May 24, 2009

A thought on crossword puzzlers

The worst thing that can happen to crossword puzzles is that they cater to crossword puzzle addicts.

The demise (restructuring?) of the TMS (Chicago Tribune) daily crossword and its replacement (partnership? Please explain further) by/with the L.A. Times' crossword may be merely (simply?) another clue that corporate (publicly owned) America has a problem to solve.

Or, maybe more truthfuly, it may be a clue that crossword constructors and solvers are in danger of getting just a little bit ahead of themselves and, in the immediate desire for more challenging puzzles, choke the market that can produce those puzzles.

There are crossword publishers aplenty. Puzzles can be had in the hundreds in just a few issues of Dell and Penny Press puzzle magazines. Some crosswords are geared for casual solvers. Others are geared for puzzleheads -- like me.

But I wasn't always like me.

There was a time in my life when a crossword puzzle was just another puzzle. One that I didn't even have to solve. :-) A thing to engage whenever it and I happened to cross paths and only for the hell of it.

I've read-tell that some TMS puzzlers are less than thrilled at having to deal with the L.A. Times puzzle now. My gut reaction, of course, is "What?! Do you not see the superiornessity of the L.A. Times puzzle to old Chicago Tribune puzzle?!"

My second reaction is that I remember what it's like to solve what we puzzleheads might call "training wheel puzzles". (Yeah, I made that up. Feel free to come up with something better.)

I was about 8 or 9 years old when I read the clue, "Funny man Reiner". I, being a child of the '70s, knew that the answer had to be ROB. But the puzzle wanted four letters and ROB only had three. I complained of my confoundedness to my grandmother who told me that the correct answer was CARL. "Who?" (To this day I can't see Carl Reiner without remembering the moment I'd first heard of him, while doing that danged crossword puzzle.)

If crossword puzzles are to exist in the future then they must continue AS daily crosswords, in every newspaper, that are accessible to casual solvers.

I don't believe that the recent spike in crossword fandom has had any effect on the TMS puzzle. I think that it's due purely to cost-cutting in this economic climate. But I do worry about the clannishness of puzzle solvers having an effect on what's publishable. Brendan Quigley very recently mentioned that crossword bloggers have had an impact on Will Shortz. That's fine. In fact, that's great -- for us and Will Shortz. I just hope that that impact isn't felt at Universal or USA Today.

Ordinary crosswords are the impetus of great crosswords. They invite the casual solvers to solve and win. And those who can win want to win more. But the worst thing that can happen to daily crosswords is for them to become inaccessible to the rest of us. Some of us (believe it or not) want to solve a crossword as a morning calisthenic; a warm-up for the challenge of the day ahead. Some of us solve the crossword as the day's challenge itself. That's almost spooky.

I must confess that I'm not sure who I'm addessing this to. I'm addressing myself, of course. But, maybe, also the bloggers, the constructors, the editors, the champion solvers, the casual solvers of the world or the wanna-be scholars like me. What I do know is that it was the daily puzzle in my local paper (Newsday, in my case) that got me interested in crosswords in a way that went beyond wishing that I could I solve it. As much as we crossword mavens might poo-poo the daily Newsday puzzle, it is one of the most widely syndicated puzzles just because it is ultimately (and some would say infinitely) solvable. Except, maybe, for Saturday.

Crossword puzzles aren't just for crossword puzzle addicts. The uncanny way that they can find a use for an almost forgotten memory is almost Holy.
Crossword puzzles remind us of what we know. I think.

Posted by Tuning Spork at 06:05 PM | Comments (713) | TrackBack

August 09, 2007

I'm not dead yet. Nope, never was...

I've been spending a lot of time, recently, at AboveTopSecret.

A few days ago I entered a debating contest. You can keep up on it by clicking here.

Go on, click it. :)

Do-o-o-o-o i-i-i-i-t.....

UPDATE: Yay! I won the first round. :)

Second round will begin on Monday. This one one might be a tougher row to hoe.

Posted by Tuning Spork at 03:37 AM | Comments (332) | TrackBack

June 19, 2007

Refrigerant + Steel = WTF?! (Updated)

The greatest thing about the internet is that you don't have to just sit there and wonder about stuff anymore. Let's say you're wondering what the chief export of Taiwan is. Unless you're either in a library or have a late vintage World Almanac or encyclopedia on hand, you don't know.

But, sometimes an exhaustive internet search will fail you and you must cry out a virtual call to arms to see if anyone out there can give you a clue. Because, much like the big money answers in Annika's Jeopardy, some questions seem to be deliberately google-proof.


J'ever wonder how that plastic bottle cap is made? Or those plastic keys on your keyboard? Or that wooden plastic Lincoln Log?

Well, solid plastic pellets are fed, by gravity, from a conical bin called a "hopper" into a heated barrel. The barrel temperature melts the plastic and injects the liquid into the steel mold. The plastic then sits in the mold for a duration of time called a "cure time", during whence is solidifies. In the relatively small molds that we use, this could last anywhere from 10 seconds to nearly a minute. Once the plastic is solid, the mold opens and ejects the plastic part, which then falls onto a chute that guides it into a plastic bin that was made by a machine much bigger than any of ours.

Now, in order to keep the hot molten plastic from over-heating the mold and, thereby, preventing the plastic from solidifying, cold water is continually running through the mold to keep it cool. The water is first run through an air conditioner on steroids called a "chiller". The chiller lowers the incoming city water to somewhere around 55 degrees F, which prevents heat from the plastic from building up and keeps the mold, the plastic, the customer and the business very happy.


So anyway, on Friday we were sitting in the office and the run of the mill k'chunka'k'chunka'k'chunka noises were sounding smoothly. Then there was a very ugly, loud, churning, constipated metallic gurgling sound that none of us had ever heard before. Then it stopped.

Tex said, "What the hell was that?". Big Red had ju-u-u-u-st stepped out of the office and onto the floor and, thus, was the only one of us who could tell where that brand new sound had come from. He headed straight for the chiller.

The chiller wasn't chillin'. We didn't know what exactly was wrong with it, but Tex knew that we weren't gonna be in business without it so he called HVAC Man and had him come in right away to look at this thing.

By the time the HVAC Man and his team showed up, Tex had gone for the day. So it was Big Red, his employees (three sweet Hispanic ladies of questionable legal status --- but you didn't read that here), and me. And I wasn't even on the clock yet. (Yeah, I "hang out" at work. What's it to ya?)

'Round about 2:00pm I had my head down on the desk, trying to catch some zzz's before beginning my shift, when Big Red tapped me on my shoulder.

"Bob, we gotta go outside," he said. "There's freon filling the shop, we can't stay in here."

He opened the windows in the office and I stepped out onto the floor. **choke** You can't breath this stuff if you tried. Your lungs are smarter than your brain in that area of biological expertise. Outside we went, with all the windows and the loading dock's door open. Big Red sent his girls home early. I trust he paid them for the full day. At about 6:00pm we re-entered the shop and it seemed to have been pretty well aired out. We closed up and shut down for the weekend.

I found out later that HVAC Man had the bright idea of turning on the chiller, to see what it does, and then it burst into flames.

They put the electrical fire out.

Then he had the even brighter idea of turning it on again and freon started spewing out refrigerant like Noam Chomsky spews sophistry.

(That crud was "refrigerant", actually, because "Freon" is a trademarked name that hasn't been installed in cooling units since 1995. Saying "freon" is kinda like saying "scotch tape". I have no info yet on just which refrigerant it was.)


Monday morning. Big Red discovers that the steel tools that were near the chiller had a thin coat of what looks like rust. What were shiny steel wrenches and pliers and screwdrivers and mallots now have surfaces that have some sort of reddish-brown dust-like corroded texture.
Then he noticed that the labels on the cardboard boxes that were closest to the chiller had turned from white to baby blue. What the huh?

So, what in the world went on here this weekend?

I, of course, hopped onto the internet to find the answer. I searched "freon steel reaction", "refrigerant steel chemical reaction", "freon rust steel contact" and many many other search terms. Nothin'.

The HVAC guy showed up today to retrieve some tools he'd left behind when we evacuated on Friday. Big Red showed him what had happed to the labels and the steel tools. HVAC Man said he'd never seen anything like it before.

Big Red speculated that the cold refrigerant may have hit the warm air and thus induced condensation on the steel that may have resulted in all this oddly curious rustification. But, I mean, if you leave a piece of steel in a dishpan full of water it'd, I'm sure, take longer than a weekend for it to rust. And it wouldn't rust in the same way that these tools rusted. I mean, there'd be frickin' rust, not a thin dusty coating of rust-like grit.

The worst part was when we noticed this afternoon that a brand new mold had the same outer damage as the tools. A brand spanking new mold. Do you know what these things cost to manufacture? We're talking seven figures here. Luckily the mold was closed tight, so it shouldn't effect it's usefullness. But, sheesh, if the customer ever sees the condition of that outer surface he's gonna wanna know what the @#$% happened to his investment and why it isn't in pristine condition before it has ever even been used.


So, to any longtime experts in heating and air conditioning out there:

What the @#$% happened to that steel over the weekend?!!!!!!!!!!

I thank ye in advance. :)


UPDATE (6-21-07): As it turns out, that was indeed Freon that spewed from the chiller. Freon 22. Clorodifluoromethane. Apparantly it is no longer used in small air conditioners like those in automobiles, but is still widely used in larger contraptions.

Anyway, according to my new research, Freon doesn't burn but it does decompose at high temperatures. It decomposes into toxic gases like hydrogen fluoride and phosgene.

Phosgene was first used as a chemical weapon in World War I. But it is odorless and acts on the nervous system, so that's not what we smelled on Friday. And certainly not what rusted the steel tools.

Hydrogen fluoride is a gas that is highly corrosive. When diluted in water it becomes hydrofluoric acid. It can dilute glass, and is used to etch and "frost" glass. It's corrosive to metals such as silver, brass, aluminum and, of course, steel.

So what happened, I'm pretty convinced, was that the electrical fire in the chiller heated the cylinder that contained the Freon. And, Freon being very cold, it doesn't take much heat to bring it to boil. The cylinder was punctured by the "boiling" Freon (luckily it didn't explode), and the overheated Freon decomposed until it produced hydrogen fluoride, and the hydrogen flouride gas corroded the steel.

Everything I've read claims that Freon is harmless except in extreme exposures, and the descriptions of the smell and effects of hydrogen fluoride match with what we experienced on Friday.

Luckily, Tex found a polish that can clean the corroded surface of the molds and tools. The stuff wipes away rust like it was nothing but a slight tarnish on dinner utensils. Actually, that's probably what it is very much like, if not exactly like.

What the hell is "tarnish", anyway?

I don't have to just sit here and wonder. Back to google.....


Posted by Tuning Spork at 10:06 PM | Comments (135) | TrackBack

June 14, 2007

Well, That was a fun day in court...

I calculate that I, as of right now, have had 7 hours of sleep in the past 52
hours. Happy happy joy uh boyyyy......

So, anyway, I made it into court this morning and went into the place I was when I was last in these hyar parts: "Court Room D".

'Cuz we all love "Court Room D", don't we?

Turns out I was sposed to be in Court Room C.

No biggie.

Oh, did I mention that I did laundry last night, but forget to pour detergent into the belly of Robby? I got up early and threw the load into the dryer only to discover, upon donning a "fresh" clothial (<--word?) artifact, that I had neglected to add @$#% detergent to the churning mixture!

I was tired.

Anywho, I threw on something that looked better than a Ted Nugent tee-shirt and drove to the courthouse.

Don't get me started on parking.

I mean, Crikey, you can't get within a quarter-mile of downtown before you meet large lawns and highways and by-ways and My-Ways and shy ways. The closest you can get to the courthouse without having to pay for parking is, probably, a longer distance than Jim Fixx would dare to crawl. Downtown is sheltered I tells ya.

Anywhy, the Judge asked me if I'd been able to secure an attorney yet.

No. I've spoken to many a' ttornery and they all want to take the case but hey want $1000.00 up front.

Can't happen.

Not gonna happen.

So, after seven hours in court, I procured a "continuance" of five weeks so's I can find a lawyer who'll screw me somewhat less than the court will.

Wish me luck.

Defendants, beware: The "Court" talks to the State's attorneys in ways that they'll never talk to you. Get a lawyer. Unless you want to prostrate yourself before the sacred wooden bench and beg for forgiveness, get a lawyer who knows how to speak for you.

I fear that I've something very big ahead of me. I'm gonna do the best I can.

I don't want to go it alone, but I may have to.

The judge was very generous. He gave me five weeks to find a lawyer, even though I asked for no more than two weeks.

Send me some good vibes. I don't want to have to do this alone.


Posted by Tuning Spork at 02:30 AM | Comments (1309) | TrackBack

May 30, 2007

Now it's personal

I had a fun fun fun time at the courthouse today. Apparantly I'm being sued for damages to an SUV that occurred in a collision with my car and a tree. I first wrote about it here.

Seems the friend-of-the-family police officer who gave me a ticket for an illegal left turn wrote a police report that included the rediculous detail that my vehicle hit the other vehicle, rather than the other way around.

This could get ugly. I need a junkyard dog lawyer. The kind that wakes up in the morning pissed off and wont be satisfied until he tears the guts out of some jackass and the SUV he rode in on.

Oh, yeah, I'll be subpeonaing phone records and police dispatch records. I'll probably have to put an ad in the paper to see if I can find that vocal witness who that Fairfield cop, Officer Riccio, ignored.


Posted by Tuning Spork at 03:42 PM | Comments (162) | TrackBack

May 12, 2007

The week that was

Hey, y'all. Wussup?

Yeah, I know I've been neglecting my blogging duties even more than usual lately.

At first I wasn't blogging because I simply had nothing to write about. In the past couple of weeks, however, I'd had some things to write about but I guess I just plum forgot how to blog. I'd open the page and stare at the white field for a bit, then log out.

I know that every journey begins with the first step and every blog post begins by typing the first words. But I'm so out of practice that it seems that typing the first words feels like it'd only be sitting back in the dentist's chair to begin a six-hour root canal.

But, I'm a-gonna give it a go.

As I sit here it is 1:08am on a Friday night Saturday morning, and I am at work. Without getting into too many details: I've been officially working 11-hours a day this week, but twice I've spent the night here. Why? Because a week and a half ago we discovered that 32 boxes of completed plastic parts (60,000 parts total) had to be sorted through because 15% of them were bad.

Of course, sorting through all of these little parts by hand would take one person at least a month. And I'm the only one here with enough "down time" to spend any meaningful time on that job.

And we have an order of 33 boxes of partsb that need to be shipped on Monday.

So, since running the parts pretty much amounts to babysitting the machine, I simply never shut the machine down and hung out all night. The other two guys showed up at 7:30am, and at about 9 or 10 I went upstairs and crashed on a pile of cardboad boxes until 3:00pm, when I got up, went for coffee and breakfast and went back to work at 4:00pm.

I couldn't do that two nights in a row, of course. I mean, I gots to take a shower and change my clothes once in a while.

Anyway, we're on schedule to have 33 boxes to ship on Monday. And I'm gonna sleep all weekend.

Well, that's the base story for tonight. I'll post a few, more interesting, stories this weekend. If I'm awake.

In the meantime, I've got yet another YouTube song for ya. And we all know how much everybody loves YouTube videos.

I don't often listen to Neil Diamond songs. But, for some reason, I came this one the other night and I've been watching it over and over ever since. It's Neil Diamond and Shirley Bassey singing Play Me as a duet.

I never thought much of this one whenever I heard it on the radio. It always struck me as sappy drivel -- the kind of Neil Diamond song that makes us hipsters cringe at the thought of... Neil Diamond. Kinda like Heartlight, or You Don't Bring Me Flowers. But when I saw this performance of it, and listened to the words, I thought it was pretty darn good.

I always hated that whole "I am the Sun, you are the Moon" line. Until I learned that it comes from the idea that the Sun can't see it's own light unless it is reflected back at it by something like, oh, say... the Moon. Hearing that line in that light (pun unintended) made all the difference for me.

Embedding has been disabled on this one, but you can watch and listen by clicking HERE. I advise making sure that there are no distracting ambient noises before clicking the link and sitting back in your chair. You must be One with the song!

Or not.

Note: I'm a bit disappointed in Shirley's performance. Either she doesn't understand the song or I don't. Neil, of course, is living it when he sings it.

Note 2: One of the reasons that I, as a teenager, didn't think much of Neil Diamond was that I didn't think that he was a very good singer. I suppose it was because of the way that he strayed from the expected melody so often. Hearing this today, as a somewhat more experienced pseudo-singer, I understand exactly what he was doing. The nuance of his phrasing is perfect for the words he's singing/saying.

Lastly, since Shirley's lines were a bit hard for me to understand at first, I've put the lyric in the extended entry.

She was morning and I was nighttime.
I one day woke up to find her lying beside my bed.
I softly said, "Come take me.
For I've been lonely,
in need of someone as though I'd done someone wrong somewhere.
But I don't know where,
I don't know where come lately.

You are the Sun, I am the Moon.
you are the words, I am the tune.
Play me."

Song he sang to me.
Song he brang to me.
Words that rang in me.
Rhymes that sprang from me all the night.
And what was right became me.

You are the Sun, I am the Moon.
You are the words, I am the tune.
Play me.

And, so it was that I came to travel
upon a road that was thorned and narrow.
Another place,
another grace would save me.

You are the Sun, I am the Moon.
You are the words, I am the tune.
Play me.

Posted by Tuning Spork at 12:33 AM | Comments (853) | TrackBack

February 25, 2007

I knew I shoulda stayed in bed

As I usually do on every Saturday morning, I slept 'til well past noon. That gets me a lot of extra sleep, but it usually takes me the rest of the day to get in gear.

Well, last night Tex's band was having a CD Release Party at their home base -- a bar and grille in neighboring Stratford. So, I rushed out in time to be sure that I catch their weekly porchetta sandwich special before they ran out. Yum!

Then I had a few hours to kill, so I went over to the shop and did some crossword puzzles. But, I just felt kinda yukky all afternoon. I felt really hungry, but like that food wasn't really going to satisfy me.

I headed back over to the club at about 7:00pm (the show was scheduled to begin at 9:30), and had a chili burger. Then at about 9:00 I had some clam chowder, a New York strip steak, a baked potato and some garlic bread. Strangely, I still felt weak and felt a tad light-headed, as if I hadn't eaten a thing.

After two beers I switched to coffee. Bad move. I thought I was gonna hurl.

Then at about 10:00 or so, I began to feel the beginnings of a toothache. Maybe something got caught in one of the myriad crevasses that are the landscape of my molars. I got home at 2:00am and went to bed, but I couldn't sleep at all. The pain got worse, and by 5:00 I could feel some swelling coming on. I got up and brushed my teeth. I had no ibuprofen, nor even aspirin.

I finally fell asleep around 7:00am, and got up at 1:30pm today. The swelling was only mild, and the pain was dull, yet omnipresent. So, I took a shower, brushed my teeth, got dressed, drank some orange juice, took a vitamin and headed to the store.

On my way back with some Advil, two Jimmy Dean breakfast sandwiches, a cup of coffee and two fresh packs of Pall Mall 100s, it happened.

I am a paranoidly safe driver. I am the worst passenger in the world because I tend to complain when the driver is -- in my judgement -- driving too fast, following too close, turning without signaling, talking on the phone, fiddling with radio knobs, etc, etc.

Most drivers on the highway tend to speed up in order to get closer to the car in front of them. It might save them a few seconds during their trip, y'see. I, on the other hand, try to be as far away as possible from every other car and truck on the road.

So anyway, on my way home from the supermarket a little while ago, I came to an intersection with a traffic light. The light had just turned green as I approached the intersection heading east, and slowed to pause and turn left and head north, and home.

A large white truck -- probably a Ford F-150 -- was heading west and turning south.

From where I sat, there were positively no vehicles behind that truck.

Now, looking at the map, you can see that Hughes Avenue curves north. From my vantage point -- in the right lane leaning toward the center -- the white truck was the only vehicle I could see.


The truck -- pausing, as I was, to be sure that I, too, was indeed turning left -- had just begun to turn and head south. I began to turn to head north.

Then, out of frickin' nowhere, a dark blue SUV comes barrelling out from behind the truck. This guy was doing at least 35mph (possibly 40) in a 25mph speed zone. Look out!

When I saw him coming I slammed on my brakes.

But then he kept coming. Fast.

I was a sitting duck.

I watched the SUV try to turn to avoid hitting me -- it's master steering with one hand and holding a phone in the other. He hit my driver's side front panel and, then, kept on going.

I swear, he never applied his breaks. He never skidded. He was talking on the phone and forgot how to drive.

He clipped me and then went up over the curb, over the sidewalk and plowed his passenger side into a large tree.

I then turned hard to my left and pulled up just behind him, knowing full well that I was blocking traffic. The task, then, was just to get to his sorry-ass vehicle.
It took me about 45 seconds to finally push open my door wide enough for me to get out of the car.

Even after all that time, I was obviously the first one to get out of his car.

I saw no movement in the truck. If this guy wasn't wearing his seatbelt... ...***shudder***...

I, finally, was able to pull myself up enough to squeeze out of my car. Nobody else bothered to. I supposed they all wanted to see what I might do.

Anyway, I stomped on over to the driver's side window and there he was, on the phone.

He rolled down the window and he was obviously extremely shaken up.

He probably thought he saw his life flash before his eyes. But it wasn't his life, but a Chevette, curb, sidewalk and a tree. He repeated several times, seeming nearly ready to burst into tears, "How could you do that? How could you do that?".

"I'm sorry," I said, "but, I swear to God, I did not see any cars behind that truck. You came outta nowhere...".

I found out while overhearing his conversations, both on the phone and with police officer's, that this was not his truck. He is a vehicle delivery man (he seemed to be about 25-30 years old, btw), and that he was on his way to one of the airports in New York to pick someone up.

Anyway, with him being so shaken up and not knowing what to do, I tried to keep him calm just by being calm myself. Which I was, anyway. I mean, what else are ya gonna do? Pfft.
(Yes, I try to be an infectious individual...)

As several other drivers emerged to ask if we were all right, I said, "I'm fine," and, refering to the guy in the truck, and making sure to say it loud enough for him to hear me, "He's a bit shaken, but he says he's physically okay."

One guy from across the street: "Do you need me to call anyone? (pointing to his house) I live right there."

"Thank you," I said. "I don't have a phone and he's talking to family." I held out arms, "Uh.. we'll need a cop."

Still shaking, the young man in the SUV asked me: "Can you see the number on that house?"

"Yes, it's 361", then clarified, for the benefit of whoever was on the other end of the phone: "You're at the corner of Brooklawn and Villa Avenues.".

The police arrived shortly afterward and took our statements and paperwork. An ambulence arrived, but was sent away.

At one point a woman walked up to one of the police officers and volunteered her eye-witness account. I heard her tell the officer that the SUV had come speeding through the intersection and never slowed down until it hit the tree.

She repeated this with more emphasis, as if her point wasn't getting across.

The officer was sitting in his car so I couldn't hear what he said in response, but the woman began walking back to her car saying, "Well, I'm sorry for trying to help..." The officer's final response was, "well, he was going straight through the intersection, so he had the right of way."

As if nothing else mattered.

The guy in the truck (I never caught his name) began to calm down quite a bit as the minutes rolled by. At one point he put his hands on his jacket pockets and said, "...and I left my cigarettes at home.". He then pulled out his cell phone and made another call.

I went to my car and rummaged through my grocery bags. I walk over to him and handed him one of my fresh packs of Pall Mall 100s. He smiled, sighed and accepted it with a gracious "Thank you."

After he got off the phone he opened the pack and said, "This is the exact brand that I smoke."

The SUV needed to be towed, but my car was fine to drive. It was dented pretty badly in the left-front and the headlight was smashed to bits, but the wheels were free to turn.

He hit that tree a whole lot harder than hit my car.

After a while, another SUV parked across the street. A woman stepped out, and we made eye contact. I thought she smiled at me, as if to say "hello", but I didn't recognize her. Then the guy from the SUV/tree stepped out of the passenger side and I gathered that this was his mother.

They crossed the street and she actually said to me, "I'm so sorry about this." I just shook my head. I presumed that this was because her son had told her that I had fullfilled my life's mission to successfully help to comfort a distraught soul. ("He was so cool he even gave me a pack of cigarettes, Mom...!! :)")

But I did manage to get a chance to talk to her quietly -- away from the cops.

I mentioned that he'd been travelling at at least 10 miles over the speed limit; that he was talking on his cell phone at the time, and that he was out of his lane and never hit the brakes. And, without those legal infractions, the collision itself could have been avoided.

He kept telling people that I'd hit him. Literally, he hit me. I slammed on my brakes and sat there waiting for him to slam down on his. Instead he, evidently, was steering with one hand and, because it happened so fast (and because he was on the phone) wasn't sure what to do and, consequently, tried to avoid me and instead found himself headed for a tree.

While I am familiar with that intersection and how dangerous it could be, and should have waited for the truck to pass completely just to make sure there was no maniacal driver barrelling up and around it before I made the turn, he should not have been coming through that intersection at at least 35mph while talking on the phone.

He broke three laws. Possibly four.

That collision could have been avoided if he was a safer driver. Another driver would have slammed on the brakes rather than tried to avoid me while still safely passing through the intersection.

I call the phone "the black hole of peripheral awareness", and I think it fits.


Lesson #1: Obey the speed limit.

Lesson #2: Don't talk on The Black Hole Of Peripheral Awareness while driving.

Lesson #3: Don't go flying around vehicles that are in front of you if you can't see what's ahead.

Lesson #4: If you're heading for a parked car or a sidewalk or a tree, press down on the damn brakes!


The good news is that it completely made me forget about my toothache! :)

Oh, by the way, when the other driver was asking for our exact location, he was not talking to his mother. He talked to her later. So who wanted to know the address and why?

As I was leaving -- just after the officer had returned my paperwork -- the guy's mother walks up the officer and says: "So, I haven't seen you in a while. How ya been?"


Guess who got a ticket for an illegal left turn. Uh-huh. Oh, yeah, I'll be contesting this rot.

Drive safely, folks. It's dangerous out there.

Posted by Tuning Spork at 08:14 PM | Comments (191) | TrackBack

February 14, 2007

Slippin' an' a-Slidin'

I'm not complaining about the sleet storm we had today. This is winter in Connecticut, afterall, and it's nothing unusual.

But, sheesh, just because Chevrolet makes an economy car called the Chevette, do they have to bolt on tires that are barely larger than dinner plates?

I've got studded snow tires on the back, but they don't do much better than regular tires in only two or three inches of snow.

I pulled into the parking lot of a the local deli (which closed early due to the weather) so's I could turn around and head back to another deli that is always open. My front tires seemed to be stuck and I couldn't back out.

I put the car in neutral and took a look-see. Sure, they were sitting on a little snow and some ice, but nothing seemed to be preventing the car from moving in reverse. No normal car that is. I gave the car a little shove. Used only about as much energy as it would have taken to move a large tool box on wheels, and pushed the car about three feet into the street. Got back in and headed off down the street.

I wonder if it's possible to recalibrate the odometer and speedometer to accomodate larger tires.

By the way, a long-serving, fiscally frugal, no-snow-plow-hiring mayor of Bridgeport during the '30s and '40s (and maybe into the '50s) named Jasper McLevy once famously said after a heavy snowfall, "God put it there and God will take it away.".

The spirit of Jasper McLevy is alive and well in Bridgeport.

Posted by Tuning Spork at 08:49 PM | Comments (1078) | TrackBack

January 29, 2007

Songs You Don't Expect To Hear On A Saturday Night At The Local Watering Hole

So anyway, I used to try, occassionally, to get over my stage fright and sing and play guitar in public. One night -- about ten years ago -- I played a song on an open-mic night at a local bar and grille. The band was me (guitar, vocal), Tex Kaliber (guitar), Big Egg (bass guitar) and Monk (drums).
(Tex is a drummer, mainly, but he, Egg and I had to practice the night before without Monk 'cuz we were gonna surprise him and borrow him from the bar's house band.)

Anywho, we played Sinead O'Connor's "Last Day of Our Aquaintance". It was pretty close to her version, but with a few bells and whistles.

This is the kind of lyric, sound and melody that seems to grab people when they first hear it. As I sung the first few verses slowly, I could see, out of the corner of my eye, at least two couples holding hands.

Y'know how at a Jewish wedding there's a toast made to the newlyweds and then they smash the glasses? Well, this song is about a divorce. So, what's the obvious way to end this song? Heh.

After the initial soft run-through, we kicked on the distortion peddles and made loud angry mayhem for two more verses. Then back to a soft verse. Then the loud coda, in which I rammed a drum stick up my guitar's neck and then grabbed a second drumstick and pounded on the first, on beat, trying to break the strings. (Broke only half of 'em.)

Two of my best friends were going through a seperation and eventual divorce. He opted out and she was heartbroken. I sang it for her.

It was quite an intense performance. Tex, Big Egg and Monk nailed their parts. We rocked, and the clubbers were into it. That night is my second or third most favorite memory as a live performer.

Anywhy, here is an excellent live version of Sinead O'Connor singing the $#!t out of her great song, "Last Day of Our Aquaintance":

Posted by Tuning Spork at 11:36 PM | Comments (164) | TrackBack

January 17, 2007

To be an ever-opening flower

Back in the days: I was 14-years-old and thought that KISS was the bees' knees. But, my friend Patrick was a YES fan. So, he disagreed.

"Who the @#$% is 'YES'?", I would've asked if I was a swearin' kinda guy.

"Why, they're the greatest band in the world," Pat replied professorially.

So, eventually, I got around to handing him a cheap, RadioShack Realistic 120-minute cassette tape and asked him to record some YES stuff for me.

And so he did.

He filled the tape and then had the nerve to complain that it wasn't enough tape to present YES to me.

Alone, in my room, I popped in the cassette tape. I heard some strange, understated gurgling noise. (It was probably an Australian digerydoo or something or however you spell it...)

Then, the loud strains of a frickin' church organ are blaring omenously. Then the bass wend it's way through the organ and then the drums go **smack!!** and then the electric guitar chimes in sounding like a hummingbird on speed.


That was, in order: Rick Wakeman (keyboards), Chris Squire (bass guitar), Alan White (drums), Steve Howe (lead guitar).

Then, after I've been doubting already what I was hearing, comes this voice. This angelic male voice singing like he was Gabriel having a bad day. That was Jon Anderson (lead vocal).

The tape got even better from there, and I've been a YES fan ever since.

Here they are Jon, Steve, Rick, Chris and Alan playing the first YES song I ever heard, Parallels, live, in 1977, complete with their minute-long show-opening fanfare:

And/or, sing along:

When you've tried most everything and nothing's taking you higher.
When you come to realize, you've been playing with fire.
Hear me when I say to you, it's really down to your heart.

It's the beginning of a new love in sight.
You've got the way to make it all happen.
Set it spinning, turning roundabout.
Create a new dimension.

When we are winning we can stop and shout;
making love towards perfection.

I've been all around the world and seen so many faces.
Young and old, the story told, filling in my spaces.
Now, without a trace of doubt, I feel it every hour.

It's the beginning of a new love inside.
Could be an ever-opening flower.
No hesitation when we're all about
to build a shining tower.
No explanations need to work it out.
You know we've got the power.

Parallel our sights.
And we will find that we, we need to be where we belong.
Parallel our heights
display our rights and wrongs and always keep it

It's the beginning of a new love in sight.
It could be an ever-opening flower.
No explanations need to work it out.
You know we've got the power.

It's the beginning of a new love inside.
You've got the way to make it all happen.
Set it spinning, turning roundabout.
Create a new dimension.
When we are winning we can stop and shout,
making love towards perfection.

Posted by Tuning Spork at 11:47 PM | Comments (1021) | TrackBack

January 16, 2007

Man, I'm Tired

Making the switch from 1st shift to 2nd shift was a piece of cake compared to making the switch back to 1st shift.

Instead of trying to get up a few hours earlier every day over the weekend, I slept longer and stayed up longer. I got out of bed at 8pm on Sunday and went to work at 10am on Monday.

You know how when you're really tired and you just wanna go home and crash? Well, this was me hitting the mattress last night:

Slept like a log.

Posted by Tuning Spork at 10:56 PM | Comments (1360) | TrackBack

January 01, 2007

Happy New Year!


May 2007 make more sense than 2006.

And, for your New Year's YouTube experience: here is Chicago and the Beach Boys' Wishing You Were Here, New Year's Eve, '74/'75. Enjoy! :)

Posted by Tuning Spork at 10:01 PM | Comments (165) | TrackBack

December 05, 2006

Anybody still here?

Well, it's been a while since I wrote an actual post. And I couldn't find any YouTube videos to take up space, either. So, lemme just see what's on my mind....

Feels good to finally get the yardwork done. Just moved thirty (30) big bags of leaves from the backyard to the curb. Love having the trees in the summer, but it's a real workout to clear all the leaves come autumn. Most of 'em are from a 40-foot tall red oak that stands between my and my landlady's house. And the wind seems to blow all the leaves from her yard into mine.

I used to love breakfast at diners. Diners always seemed to have excellent omelets and coffee. I hadn't been to a diner for breakfast in years but, in the past six months or so, I've begun frequenting them again.

None of 'em seem to know how to make toast anymore. I've been to, I think, seven different diners in the past six months and they all give me two slices of white bread that has just a hint of dryness, but no color. And the butter doesn't melt on them. And whenever I've ordered bacon, it's either burnt to a rock-hard, tooth-cracking crisp or it's that paper-thin pre-cooked/re-heated unchewable crud. Even McDonalds has better bacon than these relatively expensive hash houses.

Anybody ever try Gold Bond Medicated Body Lotion? It's supposed to protect your skin and relieve the itching that comes with rashes, poison ivy, mosquito bites, hives, minor burns, etc. I've had some red blotching for a few weeks now that, near as I can tell, comes from stress. (Although I don't feel like I'm under any particularly acute stress lately. At least, no more than usual.)

Anywho, the Gold Bond does relieve itchiness for a while but, lemme tell ya, when you first apply it this stuff burns like a Sunni in Shi'iaville. After about five to ten minutes the burning goes away, but then you're left with a thin coating of cool, oily residue that makes your skin very sensitive to your clothing. I know exactly where my shirt is touching my skin. It doesn't itch, but it's annoying nonetheless.

And speaking of steak sauce, I used to think that'd I'd never find a better steak sauce than A-1. I tried a few other brands but they were all godawful, until I found Newman's Own. That is some excellent steak sauce. Then, about a year or two ago, I tried Emeril's. Now THAT is perfect steak sauce. It's got excellent flavor with just enough of a hot wang to make it all the more tasty without being too hot.

Unfortuanately, I just discovered that I'm out of Emeril's Steak Sauce, so I grabbed an old bottle of Newman's Own that I had in the cupboard.

Well, it's been in the cupboard for quite a while, it seems, since the "sauce" has turned to a watery liquid. No good. So I went around the corner for some A-1, but they were sold out. So I drove down the street where had a tiny little bottle for $3.39. So I drove a little further and got that same little bottle for $2.99. (I wasn't about to drive all the way to the supermarket as I intend to eat my steak before I leave for work in about an hour.)

On that note, the oven should be heated up (no broiler pan, #@$% it) so I'm off to bake a porterhouse steak and dress it with overpriced sauce. Hope it comes out all right.

Posted by Tuning Spork at 03:10 PM | Comments (538) | TrackBack

October 24, 2006


My first night on second shift and I set off the alarm.

Here's the thing: The lock sux. When Tex first gave me the key he said "It sticks a little -- y'gotta jiggle it -- but it works".

Uh huh.

I tested it the next morning and it didn't work. Rang the bell to get in. Tried a few times and it was hit and miss, but it seemed to eventually get the job done.

Then, on Friday, I locked up and it worked fine.

Then, last night, it didn't.

I "left work" at about 12:25am. Set the alarm. C-O-D-E + AWAY and I was good to go. By 12:40 I was sick and tired of trying to turn that stupid lock with that stupid key. I re-entered the shop and tried to disable the alarm. I pressed the first number. I pressed the second number and heard a beep. Whoops. I completed the code and pressed "stay" knowing full well that I'd f'd it up by forgetting that the first number should have beeped.

I looked for the "reset" or "start again, dummy" button, but to no avail. All I could do was wait for the alarm to sound. And it did. Loudly.

I went on the horn to call Big Red to ask him how to shut off that dam noise. I got the call from the alarm company and gave them my name and password just so's they know that it was a f#$k-up, not a break-in. (I didn't call Tex because... I'll tell ya in a sec.)

All's well that ends well. But, sheesh, that lock needs to be upgraded. As in: replaced.

Oh, I didn't call Tex because he had a busy day. He is, as of 6:33pm October 23rd, 2006, the proud Papa of a bouncing baby girl. :)

Hope nobody robs him blind tonight.

Posted by Tuning Spork at 02:05 AM | Comments (37) | TrackBack

August 02, 2006

My Left Ear Is Open! Yay!!!

Due to a strange sinus ailment that I've never been able to find a decent explanation of, I was deaf in my left for 4 1/2 years -- from the spring of '94 to the fall of '98.

Then, about 15 months ago, it happened again. If my ear opened up at all, it was while I was either at a higher altitude (like, up in Vermont) or at the beach. (The end of the 4 1/2 year bout came after 3 straight days of a crisp mid-September deluge.)

But, just a few minutes ago, I felt an itching in my ear. I rubbed the fleshy nub into my ear and could feel the tickly tingly promise that something was about to change. A few more rubs and **wham-O!** I can hear in stereo again!

I'm not sure why it would happen tonight. The air is heavy, hot and somewhat humid. I would have thought that a thunderstorm would have helped to clear the ear. We had some thunderclaps earlier in the evening, but it doesn't seem like a storm is anywhere near now. Tomorrow promises to be hotter still.

Hell, I ain't complaining. Ignorance is bliss for now. All I know is that I can hear you loud and clear, so keep it down!

Posted by Tuning Spork at 12:33 AM | Comments (1388) | TrackBack

July 18, 2006


So I was sitting here in my sweltering, breeze-less 90+ degree room sweating half-a-cup of ice water every 20 minutes and fanning myself for dear life, hoping against hope that something will change.

It is now 8:00pm and the wind is not sending me a breeze, but a frickin' gale force, spray-soaked wind! The thunder began off in the distance and, in the past five minutes, has come nearly directly overhead.

Thunder! Rain! Wind! Cooooool!!!

I may even turn the oven on and prepare a hot meal. :)

Posted by Tuning Spork at 07:04 PM | Comments (42) | TrackBack

July 17, 2006

Cruel Summer

90 degrees. Humid. No breeze. No AC. Not even a fan for the window. I can't make ice fast enough for this water I've been drinking. Can't blog like this.

Okay, I'll try.

So, here I sit dressed in only my bathing trunks and fanning my self with an envelope fron the Jury Administrator. It's an old envelope -- about 6 months old. I keep it around because I have notes, phone numbers and various login and password info written all over it.

Everything I have to eat needs cooking. Frozen fish; frozen pizza. Mainly soups, though. So I got the idea to hardboil my eggs so's I could eat them cold. Then I got the bright idea to turn them into deviled eggs. My deviled eggs usually come out pretty awesome, but this time I went a bit too heavy on the horseradish. Now, I like horseradish in my eggs, mind you, but this batch was too strong even for me. Grrrr. Oh, I'll eat 'em and like it.

How much does a window box fan cost? I wont be able to find out 'til probably Wednesday when a check comes. I don't even have the gas to get across town and no money for even a pack of cigarettes. Luckily I don't have any job interviews scheduled for next two days. :)

Hope y'all are staying cool. Let's hope for no big blackouts this year.

Need more iced water...

Posted by Tuning Spork at 09:47 PM | Comments (360) | TrackBack

June 27, 2006

Sad News In the Blogosphere

A mighty hurricane may seem to be able to conquer all that stands in it's whirling path. But, when it meets a countering vortex -- one that's equal and opposite in every way to it's own force -- all that will remain of that exhausting encounter will be peace.

Acidman has passed away.


Godspeed, Rob.

UPDATE: In the top left corner is a Quicktime version of Rob's performance of his song "My Door Is Always Open". Click to play.

Posted by Tuning Spork at 12:19 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 17, 2006

Good Day, Bad Day

The more I eat the more I want to eat, and the less I eat the less I want to eat. I forgot to eat yesterday.

Actually I had some small breaded fish fillets with tartar sauce at some point. But when I got up this morning I was feeling pretty yukky. I took a shower. Dry heaving from the taste of toothpast in the back of my mouth didn't exactly settle my stomach. I thought about making some scrambled eggs, but, while my stomach was empty and hungry, I was also kinda on the verge of dry heaving again. Sorry for the details. I lied down for a nap.

Anywho, today was day 2 the 19th annual Fairfield County Irish Festival. Lawruh came by to pick me up at around 1:30 or so. I had to get some food in me or pretty soon I was not going to be able to stand up anymore. Weak and light-headed, we stopped at McDonald's. I got a double cheeseburger, small fires and a coffee. My first mistake was forgetting to say "hold the mustard".

I got through half of the burger and gave up. The mustard was just too sickening a taste for my gag reflex to tolerate. My second mistake was trying to drink the coffee. I hadn't had a cup of coffee in about two months and the acidity was too much for me. I drank less than half of it. Then I knew that I could go no further until I had a large liter-sized bottle of ice cold water. Oh, that hit the spot.

We got to the Festival at about 2:45 and, lemme tell ya, that's one long steep hill between the parking area and the festivities. Sister the Elder had already arrived and she foundd us right away. Cousin B couldn't join us, unfortunately, as he was in Virginia to attend a graduation ceremony.

Hungry and weak, but still pretty queazy, I decided not to try to eat anything else yet. We looked around the merchandise tent. Books, CDs, clothes, jewelry and all sorts of other Irishy stuff. Didn't buy anything, of course.

The Fairfield Gaelic Pipe Band was great, as always. Even though the main tent was pretty huge and had open walls, when you get a dozen or so bagpipers blasting away it's pretty darn loud. Add the pounding of the snares and bass drums and it's quite an experience.

