October 31, 2006


Over the edge and into NaNoWriMo

Well, I'm in. This could be my last blog post for a few weeks. As Paula would say, "Deal."

Good luck and happy noveling to all my fellow ists. My author name is, of course, O' Tim (don't forget the space). Feel free to buddy up. Let the clickety-clack bump-clack begin!


October 30, 2006


The most wonderful time of the year


I've surfed about the Net looking at polls on people's favorite season, just to see where mine stood. Among the several I checked, there really was no consensus, though spring or autumn seemed to edge ahead most of the time.

For me it's autumn, hands down, and a big reason for that is the oppressive summer heat of the south. I noticed a lot of northerners prefer spring, likely for the similar reason that winters there are often so harsh and dreary.

The foliage of the southern Appalachians does not compare well to the intensity of the northeast hardwoods. But with the season coming later and the abundant green conifers breaking up the golds, reds, browns and oranges, the south has its own autumn charm.

And the weather! October is Georgia's driest month, and it is magnificent to have sunny days that start in the 30s and creep up to the low 60s by mid afternoon. It is camping season extraordinaire. This year is a bonus for me since on my trip out west I got to experience the start of autumn in the southern Rockies.

Spring can be quite lovely here if it's not a wet one, but for moi le printemps brings the allergies, zut alors! Winter is nice because its not usually too harsh, and can actually be a great time for outdoor activities (like mountain biking) if you are not too cold-natured. In contrast to the summer bush, the views in the Appies are wonderful. I confess that I'd actually like to see it snow here more, as would my teacher wife, who never seems to catch a break on the local snow days.

Oh well, enough rambling - I'm interested to hear other takes on preferred time of year.


October 27, 2006


Hear Ye...

The winner has been announced.

October 26, 2006


Shh! Testing in progress...

The irrepressible Bill Maher is questioning the need to piss off library volunteers re: what they do or don't do in their free time from their unpaid job.

"They're not flying planes," says Maher of the vols, whose average age is between 60 and 85. "they're showing the homeless how to use the microfiche readers. For free."

Maher says the only people who profit from this are the stockholders of the drug testing company, which rakes in $33 a head. "Money the library would otherwise just waste on books," he said.

After the testing was implemented, the library's volunteer base went from 55 to 2. Read the rest of Maher's thoughts HERE

One commentor to Maher's post pointed out that it's not just the test company that stands to gain. "It benefits the insurance companies," they wrote. "If they get a false positive, Granny is SOL. No coverage for her. Sure they might not be doing risky stuff, but that age range has lots of health problems, which can be expensive."

A local official admits that their public risk management insurance carrier says they should treat volunteers no differently than paid employees. "This is just the days that we are in, and we know that there are some people who aren't happy about this, but it is something we are requiring if anyone wants to volunteer." said Levy County Coordinator Fred Moody.

Regardless of any stance on the morality of drug use/abuse, this is what it has come to in the American War on Drugs, and it's not really surprising to me that it's economic interests fueling this. IMO, these pathetic, costly and constitutionally suspect measures do squat to interdict drug abuse problems (here's a good debate if you care to read more). And with respect to the "morality" crowd (actually it's pretty much contempt), where is your compassion, conservatives?

I agree with another commentor in that I believe most of those who volunteered at the small (and surely underfunded) Levy Country Library are elderly residents who wanted to feel useful and help their community. And it would not surprise me to learn that county elected officials are exempt from the urine tests.

I'm glad to see that most of the volunteers refused to be pawns. But as someone who, in safe, sane and private leisure time occasionally draws from the calumet and who once lost a much-needed job as a result of this crap, I am compelled to ask of the rural, predominantly conservative Republican Levy County seniors: what was your view on drug testing before they required YOU to pee in a cup? Is it beneath you but perhaps good enough for "those druggies" to drop their drawers within hearing distance of a complete stranger?

What say you now that Big Brother has reached your doorstep? Of course - you didn't submit to the testing and walked away with no skin off your ass. But what if you needed a job to pay your rent and feed your kids, and they asked you to pee in a cup so you could serve waffles to drunks and stoners at 2 a.m. for $5.15 an hour?

