Monday, December 31, 2007

Webster's new and improved

cat·er·waul /kæt-r-waal/kat-er-wawl/
–verb (used without object) 1. to utter long wailing cries, as cats in rutting time.
2. to utter a similar sound; howl or screech.
3. to quarrel like cats.
–noun Also, cat·er·waul·ing. 4. the cry of a cat in rutting time.
5. any similar sound.

[Origin: 1350–1400; ME cater(wawen) (equiv. to cater tomcat (fr. MD) + wawen to howl, OE wāwan to blow, said of the wind) + waul, var. of wail]

—Related forms cat·er·waul·er, noun
—Synonyms 2. wail, shriek, squawk, yowl.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

20 words for snow

If it's must be snowing. Does this kind of talk ever get boring? get yer own blog.

Do you love that? That is literally Nanook.

20 words for snow, explained
1. flurries: very exciting October or May event. Otherwise it is not worth commenting on except by weathermen, who are just lonely

2. pretty: first snowfall of the season, unless it is flurries.

3. soft: a heavy snowfall that is eerily silent. This is hard to appreciate over the sound of reversing plows, but country folk do enjoy walking in it

4. romantic or moonlit: pretty snow under a full moon. Happy Couples get giddy making angels.

5. virgin: the pasture before some sap makes an angel in it. At a stretch, your backyard before the oilman arrives.

6. snowman: Used in the redundant phrase "good snowman snow." You would never refer to "bad snowman snow," as that has its own name (below), and what else would you make a snowman with, genius? "This is good snowman ketchup." Snowman snow packs tight, stays packed, and hurts like hell when you are hit with it.

7. christmas: self-explanatory. I can not describe it personally.

8. powder: wicked bad snowman snow. Easy to shovel, but blows right back to where it was.

9. pellets: consistency of a Slush Puppy (even the dog is afraid of brain freeze. check the hat). Tiny BBs of ice whose only purpose is to make you pratfall.

10. sleet: technically, neither rain or snow, but the mailman still delivers. In the same ambiguous way, you can't call out of work for it, but you could die driving in it.

11. blizzard: more technicalities. Meterologists have specific criteria for this term, but they also name Hurricanes and STAND in them. So let's call it what it is - one fierce blinding snow you shouldn't be out in. Capitalized, it stands only for 1978.

12. crunchy: morning-after snow, now hardened. You could cut yourself making an angel.

13. glaze: crunchy snow that has been rained on, then refrozen to a blinding shine. Do not sled on glaze.

14. cement: snow you have failed to farm.

15. sandy: same snow 3 days later, now heavier.

16. slippery: falling snow that hits the road. "It's getting slippery!" everyone says, with wonder, as if this is unexpected behavior for wet roads.

17. treacherous: Slippery snow turned evil, brother-in-arms of Black Ice.

18. slushy: snow + sand + soft-serve, funnelled through tire treads and onto your windshield

19. sloppy: slushy + 1 rush hour

20. dirty: The plow drift by the side of the road which has been driven by so long it has taken on the look of the Utah desert. Snow we are sick of. And will be glad to see covered by something soft and pretty.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

This envelope does not contain your bonus

How nice to come home from a holiday week away to discover a thin envelope from the Company has been delivered to your mailbox. Not to your mail slot, where nothing is ever delivered, and which you can not often find because it is always being re-alphabetized, but to your mailbox at home. Stamp and all.

And you think, "what do you know, there is a bonus check after all."

No there isn't. There is a letter from Mr Lowell thanking you for your year of service and warning you of the s***storm to come.

I shall paraphrase:

Happy whatever you celebrate. American society has confused me into not knowing whether I am supposed to/allowed to acknowledge it. I could just say Happy New Year, but you might think me a Godless Capitalist, so ... enjoy whatever it is you did with all the PTO we made you take.

Hoo boy, are we gonna shake up the apple cart in 2008! I don't want to ruin your turkey dinner, or give the market anything to talk about, so that's all I'll say. I could just say Thanks and Happy New Year, but you might think you are being ambushed if I don't at least hint at it, so.... don't order new business cards.

Might as well buy into it, because we are going to flog this horse hard -- the one I won't say anything more about. I could just say the best is yet to come in the New Year, but you might think I am not open to dialogue, so... talk to your manager about it, and hope that her manager talked to her.

We are burning the whole house down, because frankly it is a rat trap and we have run out of nails. We will talk about this rebuild a lot -- more than you would have thought us capable of. You can expect focus groups, and committees, and task forces, and every other clusterbleep you have come to love about us. I could just say this house has no resale value, but you might think me disrespectful of the founding fathers, so... buy your swag on closeout.

