Hiccup while trying to say "Wipes"? No, no, pronounce it like WIK-ih-pees.

...Never mind how ill-advised the title is. They collect recipes, anyone can contribute, it's free, and anyone can edit or update.

I've never really understood that public editing part about wikis, but the rest of it sounds worthwhile.
Beard Length Update:
Just now I was pulling my hair back into a pony tail. I felt something pulling at my jaw and realized that the sensation was caused by a few facial hairs reaching all the way around the back of my head, caught up in the sweep and about to be anchored into my ponytail.

This is almost as cool as that first time I found a chocolate chip suspended in my beard a half hour after I had finished eating any cookies.

Thought you'd want to know.


TUC Radio: Derrick Jensen: Bringing Down Civilization
One hour lecture/discussion with Derrick Jensen. Funny, if the name had been John Zerzan, I might have ignored it or stopped listening within a few minutes. But since this guy was unknown to me, he got past my defenses, and now he's making a lot of reasonable points, even if they are parallel with Zerzan and the primitivist anarchists.

Poking around, I find Zerzan listed among his book recommendations, along with "Myth of the Machine: Technics and Human Development" and "Pacifism As Pathology: Reflections on the Role of Armed Struggle in North America".

I'll keep listening, but advocating violence doesn't help win me over.


Anyone who thinks this group doesn't promote tolerance and cooperation and unity ought to "get their medication increased." Melinda found this tidbit hiding in the SpongeBob furor.

US right attacks SpongeBob video
'We Are Family Foundation spokesman Mark Barondeso said that anyone who thought the video promoted homosexuality "needs to visit their doctor and get their medication increased".'

Melinda wasn't sure if this counted as mental health stigma, but what kind of medication does one need in order to change their minds? The message from Mark Barondeso is to be tolerant of other people's race, creed, color, religion, sex, sexual identity, sexual orientation, but continue to use mental illness as an insult when someone disagrees with you. "I got all my stigma and me!"


Piracy, Terrorism and the Question of Islam
How did I miss this? "Dr. Anouar Majid, professor and chair of english at the University of New England, discusses the new United States' first major contact with the Muslim World in the Barbary War and the parallels to our own time." Another good reason to troll through the WGBH Forum network occasionally for lectures.

Another one I want to try later: Wasted Day: The Necessary Art of Doing Nothing

Remember: God created Adam and Eve, NOT Adam and Sleeve!
My Semi-Annual Complaint Email to the IRS
[Submitted via "Contact Us" form regarding the website, for lack of a better place to send it]


This is nothing specific to the website, just a complaint that the IRS does not provide e-filing through its own website for free to everyone. Last year I submitted my federal taxes through some rinky-dink free tax-prep company website, and it turned out fine. I'll probably do it again this year. But I'm disgusted year after year to see that the IRS has not set up a universal, secure, free e-filing system open to everyone. I think it could be done cheaply and easily, and that it could be just as secure as any of the fly-by-night companies that currently provide the service to people who qualify.

The company that I used last time provided an adequate but amateurish system for entering all my info. I'm sure if they can do it, then the federal government could do it at least as well, probably better. Hell, look at I've found forms and information and answers to questions when I needed them. The instructions on that tax prep company website were confusing, and I ended up doing my federal taxes online, my state and local taxes through regular mail.

The only explanation for these extra layers of confusion and bureacracy and middle-men seems to be the profit that will go to tax prep companies through the current scam. I hope that the politicians or IRS officials who continue this backwards policy will someday stop being paid enough to maintain the scam, or that the levels of extra bureacracy will be so absurd that they'll realize it will save time on your end just to have one system by which everyone can e-file.

Sorry for bothering you. I don't expect any response, but I have to get this off my chest every few years. It would be cheap and easy to institute a reliable system for free e-filing for everyone, and the only reason I can figure why it hasn't been done is that the scam is too profitable for some people.



Hanna-Barbera announced an agreement with Sir Elton John to make an animated full-length feature musical based on one of his most popular songs.

