Trick or Treat

I’m not generally fond of costume parties, but Denise and Lynn made it clear that costumes were mandatory at their Halloween party. Besides, Denise had suggested the perfect costume idea.

On Friday night I made a trip to Goodwill to find the makings of a hobbit. Did they have short woolen trousers? They did! Did they have a plain, pocketless long-sleeve shirt? They did! Did they have a woolen vest? They did! Did they have a wig of wild hair? They did! I forked over my $21.96 and came home with the following:

[photo of my wig, trousers, vest, and shirt]

Then I checked the nook for other bits and pieces:

[photo of the nook, which is filled with great reading and great decadence]

Pipeweed! And a pipe with which to smoke it! A flask filled with spirits! A bit of cheese and salmon from the fridge, a walking stick cut from the locust, and I was transformed from J.D. Roth, middle-aged humbug:

[photo of me in jeans and a pullover]

into Jolly Brandybuck:

[photo of me as a hobbit, apple and walking stick in hand]

Kris chose a quick-and-dirty costume not far removed from reality: a hazmat worker.

Denise’s house was well decorated: spooky spiderwebs glowing under a black light, a cardboard coffin, the hall of Halloween candy horrors, a great forest mural thing, and various dismembered limbs. And, of course, there was plenty to eat, including some delicious Mexican beef and chocolate sheet cake. I cannot — and did not — resist chocolate sheet cake.

It was a pleasure to meet Betsy and Scott, and to chat with them about their lives. Here are Scott (with his party pooper award), Denise (in her fantastic vampiress costume), and Betsy (as The Media).

[photo of the my friends]

I must have made a convincing, if tall, hobbit. Despite some other great costumes, my hobbit won the costume contest, and I came home with $10 in lottery tickets (which yielded $4) and a trophy. I wonder if I can use the same costume next year…

I was disappointed that I didn’t get a chance to use my prepared spiel. I wanted for somebody to say, “I thought hobbits were short,” to which I would reply, “That’s a myth. A vile, nasty rumor started by dwarves — no surprise there — as a means to distract from their own height issues. As you can see, hobbits are actually as tall as humans.”

I crack myself up.

We left the party early spend some time with the Gingeriches. Jenn told us three amusing Halloween anecdotes:

  1. Jane is one of Hank’s kindergarten classmates. She’s as ebullient as Harrison. The other day, the kids shared what they were doing for Halloween. Jane’s house is being turned into a Haunted House and her Halloween costume is a Dead Cheerleader. Harrison is so jealous, both of the house and the costume.
  2. For weeks, Harrison has planned to be Superman for Halloween. Tonight, only an hour before the church Halloween party (oxymoron! oxymoron!), he announced that he was not going to be Superman, he was going to be a firefighter, and that’s it. Nothing else. If he couldn’t be a firefighter, he didn’t want to be anything. Only a firefighter would do.
  3. At the church Halloween party (oxymoron! oxymoron!), Hank’s class had a piñata. Tristan, dressed as Spider-Man, was taking his turn, without much success. Hank decided to shout encouragement: “Use your web! Use your web!” When this had no effect, he turned to Jenn and said, “What we need is heat vision.” sigh — It makes me glow inside to know I’m helping to create a geek.

We had a nice time with Jenn and Jeremy, then drove home for an extra hour of sleep.

I am a man of many quirks. One of these is that I prepare for the coming or going of Daylight Savings Time in advance. At least a month before we’re supposed to adjust our clocks, I adjust mine. This year was no different. And all day Saturday I was joking to Kris, “My watch is almost right.” Well, we had a power outage Friday afternoon. I didn’t correct my clock until Saturday night before bed, and when I did, I set it from the computer’s clock. Can you guess what happened? That’s right: despite all my careful planning, I failed to make the correct adjustment for Daylight Savings!. Oh, the bitter irony.

This being our first Halloween in the new house, we didn’t know what to expect. There aren’t a lot of kids in the neighborhood, so it wouldn’t have surprised us to have nobody visit at all.

At 5:57 tonight, we got our first trio of Trick or Treaters. Kris answered the door. The first child, a boy, was obviously a vampire. The second kid was Hermione Granger. The third child looked like a princess, but here face was ashen white. “Are you a princess?” Kris asked.

“A dead one,” said the girl.

What? Are these dead female icons representative of some proto-feminity rampant among girls today? Are they mimicking some point of popular culture we’ve missed? What’s going on?

At 5:58 we were visited by a pirate girl.

At 5:59 we were visited by a second pirate girl. And death.

A three-year-old biker in a Harley-Davidson jacket visited us at 6:19. He almost looked like a pirate. Maybe he was a pirate biker?

At 7:08 the hordes descended: a pirate (sense a theme?), Batboy, “something weird”, and — are you ready for this? — a “bloody princess”.

“Are you a dead princess?” I asked the girl.

“No,” she said. “I’m a bloody princess.”

“She’s got older brothers,” her dad said, as if that explained the whole thing.

Five batches totalling eleven kids. Not many, eh?


On 31 October 2004 (07:51 PM),
Amy Jo said:

Things have slowed down in trick-or-treat land here at the Woodruff/Jolstead house, but for a bit it was crazy. Cutest costume award goes to the 6-month old bassett hound puppy dressed up as a ladybird beetle. Lots of supermans and spidermans and live princesses, no dead ones.

On 31 October 2004 (08:09 PM),
Lisa said:

Uhhh. We were just visited by a pimp, who was probably all of 8 years old. I don’t think that there are enough bytes out there in foldedspace to accommodate everything I’d like to say about that…

On 31 October 2004 (08:14 PM),
J.D. Roth said:

Perhaps that’s where all the six-year-old dead princesses are coming from…

p.s. Everyone go look at Lisa’s latest entry for a movie of Albert the Batboy toddling (and chortling) down the street. Very cute.

On 31 October 2004 (09:23 PM),
Courtney said:

Alas, we had NO trick-or-treaters at all! Despite a new, brighter bulb in the porch light and our terra cotta pumpkin aglow, nobody came to the door! πŸ™

On 31 October 2004 (11:19 PM),
mart said:

and in mart-world that’s said like this:

we had NO trick-or-treaters at all! nobody came to the door! πŸ™‚

On 01 November 2004 (05:50 AM),
Tiffany said:

I am waiting for my delayed flight to Baltimore. At least the airline called (at midnight) and left a message that it was delayed so that I am not waiting at the airport.

We had over 150 kids. There were lots of Spidermen and random dead things. There was even a kid dressed as the β€˜Incredibles dad’. Amazing that you can get a costume for a move that is not open yet.

Rich had put up black lights, a cemetery in the front yard and lots of spider weds that all glowed in the light. The kids love the glow, but it makes it hard for me to figure out some of the costumes.

I smiled to think back to when I was growing up. I do not think that I ever worn a store bought costume. Mom made everyone that I can remember. I will have to ask to see the old photo albums someday. There seem to be very few home made costumes out there. If they are home made the are wear something black or white and put blood in it.

The churches around here call the β€˜Autumn Fest’ Parties.

On 01 November 2004 (05:53 AM),
J.D. Roth said:

To be fair, judging from Jenn’s recent entry, Zion calls their Halloween party a harvest party, also. Kind of a strange way to celebrate the harvest, though, to have the kids dress up just like they would for Halloween. πŸ™‚

On 01 November 2004 (07:46 AM),
Dave said:

It’s Daylight Saving Time, not Daylight Savings (sic) Time.
Check here

And yes I know that the Wikipedia calls the incorrect use of the plural a “common alternate form”, but that doesn’t mean it’s proper English.

Dave the Toastmaster’s Grammarian

On 01 November 2004 (08:36 AM),
jenefer said:

Must be California. We had lots and lots of trick or treaters. I think I started with a minimum of 1,000 pieces of candy and we only had 20 or 25 left. I think Bob and Adam give out handfuls instead of just a few to each, but still there were lots of kids. I think the thing that made us the happiest was that there were very few unaccompanied children. Most had parents and were in large groups of 7 to 20 costumed participants. Best costume was a toddler, about 1 year, in a homemade Eeyore. Really cute.

It is such fun to not have any little ones to take out any more!!!

On 01 November 2004 (09:34 AM),
Dave said:

You do, however, look surprisingly hobbit-like. But you need a bigger gut to carry it off completely. Are you sure you don’t want to play a hobbit in the campaign (should we ever meet again)?

On 01 November 2004 (10:46 AM),
Denise said:

Ok – costumes were not mandatory…just highly encouraged.

Those who did not participate had to wear a Party Poo-per sticker, complete with cartoon pile of dog doo.

We had some great costumes show up!

On 01 November 2004 (12:00 PM),
tony said:

JD, have you taken a good look at your hobbit picture. You look just like dad.

On 01 November 2004 (12:29 PM),
Jeff said:

JD, have you taken a good look at your hobbit picture. You look just like dad.


On 01 November 2004 (01:49 PM),
Joel said:

Ha! All your preparation! For nought! Ha!

Where I was at, a wedding reception, the Daylight SavinG hour spontaneously became a “It doesn’t matter how much you drink during this hour!” hour. Which, fifty-nine minutes later, when a certain fellow I went to college with fell over and threw up, turned out to be all hype.

On 01 November 2004 (02:25 PM),
J.D. said:

Tony (the traitor): JD, have you taken a good look at your hobbit picture. You look just like dad.

Yes, yes, I know. I thought the very same thing when I saw the photo this morning. And I’m more scared by that than you are! πŸ™‚

On 01 November 2004 (07:26 PM),
Paul said:

And the photo of Kris’s costume is … Where?

On 02 November 2004 (12:13 PM),
tammy said:

OH MY GOODNESS! I scrolled down here to make the comment and lo and behold I see i’m not alone. Jeff has noticed it too.

JD you look just like Uncle Steve. I was shocked when I saw the pic. For a minute I thought it was a hoax. I have never seen the beat of it. It’s amazing!

Maybe ghosts are real. shiver

The Velvet Ribbon

A couple years ago I shared my favorite short, spooky story: The Velvet Ribbon. Now, thanks to the generosity of a foldedspace reader, I’m able to share an extra-special Halloween treat.

Deb writes:

OK…get ready for your trip down memory lane! I found the record…an old 33 on ebay. We found a record player and my sister actually had a phono input on her very old stereo system.

