Friday, September 22, 2017


I am informed that the autumnal equinox will be at 4:02 this afternoon where I live. In a way I am unprepared for this event. In that same way I am unprepared for every event.


Sometimes I think the key to nostalgia is that we forget what we were worried about at the time. As a kid I had elderly relatives who remembered World War II fondly -- not all the fighting and unpleasantness, but rather the swing music, the good times, the feeling of being united for a cause, the great movies. I have to think that twenty-five years later they must have felt like they got smacked in the head with a shovel. The years 1944 and 1969 were as distant as a single culture could be.

I find myself at that age where I think over past events, trying to fit what was going through my mind at the time with what was going on in the world. Sometimes it's pretty comical. I wish I could go back to the years of my childhood sometimes, not as a child again, but to have a look around as an adult. The world has changed so much so fast that I can scarcely believe it happened in my lifetime, and I'm not even that old. (I'm not! I'm not!) I just want to get hold of how life was before I go on to how it is.

But this wasn't what I had intended to write about, which is autumn. Some trees are turning already; maybe the ceaseless rain this summer pushed them along. Up the street a neighbor's chestnut tree is thopping the asphalt below with those spiky green bombs. The squirrels are looking particularly furtive. I don't look so hot myself.


Even though this was not a brutal summer (no heat dome, thank you), I'm glad to see it go. I had a lot of work and no vacation. In fact, I still have no vacation. Wah!

You know who else doesn't? Our friends in the hurricane-torn south and Caribbean, and our wildfired friends out west. Whatever I may complain about, they've had it brutally hard. Perhaps we'll all be happy when winter is here. Rain for the scorched west, sunshine for the south. And up here we'll get one of those blizzards where you see trucks driving in forty-foot high trenches of snow, as if Moses had been an Inuit. It'll be our turn.


However hard summer may be some years, I invariably miss the sunshine. I don't know that I suffer from SAD (seasonal affective disorder), as I am a pretty SAD sack all year round. Days of endless darkness do tend to dampen my spirits after a while, as I've noted before. It's okay in October, even into November if it's not too rainy, and December has Santa Claus to distract us, but January, February... by the middle of March it's a toss-up between suicide and homicide. Fortunately I've always managed to hold on until April. 

Regardless, here we go again. I have no plans to escape to Machu Picchu and enjoy summer again while others freeze in darkness here. As I always say, winter makes a man of you. A cold, mean, bitter man.

Bring down the curtain! The days are more than half night, starting now. 

Thursday, September 21, 2017

You look better without my glasses.

Unlike most people when they age, I have become progressively more nearsighted. I could see things close up just fine; but suddenly my astronaut-level eyesight is no longer what it was. Now people start looking blurry from a distance of about thirty feet. But you know what? I find you all look much better!

From a distance, wrinkles are wiped away, smiles are friendlier, and warts are practically invisible. Who needs beer goggles when all it takes is forgetting my glasses? Many an attractive woman has swum through my ken, only to ruin the whole thing by getting too close. Hey, lady, I liked you a lot more back there.

I'm sure she had a fantastic personality. Look at the lute! Musical!

Anyway, now I find my reading vision is starting to go, and eventually I guess you'll all be blurry from any distance if I forget my glasses. Which I probably will do more often. When I'm shaving I don't wear them, after all, and I'm sure it will do my self-esteem wonders when that visage is obscured.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Coke vs. Coke.

I dig Coke Zero. My wife digs Coke Zero. Coke Zero is our favorite cola. It tastes more like a real cola than Diet Coke. It's delicious. It is Michael Bloomberg-compliant. Yes, it's Coke Zero for us.

So of course, Coke went and changed it.

This Coke Zero Sugar thing has a weird name, to begin. "Coke Zero" implies that it has zero calories; "Coke Zero Sugar" means... it's Coke Zero with sugar? Confusing. I think they'll get away with it because they're phasing out non-Coke Zero Sugar Coke Zero, which never had sugar. Does any of this make sense?

What makes even less sense to me is that I cannot taste the difference. Coke says that Coke Zero Sugar is "made with an even better-tasting recipe that delivers real Coca-Cola taste with zero sugar and zero calories." I tried it and thought initially that it might have a little more of the classic Coke vanilla taste, but I think I was just talking myself into it. I didn't think and still don't think there's any difference in flavor.

I was completely ready to call shenanigans on Coke. I thought they were full of crap over this. That belief intensified after I read their claim to have "broke the Internet with the news" of Coke Zero Sugar, which sounds like the kind of horse hockey marketers write when they have no ideas but want to be down with the young folk.

However, my wife claimed she could tell the two Cokes apart, and likes the new one better.

I had to put that to the test. She accepted the challenge.

I poured a small amount of Coke Zero into two identical plastic cups, and a small amount of Coke Zero Sugar into a third identical plastic cup. I challenged her select the cup with the Coke that was different from the other two. She didn't have to say whether it was Zero or Zero Sugar, just which of the three did not match the other two.

And son of a gun, she got it. Cup C had Coke Zero Sugar, and she nailed it right away.

But here's the thing: It wasn't the flavor, it was the fizz. She says Coke Zero Sugar is less fizzy, and doesn't make her burp.

So in a way, I was right -- the flavor change is so subtle as to be barely or completely nonexistent. But my wife, who has very sensitive palate for texture, picked up the difference: Less burping.

Now I'm thinking there's something Mentos-related to this. Like, everyone was so busy mixing Diet Coke and Mentos for the eruption that none of us discovered that Coke Zero weaponizes Mentos. Homeland Security did, and made Coke change the recipe for public safety: "Coke Zero and Mentos can blow a bank vault door off its hinges! You must change the recipe!"

I'm sticking with that story. It makes more sense than Coke doing a lot of hip-hooray and ballyhoo for nothing.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Dog test.

There's a family I know that recently got its first ever dog. I'm not sure it was a good idea. I don't think they were prepared and I don't think they've learned much since they got it. They never do anything with it. It just hangs around and gets walked in the yard once in a while. I think they're in over their heads.

And I know what I'm talking about. Longtime readers know I had a perpendicular learning curve when we got Tralfaz, the first dog. And it was really difficult. But my wife was always doing research, always working with him to teach him what he had to know, always stressing that we needed to have patience (even while she was losing her cool). She was an ideal of someone who loves dogs and is determined to learn to be a good pet mommy. 

