Tuesday, August 30, 2005


I am awe struck at the destruction being reported and humbled by the power of weather. My last class this summer was an earth science class studying natural disasters. We spent quite a bit of time on hurricanes and the lead-up to Katrina was that much more interesting to me because of it. I was surprised to see her increase so dramatically after crossing the Florida peninsula into the Gulf, but I was informed enough to know that it is warm water that gives hurricanes their energy. And I knew that the storm swell caused by the large low-pressure area over the eye would be catastrophic to a city almost entirely below sea level. I can't imagine the helpless feeling of seeing everything you have washed away, or not knowing what has happened to your stuff or, God forbid, your loved ones.

That being said, I am even more upset with what I am reading and hearing and seeing over and over, and the way it is being reported. The constant, breathless, absolutely worthless updates that have been coming over every media outlet for the past 24 hours have done nothing to help the situation.

Also, Biloxi, Mississippi, mayor A.J. Holloway might need a little perspective. He was the one who referred to this as "our tsunami." I appreciate the devastation and the horror of so many dead from a natural disaster. But the December, 2004 tsunami killed at least 150,000 people. To provide the perspective, know this: the population of Biloxi is just under 51,000. Imagine all of Biloxi wiped out, then multiply that by three. That was the tsunami. Not that 80 or 100 dead isn't tragic. But 150,000 is mind boggling.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Move along...

Nothing to see here. I’m just setting up and testing my MacJournal software to get it ready to update from home. One funny thing about MacJournal software: the built in spellchecker doesn’t recognize MacJournal as a correctly spelled word.

Murder most fowl

Yes, there are a million things I should be doing instead of trying out the new “Blogger for Word” gizmo, but hey, I can chalk this up to software research and testing if anybody asks me to track my time for the afternoon.

The question on my mind today is, “Why do some people impose vegetarian diets on their pets?” I knew one woman who was a strict vegan – no milk, eggs, butter, cheese, etc. She had (and to my knowledge still has) some of the nicest dogs I ever met. Very well behaved and groomed. As much as it repulsed her, she went to the butcher twice a week and bought raw meat for the dogs, which she then prepared into the best organic dog food in the neighborhood. She used to make extra batches to sell to people.

I remember being at a party when the hostess lit into this woman for feeding her dogs meat. Imagine! Feeding dogs meat! The hostess had two cats that she insisted were perfectly healthy and happy on vegetarian diets. No one at the party could comment on the health of the cats because they wouldn’t come out from under the bed.

I understand just about every rationale for eating a vegetarian diet, and have even gone veggie for short periods of time. I especially believe that most people are a little too removed from the whole process of butchering to really appreciate where meat comes from. But I don’t think anthropomorphizing pets is good for the pet or the person. It’s just a way to give oneself a little moral pat on the back, at the expense of the pet. If you have so much reluctance to contribute to the horrors of the abattoir, then you really should not have a pet in the first place.

This brings me to an excellent piece I read in the Review of the Chronicle of Higher Education by U. of Washington psychology professor David Barash. He dispels the commonly believed myth that humans are the only species that hunts for sport, or kills its own kind, or makes war. In fact, all these behaviors are regularly observed in many species. Regardless of the internalized guilt we may take on as defilers of the planet, expressed most often in our culture through the stories of original sin and Cain and Abel (the basis for Barash’s piece), turning Rex and Bootsy into good little vegetarians isn’t going to fix a thing. I am reminded of the pig in the old story of the farmer who thought he could teach his swine to sing: he ended up wasting his time and pissing off the pig.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Screw you, I think it is pronounced "me-me."

Okay, I never read Dawkins The Selfish Gene, but it always struck me as one of those books that geeky flunkies read and base their entire world view on. The kind of guys (and gals) who rebut every argument with something from the same book. As long as it isn't the Bible, they think they're intellectuals.

And I am pretty sure Dawkins didn't intend for every stupid questionnaire on the internet to become a "meme." Just because you've revealed something about yourself on the World Wide Web does not mean you've contributed to the aggregate cultural knowledge of the race. Especially if you can't be bothered to spell check and get half the words wrong.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005


It's nice and cool and comfortable again. And yet, I couldn't get to sleep last night. I restrung my old acoustic guitar for the first time in years, and played it for about two hours. (My finger tips are killing me; I'm going to have to do my blood sugar tests on my right hand for a while. Is "finger tips" two words? Fingertips. Humph--somehow it doesn't seem right that it would be one word, but it looks okay to me.) Anyway, I went to bed and lay there awake just itching to get back up and play some more.

One big difference between playing now and when I used to play more seriously (before 2000, when I went back to school) is the access to the internet. I love being able to Google "guitar tab 'I Fall To Pieces'" and having the chords right there in front of me. I learned "Crazy," "I Go Walking" and "She's Got You" last night before bed. Incidentally, I was never a huge Patsy Cline fan, but the missus and I caught a PBS special about her this weekend. That combined with my renewed interest in American music got me inspired to learn some country standards once I got the guitar back in shape. Tonight I am going to go home and teach myself "Hot Rod Lincoln." Then maybe I'll learn some Black Oak Arkansas just for the little woman.

Saturday, August 13, 2005


I can't believe it's already the 13th of August. I feel like I just heard the first cicada of the season (and that was on the 3rd; I made a note of it). The weather right now is horrible, but I suppose I shouldn't complain because it is better than freezing to death. This will probably be the worst of it for the rest of the summer. The forecast is for temperatures in the 70s overnight and no relief from the humidity. I refuse to break down and put the a/c in the bedroom window, though, because as poorly as I sleep in the heat, the sleep I get with the a/c is not at all refreshing. I don't know why, but I have horrible dreams all night and wake up terribly anxious. With the window fan I can sleep well if I take a cool shower right before I go to bed. Don't you feel better knowing that?

