Tuesday, February 28, 2006


Windows Update is seriously a sentient being. My wife installed some Windows update kit thingie the other day because we thought it would help us get to The Book of Daniel. Alas, the show (this makes me want to vomit) seems to have been taken away from viewers completely at this point. And Windows, no matter how many times I command it not to do anything without my permission, keeps screwing around with all my custom settings and downloading random crap and attempting to crash my computer.

Unbeknownst to me, it undid all of my Internet Explorer settings. Among these were my cookie settings. I have no problem with first-party cookies. It is third-party cookies that I do not like. Windows seemed to think I should not accept any cookies at all. But it didn't think to ask me. Why should I know what I want? Really. I'm just a poor, defenseless, uninformed user.

I found out about this cookie thing while trying to log into Blogger. Quoth Blogger, "No cookies? No admittance!" (Well, that was at least the gist of the error message.) Easily fixed, yo. But the irony is that I was logging in to post a song about...


Without further ado, I present an anthem about my preferred method of stress relief.

I got pissed off; now I'm baking pie
You Betty Crockers can't deny
That when your spoon goes in for an itty-bitty taste
It puts a smile upon your face
I like peach. My neighbor is a leech
She don't care that my curtains are drawn
She comes over every mornin'
Says her man ain't never reformin'
Oh sister, you ought stop huffin'
And make some muffins!
Some relationships are born dead
And that man she got makes me think of cornbread
Now my phone is ringin'
Like hell you're not selling things!
So 'scuse me, 'scuse me
'Cause you're interrupting mousse, see?
I went to Wa-Wa
The cashier, he was la-la
He was strange, deranged
Too high to figure out my change
I'm tired of guys with guts
Whistling 'cause they like my butt
Take my springform pan and a dozen eggs
Instead of breaking legs
Some flour! (yeah!) Sugar! (yeah!)
And vanilla bean extract! (yeah!)
Then whip it! (Whip it!) Whip it! (Whip it!)
Whip that angel food cake!
Baby must bake!

You should come over for tea sometime.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Public transit story #3: Reincarnation

I met this woman today. She was the sweetest woman I ever met. I was walking down North Clark by Belmont, down there, and this little old lady comes up to me and she says, "Excuse me, but do you know where the Bryant Street Theatre is?" And I said, "No, I'm sorry, I'm from out of town." And she said, "Well, for Christ's sake!" That's what she said! And I said "I'm... I'm sorry." She goes "Well?" (Really?) Well, yeah! (Cool!) "I'm sorry, no, I don't." "Well, for Christ's sake!" I said, "I'm sorry!" "Well?" (You know she had been wandering round the same corner...) I actually felt bad. I walked away and thought I should have known where that was... you know, I really should, like, maybe I'll look for it and then try and find her. I was actually thinking stuff like that, then I thought, what am I doing? I should, like, go find her and say, "Lady, you're an idiot!" and when she goes "What?" I'll go "Well?"
from Barenaked Ladies' album Rock Spectacle

One day last fall I went up to the university library to find the book that contained the chapter with the scoring instructions for one of the measures I used in my dissertation. I found the book and photocopied the chapter, but alas, the instructions were for a different version of the measure than the one I used. I was pretty mad, because I'd gone all the way up there and spent more than a dollar on overpriced photocopies and it wasn't even the right version of the measure. My advisor eventually saved the day (and my dissertation!), but what made the trip itself worth it was this woman I met while waiting for the bus home.

This woman was one of Berkeley's many homeless people. She wore a black tank top that was several sizes too small, a long black skirt, and two plastic jack-o-lantern buckets. When I say that she was wearing two plastic jack-o-lantern buckets, I mean that she was wearing a sash around her waist from which hung two plastic jack-o-lantern buckets. She had a shopping cart stuffed with all kinds of things. And she seemed to have come to the bus stop to feed the homeless man with whom I was sharing the bench.

