Wednesday, January 31, 2007

There's nothing sadder than a glass of wine (alone)

But there's nothing happier than a lot of beer left over from poker. And it's best enjoyed alone. So, basically, I'm saying that these things are sort of complicated.

I had a theory. My theory was that kids often mask their genuine excitement by feigning total disinterest. This theory has been replaced by another: kids are peddling a Ponzi scheme of lies, and when this pyramid comes crashing down, only kid-pulp will remain.

Let me explain. SS had the excellent idea to show the Mentos-Diet Coke reaction to the kids we mentor. So we did. Response: mild interest. But now, a week later, the "experiment" is legend. A massive explosion, etc. Kids are lining up eagerly for the next performance. To mitigate their inevitable disappointment, they will have to find another crop of children, and they will have to exaggerate. I really don't want to be there when the bubble bursts & the kids must face the harsh truth: it's not that impressive. They will cut us with their razor blades.

P.S. When I pressed the button to clean my windshield earlier today, a Slurpee came out. Someone had craftily broken into my car, popped the hood, and poured a slushy mixture of lime-flavored corn syrup and ice into my wiper fluid container. What monster would do this?

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

One Aspen turns on another

Liveblogging of Judith Miller's appearance at the Libby trial today: here.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

The Ethicist

Dear Ethicist,

I am a session bass player (I have recorded with Thomas Dolby, Harry Belafonte, and Animal Collective) living in a seventh floor walk-up. I also have mild undifferentiated schizophrenia, though I do not believe this fact is necessarily germane to my question. My downstairs neighbor has informed me that using my dishwasher causes his ceiling to leak rather badly; apparently, there is a ruptured hose somewhere. As a consequence, I do not regularly wash my dishes, and thus cannot cook. I subsist exclusively on takeout from Dumpling Man and multivitamins. I have considered waiting until it rains, and then washing my dishes under the cover of exculpatory precipitation. Would this be ethical?
--Randy Smoot, NY
Under ordinary circumstances, I would advise you to (a) call your super to request repairs, and (b) wash your dishes by hand in the meantime. However, I am feeling blue. I caught my lover in flagrante delicto with a man dressed as a pink bunny-- if you are unfamiliar with "furry fetishists," suffice it to say that discovering this hitherto unpublicized predilection was the occasion for alarm and soul-searching. I have not fully recovered. I regret to say, therefore, that I hope you fucking choke on your dumplings.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Totally safe for work

3 videos to grease the wheels of time:

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Those are people who died, died

Cleaning, and found an old Washington Post from 12/22/06. Pretty good obit section that day. I abstract them here for you. For you. I give and give, and what do I get in return? Heartache.

  • Cecil Travis, lifetime batting average of .314, was given a Hereford Bull in an on-field ceremony during his final season with the Washington Senators.
  • Saparmurat Niyazov, or Turkmenbashi The Great, commissioned a gold-plated statue of himself that rotated with the sun "so his heroic visage always caught the light." He also renamed months after himself and his mother. And, of course, he was a brutal dictator.
  • Eleanor Wainstein was a research analyst specializing in international terrorism, and sewed her own clothes.
  • Marjorie Arundel fought tirelessly against illegal bulb harvesting in Asia Minor.
  • Fred Marsden, drummer for Gerry and the Pacemakers, later established the Pacemaker Driving School.
  • Catherine Pollard was the first female scoutmaster.
  • John Nocket, CPA, "retired in the early 1970s but got bored and took a job as chief of internal auditing for the Washington Suburban Sanitation Commission."
  • Roy Story was nicknamed "Ma" by fellow prisoners during the Korean War, because he cooked and cared for them all.
  • Margaret Ware was a pilot during WWII and later worked on antipoverty programs.
  • Suzanne Buzzard was inspired to become a civil servant when she heard a speech by JFK in Michigan in 1960. She worked for the Peace Corps and USAID, and had three Zs in her name, four if you count her middle name (Elizabeth).
  • Arnold Price, historian, helped recover the "Hildebrandslied," a 9th century epic poem from Germany that had gone missing after WWII. He made a gingerbread house every Christmas.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Sinewy nuggets

  • Collected Insults, Vol. IV: "Just go on home, Roy. Go home and eat your deer. Start at the end with the asshole and just keep going." --Richard Russo, Nobody's Fool.
  • Some guy has mapped out all murders & shootings in Baltimore & DC. Clicking on each tag reveals the name, age, and location of the victim (and perpetrator, if available), along with the cause of death. He's also mapped out the location of Baltimore police surveillance cameras (most accompanied by a freaky blue strobe and the command "BELIEVE").
  • You should check out this blog. He's a friend in exile.
  • We're only two weeks away from the long, dark period with neither football nor baseball. Here's a tremendously unsatisfactory solution: get really into NFL Europe. Some of my maternal ancestors were potato farmers near Hamburg in the 1600s, so this will be my team. The, uh, Hamburg Serfs. The Hamburg Spud Toilers. The Hamburg Sea Devils? Really; the Sea Devils? I hate February & March.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Look, I'm no hero. Will someone please accuse me of being a hero?

