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Aw, do I have to?

The problem with Friday is that I tend to be far too tired to write a blog in time to get it posted. In fact, I am writing this about ten minutes shy of my average weeknight bedtime--my late average weeknight bedtime, which I refuse to divulge in public for fear of appearing really, really old--and I'm fading fast.

But I can say this: Microsoft sucks. I haven't beat them up in a while, if at all, but let me tell you, I have over 3,000 fake hits on this website all because of holes in Microsoftware. I used to get just a few hits from crackers trying to see if my ISP had their patches up to date. Now I get thousands per month. It's annoying. I'll have to get on the phone with tech support tomorrow and see what we can do about this.

It also makes me wonder if I'm truly getting calls from around the world, or if those are just piggybacked addresses for the crackers. Because if they're not fake, this website has gone global. I'm really wondering what the reader in the United Arab Emirates thinks of it, though. I'm guessing not a whole lot. I'm not caring about that, either.--MAY



Games children play

Okay, I'm outside on the front porch again, because it's still warm enough to write these blogs outside, and because James and I have decided that we're going to stay out as long as we can, because the real autumn is coming in tomorrow and it's going to be too cold to stay outside.

James is my next-door neighbor's son whom I take care of every Tuesday, but we switched it to tonight this week. I like hanging with James. He's ten years old, and has single-handedly convinced me that if I have a son at some point, that would be just as fine as having a daughter. And he did it by just being James.

This is going to be difficult to explain, but prior to knowing James, when I thought of having a child, I never thought of having anything but a girl. It isn't that I don't like boys--I have a nephew and I adore him, and I've got friends and relatives who have sons, and like them, too--but when I imagined myself with a child, it was never a son. But as I got to know Brenda, James' mother, I got to know James. And he's a sweet, kind, loving boy who's a joy to be around.

So I look forward to our dinners on Tuesday, and so does James. He stores up questions to ask me, because he thinks I know everything. I've explained to him that I know nearly everything, but not all. Not really. I told him I just read a lot. Tonight we discussed anthrax, and why he would probably never come in contact with it. And we discussed Apollo's Chariot, the roller coaster at Busch Gardens in Williamsburg that he was just on this weekend. And we discussed how much he likes the chicken wings he orders from the Chinese restaurant every time we go there.

When we got home, we let my cats out to roam, and James collected handfuls of berries from the tree in front of our apartment so he could throw them at his mother when she got home. I pointed out that it was a bit unsporting of him to have a huge stockpile while she had none, and that she might not like him launching a sneak attack. So he decided he would tell her he was going to throw them first. But before that happened, we discovered that my cats liked chasing the berries, so I joined him in picking and throwing the berries. It's amazing how fast you can revert to childhood given the slightest provocation.

A fun evening. A fine farewell to warm weather. Two nights of contentment in a row. Life is good.--MAY



Farewell to shirt-sleeves

It's 75 degrees outside, 82 degrees in my kitchen right now, and that was even with the patio door and front windows open and a breeze going through all afternoon. This is probably the last really nice day of the year until next year. Well, okay, tomorrow's supposed to be nearly as nice, but since it's not at nice, today is the last shot until spring. Which is why I am sitting outside (in my shirtsleeves) on the front stoop (that's what we used to call porches when I was a kid, leading to games like stoopball, the playing of which I remember, the rules of which I do not), and my cats are trying to decide if they want to face the wilds of the courtyard, where horrible creatures like, oh, leaves, are falling from trees.

Actually, I think someone was walking in the leaves around the building from Gracie, because she was farther than she's ever been from the front door, I heard leaves rustling, and then she came racing back faster than I'd ever seen her. Now the cats are lying on the front porch right outside my door and pretending they didn't really want to go exploring, anyway. Gracie's tail is no longer puffed. It always looks funny when she's frightened, because it puffs out everywhere except at the base of the tail, so it looks rather like a banana, albeit a bright orange, ringed one.

It's really nice being able to stop at King's and still get home from work at five, early enough to still enjoy the last hours of daylight. And it's nice and quiet here, unlike where I used to live. Oh, and there's no white trash living in my apartment complex, also unlike where I used to live. My guess is that my downstairs neighbor's son was at the beginning of a long road to many jail sentences. The cops knew him by sight and name. I'm so glad I don't live there any more. My current neighbors are a programmer and a fish geneticist. Pretty decent guys, except for a bit of noise now and then. But since they're such decent guys, all I have to do is ask them to tone it down, and it's done.

Funny, I haven't felt this way for a while. There's a certain voice my blogs take on, and this one hasn't been heard in weeks.

It is the voice of contentment. It is a good thing.--MAY



Safety first

I found this on the AP news site. It's tips on what to do in case of a terrorist attack. I think it needs to be deconstructed.