Now the owner of two dogs with a combined weight of more than 200 pounds, I'm still no expert on dog rearing. I do know a few things that I learned the hard way, which is pretty much the only way I learn anything. If you're a novice dog owner, I hope I can teach you them the easy way. Some of these are pretty common tips. Even these bear repeating.

Note: This is an illustration
of a dog.

1) Know what kind of dog fits into your life.
If you work 20 hours a day and live alone, probably no dog is going to fit into your life. Dogs require time and care. If you are a super-active family, a lazy dog like an English bulldog may disappoint you. If you're a lazy family, don't get a dog bred to run amok, like a border collie. If you want a hunting dog, a pug might not do the trick. Be careful; an Australian shepherd, for example, is very different from an Australian cattle dog, although they're both energetic. You need to find a dog that fits your life. But your life is going to change anyway. 

2) You'd better like things dogs like. 
You and your dog will spend a lot of time together, so you had better share some interests. If your interests include playing with toys, eating treats, learning new things and teaching them, taking walks, playing in the yard, chasing cats, humping legs -- wait, skip that last stuff. Basically if your idea of hell is throwing a ball in the yard, or taking walks, or any of the other things dogs enjoy, you may not like having one. If you're just going to throw the dog in a crate at night and in the yard during the day, what's the point?

3) Children have to know that owning a dog is not like owning a toy, and they're not even good at owning toys.
Obviously that means that little kids who pull tails and stuff are too young to be responsible dog owners, but that also goes for older kids, like the one in the family I mentioned. You don't just put a dog in a box and take him out when you feel like playing. Teenagers seem to reach this stage pretty fast. And as I note, it's not like kids even take good care of their toys, unless someone makes them. I'm not big on treating a dog like a baby (well, not officially), but at least that gets the point across that the dog is a living thing and relies on you for necessities and attention.

4) Calculate how much you expect to spend on your dog. Then double it. 
Especially if you're a sucker for dog toys and novelty treats, like me. And consider pet insurance, if you can swing it. You don't want to have to lose your beloved pet because you just can't pay for treatment.

5) Calculate how much time it will take to train your dog. Then triple it. Then do it again.
Real dogs, unlike movie dogs, are not born knowing things. Worse, after they learn them, they will forget. They need training and reminders. I was under the impression that dogs naturally fetch toys and bring them back. Neither of mine will, and one even has retriever in his job description. Really, they don't know much when they're puppies. And if they're not taught, they won't know much when they're dogs.

6) Dog affection is not like in the movies.
Dogs are not always going to come over and give you a lick when you're down. Sometimes they seem baffled by all human emotion. Some breeds are especially attentive to moods, and some seem almost indifferent. It varies from dog to dog. Some dogs don't even seem to be particularly loyal. But plenty of them are affectionate, like Labs and Goldens and Old English Sheepdogs. Just remember, an affectionate dog will also want a lot of your attention. Two-way street.

7) People do fail at this.
Dog owning looks easy when you see other folks with their pets, let alone when you see them in movies or on TV, but it's not. Puppies have destructive impulses, disobedient streaks, and periods -- like the equivalent of teen years -- when even the nicest dog turns into a total pain in the ass. People often give up on dogs when they reach that stage; shelters are full of very nice dogs that outgrew the horrible stage after a family had just had enough and got rid of them. The failure to prepare for the dog and to know this stuff is coming is, as they say, a preparation to fail.

But sometimes there's nothing you can do. I know a person whose family had to give up a rescue dog because the pup could not (on vet's advice) be in a family environment. The dog would not stop eating and swallowing articles of clothing, and needed multiple surgeries to remove them. So even when people do all their due diligence, even when they have all the love and preparation they can muster, even then sometimes it's a failure. (The dog went to live in a permanent no-kill shelter, by the way, where there would be no socks or underwear around to eat. The family visits.)

8) It may not be the toughest job you'll ever love, but it will be among them. 
Compared to raising a child, raising a dog is easy. If you can stand the insanity for a couple of years, if you train and train again, odds are very good you'll have a good dog in the end. Kids? Who can say? And the worry and stress never stops. Still, raising a dog is hard work, and if you (and the dog) get through it, your life will have been enriched, I guarantee it. Not because of the affection from the dog; as I said above, you may not get that. But because you nurtured and taught a pretty smart creature and took on a responsibility for something outside yourself. That's how we develop our own character.

At least, that's been my experience. And I'm certainly a character. 

Sunday, September 17, 2017


Some movie sites really seem to care about the spoilers more than the movies. The juicy feeling of being the one to spill the beans is hard to resist, after all, although we used to have to restrict that to spreading malicious information about our dearest friends, family, and neighbors.

I don't like ruining stories for people--well, I would enjoy showing off how much I know and YOU DON'T, but I dislike having stories ruined for me. You'd probably take revenge at some point. That's just like you, isn't it?


So I decided to just reveal the spoilers for movies that don't exist. That way I get the pleasure of revealing secrets that I know and you don't!!! without actually being a jerk. Without further ado...


AberZombie & Fitch
The President of the United States is secretly a zombie!

Cannonball Run (remake)
Drew Carey and Wayne Brady are not really priests!

Orbit Ultimate
The aliens are friendly--the bad guys are the United States Army!

Squirrel Girl: The Motion Picture
Monkey Joe gets killed!

Vertigo II
She's still dead!

Tom Cruise discovers that Saturn is hollow--and the Earth is now inside it!

Dan Brown's Women Are from Venice
The Pope did it!

Zooey Deschanel picks Channing Tatum over Zach Galifianakis!

Plague Ball!
The horrible pandemic was part of a plot to seize power by the Vice-President of the United States!

Monkeys in My Pants
Jim Carrey's monkeys are granted "Earth Citizenship" by the United Nations!

Crimea the Century
Hercule Poirot (Cedric the Entertainer) solves the murder!

Phoenix Blues
The killer is old Detective Jack Jensen!

The Fluffernuttins
Rip Torn was just a hired stooge--Sofia Vergara is behind the plot to kidnap the sweet li'l Fluffernuttins!

The Scrapbook
You think Ryan Gosling's dead at the end--but he's not!

Boot Hill, Mountain High
The Cherokee had nothing to do with the attack; it was the United States Cavalry!

H. R. Pufnstuf: The Movie
Will Ferrell (H. R.) destroys Witchiepoo by turning her Evil Witchie Spell against her, saving Living Island, and is nearly killed himself--but Freddy the Magic Flute saves him at the last second!