We had a lot of fun listening to this over an over again….just like when we were kids.



Here’s the 2.28mb mp3 file: The Velvet Ribbon.

Thanks, Deb!

We’re headed to Denise‘s house for a costume party tonight. I’m excited to meet fellow webloggers, Betsy and Scott. Who knows? Maybe Johnny Doe will make an appearance.

I’m still a Halloween humbug, it’s true, but Denise has threatened public shame and humiliation for those who do not appear in costume. So, for the first time since becoming Vernon Dursely for the Chamber of Secrets premier, I’m dressing up. I’ve collated my clothes and have prepared my props.

Come back tomorrow and you’ll get a peek at a rare costumed J.D.

Pre-Crash Comments

On 30 October 2004 (01:51 PM),
J.D. Roth said:

Last night, while shopping for costume components at Goodwill, I head an awful “lite” version of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”.


As part of a soon-to-be-announced side-project, I’ve been ripping old vinyl records to mp3. Here, as an added Halloween treat, is a fuzzy 5.34mb rip of Thriller from my original Thriller LP, purchased in 1982.

(I can remember sitting in Dave’s bedroom, listening to this song over and over again. This very song, this very track, from this very piece of vinyl, I mean.)

If the big record companies find this mp3 threatening, then it’s a sad, sad world. This mp3, filled with cracks and pops from a sticky record, includes the electonic hum from the equipment — listen for it at the beginning of the track. There’s no way somebody would forego purchasing a real copy of the song by downloading this…

No, this is just for fun. For nostalgia.

On 30 October 2004 (03:22 PM),
Tiffany said:

What is Kris going to the pary as?

On 31 October 2004 (11:09 AM),
Betsy said:

It was a great costume, J.D. Congratulations on your victory!

On 31 October 2004 (05:48 PM),
Amy Jo said:

We want to see photos . . .

On 31 October 2004 (06:22 PM),
J.D. Roth said:

Photos are coming. I promise. I’ve written the weblog entry (am in fact updating it as each Trick or Treater comes to the door), but cannot find the cable for the digital camera. Thus: no photos yet.

On 01 December 2004 (11:00 AM),
Kimberly said:

Oh thank you so much Deb for posting! My bestfriend and I would listen to The Velvet Ribbon over & over again! I love it!


On 18 September 2005 (02:58 PM),
Sher said:

Hi Deb,

I cannot believe other people remember this Velvt Ribbon Story – how great! We had the Halloween Book/Album, from 1970 also. I was six years old and accidentally left it behind in southern MN at school, before we moved to Minneapolis in 1971. My two sisters never let me live that down. I surprised them with this page and a typed out version of this poem today. We loved it and from time to time, recite this poem and another one that we had memorized from the record. I would love to find this book with the music on cd form, but have not idea where to go, so i keep looking. Ebay sells the record, but I am trying to go other routes, as I no longer have a record player. If anyone has ideas, feel free to let me know. What a great memory. Thanks for posting it!

On 06 October 2005 (12:58 PM),
yvonne said:

Hi Deb,
What is the title of the record that has The Velvet Ribbon? I used to have that record AGES ago and loved it! That story scared the daylights out of me. I’d listen to it often and when it got near the end, I’d have to take it off!
Thanks for the info!

The Shape of Things

Nick came into the office Wednesday morning, his head filled with ideas. He does this sometimes.

“I didn’t get much sleep last night,” he said.

“Up late playing Everquest?” I asked. Nick is always up late playing Everquest. He’s addicted. He’s a muckety-muck in an Everquest guild (“The Happy Travelers“). He maintains a web forum. He prints copious notes on the game.

“No,” he said. “Suprisingly enough, I stopped playing about ten and read a book. I picked up the new book from Brian Greene, and I read it until midnight. But I couldn’t fall asleep. I just lay there for several hours thinking about the shape of the universe. It’s amazing.”

Nick set his coffee on my desk. This was going to be a long one. “Did you know that other galaxies are moving away from us faster than the speed of light? They’re moving apart due to the swelling of space, a result of the Big Bang. They’re traveling faster than the speed of light because the speed of light only applies to things traveling through space; the galaxies are moving apart due to the swelling of space. Just think of it. Eventually they’ll move outside our existence.”

He picked up his coffee, took a sip. I sat still, befuddled.

If Nick’s mind is a mass of confusion because of what he reads, imagine what mine is like after he’s had time to cogitate on this stuff and then spit it out in what amounts to vague incoherencies. I like real science, social science, not this soft, fuzzy theoretical stuff.

Before I could parse what Nick had told me, he began to explain something about the speed of light, and its limitations. I only ended up more confused.

“That doesn’t makes sense,” I said. “If you have one ray of light traveling in a certain direction, and another ray traveling in the opposite direction, then they’re traveling away from each other at twice the speed of light. Right?”

“No,” said Nick. “They’re traveling away from each other at the speed of light. They can’t travel away from each other any faster.”

I couldn’t wrap my mind around this. I have a tough time wrapping my mind around a lot of stuff like this: particles that exist in two places at once, particles that can communicate, curved space, etc. “That doesn’t make sense,” I said. “What is it? Relativity or something?”

“Yeah,” said Nick. He took another sip of his coffee. I could tell he was preparing to launch into another, related topic. I stood to leave.

“I’d love to hear more,” I said. “But I’ve got to go make sales calls with Tony.” I gathered my things.

“I should offer to drive,” I said. “Tony’s driving scares me. He drives too fast and he loves to tailgate. I spend most of my time looking down at my lap, holding on to my seat.”

Nick laughed. We’re not impressed with Tony’s driving skills. We think he’s a bit wild. When he was younger, he had several accidents and several tickets. Once while driving on the freeway, he hit an engine block; another time on the freeway, he hit a lawnmower. He hit a mailbox one time, too, but that wasn’t in the freeway.

Tony, Dana, Joel: the three drivers who scare me.

Tony and I left to make sales calls.

We drove from customer-to-customer to let them know that Tony’s leaving Custom Box, and that I’ll be taking his place in the field. Everywhere we went, the reaction was the same: “Will you still bring us ice cream?” For the past several years, Tony’s taken ice cream to our customers at least once each summer. Apparently, this scores Big Points.

Tony was driving through northeast Portland, wending the car on a narrow road in an industrial park. Traffic had stopped. Ahead of us, a semi was having trouble backing into a business. Tony became agitated.

“Come on!” shouted Tony. “Learn how to drive! You shouldn’t be driving a truck if you can’t back it up!”

“Calm down,” I said.

“Look at that idiot,” he said. “He can’t even back up the truck.”

“What do you care? Maybe he’s just learning. Just take it easy.”

Time passed. Tony fidgeted in his seat. He muttered under his breath.

“My god. I can’t believe this,” he said.

“Relax. You’re acting like Jeremy.”

“Well, that guy shouldn’t be allowed to drive a truck if he doesn’t know how to back it up.”

“What do you know?” I asked. “You’ve never driven a truck.”

“Man, that pisses me off,” Tony said, turning on me. “You and Jeff and Nick think I can’t drive a truck. I drove a big U-Haul truck to Bend without any trouble — I backed it up without any trouble — but Jeff won’t let me take the truck to deliver boxes. You guys think you’re such good drivers. It’s bullshit.”

“The very fact that you’re angry at this guy for taking so long to back up tells me you’re not ready to drive a big truck,” I said.

“Shut up,” said Tony. “I’ve seen you put a car into the ditch in freezing rain. And I’m not the one who rear-ended a car full of Mexicans while driving a truck.”

I had to grant this was true. “Yeah, that was pretty much Jeff’s fault all they way.”

Nick came into the office Thursday morning, his head filled with ideas. He does this sometimes. This time, he dragged Tony behind him.

“We were just talking about Voyager,” said Nick said.

“Which Voyager would that be?” I asked. “That bad Star Trek show?”

“No. Voyager One and Two,” he said. “Do you realize they’ve been traveling for over twenty-five years? They were both launched in 1977. They’ve left the solar system and still it only takes ten hours for their signals to reach us. Ten hours. The nearest star is 4.2 light years from us. Assuming that Voyager’s signals are traveling at the speed of light” — and here the three of us had a long argument about whether this was a valid assumption; I contended that radio waves were not light waves and thus would not travel at the speed of light, even in a vacuum — “then, well, imagine I’m walking across the United States. If I had gone as far as Voyager, I would have walked from Canby to Oregon City. In twenty-five years.

I shook my head. I, too, sometimes engage in intellectual flights of fancy, but they’re not so amusing when they’re my intellectual flights of fancy.

“You know how when you get an x-ray they protect you with lead?” said Nick. “Well, do you know how thick your lead shield would have to be to block just 50% of neutrinos from hitting you?”

No, I didn’t know how thick my lead shield would have to be to block just 50% of neutrinos from hitting me.

“It’d have to be 5.7 trillion miles thick. One light year.”

“Do neutrinos cause cancer?” I asked, puzzled by the comparison to x-rays.

“No,” said Nick. “I don’t think so.”

“Then why would I want a lead shield that thick?”

Tony and I left to make sales calls.

As we drove past Mom’s, I looked at the back yard, to the oak tree, once broad and tall, the oak tree which I climbed so many times as a kid. In the (possibly apocryphal) family mythology, this tree grew from an acorn planted on the spot by my grandfather, or my uncle, or some other family member. An outhouse once stood in the spot, and when the indoor bathroom was built, someone planted an acorn on the site of the old shithole.

But that was fifty or sixty years ago. Over time, the tree has aged, and rotted. The ice storm last winter wounded the oak, tearing off a couple of great boughs. Mom had an arborist come out to repair the damage. After patching the wound, he recommended felling the tree anyhow. Mom called my cousin, Mart, to do the job. Now the tree is laying on its side, the thick woody trunk askew.

“It looks like Mart has to come back to finish the job,” I told Tony.

“I can’t believe she cut that down,” he said.

“It was rotted,” I said. “Even Jeff agreed it needed to go.”

“Jeff’s not an arborist,” said Tony. “What does —”

“Look out! Don’t hit that bird!” I shouted as a stupid robin swooped low in front of us. “I can’t believe you almost hit that bird.” I was joking, of course. In the country, it’s impossible to avoid killing a bird once in a while.

