Monday, November 30, 2009

That was a spankin'.

Either I have badly underestimated the Saints (in another two weeks they might be calling me and asking me to play cornerback for them -- how in the world are they keeping anybody at all out of the end zone with that baling-wire wheelchair-Olympics old-folks-home secondary of theirs????) or else I have badly overestimated the Pats.

I'm leanin' toward the latter.

Bad vibes in Beantown tonight, I'm thinkin'.

Also, can we now all agree that Tom Brady is at best the third best quarterback in the NFL at this point...probably fourth-best, if one allows 40-year-old men into the conversation?


Of course what I'm really pulling for is for both the Colts and Saints to go undefeated right to the Super Bowl, meaning that we wouldn't even have to wait that last two weeks for Sports Lovers from sea to shining sea to rise up and with one voice tell Mercury Morris to go shut the #@$@$#@#$@ up already!!!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Hey, That Thief Must Be Working My Neighborhood, Too Dept

HT: Failblog

You'd never see this headline in America

Update: I mean this headline. (The link was broken because it was too long to fit into the title, which I didn't at first realize. Sorry about that.)

We're All Professionals Here

It's first and ten, Vikings, on the Bears' 21-yard line. A short pass, but a great run after the catch, into the end zone for a Vikings touchd...oh, wait, the wide receiver was holding on the six.

So now it's first and five, Vikings, on the Bears' 16-yard-line. Middle screen, gain of a couple of...oh, wait, ineligible man downfield.

So now it's first and ten, Vikings, on the Bear's 21-yard-line. Again. The ball is snapped...oh, wait, the play has been blown dead because the Bears are offsides.

So now it's first and five, Vikings, on the Bears' 16-yard-line. Again. Pitch to Adrian Peterson, gets the corner, nice tough run down to the four, first d...oh, wait, Peterson got caught for offensive face mask. Fifteen-yard-penalty from the start of the foul...

[Sigh] So now it's first and thirteen, Vikings, on the Bears' 24-yard-line. At least this is a different place to have a first down from. Thank goodness, 'cause it was gettin' monotonous there...

(That play was an incomplete pass, which finally got us to second down. And in the end the Vikes settled for a field goal. It's not like they were going to be hurting for points in this game...good Lord, the Bears look terrible.)

(Oh, and why waste blog space on a superfluous hat-tip to Tuesday Morning Quarterback for the "we're all professionals here" tag, given that everybody who reads my blog also reads TMG religiously every Tuesday during football season and already caught the allusion. I mean, you all do read TMG. Right? Right?)

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Little-Known Fact: Henry David Thoreau owned lots of shoes

HT: Failblog

Brain Surgeon Professional Athlete Of The Year So Far

DeShawn Stevenson, Washington Wizard and passionate Pittsburgh Pirates fan, about the tattooed Pittsburgh Pirates "P" on his face that unfortunately was tattoed in mirror-image and therefore looks like a "9" instead of a "P":

"If you're standing [farther away] it looks like a P."

(Quote helpfully provided by SI's Rick Reilly.)

It's a good thing I learned from Dave Barry that one should have a strict policy against linking to unfortunate names...

...because otherwise I might have been tempted to link to this. And I certainly wouldn't want my children to go there.

Epic Billboard Fail

That is exactly the title provided by The Palmetto Scoop; I didn't see how I could improve on it.

HT: Dave

Friday, November 27, 2009


Betancurt sneaks it inside that left upright, by maybe a yard! West Virginia takes out Pitt!

And now I have a happy West Virginian father.

Talk about your game of inches...on the successful fourth-down run that set that play up, WV made it by maybe two inches.

What an inspired performance by the West Virginia defense.

That doesn't fully pay Pitt back for 2007 (Pitt had no chance at the national championship game coming into this one), but it's pretty sweet all the same.

Why Gary Kubiak is an ass

I've been watching coaches do the stupid center-the-ball strategy at the end of a game, for long field goals, for my whole life. It's as dumb now as it was when I was eleven or twelve years old and first learned how to use the arctangent function. If you're really, really close to the goal, with a chip-shot field goal, then it might be remotely defensible to center the ball. But the further out you go, the less difference it makes whether you're in the middle or on the hash. It's really very simple geometry. Of course, I may not have done it accurately because today we discovered not only clayuda (which was a big hit, and now I have six things I can cook), but also -- after a day spent watching college football and cooking, both of which activities require copious consumption of beer -- we broke out something I had never seen until this year, namely, pumpkin eggnog. That was good, but of course every glass of eggnog is legally required to contain plenty of rum in it. And now we're all out of pumpkin eggnog. So, um, maybe I didn't do the math right just now. But you can go do it yourself and prove my point for me, if you want. (You could do it more rigorously than I did by taking into account the fact that a pro kicker is never going to be so incompetent as to kick the ball at an angle of, say, forty-five degrees off of straight; if you estimated the number of degrees that represent the window within which a pro kicker would kick the ball 99% of the time, and then take the percentage of that window that would go between the uprights, and then apply the cumulative normal distribution function to figure out the percentage of kicks that would...oh, you do the real math. I'm just trying to have a good excuse to say I'm smarter than an NFL coach here; I don't need the real answer.)

Say you're on the three-yard line and about to kick a field goal from the ten. That's a twenty-yard field goal, which is about as short as you can ask for as a kicker. If you're on the hash mark, then you have a 17.14° window to hit. If you're in the exact middle of the field, then you have...well, you have a 17.53° window to hit. Lookie there, you increased your target size by 2.3%. Woo-hoo!

But now let's say you're looking at a forty-five-yard field goal (the Texans, on Monday night, missed on a 47-yarder to lose the game). From either hash, you have a target that is 7.80° wide; from the exact middle of the field, your target is 7.84° wide. You have just picked up an extra 0.04° of target, which is to say, you've increased your chances of success by 0.47%. That means that your move will give you one extra made field goal every...two hundred and fourteen tries. [In my best sarcastic Ron White voice] Con-gra-tu-la-tions.

/sarcasm on
Amazingly, that extra 0.04° of target space was not enough to rescue Kris Brown's wide-left 47-yarder to win lose the game.
/sarcasm off

But what if you were to pick up five yards -- even staying on the hash mark? What do you do to your target space by moving your kicker even five yards closer? Well, going from forty-five yards to forty, your target grows from 7.80° to 8.76° -- you just increased your odds of success by 12.32%. Let's see, should I pursue a strategy that increases my odds by 0.47%, or one that could increase them by 12.32%? I'm Gary Kubiak, so this is a no-brainer -- let's go for the 0.47%!

And what if I managed to complete a ten-yard pass to the middle of the field (since I still have a time-out), rather than a five-yard out? Why, then my target increases to an arc of 10.07° -- which is to say, now I'm increasing my odds by 29%!

Let me repeat that:


Let's see, should I pursue a strategy that would make the difference between losing and winning one time out of every about two hundred attempts, or one that makes that same difference about once every three kicks? I'm Gary Kubiak, so this is a no-brainer -- let's go for the one-in-two-hundred shot!

I know Kubiak would say that he centered the ball because he was afraid of a sack or a turnover or something else bad happening, which is to say, because he trusts his quarterback and offensive line to lose games, when given the opportunity, rather than to win them. I know this, because it's what Kubiak actually did say, or at least was quoted by the Chronicle as saying. But considering that taking the snap and running a sneak to center the ball increases your chances by less than one-half of one percent, why do you run the play at all? Why take the chance of a fumbled snap, or a false start? Why not just kick the field goal on third down and be done with it?

Here, let me make it easy for you. As soon as Kubiak decided to center that ball on third down instead of trying to run a quick high-percentage pass downfield to pick up an extra five or ten yards, he deserved to lose the game. Because it was a stupid, stupid, stupid decision. Just like it has been every time I've watched a coach make that same decision for the last forty or so years.

