Open Letter to Senator Wyden

Dear Senator Wyden,

          My suggestion is for a new national law which would immediately employ over a million people in 48 states.  Because this suggested new law wouldn't effect our state or the state of New Jersey, I think this bill should be co-sponored by someone like Senator Menendez (D, NJ).

          Using the Emergency Highway Energy Conservation Act of 1974 as a template, and incorporating sunset provisions (for no shorter than five years) I suggest a bill which would duplicate ORS480.315 making self-service gas stations illegal nation-wide.

          Additional suggested requirements which should be included in the bill (which would affect Oregon and NJ):

          -  Require a dispensing license (which will have a fee which is similar to an alcohol certification or a food preparation license).  This training can be made available online, but could only be issued in person (by a licensed gasoline retailer) to US citizens who are at least 18 years old.  (The purpose of the law is to employ out-of-work adults, not high school students and illegal immigrants.)

          -  Require each State Fire Marshal to employ additional Inspectors, funded by the additional fees and fines.

          There are many safety and equality justifications cited as to why full-service may be better than self, but I suggest this new national law only be proposed in order to quickly employ a large quantity of Americans.  I estimate this law would employ between 1.2 and 1.8 million people.

          Obviously, all—or almost all—of these employees would be minimum-wage, less-than-full-time, non-benefit, employees.  And, also obviously, the fuel distribution companies would raise the cost of gas and pass the added cost to the end-consumer (I estimate that the cost of gas would increase between 10 and 15 cents a gallon).  None the less, the added jobs would definitely spur spending and grow our economy at a time when it is most needed.

          My quick calculations indicate there would be about 240,000 gas stations affected.

          I've been wondering, for some years now, about the incessant "job creation speechifying."  I think if this new law were proposed by an Oregon Senator, he would be seen as proposing a fix which (because it would have no direct benefit in his state and was only an attempt to improve the national economy) would quickly employ millions of Americans.

          I hope my suggestion is of some use.

          Veach Glines

I read in 2012


Dangerous Artists?

          Although this banner is riddled with wrong on many levels, it's that very fact which explains why people are drawn to it.

          It's not an actual poster from the 1950's McCarty-era (a claim made by the type of individuals who also choose to think that contrails are chemtrails and be-damned with hot exhaust/cold atmosphere physics).

          Artists don't mix.  They certainly are a part of all of human society no matter how one decides to pigeonhole or categorize, but—mostly—creative types don't mix very well.   We try, dammit, but we don't often succeed.

          Creative people want to be perceived as out-beyond-the-edge and as non-conformists.  And those who are driven to create would absolutely love to wear the label: most dangerous.  However, every artist I've ever known is no more threatening than a drifting cloud of condensed water vapor.

Today is Someday: Book 1 - Watership Down

          This is the first book in my Today is Someday series.  I'd hoped to like this more than I did and I hope the next should-already-have-read-classic is better.  A few more like this one and my list will quickly relapse back into I'm Fine With Tomorrow Being Someday.

          I first failed to read Watership Down in High School (at that time it had been around for only a few years and was assigned reading).  I could only get through a few chapters back then and wrote a paper from the cliff notes...as I occasionally did when I was fifteen.

          Now, I can truthfully say I've read it.  I've lied to myself and others for almost forty years.

          The plot was interesting.  The suspense was deftly handled.  The characters are wonderfully solid.  But...the author was not able to always keep me in the story (as I believe is the job of good authors).

          Violations of proper grammar abound.  Odd, clunky, and irritating changes in tone and point of view continually throw the reader off the page.  First person becomes third person singular switches to third person dual which slides into omniscient and then quickly shifts to detached.  It feels like two dozen short stories instead of a 24-chapter book (which made more sense to me after I read the introduction, which I did after reading the book because whenever a forty year old book contains a 'new introduction' it most-probably contains spoilers).

          Then there is this type of constant foolishness:
          "I need to clearly explain my dissatisfaction," Veach thought. "But I wonder what would be a good way to do that?"
          "There are some problems which could easily have been fixed with a good editor," Veach said. "Because.  Of all the many ways to smoothly mix a character's thoughts and dialogue this, dear reader, is definitely not one of them."

Jesus Henry Christ - review (☆☆☆☆)

          Although Wes Anderson had no part in the production of this film, the director—Dennis Lee—is to Wes Anderson as Blind Melon is to Led Zeppelin.

          Jesus Henry Christ is one of those 'hidden gem' feel-good films that (unfortunate for those who enjoy intelligently scripted, well-acted, films on the big screen) slipped in-to and out-of theaters almost a year ago without notice...mine, yours, or anyone else's.  It's now available on all home-viewing formats.  To miss it now is nobody's downloadable fault but your own. 

          It's not as whack-a-doodle as a Wes Anderson, but in many places it looks, feels, and sounds so much like a Royal... Aquatic... duck... (named Rush) that one may desire to pause the film and check IMDB to determine if, maybe, Mr Anderson was some kind of Producer (He was not, Julia Roberts was). 
also don't continue to avoid:

Stop blowing smoke up my ass!


The first time I heard 'Are you trying to blow smoke up my ass?' was in this context:

Drill Sergeant:  What's wrong with you private?  You failed to accomplish a simple task!  Why?!

Private:  I thought you said, "place all open liquids in the trash can," Drill Sergeant.

Drill Sergeant:  (holding a green plastic bottle at eye level) What is this, Private?

Private:  Shampoo, Drill Sergeant.

Drill Sergeant:  Is it a half-empty bottle of shampoo, Private?

Private:  Yes sir.

Drill Sergeant:  WHAT?

Private:  Yes... Drill Sergeant!

Drill Sergeant:  Why is it not in the can, Private?

Private:  Because it's... I didn't think it was... liquid.

Drill Sergeant:  Is it a gas?

Private: (starts to shake his head) N...

Drill Sergeant:  Is it SOLID?

Private:  (still shaking his head) no...

Drill Sergeant:  Then what?! 

Private:  A.. a..  gel.  Drill Sergeant.

Drill Sergeant:  Are you trying to blow smoke up my ass?

Private:  n... No, Drill Sergeant.

Drill Sergeant:  (twisting the top off of the bottle) cup your hands in front of you, Private.

(At this point the Private placed his cupped palms together in front of his belt.)

Drill Sergeant:  (peering closely at the side and front of the Private's face as if he were looking for the smallest flaw, or eye movement, or shift from the position of attention)  PALMS UP!  Are you an idiot, Private?

Private:  No, Drill Sergeant!

Drill Sergeant:  (tipping the bottle over the Private's hands)  We.  Will.  See.  Private.  We will see.