Then one of my favorite bands, The Highland Rovers, played for about an hour and a half. Great music. I decided to try and eat something, but all I ended up getting was a cup of watermelon Italian ice. Very tasty.

The highlight of the day is almost always the dancers from the Lenihan School of Irish Dance. They come out in seperate groups based on age and experience and their outfits -- especially the younger girls' -- are adorable. The dancers range in age from about 9 to late-teens, but there are also the "veterans". The oldest of them seemed to be in her 60s. Seeing Riverdance on tape is fine, but it can't compare to seeing the dancers up close and personal with their shoes pounding in unison on the hardwood platform.

I finally got down a slice of pizza and a Pepsi and was beginning to feel better. Then the air got very heavy and humid. It wasn't a hot day today. It was overcast and actually kind of cool. Humidity like that just saps my energy anyway and my blecchy condition was exacerbated a bit.

Anyway, we looked around some more and sampled another band in another tent. Sister the Elder wanted to by me a ring for my birthday, but the ones I liked didn't fit well. So, eventually, we decided to call it a day. I finally had some dinner a little while ago; a chicken pot pie. Feeling much better now.

All things considered, I had a good time at the Irish Festival. If you're there next year, look for me, I'll be there. I'll be the guy wearing a green shirt.

Posted by Tuning Spork at 10:55 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

June 02, 2006


My landlady wants to do a "walk-through" on Sunday just to be sure that the house is in good condition. Well, as good as a condition that it ever was, anyway. So Im trying to give room a good spring cleaning.

Unfortunately, its been very muggy the past few days and everytime I lift a finger I begin to sweat. We had a downpour last night which cooled things off a bit. But now the humidity is rising again and I just heard some thunder rumbling in the distance. Its not as bad today as it was yesterday, but its still pretty uncomfortable to move heavy boxes of record albums from the upstairs to the downstairs.

Whew. Still a long way to go, too. Cold water, thats the ticket. Lots of cold water.

Posted by Tuning Spork at 01:59 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 16, 2006

Of piss and moan

If you own a home then you probably receive a quarterly water bill. At least, you do if you own a home in Connecticut.

So anyway, one fine evening a bunch of us were having conversation over dinner when -- and I don't remember how it came up -- my buddy Tex Kaliber, who learned everything he knows about plumbing from his father, said, "When you think about it, every bathroom in every home in America is a ladies' room.".

His wife, Ta'dah!, gasped, "Whaddaya mean?!"

Tex said, "Well, a 'men's room' oughta have a urinal."

Ta'dah! said, "But do you really want a urinal in our bathroom?"

Tex said, "Oh, I'd LOVE to have a urinal in our bathroom."

Ta'dah! said, "Ewww! Why?!"

Tex said, "Because it takes a pint-and-a-half of water to flush a urinal. It takes TWO GALLONS to flush a toilet."

Ta'dah! looked away sheepishly and said, "Oh. Yeah..."

Maybe, if we had urinals in our bathrooms, we could all save on our water bills and, finally, quit having to appologize for leaving the seat up. Just a thought.

Posted by Tuning Spork at 10:41 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

May 15, 2006

My Cat The Puppy

Stinky is that rare cat that actually comes when you call him. He also has a habit of getting lost if we let him roam around outside. (Well, it's not really a "habit" -- it's only happened three times in the past four years.) About two weeks ago it was dinner time and no Stinky in sight. Stinky never misses dinner. Housemate Chris found him -- after a half-hour search -- about fifteen houses away on the long street a block south of us. So, we have a new rule: Do not let Stinky outside alone.

Yesterday afternoon I let the dog out and, as usual, Stinky came running and slipped out and onto the back porch. Since he hadn't been outside in -- to my knowledge -- a few days, I let him walk around the side of the house and up the pathway toward my landlady's house. He stopped to try and chew on some long blades of grass. (Since he has no teeth it was an act of pure optomism...) I leaned over and petted him just to discourage him from trotting off to parts unknown. Once you start petting him he'll never want it to stop.

Chris was arriving home and coming down the driveway toward the pathway and gave me a look that said "Oooookay, just don't him out of your sight...". I said "Do you wanna take him in?". He said "Are you leaving?". I said "Just going around the corner to the deli." Chris called "Come on, Stinky, this way." Stinky looked up at me and asked "Meow?". I pointed and tried to get him to follow Chris but he wasn't understanding that. So I basically walked him back down the pathway to the front door and guided him in. Then I went to the store.

There's that old phrase: "This is like herding cats." Well, if all cats were like Stinky, herding cats would be as easy as cutting cheese.

Mmmmmmmmm. Cheeeeeese...

Posted by Tuning Spork at 07:52 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 24, 2006

Monday, Monday pt 1

The last time I locked my keys in the car was nearly 20 years ago. I had only one set and stoopitly locked the door with the keys still in the ignition. I don't even remember how I got the door open. I seem to remember asking a cop to use his Slim Jim to open it and he may have done it. So, from then on out, and through three more vehicles over the years, I always made sure that I had two sets of car keys on me at all times.

I've had the new (to me) car on the road for a couple of weeks now and I've been meaning to get over to Home Depot to have a second set of keys made. But I just haven't found myself over near Home Depot yet so I was still, as of this morning, driving around with only one set.

Then it happened. At about 8:30am I had arrived back at the house from a little shopping. One of the purchases was a bottle of transmission fluid. On Saturday my uncle told me the car had a slow transmission leak and that I should check it very soon. So, I bought the fluid. The manual in the glove compartment said that I should check it while the engine is idling and warmed up, but not too hot. So I left the key in the ignition, released the hood, grabbed the bottle and exited the car. I, of course, instinctively and out of pure reflex, locked the door. With the keys inside. And the engine running.


I stood there staring at the car from top to bottom and side to side to see if there was some way that I wasn't seeing to open that door. Or a window. Or to climb through the hatch. Anything. Nothing.

I went inside and called my cousin to see if he has a second set of keys that he forgot to give me. Nope.

I looked around the house, through several rooms, looking for anything that I could use as a makeshift Slim Jim. I don't even have any wire hangers in my closet.

But I then found a metal shish kabob skewer in one of the kitchen drawers. Ah HA! It was long and had a loop at the end. I pried open the loop at bit so that it could catch whatever it needs to catch in order to raise the lock.

I managed to get the thing in between the door and the window, but I couldn't turn it to reach into the cavity. I could only move it up and down parallel to whatever mechanism is hidden in there. So, I tried the passenger side door. I was able, with difficulty, to turn the loop 90 degrees, but I wasn't catching anything. "Good kharma, c'mon," I thought. "Think positive thoughts...fortune favors the foolish..." I then tried to force the window down, but that wasn't gonna happen. I didn't want to smash a window, but I couldn't just let it run until the gas ran out. There was 3/4 of a tank in there.

Then I saw the back window. If you know them old 2-door hatchbacks, the back windows down roll down, they swing outward at the back, connected to a latch. I put my open-faced palms on the window and found that I could move it around. Turns out that the bottom bolt at the front end of the window was broken and there was some play at the back -- the side that opens out. When I pushed the window up, the latch would drop to open a bit, but not enough to get it open.

So I grabbed the shish kabob skewer and pulled the window out just far enough to get the skewer inside. Up it reached, grabbed the latch and pulled it open. YES!!! But the window only opens up about 2 1/2 inches at the rear and tapers to next to nothing at the hinged front. The door lock button thingy is, of course, on the other side of the rear window's hinge.

But, luckily, I've got long skinny arms. I took off my coat, took off my sweater, rolled up my left sleeve and stuck my arm into the car. Pushing and pushing my arm forward with the window pressuring my arm at that thinner area between the shoulder muscle and the bicep, I managed to finally reach the lock button and pull it up. The door was unlocked! I opened it and turned the engine off. It had sitting there idling for about half an hour at that point.

Testing the transmission fluid would have to wait a while.

To be continued...

Posted by Tuning Spork at 01:59 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 21, 2006

Now she tells me

So I go to the bank this morning to cash an unemployment check and the teller asks me if I have an account with that bank and I say "no" and she says that she needs two forms of I.D. and I say "that's new" and she says to me she says "no, sir, it's not, it's been bank policy since July of 2005". They never asked me for two forms of I.D. before. I can't use a debit card or an expired credit card so I am now the humble possessor of 3 dollars in cash and two checks that I can't cash. Bummer.

Posted by Tuning Spork at 10:53 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

March 31, 2006

On The Road Again...

Yep, the nightmare is over. I finally got the car on the road yesterday. The most amazing thing about yesterday was that it went so smoothly.

One nice new thing that started this week: The buses now give out what they call a "Zip Trip pass". Unlike the old transfers that you use only once (and never on the same busline that issued it), the new Zip Trip pass can be used over and over again on any bus for the 90 minutes after it was issued. Rather than insert it into the fare box and watch it disappear, you swipe it like a credit card and get to keep it.

I got on the southbound #4 at 1:17. My Zip Trip pass is good 'til 2:47.

I got downtown at 1:30, hopped on the northbound #8 at 1:35, got to my aunt's place of employment at 1:45, she notarized my form and I was out the door by 1:55. I got back on the #8 southbound at about 2:15 and arrived downtown just in time to catch the #12 at 2:30. Four bus rides for the price of a single $1.50 fare. Sweeeeeet.

I arrived at the DMV at about 2:45 and, amazingly, there was only a little over an hour of sitting around time before my number was called. I'd fully expected another glitch, such as having to put the car through an inspection before I could register it. But, nope, everything was in order and I was out the door five minutes later. Sweeeeeet.

So, I left the DMV at about 3:55, was on the #12 at 4:15, got downtown at 4:30, hopped on the #4 at 4:40 and got home at about 5:00.

I put the new plates on the car and turned the key. No go. The battery was weak. I'd left it sitting there for about three weeks straight without starting it up, and when I first put it there it was bitterly cold. So my housemate gave me a jump and all was right with the world.

I decided that the first place to go was to Massimo's Pizza. I hadn't been there in a couple of years 'cause it's on the other side of town. In fact, it's around the corner from the DMV. I headed on over and made the crosstown trip in seven minutes. Sweeeeeeeet.

And oh what a day it was today for an afternoon drive with the window down. Now all I gotta do is get some money coming in. I mean, the car's a nice place to sit and drive around in, but I wouldn't wanna live there.

Posted by Tuning Spork at 07:03 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

March 28, 2006

Yet Another Wasted Day in the ol' Gettin' the Car on the Road Saga

So, I took the bus downtown and transfered to the Main Street bus to visit my aunt at work so's she could notarize a form that I need to bring to the DMV so's I can finally be on the road today.

She wasn't working today.

Rather than take the bus back downtown and transfer to take another bus back north again, I decided to walk westward home. Took an hour and a half.

Actually, it took two hours because I stopped at the supermarket.

Mmmmmm, foooood.

Posted by Tuning Spork at 08:27 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 24, 2006

Franz Kafka Is Writing My Life

So anyway, I left the house on Wednesday at "1:30pm" to catch the 1:45 (give or take a few) Park Avenue bus downtown to catch the #12 bus that passes by the Department of Motor Vehicles. The bus ran "a few minutes late" and got downtown at 2:36. Huh? Oh, yeah: My watch is now running 25 minutes slow. Okay, the thing is old, but it's digital. Aren't these things supposed to just fade away, not slow down?

Anyway, I had no idea what the #12 schedule was, so I checked the bulletin board. A bus just left at 2:30 and the next one doesn't leave 'til 3:10. I grabbed a quick bite at McDonald's (yecch!) and caught the 3:10 at 3:20.

I arrived at the DMV at about 3:45 and grabbed the two forms I'd need to fill out -- one of which my cousin has to sign. I hopped on the return trip of the #12, made the connection downtown to the Coastal Link and headed out to the other side of town where my cousin works. That's the Black Rock section of town, for those in-the-know.

My cousin signed the Bill of Sale but, since the DMV closes at 4:30 on Wednesdays, it was hopeless to try and get back there in time even though I could've prolly made it to the insurance place in time. (The insurance place is only a five minute walk from the DMV.) So I grabbed a pizza and went home.

On Thursday (yesterday) I left the house at 12:30 (real time, not by my watch, btw) and headed downtown to catch the 1:10 #12. But the bus was late and we got into the terminal just as the #12 was pulling out. The next one was scheduled to leave at 2:30, so I grabbed some lunch at McDonald's (yecch!) and worked on the crossword puzzle in the local anarchist rag The Fairfield Advocate County Weekly. No biggie, really. The DMV is open 'til 7:00pm on Thursdays. Plenty of time. Ple-e-e-e-nty of time...

I arrived at the insurance place with Bill of Sale in hand at about 2:45. After much confusion over what I was quoted on Monday, we finally got the policy up and running. The only other hitch was that I had gotten the policy for an '85 Chevy but the VIN came back saying it was an '84. Whatever. Off to the DMV I went to register the car.

I walked up to the service desk and said "I need a number so's I can register a vehicle." She said, "I need to see your paperwork." I showed her the Bill of Sale and the Registration Form and she said "Where's the Title?" I said "I don't need a Title." She said "Why don't you need a Title?" I said "Because the car is 22 years old." She said "You need a Title for all cars '81 and newer." I said "....." She said "Take a form from bin 15 and have the seller fill it out and sign it. It'll be $25 to create a new Title." I said "But we called ahead and were assured that we only needed a Bill of Sale." She said "Well, I don't know who you talked to, but all cars '81 and up need a Title." I said "......" She said "Have a nice day. Next!"

So I grabbed the form and hopped the #12 bus back to the terminal to connect to the Coastal Link to get back to Black Rock to have my cousin sign the "New Title Form". Did I mention that each of these connections comes with a complimentary 30-minute standing around time? I arrived at my cousins place of employment at about 4:15. I wanted him to quickly sign the "New Title Form" so's I could get right back outside and catch the next bus back downtown and catch the 5:10 #12 'cuz if I didn't catch the 5:10 I'd have to wait for the 6:30 and the DMV closes at 7:00. All would lost and I'd have to complete the mission on Friday (today). He signed it and I left and caught the next bus after only about a 10 minutes wait. (The Coastal Link runs every 20 minutes during morning and afternoon rush hours.)

I got back downtown at about 4:50, so I had a good 20 minutes of girl-watching time. One young guy walked up to me and said "Dude, do you wanna get drunk with me?" "What's that?" "I need someone to get drunk with. My girlfriend kicked me out of the apartment. All my clothes are there. I can't even get a picture off the wall..." He told me a little more of his story with a mix of frustration and humor. Oh, I'd love to join ya, man, but I still a long way to go yet today."

I got on the #12 and arrived at the DMV at about 5:25. I got in line and took a number. My number was D-728. They were currently up to D-671. After 45 minutes they were all the way up to D-683. 12 numbers called in 45 minutes and only 45 numbers in 45 minutes to go before it was my turn. I left. I figured I'd just head on back this morning and finally get it done.

But, as I rode back downtown I looked over my paperwork just to have something to read. Then I saw it. Neither I nor my cousin noticed it earlier. Just below his signature, and right above the "Department Use Only" section, was a space for the signature of a Notary Public. My cousin needs to sign this in the presence of a Notary. This form is no @#$% good.

So, the plan for Friday would have to be: Catch the Park Avenue bus downtown, connect to the #12 and go back to the DMV, grab a fresh "New Title Form", catch the #12 back downtown, connect to the Coastal Link and get across town to Black Rock, meet my cousin on his lunch break at some place with a Notary Public on hand, get it signed and stamped, buy him lunch, catch the Coastal Link back downtown, connect to the #12 and get to the DMV in time to get a number that might actually be called before they close at 4:30. Yeah, right. And I might as well drop off some dry cleaning and learn semaphore while I'm at it.

So, I wasted some time trying to actually find a Notary Public. Shouldn't banks be required to have one on hand? I think so. Oh, by the way: If you want to speak to a live person, don't call Bank of America. Ever.

Not having found a Notary, I phoned my cousin an hour-and-a-half ago just to inform him that the form he signed yesterday was no good because we need it Notarized. He said that his mother does that. He's a-gonna get in touch with her and get back to me soonly. I hope. As I write, the DMV closes in an hour, so today is a bust. But, if I give the form to my cousin tomorrow and my aunt can stamp it on Sunday, I can head out to Black Rock Tuesday morning (DMV is closed on Mondays) and get to the DMV and be on the road Tuesday afternoon -- only eight days after I started this project.

Oh, yeah. Piece o' cake. Easy as pie.

Shoot me.

UPDATE: My aunt will be stopping by on Sunday afternoon to stamp the form so I should be on the road on Tuesday afternoon. Yay! Now I'm gonna go catch the bus to the supermarket and get some grub. I think Im in a lasagna mood today. Yum.

UPDATE 2: My aunt will NOT be stopping by this afternoon 'cause, apparantly, my uncle is riding her ass about doing some house cleaning or something. But she works in town and I can stop by and have her stamp the form tomorrow afternoon and get to the DMV, as planned, on Tuesday. Oy.

Posted by Tuning Spork at 03:50 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 20, 2006

Sick and Tired of Being Sick and Tired

So anyway, I couldn't make it to the bank downtown before it closed on Saturday. So, even though I had money in PayPal, money from my aunt at my sister's house and some unemployment benefits checks that finally arrived on Friday, I had no cash and no real food in the house. I lived on spaghetti and bananas on Saturday and Sunday afternoon while I defrosted some chicken breasts that have been in my freezer since last spring.

Once they were thawed enough to allow me to remove that plasticy/papery thingamagig they put in the package to absorb moisture (I presume), I put them in the oven. I ate one at about 10 o'clock last night and put the other two in the fridge. By midnight I wasn't feeling so hot so I went to bed.

I woke up at 6:30 and hurled. Then I went back to bed.

My sister was coming over this morning so we could visit the bank, go to City Hall so I could pay some back property taxes, get car insurance and go to the DMV to register my car. She phoned at about 9:30 but I was in no condition to get up and answer the phone.

I hit the shower at about 11:30 and, while brushing my teeth, hurled some more. If we had unlimited hot water I'd have just lied down in the tub and napped for a while.

I phone my sister a little while after that and she came by. We hit the bank and City Hall, but I desperately needed something to eat before we did anything else, so we stopped at a diner. I had scrambled eggs, toast, home fries, coffee and some bacon that I chipped a tooth on. She had chicken and rice soup and a chocolate milk.

After attempting to start up insurance I found out that I needed to actually own the car first. So we went to the DMV. It's closed on Mondays. So much for getting on the road today. My sister dropped me off at the supermarket. I got some groceries and took the bus home.

So, tomorrow morning I'm taking the bus downtown and catching the connection to the bus that goes to the DMV where I'll pick up the neccessary paperwork to transfer ownership of the car. Then I'll take two more buses out to where my cousin works and have him sign on the dotted line. Then I'll take two buses back to the insurance place and start the policy. Then I'll walk to the DMV and register the damn thing and get my plates. Then I'll take two buses home and put the plates on the car. Then I'll fire it up and maybe go for a spin.

Wednesday I'll actually be able to apply for jobs that aren't on a bus line. Yay! All of my applications so far were done online and I haven't received a single callback in two weeks. Booooo!

It's almost 6 o'clock and I'm only just now beginning to feel normal again. Needless to say, I wont be eating the rest of the chicken. I wish I could take a nap, but I've never been able to. Once I'm up in the morning, I'm up until I go to bed at night. Oh, well. Time to start dinner. Pork chops, carrots and a baked potato.

Maybe I'll make some gingerbread later.



Posted by Tuning Spork at 05:52 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 10, 2006

What a day!

A few days ago it was the dead of winter. For months it's been either cold or colder. For the past week or so the temperature has hovered right around freezing -- which isn't too bad considering it's wintertime. Everytime I looked at my weather pixie it was somewhere between 2C and -2C.

During the past couple of days, however, the temperature has been up around 6C pretty consistently. Yesterday it went as high as 9C. That's about 48F.

Then, today, I watched the temperature climb about 10C. Then 14C. At about 5:00pm the temperature was up to 16C -- about 61F.

Then the sun went down. It got even warmer! I refreshed my page and saw that it was 20C -- 68F!


Oh, yeah. That's it, baby! Don't stop now...!

Posted by Tuning Spork at 01:54 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 02, 2006

Unplanned hiatus

Sorry for the non-posting this week. I've been a bit preoccupied with kinda sorta needing a job.

Yep. As of 3:30, Friday afternoon, I've been unemployed.

Bossman hired a second pressman last week. The first job he ran he had to re-run because he "didn't like 'em" the first time. The job was delivered late. There were other problems throughout the week -- mainly mechanical in nature. I showed up Thursday and Bossman had me rush to re-do another job, some pads where NewGuy ran the ink way too heavy and, not only was the color way off, they "offset" in the cutter (the image was left on the reverse of the sheets). Then NewGuy ran a big 5-part NCR (carbonless form) in 3-colors. They were all crooked. Severely crooked, imho. But, I got the ax.

Why? Bossman says he needs a guy who can run the presses and take over management of the office area while Bossman is out drumming up business. He thinks I don't have the set skills even though that was never discussed with me. I think that the main reason, however, is that Bossman wanted someone who he knew could be at work at 8:30 sharp every day. Being that I was at the mercy of the bus schedule, my arrival time would vary a bit. Whatever. He said he hated to lose me but he just can't afford us both right now.

The irony is that, after I left on Friday, I had to come back at 5:00 as my sister was picking me up so we could head over to my cousins house and pick up the car that he's trying to give to me so that I can start working normal hours with no long-ass commute that saps my energy. They say timing is the most important element of good comedy.

So, I'm in the hunt. No leads yet.

Oh, and the car? It's sitting at the curb across the street right now with a red sticker on it. I need to get it onto private property tonight or it may be gone by tomorrow morning. Then I need to come up with a lotta cash in order to get it on the road. (Insurance, registration, plates, back property taxes, etc. Could top 500 bucks.)

So, on we go. Hey, at least it's snowing!

Posted by Tuning Spork at 06:18 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

February 12, 2006

Snowy snowy day

We've got snow galore and it's still falling. I went to the deli around the corner to get a steaming hot cup of coffee. Good java flows like lava. Unfortunately, it's been so quiet that Teresa didn't bother to refresh the urn. The only other patron was an elderly man buying scratch-off lottery tickets. Teresa threw a cup of some of what was left of the coffee into the microwave and gave it to me FOC. Not a great cup o' joe but, still, it's better than instant.

"Do you have snow at your house?" she asked me with a smile in her thin Lebanese accent. "Oh, no," I said. "we're all clear over there." "No snowstorm down the street?" she giggled. "Nah, we just missed it, I guess." I was hoping to see some neighborhood kids out building a snow sphinx or something. Alas, perhaps it's still kind of early.

I love how quiet it gets when snow is falling; the puffy globular flake cakes insolating the air against ambient sound muting all but the most deliberate noise. The sounds of what few cars there were on the road were actually more noticable even though they were muffled. No wind, just a breeze, no rustling in the trees. The snow is too fresh and light even to crunch under my boots. Pretty good for packing, though, even if it's impossible to flick off a decent slider.

There's about six inches on the ground right now and more is piling on. Snow-covered snow, that's the ticket. The front porch's steps were a white slope giving no hint that beneath the shroud of crystalized raindrops there was actually a contour of alternating 8-inch-long right angles. At least, not until I walked down the stairs. It's relatively warm out, too. I guess falling snow could be considered a greenhouse gas if it were a gas. And if I had some bacon I could have some bacon and eggs if I had some eggs.

A deep fresh coat of snow softens all forms 'til even the harshest car and truck chasis' look as aerodynamic as minivans. And you can't leave your footprint in it, you can only leave a deep ill-defined depression kinda like when my ex refused to take her meds. I live on a small dead end street and we're always the last street to get plowed. Walking down the middle of the road is like walking through shin-deep water; you gotta lift your feet knee-high with every step and, essentially, stomp your way down the street.

I just went around the corner again to fetch some tea bags. The elderly gentleman was still scratching tickets. Well... what else is there to do on a snow day? I'd like to just sit here all day and enjoy some hot tea with milk and honey. If only I had some honey.

Posted by Tuning Spork at 12:10 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 18, 2006


So anyway, the fan in my computer stopped working some time ago. I took off the cover to let it air out as it ran.

About two months ago, the dang thing started having trouble booting up. The last time I did a shut down, it took about two hours of turning it on and off before it finally booted up, so I decided that it'd better just leave it on 'cuz if I turned it off it might never start up again.

Well, at some point yesterday my housemate, Chris, noticed that I'd left my computer on. He likes to save as much as possible on the utility bills, so he did us all a huge favor and shut my computer down and turned it off.

It's dead. Fried. Will not resusitate. @#$% you very much, Chris.

So, until I can get a new 'puter, I am decidedly off-line. No blogging, no surfing, no email, no nuttin'. Hopefully, Honorary Sister Lawruh can come up with a processor that can we can load my harddrive and disk drives into very soon. Don't know how long it'll be, though. Maybe a few days, maybe a few weeks, maybe never. Who knows.

So, 'til then, y'all take care o'yourselves, y'heah?

I'll be bahk.

Posted by Tuning Spork at 11:51 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 25, 2005

Well, they say Life is in the journey, not the arrival...

My plan was simple: Hop on the Park Avenue bus at around 12:45, catch the Coastal Link at 1:00, grab some stuff and money at Stop & Shop at about 1:20 (they're open 'til 2:00), be at my sister's house at around 1:45 and head on over to Gramma's at around 2:30-3:00.

So, I left the house at 12:30 and got to the bus stop at 12:35 -- about 8-to-10 minutes before the bus would arrive. I waited. And waited. And waited some more. No bus.

At 1:10 the bus passed heading north. Now, according to the Sunday/Holiday schedule, it's 'sposed to leave downtown heading north on the hour, and to leave Trumbull Shopping Park heading south on the half-hour. There's no way that driver left downtown ten minutes before he drove by me. Was my watch all f'koktah?

Knowing that he would leave the mall at 1:30, I expected him to be at my stop between 1:42 and 1:47. At 1:31 -- 55 minutes after I'd gotten to the bus stop -- he came rolling up.

I got on the bus, paid my fare and got a time-stamped transfer. "1:31pm".

I said to the driver, "Do you know that you're running 10-to-15 minutes ahead of schedule?"

"Yes," he replied. "The mall is closed today, I am just making the rounds, I am way ahead of schedule, I know."

I just kinda stared at him for a few moments, then took my seat.

After about 30 seconds I got up and walked up to him again. "Um, WHY are you ahead of schedule?".

"Yes, I am ahead of schedule," he nonchallantly explained in his thick Jamaican accent. "About 10 minutes."

**blank stare**

"Why?" I asked with some exasperation.

"Trumbull Mall is closed today," he smiled, "I cannot park in front of somebody's house, so I am making the round trip. Do you see?"

"U-u-u-u-h...." I stammered. "It's just some people are trying to catch the bus, y'know?"

"Yes," he laughed, "I know."

I got on the 2:00 Coastal Link which left at 2:12 and arrived at Stop & Shop at 2:30 -- half an hour after it closed. I couldn't get any food, money or, worst of all, cigarettes! I had three cigarettes left and I nursed them for the next five hours. Luckily my cousin smokes and he gave me two throughout the evening at Gramma's.

Luckily one of my gifts included cash and I was able to get some smokes on the way home, otherwise I wouldn't have had any 'til sometime tomorrow afternoon. Also, my aforementioned cousin bought me a pack as a Christmas gift. Heh. Thanks, Bri!!!

Oh, Christmas! We had a wonderful time over at Gramma's. She laughed when I told her that I received her Christmas card in the mail and it was signed Aunt Kay rather than Grandma. I told that one of her nephews must've gotten a card from "Grandma".

But, later I asked Sister the Younger if she'd gotten a card from Gramma in the mail. She said "Yes". I asked her she signed it "Grandma". She said "No, she signed it 'Aunt Kay'." Hmmm.

Hope everybody had very merry Christmas!

Posted by Tuning Spork at 11:32 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 16, 2005

Oh, Great...

...My landldy's new live-in boyfriend is a convicted sex offender. Guilty of "risk of injury" and "corrupting the morals of a minor".

We all got the anonymous letter in the mail yesterday -- prolly sent to us all by her brother -- inparting this happy news.

Yes, Denise, your boy is scum.

She came by today to ask why Housemate Chris was parking his truck up the road.a bit. He didn't wanna tell her that it was because child molesters are not easy to be associated with. He just said "because I parked it there" or something.

She seems to be insisting that it was all a misunderstanding. She believes him. Mind you, she asked her pastor, beforehand, if it was okay for her to take him into her home. I have no idea how THAT conversation went. She's blinded by Love or something that feels like it...

The reason Chris parked his truck up the road is that he doesn't want rocks being thrown through it's windows. Neighbors have a way of not tollerating predators, y'know.


Well................... Maybe she was 15 but looked 19 and said she was 21. But he was 31 when convicted, which means that he was well aware of their difference in age and -- even if he wasn't thinking too hard -- might've wondered a bit longer about that than he did. I dunno.

Posted by Tuning Spork at 01:52 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

December 13, 2005

@#$%! I'm blind again

I, um, seemed to have lost my glasses. Okay, I know that they were on the window sill when I got up this morning and that I took them into bathroom with me for my shower. I remember putting them in my shirt pocket, but when I reached for them at work, they were gone.

My best working theory right now is that theu dlipped out of my shirt pocket when I grabbed my cigarettes either at the Perk Avenue bus stop, at the bus terminal, or where I get off the bus in Milford. If that happened then they would have fallen in between my shirt and sweater, and then would have slipped out and fallen to the ground somewhere. Grrrrrr.

I'll have to call the bus company's Lost & Found iffice in the morning and/or retrace my steps from this morning in hopes that they're lying somewhere where I can see them. Hopefully they'll be neither broken nor scratched up.

I wont be doin' too much reading tonight. :(

Posted by Tuning Spork at 06:57 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

December 03, 2005

Life and Times and Stuff

So anyway, Old Boss came by Friday to pick up some letterhead. He may be retired but he's still involved in things like the Boy Scouts and the Sons of the American Revolution.

"So, how are ya doing, Bob?" he asked.

"Oh, fine. How are YOU?" I asked right back at him.

"Great! You can't beat doin' nothin'!

"Yeah?" I challenged. "Yer not bored stiff yet?"

He looked away with a grin, searching for a response. It seemed t'me that I'd either hit him where it hurt or made him realized something that he already knew.

"Oh, I came close a couple of times," he smiled. "I'm finally taking on a few projects that I'd been putting off for years. And every morning, before she goes to work, Liz leaves me a little 'To Do' list..."

Ol' Maurice (who is not 'Old Boss') was an octogenerian who worked in the Caldor mailroom until some 14 years ago. All of us younger guys assumed that he did it 'cuz needed the money. After he died we read his obituary. He was a freakin' millionaire who, among other things, owned a newspaper in (I believe) Puerto Rico. He wasn't working because he needed the money, he was working to keep busy; to still be a part of this old world of his.

It's nice to sleep in every morning. It's even nicer to have a reason to get up in the morning.

I have a dear friend from my college days who, due to a mental/emotion disability can't hold a job. She goes to sleep at dawn and gets up in the late afternoon. Other than her therapist appointments she has no reason to get up every day. I've tried to tell her to find a hobby that drags her out of the house -- preferably at an early hour -- so that she wont forget what sunlight is. She can't do it and that's probably the biggest reason why I haven't spoken to her in over two years.

Then there's my grandmother. She'll be 89 years old this spring and she still finds ways to keep busy. Whether it's writing online or teaching Sunday School, she refuses to do nothing. However, occassionally, she says things like "I'm ready to go at any time" and "well, my life doesn't have the meaning that it pnce did...". But she's still alive and so she makes every day a day worth living.

Retirement? Bah! Oh, from the daily grind? Yeah, sure. But from the wild whacky world of busy living? Never!

Old Boss will be back for envelopes some day soon because, if for no other reason, it'll keep him busy. Yay!

Posted by Tuning Spork at 09:34 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 29, 2005

Cat vs. Cat

We have two cats: Stinky and Batcat. Batcat has recently come to be addressed as Pesky -- and Stinky doesn't stink anymore since he lost all of his teeth.

Batcat became so named because of her ability and propensity to catch and kill bats in the basement. Stinky is...well... You just can't say no to stinky. He follows me around, fercryingoutloud. More dog-like than cat-like.

We took them both in when they were feral during a cold winter about five years ago.

The difference between them is that Batcat always watches my feet. She has undoubtedly been stepped on at some point in her younger years. Stinky, on the other hand, fully trusts me to step around him.

While Batcat seems to be pertpetually nervous and a little jumpy, Stinky is always calm and dismissive of danger. Batcat watches me closely. Stinky trusts me completely.

I always know when Stinky is nearby, but I don't always notice Batcat. Odd, that...

Posted by Tuning Spork at 11:22 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Work and Sleep and Work and Sleep and...

I don't mind being busy. I just mind being so busy with whackadoodle jobs that require rediculous color washes and finding new ways to run self-seal envelopes that my press was not designed to run.

Tomorrow I'll be runnoing gold ink. @#$% GOLD INK! Oh, I've done that plenty of times. The way that metalic ink manages to find a way into every crevass of the press is truely inspiring. But, then I hafta go back to black and then to brown. Wouldn't it make more sense to go from brown to black? Yeah. But that's not the order in which the jobs were promised.

I don't mind being busy. But I do mind being so busy that the only way to get everything done is to skip lunch everyday. 3 o'clock and I haven't eaten since breakfast and I still have three hours of work to do before 5.

If this is the future then New Boss really needs to finally get a system in place. Seven months on and it's still all in our heads. No paper trail; no structure; no system.

One of the first complaints New Boss made to me was that -- through his travels among the Lost Clients -- he'd learned that Old Boss was a disorganized.

Meet the new boss...

Posted by Tuning Spork at 10:14 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

November 27, 2005

I made a boner, but it was okay.

Sometime after Thanksgiving dinner my grandmother, my mother, my sister and I played a game of Scrabble. My mother put down the word BONER. Uhhh.. ma? "A boner is a mistake, y'know? Like 'to make a boner'." I believe she scored 9 points as my nephew giggled and my sister said to him "Shhh, we know what it means".

So, we got together last night (Saturday) at a fancyish restaurant with some family that couldn't make it to Thanksgiving dinner. At one point my grandmother mentioned to my aunt that we'd had a great time on Thursday and that we'd played Scrabble. My aunt, for some reason, asked me if we put down a lot of dirty words. I told her that my mother put one down but that she didn't know it. "It's a word with a couple of meanings, one of which is kinda dirty," I told her.

Well, of course my aunt (who is my mother's younger sister) wanted to find out what the word was. My aunt's date locked eyes with me in hopes that I'd clue him in. I mouthed the word to him. Word apparantly got back, via my aunt, to mom.
"You mean there's another meaning?" my mother asked her. My aunt must have told her quietly because my mother roared!

"No," Gramma insisted, "a boner is a mistake!" It's pretty funny to hear your mother and grandmother discussing the word boner loudly across a large table in a fancyish restaurant. Ooops. More giggling ensued.

I'm still not sure if my grandmother ever learned the other meaning.

Posted by Tuning Spork at 04:17 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 24, 2005

Well, it looked like it might rain

Welp, for the first time since late last week something actually went right for a change. Sorta.

The ground was wet this morning, suggesting that it rained overnight. Or else we had a super dewy morning. So, I grabbed my umbrella and headed for the bus stop.

I ran into my landlady in the driveway and she sorta looked at me with puzzlement. "Is it supposed to rain today?"

"I dunno," I shrugged. She laughed and said "Oh, okay..." It was pretty overcast, but what little of the sky that I could see was blue, and the clouds were white, puffy and high. Looked to be a somewhat clear if chilly day ahead, I guessed.

At the bus terminal two other people asked me if I'd heard that it would rain today. "Nope," I said, noticing that I was the only one with an umbrella.

During the afternoon the sky was half clear blue and half puffy white. Then, at about 3:30, dark clouds came rolling in. The gal behind the counter at Dominoes looked out with semi-amazement. "Does it look like it's gonna rain?!" "Yeah, it kinda does."

At 6:20 I was on the last leg of my trip home and the rain started coming down. I walked the seven minutes home under my trusty umbrella while two others held their coats over their heads.

Sure, it was cold, dark and rainy. But, for a brief shining moment, I, the clueless, was prepared.

Posted by Tuning Spork at 07:40 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 19, 2005

Sad News

Ira was a Munuvian only for a very short time. But, even though his posts were too few, for me personally, they were a joy to read and are a treasure to keep. I am speaking of bbrother of Winter Songs.

I just received an email from his sister Leila which reads in part:

...[A]fter a long and rough fight, Ira finally died this morning. He was stronger than I ever realized and kept that defunked body of his going for way longer than it should have. He never gave in until his body just gave out.

I first met Ira about five years ago. He was one of the most delightful, fun, witty and welcoming men that I've had the good fortune to know. Professionaly, he was a school teacher.

Some months ago, after a near-fatal bout with complications stemming from his myriad physical challenges, he gave up blogging. He, let's just say, forgot how to blog.

His condition improved a bit and he was shipped down to Florida to await the opportunity to get a new liver. The process was slowed by more complications, however, that put him lower and lower on the waiting list once again.

Ira's long fight for more time to enjoy this wild, wacky, wonderful world came to an end this morning. He leaves behind his family and many many friends who adored him. In fact, he was scheduled to appear, via a video conference set-up, at his 25th high school reunion. His old friends will instead, no doubt, recount old stories about him. If nothing else, that'll be a testament to the difference he's made to so many others.

So long, Ira. You will be missed because... well... because you @#$%ing rule, Dude.

Posted by Tuning Spork at 07:49 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

October 14, 2005

Hey, Sky. Enough With the Rain Already!

I woke up several days ago and it was raining. It's been raining ever since! Stop raining, awright?! Take this show to Ethiopia or something -- they could use some of this!

Seriously, Sky, how long is this gonna go on? The animals are atartin' to walk around in pairs! My umbrella can keep my head and shoulders dry, but I'm workin' all day in soaking wet jeans and boots! The ground is so waterlogged that trees are keeling over!

In Connecticut, the ground was so soft because of the steady rain that trees toppled, blocking the railroad tracks in Naugatuck. Commuters were forced to take shuttle buses.

And I haven't even mentioned what's going on in New Hampshire and New Jersey!

Come on, Sky...Why? Just because you can? "I'm the big bad sky and I'll rain as long I want to and you can't stop me!" Fine! Be that way! Go on for a few MORE days with this incessant drizzling droning plippity-plippity shwish-shwoosh, yeesh!

Thunder? Now I hear thunder rolling!!!

Well........ I'm sorry, Sky. You can't help yourself. You're full water and you halfta just let it pour out. Been there, myself. HEY! I got an idea.....

[cue music as I slide across the floor with a umbrella cane and top hat and begins tap dancing and sings:]

Raindrops keep fallin' on my head
but that doesn't mean my eyes will soon be tur-nin' red
Cryin's not for me
I'm never gonna stop the rain by complainin'
Because I'm free-ee-ee-ee,
nothin's wor-ry-in' me-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e....

[Blows kisses to the applauding downpour]

Posted by Tuning Spork at 07:23 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

October 08, 2005

Post for a rainy day

RP is under the Chinese curse of living in interesting times, part of which is dealing with the inevitable though hopefully not imminent demise of his beloved grandfather. The question came up about whether it's worse, for those who'll remain, to deal with a sudden death or a long, slow deminishing of the health of those who are passing away. Hard to say -- they both have their positives and negatives. It's hard to watch someone deteriorate to their end, but at least we have a chance to say good-bye.

My maternal grandfather died suddenly when I was 14, and I've been thinking about him on this dreary drizzly day. I wish it would downpour and get it overwith -- I need to walk to the store.

My grandfather was my role model. Growing up without a father around left room for Grampa to do a lot of activities with us kids. Whether it was taking us to the beach or the amusement park, or just going to the airport to watch the planes take off and land and then stop at the A&W Root Beer stand for a root beer and a hot dog, it was always fun to be with him.

He once told me that the clouds make the wind. Huh? Yes. "You see how the clouds are moving through the sky?" "Uh-huh." "They move the air when they pass, that's where wind comes from." Everybody always said I was a bright kid, but I couldn't make sense of this seemingly reversed cause and effect. But, he was Grampa so I believed him.

While driving along some highways that run through steep rocky cliffs we'd occassionally see a sign along the road that read WATCH FOR FALLING ROCK. Grampa explained that Falling Rock was an Indian boy who wandered off one day and got lost. His tribe put up these signs so as to get everyone to keep an eye out for him. I don't remember if I believed that story, but I do remember telling it to my ex- one day as we were driving up to Vermont many years ago -- after which she caught me off-guard.

ME: ....and that's the story of Falling Rock.
HER: Who named him Falling Rock?
ME: His father.
HER: What was his father's name?
ME: [slight pause] Cliff.

I remember when my 3rd grade teacher, Miss Morgan, asked the class to write a short essay about our favorite person. I, of course, wrote about Grampa. She liked it so much that she read it to the class. Out loud. I think I was embarrassed, but maybe that was the day I first thought that I might be able to put two sentences together and make it readable. Still working on that to this day.

Every Sunday was spent at the grandparents' house. After church we headed on over and had lunch. In the summer it always a cook-out. We spent the day there, had a big dinner with various aunts uncles and cousins and great-grandparents, too. Grampa always had a one-liner for whereever the conversation went. Once he walked into the kitchen with a big blonde wig on his bald head and act like everything was normal. And I'll never forget those creepy glasses with the scary eyes painted on the lenses.. **shudder**

Anywho, it was a saturday evening in August of 1977 and Thoroughly Modern Millie was on TV. I'd never heard of it but my mother was excited to watch it. It didn't do much for me, but it had Mary Tyler Moore in it, so it wasn't too excruciating an experience. I sat on one side of the living room, SisterC was across the room on the sofa, my mother was in the "dining room" sitting on her bed.

SisterJ, who was 15 at the time, was in the kitchen on the phone, of course. Then she came over to Mom. "My call was interupted by the operator, she said that there was an emergency call coming in." A few seconds later the phone rang and my mother went back to answer it.

