It's the 6 that puzzles me

OK so I'm looking at data from the 2000 US Census (this chart, to be specific) and they have the total population reported at 281,421,906. 6? How can they be sure it's not, say, 4? Or 7?

Well the answer is they can't - in a population of 281 million the odds are pretty good somebody - at least one person - between the time the data was phoned in and the time it got typed on the page, died. Or got born. So the number was off before it was even on - and I'm not all that sure about the 900 part, either. Gimme a break. Why don't they just say 281 million and change, and get it over with? (If the vote count in Ohio goes over, say, 300 million we'll know somethings fishy without the 6 there, won't we? Don't you think?)

And another thing, while I'm at it here. If the median age of the population is only 35 how come Social Security is in so much trouble? Doesn't sound so almighty old to me. We can always bring back child labor, can't we?

This is why I stay away from numbers if I possibly can.

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"This majestic rant"

It isn't often one encounters a truly majestic rant (and even less often if you're looking for one here because I just don't pay attention enough) but this one, posted by someone named "Peanut" on a blog called Needlenose is majestic, I do agree.
George has nowhere left on earth to fail and godhood must now be conferred upon him. He will be the one deity that all mythologies lack: The Fucking Idiot Deity with absolutely nothing to recommend him except that [he] can't be kicked out of the pantheon.
You can read the whole thing, in all it's glory, here.

My own personal favorite majestic rant remains, however, Mark Twain's letter to the gas company, which is reproduced in toto here:
Hartford, February 12, 1891.

Dear Sirs:

Some day you will move me almost to the verge of irritation by your chuckle-headed Goddamned fashion of shutting your Goddamned gas off without giving any notice to your Goddamned parishioners. Several times you have come within an ace of smothering half of this household in their beds and blowing up the other half by this idiotic, not to say criminal, custom of yours. And it has happened again today. Haven’t you a telephone?


S L Clemens (Mark Twain)

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And speaking of Mark Twain...

...this excerpt from a short article entitled Advice for Good Little Girls and published in the California Youth's Companion, June 24, 1865:
You should ever bear in mind that it is to your kind parents that you are indebted for your food, and your nice bed, and for your beautiful clothes, and for the privilege of staying home from school when you let on that you are sick. Therefore you ought to respect their little prejudices, and humor their little whims and put up with their little foibles, until they get to crowding you too much.

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There's a bare patch on the neighbor's hill

Over there on the other side of their lawn. It's a pretty big hill and it's a pretty big bare patch, a little fringe of green grass at the bottom of it and all the rest old, brown leaves. Which I find reassuring, somehow.

What if the snow melted some Spring and there was nothing under it?

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One sock short

Is this the worst thing that ever happens or what. There I am digging through the laundry bag and I have a whole pile of socks there but none of them match. You may think this is impossible because I only wear white socks. I only wear white socks because white socks always match. But now I have three kinds of white socks so they don't always match. At least three kinds. Maybe more. The system has broken down. (I also have one pair of red socks but I never wear them unless all the other socks are dirty. My red socks are sort of like that little red patch on the bottom of your fuel gauge. When the socks are red it means laundry time.)

And yeah, yeah don't bug me, one of these days I'll dig them all out and put them away where they belong. I know, I know. Just don't bring that up.

Anyway the socks in the bag are alien socks. Undocumented alien socks, that's what they are. They sneak into the dryer somehow. They're always alone - they never come in pairs. Undocumented alien single socks. Yeah, sure, they're all white but they still don't match. They don't belong.

Maybe I should switch to all red, start over. Or start wearing boots. That's it. Boots.

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Yippee! We can kill buffalo again!

By the early 1900's, Yellowstone was home to only about 30 bison, and conservationists began efforts to revive the national treasure. As the historian Andrew Isenberg has written, Teddy Roosevelt even feared that the collapse of the buffalo population would neuter American masculinity, since men could no longer hunt big game in the United States.
Well we can't, exactly, but the heard in Montana now numbers around 5,000 and so that state issued 15 buffalo-killing licenses this year. More, enthusiasts hope, next.

