Monthly Archives: May, 2011

Minimally opening the door to my fridge

This graph documents my 2011 resolutions kept so far or blog traffic, I can't remember which

So it comes to this, my last so-called “normal” post before embarking on yet another challenge. Effective Wednesday, June 1st, I’ll be back in fighting form for the BlogShorts challenge sponsored by Blogdramedy. This time in the barrel the challenge is to write 30 short stories of exactly 30 words each for 30 days. Stick around this month and read a few. I’m sure it the experience for you, the reader*, will be different.

I pity the fool that reads my blog during the month this challenge is underway. It’s going to be the good, bad and the fugly, only without the “good” part. You have been warned.

I’m actually dreading this challenge quite a bit. I’m quivering in fear. It feels overwhelming. I’m not sure if I can do it and I have no idea what I’m going to do. This may be the challenge that finally breaks me. On the plus side, if that happens, I’ll have something fun to talk about. I love wallowing in my own misery, failures and inadequacies.

30 word limit? Hmmm. Perhaps one of them could be my unabridged autobiography? Yes, that will work!

If you blog, it’s not too late to sign up and undertake the challenge yourself. I’m living proof that no actual skill or talent is required, so click the link to sign up and you can do your part to help make me look like a fool. (Not that I need any help.)

Speaking of undertakings…

Earlier this year in an attempt to increase my P.Q. (pathetic-quotient) I published some New Year’s resolutions. These were key areas where I planned to explore new dimensions of failure. I’m proud to report that things in this regard have been proceeding swimmingly. With each one broken I feel the avoirdupois lifting from my encumbered shoulders.

Some notable examples:

  • Be a better listener – The wife reports there has been an increase of 1% in this area, with a margin of error of +/- 3 points. So this could technically be worse than before.
  • Go out to restaurants less often – Epic, supercharged and legendary fail! Time is the nemesis here! Enough said.
  • Go ovo-lacto vegetarian for the entire year – This one went quickly when I deemed myself a “flexitarian” in January. Since then, I don’t think there are many remaining major proteins I haven’t “flexed” with. My overall meat intake is still markedly down, though.
  • Commence work on my book and produce at least one publishable sentence. Nothing accomplished here, but on the plus side, the year isn’t over yet, so it still could theoretically happen.
  • Successfully complete the 2011 Shutterboo weekly photo challenge – I didn’t last long here, either, but I hold out hope I’ll find time with my camera and get caught up. Naive, I know.
  • Blog once a week on my new blog – Oops! I haven’t posted since the first week in February. Fail monkeys!

My fridge this Memorial Day after five months of minimizing - note the salsa past the date

A bit more about that last bullet item. The blog was called Minimal Fridge that was going to to be a place to document my quest to clean out our refrigerator and keep it clean. Both the blog and quest itself were failures. I closed the blog and opened a new category here in the Abyss to continue to fight the good fight. I won’t give up! Maybe. So it will be a new topic that I’ll touch on from time to time, mainly so you can all point and laugh at my efforts.

Here’s the initial post for this new category to get things going. This is a repost from the old blog.

The first rule of Minimal Fridge is, as my dad liked to say, “Don’t leave the door open. What are you trying to do? Cool the world?”

The second rule is: Keep that thing from getting so full!

When my wife and I cleaned out our refrigerator recently I estimated that we probably threw away about $400 worth of food that was unusable, either because it was past the “use by” date or rotten or both.

Wow, what a waste!

That was really a wake up call for me, and I resolved that if we were careful and applied a little bit of planning and organization we wouldn’t end up in that situation ever again.

My primary purpose here, you might call it a Prime Directive, is simple. To efficiently eat the food that we buy. I call it our “food efficiency rating.” Any food that has to be thrown away because it wasn’t used in time takes away from that rating.

So keeping the refrigerator neat and tidy, with as few as items as possible, is going to be very important. I’m not exactly sure what “minimal” will turn out to be, but that is my goal. Will it be two items per shelf? Three? And how many in the drawers, doors and freezer?

I hope you’ll find this to be an interesting idea worth of exploration. I’ll try to update this category frequently with updates on how it is going and any insights we learn along the way.

Please feel free to participate by sharing your own ideas, observations and experiences. I want to hear from you.


* In the interest of fairness and accuracy, it is the policy of this blog to refer to readers, visitors, subscribers in the singular. For Twitter this policy also applies to the follower. This is deliberate and used to indicate that one person is the upper estimate of my readership. (Hopefully not including myself.)