It was apparent that they had a regular arrangement. Although the man never said a word, she narrated the whole process to both of us. First she gave him two pieces of wheat bread soaked with balsamic vinaigrette. Then she took these back and squeezed a lemon over them. "I think some garlic might be good too," she said, as she sprinkled on a prodigious amount of garlic salt. She watched him take a bite, and then she said, "How about some peanut butter? That would make a good sandwich. You need protein!" Thus was added some chunky peanut butter. When he finished the sandwich, she said, "Here, I got you some plum sauce. Drink it!" He dutifully drank the little plastic container of sweet-and-sour sauce. She then proceeded to serve (and narrate) some salt and vinegar chips, some jelly beans, and some lemonade.

Then she turned to me and said, "I like to have a little bit of potato salad every day. It's good for my stomach. I get the free samples from the Safeway up there." She continued to tell me about all the other places in the neighborhood where she could get free food: the cheese store, the sandwich and soup shop, the candy store... I told her I was new in town and that it was nice to know where the good businesses were.

Then things got, well, weird.

"What kind of blood you got in you?" she asked. "Russian?"

"Yes," I said, "my great-grandparents emigrated from Russia."

"You see that guy down there?" she said, pointing to someone I could barely see. "I think he is part Russian. He has black skin, but I think he is part Russian. He has the evil blood in him."

"Oh," I said. Apparently it was not a problem that I am more than just part Russian.

"Were you born in 1980?" she asked.

"Um, yes," I said. "How did you know?"

"Well, my daughter was born in 1980. She lives in New Mexico. She's okay. You look like her. She's got some Russian blood in her. Maybe you're her sister?"

"No," I said, "I'm an only child. But most people think I look like someone born in 1990, so thank you for guessing my age correctly!"

"Are you sure you don't have a sister?"


"The people around here are pretty nice," she said.

"Yeah, I guess they are. They're really different from people back East, though."

"Have you ever been to LA?"

"I was there once, but not for very long. Just a few hours."

"Those are some very interesting people," she said. She fixed me with a very serious gaze. "When you get reincarnated, you should come back as someone from LA."


"When you get reincarnated, you should come back as someone from LA. One of those sci-fi people."

"What kind of sci-fi people?" I asked, thinking she meant actors or directors.

"They have these sci-fi people there. They wear these sci-fi suits, climate-controlled scuba suits, and they jump out of these sci-fi helicopters and they can live underwater. They can breathe underwater! And they are beautiful. Very beautiful. And they live a really long time because they are beautiful and they can breathe underwater. I don't think they ever die!"

"Okay, I will keep that in mind," I said.

"Well, I've got to go now," she said. "You have a nice day."

"You too," I said.

Off she went, her jack-o-lantern buckets bobbing with each step.

My bus pulled up a few minutes later. The man, who'd just been sitting there on the bench the whole time, gave me a wink and an almost imperceptible smile as I got on the bus. I wonder what he was saying.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

And on this farm they had some...

My wife has this idea that we are eventually going to have an assortment of goats and chickens. I am okay with the goats and chickens, I guess, as long as someone else takes care of them. In exchange I will do the laundry, the sewing, the interior decorating, and other domestic goddess activities.

But then why stop at goats and chickens? Why not a donkey? I wholeheartedly support the idea of having a donkey. I would get a donkey just to be able to say things like...

"Excuse me, I've got to go feed my ass."

"I'm building a new barn for my ass."

"Oh, that noise from the backyard? That's just my ass."

"I need some high-quality hay. My ass is sensitive."

"I bathe my ass every couple of months."

"Hey, kid! Stop kicking my ass!"

"Give my ass that melon rind and you'll have a friend for life."

"My ass really likes being scratched."

"I woke up this morning and the fence was broken. Four hours later my ass turned up at City Hall!"

"Sure, you can sit on my ass."

"My stubborn ass is refusing to work again."

"I think something's been biting my ass."

"It's that time of year when my neighbor and I put our asses together and wait to see what happens."

With a rooster or two, the possibilities for juvenile humor are endless.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Earth logic, she go boom.

I think I might possibly scream the next time I come across the following argument for the Patriot Act, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Dubya's second term, or wiretapping:

"We are doing the right thing, because there hasn't been a terrorist attack on US soil since ______." [choose one]

  • the Patriot Act was enacted
  • we went into Iraq
  • we went into Afghanistan
  • eight months into Bush's first term
  • we started listening to your pizza orders

Dude. This is so illogical that I want to vomit. But I will distract myself by waxing pedantic about this particular type of illogic. It is called the fallacy of post hoc ergo propter hoc, or "after this, therefore because of this."

