Zhaba Zhournal
Thursday, September 30, 2004 
Raindrops keep falling on my head...well, something does, anyway 
Dear Everyone in My Office:

Exactly how long were you going to let me go around with bird poop on my head? (Not my bird's poop; on the way to work, I walked under a telephone wire upon which a pigeon was perched, while it (the weather, not the bird) was desultorily raining, with a few big drops every now and then. So when I felt some kind of drop land on my head, I wasn't sure if it was bird poop or rain; I tried to check it out with my fingers, but couldn't feel it at all for some reason. Whereas, by the time I got to work, it had dried, and become perceptable; and around 11 a.m. I was finger-combing my hair and felt, yes, dried bird poop. Feh. I washed it off with a paper towel and warm water in the bathroom, and I'll take a shower and wash my hair tonight; still, I have a certain feeling of ritual uncleanliness. Feh again, I say.)

[ at 12:53 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]

Don't take that to the Banks 
Say it ain't so: Tyra Banks is developing a talk show. Is there any English-speaking celebrity left who hasn't tried being a talk-show host? When will it end? Stop the madness, people!

Disclaimer: Yes, I have an embarrassing fondness for "America's Next Top Model." Yes, Tyra Banks is a fine-looking woman, whom I do not mind seeing on TV. But a talk show? It's been the grave of many a career. And saying, as a network executive does, that "If there's ever a future Oprah, she could be the one"? I really don't think so. And there's never going to be a "next Oprah," any more than there'll be a next Johnny Carson. There's a combination of life story, personal charisma, and cultural phenomenon that just doesn't happen very often, and it certainly doesn't happen because somebody's wishing or hoping for it.

[ at 11:31 AM • by Abby • permalink  ]

Tuesday, September 28, 2004 
I know, there are things that an entire bottle of white wine and homemade pesto can't cure; but those are things I don't have at the moment.

Weird, if not bad, day at work; f!cking enormous amounts of rain; threat of tornadoes (of which I have a phobia, and I don't care how little sense that makes); but I managed to catch a cab that dropped off someone else right in front of my office (and tipped the driver very well); and J. baked brownies, and had a bottle of wine in the fridge; and I made liberal use of the mute button during the evening news; and I watched the Daily Show; and then there were some CSI reruns and some New York Times crossword puzzles and...well, there was drinking. And homemade pesto, from the basil plant on the windowsill. And did I mention the drinking? Um, yeah, I did. Anyway. I'm fine. Quite fine. Thank you for asking.

In case you were wondering (which you weren't, but pretend you were), here are my ideal proportions for homemade pesto, which can be multiplied according to how much basil you have:
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, stems removed
2 tbsp. pine nuts (or walnuts, or mixture)
1 large garlic clove, or two small*
1 1/2 to 2 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. grated Parmesan or Romano cheese

Process basil, pine nuts, and garlic in blender or food processor. Add half of the oil while mixer is running. Add cheese and the other half of the oil and process. Voilà—you've got pesto.
The "1/2 cup of basil" proportions will make pesto for one, or for two who aren't really hungry. And if you're better at math than I am you can figure it out from there. (Especially if you remember that there are 4 tbsp. in 1/4 cup.)

I am, by the way, a pesto snob: as far as I'm concerned, there are exactly five ingredients in pesto, maybe six if you like walnuts. It's basil, pine nuts, garlic, olive oil, and Romano cheese; at the very most, there's walnuts and Parmesan cheese, in addition to/instead of the pine nuts and Romano. There's no room for salt, or canola oil, or parsley, or dried essence of milk curd, or whatever the hell else grocery-store-appropriate pesto makers put in their plastic containers. (And pesto in a pasteurized glass container is to be fled from. Especially if it's gray, or gray-green, or anything the J. Crew catalogue would call "loden"; and if it's drabber than the nearest bottle of green olives, it's clearly a science experiment to discover what Whitey will fall for.)

Woo-ee! Did I mention I've been drinking? (Yeah, I know, I did.)

Oh, and I finally got my old digital camera hooked up to my new(er) computer; and even got the pictures from my cousin's 2002 baby shower off of the camera. And I took some pictures of the bird, although they're a bit blurry, since parakeets move faster than old digital cameras do. But at least now I'm able to take pictures easily, and get them on the computer almost as easily. In fact, here's a picture, taken tonight, of the bird. (Click to enlarge, and to see the annotations I added in Photoshop.)

the bird
click for bigger image and annotations

And now I'd better post this and get the bird, and me, to bed. Dobranich...

*The amount of garlic depends on a) how much you like garlic, b) how big the cloves are, and c) how good the cloves are—one small clove of good, fresh, midsummer garlic is one thing; three cloves of midwinter storage garlic that you've had to cut the brown spots and the sprouts out of is another. Anyway, think of how much garlic you personally want, and multiply that by the number of people you're serving.

[ at 11:58 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]

Wee, sleekit, not very timorous 
In addition to the nine spiny mice (Acomys cahirinus) in cages upstairs, we have an unsanctioned regular mouse (Mus musculus) in the house, and a very bold one, at that. I know it's a bad habit, but we've been keeping the bird food in a box on the floor near her cage, and haven't always reclosed all the bags; yes, that's basically a neon sign saying "All-Nite All-U-Can-Eat Mouse Buffet." But we haven't actually had any mice before; at least not that we could prove. So this morning I'm sitting on the couch next to the birdcage, and I hear a distinct plastic-bag-rustling noise from below; I make sure I'm sitting perfectly still, the bird's in her cage, J. is on the other couch—and there's the rustling noise again. There's definitely something in there. (Please let it be a mouse and not a giant bug.) Sure enough, as I lean over to look, a small, sleek brown mouse pokes its head out of the box, assesses the situation, and bolts for cover under the couch. Me, to J. (in a much calmer voice than the one I use to announce cockroaches): "Mouse."

