Sunday, December 30, 2012

Musing on the Mayan Apocalypse

Hey, Mayans! What if they had an Apocalypse and no-one showed up?

Not even the idiots that were banging on about the Mayan Apocalypse as though it were a) real and 2) properly identified as to time given the difference in calendars and changes ours has gone through over the last few hundred years.

Does this mean that as your people, long extinct as an actual culture, can now officially be declared as irrelevant in the years to come since in theory if there were any of you left you would have ceased to be in the aforementioned Apocalypse?

If so, it was all worth it.

Can't stand bloody Mayans.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Now That's A Pretty Song

Back in the High Life Again, by the late Warren Zevon, from his wonderfully titled antepenultimate album Life'll Kill Ya.

Steve Winwodd's original was a big hit here in New York in the 80's (I think), but Zevon nails that "threw it all away, wiser now" tone in this low-key, pared-down, laid back version that was released just two years before he was diagnosed with Mesothelioma, a cancer widely associated with asbestos exposure.

There's lots of good stuff on this album, which is themed around morbidity, though High Life isn't about physical death as much as social and psychic morbidity (at least, that's what it sounds like to me).

I'm not a big Zevon fan. I've only got two of his recordings and one I bought for the track used on The Color of Money. Not only that, his (to many people) anthemic Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner reduces me to helpless laughter at the point where the mercenary transitions into the vengeful revenant sans tête. There are two schools of thought on that: I reckon it's the most egregious use of bathos I've ever come across, everyone else says I'm nuts and use clever words uncleverly. Whatever.

Buy Life'll Kill Ya" and listen to "Back in the High Life Again".

Musings On The Atmosphere

Azathoth on a bike, I'm so fed up to the back teeth with this never-ending bleep-forsaken bleeping bleep-sucking ass-bleeping rain.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas "Cheer"

So, two things I was looking forward to on Christmas Day; Playing a board game with the family and going to see The Hobbit.

Both cancelled so we can get to the in-laws in time for dinner.

So that's alright then.

Monday, December 24, 2012

My Christmas Miracle

After years of seeing them on TV, I finally had me a Christmas Miracle of my very own.

About two weeks ago I misplaced my iPod, an old-style red Nano that I was given as a Father's Day gift and which I've come to find indispensable. I knew it was in the car, and when I looked and it wasn't I thought it might be on my desk at work, and when it wasn't I thought it could be in a bag I only use occasionally for carrying supplies to my Role-Playing games and when it wasn't I began to despair. I looked everywhere but could not find it, and I was very broken up about it, to the point of losing sleep fretting about it. It's only a piece of electronics, easily replaceable with a bigger "classic" unit that will hold all my music, but in another sense it is completely irreplaceable, and not because Apple doesn't make that model any more. It was a gift from the people I care most about in all the world, and I, fool that I am, invest such things with emotional ballast that can't be duplicated.

Tonight, Christmas Eve, I was clearing off our always-cluttered coffee table, which had been searched early on in the process, and there it was - my iPod, good as new.

It's charging now.

Saturday, December 22, 2012


Yesterday I left the house for some fun with pals and while I was out, some stupid woman driving down Nicolls Road managed to crash into my property despite it being lit so brightly you can see it from the Space Station.

She did a good job too, smashing into the power pole (yes, the same one that was smashed a couple of years ago and which now is bent so far out of true the wires to my house are bowstring-taut and a second pole once again stands next to the one with the wires on it), gouging a lump out of my grass verge and scattering parts of her car and a few pints of old, well-burned oil all over the sidewalk as she used my chain-link fence as an arrestor-net, bending and dislocating the top rail and stretching the chainlink into unusability.

They said she was swerving to avoid someone who pulled out in front of her from Pineacres Boulevard, which forms a T-junction with Nicolls Road in front of my house. They said no-one was hurt. Well and good. What no one was speaking about at all was the Warp Factor at which Madame Destructo was traveling when she implemented Evasion Pattern Picard Delta One.

Because it was obvious from the debris field and infrastructure damage that she sure as damn wasn't driving at or below the legally posted speed limit of 30mph.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Fun On A Ladder

So it was time to enable Xmas Merriment Illumination Chez Stevie once again.

My regular reader will remember that I long ago developed the very sensible policy of not removing last year's icicle lights from the gutters in order to get a jump on the job, which in past years has involved me perching on a ladder in full darkness trying to hang lights in sub zero1 weather, while attempting to avoid freezing to the metal gutters.

I decided that as I had used this policy for the last two Christmases and some of the lights were blown and they all were a bit on the yellow side (this happens too for reasons I can't fathom; after a few years of intermittent use, icicle lamps go from a bright yellow to a more sickly shade, making it impossible to mix new strings with old. This may be a manufacturing process at work that forces the replacement of nine boxes of lamps when only one is needed. I dunno) that I had better change them for new ones before The Rage of Mrs Stevie was let out for a run. Also, I had cleaned out the gutters in preparation for Really A Lot Of Wind And Water Sandy2 and for reasons I will explain in a moment this had entailed smashing half a dozen of the bulbs in the string nearest to the downspout.

