Saint's Day

Of all the saints on the roster, who decided that Saint Valentine of Rome was the saint we had to memorialize every year?

St. Valentine is the patron saint of:

  • affianced couples
  • betrothed couples
  • engaged couples
  • happy marriages
  • love

Perhaps it is no coincidence that he is also the patron saint of greeting card makers.


But there are plenty of other saints on call if a holiday is needed. For those who go a bit overboard for St. Valentine's Day, mark your calendars: August 30 is St. Fiacre's Day. He's the patron saint of... well, look it up.

Posted by Russ at 10:50 PM
February 04, 2005
If Thy Eye Offends Thee...

CNN's Jeanne Moos did a report that aired tonight — "Giving the Finger."

[Video is, for the time being, accessible here (scroll down). I don't know how long it'll be there.]

They showed pictures of a number of web pages featuring Americans who showed their support for the Iraqi elections by inking their fingers and posting photos.

Including this page at GOPbloggers.org.

For a moment, it seemed the eyes of America would be safe. But it was not meant to be. CNN scrolled down the page, and captured this:


All across the land, CNN viewers were driven to the edge of despair and madness — and beyond — by the horrible visage.

Nonetheless, I may be insufferable for a couple of hours.

Posted by Russ at 11:06 PM | Comments (8)
February 03, 2005
Memento Patris

Not only have I had a writing drought, but I have been pretty lax in my browsing as well.

How else could I have missed the news of a new baby in the family of Brian B. of Memento Moron?

Still, that's no excuse.

So, go congratulate Brian, before the diaper duty overwhelms him!

Posted by Russ at 03:38 PM
January 27, 2005
We Get Results. Sort Of.

After repeatedly haranguing James Taranto to start using the

<a name="[insert-name-here]"></a>
"named anchor" tag at OpinionJournal.com's Best of the Web page, I see that indeed there is some minor usage.

Like here.

Full disclosure: I discovered today that there was at least one such tag in the page I last linked... but none at the item to which I was trying to direct readers. And I am shocked (shocked!) to find that the item to which I linked the first time I bloviated on the matter has since had an anchor added.


Thanks, James!

Now, if you guys could make it SOP to have permalinks to each and every item....

Posted by Russ at 06:42 PM
First Cousins, Unremoved

While googling and clicking around to try to find out exactly what the blood relationship is between "second cousins" — I never really understood the whole "first cousin twice removed" or "second cousin once removed" thing, or indeed anything more complicated than "cousin" — I ran across Cousin Couples.

For the record: no thank you.

OK, OK, I know that historically and culturally in most places on Earth, there is nothing wrong with first cousins marrying each other. Indeed, in some places in the world, there's no one but cousins to marry. To this day, it is apparently acceptable (or at least legal) in most places in the world, including every country in Europe, in Japan, Mexico, and Canada. Indeed, I have distant Canadian relatives who I believe are first cousins married to each other, though I may be misinformed on the matter.

The cultural taboo against cousin marriage in this country is another thing altogether, perhaps because it is illegal in most (but by no means all) of the States, though maybe the cause and effect are the other way around. Certainly, all the "inbred hillbilly" jokes haven't exactly made the practice much respected in this country.

I have plenty of cousins, and I love them all.

Just not that way.

Posted by Russ at 08:11 AM | Comments (1)
January 23, 2005
Google "Fun"

A glance through my referrer logs can be informative, if not actually entertaining. What is it that brings people to this site? What pages are they seeing?

I'm not particularly proud of that one.

That one is a bit out of date. Maybe I should add a link to that post that points to better information.

Heh. Sounds like the name of a really awful band. The Bangles' evil twins.

I'm not sure what's more pathetic, people clicking through 3 pages of search engine results to find information from me on color-changing paint, or me actually doing this post.

Yes, I am bored today.... I guess I'll do some housework. That carpet could use some shampooing....

Posted by Russ at 12:03 PM | Comments (2)
January 06, 2005
Blame God?

In light of the Indian Ocean tsunami and the damage it has wrought, some ask "why would a just and merciful God allow such a thing to happen?" Here are two columns from yesterday that are worth reading:

Michael Novak: Blaming God First:

What can biblically informed believers reply to those who, contemplating the massive destruction and death in today's Asia, blame their God (a God in Whom those who do the blaming do not believe)?

Confronted with this demand — confronted with it, actually, quite often in my lifetime — I think first of this: Since those who ask it do not believe in God, the question is not what it seems to be. The real point of the question is to get me to groan inwardly by agreeing that the one who thinks he is my superior is correct, after all. The real point is to get me to deny the reality of God.

Cal Thomas: God and Suffering:

Here's another question for those who ask the other questions: If catastrophe proves there is no God, does charity prove He exists? Individuals in Britain have contributed millions of pounds to the tsunami survivors, more than their government. Most of the world's charities helping in the effort are Christian and American.

Indonesia is the world's largest Muslim nation, yet Muslim nations, including the fabulously wealthy Saudi regime, have given chump change compared to those countries with majority Christian populations. Don't expect Christians, or Americans, to gain points with those who believe America is the "Great Satan."

There aren't any easy answers, but Novak and Thomas get the ball rolling.

Posted by Russ at 03:12 PM | Comments (1)
January 01, 2005
Partying Like It's 1999

There is, it seems to me, something fundamentally wrong with taking vitamins and chasing them down with a beer.

Posted by Russ at 02:30 PM | Comments (2)
Wait... Another One?

Happy New Year.

Posted by Russ at 12:00 AM
December 31, 2004
Best of 2004

I thought about doing a "Best of TacJammer - 2004" post, but as I look back at my output here for the last year, I am chagrined to realize that while I doubled the number of posts this year over 2003, I haven't written nearly as much, as well, or as in-depth as I had hoped or wanted.

It's doubly a shame, since I usually have a lot floating around in my brain that I could write about. And, frankly, I'm not a bad writer. Pity the 'sphere doesn't demand much in the way of technical manuals.

Rather than a "Best of," perhaps a few of my personal favorite posts will suffice.

Posted by Russ at 05:53 PM
December 24, 2004
When You Care Enough To Send The Very Best

The Rev. Donald Sensing has posted his Christmas Eve sermon.

Posted by Russ at 03:12 PM | Comments (1)
December 23, 2004
Snake Oil

Nyquil... "the nightime sniffling sneezing coughing aching stuffyhead fever so you can rest medicine."

More appropriate, I think, is "the knock you just far enough on your butt so that the symptoms just don't bother you and you can get some sleep... and sleep you will — far more than you planned or wanted... medicine."

At least I'm well-rested. But I imagine the people down the street are complaining today about the odd coughing noises that kept them up all night.

Posted by Russ at 01:22 PM | Comments (1)
December 16, 2004
As if you weren't already bloody sick & tired of the sight of me

Is it the weekend yet?

Posted by Russ at 11:56 AM | Comments (1)
December 13, 2004
Busy Week

I'm very busy for most of this week. No posting 'til the weekend, I expect.

Until then, click on the blogroll buttons (over on the left there) to visit some great blogs.

Posted by Russ at 10:53 AM
November 30, 2004
Keep Your Distance

Master chef in training, here. Good and getting better. And just for the record: I love garlic.

You may not want to stand too close to me for the rest of the day week.

Posted by Russ at 07:02 PM | Comments (2)
November 26, 2004
Road Music

After driving through territory this week in which virtually the only music on the radio is country/western, I am now convinced I need to change the oil in a dog, play fetch with a woman and snuggle with a pickup truck.

I may have misunderstood what I was hearing.

Posted by Russ at 10:23 PM | Comments (3)
November 25, 2004

Thank you. For everything.

Posted by Russ at 11:34 AM
November 24, 2004
Home Again

Well. That was a journey and a half. More later.

Posted by Russ at 09:45 PM | Comments (1)
November 22, 2004
On the Road Again

Did I say "intermittent?" Try nonexistent.

I'll probably be back on Wednesday.

Posted by Russ at 11:58 PM
November 17, 2004
The Legend of Me

If I were the scion of a late 18th/early 19th century Spanish Don in old California, wearing a mask, buckling my swash and protecting the péons from the depredations of the ruling elite with the skill of my blade, but all the while feeling as sick as I do today, I'd be known in myth and legend as El Crappo.

Today, laptop and digital camera in hand, El Crappo rides.

I'll be back in a week. Blogging from the road may be intermittent.

Posted by Russ at 08:35 AM | Comments (3)
November 16, 2004
The Road to Wellville

My week-long road trip starts tomorrow, and I still feel like slightly warmed-up dog crap. At least, I presume this is how canine excrement would feel if it were briefly held over an open flame.

Someone please medicate me.

On the plus side, if I'm sick today, I might be well again by the time I get to where I'm going.

Ya, right. As long as I'm wishing, I'd kind of like a million dollars, too.

Posted by Russ at 10:16 AM
November 14, 2004
Men in Skirts II

[The following is NOT a paid presentation.]

Once in a while during my daily browsing I just start clicking other peoples' blogads to see where they lead. Not that I'm actually doing any shopping, but I find myself interested and, alternately, amused or appalled by the things people will sell.

Today's find, via Powerline, has a tagline that caught my eye: "Still Bloggin' in your PJ's?"

The advertiser was Sport Kilt. Interesting enough on its own; I think kilts are pretty darn comfortable, and I keep expecting them to "catch on" here in the US. I'd wear one [not commando style.]

It would be much more acceptable nowadays for a fellow to wear a kilt in the course of a normal day than it would have been, say, twenty or thirty years ago... but I bet a guy would still get some funny looks.

As I looked around the Sport Kilt site, something in their "Wall of Fame" really caught my eye: photos of US servicemen, some in Iraq, in kilts.

The only fiddly little objection I have is that many people wear tartans of clans or other groups of which they aren't members. I'd never wear a Campbell tartan, for instance; I'm not a Campbell.

