Archive for the 'junk about me' Category

More people who do stuff better than I do

Thursday, May 15th, 2008

Which would include roughly 99.97% of the Earth’s population, but never mind that now. If you are a fan of both photography and music, as I am, you will enjoy visiting stevecarter.com. Steve is an affable English bloke who built a beautiful house on a loch in the Scottish highlands where he lives with his family, including Charlie, a Bearded Collie whom he describes as “somewhat mad”. Steve kept a blog to document the construction of his home, which must be seen to be believed. If I ever had a “dream house”, it would look very much like the 5-bedroom eco-friendly Finnish log home (with integrated recording studio) that Steve designed and built on 200 yards of coastline in a Caledonian pine forest, with views to die for.

Steve’s music is very orchestral in nature; he now composes mainly production soundtracks for film, television, and documentaries after spending many years as a session player in London. Unlike me, he takes stunning photos, which can be seen in great detail (some can be downloaded as wallpaper) on his site. Like me, however, he is an aficionado of Bad Album Cover Art, including this delightfully tacky sample from his collection which has now become one of my favorites:


I’m sure there’s an inspirational message here, but I have no idea what it might be, and frankly, I’m not sure I want to know, as somehow this cover suggests the disturbing possibility that Freddie Gage is a mass murderer who has killed and dismembered his entire family and all his friends. At least he was careful not to get any blood on those white boots.

Woot me!

Monday, May 12th, 2008

I’ve discovered a new obsession fun diversion: the deal-a-day site known as Woot. Every day at midnight, they put up one item for sale at a ridiculously low price, and when they’re gone, they’re gone; it could be minutes, it could be hours. You never know what they’re going to have for sale in advance, or when an item might sell out, so the only thing to do is go there and check it out every day as soon after midnight as possible, in case it’s something you might actually want. For example, just the other day I snagged this lovely Mr. Toast T-Shirt for a mere five bucks:


Uber-fashionable, eh? Of course, I think this one would have been much more appropriate:

Week of Suck

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2008

Things have not been peaches and cream in Toasterville this week. To start off with, while in Houston last week for my usual round of medical tests for my pulmonary fibrosis, it was discovered that my amylase and lipase numbers were out of whack, so there’s apparently a chance I could be developing pancreatitis. Oh, joy: that’s just what I need on top of a major lung disease. I’m supposed to have some more bloodwork done in a few days and we’ll see where this goes, but it’s possible that the first test could have been a fluke. Time will tell; keep your fingers crossed.

Mostly, however, at the moment we’re worried about Tiger (below), one of our three cats, who is in the vet hospital as I write this. As they get older, male cats are particularly susceptible to a condition known as Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease, or FLUTD. It’s most serious complication occurs when crystals or calcified stones form in the bladder which then get stuck in and obstruct the cat’s urinary tract, leaving it unable to pee. Toxins build up quickly, and if the situation isn’t recognized and the blockage treated right away, the cat can die within hours. It’s a very serious condition, and one of the top three killer diseases (along with kidney failure and feline leukemia) in domestic cats.

Late Saturday night, we became aware that Tiger was showing symptoms of a blockage and seemed to be in pain. Fortunately, our vet was on-call for the weekend, and we made an emergency trip to her clinic where she unblocked Tiger with a catheter and kept him under observation until Monday. It was a close call; another few hours could have been fatal. After he came back home, we thought he was out of the woods … until yesterday, when his symptoms reappeared. However, we were watching him closely as we knew exactly what to look for this time, and got him right back to the vet. The second trip will mean having to leave the catheter in place for a couple of days to give his system more time to clear out the crystals, and treatment with antibiotics and other medicine. Even so, there’s no guarantee it still won’t happen again; some cats are just predisposed to it — genetics, perhaps — and it’s possible this could be the case with Tiger. In any event, assuming all goes well, we should be able to bring him home on Friday, and it’s very likely that we’ll have to keep him on a special diet from now on.

I have to tell you the little guy is a fighter, though, and I have high hopes that he’s going to make it. I’ll never forget the first time we saw him in our back yard, nearly seven years ago. As best as we can figure, some asshat with an aversion to taking kittens to the animal shelter had dumped him and his three sisters over the chain link fence into our yard, where they had been living under our tool shed for a few weeks or possibly longer. By this time they were on the very edge of feral, and it took us nearly another month to coax them out and allow us to feed them. To get them out from under the cold, dirty shed I built a big wooden shelter box (complete with a shingled roof and carpeted sun porch!) for them and put it right outside our back door, and they soon adopted it. Often I would turn on the back porch light during the night to check on them, and laugh to see four little heads pop up like furry jacks-in-the-box from inside the shelter.

During that period when they were learning to trust us, but not quite sure yet, Tiger was always the alpha male, and seemed to relish the role of “man of the family”. He would bravely take the lead when they approached us, standing protectively between us and his sisters while meowing defiantly. Eventually they came to accept us, and we were able to move them safely indoors. We found homes for two of them, but kept Tiger and his sister Callie (the tortoise-shell in the photo), and they’ve been beloved members of our family ever since. We’ve acquired one more in the meantime, and now have a happy three-cat household.

So that’s what is seriously bugging me this week. Oh, and let’s also not forget (a) the screen on my less-than-a-year-old iPod clone (a Sansa e250) cracked today, rendering it a $90 paperweight; (b) I took the first whack at our income taxes last night, and we may have to cough up the better part of a thousand bucks to dear ol’ Uncle Sam; (c) I’ve been told the ToastMobile needs a new set of tires a.s.a.p., which means I’ll have to pull yet another $500 out of my ass somehow; (d) Mrs. T. learned on Monday that a University field trip which had been scheduled for next year, where she would have presented papers at two prestigious international library conferences in Korea and Taiwan, was canceled due to lack of funding, and; (e) my dear Blogger friend and fellow cookie-lover Moose is struggling with the trauma of a major breakup.

And shit, folks, it’s only Wednesday.

The stars must not be in proper alignment this week; hope things are going better for you.

Shocking photo!

Monday, March 31st, 2008

WiTW Exclusive!

GIANT MONSTER PIGEON ATTACKS GALVESTON HOTEL!


A young boy is shown about to fearlessly jump on the back of the gigantic flying beast in this exclusive pic taken by Mr. Toast during a brief mini-vacation last weekend in Galveston, Texas. However, shortly after this photo was snapped the colossal Columba Livia Domestica took flight and was last seen heading out over the Gulf of Mexico. Florida beware!

This little piggie went to market

Tuesday, March 25th, 2008

Hope everyone had a great Easter weekend! We visited the brother-and-sister-in-law, who live on sixty acres of pasture land out in the country near Austin. As is the case with many Texas farmers, ranchers, and other landowners, wild hogs are a big problem for them. The population of feral pigs has exploded in the Lone Star State in the last few years and is now estimated at between two and four million. Once a sow reaches breeding age at 7 or 8 months, she can produce up to one thousand piglets during her lifetime. At full growth they average 100 to 150 pounds, but in certain regions can reach up to 500-600 pounds. Among many forms of destructive behavior, feral pigs tear up fences, destroy crops with their rooting and wallowing, compete with native deer for food sources, carry disease and parasites, and some even kill lambs and other livestock.

