Monday, January 31, 2011


A SQUATLO STORY: NUMBER TWENTY-NINE "YOU DON'T HAVE A HAIR ON YOUR ASS IF YOU DON'T OPEN THIS DOOR!" ( dealing with apartment neighbors over the years )

              I was over at A Beer for the Shower a few minutes ago offering some advice (solicited by the malcontents who write that blog, one of the funniest out there, by the way...) on how to deal with shitty neighbors.  I've had extensive experience with this myself, having had several apartments during my single daze, so I feel qualified to help.  After pondering all of the weirdos and pricks I've dealt with over the years, I thought I might detail a few of those incidents here for the edification of my readers.  I don't necessarily recommend any of my own methods for dealing with assholes, as my record for successful interventions is a little spotty.  
              My last apartment before moving in with my lovely wife was a nice place, compared to most of the apartments I've rented.  It was a townhouse, with a loft and bedroom upstairs, and another bedroom on the ground floor.  The apartment complex had four swimming pools, including an indoor/outdoor pool,  racketball courts, several tennis courts, a nice sauna, and a well-equipped exercise room.  The management of the complex was very responsive, and usually took great care of those of us who had been there for several years.  The coolest thing about the location was that I could walk from my apartment to the Stones River below Percy Priest Dam whenever I felt like snagging bluegill and bass with my flyrod.  I was happy in that apartment, all things considered.
               But during the five years I lived there I had three different sets of neighbors on either side of me who seemed to live to torment me.  The first pains in my ass moved in shortly after I did, taking the apartment next door to mine.  Our front doors were adjacent to one another, so we passed one another on the sidewalk to and from the parking lot quite often.  There were three guys living in the apartment, all of them in their early twenties.  They drove loud, huge trucks, and insisted upon grabbing the available parking spots in front of our building whenever possible.  But I could live with that... parking is a grab and growl kind of thing.  Whoever gets there first, gets the spot.
             What I couldn't deal with was their habit of slamming their front door at all hours of the night.  My bedroom window was situated so that it faced out toward our front doors.  The headboard of my bed was against the bottom of that window.  Every night (or so it seemed) one or more of these guys would have what came to be known in my life as "the bimbo release".  What's a bimbo release, you might ask?  Well, that's when loud drunken women were escorted from the apartment door just outside my bedroom window, usually at about 2:00AM.  The factory job I had at the time required that I get up for work at 4AM.  Being awakened by drunken women and thumping heavy metal music just inches away from the window behind my head two hours before my alarm was set to go off became a source of irritation.  I made a very civil and adult effort to make my displeasure known to them, by visiting their apartment one afternoon when I knew they were home.
            All three of these guys came to the door to hear my request that they hold it down when releasing their women outside my bedroom window.  I let them know my work schedule, pointed out how hard it was to get back to sleep after being awakened every night, and politely asked for their help in keeping it down.  All three apologized and agreed to make sure it didn't happen again.
            That very night they had the loudest party and subsequent bimbo release yet.  They stood outside their front door and had extended conversations with several women, all of whom were drunk to the point that they must have lost much of their sense of hearing, because they felt the need to shout every word of their fond farewells to one another.  I gritted my teeth and made a mental note to pay them another civil and polite visit the following day.
             No one would come to the door the next day.  Their music volume dropped upon hearing my knock, and I could hear someone on the other side of the door, but no one would open it.  Okay, I thought, at least they're aware that I'm back with the same complaint.  Mission accomplished. 
              Nope.  That night they had another bimbo release, and after lying and listening to this silly shit outside my window for about five minutes I decided it was time to confront these assholes in a more direct manner.  So I rolled out of bed and put on some pants, and just before going out the front door of my apartment I pulled the venetian blinds apart and took a glance outside.  That's when I saw my next door neighbor pissing on the wall of my apartment just to the right of my window.  He held a cell phone to his ear with one hand, and was happily pointing his piss at my wall with the other while he talked.  Everyone else had left.  He was alone, having a conversation on his phone and pissing on my apartment wall.  I lost it.
             I took an axe handle out my closet (kept there for just such an occasion) and burst out of my front door in full Congo mode.  I hit the wall of the building with that axe handle hard enough to dislodge part of the siding not more than five feet from where Sir Pissalot was dribbling, and probably would have taken a swing at his fucking head had he not turned and ran to his truck in panic.  He left a trail of piss down the sidewalk, fired up his truck and spun his tires backing away from my approach.  I was absolutely certifiable at that particular moment... and I'm really grateful he had the good sense to vacate the premises for a few hours until I'd left for work.
              I called the apartment's security number that night and lodged a complaint, then called the manager from work to tell him the story I just told you.  He expressed shock that anyone would do such a thing, then proceeded to give me a lecture about taking matters into my own hands like that, warning me that things might have escalated and that I should have called the police instead.
              I let him know that where I was from, when you look out your bedroom window and see another man pointing his pecker your direction, that individual needs immediate attention.  He had them evicted the next day.  I have no idea how an eviction could take place that quickly, but all three of them were out of there the following day.  I slept well for several nights, until...

