The Snoozeletter @

The saguaro aftermarket. 

Some guys are content with making sculptures from the woody skeletons of saguaros.

Some guys want to turn these cacti into doors and lamps.

And then there's
Nausea Skywalk opens @ Big Ditch. Stifle the overpowering vertigo, as you walk WAY out over the Grand Canyon on a viewing platform that has a glass bottom and sides...

From Snopes (w/drawings and photos): "Grand Canyon West, a destination owned and operated by the Hualapai Tribe at the Grand Canyon's western rim, announces March 28, 2007 as the official public opening date of The Skywalk. The Skywalk will be the first-ever cantilever shaped glass walkway to suspend more than 4,000 feet above the Colorado River and extend 70 feet from the canyon's rim."

More excellent photos at The Guardian: "The Hualapai Tribe hopes this one-of-a-kind attraction will lure tourists to the remote area two-and-a-half hours from Las Vegas by car."

Let's face it, some idiot will soon fall or jump. And it will take a minimum of 22.72 seconds to cover the 4000 feet, which will give him/her lots of time to meditate on the seventy-five bucks s/he wasted.

NB: The Skywalk is an eleven-hour roundtrip drive from Scottsdale.
Vexillophiles (5): Sedona. 

In 1899, homesteader T.C. Schnebly and his wife, Sedona Miller Schnebly, joined T.C.'s brother in the Oak Creek area.

T.C. ran a hotel--in his house--and a general store. He also organized the area's first post office. T.C. suggested the names "Oak Creek Crossing" and "Schnebly Station" to the Postmaster General in Washington, but both were rejected as too long. T.C.'s brother then proposed submitting Sedona's name for the honor.

And that's how Sedona got its name, on June 26, 1902.

Flash forward several decades: a local Sedona merchant who ran a flag and kite shop started a flag design contest. Prominent Sedona residents judged the entries, and the winner's design was adopted by the City Council as the official flag:

Sedona flag
Beware Nielsen scam on craigslist. These offers of writing work are all over craigslist and other online classified sites. Sometimes the ads list Nielsen's correct URL (, but the names and eMail addresses are usually different. I've contacted the Nielsen company, and they refuse to authenticate any of these offers. Caveat Emptor: it's probably either a phishing scam, or a method for compiling spam lists.
Where'd all the (R)'s come from?

Mesa City Councilmember Rex Griswold (R - District 5)
Maricopa County Supervisor Don Stapley (R - District 2)
AZ State Representative Kirk Adams (R - District 19)
AZ State Representative Rich Crandall (R - District 19)
AZ State Senator Chuck Gray (R - District 19)
AZ State Mine Inspector Joe Hart (R)
AZ Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne (R)
AZ Corporation Commissioners Mayes/Mundell/Gleason/Hatch-Miller/Pierce (R-R-R-R-R)
AZ State Treasurer Dean Martin (R)
AZ Secretary of State Jan Brewer (R)
AZ Attorney General Terry Goddard (D) One Democrat? Only ONE?!
AZ Governor Janet Napolitano (D) Two. Phew. Or maybe too few.
US Congressman Jeff Flake (R - AZ Sixth District)
US Senator John McCain (R-AZ)
US Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ)
US President George W. Bush (R)

Online Voter Registration
Polling Place Locator
Vexillophiles (4): Mesa. We're in escrow on a house in Mesa, the next city over.

Mesa was founded in January 1878 by Mormon pioneers. It's still roughly 10% Mormon.

For 127 years, Mesa didn't have an official flag.

Then a local newspaper held a flag design contest.

Voting was open to anyone... including non-Mesa, and even non-Arizona, residents.

The newspaper declared Mary Jean Crider the winner on February 8, 2005.

Less than a month later, the Mesa City Council voted unanimously to adopt her winning design:

Mesa flag: a saguaro, a sunrise and a flat-topped mesa.
Me and my cannibal.
(A) Cuttlefish are not really fish.

(B) They're molluscs, related to squid, octopuses and nautiluses.

(C) They commonly range in size from 6 to 10 inches, but one of the larger species can reach a length of 5 feet, weighing nearly 33 pounds. Their life spans are generally 1 to 3 years.

(D) They eat fish, crabs, shrimp... and other cuttlefish.

(E) They have large eyes, a parrot-like beak, eight arms and two tentacles with suckers. Cuttlefish also have an internal shell, called a cuttlebone, which is the tough material given to parakeets and other caged birds as a source of dietary calcium.

(F) Cuttlefish are sometimes called the "chameleons of the sea" because of their remarkable ability to rapidly alter their skin color and texture. Their skin camouflages them from predators, and can flash a fast-changing pattern to communicate with other cuttlefish.

(G) They might be saying, "Stop bugging me, bro, or I'll eat you."

(H) In addition to their ability to influence the color of light reflected off their skin, cuttlefish can also affect the light's polarization, which is useful in signaling other marine animals, many of whom can also sense polarization.

(I) Their blood is pumped by three separate hearts.

(J) Mediterranean and East Asian cultures see cuttlefish as a food item. Although squid (calamari) is more popular as a restaurant dish all over the world, dried cuttlefish is a highly-prized convenience snack in East Asia.
(K) Cuttlefish have ink, like squid and octopuses. In the past, this ink was an important dye, called "sepia." Dr. Samuel Hahnemann (1755-1843) once treated a patient who was an artist and had the habit of wetting his sepia-filled brush in his mouth. The artist had certain chronic ailments, so Hahnemann effected a cure by advising him to stop putting the sepia onto his tongue.

(L) Hahnemann was the founder of homeopathy.

(M) I'm seeing some homeopaths who have prescribed sepia for my urticaria (hives): 3 pills under my tongue, once a day.

(N) Funny thing is, it seems to be working.
Pink Floyd, remixed. Eric Prydz vs Floyd - Proper EducationProper Education, by Eric Prydz vs Floyd:

Swedish-born DJ Eric Prydz has been producing records for public consumption since 1999. His new single, Proper Education, was recorded 14 months ago, but the track was never intended for release. "When I started to play this record out in clubs it absolutely blew the roof off every club I played it in," he recalls. "I gave the track out to a couple of other DJs and they all came back to me saying they have never seen a reaction that big ever, wherever they play, wherever in the world."

After convincing Pink Floyd to let him use the vocals and other musical elements from their song, Another Brick In The Wall, everything fit into place, and the CD was released. This is the first time Pink Floyd has officially cleared any sample.

Lacing David Gilmour's caliginous vocals with an immense electro bassline, Prydz builds on the epic nature of the original, molding it into a bouncy slice of crossover brilliance.
AZ logos: Taliesin West. 

Taliesen WestTaliesin West is the international headquarters for The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation:

"Situated on 600 acres of rugged Sonoran desert at the foothills of the McDowell Mountains in Scottsdale, Arizona, Taliesin West is now a National Historic Landmark."

