The 2002 Daybook

    Preface:  My first year of college, and I'm living in the Pearne House and starting my memoirs, Pearne House Days And Stranger Things. Upstairs is a box of notebooks belonging to a woman named Andrea, along with a spinning wheel. Roommates tell me a bit about this woman, then I meet her when she returns to the state in November or early December – and she procedes to spend a few weeks living at the Pearne House, rummaging through her stuff and engaging me in some of the most intreguing conversations. She was 28 and living by the moment, smoking to keep her hunger in check. I was freshly 19 and knew the real world was out there, somewhere, so a guide or at least a map and a flashlight would be very welcome. She found a place to call her own after the powers-that-be said she couldn't stay there rent-free; a tin shack on a ranch on Lateral B, just a few miles away from the college. And such a bargain at $75 a month: woodstove, kitchenette, a bunk, and a place to keep her horse.
    My family was going to Hawaii for Christmas, and I'd been trying to make it clear since July that I wouldn't be on that plane. (Why would I wanna be trapped on a fucking island with these people?) Andrea invited me to spend Christmas with her at the tin shack, and I accepted. It had snowed about a foot prior to December 24, so my best friend Randy gave me a ride out to her place since there was no way I'd be able to get there safely on my moped, and I made him agree to pick me up the next day at a given time. She was way the hell out. I arrived at her accomidations with a pint of ice cream and some small useful gift in hand, but before I knocked on her door I looked around. I was literally nowhere, or a few yards from the middle of it, and it was white as far as the eye could see, with even the ridge around the Valley blanketed securely in snow. It seemed like even the fences, the cattle, the horses, and the other galvanized buildings were hidden, or maybe that was my snowblinded perception of being... there, wherever There was, there I was. I was the only thing of color and substance in the picture. I turned and knocked on her door, and she welcomed me into her relatively warm home. I sat down at the foot of her bed and looked at the spinning wheel, which has been in use to turn bulk wool into one cohesive thread she could knit with. She offered me a slice of homemade bread, which was more like hardtack because of the lack of leavening and the fall-right-to-the-floor-of-your-gut effect it had as I ate it like a bloodless Holy Communion. It was vaguely sweet, and I had no doubt I'd put enough fiber in my diet after eating this.
    She'd changed religions with the frequency of Bob Dylan, and in some of the same elections too. At this moment, she didn't believe in the celebration of Christmas but she wasn't free of her past so also didn't reject that giving someone a gift was the order of the day. I don't remember what I brought beside that pint of ice cream (and we reasoned that since it's food, it's useful). She gave me two things as well: the scarf she was working on at the spinning wheel, once she'd finished making it, and an original 1971 (UNI label) cassette of Elton John's Madman Across The Water. I tried to reject the tape, because she had been carrying it for years in that leather bag of hers, which held the few worldly possessions she clung to – I felt that if one hangs onto something for so long, so many places, par ardua, it must have some meaning to that person. Maybe so, she said, but I give it to you. She said she was just lightening her load, and she had borrowed my tape player when she moved out of the Pearne House so I knew she'd had the ability to play it, but no matter, she wanted me to have this. We sat around talking for the rest of the night, and since the room was lit with one exposed 60 watt bulb with a drawstring night fell on us too. The room was going as black inside as it was white outside, and it was becoming about as empty and desolate inside my head as it was outside the shack.
    The next morning I don't remember. It was Christmas Day. Silent night, holy night, turned into day. I laid there as she went out to feed her horse. I thought for a moment about my family, how they were trying to run from their own mortality (we'd always spent the holiday with my mother's parents, who had died the year before and thereby Christmas of 1985 was mostly going through the hollow motions in hopes things would be the same) and hoped they were finding the distraction they sought. I was... there. Closer to what the Christ child saw when He looked around, but without a star or wise men presenting material wealth. Humble. All is calm, all is bright, as the sun reflected off the plains of white. Harrod didn't want me dead, but I was essentially already slain; I felt like a ghost, more or less invisible, blending in with my descriptionless surroundings. I think I did finally get up and dressed, and walked outside around the tin shack to make sure I was seeing the things I was not seeing. Andrea came back and we sat at the woodstove trying to have one of those remarkable conversations. The only sound we heard was Randy's car returning on schedule, by which time she and I didn't have many useful words left.
    Postface:  Randy took me to my aunt's house to get my gifts, the ones my parents had left there for everyone who normally came to the Christmas party as well as any others the extended family felt inclined to give me, and as we drove back to my place listening to Boston's much-belated Third Stage I said he could have any package in the box, didn't matter which. He was dubious about that, but I encouraged him and he pointed to one cubic box. I handed it to him. He says he was just kidding, but I tried to force it on him. He declined me again. Okay, I said, so let's see what you missed out on... it's a giant Hershey's Kiss. I open it to have a snack, and there's a $50 bill tucked underneath it. His eyes widened, realizing he would have hit it big, then swore that if he had accepted the package he surely would have given me the money back. I shrugged and said I wouldn't have accepted it, because I gave him the gift sight unforseen. He doubted me but at that moment I'd just gotten back from an absolute void, and nothing material mattered to me. Enjoy the nihilism while it lasts. A month after, Andrea has burned her spinning wheel for fuel. About a year later I gave the scarf to charity because other people needed a warm length of bulky wool more than I did, and I hoped that someone talented would find that and spin it even finer to make a sweater for a child. I was the last person Andrea saw when she left the Valley for good in 1991, which was pure coincidence because I worked at the gas station she was filling up her van at before she and her new Middle Eastern husband moved eastward. But the cassette... this was a meaningful gift and I still have it; this became my first Christmas album, and I've listened to it three times in the course of writing this. It's on the final song right now, "Goodbye":
and now that it's all over
the birds can nest again
I'll only snow when the sun comes out
I'll shine only when it starts to rain
And if you want a drink
Just squeeze my hand
And wine will flow into the land
and feed my lambs
For I am a mirror
I can reflect the moon
I will write songs for you
I'll be your silver spoon
I'm sorry, I took your time
I am the poem that doesn't rhyme
Just turn back a page
I'll waste away, I'll waste away...

    My household hasn't been in the Christmas spirit. Not that we haven't got the boxes of ornaments out, not that we haven't bought presents which are stacked to the rafters, not that we haven't put our antiques on display so others may enjoy them, but we simply haven't found ourselves excited that it's the most wonderful time of the year. We bought a tree on Friday and decorated it Saturday night, so the biggest obstacle has been surmounted (other than wrapping that mountain of gifts). We still haven't become enthusiastic. And I see that it could be a tough task since I work until 11 p.m. on Christmas Eve and we both have to be at work again on Boxing Day – so must leave work on the 24th and pick up the wife and her mother, drive across Snoqualmie Pass to the sis-in-law's house (arriving around 2am), find sleep, and make merry in the daylight then return across the Pass that evening because my spouse must work the next morning. Oy to the world! I have at least been finding myself reconnected to others: my mother emailed me (yes, mail the gifts please, no calendars!), I got a call from my bud MeLissa this morning (working graveyard shift at Toys R Us, groggy elves), and the other day in the supermarket I stood in line behind my old girlfriend Sheri (lost 100 pounds, moved 5 blocks away from me [yipe!], and took her mom to see Tori Amos).
    I thought I met Jesus in the Safeway one night a decade ago. I was walking down the magazine aisle around 8 p.m. and came across a gentleman I knew from my church, standing there reading something. He'd been a Scoutmaster and had on a couple previous occasions asked me to join this service group for teenage boys, which he had been a leader in. Neither of those groups suited me despite the obvious chick appeal so I'd always turned him down. He said hello and we chatted for a moment about this and that, and he had this warm glow in his eyes. I was having a hard time getting past that warm glow, for it was fairly entrancing. I could smell the alcohol on his breath so wondered how much of this glow was the meat and how much was the sauce. And he starts speaking in religious terms, not in a preaching or a conversion way (since you can't convert someone who attends the same church, though I hadn't been there in a couple years) but more of a "you are loved, did you know that?" manner. It was attractive, alluring. The warning system in my head was searching for more data, trying to decipher whether this was the Savior embodied in an acquaintance or whether it was something sinister. I had a mental image of a scene from Disney's bastardization of Kipling's The Jungle Book – Sher-Kaa the python giving the Mowgli the man-cub the mesmerising eye while crooning "Trust In Me." It was all very convincing, and I haven't any doubt that a person can meet their Lord wandering the halls of a supermarket (consider John Denver meeting his maker George Burns in "Oh, God!"), but... I had to get back to my shopping, so I adjusted my doubting-Thomas cap and wished him well as I moved on, asking myself (as I often did) what the hell just happened.
    Years later, while talking to a friend from the old 'hood, I discovered what could have been behind that moment (and to be completely fair, I can't rule out that he did have good intentions and was possessed of the Holy Spirit at that moment) – I hadn't known before, because I was a child when the story he told took place and kids are normally sheltered from realities as such, that this pillar of the community was a convicted tot-twaddler. My friend had been one of the boys he messed with, and ultimately the one who brought the anvil down upon him. That look of love in his eye potentially was a look of lust, it dawned upon me. There could have been a religious experience which had nothing to do with religion. I don't know (I don't need to know) what the truth of the moment was; I needed to tell this story to get it out of me and into the ether. --#2

    When I first heard Trans-Siberian Orchestra on one of those late-night TV shows, I was entranced. A heavy metal cover of "Carol of the Bells"! So I spent a few sheckles to get their two albums the other day, figuring that's what they do. Well... Along with a couple (yes, a couple) hard rockin' renditions of old Christmas favorites, they've put in some acoustic versions (like you can't find those all over) and a few songs they wrote themselves which may or may not be destined to become traditional favorites someday (likely not). And they write on themes, which is swell if you're Roger Waters, but this is more like Dream Theatre [sorry Lance, I had to say it]. Disappointment.
    Ever since the fourth grade, people have thought that I was gay. This has merely been annoying, never something I've gotten into a fight about because I was always outnumbered – and then there was the month few people were talking to me at recess in the sixth grade so I had the time and mental space to listen to what the world around me was saying, and that was when I realized people had no flippin' idea what they were talking about. I didn't feel so bad when I realized that the kids I went to school with couldn't define their terms, and if they could I didn't fit into it. That's where I realized also that homophobia is many people's Achilles heel; they fear or lack comprehension of anyone who is different from them (or very much the same but they don't want to admit it!). This came in handy a few years ago: I went to visit a female friend in her sedate neighborhood, and it seems this neighborhood had a disproportionate number of white trash bullies. So I'm waiting for her bus to show up, and they decide it's time to hassle me. So I start running across this empty lot to get more in the public view and my foot catches this juniper root... wham, down I go and cut my middle. I make it to the street, and they are circling around me using their homophobic taunts, and one of these charming twits is holding a fence picket. I see your pink slip, boys. I touched the bleeding wound on my side and said, "If you think I'm gay, you must also think I have the AIDS virus. I'm bleeding, so THINK CAREFULLY, *do* you want to make physical contact with me by hitting me??" When put into that context, their knees went out on them and after a minute of rumination they decided they had other things they needed to be doing. Stupid fuckers. It wasn't until college I met anyone who was gay (okay, found out a friend from high school was, and at that same time lived with a gay man at the college dorms), and this is where I defeated my own lack of understanding; some of the coolest folks I've ever known prefer their own gender and have an outrageous sense of humor. Yet this whole homo shadow has followed me for life, and I can think of a couple women who used the following phrase after they'd been in my bed: "I was sure that you were gay, but I guess this proves you aren't." Truthfully that doesn't prove anything, there are plenty of actual homosexuals who play it straight, but ladies thanks for letting me change your mistaken minds... Now could you go back in time and tell that to the girls I was trying to make hay with in school? (That's got to be the ultimate contradiction: girls turning down the advances of a boy because they think he's gay.)
    But I haven't been completely chaste either. Yes, I maintain that I have never had a dick in my mouth or my ass, and never put it in any other guy's ass either. (Their mouth? Several times!) I have a bunch of stories I'd be glad to tell here, but for the fact that most of the people these involve are straight and wouldn't want people to know they had considered the alternatives. I never had to go looking around for curiosity because it seems these things always came to me. Only once did I ever debate which side I wanted to play for, which was in 1987, and even then I wasn't getting anything from anyone of any gender so it was a moot point. And that particular couple months of merely saying I was bisexual had one funny anecdote: I'd told a friend at that time about my stance, and five years later a former girlfriend came to me very angry about it – she'd heard what I'd said from the friend's mother in church. She of all people should have known I was straight, heh heh. And it was during that short period that I ever gave a serious flirt. I've never propositioned anyone for anything, save that time when I was 10 that after however many instances of the boy next door wanting to dingle with my dangler I said, "I'm doing all the work here, show me yours!" (He did, behind a bush. I had a thingie similar, just wanted to confirm we're all constructed as such.) But the flirt... My bud Wayne and I were in Budget Tapes & Records rummaging around, as we did all the time, and there was this counterperson by the name of Alex. And he was quite divine, avant, and angular. It's around 9 p.m. and we didn't know when the store closed, so he asks Alex, "What time do you get off?" I chimed in, in soto voce, "...and how?" He blushed! I think I blushed too. A couple months later I got a postcard from the store, telling me that this Art of Noise cassette I'd ordered couldn't be obtained (in the meantime I'd found it elsewhere, which had two stacks of the title), upon which he had written a missive saying that maybe we should get together and talk. Advertising pays, I guess, but the end result is that nothing ever happened; I could never get to town while he was still living there, he went off on Mormon mission for two years (during which time he asked me to mail him some Manscape magazines in a plain brown wrapper), was back for one week (during which time I visited him for a couple hours but we'd forgotten everything we'd discussed in our letters) before he headed off to BYU, and the last time I saw him was 1992 when he brought his bohemian girlfriend to Mel's Diner to meet me. End of that story. He wasn't the most tempted I've ever been – that would have been the gay guy who looked like Julian Lennon that I met at a New Years party, whom I had to politely turn down because it'd be rude to come over with one person then, uh, come with another, but had my girlfriend continued to piss me off (and had he been able to stay another half hour) history might have been different.  :)  People tell me all the time that they love how unabashèd I am in the Daybook; this is no different, I'm telling you something true that we're not supposed to be talking about, not for shock value per se but to express what I wasn't able to speak when it mattered most: I'm straight but not narrow... and as Ministry said, my favorite weapon is the look in your eyes. --#2

    Thanksgiving has come and gone, and I survived it. To the readership residing outside of North America: Thanksgiving is a holiday in the United States (and Canada; same day but different reasons) where families and friends come together to eat turkey, watch televised sports, and chat merrily (or not) in rememberance of how the Native Americans saved the white man's butts in 1620. The white man promptly thanked their hosts by putting them into reservations or massacring them, but that was after dinner. My CD-RW, a Phillips 8x4x32, ate too much turkey and died twitching. That was a lousy way to go; at first the computer would crash at random intervals, then I was able to predict crashes by watching the read light on the CDROM go on without there being a disk in the drive or an application needing to read the drive. I booted into DOS and watched it do the same thing, meaning it wasn't a Windows virus. I removed the IDE cable from the drive, and watched the lights do their thing (without taking down the computer in the process) so it was indeed the drive going toes-up, six months after the warranty expired. So the next day [info for foreigners: the biggest shopping day of the year here] I went to a few stores and compared models & prices, and bought a HiVal 40x12x48. What a difference! Toast in under 5 minutes! But back to the festivities. I spent most of the day keeping the cat company (he doesn't like strangers so he stayed in my bedroom window) and working on my brother-in-law's bamboo flooring website. (Major update to be revealed there soon, it has to be approved by the council of elders first.) Speaking of Cheddar, I got to witness a social experiment. He's always been an only child, as far as I know (knowing nothing of his first four years). A couple of my neicephew had kittens in their van, so they brought this little black fuzzball in and I put it down in front of Ched on the windowsill to see what his reaction would be. It went something like this: Kitten hisses. Kitten hisses again. Kitten hisses once more. Kitten hisses yet again. Cheddar sits there with this look like, "what form of beast are you?" and cautiously starts sniffing the kitten's nose. Kitten hisses. Cheddar leans back and hisses in reply – but not in a threatening manner, he seems to be backing away in fact; hissing is in his vocabulary an adjective, not an interjection. I take the kitten away since Cheddar is no match for it, Ched forgets all about the conversation, and I hand the kitten back to my nephew, much to his chagrin because the kitten is very riled up and clawing anything that it comes into contact with (especially the boy's chest).
    I saw someone at the store the other day who I haven't talked to in years. Long ago I was hanging out at a Christmas In July sale at the Deseret Industries thriftstore down the street, and there was this young woman working there. She was about to turn 18, fairly cute, definitely curvy, and had a good sense of humor; her name was Pauline. And I'd go visit her there once or twice a week, and sometimes we'd go to the K-mart next door for lunch. One day she reveals to me that she's engaged <squeal!> to this 16-year-old guy from her church. Okay, the wheels in my mind got a little gummed, not just because this tasty creature was "taken" but because of the absurdity of the concept of a kid talking marriage before he's even old enough to get a full-time job (he was a sophomore!!! finish puberty first, willya?) and more absurdly that she was taking him up on it. Hmm, loss of respect for her intellect set in, and that last day I saw her was her birthday so I wanted to give her a hug and wish her good things, but she refused the hug. Okay, I can't wish you good things then, see ya. Not long after she wasn't working there anymore. So I see her the other day and she has two kids above age 4 and a man in tow who looks like your average minimum wager. It's not my place to judge, sure, but sometimes you wind up looking at others and wondering what brand of Crack® they were smoking when they made big decisions. (Yes, the same thing can be said for my first engagement, but that wasn't street drugs, that was hardcore hormones. Different story.)
    And if you happen to be in the area, please come to the Parkland/Spanaway branch of the Pierce County Library (137th & Pacific, Tacoma WA) to see our display of antique Christmas ornaments. I've filled the display case by the front door with all kinds of cheer from yesteryear. It'll be there for the rest of the year. And to the fanclub: No, we're not having our annual fête this year, we're overtaxed on our time as it is. Sorry! --#2

    Last night I went to a nephew's high school play, How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying, and it was really good on a couple planes. The play itself was a musical (that's ambitious) and a farce, and it wasn't quite an Andrew Lloyd Webber or a Neil Simon – as my spouse pointed out, the plot was a little contrived and the songs weren't memorable – but the choreography was surprisingly well done and there was that aspect you don't expect from high school plays: sex.   And I don't just mean where the businessman tells a secretary by the name of Heddy Larue that he doesn't think it wise to call her by her first name. (Not as many people laughed as they should have.) That song called "A Secretary Is Not A Toy" where all the women drop a pencil and have to bend over for it, hmmm, and then there was the girl who played Miss Larue who probably gets ogled like that in real life as well (I couldn't have been the only one to notice that she was wearing a black bra through most of the scenes but when she's in a peasant dress at one point she's in a white tubetop, attention backstage crew...) laying the size of her 'talents' on thick. The woman from the personnel department in stirrups and a thong was a nice touch. We had an enjoyable night out on the town, saw that neice who was elsewhere when the rest of her family came over last month, and I don't think I've been to a high school play since my backstage dealings with The Emperor's New Clothes in 1986 (unless you count videographer a year later, which I don't since I didn't get invited to the party afterwards, and Crimes Of The Heart in college circa 1989 though it *was* about as skillfully produced). Kudos to the cast at Stanwood High for pulling off the singing and dancing! (as well as not being shut down by the school board two months earlier!)
    Cryptic license plate, which somehow got past the State's Licensing Dept: PB4UGO   We saw that on I-5 yesterday and I didn't notice any kids in that guy's Oldsmobile... And in other cryptic developments, the R.A.T. suggestion of the week is to amuse yourself with the absurdity that passes for marketing to consumers. I needed a lift last night so I plopped down on the couch and flipped between channel 2 (QVC), channel 26 (ShopMSNBC), and channel 64 (HSN). It was pretty prime – QVC was hawking a truly random assortment of items which changed every 4 minutes (exercise equipment, makeup mirror, handy dandy doodads, etc.) with someone who likely spent no time ever using any of the things she was raving about; ShopMSNBC was offering diamond jewelry, and somewhere between the excited New York Jewess ("oh-my-gawd!") and enthusiastic Pakistani ("I don't know what to say" he yammered over and over) the truth lies; HSN was featuring designer dolls and the woman was describing every minute and obvious detail in depth so that even the blind could enjoy the overpriced not-for-play critters. I couldn't laugh hard enough.
    Like anyone with holiday megalomania, I buy a bunch of ornaments every year – here, it's mostly antiques but there are a couple new ones to expand the Old World blown glass collection. Christmas joy is my karmic catch-up for the malaise of autumn setting in. The problem is that I try to be a purist (try) and celebrate the season as previous generations did, but one pretty much has to be in a bubble to make that completely successful. Sure, I can put up my grandmother's ornaments on the tree, lit with C-6 lights and a string of NOMA bubblers, and buy a blown glass mushroom from Poland to hang next to the pickle hidden around one side, then warm up the wassail (un-authentically there's no alcohol involved, but that's just me). But this does nothing about the commercialization of the holiday. See, I'm sure that fifty to a hundred years ago, the folks who made holiday decorations thought what they were creating would be popular for a few years then disappear to give way to the Next Big Thing, which they'd be making then if they were still in the business. What happened is that the stuff made back then has endured, in actual object as well as in image; consider Radko's resuccitation of the Shiny-Brite brand from the 40's through 70's, some of these products are reproductions of things I own while others only look like they could have existed then, "just like Grandma's." The Christmas clutter of today doesn't have that soul – you can't tell me that in thirty years from now we're still going to be putting plastic balls on the tree with the characters from Monsters, Inc. adorning them. I can hope to Jah that in fourty years, no one would even remember what the heck those "#3" plastic light covers in the tattered box labeled "NASCAR" mean. And when thumbing through the Christmas cards in Grandpa's box, fifty years hence, people will not think that the picture of Baby Goofy and Baby Mickey trimming a tree with a red ball hanging off of Baby Pluto's upraised tail for Mickey to grab is on the same par as a Currier & Ives litho. (Or worse still, the picture is Baby Kermit and Baby Miss Piggy, with Baby Scooter handing an ornament up.) A friend asked how one gets away from the contemporary model of Christmas, to a place without advertisement and noise. I said I'd done that once, which is once more than most people ever do (and would ever would want to do, considering what it entails; hint: the homeless have a clearer view of that star in the east)... and in the near future, I'll tell the story of Silent Night. Stay tuned.
    I was driving along one night after having been out with a friend and I stopped at the local filling station. It was cold and dark and foggy as I pulled in, but I could see the silhouette of a petite female walking up the street uncomfortably. I hoped that I could fill the tank and then catch up with her, if she was needing a ride somewhere; it was not a night fit for man nor beast. I pumped my gas, and a few minutes later once I was back on the road I saw her again, about six blocks up the road. And she had her thumb out. I pulled over and she dashed to get into the car. I didn't catch her name, though she said it in a way that resembled it being spoken from the next room, and the dome light revealed she her face as fairly worn. Her two front teeth were either dirty or diseased, either of which was plausible because she was so bucktoothed that she couldn't shpeak shtraight. And it took about three second before I got a good whiff of the alcohol; she said she'd been drinking beer and got rather buzzed, but there was more malt than hops to the air so I presumed the beer was a chaser to a bottle of rotgut. Where to, mack? She wanted a lift home to 165th, and I lived down that-a-way so this wasn't much of an imposition, that and whatever conscience I had couldn't abide in the thought of anyone walking four miles in pea soup wearing a short leather coat, especially a woman (chivalry isn't dead, and trust me the average person who would consider my 'weaker-sex' presumption to be sexist wouldn't turn down a warm car with a clean-cut white driver when faced with walking four miles after midnight in 35°F mist). So she's chatting away while I'm being polite, keeping the speed limit so that I don't get stopped by any of the several police cars I've seen so far – and I told her I was surprised they didn't give her any notice since she'd walked by a couple of them a minute before I got to the gas station – and she asks if I date. Hmm, is she asking what I think? It wasn't merely the fact that I was taken that made me say that I don't, it was also grave concern for my health. She upped the ante a little and asked, "Can't you help a girl out? Twenty dollars." I don't have that, I said to her; I don't want that, I said to myself. "Ten dollars." I wondered whether her dignity was hidden somewhere beneath the bottom of the barrel, and shook my head politely. It'd be just my luck that the local authorities would want to stop me, either for speeding or for solicitation, so I was not going to give them reason to question either. She decided that since she wasn't going to get a buck or a fuck from me, and due to weather from anyone else, she had a better destination in mind, citing her roommate's heroin habit she didn't want to be around, so I took her to a friend's house a few blocks in the other direction. It was a long walk from where she had been (just not as long), so I was still doing a wayward soul a good deed. She opened the door and I could see her face again in the domelight, reinforcing that I didn't want to contribute to whatever she was fundraising for (and how she was fundraising). She took my hand and kissed it, and she thanked me for the ride. I said in earnest, "Please take care of yourself." And into the mist she vaporized. I drove home with the windows down to air out the car, since it now smelled of a distillery; I'd given her some warmth and in return I had to rid myself of it. I smiled and figured that I could now see out the sides of the car so this was a welcome trade. --#2