That's right: Benny & the Jetsons.
Bush Has Officially Been Reading Too Much Lovecraft!
"This is the cause that unites our country and gives hope to the world and will lead us to a future of peace. We have *** A CALLING FROM BEYOND THE STARS *** to stand for freedom, and America will always be faithful to that cause."

Remarks by the President at 'Celebration of Freedom' Concert
1/19/2005 6:30:00 PM


Should We Stay or Should We Go?
The fucking New York Times. "Why not let the Iraqis themselves decide? Ask Iraqi voters in a referendum six weeks after the national elections if they think foreign soldiers should withdraw immediately. Let the Iraqis debate what the absence of American forces will mean for their families and nation. Tell them we'll hold the referendum every nine months until they vote us out or we determine it's time to leave."

Are they being ironic or is this a pop-up timer in the NYT to show that we don't need to insert a fork because they are already done? Should I be taking this as the opinion of three shmoes or should my esteem for NYT bottom out because of this? Sorry, I should have known better after Judith Miller and everything, but you know, nostalgia.

What if we had allowed the Iraqi people a referendum before the war on whether we should invade? Oh wait, we don't have that authority. The UN Security Council does.

Even then, how naive and/or out-of-touch do you have to be to think that any significant minority of Iraqis would want US troops to remain? How many polls have they neglected to read to think that the percent wanting us to leave right now is not in the upper 90s??? This is like a referendum by Palestinians to see if they'd prefer Israeli troops to maintain their occupation, or whether enough of them might feel that it's safe enough for Israel to pull out. Suggesting a referendum shows that you're deep inside the bubble in Washington, and you wouldn't know the feelings on the "Arab Street" if it was written in front of you in a thousand newspapers daily.

Should NYT Op-Ed pieces be taken seriously or are they funnier than Leno?


Rice Pledges to Mend Ties as Confirmation Hearings Begin
Unfortunately for progressives, Rice hasn't been caught doing anything that would be deemed worthy of prosecution by the other foxes guarding our national henhouse. But is the change from Colin Powell to Rice enough of a difference to waste any time thinking about it? Rice has been dishing out Kool-Aid domestically. Powell bitches about it, but never stopped fulfilling his role of serving Kool-Aid to other nations. Obviously both of them have drunk the Kool-Aid, or how could they stand to serve it?

The only difference now is that we won't hear rumors about secret meetings where Rice swore at somebody for too many turds floating in the Kool-Aid before she served it. And Newt Gingrich will have to remember how to spell her first name when he blames her for other countries not buying the Kool-Aid.

Rice becoming Sec. of State is like one move in a shell game. When you see a huckster on a street corner trying to get people to play the shell game, you don't have to bitch about every move of every shell. You try to explain that shell games are all rigged, the whole game is the problem, not the moves or the shells.

[Trying to think of a way to talk about drinking Kool-Aid out of a shell, but I'm not that smooth. G'night.]

Maybe a Democrat with some real gonads (fictional beast like a unicorn or sphinx) could ignore what Rice has done, and just question whether anyone nominated by a lying war criminal ought to be confirmed for any government position. Right, and unicorns might fly out of my butt.

[Later... Yay! Barbara Boxer is a unicorn!]


Found this advice column in Listen magazine. I thought it was created by Christians for teens, but it's actually an anti-addiction magazine founded by the American Temperate Society. Their online writer's guidelines say, "[Listen] bases its editorial philosophy of primary drug prevention on total abstinence from tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs. Because it is used extensively in public high school classes, it does not accept articles and stories with overt religious emphasis."

No mention of their editorial philosophy on sex, but it shows. A section of their History page talks about AIDS. "Thousands of people were becoming infected as a result of promiscuity and intravenous drug use. But some knew how to keep their life risk free. 'I am a virgin,' said Rebecca St. James in 1997, 'and I will stay that way till I'm married. I'm really committed to this, and I encourage other kids to wait.'"