All Access Travelogue: How to get in to Skywalker Ranch

Skywalker Ranch Library

The Skywalker Ranch Library

Welcome to the dinner salad, young Skywalker. And I see you brought your own Ranch. Impressive!

Ever wanted to visit Skywalker Ranch? Hell, who wouldn’t? Hearst had his castle, Michael Jackson had Neverland, and George Lucas has gots his digs, too.

And I know how to get in. Curious? Keep reading for my exclusive tip on how to be invited into the Lucasonian world known as Skywalker Ranch.

This tip is foolproof and guaranteed to get you in – but only if you can exactly follow my advice. Be warned and remember! Nothing worthwhile ever comes easy.

Skywalker Ranch is the secret fort of Lucas where he stages massive toy soldier battles between Jedi action figures and Clone Trooper action figures. It is truly a sight to behold.

Situated on about 3,000 acres 20 miles north of San Francisco is the city that Lucas built.

The Ranch contains a barn with animals, vineyards, a garden with fruits and vegetables used in the on-site restaurant, an outdoor swimming pool and fitness center with racquetball courts, the man-made “Lake Ewok,” a hilltop observatory, a 300-seat theater called “The Stag” as well as multiple theater screening rooms, and parking that is mostly concealed underground to preserve the natural landscape. Skywalker Sound was moved onto the ranch in 1987, now occupying the Technical Building. The Main House has a company research library under a stained-glass dome. Skywalker Ranch has its own fire station, which is part of the Marin County Mutual Aid system, and is often called on to assist firefighters in nearby Marinwood.

Sound like fun? Hell yeah! I can’t think of any place I’d rather be. Meanwhile, in other news, I still don’t command the financial forces necessary to be able to own one square inch of Florida swampland. (My mortgage on the property was foreclosed.) It must be nice to be able to afford to prioritize the tough choices and get just a few of the bare necessities that you want. Yes, I jealous a lot. (For me, jealous is a verb!)

Okay, here’s the secret. You read this far so I won’t keep you waiting any longer.

The secret to being invited to Skywalker Ranch is obtaining a level of consciousness where you literally care nothing about Star Wars, George Lucas and Skywalker Ranch. At this level, not only could you not care less about Star Wars, you will also find the whole thing rather tedious, boring and silly. Only once you would automatically refuse any invitation to visit Skywalker Ranch will you be ready.

My beloved Skywalker Ranch mug

Once you’ve carefully followed the above tip you will be invited for a visit. Trust me. I’ve personally witnessed this.

I was with a woman who was an artist back when Lucas decided to make a Star Wars prequel-trilogy starting with The Phantom Menace. Her company was one of the millions courting Lucasfilm for Phantom Menace licensing projects. This woman had absolutely no interest in Star Wars. None. Zip. Nada. Zilch! She had never even seen any of the movies – not even once! On the other hand, of course, I was supergeek who had quite literally worn Star Wars tshirts every day for an entire year during the eighth grade.

As luck would have it, she was invited along with a few others from her company to attend a meeting at Skywalker Ranch. As you might guess, attendees went on this business trip alone – no guests were permitted. In this topsy-turvy world she was the one who was allowed to visit. I was the one who stayed home and received a Skywalker Ranch coffee mug from the on-site “company store” as a consolation prize.

And there you have it! Another secret and practical tip from this cutting-edge blog. Now go out there and put it into action!

Expanding on my aborted comments regarding Planned Parenthood

The other day I provided some “facts” about Planned Parenthood in my rant about Newt Gingrich’s platform. I made two errors in that post. This post is my correction and will also contain just a bit of my personal opinions.

First, I neglected to source the facts I listed. I relied on the Wikipedia: Planned Parenthood page.

The second mistake was accepting at face value one of those facts as provided by Planned Parenthood itself.

Here’s the facts from my original post:

  • Opened in 1916 as the first birth control clinic in the United States.
  • In 1970 President Richard M. Nixon (Republican) signed the Family Planning Services and Population Research Act. This provided government funding to Planned Parenthood. The act had bipartisan support by liberals (who saw it as giving families greater control over their lives) and conservatives (who saw it as a way to keep people off welfare).
  • Planned Parenthood is the largest provider of abortions in the United States, which constitutes about 3% of the health care services it provides.
  • Receives about one-third of its funding from the government.
  • By law does not use any federal funding for abortions.