I watched a few more seconds of the movie, then turned to see what was going on. I couldn't hear what they were saying, but SisterJ was in tears, shocked, staring at my mother as if asking if it could possibly be true. Then she ran off to cry in her room; inconsolable.
She, of course, adored him.
After a minute or so my mother walked slowly toward the front living room, put her hands together and bent over slightly to rest on her knees and said -- almost matter-of-factly and with what seemed like a slightly awkward acceptence and inner peace -- "Grampa... just passed away." She turned and walked into the kitchen as SisterC and I just stared at each other for a moment.
I don't remember anything else about that night.

I got the story later. Grampa was sitting on the front porch while Gramma was in the kitchen. My cousin Bri, who was 7 at the time, was spending the day with our grandparents. Bri was in the living room when Grampa walked in through the front door, dropped to one knee and fell flat on the floor. No going peacefully in the night for him; he literally dropped dead in front of Bri.
Gramma came running in from the kitchen and tried to use CPR or something while shouting at Bri to get in the kitchen. Bri was hesitant and Gramma shouted louder "Get in the kitchen!". Bri always called Grampa "Papa" and, of course, adored him.

All I remember about the next day was being in Gramma's kitchen as she kept busy, and my uncle on the phone all afternoon. I can still see him and hear his voice as each call went essentially the same. Understanding that bad news is best delivered straight, he'd say "George? Hi, it's Tom Riley. Bad news, my father had a heart attack and passed away last night." Call after call, all afternoon, as Gramma worked and I sat at the table watching and listening and thinking about how the house seemed so different, as if half of it was torn off by a tornado and where the wall used to be was now the outdoors, wide open and just going about it's own business.

I remember how in the first days and weeks after he died, late at night or in quiet times, I felt like he was there with me. I don't remember how much I doubted that he was, or if I gave it a lot of thought. But I remember shortly afterward when Gramma told me "Sometimes I'm in bed at night and I feel like he's right there with me." I looked at her because I knew exactly what she meant and, maybe concerned that she'd said something creepy, she added "It doesn't scare me; we were close." Perhaps it's hardwired into us to feel the presence of the recently departed loved one. Maybe that's where the idea of afterlife comes from, y'know? Not just a fear of death, but a real sense -- an experience -- that has us believing that the dead aren't quite erased yet.

A blogger recently wrote that the meaning of live is to give life meaning. I think that our lives are most meaningful when we're with those we love; our fellow travelers. And even when the facts of life take away those we've come to know and love we'll always have them with us because they have, by definition, contributed to our own makeup; identity; selves. And often in ways that they, or we, were never aware of.

Posted by Tuning Spork at 04:22 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

October 05, 2005

Saw this in a local weekly rag... advice column written by some gal from the Washington Post featured a letter that included the sentence fragment "...and I'm not sure what to make of the signals I'm getting...".

It wasn't the only letter answered in the column, but it was obviously the inspiration for the cartoon that accompanied it:

Two young ladies are in a laundry room and the one on the left is staring blankly at the one on the right. The gal on the right is open-mouthed, cute, has a wonderfully teased curled mane and the caption reads:

UPDATE: Here 'tis:

bob cartoon012.jpg

The look of clueless wonder in her simple pencil-drawn eyes almost made me break down and cry.

Well, that and the fact that I gotta run two letterheads and envelopes plus some business cards in two-color process in two different color schemes tomorrow and one of 'em is so hairline it might well take a spider to produce it in less than ten hours...

Seriously, I'm calling a shop meeting tomorrow. New Boss has eliminated the old system and replaced it with chaos. We had a new client who ordered 12 different items (letterheads, envelopes, business cards, mailing labels, appointments cards, yougetthepicture..). These were all small orders; 500 of this, 250 of that, 100 of the rest, and I had to walk back to our graphics guy for each item piecemeal. WTF? Can't we print out the entire job and put it in a job box and hand it to me? I spent half the day pacing and waiting for the next episode of Oh! Do You Need That Now?

I am trying to construct a pneumatic memory curcuit using stone knives and bearskins. If New Boss even thinks of confronting me about how slow the work is getting done he will in for an earful.
I suppose that I seem like such an enigma to him right now.


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October 02, 2005

and on the flip side

In the dark ages, back when we bought vinyl 45s, it was the A-side that sold the record. But half the joy of the single was flipping it over and listening to the B-side.

Usually it was a piece of crap, but sometimes the B-side was actually better than the A-side.

I'm listening to a CD a burned a few years ago when I was selling my records online and wanted to record some of 'em before I shipped 'em off. Lots of these songs are '70s B-sides -- songs that weren't included on the album that the single was pulled from.

I liked Fleetwood Mac's Go Your Own Way alot, but it was the B-side -- Silver Springs -- that I wore out on my turntable. It wasn't included on the album Rumors. Rumors have it that Stevie Nicks wrote as response to Lindsay Buckingham's Go Your Own Way, so it's only fitting that they should be paired on the single.
Everybody knows Silver Springs nowadays, but there was a time when it seemed like I was the only one who ever turned that record over.

Elton John's duet with Kiki Dee, Don't Go Breaking My Heart, was a huge hit. But it was the B-side -- Snow Queen -- that I fell in love with. Neither song appeared on an Elton album at the time. If you ever get a chance to pick up a copy of Don't Go Breaking My Heart b/w Snow Queen, grab it. Elton and Kiki do a wonderfully delicate number that'll make ya swoooon.

The Ramones put out a single in '77 of their cover of Do You Wanna Dance. It'd never been played quite like THAT before, but it's the B-side -- Babysitter -- that is a truely wonderful listen.

Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers had a hit in '80 with Don't Do Me Like That. But the non-album-track B-side -- Casa Dega -- is the real gem on that record.

Any other great non-album B-sides I've missed?

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September 30, 2005

New Word of the Day

So anyway, I was doing a crossword puzzle on my way to work this morning. My morning paper has two crossword puzzles in it. One is somewhat challenging; the other is insultingly easy. When I got stuck on the challenging one, and I would be at my stop in less than ten minutes, I opted to solve the insultingly easy one.

This is the NEA Crossword Puzzle. It's not just that it has a lot of common words (no fun with puns allowed!), and a generous smattering of those words that seem to show up in every other puzzle you come across, it's that it's devoid of creative clue-giving. F'rinstance: The word is "JOAN". A clever clue might be "Rivers running at the mouth". But the NEA clue? "Singer Baez". Or, the word is "GLASS". A tricky clue might be "It might be painted". The NEA clue? "Beverage holder".

So, I was storming my way through the NEA puzzle when I came to the clue "Trinket". I was about to write BAUBLE, but figured I'd get a crossword or two in just to be sure.

I worked out all the crosswords. They fit like spoons in a kitchen drawer, but the word for "trinket" looked like nonsense: "GEWGAW". What the huh? I must've made a mistake somewhere. Nope. Everything's what it just has to be. But it can't be! What the @#$% is this GEWGAW?!

So, when I got to work I grabbed my trusty American Heritage paperback dictionary. Sho' 'nuff, there it is.

gew-gaw (gyoo'go') n. A trinket; bauble. [Orig. unknown.]

I must've solved thousands of crossword puzzles over the years and years. Leave it to the angeringly insulting NEA to be the first that I've seen with gewgaw in it.

Can a word be allowed to be a word when nobody uses says it?



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September 16, 2005

Oh crap

I just realized that I left a bag on the bus this morning. It contains, among other things, my checkbook. I deserve to be shot.

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September 03, 2005

The things you learn about the people you thought you knew...

[The beauty of being an anonymous blogger is that you're free to air your family's dirty laundry. My problem is that I'm only a semi-anonymous blogger. There are at least two or three freinds and family members who might read this post, so I have to be careful about what I write. On the other hand, the two family members -- Sister the Elder and Sister the Younger -- know pretty much all of what I might write already. That being said, onto today's post......]

So anyway, I was standing outside the hall where my cousin's wedding reception was going along at full steam and talking to a few close (and not so close) relatives. We were discussing a certain "problem" that had arisen. But that's another story.

One gathered in the group was my cousin Lisa. I think this was only the second time since the mid-'70s that Lisa and I had been at the same gathering. (When I was in my early teens she was just a wee lass playing with the other wee lassies on my aunt Dorothy's backyard lawn.)

Later in the evening Lisa asked me in passing if I was ready for another cigarette. I said "sure" and outside we went. The more we talked the more I realized how pretty she was. Maybe it was because she was so fun to talk to. She mentioned listening to the Clash when she was a teenager. Hmmm. "We're not THAT closely related," I thought. I'm not even sure exactly how we're related, but her last name tells me that we are.

I wondered why each of the times we'd been at the same family reunion, she was alone. Such a pretty gal, so vivacious and witty. Why is she always alone?

Even later in the evening she passed me a note. It was her phone number. She asked me if I would pass it along to my younger sister. I said that, of course, I would. That was one week ago tonight.

This afternoon I finally phoned Sister the Younger to give her Lisa's number.

"Everytime, just after I talk to her," Sister the Younger said, "I remember why I didn't want to phone her."
"Oh? And why is that?" I inquired.

Whelp... It seems that dear Lisa spent five years in prison for killing her husband and/or boyfriend because of some "abuse" he'd meted out to Lisa's now 17-yr-old daughter.

Given what Sister the Younger told me this afternoon, it's likely that Lisa says, early on, to any potential boyfriends something along the lines of "Before we go any further there's something that you should know about me..." Yep. I can see how that might explain why she always shows up to these functions alone.

Part of me wants to say that Lisa did the right thing. The bastard deserved it.
But a bigger part of me says that there are better ways to handle an abusive situation. Friend and former co-worker Lawruh was in one and got out in the middle of the night with her two boys -- the younger being not much more than an infant at the time -- and went to a shelter. She had no contact with her husband for ten years.

Lisa chose her solution and paid for that choice. A small part of me wants to pat her on the back. The rest of me wants to remember that a rage that can allow what she did to happen is a rage not welcome to my world. There is a way to level-headedly plan a solution rather than to bull-headly, violently erase the problem.

Sister the Younger has a different perspective than cousin Lisa. But I wont get into that as I'm only a semi-anymous blogger and I think I'll need permission to get into this any further.

I'm not reading anything more about what's going on in the lost city of New Orleans. Humanity can't surprise me anymore. By choice.

I predict that there will be no comments to this post. Well understood.

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August 30, 2005

Okay, I'm back

So, anyway, I was at my cousin's wedding reception on Saturday in gorgeous resort town of Narragansett, Rhode Island. I caught the garter, nyeh nyeh n'nyeh nyeh!

The bride held the bouguet standing with her back to the gathered maids, gave a few fake-out heaves, turned and pitch a fastball to the gal in front.

I walked up to this rather young looking gal, who looked to me to be about 14 or 15, and said "Hi, I'm Bob."
"I'm Cindy."
"Um... How old are you?"

I turned toward the crowd in search of the bride and shook my head no.

"You can put it on her wrist, y'know," came a disembodied voice from the right. I turned to the DJ, who was MC'ing the garter/bouquet rite, and he nodded to me, "Yeah, you can just put it on her wrist, man."

"Come o-o-o-on," I protested. "I'm not putting a garter anywhere on a twelve-year-old girl. We gotta have a long-legged lady sitting in that chair."

"Okay, we've got a stand-in for ya," someone said as a very lovely stranger took the hot seat. "Just don't go too high," she said with a wink. "My military boyfriend is standing right over there." Conditions, conditions, conditions.

Anywho, I slipped the garter up past her knee and resisted the temptation to keep going until she screamed. I stopped at what was mid-way between her knee and her exposed thigh. I shoulda gone about 3/4 of the way up. Oh, well.

I never did get that garter back.

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August 26, 2005

Road Trip!

And of course I haven't done half the things on my To Do list to prepare.

I'm outta here 'til Sunday night. Have a great weekend, everyone!

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August 17, 2005

Consumer Report: Disposable Razors

If you're trying to save a few bucks and opt for a package of disposable razors, don't buy Care One™. They're an el cheapo version of the Bic™ razors.

Back when I used to buy disposable razors all the time (in college and throughout my 20s), I bought Bic razors and would get at least two good shaves out of each one. A third shave would usually risk a cut or two.

But Care One? I just went through two of their crappy razors and actually cut myself for the first time in about 15 years. Not once -- about four times.

I bought this bag of 12 razors and I've got 10 left that I can either gouge into my neck or toss into the garbage can. Hmm. Maybe I'll give them another chance. I'll just remember to change razors more frequently. I'll get through a shave with about four of them. That might work.

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August 16, 2005

The Perfect Storm

Well, another late night at the shop -- this time trying to solve one mystery but ended up solving a different mystery. First mystery will have to wait 'til morning.

But, since I can't stand the though of someone clicking my name and finding no new post, I'll just write briefly about, yep, the weather.

The days leading up to Sunday were increasingly hazy, hot and humid. By Sunday afternoon it'd become stifling. I was at my computer -- which is right by an open window -- with sweat pouring out my from forehead to my shins. Not a whiff of a breeze was passing by and, yes, I was dressed in nothing but my blue Bart Simpson "eat my shorts" shorts.

Then it started to get dark. "Hmmm, a little early for it to be this dark," I thought. Within an hour or so the rumbling started. I thought that perhaps a jet was flying by high overhead. But the rumbling kept a-coming. It was thunder -- rolling in from far, far away.

Within a short time, the thunder was constant. One roar would build and roll and, just as it began to fade, another was building up -- from a slightly different direction. Continuous thunder getting louder and louder; closer and closer.

Then the breeze! Sweet, cool and smelling like rain, it came in from the window right beside me in a steady flow punctuated by impressive gusts. Lightening was becoming more and more frequent and bright. The storm built up faster and faster. Within minutes of the first breeze the neighborhood was in a windy, noisy downpour complete with what I decided to call "strobe lightening". It was as continuous as the thunder. It lasted about twenty minutes.

**flash!** **flashy-flash!** **flashy-flashy-flashy-flash!** **flash!**

Then, it left as quickly as it arrived. We've had a few of these over the past couple of weeks, but this one was super cool. For the past two days we've had the most relatively cool, crisp, perfect days of the summer. It's more like mid-September than mid-August. Long jeans and a t-shirt are comfortable; the t-shirt's not too little, the jeans aren't too much. There's a high semi-cloudcover, so the sun isn't out all the time baking us, but the clouds are thin and white, and the air is dry. Sweeet.

Stephen Macklin wrote about the build-up and his anticipation of the sights and sounds. RP wrote about his family's enjoyable experience after their power went out. If they hadn't written their posts I probably wouldn't have bothered to write mine. I dunno... It's just kinda fun when several bloggers can write about the exact same event yet give their own individual experience of it.

Solving the mystery of the ink resistant plate material tomorrow wont be so fun, but it should be.... int'risting.

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August 08, 2005

Running #5 1/2 envelopes on a 1360? Impossible? P'shaw!


Yes, I was actually able to run 10,000 little coin envelopes through my Multigraphics 1360 printing press!

I wish I'd taken a picture of that jury-rigged machine. Not only to show you what it looked like, but to have a record for if/when the customer re-orders them.

Without going into megadetails -- which I tried to do yesterday resulting in the most long-winded, tedious description of simple mechanical baubles imaginable -- I'll just give a brief overview. Sort of a photo put to words. Hopefully not a thousand of 'em.

The problems I identified on thursday and the solutions to them that I found on Friday:

Problem: The back paper guide of the elevator (that keeps the pile of envelopes in a pile) can't get within 3 1/8" of the front guides (sheet seperators).

Solution: I made a back "spring guide" out of stiff cardboard by cutting a strip about 4" long and slipping through a convieniently placed slot in the paper guide's crossbar assembly. (Use your imagination. Like I said, no long tedious explanations here...) and used masking tape to secure it in place. The vertical strip of cardboard kept a nice moderate pressure on the back of the envelope pile, keeping it snugly up against the front guides (sheet seperators).

Problem: The guide wheel, due to the construction of the assembly and crossbars that keep it in place, can't get within 4" of the stop fingers.

Solution: I disassembled my other press' guide wheel assembly (a Multi 1250), and got rid of the obnoxious "shoulder" that a) keeps it secure on the crossbars and b) keeps it from reaching the edge of the 3 1/8" long envelope. Masking tape and a spare bolt from my nuts n' bolts can helped to fix it to the assembly ju-u-u-u-st close enough to reach the envelope.

The next problem was that I couldn't set it low enough to actually apply some pressure to the guide belt that was spinning under the envelope. No pressure means the envelope is not being kept snug against the stop fingers. I had to tilt the thing so that the wheel ran low, but that meant the the rear wheel would sit atop the other crossbar, not on the guide belt, leaving only that one forward wheel actually riding on the guide belt. This left the next problem intact:

Problem: The space between the pullout wheels and the guide belts is about 5", meaning that the pullout wheels are essentially tossing the envelopes onto the register board resulting in all manner of flappy, crooked, fall-as-they-may envelopes ambling through.

Solution: I disassembled the rest of the 1250's guide wheel assembly and masking taped the bars and wheel to set right at the lead edge of the register board's guide belts. There was still some room between the pullout wheels and that new guide wheel, but the floppiness was brought down to a minimum.

Problem: The paper height control bar hits at the very back edge of the envelope pile, causing the top of the pile to flop around rediculously.

Solution: This could not be solved. The bar is adjustable, but it was already as far forward as it was going to go. As luck would have it, it didn't cause a problem with keeping the envelopes below the sheet seperators so long as I kept the pile height at it's lowest possible setting.

Problem: The left oscillating register guide can only reach the last 1/4" or so of the envelope once it meets the stop fingers -- making the envelope not set squarely -- and the right spring guide can't reach it at all.

Solution: I simply taped strips of stiff cardboard to the side guides to extend them closer to the elevator frame. Duh.

It was a lot of trial and error at first. F'rinstance, I realized that I had to "coat" the cardboard on those last register side guides with scotch tape to make 'em slick enough so as not to impede the smooth flow of the envelopes. (Raw, bear cardboard can be quite un-slick.) But, when all was set in place, the envelopes ran like butter on Daisy Dukes.

Customer is picking up the envelopes up in the morning. Bossman is very pleased. Sometimes I just love my job.

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August 06, 2005

McGiver Press, How May I Help You?

WARNING: This post will probably be tedious even for my fellow printing pressmen. (Anybody out there run a printing press?) I'm writing this more for my own amusement than for whatever readership I have left, mheh. Anyhoo...

A few days ago my boss asked me if I could run these #5 1/2 envelopes. They're little brown coin envelopes that measure 5 1/2" by 3 1/8". I grabbed one and put it on the press's register board to see if the side guides and the guide wheel could register it at the elevator frame.


Oh, right. A little nomenclature for the uninitiated is in order. Since most machine parts are named for what they are and/or what they do, this shouldn't be too hard to explain. I hope.

Here is the press that I run:


That's not my actual press, it's a photo I found online. But, it's the exact model -- Multigraphics 1360 -- that I run.

Anyway, at the front end of the press (the far end in the photo) is an elevator that the paper envelope pile sits on while it waits to be fed onto the register board. The height of the pile of envelopes is controlled by an up-and-down bobbing paper height control bar. As the paper is fed into the press the elevator will automatically raise the platform.

There are blowers along the sides to the paper pile that keep the paper fanned for easier grabbing by the suction feet. The suction feet will grab the envelope and feed it to the pull-out wheels which, in turn, feed it onto the register board where it is moved on a conveyer consisting of five 3/4"-wide guide belts. The envelope will be secured against the guide belts by one or more guide wheels and several spring guide strips that simply ride atop the guide belts. (This just keeps the stock from flying loosely all over the place.)

The envelope will be conveyed across the register board until it meets the stop fingers at the elevator frame. (Why is it call called an "elevator frame"? Beats me, but it's a complicated assembly that consists of what I'm going to mention in the next few paragraphs.) The stop fingers are several steel projections that move up and down as the press runs. When the envelope meets them they will be in the up position. The front of the envelope will be at the stop fingers while a guide wheel is just at the back edge, keeping it nice as snug against the stop fingers.

One other feature that needs to be mentioned at this juncture is the trip switch. The trip switch is located just along the same line of doohickies as the stop fingers, and is what tells the press "hey, there's a piece of paper here!". Without the trip switch, the press would need to make an impression every cycle. This would be bad 'cause if there's no paper passing through the image would be printed on the bottom impression cylinder, and the pages that followed would have that image on their back sides.

Anyway, once the envelope is caught between the stop fingers and a hard place, the oscillating left side register guide will move in and jog the envelope up against the stationary right side register spring guide. The envelope is now "registered". It is in position to be fed into the press, and every envelope that follows should be in that exact same position. (When you check your proofs to see if all of the images are in the same position on every sheet of paper, you are checking the "registration".) All of this so far happens in about half a second.

The stop fingers will then drop just as the feed rollers close, grab the envelope and feed it into the impression cylinder's grippers. The grippers are several 1/2"-wide clamps that pull the envelope through as it is then pressed between the impression cylinder and the blanket cylinder. The blanket cylinder is the one that carries the ink.

After the envelope is imprinted, it is fed to one of three gripper bars that rotate on the chain delivery. The chain delivery gripper bar carries the envelope all the way to the back of the press where it is dropped onto the pile of envelopes that took that same journey a moment earlier.


So, as I was saying, my boss asked me if I could run those little #5 1/2 envelopes. I checked to see if the guide wheel could reach forward enough (5 1/2") to hold them up against the stop fingers. It could. Of course, it could. I've run 5 1/2" x 8 1/2" the short way plenty of times.

But, could I set the register guides to have the envelopes meet two of the stop fingers? (The stop fingers are several inches apart.) The 3 1/8"-wide envelopes ju-u-u-u-st made it, but there was little elbow room. I would have to be precise when I made the plate, but that's certainly do-able.

Next question was: "Since I have to have the 3 1/8"-wide envelopes meet this exact spot, at these two stop fingers and the trip switch, is there a gripper on the impression cylinder that is in place to take it once it's through the imprression phase?" I ran one through by hand. Yes!
"Will it meet up with a gripper on the chain delivery's gripper bars?" Yes, right there! Perfect placement. Apparantly the machine was designed with this very job in mind.

So, I said to bossman "Yes, I can run these." "Are ya sure?" "Sure."

Thursday afternoon I grabbed a box of 500 envelopes and set the machine up to run them. I didn't want to waste envelopes, so I set the image in place by using some card stock that I'd cut down to size. The image was perfectly centered and the cards were running flawlessly. Time to start printing on the envelopes!


The envelopes went through just fine except for one little thing: the bottom flaps (the secured ones, not the open ones) weren't glued down tightly They were glued near the very bottom edge, but the whole flap wasn't secure and they were catching on the stop fingers. A whole pile of envelopes -- with perfectly centered images -- had mangled bottom flaps on the back. Dumpster food.

I lowered the stop fingers to try to have them drop below the loose-fitting flaps as the envelopes passed over them. Still catching. Still crap. I lowered the stop fingers some more. Still catching and tearing the supposed-to-be-glued-down-tight-but-aren't bottom flaps! I lowered the stop fingers until they were letting the envelopes fly through the elevator frame before the feed rollers came down to grab them. Bad.

I lowered the feed rollers to put them more in sync with the stop fingers. They grabbed them on cue, but too soon for the impression cylinder's grippers. Very bad. And to add insult to injury, the envelopes' flaps were STILL catching on the stop fingers. There was no way in Helsinki that these envelopes were going to run cleanly through the press like this. The only solution was to run them sideways -- so's as there're no supposed-to-be-glued-down-tight-but-aren't flaps to catch on the stop fingers.

There are several reasons why I can't run the envelopes through sideways. F'rinstance:
1) The back paper guide of the elevator (that keeps the pile of envelopes in a pile) can't get within 3 1/8" of the front guides (sheet seperators).
2) The paper height control bar hits at the very back edge of the envelope pile, causing the top of the pile to flop around rediculously.
3) The space between the pullout wheels and the guide belts is about 5", meaning that the pullout wheels are essentially tossing the envelopes onto the register board resulting in all manner of flappy, crooked, fall-as-they-may envelopes ambling through.
4) The guide wheel, due to the construction of the assembly and crossbars that keep it in place, can't get within 4" of the stop fingers.
5) The left oscillating register guide can only reach the last 1/4" or so of the envelope once it meets the stop fingers -- making the envelope not set squarely -- and the right spring guide can't reach it at all.

I actually did run some envelopes through just to see what would happen.

"Impossible," I told bossman Friday morning.

"Thing is," he said nervously, "I promised this job for next week. The most reasonable place that I can outsource it to said it'd take three weeks. The second most reasonable place would charge me more than I'm billing the customer. Try to find a way to do it, please."

Ooooookay. I can't run this job on this press. But, I have to. So, we go into McGiver mode.


[TO BE CONTINUED pork chops are done]

Posted by Tuning Spork at 04:47 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

August 05, 2005

Know Your Scam Spam

The fake PayPal maggots are up to a new trick. I just got this email today:

You have added as a new email address for your PayPal account.
Um... No I didn't.

When I copy/pasted the text of the email into wordpad, the underlined hyperlink automagically displays the URL:


If you did not authorize this change or if you need assistance with your account, please contact PayPal customer service at:
Same hyperlink: []>

Notice the "s" after "http". That's the giveaway that it's a scam email. PayPal will never ever email you a link to a secure page. They always make you type in your password to log in.

Thank you for using PayPal!

The PayPal Team

Please do not reply to this e-mail. Mail sent to this address cannot be
answered. For assistance, log in to your PayPal account and choose the
"Help" link in the header of any page.

Then they add this, just to try and establish some trust:


NEVER give your password to anyone and ONLY log in at
https://www. Protect yourself against fraudulent websites
by opening a new web browser (e.g. Internet Explorer or Netscape) and typing
in the PayPal URL every time you log in to your account.

Well that's fine advice. Notice the "https" even though it's supposed to be the PayPal homepage. Duh! And, of course, that hyperlink goes to []. I mean, fer cryin' out loud, the link would work even though there's a superfluous space between "www." and "paypal".
(Actually, I just tried the links. They open in a new window, not on the Juno web tab. "This page cannot be displayed". Juno is pretty good at blocking virus-laden emails and, I guess, scamspam, too. Yay!)

So, like the scambot says, protect yourself against fraudulant websites.

This has been a public service announcement from the good folks at Blather Review.

Posted by Tuning Spork at 08:40 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 30, 2005


The problem with trying to blog during the week is that I get home so late in the evening. If I get home at 8:30pm or 9:45pm, between making dinner and tending to other things (and trying to read a few blogs) I don't have a lot of time to construct a decent post or even, often, to find something that inspires a post.

Today I am heading up to a friend's all-day fiesta. The party started about 1 o'clock, but my ride didn't get off work until 2. He should be by in about half an hour, and I wont be home until sometime tomorrow afternoon.

But, just so's I don't have yet another day without a post, I'm a-gonna blog about -- yep -- the weather!

Wednesday was quite a hot, hazy and humid day. The temperature was about 92F. Walking around outside was like walking through hot butter. And by that I don't mean easy, I mean icky. For most of the day -- and for the previous few days -- there was precious little breeze. And the town of Milford is usually a pretty unusually windy place.

I left work at about 6:15pm and walked toward the bus stop. The winds were really picking up. Holy moly, was that a 50 mile an hour gust?! As I stood at the bus stop the winds were getting more and more cantankerous. It smelled like it would rain, but the clouds were so thin, white and high. An airplane flew overhead wa-a-a-a-y up the sky yet was still far below the clouds. Weird.

The bus arrived and I boarded. Just as I was taking my seat, the rain started. First as a drop here and there, then as a drizzle. A lightning bolt, over near the harbor! Another one, further inland! 10 seconds later, another one!

By the time we reached Milford center (about three or four minutes later) the rain was a deluge. I mean, if you were standing outside it would've been like standing in the shower. In less than a minute after the deluge started the gutters were frickin' river rapids.

And the lightning show? For a period of about three consecutive minutes the lightning flashes were averaging about one every 5 or 6 seconds! And, very strangely, only one of 'em was accompanied by thunder. Weird.

All in all, the storm lasted about fifteen to twenty minutes. It built up quickly, slammed us with all it had, then petered out heading east.


This tree was split by one of the lightning bolts as it passed through the town of Fairfield about half an hour earlier. A Milford man was struck by one of the bolts. He survived, of course. Looking at that tree, it's a wonder that people survive being struck by lightning.

By the time I got off the bus in downtown Bridgeport the winds had died, the sky was hazy, but the sun was out. All that remained of the storm was the debri in the streets, including a very large part of tree that lined one of the main streets. The street had been roped off pending the arrival of a crew to cut up and remove it.

Thursday was the most pleasant, dry, breezy, crisp, sunny 74-degree summer day imaginable. Yesterday and today are gorgeous, as well (though we could use a little less cloud cover).

And the dog doesn't wanna go outside. He's gonna lie on the living room floor and sleep all day! Well, I'm heading out to the shindig in a few minutes and housemate Chris is in a wedding today so he wont be home 'til late. Chris will likely come home to a house of hungry kitties and a pile of dog poop in the hallway.

(Yes, I tried to drag Tuco outside earlier. He showed me his teeth. Fine, lie on the floor all day, but don't come wimpering to me when you gotta go and no one's home to open the back door for ya. Dum dog.

Posted by Tuning Spork at 03:05 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 13, 2005

Had a good post. Took a long time to write. It's gone and I'm not sure why.

Maybe I'll try again tommorrow.


Steve and Ted;
Thanks for the memories.


I could go on (again) but I think I'm clean out of energy right now. Dang.

I went on and on about the difference between writing and speaking. I hate computers. /

Posted by Tuning Spork at 12:54 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 11, 2005

It's the 2nd annual New England Munuvian blogger bash!

...which means that Ted (visiting on vacation from ol' Virginy [happy 24th Anniversary, btw!], Stephen (thanks for taking the lead in making the arrangements, btw!) and I will be coagulating for a Mexican lunch this afternoon. (No trivia this time, just good eats and relaxed conversation.)

Aren't you jealous?! :P

Posted by Tuning Spork at 11:48 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

July 04, 2005

Happy Independence Day!

Hope y'all are having a blast. My nephew, sisters, brother and law and I will be shooting off fireworks in a few hours. Right now we're firing up the grill for some chicken and hot dogs. That watermelon looks mighty tasty!

Just to let yas know, I can't get online from home as my mouse has gone belly-up. Hopefully I'll have a new one tomorrow.

After two months and change I finally don't have to bandage my left middle finger anymore. Woo Hoo! The fingernail/fingertip have grown back perfectly.

My left ear is actually trying to open up. I spent Saturday evening at a baseball game down by the harbor and, for the first time in about six months, I wasn't deaf in my left ear. It's been hit and miss all day today. Right now it's closed. Aah, I just got it open! Oh, there it goes again. Dang sinus pressure.

What else... Oh, yeah, my right arm hasn't made the quick revory that my left arm made last spring. It's been over two weeks and I'm still essentially left-handed. Shaving is fun.

Well, that's all for now. I don't know why I'm sitting here at my sisters computer when there's grapes and watermelon on the kitchen counter. And some beer in the fridge.

Have fun! Be safe! Happy 4th!

Posted by Tuning Spork at 05:30 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 24, 2005

This post is very hard to write

Hey, how come I haven't posted in several days?! Well, y'see, 'member about a year ago when I wrote about my left arm falling asleep and taking a while to wake up? No? Well, maybe I'll provide a link. Maybe.

Anywho, my right arm fell asleep last Saturday night. (I wrote a post called Saturday and intended to write a follow-up called Sunday, but it's too difficult to do right now. In fact, a LOT of things are difficult to do right now. I mean, try brushing your teeth with your left hand (or, if you're a lefty, you're right hand). And running a high-maintenance printing press with a nearly useless right arm is pretty darn challenging, lemme tell ya. (I am typing with my left index finger right now. This is taking a long time.)

What's wrong with me? Near as I can tell from googling like crazy is that it's a condition with a long Latin name which I don't recall right now. It's a neural numbness that can be brought on by a combination of several factors. In my case, it was nutritional deficiencies (why do I keep forgetting to eat?!) coupled with the 15 beers I drank at the Fairfield County Irish Festival and afterwards.

My right hand is gradually (but slowly) becoming more and more useful -- and I'm still taking the time to comment in others' posts here and there -- but I may be giving my own bloggery a rest for a few more days. Unless I have an idea for a kewl short post. (Believe you me I just can't write a short post about the New London eminent domain SCOTUS ruling, though Stephen's been doing a fine job!)

Take care, y'all. I should be back to blogging by mid-week or sooner, I hope. Don't ferget me, now! ;)

Posted by Tuning Spork at 11:11 PM | Comments (5)

June 20, 2005


I survived another birthday and the 18th annual Fairfield County Irish Festival. And lemme tell ya, if you've never been to an Irish Festival the you're missing out on one helluva good time.

For years the festival was held on the grounds of Roger Ludlow High School in Fairfield, CT (next town to the west of Bridgeport). A few years ago it was held at Jennings Beach in Fairfield then, in the past two years, at Seaside Park in Bridgeport.
This year, however, it was held in the drop dead gorgeous densely wooded Indian Ledge Park in Trumbull (next town to the north of Bridgeport).

Through the woods winds a narrow paved road that leads a clearing that's a parking area. From there you walk to a vast open field (a well maintained great lawn, actually) where the numerous tents are set up. Performance-wise, there's the Pub Tent (second-tier Irish music bands), the Cultural Tent (readings, workshops and a game of Irish Jeopardy) and the Main Tent (headliner bands, a bagpipe band and, my favorite, the girls and guys of the Lanihan School of Irish Dance).

If you ever get a chance to see Irish dancers live, grab it! I've seen Riverdance on television and, as cool as that is, it just doesn't compare to seeing the dancers live. Especially when they're the little ones. They're so cute in their colorful little outfits and their smiley faces with their little legs flailing a mile a minute in unison!

Of course, there were plenty of food tents, too, and hundreds of people were picnicing on the great lawn between the tents and some carnival rides with their corned beef sammiches and other Irishy fare. But, you don't go to an Irish Festival for the food, you go to an ITALIAN Festival for the food. You to an Irish Festival for the MUSIC. Lawruh and I arrived at park around 3:15pm and, after perusing the huge bric-a-brc tent (neato Irish clothes, books, jewelry, etc) caught the first set of the local band The Highland Rovers. They took a break with a great local Irish drum and pipe band in awesome kilt outfits blared away. The Highland Rovers played another set (great traditional/modern mix!) followed by the Irish dancers.

After milling about for a while we met with my sister and two cousins. Then things got interesting. Not only did my two male cousins show up plastered, they both started hitting on Lawruh -- especially Don. Holy moly. I thought Lawruh might be getting annoyed, but she actually had a blast.

Then the excellent bamd The Elders took the stage and, by the end of their set, we were on the dance floor trying to mimic the Irish dancers. It ended up as a full-blown half-assed Irish mosh pit! (No actual moshing, though. There were lots of kids around.)

After some more hanging around and getting goofy the dancers did their second show. My sister and cousins had missed the first one, but Lawruh and I were more than happy to see them again. Then the main headliner, Black 47, would close out the evening. (Most of the performers would play on all three days of the festival, but Black 47 was there for Saturday only.) But since it was now 9:00pm and we were pretty much all out of money, we decided to head over the cousin Bri's house for some dinner and yakkety yak.

All he had in the house, pretty much, was some pasta and sauce and hot dogs and a bag of lettuce. Lawruh whipped up some homemade salad dressing and I made some spaghetti with sliced franks. We served it with some bread and butter and a weird fruit concoction. (I simply mixed a jar of apple sauce with two cut-up apples, a drained can of mandarin orange slices and a drained can of sliced peaches spiced with some cinnimon... served hot.) We ate by candle light.

After a few more beers and a few more hours and someincreasing poignant conversation, the time to call it a day had come. A splendid time was had by all.

Except for Don. He disappeared shortly after arriving at the house. But one of Bri's housemates filled the space quite nicely. Hey, guys, let's do it again soon. 'kay?!

Posted by Tuning Spork at 09:31 PM | Comments (0)

June 17, 2005

Home Late Again Again

Oy, these late nights. Well, I like that we're finally getting busy, but, sheesh! I stayed too late to catch the last bus home so bossman offered to give me a ride (he lives in the next town over), otherwise I'd've been camping on the shop floor tonight.

I was really looking forward to some homemade pizza last night. I picked up from fresh dough and some excellent pizza sauce (no time to make my own, of course). I already had the pepperoni and hot peppers, but, when I got home I realized that I was too low on cheese to make the pizza. Drat! I'll be making 'zah tomorrow night, though. Yum!

Other than that, I got nuthin'. Except for this photo of the lighthouse at Bridgeport Harbor.


Hmm. Can't think of a single song lyrics with the word "lighthouse" in it. Ah, well.

Posted by Tuning Spork at 12:36 AM | Comments (5)

June 09, 2005

Just Checkin' In

Nope, not dead. Just getting home late the last few days. (Sure would be nice if the bus drivers knew the schedule, y'know?)

Anywho, so as not to be a total waste of a mouse click three days in a row, I'll give you a joke I read somewhere.

A doctor, a school teacher and the head of a large HMO die. When met at the pearly gates by St. Peter he asks the Doctor "What did you do on Earth?"

The doctor replied, "I healed the sick and if they could not pay I would do it for free." St. Peter stepped aside and said, "You may enter in peace."

St. Peter then asked the school teacher what she had done on Earth. She replied, "I taught educationally challenged children." St. Peter then told her, "You may enter the Kingdom. Please pass in peace.'

St. Peter asked the third man, "What did you do on Earth?" The man hung his head shamefully and replied, "I ran a large HMO." St. Peter replied, "You may enter in peace. But, you can only stay fer 3 days."

Posted by Tuning Spork at 11:42 PM | Comments (0)

May 28, 2005

Just a quickie

Ugh, so little time for blogging! Seems I read a few blogs and BAM it's after midnight.

Doing some family stuff this weekend, so I'll just leave ya with this:


If you keep a pile of old newspapers thinking you just might need last months "five day outlook" weather report again, you might be a packrat.

If you clean out your garage and find a car, you might be a packrat.

If someone loses a button on their shirt and you tell them you probably have a match for it, you just might be a packrat.

Well, I had some better ones, but I can find my notes from a few days ago.

Hopefully I'll have something more substantial tomorrow. Happy Saturday, everyone!

Posted by Tuning Spork at 01:30 PM | Comments (1)

May 21, 2005

Why am I doing UPS's work for them?

Two days ago we (my housemate Chris Huggies and I, of 195 Lorrentz Street) received a UPX delivery addressed to Chris Larster of 195 Brooklyn Avenue. It came from an operation called
This is a true story. The names have been changed to protect the ignorant.

Here's the thing: Not only is Chris' last name not Larster, but we do not live on Brooklyn Avenue. So, WTF?!

Lorrentz Street is just off of Brooklyn Avenue. It's a "side street". In fact, it's a "dead end".

How did this happen? Who is Chris Larster? Why is she ordering merchandise from Harvest Village via UPS?
(I say "she" only 'cuz I can see that the first line of the enclosed letter begins "Dear, Ms Larster,..")

This morning we received a second package.

Since housemate Chris deals in "collecibles" I was almost ready to chalk it up to bad communication, a mislabeled package, an intrepid UPX delivery guy and let Chris handle it. But, he was no more wise to this than I was.

This afternoon I called information, 411, in search of a "Chris Larster" on Brooklyn Avenue. Nope. Unlisted number! Dang

So I grabbed the two boxes under my arms and began to walk to the address.

No, I'm not Abe Lincoln walking five miles to return a nickel. And I didn't do it right away, either. I did it because I just had to know what was at 195 Brooklyn Avenue and how their mail got onto my porch bench.

I arrived at 195 Brooklyn and found a large, old brick house that, apparantly, has been turned into a place of business -- possibly a law firm. I rang the bell.
Not surprisingly, for a Saturday, no one answered.
I walked home carrying the two boxes and mt jacket. It was quite a humid day, I might add.

Anywho, I googled "Gremlin Brooklyn" and found a list of their employees. Right there at the top: Chris Larster, President, with her email address right beside it.

Haven't heard from her yet, but I'm sure she'll be by to pick up her packages shortly..

**sigh** The things we gotta do. Thank you, UPX...

Posted by Tuning Spork at 11:31 PM | Comments (0)

May 13, 2005

What In The World Are We Doing?
(Or: What Are We Doing In The World?)

Different animals have different strengths and talents. Some have incredible hearing skills, others have an incredible sense of smell. Some develop very weird ways of perception. Dolphins and bats use echo location to help form their picture of the world. They can see with sound.

All of the myriad skills and sensitivities help them in their common mission: Survival.

The first and most important tool of survival is eating. The need for fuel is manifested as the sense of hunger. Hunger is a very physical need and a very physical sensation. But, also, it drives the brain, the animal's psyche, and it's desire to satiate those physical pangs. Animalia look to feed themselvia. (Ouch, I know.)

What distinguishes us from the animals is that our most developed sense, or organ, is not our ears or our eyes, but our brain. Our eyes like to be dazzled, but that is not the end, only the means. Our ears like to be soothed, but that's not the goal, only the path. We feel hungry, but our prey, as a result, is not just something to satiate and nourish our bodies, but to satisfy the organ that regulates our hunger. In short: The brain knows too much. And, if there's feeding involved, the brain will not be late for the frenzy.

And so we hunger. Not just for food, but for Knowledge. We spend our lives and treasure blasting towers of fuel and simulated habitats into an alien environment not because we're looking for a more comfortable place, but because we're looking for a different place just because it's different.

"What's on the other side of that mountain?" That's all we need to ask before we pack up and go to find out. "What will we discover there? What will we learn?"
Our surroundings may, at many many times, seem strange to us. But I suspect that our hunger seems even stranger to our surroundings.

Some philosophers believe that man has no Choice -- that we are only effecting causes that began in a long ago and distant epoch. To them I say that they can choose to believe that or not. Do they think they can? I don't know. Whatever.