The column that interested me is titled Hey! Nat. Designed to look like a webpage or instant message interface, the column includes a scroll bar along the side. Above the column, it reads, "Nat," then in smaller print below her name, "available." This was in the hard copy that I read, not on

Q: My boyfriend of two years and I broke up. Now he's flirting with my best friend. How do I stop her from going out with him?

A: Yikes, talk to her. As her best friend you need to be vocal with her about your feelings on their relationship. ... Explain that it makes you uncomfortable to see them together. Discuss a compromise that you both can agree on without hurting your friendship. Speak to him too. Maybe if he sees your point of view he will back off and give you space.

Value-added critique by Rob: Yikes. Do all friends have veto power over each other's dates? Guys have the expression "Bros before hos," but that's just a funny rhyme. I don't know if anyone really follows it. Dr. Phil probably wouldn't like the phrasing, but the underlying concept about friendship makes sense to me. Friends should stick together and not let their attachments to ex-girlfriends or competition over potential girlfriends come between them. If the break-up is permanent, then it shouldn't matter who else has her. Trying to manage your ex's social life means you think you still have possession of her and you can't get over it. If she's not yours yet, then you have no "claim" anyhow, so stop being a jerk and resume acting like a friend.

It's a safe assumption that the questioner is "uncomfortable" with her ex-boyfriend flirting with her best friend. It's not a safe assuption that the questioner is reasonable to feel that way, or if she's overreacting because the break-up is still fresh. I can see where you might advise this questioner to have a reasonable talk about how you feel and let her know if there were some bad experiences that she should know about. Beyond that, the best friend ought to be able to come to her own decision, and the questioner ought to maintain "Hos before bros" or however you want to phrase it. She should be able to remain a friend without needing final approval of her best friend's dates.

The real "compromise" is that you aren't a friend if you think you should approve or reject someone else's dates. A real friend would talk about how they feel, but remain friends either way. A selfish person would make her friendship conditional on whether she gets to veto your boyfriends, and someone like that is not worth keeping as a friend.

There could be heavier factors, like if the dude had committed some crime or acted really awful. Maybe you wouldn't want to hang out with a friend who persisted in dating a criminal or dangerous moron. But it's not safe to assume that anything horrendous happened in this case, and Nat seems to approve of one friend acting as moderator of the other friend's dates.

I also like the naive suggestion that you should talk with your ex. Maybe he will back off and give you some undeserved space. Maybe he won't tell you to mind your own business. But he should.
Q: My boyfriend and I are going on our first date by ourselves. I'm excited, but nervous at the same time. I think he's going to try to kiss me. What do I do?

A: First, take a step back and ask if you feel really comfortable around him. Exclusive dates are different and often very stressful. Schedule an outing with a group of people to ease that first date tension. You will feel more comfortable and less pressured to do something you do not want to do. If he tries to push you, stand your ground. There is nothing more disgusting than a guy who urges you into a physical relationship. It does not matter how cute or popular he is.

Value-added critique by Rob: First a minor issue, maybe I'm parsing the question differently. When I read "first date by ourselves" it sounded to me like they've already had one or more dates "with a group of people to ease that first date tension." If that's the case, Nat's first suggestion is obsolete. I don't know if my reading is silly or Nat's is. How did it strike you?

On to the meat of the matter. It's good advice to reinforce the questioner's power, that she should be able to maintain control and that the relationship should not escalate any faster than she wants it to. But what kind of advice is "First, take a step back and ask if you feel really comfortable around him"?? Is Nat tipped off to something dangerous about the boy because the questioner says she's "excited but nervous at the same time"? Is there anyone in history who wasn't excited but nervous on their first date? Are dates so dangerous that everyone should reconsider whether to ever participate in them?

I don't know if it's "boys versus girls" or the way these few questions worked out, but Nat's default suggestion for any situation seems to be that you should slow down and reconsider whether dating is Really appropriate for you in this lifetime, especially when males are involved. If you know someone who might be on the verge of dating (after you've learned your lesson and stopped), then you ought to try to persuade both parties to stop.