(And yeah I know they're not really buffalo, they're bison, but hey - you can only shoot what you've got.)

Guess we can all quit worrying about "neutered" now.

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You're lookin' swell, Kitty

For just under 50,000 yen ($430) a month, a fraction of the cost of a human temp, the PeopleStaff agency will dispatch Hello Kitty Robo, a robotic receptionist capable of sensing a visitor's presence, greeting him or her and holding simple conversations.

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Oh no, sorry, I'm not up for this

Mr Morris says the US will be fascinated by a contest between a woman who has come to public prominence on the coat-tails of her husband -Mrs Clinton – and Ms Rice, who has fought her way to the top against the odds.
This would be way, way more fascination than I care to endure.

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Who said it was warm out there?

Oh, her. That's what she always says. Remind me to pay more attention next time. It's 30, is what it is. Sure I'm spoiled, I admit it, but 30's cold and I don't care. It's not warm.

And while you're at it remind me to be more careful what buttons I push on my iPod next time. I left for work this morning without my wristwatch and when I noticed I was too lazy to go back upstairs to get it; I figured hey if there's no clock in the room I can use the clock on my iPod. Right. Well, it's not that the clock doesn't work just fine (there was none in the room) but somehow in the process of using it I clicked an extra button and ran three hours off my novel before I discovered what I'd done. Nice work. Now I have to find my place again. Woe is me.

The novel, by the way, is Charles Dickens' "Hard Times," and if you're a Dickens fan and haven't read it yet I recommend it highly. It is, as I recall, his last and also, as I recall, the only novel he wrote in the 20th Century. It's his gloomy (or is that redundant?) and prescient take on the foibles of the Industrial Revolution and on the whole facts-are-facts no-nonsense (read "standardized testing") school of educational theory as exemplified by the tyrannical tutoring of one Thomas ("I shall have the satisfaction of causing you to be strictly educated") Gradgrind and a host of supporting pedagogical demagogues (wow!) and manifested in the lives of the children they instruct.

Also it's a just plain good read. It's Dickens. Did I mention that?

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Arriving in something less than style

All that talk about youthful adventures and moving to new places over the past few days got me into one of those waking recollections this morning about arriving in Duluth the first time. About how my Dad had arranged for us to make the last leg of the journey by air so we could see what a wonderful thing it was - and it was a wonderful thing, taking off, before we flew into the storm. And we would wind up several hours later right back where we'd started, at the Minneapolis airport, all of us on that DC-3 having been violently ill the whole time except Russ himself - by then an old flying hand - and my kid sister, who blissfully slept through the whole ordeal. And subsequently arrived in Duluth in a tacked-on-at-the-last-minute antique rail car with hard, caned seats and nothing to eat but chocolate bars. And how we spent that first night in the Hotel Duluth, seemingly right across the street from the lighthouse and a pea-soup fog outside, the blinding beacon rotating past our window every few minutes and a foghorn booming loud enough to rattle our very bones.

And you can see why I get so nostalgic about traveling to new places, moving on.

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Almost missed this one - How to Survive a Robot Uprising

If you think Brownie is gonna help you with this one you're in more trouble than I thought.

Anyway you can read it for yourself.

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Famous (reputedly true) restaurant story

(As long as we're talking about restaurants here.)
RUSS: I'll have an egg sandwich.

WAITRESS: We ain't got no egg sandwiches.

RUSS: OK, I'll have a ham sandwich.

WAITRESS: We ain't got no ham sandwiches. But we've got a ham and egg sandwich on special.

RUSS: Ahhh.

