Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Image of the Day

On the way in to our local Cold Stone Creamery tonight, I saw two men in their late 30's dressed in suits and ties sitting cross-legged on the curb eating ice cream. It was an interesting picture.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Not Quite Cosmic Irony

Sue's screen died today. Sue is Elie's GPS navigation unit with the pleasant computerized female voice that says "in point-three miles, turn left," etc. She's an indispensable piece of business equipment. Without the touch screen, there's no way to input the destinations for Sue to navigate to. Fortunately, we bought the extended warranty, so we went to the place of purchase, which I will refer to only as "ABC Warehouse" to protect the identities of the salesyahoos, to obtain a replacement.

Too bad our local ABC Warehouse was out of GPS navigators; however, there was good news. They could order one from another store and have it delivered around Friday or so, or we could go to the store two towns over to pick up ourselves. As I mentioned, the GPS is an indispensable business tool, so we opted for the latter.

This, of course, led to the big problem. The next nearest ABC Warehouse is somewhere in the next county. Our salesyahoos kept throwing out random street names and buildings that, apparently, are somewhere near our replacement GPS, and we kept coming back with variations on, "If we knew where that was, we wouldn't need a GPS navigator now, would we?"

So we followed the directions given to us by the salesguy who assured us "I don't need MapQuest. I drive there all the time." We circumnavigated the entire city of Toledo and a good chunk of the suburbs, and still haven't found that second ABC Warehouse. This is why we have the GPS.

Monday, June 28, 2004

Happiness is a Warm Puppy

As Sonja's vet said today, even the toughest day is tolerable when you know that you're coming home to a cat who wants nothing more than to curl up in your lap and be pet, even after you lure her into her carrier and haul her off to get her rabies shot.

Sunday, June 27, 2004

Alternative for the Undecided Voters

Mark Twain is running for President in 2004. I read it on the internet, so it must be true!

I checked Article 2 of the Constitution just to be sure. Nothing in there mandates that the President be alive, though the age requirement might be a bit of a roadblock for a pseudonym.

All joking aside, does make a few interesting points about modern politics and current events.

Friday, June 25, 2004


At 8:30 p.m. Eastern time, the AP reported that Arnold Schwarzenegger has reversed his stance on the killing of puppies, kittens, and cute little fluffy bunnies by saying, "I realized last night that there was a mistake I had made in the budget."

California Governor Wants My Cats Dead

Either Arnold Schwarzenegger lives in a fantasy world where he is so popular that he can do no wrong, or Californians really are so beguiled by the man's charm that they will stand back and watch their governor publicly advocate drowning burlap sacks full of kittens.

I exaggerate, of course. The Governator did not specify any particular method of killing puppies, kittens, or cute little fluffy bunnies. He just wants them dead, and quick.

Seems the accountants have figured that Schwarzenegger could save local governments $14 million by changing the law to allow shelters to whack cute little fluffy bunnies immediately upon arrival and only wait 3 days to off cats and dogs. Current law requires shelters to hold animals for (gasp!) very nearly an entire week before they consider euthanizing them to make way for another animal to have its window of opportunity to be adopted.

I would not make this up, for the simple reason that I do not want to go to jail. Accusing a sitting governor of wanting to kill kittens and puppies would be libel if it were not true. It's all in the Associated Press story that you can read by clicking here.

The AP headline is a little more tactful: "Schwarzenegger Wants Strays Killed Faster." I don't have to pretend to be as dispassionate as the AP. I am not a reporter; I am the owner of two cats, both adopted from animal shelters. The Humane Society did not disclose how long Chessie had been there, but Sonja, who is currently curled up in my lap nudging my arm because I'm using it to type instead of pet her, was dropped at the shelter a full 21 days before we adopted her. She's purring, blessedly oblivious to the fact that the governor of California thinks she should be dead right now.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Urgent Manifesto

If we are going to remain a functional voicemail-using society, we are going to have to agree on a universal definition of the word "urgent." I suggest the 48-hour rule: urgent matters require action within 48 hours to avert, at minimum, a minor inconvenience. If we cannot agree to abide by a uniform standard of urgency, we must remove the option for leavers of voicemail to mark their message as "urgent."

