Sunday, March 31, 2013

De Mortuis Nil Nisi Bonum

The Blog Dog died today.  That's the scruffy black thing in the photo, over on the left.  It wasn't entirely unexpected - she was getting old and was having heart problems.  But even when it isn't unexpected, it's still unwelcome.  She just laid down on the rug, and quietly, peacefully died.  We buried her in the back yard with her rubber tire toy, and now there's a big hole in my life.

The hole will slowly fill in with other things.  Holes like that always do.  But I'll always remember her, the happy little pound puppy that we saved from being put to sleep and gave a nice life to, and she rewarded us by being a happy, goofy little dog who leaned against me while I was going through chemo and never complained about anything.

So long, dog.  Rest now.

Saturday, November 03, 2012


One thing I have been doing lately is watching the DIY Network.  Enough, at at any rate, to have formed some opinions about the shows.

There are shows I like.

Holmes on Homes appeals to me.  I like the way his outrage overflows when he sees some particularly egregious example of bad workmanship, and the way he sighs, throws up his hands, and says "Tear it all out.  Gut it."

Renovation Realities is also a hit with me.  Sometimes I think I'm better than the amateur renovators on the show and sometimes I think I'm worse, but I'm always pleased to see that I'm not the only person who ever missed the stud with a drywall screw.

Rehab Addict isn't bad.  I don't learn much from the show, or find it very motivational, and I just never caught the "flipping" wave.  But the woman earns my respect, and the little dog is cute.

And there are shows that I'm not a fan of.

Most of the ____ Crashers shows don't work for me.  I usually don't care much for what they come up with, and if someone stuck a bunch of red-painted electrical boxes to my wall, they'd be in for a knuckle sandwich.  And there's a desperate sameness to them, as though all of human history is driving us all toward owning exactly the same kind of cabinets.  But it's often the hosts that turn me off.  The trendy guy who constantly says Sa-weeeeet!  The woman whose schtick seems to mostly amount to look at my tits!  The overly effusive guy who bellows and blows the car horn and generally makes a nuisance of himself, to say nothing of the way he seems to hang all over the women in the show in a less than entirely decent way.

Mega Dens is pretty bad.  The woman's bizarre hand gestures annoy me, and she seems positively co-dependent, as though wrenching fake acclaim from the homeowners because she gave them a big-assed TV is the cornerstone of her emotional life.  There's an ad for the show where she says "We are going to hook this place up!"  I swear it sounds like she's really saying "We are going to fuck this place up!"  And the second is closer to the truth.  There's another ad where she says "It's like we literally changed their lives!"  Well, dearie, so does botulism, but that doesn't mean I want it.

But the worst, the very worst, is Man Caves.  I don't like the expression "man cave" to start with.  But when I look at the man caves they produce, my uneasiness turns to nausea.  A bar?  Sports junk?  A huge-screen TV?  Is that what a man cave is, a place where we sit around, drink beer, and watch the big game on TV?  How about a workbench and a lathe?  How about an airbrush booth?  How about bookshelves and a nice reading chair?  No?  Then I don't need a big TV, or a video game console, or sports junk, or a bar, or someone who unselfconsciously adopts the nickname "Goose" making such decisions for me. 

It Happens

Sometimes it happens - sometimes I just run out of things to say, even to myself, and my own "inner discourse" (to the extent that I even have one) strikes me as singularly uninteresting.

It isn't as though I'm undergoing a crisis of any kind.  My cancer is still dead, and the fact that I whimper about being overworked is evidence that I am working.  Nor have I slid into the icky, slightly moist mess of a midlife crisis.  Last time I checked, I had not begun getting tattoos, and I'm still driving the same green Hyundai, and I haven't begun consorting with women thirty years my junior.

But I DID wake up this morning and think "Maybe I've been away long enough; maybe I can write on my blog today without boring myself."  So I'm trying it on for size.

But here are a few things, up front.

I don't intend to write about politics, because really, I am so over this election thing.  I'm tired of being "mobilized" by my own side - hey, I already voted, so leave me alone!  And I'm tired of being "challenged" by the other side - hey, I already voted, so leave me alone!  And it frustrates me that presidential elections now seem to be the largest single sector of the American economy.  We spend how much on elections?  Holy shit!  We could have build the Superconducting Supercollider for that sort of money - and maybe we should have!

I don't intend to write about sports, because my lack of interest in sports has grown even more lacking.  I tried to watch an NFL football game a few weeks ago, but just hearing the music made me think of Juvenal's famous "bread and circuses" line.  And I hear enough sports blather from the guys at work as it is, thank you very much.

We'll see how it goes.

Thursday, August 09, 2012


One of the big reasons I don't care for the TV show "Chopped"...  Let me start over.  One of the many reasons I don't care for the TV show "Chopped" is the way the guest cooks (I like to call them that because it seems to irritate them) always use sports metaphors.  "I'm going to bring my A game; I'm going to swing for the fences; I'm going to dig in for a goal line stand..."

