Monday, November 30, 2009

112 Acres

"Somehow the values change in a war, maybe after the first man died" -- Gregory Peck, Pork Chop Hill (1959).
In the July 2009 Reader's Digest, there was a brief Best Historical Comeback (Page 78-79) about how 112 acres of land was acquired back from commercial and other interests in 2004, and set aside by the Civil War Preservation Trust, to commemmorate a battlefield whereon was played out the Second Battle of Franklin, Tennessee, on the afternoon of November 30, 1864.
Like two other Civil War battlefields I've stood upon, (Chickamauga, outside of Chattanooga, and Fredericksburg, in Virginia), I found the place eerie, and yet, curiously calm, serene, even reverent.
Granted, I can't know what it feels like to stand in the shoes of a combat soldier. But when I stand on such sites, it is both chilling, and at the same time, I am filled with a sense of historical reverence. Just as is the battlefield of Gettysburg, these grounds are "hallowed". Hallowed in blood that was spilled for ideals, right and wrong.
Being a bit of a Civil War history buff, I know a bit of the significance of the Second Battle of Franklin, in the overall scope of the Civil War; and it really didn't have much in the bigger scheme of things. The outcome of the, at times, fratricidal war -- the bloodiest war in American history, piling up more casualties than all of our other wars prior to and since, combined -- was not decided there. In fact, by this stage of the war, the eventual outcome was becoming, to all but the most dedicatedly ardent in the South, an ever-increasingly foregone conclusion.
But to those who fought there, it mattered enough.
Generals Grant and Lee were locked in attrition warfare in northern Virginia, near Richmond; General Sherman was underway on his "March to the Sea", after the fall of Atlanta; and elsewhere, lesser campaigns ebbed and flowed, but the end was becoming clearer to those with a strategic sense of reality and reason.
Still, a shrinking minority of Southern generals had a modicum of hope that the tide of events could be turned by one strategic, albeit desperate, action. One such general was John Bell Hood, now commanding the Army of the Tennessee, 35,000 strong, after the failure of first General Johnston, and then Hood, to prevent Sherman from taking Atlanta.
At first, Hood had tried to fret and distract Sherman by attacks on Sherman's lifeline back to Nashville; but Sherman, with a different view of what was to be done -- and his "war is Hell" philosophy of how to do it -- would not be drawn into endless pursuit of a rebel army, a third the size of his own, and in a direction that Sherman believed counterproductive to ending the war. With Grant's approval, he pared his own forces down to the 60,000 men he would lead to the sea, and dispatched the remainder of what had been a force of more than 120,000 men to other fronts and tasks. 34,000 of these men would depart under the command of General John Schofield, to join other forces being gathered near Nashville by General George Thomas, for defense of western Tennessee, in case Hood were of a mind to attempt some kind of disruptive mischief in that direction.
Mischief that Hood, indeed, had in mind.
It would be Hood's contention, then and to the end of his life, that a successful attack against the Yankee bastion of Nashville, would disrupt not only Sherman's post-Atlanta plans, but those of Grant as well, perhaps allowing Lee to execute some of that tactical wizardry he had achieved against other Northern commanders, relieving the pressure on Richmond, and returning it to President Lincoln's front door, north of the Potomac River.
So as Sherman plunged southeastward toward Savannah, Hood took his 35,000 men into northern Alabama, and prepared for his intended "change the course of the war" strike northward. Along the way, he intended to intercept, and destroy if possible, his old West Point classmate Schofield, and his 34,000 reinforcements for Nashville, before investing and taking Nashville itself, and the wealth of supplies that were stored there. Thus refreshed -- and imagining that volunteers would flock to Hood's banner with the fall of this Yankee bastion -- Hood intended to cross the Ohio, and then move east, to an eventual reunion with his revered commander, Robert E. Lee.
Franklin stood as the last major river crossing south of Nashville, and it figured in the minds and plans of both Generals Schofield and Hood as such. Though, neither had in mind how it would ultimately play out there.