Speaking of a/c, the missus and I took in a movie, as much for the a/c as for the entertainment. We saw The Aristocrats and the entertainment was as good as the a/c. Bob Saget and Gilbert Gottfried were pretty damn funny, but I think I laughed the hardest at the simultaneous telling of a different joke by Drew Carey and Robin Williams. I have a theory that this joke was also the inspiration for the "Lick my Love Pump" sequence in This is Spinal Tap. I won't spoil it for anyone; leave a comment if you want me to tell the joke there.

I got an invitation in the mail to attend a reception for graduates at the end of the month. It mentioned awards. I am graduating with a 3.972 cumulative GPA which, according to the registrar's website, is summa cum laude, but I haven't been told that I am receiving any recognition of this. I assume I will get to wear an "honors cord" on my mortar board when I walk in commencement. Yippee.

Time to order the missus a pizza.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

(Nota bene)

(I forgot to mention that the reason I titled the last entry vitamins and aliens is because I intended to make some Scientology-related connection between giving up cable TV and getting "clear." Which rhymes with "queer," but is a whole different thing - although I believe vitamins will cure that, too.)

So, the missus and I went to the see Knitters last night at the Paradise. I really need to learn more about good old American roots music: folk singers, country music (not the adult-oriented-contemporary Country and Western crap on the radio), bluegrass and early rock and roll. I was never a big fan of that stuff growing up. I was into the "British Invasion" and metal at first, then I got into punk and "New Wave." In fact, next month the missus and I are going to see Paul Weller. But hey, he's doing "blue-eyed soul" these days.

Back to my ramble. Every so often I get interested in good, loud electric roots music, but I never know what to look for at the record store. I gotta go on eye-tunes and sample some bolo-tie-wearing guitar music, soon. I think my trip to Montana has totally shifted my focus from eastward to westward. I was always more interested in the Old World than the New, now I find myself saying "go West, young man!" in my sleep. I'm getting tired of living in the city, too. The subway is a drag, the people are nasty, and you can't see ten feet in front of you.

Finally, I am very excited to report that I got a letter in the mail yesterday confirming my completion of the requirements for my degree. Even if I didn't show up for commencement for some reason (and I have every intention of showing up) it will only be a matter of time before I have that diploma in my hot little hands. Now, on to my Master's (I registered for two classes in the fall).

Monday, August 08, 2005

Vitamins and aliens

In an effort to save every unnecessarily spent penny, the missus and I are cutting the budget to the quick. We want to move out of this apartment before we retire, and maybe even out of the state. Whatever we do, it isn't going to happen if we remain profligate. So, we have cancelled all the extra cable channels, and stopped having the newspaper delivered. I was a little nonplussed when I did the math and realized that having the paper delivered was more expensive than picking it up at the store. I guess it makes sense, but with magazine subscriptions, you always get a break off the cover price, right? But not with the Boston Globe. Thirty-seven dollars a month they were shafting me for. No thanks, I can get it for free most days on campus.

The thing that has been more difficult to adjust to than I want to admit is the lack of mindless TV. I didn't realize how much time I spent channel surfing and watching Hitler documentaries and VH1 Classic. I know it will be good for me, especially when I start my Master's program in September. Now I actually find myself watching C-Span; that's going to have to stop.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Back from the mild, mild west.

Wow! What a vacation. The last time the missus and I went to Helena was the spring of 1998, shortly before we were married. We got to see quite a bit of Montana then. We went with the family up to Flathead Lake and then continued on our own for a night in Whitefish. I had the best breakfast I've ever tasted (eggs over easy with grits that were like manna from heaven) and drove south to Missoula. Then we crossed McDonald Pass over the divide back to Helena, with a spare tire on the rental car.

This time we didn't have quite so many adventures. The purpose of our trip was to attend the centennial birthday party of McC's great aunt Marge. One-hundred years old and she remembered me from a ten minute conversation we had six years ago - clean mountain air will do that for you. The missus and I spent a couple of nights at her aunt's ranch just outside of town, and a few nights in a nice hotel right in town, compliments of father-in-law. The birthday party was Saturday night, right in the middle of our trip, so we didn't travel too far afield.

In a way it was nice that we stayed close to "home." It gave us a chance to see Helena. What a great little city. It boasts two ballet companies, two Shakespeare companies (one is actually regional, but we saw them do King Lear in Helena) and a great place to get lattes. There is a definite cosmopolitan feel about it, but everyone says "Please," "Thank you," and "Excuse me."

The weather was heavenly. It gets hot, but it never gets muggy. Even when it hits 95 out there I could wear jeans and be comfortable. The only drawback was what the missus and I were both calling "winter skin." We both found our skin getting as dry as it does here in January.

I got on the back of a horse and got her to do a couple of laps around the ring, and even got it to stop when I wanted her to. Her name was MJ (short for Mary Jane) and she was a nice mellow mount.

The travel was a little tiring. Flying is such a demeaning way to travel. I seriously felt like a walking piece of baggage a couple of times. But the destination was well worth it. This is the first vacation I have ever been on that I can honestly say I had no desire to come home from. I'm still feeling claustrophobic and high-string since I got back. The traffic and crowds and noise and litter and funny smells all seem overwhelming. I have been a city boy all my life, but I think I am finally getting tired of it.