Then I said, “Jeff’s not an arborist, but mom called one in. He trimmed the oak and then told her it needed to come down. He should have told her first, huh? Say, how do you know what an arborist is?” I turned to look at him.

“I’m not an idiot,” Tony said.

“I know,” I said. “But I only just learned about the existence of arborists three months ago. How do you know about—”

“Oh man,” said Tony, eyes wide, staring out the window.

I turned to look at the road just in time to see the car smack a little bird. “I can’t believe you hit that bird!” I said, laughing.

“It’s not my fault the’re jumping out in front of me,” Tony said. “If they were traveling at the speed of light, it wouldn’t be an issue!”

And then he added: “Besides, how do you know the bird didn’t hit me? Let’s see: I’m going straight and the bird veers toward me. You don’t see me saying ‘Oh look! You’re running into neutrinos.’ They’re running into you. It’s all in perception.”

“What are you doing, Tony?” I shouted.

He was on his cell phone, arguing with his wife. He was also driving. He had come up — quickly — behind a car that was backing out of a driveway.

Tony veered a bit to one side, half-heartedly applied his brake, and let the woman have the right of way. When he had finished arguing with his wife, he turned to me: “What did you mean, asking what I was doing back there? I saw that lady pulling out.”

“Yeah, but you came up behind her so fast. You were going to pass her on the right.”

“No, I wasn’t. I let her in.”

“Yeah,” I said, “but you scared the shit out of her: ‘Why’s that asshole coming up so fast. What’s he trying to do?'”

“What? You wanted me to just stop and wait for her?”

“No, you didn’t have to stop, but you could have slowed down. Would that have been asking too much?”

Tony only sighed and shook his head.

“I’m helping you to become a better driver,” I said.

In the afternoon, Tony sent me to Portland by myself. He’d had enough of my driving tips. That, and I think he wanted to discuss the shape of the universe with Nick.


On 29 October 2004 (01:14 PM),
Dana said:


Your lack of basic physics knowledge (if you are being truthful in this entry) is making me squirm. Go read Hawking’s Brief History of Time, if you haven’t, or watch Cosmos again…

For the record:

Neutrinos do NOT cause cancer (they only interact through the weak nuclear force, and a little bit through gravity).

Radio waves ARE light. Or, more properly, they are both electromagnetic in nature. Radio waves are modulated electromagnetic fields, and visible light is visible electromagnetic fields.

The whole point of relativity is that light always moves at the same speed in a given medium. So two light beams retreating from each other are still travelling at light speed relative to one another, not twice the speed of light. However, from the point of view of one of them, the apparent frequency of the other will appear quite different than if they were travelling in parallel in the same direction. Instead of having different speeds, they have different relative energy and, hence, relative frequency (the energy of light is dependent on it’s frequency)

That’s the core weirdness. If light always travels only at lightspeed, then you get stuff like length contraction, doppler shift (ie, red and blue shift), and time dilation.

At least from a mathematical modelling point of view, Gravity is the *shape* of space in four-dimensions. The more massive something is, the more space is *bent*, and the more force is exerted on other nearby masses.

Oh, and I believe both voyagers are still technically inside the solar system — inside the ‘heliopause’, at any rate, the point in space at which the Sun’s EM field meets the interstellar medium and creates a kind of ‘bowshock’. Voyager 1 (Humanity’s fastest vehicle, IIRC) is farther out than V2, I believe.

Lots more info than my faulty memory can dredge up is here at NASA’s Voyager Mission page.

I have to admit, I get the vague impression that you put yourself in this entry with the various positions you did as a way of tweaking my (or perhaps Kris’) nose…

On 29 October 2004 (01:35 PM),
Kris said:

Remember, Dana, Jd was a psychology major!

On 29 October 2004 (01:57 PM),
Dana said:

Oh, I know, Kris. It’s just painful to be reminded that, as smart as he is, there’s so much he doesn’t know. Sigh.

Mostly for Nick, although it might be a bit heavy, here’s a pointer to Wikipedia’s M-Theory page, which is one of the better contenders for how to get Quantum Gravity (ie, the unification of General Relativity and Quantum Mechanics into one complete structure). It has 11 dimensions, not the more usual 4 that Relativity gives us (3 spatial, 1 temporal). Also, the wikipedia’s entry on Cosmology contains a lot of good stuff about the big bang and whatnot. =)

On 29 October 2004 (01:57 PM),
Pam said:

That was the first thing that came to my mind, too, Kris, especially when JD is talking about liking real science, not soft fuzzy stuff.

On 29 October 2004 (01:58 PM),
Tiffany said:

It is good to know that ice cream is as important as boxes.

How do you hit an engine block and a lawnmower on the freeway?

On 29 October 2004 (02:07 PM),
Dana said:

…especially when JD is talking about liking real science, not soft fuzzy stuff.

I think he just prefers sciences where opinion is as important as fact… πŸ˜‰

On 29 October 2004 (03:29 PM),
Nick said:

Osh! Leave it to JD to not get his facts straight. I am not a muckety-muck. I am an Entangled Intergallactic Reconnaissance Officer.

Dana, I have some exposure to M-Theory from reading Brian Greene’s first book. I enjoy reading pop physics even though I will never achieve a full comprehension of it. Some of the concepts of quantum physics and M-Theory are just mind-boggling to me(I heard one person say of quantum physics, “Not only is quantum physics stranger than you think. But, it is stranger than you can think.”). But, I still try to get some kind of grasp of them and that is why I expose poor JD to the stuff rattling around in my head. It can really help to solidify my understanding if I can explain it to somebody else. JD is just too practical though. The point isn’t that one needs to block neutrinos from hitting them. It is that a wall of lead 5.7 trillion miles thick can only block 50% of them.

Oh, one other thing. Tony also hit our truck while it was parked in our parking lot.

On 29 October 2004 (03:37 PM),
J.D. said:

Dana: Your lack of basic physics knowledge (if you are being truthful in this entry) is making me squirm.

Ha! Now you know how I feel about your willful ignorance of literature! πŸ™‚

I should make the same arguments to you about my lack of physics knowledge that you make to me about your lack of reading: “I don’t like to know physics, I don’t want to know physics, I like psychology, and I’ll stay with it because I’m comfortable with it.”

Dana: Neutrinos do NOT cause cancer.

I didn’t think they did. It seemed unlikely. And the point seemed moot since so few strike the Earth, right? I have a passing familiarity with neutrinos; I can remember Maurice Stewart lecturing on them in Astronomy.

Dana: I get the vague impression that you put yourself in this entry with the various positions you did as a way of tweaking my (or perhaps Kris’) nose..

Close to the mark. I was intentionally trying to be very self-deprecating, making fun of my backseat driving, etc. And I was trying to poke fun at Nick and Tony, too. But the fact is, I don’t know a lot about physics, and I don’t care to. I don’t need to. It plays no great role in my life. I feel no void. Not like the void Dana feels due to lack of being well-read. πŸ™‚

On 29 October 2004 (04:10 PM),
Dana said:

No, millions of Neutrinos are sleeting through the Earth as I sit typing this.

It’s just that only about two or three will actually hit and interact with an atom at all.

The big supernova in 1987 (that nobody but me seems to remember) was detected because a Neutrino detector in Japan had a huge jump — they picked up six all together, instead of the more normal one or two a day.

That’s not because only six passed through the Earth — it’s because so many passed through the Earth that six happened to react inside the detector…

On 29 October 2004 (04:31 PM),
J.D. said:

Dana: The big supernova in 1987 (that nobody but me seems to remember)


This particular supernova — 1987A, if I recall correctly — is Big Deal, even today, is it not? Who doesn’t remember it?

And the anecdote you relate at the end of your comment is what I am remembering from Astronomy class, is why I thought neutrinos were rare…

On 29 October 2004 (06:34 PM),
Mom (Sue) said:

About the oak tree, I think the acorn story is definitely apocryphal, although I can’t be 100% sure of that. From what I recall, the tree was planted as a sapling. However, Virginia would no doubt remember better than I would (and I am going on a vague memory of what Steve said). Where is Virginia, anyway? I miss her.

As for taking it down, the arborist came out and looked at it and gave me a quote for the pruning, then gave me a date for the work to be done. He didn’t comment on the scarred up area at that time or indicate that he had noticed it when he gave me the quote. When he came on the morning the work was to be done, he told me that the tree was very dangerous and should come down. Basically, because he hadn’t said this initially, I didn’t believe him and went ahead and had the pruning done. However, after it was done, I questioned him more on what he thought could happen in a windstorm, and he said that he thought it would go down on a corner of the house. I asked for a quote on taking it down and it was quite exhorbitant.

I decided to try to find arborists in the area online. I found one who said he would come out for $120.00 or else I could take pictures of the tree and scan them in to him. I did so and he concurred that the crack in the tree from the branches coming down over the last few years was so deep that the tree was dangerous and should come down. He wouldn’t do the work himself but gave me the name and phone number of a guy who would. He also estimated what it would cost, which was less than the first arborist but still up there, especially if he hauled the wood. As this online arborist had no monetary advantage of any kind in giving me his diagnosis, I became (and still am) convinced that what he said was true.

I mentioned this in an e-mail to Mart and Elizabeth and Elizabeth wrote back saying that Mart would be glad to do the work. I opted for this avenue. In the meantime, I took a good look (and more pictures) of the tree, especially in relation to the house. It was even more apparent that it was a danger to the house. In addition, I was quite in awe of how the weight of the last branch to come down had smashed the birdbath to smithereens, and I had never been able to even lift the birdbath’s basin. What would a bunch of heavy branches do to my house?

I know that the tree had sentimental value for family members. I felt bad to see it come down and wished for some other alternative. I don’t believe that there was one, however.

Only Joking

Those of you with sensitive natures may want to avoid this entry.

I’ve never been able to tell jokes. I’m not a good orator under any circumstance. I can, however, appreciate a good joke, especially a good joke told well.

I suspect most of my audience does not read Matthew’s wonderful Defective Yeti, and thus missed the other day’s joke extravaganza.

As a public service — and because I have nothing better planned for today — here are the best jokes from the bunch, as determined by my gut. These are the ones that made me laugh out loud. (But please, when you’ve finished, go visit the site. There are plenty of others that might make you laugh even harder.)