Sports metaphors, I believe, had little place in the kitchen.  This is why I like watching the Olympics.  Sports metaphors really DO have a place in the Olympics, and I'm not constantly brought up short by the sight of some hipster cook who couldn't defeat Gumby in thumb wrestling using sports metaphors he's not entitled to sling around.  Stick to micro-greens and chimichurri, dude, because your A game is laughable.

Of course, I don't "get" sports in general, and my idea of Hell is being stuck in a sports bar listening to guys with baggy shorts, baseball caps, and sphincter-beards roaring at the tops of their lungs about hockey, baseball, or practically any other sport.  It especially makes me wince when they say "we".  "We won six championships in the 1970s!  What do you say to THAT?"  I say, "Who's this we, Kemosabe?"  (Actually, I lie.  That's just Purgatory.  Hell, the real Hell, is being stuck in a sports bar with a bunch of guys who get weepy and sentimental about the US Olympic hockey team.  That's Hell.) 

I've just never been any good at attaching my ego to things.  Now and then I run into people who are big fans of some band, and they're so attached to the band that they can't accept that the band has been circling the drain for years.  Or people who derive some (or most) of their sense of self-worth from whether or not "their" team hit a jump shot from the baseline with 0:03 to play.

But I sort of like the Olympics, when they aren't being blatantly commercial or maudlin and saccharine.

Monday, July 30, 2012


This is Elmo, or as I call him these days, Blackbeard.  He's had a rough few months.  He's on the old side, and he's been steadily going deaf and blind for a while.  But about a month ago, something evil happened to his left eye - it got all huge and bulbous, visibly bugging out of his wee little head, and when you shined a light on it, it was obvious that something had gone very wrong somewhere within.

We took him to the vet.  I was afraid it was going to be one of those "Well, it's time to think about putting him down" sorts of things, but the vet sent us to a veterinary eye doctor, who said "Oh, heck, we'll just take that nasty old thing out and he'll be fine."  And he IS.  The eye is gone, of course, and he's pretty much fully blind, but he's happy, he eats like a horse, and he's almost doubled his weight.  Plus he looks like a pirate.  Yarrrr.  What's not to like about that?  (He always greetings me when I get home from work by racing around in circles and barking, but now he isn't sure where I am - he still races around in circles and barks, but he can't tell where I'm at and whirls in front of the TV, or the refrigerator, or a chair...  It's funny and kind of sad at the same time, but I'm glad he's still around anyway.)

The timing was bad, though.  We were going on a family cruise to Alaska, and he had to have his eye out about four days before we left.  He was still wearing the Cone of Shame when we left, and nobody likes to see a dog so encumbered.

The cruise was excellent.  I'll have more to say about that later, I'm sure, but let's just say for now that it's made a committed cruise-a-holic out of me.

Where have I been, you ask?  Beats me.  Th easy answer is "I ran out of things to say", but that's crap, because while I've been away, I wrote a (bad) novel about narcotics trafficking, and a (bad) semi-autobiographical memoir of chemotherapy and cancer, and have been working on a (bad) light history of Rome, especially the transition from republic to empire.  So it wasn't like I ran out of things to say; I just stopped posting them.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Returning The Unused Portion

I'm about this close (picture someone holding their fingers about a quarter of an inch apart) from giving up on Facebook entirely.

The only application I use on Facebook is something called Booktracker, that lets you keep track of and tell people what you're reading. But it doesn't work. At least half the time, it just sits and stares blankly at me, like a dog that's slowly conning you out of your potato chips, one by one, without ever admitting that it ate the last twenty potato chips.

So great. Just about the only thing I use Facebook for doesn't work. Why am I there again? I honestly don't remember.

So, I'm considering returning my unused portion of Facebook to Mark Zuckerberg. There's something inherently pathetic about posting on the Internet that you're considering stopping using some portion of the Internet, but that's the boat I find myself in.

So - what did I read this weekend?

The first was "Idiot America", which I found amusing, even if it lacked the authority of Douglas Hofstadter's book, or the sheer bitchiness of Allen Bloom's book. But it made me laugh, and that's not a small thing.

The other was "Wishful Drinking" by Carrie Fisher. It isn't so much an autobiography as just a written-down script for her one-woman show, and hardly more than a husky pamphlet in length, but it's still pretty funny. I can't begin to imagine what it would be like to be called up out of the blue by a concerned Cary Grant!

What if he'd called me when I was going through the bone marrow transplant? On the one hand, it would be MOST creepy, because he was already dead, and one normally doesn't expect a phone call from dead people (only in sadly-misnamed "reality shows" does this ever happen). But if he was still alive?

"Oh, you didn't eat your hamburger! This is no good!"

Or something like that.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

I'm Bleeding

I'm bleeding. Seriously. As I write this, my arm is emitting a stream of the red groovy, as Alex might say. I find it fascinating and somehow life-affirming to sit here and bleed.

I've done a lot of bleeding in the last few years, but it was always for some grim medical reason. When I was preparing for my stem cell transplant, I had to sit connected to an apheresis machine for about ten cumulative hours. They draw blood out of one tube, run it through a machine, take out what they want, and pump it back in through a different tube. I think they said my entirely volume of blood was run through the machine sixteen times over.