(At this point the shampoo began to ooze out of the bottle and coat the Private's hands.)

Drill Sergeant:  Does this feel like a glob of gel has fallen into your hands?  Or.  Does this feel like a liquid is pouring into your hands?

Private:  A.. a liquid.  Drill Sergeant.  Sorry, Drill Sergeant.

Drill Sergeant:  So you were trying to blow smoke up my ass, weren't you?   

Private:  No Drill Sergeant.

Drill Sergeant:  (pointing) Go in that latrine.  Wash the liquid soap off your hands.  And get back in my formation.  You have thirty seconds.  GO!

(At this point the Drill Sergeant handed the bottle and cap to another Private in our formation and directed him to dispose of the bottle and return to the formation.)

Drill Sergeant:  It appears that my instructions were unclear.  ALL liquids are prohibited in my barracks.  All medications OF ANY KIND are prohibited in my barracks.  I asked if there were questions, got none, and - yet - I still found a liquid.  On the command of move, you all will have another FULL MINUTE to search your belongings for liquids and medicines, dispose of them in the center trash bin, and return to the position of attention in formation.  MOVE!!

(At this point some soldiers began to scramble again and more bottles of various types were thrown away.  The Private returned from the latrine and the Drill Sergeant began to holler at him about the mess he made by dripping shampoo on the floor and the latrine door.  The private then wiped up the drips with paper towels.)

Drill Sergeant:  (over the sound of the Private counting off his push-ups)  You ALL better be back in my formation by NOW!  If I find ONE more liquid, or ANY medicine of ANY kind, that means you're ALL blowing smoke up my ASS!

(Three duffle bags later he found a small bottle of saline solution for soft contacts.  We all began to do push ups, until it was time to do squat-thrusts, until it was time to do wish-bones, until it was time to do more push-ups.) 

          It is nice to know the (supposedly true) origin of the phrase.  I must admit I find it difficult to take this explanation 100% seriously; even after seeing the actual device and seeing the old drawings.  It's too easy to fabricate an item and fake the explanation for me to swallow anything this far fetched hook-line-and-sinker (as it were).

          I have used the phrase in it's bastardized form of either "I-think-you-are-being-less-than-truthful" as well as "Stop-using-foolishly-overt-flattery-because-it-isn't-working".

          Until today, if someone were to tell me about an old British custom of reviving drowned people by blowing smoke up their ass...I would have replied:  "Do you believe it was a real custom?  If so, I  think you are blowing smoke up my ass."

          But—ever willing to play devil's advocate—why be so positive it doesn't work?  Just because it sounds like a bag of leeches?

          I've heard about butt-chugging.  I've read how Marlyn Monroe insured her last suicide attempt was successful.  Is it possible that a gust of nicotine absorbed through the rectum will cause someone who just inhaled a few cups of water to violently cough?     
      

WOOL by Hugh Howey - review (☆☆☆☆)

          This is a first for me:  a 540 page, self-published SF book that's can't-put-it-down good.  I plan to immediately hunt for more Hugh Howey books.

          To accurately review this book I need to explain why it was not 5-star 'amazing' and only 4-star 'really liked it'.  Simply put: for a novel to get my highest rating it needs to stir emotions and my intelligence.   The first current-day author who comes to mind (who always does both) is Patrick Rothfuss.

          PROS:  The milieu in WOOL is expertly described and imaginatively revealed.  Every character is rendered with finesse; we quickly care about these characters.  The story unfolds at the right speed...the reader figures out what will come next just a bit before the characters do.   The grammar is flawless.  The plot exposition is perfect with a great beginning, an informative middle, and an explosive third act. 

          CONS:   Even with a large variety of death on display, WOOL isn't gory, gritty, or dark and it is barbie-and-ken asexual.   The target audience is pre-teens and teens; adults will like this book as much as they liked Harry Potter, but they'll quickly recognize that—other than the thrill of suspense—it doesn't make you laugh or cry or shudder or...you get the gist.  Also, at no point did I learn a new way of thinking about an old idea, let alone anything novel.  In fact, there's a massive flaw in the physics around page 400.  If the author did any research on scuba diving he could have fixed it with a few added sentences (and, thus, proof that editors and first-draft readers are valuable).

          KIND OF A SPOILER:  Note to Mr Howey - Air, trapped in a flexible container under water, is compressed by the weight of the water.  As that container rises to the surface the air expands.  Under hundreds of feet of water the air will expand exponentially when surfacing.  (Juliette's suit would have exploded as she surfaced quickly and if she weren't continually exhaling her lungs would have exploded too).

          For me, the Pros massively outweigh the Cons.  This would make a great holiday gift for any young fan of Speculative Fiction (and especially those who like post-apocalyptic SF).

LOOM by Polynoid


Dishonored Review (☆☆☆+)

          For the current new-game price, DISHONORED fails to live up to the hype.

          I completed all of this game's nine-levels in 25 hours.  My style of gameplay was stealthy and I enjoy searching for—and finding—hidden treasures.  I suspect an aggressive gamer might complete the game in less than 15 hours.

          This game is only worth about $15.  For a new sixty dollar game to be considered good-to-great (four or five stars) it should take someone like me no less than one hundred hours to complete and an aggressive gamer no less than sixty hours start-to-finish.

          Also, unfortunately, there are no mini-games or puzzles in DISHONORED.  It isn't a bad game.  I enjoyed playing it.  It's just not worth the price.  

Today I'm Standing and Ovating For:

   
    The State of Washington - Marriage equality; Marijuana legalization

        The State of Maine - Marriage equality

    The State of Maryland - Marriage equality

    The State of Colorado - Marijuana legalization


This should be titled The Two-Party Political System Explained:


Cancer The Forbidden Cures

Got 90 minutes to learn why I distrust every person who has worked, is working, or will work in the medical profession?


Natural Phenomena - VideoSapien


Amazon Feedback


          Fifteen years ago, I owned the pants which are pictured top-left.  They were rad, commando-comfy, and lasted about 60 washings before they fell apart.  I especially loved the large splashes of blue and purple.

          A few weeks ago I saw them on Amazon.  $46 (with shipping).  Feeling nostalgic, I ordered.  A few days ago the package arrived containing a different pair of pants.             

          They fit.  They were comfortable.  I didn't hate the pattern.  And I'm the type of guy who would only deal with the hassle of returning them if they didn't, weren't, or if I did.