And it has an intriguing logo:
Vernal Equinox. Did you feel it? The USNO says: "At this moment the center of the Sun's disc passes directly over the Earth's Equator at a point out over the middle of the Pacific Ocean near the International Date Line. This marks the beginning of spring in the Northern Hemisphere."
39¢ stamps soon to be 41¢.

The cost of mailing a letter will go up on May 14 [...]


ACB stamp
My hovercraft is full of eels. Monty Python´s Flying Circus, Ep. 25The Hungarian Phrasebook sketch, by Monty Python's Flying Circus:

Text on screen: In 1970 the British Empire lay in ruins, foreign nationals frequented the streets - many of them Hungarians (not the streets - the foreign nationals). Anyway, many of these Hungarians went into tobacconists shops to buy cigarettes...

HUNGARIAN (John Cleese - reading haltingly from phrasebook): I will not buy this record, it is scratched.
TOBACCONIST (Terry Jones): Sorry?
HUNGARIAN: I will not buy this record, it is scratched.
TOBACCONIST: Uh, no, no, no. This is a tobacconist's.
HUNGARIAN: Ah! I will not buy this *tobacconist's*, it is scratched.
TOBACCONIST: No, no, no, no. Tobacco... um... cigarettes (holds up a pack).
HUNGARIAN: Ya, ya! See-gar-ets! Ya! Uh... my hovercraft is full of eels.
HUNGARIAN: My hovercraft (pantomimes puffing a cigarette)... is full of eels (pretends to strike a match).
TOBACCONIST: Ahh, matches. Matches!
HUNGARIAN: Ya! Ya! Ya! Ya! Do you waaaaant... do you waaaaaant... to come back to my place, bouncy-bouncy?
TOBACCONIST: Uh, I don't think you're using that thing right.
HUNGARIAN: You great poof.
TOBACCONIST: That'll be six and six, please.
HUNGARIAN: If I said you had a beautiful body, would you hold it against me? I... I am no longer infected.
TOBACCONIST: Uh, may I, uh... (takes phrase book, flips through it) costs six and six... ah, here we are (speaks Hungarian-sounding words).

(The Hungarian punches the Tobacconist. Meanwhile, a POLICEMAN - Graham Chapman - on a quiet street cups his ear, as if hearing a cry of distress. He sprints for many blocks and finally enters the Tobacconist's.)

POLICEMAN: What's going on here then?
HUNGARIAN: Ah. You have beautiful thighs.
POLICEMAN (looks down at himself): WHAT?!
HUNGARIAN: Drop your panties, Sir William; I cannot wait 'til lunchtime (points at clerk).
POLICEMAN: RIGHT! (Drags Hungarian away by the arm.)
HUNGARIAN (indignantly): My nipples explode with delight!

(Scene switches to a Courtroom. Characters are all in powdered wigs and judicial robes, except the Policeman, the Hungarian and a Publisher.)

BAILIFF (Eric Idle): Call Alexander Yalt! (Voices sing out, repeating the name several times.)
JUDGE (Terry Jones): Oh, shut up!
BAILIFF (to Publisher): You are Alexander Yalt?
PUBLISHER (Michael Palin - in a sing-songy voice): Oh, I am.
BAILIFF: Skip the impersonations. You are Alexander Yalt?
BAILIFF: You are hereby charged that on the 28th day of May, 1970, you did willfully, unlawfully, and with malice aforethought, publish an alleged English/Hungarian phrasebook with intent to cause a breach of the peace. How do you plead?
PUBLISHER: Not guilty.
BAILIFF: You live at 46 Horton Terrace?
PUBLISHER: I do live at 46 Horton Terrace.
BAILIFF: You are the director of a publishing company?
PUBLISHER: I am the director of a publishing company.
BAILIFF: Your company publishes phrasebooks?
PUBLISHER: My company does publish phrasebooks.
BAILIFF: You did say 46 Horton Terrace, did you?
BAILIFF (strikes a gong): Ah! Got him! (Policeman and Hungarian applaud, laugh.)
JUDGE: Get on with it, get on with it.
BAILIFF: That's fine. On the 28th day of May, you published this phrasebook?
BAILIFF: I quote an example. The Hungarian phrase meaning "Can you direct me to the station?" is translated by the English phrase "Please fondle my bum."
PUBLISHER: I wish to plead incompetence.
POLICEMAN (stands): Please may I ask for an adjournment, m'lord?
JUDGE: An adjournment? Certainly not! (The Policeman sits down again, emitting perhaps the longest and loudest fart in history.) Why on earth didn't you say WHY you wanted an adjournment?
POLICEMAN: I didn't know an acceptable legal phrase, m'lord. (Cut to ancient footage of old women, applauding.)
JUDGE (banging gavel): If there's any more stock film of women applauding, I shall clear the court!

[video clip]
Recipe: Meggy leves. [Pronounced "MED yuh lev esh".] Back in 2003, Kmareka published a slightly-altered version of my recipe for traditional Hungarian sour cherry soup...

Active preparation time: 1/2 hour
Servings (when cold): approx. 4 to 6 - just under 2 quarts

Pour only the liquid from:

· 32 ounces (approx. 2 cans) pitted Bing cherries in heavy syrup

into a 4-quart pan, and sauté this syrup at 70% heat. While waiting for it to boil, add:

· 1/2 cup sugar
· 1/2 cup water
· 1/4 teaspoon imitation rum extract
· 1/8 tsp. vanilla extract
· 10 cloves
· 1/4 stick cinnamon
· 2 pinches salt

Meanwhile, put the cherries themselves into a 1-quart bowl, and sprinkle:

· 3 heaping tsp. flour

on the top, while carefully stirring them with a spoon. After the above syrup mixture finally boils, turn it down to a simmer and stir in the cherry/flour combination. Then add:

· 2 lemon slices (round, 1/8 inch thick, cut from the fruit's center)

and turn the heat back up to 70%, stirring frequently. When it boils again, slowly stir in:

· 1 pint whipping cream

Continue at a low boil for 5 minutes and stir often. Allow to cool for 1 hour, then discard the lemon slices. Refrigerate for at least 1 more hour, and serve in bowls at your convenience. For an extra festive touch, put a dollop of whipped cream on top of each portion.

Jó étvágyat ["Yo ate VAD yat"] - bon appétit!

Meggy leves
Cause or cure? Here's a cute little anecdote from my ongoing struggle with urticaria (hives). I think you might enjoy it. I know I did...

A few weeks ago, I stepped outside the M.D. world to consult with a D.O. (osteopath). He was extremely worried the urticaria might send me into a tailspin, so he gave me a month's supply of antidepressants. I hate pills--I'm forced to take way too many already--so I threw the package into the corner and promptly forgot about it. Last night, I finally read the warning label:

"Depression is a serious condition that can lead to suicidal thoughts and behavior. Anitdepressants increased the risk of suicidal thinking and behavior (2% to 4%) in short-term studies [...]"
Toothless no more. Gosh, has it really been two years since The Root Canal From Hell?

