It's Never Too Late

I'm not sure which story is more disturbing: The 67-year-old woman in Spain who gave birth to twins and is now the world's oldest mother, or the news that Harrison Ford is going to be filming "Indiana Jones 4" next year. Ford is currently 64 years old, and it's been 17 years since the last Indiana Jones movie; I would have loved to have seen another Indiana Jones movie in the early '90s or even the mid '90s, but that ship has sailed.

What are they going to call this one? "Raiders of the Lost Social Security Check"? "Indiana Jones and the Walker of Doom"? "Indiana Jones and the Last Quadruple Bypass"? Action movies should be the realm of younger men. On the plus side, at least Sean Connery is still around to play his dad. Film quickly, guys. Mr. Connery won't last forever.

Back to the granny story. The woman had gone to the U.S. for in vitro fertilization. What kind of doctor is going to agree to do something like that? Answer: One with no ethics. There's a very good possibility that the woman will be muerto before her kids get out of high school. She'll probably be buying Huggies and Depends at the same time (or whatever the local equivalent brands are in Spain).


On A More Cheerful Note

Murderous Iraqi thug Saddam Hussein was hanged last night while I was getting ready for work, which cheered me up a bit. Any day that an evil tyrant gets sent to his final justice can't be completely bad. Even if you are forced to work that day on your normal day off!

Somewhere in Hell right now, Saddam is singing "I Can Change" to Satan. (You must have seen the movie South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut to understand the joke!)

Hopefully that cockroach Kim Jong Il is next. (And you need to have seen Team America: World Police to understand the cockroach part of that comment!)


Somewhere at work, a beancounter is goggling at a number and shitting a brick. I take grim pleasure in that thought. My night's work should stick out like a big red sore thumb, right in the eye. There are many ways that I normally cooperate with management to make them look good. Today, however, I did none of those things. I was uncooperative from the moment I arrived until the moment I left.

There was nothing subtle about it, but I didn't want to be subtle. I want the lesson to be learned: Mess with me and you'll regret it; force me to work on my weekend and you won't get the hard-working, motivated employee who shows up Monday through Friday. Hopefully I won't need to give them a further remedial lesson on Martin Luther King Day weekend.



"Two to three hours" ended up being six hours by the time it was all said and done, including travel time. The day was not, however, a total loss. Let me explain:

I got a road tour of much of Lee County. We went down to Dad's old office in south Fort Myers to pick up some furniture, along with Dad's handyman who helped with the lifting. The handyman drove the U-Haul truck, while I rode with the old man in his blue Caddy. Once we got everything loaded up, we stopped off in Jamaica Bay where we picked up a computer desk that Dad had bought from a little old lady. The next stop would be Dad's new office in Cape Coral.

Dad gave the handyman the directions, but unfortunately, when we made the turn into the little strip mall, the handyman missed the turn and drove on down the road. Dad had me stand by the road to watch for him and wave him in when he came back. Five minutes passed, then ten. This was getting ridiculous; the handyman could have made it all the way to Pine Island by that time. Finally, Dad and I got in the car and drove down the road a few miles.

We didn't see the U-Haul, which should have stuck out like a sore thumb. After a while, Dad decided to turn around. We drove back and I spotted the U-Haul parked at the side of a building. About this time, Dad's cell phone rang: It was the handyman. Well, we pulled into the parking lot by the building and Dad went in, chattering on the phone as he walked in.

I followed him in. The store was a Maytag appliance store, but interestingly, in one corner there was an amazing collecti0n of vinyl record albums, 45 RPM singles, VHS movie videotapes and even a few compact discs. Among the latter, I spotted Styx's Greatest Hits in a plain jewel case, no liner notes. $2.99. It had a bunch of great songs on it, and at that price, I wasn't going to say no. I paid the lady at the front desk and left with my souvenir of the day. Then we went to Dad's new office and unloaded the stuff, back to his new manufactured home in North Fort Myers to drop off the computer desk, and then I was outta there.