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Go Jo Jo

There used to be a coffee shop on the other side of Main Street, the side of the street less walked upon, and I used to stop there every morning for a cup because it was right around the corner from the bus stop. It's always been my practice to eat breakfast, when I was eating breakfast out, or stop for coffee as close as possible to where I needed to be. Eliminate all the vagaries of travel time first, the theory goes, and you can enjoy your eggs more. But they didn't have enough other customers over there, other besides myself, and they went out of business after a while. There is not a whole lot of crossing that goes on on Main Street, this being New England after all, where people would just as soon stay on the side they're already on and most of the people, for some reason, are not on the side Jo Jo's is on. Jo Jo's is where the old coffee shop used to be, although it was some other kind of store for a long time in between. Jo Jo's is pretty new.

I took my car in to get its heater re-heated this morning and I walk home from there. It was a chilly morning and it's a fairly long trudge so it seemed like a fine idea to stop about half way for a cup of coffee and to warm up a little. But the coffee shop on the busy side of the street has gone all upscale on us - white tablecloths and some guy in the back trying to look like a chef and all that, so I was looking around for some other option when I noticed Jo Jo's sign. And I figured what the hell, and crossed the street.

And Jo Jo's I like. It's a order-at-the-counter kind of place, and Jo Jo makes your scrambled eggs right there and carries them over to a table for you (and she makes sausage just the way I like it too, and knows how to make toast so it's all buttery and soggy like it's supposed to be), and the tablecloths are that stuff we used to call oilskin, and they don't match. And not only that, the coffee is in paper cups (and self-serve) but the plates are real. It's perfect, in a word.

Unfortunately there were no more customers than the old coffee shop used to have - just me, and a woman who came in while I was there. Things have been a little slow lately, Jo Jo says, but maybe just because it's January. I hope that's true - January is almost done. In the meantime, remind me to eat breakfast out once in a while. As long as Jo Jo's is still there, it'll be worth it. Street crossing or no.

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"Where the girls are the fairest and the boys are the squarest": YA YAME special

That's what the official University of Nebraska song claimed anyway - girls are the fairest and boys are the squarest - when I learned it in the mid-40s. I don't know if it still does.

We moved to Lincoln in 1944. I remember we got on a train at Union Station in Chicago, where the big waiting room was full of guys in uniform - I hung onto Russ's coat and stared at a forest of khaki-covered knees. But even more I remember that night as the beginning of my serious and long-lasting love affair with trains - lying in a bunk by the window and watching little towns, all lit along their main streets, flash by in the night, the bells at the crossings clanging. And then waking up the next day in a new place to live. For quite a few years after that, every time we got on a train it was like that. And I still get nostalgic when I see a passenger train pass, people going somewhere new.

I was already a veteran of WWII by the time we moved to Lincoln. In Downers Grove the big guys on the block wouldn't let me play "war" with them unless I agreed to be The Japanese Prisoner, and I spent most of the time tied to a tree. But by the time I got to Lincoln I was a grizzled first grader, and ready for the real thing.

Lincoln was an Air Force city - there was a base nearby and downtown was full of guys in uniform saluting. But we were all involved in the war - we saved newspapers and tin cans and the tinfoil from gum wrappers and even bacon fat, which went back to the butcher. Everything was rationed - Marge had books of stamps and tokens for buying groceries and Russ sold the family car before we left Illinois because there was not enough gasoline to drive it all the way to Nebraska.

The house in Lincoln was right at the end of a streetcar line. Every once in a while a car would arrive in front of the house, clang a few times, and then the motorman would get out and walk the big arms that reached up to the overhead cables around to the other end of the car, and then he'd switch the control handles from one end of the car to the other, and that's how the thing got turned around to head back downtown. Russ loved it because he could wait until the car arrived in the morning and still have time to grab his hat and coat and get out the door.

The other thing about that corner was that it was where the newspaper company dumped off bails of papers for the carriers, so after school the parkway was full of older guys breaking down the bundles and folding their papers and filling their big canvas bags. I hung around with them and discussed the merits of the different folds. They all had their special ways of folding the papers - some into rolled tube shapes, others into triangles or squares, the idea being to achieve an aerodynamic perfection that would allow them to fling the papers up onto the porches from the sidewalk without having to get off their bikes. Lotta physics in that.

