4 the rest of us

          This is my first Festivus season working as a service provider and, therefore, the first time I've had to choose whether to request gratuities or not.

           My rationale for choosing to be blatant (by giving each customer a signed, home-made, holiday card bearing my name and business address) was that although many people provide a small regular electronic tip when they pay their e-bill, a significant portion of newspaper readers are older, don't use the internet, pay with a check, and prefer tangible gifts over money.

          The results have been positive.  Dozens of gifts...cookies, cash, checks, and gift cards on porches, taped inside tubes, and in the mail.

          This is about one gift.  Not the most expensive (by more than half) and not the most elaborate (hard to beat a huge spot-lit crinkle wrapped can of ginger snaps for that)...an unsigned gift card without a return address; only marked from "a customer".

          An altruistic Santa Festivus Friend.

Anticipated reads - 2012

I read in 2011:

          The dearth (down almost 50% from last year) is not just because of less free time or that many of the tomes I did read were mega-massive, but mostly because my favored authors didn't publish this year.


2011 Charted

          Compared to last year my new job has cut into sleeping, creating, reading, watching films and drinking at bars.  I disc golfed as much as I club golfed.  The move to a smaller place (house to apartment) took two months.  Vacationing was limited to camping only.  The hot tub was sold (as was my 5th wheel camper).  Gaming increased thanks especially to Bethesda and Rockstar games.

Fish by aBowman

          It's been a long time since I've posted any good hypertext effluvium.
          Thanks to: Sky at The Kaleidoscope Report (for this find); to Adam Bowman (for creating it) and to you (for clicking to feed the fish).

Portland Nights - Lance Page

Prototype #1 by YVWUWUVY

So You Want to Deliver Newspapers

          Imagine a kid, pedaling down a sunny sidewalk, slinging tri-folded newspapers from a shoulder-slung canvas pouch—before cheerily running to catch the school bus every morning (if it weren't for reruns of Leave It to Beaver you probably couldn't).  It's not just because current labor laws prohibit employing our youth (under certain ages and before specific hours...especially on school days).  It's also not just because the daily pulp-based news industry is a recently wet wicked witch (...melttiiig...) desperately trying to postpone the inevitable eulogies.

          Although I can only address specifics of Portland's The Oregonian (where I've worked for many months) these practices and routines are clearly indicative of all the nation's print-news companies:

"Contractors".  Like thousands of other companies trying to cut corners, all delivery personnel are considered self-employed contractors.  Accordingly...no taxes, social security, or medicare/medicaid are deducted; there are also no unemployment, workers compensation, or health-care benefits; and no expenses are reimbursed (which especially includes no vehicle, gasoline, or mileage expenses).  The 'contract employee' label is a legal loophole which has become newspaper industry standard regardless of the IRS definition.

No Days Off.   7 days a week, 365 days a year, no overtime, no holidays (in fact, holidays = extra work).  If, for any reason, a delivery person fails to come to work and does not arrange for, or hire, an alternate delivery person, that person is terminated.

Pre-delivery Routine.  Between 88-92% of the time (on average: 90 out of 100 days) there are one, two, or even three extra advertisements or additional sections (called inserts) which must be placed inside the newspaper at the station.  Most papers then need to be folded/rolled and placed into a plastic bag (exceptions are papers going into tubes).  Obviously, the amount of time it takes to accomplish these pre-delivery tasks varies greatly, and depends on the following variables:
  •           Number of route changes (called "stops and starts"—more on this later)  
  •           Number of hands stuffing, folding, bagging, and loading the car (one assistant = 1/2 the time).
  •           Number of papers being delivered.
  •           Number of inserts to be inserted.
  •           Thickness/weight of the final paper with its inserts in respect to the size of the bag.
  •           Interior size of the car papers are going to being loaded into and delivered from.
  •           Wild card:  Occasionally a free product sample must also be included.
Hours.  All papers must be delivered before 5:30am (Mon-Sat) and 7:00am (Sun).  These times have been pre-chiseled in the wicked witch's headstone.  Contracted truck drivers are expensive (don't forget:..mellltttiing...The Oregonian has very few actual employees) so the truck bringing the pallets of bundled newspapers will arrive sometime between 1:00am and 4:00am because, now, one truck driver makes several trips.  Over the past few years, the average time the truck arrives has eroded from "normally around 1:30am" to "normally around 3:00am". 

Zombie Jigsaw Puzzle Routes.  Every route is laid out (more or less) with specific instructions for every customer.   For example:

          Turn left on SE Custers Last Circle

           5          tube          19430
           9          porch        19904
           17                         20566
           26       dbl bag!     21218

           U-turn at SE 451st Avenue

           1          tube&bag  23619
           13                          21217
            Pass Grocery Store
            7   porch ONLY!  19601       

            Because every current delivery route has been fitted together from the shrinking corpses of yesteryear's large plump routes, the address instructions are patchy and filled with errors.  The first weeks are spent fixing these errors and memorizing the route.  And re-memorizing.

Stops and Starts.  Every day the route changes.  First, a daily list is provided which reflects the routes "stops" (customers who are going on vacation / moving out / died of old age / learned to use the internet) and "starts" (customers who are returning from vacation / moved in / are feeling much better / forgot how to use the internet).  These changes must be made in pencil every night during the pre-delivery hours because they will be changing again very soon (some customers stop and re-start their paper every week or so).  The second way the routes change is based on the different possible subscriptions and the different products which the paper publishes in order to market itself (...meeellttttiiiinng...).