J.: "What?"



"We should do something about it."


"Well, eventually."

(We'll set traps tonight, after the bird is securely locked in her cage; and before we left for work I sealed all the bird food bags and emptied the loose seed from the box.)

Anyway, the reason I said it's a bold mouse is that it didn't leave the box until well after we'd come downstairs, turned on the lights and the TV, uncovered the bird cage, made coffee and breakfast—usually mice disappear, like roaches, as soon as you turn on a light or your footsteps contact the floor anywhere near them. Then again, how much motivation would you need to leave an all-night all-you-can-eat buffet with food portions bigger than your entire body?

(I don't feel especially good about mousetraps, but I certainly don't want loose, unsanctioned mice roaming around the house chewing on things and pooping everywhere. And catch-and-release traps are all very well and good when you live in the suburbs or the country; but in a block of rowhouses, there's nowhere to release anything you caught in your house without looking like you're trying to visit vermin upon your neighbors. [Not that some of them couldn't use a minor plague—especially the people with those awful yappy dogs—but "live, let live, and don't get egged" is our South Philly modus vivendi.])

[ at 4:00 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]

It doesn't take a genius to...oh, wait, it does 
In case you're wondering who you're not smarter than, the MacArthur genius award recipients were announced today. (The MacArthur Foundation itself uses the term "MacArthur Fellows Program," which is a little less catchy, but no one's going to quibble about nomenclature when they get an out-of-the-blue, no-strings-attached $500,000 grant for doing something they probably never expected to get paid for [or at least get paid well for].) Actually, to heck with the grant, I'd just like to be able to have their occupation descriptions: "glass technologist" (James Carpenter), "marine roboticist" (Naomi Ehrich Leonard), "technology transfer innovator" (David Green). And yes, I know that to be able to have their job descriptions I'd have to acquire the appropriate education and experience and have the requisite energy and persistence, and none of those things is going to happen; but since I don't think Crappy Book Less-Crappy-Maker or Stupid TV Show Couch-Heckler or Spiny Mouse Population-Boom Enabler is going to be on the list anytime soon, I may as well envision myself doing something useful.

[ at 1:17 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]

Monday, September 27, 2004 
Feed me 
Convenient as the Sage RSS reader extension for Firefox is, some of its quirks—especially the absence of a "mark all read" option—have been getting increasingly annoying, especially on a Monday morning when I've got the weekend's accumulated posts to go through; and, with Jen at reflections waxing enthusiastic about Bloglines (most recently in an entry titled blogline goodness), I went ahead and signed up for it; and with my boss temporarily out of the office, I spent some time re-creating my feed list from my blogroll, and discovered that Bloglines was able to find feeds on sites that neither Sage nor my eye had been able to detect.* So I'm pleased to report that the "unfed blogs" blogroll is a thing of the past, and I'm also pleased that I'll be having a more user-friendly RSS reading experience in the future. And what would any browser- or blog-oriented update be without a new button to commemorate it?—yep, a Bloglines button, over next to the RSS button in the sidebar. (Those 85 x 15 pixel buttons are just so addictive...)

*I'm not sure how that sentence wound up being so long; I blame the semicolon and the emdash. On the other hand, I actually do talk like that when I get excited about something—inhaling becomes optional, and the clauses just pile up, usually with increasing rapidity.

[ at 6:02 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]

Failure foiled again 
Me, reporting to J. on yesterday's Eagles game: "They tried very hard to lose in the fourth quarter, but they were so far ahead they couldn't do it."

(Yes, the eternal cynicism of a Philadelphia sports fan. Believe me, we've earned it.)

[ at 11:12 AM • by Abby • permalink  ]

Look out! They're coming! 
It's that time of year when you can't tell if the news is about a hurricane or an election: an approximate quote from the local news radio station:
"Sources report that Jeanne is becoming better-organized and may pay a visit to South Florida..."
Jeanne, of course, being a hurricane; but fill in the name of a political candidate and it would make just as much sense.

[ at 10:39 AM • by Abby • permalink  ]

Saturday, September 25, 2004 
Yeah, I keep saying I've been working on Bibles too long, but...I've really been working on Bibles too long: Crossword clue, three-letter answer: "St. Paul setting." Of course I can run through the books of the New Testament in my head, in order (although only to the tune of Offenbach's "Can-Can"), so it's a cinch to pick the abbreviation that fits the answers I've got so far—there's an R in the first square, so I fill in ROM, for Rome/Romans. A while later, I decide that's not right; I clear the squares, fill in some stuff around it; now it looks like it ends with a T—but there aren't any epistles with a three-letter abbreviation ending in T—well, except Titus, and that's a person, not a place. And Acts is not only not a place, but who would bother to abbreviate "Acts" as ACT? Okay, let's try some clues on the other side. Now it looks like it starts with a C—COR, for Corinthians? Except the R as the third letter isn't working too well either. Well, let's try another part of the puzzle for a while...

So I filled in some of the clues farther away, and worked my way back into that section; and it finally became clear that what they were looking for was CST—Central Standard Time—as in, the time zone for St. Paul, Minnesota.



