Sunday, May 16, 2010

Sunday morning tinfoil

There was a lot I meant to say, but hearing the fellow call in to warn us all about the microchips that Obama is going to implant in us all got me laughing so hard that I can't come up with anything serious.  Maybe later.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Who says the government has no sense of humor?

[The hand sanitizer was one of the goodies on the freebies table at a blood pressure screening this afternoon, along with the usual magnets, pamphlets, and calendars.]

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Dumpster diving

The ongoing construction project resulted in a fair number of scrap 2 x 10s appearing in the dumpster in the parking lot.  Average length was not quite 28 inches.  My first thought (of course) was "Those would be handy for building a bookcase."  (I have that reaction to just about every piece of scrap lumber I spot.)  Second thought was:

The S.O. has fabricated two benches so far, and there's enough material to do a couple more.  Plant stands, end tables, extra seating. . . multiple possible uses. 

The Party of No lives up to its reputation

Right about the same time President Obama named Elena Kagan as his choice for the Supreme Court, I changed my quote of the day to a snippet of satire from The Borowitz Report.  Borowitz suggested that the Republicans had their speeches all ready to go a week before anyone was nominated, and were simply going to regurgitate their usual unthinking objectives to anything and everything President Obama says or does.  He was, of course, dead on.  

Last night I caught several different Republicans on various news shows -- and, sure enough, once again they're in lockstep reciting talking points that would be laughable if anyone paid attention.  Unfortunately, with a few rare exceptions, instead of looking those Republicans in the eye and saying, in essence, are you fucking nuts?, the main stream media are (as usual) functioning as an echo chamber -- and within a day or two, long before confirmation hearings can begin, the perceived wisdom will be that Ms. Kagan is hopelessly inexperienced, and that, despite the fact she clerked for Thurgood Marshall, taught law at the University of Chicago, and served as dean of the Harvard law school, does not know enough about the law to work as a magistrate in night court, let alone be a Supreme Court justice.

Monday, May 10, 2010

What an editor does


The Late Sir J. P. Getty bequeathed the sum of £9,708,692.70 to you in the codicil and last testament to his (WILL) which is eleven (11%) of his total funds of 88,260,443.00 deposited with one of UK's biggest financial institution. I look forward to hearing from you soon.


The late Sir J. P. Getty bequeathed the sum of £9,708,692.70 to you in a codicil to his last will and testament. This sum represents eleven (11) percent of his total funds of £88,260,443.00 and is deposited with one of the United Kingdom's largest financial institutions. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

I'd also suggest to the author that she change "largest financial institution" to a specific name to add veracity, but as a rule when I edit I try to keep things as close as possible to the original word choices -- it's supposed to be the author's voice, not mine, and I don't want to walk all over it. 

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Does anyone ever fall for these scams?

This little gem arrived in my email today:

The Late Sir J. P. Getty bequeathed the sum of £9,708,692.70 to you in the codicil and last testament to his (WILL) which is eleven (11%) of his total funds of 88,260,443.00 deposited with one of UK's biggest financial institution. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

It is one of the better phishing schemes I've seen recently.  It's concise, the grammatical errors don't leap out and scream at you immediately, and it's definitely a nice appeal to the gullibility and greed we Americans are noted for.  After all, don't we all fantasize about being heirs to oil fortunes? 

Tin foil hats on parade

The topic on C-SPAN at the moment is the future of the Republican Party.  Need I say more?  Probably not, but I will anyway. 

Then again, can anything I say top conservative Richard Viguerie describing Newt Gingrich as "principled'?  The only principle Gingrich has ever adhered to is his own self-advancement.  The idea that anyone would describe Gingrich as a viable 2012 presidential candidate serves as proof that the GOP is back to scraping the bottom of the barrel when they bandy names around. 

Then again, Vigurie just compared to Jim DeMint with Barry Goldwater.  If Vigurie thinks DeMint is the future of the Republican Party, the GOP is going to be able to save a lot of money on national convention costs -- give it a few more years and they'll be meeting in a back room at Denny's. 