    Some time ago, I purchased an uninterruptable power supply for my computer, so that when the power drops (as happens here frequently) the machine will stay on, giving me the ability to not lose everything suddenly if we have a sudden spike and stay on long enough to save my work if the outage lasts more than half a second. I admit I went cheap and bought a Wal-mart brand device which has this nasty habit of turning on when the power drops for half a second, then dropping itself a second later – tantamount to Clark Kent seeing a meteorite bearing down on you, saying "I'll save you!", he catches the rock before it hits you, then he trips on his own shoelace and crushes you with it as he falls. But anyway, this UPS has some indicator lights, and as long as I've had it the fault light has been on. The manual says this means there's a problem with grounding. But this is on one of the few 3-prong outlets in this old house, so I thought that was odd. So I finally got off my duff and decided to wire this outlet directly to the grounding pole, which is five feet away from where I'm sitting. A little drilling, a lot of banging on the plastic 'handy-box' the outlet is mounted in, some shingle removal, and I've got a copper wire going from the outlet to the pole. And the UPS is still reading that there's a problem, even when physically attached to the ground. I visit yonder hardware store for a new outlet (ground-fault interrupting instead of self-grounding) and an outlet tester. Get everything assembled and the tester says that indeed I still have an open ground. So I tried out the other outlets in the house. None of them are grounded, so what exactly are that grounding pole and all the copper lines going to it doing?! I figured out a solution, at last... a wire to the air vent right below the outlet. Ahh, there, we have ground. I attached the outside ground lead to that for safety's sake (grounding the ground?) and everything is good. Or until the next time the lights so much as flicker.
    The two most powerful feelings a person can have, that which they can use for navigating through their day, are love and hate. Which are actually the same emotion pointed in different directions. There's a subtle branch of hate which I sometimes need to get me through my day, and that is disgust. It does fit in with Reality Avoidance Therapy quite well; when properly employed, disgust can help one pay no attention to their annoying coworkers, the picayunal trifles of their customers, the politics of the work situation, and the helplessness one can feel about their life and situation. But disgust doesn't come naturally to me, it must be cultivated. Oftentimes it comes at that place known as the breaking point, where I've hit my head on a wall and, like a good paramecium, this invoked a reverse and a turn of a few degrees to procede in a different direction. I'm not quite at the wall, but I am in its shadow, so before I see stars I feel I need to invoke disgust. The real solution to why I'd feel the need for disgust, as far as I can tell, is to get promoted to a position where not only do I not have to talk to incredibly challenging individuals [that's putting it nicely and obliquely] I also don't have to deal with emotionally grating coworkers. These positions exist, though every person I can name with such a job has had it since before I was hired and they're holding onto it like a pitbull on a T-bone – and what new positions similar I have seen open in the last year or two were phased out within a year, putting those lucky takers back where they started from (and behind some, they missed all the new information so have to catch up now). And these positions usually don't exist in the Seattle office I work in; every time something desireable comes along, the expectation is that the candidate will move to Pennsylvania or Georgia, which is fine if one is single and aloof, but I have a spouse and a mortgage, neither of which I'm not going to break my contract with. Let it be known I love my work and I have great coworkers. Let it be known those two entities are driving me batty because I usually dislike the callers and my officemates usually dislike me. Tonight I gave a teammate a ride home, as I often do, and we sat around and talked in the car for a long while about how neither one of us are popular, yet he is instantly is assumed to be shy and invisible while I am instantly assumed to be evil and ever-present. He told me a few things that one never hears because these things are usually said behind one's back, and while it's nothing I didn't know when I woke up today it was still information I didn't want to hear, because I don't want it to be true that people talk that way about me. Hmmm, inspiration for disgust, true. I have to be mad to be disgusted, not merely hurt, and therein lies the challenge. I told him that we've met coworkers who have no problem with being overlooked; they come to work, do their jobs, interact as little as possible with the people around them, and go home. I said that I've never been comfortable with that, regardless of the fact that's how it's been most of my life, ergo any overcompensation I make (like being a class clown) whether it is conscious or not. When he departed he asked me to consider everything he'd said, and all I could think were two things: a) you're telling me that one has to change their entire personality, something that is hardwired into who we are, to get anywhere, which isn't a viable option; b) I prefer my solution of getting away from that which bothers you, rather than trying to convince other people of how they should think [and remember, part of how I got the name 'Mushroom' stems from the acceptance that you can't change people's minds]. That's food for thought, the only way to be popular and acceptable is to accomplish the unrealistic and impossible. Fuck that. Hate me all you want if you don't have justification, just don't get in my way while I try to disentangle us from one another's hair. I'm checking the internal employment listings tomorrow, and while it won't surprise me a bit if there are no opportunities I'll never know until I look. There's got to be a positive use of the disgust I seek to feel raising in me.  --#2

    A coworker pointed out this link the other day and it bears sharing. Tech support isn't the only area where a person goes to work begrudgingly, deals with a bunch of substandard humans, cleans up messes entirely created by the customer that no one should have to get near, and hopes in the direction of finding a better life eventually. Okay, in thinking about it, a lot of jobs are like that, but anyway... This is the weblog of a 30 year old intelligent woman with a future, but her present is (and the last year has been) filled with being a clerk at a porno movie rental shop. It's a good read, very funny, and has many entries.
    I had a bunch of snide things to say today but they seem to have disappeared. Which I suppose is for the better, though that does make for a shorter and less piss-your-pants funny Daybook entry. I won't call the people who came to install the new dishwasher yesterday "Amos & Andy" because they did the job quickly and professionally, and at the crack of an ass (8 a.m. on my day off), though one of them grabbed his wife's perfume instead of his own cologne that morning. (Paige tried to tell me the difference between perfume and cologne, which to most people is essentially the difference between a doll and an action figure: the gender of the person using the item. I said, "Darling, this was perfume; he smelled pretty.") Yes, the old dishwasher worked and it matched the other appliances, but my wife insisted (to her mother, who bought the device for us) that it did neither of those things very well. I will however call the people who are trying to keep their high school from putting on the Agatha Christie play Ten Little Indians because the title, not the content, is "racially insensitive", complete fucking idiots. Read the story yourself if the Montgomery County Gazette site is working (it isn't at the moment I'm writing this). The community in question is zero point five percent Native American, thus it isn't the Indians who feel this way, it's white people with too much time on their hands thinking on other people's behalf without proper consent again. I went to the first craft fair of the season, at the local high school, and reaffirmed that cute/country clutter/shabby chic/tolle painting still sucks. In two weekends the party will be at the local Lutheran college, and it's usually pretty cool since the vendors have nothing to do with the school and the students have nothing to do with the vendors. The one I went to, most of the vendors were parents of students, so it's a fund-raiser and I am all for that. The one we'll be going to in a few weeks, at another high school, is more commercial and while the vendors have almost nothing to do with the students or school (the occasional parent does sneak in), the students will be there to sell food and such, hoping to get a piece of the action. The shindig I really wanted to go to is at a local private school – a little cute stuff and a lot of rummage sale – but it seems that this was last week and I didn't know it until now. SHIT. Usually they advertise on a billboard down the street. Such events help me increase my antique Christmas crap collection; today I only got 7 (a box of 9 with two empty spaces) Shiny Brite ornaments and that was at the Goodwill, not the high school.
    You know that phenomenon where a group of people will be talking or whatever, and suddenly the room goes totally quiet except for one person who was saying something, over the crowd noise to someone else, which they didn't want the rest of the world to hear? Something related to that happened to me when I was in the first or second grade, just a little more intense. I was at lunch recess at Outlook Elementary school and I had to go pee really bad. I kept waiting for recess to be over but it went on and on, and I couldn't hold it any longer. I looked for a place to pee where I could be discrete, figuring that going to the fence would be pretty obvious, and Jah only knows why I chose a tumbleweed in the middle of the playground toys because in retrospect that would likely be the least private place imaginable. But hey, I was a little kid and what back teeth I had were floating. So I looked around, no one seemed to be paying attention to me and this tumbleweed, so I let it flow. And three seconds into my whiz, there's the bell. Geesh, gotta finish this first. And this piss continued for an eternity (more accurately, a good ten to fifteen seconds), and I was getting nervous. I looked around as the stream continued without abatement, and now the entire playground is empty (that fast?!) but for a few stray kids who were within ten feet of the school – and me, in the middle of the playfield, facing a tumbleweed with my hands and body in the stereotypical urination pose. It finally ended, or maybe I just forced myself to stop since I'd regained a quart of my bladder back and couldn't stay there dead obvious any longer, and I raced for the building and hoped I wouldn't be considered tardy (this mattered to me, I was such a cowed and rule-abiding little kid). No one ever said anything about the matter, to my [further] relief. And I don't think I've broken a nervous sweat across my face going to the bathroom quite like that in the nearly thirty years since.  --#2

    I finally did it: I spent the weekend topping the overgrown crabapple tree out back. It looks much better now, though it's still standing and my original goal a year ago was to take the sucker down. It's not a willow but it is quite climbable. :) I also added a fan to my computer's behemoth case (unsure if that has any effect on internal temperature so far), replaced the 533 meg C: drive with a very fast 4.1 gig (8 second boot into Windows!) – but should you trust a hard drive you had to run through FDISK *five* times because of lockups during media validation? – and bought a joystick only to find that something's amiss here: my computer isn't recognising its presence, and my wife's machine isn't seeing it either. Guess I have to wait a bit more to play Pole Position. Yes, this is a new replacement... for a gamepad (did I ever mention how I hate modern videogame controllers?) which also wasn't being recognised. It's a new business, where I got these parts, and I gotta wonder (as the folks at the business do) about one thing: The map found in the ad in the Computer Source magazine the last two months points to the competition a block away. And in other news... Paige and I are putting our antique Christmas ornaments up for show in the Parkland/Spanaway Library's display case next month (we've done this before, in December '00), I found a copy of Level 42's Forever Now on a used music seller's website and it's coming in the mail (Nyhh! Nyhh! to the five people waiting for someone to offer it on and my mum-in-law is bringing me more Wunderbars soon, yaaay!
    Pardon me for a minute, I have a couple thoughts lodged diagonally in my brain and I need to pull them out. They may not mean anything to you but I have to excise them, and you might be amused or something.  #1> The problem I have in looking back at mistakes I've made and stupid things I've done is that I find myself not so much wanting to have not done those things (which is the way we're supposed to feel) as to wanting to do those things slightly different to make them even worse (or better, depending on how one feels about committing whatever sin one is pursuing). Which is one reason why I'm glad that we can't go back and change our pasts, I'd have more things I'd need to RE-change.  #2> My junior year of high school, I was going out with this girl from 60 miles away, who I think I've mentioned here before and there's a load of baggage associated so I'll just say that much. Seems I went to school for a couple years with this guy, Joe the Mumbling Ninny, who was her neighbor many moons earlier. I was coming home from school on a Friday and I had this feeling, "Karen's in town." But I figured that if that was so, she would have given me advanced notice or would call me sometime. Monday I get to school and Joe announces, "Hey, guess what? Karen spent the weekend at my house!" Shit, I was right about her being there, but wrong that she would give me the consideration I had come to expect. What followed is irrelevant, and a dear friend of mine who regularly reads this page was also romantically linked to him for a time after that event, so moving right along to what's jammed in my head: I've always thought of female attraction to Joe in the same way science thinks of flight to a bumblebee – it doesn't make logical sense and shouldn't happen, but somehow it just does.
    I decided a week or two ago it was high time I went to visit a male friend of mine down the street I haven't seen since winter turned to spring this year. This wound up being a two-for-one deal, to my surprise: not only had my friend's girlfriend left him (for a bagboy at the supermarket) and the relatives he was keeping warm over the winter moved along, but a woman I never thought I'd see again was sitting in his living room. My bud and I met by our mutual appreciation of the Apple //GS long ago, when he was married to this woman's "sister"; that marriage ended about four years ago and the last time I saw her was a year or two before that, when she was about to move to Colorado. She's back in town, those two women are no longer friends, and so where does "family" go when they need a bite to eat and a perch? Yeah, he never figured he's see her again either but everything changes with time. I sat gabbing with her for a couple hours, watching The Simpsons over and over, and seeing how her two oldest girls and his daughter had grown since I first met them. Oh sure, there were a lot of other strange relevations beyond the bagboy tale, but that's someone else's head-spinnin' laundry; I only air my own. Can repeat one amusing quip: somewhere between a backhanded reference to Anna Nicole Smith in a promo for MAD TV and an advertisement for Reba McIntire's sitcom, I said that not everyone should have a show about them, and my bud said that he has one themed after himself: The Jerry Springer Show. I replied that it beats the original program about him, COPS. Oh, and a cryptic thought, courtesy of the woman, and this was spoken to her 18-year-old daughter who was on the phone with a guy who was asking her to the theatre: "If this boy has a restraining order against him by Children's Protective Services whereby he can't be alone with his younger brother and sister, do you really think you should go to the movies with him?" (the girl's answer: "Duh, it's a free movie.")
    Storytime!  One year (1985) at summer camp, I met this girl by the name of Dena. She wasn't quite like you or me, she was herself; meaning, no one ever told me what specifically was wrong with her, but a lot of people recognised that she wasn't like them and tried to stay out of her way. I figured this wasn't a good enough reason to avoid someone, and camp was all about friendship and love to my understanding, so I befriend her. Through that week I had a good friend that I could talk to and go places with, and coincidentally so did she. This friendship was not without its demons, which came in the form of the people who thought that different was bad or wondered what a person like [one of us] would want from a person like [other one of us], eyeing our happy chats with suspicion. Whether she ever knew just how feared or protected she was by other people, she never really let on, except maybe the occasional comment about her brother Bryan who had long been a fellow camper but yet I didn't know him that well. (All I really knew of Bryan was the time he was talking in his sleep, mostly into his pillow, then he rolls over and clearly states, "hey, I hear that red-headed girl likes to go cruisin'." It's 1 a.m. and Randy Quillen and I are wondering what the hell Bryan was dreaming.) She knew he was looking out for her, he always was even when she felt she didn't need him, and as his sister she knew that this was more or less expected behavior so she resigned herself to knowing he was around. I figured it was a good thing when a brother cares about his sister, so I accepted that fact too. The week goes past and I can say we had a good time together, just being friends and never falling into the traps people feared we would be lead into. Dena was a smart cookie, one that knew she would make it in her life even when many people who knew her, and most people who didn't take the time to know her, didn't see a strong future for her. Camp is wrapping up and Bryan steps up with his camera, and says that their mother would like a photograph of Dena with the guy who treated her with such respect all week. (Yes, he actually phrased it that way.) He was smiling, and in all the years I'd sorta-known him this was a first, and his respect for me was an honor that I'd apparently earned. Dena went back to her coastal town and I went back to the center of the state. She and I wrote each other for a year or two, and we talked on the phone once or twice, then we fell out of touch. In 1990 my mother handed me a new letter from Dena's family; Bryan had died in a boating accident and in the family sorting through his belongings they found the list of names and addresses they gave us at the end of that camp week – and my name had been starred and underlined, so they figured I was someone I was someone relevant to him. I was surprised since it was his sister I was significant to, but I was happy someone alerted me to what happened nonetheless. The obituary enclosed mentioned that Dena was married to a soldier and living in California (if I remember correctly, I don't feel like digging through boxes), and I smiled upon seeing that... the girl had made it somewhere afterall. To Dena: Thanks for being my friend that summer and after, I truly appreciated knowing you, and believed that you'd get somewhere because it was written in the glow of your eyes. And to Bryan, wherever you are: Thanks for caring about your sis, and for giving me a fair chance to be a friend to her; it was one of the happiest moments I ever had at camp when you let me know I'd done right by you.  --#2

    Once again I have proved my theory that I'm a bitch for the week before my birthday, and once it passes I'm mostly okay. Thirty-five doesn't seem as intreguing as I thought it would be. My coworkers were blissfully ignorant except my friends in customer service, my comrades on were supportive (thanks Obie), and there was no cake or candles for this birthday boy but I actually liked it that way. My wife had the day off from work so we spent the day running around paying bills and had barbecued ribs for dinner. I guess the day was most enjoyable in its mundaneness; I was too busy doing my casual weekend thing to feel either ignored (as usual, since I don't take my birthday off from my job) or the center of attention (the typical birthday thing). And I found what I want for Christmas this year: one of those $85 DVD/MP3 boombox-like thingies made by Koss from Target, though they seemed only to have the purple mosaic and pink floral patterns onhand. The website says they have plain grey. (Gwen: Plain grey.) No, I don't own any DVD's beside the Dolby 5.1 sampler that came with the Blue Man Group's "Audio" but on November 26th a Depeche Mode double disk set comes out. :) (Paige: November 26.) Which reminds me, I have to buy something for my gimpy brother-in-law for Christmas this year. Luckily he's easy to shop for, he'll likely want a DVD movie or a video game cuz he has no life. (Robert: What'll it be?)
    The woman next door now has her teenage grandson living with her. I don't think it's anything about her health, because she's quite fit; I figure it was time for him to move out of his parents' house but not actually go anywhere. Kinda like me when I started college; I lived in the same town as my family and as my school but I couldn't stay with them, so they put up my room & board across town (putting me a mile further away from the school than I had been but that's another story). He seems like a nice enough chap, and he has a big blue penis. Er, let me clarify: it's a Honda 150cc motorcycle. With plastic pieces that come off for easy cleaning, and he parks his penis at the end of the driveway every day so he can polish them (it's not like he ever gets it dirty). He's not shy about his big blue penis, and happily his penis isn't very loud. But it's approaching November and riding a crotch-rocket can get one cold, as well as it is dangerous on ice. I should know, I drove a moped to school for four years in snow; and my last moped was a pink Riva Razz scooter – my parents gave me a vagina. Anyhow, since he can only use his penis now for show, he's also got himself a glowing, throbbing black cock. Er, let me clarify: a car with a boomin' stereo, expensive rims, neon around the license plate and blacklights inside, and the other unnecessary geegaws today's middle-class white youth need to keep up with the minorities. His black cock and his blue penis have indeed attracted some cute girls, though they're only there to pick up their younger brothers who have come to visit him. And like the Asian cocks he's trying to emulate, his black cock is small (like a Honda Civic two-door or something) but that's to be expected since he lives with his grandmother (she drives a minivan, so there isn't enough room in the garage for a full-sized car as well). And I could swear today as I was trimming the dogwood out front (yes, finally, and trimmed the huge rhodie out back too; in a few weeks I swear I'll saw the fuck out of that crabapple) he had some young boy up against his cock looking like he was going to kiss him... that's where I turned away, thinking of that time when I was a teenager that me and the older boy next door sat in his brother's Jeep playing Billy Swan's I Can Help album on the tape player, and we nearly 'had a moment' to the last song on the album, "Loving Post-Mortem." (I'm not sure which is weirder: going gay over a country song, that anybody ever would write a song by that name, or that Johnny Cash's driver was even given a record contract.) And he only throws parties when his grandmother is out of town, as evidenced by the cocks in the front yard every night a few weeks ago. I'm just hoping that his penis doesn't get him in trouble, because those things are hard to control in slick conditions, and that some day soon he'll take his cock to a hole of his own – I don't know if he's in college or working or what, but having a place of your own and paying your own way is important in learning responsibility. I'd think that pretty quickly my neighbor-lady would get tired of his penis in the garage, his cock blocking her in the driveway, and his lame dick friends just hanging around. Oh well, she can handle these things.  --#2

10/18/02  Mushy #2's 35th birthday
   My sister is in Taipei. Before she left, her son apparently was given the instructions to look for the "really big roaches" that they undoubtedly have in Taiwan, it being a very hot humid place. Since those damned bugs live everywhere but Antarctica, and off of everything even $#@#$ (isn't that a gross thought, that thing crawling across your floor at night has WHAT on its legs?)... I was naturally really grossed out when my sister sent me my nephew's narated letter telling us of his findings.
   However, he is a little boy so what can you expect. I trying very hard to be a good auntie at least tried to push his... um... creativity in a positive direction (unlike his other auntie who just wanted him to gross out his mommy) and introduced to him for the first time the word ENTYMOLOGY (the study of Insects) and reminded him of the first time he met his Uncle when his Uncle was working in an entymology lab. I also gave my dear sister (both sisters, one for education, the other to just gross her out) some websites with cool graphic pictures of bugs. I mean hey, if the boy is interested, let him look at the pictures... maybe one day he will see something other than the gross out factor at least.
   Isn't that how we all get started? I'm sure, all Chemists start out as Pyromaniacs... but you have to start somewhere. Your fascination with fire leads you to think, how can I make more and more fires?, and eventually it leads you to chemistry, where you can have your own personal fire every day, and hey, it's all fun and games until somebody loses an eye, and that somebody might just be you! That's what it's all about folks, self mutilation. The best scientists are the ones who are so true to their work, they are willing to experiment on themselves. That's why you don't see many memoirs from chemists...  --#3