          I wrote this ☆☆☆ review on Amazon:
          I received different pants.   It's now obvious the photo isn't a model wearing pants but a close-up swatch of photo-shopped material.  Although they're of a similar palette, the picture shows a large print with splashes of color every five inches; the actual pants have tiny color specks every inch.  Size, delivery, and material OK.  I'll use them, not return them, but they aren't what I ordered.
          Today, I got a call from the seller.  He acknowledged the pants I received (bottom left) weren't those pictured and asked if I wanted to return them for a full refund.  I explained my quantity of dissatisfaction (and how it wasn't enough to merit returning the pants).  He offered me a 50% rebate if I removed my review.

          I erased.  He paid me.

1st Presidential Debate


          The first presidential debate is over.  Every sheep in the herd has now had plenty of time to listen to their favorite pundit, comedian, and/or talking head to learn what their opinion is.  Most of ewe decided Romney won.

          It seems many measured the debate performances of Mister Romney and President Obama using the criteria of High School Debate Team judges...and if this had been a High School debate, I might agree.

          Why has nobody pointed out the obvious?  We all saw President Obama not debate, not engage, and not argue.  Instead, he speechified.  He stuck to the talking points, re-hashed, and never raised his voice.

          In a game of American Football, if the clock shows several minutes remain in the final quarter, your score is 300 and your opponent's is 238 (and one only needs 270 to win) a quarterback may choose to "take a knee" and run down the clock.

          President Obama did just that.  He didn't fumble, didn't try for a hail mary pass, and—most important—didn't give any ground.  He seemed to be aware that debate performance has rarely, if ever, been important in a US Presidential election (although some point to the first Nixon-Kennedy debate as a game changer).  He chose not to participate and, today, he still has the same amount of (more than enough) electoral college votes to be re-elected (if the election were today).

          I understand the desire to watch both teams bang into each other and scramble for the ball until the last second.  When your team is winning and your own quarterback takes a knee, one feels a twinge of regret, because (having been there before) we empathize with the other team.  Wanting to watch a more thrilling game, we may even wish our own team's quarterback wouldn't make the tactfully-justified and technically-intelligent choice to run down 40-seconds on the clock...and we may voice our derision.

          Give President Obama some credit.  He knows what he is doing.  If you have forgotten, just U-Tube a few of his 2008 dust-ups with Hillary or McCain.

          He took a knee.  Stop bleating about it with all the other sheepish Monday-moaning armchair quarterbacks.  

020411A on Vimeo


Socialized Medicine (a conversation)

          My half-sister, Kim, is a seasoned health care professional who has lived her entire life in the same red state.  When she and I converse, we try to avoid talking about things which we've previously crashed through and cut ourselves on.  Current US Health care policy is one of those topics.

          More than a decade ago we discovered that it needed to be put in our 'agree to disagree' warehouse.  Two years ago we took it out, added a few bits on Obamacare, confirmed we both still disagreed with the majority of the other's opinions, and put it back.

          This week, she decided to bring it out again.  Some people get a rush out of whacking a hornet nest with a stick (metaphorically) and I think there was more than a little bit of that guiding her decision to dredge this up from the depths.

          She was discussing her job (which she can detail quite successfully, for hours, without touching on national policy) but ended up making a broad blanket statement demeaning everyone in the US without health insurance.  She knows neither I nor my fiancee have any, so I took her criticism as an opening gambit.  In order to test her resolve and determine if she actually wanted to re-open this topic, I said, "There are millions, tens of millions, of US citizens who can't afford the luxury of health insurance."

          "I know."

          "Then how can you make a statement like that?  Do you know how naïve you sound?  What you just said was, effectively, 'all poor people are idiots'."

          "That's not what I said."

          "You said, 'all those uninsured fools'.  Who were you talking about?"

          "There are tons of people with moderate incomes who could afford to pay for health insurance but, instead, they don't.  They live in expensive houses, own several cars, boats, campers, and go on fancy vacations, but don't have health insurance for themselves or their kids.  When they get sick or injured they go to the emergency room."

          "I assume the hospital sends them a bill if they don't have insurance."

          "Sure.  But even a minor operation could cost fifty-thousand dollars.  They don't have that.  They end up going bankrupt.  Not paying."

          "And those type of people will get a bill from the IRS if they pull that shit after 2014.  The IRS will seize their tax returns and even garnish wages.  Another good thing about Obamacare."  At this point I could have said:  'But we've previously agreed to disagree about this so... how are your horses?'  And changed the subject.  But the hornet nest had been whacked and I wanted to buzz around so I added, "Which is just one more justification for socialized medicine."

          "No it's not.  Socialized medicine will ruin health care as we know it.  I'm on the inside and I see all the machinations of the insurance industry, the pharmaceutical companies, the hospitals, the doctors, the patients, and the government Medicare-Medicaid programs.  Medicare is completely broken.  Socialized medicine would be the same as Medicare for everyone.  Broken."

          "As someone who has benefited almost my whole adult life from socialized medicine, I can tell you—from a patient perspective—it's better than the current insurance company's for-profit system."

          "You've said that before, but the US military medical system isn't socialized medicine."

          "You don't think so?  Why not?"

          "With true socialized medicine, like they have in many European countries and Canada, you don't have the freedom to choose your treatment.  No options.  They make the decisions for you.  They follow an algorithm.  One size fits all.  The military is just another sub-group of the American system..."

          "You tend to speak in broad generalities in instances such as this.  I need specifics.  Describe how a patient's treatment would differ, today, in a US hospital and a Canadian hospital."

          At this point my sister began a lengthy diatribe of a hypothetical elderly woman with multiple certainly-fatal symptoms.  She then explained how US doctor's would use extensive tests and many high-tech machines to come up with their diagnosis before explaining all the various surgical and prescription options available to the old cancerous crone.  According to her, the Canadian doctors would weigh the availability of limited resources against an actuary table and decide what, if any, treatment the old crone would receive.  At which point I said, "Death panels!  You think they have death panels!"

          "That's not what I said.  You're putting words in my mouth."

          "No no.  I get it.  And I agree."

          "You agree with what?  Death panels?"

          "Yup.  I think it's an unfortunate and misleading label for something that already exists, but hey...semantics.  And putting aside the label, I don't think every last drop of life needs to be squeezed out of every lemon.  I'm afraid I don't pray to the sanctity of life like some do.  We live.  We die.  Some early.  Some later.  I don't agree that every last treatment should be made available to the soon-to-be-departed.  Your hypothetical old woman with late-stage cancer should go home with some great pain medication and update her will."

          "I guess I don't completely disagree.  But you said death panels already exist?"

          "When only one donor organ is available and two or more people desperately need that organ, who makes the list and who decides that the healthy thirteen year old gets to be higher on it than the sixty year old alcoholic?"

          "I see where you're going with this, but it's not the same thing."