              The second pain in the ass neighbor moved in on the opposite side of my apartment.  Donna (her real name) didn't seem like a pain in the ass when I met her.  She was sort of pretty, in a Kate Hudson kind of way, and invited me in for a beer the first time we passed one another in the parking lot.  I'll forever be grateful to this woman for introducing me to the best mixed drink on Earth, the B-52.  The first time she poured Kahlua, Baileys, and Grand Marnier into a glass for me I was forever in her debt.  It's killer, if you've never had one.  Over crushed ice, it's even better.  But I digress...
               Donna turned out to be an alcoholic, (what a surprise, eh?) and a bad one at that.  She would come over or call at all hours, and was more than a little insistent upon having things her way whenever she demanded my attention.  If she wasn't whining about her job, she was whining about the men in her life.  If she wasn't whining about them, they were pounding on her door in the middle of the night trying to fix whatever they'd done that had inspired her whining.  It was during one of these periods during her brief residence next door that I, somehow, ended up as a target for her misguided ardor.
               At exactly 2:15 one MORNING, my phone rang.  Now, when I get a phone call that time of night, I assume that one of my kids has been in an accident, or gotten into trouble, or someone in my family has died.  I don't think happy thoughts at 2:15AM, especially on a work day when the alarm is set to go off in less than two hours...
               I grabbed the phone is a semi-panic, expecting the worst.  The voice on the other end of the phone was Donna's, but I could barely hear her whisper.  She had just whispered something into the phone, and I couldn't make out what she'd said.  So I said something intelligent, like, "Huh?"  Hey, it was 2:15AM!  I'm not the smoothest son of a bitch on Earth at 2:15AM.
                Here's what she repeated into the phone, again in a sultry whisper (swear to god...):
                "I have a pretty pussy."
                I was still trying to figure out who the hell was on the phone when that sank in... but managed a reply.
                "Pardon me?"
                She said it again. 
                "I have a pretty pussy."
                I cleared my throat.  How does one respond to this?  No one prepares for this kind of conversation, I'm pretty sure.  I know I sure as hell hadn't.  It was surreal...
                 "Okay..." I said, completely unsure of myself.
                 She continued, again in a whisper.
                 "I left the door unlocked.  I want you to come over and come up to my bedroom."
                 I looked at the clock.  It was now 2:16.  Normally, being a relatively healthy and horny individual, I would have looked upon this bizarro behavior as an opportunity not to be missed.  In fact, at probably any other time in my young adult life I probably would have hurt myself dashing up the stairs to her bedroom.  But this woman's behavior over the past few months had turned me off completely.  She was a miserable drunk, almost nightly, and I'd had more than enough of her bullshit phone calls.
                    I told her I was sleeping, that I had to work in the morning, but, hey, you know, thanks for the offer, etc.
                    She didn't take it well.  After I hung up, the phone rang again.  This time she whispered, "You're going to lie there and think about my pussy.  You're going to lie there and throb... You'll be over...  The door's unlocked.  C'mon up."
                    I distinctly remember telling her to lock her door because I was going back to sleep, and not to call me again.  And I might have thought about her pretty pussy and actually throbbed, had she not almost immediately turned up the monster stereo in her apartment to the threshold of pain.  The walls banged and thumped.  She seemed to be going from room to room slamming herself against the walls between our apartments.  When I left for work a couple of hours later the music was still banging away next door, and I felt a twinge of remorse for the other tenants in the building, as if it were my fault this was happening.  If I'd just acquiesced to her command performance everyone would be sleeping peacefully in the neighborhood.  But I hadn't taken the bait, and now she was punishing everyone for my insubordination.
                   Donna moved out about a month later.  She wasn't missed by anyone in the building, least of all me.  I have thought about that call more than once, but not in a throbby kind of way.  More like one would think about Glenn Close after having seen "Fatal Attraction."  Scary women tend to stick in your mind long after they've moved away, even if they didn't actually boil your bunny.