Your test wasn't required at all. Many others must submit to this indignity and invasion just in order to work and survive. Of course there's always QuickClean tabs and the like to help folks sneak by under the radar, but that just perpetuates the cycle of bullshit.

I could certainly go a lot further on this, but suffice it to say I agree with
Paul Armentano, senior policy analyst at the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) and the NORML Foundation in Washington, DC:

"Employees should be judged by the quality of their work, not by the quality of their urine."


October 25, 2006


That's write English

I love the English language (it's about all I've got). And the people of the mother-tongue land are quite loverly, as well. My anglophilia was pleasantly tweaked today by the always amusing Word O' The Day, which offered up this creative and hilarious sentence for the usage of crabwise (\KRAB-wyz\, adjective: 1. Sideways 2. In a cautiously indirect manner):

"Without taking his eyes from the road his left hand moved seamlessly from the old-fashioned gear stick to Sally's lap where, after a brief professional rummage, it moved crabwise on to me in the back seat."

-- Sue Arnold, "The difference between a grope and a caress", The Independent, October 4, 2003

Easy Quiz: If you didn't know The Independent was a London newspaper, how then would you surmise that this likely took place in Britain?

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October 20, 2006


The Right Stuff

While I’m not one to get all giddy over implements of destruction, I do have an appreciation of fine craftsmanship, and this week I got the opportunity to see it up close in one of those “cool to be in the media” moments.

A North American B-25 Mitchell that was touring the area to promote an upcoming airshow landed at the local airport, and I must say that for something that’s 64 years old it is a fine and functional artifact of military aviation history.

The B-25 is a medium-range bomber named in honor of General Billy Mitchell, an early airpower pioneer and advocate of an independent United States Air Force. It is the only American military aircraft named after a specific person. The plane is most famous for its use in the Doolittle Raid on Japan just six months after Pearl Harbor.

This specimen, named the Pacific Prowler, gained fame after the war in the film Catch-22, and helped film more than 80 Hollywood features including Memphis Belle. During the filming of Catch-22 the removable tailpiece was off for the shoot, and while seeking a better position to shoot from, the cameraman accidently fell to his death.

The Pacific Prowler's chief pilot Jim Terry is a retired Air Force major. His uncle John was an Army Air Forces 1st Lieutenant who flew B-25s in the war. John died in 2001, and in 2003 the Terry family bought this plane for $400,000. They formed a nonprofit foundation dedicated to John and all the men who served as bomber crew during the war. They fly to about 25 air shows each year, and volunteers help pilot and maintain the aircraft, which requires 30 hours of maintenance for every hour it flies. It gets a little better than a mile per each of the 1,075 gallons it carries for its twin 14-cylinder Wright radial engines. Not bad for something that carried a crew of seven and 4,000 lbs. of ordinance.

The original plan was for me to go up in the plane for a jaunt over the town. Unfortunately low clouds that didn’t burn off until mid-afternoon delayed the plane’s arrival, and the schedule had to be rushed. I got some good photos, though, and learned a few things. The promoter gave me passes to the air show, and the pilot said that if he had room then he’d take me up, so Jen and I will probably go.

UPDATE: I got to go up at the air show! Photos added at bottom.

Nailing it on the tricycle-style landing gear

Chief pilot Jim Terry

The B-25 Mitchell's distinctive twin tails

Tailgunner's position

Jim Terry bids farewell

A flyby at full speed - I'm amazed the camera froze the props

View from the tailgunner's position

Looking through the front nose cone

Banking over downtown Rome, Georgia - my old stomping grounds.

A gratuitous "cool photo, Tim" shot. This P-51 Mustang is one fast aeroplane.

Check out more than you could possibly want to know about the B-25 Mitchell.

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Bruce Plante


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October 19, 2006


Thirteen things I used to be

1. A Boy Scout

2. On my high school football team

3. On my high school golf team

4. A conservative Republican

5. A fundamentalist Christian

6. A mail carrier

7. A welder

8. A big fan of tequila

9. A resident of California

10. 170 pounds

11. A big-time stoner

12. An art major

13. A 13-year-old with a picture of Farrah Fawcett in my wallet


October 14, 2006


How fun!

