The Snoozeletter @

Scorpion Map of Greater Phoenix. 

Our zip is 85215, bottom right. The light pink shading indicates the lowest density of scorpions. And yet, the following conversation took place in my home last night, just prior to Sleepytime:

"Alan!" screamed my lovely bride, her voice betraying only a slight hint of fear/panic/terror.

"Yes, my sweet?"

"What is THAT?!" By the hysterical edge in her voice, I suspected that she already knew.

"Oh, look! Isn't he cute?" I squatted down to examine the two-inch scorpion in the hall outside her bathroom.


"Are you sure you want me to squash your Zodiac symbol? Doesn't that lead to seven years of bad luck, or something?"


So I eased the little guy's transition into a better life.

I hope he's found a place where scorpions can scurry around without the Damoclean threat of size-11 moccasins hanging over their heads.


UPDATES: Sat on a scorpion yesterday and Where Are The Scorpions and KPHO article and UA study (PDF) plus old UA (PDF) and spray and Creepiest Scorpion Encounter Contest.

scorpion map

Earth Hour @ 8:30p.

Quote from the Earth Hour website: "Switching off your lights is a vote for Earth, or leaving them on is a vote for global warming."

How do you abstain from voting? By flipping the lights on and off?

As I wrote last year, "We used to celebrate Earth Day. But now we can spare only an hour. Next year, it'll be down to Earth Minute. [...] Holding our collective breath for one hour per year will make no statistical difference at all. We human beings have demonstrated, through our bad choices (gas-guzzling cars, smoke-spewing factories, smoke-spewing cigarette addicts, etc.) that we are the next eager candidates for extinction. We should accept our fates gracefully."
My Zen-Koan-A-Day Calendar asks: If the University of Phoenix doesn't have a football team, why does it have a Super-Bowl-sized football stadium?
Scholar to soldier. Sort of.

Merit Scholarship click to enlarge 560x434I was the first in my family to go to college, so winning a National Merit Scholarship was a pretty big deal. I would have gotten a full ride, if my father's lower-middle-class income had been just a few dollars less. But nooooooo. According to the hardship tables, we qualified for only a pittance - $100 a year.

However, my parents were dazzled by the fact that their firstborn could be a Merit Scholar. So they bit the bullet, took out a second mortgage, and covered my out-of-state tuition.

That lasted for several months, until they heard that I had joined some demonstrations against the Vietnam War.

They thought the war was peachy. And I could never figure out why they wanted their boy to come home in a body bag.

Come to think of it, that may be the root of a few familial problems since then.

So that's when the money dried up. I took on a couple of jobs, after classes. But they weren't enough. Things were getting desperate. My draft card said 1-A, and my lottery number turned out to be 33. That year, Uncle Sam was hell-bent on drafting every male teenager with a number under 125. None of us could quite wrap our brains around the surreal image of some fat, decrepit old guy on TV, reaching into a large glass container to pull out a blue plastic capsule that contained a potential death sentence.

I knew a few vets, and I saw what the war had done to them. It wasn't pretty. Some of them came home with missing parts. Body parts. Mind parts. Some of my friends never came home at all.

So I seriously considered emigrating to Canada. I studied the qualifications for becoming a Conscientious Objector. I also thought about going to jail.

Then I got a really stupid idea.

ROTC uniform click to enlarge 747x506I could get a draft deferment *and* a full scholarship... if I joined the Air Force Reserve Officers' Training Corps. The only Air Force officers in harm's way were flying jets, and my eyesight was too crappy to qualify for jet school. So I bit the bullet and suffered through six weeks of basic training during the summer. After returning to campus, I struggled through twice-a-week ROTC classes.

Have you ever heard of cognitive dissonance? I got pretty weird. Even for me.

I grew my hair down to my shoulders and bought a short-hair wig for ROTC classes. I wrote anti-war articles for the school newspaper. I was tear-gassed in public demonstrations.

But I dutifully showed up at the ROTC classes. Twice a week. I knew they were the only things between me and a body bag. Life went on that way for several years.

At some point, my ROTC instructor attended a weekend track meet in which I was competing. I didn't know he was there. When I won a medal in the mile, my shoulder-length hair was flowing freely in the wind.

A few days later, just before my next ROTC class, the instructor confronted me in the hallway. He was a Captain. He was also a prick, but I would have hated him anyway. We argued military history and tactics during every class, and I was usually able to point out the flaws in his reasoning. He was a sore loser.

As I stood at attention in the hallway, the Captain looked at my head very carefully. He walked all the way around me, smirking.

"You know, I saw someone who looked a lot like you at a track meet this past weekend. Do you have a twin?"