Look at it this way, you are the Titanic survivors. Poor Rose, holding onto Jack till her voice and her hands gave out, but she lives to an extraordinary old age and gets to keep the jewelry. Let us sail into fresh waters, full steam ahead.

On behalf of the upper levels of the ranking executive tier of senior vice presidents, let me ask you to kindly stop shaking the envelope.

Friday, December 28, 2007

First Things First

I humbly thank the Readership for their votes, and enthusiastic monitoring of the tally while I was away. I graciously thank His Dieselness for snorting (his word) at my caption. I am only marginally worthy....Stop reading this and read his deconstruction of The First Noel instead. Very grateful I did not read this before Christmas Eve services, or I might have blown my own candle out with church giggles.

Lots to get you caught up on, and the battery is dying. Errands tomorrow, and then we can get back in gear.

Play the caption game! I testify the fix is not in. You too, could scream In Your Face, in the spirit of fair play that the Internet was built on! Happy Near Year, every one....

Friday, December 21, 2007

Closed for the Holidays

The operatives of the Drawing In room have been turned out for the holidays, and will return to their stations next week.

Thanks for all the votes over at The Mattress Police. Let's hope that banner ad is coming! (and the Kwanzaa sweatshirt...) Keep reading in my absence. He is one funny guy.

Enjoy these previously posted Christmas stories, and get your Google Reader on. All the best in 2008!

Native-ity - creche...chess set... same thing

Christmas Pickle - village myth

Satan's footprint - mind your luminaries

Yankee Swap - this year I scored movie popcorn and a big ol' bowl. Also... gave in to the peer pressue and chipped in on the boss gift. Both of them. But I do love them so...

God Bless Us Every One - suitable for family dinner

Christmas Stamps - who thought of the sweaters?

Miffed Jesus - he's a little annoyed you haven't called.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Between the Storms

A beginner's guide to snow farming.

In New England, our snowstorms don't usually drag on for days, as they do on the plains. Today is a blue-sky Saturday with little wind. It is bone-chillingly cold, but this is no day to nest. Between the storms, one must practice their drift maintenance. Old snow out, new snow in.

Make no mistake you Southerners, you transplanted easterners turned Californians,you coast-dwellers with your skill for X-taping picture windows and planning your escape routes.... snow shoveling is sweaty work.

The togs
silk-wool-fleece-down. You can't be Vegan and shovel snow.

Wool socks first, then wicking silk undergear over the socks, to seal all openings. Wear your sports bra; you're gonna need it. You'll want a ski-type undershirt that zips open down the chest. All your layers should zip open. Sweat maintenance is as important as snow maintenance.

Fleece vest to keep your chest warm and allow freedom of shoulder movement. Don't box yourself in. Down jacket. Your snowshoveling jacket should be a ridiculously flourescent color like a hunting jacket to lessen your chances of being plowed. Gloves of course - waterproof ski style with a silk liner underneath. Mittens are great for skating and waiting for a bus, but you need a grip to shovel.

The tools
Like the prairieman's rifle, the bayou's fishing rod, your snow shovel is for life. Local news loves that stand-up of people crowding Home Depot before the storm to buy a shovel.
The truth is, New Englanders have their shovels.

I have been thinking about getting one of those new aerodynamic push-plow styles, but I picture my wood and steel shovel wimpering in the garage with only a velveteen rabbit to give it comfort. And I cant bring myself to. It fits in my trunk, it has a wide flat blade like a dustpan, and a sturdy handle that suffered a stress fracture years ago and somehow still hangs on. When it goes, I know there are more in the world, but until then, we are a team.

The warmup
No kidding. Stretch out. You won't look as ridiculous doing that as you will walking in a L shape for the next 3 days.

The rules
Know your local custom for parking spot clearance and observe it. Don't assume that whatever rules worked in your former village will be acceptable here. Breaking the scared rule of the spot is sure way to get your tires slashed.

Never shovel a neighbor's driveway or walk unless you ask first. They won't like the way you do it, and it is the equivalant of mowing another man's lawn in the South. It says, "You're a slob and I took matters into my own hands."

It is, however, a noble gesture to approach while the neighbor is shoveling (pushing a car, scraping an overhang) to offer help. It's good karma and an even better pick-up line.

The laws
Never ever, don't you dare, shovel snow into the street you selfish bastid. You can actually get a ticket.