Low-budget review (plus lyrics and translations): Andrea Bocelli, My Christmas

Short version: 4 and three-quarters one-half stars. (When I got to the end of my cut-by-cut analysis I docked the album a quarter-star because I realized that "God Bless Us Every One" really just ain't, you know, all that.) Generally spectacular; misses perfection only because "Jingle Bells" is gimmicky and doesn't quite work, and because "I Believe" is theologically appalling (which I wouldn't necessary dock an ordinary album for, but this is a Christmas album and if you're going to do a Christmas album the least you can do is make sure it's compatible with Christianity). And because "God Bless Us Every One" isn't as good as I thought it was the first time I heard it, plus they write the title wrong in the liner notes.

Other than I

And that's the short version. Now here's the fuller version:

If you don't know who Andrea Bocelli is, let's put it this way: he's what Josh Groban wants to be when Josh grows up.

There's a reason Andrea Bocelli has sold so many albums worldwide, and I think a good way to explain the reason is by comparing him to, um, your humble Peril himself....continue reading... There's not a note that Bocelli hits on this album that I can't hit, too (his range almost exactly coincides with mine, making it sing-along heaven for me). But nobody would want to listen to me sing these songs, while the whole world wants to hear Bocelli sing 'em. It's not just the perfect technical control that makes every note he sings sound like he doesn't even have to try hard. It's the inimitable purity and texture of his tone -- rich and velvety in timbre in the lower registers, clear as a trumpet call when he ascends on high. And the transition between the two happens so smoothly and imperceptibly that you can't even tell where the change happens (which is a sure sign of years of hard work and training). I defy the casual listener (that is, the listener who has no vocal training) to tell when Bocelli is doing something difficult and when he's doing something any pop singer could do; but I defy anyone who has ever tried to sing seriously not to have his jaw drop periodically. In other words, Bocelli can do anything he wants with his voice, and he long ago proved it and no longer has to show off. So now he simply does whatever is necessary to make the song work, without worrying about whether it's easy or hard...and the result is simply glorious music.

It also means that this is a guy who is so comfortable in his musical skin, and so in command of his instrument, that he can happily pair up -- on just this one album -- with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Katherine Jenkins, and also with Reba McEntire, and also with, of all things, the Muppets.

Very well, we have the vocal instrument we need for a great Christmas album. And there's obviously a rich vein of Christmas music to be explored. The only problem is that it's all been done before...lots and lots of times. So either you have to do a traditional arrangement and do it better than other people do, or else you have to find something new to do with the song. In Bocelli's case, as long as he sticks to the former, he's in his wheelhouse: nobody is going to do traditional, classical work better than Bocelli.

Still, any time you do one of the standards, you'd like to do something to make it your own. Bocelli takes two main approaches, both of which generally work.

1. He bounces around from language to language, often in the same song. This works great for European audiences. Alas, it will probably reduce his American sales. In Italian and Latin and French he sounds great; and in English he is, improbably, all but accent-free. Only when he sings a verse of "O Tannenbaum" in German did I find myself thinking, "Um...I don't think he's German."

2. There are a lot of duets/ensemble pieces on this album, and they work. Well, okay, both of the cuts I don't like fall in this category...but it's not because he has other people singing with him. The Muppets are not what's wrong with "Jingle Bells," and Katherine Jenkins is not the problem with "I Believe." This guy can sing with anybody. For all I know he could sing a duet with me and make me sound good.


"White Christmas / Bianco Natale"

It begins, as "White Christmas" always seems to begin, with strings in the first few measures, exactly the way you've heard a hundred mediocre versions of "White Christmas" begin before, and you think, "Oh, boy, here we go," and start to twiddle your thumbs. Then the strings die out and Bocelli comes in on that first sustained, deep, rich "I'm..." -- and you think, "Oh, wait, this might be special after all." By the time the cut is over you have heard a perfectly competent but still been-there-done-that arrangement, turned into something memorable simply by the Voice. Plus you've heard some Italian, because that's what Bocelli switches to for the second verse.

"Angels We Have Heard on High"

We're still in the same genre as the first cut, except that we sound at first as though we're in church. It's in Italian, which frankly fits in much better with the Latin chorus than English usually does, and begins as a rather intimate little piece between Bocelli and an organ. But the orchestra joins in before long, and then halfway through the piece suddenly both Bocelli and the orchestra switch gears and soar into the upper register, whereupon a huge choir joins in as well. The last verse is the old familiar English first verse, and if you like big endings you won't find one bigger than this one.

"Santa Claus Is Coming to Town"

A delightful little swinging version with a children's choir. You can't help but sing along with this one (and most of it can be sung along with by anybody who usually sings along with the radio). And you can't help but smile while you sing. This isn't the most impressive song on the album...but it's one of the best. It's a great illustration of what I was saying above, about how Bocelli no longer needs to show off and can simply do what's necessary to make a song work.

"The Christmas Song" (with Natalie Cole)

The first real duet, and it's just lovely. This is done in a "pop standard" style, not classical choral, and there are moments when Bocelli reminds you irresistibly of Michael Bublé. You could be sitting on a beach in Tahiti listening to this song on your iPod, and if you closed your eyes you'd be able to hear the logs crackling gently and see the warm and intimate shadows of a firelit room. If you're an American in your forties and this song doesn't put you in a Christmas mood, then nothin's gonna.

"The Lord's Prayer" (with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir)

Exactly what you would expect stylistically, done as well as you could ask it to be done. There's a nice touch in that Bocelli sings pretty much the standard melody line right up until the traditional big finish, but then just as you're expecting the triumphant high note on "for-E-ver," he backs off and goes calmly down instead of up. But that's just because he intends to reprise the last section of the prayer, and then you get the big finish, which turns out to be quite a bit bigger than what you thought was the big finish his first time through. Very nicely done, very nicely done indeed.

"What Child Is This" (with Mary J. Blige)

Okay, it's got Mary J. Blige in it, so you know you're going to have some vocal freestyling. It's therefore a bit of a surprise when it starts off with Gregorian chant over a synthesizer...but then Blige joins in and we get the unusual mix of a black gospel soprano freestyling soloist over a string-style synthesizer and male Gregorian chant choir. Um...guess what? It works. Then the first verse is almost arhythmic in the freedom of its meter. Not until the second verse do we finally begin to feel a prevailing beat.

This is where Bocelli's musical humility genuinely impresses me. He's singing a duet with Blige, and for the entire first verse he plays straight man to her riffing -- they are singing a duet in nice harmony, but he's singing straightforward melody without flourishes, while she's just going off. But then he begins to play, too, and for the rest of the song you're treated to the kind of freestyle duet that you can only get when you have two artists who know the bones of the song and trust each other so much that they can do whatever they want, knowing that what each wants to do will fit with what the other wants to do...since neither of them will do anything wrong.

The mood of this song, by the way, is so can I put this? Everything about the song says, "It's time to play." And so when I sing along I can't help but improvise a third part in between the two of them, much to the kids' bemusement...but to just sing what someone else is singing is to betray the whole point of the song, if you see what I mean. You have to find something neither of them are doing and make it fit, or else you aren't really participating. To sing along, is not really to sing along...[sigh] okay, either you see what I mean by now or else I'm not a good enough writer to communicate it. So on to the next song.

"Adeste Fidelis"

All in Latin. As traditional as it comes. As good as it gets. Nothing more to say.

"O Tannenbaum"

Bocelli's at his most multicultural on this one. He sings a verse in Italian, then another in German, and then a third in English. This is, again, pop standard style, and very nice without being very musically ambitious -- just a nice, simple, treatment of the song. About the time you think it's over he comes back home to Italian for a final verse, with slight melodic variation. I like it a lot. Other people might not.

[The kids wanted to leave the coffee shop at this point, so I published and signed off. Picking up now on Friday evening after dinner:]

"Jingle Bells" (with the Muppets)

Doesn't work. Sorry, it just doesn't. Bocelli tries to make it a novelty number by playing games with the tempo -- really slow for the first verse, then doing a "Rock Island"-style accelerando through the second chorus, then repeating the verse this time fast...meh. Doesn't work. Sorry. Weak cut. So much for five stars.

