She was the closest thing we Baptists had to a saint and/or martyr. She selflessly devoted her life to bringing the Word of God to the heathen Chinee, working her fingers to the bone for those little yellow children, and eventually dying for her efforts.
Every Christmas we had the Lottie Moon Offering, the Southern Baptist GoFundMe for foreign missions. (We had another saint for home missions. Can’t remember her name. I think she worked with the little brown babies out west.)
The other night her name came up for some reason, and I did a little dinner table research on her.
Y’all — Lottie Moon was a kickass trouble-making feminist with a professor boyfriend who himself got kicked out of Southern Seminary for his progressive ideas! She is a Netflix miniseries waiting to happen!
 Actually, I know perfectly well why we were not taught this. It didn’t fit into the Paulian Pauline schematic that women should keep their mouths shut. This is the church that would have elected me — me — as a deacon before they would have my mother.
I come to announce the good news about my TRUNK BOX, I finally found a friend who paid for my Air ticket that allowed me to arrived in this country to get my trunk box personally. God so kind, I was able to recover it successfully, but I’m afraid to cross the two airport with the big luggage, however, I need you to join me here to find solution together to get everything DONE in order that we get this 14.5 MILLION USD out of this country to your country for investment.
I have another solution, if I open the trunk box, I will send you 10,000 usd so you can use it to open a special account so that all 14.5 MILLION USD will be transferred to the account. Is this solution good??
Please answer me immediately. Hope to hear from you Sincerely, Nora.
Mercy. First of all, of course, the actual correspondent is no one named Nora Thomas. Second of all… who could possibly fall for this kind of thing?
But how tempting is this? I am this close to answering:
That is very good news about your trunk box! I would be delighted to assist you to getting the 14.5 MILLION USDto my country for investment purposes. You must be very tired waiting in the airport!
Although, I can see one problem. If you wire me 10,000 USD my bank will have to report the transfer to the government, but, we cannot allow the actual risk for then they would confiscate your trunk box!
I have the solution is to mail me two checks for 5,000 USD each. I can safely deposit those checks separately and then we can proceed. I hope this solution is good for you too.
I look forward to your answer immediately.
If you don’t stop me, I may very well do it.
UPDATE, 5/24/18: I did it. I changed the signature to Mrs. Dale, but it’s off. Let’s see what happens next.
This is the open stairwell to our basement playroom, featuring a really spectacular photo of my Lovely First Wife kayaking in the marshes on the coast. One day when I was not paying particular attention, she had the photo enlarged onto canvas and hired an electrician to install the very attractive lighting fixture you see here. What’s not to like?
Of course, being the hyper-rational, analytical green that I am (Greens: 98% Right!), my first question was, how do we replace the bulbs? There was a vague answer about a ladder and boards, but since these were halogen bulbs it would be years before we needed to worry about it.
Two weeks ago I noticed we were down to only one of the bulbs. It was time to worry about it. About the same time we had electricians in to reconfigure the outlets in our two guest rooms — different long story —and I asked one what the solution might be. He opined that I might need one of them foldy-bendy ladders one sees on the TV.
Well then. An excuse to buy an expensive foldy-bendy ladder? I’m in.
This of course necessitates a drive to Home Depot, which is not convenient. Remember that fact. I buy a likely-looking Gorilla Ladder™ and stuff it in the car and bring it home and set it up in the living room. It is immediately apparent that none of its configurations will work in our stairwell; trust me on the geometry and physics of this.
It is clear that I will have to go buy boards to lay across the stairwell to the little ledge that for some reason our contractor built in there, possibly because he foresaw a day when my LFW would have such a fixture installed.
It dawns on me at about the same time that I do not know what bulbs I need to buy, which means that after I drive out to Home Depot — inconvenient, remember? — and buy two 2x8s and lug them home, I will have to set up the whole thing in order to climb up and remove a bulb, then MAKE A THIRD TRIP OUT TO HOME DEPOT TO BUY THE BULBS. It is at this point I decide to congratulate myself on what a superior husband I am.
So today, I have errands to run and I cleverly figure out that I don’t have to drive all the way out to Home Depot because there is an establishment right next to the grocery store that sells bulbs. And batteries. I will refrain from naming this establishment, because the previous two times I went there, they did not have the bulb or battery that I needed.
This time, however, they did have the exact bulb I needed. They had four of them.
I needed five.
And here we are.