My voicemail box gets maybe 2 messages a month, and almost without exception they are preceded by the chipper announcement, "This message is marked 'urgent.'" These "urgent" messages are usually requests for me to call with basic information--a task which, while important, is not urgent. "Urgent" would be matters like requesting a loan deferment be faxed to a lender before a student's loan goes into default and leaves a black mark on an otherwise immaculate credit history. Of course, people with these kinds of urgent matters have contacted me before, know what my office hours are and call when I am in.

"This message is marked 'urgent'" is voicemail code for "the person who left this message is a douchebag." If the matter were truly urgent, you would be in my office writing a note to leave in my inbox, not sitting at home in your Fruit of the Looms calling me.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Calling Top Cat Fans

I'm passing on an appeal I heard from ME. Click here to read the original, longer version of this appeal from ME.

Warner Home Video is looking for someone who has original 16 mm or 35 mm releases of the 1961 Hanna-Barbera series Top Cat. Specifically, they are looking for the original end credits for the cartoons. They're up against the wire putting together a DVD collection of all 30 Top Cat cartoons, and the original end credits are nowhere to be found in the vaults. The credits that have run at the ends of the cartoons for most of the time the series has been in syndication are from a single episode, so some writers, animator, and guest voice actors have gone uncredited for all these years.

If you have any or all of the original releases of Top Cat cartoons in 16mm or 35 mm, click here to get in touch with ME, who can pass you on to the appropriate people over at Warner Home Video.

Frequent What Card?

I enjoy frequent buyer programs. My Starbucks card is especially fun because I make coffee runs for my entire office, keeping all the punches for their multiple $4 iced mochas on my card while only paying for the $1.70 iced coffee out of my own pocket. In addition to "buy 9 Starbucks drinks, get one free," my wallet is stocked with punch cards from Papa Murphy's Pizza, Holland Laundry, and The Body Shop.

I've had punch cards for everything from sandwiches to pantyhose, but I wasn't ready for the announcement from Pfizer that they were getting into the punch card game. Through this website here, you can sign up for a frequent-buyer card from the drug maker. The promo: buy 6 prescriptions for Viagra, get the 7th free.

There are so many inappropriate jokes I could make right here, I wouldn't know where to start.

(Thanks to Elie for the tip-off on this one)

Monday, June 21, 2004

Be Prepared to Choke

You'll need to either watch an ad or get a subscription to read this article on, but this following sentence, lifted from that article, ought to make you want to:

one night in March, members of Congress hosted a crowning ritual for an ex-convict and multibillionaire who dressed up in maroon robes and declared himself the Second Coming.

The night was March 23, the ex-con was Rev. Sun Myung Moon (convicted of tax fraud and conspiracy to obstruct justice, which Moon's website characterizes as "trumped up"), and the party occurred at the Dirksen Senate Office Building. The Salon article characterizes the event as a "coronation" based on the pictures of the couple in robes and crowns, but Moon is quoted on other sites as referring to it as more akin to an Eagle Scout banquet. Whatever you choose to call it should not make the event's presence in the Dirksen Senate Office Building any better. More background on Moon's background from the Salon article:

Moon preaches that...the U.S. Constitution should be scrapped in favor of a system he calls "Godism" -- with him in charge.

The ellipses replace some beliefs that are so offensive to certain groups that they would pull any meaningful discussion away from the fact that a U.S. Senate office building was used to host a coronation ceremony/awards banquet for a man who wants to scrap the Constitution so he can run the country.

Did I mention that this took place in a U.S. Senate office building? That would be an edifice that you pay for with your tax dollars. Check this Website to see if you should be doubly upset that one of your congresspersons was there and is now trying to weasel out of admitting it.

