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I have a head cold and Nancy isn't around today. That means you have to listen to me whine.

When the symptoms started on Sunday I thought it was one of those really minor sniffles that would fade away in a day or so. That's because I rarely ever get colds and didn't remember that there are no such things as "really minor sniffles" and that all the colds I get evolve into those huge, sloppy, runny, sneezy, snotty messes that force you to whine.

The good news is that the sore throat has faded. But you're not getting off that easy. My nose has reached runny perfection - that state where the temperature of the runny stuff exactly matches the temperature of your upper lip so that you can't tell that anything is emerging until the first drip splatters on your (choose one): (a) hand [I should be so lucky]; (b) library book; (c) tea mug; or (d) cat.

I'm trying to be a good spouse about this. I made Nancy go out and buy a pump bottle of Purell. I goop it up every time I blow my nose (or just rub it with the back of my hand). I smell like my grandmother's house. I've wiped down the mouse on the kitchen laptop so many times that it turned and snapped at me this morning.

The cats sense my pain but have started to avoid me because whenever they get close I whine to them in my new, Barry White /chest cold baritone. It scares them. I was hoping that Nancy would find it sexy, but even though I can now do a really fine, "Ooh...ooh...ooh...ooh...ooh...ooh...ooh...ooh...ooh... We better try, Try to get ourselves together, baby..." she just shakes her head and leaves the room.

Ususally I end these peices by saying something like, "There, I feel better now". But I don't. So I won't.

For your sake, I hope I'm feeling better tomorrow.

Amtrak Ergonomics


I take Amtrak between Albany and New York City about six times a year to visit Petunia (and now Petunia and husband). I’ve learned not to expect much. The train rarely arrives on time, half the time it’s either too cold or too hot, and 80% of the time I'm subjected to 2 1/2 hours of Melissa’s divorce, Sol’s business deal, or Mandy’s shopping experience at the usual 100 decibel cell phone voice. I'm resigned to it. But just when I think that my expectations can’t go any lower, Amtrak rises to the occassion.

I sat down this week on the 2:45 out of Pennsylvania Station. The train boarded on time. It wasn’t crowded. I put my book and my Snapple on the empty seat next to me, my camera bag underneath, and began to settle in for the trip.

I picked up my book, dropped the tray table down, and leaned forward on my elbows to read. Little did I know that the tray table was, for some unknown reason, offset 5 inches to the left. My left elbow made contact. My right elbow had nothing to make contact with until it hit my right knee, six inches below the tray. That caused my whole body to tilt about 25 degrees to starboard, bringing my head in solid contact with the window. Maybe it was just the echo in my head, but the noise sounded like a projectile hitting the train window. It turns out I wasn't the only one.

The guy across the aisle flinched. The woman ahead of me got up and turned around to look. I gave them my best, sheepish, “don’t mind me, I’m a moron” grimace and busied myself by listing 25 degrees to port, successfully making contact with both elbows this time. Now I was ready to settle in for the trip.

I placed my paperback and the bottle of Snapple on the tray, picked up the book, and thumbed to my bookmark just in time to see the Snapple disappear over the far edge of the tray – not a surprising event when you consider that the tray tilted about 15 degrees down in the front (or up in the back if you prefer to look at things that way). Of course, it was surprising that I was able to see this because when you lean forward to do anything at the tray table your head blocks off all of the light from the overhead lamp.

After crawling under the seat in front to retrieve the (thankfully sealed) bottle, I decided to stow the Snapple in the seat back pocket in front of me. I reached over the handily tilted tray and tried to slide the bottle into the mesh pocket. It went in about 3 inches and struck something solid. Not having evolved much from my simian ancestors, it took 4 or 5 clunks before I realized that something was blocking the bottle’s egress. Finding out what it was required moving my book and elbows off the tray and folding it back up again. Much to my surprise, I found a folding footrest was the culprit.

I have long legs. Any trip on a plane or train thus involves regular maneuvering of my lower extremities at even more regular intervals to assure the minimal blood flow required to avoid gangrene. Short of a bulkhead seat, this rarely works, but I keep my legs going in the vain hope that I’ll be able to walk once the trip is over (or at least not throw a blood clot). Could this foot rest be a solution? There was only one way to find out. Down it came.

I put my feet in the foot rest, dropped down the tray table, got my book and began to settle in once again. It took all of 30 seconds to realize this wouldn’t work.

I don’t know for whom the foot rest was designed but it sure wasn’t for anyone over 4 feet tall. My knees were up against the underside of the tray, splayed outward – sort of in the same position they’d be in were I to get on a kid’s tricycle. My upper body was twisted 25 degrees to port and tilted 15 degrees forward. I looked like Stephen Hawking on a bad day. That’s when the conductor arrived and asked for my ticket. The ticket was in the camera bag under the seat. In order to reach it without taking 5 minutes to unfold my self-inflicted human origami, I had to lay my face on the tray table and reach under with all the finesse of a Frankenstein monster scratching his ass.