Fortunately, there is a tartan I'm entitled to wear. Otherwise, I might have to settle for Woodland Camo. Maybe I'll do something about it in time for next year's Tartan Day.

Posted by Russ at 12:25 PM
November 08, 2004

Wow. A whole weekend away from the internet.

Last week sure was fun, no? I think I read a novel's worth of blog entries over the course of the week. I probably could have written a chapter or two of commentary myself. Not that it would have been particularly insightful commentary....

It does lead me to believe that the more successful bloggers don't read quite as much — they just have the art, skill and/or magical ability to find the good stuff to read before they write.

I wonder if I ought to spend more of my internet time doing analysis and commentary on two or three things, rather than reading everything that crosses my path every day and commenting on none or one.

If there was an online version of the local weekly paper, then I might be a thorn in their side their unofficial ombudsman, but the Apex Herald isn't... oh, wait.

Talk about a niche blogging market.

Posted by Russ at 07:03 AM
October 31, 2004
Happy Halloween!

Posted by Russ at 05:42 PM
October 29, 2004
Conspiracy Theory

A Kerry cousin was a close friend of Lee Harvey Oswald.

Make of it what you will... preferably nothing.

[Though if it were a Bush cousin, you know precisely what the moonbats would be howling, don't you?]

[OK, OK, now I'm leaving.]

Posted by Russ at 12:22 PM
October 26, 2004
Commando Tactics

I was fresh out of the shower; my shirt, pants shoes and socks were all upstairs with freshly-towelled-off me. Skivvies, on the other hand, were all in the dirty clothes hamper or downstairs in the laundry room, stacked on the dryer, leading to something of an epiphany.

There is something deeply and fundamentally liberating about "going commando."

[Jeff Goldstein's Levi's might disagree.]

Posted by Russ at 06:45 PM | Comments (2)
October 21, 2004

Someone in the past two weeks hit my tipjar — anonymously, of course, since that's how Amazon works. Also due to the way Amazon works, I just found out about it.

(No, I do not check it daily. Why bother?)

Whoever you are, thanks very much.

Posted by Russ at 08:46 PM
September 21, 2004
I Got Nuthin'

I spent most of the day helping a relative try to fix a hijacked browser. Gads.

Virus writers, spammers, crackers: hangin's too good for 'em. But it'll have to do.

So I've posted nothing whatsoever until now, and I'm still getting traffic at levels comparable to my busier days (which, compared to the big dogs of the blogosphere, ain't that busy.) (Or even compared to the middle-sized dogs.)

I'm getting traffic today from search engines. Everyone does, but sometimes people search for things that can cause a traffic spike. Here are the last 20 search engine queries that have brought people to this site:

   "jonah's military"
   Eugen Armstrong beheading
   beheading of eugen armstrong
   eugen armstrong beheading in iraq
   eugen armstrong beheading
   eugene armstrong beheading
   watch the beheading of eugen armstrong
   spirit of the bayonet
   saddam trial
   emersons lumber
   Eugen Armstrong beheading
   "miserable failure"
   john kerry sailboarding
   iraqi tv
   rico statutes
   "Katherine J. Lopez"
   eugen armstrong beheading
   beheading of Eugene Armstrong
   california bmg cartridge

See a trend here? (Apart from the fact that a lot of people can't spell "Eugene"?) The odd thing is that I haven't written squat about recent terrorist murders of civilians in Iraq.

So if you're one of the snuff junkies looking for video of a real murder: get bent, you perverts.

In other Google-related news, after more than a year at the top, I've dropped to #2 in the search for "Thomas Friedman idiot".

Update, 9/24: Back to #1.

Posted by Russ at 08:55 PM | Comments (3)
September 10, 2004
Do a Little Good

Chief Wiggles needs an assist. It's important.

Posted by Russ at 09:12 AM
August 29, 2004
Lesson Required

Roast beef on rye? Are you nuts?

Steve, Steve, Steve... for roast beef it's sourdough, or nothing.

Corned beef, though... mmm... corned beef....

Posted by Russ at 06:46 PM | Comments (2)
August 15, 2004
Real Class

In the previous note about the passing of Julia Child, I neglected to note that she spent her latter years in my hometown, Santa Barbara. [Montecito, actually, but no one knows where Montecito is.] I can't tell you exactly where her home was, but then, I haven't lived there in quite a number of years.

However, on my occasional visits to the old homestead, I frequently hear stories about some of the celebrities who live nearby. Montecito is the home of choice for quite a few of the Hollywood crowd: Oprah's estate is about half a mile from my Mom's house; my nieces and nephew went to school with Paul Hogan and Linda Kozlowski's kid; Kathy Ireland and her family go to my Mom's church; Kenny Loggins used to live three houses down the street, and so on.

Julia Child was one of the folks about whom I heard tales. In the comments to my previous post, Mom writes:

Did I ever tell you about the women at Von's grocery who would follow Julia around just to see what was in her shopping cart? Yep - the meat department and produce were most popular. She was a nice lady and loved going out to other homes for dinner where she would eat whatever was fixed and not complain about it.

If anyone on the planet had the right to criticize other peoples' cooking, it was Mrs. Child... yet she was always gracious.

I also failed to mention the thing I found most intriguing about her, that she had been in the OSS during the Second World War. Many people told stories about her supposed exploits behind enemy lines and whatnot, but she always dismissed those tales and said she had merely been a file clerk. She was that, and a little bit more, but she never inflated her own exploits.

She was the product of a different age, of course. She served her country, and afterwards did much to improve the lives of many people, even if it was something as simple as better-tasting food.

She had real class, and she'll be missed. I wish more people were as classy.

In a way, I got something from her, too. Every time I visit Santa Barbara, I make a point of going with my brother to one particular dingy-looking dumpy little Mexican restaurant in the low-rent part of town, "La Super Rica." Ordinarily, I tend to avoid places which might be called "dives" (or more politely, "shacks.")

But Julia Child once said it was her favorite Mexican restaurant. Now it's mine, too.

Posted by Russ at 01:04 PM
August 13, 2004
Julia Child, RIP

I just saw the news that Julia Child has passed away.

In remembrance, I plan to prepare and consume a good dinner tonight.

[Brian has more commentary at Memento Moron, as does Jay at One Fine Jay.]

Posted by Russ at 11:17 AM | Comments (8)
August 04, 2004
Too Weird

Are Jehovah's Witnesses getting too lazy to walk door-to-door?

I just got a telemarketing call from them.

OK, granted, it's supposed to be hot and humid here today, but not oppresively so. Just enough that most folks wouldn't really want to walk around outdoors too much, I imagine (I certainly wouldn't want to).

But come on guys, telemarketing?

You'd think they would try harder. Well, at least it saved me the trouble of having to politely but firmly shut the door in their faces.

Posted by Russ at 12:10 PM | Comments (5)
July 15, 2004
Light Posting Alert

Been pretty busy the past couple days... road trips (Pinehurst is nice...) and other activities with visiting parent.

Posting will be scattershot at best.

Posted by Russ at 05:49 PM
July 14, 2004

It seems I'm not alone in thinking that modern girls' fashion is, well, slutty.

One girl did something about it.

Bravo, young lady!

Posted by Russ at 12:52 AM | Comments (4)
July 10, 2004
Fashion Observations

OK, maybe I'm too much of a hermit. I mean, it's tempting to stay in front of the computer, but I really ought to get out more often. So I took my Mom to dinner tonight, nothing fancy. Just a country-style buffet place (with steaks!)

But something struck me as odd.

From my observations, I concluded that we have a denim shortage in this country.

What, you might ask, is your evidence?

I saw scores — hundreds, even — of young women strolling around, and their bluejeans simply were not high-rising enough to reach the bottoms of their shirts/blouses. The same applied to the women in denim skirts and shorts. Obviously, I concluded, a market shortage has forced the price of denim so high that clothing makers are skimping.

Then my Mom noted that it's the fashion these days to bare the midriff. Sigh. Yet another setback for empirical observational science.

Mom - 1; science - 0.

That being the case, I have a purely subjective comment or two to make. To those ladies, girls, and other womenfolk:

1) You look like hookers. Unless you really are a hooker, knock it off.

     1a) If you really are a hooker, find some place other than a family restaurant to ply your trade.

2) If your gut sticks out farther in front of you than your boobs do, you might want to rethink the whole bare midriff concept.

     2a) It's just... just... so wrong...

     2b) And it's seriously repulsive — like Spandex at a Jenny Craig newcomers' night.

3) While it may be marginally tolerable for plumbers to do so, flashing butt-crack is not considered de rigeur, nor is it as attractive as you may think it is.

4) What the heck are you doing with a tattoo on the small of your back?

     4a) Is that supposed to mean something?

     4b) Do your parents know about this?

Thank you for your attention.

Posted by Russ at 09:44 PM | Comments (7)
May 24, 2004
I Am The Answer

What is the answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe and Everything?


Another birthday. Like I said last year: big deal.

[Update, 25May04: Yes, I got the telephonic rendition of the Birthday Song last night.]

Posted by Russ at 12:51 PM | Comments (4)
May 10, 2004
So Close

Doing leftovers, Steve gets so close. He starts out well -- you can't go wrong with smoked duck -- but then he screws it up.

I may have to head to Florida to deliver a culinary butt-kicking, perhaps via ClueBat™.

[Sorry, Steve - I call 'em like I see 'em.]

Posted by Russ at 10:29 PM
May 09, 2004
Reading: Future Tense

I confess: I am a bibliophile.

I read a lot. Constantly. If I'm not actively typing something on the computer, I'm reading something online. If I'm not doing work of some sort, or in front of the computer, I have a book in my hands.

I read while I'm waiting for the microwave to finish cooking something. I read while I'm stirring something on the stove. I read while taking a walk. I read during meals.