Russ became the first guy on the block to ride in a commercial airliner - an American Airlines DC-3 that took him on a business trip to New York, and a neighbor bought a new radio with a hole about the size of a salad plate cut into the front of its cabinet, claiming that some day we'd be able to look into the hole and see the Lone Ranger - sounded like a cool idea to me. I got my first bike, my first camera, and my first roller skates, and had measles, chicken pox, and mumps.

Oh, and the University of Nebraska had the league doormat football team, lost every game. And the boys were the squarest. I don't know about the girls for sure, but I'll take their word.

We moved again in '47, to Duluth the first time.

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"My father's farming youth": a YAME special request feature

Well. I really don't know much about it, in fact. After the gardening episode he tended to avoid the subject, except for an occasional mumbling about chores (stuff straight out of the Fathers' Handbook and nothing much more). I do know the farm was in Central Ohio outside Circleville and that it had no electricity or indoor plumbing while his family lived there, which is kind of neat when you consider he lived to see a man walk on the moon.

I know he spent most of his "elementary school" years attending a one-room schoolhouse at which his own father, a guy with the imposing name, Martin Luther, was the only teacher. Then when Martin Luther died his mother sold the farm to a relative and the family moved to Circleville, and he went to high school there.

While he, Russ, was in high school his older brother, Glenn, finished college and moved to New York to enjoy the libertine life of a writer, a feat that made him simultaneously a hero and a family "black sheep." Russ, in his turn, went off to college and when his younger brother, Herman, followed their mother came along and operated a college "eating club" in Naperville to help pay the tuition - she didn't remarry until Herman, then and forever after known as "Spud," also graduated and she moved back to Circleville. She married her then-widowed brother-in-law - a fact that resulted in Russ's having a bunch of half-siblings who were also cousins and in me, as a tyke, attending my own grandmother's wedding.

The new grandfather was Uncle Lawrence to us and he owned the grain elevator in Circleville. I was dutifully taken on a tour, an event that produced about 40 years of occasional nightmares, but other than that I never knew much about Uncle Lawrence. We moved to Nebraska and then to Minnesota, and by the time we got back to within driving distance of Circleville Russ's mother, Ida, was a widow again.

I did visit the old farm once, was plunked onto a pony for a while, and shown the barn.

And Russ never again fooled around with growing potatoes, that's a fact. The only farm-boy trait that remained after the Victory Garden adventure was that he never, ever that I recall would eat cottage cheese. To him it was spoiled milk, and that was that.

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For a grand and glorious good time, and I'm not kidding here

If you use iTunes (and yeah I know it's evil but what the hell, what's life without a little evil now and then?) - if you, as I was saying, use iTunes check for the Vienna Symphony's 2006 New Year's Concert, which is available there right now. If you happen to have a ballroom handy I'd suggest listening to it there, but as long as you're in a place where you can tap your toes you'll be fine.

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And they weren't kidding about the munitions plant part, either.

My dad had a victory garden in a vacant lot across the street from where we lived, then, in Downers Grove, Illinois. It was a massive garden, as befitting, he thought, his own farming youth, and my sister and I spent countless evening hours helping haul great tubs of water across the street on our red Radio Flyer wagon in the service of agriculture. We were compensated for these efforts by having our names ceremoniously sewn in carrot seeds in the corners of the plot, producing, in the end, a whole lot of very small carrots with great big green tops.

Big tops, as it turned out, was my dad's particular talent where gardening was concerned. I remember bag after bag of potatoes, all about the size of golf balls, and various other stunted produce - but the tomatoes were big and juicy and lush. My mom dutifully canned the tomatoes - canning being more jarring, in this instance, as the tomatoes were put up in glass jars and stored in a converted coal bin in the basement - where they remained more or less undisturbed until the night they all blew up.