The CD turned out to have some minor scratches on it, and one song ("Renegade") skipped a bit on my car's CD player. However, when I got it home, it imported perfectly into iTunes. That'll do.

I also found out that two CDs that I ordered from Amazon.com arrived today: Simon and Garfunkel's Parsley, Sage, Rosemary & Thyme (1966) and Proto-Kaw's Before Became After - Special Edition (with a DVD) from 2004.

Who is Proto-Kaw? Well, the band Kansas that you are probably familiar with was the third incarnation of the band. Proto-Kaw is the lineup from the second incarnation, including Kerry Livgren. They had another CD out before this one, which I'll get if I like this one, which was mostly demos and unreleased tracks from the early 1970s. This CD/DVD set is the 21st century reunion of the band. Progressive rock, like Kansas, unsurprisingly. I put the CD on my iPod and will listen to it tonight at work.

Not a Happy Camper

It's Friday, and by rights, I should be in a cheerful mood. I most emphatically am not, however; the diametric opposite is true. I'm angry enough to spit nails. Why? Because I'm being screwed out of my three-day weekend by being forced to work my non-scheduled day tonight. Why? Because the people in charge are drunk with power. They've been pushing around the casuals and PTFs, because they can, and so they think they can do the same thing to regulars with a lot of seniority. They must not realize that they are not dealing with casuals and PTFs. This ain't my first rodeo. They need my cooperation in a lot of ways, and tonight, they are not going to get anything beyond the bare minimum.

Also, I've been roped by bonds of filial piety into going to North Fort Myers this morning to help my dad move furniture. He told me that "it will only take two or three hours," which shoots my whole day to hell. I'm not really happy about doing this, either, given the mood I am in, but I don't have much choice. I can say with certainty, however, that my dad is the last person who will get ANY cooperation out of me this year.


Godspeed, Gerald Ford

Former President Gerald Ford passed away last night in California at the age of 93. Those of us old enough to remember him do so mostly for his pardon of his predecessor, Richard Nixon. He also is remembered as a good, honest, decent man by just about everyone who knew him. There are far worse ways to be remembered.

Interestingly, just a couple of days ago I had looked at a picture of him along with comedian Chevy Chase, in the booklet that came with the Saturday Night Live First Season box set that my brother, Kurt, gave me for Christmas. We know now that the reputation that Ford got for klutziness was unfair and inaccurate, but that's the power of television for you. I thought it was pretty gracious of Ford to get together with Chase at the time.

So, for the next few days, we're going to be reflecting a lot on that period from 1974-76. It wasn't a happy time in our nation's history, the Bicentennial celebration notwithstanding, and it only got worse when Jimmy Carter was elected. I sometimes wonder what would have happened if the Watergate scandal had never come to light. Nixon would have completed his term, but then what? Without Nixon's disgrace, there would have been no Ford presidency; without the weak incumbency of an unelected president, would Carter's disastrous administration have followed? And without Carter's impotent response to the Iranians holding Americans hostage for 444 days, would Reagan have been elected and implemented the policies that brought down the Soviet Union? If Watergate had not occurred, the Soviet Union might still exist.


Merry Christmas!

Wishing you and yours a joyous holiday. Hopefully Santa brought the presents you wanted.

Here's a few things that I hope he brought to some other people:

Donald Trump: Ego reduction surgery.
Rosie O'Donnell: Ditto.
Britney Spears: Panties, panties, panties!
Lindsey Lohan and Paris Hilton: Ditto, x2.
Arnold Schwarzenegger: Titanium Terminator skeletal femur replacement part 1001001-SOS-1984XXXL
Tara Connor, Miss USA: A copy of Miss Manners' Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior, Freshly Updated, by Judith Martin and Gloria Kamen
Katie Rees, the former Miss Nevada: Ditto.
James Brown: A performance on center stage in Heaven, with God in the front row.
Retiring UN Secretary General Kofi Annan: A conscience.
The rest of the UN: Ditto.