Pick two places to meet family in an emergency -- one near the home and the other at a more distant location if the area is evacuated.

I have a problem with this. The problem is that I live alone, and so do, according to our last census, something like one third of Americans. Now, those of us who are schizophrenic enough can still pick two, or three, or however many necessary for the number of personalities--places to meet. But those of us with just one personality--hey, what about us? Who do we meet, and where? Hmph.

Put together a kit with a three-day supply of water and food that won't spoil, changes of clothing, first aid items, prescription medications, battery-powered radio, flashlight, extra batteries, spare car keys, tools, bedding, matches, backup eyeglasses, sanitation supplies, important family documents, non-electric can opener.

Okay. Three days' worth of chips and dip and a sixpack of my favorite beverage (which would be Coca-cola here). The rest? Too much trouble. Fuhgeddaboudit.

The average person needs two quarts of water a day to drink and should have two quarts for sanitation. Nonperishable food choices include dried fruits and nuts, canned goods, peanut butter and crackers.

Are you trying to tell me there won't be flush toilets in the bomb shelter?

If evacuation is necessary, use travel routes specified by local authorities, not shortcuts because some areas could be impassable or dangerous. Wear sturdy shoes, long-sleeved shirts, long pants. Listen for instructions on the radio. Lock your home.

Yes, lock those doors, because in case of nuclear attack, you want to make sure that the radiation has to break down the door in order to get inside and steal your stereo.

Take note of emergency exits when inside buildings, subways, stadiums. Be aware of heavy or breakable objects that could move, fall or break in an explosion. If trapped in debris, use a flashlight and don't kick up dust. Cover your mouth with a handkerchief or clothing. Tap on a pipe or wall to alert rescuers.

Show of hands, those of you who can make it through seven innings of a Yankees game and still pass a DWI checkpoint! Okay, you're the ones who get to yell "DUCK!" when you see a pillar falling. Oh, and if you bring your survival kit along with you from step 2, you can probably tap on the pipe with that non-electric can opener.

If a chemical attack occurs, authorities would likely instruct residents either to evacuate immediately or seek shelter where they are and seal the premises. Leaving the shelter to help victims can be a deadly decision. Chemical agents, which can be odorless and hard to detect, can kill or incapacitate people, destroy livestock or ravage crops.

You mean like, oh, anthrax in Post Offices?

Similar instructions might follow a biological threat. Biological agents, such as contagious smallpox or non-contagious anthrax might be dispersed as airborne particles and be used to contaminate food or water. Anyone exposed should see a doctor as soon as possible.

You mean, like, oh, Postal employees?

Beware of mail that is unexpected or comes from an unfamiliar sender, is addressed to someone who no longer lives or works at the address, has no return address or a return address different from the postmark, is of unusual weight, given its size, or is lopsided or oddly shaped. Also of concern: mail marked "Personal" or "Confidential" or mail with protruding wires, strange odors or stains. Such mail shouldn't be opened or agitated: Call police.

Has anyone yet copped to the idea that all junk mail is unexpected, most is addressed to "Your Name or Current Resident", and half is of unusual weight, size, and is oddly shaped? Man, if Our Buddy Bin really wanted to slaughter Americans, all he'd need to do is bulk mail anthrax and title the envelope "YOU HAVE WON ONE MILLION DOLLARS!"

If told to stay inside your home, lock all windows and exterior doors. Turn off fans, heating and air conditioning systems. Close the fireplace damper. Get to an interior room without windows that's above ground level. An aboveground location is better because some chemicals are heavier than air and may seep into basements even if windows are closed. Use tape to seal cracks around the door and vents into the room. Listen to radios or TVs for news and instructions.

An interior room without windows that's above ground level? Hm. In some houses, that would be the bathroom. In most apartments, that would be a closet. Okay, everybody pile into the closet!

Sources: American Red Cross, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Justice Department and the U.S. Postal Service.

Hoo-boy. We're in trouble now.--MAY



What the world needs now is laughs, just laughs.

Nothing but loony tunes today.

I have yet to pontificate (ain't that a grand word?) on Mr. B. Bunny, also known as The Great Philosopher. I think that all modern American philosophy begins with Bugs.

You know his signature phrase, "What a maroon!"? Well, I have a rather embarrassing story to relate. It wasn't until I was in my late twenties that I realized "maroon" was his mispronunciation of "moron". All those years, I thought it was his own particular insult-word. My brother enlightened me as to its true meaning, and, of course, proceeded to call me a maroon and laugh at me.

My all-time favorite line is "Of course you realize, dis means war!" My second all-time favorite line is Daffy's: "I'm rich! I'm a happy miser!" That one is from the spoof of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, or at least, the cave of riches. "Dah, open Saskatchewan? Open sarsparilla?"

