please stop tickling me

In which we laugh and laugh and laugh. And love. And drink.

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Location: Portland, Oregon

Otium cum Dignitatae

Thursday, April 26, 2007

U.S.A. Patent 5199906

That there to stage right (house left!) is a gender changer, which is very useful when you have two male or female ends of a VGA cable that need, somehow, to form a family. Think of it as Oregon's legislature, if you must.
It's incredibly important for AV geek work, as I spent much of last week doing (well, 51 hours of it, anyway), and I spent much of that week carrying around several of the damn things in my pocket. I now give them out as gifts.

You will note that the patent number given in the title doesn't match the one in the picture. This is due to the fact that they come in many different sizes, and they all seem to have different patent numbers, which I find strange.
You'd think there would be just one; and I know that there are as many as there are sizes, since if you do a Google Image search on 'gender changer', you'll find many pictures of the above device, and I never did find how far one needs to go before seeing pictures of what I suspected one would find if one did a search on those particular words.

As you may imagine, a national conference on child abuse and neglect brings a lot of interesting types to a convention center. After I found out that the proceedings were being recorded (something I really should have been told in advance) for posterity (and sale!), I ended up speaking to a recordist (named 'Jane Heaven', oddly) while sitting on a joyless little couch near a water cooler.
"Some of the things you hear in these meetings," she said, "really blow your mind. Did you know that predators groom their victims? And their families, too!"
Aside from providing me with an unwelcome image of someone going after children with a horse brush, this struck me as not especially noteworthy. Of course your average child-rapist isn't going to be hanging around playgrounds. They're friends of the family, they're relatives, they're little league coaches and yes, clergy.
As she spoke, I was examining a new bruise on my arm that I'd acquired the previous day, wondering where it had come from. "Oh, I'm sorry," she said, "is this a sensitive subject for you?"

The next night, Bee and I shared some drinks on the roof of the hotel across the street. I loves me some rooftop bar, and I recognized the person nearby as a conference attendee. She was the only one there wearing a yarmulke.
She was soon sitting with us, and we were talking about whether or not there is such thing as 'good' and 'evil', the comforts versus the drawbacks of religion ("...because THERE IS NO GOD!", I was able to literally shout from a rooftop), and why Judaism, of the Big Three monotheistic religions, rocks.
Actually, we first needed to discuss whether or not Christianity can really be said to be monotheistic (I think it can said to be so, despite much debate and actual bloodshed surrounding this topic): Jesus is still kinda god, and the Holy Spirit remains a delicious mystery.
And I finally got that chance to quote Maimonides I've been waiting for! On the subject of Jewish views regarding The Messiah: "The Messiah will come, but he may tarry." This caused our table-mate to laugh uproariously, which made me think of Gore Vidal's observation that the little implied shrug at the end of that sentence forms the basis for all Jewish humor leading all the way to Woody Allen.

She also used the sentence; "It's all I can do, each and every day, to get through it without crying." Normally, sentences like this cause me to foul the nearest floor with the contents of my stomach, but in the case of a social worker, this is pretty apt. One of the presenters at the conference needed my help with her PowerPoint, and it was pretty simple. She thanked me profusely, and I gave her the whole 'just doin' my job, ma'am' number. But she went on and on, pointing out that it made her feel bad to have someone have to help her.
"But you shouldn't," I said, "it's fine."
"Yeah, but everything makes me feel bad. It's a social worker thing."
"That must do wonders for your self-esteem." We laughed.

My fellow workers were techs like me, and that's to say, dirty little bastards. When things were winding down, and we were all sitting around together, I routinely had to shut the door for fear the attendees would hear the jokes we were making. But that's what happens when you get to spend all morning taking care of the room where Shaken Baby Syndrome is being discussed; you get a sort of gallows humor about the whole thing, and before long, Shaken Baby Races are being discussed.