So the jig was up. "That was me, sir."

"Did you get a haircut since then?"

"No, sir."

I could tell that he wanted to rip the short-hair wig right off my head. But he was also aware that I was wound up pretty tight. He knew that I was ready--and perhaps even a little eager--to break his jaw. So he bit the bullet, and submitted paperwork instead.

Honorable Discharge click to enlarge 592x447The Air Force had no rules about wigs, but the Captain submitted paperwork anyway. I got a copy, a few days later. He wanted ROTC to discharge me "for the good of the service."

However, the military had paid for most of my schooling. And I had signed a contract, giving them certain rights. For example, if I failed to qualify for my ROTC commission, they had the option of drafting me for 4 years of slavery as a non-officer grunt.

But during my years of cognitive dissonance, the world had moved on, like it always does: Nixon had started his crime spree, and the war was winding down.

In short, the Air Force didn't really need another troublemaker. So when I graduated, they gave me this nice parting gift instead.

And I spent the next several years trying to get back to normal. Whatever that is.
Senator Stuart Smalley's ex-partner cashes in.

Thirty-Nine Years of Short-Term Memory Loss: The Early Days of SNL from Someone Who Was There, by Tom DavisStephanie Zacharek writes, in Salon:

At this point "Saturday Night Live" has been around so long that for many of us, it's as much a habit as an institution, a thing we tune in to on most weekends with some vague hope that this week -- or this season, or this decade -- it might actually be funny. That it sometimes is funny, either for a sketch or two or for months at a time, is almost beside the point. The flexible format, the revolving cast, the fact that the show is done live -- an idea that was quaintly old-fashioned even in 1975, when the first episode aired -- all mean that, even in a weak season, there's always the chance we might see lightning caught in a bottle. "SNL" isn't selling comedy; what it's really selling is possibility.

But even possibility needs a form and a shape to be poured into, and no matter what "SNL" has become, anyone who ever loved the show recognizes that its early cast -- including John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, Jane Curtin and Gilda Radner -- and the writers who helped shape those first few astonishing seasons set an almost impossibly high bar for their successors. Tom Davis was one of those writers, and his memoir, "Thirty-Nine Years of Short-Term Memory Loss," should win a truth-in-advertising award for its title alone. [...]
Pre-Demise Birthday Party.

My mother recently turned 80, right around the time that her older sister passed away. Since I couldn't be there, she finally described the birthday celebration to me, a few days ago.

Ma likes to arrange things in advance, and evidently she's been planning her funeral festivities for a couple of years. One of her big pleasures in life is setting up and attending small dinner parties, so she wanted her friends to enjoy one final dinner party, following her eventual memorial service.

But while contemplating the inevitable approach of her Big One Way Journey and busily planning for it, Ma decided that she didn't want to miss the fun.

So to mark the occasion of her 80th birthday, she hosted a dinner party for her friends, calling it her "Pre-Demise Birthday Party."

Ma is pretty darn healthy these days, so I have the feeling this will become an annual event that she will enjoy for many years to come.
Our lizard.

A colorful lizard lives in our garage. Her skin contains quite a bit of maroon, orange, yellow, green and pink, especially on her belly. We've never seen a lizard like this, and we see a lot of lizards, here in the desert. She likes to hang out under the plastic recycling bin, so I greet her every Saturday, when I move the bin outside to the curb.

She's not as skittish as most other lizard species; in fact, I can usually touch her tail before she decides that she's had enough, thank you. This morning, I took a couple of snapshots as she walked slowly toward my shoe. When I caressed her tail, she scurried away and screamed at me, in a tiny lizard scream. Her voice sounded like a miniature wind-up toy. It was soooooooo cute.

our lizard
Vote or throw shoes.

9/20/2001: When Congress voted [on September 18, 2001] to authorize the Bush Administration to use military force in response to the September 11 terror attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Representative Barbara Lee stood alone in opposition to what she saw as a "rush to judgment." [The Nation]

3/12/2009: The Iraqi journalist [Muntazer al-Zaidi] who hurled his shoes at George Bush [on December 14, 2008], gaining instant hero status in much of the Arab world, has today been sentenced to three years in prison. [The Guardian]
Saatchi Showdown.

The competition is now open. I recently entered my Picasso/Dylan hommage drawing, and you can vote here for "Rainy Day Femmes #12 & 35" between now and Sunday night. 10 stars would be nice. ;-)

So far, the drawing has been rated 401 times. It's hanging in there, with 6.66 stars.
Rest In Peace, Bob Arter (27 Oct 1946 - 7 Mar 2009). 