These facts were prompted by Gingrich’s platform including an item about defunding Planned Parenthood. I shared my opinion that this isn’t exactly one of the leading issues on the minds of voters. Additionally it seeks to undo an Act that was signed by a Republican president with bipartisan support. For that sort of thing I think you should have an argument stronger than, “I wish to use abortion as a divisive issue to make political hay.” Continue reading →

I have a voice: Twittering whispers to myself

I added an app to my iPod Touch called “Dragon Dictation.” It’s free so at least I know I didn’t overpay. This app converts speech to text. So now I can talk to my iPod (which feels a little weird), have my voice converted to text, then easily send that text as a tweet.

The other night I was at a restaurant and decided to take it for a spin. Let’s see how it did.

Tweet: Hey Twitter this is my voice converted to text. How exciting

Analysis: Not too shabby. That’s what I said, although I’m pretty sure I implied a period at the end of the sentence.

Tweet: Hi text max’s voice tweet from a rest salon marvel at my greatness

Analysis: This is so mangled I can’t remember my exact words. But I do know that “rest salon” was supposed to be “restaurant.”

Tweet: There’s a guy here at the restaurant with the laptop will ask for his e-mail address so I can tweet

Analysis: This one is almost decipherable. It was actually: “There’s a guy here at the restaurant with a laptop. I will ask for his e-mail address so I can tweet him.” I was feeling pretty damn high tech and social at the time.

Test: The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog

Nailed it.

Test: Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country

Nailed it again.

Tweet: I sure hope you’ll enjoy the best tweets to you by dragon dictation. Peace out

Analysis: This was the end of my test. It think it was “you’ve enjoyed” but I’m not sure.

Conclusion: The app worked fairly well. I noticed that it works by recording audio then processing it. The longer you talk, the more you record, and the longer the processing time. It was a bit annoying it didn’t keep up in real time.

Overall, I recommend this app at the price of free. It’s a good value for making your tweets look like they came from someone with English as a second language and/or an elementary school dropout.

What I’ve been trying to say

This report is filed under “Did you give them your fucking money?”

Newt Gingrich

Refuse serviceThis topic is so outrageous I don’t need to be quippy in the post title. I’ll just let the subject speak for itself…

I’d like to start this post with a Newt Gingrich joke. And this has nothing to do with his wife, either. It’s about him on a hot sex date. ba-doom-boom!

I keed, I keed. Seriously, though. I’m here all week.

So here’s the joke:

Gingrich is out on a date and things are going swimmingly. He drops his pants and says to the young woman, “Check out this Eye of Newt!”

Well, at least we can say this much about my sense of humor. It’s painfully obvious that I write my own material.

I woke up this morning planning a Newt Gingrich post. A quick check of Google News, though, and I feel like my thunder is about to be stolen away before I can even start. Check out some of these headlines:

  • Our bizarre political theater
  • Commentary: Newt Gingrich’s political suicide
  • Gingrich, in N.H., tries to refocus his campaign
  • Republican Gingrich defiant over Tiffany’s account‎
  • Gingrich takes few questions, avoids press at NH town hall
  • Gingrich’s campaign blindsided by bling
  • Newt Gingrich Defends Paul Ryan From People Saying Same Things Newt Said
  • Political Lolapalooza: Newt Gingrich’s Diamond Studded Hypocrisy & Other Tales From The Crypt

Note: These are all real headlines shown exactly as I found them while writing this post.

Apparently the Gingrich campaign is not long for this world. It’s about to slip the surly bonds of Earth and touch the face of God. Or something like that.

Even so, I’m still in the mood to discuss my planned topic. And that’s doctors. Let’s give Gingrich a chance here. Let’s focus on the issues.

With all of the issues facing our country, what does Gingrich see as the cornerstones of his campaign?

  • Repeal The Affordable Health Care Act
  • Preserve Bush-era tax cuts for top 2 percent
  • Combating radical Islamism
  • Emphasis on math and science to give the U.S. military the “most advanced and powerful weapons in the world”
  • Dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and replace with an “Environmental Solutions Agency” which would view the environmental based on job creation and energy costs
  • Defund Planned Parenthood
  • Protect religious expression (creches, crosses, menorahs) on public property
  • Protect healthcare workers’ “right to conscience”
  • Provide access to government funds for home schooled students
  • Protect rights of teachers to discuss religion in the classroom
  • Protect frail, infirm and elderly from the state’s arbitrary decision to terminate life

Wow, Newt! See the boogeyman much?