Post hoc, as it likes to be called on the street, refers to a perceived relationship between two events. Event B happens after Event A, so therefore Event A must have caused Event B. You forget your umbrella one morning. Just before the end of the work day, you look outside. It's pouring. You berate yourself for forgetting your umbrella. Whenever you bring it, it doesn't rain; and when you don't, it does.

Post hoc has a sibling called cum hoc ergo propter hoc. Cum hoc, or "with this, therefore because of this," is known in statistical circles as a confusion of correlation and causation. Here, Event A and Event B occur at the same time, so either Event A must have caused Event B, or vice versa. Let's say you are taking a walk. Your cell phone rings. You stop to answer it. It's your dad, who is panicking because your mother has fallen and she can't get up. You happen to look down at your feet--and one of them is right on top of a crack in the sidewalk. As the guilt starts to set in, you start to hope that you still have your old therapist's number.

So obviously illogical, yet so disgustingly common.

So, okay. There hasn't been a terrorist attack on US soil since September 11, 2001. (I was in statistics class at that moment. It was my first semester of graduate school. We saw some stuff on TV during the break, but our professor didn't realize what exactly was going on, so we kept learning about standard deviations or whatever it was. Then right afterward we had our pictures taken for the student bulletin board. We all smiled, but those pictures turned out pretty creepy. But I digress). Guess what? Congress didn't pass the Patriot Act until late October. Guess what else? There wasn't a terrorist attack on US soil in those 6 weeks. There also wasn't one between September 11, 2001, and the initial invasions of Iraq or Afghanistan. Nor between September 11, 2001, and this creepy, unassailable wiretapping business. Nor in the first eight months of Bush's presidency. For that matter, there wasn't a foreign attack on US soil before September 11, 2001, in the first place.

Hm, if there hasn't been a terrorist attack on US soil since September 11, 2001, then there also hasn't been a terrorist attack on US soil since May 17, 2004. That's the day same-sex marriage became legal in Massachusetts. Therefore,


Eat your hearts out, ye defenders of homophobia, hegemony, and half-wittedness.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

My dog ate my paycheck

I finally managed to catch one of the colds that have been floating around the Bay Area. I'm not sure if I got the one that turns into bronchitis, the one that turns into a sinus infection, or the one that just does what it damn well pleases for a really long time. But suffice it to say, where respiratory ailments are concerned, when I fall, I fall hard.

This morning I really did not want to go to work. I felt like crap, my voice is about half an octave lower than usual (and my job is all about talking), and on Mondays I have to walk up to 6 miles to get from place to place during the day. What with my weird cough, I was especially dreading the walking.

But I knew my name would be mud if I did not go in this morning, for Monday is quite possibly the most important day of my three-day work week. And with next Monday being a holiday, I perceived even less of a choice in the matter.

Of course, under normal circumstances, respiratory infections are perfectly reasonable excuses for staying home from work. Especially when one's job is all about talking. Heartburn, however, is not grounds for going home, even when one works in food service at Sesame Place right after one graduates from high school. Which I did [work there; it was a lousy job] and wasn't able to do [get sent home on account of heartburn; which I got, no joke, from the grilled cheese they served me on break].

On my grumbly way in this morning, I started to wonder whether anyone's tried any of the following, and to what degree of success:

"I woke up really stiff this morning. I think it's my rigor mortis again."

"My hip dysplasia is flaring up."

"I don't want to give anyone else in the office my case of FMD."

"My mother was in town this weekend; I think I caught parapraxis from her."

"My car's in the shop--my goniometer is broken."

In related news, as I was preparing this particular entry, I came upon these beauties of sponsored links on Google:

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

The bucket brigade

DISCLAIMER: This entry does not necessarily reflect my life. It might be an accurate description of things that happen to me; it might not be an accurate description of things that happen to me, although it might be an accurate description of things that happen to other people. But then again, it could be the spittin' image of my life, and you'd never know for sure.