"Silent Night"

This number has just leaped into second place on my "Silent Night" Top Ten List, and I had to listen to it two or three times in a row to be sure that it was in fact not going to be able to bump Luis Miguel's "Noche de Paz" version. (A bummer for Americans: of the two best "Silent Nights" I've heard in my forty-three years, one is in Spanish and the other is in Italian until the last verse. Oh, well.) The comparison between these two versions is actually instructive, because "Silent Night" poses a fascinating problem for the arranger.

Here's the deal: the song is about silence and peace, but the melody wants to soar to the heavens with the angelic choir. So there are three basic ways most people attack the song:

(1) You can stay true to the spirit of the lyrics, and do a deliberately quiet and simple version. I myself would love to hear "Silent Night" sung by Toni Braxton with no accompaniment other than Joshua Bell's violin, but you have a better chance of overhearing a country-church-ful of Oklahoma Baptist carolers (not Catholics, because it's the Baptists who have spent their whole lives actually practicing singing in church every Sunday morning) standing all wrapped in blankets in the snow outside an elderly shut-in's front door, singing in a cappella four-part harmony. And while it may not be something you can sell tickets to for $200, there are few things in the world I enjoy hearing more.

(2) You can ignore the peacefulness of the lyrics and go full-throttle with the power of the melody. The best version in this class, by far, is Luis Miguel's unforgettable big-band swing version complete with three key changes and a swingin' Black gospel choir. (Which you can find on his Navidades album, which is my very favorite Christmas album ever...but which is entirely in Spanish, I fear.)

(3) You can try to combine the two, by starting quiet and peaceful to give the lyrics their due, and then building to a big crescendo in the final verse to do justice to the melody. This is by far the most common approach, and it's the approach Bocelli takes. And for my money his version, with its clear Italian in the first two verses, the crescendo up in the third verse (which is the first English verse), and then the settling back down to the gentle ending with the Salvation Army Boys Choir helping to close things out...well, because of Luis, Bocelli doesn't quite make Best In Show. But he does in my mind win Best of Breed.

(Should I mention, by the way, in the presence of Baptist Gentle Readers, that if one sings along with the Italian lyrics of the second verse, one will find oneself briefly praying to the Virgin Mary?, I don't think I will. Wouldn't want to spoil the song for 'em.)

"Blue Christmas" (with Reba McEntire)

Now here's something Luciano Pavarotti couldn't possibly have done, even while he was, you know, still alive: turn in a Nashville-style duet with Reba McEntire in which, while they're singing "decorations of red on a green Christmas tree" in thirds, he sounds like he belongs in a Nashville studio just as much as she does. Do you know what I mean? Their voices blend together perfectly in style as well as pitch, if you see what I'm saying: you don't think for a moment, "Oh, isn't that nice, with that country girl singing along with that opera singer?" I would expect this song to get lots of airplay on the country stations, where I think it would be a big hit with people who think Andrea Bocelli was pretty lucky to get the chance to sing with Reba McEntire. (Which, actually, I think he was; I imagine they both had a ball.) Granted, I like country music; but I really like this cut.

"Cantique de Noel" (which is to say, "O Holy Night," but in Placide Cappeau's original French)

The more I listen to this one the more I wonder about Bocelli's French accent...I'm not sure it's that good, but my own French is no longer good enough for me to be very confident about it. I like the French lyrics better than the English ones (the French lyrics were, after all, good enough to have been published originally as poetry and later set to music), but that's probably just a matter of personal taste. Other than that, this is pretty much like any other "O Holy Night" you've heard recently, only (a) in French and (b) with Andrea Bocelli's voice. So, um, would you rather hear Andrea Bocelli's voice or Celine Dion's? (Hint: there's a right answer to this one. Especially if we're talking questionable French accents.)

Caro Gesù Bambino

Hey, I hadn't heard this one before. It must be a traditional Italian carol or something. Very simple little tune, and very simple treatment, fitting because it is a song sung to the baby Jesus by a poor Italian child. Probably the single cut on the album that leans most heavily on the quality of Bocelli's rich and textured tenor. I liked it very much, and can't resist just putting my translation in here so that you can know what you're listening for:
Dear Baby Jesus
You Who are such a good child
Grant me this pleasure:
Leave heaven for a little while
And come play,
Come play with me.
You know my papa is poor
And I have no toys
I'm a good child
Just as you were yourself...
But you'll see, if you come,
We'll have such fun
Even without toys
Come, Baby Jesus!
Now you can't wait to hear it, can you?

"I Believe" (with Katherine Jenkins)

Okay, you've heard this kind of number before -- it's every duet Celine Dion has sung with a male partner in the last two decades, except that Celine, bless her heart, doesn't very often get a partner who can effortlessly hold a high B for three and a half measures of slow three/four. The bit toward the end where Bocelli rips off the high B is well worth hearing musically.

Alas, the song, which could have gotten from me an "it's painting-by-numbers symphonic pop, but it has Bocelli's voice" thumbs-up, annoys me immensely with its terrible theology. If there's one thing any good Christian knows, it's that "we" will never, ever "make heaven on earth," and that any person who seriously for a moment thinks that "one day I'll hear the laughter of children in a world where war has been banned" is living in pathological denial of reality. Not that you don't do everything you can to heal those whose lives you personally touch, and not that you don't, if you are called to service to the State, do your best to establish justice and peace...but realistically the prince of this world is the enemy of the Prince of Peace, and that won't change until God steps in personally and rings down the final curtain. As G. K. Chesterton once put it, "Original the only part of Christian theology that can really be proved."

Now I don't object when those of my friends who are not orthodox Christians buy into the default Anne-Frank-ish attitude of optimism about human nature (without, apparently, having noticed how Anne Frank's story ended) -- but then my friends who are not orthodox Christians don't spend a lot of time releasing Christmas albums full of songs about the Incarnation. So, I don't imagine that the "Star Trek"-style humanism of "I Believe" (even "holy spirit" is printed in the album liner without capitalization) is likely to bother most of my Gentle Readers.

But it bothers me, dammit. Thumbs down on this one.

"God Bless Us Everyone [sic]"

You know what? This one isn't that great, either. Okay, this is now a four-and-a-half-star album; I'm knocking a quarter-star off my original ranking. Only a pedant would be bothered by the fact that the album liner insists on butchering the Dickens quote by confusing "everyone" with "every one"...okay, fine, I'm a pedant. But it doesn't bother me while the music is playing. Mostly this one is just lyrically bland. I think it's meant to be a sort of big Broadway number to finish off the album; unfortunately, they decided to pull it from a present-day Disney musical ("As featured in the Walt Disney motion picture DISNEY'S A CHRISTMAS CAROL"), and at this point Disney is more enslaved to formula than is the Theory of Relativity. Listening to this one this last time through, I was like, "Okay, there's another high B...meh. You know what? I think I'm gonna find myself hitting the skip button most of the time when this one comes up."

All right, then, we have eight or nine outstanding cuts that Josh Groban would give his right arm for, three or four very nice cuts I'll enjoy listening to repeatedly for years to come, and three that I'll habitually skip past.

I'd say that's worth the thirteen bucks the thing costs at Starbucks.

Oh, and as for lyrics and translations...the last time I tried to put lyrics with translations, it didn't come out all that well on the blog. How about, if you want the lyrics, you can e-mail me and I'll send you a Word file with the lyrics, along with my translations, said translations being worth about what you'll pay for them, namely el zippo (which is Spanish for "nada").

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Yet another thing to be thankful for

I've never been assigned by my television station to go videotape the explosion of a dead whale. (The full story is described, untoppably, by Dave Barry here -- I'd love to provide a link to an authorized Dave Barry site but there doesn't seem to be one, as he didn't write this particular article for the Miami Herald. I know it's an old story, 1970 being almost forty years ago, but it's still just as funny.)