That bridge was finally installed today.

Time flies when you're having fun.
Carl A. Baird (24 Nov 1899 - 11 Mar 1983). My paternal grandfather died in Madison, Maine, at the age of 83:

Grampa Baird

Grampa loved to fish for brook trout. I went with him a couple of times, but crawling through the dense underbrush to find a tiny fishing hole was not my idea of fun. Plus, after locating a likely spot, you had to stand stock-still and allow the mosquitoes, black flies and no-see-ums to eat you alive. I still don't know how he did it... but I sure enjoyed frying up and eating the contents of his creel with him.
Ronald W. Gilbert (30 Jul 1906 - 27 Jul 1985). My maternal grandfather died in Waterville, Maine, at the age of 78:

Grampie Gilbert

I went to visit my Grampie on his deathbed. His kidneys were failing, so he was drifting in and out of consciousness at odd times of the day. It was really sweet to see the way my Grammie Gilbert adjusted to his sleeping schedule; she often stayed up all night to talk with him, and then she caught catnaps while he slept, during the day. Grampie was also drifting in and out of hallucinations... and I think he was doing a little time-traveling, too. I remember spending one afternoon reclining at the foot of his bed, listening to his stories of days gone by. At one point, he started calling me "Chet," my father's name, so I responded with "Curly," the nickname my father used with him. That seemed to be the key to unlocking all sorts of stories I had never heard before. Grampie shared with me the mythical tales of the long-ago Chet-and-Curly baseball exploits, and I could hear in my Grampie's voice his great happiness that Chet had asked for the hand of his second daughter. It was a wonderful afternoon.

Published in The Morning Sentinel, Monday, July 29, 1985

Ronald W. Gilbert
(30 Jul 1906 - 27 Jul 1985; Age 78)

OAKLAND - Ronald W. Gilbert, 78, died Saturday evening at a Waterville hospital following a short illness. He was born in Berlin, N.H., July 30, 1906, son of Stewart and Agnes White Gilbert. He was a long-time resident of this community, where he built and operated the Oakland Boathouse, owned and operated Gilbert's Dairy for 16 years, and owned and operated R.W. Gilbert Inc., a regional GMC dealership, for 17 years, retiring in 1979. He was a member of the Oakland Town Council for eight years, a member of the Oakland Planning Board and a member of the Messalonskee Masonic Lodge. He was a charter member of the Messalonskee Regional Credit Union and a member of St. Theresa's Catholic Church. Surviving are his wife, Thena Sullivan Gilbert; one son, Ronald T. Gilbert of Oakland; four daughters, Catherine Otis of Sidney, Beverly Baird of Charleston, W. Va., Natalie Buzzell of Cape Elizabeth, Sherry Gilbert of Oakland; two brothers, Clifford of North Anson and Calvin of South Portland; ten grandchildren; three great-grandchildren; several nieces and nephews. A grandson. Randy Buzzell. died previously. Funeral services will be Wednesday at 10 a.m. at St. Theresa's Catholic Church, Oakland. Friends may call Tuesday from 2-4 and 7-9 at the Wheeler Funeral Home, Church Street. where evening prayer services will be at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday. GILBERT, Ronald W. - Those who wish may make donations to the American Heart Association, Maine Affiliate Inc., P.O. Box 346, Augusta, 04330; donations may be left at the funeral home.
Ella Henrietta Baird (12 Sep 1900 - 08 Sep 1995). My paternal grandmother died in Skowhegan, Maine, at the age of 94:

Gramma Baird

Gramma Baird knew I loved her homemade doughnuts, so she always had a fresh batch, along with a gallon of milk, whenever we visited. She was also the family historian, not a small task for a woman who had spawned a brood of eight kids, dozens of grandkids and a gazillion great-grandkids. I *still* haven't met some of the cousins on that side of the family. When Gramma's life was nearly over, my Grammie Gilbert drove me over to visit her in the nursing home. At that point, Gramma Baird couldn't really see or hear very much, but she spent two solid hours reciting the latest news from every last branch of the family tree. Even though I didn't recognize half the names, it was still an impressive feat.
Thena S. Gilbert (24 Jul 1908 - 26 Sep 2005). Thena S. GilbertMy maternal grandmother's obituary was published in the Morning Sentinel [Maine] on Wednesday, September 28, 2005:

Grammie Gilbert

OAKLAND -- Thena S. Gilbert died at MaineGeneral Medical Center, Thayer Unit [Waterville], on Monday, Sept. 26, 2005, at 97, after a short illness.

She was born on Heath Street in Oakland and lived in Oakland all her life. Thena had the distinction of being the oldest living graduate of Williams High School. Her parents, Robert Thomas "Tom" Sullivan and Catherine Ann "Annie" (Ludden) Sullivan raised seven children, four daughters and three sons, all predeceasing Thena.

Thena was the mother of four daughters, Kay Bacon and husband Otis of Sidney, Beverly Baird of Ocala, Fla., Natalie Vogler and husband Max of Ocala and Sherry Gilbert of Oakland; and one son, Ronald "Terry" Gilbert of Oakland. Her lineage includes eleven grandchildren (one predeceased) and 14 great-grandchildren.

A communicant of St. Theresa's Catholic Church, Thena was an active member serving as a CCD teacher, a lector, a Eucharistic minister, a member of the parish council and a member of St. Theresa's Guild. Thena also loved gardening, tending both a rock garden and a vegetable garden each year, and she also enjoyed her membership in the Oakland Garden Club.

One of the special treats of her life was when she won the grand prize on the television show, "Truth or Consequences" hosted by Bob Barker, by guessing prizes behind seven different doors. Thena said she chose the number five because of her five children and continued on until she won the grand prize. Several of the larger prizes were given by Thena to friends in need.

The ultimate caregiver, she enjoyed doing helpful things for her friends and acquaintances. She once remarked at age 90, she thought the reason God had granted her a long life was to allow her to do something good for someone each day, a feat she lovingly accomplished.

She was very active in each of the businesses she and her beloved husband, Ronald W. Gilbert, who predeceased her in 1985, owned. Their first business venture was Gilbert's Dairy, which they owned for more than 20 years. During the time they managed the dairy they also purchased and ran the Oakland Boat House. Upon selling these two businesses they purchased and ran R. W. Gilbert Inc. for many years. Thena also received her CNA and worked the evening shift for many years at Thayer Hospital.

She enjoyed traveling until she became the proud owner of a miniature pinscher. Her traveling was greatly curtailed as she chose instead to stay close to home and enjoy the company of her tiny devoted companion, Dancer.

