Sunday, March 26, 2017

Old blog, new tricks.

Approximately 1,038 days ago -- actually exactly that many, since that's how many entries I've done on this Blogger site -- I left my old blog behind on Why? Because, despite its name, is the worst site ever created for blogging. Mostly because it does not work. Only found out now that the Better Business Bureau has straight-up flunked it for "Failure to respond to 5 complaint(s) filed against business". I get the feeling that a couple of stoners snagged the URL in the 90's expecting to be bought out for millions, money that never came.

The site would crash, sometimes my page, sometimes everything. Half the time you either couldn't upload pictures, or when you did they wouldn't display. When I finally had enough I left a sign on the site directing people here, and left the free part of the site up. But now everything is down. It would appear that is no longer a going concern. 

I'm rather annoyed by this. Not because my old site was a marvel of unsurpassed brilliance. Even I'm not so beguiled by myself as to think that. In fact, I didn't back up all that much of it because the content was topical, or consisted of reviews of things from the dollar store, or was just stuff that was fun at the time but didn't seem like something I would want in my papers at my university library after my passing.

But there are some things I backed up, which I may trickle out just so that they once again appear somewhere online. Stuff like how I got to be such an awesome cartoonist:

 My opinion of Twitter:

And my answer to the Buddy Cop movie:

I hope you'll bear with me if you see any familiar retreads in the weeks ahead. Some of my old gags are like my wee little children, and I hate to see them vanish. 

Saturday, March 25, 2017


There's been a movement about to remove the stigma of addiction; they say (as on this site) that it punishes those who are sick. You wouldn't punish someone for having cancer, would you? But people who suffer from addictions are terrified of their secret coming out, and so they stay in the shadows until the darkness claims them.

I sympathize with this view entirely; few things bring as much shame on a person than the effects of addiction. I wonder if anyone suffers from the addict's behavior more than the addict does. Getting clean is a mighty, even titanic, struggle.

But here's my question: Is removing the stigma from addiction not actually normalizing it, thus legitimizing it? I know some people who believe they were born alcoholic, had all the characteristics that psychologists associate with the disease long before they took that first drink -- why can't they just say "I was born this way" and not do anything about it? Self-righteousness and victimhood is one way of dealing with some of the suffering of addiction -- getting rid of the humiliation. It's a poor way, but it's a way.

You think that Addict Pride sounds like a crazy idea -- heard of any other ideas lately that would have seemed crazy 40 or even 30 years ago?

It is absolutely true that shame can keep people from going to get help, but it sure as hell can also motivate people to go and get help. And they should try to get some kind of help, if only to protect everyone around them. 

The thing is, addiction may be an illness, but it's not like other illnesses. Cancer, diabetes, heart disease, these things don't cause this:

You know what that is? It's a seal over the tank of a toilet bowl in the place where I go for blood and urine tests as part of my annual physical. They have to use sealing tape to prevent a guy who's clean from leaving a vial of his own pee hidden in the tank for his buddy who's coming in next to take a drug test for work (maybe as a school bus driver) or as part of his parole. After I left my own sample a tech probably checked the room to make sure I didn't leave anything around. Cancer patients don't smuggle in someone else's blood so they can beat the CBC and go on having cancer.

That's why some people don't buy the disease model of addiction, or allow that it's a kind of insanity -- this kind of behavior is crafty and lucid. Everybody else has to struggle to stay a step ahead of the guy who is trying to kill himself with drugs or alcohol. How could you take the stigma from that even if you wanted to?

No one really knows if more people or fewer people will get treatment if the shame of addiction is removed. They can point to the anonymity of Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous and other similar organizations as proof that people will seek help if they can go someplace where they will not be exposed to the whole world and will be with those who understand. And that's true -- but it's not like those organizations have been outlawed, They're still there. One can recover with one's addiction unknown to the outside world (if one's crash hasn't been too public). We can't expect that removing the stigma of addiction will turn the whole world into a safe zone. It doesn't work that way. AA and NA stress that the alcoholic or drug addict must take responsibility for his condition, and that includes dealing with the world as it is, not as he'd like it to be.

As Mitch Hedberg said, "Alcoholism is the only disease you can get yelled at for having." That was before he died of an overdose at age 37. People knew he'd been in trouble for drugs. He admitted it. He was out of the shadows and died anyway. 

Friday, March 24, 2017

Hot stuff!