I can't even sit down in front of the TV without having a book handy -- if I'm not multitasking between the TV and a book, then at a minimum, I'll read during the commercials.

Yes, I read in the bathroom; I'd read in the shower if I could.

Of course, I often just sit down to do nothing but read. And it is a rare night indeed when I don't read in bed for at least an hour before turning out the light.

Sadly, my memory is such that I usually have to wait a long time before re-reading an old favorite, usually several years. Remembering too much about the book tends to diminish the pleasure of the re-read.

Not only do I read constantly, I read quickly. I often finish a 300-page book in just a couple days. If I do little else but read, such as during a vacation, I'll get through even the longest novels in short order. The paperback version of "Shogun" (1200 pages, more or less) took less than a week.

Consequently, I tend to keep a moderately large supply of fresh reading material close at hand.

Each book on the following list is (relatively) neatly stacked on or next to my nightstand. This list is a bit longer than the usual list of books in my reading queue; I usually keep only about a month's supply on hand. This will last me through the summer, I hope. Listed by author, though in no particular order:

Patrick O'Brian
- The Thirteen Gun Salute
- The Nutmeg of Consolation
- The Truelove
- The Wine-Dark Sea
- The Commodore
- The Yellow Admiral
- The Hundred Days
- Blue at the Mizzen

J. R. R. Tolkien / Christopher Tolkien
- The Book of Lost Tales, Part 1

Bernard Cornwell
- Sharpe's Christmas
- Sharpe's Skirmish
- Sharpe's Havoc
- Sharpe's Escape

Frederic Wheelock
- Wheelock's Latin

David Drake
- Grimmer Than Hell

Eric Flint
- Ring of Fire
- 1634: The Galileo Affair (with Andrew Dennis)

Neal Stephenson
- The Confusion

John Keegan
- Intelligence in War
- Illustrated History of the First World War

Victor Davis Hanson
- Carnage and Culture

Jac Weller
- Wellington in India
- Wellington in the Peninsula

W. M. James
- The Naval History of Great Britain During the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars, Volume 1: 1793-1796

C. Nepean Longridge
- The Anatomy of Nelson's Ships

Jerry Pournelle
- There Will Be War (Volumes 2 through 9)

That should keep me busy for a little while.

No, I'm not going to list all the books stacked in my bedroom that I've already read. There isn't time enough to do so... and I'd rather be reading.

Posted by Russ at 04:35 PM
Reading: Past Tense

Yet another meme makes the rounds, via Dodd Harris.

While some of the listed books I haven't read are on my to-read-eventually list, many are on my avoid-like-the-plague list. Some are on my never-heard-of-it-or-maybe-I-did-I-just-don't-care-to-make-the-mental-effort-to-remember-them list.

Books I've read are bolded.

Achebe, Chinua - Things Fall Apart
Agee, James - A Death in the Family
Austen, Jane - Pride and Prejudice
Baldwin, James - Go Tell It on the Mountain
Beckett, Samuel - Waiting for Godot
Bellow, Saul - The Adventures of Augie March
Brontë, Charlotte - Jane Eyre
Brontë, Emily - Wuthering Heights
Camus, Albert - The Stranger
Cather, Willa - Death Comes for the Archbishop
Chaucer, Geoffrey - The Canterbury Tales
Chekhov, Anton - The Cherry Orchard
Chopin, Kate - The Awakening
Conrad, Joseph - Heart of Darkness
Cooper, James Fenimore - The Last of the Mohicans
Crane, Stephen - The Red Badge of Courage
Dante - Inferno
de Cervantes, Miguel - Don Quixote
Defoe, Daniel - Robinson Crusoe
Dickens, Charles - A Tale of Two Cities
Dostoyevsky, Fyodor - Crime and Punishment
Douglass, Frederick - Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass
Dreiser, Theodore - An American Tragedy
Dumas, Alexandre - The Three Musketeers
Eliot, George - The Mill on the Floss
Ellison, Ralph - Invisible Man
Emerson, Ralph Waldo - Selected Essays
Faulkner, William - As I Lay Dying
Faulkner, William - The Sound and the Fury
Fielding, Henry - Tom Jones
Fitzgerald, F. Scott - The Great Gatsby
Flaubert, Gustave - Madame Bovary
Ford, Ford Madox - The Good Soldier
Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von - Faust
Golding, William - Lord of the Flies
Hardy, Thomas - Tess of the d'Urbervilles
Hawthorne, Nathaniel - The Scarlet Letter
Heller, Joseph - Catch 22 [Hated it.]
Hemingway, Ernest - A Farewell to Arms
Homer - The Iliad
Homer - The Odyssey
Hugo, Victor - The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Hurston, Zora Neale - Their Eyes Were Watching God
Huxley, Aldous - Brave New World
Ibsen, Henrik - A Doll's House
James, Henry - The Portrait of a Lady
James, Henry - The Turn of the Screw
Joyce, James - A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
Kafka, Franz - The Metamorphosis [If this book is the reason for the word "kafkaesque", I'm not interested]
Kingston, Maxine Hong - The Woman Warrior
Lee, Harper - To Kill a Mockingbird
Lewis, Sinclair - Babbitt
London, Jack - The Call of the Wild
Mann, Thomas - The Magic Mountain
Marquez, Gabriel García - One Hundred Years of Solitude
Melville, Herman - Bartleby the Scrivener
Melville, Herman - Moby Dick
Miller, Arthur - The Crucible
Morrison, Toni - Beloved
O'Connor, Flannery - A Good Man is Hard to Find
O'Neill, Eugene - Long Day's Journey into Night
Orwell, George - Animal Farm
Pasternak, Boris - Doctor Zhivago
Plath, Sylvia - The Bell Jar
Poe, Edgar Allan - Selected Tales
Proust, Marcel - Swann's Way
Pynchon, Thomas - The Crying of Lot 49
Remarque, Erich Maria - All Quiet on the Western Front
Rostand, Edmond - Cyrano de Bergerac
Roth, Henry - Call It Sleep
Salinger, J.D. - The Catcher in the Rye
Shakespeare, William - Hamlet
Shakespeare, William - Macbeth
Shakespeare, William - A Midsummer Night's Dream
Shakespeare, William - Romeo and Juliet
Shaw, George Bernard - Pygmalion
Shelley, Mary - Frankenstein
Silko, Leslie Marmon - Ceremony
Solzhenitsyn, Alexander - One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich
Sophocles - Antigone
Sophocles - Oedipus Rex
Steinbeck, John - The Grapes of Wrath
Stevenson, Robert Louis - Treasure Island
Stowe, Harriet Beecher - Uncle Tom's Cabin
Swift, Jonathan - Gulliver's Travels
Thackeray, William - Vanity Fair
Thoreau, Henry David - Walden
Tolstoy, Leo - War and Peace
Turgenev, Ivan - Fathers and Sons
Twain, Mark - The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Voltaire - Candide
Vonnegut, Kurt Jr. - Slaughterhouse-Five
Walker, Alice - The Color Purple
Wharton, Edith - The House of Mirth
Welty, Eudora - Collected Stories
Whitman, Walt - Leaves of Grass [The Clintonian overtones leave me unwilling to touch thiis one]
Wilde, Oscar - The Picture of Dorian Gray
Williams, Tennessee - The Glass Menagerie
Woolf, Virginia - To the Lighthouse
Wright, Richard - Native Son

41 out of 101, by my count. There's a lot of overrated garbage on that list, and a number of books that ought to be in the top 101 that aren't listed.

Where's the Tom Clancy?!?!? </sarcasm>

Posted by Russ at 03:34 PM
May 04, 2004

If there's one sound I hate to hear, it's the screech of the Emergency Broadcast System.

OK, there's one sound that I'll presume is worse: that of an oncoming tornado. I've never heard one, and I hope never to hear one, but I can only assume that it's far far worse than the EBS noise.

We had a Tornado Warning yesterday. Fortunately for me, the tornado touched down about 12 miles from here. Thankfully, I've not heard that anyone was hurt. All we had right here was a thundersorm.

Thunderstorms are not an uncommon weather phenomenon here in NC. But short of a hurricane, none of the weather I've seen here compares to the seasonal monsoon storms I saw during three summers in Korea.

In June of 1990, our platoon of MI troopers had been tasked to go to the field with one of the armor battalions from the 2nd Infantry Division to monitor their communications, making sure they weren't using bad radio procedure. We were to report security lapses in an effort to improve the tankers' security.

So, SGT Rick, SPC Dave and I piled our gear in our HMMWV and headed to the field site that had been chosen for us, one of several hilltops overlooking the tankers' exercise area.

In hindsight, a hilltop might not have been the wisest location.

We arrived and proceeded to do the usual things MI troops do in the field -- we set up the radios, the portable radio mast antenna, and our individual shelters. The radios were easy, since they were mounted in the HMMWV. All we had to do was set up the OE-254 antenna mast -- about 50 feet away from the truck -- and hook up the RF cables. Piece of cake.

In hindsight, a 40-foot-tall mast antenna might not have been the wisest thing to set up.

As the afternoon wore on, the wind picked up and clouds began to roll in. We began to worry that the wind might knock down the mast, so we double-checked the guy-wires; we also paid attention to our shelters (basically, ponchos strung between trees and staked to the ground.) The wind continued to increase, and our shelters gave up.

In hindsight, ponchos were probably a bad idea.

We could see that rain was coming, so we loaded our personal gear back into the HMMWV. Darkness fell quickly as thick black clouds rolled in. Then the rain began. The three of us piled into the HMMWV as the deluge began.

In the BBC TV series "Blackadder II," the character Captain Redbeard Rum (played delightfully by Tom Baker of Dr. Who fame) says of the Cape of Good Hope, "the rain beats down so hard it makes your head bleed." I can only assume that the writer had been to Korea. You've heard all the folksy expressions describing how hard it may be raining? Cows peeing on flat rocks, and so on? Well, none of those expressions do justice to the monsoon rain. It was as if God Himself had decided we were a fire that needed to be put out.