Spotted in the Mail #3

The other day, I spotted an unusual Christmas card in the mail. It was a large glossy postcard, similar to the kind politicians send out during their campaigns. It showed a couple and their three children perched on a low, large tree. Mom and Dad had reasonably normal first names, but the children (two girls and a boy) were "Davis, Kennedy and Porter." No telling which one was the boy, although I'm guessing "Porter," simply because of country music singer Porter Waggoner.

Oh well, at least they didn't name any of them Biff or Muffy, and given that we're talking about the toniest part of Naples, those wouldn't have been out of the question.


Volcanic Jealousy?

I saw in the news from yesterday that the ongoing eruption at Mount St. Helens in Washington became a little more active yesterday, with a big plume of steam rising from the volcano. I have a theory about this: I think that Mount St. Helens was jealous about being upstaged by the search for the missing mountain climbers on Mount Hood in Oregon.

"Hey! Look at me! I'm erupting here, I'm erupting here!"

(Mount Hood is also a volcano, albeit a dormant one. So is Mount Rainier, near the Seattle-Tacoma area, and it gave off smoke as recently as the turn of the 20th century.)

It Figures

We have an artificial Christmas tree at work. Going around the base of it is a small toy train, about five cars long, that has been around for several years. In the locomotive car is a jolly Santa, giving an open-handed greeting that reminds me of a Nazi salute. This year, for some reason, the train won't run forward; it will only run in reverse. This seems oddly appropriate. Santa is taking the toys from the little children and sending them in reverse back to the North Pole. Given the holiday schedule for next week, which is requiring all of our PTFs and casuals to work 12 hours on Christmas, the grinchiness of the backtracking sieg-heiling Santa fits right in.

Even though I'm a regular with 15 years seniority and am getting my three-day weekend, I don't like seeing other people getting screwed over. I went in to the office and put in my two cents with the supervisors about the holiday schedule, given that there won't be anywhere near enough work to justify having all of those people there, but it didn't do any good. The supervisor who does the schedule told me that because some regulars on one of the other tours are being forced to work their holiday, it means that ALL of the PTFs and casuals have to work as well. His hands are tied. I don't understand why ANY regulars are being forced to work, considering that there are NO dispatches on Christmas. But because someone in charge on one of the other tours was a Scrooge, all of the PTFs and casuals are getting lumps of coal in their stockings. I only hope that the Scrooge on the other tour gets a visit from three ghosts, or perhaps gets that three-sizes-too-small heart enlarged.

Traditionally, we've always only had a skeleton crew of greedy volunteer regulars work on Christmas, since they get paid double-time-and-a-half that day. I've done it myself once or twice, a long time ago. Non-volunteers were rarely if ever forced to work Christmas, because there really was no reason for them to have to do so.

A common refrain among my co-workers is that in retrospect, perhaps the old plant manager wasn't so bad after all. He suddenly has a golden glow about him that wasn't just the glare of the lights beaming off the top of his bald head. I heard the saying "Better the devil that you know than the devil that you don't know" from more than one co-worker today.


What's Wrong With This Story?

Record high winter temperature set in Moscow
MOSCOW, December 15 (RIA Novosti) - A winter maximum temperature record for Moscow was set Friday, the capital's weather bureau said Friday.

Friday's maximum of 8.6°C (47.48°F) is the highest winter temperature on record for the Russian capital, the spokesman said.

The previous winter record for Moscow was 8.1 °C (46.5°F), set on February 17, 1989.

Extreme deviations in weather patterns have been observed before, but over the past decade they have become more and more frequent, the Federal Service for Hydrometeorology and Environmental Monitoring said.

Following near-record low temperatures during last winter's cold spell, which saw the mercury plummet to -31°C (-23.8°F) January 19 - one degree above the all-time low for Moscow - European Russia has experienced record warm temperatures this month.

Forecasters believe the temperature may be even higher in coming days, possibly reaching 9°C (48.2 °F).
So, what's wrong with that story? Look at the date. And then consider the fact that "winter" doesn't officially begin until December 21st.

Also, there's the question of how long the Russians have been keeping record of daily high and low temperatures. It all sounds alarming until you realize that their temperature records probably don't go back more than a century at most. It's not like Moscow is suddenly going to become a winter vacation destination like Florida!