Brace yourself -- this is terrifying:



Well, it's another kitchen gadget from Santa! Yes, I got the Oven Pull Monster, a helpful if fearsome silicone chap whose mouth is perfect for pulling out the oven rack without burning yourself. He's heat resistant to 500 degrees, can move racks, pots, pans, whatever you have in there, and keeps you a hand's length away from the heat. Which is nice, since as we know, oven mitts are not always as heat resistant as they look.

Of course, if you're like me -- and if so I'm sorry -- you can't pick up your Oven Pull Monster without making monster noises.


This is true whether you got the red one, as I did, or one of the green ones.


It's a handy tool, and I support any product that makes kitchen burns less likely without compromising the food. Plus, I can carry it around and use it to alarm people I encounter. So I got that going for me.

It turns out that some bug-eyed monsters can be very helpful in the kitchen. Not all of them, of course.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

I've been work work work work working...

I was copyediting a book the other day and got to thinking about a former coworker of mine whom I recall fondly. As the dullness of the book slowly tilted me toward unconsciousness, I suddenly realized that most of my assignments -- as a freelance editor, but really, everything I've ever done for money -- could neatly fit one of the squares on this chart:

If I'd had more time -- in other words, if I didn't have to do all that doggone work -- I'd have shown it as a scale for each block; the boring and difficult jobs would go way up on the left side, then as they got easier they'd move closer to the blue block below, and as they got more interesting they'd lean farther toward the pink block on the right, and so on.

Maybe I was thinking of work because of St. Joseph, whose feast day just passed. We celebrate him as the patron of workers on May 1, but he always remembered as the saint for the working man or woman (as well as the patron of the Universal Church, unborn children, fathers, travelers, and immigrants, and of course the patron saint of a happy death, which some of the boring jobs have made me wish for).

As regards my chart, obviously jobs that are boring and difficult are the hardest, since they require the utmost concentration and ensure the least desire to concentrate. A job that's difficult but interesting can at least keep me engaged. One that's boring but easy I can fly through, the greatest danger being that I'll detach too much and make mistakes. And a job that's easy and interesting is the best, because that's easy money.

Which is when I remembered my old office pal, Patty, who liked to say, "They call it work because it sucks. If it was fun they'd call it play."

As I considered my chart, I realized that if we scaled to the boxes to the assignments I actually get by volume, it would look more like:

They wouldn't pay you if it was all fun and games. And that's why I get paid, although of course, not enough.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Momma nuke.

A couple of weeks ago I ran 25 tips for home cooks, things I'd learned, many the hard way. I had one more tip, but it was really about cleanliness and kitchen safety rather than cooking.

The question is: How do you clean the microwave?

You have to put food in there, so bleach products and ammonia are out. You want an ammonia-flavored Hot Pocket? It's an electronic product, so scouring powders are a bad idea. Oven cleaner? Not made for microwave ovens.

You need an angry mama.

The Angry Mama Microwave Cleaner arrived at Christmas, and is a handy little gizmo. It works by the same principle I've always used, that of nuking up a bowl of water really hot and letting the steam loosen the gunk on the oven interior. Some elbow grease does the rest. 

The problem with this method is one I found out the first time I tried it -- superheated water is dangerous. The FDA reports "serious skin burns or scalding injuries around people's hands and faces as a result of hot water erupting out of a cup after it had been over-heated in a microwave oven. Over-heating of water in a cup can result in superheated water (past its boiling temperature) without appearing to boil." I did not get burned, fortunately, but here's what happened: I put in a bowl of water with some lemon juice and set the timer to Kill; when it was done I opened the door. "If superheating has occurred, a slight disturbance or movement such as picking up the cup, or pouring in a spoon full of instant coffee, may result in a violent eruption with the boiling water exploding out of the cup," says Mr. FDA, and opening the door was enough. BANG! 

The Mythbusters did a nice demo on this years ago:

After my escapade I adapted my method by superheating the water and then leaving the bowl in the microwave until it had cooled off, 10 minutes or so. 

You still have to do this with Angry Mama. Since Mama is plastic, she seems to require less time to get past the explosive state (instructions say to wait two minutes after nuking before lifting), and she has those stay-cool arms for safe removal. The manufacturer recommends a mixture of vinegar and water rather than lemon juice. You'll still have to use some muscle to scrub the inside of the oven -- those cheesy splats bake on like concrete -- but the job is far easier. For one thing, she has steam holes in the head to blast steam at the ick that forms on the microwave roof. When the job is done, she's ready for a bath in the dishwasher. 