In front of my house there is a row of Alberta Spruce trees. They began life as two-foot high bushes and stayed that way for a long time. They spent a few years going from two to three, then four feet. Then they shot up to six and seven feet in about six months. This has introduced a new facet of excitement to the business of getting up to the gutters.

The ladder won't lean against the gutters because the trees are in the way. They poke into the ladder at the halfway point and stop it coming into good, safe contact with the gutters. The end of the ladder floats above the gutter edge at a distance of a few inches. It doesn't sit properly until I am three or four rungs up the ladder. Until then each step produces an alarming bounce. When the ladder finally does land and stay in place, it typically does so on a bunch of light bulbs and crushes them giving me yet another job to do. It is all very trying.

Well, this day I had three boxes3 of lights to hang in place of the strings that had hung for lo these many years. So I unraveled two lengths of new icicle lights and hooked them over the rungs of the ladder as high as I could reach as it sat resting against the seven foot tool bushtree. I plugged in the lights and mounted the bouncing ladder to the sound of crunching glass, emitting little manly squeaks of terror at each fresh bounce until I was safely up the ladder, it had an inch and a half of length poking over the gutters and was resting firmly upon the roof edge.

Partly because it warms the wires and makes them easier to work with, partly because I never want to hang a string of lights, turn them on and see darkness again I have for a decade or more always hung the lights with them plugged in. It also cheers me up as the cold freezes my nose hairs and the feeling slowly departs my fingers. Today, it was drizzling to add misery to the overwhelming atmosphere of utter dejection. So I climbed the ladder, pulled up the strings of lit lights and unsnapped one string of the old, broken lights from the end hook.

At least that was the plan.

What actually happened was that the hook, weakened by three years of extreme temperatures and rotted by exposure to ultraviolet light snapped like a rotten twig and the wires of both old strings fell away putting more weight on the second hook which snapped putting even more weight on the third which snapped and so on in a chain reaction of amateur lighting collapse. With a loud zipping sound the lights along the entire frontage festooned themselves on the ground just as I looked on in resignation and Mrs Stevie stepped out of the front door holding the phone.

"It's your mother" she said, casting her eyes about a scene that did not, to her untrained eye, suggest much in the way of hanging-up lights, but rather the reverse.

"Of course it's my mother!" I snarled. "Why wouldn't it be my mother at this, the least convenient time with the light only two hours from gone and rain drizzling down and me not wanting to get off this ladder unnecessarily!"

So of course I had the phone call while trying to replace the gutter hooks and string lights in the drizzling rain which left me no hands or teeth left for holding onto the ladder. Not only that, the new lights proved to be unbelievably cheaply made and despite my having arranged a working ground-fault interruption device in the circuit I would get the occasional unpleasant shock to the fingers. I pride myself in such cases that I can maintain a conversational tone, refrain from swearing and so forth, though my mother did inquire as to why I kept going "agleaggleaggle" down the phone every two minutes.

She finally hung up just as the sun was touching the edge of the roof, which gave me two hours before total darkness, allowing me to quicken the pace a bit, achieving as much as four "aggleaggleaggle"s a minute.

Until I ran out of lights halfway down the house, which was when I remembered the real number of boxes of lights needed for the job.

I did the bonehead dance, not advisable on a ladder made bouncy by mutant Alberta Spruce bushes I might add, and yelled that I was going to Home Despot for more lightsaggleaggleaggle.

Naturally, this being the first week in December, they only had three beaten-up boxes of lights that looked suspiciously used and returned, so I asked a "helper" to test the strings for me.

"Test the strings?" this stalwart asked, looking askance at me with all the indications of someone who has just heard an outpouring of an unknown foreign language.

"Yes! These boxes have been opened and the lights unwrapped! I'd like to know that they are functional before I get them home please, so is there anywhere I can plug them in and see that they are working?" I snarled. I'm not at my best when people are being deliberately thick at me.

"Calm down! he snapped. "I can test them. Keep your cool!"

"I am calm and cool, but if I'm going to pay full price for obviously shop-soiled merchandise I expect that at a minimum it does what it would say on the box if any of the boxes still had sides!" I howled.

The "helper" grapped the bundles of lights and plugged them in, one by one.



"Aggleaggleaggle. There! Satisfied?"

"Very. Good Day!" I did battle with the self checkout, then having checked myself out returned home where I discovered that these were not in fact replacements for the lights I had bought three weeks before, but similar ones featuring longer icicles and a shorter run. I dealt with this by using some class three Words of Power and doubling the icicles back on themselves and knotting them. As a byproduct of this, I received approximately three times the number of painful shocks I had before. I also ran out of lights before the end of the house.

So I ended up re-using some of the old strings to finish the job and wonder of wonders the color of the bulbs matched perfectly with the newer strings. A first.