My friend and I are mentors to a couple of third-graders in East Baltimore. It's an afterschool program for kids with one parent (or both) in prison. Unfortunately, more than one-third of the kids in this school meet this criterion.

My kid is great, and it's a lot of fun. But my friend and I were thinking the other day: do we spend more time mentoring or talking about mentoring? Because, let's face it: we talk a lot about mentoring. Any excuse will do. The following topics of conversation may be deftly flipped into a monologue on my mentoring experiences: Baltimore, prisons, education, children, pancakes, Bill Parcells, Swisher Sweets, arboviruses. Awkward silences are especially nice opportunities for me to blurt out some self-aggrandizing mentoring story.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Jack Evans here

Hmm. I still think I can do 5 posts per week. Stay with me, foax. Don't give up on this old fool.

To end your week, let me tell you more about Jack Evans:
Jack Evans takes success seriously. He's got a dog-eared copy of The Art Of War on his bookshelf. Though he doesn't buy into all that motivational seminar crap, he does appreciate the value of spotting counterintuitive kinships between the world of business and other disciplines. Jack Evans thinks that he and Muhammad Ali have a lot in common. He once saw a documentary on Cubism; sometimes, during meetings, he tries to imagine how Picasso might address the fucked-up vendor negotiation.

Jack Evans digs Frank Lloyd Wright, mainly because he read The Fountainhead in college. He doesn't remember much about it except (a) architects get serious pussy, and (b) liberal social conscience is for losers. Not that he's a dick. No no; Jack goes out of his way to be nice to the little guy. He talks football with the guys who deliver Poland Spring. He makes sure to remember every employee's name at his Starbucks. And, of course, he makes liberal use of the other person's name in every conversation. Look 'em in the eye, shake hands firmly, smile, and pepper your patter with their Christian names. Trust-building is good business.

Jack will sometimes prep you for his monologues with the trifecta: "Hey, just so you know, a little FYI, little heads-up." But he's doesn't just mouth suitspeak; Jack is usually several months ahead of his coworkers in co-opting African-American slang, and is ruthless about dropping outdated slang. Just last week, he mocked Dave in Marketing for saying "fo' shizzle." Dave will never say it again. Dave knows who the big dog is. Jack Evans is the big dog.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Some nuggets for you

  • The desert ratchets down one's expectations so low that even the humblest signal protruding from the monotonous plain is a revelation. I like it. Odd rocks, unexpected noises, even strange animal shit. One cool thing we found in a side canyon off Death Valley was a profusion of desert pumpkins. They turned out to be Coyote Gourds, and they tasted like bitter poison. Feverish Googling has revealed some desert lore: coyotes trying to wean their pups rub their nipples against the gourds; the bitterness dissuades the pups from further suckling. It must be true: after tasting the flesh of one gourd, I will never again suckle at a coyote's tit. Probably.
  • Correction: I mislabeled the mask below. It is the demon of deafness, not of parasitic diseases. This correction comes from my aunt, whose "virtuosic" performance of Vivaldi's Concerto for Bassoon in E Flat recently won acclaim. Of my lapse, she warns that "no good can come of this, I am afraid."
  • I've never really been sure what made the voyage of the Sloop John B so bad. I mean, it sounds like the worst that happened is that the cook threw away some grits and then ate up all of the corn. It's not like a giant squid attacked the boat and devoured the screaming crew or anything.
  • From the Point Reyes Light, 1/11/07, Sheriff's Calls: [MARSHALL- A resident at 11:41 am reported "a smoldering log on the beach." Deputies investigated.]
  • Also: [INVERNESS- An individual at 9:49 pm reported a "man 'masturbating' on front of employee." Deputies took a report.]

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Overheard In Lone Pine

At the Double L Bar:

Mustachioed old man #1: "If your last name is Burns, sure as hell you've got a gene for adventure in there somewhere."

Mustachioed old man #2: "He was one hell of a pilot."


Woman: "I'm not afraid of him, 'cause he treats me like a daughter."

Bearded old man: "I hear he's responsible for 12 kills now."

Woman: "Well, he's on some new medication."

Sunday, January 07, 2007

New Year's Resolution

5 posts per week.

Uh, just as soon as I return from my semiannual Taming Of The Cacomistles in the desert. Thursday. Like I always say, keep clicking "refresh." Something new and clever is bound to appear soon.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Gold nuggets

  • If the Special Lady can have a crush on Liev Schreiber, who hit on her at a restaurant, I am surely allowed a crush on Carla Bruni, who did not hit on me at a restaurant. Or maybe she did. Why do you automatically assume that she didn't? Huh?