                 I'm going to add a third story to this trilogy of neighborly bliss, and want to preface this one by saying that I'm not particularly proud of my behavior in the following tale, and that I consider myself fortunate not to have been arrested as a result of it.  Sometimes I get a little excitable...
                 After Donna moved away, her apartment remained vacant for over a year.  That was the best year of my apartment-dwelling life.  A really quiet and cool woman had moved into the apartment previously occupied by the Geiko Cave Men (those of the bimbo release parties), and for that one year things were about as peaceful as apartment living can be.  Until...
                Donna's apartment was rented by a man, his wife, and their adult daughter.  In a parking lot conversation with the daughter I was informed that they were waiting on their new home construction to be completed, and would be moving as soon as their house was finished.  She let me know how much they hated living there.  They hated the complex, hated the location, and without specifically naming us as co-conspirators, hated the neighbors.  Duly noted.  You don't like it here.  Have a nice life.
               That would have been the extent of our contact, but for their annoying habit of banging on the wall of my apartment whenever they thought my music or television was too loud.  Now, I'd had about fifty different apartment neighbors in my lifetime, and no one had ever complained about the music or television noise before.  I rarely had my tunes up loud enough to bother anyone.  But these folks must have had supernatural auditory powers.  On more than one occasion they tapped on the walls to let me know I needed to hold it down.  Not being overtly confrontational (unless, of course, you're taking a leak on my bedroom window), and knowing how annoying loud and obnoxious neighbors can be, I would dutifully turn my stereo or television down in response.  I'm pretty easy to get along with...
                One evening, the lovely (and dangerous) woman who would later become my wife came to visit me at my apartment.  The two of us were playing Scrabble, a nice quiet game of Scrabble.  The stereo was on, but at a very low volume, just background music.  We take our Scrabble Wars very seriously... you can ask anyone.  There was a knock at the door, so I got up and opened the door.  There stood a Nashville Metropolitan Police Officer.  A large one.
              "Can I help you, sir?" I said.  I was truly perplexed by this visit.
              "Sir, your neighbors have called to complain about the loud music."
              I think I actually started laughing.  Loud music?  We were playing Scrabble!  I invited the officer inside, and he followed me to the living room.  My beautiful Scrabble Goddess met him with a smile, and we let him stand and judge for himself whether or not the music was too loud.  After all, we'd had no idea he was coming, hadn't touched the stereo since he'd gotten the call, so what he was hearing was what THEY'D been hearing from next door.
                He agreed that our music wasn't at all loud, excused the interruption, and went back next door to talk to the "complaintant."  We laughed it off, and continued our game.  Those rowdy Scrabble hooligans!  You have to keep an eye out for them, they're liable to tear down the place with one of their out of control games!
                Two weeks later the two of us were enjoying yet another game of Scrabble, only this time it was a 6:30PM on New Years Eve.  The music might have been a tad louder, and we were (I'll freely admit) much further along into the party than we had been for the last visit from Officer Rogers.  We had been slamming beers and shots for the better part of the afternoon, with every intention of getting well-lit before welcoming in the New Year.
                That's when someone next door decided to thump the wall VERY hard, almost as if they were using the axe handle from my bedroom closet.  This was a very clear signal that any further noise from our abode was going to result in yet another visit from the police.  We looked at each other.  I turned down the stereo.  We tried to go back to our game, but the more we thought about it, the more it pissed us both off.
               It was six-fucking-thirty on New Year's Fucking Eve, for Christ's sake!  If you are expected to be a little louder than normal, it's expected on New Year's Fucking Eve!  It began to piss me off more by the minute.  How dare these stick-in-the-mud assholes bang on my wall on New Year's Eve, especially when the music isn't any louder that THAT?  I managed, with my fiance's help, to talk myself into a bit of an attitude.
               That's when they banged on the wall again.  Oh, no you didn't.  No, you didn't.  I was up and out of the chair in a heartbeat.  I went out the front door of my apartment, walked around the sidewalk to their's, and began to knock.  I used the little brass knocker when no one opened the door.  I could hear someone against the other side of the door, probably looking through the peephole to see who was at the door.  I politely knocked again.
               All I wanted to do (at that point, swear to Jebus) was explain that my music wasn't loud at all, perhaps invite them over to listen for themselves from within my apartment, maybe (meh... maybe not) invite them stick around for a drink or two.  Let's be friends.  This is silly.  But no one answered the door.
               So I knocked louder.  I could feel my blood beginning to rise.  Now I was pissed.  You've got the balls to bang on my wall, but you won't open the door to discuss this like an adult?  Are you shitting me?
                The future Mrs. Squatlo had come over to see how much trouble I was getting myself into, and she arrived just as I had begun down that road.
                 I knocked again, this time with my fist, and between pounds on the door yelled out the following threat (and I have no idea where this came from... totally unlike me):
                 "If you don't open this door, you don't have a hair on your ass!"
                 I think I yelled that more than a few times.  It made sense at the time, but then, I was pretty drunk, and a lot of things that make sense to me when I'm drinking seem more than a little warped and confusing later.  Telling someone that they don't have hair on their ass is one of those things I don't understand in retrospect.  But, like I said, it made perfect sense at the time.
                 They never opened the door.  We went back next door and cranked up the music.  In fact, I think I dug out a Roy Buchanan CD, notable for the searingly loud and extended guitar solos, and turned my Bose system up to previously uncharted levels.  The pictures began to move around on the walls, and the curtains began to shake with every bass note.  It was, admittedly, sort of loud.
                 It was so loud I'm not sure we heard the same police officer knock the first time.  A knock or two later from the brass knocker sent me to the door, and brought Officer Rogers into our lives for the second time.  This time he wasn't amused by our lame excuses.
                 He asked if I'd pounded and kicked the door of the assholes in question, and had yelled obscenities at them through their apartment door.  Indeed I had, I admitted.  I told the officer that I thought our noise levels had been reasonable, earlier, not now, of course, and that I was pissed because it was New Year's Eve and the people next door were obviously members of The Fun Police, and probably had pencils lodged in their rectums to improve their posture.
                 He informed me that he had the right to arrest me on the spot for what I'd already done, and promised me that if he had to come back to this address again he would do just that.  We agreed to turn off the stereo, and we didn't leave the apartment again that night.  As I recall, we didn't make it all the way to midnight for the New Year's official beginning... I'm pretty sure we got sloppy drunk and exchanged bodily fluids before falling asleep.
                 The assholes next door were still there when I moved from that apartment and into my wife's house here in suburbia.  Wherever they are now, I'm sure their neighbors hate them, if for nothing else than their repeated tales about the psychotic neighbor they had when they were living in that horrid apartment in Nashville.  I'm sure they've called the police multiple times about all sorts of things in their new neighborhood, and you can bet no neighborhood kids are allowed on their lawn. 
               We can't all be great, considerate neighbors like me.  It's a damn shame, too...






          Up in Minnesota and Wisconsin they have lakes and rivers that freeze over every winter, and sometimes some of the local morons leave their ice houses out on the frozen water too long.  Minnesota and Wisconsin lose a few of the duller knives from their states' gene pool drawers every spring when those ice houses (and the idiots in them) fall through the ice.
           Here in Tennessee, we rarely have ice house fatalities.  BUT... we do have some religions that pass around poisonous serpents as a regular part of their services, and every now and then one or two of our less-fortunate brothers bites the proverbial dust. 
           There's a story out of East Ridge, Tennessee, of a guy whose friend brought a copperhead over to his house so he could help him determine the snake's gender.  Why it would be important to know whether you had a male or female copperhead in your box wasn't spelled out in the story, but suffice it to say, the medical exam didn't go well.
            Paramedics tried to revive 26 year old Wade Westbrook at the scene, but he was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital.
            If global climate change ever reaches Minnesota and Wisconsin, we can always send some of our snakes to them to help thin out the gene pool...
            No word on the snake's gender was offered.

Sunday, January 30, 2011


         Over the past week or two I've heard a lot about American exceptionalism.  What it means, how we lost it, when it might return...  I've heard it in the President's State of the Union address, as he urged a bitterly divided Congress and the American people to embrace education initiatives to spur our stagnant development in science, mathematics, and innovation.  I've read about it in discussions of the newly framed phrase "Tiger Mom," which puts each of us in one of two camps: either you think American parents coddle their children and thus hinder their emotional and intellectual development, or you think our kids are already under enough pressure with our non-stop digital information glut, 'round the clock extracurricular activities, and doom'n'gloom career prospects.  Whatever side you take, the fact remains that we're not as exceptional as we once thought ourselves to be.  My contention is that we never were all that exceptional to begin with.