    This last weekend my home was the site of an amazing event: my wife's sister's family, being the soon-to-be ex-husband and five of the six kids (we missed you, Clara!), came over for the afternoon. We hadn't seen these people in five years. It's not that they live far away physically, though it is a couple hours' worth of driving, but rather the emotional distance that the sister had created between Us and Them. (See this month's Rotating Rant for more details about the whats and whyfores.) Four of the kids we missed seeing grow up, and two of them came along after the Iron Curtain was dropped so we'd never met them before. We were glad to host the kids and their father, and I'd do it again. This time with thinner hamburger patties or at least a second working grill. Our Christmas list has just doubled in length, back to how it's supposed to be.
    Hello, Kat! The website finally got an email to our new contact address (see graphic on front page), and it was written to Chrome, R.A.T. #1. Cool beans! If you wondered, which you may: He's still doing his computer bit in ya-KEE-ma WORSH-ing-tun, is trying to get a defective mainboard replaced, and his family & the Guard never cease to amaze him how illogical they can be. I haven't heard much from Emmer, R.A.T. #3, lately 'cept that she's in school again. And the only thing I have to report is that I spent a bunch two days beating on a friend's computer to find out why Windows could only boot into Safe Mode, and discovered the brand new video card she had put in was dysfunctional so required replacement – then once that was rectified and the machine was returned to her, she plugged in her own monitor which was twice as funked up so she replaced that herself today. As my old college bud and newspaper co-editor Shannon always said, "computers are diabolical."
    I loved climbing trees in my youth, especially willows because they're just so climbable. Both of the houses I grew up in had willows, and the one out front of the place I spent most of my younger years was particularly fun to climb. My sister and one of my brothers and I had our preferred perches in that tree, and sometimes we'd race around the perimeter of the tree ten or so feet up in the air. I was so comfortable with my particular perch that people knew that's where to look for me, and I recall two times I took naps laying on my branch. I was fairly sad when my father had the willow out front cut down, because it made the yard less complete and I didn't have an airborne place to call my own anymore. There's driveway there now. The willow that nearly cost me my life was one in the back yard; along the fence between my yard and the neighbors were a couple very tall yet fairly narrow-trunked willows, and one day in the late 1970's Ben Comer, the proverbial boy next door, proposed we have a climbing contest. We each climbed onto the fence (the trunks being fairly lousy to try to scale) and then got ourselves onto our respective trees, and up we went. We were up pretty high, and I could swear I was more than twice the height of the house when I looked down at it. So was Ben, hidden among the leaves somewhere, plus another eight feet so he was winning. I was shinnying up this branch when the bough I was standing on snapped, and down I went. Some catlike instinct told me to reach out horizontally to catch whatever I could. The first two branches my hands contacted couldn't handle my weight and velocity yet probably slowed me a little before also quickly giving way, but the third branch I caught rebounded me and stayed intact. I shouted up frantically to Ben to come help me down, and from way up there he looks down and says, "You're 3 feet from the ground, let go, you're safe!"  I looked down, now that my wits had caught up with the rest of my body, and by golly he was right, so I made a two-point landing and waited the ten minutes it took for him to get down. I don't recall ever climbing that willow again, but now I wish I had gone up more than once.  --#2

    Yes, I took the Master Tech test a couple days ago, last Thursday night. Apparently I wasn't the only one who was elsewhere that week, so it was reissued – although I took it alone because the other person who was supposed to be with me (he'd been out on military manoevers) took a powder because he felt the test was a farce. I don't rightly know; I haven't talked to anyone who passed, I've only talked to the smartest people in the company, who somehow missed passing by a point or three. The only farcical things I saw were that they asked some Windows 3.1 questions (you don't edit Trumpet Winsock data files, you trash and reinstall!), and didn't offer the correct answers as choices on a couple questions. I'll know the results today or tomorrow.   [Update: the guy who I was told bowed out of the test did take it, he did pass it, and I did not pass it – 70%. Well, shit. My boss said "You did better than last time" but last time I got a 66% so thanks...]
    I was leaning out the window at my stand at the Fair a few weeks ago [c'mon, I've been waiting to tell this story!], questioning the pants today's female youth wear – just say No to crack, and how are you going to get a decent man if you put big tribal tattoos in the small of your back? – while Marty scammed on the Japanese girls passing by, when suddenly appearing in (and blocking) my view was this middle-aged couple. She was an earth-mother candidate who does shave her legs, and she looked the dictionary definition of "dumpy" but at least you couldn't hide a lawnmower in her straw purse, like some urf-muffins carry. She'd be a Yuppie if someone gave her a boost or a crowbar. Her husband was the one who spoke, and by golly he was more an earth-mother than she was. Thrift-store grey suit, bad combover (there is no other type, if you want the truth), colorful signs of hippitude sticking out from under the outer clothing, and he is asking me where the drum circle is. I'm thinking, You're "Iron John's" towel boy! I told him that I didn't know there was one, partially out of truth (drum circle? I know the pig races are over there <pointing right>) and partially because I didn't want the poor guy to get laughed back to Mama by people half his age & twice his body hair density. Thank you for playing.
    There's a real Rant posted today, but here I wish to drop a smaller one. I have submitted the Laughter is the Spackle of the Soul gallery to Yahoo's Hobby:Found Photos list a couple times several months ago. It never shows up there. I figured it was due to lack of updating, since they do tell you they get a lot of submissions and will only guarantee expediency and consideration if you give them $400. Yeah, bone that. So I checked out the list the other day for somethin' to do and... there are three new entries. None of which are my site. One of which sounds really great but contains like six pictures when you actually click on stuff. Mine has 55 and counting. That shitteth pisseth me offeth!
    How to make a good impression dept.: In my junior year of high school, I was going out with this girl by the name of Cassie Garnes. Really nice person, and I found out I'd met her years earlier at the city swimming pool – she was the tall redhead that swam in the deep end, who despite being out in the sun every day of the summer, she was still blindingly Irish irridescent white. One day I was in her neighborhood so I stopped by her house, and this was the prime chance to meet her family. I came in and was greeted by her mother and her younger sister, Crystal. I have a seat over here by the kitchen and start talking to her mother, we're getting to know each other and all that, then Crystal walks in holding one of their two cats. I like cats. Crystal decides to give me the cat by tossing the puss into my face. Kitty did what kitties do and extended her claws to catch hold whatever she landed on, which was as said my face. Surprise to myself and the cat and the girls' mother. Quickly a cool damp washcloth is applied to the hole on the left side of my upper lip. I'm now bleeding moderately, holding a washcloth on my mouth, and trying to carry on a conversation at the same time. That was fun. Since there's equilibrium in the universe, or lightning does strike twice, some time later on post-romance when I was visiting (I liked Cassie's mom, what can I say?) I was in the kitchen and I put this Tupperware bowl's lid down on a stove element for a minute while getting something out of the bowl, and – well, seems that element had been used a few minutes earlier, so while it was not on it was still very hot. And the lid melted onto and into the element. I was mortified. She was a Tupperware dealer so the lid was no big deal. As for the element... I don't know what ever happened. I used a paring knife to get off what I could and figured the rest would come off with low heat and a little work (or just replace the element and call it done!). That's today's silly story...  --#2

Top 10 Customer Questions At The Mad Greek - and notice that only two relate to gyros:
  10 - Do you (or anyone) have falafel or souvlaki?  (nope, but we have baklava)
   9 - Where are the scones/Krusty Pups?  (pointing to their nearby signs)
   8 - What's on a veggie gyro?  (tomato, onion, lettuce, tzatziki sauce, cucumber, feta cheese)
   7 - Where are the pig races?  ("by Kaleenka's Piroshkis," pointing right)
   6 - How much is the SlingShot ride?  ($30 for one, $50 for two, like their sign says)
   5 - Do you have a restaurant?  (no...)
   4 - Where is the bathroom?  (Blue Gate, pointing left)
   3 - Where is Kaleenka's Piroshkis?  (pointing right, "by the pig races")
   2 - What's the difference between a beef/lamb gyro and a chicken gyro?  (the meat?)
   1 - Where are the deep fried Twinkies?  (Green Gate, other side of fairgrounds)   --#2

Ooh, I want you
I don't know if I need you
But, ooh, I'd die to find out.
-- Savage Garden, "I Want You"

    Ann and I were leaving the fairgrounds a few days ago, talking about the world, and she stops me at the fence near the Taco Bell. "I've figured something out about you," she said with her standard metallic smile and eye sparkle. What ever could this be, I asked, never knowing. "It's a matter of authenticity," she says as she leads me in, holding that word like a picket one has found laying on the sidewalk. Okay, so what do you have to say about authenticity, I prodded. She surveyed the picket in her hands, examining the color and the plane of the wood, then took a swipe like it was a little boy's pirate sword: "Seems to me you are genuinely without any," she said with that tone in her voice like she wasn't serious yet she wasn't joking. I caught the wood in my hand, since it wasn't a hard cut, and instantly the phrase this is the pot calling the kettle 'black' came to mind; I chose to be piqued instead of pegged. Elaborate for me because I'm curious, I replied in the same intonation.
    "You're a complex person," she said as she looked up the street, "so you show different faces of yourself to different people." That's pretty undeniable. I said of course, people speak differently to a child than to an old man, and there's a matter of common context. "I don't mean it that simply," she slid back, not implying that I had missed her point but rather that I hadn't hit it. So I responded that there are two ways a person can portray their facets to other people: they can be truthful, or they can make up parts to some or all of the people they speak to – and I insisted that everything I say to anyone is the truth. She looked dubious. I followed that nearly everyone is some degree of complex, and that we probably know a few people who show the same thing to everyone, like they were handing out business cards, and I prefer to use a notepad to give out my details. Still she wasn't secure in what I'd said, like I was missing something she hadn't yet pointed to. And the headlights bearing down on us were those of her mother, so she didn't get to her point. She dropped her picket as she moved toward the car, but I had to ask a question before she was gone: So is there something wrong with giving people what they can handle? She wasn't sure how to answer that, but did get out that she could only agree with me on half of what I said, and as she climbed in she shouted she'd get back to me on my question. She didn't, predictably.

—    —    —

    So the Fair has ended for another year (or the little puyallup April 10-13 of next year, but my people don't work then) and I survived. And the first thing I did after I survived was... called in sick. Head full of snot, bin full of bills to attend to (looks like a majority of my Fair pay will go to late charges on bills not paid during the Fair, sheesh), and a little psyching myself into going back to tech support. The psyching part didn't work, for the record, but I know that I can't sit idle for more than two days or I run out of worthwhile things to do so it's back to the grind. Surprising my desk wasn't ransacked in my absence, though my idiot deskmate did make himself a little more comfortable, and I forgot the password for the customer database because it forced me to change it the day before I left. And bonus news: The other guy on my team who was supposed to take the Master Test was also out of town, on military duty, so come Monday of next week we'll be doing the test. Small wonders. And the October update to Laughter is the Spackle of the Soul has been posted today.

—    —    —

    "I figured out the answer to your question," I shouted across the counter as I passed by on my way to my own booth on the last day, "of what kind of R.A.T. you are." She had been curious two weeks earlier when I told her how a good R.A.T. fools herself to survive but is cogniscent of the fact, while a bad R.A.T. is the only one who believes the blather, which variety I thought she was, and at the time I didn't have enough information. She looks up and smiles, and jokingly asked if I concluded she was the bad sort. My gentle nod was completely involuntary like a Freudian slip, but some truths go straight to the subconscious. Her jaw dropped and her eyes opened wider. And having said everything by saying nothing at all, I announced, "We'll talk about it later, I'm late to my stand" and bounced off. And predictably we didn't see each other again. Say something uncryptic and leave feeling relieved. There was no spite in my assessment, for the record: there were plenty of examples of her believing certain things about herself that she simply didn't exhibit, which she seemed blissfully unaware of, and certain double standards came into view – straight Reality Avoidance Therapy dictum with secondary proofs. And with that, I can drop the subject.  --#2
Dream another dream, this dream is over.
-- Van Halen, "This Dream Is Over"

9/18/02  11 p.m.
In other silliness... I work at the Fair with this nice young man by the name of Chad. Terminal acne, a hell of a st-st-st-stutter, and sometimes you don't want him to breathe on you, but he's a real sweetheart and he always has something nice to say about his stepsister, Princess. He went to the counter with a smile as a friend of his approached. This friend caught my attention because he was wearing a black T-shirt which in white writing said "Two beers: $4. Three mixed drinks: $9. Four tequila shots: $12. Taking home the girl who drank all of these things: Priceless." I noted my approval, and he said that he's done that before and worse. Hmmm, short spiked hair, looks about 16, talking to Chad... suuure, doubt sets in. Doubt confirmed when I notice that he has electrical tape holding his thick glasses together. But I'm game, so I told him that the strangest pick-up line from a girl I ever heard was, "Wow, I just met that guy I was kissing about 10 minutes ago; I need a place to crash, could I come to your house?" He says he's got one better. I scoot in closer and put my elbows on the stainless steel counter, head in my hands, to hear what could be more bizarre than that. "When people are reading the fortunes out of their fortune cookies..." I finished the sentence: end the fortune with "in bed." He continues, "And when someone is talking, you can embarass them by adding `that's what SHE said` to the end." I wandered off, realizing this was a battle of wits with an unarmed junior-high-intellect nerdboy, while those two struck up a conversation about mythical sex acts a female classmate has engaged in near, but not with, them. [Here's to the high school youth who aren't off screwing everyone in sight and reproducing before graduation. More accurately, here's to the subsection of those youth who aren't like that because of some kind of moral ethic, but because they couldn't get laid in a whorehouse and never get invited to keg parties. I feel for you, I was there. But without the complete dweebiness; I was merely a computer geek.] --#2

9/18/02  2 a.m.
    Before I tell you about the freaky-deaky stuff that's happened in the recent past, here's today's cryptic thought: I was passing by the Democratic Party's booth at the Puyallup Fair and they had a poster for some candidate of Irish descent, which said "Friends o’ Flannery" (or a similar last name, doesn't matter to me). Someone put a large sticky-note over the "o’" and penned "OF" on it. Begorrah! What warranted that? Oh, and speaking of politics and stupidities, this just in: It seems that one of the local incumbents will possibly not be heading back to office due to a little faux pas along the campaign trail. The first strike against Norm Dicks (or as the edited yard signs & stickers say, "NO DICK") was that he elicited one of those telephone campaign dealies where people call your house to say, "Don't forget to vote for Dis Guy", which is enough to get a lot of people to pull the other lever; the second strike is that this project musta been outsourced to New York because the calls started hitting Washington (the state) phones at six a.m.  Oopsie...
    I'm having a great time at The Western Washington Fair and will be really surly when I have to return to my desk at Major Internet Provider Whose Stock Is Currently $5.76 A Share next week. Like I'm not salty enough about them folks as it is – here's the results of my test: they fucking didn't register me for it, despite my being scheduled to take it for three weeks, thus I wasn't able to take it, and won't get another chance until December or January. Second time in a row that they screwed that one up, go figger. But anyway. It's all that aggro music they play at the 'slingshot' ride next door, and the same songs every 20-40 minutes at that, sorry. (I was fine hearing MxPx's "Move To Bremerton" on the half-hour, but it's when they put in U2's Greatest Hits that I was about to snap. Fuck Bono, he ain't God, got it?) I'm enjoying my little summer camp, serving gyros left and right, and I work with some fine people... such as Marty, who makes work a lot of fun by ogling Japanese girls (ewww!) and taking rave pharmacuticals. And I found out that Doreen, the biznitch that on Sept 3 paid absolutely no attention to me when I tried to train her, was rude to coworkers and was impatient to supervisors, isn't such a bad person when you get to know her – she's completely useless and totally lazy, however, but not the pain in the ass I expected. Small mercies. Okay, let me disparage on one more person, this is kinda fun... Her name is Ann, and she works for the slavedrivers who spin cotton candy. Really cute girl, very intelligent, and told me on a couple occasions when we'd be sitting around talking that she found me fascinating. Which I am, of course. Yet this is someone who would say "sure, we'll get together on my break" then mysteriously vanish five minutes before the break was to start, then later possibly apologise but never explain. I didn't see her around for two and a half days (the half is when she had the day off but came in to meet a friend in the morning) but she admits she was there working during that lapse. The reason why this all sticks in my craw is because when somebody expresses fascination, hangs on your every word, and gets into conversations about friendship and trust, then suddenly is nonchalent, nonverbose, and exhibits none of the qualities they claimed to own or appreciate in others... I hate it when that happens. It is more of a work-up than what usually happens, where no one really pays me much attention at all. Pttthht, enough of that.
    Call me whatever names you will for investing $230 in a pair of Kangoo Jumps, which are springy boots that provide 60% less impact when running and make one work a little harder so there's more muscular motion / calorie burn / oxygen intake. I've heard it all, mostly from my wife. But my ankles don't hurt when I'm in them (all this standing at the Fair is wrecking my feet) and people watch me bounce by and think they're pretty unique. My impetus, beside the part about the ankles, is that I've gained nearly a pound per month during my stint in tech support – and I've been doing this for 2½ years, do the math – so I must take this off and change my ways. My two favorite exercise activities are skipping and pogo-sticking, so this fits right in. And it definitely is as fun as it looks. I tell people I always admired the spring shoes that Wiley E. Coyote wore in the old Roadrunner cartoons...
    One hour improved my whole day the other day. I had just come back from lunch and there was this tall guy standing at the corner of the counter, near where I normally prop myself (filling drinks keeps a piece of wall between the setting sun and myself) so I said hello. He says, "Mushroom?" Now I know we're getting somewhere, because no one at the Fair calls me that. It's this guy I know through, Obie, who has been known to post to the Guestbook Thingie™; he came up from Portland, Oregon on a whim to Do The Puyallup. (You can do it at a trot, you can do it at a gallop, you can do it real slow so your heart don't palpitate... just don't be late.) It was nice meeting him <wavies> and we gabbed for nearly an hour. So as we're busting up the party, someone I went to high school with walks by and only half-recognises me so I have to run over and buttonhole her. Turns out Alicia lives nearby and works for the City of Puyallup; it's a small world but I wouldn't wanna paint it. And much like me, she still looks almost exactly the same after 20 years.
    So I'm going to take my silver 5 Year pin, my red rubber clown nose, my bouncy shoes, my green string of Winner's Beads from The Traveling Gameshow, and the Foster's Imposters watch (not on the website; $15 from the "On The Loose" tour bus) and hit the hay. And to anyone I haven't replied to their email as yet, or until tonight, my apologies – I sent you a postcard, as any friend on vacation would. --#2

    Yes, there was another jaunt to Yakima this weekend and I hope you'll pardon my using the same style as last week. I try not to 'blog' and be like everyone else, but my adventures to the east tend to be worth mention. I'll start the tale at 7 p.m. Thursday, where hunger was striking me at work and I found a chocolate-covered espresso bean in my desk drawer. I figured just one couldn't hurt me, it'd just get me through until the end of work at 11 p.m. and the drive home. That's all the hunger suppression and awakeness I needed. I got plenty more however, thus I didn't sleep a wink but rested nicely.
    I started working at the Fair at 10 a.m. Friday, with a quick stop at the cotton candy stand where my friend MeLissa works to say "hi, why didn't you call me all summer?!" For a timeframe where we'd been warned that everyone was going to be searched at the gate so expect long wait times to get in (golly, how fun!), it was pretty heavily populated – and it appeared to be Differently Abled Day At The Fair. I'm drinking artificial lemonade (all the sugar, none of the vitamin C) mixed with 7-Up for the bubbles, and at around 11:30 a.m. that damned coffee bean finally stops working. What to do, what to do… Along comes Amanda from the energy drinks booth with a can of Red Devil. (Not Red Bull which gives you wings, Red Devil which gives you horns. And they light up.) Okay, I'm back in the land of the conscious, and then some. After my shift, I had some time to kill until my former coworker Stacy shows up to kick it with me for awhile, so I visited Amanda's stand, and she's giving me the whole tour of what flavors and powers they have… mental image of one of those drug parties from the 1970's where someone's got a bowl of capsules if all colors, and someone picks at the bowl like it was Chex Mix. Despite having not eaten since 1 p.m. and it was now 9 p.m., I was not hungry. Rumbly in the tumbly, poor baby was empty, but I was not hungry. The word here is "hyper." And what's next on the agenda? The perfect thing when you're sleepless: driving winding roads for 3 hours!
    My former brother-in-law's memorial service is 200 miles away at 11 a.m. Why wait, head over there after a change of clothes and some ramen (first time I can recall eating that since college). Yes, I had no trouble staying awake and alert on the trip, in fact I was zippin' right along merrily. And very glad that I was alone on this trip, no one would have tolerated how I drove or how often I stopped to take pictures. I get to my destination, conversate with relatives for a little while, then head to bed. When I woke to use the potty, I realized I'd been asleep for 40 minutes but it felt like five hours. How can some people survive on energy drinks? So comes the dawn, the stuff must have worn off sufficiently to make me stay in bed for an hour longer than intended. Fine, it's off to the Yakima Arboritum to remember Dave.
    It was a nice service, nothing too religious and nothing too dry. And this is where a piece of the puzzle fell into place. See the July 15 Daybook entry; I'd had this dream where I didn't know who it was that was with me. Let me parse that a little: it was one person in appearance and another person in essence. I figured out who the essence person was fairly quickly, it was someone I'd worked with a year earlier. Now I know who the appearance person was: she showed up at the service, my neice's best friend who I don't remember meeting at her graduation but I know I did. She said I looked familiar too, in a TV star way (and to my relief, it wasn't Bob Denver or Jim Carrey, the usual suspects). Musta been, for once literally, in my dreams. I feel a little better with that question answered, though would like to know how the little girl in the dream fared and where that friend of mine was intending to take me. Now back to Yakima, already in progress… After I paid my respects and picked some pears, I went to my next three adventures. The first one: Rosehips have 50x the vitamin C of oranges, and the lake I lived on grew them wildly on rambling rose bushes. However, some shmuck decided to rip out the bushes at the edge of the lake to put in a dirt road that goes nowhere (seriously, it stops at the end of where the roses were because it's a 45° incline after that) so every year at this time I pick a bunch for myself and reseed that area. It's Mushy's version of reforestation of the land. Used to be I'd toss half the hips I picked back, but this time it was 1/5th because my efforts have been working.
    The second: I have this mental image of taking photos at the Wenas Cemetary outside Selah, WA but I seem not to actually have any photographs from the event. I went out there and made up for that, and the grave I always pictured was right where I'd pictured it (and where it has been for a century) but it didn't quite look the same and the girl whose headstone I was leaning my head against was 17, not 3, at the time of passing. [hiya Lauren! No, it's not private, just unlock the gate and browse.] Then I headed back into town and stopped at the Pioneer Cemetary on the edge of town, which I'd never been to before. It's surprising the number of white pickets sticking out of the ground representing someone is down there but there's no further mention of whom. And a surprising number of people buried there were small children, though there is one large stone mentioning their names so they've not been quite as forgotten. Now, time to head home through the Ellensburg Canyon, where another inspiration came for the third: Many years ago my mother had told me that when she was a little girl, a stretch of the road went through a tunnel in the side of the hill. I located that particular quarter-mile; to avoid the Department Of Transportation 'No Trespassing' signs I didn't follow the road to the tunnel, I drove around the hill and hiked up the side. It hasn't completely collapsed, so I walked through and took pictures. Kids and their grafitti, I tell ya. There's a peach tree outside the entrance, one of the few I'm confident doesn't have any pesticides or growth stimulants on the fruit (and surprisingly, no bugs either) so I picked one for home consumption – which is saying something because I insist I hate peaches. To doctor a line from the Frank Zappa movie 200 Motels, "You are eating zee History Monocotyldon." (Pardon my spelling, Life Science class was almost 20 years ago.)
    Drove back to the homestead in rain. Because I'm that sort of creature, I went to the Fair to say hello to a few people. Amanda handed me a carrot beverage which ain't half bad, I had a hit of orange milk at the dairy barn (you know those little orange and vanilla ice cream cups kids eat with little wooden spatulas? think melted yet cool), and who has shown up for the weekend? Truth. And they're handing out t-shirts to the 12-to-24 year olds as a means of passing the word to their peers that smoking kills. Right freaking on!! [hiya Blair! see the banner ad on the Likes page?] I'm back to work at the Fair tomorrow, and I think I've purged all the stimulants from my system so I should be asleep in an hour.  --#2