Hood made a plan, typical of Hood's military career, to intercept and destroy Schofield's forces: he would feint at Schofield's forces before Columbia, Tennessee, along the Duck River, while sending flanking forces around to cut off and block Schofield's retreat at Spring Hill, further north along the Columbia (Turn)Pike. The gambit -- "the best of my career", Hood would say later --failed, as Schofield's forces weren't as fooled by the Columbia feint as Hood had hoped, and the interception of Schofield's advance elements near Spring Hill, was not decisively pushed by some of Hood's subordinate commanders. Thus, Schofield escaped the trap that Hood meant to catch him in.
This led Hood to claim that his army had lost it's edge, for which he blamed his predecessor, General Joseph Johnston, and made up Hood's mind about the tactics and strategy he would employ if he could make contact with Schofield at the last bottleneck short of Nashville that Hood could catch him at: Franklin, Tennessee, and the Harpeth River.
Arriving at Franklin well ahead of Hood, Schofield was forced to dig in and prepare defenses on the south side of the town, because of damage to the bridges on the Harpeth -- damaged by flooding -- and at the urging of General Thomas, if it became necessary to do so. Schofield dug in his army, anchoring both flanks on the Harpeth River, with a reserve division across the Harpeth, and placed cavalry to patrol the north bank of the river, above and below Franklin, in case Hood tried to maneuver Schofield out of his defensive works. In the meantime, Schofield made good use of the time, after repairing the crossings, by sending his supply trains and support units north, toward Nashville, to less clutter the roads when it was time for him to pull out and follow with his combat force.
In the mid-afternoon of November 30, 1864, Schofield saw a brigade of General George Wagner's division that had been left on Winstead Hill as a lookout -- about 3 miles south of Franklin -- moved smartly off the hill, and pull back into Schofield's defensive perimeter, just as they had been ordered to do if the enemy was sighted. And not long afterward, serpentine columns of Hood's army marched over and around the base of Winstead Hill.
Curiously, Wagner's other two brigades -- in shallow defensive positions astride the Columbia Pike, half the distance between Franklin and Winstead Hill -- did not follow their companion brigade into the Franklin perimeter, as originally instructed to do. They held fast, awaiting events.
The wait wasn't long.
As Hood's forces began to assemble and behold the Federal defensive works of Franklin, Hood arrived and made a careful study of what he could see from the elevation of Winstead Hill.
John Bell Hood had a reputation as a fighter, one earned in many of the Civil War's decisive battles. He'd led his division against the impenetrable position on Turkey Hill during the Seven Days' maelstrom near Richmond, breaking General Porter's triple line that had firmly repelled all previous assaults against it; Hood's division, in a savage counterattack, had turned back General Hooker's corps assault at the bloody day-long nightmare of Antietam, the single bloodiest day in American history; and Hood had charged furiously into the Devils' Den at Gettysburg, shattering General Sickles' ill-advised salient in front of Cemetery Ridge, before his forces bogged down and Hood was carried from the melee, badly wounded. Again, at Chickamauga -- south of Chattanooga -- Hood's forces were again involved in the charge that shattered General Rosecran's right flank defenses, before Hood was again seriously wounded, losing a leg. Despite these experiences and losses, lost not was the audacious savagery that Hood fought with.
Schofield -- one of Hood's pre-war West Point classmates -- knew Hood well, and knew that "he'll hit you like hell, before you know it". But even Schofield didn't expect what came next.
After a careful review of the field -- more than two miles of unprotected, wide-open ground between the base of Winstead Hill and the Federal defensive positions, well-covered by Yankee artillery and a larger infantry force than Hood had available -- Hood made his decision known to his staff and division commanders: "We will make the fight". "The fight" meant an all-out attack against the Federal positions on the southside of Franklin.
Hood's division commanders were stunned as they viewed the proposed field of "the fight". One of them -- General Benjamin Cheatham -- nerved up to say " I don't like the looks of this fight; the enemy is entrenched and well fortified". Another general with an equally fierce reputation -- Nathan Bedford Forrest -- asked Hood to give him one good infantry division along with Forrest's cavalry, and he'd flank Schofield out of his works.
Hood refused to reconsider his plan, his mind made up, his tactics dictated by his history and reputation. Hood agreed that it was a desperate thing to attempt, but that it must be attempted here and now, and not before Nashville, "where the Yankees have been fortifying for three years".