           The foundation of our nation in a new land, unexplored, unsettled, and fraught with unknowns for those who came to our shores, was indeed exceptional.  The fact that we were able to gain independence from the most powerful empire on Earth at that time further underscores the exceptional notion that we were indeed special among nations and among people.  But folks, that was two hundred and fifty years ago (give or take... my math skills are a product of an
 unexceptional public education and my own lack of parental 'tiger mommy' pressure to achieve) and we've not done a whole hell of a lot to earn anyone's accolades since.
           Yeah, we still lead the world in patent applications, so innovation is not a done deal here in the states.  Yes, our universities and colleges are still the envy of the world (despite the fact that we're rapidly dumbing 'em down to suit the capabilities of the current crop of dolts matriculating from our public high schools).  And if you're looking for the very best in medical treatment, and can afford to pay for your survival, this is the place to come down with that new, unknown disease or condition.  Our doctors train the rest of the world's doctors.  Simple as that.
           But as a nation, are we really "exceptional"?  Is it exceptional to bankroll illegal wars and occupations that only foment more radical opposition to our political and cultural way of life?  Is it exceptional to support oppressive regimes in nations like Egypt or Saudi Arabia, simply because it suits our geopolitical needs, and helps guarantee the continued flow of energy we require?  Is it exceptional to tacitly authorize or condone war crimes such as torture?  Has our exceptional self-perception warped our ability to see ourselves as much of the world does?
            This past week when Egypt was burning, I took several quick glances over at the social networking site that had been shut down in that country because its citizens were using Facebook to organize and inform the masses.  What were Americans doing on Facebook?  They were tending their FarmVille crops, sending one another unicorns, and hearts, and puppies, and wishing one another a happy birthday, and remarking about the weather, their new haircut, the visit to the vet with the family cat...  Half the world away from us one of the oldest civilizations on Earth was in turmoil, and here at home a great many of us were too self-absorbed with our trivial tedium to offer even the slightest nod to their struggles.  We'll only pay attention when that conflagration adversely affects the amount of money we have to spend to fill up our SUVs on the way to the mall.  Then we'll wonder how the hell this was allowed to happen to us...
             In China, as in many European nations, multiple foreign languages are required as early as elementary school for their children.  Their school years are longer, their school days are more intense, and their expectations are notably higher.  And they consistently meet those expectations.  Here, we expect our schools to serve as glorified day care centers for our kids, and bitch when we have to attend a conference to find out why Johnny can't bring his Glock to homeroom or is unable to read at a proficiency level for someone his age.  After all, we've got enough to do, between working twelve hour days at two different jobs to make ends meet, and keeping our crops tended on FarmVille... who's got time for parent-teacher conferences?  We pay our taxes, isn't that enough?
             Our glory days may yet lie ahead for America.  There's always the potential for miraculous social awakenings.  But don't hold your breath.  Your cell phone's ringing, you've got six unanswered text messages, and you've still got the back nine to finish before you can get home to check Facebook.  Party on...

Saturday, January 29, 2011


             Like a lot of people around the world, I've been following the events in Egypt very closely for the past few days.  Being attached to a computer and 'blogging' takes a back seat when one of the oldest known societies in civilized history is in upheaval.  So I've had the cable news networks on the television blaring away at me, al Jazeera English live streaming video feeds on a minimized screen, and a dozen active searches going on to keep up with events as they unfold over there.
              And then the sun came out.  After two weeks of dreary ass rain and sleet and snow, with overcast skies and temps in the low thirties for the average day's high, I was suffering from a low grade case of light deprivation depression.  Four days of spending every waking hour hunkered down in front of the computer fixated on world events had left me aching for a sunny day, and by god, today we got one.
              I turned off the computer.  I took a good book out to the patio table in the yard, slid a chair around so my face was in the sun, and I drank a couple of cold bottles of beer in my shirt sleeves... Joggers ran past the house.  The phone rang inside, and I ignored it.  Birds came and ate at the backyard feeders, and not a single offensive cowbird or starling made an appearance.  It was, in short, just what the doctor ordered.
               It's therapeutic to feel the sun on your face, to hear birds crunching sunflower seeds a few feet from where you're reading, and to know that days like this one will become more and more common with each passing week.  Spring approacheth.
               Maybe we have weeks and weeks of shitty weather just so we'll really appreciate days like this one.  Maybe we have a reasonably stable system of government that survives its little teabagger uprisings from time to time, just so we'll be able to distinguish our disagreements from those that require complete anarchy and chaos.
               I'm turning this off, now.  One last check to see if there are any developing stories out of the middle east, and then I'm thinking I might snuggle up with the lovely woman who puts up with my neglectful behavior... try to make it up to her for the past few days of grumpy curmudgeon.
               What a beautiful day...


       A very good friend of mine in east Tennessee is a General Sessions Judge, and for his birthday a year or two ago his lovely wife bought him a handgun called "The Judge," which fired .45 caliber longs as well as .410 guage shotgun shells.
        According to the story on Boing Boing, Taurus stopped importing "The Judge" from Brazil at the urging of the Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms Department.  Too bad, because the same company has upgraded that particular handgun to now fire 28 guage shotgun shells.  The newer version is called "The Raging Judge."