Dog Day Afternoon (remake--following test audiences)
Sonny and Sal and Leon get away with the money!

Space Sierra Notebook
It turns out that the plot to contaminate the Earth from space was engineered by the United States Army under the command of the Vice-President of the United States, but Will Smith reveals it as his ship is plunging from orbit and burning up, and you think he's dead but the aliens who turned out to be friendly save him so he can be with Keira Knightly, while John Cusack leads the revolt that restores harmony and ecological balance to the Earth!

Saturday, September 16, 2017


As I noted early this year, we like a good animated film around these parts. We're not much for horror movies and we have the standard female/male disagreement over rom coms vs. shoot-'em-ups. But we both grew up enjoying Wile E. Coyote getting blown to charcoal, so we still have fondness for well-done animated films. Here one we finally got around to.

Moana is an interesting Disney princess movie in some regards, one being that it pokes fun at Disney princess movies. For example, the heroine has the most useless animal sidekick in probably all the Disney movies, including Flounder and Pascal, who never amounted to much. But Heihei the stupid rooster is my favorite character in the film, providing about 80% of the laughs. (The story of how the character Heihei wound up so stupid is told here.)

Heihei: Not too bright.

On the whole Moana is an entertaining film -- pirate coconuts could improve probably any film, including Easy Rider -- but I did have some complaints. Of course I did. I always do. I almost called this entry "Bitchin' and Moana" but I was afraid it wouldn't be clear what I meant by bitchin' -- I mean my complaining.

Much as I hate to object to the shining halo of St. Lin-Manuel Miranda, I didn't enjoy most of the songs. They quickly became a tiresome collection of "I'm Great" tunes, and the more serious they were the worse they were.

Don't believe me? Here are some of the numbers and what they're about:

  • "Where You Are" -- We are awesome
  • "How Far I'll Go" -- I am awesome
  • "You're Welcome" -- I am awesome
  • "Shiny" -- I am awesome
  • "We Know the Way" -- We are awesome

That's their entire function, telling about the awesomeness of the various singers. The best of these songs, THE best song in the movie, and in my mind the only good one, goes to Maui. "You're Welcome" is not only a catchy tune, it's also a hilarious number with excellent animation that establishes character and history in a terrific way. It says "I'm awesome" in a way that tells you "I am full of myself." Miranda wrote it, so big fishhooks up on that.

Moana's own song, "How Far I'll Go," by contrast, is annoying, repetitious, and completely self-centered but not in a funny way. Let's have a look at some princess songs of the past and what they told us about the characters:

  • Snow White, "Someday My Prince Will Come" -- I would love to find somebody worthy of my love
  • Pocahontas, "Colors of the Wind" -- I love this place and I love nature
  • Sleeping Beauty, "Once Upon a Dream" -- Love is wonderful and I sleep a lot
  • Belle, "Belle" -- I want to see the world
  • Tiana, "Almost There" -- I want to accomplish great things
  • Ariel, "Part of Your World" -- I would love to see this wonderful place you live in
  • Jasmine, "A Whole New World" -- What a wonderful world this is, and you're nice too
  • Rapunzel, "When Will My Life Begin?" -- I am going nuts in this tower
  • Elsa, "Let It Go" -- I'm gonna destroy everything with ice power

("Let It Go" doesn't actually count, as it was a queen's song, not a princess song, and Elsa is the villain of the movie, no matter what the girls think.)

These songs tend to be directed outward, not just a celebration of the wearisome Me. Tiana's and Belle's songs are close to Moana's, as they show a desire for adventure and recognition, but they also show the characters at their innocent stage; Belle and Tiana would find their dreams but become deeper, wiser people later. Even though they achieve their goals, they don't reprise the songs; they are more mature now. Moana does reprise her crummy song because she doesn't change at all. A little more gutsy and confident, sure, but while other characters may say "I've learned so much" she says "I was right all the time."

As for Tamatoa, the enormous monster crab who sings "Shiny," he's my other main objection to the film. He's not the big bad, but in a way he's worse. He's the only Disney villain I can recall that gave off a real molesterish vibe; anyone else catch that? There's something seriously icky going on that is too much for children's entertainment. Plus his song is dreary and annoying (Miranda co-wrote), the worst in the movie.

My biggest disappointment (spoiler coming!) is when Moana returns to her home island following her adventure. Her folks see the boat coming in. For a moment I hoped her father would point and say, "Wow! Will you look at that! Heihei's sailing that boat! Oh, wait, the kid's there too." But no, Moana gets all the adulation. The film really hits that girl-power wish-fulfillment a little too hard on the nose.

I feel bad for boys, whose heroes never get this treatment anymore. Boys wind up almost being sidekicks in their own adventures. Hermoine's smarter than Harry; Annabeth's smarter than Percy; the girls are always tougher and more driven in stories, even ones written specifically for boys. No wonder boys are growing up to be men who drop out of society. But that's a story for another time.

Friday, September 15, 2017

The cultural police never sleep.

Cultural Police Blotter -- Friday, Sept. 15

08:20 -- A white man was seen wearing a gi in public; when questioned by CP officers he claimed he was going to judo class. Police took him to the station for further questioning, and he was released seven hours later with a stern warning. His clothing was confiscated.

09:35 -- Two white men were found at a statue of Abraham Lincoln that had been painted red with the word RACIST written multiple times around the base. The men, who carried soap and other cleansing agents, claimed to be cleaning up the graffiti. They were immediately arrested and charged with violating free speech.

10:15 -- A man in a black mask was detained by officers for throwing rocks through the windows of the Jewish temple off Oppressed Peoples Circle. The man was questioned, and he explained that he was not a Nazi fascist protesting the Jewish grip on the world economy, but rather an antifascist socialist protesting the racism of the Jews against Muslims. Under the circumstances, his rocks were returned to him and he was released.

12:00 -- CP officers maintained their usual position outside the municipal food court to ensure no cross-cultural cooking and serving would occur (Indian food must be prepared and sold by Indians, Thai food by Thais, etc.). A new supposedly Canadian food cart, Pretty Good Grub Eh?, was investigated and flagged for nonconformity pending further review.

14:08 -- A riot was reported on the campus of St. Jude University, with a request for help from CP Squad. The LT on duty discovered that the "riot" was actually 10,000 students in masks burning books, assaulting faculty, beheading religious statues, barricading doors, and burning cars on campus in response to a proposed visit from Sister Mary Anthony of the Little Sisters of the Poor. The LT instructed University officials to cancel the proposed visit and did not otherwise respond.

