Monday, July 30, 2007

May I Sit This One Out Coach?

It's a little old now, but I think this is the funniest and most disgusting headline I've ever seen.

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Friday, July 20, 2007

This Will Make Your Skin Crawl

A Colorado man has maggots under his scalp.



Thursday, July 19, 2007

Lazing on a Sunny Afternoon

Last Sunday being a beautiful summer day, clear, hot, and sunny, I decided to relax with a book and a drink. I couldn't do this in my back yard, though. Although it's as sunny, warm, and comfortable as any other place, and in fact more so than most, is also contains reminders of lawns needing mowing, rose bushes wanting to be pruned, and, indirectly, of the short circuit in the kitchen wiring that somebody was going to have to look in to. No, if I was going to be able to restfully ignore all those things I was going to have to get far away from them.

So I drove up to my sister's house, where I stole her pick up truck and one of her kayaks and continued on to Lake Sonoma. I dropped the boat and my cooler at the bottom of the boat ramp, parked the truck at the top of the hill, and walked back down to start my relaxing afternoon in the shade somewhere.

Rowing away from the boat ramp, looking for a place along the shore where I could spread my towel on a shady piece of grassy slope, I quickly became aware that on that lake my oar powered propulsion was unique. There was a handful of sailboats, but, aside from them and me, every other vessel on the water was motor powered. The thing about that is, paddling a kayak down a river or at dawn around a quiet wakening lake is a peaceful, contemplative experience. Paddling a kayak across a California lake on a summer Sunday afternoon is something else entirely. It's not as though the other boaters were making a conscious effort to ruin my tranquility. No special effort was required. Aside from the noise, which ranged from intrusive to deafening, there were the wakes to deal with. My ideal afternoon paddling trip, which I'd somehow envisioned consisting of me slipping across the lake, the peace disturbed only by the sound of my oar dipping into and my bow slicing through the water, was now forgotten and my attention shifted from looking for an ideal spot on the beach to spread my towel to the first available spot to do so.

This available spot would need to be dry and shaded and also devoid of human company. Even more, it must be devoid of canine company. I've never had a dog so I'm not quite familiar with the desire of dog owners to take their dogs everywhere with them. I do have a cat and there have been times when I've gone camping when I've thought it would be nice to have my cat with me, if for no other reason than that he could then nap in places he's never napped before. I suspect such things carry a good deal of weight in the world of cats. I'm aware, though, of the peril involved in toting my pet cat, my declawed pet cat (don't start on me, I DIDN'T DO IT!), into the wilderness. The two most likely dangers, both of which would probably come to pass, are that he would run away and be eaten by wild animals such as carniverous badgers. In the end I've never given more than ten seconds consideration to taking him camping or boating with me. If he knew, I'm sure he'd appreciate my restraint, despite the status lost for not having slept in a tent at Leo Carillo State Park. I don't know if dog owners have given more or less consideration to the question. Have they not thought about it long enough to see the potential drawbacks, or have gotten to and beyond them, figuring hey, it's old Rex, really, what could go wrong? Aside from skunks, which, honestly, should be sufficient reason by themselves to leave the old hound dog on the porch, and other things that I won't go into here, there's this combination of dog owners not liking to keep their pets on a leash too long ("poor old blue, he looks so sad; let's let him off the leash") and dogs liking to explore and swim and shake themselves dry and the belief ingrained in dogs that it's best to do those things among people who are not your owner. All evidence indicates that's a misbegotten belief. I have quite vociferously explained that to dog owners and they tend to think that I just don't get it (although they also subsequently tend to give me quite a bit of distance, so I can live with their notions of my wrongness). In any case, a beach with no dogs was what I was seeking and, without too much effort, found.

I should note here that I use the word "beach" quite loosely. I remember when I was a kid, about ten years old, going to the shores of Lake Michigan with my family and playing catch with my dad on a sandy beach. I don't know if legally you must have sand to have an actual beach, but the shores of most California lakes, having been born of alpine valleys flooded when damns were built across their streams, quite notably lack that element. We do have sandy beaches here, at the sea shore and on many river banks, but not so much on our lakes. Instead, where sand should be, we have mud. Heavy clay-laden mud that allows your feet to sink deep into it, all the better to steal your water shoes or flip flops and challenge you to reach down under the water and mud up to your elbows to try to retrieve something that you'll never get clean enough to wear again anyway. This bog of suckitude covers the entire lake bottom and extends, depending on how steep the shore is and how much water has been recently released from the damn, from about two yards in from the water's edge to as much as ten or fifteen yards; you can't get out of the water without crossing it. Well, no, that's not entirely true. You could choose to come ashore where the water's edge is rocky rather than muddy, and deal instead with rocks that will assault the bottoms of your feet if you're barefoot or give you no traction and throw you onto the water, rocks, and mud if you're still shod. Not quite Scylla and Charybdis, no, but not really a, sorry, day at the beach either. Bear in mind, too, that to cross either of these barriers you must first, if in a kayak, get out of an unstable boat that has you literally sitting on the water. There's a high probability that before getting your footing on either the rocks or in the mud you'll topple over into the water in a clothes drenching, completely graceless spill. Wholly uncharacteristically, I somehow managed to avoid that and successfully got the kayak pulled up on to the beach and the cooler untied from the back of it while paying no greater price than being left with mud up to my shins, which was in itself probably for the best as I'd neglected to put any sun screen on my feet or ankles.