          "No, not the same, but similar.  And we're veering too far from the point, which was that I said the US military health care system is socialized medicine and you said it wasn't.  Your example of doctors deciding treatments based on resources is EXACTLY what is done in the military.  Military doctors, military administrators, and military pharmacists all get paid a salary; none have any incentive to perform tests, surgeries, or prescribe drugs to turn more profit.  And the very first thing everyone in that military socialized medical system does for every patient—from triage nurse to neurosurgeon—is weed out the malingerers.  Then they treat the real sick and injured people.  Not many options are provided.  Directives are given; focused on fixing the sick and injured and getting them back to work."

          "But when it's your loved one, you want absolutely every possible treatment.  No matter the cost."

          "Nope, that's not me.  I think one must weigh the cost of treatment in not only dollars, but in probability of survival and in the quantity and—most importantly—quality of life after treatment.  How many quality years would your hypothetical cancerous lady have, if she survived the full million-dollar treatment of surgery, chemo, et cetera?"

          "There's no way to measure that."

          "Sure there is.  Probability.  Statistics.  Medical history."

          "Not with any accuracy.  Define quality years."

          "The quality baseline for any given person is equal to their mental and physical activity level before they were sick, with allowances made for the normal aging process."

          "So you're saying if the probability that our lady with cancer will only have two or three years she should not be afforded a million dollars worth of treatment?"

          "Two or three years!  If she can have two years of quality life every effort should be made...hold nothing back.  But.  I suspect that isn't realistic.  I think after months and months of treatments she'll never get back to her same old self.  That she won't even have one more month of quality life.  That even if she's lucky enough to be cancer-free for a few years, the therapy will cause her to be mentally and physically handicapped and dependent on caregivers for every remaining day.

          "In America, we have that option.  You don't think we should have that option?"

          "No.  If that woman happens to be lucky enough to have a million dollars she can choose to spend it on a bed-ridden, increasingly depressed and ever-weakening body that can't wipe it's own ass.
          "America's for-profit system encourages expensive tests and treatments which result in increased profits for all concerned.  The insurance companies pass the gouging of the hospitals and doctors on to the policy holders.
          "Remove the ability to profit and all unnecessary tests and treatments stop.  In socialized medicine, which is what military medicine is, every doctor earns his or her salary.  With no chance of making more money for prescribing more drugs or ordering more tests, their focus shifts to repairing or curing the patient.  That's it.
          "And, in a social-medicine environment, what treatments are offered that woman with late-stage cancer would be determined by weighing the availability of doctors, surgeons, and medicine against the patients expected future quality of life.  And—all other things equal—the thirteen year old cancer patient receives priority over an alcoholic sixty year old."

          "Ahh, I see...full circle.  But you know as well as I do that entrenched government employees just sit around and do nothing all day.  Now you want every hospital to be staffed with them?"

          "You and your stereotypes.  Are you saying your mail doesn't get delivered?  Your fires don't get put out?  Your crimes don't get solved?  Your wars don't get fought?  I'm not saying everyone drawing a government paycheck is a workhorse, but in my military experience shiftless lazy fucks got kicked out.  I see the same percentage of lazy punching-a-clock civilians and most of them get fired."

          "I know that if you remove the profit incentive from the medical profession that innovation will freeze in place.  Nobody will strive to create the next high tech gadget, the next super drug, or cure the next disease, nothing will move forward and, eventually, advances which have already been made will fall into disuse."

          "Your opinion of mankind is much more dreary and pessimistic than I thought.  You depict a dystopian medical environment where nobody will do anything to help anyone unless they can make money off the procedure.  But you must know, even when you say it, that it isn't true.  Billions of people live on this planet in countries with socialized medicine.  They are treated their whole long lives by salaried doctors.  Every military doctor I dealt with worked hard to help their patients."

          "And now you're going to tell me there are pharmaceutical companies, somewhere, that produce drugs to help people and aren't just interested in making as much money as possible?"

          "OK.  I'll give you that one.  But on the count of socialized medicine in the military?"

          "Agree to disagree."

          And back in the warehouse it went.

The Next 25 Years

          As I type, my first thought is Oh what a wonderful exercise in futility.  Immediately followed by the idea that I'm more interested in my ability to refer back to this article, and see what now-me-at-53 was focused on in the autumn of 13.0.0.0.0 (which is 2012 for those not on the Myan long count calendar) than accurate or inaccurate predictions.

          I'm, currently, entering old-age.

          Everyone ages at a different rate.  For my mind and body, I was a child until I completely stood up to my parents; a young adult until I took total responsibility for myself (and got my first divorce); and I fully entered middle age when I retired from the military ten years ago.  Today, aches and pains combined with a decrease in gumption (hard to believe I'm more lazy than ever) marks the cusp of my winter years.  Only hindsight can confirm that prediction, because I might have an Indian Summer just over the horizon.

          I think the following things will happen over the next twenty five years:
  • President Obama is re-elected. [✓ 6 Nov 12]
    • Obamacare is re-vamped to include government single-payer option.
  • Erratic weather/earthquakes around the globe intensify.  A catastrophe for some, a boon for others. 
    • Droughts and fracking causes ranches/farms in the US Midwest to become uninhabitable.
    • A population paradigm shift occurs in many parts of the world.
  • The US elects a woman president. 
  • The Internet replaces all current TV and film entertainment formats.
    • Everything is streamed and downloaded instantaneously and in HD-quality.
    • Paper books, magazines, and newspapers are obsolete.    
  • The global recession becomes a planet-wide depression.
  • A large-scale war erupts involving many of the "major" governments.
    • Nuclear weaponry is used.
  • Same-sex marriage in the US becomes federal law.
  • A manned habitat is begun on Mars.
  • Apophis does not crash into Earth.
  • A viral pandemic kills tens of millions.
    • International travel is suspended for an extensive period.
  • Cannabis is legalized in the US.
  • Intelligent non-human extra-terrestrial life is identified. 
  • Korea is unified. 
  • Cost to mail a first class letter in the US tops one dollar.
  • US minimum wage reaches $20 an hour.
    • Massive "employee" shift occurs (from: full-time staff members; to: self-employed contractors).
  • Roads become predominantly filled with battery powered cars.
    • The US gas price tops $15.00/gallon. 
          On a personal note, I don't live to see 2037 (and will be amazed if I collect one Social Security check...which is still a viable program in 12 and a half years, it's just that I'm probably not around to collect).  I hope I marry the love of my life, Pamela The Pure (she hates that moniker).  I will eventually drive a Smartcar. 