There’s so much meat here, but if I take too big of a bite and I won’t be able to digest and then, well, I’ll be irregular. So let’s just take a nibble. Besides, since he’s got no chance, this is all just a thought experiment. A quick look, though, could still be a bit of fun.

I really want to discuss the doctor thing, but first, a brief history lesson on the biggest boogeyman of all-time. At least since abortion was made the end-all distraction issue of conservatives.

Planned Parenthood facts:

  • Opened in 1916 as the first birth control clinic in the United States.
  • In 1970 President Richard M.Nixon (Republican) signed the Family Planning Services and Population Research Act. This provided government funding to Planned Parenthood. The act had bipartisan support by liberals (who saw it as giving families greater control over their lives) and conservatives (who saw it as a way to keep people off welfare).
  • Planned Parenthood is the largest provider of abortions in the United States, which constitutes about 3% of the health care services it provides.
  • Receives about one-third of its funding from the government.
  • By law does not use any federal funding for abortions.

Now, the doctor thing. Gingrich essentially wants “healthcare workers” to have the right to “refuse service to anyone.” No big surprise that this one has to do with abortion. Gingrich wants to make sure that doctors are not forced to participate in or refer procedures such as abortion.

A couple of thoughts. First, is this a big problem facing our country? Do you lose a lot of sleep over this? Excuse the fuck out of me, but really. Boo-fucking-hoo. I don’t even know what to make if this. Has there ever been a doctor forced to do anything he/she didn’t want to? I find that hard to imagine.

Note: Some will point out, correctly, that an employee has to what he’s ordered to do (as long as it’s legal) or risk getting fired. True enough. I’ve been in that situation all my goddamned life. But where is the “force” in this equation? Like trillions of people have told me before, if you don’t like your job, go “vote with your feet” and find a new one. Unless the doctor is performing an abortion at gunpoint no one is legally being “forced.” Don’t like something about your job, whatever it is? Put on your big boy pants and go find a new job. This is, by the way, a basic building block of a “free market.”

And how exactly would this sort of thing be implemented? How to you legally define a “right to conscience?” Could it apply to any situation? Any medical procedure? Could it be based on hair color? The length of the patient’s skirt that is offensive to the doctor? A tattoo? A religious symbol? Gender? The color of skin? Smell?

How exactly would this conscience thing work? What would be permissible grounds for refusal and what wouldn’t?

This is exactly the sort of shit that flimflam politicians like to run up the flagpole to distract the rabble. Inflame the passions, distract, and walk your way into office with your prize money.

Another thing: Doctors are an important part of our society and we recognize them for that. They get money. The get privilege. Influence. Respect. Power. Isn’t that enough?

“So sorry, old chap. I appreciate all that, but it simply isn’t enough. I need to have total control over everything. Stat! Understood?”

What makes doctors so much more special than anyone else? I’d really like to know. How many other jobs can you imagine where the worker demands the right to refuse service?

  • The firefighter won’t put out your fire
  • The police officer won’t protect and serve
  • The teacher won’t teach
  • The mechanic won’t fix your car
  • The cable company refuses to put the internet in your house
  • The minister won’t administer sacraments and holy communion

Actually, that last one is already all too real. We’ve been working for millennia to end discrimination based on things like gender and the color of skin. When did it become acceptable to do it based on things like beliefs? And why, pray tell, does religion always seem to be right smack dab in the middle of it? Riddle me that, Batman!

Sure, in America, you have the right to your own personal beliefs. And we have the right to refuse service. You believe something different than us? We’ll do a little embargo of our own. Let’s see you eat nothing, you fuck! Enjoy your “rights” while you starve to death! Ha ha ha ha ha!

We’ve traded in one form of discrimination for another. I guess we can’t abide the thought of a world without some form of discrimination.

Do you know any worker who enjoys this sort of right? It sure the fuck ain’t me. I have to wait on everyone who comes my way or I get fired. Am I offended or find something repugnant about that task? Too fucking bad. Suck it up or be out of a job. That’s the everyday choice for most ordinary working people.

Why do doctors need and/or deserve different?

Doctors take an oath to do no harm. If it’s your turn in the barrel and you’re on shift when a patient is brought it, you do your fucking job. You don’t become a conscientious objector based on things like differences in personal beliefs. Saving that human spark of life – no matter what – is your job. If you won’t do that, then society has absolutely no use for you. You don’t get the option of intermittent refusal and still keep all the special goodies and prizes and what’s behind door number three, k?

And no, you can’t stand back, do nothing, and say it is the problem of something else and get to keep your “do no harm” status. Doing nothing when your actions could have made a difference is the same as causing harm.

This is one so-called “issue” that should absolutely never see the rule of law. Ever!

Jesus Christ! I can sit here and close my eyes and I can’t even begin to imagine the kind of world that Newt Gingrich wants to live in. It sounds like a scary and hateful place. It sounds twisted. It sounds un-American.

Where blog ideas come from

Inspiration eludes me today...

Some basic blogging inspiration tools.

Inspiration. Not a word I use often. But when it comes to blogging, I gots to find me some every single day or I’m dead.

I was thinking about this the other day. Where does inspiration come from?

The rest of you may have your own way, but here are a few things I’ve found that (sometimes) work for me.

First up, the painfully obvious. Life. Living. Being alive. And pain. Searing pain. Yes, I’m talking about the burden of being alive and doing things. Painful things. This means things like my job have their upside, like Blogramedy so thoughtfully pointed out recently. Without my jobs this blog probably wouldn’t exist. I’d just be sitting here with a vacant look on my face and drool going down my shirt. Hmm. That’s a tough call!

Leaving the house is a very close second. That is, of course, where you bump into all sorts of assholes. And I loves writing about the assholes. The possibilities are endless, but the most basic opportunities are found in places like: driving, stores, sidewalks, movie theaters, standing in line, and being outdoors.

Another idea is a WOTD (Word Of The Day). Fire up the dictionary of your choice and get their WOTD and work it seamlessly into your writing. You know, this reminds me of the time I once “sojourned” at a dictionary factory. Bonus Tom B. Taker trivia: I once sojourned on a shitty little planet known as Earth, too.

Then there is a website called that serves up daily blogging inspiration. Caution is advised. Is the world really ready for me to answer questions like, “What do you do when you can’t sleep at night?” I mean, seriously, the thought of that is simply too horrible and graphic to contemplate. I guarantee no one wants to hear things like that. Even I have to draw a line somewhere at how truly pathetic I can be. (Luckily for us all, though, I haven’t yet found that limit.)

What do you do when you can’t sleep at night? I wrote a song about it!

It’s the middle of the night and I can’t sleep
Nothing worked not even counting sheep
Wanna know the truth? It’s really quite silly
It’s hours and hours of wonkin’ my willy

Oops! I guess I missed that line. Again!

The news is always a great source of ideas. Just the other day my regularly scheduled post was bumped by a picture I saw of an idiotic pinhead douchebag idiot. Properly inspired, I can occasionally come up with satisfying zingers like “the separation of church and prostate.” (Sadly, though, a Google search reveals I wasn’t the first to coin this phrase. Dammit!)

Another form of inspiration I’d like to discuss is music. Everyone once in a while music comes along that just grabs you and throws you to the ground. From the very first listen when it catches you completely unawares, you are hooked. Call it love at first sound bite, if you will. There have been many of these in my life. Recently it was Green Day who I heard for the first time ever. Yeah, I like to be at least a decade behind the times. Just this morning, while writing this blog, it happened again. Check it out. I’m attaching the video at the bottom of this post.

Finally, there is one other form of inspiration. It’s one that I use from time to time. I guess you’d say it’s a form of meditation. It works by discarding in disgust whatever I was trying to write. I then stomp off in search of a different idea. I sit or lay down somewhere quiet, close my eyes, and clear my mind. Then I just let random thoughts wash over me. This method has actually produced a few posts. And some very random tweets over on yonder Twitter, too.

I hope you enjoyed this sneak peak into how I go about my craft of blogging. The good news is, tomorrow morning the whole thing starts all over again and I’ll be under the gun with an insane deadline. Good times!

Uh oh. Look out, but the official theme song of the Abyss may be in trouble. A new challenger waits in the wings. It’s time for the Octogon of Video Death. Two videos enter, one video leaves.

Does this song have what it takes to dethrone The Grouch by Green Day? Good luck, Theory of a Deadman!