The first rule of Pipe Club, is nobody talks about Pipe Club. Well, that’s not true at all, I just made that up because it sounded catchy. Plus which, by titling my post thusly, I’m already talking about it; therefore it’s either not a rule or I’m a total scofflaw. You decide. Pipe Club is a monthly meeting of a group of pipe enthusiasts, and it’s great fun. Plus which, the famous Mr. Kenju is one of the founding members, which is worth the price of rice these days.

There’s a meetin’ tonight, and unfortunately I’m missing it. I got home from work soaking wet (quite literally – my truck seat makes the squishy-squishy noises I used to make as a teenager) from the day’s toil in the heat. I have a big-ass fan (not the brand name, but you get the drift) on the job, but it only moves the humidity from one area to the other. I got home, took a shower, put on the Togs of Relaxation, and decided to camp out at Home Sweet Home – where there is admittedly less pipe smoke and male bonding, but quite heavenly nonetheless.

On the menu: Beer brats (4 ingredients – beer, brats, onions, and butter) with mashataetas and baked beans. I’m looking forward to a gas-powered evening of AC and TV.

I cultivated my 2 tomato bushes for a couple minutes this evening. There was a rose bush adjacent that would always grab onto my clothes (usually around the love-handle region) and not let go; it’s now in the fire pit. I hacked at the fast-growing weeds until I could see some glorious flashes of red among the dense greenery. Licking my lips, I plucked a juicy fat tomato from the vine, and turned it over. The other side collapsed with an audible ‘gish’, and a bug crawled out and smiled at me.

I chucked 11 tomatoes over the fence (most exploding upon launch, which justified my wearing rubber gloves like a big bug-scared sissy), and harvested 5 little edible ones. At that point, I said screwwit and went back into my air-conditioned cave.

I got all worked up about something the other day, and I have a long-ass serious post brewing in me. But with the very sedate life I’m enjoying at this moment – not to mention supper’s ready – I’mma save it for later. Peace out, yo!

Let me get this out of the way first. I nearly have narcoleptic (or is it necromantic? I dunno anymore) fits every time I hear or see news reports talking about people are on board a vehicle. I hiss through various degrees of clenchedness, “It’s ABOARD, you nincompoop!” I blame those damn yellow baby tags that everyone suctioned to their windows 20 years ago. I can let some things go, but this one grates my cheese every time.

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Did you know that Alexander Graham ‘Ma’ Bell thought the proper telephone greeting should be ‘Ahoy?’ Now you do. I say that sometimes when I’m feeling proper. I like to mix it up with ‘Speak,’ ‘Are you being served,’ and ‘close enough’ (when telemarketers try to pronounce my name).

What are your favorite non-hello greetings?

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The innernet is broken at home. The cable modem allasudden went zip-POOEY and all the lights went blank last night, and I was about to do my important research at that moment. Several resets and attempts to call the Cable Company were unsuccessful. Still busted today, and while the coffee house up the street is nice, I’m getting nervous with this little kid and his elephantine plate of goocake staring at me between heavily frosted bites. So it’s time to go.

Maybe I’ll get back online tomorrow.

I’ve come up with a new restaurant name, and I don’t think it’s taken. Feasties. It’ll be a buffet, where the feature dish is the Steamin’ Feasties, and we also specialize in pudding. And corn.

Years ago I thought I would be atop an empire of successful franchises by now. Beaks ‘N Feet was going to be my meal ticket. Alas, it hasn’t developed into much of anything but a wistful dream.

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Key Lime Pie is the best ever dessert (the frozen kind) after Steak & Tomato Stir Fry.

I’ve never seen the STSF on anyone’s menu or recipe cards, I invented it one day last year and have tried it bunchesa times. Simple, really:
Sautee an onion, some green peppers in oil
Toss in steak, bite size pieces, stir fry ’till almost done
Add spices – salt, pepper, red pepper, montreal steak seasoning, oregano – whatever you want
Dump in 1 large can of tomato – simmer until it’s stew, about 25 minutes
Add 1 cup sour cream, simmer and stir until hot and well mixed
Serve over rice – easy peasy and pretty dang good.