         I guess so... look at this cannon!
                            THE RAGING JUDGE


         I don't think anyone's done a formal study of this phenomenon, but someone should.  If you have anecdotal evidence to add, please leave a comment and let me know if you or anyone you know fits the following profile.
          It's been my experience that modern American women have a love/hate relationship with their alarm clocks.  They treat the clock beside their bed differently than any other clock in their lives, from the way they set the time, to the way they respond to its alarm.  I've found this to be an almost universally female phenomenon, and wonder if anyone else is aware of it in their own experiences.   Here goes:

           If you get up from your computer right now and go to your bedroom, you will probably find an alarm clock on a bedside table.  If you are a man, your clock will be set on the correct time, give or take a minute or two.  If you are a woman, your clock will be set ten to fifteen minutes FAST.
All of the other clocks in your house or automobile, and the watches you wear, will be set to the correct time.  Only the bedside alarm clock has been set into the future, and it's always (!) set ten to fifteen minutes ahead of the actual time.
           Now, I've been curious about this from the first time I noticed it.  Again, I've not awakened with THAT many different women at their home base, so the conclusions from my observations may be discounted simply from lack of statistical evidence... On the other hand, when a dozen or more examples of this stand on one side of my personal ledger, and I can't cite one single incidence in which a woman I've known has had her bedside clock accurately set, I have to conclude that this is common, if not universal in scope.
            It's like noticing that all of the watches in magazine ads for timepieces are set to 8 minutes after 10.  Check it out.  Find an advertisement for a watch in a magazine.  The analog watch face will be set to 10:08.  Even DIGITAL watches in ads are set to this time.  If I'm wrong, I'll kiss your ass and give you an hour to draw a crowd.

            But I digress...

            Gentlemen, if your spouse or significant other, daughter, or your mom's clock is set ten to fifteen minutes fast, let me know.  If you know of any man who does this to his own bedside clock, again, let me know.

             Here's the other thing:

             Every woman in my life has had a snooze button fetish.  They hit the snooze button, roll back over and immediately fall back to sleep... until the alarm goes off again, at which time they roll back over and punch the snooze button... until the alarm goes off again... etc.etc.etc.  Why they want to start their day off with a game of Whack a Mole confuses me...
              My theory is that women purposefully set their clocks ahead ten to fifteen minutes to compensate for their planned snooze orgy every morning.  Rather than set the alarm ten or fifteen minutes sooner than they intend to actually get out of bed, they fuck with the time.
               Men, (at least the ones I've asked), don't fuck with the snooze button.  Most get out of bed, albeit reluctantly, when the alarm goes off.  The time on their alarm clock is correct, and they set the alarm to wake them at the appropriate time.  This, to me, is a reality based life form in action.  I can't even pretend to understand the other behavior.  It has to be some ovary-related disorder.
               Let me know your opinions on this.  I'm thinking of applying for a government grant to study this phenomenon.


Friday, January 28, 2011


MUTANT MOSQUITOS TO THE RESCUE! or maybe not, we aren't quite sure yet...


       Biologists in Malaysia have released 6,000 genetically modified male mosquitoes into the wild in an attempt to curb the rise of dengue fever in the region.  The idea is to have the modified mosquitoes produce non-viable offspring after mating with females in the wild, thus reducing the mosquito population, and by extrapolation, the cases of dengue fever.
        Several environmental groups have raised hell about this plan, including Greenpeace, Consumers Associates of Penang, and Saharan alam Malaysia, because the potential risks of unintended consequences haven't been studied to anyone's satisfaction.  Oxitec, the corporation badly in need of financial capital, says their genetically modified skeeters are harmless and should bring down the cases of dengue fever that wrack certain parts of the world.  After all, they say, they released 3 MILLION GM mosquitoes in the Grand Caymans.  The results from that release aren't in yet, but hey, what could go wrong?
          There are 50 to 100 million cases of dengue fever in the world every year, and it's begun to show up in North America as the equatorial climate has slowly crept northward in the past two decades.  We could be on the verge of a dengue fever epidemic right here in River City, according to the alarmists.
           Or we could be creating a brand new wave of diseases that spring up from the vacuum a mosquito void might leave.  We don't really know.  We just squirt this kind of thing out, shrug our shoulders and watch for the results in clinics and bio labs around the world.
            Again, what could go wrong?




There you go Mooner... try not to put the scrubby side of the sponges on the wrong side, I'm not responsible for any serious self-abuse damage you do.
This is just a public service...


       If you're interested, you can watch a live feed from English al Jazeera at the link above to supplement your cable news networks.

       This is this century's first Tiananmen Square moment.  Our government has a tightrope act to perform in order to support the people of Egypt's yearn for freedom, while not alienating the Egyptian government.


        Okay, here's the thing... I've used this word in a LOT of posts, usually to describe some tight-ass prude or politician with whom I have a difference of opinion.  I rarely ever use the word to describe a woman I actually know, never use it in public, and don't find it acceptable for casual references to women AT ALL.  There are a lot of words like that I find offensive, this is just one of them.
          But over the years, I've met a lot of women who simply can't be described accurately WITHOUT employing this word.  There are some women out there who just ARE, and they usually know it, too.  Some are proud to claim the title, and will get in your face to let you know just how they earned it.
          A few years ago I was getting slammed with a friend who had just been unceremoniously dumped by one such woman.  The word came up a time or two during the course of our drinking, and somehow the conversation took on a more philosophical tone as we tried to come up with a precise, all-encompassing definition for the word "bitch."
           My friend sat back, pondered the question in silence for a few seconds, and then said something I've found to be remarkably succinct, considering his situation and our condition at the time of this quote:
            "A bitch doesn't have to be a woman.  A bitch is someone who is incapable of letting something go."

              I'd like to invite my loyal readers (and any stray folks who stumbled across this post looking for something interesting or relevant) to offer their own definition of "BITCH", leaving out obvious references to female dogs and Sarah Palin.

               Leave a comment, and I'll post the best suggestion.