    We loaded up our shit and hopped in the car around 11:15 a.m. Saturday to head east. First we had a few errands to run, and when we passed within a block of our house again around 12:10 p.m. we figured it was par for the course that we hadn't gotten anywhere yet. Enough lollygagging, let's hit the highway! We're driving out to the middle of nowhere, enjoying the scenery (trees, trees, more trees) and passing through the occasional small town. Now we're getting somewhere -- more signs with sillohuetted deers on them warning that you may meet Bambi in the next few miles. First stop is the gas station in Morton (a.k.a. Moron, someone keeps swiping the T from the front of the Post Office) for a SoBe herb-enhanced chocolate milk. I'm a big fan of chocolate drinks you have to shake (Yoohoo, Choc-Ola) but I have to say – SoBe's chocolate milk defies my understanding of the genre. Paige visits the little boys' room (horrendous line to the women's loo). So once hydrated we get on the road to the sawmills (passing a campaign sign suggesting nominating someone named Berry to be the coroner, ahh, the joy of irony) and cruise on. Interesting feature seen in the middle of nowhere: a house with five huge satellite dishes on the side. Hum along with me to Bruce Springsteen: "(Three thousand, two hundred and) fifty-seven channels and nothing on..."
    There is only one agreed-upon stop we have on our trek to Packwood, despite the hundreds of yard sales and other diversions: the Randall firehouse. Every year we miss the pancake breakfast. This year the yard behind the firehouse was quite a collection of sellers, whereas last year there were less than a dozen, and the third dealer on the right has caught my fancy: two (which turned out to be three) strings of glass Christmas garland, and the woman lets me have them both for 50¢, which blows my socks off because I paid $5-$10 per string last year at the antique dealer near my house. I pass on this other person's 3 Atari 5200 cartridges because he wanted $5 for the lot. After some poking around, we get back on the road. We reach the Packwood city limits around 2:45 p.m but the traffic is at a standstill. We actually get into town around 3:30 and now have to find a parking space – and they no longer allow on-street parking as of this year, what the hell?! I shell out $3 to a field owner immediately behind the park where the rows of sellers are, we get into full-tilt yardsailing mode, and I'm seeing thousands of interesting items but nothing I wish to purchase. Paige buys a vinyl M&M sticker for her car (what's next, a tribal tattoo around her arm below the shoulder?) and my eyes don't really light up until I come across the estate dealer who has two boxes of photos (I bought 4 @ 50¢ each, and eventually they'll show up on Laughter Is The Spackle Of The Soul… they date between 1957 and 1962). And around dinner time we conclude our shopping extravaganza and go over to Paige's sister's house in Wapato, with first a visit to the neice unit at her new Dairy Queen job because that's the sort of aunt & uncle we are: embarassing. And we see another stroke of the ironic on the corner of Summitview and 16th in Yakima: running for the auditor's position is someone named Bill Lover. No kidding.
    The next morning, once I had seen quite enough of "The Pee-Wee Herman Story" on E! (enough, for me, was them mentioning Paul Rubens had an HBO special in the 80's but giving absolutely no details about it – John Paragon's Paragon Of Comedy, for you who are doing a websearch and finding nothing useful, as I was yesterday, and take it from me it was pretty damn funny), we went down to Toppenish to take photos and visit people. House where I grew up: the whole front yard is missing! Seems the landscaping my father did to cut down on the amount of maintenance one had to do resulted in having to do even more maintenance (which is easier, cutting the lawn or pulling weeds when you remove the lawn?) so the new folks have taken everything out. House I spent my first year of college in (see The Pearne House): overgrown hedges and still needs a paint job, but the flower beds are being maintained. House I stayed in for three years after that: behind a chain-link fence, surrounded by a dead lawn, but still inhabited – seems the old stodgy neighbors won their battle to not have their road connect to the new Yakama Nation low-income housing development, but lost the fight to keep the neighborhood so xenophobic so they moved; AHAHAHAH bastards, I was the least of your worries. The landscape is indeed changing. I told my wife and my friend Wayne's mother that I was going to go visit another mate but, sigh, never quite made it there… I spent an hour standing in the driveway of my family's former neighbor's house talking to her, as well as a lot of time visiting a college friend. Wayne told me the next day in email that he was out of town, and that Rich was in Seattle, so I couldn't have seen any of them anyway!
    Time to head home. We stop in Ellensburg to fuel up the car and ourselves, and this is the last time the Texaco card will ever work for us (every attempt at every other station, including this one later, fails). Paige visits the little boys' room (maintenence work on the women's loo). We purchased a quart of bottled water and a few miles out of town Paige says, "What does this water taste like to you?" I took a hit, and my response took no pondering: "Gin." Must have come off of a sloe glacier. We finally get home around midnight. We never did make it to the lake to pick rosehips, and it's the perfect time! We had a great time in the Valley, and I got the photos of the old advertising art I wanted.
    ...And the great time was crimped by life turning on a dime. When we had left Paige's sister's house, our neice was packing her stuff so that when she got off of work she could spend the night at her father's house in Yakima. Right around the time we were getting home [and if I have some details wrong, all apologies, I'm just reporting what I've heard so far], our neice's father was visiting the significant woman in his life, standing in her kitchen having a conversation with her, and, as a punctuation mark the likes of which you can't get from mere typography, midsentence he pulls out a gun and shoots himself in the head.  .  Picture if you will in your mind an 18-year-old girl, recently graduated from high school and very much adoring of her always kind and calm father, being awaken from sleep at 5 a.m. at his house by the police with the news that he isn't coming home.
    Today I go to orientation for The Fair, then in a couple days the event begins and continues for two weeks. Pardon my silence if I don't post much during that time, I'll be occupied… that's a handy excuse. Expect to see something about the Master Tech test, I take it on the 10th if my company can hold to a schedule for more than a few hours. :)  --#2    goodbye Dave

    It's time for a stream of consciousness, random affairs, pick the meat from your bones of contention, take potporri for $100 Alex, variety-show posting. It all makes sense in small gulps. This weekend I go to Packwood, Washington to shop the citywide yardsale, then Toppenish to photograph nontourist attractions, with hopefully a stop at Lake Bergstrom for rosehips. Then with the occasional interruption, I won't be seen at work for 3 weeks while I sling gyros at the fair. Nice of my employer to schedule Master Tech tests during my vacation. At least I know they still like me, I got my review yesterday -- only a month and a half late. Major criticism the boss unit had was that I can multitask (chat, browse, etc. while the caller wanders into traffic), and that I make sure my callers are fixed 30% of the time instead of less. Sometimes the metrics contradict each other, but I'm a tech, not a bean counter; if the folks paying my supervisors' salaries are happy with how I handled them, they'll keep paying my supervisors and me, thus it all works out. And honest, it's no crime to call a dipshit a dipshit after they've hung up, I only do that to see who is paying attention. Gotcha, Nick. Found out a childhood friend is now a popular entity in midwest radio, good for him. He didn't seem to have any response for the anecdotes I emailed him, but he did say he had tried to block the Yakima Valley out of his mind so... And back over the brink and into the drink is my earth-mother friend Andy, hauling old husband and new teenage babies to the Rez so they can see just how gawddamn fun the city Where The West Still Lives really is. Run while you can! Found out via a book on 1940's-1950's Christmas ornaments that some of the cheaper, cheesier ornaments found in bags at the thriftstores with the ornaments I wanted are actually the ones with the high values assigned to them. Life is funny that way, especially when you discover the things you'd been letting the preschoolers bang on then gave away are worth a bundle. Ordered a few items from a seller on eBay and the package arrived today: despite the entire arrangement being on the computer thus everything was done in typed characters, the package still was addressed to "Brian Mannack." (That isn't even close, though my wife saw that and said "Brian Manic?!" and thought that was fitting.) Story time, to make up for the lameness of this entry?
    The truth can be told now, it's been 15 years so the statute of limitations has passed. <breaking the seventh seal> I was leaving some school affair around 9 p.m. one night when I noticed the shop area, which I had to walk past on my way home across the schoolyard, was left wide open. Either one of the teachers of that building was careless or, well, there is no alternative, Rob or Tweety fucked up. So I wander back there and have a gander into the greenhouse. Tomato plants on pallets getting roasted, other various items because horticulture isn't their forte'. I dropped my pants and left a little orange-brown fecal calling card, just a squeep that was reminiscent of what Jay left in the public library several years earlier, between two rows but not in anyone's way, per se. I locked up the gate behind me out of social responsibility; you never know who is going to go back there with malevalent intentions. So the next morning I mousse my hair up in to a New Wave wave, trot off to school, and ere long I get called into the vice principal's office. Mr. Black-n-White, as the civics teacher always referred to him, was aware that I'd gone into the shop area, though I was never sure how he knew (I assumed it was because his back yard faced the shop area, he lived closer to the school than I did). I wasn't going to deny that I'd been there, I'd done him and the whole school district a favor by locking up the area. However, as for that matter of poopie... That I denied. He had no evidence that it was mine, or even human, and I reasoned that it may have been a dog that got in there. His concern was marked in the first words he said when I walked in: "Is this becoming a senior prank?" The previous year, someone had borrowed a welding helmet and taken a huge steaming dump in it, then left it on Rob's desk. Mr. B/W had pursued one particular patsy for a whole week before the guy confessed to make him go away, and most of the student body knew that he didn't do it (though he was certainly stupid enough to). I said no, no senior prank here. It took a few hours, but the man bought my story that I hadn't done anything wrong, and had done something right by locking up. Tweety materialized in Mr. B/W's office shortly after I did to ask how I got my father's keys to the shop. (My father had a portable classroom near the shop building.) I blankly asked why my father would have keys to HIS area, and said that I certainly didn't have or need any such device because HE had left the gate open, and I'd done him a favor by closing it. The egg was sliding down his face. He went away without another word. The next stupid thing I heard from shop geeks was when Rick and Danny, two guys I played with when they were in first grade but were nowhere as cute or smart by high school, stopped me on the sidewalk to accuse me of wrongdoings, and Danny (Assholeman, as he was popularly known) was cursing me out because he'd stepped in it on command to see what it was. "Hold on," I said, making no attempt to hide my laughter, "you're saying the teacher TOLD you to step in shit, and then you did?" Er, mutter mutter. They went away without another word. I do suppose there was some senior prank to it, but to my knowledge there was never a third fecal strike in the series... then again, most of my classmates didn't know there was a second one, or didn't until I confessed at our ten year reunion. People were eating when I went to the podium to tell the story, so I suppose the staff at the Holiday Inn had a little extra cleaning to do that night. Since I've come clean, I feel it fair that I appologise to vice-principal here: I'm sorry I duped you that way, and am so very glad that you believed me. You were a most admirable administrator, and I'm telling the gawd-honest truth that I chose coming back to Toppenish High from being at Eisenhower so there would be some form of discipline and order -- I was proud that you were there, keeping the ducks in line and the campus clean with your 'bucket brigade'. And I will never forget the time some kid was smoking at the edge of campus and you started walking in his direction, the dumbass thought he could run away but you were on him like a duck on a junebug (you were the basketball coach and jogged daily, who did he think he was dealing with?)... that shit-shocked look on his face as you dragged him by the scruff to your office was priceless. Respect given, if belatedly. A pat on the back to "slob on my knob Rob" for dealing with more shit, real and metaphorical, than he really deserved. Still no sympathy to Tweety for being a total prick (and Mac user) but I suppose some things can't be helped... lock the hell up, and yet I grant two points for making a dipshit dip into shit. --#2

    Here's what I don't get: I've had a MasterCard since the mid-90's, and any time I was a day late in paying the bill or had maxed out the card (which didn't happen until I got married four years ago, we footed the wedding bills ourselves) the thing would stop working, then I'd have to make calls to get stuff fixed. Fair enough, and this happened two Decembers in a row (both times at the same Christmas boutique!). But my wife has a Visa and a Discover, and neither one of them ever stops working -- even when the bill hasn't been paid for two months, even when they are $1000 over their limits. The logic is simple; when $49 is tacked on as an overlimit fee and $29 is tacked on as a late fee, and the service fee or interest on the principle for merely having the card is some stupid amount, yet the "minimum payment" requested is $60-$100, a couple dollars to absolutely none of the payment goes toward the principle. You never get out of debt, and if you pay an extra $100 every month (as though you had that extra dough laying around) it only seems to dent the principle (but admittedly that's progress, just don't use the card in an emergency for a year or two). I'm under the limit on my MC and pay a little more than what's requested each month, and pay on time too, yet for some bizarre reason after not using the card for a year I'm only about $100-$200 below the limit (and yes, I read my statements, there has been no useage) -- ten dollars a month of what I pay goes toward the principle. How the hell does that work out?
    We now enter the third full week of August, which means that every regular session of camp at Lazy F in Ellensburg for the year has come and passed. I went to that camp for eight years in my youth; one week a year thus two months of my life. I credit the camp, and the Methodist church from which it springs, and the Columbia River United Methodist Youth (the CRUMY Team) who scripted and produced and directed what happened at each session (they had half a dozen sessions per summer, broken down by grade level) for keeping me alive. I'm not bashful about saying it: I didn't have a reason to live except to go to camp. I was disliking my schooling, I was hating my parents and had no use for my siblings, my friends were unfulfilling, and my religion was merely holding a carrot out on a stick. Summer camp gave me a purpose -- I could get away from my usual friends, my dreadful family, that sweaty town, and even my twisted mind for five days. It's hard to take a vacation from yourself but I managed, and it was very much needed. During my junior and senior years of high school, the period when « the mushroom » was more than just a name I used but how I felt about myself and the world in general. I used the name of the camp as an affirmation; the first thing I'd think or say when my eyes opened in the morning was "Lazy F." That's what I was going to make it through the day, the week, the next few months to get to. I think my mother had some idea of the value, though certainly not the whole sum -- instead of saying I couldn't have dessert or couldn't watch some TV program if I wasn't conforming to her whims, she'd say she wasn't going to send me to camp, and I typically reacted in the same manner as if one were told someone was going to kick the power cord to their iron lung out of the wall. (This was more desperate than a modern respirator, this required thrashing unto one's last breath to... not have that be their last breath.) And I made it eight years in a row, hell or high water, with some quantity of subsidization by the local church ($10 to $60 from the United Methodist Men's group or similar), thus you see me here today.
    I could say a lot, and a lot of things, about the camp and its people, or tell anecdotes left and right... but to do so, I'd have to reminisce and while I like doing that, sure, there is a certain quantity of sorrow involved in how this is something I couldn't and can't continue doing. (I have shared a few, like the Sandy & Lynette stuff a couple months ago.) The entire time I was a camper, I swore that I'd one day become a counselor, so I could return the joy that I found. Uh... I haven't tried to get into that position, and I haven't been to church in years to establish myself as someone to consider for the position. I always felt the closest to God and could feel His love while I was at camp (a "camp Christian" we called it, but I didn't mean it in the same manner as how some joke that people they know are Christians on Sundays and hellions the other six days -- I meant that I could be who I really was, and feel what I felt I should be feeling, during that week, and during the other 51 weeks of the year I had to keep what joy I could feel to myself because no one else around me shared it or understood it), and since I haven't been there since 1986 my faith has been, shall we say, lackluster. For awhile the camp was offering booster shots for grownups -- the Young Adult Weekender, right about in this timeframe now, for ages 18-30, which seemed a reasonable concession for people who no longer had Monday through Saturday free. They stopped doing that session (to my knowledge) when I was still in high school, and even if it still exists, I'm 34 now. The closest thing I have to going to camp nowadays is working at The Fair ("Mushy's adult summer camp" as Paige said the other day), which is not the same thing because of the lack of religion and the escape being from my regular job, not from my mind and life. I've felt bad a time or three in the last 15 years about the fact that I haven't tried to become a counselor, but it isn't too late if I apply myself -- some of the best counselors I had were about my age now and older.
    Two things brought this up. First, that I was in the back yard today trying to burn the stump out, so the smoldering wood and eye-watering smoke was reminding me of the campfire we sat around every night. I think my head would have exploded if I got a whiff of Cutter Evergreen bug-repellant spray too. Second, the damndest thing happened recently. The last two years of my camp experience [1985 & 1986], the deans (what we called the head honchos of a session) were two pastors from the Lower Yakima Valley, Bob and Floyd. Bob was a nice guy, the pastor a few dear friends had at their church, and I liked him. Floyd resembled a leprechaun, and there were a couple times (usually involving my friendship with Danny, the assistant cook who was a year younger than me) that he and I didn't see eye-to-eye. That's putting it nicely, since I can't hold onto animosity very well, though I think his only crimes were to be bristly to people and to threaten to send me home [see earlier on how well I take such an offer]. I volunteered as a dishwasher for a five-day elementary age camp -- which is one thing I've given back to the camp, and was glad to do it -- the week before my own session (the first of the Bob & Floyd pairing) and there Danny was, we got along and he helped me see through a tough situation, became fast friends, he shaved me for the big dinner and it was an otherworldly experience, blah blah. Bob & Floyd had good intentions and good messages, like "Taking Off The Mask" which was the theme the second year, but the results of what they'd propose were not what they were expected, and things would get ugly. But back to the damndest thing story. A few months ago the United Methodist Church a mile down the street swapped out its pastor, as Methodist churches do every five to ten years, and so the name spot of the sign out front was vacant. Just recently the new pastor arrived and the name spot on the sign was filled again... and whose name appears? Floyd's. That's enough to make me question whether I'd want to start attending again, and I admit that's not a fair judgement (and is a total blast from the past!) but unlike most of the congregation I've dealt with the guy... and is that the same pickup he was driving back then, out front of the church?! I'm probably projecting. Anyhow, I'd like to give an "I hope everything went well, have a good year until next time" to the campers, counselors, planners, kitchen crew, camp managers and their families [and a tip of the heart to Karen Strausbaugh, wherever you are... because of you, I am no longer living in a mush-room] and others who make camps such as Lazy F work. I couldn't be the only person who has seen a glimmer of light shine upon a week between late June and early August, a glimmer of hope for recharging the batteries and making life tolerable. (I'm resisting the urge to break out with "I Am The Resurrection" here...)  --#2

    Hello, one and all. I decided to lay off for a week so everyone could see the other two R.A.T.s are alive and sorta-well. I too am doing fairly fine... been trying to kill that tree's stump and suckers (have gone through five pints of Ortho Brush-B-Gon so far), downloading all kindsa music before we have to pay a royalty for merely humming a merry tune, and learning about satellite Internet transmission because I have to start taking those calls today. A note for the curious: Satellite is to cable what ISDN is to DSL -- a more expensive and slower form of broadband for those who don't live close enough to a provider to get the real thing, containing a limit to how much you can actually use it not found on the real connection. What cracks me up is that the satellite service we offer isn't available in Hawaii and Alaska -- the two places where you'd expect (and need!) unwired service. And I'm all set and scheduled to work at The Puyallup Fair September 6 through 23, my fifth year slinging gyros, and am taking two weeks of vacation to do so. Ahh, no PEBKACs for half a month...
    The other day Paige brought home a book for me to have a gander at, titled Simple Internet by Jeffrey Cogswell (The Waite Press, 1994). That last thing there intregued me... 1994? So I thumbed through it, and indeed it explained how, in Windows 3.1 (and the Macintosh platform wasn't mentioned as existing), to launch TERMINAL.EXE to dial up and log into a shell account. It detailed a bunch of things you'd want to know about FTP, Gopher, Finger, Archie, email, news, and Telnet... and not a word about the World Wide Web, which didn't yet exist. Yes, people, the Internet is not the fucking Web. If you can reply to your email, ping and traceroute to an IP, FTP 'get' a new version of Netscape, and read but your browser says "Page cannot be displayed," don't call me and ask "is the Internet down?" No, it isn't; we're punishing you for being so narrow.
    I was reminded yesterday of this guy from my neighborhood, let's call him "Spud." That was his nickname in high school; he thought it was because he was a Devo fan, but it really was because he was a fat lump in the dirt. Last I saw him he was a tribal policeman ("wears mirrored sunglasses but the mirrors face the inside," as Robin Williams said) who lost his front teeth in his teenage years, just like some of the injuns he hassles ER I MEAN serves; pretty fly for a white guy. Even back in school, he did the most wicked unflattering imitation of the Yakamas, "wit' da shunflower sheeds and da Pepshi, goin' to the smokeshack to cash my per-capita check." Ironic they sign his paycheck. And even back in school he was a power-hungry dickweed; he once speared me in the groin with the business end of a loaded AR-15 machine gun (happily it wasn't his). Spud once threw a lit sparkler through my bedroom window onto my bed; a neighbor resolved the mystery of Where Did Mushy's "Epoch-Man" Handheld Game & Clock Go when he located it in Spud's desk drawer (the neighbor didn't recover it like he said he would, but he did pour black pepper into the can of Copenhagen that Spud had left at his house, heh heh). Crooked as a dog's hind leg he was. What brought this guy to mind yesterday was me musing in the shower about how in high school he'd come over to my house after school sometimes to improve his standings in school, which was particularly funny when I was a sophomore (and he a freshman) because he asked me to forge this teacher's name on a note and I didn't even go to that school so had never seen the teacher's signature. He only needed that favor once, and I have to admit (later when I was going to that school and received homework assignments for students I tutored) he was right, that Mr. Lott's handwriting was so generic it could be emulated by anyone. Usually the ruse was when Spud would get his report card, this long computer-printed thing, he'd need my assistance... and my typewriter. His trick was to turn minuses into plusses by putting the paper in sideways and rolling the platten until the minus die could be pushed into the paper exactly in the middle of and perpendicular to the minus on the paper. It took almost as much effort to fake a slightly higher grade as it did to do the classwork to raise the grade for real. What was so funny about this was that his mother worked for the school district. Did he think he could pull off such a forgery when she could see his grades even before he received them? (My parents are both teachers and they did that on me, I'm pretty sure -- and even if they didn't, I knew they could so didn't risk it.) Also, did it occur to him that the GPA rating at the bottom remained unchanged while the value of the grades went up a couple tenths of a point, so simple math could expose him too? ("Hmm, why if you have three B+'s is your GPA around 2.80?") But conversely, as far as I know he did he get away with these things (or never admitted that he got caught)... which is the story of his life, proving that cheaters sometimes prosper. Don't try this at home, kids; you'll never become President. Oh wait... --#2

Oh My. At first blush this seemed like a rather amusing tidbit... however, upon further reflection, I must say it could be just desserts indeed.
Christine, once again I shall beg you to reconsider your path in life. If you are still siding with the forces of the Marketroids, I shall pray for your redemption. If you have already realized the error of your ways, then you have my hearty congratulations that the first step (at least) has already been made.
Also, please do not contact me about offers for my domain names. The domains I have any responsibility for all fall into only these categories:
  (1) Topping *all* search engines in topic already
  (2) Still in planning
... and last, though hardly least ...
  (3) Completely dead (read: depracated)
Thanks for your time,
On Mon, 29 Jul 2002, The Mushroom wrote:

