Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Lube Them Cubes

From Trousering Your Weasel
Before I'd even gotten out of bed, I'd been sent the link to the latest wombat poop article, twice. As might be expected, dozens more followed throughout the day, although there is really no point in counting after number two. My friends believe I can squeeze a blog post out of something like this easily, with the only problem being where to snap it off.

But I had already written just about as much as a person should about the subject in my groundbreaking scientific opus, Trousering Your Weasel,* or so I thought. Short of fresh insight into the subject of wombats and their square poop, I didn't think there was anything left to clean up. But new research has emerged in the field of Biological Fluid Dynamics.

Photo by Bobbie Irwin, my very sister
Among other discoveries, it was found that in the final eight percent of the wombattal intestine, the contents change from a liquid-like state to a solid state. This is the primary difference between wombats and cows or mashed-potato extruders, for both of which the material sets up extra corpus. I myself have noticed quite a bit of variability in the state of my contents even over the course of a typical morning, with the solid state prevailing at first, and becoming more enthusiastic later on.

The scientists in question, including a Dr. Hu, from the University of First Base, examined the alimentary canals of wombatroids by emptying the intestine and inserting and inflating a long balloon. The breakthrough occurred when they began utilizing deceased wombats that could be reliably pinned down; previous attempts proved vexing when the wombats under study kept flying around the room backwards. There simply aren't enough graduate students in the world for that.

The balloon experiment showed that the intestine itself has varying elasticity and the contents are constrained at the corners, producing a cuboid like dimensional lumber, but no explanation was given for how the turds were expelled without the tapering action most of us find comfortable. It was assumed, by me, that the process resembles the calving of a glacier, writ small and brown, with the chunks falling where they may.

But such was not the case. In fact, the cubes themselves are completely formed inside the wombat, due to a process that remains mysterious, and the animal then tumbles out dice at the rate of about a hundred per day.

Photo by Bobbie Irwin, my very sister
Prevailing theories held that wombats poop cubes to mark their territories, which is true only so far as the presence of wombat poop is reasonable evidence for the existence of a wombat in that particular territory. "We're in wombat territory," a field biologist might thus note, without being able to conclude that she is not also inside an overlapping potoroo perimeter, or perhaps in the proximity of a platypus.

A sensible explanation for the compaction of the cubes is that wombats are conserving all the water they can, and if you really, really, really need water you can press it out of your poop. (We have some relevant experience here with our two cats, one of whom produced turds so dry you could pick them up with your fingers and not even bother to wash afterwards, unless it was real close to dinner and the Queen was coming. The other produces mostly moist marvels, and in a tremendous stroke of good fortune, she is the one who always uses the litter box.)

So the wombat squares off its dookie by compressing it inside intestinal walls that have a certain amount of "give" in some places and not others. Specifically, the intestinal wall has azimuthally varying elastic properties, it says here in the abstract, and bully for the wombat, because anything worth doing is worth doing azimuthally, as I sometimes say.

There is no grant money for research you can't eventually wring a profit out of, so the scientists suggest that wombat pooping might illuminate a new method of manufacturing cubes, using soft tissues. Whose soft tissues has not been addressed, so don't sign anything without reading it first.

* Trousering Your Weasel is still available, signed by the author, and makes the world's best Christmas present for the money, which is a ridiculously low $13. What was I thinking?

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Make It Go Away

From: Ron
Subject: Your Blog unsubscribe!

Hi Ron, I don't blame you. I set that whole blog subscription thing up a long time ago and you get those little emails every time I post, and you're tired of it. Not only that, but you thought the blog was going in an Erma Bombeck direction and it turned out to be a libtard cesspool. The problem is, when I set up the subscription thingy, it was just sort of a handshake deal with the children who run the internet, and nobody sent me a manual. The promise was that it would all be automatic, and the children would take care of everything for us. Up until now, for the last ten years, that has been the case. No, sir, I don't know the children personally, or I would certainly ring them up on your behalf.