These were all posted by various visitors to Defective Yeti. None of these are mine. If you’re worried one (or more) of these might offend you, turn back now!

Person 1: Knock knock.
Person 2: Who’s there?
Person 1: Control freak.
Person 1: Now you say “control freak who?”

Q: What’s the difference between the Vietnam War and the Iraq War?
A: George W. Bush had a plan to get out of the Vietnam War.

Two cannibals are eating a clown. One turns to the other, and says “Does this taste funny to you?”

A woman gets on a bus with her baby. The bus driver says: “That’s the ugliest baby that I’ve ever seen.” The woman goes to the rear of the bus and sits down, fuming. She says to a man next to her: “That driver just insulted me!” The man says: “You go right up there and tell him off — go ahead, I’ll hold your monkey for you.”

What has four legs and one arm?
A pit bull in a playground.

Where do you find a dog with no legs?
Right where you left him.

What do you call a dog with no legs?
It doesn’t matter, he won’t come anyway.

What do you call a cow with no legs?
Ground beef.

[I think this first made me laugh in third grade. It still makes me laugh:]

Why do ducks have flat feet?
To put out burning camp fires.
Why do elephants have flat feet?
To put out burning ducks.

[I’ve resisted the urge to include lawyer jokes, but only because I didn’t find many of them:]

What do you call 10,000 drowned lawyers?
A good start.

Two atoms are leaving a bar when one realizes that he left his electrons back in the bar. His friend asks, “Are you sure?” “Yes,” he replies. “I’m positive!”

What’s the opposite of Christopher Reeves?
Christopher Walken.

Q: Someone that knows three languages is trilingual. Someone that knows two languages is bilingual. So what do you call someone that only knows one language?
A: An American.

Q: What do you do if Michael Jackson is drowning?
A: Throw him a buoy.

Two hunters are out in the woods when one of them collapses. He doesn’t seem to be breathing and his eyes are glazed. The other guy takes out his phone and calls the emergency services. He gasps: “My friend is dead! What can I do?” The operator says: “Calm down, I can help. First, let’s make sure he’s dead.” There is a silence, then a gunshot is heard. Back on the phone, the guy says: “OK, now what?”

Little Red riding Hood is walking through the forest on the way to see her grandmother. She sees the wolf crouching down beside the track. “What big eyes you have!” she says. “Get lost,” says the wolf, “I’m taking a crap.”

[This only makes sense if you’ve seen the film Mary Poppins:]

In the course of his religious career, Ghandi walked all over India — barefoot. He also ate very sparingly and, sorry to say, oral hygiene was not at the top of his agenda. He was the super-calloused fragile mystic hexed by halitosis.

[For some reason, I’m a sucker for lightbulb jokes. Who knew?]

How many Mexicans does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

How many lesbians does it take to screw in a lightbulb?
Three. One to screw the lightbulb in and two to sing a folk song about it.
[Kris says the above is not funny, but Nick and I think it is…]

How many feminists does it take to change a lightbulb?

How many psychics does it take to change a lightbulb?
That’s not funny at all.

How many actors does it take to change a lightbulb?
Ten. One to change it, nine to say they could have done it better.

How many divas does it take to change a lightbulb?
One. The diva holds the bulb and the world revolves around her.

How many psychiatrists does it take to screw in a lightbulb?
It only takes one, but the lightbulb has to want to change.

How many kids with ADD does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

Jesus is sitting in a square in Nazareth, when a crowd approaches. They throw a woman, bound and beaten, at his feet. A man at the front says to Jesus, “Rabbi, this woman was found in the very act of adultery, and under the law of Moses such women are to be stoned. What say you to this?”

Jesus replies, “That the one among you who is without sin may cast the first stone.”

A rock flies from the back of the crowd, striking the woman square in the forehead, killing her instantly.

Jesus stands, looks over the mob, and says, “Mom, sometimes you really piss me off!”

[I don’t particularly care for dead baby jokes, not because I find them offensive, but because most of them just aren’t funny. Here are a couple that made me laugh:]

How do you make a dead baby float?
Start with a blender and two scoops of ice cream…

What’s worse than a baby nailed to a tree?
A baby nailed to a puppy.

[Drum roll please…my favorite joke of the bunch, the one that made me laugh the most, and perhaps the tackiest of the lot:]

A Buddhist monk, a Jewish rabbi and a Catholic priest are in an orphanage when the fire alarm goes off. The Buddhist monk exclaims, “A fire! We must save the children!” The rabbi says, “Fuck the children!” The Catholic priest says, “No time!”

Now that I’ve shared all those, and maybe one of you is left unoffended, I have to ask: why do so many jokes come at the expense of one class of people or other? Many jokes play on cultural stereotypes and prejudices in order to derive comedic effect. Would the “How many feminists does it take to change a light bulb?” be as funny — and it is funny — if it didn’t play on popular conceptions (and misconceptions) about feminists?

For the most part, I’m okay with this aspect of humor. True or gentle humor at the expense of a class of people seems acceptable. But why does it so often cross the line? If you read through the Defective Yeti joke thread, at some point the jokes stop being funny and start being offensive. And where is this line? Is it different depending on the audience? Depending on the teller of the joke?

What’s truly disturbing is how many of these offensive jokes use women as their butt. I live in some happy little world where equal rights for women have been achieved. Moreover, women are treated with respect. I’m fooling myself; upon reading through the 258 jokes it became clear that there is a hell of a long way to go yet. (And that racial intolerance is still with us, not to mention a great deal of homophobia.)


On 26 October 2004 (08:43 AM),
Denise said:

Who is Michael Jackon?


On 26 October 2004 (08:48 AM),
J.D. said:

Oops. I tried to correct all the spelling/grammar errors, but missed that one. Curiously enough, it was originally “Micheal”, but I caught that error. I wonder how missed the Jackon? I fixed it now.

Incidentally, Kris’ Aunt Jenefer just left a great comment on yesterday’s entry, a story about a partially domesticated blue jay. Go read it. It’s great.

On 26 October 2004 (09:32 AM),
Joel said:

I laffed at several, thank you.
I read an article some months back (and how many conversations do I start with that phrase? From now on it’ll just be “IRAASMB”) about the history of jokes and, after going back to the first recorded joke book (ancient Greece, I think, who apparently found lettuce to be very risque’) and working their way forward, the authors wound up largely agreeing with you. Most jokes revolve around agression toward women.
Why? Because they’re scary!

On 26 October 2004 (09:38 AM),
Amanda said:


I’m not an overly PC person to begin with, but when it comes to jokes I make an effort to turn off the social conditioning. The reason jokes about women and minorities are sometimes funny is, well, because they are! Stereotypes exist for a reason. I’m not saying that makes them good or bad, but I figure laughing is good for everyone.

On 26 October 2004 (09:57 AM),
Denise said:

I am warped. I love the Little Red Riding Hood one.

On 26 October 2004 (10:02 AM),
Lisa said:

Many of these are truly funny. My childhood favorite theme was the no arms and no legs jokes… What do you call a man with no arms and no legs in a swimming pool? Bob. On a wall? Art. Etc.

You haven’t one aspect of humor that doesn’t rely on demeaning people: the element of surprise. I think that people often laugh because they weren’t expecting the punchline. I often laugh for that reason, as well as pleasure at a well-turned phrase or reference.

On 26 October 2004 (10:08 AM),
Lynn said:

What? No pirate jokes? AARRGGHH!!

On 26 October 2004 (12:12 PM),
Dana said:

Q: Why did the turtle cross the road?
A: To get to the Shell station.

Q: How many surrealists does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: A fish.

Q: How many software engineers does it take to change a lightbulb?
A1: Only one, but the house falls down.
A2: None, that’s a hardware problem.

Q: How many smurfs does it take to screw in a lightbulb?
A: Two, but they screw in little houses, not in lightbulbs.

Q: Why did the monkey fall out of the tree?
A: It was dead!

Q: How do you drown a crossdresser?
A: Put a mirror at the bottom of a pool.

Q: How many Marxists does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: None. The light bulb’s own internal contradictions will inevitably lead to revolution.


The joke itself is pretty long, but the punchline to the greatest Physics Joke of all time is:

“First, assume a spherical chicken.”

On 26 October 2004 (12:47 PM),
Dana said:

Q: How many mystery writers does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: Two. One to put it most of the way in, and one to give it a surprise twist at the end.

Q: How many policemen does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: None. It turns itself in.

Q: How many gods does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: Two. One to hold the lightbulb, and one to rotate the Universe.

Q: How many mathematicians does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: None. The problem is left as an exercise for the reader.

On 26 October 2004 (01:15 PM),
Dana said:

Q: How many mathematicians does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: One, who gives it to two Mystery Writers, thus reducing this to an earlier joke.


An astronomer, a physicist and a mathematician (it is said) were holidaying in Scotland. Glancing from a train window, they observed a black sheep in the middle of a field.

“How interesting,” observed the astronomer, “all scottish sheep are black!”

To which the physicist responded, “No, no! Some Scottish sheep are black!”

The mathematician gazed heavenward in supplication, and then intoned, “In Scotland there exists at least one field, containing at least one sheep, at least one side of which is black.”


What is the shortest mathematicians joke?
Let epsilon be smaller than zero.


A mathematician, a biologist and a physicist are sitting in a street cafe watching people going in and coming out of the house on the other side of the street.

First they see two people enter the house. Time passes. After a while they notice three people leave.

“Well, look at that,” said the biologist. “They must have reproduced!”

“No,” said the physicist, “the initial measurement wasn’t accurate.”

“Well, I’ll tell you one thing,” said the mathematician. “If one more person enters, it’ll be empty!”

On 26 October 2004 (01:17 PM),
Drew said:

A baby nailed to a tree. I’m in stitches.

On 26 October 2004 (01:28 PM),
Johnny said:

I was making love to this girl and she started crying. I said, “Are you going to hate yourself in the morning?” She said. “No. I hate myself now.” (Rodney Dangerfield)

On 26 October 2004 (01:32 PM),
Denise said:

…may he rest in peace…

On 26 October 2004 (01:59 PM),
Susan said:

From my 7 year old daughter:

Q: What color is a Chili dog?
A: Blue.

Q: Why is the mad scientist never lonely?
A: He can easily make new friends.