>Hey Chrome! You know how we *love* getting emails about our sundry domains
>from that vixen, It seems she spammed the
>wrong person because now someone's (intentionally? unintentionally?)
>using her email addy to spam out Klez. Seems like just desserts. My clues
>that it wasn't our cyber-girlfriend was that she is always courteous about
>our search engine rankings (this doesn't get mentioned), doesn't normally
>send files, speaks fluent English ("I wish you would like this"? Only if
>she was sending a photo of her bare chest!), and didn't bother to ask
>whether either of us were using XP before sending. :)
>           « mush »
>>From: christine <>
>>To: themushroom
>>Date: 7/29/2002 9:28:28 PM
>>Subject: A WinXP patch
>This is a WinXP patch
>I wish you would like it.
>Content-Type: application/octet-stream;
>       name=return.bat
>Content-Transfer-Encoding: base64
>Content-ID: <I856Vp45q9K73jbKz>

    I've only smoked pot once. This messed up some of my favorite brain cells so I decided I'd done my experimentation (complete with lab coat and clipboard) and could move onto other things people do in college then laugh about later. Seeing as how I have no political aspirations and hold a job where one can blaze up the bowl during breaks (not me, I'm too busy going pee), I'm willing to tell the story. Kids, I'm not condoning doping so let this be a cautionary tale; imbibing in any illicit substance isn't good for the cells and can get you into trouble with the law, so do what you will but whatever you do -- a) do it because you want to, not because others want you to; b) do it in moderation and with adult supervision, lest you discover your threshold is lower than you expected; c) remember that we live in a world where everyone wants to know what you did in your youth and your spare time, then judge you by it, yet (at least in American society) setting your mind free for a few minutes can preclude you from various positions whereas fornication on the job will not but you'll hear a lot more about it from the press.
    Jimbo came over to my house one day to hang out, and he announced he had this green herb from Coeur d'Alene called "Idaho thunderfuck." Somewhat curious what kept your average resident of CdA sane, what with all them ultra-right-wing armed hermits nearby, I made the uncharacteristic request to try some. Jimbo only needed verification that I had indeed asked for a smoke before he in two deft movements fashioned a bong out of a Western Family Cola can. In mere moments he was showing me how to operate this device, and the substance lived up to its name. This was no shake, no stems-n-seeds shit, this was some sticky green bud that once ignited turned my floor into a beige magic carpet. I was having trouble walking, it felt like my feet were six inches off the ground and my pantlegs six inches too high. Focusing my eyes was a little challenging too, and once I'd walked on the cushion of air across my house to the bathroom to look into my own eyes (something I've always enjoyed doing) I noticed that my pupils were throbbing -- dilating and shrinking back and forth like in the cartoons. Okay, so that part about the funked-up eyes wasn't a myth, I said to myself. I came back to my bed and pulled out a piece of paper, hoping to record some of my thoughts. My thoughts lasted less than ten seconds each, and most of them didn't return before I could finish a sentence. I knew I'd read that later and think "what the hell...?!" Okay, so the part about the loss of short-term memory wasn't a myth, I said to myself. Jimbo and I got talking about what was transpiring in me, and he was getting a real kick out of seeing this virgin discover a high... the same sort of amusement one gets out of putting Scotch Tape around a cat's paws then setting it free on linoleum. Okay, so the part about one's laugh becoming a goofy "hee-hee-hee" wasn't a myth, I said to myself and immediately broke out laughing again at the thought, hee hee hee. Roll, roll, roll a joint; drink a cup of wine / Take a toke, hold the smoke / Blow your crazy mind. Hee hee hee! I didn't have any wine handy, but I did feel a hunger within and I wasn't best known for owning snackfood. I asked Jimbo in whatever could pass for a serious voice whether he was up for some macaroni & cheese, and he said that this sounded like the greatest idea I could have come up with. Okay, so the part about getting the munchies wasn't a myth, I said to myself as I heated up some water and opened a box of cheap mac-n-cheese. Ten minutes later, dinner was served. I walked out to the livingroom on that cushion of air, holding a green saucepan of orange elbows and two spoons, and sat down on the magic carpet. We both dug in, totally silent, as though uttering a word would be sacreligious. It was a totally Zen experience. This was the best gawddamn cheap mac-n-cheese ever. We were high, we were contented in the tummy, and now... it was time to go driving!
    I don't really recall why we went out to the college, there was some pagan porpose for this journey but damned if I could name it now. The trip there was amazing, even memorable but I was in no state to remember anything at all. I understood why dogs look the way they do when you take them on a car ride with the window open. We went to the computer lab so I could do whatever it was I'd come there to do. Jimbo's standing outside the computer lab, smoking a Marlboro (a step up from them 'Dutch Treats' I'd bought for him a year earlier -- 75¢ cigarettes which are kept near the pipecleaners, not behind the counter like real smokes, at the 7-11; the label makes no bones about it, it's 50% fine Turkish tobacco and 50% sawdust, it freaking said that on the side of the package!), while I'm inside doing... whatever. Pammy Jean, formerly one of my dad's students when he taught high school distributive education and thus has known me since I was a tyke ("and the toaster your parents gave me for a wedding present still works"), looks me in the swelling-constricting eye near the printer and whispers with a stunned smile, "Are you high?" Stereotypical potsmoker ejaculation comes out of me in reply before I can catch the reins: "<snort> Yes! (hee hee hee!)" I pull it together to finish whatever it was that I started. She steps outside to ask Jimbo if he's got more. Once I was done, he and I leave there and by the time we got back to my place my feet were back on the ground. For the next couple weeks, and continuing to a lesser degree for the next two years, I felt as though someone had taken my brain's card catalog, indexing my memories, and dumped it out on the floor. I could find the index card for the memory I wanted to call up (to talk about it or use it in some fashion) but what it pointed to was mislaid. This troubled me greatly, I didn't know if I'd get my arrangement back, and that convinced me that once was quite enough.
    That's the only chemical imbalance I've subjected myself too, other than the time I sniffed correction fluid and lost half an hour of my life staring out a window (I truly do NOT advocate that, vinyl chloride WILL cook your brain permanently) and had to join White-Out Anonymous, but that substance technically isn't illegal. Some time in the future I'll tell the story about my first time drunk (high school party a couple days before graduation), you'll prolly like it.  --#2

    I woke up this morning having this dream, and I'm one of those people who thinks that dreams have a meaning (but not necessarily the sort of interpretations some people assign -- water=sex, ladder=sex, etc.), but this one goes in five different directions so while parts of it make sense the whole thing does not. If you don't find other people's dreams described to be your cup of tea, go read the Rant this week, I'll understand.
    True to form, I don't remember anything about the beginning of the dream, I only recall what was happening the few minutes before I woke up. I was at summer camp, but instead of it being just a Methodist church camp it was also a medical school camp -- and in what I remember, I wasn't out in the woods as usual, but in the downtown of some city. There was this girl, she must have been between 17 and 20, and she doesn't look like anyone I know in real life so I must have made her up, and she was going to be at the camp for two weeks whereas I was only going to be there for one -- and as I stood there inside this abandoned building with her, in the unexpected move of her stepping up and putting her arms around me, asking how I'd feel when she became my boss (at a medical facility?), I realized I hadn't paid for the week I was at camp, my mother must have. Having her there acting like she wanted me to tangle the web I was weaving was inspiring me to make some quick calls shortly to arrange a second week of med camp, and I was thinking as she walked outside, "I really need to feel the things she is inspiring me to feel." She walked around the block with some other female med student.
    For some reason once I was outside myself, I was taking charge of this other camper, a girl of age two. She shouldn't have been downtown but that's where she was. I'd been toting her around for a bit, so I put her down and sent her across the street to -- I don't know, the building where she should have been -- and this car came down the block and without slowing clipped her right foot. Almost made it across safely. She basically stopped at the curb and plopped down gently on her behind. I hustle over there and she's not crying, just a little surprised. Her right foot isn't bleeding but it is split open in two places. For some reason I had a short length of mesh bandage, which I used to bind her ankle but was an inch or two short of being secure around her foot, where it needed to be. The interesting girl and her friend are coming around the other side of the block and I call out to them for assistance with the little girl. All the while I'm helping the little girl, there's a television overhead playing part of a weird-science movie, something about how this doctor had put flesh-dissolving liquid on this person "ten years, five days ago" and the person had come to call -- like this movie was the third or fourth in a series where each movie takes place five years apart.
    The camp part I think I can grasp; it's mid-July and for eight years of my life it was this time of year when I'd go to summer camp for a week -- or in one instance, two, when I worked as a dishwasher before my session. Lazy F saved my life during my teenage years. The downtown part is incongruous, but I see where it came from; this last weekend I took my camera to downtown Tacoma and shot pictures of what was the business district fifty to a hundred years ago -- train tracks behind warehouses, faded names painted over faded names on the sides of buildings, furniture warehouses converted to studio apartments. The first thing you should do when you land in a new place is look up. The little girl, I don't rightly know, but my head must not have wanted her to come to harm and didn't panic when she did. The medical school tangent? I'm not sure, but it was interesting. The surprising woman who would be boss... (sigh) wishful thinking, the alluring illusion of youth and beauty, everything you cannot own and (since this was not someone I've ever met) likely doesn't exist. The TV and its show? Filler, maybe.
    The part that bothered me about this dream was waking up, which a medical emergency usually causes. I wanted to see what the young woman had in mind, first and foremost; that's what upset me most as I sat up running the details through my mind so I'd be able to remember the dream and could write about it. I felt like I'd had a hole punched through me -- like something was missing. I think the factor that made this dream so noteable was that everything was so chaste and pure (though on the verge of possibility of becoming something more), and it's so seldom that I think clean anymore. Anyhow... Seeing how the little girl fared a close second, and getting a glimpse of the camp itself now that I could remember it (I'm guessing I'd seen it before the downtown sequence) third. I'm not known to be able to pick up a dream where it left off, so I feel a little unsatisfied, like I didn't get to the end of the book before it went back to a distant library.  --#2

    Once or twice a week I take one of my coworkers home, and in so doing I have to stray from my usual path so must find a way back to the road home. Shortly after coming off the exit at Des Moines going toward the other highway there is this small bit of median strip, covered in weeds and trash, that I notice every time I pass. What I notice, actually, is this full trashbag on the corner of the island. It has been there for at least three months, within a quarter-mile of the main drag of civilization on a busy street, mere yards from a bus shelter. I see that bag every week and wonder a bunch of things: Why hasn't the city, or anyone else for that matter, taken it away? Is the plastic photodegrading in an earth-friendly manner -- and can the contents of the bag break down too? What if there was a human head in the bag, and people have just been whizzing past it all this time unaware? That would make for some amusing headlines.   [update: I couldn't help myself; I stopped at the bag on my way home later this day and had a look... carpet scraps and a hand, but no head -- or degrading of the plastic -- was readily apparent. The headlines are much less sensational tomorrow.]
    This is among the other trash (and not the ecological kind) on my mind lately. I'm constantly amazed by people. In the last week, I've talked to two people whose reason for calling their ISP was to discuss the aesthetics of the [optional] dialing software's interface -- one of which was a playwright who couldn't decypher the meaning of the button with a mailbox on it (which she said looked "drab") or how upon connecting a voice would announce she has mail. I asked what kind of things she writes, half-expecting her to say something about television, but no, she writes for the stage and has a couple comedies playing. Somehow I could picture her wanting to be Neal Simon yet coming off like Harry Pinter... one must have humor in their soul to be funny, take it from me. I have to give credit to A-O-Hell for making the computer illiterate and addled think that this do-all interface is the Internet, because now that is what the sort of folk who use that service then change to some other service (due to lousy technical support, frequent disconnects, and customer service's "let's give you another free month" solution to every request to quit) have come to expect. Their 'Pla-Skool' interface is a hard act to follow, though the folks who are getting online for more than email and a cardgame prefer not to have training wheels on their Info Superhighway vehicle. But back to people.
    I talked to someone yesterday who left a local technician at her house all day, I'm assuming to fix a connectivity problem, and when she got home seven hours later the computer wouldn't boot into regular Windows, and the guy had deleted her mail program and a few years' worth of work. Why is she calling her ISP, and not reaming the tech? Because the tech had called the ISP several times (and charged her for the calls, despite the calls themselves being free!) to get help, since he was (duh!) inept, and along the way requested her password [and yes, did pass the qualification actions to receive it] so he could set her dialer back up after he'd ripped it out twice. Her other line rings, and it's him. She politely tells him that she's hanging up on me, and gives me some more tongue-lashing. How about the old guy the other day who was having monitor problems, and when I told him that was something his ISP wouldn't be able to remedy (hel-looo?) he said, "Are you telling me that you can't help me?!" Yes, sir, that's exactly my point! He goes away, presumably to call the manufacturer. Thirty seconds later my phone rings, I ask for the username, and it's him again. He didn't make it through speaking the domain name before he heard the click and dialtone. And a real head-spinner -- which I can't talk about in detail at this moment, but honest to Jah when I found out I did a Jerry Lewis variety spit-take (and I was on a call at work at the time, sorry ma'am...); will only say that life is full of ironies as well as commitments that one keeps, laws of man and nature to be followed, actions having reactions, and other things that make sense. I always love it when the judgemental are found to be doing worse things than the people they have judged.
    [In case someone wonders why I'd say something cryptic and leave snickering: Greek mythology tells the story of King Minos, who woke one day with his ears suddenly resembling those found on a donkey. He made his wife swear to secrecy the fact that he had ass-ears. This data was just too much for her, she had to tell someone but she didn't want to break her promise. So she went down to the lake and told her reflection. That's where I am, in a way; I've said something to the mirror of my life, but I haven't said anything at all.]
    Yes, there's a Rotating Rant coming. As you can tell, I'm more involved with things that make my head buzz and spin than things that raise my dander. It's a gift to be so calm and even-tempered, but I keep taking more break time in a day than normally allotted to get my brain back on straight... then along comes someone else to knock it out of kilter. Oddly enough, the days when I have taken the most break times are also the days that I've taken the most calls, which also makes me curious how I could have taken so many calls if I was off the phone wandering a hallway so often.  :)   --#2

    My weekend was load-balanced. By that I mean I did absolutely nothing on Friday and absolutely everything on Saturday: I sat around in my robe all day Friday, and Chrome and a buddy of his came over for the night so I had to put something on. Saturday, we got up early, went to my sister's place in Seattle to meet my neice (she'll be way cute like her mother was soon!), then headed off to Yakima for Andy's wedding. This event bears reporting...
    I've known Andrea since high school, when we were goofing off in Mr. Dorr's journalism class. People back then told me to watch out because she was mental, but in that town "crazy" translates as "sees things clearly." At last she'd hooked herself a mature man, after years of having to spank the unruly inner children found within the guys around her. The invitation said the wedding started at 5:00 p.m. at this nice little church in Yakima, and due to traffic two hundred miles away near my sister's house (not to mention a 5-week-old that's hard to put down) we were running late. Since we knew we were going to be late we were a bit more leisurely and figured we'd just go to the reception. But we weren't as late as we thought we would be, so we go into Yakima and arrive at the church at 5:40 p.m. Paige didn't want to barge in.
    [This is where I explain a concept known among various groups of Native Americans called "Indian time." This is where whatever plans that were made take place later than scheduled, and is a commonly-held joke among the Yakamas. My friend Wayne has been known to operate on Indian Standard Time (an hour late) and Indian Daylight Savings Time (two and a half hours late). note:  If for some reason you find the concept a derogatory stereotype and are Native American, I applaud your tribe for its punctuality, and they ain't fightin' words back on my Rez; if you are offended but not Native American, you're invited to stop thinking on other people's behalf.]
    I look in a sanctuary window and people are still milling around. We walked in, surveyed the scene to make sure we were at the right wedding (and presuming so, 3/4 of the room is Yakama Indians), and took a seat. At 5:50 p.m., the ceremony actually started, by which time the youngsters had given up waiting patiently as they are wont to do. Indian Time kept us from missing anything! The wedding itself was short and sweet, filled with symbolism. Her bouquet was red and cream roses mixed together, symbolizing her family (redskins) and his family (blonds). She brought her 12-year-old daughter into the marriage, he brought his three adult-or-nearly-so kids, and the preacher kept hyping the concept of them making lots of babies together. (I asked her about that, and she said "I noticed that emphasis..." then revealed that maybe one "ours" would be fine.) By 6:30 p.m. we were all standing out front of the church speaking about how we couldn't wait to get to the reception, slated for 7 p.m.
    Indian time strikes again, or maybe everyone else knew that the food was going to be served at 8 p.m. so no one showed up before 7:45 p.m. (Granted, come to think of it, Paige and I didn't wait for the wedding party photos to be taken before leaving... we had some sight-seeing to do.) More symbolism -- little birdhouses, rose topiaries, paper doves. And salmon, plenty of it. I was pleased with the salmon chowder. I carried around this bottle of sparkling apple juice for the last hour we were there, and when I set it down for five seconds to take a photo somebody grabbed it. Andy was glad that we came since the rest of our buds from school didn't make it, and off to home we went.
    And when I get home, there's this card from the mother of my best friend from high school. Huh? Seems he's coming back into town for a limited engagement, and I'm invited to see him. Call me shallow, but no. Fourteen years ago he forgot that I existed because he met a narrowminded Southern girl, whom he married after 2 months, and hasn't made any effort to remember me since. You lose, Randy. But thanks for the effort, Linda. And speaking of old stories involving former best friends, it's time for one... Jimbo had this neighbor back in another small town named Shirley Worley. (You can tell this only gets goofier.) Shirley Worley would come over all the time to complain about one thing or another to Jimbo's mom, Carol. One day Shirley Worley ran over in a panic, saying that her son had painted his penis green with housepaint, and was scared that this would poison the lad. Carol, as I understood it, was the one who nearly died... laughing. Okay, so this was funnier when Jimbo was telling it. :)
    My leg? Doing pretty okay. Since it wasn't stitched, there is this big hole but it doesn't bleed. --#2

    Just noticed that the date on the previous Daybook entry was off by a week, sorry for any confusion that may have caused. Hello, everyone. I'm in pain on a few levels, and you get to read about it. The first question a few people have is how I did on the Master Tech test. Hmm, I don't want to come off as a kvetch, but here's the deal: No one passed, according to one source. I got a 66%, my teammate who also took it got a 72% (missed a lot of Macintosh questions and he's the Mac guru), and since there are plenty of issues about this test -- the purpose of which was to promote a bunch of Master Techs because 3/4 of the last bunch are no longer with the company three months later, which obviously the company didn't accomplish -- I'm hoping that it will be reviewed and rescored. Other people are more vigilant about that cause so I'll let them do the work; I don't agree with my score but without seeing how they parsed it out I don't have any citeable evidence offhand to arm myself with. I'm on the numb end presently, to keep civil and businesslike.
    The second pain is that recently made a settlement with the RIAA (Record Industry Arrogant Assholes) wherein all the music they were sharing is gone. I know, it's piracy in many cases, no ethics lecture needed on that. However, I speculated in a message board recently that the RIAA no longer needs to take a cut of music sales (so much so that the artist gets almost nothing) since every time someone builds a better mousetrap/P2P client, they beat a path to the creator's door and drain the creator's blood... hmm, it's been six months to a year since they vamped Napster and, they must be hungry again. Best P2P replacement seen so far is Direct Connect.
    The third is actually physical. Two months ago we paid $900 to this tree-trimmer to do take down a tree and kill the stump before suckers came up. Fuckers never came back to kill the stump. The backyard is full of suckers. So Paige is clipping them by hand and I'm using a hand sickle, so we can spray some form of brush killer on them. I'm hacking along and swung a little too far. I feel something, look down, and blood is spilling out of my left leg like a fountain -- I done speared myself. First reaction: DIRECT PRESSURE, STAT. Third reaction: Dive out of the shrubbery and request assistance from spouse. Second reaction: "Gee, I thought a display like that only happened in the movies." Fourth reaction: Lay down, raise the injury above heart level, and try like hell not to go into shock (which is what my body was attempting to do). Paige didn't believe me that it had been that deep an injury until she was raking up where I'd been once we got back from the clinic and realized I'd lost a quarter-pint of blood right there. I didn't feel anything when all of this was being treated but now my leg is stiffening up, and I'm told the tetinus shot in my left bicep will hurt eventually. The thought of the shot was more unsettling than the shot itself... heck, the thought of the shot was more unsettling than actually planting a sickle below my left calf muscle. I looked at the sickle tip a few minutes ago, and it is chunky-dirty enough that shot does seem a necessity now. And now I'm sidelined for the rest of the day, unable to do anything about the forest in the back yard or even go to Home Despot and shop for Brush-B-Gon. Tree-fucker is getting reported to the BBB, and he hasn't returned his phonecalls saying 'finish your job or face the consequences.'
    I have heard from R.A.T. #3 recently, and she's in the process of moving so there are plenty of places to sit at her house if you like floor (she says, paraphrasing). R.A.T. #1 is meanwhile doing good things for good people who have seen worse situations than I have, and has been busy with that... see his work at the website he's been organizing for a polio victims' organization and a group that gets computers for the handicapped. Look at my schizathus! Oh, and since email to her box bounces (will you fucking leave MSN and get a real ISP already?)... Andrea, I'll be at your wedding this weekend, yes. --#2

    The other half of my vacation was spent in Yakima, Washington -- something that the locals crinkle their brows about and say, "ewww, why?!" But that's where my roots are, celebrate me home, and there I must visit sometimes. Could never live there again, but I couldn't live without visiting. Yakima has 300 sunny days per year -- and wouldn't you know it, we found a couple of those days when it was grey and rainy. (As I write this, it's the hottest day on record in the Puget Sound. Downright Florida weather we were having today.) The event was to see the neice unit graduate from high school (see her page, The Chasm of Evil), and this also gave my spouse and I a chance to visit friends and family. I left my family out of this and went right for the friends. Mmm hmm, Ward is still alive, Wayne eventually surfaced, Richard is out in the tulees and can still make me nearly piss my pants laughing (more stories about Jay were exchanged, speaking of laughter-leakage), Adrian still plays a mean drumkit, and I got to talk to Tina for a bit about the joys of yard maintenance. Right next door to Richard is my sister's boyfriend's house, and had it not been nearly 10pm when I got there I would have seen whether my sis and her kiddo were there. I still haven't talked to her. Becky, answer your gawddamn email and/or get an answering machine, willya?
    Being away from work for a whole week caused me to have a little trouble getting back into the swing of things there. Not to say I'd really been in the swing of things for the previous three weeks, but let's be really obvious about it now. They're doing testing for Master Technicians, so I was happy to go take the test on Monday -- hmm, I'm registered to get into the test site but not to take the test. Try this again Wednesday. Now I'm registered to take the test but not get into the test site, par for the course... a phone call later I'm in, taking my test, which had questions more relevant to my job than the previous test I'd taken, for Senior Technician. And by some twist of fate, the answer key for the test the Monday group took was wrong so everyone at first came off lousy. :) Thursday comes and one of my coworkers, the second-to-last Master Tech in my group (who, it can be said now, cribbed the answers off the answer key which had been found in the boss' email one day when he was left in charge), is having his going-away party... he's sold all his shit and will be heading to warmer climates to, uh, babewatch or something since he has no concrete plans. The party was held at a sportsbar, where a lot of over-cute and underdressed (and over-tattooed) womenfolk play pool. And all I can do is stand there, watching it all. It wasn't until I was in the car heading home that I realized what the problem was: As a kid I always looked at the lousy state of my life, then at the teenagers and 20somethings and thought, "One day I'll be older, be popular, and have fun." I'm 34 now. And I'm still looking at the teenagers and 20somethings enjoying life, and wondering when the fun starts... or did I miss it? Holy fucking shit, I have lived a Pink Floyd lyric.  Time: "You are young and life is long and there is time to kill today / And then one day you find that ten years have got behind you / No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun." I'm much too young to feel this damn old, as Garth Brooks said (and no, I will not break out a worn-out tape of Chris Ledoux -- I did however download Exile's "Kiss You All Over", which was popular when I was, eep!, ten years old and envious). Gee, not exactly how I wanted to end my day, thinking about how kids always grow up but adults never grow down.
    Hmm, how about something more upbeat? Weeks ago, this bird had built a nest in the rafters over the driveway in back, excreted four blue eggs, they hatched and all four of the birdies grew into fine brown things that flew away when I tried to get a family portrait. So the nest is now empty and the mother bird's work is done... and this is when I notice that another bird has created a nest in the needlepoint ivy basket we have hanging by the back door, with three small white eggs in it (and a fourth existed, we'd wondered where that yolk on the porch seen a week ago came from). And the schizanthus is blooming. --#2