          Daily/Sunday = every day.
          Weekenders = Friday, Saturday & Sunday only.
          Sunday+Tuesday = the two days when the paper is mostly coupons.
          Weekday = for businesses closed on weekends.
          Bulk = vending boxes.
          Community News = placed on selected porches on Saturday evenings or Sunday mornings in an attempt to lure these people to subscribe.
          Food Day = a free product with coupons thrown every Monday night / Tuesday morning at every non-subscribing household on the route (unless they call and complain).
          MIX Magazine = a monthly subscription-type magazine filled with articles about local locations and events (at least as many free ones are provided as are sold...the witch is always marketing itself).
          TV Guides = additional subscription-only inserted on Saturdays.
          Other Newspapers = Also want the bi-weekly newspaper from a nearby city?  For a fee, it can be delivered to your door with The Oregonian.  (...meeelting...)

What all this means.  Although there isn't one, a "typical" route might look like:

                                Mon, Wed, Thr          Tue         Fri and Sat      Sun and holidays      MIX days

Number of papers:            200                    225                 250                  275                 +50 mags
Number of Cmty News:                                                                             75
Number of Food Days:                                300
Number of hours a day:        3                     7½                  3½                   10                     3
Number of "starts":              2                       3                     1                     2
Number of "stops":              3                       2                      2                     1
Number of complaints:         2                       0                      1                     3
Number of tips:                  1                       1                      0                     2
Number of miles driven:     20/day                 40                 20/day               25/day                 20
Number of hours driving:     2/day                  5                     2½                  3/day
Payment is NOT per paper.  Instead, it is determined by averaging the number of papers delivered (Daily and Sunday are separate) and multiplying by one's contracted amount of pay.  In the above example—with a daily payment rate of $2.20, a Sunday payment rate of $0.45, and a standard rate for the other products:                        

Monthly hours:         about 120 hours
Monthly pay:            about $850.00
Monthly tips:            about $40 (during the holidays this could/will be larger)
Monthly fees/fines:    about $40 (works out nicely...that the company gets almost all your tips)
Monthly mileage:       about 700 miles (a car that gets 30 miles/gal will see this reduced because of slow driving and idle-engine use = 30 gal of gas @ $4.00/gal = $120.00 month.

Hidden Fees:   Oh yes.  Of course there are hidden fees.  Everyone is required to pay for their portion of the rental space, where the station is located and where they are required to work during the pre-delivery hours.  Also, it is a requirement for everyone to purchase those flimsy bags which the news papers and other products are delivered in.  And, even though you may have fantastic insurance of your own, there is a mandatory supplemental insurance.

Fines.  Every time you deliver a paper to the wrong address, or someone steals it after you put it at the end of their driveway, or the wind blows it into the next yard . . . you are fined.  If a customer complains about getting their paper late more than once?  You are fined.  If a person complains about getting a free paper they previously asked not to receive?  Fined.  If a customer fails to get his TV Guide on Saturday or her free Food Day on Tuesday?  Yup, fined again.  All of these costs are deducted from your paycheck.

Why?  Would anyone deal with this incredibly bad and obviously unfair working environment?

          Who would agree to continue to work for a place where—when the company provides the papers over an hour later than necessary and it's too foggy and the paper is larger than a phone book (so huge they won't all fit in your car and you have to take two trips) which causes some customers to get their papers late and a few of them call and complain—YOU are held accountable...and fined?

          This is a complaint-based job.  When someone makes a late complaint, deliver their paper first...from that day forward; if someone complains of a wet paper, tie the ends of a double bag on their paper...from that day forward.  No extra compensation for the extra work—just extra fines if they complain again in the future.

         Who would work here?  This is a break-down of the people who work for the wicked witch:
  • 25% - Dorothy's:  People supplementing their income (like those on social security or with unexpected court-ordered child support payments).  Every Dorothy—including myself—claims they are working here only until things get better.  One "short termer" has been doing this for a decade.  (...no place like home...no place like...)
  • 20% - Toto's:  Illegal immigrants (no one checks documents or social security numbers—even if they speak/understand no English).  (...and your mangy little dog too...)
  • 20% - Tin Men:  People with a blot on their work history (not just parolees...but anyone who's been fired from a previous job or two; no one asks for a résumé or references—even if they're covered in prison tattoos).  (...the tinsmith forgot to give me a heart...all hollow...)
  • 15% - Munchkins:  Younger adults attending college and/or needing an income which will never intrude on their 9-5 (many of these housewife's and househusband's days are devoted to childcare).  (...follow the yellow brick road...)
  • 10% - Flying Monkeys:  These old timers have been delivering papers their entire life.  They are wicked-fast, eerily complaint proof and receive amazing tips.  They are the frogs who never jump out of the cook-pot because the temperature has been ever-so-slowly increased.  (Every one of these monkeys who didn't start a 401k decades ago or payed into social security...can, obviously, never quit.)  (...take care of those ruby slippers, I want those most of all...fly!..fly!..) 
  • 10—20% - Cowardly Lions:  People with mild to severe OCD.  Where else can one get paid to count and NEATLY fold, stack, and bag and count?  Can't stop counting?  It may be debilitating in any other job, it's an asset here!  (...come to think of it, forty winks wouldn't be bad...)     
  • 10—20% - Scarecrows:  Kids with no experience and very little ethics or values who come to work high and stay high (many of these 'kids' are biologically middle-aged...less tweekers, more stoners...which might only be because this is Portland).  (...I could think of things I've never thought before...then I'd sit, and think some more...) 
  • 5% - Wizards:  Those who stuck, carved out a niche, and eventually became salaried supervisors or station foremen.  (...pay no attention to that man behind the curtain...)