Arrangements are by Wheeler's Funeral Home, Church Street, Oakland, with visiting hours from 2 to 4 and 7 to 9 p.m. Thursday with the Rosary being said shortly after 7 p.m. A Mass of Christian burial will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Friday at St. Theresa's Church, Church Street, Oakland.

Donations may be made to Mount St. Joseph, A Holistic Care Community, Highwood Street, Waterville.
Chester Alton Baird (3 Jun 1929 - 2 Aug 1987). Chester Alton Baird, June 1964, Washington DCIn case you missed it, here's a story about my father. His grave is listed here and his obituary was published in the Charleston Daily Mail [WV] on Monday, August 3, 1987:


Chester "Chet" Baird, 58, of 1977 Oakridge Drive, died Sunday in General Division, CAMC, after a short illness. He was manager of the Charleston District office of the Federal Aviation Administration. He was the 1987 winner of the FAA Eastern Region First-Line award and was an honorary member of the Mountaineer Soaring Association. He was an Air Force veteran and a Protestant. He was formerly of Norridgewock, Maine, and moved to Charleston in 1979.

Surviving: wife, Beverly Gilbert Baird; sons, Chris of Atlanta, Ga., Alan of Hollywood, Calif.; sisters, Mrs. Edith Blake, Mrs. Freda Dunlap and Mrs. Afton Hayden, of Norridgewock; brothers, Harley of Sultan, Wash., Clyde of Colorado Springs, Colo., Maynard of Billings, Mont., Linwood of Cheyenne, Wyo.

Service will be 6 p.m. Tuesday in Bartlett-Burdette-Cox Funeral Home. There will be no visitation. The family suggests donations be made to the American Heart Association.
Bartos, János (9 Aug 1919 - 29 Jan 2002). János BartosAlan wrote two micro stories about the events surrounding my father's death:

Apuka [written 24 January 2002, published in November (#1)]

The Budapest oncologists recently sent my wife's father home with a large bottle of pain pills, to wait for the end. We've offered to move up our planned visit, but János is convinced he'll still be around in April.

I'm hoping against hope that he can keep his promise.


Forsaken [written in April 2002, published in September]

Birth certificate, high school diploma, military discharge, marriage license, obituary: the old woman mechanically shuffles her precious stack of papers again and again, almost as if sorting them into the correct order will provide the magic combination that brings him back.
AZ logos: Children's Hospital. 

Phoenix Children´s HospitalFrom the website:

"Children aren't just small adults. Their bodies are vastly different. That's why there is a special branch of medicine – pediatrics - just for them. Likewise, Phoenix Children's Hospital is just for children."

It has a cool logo, too:
Bigmouth. Yes, I try to make sarcastic jokes at the expense of (see "jockstrap" posting below), but I'm generally pretty happy with the company - they provide approximately ten times the amount of space and bandwidth as other web hosts, for about half the cost. And their measured uptime over the past 485 days was 99.98%, which is quite a bit higher than the 99.95% figure bandied about by some other companies.
Esurient. Monty Python´s Instant Record CollectionThe Cheese Shop sketch by Monty Python's Flying Circus:

An Edwardian-style shop sports this sign: "Ye Olde Cheese Emporium. Henry Wensleydale, Purveyor of Fine Cheese to the Gentry and the Poverty Stricken Too. Licensed for Public Dancing." Two men are dancing in the corner, to the music of a Greek bouzouki. Mousebender enters:

MOUSEBENDER (John Cleese): Good morning.
WENSLEYDALE (Michael Palin): Good morning, sir. Welcome to the National Cheese Emporium.
MOUSEBENDER: Ah, thank you, my good man.
WENSLEYDALE: What can I do for you, sir?
MOUSEBENDER: Well, I was, uh, sitting in the public library on Thurmond Street just now, skimming through Rogue Herries by Hugh Walpole, and I suddenly came over all peckish.
WENSLEYDALE: Peckish, sir?
MOUSEBENDER (broad Yorkshire accent): Eee, I were all hungry, like.
WENSLEYDALE: Ah, hungry.
MOUSEBENDER: In a nutshell. And I thought to myself, "A little fermented curd will do the trick." So I curtailed my Walpoling activites, sallied forth, and infiltrated your place of purveyance to negotiate the vending of some cheesy comestibles.
WENSLEYDALE: Come again?
MOUSEBENDER: I want to buy some cheese.
WENSLEYDALE: Oh, I thought you were complaining about the bouzouki player.
MOUSEBENDER: Oh, heaven forbid. I am one who delights in all manifestations of the Terpsichorean muse.
MOUSEBENDER (broad Yorkshire accent): Ooo, I like a nice tune - you're forced to.
WENSLEYDALE: So he can go on playing, can he?
MOUSEBENDER: Most certainly. Now then, some cheese please, my good man.
WENSLEYDALE: Certainly, sir. What would you like?
MOUSEBENDER: Well, eh, how about a little Red Leicester?
WENSLEYDALE: I'm afraid we're fresh out of Red Leicester, sir.
MOUSEBENDER: Oh never mind, how are you on Tilsit?
WENSLEYDALE: I'm afraid we never have that at the end of the week, sir. We get it fresh on Monday.
MOUSEBENDER: Tish tish. No matter. Well, stout yeoman, four ounces of Caerphilly, if you please.
WENSLEYDALE: Ah. It's been on order, sir, for two weeks. I was expecting it this morning.
MOUSEBENDER: It's not my lucky day, is it? Er, Bel Paese?
WENSLEYDALE: Sorry, sir.
WENSLEYDALE: Normally, sir, yes. Today the van broke down.
MOUSEBENDER: Emmental? Gruyère?
MOUSEBENDER: Any Norwegian Jarlsberger, per chance?
MOUSEBENDER: Lancashire?
MOUSEBENDER: White Stilton?
MOUSEBENDER: Double Gloucester?
MOUSEBENDER: Dorset Blue Vinney?
MOUSEBENDER: Brie, Roquefort, Pont-l'Évêque, Port Salut, Savoyard, Saint-Paulin, Carre-de-L'Est, Bresse-Bleu, Boursin?
MOUSEBENDER: Camembert, perhaps?
WENSLEYDALE: Ah! We have Camembert, yes sir.
MOUSEBENDER: You do! Excellent.
WENSLEYDALE: Yes, sir. It's, ah... it's a bit runny.
MOUSEBENDER: Oh, I like it runny.
WENSLEYDALE: Well, it's very runny, actually, sir.
MOUSEBENDER: No matter. Fetch hither le fromage de la belle France! M-mmm!
WENSLEYDALE: I think it's a bit runnier than you'll like it, sir.
MOUSEBENDER: I don't care how fucking runny it is. Hand it over with all speed.
WENSLEYDALE: The cat's eaten it.
MOUSEBENDER (pause): Gouda?
MOUSEBENDER: Smoked Austrian?
MOUSEBENDER: Japanese Sage Darby?
MOUSEBENDER: You do have some cheese, do you?
WENSLEYDALE: Of course, sir. It's a cheese shop, sir. We've got...
MOUSEBENDER: No, no, don't tell me. I'm keen to guess.
WENSLEYDALE: Fair enough.
MOUSEBENDER: Er, Wensleydale?
MOUSEBENDER: Ah, well, I'll have some of that.
WENSLEYDALE: Oh, I thought you were talking to me, sir. Mr. Wensleydale, that's my name.
MOUSEBENDER (pause): Greek Feta?
WENSLEYDALE: Ah, not as such.
MOUSEBENDER: Er, Gorgonzola?
MOUSEBENDER: Mozzarella?
MOUSEBENDER: Danish Fimboe?
MOUSEBENDER: Czech sheep's milk?
MOUSEBENDER: Venezuelan Beaver Cheese?.
WENSLEYDALE: Not today, sir, no.
MOUSEBENDER (pause): Ah, how about Cheddar?
WENSLEYDALE: Well, we don't get much call for it around here, sir.
MOUSEBENDER: Not much ca... it's the single most popular cheese in the world!
WENSLEYDALE: Not round here, sir.
MOUSEBENDER: And what is the most popular cheese round here?
WENSLEYDALE: Ilchester, sir.
WENSLEYDALE: Oh yes, sir. It's staggeringly popular in this manor, squire.
WENSLEYDALE: It's our number-one best seller, sir.
MOUSEBENDER: I see. Ah, Ilchester, eh?
WENSLEYDALE: Right, sir.
MOUSEBENDER: All right. Okay. Have you got any, he asked expecting the answer no?
WENSLEYDALE: I'll have a look, sir... nnnnnnooooooooo.
MOUSEBENDER: It's not much of a cheese shop, is it?
WENSLEYDALE: Finest in the district, sir.
MOUSEBENDER: Explain the logic underlying that conclusion, please.
WENSLEYDALE: Well, it's so clean, sir.
MOUSEBENDER: It's certainly uncontaminated by cheese.
WENSLEYDALE: You haven't asked me about Limberger, sir.
MOUSEBENDER: Is it worth it?
Monty Python´s Flying Circus, Ep. 33MOUSEBENDER: Have you- SHUT THAT BLOODY BOUZOUKI UP! (Music stops.)
WENSLEYDALE: Told you so.
MOUSEBENDER: Have you got any Limberger?
MOUSEBENDER: That figures. Predictable really, I suppose. It was an act of purest optimism to have posed the question in the first place. Tell me...
MOUSEBENDER: Have you in fact got any cheese here at all?
WENSLEYDALE (pause): No. Not really, sir.
MOUSEBENDER: You haven't.
WENSLEYDALE: No, sir, not a scrap. I was deliberately wasting your time, sir.
MOUSEBENDER: Well, I'm sorry, but I'm going to have to shoot you.
WENSLEYDALE: Right-o, sir.
MOUSEBENDER (shoots him): What a senseless waste of human life.
DDoS. Well, it looks like yesterday's eMail (see "jockstrap" posting below) had some effect. I just received this message from Support:

On March 11, some of our Go Daddy services came under significant and sustained distributed denial of service attacks resulting in intermittent disruptions of various services, including shared hosting and email. After 4-5 hours, the attack was contained. Go Daddy has made and will be continuing to make significant investments in our information security infrastructure to protect from these shifting types of attacks.

But the real reason came clean may have had something to do with the fact that the story was broken by several computer news outlets:

GoDaddy whacked by DDoS attack

[...] GoDaddy chief information security officer Neil Warner told us that the attack was a SYN flood that targeted a particular under-protected service. We have agreed not to name the targeted service, at the request of GoDaddy.

Other services that are hosted at the targeted data center, including many customer websites, were also affected.

"This was a little different for us," Warner said. "Usually when we see a DDoS, somebody's mad at a particular hosting customer... We're probably always under a DDoS attack of some kind." [...]
My jockstrap gives better support. was offline, from 5-11am on Sunday morning. At 10:21am, I sent an eMail to the hosting company, "Is there something wrong with your servers?" The automated reply said I should expect a response within 24 hours.

A little over 27 hours later, they replied: "Thank you for contacting Online Support. We are unable to duplicate this issue. Please ensure you're using the latest version of your browser. You can find the latest version at the browser developer's website. Also, we recommend the following troubleshooting steps [...]"

Then they proceeded to list 6 steps which hinted that the malfunction was probably caused by MY computer. So I wrote back:

Look, this is not an effective way to handle a problem. I know the outage occurred because of the eMail complaints I received, from all over the world, between the hours of 5am and 11am on Sunday. You should know by now that a customer (like me) does *not* want to hear that you've failed to duplicate the problem at a much later point in time. What the customer (me) wants to hear is this:

1) you've checked your logs, and your server was down between ___ and ___.
2) the reason your server malfunctioned was ______.
3) the outage will not happen again because you've taken this precautionary action: ________.

All you need to do is fill in the blanks. But if you persist in dealing with complaints by insisting that you can't find and/or duplicate the problems, your customers will begin to think that you are ignorant idiots who don't have the requisite skills to run an internet hosting system.

Yours in science,
Alan C. Baird
Asimov's finest feghoot. The Winds Of Change ...And Other StoriesThe Winds Of Change ...And Other Stories, by Isaac Asimov, contains one of the best examples of a feghoot I've ever seen:

Death of a Foy

It was extremely unusual for a Foy to be dying on Earth. They were the highest social class on their planet (with a name which was pronounced--as nearly as Earthly throats could make the sounds--Sortibackenstrete) and were virtually immortal.

Every Foy, of course, came to voluntary death eventually, and this one had given up because of an ill-starred love affair, if you can call it a love affair where five individuals, in order to reproduce, must indulge in a year-long mental contact. Apparently, he himself had not fit into the contact after several months of trying and it had broken his heart--or hearts, for he had five. All Foys had five large hearts and there was speculation that it was this that made them virtually immortal.

Maude Briscoe, Earth's most renowned surgeon, wanted those hearts. "It can't be just their number and size, Dwayne," she said to her chief assistant. "It has to be something physiological or biochemical. I must have them."

"I don't know if we can manage that," said Dwayne Johnson. "I've been speaking to him earnestly, trying to overcome the Foy taboo against dismemberment after death. I've had to play on the feeling of tragedy any Foy would have over death away from home. And I've had to lie to him, Maude."


"I told him that after death, there would be a dirge sung for him by the world-famous choir lead by Harold J. Gassenbaum. I told him that by Earthly belief this would mean that his astral essence would be instantaneously wafted back, through hyperspace, to his home planet of Sortib--what's its name--provided he would sign a release allowing you, Maude, to have his hearts for scientific investigation."