Something else to be thankful for

I've never had my britches yanked down on national television.

Also I can't resist passing on the pun from the person...whom unfortunately I now can't find to hat-tip...who referred to Hester on this occasion as "Bear-a$$ed". Kudos to you, anonymous punning brother.

UPDATE: Now that I preview the thing, I see where I saw the "Bear-a$$ed" pun...namely, on the video that I embedded my own self. [sigh] Sometimes I'm not the brightest pineapple in the herd...

Something to be thankful for...I think

I have a minor medical problem that I figured might need some antibiotics; so I went by the doctor's office yesterday. Turns out that although (thanks to having lots of kids) I know everybody who works there by name, I myself was actually a "new patient" and had to fill out a lot of paperwork. I don't, you see, generally bother to go to the doctor. Dentist, yes. Doctor...well, why go to the doctor if you aren't sick? (And by "sick" I mean "sick enough to be willing to shell out a co-pay and take time off work rather than just working from a coffee shop until you feel better".)

Well, she gave me a prescription, and I went to Walgreen's.

PHARMACIST: Are you already in our computer?

ME: I should be, I would think...actually, I don't know, I don't remember the last time I had a prescription.

PHARMACIST: What's your date of birth?

ME: Eighth of November, 1966. And I might be under there as "Darrell" rather than "Ken."

[PHARMACIST bangs away on the computer a bit, then leans back into the mike.]

PHARMACIST: Mr. Pierce, what's your address?

ME: 731 South Marathon Way...

PHARMACIST: Do you maybe have an old address in our system?

ME: I imagine so; it's been a while. What address do you have?

PHARMACIST: Whitetail Drive.

ME: Um...yeah, that's me. Wow, that was a long time ago.

So, now I get to decide whether to be glass-half-full or glass-half-empty. See, I have moved -- no kidding -- seven times since last I lived at Whitetail Drive, seven miles back from the "No Outlet" sign on the edge of the Pedernales River's canyon through the Texas Hill Country. So either I can be thankful that I'm healthy enough to go seven residences between medical prescriptions...or else I can be depressed from having moved seven times in the last seven years.

Oh, what the hey, it's Thanksgiving -- let's go for thankful, shall we?

By the way, I'm also more thankful than I can possible say for three things: each and every one of my children (okay, that's strictly speaking nine things, but don't go getting picky on me), my parents and sister and nieces (just stop counting, will ya?) and for the unbelievable friends I have.

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!

Peril's Roseanne Roseannadanna Moment of the Day

A conversation held by the Peril with himself:

PERIL [his gaze falling upon a sign advertising a pediatricians office named "Le Pediatrics"]: Good Lord, if you're going to try to be all fancy and French and hifalutin' with your business name, you'd think you could at least get it right -- Les Pediatrics, not Le. Learn the difference between singular and plural, you morons... [then catches sight of the pediatrician's name, which is Dai Le] Oh. Never mind...

Note to self (Gentle Readers can skip) in re books I want

No budget left for books until January or February; so I need to make a note to myself that I can find in January or February, and that pretty much means the blog...

Amy Wax, Race, Wrongs, and Remedies.

David Lyon, In Afghanistan.

Elmer Kelton, The Time It Never Rained, The Day the Cowboys Quit, Wagontongue.

IMPORTANT UPDATE: It had not occurred to me that a post like might be perceived as being highly useful for family members scratching their heads about what they could buy Dad/Papa/Kenny/"my oh-so-annoying brother-in-law" for Christmas, until the penny dropped earlier today. So I'd better mention that I've already gotten my hands on The Time It Never Rained. You're too late on that one, Sean'n'Kegan.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Kinda liked this comic strip

Sort of he-thought, she-thought kind of thing.

And the funniest thing is that the dude seems to be serious

The Slave Driver Eddy Finta led me to this article, which starts with a graph purporting to show a high correlation between domestic U.S. oil production and the quality of pop/rock'n'roll music.

I looked it up figuring that it would be an article having fun with the ordinary person's confusion of correlation with cause. Instead I found a guy who appears seriously to believe that he has found a link between the two sets of data, in that (according to his theory) a single fundamental law underlies both phenomena. The really funny thing is that he genuinely seems to think he's figured out something real. Which means that, which I assumed was a deliberate parody site like The Onion, may be that even rarer and even more delightful bird -- the unintentional self-parody site.

So now my day is made. Thanks, boss.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Political gotcha of the week so far

Now, I'm going to leave the specific names out of this so as not to inflame people's partisan feelings, but I thought this was a hilarious trick, very much in line with Jonah Goldberg's astute observation that if you took Sarah Palin's actual political opinions and published them without saying whose opinions they were, “many of her worst enemies would say 'that sounds about right,' and some of her biggest fans would say 'that sounds crazy.'” Politics is the place that people who want to feel smart and virtuous, but who don't want actually to invest any effort in research and moral discipline, go to rant at the Evil Persons who disagree with them and to trumpet their own self-adulation, because, as Bryan Caplan patiently and devastatingly explains, politics is the one area in life in which stupidity and unreason have literally no bad consequences whatsoever for the person who indulges in them (other than the damage done to one's own character by such indulgence).

So here's an absolutely lovely trick played on persons at a website whose commentors are predominately of one particular stripe, and who hate one particular book-writing politician (whom I'll call "George Washington") passionately, while adoring another particular book-writing politician (whom I'll call "Abe Lincoln") with equal passion. The trickster got onto the site and said something like, “Can you believe what a terrible writer this George person is? I mean, who writes sentences like this? 'The apartment was small, with slanting floors and irregular heat and a buzzer downstairs that didn’t work, so that visitors had to call ahead from a pay phone at the corner gas station, where a black Doberman the size of a wolf paced through the night in vigilant patrol, its jaws clamped around an empty beer bottle.'”

He was a big hit. The comment section immediately joined in talking about how hopelessly bad such a sentence was, with one commenter saying, “That sentence by George Washington could be entered into the annual Bulwer-Lytton bad writing contest. It could have a chance at winning a honorable mention, at any rate.”

Only after the trickster had been sufficiently amused did he let folks in on the trick: “I probably should have mentioned that the sentence quoted above was not written by George Washington. It’s taken from the first paragraph of ‘Cowgirls Wear Leather, Chaps,’ written by Abe Lincoln.”

[The Peril cackles delightedly.] To the trickster: I love you, man.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Proud dad of the day

I went, last night, to a junior high choir concert. It was the All-Regional junior high choir for whatever region the Katy high schools are in.

And why did I go?

Why, because the All-Regional choir's first-chair alto is a young lady named Merry Pierce, that's why.

[pause for beaming]

Let me tell you guys something, in all seriousness. Merry has spent the last four or five years dedicating herself to singing as well as she can possibly sing. You want to know why she's first chair alto (other than overwhelming inherited talent, that is)? Here's a bit of a conversation from when I picked her up after their Friday night practice:
MERRY: ...and our section leader kept us practicing thirty minutes late because we sounded bad.

DAD: What was the problem?

MERRY [with evident displeasure]: Well, I think most of the other altos hadn't even practiced. But we knew what the songs would be, and they sent us the music a long time ago. Those songs were hard, and most of the altos were trying to learn them for the first time...
And I'm walking along beside her thinking, "Spoken like a girl who simply can't imagine walking into a choral practice without being 100% prepared...and that's how you wind up first chair."

So, um...just a little bit proud this morning.

I can't resist linking back to an old blogpost from back when eleven-year-old Merry went to see her very first opera, and at the end of the Act II of Aïda we had the following exchange:
"Is it still okay?" I asked her.

"Oh, yes, I love it." Her beaming face turned rather serious and awed, then, and she added with charming seriousness, "They sing a lot better than I do."
Well, maybe so...but she's gainin' on 'em.

Friday, November 20, 2009

That ever-amusic font of hilarity...colonoscopies (I hear you laughing already)

First of all, we have Dave Barry's inimitable treatment of the subject, which may be found here.