    Greetings, one and all. It was time for my pentannual trip to Canada, wherein I get the hell out of the States to visit our neighbors to the north. This always brings me some perspective on the world I live in, to see how a mere 200 miles away everything is completely different, plus it's a chance for me to find that music that isn't available down here, and for a little less money at that.
    Everything's in English and French / Tous est en anglais et français. Vancouver, B.C. is the City without Underwear / Vancouver, B.C. est la Ville sans des Étançonnements. Left-turn lanes and left-turn signals are nearly nonexistant / Les rues sont fourè. I'm serious on both of those counts: I have never seen so many women in tight skirts or tight pants who decided to sidestep the notion of pantylines by simply leaving the panties out of the equasion in one place before, plus I could count the pairs of freeswinging tits seen on both hands; there are all these intersections where you're still in the left traffic lane trying to take a turn left because there is no left turn lane or green arrow, and have to wait for the light to turn red before you can swing the turn... at least the people behind you will always kindly let you know it's your turn to go with a toot of the horn. (That's one difference between Here and There -- here the horn is an invitation for gunfire whereas there it's helping your fellow driver.) Also, the Canadians have developed a curious notion called the flip-turn, where once a person finally gets the chance to go left they make a U-turn out of it. I think this concept (seen repeatedly and I did it a couple times myself, it looked like so much fun) surprised me most because I got fined $189 for doing that when leaving a friend's house locally a few months ago.
    I have to say that British Columbia is home of some of the cleanest, friendliest homeless people in the world. When we came into town, we were just meandering along aimlessly (it's our vacation, dammit) and stumbled into the Gastown district from the far end instead of the usual 'town' end. Gastown is the historic 'touristy' area in the northwest corner of the city, but to the east of that (where the tourists normally never quite reach) is a mission district, complete with a park where the mentally not-so-fine-and-dandy congregate. This is where we came in this time, so we saw plenty of street people -- most smiling, all relatively clean, and only a few of them were panhandling. This is also where the youth hostels are located, with about the same number of panhandlers and the same appearance. Thus it was not surprising to see some grizzled old soul with a bedroll on his back going one way on the sidewalk past a college student with a backpack going in the other direction, both holding paper cups out to passersby... loonies looking for a loonie (the Canadian one-dollar coin). I only donated to the cause of one guy, figuring the karma would do me some good (it didn't; never did see up the green skirt of that girl from the York House School who had her feet on a chair at the A&W), but only had 30 cents in my pocket, and my wife offered him the same amount for the same reason, when he really needed a toonie (the Canadian two-dollar coin) for the bus trip back to the suburbs. A day later, we found that the New Westminster district operated the same way -- underwearless youth going downhill, clean transients going uphill, in pursuit of or just arriving off of a bus or Skytrain, but with less obvious begging from either.
    Today's cryptic message comes from a baby-sized T-shirt seen at the New Westminster Salvation Army thriftstore, where coincidentally I located a roll of 126 film still in a camera in the bin [I'm getting it processed tomorrow; expect to see results in the future if anything develops in the Laughter is the Spackle of the Soul photo archive site]. It was a picture of a bunny named Confident Rabbit, who had a word balloon saying, "Do it quickly and make someone happy." Or something like that, we shoulda taken a picture. We also should have taken a picture of the Plymouth Firefly, a car that to my knowledge they never sold in the USA (due to the existance of Ford Escorts and other two-door flivvers that look exactly like that). I fulfilled my one desire for this trip: I bought two dozen Wunderbars at a drugstore. And it took me a couple drugstores to find the darn things; the London Drug on Kingsway in Burnaby apparently doesn't carry them anymore, so I had to go to their competition. Shame on you guys! You sell complete computer systems at a drugstore but stop stocking the most popular candy bar in the country?!
    Getting into Canada was pretty easy; a drone asked, "Where are you from? Where are you going? Why? How long will you be staying? Do you have any firearms?" and shooed us through. Didn't even ask to see my ID. Coming home was a little more interesting; the border guard asked if we had ID, so I handed him my license (got my picture and my address, and obviously that's where I'd come from two days earlier). He said that all this proved was that I can drive. (My wife begs to differ about my ability to drive.) He squats down and says, "Let me tell you a little story." I put the car in park and hear him out. He tells me that some of the bad guys who did naughty things with airplanes last year showed their driver's licenses as ID, and look what happened, so it's better to have a (no picture, no address) birth certificate or a passport to show the nice border guards. This was NOT the time to point out that the rest of the bad guys who did naughty things with airplanes last year showed their passports, and look what happened, plus on the news the other night was a bit about how the federal authorities knew that a couple of these people who showed their passports were bad news but didn't try to keep them out of the country until they had already been here for 3 weeks (by which time they were on planes bound for large buildings).
    We stayed at the 2400 Motel again this time, but the room was smaller than the previous time and faced the street. The 2400 is a series of chalets, some having kitchenettes and some having several small rooms, but each has a large bathroom window that opens outward right at chest-level for ease of viewing. The little soaps are excellent, I grant them that, and their front desk is open 24 hours (no wonder the 19-year-old woman working there had bags under her eyes!). They have joined the alarming trend seen/smelled in other places recently of spraying their bedspreads with some room-freshener that renders the sinuses inoperable. Perhaps this is how they enforce the 11 a.m. checkout? Across the street is an old-fashioned butcher shop and a bakery thriftstore, so you don't have to stray far to find food, and right next door is a Church's Chicken (a chain which has stores every mile, so it seems) so you can have a hot gourmet dinner. We spent a lot of time watching Food Network Canada (same as the American version, but without The Iron Chef) and the Discovery & Learning Channels, hoping the fried chicken waft would do something about the room-freshener stench. It didn't.
    The high point of any visit to Vancouver for us is a stop at the Mennonite thriftstores. The one on Frasier is still the nicest, though I didn't see anything I needed this time, and the other one southeast down Kingsway was less impressive but had a Value Village across the street to complete the experience. Also on this go-round was a stop at the Vancouver Library, which is a building reminiscent of the Colossus in appearance... six stories tall, with all kinds of food shops at the base, and their Friends have an entire gift shop instead of a book cart like the local library has. After a slice of pizza at the Flying Wedge shop near the library entrance, we went to a park so Paige could sit and read while I went to the A&B Sound music shop a block away. I walked through the alley so I could complete the whole inner city thing, and got a good gust of old urine smell. I found what I was looking for -- a-ha's new album -- and then herded Paige back up to go home, with half an hour left on the parking meter. Too bad A&B didn't have a bathroom (they suggested the business college annex across the street; uh, I don't think so); the low point was that I wound up at the most foul McDonald's john in existance (ever run antibacterial soap across a toilet seat after wiping the dark yellow droplets off? then when you tell someone about this, they ask if you used an ass-gasket [or as they say at work, cowboy hat] paper seat cover and you have to report, "there wasn't even a dispenser for such things!"?)... so bad that we took our eating business elsewhere.
    So we had a pretty good time, it could have been a lot better, and it is a different experience spending the World Cup of Soccer and the Queen Elizabeth II of England's Golden Jubilee in a former Crown colony that still regards itself as an extention of Europe in many ways. It also reminded me that some places are more tolerant of differences in ethnic origin and religion than 'the melting pot of the world', the 40% mandate still sucks (can we fucking forget about Alannis already?), and that you should go to Customs to get your Goods & Services Tax back before you cross the border. We keep forgetting that part and have to send receipts in, then wait months for the check. The exchange rate is about $1.51 Canadian for every US dollar, so get your money exchanged before you buy stuff. If any of you are reading this up north, I thank you for the hospitality (or at least for not slamming into me during those left turns), pledge to be back to help your economy some more in another five years, and implore upon you to petition your representatives to figure out a better traffic scheme. Even the signs suck because they don't tell you where you're going before you get to the turns; and whose brilliant idea was it that in Surrey, when you get off of 99A South to get gasoline or anything, there is no entrance to get back onto 99A South?!? Both exits go north! Flip-turn across the Interstate time...  --#2

Change of location & vocation.

Having become tired of being broke all the time, #1 went and applied for a job fairly far away from my usual preferences. No geekery, just honest labor. This required a bit of a commute, so he looked into moving from eBurg back towards Yakima. Upon hearing that he was moving back, a friend said "Hey, I've got just the job for you!".

This humble R.A.T. hasn't always been good at keeping track of his own limitations... He agreed to the good Doctor's proposal to work as an assistant while staying on at his other job. He did, after all, tell the first employer that he would stick around for a minimum amount of time.

So it came to pass that R.A.T. #1 was working two jobs, out of debt, approaching burnout, and possibly (well, probably) becoming annoying to friends and coworkers.

<More to come>  --#1
[Notes from #2: The above was written from Mushy's place during breaks in the painting of his bathroom. :) Chrome has since put in notice at his first job to focus on the second job, which does involve a little bit of geekery (at the moment of this writing he's going into Seattle to pick up a server box) as well as some caretaking of the disabled. School is on the back burner; there gets to be a point where sitting in a classroom doesn't sound attractive and now's that time, but the college will be back eventually since he has another 8-10 years to use his GI Bill. The Guard... he's trying to get out of; there gets to be a point where having the plan changed once you get to the meeting place gets old, among other contractual discrepancies, and you can only hear the same mouth say "Why aren't you taking classes?" and "We need to take you away from school at the beginning/end of a semester" in alternating breaths so often before you see the futility. Despite sleep deprivation, he is still looking good.]

5/26/02 1:30am
...See me in my wedding getup. It's traditional, Indian/Pakistani/Afghan wedding outfit. It was given to me by my husband's friend's sister, who is native of Afghanistan, but they are really nice people, and cook very well.  [And here's a posed picture.]  --#3

5/26/02 1:00am
    I'm going to be brief in today's episode, other people got stuff to say: Today I met Ingmar from the IKEA ads; he was visiting the local store. He was wearing a grey tweed suit and looked more digified than he does in the ads. He really does seem like a nice guy. (*squeal!* I'm not gonna wash this hand for a week!) A fascinating Daybook entry will be posted shortly by #1, who has many interesting things to say (hints: he's moved, he has two dissimilar jobs, And What About College And The Guard?). And speaking of R.A.T. writings, #3 meanwhile has dropped me a couple photos and the above note, and if her aunt is watching: QUIT HOGGING THE WEDDING PHOTOS!!! At least her family took photos, mine didn't. Oh, and speaking of my family... Okay, you noticed in the May Rant that one of my brothers had a daughter last month? I just got a photo of my sister's baby, born 5/22. Uh, did anyone tell me at any time during the last nine months that she was pregnant? Nooooo...  Alright, Sis, why "Kaytlyn"?   --#2

    Checking the squeekatrat mailbag, as I sometimes do... hmm, 51 messages, all spam, nothing actually sent by a human since January. No prob, I'll be changing the contact address sooner or later to get around that spamazoidal infection, but still, nothing from the adoring fans? For shame. And speaking of email, Emmer dropped me a line today so she's at least breathing (and has a new old computer). For those who want to save themselves a little spam: is where you can download drivers for any device, drivers is the login name when you want to get to the driver lists and all is the password. No big secret, no admission fee, just useful information presented here so you can avoid giving them your email address first. And in other software notes, IrfanView 3.70 just came out a month ago, with a full page of new features!
    Happy note of the day: Mom-in-law went to Canada and brought us back a whole box of Cadbury Wunderbars. If you've never had one, you really should... order a bunch from if you're too far south to go yourself. She has officially bribed me to put together the 1.2GHz Celeron-based (ewww!) cow-themed (ewww!) computers she and her best friend bought recently with this box of heaven, however she's still not getting unlimited tech support... successful double-clicking sometimes eludes her, and I have enough problems as it is.
    Last time I brought up Lynette, whom I haven't heard anything about yet (by the way), and now... that story and one that someone told me the other day bring to mind the most harrowing thing I ever got from Sandy beside her ire, when she couldn't find the key to the laundry room: chlymidia. Yeah, it's an STD and happily a cureable one. It's pretty much the epitome of what Frank Zappa was talking about when he sang, "Mama, why does it hurt when I pee?" Men know within 48 hours if they've been exposed (because a guy will jump back a foot once the urine stream is about to emerge from his weewee), whereas 4/5 of women with the disease don't know it. Or until they get PID or go sterile. It was a chain of fools: she married this guy from India because she thought he loved her, but it was really so he could stay in the country before his greencard expired; he was screwing around on her and caught the bug; she figured out he was going out on her because she found his crotch-cream in the sock drawer, but didn't do the math to realize SHE had been exposed; she left him to come stay with me for a month, and of course we screwed before she told me enough about why she left; a day into her period (thus the creepy-crawlies had started seeping out her cervix, all was fine before that point) things went horribly wrong in my plumbing; she left and I had to tell her in a letter why she could never get pregnant by her husband (which she was trying to do to make up with him after the previous time she'd left him, for the same polyamorous reasons) and that her health was in danger if she didn't do something. Okay, now to the mental image... For those unaware of how men are tested for dread diseases, it goes something like this: Medical science makes a cotton swab about half the diameter of the kind you stick in your ear, and about as long as a regular cotton swab's stick. Nature did not intend for there to be anything inserted into the uterer of the penis, as evidenced by the cross-sections they showed in human sexuality class of the tubing with outward-pointing flaps along the way to make this a one-way passage. (Never mind the freaks seen on the web who get their jollies out of insertion...) So therein lies the challenge, how to get that cotton swap up to where the nasty stuff is to get a sample. It's called twisting. It isn't pleasant. It's quite memorable, actually, and not the least bit gawddamn erotic (ya web freaks...), plus there's the parallel joy of the doctor getting the thing out in the same way he got it in. If I can make this story similar to watching a guy get kicked in the jimmy on TV, which causes an involuntary compression of the thighs in men because they wouldn't want such a thing to happen to them, I'm only too glad to serve as a Public Service Announcement: Watch where you put that thing. Or in the words of a former coworker: "Mama always said, `Don't pick that up, son, you don't know where it's been.`" And that's another colorful episode of my life that had I taken the other road &ndash Lynette &ndash years earlier it wouldn't have happened. <sigh> Consider yourself avenged for my fucking stupidity. The person who told me their story described the person whom recently had that procedure done for also not watching where he was going (he didn't catch anything but there's no point in bringing cooties home, if you're stupid enough to take your love to town) most eloquently as "having been violated by a Q-Tip." Heh, I concur. Better than a 2x4 so count your blessings, dog, and stay in your own yard.  --#2

Along with the need to inform everyone that it's Chrome's birthday tomorrow (see, I didn't forget, old friend), I've come across two amusing, maybe even cryptic, thoughts along the highway of life today...
   ·  Written on the box of toilet seat cover papers in the john at work:  More paper cowboy hats, please.
   ·  Plateframe seen:  If you're going to ride my ass, you'd better be pulling my hair.

    And yet I still haven't found all the pictures I'm looking for; there was one specific packet I kept on top of my desk back in Selah, some of which I put up on the mirror at my place on Lake Bergstrom and I've seen those (the college.jpg long-hair pic comes from that bunch) -- but where the hell is that packet? Yeah, I haven't seen them for a decade, but they're around here somewhere. I did look at every picture I had from my summer camp days and the one roll I'd take every two years of my family. I have quite a few of my sister in her purple Ghostbusters nightshirt, and I'm not sure whether it's just coincidence or if she never bothered to get dressed. I think it was the latter, and I admire that in a person. Y'all can stop thinking dirty, I didn't mean any of it that way. I spend my Fridays in my robe until like 5 p.m. if I don't have plans (or if, like this last Friday, even if I think I have plans but the person who is supposed to call doesn't so I just wait around). Every time I go visit my friend Bobbie, she's in her jammies, no matter what time of day or what day. Leisure rules. Ferris Buehler and my sister woulda got along well.
    So I'm cruising through the packages of pictures, dating as far back as 1979, and the first thing that occurs to me is: I really sucked with that 110 camera and FlipFlash, most of these are blurs! But oddly enough, I can name most of the blurs; what was happening, possibly who was pictured, and some arcane details. The persistance of memory. There's one photo that haunts me a little; I took a fairly clear one across the campfire one night of Bryan Bell and Lucas Lane. They're both dead; Luke a year after taking that photo (friendly-fire accident the first week of boot camp, which he had been excited and proud to graduate from high school early to attend), Bryan four years after the photo (in a boating accident, and I received notification for one reason: he'd highlighted my name in the address list they gave out at the end of camp because I'd been kind and respectful to his developmentally-delayed sister).
    There's another photo that at the time got under my skin, and still makes me ponder "what if..." Bear with me and I'll give a little background: In 1983, there were two girls on the fringes of my consciousness, Sandy and Lynette, who both lived in the city of my birth, Wenatchee. Lynette was studious, involved in a lot of activities, played the cello in the orchestra, wore glasses and had acne, and I had a genuine curiosity in getting to know her better -- and a shyness that was criminally vulgar (to quote Morrissey). Sandy had a smooth face, a mean streak that I didn't know about, an upbringing that warped her definition of love, I had noticed her but just kept my thoughts friendly because she was aloof, and she had a boldness that I lacked. On the last night of camp I was in the midst of a hug, a ten minute solid hug, where Lynette held me so tight I could feel her soul searching my body for the holes in my own soul which it could fill. No one else in the upstairs of the barn mattered, and my mind was racing around trying to absorb the depth of our trance. And before we could patch each other's wounds and meld into something that glowed radiant, Sandy slipped a note into my back pocket that said "I think I love you!" You can guess what completely stupid choice I made minutes later. Y'know, people often ask the question, "if there was some way you could go back in time and change something you did, what would it be?" That's the first thing that comes to my mind, although it's the second thing on the list (one event more important happened around the time Bryan Bell died but you'll never be reading about it here). Life would have been so different, it might have even been happy -- I know, I'm just guessing -- and definitely wouldn't have been the sort of convoluted it was in 1987 when Sandy and I met to part company for the last time (and yes, the tetracycline worked). The photograph was one of those odd camera tricks, where half the picture was almost too well-lit and the other half was in response shadow-dark. Sandy, walking along with a towel as she slacked off on cleaning the cabin with the rest of her group, was in the dark half while Lynette, with an armload of bathroom cleaning supplies because she was doing the hard work, was in the illuminated half. I considered it symbolic, and I knew all along I had made an unwise choice, though it wasn't until a year or two later that I started to more fully realize my mistake. And to this day, I feel really bad that when I was in Wenatchee in December 1983 I didn't call Lynette before I called Sandy, in fact that I didn't call her at all. I could maybe have redeemed myself. Yeah, our paths did cross in my senior year of high school, when my head was much clearer, but the damage was done and we didn't keep up contact -- this time I did try to call her, when I was visiting CWU, but no one answered. Lynette, if you happen to read this... I wish to apologise for what I consider the biggest mistake of my teenage years: not attaching myself to you like you seemed to want to attach to me when I was given the choice. You could say now that it doesn't matter, that maybe I was/am reading too much into my memory of the moments, but all I recall is that when I turned around after reading that thing in my back pocket, you were gone...  Please email me, Lynette, I need to know that you are alive. All one word with no spaces, "the mushroom at mindspring dot com."
    A picture is worth a thousand words, sometimes thought often but spoken belatedly. --#2

    No, I still haven't done a Rant (but no one else has either, heh). I did however go sifting through the boxes o' shit to find some pictures for the site. I've added some photos to all categories in the Pictures page, and some goofiness you should see in Other Philes. Here now I explain the significance of some of these pix...
 º Doug Pace was this guy who went to Eisenhower High School in Yakima, Washington in the early 1980's. I do not know what he did to piss people off, but apparently he succeeded because one day I came to school and there were hundreds of these slips of paper with that image (photocopied out of a Time-Life book about the ascent of Man) stuck everywhere. I thought that was pretty darn mean, and hilarious at that. I carried this picture in my wallet in one of those plastic display windows. I didn't feel so bad about continuing the cycle of hatred when I actually met the guy... it wasn't my choice. I was sitting on the back lawn at Ike reading the May 1984 National Lampoon while eating lunch when a bunch of upperclassmen walked by. One of them saw fit to fling his Big Gulp ice at me, and they all laughed. A friend informed me that the dickhead with the cup of ice was none other than Doug Pace. Suddenly I understood why he was portrayed as a neanderthal.
 º The Pearne House is on the National Historic Register, located at 101 Pearne Street in Toppenish, Washington. I lived there for nine months, when it was being used as dormatories for the college I was attending. I decided during that spell that my memoirs (which I was writing at the time) would be titled Pearne House Days and Strangers Things, though I'm not sure how well the ramblings of a 19 year old would sell. Unless it was rap music, of course. Some years later, there was dischord in my universe and I found myself residing at my parents' house temporarily, and my lodging was my sister's former bedroom, which is where they were keeping the furniture from my grandparents' estate. It was a small time for me, sleeping on a torn Army cot with everything I owned gathered around me in plastic bags. I knew exactly where my cyanide capsule was, and yes, I had one. One night I wasn't anywhere near sleep, so I gathered up some cream of tartar to polish silver, and any silver would do. I was rummaging through the drawers of the cabinet my grandparents kept between the bedrooms as a telephone desk, and there it was: this photo of the Pearne House, which had been processed (according to the stamp on the back of the Kodak paper) in October 1967. It still looked somewhat like that when I was there, with a little difference in the color and the yard, and the balcony was no longer as pristine. I finally had a picture for the front of my book.
 º Chockle was the character created for Cap'n Crunch's "Choco-Crunch" cereal. It was only on the market for a few months; it was a cross between Cookie Crisp and regular Cap'n Crunch, in that it was a chocolate-chip version of the old favorite. And my gawd it was great. Or so I thought, while others stayed away in droves apparently. The Saturday morning cartoons ad they ran (which I saw again at the Games Expo in March, forgot to mention it in 3/16's entry) showed Chockle, the cereal's mascot, doing Schmoo-like feats such as saving Cap'n Crunch and crew from a horrific death by stretching itself into a trampoline midway down a chasm. The perk in the cereal was a sheet of stickers, two varieties, which are seen here.
 º The Polar Bear's neon sign, as described in April's Rotating Rant. The sparkles on the left side are indoor rain, reflecting in the flash -- the red line in back is the reflection from the Exit sign.
 º Miss Bhummphuque Brew was sort of a quirk. I met this woman who was 42 going on 16 when I worked at the Pizza Hut delivery unit in Selah (see previous entry), and I'd go to her house sometimes to shoot the breeze. One day she pulls out this very much tattered and yellowed piece of paper and asked if there was some way this could be restored. I fell in love with Miss Bhummphuque when I saw her, and pledged that I would give her my utmost effort and respect. It took a bunch of clear tape, some White-Out, a gentle hand and patience, and a few dimes as I twiddled the knobs on the photocopy machine to bring her close to her original luster. The original scan is somewhat clearer but even in black-n-white it was over 400k so I had to work some magic to bring the file size down. I'm not sure which entranced me the most: the chain of pulltabs, or the Roycroft font on the cans.
    Anything else you see on the Photos or Other Stuff pages which is new and has you curious, you're welcome to make up your own story for. --#2

