Wednesday, August 31, 2005


So, I'm working on a secret project. It's consuming vast quantities of my free time but I can't talk about it yet because it's a secret, dammit. That's partly why I've been so uncharacteristically silent here.

I find myself talking to friends and wondering if they're completely sick of hearing about whatever project I'm currently working on. I look for signs of boredom. Wandering eyes, fidgeting and the telltale glancing-at-the-watch. Sometimes I diplomatically comment, "Am I boring you?" or "You have someplace you need to go?" Well, the diplomacy is in the voice inflection. Either of these statements could morph into sarcasm with the slightest change in tone. Sometimes I can't control it.

In other news, I'm trying to understand how the flood walls and levees (used to) keep New Orleans dry. I need a civil engineer to look at this map and 'splain. I wish we had this in our paper with a diagram. Wait, I work here. Maybe I'll ask the people who do that sort of thing.

Voila! All I had to do was look a little harder and I found a page linking to a great graphic (scroll down and click on the link in the right hand box, labeled: Graphic: New Orleans and Storm Surge.) If you don't have a civil engineer on hand, a good diagram is the next best thing.

Friday, August 26, 2005

sorry for the extra step

For those of you who make comments (and I love comments), I apologize because I had to turn on that "comment verification" thing that makes you enter the wacky, wavy words you see in a box in order to make a comment.

I started getting obnoxious mass-generated emails from those mass-generating email scumbags. So, this seems like the best solution for now.

petrolurine /PETCH-roh-lure-reen/

My dear friend Lori just sent me this link to an article in National Geographic News:

Urine Battery Turns Pee Into Power
John Roach for National Geographic News
August 18, 2005

It's all about Urine Gas (and they used to be only neighbors); fueling your vehicle with pee.

Let's say they pull this off—the best idea since cows eating grass that was fertilized by cows eating grass—what I want to know is this: will it spawn an entire subculture of amateur urine analyzers?...not unlike, I imagine, mothers who sit around and swear that consuming clarified whale fat* while breast-feeding helps their floppy little newborns to better hold up those huge noggins.

If a Urine Analyzer Club develops, I'm so there.

I will strongly urge Jetta owners to load up on bratwurst and schnitzel. I will wax poetic on how my post-asparagus urine not only works better than high octane, but makes my Accord "happy." I can't wait to test drive whole milk vs. skim, lasagna vs. sushi, etc.

This is so much better than Willie's Biodiesel, which would only allow you to compare performance of oils recovered from frying different types of food. I mean, that would still be fun (like does the byproduct of fried okra lug my engine or does my Tundra crave tempura wok oil?) but it's no match for pee fuel possibilities.

*Stop looking for this. I made it up. If it is a product, I'm clairvoyant. I made up the benefits, too.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

fat kills, pat urges

On a day where

  • the headlines bemoan and rank American obesity (And we're only #6! For shame! In a state where toddlers cut their teeth on T-bones; in a state whose claim to fame is that "everything is bigger in Texas," we spritely waddle in behind #5-ranked Tennessee), and
  • there's a spotlight shining on America's biggest lardbrain, Pat Robertson, as he adds Venezuela to the list of countries that think we're rampaging pyschopaths (Oooo, let's watch God's righteous servant eviscerate the 6th commandment.* What? He didn't read "Thou shalt not kill" as not "Thou shalt not assassinate"?**)
I am grateful for random juxtapositioning. (Or, for those who feel a higher power is moving the chess pieces: the humorous hand of Fate.) Here are two items as they appeared hand-in-hand in the national headlines list in today's paper:

1830 Book of Mormon goes on sale page at a time
California court grants gay couples full parental status

I'm sure this is not done on purpose...but I like to imagine it is.

*The subtitle to one of Mr. Christian's books is "Reclaim the Blessings of the Ten Commandments." His next book is entitled, "Thou Shalt Not Kill Unless It Increases Traffic to My Website and Sells More of Pat's Diet Shakes."