If you're a teen with a question about dating or relationships, save yourself some time and don't bother writing to a magazine that's supposedly focused on drug prevention. If you write an advice column about dating and relationships for a magazine that's supposedly focused on drug prevention, you might take a step back and ask if you feel that "Hey!" is appropriate in the title of the column, or if it wouldn't be better to title it Yikes! Nat.
"The United States spends over $87 billion conducting a war in Iraq while the United Nations estimates that for less than half that amount we could provide clean water, adequate diets, sanitation services, and basic education to every person on the planet."
- John Perkins, Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, with this footnote attached:

"In 1998, the United Nations Development Program estimated that it would cost an additional $9 billion (above current expenditures) to provide clean water and sanitation for everyone on earth. It would cost an additional $12 billion, they said, to cover reproductive health services for all women worldwide. Another $13 billion would be enough not only to give every person on earth enough food to eat but also basic health care. An additional $6 billion could provide basic education for all... Combined they add up to $40 billion." -- John Robbins, (accessed Dec 27, 2003)

Another good quote from Confessions of an Economic Hit Man: "How do you rise up against a system that appears to provide you with your home and car, food and clothes, electricity and health care -- even when you know that the system also creates a world where twenty-four thousand people starve to death each day...? How do you muster the courage to step out of line and challenge concepts you and your neighbors have always accepted as gospel, even when you suspect that the system is ready to self-destruct?"


Feds say mental health patient made threats against president.
"Snider was arrested last month after Webster Parish sheriff's deputies received a report of a reckless driver who had run off Interstate 20.... A deputy who talked to Snider said he was acting strange and asking to be arrested. When asked where he was going, authorities said, Snider said the president was killing innocent people and he was headed to Washington to assassinate him."

In other words, Snider was trying to exercise the Salvador Option.
A co-worker on the other side of the cubicle wall from me always jokes when she hears me typing at top speed: "You writing a novel over there, Rob?" So I admitted that, although I would never use company time for personal endeavors!, I am in fact a struggling wannabe novelist with a couple novellas under my belt. I gave her a synopsis of Grand Theft Boblo and Lollipop Mutiny and she said she'd love to read them.

The reason I hesitated a few days was that she later asked me, "Erma Bombeck?"

Well, they're comedies, but probably weirder than Erma Bombeck. Which made me think that a fan of Erma Bombeck might not be a fan of [Subcomandante Guglielmo Deidzoeb].

I decided to give her a copy anyway, even though she might have an allergic reaction to the language and worldview contained in it. If you get something published and it's bold and candid and intimate, or just disgusting, then you're going to have co-workers or friends or family members try to read it, even though you wouldn't expect them to like it. So I might as well see what that's like, try to get used to it in case it suddenly happens in bucketloads.

I warned her that it's full of swearing and probably Rated R (yeah, I lowballed a little), and that I wouldn't be offended if she found that she didn't want to read it. When I handed her the copy today, she said, "I'm excited!"


Pet Therapy May Help Schizophrenic Patients

"In a pilot randomized controlled trial a group of researchers of the Technion Institute of Technology (Israel) suggest the usefulness of pet therapy for improving apathy in schizophrenic patients. The paper was published in the January issue of Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics."

"The hedonic tone of 10 chronic schizophrenia patients who participated in 10 weekly interactive sessions of Animal-Assisted Therapy was compared to a control group treated without animal assistance. The hedonic tone was measured with the Snaith-Hamilton Pleasure Scale."

You are my little Snaith-Hamilton Pleasure Scale! I weigh 800 hedons on a Snaith-Hamilton Pleasure Scale! This sounds like an appliance marketed on Sims BUY mode.

Now look up "animal assisted therapy" AAT and tell me what exactly you have to do to make it count as therapy? Only if you get the cat purring does it count as therapy? Or only if the consumer purrs? Can the Snaith-Hamilton Pleasure Scale be used to measure Gross Domestic Happiness? Should be Gross Domestic Affect.