Then we have the Top Ten Things Proctologists Claim Actually To Have Heard From Patients During Their Colonoscopies:

10. If the hand doesn't fit, then you must quit.

9. Take it easy, Doc, you're boldly going where no man has gone before...

8. Can you hear me NOW?

7. Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet?

6. [singing] You put your left hand in, you put your left hand out...

5. Any sign of the trapped miners there, Chief?

4. Hey, Doc, let me know if you find my dignity.

3. You used to be an executive at Enron, weren't you?

2. Now I know what it feels like to be a Muppet!

And the Number One Thing Some Proctologist Claims Actually To Have Heard From A Patient During His Colonoscopy is...

1. Could you write a note for my wife saying my head isn't up there?

Hat tip: Dan Kirtane.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Even though you've already seen this on Yahoo...

...I wanna be able to find it again six months from now, so here's the we're-not-going-to-play-in-the-NFL-but-we-can-have-fun-playing-the-game play of the year:

For you husbands trying to come up with a good Christmas present this year...

...there's always this.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

But what about Houston????

It breaks my heart that the closest to Houston that the Kazakh Youth Symphony Orchestra will come on its U.S. tour is Washington, D.C.

In re a critical virtue of Boy Scouts everywhere

HT: Jonah at The Corner.

Hey, I actually like heights...

...but even I can, it's a very distinct sensation that men instinctively feel in situations in which their subconscious senses the possibility of damage, but I can't think of a way to describe it on this blog. Let's just say that this video is enough to make even me, um, "queasy." Yeah, that euphemism will work.

HT: Ace.

Sometimes Congressmen really are that stupid

A friend forwarded me a purported news article in which members of the Obama administration supposedly responded to an automotive engineer's reference to the "laws of physics" by saying, "These laws of physics? Whose rules are those? We need to change that. We have the congress and administration. We can repeal that law, amend it, or use an executive order..."

Now this is a fun story and I'm all in favor of making fun of self-important government officials, but it practically screamed "bullshit." So I hopped onto the indispensable, and sure enough it's a scam...BUT - BUT - wait a minute, there's a big BUT here (um, perhaps I should rephrase that...too late).

The engineer in question, a David Cole, was contacted by snopes, and, as I expected, said that the story wasn't exactly true. But then, to my delight, he added that it wasn't completely made just wasn't Obama's people who wanted to repeal the laws of physics:
I have not met personally with the Obama Auto Task Force. The comments related to the "laws of physics" came from a discussion I had a number of years ago with several congressmen who said that we should pass a new 2nd law of thermodynamics.
[cackling delightedly] So it's not actually a myth! It was just the legislative branch rather than the executive. So I suppose that one could argue that the point of the original piece still stands... "And these are the same people who are going to fix healthcare?!"

Monday, November 16, 2009

I Get By With A Little Advice From My Friends Dept

Especially the female ones. ;-)


A couple of days ago a good friend of mine was giving me advice on how to make myself more marketable to her sisters of the female persuasion. "Kenny," she said as we tootled down the street in my recently-acquired Man-Truck, "you really need to get a nicer car so that more women will go out with you."

Of course I wasn't offended; in fact I thought this was pretty funny, given that I am very far indeed from being in any hurry to sign up for a second tour of duty (in my case, unlike that of Doctor Johnson's acquaintance, experience has hope well and truly by the throat and shows no signs of intending to lighten up any time soon). And this morning something Novera said to me reminded me of the new car advice. So I chuckled and told Novera about said advice. Now, Novera, as some Gentle Readers may not know, drives a very nice car. And, in the interests of giving Novera a hard time (since she knows I know she drives a very nice car), I explained with a straight face that the rickety old cars I drive are actually a subtle and deliberate filtering mechanism...

"...because the kind of woman who would only be willing to date me if I had a nice car, is the kind of woman who would expect me to keep spending lots of money on her for the rest of my life, and who needs that?"

Novera promptly set me straight. "Kenny," she observed, "you're way over-filtering. You're not filtering out the women who would expect you to spend money on them -- you're filtering out the women who want to make sure they get home alive."


A couple of my female co-workers stopped by this morning, and out of nowhere (by the way, I generally like conversations that come "out of nowhere" and this was no exception) they told me that it was time for me to make up my feeble mind. "You need," they informed me, "to either dye your hair red, or else dye your beard blond."

A third subsequently offered up an additional option: "Of course the simplest thing would be to just go clean-shaven...but then [in tones that showed clearly that she knows the redneck she was talking to all too well], we all know that that would require daily maintenance."

Could Be Worse Dept

In the interest of not being a complete couch potato, I generally try to take the stairs rather than the elevator when going back and forth between the 16th and 17th and 19th and 20th floors at work (all of which, these days, are bg floors). Unfortunately, the door to the stairwell on the 20th floor is right next to the men's bathroom, which means that at least once every couple of days I head for the 19th floor, trot merrily into the stairwell, and find myself in the men's room by mistake. And this had happened often enough that it was starting to really annoy me, until it occurred to me that it could be worse...

...the stairwell could be right next to the women's bathroom.

UPDATE: A female co-worker e-mails to say, "This is precisely why I avoid the stairwell."

The Peril's Manly-Man Moment Of The Weekend

It's a funny thing about women...most of them (a) want to be attractive but (b) don't like being, shall we say, ogled. Eyes above the neck, young man, eyes above the neck. But we guys, on the other hand...we're like punching each other: "Dude, did you see her staring at me? Who's da man?! Oh yeah!"

Okay, slight exaggeration there, but still you get the point: it's hard to hurt a guy's feelings by staring at him in obvious pleasure. I mean, we guys do NOT, generally speaking, feel violated by appreciative stares.

So I'm walking through Texadelphia and passing this table where a very attractive woman is sitting, and although I'm not looking directly at her, my basketball-honed peripheral vision is still fully functional. So although she doesn't think I'm looking at her, I see her glance down at my crotch, and then her eyes widen a bit, and then she gets a big smile on her face. And for maybe five seconds I'm plenty proud of myself: "So, Sugarbritches, ya like whatcha see there, do ya?"

Then I glance down and see that my fly is open...

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Did I just see that?

Tom Brady just stood on his own thirty-yard line and threw a pass with about five seconds' hang time that hit a tightly-covered Randy Moss in stride at the opponents' seven.

Good Gawdamighty, that was a pass.

For those of you who love dogs and/or soldiers...

...we have here videos of dogs meeting masters coming home from Iraq.

This has been your "Awwwwww!!!" moment of the day.

HT: Ace's sidebar, again.

Hilarious French Commercial Of The Day Dept

Hm, what is this French kick I'm on? Anyway, this one has helpful subtitles.

HT: Ace's sidebar.

(Canal+, by the way, is a sort of French HBO.)

You really should listen to this even though it's in French

I have a friend who knows and appreciates good music and also things French, and so I recently e-mailed her to ask if she knew the K-Maro song “Sous l’oeil de l’ange,” figuring that (a) her answer would be, “Non,” and (b) she would love the song once she heard it. It was supposed to be a nice present for her. But she replied back that it’s one of her favorite songs and she listens to it all the time.

I knew there was some reason I liked her.

Seriously, I was slightly disappointed that she already knew it (because so much for my gift), but delighted to know that she likes it as much as I thought she would. And the more I thought about it, the more I thought it would be worth trying to share with my Gentle Readers, even though most of you don’t speak French.

The title means “Under the eye of the angel,” and it is one of the best songs I’ve ever heard for people who are going through difficult times in their lives and trying to hang in there. This is only in small measure due to the fact that the lyrics encourage those under trial. That merely sets the theme. What gives the song its power is the combination of instrumental simplicity overlaid with genuinely astonishing poetic verve and intensity expressed through metric complexity so perfectly wedded to sense and sound as to seem inevitable rather than bewildering. In particular, I don’t know of any other song that has so effectively wielded internal rhyme, with near sledge-hammer emotional effect. Simply a magnificent piece of work. Even those who don’t speak French can, I think, be moved by the musical power of the piece. And if you do follow the French…why, then, I believe that this is a song that will find its way onto your iPod playlist and stay there a very long time.