All of Hood's division commanders -- many of them well-proven and respected by their Northern counterparts -- knew what was being ordered of them. With heavy hearts, they nevertheless steeled themselves for the task at hand.
At 3:45pm -- with the word from his field commanders that they were formed and ready -- Hood sent forward the bulk of his forces that were available: 18,000 men, with 3,500 in reserve. Their objective: the bridges over the Harpeth River.
The two brigades of General Wagner's division that had failed to follow orders -- remaining a mile in front of the Federal defenses -- emptied a pair of volleys into the charging mass, before breaking in panic for the defenses a mile behind them, with the rebels literally on their heels. About 1,000 of them became casualties in that bloody failure to follow orders; worse, from Schofield's point of view, the mixing of Wagner's fleeing brigades with the charging rebels, prevented key elements of his 60 pieces of artillery from tearing into the attackers, well in advance of the main line.
Thus it was -- where the Federal defenses met the Columbia Pike -- that the rebel divisions of Generals Brown and Cleburne managed a breech through the defensive works, knocking Yankee regiments posted there back, and opening a way for Hood's forces to cut off the bridges on the Harpeth, and Schofield's retreat.
Perhaps Hood had been right after all.
But he wasn't: Wagner's third brigade, commanded by Colonel Emerson Opdyke, launched a furious bayonet charge against the breach, and after moments of savage hand-to-hand fighting, drove the rebels back, driven to the south side of the palisade by the counterstroke. But instead of retreating, there the rebel forces made their stand, at point-blank range, with both sides firing into each other over the bloody palisade.
On the rebel left, well-placed artillery bled and held back various units from contact; on the rebel right, efforts to come to grips with the Yankees came acropper, but not without repeated attempts that failed in the face of savage cannister and massed musket fire.
Technically, the battle was over when Opdyke's countercharge threw Brown's and Cleburne's men back across the Columbia Pike palisade; but the killing went on until after dusk, when finally, those rebels who were able to, fell back to Winstead Hill, or surrendered in place.
Schofield -- who hadn't wanted to fight at Franklin, but had that choice taken from him by Hood's aggressiveness -- is credited with winning the Battle of Franklin, losing 2326 casualties in the process. By noon the next day, his surviving forces were fully inside the Nashville defenses, boosting General Thomas' command therein to nearly 70,000 men.
And Hood? In the words of historian Shelby Foote, "Hood wrecked his army, top to bottom". In this mad, head-long charge against a solid defensive position, Hood's army suffered roughly 6200 casualties: over 1750 of them killed. And of Hood's command structure, 54 division, brigade, and regimental commanders were killed, wounded or captured, fully 50% of his total on hand at the time he sent his army forward.
And the horrors weren't just limited to Hood's army. One Franklin family -- an experience many times repeated over the last three years in small towns all over the South and North -- a Mr. Carter and his two daughters, emerged from their home the morning after the battle, next to the Columbia Pike, and at the point where Opdyke's furious bayonet charge had turned back the rebel breakthrough. And there, almost on the steps of their home, they discovered the body of their son and brother, Captain Tod Carter, a brave and ill-fated member of Brown's shattered division, dead almost at their doorstep.
Nonetheless, Hood pushed on, and outnumbered over 3-to-1, confronted Thomas' 70,000 before Nashville. There, in mid-December, the roles were reversed, and Hood stood and fought, just as Schofield had; but with much differing results.
Weeks later, after Hood's army completed its withdrawal into northern Alabama, it numbered only 9,000 men.
In the 1960s, a British visitor to Tarawa Atoll in the Gilbert Islands -- scene of a bloody, three-day battle between US Marines and the Japanese in November, 1943 -- wrote "It is a familiar irony, that old battlefields are often the quietest and gentlest of places. It is true of Gettysburg. It is true of Cannae, Chalons, Austerlitz, Verdun. And it is true of Tarawa".
Having stood there, I can say that so, too, do these words hold true for the 112 acres at Franklin, Tennessee.
145 years later, the values really haven't changed, once the first man died.