14:30 -- Two Caucasian girls from Mumia Abu-Jamal Middle School were observed on the street wearing anime T-shirts. CP officers covered them in standard issue blackout robes and escorted them home to change into something more race-appropriate.

16:10 -- A CP officer was fired upon by a female in a red Yugo. As the officer was only mildly wounded and the race of the assailant was undetermined, no arrest was made.

16:49 -- A white cisnormative male, an employee of  Dalton Whizner Media Corporation, was reported to have referred to a friendly African American male coworker as "brother." Following his dismissal from his position he was escorted out of the office by CP officers and warned to stay more than ten thousand yards away from the building for the rest of his life.

18:03 -- CP officers responded to a call claiming a white woman was preparing Chinese food for her family. Upon arrival at the scene the woman was identified as positively white, and her "chop suey" was examined. The woman was arrested; she was later fined $150 for unauthorized cultural appropriation and released with a warning.

20:30 -- CP officers were called in response to an altercation on Sumiteru Taniguchi Boulevard, where several Native Aboriginal Tribesmen were engaged in fisticuffs with some Guatemalan-born acitizenal residents. When officers established order they were informed that the Natives had accused the Guatemalans of being white, the latter having descended from Spaniards of Spain. The Guatemalan-born residents took offense and then violence broke out. Eighteen were wounded, eleven critically. No arrests were made.

22:45 -- CP officers were called to reports of a house party in progress at City College; white college students were found to be celebrating something they referred to as "Mehican Independence Day." Many sombreros, ponchos, fake mustaches, and tacos were in evidence. CP officers surrounded the house, placing all non-Mexican-descended students under arrest; they were taken to headquarters to wait arraignment in the morning. Evidence collected by police included sombreros, ponchos, fake mustaches, and especially the tacos.

23:30 -- Calls from passersby indicated sounds of shouting inside O'Murphy's Oirish Pubbe. Upon arrival, CP patrolpersons were informed that a non-Irish patron had entered the bar affecting an outrageous brogue and demanding a pint of Guinness and a potato. Upon investigation the CP officers discovered that the would-be patron was Italian, but transsexual. The bar was immediately closed down and all the micks arrested and thrown in the paddy wagon.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Something to aim for.

Ask any guy who was around and was a guy in the 2000s about the flies in the Amsterdam airport and he will probably tell you that these were pictures of flies etched into the back of the urinals in the men's room. Men "shot at" the flies and "spillage" was reduced by 80%. Why? Because the men who used the facilities now had a target for their micturition. I don't know a guy who didn't find this news A) fascinating and B) obvious.

We'd been shooting at the little urinal cakes for decades. We wondered how many pees a urinal cake could take before a hole got worn through one. Bars where they threw old ice into the urinals as an auto-flush measure were always of great interest. How many cubes could one whiz melt? So this fly experiment seemed like one of those ideas that was so obvious that we were surprised no one had thought of it before.

It seems to be really catching on. The other day I was in one of those outlet shopping centers, like Disneyland for shopping (if that's not redundant), a place that had been remodeled extensively since the last time I'd been there. The men's room had gone from being "clean stadium" style to "fairly upscale restaurant." And check out the urinal:

The blue dot is little blue seashell, perfectly placed for target practice, courtesy of Sloan Valve Company.

It's a pretty good idea. For a generation that grew up on video games and staring at phones, there's a need for constant stimulation and activity, however dumb. Here's a game you can play while urinating, and it actually has a benefit for society at large! (Society is always benefited by having less pee all over it.)

Unfortunately the guys who promoted the Amsterdam fly experiment are also promoting something called "Nudge Economics" or "Behavioral Economics," using little manipulations (like the flies) to nudge people into the behavior their betters want them to demonstrate (such as urinating in the urinal and not on the floor). Now the jig is up, though, and we can be sure we'll start peeing on the floor again, metaphorically speaking -- humans being notoriously contrarian. Also, we don't like passive aggression from those who consider themselves superior. Anytime you think government is trying to "nudge" you to do what they want you to do, I suggest you do something completely opposite, just to confuse and frustrate them. To hell with them.

But I hope we don't actually start peeing on the floor again. Really, boys, the less pee all around the better.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Dog air fresheners.

[NB: This is a rerun from the old, defunct blog -- I kinda wanted something light after yesterday's commemoration, but I didn't feel up to writing anything. I hope you don't mind. Since this ran originally I got a second dog who indeed is also very interested in this scent profile.]

Monday, September 11, 2017

Sweet land of liberty and loss.

Longtime readers (bless you) may know that I really don't like to talk much about September 11, but I am always compelled to write something to commemorate the date. It may be about constant reminders; it may be about idiot conspiracy nuts. It could be about grief, a feeling we are all getting pretty strongly with all these hurricanes and wildfires walloping our country as I write.

We were in Manhattan that day, my wife was downtown; I had to walk half the length of Manhattan, but we got out alive and unharmed.

A decade and more later I happened to be killing time in Hoboken, New Jersey, and was down by the waterfront when I got this shot on my old flip phone:
The tall building in the center is, of course, the Freedom Tower, officially 1 World Trade Center, under construction. This must have been late in 2012, judging by other construction photos. It took for freaking ever to get the damned thing started, but once they got all the cats herded and the plans drawn up and the foundation secured it went pretty smoothly.

I'm not sure what I want to say about it. I don't even remember why I was in Hoboken the day I took this shot. Although two more years would pass before the building opened, I do remember it made me happy to see the tower's structure in place. That's why I took this lousy shot on my crummy phone.

I'm less optimistic about the future of the country now than I was in 2012 or 2002, believe it or not. As I mentioned yesterday, I fear our culture is so suicidal that we may not be able to pull back from the brink. Recently the citizens of Houston showed us what a functioning society looks like when it takes on a crisis, but I do not see that kind of spirit at large in the country. We had it in New York on September 11, 2001. We do not have it in New York now. Everyone hates everyone and everyone acts like a jerk. No enemy could have inflicted on us what we have inflicted on ourselves.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Why ARE we so fat?

Every time you check the health news you hear something else connected to how we in America, and really all over the world, are turning into big fat blobs. The news is usually delivered to us by a healthy, skinny person who is either disgusted by our blubber or is just saddened by the whole thing.