After that? Well, Bee got her bike back, which meant a trip to court, and then the property room, which was weird enough, but also a visit to the Elmer's where the 'Mounds of Delicious Pancakes' thing was being held (we sat outside the room, and eavesdropped. This was the first thing in a long time that I've seen where an overhead projector was used), went to The Grotto, which is a Catholic shrine on the side of Rocky Butte, thence to the shooting range (reasonably named 'A Place To Shoot'), where Bee shot her first gun.
All in all, good stuff. We're going out to EO today, to see the She Bear, even though I can't reach her on the phone. Travel observations to come.


Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Mounds of Delicious Pancakes

Ah, what the hell. There's definitely some addendizing I could do here with the Caliblornificatiog...Thing, too.

The Water
Yeah, I'd forgotten about this one. It's so awful, it rivals that of Twin Falls, Idaho. In this case, it is from the sea...Well, it almost certainly is not, but tastes of the worst aspects of the ocean (pollution, too much saline for drinkability, actual garbage and fish poop).
When asking one of our waitresses what the hell was wrong with the water in Monterey, I got the sort of response an overly servile waitperson will give ("Oh, you want that water? Instead of tap water? Greeat choiiice..."), as opposed to an actual answer. Too bad. She lived around there too, and had noticed how bad it had become...And still I only sorta know why. Because God shuns him some Callyforny, I suppose.
The next night, at the restaurant set in a building from the 1840's with this queer little plaque out front describing it as having been the scene of several "interesting occurrences" or something, the big, dumb waiter brought us our by-now-mandatory bottled water, but in glasses that had been washed in that goddamned Monterey water, so they still tasted like seal ass.

The People
The big, dumb waiter, by the way, was a California stereotype in the making. Here's what I saw: guy who had been himself the big football star in high school, right around '86 or so. So to compensate, he grew himself a stupid little ponytail for wear while working in a restaurant he fears may be a bit too hip for him, this being a Don Johnson-y type place where the men, you know, don't wear socks with their shoes. Twilight of a Champion; yes, I know, but in H-school, he was the coolest. Then he got out of high school.
It's true that people are pretty much the same wherever you go, and much of the similarity has to do with what a bunch of assheads everyone is/are. Do we really need to do the whole myself included! number? I don't really think so. It should be implied.
But should we then stop making fun of the ridiculous/inane/unfogiveable? Of course not. California is full of idiots, but it's hard to say, as I was in tourist havens. But even in Marina, with its syringes glowing proudly in the dunes, as the locals voice complaints along the lines of 'that's something a tourist would do...', I see that same old shitty insularity that passes for community, just about always, and I want to say: "Hey-you're the idiot who chose to live here, genius."
They drive like assholes too, but you already knew that.

Best Bars Ever, cont'd
Mortimer's, on Reservation Road in Marina. I cannot express the seediness.
The one place south of Carmel that is up on a cliff overlooking the ocean, whatever it was called. From the not-exactly-appropriate banter between our clearly drunk or hungover bartender and the rest of the staff to the chicken drumstick platter ("Drummies"!), they coulda served me something in a sock, and I'd still go there every day just to look at the ocean from a bar.

Hey! Check this out:

"Learn how you can make 50k per year (comm.+bonus)"
Yeah yeah. Whyncha promise me something you haven't already promised me millions of times?
EEEEEEEEEEEE! Oh man! I love me some pancake!
"(A little maple syrup never hurt anyone)"
Huh? Yeah, well I suppose you diabetics don't really want to make 50k comm. plus bonus anyway. Now tell me about the pancakes!
"At The Oregonian "Territory Sales Associate" Pancake Employment Seminar."
Pancake employment? Let's get back to where the amount of pancake I was being offerred was 'mounds'!

No such luck. As you can imagine, a 'territory sales associate' is someone who goes door to door bothering people. Thought it was nice telling the telemarketers for the newspaper to fuck off before slamming down the phone? Imagine slamming a door! In their face! But anyway, this thing is happening on a contiguous Wednesday and Thursday pairing late this month. You hafta listen to the sermon to get the pancakes probably, and it's being held at two seperate Elmer's (the local equivalent of IHOP, really) in buttfuck northeast and hateyousomuch southwest. I'll go though. I'll slam a pancake right in their face!


Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Way to San Jose

The security cop is talking to the lady behind the volunteers desk, which is in his favor, as she can't just beg off politely and leave. "It's a pretty long story," he's saying. "After I got home from Vietnam, I became an alcoholic, and..." He is standing next to a large foam-core sign that reads "THE SALMON BAKE HAS BEEN CANCELLED".
And this is the fun of working at The Convention Center. All of us are basically stuck here with each other, and for whatever reason, can't leave. Most of us are working, and everyone else is here for a conference. To wit: the Sixteenth National Conference on Child Abuse and Neglect.
For this dubious pursuit (how are you and your conference going to change thousands of years of socially/religiously enforced Hatred of the Weak?), I spend my days wandering the unnecessarily labyrinthine hallways of this fortress of a building, becoming lost as many as six times in the last two days. Sometimes there's these Sartre-ian corners where you are faced with a dead-ended hallway, with three doors that don't open. It's both terrifying and deeply annoying.

Now, all I do is make certain that they have the means by which to amplify their voices and project their PowerPoint (tm) presentations onto large screens, but to a certain extent, their destinies are entwined with my own. We are all forced to drink Starbucks coffee, if we want coffee, for instance. There's the two that are located in the building itself, plus the one a block away, and that doesn't even include the stuff that is served by the full-time catering staff, which is also Starbucks.
"Maybe we should open some sort of competition for The Convention Center," says my companion, a guy who I've known for years. He's married to an acquaintance of mine, and I've never been able to remember his name. This was after I'd noticed that a sody pop from a machine in that building costs $2.75. The we went about bitching about the incompetence of our bosses. "All my sexists live in Texas..." I said, and added, "I've been waiting all day to make that joke, but largely speaking, I've been alone."
"Sorry I couldn't have been here for you," he said with mock solemnity.

We'd been wandering around all day, our job made much more difficult by our overlords, these four dudes from Texas. I don't want to engage in a bitching-about-my-job post, as those are boring, but what could have been a relatively smooth twelve-hour work day was seriously fucked up, since they seem to...No.
But I keep noting that here again is more evidence that it's been too long since I've left Portland. And this isn't what the problem was with their job-direction, but I mean, like every Southern Gentleman I've met in my life, they're fine with the ladies until they leave the room. And then, it's this puerile Assessment Game, about as clever as the observations made by fifteen-year-olds. And how their racism is smart enough to be somewhat covered by good-time-charlie witticisms, but it's still there, and it's still stupid.

This reminds me of the fact that I was recently in California. Again, I hate California in the abstract, much like I hate Texas (and Alaska-you're on my list). But we went there, my Honeybee and I, since we wanted to be someplace sunny. Or somewhere Not Portland, in any case.
Well, it was sunny , in any case, though not warm. The central coast of Cal'forny this time of year is about as warm as the north coast of Oregon, both buffetted about by high winds fresh off the sea. And we found out yet again-the internet lies!
Or y'know, it didn't lie, but if only Monterey was anywhere near as interesting as it described itself. We did find the one gay bar in town, though. After having been to a horrid tourist hell-spot on Cannery Row, thence to some pointless Polynesian-themed bar on Lighthouse Avenue (check Aunty Christ for her thoughts on this), we noticed this squat, dirty looking brick building that caused me to say, "There's the place for people like us!"

Well sure, if you view all of Portland's bars as being at least somewhat inherently Queer. This, on the other hand, was the one and only gay bar in a small town given largely to tourism, and the I-sure-do-feel-should-be discredited idea that anyplace should serve children.
I felt vaguely dirty and embarrassed, as if we were being viewed as sexual tourists, or worse yet, people who went to go look at the the monkeys in the zoo. But our bartendress was very nice to us, and the stereotyped gay dude up at the karaoke jockey's table sure seemed fond of me when I got up to sing The Eurythmics' "Love Is A Stranger". I left by saying, "This is my favorite bar in Monterey yet! We're definitely coming back!"
We never did.