Abstruse Building - Hillsboro, OR

          Transit Center?... that sounds sooo invisible two-thousand four.  We are talking about a building which is to be built in the future; we need to inform those fellow Oregonians who'll eventually drive, ride, or pedal past in the flesh this is not just a parking garage near a bus stop.  It'll have charging stations for electric cars, public restrooms with showers and lockers, places to secure bicycles.  It'll be near a train stop.  For the love of everything international toll free—it'll have a bus stop inside!

          No, no, no...is your interaural transfer function not working properly?...the research, conducted by the Integrated Testing Forum, indicates that for individuals to fully understand what it's to function as, it needs an integrated-title-facade with an appropriate name in an impressively titled font.

          What?  Yes, I've tried fedora's.  Yes, I also have ironically tattooed forearms.  Well...I text fast, and I think, friend, that's waaay better than typing full sentences.  

          What's this have to do with selecting a name for the parking lot with a bus stop?

          Nevermind.  I've tentatively figured it out.

Lose Lose - a Metaphor?

          This is a spoiler-laden plot critique of Thomas McCarthy's 2011 film Win Win (☆☆☆-)*This is not a film review.  If I were reviewing it, I'd do so quickly because I saw it two days ago and almost all the dialogue and images have already yellow-browned and fallen.  Soon they'll all be gone—overwritten by stronger memories—like yesterday's lunch (turkey/swiss/onion/spinach/miracle whip on warmed buttermilk, with dill pickles & sourcream-n-onion chips on the side, and a glass of cold Pepsi).  Yum.

          The plot centers around the main character.  A schlub in every way save one.  You should imagine Jimmy Stewart as the schlub (because the HUGE flaw in this story wouldn't exist if this were a 1949 black and white film).  Jimmy is an incompetent lawyer who's going broke.  He works in a small neighborhood office building, which he owns.  It's falling into disrepair (in large part, due to his maintenance failures).  He also owns a huge suburban home and is the father of two young children (the only thing he isn't bad at).  His wife doesn't work (more befitting a 1949 setting) and Jimmy hides his financial situation from his wife (also an action from a bygone era).

          NOTE:  Jimmy is a metaphor for the United States.  Not just the US government, but a distillation of every American.  Of us all.  The blame for the poor economy is borne by all of our inner Jimmies.

          Jimmy's passion is wrestling.  No, that's inaccurate...Jimmy has no passion.  Decades ago, schlub-in-training-Jimmy wrestled in high school and didn't suck too much; now he's a terrible coach for a losing high school wrestling team.

          NOTE:  War metaphor.  America likes its wars.  Once upon a time it was better at them.

          Jimmy has a receptionist.   Red hair? check.  Tight sweater? check.  Snapping chewing gum? check.  Smarmy? check.  Files nails while talking? check.  Constantly complains? check.  Collects a paycheck (which is definitely more than $1,500.00/month...which is important) for doing little work? check.  Delivers an important line of dialogue: "He's LOADED, just read his file."

          Jimmy has a buddy.  He's everything Jimmy is not.  Buddy is rich, single, childless, and in good physical condition.  Buddy's only failure is being a good husband.  Jimmy never asks Buddy to lend him money (nor does Buddy offer anything more than vague ways to make money by investing).  

          NOTE:  A banking and credit company metaphor, as well as a "don't tax the rich" metaphor. 

          Jimmy reads the file.  An elderly client, with no locatable relatives and dementia, wants to continue to live in his own home.  The old guy receives a monthly payment of $1,500.00 (in 1949 that might have been plenty to live on).

          The state plans to move the old guy into an assisted-living home.  Jimmy convinces the court to personally award him guardianship in order to "keep him in his home" and then, Jimmy lies to the old guy and moves him into an assisted-living home anyway.  (All the additional fraud Jimmy would have had to commit is never hinted at...he'd have had to 'spend-down' and hide the old guy's assets, including the home and the monthly income, before medicare would pay for the assisted-living).

          The first month's "stolen" $1,500.00 is used, by Jimmy, to pay his own family's late medical insurance.

          NOTE:  Health insurance crisis metaphor.

          The second act introduces the run-away, high school aged, grandson of the old guy, who happens to be a great wrestler.  Jimmy provides him room and board.  The kid starts to wrestle and to turn around the entire wrestling team.  They begin to win a few matches.  Then the old guy's addict-daughter (wrestling-kid's mom) arrives and tries to get guardianship so she can have the much sought after $1,500.

          In the third act (with his lies exposed and to prevent the court from learning about his fraud) Jimmy strikes a bargain with the greedy addict to send her the $1,500 every month, moves old guy back into his own home, and volunteers to continue to provide room and board for the kid until he graduates.

          The story ends with Jimmy coming home from the office and then heading out to a second job.  He is happy paying penance for the lies/fraud.  He's now paying the living expenses of the old guy, taking on the kid, and sending 18K a year to the addict.

          NOTE:  Hammering home the metaphor.  America is choc-full of addicts, elderly, and youth.  Our collective past greed (and many other of the deadly seven sins) has turned the entire world into a less nice place.  But, it's OK to forget about those improprieties...as long as we take care of those who can't take care of themselves (anymore or yet).  And don't lay off the over-paid sloths.  And don't ask for money from the wealthy.  Just work more.  Yuck.

Optical Illusion Dragon

          Download.  Print.  Cut out.  Fold.  Tape.