Most of the news is about the consequences of being a nation of Two-Ton Tonys and Tanyas -- diabetes, heart disease, broken furniture, etc. But sometimes they like to ask the question: Why are all you people so damned fat, anyway?

fat suit
When we go to get our shoes shined, we gotta take their word.

So, why are we?

The answers usually come in two forms:

1) We're too dumb to know how much we're eating, too lazy to cook for ourselves, too useless to roll off the sofa and do a dad-blasted push-up.

2) Evil food corporations are filling us full of bad, fattening food, larding up their wallets while they lard up our waistlines.

You notice that neither of these forms speak well of us, and the second casts the usual dark cloud over our captains of industry as well. This is a dark world, says the news media. Dark and stupid and fat.

Here are some specific culprits I have seen blamed many times:

We're too rich -- In past eras only the wealthy could afford to be chubs. Sugar was pricey. Now we're so rich, everyone can be a blubber butt! For the first time in human history, our poor people are fatter than our wealthy people!

We're too stressed --  No one has time to go to the gym, make a healthy meal, take up a sport. We're never off duty and we have to grab our meals as we can.

We're too convenienced -- We don't walk anywhere if we can avoid it; we drive. We don't swing an ax; we pull the cord on the chain saw. We don't push the lawn mower; we ride it. We don't wring our laundry; we let the washing machine do it. We don't have to get out of the chair to look something up in the encyclopedia; we use our phone. We're like the Earth refuges in Wall-E. It's amazing we can even take a dump on our own anymore.

We're too easily led -- The moment we see a Carl Jr.'s advertisement we go running out to get a hamburger the size of our head. Restaurants compete by giving us ever-larger servings and we eat it all because it's there.

We're mentally screwed over by poisons -- High-fructose corn syrup makes us crave sugar; artificial sweeteners make us crave sugar; sugar makes us crave more sugar -- we are just slaves to our stupid brain impulses, triggered by chemicals, with no will of our own.

My take is: Who knows? Maybe it's a combination of all this stuff. I can tell you that obesity is not just something we invented last week. Health sanitariums (like Battle Creek), promoting high fiber and low fat, are Victorian era stuff. Weight Watchers is 54 years old. The famous 1928 "Reach for a Lucky instead of a Sweet" campaign for Lucky Strike was a co-opt of an 1891 campaign to "Reach for a Vegetable instead of a Sweet" (Pinkham's Vegetable Compound).  

But I would also add a couple of other things to the mix, things that may be specific to our culture as it is now.

1) No one likes being lectured. Healthy people are seen not just as health nuts but as abrasive scolds. The rest of us may see fitness as a desirable state, but not a state of grace. Condescension makes us irritable. And sorry, Kale Gals, we don't believe you are purely motivated by our welfare. You're either looking to being the next big weight-loss guru, or you think the government should pay for everyone's healthcare and you don't see why my Twinkie diet should (ergo) cost you money, or you're just disgusted by all the sweaty whales you have to endure every day. Nannyism is not just anti-freedom, it's annoying as hell.

2) We really don't move enough anymore and that's only going to get worse. Our forebears used up calories just doing the dumbest things -- going to the store, beating the rugs, going to the can, hitching old Dobbin to the shay -- they didn't have to go to spinning classes.

3) Conquest of disease helps us live longer, and fat often comes with age, For hormonal reasons, lack of activity due to pain, and other reasons, people tend to put on weight as they age. Since many folks who would have died young in 1917 from infection or measles or the like, have lived to be old, they've skewed the population fatter.

4) When more people are fat, it's easier to be fat. This is pretty important -- people will tend to self-regulate appetites to remain in the good graces of their peers. When everyone's fat, it makes it safe to get fat. Fat parents have fat children; when half the class is fat there's little impetus for the other kids to stay slim. Herd immunity to shaming, I guess.

5) We don't believe in anything and we have no will to live. Um...

The last one is the one that scares me. I really see the main problem with our health and weight as being connected to our largest problem, that we in the West have lost all cultural confidence and are devolving into smaller and smaller tribes of angrier and angrier nutcases. We are the bulwark of civilization, but we don't believe it and we don't care. So why not have dessert? Why get up early and go running? So maybe I can drop one pant size after months of effort? So I can live another five years at the old, rotten end of my life? So I can live to see the wedding of my child whom I never bothered to have? So I can be more spiritually enriched by denying my appetites and get closer to the God I do not believe in? Never mind. Pass the gravy. Maybe I can pour enough to fill that hole in my soul.

Our obesity crisis can only end if we become connected to and confident in our culture, in my opinion, and learn to want to live again. We need belief in things bigger than ourselves, not gimcrack self-esteem like some life participation trophy. People who believe in themselves and their community want to live, but how may of us fit that description now? All the cheerleaders with all the kale pompoms in the world won't make a difference if we don't care about ourselves or anything else. And being fat is the least of our problems then.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Fictional Planet or Prescription Drug?

Ming the Merciless, Ruler of Planet Mongo, Invites You to Play Another Round of ... 

Fictional Planet or Brand-Name Prescription Drug! 

1. Byetta

2. Anacreon

3. Tradjenta

4. Voltaren

5. Klendathu

6. Skrullos

7. Draconia

8. Oleptro

9. Prolia

10. Bespin

11. Zestril

12. Librax

13. Midamor

14. Malacandra

15. Boniva

16. Jarnevon

17. Tiburon

18. Qward

19. Daxam

20. Sinequan



1. Byetta: Drug -- injectable diabetes drug (exenatide)

2. Anacreon: Planet -- from the first of Asimov's Foundation books; also the name of a Greek poet

3. Tradjenta: Drug -- another diabetes drug (linagliptin)

4. Voltaren: Drug -- a topical NSAID (diclofenac, which is also a pretty good planet name)

5. Klendathu: Planet -- home of the Arachnids in Heinlein's Starship Troopers

6. Skrullos: Planet -- home of the evil Skrull race in Marvel Comics

7. Draconia: Planet -- featured in the Gil Gerard Buck Rogers TV show (1979-1981)

8. Oleptro: Drug -- trazodone, for depression; also a sedative

9. Prolia: Drug -- for hypercalcemia or osteoporosis (denosumab)

10. Bespin: Planet -- in the Star Wars universe, a gas giant over which Cloud City floats

11. Zestril: Drug -- an ACE inhibitor for hypertension and cardiac-related issues (lisinopril)

12. Librax: Drug -- a benzodiazepine, used for serious GI problems like ulcers or irritable bowel syndrome. The name Librax is no longer used in America, though. Psych!