POV

click and drag by xkcd


          This should have been titled click and drag until your fingers bleed.  The bottom panel is massive.  It could take over an hour to read all the blurbs.  I especially enjoy the yellow warbler floating jellyfish and the caption from the woman climbing in the schooner's rigging.  Go look for yourself.

IrReSponsible

17 April:  I mail six income tax returns (federal and state for: me, her, and our LLC).

29 June:  My refund arrives.

11 July:  Her refund arrives.

2 August:  We receive a letter from the IRS explaining that our LLC return was not mailed on time and, consequently, we owe $195.00 per person/per late month/plus interest (which, the letter alleges, equals $1,695.00).

3 August:  I surmise our LLC's tax return got delayed in the mail and try to do the math but nomatterwhat I fail to reverse-compute the numbers.  Our LLC's total income for 2011 was $3,950.00.  I can't figure out how we could owe more than half the money we made.  No...the comma isn't in the wrong place; we grossed slightly less than four thousand dollars last year.

6 August:  I learn that LLC late penalty fines are legally this exorbitant.  Because of the intrinsic workings of partnership LLC's (normally they report no income because profits are divided by the partners who report the income on their individual tax returns) the IRS can't penalize LLC's like other companies and individuals (levy late penalties based on amount owed plus interest).

7 August:  Long phone call with IRS.
          "Our documentation shows your LLC did not file its tax return on time."
          "The tax return was mailed at the same time as our personal ones, was the LLC tax return due prior to April 17th?"
          "It was due on April 15th.  Our records show it wasn't posted by that date."
          "I was given to understand by the IRS website as well as most major news outlets that the due date was actually April 17th this year, bec..."
          "All tax returns are due on April 15th.  We show yours wasn't posted on that date."
          "Because that was a Sunday.  I mailed it on April 17th.  Which I believe was the due date."
          "Our records show it wasn't posted on time."
          "OK.  Wow.  I guess I need to come at this from a different perspective.  What's the postmarked date on the envelope?"
          (pause)
          "On my LLC's tax... er... which contained my LLC's tax return?"
          (pause)
          "Hello?  Ma'am?"
          "If you desire to refute the amount you owe, late fees, and/or interest due, the IRS has sixty days to locate any and all pertinent documents.  However, interest and penalty months will continue to accrue during this period.  If you pay the amount due, by credit card, at this time, and it's later determined any or all of the amount wasn't due, it'll be refunded."
          "You don't have the envelope in front of you?"
          (pause)
          "At this time?"
          (pause)
          "the IRS has sixty days to.."
          "I feel like I'm talking to a computer.  Are you a computer?"
          "No sir.  I'm explaining how to stop the aforementioned penalties from continuing to accrue."
          "If you're a computer and I ask if you are a computer, you're legally required to say yes."
          "That's very funny, sir.  You can mail a check.  Upon receipt, the penalties would..."   
          "I don't believe I owe penalties, fines, or interest.  I mailed the tax return on time."
          "In that case, you are refuting the..."
          "Yes.  Please.  I'm refuting."
          "And you're not interested in paying the..."
          "No.  Thank you.  Not interested in that."
          "And you understand about the interest and penalties continuing during the..."
          "Yup.  Completely understand."
          "Very good.  Thank you, sir.  You will hear from the IRS by US mail no later than sixty days from today's date after a full examina..."
          "Which is what?"
          "Excuse me, sir?"
          "Today's date.  What is it?"
          (pause)
          "You said From Today's Date and I was wondering what today's date was."
          (pause)
          "So I could compute when the sixty days would be up."
          "The seventh of August is today's date."
          "Thank you."
          "Is there anything else I can help you with today?"
          "Are those sixty days, calendar days or business days?"
          "Ummm.  Days.  Calendar days."
          "Thanks."

          I'm still not sure if I spoke with a person or a computer at the IRS call center.  She said ummm there at the end, which could have been programmed faux-humanity, but I think she was just a lackey reading from a script who was already mentally hanging up and forgot to hit the mute button when I asked one more parting question.

          We got a letter in the US mail today from the Internal Revenue Service.

          ...After a review of your LLC's tax documents and related paperwork it was determined your tax return was posted on time.  All previously levied fines, penalties, and interest amounts have been rescinded...

          I should feel relieved.  I don't.  I am confused...about the whole thing.  Was it a scam?  A IRS-run old-school come-along?  Hummm.

Rape Revenge

“A Spanish mother has taken revenge on the man who raped her 13-year-old daughter at knifepoint by dousing him in petrol and setting him alight.  He died of his injuries in hospital on Friday.

“…he passed his victim’s mother in the street and allegedly taunted her about the attack.  He is said to have called out 'How’s your daughter?' before heading into a crowded bar.

“Shortly after, the woman walked into the bar, poured a bottle of petrol over him and lit a match.  She watched as the flames engulfed him, before walking out.

“The woman fled to Alicante, where she was arrested the same evening.  When she appeared in court the next day in the town of Orihuela, she was cheered and clapped by a crowd who shouted 'Bravo!' and 'Well done!'”

          I dunno man, I’m not a doctor, but from what I understand if it’s a legitimate fire the body has ways of shutting that whole thing down.

          Re-blogged from too many people to backtrack (and I refuse to paste those ridiculous multiple-vertical-leftside-line-attribution things).  If you happen to be the originator of this twist on Paul Akin's quote, tell me, I'll give you credit (like that'll happen).

Among Others by Jo Walton (☆☆☆+)

          I enjoyed this book about a child of the 1970's who loves to read SF and chronicles in her diary all she does and says for about a year, which includes all the books she reads (the novel contains hundreds of book titles).  Anyone who has read any SF in the last four decades will probably agree with most of the titles which the main character author loves/dislikes, and may even expand their 'find and read' list.

          The biggest reason this book won the 2012 Nebula and Hugo awards was because it was constructed to speak directly to the judges (SF and Fantasy writers and avid fan-readers) all of whom connect with the main character because she "thinks like they did/do" when it comes to books in general and, specifically, Speculative Fiction.

          Among Others is not an epic tale; it's a nice story.  It's not amazingly-wonderfully crafted; but it has no flaws.  It does not grasp the pit of your stomach and spin it with gusto...or even without gusto; while it does encourage the reader to suspend his belief and enjoy the ride.   It—most importantly—is not a I-can't-put-it-down book.  What it has is an interesting spin on the magic-is-real plot line.

          It gets my 3-star-forgettable rating for trying so miserably hard to depict late-70's England/Wales that it loses every bit of suspense and tension when every action a character might take, or sentence a character might utter, was run through a would-that-really-happen filter before it hit the page.  I'm willing to bump it to 3-star-plus because it lists titles which I'll put on my 'to read' list.