Anyway, when you hit "Reply" on the email, it didn't go to the smart children, it went to me, and I don't have the ability to unsubscribe for you. However, you can do it yourself by clicking on the "unsubscribe" button at the bottom of the email.

Hope this helps.

From: Ron
Subject: Your Blog second request to unsubscribe!!

Hi Ron! Maybe it seems to you that I should be able to unsubscribe for you, but the trouble is it's like calling up the FBI and complaining about the "dog down the street." And then when they ask which street, answering "You know good and well which street, I've lived here all my life." Everyone wants to help you, but they can't.

The good news is you can shoot the dog yourself merely by scrolling down to the "unsubscribe" button and clicking on it.

From: Ron
Subject: Your Blog third request to unsubscribe!!!

Ronny baby! Try this. You click on the link. The link is the part that shows up in blue. It will say "unsubscribe now," and that's our clue that we're in the vicinity of the email that is pertinent to our needs. Clicking means you maneuver your little arrow thingy over the blue part and press down. It will probably make a clicky noise. Just once should do it. If it doesn't, click harder and numerously and maybe put a little fingernail into it.

Sir? Do you have a great-grandchild, or possibly a neighbor boy you're grooming? See if you can entice him over to help. Maybe put out a bowl of those little hard strawberry candies. They love those.

No, no, believe me, sir, I totally understand your frustration. I'm no young thing myself, and I too have to get a little help every now and then. Ha ha! We can't expect to be as adept at this kind of thing as the children who grew up with an ultrasound in the womb. Lit up their little wieners and everything. My land!

From: Ron
Subject: Your Blog fourth request to UNSUBSCRIBE!!!!

Oh! You are employing the caps lock key now, I see. By this, if I take your meaning right, you mean you were serious the first time you wrote, and you're not playing around any longer, and perhaps my own computer has gone hard of hearing, or otherwise the issue would have been resolved by now.

The trouble is with something called Feedburner, which is the name of my blog subscription service. I don't know how it works. It's a widget, and widgets are easily spooked. You start messing with one widget, and the whole pack gets restless. I try to make as little noise as possible around them to keep the peace.

But my problems are no concern of yours, Ron, yes, I take your point. Okay, I'm going to try something old-school, if you'll just bear with me a moment.

From: Ron

Please! Stop with the capital letters! I almost had Dobbin rounded up to hitch to your subscription and haul it away, and now he's whickering over behind the water trough. Meemaw is flapping at him with her apron to get him back around but at this point we're losing daylight.

From: Ron

All right, I didn't want to have to bring out the big muskets, but I must tell you that Meemaw has been listening in on your phone conversations (one long, three shorts, am I right?) and she wants you to know she can ruin you right up to kingdom come and ain't afraid to try, you filthy fopdoodle. Your move, sir.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Now Thank We All The Time

Mizzable, unpraised child
I remember reading that there was an island nation whose people were affronted if you said "Thank you" to them. To their way of thinking, expressions of gratitude felt like insults. Why wouldn't they be kind and helpful? Why would anyone suggest otherwise?

I think this kind of cultural difference is in play now between the generations here. Someone recently commented on the propriety of food servers giving their names and asking their customers for theirs. I said no server has ever asked me my name and I hope they never do. Which, I will admit now, sounds snippy.

"Why?" came the simple query back. "What would that mean to you, if your server asked your name?"

I can't explain it. At least, I can't explain it without your concluding I'm an asshole. I don't want to know my server's name. I don't know why they should know mine. I like a friendly exchange but this isn't that kind of relationship.

"Oh," came the answer, which I interpreted to mean: you're an asshole. I mean, I even sounded like one to myself. At least, my being an asshole was one possible explanation.