It must have been on a Sunday evening because I remember we were all in the living room listening to the radio - our Sunday evening family ritual - when the first pop occurred, followed by another and another and then a veritable salvo, until it sounded like a full scale war downstairs. Almost every jar of the tomatoes exploded, all that same evening, producing to my delight and my mother's dismay a glorious, pulpy mess.

That was not the end of her efforts at food preservation - there was a flurry of preserves and jams in the early 50s and later in that decade, when freezing became the hot (or would that be cold?) new thing, there were green beans. But she never fooled around with tomatoes again, which was probably a good thing. There were, at least, no more explosions, unless you count the time she blew up the pressure cooker and plastered the kitchen ceiling with pea soup. And the thing with the gas oven, of course.

(Image from Wikipedia, here.)

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How to exercise your dog while sitting on your own fat lazy butt

It's not often - since we recovered from the euphoria of buying our Volvo about 30 years ago (it took about a week to recover and five years to dump the dog) - we notice a consumer product innovation that really turns us on here at YAME but this one - oh, yeah, this one - is so cool we're thinking of buying a dog. Speaking of dogs.

The green-and-white (no accounting for some people's sense of color) doggie snack shooting pistol - no you don't shoot the dog and you don't shoot the snack either, exactly, you propel the snack out of the pistol - allows you to exercise your dog without moving a single muscle of your own. Well, OK, one muscle, the trigger pulling muscle but that's about it. Not like you have to run across the kitchen, skid on the vinyl, and smack into the wall to get a munchie, or anything like that.

Don't get me started here. I'm not exactly what you'd call an exercise freak but then I don't have a dog to feed, do I. No, that's right, I don't. I sit here all afternoon throwing doggienibble things at the wall just for the sheer cardiovascular joy of the thing, not to make some poor dog look like a dork. Although if you have a dog and want to loan it out for a day or two to come eat some of this stuff - it's getting a little messy, especially in the corners and under the table there - we could talk about that, I suppose.

Also I'm wondering, what if you get so tired from pulling the trigger thing that your aim is off once and you shoot the dog by mistake, and it's a big, mean dog that doesn't especially appreciate being shot in the backside with a knibble. What then? Did they consider that when they dreamed this thing up, I wonder?

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The second best thing to have in a snowstorm is leftover jambalaya

Of course the first best thing would be sunny, balmy weather, blue water and maybe a nice beach, but we'll be doing without that today. It'll be just warm enough to make the snow sloppy wet, thank you.

And no, the picture is not what's going on today, it's one of the Duluth pictures I've been threatening (no danger of a jinx now, is there). Scanned from a 30-year old and now-yellowing newspaper, so the quality leaves a bit to be desired. Forecast for today, here, is between 3 and 6 inches and that's about where it is at the moment. Between. Still, I have a nice supply of jambalaya left over from last night and I don't have to go to work until tomorrow, by which time I may get my act sufficiently together to shovel out the car. Laissez les bons temps snow.

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Waiting for the treats

Children wait for refreshments at a Halloween party at the Schafter, CA, migrant camp in this 1938 Farm Security Administration photo by the great Dorthea Lange. Nearly 200 samples of Lange's work are included in the thousands of photographs and illustrations available through the highly addictive Prints & Photographs Online Catalog at the Library of Congress web site.

(Library of Congress Call Number LC-USF34- 018422-E [P&P])

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They haven't figured out how to paste little stickers on them but when it comes to peeling bananas monkeys get it right

Thanks to Boing Boing for this useful news (noted by the weekend guy on the Evolution Desk here at YAME) - monkeys peel bananas from the other end. Sounds pretty wacky, doesn't it? But it's true. Just pinch the other end - the not-stem end - and they pop right open, just like that. Wow.

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Got it bad and that ain't good

This is a link to a little video called "Love Letter to Condi" so before you click it be someplace you can sit and watch for a couple of minutes. A couple of minutes it's definitely worth.

More stuff like this at the home page of the Huffington Post Contagious Festival, all the great moments of the Internets (well, excluding YAME, that is), and I put it in the blogroll list in the sidebar too just so it won't get lost.

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