That St. Paul.

Never mind...

[ at 1:04 AM • by Abby • permalink  ]

Friday, September 24, 2004 
Signs of Friday 
Our office is next door to a bar; a sure sign that it's Friday is the beer trucks rolling up to the curb to unload the cases and kegs for the weekends. While we sit in here looking longingly out the window and counting the clock-ticks till five...

(Another sign of Friday, during the academic year, is that my boss is out of the office until mid-afternoon on Tuesdays and Fridays to teach a class at a college about 45 minutes away. Which is why I can do things like post three times before 1:30.)

[ at 1:28 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]

It's a sea change, but will we see change? 
In TV news (as in "news about TV," not "news on TV"), the ratings for the big premiere week are in. Yadda yadda "CSI" blah blah "Law & Order" this and that "The Apprentice"; here's the part I want to comment on:
But the struggling ABC network boasted a stunning success of its own on Wednesday with the debut of the castaway thriller "Lost," easily dominating the 8 o'clock hour with 18.7 million viewers overall and a No. 1 showing in ratings among young adults, according to early Nielsen Media Research figures.


What made the robust debut of "Lost" so surprising, especially in light of ABC's recent difficulties launching dramas, was that it seemingly came out of nowhere—lacking a potent "lead-in" show or ties to an already established hit.
Yeah, all it had going for it was a unanimously positive critical response and everything from "Entertainment Weekly" and "TV Guide" to the New York Times and NPR saying it was the best new show of the season. What, you mean putting on a—gasp!—good show can actually get you good ratings?* This changes everything! What on earth will TV executives do now?!

*I know, it usually doesn't work; see "Freaks & Geeks," "Arrested Development," et multi alii. But it still ought to be more of an expectation than an exception.

†I stand by my use of the "?!" combination at the end of this sentence. In fact, if I really trusted all browsers' Unicode, I'd have used the interrobang character:[If you can see that, you're not using Internet (H)explorer.]

[ at 11:15 AM • by Abby • permalink  ]

’Tain't praise 
This was a couple of days ago, actually, but let's pretend it was today: a Today Show "in the next half-hour" thing, about an interview with Dennis Farina, the new "Law & Order" cast member:
Matt Lauer: I love him as an actor.

Me: ..."But in person, what a prick."

J.: "But I'm deeply ambivalent about him as an exotic dancer."
I mean no personal insult to Dennis Farina here, since of course I don't know him; but really, what else does "I love (him/her) as (a/an) ______" imply? What other thing about him/her prevents you from making an unequivocally positive statement?

[ at 11:14 AM • by Abby • permalink  ]

Thursday, September 23, 2004 
Bad ad of the day 
On TV: a tire commercial promising "more bang for your buck." You know, when it comes to tires, you really want no bangs.

[ at 10:59 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]

Cool Google logo 
I usually don't manage to catch these, but I actually spotted a Google.com holiday logo on the actual day it appeared—the Ray Charles's Birthday logo. (If it's no longer September 23, you can see it, along with all the previous logos, at Google Holiday Logos.)

By the way, the entire series of Athens Olympics logos—all 14 of them—is finally being shown on one page: 2004 Summer Olympics Doodle. (I think I have a bit of a cartoon crush on the woman in the gymnastics, weightlifting, and archery logos. You go, kórē.)

[ at 4:18 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]

We're here, we're queer, we're highly unlikely 
Oddest election news so far: a gay black Republican organization in Texas is endorsing Bush. The most surprising thing about it being, there are enough gay black Republicans in Texas to have an organization. It's a pretty long-standing item of conventional wisdom that there practically are no gay Republicans or black Republicans; and the largest, best-known gay GOP group, the Log Cabin Republicans, just announced that they're not endorsing Bush this time around. ("Just" here meaning "fifteen days ago," which I think counts as recent, even in an election year.) Plus, gay and black in Texas? Okay, I know it's not all good ol' boys and Alamo reenactors and steer wrestlers, but still, it does have that Wild West tough-as-leather super-macho-man mystique about it. Me, I'd be hitching a wagon train north...

[ at 1:41 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]

Wednesday, September 22, 2004 
Season of mists 
Before the day's actually over, I'd better post this: Happy First Day of Fall! (Or "Autumnal Equinox," if you like big words.*)

Fall is my favorite season; I love the crisp days and cool nights, the impeccably blue skies, the russet and gold leaves on the trees and the tannic tea-and-tobacco scent of the dry leaves on the ground. I've waxed more poetic in the past, but I've got that Work Thing I'm supposed to be doing; and anyway, why wax poetic when Keats already did the decisive poetic treatment of the season in his "Ode to Autumn"? (My favorite of his poems; the last of the great odes he wrote before his death; and, for what it's worth, the only one that doesn't contain the word "adieu.")

Here's the text of the Ode to Autumn as presented by Bartleby.com; I can't just quote part of it, because I like the whole darn thing too much. (Plus it'll make me get as misty as the season; it's one of the very few pieces of art/literature that's guaranteed to make me feel weepy.)

*Almost said "if you're sesquipedalian," but that would have been a bit too much. ("Sesquipedalian" is one of those wonderful words that embodies its own definition; it means "given to using long words," and if you use the word "sesquipedalian," you're being sesquipedalian; Q.E.D. And yeah, I get way too excited about this kind of thing.)