We'd gotten off the plane in San Jose, where the rental car game is entirely the purview of the Sikhs, who all wear the mandatory turbans, but not the equally mandatory daggers, I'm gonna say. This is mirrored in our experience, at the end of the trip, with the mandatory presence of The Russians when taking a cab in Portland (again; go see Aunty), at the end of our journey.
From Saint Joe down south through wonderful, wonderful Gilroy, and again I was reminded of how fucking ugly most of California is. Like they noticed how damn beautiful the landscape was, and happily went about ignoring it, to their eternal shame.
For instance, where we actually stayed is a beach slum called Marina, California (and for some reason, I've had more than one person observe from my choice of description 'beach slum': "That sounds cool!"), where even the people who live there seem like they're there just because they got a good deal on Travelocity, and said, "What the hell, I might as well stay..." A feel of awful temporariness.

Monterey is a pretty cool city, but even there you see the mistake that California made, long ago, of not making their beaches entirely public, like Oregon did. And of course, the ghost of John Steinbeck hangs over it all, uncomfortably. (Truth is, the infinitely more charming Salinas, seventeen miles northeast, is the one that hosts his museum. But even there-if all you got is Steinbeck's writings about economic inequality as your heritage as the Mexicans toil in your fields, well...) Both Cannery Row and Fisherman's Wharf aren't really worth the price of admission, i.e. being surrounded by tourists and their awful fucking kids.

But when we finally got around to heading south, it all changed. Big Sur is everything they said it would be, and seeing places like Esalen (where a young Hunter S. Thompson was once groundskeeper, and Jack Kerouac had his first vision of nature not as cosmic protector, but as Devourer of All).
Actually, Kerouac had a great deal to say on the subject: he was horrified at Esalen to see the queer boys in the hot tubs, with all the 'spermatazoa' floating on the surface. I've always been weirded out by the common American misuse of the term 'sperm'. It's like getting hit by a train, and blaming all those molecules on board. Shortly thereafter, he had one of the worst alcoholic death trips ever recorded on paper, when all he wanted was a quiet getaway...

Upon my return home, I put on Burt Bacharach's Make It Easy On Yourself album. With songs like his sad/ebullient instrumental take on "Do You Know The Way to San Jose" and "Pacific Coast Highway", I was reminded of the idealized California I picture in my mind, as does the better part of America, I'm sure.
For me, it's an America (okay; a California) that is long dead, and charming for its quiet isolation. That part still lives down around Big Sur, even though it's still too crowded with traffic. I'm viewing it as the home of good-time-charlies about to become too old for their times (check the sax break on 'San Jose'), people trying to spend their last few years in somewhat more easy surroundings, and people trying to forget all the bad they did.

Shit. Cal'forny. It's always been where everybody was heading (except for Californians, who head to Oregon, natch), and now their sky is a monstrous joke, and even that which is beautiful is surrounded by awfulness.
All the same; good times though.


Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Year of the Demon Cow-Beast Lord of Suffering

Least ways, that's what Wonkette has decided to call it. It has a nice ring to it. Sorta Thompson-esque.
So, like you might have noticed, the Bee's problems with bicycles continue. I hesitate to say where this particular spate of bad luck came from, but is it any wonder that it coincides with the reappearance of Mitch Albom in my life?

"Now you can show the world how much Mom means to you. Mitch Albom is inviting you to enter a short essay in the “Times Mom Stood Up For Me” contest. You and your Mom (or your special Mother’s Day someone) could win a trip to NYC to appear on CBS News The Early Show – plus a 7-night Royal Caribbean cruise!"-This piece of weirdness appeared in my inbox courtesy of, which is this blog-hosting site that I don't actually blog on, but still sends me fresh cuts of spam every other damn day. You oughta see the image that accompanies; him looking all sensitive and more understanding than you. Actually, that's it up there.

In our daily reading of the obituaries (for dual purposes of research and amusement) today, we happened across the name of a recently deceased woman: Alla Bye. Say it out loud.
She was named 'fake name', pretty much. Like 'Sue Doe Nym', or something. Shit like that makes me feel like something just walked over my grave. Like it's some sort of sign that the fabric of reality itself just got a little run in it. What could this portend? THE COMING OF THE DEMON COW-BEAST, THAT'S WHAT!