After this triumph I decided to ready Troll, The Snowblower of Supreme Spiffiness for action by firing up the engine.

I do this every year to ensure that if I need the machine there will be fuel in all the lines and the carburetor will be primed. Usually I have an extension cord rigged from the rear of the house with which to power the starter motor, but my ratty old 100 foot extension cord was stolen (possibly by mistake by a builder but the results are the same). It was repaired and ratty and mucky but it was damned useful and it was mine.

Anyway, this left me with a quandary. Troll has a pull starter but experience has shown that using it is a path to a wrenched shoulder, madness and a potentially dangerous depletion of my reservoir of Words of Power of all classes above three. Troll must be fired to life electrically. It is dead symbolic too. The connection of the power, the flipping of the switch, the setting of the choke, the pressing of the button, the percussive detonation of the starter dog engaging, the cough of the engine, the cloud of black smoke, the chugchugchug of the engine lumbering to life, life LIFE I tell you! AHAHAHAHAHAHA!

So pulling the string on Troll's engine would clearly not do at all. However, there, in the garage, was the solution. And if anything, it was even deader symbolic and completely in the idiom. There, by the side of Troll, hastily moved there as I had nowhere else to stick it, resplendent in its bright orange livery, was my generator - without doubt the easiest engine to pull start I've ever owned or used.

I located the short extension cord that came with Troll and which I've never used after a brief, vocally intensive search, moved the genny out into the rain, cleared off the stuff that had accumulated on top of Troll's engine, and began the ritual of The Starting of the Generator.

Fuel tap on. Engine switch on. Pull the cord gently.

No attempt to start.



Pull out extremely stiff choke toggle and try again, and be greeted on the third pull with the chugchugchug of the generator struggling to...LIFE! AHAHAHAbloody hell push that choke in quick before she stalls!

Then, hands trembling, I connected the cord between the generator front panel and Troll's starter motor, pumped the carb primer until I felt gas under it, then another five times, flipped the engine switch to 'on' and twisted the choke toggle to 'cold' and pressed the start button.

Vast clouds of invigorating black smoke belched from the exhaust and the engine struggled into life life LIFE!

Choking and coughing, eyes watering from the acrid fumes and ears bleeding from the almost-negligently silenced engine, I flipped the switches on all engines to 'off' and packed everything away, satisfied that this day I had Done Good Work.

As I was about to enter the house, the ground fault device tripped, plunging my light fantastic into darkness.

  1. English-style. Sub 32-degree weather measuring things the way they do in the US
  2. One mustn't call it a hurricane for insurance reasons, apparently
  3. I always forget when I'm buying lights that I double up on the otherwise weedy-looking icicle lights and need at least nine boxes of lights to cover the length of the gutters on this house, so I inevitably end up trying to find lights three weeks before Christmas, which is when the stores have stopped selling Christmas stuff in preparation for the Valentine's Day rush

Friday, December 07, 2012

Feeling Old

Every now and then life does something to make me feel old without physical pain.

Case in point. Some years ago, while I was back in the UK for Christmas and debating the wisdom of proposing marriage to this American bird I had met, I paid a visit to the Mitsukiku store in Brimingham New Street Station and purchased two nice Kimonos which I got at sale prices. I'd never been able to afford either under other circumstances.

True, the second was at the prompting of my friend Frank who had the girl's best interests at heart - I was going to cheap out and get her a short, shirt-sized "Happi-Coat" as I was still dithering on the "mate for life" thing. I had other reasons for wanting to see her in the shorter garment which he was emotionally unequipped to appreciate and which I won't go into now, but he was right and I took his advice and purchased two full-sized kimonos.

Mine is black, and has a dragon running down the full length of the back embroidered in gold thread with details in various other colors. Hers is lilac with what to my uneducated eye looks like a Willow Pattern scene on it.

I bought a pink obi for hers and a red one for mine which made the Japanese saleslady giggle, this being a female accessory that serves the same focal purpose as a nice wide belt or lace-up bodice does. My kimono was supposed to tie with this length of black material but would still occlude part of the design. Some kimonos have little slots and other accommodation for the tie so it would run inside the kimono around the back and not break the design, but this one doesn't. So I usually wear the kimono with the red obi tied as a sash/belt, allowing the ends to dangle rakishly at the side. Sue me.

I've worn mine rarely, usually as a dressing gown at Christmas or while on vacation, but it still reached the point of needing cleaning. I took it to a cleaner I trust, but the red lining still bled color and looks rather sad now. Oh well.

I can't remember the last time Mrs Stevie wore hers. I doubt she could find the damned thing amongst all the other clothing she has amassed in the intervening years. Imelda Marcos could have taken lessons from this woman.


I just did a ninternet search and it turns out that Mitsukiku kimonos are now vintage collectibles, which means two things:

First, my dream of getting another or of getting mine a new lining is now pie-in-the-sky.

Second, I'm demonstrably vintage (I outrank the Kimono by a good quarter century) which I kindasorta knew but didn't need telling in such an abrupt way.