"Don't tell me he believed that horse excrement!" said Maude.

"Well, you know this modern attitude about accepting the myths and beliefs of intelligent aliens. It wouldn't have been polite for him not to believe me. Besides, the Foys have a profound admiration for terrestrial science and I think this one is a little flattered that we should want his hearts. He promised to consider the suggestion, and I hope he decides soon because he can't live more than another day or so, and we must have his permission by interstellar law, and the hearts must be fresh, and--Ah, his signal."

Dwayne Johnson moved in with smooth and noiseless speed.

"Yes?" he whispered, unobtrusively turning on the holographic recording device in case the Foy wished to grant permission.

The Foy's large, gnarled, rather tree-like body lay motionless on the bed. The bulging eyes palpitated (all five of them) as they rose, each on its stalk, and turned towards Dwayne. The Foy's voice had a strange tone and the lipless edges of his open, round mouth did not move, but the words formed perfectly. His eyes were making the Foyan gesture of assent as he said:

"Give my big hearts to Maude, Dwayne. Dismember me for Harold's choir. Tell all the Foys on Sortibackenstrete that I will soon be there...."
Uncle Max. Max W. VoglerPublished in the Ocala Star-Banner [FL] today:

Max W. Vogler

OCALA -- Mr. Max W. Vogler, 80, passed away on March 11, 2007 at the Legacy House following a courageous battle with cancer. He was a member of the Ocala West United Methodist Church. He is survived by his wife, Natalie, 3 step-children, and 7 step-grandchildren. His brother Hans Vogler and sister Erma Lindner both live in the Netherlands. A Dutch citizen, he was born in Indonesia and at the age of 14 was confined for 4 1/2 years in the Japanese Indonesian prison camps. After release from his imprisonment he proceeded to the Netherlands to expedite his lost schooling. Subsequently he was drafted into the Royal Dutch A.F. and later, according to the Pastor Walter Act, he emigrated to the U.S. as an Indonesian refugee. He advanced as a senior technician through several electronic companies in Ct. and ultimately retired to Ocala, Fla. He participated in several sports, excelling in swimming with awards from the Royal Dutch A.F., and state championships in Florida. He became a proud U.S. citizen after retiring to Florida. There will be a memorial service on Monday, March 19, 2007 at 10 a.m. at the Ocala West United Methodist Church with Pastor Ken Kleckner officiating. In lieu of flowers the family suggest donations may be made to the Legacy Hospice House.
A murder of crows. The Soul CagesThe Soul Cages. Sting.

All This Time

I looked out across
The river today
I saw a city in the fog
And an old church tower
Where the seagulls play
Saw the sad shire horses
Walking home in the sodium light
Saw two priests on the ferry
October geese on a cold winter's night
And all this time
The river flowed
To the sea.

Two priests came round
Our house tonight
One young, one old,
To offer prayers for the dying,
To serve the final rite
One to learn, one to teach
Which way the cold wind blows
Fussing and flapping in priestly black
Like a murder of crows

And all this time
The river flowed
To the sea.

If I had my way
I'd take a boat from the river
And I'd bury the old man
I'd bury him at sea

Blessed are the poor
For they shall inherit the earth
One is better to be poor
Than a fat man in the eye of a needle
As these words were spoken
I swear I hear the old man laughing
What good is a used up world,
And how could it be worth having?

And all this time
The river flowed
To the sea.

All this time
The river flowed
Father, if Jesus exists,
Then how come he never lived here?
Yeah, yeah
Yeah, yeah
Yeah, yeah

Teachers told us
The Romans built this place
They built a wall and a temple on the edge of the
Empire garrison town
They lived and they died
They prayed to their gods
But the stone gods did not make a sound
And their empire crumbled
Till all that was left
Were the stones the workmen found

And all this time the river flowed
In the falling light of a northern sun
If I had my way
I'd take a boat from the river
Men go crazy in congregations
They only get better one by one
One by one
One by one, by one
One by one

I looked out across
The river today
I saw a city in the fog
And an old church tower
Where the seagulls play
Saw the sad shire horses
Walking home in the sodium light
Two priests on the ferry
October geese on a cold winter's night
Oh, Godmother. Nat + MaxNatalie, my mother's younger sister, is also my godmother. She's very cool.

Not too long ago, she married Max. I just found out that Max died this afternoon, after a tough battle with cancer.

I had met him only once, but Max seemed like a good man, and--most importantly--he made my aunt happy.

Harold O. Buzzell (14 Feb 1932 - 7 Mar 2007). Harold O. Buzzell, 9/2005Published in the Morning Sentinel [Maine] today:

Uncle Harold

WATERVILLE -- Harold O. "Hal" Buzzell, 75, of Waterville, died Wednesday, March 7, 2007, at Maine Medical Center in Portland, with his children and devoted wife at his side.

Formerly of Frederick, Md., he was an avid fisherman and outdoorsman, and hiked the 2,100-mile Appalachian Trail at age 62 [1993].

He was born in Oakland on Feb. 14, 1932, to the late Harold and Emily (Rossignol) Buzzell. He was a veteran of the Navy. He graduated from the University of Maine and had several successful careers, including assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare; president of the Health Industry Manufacturers Association, Washington, D.C.; and later as a dairy farmer and store owner in Mount Airy, Md. After retiring, he worked as a courier.

Harold is survived by his wife, Janet Coughlin Buzzell of Waterville; two brothers, Harvey Buzzell of Grand Junction, Colo., and Robert Buzzell of Oakland; a sister, Cynthia Buzzell of Altamonte Springs, Fla.; stepmother, Barbara Buzzell of Dixfield; stepbrother, Wayne Buzzell of Wilton; stepsisters, Joyce Pfoh of Sebago and Julie Hall of Dixfield; five children, David Buzzell of Middletown, Md., Debra Buzzell Gritt of Watertown, Conn., Mark Buzzell of Hendersonville, N.C., and Sarah and Meghan Buzzell of Frederick, Md. He was predeceased by another beloved son, Randy.

He also leaves nine devoted grandchildren, Randy Stockbridge, Caitlin Gritt, Emily Buzzell, Kerianne Gritt, Bethany Buzzell, Zachary Buzzell, Patrick Gritt, Patrick Rollman and Jayda Simms; stepson Michael Coughlin; grandsons, David and Philip Coughlin; and great-grandson Pierce Joseph Coughlin.

A memorial service and burial will be held in Cape Elizabeth at a time to be announced. Arrangements are by Wheeler Funeral Home and Cremation Services of Oakland.
Overshooting. As Good As It GetsAs Good As It Gets, screenplay by Mark Andrus and James L. Brooks, story by Mark Andrus:

MELVIN UDALL (Jack Nicholson): Can I ask you a personal question?

SIMON BISHOP (Greg Kinnear): Sure.

MELVIN: You ever get an erection over a woman?