Me? I believe in dreams. I believe in Choice and I believe in exploring what Is and what might Be. I choose to believe that and I choose it freely.
Well, I believe that I do, anywho. I'll leave the second guessing to the even more confused... ;)

Having scaled the highest mountains and probed the deepest of the deep in our own world, we turn our gaze to the stars. Just as breakfast will not stave off the need for lunch, and lunch will not prevent a craving for dinner, we'll keep feeding our hunger for knowledge and exploration. Not satisfied with the crumbs of the mundane, we must move outward or starve our spirits.

And because this is who we are, we'll explore strange new worlds. We'll seek out new life and new civilizations. This is our calling; to go boldly where no man has gone before!

I scribbled this down after watching the final episode of Enterprise. Captain Archer's speech, at the end, to the delegation at Starfleet Command seemed wanting to me, so I decided to write what I kept wanting to hear.

And Jolene Blalock was right. This episode was kinda rediculous.

First of all, it wasn't an Enterprise episode, it was a Next Generation episode. The Enterprise crew were only holodeck characters.

Secondly, Jonathan Frakes and Marina Sirtis were playing Riker and Troi 12 years younger than they are. Yeesh!

Thirdly, they killed off Trip Tucker! BOO!

Oh, well. We'll always have reruns.

Posted by Tuning Spork at 10:55 PM | Comments (0)

May 12, 2005

Aah, Foggy Memories pt B

When my nephew was about 5 years old we went into my aunt's swimming pool. This was first excursion into a large pool and he had the ring-with-seat thing. He wasn't ready to trust that it would keep him afloat and was a little scared.

"Don't let go of me yet!" he scolded. "Okay," I said as I held the ring.

I gently eased him down until he and the ring were supported by the water. I kept my arms extended so that he wouldn't realize that he was being held up only by the water and ring.

"Don't you dare let go yet!" "Okay!"

"Okay, Uncle Bobby, let go, but slowly!" he said bravely. I raised my hands out of water saying "I already did, two minutes ago!"

His face lit up, amazed, and he turned to the back deck. "Mommy! Look, I'm swimming!"
All the fear was gone and he had a great time. We finally had to pry him away from the pool 'cuz his lips were getting blue.

Posted by Tuning Spork at 11:36 PM | Comments (0)

May 10, 2005

Foggy Memories

When I was about 12, my mother was dating a fella named Gene who worked for the Mets. (I don't remember in what capacity, though.)

So, one evening Gene stops by the house with another couple. As soon as I saw him I thought "Dam but that guy looks like Tom Seaver."

Then I saw his wife/date. "Wow but she looks like Nancy Seaver."

My mother, Gene and "Nancy" went into the kitchen to chat while "Tom" took a seat in the living room just across from me. I had the TV on and he didn't glance at it. He was facing me, with a beer in his hand.

We never said a word to each other. I just kept thinking "Dam but that guy looks like Tom Seaver".

After a while they all went out to dinner. To this day I have no idea if Tom Terrific was sitting in my living room that night just waiting for me to recognize him.

Thanks to bbrother for jogging my memory.

Posted by Tuning Spork at 09:05 PM | Comments (1)

Out of the rinds of fruit...

What is the meaning of Life? Best. Answer. Ever.

Posted by Tuning Spork at 12:08 AM | Comments (0)

May 02, 2005


Got me some charcoal briquettes and a package of surloin burgers just in time for the rainy season!

Posted by Tuning Spork at 09:43 PM | Comments (6)

May 01, 2005

Now I Know Summer Is Coming

The ice cream truck is jangling it's merry tune outside for the first time this year.

Aah, nothing says "summer" like the daily run in with the ice cream truck!


Posted by Tuning Spork at 07:34 PM | Comments (1)

April 28, 2005

Where's the Left of Me?

So, anyway, about a year ago I wrote about how I strained my left arm while digging up a garden in the backyard and it went numb. It came back to life within a week, but it's still not back to a full state of normalcy. My arm feels weak, mu left hand shakes when I try to do precision movement.

About a week and a half ago I wrote about how my left ear had closed up much as it did a while back for 4 1/2 years. It's still closed.

So, today at work, I was cutting some oversized letterhead. It's oversized because it has a three-way bleed. (Meaning: the ink runs off the edge of the paper at top, left and bottom. You can't print a bleed straight-up on 8 1/2 x 11 paper because it will build up and the blanket cylinder and cause blotching along the edge of the sheet.)

So, anyway, I put a stack into the cutting area and reached for it again to jog it (make it a nice and even stack o'paper). My left middle finger scraped what is supposed to be the clamp bar and, instead, scraped the knife.

The sharpest things we encounter in our normal daily lives are kitchen knives. The blade on a paper cutter is a bizzilion times sharper than kitchen knives.

The knife, inexplicably, was hanging below the protective clamp. I merely scraped it. It took a nice red swatch of my fingernail and a bit of the skin beneath.


Lemme tell ya, I haven't felt real physical pain since that wisdom tooth extraction where the tooth broke apart and each root had to be extracted one-by-one.

But the pain wasn't when I scraped the knife, nosirree. It was when I ran cold water over the wide-open wound.


The injury itself was actually kinda painless. Y'ever put the * node of a D battery on your tongue? That's what it felt like -- only much more intense. Definately a warning of injury, but not really what I'd describe as intense pain.

It's bandaged now, of course, thanks in large part to the efforts and concerns of new Boss and his wife. They continually asked me if I wanted to go the hospital to have it looked at. "Bah, what can they do about it that we can't?" I stubbornly resisted.

But, it took quite a while to finally stop bleeding. I mean, it's a gash of nail and skin, not a mere cut that can close by itself. The dermis is exposed. Will the skin shortly become tough? How will the fingernail grow back in over it? I think I'd like to know what to expect here.

New Boss, Minuteman Jim and I spent about an hour examining and greasing the cutter's mechanical parts. We got the blade to consistantly rest above the clamp, but the resting place was inconsistant. We also wanna know why we don't have a frickin' manual for the thing. It's a frickin' machine, dammit. It's supposed to be doing the same exact thing every time.

New Boss is probably wondering what he's gotten himself into. I'm amazed at how little I've heard the jangle of the front door opening and closing and at how silent the phones have been. And, now, an injury and an issue with the cutter. I tried to assure him that this week is not normal.

Oh, well. I redressed the finger tonight. I read the instructions on the medicated pads I wrapped it in. Boss's wife put the first dressing on backwards. **sigh**.

I've seen plenty of press repairmen, who are former operators themselves, with fingers missing down to their second knuckle. I've been doing this work for over 18 years and I'm starting to wonder if it's just a matter of time before real tragedy strikes.

Busy day on the press tomorrow. Two big jobs need to ne delivered Monday morning. Wish me luck!

Posted by Tuning Spork at 10:40 PM | Comments (0)

April 25, 2005

Star Trek is back and I almost missed it!

Vic over at posted THIS way back in November. I wish I'd seen it then because, apparantly, I've been missing an excellent 4th (and now final) season of Enterprise.

Berman and Braga have given the production reigns to one Manny Coto. Coto is huge fan of the orginal series, and has produced episodes that actually live up to the original concept of Enterprise. These episodes actually connect with, and expand on, the existing lore!

I caught my first episode of the season on Saturday night. It was a "Mirror, Mirror" episode (part 1) called Through a Mirror, Darkly. I'm going to watch all of the remaining episodes (finale on May 13th!) and then watch all the others in reruns throughout the summer.

It's a pity that most of the audience is already gone and, like me, has missed most of what has been, apparantly, a true Star Trek season.

If you like Star Trek -- especially TOS and TNG -- don't miss this season's episodes. Once they're gone they're gone. (They will have produced 99 episodes; one fewer than the minimum required for syndication.)

Live long and prosper.

Posted by Tuning Spork at 10:04 PM | Comments (1)

April 21, 2005

Aaah, A Free Day To Do Absolutely Nuthin'

I did something today that I don't think I've ever done before. At least, not in the past 15 years, or so.

I decided to take a day off from work. For no good reason. Just to, y'know, take a day off from work.

I woke up at 6:30 and didn't feel like getting up. So, I didn't. I re-awoke at 7:30 and still didn't feel like getting up. So, I didn't.

I awoke yet again at around 8:30. "If I rush out the door I can be at work around 10:30," I thought. "Nah, I'd rather take a shower, leave the house at 10:00 and -- because of the bus schedules -- be in work around noon."

But, showering and other sundry bathroom duties made it impossible to get out the door in time. The earliest I could be at work was 1:00pm. Then I thought: "There's almost nada work to do. Certainly nothing that can't wait 'til tomorrow."

So, I phone the Boss and told him that I was running late, it was a lovely spring day, there's nothing pressing at work and, what the hey, I'm just gonna take an unscheduled day off because I can.

"Well," he mused. "Okay. See ya tomorrow!"

Later on, I fired up the charcoal grill (with hardwood charcoals, not briquettes) and cooked me a 9 ounce filet mignon to go with my boiled and buttered potatoes (with a topping of onion, garlic, parsley, salt, black pepper and crushed red pepper) and butter-slathered corn on the cob. What a peeeeleasant afternoon I had.

I know exactly how my cat, little Stinky, felt as he was lazing in the sun on the cushions on the back porch all afternoon.

And, yeah, I'm looking for some inspiration for some actual meaningful content now. Slow news day week. That and the leaves are finally starting to explode out of their buds. Aaah. This is what it all about.

So, grab all ye like... smiles are on me! :)

Posted by Tuning Spork at 05:24 PM | Comments (0)

April 17, 2005

Sounds like summer

Aah, what a day. Spring. Has. Arrived.

I put up the storm windows and put down the screens and left the windows open all day. Woo hoo! There are no leaves on the trees yet, but they'll be there by the end of the month, I'm sure. Sat in the yard and listened to the Beach Boys for a while.

Now I'm sitting in my room full of two pork chops, a baked potato and two ears of corn on the cob. Yummy, they was.

But, there's one problem. I wrote HERE that I was essentially deaf in my left ear for 4½ years. This morning my left ear was closed. It still is. Hope this isn't the beginning of another long bought of partial deafness as I intend to buy a new microphone and do some recording this summer. Sinus problems suck.

That's all I got for now. Hope the weather in your neck of the woods is just as pleasant. BBL!

Posted by Tuning Spork at 08:48 PM | Comments (2)

April 15, 2005


Whatever happened to Rodney Allen Rippy? Remember him? He was a little kid who gained fame in the early '70s somehow. He appeared on all kinds of TV shows and commercials. He got his big break in ads for Jack In The Box. Nowadays, I think, Jack In The Box exists only on the west coast. What was in that special "Jack Sauce" anyway?

I remember when Rodney and little Ricky Segall appeared at a podium at a Grammy Awards show with Donny Osmond and Michael Jackson. Whatever happened to Michael Jackson? Has anyone ever figured that out?

I remember when Ricky Segall was on Wonderama which, in those days, was hosted by Bob MacAllister. Ricky sang a song called "Say Hey, Willie, Wont You Hit One Out Here?". See, that was back when Willie Mays was still playing ball. He was with the Mets at the time. The Mets won the 1973 Eastern Division with a record that was only 2 games over .500. It's still hard to believe that they actually beat the Big Red Machine in the playoffs. But, that's not really part of the story.

Bob MacAllister used to end Wonderama by singing a song called "Kids Are People, Too". I never understood what that song was supposed to be about. I was a kid and I was a person. I knew that and I think everybody else did, too. In fact, to me it looked like the world was designed for kids, not adults. But, I guess I was seeing my world through my own eyes. It was just my world; a kid's world.

I remember when the Jackson 5 appeared on the show. I was a huge fan of the Jackson 5, and Michael was my idol. I wanted to sing like him, dress like him and, basically, grow up to be him. Some dreams are better left unfullfilled. But, I digress.

The thing about TV back then was that there were only about 5-8 channels that came in reasonably clear, and everyone seemed to watch all the same shows. For instance, if you watched TV in the '70s you watched Jeaque Cousteau's specials on PBS. I remember when John Denver went along on a trip, but all I remember about it was what he said after resurfacing one time: "Was THAT a BARACUDA?!". "Baracuda" was a hit single by Heart, by the way. It wasn't as big as "Magic Man", but it was more suitable to use as thumping throbbing opening number at their concerts. But, that's not really what I wanna focus on now.

John Denver, in homage to his time with Cousteau's team, wrote a song called "Calypso". Calypso was the name of Cousteau's boat, y'see. I've always wanted to own a boat. A big wooden one like Quint's Orca in JAWS. Thought I might name it Driftwood, but, that might be tempting fate.

One of my favorite lines in JAWS is when Hooper shouts "Hey, I don't need this 'working class hero' crap!". I like it because it's a moment when Stephen Speilberg admits the formulaic (though excellent) dialogue leading up to it. Even though we, the audience, would've been fine with letting Quint's character develop as a prototypical "working class hero", Speilberg skillfully injects critique, by Hooper, to keep the characters honest and grounded so as not to seem to present them as cartoons. They are, firstly and critically, people, not kinds of people.

And, in that respect, the art of good filmmaking is alot like the art of good living: "keeping it real." Well, not just real, but keeping it really worth living. And to do that we gotta keep interacting with others. I met a guy last night at the Bridgeport bus terminal. I worked late and left at 7:15. I was waiting for the 9:10 Park Avenue bus with enough cash on me to pay for tomorrow morning's bus fare and a cup of coffee. Two singles, a quarter in my watch pocket and some loose change. Ol' Howie -- a stranger to me -- walked up to me and asked me for a cigarette. I gave him one. He saw that I only had two left at the time and said "Oh, no, I don't wanna run you out..." "It's okay." I assured him. "I've got a fresh pack at home." He hung by me with, obviously, something on his mind. I had half an hour to kill.

He told me a bit of his story. He's been out of prison for three days. They put him out homeless and penniless. He seems to be in his mid-50s and has no family or friends (that he'd like to be back in touch with) to take him in. He's a former Hell's Angels club member who, he promises, wants to live it straight and right from here on out. The Office of Whatever that needs to give him an ID card is running him in circles. All he wants, he says, is to get a frickin' ID card so's he can go to ManPower™ and get a decent day's work and pay and a place to sleep at night.

As he was talking - and my bus was arriving - I surreptitiously grabbed a single from my right jeans' pocket and stuffed it into the cigarette pack in my sweater pocket. "Don't do it," I thought. "That's yer coffee money for tomorrow morning."
When I was ready to board the bus I handed him the pack. "Take my last cigarette, Dude," I said as I left. I hope he actually looked in the box and found the dollar rather than grabbed the ciggie whilst looking at the scenery.

So, I had no coffee this morning. Oh, well. It was annoying not to be sipping some joe on the long ride to Milford, but I thought about what that dollar meant to Howie today. It was doing more good in his hands then it would've done in mine. All was well.

Just after lunchtime the Boss walked up to me and handed me an envelope. I mentioned in my last post that he'd sold the business and that today was his last day as my boss. (He's working tomorrow, but I'm not.)

I opened the envelope and in it was a card thanking me for 10+ years of loyal service. "I often recount," he said, "that half of the battle of success is just showing up. Of all the pressman I've seen in this business, you're the one that always showed up."

Wow. I opened the card and found $500 in cash. Five $100 bills. Wow!

I ran into Howie again this afternoon. I was free to leave work early, YAY!

"Hey! How's it goin'?" I asked him.

"Ugh!" he cried. "I went down to get my ID card, like I told you yesterday.. 'oh we wont have it 'til Monday' they told me." Now, he got into more detail than I will now but, bottom line, he's in deep shit 'til Monday.

"I asked them to just Give! Me! Something! Anything! Y'know, I can survive for days on $5, y'know how? Little cakes. You can get a package of two for 25cents. It puts something in your stomach, y'know? That and one meal a day at the soup kitchen is enough."

I wasn't surreptitious at all this time. 5 bucks, eh? Gotta get to Monday, eh? I pulled out me billfold and gave him a $10 bill. "Eat more than just 25cent cakes this weekend, okay?" I told him. He just about shit. He leaned in and gave me a hug like I haven't felt since my grandmother's hug at grampa's funeral. $500 in my billfold (which I'm gonna use to pay up current on the bills and maybe get a few new pairs o' jeans and some shirts) and all I had to do was give up 10 bucks of it to make a real real difference to someone whose less fortunate than even frickin' me.

When you look at the news and think about the big picture it often seems like nothing's right with the world. But, I believe, if you look at the world and think about the big picture it more often seems like there's nothing right with the news. We know what's good and we know how to be good. We so-o-o-o know how to be good it's rediculous. All we gotta do and be is what we know we're s'posed to be doin' and bein'.

Blessings come to those who bless.

"Huh?" I think I hear. "But, only God can bless!" Nope, I tells ya. It is we, together, who bring the blessings. God speaks to each of us and when we obey we are angels for His blessings. And the blessings, in turn, according to my experience anyway, will come to those who bless. Anywho, I believe that right now.

This post started out as a gimmick; a stream of consciousness rambling piece of nothingness. I hope that it turned into something that makes some kinda sense to someone out there!

I go google Rodney Allen Rippy now....

Posted by Tuning Spork at 09:13 PM | Comments (7)

April 13, 2005

My Day

[Fair warning: This is a tedius post. I wrote it for my own amusement health.--TS]

I haven't used an alarm clock in about a year and a half (long story, nevermind). But, I'm usually pretty good at waking up around 6-6:30am. This morning I woke up at 8:15. Do'h! Housemate Chris was in the shower and using up all the hot water. D'oh!

I got dressed as I pondered how my commute would go this morning. I'll catch the 9:15ish Park Avenue bus and transfer to the 9:30 Coastal Link (CL2) downtown. I'll get off at Milford Green and make a bank deposit to cover my incoming rent check. Since the next CL2 leaves downtown at 9:50, so I'll have about 20 minutes to go to the bank and maybe grab a cup of coffee from Dunkin Donuts. Plenty of time. I'll get on the CL2 at about 10:30, or so, and be at work by 10:45. Late, yes. But, no biggie since we're not really busy and there's only one pressing job.

Chris fi-i-i-i-nally came out of the bathroom around 8:45 and I ran in to brush my teeth and...y' some other morning stuff. Of course, it ended up taking longer than expected and had to run out the door later than usual.

To catch the 9:15ish I like to leave the house at 9:00. It's about a 7 minute walk to the bus stop and this gives me time to smoke a ciggie and arrive with plenty of time to spare. Chris left the house just before I did. I was hurrying out the door when I realized that the dog was outside and the kitchen door was left wide open. Do'h!

So I went onto the back porch and said "Tuco! Come on in, mon!" He looked at me as if to say "Huh?"
"Come in, come on, let's go!"
"But I just GOT here!"
"Aw, shoot."

He slowly ambled across the yard and up the stairs and into the house. I looked at my watch. 9:08. Do'h!

I took about a minute and a half off my walk by cutting through a neighbor's yard and then power-walked toward the bus stop. I was about thirty seconds from the corner when VVROOOOM!! the bus went whizzing by. D'OH!!!

Okay, the next one comes in half-an-hour. But, this means that not only will I obviously not make the 9:30 CL2, I'll also not make the 9:50. After that they run on the hour. (Well, there's one that leaves at 10:30, but that only goes as far as the Dock Shopping Center -- half-way to my destination.) I'll have to hang around the bus terminal for about 50 minutes. Then, after I get off at Milford Green, I'll have an hours wait for the next CL2 that'll take me close to work. I probably wont get to work 'til around 12:45-1:00. D'oh.

I arrived downtown at about 9:57 and walked to a McDonald's for a cup of coffee. I almost bought breakfast. But, I figured that I'll catch the 10:30 CL2 and get off at the Dock where there's a Stop & Shop and get a sandwich for lunch. So, I got on the 10:30 and got off at the Dock and got a sandwich and side of cole slaw for my lunch. I then called work to let the Boss know that I wouldn't be in 'til around 12:45 or 1:00 because I have to stop at the bank at Milford Green. I talked to Wendy to relayed the message to the Boss.

After I went to bank at Milford Green I decided that I didn't want to hang out at the bus stop for nearly an hour and started walking to work. I arrived, 45 minutes later, at 12:15 -- more than 3 hours after having left the house. I was tired, hungry, thirsty and having to carry my hat because the wind kept blowing it off my head.

"I was searching all over for you!" Wendy said when I walked in. When she gave the Boss my message he asked her if she'd be willing to go get me. She drove down to the Dock and asked a lady if she'd a svelt young man in a camouflage hat and olive green jacket. "Yes," she told Wendy. "He just left on the bus a few minutes ago."

Wendy said she'd followed the bus route but didn't catch up to the bus. She got to the bank and waited for a few minutes. Then she drove back to the shop, but took a different route than I did. "I came up Cherry Street," I told her. "Aah," she sighed, "I took Bridgeport Avenue to Gulf Street!"
Oh, well. I thanked her for trying to find me and headed toward the main printing press where I found two new job boxes and a note from the Boss.

Bob, I would like Dining Furniture and Hayduk finished TODAY. I need to bring DF to bindery to be #'d tomorrow morning and delivered on Friday. Bossman.

Bossman had sold the business and the closing is Friday. He wants to get all of the "big" jobs done this week so's he can get paid for them. The "little" ones can wait 'til next week when the New Boss starts making the moulah. I can't say I blame him, but the jobs he wants me to do -- and the order in which he wants me to do them -- makes my job harder because the running order is impractical. I've been washing up the press to change colors and sizes after virtually every single job for a frickin' week now. Urgh!

I had just washed up the press from black (I'd finished all the black jobs first) to go to blue in order to finish up a two color job on 11x17 stock, and then some other assorted colors. Now he wants me to run a burgandy job followed by, you guessed it, a black job. D'oh! With my lunch on hold and in the fridge, I decided to put the blue ink in and run the job I was set up for. It's 2-sided, but it's only 150 pieces. I'll run it in a jiffy and then go to burgandy and then to black. (It's the black job, of course, that posilutley has to be done today and be taken to be numbered in the morning.)

But, the registration (the closeness of the black and the blue text) is pretty tight and my press doesn't have any sort of modern fine-adjustment screw. Setting it exactly right is hit and miss. After missing for half-an-hour or so I knew that this one tiny job was going to take entirely too long. I had to wash up the press and go to burgandy. d'oh.

As I was just finishing the final wipedown of the rollers that removes enough blue ink to allow me to do a "color wash" (putting in the burgandy, letting it run with what's left of the blue, wiping it down and repeating that step as it runs until the new color is sufficiently burgandy), Bossman's voice comes from behind me and across the room, "Is that press going to run today?"

I put the cotton pad down and looked at the ductor roller. I slowly nodded my head - never turning around. He has no farkin' idea how close I came to putting down the roller, grabbing my coat and walking out the door.
Well, I was never really that close to doing that. I just wish he some inkling of what he was demanding of me and how fast I was working (building up a sweat, I tells ya), or how frustrated I was with my day thus far. He is clueless about all of that. He wants the work done yesterday so's he can get every penny he can before he finally closes his accounts. Whatever. I went on with my lunch in the fridge as he ate his salad. Him, employer. Me, employee. Nevermind that I'm the one getting the work done so's he can have his finally paydy. Nevermind that I haven't eaten anything yet today. It's my job, so I'll nevermind all that and press on.

The big burgandy job, then the big black job. Coffee got me through and all was done. All was well. It was 5:45. I logged out and scarfed down my turkey sandwich and cole slaw.

Okay. So now I need to catch a bus home. I really really really wanna catch the 6:20 so's I can be in downtown Bridgeport in time to catch the 7:10 Park Avenue bus. Otherwise I'll end up taking the #11 which will leave me with a 25 minute walk home. I rushed out the door and started heading for the Stop & Shop near the bus stop so's I can grab some soap and bananas. If I walk fast enough I can be in and out of the store and at the bus stop by 6:20.

Walking across the intersection I heard a voice calling.

"Hey! Yo, Buddy! Can you come here for a second?!" I looked back and some stranger was looking at me and waving me over. What the hell did this guy want? I figured immediately that he wanted to know where I got my hat. Every stranger who talks to me is either asking for a cigarette, spare change, or wants to know where I got my hat.

"Sorry," I called. "I gotts catch a bus!" I walked on briskly into Stop & Shop. I grabbed the soap and bananas and headed for a checkout lane. Only a few lanes were open and all of them had long lines. D'oh!

Standing in line and tapping my foot, because that would make the line move faster, a man approached me.

Hey, Buddy," he said. It was the guy who called me from the car at the intersection. WTF? I smiled to him as he walked up to me. "The reason I was calling you back there -- when you told me you were going to catch a bus -- was because the woman in front of me was stuck. I was hoping you coukld help give her a push to the side of the road."

"Oh, really?" I said. He seemed a bit annoyed at me. "I hope I can still catch it. I dunno, looks like I'll miss it," I said with my watch in hand.

"She might have paid you for your help, man," he continued. "I just want to let you know that not everyone out to hurt you, okay?" Turning away from me he said, with annoyance loud and clear, "I'm only saying it because you apparently felt threatened."

Did I mention that he was black? Of course, not, because that didn't matter until that very moment.

He thought that I felt threatened by him for talking to me on a busy street in broad daylight because he was black. So much so that he followed me into Stop & Shop just to tell me that. WTF?! Can't a guy actually be trying to catch a bus?!

I don't know if I could blame him or not. I tried to see it from his perspective; to see what he saw. I dunno. I just don't know. I do know that I felt terrible. I felt like it was my fault that he was insulted even though I really was trying to catch a frickin' bus. I feel like, through a quirk of circumstance, a black guy believes that he was "racially profiled" by a white guy. He's probably relating that story to friends and family right now. "This white guy felt threaten when I called him over because he saw that I was black," he might be saying. "When will things ever get better..." d'oh.

So, that was my day. All the tedium and the hectic sound and fury and the sinking feeling that tomorrow is another day.

When I get to work tomorrow morning I'm going to take a razorbalde, cut out April 13th and burn that little paper square.

Posted by Tuning Spork at 10:16 PM | Comments (5)

April 10, 2005

Note to self: You are not 25 years old anymore

Wow, I must have had a great time last night because I slept 'til 4pm today. Well, except for when I got up around noon to hurl.

Other than that, today was the first truely gorgeous day of the year. Warm, sunny, buds on the trees and pizza for dinner. Mmmmm, spring.

Posted by Tuning Spork at 08:11 PM | Comments (1)

April 08, 2005

Scam Alert

Just in case you weren't aware, there are scam emails going out asking you log into your various "now frozen" accounts to confirm things like passwords and such. The PayPal one has been around for a while, but recently I've gotten 'em from "Bank of America" and some "bank" I've never even heard of.

My mother was taken in by the Paypal scam recently.

If you don't know if it's scam-mail or not, just look at the link provided. It always starts with "https://...". What the fark is that s doing there? It's telling you that it's a scam, that's what. Pass it on.

Be careful out there!

Posted by Tuning Spork at 10:50 PM | Comments (3)

Spring is here! :)

Now what...?!

Seems like yesterday that my neighbor was shouting "Global warming my ass!". Today, people were walking around in tee-shirts.

When I was about 12 or 13 years old, I watched a promo for our local news station, WTNH. Ken Vennett wondered if it'd "gone from too cold to too hot too fast." I remember that still because that's what seems to happen every frickin' year. In another three weeks we'll be complaining about the heat. Mark my words!

The trees haven't bloomed. I haven't even noticed any buds, yet. But my cracked molar tells me that -- unlike the past two summers -- we're in for a hot one. Lots of sun = good garden. I'm about ready for some plantin'!

Three summers ago we had drought warnings. But, the past two have been overcast and wet. I can fake rain with the faucet and watering can, but I can't fake sun. I'm going out a limb and gonna forecast some juicy tomatoes this season!


Yeah, that's all I got. Sad, eh?

I think I'll spice up this blog by taking a page out of Jennifer's playbook. (Hey, I'm not the only one!)
So I'm introducing a new feature: Ask Spork.

Got a question? Crave a mystery's solution but never took the time to search for it? I need a project --(all this nuthin' but work and sleep ain't cuttin' it)-- so I'm yer boy!

Leave a question in the comments and I'll decide if I want to try to answer it or not. And if I can't answer it definitively then I promise to give you an entertaining fake answer instead. Either will suffice.

Like I said: I need a project.

Posted by Tuning Spork at 12:24 AM | Comments (0)

March 29, 2005

Oh, Crappy Day

Good friend and co-worker Lawruh has quit.


I woke up to the sound of the drizzling rain on the window above my bed. What a crappy day this is gonna be.

I knew that Lawruh was in "negotiations" with the Boss over her wages. She recently found out what she was worth as a graphic artist and decided to either get a raise from the Boss, or take a job under the guy who insisted that she out-classed any graphic artist in the three nearest counties.

Boss is in the process of selling the business and headed for retirement. Lawrah's education, thus, comes at an interesting time.

As I was walking up to the shop I looked for her truck. Nope.

I walked in and heard Boss, talking on the phone, saying "And then on Friday she..." Uh-oh.

I was pleased to discover her salsas and veggies still in the fridge. And the unopened box of Saltines was still there. Yay!

Then I decided that I'd better check the inner office. The photos of her kids were gone. Dang.

It was raining all morning. Then all afternoon. I felt just like this weather.

Boss came up to me and said "Looks like it's you and me against the world. Lawruh quit her job this morning."

I worked through the day but it felt all wrong. It felt like a saturday. Y'know, when you're doing extra emergency work, but not regular work. It's not regular time, it's different.

No Lawruh. This was all wrong.

It rained all frickin' day.

I was standing outside, under my umbrella, smoking a cigarette. How did I feel? Work is busy but tedious and Lawruh isn't here. Lawruh's not here anymore. Maybe nevermore. All day I felt like my sister had died.

I called her at home tonight and she gave the lowdown. I refuse to believe that Boss is as sneaky and manipulative as Lawruh has come to feel he is.

New Boss is ready to take the reigns of the shop and, hopefully, he'll deal with Lawruh more openly and reward her loyalty appropriately. She's open to it. This sucks as much for her as it does for any of us involved.

And I want my sistah back!

Posted by Tuning Spork at 12:42 AM | Comments (2)

March 15, 2005

How To Know Where To Look

So, anyway, I was at work this afternoon. I was preparing to run a three-color, two-sided brochure on glossy stock for one of our regular customers.

I was at the light table making sure that I had the masking right on the negative. The three colors are red, blue and black. I'd be running the red and black together on the two-color press because it's a very tight registration. The lead line of every one of about fifteen paragraphs was red; the rest of the text was black. Gotta make sure all the little tabs are folded back so's they'll burn into the plate, y'know.

Then I realized that had an older version of the brochure. Hmm. I had two versions for the front side, but only one for the back side - and it was the wrong one.

I spent a few minutes searching the file folders and the job box and looking around at the plate maker and other areas. It was nowhere to be seen.

"I must have filed it in the wrong envelope after the last time I ran this thing," I thought. Crikey, if I gotta start searching through all the folders it could take quite a while to find it that negative.

Then it occurred to me: If I misfiled the negative, where would I have put it?

Let's see... red and black brochure on glossy stock... Independent Special Investigations!
Opened the ISI envelope and TADA! there it was.

I call it "retracing my missteps".

Posted by Tuning Spork at 08:31 PM | Comments (0)

March 04, 2005

Aah, Foggy Memories

15 years ago, or so, I was working in the in-house print shop at CALDOR, Inc (now defunct9 for reasons that don't matter).

Rick was one of our pressman; one of six. Rick had the annoying habit of making noise with his voice. The man would not shut the @#$% up.

"Gad, will he ever shut up?" Fi wondered.
"I can't think with him talking over the machines all day long," Hector moaned.
"Oh, you no have to work next to him!" Khamone wailed.

So, one day I became so exasperated with Rick's incessent verbiage that I offerred him a challenge. If he'd not say a single word for one hour I'd pay him $5. He accepted the challenge!

He nearly broke after ten minutes but then he put a strip of packing tape over his mouth. Holy crap, he's serious.

Various persons would come by to talk to him but he, mouth masked, would only communicate in writing. This was getting weird.

At about 45 minutes Fi walked up to me.

"So, if he makes it... are y'gonna pay him?" he asked
"Of course," I said to his surprise.
"Why?" he shrugged in something very near confusion.
"Because I said I would." (Now, mind you, I never thought for a split second that Rick could possibly make it to an hour without saying something. But if he did, I began to accept, I'd just have to pay up.)

Eventually it became the event of the day. By 55 minutes everyone was trying to trick Rick into talking. "The clock's wrong, you've already made it!" "Dude, he ain't gonna pay ya so stop embarrassing yourself!" Rick just shook his head at them defiantly and knowingly.

When it was clear that an hour had passed, and he'd clearly made it without uttering a word, he took off the tape. I pulled out my wallet and handed him a five-dollar bill.

"Rick," Jeff, the boss, said. "You did all that for five dollars?!" Rick laughed loudly and joyfully as only he can. Jeff, and everyone else, were silent. Aghast, I tells ya, at what had just happened.

"No," I told Jeff and the entire crew who'd gathered for this rediculous moment. "He didn't do it for five bucks."

I dug my BIC lighter out of my pants pocket and handed it to Rick. He winked, then smiled, then set the fiver ablaze and let it fall to the concrete floor.

"Hah! See?!" I shouted. "He did it because I challenged him to do it. I asked him to do something hard. Something no one's ever challenged him to do before. And he did it! Not for five bucks, but for having done a difficult thing. For beating my challenge!"

I turned to Rick with my hand up and we high-fived while some crumpled thing fizzled out on the floor. .

Posted by Tuning Spork at 12:54 AM | Comments (3)

February 18, 2005

Magic Happens ---- Until You Know It's Just A Trick

I wrote previously about Yelena HERE. If you haven't read it yet it'd be best, for this post's purposes, that you did. G'head, I wait!

Condensed version: She's a gal I met at the bus terminal who asked me for a cigarette, revealed herself to be a Ukraine emigre, seemingly was a non-smoker, is smart, pretty and fun to talk to. Cosmic tumblers were falling into place and, I finally let myself believe that she was the gal I'd been waiting for for 14 years. I got her email address. This was Friday before last.. almost two weeks ago.

Here's the thing: I sent her an email on Saturday saying something like: "Hi, Yelena. You're so fun to talk to. Maybe we could meet at a coffee shop somewhere on Black Rock Turnpike -- away from the bus terminal. It'd be fun!" etc etc. The email was returned as undeliverable.

I tried it again. Same thing. I tried a variation on what she'd written that seemed logical and it went through. But I had no idea if it was her address. Did she make a mistake when she wrote her email address? Did she give me a bogus email address when she realized that I was interested in her in a way that she hadn't expected?

No! Couldn't be! If you read the link you'd know that I could not possibly have been THAT wrong about her non-verbal communication.


I met her, for the third time, two nights ago.

I was outside smoking a cigarette when I noticed her enter the terminal from the opposite side. I threw away my ciggie and walked inside and toward her.

"Hi," she sorta smiled, and then buried her face back into the magazine she was scanning.

"May I join you?" I asked.

"Sure," she said almost dismissively.

Ooookay. I sat down beside her. "Did you get my email?" I asked. "N-n-n-o..." she said with an air of either a) confusion, or b) annoyance.
I took out a memo pad and pen from my jacket pocket and wrote her email address just as she'd written it.

"Is this it?" I asked.
"Yes," she nodded. "Maybe it's because I haven't checked it in so long that maybe it was discontinued I don't know..." she rambled while looking at nothing in particular.
"Do you still have my email address?" I asked suspiciously.
"Yes," she assured me.
"Then you should write to me, so I'll know that I have your correct address."
"Okay," she nodded into her magazine, "if I ever get near my computer again..."

Shit Almighty.

I began to accept that I had been so-o-o-o wrong about her signals. But.... how?!

"Well," I sighed, "I think I'll go outside for a smoke. Care to join me?"

"Nooo, it's so cold," she demurred.

Well, of course I couldn't leave her 'til I knew if and how I'd gone so wrong. I noticed the title of an artical she was trying to read: Strategic Defense.

"Do you follow politics?" I asked.
"Oh, yes, you know, somewhat, you know, when I can..."
"What are you reading?"
"Business Week."
"Aah. And just what do you do for business?"
"What do I do?"
"I study,"
she laughed.
"Oh, are you in school?" I asked.
"I was... I hope to go back again, yes. Maybe next semester..."

I began to wonder if she was a lot younger than I thought she was. I dunno. All women 18-35 look alike to me.

"Well," she chimed, "I think I'll have a cigarette now..."

We got up, she collected her bags, we walked toward the door, I waited and held it for her and she gave me a delicate "thank you".
I then walked to where we had talked the previous time. I leaned on the newspaper dispenser and pulled out two cigarettes; one for me and one for her. But, she was busy pulling out her own cigarette.

I was wrong. She's a smoker. Dammit.

She stood just about where she did the last time, but, further away. Maybe three or four feet. I got the feeling that she wanted to be close enough to help me not to think that she was ignoring me, but far enough to tell me that she wasn't WITH me, f'ya know what I mean.

I made some idle chat about the differences between daily life in the Ukraine as opposed to the U.S., and she was responsive yet more distant than before. Her attention wasn't on me, but on the greater surroundings. She was on the lookout for the bus.
Our bus arrived and we boarded.

We sat inn the same seats as we almost two weeks ago. I knew that it'd be a while before I ran into her again, so I decided to get things straight. I wasn't about to keep on wondering if she's just too tired or just too disinterested.
I turned to her.

"Yelena, may I ask you something?"

"Sure," she said with her eyes closed and her voice decidedly seperated from me in a way that it never was up 'til this point. I took a deep breath and slowly began:

"That first time that you asked for a cigarette; I didn't know that you smoked. In fact, I thought that you didn't because I'd never seen you smoking before."
She closed her eyes and smiled knowingly.

"And I thought," I continued with our eyes now locked, "I thought that maybe -- just maybe -- you were using it as an excuse to meet me... to talk to me."

"Oh," she smiled in a way I hadn't seen her smile since our last encounter. "I had finished my pack and didn't have any..."
"You just wanted a cigarette," I nodded.
"Yes..." she said sheepishly bowing her head almost appologetically.
"Y'know, I used giving you a cigarette as an excuse to talk to you."
"I know, yes, yes,"
she winced.

"Well," I sighed pensively before turning back to her and shaking my head in her favor, "You don't have to write to me then."
"No, no. I, I...." she trailed off as she returned herself to Business Week.

We rode the next few minutes in silence. When the bus was coming to a stop at my stop I turned to her one last time and said:

"I'd really like to get together and talk over coffee sometime. It'd be fun!"

"Okay," she smiled brightly. "Bye.


"You said all the right things," Lawruh tells me. Yelena put up the wall because she may encounter so much rot from guys who just don't know the difference between courtship and stalking. And, believe you me, Lawruh is an expert on the rap (wrath) of forward guys.

I know that my regular male readers see it the way I do. A woman is always a lady. And you treat her like one. My friends are like that, too. But, yes, I see the other side all the time: Guys that talk to gals in ways that are repulsive and, no surprise, the gals usually get up and walk away after too many minutes of taking the insulting banter of horny feaux gentlemen.

"First he's all sweet," Lawruh said, "and then, suddenly, he's telling me about how 'big' he is!"

"You said all the right things."

I hope so. Even if Yelena never emails me (and I expect that she wont), I hope that she at least understands why I asked her for her email address: That I sincerely believed that she saw me the same way that I saw her. I think I did it right. Gals can find "the field" hard to deal with, and hope that I let her let me down easy.

I'm not upset that she's not destined to be the girl of my dreams. I barely know her. I'm more disappointed that she isn't who I thought she was: a dreamgirl making excuses to talk to me.

Two nights ago I was mad at myself for allowing myself to believe that I'd found the girl of my dreams; for opening my heart to that possibility. Last night and tonight I'm actually happy for having had this experience. For four weeks I've been dancing on air convinced that magic was happening.
It wasn't, of course, I only thought it was.

But, still, I wouldn't trade the past four weeks for the previous four weeks or the next four weeks. I'm glad I had the chance to dream a little dream and believe it was real.

Disappointed? Yes. Regretful? Nope. Not by a long shot.
Even if I never ever never see her again, Yelena will always be special to me. I only hope that my behavior, in the face of my obvious disappointment, has made me special, in some way, in the name of chivalry, to her.

I said all the right things; I let her go. I know she appreciates it. I'll just keep telling myself that.

Posted by Tuning Spork at 09:30 PM | Comments (2)

February 14, 2005

When You Move, Try To Remember Where You Put Things. You Might Want To Unpack Them Someday.

So, here I am, ready to record some music for the first time in years.

I haven't recorded anything since I moved here, almost three years ago, and I've been looking for my equipment. I know where my guitars and keyboard are, of course, but it took me two days to find the drum machine. Problem is: I can't find the adapter to plug it in.

I also can't seem to locate all the various chords and microphones. I thought they were in a box in my bedroom, but, nope. I don't even know where my frickin' microphone stand is. It's probably way back in the corner of the "den", which Chris and I use for storage. *sigh* It's gonna take a heap o'movin' stuff around to get to it. I don't need the mic stand, but my microphones and chords might be somewhere in a box nearby. This sucks.

Found my digital delay and a distortion box, though.

Fired up the recorder on Saturday and it still works. Woo hoo! I put in an old tape I had lying around and listen to a couple of songs while moving the tracks' volume levels up and down. There's the guitar and vocal and he-e-e-e-re comes the piano on track 5! Now out fades the vocal on track 3 and up fades the harmonica on track 6! It's fun.

I've had these two new songs going through my head all day every day for almost a week now. I jus' gotta get 'em recorded so's I can stop thinkin' about 'em.

I planned on making a pizza tonight but then realized that I had no tomato paste or sauce. My stuffed mushrooms came out terrible -- too dry. The chicken is rubbery and even the baked potato wasn't very appetizing. Maybe it's just my mood.

Where! Are! My! Microphones?!!!

Sorry. I picked the wrong day to give up drinking.

Posted by Tuning Spork at 10:54 PM | Comments (1)

February 12, 2005

Clean-Up Time

So, I'm writing songs again. Woo hoo! Haven't finished a song in about four years.