The strategy
Instead, plan your snow pile ahead of time. When moving into a new home this is as key as knowing where the christmas tree will go. Be mindful of sightlines and keep your pile long and low rather than high. You never want it higher than your hips. And when it gets that high, you must farm before the next big one. A pushbroom is good for this, or even a dirt rake. Not a leaf rake -- they are barely good for leaves.

The technique
Wet snow can push-plow-pack to make a pathway almost as tidy as a snowblower's. The dry powder is going to drift back on you and will need to be combed out Zen style instead.

The aftermath
Depending on the type of snow (post for another day - a thousand New Englander terms for snow) and the forcasted conditions, you may have to farm immediately after the storm. And since the sun sets at 4:30, this is often done in the dark. Kick, rather than chop, the icy top layer away before digging. Just wade around in it to break the surface tension and spread out the drift. Get as close to the bottom as you can and sow some ice-melt for good measure.

The cool down
Shower. Sweats. New socks retrieved from the drier. Hot chocolate. Bailey's optional.
Do it all again in about 3 hours.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Drug Decision

(long and linky. Suitable lunchtime reading)

#4 in an occasional series of repressed 70's memories that turn out to be true.

I. What I remembered clearly before proving this memory

II. What I had forgotten, or never noticed

III. What I had not known at all, and if I had remembered... I would have thought was in error

I. What I remembered clearly
In 5th and 6th grade -- fall 74 - spring 76 -- the curriculum included Drug Decision, designed to reduce drugs to the rote boredom of botany and american history. At the time I thought this must have been to take the glamour and mystery out of it. Once you have to do an oral project on barbituates and their effects, you don't much want to take any. In my 20s I wondered if it really was meant to be a public school exercise in freewill. Drug DECISION, after all. Here you are, here are drugs. Grow a pair.

This was 10 years before "your brain on drugs," which was the most awesome PSA campaign since lead paint (which I will blog on someday when I can finally prove that the lead paint PSA song I know is real) and unmatched in shock and awe until Yul Brynner spoke from beyond the grave.

Drug Decision was mostly workbook based, contained a lot of scout-style projects for us to do, and was accompanied by audio visual aids.

The 2nd most frequently requested classroom film, as voted by the student body, was known informally as "the hot dog movie." I could not then, nor before this post, have told you what its true title was.

[2nd most popular because nothing could unseat Johnny Tremain. It was longer, for one thing, a FAR superior film, and Johnny was just plain dreamy]

(pretty boys were my drug very young)

Anyway, in the "hot dog movie," a girl drops acid and hallucinates that her hot dog comes to life and talks to her. In the production values of this masterpiece, it is depicted as a troll doll with long red hair who appeals, "I have a wife and 7 kids." Totally freaked, man, she stomps the troll to bits under her chunk-ass heels.

That picture above tells you, readership, that you are damn skippy I found that film on the web.

Before you load it, I'll warn you it is the longest 5 minutes of your life -- which is probably why I remembered it as taking up an entire Health class. bringing us to

II. What I had forgotten, or never noticed

It was called, “Case Study LSD.” More evidence for my first theory that they were trying to BORE us straight.

It was copyrighted 1969, and the trippy teenage girl is much more dated than I remembered. A little more “Eddie’s Father” than “Brady Bunch.”

She is actually wearing Keds, and not chunky shoes. But then, I had remembered her in a Marsha Brady outfit, not a Serena the Groovy Cousin outfit.

That techno-porn music. What in the bloody heck?

The narration. Believe me: we BEGGED for this movie. Were we ironic? Or just a bunch of 11 year-olds from central Virginia?

III. What I had not known at all
If you can’t read the tiny print on the title slide, it says “Lockheed Martin Aircraft Corporation.” And I had to know a lot more about that.

In quests like this, I have learned, always start with eBay, because there I found

Book #305422; Title: Drug Decision: Program Summary: Drug Abuse Education Program, Grades 7 Through 9; Publisher: Lockheed Missiles & Space Company; Book Condition: Good +; Jacket Condition: No Jacket; Binding: Soft Cover; Place Published: Sunnyvale, California; Description: Interior is clean and tight. Soft cover has only light signs of wear. Nice overall condition. Lockheed Education Systems.

“soft cover has only light signs of wear.” Tissue end papers missing.

Now I got somethin’ googable. And all the time in the world.
What I could never pin down was why Lockheed invested in this program, which frankly sounds court-ordered to me (cf. Philip Morris). But I did find reference to a game they marketed called “Drug Attack” imagine it. I must have it.
And the teacher’s manual.