          Close one eye.  Stare at the dragon's eyes.  Its head seems to bend and follow as you move left and right, up and down.

          Watch the video to see it in action (as well as see how it works).

When someone else says exactly...

...what I'm thinking (only, their je ne sais quality, emphasis, and phrasing could never be improved upon) I embed it:
(It's really a rant worth listening to.)

Dear Neighbor,

          I am writing to you today because of the phone call you made to my employer last week.  According to my supervisor, you are adamant about not receiving anymore of the weekly free coupons wrapped inside a page of recipes and poorly-written articles about consuming, which I've been throwing in the general direction of your half-million dollar house, at the foot of your driveway, behind your fleet of massive urban vehicles and sleek-shiny sports cars, around the time your lawn sprinklers come on (even though it's been raining for the last two weeks).

          My boss said you want me to stop delivering the free "shopper" because:

          [  ]  You never read—always recycle—it, and want to reduce the waste of natural resources.
          [  ]  Are tired of having to walk to the end of your driveway to pick up "trash".
          [  ]  Get tongue-tied trying to pronounce, "deseche el comprador periódico" to your maid or gardener.
          [  ]  Hate hearing the grind-graction of tires/engine at wrong-side-of-the-road-speeds (and/or the thwack-sliizz of plastic wrapped paper on pavement at zero-dark-thirty).
          [  ]  Think what I'm doing is the equivalent of intentionally littering on your property.
          [  ]  All of the above and a bag of condescension.

          Please permit me to rebut thusly:

          I am a 20-year retired Army veteran (Yuup....the patriot card comes off the top of the deck).  Two months ago my fiancee lost her job at almost the same moment as her investment income disappeared; in one month my household wages were reduced by half...she's looking, but hasn't found a new job.  So.  I got a job delivering newspapers and "shoppers".  I have too much pride to be:
          And not just because it is impossible for me to be hypocritical (and pre-bless the charitable with the allure of sky cake) or that I refuserefuserefuse to hang a misspelled sign around my neck asking for charity.  Mostly—it's because I'm physically able to work.  They (advertisers) pay me approximately $1,500 a month to deliver about 450 papers a day as long as I work every day.  Which is enough.  For me.  To pay all my fucking bills.

          At this point I need an all-seriousness-aside bit, because this is getting too.  Way too.

          (1)  The combo-'refuserefuserefuse' makes me think about the first time I read the word 'orangered' and I thought, "Oranger-ed...as in a past tense state of more orange?  Why have I never heard that word before?"

          (2)  When I wrote the word physically in the paragraph above, I wanted to spell it fisically...but that's not right.  Right?  But it's not far off.

         Stop—dear neighbor.  Just stop.  Illuminating your façade with concern-colored spotlights draws attention to your garishly gargantuan footprint.  This is the point where the world that's off the hook on the other side of your television screen/computer monitor intrudes on your real day-to-day.

          Because I need that 8¢.

          Please.  Just take pride in the charity and throw away the evil plastic-wrapped (but still sopping wet) bundle of consumeconsumeconsumecoupons I'm paid to throw at the bottom of your driveway every week (or you could, maybe, learn to ask the help to do it).


—newspaperdudeveach (which, when you say fast, kinda sounds like nudebeach).

PS - If your 'stop delivery' rationale is natural resource based, please take a moment to pause and look at your residence from my vantage point.  Is stopping delivery of the "shopper" at the foot of your driveway the first place to start saving the planet?

PSS - I don't mind thoughtless condescension, I'm only asking that you don't stop the grocery/clothing/drug stores from paying me $3.84 a year to litter once a week on your property.

How to Train Your Cat to Come When You Call Its Name

          This new information is not new.  But—if your brain does not already possess this possibly-useful knowledge—you'll immediately grasp its common sense basis, as you palm-slap your forehead and say, "Where's this simple information been all my life?"

          Dogs come when they are called because their brains easily translate human-speak (no matter the language we use); I posit that German is the best human-language dogs can translate.  I say this, not because I lived in Germany for four years and witnessed it, but because many of the best dog training schools teach humans to speak to their dogs using German-language commands.

          The reason is simple once you know it.  All dogs bark in a staccato manner; their brains are conditioned to hear other-dog communication this way:  noise. silence. noise. silence.  Since German words are barked (even by the most smooth-voiced German orators) teaching non-German speaking humans to use German words when communicating with their dog insures the animal hears sharp, distinct, clipped commands.  There's not much difference between "stop" and "halt"; "come" and "komm"; or "stay" and "bleiben"; but training with German words prevents the human from slipping from "Skipper— pause —come!" to "cummereSkipperboyURschagoodboyThatzrightcummere".

          Cats meow in a tonally escalating-to-descending manner; their brains are conditioned to hear other-cat communication this way: NoooOoiiiIisennNoiseee.  So when you want your cat to come when you call...you need to sing his or her name.  It doesn't matter what words you use in the song as long as it includes the cat's name.  Just yowl in as plaintive a manner as possible.  If your cat knows its name, it'll come to you.  Probably not the first time you sing it, but if you practice sing-calling every day, several times a day, and stroking and praising it when it comes, "My cat never comes when it is called." will soon become, "My cat comes when I call some of the time." and eventually will become, "My cat comes almost all the time."