Unburied the Yamaha 8-track recorder. Yay! Haven't turned it on in over two years. Hope it still works.

I spent the day cleaning my bedroom and the bathroom.

Hey, I just realized that some of the keys on my keyboard don't work. The delete key and the arrows just beneath it don't work, except for the left arrow key. But it doesn't move the "blinking place indicator" (or whatever it's called), it types this -> \. WTF? I've got this thing covered in plastic wrap. There's no way I spilled something on it! Oh well.

Man, I got nothin'. 'Cept to say that there might be some big changes in my life soon. I'm gonna see about getting a job closer to home so's I can be sure to get all hours so's I can make more moolah so's I can a car and take the princess out to dinner some time. Nothin' in the paper. Maybe I'll just cold-call some print shops and see if they're looking for a good pressman. Them jobs is hard to come by these days what with computers taking over the old mechanical world. I'm in the wro-o-o-o-ng business.

Aah well. Gonna go eat my steak and mashed potatoes, yum, straighten-up some more and fire up the recorder. Got a tune in my head for a lush instrumental called "Nevermore". It's something that tries to capture the mood immediately after the lovin', 'fya know what I mean. The words come in only toward the very end and reapeat, in three-part harmony:

I will doubt or be without you

I can hear the chord changes in my head. Hope I can figure out what they are so I can play them!

Posted by Tuning Spork at 03:48 PM | Comments (1)

February 05, 2005

Magic Happens

"There comes a time when all the cosmic tumblers have clicked into place and the universe opens it’s self up for a few seconds to show you what’s possible."

I wrote last tuesday about a gal I met at the bus terminal. I'd seen her before. In the evening, she takes the same bus home that I usually take. But, I only see her maybe once, twice, maybe three times a month. She looked Russian, and I'd thought, now and again, of striking up a conversation with her. Not just because she was pretty, but because I just lo-o-o-o-ve Russian accents.

So, I was standing outside in the blistering cold last tuesday and she walked up to me slowly. As I turned to face her she asked, "Excyuss me, may I baum cigardrette frdrom you, ordr buy?"

When I heard her voice and looked into those hazel Slavic eyes I just about melted. I, of course, gave her a cigarette, refused the quarter that she offered and lit the cig with my lighter. "Thank you," she smiled.

I'd never seen her smoking before. Maybe it was just because she didn't want people asking her for cigarettes every few minutes -- as is the norm at the bus terminal. I hoped she wouldn't walk away. She put her grocery bag on the bench - next to mine - and sat down. A minute passed.

"Dammit, talk to her!" I said to myself. Leaning over to catch her attention as she stared forward at nothing I asked, "Did I detect an accent?"

Long story short (and since I wrote about this already), she is originally from the Ukraine and came to America about three and a half years ago. We talked about language, I told her that I'd tried to teach myself Russian about ten years ago. We just, generally, had a nice conversation that lasted about ten minutes (until our bus arrived). She laughed at my jokes, and she's so cute when she smiles.

What I didn't mention a week and a half ago was this: When we got on the bus I sat in the seat just in front her. I faced mainly forward, but slightly to my left just in case I found the nerve to continue talking to her. She buried her head in a magazine and, I guess, I'd lost my confidence that she wanted me to talk to her. We rode the eight or ten minutes to my stop in silence.

After I'd pulled the chord to signal the driver to stop I turned sideways and put my leg out into the aisle to signal her that I was leaving. She didn't look up.
When the bus was coming to a stop I got out of my seat and stood at the back door -- just in front of where I was sitting.

It was only after the door had opened that I saw, out of the corner of my eye, that she'd finally looked up at me. I wanted to turn to say "goodnight", but by then the door was open, the snow pile was in front of me, and I just stepped forward and exited the bus.

"Idiot! I screamed at myself. "Now she thinks you weren't impressed. She knows that you know that she doesn't smoke! She went out on a limb and now she thinks you blew her off. Stupid! Stupid! Stupid!"

But I didn't want to think about that. She could have stayed focused on her magazine. The fact that she finally did look up to get a "goodnight" meant that she wasn't unimpressed with me. I was on cloud nine all the way home.

Wednesday night I was at the bus terminal at the same time as tuesday night, hoping that she'd be there. She wasn't. Maybe she usually takes the bus that runs an hour earlier? I took Thursday off, but on friday I was there an hour earlier. She wasn't there.


Just as an aside, lemme tell ya where I'm coming from -- no long story, I promise.

I've been celibate for the past fourteen years. (Well, with one exception. But, that was with my "ex" so it doesn't count.) Over the past nine years I've become more and more convinced that I would never meet a woman that could possibly make me want to pursue that whole "relationship thing" again... until now.

I don't know this mystery gal. We talked for ten frickin' minutes. But, they were ten very special little minutes and, just from the way she talked and the way her body and face moved and all things intangible, it just felt like she was the one I'd been waiting for. And she walked up to me!


Okay, we're back.

Monday arrives. I got in at "our time". She wasn't there.

Tuesday, I got in an hour earlier. But... It was one week since we'd met and maybe she'll be there at the same time as last week! As I sometimes do, I decided to get a sandwich at Subway and a coffee at Dunkin' Donuts because it's usually 2 1/2 to 3 hours before I'll be eating dinner and I get hungry. And, maybe just maybe, she'll be there an hour later. She wasn't there.

On wednesday I did the same thing; sandwich and coffee to kill an hour. She wasn't there. Thursday (yesterday) I got in at "our time" and she was nowhere to be seen. Maybe she usually gets in an hour later? I had a sandwich and coffee which meant that I wouldn't be having dinner until about 11:00. She wasn't there.

"That's it," I thought. "She's gone." Unless I'm having some really serious-ass hunger pangs, tonight I'm going straight home. I've had it. Maybe she bought a car and wont be riding the bus anymore and we met last tuesday because she knew that that was her last chance to talk to me... and I blew it. "Now stop thinking about her, Dumbass!"


I got in at "our time" tonight with only one thought. If I convince myself that she wont be there, and don't even bother to look around indoors for her because she is obviously not going to be there, she might actually be there.

I walked into the terminal and there she was.

Her head was buried in a magazine. I walked over to get closer. As I approached within about ten feet of her she looked up and saw me. Her face lit up!

"Hi-i-i-i," she smiled. "Izdravtsitsya," I smiled right back.

I passed her slowly and she returned to her magazine. I set my grocery bag down on the floor by the soda machine just behind and to left of her. A minute passed.

"Talk! To! Her!" I berated myself. I paced a little bit and noticed that every ten or fifteen seconds she'd lift her head and turn it just ever so slightly in my direction.

As my friend Lawruh told me the other day: If you want to talk to her then talk to her. The worst that can happen is that she'll tell you to bug off. Let her reject you, don't reject yourself for her.

I picked up my bag, walked over to her, leaned down and asked, "Would you like to join me for a cigarette?"

"Sher-r-r-r-r!" she beamed closing her magazine with her smile wide and her eyes closed. It was like the game was tied for 27 innings and I'd just hit a triple with nobody out. Er.. and somehow I'm still at bat. The cosmic tumblers were falling into place. And "sure" is my new favorite word.


I'd anticipated this for a week-and-a-half. I knew how to begin the conversation and how to keep it going. I'd had time to think and rethink it.

I told Lawruh that "I hope she has a pretty name... like Elenya. That way I can say 'Elenya, that's so pretty... You LOOK like an Elenya,' so's I can tell her she's pretty without saying it bluntly." "You're allowed to tell her she's pretty," Lawruh encouraged. "No, not yet!" I protested.

When mystery gal and I got outside I turned, with cigarette pack in hand, and said "My name is Bob, by the way." She nodded.

"I'm Yelena."

**insert dumbfounded pause here**

"Yelena?" I stammered. She nodded. "I... actually thought that that might be your name.... I swear to God..." I don't know if she thought I was BSing or not, but she seemed to believe me and thought that it was as weird a coinkidink as I did. I focused my thoughts and got out the "it's so pretty" line. I then, trying to control my glee, got to say "You look like a Yelena," and mean it. Cosmic tumblers were falling like rain.


One thing I'd planned to ask her was about how life, in general, was different in the Ukraine than it is in America. "There's so much," she said, trying, I think, to think of an example. "The culture is so different; the people act so different," she said as looked around the crowd of noisy obnoxious Americans milling about.

Just then a stranger came up to me and asked if I had an extra cigarette. I pulled one out of the pack and handed it to him and thought of giving giving Yelena a knowing glance. But, um, I remembered that that's how we'd met.


At one point a got her to play a little game. I would say something in Russian and she would say it back to me in English. That way I'd know if I was sayng it right.

I turned on my best Russian accent and the first thing I said was "U menya yest Anglo-Russki slovar." She actually gasped, suprised at how clearly I'd spoken it.

"That's so yes, yes... 'I have a, a, an Anglo-Russian dictionary!"

We did some more phrases and words and it was fun and we both lamented about how bilingual dictionaries will, when a word has more than one meaning, list all of the possibilities without telling you which word applies to which definition. "There are so-o-o many synonyms!" she cried.


Longer story shortened: I have her email address. (I'll get the phone number later. Playin' it cool... all in good time... ) We'll be chattin' over coffee in no time.

Life is good. :)

Posted by Tuning Spork at 12:18 AM | Comments (3)

February 03, 2005


Note to gals:

Don't ever cut your hair short. No matter how old you get, just don't do it. Ever!
Even if you don't wanna hafta pin it up 'cause it's such a hassle, leave it long anyway. The chance that it might, sometime, somehow, when we least expect it, drape your shoulders is worth the pins and barrettes. Please trust me. Just saying is all...

Anyone agree or diagree?

Posted by Tuning Spork at 02:16 AM | Comments (9)

January 23, 2005

Johnny Carson (1925-2005)

"I know a man who gave up smoking, drinking, sex and rich foods. He was healthy right up to moment he killed himself."
-- Johnny Carson

Posted by Tuning Spork at 04:10 PM | Comments (1)

January 20, 2005

And can we say enough about this guy?


Now that's optimism.

Posted by Tuning Spork at 11:31 PM | Comments (0)

Home Late Again

And not enough time to spend writing Moby Chicken, pt 4 -- though I do have the rest of it all nearly worked out. (Trying to work in more laughs.) Pts 4 and 5 might have to wait 'til Saturday and Sunday as if anyone cares.... :P

Posted by Tuning Spork at 12:45 AM | Comments (0)

January 11, 2005

I Can't Cook Anymore!

I don't know what it is, but for the past six months or so I haven't been able to cook any edible meat except pork chops.

I actually thought of keeping kosher for health reasons a little while back. But, no matter how much I try to clean my broiler pan, everytime I cook a steak I end up filling the house with smoke. And I can't seem to cook chicken that doesn't come out rubbery anymore. I miss good chicken!

My roasted beets and taters, peas in butter and fried mustard green patties still always come out perfect, btw. Veggies, I can still do goodly. But, as for meat, from now on it's all pork chops all the time. (Baked 60 minutes at 350o with a slathering of Hemmingway Idaho Sauce.)

Posted by Tuning Spork at 11:56 PM | Comments (3)

January 09, 2005

You Can't Handle The Truth!

Sometimes I forget that it's okay to write short posts. So, here's one:

Children's Questions That It's Best Not To Answer Honestly:

Why do you throw the lobsters in headfirst?

Why is Andrea Yates in jail?

What's sausage made of?

That's all I got for now. Got any more?

Posted by Tuning Spork at 12:18 PM | Comments (0)

January 02, 2005

An Imaginary Conversation (Just For Fun)

Tuning Spork answers his cellphone:

TS: Hello?

Freedom's Slave: Yo, Spork.

TS: Yo, Slave. 'Sup?

FS: I'm up at the Trumbull Mall right now, but heading to the rock concert in a little while. Wanna come with?

TS: Groovy! I'm not home right now, though...

FS: Well, just tell me where you are and I'll come pick you up.

TS: 'Kay. Leave the mall over by where Circuit City is. Turn right and go until you get to Warehouse Liquors, turn right and then bear left so's you come out over at Super Stop & Shop. Turn left and go all the way 'til you get to the Splash Express Carwash -- across from M&R Convience Mart -- and turn right. Go all the way past A&P until you get to Pizza Post and then turn right. I'll meet out in front of Kohl's.

FS: Spork, I have no farkin' idea where any of those places are. Remember, I've been out of town for a few years.

TS: Oh, right. Okay. Leave the mall over where the UA Trumbull Theater used to be and take a right. Go past where Crazy Eddie used to be until you get to where Pathmark used to be. Turn right then bear left so's you come out where Dewhurst Dairy used to be. Turn left and go past where the Three Door Restaurant used to be until you come to where the Shamrock Pub used to be -- across from where Tom Thumb Variety used to be -- and turn right. Drive all the way past where King Cole Supermarket used to be until you come to where Fitzwilly's and the Community Theater used to be - over by where Bradlee's used to be. Turn right and I'll meet you out in front of where Caldor used to be.

FS: Got it. See ya in a bit.

TS: If I'm still here...

Posted by Tuning Spork at 04:59 PM | Comments (3)

January 01, 2005

Happy New Year!

Hope everyone had a rollickin' and safe New Year celebration. I know I must've 'cause I slept 'til 1:30 this afternoon. Well hey, I didn't get home 'til 4:00 in the morning.

One highlight of the shindig was listening to Brian Wilson's Smile. I've heard to old Smile tracks many times over the years and this new version is awesome. It's faithful to the original arrangements with only a few exceptions, such as rewriting the lyric to Good Vibrations. Highly recommended!

I don't know why, but one mother at the party allowed her 14 yr-old daughter to have a vodka jello-shot. Within 15 minutes the girl was falling on her ass giggling and wondering why everyone was looking at her. While pacing back and forth and trying to push the right button to answer her cellphone, her dad said "Why don't you just plop yourself into that chair take a nap, Sweetie?" To which she replied "I think I'll just plop myself into this chair a take a nap..." Of course, she never took a nap.

After midnight a bunch of us gathered upstairs in the "band room" and Tex and I played a few numbers. We started with me on his drum set and Tex on guitar, then switched places. By that hour I was as well-lit as Times Square and had trouble remembering the first line to Night Moves. Sheesh, I've been singin' that song regularly for 15 years.

Originally the plan was to crash at Tex's and go home in the morning. But, as the party wound down, Norm, who was driving, said he was completely wide awake and sober and would rather just drive home that "night". So, at 3:30 am we drove back to Bridgeport.

So now I'm happy and sated and it's 65 degrees outside. But it's 4:30 and I haven't eaten yet so I'm gonna go whip up some chicken and stuffed 'shrooms.

Happy New Year!

Posted by Tuning Spork at 04:16 PM | Comments (0)

December 19, 2004

Intermural Handshakes

How can a man properly and politely shake a woman's hand?
Long ago I decided to adopt the Kennedy-half-shake where ya grab her fingers and coddle them in your palm with an earnest closeness bestowed upon only those whose hands you wanna shake.

It's worked out great so far.

But, I wonder:

What do you gals think about shaking hands with a man?

Do you want him to squeeze with firm resolve -- like a man shaking hands with a man?

Or, would you rather he take you gently into his own hand -- like a man shaking hands with a woman?

Am I the only man left that finds shaking hands with a woman to be kinda wwiieerrdd?


Posted by Tuning Spork at 09:12 PM | Comments (13)

December 13, 2004

Cellphone: The Black Hole Of Peripheral Awareness

I'm not long for this world.

Not because I'm beset with extraordinary trials, nor because I've lost any desire to see what in the world will happen next. I'm not long for this world because I walk a lot.

Walking is cool. It gets the heart pumping, the legs jamming, the beat bringing favorite old tunes to mind. But, when you have to cross a lot of street corners, walking can be hazardous to your health.

Once a week, for the past month, I've come this close to being slaughtered by a car or truck. Wha..?! No! Uh huh.

So, let me just say this in the most politically wrong terms that I must:

Hang up and drive!

I single out you ladies only because, in my experience, you're the only culprits. You watch for other cars, but not for pedestrians. I'm a pedestrian. Do not question me.

If you want to argue that men and women aren't any better or worse than the other at different tasks then we'll have no argument because I refuse to debate that point. I've seen enough.

I know that you think that talking on the phone is no different than talking to someone sitting next to you, but you're wrong. I'm not sure why, but I know you're wrong.

Okay, enough with the male/female dynamic. Let's just deal with the big picture, shall we?

People often like to protest that they'd oh so much prefer to talk face to face rather than on the phone. BULLSHIT. The telephone is more intimate and we all know it. I've said things to people on the telephone that I'd never have said to them face to face. The "lack of intimacy" of a voice vs face is a lie that we tell ourselves for who knows what reason. Maybe we're just dumb.

The telephone is the black hole of peripheral awareness. I learned this back in high school when my friend was on the phone with someone... who cares who. I tried to show him a drawing and he fidgetted and brushed me aside intent on preserving the integrity of the phone conversation.

Not long ago my friend Tex stood in my kitchen on his cellphone and practically goose-stepped around the room as he was talking on his cellphone. Try interupting someone who's on the phone and then tell me that it's the same as talking to someone standing beside you.

When you're talking to someone next to you you can still watch TV, work on whatever project you're working on and even monitor other conversations going on around you. But when you're on the phone you're doing only one thing: talking on the phone.

Like I said: I don't know why it's so different, but it is.

So, word to the wise: If you're driving and want to make or take a call: pull over. You think you can drive and talk on the phone at the same time, I know, I know. But, trust me, to do one effectively you're gonna have to do the other haphazardly.

Choose one or the other 'cause Hey, I'm walkin' here...!!!.

Posted by Tuning Spork at 11:34 PM | Comments (0)

December 11, 2004

Message for Freedom's Slave

Yo, Slave.

Send me an email! I lost all my emails and, therefore, email addresses six months ago when I had to reformat my harddrive. I know it's something like yourname@pillsburydoughboy.something but not sure exactly.

I also don't have your work and home numbers anymore. I don't know what happened to my list of numbers that I kept handy at work, but it's been missing for quite some time.

I have your home address now because I just got your Christmas card. The girls just get more and more beautiful, don't they?!
But I have no other way of contacting you, so email me!

Oh, and Happy Birthday! :)

Posted by Tuning Spork at 10:34 AM | Comments (0)

December 10, 2004

Week From Hell Finally Over!

I was able to finish all but one of the jobs that had been sitting around for up to a month because it took three weeks to get a new moisture form roller for the 1360. WOO HOO!!! Hopefilly the late nights at work are finally over for a while and I can get home at a reasonable hour and have time to actually blog.

Right now I'm... I'm just too... I think I'm gonna... zzzzzzzzzzzzz......

Posted by Tuning Spork at 10:23 PM | Comments (0)

December 04, 2004

Bob Dylan on 60 Minutes

Tune in tomorrow night to see Dylan's first TV interview in 19 years -- according to this article. (I remember that, too! I think it was on ABC's 20/20, just after the release of the album Empire Burlesque.)

Here's a quote:

"I never wanted to be a prophet or a savior. Elvis maybe. I could see myself becoming him. But prophet? No."

He's using the term "prophet" loosely, of course, as in "social prophet".

And he mentions something that I've always found interesting about his early "protest" songs:

"My stuff -- (they) were songs, they weren't sermons. If you examine the songs I don't believe you're going to find anything in there that says that I'm a spokesman for anybody or anything really."

And there never was. Unlike say... George Harrison or Phil Ochs, Dylan never presented himself as an instructor, but as a storyteller. The message of the song was transmitted through the story, not with a preachy "shut up and listen while I tell ya what t' think...".

Well, there is an exception. It's on 1979's Slow Train Coming:

"When you gonna wake up?
When you gonna wake up?!
When you gonna wake up....
and strengthen the thiiiiiiings that remain?!!"

Back in high school I used to write socio-political lyrics in the most obvious and preachy terms. Hey, I was a punk rocker, and that's what we did.
Then that easy, angry style of writing was epitomized in the songs of a bands like The Circle Jerks and Black Flag. I heard them and I ha-a-a-a-a-ted them! (This was at the dawn of the early '80s "hardcore" era.)

I gave up on the future of punk and decided to look backwards, discovering, among others, Bob Dylan. The more I listened to Dylan the more I realized that I was doing it all wrong. Don't give a sermon, tell a story! It's much more effective, non-obnoxious and rewarding. DUH!!!

Anywho, tune into 60 Minutes Sunday night at 7pm EST to see an interview with the supreme prophet storyteller of the 20th century. He's pumping a memoir: Chronicles, Vol. I. Hopefully it'll be a more engaging read than Tarantula (1966).

Posted by Tuning Spork at 07:12 PM | Comments (0)

October 25, 2004

**the sound of crickets chirping**

Wow, I haven't posted anything in a week.

I had jury duty last tuesday and every night last week I just stared my monitor screen desperately wanting to write about what I thought of our verdict. I put the whole thing together -- over and over -- and ended up never bothering to type it up.
And now I don't ever want to think about it again.

But, just to get back into blogging mode, I'll tell ya a little story about moi that I bet I've never mentioned here before:

I was essentially deaf in my left ear for 4 1/2 years:

It all started in the spring of 1993. My left ear would "close up" every now and then, sometimes lasting for a couple of days at a stretch. I vcleaned my ears with some stuff I got at a pharmacy, but it kept happening. My boss's wife (at the time) told me that it was probably a sinus problem. Dang.

For a year I went from Stereophonic to monophonic hearing. Then, in the spring of '94, my left ear closed up for good.
I kept waiting for it to open up again, but it wouldn't. Not for any meaningful length of time, anyway.

It opened up when I was at the beach for the July '94 fireworks, and when I went to Jones Beach with my friend Dave to see Elvis Costello.
At Jones Beach my ear opened up just as we took our seat high up in the stands overlooking the shoreline and stayed open throughout the show. Yay!
But, after climbing down again and driving further from the beach, that ear just sealed right back up. D'oh!

Only when I was at a beach or at a high altitude did I ever regain hearing in that ear. And there I was trying to mix my homemade music tapes into fake stereo while listening in mono.

Then, in September of '98, we had a downpour that lasted for two days. It was the kind of downpour that makes the once humid and heavy air crisp and cool and clear.
Toward the end of the first day my left ear opened up! Woo Hoo! As the first day turned into a second day of deluge, I could still hear in stereo. Please don't ever let this rain stop! As soon as it stops I'll be half-deaf again!

But, the rain did stop, and my ear stayed open. A few days more and I knew it was over. 4 1/2 years of having to cock my head at weird angles just to hear what someone to my left was trying to tell me were finally gone! Six years on and I've never had a relapse.

Now if I could only find my glasses I could see who was saying all those nasty things to me.

Posted by Tuning Spork at 09:52 PM | Comments (3)

October 18, 2004

Protocol and Other Sundry Life Enhancers

So anyway, I was standing in line at Dunkin' Donuts a few years ago just cuz' I wanted a cup of coffee to wake me up after my long morning drive to work.

There was one line and one cashier/hostess/coffee server behind the counter. The lady first in line paid for her coffee and bagel and left, and the guy in front moved to the counter whipping out a long list of items to prattle off.
"Okay, I need..... uh..." he began.

This was no short list either. He wasn't ordering for 3 or 4, he was ordering for 12-15. My instinct to deal with this calmly suddenly gave way to an exasperated exhale of "Keeeeee-reist."

He turned to me defensively and visually sized me up. I had about a foot on 'im, but he was a stalky young man. Maybe somebody cut me off on the highway earlier and I was already looking for a face I didn't like, but my well-honed ability to let adversary roll off my back was being tested.
"I just want a cup of coffee," I said nearly appologetically.

"Sorry, buddy, but I was here first" he blurted at me.

That tore it.

"Dude," I began (I always call guys that I think are assholes "Dude",)
"If I were you, and had a list like that in my hand and knew that there was one guy guy in line behind me... I'd have turned and asked him if he "was just getting a cup of coffee and a donut, 'cause if you are you can go ahead of me 'cuz I (holding up phantom sheet of paper 'tween my thumb and middle finger) have a long list here."
I shrugged and walked toward the side door.

"Sir...?" I heard the coffee-maid chirp.

"T'sokay," I said, turning back and pointing over my shoulder with my thumb at the gas station next door, "There's coffee over there."
Looking at the patron with The List I muttered: "You just keep doing it as you see fit..."

He didn't say anything else to me, but I could just make out his reflection in the door as I sauntered out. He never took his eyes off me 'till I'd gone through the door.
He was either contemplating what I had said, wondering if he'd just learned something about common courtesy, or he was contemplating beating the crap out of me.

I got a better (and cheaper) cup of coffee at the gas station. Green Mountain: Our Blend. Not a bad cup o' joe.

What in the world made me remember that? Oh yeah! Kirsten has a post about protocol; what it's come to mean in her daily comings and goings, and what she feels about that. She wonders if she needs to get back to where she once belonged -- at least a little bit.

I dunno, though. I think that when you're young you tend to want to either ignore social protocol or deliberately taunt those who employ it. But, the older we get the more we realize that common social protocol is there for very satisfying reasons, and that being a young punk in somebody's face is more more fun than having a young punk in yer face.

Anyway, the Link Of The Day Month goes to the Mermaid. Enjoy!

Posted by Tuning Spork at 10:11 PM | Comments (2)

October 12, 2004

Dog Story

Newest Munuvian Loren Bliss has a POST about having dogs around and his unfortunate current lack of such. All ye dog-lovers should give it a read.
Rachel, I'm looking in your direction...

Which reminds me of what's probably my only interesting dog story.

It was the summer of '86. Ronald Reagan was mid-way through his second term; the Mets were kickin' National League ass; Bridgeport Jai Alai was in full-form; Ferris Beuller's Day Off was in the theaters; The Cosby Show and Married... With Children were showing to sides of a demented coin; Milli Vanilli was still three years away.

I was 23 years old, just out of the Air Force, and working at the local Roy Rogers Restaurant. I was closing, so I usually left work at about 1:00am.

Whilst stolling leasurely down Boston Avenue in the middle of the night a dog started barking at me from behind.
I stopped and turned. He was a golden-furred doggie of unknown (to me) pedigree, had his right front paw lifted off the ground, and barked at me from a good 20 feet away.

I didn't have a whole lot of experience with dogs at that time, so I wasn't sure what to make of it. Was he warning me off? He was clearly not attacking me.
I turned to walk on and he barked some more.
I turned to him and saw that he'd run up a little closer, but was still keeping his distance. Paw up and barking.

Hmm. Maybe he wants me to follow him! I had no idea if those Lassie-type stories of dogs going to "find help" were true or not. Me? Dogs? Never met before.

So, I took a few steps toward the dog he immediately turned away and began to lope back down the street.
Still unsure of what was going on I stopped. Was he running away from me?

He looked back and saw that I'd stopped. He stopped and turned and barked again.
Okay, now I'm sure. He wants me to follow him. Maybe there's a kid dying on the side of the road. Or trapped in an old refrigerator. Or fell down a well, I dunno. But I guess it was up to me and my stinging tired eyes to find out.

After jogging behind the dog for about a block and a half I stopped for some reason. I guess the doubt about this 1:30am chase through the deserted side-streets of the neighborhood felt a little weird. But as soon as I stopped the dog turned and barked again -- still keeping that 20-foot distance.

I jogged on until he ran into the front yard of a house and barked at it's front door. He'd look at and bark at the door, then turn to me.
Crikey. He's locked out and wants me to let him in?!

I learned that you just can't tell a dog that not all humans carry the same keychain.

It was only after a few minutes that a car pulled into the driveway. The car stopped (to my right) and the driver stared at me. His wife leaned forward and stared at me. The look on their faces was classic. There's a strange young man in our walkway and our dog is on the front porch. What the...?

The dog ran up the car as the driver got out.

"Is that yer dog?" I asked calmly.

"He is," he said as he squatted to pet him.

"He found me on Boston Avenue," I explained, hoping to wipe that suspicious look off his face.

"The door!" his wife exclaimed as she got out of the car and went into the house.

After a few minutes I "decided" that the dog had gotten out threw a side basement door left ajar and didn't know how to get back in and that he wanted me to let him back into the house.

Like I said: You can't explain to a dog that not all us humans have the same set of keys.

I thought that he must have thought I was an idiot for not understanding that he brought me all the way home to let him inside.

Of course, what was really going on in that house I'll never know.

Ah, well. At least I got to find out why people love dogs and that Timmy wasn't trapped in the well again.

Posted by Tuning Spork at 09:36 PM | Comments (1)

October 10, 2004

Just tying up a loose end...

Another perfect day. Went for a long walk, sat in the yard with the dog and cats for a while, made some brown sugar glazed carrots with raisons (I'm on a raison kick all of a sudden), and, for dinner, whipped up some chicken, mushrooms and corn on the cob. Mmmm.

Neighbor Jim never showed up to help me get the squirrels out of the attic, though. He volunteered to help as I'm too nervous about making that transition from ladder to roof. Never did it before; never want to try it.
Around 4:00 I could hear the squirrels making their way back into the roof. Aah, well. Next weekend I may have to smoke 'em out with a Black Flag fogger, or something.

Now the sun has set and I can relax as I wait for the Simpsons to come on.
[UPDATE: The Simpsons have been pre-empted in favor of the Cardinals-Dodgers game. Aah, well. An evening of baseball is good, too!]

Oh, the loose end.

Michele was kind enough to post a beauty of a photo for me here. She's an Asian cutie, for sure! Thanks, Michele!

But, just to put this whole thing behind me, I'm going to go ahead and post the two jpegs that I have that are the closest to what I was looking for last week.




And there we have it. Finis. Ain't she the ginchiest?
Gaze into her eyes, dosey doe. Once you've got 'er, let 'er go.

bbl :)

Posted by Tuning Spork at 07:04 PM | Comments (0)

September 30, 2004


Last time I had to reformat I was off-line for 5 weeks. This time I'm back among ye in 2 hours. There's no substitute for experience.

As I've been consumed with nothing but getting back on line, I've prepared nothing to post, so irregular and uneven posting shall hafta wait 'til tomorrow.


Posted by Tuning Spork at 01:05 AM | Comments (3)

September 29, 2004


Long story short: Norton failed me and I got a virus while searching for a decent photo of an asian goddess to post. Norton couldn't remove the virus, so I had to quarantine the file and reboot.

Now I can't even load my desktop -- all I get is my wallpaper, not even the Start button. Shoot. Looks like I gotta reformat again. :(
Word to the wise: Porn sites are pure evil!

Posted by Tuning Spork at 01:13 PM | Comments (3)

September 14, 2004

Just another ordeal... No big whoop...

So anyway...

Without going into boring details about why I'm being sued by a creditor (not a credit card company) over non-payment of a loan ($4,800) that I haven't made a payment on in over 2 years, I'm getting sued (for institution of a wage garnishment of 25% of my net) by a creditor (not a card card company) over non-payment of a loan (now balanced at over $9,300 due to lawyer/court/Marshall fees) that I haven't made a payment on in over 2 years.

The only explanation of why this is that I can give very briefly, is: Between the lesser amount of money that I make and the more I must to commit to paying my monthly commitments, let's just say that I have 'tween $800 and $1,000 less per month to play with. I used to eat filet mignon several times a week. Nowadays I sometimes have to search for an old box of macaroni and cheese that's been sitting in the back of the cabinet for two years just to get through to my next paycheck.

On August 11th my employer gave me photocopies of paperwork he'd been delivered by certified mail. It was an order to begin a wage garnishment of 25% of my "discretionary income". "Discretionary income" is defined as my pay after the various federal and state payroll taxes. I guess that one pays for their rent, heat and electricity bills at their discretion.

Anywho, the "Date of Service of Wage Execution on Employer" is dated 30 July '04. My boss took a week to finally get the package from the post office. That aside, there is a 20-day window in which I, the Debtor, may file an "Exemption and Modification Claim Form" on the wage execution. If I file within the 20-day window, the garnishment is nollified pending a scheduled hearing.

I filed the claim form on August 18th (I got it in a day before the deadline). My next paycheck -- and the first that I recieved after the 20-day deadline -- was on August 27th. My employer deducted 25% of the net ($158.64... [yeah, I'm open book here...]) because neither one of us at the time was sure if he was legally bound to do it or not.

On August 28th my employer received the paperwork for my scheduled hearing on 20 Sept 04. He stated that the "good thing" was that he'd never gotten around to mailing the check to the State Marshall's Office.
He wrote me a check for $158.64.

Last Friday was my next payday. My boss walked up slowly with my paycheck in his hand and said,
"Here's the deal. It turns out that I HAD mailed the check. I phoned the Marshall's Office and asked about having it sent back. They told me that they wouldn't return it because you didn't make it to court within 20-days of the service. So, I'm out 158 bucks. I'm deducting $50 from this paycheck just 'cause I know you can't do without the entire amount in one swell foop. We'll start with this and see how we can do the rest later."

Uh..... ooooookay. He handed me a check for $625.70. I will deposit this into my checking acount to cover my incoming rent check of $600. I will then annotate the approximately $11 maintanance/per-check-charges that will be assessed on the 14th. What remains, together with what I had left from my previous paycheck, leaves me with about $40 to live on for two weeks. $30 of that will be eaten up by bus fare so's I can get to work so's I can make more shitty money.

But wait a minute, methinks! The fact that there's a hearing scheduled for the 20th means that they can't collect anything yet! The more I tried to convince my employer that the Marshall's Office was wrong, the more he seemed to want to shrug his shoulders and say "well, what are ya gonna do...?"

So, I followed him as he retreated to the middle office of the shop and I grabbed the phone.
"Do you have the Marshall's number?" I asked.
"Yes, it's 1-203-%#$-&*#%"
"When did you speak to them... this morning?"
"No, it was sometime late last week or early this week"
"Who did you speak to?"
"Her name was 'Kim'"

I dialed the number and got an answering machine. I left a brief message: my name, why I was calling, the CN (docket) number of the case, and asked to be contacted as soon as possible. While it was reasonably early (about 3pm), apparently the office was closed for the weekend 'cause I never got a return call.

Monday morning I went into work and wrote a letter. I faxed it to the Marshall's Office along with copies of the application for Exemption and/or Modification Claim Form. I wrote:

At some point about a week ago, B---- G----, my employer, telephoned your office seeking the return of a check in the amount of $158.64 that he had mistakenly sent in regard to CN:K####.

Mr G---- spoke to Kim, who told him that the check would not be returned since I did not make an application for modification within the 20-day period from the date of Service of Wage Execution to Employer.

Kim was mistaken, as the attached documents plainly show.
Please note that the date of Service on "page 1" is 30 July '04, and my date of claim on "page 2" is 18 Aug '04.
Please also note that a hearing is scheduled for 20 Sept '04 @ 9:30 AM.

As per CT statutes -- and as plainly written near the bottom of "page 1": "No earnings subject to a claim for modification may be withheld from any employee until determination of the claim".

Please return check in the amount of $158.64 payable to B------ G------, ## Blahbiddy Road, Milford, CT 06460 ASAP.


[my signature]

Kim phoned me almost immediately. Within 5 minutes, I tells ya.

"I just fax'ed the material you sent me to the attorney. Just to let you know, it was the attorney that told me not to return the check."

ah HA! I was ready to give Kim the benefit of the doubt for being in the Marshall's Office and, maybe, not having all of the relevent paperwork. But, as it turns out, the refusal to reimburse my boss (me, really, since he was docking my pay to pay for "his" loss) was a directive from my creditor's lawyers. And they. Have. The Paperwork.

I thanked Kim, hung up the phone, and stewed in my own angry juices all day. These bastards are testing my competance, dammit. They're wondering if they can talk me/us into giving up on the 158 bucks. They had my boss hoodwinked and ready to surrender. He'd just pass the loss onto me.
But, they cannot escape the wrath of Tuning Spork and his trusty sword: His belief in the rule of Law, not the rule of Intimidation.

Monday afternoon came and went without word. Tuesday (today) I got into work and checked the fax machine's tray for any word from Kim. Nothin'.

All morning I paced. Working out in my mind just what my next steps would be if the attorney's (whose names you'd know by now - believe you me - if this didn't have a happy ending) had, again, refused to return the check. I waited. I checked the fax machine everytime it beeped.

Finally, around 1pm, I called the Marshall's Office. Kim answered. I told her who I was and that I was calling to get an update on my matter at hand.

"Oh, didn't B--- tell you? I called him early this morning. They're returning the money... it's in the mail... should be there in a few days. I'm surprised he didn't tell you..."

FUCK! Here I was, plotting to get the Connecticut Attorney General's Office crashing in on the Sh--ff Law Firm like a sledgehammer on an under-cooked egg and it's settled. Settled!
They sent. the check. back.

B----- wrote me a check for $50. All is well.

And I'm looking forward to the 20th. Not really. Nevermind, that'll be another post....

Posted by Tuning Spork at 10:09 PM | Comments (2)

August 14, 2004

This wasn't casual Friday

Sorry for the sudden lack of posting the last few days, but I've been busy with several peripheral issues... (ooo, mystery...!)

I've recently ranted about the dying art of our rare, precious and beautiful civil protocol in my post HATS, and a little bit more in Things I miss.
Now I have another question: What makes a man or woman think that it's appropriate to show up to a wake for your friend's father dressed like you're going to a %#$& garlic festival?

My friend, Ellen, just lost her dad. The wake was last evening. Tex, Bugs, and Lisa showed up in casual dress.
At least Bugs wore black -- I'll give him that. But, fercryingoutloud, you don't go to your friend's father's wake in blue jeans and a neutral grey pull-over, 'kay?.

I didn't know Sylvester very well, either. Hell, we haven't laid eyes on each other since way back when Ellen was still living with her parents; some six years ago. We probably wouldn't have recognized each other if we passed on the street last week. But that doesn't matter.

Yeah, I went to a wake casually dressed once. It was the wake of my friend Norm's sister and I, unfortunately, had to work late and knew that I couldn't get home, change, and get to the wake in time. I had an excuse, but I still felt like I should've gone up to every single family member and appologized and explained why I was dressed so casually.

Yesterday I carried a suit to work -- on the bus -- just to be dressed for the wake as Tara was picking me up at 5:30. And I didn't do it for ol' Sylvester (he's dead, he wont care...); I did it for his daughter, my friend, Ellen.

She just lost her father and will never again get to say "Hi, Dad!". He might have been nothing to you, but you will put on a jacket and tie even if for no other reason than to show Ellen that you understand that this is an important time for her.

I'm sure that she would rather have you show up naked than not show up at all. But, pleeeeeze, don't ever think that you're too close to the bereaved, or too distant from the deceased, to dress for the occassion. Ellen deserves better from her closest friends at a time like this.

You know who you are, and I love you. But you guys keep doing this (Tara's mother, Norm's mother...) and it's getting old. So just stop fucking this shit up.

Posted by Tuning Spork at 08:12 PM | Comments (2)

July 26, 2004

Food for Thought... ?

Far be it for me to judge anyone else's dietary choices. I rarely feel hungry and have to remind myself to eat before I lose too much weight and run into er... problems.

(btw, just in case any regulars were wondering, I've been eating well for the past two months or so, and taking multi-vitamins and calcium suppliments and I feel great! Just finished two steaks topped with the best steak sauce I've yet to come across: Newman's Own!)

Anywho, I got on the #4 bus at the terminal downtown this evening while on my way home, and a very.. mmm... large young lady sat down beside me and to my left. I'm a pretty svelt fella, of course, but still this gal overflowed into the aisle.
The bus was early and we'd be sitting here for a few minutes while the driver stood outside and grabbed a smoke.

Out of the corner of my eye I could see her munching on some kinda snack food out of a bag in her left hand. I figured she had some potato chips.

After a few minutes I glanced over to see what this BBW was enjoying so much. That's when I saw that it was a Dunkin' Donuts bag and she was eating munchkins. I'll bet she ate 12 to 15 munchkins in the 4 or 5 minutes that we sat there waiting for the bus to move.


She and I, each, live in a world that the other will never understand.

Posted by Tuning Spork at 09:42 PM | Comments (0)

July 25, 2004

Just a quickie while the stove does it's business

So, I was at the supermarket earlier getting raw materials for my next foray into being grossly mistaken about how different flavors will interact creative cooking.
A gentlemen of about 50 was standing behind me as I tried to decide which bottle of fruit juice I wanted. Cran-grape, cran-apple, cran-raspberry, etc.

Suddenly he starts to bitch about how he can't find sugar-free fruit juice.

"How come I don't see any sugar-free fruit juice?! Six f'n shelves full of fruit juice and not one sugar-free one! 20 million diabetics in this country and you can't get a godddam bottle of sugar-free fruit juice!"

"Well," I said, "I'm pretty sure that it's over in aisle 3 next to the reduced=sodium sea salt and the low=fat lard making fruit juice sugar-free is pretty impossible. But I just saw some Crystal Lite on that shelf over there...!"

"Crystal Lite, eh?" he muttered as he walked over and grabbed a canister.

That's all I got for now. My water's boiling and the garden zucchini is ready to be tossed into the pasta sauce. Mmmmm... zucchini over ziti...

UPDATE Oh. My. God.
I've made plenty of home-made pasta sauces in recent years, but this one took the cake! It's not even as "complicated" a concoction as they can get when I want to make a "winner". I think I'm excited about it only because I used an ingredient that I've never used before in a pasta sauce and now I could kick myself for not being aware of it as an possible ingredient all these years.

The ingredient? Black pepper. Simple dusty pre-ground McCormick black pepper! Too bad you can't taste or smell it through the monitor.

All I used was 1 can of Contadina stewed tomatoes, juice and all,
1/2 6oz can of tomato paste to thicken it up,
chunks of the cut-up zucchini,
and about 1/2 to 1 teaspoon (I just shook the jars over the pot) of dried basil, oregano, thyme, garlic powder (yeah, this was a quickie so I didn't even bother with chopping the fresh stuff), and black pepper.

I usually put some kind of hot sauce in it to give a wang, but I don't have any handy. The pepper was sitting next to the garlic powder in the cupboard and I just thought "What the hell..." and shook some of it into the pot.
Turned out to be an excellent choice as it gives the sauce quite a different sort of zing than it usually has.