[ at 3:39 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]

Tuesday, September 21, 2004 
You're a celebrity, get you out of here 
Okay, can minimally-talented famous people please stop pushing minimally-interesting merchandise? First of all, Britney Spears has her own perfume (technically "fragrance," which will be visited upon perfume as well as lotions and bath gels and the like); my comment to the TV when I saw the commercial: "Of all the things I don't want to smell like, Britney Spears is high on the list."

And I was innocently browsing Amazon.com when I came across their latest A-to-Z diversification project: The Paris Hilton Collection. No, really. And no, unfortunately, it does not include her *cough* home video endeavors; it's just overpriced, not-particularly-attractive, and blindingly pink Swarovski crystal jewelry. (At least one item is also fairly disturbing: the—oh, heck, let me use the official product name—Sterling Silver and Swarovski Crystal Multi-Cross Necklace by Paris Hilton. One cross is a perfectly normal thing to have on a necklace; seven crosses, crystal or not, presents the unsettling impression of an ancient Roman multiple execution site. Um, yuck.)

[ at 12:54 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]

Monday, September 20, 2004 
(This is a bit disjointed, because I've been awake since 3:30 a.m. and my brain is barely sputtering into second gear, but I'm trying my best to make sense.)

First, something I thought of during the post-Emmy coverage on the Today Show this morning: Has anyone ever actually seen Steven Cojocaru in broad daylight? I started getting suspicious when Matt Lauer ended the best/worst dressed segment by telling him to get some sleep; hmmm. He does look uncommonly like some kind of nocturnal wraith, thin and pale with hair that hasn't been combed since his body died in 1666, deriving sustenance from gossip pipelines in the æther. (And I'm not just saying that because he has a Romanian name. There are plenty of vampire-looking people who aren't Romanian; Joan Rivers, Melissa Rivers, Lara Flynn Boyle, and did I mention Joan Rivers?)

Biggest surprise of the evening: Sarah Jessica Parker wearing a dress that actually fit in the bodice. It's so refreshing to see a non-large-chested actress wear a non-large-chested dress (Gwyneth Paltrow, I'm looking at you). SJP's dress at last year's Emmys was not only too big on top, but was so heavily constructed it actually stood away from her chest like a bug shield on the hood of a pickup truck; my comment at the time, which I wrote down but never got around to typing, was "You could stick both hands down the front of it, but why would you want to?" (My favorite comment on this year's Emmy fashions is from J.: "If present trends continue, by the time she's 90 Sharon Stone will wear nothing but a thin coating of hot sauce." [Me: "Ewwww!"])

The competition for "best actor in a movie/miniseries" was really brutal; not that I saw any of the shows, since I don't get HBO or Showtime (do I look like a profligate millionaire?*), but the reviews I read of "Something the Lord Made" were unanimous in saying that Alan Rickman and Mos Def both turned in stellar performances, and I was hoping—fruitlessly, I knew—that one of them would win. (Or both! Joint acting award!) Tough luck for them to be nominated the same year that Al Pacino reminded everybody that he actually can act when he's got a good role to chew on, rather than the scenery. Also notable about the nominations: when was the last time the nominees in a leading-role award category included not one, but two persons of color?—three, if you count James Brolin's tan. (What's he going for, the George Hamilton Lifetime Achievement Award? Does he not wear high enough SPF to shield him from Barbra's blazing star power?)

Most gratifying win: Multiple answers to this one. "Arrested Development," for getting enough recognition that it actually might stay on the air until more people start watching it; "The Sopranos," for finally beating the increasingly-annoying, irrelevant, and overrated "West Wing"; and "The Amazing Race," not only because it is the best reality show, but also because, if "The Apprentice" had won, Donald Trump would be that much more insufferable. (Not that "The Apprentice" not being the number-one show has prevented him from saying it was the number-one show; but it's harder to fudge an Emmy statue than a Nielson number.)

It goes without saying that I'm totally psyched about the Daily Show winning the "Variety, Music, Comedy, or Anything Else We Can't Put In Another Category" category, and the writing award for said category, to boot. Dear Gods of Television: Please don't let Jon Stewart get scooped up by a network, put into a late-late-late-night time slot, told to stop being so politically-oriented and to get more mainstream guests, cancelled after half a season, and never seen again.

*The most telling thing about the outrageousness of the price of HBO and Showtime is that the actors on "The Sopranos," "Curb Your Enthusiasm," "Six Feet Under," et al. keep saying they don't watch their own shows because the networks are too expensive—you'd think after eight gazillion Emmy and Golden Globe nominations and wins HBO would at least comp James Gandolfini and Edie Falco a month or two during the increasingly rare periods that "The Sopranos" is actually on the air.

[ at 1:33 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]

Friday, September 17, 2004 
All buttoned up 
I belatedly discovered that there is a Thunderbird promotional button page, akin to the Firefox button page, at Mozilla.org, but not until I'd already failed to find such a page and made my own Thunderbird button. And I've decided I don't think I wasted my time; their smallest button is 94 x 15, whereas mine's 80 x 15—the standard blog button size, so it lines up nicely with the others. I've got it over in the sidebar, next to the Firefox button, under the heading "join us." (Nobody preaches like a convert, huh?) I also grabbed a more-attractive GuestMap button and moved it up with the other buttons. And if you haven't already, would you mind going over and signing my guest map pretty please? (Imagine big Bambi eyes here.) I'm incredibly easily gratified by that kind of thing.