Gott Sei Dank I'm Not German

Or I'd be in jail for life if this silly legislation goes through in Germany: German gamers face jail for acts of virtual violence
Players and creators of video games could face imprisonment for acts of virtual violence under draft legislation being drawn up by two of Germany's state governments.

Politicians in Bavaria and Lower Saxony have proposed a new offence that will punish "cruel violence on humans or human-looking characters" inside games. Early drafts suggest that infringers should face fines or up to 12 months' jail for promoting or enacting in-game violence.

Ach du lieber! Those krazy Krauts* actually want to put people in jail for cruelly murdering PIXELS! It doesn't get any sillier than this. Don't the polizei have some real criminals to pursue? How about those Muslim terrorist cells working out of Hamburg, for instance? Nein, they want to go after the komputerkriminalen, who are much less likely to have real guns than Mohammed Atta wannabes. That game controller doesn't do scheisse against real cops.

* - Being part German, I'm allowed to use the term "Krauts," just as black people can use the N-word with impunity. It's a term of endearment. If you have a problem with that, es tut mir leid.


I Comment on the News

I'm sure you've already heard about Nicole Ritchie getting busted for DUI in California the other day. If not, here's the skinny (pardon the expression): Somebody called 911 when they spotted her driving the wrong way on a highway. The cops stopped her and she admitted to have taken Vicodin and and to have smoked marijuana. The cops arrested her, and her booking information got leaked to the press. She told the cops she was 5'1" tall and weighed 85 pounds. 85 pounds?! Two thoughts came to mind when I read that: First, I thought dope smokers got the munchies! Evidently she didn't, though. Second, girl, have a sandwich! Better yet, have two. She should stay away from tomato juice, though, because it would make her look like a thermometer.


Toyland, Toyland

When I was a kid, the harbinger of the Christmas season was the arrival of the J.C. Penney Christmas catalogue, with its pages and pages of toys. My brothers and I would leaf through it, looking at all of the things we wanted. We didn't always get everything on our lists, but we usually had a pretty good haul.

The other day when I was on jury duty, CNN was on in the waiting room, and they had a story about nostalgic middle-aged Baby Boomers seeking out the toys of their youth. They showed Mr. Potato Head (and some of his other vegetable friends), Gumby and Pokey, G.I. Joe and Barbie, etc. They were all very familiar, but then again, I'm one of those middle-aged Baby Boomers myself. It got me to thinking about some of the cool toys I had many years ago.

The world has changed, of course. I don't imagine that they sell toys like Mattel's Thingmaker any more, which cooked "Plastigoop" into rubbery toys (my favorites were the Mini-Dragons, which was made in several parts and then put together with arrows through loopholes, and the original Creepy Crawlers set, with molds for bugs, spiders, rats, snakes, etc.). Can you imagine the lawsuits from children burning themselves if they put out something like that today? I had a chemistry set, too. I don't know if they'd let kids have them these days, especially without adult supervision. Too dangerous. (I also rode a bicycle without ever wearing a helmet, and for that matter, I don't think we even had seat belts in the cars we had back in the 1960s. Amazingly enough, I survived to adulthood.)

A lot of things are still around. Hot Wheels cars, for instance. I got them back in the late 1960s when they first came out. We also had the orange plastic strips of track so we could race the cars. The kid who had a Supercharger to propel the cars around an oval loop of track was an object of envy. My favorite cars included the Red Baron (with its silver German helmet) and the Evil Weevil, a modified VW Bug, but I had dozens of them over the years.

We also had a lot of Lego blocks. Lego wasn't the only kind of plastic construction blocks we had, though. There was TOG'L, colorful plastic cubes about an inch square, with holes in some of the faces, pegs sticking out of others and some of the faces were hinged and would open. My brothers and I would make robots out of the TOG'L blocks and have boxing matches with them, moving the shoulders to throw punches at the other robot's head to try to knock his block off.