To try and get rid of them, my brother-in-law has contracted with a local trapper who will catch and haul them off for free in exchange for their meat, which is supposedly even tastier than domestic pork. While we were there, they nabbed two adult swine and several piglets. Easter Ham, anyone?

This week in history

Thursday, March 20th, 2008

Last weekend was my and Mrs. Toast’s anniversary, and without disclosing exactly how long we’ve been married, let me just say that our wedding happened sometime during the Reagan administration. Yes, we may be old, but we’re funky. True story: when Mrs. Toast’s father realized how much it was going to cost him to marry off his (second!) daughter at a big fancy church wedding, he jokingly offered to pay for a trip to Hawaii if we would agree to elope to Las Vegas instead. Much to his surprise, we took him up on it, and spent our honeymoon at Kauai’s legendary Coco Palms Resort, where Elvis filmed “Blue Hawaii” in 1961. At the hotel, Don Ho even personally sang “Tiny Bubbles” to us while actual bubbles from some sort of special-effects bubble machine hidden in the ceiling landed in our dinner salads. It was so awesome I nearly cried, mainly because the salads cost $8.99 each and the bubbles did not exactly enhance their flavor.

Anyway, having become naturally accustomed to the high-roller lifestyle as a result of this experience, we splurged for a mini-vacation here last weekend. Now one might think that such luxe surroundings would be more than enough to celebrate 20-some-odd years of wedded bliss, but no! I still had a trick up my sleeve — I took my dear wife out for dinner to a restaurant which featured this sign prominently displayed over the front door:

Pretty damn classy, eh? Bring on the Margaritas!

Never fear, Cap’n Toast is here

Wednesday, February 27th, 2008

As the Texas primary looms closer on March 4th, I’ve been getting increasingly urgent messages from my good buddy Barack Obama. He’s been very pleased to tell me how well things are going, and how he’s been kicking Hilary’s ass. (Actually, I believe the exact phrase he used was “we’re on a roll” but I knew what he really meant.) More excitingly, Obama’s campaign recently wrote to offer me the chance to become a Precinct Captain here in my little corner of East Texas. According to the email:

Signing up as an Obama Precinct Captain means making a personal commitment to the campaign. But along with that commitment comes the opportunity to be a big part of our strategy in Texas. Here’s what Obama Precinct Captains need to do:

* Identify Obama supporters in your community and recruit more — campaign staff will provide you with a packet of resources to help

* Support Barack in your precinct on March 4th, 2008 and help mobilize neighborhood supporters to join you

You don’t need any previous experience to sign up. You just need to support Barack and be ready to turn your energy and enthusiasm into action. It requires some responsibility, but don’t worry — we’ll be here with all the materials, training, and support you’ll need every step of the way.

I have to admit this seriously appeals to me, as back in my college days I used to be somewhat of a political activist. In 1968 I helped organize local protests against the Vietnam War, mobilized buses to take people to rallies in Washington, and even cut off my long hair to go “Clean for Gene” McCarthy. Yes, I was all the picture of fresh-faced, bright-eyed, clean-cut college student respectability as I canvassed door-to-door trying to get people to vote for him and answer any questions they had about his positions on the issues (at least as best as I understood them at the time). It was a real feeling of empowerment to recruit and mobilize and all that good stuff, and I felt like I was having an ever-so-small yet perceptible impact. McCarthy eventually failed to win the nod (Hubert Humphrey was nominated following the death of Robert Kennedy), but at least I was out there working for something I believed in. After all the talk of “change” this year, you may note that it was being used as a campaign theme 40 years ago.

The main problem for me now, however, is the physical exertion required for all that recruiting and mobilizing; it’s not so easy tromping door-to-door when you’re sucking on an oxygen canula. However, I can speak on the telephone without difficulty, so I’ve decided to contact the Obama team and offer to help in that regard. I suspect they’ll be more than happy to have me make phone calls on their behalf for an hour or two each day.

You may find it surprising (at least, it certainly is to me) that after months of indecision I have come down firmly on the side of the Obama camp. I’m sure she’s a fine person, but there’s always been something about Hilary that has made me hesitate from the very beginning — I can’t tell you with any certainty exactly what that “something” is. Perhaps it’s her “professional politician” aura that comes from years of association with a political dynasty (i.e., Kennedys, Clintons, Bushes, etc.), which makes me wonder if she’ll say almost anything to get elected, or if she’s in the race more for personal glory than for wanting to improve the state of the nation. Or maybe she just plain scares me. I get the distinct feeling that if I were to ever cross her, I would be extremely likely to have my balls cut off. That sort of strength might be a good thing when it comes to dealing with the dangers of the world a president has to face, but after suffering through eight years of one mini-dictator I’m not sure I’m ready for another one, even if she might be way more competent and benign than Shrubya.

Nope; I think the simple answer is that I’ve caught Obama Fever. I don’t really know what kind of president he’ll make, or if he’ll get cooperation from Congress once the post-election honeymoon period is over, but I have a growing sense of optimism that things will be better, and sometimes you just gotta go with your gut.

As you surely know by now, Texas and Ohio have a major importance to the Democrats this time around which hasn’t been seen in very many years; most primary balloting has established a clear front-runner by the time they get to us. If Obama continues his momentum and extends his winning streak here, you might as well stick a fork in Hilary’s campaign: she’ll be done. She can go back to serving her constituents in New York, write a book, and maybe take another shot at it in 2012. There’s no doubt the Lone Star is a must-win for her, and if she is able to pull it out of the fire — particularly in the unlikely event that she decisively pummels Obama by double digits — it will give her new life and it’s on to Mississippi a week later, then Pennsylvania in April. But personally, I believe that Obama is unstoppable at this point.

But can he win the general election in November? A McCain-Obama matchup is going to be interesting, to say the least, and McCain is already taking direct aim at him as his presumptive opponent, stressing how his own combat and P-O-W experience makes him uniquely qualified for the role of commander-in-chief. “Where is the audacity of hope when it comes to backing the success of our troops all the way to victory in Iraq?” McCain said in a statement today after yesterday’s Democratic debate in Cleveland, during which Obama pledged to end the war by 2009. “What we heard last night was the timidity of despair.”

That kind of tough talk may appeal to those on the right, but Obama fired right back: “John McCain may like to say that he wants to follow Osama bin Laden to the gates of hell, but so far all he’s done is follow George Bush into a misguided war in Iraq that has cost us thousands of lives and billions of dollars.” Right on, as we used to say.