Feel free to swipe the Thunderbird button, if you also want to spread the word with less than 94 pixels—just right-click and save, not that you don't know that. Right now it's a 96 dpi PNG image, 80 x 15 pixels, because that's what the Firefox button is, but it can of course be turned into a 72 dpi GIF or whatever else you want.

Spread the word. Spread the bird. Get Thunderbird

[ at 5:12 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]

Is that thunder, or my head pounding? 
Head pounding. Definitely. I think we may accidentally have purchased decaf coffee two days ago; yesterday I felt okay, but if today was my second morning without caffeine, it would explain the nasty headache I've got. It's definitely not a hangover—I didn't have more than a glass of wine last night, and I drank plenty of water. And I haven't missed any of my meds this week. So caffeine withdrawal, I think, it is.

I went up to South St. and deposited my paycheck, then stopped at the Cosí across the street for some coffee; it was crowded and dimly-lit and I had trouble reading the coffee menus, so I went for a single shot of espresso. And, okay, what gives: it was about two tablespoons of coffee, not even half of the Dixie-cup–sized cup it came in, and it cost...$1.59? Yeah, I know people are always complaining about the high prices at chi-chi coffee chains, but at least a 20-oz. drink you paid $3 looks like a drink. I mean, if I'd paid the guy in quarters, the stack of change would have come up higher than the fluid level in the cup.

Yeah, okay, I'm cranky. (Could be another side effect of caffeine withdrawal.) But at least I got my coffee fix, and I'm hoping the headache will start to recede. In the meantime, with the deposited paycheck burning a hole in my bank account, I think a bit of retail therapy might be palliative...

[ at 2:14 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]

Is that thunder? 
Weather-wise, maybe; it's gray and they're predicting "showers and possible thunderstorms" (translation: "we don't know what the f!ck is going to happen, just bring an umbrella").

Computer-wise, you betcha: I got myself Mozilla Thunderbird, having finally gotten completely fed up with Outlook (H)express. I haven't been happy with it since, um, ever, but yesterday the inability to create what ought to be really simple message rules to get rid of spam I really shouldn't be getting just did that sucker in. (That, and I was on the Mozilla Web site to get the latest Firefox release [as hyped by anything but ordinary], spotted Thunderbird, and thought "if it's half as much better than Outlook as Firefox is than IE, it would be cheap at twice the price if it weren't free."*) I always hate changing e-mail clients, because hitherto it's required all kinds of account-setting reconfiguration and trying to figure out where the hell to import the messages from and completely re-creating the address book; but installing Firefox was such a cinch I figured Thunderbird probably would be too. And it was: I downloaded and installed it in seven minutes flat, imported everything from Outlook with outrageous ease, did about two seconds' worth of tweaking with the account settings, and voilá, I've got a work-appropriate e-mail client that doesn't spread viruses like a port-city whore and doesn't launch that &@#%@%! Windows Messenger every damn time I start it up. (My O'Reilly Windows XP Hacks book tells you how to disable Windows Messenger, and I did it on my home computer, but I never got around to bringing the book or instructions to work.)

Anyway. Now my computer menagerie includes a thundery bird and a fiery fox, and Microsoft and all its minions can go kiss their own asses, 'cause I damn sure don't want them near mine.

*I am a professional user of the subjunctive tense. Do not try this at home.

[ at 1:01 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]

Thursday, September 16, 2004 
I've got this down pat 
Warning: Contains wanton throwing-around of political opinions and personal characterizations that probably won't withstand journalistic scrutiny (except maybe by CBS News), but I don't care.
I feel the need to explain the phrase "my 'f!ck, I hate Pat Buchanan' reflex" from yesterday's end of the workday post—I actually hate him less than some other right-wing Christ-is-on-my-side people (Fred "God hates fags" Phelps is on the top of that list), and I admit I've never sat down and compared Pat Buchanan's political/personal beliefs/convictions with those of any other right-wing conservative whackjobs who might turn out to be more or less hateworthy (because I know I'm not voting for any of them; as long as you know all rattlesnakes are poisonous, do you really want to sit down and compare the chemical properties of their venom?); but P.B. does hold a certain special place in my mind, my memory, and my gut—it is, indeed, a reflex—and here's why:

In my entire life, I have only seen two things on TV that literally made me throw up. One was Pat Buchanan's "Judeo-Christian heritage" speech at the Republican National Convention in 1992;* and the other was a CNN report on child prostitution in Romania this past spring. The result being, I have the same relationship to Pat Buchanan as other people do to, say, the alcoholic beverage that gave them their worst hangover. Or, to use another metaphor, if you're allergic to shellfish, and you find this out by getting terribly sick after eating deviled crab, in the future you are, of course, going to avoid eating all shellfish; but you're not even going to want to look at deviled crab.

I am, however, happy to report that the Daily Show interview didn't make me throw up—hardly even made me queasy—because the book he's promoting is called "How the Right Went Wrong," and although he did take every chance he got to go after Kerry and the Democrats who supported the war, he was mainly interested in going after the "neocons" who—can I say "started"?—started the war. I don't think he ever even used the words "Christian" or "God" or "family values" or "I want to strangle homosexuals with the entrails of gutted abortionists." I wouldn't call it a kinder, gentler Pat Buchanan—I get the feeling his problem with the right isn't that it's gotten too extreme, but that it's not extreme enough—it's like a great white shark saying the sand sharks are too busy chasing schools of fish out at sea when they ought to be near the beach biting chunks out of surfers. But at least he wasn't actually biting chunks out of surfers; so a half-bottle of white wine and I got through the entire show just fine. (And, of course, there's the Jon Stewart factor. Oh me, oh my, oh Jon Stewart. I'd watch him interview a six-foot-tall pile of horse manure§ and be perfectly happy.)