I just received the sad news that a great writer, Bob Arter, has passed away. And all I have to remember him is an inscribed copy of this out-of-print collection...

That Gladrag RazzmatazzContents:
You in the Service?
And the Sun Soared from the Sea, Oh Me
Prayer / Back Home
Survivor's Assistance
Apache Shorts / Atomic Women
I Went to Barnes, I Went to Noble
Corrinna / Creation
Audrey's Garden
Jenny Craig Confronts Lady Higgs-Boson
United Flight 18
Telescopy / The Old Folks
Springtime on the Moon
Riley's Shoes / Psyche Asea
How I came to Love the Godless Eskimo
Grace / That Gladrag Razzmatazz
Phiddie: A Remembrance
Jean-Luc / My Mama's Prom
Pictures of You
The Trouble with Fishing
The Gown
The Boys at 9th & Valley
Down Home / Staff Meeting
Remembering Elisabeth
The Spaceman

[Read some of Bob's amazing stories online.]

Here's the eMail interchange, from when I bought his book...

Alan wrote: Any chance of getting a funny message to Anikó and me, with the signature?

Bob wrote: I'll certainly do my best, Alan. A caveat: I'm a quadriplegic, so my message will likely be nearly illegible.

Alan wrote: Bob, I apologize for my insensitivity. I figured that since you keep cranking out these wonderful stories, you had the use of at least one hand. Just have the book mailed out unmarked, and maybe eMail us an inscription. We'll print it out and paste it into the front of the book.

Bob wrote: Alan, I inscribed a copy of my book this morning. It's not terribly clever, but was the best I could do.

Alan wrote: Bob, "That Gladrag Razzmatazz" arrived today, and both Anikó and I are very touched at the obvious effort it took to write the inscription. We will treasure your book, always.

That Gladrag Razzmatazz, inscription

["To Anikó and Alan- For Alan, Zoe's HTML guru non-pareil, and Anikó, his obvious inspiration- Bob"]

Bob on July 24, 1970

3/12 Update: Bob's obituary was published in The Press-Enterprise [Riverside, CA] today:

Robert Arter

ROBERT W. ARTER 62, died March 7, 2009 at Kaiser Fontana Medical Center. Bob was born in Richmond California October 27, 1946. He was a U.S. Army veteran. He was a freelance writer and a contributing editor to many literary journals including Smokelong Quarterly, Gator Springs Gazette, Literary Potpourri and Night Train. A graduate of Colton H.S. class of 1964, Occidental College 1968 and most recently CSUSB with a degree in Computer Programming. Survivors include his wife of 28 years Christina Baer Arter, son Kiran Lee Arter of Grand Terrace, Mother Madeline Arter of Colton, sisters and brothers-in-law Carole and Gary Wetherington of Brush Prairie Washington, Susan and Darrell Hill of Westchester CA, Nancy and Steve Burger of Redondo Beach CA. He also leaves behind nieces and nephews. A burial is scheduled at Riverside National cemetery on Friday March 13, 2009, 10am. A Memorial Service will be held at the Mission Assistencia, Barton Road, Redlands Friday March 13 at 12 noon. Donations may be made in honor of Bob to the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, a foundation dedicated to research for a cure of spinal cord injuries., Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation 636 Morris Turnpike Suite 3A Short Hills, N.J. 07078. Condolences may be sent online at
IQ 159, SAT 1556.

"There's no heavier burden than a great potential!"

--Linus van Pelt (Peanuts comic strip by Charles M. Schulz)

Chris Baird is the Birthday Boy.

My little brother's another year older today.

In the pic below (circa 1965), you can tell he's planning something mischievous, and that his older brother has no clue what it is.

Happy birthday, Chris!


Also born on March 7:

189 - Publius Septimius Geta, Roman Emperor (d. 211)
1481 - Baldassare Peruzzi, Italian architect and painter (d. 1537)
1556 - Guillaume du Vair, French writer (d. 1621)
1671 - Robert Roy MacGregor, Scottish folk hero (d. 1734)
1693 - Pope Clement XIII (d. 1769)
1792 - John Herschel, English mathematician and astronomer (d. 1871)
1849 - Luther Burbank, American botanist (d. 1926)
1857 - Julius Wagner-Jauregg, Austrian neuroscientist, Nobel laureate (d. 1940)
1872 - Piet Mondrian, Dutch painter (d. 1944)
1875 - Maurice Ravel, French composer (d. 1937)
1908 - Anna Magnani, Italian actress (d. 1973)
1932 - Gene Shalit, American film critic
1934 - Willard Scott, American television broadcaster
1938 - Janet Guthrie, American race car driver
1940 - Daniel J. Travanti, American actor
1942 - Tammy Faye Bakker, American televangelist (d. 2007)
1942 - Michael Eisner, American film studio executive
1944 - Townes Van Zandt, American musician and songwriter (d. 1997)
1945 - John Heard, American actor
1946 - Peter Wolf, American musician (The J. Geils Band)
1950 - Franco Harris, American football player
1952 - Ernie Isley, American musician (The Isley Brothers)
1952 - Lynn Swann, American football player
1960 - Ivan Lendl, Czech tennis player
1962 - Taylor Dayne, American singer
1964 - Bret Easton Ellis, American writer
1964 - Wanda Sykes, American actress and comedienne
1971 - Peter Sarsgaard, American actor
1971 - Rachel Weisz, British actress (The Mummy)
1974 - Jenna Fischer, American actress (The Office)
1980 - Laura Prepon, American actress (That '70s Show)
Day 21,246.

My father died too soon. Heart attack. But we all could see it coming. He did terrible things to his body.

However, Chet always told us that if he gave up his vices to live longer, the time gained would not have been worth living. So he ate everything he loved and smoked like a chimney. In other words, he enjoyed his life to the fullest.

I often compare myself to him. Especially lately. My age has been inexorably climbing to equal the amount of time that Chet spent on this earth: 21,245 days.

When I woke up this morning, I knew that today was my 21,246th day.

During the past few weeks, I've been telling myself that I was not superstitious. Not. NOT.

But today, I breathed a sigh of relief anyway.

I like it here.

And I just realized that it might be fun to stick around a little while longer.
Your ad here.

This is how absurd the situation has become - I've sold ad space on the side of my car:

magnetic ad

Next week, I'll be looking into the possibility of selling ads tattooed onto my forehead.
Dubya & Cheney going Dutch soon...

The International Criminal Court in The Hague has issued a warrant for the arrest of Omar Al Bashir, President of Sudan, for war crimes including: torture, forcible transfer and murder.

Omar was also charged with "pillaging," which surprised me. I always assumed that pillaging went out of fashion around the Visigoth era.
Author list for My Dad Is My Hero.

My Dad Is My Hero: Tributes to the Men Who Gave Us Life, Love, and Driving LessonsI just received the author list for the latest anthology:

Anna Aquino, Carol E. Ayer, David W. Bahnks, Alan C. Baird, Morgan Baker, Eva Melissa Barnett, C.L. Beck, Dennis Bentley, Susan Breeden, Sylvia Bright Green, Priscilla Carr LaPointe, Ramon Carver, Elynne Chaplik-Aleskow, Dawn Downey, Theresa J. Elders, Tim Elhajj, Lawrence D. Elliott, Erin Fanning, Judith Freeland, Lynn Gorski, Heidi Grosch, Elizabeth King Gerlach, Katherine Hedland Hansen, Jan Henrikson, Ronald Hurst, Kim Klugh, Margaret Lang, Gary B. Luerding, Carol L. MacKay, Andrew S. MacLeer, Donna Matthews, Julie McGuire, Heather Anne McIntosh, Paula Munier, Harriet Parke, Dr. Kathryn Presley, Laura Pritchett, Gary Raham, Susan Reynolds, Wayne Scheer, James Schieldge, Susan J. Siersma, M. Carolyn Steele, Doyle Suit, Susan Sundwall, Elise Teitelbaum, Susan B. Townsend, Kenda Turner, Robert F. Walsh, Roxanne Werner.

They say we'll receive our checks and contributors' copies in April, and the book will be released in May.
A "Sorkie" shrine. 

Aaron Sorkin, American playwright/writer/producer, b. 9 June 1961 (IMDb listing)...

Interviews: The Zucker Follies w/Megan Mullally (Aaron sings @ 3:39); Charlie Rose appearances: 10/24/2000, 5/15/2001, 10/2/2002, 8/13/2003; The Cinema Judge - Charlie Wilson's War; Constructing "Two Cathedrals" on The West Wing: 1/3, 2/3, 3/3; Studio 60 on The Sunset Strip - The Drama Behind the Funny; Google Video; YouTube; Obama meets Bartlet (NYT).

Charlie Wilson´s War (2007)The American President (1995)Malice (1993)A Few Good Men (1992)  Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip (2006)

The West Wing, seasons 1-4 (1999-2003)Sports Night (1998-2000)

The Farnsworth Invention (2007)A Few Good Men (1989)The Best American Short Plays 1990 (Hidden in This Picture 1988) = Hidden in This Picture. Later: The Newsroom.