13. Midamor: Drug -- amiloride, a diuretic used for high blood pressure and other ailments

14. Malacandra: Planet -- trick question, though, since Malacandra is the native's name for Mars in C.S. Lewis's Out of the Silent Planet. So it is a fictional name but for a real planet. Hey, you didn't think all of Ming's questions would be fair, did you?

15. Boniva: Drug -- ibandronate, an osteoporosis treatment (not E.D., Stiiv -- I heard you snickering)

16. Jarnevon: Planet -- from E. E. "Doc" Smith's Lensman series, home of the evil Eich

17. Tiburon: Planet -- mentioned in a couple of episodes of the original Star Trek series

18. Qward: Planet -- antimatter universe world of the Weaponers, foes of Green Lantern

19. Daxam: Planet -- introduced as the home of Mon-El from the Legion of Super-Heroes

20. Sinequen: Drug -- antidepressant and pain medication (doxepin)


20 -- You're either a huge drug addict or a huge nerd; either way, get help!

15-19 -- Ming admires your knowledge and offers you a place in his oppressive organization.

10-14 -- Ming tells you to study more and has you thrown out.

6-9 -- Ming scoffs and tells you to go back to school. He also calls you a ludicrous nonentity, which seems a little excessive. Then he has you thrown out.

1-5 -- Ming sends you to work in the mines. If you do well there, you might win a scholarship to flunky school, and ultimately get punched in the jaw by Flash Gordon. So there's that.

Friday, September 8, 2017



September 8, 1981 (Measleyville, NY) -- The Measleyville Post-Journal-News-Gazette reports the death of local legend Libby McSnork, the Crazy Lobster Lady. McSnork's home at the time of her passing contained 4,391 live rescue lobsters, many saved from the supermarket during the September Seafood Special Sale! week. Police took custody of the lobsters, promising their escort to a safe location, but a sergeant from the department was seen buying ten pounds of butter later that week.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

I want... this candy?

Nestle and Hershey. Two of the greatest fighters in the chocolate wars. Two unstoppable titans of confection, rolling over the landscape with rich chocolaty goodness.

And yet, they still make some candy that makes me wonder what they were thinking.

Hershey has been promoting its Flavors of America products all summer. This campaign extends to various product lines and regions, such as Strawberry Kit-Kat (California), Key Lime Pie and Orange Cream Pop Twizzlers (Florida), Coconut Almond Kisses (Hawaii), and this:

Cherry Cheesecake white chocolate Hershey's bar for my home state of New York.

I liked the concept, cherries being a great New York crop and the city having its own style of cheesecake. In that way it combined the agriculture of upstate with the cuisine of the Big Apple. But this candy bar is pretty meh. Hershey's white chocolate doesn't usually taste like much but sugar, and this one has a weird almond flavor that overwhelms any cheesecake taste it might have. There's no almonds listed in the ingredients, so it had to be an artificial flavor added for no reason. The "crispy cookies," which presumably take the place of the crust, should have been sponge or vanilla or even graham, nothing almondy. You get some cherry flavor, but it's not too good. Got to give this one a D, Hershey.

On the higher end of the scale we have Damak, by Nestle.

Looks fancy, huh?

Damak has actually been around since 1933, but not in the United States, not until last year. When I saw it I asked myself, "Self, have you ever had a pistachio chocolate bar?" And I thought that while I might have had chocolate-covered pistachios in a boxed assortment, I could not say for sure. So, Damak was purchased.

And with this, too, I was disappointed, but for totally different reasons.

The chocolate was indeed very nice, a cut above Nestle's normal chocolate, which is quite good already. But to my surprise, the pistachios disappeared in it. I've always loved pistachio nuts, which have a flavor quite distinct from other nuts, but the chocolate was too much for it. And I got the milk chocolate, not the dark, which usually has a stronger flavor than milk. What would you taste then?

Of the two I'd say I liked the Hershey bar less, but it was cheap, so the investment was small. I just think that the Damak bar was missing something, but since Nestle's been at it since 1933, someone must love it, and Nestle's probably not going to mess with it because I said something.

As always, I'd love to get your opinion on these (or anything else) in comments, or at frederick_key AT We need to improve our empty calories, and our only chance is if we pull together.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Fried Green Tomato, Fried Green Potato: Lays, Call the Whole Thing Off!

[Note: Today we have an extraordinary guest blogger, the one, the only, Mrs. Key! Who occasionally comments here as Marshmallow. Sometimes when you have a topic that requires great knowledge and depth of learning, you have to turn to the pros. She wrote the article below and the great headline above. --FK]

Based on the title alone, now you know why Mr. Key married me, right? Yes folks, it’s Mrs. Key, making her debut on Vitamin K to review Lays’ latest potato chip test flavor, Fried Green Tomato.

First, why me? No, Tralfaz and Nipper did not finally land Mr. Key in traction, despite their best efforts. I just happen to be the resident connoisseur of potato chips and the only one who’s ever eaten a real fried green tomato. Hence, it made sense for me to do the review. That, and Mr. Key flexed his manly man pecs, popping every button on his button-down Oxford to his navel, swept me into a swoon-worthy embrace, caressed by shell-pink ear with his heated breath, and in his sultry, seductive voice, commanded me to write a review. So here I am.

Let me start by saying these chips don’t suck. They’re actually pretty tasty. Sort of a mix of barbecue and sour cream and onion. While I am a bit of a purist, preferring a good, old-fashioned, salty chip above all others, I’m not above admitting that there are some flavored chips I truly enjoy. Sour cream and onion is a nice change of pace occasionally, and at the risk of having to down a bottle of Tums afterward, I have been tempted to ingest a Family Size bag of salt and vinegar chips. Hmm…I wonder if I took a Tagamet before eating….

But I digress. So yes, the Fried Green Tomato variety are definitely a palate pleaser, and the slight kick of heat that builds in your mouth as you scoff a dozen or so slows you down enough to contemplate sticking to the suggested serving size rather than laughing at it like regular chips do.

But here’s the thing:

BBQ + Sour Cream and Onion + Doritos = No fried green tomato I’ve ever eaten.

If you stacked these three chips and bit Γ  la Pringles (come on, you know you’ve done it), your tongue would not be thanking you for plying it with the delectably fried, hot-flash-inducingly spicy, sharply acidic green tomato doused in sinfully rich crΓ¨me.