          Why almost all the time...why not all the time, like dogs?  Because dogs are like Germans.  Punctual.  Practical.  Reliable.  Cats are like you and me (and—if you're German—this is a metaphor.  Stop. Taking. Things. So. Literally.  Good boy).  When our phones ring we check caller ID, decide if we're in the mood, too busy, too tired...and maybe-sometimes we even turn off our phones because we don't want to be bothered.  When you sing-call for your cat in the middle of its nap on the laundry you took out of the dryer but haven't gotten around to folding yet, don't be surprised if it "hits ignore" and goes back to sleep.

          This truth is buried in everything we innately know about dogs and cats.  The best names for dogs are short and roll off the tongue in a punchy, almost monosyllabic manner (Rex, Fido, Jack) while the best names for cats are long and drawn out (Cecil O. Zonkey).  Sure, you may use its short nickname but you realize that's for your own benefit.  Not his.  All he hears is dog-speak.

          When my cat is off doing his own thing and I sing, "whereismyCECILBoy-o-boy-o-ZooOooNKeEeYBoOy..i-sure-missMyCECILloO-ZOoooonKeeey."  He comes.  90% of the time.  I understand it'll be done at cat pace and not dog pace.  Cats need to stretch.  Focus.  Think about their next inactive action.  Smell and listen to check if danger is present.  Then mozy.  It may take a few sung phrases.  He may not arrive for a few minutes.

          I think it's fantastic he only blows me off once in a while since I ignore phone calls from family and friends at least that often.

Autumn Peeked at Me Today

          For a brief half-minute he walked about 200 meters ahead.  When he turned, looked over his shoulder (saw me) and casually marched into the forest, I could see his very bushy brownish-gray tail.  I immediately knew it wasn't a domestic dog.  I thought it wasn't low enough to the ground or as small as (I believed) a gray fox should be (but that outdated glossy magazine and zoo-based belief was in need of an internet refresher—now, I'm not so sure).  It definitely wasn't tall or gangly or large or light-gray enough to be a wolf.  My best guess: male coyote.

          When I got to the spot I thought he entered the woods...I paused.  He was observing me from behind a fallen log.  For one long, slow, breath, we stared at each other.  Then, he turned, and I watched the tops of twigs shiver and the leaves of underbrush vibrate marking his path as he moved away into his forest.

          A male coyote with toxoplasmosis.   

          Toxoplasmosis is an infection in mammals caused by a protozoa.  (As you recall from Biology 101, protozoa are extremely tiny organisms which are easy to see under a microscope and are more fun to identify than other things found in a drop of pond water because most of them are motile.)  Almost every mammal on earth can be infected by it.  You might be infected right now—might have been infected your entire life—there are very few symptoms after the initial infection which is normally misidentified as the flu.

          The toxoplasmosis protozoan thrives on the inside of felines and insures its life-cycle continues in a very unique way [more on that soon].  (It's safe to assume the protozoan is/was incapable of differentiating between the guts of saber-tooth tigers and those of your housecat.)

          The protozoan infects the tissue of its feline host as well as passes cysts (eggs) into the feline's feces.  Those cysts are passed to new hosts both when the feline is eaten as well as when a cyst is transferred from the feline's feces to the paw of another mammal who later ingests the cyst when grooming (or when your pet uses the litter box and happens to get a cyst on his paw, which transfers to the carpet where your baby crawls and...baby's first "cold").

          Very unique way:  when mice get toxoplasmosis, they tend to exhibit behavior which can best be described as "risky".  They are less scared of open spaces than their uninfected brethren; and, strangely, they don't avoid the odor of cat urine (as do all uninfected mice) but, instead, they are either incapable of noticing the odor or are attracted to it.

          It's safe to assume the protozoan can't differentiate which warm blooded animal has consumed it, therefore, the obvious question:  Is the behavior of all animals, including humans, affected just like that of the mice?

          Within the last few decades a small number of studies have been done on how toxoplasmosis affects humans.  The indication is that toxoplasmosis acts in concert with hormones in humans to exaggerate behaviors.  Infected men tend to be risk takers; they exhibit jealousy more often than uninfected men, and are more willing to disobey laws (one study showed infected men were 2.5 times more likely to have automobile accidents than uninfected men).  Infected women tend to be more compassionate, warm, and more conscientious than uninfected women.

          I couldn't find a study to determine if the kind little old lady who always has something nice to say and who keeps 23 cats in her house on the corner, can't smell them or is actually attracted to the smell...but there's little doubt about the fact that she's infected with toxoplasmosis.

          Just like the male risk-taking coyote who paused to get a closer look at the noisy man on the first day of autumn.

          Post Script - - - I've cared for and been friends with the full gamut of cats my entire life (indoor only, outdoor only, and indoor-outdoor).  It seems improbable to me—with all the cat puke I've cleaned, scratches I received, and scat I've dumped with bare hands since the invention of clumping cat litter—that one cyst hasn't found its way inside of me.  However.  I'm a pretty strict law abider; I never understood what getting jealous accomplished; and I've very rarely intentionally risked harming myself (Avoid Pain At All Costs - a good subtitle for my life story).
           Clearly, I don't have any of the male behavioral symptoms of toxoplasmosis.  On the other hand, although I don't think the term "warm" has ever been used in reference to me (a term which I think applies to extraverts not introverts) I would agree I'm more compassionate and conscientious than the average bear.  Which means (operating upon the assumption of being infected) that I have less testosterone and more estrogen inside me for the protozoa to amplify.
          But, I hate the smell of cat piss and can detect the tiniest whiff from several meters away...so maybe I'm just one of those guys who's immune to the brain control of the catbug aliens.