Since the discovery of our impending parenthood, Jen has had her nose in several different pregnancy and parenthood books. I think perhaps she is a bit chagrined that I have not shown the same level of enterprise, but I've felt that once I know the gender of our child the bug will hit me.

Well, wham! There it is. Jen read that at week 16 the fetus is now capable of hearing, and at least one book suggests that now is the time to start reading and playing music for the little squeaker. So off we go to the local used bookstore, where we plop down $50+ for a variety of literature for the wee (plus some CDs for dad).

Coming across a slew of titles that I recall from my own first years, I became filled with glee over seeing some long unthought-of Seussian favorites like Hop On Pop, Go Dog Go, and One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish. But my heart soared like a hawk upon coming across three of the Else Holmelund Minarek-written and Maurice Sendak-illustrated stories of Little Bear. These were my absolute favorites as a pre-kiddy gardener. My favorite is the one where Little Bear decides he is going to fly to the moon.

His little homemade space helmet still makes me grin.

Another cool memory was sparked by one of the Little Bear books, which appears to be a first edition from 1961. On the cover below the author and illustrator titles is a line that reads "Harper & Row, Publishers, New York and Evanston"

The latter refers to my hometown of Evanston, Illinois (just north of Chicago). One of the reasons I had the Little Bear books to begin with as a child was that during my early years my father moonlighted as a truck driver for Harper & Row (letter carrier was his day job). The publisher's factory was just a few miles from our house, in fact, and my dad would sometimes bring home seconds of various books. As I recall H & R moved out of Evanston in the 1970s, but their logo remained on the building for years after that - as far as I know it's still there and used by some other company.

October 12, 2006


Thirteen words, vol. II

A while back I posted a Thirteen of words I won’t ever use inspired by Dictionary.com’s Word of the Day. Today I am inspired to offer up a Thirteen of some of my favorite “big” words, perhaps to blow off some steam from my work as a journalist, which suggests keeping most everything I write at about a 8th — 10th grade level. At times to my editor's chagrin, the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level analysis on my articles rarely dips below 11.5; this is the curse of the wordy bastard.

Some of these on today's list I use frequently in speech or in my non-professional (as in yet to be paid for?) writing and others are just faves for their sound or meaning. I have also added my versions of usage, submitted for your approval.

acquiesce \ak-wee-ES\, intransitive verb:

To accept or consent passively or without objection -- usually used with 'in' or 'to'.

Acquiesce comes from Latin acquiescere, "to give oneself to rest, hence to find one's rest or peace (in something)," from ad, "to" + quiescere, "to rest, to be or keep quiet."

"Those who acquiesce are not entitled to later complain."

copious \KOH-pee-uhs\, adjective:

1. Affording an abundant supply; plentifully furnished; lavish.
2. Large in quantity; plentiful, profuse; abundant.
3. Full of information or matter.

Copious is from Latin copiosus, from copia, "plenty, abundance."

"Taking copious notes is not one of my strengths."

defenestrate \dee-FEN-uh-strayt\, transitive verb:

To throw out of a window.

Defenestrate is derived from Latin de-, "out of" + fenestra, "window." The noun form is defenestration.

"The firefighter, weary of the woman's recalcitrancy, shouted out for her to defenestrate the goddamn cat."

erudite \AIR-yuh-dyt; -uh-dyt\, adjective:

Characterized by extensive reading or knowledge; learned.

Erudite comes from Latin eruditus, from e-, "out of, from" + rudis, "rough, untaught," which is also the source of English rude. Hence one who is erudite has been brought out of a rough, untaught, rude state.

"As complex as humans are it is astounding how so many are so far from erudite."

fortuitous \for-TOO-uh-tuhs; -TYOO-\, adjective:

1. Happening by chance; coming or occurring by accident, or without any known cause.
2. Happening by a fortunate or lucky chance.
3. Fortunate or lucky.

Fortuitous comes from Latin fortuitus, "accidental," from fors, "chance, luck."

"I am a big fan of fortuitous violence in film."

grandiloquent \gran-DIL-uh-kwuhnt\, adjective:

Lofty in style; pompous; bombastic.

Grandiloquent comes from Latin grandiloquus, from grandis, "grand" + loqui, "to speak." The noun form is grandiloquence.