Lyrics, in the original French and in my almost certainly disastrously bad translation into English, follow the embedded video. (I have no idea why there's a huge gap between the video and the lyrics, and I'm tired of trying to fix it; so it's just gonna stay there.)

By the way, I don't know whether K-Maro himself ever made a video of this song, but there are a lot of people who love this song and have used it as the background for their own homemade videos. The one I'm embedding first has the best sound quality I was able to find and also (which doesn't hurt my feelings) features a very cute girl. But you can find here a video I almost used instead, as it is by far my favorite except, alas, for the poor sound quality. It's a video featuring somewhat grainy old-style home videos of a happy kid who looks to be about ten, uploaded by somebody who dedicated it simply "a mon fils que j aime" -- "to my son, whom I love". What a completely delightful video it is. And then here is somebody who, oddly, used it as a first-year-anniversary video. (Rather an ill-omened song for a first anniversary, I would have thought, but hey, it's her anniversary.) I like this one because it gives me a chance to practice my Portuguese; as for that bikini and that spectacular Brazilian know, I, um, actually hadn't noticed that until you mentioned it just now.

Lovely French LyricsBad Peril Translation
Et il m'a dit un jour: Écoute petitAnd he told me one day: Listen, child,
Va cours, rattrape ta chanceStay the course, seize your chance
Vis ton rêve, la vie te souritYou live your dream, life smiles at you
En une seconde, un oui, un nonIn a second, a yes, a no
Tu passes à côtéYou pass close by
Ne pense pas dans le vent du courageDon’t stop to think in the wind of courage
Vas-y, élance-toi,Go for it, charge forward
Tu seras reçu par ceux qui t'aimentYou’ll be met by those who love you
Ceux qui dans le fond d'un regardBy those who in a mere glance
En silence te comprennentIn silence understand you
Et ils partageront les mêmes peines, les tiennesAnd they will share the same pain, your pain
Ces centaines de haine, les fois où tu parles tropThe hundreds of acts of hatred, the times you speak as a fool
Les fois où tu dis rien, tu fais rienThe times when you do nothing, say nothing
Quand tu as l'impression de vivreWhen you feel as though you are living
Toujours le même quotidienThe same day over and over
Ne baisse pas les bras, ne lâche pasDon’t give up the fight, don’t give up
Prends le temps de te direTake the time to tell yourself
Qu'il y a un ange derrière toiThat there’s an angel behind you
Relève toi, et va trouver le plus fort en toi au fond de toiPick yourself up and go find the strength inside you, in your deepest heart
Le bonheur est au bout des doigts, ne l'oublie pas, oh!Luck is at your fingertips, don’t forget, oh!
Sous l'oeil de l'angeUnder the eye of the angel
Je suis venu te dire que j'ai su rester fortI’m here to tell you that I’ve been able to stay strong
Sous l'oeil de l'angeUnder the eye of the angel
Je suis venu te dire qu'ils n'ont rien vu encoreI’m here to tell you that they’ve seen nothing yet
Sous l'oeil de l'angeUnder the eye of the angel
Je suis venu te dire que j'ai trouver la paixI’m here to tell you that I’ve found peace
Sous l'oeil de l'angeUnder the eye of the angel
J'ai su pardonner et j'ai su le chanterI’ve been able to forgive and I’ve been able to sing
Sous l'oeil de l'angeUnder the eye of the angel
Je suis venu te dire que j'ai su rester fortI’m here to tell you that I’ve been able to stay strong
Sous l'oeil de l'angeUnder the eye of the angel
Je suis venu te dire qu'ils n'ont rien vu encoreI’m here to tell you that they’ve seen nothing yet
Sous l'oeil de l'angeUnder the eye of the angel
Je suis venu te dire que j'ai trouver la paixI’m here to tell you that I’ve found peace
Sous l'oeil de l'angeUnder the eye of the angel
J'ai su pardonner et j'ai su le chanterI’ve been able to forgive and I’ve been able to sing
Il va falloir que tu sachesYou’ll need to know
Ce qui se cache dans une défaite et,What lies hidden within defeat
Trouver la porte dans le noir qui t'en sortiraiFind the door in the darkness where you can escape
Et recommencer à rêverAnd start again to dream
C'est dans les rêves que se cacheIn your dreams hides
La porte de l'éternel conte de fée,The door to the eternal fairy tale
Ta vie tu la bâtiras de tes mains,You’ll build your life with your hands
La sueur de ton frontThe sweat of your brow
Sera le pain pour ton lendemain,Will become tomorrow’s bread
Va, et sois le meilleur dans ce que tu ferasGo, and be the best at whatever you do
Ne baisse pas les bras et Dieu te garderaNever give up and God will watch over you
Il te parlera de ça de tout et de rien,He’ll speak to you of this, of everything and of nothing
Il a les mélodies, les clefs du mal et du bienHe has the songs, the keys to evil and good
Il fera ton histoire, il écrira demainHe’ll make your story, He’ll write your tomorrow
Il aura tes mémoires dans le creux de sa mainHe’ll hold your memories in the hollow of His hand
Va (va!) et sache que tu as tout ce qu'il faut,Go, knowing that you have everything you need
Et bien plus qu'il n'en faut,And even more than you need
Mais donne-toi le temps qu'il faut, regarde en haut, oh!But give yourself the time you need, lift up your eyes, oh!
Sous l'oeil de l'angeUnder the eye of the angel
Je suis venu te dire que j'ai su rester fortI’m here to tell you that I’ve been able to stay strong
Sous l'oeil de l'angeUnder the eye of the angel
Je suis venu te dire qu'ils n'ont rien vu encoreI’m here to tell you that they’ve seen nothing yet
Sous l'oeil de l'angeUnder the eye of the angel
Je suis venu te dire que j'ai trouver la paixI’m here to tell you that I’ve found peace
Sous l'oeil de l'angeUnder the eye of the angel
J'ai su pardonner et j'ai su le chanterI’ve been able to forgive and I’ve been able to sing
Sous l'oeil de l'angeUnder the eye of the angel
Je suis venu te dire que j'ai su rester fortI’m here to tell you that I’ve been able to stay strong
Sous l'oeil de l'angeUnder the eye of the angel
Je suis venu te dire qu'ils n'ont rien vu encoreI’m here to tell you that they’ve seen nothing yet
Sous l'oeil de l'angeUnder the eye of the angel
Je suis venu te dire que j'ai trouver la paixI’m here to tell you that I’ve found peace
Sous l'oeil de l'angeUnder the eye of the angel
J'ai su pardonner et j'ai su le chanterI’ve been able to forgive and I’ve been able to sing
Sous l'oeil de l'angeUnder the eye of the angel
Sous l'oeil de l'angeUnder the eye of the angel
Je suis venu te dire que j'ai su rester fortI’m here to tell you that I’ve been able to stay strong
Sous l'oeil de l'angeUnder the eye of the angel
Je suis venu te dire qu'ils n'ont rien vu encoreI’m here to tell you that they’ve seen nothing yet
Sous l'oeil de l'angeUnder the eye of the angel
Je suis venu te dire que j'ai trouver la paixI’m here to tell you that I’ve found peace
Sous l'oeil de l'angeUnder the eye of the angel
J'ai su pardonner et j'ai su le chanterI’ve been able to forgive and I’ve been able to sing
Sous l'oeil de l'angeUnder the eye of the angel
Je suis venu te dire que j'ai su rester fortI’m here to tell you that I’ve been able to stay strong
Sous l'oeil de l'angeUnder the eye of the angel
Je suis venu te dire qu'ils n'ont rien vu encoreI’m here to tell you that they’ve seen nothing yet
Sous l'oeil de l'angeUnder the eye of the angel
Je suis venu te dire que j'ai trouver la paixI’m here to tell you that I’ve found peace
Sous l'oeil de l'angeUnder the eye of the angel
J'ai su pardonner et j'ai su le chanterI’ve been able to forgive and I’ve been able to sing
Sous l'oeil de l'angeUnder the eye of the angel
Sous l'oeil de l'angeUnder the eye of the angel
Sous l'oeil de l'angeUnder the eye of the angel
Sous l'oeil de l'angeUnder the eye of the angel

As I was explaining to Guidry the other day...