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Friday, November 27, 2009

The Day The Earth Was Offended

*warning: a bit of a rant upcoming*
Uber-sensitive people crack me up sometimes.
During the Thanksgiving Day's 26-6 drubbing of the NY Giants by the Denver Broncos, there was apparently a gaffe by the parabolic microphone crew on the sidelines, one that was aired on the NFL Network broadcast of the game. Not once, but twice, before it was suitably *bleeped*.
The gaffe? The on-sidelines mic caught a tirade from Broncos coach Josh McDaniels, after the Broncos had, twice in the "red zone" during the first half, committed stupid fouls that prevented them from scoring touchdowns, and they had to settle for field goals. I didn't hear what McDaniels shouted in anger at his offensive unit, but considering I was shouting something akin at my car radio during the stretch of shooting themselves in the foot ("get your f***ing heads in the game!"), it doesn't take a rocket scientist to guess what McDaniels said, and was aired on NFL Network, twice.
*Faux shock* Like sideline "f" and "s" bombs have never gone over the air from a live broadcast of a sporting event?
Anyway, in reading comments on Yahoo Sports on the matter, there came a comment from an alleged "Bronco fan until yesterday" who also claimed to have been a former Broncos cheerleader. "She" was "deeply offended" by McDaniel's language on "national TV" that "even children heard", and she'd never be a fan of the Broncos again.
If I could, I'd love to ask her in that calm, almost bored-sounding manner of mine, "are you a moron by birth or choice?".
If she actually WAS a Denver Bronco cheerleader, does she mean for me to believe that she NEVER HEARD such language being used at a nationally-televised game, by coaches, players, or fans? And that because a head coach -- justifiably angry at his offense for taking opportunities to score touchdowns away from themselves through stupid penalties -- dropped an *f bomb* to emphasize his anger at such stupid play, that is reason enough to quit supporting a team she claims to have been a fan of, up to then?
Political correctness and uber-sensitivity to anything remotely offensive, has reached new lows with some of the population.
Apparently no football coach EVER lost his temper on the sidelines before this. Apparently when the Raider's John Madden had one of his legendary meltdowns on the sidelines back in the 70s, never once did anything stronger than a "heckydarnpoo" or a "doshgone it!", utter forth from his ranting lips. And players, in the heat of 'combat', were never heard to lose their sense of civility and say untoward things about another player's ancestral heritage. A couple-three years ago, when an NBC camera was zoomed in on Buccaneers Coach John Gruden, what was clearly said by him and nervously laughed at by the TV sports commentators, had nothing to do with procreation in the abbreviated, abrupt form. Gruden would NEVER have lowered himself to say such a thing on national TV, like Josh McDaniels did.
And let us not stop with the pros. College football has always been coached by men of strict decorum and the highest standards of conduct and civility, like Ohio State's Woody Hayes and Arkansas/Notre Dame's Lou Holtz.
I won't even bother venturing about college basketball coach Bobby "Mr. Polite" Knight.
So...if an NFL team coach says something *offensive* in the heat of competitive combat, that is inadvertently picked up by a TV crew's parabolic mic, and not screened out by the engineers before it airs live on TV, that is the fault of the coach, and his team is now disreputable dog meat in the eyes of the easily-offended.
Ah, ya gotta love political correctness.
And to Ms Manners, an alleged former Denver Bronco cheerleader and now ex-Bronco fan because of one *f bomb* from the coach during a game that the NFL Network -- inadvertently aired twice -- I am truly sorry you were offended by this obvious lack of intuitive sensitivity on the part of the coach. I hope the rest of the world is as attuned to your very sensitive ears as the lowly Broncos apparently failed to be on Thanksgiving. A thousand pardons, oh frail flower.
May I also throw in a snippet of wisdom that was once attributed to John Wayne, whether he actually said it or not: Life's's tougher if you're stupid.
Go grow some f***ing 'nads, Ms. Sensitivity, or go stick to genteel sports, like synchronized whining.

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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Seymour On South Park