Okay, okay, enough already. I'm getting me another bowl of this stuff....

Posted by Tuning Spork at 04:13 PM | Comments (8)

July 23, 2004


What ever happened to hats?

During the winter, when I was riding the bus because gawd-knows-what was wrong with my truck, a young lady (who looked like someone I'd never intentionally strike up a conversation with) grinned at me from across the bus and changed seats just to get close enough to tell me that she liked my hat.

(It's a jungle-camouflage hunting cap with loops on the crown for holding rounds of buck-shot.)

"Everyone today who even bothers to wear a hat wears some kinda baseball cap-style hat. It's so cool to see something else!" she swooned.

When I was in basic training we called the dress uniform hat the "bus driver hat". (You ladies don't want to know what we called that soft diner's-short-order-cook type thingy...)

But bus drivers don't wear hats anymore.
Neither do cops.
Neither do short order cooks.

It used to be that when you wore a uniform (i.e. worked a job), you wore an appropriate cap. Even the ice cream truck driver wore a c-cap!

And, O.T., what's with these ice cream trucks these days, anyway? It used to be that you ran up to the truck and the hatted man would pull levers and push buttons and produce a soft-cone of your favorite flavor, and nowadays they just reach into the freezer bin and pull out a wrapped piece of crap.
Oh, sure, it looks pretty. But, what is this? It's not an ice cream truck! It's just a Circus Clown's freezer case on wheels.

Mailmen don't wear hats anymore, either. Am I just becoming too old fashioned or wouldn't we all like that stranger walking on our property and up to our front door to be wearing an official hat if only as a sign that he's here on officially welcomed business?

Waitresses don't even wear tiarras anymore. I want my waitress in a pink dress with a white apron and crown. I don't want this tie-dyed jeans with the employee jersey half-tucked in crap anymore. I want my waitress!

Okay, hon', I know you like your "space". But, when you're doing your job you're in nothing less than my space. I give eight hours (at least) to my employer. Please do the same for yours. Truely.

My grandfather wore a hat everywhere he went and took it off whenever he stepped indoors. That's how we learned to do it back then when people seemed to have respect for some semblence of social protocol.


Perhaps we've already passed the point where we're just too darned convinced that donning a simple frickin' hat is too demanding on us. Has simple respect and a sense of duty toward each other long been poo-poo'd onto the compost heap of history? If we don't honor our duty to serve when we work, then what are we to honor? Ourselves?

If so then I fear that something a whole lot more valuable than hats has slipped through our fingers. Is it all too late to remember that space and propriety go hand in hand? That it's appropriate that my space ends where your expectations of me begin?

Hats, my friends.

And skirts. Ladies in skirts! (Believe me, gals, every body type looks best in a skirt!)

Duty now for the future; Bring back hats!

...and skirts!

They're healthy and nutritious!

Posted by Tuning Spork at 11:23 PM | Comments (4)

July 17, 2004

YAY!!! (It really is an all-purpose post title, i'n't it?)

As of about 11:45 this morning I finally own something I've wanted for forever: a camcorder!!!

I found it at a tag sale one block away from my house. Panasonic.
It's complete with battery, battery charger, TV adapter and carrying case!


Look out, world, Spork is makin' munuvies!!!!


Posted by Tuning Spork at 09:20 PM | Comments (1)

Where did these flies come from?!

Last night I was cruising the blogosphere and a fly was annoyingly buzzing past me every few minutes.

How did a fly get in here? I keep the door to my room closed. The only time it's ever openned is when I enter or leave it 'cause I don't want the cats wandering in 'cause they'll send me into a sneezing fit.

Then there were two flies. Then three. What the huh?!

I had the TV on (probably FoxNews) and someone said something or was talking about an image and I turned 135 degrees to look at the TV and there were five flies on the screen.

Then six -- with two more bouncing on and off. Crud!!! They must have hatched in this room!!! I don't have any old food in here, that I know of, and there's no foul smell of mold or any decaying flesh that I may have mislaid and forgotten about! Is there?!! I openned the window and tried to get them to fly through, but it was dark out and they didn't seem to get that the window was a portal to the rest of their hectic short lives.

I went to bed with a bunch of flies in my room.

In the morning I was awoken by the sense of flies walking on my legs. So, groggy and underslept, I sat up up and openned the screen in the window above my bed. Within 30 seconds(!) about six to ten flies flew outside and I could almost swear that I heard them shouting "Yay!" as they left.

Some other flies needed to be coaxed through the window, but, as far as I can tell right now, all of 'em have successfully been relocated to their natural habitat which is definately NOT my bedroom.

Posted by Tuning Spork at 09:15 PM | Comments (0)

Can we talk?

Since the clutch on my truck burned out a few weeks ago I've been riding the bus to work. (My ordeal with the tow service and the police on i-95 may be fodder for a future post, but we'll let that 2 1/2 hour wait slide for now...) I seem to be blogging in rant mode lately. Oh well.

Here's some quick advice to my fellow bus patrons:

Get up for old ladies!

If all of the seats are filled and an old lady is staggering onto the bus: lift yer head out of that magazine and yer ass out of that seat and stop pretending that you haven't noticed her.

Hang up the damn phone!

Either talk more quietly or shut the fuck up. None of us are interested in your kids' latest traumas or yer girlfriend's yeast infection. Unless it's a life or death emergency: shut. up.

Don't talk to yer friends half-way across the bus!

Oh, you've noticed a rider that you know. How wonderful for you!
Wanna have a chat with her? Fine. Get off yer seat and find one eminently closer to her! I don't give a rat's ass about hearing about how Sara's dealing with yer f'd up idea of parenting. Got it?

Don't sit in the aisle seat when the window seat is empty!

We all know what yer up to. You want to be alone on the bus. Guess what, pally: you ain't. Yer gonna either brave the shame with the rest of us or suffer the slings and arrows of dirty looks from people who are better than you'll ever be and who'll live greater lives than you'll ever understand.

Bathe regularly!

It might be news to you but you stink. Take a shower.

My quick advice for bus drivers:

Get off the phone!

Don't run over and destroy the police pylons in a construction zone just because you just HAD to -- and would simply DIE if you DIDN'T -- ask yer buddy when you were gonna go fishing next.

Read and keep to the schedule!

When I ask you if this the 6:20 or the 6:35: don't tell me it's the "6:30". The Coastal Link isn't on the 20-minute schedule anymore. Don't you dare tell me yer driving a phantom bus.

If you ask if anyone is getting off at this stop and you get no response: the answer is "NO".
Don't keep shouting out the question. Don't grab yer CB-type mictrophone thingy Silence means "no" and don't make me shout "Doesn't look like it!" again.

If an old lady with two arm-loads of groceries gets on the bus: Wait until she sits down before you start moving the bus!

I had someone's gramma fall into my lap just 'cuz the driver jerked the bus onward before she had time to take a seat. Everyone kinda giggled because she landed so safely, but it could have been a lot worse.
If yer gonna have a rule that evryone must be seated when the bus is moving then don't move the damn bus until everyone is seated.

Drive smoothly!

You're the only one on the bus who's wearing a seatbelt. Remember that the next time you challenge that hairpin turn, m'kay? I want my coffee in my mouth not my lap.

Thank you. That is all. For now, mheh.


Posted by Tuning Spork at 12:06 AM | Comments (2)

May 31, 2004

Coming out of the tunnel

So, anyway, last saturday afternoon I tilled the soil and planted the garden. By the time I'd finished I was sweaty and dehydrated and light-headed. I drank a few glasses of water, ate something and relaxed until Norm came by to pick me up for the Bluefish game.

By the evening -- and especially after dark -- the ballpark was cold and windy with a misty rain - and me with no sweater or jacket. B-r-r-r-r. Norm had ice cream while I sipped coffee and hot chocolate. The Bluefish lost to the Pennsylvania Road Warriors (they don't actually have a ballpark yet and spend the entire season on the road and never actually set foot in Pennsylvania) by one run.

At about midnight I was sitting at my computer and got up (to do something or other) and I noticed that my left arm had fallen asleep. It was pretty numb and I couldn't lift my wrist or control my elbow movements very well. I waited for the pins and needles to set in. They never did.

Uh-oh. What the hell is this?!

By the time I went to bed, at about 2am, there had been no change. Hopefully it would "wake up" while I was asleep and everything would be all right.

Sunday morning comes and there's still no change. I can't tell ya how long it took to get dressed - especially trying to tie my bootlaces.

Here's some of what it was like:
When I held my left arm loosely out in front me, bent at the elbow and palm-side down, I could not lift my wrist. I could curl my fingers in but couldn't make a tight fist.
When I turned my hand over to palm-side up, I could make a tight fist. But, then I tried to extended my fingers to flatten everything into a straight line. As I straightened my fingers my wrist would be drawn up until my straightened hand was at about a 45 degree angle to my forearm. The muscles on the back of hand and forearm were useless.

If I strained the muscles while gardening, then how come I didn't have any pain or discomfort? I was tired and felt drained afterward, but there was no achiness.
Did I have a heart attack? I felt no sensations of anything up 'til the moment I'd noticed that arm was "asleep". I took an aspirin anyway.

Monday morning. No change. Well, there was a very slight change, but nothing really to speak of. I was worried that I couldn't drive -- especially since I don't have power steering.
But I got into the truck turned the steering wheel. For some reason I had no trouble using my left arm to steer; just grasp and hold the wheel, and pushing up and pulling down were a cinch.

However, once I got to work, the more complex movements required for running the press in the way that I'm used to was out of the question. Essentially I was a one-armed pressman for most of last week.

As the days went by my arm came further and further back to life. Now, here I am, nine days later and it's almost normal. I can lift my wrist and control (almost) every little movement, but there's still a residual numbness that throws my hand in unexpected directions now and then.

For the past two weeks I've been experiencing a feeling I haven't felt in a while: hunger. While I used to get by eating one little meal a day ("get by" meaning "waste away"), I've had hunger pains constantly for the past ten days to a week. But, when I tried to eat, I couldn't. I'd get a bites in and it was a struggle. I had no energy or patience to eat, and the hunger pains would continue.

So, I've forced myself back into the habit of eating a few times a day to stave off the starvation and emaciation. Drinking orange juice and ovaltine for vitamins and minerals, eating meat (I made two strip steaks the other night, ate them both and was STILL hungry) and peanuts for protein, but I gotta eat more; I deperately need calories calories and more calories.

I went out to dinner with my family last night and I forced myself to eat a six coarse meal.
Seafood chower, salad, strip steak, two stuffed jumbo shrimp, baked potato, green and yellow mixed squash. Mmmmmm.
(The steak was a bit tough, so I took most it home in a doggie bag.)

As I sat at my computer late last night I actually felt satisfied. I wasn't hungry and I felt like I had some energy again. I felt normal.

Today I had some breakfast (eggs, english muffin, o.j.), went out for a long walk (too cold today to try to ride the bike), had some lunch (the leftover steak and a small frozen pizza), did some laundry...

Maybe the hunger pains et al were the pins and needles and I'm finally waking up.

Posted by Tuning Spork at 04:40 PM | Comments (3)

May 22, 2004

Homegrown Goodies

It started out as a warm but overcast day. In fact, I thought it would rain soon.
Great chance to get the garden started!

Of course, as soon as started tilling the soil the sun came out. So I'm shoving the spade into the ground with my foot and the sweat is dripping from my face. Just a tablespoon of Miracle Grow and the garden would've be nicely watered.

I turned about 10 square feet of soil; 6 inches deep. Added some compost and about 30 pounds of bagged potting soil and stirred it up.
The soil that was there looked pretty good to begin with - not too many rocks and plenty of earthworms. Very nice.

The only thing that worries me is how much sun that spot gets. The yard is surrounded by trees, but this is probably the sunniest spot. But it only gets direct sunlight from about 10am to 3 or 4pm. Hopefully it'll be enough.

Tomatoes, peas, cucumbers, acorn squash and zucchini. Yummy!
It was only after I've finished that I realized I'd forgotten about the beet seeds. D'oh! So, I just sprinkled them here and there. Maybe some will germinate.

Now I'll just relax until my friend Norm comes by to pick me up for the Bridgeport Bluefish game.
Ahh, a day of gardening and an evening of baseball. Gotta love it!

Posted by Tuning Spork at 03:06 PM | Comments (1)

May 10, 2004

The Good Friday Massacre

Well, that's what I've been calling it. Financially, I had a really really bad month of April. Why? Because I've become a doddering, forgetful schmuck.

I got paid on Good Friday and went to the bank to deposit my paycheck. But, duh, the bank was closed.
Okay, no biggie. I'll just deposit it on Monday. No prob!

So, Monday comes along. Then Tuesday. Then Wednesday.
I went through the drive-up window at the bank to deposit a Gemm check (from my on-line record sales semi-biz) and, lo and behold, my receipt shows a negative balance. Huh?

I went inside and asked for a printout of my account for the past week or so. Four checks posted on Tuesday evening -- including my rent check.
Since my bank is evil and posts all new checks in descending order of magnitude, my rent check posted first; sending me into the red. The three remaining checks followed suit, all of which automatically deducted a $28 overdraft fee. Four of 'em. $112. Gone.

Whenever all of the checks are posted on a given evening, and the account is in the red, the Evil Banking Computer of Doom begins to reject the debits in the same order that they were posted.
So, my rent check was sent on it's merry way back to my landlady's bank. The remaining balance (even though missing $112 of MY MONEY was plenty enough to cover the remaining three checks.

So, even though they were honored, I was still out the overdraft charges. Why? Because my bank is evil and posts checks in descending order and then not reverse the charge when the check is honored just to screw me out of my money!!!
But, that's not all, of course. My landlady is going to be assessed, by her bank, a $30 return check fee. Guess who pays for it!
Yep, $142. Me be pissed.

So, wait a minute! Didn't I get paid of Friday? Didn't I deposit my check at lunchtime like I always do?
Oh, yeah! It was Good Friday! That means I deposited it on Monday, right? Right?! But it doesn't show on the printout of my account. Where the hell is my paycheck?

Right where I left it on Friday night: on my dresser. D'OH!!!!!!!!!

I never used to forget things. Ever!

So, I went back to the bank on Thurday to cash my paycheck. "Cash" because I wanted to give my landlady the rent in cash (plus $30 for the return check fee) because her mortgage was due in the next day or so.

After cashing the check I went to banklady Myrna's office to plead idiocy and see about maybe reversing the overdraft fees. I was there on Friday! The holiday screwed me up! I never deposit paychecks on Mondays! C'mon, have mercy on a doddering forgetful schmuck!
She agreed to meet me halfway and reverse two of the four overdraft fees. Yay, Myrna!!!
So, I was still out $86. That'll teach me... er... something. I think. I forget.

The Good Friday Massacre is only ONE of my financial setbacks in April. The second happened on the 23rd. I'll leave details of that one for another day as it's yet unresolved. But, rest assured, I've got the Office of the Attorney General, State of Connecticut on the case. mheh.

Posted by Tuning Spork at 08:23 PM | Comments (0)

April 26, 2004

Sense of Doom Life

Don has a link to an excellent 2002 speech written by Matt of Minority of One. I haven't read the whole thing yet because I was stopped cold at this paragraph:

The second effect of a sense of life pertains to action. Being your basic emotion, it is also your basic driving force; it gives you that immediate inclination toward activity. A person with a positive sense of life will feel efficacious, and so will be more inclined toward activity than somebody who feels that the world is against them.

I stopped there because it's a lesson that I had learned 20 years ago and seem to have forgotten until this morning.

Last night was a typical evening for me, like most of my evenings the past few months. I sat at the computer with the 24-hour news channels playing in the background.

Now, if I have any beer in the fridge, my usual plan to start early (about 4:30 OR 5:00) and get in about 8-10 beers by midnight or 1am. But, at about 5pm last night I wanted a beer, but I knew that I only had 6 cans in the fridge. Usually I wouldn't even bother openning that first one -- especially that early -- if I knew I only had six. But, I decided to anyway.

By 11:30 I was forcing down that 6th beer and I felt dead tired. My eyes were stinging as I tried to read what was on my monitor screen, so I decided to hit the hay.
But, I couldn't fall asleep. I was coming back up from the extremely mild buzz that the six-pack had provided and by 2am I was wide awake. At about 3am I sat up, turned on the Nintendo and played a game of RBI Baseball. By the time I (The Mets) had beaten the NL All-Stars I was dead tired again. So I turned off the TV and laid back down, but, I couldn't fall asleep.
I finally dosed off some time after 5am.

I awoke again at 9:03. I could have put my head back down and easily slept 'til noon. But, this being the final day of my 4-day weekend, I knew that I had to get to bed early tonight to get up for work tomorrow.
I forced myself out of bed and staggered to the shower.

After my shower I felt refreshed, though still a bit cloudy. Then I remembered something: For some reason a song I'd written in 1985 popped into my head that had the refrain, "get active! get active!".
I wrote it after my first long bout of catatonia of '83-'84, having realized that making yourself DO something will bring about the very change you need to keep yourself from NOT doing anything.

Something as simple as doing a load of laundry followed by walking the dog and then cleaning a window or two will change the entire experience of the day because it changes, obviously, the experience of every moment of that day.
So that's what I did.

Then, even though I've got food in the house for a few days, I went grocery shopping. Driving back from the store I realized that I'd forgotten the get a pack of cigarettes. I could have parked at the variety store around the corner from my house, gotten the smokes, then driven around the corner. But, instead, I decided to park the car at home and then walk back to the store. Why? Because it was raining!
Yep, walking in the rain is good for feeling something other than nothing, even if it's only raindrops on your hat and coat. (Rainy day walks smell good, too. mheh.)

After I returned home and got dinner started I went online and found an email of a Comment to by post of 2 entries ago by Bloodthirsty Warmonger. He wrote, in part:

I am no stranger to depression, and for me responsibility has been very therapeutic...
...What keeps me going is the knowledge that readers with mental disorders and others seeking facts to counter Idiotarian drivel are counting on me to provide reasoned, professionally-researched information. It's out of the question to let them down.

And that's definately in line with what I've been thinking about and experiencing today. And assuming a responsibility to others is a great excuse to fullfill your responsibility to yourself!

So, when Matt wrote that "A person with a positive sense of life will feel efficacious, and so will be more inclined toward activity than somebody who feels that the world is against them", I just wanted to add that the cause and effect of that can be reversed, too. A person who instigates their own activity will end up with a more positive sense of life than someone who slouches into a sedentary lifestyle.
Just as remembering that the pain of staggering out of bed, when you're tired, will only last a few minutes: the hardest part of getting active is remembering that -- once you get started -- the benefit of doing so will feed on and slap up itself so much that soon you'll wonder how you ever forgot to remember it in the first place.

Now I'll go back and read the rest of Matt's post....

Posted by Tuning Spork at 04:56 PM | Comments (4)

April 22, 2004

The 10 year... scratch?

So, why haven't I been blogging? Why haven't I had anything funny or interesting to post since about November? I've been trying to figure that out for some time now. A few weeks ago I decided not to worry about it and just to let it go. If something wants to come out then it will, but, 'til then I'll just let it go.

Welp, something wants to come out!

A week or two ago I was sitting at my computer. Kinda like I'm doing right now, except that I wasn't typing anything. I was staring into space. Every few minutes the screen-saver would kick in and I'd move the mouse just a tad to bring back whatever page I was last looking at. I've done that plenty of times when I was lost in thought.

After some length of time -- perhaps 45 minutes or an hour -- I realized that I hadn't been thinking about anything; I was just... away.
I looked at my hand on the mouse and had a strange feeling: it didn't seem like mine. I lifted it off the mouse and stared at my forearm in stunned interest. I didn't feel like me at all and haven't for months. I looked back at the monitor, at the webpage that I'd had some reason to visit and hadn't had the energy to really visit at all. I suddenly had the spooky sensation that my spirit - my very identity - was dead.

I've since realized that there may be a pattern here, because this has happened before. In a big way. Twice.
The first time was a 6-9 month span in 1983-1984, when I was 20, and the second time was a nearly year-long period in 1993-1994, when I was 30.

The first time happened while I was in college. About a month or two into the fall '83 semester I lost all interest in leaving the off-campus apartment that I shared with 5 housemates. I stopped going to class and ate very very little. Some days I'd eat nothing but a can of peas; some days I'd eat nothing at all. My weight dropped (and I'm pretty thin to begin with) to about 115 pounds -- and I'm 5'11", and my sleep schedule was a mess.

At the end of the semester all of my classes scored me I for Incomplete. These, of course, soon changed to straight Fs. I didn't bother to sign up for the spring '84 semester. Instead I moved in with my mother who was living in a 1-room efficiency apartment at the time, and began working full-time.
I wasn't sure what had happened to me -- why I was doing this to myself -- but I knew that something had to change drastically. I enlisted into the US Air Force and shipped out in June '84. That turned out to be exactly what I needed: a complete and utter change of lifestyle. Suddenly I felt great; even in basic training!
I was completely refreshed.

In the spring of 1993 I was laid off from my job at the in-house print shop at the Exectutive offices of a now defunct Department Store chain. Oh, what the hell, it was CALDOR.
Severing the ties completely I received oodles of large checks from my profit sharing account, 401k, and one or two other funds that I can't remember right now. So I had thousands of $$$ in cash and unemployment checks coming every week. I decided to take an extended vacation.
By autumn I was living only on unemployment checks.

Eventually, and just like ten years earlier, my sleeping schedule had fallen into a strange pattern. I'd get up in the afternoon, 4 or 5 o'clock, maybe 6, and be awake all night until after the sun came up. I rarely saw friends and left the house only to get food and cash my unemployment checks. My songwriting output -- which I'd done constantly since I was 12 years old -- came to a screeching halt.

Then the unemployment checks ran out. Time to get a job? Nope. I stopped making the payments on the mortgage of my condo. I lived without electricity or a phone for over a year. I vacuumed my sister's house and cut her lawn for $20 a pop so I could buy food. Again my weight fell to a dangerously low level. Did I care that I was in the process of destroying my life? Nope.

I'm not sure what brought about the change, but, in November of '94 I got a job - and I've held it ever since. Things went pretty well... I began to see my friends again and I was active outside the house. Softball leagues, dart leagues, regular parties at Joe and Tara's on Fridays, etc etc. I lost my condo in the end, but, I had finally come back to life.

So, here I am again. Right on schedule.

I rarely leave the house or see my friends lately. I have trouble feeling hungry and I've lost weight. I've probably lost 25 pounds in the past 5 or 6 months and weigh perhaps around 120-125 (I don't have a scale so I'm just guessing).
I haven't even picked up my guitar in at least 6 months.
One good thing, though, about this current.. er.. "state of affairs"... is that I'm working full-time and at least have a reason to get up in the morning. Hopefully that'll prevent things from getting too far out of hand.

I've been wanting to write this post for a week now. The good news, I hope, is that I'm writing it now because I feel like I've turned a corner. The shop closed early today and I've got a 4-day weekend ahead of me. It's 80 degrees outside, the windows are wide open, and I feel kinda "sunny" (even though we may be getting a thunderstorm in a couple of hours).

One thing I might be doing is changing the focus of my blog and write some historical autobiographical stuff. I started an autobiography ten years ago, but never finished it. Maybe I'll post some of the stories if I can find it. It may shed some light -- at least for me, hopefully -- as to why I go through these periodic states of catatonia.
I've always resisted writing anything too personal because my friends and family know about this place. There are very few people I would ever share such personal stories with, but they also happen to be the same freinds and family that ever actually visit from time to time, so I'll just throw caution to the wind and hope that my mother has forgotten all about Blather Review.

I'll be ba-a-a-a-ack.

Posted by Tuning Spork at 06:12 PM | Comments (11)

April 01, 2004

A Meandering Thought

I just watched Greta Van Susteren interview Karen Hughes, and Karen said something that's got me thinking (uh-oh).
The interview, for the most part, wasn't as interesting as the one will Bill O'Reilly last night, but, whatever...

Greta was asking her about her experience of September 11th and Karen described the scene where she was at home and watched the 2nd plane hit the South Tower. She said, as best I can remember, I got down on my knees and prayed for the people in the building. I got on the phone and told this to a friend and she asked me 'Why not the people on the plane?' Huh? It never occurred to me. She asked what kind of plane it was. I said "I don't know, a big one, a passenger plane.' It never occurred to me that there was people on the plane."

That's weird, because I had the exact opposite reaction. I didn't see the 2nd plane hit as I walking to my truck and on the way to work at the time. But, I distinctly remember thinking of the passengers on the airplane and only after a few moments realizing that there were people in those offices that'd just been squashed like bugs out of existence. She thought of the people in the building and I thought of the people on the plane. Maybe it's a male/female thing. I dunno.

Which reminds me of something I saw on TV some time ago about a study wherein they asked a roomful of people to draw a bicycle. One conclusion was that men and women had very different attitudes about mechanics.
Most of the women's drawings were missing one important element: the chain! While men seemed to start (after the wheels, of course) their drawing at the pedals, chain and axels, women started at the handlebars.

I love women, but (or, rather, because), in a lot of ways we're very different people! :D

Posted by Tuning Spork at 10:58 PM | Comments (0)

March 01, 2004

"You my-y... brown-eyed squirrel..."

So, anyway, I woke up at 4:00am this morning to the sound of squirrels manicly running back and forth in the crawlspace above my bedroom. They'd scamper the entire length of the house a few times then rest, sit and coo at each other for a few seconds, then run around like crazy again.

They'd been up there since Chris and I moved in nearly two years ago. Our landlady doesn't seem to want to pay somebody to get rid of them -- she'd rather have us do it. Long story short: I-I-I-I'm not climbing up into that feces infested chamber of death...

So, at about 8:00 I was in the bathroom -- just after my shower -- and the squirrels were going nuts again.
Hold a piece of corrigated cardboard over your head and pound it rapidly with your fingertips; try to make it sound like a downpour. That's what it was like. The sound of clawed, maniacal rats with blowdryers on acid succumbing to spring fever (it finally got above 50 degrees today!) echoing through the house.
Apparently the old dog became a bit freaked by the racket as Chris actually got up (he usually sleeps 'til well-past noon) to let him outside.

I got home from work at about 6:00. The house was dark, the porch light was on and the front door was locked meaning, duh, Chris wasn't home. I went into the house, went upstairs, and found the step ladder set beneath the access portal to the crawlspace. Beside the ladder was Chris' shot gun.

About an hour later Chris came home. "Doin' a little squirrel hunting?" I asked.

"Tried to," he said. "We gotta do something about this. They ran around like crazy this morning for hours! I can't stand it anymore."

Chris prepared some paper bags (cut slits into them) to put the mothballs that were still in the openned boxes that they came in (I set them up just insdie the crawlspace -- about seven boxes -- in the fall) so's he could toss them around. Maybe stirring up the mothballs would let off a stronger stench and affect the air quality in the attic.

I went online to see what I could find. As suspected: the best way to get rid of squirrels is to wait 'til spring (April, or so) and, when they're out climbing trees, set up trap cages. Once they're trapped you gotta then drive them to someplace at least 5 miles away or else they'll find their way back to the attic.
I suppose we could get some traps to set up there, but, like I said: I-I-I-I'm not climbing up into that feces infested chamber of death...

Then there were the usual testimonials to using mothballs (tried it, doesn't work), amonia (tried it, doesn't work) and annoying music on a radio placed in the crawlspace (tried it, didn't work and annoyed the hell outta me).

Then I came across something I hadn't read before: fox urine. Seems that squirrels are instinctively afraid of foxes and will avoid anywhere that they can smell their "mark".
"That might be worth a try," I thought just as a knock came on my bedroom door. "Yo!" I called.

"C'm'ere a minute!"

"Hold this bag up," Chris said as he stood atop the step ladder with his head poking into the crawlspace. "There's a dead one right there; I'm gonna drop it into the bag."

Yecch!!! He picked up the squirrel and put it in the bag that I was holding over my head as I looked at the floor.

"I thought it was asleep for a second and threw some mothballs at it," Chris explained as he climbed back down the ladder and took the bag from me. "Then I knew it was dead. Looks pretty fresh," he muttered, peering in at the ex-squirrel. "What should I do with it?"

"Toss it..." stammered I, pointing my finger in various directions, "over there, in the overgrowth."

Chris got rid of the corpse and I went back online. It's now almost 11:00 and I haven't heard so much as a paw-step, scratch, or coo from above.
I don't expect that these large Eastern Gray Squirrels will be phased for long by the aroma of freshly stirred-up mothballs, but it might be nice if, at least, tomorrow morning is a little more quiet than this morning was. I wonder if the local pet stores have any foxes I could borrow for a month or two.

UPDATE: This is everything I know about the red fox. That's the best thing about the internet: You don't have to just sit and wonder about stuff anymore. Ain't edumacation wonderble? :D

Posted by Tuning Spork at 10:50 PM | Comments (4)

February 14, 2004

Just kill me now

Dang. This is like getting the results of my Air Force psyche eval all over again. I suck.
(Linked by Susie who got it from Ted.)

Your Brain Usage Profile
Auditory : 84%
Visual : 15%
Left : 46%
Right : 53%

Spork, you show a moderate right-hemisphere dominance with a strong preference for auditory learning, a certain formula for frustration.

Your right hemisphere is intuitive, perceptive, and somewhat random and chaotic. Nevertheless, your auditory style of learning subjects you to processing information sequentially and along a single dimension. Your hemispheric tendencies aside, you attempt to be reflective and set a rhythm to how you take in material.

The difficulty is that you do not tend to have it within you to readily impose organization. You're not totally chaotic, but organization, planning and structure do not come naturally to you.
Words come easily to your lips, sometimes surprisingly so to you. However, you are more emotional than logical, and attend more to the big picture than the details, with the net result that others may not "get the drift" of what you are saying.

You tend to be quick and changeable in nature, and the discomfort you experience because of the disparity between your hemispheric dominance and your sensory processing can get out of hand. You need to find ways to facilitate your visual processing and imaging as one aspect of altering this frustration.

You do possess enough left hemisphere operability to help organize your experiences and learning processes. The danger that you face is that your creativity and low-key goal orientation will lead you to underachieve. What is required is a more valid representation to yourself of what lies ahead.
Also, you need to find a way to vary the intensity of your thinking and learning. You also need to be wary of questioning yourself too much with regards to your perceptions and the perspective that you have on situations.

UPDATE: I took the test again...and encountered a very different set of questions. The second result was this:

Your Brain Usage Profile
Auditory : 41%
Visual : 58%
Left : 55%
Right : 45%

Spork, you are somewhat left-hemisphere dominant and show a preference for visual learning, although not extreme in either characteristic. You probably tend to do most things in moderation, but not always.

Your left-hemisphere dominance implies that your learning style is organized and structured, detail oriented and logical. Your visual preference, though, has you seeking stimulation and multiple data. Such an outlook can overwhelm structure and logic and create an almost continuous state of uncertainty and agitation. You may well suffer a feeling of continually trying to "catch up" with yourself.

Your tendency to be organized and logical and attend to details is reasonably well-established which should afford you success regardless of your chosen field of endeavor. You can "size up" situations and take in information rapidly. However, you must then subject that data to being classified and organized which causes you to "lose touch" with the immediacy of the problem.

Your logical and methodical nature hamper you in this regard though in the long run it may work to your advantage since you "learn from experience" and can go through the process more rapidly on subsequent occasions.

You remain predominantly functional in your orientation and practical. Abstraction and theory are secondary to application. In keeping with this, you focus on details until they manifest themselves in a unique pattern and only then work with the "larger whole."

With regards to your career choices, you have a mentality that would be good as a scientist, coach, athlete, design consultant, or an engineering technician. You can "see where you want to go" and even be able to "tell yourself," but find that you are "fighting yourself" at the darndest times.

Quite a different take on the ol' Sporkster, eh? I'll take this test a third time and let ya know if it's either a bit skewed or completely fakacktah.

UPDATE II: Well now, this is interesting. I took the test a third time and saw only questions that I'd seen before; no new ones. I answered the same I did before and got this result:

Your Brain Usage Profile
Auditory : 23%
Visual : 76%
Left : 42%
Right : 57%

Spork, you possess an interesting balance of hemispheric and sensory characteristics, with a slight right-brain dominance and a slight preference for visual processing.

Since neither of these is completely centered, you lack the indecision and second-guessing associated with other patterns. You have a distinct preference for creativity and intuition with seemingly sufficient verbal skills to be able to translate in any meaningful way to yourself and others.

You tend to see things in "wholes" without surrendering the ability to attend to details. You can give them sufficient notice to be able to utitlize and incorporate them as part of an overall pattern.

In the same way, while you are active and process information simultaneously, you demonstrate a capacity for sequencing as well as reflection which allows for some "inner dialogue."

All in all, you are likely to be quite content with yourself and your style although at times it will not necessarily be appreciated by others. You have sufficient confidence to not second-guess yourself, but rather to use your critical faculties in a way that enhances, rather than limits, your creativity.

You can learn in either mode although far more efficiently within the visual mode. It is likely that in listening to conversations or lecture materials you simultaneously translate into pictures which enhance and elaborate on the meaning.

It is most likely that you will gravitate towards those endeavors which are predominantly visual but include some logic or structuring. You may either work particularly hard at cultivating your auditory skills or risk "missing out" on being able to efficiently process what you learn. Your own intuitive skills will at times interfere with your capacity to listen to others, which is something else you may need to take into account.

We seem to have three different answers to the very same questions. This can only mean that pop quiz psychology is not merely an inexact science, but not much of a science at all. In other words: I conclude that this fershlugginer test is too meaningless to be meaningful.

Posted by Tuning Spork at 08:09 PM | Comments (4)

Top 10 Things that I may or may not miss about riding to work on the bus everyday

#10. Standing and holding onto the handstrap because the new buses have only 28 seats that were designed for children, Japanese women and midgets.

#9. That pretty ponytailed redhead who always caught the 9:10 with a large Dunkin Donuts coffee and got off at the Dock Shopping Center. I wish I'd found an excuse to start up a conversation with her.

#8. Surly busdrivers who wouldn't let you on with a transfer that expired 2 minutes earlier even after you explained that it's because the other surly busdriver was running seven minutes ahead of schedule when he gave you the transfer.

#7. Ray and Kevin, two former U.S. Marine who put in 16 years of service and were living on the street. Good guys, though Kevin seemed to have a little dain bramage or something.

#6. Young ladies talking loudly to each other about boyfriends, lesbians and yeast infections.

#5. That Japanese woman who gets off at Brooklawn Avenue and moves her little legs twice as fast as I move mine just to keep 40 feet ahead of me while ocassionally looking back top make sure I wasn't getting too close. (Though after a few times of walking "with" me without incident she began to not be so fraidy scared.)

#4. Gaping in awe every morning at how the houses on Park Avenue turn from mansions to slums as soon as you cross North Avenue.

#3. Arriving at the bus terminal too late to catch the connection and having to stand around for an hour whilst other travellers tried to bum cigarettes off me every 90 frickin' seconds.

#2. Spending only $2.50 a day commuting as opposed to the $6 or $7 per day it costs for gasoline and car insurance.

And the #1 thing I may or may not miss about riding to work on the bus every day:

#1. Traffic lights. No more traffic lights! No more with the incessant stopping and going for traffic lights and stop signs, not to mention the picking up and letting off of passengers. I will be back on I-95 on Monday and cruising to work at 55mph. One vehicle, one occupant; no waiting!

Posted by Tuning Spork at 07:39 PM | Comments (3)


THE TRUCK IS FIXED!!! (does the happy dance) Yeeeeeeeee HAW!!!!

On the road agin... Feels so good to back on road agin...

Now I can get back to some semblence of regular blogging since I wont be so emotionally drained anymore from spending 4 to 6 hours a day commuting on the STINKIN' BUS!! WOO HOO!!!!!

But, for now, I'm just gonna surf the blogosphere while the chili simmers. Mmmmmm, chili.....
The 2004 edition of Blather Review shall commence tomorrow. YAY!

Posted by Tuning Spork at 07:01 PM | Comments (2)

January 28, 2004

Scene From An Unwritten Screenplay

Our protagonist -- we'll call him Spooning Torque -- has been walking for miles in the cold and wind. He is cold and sore and wants only to rest comfortably. He spies a Motor Inn down the road.

Torque: Oooh! A hot bath in that place would be pure heaven!

He trudges to the motel and meets the desk clerk

Torque: Excuse me..

Clerk: Yyyeeessssss?

Torque: Yes, pardon me, but are you the desk clerk?

Clerk: Ye.. No, I'm an 18-wheeler with a mustache.

Torque: Heh. Well, did I read your sign correctly... that you charge by the hour?

Clerk: Oh, yeeeesss! Love lasts forever but the night is only just hours!

Torque: Well, you have full bathtubs? Not just shower stalls?

Clerk: Why, yeeeeeesssss!! Of course! You can't be swept off yer feet if there's no room to sit, riight?!

Torque: Heh, I suppose not. But, look; I'd like a room for two hours.

Clerk: Ooooooo, two hours. Wanna take it slowly and gently, eh? (he winks and nudges the air between them with his elbow)

Torque: Definately. I want it as hot as possible; so hot I can hardly breath.

Clerk: Ooooo, and (leaning forward in a near whisper and a wink) what do you plan to do?

Torque: Absolutely nothing!

Clerk: (excitedly) Ooooooo!!!!! You're a man! Well, I've got cabin 9 all set and ready for you and... and... (looking around) I don't see your friend...

Torque: Oh! No, no I'm alone.

With sudden stoniness the clerk drops the keys into Torque's open palm, and the strange new guest limps and staggers his cold and wet and sorry ass toward cabin 9. The clerk shakes his head, approaches the office sink and washes his hands.

Clerk: (muttering) Freaky nihilist. (shuddering) Now I feel like I need a shower.

Posted by Tuning Spork at 09:48 PM | Comments (3)

I gotta get out more

I tried to do this yesterday from Daniel's post and, for some reason, it didn't work. But I tried from Ted's post and it worked!

State's I've visited (in red):

create your own visited states map
or write about it on the open travel guide

I think it might be high time for a road trip... Maybe this one:

Or I could just hit all the Major League ballparks(!):

Posted by Tuning Spork at 07:47 PM | Comments (7)

January 25, 2004

"I'm not a monster, I'm just being consistent!"

I just found a link to this article over at Drudge. Headline:
Government adviser: killing children with defects acceptable

A GOVERNMENT adviser on genetics has sparked fury by suggesting it might be acceptable to destroy children with ‘defects’ soon after they are born.

Yeah, you read that right.

John Harris, a member of the Human Genetics Commission, told a meeting at Westminster he did not see any distinction between aborting a fully grown unborn baby at 40 weeks and killing a child after it had been born.

Most people don't; that's why they consider late term abortions to be infanticide. But, I suppose, in the name of consistency, those who support abortion at 40 weeks would naturally draw the logical conclusion that newborns are as unhuman as they were before they began to push their way through the birth canal.
Harris, who is a professor of bioethics at Manchester University,

Yeah, you read that right.
...would not be drawn on which defects or problems might be used as grounds for ending a baby’s life, or how old a child might be while it could still be destroyed.

Because there's no rational way to make those distinctions. A "defect" or "disablility" can be anything from Down's Syndrome to blindness to webbed toes. To say that one type of defect causes the baby to lose (or never to have earned) a right to life and equal protection under the law, while another type of defect does not, is to confuse the very ideas of moral and ethical consistency. If a newborn has no right to life, then no one does.

So, then, why stop with infants? There are plenty of toddlers, adolescents and adults walking around with defects and disabilities. If we're to be consistent then they have no right to life either. Perhaps it would be better to ease the burden that they put on society and kill them.
I guess Hitler wasn't evil afterall; he was just ahead of his time.

Harris was reported to have said that he did not believe that killing a child was always inexcusable. In addition, it was claimed that he did not believe that there was any ‘moral change’ that occurred between when the baby was in the womb and when it had been brought into the world. He did not say how old a child might be while it could still be destroyed

And just when does a "moral change" occur? Perhaps when the kid is old enough to understand that, when asked the question "Do you mind if we kill you?", that answering "No" might not be in his or her best interest.

Or, perhaps, the truth is that there is no biological or philosophical justification to claim that a person becomes a person at any given moment or stage of growth later than the moment of conception or the first instance of cell division. (I'm just trying to find an ethically consistent position here...)

Harris, who also gives advice to doctors as a member of the ethics committee of the British Medical Association (BMA),

Yeah, you read that right.

is understood to have argued that there was no moral distinction between aborting a foetus found by tests to have defects and disposing of a child where the parents discovered the problems at birth. The words drew a furious response from anti-abortion campaigners. The Pro-Life lobby group, who had members present at the meeting, noted what Harris had said and condemned his words.

Why in the world is the reaction of anti-abortionists being focused on? Is it only anti-abortionists who get infuriated at the idea of killing newborn babies? Are pro-choicers unphased by the idea of taking a crying, smiling, breathing, kicking, fidgetting bouncing baby suckling at his mother's teat and killing him?
Julia Millington, the group’s spokeswoman, said: "It is frightening to think that university students are being educated by somebody who endorses the killing of new-born babies, and equally worrying to discover that such a person is the establishment’s ‘preferred’ bioethicist."

However, Michael Wilkes, the chairman of the BMA’s ethics committee, claimed that Harris was simply trying to encourage debate and consistent thinking.
He said: "There are many who might concur that there is no difference between a full-term foetus and a new-born baby, although the majority would see there is a substantial difference. Abortion is legal, but termination after birth is killing."

Oh, that's the difference! The "majority" can't see the world in moral or ethical terms, only in legal terms! The reason Harris' remarks are causing commotion is because most people can't see that if they in any way accept the legality of abortion then they must also support the right of women to smother their babies in a blanket. Oh... *smacks palm into forehead* ...We're such neanderthals sometimes!
In the past, Harris has spoken of the need to allow people to buy and sell human organs as a means of increasing supplies for transplant operations.

Why? Why not just kill someone in a wheelchair when a real person needs a kidney?
He also recently expressed support for the sex selection of babies for social reasons. He said: "If it isn’t wrong to wish for a bonny bouncing baby girl, why would it be wrong to make use of technology to play fairy godmother?"