There's an awful lot of niceness going on all the time in the younger generation and a lot of it rubs me the wrong way. Which pretty much makes me an asshole, and that rubs me the wrong way. All the marketing is so damned adorable. I'm getting boxes of food from an outfit called Imperfect Produce and they can't communicate without being cute as all get-out. I log into my account just to ask for yams or something and the page comes up in pink and flowers and says Welcome back, Mary! You look nice today!


This is all wrong. I look nice today? Well, yeah. But how do you know that? You don't know that. You're just guessing. And I'll bet you say that to all the people on the other side of the internet from you.

I just called some outfit on the phone and the answering robot explained, while redirecting my call, that our communication might be recorded so "our listening experts can learn how to be even more awesome."


Everyone means well--grossly, overbearingly well--but this doesn't sit right with me. It's all a matter of upbringing, I think. I do not remember a time I was praised as a child, at least by my parents. My sister reported that no matter what I produced in the way of artwork, for instance, it was always accepted by my folks as just a regular, day-to-day offering. Nothing special. "That's nice, honey," maybe. To this day overt praise embarrasses me, at least in person. I get all squirmy.

I'm led to understand, though, that this is not the normal way of going about things now, and kids are praised lavishly for any behavior this side of sociopathy. And maybe beyond ("People don't like it when you hit them, Heather, but awesome left hook"). I can't help but think that has to feel false and counterfeit to them, but maybe it doesn't. Maybe if that's what you're used to, you'd feel bereft and ashamed without it. I don't know.

Love is a whole other thing. There's no limit to that. Can't give a kid too much of that. Bring it on. But praise? Eww.

And when everything you do is awesome, there's no more Up. There's nowhere to go.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Molto Dolto

Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

It used to be a marketing ploy. Now it's just a description of my short-term memory in the shower.

This business of having a clean brain slate every day requires some workarounds, but it has its advantages, too.

For instance, it's great to be able to listen to good music with fresh ears. Unless something has been played to death, and then had its corpse hacked up and crushed into powder and packed into your ear--I'm looking at you, Vivaldi's Four Seasons--I'm probably listening with fresh ears. Sometimes I hear some wonderful piano music on the radio and think: I like that. That sounds vaguely familiar. I go rummaging through my sheet music to find it and learn it. I begin to plink it out and after a day or two I notice there are already some fingerings on the page, in my handwriting, and then I realize it sounds vaguely familiar because I spent three months learning it. Last year.

Three months is about average for me. Our performance group meets that often. I have a routine:

First I bushwhack through the piece to get an idea what I'm in for. Okay, okay, this part is easy, this part is not so easy but at least it repeats, this part is totally doable unless I'm planning to get it up to speed, and this little climax thingy here is not actually possible at all but I can take a good stab at it and see if it dies outright or goes limping off long enough to get me to the coda. It's all pretty exciting and I give it a good whirl for about a week and a half, and then something in my internal clock reminds me that I don't need to have this sucker done for another two months. I could do something else for a while. An art project or something. I won't, but I could.

About a month away from the performance, I pick it up again and do a serious slog. Currently, for instance, I'm working on a Beethoven sonata with a bunch of variations. I don't know how many because I'm not planning to learn them all. Just like with my beer drinking, I figure I can stop at any time. The tempos vary. They start out Andante, as God intended. The next is somewhat challenging but there's no tempo indicated; I trot on over to Youtube to find a recording. Can we hope for Andante again? Moderato maybe? Oh, looky there, it's Molto Bat Out Of Hell. Thankfully the next is a dirge; I can play it with one hand on a casket rail. Then things deteriorate in a hurry. Vivace, Liberace, Whoop Whoop and Whoa Nelly, followed by The Horse Is Out Of The Barn.

I might not get to those.

Now there are two weeks to go and things are starting to snap together nicely. If I take it slow and hammer at the tougher passages, this mofo is going to be in peak condition by performance time. Oh look! Crayons!

