Time to ditch AOL

AOL is not your friend.

They use dirty tricks to prevent you from canceling your account. (Someone recorded his attempt to cancel his account. Check it out, it’s unbelievable.)

They censor your e-mail if it’s critical of AOL.

They released your search history along with that of 658,000 other users, complete with identifying information so everyone in the world can tell who did the search for e.g. “cocaine in urine.”

And of course their arbitrary e-mail blocking policies prevent about half of the mail that I send from ever reaching you or any of the other folks on AOL with whom I (try to) maintain a correspondence.

The good news is that there are plenty of better alternatives:

Switch now. Switch now. Switch now!

Greatest hits: reunion dream

The mailing list of my high school graduating class was very lively in the months leading up to our 20-year reunion. One of my classmates wrote that she’d had a dream about the reunion. Here was my reply.


I’ve been to the reunion and it was great! […] Details are foggy of course, since it was all in a dream I had last night.

Hey, I’ve seen this movie. In the coming days you’ll remember a few more details, including a horrible event that takes place during the reunion, such as a murder or a gruesome accident. Slowly you’ll become convinced the dream was actually a premonition. This will be reinforced when you happen upon a crackpot university professor who persuasively confides in you his never-proven theory about the link between time and consciousness, and its implication that we can time-travel in our sleep.

You’ll become frantic trying to remember more detail from your dream in order to prevent the calamity. You’ll try to reproduce the conditions of your slumbering trip to the future, to no avail. Finally you’ll return to the crackpot professor, who has been trying and failing his entire career to send people through time via hypnosis. He tries it on you and soon you’re there, at the reunion that’s now just hours in the future…

The reunion is eerily familiar, but there are key differences from what you remember during your earlier visit. Someone’s white dress is now blue. A funny joke is told by a different person. An old crush who didn’t remember your name now does.

You roam the party in confusion until you recognize the elements of the calamity start to come together — a dropped glass, a raised voice, a distinctive laugh. You rush to the center of the action — and this time you’re the victim. But you’ve saved the life of the earlier victim…

…who awakes in the crackpot professor’s office in your place.

I see Julia Roberts as you…

Dr. In and Mr. Out

Strapping the kids into the car this morning for a trip to the supermarket, Andrea commented once again on Archer’s amazing prolixity. At just 2 1/4 years old, he’s chattier than any ten grownups I know; and his utterances are fully formed thoughts, almost always organized into comprehensible sentences and, more often than not, cohesive paragraphs with a sensible, non-trivial logical flow.

Andrea’s comment to me, sotto voce, was that Archer is far ahead of where Jonah was at that age. I felt that was missing the point, apart from being impolitic, especially as Jonah has always impressed everyone with his intelligence, even as a toddler. I reframed her observation thus: Jonah was always the one taking everything in, examining the world, understanding it, recording it, drawing conclusions about it; whereas Archer is the one who lets everything out, exploring his environment more by engaging the people in it.

None of which is to imply that Jonah can’t be outgoing, or that Archer has no interior life. Far from it!

From Russia With Love^H^H^H^HLike

Speaking of James Bond, I found “The British Censorship of From Russia With Love” extremely interesting. It’s about the cuts made to the racier parts of that film, and for its time it was apparently quite racy indeed. Here’s my favorite:

The use of “Was I” in “Was I as exciting as all those Western girls?” has been changed to “Am I?” The past tense implies that the couple have had sex, while the present tense implies that Bond just finds her attractive.

And while we’re on the subject of From Russia With Love, I might as well mention my theory that the role of Blofeld in that movie was played by Sean Connery. His face is never seen and he’s listed as “?” in the credits. His voice has a thick, phony accent. When the film came out in 1963 it might not have been possible to ID that voice, but from a modern perspective it does sound rather like someone doing an exaggerated aging-Sean-Connery impression. And I think the duality of playing both the hero and the villain would have been irresistible to both Connery and to the producers. Why else hide Blofeld’s face? Why else conceal the actor’s identity in the credits? I would not be surprised if this very theory had currency among Bond fans at the time of the film’s release, but of course there are no Internet archives from that era for me to google.

I stated this theory on Usenet in the 80’s sometime and it was debunked; and the IMDb has Eric Pohlmann listed as the voice of Blofeld. But I like my theory much better. Listen closely the next time you see the movie and tell me I’m not onto something.

"Digital"

It has taken just a fraction of my lifetime for digital technology to totally transform many aspects of life and society, usually for the better (unless you’re one of those weirdos hoarding the world’s dwindling supply of vacuum tubes for that “warm” tube-amp sound — warm tube-amp buzz, says I).

So you might be forgiven for thinking that a “digital prostate exam” sounds like some kind of high-tech 21st-century diagnostic technique, possibly involving a full-color 3-d computer display.