    Paige and I have discovered that we would make lousy nouveau-riche. We got our tax refund check of $1700 awhile back, so we were thinking "We're in the money!" So we were good to ourselves -- new television because she insists there are white streaks running down one side of the picture on the old one, a scanner for me, that tree in the back yard must die and it'll take $900 to hire a hitman who can stow the body, food shopping, neicephew shopping, plant shopping, shopping shopping, and other life beautification projects. Then we start getting notices from the bank that they are transferring money from savings to checking to cover our checks. Then we get a notice saying they've given us a fee for the car payment check (not a check, but a direct withdrawal, which should have been done a week earlier so WTF?) bouncing. Okay, what's going on here? Ahh, splat of hand to forehead, we forgot to deduct the $500 spent on during the shopping spree for the TV and scanner. Whoops. Shit. Our bad.
    True to last week's statement, yes, I did update with some purty graphix. Yeah, the brother-in-law does watch the hit counter so go visit, he'll be pleased you did.  [geekspeak ahead]  I thought I had it down fairly quickly, I was using Dreamweaver so used a level command on a graphic to put the words in places, it was all very neat, and... yeesh, while Internet Exploder and Opera displayed the page right, Nutscrape put words everywhere. Okay, refarb this... table commands on a background to put things where they belong. Now it looks right in all browsers. Get off the notebook (800x600 max resolution) to the Behemoth (1024x768) and... okay, why are the tables centered?! Hunt down the offending center command in EditPad since Dreamweaver doesn't seem to think there's anything wrong with this alignment (in much the same way the cat will just look at you like, "is there a problem with me knocking that over?"), now looks fine... except the damn white space, which I now make grey space and hope to goodness no one tries viewing the page in greater than 1024x768 because that's as big as I made the image. Now, after hours of sleep, to build the bamboo cane transparent GIF... with Windows Paint and IrfanView. As you can see, it all worked out. And the page looks great under the Lynx text-only browser too!  [end geekspeak]
    Okay, I haven't been paying attention to the sensationalist media, too much warfare from people who should just take up knitting, so I don't know if they've been going apeshit about the Klez virus. (I'm too lazy right now to link, just freakin' look it up on or yourself.) It's not very interesting, it's just a nondestructive DDoS thing that gets spread in email as an attachment, but damn a lot of my coworkers seem to be getting dozens of copies in their email. And no one ever sends it to me unintentionally; the three times I've had it in my box, they were forwarded from a trusted coworker who wanted an opinion. ("Boring, Sidney, boring..." -- Johnny Rotten, in Sid & Nancy) I don't know whether to feel bad or not that I never see it. This is the virus the guy with the PowerBook should have sent to the mothership in Independance Day... to put the aliens to sleep. (This wasn't enough of a rant to make a Rant, which I'll have to do soon.)
    How I left my mark on Pizza Hut: Back in the day, the Hut used two different order taking computer systems – one with small greenscreen terminals (mostly at restaurants) and the other with real computers which linked to a UNIX mini-mainframe (mostly at delivery units). I worked at a delivery unit and got pretty proficient with the UNIX system. One of the features of that system was the 'future order', meaning you could enter an order at 10 a.m. which would be printed out at 2:45 p.m. for a 3 p.m. delivery. This was supposed to only apply to time, so a future order would come out later the same day. However, I was the one who noticed that when skipping through the fields to set the time, and it would jump right over today's date, if one hit shift-Tab it would jump back one square to let one edit the date field. Let's test this out, shall we... On a Thursday, I placed a future order for Friday, 4:45 p.m., for pick-up under the name 'Schlonger.' I came on shift at 5 p.m. Friday, knowing that as busy as it would be at that time the pizza would sit on the shelf for 20-30 minutes, then, unclaimed, be sent to the back for our own consumption. And I wasn't disappointed; I came into work and it was on the shelf, and by the time I'd become hungry for dinner it had hit the dough-table in the back of the shop. Okay, here's where the story takes a turn: Any programmer will tell you that one bug leads to another. In this case, my exploiting the hole in the date thing showed another hole – that the system didn't know what to do with a 'future order by date' so it came up every morning on the printer instead of being cleared out after the time had passed. It wasn't re-ordered, but a reference to the order was printed with the daily messages and system status printout when the computer was turned on. Or as the joke went, every morning the Schlonger came up. It took them a week to say anything about it, and I confessed when confronted (my name was on the 'sender' line of each ticket, afterall). I didn't get fired for my exploit, since the company did learn something valuable about its computer system (and it was 2 more weeks before some company-hired geek figured out how to remove the Schlonger order from the computer!!), but was given the usual write-up for the fake order – it's considered wasting food, not that your average Hut doesn't toss a shitload of edible stuff every day. That's my anonymous improvement of Pepsico's corporate machinery; mention the 'Schlonger order' in some circles and be surprised that my posterity lives on. --#2

    Okay, so for those of you who were wondering about the state of my steak: I got a call from the urologist on Tuesday, to let me know that as far as he can tell everything's fine on my end. The lab reports I had 78,000 spermazoa in a low-volume batch (apparently that punishment fantasy about the counterperson/owner's nice-assed daughter at the mechanic's shop down the street, who tried to sell me new brakes after an oil change when they'd replaced them already 3 months earlier, then claimed she must have had the wrong vehicle when the grease-monkey was standing right by my car on the rack with the tire off looking at the things, wasn't as fulfilling as it shoulda been), all viable and mobile and given proper training could flagellate in synch to music. Hopefully this will be the last time I ever beat off for another man without first getting dinner and a show out of the deal.   [confidential to Obie99: Right here!]
    My restful slumber of yesterday morning was NOT disturbed at 9 a.m. as planned by the tree trimmer guy, but he did call at 11:40 a.m. to say he was running down a bad check and would be along in an hour. 11 hours after he was supposed to show up, and after my weekly pizza, he did come a-knockin' at 8 p.m. just to have another look at the tree, with the pledge he'd be along this morning at 9 a.m., which indeed is a pledge kept. Spouse and I stood agog in our bedroom window watching branches and occasionally humans fall from the tree (this is why the humans and their Stihl-y chainsaws are on safety harnesses) for a few hours, then we went off to the Puyallup Spring Fair. I never did see my favorite Fair couple, Jill & Alfred, slinging cotton candy as usual but we didn't go everywhere. I bought a bamboo plant so I could get some photo elements for use on the Bamboard USA website I master -- revision of the opening page coming soon, really -- and after awhile we went to mum-in-law's place to watch the Seattle Mariners whoop the Texas Rangers' asses on a bases-loaded walk in the 11th inning (the love of money doesn't fix the fact that you're one of only 3 people who can hit the damn ball on that team, A-Rod). When we got home, we checked the tree... It's fell. But laying there, with part of the trunk imbedded in the lawn. And no note or call on the answering machine to say whether they'd be back tomorrow to finish the removal of brush and wood (between a foot and three feet in diameter). We're crossing our fingers, and if we don't see something by lunchtime then our fingers will do the walking. Paige had given them a check before we left, and now I'm wondering if the advice given to various mythologic characters holds true here: don't pay the ferryman until he gets you to the other side.
    So I was driving home from the dentist the other day (a cleaning, where they arranged to do some asphalt and chipsealing later) and I passed this minivan... OMG, did I see that right? Slowed down to let the van pass, holy cats, I think it is... speed up to pass again for a third look, yes it is! The woman I was trying to make the plays for right before I turned my attention to my bride Paige: it's Merri Christmas! Back then, 1987, she was 28 and had a crush on the Pope (and prolly still does). She was trying to get the heart of a man who resembled Tommy Smothers, but he at the age of 42 was still very much happy living with his mother. She introduced me to this guy at a church soiree she wanted to ask out, and I couldn't help but point out that his wife was standing right behind him holding their baby. And she wasn't the first person to ever react to my saying "you're looking too hard for something which is standing right in front of you" by telling me to get out of the picture, though she was definitely the last. Ahh, yes, Merri. Four-foot-eight, studied social work because it's easier to solve other people's problems rather than your own, and that huge [unused] chest in footie jammies (I stayed the night in her family room on New Year's 1988) looked like she had udders. The last time I saw her, it was at the college and she was trying unsuccessfully to get the attention of this bleach-blond kid ten years her junior who wasn't into girls, and my internal reaction was, "the karma has caught up with you, girlie; I am avenged!" I laughed out loud when I was sure it was her in the other lane, and uncharacteristic of me I just drove on, figuring that giving up on her was the best thing I'd ever done because it opened the door for someone who actually wanted to be in my life. And thankfully still is; Paige and I celebrated fifteen years of our crazy relationship in January and in two weeks it will be our fourth wedding anniversary. Thank you Merri for, and this is said in a complimentary way, absolutely nothing! --#2

    This morning my restful slumber was disturbed at 11 a.m. by the tree trimmer guy, making good on his appointment to have a looksee at this tree in the back yard. Lillian next door, who has been next door for 45 years, tells the story: The original owners of this humble hacienda planted a little tree, and as trees do it grew. Time passes, it's getting kinda big and unruly, and she suggested repeatedly they have a little maintenance done to the tree. "Flivverty-flue, p'shaw, it's not hurting anything," and similar statements were made by the previous owners. And right about the time the roots were going into this house's foundation -- as well as the foundation of Lillian's place -- that's when the owners moved to some planned community where little brown people coif the lawns and no tree is taller than 10 feet. Of course! A tree hanging over your bedroom, looking menacing in the wind, isn't an issue if you abandon ship! So I had to extract my ass from bed so Carl could give the lumber the once-over. Issue number one appears to be that everything in the backyard is fairly cramped. Have a look at the fifth "#1 & #2 together" picture in the Gallery, where Chrome and I are on the swingset. The tree in question is fifteen feet to the right of us, and thus the edge of the slide and balcony part of the play structure (not visible in the picture) is about seven feet away from the tree. Lillian's fence is less than a foot from the tree. Issue number two is that the sucker is at least fourty feet tall. Issue number three is that this is going to cost $470 to just take it down, or $900 if we don't want trunk-chunks on the lawn forever -- and the same price if we just want it cut into cordwood. I think we'll keep some of the wood, we've never used the woodstove and I think it'd be cute to see Cheddar curl up in front of the stove instead of bogarting every heating vent in the house. We got our tax return back so hey, we can afford it; this however shoulda been done decades before we inherited the problem, and we were hoping to spend some of the money on a vacation.
    No, actually, I haven't called the weiner doctor to find out about my genetic materials, and he hasn't called me. But thanks for asking. This weekend I did the first step in confirming my place in The Puyallup Fair and visited my Fair boss unit, which afforded me the chance to meet the child his wife was 9 months along with (and yet working at another booth) during last year's Fair. The next step was taken shortly after, when I put in for the entire time off from my usual job. My phat boss unit messaged me the other day to say, "Did you realize you have 157 hours of vacation accrued, and as of Monday's payday you will have reached the maximum of 160?" No, I didn't! I never realized I was so devoted to my job [read: stupid] so I'm knocking off for a bit in June too, and who knows what evil I'll do then. Maybe it will involve painting the living room as we were planning on doing last year, or redoing the bathroom because the paint I put on a year ago is peeling? Whoops...
    It's story time, and this one is fecal humor! In talking about Jay a few weeks ago, I had forgotten one of the strangest things I was ever witness to him doing. (Not that he didn't do plenty.) Before the Toppenish library became part of the Yakima Regional Library system, thus you could get books worth reading imported -- friends in college referred to the Toppenish library as "a vast repository of the latest Harlequin Romances" -- the library was just this quiet place with a vague mildew scent, except near the bathroom where it was that disinfectant known as Hexol, and not much traffic at all (likely due to their focus on their children's section and nowhere else, beside the Harlequins). The librarian had a 1940's blonde beehive hairdoo, the last one in existance in 1980, and you didn't take your library card with you, it was a blue piece of paper that was filed in an inset in the checkout counter. Upstairs [I have to do my part for the Chamber of Commerce here, in case the murals and Western Wine Fest aren't enough to bring you to Toppenish, Where The West Still Lives] is a museum worth examining, and for the record my grandmother was not only a member of the board in her lifetime but a contributor to it in her death. On with the story... We walked over to the Toppenish Public Library one afternoon to kill time or something. I was never very good in that library due to the lack of books I'd read, and adults' proclivity toward pointing me to the children's section despite my complete lack of interest in that genre -- I'm a nonfiction type person, who prefers material written for general audiences to large-type pictorals. We had drifted to the far row of books, and he says, "Hey Brian! Stand guard!" For what? I look over and he's sticking his bare ass into a corner, where the bookshelf ended a foot from the wall. And he's releasing a small scrap of excretia, not enough that it would provide him any sort of relief but apparently this little bit was important to him. The bathroom had to have been 15 feet away, but that was in the adult (Harlequin) area so we didn't dare go over there. Okay, fast forward about two years, to the next time I was in the library. I was looking for something, when the thought came to me: Is it still there? So I nonchalently venture over, look into the space.... and there's a small dried turd. Shows you how often they vacuum the corners there. I crushed it to dust with my shoe (maybe then it would disseminate and reach the cleaners, or at least the ecology) and moseyed along. I've been back there once since, to see the museum after my grandmother's contributions, and had I not destroyed the evidence I wonder if the dung would still be there this many years later. (Oh, the shit I wonder about...) --#2

Due to extreme (yet realistic) subject matter, parental guidance is suggested... if only so someone can explain stuff!
    My significant spouse has been trying for ages to get pregnant. I will never understand the concept of wanting to gain 20 pounds, get stretchmarks for life, be miserable for 9 months then be on edge and broke for the next 18-22 years, but then again I don't have ovaries. I demonstrably have testicles, and for that reason after various manoeuvers and treatments and doctor visits on Paige's part it became my turn to visit the doctor. Can you say "urologist", kids? Yer-awe-lo-jist. Very good, I knew you could. (Can you say "Zbarschuck"? Nice try.) So last weekend I went off to the pecker checker to get my parts and pinions looked at. This much he did, and I will admit unto you, the world at large: I couldn't look down as he hefted my testicles. I even turned off the ganglia in my spine that controls the nerves of my groin for about ten seconds, so I didn't feel anything. No matter how many people thought I was gay in my youth (and I don't just mean happy), there's always something to prove that I'm a majority-vote hetero, and that was it for this decade. Moving right along... This was the only physical involvement I had on the visit, I drove 12 miles to get my nuts juggled for a few moments, and he explained a few things about what we're going to do in the near future, what all these tests prove, and other valuable stuff. He then handed me a cup and said that in a few days I was to return this vial, with Exactly What You Think He'd Want Me To Put In There, to the local hospital's laboratory for inspection.
    Okay, skip to today. It's been more than the requisite 48 hours or so since anything tapped that keg, so I woke up this morning and got myself ready for work, and before getting into the car I got back into bed. [Insert typical comments about how one gets sperm out without other people's direct involvement.] I had asked Paige where the lab is, and she wasn't sure so she said I should walk in and hold "that" out and ask where it is. I got this evil grin, and she clarified she was pointing at the triplicate medical sheet on the counter, not the specimen cup. Well, my way would have gotten fast results... I stuck the cup in the special semen-carrying pocket of my outback coat, went to yonder hospital, found a parking spot (better known as a bulldozed lot with a portable building at one end of it and 'No Parking' signs all over, what the hell else you gonna do there?), walked in and got directions, handed my cup-o-soup to the lab person, and was then directed to Admitting to explain whose spunk that was. Why my religious preferences should be asked at this point, I'm not sure, but I'm willing to say that by proxy the contents of that jar are inattentive Methodists. (No pun intended.) Also gave my next of kin, should there be an accident trying to get out of the parking lot or if those sperms got into girl-trouble after I left. Found the pharmacy, whoops, double-back, found the front door, found the car, found the highway, got to work on time despite the form-filling part of this excursion. I guess the next step is that the cock-doc will get the results in a few days, then give us a call to tell us what's so fascinating about my ejaculate (since I typically throw it away, or sometimes give it away in the heat of passion).
    In more G-rated news, I got myself a Canon flatbed scanner as a reward for having a man handle my jewels, and my plan is to redo the pictures on this site which weren't originally digital photos or someone else's scans so they'll be crystal clear. Not that I don't like the effect that a flash has when taking a digital photo of something on Kodak paper (see the two '#1 & #2 together' pics where I'm in my pajamas), but it can definitely be (re-)done better. Now, to find those paper photos.... --#2

    Any time of year is the right time of year for shopping for antique Christmas ornaments & lights, and that's just what I did over the weekend. Another string of C-6 lights, which cost 89¢ in the thrift store but was marked $5 on the shelf; six more huge balls from West Germany, Points Unknown (I'm guessing Poland), and the USA; three more plastic taper-ended thing that could have been made in the 1940's just as well as the 1970's; and three Shiny-Brite balls that aren't all that old but caught my eye because they are cranberry red. I think the romance for me in old Christmas decorations is the anchor to the past -- the thought that someone's grandmother, great-grandmother, great-great-grandmother, or whomever held onto these heirlooms for a few generations, then they were passed (sometimes in a sad story that I don't get to hear) to me to preserve and cherish. And they do get displayed, in honor of the people who saw fit to make them a part of their holiday celebration every (yester-)year, to keep that love and that tradition alive.
    Okay, it's time for something very stupid on TV (and I don't mean "Greg The Bunny" on FOX, which looks like an extended visit from the Foster Farms chickens)... Three years ago there was a local upstart no-charge ad-based ISP by the name of, which grew very fast [too fast, cf: Boston Market] across the USA under the name, and I was an early member. When they went national, they were running TV ads featuring an infant with an animated mouth called Baby Bob to promote the service, and one day (oh, about a month or two before they went belly-up and sold their customer base to the competition, they were crowing on their site about how CBS TV was going to be hosting a new sitcom called "The Baby Bob Show", featuring the precocious talking tadger and having guest appearances from the celebrities who had bought the services of in the advertisements. Stupid idea, but it was (in the words of a "glorified burn shitloads of cash, dot com" so these things were to be expected. So goes the way of the dinosaur -- or,,, et cetera ad nauseum -- and I figured that'd be the end of it, two years ago. No, uh, you get ONE GUESS what I saw an advertisement for on CBS the other day. That's right... the product placement show without a product! (and it wouldn't surprise me much if it was sponsored by, which recently merged with But will Shaq O'Neill and Cindy Crawford still be making guest appearances as the long-ago blurb said they would?
    You laughed, you cried, you hurled when you read my epic tale about the life of Jay a few weeks ago. Now, I wish to regale you with another denizen of my depths: Eliott. He was the first kid I met when I moved to T-town, in fact I met him before I moved because we were on a summer league baseball team together when my family was making the big move from Sunnyside. And how convenient, he lived three blocks away from where we moved to. Eliott was a psychopath, plain and simple. On the plus side, we'd pull the grates off storm drains and go gathering frogs (and try to avoid stinkbugs but that wasn't possible, they coexisted), he had two sisters (chunky Elaine and cute Ellen) to think fondly of, and his stepfather had a collection of Playboys. On the negative, he gave what he called the "daily punch" and would make up for lost time when he'd see you after a weekend, he once popped a wheelie when I was on the back of his bike and the fall chipped one of my bottom teeth, he was the sort who would force you to eat burnt match-heads and kiss a dried-up dog turd in the neighbor's yard, and my grandmother told me once that he really made an impression on her by sauntering into our house and checking out the cupboards after she'd told him I wasn't home. Somewhere in the midst of junior high, his family moved to Zillah (next town over, where my grandmother is buried and my parents are living) and he was a completely different person there, like he'd shed one identity to gain another which was more positive. The first time I saw him there, which was during or after high school, he remembered who I was but had forgotten my name. How do you forget the name of the person you played with every day, and the only person you ever let see you having sex with a girlie magazine centerfold in an RV? Paper poker... The last time I saw the man in person, he was selling major appliances at Montgomery Wards in 1990, and this time he didn't remember me at all (and he worked with my sister, so I'm surprised that he never asked, "Hey, how's Hemlock?"). The last time I saw the man's picture, it was in the border of a newspaper ad; he was now a salesman for -- ugh, was it used cars (muahahhahaha!) or real estate? Same difference, still a bully but this time a socially acceptable one who doesn't automatically win (ain't living off sales commissions a bitch?). Which shows that sometimes, the people most deserving of a kick in the ass get it eventually, and I can't think of a guy more in need to atone for the sins of his youth. Okay, I can, there's always Spud Fredrickson, who went from being as crooked as a dog's hind leg and liked to play with guns as a youth to being a tribal police officer (same thing, except this time with pay and permission), but he's another story. --#2