                            David "too smart" Kernell

            The 22 year old University of Tennessee student who hacked into Sarah Palin's yahoo! email account during the 2008 national election has been determined to be 'too smart' for the halfway house he was originally sentenced to serve his time in. 
            U.S. District Judge Thomas Phillips had ruled that David Kernell, the son of Tennessee State Representative Mike Kernell of Memphis, could serve his year and a day sentence in a halfway house instead of serving 18 months in a federal prison as the prosecution in the case had requested.  Judge Phillips, in his ruling, wrote that allowing Kernell to be placed at a rehabilitation halfway house near a community college he had enrolled in would serve the "ends of justice" in the case.
            But Jose Santana, Chief of the Bureau of Prisons, determined that he could not honor Judge Phillips' request because of limited bed space at the halfway house in question.  He wrote that inmates with a greater need for those resources would be given preference over Palin's hacker, because Kernell had three years of college education and the support of his family.
             Kernell testified during his trial that he had hacked into Palin's email account using the alias "Rubico" with the hope of finding info that would "derail her campaign," but all he found was the same kind of boring shit she posts on Facebook seven days a week.  He was able to beat yahoo's security programs by simply looking up Palin's personal information on the internet and using that info to answer a series of security questions.  He posted what he found at "4chan", then realized he would be in trouble if anyone traced the hack back to his computer.  So he tried to erase and scrub his computer of all incriminating evidence.  That resulted in the subsequent conviction for felony obstruction of justice.  He was acquitted on the charge of wire fraud, and the identity theft charge deadlocked the jury, and was later dropped.
             So a kid who hacked into Sarah Palin's email account looking for dirt on the former Governor is going to serve his sentence at a minimum security prison in Kentucky rather than at a halfway house near a college he had enrolled in to continue his education.  An inmate within the existing prison system will get a bed at the halfway house, because he's not as educated, loved, or wealthy.
             My efforts to find additional information about the political connections of BOP Chief Santana were fruitless.  I was curious to know  more about his political affiliations, not because I necessarily believe this ruling was politically motivated, but because I'm always curious when things of a political nature take a strange twist, as they have in this case.  It's a rare day when a Judge's recommendation is rebuffed by the Bureau of Prisons, especially on such specious grounds. 
             Palin compared the hack incident to Watergate.  Yeah, a kid hacking an idiot's email account is just like political operatives breaking into the Democratic headquarters,  which led to the first resignation from office by a sitting president in U.S. history. 
             You're right.  Exactly the same, Sarah...


Thursday, January 27, 2011


         We recently elected a new governor here in Tennessee.  Well, THEY elected a new governor.  I didn't vote for the guy.  I probably would have, if he'd been a Democratic candidate instead of a Republican.  But I'm determined to keep my amateur status and die with the knowledge that I never knowingly voted for a Republican.  I've voted for a lot of Democrats who might as well have been Repubs, judging from their behavior in office, but never for an actual Republican.  I'm hoping to be rich enough to vote Republican some day... (I said that at work one day before I retired, and a notoriously right-wingy coworker replied, "Well, if you'd quit voting for Democrats you might GET rich some day!"  Pretty funny line, considering THAT guy said it...)
           Anyway,  Bill Haslam has moved into the mansion in Nashville as Tennessee's new governor.  I'm pretty sure the Governor's mansion in Nashville is a step down from his own mansion in Knoxville, since Haslam's worth more money than 90% of the state's residents combined.  He campaigned on a platform of jobs, jobs, jobs.  Every time one of his rivals for the office tried to draw him into a discussion on social issues, Haslam would play along just long enough to let the Bible Thumpers know he was one of them, but not long enough to get all specific with the homophobic or Islamaphobic rants the other candidates on his side of the aisle used as regular parts of their stump speeches.  In short, he focused on restoring the state's economy, and stayed away from polarizing social issues that might alienate independent voters.
             He won in a landslide.  In fact, he not only carried almost every county in the state, but Republicans also took over both houses of the state's legislature.  Unlike Haslam, the incoming state legislators did not shy away from social issues on the campaign trail.  In fact, they ran almost exclusively ON social issues.
             So now the state has a pro-business governor eager to begin rebuilding Tennessee's economic engine in the wake of the recession, faced with the prospects of dealing with a legislature that is eager to follow through on their promises to enact all manner of socially backward laws.  This should be interesting.
              While the new Governor is busy putting together his cabinet and drawing up plans for economic recovery, his teabagging conservative legislature is finding ways to make their agenda fit an 'economic' blueprint for growth.  The results are fascinating to watch.

                David Fowler of the Family Action Council says the state's economic revival depends upon new laws designed to strengthen families.  Whenever conservatives talk about protecting and strengthening "families" you can bet they mean to limit gay marriage, eliminate abortion, and stop gay and lesbian couples from adopting.  How that creates jobs or encourages business investment in the state is anyone's guess, but that's their agenda.
                 Sen. Stacey Campfield wants to free up jobs for unemployed Tennesseans by cracking down on the illegal immigrants who currently hold them.  His "run 'em off" agenda would bring an Arizona 'papers, please' mentality to our police forces in an effort to frighten off undocumented workers.
                 During the last session of the state House, one of its members bemoaned the fact that prenatal care was being doled out to pregnant women with no regard for their legal residency status.  Rep. Curry Todd's remark at the time was to compare them to breeding rats, taking taxpayer dollars for their anchor babies.  We're all so fucking proud of THAT asshole, we can't stand it...
                 Incoming Rep. Glen Casada's plan to revitalize the Volunteer State economy begins with his proposal to stop Metropolitan Nashville from offering non-discrimination protections to gays, lesbians, and transgendered citizens who are employees of businesses with state contracts.
That'll create jobs, in his mind.  And only in his mind.  He considers non-discrimination policies to be restrictive and a burden to businesses.
                  Rep. Mae Beavers wants to repeal the national health care reform bill, as if tossing folks with pre-existing conditions back out into the hinterlands of the uninsured will suddenly open up vast job markets for the unemployed.  I'd explain her line of thinking if I thought she did.

