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December 31, 2004

New Year, arriving

Tonight, as good conservatives gather to celebrate the lawful reelection of President George Walker Bush, they will tell many jokes, and play many games such as Pin the Cloven Hooves on the Democrat. A few may imbibe, and (one trusts) fewer still will imbibe too much. And I hope that their hosts will gently filch their car keys and call for a cab, because these are the ones we need more of. Not the overdrinkers, I mean, but conservatives.

What we won’t need are the Michael Moores and the George Soroses and the churlish little swine from Move On Out of Our Parents Basement, or the panty-sniffing sociopaths over at Demozombie Underbelly. I’m also hard-pressed to think of any earthly reason to keep the American Communist Loony Union around, or People for the Socialist Way. But most of them will continue to waste good oxygen, and that’s just the way it is. Bartender? Another round for the libs. Make it a double. And let them find their own way back to whatever hole they crawled from.

This is December 31, and with it the tradition that we all are enjoined to follow, enumerating our successes and assessing our shortfalls, and clearing our mental slates for the new year ahead.

At the end of this year, we saw justice triumph over evil not only at the ballot box but in the courthouse, though the appeals aren’t over for killer Scott Peterson, and probably won’t be until they drop the hammer on him and pump him full of pain-free death, so totally unlike what he dealt his victims.

Yasser Arafat got less than what he deserved, this year, but at least he got dead (and good riddance). Yeah, better late than never, but what can we say? The search is still on for the billion or so dollars Arafat stole from the Paleswineans, but at least his not-so-grieving widow can find solace in her millionaire digs outside of Paris. The poor of France so obviously need her money more than the PLO need Arafat’s.

In Ohio, George Bush is still the winner, though it cost millions of dollars to recount those ballots and they got fewer than 400 more for the treason artist and phony war hero, Hanoi John Kerry. But the system worked here, and Mr. Bush still won, so that’s all that really matters.

Despite a media which went to extreme lengths to prove its bias, the cowboy in the white hat won. Cue the cheerleaders. Halliburton, Halliburton, rah, rah, RAH!

Was there bad news? Of course. Almost a year to the day after the Bam, Iran earthquake, another came along, which will probably claim a million lives from disease as much as injuries. The nations which can do something are doing something — although the media is reporting it as some sort of macabre fundraising contest, and not the generous desire to help fellow human beings that it is. How many will we find still alive in the Maldives? Nobody knows. But it won’t be many and it won’t be soon enough, but no one nation can take any blame on that part because of the remoteness of those islands. CBS Evening News and the Jayson Blair Gazette will still surely try.

We sit here comfortable tonight, waiting for Regis to babble while the glitter-ball descends, and if things went well today (as they did for me) you too have seen a few friends and shaken a few hands and wished a Happy New Year. But what do you say when what amounts to an entire nation has been wiped out, all from a single unpreventable event? What will we say when we reach the Maldives? Not much. A million dead is unthinkable numbers, inescapably huge yet impossible to grapple with. So we stick to the safe subjects instead, feeling guilty if we do and fearful of jinxing 2005 if we don’t.

Are we being unreasonable to personalize this week, trying to find more good than bad in a year of phenomenal weirdness? If we're going to ignore the victims (as the leftists always do), does that mean we celebrate the killer — in this case the quake? No, of course not. Let the Dems feel sorry for the Saddam Husseins and the Fidel Castros and the other tyrants. Let the left forget those trenches of dead in Iraq, or those still being slaughtered in tribal genocide in Africa.

These were the same airheads braying that “Y2K” would bring us global ruination, five years ago this night. We’d be living in caves and hunting mastodon with stone-tipped spears, just watch, if they were deprived of the internet. The same gang who screamed about holes in the ozone layer giving us global warming were the same ones about twenty years ago who darkly predicted a new Ice Age. And they’re the ones who cheered when multiple felon Rodney King got a cash award (which he quickly spent), as they instantly forgot Reginald Denny. These are the humanitarians who want to run the relief effort after this tsunami. These are the ones who are a natural disaster.

No, forget those clowns. We have earned four more years without a Democrat in the White House, and there is so much to be positive about in the time immediately ahead.

Me, I’ll focus on the good side, thank you.

And no, I’m walking, so you may not get to take my keys.

Posted by Weaselteeth at 09:58 PM

December 30, 2004

Clueless, departing

Several months ago at my now-defunct (but similarly-named) first blog, it became my pleasure and my intimidation to read the superb work of Steven Den Beste at U.S.S. Clueless.

This remarkably fine writer covered a galaxy of subjects, then suddenly stopped cold. At first I thought it was just post-election burn-out. It was not.

Now comes the news that it's for real, Den Beste has in fact walked away from one of the most remarkable ongoing series of essays I've ever read. Rishon Rishon has more of the background, including den Beste's closing thoughts on a verbal voyage to the stars.

Bosun, render the salute. Pipe the Captain ashore.

Posted by Weaselteeth at 02:42 AM

December 28, 2004

Is there heat with that?

Normally I don’t go to bed until about 4 a.m., and on my good weeks that means I get about six to seven hours of sleep. This wasn't one of those weeks.

A few days before Christmas, an old friend from here in Burntmattress came home for Christmas. She’d been holed up in darkest Arkansas for about seven years, married to a total POS who’d talked her into moving there because it put them close to the crystal mines. Something to do with New Age mysticism and that stuff, which didn’t save him from finally dying of chirrosis of the liver, leaving her down there to figure out what to do next.

Maybe a few buckets of those crystals could help explain why folks in Little Rock cleared out several blocks of low-income waterfront housing, making way for a concrete trailer memorializing their ex-governor, the pathological sex fiend. But hey, who am I to argue? Tourism for Bubba's Massage Parlor and Sex Toys Palace should bring in a few bucks from the suckers. And it’ll give the Arkansas state cops something better to do, rather than scout for bimbos for Bubba.

So anyway, Christmas was here and my friend came back to see her mother, Helmet Head, who earned that nickname from the serial coats of lacquer holding her Thursday hairdo in place. They thought they'd lined up the same arrangement as last time, where another guy would go pick her up in Toledo at the Amtrak station, and then I would take her down there for the return trip. Which all went to hell when the other guy wanted Fort Knox for the job, so I volunteered to go get her.

She was supposed to come in about 2 a.m. or so, which wasn't out of my usual sleep cycle (including the round trip). But it never dawned on me that Amtrak was still a quasi-government agency, so I never bothered to try and catch a nap that afternoon. At 11 p.m. my friend called and said there’d be a delay until 3 a.m.

At midnight, She Who Must be Obeyed got home from work, heard about the scheduling stuff, and decided to come along for the two-hour round trip to the Glass City. What my sainted wife didn’t tell me was, later that same day she had to work a 12-hour day. So we drove down there, and about 2:50 we learned there’d be another two-hour delay, because they'd had trouble somewhere in heating up the passenger cars.

Think about that one, kids, if you like traveling indoors in winter. What next? In-transit showings of Boxcar Bertha, maybe?

By the time it was over, we picked up our passenger at about 5:30, only five hours later than scheduled. By the time we got home about 7:30, I was so groggy I thought I was either hallucinating or else wondering how come I wasn’t. Which made for a lovely week of trying to get adjusted again, knowing I still had to drive my friend back down there to escape from Helmet Head and Burntmattress, once again.

Last night, which made the first round look like only a warm-up.

This time she was supposed to start calling at about 3 a.m, to find out if they’d on time, which would have meant we’d leave at 4 or so and be there in time for the 5:30 train. But SWMBO heard on the radio that there’d be dense fog, and we’d already had a 6-inch snowfall, so I wanted two hours of lead-time, not 90 minutes. At 4:10 came the call. Another hour’s delay at the minimum. By then I was getting very antsy about the roads, so I told her I’d pick her up at 4:30 and we’d leave early.

Which was fine as far as it went. The roads turned out to be clear and traffic nonexistent. We even had time to find a place that would sell her a pre-paid telephone calling card, and on our fourth try actually got one of those as well. By then we decided she should check in with Amtrak again, and then more proof Amtrak is a quasi-gummint organization, because now we learned the original delay wasn’t true, and we now only had about 23 minutes to get all the way across town to the station.

I should have known not to get onto I-75 from where we were, and then I had to figure out how to get back the way we'd come, without getting further lost in the bowels of the Willys Jeep Parkway (or whatever it’s called). The train was supposed to depart at 6:35, and we hit every red light after getting off onto the surface streets, but at 6:20 a.m. we finally got to the station. I was wound about as tight as it gets; she was just numb, from my driving and the overall wonderfulness of Amtrak in Toledo.

And yes, this delay was also because they couldn’t heat the passenger cars.

Got home at 8 a.m., still twitching and spazzing from the ordeal. SWMBO looked nice and comfy under 3 feet of quilts, but then she wasn’t riding Amtrak so she had heat. And me, I know better than to complain to the gummint, but I’m peeved enough to try it anyway.

Memo to Toledo Mayor Jack Ford. Word, fool.

Instead of parking your ass for lunch at the Coney Island at Westgate Shopping Center, go camp on somebody’s chest at the Ohio Department of Transportation, and then at Marci Kaptur's congressional office. Practice your loudest, most piercing screams. Bring lawyers. Beady-eyed little ambulance-chasers with souls of coal and writs of pure-D venom.

Don’t let up until every last dirtbag pencil-pusher in state and federal gummint puts up clearly-marked signs placed well in advance, not 100 feet from the exit, showing the way to Amtrak.

More memo. At the first stoplight coming off Exit 208-A, actually put up a sign showing which way is that station. Don't make people guess it’s a right turn. Don’t wait several blocks from there. You are not helping tourism in your city if you fail to do this. And then put up real signs on Broadway, how to find that station without a Ouija board, two St. Bernards and a pack of Girl Scouts.

Not that Ford will listen to this, of course. His idea to bring business to Toledo was to support no-smoking regulations for restaurants and bars, which has done wonders for similar businesses in the suburbs. With logic like that, they’ll promote tourism by blocking all the roads.

The next time I’m going to say, vote with your feet. Leave the incompetents at Amtrak, but take my friend to Toledo Express Airport (which at least is on time, and heated). That’ll make my friend really happy — particularly if she’s got a train ticket.

Posted by Weaselteeth at 08:57 PM | Comments (2)

December 27, 2004

Slyde this!

This is the centenniary of the hamburger in America, after its 1904 introduction at the World's Fair. And while the same crew foisting Ronald McDonald on us will be very proud of their sheer numbers, they weren't the first hamburger stand in America, just the best at self-promotion.

White Castle (which did invent the hamburger restaurant chain) is still relatively tiny with about 380 stores, mostly in the Midwest. The home of the Slyder® began in Wichita, Kansas in 1921, and brags it was the first to sell a million—then a billion—of its burgers. And its co-founder J. Frank Anderson, is credited with inventing the hamburger bun in 1916. They now sell 500 million burgers a year.

The four biggest chains are Mickey D's, Burger King, Wendy's, and Hardee's, which control roughly one-third of the total hamburger market.

But in skipping around the culinary internet, I learned that what I'd always considered a regional chain, Jack-in-the-Box, technically stretches from coast to coast now (if you don't look too hard at how you geographically get from Oklahoma to Missouri to Tennessee). There's also Roy Rogers, Rax, Rally's, Good Times, Carl's Jr., Sonic, and a line-up of smaller chains almost too numerous to mention.

For a look at regular restaurants operating coast-to-coast, here's one list. But for which one best suits your taste—well, that one's getting kinda personal. Why not try them all?


Posted by Weaselteeth at 07:25 PM

December 26, 2004

Doin' the deed

Thirty-one years ago, I came here to Burntmattress, Michigan because it was the county seat and I had delusions of journalism which could only be assuaged by becoming a reporter, allowing me the public disgrace which pertains thereto.

That lasted about 4½ years, with me running amok at city hall, the city cops and the sheriff's department, district and circuit court, general assignment writing, political coverage, and a daily opinion column running six days a week. I also wrote obituaries, rewrote news releases, weather reports, blurbs for “On the Inside” (the little index thing on Page 1), and the occasional item taken over the phone from people just dying to tell the Women’s Editor about their pet cat or their doily collection. It averaged roughly two million words a year.

Twelve years later, I actually moved to the town I pretended to have been covering, suffering from delusions of becoming a landlord. The house I bought was built some time between 1850 and 1875, and like most structures at least one ceiling had to be lowered, to hide the heating ducts that fed the one upstairs apartment. That one was mine.

Up there I wrote, worked on a series of projects involving vintage radio programs from the 1930s through 1960s, and I dealt with the endless parade of college kids and young families who came and went after a year's stay. The few neighbors I met stayed pretty much to themselves, and I did the same, but one woman living next door shared an interest in reading, so the few times I spoke to her, we talked about books.

She and her husband and three kids were renters themselves, and I scarcely noticed when they suddenly weren't there any more, moved to God knew where. This was a small town at heart and I guess I should have noticed those things. But they got away, and I didn't think much about them except for the way she always had at least one if not more books within arm’s-reach.

I think it was two years later when I saw her again, coming out of a grocery store as I was going in. We talked, just a little. Nothing new on my side, but for her she’d shed a husband and gained a life. She seemed happy and I was glad for her, but I had supper to eat and first I had to go find it, so I went into the store and she went away once again.

Two weeks later, she called me at my apartment. It turned into a 90-minute phone call. And a few days later, another. And after a while she came over and I discovered that my cats both liked her, and she in turn liked them. A couple of more visits passed. And after that we started Getting Serious, and it's been 14 years now with me wondering what hit me, and she just giving me The Stare if I ask.

I was the one who was the romantic. I proposed twice over three years before she finally said yes. And the only thing I asked was not to bear my child but to simply bear my name. She didn't want that at first. Too much paperwork (and it is).

We hadn't set a date or Anything Final. There were other things to take care of, like breaking it to my parents. Which happened about December 10, 2002, when I told them a story relating to “Raisin a Christmas Memory.” I'd written the piece as a holiday item for a message board I was posting at, and one of the regulars there (a teacher) wound up using it in her 6th-grade class in Massachusetts.

The kids in turn liked the story so much that they made it a class project to illustrate it. And I got those drawings in the mail, just a few days before the annual Christmas dinner with my folks. My eldest niece, Roofer Babe, her husband the roofer, myself and SWMBO and her son (then called the 17-Year-Old Plague-bearer), and my folks. Roofer Babe is four years younger than SWMBO, so there is less of a generation gap than many such cases. And there we all were, at a Red Lobster, as I told the story of those kids and their drawings—as I drew a blank stare from my father.

Just about the only thing he agreed with me about was that there was an outhouse on that property. And the last name of the family. And that it had been a group from the church (where he has been an elder since large birds filled our skies). But that was okay, I was used to that by now, so I wasn't exactly crushed when my story about those kids went over like serial farts in church. That's nice. Pass the rolls.

Well, almost like that.

As it happened, my lady was about to become a grandmother the following summer, and at the time we thought her daughter was carrying twins. So I opened my face to say SWMBO had an announcement—and lightning quick, Roofer Babe piped up with, “You’re getting married!”

Well, no, actually, I said, flustered and riled, because that was the only news these people actually wanted to hear. And although they were polite about the grandmother stuff, they still had their brains stuck on “The Big M.”

So that was Saturday. We made it through the rest of the dinner, but by the end of the week we’d spent hours on the internet, researching the various marriage laws both here and in Ohio.

See, Michigan requires blood tests and waiting periods, and in our county (thanks to a halfwit Democrat judge) an added bureaucratic layer of mandatory marriage counseling classes. Which made no sense whatsoever to me, because after more than seven years together we were both still together and had not managed to kill each other. Silly me, I took that as a positive sign.

So we did the web search and wound up choosing Lucas County, Ohio, and at approximately 3:15 p.m. on Boxing Day, 2002, we were legally wed in the city of Toledo, Ohio, by a nice womam minister who actually mentioned God and actually talked about commitment and love and devotion. I got misty-eyed. My voice dropped about six octaves. Yes. I really really do.

It’s been two years now, and those twins everyone was expecting turned out to be one boy, 9 pounds and 1 ounces of him. He’s definitely the size of a 3-year-old (and not yet even two)—so I figure we have a future basketball star in the clan, but hey, what do I know about babies. All I know is that I would never in this world have missed the chance to see the look on my lady’s face when we went to the hospital and she held him for the first time.

There's a moral in here somewhere if I only look hard enough for it. Maybe it’s one like, Don’t show first drafts to teachers in Massachusetts. Or maybe—just maybe—don’t be ashamed to stand there getting misty-eyed in a Toledo courthouse as you finally say the words making it official on how you’ve been feeling all along.

Hey, I knew how tough this was going to be for her. The name-change part, I mean. I even offered to change both our names to Mr. and Mrs. Yodar Critch, but there wasn’t time.

So this one’s for you, darlin’. A look back on this, our second anniversary.

They tell me that's the Paper Anniversary. I’ll even give you the paper to print this out.

Posted by Weaselteeth at 04:37 AM | Comments (4)

December 24, 2004

Raisin a Christmas Memory

Maybe they still do this at Christmas where you live. Churches organize a big effort to help poor families in their area.

They’ll ask for canned goods and other necessities, and they’ll spend half a day sorting out how much food goes to how big a family, packing up boxes in the social area of the church. It’s a holiday tradition that some people never talk much about, they just come and do it—getting ready to visit the poor on Christmas Eve.

Besides the food, there’s also a lot of clothing. Hand-me-downs, or clothing donated by local merchants. We lived in a small town, and it was easy for church people to learn whose kids wore what sizes. After all—Christmas was coming, and we wanted to get it right.

At least, that’s how they did it here in Michigan, back in the late 1950s and early 1960s. No caroling, no showing-off. Just quiet trips out to wherever these families happened to live. We’d spend a few minutes at each place on our “rounds,” trying to help make people’s lives just a little better.

So one year (I think I was about 10 or 12), I was allowed to go out with the grown-ups as they made their holiday rounds. I learned about poverty and Christmas gift-giving—and I learned about Christmas raisins, all on that one unforgettable snowbound night.

Some of these families lived out in the country. That meant we had to stick to the main roads for as much of the trip as possible. That night there were three vehicles in our group—two cars and a big truck, fitted with a snow-plow. We needed that plow on the back roads, just clearing a way to the houses we were going to visit. And when we got there, we’d knock, ever so politely, and then we’d wait.

Even as a kid I could tell when the people inside just seemed to know who was out there, for three out of the four times someone called out, “Be with you in just a moment, Parson,” even though this year the preacher was back in town and we were doing these rounds without him.

Doors would come open and in most cases we’d wind up trying to avoid crying, because that was the expression we saw on the faces of those folks we came to visit.

Hindsight says it was a powerful mixture of gratitude and anger—but at age 10 or 12 all I saw were the half-suppressed tears. We’d be invited to stay, to share a cup of coffee (“or whatever,” as one recipient put it). But no, thanks, my Dad and the other grown-ups said. We’ve got to be going, but we hope you all have a good holiday. And Merry Christmas to all, as we trooped out into the snow and back to the cars and the snow-truck.

So that year, there was one last stop in the country, just at the very edge of town.

This place was socked in with snow, not a single tire track and only a narrow path shoveled out between the ramshackle house and the first real outhouse I’d ever seen, back behind the house.

I remember standing there in snow up to my knees, grateful beyond words for the indoor plumbing at home, only about half a mile away. Compared to this place, our house was almost a palace—or so it seemed to a kid only 10 or 12 years old. My father knocked on the door to this house. “Be right there, Parson!” a voice called out inside.

These folks were now into their third generation here in the area. They’d come north from some place like Kentucky or Tennessee, back in the late 1920s or early 1930s. Like thousands of other folks from southern states, they’d come looking for jobs, at one of the auto plants opening up in Michigan. But for reasons known only to them, that dream never came true and they were too poor to move back south again.

And now here they were on Christmas Eve, trying not to look angry because people who meant well were standing in snow outside their door, waiting to give them something they could not give themselves.

The father finally opened the door, and there the family all sat, ramrod-straight, elbow to elbow at an ancient-looking dining table in the center of the room. They were eating their Christmas Eve supper in that room.

Oatmeal, with raisins on it. Not a turkey or goose or even a chicken in sight. It was like being in a foreign country, maybe—no sign at all this was supposed to be one of the happiest nights of the year.

We all trooped in, with our packages and smiles, trying not to notice there was just one small pot-belly stove for heat in this room. Even with the front door closed, it was cold enough to see your breath.

Like the other places we’d gone to, we were invited to stay. But my father was kind of the spokesman for our group, and he politely told them no. And I stood there beside him, trying not to have any expression on my face. One of these kids was only a year behind me in school, and I wasn’t sure what my face was supposed to be telling them, there as I counted the clouds of my own breath.

I stood there with a box of something in my arms, pressing the front of my jacket closer to my chest, hoping I’d warm up—somehow. And then I looked down at the nearest bowl of oatmeal, and one of the raisins began to move.

They'd been swatting houseflies and putting them on the oatmeal in place of raisins.

I must have made a noise of surprise, when that fly crawled up out of the oatmeal and then fell to the tabletop. The father of the family saw where I was looking, at the fly trying to beat its wings to escape. The anger came back to his face, just briefly, before he looked sad again.

Minutes later, we got out of there and went home to our own families. To the warmth, and the TV, and the palace of an indoor toilet.

This happened more than 40 years ago. And to this day, I will never forget the mixture of expressions on the faces of those we visited. Just as to this day, I still can’t eat oatmeal or raisins, no matter what time of year it may be.

Posted by Weaselteeth at 10:47 PM | Comments (3)

December 23, 2004

Internet mogul asks for Marine's pardon

Bob Parsons isn't a name that rolls off the tongue when you think about the big dudes of the internet. He only runs the world's #2 domain name registrar, GoDaddy, and routinely beats Network Solutions like a two-dollah gong on pricing and service.

But Parsons has finally got into blogging himself, and instead of the usual schmooze you'd expect from a guy who clears his stuff through an editor AND a lawyer, this guy puts the hammer down on why President George W. Bush should pardon the U.S. Marine who shot the wounded Iraqi, November 13.

He cites the on-line petition which circulated for this Marine, gives President Bush's email address, and more.

I was Navy, but even I know how to say, hooo-YAH!

Posted by Weaselteeth at 11:37 PM

So where was I?

This will be my first post at the new site, and I'd forgotten how much hassle Movable Type has made it for non-technical types like myself, in just configuring a simple style sheet, or in working with the main index.

I started out trying to emulate the template I'd been working with, including background colors, dates and entry titles colors, etc., and after about three or four hours at that, I was ready to stick knives in someone. It appears at this time that the MT 3.1 style sheet is completely different in naming the various components, so I can't easily shift the sidebar to the left (or get the text to completely look the same for my Links section).

But at least I'm away from BlogHosts. The scar tissue from that one will probably take quite a while to heal -- if ever -- and I'm still not sure if I'll get back my original domain name. Just about the only thing that's the same (for now) is the banner image. Maybe at this stage it's the anchor for what will be a long transition period.

I've seen various people say that there will be problems for others who did link to specific posts in my old archives. Something about entry number mismatches. Chances are, those won't get sorted out until much later, after I'm more familiar with a few other things here.

For those of you who did have my old email address, you can consider that one dead. Delete the phrase NOSPAM from the following, and also convert the -at- to the conventional symbol....

And if any MT geeks see this, please tell me what I did wrong to get mixed fonts and sizes in my links.

Now to see how bad this thing looks on the final page.


Every bit of work I did was zeroed out and was returned to its original condition. Movable Type remains as badly designed and difficult to operate as always.

Posted by Weaselteeth at 05:52 AM | Comments (16)