Y'know, that's what I tried to explain to the Nevada Gaming Commission! I told 'em; "If it isn't wrong for me to wish for a royal flush, how can it be wrong for me to make use of my own deck of cards to create a royal flush?!" They didn't like my "reasoning".

Actually, what are the "social reasons" of which he spoke? If it's to create an even ratio of boys to girls, nature does a pretty good job of that. If it's just to give parents an opportunity to choose the sex of their children, then what's the heck is the "social reason"?
Any parent who would choose the sex of his or her child is sexist. Let's encourage that!

Okay, okay, let's say daddy has five girls and, dag nab it, wants a boy. Has anyone ever heard of ADOPTION?!!!! But, if you're going to adopt, you'd better get to the agency fast. Those kiddies might soon be labelled "disadvantaged" and be destroyed.

Posted by Tuning Spork at 08:22 PM | Comments (4)

January 12, 2004

Societal Status Revealed on the Bus(?)

After having ridden the bus for a week I've noticed something.
Women tend to take the front seats; men tend to walk to the rear.

Young men tend to be drawn toward the back of the bus.

I feel comfortable about mid-way back; the last seats before the rear door.

Young women seem to be spread all around except the back of the bus.

Old women stay as close the driver as they can. Old men choose the center but always toward the front.

There seems to be a self-manifested seating heirarchy concerning front and back based on sex and age.

The thing I can't figure out is: Is it about power or vulnerability?
Or is it that the most powerful also feel the most vulnerable?

This is really bugging me.

Posted by Tuning Spork at 09:59 PM | Comments (6)

January 11, 2004

That Was The Week That Was

So, anyway, I walked out monday morning and discovered that ol' Carmine, my truck (so named for it's color), had a flat tire. Since Chris, my housemate, is dead to the world until at least noon, there was no way I could replace it in the morning. Off to the bus stop I walked.

We've had single digit temperatures and lots of wind all week. It's only a ten minute walk to the bus stop in the morning, but it's a harrowing ten minutes (plus the standing-around time at the stop) when the wind is blowing sleet into your face.

On the way home I had a choice: either stand around in the bus terminal waiting for my connection to the #4 bus, or take the #11 and walk the 25 minutes to home. I opted for the #11. Brrrrrr.
On the way home I picked up a can of Fix-a-Flat (or whatever it's called) so, I could inflate the tire enough to drive it to Town Fair Tire in the morning.

Tuesday morning I got into the truck and turned the key. Nothin'. The battery's dead, either from the cold or from the electrical problem that my mechanics have been unable to identify. There's a short somewhere that causes something called "spool failure" in the battery and need to replace it every two years or so.
Off to the bus stop again.

The problem is that Chris can't drive me around in the morning to get a battery because he sleeps too late, and we can't do it in the evening because I get home too late; about 8:30. (The commute by bus takes about 2 hours each way.) So, I spent the entire week riding the bus and walking long distances in the -10 degree wind chill. This made my legs and back extremely sore, and by Friday I could hardly walk erect.

(Running printing presses for a living, I'm on my feet all day. The only time I sit down at work is when I have my lunch.)

So, anyway, Saturday finally arrives. Time to get a battery and a tire!

I guess I made up for all the sleep I lost during the week, 'cause I slept 'til 1:30pm. I didn't even wake up naturally, I was awoken by Chris. He knocked on my bedroom door, came in, and told me that the pipes had frozen. We've got hot water, but no cold. "I can't take a shower and the toilet doesn't flush," he said.

"Is the kitchen sink frozen, too?" I asked. Chris went to check it out, came back upstairs and told me the cold water in the kitchen runs fine. So the pipes are frozen somewhere in the walls between the 1st and 2nd floor. How the hell are we gonna thaw them out?

Long story short; the bathrub dripped some cold water, so I left the handle open. Sure, it's cold water, but it's warmer than ice so the pipes unfroze after about ten minutes. whew.
Chris took his shower, then left the house. Hey! We need to get a battery and tire! He came back around 5pm.

I asked him for the money for the utility bills. He said he wont have it 'til next week. That means I don't have enough to buy a battery. (The tire, on the other hand, has a lifetime warranty, yay!) So, there'd be no point in getting a tire if I can't get the battery. I'll be riding the bus next week, and I just heard a news report that, starting Tuesday, it's going to get even colder than it was last week. (boo!!)

(I've been really short on cash the past month because of the holidays. Thankgiving, Christmas and New Years all fell on Thursdays. Those Wednesdays were half-days at work, and on those Fridays the shop was closed, and I didn't get paid for any of that lost time.)

Also, I've had trouble eating, lately. I think everything I've eaten in the past week could fit on one dinner plate with room to spare. But, last night I suddenly got hungry. I made a bowl of beans and franks with Bush's Baked Beans and Ballpark Hot Sausages (that look and taste like hot dogs). That's when I began to feel it. A toothache.

Within 20 minutes it went from a dull ache to a sharp throbbing pain. I ate less than half of the beans and franks 'cause I just couldn't stand the pain of chewing anymore. I have an old tube of Anbesol that doesn't seem to work very well (It's about 4 years old). I had a partial bottle of brandy hanging around; it was a good night to put it to use.
I had trouble sleeping last night, constantly waking up and wincing from the pain in that fershlugginer tooth.

I woke up at 10:00am and couldn't sleep anymore. I got dressed and went around the corner to the Dew Drop In Deli and bought some Extra-strength Tylenol and popped three of 'em. The cold weather (slightly warmer today...I think we made it into the 20s) making my legs and back stiff and sore some more.

I went on-line and tried to read a blog or two, but couldn't concentrate. Then I got a great idea: hot bath!
I haven't had a bath in well over a year, and it was high time I had a good hot soaking.
As the tub filled I began to feel the Tylenol working. The pain had lessened to the point where I went ahead and brushed my teeth. Then I undressed and slowly sank into the steamy hot water.

Ooooooooooo. Aaaahhhhhhhhhhh. Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.

As the water cooled I'd pull the plug and let some water drain, then turn on the hot water again.
After about an hour (or more?) I was as loose as a well steamed sprig of asparagus. In fact, I began to overheat.

So, now I'm sitting here all warm and cozy. I'm beginning to feel the tooth again, so I'll be popping three more Tylenol in a minute. I can't see a dentist tomorrow because I'll be leaving at 6:30am to be in work early to finish a job I started on Friday and will be picked up tomorrow. So Tuesday will be a fun day. Not only do I have to get to a dentist, but I have to figure out how the hell I'm gonna get to the Court house for what will hopefully be the last time I ever have to set foot in a court. (I'm being sued -- it's no biggie.)

If I'm in the mood later, maybe I'll tell ya the real problems I'm dealing with. ;)

Posted by Tuning Spork at 04:29 PM | Comments (2)

December 24, 2003

Life Is But A Dream?

So, I was talking to my friend Lawruh at work today and she was tellin' me about her guy problems (she has a complicated love-life).
Somehow I was stricken to tell her about a nightmare I'd had while back in High School. Not sure how it came up, but...

I had the fancy for Rebecca. Nay, I adored Rebecca. Rebecca had the hots for Jesus. Ibid.
And, as if we were in frickin' Pakistan, she was "dating" ("in the process of being betrothen to") a guy, seven years her senior, that her Dad had chosen for her.

So, anyway, I told Lawruh about this dream from Hell circa 1981:

Rebecca was having sex with everyone but me. I, angry and tormented, walked up to her as she sat on a tree branch with some guy who was fondling her with lustful abandon.

"Becky!" I said, "You're always off somewhere in plain sight having sex with everyone but me! You know how I'm suffering here... Why wont you have sex with meeeeeeee?!!"

As the guy was groping her and suckling at her neck she flipped her hair from her face.

"Bob," she said with desperate apologetic concern, "It's because you love me... I just can't!"


"Oh my God!" Lawruh wailed clutching her hair. "
You understand women!!!!!!"

For any of you gals out there: What the hell did she mean by THAT?!!!!!

Posted by Tuning Spork at 05:57 PM | Comments (4)

December 10, 2003

I'm a gutless hackneyed shameful/shameless (whichever is more correct)selfish short-sighted procrastinating useless and insensitive bubblehead

Remind me to tell you why.

Just make sure I'm in the mood to tell ya.

UPDATE: Sorry for the cryptic post. It's just that I know that some if my friends and family occassionally check out this mess. Sometimes I wish I'd never mentioned to any of 'em that I have a blog. Makes it kinda hard to spill yer guts with fitting abandon, eh?

Posted by Tuning Spork at 10:44 PM | Comments (6)

December 05, 2003



Okay, so it took me two hours to get home tonight, but, WOO HOO!
All along i-95 it was a steady drive, not stop and go at all, a steady drive at 11 MPH. We're supposed to get about a foot of snow overnight. I can only hope there's enough to build a SnowSphinx!

Welp, since, as expected, this post sucks: read THIS POST by Peggy Noonan about last year's first snowfall (published one year ago tomorrow). Trust me on this...Peggy rules!

Posted by Tuning Spork at 08:07 PM | Comments (0)

December 02, 2003


Looks like one of the best Indian Summers ever is finally over.

I woke up this morning shiverring under my electric blanket and stepped onto the front porch and found a layer of frost. Dang!
I knew winter had to come eventually, but couldn't it wait 'til February?

Tonight I finally lifted up the screen and closed the storm window.
I guess this might be a good time to get a load of heating oil...

Posted by Tuning Spork at 10:31 PM | Comments (0)

November 28, 2003

A Post for a warm and rainy day off

Welp, had a lovely Thanksgiving dinner with the family: Gramma the Matriarch, Mom and her beau, an Aunt, an Uncle, a Cousin, a second Cousin, two Sisters, a Brother-in-Law, and one Nephew. Just 11 of us, running the age gammut from 5 to 86.

We seem to alternate each year between a big homemade Thanksgiving dinner at my sister's house, and going out the The Blue Goose for dinner. This year we went out. But, of course, we dine early (5:00 reservation) then head back to my sister's house (less than 5 minutes from the restaurant) for desserts and good times.

My nephew Jimmy (10) and his cousin Ian (5) get along great. I, for some reason, was worried that Jimmy would be too put off by having to deal with a cousin half his age. But, to my joy, Jimmy is as patient and welcoming as he is energetic and creative.
Jimmy showed Ian his roomful of toys and games and all things Jimmyworld, and also showed some video games. Ian asked a lot of questions, and Jimmy answered them without a whiff of annoyance. Maybe he was just happy to talk to someone that wants to learn something from him, rather than the other way around like when Jimmy has to hang out with nothing but us adults all evening.


My housemate, Chris, has come home...and it's after dark. That means the squirrels are back in the attic crawl space and we wont be climbing up there to seal the hole that they use to get in. We'll just have to do that tomorrow afternoon after we move the new refrigerator in and the old one out.

OH!!! If you haven't been there yet: my JenLars Interview is posted. If you haven't read it go read it! If you have read it, go read it again 'cause each time you click on the link above Jennifer gets a brand new SiteMeter hit!

Posted by Tuning Spork at 04:43 PM | Comments (1)

November 25, 2003


I work next door to a Krispy Kreme Doughnut shop. If you're unfamiliar with Krispy Kreme doughnuts, here's the dish:

These things are made by Santa's Satan's elves. They're made with lard, and come out so fluffy that they're mostly empty space. A Dunkin' Donut is like a bran muffin compared to Krispy Kremes. They're served hot (warm, anyway) and you can eat half a dozen of these and still feel like you've only smelled 'em.
The glaze is moist and sticky; like a fresh coat of paint, only a tad flakey... and made out of sugar.

So anyway, I stepped outside to grab one of the four cigarettes per day that I allow myself while working and noticed a flock of crows maniacally chasing each other above my parking lot. Several sets of 7-10 crows chasing another.
I then noticed that each of the chased crows had a piece of Krispy Kreme doughnut in it's beak.

I saw 15-20 crows perched along the edge of Krispy Kreme's dumpster; alternately jumping in and then out of it with a piece of doughnut. Another chase would ensue.

One crow took a hard evasive maneuver right near and above me, and dropped his doughnut portion on the pavement about six feet away. 10-15 crows swooped down to grab the sinfully sweet morsel. But, it being only a few feet from me, none of them dared to get quite near enough to grab it.

I backed off about three feet or so. Again they contested each other to be the one to snatch it, but, still with only less than ten feet between us, the flight impulse seemed to keep overruling the fighting spirit.

Then one brave crow descended from the opposite direction, took the confectionary treat and set off to my left. 20 crows immediately began the pursuit; swooshing right past me... some as close as three or four feet.
(When 20 crows push themselves past you that close, you can hear their feathers rustling loud and clear! Cool!!)

Then, seemingly suddenly, some crows began flying nearer to me; coming almost directly toward me only to pull up at about five or six feet away from me.
"Uh oh," I thought, "They're testing me now." My willingness to stand still while they tried to grab the piece of doughnut seemed to have emboldened them to see just how close they could get to me with impunity. If I let this go on then, surely, they'd swoop down at me -- and others -- with a brazen arrogance that they've heretofore been too afraid to dare dream possible. So, I asked myself, "What would Alfred Hitchcock do?"

Four crows began approaching from my left; I swear they were looking right at me. I waited 'til they were within ten feet or so.
"BOO!!!" I shouted, thrusting my arms in the air. Have you ever seen crows startled by something? They almost seem to fly upside-down. It's really funny.

I was able to finish my cigarette in peace as I watched the manic chases performed by these crazy birds on their sugar high. But, more than that, I'd decided that the next doughnut that one of these crows drops in front me
is mine, sucka.

Posted by Tuning Spork at 07:48 PM | Comments (4)

November 20, 2003

You asked, Osama answers

Okay, you didn't ask, via JenLars, these questions of Osama Bin Ladin. But, through the magic of the Ouiji Board from Parker Brothers and some logistics help from Newsweek, he answered them anyway!

What were your parents smoking when they named you and where can I get some of it?

My mother and my father, being the good Shariah-abiding Muslims that they are, do not smoke cigarettes. So, the answer is, undoubtedly, pot.

Seriously, why so purple? How about a nice muted lavendar?

Now, let's get this straight: My turban is NOT purple; it's violet.
I was tired of not being able to keep the white rag clean and bright, what with all the dirt, sand and cordite around this cave, so I switched to violet. Though I am considering a move to a nice winter-sky indigo. Do you think that would clash with this yellowcake?

The Big Bang theory essentially states that the Universe came into being out of nothing. Can an effect without cause be a scientific conclusion?

Yes. Just look at the science of sociology, or abnormal psychology. The rage that sets a wealthy Saudi oil heir to murdering innocent bystanders for no reason that they, the victims, could possibly be held accountable for is a perfect example.
Of course, the "cause" of the Big Bang is Allah; the same god that has told me to kill you as soon as this interview is concluded. Why does Allah want me to kill you? Do not question Allah.

Frank J has gone on record as thinking you make up all your stories. How do you respond?

Through the use of long dormant, loosely affiliated, sleeper cells scattered throughout the sprawled limbs of the infidel beast.

If you could secretly kidnap and torture one "world leader" who would it be and what would you do to him or her? Would you leave them alive or dead?

I've always had my eye on that hussy, Queen Nor. I mean, it's bad enough that she went to school, but now she walks around and even appears on television with her face all naked and stuff. What a tramp. Dead.
Oh, and Yassir Arafat. That guy blows people up on city buses while talking about peace. Just shut up and kill infidels, you two-faced liar! And what's with that rag on his head? It looks like the tablecloth from the cover of the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook...

What is the worst thing you've ever done to someone?

I once hummed the tune to "Peace Train" in front of my mother. I made her weep. *sniff* I was such a hellion when I was a teenager.

Would you give up your penis for a Hall Of Fame baseball career?

My wives would be very disappointed if I were to play baseball. We'll just have to make due with mass murder and the accompanying erections.

If I moved to Sweden, would I still have to hear about Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez? In other words, is pop culture different there?

Maybe it wont be Ben and J-Lo, but the cancer that infects the cultural wasteland of the Satanic world would be just as destructive to your spiritual health. My best advice is that you, and all non-true-Muslims, must turn away from the decadence of pop culture and affect docile servitude to theocratic tyrany before I kill you. It's your only hope.

What's with the giant udder?

It's the result of a biological weapons experiment that went horribly wrong. Please avert your gaze and mention it to no one.

Tell us about your troubled past. Specifically that mess with Madonna and Britney. How is it that you've escaped the paparazzi on this one?

By killing them, and anyone else who knows about it.


I can wait.

What do you think about movies with intermissions in them?

So much poison that they have to give it to you in two doses... I'll have to work that into my repertoire.

What are the top 5 reasons to own a crossbow?

1) To kill infidels, 2) to kill heretics, 3) to kill secularists, 4) to kill renegades, and 5) to work on hand-eye coordination... it's a useful skill to have when you wanna kill people.

What scandalous thing that you've committed while blitzed has had the farthest-reaching repercussions?

It must be that time I humped Mulah Omar in the dark cave thinking it was one of my wives. The guys kid me about it to this day. "Hey, Osama, is that a box cutter in your pants or are you happy to see me?!" *chuckle* Oh, I'm never gonna live that one down...

Just between the two of us, Stan is jealous of you, isn't he?

Probably. But I've always encouraged him to find his niche. I've worked hard to get where I am, but we can't all be homocidal maniacs. Besides, I always remind him that envy is a mortal sin and I don't want to have to do Allah's work 24-7, y'know? So, maybe Stan should just stay away from me for a while.

Well, thank you for answering these questions, Osama. It's been very enlightening.

You're welcome. Now hold still while I set this cross-bow...

[It was at this point that I activated the site-to-site transport as perfected during the Philidelphia experiment. In a few seconds I was back in Connecticut, sitting at my computer, with no discernible side effects other than this giant udder.]

Posted by Tuning Spork at 03:38 PM | Comments (2)

November 15, 2003

Gutter Snipe

I thought it would take about 20 minutes to clean the gutters. BWAHAHAHA!!!

Chris and I began renting this house a year and a half ago and, after having moved in, realized that it's been pretty neglected. Years ago (I'm not sure how many) the thing was moved, as a unit, about 1000 feet from where it was originally built. It now sits on the former site of a florist's greenhouse. When they demolished the greenhouse they apparantly decided to just bury the glass. Now whenever I dig up the soil to plant tomatoes, peppers and/or cukes I strike a mother lode of green glass.

The door bell had never been hooked up (until last summer, when we finally had it hooked up), and neither has the back porch light and several of the electrical outlets (mainly in the living room). One other thing we've noticed is that the gutters probably haven't been cleaned in decades. As the summer progressed the weeds in the gutters grew to heights of four feet. The house had become One with the garden.

So, at the behest of our landlady, Denise (who lives next door), Chris and I borrowed neighbor Jim's ladder and set out to clean them gutters. Piece o' cake.
It's a cape; two stories plus a crawlspace attic. There are six gutters: two at one story, two at two stories, one at a story and a half (above the front porch roof), and one at nearly three stories (eek!).

The first gutter we decided to liberate was the lowest; just above the den and at the front of the house. The ground is so uneven that it took a while just to set the ladder so that it didn't slide left and right everytime you shook it. I climbed up the rickety aluminum ladder about seven feet that felt like seventy.
"Uh..." I looked down at Chris, "You ever been this high up on a ladder before?"
"Sure," he said. "But not in years."

I climbed back down and Chris climbed up to one rung lower than I'd made it.
"uh..." he muttered, bouncing the ladder to check it's sterdiness, "I dunno about this..."
After a few starts and stops Chris finally made it to the gutter and cleaned out the left half of it. We shimmied it over and he cleaned the right side.

The next gutter was the story-and-a-half one; just above the front porch roof. You can't get to it with a ladder, which means one of us had to climb onto the roof. Since Chris cleaned the first gutter, I decided that I'd better go for it.

I climbed up a few rungs higher than I had in my previous attempts until my butt was at roof level. I leaned to my right and grabbed the peak of the overhang and pulled myself upon the roof and crawled to the center and straddled it, facing forward with the gutter above my head and my back to the wall.

"Alright!" Chris encouraged. "Now all ya gotta do it turn around."
The gutter itself being the only thing grabbable I grabbed it and struggled myself to face it; trowel in hand. This stuff was packed in there. I mean, this wasn't just spoonin' and flippin', it was a real effort to dig that crud out of there.
Landlady Denise came out of her back door and headed for her truck.
"Hi, guys!" she waved.
"Hi, Deniiise...!" we waved back with affected enthusiasm. Did I mention that we're not getting paid for this?

Cleaning the mounds of leaves-that-have-turned-to-heavy-soil out of the gutter was the easy part. Sliding back and onto the ladder was the scary part. But, with heart a thumpin' and knees a-slidin' I made it back down without falling and breaking my neck.. like Grammaw always said I would.

The next gutter was two stories up; the one above my bedroom. Chris went first and cleaned out the right side. We shimmied the ladder over and I went up for the left side. After climbing on the overhang above the porch this was gonna be a cinch.

Most of the caked in dirt was dug out pretty easily, but the stuff just in front of me was stubborn. I dug and pryed and tugged and cried; this crud wasn't budging. Finally I just put all my muster into it and extracted a three foot long body of well-rooted soil. Yep, nearly half of the gutter-crud was in one piece.
"Holy shit!" we both laughed.

We moved the ladder to the back of the house and got the next gutter -- as high as the last one -- with relative ease. We were gutter-cleaning like pros now. But the next one was the one above the crawl space.
We set the ladder until it was reasonably stable and took turns trying to climb the three stories to the gutter. Nope. The gutter's too high and the ladder's too shakey. We each tried again. And then again.

"Well," Chris suggested, "We could climb onto the roof over there (where the last gutter we cleaned was) and walk over to that gutter."
The highest gutter was at the edge of a section of roof that -- compared to the rest of it -- was relatively flat.
"The scariest part is gonna be getting onto the ladder to come back down."

"Okay, let's picture this:" I shuddered. "Even though that section of the roof is relatively "flat" compared to the rest of the roof, yer gonna hafta sit there with your feet low and your butt high and lean forward.. nay, push forward to dig out the crap in the gutter. Up there.
I'm not gonna do it... and neither are you. It's up the ladder or nothing"

It was nothing... We let that one go.

The last gutter was above the den, the same height as the first we'd cleaned. But by this time we were so used to climbing to gutteral heights that it was a piece o' cake.
Six gutters: five cleaned. If Denise wants that high gutter cleaned she can hire some illegals to do it.
And if she thinks hard enough to remember to come by to thank us for cleaning five of the gutters, well, at least the door bell works.

Posted by Tuning Spork at 11:42 PM | Comments (3)

November 02, 2003

Indian Summer

I must say, this has been dang nearly a perfect weekend. Though it's not sunny today like it was yesterday, and it smells like it wants to rain, it's warm enough to rake leaves in a t-shirt.

Aah, the smell of autumn, colorful leaves, pumpkins sittin' around, Indian Summer. A perfect day to whip some some Chicken Stew.

Posted by Tuning Spork at 04:00 PM | Comments (6)

October 31, 2003

Spooky Story

Okay, I don't usually write too much about that'll reveal intimate details about me. But, since this is Halloween and people are eager for creepy stories, here's one from the life and times of Tuning Spork:

About nine years ago I drove from Tonopah, Nevada to Bradford, Vermont. I had been living and working in Tonopah for about two years. Why would a Connecticut Yankee move to Nevada? Bees. There aren't any in Nevada, the ground is too dry for them to breed, and I am deathly allergic to bee stings. (There are, happily, also no mosquitoes out there.) Working shirtless outside without having to keep an eye out for those little buzzing angels of Satan was pure joy.

I had just gotten into Bradford at about noon on a Friday to visit my father. I hadn't seen him since I left for Nevada two years earlier. He worked in the small town of Bradford, but he lived nearby in an even smaller town called Corinth. He was the last "back east" person I saw before I left, and the first I wanted to see when I got back.

The first person I met in Bradford that I knew was Corinth's own Hank the Postman. Of course, there are no letter carriers in Corinth. Hank runs the small post office in downtown Corinth; which consists of the Post Office, a gas station and a general store. Hank was sitting at the counter at Covey's Luncheonette.

"Hank!" I said, "How ya been?!" Hank looked at me with a somewhat puzzled face. There was no way that he didn't recognize me. I mean, I even dated his daughter during Sophomore year in high school.

Eventually he shook my hand and said "Bob, I...I thought you were in Nevada...", still looking at me as if I were a ghost. Oddly, like he was very concerned about something. "What are doing in Vermont?"

"I came to say hi to my Dad," I said. "I wanted to drop by before heading down to Connecticut."
(Bridgeport, Connecticut was where I had a condominium. My tenants had moved out a few weeks earlier and it was ready for my move back in.)

Then Hank asked me with a nervous stare; "Does Brian know you're coming?" Now, Brian is my younger brother. Why Brian would need to know if I was coming to visit Dad didn't make any sense.

"No," I said, "No one does. Just thought I'd pop in and surprise them!"
As this conversation was awkward -- and at the time it never occurred to me to wonder why -- I gave Hank my best, got back into the truck and headed to my father's house in Corinth.
I drove the twists and turns past rivers and ridges and sprawling farms, up Jones Hill Road (named for my grandfather), and up the steep and twisted unpaved driveway that leads to Dad's house.
There were two cars there, obviously he had company. I knocked on the door, and my sister, Jennifer, answered.

"Surprise!" I said grinning. The weird thing was, she didn't look all that surprised. But she welcomed me back, invited me in, and led me to the kitchen where I found my brother Brian.

"So, how was Nevada?" was the first thing he said, but the look on his face was serious; he had something on his mind other than smalltalk.
After some starts and stops, Brian and Jennifer finally got around to telling me that Dad had died.

This was horrible news, of course. Dad and I were very close. Dad and Jennifer were sorta close, too, but she was more of a priss; definately Mom's girl.
If I may be so bold to say: There was no sibling rivalry between Brian and me. Brian was a trouble-maker. He and Dad never got along. When Dad wanted to fish, shop for wood for -- and wanted help -- building a deck or shed, it was me he'd ask; and I loved doing that stuff.
The real kicker wasn't even that Dad died, though. It was that he died nearly two years ago.

Now, granted, living thousands of miles away in a town in Nevada that isn't even on most maps without a phone is asking for trouble when it comes to family news. But I never even wrote a stinking letter in all that time. If I had, maybe it just would have been returned. But I doubt it, if the house is still in the family (and especially if Hank is routing the mail), someone would have taken the time to send a letter back with the news of my father's death. I suck so much sometimes.

Over the course of the afternoon and evening I learned that the house was now owned by Brian. He'd bought Jennifer's share, as well as mine in absentia. Bastard. I spent the late-afternoon and evening, slathered in bug repellent, mostly relaxing on the deck and looking at the mountains in the distance, and after dark, just watching bats flying overhead in the moonlight. I longer I stared into the hills and forest of Vermont, the more the wide-open spaces of Nevada seemed like just a dream I'd had.

Early the next morning I went to Dad's gravesite in Bradford. There I saw, carved into the stone, the date of his death: November 15th, 1992. That was the day after I left for Tonopah. I wondered if I was the last person he ever spoke to.
But then I remembered something. Brian was there, too. He and I had been fighting that day, same as we always did. I was the one who always yelled at him for being a useless lying piece of shit...worse than Dad ever did. We were brothers, but we were never friends. As I stood at my father's grave my mind began to wander, and soon I was suspecting all kinds of horrible things.

That afternoon I drove into Bradford to see who I could talk to. I found Mrs. Keirnan, an old friend of my grandparents, having lunch at Covey's. She was definately surprised to see me, but seemed just a bit off-put. I eventually got around to asking her questions about my father's death, and she answered some of my questions "yes" or "no", but she didn't volunteer much.
But she did tell me that if I wanted to learn more about my father's death that I could drive across the river into Lebanon, New Hampshire and look at newspaper obits.

I went to the public Library in Lebanon and began searching for the obit, found it, and it didn't tell me anything. Just the most basal facts; date, place, wake and funeral times, yadda yadda. But then I looked for news items for November 15-20. Ho-ly shit!
That's when I learned that my father was actually strangled in a ski-lodge at Mount Snow; cabin 12-C. I made some photo-copies and headed back to Corinth.

"Why didn't you tell me any of this?!" I shouted at Brian.

"Bob," Jennifer said trying to calm me down, "We weren't sure if you were ready to hear it."
WHAT?! I am the eldest here! Don't tell me what I'm ready or not ready to hear!"

From there the argument, especially with Brian, degraded into a shouting match. The more we argued the more I learned. Dad went skiing. He was found strangled dead in his cabin. Brian told the lawyers/court that I was "unreachable." Brian was awarded my share of the property.
I eventually flat-out asked Brian if he had killed Dad because he (Brian) was a dead-ender malcontent thief maggot who wanted Dad's house because he couldn't get a thing for himself any other way. Jennifer tried to calm me down, but I would have none of it. Maybe I was being unreasonable, but I was furious. At about 5pm I stormed out, got into my truck, and headed for Mount Snow just because I thought I might find at least some sense of closure there.

I reached Mount Snow after dark, at about 6:30, and met with the desk clerk. I asked him if he'd been working here more than two years, and he said he had. I said "Does 'Cabin 12-C' mean anything to you?"
Startled, the fella said "What do you mean?"
"Man strangled? Cabin 12-C?"
"Oh, yeah!" he said, and I began up the stairs as I swear I heard him say "yeah, strangled.. rumor had it that a son of his did it.."
Confident that no one was in the room this early in the season I opened the door and walked into the room.

It was a very large room, as you'd expect. I walked over to the fireplace and sat down. This is where my father died. Okay, maybe he died over there, or there, or in the bathroom or the bedroom. But I felt that it happened here, near the fireplace.

It seemed like hours, but it was only after about 45 minutes that I heard "Bob?"
I turned toward the door and there was my sister, Jennifer. She walked over and kneeled behind me, resting on my back.
"You were awfully harsh with Brian," she said. "But, just between you and me, I can understand why."

"This is where Dad died," I said.
"Yes," she answered.
"Do you know who did it?"
"Yes," she said and she leaned harder.
"Was it Brian?"
"No. No it wasn't Brian," she said.
"Who killed him?" I said, bracing myself.
"You did, Bob." As soon as she said it I knew she was right.

"But, Jen, I was away at the time." I protested without conviction. "I was in Tonopah, Nevada on November 15th, 1992."

"You've never been to Nevada," she said as she combed my hair with her fingers. "You were in a hospital in Massachusetts. You wanted to believe that you were out on the open range in Nevada, just like we pretended when we were kids, and we let you believe that."
Then she asked, "What do you remember about Tonopah?"

I tried and thought as hard as I could to remember.

"Nothing." I could remember nothing about Nevada. I was never there. But, after nearly two years away, I had finally returned.

P.S. None of this is true. Don't hate me, blame Jim!
Happy Halloween! :)

Posted by Tuning Spork at 09:12 PM | Comments (7)

October 27, 2003

Principled Boycots

There are two things that I've never done, and will never do:
1) eat a Burger King Whopper; and
2) watch a Super Bowl game.

I might have been willing to try a Whopper up 'til the mid-late '80's when B.K. ran those damm "Herb" commercials.

Herb: supposedly the only man in America who'd never tried a Whopper.
Huh? I never tried one either, and I was in my 20's then. So, Burger King thought that their precious Whopper deserved elevation to a primary status in Americana that it was unthinkable that a viewer of their ad campaign would accept that no one but one man had tried their greaseburger?! BAH!
I was offended and insulted by that; so much so that I vowed never ever EVER to eat their cheesy Whopper!

As for the Super Bowl,
It was in January of 1980, I was in High School, and we'd just found a bassist to complete our band's line-up. Her name was Karen.
We'd scheduled our third practice session as a full band for Sunday.

Karen: Oh, I can't make it for this Sunday.
Me: Oh, okay. Something came up?
Karen: Well, I'll be watching the Super Bowl.
Me: Oh, I didn't know you were a Football fan..
Karen: Well, I'm not.'s the Super Bowl!
Me: Yeah, I know. It's a Football game...
Karen:'s the Super Bowl!

This was the first time I began to realize that the Super Bowl was becoming something other than a Football game, and I wasn't liking it.
We lost a weekend's practice because Karen felt compelled to watch a Football game when she wasn't even a Football fan?! WTF?!!!!

Over the next few years the Super Bowl got higher and higher ratings. Suddenly seven of the top-ten most watched TV shows of all-time were Super Bowl games. Sports are s'posed to be watched by sports fans, dammit! But there are people who watch one (1) Football game a year: the friggin' Super friggin' Bowl.

If you ever see me eating a Whopper while watching the Super Bowl: shoot me.

Anybody else got any principled boycots? I'd love to know what they are and why!!

Posted by Tuning Spork at 11:00 PM | Comments (15)

Joke of the Day

DOCTOR: Well, the results of your complete physical exam are in, and I'm afraid I've got two pieces of bad news for you.

PATIENT: Doc, don't sugar-coat it for me, just give it to me straight.

DOCTOR: All right. The first bit of bad news is: you've got cancer.

PATIENT: Oh my, cancer. That's awful. All right, what's the second?

DOCTOR: Secondly, I'm afraid; you've got Alzheimer's.

PATIENT: Ooh, Alzheimer's, that's awful. Oh well... at least I don't have cancer!

Posted by Tuning Spork at 10:34 PM | Comments (1)

October 15, 2003

What sucks?

It sucks to be a Cubs fan. Sucks! Suck suck suckitty sucks!!

Glad I'm a Mets fan!! errrr......

Posted by Tuning Spork at 11:37 PM | Comments (4)

October 13, 2003

What a Georgeous Day!

Whew! The leaves are turning and it smells like autumn, but the sun is shining and it's about 75 degrees!
I spent the past few hours sitting in the backyard doing a crossword puzzle and suckin' down the grapefruit juice. The dog and cats were just lazin' in the sun. Hard to believe it's a Monday.

Uuuuh... I'm goin' back outside now! bbl :)

Posted by Tuning Spork at 03:56 PM | Comments (2)

October 12, 2003

quick note

I'm well into my second day without a cigarette.
Man, I sure could use a beer.

Posted by Tuning Spork at 06:07 PM | Comments (9)

October 09, 2003

Sox lose


The Cubs-Red Sox World Series will end at Game 7. It'll go 28 innings and the Red Sox will have used all of their players. An injury will force the Sox to forfiet the game to the Cubs at 3:17 am.

Not that that will happen, of course. I'm just sayin' is all...

Posted by Tuning Spork at 11:44 PM | Comments (1)

October 08, 2003

ol' Carmine must be mad at me

Carmine is my Chevy Blazer, named for it's color: Carmine Red.

Carmine has some kind of electrical problem that's been making it hard to start it's engine. I have to turn it over and over and over until the battery begins to wear down. When it turns slowly enough it ignites, as if it needs a choking or something.

Anyway, I drained the battery this morning, until Carmine wouldn't even turn over, and the engine never ignited. Luckily I got a ride to work, as it takes a while to get there by bus (12 miles, 2 transfers).
Getting home was the fun part.

I left work at 5:35 and walked to the Mall to catch the bus back to Bridgeport ('tis about a 15 minute walk). The 5:50 bus never showed up, so I waited for the 6:20.

These new buses have a new way of issuing transfers: by spitting them out of a doohickey by the fare box. They're time-stamped and expire 70 minutes after being issued.
Used t'be that you got a transfer and it was good all day. Not for the next 70 minutes. ALL FRICKIN' DAY!

Checking the bus schedule that I grabbed as I got on, I saw that it takes 50 minutes to get to the hub in Bridgeport where I'll catch the #4 Park Avenue bus. My 20 minute window was cut to 10 minutes when the bus just sat there at the Mall for 10 minutes before driving on. Crud!

So I got the idea to get off at the Milford train station and catch the train to Bridgeport. The train station in B-port is across the street from the bus hub. Cool! That'll cost me an extra $2, but it might save me as much as half an hour! Woo hoo!!

So I got to the train station at 6:40 and looked for the schedule. The previous train left for Bridgeport at 6:09; next one will arrive at 7:09. Dang!!
Of course the train arrived at 7:18, and I'll arrive at the hub in Bridgeport at the exact same time as the bus I'd just gotten off of!! Crappity crap crap!!!

The ticket-taker-guy came by. I said "Bridgeport," and handed him a $5 bill. He put it in his pocket, punched a ticket thingy, handed it to me and began to walk away.

"Uh," I muttered, "it's $5 to get to Bridgeport?!"
"Ho-ly shit."
"Well, on the train it is," he said, "but it's $2 if you get a ticket from the machine."
"Yes, the big ticket dispenser on the platform. You put in $2 and get a ticket. But if you pay on the train it's $5."
"Well that would've been nice to know."
"Well, it's been there for over a year," he concluded as he walked away.
Well, a belated "happy anniversary" to ya then.

I haven't ridden the train in over a year. I always got on the train and paid the $2. Not five. TWO!! Stinkin' railway robbery, I tells ya.

So I arrived at the bus hub in Bridgeport at 7:35. By now my transfer was no good so I'd be paying another bus fare, but all I had was a $10 bill, and the bus requires exact change ($1.25). So I walked a block to a downtown liquor store to get change, walked back and checked the schedules to see when the next #4 bus would arrive.
The previous one left at 7:10; next one will arrive at 8:10. D'oh!
Another half-hour of sittin' on my ass with bums and losers asking me for a cigarette every five friggin' minutes. The bus was late.

So I left work at 5:35 and finally walked through my front door at 8:45. Three hours and ten minutes to travel twelve stinkin' miles. I could've jogged home faster!

My friend Chris came out to give me a jump to see if I could get Carmine's engine going. Before hooking up the cables, and just out of curiosity (what with having drained the battery this morning), I turned the key in the ignition.
Started right up!!

Note to G-d: Hey, G-d, I'm an athiest...I don't believe in, please, stop testing me awready!!!!

Posted by Tuning Spork at 10:56 PM | Comments (5)

October 07, 2003

Cubbie Quickie

Okay, we're going to the tenth.
No matter how this game ends, I can't believe how hard Sammy hit that ball.

Down two runs with two out Sosa comes up, and I notice how fidgetty he is. Tuggin' at his sleeves, swingin' his bat, his eyes seemingly glazed and staring at nothing in particular.
"Sosa has yet to hit a post-season home run," the announcer says.
"Sammy doesn't know how to bat under pressure," I thought.

That first pitch was on the outside corner, yet Sammy swung and missed. He's too far off the plate! What's he thinking?!
He takes the second pitch and backs off, nervously fidgetting and adjusting in a seemingly manic search for context. The pitcher is calm and focused. "Sammy's lost," I thought.

The pitch lays in with all of the pitcher's confidence that Sosa can't see past his own self-doubt.

Sammy swings -- hard -- and the ball leaves the bat, the park and the doubt in 3 seconds flat!!

That's why he's Sammy Sosa and I'm me.

Posted by Tuning Spork at 11:39 PM | Comments (0)

October 06, 2003

O, Happy Monday

So anyway, I arrive at the shop this morning. I ran out of metal plates last week and my local printing supplies supplier didn't have any in stock, so they're back-ordered. Since they wont be arriving 'til later in the afternoon I decide to run some envelopes using paper plates.
(Y'see, I can't use paper plates on two-color jobs; they dry out too fast.)

So anyway, the boss comes in and says "Roberta needs her letterhead right away. Can we get it run today?"
"Sure," I said. "As soon as the metal plates arrive."

So I called the local supplier to see if UPS had arrived yet. "Oh, honey, let me have a look," Vikki said as she put me on hold.
"They haven't arrived yet. Let me call UPS and see where they are and I'll get right back to you, okay Sweetie?"
"Okay, Vikki. Thanks!"
I put the envelopes on hold and started warm-up the Multi 1360.
Vikki called back.

"I just talked to the shipper and the plates wont arrive until Wednesday or Thursday."
"Oh, fercryin'outloud," I muttered.
"It seems everything backed up because of the Hurricane, and deliveries from Florida are taking 7 shipping days," she informed.

So anyways, I made a few phone calls to other print shops in the area. Couldn't find anyone else who uses the same kind/size plates that I do.
Vikki called back again.

"I have a sample pack of three plates," she said excitedly. "If you can pick them up you can have them!"
So I hopped into the truck and hit the highway to go the four exits west on I-95 to the supplier, picked up the plates, and headed back to the shop.

I grabbed the negatives for Roberta's letterhead from the file box and burned the black plate (it's a two-color letterhead; black and burgandy).
I applied the developer chemical and began to wipe away the non-image coating.
But it left a haze left on the plate; it wasn't clean. So I rubbed a little harder, and the image started to fade.
D'OH!! This plate requires a different chemical than my regular plates!
I called Vikki again.

"I can't use the Graphline chemicals on the BGI plates," I said.
"Oh, let me see what I have, honey. Hold on!"
I held.
"Okay, I have some BGI developer and fixer," she gloated. "Come and get it, it's yours!"

So I hopped into the truck and trekked on over and then back with the developer.
Burned another plate. Applied the developer. It didn't even fade the coating! I may as well have been using water!
I called Vikki again.

"This chemical is for BGI N-2000 plates," I had read off the bottle. "The plates are BGI NA-812."
"Oh, honey, let me look around and see what I can do!"
"Okay, thanks!!"
Vikki called me back.

"Okay, Mary said she has ten or eleven Graphline plates," she said. "Come and get them and they're yours!"
I hopped into the truck and... you know.

So, I've finally got the right plates and the right chemicals and I burned the plates. I needed to check and make sure what the burgandy shade was, as there seemed to be a dispute about it. I opened the job box and what do I find inside? Two new negatives! The dang thing had been redesigned and nobody warned me!! Argh!!

So anyway, I masked and stripped the new negatives and made two new plates. Next thing was to mix the ink.
PMS 222: 16 parts Rubine Red, 4 parts Black. Grabbed the black and...rubine...rubine.. Where's my Rubine Red? I have no Rubine Red!!
I called Vikki again.

"We have none in stock," she told me after I'd been on hold for a few minutes, "But I can order some!"