  • Please note my superhuman restraint. Now watch me violate that restraint with the brutality of a Siberian tiger snapping its hempen tethers. The 49ers finished 7-9 this year with a surprising victory in their last game against the Broncos. I knew they would win, however, since I have magic powers. "Corn Chips The Greek" correctly called their 4-12 season in 2005, and correctly called their 7-9 season this year. Little good my powers do me, other than augmenting my smugness and helping the Special Lady to win $100 in her office pool.

  • When AW's special doctor-pager goes off, it usually says stuff like "car v. pedestrian" or "ladder fall", but the other day, it said "lion mauling," which turned out to be an unfortunately accurate description.
  • I have about a week left on the West Coast before I return to tropical Baltimore. An Xtreme, manhood-affirming camping trip to Death Valley beckons on Sunday. But part of me doesn't want to leave the Bay Area; it's been so fucking beautiful. Valley oaks, scrub oaks, black oaks, blue oaks, Coast Live oaks, tan oaks, bay, madrone, manzanita, toyon, amanita, bobcats and hawks &c... and don't get me started on liar's dice at the Buddha Bar.
  • Via PY: check out this article on Sri Lankan masks representing various diseases. The middle one (in the image above) is Bihiri Sanniya, the demon of parasitic worms and and stomach diseases.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

We're at least a decade away from a reacharound machine

Mrs. Fesler, my junior high school English teacher, always touted the virtues of the "Golden Grabber," the name she bestowed upon any arresting opening sentence in an essay. I hope that she would be proud of the following:

If you really need some spare cash, you can volunteer to get fucked up the ass by a machine for precisely five minutes until a viscous vehicle for radioisotopes is ejaculated into your rectum; you must then allow endoscopic imaging and 360-degree SPECT/MRIs of your colorectal tract for the next 24 hours.

HIV is a problem. Condoms work pretty well. Trouble is, lots of folks don't use 'em, and plus, plenty of women in this coercive little world don't have much control over condom use. So the ideer is to develop an effective and cheap microbicide, allowing the fuckee to grease up the vagina or the anus (maybe even in secret), and thus to pork away with fewer worries.

But. Nobody really knew what properties were necessary for an effective microbicide. E.g., how far did it have to, you know, go up there? How long did it have to persist? Enter CH and colleagues, riding to the rescue.

The topic is fascinating and complex, and deserves far more respect than this giggly blog post. But whatever. So CH and colleagues test out microbicides and their performance against semen surrogates. Like I says, they get volunteers to simulate anal and vaginal sex for five minutes (tragically, the median duration of sex) with a fuckin' machine until a researcher presses the "ejaculate" button, spewing forth a gel laden with a particulate radionuclide complex. 24 hours of monitoring and imaging follows.

Anal sex is particularly tricky for microbicides, in part because the wall of the colon is only two cells thick, and in part because there's so much real estate to cover. (Incidentally, it's estimated that there are approximately equal numbers of "anal sex events" between heterosexual couples and gay couples; the frequencies kinda even out.) Among many interesting results, it turns out that within a few hours, the jazz can "migrate" six feet up the colon. And by the way, yes, taking a massive dump may be an inexpensive (if unreliable) means of post-exposure risk reduction.

Anyway. Sleep well tonight, knowing that people way smarter than us are still working on this problem, and marvel that they somehow manage to refrain from making juvenile jokes about it.

Monday, January 01, 2007

El Castillito

In a parallel, more just universe, El Castillito is the West Coast equivalent of Katz's. A line of tourists snakes out the door, across Church St., and into Safeway, where customers kill time by reading In Touch magazine. In this delicious universe, the print of a bullfighter is joined on the wall by framed glossies of celebrities: Richard Dean Anderson, Loni Anderson, Kurt Andersen. Hey, isn't that David Caruso hamming it up with a quesadilla suiza? Ronnie Lott's head looks tiny, for once, next to his Super chicken burrito. Photos of Teamsters leaders, politicians, Bay Area icons (Huey Lewis, Rickey Henderson, the great-great-granddaughter of Lola Montez) jostle for prime real estate behind the cash register.

A sign marks the exact table where Mark Linn-Baker so memorably ejaculated on Shelley Long's tortilla chips in the 1980s romantic comedy Friends With Privileges. Another sign reads "Send A Burrito To Your Friend In Toledo." Smug SF locals remind their out-of-town friends to "get the bottled Coke. It's Mexican. Real sugar."

Why is it my favorite burrito? They grill the tortilla, simultaneously melting the cheese. 3 kinds of beans to choose from. Avocado or guacamole. Option to add onions & cilantro. And-- most importantly-- they re-grill the marinated chicken upon taking your order. The finished product is 2 pounds, easily, and is so delicious that you hardly need to add their avocado/tomatillo salsa. The place hasn't changed much over the years. The name "El Castillito" is remarkably difficult to spot, and is even absent from the sign above the door. They've added a juice machine, and diversified their salsa collection, but it's pretty static.

Chef brother: "Why do you like that place so much?"
Me: "Come on. It's fantastic."
Chef brother: "It's all right."
Me: "All right? All right? Are you kidding?"
Chef brother: "Low standards."