On 26 October 2004 (02:02 PM),
Amanda said:

From a 4-year old I ran into in the vet’s waiting room:

Q: Why is 6 afraid of 7?
A: Because 7 8 9!

On 26 October 2004 (02:52 PM),
J.D. said:

Dana’s “empty” joke is my favorite of those in the comments. That’s pretty damn funny. πŸ™‚

On 26 October 2004 (10:02 PM),
Andrew Parker said:

I’d always heard it as a “perfectly spherical horse”…

On 26 October 2004 (10:52 PM),
Lynn said:

Ok, fine. I guess I’m the only one who’s into pirate jokes.

A pirate walks into a bar. He sits down and orders a drink. The bartender gets his drink and as he hands it to him, he says to the pirate, “Do you know that you have a steering wheel sticking out of the zipper of your pants?”

“Arggghh, matey,” says the pirate. “It’s drivin’ me nuts.”

On 27 October 2004 (07:23 AM),
Dana said:

I’d always heard it as a “perfectly spherical horse”…

Sure — it’s a variation on the same joke. I’ve also heard it as “assume a perfectly spherical cow.” It’s the same joke, just slight variations.

On 27 October 2004 (07:52 AM),
J.D. said:

Now that I’ve searched out the joke, neither chicken nor horse make much sense. The punch-line is, “First assume a perfectly spherical cow…”

Don’t believe me? Google is your friend:

“perfectly spherical chicken”: 2 results
“perfectly spherical horse”: 8 results
“perfectly spherical cow”: 83 results, including this page of math jokes, on which you can find the joke in question (which really is amusing, though not as funny — to me — as some of the above)

On 27 October 2004 (08:43 AM),
Dana said:

It’s still the same joke, no matter what animal is involved…

On 27 October 2004 (08:53 AM),
Johnny said:

Imagine a perfectly spherical Johnny…

On 27 October 2004 (09:30 AM),
Jeff said:

I’m offended! …because you left out Mennonite jokes.

Q: How was copper wire invented?
A: Two Mennonites were fighting over a penny.

On 27 October 2004 (11:08 AM),
Courtney said:


We choose not to make a statement either in favour of or against the need for a light bulb. However, if in your own journey, you have found that light bulbs work for you, that is fine. You are invited to write a poem or compose a modern dance about your personal relationship with your light bulb. Present it next month at our annual Light Bulb Sunday Service, in which we will explore a number of light bulb traditions, including incandescent, fluorescent, 3-way, long-life, and tinted, all of which are equally valid paths to luminescence.

On 27 October 2004 (12:21 PM),
Amanda said:

Courtney takes the cake.

On 01 March 2005 (10:11 AM),
alauddin said:

sent me jokes which make laugh and question also

thanking you
yours faithfully


On 07 March 2005 (01:19 AM),
Annie said:

OK– I have lightbulb jokes, if you can stand one more post.

How many Conservative Republicans does it take to change a lightbulb?

Two– One to screw the bulb in and one to steady the chandelier.

How many Liberal Democrats does it take?

Two– One to change the bulb and one to stop his knees from jerking.

How many Libertarians does it take?

None– If he wants to sit in the dark that’s HIS business!

in Fun | 2,737 Words

Steller’s Jay

For the past few years, there have been signs that Kris and I, as we get older, might become birdwatchers. Kris has always exhibited a keen eye for birds of prey, pointing out hawks and eagles that I’d otherwise not notice. I’ve often delighted at winged visitors at the feeder. (Though I take equal delight when one of our cats makes a meal of a visitor.)

We’ve taken even greater delight in birds since moving to the new house. We’re still not serious about birdwatching as a hobby — we don’t take notes, we don’t keep records — but there are times that one of us will call for the other — “Kris, come quick! Come quick!” — and we’ll watch silently while some bird plays in the yard.

One recent afternoon, we watched the scrub jays take turns wading in the birdbath, dousing themselves with enthusiasm.

Another day, we thought we saw a hawk roosting on an aerial across the street. We saw the same bird, or something similar, a few days later. This time I had my binoculars at hand so that we were able to get a closer look. Which bird of prey had we spied? A pigeon. A large, plump pigeon.

We’re not exactly expert-level birders.

Earlier this summer, I was whiling away a Saturday morning underneath the walnut tree, basking in the sun. A small bird alighted on the tree and began knocking at the trunk. Either it knocked very slowly, or it knocked so rapidly that the many raps merged into one. I figured the bird to be a woodpecker, but a glance through The Sibley Guide to Birds revealed that I’d most likely seen a Northern Flicker. (Though I’m only able to say that with maybe 75% confidence.)

Northern Flicker

While I was outside today, exterminating slugs (seventeen!), a gorgeous blue bird with a black tufted head landed in the walnut. It was a beautiful thing, with glossy feathers, and a graceful demeanor. When I described it to Kris, she suggested that it might be a jay, and indeed it was. We see plenty of Western Scrub-Jays here, but this was a Steller’s Jay. It was beautiful. I want to see another.

Steller’s Jay

There were two other minor bird incidents today. In the first, a scrub jay was harrying one of the squirrels, which was standing in the lawn, eating nuts. In the other, three large crows swooped and twined together, playing over the lawn. Mortimer, one of the neighborhood cats (who has decided he actually lives on our front porch) watched the crows intently.

“You know,” I said to Kris. “I don’t think I know a cat who could take a crow. I think a crow could kick any cat’s ass. Crows are big, and they’re smart, and they look a little mean.”

“And their beaks are hard and pointy,” Kris added.

For the rest of the day I said, “Hello, Corvus,” whenever I saw a crow.


On 25 October 2004 (07:54 AM),
Dana said:

Crows have also been observed to make and use tools in the wild.

On 25 October 2004 (12:25 PM),
Amanda said:

I want to become a birdwatcher when I get old, too. I already watch a lot–on my 20 mile drive home from work every day, I’m usually able to spot several osprey, a hawk or two and, on very rare and lucky occasions, a bald eagle has crossed my path!

Birds are cool. We have an owl who lives within a few hundred yards of our house who we hear regularly. One night, while sitting on our front porch, he granted us with a visit–landing on the telephone wires directly across from us and directly underneath a huge light! That made my whole night.

On 25 October 2004 (01:30 PM),
Denise said:

I would love to see an owl. I’ve never seen one in the wild. My parents have an owl that lives in a tree close to their back deck – I can hear him some nights, but I’ve never seen him.

On 25 October 2004 (01:34 PM),
J.D. said:

What is it about birds that’s so intriguing? They’re fun to watch, big and small. I suppose that it’s fun to watch most animals (when they’re not sleeping), but birds especially so.

On 25 October 2004 (02:08 PM),
Lisa said:

Trivia: Craig graduated from Stellar High School. Their mascot was a jay. He may have more Stellar trivia than you would ever want to know.

On 25 October 2004 (05:52 PM),
al said:

I love Stellers. They are fairly common in Forest Park. My neighbor claims to be hand-feeding peanuts to the scrub jays, but I left a peanut outside for about a week with no takers.

On 26 October 2004 (07:16 AM),
Anthony said:

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Stellar’s jay. It is great that you got a chance to enjoy one right at your feeder.

“You are worthy, O Lord, to recieve glory and honor and power, for you have created all things, and for your glory they exist and were created” (Revelation 4:11)

JD, this world is a masterpiece. By an Artist. I wish you could see Him.

By the way, thanks for the link to Toto’s post about catching birds. That was good.

On 26 October 2004 (08:31 AM),
jenefer said:

When we were children growing up in Alhambra, CA, Mother (Kris’s grandmother) started feeding a very curious Scrub Jay when she was working in the garden. First it was cutworms that she dug up. Over a period of time, years, Pigo became quite friendly, not just curious. He would wake us up in the morning by knocking on the glass of Mother’s bedroom window, looking for a handout. At breakfast he would stand on the window air conditioner, which was in the dining room window, and peck on that window to be let in. It was the horizontal louver-type. He became very comfortable in our house. Mother would hide pinion nuts for him around the house and he would look for them and find them. We always suspected that he watched her hiding them from the window even when the blinds were closed. He had a family and once the babies fell down the chimney in curiosity. The rest of his family and off- spring were never friendly. After about ten years, he stopped coming. We figured he was dead. Very sad, but a great childhood experience.


I can’t get warm.

“I’m cold,” I said last night at the dinner table. Kris and I were eating take out pizza: mine pepperoni and pineapple, hers barbecue chicken and skanky black olives. (Why can’t pizza places buy good black olives?)

“This house is going to get cold this winter,” Kris said, munching on a slice.

“You think?” I asked.

“Yes, I do,” she said.

She may be right.

We recently had a high-efficiency gas furnace installed. It takes a while for it to do its thing, but once the house is warm, it seems to maintain the temperature fairly well. Still, we have to figure out how to program the thermostat so the house is warm when we need it to be warm, but is cool when we need it to be cool.

This morning was bad.

Last night Kris decided to fiddle with the thermostat. She delayed the morning heat by half an hour. It’s not tremendously cold outside yet — no lower than the mid-40s — but when I got up this morning it felt colder than it has been so far this fall. I was decidedly cool. In the old house I would have warmed my inner core with a nice bath. That’s no longer possible, of course, and a shower just doesn’t provide the same warmth.

Nevertheless, I had it in my mind that a hot shower would be just the thing. Only a hot shower was not to be had. There was no hot water. Kris had used it all. So, not only was my inner core not warmed, it was actually cooled.

I reacted by sulking and pouting, of course.

“Stop it,” Kris said. “It’s not worth being grouchy.”

You’re not the one who’s cold,” I said. “You had a hot shower.”

She just shook her head and ignored me. I went upstairs to the computer. There I performed an iTunes filter on the word “cold”. I played the resulting songlist.

“Very funny,” said Kris over Foreigner’s “Cold as Ice”. When I left the house, Hank Williams’ “Cold Cold Heart” was playing.

On the drive to work, I cranked the heat as I listened to my Patrick O’Brian. I’m sure the car was an inferno by the time I reached work, but I still felt cold.

At work, in my skunky office, I turned on the space heater full blast. I zipped my sweatshirt. I tried to think warm thoughts. I listened to the Beach Boys.

José came in for some orders. “Ay-yi,” he said. “Es muy caliente!”

I still think it’s cold.

I can’t get warm.