The ragtop on our HMMWV began to leak. The wind was blowing rainwater into the truck through the gaps around the doors. The three of us were soaked to the skin, along with all our gear.

All this time our mission had continued. There was no thought of abandoning the site, of packing up and driving down off the hill. Of course, the fact that the "road" (more accurately, "goat trail") we had driven up had washed out may have contributed to our decision to stay put. We were wet, but still mission-capable.

Then the lightning came.

It began off in the distance, maybe a couple miles or so away. It came closer -- much closer. Then realization dawned on us: we had an antenna up on a mast on top of a hill, with cables running into our thoroughly soaked vehicle. And the "flash [wait] bang" time was getting shorter and shorter.

Realizing the situation, SGT Rick called in to our commander with a final "we're going off the air" message. The rain beating on the roof of the truck and the nearly uninterrupted BOOM of thunder made speaking on the radio -- or face to face -- nearly impossible. The moment he signed off, we disconnected all the antenna cables from the radios and threw them out of the vehicle and removed the whip antenna from the back of the truck. We were now wet and miserable, with no commo, a leaking vehicle, squatting on the HMMWV seats to keep our butts as dry as possible.

Not a minute after we disconnected the radios and antennas, the lightning found us. What had earlier been "flash [wait...] boom" became "flash[pause]BOOM!!!" then "flashBANG!!! fl..BANG!!! BANG!!!" There was a flash of lightning and a simultaneous peal of thunder every few seconds. Our antenna mast, still upright despite the wind, was struck over and over.

In hindsight, the antenna mast acting as a lightning rod probably saved us.

This continued for what seemed like hours. It seemed that way because it was hours, about 4 hours, lightning striking all around the vehicle as the three of us squatted on the seats, praying that the next "fl..BANG" wouldn't be the one that fried us where we sat. [We had come to the conclusion that sheltering in a rain-filled ditch was not likely to be any safer than staying in the vehicle. And in the vehicle, we avoided the chance of drowning.]

Finally the lightning moved off, though the rain continued. None of the three of us slept very well - or at all -- that night. I don't really remember.

The storm moved out of the area, and the morning dawned clear and sunny. We reestablished contact with our commander, and were ordered off the hill. Out of communications and at the center of the storm as we had been, people had worried about us. Driving down the hill, we came across our platoon sergeant, who had been unable to get his HMMWV up the hill. The road goat path that had been washed out was barely navigable by daylight -- it would indeed have been impossible in the dark during a pounding rainstorm. It later turned out that we were the only team that hadn't been able to get off its assigned hill.

In hindsight, it was good training.

I figure everyone needs one or two nights like that during their lifetimes.

Posted by Russ at 12:21 AM | Comments (3)
May 02, 2004
Birthday Wishes

Belated birthday wishes to the great Glenn Ford, who turned 88 yesterday.

He's one of those celebrities who put their career plans on hold when their country called, enlisting in the Marines in 1942. He went into the Naval Reserve after the war,eventually rising to the rank of Captain.

I don't expect to see that sort of thing happening too often these days. Pat Tillman, of course, was a noteworthy exception.

Naturally, Ford is best known for his acting. He was one of the greatest of the Western stars, second only, perhaps, to John Wayne.

It's said that with a "draw" time of 0.4 seconds, he could out-draw both John Wayne and James Arness. Not bad. Not bad at all.

Posted by Russ at 08:15 PM
April 29, 2004
Paging Randy Newman

Short People got no reason
Short People got no reason
Short People got no reason
To live

Lloyd Garver, a short man, riffs on tall people: The Trouble With Tall People.

Now, me being 6'8" may have warped my perspective on the whole subject.

Tall people have a special status in our culture.
Right. "Big lummox" is pretty special, you betcha. "Bull in a china shop" is even more special.
Often without good reason, they are thought of as leaders — as "standing tall above the rest."
"Standing tall..." Let me clue you in, Lloyd: we tall folk do stand tall above the rest, by definition. For that reason alone, we shall conquer and rule. Get used to servitude, Lloyd.

Want to be my footstool?

In school, the tallest boys are the first to get dates.
This may be true. I got few dates in high school - probably because I didn't hit my growth spurt until I was in college. I got my revenge, though, by out-growing everyone in the SBHS class of '80. But I still didn't get to date the cute girls... dang.
Tall girls are told they look great — "like beautiful models."
Well, they do. But if we tall fellows can get all the dates we want, how does that explain the "tall man + short woman couple" phenomenon? Surely you've noticed it, Lloyd? [I have a "tall man/short woman" theory that I might write about some other time.]
Short people with big egos are often said to have a "Napoleon Complex," but nobody ever talks about tall, egotistical people as having a "de Gaulle Complex."
DeGaulle was French. Who wants to be compared to a Frenchman? (Napoleon was Corsican, of course.)
The average height in this country is 5 feet 9 inches for men, and about 5 feet 4 for women. Anybody below that comes up short.
Oh, a pun. Ha. Ha. Please, stop. My ribs hurt. Ouch. Please, no more.

Actually, Garver's column makes some interesting observations about height, though he fails to mention the downside of being huge in an ordinary-sized world. I'll never, for instance, be able to drive a Ferrari. It'd take a shoehorn, axle grease and a bigger bank account just to get me into one.

Garver's comments relating to social status and income, and average height increasing over the decades are worth reading. The latter in particular I can believe. Three of my grandparents were quite short by today's standards, but both of my parents reached over 6' tall. I expect that my nephew, whose parents are 6'5" and 6'1", will end up taller than me.

Poor kid.

Posted by Russ at 02:48 PM | Comments (6)
April 26, 2004
Just leave my Oscar in the mailbox

I have an idea for a movie, a short subject, based on events from my actual life. I don't have a title for it yet ("Night of the Living Dead" is already taken), but I know how the film will begin.

Names have been changed to protect the innocent.

Act 1, Scene 1

The scene: Russ' bedroom, darkened. A human form lays immobile in the darkness, mostly (and fortunately for the viewer) covered by a blanket. His feet hang off the end of the bed. It is Russ, and he is asleep. The clock next to the bed reads 3:03 a.m.

[Sound effect: a ringing telephone.]

The phone rings, once, twice. The clock ticks over to 3:04. The sleeper stirs, mutters unintelligibly. The phone rings a third time.

Russ knows that if he doesn't answer the phone, it'll go to his answering machine, which will then beep loudly and obnoxiously in the next room, forcing Russ out of bed to shut it off. And a 3am call is never good news -- better to get it done without having to get out of bed.

A hand snakes out from under the blanket and grabs the handset.

Russ: (gruffly) "Ya? Hello."

Caller: "Russ, it's me, Joe."

Russ does a quick mental check of all the people he knows named Joe, "quick" being a relative term at 3:04am. Recognition eludes him.

Russ: "Huh?"

Caller: "You helped me with a technical support problem about six months ago, remember?"

Russ: [expletive]

Russ remembers the caller, a friend of an old friend. He regrets ever having been a telecommuter and giving out his phone number. He especially regrets not having a second phone line installed just for work calls.

Caller: "Did I...."

Russ: "... Call at a bad time? Yes, you could say that."

Caller: "Oh, I'm sorry." [Apparently not sorry enough.] "Well, I wonder if you could help me with this problem that's popped up on my network again, do you remember it?"

Russ: "Yes, but I don't work for [company name] any more."

Caller: [pause] "Oh."

Russ: "Yes."

Caller: "Well, I wonder if you might be able to... "

Russ: "No."

Caller: "..."

Russ feels sorry for the guy, who has a sticky problem that the average tech support peon will not be likely to solve.

Russ: "I can't help you. But I'll tell you what -- call Bob Smith in the morning, he should be able to help."

Caller: "OK."

Russ: "Good night." Hangs up phone.

An hour later, Russ is still unable to go back to sleep. He has an appointment in the morning for which he wants to be well-rested. He curses the caller's name until the sun comes up.

[Camera: fade to black.]

So, what do you think? Could this be expanded into a short film? There isn't much material here yet... but the day isn't over.

Ahhhh, I have a title:

Dial "I" for "I'll Murder You If You Ever Do That Again"

Posted by Russ at 02:51 PM | Comments (1)
April 11, 2004
Easter Sermon

Read Donald Sensing.

Posted by Russ at 02:57 PM
March 20, 2004
No big surprise

You're The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy!

by Douglas Adams

Considered by many to be one of the funniest people around, you are quite an entertainer. You've also traveled to the far reaches of what you deem possible, often confused and unsure of yourself. Life continues to jostle you around like a marble, but it's shown you so much of the world that you don't care. Wacky adventures continue to lie ahead. Your favorite number is 42.

Take the Book Quiz at the Blue Pyramid.

Posted by Russ at 03:13 AM
March 13, 2004
You know...

You know it's a bad sign for the TV industry when the best thing the SciFi Channel can offer to fill the 9-11:00pm timeslot is a B-movie called "Snakehead Terror."


Posted by Russ at 11:04 PM
March 01, 2004
Speaking of special occasions...

There is justice in the world. LOTR:ROTK swept the Oscars... I think that calls for a celebratory tot.

I'll have to break out the good stuff. Good thing I stocked up on the single-malts last year - I have options.

UPDATE, 12:40am: Oh, my.

Among the acquisitions I've made is a nice 12 year old, The Macallan. This one is special, though, because it came with a 50ml (about 1.6 ounce) miniature of the cask strength (i.e., undiluted) elixir. Normal scotch is usually around 80-90 proof. Out of the cask, this was 115 proof.

And, because it was undiluted, the flavor was splendid. Utterly delicious. I'll open the full-sized bottle some other day.