Close Doesn't Cut It

My affinity for puzzles probably has a lot to do with the 13 inch black and white TV we had for most of my formative years. It received channels 2-13 (and UHF if you went to the second knob), so I didn't watch as much TV as my cable-connected counterparts. I spent a lot of that time reading the World Book Encyclopedia and doing puzzles of just about any kind. I think my predilection for crosswords is genetic. My grandparents do them, and I've heard rumors that my great grandpa, with his third grade education, could do the New York Times crossword in pen.

Naturally, I couldn't resist entering The World's Hardest Crossword Puzzle Contest. The entry requirement: complete the Entry Puzzle, with clues such as:
33 Across: Downs a Sub (4 letters) [eats]
56 Across: It might be filed (4 letters) [nail]

Out of 195 letters to be filled in, I missed one. I put "rallies" instead of "rallies" when for the clue "came from behind."

Which brings me to the answer to 45 Across: Duh.

Sunday, June 20, 2004

Type Casting

Recently at work, we were discussing our Myers-Briggs personality types. Myers-Briggs tests are supposedly rooted in more psychology than a Cosmo quiz, but the entertainment level is the same. It's far more interesting to read the descriptions of the profiles than to know that I am supposedly an Introverted Intuitive Thinking Judging type--though it is a bit of a comfort to know that only 2-3% of the population test that way. Descriptions of my type include the phrase "sees more to the forest than just the trees." I find the forest/tree question to be unnecessarily limiting. Why trees? Why can't I choose between seeing the forest and the moss, deer or squirrel? As if to demonstrate this, in the midst of the discussion, my boss asked what my sign was. I launched into how I am a Leo going by dates in the newspaper, but if you account for the precession of the vernal equinox due to perturbations of the Earth's rotational axis, I'm actually a Cancer.

Apparently, I do that sort of thing all the time. I don't notice. I simply think that the world would be a much better place if everyone was precise and accurate at all times. According to my personality profile, other people find this annoying.

Saturday, June 19, 2004

Is that Roaming?

On the eve of Father's Day, this news story should serve as inspiration for any expectant father who secretly longs for the time when fathers were not expected to be in the delivery room. Lieutenant Colonel Mike Fincke wasn't even on the same planet when his wife gave birth to their second child on Friday. He's been on the International Space Station since April, and isn't slated to return until October. Lt. Col. Fincke did not entirely miss the birth, though. NASA patched his wife's cell phone through to the Space Station. Is an orbital altitude of 358 kilometers included in Nationwide Long Distance?

Friday, June 18, 2004

Semi-Current Events

The commentaries are out now on Monday's Supreme Court decision that ultimately left the words "Under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance. Most of the commentary seems to focus not on the Pledge of Allegiance itself (anyone who even addresses that part seems to be of the opinion that the legal arguments of the case were sound and that "under God" will come out eventually), but on the reasoning that led to the decision.

For those who haven't been paying attention, the Supreme Court did not find that "under God" was permissible because it is not an establishment of religion that would be prohibited by the first amendment. They found that the plaintiff, as a non-custodial parent, did not have the legal standing to bring a lawsuit on behalf of his child. Basically, the Supreme Court declined to hear an issue because they were compelled to enforce a parenting plan that gave the custodial parent broad veto power over the non-custodial parent.

Michael Newdow, the non-custodial father in question, writes an intriguing piece in Slate (click here) about how custody laws invite conflict between parents during a breakup--intriguing because he is quite apparently bitter about the way he is excluded from his daughter's upbringing, but still manages to make a reasoned argument.

The Christian Science Monitor (click here) accuses the Supreme Court of using the parenting plan issue to duck making a decision on a controversial issue, and in the process setting a dangerous legal precident against non-custodial parents. The Court did weasel out of a tough one, but they made the only decision they could, given that the child's mother has a parenting plan that gives her broad veto power in any disagreement over how the child is raised.