The day before the event, I practice the tough parts ten times a day with time off in between to let my fingers think about what they've done. The day of the event I'm at it all day long. Just at the time I'm about to find my coat and go out the door, and not a minute earlier, I have the whole piece together such that if absolutely nothing goes wrong and I'm not even a little bit nervous, it will all be fine. Just fine. Over-rehearsing is for sissies who are afraid of failure. And professionals.

I go. I play. I either crash and burn or get away with a minor singeing. There's wine. Later, I'm inspired. I leaf through my sheet music to find something for next time. It's in three months. In three months I will not only have forgotten how to play what I just played, but I won't remember what it was. I am serious. Last performance event I had to ask someone else what I'd played the time before. She knew, too. She looked up and to the left, into the sealed vault of her wonderful mind, and said "I think it was the Chopin Etude in A-flat major."

How does that one go, I didn't say.

I don't know what the rest of you do with all that clutter in your brains, but I keep things spotless over here. Even my ears are fresh. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

The Lowdown On The Showdown

Doggone! We liberals almost pulled it off.

We almost got a whole new group of Democrats into the country in time to kick some electoral ass. Next time! Just goes to show we, like Charles Koch, are capable of playing the long game. We had to start way back in the 1970s and totally screw up Latin American citizens by propping up dictators, flooding the countries with arms for anyone willing to drop a Commie, and bankrolling any murderous soul who was willing to sell off his country's public wealth to private corporations. The War on Drugs was just a bonus. In order to deprive Americans of their party drugs, we were able to destroy entire villages with herbicides to prevent farmers from growing the only crop they could make any money on, after Walmart undercut them on all the rest.

Visigoths! I mean Democrats!
Admittedly, we liberals didn't do most of that stuff ourselves--we haven't historically been CIA fans--but like conservatives, we're perfectly willing to make hay with any chaos that presents itself. It was a lot of work and a lot of money over a long period of time, but we finally got a bunch of desperately poor, frightened people to trudge thousands of miles to our country for a life with a little less death and despair in it, and that's no small thing. Who would want to leave their sunny home for a strange land unless they were in a heap of trouble? No one. But here they come!

Of course, they say most of them were coming here to rape and murder the people we're too lazy to rape and murder. And that is true. Also there were some Muslim extremists in the mix, a smattering of Visigoths, the Sith, and a really nasty new virus. But you've got to work with what the Lord gives you.

So we were all ready for them. We were going to hand out hippie daisies at the border and pamphlets instructing them exactly where to settle, along with a gift bag of food stamps, photo ID, their own personal Social Security number, plus a filled-out ballot. The settlement goals we had in mind coincided neatly with gerrymandered districts, all of which are full of Republicans looking to save big cash under the table on yard work and child care, and by the time they recognized they'd been disgerrymandered, it would all be over.

Where we went wrong was waiting for George Soros to cut loose the cash for transportation when the shiftless suckers couldn't hobble to the border in time on foot. He was too wrapped up in Human Rights Watch and Black Lives Matter and other sissy civil-rights operations and there's no way to get him to focus without him being all, "Oooh, Holocaust survivor," and you have to step back politely and wait for him to finish crying.

More Democrats!
Now this particular election is over, and it's too early to say if the results will change the composition of the migrant caravan. It's possible the caravan will dissolve harmlessly into the ragged and desperate pilgrims they started out as, but it's also possible they'll retain a core group of bad hombres, armed with assault rifles and Kill Whitey tee-shirts and brown sperms, so they'll be along in time for the 2020 election.

That's fine with us. We love criminals as long as they vote correctly, which they will, because we're totally soft on crime. I mean, we officially deplore white-collar crime, but we don't do much about it. We're a little troubled that they're going to bring down the hit-man wages, because that's what happens when you don't stick with the union, but perhaps we can get them to organize later.

First things first.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Dinner With The Dunns

No offense, but when we say "Sure, I'd love to see photos on your phone of your dog/grandkids/vacation," what we really mean  is "Please God, no." We don't even know why. We know we ought to want to see a tiny picture of your dog, but somehow we never get the joy out of it that we're supposed to, and now we want to talk with someone else.