Posted by Russ at 12:20 AM | Comments (1)
February 27, 2004
Emerson, Boozer

It's been many years since my typical alcohol consumption has been more than a beer or two every month or two. I've often gone months without cracking open a cold one. I just don't feel a need to indulge. Yes, I used to do the typical "go out once or twice a week with the guys" thing, but I got most of it out of my system before I hit my thirties.

Just because I don't drink much doesn't mean I've lost my ability to enjoy a good drink. Nothing could be further from the truth. Special occasions often call for a gin & tonic, for instance.

Other occasions (or no occasion at all) call for the angels' own beverage of choice, uisge beatha, the water of life: single malt scotch whisky. And now, thanks to The Thirsty Traveller, I've found my own little corner of Nirvana: the Scotch Malt Whisky Society (and, of course, its U.S. chapter.)

Now, North Carolina has a lot of rules and laws about alcohol carried over from Prohibition days. Here, for instance, the only place to buy anything stronger than wine is at a state-operated store. Oddly, while you can buy Everclear at the "ABC Store," you can't get potent varieties of beer anywhere in the state. If you want to special-order a particular libation they don't normally carry, you have to order an entire case. I presume there are other states with similar laws and operations.

One of the services of the Society is a sort of "bottle of the month club." The world's finest scotch whiskies, at full cask strength (the stuff you buy in the stores is diluted before bottling), picked by experts and delivered to the Society member. I can't wait to join.

Sadly, one of the rules here in NC is that mail-order liquor must be shipped to one of the state stores for pickup, rather than directly to the buyer's address. On second thought, maybe that's a good thing. I couldn't drink a whole bottle every month.

But right now I think I hear a glass of Glen Garioch calling my name.

Posted by Russ at 11:46 PM | Comments (1)
February 23, 2004
Well, Excuuuuuuse Me

Yes, yes, I've been taking a couple days off from the 'net. E-mail? Feh. Browsing? Humbug.

Now I have a bit of catching up to do.

Posted by Russ at 12:27 PM
February 18, 2004

I had never personally witnessed a house fire, until a few nights ago.

Fire broke out in the garage of a house on the other side of the street from mine. The reasons aren't clear to me, but it's really none of my business (unless there's a serial arsonist running around out there.)

The homeowners, a young couple expecting their first baby, detected the fire and called 911, grabbed their coats and got out of the house. It was a brisk 32° that night.

Then the Fire Department showed up.

The Volunteer Fire Department.

The firetruck showed up at about 10pm that night, followed less than a minute later by the first of a fleet of cars and trucks - the volunteer cavalry.

Before I moved here to North Carolina a few years ago, I had no idea volunteer FDs still existed in places like this, less than 20 miles from the state capitol. But exist they do, and I'm glad for it. One of my poker buddies, who lives only about a block down the street, is a member of the AVFD and was the first on the scene.

[The volunteers receive a page or a phone call, then drive themselves to the scene of whatever incident to which they are responding. No, I didn't think volunteers would actually spend their on-call hours camped out at the station waiting for a call, but then I never really gave it any thought before. Shame on me.]

To my untrained eye, there was no telling that these were "amateur" firefighters.

These are people who hold "day jobs" and yet commit their free time to the community. They spend long hours training themselves to help people and save lives, and they stand ready to answer a call at a moment's notice. And they never know if the call they receive is the one that will put them in danger of life and limb.

Following 9/11, a great deal of well-deserved praise was heaped on firefighters all around the country. We would do well to remember that their dedication hasn't diminished simply because we don't bother to pay attention to it any more.

Posted by Russ at 03:18 PM | Comments (2)
February 06, 2004
Happy Birthday, Sir

Ronald Reagan turned 93 today.

During the 1980 presidential campaign, candidate Reagan made a campaign stop and policy speech at our Illinois college one day. I, having been born & bred in California, had spent a number of years with him as my Governor, so I suppose I had an "in" with the College Republicans. I had the great privilege of encountering Mr. Reagan briefly and shaking his hand that day. I've never forgotten it. I only wish I had a photo.

Of all fates, there is one I fear most; it fills me with unspeakable dread. I shudder to think of it.

That fate, the horror of Alzheimer's Disease, has robbed Mr. Reagan of nearly everything, not the least of which has been the ability to enjoy his well-deserved post-Presidential golden years, which should have been a time for him to get back in touch with the people he loved so much -- real Americans.

For defeating the evil of Totalitarian Communism, he deserves every recognition, every accolade, every award, every word of praise that can be given him. History books may some day tell the story, but for now he merely declines in isolation.

I don't think I ever heard a sadder story. I don't think you could make up a more tragic story.

God bless you, Ronald Reagan, as He blessed us with your strength, leadership, determination and fortitude during the most dangerous time in the history of the world.

UPDATE: More (and better) commentary from Jim at Smoke on the Water. (Link via Misha.)

Posted by Russ at 09:45 PM | Comments (2)
January 26, 2004

2001: with the downturn in the market that started the previous year, there were plenty of unemployed tech-heads... but I survived.

2004: I join the ranks of the unemployed. 7+ years on the job - that's long enough, one way or another.

More later.

(Anyone want to hire a network engineer? CCIE, too.... :-)

Posted by Russ at 02:38 PM | Comments (9)
January 13, 2004
Back Injury Update

Recovery is coming along, but it's pretty slow. I'm back to work, via telecommuting.

FYI: the disks in the spinal column provide cushioning between the vertebrae, and allow the spine to flex. When a disk herniates, it bulges out of its usual place and in my case puts pressure on the nerves in the back, including the nerves that run down to the legs. Result: varying degrees of pain and immobility.

Over the last dozen years of dealing with this recurring problem, I've learned a few things. Here, then, are my...

Top Ten Reasons a Herniated Disk Is Bad

10. "Howard Hughes" toenails.

9. Going up and down the stairs requires the assistance of a team of sherpas.

8. Moved the spare TV out of the master bedroom just last month. Dang.

7. After waking up in the morning, still laying in bed, you realize that that's as good as you're going to feel all day.

6. Dropped something on the floor? Just leave it. It'll still be there next month.

5. Can't engage in some favorite pastimes... like standing or walking.

4. Bathroom expeditions... the less said, the better.

3. Cough? Ouch. Sneeze? OUCH.

2. "I have to crawl some errands" just doesn't sound right.

and the number one reason a herniated disk is bad:

1. Suddenly, those "I've fallen, and I can't get up" commercials aren't quite so amusing.

Posted by Russ at 06:27 PM | Comments (3)
January 12, 2004
Comic of the Day

Pearls Before Swine has in the past year or so become among my favorite comic strips. How can you not love a strip in which the main characters are a pig named "Pig" and a rat named "Rat," and in which Zebra remains optimistic about the course of zebra-crocodile relations?

Though usually on the silly and/or light-hearted side, the author occasionally writes/draws a strip that falls on the more poignant side... like this strip, from December 28th:


(Click image for larger.)

In a Fair & Just world, there's be a Pulitzer Prize or some similar award with Stephan Pastis' name on it.

Posted by Russ at 01:01 PM
January 09, 2004
Better but not good

I'd like to take this wee-hours-of-the-morning moment to state, clearly and unequivocally:

Back pain sucks.

If you've ever had a back injury (as opposed to a mere backache) you know what mean. If you haven't, consider yourself fortunate.

Example: I'm running out of fresh groceries, but I cannot get my shoes & socks on to get out of the house and go to the grocery store. Well, maybe a bit more rest will help with that. At least I can sit up for a couple hours at a time now.

Big stinkin' deal. At this rate of recovery, I'll be ready for a triathlon in, oh, maybe 75 years.

[Why am I blogging at this hour of the morning? Well, you try spending all day laying in bed doing nothing. Ya, I have a bit of left-over energy.]

Posted by Russ at 03:50 AM | Comments (2)
January 08, 2004
Back Update

Sorry, folks -- still down.

I can sit up for maybe 30 minutes at a time now, before I have to lay down to get the pressure off my lower spine.

It really puts a damper on my working, browsing, and blogging... not to mention the mundane things, like putting on shoes.

I tried Vicodin, which works -- but it makes me sick. Maybe a set of those gravity boots and an inverted workstation would do the trick -- but with the bending required, I'd never be able to get myself in or out of such a rig.


Posted by Russ at 07:32 AM
January 06, 2004
Shoot me. Please.

Ouch. I've re-herniated the bad disk, as described here.

Painful. This happens once every year or so.

I need to go lie down. Preferably in a hole six feet deep.

Posted by Russ at 10:54 AM | Comments (2)
December 31, 2003
I have no life.

New Year's Eve. At home. Alone.

Flu, maybe, though I had the flu-shot. Certainly a cold. Total insomnia last night.

Work today, as well as a fair amount of voodoo geekery behind the scenes at Blogs for Bush.

Party? No.

Pitcher of Gin & Tonics? Yes.

Happy 2004, everyone.

Posted by Russ at 10:32 PM | Comments (3)
December 22, 2003
Nick o' time

It really looks like I timed my return from California pretty well.

I got off the plane in Raleigh, got to my truck 30 minutes later, flipped on the radio news, and what do you know: Orange Alert. Travel was bad enough without the extra extra hassles. I'm glad I avoided a checkpoint colonoscopy.

And today, the earthquake. I hate earthquakes. I grew up with 'em [the L.A. quake in '71 threw me out of my bed] but familiarity has indeed bred contempt.

I called Mom, about 75 miles from the epicenter -- she had noted the swinging chandeliers and the water slopping out of the swimming pool, but there's no damage there, and everyone at home is A-OK.

Did I mention I hate earthquakes?

Posted by Russ at 05:38 PM | Comments (6)
December 10, 2003
Small World

This week I've done something I haven't done regularly in the past few years: I've spoken with a customer on the phone to try to fix a networking problem.