SIMON: Melvin...

MELVIN: I mean, wouldn't your life be easier if you weren't...

SIMON: You consider your life easy?

MELVIN: (pause) All right, I'll give you that one.


MELVIN: I've got a really great compliment for you, and it's true.

CAROL CONNELLY (Helen Hunt): I'm so afraid you're about to say something awful.

MELVIN: Don't be pessimistic, it's not your style. Okay, here I go: clearly, a mistake. I've got this, what - ailment? My doctor, a shrink that I used to go to all the time, he says that in fifty or sixty percent of the cases, a pill really helps. I *hate* pills. Very dangerous thing, pills. Hate. I'm using the word "hate" here, about pills. Hate. My compliment is, that night when you came over and told me that you would never... well, you were there, you know what you said. Well, my compliment to you is: the next morning, I started taking the pills.

CAROL: I don't quite get how that's a compliment for me.

MELVIN: You make me want to be a better man.

CAROL: (pause) That's maybe the best compliment of my life.

MELVIN: Well, maybe I overshot a little, because I was aiming at just enough to keep you from walking out.
Recipe: Sajtos Rud. Baked cheese bars, pronounced "SHY-toesh rood":

8 cups of flour
5 level teaspoons of salt
1 oz. baking powder
12 oz. butter
32 oz. shredded cheese (Swiss and Cheddar, mixed to your taste)
5 eggs
8 oz. sour cream
1/2 cup milk (optional)

In an 8-quart mixing bowl, pour flour, salt and baking powder; mix together evenly by hand. Add butter, then rub flour and butter together evenly with flat of your palms until it's the consistency of small grains of rice. Pour 2/3 of the shredded cheese on top and work the mixture together by hand. Make a small hollow in the top of the mixture and add 3 eggs. Add sour cream and mix with the eggs. Then knead the entire mixture by hand. If the edges of the dough crack, add approximately 1/2 cup milk and keep kneading until the edges are smooth.

Flattening step: (A) Put on large surface and flatten with a rolling pin to the thickness of your little finger. (B) Fold over in thirds (east/west), then fold in thirds again (north/south), making a 9-layer rectangle. (C) Cover with a clean cloth and let stand.

After 45 minutes, repeat the Flattening step.

Optional, gives better taste: cover with plastic and put in refrigerator overnight. Remove and let warm to room temperature for 45 minutes.

Otherwise, just wait 45 minutes.

Flatten dough one final time with a rolling pin to the thickness of your little finger. Pre-heat the oven to 350°F. Put 2 egg yolks into a cup, mix them with a fork and use a pastry brush to spread the egg-yolk liquid evenly on top of the flattened dough. Cut lines vertically in the dough, the width of your middle finger. Cut across the dough to make rectangular pieces the length of your ring finger. Sprinkle the rest of the cheese on top of the sliced dough.

Place the dough pieces on a cookie sheet, with a half-inch of spacing on all sides. Bake the first sheet for 15 minutes, then turn the sheet and bake for another 10 minutes. Bake the second and subsequent sheets for 10 minutes, then turn and bake for another 10 minutes.

Tip: taste a sample from the first sheet, then use a salt shaker--if needed--on the unbaked dough, to taste.

Yield: 2 heaping platefuls. Quantities may be cut in half for smaller appetites.



Note from Alan: After my wife finishes documenting a dish from her native Hungary, we look for the dumbest guy around (which is usually me), and see if he (me) gets confused during the preparation process. We figure if I can make something, anyone can. So rest assured this recipe has been certified bulletproof by our patented Dumb-Guy® Testing Procedure.
Goodbye, Harold Buzzell. I just received the sad news that my godfather and uncle, Harold Buzzell of Waterville Maine, passed away last night.

Safe journey, Harold. We will miss you.
Happy Birthday, Chris! My not-so-little brother was born on this date.

Hey Bro - betcha can't hold me up by my ankles anymore... but not because you're any weaker: I'm just a whole lot fatter!
Sick and tired of being sick and tired. Urticaria/hives update: after 18 somewhat-useful-but-mostly-unsuccessful treatments, the acupuncturist finally looked me in the eye and said, "You might be wasting your money."

You have to give her credit for being honest.

So I visited an osteopath. He agreed with the allergist, who had said, "Modern medicine doesn't know much about these no-external-trigger allergies. They sometimes cure themselves in three to five years. If you're lucky."

Then, a couple of weeks ago, I started seeing a squad of homeopaths. The first two visits seemed more like psychoanalysis; all we did was talk.

But yesterday, I got The Remedy. If I understand this correctly, they believe in dosing the patient with trace amounts of a substance known to cause the same symtoms (in my case, hives). That way, the body learns how to build up its defenses and fight these symptoms in a low-pressure course of treatment. Sorta like immunization, I guess.

If this doesn't work, I'm fully prepared to consult with voodoo witch doctors.
1 step forward, 2 steps back. Yesterday, a nice headhunter fixed me up with a nice temp postion in a nice law firm, founded "nearly 30 years before Arizona became a state."

Hm. Working for lawyers again. I don't want to seem ungrateful, but let's hope that it remains just a temp job.
Yank my Limey. Sexy Stranger #4The Flavour of Aluminium (scan) was published in the February 2004 issue of The Glut's Sexy Stranger, a miniature print magazine (see photo and key, below):

Hitchhiking to Canterbury, July 15:

The weather is here, wish you were wonderful.

Actually, this climate sucks and I desperately need a break from the weird Limeys. It seems that a large number of hatless, shoe-wearing drivers are way too concerned about their bonnets and boots. Some of these guys discuss a constant craving for fags, even when I try to steer the conversation back to tits and ass.

Later, in a bar, I innocently ask one chick for a ride, but she slaps me silly. Then I discover from her friends that "shut your bloody hole" doesn’t express concern about an existing open wound, although it is a fairly reliable predictor of the serious injuries to follow.

I may return with fewer teeth, but there's one good thing - everybody calls me "brilliant."

ACB with Sexy Stranger #4

Key - British / American (apparent translation) [real meaning]:

Flavour / Flavor
Aluminium / Aluminum
citizens of England / Limeys
bonnet / (woman's hat) [car hood]
boot / (footwear) [car trunk]
fag / (homosexual) [cigarette]
a ride / (car journey) [sexual activity]
bloody hole / (gaping injury) [filthy mouth]
brilliant / (very intelligent) [wonderfully strange, possibly crazy]
Spell Czech. From Interface (v20, #7), published by the UC Santa Cruz Computer Center:

Outfoxing the Spelling Checker

They're know miss steaks in this newsletter cause we used special soft wear witch checks yore spelling. It is mower or lass a weigh too verify. How ever is can knot correct arrows inn punctuation ore usage: an it will not fined words witch are miss used butt spelled rite. Four example; a paragraph could have mini flaws but wood bee past by the spell checker. And it wont catch the sentence fragment which you. Their fore, the massage is that proofreading is knot eliminated, it is still berry muck reek wired.