On 21 October 2004 (09:54 AM),
Kris said:

We’re having temperature issues here in our new laboratory, as well. The chemistry rooms have been warm. Even for me, 84 degrees when I’m wearing a fall sweater and lab coat is too hot. Today we learned the reason: the thermostatic sensor that controls the chemistry lab, instrument room and offices is (wisely) located in the trace evidence microscope room, located on an outer wall right by a large window. As a result, the thermostat thinks it’s cold, and heat is pumped out in chemistry. The heat never reaches the sensor, of course, because the heat and the sensor are separated by two air-seal doors. Lovely.

This morning, we are finally getting our bulletin boards mounted on the walls. Why, you may ask, did it take three weeks? Because, dear reader, we were not allowed to hang them ourselves. No, sir! Instead, a state (DAS)employee had to do the job. Now, there are state employees and there are state employees. Our particular DAS representative is about 6-foot-two and hugely obese. He moves in slow motion, taking frequent rests. As you can imagine, in the heat, he was sweating profusely, using his already-sodden bandana to wipe the sweat from his bald head.

As the DAS guy was laboring with drill and screws, my co-worker Rob had put in a CD mix of mine that ended with Coolio’s “Gangsta’s Paradise”. This engendered a discussion of the Weird Al version, “Amish Paradise”. So, the next CD had to be Weird Al’s Greatest Hits. Too late did we guiltily realize that the first two songs are “Fat” and “Eat it”. Boy, did we feel like jerks.

On 21 October 2004 (10:06 AM),
Denise said:

Hmm…and Kris doesn’t have her own weblog because of ????? πŸ˜‰

I just think it would be very intersting to hear of all the testing and other coolio activities she does during the day.

Ok – bad pun, but I couldn’t resist.

On 21 October 2004 (10:31 AM),
AmJo said:

I too can’t seem to get warm. I forgot how much colder it feels when it is damp. The winter temps. in DC are lower than here and the wind can be a real bitch, but it is dry. I warmed up much easier there than I do here. I can’t get my feet and hands to stay warm, especially at night. I think Paul may have even felt sorry for me last night–he wrapped his ever-warm hands around my cold, cold feet while we were watching the West Wing.

On 21 October 2004 (10:33 AM),
Pam said:

J.D. – First your interest in clothes shopping raised some eyebrows and now you are cold – Welcome to the world of ice “queens.”

On 21 October 2004 (01:54 PM),
Joel said:

I bet a nice hot enema would warm your core!

They turned on the heat in our classrooms. Now instead of bundling up in a sweater and a ski cap for class we all strip down in the heat. And doze.

On 21 October 2004 (01:59 PM),
Lynn said:

Funny, I’ve been colder this fall than normal. I even stocked up on longjohns at the Target sale for sleeping.

On 21 October 2004 (02:12 PM),
Denise said:

Hmm…maybe we are all just getting old.

On 21 October 2004 (03:16 PM),
Semi-sequitur Tangent Man said:

I too wonder if olives can taste good on pizza. I like olives on my pizza but they almost always turn out rubbery. (These are your run-of-the-mill black olives BTW.)

On 21 October 2004 (03:42 PM),
J.D. Roth said:

Greetings, Mr. Tangent Man. It’s good to have you back. πŸ™‚

I am very particular about olives. I love olives, or at least the good ones. I had never tried non-black olives until a couple of years ago, and now I’m an addict, especially in the spring and summer. Black olives have their place, of course, and I eat them especially in the fall. However, I prefer meat olives, and above all they must be *firm*, especially if I am to eat them by themselves.

Too often I find that food service olives in general, and pizza olives in particular, are of some strange degenerate variety: limp and rubbery, possessing a dull, metallic taste. If I wanted metallic olives I’d, well…I’ll never want metallic olives. And yet those were the sort on Kris’ pizza last night.


(p.s. I am particularly fond of Black Pearl Jumbos, which have long ago been renamed Black Peral Extra Large or some such. The MNF women take pleasure in trying to test my ability to detect Black Pearl Jumbos. I’ve got a fairly good — though not perfect — track record. The key is the olives must be of quality; they need not always be Black Pearl Jumbos.)

On 21 October 2004 (07:25 PM),
John said:

Try this…
Snuggle-up together in a warm blanket with a good novel, take turns reading. It warms the body, heart and soull

On 22 October 2004 (09:41 AM),
Jon said:

We put in a gas water heater when we remodeled the basement. I’ve never noticed that we run out of hot water.

Unwelcome Visitors

Once again, a skunk has set up housekeeping beneath my office. I arrive every morning to a musky reek. By mid-morning, it’s given me a headache.

How do I deal with this annoyance? I dash off a poem about it, of course.

Unwelcome Visitors
by J.D. Roth

Said Mr. Skunk to Mrs. Skunk,
“I think I’ve found the spot —
Beneath that old green trailer house
Is where I’ll sling my cot.

The ground is damp, the air is cool,
The grass uncommon fine:
It’s filled with frogs and slugs and such.
The water’s sweet as wine!”

The loving pair, redolent there,
Made a home with a comfort air,
Filled their lair with a scent so fair
And settled for a nap.

Deep in their sleep, they dreamed skunk dreams
Of tender mice and tangerines,
Of spider kings and beetle queens,
All eaten in a snap.

They bolted wake come break of day,
Alarmed to hear the sound —
The clumping, clomping, human feet stomping —
Which echoed all around.

“Alas, my love, we must soon leave,”
Said Mr. Skunk, aggrieved.
“Let’s give a gift of scent so sweet,
Return when the humans flee.”

Perhaps the skunks will be appeased by my quick poetic tribute and begone. But I doubt it.


On 20 October 2004 (09:14 AM),
J.D. said:

Some points of interest (or not):

  • This is the first poem I’ve written in many moons. (In many suns, actually.) I tried to write one last year — “Harrison, Harrison, where can you be?” — but never finished.
  • This poem took me about an hour to write. I had just started when I mentioned it at 8:12 in a comment on the last entry. I posted this entry at 9:04. Between these times, I mainly worked on the poem (though I did two price quotations.)
  • The rhythm and rhyme scheme are intentional. I consciously broke the meter in at least one location (possibly two — I can’t remember). When I first started writing poetry in junior high, I was a strict adherent of rhyme. As I aged, rhyming became my enemy. Now that I am old and grey, I’ve come full circle: I believe a poem that adheres to a strict meter and rhyme scheme is generally superior to one that does not. Why? Because it is far more difficult to write. Far more. Blank verse and free verse are often lazy.
  • I wanted a very funny ending, but instead delivered only a mildly amusing one. I am not Joel.
  • This was fun to write.

And because of that last point, you can be certain you’ll see more poetry here in the future. πŸ™‚

On 20 October 2004 (09:15 AM),
J.D. said:

P.S. I quite like my title as it is ambiguous…

On 20 October 2004 (10:30 AM),
Amy Jo said:

Replace the glass? Or give in to Scotch?

On 20 October 2004 (10:37 AM),
J.D. said:


The glass shop didn’t get my pane cut yesterday (though they called me first thing this morning to say it’s ready), so Jeremy and I removed the moulding (from the outside — the stuff I pried away from the inside really was part of the door), vacuumed up the glass, smoked on the porch — a good pipe soothes the soul — jawed about life, fixed some good steaks, drank some wine, and parted ways.

Funny story about the steaks:

I pulled the t-bones out of the freezer on Monday and stuck them in the fridge. On Tuesday morning, Kris checked them for me and decided they were too frozen still, so she set them on the counter. While we were at work, one (or more) of the cats decided that steak sounded like a fine snack. When we got home, the steaks were on the floor, unwrapped, well-chewed. Jeremy and I decided to eat them anyway. We left them on the counter while we worked. When we came back later, there was Simon, happy as can be, sitting on the counter and gnawing on a steak. Damn cat!

The steaks were great despite (or perhaps because of) the cat juice.

But enough of that: I wrote a poem! A poem! πŸ™‚

On 20 October 2004 (11:05 AM),
Dana said:

Okay, two things. First, on the subject of cat-chewed steak: Ew!

Second, you should stop smoking. Everybody should stop smoking. Tobacco companies are just about as Evil as industry gets, the impact on your health is significant (what happened to losing weight and getting into shape?), and it’s setting a bad example for the kids in your life (like Hank & Scout). Plus, I bet Kris hates it.


On 20 October 2004 (12:43 PM),
Paul said:

A SMALL step like completing a single poem may lead to larger steps that take you to the places you want to be.

Enjoy your creation, it is the perfect poem today.

On 20 October 2004 (01:03 PM),
dowingba said:

Is it intention that your poem randomly switches between an ABAB rhyming scheming and an AAABCCCB scheme? I find it disorienting.

On 20 October 2004 (01:11 PM),
J.D. said:

Yes, I alternated the rhyme scheme intentionally. That is not to say it was a good choice, however.

The first two stanzas are section A, the second two stanzas are section B, and the third two stanzas are section C. Sections A and C use the same rhyme scheme and meter. Section B is like a bridge in a song, really. (And, in fact, at first I called this entry (and poem) “Song of the Skunk”.)

I’m not saying what I’ve done is good or right, but that it was done with a purpose. πŸ™‚

On 20 October 2004 (01:20 PM),
Drew said:


(Really. I love the poem, even with the unusual rhyme scheme.)

On 20 October 2004 (01:51 PM),
Dave said:

One is tempted to think that if the skunks leave when the humans show up, perhaps the humans might want to close up whatever hole the stiny ones use for access…?

On 20 October 2004 (01:54 PM),
Denise said:

Dave, you cannot apply reason when discussing skunk poems. Not acceptable.

On 20 October 2004 (02:45 PM),
J.D. said:

Here’s what kind of genius my brother, Tony, is:

He knows there’s a skunk under the office, he knows I’ve heard it moving around today, and what does he do? He comes in and jumps up and down on the floor.


I don’t think the thing sprayed or anything, but it definitely shifted. Nick and I noticed an increase in the intensity of the rank musk almost immediately.


And Dave: have you seen how much of the skirt is gone around the trailer house? It’d be a monumental task to close all the openings. Plus, if we did that, where would I get my weblog entries?