It's a lot easier to bore people comatose these days. We have so many bite-sized, snappy ways to do it, and they take almost no time at all. But we sense them adding up. Ten seconds into someone else's favorite youtube snippet, we already feel our lives ebbing away.

Taking mushroom pictures
You used to have to work at it harder. But my father was not a lazy man. When we had company for dinner, he hauled out the pull-up picture screen in the living room, with its odd, sharp, sparkly scent of futility and despair, and he set up the slide projector and fiddled with it until things were centered. And then he showed his slides of mushrooms and spider webs, pausing significantly at each one to intone a Latin name and allow for proper appreciation. He liked mushrooms and spider webs, personally, and while he no doubt suspected it wasn't of general interest, he simply had no other entertainment marbles in his bag. Our guests would murmur politely and cast surreptitious glances at the slide projector to gauge progress, and then everyone would put their coats on and leave.

At least we didn't have much company. Actually, all we had was the Dunns. Myrtle and Larry Dunn were an older couple from church, and the only acquaintances that could conceivably be wedged into Daddy's narrow comfort zone. Mr. Dunn was grumpy like my dad and Mrs. Dunn was nice like my mom. She always complimented my mom on her famous homemade bread, twinkled at me across the table while she and mom agreed how fast "they" grow up, and then it was off to the slide show and out the door.

Mom was the one who was into people, or at least she was nice. She was rumored to have had a social life before she married my father. I hope she liked how I turned out because her social life with grownups dwindled sharply. She'd invite Myrtle and Larry over about once a year, and they always retaliated, I mean reciprocated, about a week later. "I wish she wouldn't do that!" Mom would say when she hung up the phone, but under her breath, because she was nice.

A social life is a fine thing, but there's no need to overdo it.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Sudden-Onset Foot Leprosy

I have this little spot on my right foot that is ever so slightly itchy and burny. Sometimes. Just a twinge every now and then. I reviewed my personal stash of lore and concluded it was Athlete's Foot, and I got some ointment, and I'm putting it on twice a day, or when I remember to. Dave thinks I'm nuts.

"Athlete's foot? Really?"

Yeah. Itching and burning? Yeah.

"You? You think you have athlete's anything? You tip over in a light breeze."


"You wobble visibly when a thought strikes you."


"You could twist your ankle on a painted cow grate."


"I've seen you botch the dismount from a recliner."


"You couldn't throw a pitch over the plate without a relay man."

Fair enough.

"Nobody stands behind you in horseshoes."

All right. All right. Point taken. Nevertheless I am applying athlete's foot ointment to my foot because it might help and also because it's only seven dollars. I'm not $100 GlaxoSmithKline sure, but I'm $7 Walgreen's sure. And I think it's helping. I think maybe I haven't had that itching and burning as much, although most of the time I didn't notice it anyway. It's hard to notice when something minor stops happening. I'm going to give it another few weeks of occasional random slathering. And if it seems to have more or less gone away by then, I'm going to consider myself a genius, probably, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, which--should any arise--I plan to ignore.

That's how people think, not just me. Other possibilities with regard to my foot are: I have imagined the whole occasional twinge. And: I have a small splinter that has worked its way out. And: I had sudden-onset Intermittent Foot Leprosy and have been cured as a result of renouncing my sins and recommitting myself to the path of righteousness.

Sure, I could gather data and study it and all, but why get all facty when I can make shit up for free? I'll just pick a hypothesis that works for me and hang on.