This latest discussion is focused on the many ways that non-custodial parents can get the shaft in family court, which is a discussion that has been a long time in coming. While there are far more opportunities for a non-custodial parent to get the short end of the parenting stick, I've also seen cases where non-custodial parents won't shoulder their part of parenting. Then there are the cases where both parents have forgotten that custody is an entirely separate issue from the divorce and both act like a horse's hindquarters. The only thing I can say is that there must be a better way than this to sort out childrearing when parents are not together.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Coming to a Theater Near You: "Colons Gone Wild"

Over here, ME discusses his recent colonoscopy. You'd think if the medical community could make having a camera shoved where the sun don't shine that comfy, they could do something about the Pap smear. ME does not indicate that there is a video (title of this entry notwithstanding), but I think the pirated DVD market at comic book conventions would do a brisk business in a DVD of the digestive tract of a major Hollywood writer. Myself, I'm holding out for the sequel, "Intestinal Tract Episode II: Attack of the Polyps."

Monday, June 14, 2004

I guess this is good news...

The latest Social Security forecast has pushed the program's insolvency date back to 2052. That means I no longer have to look at my annual Social Security statement as my annual reminder of all the money I've earned that I'll never see. Now I get a cool 9 years of Social Security benefits, assuming no one has pushed the retirement date back or eviscerated the program by then. Frankly, I don't care either way. I've rather gotten used to the idea of depending on my financial planner (a great guy named Bill) for my retirement planning rather than the government. I understand Bill.

Sunday, June 13, 2004

Shades of Purple

This article in the New York Times explores whether we, as a nation, really are as polarized as reports would have us believe. The gist is that no, we are not.

I have lived in a "blue" state (Oregon) and a "red" state (Nebraska), and I now live in a "swing" state (Ohio). There was a general sense that the community in Omaha was more conservative and the community in the Portland Metro area was more liberal; however, some of the most conservative people I've known were in Oregon and some of the most liberal were in Nebraska. The problem with red and blue states is that a couple hundred votes one way or another paints the entire state Crayola red or blue because the Electoral College setup forces the entire state to go one way or another. Most people are neither red nor blue unless they take the easy way out and pick a political affiliation then conform to those opinions. As an illustration of opinions, the electoral map is shades of purple with no state borders.

Friday, June 11, 2004

The Veep Shortlist Gets Shorter

There goes the best chance of having an interesting election season. John McCain (R-Ariz) has personally rejected John Kerry's (D-Mass) non-invitation to the VP slot on the Democratic presidential ticket. According to the AP, Kerry did not actually offer McCain the job, so that the rebuffing wouldn't make it look like the eventual VP is a second choice. How anyone comes up with that logic is beyond me.

A Kerry-McCain superticket never really had a chance. What I've heard of John McCain doesn't sound like someone who would be content to wake up every morning and ask if the President is OK. Nonetheless, having a bipartisan presidential ticket was a good fantasy while it lasted.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Timing is Everything

The cosmos has a great sense of humor. On the very day I received my Bachelor's degree in creative writing (with a minor in sociology), I got this reply from the person critiquing my short story:

"I think you're trying too hard to be artsy, too wrapped up in fancy-ing up the telling of the story. Just tell it. Spit it out. The goal is to communicate. If you confuse readers by doing hard-to-follow flashes forward and backward or any other tricky stuff, they'll go read something easier, like Hemingway. When you grow up to be Vonnegut, go for the gusto. For now..."

That might be insulting if he didn't go on to give me better advice in three pages than I got from 178 college credit hours and $25,000 in student loans. In spite of the tone of the above comment, he does think I'm good. The email ends with: "Press on. I wouldn't have spent this much time typing at you if I didn't think you had the goods."

So there it is: an unbiased professional with no reason to blow smoke up my backside actually telling me I have the goods. Strange as it may sound, that carries more weight coming from a virtual stranger, particularly this virtual stranger.