"Wow, that's grandiloquent, dude."

histrionic \his-tree-ON-ik\, adjective:

1. Of or relating to actors, acting, or the theater; befitting a theater; theatrical.
2. Overly dramatic; deliberately affected.

Histrionic comes from Latin histrionicus, from histrio, histrion-, "an actor."

"My affable and histrionic aunt has indeed crept the boards from time to time."

ostensible \ah-STEN-suh-bul\, adjective:

Represented or appearing to be true, but not necessarily so.

Ostensible comes from Medieval Latin ostensibilis, from the Latin verb ostendere, "to show," and is related to ostentatious, "showy."

"His ostensible nature is that of a grump, but deep inside he is a puppy."

pablum \PAB-luhm\, noun:

Something (as writing or speech) that is trite, insipid, or simplistic.

Pablum comes from Pablum, a trademark used for a bland soft cereal for infants.

"The president's speechwriters, knowing the limits of his vocabulary, seem inclined to offer up little more than mushed pablum."

patina \PAT-n-uh; puh-TEEN-uh\, noun:

1. The color or incrustation which age gives to works of art; especially, the green rust which covers ancient bronzes, coins, and medals.
2. The sheen on any surface, produced by age and use.
3. An appearance or aura produced by habit, practice, or use.
4. A superficial layer or exterior.

Patina is adopted from Italian, from Latin patina, "a dish" (from the in-crustation on ancient metal plates and dishes).

"Despite her lame efforts to honor him, his face wore a patina of gratitude."

piebald \PY-bald\, adjective:

1. Having spots and patches of black and white, or other colors; mottled.
2. Mixed; composed of incongruous parts.

Piebald is from pie, the parti-colored bird + bald.

(One of my favorite words since reading C.S.Lewis' Perelandra)

"Like many Australian Shepherds, Ballou received a most adorable piebald coat, replete with cottony softness and salt-and-peppery cuteness."

quandary \KWAHN-duh-ree; -dree\, noun:

A state of difficulty, perplexity, doubt, or uncertainty.

Quandary is of unknown origin.

"This is another fine quandary you've gotten us into, Dick."

scuttlebutt \SKUHT-l-buht\, noun:

1. A drinking fountain on a ship.
2. A cask on a ship that contains the day's supply of drinking water.
3. Gossip; rumor.

Scuttlebutt comes from scuttle, "a small opening" + butt, "a large cask" -- that is, a small hole cut into a cask or barrel to allow individual cups of water to be drawn out. The modern equivalent is the office water cooler, also a source of refreshment and gossip.

"Arrr! Fill up the scuttlebutt ye bilge-suckin' blaggards!"

October 10, 2006


RNC NoKo Talking Points

These 10 were posted today on HuffPo by Marty Kaplan:

1. It's Clinton's fault.

2. Madeleine Albright and Sandy Berger, too.

3. Be afraid.

4. Connect the dots: 9/11-Saddam-Kim Jung-il-gay marriage.

5. Iran. Syria. Poland.

6. Stay the course.

7. Tax cuts.

8. George Soros.

9. Hillary Clinton.

10. De-nucular-i-zation.


11. Jimmy Carter (did you know the NoKos are naming their bomb after him?)

12. Now is the time to support the President. Vote Republican.

13. This makes it plain that we must bring democracy to Myanmar.

14. These are people who hate our freedom, and want to take it away.

15. Nancy Pelosi. What? No, just Nancy Pelosi.

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October 07, 2006


Let's face it

As happens from time to time at work, there is a lull (it's true - a lull!) whereby my esteemed colleague Beelers and I find time to discuss a wide range of mundane subjects. These occasionally inspire our blogging, and the following post is true to that form, especially regarding mundanity.

For many years now I have shaved using an electric shaver. This habit began when a traditional razor and foam regimen was causing my neck to break out fiercely and most irritatingly. I've kept up with it out of habit, as the built-in trimmer has been handy for grooming my goatee which I've sported now for several years, and despite the fact that I have to make countless circles about my face to be rid of all the whiskers. The Norelco "cordless" rotary I own is a basic model and it has seen better days for sure. I've replaced the blades on it only once (the buggers cost a bundle!) and the battery is so old it barely holds a strong enough charge for two shaves, so I usually just operate it with the recharge cord plugged in (NOT advised, as I recollect from the long-since-gone operating guide). One more thing re: my current shaver - it frequently causes ingrown hairs on my neck, which is like having one of those nasty, headless, under-the-skin pimples for a month or more.

