So this happened…

We have decamped to Fernandina Beach for the weekend with some dear friends and are having a great time so far.

Last night, I and two others strolled out the boardwalk to see the ocean. You know how some boardwalks have little benches built into them for some unknown reason?

Here’s a photo of one:

And here’s a photo of the one we sat in:

Yep, there was a creak and a groan, and we found ourselves flat on our backs. It’s pretty miraculous that none of us sustained even the least injury; I think it was because it gave way slowly at first and so we were already mostly down when it failed completely.

So other than a little spilled prosecco and a spell of hysterical laughter, no harm done. (We have alerted the property agent that they might want to do a structural integrity check.)

How was your Friday night?

A musing about joy

Short prologue: I bought a set of cards with inspirational questions on them to use as writer’s prompts down at Backstreet Arts, and in a fit of masochism decided that if I weren’t actively working on anything while I was down there, then I was required to draw one randomly and answer it.

Full prologue: https://www.lichtenbergianism.com/blog/2019/6/10/perverse-task-avoidance

So today’s question was:

Ugh. This is the kind of gross self-affirmation any of which I do not need. But an oath is an oath, and I think I’d like to share my response.

Ha. I am perpetually self-indulgent. Every day I enjoy what I do—and I do what I enjoy. This idea of not enjoying life is completely alien to me.

This includes the things I have to do, duties and burdens—far be it from this atheist to claim biblical inspiration, but the verse, “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might” [Ecclesiastes 9:10] seems to have stuck with me from Sunday School. Why not commit to your tasks with joy and appreciation?

It’s certainly not the case that I am a Pollyanna about life—there is plenty in my life that frustrates me or makes me unhappy. But it has never made sense to me to regard all of life as roadblocks. For one thing, taking things “personally” is the quickest way to misery: if the universe is out to get you, how are you supposed to enjoy your existence in the face of that?

To revisit the Ecclesiastes, here’s 9:9–10 in the International Children’s Bible:

9 … Enjoy all the days of this short life God has given you here on earth. It is all you have. So enjoy the work you have to do here on earth.

10 Whatever work you do, do your best. This is because you are going to the grave. There is no working, no planning, no knowledge and no wisdom there.

Here is existentialism in a nutshell: this life is all you have, and it is not long. Choose to do well at it. Choose to live it with joy.

So yes, I make cocktails and sit in my labyrinth. I read. I make dinner and run errands. I write letters. I go to burns. I serve on the burn board of directors.

I try to do it with “all my might”—why do it grudgingly? Do it with joy, and then you don’t have to find a way to give yourself “permission” to enjoy life.

The great message of spam you needed

I’m always excited to get an email saying there’s a comment that needs moderation because it means someone has read the blog and was moved to respond.

However, it’s almost always spam because—let’s face it—nobody really reads this thing. Fine. I continue to fill the universe with words it didn’t need FOR ITS OWN GOOD, KENNETH.

This time, the spam was brilliant in its ineptitude:

Undeniably imagine that that you stated. Your favourite justification appeared to be at
the web the simplest factor to be aware of. I say to you, I certainly get annoyed
even as people consider issues that they plainly do not know about.
You controlled to hit the nail upon the top and defined out the
entire thing with no need side-effects , folks could take a
signal. Will likely be again to get more. Thank you

Is this not glorious? You’re welcome. “Hit the nail on the top” is now part of my lexicon. Probably “Folks could take a signal” as well.

Carry on.

(For the record, the URL of the commenter was bestbariatricsurgeon.org from Mumbai. And it was a comment on GinTonic No. 7.)

UPDATE, 3/24: Another spam message to be approved:

I felt any buzz from it, however, not off the wall. First,
you have to be experienced what unlimited hosting really means.
The instant their pr release released, the media frenzy began.

Hey, Southtowne Marketing, can we talk?

Hey, Mark! Can I call you Mark? It’s OK if that’s not your name, because clearly you don’t know my name either.

How do I know that? Because you addressed the envelope like this:

That’s my first clue that you’re working off a database that only selects the first name, i.e., you don’t know me personally and probably only want me to give you money. Normally I can spot a computer-printed  “handwritten” address, but yours looked real enough. Sure, I thought, it’s possible that some minion out at Southtowne (to which I’ve been multiple times for minor reasons over the past few days) might have sent me a thank you note or a survey or summat. So I opened it.

Ah, a newspaper clipping! Sometimes local companies will do that, send you a clipping of something you’ve done that ends up in the Newnan Times-Herald. However, I haven’t done anything recently that has been in the paper. But this had a sticky note on it.

Again with the ‘Martin.’ And who the hell was ‘B’? Barbara? Bill? Burgoyne? At this point, it was clear that I had been scammed again. It was nothing more than an ad:

Sorry for the crumpled page. I was heading to throw it in the fire when I decided to blog about this.

So, someone sat down and went through a stack of Times-Heralds or other newspaper, tore this out, folded it, (artfully tearing the middle), wrote a sticky note, attached it, and mailed it to me?

Not quite.

If we look at the top of the page, we find that there’s no publication info. This is not from a newspaper.

Sure, it says it’s from ‘Automotive • D-6,’ but where’s the newspaper name? The date? This is clearly a fabricated ad.

Even more data:

It’s not even a real stock market report. It’s a picture of a stock market report.

So, Mark — if I can call you Mark — let’s talk.  Let me explain to you that far from making me want to hit your ‘sale’ (which is when, exactly? you give days and times, but no dates), this kind of thing makes me want to call out there and berate whoever answers the phone. It’s dishonest and scammy, right in line with those phone calls that start out with “DON’T HANG UP!” or “THIS IS NOT A SALES CALL.” You’re faking a personal connection to trick me into giving you my attention. It is fraudulent in intent. I have no beef with Southtowne — I love my Equinox, and my service rep (the inestimable Paul Hardegree) is a dream, and once I decide I need a new car, I will more than likely deal with the Southtowne sales staff than not — but Mark, you need to be fired. Your tactics are slimy and offensive, not what I’ve come to expect from Southtowne.

Sincerely yours,

Wait, *that* Lottie Moon?

Lottie Moon-1.jpg

You remember Lottie Moon, don’t you?

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.)

Well.

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!

Why were we never taught this??[1]

Read all about it here.

—  —  —  —  —

[1] 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.

Talk me out of it.

So today I got an email:

Hello

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:

Dearest Nora

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.
Sincerely,
Mr. Dale

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.

I can’t even.

Isn’t this lovely?

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?

Or that I am a really, really superior husband?

Shame! (a warning)

I have a complaint.

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.

A free idea

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.

Viz.:

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…)

KENNETH!

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.

The band R.E.M. picked up the phrase and turned it into their song, “What’s the Frequency, Kenneth?”  From there it entered the public consciousness.

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.