From the Mailbag

The mail today consisted of a Sharper Image catalog, a notice that I can get triple points at Media Play through Sunday and something that says

This diploma makes it known that the Board of Regents of the University of Nebraska upon the recommendation of the Faculty and by authority of the State has by its officers specially authorized hereto conferred the degree Bachelor or Fine Arts Magna Cum Laude upon Janet L. Harriett who is entitled to enjoy all the rights, honors and privileges pertaining to that degree.

Eight years getting a BFA in Creative Writing, and I wouldn't even know where to start diagramming that sentence. Nonetheless, I am finally a college graduate. Time to update my bio and go frame shopping.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Recommended Reading

I'm in the middle of The Elegant Universe by Brian Greene, a physics professor at Columbia University who has set out to explain to the average person a theory that resolves the fundamental inconsistencies between quantum mechanics and Einstein's special and general relativity (if you didn't realize quantum mechanics and relativity were incompatible, don't worry--he explains all that in Part 1). I haven't had this much fun getting dizzy since I stood smack under the rear end of the Spruce Goose and looked straight up at 80 feet of airplane tail. Now, that's a head rush. I take this as a good sign, since apparently quantum mechanics is supposed to make your head spin. Actually, the quantum mechanics isn't the hard part. The hard part is that the math of the universe works out best when there are 11 dimensions instead of the four we're used to dealing with. Having given the subject much thought before starting this book, I'm OK with second and third dimensions of time, and thanks to The Elegant Universe, I've almost wrapped my brain around a fourth spatial dimension. Dimensions 8-11 still elude me, though. I've got a book on request from the library that should help with that part as soon as I'm done with this one.

The Elegant Universe is #512 at (#5 in Norman, Oklahoma!), so I can't be the only one who finds theoretical physics fun summer reading. However, I do have to wonder: I am the only person on the planet frustrated by her inability to comprehend more than 7 dimensions of spacetime?

Monday, June 07, 2004

The One Thing I'll Say About Reagan

Since people are once again trotting out the idea of putting Ronald Reagan's mug on Mt. Rushmore, I feel compelled to point out that the four presidents who are already there are not completed. They were meant to be busts, not faces, but carving was suspended in 1941 and never resumed. Haven't you ever wondered why Washington has lapels and a roughed-out left shoulder while Lincoln isn't even hewn out deep enough to have ears? If we are going to restart work on the monument that was dedicated in 1991, wouldn't it be peachy to finish what Gutzon Borglum started before we start slapping on other ex-presidents?

Sunday, June 06, 2004


June 6 seems to have become enshrined as the National Day to Remember World War II. With the utmost respect to those who fought and died on the beaches of France 60 years ago, I do not understand the logic by which we have collectively glommed on to June 6 and the landing at Normandy when so much more of immediate consequence to America's interests happened in the Pacific Theater. America entered the war because an Axis attack decimated our Pacific Fleet. The only civilian casualties on American soil, aside from the territory of Hawaii, were a group of picnickers in Oregon killed by a balloon weapon launched off the Pacific coast. When a Japanese submarine fired on the northern Oregon coast, Axis ordinance made landfall on the American Mainland (fortunately, it killed only a tree).

Given the focus of the narrative on the American liberation of France, our being part of an alliance of many nations to beat back the bad guys isn't the draw of D-Day. The logic behind the collective obsession cannot possibly be the dramatic narrative of our boys storming a beach, facing hostile enemy fire, either, because that happened in the Pacific Theater numerous times. Each island required an amphibious assault against an enemy that finally had its last soldier surrender in 1974.

