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shameless pleading





April 2010 Issue

Semper Ubi Sub Ubi


Just under the wire again.  Awesome.  Hey, your high school didn’t issue the yearbook in the first week of class, did it?  It took a while for April to sink in.

First up, thanks to all the folks who have generously contributed to my upkeep and the continued existence of this site.  Special super-duper thanks to S, J, and E for their ginormous generosity.  Your cats are in the mail.

I’ve been noodling around the internet for a long time, long enough that, when I started, the first thing I bought was a primer on Unix commands.  I think the reason I’ve managed to avoid a major disaster so far is my natural skepticism, which some people call paranoia, but you can call raspberry jam for all I care.  It works. Thanks to my deeply suspicious nature, I managed to use Windows computers for more than ten years and never caught a virus, trojan or spyware.  Yeah, I probably deleted a boatload of unopened hilarious and touching digital greeting cards from friends and relatives, but one must be strong.

Lately, however, I’ve felt a weird, inexplicable craving to join Facebook.  It comes on at strange times, often in the wee hours of the morning (which, for me, is nine or ten am), and manifests itself in a ravening desire to see what that kid from fourth grade has been up to for the past [mumble mumble] years.  I also know gazillions of people who have Facebook pages, and, since I’m famous for not answering email from them, being on the damn thing might make life easier.

But then I actually look at Facebook and it creeps me out.  The thought of being asked to “friend” people I barely know and may not actually … like … is bad enough.  The stress of just thinking about it makes me wish I drank.  Then there’s the distinct possibility that someone I “friend,” just to be nice, will turn out to have also “friended” the Pol Pot Fan Club or something similar.

But then I forget all that and just want to join and not be missing something.

Fortunately, about once a week for the past month, Facebook has stepped up to the plate and proven that I’m not the one missing something.  See also this.  And especially this.  And they’re not even good at being evil.  Long story short, these creeps are not your friends, and their promises are worthless.

But let’s look on the bright side of the net.  Futility Closet is always fun.  The Browser and Give Me Something to Read are good sources of things to, uh, read.  And Harper’s offers consistently good stuff.

The Journal of a Disappointed Man is fascinating.  The author, W. N. P. Barbellion, was an English diarist diagnosed, in 1915, with what is now known as multiple sclerosis.  The preface to the book (free to read at that first link) is by H.G. Wells.

Onward, ready or not.  I try to look forward to the coming of Spring, I really do.  But I think it’d be a lot easier to do so in New York City.  Last week I noticed that (a) our neighbors had apparently been mowing their lawns for a couple of weeks (maybe since January, who pays attention to that stuff?), and (b) our lawn was starting to look more than just a bit feral, like maybe there could be wolverines lurking in there.  Snakes, definitely.  Plus which Pokie would wander out there and get lost.  Of course, Pokie wanders into the living room and gets lost, but this was worse, because she’s both deaf and demented, so even if you spot Pokie and call really loud and wave your hands, she looks at you like she’s never seen you before and goes right back to licking the tree.  Pokie likes to lick trees.  Pokie also likes to lick the gravel in the driveway.  And the rug in the living room.  For hours on end.

Anyway, it was about his time that our neighbor stopped by and asked if I needed help fixing My Little Tractor.  This is about as subtle as it gets around here, but I was sharp that day and caught his drift.  So a couple of days later I pried the garage door open and fired up the beast, or tried to, but the battery was dead.  Rats.  Well, maybe next year, eh?

Pushing my luck, I tried again later that afternoon, and the damn thing started right up.  But I had virtually no gas, so I turned it off and went downtown.  After I filled it up upon my return, I discovered that the front left tire was flat.  Jeez louise.  So I pumped it up (having fruitlessly tried to patch it last year), and finally I was good to go, at least for an hour or two until the tire went flat again.  Vroom vroom, I piloted My Little Tractor onto the side yard and began to mow.