          It didn't deserve the Nebula.  Or the Hugo.

          Patrick Rothfuss's The Wise Man's Fear deserved that honor (but wasn't nominated).  I suspect there are huge machinations going on behind the SFWA and WSFS scenes that continually prevent the best of the best from ever being nominated.  For all I know, Rothfuss didn't even want to be nominated.

          It is probably just like presidential nominations.  Was John Kerry the best Democrat of all the Democrats who could have beat G.W. Bush in 2004?   Is Mitt Romney really the best Republican of all the Republicans to challenge Obama this year?  Obviously there's more going on behind the curtain than we know about.

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         sphoto number 12

          Because of last week's Rodger Hodgson concert, I remembered the circumstances surrounding my purchase of this rather ordinary white agate 1⅚" (48mm) sphere.  
          In 1994, I read in a French magazine about an upcoming Alan Parsons Project concert in Freiburg, Germany, which was about a four hour drive from where I lived in Mons, Belgium.  I purchased tickets over the telephone from a woman who understood and spoke very little English (the European equivalent of Ticketmaster).  When they arrived in the mail the tickets were printed in German.
          On the day of the concert, I leisurely drove to the quaint city of Freiburg on the edge of the Black Forest with many hours to spare in order to be able to explore the city during daylight.  Upon arrival, it was immediately clear that there was no concert scheduled in the city's concert hall.  A local Freiburg citizen explained that although the word Freiburg was on the tickets, the rest of the information indicated the actual location of the concert was in Friedburg, Germany (at least three hours away).
          With more than five hours before the concert was scheduled to begin, I headed north.  First it began to rain.  Then the traffic went from bad to worse.  And then it got dark.
          The next three hours and forty five minutes are blur-burned in my memory under a deeply carved label:  stupidest/most risky.  I foolishly drove beyond my brake's abilities, beyond the limits of my tires, faster than my high-beams could illuminate...and, occasionally, faster than my wipers (on their fastest setting) were able to clear the windshield.  In other words, I reached speeds in excess of 120 mph (200 kpm) and sometimes hydroplaned in the express lane of the German autobahn around Frankfurt, while high-beam flashing and passing hundreds of slower moving cars...in the dark.
          I arrived on time.  A little early even.  No problems (except for the tiring aftereffects of a huge amount of adrenaline).  Not even any close calls (which is less the result of my abilities and more because of luck—all it would have taken is a mechanical failure or one driver not using his side mirror and cutting in front of me).
          There was a very sparse crowd around the concert hall.  A Friedburg citizen said they heard the concert was cancelled but they were staying until they got an official word.
          I counted umbrellas:  less than two hundred.
          Glanced around the venue's exterior:  it would probably hold three thousand or more.  There were no buses or equipment trucks.  There were no lights on inside.
          I returned to the Friedburg citizen and asked if he could recommend a good local Gasthäus.  He did.  I got a room, a schnitzel, and many, too many, beers.
          The next day I found this sphere in a local store.
          I was unhappy with The Alan Parsons Project and avoided their concerts for several years.  Later I learned that Eric Woolfson wasn't the lead singer at any of their 1994 concerts, so I was less upset.  I saw them in Rochester, New York, as the opening act for Yes in 1998 with Eric Woolfson (which made this my lifetime favorite concert).

Sunscreen and Insect Repellent Towelette

          Filed under:  Amazing, Highly Recommended, as well as Where has this been hiding all my life?

          I had occasion to use a SMARTSHIELD towelette yesterday.   We drove out to the forest to do some hiking, picnicking, birdwatching, and reading.

          (Why is that 'k' required when picnic is a verb?  It hurts my brain.  I'm going with picnicing from now on.)


          Since both the sun and mosquitoes were out in full force, we each used a combination sunscreen and insect repellent towelette.  I covered all my exposed skin.  Two hours of sun resulted in only a slight pink, so I would say the SPF30 worked.  Five mosquitoes successfully bit my back through my sweat-soaked shirt where I'd not wiped (and never thought to).  Not so great for my back, but it helped to prove the insect repellent was effective.

          Insect repellent:  cedarwood bark oil and lemongrass oil.  No DEET.

          Sunscreen:  2% avobenzone, 7.5% octinoxate, 5% octisalate, 1.4% octocrylene, .8% padimate (I know nothing about any of these chemicals, except that they prevented sunburn on my sun deprived derma).

          Also contains:  alcohol, aloe leaf extract, lavender oil, macadamia seed oil, wheat germ oil, linseed oil, and camphor oil.

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         sphoto number 11

          How can one count the ways?

          To describe the woman whom I love, I could draw, paint, or take a photo of her...but I want more than to capture the moment.  I might abstract the artwork (as I did for myself) or even write a poem, but she connects better with the tangible and literal.
          I bought this 1¾ inch (47mm) multicromatic glass marble in 2003 when my relationship with Pam was in its embryonic days.
          We exchanged emails for about ten days and then phone calls and emails for another two weeks before agreeing to meet.  It was nice to get all our landmines and deal-breakers out of the way utilizing several modern marvels (today it's possible to never learn too late that you would've had a chance if you'd only known open-toed-shoes were a deal-breaker before meeting for coffee wearing Birkenstocks).
          One of the reasons our relationship is joyfully approaching the ten-year mark under full sail is that when I bought this sphere, both of us were sufficiently aware of ourselves to not only be able to recognize our own landmines but to be truthful about them; ditto with our deal-breakers.
          Email just made it easier to write my biggest deal breaker is smoking (of any kind) and one of my big landmines:  I'm a voluntarily unemployed artist living in a mobile home on a pension.
          Maybe that was actually four (or five?) landmines in one.
          So we spent almost a month probing and divulging.
          And then we decided it was time to find out if the other kissed good enough; if we enjoyed similar levels of intimacy as well as the same type of fucking; and determine if we might-could become simpatico with things like the other's snoring, farts, and idiosyncrasies.

          ADDENDUM:  Obviously, I began with a plan to describe the person I'm in love with (and maybe include some of the why I love her) but that became derailed by the sphere itself and the memories it holds.  Which is the whole reason I'm writing about some of my spheres.  So I left it as is.

Rodger Hodgson Concert

          In my teens and twenties I was impressed by many musicians but only a small number became indelibly stamped in my brain-pan...affecting who I was, and was to become, with their artistry.  Tonight I (finally) got to see a concert by one of the last holdouts:  Rodger Hodgson.

          The three bands at the top of the heap were Yes, The Alan Parsons Project, and Supertramp.  Then there were the remainder of the top five:  Fleetwood Mac and Emerson, Lake, & Palmer.