Or, on one hand, never ever Google your own name, Kids, it's bad for you. But I'm glad I did, since I found this remarkable thing:

"I went in for $10 unleaded and paid the nice attendant, Henry. When he left to get my change for me, I waited with my son when another White male attendant raced up to my window and began to racially assault me, calling me a Black bitch and n-i-g-g-e-r and yelling at me to "get up there to the store and get your change back from him so he doesn't have to walk it back out here to you...hahahaha". When I went to the store to report this Rich guy, the manager who was also White, Jay Stiley, refused to reprimand Rich at all and while I wrote down the incidents on a piece of paper Jay provided me, he left and went back into the store. Rich continued to walk back and forth past me lifting his balls in a lewd manner while blowing kisses at me, laughing the whole time."

Well ma'am, I actually was lifting my balls in a friendly manner. And why I felt the need to spell the objectionable word in question rather than just say it, I couldn't tell you.
The above is from ripoff report, where you may read the whole text. It's a wonderful piece of oft-misspelled complaint: pretty much everything that ever happened to this lady is due to racism. 'Bigoted' appears before pretty much every proper name in the narrative (except for 'nice attendant Henry'). By the way, here's what I actually saw in the Google excerpt:

"Meanwhile I spoke to Rich Bachelor's father and his comments to me were "I don't know where that son of a b--i-t--c-h is and if I never saw him again it wouldn't make me happy enough". Even his own father despises Rich Bachelor. He also said that he's not much of a good man and causes chaos and havoc wherever he goes. He said I'm sorry for what he done to you, but I hope I never have to see him again."

'Even his own father despises Rich Bachelor'. Siiiiigh...You know, in my misunderstood, unpublished novel, there's a character who is always referred to in such ways as "widely regarded as a fool", "known even to his closest friends as a moron", "resembling a drunk frog", at least partially because I love writing insults, and because the format of the book is that of a fake history text, so there'll be an index, right? And all the page listings for that character will be like 'responsible for irreversible collapse of civilization, p. 442' and 'known largely for his failures, p.56'. I love it. Wish I could be that powerful in real life.

And yet it continues. I received some mail the other day for Richard Irascible, CEO of Irascible Contracting. This is Bitchslap The Monkey's work. He set me up with subscriptions to these weird trade publications...Just 'cuz that's the kind of thing he does. Soon, I was getting monthlies about the Beverage industry, for instance, and could have attended a conference on Industrial Lubrication, for a nominal fee. I just didn't think this would continue beyond a half-year.

But...Here it is, and it says things like "A HUGE STRIDE FORWARD IN THE EVOLUTION OF A CLASSIC"-oh? What Earth-shaking topic could we possibly be discussing?
ROLLING BEARING ANALYSIS, is the answer. The "bible" for engineers involved in rolling bearing technology. Also, since they have no idea what sort of contracting my company is involved in, I am invited to "Transform tribosystems under extreme conditions to milder friction": "INTRODUCING THE NEXT GENERATION OF ADAPTIVE MATERIALS!"

That seems a bit broad. What about the Handbook of Lapping and Polishing; "The most current and complete reference in the field!"-i.e. the only reference in the field? Oh, no. Here: "the first source in English to bring to the light of day the physical fundamentals and advanced technologies at the leading edge of the modern lapping and polishing practice." Gotcha. Why do I suspect that this is even boring to the lapper/polisher in your family unit?
There's a lot of needlessly complicated sentences like the above. Consider:
"Why do so many students and practicing engineers rely on this book? The answer is simple: because of its complete coverage from low-to high speed applications and full derivations of the underlying mathematics from a leader in the field". Ohhhhh! That's what I thought you'd say!

Well, my life is interesting. Next post from California, if I notice something suspicious.