Ten seconds and fifteen feet later, the mowing deck emitted an ear-splitting screech and the whole tractor ground to a halt.  Dismounting, I began crawling through the unmown grass, rather like a large, clumsy reptile, peering under the mowing deck and muttering under my breath. Eventually I realized that I had, in a moment of colossal stupidity, mowed over a length of steel cable we use to tether Pokie to a tree when we can’t take any more of that damn licking sound.  Said cable was now wrapped tightly around the spindles of all three blades under the deck.  About the time I figured this out, I noticed the shoes of our helpful neighbor planted at my eye level, about three feet away.  He had arrived to offer his help, which, rising as best I could from the ground, I politely declined while striving to project a Chuck Norris air of confidence (“No problem, I’ll just put ‘er up on the rack and untangle it!”). Even I could tell I was coming across more like an over-caffeinated Wally Cox.

Yes, I know I’m incredibly lucky to have such a nice neighbor.  But every time I let him help me with the tractor I feel like an idiot.  I’ve been mowing this misbegotten patch of swamp for twelve years come this summer, and I shouldn’t be mowing over dog cables.

I then spent the next 90 minutes lying on the driveway wrestling with that stupid cable, which had apparently been designed to be impervious not only to the teeth of elderly dogs but to every wire-cutter I owned.  And when I say “lying in the driveway,” I mean literally with my head resting in gravel and dirt.

I did finally untangle the mess without un-mounting the entire mowing deck, which would have involved cotter pins and belts and been a major PITA, so I was rather pleased with myself when I finally climbed back into the saddle and roared off again to do battle with the evil grass.  Fortunately, about an hour later it got dark enough to make mowing difficult, so I had to knock off and go watch TV.  Only about a quarter of the lawn is mowed, but it’s the part most visible from the road, and I plan to get back to it right away, next week at the latest.

Elsewhere in Nature News, there’s a persistent urban legend that says that bumblebees, judged by technical aerodynamic principles, should not possibly be able to fly.  Too heavy, wings too short, and so on.  But fly they do, sort of like this website (gotcha).  In our case, we make up for our stubby little wings with your subscriptions, those nutritious little nuggets of moolah (a mere 15 clams per year) that make it possible for us, if, perhaps, not actually to fly, at least to make a really loud humming sound.  So please subscribe.

Marley will be thrilled.

Next month: Marley sees something nasty in the woodshed.

And now, on with the show….

4 comments to April 2010 Issue

  • Carole

    I have a Facebook page and the privacy controls offered are such that I’ve never been contacted by anyone or anything that I don’t want. You also have the option of deactivating your page. Being Facebook friends doesn’t mean that you grapple everyone to your bosom. It’s a way to interact with people and a way to get fresh ideas. My suggestion is to try Facebook before knocking it.

  • I just stumbled upon your site yesterday, and I must say, I’m thoroughly enjoying it so far. Like you, I’m Facebook-phobic, though I do use it to chat with the few family members who don’t know how to email or pick up a phone. I’m looking forward to the next issue, when I found out if Marley has nephews named Seth and Rupert!

  • Ron Furgerson

    I appreciated your comments on Facebook. I used to be on Facebook — really on it. So much so that I started wondering if there is a term to describe someone who becomes addicted to it. If there isn’t, there should be. I have now gone cold turkey, although it wasn’t easy. Well, the quitting wasn’t that difficult once I had pulled the plug on it. It was the pulling of the plug that was difficult for me. I had to navigate a hideous number of steps to assure the Facebook folks that I was indeed serious about wanting to escape from their trap. It was so much easier to sign up than to sign out. No simple “click here to unsubscribe” method. My only problem now is that I’ve become hopelessly addicted to your ramblings and your marvelous archive. Way to go, Detective. <

  • OMG facebook, at the beginning i thought it’s something that will go away like MiRC disappeared from the world. i think the next step will be cooperation of google and facebook. what do you think about the name “google-book”?

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