That broke this camel’s back. The conductor walked off, rolling his eyes. I folded up the tray table. I folded up the footrest. I swung diagonally on the seat, stretched my legs out to the seat front next to me, took up my book and settled in for the rest of the trip.

That’s when we made our first stop. The first person to board the train made beeline for the empty seat next to me. My. Empty. Seat. She had a suitcase, a handbag, a backpack, a shopping bag, and weighed no less than 300 pounds. She gave me a withering look.

I curled back up into my side of the seat and settled in for the rest of the trip.

My six year old Dell had eaten two hard drives within a week a few months ago - a sure sign that all those wonderfully compact motherboard-based interfaces were beginning to self destruct - but we wanted to hold out until the summer before laying out the money for a new one. Now, hard on the heels of tax payments to both the feds and the Bierkenstock Republic of Vermont, and some rather incredible payments to the folks who are putting together Corie's wedding, the fucker wouldn't boot last night.

Seven hours later I had managed to salvage about 50% of the boot drive that could be reformated and had reinstalled Windows . Halfway through installing Firefox, it started freezing for 30 seconds at a time, teasing me with what we both knew was inevitable. This morning I logged onto the Dell site and configured a new system.

Before clicking the buy button, I decided to call and ask two questions. One to get assurance that I could run two monitors on the new system so that I could edit my photographs without accelerating the already steady decline of my eyesight, and the other to see if they could delay shipment so that it wouldn't arrive next week when we were in NYC for the wedding.

Who knew that Dell sends their phone reps auto salesman school?

The rep answered the tech quesion immediately. When I asked about the shipping it went something like this:

ME: I won't be home from Wednesday throug Sunday next week. Can you arrange shipping for delivery after the 7th?

DELL REP: Are you prepared to place the order right now?

ME: That depends on whether you can assure me that delivery won't happen until after the 7th.

DELL REP: If you are ready to place the order right now we can see what we can do.

ME: We can't see "what we can do" until I know that the delivery won't occur until after the 7th.

DELL REP: Right now we are showing that the system won't ship until the 3rd and it takes 5 days to arrive. That makes it the 8th or so.

ME: Why didn't you just say so? That looks good.

DELL REP: So are you ready to place the order right now?

ME: Tell me the final price with shipping.

DELL REP: The system is $XXXX, tax is $106.35 and shipping is $75

ME: Yikes, that adds more than 10% to the cost

DELL REP: If you are ready to place the order right now we are running some specials. Can I put you on hold to see what I can do?
(My note - this is the "let me talk to the sales manager" technique)

He's gone for 30 seconds

DEL REP: We're giving free shipping on our XPS systems right now and I can offer you a $50 rebate for placing your phone order right now.

ME: Well then, let's place that order right now.

DELL REP: Would you like to finance that through a Dell Preferred Account?

I've spent less time buying a car...

Neo Science

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If I am to believe the current thinking of many conservatives and fundamentalist Christians, much of what has passed for science over the past 500 years is really just conjecture and opinion. Though this may cause many who are rational rather than ovine some serious consternation, it has brought to the fore a whole bunch of ideas that had settled into the deeper recesses of my mind over the years. There may be good reasons why these ideas landed on my compose heap of thoughts, but taken in the context of the paleocon revolution (whoops I almost wrote “evolution”!), they might bear review. Let’s try some out:

Life Begins at Erection
This is not exactly a new idea, something similar having been drummed into my head during the religious instruction preparation for my confirmation. If just thinking about sex is a sin, then actually ramping up for procreation is certainly the first firm step in the process. Let’s ban all erections that don’t result in successful propagation (except in cases where the life of the man is in danger).

Intelligent Design HAS Been Proven
Just look at the iPod. Would the whimsy of evolution come up with a device that costs twice that of a comparable music player and then force you to buy all your songs from the same vendor; but you actually don’t own what you “buy”, thereby spending your money for nothing; all the time thinking you’re special because you are one of the select ten million who own one? Oh no, I don’t think so.

Area 51
What a fantastic misdirection they’ve pulled off here. All the hype about alien spacecraft being tested and pointy headed little folks being dissected has kept the populous entranced for years. The truth IS out there. It’s the factory where they make all those blue Wal-Mart vests.

Nature’s Perfect Food
Let’s toss out that hogwash we learned in 4th grade science about the basic food groups consisting of meats, vegetables, and such. After all, "it's just a theory". Here's the truth - the basic food groups are chocolate, caramel, and peanuts. Yes, nature’s perfect food is Snickers.


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