Finally, my towel spread out in the shade of a pine tree and a quart gatorade bottle filled with a mixture of apple and grape juice and sangria, I could lie down and relax with my book. The book was "31 Songs," by Nick Hornby, a collection of essays about songs he likes. I was aware of Hornby as the author of "Hi Fidelity" and "About a Boy," though I'd never read anything by him. While talking to my daughter Sunday morning I spotted the book on her bed and, leafing through it, noticed an essay on Jackson Browne's "Late for the Sky." That seemed promising, so that was the book I grabbed as I headed out the door.

Settled down under the tree, that seemed like a good starting point to start reading, too, though it appears about half way through the book. Hornby’s main point, which he applies to Browne’s whole catalog of the seventies as well as to that particular song, is that he didn’t like Browne during the seventies and only came to know and appreciate him later, two decades later, following a divorce, and that his not liking Browne’s music earlier was based not on any familiarity with it but with his perception, based on what he thought of seventies singer-songwriter music in general, of what the music was like (he makes a further point that in the seventies, when Hornby was young and callow, he wouldn’t have appreciated the music anyway even if he’d listened to it because he hadn’t yet had the experiences that would allow him to appreciate what Browne is singing about. I don’t think that’s entirely wrong, but I don’t think it’s quite right, either. I’m just a year or so older than Hornby and I did listen to and get him when I was a teenager, though I have subsequently found that I hear him differently, and perhaps more deeply, as I’ve gotten older than when I was young.) Hornby views it as unfortunate that we fail to listen to some musicians or read some authors due to our preconceived notions of what they represent. That’s obviously true but also obviously hard to overcome. There’s so much to read and so much to listen to that we can’t take it all in, so we tend to read and listen to artists and genres that we know we like, that we expect we will be rewarded by, and we avoid musicians or authors who have been pigeonholed, by ourselves or by others, into genres we don’t think we like. Sometimes we get lucky, though. Though I don’t listen to or particularly care for most Country music, I’ve somehow heard and come to like Steve Earle and Dwight Yoakum, among others. Though not a sci-fi fan, I really like William Gibson (though, to be honest, that’s despite, not because of, the trappings of sci-fi in his books). And, though it never occurred to me to read a Nick Hornby novel, I just might now, because I happened to find a book of essays about music he’d written on my daughters bed and it contained a piece on one of my favorite singers. Some times that’s how it works.

Having read those sections of the book that held and interest for me, having finished the lovely sangria concoction, and having run out of positions I could assume and remain comfortable, it was time to go. The return trip from the beach to the boat ramp was without incident, though the afternoon wind had picked up and after passing under the bridge and coming around the point near the ramp I found myself rowing through waves intermittently decorated with white caps. Curiously, though, the waves didn't seem to interfere with my progress and actually found a pebbly stretch of beach to come ashore at, again leaving the kayak beside the sidewalk while I walked up the ramp and along the road to retrieve the truck. When I returned to the boat I found that I'd left it atop a yellow jacket nest, but was able to retrieve it and get it into the truck without further angering them or inducing them to sting me. Sorry, I know that would have been much more interesting and amusing. For your sake I'll try harder next time.

So, at the end of all this I drove back to my sister's house to return the truck and the kayak. I parked the truck and, while stepping out of it, the muscles and tendons and ligaments that make up my left knee and are supposed to work together to support me when I try to do things like stand or walk didn't do so and I fell hard lengthwise on the pavement beside the truck. While falling I stuck out my left arm to break the fall and hyperextended the elbow. You know when you're watching a football game or a baseball game and you see somebody get tackled or fall in such a way that the elbow or knee bends the opposite from the direction we expect them to bend and you think, damn, that looks like it hurts? That's hyperextended and yes, it does. Not as much as it looks like it should hurt, but still, it does hurt. An awful lot. I hyperextended my left knee about six or seven years ago and that was the beginning of my continuing knee troubles, the hamstring I tore a week ago that probably led to the knee's collapse yesterday being just the latest chapters of those. Now I suspect I have a similar future to look forward to for my elbow.

Monday, July 16, 2007

More of Supporting the Troops

Okay, here's the scam: Young man or woman enlists in the military and gets sent to Iraq. While there, signs of a personality disorder manifests itself, for which the person is discharged from the service and also denied veteran's mental health benefits because an after the fact screening determines that the condition pre-existed the person's having enlisted. Ya gotta love the way these people support the troops. Oh, and here's the kicker: because people receiving these discharges have failed to serve the entire time they committed to when they enlisted, they owe the military whatever signing bonus they received.

We won't even ask why a screening process that can determine they had a preexisting mental condition isn't used at the time they enlist.

Update: More, from The Nation.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007


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