And from below:
I don’t believe I’ve mentioned that the bulbs are tricky to remove and install, have I? Or that for the fifth and final one I will have to edge my way to the other side of the ladder to climb up to reach it?
Yesterday I was minding my own business when I got a text from a phone number with which I was unfamiliar. That’s not unheard of, of course, but this was the text:
I mean, what the heck, right? Who among my friends was doing this to me? After some consideration I clicked on the link, which took me to a legitimate Apple App Store webpage for an app called Gather—In Real Life.
Gather—In Real Life purports to be an EASY FUN FUN WAY to arrange get-togethers with your friends.
But Gather—In Real Life is a vile piece of crap. I went to the App Store itself, where, as I suspected, the app was rated around a 1, and the top review said bluntly that if giving a 0 were possible, the reviewer would do so. They went on to describe in detail the app’s spammy practices: merely downloading the app allows it to take all your contacts and send the above spam text to them. Imagine: your family, your business associates, your random contacts—all of them get a text saying they’ve been “invited.”
It’s actually worse than that: the app will seize all your info from your phone. Horrific details here, here, and here.
Needless to say, I did not download the app. I texted STOP, then sent an excoriating message, then texted STOP again in case they thought I was saying it was okay to talk to me ever again.
I have more complaint: at some point in the upgrade process, Apple has done away with the Report button in the App Store. If you’ve downloaded an app and need a refund or something, there’s a webpage for that, but after a day of searching I can find no way to let Apple know that this app is offensive, intrusive, and needs to go.
So here’s my blogpost on Gather—In Real Life. Any response from the company will be posted and ridiculed here.
If you’re sitting there trying to come up with the central idea for your next science fiction novel, have I got an idea for you! Feel free to use it. If it makes you rich, invite me to your yacht sometime.
Imagine a planet like Saturn, with huge gorgeous rings. They would have to dominate the sky, right?
But imagine that this planet has a smallish continent at one of its poles. (It’s close enough to its sun that it’s warm, etc.) It’s isolated enough that they’ve never had any contact with any other cultures on any other continents on the planet. And they cannot see the rings.
So they hit their Age of Exploration, and an expedition sets out. (No, I don’t know why they’d go sailing off the edge of the world if there weren’t pepper involved, leave me alone. I’m not going to do all your work for you.)
What happens when they sail south and these rings begin to slide up over the horizon? What is their reaction? What do they tell people back home? How do they explain and incorporate this thing? Is there religion involved? How much might this affect their society and its worldview, so to speak?
Anyway, there’s the idea. That’s all I got: the look on their faces when they first encounter the rings. (Or maybe the entire novel plays out on ship, their society in microcosm…)
Recently I have been asked by a couple of people: whence Kenneth, the guy I’m always yelling at in my blog. I thought I had already written about his origins here, but I can’t find it and I need a blog post for today anyway, so here we are.
In 1986, CBS broadcast journalist Dan Rather was attacked by a man who was convinced that CBS was beaming signals into his head. For some reason, the man kept calling Rather “Kenneth,” demanding to know the frequency of the signals so that he could adjust his tinfoil, I guess.
At least it entered mine. I will confess that I don’t know R.E.M.’s song, but the Rather attack and the song both made sure that a crazy person without a firm grasp on what we laughingly call Facts yelling at KENNETH stuck in my head.
A second piece of Kenneth comes from the hysterical, vulgar, and deadly snarky Wonkette blog, in which house style creates an acerbic Valley Girl voice which takes, for example, half the nation opposing the GOP’s efforts to kill poor people and asks “how is that even fair, even??” Again, the humor comes from the gobsmacking (assumed) cluelessness of the speaker.
The final piece of Kenneth comes from the Monty Python characters they called “Gumbies”:
“My brain hurts!”
So all of this gets combined into my head into a voice that, when faced with the inexplicable inability of amygdala-based lifeforms to grasp very plain reality, or when very plain reality has become gobsmackingly preposterous, has no recourse but to yell at KENNETH in a deranged, Gumby-esque way.
It helps if you read it with your head cocked a little to the side with your eyes wide open and glazed over.
I’m at the beach, not doing any editing or design on my soon-to-be-published Lichtenbergianism: procrastination as a creative strategy, nor even on the placement map for Alchemy, just reading, doing crossword puzzles, and generally basking. The book I just finished is Jingo, one of Terry Pratchett‘s brilliant Discworld novels, and though it was written in 1997 its take on jingoism, war, and especially immigrant Others is disturbingly on point.