On 20 October 2004 (08:28 PM),
Mom (Sue) said:

While I was working at the shop tonight, I specifically watched and listened and sniffed for any sign of skunks. There were a couple of times when a knock sounded and that most likely came from under the trailer because there were no other people around. However, there was no smell and I didn’t see any skunks at any time while I was there. Apparently they are kicking up their heels and spraying during the night or as your poem says, when they hear the human feet clomping overhead in the morning and decide they want to try to get rid of you. πŸ™‚

On 21 October 2004 (07:01 AM),
Anthony said:

What fun!

On 21 October 2004 (10:52 AM),
Johnny said:

Oh Skunky, Skunky, wherefor art thou Skunky,
thou makest the trailer smell so funky.

Dressed in black with a white stripe there
you’re all dressed up for a stunning affair
never mind you’ve fur, not hair.

Oh Skunky, Skunky, wherefor art thou Skunky,
the smell in the office is so thick it’s gunky.

Though your odor may give others a fit
truth be told I don’t mind it a bit
even if it does smell like I’m standing in ca-ca.

On 14 December 2004 (06:08 AM),
Jeff said:

You ain’t smelled nothin’ yet, JD. Just wait ’til you get to work today…

On 14 December 2004 (06:10 AM),
J.D. Roth said:

Something tells me I ought to call in sick.

Broken Glass

A couple of weeks ago young Emma smashed a pane of glass in the door to our back porch. I felt miserably qualified to make the repair, so I put it off as long as I could. (Which was until Kris couldn’t take it any more and we had a big fight about it. Aren’t I bad?)

On Sunday, I gathered my tools and set to work.

My first goal was to strip the paint from the wood around the broken glass so that I could determine how to remove the various bits of moulding. I believe the can of paint stripper was specifically designed for maximum spillage. As I stood at the kitchen counter, attempting to pour from the can into an old mug, none of the liquid found its way into the designated container. It all dripped onto the countertop. The painted countertop.

“Shit,” I said. I grabbed some paper towels and wiped up the mess. Fortunately, I acted quickly enough that no paint was stripped; there’s just a slight discoloration, one that’s not too apparent because these counters are old.

I read the side of the can: Do not swallow. Do not allow to come in contact with eyes. This substance is poisonous. There is no way to counteract the poison, etc. etc.

“Shit,” I said. I slathered the countertop with soap and water and crossed my fingers. (If you hear we’ve died from poisoning, you’ll know why.)

I decided the kitchen wasn’t the best place to be pouring paint stripper, so I headed to the utility room steps. (I might have gone to the shop but it was raining and I didn’t have shoes on and, well, I don’t really have a good excuse for not going to the shop, I guess.) This time I poured more freely. And still none — or very little — of the paint stripper made it into the designated container. It splashed all over my hand, splashed onto the steps.

“Shit,” I said. I held up the can again, re-read the warnings. This time I noticed: Do not allow to come in contact with skin. If contact occurs seek medical attention immediately.

“Shit,” I said. You all know how paranoid I am about my health. I started panicking, of course, sure I was going to die soon. (Kris once told me the heartbreaking true story of a woman working in a lab who had inadvertently come into contact with some substance (a heavy metal?) despite extraordinary precautions. The moment she came into contact with this substance, she knew she was doomed. She had only days (hours?) to live. After spilling the paint stripper on my hand, I felt I was this woman.) I scrambled around, washing my hands repeatedly, mopping up the spill, cursing.

When Kris returned from grocery shopping, I told her about my predicament, and asked her if I should be worried, if I should seek medical attention immediately. She glared at me (we were still angry at each other — this was the middle of our fight). “No,” she said. “You’ll be fine.” But the way she said it didn’t inspire comfort. In fact, I got the distinct impression that she might be lying to me. Never make a chemist mad!

Still, I returned to the task at hand. Eventually I found an angle that spilled less paint stripper than before (though it still spilled prodigious quantities). I filled my container and went to work.

I had set a piece of corrugated cardboard on the floor at my work area, and had gathered together a hammer, a chisel, and a flat paint spreader thingie. I brushed on a layer of the paint stripper. Then, slowly, carefully, I hammered out the broken glass. I was able to pull many of the pieces out by hand. (Most of the glass ended up on the back porch, to be shop-vacced later, but some of it fell inward — thus the corrugated pad.)

After removing the glass, I scraped away most of the paint on the moulding below the window. Unfortunately, I couldn’t see any obvious place where the moulding connected to the frame. I began to fear it was all of a piece.

“Shit,” I said, not knowing what to do next. Eventually, I decided simply to dash ahead, trusting to blind faith that this really was a piece of quarter-round nailed to the frame. And so I chiseled and pried, but s-l-o-w-l-y. Eventually, a piece of wood began to loosen, or so it seemed. I pried more and the wood popped free! I pried with increased vigor and then the piece shredded in two before my very eyes.

“Shit,” I said, as the pieces fell to the ground. I picked them up to examine them. Even after prying them loose, I couldn’t find any sign of a seam. It was as if the entire frame, even the decorative parts, was a single piece, and I had just hacked off an edge.

I’m getting better at home improvement, but still I find myself intimidated by tasks I’ve never before attempted. When I fixed the faucet in the bathroom upstairs, I initially felt a great deal of trepidation. Eventually I figured out what I was doing, yes, and I did a fine job making the repair, but I started warily, unsure of myself. Here I had not yet reached the feeling that I knew what I was doing.

“Shit,” I said. I slumped to the floor, frustrated.

Kris came in, still angry.

“Why don’t you just call Jeremy?” she asked. When Emma broke the window, Jeremy had immediately offered to help me fix it. I wanted to try it myself, though, and so had declined his aid.

“Shit,” I said, but I went to the phone and called Jeremy.

Tonight, Jeremy and I will tackle the window. This kind of project requires sustenance, of course, so I’ve pulled some steaks out of the freezer (thanks, Ron!), and have set aside a bottle of wine. If we get very frustrated, the whiskey’s not far away — just on the shelf there by the back porch — and the tobacco supply is also at hand.

Kris is worried that we’ll be too busy debauching to get any work done.

As for our marital squabble: eventually we talked things out, as we always do. Neither of us is completely satisfied, which to me indicates we’ve reached a proper compromise (the definition of compromise requiring that neither party feel he or she has “won”). In the evening, we watched West Side Story together while I ironed clothes and Kris looked for Christmas cookie recipes.


On 19 October 2004 (09:47 AM),
Johnny said:

If it’s any consolation, the warnings on the paint stripper are designed for people who intend on a) drinking the stuff on the theory that raw alcohol smells like paint thinner and it’s cool stuff so why not drink this too, or b)bathing in the stuff and leaving it on their skin for an extended period of time. Any time I’ve stripped paint using that goopy paint remover I’ve gotten it on my skin in select places, wiped it off, washed it off and received nothing but a slight burn for my carelessness. Apparently my overall health hasn’t suffered any at ARRRRGHHHH

On 19 October 2004 (10:05 AM),
Dana said:

I decided the kitchen wasn’t the best place to be pouring paint stripper, …

Allow me, at this juncture, to offer an interjection: DUH!

When I was at LLNL there was an incident involving broken glassware and a glove-box. The upshot — someone stabbed themselves through the glove with a broken pipette contaminated with Uranium or Plutonium (I don’t recall which — probably Uranium).

Yeah. Not a nice way to go.

On 19 October 2004 (12:29 PM),
Anthony said:

Some people. As if you really expect whiskey to improve your problem-solving abilities.

Those steaks, nowοΏ½ if I was closer, you could definitely count on my help with that glass.

On 19 October 2004 (01:19 PM),
pam said:

true story my ass – nobody is poisoned from spilling things on their hands. now you can corrode off all your skin and then die from the infection that ensues, but that’s another matter entirely.

On 19 October 2004 (02:02 PM),
Kris said:

Hey, Pam– I don’t think Jd’s in danger, but it can happen. Please read below.

The News York Times
HANOVER, N.H., June 10, 1997 – A Dartmouth College chemistry professor has died from exposure to a rare form of mercury, first synthesized more than 130 years ago.

Karen E. Wetterhahn, 48, who also had served as an associate dean and a dean at the college, died on Sunday, about 10 months after accidentally spilling a few drops of dimethylmercury on her disposable latex gloves while performing a laboratory experiment. The substance, which has no practical application, is used in research on heavy metals.

Prof. John S. Winn, chairmen of the college’s chemistry department, said Professor Wetterhahn was a leader in the study of how heavy metals can initiate cancer at the molecular level. Dimethylmercury is so rare that it is only in use in perhaps 100 laboratories worldwide at any given time, he said.

Through a search of medical literature, the college determined that exposure to the substance killed two laboratory assistants in 1865, shortly after it was first synthesized, and a 28-year-old chemist in 1971.

“Karen Wetterhahn’s death is a tragedy for her family and for the Dartmouth community,” said Dartmouth’s president, James O. Freedman

After years of study chromium metal toxicity, Professor Wetterhahn had turned to the study of mercury in a sabbatical at Harvard University in September 1995, Professor Winn said. In the experiment at Dartmouth last August, she had used dimethylmercury to set up a standard against which to measure other mercury involved in her research.

The drops apparently spilled onto her gloves, passed quickly through the latex and were absorbed through her skin. After her illness was diagnosed in late January, the college had the latex gloves independently tested, and it was determined that the mercury could pass through in 15 seconds or much less.

Other types of gloves offer more protection, but she probably used latex to increase dexterity during the delicate procedure, he said.

In a letter to Chemical and Engineering News about the accident, Professor Winn and the other college officials recommended that heavier gloves be used during experiments, and that “medical surveillance measuring mercury concentrations in whole blood or urine” should be considered during extended use of these compounds.

Professor Wetterhahn’s symptoms, which initially included difficulty with balance, speach, vision and hearing, progressed rapidly and she was in a coma from late February until her death. Although treatments were administered to eliminate the mercury in her system, they began too late to prevent irreversible damage to the nervous syster, Professor Winn said.

On 19 October 2004 (02:05 PM),
Anthony said:

nobody is poisoned from spilling things on their hands.

That is a very broad statement. I might make so bold as to say that JD is highly unlikely to be seriously poisoned by pouring paint stripper on his hands, but skin is porousοΏ½ well guarded but porous. I think it is fairly common knowledge that your skin can absorb many kinds of harmless chemicals, and poisons are no different.