*I considered linking directly to a transcript of the speech, but the only ones I can find are on Buchanan's own Web site and other pro-Buchanan sites, which I'm not linking to; however, if you do this Google search, the buchanan.org transcript will be the top result, and you can click at your own risk.

†Why was I watching such an unpleasant thing? J.'s been doing a lot of research on Romania for a book he's working on; he reads an English-language Romanian newspaper every day and watches the Romanian news hour on the International Channel every week, and he's especially interested in corruption and crime in the post-Communist culture. So I alerted him to this CNN report; he watched all of it, I watched about fifteen minutes before I said "Excuse me, I'm going to go throw up and then think about something else till this show is over."

‡Any significance of the word "deviled" in the comparison of Pat Buchanan to deviled crab is entirely coincidental; I actually like shellfish, but I find deviled crab extremely nasty—it already looks a lot like something that's been thrown up—so it came naturally to my metaphor. (I can't say I mind having the word "devil" in there, though.)

§Any comparison of Pat Buchanan to a six-foot-tall pile of horse manure is left entirely up to the reader.

[ at 1:03 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]

Wednesday, September 15, 2004 
At the end of the workday... 
Okay, I didn't wind up getting anything alcoholic during my lunchtime outing, and I didn't even buy anything at Mineralistic, but I did go to the salad/buffet bar at Chef's Market and took all the good crusty edge parts from the macaroni-and-cheese tray. (Hey, when it's raining and I'm hormone-beset, don't even think of getting between me and those crunchy, toasty, cheesy carbohydrates!)

Then, as part of my ongoing Mildly Useful Services to Mankind program, I decided to update last year's entry on how Microsoft Word sucks and I had to download my own copy of the VBAWD10.CHM file to include a link to a place where you can actually download the VBAWD10.CHM file. (It's the most popular search request for my site that doesn't involve Li'l Kim, and I decided that it wasn't fair to have my site so high in the Google search results without having an actual link to where you could find the darn file.) Anyway, the updated entry is back on October 8, 2003, under the title Evil Microsoft Word. And if you're from the Microsoft legal department, a) don't sue me and b) make your frickin' help files easier to get, okay?

Now I just have to kill ten more minutes in the office (to minimize standing-in-the-rain-waiting-for-the-bus time), then it's home to J., the bird, and the ever-useful freezer full of mixed drinks. Oooh, and I get to watch last night's episode of the Daily Show, featuring Pat Buchanan—I wonder if my "gosh, I love Jon Stewart!" reflex will be able to hold its own against my "f!ck, I hate Pat Buchanan!" reflex. Hey, it's a science experiment. Pass the vodka.

[ at 6:29 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]

Title, schmitle 
Oh, I should know better than to read the news when I have PMS and it's raining; I'm already predisposed to be irritable and weepy, and the news is almost never a good remedy for those conditions. This morning I made the mistake of reading a gay journalist's reports from the Republican National Convention (which is a perfectly good piece of writing, but not exactly heartening from an equal-rights, separation-of-church-and-state point of view), and then noticed that the New York Times is still using "czar" instead of "tsar," and although that's probably not a big deal in the history of the world it still pisses me off, and grrrr snarl snap humph I want to bite things. (Dear New York Times: I realize that "czar" is acceptable in U.S. English idioms, like "drug czar," but when you're referring to the actual ruler of Russia, could you please use the correct transliteration? There isn't even a "c" in Russian,* let alone a "cz," and the languages that do use "cz" pronounce it like the English "ch." And since there is no Russian political figure that I know of whose title is pronounced "char" [and if there was, it would use the Cyrillic character for "ch"], could you please, please, please for heaven's sake transliterate the character for "ts" as frickin' "ts"? Jeez, people. Who fact-tseckedchecked your transliteration tsarczcharts, Jayson Blair?)

It is, fortunately, lunchtime, and it looks like the rain's let up for a while. I think it's South Street, retail therapy, and perhaps an alcohol-laced coffee drink at Cosí† for me...

*There's a Cyrillic character that looks like "c," but it's pronounced, and hopefully transliterated, as "s."

†There are other places on South Street for a midday slightly-alcoholic-beverage fix, but you look a lot more like a loser sitting alone in a bar with a drink than sitting alone in a coffeehouse with a drink.

[ at 12:50 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]

Tuesday, September 14, 2004 
Categorize this! 
Just placed one of my more-eclectic Amazon orders: a book on women and Torah from Bonnie's wish list; two novels by Chester Himes, a mid–20th-century African-American mystery writer, for J.; a tarot deck for me; and, because I can no longer resist my pathetically embarrassing craving for it, the "Showgirls" VIP edition DVD. I can't wait to see what my next Amazon Recommendations page looks like... ("People interested in Judaism, women's studies, divination, African-American literature, crime novels, and trashy movies about nekkid chicks also purchased...")

[ at 2:36 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]

Monday, September 13, 2004 
While watching the TV Guide channel listings scroll by yesterday:
J.: It's interesting how the same title suggests different shows on different networks. "Kingdom of the Snake" means one thing on Animal Planet, and quite another on the Sci Fi channel.