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Thanks for the feedback on my last post – I like being able to go from silly to serious, meaningful to weightless and still be friends. My responses to your responses (and my further thoughts) can be summed up thusly:

1. The only thing that makes a true difference is how one person treats another. Doesn’t matter if you’re ‘in the government’ or not, people from every level of existence have impacted me. You can make that difference, so go do it on purpose.

2. It’s totally unrealistic, but the only real governmental solution is to start over. Mojo had it right, IMHO – give us back our money and let us do it ourselves. Everything is stupid expensive because of government meddling, and a huge chunk of the population is utterly dependent upon it, so a true revolution is as unlikely as another term for Abraham Lincoln. But if I had a magic wand, I’d reset government to pixie size, taxes to a flat rate for everyone, and have us be the wise old grandfather in the world that doesn’t speak much – but when he does, it’s worth hearing.

3. Realistically – this is the shape of our house, and the neighborhood: We’re a superpower, a big economy, and much of our economy depends on what the government does. The system we have is not something I would fight to retain because it’s full of gamesmanship and cumbersome precedents. Maybe we could eliminate lawyers?

Anyway, I’m for lower taxes, cut programs, strong military, balanced budgets, and the government staying out of its peoples’ way. That’s about all I’ll say about it, until and unless inspired otherwise.

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Today another cat became homeless. It was a member of the family until it picked up a habit of pooping ON THIS COMPUTER, spraying the living room furniture, and widdling all over the kitchen table – in full view of the 2-legged members of this household. He is now an outdoor cat. Food and water and shade are all his, but the run of the house is not. He’s fixed, has his claws, and is in good shape – so I have no doubts about his survival. But hell if I’m gonna open the door for that little @#&%tard.

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Boston was awesome. Exotic and homey, accessible and big, historic and modern – it’d be nice to have a week of pure vacation, instead of work + vacation there. More was left undone than done – but there was still much taken in. The Samuel Adams tour was one of my favorite bits – some merchandise was bought, some fresh cold (free) beer was tasted, and I got to meet Bob the Brewer. Pretty sweet. Other’n that, we did walk part of the Freedom Trail, had 12 kinds of great local food, visited Faneuil Hall, and rode the T around town. Maybe could go back in the fall…

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I got a new CD from Fool’s Garden today! Whee! It’s an import, not available on iTunes or in local stores. I’ve listened from end to end twice, and they’re already in the solid greatness category. They have a bunch of records available here, but the earlier stuff – which had the one song I required – is from Germany. Yay Amazon, they hooked me up for about $7. This video was the inspiration – go watch, if it doesn’t make you laugh out loud, you’ll at least go WTF a few times. If you’re familiar with Fark photoshop contests, much of it will look familiar (and funnier) – but I guarantee the song will stick with you.

I almost never discuss politics here, since this is a place for stories and silliness, observations and friends. A few things recently have inspired my to put fingers to keys and exercise my atrophied debate skills.

I’m finding myself increasingly surrounded by people of a leftward political persuasion. Growing up in a very moderately conservative (very moderately? TF?) town that regularly elected Republicans and produced one president, my childhood circle of influence was homogeneously Dutch Christian Republicans. Independent thinking and free choice were encouraged, however – some friends of mine have grown up Catholic in Brooklyn, and they were required from birth to be Democrats. It was as intrinsic as their church membership, and to vote otherwise would result in disownination. My family never really discussed politics in depth, so I was on my own to figure out what I would support or oppose.

Yesterday I was over at Mojo’s, where he was observating a trend in church signs. And the night before I shared dinner with new friends – one of whom happens to be a blogger and liberal activist-type. It was a delightful time, the food and company were tremendous, and I hope to do it again soon. And, one of my favorite people in the world cheerfully cancels my votes – we largely agree on philosophy, but not necessarily on how to achieve the results we want. It inspired me to break with my norms declare myself, for what it’s worth. My philosophy is and shall ever be this: I vote, and probably differently than you. We can still be friends.