Candidate for a Pullet Surprise
[often circulated as "Owed/Ode to a Spell Chequer"]
by Dr. Jerrold H. Zar, biostatistics professor at Northern Illinois U.
published in the science humor magazine, The Journal of Irreproducible Results

I have a spelling checker,
It came with my PC.
It plane lee marks four my revue
Miss steaks aye can knot sea.

Eye ran this poem threw it,
Your sure reel glad two no.
Its vary polished in it's weigh.
My checker tolled me sew.

A checker is a bless sing,
It freeze yew lodes of thyme.
It helps me right awl stiles two reed,
And aides me when eye rime.

Each frays come posed up on my screen
Eye trussed too bee a joule.
The checker pours o'er every word
To cheque sum spelling rule.

Bee fore a veiling checker's
Hour spelling mite decline,
And if we're lacks oar have a laps,
We wood bee maid too wine.

Butt now bee cause my spelling
Is checked with such grate flare,
Their are know fault's with in my cite,
Of nun eye am a wear.

Now spelling does knot phase me,
It does knot bring a tier.
My pay purrs awl due glad den
With wrapped word's fare as hear.

To rite with care is quite a feet
Of witch won should bee proud,
And wee mussed dew the best wee can,
Sew flaw's are knot aloud.

Sow ewe can sea why aye dew prays
Such soft wear four pea seas,
And why eye brake in two averse
Buy righting want too pleas.


Similar material: Linguist, WordPlay, Wordsmith, TSSS.
Years/dystopias in movie titles. 1984
One Million Years B.C.,
50,000 B.C. (Before Clothing),
L.A. 10,000 B.C.,
1492: Conquest of Paradise,
1776, 1900, The Legend of 1900, 1918, 1919,
Gold Diggers of 1933/35/37,
Ice Follies of 1939,
1941, Summer of '42, Class of '44,
1969, Airport 1975/'77/'79,
1984, Class of 1984, Class of 1999, Dracula 2000,
2001, 2010, Firebird 2015 A.D.,
Cleopatra 2525 (not really a movie, but whattheheck),
Brazil and A Clockwork Orange.
Standing o. One-handed. EnlightenmentEnlightenment, by Van Morrison:

Chop that wood, carry water
What's the sound of one hand clapping?
Enlightenment, don't know what it is

Every second, every minute
It keeps changing to something different
Enlightenment, don't know what it is

Enlightenment, don't know what it is
Some say it's non attachment
Non attachment, non attachment

I'm in the here and now, and I'm meditating
And still I'm suffering, but that's my problem
Enlightenment, don't know what it is
Wake up

Enlightenment says the world is nothing
Nothing but a dream, everything's an illusion
And nothing is real

Good or bad baby
You can change it any way you want
You can rearrange it
Enlightenment, don't know what it is

Chop that wood, and carry water
What's the sound of one hand clapping?
Enlightenment, don't know what it is

All around baby, you can see
You're making your own reality,
everyday because
Enlightenment, don't know what it is
One more time

Enlightenment, don't know what it is
It's up to you
Enlightenment, don't know what it is
It's up to you everyday
Enlightenment, don't know what it is
It's always up to you
Enlightenment, don't know what it is
It's up to you, the way you think
Loose Lips Sink Ships. I wrote this flash memoir for Identity Theory, and they published it on January 15, 2003:

The classified ad in San Francisco's Bay Guardian was straight out of a doper's dream: Marijuana Research Subjects Wanted. Sure, why not?! In those days—late 1975—it seemed surprising that the U.S. government was still trying to figure out the physiological effects of cannabis, but if they were willing to pay folks to smoke their Mississippi-grown weed, I certainly didn't want to be left out.

DVD - One Flew Over the Cuckoo´s NestBesides, the ongoing studies were taking place in Langley Porter Neuropsychiatric Institute, a place made legendary by The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, Tom Wolfe's 1967 opus. Several passages in his book documented the adventures of fellow writer Ken Kesey, who spent a significant amount of time in Langley Porter, gobbling down the government's LSD. Ken was one of our generation's heroes, and not just for writing One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.

My screening session consisted of being locked inside a small airtight room, while an erstwhile grad student sat in a nearby chair, to ensure that I practiced good smoking technique with one of the program's fat, U.S. Prime, machine-rolled doobies. He had nothing to do except watch me, and I had nothing to do except smoke, so we struck up a dialogue which gradually became quite fascinating. As the drug gained traction, I kept forgetting where we were, and often attempted to pass the joint over to him, out of simple courtesy. Since he was obliged to enforce the experiment's protocol, he always turned down my proffered toke, but a contact high was unavoidable in that tiny room, and the longing in his eyes grew more and more pronounced.

For insurance reasons, the experiment itself required a commitment to living inside Langley Porter's supervised hospital psych ward, so I secured a 30-day leave of absence from my day job. Getting wasted was dirty work, but somebody had to do it. During the first week, the four of us enrolled in the research study were given placebo pills every six hours, around the clock. We weren't supposed to know they were fake, but nobody was getting off, so we shrugged our shoulders and tried to settle into the mental facility's daily routine: screams in the night, blood on the bathroom walls from failed suicide attempts, zombie-like patients who wondered why we chose to live among them.

Loose Lips Sink ShipsThen there were the daily 14-page physiological self-evaluations, which included hundreds of questions like: "Is your mouth wet or dry? Do your feet feel cold or warm? Are your lips loose or tight?" It took nearly an hour to diligently complete the entire form, and the question about lips came near the end, when everything began to seem quite absurd, so I always added these words: Loose Lips Sink Ships. I figured this reference to a common WWII security slogan, warning citizens against revealing unnecessary details to strangers, might amuse the poor graduate students who were forced to process these godawful forms. But a few days later, one of them hesitantly pulled me aside, whispering, "Is this some kind of code?"

Following a week of baseline physical tests, the placebo pills were suddenly replaced with real THC. Yaaay! I started to relax, and interact with the non-study patients. They, in turn, began to seem less disturbed, less strange, less like... The Other. I even talked to the 14-year-old boy who mutely followed me around the pool table, like a puppy dog. After a couple of weeks, we were old buddies, even though he never said anything in return. I slowly became aware of the patients he liked and disliked, from subtle changes in his body language, and he began to smile at my lame jokes. During the fourth week, his father visited - and spent an hour berating him, inside his room. I overheard the monologue through an open door, and winced.

Then the father came to visit me, beside the pool table: "He hasn't smiled in three years! How did you do it?"

The nurses must have said something. I was caught off-guard, but managed to blurt out, "I dunno. I just try to listen to him."

"But he never speaks!"

"I know."


Update - pay stub:

pay stub