Exercise: Write a caption for this photo of a kitten from the front page of

Monday - National Politics: Congress passes `doomsday' plan
"With no fanfare, the U.S. House has passed a controversial doomsday provision that would allow a handful of lawmakers to run Congress if a terrorist attack or major disaster killed or incapacitated large numbers of congressmen."

Pundits are mainly playing up the idea that this could mean a handfull of Congresspeople could launch wars. This would be really troubling if we lived back in the century when wars happened after Congress declared them. Right now it's just nostalgic and moot.
"Collapses of Ancient Societies and their Lessons for Today", 9 OCT 2002 lecture by Jared Diamond, author of Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed and Guns, Germs and Steel.

"I can't help wondering what the Easter Islander who chopped down the last palm tree said as he or she did it. Was he saying, 'What about our jobs? Do you care more about our trees than about our jobs for us loggers?' Or maybe he was saying, 'What about my private property rights? Get the big government of the chiefs off my back.' Or maybe he was saying, 'You're predicting environmental disaster but your environmental models are untested. We need more research before we can take action.' Or perhaps he was saying, 'Don't worry -- technology will solve all our problems.'"

[Easter Islanders wiped out their fragile environment and the last survivors turned to cannibalism before dying out.]

Another weird fact Diamond mentioned in this lecture or some other online lecture I found was that the clearest predictor of a society that's going to collapse is their infant mortality rate. Scary. I assume the US infant mortality rate has been stable, but it's consistent described as the lowest out of 20 or 30 of the most technologically advanced industrialized nations, if that tells you anything.


One of my Xmas gifts from Melinda was East of Eden
by John Steinbeck. This is the edition with a prominent red slip around it announcing:


(Yes, in all-caps.)

I struggled for the right analogy for how that makes me feel, and here's what I came up with. It's like selling Beethoven's Fifth Symphony as "The song that brought back Rick Dees' music club!"


Two great books I've read lately:

The Coroner's Lunch by Colin Cotterill
Dr. Siri Paiboun is a doctor looking forward to retirement. Instead he is appointed to serve as state coroner in Laos, 1976. Having only been in power for one year, the Communist Pathet Lao government are not the kind of people to be refused, even for a loyal doctor who helped them for many years. Still, this doctor is too old to tolerate bureaucratic stupidity, so he follows their rules as little as possible.

The story paints a picture of the absurd government officials without seeming too preachy against Communism. Siri and the average people he deals with are sympathetic, rounded characters. If you like mysteries, you'll like this. If you like stories with well-drawn characters, you'll like this.

Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem
I'm tempted to write about what genre this belongs to and what genre Lethem has written before and which of his books marks a point where he has changed or gone beyond genre. But I'll try not to. It's been done.

Motherless Brooklyn is about a shady mobster named Lionel Essrog, only he's not really working for the mob. He works for a detective agency that works for mobsters, or maybe they don't. The boss won't tell them exactly what the purposes of their assignments are, so they don't know enough to incriminate anybody later. Whatever it is, it's shady. So when the boss gets killed in the middle of a weird surveillance session, Lionel has almost no clues to find out who done it or why.

The other thing that keeps it from seeming like a "pure" mystery novel is that Lionel has Tourette's Syndrome, and it pops up on almost every page of the novel. Exhibiting it, thinking about it, discussing it, obsessing about it, because basically it's a variety of obsession. It makes you feel like you understand Tourette's, so it's good fiction whether or not it's accurate. Also there's a little zen and a little Yakuza involved, and they joke about all these topics without reducing them to stereotypes.

In the end, you've gotten to know the guy. That's what makes it a good story.


Jenny, are you there? (867-5309)
Using his free weekend minutes, this guy called every area code in the US for this number. Read the results here.
Iced teabag: the way you discover that name-brand dandruff shampoo is more powerful than generic store-brand dandruff shampoo, and that it's not advisable to apply within bikini area. That tingle means it's working.