Me: And another thing entirely on Cinemax.
(We never actually watched any of the programs whose titles we desultorily read; we just keep the TV Guide channel on in the background when there's nothing else on TV, because it tells the time and the weather, and gives the bird something to look at when we're out of the room.)

[ at 2:11 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]

On the bus: a woman with arms so heavily freckled my initial impression was that she was wearing a marled long-sleeved sweater. (Then I thought, "No one wears a long-sleeved sweater when it's 85 degrees," and my brain reassembled the visual information. And then I thought, "Damn, she has a lot of freckles." Almost all freckles—the pale redhead kind—with occasional flecks of paler skin showing between them. I hope she uses sunscreen and gets regular skin cancer checks.)

[ at 1:55 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]

9/11, on 9/13 
Well, we got through another of those.

My main goal for the weekend was not to watch any news; I didn't want anyone telling me what to think or how to feel or reminding me to remember, and I damn sure didn't want to see or hear any politicians or news personalities trying to cash in on it. I hashed this out with myself in my pen-and-paper journal, and didn't come to a completely clear conclusion as to exactly what was getting to me, but it came down to something like this: Capitalizing on misery is not as evil as creating misery, but it's as mean and small and cynical as evil is vast, and neither of those alternatives is good. And it sure as hell doesn't make me want to vote for you. (Or watch your news program. [Hi, Fox News!])

Speaking of voting, I put an Election Day countdown widget over in my sidebar, along with some "register to vote" links—not that you aren't registered to vote, of course, and not that I think more than about twelve people ever actually read this, but every link makes those sites' Google ranks a little bit higher, so there they are. (And here they are: Rock the Vote, Declare Yourself, and even that wacky Federal Election Commission. And here are the voter registration deadlines for each state. Come, Googlebot, come!)

[ at 11:41 AM • by Abby • permalink  ]

Friday, September 10, 2004 
Office exchange of the day 
Telephone solicitor calls the office; we're supposed to get rid of them, but the employee who answers this particular phone call is being polite. Solicitor is pitching their document-related services—I don't know exactly what, probably copying and filing and storing and so on.
Solicitor: What kind of business are you in?

Employee: Electronic publishing.

S: Oh, so you must have a lot of documents.

E: No, actually, hardly any.

S: Really?

E: Really. It's electronic publishing.
And that was the end of that phone call. We really do have an almost-entirely-paperless office; for 14 employees and 20 computers, there's only one printer, a fax machine that doesn't work, and no copier. I don't think my computer is even connected to the printer; I haven't tried to print anything since we moved into the new office in January. The key word is, indeed, electronic.

[ at 4:55 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]

Thursday, September 09, 2004 
The mute button is your friend 
As my previous post indicated, we rely heavily on the mute button when watching TV. (Why listen to annoying commercials, interviews, and news segments when you don't have to?) One of the best things about the new political-campaign ad rules, where the candidates have to announce that they personally endorse their own commercials, is that you immediately know it's Mute Button Time. This is an actual exchange between J. and the TV back in the spring:
TV commercial: "I'm George W. Bush, and I approved this message."

J.: I'm John C. Zhaba, and I don't have to listen to this crap. (Click.)
A more recent discovery is that, if you time the mute button just right, you can get the candidate to say "...and I approved this mess." (Making the commercial both shorter, and considerably more accurate...)

[ at 3:42 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]

Forget Paris. No, really. 
Today Show "after these messages" teaser for a Paris Hilton interview, regarding her new...excuse me while I shake my head in disbelief...book?!

J.: I treasure what little ignorance I've been to retain about that woman's life.

Mute button: Click.

[ at 3:26 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]

Wednesday, September 08, 2004 
"The terrorists will already have won" dep't. 
Dick "Dick" Cheney, who's emerged from his underground bunker, says that voting for Kerry will increase the risk of terror attacks:
"It's absolutely essential that eight weeks from today, on Nov. 2, we make the right choice," Mr. Cheney told a crowd of 350 people in Des Moines, "because if we make the wrong choice then the danger is that we'll get hit again and we'll be hit in a way that will be devastating from the standpoint of the United States."
Whereas right now there's no danger whatsoever, huh? Then what's up with this? Straight from the Dept. of Homeland Security Web site:
August 1, 2004 - The United States Government raised the threat level to Code Orange [ed. note: high risk of terrorist attacks] for the financial services sector in New York City, northern New Jersey and Washington, D.C. The rest of the country remains at Code Yellow [ed. note: significant risk of terrorist attacks].
There's not very much more increasing that the risks can do. And does anyone really think that voting for the Dubya/Dick Squad is going to reduce the threat of terror attacks? Like, all the terrorists are going to say "great, that's the result we wanted" and take apart their bombs if Bush gets reelected? Yyyyyyeah, sure. Whatever Cheney's smoking, can I have some?

(Incidentally, if you search for "terror alert level" on Google, the first result is the Sesame Street Web widget; the second is the actual Dept. of Homeland Security; the third is another satire version, with John Ashcroft's face turning the various colors (my favorite: for Blue, "This is what happens to little girls who chew too much gum"—you can never have enough Willy Wonka references!); fourth is the White House Web site's homeland security page; fifth is "What Terror Alert Level Are You?" on Quizilla (I'm Bert); sixth is a Simpsons Web widget; and after that it descends into news stories. The point being, of the top six individual Web site results for the search, four—including the highest-ranked—are satirical. Which says two things: a lot of Internet users don't take the government very seriously [well, duh], and the government really needs to work on their search engine placement if they're going to compete with Sesame Street and Code Elmo.)