...the word "misdemeanor" always reminds me that "Miss Demeanor" is a runner-up title for a redneck beauty contest. You understand, of course, that it's only a runner-up title, not the title of the queen herself, because while Miss Demeanor can outdo Miss Demean, she's no match for Miss Demeanest.

[Hmmmmmm...this joke seems to work a lot better when being told verbally in Oklahoma, as opposed to its being typed onto a blog read mostly by people who probably fail to pronounce "Miss Demeanor" and "Miss The Meaner" identically.]

Thursday, November 12, 2009

In the immortal words of Scott Finke...'re kinda stupid, but it looks good on you.

My favorite Christmas light display of the year, already

I mean, of course, the house on the right:

HT: Failblog

Line of the Day

If I wanted to say that Princess Margaret smoked a lot, I'd probably say, um, "Princess Margaret smoked a lot, plus Dame Vera Lynn is kind of a bitch." Mark Steyn, however, makes much more money with his writing than I do, and the biggest reason is paragraphs like this one:
According to the obituaries, [Princess Margaret] was a 30-a-day gal. By my reckoning, she got through a good couple of dozen over lunch. By the time Vera Lynn sent back the fish and asked them to bring her some chicken, Her Highness had had at least three. By the time Dame Vera sent back the chicken, telling the waiter “This is inedible”, Her Highness had had maybe six or seven. By the time Dame Vera remarked to me that “the colour of your jacket is making me nauseous”, Her Highness was on her second pack. She smoked between mouthfuls, she smoked between gulps, she smoked between cigarettes.
Now that's writing.

More medical wisdom from my anonymous friend

She Who Does Not Wish To Be Named adds the following wisdom to that provided in the previous post:
For those of you who watch what you eat, here's the final word on nutrition and health. It's a relief to know the truth after all those conflicting nutritional studies:

1. The Japanese eat very little fat
And suffer fewer heart attacks than Americans.

2. The Mexicans eat a lot of fat
And suffer fewer heart attacks than Americans.

3. The Chinese drink very little red wine
And suffer fewer heart attacks than Americans.

4 The Italians drink a lot of red wine
And suffer fewer heart attacks than Americans.

5. The Germans eat lots of sausages and fats
And suffer fewer heart attacks than Americans.


Eat and drink what you like. Speaking English is what kills you. Chinese doctor answers your questions about diet and exercise

My friend [name withheld by request] provides the following expert advice from a doctor whose picture, but not whose name, my friend was able to provide:

Q: Doctor, I've heard that cardiovascular exercise can prolong life. Is this true?
A: Your heart’s only good for so many beats, and that’s it... Don't waste it on exercise. Everything wears out eventually. Speeding up heart won’t make you live longer; that’s like saying you can extend the life of your car by driving faster. Want to live longer? Take a nap.

Q: Should I cut down on meat and eat more fruits and vegetables?
A: You must grasp the logistical efficiencies. What do cows eat? Hay and corn. What are these? Vegetables. So, steak is nothing more than an efficient mechanism of delivering vegetables to your system. Need grain? Eat chicken. Beef also is a good source of field grass (green leafy vegetable). And a pork chop can give 100% of the recommended daily allowance of vegetable products.

Q: How can I calculate my body/fat ratio?
A: If you have a body and you have fat, the ratio is one to one. If you have two bodies, the ratio is two to one, etc.

Q: What are some of the advantages of participating in a regular exercise program?
A: Cannot think of single one, sorry. My philosophy: No Pain...Good!

Q: Aren't fried foods bad for you?
A: YOU ARE NOT LISTENING!!! .... Foods are fried in vegetable oil. How can getting more vegetables be bad for you?

Q: Will sit-ups help prevent me from getting a little soft around the middle?
A: Definitely not! When you exercise a muscle, it gets bigger. You should only do sit-ups if you want a bigger stomach.

Q: Is chocolate bad for me?
A: Are you crazy? HELLO… Cocoa beans! Vegetable!!! Cocoa beans are the best feel-good food around!

Q: Is swimming good for your figure?
A: If swimming is good for your figure, explain whales to me.

Q: Is getting in-shape important for my lifestyle?
A: Hey! 'Round' is a shape!
Well, [my friend concludes,] I hope this has cleared up any misconceptions you may have had about food and diets.

Why it's kind of a trial to be my friend

'Cause I'm ornery (pronounced "AHOHN-ree").

Conversational Exhibit A:

FRIEND [as the Peril wanders past where she's standing]: Hey, Kenny, do you know what time it is?

PERIL [consults his watch, then cheerfully]: Yep.

Conversational Exhibit B, occurring on the Thursday following the Sunday that was the Peril's 43rd birthday:

FRIEND: Kenny, I'd like to take you out to lunch for your birthday. Will that work today?

PERIL: That's very nice of you, but you do realize my birthday's almost a year from now, right?

Thanksgiving potluck recipe

Since I inadvertently promised to bring possum to the company Thanksgiving potluck, I guess I'd better get serious about it. I only know one possum recipe; so looks like this is what the good folks at bg will be getting:


The meat from 1 possum
1 pound sausage (too bad for my Muslim friends, I guess, but it's not as good without sausage)
2 cans of pinto beans
3 chopped white onions
Lots and lots of just keep putting 'em in until it tastes right.
Three of those big HEB cans of peeled tomatoes
Chili powder to taste
Some bell peppers, chopped up fine
Three or four cloves of garlic
A couple of tablespoons of brown sugar
Three tablespoons of cumin
Enough water to cover all of it

If you want to be fancy about it you can add a couple of shallots, but it seems sort of counterintuitive to "get fancy" with a possum recipe.

Boil it until it tastes good (make sure you keep enough water in there to keep it covered). If it doesn't taste good after a couple of hours, start adding jalapenos until you can't tell any more how it tastes.

You can find variations on this on the web (one of which involves additional ingredients such as squirrel, armadillo, and a healthy helping of Copenhagen chewing tobacco, which concoction the author -- a Southern gal named, unsurprisingly, Scarlett Lee Moody -- swears she and her cousins actually eat).

(Note: if you're not redneck enough to have eaten possum already, then please don't try this recipe at home. And if you are...why, then, you already have your own possum recipe, doncha?)

Monday, November 09, 2009

Message received, loud and clear

So I mostly managed to get my wish to have my birthday ignored this year. (When you're a dad, especially when you are for your entire marriage the family's only source of income, then unless you're a major gift person you very quickly start wondering about the whole point of "Daddy please give me some money so I can buy you a present." Thanks to Gary Chapman I am aware that it actually means more than that to some people, and so I have dutifully provided a budget for the children to spend on my birthdays down through the years...but as the fellow said when asked about his recent experience of being run out of town on a rail, "Well, you know, if it hadn't been for the honor of it all, I'd'a just as soon walked.") But my birthday wasn't quite entirely ignored...and in fact, I was pretty deeply moved by the Troika. I told them, when they asked me several days before the Big Day what they should get for my birthday, I said, "Girls, I appreciate the thought, but I'd just as soon keep the money." So yesterday they knocked on the bedroom door and came in...and proceeded to give me cash, saying, "Papa, you said you'd rather keep your money, but we know that you're worried about money right now [true, because of legal bills]; so instead of presents this year, here's money to help with the bills." And it was, for three girls (plus a fiancé) who have one barista job between the four of them, a sizable chunk of cash.