I applaud Lays’ attempt to recreate this gastronomical seasonal delight for those of us in northern climes where fried green tomatoes are now a sigh-evoking summer memory. However, they won’t have you chucking Ninny Threadgoode’s recipe into the hearth any time soon.

A ponderance: Lays opted to apply this flavor to their Wavy chips. Once would initially presume this is to ensure that all the BBQ-sour-cream-onion-Dorito seasoning amply sticks to the chip, thus aiding the imbiber to stick to the serving size. However, that runs contrary to the basic business model of snack manufacturing—make ’em eat till they barf. In fact, it runs contrary to Lays’ own slogan, “Betcha can’t eat just one.” So what nefarious scheme is Lays masterminding in its R&D labs? Could a Lays CrΓ¨me Dip be on the grocers’ shelves soon???

Monday, September 4, 2017

Labor Day: Good and Evil.

I know a fellow Catholic who is very firm in his faith, but far more firm in the faith of his labor union. Around this time of year he likes to flood social media with memes like this:

Sponsored by the United American Unfireable
Government Workers Who Retire at 50

Well, it turns out that the history of child labor laws is a good deal more complicated than his union would like us to think, and it had more to do with social welfare organizations than with the bonhomie or labor unions. England's 1802 Health and Morals of Apprentices Act of 1802 was inspired by doctors seeing alarming outbreaks of "putrid fever" in 1784. The 1833 Factory Act was a result of public outcry and not unionized labor action, which had been outlawed until a short time earlier. Where trade unions fought child labor, it was because they didn't like the cheap competition of child workers.

Regardless of their motives, and despite their long history of ties to both international communism and organized crime, I'm not going to further impugn labor unions on this, their import and largely ignored holiday. I know that to many people like my friend, it's always 1911 and the Triangle Shirtwaist fire has just happened. When it comes to moral choices that cause his union and his church to be on opposite sides, he leans to the union side every single time.

But that is not my main point today, that being: memes are a stupid way to wage an argument, and probably the main reason we're seeing so much public idiocy and even violence. You have one image and five seconds to describe your opponent's intentions, so you have to make him look like the very devil himself. Propaganda posters have done this for generations, but thanks to the Internet they are everywhere. And as we know, when it comes to fighting evil, anything goes. On our streets today, anything does.

At some point, if we want to save our civilization, we're going to have to choose to engage with intelligence and civility. In other words, we're screwed.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Promises, promises.

"That's the last straw, Peter! I've had it with you and your pack of flies!"

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Magic Dog.

My dogs are very friendly fellows, especially Tralfaz, the older one. He is past all immature puppy fighting. He greets all people and all dogs with enthusiasm.

But his favorite dog is Magic Dog.

three men in a boat

Magic Dog is a brown and white dog who pops by unannounced at any hour of the day or night. He and Tralfaz will give each other the ol' snifferoo, then adopt the play position, crouched down in front, butt up, tail waving like a friendly flag. Then they'll jump around and goof off for a while. And then Magic Dog will take off, and Tralfaz wants to go with him.

That's been a problem when Tralfaz is off leash. The first time Magic Dog joined us, in fact, was one dark, chilly night when Tralfaz was maybe five months old. They took off together with me in panicked pursuit, and got three houses away before I corralled my guy. Magic Dog continued on home.

And that's the problem with Magic Dog. He is a runaway, a repeat offender. He's got a collar, but he never lets me get close enough to see what the tag says. He's way too magical for a mere human to grab. Plus, he's a tagger -- unlike my dogs, who release a huge stream when the time is right, Magic Dog releases dozens of teeny peepees to mark the places he travels. I'm sure there are times he's been at our place and vanished again, leaving nothing but little spots that make my dogs crazy the next day.

As I considered the problem of Magic Dog, I realized that I'd had several humans of that sort in my life, especially when I was young. People who seemed wild and free, who blew in and blew back out again to places I could never follow. They seemed to be charged with life and creativity in a way I could never be; they were privy to secret knowledge I could never comprehend. These relationships always ended, and usually poorly. Sometimes the people actually ended poorly, too, their promise and potential always unfulfilled.

My dogs don't think about Magic Dog's worried people, finding him gone through the gate or under the fence, wondering if this is the night he never comes back. But I do.

Friday, September 1, 2017

The Summer of Adventure! Conclusion.

[And now our thrilling conclusion to the Kingslip saga -- as seen in part 1, part 2, part 3, and part 4. Will they ever get the power back after the hurricane? Let's find out.]


The Summer of Adventure! 

by Frederick Key


The storm passed soon after, but the power didn’t come back.

It didn’t come back in the morning. They had spent the night in the cellar with some battery-powered lights, just in case the storm decided to have another go at them, but all stayed quiet, except for Kerry who at one point loudly wondered what choices she had made in her life to lead her here at this moment. Screwball was pretty happy, though, after the thunder went away.

In the light of the sun but nothing else, they crept upstairs after a lousy night on the blow-up mattress and assorted sofa cushions. After the kids got some breakfast, Henry decided to go out and assess the damage to the house and the world. Hal wanted to go along but Jane said it was too dangerous.

“But it’s safe for me?” asked Henry.

“You don’t eat boogers when you think no one is looking…”

“Who says?”

“…so I think you probably don’t believe that clutching a downed power line will give you superpowers.”

“Another career move shot to hell.”

The weather was overcast and cool in the wake of the hurricane. Quite pleasant, in fact. Some of the neighbors were outside too, looking at limbs on their yards and roofs. One guy Henry didn’t know was trying to pull a limb off his kids’ playset. Henry helped. Another had a big bald patch on his roof where a cluster of shingles had gone away.

“We lost three shingles,” Henry reported when he returned. “That is all.”

“Any idea why the power is out? We can’t get through to the power company.”

“Might be connected to the snapped utility pole on Evergreen Street.”

“Good work, Hercule.”

Henry’s sister stayed a little while, then felt safe enough to go see how her place was doing. Her answering machine at home picked up, so she assumed she had power. So did Jane’s parents, and they invited the family over, but Jane didn’t want to stress out her father so soon after his heart scare—and the first hurricane to hit their area in eight years.

“We’ll be fine, just fine,” Jane told her mom on the phone. Henry was impressed by her fake sincerity.