I’m not saying you’re in any danger, JD. Just be sure your living will is up to date. πŸ˜‰

On 19 October 2004 (02:37 PM),
Joel said:

Johnny said: “Apparently my overall health hasn’t suffered any at ARRRRGHHHH”
Apparently Johnny dictates his comments?

On 20 October 2004 (07:36 AM),
Dave said:

Isn’t there a St. Aaaaarrrrrrggghhh’s in Cornwall?

On 20 October 2004 (08:10 AM),
Dana said:

I think you mean St. Iiiiives.

On 20 October 2004 (08:11 AM),
Dana said:

I think you mean St. Iiiiives.

On 20 October 2004 (08:12 AM),
J.D. said:

Shhh. Be quiet. I’m composing a poem about the skunk under the trailer house. You’re distracting me.

On 20 October 2004 (08:35 AM),
Dana said:

My cousin was bit by a skunk.

(sorry about the double post earlier)

On 20 October 2004 (08:39 AM),
kool-azz rider said:

A poem? Sweet dude! Im teh best when it comes to riting poetry. Let me know if’n you want my help there, G. I can lay down some mad rimes about skunks.

On 20 October 2004 (10:08 AM),
pam said:

ok – i concede to kris. i searched the med lit and could find seven cases of death from contact exposure – all of them involved some form of mercury and a few may have had inhalational exposure as well. so what i should say is that no one is fatally poisoned from spilling non-mercury compounds on their hands!

interestingly enough, there are a lot more cases of husbands being poisoned by there wives (i’ve even seen a case – arsenic, caught before fatal) and in many cases the wife works in the field of science or medicine…so how bad was that fight??

On 20 October 2004 (11:39 AM),
Kris said:

I think that just goes to show you that both Mac & Jd should be on their best behavior!

On 21 October 2004 (10:26 AM),
Pam said:

Joel may have to start watching his behavior as well.

And I don’t think Mac noticed anything odd about dinner last night, did you, honey? πŸ˜‰

The Blood of a Squirrel

Greetings it is I Simon. Mom and Dad are gone to Andrew and Courtney’s to celebrate the impending birth of their new kitten. If you ask me, Mom and Dad’s friends have too many kittens; I would be happy to suggest a surgical procedure to prevent so many damn kittens.

It is the Week End, and I like that. The Week End means Mom and Dad will be home all day and they will feed us lots because they get tired of listening to Sister Toto whine. (When they are gone they cannot hear Sister whine — only Brother Nemo and I can — so they cannot feed her. Nemo and I have plans to eliminate this problem, but so far the opportunity has not presented itself. Toto does not go near the road often enough.)

On Week Ends, Mom lets us outside early in the morning. We play outside all day and we lounge in the sun and we watch the birds and the bugs and the squirrels and the cars and the dogs and the cats and we drink from the birdbaths and we dig in the garden and we loaf on the porch and we even sometimes help Mom and Dad in the yard.

Today I helped Dad plant the Apple Tree. And after he had finished, I helped him erect the Grape Trellis. As we were working, that goddamned Flash came round. Flash is a neighborhood cat — he has no Mom and Dad, he is an orphan — and he has not had a certain surgical procedure. Worse, he is big and orange and ugly. I do not like that Flash.

While Dad dug in the dirt, Flash and I had a disagreement. We always have disagreements. We yowl and growl and whine at each other. I lower my head and he raises his. One time, Flash stood on his hind legs and swayed back and forth. He looked like an idiot. Was that supposed to be scary? All the time when we argue, we end up butting heads. We get closer and closer, yowling louder and louder, until we are standing forehead to forehead, rubbing whiskers. Dad thinks we look funny, but he does not know that this is a battle of Minds. As much as I hate him, I must admit Flash is strong. He is a worthy opponent. He often wins these battles, and I hate him for it.

Later, Aunt Rhonda stopped by to talk with Mom and Dad in the garden. They chatted under the walnut tree while I sat at the end of the walk, watching them. While they chatted, Walnut, in a brazen move, came down the tree, with a nut in his mouth, and watched. He skittered down the tree to the ground. I was keenly interested, but I made no move. I watched Walnut. I observed.

“Simon,” said Dad. “Look! Walnut’s on the ground.” But I made no reply. Does the man think that I am an idiot? Walnut darted down the sidewalk in little bursts. I stood and eased my way toward him, testing his reflexes. His reflexes were quite good, actually, and he immediately climbed the filbert and then leaped across to the branches of his home tree.

I walked over and rubbed against Mom’s legs. I gave Dad a look to tell him that he is an idiot, because he is.

I hid in the bushes. Mom and Dad continued working in the yard. Dad went into the house to help the Heater Man carry the old heater out to the garage.

Just then, I noticed that Walnut had crossed the lawn to visit his little squirrel buddy, Cedar. They were clinging to the base of the cedar tree, chattering. Nemo crept up beside me.

“Do you see the squirrels?” he asked. “I’ve been trying to catch that damned Walnut for weeks. Remember how I got stuck in his tree once? And remember how I climbed the tree in the neighbor’s yard and got stuck there? Walnut escaped me by racing across the power line back to his tree. Stupid squirrel. And remember how one night I got stuck on the roof of the garage? I was chasing Walnut and Acorn then.”

Nemo’s a good kid, but he’s a little inept. All energy and no brains. “Watch,” I told him, and I began to slink across the lawn. Walnut and Cedar were chattering to each other still, still clinging to the base of the Cedar.

Dad and the Heater Man came out of the house and they dropped the old Heater on the steps, creating a tremendous racket. It startled me. It startled the squirrels. I thought my game was up, but the squirrels looked past me, at Dad and the Heater Man. They didn’t even see me!

And then I took the risk. I charged those little rodents and I flew into the air and I grabbed Walnut with my claws and I sunk my teeth into his chest I squeezed and he flailed and he flailed and he squeaked and Cedar came lower on the tree and he scolded me and Nemo flew across the lawn to my side saying “Let me taste! Let me taste!” and Dad began to yell “Simon! Simon! Simon!” and in my mouth was the blood of a squirrel and it was delicious and then the Heater Man came roaring across the lawn yelling “Simon! Simon!” and Nemo said “I want to taste the blood of a squirrel” and enough is enough so I raced across the yard to my spot beneath the holly and while Mom and Dad and the Heater Man ran around yelling “Simon! Simon!” and Walnut flailed and squeaked — weaker now, much weaker — I sat beneath the tree with the blood of a squirrel on my tongue.

Nemo came and sat with me. His eyes blazed with envy. “I want to taste the blood of a squirrel,” he said, but I pretended I did not hear. I held Walnut tight in my jaws, and when I was sure he was dead, I dropped him and walked into the house.

Stupid Mom and Dad. Now they’re outside looking for the squirrel and why? There are more here: Cedar and Acorn and Locust and Holly and all the others. And there are more in the neighbor’s yards. And why do they care if I have a squirrel now and then? And stupid Nemo. For three months he cannot catch a squirrel, but I catch one on my very first try.

All in all a very good day. Mom and Dad have shut me upstairs now while they go celebrate the Cronk Kitten, but I do not mind. I’ve been studying this weblog thing for months (and I even read Abbie the Cat when Dad lets me), and Toto showed me how she wrote here twice — though Lord! how abysmal is her spelling and grammar — so the only real trouble has been these miserable paws. How I long for opposable thumbs!

Now if only I could catch Flash by the abdomen and squeeze. I would like to taste his blood someday.

(I dedicate this entry to Nine Miron.)


On 02 October 2004 (07:54 PM),
Ruby said:

I want to munch on an SQ too! I’m fast as lightening. I’ve been told others like me can run as fast as 35 miles per hour. Alas, I have not caught an SQ. My people are very strict about chasing SQs. They are no fun. Someday . . .Tabor SQs beware.

On 03 October 2004 (09:32 AM),
nemo said:

ha ha it is i nemo boy is simon stupid because he came out from the bushes and mom and dad caught him and shut him upstairs and they thought i was there but ha ha ha they were wrong i was in the bushes and i saw where simon hid the squirrel and when they had gone to uncle andrew’s house i knew where to find walnut and find him i did i took him out on the lawn and ha ha simon ha ha it was i who got the blood of a squirrel it was i who got the blood of a squirrel while you were locked upstairs with stupid hissy sister and it was i who chewed off his head and it was i who tore off his tail and it was i who munched his guts ha ha ha it was i it was i it was i boy you are so stupid simon i hope you feel dumb because that is how i catch a squirrel now i let you do all the work and i eat it ha ha ha

On 03 October 2004 (03:47 PM),
J.D. said:

Rosings Park is oddly silent today. There is no chatter of squirrels. It’s as if they’ve all agreed to observe a day of mourning for their most vocal member, now deceased.

As I was mowing today, I found Walnut’s remains. His head was missing, but his fur, and claws, and tail were stretched out on the lawn (where now they are dessicating). Some cat — Nemo, if he is to be believed — had feasted on Walnuts’ better parts.

Kris and I are sad. It was fun to wake up to Walnut’s squawking. We’re hoping that a new squirrel will move in and take over his roost.

On 03 October 2004 (04:36 PM),
Tiffany said:

Is this the same squirrel that threw nuts at you as you walked under the tree?

On 04 October 2004 (08:51 AM),
Tabby said:

I must admit my jealousy as I am old and suffer from arthritis. Mostly, I just watch the stupid squirrels out the window while lying on the heating pad on the bed. If I venture outside to watch them, they mock me endlessly knowing that I am unable to pursue them. Bastards.

On 04 October 2004 (09:02 AM),
Nine said:

I have been taken to a very cold place.

On 04 October 2004 (09:03 AM),
Skittle said:

What are squirrels?

On 04 October 2004 (09:03 AM),
Sampson said:

Never mind Skittle, she’s my stupid sister. She’s really cute but kind of kookie.

On 04 October 2004 (10:33 AM),
Rex said:

Dogs eat little kitties for lunch. Yum yum. Let them out in the yard. Yes, let them play. Woof woof.

On 04 October 2004 (11:33 AM),
Skittle said:

Yeah, well Sampson is just a nerdy affection hogger with an oversized head.
Who cares if he can fetch anyhow?
Can you say doot do do do doot do do?
(music to the Sampson dance)
I’m not kookie, I’m just a little ADD…
I’m going back to my nap now…