**if you ever forget how to spell assassinate, just picture Pat Robertson and think
Ass, Ass, Inate.

Friday, August 19, 2005

novel start

Writing a novel has never appealed to me as much as reading them does. But I keep coming up with random character descriptions that sound suspiciously like the first page of a story:

    She was a second millenium kinda woman: bilingual, bisexual and bipolar. Understated and medicated.
And then, nothing. Maybe I'll piece these all together and showcase them as some sort of avant garde fiction genre. And make that face that says, this is all too deep for anyone else to understand. Lest someone ask me to explain it.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

i got your culture right here

Headlines from the news last week:

    NASA culture still jeopardizes crew safety, a new report says
    BP must fix its safety culture, board says
    (bolding emphasis mine)

Using the word "culture" to describe corporate environments seems somehow...too cultured. Just another word about to be pummeled by the world of business jargon. Okay, so we've also used culture for nasty things growing in petri dishes but there's a comfortable distance between microbes in agar and museums or arias.

For the record (from
cul·ture (klchr) (or in Lawn GUY lund-ese: KULTCH uh) n.

  1. The totality of socially transmitted behavior patterns, arts, beliefs, institutions, and all other products of human work and thought.
  2. These patterns, traits, and products considered as the expression of a particular period, class, community, or population.

airport observations

Airport lobbies are the junk drawers of humanity. Full of fascinating, irritating, useless, priceless subjects. One of my favorite pasttimes is to get on the plane with someone I've been watching and try and guess what they'll do to pass the time in-flight. Particularly, what reading material they choose.

There was a woman waiting for the same flight as we were on, who looked like she should have had the words "My self-esteem went on a permanent vacation and all I got was this large, oversized, non-descript t-shirt" which covered her large, oversized, round-shouldered, slouching frame. Now, I'm a big girl and my point is not that she was large but that she had been well-taught to embrace invisibility as punishment.

Anyway, when we got on the plane, my vantage point enabled me to see her reading material. The perfect match: a binder labeled "The Building Blocks of Successful Leadership" propped up on the tray table, yellow highlighter and mechanical pencil gripped tightly in one hand. Self-help seminars and how-to management courses enrich themselves on the clueless and desperately insecure.

Then there's the cellphone criminals. Some day, I'm afraid, I'm going to lose my shit in an airport while listening to one more person yammer nonsensically on a cellphone with their "public" voice. I know this subject has been beaten to death but I can't leave it alone. And I'm not alone. (I love that there are people out there considering this problem from a design solutions point-of-view!)

I just can't believe that anyone would think that the drivel and minutae of their banal existence is the slightest bit interesting to those poor saps who happened to pull the short stick and end up sitting within earshot. I'm going to lose it and nobody but you, dear reader, will fully understand how long I've resisted.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

august beginnings

I started a new job yesterday. At one of my favorite sources of rant fodder: the Houston Chronicle Online. My first permanent (non-contract) job in 8 years. Not one to count her chickens, I usually reserve judgment and keep my expectations basement-low. But between the welcome basket and the warm welcome I received yesterday, my expectations for a positive experience are creeping up.

Today's tidbits and high points:

  • Did you know that when there's a plane crash, they pull all the airline ads from the online paper, lest the ad fall next to the story? I did not know that. Not something that most people would think of unless they were reading the horrible news and saw the ad pop-up next to it.
  • I love working somewhere where having the newspaper on your monitor is not something you need to hide!
  • Happy to report (ha) that there's a fairly widespread sense of humor and promise of entertaining, but not over-the-top, anarchy.
  • To my relief, most of my co-workers have a general aversion to flourescent lighting
  • Surprisingly, this is an unusually quiet workplace; only a few voices carry. Not anything that headphones can't eclipse. It's more open than I'd prefer, but not too distracting so far.
  • Working downtown Houston is great. Plan on exploring (read: getting hopelessly lost in) the tunnel system which has one of its starting points beneath my building.
I wonder how soon I should break the news about my sleep disorder. Swear to god, I'm going to wake up face-down on my keyoard today.

relatively speaking

Attended a family wedding this past weekend. Bride beautiful, groom handsome, both in love. A cake-topper couple if I've ever seen one. The wedding was held at a state park. Other than the heat, the wedding and reception were unqualified successes. The interaction with family, on the other hand, felt like being in a shooting gallery. If you didn't sustain a direct hit, you got nailed in the crossfire. Exhausting. I fear that I may have, inadvertently, contributed to the injuries. I don't know, it seems so hard to break through the defensive barricades and well-primed munitions.