But you’d be oh so wrong. Well, except for the 3-d part. All I can say is, it sure feels analog.

Squeamish no more

It’s a truism that if you’re squeamish, having kids will cure you of it. Thousands of diaper changes (in times of good intestinal health and otherwise), plus occasional helpings of spit-up and vomit on one’s skin and hair, in one’s clothes, and throughout one’s house do the trick quite nicely. But Tuesday night was without doubt the death knell for any remaining squeamishness I had.

Our dog, Alex, is a month shy of her 18th birthday. She suffers from a variety of age-related complaints, including arthritis, nerve damage, and occasional incontinence. She is pretty frail and sometimes needs help simply walking. We seldom leave her alone for more than a couple of hours at a time.

Tuesday night she’d been home alone for just a couple of hours when we returned from dinner. At that dinner, Jonah and I shared a “molten chocolate cake” for dessert, Jonah sitting on my lap as we ate. This was wonderful, father-son-bonding-wise, but it made eating a little awkward, and at one point a piece of cake leapt off my fork on its way to my mouth, bouncing off my shirt and pants and landing on the floor. Being “molten,” it made some big brown stains on my clothes, a portent of what was to come.

Words fail me when trying to convey, in appropriately visceral terms, what we found when we got home, so I’ll have to settle for simply stating the facts:

  • Alex pooped on the living room carpet.
  • She fell down in it and could not get back up.
  • She tried a lot.

We found her splayed on the floor in the center of a tremendous brown circle, smelling bad. Real bad. And clearly traumatized, poor girl.

All of the following then needed to happen at once:

  • Calm Alex down
  • Air her out
  • Clean her off
  • Clean the carpet
  • Keep the kids away from the mess

I got the Alex-related jobs, Andrea got the house- and kid-related ones. Alex and I went out onto the lawn for a while. She was trembling and unsteady on her feet, but after a short while and some soothing talk she was clearly feeling better. So then it was time to get her in the bathtub.

Frail and old though she is, Alex’s coat is still thick and lustrous — when it’s not caked with fecal matter, that is. I spent about a week that night restoring that coat to its rightful sheen. Poor Alex has trouble standing at the best of times, but weighed down with a coatful of water, her feet on bare porcelain, and so soon after lying helpless (and injured from her struggling, most likely) in a pile of shit for who knows how long, was a bit much to ask. So with one hand I supported her weak back legs while with the other hand I directed the handheld shower spray all over her, my third and fourth hands lathering her up with sweet-smelling shampoo. Crippling my weak lower back by doing all this while leaning over the bathtub rim was a given.

A day and a half later and Alex is beautiful again, and seems back to her usual self. I wish I could say the same for the carpet; it’s still discolored and the smell isn’t quite gone. It’s covered with a layer of towels for now. Another couple of assaults with cleaning chemicals and sessions of vigorous scrubbing over the next day or so will tell whether the carpet can be rejuvenated like Alex or whether it will have to be put to sleep.

Keep it in perspective

pale blue dotCarl Sagan taught us to look at the Earth as a pale blue dot, which is how it looked to the Voyager 1 spacecraft in a picture it sent back years ago as it raced to the edge of the solar system.

…every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilizations, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every hopeful child, every mother and father, every inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every superstar, every supreme leader, every saint and sinner in the history of our species, lived there on a mote of dust, suspended in a sunbeam […] Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the universe, are challenged by this point of pale light.

But with all respect to the late, beloved Dr. Sagan, for really putting things in perspective he can’t compete with this blog post by Dick Hardt.

Mucoshave

I wrote a new Mucoshave rhyme the other day. It’s one in an occasional series I’ve been doing for a long time, based on the old Burma-Shave road signs.

You will never
Run out if
You squeeze out
Your handkerchief
Mucoshave

Older ones:

Supply of shave cream
Comes and goes
But you always
Have your nose
Mucoshave

Sneeze it out
Smear it on
Scrape it off
Beard is gone
Mucoshave

Nose is full
Of soft green goo
Use on beard
And mustache too
Mucoshave

When you pick it
Do not flick it
Lube your face up
That’s the ticket
Mucoshave

Here’s one contributed by my friend John Sweet:

A foamy gob
All nice and hot
Feels like lather
But it’s snot
Mucoshave

How God tells you not to eat that fast-food cheeseburger

I was at the counter of Carl’s Jr., ordering a cheeseburger and fries, when I reached for my wallet and… it wasn’t there.

(*cue Psycho music*)

For maybe the second time in my whole adult life.

I’m pretty sure it’s at home in the pair of shorts that I too-hastily changed out of yesterday. But it sure is an unsettling feeling not to have any money, credit cards, or ID. Fortunately, Danger provides free peanut butter, bread, apples, and bananas, all of which I ate for lunch. Mmm.