These days, my technical assistance is delivered in the form of "how-to" documents, web-based troubleshooting tools, and Microsoft-like (*spit*) "knowledge base" items. I rarely talk to a real live customer.

The technical issue the customer needed help with was not overly complicated, but in the course of the conversation, the customer mentioned that he and a certain employee in our company had gone to school together, and did I happen to know Bob?

Wow, a "small world" moment. Bob had been my teammate from my earlliest days in Technical Assistance, back when I was talking to customers on the phone every day. I have spoken with, quite literally, thousands of customers.

I asked my customer how he had known Bob.

They had gone to elementary school together.

The same school I attended.

In fact, though we were several years apart, we were there at the same time. Of course, as a Fifth-grader, any mere Kindergartener would have been beneath my notice.

The world shrinks yet again, in unexpected ways.

Posted by Russ at 11:28 AM
December 07, 2003
Swell. Just Swell.

Bart's chalkboard motto on tonight's episode of "The Simpsons":

Over forty & single is not funny.
Ya, ya, ya... tell me about it.

Posted by Russ at 08:03 PM
December 05, 2003

Being male is almost always a great thing. Being over 40, however, takes a bit of the shine off maleness.

The shine really dulls on that one day a year. Guys-over-40, you know what I mean. The much-feared annual doctor visit. The checkup. The physical.

Sure, sure, the blood work-ups are easy. You go in a couple days prior, they stick you, and then send a couple vials of blood off for various tests. Trouble is, I always end up having to have something else checked because of the lab results. Last year it was the gall bladder. This year it's my liver.

I think my internal organs are conspiring against me.

The doctor clucks, making "tsk tsk" sounds, tells you it's probably nothing, jots in your file, asks the usual questions. But it's all an act, designed to lull you into a false sense of security. "Maybe," you think to yourself, "he will forget about it this year."

Oh, no, no, no -- you aren't that lucky. He remembers.

First, it's "Turn your head and..." whatever. Guys, you know what I mean.

Then the dreaded command. "Lean on the exam table." Inevitably you find yourself having to channel Eric Cartman.

Forget trying to make a joke - he's heard all of them before. All of them. Don't even try. It might not have occured to you, but the doctor dreads the whole experience as much as (or perhaps even more than) you do.

Just grit your teeth. Take one for the home team. Lean on the table and think of America.

No wonder we men die younger than women do.

Posted by Russ at 10:00 PM | Comments (6)
November 14, 2003
Korean Verbal Abuse

Jeff is a guy whose story rings wholly true to me - because I've been there.

I was stationed in Korea where, being a very tall person, I was always the object of much comment from the local populace. Usually, it was commentary on my size, added to the fact that I was one of those "big-nose Americans."

Being a linguist, I often could tell what they were saying. It was not, as I mentioned, always terribly polite.

Being an occasionally cruel SOB, I would occasionally turn to the commenter and, in Korean, ask "Why do you say such things?"

The look of shock, horror, embarrassment and sheer mortification on their faces was utterly priceless.

Heh. Heheh.

It made the 12 months of language school all worthwhile.


So I'm casting my vote in New Weblog Showcase for Jeff's Ruminations in Korea: A Blessing and a Curse.

Also worth noting is eTALKINGHEAD.com: The Misleading Statements of a Misleading Misleader.

Posted by Russ at 09:56 PM | Comments (1)
October 11, 2003

In 1973, when I was 11 years old, my father (aged 37 - four years younger than I am at this writing) had surgery on his lower back for a disc problem. He was better, but back problems tend to never go away. A number of years later, I had injured a knee and was having surgery of my own, courtesy of Uncle Sam, and Dad told me a story about his own stay in the hospital.

A week or so after his surgery, he became suspicious of his pain medication. He realized that he was looking forward to it a bit too much.

They had been giving him morphine.

He told his doctor, who did the right thing and took him off the morphine. For the next week, my Dad told me, he felt as if he "had been run over by a steamroller" - his exact words. I'll never forget them. He was ever after wary of pain medication.

[His wariness, I believe, may have contributed to his death in 1997 at age 61, but that's a different story, for a different post.]

In 1991, during an Army sports day, I sustained a pretty serious injury. I tore numerous ligaments in my lower back and, worse, herniated a disc. A herniated disc puts pressure on the major nerves, and causes serious pain - in my case, in the lower back and down the legs.

I could no longer do push-ups, sit-ups, or run - three of the many things the Army insists on soldiers being capable of. Had I not been injured, there is a good chance I'd still be in, probably a Sergeant First Class, possibly a Warrant Officer. 20-year retirement would be only three years away.

But the back injury did me in, and forced me out. Even now, 11 years after the original injury, that disc in my spine - such a small thing, really - will periodically and without warning herniate again. When it does, I usually go through four phases of pain and recovery:

  • an hour or so face-down on the floor, unable to move, then
  • bed-ridden for a day or two,
  • walking with pain for a week, and
  • diminishing pain for a month or more.
Since I am extremely reluctant to let anyone near my spine with a knife, the only thing for it is medication. These days, in my case at least, the prescription I usually receive is hydrocodone, often known by the brand-name "Vicodin."

It's an opiate. You know - like morphine. Like heroin. Highly addictive.

I've been lucky - I learned the lesson of my Dad's cautionary tale, and am habitually reluctant to use anything stronger than aspirin. Even when that isn't enough, my injury has never kept me on the hardcore painkillers for more than a week or so. I have the remains of my last prescription in a bottle in front of me. I used it for two days when I rather severely tore some muscles in September. The first day I took it, it made me sick. I have no inclination or desire to use it, even though my back has been a bit sore today. Aspirin will suffice.

By now, of course, you no doubt have figured out that I write this all with regard for the situation Rush Limbaugh has gotten himself into.

I know pain. I know the "bad enough to make a grown man cry" kind of pain. I know the kind of pain Limbaugh has said he experiences.

But I'm lucky: my pain goes away. Rush's apparently does not.

I know other folks (here's one) who can tell their own stories.

Did Rush do wrong by using painkillers without a prescription? Yes, so it would seem. To his credit, he's admitted his error and is taking steps to fix the problem.

Is it understandable? Absolutely. If you've never been there, you'll never know how much a person would do to make the pain go away.

I do know. I'm going to cut the man some slack. I recommend that you do, too.

Posted by Russ at 04:34 PM | Comments (2)
October 09, 2003
Yes, again


Foolish me. As recently as last week, I thought maybe I had this insomnia thing whipped.

I guess not.

Someone medicate me, please.

Posted by Russ at 04:22 AM | Comments (1)
October 02, 2003

Last year October, my employer was a corporate sponsor of the Food Bank of North Carolina; employees raised something like $250,000 for the charity through a number of events.

One, the Hallowe'en Hair Challenge, was an opportunity for individuals to, in essence, bet their hair against their colleagues' willingness to donate to the Food Bank. Set a target dollar value, and see who'll pay to watch you have your head shaved. On stage. In front of a crowd of hundreds. A dozen folks - including two women - took the challenge, and had their heads shaved.

A year ago, I had hair. It was falling out, but I had hair. The Food Bank got about $450 from my co-workers for me to shave. [For the record, the women raised about $4000. Well done.]

Since then, my young nieces have insisted I leave it as is:


With the beginning of Autumn, though, I am reminded of one of the downsides of being completely (as opposed to partially) bald: cold weather.

You might not think there would be much difference, insulation-wise, between a partial head of hair and a completely shaven scalp, but whether by coincidence or not, I suffered more and worse colds last winter than ever before.

I'm not going to do that again. Besides, my razor-and-shaving-cream bills have skyrocketed.

So, I'm going to stop shaving by the end of the month. It will seem odd to have hair again. I'll have to buy shampoo again. I'll have to re-acquaint myself with my barber.

I lost my comb, too.

It will change my appearance pretty dramatically, I think, having hair again. Maybe something like this:


Well, a guy can hope.

Posted by Russ at 06:45 PM | Comments (4)
September 30, 2003
Just for the record

Insomnia bites.

See also the Insomniacs' 4 a.m. Rule.

Posted by Russ at 05:26 AM
September 29, 2003
News from an Alternate Universe

John Derbyshire looks at news reports from an alternate reality in which the War on Terrorism was actually being prosecuted as an actual war:

Berlin, Germany; Sept. 20. German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has formally protested the Defense Department's "scorched earth" policy in evacuating U.S. bases from German soil. The evacuations were, the chancellor asserted, carried out "in too much haste," adversely affecting the economies of local communities. He also claimed that the dismantling of the bases had been "too thorough," and "destructive." The chancellor especially objected to the policy of plowing over the sites of the bases and sowing the ground with salt. Asked for a response to Chancellor Schroeder's remarks, Defense Secretary Colonel David Hunt said: "Bite me, Adolf."

There's plenty more. Read the whole thing.

Posted by Russ at 10:02 AM
September 21, 2003
Buried Treasure

How to put closure to last week? Something to tie together a hurricane and pirates...?

Heh. I found it.

While preparing for what I assumed to be the inevitable long-term power outage, I made plenty of ice (empty 2-liter Diet Coke bottles are darn handy) and transferred the contents of the indoor freezer to the chest-type freezer in the garage (yes, that freezer. Trust me - it's better now.)

I really wanted to save as much as I could, even though what was in the freezer was of no particularly great value - frozen veggies, various sausages, chicken breasts....


Buried deep in the back of the freezer... a pack of filet mignon. Four of them, which I'd cut myself from a whole beef loin bought on the cheap, back around March.

Beautiful, tender, savory filets. 2-inch thick filets, perfectly preserved. Can you guess what I'll be having for dinner tonight?

Thanks, Isabel.

Buried treasure.

Posted by Russ at 10:02 AM | Comments (2)
September 09, 2003
Is There a Doctor in the House, Redux

Q: How do you know your kitchen knife is sharp?