I had the Major Matt Mason ("Mattel's Man in Space!") action figure, as well as G.I. Joes at a time when they were still the same size as Barbie dolls and still military men, complete with toy weapons and uniforms, rather than some sort of sci-fi ninja figure. And we had Gumby and Pokey, as well as Mr. Potato Head. Also lots and lots of plastic toy soldiers, plastic cowboys and Indians, plastic Roman soldiers and Crusaders, and Lincoln Logs to build forts for them to garrison.

We also had a square wooden game table, with a netted pocket in each corner. It came with miniature wooden pins like bowling pins, and colored plastic rings in red and green and white and black. I'm not sure what they were actually supposed to be used for, but we made up our own games with them.

Finally, we had some early electronic games. We had a game system (Atari?) that attached to the television and allowed us to play Pong and Hockey. And we had a hand-held electronic football game that was actually just three rows of red LEDs, and the arrows would allow the runner to move up and down and forward trying to avoid the bright red tacklers. A kid today would roll his eyes, laugh at it and put it back on the shelf, but we didn't have XBoxes or Playstations or computers back then. Pong was high tech thirty-odd years ago. We're far more jaded now.


Must Be December

It's chilly outside today here in Florida. It won't reach 70 today, and will drop down into the 40s tonight. Overcast. Windy. A good day to stay inside and drink hot chocolate and shop online.

To get into the spirit of the season, I'm importing my Christmas CDs into iTunes so that I can put them on my iPod. So far, I've imported Mojo Nixon & the Toadliquors' Horny Holidays, a collection of Easy Listening classics called Do You Hear What I Hear?, and A Very Special Christmas 1, 2 and 5. I'll have to clear some space on the iPod so that they'll all fit... Ah, there we go... 70 MB to spare.


I'm Not the Only One...

The Hollywood Reporter web site says [Britney] Spears tops Yahoo!'s searches:

Bereft of any new music to promote, Britney Spears was nevertheless the hottest thing on the Internet this year, judging from Yahoo!'s annual list of popular search terms.

Of course, a surge in online voyeurs seeking recently posted pictures of Britney sans panties didn't hurt. But a Yahoo! spokeswoman said "Britney" had the title of No. 1 search term sewed up even before the risque photos surfaced.

Hmmmm... I must admit, I was one of those with prurient curiosity. And after tracking down the Britney pics, I then had to go looking for the similarly exposed Lindsay "Firecrotch" Lohan pics. The verdict: Ehhh. Nothing I haven't seen before. Lindsay's at least didn't have a C-section scar. The funny part was that after Britney was caught flashing panty-less for about the third time in a week, she went out and spent $3000 on lingerie.

As I told a friend, P.T. Barnum reportedly said, "There's a sucker born every minute." Robin Williams said that "Cocaine is God's way of telling you you are making too much money." There's probably a corollary to that one involving a $333 yellow bra-and-thong set.

I think I'd rather see the money in the hands of the lingerie boutique owners than Britney. God bless capitalism! God bless America!


Friday's Jury Duty

Friday was a pretty boring day, sitting around at the Justice Center (the postmodern terminology for "courthouse"). I spent most of the day waiting around, until we were all finally called up to the courtroom. There was only one judge working Friday, and everything on the docket had been settled by plea bargaining except for one case. We stood in the hallway outside the courtoom for about ten minutes, then they led us in. I noted with some interest that the sign on the door said "Felony Court." The judge quickly informed us that he had only brought us in to tell us "hi" and "bye," because the final case had just been settled. A good thing too, as he told us that if the case had gone in front of a jury, it would have been a two-day case.

One other oddity I noticed while waiting around: All of the other prospective jurors in my group were white. The jury pool in our county is selected from driver's license registrations, so you can't get out of jury duty by just not registering to vote. There were somewhere between 40 and 50 of us present (and some 250 others had not had to come in). And yes, there are a lot of minorities living in the county. Might just have been a quirk in the system, but I certainly wouldn't have wanted to have been a prosecutor trying a minority defendant if everyone in the prospective jury pool was white, because I'm sure any defense attorney worth his salt would have used that as grounds for an appeal of any conviction.