But that’s not why we’re here today. This passage:
[The incompetent Lord Rust is speaking, about to lead his non-army into an epic Light Brigade blunder] “Glory awaits, gentlemen. In the words of General Tacticus, let us take history by the scrotum. Of course, he was not a very honorable fighter.”
…reminded me of a Bible verse.
Wait, where are you going? I can explain myself.
The Talibaptists think gay people are squicky, and they will refer to Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 as their prooftexts. In return, otherwise sane people will refer to equally outdated prohibitions about shrimp and tattoos. Very occasionally, the wryer among us will throw in Deuteronomy 25:11–12. You’re not familiar with that particular rule?
If two men are fighting with each other—a man and his fellow Israelite—and the wife of one of them gets into the fight, trying to save her husband from his attacker and does so by reaching out and grabbing his genitals,you must cut off her hand. Show no mercy.
I mean to say, wot? It’s as if Rule 34 applied to the Holy Book.
Before we get to my main point, let me say that I did a little reading of some explanations of this bizarre dictum and it actually does make a kind of sense in context. Elsewhere in Deuteronomy there are rules about a man whose testicles have been damaged no longer being able to enter the Temple, i.e., he’s no longer One of Us. His entire family would suffer. So a woman who did that to a man would have committed a truly serious crime.
Often, when confronted with examples like this of outrageous Old Testament “laws,” the Talibaptists will wiggle and wriggle and contort themselves into pretzels to “explain” them away. If you’ve ever had to listen to them, it provides good exercise for your eyebrows and pursed lips. Surprisingly, though, I found an exegesis that was sensible; it would be a miracle indeed if the Talibaptists threw their main weight behind its argument, which is that the point of the rule was to prevent and/or punish anyone who made it impossible for a man to support his family. That includes corporations not paying an appropriate wage.
I mean to say, wot?
Anyway, my main point is this: just how often did this happen that there had to be a rule for it? It’s like the warning labels that infest our lives: Don’t use this hair dryer in the shower. This chef’s knife is not meant to be used as a screwdriver. That kind of thing. It’s a given Stand-Up Comic’s Take that these warnings exist because SOME IDIOT DID THE THING, KENNETH, so what was the deal in ancient Israel? First of all, were the men always wrestling, and if so, why were their testicles even in evidence?
And had it become a problem that wives would throw themselves into the arena to give their husbands an assist? What was this, the Judean Federation of Wrestling? I mean to say…
This realization puts the prohibitions of Deuteronomy and Leviticus in a whole new light. They’re just warning labels. For stupid people.
 That’s just context. The entire mindset is stupid.
 …nudity also being a huge shanda for the Chosen People.
 Not to be confused with the Judean Wrestling Federation
The other day, my Lovely First Wife went to the Kroger together, which is not always as rollicking an adventure as you might think. I, as a male-type man, have a list of three items, and so naturally one goes in and gets three items and is on one’s way. She, on the other hand, will need one item—a bag of lettuce, let us say—and yet will push a cart up and down every aisle. One must look and see “what they have.”
On this occasion I was willing to play along, and so we began to mosey through the produce section. It is important for you to realize that we were at the “old” Kroger; in Newnan we have three, the original “old” Kroger in town, the “new” Kroger out a little ways past the interstate, and then the “other” Kroger way out in the middle of the exurban enclaves towards Peachtree City.
In town, we have the old Kroger. We are allowed to call it the ghetto Kroger; those who live out with the “other” Kroger are not.
So there we are in the produce section of the old Kroger, and we are both struck suddenly that we are looking at jackfruit. We don’t know we are looking at jackfruit—we have to look at the tag.
We were astonished. These things are about the size of a football, and the label reminds you to wear gloves when you cut them open, since the alligator-like skin apparently will lacerate you.
Perhaps you have already heard of jackfruit. We had not, and in fact it was only when I went to find a picture—because I assumed that no one would know what it was—that I discovered that it’s a thing now? Serves us right for not being vegans.
So that was weird enough, but this post is not about jackfruit. It was just a symptom. Because the jackfruit had stopped us in our tracks, we paused to see what else was there. We found three different brands of kiwi, and two versions of coconut. Coconuts. In Newnan.
We’ve had this weird feeling before, and I blogged about it before: the options available to us in our grocery stores in no way resembles what was available to our parents. Perhaps your parents—and here, by “parents” I mean “mother”—cooked everything from fresh with amazing ingredients from all over the world, but my mother, faced with feeding five kids, used every shortcut, every canned item, every pre-processed food she could.
I, on the other hand, can wander down the condiment aisle and be amazed by:
Peruvian Aji Amarillo? And what on earth is Shichimi Togarashi? Where’s the Tabasco™ Sauce?
Okay then. We have our choice of aiolis.
We have choices for finishing sauces. FINISHING SAUCES, KENNETH.
Astute readers will notice that not only are there amazing, fabulous choices for condiments in the ghetto Kroger in Newnan, GA, but these are all store brands. (Full disclosure: we have found that Kroger’s Private Selection items are pretty awesome.)
But even so…
…I have a choice between two roasted raspberry chipotle sauces.
Here’s the deal. I know there are segments of the population who might grumble that if canned potatoes were good enough for Mom (and Tabasco™ sauce for Dad), then they’re good enough for me. But I say huzzah—how wonderful that I have these choices, even in the ghetto Kroger of Newnan, GA. It’s almost as if our nation looked around and decided that there was value in diversity.
This post contains useless information unless you need it and then omg it will change your life.
First, as all right-thinking people know, the Blackwing 602 pencil is the nonpareil of writing instruments. All the best people use them. When they went out of production in 1998, a nation grieved, but a couple of years ago Palomino revived them and we can all once again write with the same pencil as Stephen Sondheim.
One of the nifty design elements of the pencil is its eraser.
It is held in the ferrule by a little aluminum clip, and the idea is that as you wear the eraser down you can pull it out, move the eraser up, and pop it back in. The clip will hold the extended eraser in its new position.
You can see the theory here:
However, the two little indentations in the clip do not actually hold the eraser in place. Any attempt to erase your mistakes pushes the eraser back down into the ferrule.
So here’s your life-changing tip of the day: take a small nail and dunch those indentations in a wee bit.
Now your clip has actual teeth and will hold the eraser in place as you write the lyrics for the next Follies.
I swear I thought I had blogged about this two years ago, but either my MySQL database is borked or I am delusional—none of the key words I’m about to write show up in a search of this blog.
This is a ceramic piece sitting in our living room. Yesterday an old friend who was visiting noticed it and asked me about it, and since I can never remember the artist’s name, I came to the blog to search for it. As I’ve said, no such blog post exists despite my bestest memory, so I’ll now tell you the story behind the piece.
Two years ago, my Lovely First Wife and I were in Asheville, soaking in the ambience. We went into Blue Spiral 1 Gallery downtown, looked at all the nice art, went downstairs, looked at more nice art, and that’s when we saw this piece.
I should say at this point that the photo here is not mine; I pulled it from a Pinterest page in the UK, of all places. But it is my piece, although it is secured not with twine but with airplane cable. Bolted. Hold that thought.
The name of the piece is Cremains Vessel No. 5. We really liked it. We kept coming back to it. It was within our price range, and besides, it was an investment.
We went upstairs and asked the young men working behind the front desk if the piece were actually a cremains vessel. They seemed a little nonplussed, finally stammering out that there weren’t anyone’s ashes in it.
We laughed, which probably seemed odd to them, and I told them that what we were asking was whether the vessel was actually built to hold cremains or was it just, you know, art? They pretty sure it was an actual vessel.
So we went back to the condo where we were staying and I did some googling and calculating: if we both shriveled a bit in our declining years, plus reserved a cup or so of ashes for scattering/rituals, then we should both fit in there.
We went back the next day and bought it. I tell people that my LFW finally figured out a way to screw over that whole “till death do us part” thing.
One thing that gave me a frisson was that it was more or less locked shut. At least one of us would never know what the inside looked like. Then, on a subsequent visit to Blue Spiral, there was a similar piece by the same artist, and my LFW opened it. It may be that our piece looks different inside, but I’m thinking the suspense is ruined.
So who is the artist? We were given a little card with his name and not much more: Don Penny.
I went looking, of course, and was stunned to find that I already knew the man’s work. He was the ceramics professor at Valdosta State University until 1990, and I had seen his work in the faculty display case every summer since 1984.
And then I had an inkling that I knew exactly who he was. After I called a friend in Valdosta’s music department to go down the hall and read a plaque for me, my suspicions were confirmed: Don Penny was the artist who created the mural in the lobby of Whitehead Auditorium:
I saw this piece nearly every day of every summer for 30 years.
And in an astounding wallop of synchronicity, I bought a cremains vessel by that very same man, to stick my ashes in.