A: When you stop to ask yourself "Why is this onion bleeding?"


Posted by Russ at 09:38 PM | Comments (2)
September 06, 2003
Is there a Doctor in the house?

Somehow, I managed to tear one of the muscles that hides somewhere under the latissimus dorsai. I did it by sneezing rather too forcefully. Sneezing. How embarrassing. Hurts like heck, especially when I laugh.

All in all, though, if I have to suffer something in that region of the body, better a torn muscle than Imaginary Lat Syndrome.

Fortunately, I am under no such delusions.

"Why yes, I would like that super-sized, thanks...."

Posted by Russ at 09:42 PM | Comments (5)
September 04, 2003
No, not The Master
The Fourth DoctorYou are the Fourth Doctor: A walking Bohemian conundrum with a brooding personal magnetism and a first-rate intellect concealed somewhere beneath your charmingly goofy exterior. You are perhaps the most terribly clever of all the Doctors, though your occasional bouts of childishness get you in trouble. You never go looking for a fight, but when someone messes with you... good heavens, are they ever sorry they did.

Which Incarnation of the Doctor Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

Occasional bouts of childishness?

Posted by Russ at 05:34 PM
August 28, 2003
Dental Nuisance

I don't mind going to the dentist. I really don't.

I don't mind the awful-tasting topical anaesthetics.

I don't mind the needle jabs. I really don't mind the ensuing numbness.

The noise, smell and brain-jarring vibrations from dental tools -- no sweat. It's all tolerable.

But I swear, the tingling of a numbed lip coming awake -- that drives me completely nuts.

Posted by Russ at 02:08 PM | Comments (1)
August 14, 2003
A Banner Day

Around my house, you know it's a good day when the UPS man drops off:

  • the two latest Tom Clancy novels, Red Rabbit and The Teeth of the Tiger
  • four Rex Stout Nero Wolfe novels
  • Victor Davis Hanson's Carnage and Culture
  • Jac Weller's Wellington in India and Wellington in the Peninsula
I might be able to make these last as long as a whole month.

Posted by Russ at 05:31 PM | Comments (2)

Taking a couple days vacation until the middle of next week - but since I'm not going anywhere, blogging will either be heavy or light - I don't know.

See ya, either way.

Posted by Russ at 01:30 AM
August 08, 2003
Friday Five

1. What's the last place you traveled to, outside your own home state/country?

New England. A three-day swing through Massachussetts, New Hampshire, and Maine. No, I'm not running in any presidential primary. Yes, it was hell.

2. What's the most bizarre/unusual thing that's ever happened to you while traveling?

Hmm. I blogged on this just yesterday. Fancy that. Not much to it, but frankly, I like my travel free of bizarre events.

3. If you could take off to anywhere, money and time being no object, where would you go?

Space. And not just a wussy near-Earth orbit -- it'd be at least as far as the Moon, but Mars would be far cooler (literally and metaphorically.)

4. Do you prefer traveling by plane, train or car?

Depends on how far I have to go. Going cross-country, or indeed any farther than a day's drive, the train rules -- hands down, no contest.

5. What's the next place on your list to visit?

Gettysburg. I must tour that battlefield. It's a moral imperative - I'm an American, after all.

And I'll stop at a peaceful field near Shanksville, too.

That's my Friday Five.

Posted by Russ at 07:51 PM
August 07, 2003
Magic Moment

Some classics of airport humor were posted yesterday at Indigo Insights [at Blogsnot, so the usual caveats about permalinks apply.] [Yes, yes, "classics of airport humor" - as if there were such a thing.] Here's my story:

I and a college classmate were on a flight into San Jose on Southwest for a job interview. As our plane was coming in for landing there was a really seriously heavy crosswind and turbulence. The plane was rocking back and forth and pitching rather violently -- we kinda wondered if we'd get leveled off for the landing, or if we'd end up as a red smear on the runway.

As they are wont to do, the Southwest stewardesses were cracking jokes over the intercom, calming some visibly fraying passenger nerves.

At very nearly the last second, the pilot leveled the wings, flared, and greased the landing. To this day, it's the smoothest landing I've ever experienced.

The cabin intercom clicked on, and the pilot let us know what he thought of his skills:

"Ta daaaaa!"
A bit of bragging? Yes, but you know the old saying, "It ain't bragging if you can really do it." I'm glad he could "really do it" - I'm reasonably sure that hearing a bit of bragging is better than being a red smear on the end of a runway.

Posted by Russ at 01:54 PM | Comments (2)
August 06, 2003
No way

Sorry, Ben - there is no way I will ever go back to live in California.

(hat tip: Betsy)

Posted by Russ at 09:13 AM
August 01, 2003
Insomniacs' Rule

I had to invoke the Insomniacs' 4:00am Rule today:

If you don't get to sleep by 4:00am, get up and make a pot of coffee - it's going to be a long day.
Well, maybe it doesn't apply to all insomniacs, but it sure does to me. If I fall asleep after 4:00am, there's not a chance I'll be able to wake up before noon -- and the day will be totally shot.

There are two corollaries to The Rule:

-- Lack of sleep doesn't mean you can skip work.
-- When you're stumbling around the office because you can't see straight, it's time to go home.
Light napping thereafter will be permitted.

Posted by Russ at 06:31 PM | Comments (2)
July 17, 2003

I approached the ordeal with trepidation. I knew there would be pain (mine) involved, and I knew that the people inflicting it on me would actually be happy for the opportunity.

"It's for the children" they would say, preparing their razor-sharp steel implements.

As I waited my turn with the other victims, others finished their turns and were led off to recover from the experience.

That's right -- I donated blood today.

I've been a blood donor on a pretty regular basis since I was 18 - over 20 years. I have no idea how many times total I've been "stuck" - maybe 40, maybe more. More frequently while I was in the Army - they'd line us up, march us to a gym, and tell us to line up to donate or go back to the unit and get to working. They got lots of donors that way....

I actually do pretty well "in the chair." The needle doesn't really bother me, so long as I don't have to watch it going in. I don't flinch, and the phlebotomist calls me brave. Some people don't like giving blood at all; maybe they're afraid of the needle, but they do it anyway - those are the brave ones.

I'm just a guy with type O-negative blood. That's apparently why they tell me it's for the children, though I frankly don't know why kids need O-neg (the "universal donor" type) more than adults might.

I give blood because, well, I don't know. Maybe because my folks raised me right, gave me a sense of civic duty. Maybe because I simply feel charitable. And maybe because my blood type is enough in demand that I get a small thrill out of someone showing me gratitude for something I inherited. I don't know.

But I do know these things: blood banks are perpetually short of all types of blood; one pint of blood can help a lot of people; almost everyone is eligible to donate; and it's an easy thing to do.

So yes, I urge everyone to get out and donate. And I need to do so more frequently myself. Check back in eight weeks and see if I do it again.

Posted by Russ at 09:58 PM
July 07, 2003
Is this bad?

As I left the office today (rare - I usually telecommute Mondays) I slung my laptop carrier case over my shoulder -- and felt a sharp pain in my neck.

5 hours later, moving my head around is somewhat uncomfortable, my shoulders are sore (and seem kind of weak), and my neck still hurts like heck; well, not the neck per se, but rather the very upper back -- dead center, just above the top of my shoulder blades. The nape of the neck, I guess. I'm no anatomist.

Having a long history of lower back injuries (which is why I am not a senior NCO approaching retirement from the Army), I'm rather sensitive to lower back problems, but the upper back/lower neck... this is new.

I hope it's just a pinched nerve.

UPDATE: Yep, just a pinch. Muscle relaxants have done their voodoo, and I'm at almost 100% again. Lucky me - dodged a bullet there.

Posted by Russ at 09:19 PM | Comments (1)
June 27, 2003
Sigh. Me too.

Clubbeaux misses Calvin and Hobbes.

So do I. If ever a "mere" comic strip attained the exalted status of "Art", C&H was it.

Posted by Russ at 04:52 PM | Comments (1)
June 22, 2003
If ya gotta go, that's the way to go

You can find all sorts of odds & ends on the 'net. Emphasis on the odd.

Back in the 17th century, a fellow named John Graunt compiled and tabulated the data on causes of death in London over a number of years. All sorts of odd-sounding (and for that matter, many normal-sounding (to 21st-century ears)) ailments and events are listed. Most sound really awful, and I'm sure that the clinical manner of the list tends to ameliorate our idea of just how awful (nasty, brutish, short) life and death really were in pretty much every era but our own.

But we all have to go sometime, somehow. If it were possible to have a say in the manner of one's own demise (short of doing one's self in, obviously) I'd pick "Colick, and Wind."

Especially the "and Wind" part. No sense making things olfactorily easy for my grieving-at-bedside relatives.

(Link courtesy of fellow N.Carolina blogger Is That Legal?)

Posted by Russ at 01:25 PM
June 01, 2003
Travel... travail... same thing.

As previously noted, I've been on the road. One of the (many) reasons I am not now, nor do I ever want to be, a salesman is that there tends to be a lot of travel involved in the job. I don't mind talking to customers -- they seem to appreciate it -- I'd just rather they came to see me instead of the other way around.

The week started well enough, Monday having been a holiday... but it was all downhill from there.

My flight from Raleigh to Boston was on one of those sub-microscopic "regional jets" so much in vogue these days. It seems the airlines have finally discovered that it's less expensive to fly a number of small planes packed to the gunwales than to fly one big one half empty. American Airlines has certainly figured it out.

Now, a flight on a small plane isn't usually a problem in and of itself. But this time I knew there were going to be problems.

Getting into the airport was no problem, and security was a breeze -- Raleigh-Durham Int'l Airport seems to be pretty efficient that way. But the first problem didn't take long to manifest itself. As the time for my flight approached, the gate attendant calmly announced that there would be a 15 minute delay while the airplane had a mechanical issue fixed. I was filled with confidence. I love knowing that my plane has "mechanical issues."