This is one of those mornings when I didn't need to wait for the tin foil hat types to call in -- the featured guest was already wearing one.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Good writing

I've been reading one of Paul Theroux's travel books, Ghost Train to the Eastern Star, and once again am struck by what a skilled writer the man is.  Theroux is one of those writers whose work I've been reading off and on for years, both his travel books and his fiction, and I've yet to hit one of his works that wasn't beautifully crafted.  Theroux is one of those wordsmiths who is incredibly adept at getting the small things right.  He has an eye for people and detail that far too many would-be authors lack.  I don't always like what he's written, but I've yet to read anything by Theroux where I wasn't blown away by his craftsmanship.    

One thing that struck me while reading Ghost Train was Theroux's ability to focus on his writing wherever he happens to be and whatever might be going on around him.  The train may be crowded, smelly, and uncomfortable but he keeps right on quietly taking notes the old-fashioned way (with a paper notebook and pencil) that will eventually become the book, while at the same time (or at least as part of the same trip) he's also working on short stories and novels.  He provides one of the most vivid examples of one of the best pieces of advice I was ever given about writing:  always have more than one project in progress.  It doesn't matter if a person works in fiction or nonfiction, you should never put all the cliched eggs in one hackneyed basket.

I'm also having my usual reaction to a Theroux travel book:  fighting the urge to book a train trip somewhere -- anywhere! -- ASAP.  It's a bit odd.  Even when Theroux is describing the lavatories as "unspeakable" and the conductors as surly, I find myself wanting to go rattling through Uzbekistan on a train that's seen better days, too.      

Monday, May 3, 2010

Russell Cave National Monument

Russell Cave National Monument is one of those small parks that most people have probably never heard of and will probably never visit, which is a shame.  It's tucked away in northeast Alabama, a few miles south of the Tennessee border off U.S. highway 72.  It is, as one might guess from the sign, a park with a strong Native American association.
President John F. Kennedy signed the executive order that added Russell Cave to the National Parks system in 1961.  The land was donated to the United States by the National Geographic Society.  The cave is a rich archeological site, a location that was used as for human habitation dating back to approximately 11,000 BCE.  The site is typical of many found in the southeast, a fairly large open space at the mouth of a cave system with a stream running through it.  (I was reminded immediately of Indian Rockhouse at Buffalo National River.) 

According to the park brochure, the floor of the cave mouth is about 32 feet higher now than it was when the space first start being used as a camp site.  The rock around the cave does look to be fairly unstable and no doubt spalling occurs fairly frequently.  The Park Service has attempted to stablize the cave roof, although how successful those efforts will be long-term is, of course, debatable.  
We happened to pick a particularly good day to stop at Russell Cave.  The park had a Native American days celebration scheduled (an annual event that always falls on the first weekend in May), so there were special exhibits and events going on:  demonstrations of Native American cooking and flint knapping, for example.  Kids could try their hand at archery or throwing a spear, although I didn't notice if any of the volunteers were demonstrating the use of an atlatl -- if they didn't, they should have, because there's one shown in the park sign.  

There were also several vendors with various products for sale:  traditional crafts (bead work, fingerwoven belts and scarves, medicine bags, the inevitable dream catchers) and foods (corn dogs, funnel cakes, pulled pork barbecue).     

The path to the cave is fully accessible.  There is also a short hiking trail (1.2 miles), Alabama Birding Trail #44, that is in general an easy walk up Montague Mountain.  It's more or less paved, but is not handicap accessible:  there are steps at the beginning, the pavement is narrow, and there are some steep stretches.  Due to the discovery of several rare species within the cave system, Russell Cave is not open to recreational caving.   

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Things learned while traveling

Fort Payne, Alabama, is the sock capital of the world.

There's more than one way to spell Cajun.

I always thought chinken was that stuff that got jammed between the logs on pioneers' cabins in an attempt to keep out cold drafts, but apparently it's not actually spanish moss and mud after all if it's edible enough to serve with slaw and fries.