Monday, April 09, 2007

To Do: Child Abuse

In my misunderstood, unpublished novel, two advertising men who have been elevated to governmental posts are watching some of their greatest hits. One involves a bunch of kids playing some softball. Hit! Ball goes through upstairs window of adjacent house, kindly old man's face appears.
The next scene shows the kid who hit the ball seated in a chair in a sunny back yard, under a pilly yellow blanket. "Now y' jist sit there un-der th'...'Liktrik blan-ket..." says the old man, as the camera pans to the barometer, showing the temp to be somewhere in the high nineties.
Minor chord music, and the voice over: "CHILD ABUSE. THE TIME HAS COME."
Both of the ad men bust up laughing, and one asks the other, "The time has come for child abuse?"

I love advertising. And I love getting paid for things. There is a big, weeklong conference on child abuse at the convention center next week, and I'll be there from morning 'til night on each of the days, doing the AV thing. I have a funny feeling that any joking on our part will be unwelcome.
Like: A whole week, huh? That's a lotta abuse! Yeah, I'm just gonna have to shut up.
That gig comes courtesy of The Chief, by the way, who seems to have randomly stumbled upon my blog via Google (check last posts comments).

Note the updated blogroll to yer right, and down. Just look at all that. Note that The Man's Weekly Apology has already lapsed to the tune of one week. I'm imagining that if the World Court at The Hague has Parole Officers, he's gonna be picking up roadside trash in Burkina Faso.

Perusing stacks of used vinyl records, as you know, soothes my mind. Today, for only three-and-one-half dollars American, I purchased Herbie Mann's Memphis Underground, and Coast to Coast: Overture and Beginners by Rod Stewart and The Faces. I'm a little unclear on why everyone's so orgasmic about that Herbie album. It's pleasant, but the flute is an inherently underwhelming instrument, to my mind. I dunno.
Other recent moosic puchases include Amy Winehouse's Back to Black, which caused my own daughter to laugh at me. Oh, just you wait She Bear: that old bastard Time's gonna get you too.
Also, local heroes Self-Fulfilling Prophecies just left on their first tour. Their debut album, Mercenary State, is excellent. It's like Gang of Four meets...Dunno. They're great.

Just got off the phone with The Chief. Here's how he found el blogue:
He is starting something called STAB (Starving Talented Artists Bank), and was Googling the phrase "stab stab stabbity stab". Aaand he found that post of mine regarding jokes. Still unsure about the provenance of said phrase, or whether or not anyone has copyrighted it.

The Honeybee and I are going to Monterey, Ca. later this week. I haven't set foot in California since one Sunday afternoon in early 2001, when I drove fifteen miles into the state to purchase liquor in a tiny town named 'Hilt'.
Before that, I suppose the last time I was there was 1987. Damn. For all my ancestral hatred of California, that still seems ridiculous. I mean, it's right down there and all, so what's my problem?
Well, I spent these many intervening years just getting to know the Northwest better and better, I guess. Like I say, I get so much information out of getting only a couple hours outta town, why bother? But on the other hand, if it blows my ever-lovin' mind to go to Montana, imagine how Japan would cause me to respond.

I dunno. I saw Grindhouse. Like pretty much every critic I've read says, the Robert Rodriguez half (and all the fake trailers) is wonderful, and the Quentin Tarantino part is a bunch of aimless pop culture referencing (and other-Tarantino-movie referencing) leading to a car chase of epic proportions. I liked Bee's observation that it seemed like it was written by a pretentious fourteen-your-old girl:
"There's this evil guy, right? And he kills girls with his car? But it turns out he's this big crybaby! HEEEEEEEE!!!!"

Got a lot of funny things, but really this post is just here to say Dropped Some Shit, to alert you to the blogroll changes, and to announce my return to the world of competitive spelling.
Tonight at Atlantis, up on scenic Mississippi Ave., they're having a spelling bee. I haven't competed since the middle '80's (when I took first place, then second, at State two years consecutively), and am looking forward to handing those SpelChek-impaired diaper bags their asses on an especially large chafing dish.
I gave The Smiler a ride to work this morning, and when I told her about the impending ass-handing, she asked if I remembered the word that led to my downfall. Well, after going down at County level, before my two seasons of glory, I determined that the word 'hemorrhoid' wasn't going to ruin my life, and would never give me trouble again.
Wish me luck.