          I've seen Yes three times (76, 98, 01) and was fortunate enough to see the band with the Anderson-Howe-Wakeman lineup (remove any one of them and it isn't my Yes).  In 98 I saw the only true The Alan Parsons Project (with Eric Woolfson).  And since Supertramp actually means the songs and voice of Rodger Hodgson...I've now seen all of my indelibly stamped top five*.

          * I saw ELP in 78 and ⅚th's of Fleetwood Mac in 94 (there should be more than ⅙th of a reduction for the loss of Stevie Nicks, there really should).

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         sphoto number 10

          When my grandmother (whom I called Nana and have written about before) lived in New Hampshire, I found this almost two inch glass marble in an antique store in Keene, NH.  I purchased it in 1993 and was told it was about 90 years old.  It isn't a perfect sphere because the chips and scratches were buff-polished away by a previous owner (which significantly lowered its value and its purchase price).
          I have no negative memories affiliated with my Nana.  For three and a half decades—from my earliest memories of moving into her house in the early-1960's until the mid-1990's when Alzheimer's turned her into a pod person and she became lost to everyone including herself—she was wonderful.  To me.
          She may have been a royal bitch to her husband, siblings and extended family, a harridan to her children and other grandchildren, and a spiteful shrew to neighbors and others (which I occasionally witnessed or learned about afterward) but, when I was around, she was always in a fantastic mood.
          Every person I have ever known has a wonky day once in a while, or gets more than a little grumpy for a few days every month, or acts like a high-functioning petulant cunt most of the time, but I've only known two people who always have a smile to share.  Nana was one (albeit only when I was around) and the other is my fiancée, Pam.

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          sphoto number 9

          The word bad in Bad Kreuznach, Germany, refers to the Dutch word for bath because the city was once renowned for its bathhouse.  Because of my experiences there—for me—the English definition of the word is more apropos.    
          When I first visited the city in 1993 I was performing a protective service mission (at that time, I was a protective services agent for the NATO Commander).  Oddly, I found this 1⅞ inch (48mm) limestone sphere and its too-large-cup-stand at a local Italian restaurant where I ate dinner.  For two days I worked with SA Nwtptg (name withheld to protect the guilty) from the two-man Bad Kreuznach CID office.  He always referred to the city by its initials, so I—also—began doing so.
          Six years and two assignments later, I took over the Wiesbaden, Germany, CID office and learned the BK office was now subordinate to me.  Oddly, SA Nwtptg was still there.  I quickly learned he was unable to perform the most common tasks (report writing, investigative note taking, collection of evidence, etc.) without constant oversight and guidance.  I documented his failings, but as is normal (not just in the US military, everywhere) he was promoted and assigned to a larger office, where he assaulted a suspect, lied to an internal affairs investigator and coerced a witness to lie for him (resulting in his extreme reduction in rank—from officer to enlisted—and removal from CID).
          I investigated numerous grisly traffic fatalities on the road between Wiesbaden and BK because several drivers took their eyes off the road to change their radio or CD; I got the biggest ass-chewing in my career (from a two-star general, the 8th Inf Div CG) because of the unprofessional actions of another subordinate assigned to the BK office; and the German civilian "translator" at the BK CID office was the highest-paid, most-worthless person I ever had the misfortune to share a room with (I'd write supervise, but she never worked...all she did was read books).  I attempted to terminate her employment and discovered it wasn't possible.  In fact, the opposite was true—authorizing an annual bonus was mandatory even though she performed no assigned duties, ever.
          Not every sphere reminds me of good places, people or times; this one elicits nothing but bad memories.  I guess that's not completely true; the lasagna at the Italian restaurant was pretty good.

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          sphoto number 8

          I already wrote a snippet about my Crater Lake visit in 2009, which is when I bought this grey agate sphere.  I found in on the way to the crater in Eagle Point, Oregon, after we left The Oregon Vortex and House of Mystery.
          When one has as many spheres as I, it can be difficult to find a unique one which conforms to my parameters:
  • Between 1½ and 2¼ inches (40 - 55mm) in diameter.  Golf ball to billiards ball...not much larger.
  • One piece.
  • No intentional flat portion (they all have some form of a stand).
  • Reasonable price (relative to my budget).
          I've gone on many trips and come home without a sphere.  And not always because there weren't any for sale, sometimes every sphere I found was a duplicate of one I already had.

Top Five Posts (determined by page view) — let the avalanche begin

          There is a theory that when views are tallied by most favorited or most viewed (as they are on many shopping, video, art, porn, movie, and book sites...and now here at snapperhead) the self-fulfilling prophesy factor snowballs.  The more people search for (or look at) what has previously been searched for (or looked at) the more...well...you get the picture.  Eventually, the numbers avalanche.  "Hey this U-Tube video has 54 million views—it must be phantasmagorically interesting."  NOOOope.

          After about seven years, these are the five posts which have been viewed more than all the rest.


          Story: 

            In 2009 I wrote the short story Life Mission: Possible about signposts and totems, which have been and continue to be prevalent in my life—and those of many others.  I suspect it's my most read story not because it humorously tracks my televisions, pets, relationships, and microwaves but because people are keyword searching Mission Impossible and get snagged by the pictures.  Or maybe by the writing.  Nah.  

          Novel:

           I read this shitty book, Earth Abides, in 2005.  My review, Counterfeit Paper: A Valuable Teaching Tool, was posted here as well as on Goodreads (where it's been read and 'liked' by more than my others).  Upon re-reading it today I still agree with seven year ago self.  Good job me.

          Art:  

           I created the digital rendering pareidolia-apophenia in 2009.  It's also on deviantart where it's received ten times more views than the average of all my other art.  I don't know why.  Maybe the title is catchy.  I like the title.  Aesthetically, however, I don't like it.  But that's just me.  500 others have a different opinion (or one dingleberry views it every day).  

          Personal Perspective:

           My article Kirby Archer: an infamous friend is potent bait.  It draws in those who are curious about true crime and I can't fault anyone drawn to the morbid.  It's not only my most viewed, but also my most commented post.  Everyone who thought they knew him, once heard about him, worked with him, crossed his path, or watched a sketchy splash-bio on TV about his crime spree (and wants to know more) eventually lands on this article.

          Comic Strip:

           The attraction of the cartoon Anatomical Doll - strip, which I made from a photo scramped from Davecat, can only be attributed to the misleadingly factual titular words.

           While compiling these most-viewed posts, I realized that every one of them contains a punctuation mark.  A correlation, obviously, but could it also be causation?   Hmmm.