The novelty of living stone-age style lasted sixteen hours. Then everyone got cranky and the thermometer indoors cracked 82. The next morning Jane also cracked, and they piled into the car to spend the day with her sister Julia. “I don’t care if they have the plague,” she grumbled.

Henry called Geoff’s office line while sitting on Julia’s porch steps. Phoebe was on the porch swing with her ponies while her noisy alphabet toy charged up inside.

“Geoff Silverman.”

“You made it in,” he said.

“It would seem.”

“Sorry—we still have no power and the family has gone crazy.”

“Any idea when—”

“Lots of utility trucks around. I’ll call with an update this afternoon.”

“Good. Oh, and, er, Henry…”


“We had to let Cass go this morning as part of the staff reductions.”


“Cass and ten others, but she was the only one in your group. I would have asked you to do it, but it had to be today.”

“Is that all for the layoffs?”

“That’s my information. Sorry about Cass. I hope it wasn’t overstepping.”

The only overstepping Henry was concerned about was doing some Irish stepdancing with joy.

“Thanks for letting me know. It’s no problem. But—I thought you liked Cass.”

“I do. I hated to let her go. But she’s a lousy copywriter.”


“She hasn’t gotten better over time. Unlike you—after we spoke in April about you becoming more proactive.”

“Thanks. How’d she take it?”

“She was stunned. But I told her to try sales. She’d do better in client-facing work.”


“I need people who get things done right, especially with reduced staff.”

“Thanks, boss.”

Henry hung up and laid back on the porch in boneless relief.

“Who was that?” asked Phoebe.

“Daddy’s boss, Mr. Silverman.”

“Is he silver?”

“Oh yes, sweetie. Hallmark-quality Britannia silver, ninety-five-point-eight percent pure, with a thin coat of fine silver for a perfect museum-quality finish, a unique and delightful addition to any fine collection.”

“He’s not a poopyhead.”

“Not at all.”

“Hal is a poopyhead.”

“We will keep working on him, sweetheart. He is coming along.”


As it happened, Hal was being a poopyhead. Since the family’s recent enforced togetherness, Hal had become inclined to slug Phoebe when she annoyed him. As soon as the power came back and the Kingslips returned home, Henry sat Hal down to have words.

“Hal, listen. Men from other, lesser families may punch their sisters, but we don’t do that in this family.”

“Batman punches everyone.”

“Only bad guys.”

“Phoebe stoled my truck.”

“But Phoebe— Look, Phoebe is like Robin to your Batman, okay?”

“She’s a girl.”

“But she’s like your pardner, see?”


“Like someone you share your adventures with. It’s a cowboy thing.”

“Batman’s not a cowboy.”

“Skip it. My question to you, my man, is this: Would Batman punch Robin, even if he thought Robin was doing something wrong?”


“No, he’d think maybe Robin had a good reason for it. Like, if he stole the Batmobile. Well, Batman might think Robin needed it. He wouldn’t go after Robin and punch him.”

“Yeah, he would, ’cause he hit Robin in the one where Clayface tricked Robin ’cause he looked like Batman and said Batman was him and Robin attacked him and Batman knew it was Robin and punched him anyway and then Robin knew it was Batman and they both said sorry and they went to get Clayface and they trapped him in the cement mixer.”

“No way.”


Henry and Hal went to examine the evidence on DVD and discovered that Hal was correct, even precise, in his description of the episode, which concerned the shape-shifting Clayface.

“Well,” Henry said to Jane, “the good news is that Hal apologized to Phoebe and promised not to hit her again.”

“Bad news…?”

“He’s gonna be a lawyer.”


Labor Day weekend Hal enjoyed his last adventure of the Summer of Adventure!

Assuring Jane that they didn’t need a professional roofer to fix three shingles, Henry borrowed his neighbor’s big ladder and climbed up himself. He was correct that a roofer was not required to fix three shingles, but a roofer probably would have been able to climb back down the ladder without falling off of it.

Jane went running outside. “What happened? What’s all the swearing from?”

On his back on the deck, Henry explained that his foot had slipped and he’d fallen five feet, if not six. As he told the story over the next few days, the height in feet ranged anywhere from “a couple” (to Hal) to “fifteen” (to Kerry). But he was okay.

He milked it to have Jane get him a beer and leave him home while she went with the kids to see Pops. Henry sat on the sofa with his beer and the ball game, and concluded that falling three feet off a ladder was not the worst thing that could happen to a guy.


Jane turned off her e-reader and put it on her nightstand. Henry continued to look toward the ceiling, although with only the faint red glow from the alarm clock it was not visible.

“That’s the end of Labor Day,” she sighed, nestling down.


“End of summer.”

“Not for a couple of weeks.”

“You know what I mean.”


Jane sighed again, but it was a contented sigh. She really loved snuggling under the blanket. The weather had gotten cool, as if summer really had just stopped, and they had a window open instead of the air conditioner for the first time since the Summer of Adventure! began.

“So is this the end of the Summer of Adventure at last?” Jane asked.

“God, I hope so.”

“Followed by what, the Autumn of Carnage?”

“I hope the Autumn of Dullness.”

“And then the Winter of Our Discontent.” She yawned.

“That will be fine. I’ve had enough adventure. A little discontent wouldn’t kill me.”

“Good for your soul.”

“I guess.”

Henry reviewed some of the highlights of the summer—the perils at work, Tor’s marriage (already on the rocks), the hurricane… and also the million little adventures along the way. When Phoebe got stung by a yellow jacket and Henry took care of her—not like last Christmas, when Hal fell down some steps and just lay there and Henry’s mind went blank. Seemed like Papa Henry was getting better at crises. Then there was the kid down the block, the Peters kid, who wiped out on his skateboard and creamed Henry’s mailbox. The kid must have survived, since there’d been no lawyer letters, but Henry had to fix the mailbox. Oh, then Nug’s amazing tantrum in the middle of the wholesale club when they wouldn’t let him play with the kitchen knife set. (Hey, his birthday was in November, and now they knew what he wanted!) And the chewing out Henry got for mowing the lawn with the kids playing in the yard. Oy. Then falling off the roof—well, three feet—all right, that was two days ago.

He turned to Jane and said, “I’m all for boring, but you know what? It’s never boring. My life is an endless source of fascination for me. It keeps me riveted. We may not be much, but we’re plenty for me.” He put his hand on hers. “I love it all.”

Jane was asleep.

“And you too, pardner,” he said, and closed his eyes.