It's sort of like how we can see all these families trekking across the desert toward our border desperately trying to escape rape and murder in their home villages, or so they claim, and we think: "Those people are vermin infesting our country to take advantage of the taxpayers and get stuff for free, and if we're super firm with them they'll realize the errors of their ways," and then we rip their children from them and send them back across the border, and no one ever hears from them again. Which proves we were right and they were up to no good. Good people don't abandon their children.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

The Urge To Purge

I voted last week. There were problems. Tater Cat kept stretching out on the Voter's Pamphlet, and I got so caught up trying to figure out one of the ballot measures that I overcooked my oatmeal. Other than that, things went smoothly.  The Voter's Pamphlet came through the mail slot a couple weeks ago and a few days later the ballots shot through too. If I could rig up the mail slot so they'd land in my lap it would be even better.

It takes me a few days to study the ballot, on account of having to attend to the oatmeal and the litter box and whatnot, but I've got plenty of time. And it's a good thing, too. I remember those awful days when we'd trudge through the rain to the polling place and the nice neighbor lady would hand us our ballots and we'd pull the curtains behind us and vote. They were tiny curtains, gave you standard hospital-gown coverage. The ballot always seemed to have a few surprises I wasn't prepared for and that took some time. And then there'd be some initiative that would be described like this:

"The result of a NO vote is to maintain the repeal of the prohibition of the anti-inflammatory annulment revision ban." This kind of thing takes a lot of study. You have to start at the end and work backwards, and you don't always have enough fingers. Filling in the bubble at that point is like snipping the last wire on an explosive device. One wrong move and you might have agreed to donate a kidney to a Republican. It's best done from an easy chair, next to a cat with extra toes.

So I'm certainly glad we switched over to this nice, 100% paper ballot unhackable home voting system. I'm sure the rest of you are satisfied too.

What? You still go to the polls? You stand in line for hours? Sometimes you discover you're not on the rolls anymore? Your chads are still hanging under that curtain? There's no paper trail? You can't vote if your address is a post office box? You need your birth certificate, a note from your mommy, and an 8x10 color glossy? What kind of a stupid system is that?

Well, color me horrified. Except in Georgia, where it would be in my best interest not to color me at all, lest I get purged. There's a nice black woman running for governor there and it even looks like she has a good chance unless something can be done about it. Fortunately, the white dude she's running against is the Secretary of State in charge of elections, so something is.

I do read these comment threads full of Republican apologists. I have to, otherwise I might be able to sleep through the night. So I know what the problem is. There are lots and lots of people out there who can't even be bothered to get a proper driver's license with a photo I.D. to show to the poll people, so they shouldn't be allowed to vote. If you're that lazy, you shouldn't vote.

Uh. The lazy ones don't vote, so I'm not sure what the problem is.

Oh! And then there are all those people still on the voting rolls who are technically dead. That's a travesty. Thousands! We must purge the rolls of dead people.

Uh. Dead people vote even less often than lazy people. If you think you see a bunch of raggedy dead people lurching toward the polling booth, they're probably just homeless. They should vote too--they probably have opinions and life experiences that we need to hear about.

In general, Democrats think people who want to vote should be able to vote, whereas Republicans think people who want to vote Republican should be able to vote. Personally, I think felons should be able to vote. Why not? I understand people think voting is a privilege, but isn't it a privilege of citizenship? Are felons not citizens?

Ah. Citizens. There's the real problem: all those immigrants coming in to vote in our elections. They won't call the cops if there's trouble in the neighborhood, lest they be swept into detention on mistaken identity, but they're lining up in droves to cast illegal ballots. It's a risk for sure, so the only possible explanation for this is they're getting paid by George Soros. We already know they'll do anything for a little bit of money. They'll even pick radishes and dismember chickens and stuff. So. Ipso whacko, they're on the take.

Well, clearly, some restrictions are necessary. We can't just have people expressing their democratic wishes willy-nilly. There should be hoops to jump through. Hoops! That's it!

Let's make everybody shoot foul shots for ballots! Or, alternately, let's make everyone pass a basic civics test--ask a newly naturalized citizen if you need help. Or let's wipe out the lazy contingent altogether by requiring everyone to walk a thousand miles through the desert. That, there, shows fortitude.