                 Governor Haslam may have the best of intentions as he takes office in Nashville.  But the reality he faces with this crop of 19th Century throwbacks is going to make any discernible progress an uphill fight.  They want to make Tennessee as backward as they see it in their own minds, and anything anyone tries to do toward progressive, forward-thinking policies will be doomed from the start.
                  Keep an eye on the statehouse in Nashville, folks.  I promise, we're about to put on a show for America's comedians and late night talk show hosts to feast upon.


        I'm not going to even going to pretend to know what motivates the protesters in Tunisia, Egypt, and now Yemen, but the growing instability in that region does not bode well for shaky regimes in Saudi Arabia or Pakistan.
        Last week's overthrow of the Tunisian government, complete with today's news that ousted President Ben Ali is now wanted by Interpol and is being pursued by the interim government of that country, has sparked growing protests in other north African countries.  Egypt has cracked down hard on protesters in that country, and now violent protests have erupted in Yemen on the Arabian peninsula.
        When downtrodden, unemployed, hungry people see successful revolts not that far from their own shores they can become inspired to overthrow their own repressive or corrupt governments.  The unemployment and poverty rates in Yemen, in conjunction with an uneasy alliance with Washington's war on al Qaeda has put that country's regime in peril.  Upheavals in Somalia, Yemen, Egypt, and Tunisia might inspire similar uprising in Pakistan, and that's where American interests would suffer most.
           Pakistan's government is not beloved by her people, and when a nuclear armed nation faces the imminent threat of overthrow by radical factions sometimes aligned with terrorist organizations, we should be very concerned.
            The hot spots of the world aren't just in Iraq and Afghanistan anymore.  Our primary concerns should shift from Iran's fledgling nuke program to the more pressing need for a measured response in the event one or more of the governments of north Africa and the Arabian peninsula fall.


                         (click anywhere on screen)

 You can't get a mirror or a camera lens directly in front of Michele Bachmann or THIS happens!

           Sara Benincasa's Bachmann is pretty close to Tina Fey's Palin!