So one day the overlord assigns the underling a piece of work. This piece of work is very simple. From start to finish it will take approximately 90 seconds. It doesn't even require opposable thumbs. It requires a rather bulky piece of equipment that consists of plastic, platen glass, a really bright light, a lot of mysterious moving parts that jam just when you need them to work, and a bunch of messy black stuff. This piece of equipment is located right next to the little hole in the wall in which the overlord puts things for the underling. The overlord sticks the piece of work in this little hole in the wall several hours before the underling will be in to check said hole in the wall. The overlord puts a note on the piece of work that indicates its somewhat time-sensitive nature.

The underling retrieves the piece of work from the little hole in the wall, walks a couple yards over to the necessary piece of equipment, does the piece of work, and puts the finished product in the overlord's hole in the wall.

The underling does this in about two minutes, including "warm-up" time for the necessary equipment.

Total elapsed time for this whole business: Approximately 4 hours and 30 minutes.

Another day, the overlord says to the underling, "I have a piece of work to be done by someone else. This work does not involve any tangible materials, but it involves a single intangible item. I am going to transmit it to you right now via a nearly instantaneous medium of communication. Then you must transmit it, via the same nearly instantaneous medium of communication, to the person who does this work. This has to be done as soon as possible."

Nearly an hour later, the underling leaves the overlord's chamber to go retrieve this intangible item. The underling re-transmits the item to the correct person, jauntily humming "The Sorcerer's Apprentice."

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Shh! Don't tell anyone I'm here.

I'd heard rumors about this, but now I know it's true:

Gerbils are illegal in California.

Fearing for my gerbilly freedoms (what few there are these days), I tried to change my location on my profile to "Undisclosed." But no! Blogger wouldn't accept the update. Perhaps this is an honor reserved for Dick Cheney.

So I guess I really have no choice...

I can hear the sleep-talking of the girl that I love
As she lies here beside me asleep with the night
Her hair in a fine mist floats on my pillow
Reflecting the glow of the orange streetlights

But I’ve got to creep down the alleyway
Fly down the highway freeway
Before they come to trap me I’ll be gone
Somewhere they can’t find me

Oh baby, you don’t know what I’ve done
I’ve committed a crime, found out too late
I was born to a gerbil mommy and a gerbil daddy
But gerbils aren't allowed in the Golden State

So I’ve got to creep down the alleyway
Fly down the highway freeway
Before they come to trap me I’ll be gone
Somewhere they can’t find me

Oh, my life seems unreal, my crime an illusion
In a law badly written that I must obey
And though folks here aren't uptight by nature
They sure aren't polite to creatures
Who'd snack upon the vineyards every day

So I’ve got to creep down the alleyway
Fly down the highway freeway
Before they come to trap me I’ll be gone
Somewhere they can’t find me

If you need me, I'll be in my bunker.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Anyone listening?

In Washington the atmosphere was tense today as a special subcommittee of the House Committee on Un-American Activities continued its probe into anti-Vietnam War protests. Demonstrators were forcibly evicted from the hearings when they began chanting anti-war slogans. Former Vice-President Richard Nixon says that unless there is a substantial increase in the present war effort in Vietnam, the U.S. should look forward to five more years of war. In a speech before the Convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars in New York, Nixon also said opposition to the war in this country is the greatest single weapon working against the U.S.

Simon and Garfunkel, "7 O'Clock News/Silent Night"

I always feel some obligation to watch the State of the Union address. My wife wasn't planning on joining me last night, but then I said she could play Civ III on the laptop during the speech if she turned off the music and left on the sound effects. I don't play this game, but I really like its sound effects. Especially the grunts. I was hoping for some well-timed grunts last night. I was richly rewarded.

I don't have much to say about the speech itself except that more of its 50-some minutes were devoted to other countries than to the United States. I wasn't surprised, really, but I did feel kind of cheated anyway. I mean, I wanted to hear about how (if?) Bush plans to mend our broken democracy here at home, not about how he wants to mend supposedly broken countries by giving them a copy of Cowboy Democracy for Dummies.

My dear friend Kara took this picture, posting which saves me at least a thousand words:

May Google save my mortal soul.