So we’re getting ready for a good old-fashioned Texas slugfest down here next week. Early voting began Feb. 19th; I’ve already cast my ballot for Barack, and I’ll be on the phone harassing, er, canvassing, potential voters between now and March 4th. Cap’n Toast reporting for duty — let’s rock.

Secret Agent of Change

Thursday, January 24th, 2008

You may recall — unless you have a really short attention span, in which case you should click here — that a few days ago I came up with what I thought would be a really nifty theme song for Barack Obama. By making this idea public on the blog, I may have even secretly hoped that the candidate himself might hear of it, and realizing that my brilliant mind could be a great asset to his organization, offer to employ me as his Media Director — or at the very least his official Theme Songs Czar. Hey, I’m qualified: I enjoyed listening to Tom Lehrer back in the 60′s, so I know the value of a cleverly satirical melody with political overtones.

But then I realized that anyone from the Obama group might have a difficult time finding my post without constructing a very specific search query, so I thought I might help bring it to their attention by writing them about it. There’s a place on the “contact us” page of Obama’s website for “other thoughts and questions” which would seem to be a highly appropriate place to address the topic of, “hey, you should check out this song that is guaranteed to make people boogie in the aisles at your campaign stops.” (I’m all about the helping.) The form required me to enter my first and last name, so to avoid any possibility of confusion due to the fact that my real name would have no obvious connection to the blog, I typed “Last name: Toast”, and “First name: Mr.” into the contact form. I even hinted in my message that I was one of those “undecided” voters that candidates devote so much attention to, and that I might be persuaded to actually vote for Mr. Obama if he could adequately address some of my serious concerns about the future of this nation, for example:

• Appointing a presidential commission to study the possibility of designating beer as the “National Beverage of America”, a panel for which I would gladly volunteer to be a member;

• Offering large lump-sum tax-free cash compensation as reparation to certain individuals who have suffered lasting psychological damage as a result of tragic past events in our nation’s history — and by “certain individuals”, I am referring to readers of this blog;

• Sending Ann Coulter and Michelle Malkin to the Guantanamo Bay Terrorist Detention Center to investigate conditions there, and conveniently “misplacing” their return tickets home;

I have many more concerns, but these will do for starters.

To be honest, I really didn’t expect much to happen; but amazingly, not long after clicking the “submit form” button, I’ll be damned if I didn’t get an e-mail reply! Although I must say I was initially a little disappointed, I still knew that someone had actually read my message and taken it under advisement, because the email was addressed to me personally!

Dear Mr.:

Thank you for contacting Obama for America, and sharing your ideas for Senator Obama. The volume of messages we are receiving has exceeded all expectations. While it is difficult to respond to thousands of messages a week as efficiently as we would like, the level of interest and nature of the comments reflected in these communications are very gratifying. Barack knows well that Washington does not have a monopoly on good ideas, and neither does he. That is why it’s important to hear from everyone, and we will take your ideas under consideration. Your thoughts on our campaign and America’s future are deeply appreciated.

Do you see that, people? My thoughts are “deeply appreciated” by an actual presidential candidate! How cool is that? As if that wasn’t enough, a few days later I received another email, this time no less than a personal message from Barack’s wife, Michelle Obama. (I hope he doesn’t mind his wife carrying on these conversations with total strangers on the internet; you know how freaky the web can be.) But as I read Michelle’s letter to me, I realized that I actually had something special that she and the rest of the Obama organization urgently wanted:

Mr.:

Thank you so much for writing. Right now, all across the country, thousands of Americans are taking their seat at the table and shaping the outcome of this election. One of the more than 100,000 donors who have given in 2008 is promising to give again if you make your donation today. Now is the time to own a piece of this campaign. We are building up our organization to compete in all fifty states, and your gift will help us reach our goal.

And that “something” … is money.

This week has seen regular correspondence from the Obama team asking me to input my thoughts, my ideas for the future, and most importantly, my cash. It is good to know that I’m such a valuable asset to the organization. Today I received a message from former presidential candidate Senator John Kerry, alerting me to a slime email that is circulating that claims Obama is a Muslim who refuses to recite the pledge of allegiance, as well as other falsehoods. I’ll have to admit I was skeptical at first when I saw the return address “John Kerry” in my inbox and thought it might be spam, but the Senator again addressed me personally:

Dear Mr.,

I support Barack Obama because he doesn’t seek to perfect the politics of Swiftboating — he seeks to end it. This is personal for me, and for a whole lot of Americans who lived through the 2004 election.

As a veteran, it disgusts me that the Swift Boats we loved while we were in uniform on the Mekong Delta have been rendered, in Karl Rove’s twisted politics, an ugly verb meaning to lie about someone’s character just to win an election. But as someone who cares about winning this election and changing the country I love, I know it’s not enough to complain about a past we can’t change when our challenge is to win the future — which is why we must stop the Swiftboating, stop the push-polling, stop the front groups, and stop the email chain smears.

This year, the attacks are already starting. Some of you may have heard about the disgusting lies about Barack Obama that are being circulated by email. These attacks smear Barack’s Christian faith and deep patriotism, and they distort his record of more than two decades of public service. They are nothing short of “Swiftboat” style anonymous attacks.

These are the same tactics the right has used again and again, and as we’ve learned, these attacks, no matter how bogus, can spread and take root if they go unchecked.

We need you to email the truth to your address books. Print it out and post it at work. Talk to your neighbors. Call your local radio station. Write a letter to the editor. If lies can be spread virally, let’s prove to the cynics that the truth can be every bit as persuasive as it is powerful.

Thank you,
John Kerry

[serious]
Kidding aside for a moment, this is an important issue, and if someone happens to forward you this particular slanderously distorted email, I hope you will reply with the facts and set them straight. The truth should be the truth, regardless of what your political leanings happen to be.
[/serious]

In conclusion, while there’s been no definite word as to whether he wants to use my theme song suggestion, I’m still glad to know that I qualify for these regular updates from Senator Obama. Who knows, I might even vote for the guy, especially if he promises to investigate the conspiracy regarding the “Seabed Nectar” secret ingredient in Slusho, which causes people to burst open at the seams. (Do not drink Slusho! You have been warned!)

You ask, I answer

Friday, December 28th, 2007

In a comment to my last post, Sphincter asked: “BTW, what happened with the Cornhole Game?” Now you should know that I take these sort of questions from my readers very seriously, mainly because I realize that if I don’t, and as a result were to lose just one reader, this would … well, it would cut my audience in half, basically, and that would be tragic. So without further adieu* let me present — complete with color photos! — the conclusion to the Great Christmas Cornhole Caper of 2007:

Completed “naked” cornhole set prior to being painted, with a closeup of the retractable leg area. Look at the detail! Look at the craftsmanship! Look at how I forgot to remove my cutting guide lines!