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          sphoto number 7

          My retirement present to myself in 2001 was a month in Australia.  I found this 1¾" (47mm) sphere in a store called The Crystal Caves in Atherton, Queensland, while staying nearby (in an amazing treehouse).  Prior to that I visited/stayed at the lava caves in the outback.  The following week I was scuba diving from a live-aboard in the Coral Sea and Great Barrier Reef.  The vacation also included stays in Sydney and Cairns; deep sea fishing from Port Douglas; a day-trip to Lizard Island for snorkeling...too many to recount once-in-a-lifetime events.  
          I like spheres which are composed of a visually interesting mix of minerals or types of rock.  This one is a combination of Australian jade and either quartz or calcite.  When turned just-so the light refracts through the crystal, bounces off and magnifies the interior side of the jade (rust-brown to green) and looks just like a tiny bit of ocean bottom through a SCUBA mask.

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          sphoto number 6

          This glass marble reminds me of my stepfather.
          My first memory of him:  He was dating my mother.  I was seven.  We were all "going out" as a family to an event (I vaguely remember The Ice Capades but that may have been a different night) I think it was a celebration because I recall all the adults...her, him, Nana, and Papa...were happy and full of loud smiles.  He asked if I'd help him get a tool box from his backseat.
          I accompanied him out to his sky blue 1964 Lincoln Continental in the driveway, he opened the backdoor, and I commented that it was backward.  He laughed and said it was a suicide door...no further explanation.  I'm seven.  Why's it called that?  Because it's backwards.  I didn't think to myself at this point:  Oh boy, living the rest of my childhood with this motherfucker is going to be a real treat if he thinks that's an explanation.  But I did the third-grader's equivalent (shoulder shrug or eye-roll or head shake) and thought "adults sure are stupid".
          Seeing the size of the metal box, painted the same color as the car, I thought he was testing me to either see how strong I was or to see how willing I was to try to pick up something I knew I couldn't lift.  I couldn't tell which test it was by his smile, so I went along with it...grabbed the handle, gave it a tug (it didn't budge) and then watched as he oompfed and grunted it into the house.  It was filled with his coin collection...and probably weighed as much me.
          In 1995 he died of heart disease complicated by diabetes and exacerbated by being an obstinate asshole.  I've written about my stepdad before.  Because he was divorced from my mother, after his funeral I took a month off from my military duties, slept in his house, and spent hundreds of hours sorting through and throwing away decades of junk, files, and papers (he wasn't a full-blown hoarder but he kept unnecessary things...like thirty years of credit card receipts).
          This 1¾" (46mm) marble was on a shelf in his bedroom surrounded by other knick-knacks...my last memory of him.

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          sphoto number 5

          I lived in Mons, Belgium 1993-95.  Summer weather permitting, I occasionally drove west about ninety miles to one of the beaches near Oostend (which I thought at the time was another everything-is-backward-in-French thing, today I read on everyone's favorite chalkboard that there's a historical reason why the farthest western city is named Eastend).
          After a long beach afternoon in 1994, I and my wife-at-the-time had a very nice dinner and stayed in a bed and breakfast in nearby Bruges.  The next morning I rescued this from a flea market vendor who was intending to cut it in half.  
          He was running a geode grab-bag: select from a huge pile of over three hundred various shapes and sizes, pay for it, and then he'd halve and polish the halves.  No guarantees that your geode would contain a druzy cavity.  On display were precut and polished halves with beautiful crystals lining the inside pockets (priced double to 20X more than the uncut, rough geodes).
          Although there is a slight score mark on this 2 inch (53mm) geode, it's as perfectly spherical as a naturally formed rock could be.
          The Flemish vendor (who spoke no English) seemed quizzical (het inclusief!) and became rather flabbergasted when I didn't want to take advantage of his saw and grindstone services and couldn't explain myself other than to smile and repeat, dit is goad, as I nodded and walked away.

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          sphoto number 4

          Last April we stayed in a yurt (because we'd never done it before).  Two mid-week nights were available the following week, so we decided the weather was nice enough and made the reservation (we aren't dedicated foolish enough to lock-in anything over a year in the future...so yurt camping in the Summer or on a weekend would never happen).
          As we headed to Fort Stevens State Park, the weather was normal for Oregon in April: partly cloudy and cool.  We stopped in Astoria, Oregon, to eat and I found this sphere in a second-hand shop.  Slightly larger than 2" (52mm), this hand-blown glass float most-probably was attached to a Japanese fisherman's net a half-century or more ago.
          As it got dark it began to snow.  By the next morning many of the high-passes were closed even though only about two or three inches accumulated on the beach.  We drove the ice and snow covered sand, explored local eateries, and kept as warm as anyone could when camping in below freezing weather.
          Although the yurt had a built-in space heater it also had edge flaps which were laced and tied-down.  One cancelled out the other.  Depending on the strength of the wind blowing through the cracks, the interior temperature fluctuated between 45° and 55° (7-13°C).

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          sphoto number 3

          One of my most recently acquired spheres was a gift from my fiancée.  In 2008 we noticed a 2" (50mm) ivory billiard ball in an antique store near McMinnville, Oregon.  I was ambivalent about ivory.  After some weeks of thought and discussion, I realized buying antique ivory would no more incentivize the present and future slaughter of large mammals than would watching 1984-Traci-Lords-porn jeopardize the innocence* of today and tomorrow's sixteen-year-olds.  So I decided that if I ever ran across another antique snooker ball, I'd buy it.
          Two years later, my fiancée was traveling home after a week of working-on-the-road and I was sitting in our living room gazing at my collection.  I thought about the routes she could travel, realized she might be driving through McMinnville, and called her.
          'Hiya'
          'Hi, I was just wondering if you were driving back through the McMinnville area.'
          'Yup, why?'
          'Do you remember that antique mall we visited a few years ago?'
          'uuuuum yeaah?'
          'Well I thought that if they were still open when you got there, could you do me a favor and see if they still have that ivory sphere?  I know it's a long shot...'
          'THAT is so weird, I've got goose bumps.'
          'Huh?  What is?'
          'Do you know where I am right now?'
          'Oh wow.'
          'There goes my surprise.  I'm standing at the check-out counter with it in my hand.  You know it's got a couple cracks, right?'
          'Yea, that's OK.  What made you think to stop?'
          'I was driving past and just remembered talking about it.'
          'Is the din-din din-din Twilight Zone music as loud on your end as it is on mine?'
          'I can hear it much too loudly and waaay too clearly.'

* A human quality which, although not yet extinct, is narwhal-rare.  Or is that just the cranky old duffer in me coming out?