Thievery Corporation Concert

          Two pictures containing me in one week!  The first marking the endpoint in the goody bygone days of yore when I intentionally cropped myself out of everything (including bare legs) to impose a facade of pseudo-zorroloneranger-esque anonymity, while this pic is just some vaingloriously ridiculous Where's WaldVeacho foolishness.

          I'm wearing an orange shirt.

How to Improve the Entire World

          Since all card-carrying members of the narcissistic personality disorder club refuse to carry membership cards almost as vehemently as they deny their own membership, this bumper sticker won't cause your car (or your ass) to get kicked like zombies definitely would if you had a bumper sticker that said: 'first ... kill all the ZOMBIES'.

          Unlike zombies, identifying narcissists is not always easy.  Along with seven myths about narcissism, there are many signs to look for in others.  Of course—only in others, as I already pointed out, it's impossible for a narcissist to recognize their own traits:
  • Believe they are better than others
  • Fantasize about power, success, and attractiveness
  • Exaggerate their achievements or talents
  • Expect constant praise and admiration
  • Believe they are special (and act accordingly)
  • Lack empathy; fail to recognize emotions or feelings of others
  • Expect others to always go along with their ideas and plans
  • Take advantage of others
  • Express disdain for those they think are inferior
  • Express jealousy of others as well as believe others are jealous of them
  • Incapable of maintaining healthy relationships (especially long-term)
  • Set unrealistic goals
  • Thin-skinned; feel easily hurt and rejected
  • Possess a fragile self-esteem
  • Display a tough-minded or unemotional appearance
          Just like you can't convince a zombie to stop trying to eat anyone's and everyone's brains, you can't convince a narcissist to stop ruining the world with their constant manipulative yet disdainful blathering-on-and-on about themselves.  The best way to stop them both is with a headshot.

          One problem...a world without narcissists is a world without celebutantes, celebutards, and most other reality television participants who not only stoke the coals but fan the flames of our schadenfreude.

This Is How We Do It

Five mile hike and we feel alright
Both feeling hearty up on the mountain
Take my kleen kanteen and sip it up
Cecil O. Zonk jump along the path
Parading together and we're hummin'
Birds 'n the breeze cry, "Zonkey's coming!"
It feels so good in my woods today
With chitterin' squirrels and butterfly play
Flash-glimpsing thru the leaves and needles
Kitt ya oughtta pad on up to th' shade
So lift your nose and throw up your tail
Me all I meow'z my trekkin' partner says:
          Kinda jazzed and it's all because (this is how we do it)
          State forest does it like nowhere else (this is how we do it)
          We—my hikin' feline and I—will beeline (this is how we do it)
          Venture back to this woodland track 'cause (this is how we do it)

REPLAY by Ken Grimwood - Book Review (☆☆☆☆☆)

          This speculative fiction novel combines the perfect blend of what-if from Groundhog Day quarter century, with the clean pacing and suspense of The Time Traveler's Wife (book not film).  Soft science fiction fans will not be disappointed because Ken Grimwood deftly dangles the bet-you-know-what'll-happen-next bait followed by several successful surprises. 

          I enjoyed the story enough to give it my highest rating because I recall almost all of the key American events which happened between 1963 and 1988.  However, the downfall of a story which leans as heavily on a specific country's historical events as REPLAY does, is that it gradually loses its audience.  Consequently, I don't recommend it to anyone born after 1970 (unless they are history/SF buffs or love period-pieces)...readers born between 1970 and 1980 will rate it four-stars, between 1980-1990, three stars, et cetera.

          I suspect this novel will become a shitty movie someday soon (I'm a bit surprised it hasn't already).  Just like many books of this type, the success of the plot is based on the empathy we slowly gain watching the world go by through the main character(s) eyes.  Films rarely succeed in relating "over a long period of time" to their audiences.   The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (the film, not Fitzgerald's short story) attempted to accomplish this feat...and bored most of its audience while doing so.  There are exceptions.  Robert Zemeckis's Forrest Gump (a bad book turned into a great screenplay) is the first example I can think of.  If someone had the patience and skill to Gumpize REPLAY and could find the perfect 28 year-old everyman-character actor who is not a comedian (who must capture the two-and-a-half decades between college freshman and middle age; make us love him, feel sorry for him, hate him, and eventually love him again)...I picture ....ahhh.... nobody comes to mind.   Which is why this hypothetical film will be made out of pure suckage.

Dear fuzzy-headed faces from prestigious places,

          Please stop dumbing-down your [specific area of scientific expertise] to coloring book level.  I'm really sorry [name of college or university] doesn't pay enough for you to disregard all those enticing offers from [television channel] but every time you recite from a script written to be understood by [target audience] you inflict excruciating pain in my brain. 
           I know.  Brains don't actually have pain receptors.  But, when watching [video of gravity tests in a testosterone-laden common-sense-free environment] I experience (real-to-me) empathetic groin pain and I feel a similar pain inside my skull when I watch you transmogrify [complex theorem or formula] to the level of SeeDickAndJaneRun.

          Because specifics are better than vague analogies:

          •  Tweedle Dee, aka Brian Richmond, The George Washington University (NOVA, Becoming Human minutes 2:28 thru 3:00) - his explanation of a few theories why quadrupedal protohumans became bipedal: "...they stood up to be able to see over tall grass...they stood to be able to pick fruits off of the low branches of trees...(or)...to cool more efficiently so that we don't have as much sun beating on so much of our body."
          •  Tweedle Dum, aka Daniel Leiberman, Harvard University (NOVA, Becoming Human minutes 3:00 thru 4:40) - his favorite opinion why quadrupedal protohumans became bipedal:  "...the most compelling hypothesis is that it saved us energy."