(Political) Things I Believe

Politicians are politicians first, at least at the federal level. It takes a great deal of ambition, carefully crafted image and speech, and a vast network of friends and alignments to run for these offices – not to mention vast piles of cash. Coming off as your advocate is how they cultivate votes. They can’t possibly take universally popular positions, so positions become as flexible and sticky as spider silk. Principled arguments are replaced with calculated and puffed-up speeches, studied laugh lines, and continuous attack/ defend/ restate/ apologize/ call for a ‘higher level of dialogue’ cycles. I don’t trust many of them to have anyone’s best interest in mind above their own. The one I support and the one I oppose share these traits, and no politician will be a savior to the masses. I once wrote to my former senator to give him my opinion on a few issues important to me. His response: “The American People want this, that, and the other thing.” Wait a minute, Senator, I’m one of them, and that’s exactly NOT what I just told you.

It’s not the government’s job to provide everything for everyone. It’s impossible for a government to truly care for, nurture, feed, and support its people – and it shouldn’t be in that business. People can and must support themselves and each other, but on a much smaller and more intimate scale. Personal responsibility is the bottom line – if you will work for food, go work. Stay in touch with family and friends, and generate mutually caring relationships. Join a church or community organization, where help is given and received. Punting everything to a glacier-sized and paced bureaucracy is the antidote to personal responsibility. Charity begins at home, not the IRS.

It is the government’s job to protect its borders, people, and culture. If all they did was this, it would be so much more manageable and free people to pursue their life, liberty, and happiness without being bogged down in so much expensive and meaningless waste.

It’s really all about money. Think of all the arguments there are in the political arena. At least 80% of them (by my highly scientific analysis) come down to who’s gonna pay for it. It seems to me that philosophical convictions and principled positions are expressed solely through the purse strings. Gay marriage? The fight is over getting benefits. Abortion? Since it’s legal, the fight is over whether the government should pay for it. Health care? ALL about money. War? Dollars, once you get past the human cost. Education, food stamps, welfare, social security, farm policy and energy, stem cells and space exploration are all money arguments. Advocates and pork barrelers will always say that throwing more cash at the problem will solve it.

It can be pretty disheartening when I look at these few points.

So what action can I take? Hold signs and march in circles, chanting ‘what do we want? when do we want it?’ Send money (again with the money)? Add more words to the ever-increasing flow of them?

Nah. I’ll stick with what doing what PEOPLE should be doing, and have for too long told the government to do it for them.

Care for my family and neighbor. Feed people. Educate. Learn. Be kind, and encourage kindness. Pursue and encourage excellence. Conserve and protect resources. Defend the defenseless. Be responsible. Vote.

In short, be the change I wish to see in the world.

What a cool town this is. The food, public transportation, accent, beers, restaurants, sidewalks, and wealth of history are everywhere.

Doesn’t mean I can afford much of it, but for what I’m up to it’s been a great time.

I wandered into Neiman Marcus the other day looking for a shirt. I only have a couple of favorite tee shirts, and I’d like them ALL to be favorites. Life is too short to be uncomfortable or self-conscious, and if my shirt is any kind of snug, reveals any belly fur, or is frayed around the collar, I don’t wear it (unless I’m painting, and I have plenty of formerly-favorite shirts for that chore). The store is bright, tall, and airy, with a lot of real estate devoted to wide aisles and artistic displays. Very much not the ‘stuff all the merchandise into every square foot’ plan featured at my regular stores. I found 4 very nice shirts, one after another, and discovered how they’re paying for all the wasted rent. Each was $195. Almost TWO farking HUNDRED bucks for a man-size sack of soft cloth. Who pays that? I can cover a car payment, insurance, and a day’s worth of gas with that kind of cash. Of course, my lawyer gets that for working 55 minutes. But still, I would hesitate to pay an hour’s wages for 2 shirts – even at my current salary. I shook my head and kept on walking.