But, hold on a sec; I have Bourdeax Red, and that's close to PMS 221. It's not an exact match, but close enough for my printer's ink guide to suggest it as a substitute. So all I gotta do is add some black to the Bourdeax; it's okay!

The press is well-moistened, inked and ready to go!

If you've never had to set a hairline registration on an offset press lemme tell ya: it can be pretty tedious. There aren't adjustments fine enough on this press to make lining up the colors quick or easy, and this is one of those jobs where some of the words have the first letter in burgandy and the remainder of the word in black. When you gotta line this stuff up at the top and bottom of the sheet, it can be a long process of hit and miss until you magically get it right.

After about forty-five minutes of getting the two colors in perfect straightness and registration I noticed that the ghostly fleur de Lis (a shadowy screen of the company's logo in the center of the page) was missing.
"Huh?" I said, "I know I unmasked it!"
Checking the new image against a sample of the old one, it's clear that the new negatives were made with the wrong screen! We gotta get new negs!!

So anyway, it was now 5:00. I went home. Roberta can have her stinkin' letterhead tomorrow.

Posted by Tuning Spork at 09:29 PM | Comments (6)

October 04, 2003

Strange Rain

The frog eggs, my friend,
are blowin' in the wind.
The frog eggs are blowin' in the wind.

(This was just too interesting not to pass on. Link is courtesy of Drudge.)

Posted by Tuning Spork at 06:28 PM | Comments (2)

September 29, 2003

Breaking News:

Michael Richards a.k.a Cosmo Peres?

Posted by Tuning Spork at 06:48 PM | Comments (0)

September 28, 2003

Quote of the Day

"It used to be that being crazy meant something. Nowadays everybody's crazy."
--Charles Manson

Posted by Tuning Spork at 08:37 PM | Comments (1)

September 22, 2003

Quote of the day

"Stare not for too long a time into the fire
lest, soon, fire be all ye see."
-Herman Melville, Moby Dick.

Posted by Tuning Spork at 09:10 PM | Comments (0)

September 21, 2003

Quote of the day

"In Detroit, under a new prison rehabilitation program called Fresh Start, employers will get a tax break if they hire an ex-convict. Employers who hire more that one ex-convict will get robbed and killed."
-Norm MacDonald

Posted by Tuning Spork at 04:14 PM | Comments (0)

September 18, 2003

50 more dumb things about me

51. My three favorite songwriters are Elvis Costello, Bob Dylan and Patti Smith.
52. After I left the Air Force I lived with my mother for a year. It was pure hell.
53. It was my fault.
54. Every sport is boring and tedious except for baseball.
55. I'm a Mets fan.
56. Tom Seaver sat five feet away from me in our living room in 1976 because my mother was dating Gene; a guy who worked in the Mets' front office.
57. I've met two other Hall of Famers: Ralph Kiner and Bob Feller.
58. I worked for Jerry Brown in 1992.
59. That's when I first learned that Bill Clinton was sleaze incarnate.
60. I think "Parker Lewis Can't Lose" was the best show ever broadcast.
61. Well, except for the Simpsons.
62. My first dates usually consist of hiking up Sleeping Giant Mountain.
63. Slow-dance to "Beast of Burden"'s magic.
64. Everyone I know has had medical care (be it carpal-tunnel; hepititis; gall-stones...).
65. I haven't even had so much as a common cold in 7 years.
66. What storm is brewing beneath the calm? Hopefully none.
67. My favorite place is the Metropolitan Museum of Natural History.
68. I've had the same job for nine years.
67. Fugi apples are the best to munch on, but Cortlands are the best to bake.
68. My friend Laura likes to date strange men.
69. I share a house with Chris. He makes his living on eBay and trust-fund installments.
70. If you have any antiques laying around that you wanna sell; Chris is the guy to talk to.
71. When my nephew was born I just stared at him, as he slept, for an hour straight.
72. My sister is super-mom.
73. He's 10 years old now and doesn't seem to worship me as much as he used to.
74. It's my fault.
75. I believe that love is the meaning of life because it's the only reason we have to even bother with it.
76. I believe that patience is an expression of love.
77. I love stormy weather.
78. The secret to awesome deviled eggs is horseradish.
79. I never studied but always tested well.
80. That caught up with me in college.
81. Weird Al Yankovic is a musical genius.
82. I own one suit.
83. I'm lucky if I get to wear it once a year.
84. I only wear boots... I don't own a pair of sneakers.
85. My hair has receded in the corners.
86. Sort of a Vincent Price thang.
87. I lucked out better than my dad.
88. I sell records on, from New Haven to Hong Kong.
89. Business is slow lately.
90. My cats' names are Stinky and BatCat.
91. BatCat catches bats in mid-flight outside.
92. Stinky just stinks.
93. They were both strays that we took in.
94. As for the dog, Tuko, you'll have to ask Chris. It's the brand name of a Japanese version of Multigraphics presses, but I doubt that that's where the name comes from.
95. Garden tomatoes are delicious.
96. And cucumbers, too.
97. I still sing Mac Davis songs in my head.
98. I'm an atheist who loves religeon.
99. I was a Nicheren Shosu Buddhist for a few years.
100. Well, at least they thought I was... ;)

Posted by Tuning Spork at 11:44 PM | Comments (2)

September 17, 2003

50 Dumb things about me

Well, since it's all the rage to make a list of 50 things about us, and I have nothing to post, I'll just imitate/flatter Annika/Jennifer/Susie.

1. I was born in Bridgeport, Connecticut on June 18th, 1963.
2. I was named after my father (which is a stupid way to name your kid. Let him have his own name!!!)
3. I run offset printing presses for a living (it's interesting and stimulating, but it ain't made me rich yet).
4. I have two sisters; one older, one younger.
5. My older sister was a grumpy bossy b#%ch when we were kids; but has mellowed out since, and we're very close now.
6. My younger sister and I were so close that we had the exact same friends when we were kids, and we're still close.
7. My parents seperated when we were all toddlers.
8. My father remarried and moved to Vermont. I have a half-brother and a former step-brother.
9. My half-brother, Brian, has been missing for 15 years.
10. My father re-remarried to an angel on Earth. I hope to find a woman like her.
11. My mother never remarried.
12. When I was in third grade I became obsessed with Gigantor.
13. Then the Jackson 5. Michael Jackson was my 1st idol.
14. Mom took us camping alot. She loved to rough it.
15. She recently gave up competitive rollerskating for recreational kayaking.
16. She's 60 years old.
17. I've been in the presence of my father four times since 1974.
18. Neither of us seems to mind.
19. I was a Cub Scout. Cool uniform.
20. My older sister's friends thought I was "cute" in it.
21. I hated being called "cute."
22. I was an easy target for bullies, being thin and mild-mannered.
23. I was always the tallest kid in my class.
24. My younger sister was always the shortest in hers.
25. No one believed we were brother and sister.
26. In freshman year in highschool I had long hair and looked like Peter Frampton.
27. I had the hots for a foxy girl named Louisa.
28. She had the hots for me.
29. I was eventually turned off because she wouldn't stop calling me "Peter."
30. I began writing songs in 1972 at the age of 8.
31. My first song was called "Hey Guys!"
32. I'm amazed at how romance-centered it was (being written by an 8-year old and all..)
33. That's what you get when you listen to pop songs, I guess.
34. The first girl I was in love with was named Donna.
35. It was at nursery school...we were 4 years old.
36. I have a screaming metabolism that keeps me thin even when I eat like a hog.
37. In high school I was the lead screamer in a punk band.
38. Our goal was to release a record before we graduated.
39. We never released a record.
40. My best friend, Dave, played a mean guitar. I hope he still does.
41. When Dave and I were seperated by college I taught myself to play guitar.
42. In college I majored in Drama, and minored in Physics (though bio-chemistry almost had me).
43. The only college professor I ever had whose name I remember is Professor Fryor; Political Science. Go figure.
44. I dropped out after three semesters. I wanted to, full-time, make money, not spend it.
45. I joined the Air Force because it seemed better than my other options.
46. My drill seargant fell in love with me.
47. "Don't ask don't tell" wasn't policy then. I let it go.
48. I was sent to Nellis AFB, Nevada as a combat arms instructor; specializing in the M-60 Machine-gun.
49. Being a teacher of firearms is cool.
50. Winter in the desert sucks.

Posted by Tuning Spork at 10:37 PM | Comments (6)

September 16, 2003

The Kitty

Once upon a twilight stormy,
while I found a beer to pour me,
I tried to read a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore.
Suddenly there came a yapping
as if some dog just finished crapping
and wanted to escape the storm that's just beyond my kitchen door.
crying out for drying out
just beyond my kitchen door.
Quoth the kitty; "Nevermore."

O, how distinctly I remember
it was in the morning tender
as I ate my bagel with cream cheese and Red Rose tea;
how the canine bit the feline
for no reason I could devine
other than: that dog is bored and jumpy as a flea.
still adored but really bored,
and jumpy as a flea.
Quothed the kitty: "This is war!"

Try, I dare ya, try explaining
to a kitty that it's raining
and the doggie must come in and out of the evening downpour.
Claws a-clamping on the curtains
as I move, with motive certain,
stumble, wrestle, toward the threshold of that noisy kitchen door
frightened meowing my allowing
entry through the kitchen door.
Quoth the kitty: "Singapore."

What the hell was that cat saying
as I let the dog in, baying,
uttering such strange a name as West Malasia's Singapore?
Has she gone completely bonkers?
Maybe I should move to Yonkers.
Maybe there I wouldn't be allowed to have a pet no more;
to have a spot of tea, but not
allowed to have a pet no more.
Quoth the kitty: "Feed me more."

Okay, I know, I fizzled out pretty bad there. Hey, I'm out of pr@ctice. ;D

Posted by Tuning Spork at 10:39 PM | Comments (7)

new keyboard!!

Yee haw! I can type with real letters @g@i^!!
(ooops...force of habit.)

Posted by Tuning Spork at 06:12 PM | Comments (4)

September 15, 2003



Posted by Tuning Spork at 06:56 PM | Comments (5)

September 13, 2003













Posted by Tuning Spork at 04:11 PM | Comments (9)

September 11, 2003

9-11 + 2

I never bothered to yak about my experience of 9-11, such as it was, mainly because, as Jennifer wrote, it's not about me it's about them.
But I took a look around the blogosphere and see that people are finally relating their experiences, no matter how far removed. So, what the heck.

Really though, I think, in a way these anniversary observances ARE about us. Not in a "where I was and what I was doing at the time" way, but in a "what was I thinking and feeling and learning and how did it change me" way. We, as Americans, Britons, Australians, Philipinos, Germans, Italians, Japanese, etc etc etc... have to work toward a future taht doesn't have the kind of horror that we lived on 9-11. I say que sera sera, the future IS ours to see; we just need to have the will and patience and determination to make it happen.

I live in Bridgeport, Connecticut -- 51 miles from the World Trade Center as the crow flies -- and visit the City (to anyone in the tri-state area New York is called just "The City") several times a year. Well, I used to, anyway.

The last time I was in New York was September 2nd, 2001. It was the Sunday of Labor Day weekend and I met my friend Dave for beer and blather at McSorley's on East 6th Street. McSorley's is the oldest extant ale house (heck, Abe Lincoln got hammered here!) in New York, and we meet about once a year there just to catch up on things, do a couple of Sunday New York Times crossword puzzles, bitch about stuff, yammer about politics and philosophy and kids and nephews and life and mutual friends and, of course, get plastered.

After a long afternoon of banter and debauchery we walked to Dave's subway stop. He caught the train home and I began the long walk from Greenwich Village to Grand Central Station.

On the way back to midtown I stopped in Washington Square park and played two games of chess with a guy who asked for only $2 for a game (and "instruction if needed"). I used to play chess constantly, and was pretty good, but it'd been years since then. He creamed me twice!!

I then left the chess tables, walked around the edge of the center of the park (which was very crowded..lots of stuff going on [bands, acrobats, other stuff I couldn't get close enough to see] and found a small group of musicians playing folky songs on acoustic guitars and bongo drums, and stopped to listen.
They started playing the Bob Dylan song "To Ramona."

I mouthed along at first, then sang along. After three verses I noticed that two or three of the musicians had realized that this stranger (moi) actually knew the lyric. Kinda winking and nodding smiling and singing, one guy flicked his head to tell me to belt out the last verse along with them. So, spleen in throat, I did my best Dylan impression and sang:

"I'd forever talk to you, but soon my words
would turn into a meaningless ring
for deep in my heart I know that there
is no help I can bring
everything passes, everything changes
just do what you think you should do
and someday baby, who knows, maybe
I'll come and be crying to you"

What a fun bunch o' guys and gals and I'd've stayed longer but I had to catch my train and it was starting to get dark.

I was walking up 5th Avenue and I heard the roar of a jetplane. I looked up and watched it as it flew -- nearly overhead -- northerly and toward the Empire State Building. The plane seemed to be flying awfully low, I thought, just above the level of the antenna on the E.S.B., and I wondered for a second what it would look like if the plane crashed into it.
But it didn't, of course, and I thought: "What an amazing view those passengers must be enjoying."
I walked back to Grand Central and took the train home. That was the last time I'd been to New York.

My clock/radio went off at 7:30 and I hit the snooze.

Finally I dragged myself out of bed and heard Imus talking about a plane that had apparently crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Center. Was it a passenger plane? An airliner? No one was sure. Did the pilot fall asleep? Have a heart attack? Who knew?! I then remembered the old photos of that plane that hit the Empire State Building back in 1946(?) with it's tail end sticking out. What a shame. I hit the shower.

Re-entered the bedroom and heard Imus say "Well (long pause), this is the worst attack on America since Pearl Harbor."
I went to the living room and turned on the TV. Both towers of the World Trade Center were on fucking fire (pardon my Freedom).

I continued to get dressed to go to work while I watched. I don't remember feeling anything then, but I do remember that it didn't seem real. No matter how many times they re-ran the footage of the second plane hitting the south tower I kept thinking: -- I mean really internally hard-grounded servo-neurally thinking -- "I'm watching this happen yet I still don't believe it."

But, I was staring at the TV for too long; I had to get to work. I got in the truck and turned on the radio. The south tower had just collapsed.
No way, that's rediculous!
There were so many people there...people trying to get out...others rushing to the scene...thousands of people running in and out and around the towers. It collapsed on them? Does. Not. Compute.

It takes me about a half an hour to get to work, and as I approached my destination I heard that the north tower had collapsed.
You can't explain a feeling you've never had before. It was just disbelief mixed with I don't know what. It wasn't anger (yet). It wasn't sadness (yet). It wasn't anything yet. It wasn't fear at all, It was just disbelief mixed with some kind of something... a need to do something about it, but having nothing to do and no way to do it. And then the certainty that this is a monsterous evil that must be destroyed. No grey area there. Deluded self-ordained holy men murdering bystanders for some kind of sick idea about what is righteous? We just found out that the world is too small to accomodate that shit.

Around 11:00 I called my friend Dave who works at Battery Plaza (a few blocks from the WTC) and left a message. Of course, he'd evacuated already.
He called me back a day or so later and left a message that went something like:
"I'm fine, thanks for the call. I have no energy left to recount the ordeal of walking up the FDR Drive covered in ash, but I'll tell you about it another time."

I've never asked him for a recounting of that ordeal. I don't know how to do it without sounding maudlin.

At McSorley's, our favorite hangout, there is a wire (I think it's fishing wire) stretched above the bar. On that wire hangs wishbones covered in dust. Thick-ass dust. I mean, a wishbone is the size of a pair of tweezers; but these are the size of your middle and index fingers when you flash a "victory" sign because they're caked in the undisturbed dust of the past 85 years.

They were placed there during World War I by local draftees. Each man placed a wishbone on the wire when he left; and took it down when he came back.
The ones that still hang there are the wishbones that were placed by those guys that didn't come back.

New York may forgive (when it's appropriate), but she'll never ever forget.

Semper Fidelis.
Sic Semper Tyranus.

Posted by Tuning Spork at 11:10 PM | Comments (6)

September 10, 2003

The Winner's Circle

Well, I finished last night's post and added to yesterday's, so just scroll down a bit to see it!

Also, I added another round at the beginning (which I meant to do last night but ran out of energy), and tweaked what I'd done last night. mheh.

So what are you still reading this for? Scroll down already!

Posted by Tuning Spork at 09:39 PM | Comments (0)

August 31, 2003

Time To Come Clean

Perhaps some of you have noticed that I haven't posted here in nearly a week now. There is a reason for this, and I've been struggling with myself to decide whether or not to reveal it.

Oh sure, I could blame it on the slow news days that usually accompany the dog days of August, but there really is a lot of news out there.
White Glenn, the Emporer, Rachel, and all the various news sites have oodles of interesting stories every day about what's happening in Iraq, France, Israel, California, North Korea, Alabama, etc. Stories that I am usually interested in for all sorts of reasons, but that, for the past week, I've been unable to care enough about to even read them, much less write about them.

The problem is that I've been distracted. I can surf the blogosphere and visit all the usual stomping grounds -- even leave a comment here and there -- but after a short time I hear a voice calling me away.
I can open my Munuvian login page and prepare to leave a new entry, but after staring at the screen for a few minutes I realize that I have no stamina to type the first word. There is something else that I'd rather be doing; something that gives me pleasure, yet makes me docile, unambitious and oblivious to the enjoyment I get from blogging.

You see, my mind has turned to mush. I've been afraid to admit to this shame, but I think I owe it to all of ye who've clicked here with certain expectations, however modest, that I've been unable to fullfill the past six days.

The truth is: I am an addict.
Yep, that's right, folks. I have become addicted to Tripeaks, and I need help to break the stranglehold that that insidious little Windows card game has on my central nervous system.

I mean, it's not like Jeezball or Tetris where you play the game and then it's over. (After playing one of those for 20 minutes -- and succeeding or failing to break into the top scores -- the idea to beginning another game immediately is unthinkable.)
No, Tripeaks is a short game - takes all of about about 2 minutes - and the score, measured in $$$, is cumulative. Finish a game and your score went up, or down. So click on "deal" again, what're you afraid of? It's only another 2-minute game...

The first games are free of any meaningful progress, so go ahead, try it. You can walk away any time.
But, it's a trap, and after a while you'll be hooked. You wont notice it happening to you, 'til one day you realize that you just spent ten minutes creating some makeshift graph-paper in order to track your progress.
By then it's too late. You've surrended your afternoon to seeing if you can get from $6782 to $7000. Tommorrow you'll try for $7500. Then what; $8000? $12000? $3647265284000?

The. game. does. not. end.

So, take my advice; if you're gonna play a Windows computer game, play Tetris. Or Jeezball. Or Pipedream, even. Those are reasonably harmless recreational games (and Chips Challenge, as you may have heard, actually has some medicinal value).
But, be warned, no matter how harmless those three little card-pyramids may appear, they mask a true evil that lies within. Please, pleeeeeze, don't make the mistake that I made.

Just say no to Tripeaks!

My rehab is going well. The temptation is still strong, but I haven't played in several hours, and I'm determined to see this through and come out a happier and healthier blogger. I've even managed to clean the bathroom, do two loads of laundry and get dinner in the oven!
Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm gonna pop open a cold one and go visit my favorite blogs!

Posted by Tuning Spork at 04:12 PM | Comments (3)

August 21, 2003


(a [condensed] Whittlian exercise)

When I was about about a year-and-a-half old (I could stand and waddle, but not yet talk coherently) I was stranded by my mother.

This happened during winter. I know this because there was snow on the ground. Lots of it. If two-foot drifts don't seem all that big to you, it's because you've forgotten what it was like to be 18 months old.

My memory begins at the moment when I realized that I was alone. Distanced from my mother by what seemed to be a mile and a month... even though she was actually merely 20 feet away, or so.

40 feet away there were two men with a snowblower. The thing made the devil's own noise, and perhaps that's what got my attention. Seeing the snow arching through the distant realm of the curbside, the cavernous walls of snow, and my mother so far removed from my location in this frozen wasteland; I began to cry.
The snowblower men looked at me, as if they'd heard the sound of a toddler crying. I looked to my mother, leaning over, clasping her hands together, staring at me, laughing.
The abandonment was complete. I cried for my mother to rescue me and she laughed at my predicament.

Okay, okay, I know. She was trying to let me know -- by laughing with me -- that I was in no peril. But, as an 18 month old, I wasn't convinced.
I trusted her to understand my frame of reference, and she tried to relate to me in a way that I could not, at the time, decifer. I was devastated.

We live in a society where Trust is essential for our very livelihood.
We trust that when we cross the street that the motorist in the car isn't going to run the red light and mow us down. We trust that when we walk into a restaurant that the cook isn't stirring in a tbsp of cyanide in with the marjoram. We trust that our new brakes were installed by mechanics with the interest of our safety in mind. We trust that the State has routine inspections on the stability of that bridge over the Mianus River that we're about to drive over.

But who is it that we trust, exactly?
We trust those whom we know have an interest in building and maintaining our trust in them. Those who we benefit from and who benefit from us.
I trust my butcher, and he's never asked me to trust him. My senator asks me to trust him. Why does he? And why should I?

Those who hold government office hold it because they sought it. They also -- I think it's fair to assume -- want to keep it for the same reasons they sought it.
To keep it; they need patronage. To keep it; they need to earn that patronage.
To keep it; they need to benefit from those who benefit from them.

We want to trust our elected representatives to honor their oath to uphold, protect, preserve and defend the Constitution of the United States.
When that Trust is betrayed we have every Right to cry like toddlers who find themselves stranded in a two-foot snowdrift. Then to focus like a Nikon to see if they come to us in an energetic desire to listen and learn, or to laugh at us in the hope that their expression of -- nay, pretense of -- feeling our pain will placate our fears and/or dilute our anger.

When Trust is betrayed we know that we have to trust ourselves, and our capacity to defend the principles upon which our livelihoods are founded.
Brutal honesty is more trustworthy than fallow emotions.
Selfishness is addictive, and self-pity is a disciplined fraud. It's when your ship is most aimless that you hear the siren the clearest.
And so, my fellow bloggers, as another election cycle gets underway in the full steam of it's own hot air, I say:
Ask not what you're congressman can do for you, but you can do for your Congress!

UPDATE: The snowdrift story is true, but I love my mom! She's a gal who met the jabberwokky and walked away a champion.

Posted by Tuning Spork at 09:59 PM | Comments (0)

August 18, 2003

This might be more fun:

Here's another entry from Magic: The Gathering that I made when I should have been blogging.
It's addressed to Gordon DeSpain, a curious man, well-invested in magic, and the last part is addressed to a blogger who signs under the handle "Geem.".
(Strangely, the links to "Anomaly Hunters" -- and several other links for Gordon -- aren't working. I hope he's doing all right.)


I believe your premise, "Infinity Is", is arbitrary and unfounded. Einstein's equation T = t`/sq.rt. of 1-(v^2/c^2) where (t`) is rest(local) time, and describes the Relativistic time dilation (T). It's why a body cannot be accellerated to a relative velocity (v) of light (c). This prevents matter from being "disconnected" from other matter since information can't travel at a greater speed. Infinities are incoherent and therefore un-physical. All particle experiments varify this.

As far as the Galaxy and Universe teeming with Life, that may be true depending on your definition of "teeming". Consider these facts:

The Earth is a fertile place for Life to thrive. If Life is to permeate the Galaxy then it sure as hell is gonna grow here. Over and over and over...
But, so far as we can tell (and we can tell pretty good), all Life on Earth is related. This means that on this oasis -- this 5 billion year old Life supporting paradise -- Life began once. ONCE!! ...about 2-3 billion years ago. So, while Life seems very resilient here in warm bosom of home, it may not be as common in the Galaxy or Universe at large as we'd like to believe.

For intelligent creatures to arise out of that Life that may exist on other planets, a complex and unstructured chain of events has to occur.
Of all the millions upon millions of species that have lived and gone extinct over billions of years, only Homo Sapiens (again, as far as we know) has been capable of building a spaceship.

We came from tree-dwelling primates; with hands good for grasping branches rather than the paws and hooves of ground-dwelling quadropeds.
We, and our Ape cousins, began spending more time on the ground, gaining in size.
Exanding deserts forced Us out of the jungles and onto the plains, where our hands became tool makers. An omnivorous diet fed complete proteins to our brain which helped us to solve the problem of survival by allowing us to adapt to swift changes in the environment. When drought came we walked away rather than thirst and starve like our less cerebral fellow critters. Eventually we were US.

But all this intelligence and problem-solving adaptability wouldn't be put to building a technological world of computers and spaceships unless we had heavy metals readily available.
Iron, copper, gold, etc there and ready for mining.
In order to have heavy metals close to the surface of a planet you need some serious erosion of the top soil to take place. You need tectonic plates moving and pushing against each other, building mountains and changing the course of rivers. We have all that in droves on Earth; not because it's warm and wet, but because of that Monster Rock in the sky.

It's been said that an Alien visitor might consider the Earth-Moon a Duel Planetary system. The relative hugeness of our satellite isn't remotely approached anywhere else in the Solar System.
But, perhaps it can also be said, that such visitors would not be surprised at that, since they would probably have a similar body at their homeworld.

Assuming all of the conditions are met on another planet somewhere out there, there's another problem. The Galaxy is billions upon billions of years old. Species -- perhaps even intelligent ones -- are extant and extinct in a cosmic blink of an eye. If another spacefaring species were to have evolved somewhere else, AND be visiting us now...the TIMING would have to be astonishingly coincidental.

Life is certainly resilient and persistent. Also, perhaps the distinct Phyla could be the result of several different times that Life has begun on Earth. But even that would support the idea that Life would evolve pretty much according to the bio-chemical processes we've witnessed here.

As for what other different forms that Life might take, I think they certainly would be corporeal, material things, and evolve according to the laws of chemistry. (Perhaps not "organic". Silicon is as active as carbon, but not so plentiful. A planet where silicon-based Life would be created would probably mean that silicon is so much more plentiful than carbon, which isn't likely.)

Life that is not, by our experience, anything we would recognize as "alive" -- bodiless? un-"real"? -- is an interesting thought, but, since I have no way of recognizing it as alive, and know of no physical process that would produce an intelligent non-corporeal being, I can't say that I have any expectation that such a creature could exist.

You're right that my non-belief (not DIS-believe) comes from my non-experience of UFOs. I make no claim that you're UFO sightings never happened, nor that the unlikely coincidences that would put them here now haven't happened, but only that I have no evidence that they did. And so I do not BELIEVE in them. Though, if they're there, I'd really love to meet those travelers!

Carl Sagan used to say that "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence." Your claims of having seen UFOs are fantastic, and I'm not easily given to fantasy.

to Geem:
I didn't mean to leave an impression that I believe that it's impossible that we could be, or have been, visited by aliens. I just haven't seen the evidence that we have. And, for the reasons I blathered on about earlier, I do think it's unlikely (though any credible evidence could change that).

I fully accept that the possibilities of what is and can be that are out there among the stars -- and here at home -- may be "infinite", and I/we (humans) may not be able to comprehend those possibilties any more than my cats can understand a bran muffin recipe. But I can't BELIEVE (i.e. take it on faith, or on suspect evidence) the PROBABILITY that intelligent spacefarers have been here.

Bell, Edison, Franklin et al made amazing discoveries due in large to their imagination. (and, of course, someone who's decided that cancer can't be cured wont be the one to find the cure for cancer.) But imagination alone only gets you to see a possibility; critical thinking and scientific method are what will make it Real.

I gather we agree on these things, though...and are each merely stressing the yin and yang of it (tastes great! less filling!).

Posted by Tuning Spork at 11:42 PM | Comments (1)

Navel-Gazing month continues....

Whelp, once again I'm at a loss to find anything to blog about. It's not so bad; even Steven Den Beste says he's having writer's block.
So what I'm gonna do is post a comment I made at the uncharacteristically pen-sheathed Bill Whittle's entry titled "Magic: the Gathering" back in June (during my hiatus from blogging.) Take my advice and read the entire thread of comments; it's magic!
This post was just an observation I had about the effects of the blogosphere:

About two years ago a friend and I were sitting in McSorley's Ale House decrying the growing number of crackpot internet sites. We both worried about the capacity for well-written propoganda, easily reached through search engines, to influence the under-informed or the under-critical. Any agenda driven sophist with a website and some blarney could post anything; without fact checking, references, peer review or accountablity.

One of my complaints was that I'd wasted some time at a site that claimed to have a convincing theory of Gravity, complete with excrutiating mathmatics and observational evidence. The theory basically held that Gravity was a product of Universal Expansion. The math was suspect, the observation was theoretical, and, at the end, the fella finally admitted that he probably didn't know what the crud he was talking about.
Harmless in the end. But other sites dealing with other subjects could be harmful to the unsuspecting curious and gullible.
We, of course, didn't advocate any form of regulation/censorship; we were just concerned for the future of critical thinking and fact-based debate.

But recent events seem to show us (me, anyways) that the effect of the internet -- the free exchange of ideas and debate -- is actually having the opposite effect.
It's not the garbage on the internet that seems to have been in need our communal critique; it's the garbage in the "old media." The crisis at the New York Times, and exposing Michael Moore's "documentaries" for the dishonest propoganda that they are are just two examples of the Blogosphere having real effect by throwing light on the hitherto dark corners where the media mogul roaches used to be able to rest unmolested by fact-checkers.

And even a non-daily updated site like this -- with essays and Comments threads -- serves as a great forum for admirers and dissenters and keeps us all on our toes.

So, thanks Bill for making the time and effort to write these gems.

Posted by: Tuning Spork on June 7, 2003 02:13 PM

Posted by Tuning Spork at 11:23 PM | Comments (3)

August 16, 2003

Feels Like A Fisking!

Another day, another drag. Things might get interesting when the California election gets close (though there's rumors that a Judge might postpone the election on October 7th due to some legal concerns).
So, here I am desperate for some news to blog about and all I find is crud about the Blackout (it's over, move on), Idi Amin (he's dead -- yay! -- move on), and other crappity crap that doesn't move me enough to rant, explore or disect.

But, I'm in an antsy mood. So I went to to look for an opinion piece to fisk. Scrolled down the long list of essayists and clicked on Roger Ebert. Chose a movie review; Blue Velvet, and took it upon myself to fisk ol' Roger's pan of this rich and entertaining film.
So, here we go:

Date of publication: 09/28/1986
By Roger Ebert

R.E.If you want to understand David Lynch, maybe the place to start is with his paintings. He paints in a style he describes as "bad primitive art," and says that one of his paintings works if you feel the desire to sink your teeth into it.

Well, whoopdy-freakin'-do, you've spoken to David Lynch about his paintings. And I thought this was a movie review.
Okay okay, it's about understanding his style. I know.

R.E.Although Lynch is a serious painter, he is much better known as a movie director, and with his latest movie, "Blue Velvet" (now playing at the Fine Arts), he finds himself at the center of a national critical firestorm. The movie is so strong, so shocking and yet so audacious that people walk out shaking their heads; they don't know quite what to make of it.

"Although"? Sounds like you're differentiating between his "seriousness" as a painter and his reknown as a director. The second sentence describes Blue Velvet as much as it does his "serious" paintings; so why the differentiationalityness, hmmm?

R.E.I am not one of the film's admirers. Or perhaps I should say, I admire its craftsmanship but am not one of its defenders. I believe Lynch is a talented director, and that in Blue Velvet he has used his talent in an unworthy way.

O, great Sage, do please tell us of the unworthiness of the Way in which he has used his admirable craftsmanship.

R.E.The movie is powerful, challenging and made with great skill, and yet it made me feel pity for the actors who worked in it and anger at the director for taking liberties with them.

Liberties; like having them apply their talent in a way that fits the story they're being paid to act out. The horror! Oh, pity the wealthy thespians forced to be shackled in the chains of their director's great cinematic skill!
Get to the real point, will ya, Roger?

R.E.Then I interviewed Lynch in New York, and I found, not a monster, but a pleasant, sincere man who was disarmingly frank about his film.

Wow, he wasn't a monster? My world is shattered!

R.E.If you have not seen "Blue Velvet," perhaps a brief description is in order.

Golly garsh gratuitass, do y'think?

R.E.The movie is a head-on collision between two popular genres from the 1940s: the insipid small-town comedy and the film noir.
In the first genre, a character not unlike Dagwood Bumstead fumbles his way through life while dogs bark at him, kids play jokes at his expense and his wife nags him a lot. Yet all is essentially sunny in his world, which is made up of picket fences, green awnings, shade trees, genial neighbors, friendly policemen and postmen who know his name. Dagwood, or whatever you want to call him, acts as if he is unaware that many males actually do have sex lives.

More verbosity than neccessary, but we get it...go on...

R.E.In the film noir, a more serious and brooding genre, ordinary people find out that evil lurks just beneath the surfaces of their lives, and that they themselves are capable of committing unspeakable acts.
A proper film noir is not usually a gangster or crime film, but the story of how evil enters everyday lives.
The genre is profoundly pessimistic; it does not show bad people doing bad things, but average people doing bad things. The implication is that we are all capable of evil.

Yadda yadda, we know already, blah blah, thanks for the round-trip to Blathertown. Is there any part of your persona that isn't bloated?

R.E."Blue Velvet" has two kinds of scenes: (1) The everyday small-town scenes, in which people go out on dates to the soda fountain and drive around town in shiny cars, and (2) the subterranean scenes in which the most unspeakable acts take place behind closed doors.
Lynch has cast as his heroes two clean-cut young performers, the square-jawed Kyle MacLachlan and the blond, perky Laura Dern. They're both about 18 or 19 years old.
One day they stumble across a mystery involving a severed human ear, and their investigation leads to one of the most shocking scenes in recent movies.

Wow, we finally got some information about the movie!

R.E.The scene: MacLachlan hides in the apartment of a local nightclub singer (Isabella Rossellini), who he suspects knows something about the ear. He watches as a perverted madman (Dennis Hopper) screams obscenities at the woman, beats her, inhales narcotic gas from a cylinder at his belt, and then rapes her. He leaves.
Rossellini finds MacLachlan in the closet, pulls a knife on him, forces him to disrobe and orally arouses him. Later, she asks him to "be a bad boy" and hit her. She is a masochist.
Although Hopper apparently holds her husband and son as kidnap victims to force her to submit to him, we realize with a shock that she has discovered that she likes to be brutalized.

Well what's so shocking about that? Women LOVE "bad boys"! Hell, they stay with abusive men for years -- getting the crap beat out of 'em -- all the while saying "but he loves me!"
Her family and her very life may be at stake, but she stays anyway. Helplessness has taken over, and has mutated her fear into submission, and then -- out of pure adaptation for survival's sake -- into pleasure.
Gawd, don't you understand women?!

R.E.In the course of the film, Rossellini is put through a more severe emotional ordeal than any movie performer since Marlon Brando and Maria Schneider in "Last Tango in Paris."
In one scene, she lies naked on the lawn of the local police chief, while strangers form a crowd. I found that her scenes had an unexpected effect.
I responded to their raw power, yes, but the more I thought about them, the angrier I got, because Lynch surrounds them with what is essentially a satire on small-town comedies.
He generates this immense and painful power, and then uses it merely as counterpoint to an immature satire.

Wow, the Clue Meter is reading zero again.
The placement of profound humiliation into an everyday and familiar setting isn't "immature satire", you bellowing sack of carbonated water; it's exactly the opposite. The superficially paradisiacal small-town of Lumberton is sincerely presented -- not as satire -- but as reality. Perhaps you're too sophisticated -- having spent too many years in hussle and bustle of Chicago -- to recognise the difference.

R.E.The more painfully a director violates the sensibilities of his audience and his performers, the more serious his intention should be.

Has it occurred to you that perhaps the director's "intention" has escaped you? Probably not.

R.E.Bernardo Bertolucci earns every moment of pain in "Last Tango in Paris" because he tells us things about the human spirit that we can respond to and learn from. Ingmar Bergman's "Cries and Whispers," the most painful film I have ever seen, requires three actresses to portray moments of incredible pain, debasement and self-revelation. It is a noble film.
Lynch shows us Rossellini naked and humiliated, and then cuts to jokes about the slogans on the local radio station.

Not every films has to "teach" us something; some can just show us something in a vivid and memorable way.
F'rinstance, Alfrd Hitchcock's Vertigo -- an all-time favorite of mine, and one which you gave five stars -- doesn't "teach" us anything about our behavior that we don't already know. But it does present it to us; brutally and hauntingly.
Vertigo and Blue Velvet are very similar in that respect; our engagement is more psychological than emotional.
My college drama coach once said that "there's a difference between 'knowing it' and 'knowing that you know it'." Lynch's film may only tell us something that we know, but it does so in a unique and engaging way. That's pretty special, if y'ask me.

R.E.The movie has received some rave reviews, but many of them seem to tap-dance around the central emotional challenge to the viewer...

Didn't I just ream yer ass on that point?!

R.E.In the New Yorker, Pauline Kael says she loves the movie, but her review is an extended plot summary, a detailed description of the movie that seems to imply that a precis is enough - she doesn't choose to discuss the issues it raises.
Dave Kehr, in the Chicago Tribune, hardly seems to have noticed the scenes I just described and devotes most of his attention to explaining the cleverness of Lynch's ironic style.
Gene Siskel says the director is "playing the audience like a piano," first shocking us, then making us laugh, as if merely causing sensation to the audience - any sensation - were by definition an admirable thing.

Okay, is this a critique of the film or of other critics?
Working backward, obviously Kehr and Siskel (rest his soul) has missed the point even more than you have, and has concentrated on lauding the style (which, as you said yourself, deserves lauding).
You reprimand Kael for saying she loved the film, but didn't address any of the issues that it (or you) have raised.
I'm guessing that she understood but refused to address (maybe publically, maybe personally) the issues it raises. You, being more eager to investigate, are willing to address the issues yet are unable or unwilling to.

R.E.Is that all a movie is, style? Some critics think so.

Didn't I just ream yer ass on that point?

R.E.They argue that a movie isn't about anything except itself.
They approach "Blue Velvet" like some kind of clever intellectual puzzle in which the challenge is to find all of Lynch's filmic references and neat little in-jokes.

Er, excuse me, but, isn't that exactly the way you're approaching it?

R.E. But wait a minute. There's a woman standing naked on the lawn here. Has this movie earned the right to show her that way? Having talked to Lynch about his film, I am inclined to believe that he takes it more seriously than many of his defenders do. It is an intensely personal film, and here's the catch: It is personal for reasons that Lynch has not put in the film. Therefore, it means more to him than it ever can to us.

...or to you, anyway.
The movie has a "right to show her that way" because that's what the movie is about. Presenting a stark and naked picture picture of who we are is at least as important as trying to tell who we should be through some grand Message.

Have you ever seen the Zapruder film, Roger? Have you stared at it in grotesque curiosity of what horrors exist in humanity's heart? It didn't seek to teach us anything. It wasn't fashioned to deliver a profound insight into our human condition. It was a recording of reality -- by a guy standing on a stoop with an 8mm camera -- and nothing more. Yet we view it again and again because it does teach us something by showing and reminding us of something we'd rather not admit.
We look at Hitler and Stalin and Pol Pot and Saddam & Sons and Idi Amin and others and call their treachery "inhuman"; but we know better.
We know from Dahmer and Berkowitz and Manson and Bundy and Speck and McVeigh that darkness of spirit is just a twist of fate away.

Then we can look at Todd Beamer or Jeremy Glick or the people who dug out those miners in Pennsyvania last year. Or we can look at all the guys who came out of their offices and directed traffic during the worst and longest blackout in history (not because they were being being paid by government but because they were bound by honor to assume responsibilty and pitch in to better the predicament of people they've never met and may never cross paths with again.

It's okay to show a snapshot of human reality and have no Message any broader than "this is us." You laud film noir for this very characteristic, yet are repelled by darkness without the redeeming light of Instruction.
Sometimes seeing the situation is all the instruction we need. Pardon me for not looking to Hollywood for directions on how to find me.

Think of David Lynch's Blue Velvet as a kind of a cross between Andy Warhol and George Lucas.
Warhol would set up a camera and film the most routine drudgery and call it a film. Tedious and true: completely real, completely artless; and who cares?!
Lucas, on the other hand, created films of amazing dazzle and energy, and very little of the ordinary. Exciting, but just fantasy...but who cares?!!

Lynch presents the tragically ordinary as art. It's a shame that you, Roger, an inordinately insightful cinemaphile, haven't yet learned -- as Pauline Kael intuitively has -- to experience a film in a personal and welcoming way that allows one to Live the experience rather than to sceptically critique it. Have you grown too cynical for your shirt?

There is more to Ebert's review that can be read HERE, but I'm gonna stop here because I think I'd only be redundant from here on out!

Posted by Tuning Spork at 11:12 PM | Comments (0)

August 15, 2003

Roughing It is fun!

I missed the blackout by about 300 feet. No joke!
Bridgeport had power; Fairfield (which my humble abode borders) -- and much of the Connecticut Valley and the western part of the state -- did not.
But, before I wuss out and forfeit my responsibility to rant, I must inform that last summer, after a brutal thunder storm, I was without power for 4 days.

Once the initial shock of the loss of electricity is overcome, the inconvenience has to be dealt with. Get some batteries for your flashlights, some candles to read by, and lots of ice to help preserve the perishables in the fridge.
If you have gas-heated water and oven then you're golden!

Once the inconvenience is dealt with: camping trip!!
Too hot and muggy inside? Get in the yard! Lay out a blanket and ring it with citrinella candles! Or, just put on some bug repellent and watch the bats do the rest!
The phones work; call yer friends and neighbors! Bring beer and any ice that hasn't melted yet!

Fercryin'outloud, we dealt without electricity, the internet, 24-hour cable news and central air conditioning for a hundred thousand years. The horror of a power outage is all in our minds. Access to technology is a benefit to being a human, not a Right or neccessity... it's merely a break in our modern habit.

Not only was I without power for 4 days last year, I actually lived for 15 months without electricity, gas, oil and phone -- to save a few bucks -- back in my condo days (ten years ago). I've been meaning to write a survivors guide to living in the city without power. Some day I might (h'yeah, right...).

Posted by Tuning Spork at 09:50 PM | Comments (0)
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