          These two idiots bruised my frontal lobes.  Their few seconds of Discovery Channel fame only proved one thing:  neither of them actually understands natural selection.

          In a muddled attempt at simplicity, this NOVA episode completely fails to explain natural selection and offers information as true, which is the exact opposite of the truth.  The show paints a picture that six million years ago, in the middle of protoAfrica (with the environment in flux and jungles becoming savannahs)...for reasons we can only guess at...a protochimpanzee stood on its hind legs and, subsequently, passed that ability to constantly walk upright to its progeny.

          The fiction—like that of so many television shows based on psudo- and/or fuzzy-science—is relating that the reason/desire to walk upright preceded our distant ancestor's ability to do so.  But when somebody from [prestigious place of higher learning] says, "they stood up in order to..." how can we interpret it otherwise?

          What actually happened?  How did a few of the little ancient monkeys who walked on four legs many millions of years ago eventually walk on only their two hind legs?  The same way every gradual evolutionary change occurred in every living entity since the beginning of life.  It happened by mistake.  Zillions upon Trillions of miniscule beneficial mistakes.  The same number (or more) of non-beneficial mistakes also (must've-probably) occurred, but any of those mistakes (those which don't improve their possessor's chance of procreation) are useless in evolutionary terms and lead to extinction. 

          One quadrupedal protohuman gave birth to a malformed baby with a slightly misshaped pelvis (I'll call her Miss Takè).  Her pelvis was a bit too flat, too horizontal...and all the quadrupedal kids at school teased little Takè because she wasn't very good at reindeer games.  But she was able to survive long enough to procreate and pass along that genetic error because she was [reason for not dying...including being lucky].  She had a fifteenth cousin twice removed with a slightly bent thumb which made swinging from branches a little harder than normal, but she always won at thumb-war; and her imperceptibly encephalitic and slightly taller great-great-great grandson (who could never peek over a log without his forehead being seen when playing hide-n-seek) became a great hunter because of his above-average eyesight...and his eighteenth son from his fifteenth mate (who happened to be distantly related to thumb-war cousin) was taller-still but he happened to have less body hair, hated the winter, and walked a long distance in order to live in a warmer place...ad infinitum...modern man.

          South Park's (Mrs Garrison's) grasp of the theory of evolution is more accurate.  The fact that Trey Parker and Matt Stone are more capable than NOVA at explaining natural selection makes me giggle-cringe (but inflicts no pain in my gulliver).

Not the Best Way to Start a Day at the Beach

          Low tide.  About a half-mile from the beach access road—the closest people are more than 200 meters off—I swing a U-turn a bit too high off the wet-packed sand, intending to park facing the ocean.  Somewhere in that sentence there should have been a descriptive adverb...a 'stupidly' or at the very least a 'thoughtlessly'.

          I knew I was farged the moment I lost forward momentum, but we took a few minutes to insure it was so before calling a tow truck.  Twenty minutes later the guy hooked up, pulled me forward ten feet, and gave us the bill.  It cost slightly more than a dollar an inch.

          Is there a combo-adverb for extremely stupid and very costly?   

Make Self-Service Gas Illegal

          I have an unemployed friend.  Keeping a constant paycheck was a challenge for him even before the economy married the weather.  (Remember when Miss Weather was only occasionally crazy in public and Mister Economy appeared strong and confident?  In case you just awoke from a three-year hibernation, Mr. and Mrs. Weather-Economy are an extremely toxic couple.)  Every time my friend and I talk he says, "Believe me, I'm always out there looking, but there just aren't any jobs available."

          There are jobs.  Plenty of them.  It's just that there are none in the field he has experience in.  That's the full-time-with-great-benefits field where one got paid a 40+K salary to accomplish 8-hours of actual work every 40-hour "work week".

          Today, politicians don't dare open their mouths unless they can find a way to jam the words 'job creation' into every one of their paragraphs.  Do they understand the difference between rhetoric and action?

          My two cents:  If the other 48 states (or the US congress) passed full-service gas station laws, like those in Oregon and New Jersey...with the stroke of a (governor's or president's) pen they would create tens of thousands...hundreds of thousands...over a million jobs.

           That's right, over a million jobs.

           There are approximately 240,000* self-service gas stations in the 48 US states that don't have full-service laws.  A conservative estimate:  five additional full-time minimum wage employees, per gas station, would be required to be hired if every state (or the US government) passed mandatory full-service gas station laws.  1.2 million new jobs. 

           PROS:   Gas station attendant jobs can't be lost to oversea workers.
                        Required training and licenses prevent illegal aliens from filling these jobs.
                        Fuel spills and accidents at the station's pump are drastically eliminated.
           CONS:  Price increase at the pump (about 10 cents a gallon).

           Disagree with my recommendation?  Feel free to tell me why. 

* 2007 census:  118,756 gas stations + 97,508 gas stations with convenience stores + 21,248 other gas stations + 10,131 stations without employees = 247,643.  Oregon / New Jersey stations: 1,061 / 2,545 gas stations + 618 / 749 gas stations with convenience stores + 443 / 1,796 other gas stations  = 7,212.

Can't Stop The Serenity

          Last weekend I was a volunteer for CSTS at the Hollywood Theater.  It's run annually by the PDX Browncoats and all profits are donated to charity.