After applying a primer coat and base layer of lovely slate-gray paint, I next proceeded to deftly add the mind-boggling complex design pattern atop the boards. (Ignore that big ugly overspray of day-glo orange on the front there in the left photo. OK, I had to repaint it, but I’m prepared to suffer for my art.) Finally, I applied several coats of Minwax Polycrylic® to seal and protect the finish, and give it a lustrous shine. Because that’s just how I roll.

Christmas morning: L&T opening the elaborately boxed and wrapped corn bags while the boards remained cleverly hidden in the garage. Initially, since they had no concept of the game, I played a little joke on them by pretending that the bags alone were their complete present. This kept everyone in a somewhat bewildered state (major source of bewilderment: trying to remain polite while wondering whether to call 911 for medical assistance since I clearly appeared to have lost my mind) for several minutes until I piped up with “Oh wait! I almost forgot, there’s something else that goes with it!” I’m such a kidder. The boards then appeared through the back door, and as they say, “the crowd went wild.”

While Cornhole is not exactly an indoor sport, we nevertheless risked damage to our windows, fine china, cats, and other breakable items by setting up the targets in the living room in order for me to demonstrate the detailed, highly complicated rules of the game, which can be summarized thusly: try to toss the bag through the freakin’ hole. In the photos above, Dead-Eye Brady takes aim; he shoots, he scores!! Seriously, the game set was a huge hit, especially with the kids. We’ve heard that they’ve held family back yard tournaments nearly every night since Christmas and L. is talking about making Cornhole sets for all their friends, and (unlike Mrs. Toast and I, barbaric heathens who live in near-seclusion) they know a whole bunch o’ people, mostly through their church back home near Austin. At this rate, if their enjoyment of the sport catches on, I may turn out to be singularly responsible for the spread of Cornhole into East-Central Texas, which will mean that if there was ever any doubt before, there’s none now:

I’m going to hell.

———-
*Exactly what is “adieu”, anyway? And why should there be no further of it now? I’ve never been able to figure this expression out.

Hot Springs, cool town

Monday, November 26th, 2007

We’re back from our Ozark Adventure, having spent a nice relaxing week away from the hustle and bustle before the “holiday season” begins in earnest. Hot Springs is one of our favorite vacation spots; we’ve been making treks there for the past twenty years. For one thing, it’s fairly close at only about 250 miles away, which is a relatively painless four-hour drive. The main reason we like it, though, is for its incredible scenic beauty. Hot Springs sits right smack-dab in the middle of the part of Arkansas known as the “Diamond Lakes” region, which consists of Lakes DeGray, Hamilton, and Ouachita, plus a few other smaller bodies of water. Each lake has its own particular character. DeGray is a 13,800 acre Corps of Engineers project, thus commercial development is limited and the lake has a very natural feel. The primary recreational center is Lake DeGray State Park Resort, where we’ve stayed often. Wildlife abounds in the park, including winter nesting grounds for the American bald eagle. You can camp in the wild, stay in the park’s well-appointed lodge (with free Wi-Fi!) where you can dine in the restaurant and enjoy the massive stone fireplace, or even rent a Yurt for a different sort of outdoor experience.

Further north, spring-fed Lake Ouachita is another Corps lake; with 40,000 acres and 975 miles of shoreline, it’s the biggest lake in Arkansas. Also due to limited commercial development, the water is exceptionally pure, and the lake is rated by the EPA as the second-cleanest in the entire United States.

In contrast to the other two however, Lake Hamilton is a well-developed residential “city” lake with many homes, hotels, restaurants and other businesses along its shoreline, and this is where we went most often during the time we owned our boat. Some of our most enjoyable experiences involved dressing up in our fine duds, getting into the boat, putting over to a restaurant on the water where an attendant would greet us at the dock and valet-park the boat for us while we enjoyed a gourmet meal. Then afterwards, we would leisurely putt over to a nightclub on the other side of the lake where we would drop anchor just outside the marina and listen to the band for an hour or two before returning to our luxury lakeside accommodations. Good times.

Unfortunately, we no longer have the boat due to the increasing difficulty of maintaining it with my lung condition, not to mention the fact it was costing us an arm and a leg to operate it, especially when we only got to take it out a few times a year. (The photo shows me at the helm during happier times on Lake Ouachita.) As anyone who has ever owned a “boat” will surely tell you, the classic definition of the word is: (1) A small vessel for travel on water; (2) A bottomless pit, surrounded by water, into which you throw money; (3) Acronym used by boat owners for “Break Out Another Thousand”.

Still, even without the boat we love Hot Springs and try to get back there every now and then. Aside from the lakes, the downtown area is very quaint, with a turn-of-the-century art-deco sort of feel to it. The best example of this sort of architecture is the centrally-situated Arlington Hotel (where, again, we have often stayed) which has a colorful history. Back in the 30′s, it was a favorite hangout of Chicago mobsters like Al Capone, who was rumored to have his own private escape hatch installed in his suite at the Arlington in order to make a quick getaway from the law if needed.

After several fires and considerable neglect during the 50′s and 60′s, the hotel has been restored to its former splendor and looks today much as it did in the period postcard below:

Not seen in the photo, suspended into the mountain at the rear of the hotel, is a gigantic redwood hot tub in which we have spent many a drunken new year’s eve with a crowd of other revelers, the last time in 2000. The tub is fed by the thermal springs from which the town gets its name, alleged to have curative powers by the native Indians who frequented the spot long before the white man arrived. The custom of “taking the waters” to heal gout, ulcers, rheumatism and a variety of other disorders endured long thereafter, and beginning in the early 1900′s dozens of elaborate bathhouses sprang up along what is now Central Avenue, catering to throngs of health-seekers. These establishments, patterned after the ostentatious public baths of Roman times, were full of the latest equipment, pampering the bather in artful surroundings including marble and tile decorated floors, walls and partitions. Some rooms sported polished brass, murals, fountains, statues and stained glass.

Today, only two of these magnificent structures have survived. The Fordyce has been preserved by the National Park Service as a sort of museum of the historic grandeur of the times, featuring the furniture, steam cabinets, tubs, massage tables, chiropody tools, billiard table, grand piano, beauty parlor and hydrotherapy equipment prevalent in those days. And one other is in actual operation; at the Buckstaff Baths you can still get a ritual therapeutic bath and massage in the traditional manner. We’ve done it once, and it was an interesting experience to say the least — although I don’t think I’d care to do it again.

Finally, there’s the “Clinton Connection” which I hinted at in an earlier post. Without getting too political, I will just say that despite his personal shortcomings, I thought highly of Bill Clinton’s accomplishments during his term of office. As you may know, Hot Springs was his boyhood home, and during his presidency the town was simply beside itself in celebration. At one point during his tenure, Mrs. Toast’s sister and her husband (rabid Christian conservative Republicans who thought he was no less than the devil incarnate) accompanied us on a family lake vacation and we gave them a tour of the town, during which I took fiendish delight in pointing out All Things Clintonian: his former house, his former school, the parking lot where he got his first blow job, etc. I could see my sister-in-law getting progressively more agitated by this, until we finally pulled up in front of a souvenir shop and I offered to go in and buy her a Bill Clinton T-Shirt. At this point she could take no more, and blurted out that she wished I would because she needed something to clean her toilet with.