So we're glad we got the Angry Mama, and recommend her. Better and safer than the old bowl method. But she never does stop looking mad. I guess she's seen the state of the refrigerator.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Toilet Tuesday!

I was in Lowe's a week or so ago and, while waiting (and waiting and waiting) for help in the plumbing section, I saw something that totally blew me away, toiletwise.

At first I was no more bowled (Ha!) over than you. White toilet, so what? The claim below, "Unmatched clog resistance," just tells you it's as bad as all our modern low-flow toilets. But then I saw this!

"Engineered to prevent clogs; flushes a bucket of golf balls in a single flush."

How did I miss this in the newspapers? 

We have a clutch of toilets and I wouldn't bet on any of them flushing one golf ball. 

I checked American Standard's Web site and sure enough, they stand by this outrageous claim

Removes 2.2 lbs of waste in a single flush (1,000g MaP score - the highest rated flush performance possible!)
Flushes a bucket of golf balls in a single flush.

I could hardly have been more gobsmacked if they said, "Flushes a five-pound watermelon in a single flush." Well, I suppose I would really have wanted to see that to believe it.

But about this golf ball business. Since my trip to the hardware store I've been thinking about it, and I have some questions:

1) How slowly do they pour in the golf balls? Yes, I question whether the primary toilet here at Baldpate Manor could flush a single golf ball, but let's assume that it is possible. Well, if I flushed one a day, eventually I could flush an enormous number of golf balls. Ah, but they're onto me; the claim is that they can flush a bucket "in a single flush." Unless the thing is designed to flush over the course of twenty to thirty minutes -- which would likely violate the federal government's 1.6-gallon maximum flush capacity -- their claim grows more not less impressive.

2) How big is the bucket? This is a real bone of contention, because "a bucket" means different things on different golf courses, or even on the same if your course's driving range sells different size buckets. Putting the question "how many golf balls in a bucket?" on Google gets you a number of varying answers from golfers, and a few from science and math teachers who want to give students a formula to calculate a population of spheres from available volume. It seems that while the so-called federal government can force us to use the same toilet capacity, it's all just Wild West out there for driving range bucket capacity. I would like to think American Standard would not fiddle with us by using a rocks-glass size bucket that holds two golf balls; certainly their illustration makes it seem that we're dealing with at least a bucket of 30.

3) Would anyone actually put this to the test? I wouldn't. Not in my house. Even if my new supercrapper could handle a bucket of 300 balls, I would just expect them to get stuck in the plumbing, clogging the sewer outlet or something. No Liquid-Plumr or Drano is going to dissolve a bunch of golf balls. People with septic tanks would probably be even less inclined to try this at home. I think American Standard is expecting that we will take them at their word, and I think I'd have to.

4) Might this start a plumbing themed war over sporting equipment? Will Kohler respond with a toilet that they claim could flush billiard balls? Will Ove counter by flushing fully inflated regulation NBA basketballs? This could get ugly. And awesome.

All that said, I can almost guarantee my next toilet is going to be the Champion 4. I've dealt with plungers too often over the years in our home, and I'm not going to sit for it any longer. The only way I'll not get the Champion 4 is if the company releases a new toilet that can flush the entire 2,631-piece "Identity and Landscape" set of Lego bricks in one fell swoosh. Now that would be awesome.

Monday, March 20, 2017


At 6:28 this morning, it became Spring here on the East Coast of the United States. 

Less than a week after the worst snowstorm of the year. Readers of the Great Lileks and fans of MST3K will understand what I mean when I say it felt like Coily had been at work. 

Should I start whining about all the yard work I have to do? Nah, let's wait until I can actually see the yard. We got up to 40⁰F or so yesterday and it melted a ton of snow, but the grass is still buried under about six inches of the stuff. I have no idea where any of the dogs' toys are. Under there somewhere.

I shall try not to focus on the yard or other housework that will need to be done. If I think about the spring cleaning too much I'll be yelling for another blizzard. Instead I shall focus on baseball, warmth, Easter, and not shoveling snow.

Here's what we can expect to see in a few weeks:

I don't mind plowing so much, but Oxen Local 425 is threatening a strike. And how do Bumpus's sheep keep getting in here?

There's a lot to look forward to. I'm not going to get upset about the spring projects that need doing, anymore than I'm going to get upset about the winter projects that never got done. We do our best, or try to, and on we go!