That's a lot of bleeding. Granted, it didn't end up pooled on the floor or splattered on the wall for some CSI geek to ponder, but still, it's an interesting state of mind to sit there for about thirty minutes and think "I would have bled to death by now if the machine wasn't pumping it back in."

I bled when they put the tubes in. I bled when they took the tubes out. During the lethal-dose chemo, I bled continuously from my nose and lips because my blood simply wouldn't clot, at all. Every needle stick bled for five minutes, and every time I bumped into anything, masses of pooled blood formed under my skin. And I bled copiously during my bone marrow biopsies (I seem to remember someone saying "It's a gusher" during one procedure, and I never seemed to emerge from them without dried blood and Betadine all over me).

But this is different. I was bleeding because I'd stupidly gouged myself while cutting a huge limb off a tree. It wasn't for some grim medical purpose driven by some dire diagnosis; I was just cutting a limb off a tree because the tree would be better off without it. No cancer, no chemo, no nausea, just me and the saw and the tree, and the notion that I was just being a regular guy again, doing what had to be done for the good of everyone involved.

And I'll bleed for that. Sure.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Nothing On

There is NOTHING on TV. I don't mean that literally, of course, because there's a ton of stuff on TV. Just nothing I want to watch. And since I'm kind of bored and at loose ends to begin with, that's pretty sad. I should go work on a model instead, but I'm in the midst of a minor scale modeling lull - all my current projects seem to be stuck at the stage where they need interior green paint, and I'm fresh out.

So I decided to see what was on TV instead of going to the hobby shop and getting new paint (besides, it's 9 pm and the hobby shop proprietor probably has better things to do right now than sell me a couple of bottles of Testors interior green). I started at Channel 1 and finally gave up somewhere around Channel 750, and nowhere did I see anything that interested me, not even in my current mildly bored state.

Sports! Holy cow, look at all the sports! There are apparently more sports channels than there are actual sports, because some of the channels were actually replaying past sporting events - football games from 1982, especially tense putts from some golf tournament, highlights (I kid you not) of some poker championship. I had no idea there was a tennis channel, or a golf channel. There's a Major League Baseball channel, even though I'm reasonably sure they aren't playing baseball right now.

Reality shows! American Pickers! Pawn Stars! Storage Wars! Pass. How can the so-called "History Channel" executives sleep at night knowing that they're running this kind of crap? The only reality shows I watch are the ones involving hoarders, and even then, I watch with a certain reluctance. I confess that a part of me watches those shows just to see how awful the latest hoarder home really is - "Oh my god, they just found a dead cat in the clutter!" And while a certain part of me feels a certain sympathy for the bizarre psychological pathology of the victims, there's also a part of me that bellows "You've got dead cats in your glacier of litter because you're a lazy slob, not because of psychological trauma! Quit crying, get a garbage bag, and start throwing some of that junk away!"

I watched the Food Network for a while, but apparently today it's all Guy Fieri, all the time. He's okay. But after an hour of watching Guy Fieri eat enormous hamburgers and do fist-bumps with the greasy spoon chef, I'm ready to move on (and I see that the Food Network still airs "Chopped". In today's episode, some unwashed-looking guy with way too much oily-looking hair and ridiculous hipster eyeglasses was going on and on about the artistry of his work. I wouldn't have trusted that guy to cook me a Pop-Tart; I don't want greasy hipster hair and droplets of hipster perspiration in my breakfast, thanks very much, and you can pay for your tattoos yourself).

There are a lot of paranormal shows these days too. Ghost hunters, vampire hunters, UFO investigators, psychics, people who will (for a modest fee) channel the soul of President Hoover, and more shows combining Nostradamus and the Mayan apocalypse than I could shake a stick at. These shows can sometimes be unintentionally funny, like when they do their ESV analysis and mistake someone's squeaky shoe for a woman's voice saying "Which one of you bastards ate all the potato salad?" Please.

And then there's the sudden sobering realization that I really am deeply naive. I had no idea there was so much pay-per-view porn on satellite TV, such as "Hot MILFs Like It Black 3". I think what disturbs me about that show is the "3" business. Is it kind of like Star Wars, where if you watch them out of sequence they don't make much sense? Do we fail to appreciate the emotional nuances of Hot MILFS 3 if we haven't seen the backstory presented in Hot MILFS 1 and 2?

There are a couple of channels that I won't watch because of unfortunate names. Syfy, for example, which I haven't watched since they adopted the name "Syfy", and H2, which used to be History Channel International but is now just "H2". It sounds like a little-known mountain, not a TV channel - but maybe one of those hundreds of interminable sports channels will air something about a team of bearded guys with vaguely European accents trying to climb K2 and climbing H2 by accident. I see them on the summit of the mountain, exchanging weary breathless congratulations, and then someone says "Wait, wait, you wanted to climb K2? I thought you said H2! CRAP!"

The more I think about it, the more I think that I'd be better off mixing paints and coming up with my own shade of interior green paint than wasting any more time on this ultimately fruitless attempt to find something that wasn't either deadly dull or blatantly insulting on TV.