[ at 12:11 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]

Friday, September 03, 2004 
An employment revelation 
Skimming the top stories on my Yahoo! news page, I spotted this one:
AP headline: U.S. Economy Adds 144,000 Jobs in August
I've clearly been working on Bibles too long, because I immediately recognized 144,000 as the number of people redeemed in Revelation 14. (Some interpreters say that only 144,000 people will be redeemed, and the rest of us are hellbound; but Revelation actually just says that 144,000 male virgins* get to go to heaven and sit out the rest of the Apocalypse, while everybody else's soul doesn't come up for review until after the plagues and the beast and the thousand-year war; at which point they may or may not get into heaven,† but they're certainly not doomed just because they didn't make the 144,000 cut.)

(Yes, I've very clearly been working on Bibles too long...)

Anyway, the number and its associations jumped into my head, and I got to thinking, "What kind of 144,000 jobs were added, exactly—stairway-to-heaven masons, pearly-gate polishers, pale-horse groomers? Are the elect getting the last 144,000 jobs before the thousand-year war begins? Is someone trying to sneak the Apocalypse in before the election?" Because, now that I think of it, that wouldn't entirely surprise me...

*Rev. 14:4: "These are those who did not defile themselves with women, for they kept themselves pure....They were purchased from among men and offered as firstfruits to God and the Lamb" (NIV).

†Rev. 20:12: "And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books."

[ at 1:44 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]

It's foxy, it's fiery, it's functional 
I haven't mentioned my Mozilla love recently, but this I gotta report: I ran Ad-Aware on my work and home computers for the first time since installing Firefox, and it didn't find anything—except four tracking cookies on my home computer that it picked up when I was downloading Mozilla with Internet (H)explorer. Four tiny cookies aside—nothing. Zip. Zilcho. With IE, I'd be cleaning up twenty files at a time, sometimes registry keys, actual spyware twice. And my Norton Internet Security icon would send up its red exclamation point alert anytime I was online on my home computer for more than an hour. Mozilla? Nope, nada, nothing.

I know the lack-of-security-holes is one of Mozilla's biggest marketing points, but it wasn't till now that I had visible evidence that, dang, it's really working—or, to put it another way, IE isn't. It's kind of like, "Hey, since I moved into this new house, I haven't had any bats or starlings or giant flying cockroaches crash through the windows and build nests in the attic and leave droppings all over the floor!"—when you ought to expect that any house would have bat/starling/cockroach-proof windows. Especially after you'd cleaned out the first five or ten or fifty infestations.

(I love metaphors. Can you tell?)

[ at 11:04 AM • by Abby • permalink  ]

Getcher transcript here! 
Noticed in my logs that I've been getting a lot of search requests for Zell Miller's RNC speech (if "speech" is really the right way to describe "spittle-spraying tirade"); and, because I like to give people what they want, here's a link to the RNC Web site's Zell Miller transcript. You have to supply the spittle-spray yourself.

[ at 9:56 AM • by Abby • permalink  ]

Thursday, September 02, 2004 
Spears's spearmint?* 
Okay, this story is thoroughly gross—it's about people bidding for Britney Spears's used chewing gum on eBay—but I can't resist taking a shot at the article title:
Title: Britney Trash Turned Treasure

My thought: Britney herself still trash, though
(Incidentally, there isn't even any proof that the gum was chewed by Britney; the only thing ickier than buying a celebrity's used chewing gum is buying some random stranger's used chewing gum. Ick ick ick ick ick!)

*It's remarkably easy to mistype "spearmint" as "spermint" (especially when you're thinking about Britney Spears)—God, I hope that doesn't turn into an actual product line.

[ at 12:22 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]

Mark your calendar (or don't) 
Looking for something to do in Philadelphia on September 11th? How about a concert by Toby "The Angry American" Keith?

In the future, I believe this will be used in dictionaries as an example of what "non-partisan" doesn't mean.

Disclaimer: I am carefully not saying anything negative about partisanship in relation to this particular date...just that there's gonna be a lot of it, and it'd be a bad place and time to show up wearing your Dixie Chicks t-shirt.

By the way, if you've missed them, here are the lyrics to "Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American)."

[ at 10:37 AM • by Abby • permalink  ]

Wednesday, September 01, 2004 
Talking to the radio 
Hurricane preparation warnings on the radio; the next hurricane is still out to sea, and it won't get near here for days, if at all, but the southern U.S. is battening down the hatches, and it was on the local news for some reason. J. does his Overly-Suave Announcer Voice:
"Don't wait until the last minute and panic....PANIC NOW!"

[ at 11:12 AM • by Abby • permalink  ]

Anything else between "Waadt" and "wyvern"?* 
Sign in the background of the Today Show's RNC coverage: "The W is for women."
Me: "I'm trying to figure out what the G and the B are for."

J.: Gays and blacks?—not.
(Can someone think of a catchy acronym? "G____ Women B____"—"Give Women Bupkus"? "Good Women Breed"?† [If it were Clinton or Schwarzenegger, it could be "Grope Women's Behinds," but that seems to be a failing that Dubya doesn't have.])

*The first and last words under "W" in Merriam-Webster's 11th Collegiate Dictionary, the Chicago Manual of Style's editorial standard.

†Ooohh, that's harsh. Harsh because it's the largely-unspoken truth behind the religious right's opinion of women, though...

[ at 9:38 AM • by Abby • permalink  ]

Yes, that's me.


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