Then they gave me my birthday card, which was homemade, and which had four paragraphs: a general "Happy Birthday" paragraph like a store-bought card would have, then a paragraph from Kinya, a paragraph from Anya and Roma, and a paragraph from Natasha. And, much to my amusement, a common theme emerged, which was basically, "And here's to the new wife you need to find this year."

It would seem they consider that I've had a more than reasonable amount of time to get used to being single and that I need to get crackin'., I don't suppose I have any objection if they want to go find a girl for me. But just to help 'em out, why don't I supply a basic list of requirements?

  • Theologically conservative evangelical Christian. (Because a theologically conservative evangelical Christian, old-fashioned guy like myself is not somebody you want to get stuck with for the rest of your life unless you are yourself a theologically conservative evangelical Christian, old-fashioned girl.)
  • Early- to mid-thirties. (Because I can't imagine loving a woman enough to marry her and not wanting to have at least a couple of kids with her...but then I also kinda think that "she needs to be closer to my age than to that of the youngest of my nine children" is pretty close to mandatory, doncha agree?...which makes the cutoff 27, and I'm rounding up 'cause I'm picky.)
  • Likes to laugh. (Because otherwise how is she going to keep her temper living with an airhead like me?)
  • Has no objection to retiring to a small town with lots of snow in the winter where everybody knows everybody and everybody else drives pickup trucks too. (Because I ain't kiddin' about the "Redneck" part of the blog name.)
  • Brunette mandatory; Chinese ideal; Japanese not a chance (if you think Chinese and Japanese women look alike then all I can say is that you need glasses); Kazakh or Filipina or Latina more than acceptable; Welsh also acceptable but only if she looks like Catherine Zeta-Jones. (Because I'm blond enough for the both of, seriously, I just don't find blondes attractive, oddly enough, and while I am not nearly silly enough to think that physical attractiveness is the only thing that matters in marriage, I am also not nearly silly enough to think that it doesn't matter a whole heckuva lot, especially to guys, of which I am one.)
  • Likes kids enough to not mind taking on nine stepchildren and still be interested in having a couple more. (The world is just full of women like that.)
  • Speaks English. (Because she has to be able to talk to my parents and kids.)
  • Speaks some other language besides English. (Because one language is just not enough for me to make myself a sufficient ass in.)

Also, I have no intention of encouraging myself to fall in love with a woman I don't already know well enough to be reasonably confident that she'd be a good person to be stuck with for the rest of my life, because I am all too well aware that once you're in love and the hormones have taken over your brain you are an insane person completely incapable of seeing the truth about whichever person your hormones have gone and attached themselves to. So, no dating women I don't already know well enough to trust their character. But on the other hand, I place a very, very high value on friendship and wouldn't want to go out on a date with a girl who was a good friend, because the odds that I'd wind up gaining a wife would be much lower than the odds that I'd wind up losing a friend. So no dating women I already know well and am good friends with.

Well, this shouldn't take long, should it? [grinning happily...because, um, I'm really not at all distressed by this whole celibacy thing, which is quite a bit better than the only alternative I have any experience with...]

UPDATE: For the benefit of Gentle Aggie Readers, who may be prone to misinterpret that last sentence...I only mean that I find being single preferable to being unhappily married.

Friday, November 06, 2009

The Peril distinguishes himself twice in one day

So, after six years in the wilderness, I finally have a pickup truck again. [sighs with relief and wipes brow] At last I again feel like a Man: I have a, um...truck. Granted it's a very small old Nissan truck, but as America's white dudes will hasten to assure you, Size Doesn't Matter.

You could set my truck on fire
And roll it down a hill
And I still wouldn't trade it for a Coupe de Ville
I got an eight-foot bed that never has to be made
You know, if it weren't for trucks we wouldn't have tailgates
I met all my wives in traffic jams
There's just somethin' women like about a pickup man
So I bought the thing cheap 'cause it needed work, and then got my friend Nick to fix it up for me at his shop. I wrote him a check and told him to just leave it out in the empty lot next to the shop once it was ready, with the keys under the mat (this is our standard procedure). Couple o' days later, I passed by the shop and the truck was out in the lot. So the next morning I drove over there in my little two-door Civic hatchback and parked in the grass next to the Nissan, picked my way through the wet grass (it had rained the night before) in my nice goin'-to-the-office clothes, hopped in the truck, and started backin' her up. I back up about twenty-five feet or so and then think, "Um...laptop, dude, laptop!" So I stop the truck and shift out of reverse, press the gas...

...and feel the unmistakable sensation you get when the back tires on your light-bed rear-wheel-drive pickup's back tires are spinning in mud.

I get out and look. Turns out that, in the whole bloody lot, there's exactly one puddle. Up until this moment I had completely failed to notice it...hardly surprising since it's only about four feet across from front to back, and from side to side it's about two feet wider than my wheel base. But I have managed to stop with both back tires perfectly centered in that blasted puddle. Yes, indeed, the Peril himself -- who may be forced to retire the "Redneck" part of his blogname in disgrace -- managed to drive his new truck twenty-five feet before getting it stuck in the only mud puddle in an entire empty lot, and a mud puddle, at that, not big enough for any self-respecting middle-sized hog even to take notice of.

I tried rocking the truck back and forth from forward to reverse a couple of times but it was obviously no go. So in the end I pushed it out of the mud puddle with, um, the two-door Civic hatchback.

But, hey, it's still a truck! So I'm still a Man, dammit!


I made it safely to work. In the truck, I'll have you know. And later that morning my boss Eddy had a meeting for our team of about ten people or so, and he tossed out the suggestion, "Hey, why don't we have a potluck Thanksgiving dinner? I'll bring the meat...does somebody want to organize that?" And somebody did (I think it was Emine). Well, that sounds like fun; I like all of those people, except especially my boss.

So about half an hour later I'm trying to race through my e-mail before heading down to the trade floor to help figure out some problem the NGL trader is having, and there, with admirable promptness, is an e-mail asking who's interested in the potluck Thanksgiving dinner. I fire back the following e-mail, partly in the spirit of being helpful and sociable and partly in the spirit of, well, being a smart-aleck for the entertainment of the team:
Interested, and will happily bring any of the following:
  • Russian-style beef Stroganov with mashed potatoes upon which to ladle the Stroganov, or...
  • Home-style (if your home is Latvia) potato-and-leek soup, or...
  • Potato and wild mushroom soup.
The perspicacious will note that if it don't have either mushrooms or potatoes, I ain't cookin' it. (Well, okay, if you guys just totally can't stand either potatoes or wild mushrooms, I could always head out in the direction of Eagle Lake and come back with some 'possum...)

And then I go down to the trade floor.

Ten minutes later Tom Brennan walks past and says with a big grin, "Hey, Kenny, I vote for the 'possum."

I look at him blankly. Why is Tom talking to me about 'possum? Did somebody forward the....oh, !@#$!@#$!#$!

I don't even remember exactly what I said, but it was along the lines of, "Hey, wait, did you get copied on that e-mail? I only answered to Eddy's team!"

Brennan grins even bigger. "No, you replied to pretty much everybody in the Houston office."

Which is when, to my horror, I discovered that there are apparently two potluck Thanksgiving meals scheduled this Thanksgiving, and the invitation that I had gotten -- and to which I had cheerfully and smart-aleckly replied-to-all without bother to look first at the sender's name and cc list -- was an invitation to the company-wide one...

I won't say that I've spent the last three days unable to go around a corner at the office without having somebody give me a hard time about my 'possum-cookin' skills or asking me how to pronounce "perspicacious" or telling me that they've never seen "perspicacious" and "ain't" used in the same sentence, or for that matter "perspicacious" and "'possum" used in the same e-mail. Let's just put it this way: that e-mail went out three days ago. Today one of my fellow employees, whom I've never met, came by my desk to introduce herself and get some information from me for a routine external audit that our department's currently going through. I got her the information she needed, and then she got up to go and said, "Well, it's nice to meet you finally." She started to walk away, and then looked back over her shoulder with a grin: "And I'm looking forward to that potluck lunch..."