My nephew likes Bugs Bunny, and we can quote him to each other for quite a while without getting bored. We also quote "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World" to each other, as it's my and my brothers' all-time favorite comedy film. If you've never seen it, you're missing one of the best, funniest movies ever made. "Rat Race" was a takeoff to and homage of MMMMW. It's really neat to see that my 11-year-old nephew appreciates it.

My Yankees won last night. If they win tonight, they'll be in the World Series for the fourth year in a row. The only bad thing about beating Seattle is I always feel so bad for Sweet Lou Piniella. He was one of my favorite Yankees back in the heyday of the late 70s. In fact, he's involved with an embarrassing story regarding me and baseball.

You see, I was dating my childhood sweetheart at the time--come to think of it, it was the first (but not the last) time we dated. He was a Yankee fan, I was indifferent, so we watched baseball from time to time, and I remember early on seeing Lou Piniella come up to bat and hearing the crowd boo, so I asked Scott, "How come they're booing him?"

Ah, ignorance. They were shouting, "Looooooou!"

Now, of course, when Lou comes out of the dugout in Yankee Stadium, they are booing him. Or are they? I wouldn't be.

I wonder if this is also the time to admit I was hopelessly in love with Bucky Dent? Well, along with about a million other female baseball fans. Cutest little bowlegged shortstop in baseball, I used to say. My tastes have changed, though. Now I want to marry Paul O'Neill. Ooh, that jaw. My sister-in-law's uncle called me in to watch his at-bats this summer by yelling, "Meryl, your husband's up!" And yes, I know he's already married. We'd boot her.

A funny question I heard today: What do you say to an atheist when s/he sneezes?--MAY



Three cheers for the red, white and blue

One of the items I found in yesterday's file cabinet makeover was a small American flag, the kind they give out for free during the Fourth of July fireworks. I was trying to decide whether or not I wanted to put it in or on my car. There's an ongoing debate between Heidi and me as to whether the display of the American flag is wrapping yourself in it, or if it's a truly patriotic gesture. While the initial gestures during the early days of our national tragedies were undoubtedly sincere expressions of patriotism and spirit, we're both of the opinion that some flag-displaying rather reeks of wrapping yourself in the flag for many, and we don't want to do it for that reason. Patriotism is one thing. Blind patriotism or lockstep patriotism isn't patriotism, it's nationalism and it leads to horrible things like, oh, Japanese internment camps, mobs beating up people who look different, and, in many other, less enlightened nations, death for the outsiders. And yes, here too, albeit in much lesser form.

I've been a patriot my entire adult life, and I think I was as patriotic a child as a child can be, what with the lack of independent thought. I've said many times that I think the single greatest moment of mankind, bar none, is the American Revolution. It was the culmination of the Enlightenment, and the world is as it is today because our ancestors broke away from the mother country. Our mottos, our pluralism, our dedication to a government of the rational for the rational, with no Mother Church sticking her nose in our government, our defiance of European customs--all these things contributed to what we are today, and America's mark on the world needs no further description. I know that E Pluribus Unum means "From many, one" and I can probably name more signers of the Declaration of Independence, and more Presidents, than the average American. I've even read the Constitution.

That being said, as I was looking for a place inside my Jeep to put the flag, I was thinking that it only feels right if it's for my personal viewing. I don't have to fly the flag so others can see it. However, I think I came up with the perfect spot for all of the people who insist we must fly the American flag during these troubled times.

See, on the way to my car, I was carrying out a couple of bags of trash, and I had no other place to put the flag but to stick it in my back pocket. So, in effect, I had the American flag sticking out of my ass. And that's exactly where I think the pseudo-patriots should stick theirs.

Site stuff

I'm up to date on all the archives, including the indexed archives. For those of you clowns who go through them and notice that week 24 is missing, that's because I didn't write anything during that week, therefore there is nothing to archive. I'm trying to decide if it's good or bad that I've managed to go 26 weeks--half a year--with only once not writing at least one blog per week. I think that's a good thing. After all, I'm not getting paid to do this. Although I am getting a great deal of satisfaction from it.--MAY



The patina of our lives

Today I spent the morning doing a long-put off task: Cleaning out my file cabinet so I can begin to clear out the paper junk that lies in piles and bags waiting to be sorted and tossed. I'm also going to clean out my spare room in the hopes of actually cutting down on things to be moved when I moved. But that trip through the file cabinet, which became the repository for all the documents I felt I couldn't or shouldn't throw away, became a trip down memory lane, albeit a dusty one.