Monday, August 08, 2005

counter to clockwise

We're going to start this off with a definition. (For godsakes, who do I think am I? The Queen? We are not going to speak in the plural because it displeases us.)

I'm going to start this off with a definition:

    widdershins adv. /WID ur shinz/ or /WITH ur shinz/
    In a contrary or counterclockwise direction.

A bit whimsical sounding when you read it but, I'm afraid, a bit obnoxious-sounding if you drop it into everyday conversation. Especially if you use the alternate pronunciation. And affect a slight British accent.

body parts
I am a lifelong fan of body parts. I mean anthropomorphising them, assigning unbiological characteristics or giving them extra attributes. A warning to the faint-hearted and delicate-natured: I am not. I am the proud owner of a freakish bladder. Yes, it's true. A container of dromedarian power. I have theories about childhood camping trauma from KOA toilets crawling with bugs contributing to my holding ability, but I am weary of the nature/nurture debate--it simply is.

I once worked somewhere for a week before asking the location of the bathroom. I used to be more embarassed by people's reaction to my 8-12 hour bladder, but no more. When I die, I think it should be sent to the place where extraordinary organs go. There, they could marvel at its elasticity and maybe discover hidden pleats, neatly pintucked all around. Now that I've opened the floodgates (oh, the irony!) of ongoing inner body commentary, be warned that there is no stopping me. I will gross you out. Not my goal but, unavoidably, a side effect of this topic.

Or more accurately, fast-pitch...whatever. I'm not a big sports fan (camping, pets, and sports--the holy sapphic trinity--I'm telling you, if it weren't for power tools and pussy, I'd lose my membership to the all-girls club) but if I enjoy watching any team sport, it's baseball. It's easy to understand and your mind can drift without losing your place in the game.

I tried to surprise Barbara by taking her to see a women's professional fast-pitch game. She sort of guessed what I was up to but was pleased nonetheless. So we drove down to League City to see the Texas Thunder or was it Tornados? It was Thunder. Anyway, it was fun.

And fairly rich in imagery. For instance, the (former Olympic) pitcher was very good. She did the fast-pitch windup and hurled that neon ball with incredible speed and accuracy. However, as she was standing there on the pitching mound (hill, lump, bump) I noticed that her pitching bicep was huge. I mean twice the size of her other arm. For a minute, I thought it was lighting or perspective. But no, there it was, a true Popeye appendage sans tattoo. This is what makes sports fun for me. Wow.

My good friends came back from visiting College Station, home of Texas A&M, the other day. They were full of observations and news. Evidently there is a Meat Science building there. Where they study meat, I kid you not. And sell it. What a Green Acres moment I had over this. They bought us some mesquite-smoked pork chops. Those aggies can smoke some incredibly good porkchops. More about this in upcoming entries.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

sales tax smoke & mirrors

If you had a sale advertising, let's say, 10% off everything in your store, you might attract a smattering of customers. 20% would do a little better but would hardly bring in the hordes.

Back-to-school, sales-tax-free weekend starts tomorrow here in Houston. The stores will be crammed full of people clamoring to save a big 8.25%.

And why would anyone enter into that fray for such a small discount?
It's all about getting
the man.

I hate to throw cold water on your shopping foreplay but while you snub the tax man, the business man is splashing on the (cheap) cologne in anticipation of your arrival.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

abandoned fallen angels

From yesterday's news:

    Child Protective Services is asking the public for help in locating the parents or relatives of a 1-day-old baby girl found abandoned Sunday afternoon in an alley behind a West Houston shopping center.
    CPS officials need genetic and medical information from the biological family, which can be passed on to an adoptive family, Olguin said. Also, the sooner the parents' rights are terminated, the faster the adoption process will be, she said.
    The parents of the infant face possible felony charges of abandoning or endangering a child, according to Houston Police spokesman Lt. Robert Manzo. Police have received a few calls regarding the infant, but there are no leads yet, Olguin said.
So what do you think? Do you think that someone who abandons a baby is going to come forth now that they are facing felony charges? Hmmm.
    Some have started calling the baby Angel Doe because "she must have had angels with her because she was found so quickly," Olguin said.
Ah, the circular logic of belief. So the dead infant found earlier this year should be named Fallen Angel Doe? Obviously that baby didn't have any heavenly babysitters.