Another famous Clinton legacy in Hot Springs is McClard’s Bar-B-Q, home of some of the finest ribs and sauce in the entire nation. These culinary delights were a favorite of Bill’s for many years, and when he was governor, he would occasionally sneak down to Hot Springs from Little Rock in the middle of the night at which time the owners would open the place and cook up a batch of beef and pork especially for him. He also stopped by on several occasions during his presidency, and favored one particular booth near the middle of the restaurant. During one of our visits there a few years ago, “The Clinton Table” was available and I am excited to report that my ass was parked in the exact same spot that formerly had been occupied by the ass of the 42nd President of the United States of America. (There’s a Monica Lewinsky joke there somewhere, but I’m not going to touch it.) This time, however, we sat next to the window and chatted up our waitress who regaled us with several Clinton stories. It seems that whenever he came in as president, there were at least a dozen secret service personnel who surrounded him at all times to not only shield him from any potential drive-by shooting through the large plate-glass windows, but to give him some privacy while he ate. Apparently, many people wanted to come up to him to say hello and shake his hand. On one occasion there was a woman (not a fan, much like my sister-in-law) who was determined not to just meet Mr. Clinton, but to also confront him about some issue or another. When a secret service agent tried to keep her away, she jabbed him with her elbow in an attempt to push past him. This was Not A Good Move on her part to say the least — you do not want to fuck with the secret service — and resulted in some momentary chaos during which Clinton was whisked out of the restaurant and the woman was arrested. Our waitress also recounted that every time the president came in, ten to twelve large bags of food would disappear out the door to a group of people whom she never, ever saw. Presumably, these were secret service agents staked out on the rooftops of nearby buildings.

As you can see by the photo to your right, I thoroughly enjoyed our meal there last week, and we bought several bottles of sauce to bring back for Christmas presents. One of them will no doubt go to my sister-in-law.

Stage two, in which, amazingly, I manage to not saw off a finger

Tuesday, November 20th, 2007

The Great Cornhole Set Construction continues in the Toasted Woodshop, with much visible progress to report today. I was able to cut up the 1×4′s without losing any of my digits (no small accomplishment, if you’ve ever seen me at work) and then glue and pin the frames together as in the pictures below:


Once the play board is attached to the frame, I will have what is known as a set of “naked” (i.e., unfinished) targets, very much like you see here:


Even in their present raw condition, these boards might fetch $60-80 on eBay or Craigslist, plus perhaps another $50 or so to ship them. Of course, the real value comes in the finishing touches, which is to say the quality and artistry of the paint job. Some of these can be extremely elaborate, such as these or this one. This is one reason why the sport fascinates me so much in addition to the simple gamesmanship of it; I love how people express their creativity by giving their homemade boards real personality. College and major league sports logos are also a popular theme, not just in board design but in the bags as well, such as these for example.

However, as my artistic ability is rather limited, I’m going to opt instead for a simple two-color geometric design, with perhaps a pinstripe if I’m feeling especially bold by the time we get to that point. They won’t be fancy, but I still think they’re going to look nice.

You know, it just occurred to me that since I seem to be getting a lot of blog mileage out of these Cornhole posts, maybe I should have signed up for NaBloPoMo again this year after all. At this rate, there’s at least another half-dozen photos I could still take and post yet. Or maybe not, as I’m sure many of you would get sick of reading about it and find other sites for your regular dose of sarcastic, tongue-in-cheek humor. But more importantly, my big project will be on hiatus for the rest of the week as Mrs. Toast and I want to get out of town for Thanksgiving, and we have decided to spend the holiday in … Arkansas.

Yes, I hear you: “Arkansas?”, you ask, somewhat incredulously. “You must be kidding. Why Arkansas?”

To which I say: “why the hell not?”

It has nothing to do with family; neither of us have any relatives there. Neither is there any job-related reason for us to visit the Natural State, nor does it involve Bill and/or Hillary Clinton in any way. Wait a moment, come to think of it, there actually is sort of a very loose connection to Bill…

But, we leave in the morning, and I’ll tell you all about it after we get there and settle in to our digs. Don’t you just love a cliffhanger?

I am dangerous with power tools

Sunday, November 18th, 2007

After my recent post about America’s fastest up-and-coming sport of Cornhole, it occurred to me that a game set might make a fun holiday gift for the in-laws, who love family sports and have lots of yard space for play. However, a complete set runs about $200 from one of the many suppliers on the ‘net, including hefty delivery costs due to the size and weight of the boards. Therefore, I’ve decided to build my own targets and buy just the bags ready-made, as I do have some rudimentary carpentry abilities but both myself and Mrs. Toast are seriously challenged when it comes to sewing. Sorry, that’s just how we roll, people.

But I got started on the project this evening, and let me share with you a photo of the first stage of construction which involved cutting the 6″ holes in each of the two 2′ x 4′ targets:


Since I don’t own a circle-cutting saw, I had to draw the hole using a compass and then attempt to cut around the mark using a garden-variety jig saw as you see above. Now, if you’ve ever tried to do this, you know that cutting a perfectly round hole using this technique is next to impossible, and although I got it pretty darn close, it was still just a skosh lopsided. However, I am rehearsing a little speech for when we present the gift on Christmas morning which goes something like this:

“On close inspection you will notice what at first may appear to be minor imperfections in the construction of this item, such as holes that are, while generally ‘circular’ in shape, not quite exactly, in the purely mathematical use of the word, ’round’. I would ask you to consider these not as flaws, per se, but as one-of-a-kind personal touches by the craftsman which make each piece an individual and unique work of art.”

Right.

However, we do have one minor dilemma in that the recipient of this gift is a fine, upstanding, highly conservative Christian family with two young children. Therefore, to not offend their delicate sensibilities and permanently warp the minds of the young ‘uns, the name “Cornhole” must become The Word Never To Be Spoken. We will refer to it as “Corn Toss”, “Baggo” or something equally innocuous; hopefully I won’t accidentally let it slip out at some point in my enthusiasm for the game. Of course, there is no doubt in my mind that eventually they will learn the true nature of their holiday gift, perhaps when Dad is describing it to a co-worker who then blurts out, “Oh yeah, you mean they gave you a Cornhole set. Cool!”, or whatever. It’s only a matter of time, really, and if the children become sullen, drop out of Sunday School, start smoking crack and turn to a life of crime as a result of hearing the Forbidden Word, let me publicly say that it won’t be our fault.

No matter what it’s called though, I think they’ll appreciate that it’s not so much the object itself as it is the time, effort, and affection that I’m putting into building this by hand for them, especially because they know that the physical activity required for me to do so is slightly difficult due to my lung condition. But as the old saying goes, it really is the thought that counts.