Oh, about the title today. I have a set of computer speakers by Boston Acoustics, and they are friggin’ awesome. They’ve served me well for a dozen years, and with a subwoofer and 2 tiny satellite speakers, they make everything sound pretty good up to a house-filling volume. But the title’s not about speakers. Oh no. It’s about the noises I’ve heard in the neighborhood.

My first day here, I was walking through the plaza and heard a police siren yelp regularly. A quick, loud, rising tone that echoed through the concrete and glass canyons. After covering a few blocks, I couldn’t find the cop car and wondered why they had to keep doing that. As I was crossing the street, I saw a tall, bald guy in his 20’s walking by himself. He let out a WhooOOP! that sounded exactly like the yelps I’d heard all day. Every 10 paces or so he did it again. He wasn’t calling out to anyone, just opening his yap and letting the sound waves fly.

People honk a lot here. Quite a lot. It’s like they’re trying to copy New York or something. I thought that was only filler noise for cop shows, but it turns out that a horn is just as necessary as a gas pedal here. Coming from a non-honking city, it’s taken some getting used to.

This morning, after breaking fast at Au Bon Pain (awesome place, we don’t have them in any of my hometowns), I was visiting the public echo chamber to recycle some coffee. A distinguished looking gentleman had walked in just before me and chose the handicapped stall. As I was making my transaction, it sounded like he had a frog in his throat. Turns out, he had a whole flock of them, and they were all leaping free at once in a marathon barf parade. The poor guy was coughing and groaning, and it sounded like he was emptying multiple mop buckets into the porcelain funnel. I’m glad that this morning I had no sympathetic convulsions, because it was vivid.

He reminded me of the reformed bank robber I used to work with. Jeff was an interesting character with lots of tales to tell, and he came to my company as a welder after paying his debt to society in prison. There was a bathroom in the shop, but on certain days he’d come into the office, lock himself in the Executive Washroom, and make the loudest, most theatrical puking noises I have ever heard. He’d really put his all into it, with proper breath support and sound effects. I’m sure he smuggled in a full Giant Slurpee cup to make the proper splooshy noises. He’d come out slowly, doing his best to look pale, and tell the boss he had to go home because he was sick. The boss would, of course, send him home. Then roll his eyes.

It’s time for me to go take in some more culture, perhaps see a garden, walk a snippet of Freedom Trail (do they serve French fries on the trail, I wonder?), and find a light supper. Today’s lunchtime lobster quesedilla was enough to last more than half a day.

Have a great day!

This post is in response to dear friend JC, and I’m nothing if not responsive. I’m going all postal now with my post posties.

I’ve tagged along to the bustling metropolis of Boston, where there is a mega conference going on. I’m hanging around a nice hotel, ostensibly to catch up on office work and find things to do at night after the conference is done. We’re here for a week, and have been gathering suggestions from locals. Tracy Lynn says we have to get lobster rolls, see the Red Sox, and visit some places. The Sox are in town the whole week we’re here – but it’s supposed to rain at game time each night. Prolly hit a museum and a food place tonight.

My impression of the city so far: It’s big, interesting, historic, beautiful, and people don’t smile much on the street. We drew the surliest cab driver evar for the labyrinthian ride from airport to hotel. Said not one word, except to announce the fare and say ‘No credit cards’ in some accented version of English. He spent the whole ride looking mad at the world and talking on his cell phone in Outer Slobbovian or Jambalayan.

The Dunkin Donuts across the street was a madhouse for breakfast this morning, and organization was not the crew’s strong suit. Three ESL workers were sweating away, while a line thrice as long as the store waited. The cashier was OK when you could understand him, the mute coffee guy was fine, but the poor shlep who was preparing sammiches and hash burns could not get anything right. As the line shifted from Order Here to Pick Up Order, bags of unclaimed food and unsatisfied customers accumulated (that’s right, BAGS of us). He’d call out ‘Am chiz bagl!’ and hold up a sack. We’d all look at each other and shrug. He set it aside, and tried ‘Baco’Sant!’ After a few tries he gave up and turned his attention to the oven, churning out more mismatched and untranslated food.