Oh, and -- 15 minutes, my butt.

An hour later, we were unapologetically informed that a replacement aircraft should be along momentarily. Another hour later, our flight was ready for boarding. We all queued up and got onto the plane in one big cattle-call. Next problem: as I entered the aircraft I had to not only "duck" a little bit, but actually had to bend at the waist to get in. Walking down the aisle to my seat was no better. American Eagle uses, among others, the Embraer ERJ-135. A really spiffy plane, I'm sure - if you're a midget. This is not a plane built for normal sized people, and certainly not for very large people.

Then, yet another problem. In my hand: a boarding pass for seat 14C. On the plane: no row 14. No 15 or 16, either. In fact, the rows stopped at 13.

Now, I know a thing or three about airplanes, but I'm no aviation industry expert; I can also count, but that doesn't make me a mathematician. But I do know this much:

when you bring in a replacement airplane for a fully-booked flight, it might make sense to have at least as many seats on the spare as there were on the original.

After much dithering and shuffling, everyone was either seated or had volunteered to be bumped. "Seated" is a relative term, however, if (like me) your femurs are longer than the front-to-back distance between the seats. American Airlines claims that they're adding legroom on all their planes, but if so they're taking that extra room from the American Eagle planes. It was absolute torture to wedge myself into that seat. Embraer aircraft are products of Brazil, but as rude as this one was to me, it may as well have been French.

Then came the only bright spot of my trip: a wonderful, sweet, nice woman (hiding her halo, I suspect) sitting in the exit row offered to trade seats with me -- out of the blue, so to speak. If you're really tall, the exit row is where you go to get legroom. This woman's act of kindness is all that kept me from being unable to walk at the end of the flight -- and after the flight, she disappeared before I could thank her. Dang. She was cute, too.

After that, the rest of the trip was tolerable. Uncomfortable hotel beds, lack of sleep, driving all over New England (Massachussetts, New Hampshire and Maine, all in three days). Sore feet, sore butt, sore head. You know, the usual.

It's good to be home.

Posted by Russ at 12:19 PM
May 26, 2003
On the Road

I hate travelling on business. Tight schedules, dinky uncomfortable airplanes, waiting around in airports, living out of a suitcase....

I hate it.

That's right - I'm outta here tomorrow, back on Friday. Expect light blogging (lighter than usual, that is.)

Did I mention that I hate travelling?

Posted by Russ at 10:44 PM
May 24, 2003
Big deal

Happy Birthday to me.

Big deal.... I figure that most birthdays really don't mean much after age 12. For me, they've become reminders that I'm not the kid I used to be. Dang.

Well, maybe the noteworthy milestones are worth celebrating: 16, 18, 21, 100. Maybe 30, maybe 40 and 65.

Me? 41. Big deal. It's been just another day here for me - chores that need doing, some work to catch up on. I do love hearing from the family, though - that's always good... especially the niece and nephew singing their highly-modified quasi-operatic version of "Happy Birthday to you."

I guess birthdays aren't so bad, after all. Not after that song.

Posted by Russ at 09:04 PM | Comments (3)
May 20, 2003
Great Day

Some days really bite. You know the ones - usually preceeded by a sleepless night, got to be at the office for an early meeting, got to stay for a late meeting, deadlines stacking up, car runs out of gas, it's either 100° out or raining or both, the IRS decides to audit you...

OK, OK, OK, I've never been audited, and I haven't had a vehicle run out of gas since 1984. But you know exactly what I mean.

Take that day, turn it around 180°, and that's the kind of day I've had. And damn, it feels good.

  • A full 8 hours of sleep.

  • No meetings until a leisurely 10am - plenty of time to enjoy a big ol' cuppa joe.

  • Bail out of the office at noon. Noon. Noon!

  • Drive to the ballpark and catch the Bulls vs the Toledo Mudhens (I'll bet you thought that was a made-up team, didn't you?)

  • The weather? High 70s with lots of big fluffy clouds providing periodic shade.

  • Game ends in time to beat the after-work drive-time traffic.

  • A quick stop at the Home Depot to drool over power tools.

  • Chinese take-out for dinner.

Hey, it's just 7:00pm and I'm done.

I could do this every day. Too bad I have to mow the lawn tomorrow.

Posted by Russ at 07:07 PM
May 18, 2003
... for a Very Important Date

1. What drinking water do you prefer -- tap, bottle, purifier, etc.?

I prefer my water near-boiling hot, flavored with coffee squeezin's. And occasionally some real cream.

2. What are your favorite flavor of chips?

Plain-flavored Ruffles. Why dress up perfection? The salty potato-y goodness is sublime.

3. Of all the things you can cook, what dish do you like the most?

Pan-seared ribeye steak - practice has made perfect. I'm still working on my smoked baby back ribs - a couple more tries and I should have it nailed.

4. How do you have your eggs?

Over medium - not runny, but still some liquid yolk - perfect for mopping up with a good english muffin.

5. Who was the last person who cooked you a meal? How did it turn out?

Mom. I don't remember exactly what we had for dinner that night, but I guarantee it was perfect in every way.

Posted by Russ at 10:05 AM | Comments (1)
May 06, 2003
I love you, Mr. Coffee, but....

I went to bed at midnight last night, a bit earlier than usual. Suffering (if it can be called that) from a cold, I medicated myself. You know the brand - the "snotty, coughy, generally-feel-like-crappy, knock-you-flat-on-your-butt medicine."

Four hours later, staring at my bedroom ceiling, I finally gave up trying to sleep and schlepped my sorry heinie downstairs. Diddled with my template here for a little while, figuring it might be boring enough to send me to the Land of Nod. A couple hours of shuteye before I have to tend to my job would be better than nothing....

Nope, no dice. Not a wink.

So I finally fired up the good old Mr. Coffee. You know Mr. Coffee, don't you? The Mr. Coffee that has followed me around for the last 10 years, from LA to San Jose to North Carolina. The coffee maker so important that when I moved and drove cross-country I brought it in the EvilSUV with me rather than wait for the moving van to show up at my new place. The Mr. Coffee that is so covered with coffee deposits that I could make a full pot o' joe without actually adding fresh coffee grounds. I love my Mr. Coffee. But I have a question, one small question, that's all....

Would someone please please PLEASE tell me why there aren't any automatic drip coffee makers on the market that make more than 12 cups at a time?

That's all I want to know.

Posted by Russ at 07:16 AM
April 30, 2003
What? A week already?

I cannot believe I spent the last week doing nought but work. Light blogging, indeed.

Being a responsible grownup sucks.

Now if I could just go back in time, convince my dad to not die, and convince him to give me a whopping huge allowance, I could spend my days & nights working on a masterpiece of the rhetorical arts. But no, it is not to be.

I guess I'll have to win the lottery.

Whoops - I guess we'll have to get a lottery here in NC first.

Since that won't be happening (not if I can help it), and since I won't be producing my own masterpieces today, I'll instead urge you to read "Victory" by the inimitable Bill Whittle.

It's long, but read every word. It's marvelous.

And in lieu of clicking on my non-existant donation button, click the one on Bill's main page.

Posted by Russ at 12:20 AM
April 16, 2003
How to Succeed in Business

I've often wondered what the best way to advance my career might be. I guess I could have used these lessons.

Posted by Russ at 12:57 PM
April 02, 2003
Withdrawal Symptoms



I'm getting the shakes... I need my Gratuitous Gun Pic.


Posted by Russ at 07:01 PM
March 21, 2003
Non Blogos Mentis

I've not been blogging today due to an advanced case of insomnia and the consequent mental fuzziness.

I may not blog tomorrow, either - I'll be out enjoying some of my God-given freedoms.

Posted by Russ at 06:59 PM
March 19, 2003

Note to correspondents:

Due to technical issues (i.e., a procmail blunder on my part), all mail sent to me on 18March2003 has been lost. Please re-send anything of importance.

Thank you,
The Management

Posted by Russ at 10:21 AM
March 15, 2003
New design

Spent today working on the site, trying to get the three-column layout to work to my satisfaction.

Woo-hoo! Many thanks to the fine folks at blogstyles.com and glish.com for sharing their knowledge.

Futher tweaking of the stylesheet will no doubt continue indefinitely, but the major hacking is complete.

Posted by Russ at 09:18 PM
March 14, 2003
Mmm mmm good!

I am reminded by a recent visit to Little Tiny Lies that tomorrow is Eat an Animal for PETA Day.

This is important. After PETA's sick, twisted (dare I call it "evil"? Ya, maybe I can) "Holocaust on your plate" ad campaign, the least anyone with any sense of outrage can do is to consume as many animals as possible.

Endangered species are preferred.

Unfortunately, I have not been able to find a decent source for panda or Siberian tiger, so I'll have to go for quantity, not quality.

Breakfast will abuse at least one pig, one cow, and one chicken - sausage and cheese omelette

Lunch will abuse at least two cows - roastbeef and cheese sandwich.

Dinner will be the masterpiece. Chili. I figure cows, chickens, pigs, and perhaps deer are in peril.

And maybe a puppy for dessert.

Posted by Russ at 11:34 PM
March 09, 2003
New geek on the block

I've been considering doing a blog for a while. I guess this means I made a decision, eh?

So... why "TacJammer"?

Well.... From 1986 to 1992, I was your humble servant in the USArmy, wherein I worked in the general realm of electronic warfare. Among the systems I worked with was the AN/MLQ-34 TACJAM, the biggest baddest radio jammer in the Army. It was a big ugly SOB, but when you wanted to reach out and jam someone, it was the best.

There's a double meaning in the name "TacJammer" as well; I am gainfully employed in a department called "T.A.C." You can figure out the rest, I'm sure.

And if you can't, too bad, I won't be explaining any further.

Posted by Russ at 12:39 PM | Comments (1)