    Many moons ago, there was a Conan The Barbarian movie where the father from "Good Times" speaks unto the teacher from "Kindergarten Cop" the following sage words: "Life is a circle, my friend. We shall meet again." I sometimes invoke this passage when the story ends before I feel it should, and the last time it came true was LouAn Farrell at the Puyallup Fair a few years ago. ("It's still your turn to write," I said, 12 years after she'd sent a postcard saying a full letter was in the works. She still hasn't.) Today I was at the 6th annual Northwest Classic Videogame Expo [info: Northwest Classic Games Enthusiasts] in Kirkland, Washington when I saw a familiar face, someone I hadn't seen since 1994 or heard from (an e-postcard, essentially) since 1998: Roya K., or "Ana Ng" from the old Citadel BBS's. Just like the Atari 2600 games around me, this was a blast from my past. I asked her about Cloister and Zuke, she asked me about R.A.T. #1. Seeing her made my day, along with a screening of the "good stuff, Maynard" Malt-0-Meal advertisement and playing the unreleased Atari game Garfield. The rest of the Game Expo was pretty interesting too: someone had gutted a 19" TV and turned it into a big-screen Vectrex, there was a complete set of Activision patches (with the congratulations letters for several of them included), and I saw just how much of a force Lee of ResQsoft is to contend with (and I will never forgive him for planting that "Pitfall III: Harriet's Quest" forged labcart at the Spanaway Goodwill -- I'm surprised the well-crafted label from it isn't on his site!).
    Hmm, beyond that life is a series of random affairs:   Three people in my group at work got canned with a fourth nearly escaping that (the charges were dropped) in one week, giving everyone a real feeling of security.   R.A.T. #2 is still waiting patiently for the U.S. Guvmint to decide if it needs him to teach classes or not, so far two he was 'going to hear' on have come and gone.   R.A.T. #3 has surfaced! She's still in Seattle, and looks forward to her husband moving in with her father (education and job prospects are better in Idaho) with the amount of trepidation one would expect of such an 'Odd Couple' linking.   Why didn't I know that Bert Grant died?   There may have been a reason that Garfield for the Atari 2600 wasn't released (minimal challenge, so-so graphics), but there was no good reason why Klax for the Atari 7800 was not (it's better on the Nintendo and Atari Lynx handheld, I will admit).   I've put together the Bitten By KATS CD #4, subtitled "the last temptation of turnbeaugh" [inside joke]. It's better than #3, "Bitten By KATS on all three buttocks (the metal years)."   The contact address for this site is going to change shortly; sure, still exists but the ISP is trying to 'lose' its support of that domain gradually; the side benefit is that the new address will be displayed as a graphic (with an ALT tag, of course) so that the spambots won't snag it. We've almost stopped checking the squeekatrat box due to the quantity of crap that falls into it -- out of 125 messages found there in the last year, only 3 were from the viewership.   Matzoh ball soup looks better on the can label than inside the glass jar. Have a happy Passover, and hopefully your dinner won't look like a preserved medical specimen.   Cryptic message, everyone else please ignore. Wishful thinking. Ask & ante like everyone else and you shall receive. not before. It takes brass cajones to cry wolf, then wonder why the sheep won't look at you. We now return you to the randomness.   New rant posted, only a week or so late but stuff since the last Daybook entry has been busy here. I can officially and honestly say now that cable Internet is better than DSL, since I have been taking those calls the last two week, but the quantity of information we have been provided about the hardware used is much less and much worse than what we were given for DSL. Figgers."   Maybe you already knew this, but this site does render pretty good under the Lynx 2.8.4 text-only web browser (are you reading this at a library?) so I'm pretty confident the blind know just how pointless this place is. Wouldn't want to leave anyone out!   I know for a fact that I'm not the only one who thinks it's rediculous that the Girl Scouts sell cookies (which have always been) named Samoas in some areas but in others are Caramel deLites. Political correctness sucks dead horse. But to be fair, I visited the GSA's cookie FAQ and found that not only does that variety of cookie make up 19% of their sales (second only to thin mints, 26%) but under the heading of who selects the cookie varieties it says: "Each bakery names its own cookies, so Girl Scout cookies that are quite similar may have different names." Fair 'nuff. They're the only Samoans I'd put anywhere near my mouth.   I know I've seen a few cryptic R.A.T.-ish thoughts around but I can't remember any, and I'm not up to storytime at the moment, so I close with a message from The Frantics' Mr. Interesting: If you lined up every grain of sand in the world end-to-end, you'd be working for the government. --#2

    Greetings, cybernauts. This missive comes from a new machine -- a Duron 800MHz with 128M RAM in a tall case with teal plastic plates -- made from recycled parts. I'll try to keep this from getting highly geeky, but be forewarned that if the 'Start' button intimidates you we are goin' over your head so skip the next two paragraphs... I got a sizeable yearly bonus from work, so it was time to make good on last year's New Year's Intention: to get a new computer. I already have hard drives, and just the way I want them, plus floppy drives and CDROMs and cards and stuff, so I didn't need to run out and buy a box. No, I just bought the motherboard, the CPU, the RAM, and... sigh, a new case, because I had to. Two hours of work on an old case was all for naught (and to think I wrecked a saw, a Dremel bit, and a pair of needlenose pliers!) because the drive bays didn't have anywhere to screw the drives to! I got exceedingly lucky, I just moved the hard drives from one box to the other and on the third reboot Windows 98 said, "oh hey, I'm not in Kansas anymore!" and gathered all the necessary drivers -- no reinstallation of the operating system for me, woohoo!
    This missive also comes with Chrome asleep in my family room, on another training about stuff without a use in the real world. His contribution to today's update is correcting some errors on other pages that I had missed (and likely you had too but they did matter). Unlike most people nowadays, I have a 5¼" drive on this new Behemoth -- had enough power, enough bays, and a stack of old floppies from my college days -- so I took a little time to cruise through some forgotten disks with him by my side. You'd be surprised how long a game written for a 1980's computer (with up to 10MHz speed, with up to 40MB of hard drive, with a 4-color CGA monitor) will run on an 800MHz processor; some games don't rely on system speed, so "Captain Comic" plays much the way it is supposed to, whereas all the Atarisoft-esque arcade classics go through all three lives in a one second blur. And in this batch of disks, I came across the philosopher's stone of R.A.T.: 101 Ways, the text phile that inspired us (or me anyway) to start writing humor online a decade ago, and from whence we derive the name "G-philes" for these amusing texts, as you may have noticed in reading WHATRAT.txt in the R.A.T. Philes section. You can find 101WAYS.txt in the Text Philes section of the site. The two signs that we were so old-school l33t were the fact that half my files were in the PAK compression scheme [history lesson: the sainted Phil Katz wrote a compression scheme called ARC, he wound up going to court over it for copyright infringement reasons on the algorhythm, and eventually he came up with a tighter compression scheme called ZIP (maybe you've heard of it?), but during the interim between ARC and ZIP other false gods presented themselves -- including PAK, and it was tighter in some cases that either of them], and that I came across a doctored GIF of Debbie Gibson's head on the body of a porn actress getting it doggy-style. Electric Youth!
    (You're back now?) You look like you could use a good laugh. Let me tell you about the time I made a guy piss his pants laughing. Jay was one of the class clowns, he had this way about him when he wasn't being sadistic or pyromanial (which he was with some regularity). He was also the person who stereotypically had the clubhouse in the back yard, he had over time several nicely constructed 'forts' that we all could fit into. When people ask me that landmark question, "where were you when President Reagan was shot at by John Hinkley?", my answer is that I was playing in the dirt out front of Jay's house with him, and the other memorable thing about that day was when he kicked the bathroom door in while his sister was in the tub to bitch her out for locking us outside. (Too bad it wasn't years later, she grew these huuuge boobs...) Anyway. He was the first kid on the block to have an income, a paper route when we were in junior high, so he had the wherewithal to buy himself a record player, a tape recorder, and any music he wanted at the drop of a hat. So we were sitting around his room making up juvenile comedy to put on tape -- my sides hurt from his serious 'ad' for Ex-Lax Chocolate Suppositories -- when we had this brain-flash. He pulls out the 45rpm of Queen's "Flash Gordon Theme" and turns it to the b-side, "Football Fight Song" which is the audio from a scene of the movie 'Flash Gordon' set to rock music. Instead of putting in that yellow spindle thing that you stick in the middle of 45's, he slipped the vinyl to one side of the turntable so it would sound warped. The 'ad' this time was for Orgy House Magazine. He presses the record button on the tape. The record player is going "choo-choooo-choo CHUCHUCHUCHU choo-choooo-choo CHUCHUCHUCHU" loud, and I am screaming into the microphone, "ORGY HOUSE!! ORGY HOUSE!!" He almost made it into the bathroom... almost. I mean, he was in the bathroom doorway when his flow let go, and the bathroom was a 90° right turn from his bedroom door. After a minute he comes back into his room, the front of his pants drenched, laughing a little less hardy now but still laughing nonetheless. Years later, my friend Richard told me that my experience wasn't unique, he too had made Jay laugh so hard he urinated himself and described what they were recording at the time (which I had heard myself). I hope he's got that incontinence under control; we're in our mid-30's now and it doesn't get any better. Also hope he doesn't still chase people with pitchforks and lead pipes, find people smearing feces on their faces in his bathroom (I never did find out whether that story was true, the kid had quit school to be a loser), or ask guys to do the Highland Fling without their pants in his basement (yes, he did, and no, I didn't). Thanks for giving me a fort to defend, your dad's pre-Comics Code war & horror comics to read (don't you wish you still had those?!?), sore sides on dozens of occasions (except when they were hurt from you taking cuts at me), the moment of fear when we caught that blanket on fire in the garage, and the moment of amazement that inevitably accompanies watching someone seriously attempt to give themselves a blowjob with a bicycle pump -- in front of two or three other people. (The time he used a belt sander with worn-out fine-grit on it as a vibrator was not quite as amazing because it seemed more plausible, and we were alone.)
    Sure, some of my stories are marginal, but they are always true, and that's what makes them so funny (or to someone; let the drawstring on your ass loosen for a bit, you!). I see it this way: I complain about a lot of elements of my youth, but there were plenty of enjoyable times too -- they just usually happened when I wasn't at home. I'm ahead of the game if I tell two happy stories to others for every bad memory I keep to myself. --#2

The other day at work the subject of adult toystores came up and I wanted to show a coworker what I'd written here about the matter, from my visit last year to Castle Superstore last year, and... it's not here. The entire entry is missing. The greatest bit of expositional writing I've done since college and it's hit the bitbucket. I checked Google's page archives; nothing. I checked my other computer since I keep a backup which I hadn't updated since last December, not here (so I must have lost it before the yearly reorganization). Grrrr.
    I didn't write anything here last week because I was having a low period, which doesn't happen very often to me because I'm so upbeat but it does happen, wherein it was hard to say anything nice. I tend to be truthful in the Daybook, as though this were my private journal (only shared with the world at large), and I couldn't see myself saying anything worth hearing. I'm feeling better now, but this is the second week in a row I've come into work from a nice relaxing weekend and my first call of the day knocks me on my ass. Honestly, you'd think more people would act more Christian (or whatever their belief in a benevolent God) on a Sunday afternoon. My second caller was just as much of a winner -- mumbling, in a Hispanic accent, without ever stating the problem -- how does "What's wrong with my account?" explain, well, what you see as potentially being wrong with your account? Pardon me while I put on my Karnac hat.... opening mayonaisse jar... rip the end of the envelope and blow into the end... What is, "not a freaking thing but the fact that you're using a Sega Dreamcast as an Internet appliance and you're lying to the tech about how the machine is dialing, if you are getting busy signals on four of our numbers?" Happily problems like him provide their own solution (that's an unwritten R.A.T. tenet, `the problem is sometimes its own solution`) and his cordless phone dropped the call. Ahh, but I did have one bit of amusement yesterday. Previously I may have mentioned that there's a coworker who got married to some dingbat in the company exercise room (cheese alert!), and when she told me about this nuptual she was enroute to in the elevator I acted in all seriousness as though she'd announced she had terminal cancer, and stated that I hoped that she got better soon. She told me yesterday that the day after their wedding he took off with the Army (funny, he doesn't look like someone who would survive bootcamp, which is where he was going) and she hasn't slept in her own bed since then. (I knew the bride when she used to rock-n-roll, which she was doing with other guys a week before her marriage... chances are she hasn't NOT been in A bed somewhere.) This of course is the girl, I hesitate to say woman, who has just as many GlamourShots black-n-white photographs of herself on her desk as she does pictures of anyone else. Oh, and on the matter of imagery, one of my coworkers on a different shift cracked me up: He has two photographs of himself and his wife on his desk, taken just a few minutes apart -- in the first one, she's in her bridal gown; in the second, she's in her underwear on his lap, and he's still wearing his vest. I wonder how he gets any work done. :-P
    The time I ate catfood was as you can imagine kinda silly. It was over at Jenni Redheart's house many moons ago; I was in college and hanging out with my dear friend Wayne who was still stuck in public school. I'm standing in her kitchen talking or something, and she shoves this chunk of canned pussy-lumps into my gaping maw. It went too far into my mouth for me to spit it out, it just flew into the gullet and it was either swallow or choke. I swallowed, since our feline friends eat this so it couldn't be too bad. Cats must be insensitive to the flavor of trisodium phosphate, or whatever the label said the part of the meal which wasn't associated with a meat by-product was; this truly wasn't something you'd serve on crackers to friends (although it was, in some respects, much better than whitefish roe 'caviar'). She laughed and was amazed that I'd eaten it. I tried to stay cavalier as I went through half a gallon of water to get the taste out of my mouth. Today, my boy Cheddar only eats the bagged crunchy stuff so I never have to deal with the curiosity whether I just got an odd mouthful of canned animal or if wet katfüd honestly does taste that bad. --#2

    Second time in a month that I copied the website's older contents over the new entry on my computer instead of vice versa. Geez.  Without consulting my fellow R.A.T.s, I've come up with a discarded advertising icon for this website: meet Skipper. And here is the story... Over the years I have inherited a bunch of old newspapers from people, and most are of historical events. In culling through the Hawaiian newspaper clippings from when Pearl Harbor got bombed, there was plenty of anti-Nazi/anti-Japanese material but not much advertising (unless you count movies, and the beach flick featuring Annette Funicello but not containing Frankie Avalon was half-tempting but didn't qualify). Man walks on the moon in '69, and finding an advertising mascot is about as hard as finding an article about Ted Kennedy driving off a bridge and killing a woman which happened the same day -- if anything could upstage a Senator committing vehicular manslaughter, it'd have to be a lunar landing. So let's head for a non-event, Uncle Butch's basketball record as reported in a Chehalis, Washington rag's sports section in 1965. Ahh, now we're getting somewhere!
    Go to the Rotating Rant page and have a look. (Never mind the filler, a real Rant will be posted in a few days.) Okay, so you have a dog in a bib. Who is going to eat a canned food described as being for both canines and felines -- how often does that happen nowadays? And it's not just chow, it's "pet stew" (is Skipper a cannibal?) which purports to be just like home-made (hmm, when was the last time I made pet stew, for or using housepets?). Preceded by the always-unanswered question of who determined this is "Really Good!" And the kicker to seal the deal, the name of the product is the same as that of a popular peanut-butter; I have this mental image of Junior trundling into the kitchen to ask his Mom for a Skippy sammich (heh, speaking of Annette...), and Mom in a playful or perhaps spiteful mood gives Junior a luncheon surprise he won't soon forget. Though not perfect when it comes to advertising mascots, this ad does embody all that is R.A.T.: it's cryptic and it leaves one snickering (after one thinks about the mixed messages it contains).
[addendum from Rant page: The trouble I was having was not so much that I couldn't find an advertising mascot, because there were plenty to be had. The rest of R.A.T. didn't get consulted about choosing Skipper because he was the only one I could find that didn't fall into one of these three categories: #1 - still in use by the company (I'd love to use Reddy Kilowatt but he got his job back -- now, if someone could direct me to an image of his stand-in from the late 70's, "Colonel Watts-His-Name"...); #2 - not in use but the company is still around (I don't want to deal with intellectual property rights lawyers, or else I'd snap the pixie known as "Miss Ivory Snow" right up); #3 - is uncommitted but has already been featured by some other person (Lileks, for instance, already did a huge spread on the crazy aunt who put Spry shortening on everything). So this brings me to pet stew with a peanut-butter name...]
    Yes, as described last week I am selling that Strawberry Shortcake videotape in Betamax format on eBay right now -- I've had 30 people view the page but no bids. Seems the Beta fans want blank tapes instead of pre-recorded movies, and the Strawberry Shortcake fans want the goods on DVD (as if such exists). Talk about missing your target audiences... I've heard from more Strawberry girls than Beta boys about my tape so I know there are buyers out there; the auction lasts another day and a half. [update: Sold, $2.75!]  --#2

    Cheerios, pip pip. Chrome the illustrious R.A.T. #1 was over for the weekend, happily validating one of my intentions for the year, for some military school crap, and the first thing he said when we were plotting this sleepover was, "Let's do some writing." This was the last we spoke of such things, with the exceptions of comments about the soldier who was doing some research about one of the classes Chrome had been to and had commented about at length here, and class.txt came up in his search -- and the latest Guestbook entry by someone from my alternate geek-girls-allowed / no-yucky-ID10T's treehouse, Tech Support Comedy (, which was brought to our attention by the ever-observant Andy. [wavies]  He liked my in-laws, which is good since he's like the brother I actually did ask for (I don't recall requesting the two I got). Did get word recently that Emmer the illustrious R.A.T. #3 is waiting upon an aunt for wedding pictures (which aunt says she looks ravishing in) and perhaps will share with the rest of the class in our Gallery. One other word about this here site... When I was throwing shit together a year ago (longtime readers will recall the image below the links was not always Milo Lum's dance studio, which since September 2001 seems more topical than originally intended) I was inspired by Minneapolis writer James Lileks' site and wanted to Adopt A Cast-Off Advertising Mascot. I never did drop the man a line to take delivery on any of the images he has in the orphanage because I couldn't decide what best fits here. (For a couple months the front page image here was Eleanor Roosevelt praising a hotdog lunch, and that image is still visible in his Institute Of Good Cheer in the food section under Celebrity Endorsements -- and yes, I own the Regrettable Food book -- but I decided the site should find its own images instead of borrowing.) I was skimming the site for the first time in a few months (there was a major re-org on his site awhile back due to high traffic) and was reminded of the orphanage. [And if you read this, Mr. Lileks: My, how Gnat has grown! Such red hair!] I'm going to come up with a forgotten mascot from old advertising for this place yet, which may or may not involve a rodent but if it does it won't be a dead one from a pesticide promotion, so stay tuned.
    I haven't seen any cool bumperstickers or plateframes lately, so the ironic snickers come from real life: Yesterday not only did I get a call to help this guy figure why his email wasn't working (apparently he didn't want to roll over his wife, a broadband department manager for my company) and it started coming in before he could explain what was wrong, but also I spoke to a woman who asked how to change the homepage in her browser, who deals with my company daily as a Covad issues-representative. And for a cryptic message: Crusader BunnyPants
    I just completed my first eBay auction as a seller, fobbing off my VEO digital camera (along with 8 other people, I noticed later) making $20 less than what I paid for it new. Why so quick? Because I now have a Kodak DC215 which is in several ways a nicer device, obtained at a discount to help an aunt.
Rocky, you fucking bitch crack-ho, go back to selling your fat ass for rock for your useless n*gger boyfriend, instead of stealing and hocking your mom's stuff then having the gonads to beg her for cigarette money. Get a job, move out, and leave your mom out of your stupidity. You were given a chance to straighten up, now you're back to your old bullshit and it's killing your mother. Don't you give a shit about the person who stupidly hasn't thrown you headfirst into an oncoming semi yet?
Er, pardon, just a little rage there. :) There'll be more eBay sales, starting with... a Strawberry Shortcake video on Beta! --#2

    It turns out that it didn't take until February to get the Christmas decorations put away, happily; however it may be that long until the trees go away -- seems I didn't put them out for the garbageman the other day. Oops. I likely have to get clipper-happy on them so they'll fit in the yardwaste bin (mental image of Edward Scissorhands doing topiary). We now have the ornamentia in plastic containers in hopes that the flour heart I made in kindergarten will not further disintergrate, since those cardboard boxes just weren't a match for the damp and breezy shed out back. And speaking of cleanups, I have done a little reorganization on the site. I didn't say I fixed anything, I just put shit away. :) The Daybook and the Rant now have an empty Past link and two full collections from previous years. I got everything done and working, then promptly copied the files from webspace to hard drive instead of vice versa so this is a retype from memory.
    I don't make New Years resolutions. I just don't see the point of suddenly deciding, "I'm going to do this this year!" only to break the promise days later and feel bad about it. I do however have intentions, less commitment, and here is what I intend to do this year: I intend to get more exercise, this desk job is starting to show on me. I intend to eat healthier, since this chocolate and soda diet couldn't possibly be good for longevity. I intend to gather more rosebuds while I may. I intend to be better about gardening this year (including rototilling and planting the side yard we've been ignoring), but my excuse for last year is that we wanted to see what was already here first. I intend to listen to more stars and to fewer celebrities. I intend to get a new computer, more specifically a motherboard and CPU and plenty of RAM, because unlike many people I talk to who 'upgrade' I actually have a reason: my machine is an AMD 5x80/133 which has deluded itself into thinking it is a Pentium 75 with a learning disability. If I wanted to make it go any slower I'd install Windows NT4 on it (which has slowed my 400 MHz Dell at work down worse than my home machine). I intend to have Chrome spend the night more. I intend to get rid of that huge tree in the back yard which has stuck roots into the foundations of the neighbor's house as well as my own; the woman next door said this should have been done 30 years ago but the former owner wouldn't hear of it (and doesn't have to look at the monster she created); the pond and the crabapple tree may follow, they're not getting along. I intend to do something with the bedroom my computer is located in; after over a year of residence, it shouldn't still be a series of boxes which gives the impression I've been here for only three days. And finally, I intend to annoy my cat at all opportunities.
    In July of last year, I was telling a story in the Daybook about taking My First Big Adventure On A Moped shortly after I got my driver's license, and threatened to write about The Day I Lost My Virginity (same day, hours later). This being the first entry of the new year, it sounds like a good way to start... but that's just how my little grey brain is wired. [skipping past the details of visiting friends from summer camp, getting a burger and leaving the change on the jukebox instead of fueling the gas tank, running out of gas 4 miles from home, pushing the bike 3 miles to my best friend's house, and how he bought a quarter's worth of gas yet got home with a dime's worth because the can tipped over in the trunk of the family car] I'm about three blocks from my family's house as I'm passing some friends, who of course want to ride my moped. Yeah, go ahead, just don't go very far because I've only got a dime's worth of gas. The only person left in the house is this girl with a Middle-Eastern name who I had a class with once, sprawled out on the couch with a green Tupperware cup of Gallo wine (the stuff they sell by the gallon jug) talking on the phone to her boyfriend. Inexplicably her pants are unbuttoned and open, and I'm standing there taking in the view and waiting for her to be done with the call because I wanna talk to her, I haven't seen her in a couple years. She hangs up and her first words were, "You wanna go upstairs and fuck?" Steady there. I tried to be nonchalent and said, "Eh, sure."
    They say that the first time is memorable and that it hurts. Well, yeah, that is all true. It was pretty lame; I was not completely aroused, and she was just doing this for sport. Not much to tell about the act, sorry. At some point the minister's daughter Robin, who had told me some interesting yet still tame stories in the past (like the time she and a friend double-dated with a couple bi-guys, and by the end of the night she and her friend were in the front seat playing cards while their dates were in the back seat gettin' it on), comes to the doorway, observes the situation, and starts crying. And just kept standing there, watching. Eventually my partner and I looked over and said, "Uh, could we help you?" She blithered something about it not being right, and I said, "Weren't you the one who kept using the phrase `what's a little sex among friends` earlier?" She cried harder, "I didn't really mean it!!" Uh, now leave us be? She left. After about another minute my partner decides the act is over (not that it had really gotten going), and the rest of the group is walking into the house. She comes down the stairs and announces, "well, that was boring." That pop and hiss which was heard was my ego rupturing and flying around the room. I bid them fare-thee-well and thanks for all the fish, took my bike back and headed home. It's about 9pm and it's not very dark out because it's August. I had discovered while putting the moped away that my left hand smelled like 87 octane unleaded, and my right hand smelled like (euphemisms escape me) where it had been ten minutes earlier. I walk into the house, and my mother is sitting at the diningroom table. She wants to know what I've been up to, and I say that I'll tell her all about my day (or most of it) after I take a shower. She stands up and says it's too late in the day to take a shower (what? no one was in bed, there's plenty of hot water, she's not running the dishwasher or the clothes washer, why can't I take a shower?). I was insistant that I'd take a shower immediately, then talk to her. She was approaching, perhaps sensing the scent of fear. In two deft movements I was into the bathroom and locking the door, flipping on the water, and putting that bar of crappy Zest soap to use. And I never did tell her about the day.  --#2


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