But I’ll say this. I knew the street slang for every drug, its physiological effect on the body, how to draw them on posterboard, how to separate physical from psychological dependence, and in 7th grade we would learn the differrences between felonies and misdemeanors. Far out.

But as a Virginian, all I really wanted to do was smoke. Missing from the curriculum.

Another AOL News Scoop

Friday, December 7, 2007

Joke I just can't work through

There's something about Blackwater.... Whitewater.... isn't there?

Isn't there?

Go Ahead and Tell... just sign up

News this week that 3 retired high-ranking military officers have outed themselves in commemoration of the US "don't ask, don't tell" 10-year anniversary. In true military fashion, let's call it DADT, like they do.

Keith Kerr, age 71, is a Korean War vet who retired from the US in the 50s, was an officer in the Army Reserve until 1986, then a Brigidier General in the California State Military Reserve -- which is actually a state militia and not bound by "don't tell."

Alan M. Steinman, age 62, was a Coast Guard Admiral (a Rear Admiral, actually. call Jay Leno) and physician who is an expert in hypothermia.

Virgil Richard, age 70, identified as "funny," (what one says in Oklahoma) as a young man, and was inspired to come out at the Australia Gay Games. That sentence right there is the thesis of my next novel. Also truer-than-fiction, Richard's section leader at Army War College (a name we all wish they would change) was John Shalikashvili, once Chairman of the Joint Chiefs under President's Clinton's "don't ask" policy at the time it was enacted.

Gen. John M. Shalikashvili, Retd, published his open letter January 2 of this year, in the New York Times, and stood by his decision to support DADT as the right policy at that time. He does not express regret for the policy, or refer to the estimated 10, 000 servicemen and women discharged under that policy (presumably for the Telling, not the Asking). Defense Secretary Cohen, in 1998 after the first 900 discharges, commented, "I think it's working."

In his letter, the former chairman does not refer to his philosophy when he was a War College section leader that stress and discomfort accompany growth -- that one measure of a student's success is the degree to which he gets outside of his box or comfort zone ( see The US Army War College: Military Education in a Democracy).

But don't get the impression that Shalikashvili has broken out of his own comfort zone. His motivation for his public call for a repeal of DADT was simply this

I now believe that if gay men and lesbians served openly in the United States military, they would not undermine the efficacy of the armed forces. Our military has been stretched thin by our deployments in the Middle East, and we must welcome the service of any American who is willing and able to do the job.

even if they are a big ol' queen.

The traditional 10 year anniversary gift is tin or aluminum. Perhaps an armored Humvee will also suffice.

Keep your power dry.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

NPR has the leading edge

On tonight's drivetime programming, NPR's The World aired a cute little story about a cute little Swedish company who did a cute little PR piece on how Santa should move to Kyrgyzstan because it was more centrally located on the planet -- closer to most of the world's children who are in China and India.


Leave it to NPR to point out that....
if those stats are true, then most of the world's children do not celebrate Christmas
Kyrgyzstan is officially a Sunni Muslim nation
Kyrgys themselves actually hold the reindeer as a sacred totem.

Oh, Marco Werman, you old Schoolmarm. You take the fun out of everything.
As I looked for a reindeer link, I learned a hundred other people have just written this rant.

Monday, December 3, 2007

More Great Moments in Children's Programming

From the Afterschool Special archive.

This is the Al-a-Teen episode, where the heroine learns to confront her own co-dependency through the help of her group, half of whom are also her Drama Club.

I love this shot, and took great care to freeze frame it for you. Moments before this, mom had actually knocked it back, but you couldn't see the flask as well as you can here.

The plot borrows a few important scenes from Effect-of-Gamma-Rays, including mom's arrival on stage at the opening night of the big play. This scene pictured occurs on Parent Day when mom has to pop into the Ladies for a little shot of courage and a touch-up of the Gena Rowlands coiff.

The episode was originally aired in 1981 as... wait for it... "She Drinks a Little."

Try to complain about slapstick violence on That's so Raven now, why don't ya. The film is now packaged as "First Step," which is why you can't find it on the IMDB.

Most Afterschool Moms work too much to care for their children, like the mom in "A Matter of Time," the other movie packaged with "First Step." She gets cancer and dies -- onscreen -- to the fury of her older daughter who screams, "she never had TIME for me." (PS - Rob Lowe is in that one too). Cindy Scott, drunk mom, can not hold down a job (because she know... a little) This condition still leaves our teen-lead to care for her younger brother, who like most Afterschool brothers is a pill, but oddly, not played by Moosie Drier.