I found cancelled checks and documents from not one, but two defunct banks. There were concert ticket stubs, stubs and programs from Broadway plays (I saw "The Mystery of Edwin Drood" on my birthday in 1986). There were work documents and personal documents and pictures of people I no longer see, work parties and birthday parties and letters and pictures from my deceased relatives. I stopped and looked long at Aunt Edith's 60th birthday party picture. I was there. It's blended into a lot of other parties at Aunt Edith's, like the retirement party for Uncle Lee, who made it out of the San Diego Post Office without being shot by a psycho employee. (And I'm not kidding there--his office had the most murders of any Post Office in the nation.) That's the party where I was holding up the cue cards to a song the cousins made up, lyrics by them and tune to "I've Been Working on the Railroad". That's the one where they all told me not to quit my day job, as I kept forgetting to switch cue cards and they all kept reminding me between lines.

I found my letter of resignation to the type house I worked for when, not knowing I was going against the old adage, I quit my job to become a full-time writer. The letter is one giant piece of hubris from beginning to end, even assuming that they're devastated to see me leave--it begins, "There's no easy way to break this to you." Gawd. I was so young.

There's a Valentine's Day card from my brother that really surprised me, since I thought he only started sending me those when he got married and his wife reminded him to. This was from his single days.

There are wedding invitations and graduation invitations and letters from people who I was once so close to. There were dot matrix(!) printouts of logins to my old BBS that I ran in pre-WWW days. I found the receipt for my first 20 meg hard drive for my old IBM PC-XT. I thought it cost $250. It cost $515. Twenty megs for $515. How many gigs will that buy today? Christ. You can practically buy a whole computer for that price today.

I found the original lease letter to my old apartment in Bloomfield. I found a picture of my younger brother, me, and my then-boyfriend at a college party. My brother had hair. And attitude, as he was flipping the photographer the bird. The hair is gone, the attitude is not. I found a boarding pass for an Eastern Airlines flight from Kansas City to Newark, and thought, "What the hell was I doing in Kansas City?"

And that's only in two little drawers. I'm a packrat; I've known that a long time. When I moved to this apartment just under two years ago, while going through my things I made up the One-Year Rule: If I hadn't used or seen the object in at least a year, it got tossed. There were exceptions, of course--memorabilia stays, some things that I didn't use because I hadn't the room for them didn't get tossed--but overall, I threw out a lot of junk back then. Now the rest is going. And the packrat in me is screaming for me to keep the old combination lock without a combination ("You can figure it out! You can find the combination somewhere!") and the 14-year-old income tax documents ("They might change the seven-year rule and audit you anyway!"), but I think I'm winning the fight. I'm throwing out the lock.

But yeah, I'll keep the income tax documents. They're only a couple of folders' worth. There's a huge bag of junk sitting next to them. There goes a little bit of my history. And a whole lot of dust.--MAY

Dear Diary

I absolutely could not resist this. One of the documents in my filing cabinet was my diary that I kept--extremely irregularly--when I was thirteen years old. Here's an extract:

"Dear Diary,
Nothing special happened today, [nearly every entrance starts this way] except one kid puked the last period of the day. We moved to another room while the janitors cleaned up. 6 more days until the big spelling bee. It's Monday. By the way, I'm going to sell All-occasion cards. I'm mailing my order blank tomorrow."

I also noticed that every few entries, I was mad enough to "beat up Shari", who was one Shari Rubenstein, whom I did, indeed, get into a fight with, and it is one of my most shameful memories to this day. I let peer pressure push me into a fight with her when I really didn't want to and shouldn't have done it. But I was trying to impress the tough kids in school because I was starting to hang around with them. It's a good thing, after all, that we moved when we did. I was heading down the road to juvenile delinquency. Those kids were no angels.

The part where I reported getting my first period is completely crossed out in pencil. That's because my brothers and friends pretended that they'd found my diary and read it, and I went ballistic trying to prevent them from reading something so personal. Wow. I remember that day vividly. I was so mad at my older brother even when I found out he was lying and hadn't taken my diary, it took two or three people to drag me off of him.

I have always, ALWAYS hated cruel practical jokes. There are practical jokes that aren't cruel, and that are funny to the joker and the jokee. Then there are all the rest. I got into trouble at a job once because I refused to go along with a cruel practical joke. They'd locked a salesman up on the roof, where he used to go to smoke from time to time. They found it hilarious that he couldn't get back inside. I found it childish and unfunny. They got mad at me for ruining their joke when I unlocked the door. I told them explicitly to leave me completely out of all their jokes from then on. They did, but man, they were rotten to each other. One of the jokes they found hilarious: Opening the bathroom door while the salesman was inside sitting on the toilet, because the door was out of reach unless he stood up. Ha. Ha. Are we laughing yet?

Okay, this is the most schizophrenic blog I've ever written, I think. I'll stop now.--MAY