          There were over 400 fantastic theater goers watching Dr Horrible's Sing Along Blog and Serenity on the big screen, with an intermission Q&A with artist Patric Reynolds (of Dark Horse Comics fame).  The after-party was relaxing-interesting, except when I verbally stumble-said brownshirts after I'd imbibed the exact-right amount of libation to make that faux pas possible (corrected immediately by every Browncoat within earshot). 

launch monitor - swing statistics (golf)

          I used a radar to determine my current average golf club distances.  This is a first for me (and I enjoy tracking anything done for a first time).  As one ages and loses muscle, one's "numbers" change.  Hopefully, this will help.  Too often, I'm missing the club's sweet-spot...which is lowering my carry distance.    

Club (degree)  Speed (mph)   Loft (angle)   Carry Yardage     Total Yardage             

Driver (10.5)        96                13.5                    222                      245
3 Wd (15)            91                11.5                    187                      207   (should be 210-carry 225-total)
5 Wd (19)            92                15                       190                      208
3 I (21)                88                17                       175                      188
4 I (23)                84                17.5                    164                      176
5 I (27)                83                18                       150                      157
6 I (30)                84                21.5                    144                      152
7 I (34)                84                23                       133                      140
8 I (37)                83                25                       122                      126
9 I (41)                78                28                       110                      113
PW (45)               73                30                         90                        91

Hypocrisy — An Invaluable Discriminator

          I recall riding in cars in the 1970's with my step-dad behind the wheel.  In traffic, he would holler and gesture and 'talk a blue streak' (mom-speak) about other drivers and pedestrians.  At home, he would occasionally shout at TV newscasters.  In person, however, he was always polite...to a fault.

          Who was my step-dad?

          A reactionary, idiotic, rude, old man; intelligent enough to know when to filter himself?  Or was he a courteous, open-minded, thoughtful person who—when safely ensconced on the other-side of a protective barrier—ranted at the occasional egregiously-behaved fool or jester?  I don't know if the answer is important.  I suspect it's not.  But the question is.

          Immediate family were the only witnesses to his bursts of vitriol.  I seriously doubt he would ever have defined himself using negative verbiage of any stripe (even the concept of defining himself would have been foreign to him).  I think of all the co-workers, fellow congregants, neighbors and extended family members who thought they knew him but who never witnessed him shout, "Pick a fuckin lane you miserable cunt!" or "They otta throw all those longhair-draft-dodgein-fags in the slammer!"

          If you subscribe to the belief that people 'reveal their true nature' in times when their guard is down...my step-dad was Archie Bunker wearing a Jimmy Carter mask.  When I consider his behavior in the context of how it affected who I grew up to be, I focus on the hypocrisy.  His lifelong struggle to keep internal-Archie mute and fabricate the external-Jimmy persona must have been immensely difficult; as difficult as a homosexual who (in 1966 America) decided at the age of thirty-nine to forevermore deny his innate attraction and marry an aging divorcée with two grade-school children before moving his ready-made family half-way across the country (this unrelated suspicion I have about my step-dad is based on very few facts; I merely include it here to suggest there were possible other hidden layers to "who he really was").

          Back to hypocrisy.  I suspect it's a much more valuable discriminator than many people realize.  How often do you attempt to measure someone's normally hidden hypocrisy?  It's one of, if not THE primary tool I use to decide if someone is a trusted friend or merely an acquaintance.

          If I'd been friends with OJ Simpson... (This is a quote from one of the most un-hypocritical people I've ever known; I hope he remains my very good friend for a long time to come) ...and, back in 1994, I went to talk to him and he said to me, "Dude, I just snapped when I saw 'em together."  Then I'd have just said, "That's cool, let's go play golf."  But if he was all, "Hey, I hope they catch who really did it."  Then I wouldn't have been able to stay friends with him.

          Chris's blog post Don't call me a "liberal" begins with this excerpt (to the right) of commenters on a Weather.com article about the current drought in Texas.  As is often the case, give a hypocrite a protective barrier (the epitome of web-commenting) and they let their inner Archie Bunker out.

          I learned from my step-dad what I didn't want to be.  Who you read here is who you talk to on the phone is who you meet in person.  Liberal?..ok.  Hypocrite?..never.

You might also enjoy:

LIMBO - game review - ☆☆☆☆☆

          I enjoy puzzles.  I get a wonderful micro-instant brain fizz when, after extensive trial and error (or in the case of this game—trial, death, and re-spawn) 'I can't figure this one out' crystallizes, the solution clicks in my gulliver, and...'oh yea! Gotcha.'

          If Edward Gorey designed a side-scroller like The Humans, it would be Limbo; a game with good value for average invested entertainment time ($15 for ≈15 hours).  A few of its 39 chapters are time-sensitive, which seem more a test of hand-eye coordination than mental dexterity; others rely on pure deduction (path + tools = looks impossible but it's not); a few are sequence oriented; many are a combination of all of the above.  Add the occasional anti-gravity device, electro-magnet, huge insect, and...well...you get a great puzzle game.

Forest Camping


          The summer is half-gone.  The weather outside is delightful (with nary a day above 90 this year).  I'm not rubbing it in, I empathize with the rest of the sweltering US, but in a glad-it's-not-me kind of way.  I've kept busy golfing (although I only broke 90 once), disc golfing, hiking with my cat, preparing my 5th wheel trailer and selling it, as well as playing the video game Fallout New Vegas.

         I played the first Fallout for a brief time in 1997 and hated it.  This one, the fourth in the series, was much more of a "puzzle solver and strategy game" than a "first-person shooter" and, therefore, very enjoyable for me.