This special actually won a daytime emmy in 1982. programming for kids! at last!
Other winners that year: Guiding Light (yay), Anthony Geary (ew.)

Primetime? why not? I'm just sitting here.
Barney Miller. Hill Street Blues. Night of 100 Stars ~~ which was essentially an awards show without any awards.

You can feel that 70s grit lifting, can't you? It's like it's Morning in America.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

A new Modern Art story... rewritten for my amusement.

London's Tate Modern Gallery, in an attempt to discourage patrons from letting their inappropriately-aged children run rampant through their exhibits, have installed a toddler trap in the floor of Turbine Hall.
Artist Scary Lollipop guy was commissioned by the gallery to create a fool-proof and liability free installation which would rid the halls of no-neck monsters, leaving them free for Johnny Carson's stage curtain, as the founders intended.

Seen here, a pair of Mums on "Stroller Holiday," reassure 2 year old Willie, who was running recklessly and has been swallowed by the marble as a result.

Fiona, age 7, was able to escape capture by holding tightly to Nanny's hand, as placards instruct.

the real story. Not much different.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Damn, Google

I can't italicize the headline, but that reads more like, "Daay-yum, Google."

It's hard to read, so I'll walk you through it. It starts, "If you recently used Google to search for the word 'Jew,' you may have seen results that were very disturbing. We assure you that the views expressed by the sites in your results are not in any way endorsed by Google. We'd like to explain why you're seeing these results when you conduct this search."

This all started when I realized that my goddaughter's pile of toys lacks a Noah's Ark, and that my prime role as godmother not only entitles, but may actually require, me to make this purchase. The other godmother would not allow her son to have a toy farm because animals are in captivity, so the Ark may fall into that category.

This could have been a post about the new traditional godchild gifts, but I couldn't think past age 1, which is definitely a Noah's Ark, and ideally a bathtub version. And it's a damn shame that the Fisher-Price version, with the coolest animals, good feel, and amusing small print ("ark does not float") is a choking hazard for children under 3.

This could have been a post about the hoops one must jump through to find "safe" toys, not only lead and roofie free, but also non-choking, non-electrical and the like. Or we could have discussed the fact that Tupperware once made this toy, and what in the world that must have been all about. Or my favorite aspect of ark renderings, which are the absurdly disporportionate animals, resulting in dogs the size of elephants, and peacocks that should not stand so dangerously close to Noah.

(notice that in this version of the story, the animals will not successfully repopulate the earth...)

Instead this post will be about this:

If you use Google to search for "Judaism," "Jewish" or "Jewish people," the results are informative and relevant. So why is a search for "Jew" different? One reason is that the word "Jew" is often used in an antiSemitic context. Jewish organizations are more likely to use the word "Jewish" when talking about members of their faith.
Can you picure the room full of Lawyers and PR types hammering out that paragraph?
You can see the full text of this disclaimer at

I got tired of getting the same matches from the big (leaden) toy companies, so I decided to dig deeper. Drawing on the web as the haven for home schoolin' I asked for "Jewish toys." Here are a couple of tips. If you search "biblical" or "religious" toys, you will get the christian sites first -- not that there's anything wrong with that but a) too much to sort through and b) I noticed you are less likely to get Noah's wife. another post for another day. here's another tip: once you are on your chosen site, search for "noah," not "ark." Judaism has more significant arks.

Someone searching for information on Jewish people would be more likely to enter terms like "Judaism," "Jewish people," or "Jews" than the single word "Jew." In fact, prior to this incident, the word "Jew" only appeared about once in every 10 million search queries. Now it's likely that the great majority of searches on Google for "Jew" are by people who have heard about this issue and want to see the results for themselves.

Damn, Google. I said "Jewish."

Must Google the Google "incident."
Poor Google. They shouldn't have to answer that call anymore. The one where they have to explain that the world is full of hate, and the Internet is the wild west, and it isn't your town's tax-supported library, or your college's reading room. And it isn't a newspaper or a talk show. It's just an index:
The beliefs and preferences of those who work at Google, as well as the opinions of the general public, do not determine or impact our search results. Individual citizens and public interest groups do periodically urge us to remove particular links or otherwise adjust search results. Although Google reserves the right to address such requests individually, Google views the comprehensiveness of our search results as an extremely important priority.
Accordingly, we do not remove a page from our search results simply because its content is unpopular or because we receive complaints concerning it.

So don't call them. Even about something like this: