Monday, August 3, 2015

There, I bled it again.

We had a blood drive recently, and as you know, Fred is always first in line to sign up to drop a pint. Is it because, like with Henry Higgins, the milk of human kindness runs by the quart in every Fred vein, and thus is so much more valuable for the blood bank?

Or is it for the free snacks?

The world may never know.
Actually I didn't drop a pint, exactly; they sold me on being an apheresis donor. In a normal donation they drain a pint of blood from you; in an apheresis donation, they pull out a bunch of blood, separate it into plasma, platelets, and leukocytes, keep what they want and pump the rest back into the donor. This was specifically an automated double red blood cell donation, It is basically twice as useful as a regular whole blood donation. It supposedly takes half an hour, or can take up to two hours, and it's a little weird. We're used to sending fluids out, but only taking them in orally. Maybe it was my imagination, but I felt a little like a bike inner tube during the pump-back-in phases.

"You see the little man in the upper right corner of the screen?" asked the phlebotomist, handing me a plastic bike handle wrapped in paper towels.


"When the arrow is coming out of him, squeeze every five seconds. When the arrow is heading into him, stop squeezing."

"Like the world's worst video game."


As I say, it was a bit strange, but I found myself less light-headed than I sometimes do from a whole blood donation, and I felt like I recovered faster. Time permitting, I would donate that way again.

I'd also note that this form of donation is more exclusive, which appeals to me; not just any mere slob can drop a double like that. The Red Cross says only type O, A-, or B- donors can donate with this method. So it's another opportunity to fluff up my ego thanks to something over which I have no control. We creative types always enjoy that.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Dirty deed.

Yes, it's a dirty deed, but someone has to do it.

Be glad I didn't post a picture of the toilet.
When I got married---really, as a condition of getting married---I had to promise that I would maintain the bathroom. My fiancee was willing to clean the entire rest of the house, but could not face the can. I agreed. (Subsequently the deal has fallen to pieces except for one part; guess which!)*

I don't mind doing the toilet, I really don't. It's not like cleaning the toilet in a public place, like the Sara D. Roosevelt park bathroom on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, whose fumes were so toxic they hospitalized a maintenance worker. No one uses the can here but us, and those I allow in the house, so it's not too horrible a job. Besides, when going after the inside of the bowl you have brushes and powerful chemicals on your side. It's the outside of the toilet that bothers me.

No, really; that's where all the hairs collect, and clumps of dust. The vacuum won't pull them off that damp, cold porcelain. You have to get down there and wipe them off, with rags or paper towels or wipes, and the hairs and stuff still cling like it's the last lifeboat off the Titanic. After all that, the sink and shower are a piece of cake.

I've long said that cleaning toilets is a good way to work on humility. People who want to big themselves up start by hiring someone to clean the house. But as long as I have the physical capability to clean myself, I don't mind. Besides, I won't steal from the valuable collection of Franklin Mint coins and Danbury Mint figurines I display in the can. Can't say the same for the help.

*(Love you, honey!)

Friday, July 31, 2015

Battles with Blarg.

The former host of the Vitamin Fred site,, is still making me nuts a year after I switched over to Blogger.

When I started doing this mostly useless but occasionally entertaining feature more than three years ago, I wanted to go with an outfit that wasn't an overbearing Silicon Valley Internet Death Star, but maybe a plucky bunch of guys who had the smarts to reserve a great domain ( seeming to be the perfect place for a blog, n'est-ce pas?) and, being number two (or three, or 23,412) would try harder.

Didn't work out.

Many were the days that I would get the dreaded 502, the bad gateway that meant that my site was down, and sometimes that the entire Blog site was down---all two million users, according to Blog's home page. This often came at the most inopportune times, such as smack in the middle of one of my serialized stories, or when the great IMAO was planning put up one of my pages as the Link of the Day.

And let me point out that I was paying actual cash money for the privilege of using the site; it's generally free to use, but I paid a fee so I could post Amazon ads for my books.

So last May I threw in the towel and made the switch to the Internet Death Star. When my subscription ran out on the Amazon ads went away, but the rest of the site remained up.

But when I checked in to reference an old entry---after the 502 error cleared up---I found that now all the pictures are gone. Every image I posted on the site: gone.

Which sucks. Because there were a lot of cartoons up there. And product humor. So now there's a lot of pages like this:

Found this in the dollar store! For reals! Can you believe it? Look at this thing!!!!1!!!!!

Har har! That's the most amazing thing I ever saw! 

Yeah, so I'm a little peeved.

I'm planning to take the damn site down, after I save some entries that might be worthwhile. I'm sure that will mean a lot of dead links from this site, but I'll fix whatever I find.

Not sure if there's a takeaway from all this, except to say that maybe Twitter would have been a more appropriate site for the semi-ephemeral nature of the Internet. If there's a video online of me getting my face shoved in a cake, it will be posted for all to see for the next century; but if there's a cartoon I'm really proud of, it will vanish into electronic dust at any given moment. That's e-biz.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Updates on the week that is.

You know how, just on Monday, I was kvetching that there was candy corn in the dollar store advertised as Halloween candy, right? And in July, more than three months before the actual holiday of Halloween?

One of the objections I anticipated was that dollar stores are notorious for selling whatever they have whenever they have it, and I can't expect seasonality there.

Well: Tuesday, at PetSmart:

Really, PetSmart? Really?

Look, I understand that pet shops can't quite get into the Back-to-School swing that every other store is; after all, obedience school is every day (or for many dogs, never). But do we have to jump all the way over a quarter of the year to start with the orange and black? Please.

And yet, I was in a supermarket yesterday and also saw Halloween candy. I would have taken another picture but I was too depressed. IT IS STILL JULY, PEOPLE.

On another topic, I fear I owe a minor apology to C. Howard and Company, makers of this stuff:

On Sunday, I said that Choward's Scented Gum was "very strong ... if someone [is] indulging in the gum or candy you can smell him coming. I have no evidence to prove this, but my anecdotal experience says that in the greater New York area in the 1970s, sales of Howard's violet candies shot up as marijuana use became more common." Well, I happened to be in a tobacconist's on Tuesday that sold the gum, so I bought a pack. 

I was chewing a piece last night not five feet from my wife, and she did not catch the scent. The dog did, but he's got a superhuman nose---or he just saw me chewing something and wanted to know what it was. (His current life goal is to lick the inside of my mouth while I'm eating, something about which we do not see eye-to-eye.) Furthermore, I found the flavor quite enjoyable, much less perfumey than I remembered. Either the gum is smaller or less potent than I recall, or the air quality much different from the days when I would be knocked back by a guy chewing it. I can believe that my taste has expanded to include floral (violet-flavored) candies, as opposed to just mint or fruit flavors. 

So there is my update: Halloween co-conspirators with the dollar store and an apology to Choward's. At Vitamin Fred we don't wait more than 40 years to disavow errors, unlike some lesser news outlets

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The dog is relatively cheap.

I've always thought that a good hobby ought to be enjoyable with very little money or a whale of a lot of money, or any amount of money in between. 

You can try fishing with a string, a stick, a worm, and a pin, or you can have a giant sport fishing boat with mounted rods and $500 lures and God knows what else. Maybe a private chef to cook your sailfish. You can take up shooting with a Walmart pellet gun for plinking in the yard, or get a gun collection with a walk-in safe, indoor range, and black-market weaponry. You can homebrew with a big jug, some empty bottles, and cheap ingredients, or turn your cellar into a brewery. You get one cheap HO scale set with an engine and two cars, and before you know it there's a room with fifteen tracks and a roundhouse and every Christmas you get Lionel-themed gifts from everyone. 

I guess pets are like that a little. You can get a goldfish and enjoy it in a vase for five days. Or you can get a horse.

Not my car. No horse.
Most of the time the wise hobbyist will start small---perhaps a pair of knitting needles and a couple of skeins of yarn, rather than jumping in all at once with the yard ball winder and knitting machine and spinning wheel. It takes time for a hobby obsession to build.

The dog is a little like a hobby in that regard. When we got Tralfaz I knew we'd have the cost of him, his medical care, his food and treats, his license, and his toys. Then came classes, and possible dogsitting (which we haven't needed, but a friend of mine drops $5000 a year to have someone come to play with his dog for an hour a day). Then the possibility of fencing off the backyard, which we have not yet done, but probably will when we have the dough on hand (buy my books! Help give my pup a big playpen!). And then maybe a homemade agility course to keep him trained. And THEN a second dog, or third....

Still, it's cheaper than a horse. So it could be worse.

I've always kind of wanted an elephant, and that would be worse. An elephant might be lonely here, though; not a lot of other elephants to play with. Besides, New York probably has some stupid law against keeping elephants in the yard. Stupid New York!

Hey, do they breed dwarf pygmy elephants?