Even more exciting, I hereby invite you, dear reader, to follow along with me over the next few weeks as I document here on the blog the various stages of construction complete with photos. Yes, observe this labor of love as it unfolds before your very eyes! Watch and marvel as mere plywood, nails, paint and polycrilic are magically transformed into a thing of wonder and delight! A thing of beauty to behold! A thing called Cornho…

I mean … Toss. Corn Toss.

OK, this may be tougher than I thought.

Partons au Canada, eh?

Friday, October 26th, 2007

Mrs. Toast is off on another adventure in a foreign land this week, giving a presentation at the International Cultural Heritage Informatics Meetings being held in Toronto. This event, which attracts attendees from as far away as China, examines the relationship between technology and cultural heritage. Mrs. Toast’s recent work in this area during her trip to Mexico got her an invitation to present at this forum; she is on the cutting edge of academic librarians who are performing this sort of research, and will discuss various ways that documents, folklore, artwork and other physical objects representing cultural heritage can be stored, classified, and accessed electronically. According to the organization’s program:

This tenth meeting visits digital culture in the age of Web 2.0, contributed content, open source, broadband services, and ubiquitous computing, and seeks to survey the changing synergies of culture, heritage and informatics. This year we will again examine major trends, novel research frontiers, and possible futures. Best practices, innovative policies, disruptive technologies and radical business plans will be promoted and critiqued. And as always, economics, law, and public policy will be visited afresh.

Pretty exciting stuff, eh? After the conference wraps up, she will have a free day before flying back home and has decided to make a quick side tour to Niagra Falls. I’ve never been there myself, but the postcards sure look nice.

In the meantime, I am eating my own cooking again this week which is even more incentive for my wife to come home as soon as possible. Basically, if it can’t be prepared in a microwave I’m S.O.L, and I’m getting to be pretty good friends with the pizza delivery guy by now. However, it looks like this book might just be right up my alley, and I plan to study it carefully so that I can be a whirling dervish of culinary delight in the kitchen by the time she leaves for Costa Rica, Belgium, or wherever the hell else the library sends her next. These are your tax dollars at work, folks.

I’ve also asked her to bring back a souvenir of Canada for me, but I’m not sure what I’m going to get. Maybe some moose antlers, a hockey puck, or a case of Molson. Or possibly some smoked salmon — as long as I can cook it in the microwave, eh?

Three degrees of separation

Wednesday, October 24th, 2007

This may be as close to fame as I get in this stage of my life: I am excited to say that I am related to someone who knows someone who knows George Clooney.

Not only that, but the person I am related to — my nephew Jeff — actually has a screen credit in the new George Clooney movie “Michael Clayton“, which just opened in theaters a few days ago. To say I’m proud of my nephew is an understatement. Last March, I wrote this post about his photography work in New York City, and he’s been keeping quite busy since then. He recently emailed me to let me know that fifteen pieces of his artwork were selected to appear in several locations in the new Clooney film, and he also gets a mention in the end credits. Jeff has not actually met Sir George in person, but has dealt regularly with the film’s production director who no doubt has. Ergo, I am removed from His Handsomeness by only two people, and if I should ever happen to run into him while on a cruise ship in New Hampshire, we will have something in common that I can chat him up about. Don’t laugh, it could happen; I never expected to meet this guy either.

I pick, therefore I grin

Sunday, September 30th, 2007

Nashville Cats, play clean as country water
Nashville Cats, play wild as mountain dew
Nashville Cats, been playin’ since they’s babies
Nashville Cats, get work before they’re two

Well, there’s thirteen hundred and fifty two
guitar pickers in Nashville
And they can pick more notes than the number of ants
on a Tennessee anthill

There’s thirteen hundred and fifty-two
guitar cases in Nashville
And anyone that unpacks his guitar
can play twice as better than I will

-”Nashville Cats”, by John Sebastian

We’re about to leave home to visit my brother-in-law for an extra-long 4-day weekend, and while we’re there I’ll be helping him set up some new computer equipment in his practice studio. Did I mention that my B-I-L is in a singing group? He and his buddies get together almost every weekend and sing up a storm, and about once a year they record a CD and sell copies out of the trunks of their cars. The first few years they did this, they sought out small producers around the Houston area where studio time was cheap (about fifty bucks an hour), and if they were reasonably well-prepared they could nail a dozen or so tracks in just a few hours. Add in mastering and duplication, and the total cost to make a couple of hundred CD’s came out to a pretty reasonable price. It didn’t matter to them that the result wasn’t as perfect as it might have been if they’d spent more time and/or money on it; they did it mostly just for fun.

As the years rolled by, though, they developed something of a fan base, and had a need for higher-quality production values as well as for more quantity; thus began their annual trek to Nashville. The town is called “Music City” for a very good reason; everything in the area revolves around the business of making and selling music. The best players from all over the world flock to Nashville in droves to get work, and because of the intense competition, you can get high-quality talent at a very fair cost. The life of a session player has always fascinated me; I think it’s amazing that some people go to work nine-to-five and pick guitar for a living just like some other folks might flip burgers or work a desk job. But while it might sound glamorous, in reality it’s not so much. These guys aren’t big stars with their names up in lights; they’re just average working stiffs who practice their craft with tools that just happen to be guitars, horns, and keyboards instead of hammers and saws. They’re professionals, and do their job very well.

Ray (my B-I-L) and the rest of his group are getting ready for this fall’s trip to Music City, and their producer just recently sent them first-draft demos of the music they plan to record this year. Nashville musicians and producers are extremely versatile; you can send them elaborately-annotated charts of exactly what you want, or you can just say “give me something in a 8-bar E-A progression with a couple hooks in the middle and a bucket of fish at the end.” (“Bucket of fish”, BTW, is slang lingo for that little drum hook at the end of a song; if you say “bucketafish” sort of fast, with the emphasis on the last syllable, it’s a rough approximation of a drum lick that goes “ba-ba-da-boom”. This is one of many things my BIL has taught me about recording in Nashville.) In any case, they’ll perform your composition however you want it, all you then have to do is add your vocals and your own backing musicians, if any, and voil – a complete album ready to be mastered, pressed, and released to the world.

Technology has changed many of the ways that music is produced. Not only can the average person now afford to have a computer loaded with a “virtual” studio full of recording gear and instruments that sound just like their physical counterparts (and might have cost hundreds of thousands of dollars) just a few years ago, it’s also possible to have session players located physically anywhere in the world who play together like they’re sitting in the same room. You can easily tweak mixes to your liking, which is why Ray’s producer sent him these demos. That way, any changes he might want to make can be accommodated in advance, which saves valuable studio time when they get in town next month to sing their vocals.