But D-Day is tidier than the Pacific Theater, and more convenient. The Nazis were bad, and liberating France from the Nazis was good. More to the point, the Nazis were the Nazis. We can separate them from the modern German citizen with just one word, and Nazis are still worldwide pariahs who do not supply us with stereo systems and DVD players. With the Japanese, we have no similar way to avoid combining the military of 60-odd years ago with the citizen of today, and in the intervening years, Japan has become an important ally and trading partner. Celebrating our victory over Japan every year would strain international relations and bring up a few questions about the methods America used to achieve that final victory--questions that are, at best inconvenient, and spark a debate I do not intend to get into here.

D-Day was a fight to liberate our allies; the Pacific Theater was a war to defend our country. This fetish with D-Day is a major disservice to our original first line of defense in Homeland Security.

Saturday, June 05, 2004

Strangest Highway Multitasking Yet

Cruising down the freeway on my way to work this morning, I passed a guy driving a pickup truck while shaving. There are cigarette lighter powered electric razors, which are bad enough when you're doing 65 in a construction zone, but this guy was using a blade.

Friday, June 04, 2004

Much more accurate than anything from Cosmo

If you only knew the power of the dark side.
Postatem obscuri lateris nescitis.
"You do not know the power of the Dark Side." There are two possibilities: you
are a Star Wars geek, or you are unreasoningly scary.

Which Weird Latin Phrase Are You? brought to you by Quizilla

Thanks to Maggie for pointing out the quiz.

Highlight of My Day

Up until five minutes ago, the highlight of my day was going to be successfully setting up the new TiVo we got so we could record the network programming that we cannot get through our DirecTV service with the built-in TiVo. I am not the most ept person with home electronics, so integrating a new component into a home entertainment system that requires seven remote controls to operate is no small feat. (Side note: we've tried universal remotes, but they are never universally compatible with all of our components). Preliminary indications are that I seem to have managed to properly connect the new TiVo box to the cable outlet, connect the TV to the TiVo, program the TV to recognize the TiVo, split the phone line between the two TiVo boxes, activate the TiVo service, and set the new box up to receive two weeks of programming information on only the cable channels we receive so we can easily record programs to watch at our convenience. We'll see tonight when we try to TiVo our first program.

However, all that seems less important now that I found out that while the TiVo was calling in for programming information, I nearly got myself charged with obstruction of justice. A nondescript man knocked on my door and asked if Charles (no last name) was in. It's a side effect of apartment life that you occasionally get people asking for the person who lived there before you. I told the man that Charles did not live here anymore. He asked how long ago he left, and I told him I didn't know, but that we'd lived here for more than a year now. All the while, my mystery guest did not introduce himself, so I was in no hurry to divulge too much information. Frankly, I thought he was a magazine salesman or something like that. I'm not sure what he said that led me to joke, "Well, if he lives here, I don't know about it," but it didn't seem inappropriate at the time. The man thanked me and left, all without saying who he was or why he was looking for the former tenant of my apartment.

I went back to the TiVo setup and thought no more about the incident until one of the leasing agents for our complex caught me as I picked up my mail and asked if I'd really said that. Turns out my mystery guest was a bailiff trying to serve papers. In that context, my little smart-ass comment sounded suspiciously like I was trying to hide something, and compelled him to go to the leasing office to make certain that Charles did not, in fact, live in my apartment without my knowledge. On the bright side, I seem to have found a response that county process servers hadn't heard before, and he seems to have found it amusing after corroborating testimony proved it was a joke and not an attempt to interfere with the operations of the judicial system.

I'm Back!

You may have noticed posting has been a little light here the past couple days. OK, the posting has been nonexistant the past couple days. I've been busily tidying up a short story for someone who offered to critique it. I won't presume to disclose who is doing the critique, but this person is in a position to know good writing and is pretty much a perfect stranger to me, hence feels no obligation to spare my feelings. No offense to my family, but I'm pretty sure none of them would tell me if I'd set a load of hog droppings to paper. This marks the first time I'll get an unbiased, no-holds-barred, pull-no-punches assessment of a piece I've written. I don't recall ever being quite this nervous in my life.