So the past couple of times that Jen and I have been odee-doe-ing around Target I've gone to look at the shavers, and I see that they have gone up in price quite a bit. Granted their designers have likely improved the technology in the decade-plus that I've been electric. But it occured to me that conventional razors and shaving creams/gels have likewise improved, so before hauling off on an expensive purchase of one o' them new-fangley ee-lectrik shavers, I decide to invest in a pack of the nicer triple-blade disposables and some super-boffo techno-advanced shaving gel.

WOW! For one of life's routines so banal as shaving, I was impressed and perhaps even joyful over the results. It was so nice to have the fresh blade whisk my whiskers off in one smooth stroke and be way closer than my crappy old Norelco. God love her but she's relegated to trimmer status from this point on. My only concern after the morning ritual was whether my neck would break out in those wonderful little red bumps known as razor burn - as I said a common occurence which caused me to defect to electric all those years ago. At the end of the day, no bumps. Hallelujah!

So, back to the lull of work and the ensuing conversation with Beelers. As I enthusiastically relate to him my experience, he grins whilst his lightning-fast fingers go a-Googling for info on shaving (Beelers is the king of Google info-grabbing). Lo and behold he comes up with Classic Shaving.com, a website where, like at so many others, people with too much money can buy things. Check out the price on this mofo. Floyd Lawson would be spinning in his grave, by gum! And for a freakin' straight razor! There's no way I would trust my hand to be that steady, at least without alcohol. That's just one of those things I think you should allow a professional to do, as when I was in Egypt and a local barber gave me a haircut and shave for 50 cents. I tipped him a buck, hoping that the karma would stave off tetanus. Just kidding - he didn't knick me once, and even sat and had a beer with me afterward (see - alcohol). If the price of that straight razor doesn't freak your shit, surf the site a bit and look at what they want for a shaving brush. Cripes, are they actually killing badgers to make these things?

October 04, 2006


La Cage Aux Foley

John Konop, a Republican who made a primary bid for U.S. Congress in Georgia earlier this year and who has a blog called Control Congress, today offered up this assessment of the Mark Foley situation on the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Political Insider:

This week Congress showed us that holding on to political power is more important than protecting children and fighting terrorists.

Congress passed the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006 with a lot of fanfare. Speaker Hastert said, “At home, we put the security of our children first and Republicans are doing just that in our nation’s House… Protecting our children is… as high a priority as securing our border from terrorists.”

But when our Congressional leadership had a chance to walk their talk, they chose not to.

Read the rest of Konop's excellent post HERE

It's too bad Konop lost his bid in the primary - Congress needs a full-blown enema sponsored by fresh blood like him to get it out of the partisan rut it's mired in.

I leave you with this ditty, also posted on Political Insider (I tweaked it a bit). It's inspired by our illustrious Congress and the Canadian group Five Man Electrical Band's song “Signs”:

Spin, spin, everywhere there’s spin
‘Til we don’t know who is right
And we sure don’t know who's in

Spin, Spin, everywhere there’s spin
With Congress tryin' to save its butt so here we go again
Foley's a “naughty” boy - don't you know it's all spin?

Spin, Spin, everywhere there’s spinning
From Bush up in the White House with a war he thinks he's winning
Hastert is a master but all of 'em are grinning

Can't you see it’s spin? All that’s left is spin...


Weird science, or sew it seams

I just finished reviewing my audio journal from the trip west, and have discovered a most curious, unnerving and utterly foreign recording in the mix. I have been able to isolate the file and have sent a copy of it to the folks at SETI (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) as I feel this may be right up their alley. I can only guess what this means. So can you:


October 02, 2006


We're here, we're weird, we're in your FACE

The Amazing Kah-slah-skey, the gourmet chef responsible for the exquisite Boiled Dinner, has just cooked up a second helping of tasty (you) essays.

There's lots of good writing this month about life in these U.S., ranging from the hilarious to the sanguinary. Go check it out now.

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