Ray forwarded a copy of the tracks to me to get my opinion, and I first have to confess that although Ray’s music has been getting better and better each year, I wasn’t all that into his particular style and may have been somewhat blasé about it. But this stuff blew me away, and because you, dear Wind In The Wire readers, are such an exclusive, sophisticated and fortunate bunch, I wanted to share two of these tracks with you to see what you think. Keep in mind that these are first draft demo mixes, not meant to be representative of the finished product, but rather something to convey the general “feel” of the song — no melodies, just the basic structure. But listen to these first, then I’ll hit you with a surprise.

The first track is the album opener, an uptempo number:




Whoa! This next one is my favorite, a mellow, bluesy song that sounds like it might easily be sung by someone like Bonnie Raitt. I find myself getting really drawn into the headphones when I listen to this one.



Not too shabby, eh? Now the kicker: Ray’s singing group is a gospel quartet. Surprised? These two tracks are not exactly what comes to mind when I think “southern gospel”, but Ray and his band are trying to appeal to a broader audience. When two of the members of the group retired a couple of years ago, they were replaced by singers in their early 20′s. That hasn’t made the quartet into a “boy band” by a long shot, but the new guys (in addition to being immensely talented) are not bad to look at either, which has increased their appeal with younger listeners, particularly females. I told him all they need to add is some N-Sync style choreography and flash pots and they’ll be ready for an HBO special.I might just tag along when they go to Music City next month. Even though I got to see the place about this time last year, it still would be fun, and I’d really enjoy being in the middle of all that recording technology. Who knows? They might even ask me to play a few licks. (Yeah, right.)Hope everyone has a great weekend!

Note: These tunes are © 2007 Gospel Express. All rights reserved.

Podcasts

Sunday, September 16th, 2007

I’ve had a couple of requests to make my weekly radio show available in podcast format, so I decided to start recording them and putting them up on Odeo. If you like Electronic Dance Music (aka “techno” or “trance“) and/or are curious to hear what I sound like as a DJ, just click here or on the button at the bottom of this post to go to my podcast site. Each program runs about an hour and 40 minutes or so, and kicking off the mix is my annual “Burning Man” show from Labor Day weekend, which features songs about fire and a few sound clips from festival participants. As I do new shows each week, I’ll try to add them to the podcast.

If the names Van Buuren, Van Dyk, Tiesto, Oakenfold, Above & Beyond, Blank & Jones, or Solarstone are familiar to you then you’ll probably enjoy the mostly progressive mix. However, electronic dance music (which has been derisively referred to as “21st century disco”) is an acquired taste that not everyone cares for, and I certainly will understand if it’s not your cup of tea. The worst of the genre can be repetitive, boring, artificial tripe. But on the other hand, the best of it can be melodic, uplifting and euphoric — and if you’re truly able to “let go” into the rhythm, you’ll see why it’s called “trance”; under the right circumstances, the unrelenting beats topped by soaring melody lines can be hypnotic, creating what some call “mental synthscapes”. Another describes it as “a magical incantation, a journey which breaks free of all physical and spiritual bounds, diving deep into the midst of imagination where no laws apply. It is a means to a higher state of consciousness.”

Trance music is much more popular in Europe (where it originated) than here in this country, and indeed it was during my travels around the continent in 2002 that I was first exposed to it. I distinctly recall one night in Zurich, Switzerland, when I quite accidentally stumbled upon a rave being held in a huge warehouse near my hotel as I was returning for the evening. I decided to check it out, and was awestruck by the sight of thousands of people dancing wildly to flashing strobe lights and throbbing beats which you could quite literally feel in your gut; I’ve been fascinated with the music ever since.

“Trance music in Morocco is magical in origin and purpose, concerned with the evocation and control of spiritual forces. In Morocco musicians are magicians. Gnauoa music is used to drive out evil spirits. The music of Jajouka evokes the God Pan, God of Panic, representing the real magical forces that sweep away the spurious. It is to be remembered that the origin of all arts — music, painting, and writing — is magical and evocative, and that magic is always used to obtain some definite result.”
~ W. S. Burroughs
My Odeo Podcast

Hunka Hunka Burnin’ Toast

Tuesday, August 14th, 2007

Recently I lamented in this spot how I had been unable to find a suitable fever thermometer audible to my rock-and-roll dulled ears. Fortunately, a solution has been sent in by alert reader April, who obviously has had much experience taking the temperature of her baby boy, Aiden, as he has valiantly fought back a variety of childhood illnesses. Way to go, guys!

Thanks to April for suggesting a product made by Vicks called the “Fever InSight” thermometer, which not only takes a reading in under ten seconds, it then lights up green, amber, or red depending on the results. As you can see from the photo, I am definitely an “amber” sort of guy, confirming the fact that I seem to have a relatively constant low-grade fever. I’m not exactly sure what this means, but I intend to ask my doctor about it when I see him next week.

Yes, I am just now about to learn the results of my bronchoscopy from almost two months ago. Due to confidentiality issues, he does not wish to discuss the matter over the phone with me (who knows, Dick Cheney might be listening in) so he’s insisted that I make the 300 mile round trip to Houston to hear the latest news about the state of my lungs. However, we’ve managed to schedule a couple of other activities around this visit as well, and have also planned a festive dinner with friends at the venerable Joe’s Crab Shack, so the trip should be productive.

Perhaps the weather has something to do with my feverishness. After months of rain and outdoor temperatures that have been lower than normal, we have finally slipped into our typical Texas summertime pattern; it’s been over 100 for the last couple of weeks, with no letup in sight for perhaps another month. This is the price we pay down here for not having to deal with snow and ice in the winter, although I’m not sure which is worse.

But in case my slightly elevated temperature requires medical attention, I will have no shortage of resources to call on. Just today, in fact, I received the following lousy spam helpful advice via anonymous email:

“Benefit from the Shelter, Effectiveness Not Expensive Prices and Eminence Advantage the majority trusted Web-Based Canadian Medical Supplies. We contain over 2000 Trademark and Standard remedy. We are the prevalent internet medical store, we are able obtain at the minimum workable prices. We then send our funds onto you.No need to have a medical instruction to purchase from our organization. We can even set you up on instant re-purchase so you don’t have to uneasy about running out of you medical drugs.”

Who knew the Internet was home to such friendly, helpful people? With my remarkable powers of insight, I have determined that English was probably not the primary language of whoever wrote this message, however I must say I am looking forward to them sending their funds onto me as soon as possible.