Eventually we got almost what we ordered, and it was pretty good. But next time I’ll stick with coffee and a donut. Although, while sitting on the patio and sharing bagel bits with local birds, we discovered there’s nothing quite as funny as a bird with cream cheese on its beak. Looked like it was in clown school.

Before embarking on this trip, a whirlwind of activity was had. A final coat of polyurethane on the living room floor (that’s a story of frustration all its own), the execution of a new contract, and refinishing a fiberglass tub/shower. Not to mention the burial of a fish and the unadoption of an anti-social dog. Oh, and flea baths for all (including the cats – they are NOT fans). And seeding the front yard, and fixing & riding a motorcycle. And packing. It was relaxing to finally leave.

I leave you with this video, it made me chortle (and cringe) more than once. 4 minutes, and it has a soundtrack but you don’t need the volume up to enjoy.

I’d hamster in the morning.

Yah, well, that’s a song I sing to myself and those around me frequently. Are there any songs with which you regularly earitate your friends? It seems I have a vast library of irritating songs, such as Bananaphone, The Song That Never Ends, and It’s A Small World. That and the Grunka-Lunka song.

I had a great idea for a post yesterday, but today it escapes me like a puppy bent on rolling in other animals’ excrement. It comes back wagging its tail, but it’s just not the same.

Today I painted a wall, built a custom shelf, and painted another few little walls. I hate painting, but it’s a livin’. And. it feels pretty good to make the same money I did in the corporate world (even after taxes) AND I get to do something different every day. I love that. Although I don’t have health insurance, which so far doesn’t suck. I’m not going to vote for the next president based on the free-waits-in-the-emergency-room that he promises me. Knocking on this fancy wood desk, so far so healthy.

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On to some randomness, since the initial inspiration that started me writing has gone away, much like last Thursday’s meal.

We have a forest fire still raging in these parts. OK, not at all these parts – more like a 2-4 hour drive away from these parts – but the smoke and ‘aroma’ from yonder fire was so thick the other morning, I stumbled outside and wandered the neighborhood looking for which neighbor was on fire (after determining that my own dwelling was not, in fact, ablaze). I called 911 (after much searching for the eleven button on my cell phone) and told the operator about the smoke. She got very snippy with me: “There’s a forest fire. The weeyind shifted. It’s all over the news, sir.” It was the way she hissed ‘sir’ that got me. I’m not much of a ‘sir’ to anyone, and she was extra-sirring me. I didn’t care for it, not one bit.

The smoke was heavy and oppressive and smelled like burning metal mixed with wood and evil. It lingered for 2 days, and then went back home – it gave me a somber appreciation for what the residents of that area are going through, and it’s been burning for a cuppa weeks now. Scary.

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It was time to bale the lawn this weekend. I was alone in the homestead, and finished a project Saturday afternoon. It was hot out, but not as oppressive as the previous week, so I still had a scoche (scoash? skoshe? help me here folks) of energy left. I went to the Lowe’s up de road and got me a new cordless lawn mower. You see, we had this little toy mower that plugs into the wall. The new one is neat, because you put some fluids in it, pull a little cord, and you can go anywhere with it. You don’t have to plan your every pass to avoid running over the extension cord, or getting it wrapped around the dozen trees in the tiny yard, or tripping over it, or running to the end of the wire and caroming over the handle like a retard in a hurdle race. Yessir, I like the new technology.

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Last weekend there was dinner at the Kenjus, and it was both delicious and delightful. If ever you get the chance, you should feed with these folks.

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There used to be a thing in blogs, maybe it was a meme or something, where people would write a list of 100 things about themselves. Doesn’t seem to be so ‘in’ currently, but then again, maybe it’s because the crowd I run with doesn’t have those lists. Or I’m not paying attention. Any of my 4 readers done that? Most of them are fun to read, or at least interesting. What questions would you want answered if I were to do one?

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‘S all I’m writing for tonight. Have a wunnerful day. I leave you with Cinders the Pig, a british critter what refuses to walk in the mud without its little wellington boots. True story.