           Like most teenagers, I was a pyrotechnics freak.  I couldn't wait for the 4th of July to roll around, because my little hometown in east Tennessee would sport not one, but two, fireworks stores in the weeks leading up to Independence Day.  It was a tradition that some of the money I made mowing lawns for everyone my dad met at the Roadside Cafe would go toward an ample supply of bottle rockets, M80's, and Black Cat firecrackers.  We blew up more Chinese gunpowder in those days than the Chinese military has used since.
            Usually, my supply of explosives would barely get me through the 4th before I would run out.  Sometimes I could weasel a couple of bucks out of my parents to restock my arsenal, but usually I was on my own for that sort of thing.  It taught me to be judicious with my supply.  A few packs of firecrackers would be spent doing the obvious things: blowing up model planes, flipping aluminum cans, and dare-devil games of see-who-can-hold-it-the-longest-without-losing-fingers.
I still have all my digits, but not for lack of effort.  More than one firecracker went off in my closed hand as I was attempting to throw it, usually in the vicinity of my right ear, since that's where my hand was in the wind-up process of the aborted throw.
            For some reason one year I didn't use all of my 4th of July fireworks.  In fact, I put a paper bag of them away in my bedroom closet for a 'special occasion', and didn't think of one until the following October.  That was the night that a good friend of mine came over to spend Halloween night at my house.  He lived on a farm miles from town, so trick or treating wasn't really an option for his family.  We had convinced his mom and dad that if Terry could stay at my house for the night, we'd rack up on Halloween candy.
            We, of course, had no intention of going out for Halloween candy.  I had this bag full of firecrackers and bottle rockets left over from the summer, and there would be oh so many useful things for two teenagers with firecrackers to get into on a night when the streets would be filled with kids in masks carrying sacks of candy around town. 
              Halloween fell on a Friday night that year, so Terry rode home from school with me that afternoon.  We waited around until dusk, and then left the house to with every intention of getting into something memorable, keeping the bag of firecrackers well hidden beneath our shirts to avoid alerting the curiousity of my mom or dad.  What was perfectly acceptable for me to play with in July was probably not going to be acceptable on Halloween, and you'll soon see why parents act the way they do about these things.
              We ran wild for a couple of hours.  We tossed individual firecrackers onto the porches of people whom I had had various run-ins as a kid.  The porch of the old bastard who always ran us out of his perfectly flat, level, and tree-less front yard when we neighborhood kids were trying to organize tackle football games after school.  We dropped an entire lit pack of firecrackers between the screen door (remember those?) and front door of the junior high school principal who had once paddled my ass for handing a stalk of poison ivy to my seventh-grade science teacher at the end of recess, ten minutes after she'd finished a lengthy lecture about the dangers of poison ivy, complete with a pastel rendering of the plant she'd painstakingly drawn on her class blackboard for our edification.  We tossed them into the prize rose bushes of a woman for whom I was forced to work on weekends, helping tend those very rose bushes, which had scratched and scarred me more times than I cared to remember.  Basically, we kept our vandalism (if you can call it that) to a reasonable restrained level of mayhem.  Or at least, we did until a certain little kid showed up and started some shit with us from across the street.
           I had never gotten along with this guy.  He was about three years younger than Terry and I, so we weren't forced to be around one another very often.  But on the few occasions that we HAD been in the same backyard football games or when we had played army in the local woods, this kid had been a jerk of the highest order. 
            Anyway, at some point I lit and threw one of my last firecrackers his direction.  It went off not too far from his yapping mouth, which made him duck and made us laugh our asses off all the way back to my house.  Only we didn't quite make it all the way back to my house before we saw the unmistakable sight of my father's white Plymouth Fury station wagon roaring up the hill.  We jumped behind some bushes as he flew past.  This was not good...
             A little background on my father's sleeping habits.  Dad would come in from work, have several beers, and unless there was something unusual on the evening's schedule to keep his interest, he'd usually go to bed before 8PM.  To see my dad in the car after 11PM, driving way faster than he would normally drive, indicated to me that I was the source of his irritation.  My friend Terry only knew of my father from my horror stories, and so my panic was quickly contagious.
              We weren't sure what we were in trouble for, but we were pretty sure we were in trouble.  We ran into the house, scrubbed the firecracker residue from our filthy hands, and then decided that the least suspicious thing we could be found doing when my dad returned was algebra homework.  On a Friday night.  On Halloween.  No two boys have ever looked more guilty in the history of stupid shit kids.
              My dad pulled into the driveway, stormed into the house, and sure enough, there we were working on equations with our notebooks out, looking for all the world like a Norman Rockwell painting of good kids in the all American home.  He summed up the situation in about as much time as a cat would spend eyeing a mouse, then pounced.  I was drug by the shirt into the kitchen, and the last thing I remember seeing as I looked back was the terrified face of my friend Terry, who looked as if he might actually try to escape through my bedroom window at any moment.
                "I just got a call from Mrs. Farinash.  She said you hit her son in the ear with a firecracker and she had to take him to the hospital to have his hearing checked.  Is that true?"
                 The look on his face told me all I needed to know about foolish thoughts of honesty and forthright ethical confessions.  He was pissed beyond any level of pissed I'd ever seen.  If I answered this very direct question incorrectly, my ass was going to get torn up.  I looked him straight in the eye, and with all the incredulity I could muster, said:
                 "No!  I don't have any firecrackers!  Why would she say THAT?"
                 He looked at me for about half a second, but still had a pretty good grip on my shoulder.  I damn near peed my pants... 
                  "You haven't had any firecrackers tonight, is that right?" he glared at me.
                  "No!  You can ask Terry!" I replied, glancing toward the bedroom and hoping to God he hadn't climbed through the window.  He was, at that moment, my only hope of surviving the next few minutes of this interrogation alive, and an escape attempt wouldn't bode well for the veracity of my alibi. 
                   Dad just glared at me.  He wasn't buying any of it, not a word.  I could see it in his eyes.  He was about to give me the beating I had always known was coming... something just this side of murder itself.  Instead, he stormed back down the hall without me, turned at the door to my bedroom and asked Terry, "Did the two of you have any firecrackers tonight?"
                   Terry's voice cracked as he said, "No sir."
                   "Are you sure?" dad asked again.
                   "I'm sure." Terry replied.
                    I've never felt closer to a friend in my life.  If I could have given him my future fortune, I would have promised him anything, including my first born male child.  He had just lied to save my ass.  What a guy! 
                     Dad came back down the hall, grabbed the telephone and redialed Mrs. Farenash's number, looked at me and said, "You tell her what you told me."  His glare told me I was far from off the fucking hook.
                     I'm pretty sure I was shaking as I took the phone.  The woman on the other end was very angry, accused me of all kinds of horrible things, such as throwing firecrackers at her son, which had resulted in the loss of hearing in his left ear.  I denied having had anything at all to do with throwing that firecracker, although I DID know who had thrown it.  See, we had seen other kids with firecrackers earlier in the evening, and we'd seen one of them throw one toward her son.
I        couldn't say who it was, because I didn't want to tell on someone and get them in trouble.  But she could rest assured, despite her crybaby son's testimony, it damn sure wasn't me.
                  She didn't buy a word of it.  My dad never took his laser-like glare off of my face during this entire bullshit explanation.  When I hung up the phone he pulled me up in one of those nose to nose conversations we sometimes had, and he asked me one last time for the truth.
                  I just didn't have the balls to admit I'd been lying.  I was too invested in this horseshit story to backtrack now, so I held my ground and swore it wasn't me.  He shook his head.  He knew I was lying, but couldn't prove it.  After all, I had a witness who was willing to swear we were innocent.
                 At that moment he said something that shook me to my bones, and it shook me until the day he died fifteen years later.  He said, "If I ever find out you're lying to me tonight, and I don't care if it's twenty years from now, I'll beat the living hell out of you."
                  "It wasn't me."  was all I could choke out.

                   When my dad was on his deathbed all those years later, my sisters and I were recounting scary dad moments in the very kitchen where that conversation had taken place.  I told them about the night I had put out Joe Farinash's left ear with a firecracker, complete with the story of my denial, Terry's complicity in the coverup, and dad's threat to pound my ass if he ever found out I was lying to him.
                    They laughed and laughed, and then my oldest sister said, "Why don't you go back there and tell him that story!  I bet he'll think that's funny as hell after all these years!"
                     I looked her straight in the eye and told her she was not to repeat any of that confession under any circumstances.  He might have been a shriveled shell of himself, hours away from death itself, but by God I still remembered that "beat the living hell out of you" promise, and wasn't going to tempt fate.  Damn right I was still scared of him...

                     I owe Terry Smith a debt of gratitude for saving my ass that night.  Of course, he's probably not thought too much about it since, so I'll keep my first born male child.  But if he asked, I'd have to give him up...
                     Thanks, Terry!  You name it, man, it's yours.


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         This is Honda's answer to the Segway, and it looks like a much more portable and utilitarian system.
         Of course, the women in this demo film are both waifs, which leads one to wonder what would happen if the typical lard ass American man threw his cheeks over that little tiny seat to go for a spin around the office or mall...
          But it's an ingenious system, by any measure.