While we’re on the subject of burning, it looks like I will not be heading to the Nevada desert for Burning Man again this year after all. As I write this, some 25,000+ people are making their final preparations for a trek to the playa during the week leading up to Labor Day, where they will construct a city out of nothing, enjoy a week-long celebration of art and community, and depart leaving behind no trace whatsoever of their experience there. (You can see a remarkably detailed bird’s-eye view of last year’s event in Google Earth by clicking here.) Huge interactive art installations are constructed on the desert floor, groups of people gather in elaborate theme camps, and everyone dresses outlandishly (if at all). The festival started in 1986 as an impromptu annual gathering on a San Francisco beach, and has turned into an highly-organized if not exactly mainstream event. Although not quite the debauchery of sex and drugs that marked its early years, Burning Man still maintains an air of spirituality and counterculturalism, and in this respect is somewhat like the Glastonbury Festival in the UK — only without the music. The other big difference is that Burning Man is held in the middle of a harsh, barren desert with no shade, water, electricity, or other “creature comforts” for miles around. Temperatures range from near freezing at night to over 100 degrees in the daytime, and freak windstorms can whip up out of nowhere, driving the alkaline playa dust into every crack and crevice of your body. But the very act of not just surviving but thriving under the harsh conditions creates a camaraderie among the participants that is hard to describe, and I have wanted to experience this event for years. However, considering my need for supplemental oxygen and the generally fragile state of my health, this difficult environment would not be ideal for me — let alone the fact that it’s a 2,000 mile drive to get there.

Oh well, maybe next year. If I do go, I’ll be sure to bring my new thermometer.

Mrs. Toast went to Mexico and all I got was this lousy paper hat

Wednesday, August 8th, 2007


Fetching, wouldn’t you say? As if it isn’t bad enough that I have had the Bloggin’ Blues for much too long now, my dear jet-setting spouse has been flitting all over the globe, only adding to my stay-at-home, do-nothing funkiness. Yes, following her fun-filled vacation in Venice just a couple of months ago, Mrs. Toast just returned from a business trip to Cuernavaca, Mexico, where she was part of a group from the University sent to study the culture and folklore of the area in order for the library to develop international programs for high school and college teachers to enrich their social studies cirriculum. But of course, like any business trip it wasn’t all work and no play — she also picked up all sorts of cool trinkets like these:



But while the shopping was lots of fun, unfortunately for Mrs. Toast, she reported that she and her group were forced to stay in horrible third-world accommodations such as this:



Er, at least that’s what she said — frankly, it doesn’t look so bad to me. Maybe she was just trying to make me feel better about being left at home. They also have some strange road signs down in Mexico, for example:


I believe the one above, loosely translated, means: “Caution: Loch Ness Monster ahead in road.”

She also got to enjoy all sorts of tasty treats like those from the candy store pictured to your right. The “$” stands for pesos, and with the exchange rate each of those yummy sugar bombs are about 89 cents apiece.

Did I mention that this was a business trip, in which the library footed the entire bill for an entourage of five people to spend a week visiting craft centers, historical sites, girl scout camps and other locations to interview Mexican artists and craftsmen, and photograph various objects for the interactive web site the University has made? If you’re wondering “how can I get a job like this?” — sorry, you’re too late. I’ve already asked Mrs. Toast that question and have dibs on the next available opening.

Oh yes, and I should point out the significance of the Krispy Kreme hat is that at one point during their tour, the group stopped at a donut shop just outside of Mexico City and bought about humpteen boxes of them to take back to their hotel room. Seriously, with the value of the dollar versus the peso, a delicious glazed cruller was like six cents each. This may not be the first thing that comes to your mind when you think “Mexican food”, but hey … they were in Mexico, and it was food, so that’s plenty authentic enough. For some reason this particular K.K. was giving away free hats, so everybody in the party got one and Mrs. Toast brought one back for me too. (I would have preferred the cruller, but I don’t think it would have survived the return trip nearly as well.)

On her next international adventure coming up in October, the library is sending the group to Toronto, Canada. I’m not exactly sure of the cultural significance of this trip yet, but I hope she brings back more local souvenirs from there too. A case of Molson would be nice, eh?

“DoNut” subestime la energía del Kreme.

Make Money Fa$t!!

Tuesday, August 7th, 2007

Today I’m going to tell you how to make a million bucks.

I have an idea for a product, and if you’re the first one to patent this thing and get it to market, I guarantee that it will sell like hotcakes. Yes, I see you’re skeptical my friends, but let me explain and it will all make perfect sense:

Remember back in the good old days before fever thermometers went digital? They had a thin strip of mercury inside them which you had to “shake down” before taking a reading, and then struggle to hold the damn thing just right so you could read the result? You’d try turning it a little bit each way to catch the light, finally if you were lucky you could see the bar. Of course, then you’d have to figure out what each little mark represented to determine if your temperature was 99.1, 99.2 or 99.4, etc. Of course, stick thermometers like this have almost disappeared from drugstore shelves, and not just because they’re hard to read. The glass can break if they’re dropped, and the tiny amount of mercury they contain could be hazardous.

Today, thermometer technology has advanced considerably. When I was in the hospital for my procedure recently, I was amazed that they took my temperature simply by waving some sort of a wand across my forehead, giving an instant reading without ever physically coming in contact with my body. At home, it’s also fairly common to use “in the ear” thermometers to get a reading within a few seconds, which is great for small kids who can’t hold still long enough, or have trouble getting a conventional thermometer under their tongue. But while these devices are very convenient, they’re still relatively expensive, in the $30-50 price range. By and large, the glass stick thermometer has been replaced in the home by the plastic digital thermometer; they’re cheap ($5-10), accurate, and quick — generally giving a readout in under a minute. They also have a design flaw, and this is where somebody stands to make some big bucks.

As the boomer population ages, they become more health-conscious and for various reasons, may need to monitor their body temperature more often. But having spent a lifetime listening to loud rock and roll music, often the first bodily function to go south (alas, among many) is the hearing — especially at high frequencies.

Are you beginning to see where I’m going with this?

All of the digital fever thermometers on the market these days signal that they have achieved a stable maximum reading by beeping at you. If your high-frequency hearing ain’t what it used to be, there is no freaking way you are able to hear this sound. You must wait until you think the damn thing has been in there long enough, and hope you have guessed correctly. Most often, you wait way longer than necessary. What the world needs is a digital fever thermometer with a bright red LED on the very end of it that will blink at you to signal that it is ready. There is currently no such device on the market.

I know, because I have spent the better part of two days looking for one.

So, I present this idea publicly in the hope that someone will take the ball and run with it. I guarantee that you will make a fortune from all the old codgers like me whose hearing has gone to hell, and who will snap these things up like candy. I ask for nothing in return, except this: when you finally make this product, please send me one. I want to take my damn temperature.

Greetings from Tralfamadore

Sunday, August 5th, 2007


In case I have any readers left whatsoever who may be wondering why no new posts of any significance have appeared in this space for the last two weeks or more, I have a sure-fire excuse: a UFO landed in my back yard, and aliens abducted me to a distant planet where I have been living in a glass bubble with a buxom blonde porn star while my hosts observe my every move. (Mrs. Toast is not amused by this.)

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Hopefully this dry spell will be over soon, and I’ll be back to posting those pithy nuggets you all (both of you) know and love so well.

So it goes.