I think I make a biiiiiiiiiig
A friend loaned me Season 12 of the completely-warped animated series South Park. This is the 12th season that I have watched since being introduced to the show by this friend, back in November of 2007.
What it's done to my brain is debatably measurable, but I digress.
It is the first season that my pet rock, Seymour, has watched with me (he was in Japan and Ohio while I was getting caught up on Seasons 1-11). Without thinking much about it, I allowed Seymour to watch it with me.
After watching all of the episodes, and Seymour is...well...stunned. He can't believe what he's seeing on the screen. He can't believe the language (I confess it caught me off guard as well; through Season 11, the 'heavies' of the language were bleeped, albeit barely; not now). He can't believe most of the plot lines. He can't believe the total lack of respect and political incorrectness for everything and anything. He can't believe that I'm laughing at this irreverence.
But, for some reason....he totally believed the episode about how Peruvian flute band music keeps killer guinea pigs at bay. And nothing -- I do mean, nothing -- that I have said, was dissuading Seymour from a feeling of absolute doom.
Why? Because I don't play Peruvian flute band music here. I don't have it. I don't want to have it. It doesn't matter to Seymour that I point out that in 9 years, we've suffered not one attack from any kind of killer guinea pigs. Not one.
But Seymour is a bit gullible, when it comes to what he sees on TV. He believed AlGore's inconvenient hoax about global warming, even though, as a product of geology and having been around the 600,000 plus years of cyclical climate, Seymour ought to know better. He believed that the tapping ruby red slippers together three times, would get one "home" -- even in Kansas. And he believes that pet rocks are being deliberately left out of universal healthcare.
If I didn't know better, I'd say Seymour had been (mis)educated in public schools in Denver.
Though, Seymour did learn at least one thing that I know he didn't learn in a social engineering environment: Seymour says that the definition of a government "expert" is thus: "x" is the unknown factor, and "spert" is a drip of water under pressure. Pretty astute, for a rock that falls for other dumb ideas, and hides under the loveseat from a cheesy special effects 'monster' on The Outer Limits (TOS).
At any rate, Seymour was most put out with me for not taking the killer guinea pigs that were actually seen in the South Park episode seriously. One had even morphed into a killer Guinea Pigasaurus Rex (try as I might, I couldn't get Seymour to realize that what he was seeing was a real guinea pig, magnified on camera, digitally inserted into an animated scene, and dressed in a sock-puppet-like outfit to make it look like a monster from a 1950s "B" movie).
But then, Seymour had one of those *TOING*s that frequently lead me to make bad writing and posting decisions on this h'yar blog. And he immediately began pointing out, in his pointless manner, that I did, in fact, have music that was comparable to Peruvian flute band music.
Me: Seymour, you won't find a single CD or audio cassette of any such music here...
Seymour: Yes you will! Look at these!
He's pointing out two or three of the James Bond DVD movies I have, that have music that isn't authentic Peruvian flute band music, but arguably sounds a lot like Peruvian flute band music.
Cricket crap. I could see it now: Seymour, playing these movies, over and over and over again -- primarily the musical tracks -- to keep mythical killer guinea pigs away.
Me: Seymour, it's been 9 years here. And when have you ever SEEN a killer guinea pig hereabouts?
Seymour: uh, well, what was that leftover thing that tried to attack me in the refrigerator, hmmm?
Me: it was meatloaf, Seymour, NOT a killer guinealoaf...
Seymour: oh...well...maybe the killer guinea pigs KNOW you have these movies with the right music...
It took a little bit more persuasive discussion to finally convince Seymour that we don't need to play Peruvian flute band music 24/7, to keep killer guinea pigs at bay. The South Park episode was imaginary somethin-er-other, and nothing more, just like AlGore's climate scam.
In fact, I convinced Seymour that if we started to play Peruvian flute band music, perhaps I'd spend more time in the kitchen...
Seymour: "Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!"
Game, set, match, smoke.

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Monday, November 23, 2009


From the website archives...

Fall ushers in the end of baseball. Football is well underway. Hockey is getting tuned up. And so, sadly, is basketball.

Yeah, I know: lots of folks dig basketball. I ain't one of 'em.

In my younger days, I was so-so overall in sports: pretty good in kickball, dodgeball, football and track (I had good speed and good hands in those days, which was also sometimes helpful on dates). I was good in two-man volleyball, okay in softball, floor hockey and team handball (a sporting mix of football, soccer and hand-to-hand combat). I was substandard in baseball, and miserably abysmal in basketball.

Basketball...ack phooey. I hate the sport. My only favorite thing about basketball season is the end of it. But I was subjected to it anyway, in junior and high school gym class. I sucked at it. My classmates knew I sucked at it, and knew I knew I sucked at it. So when the class got to the time of year we started playing basketball, it was time for Skunky to do what Skunky did best: foul. On those rare occasions my shot actually went into and through the basket, teammates, opponents, coaches and whatever spectators there were, all stopped and stared, as if they'd seen a reconstitution of one of the x number of Wonders of the World or something.

Fact was, even at 6' 2", the local elementary school teams wouldn't have taken me if there'd been a waiver program for the junior/high schools to deal me on.

Naturally, I took this marked lack of talent into college, with absolutely no intention of demonstrating it any further. However, friends convinced me to join an intramural basketball league and be on their team, even though one of them knew my reputation from high school, having been a classmate. It didn't hurt that at the time, I was dating an absolute angel who was also a basketball fan of the first order.

The things we do for what we took for love in those days, but I digress.

I joined a team with varied skills at the game: two who'd played high school competitive basketball; one who was a balanced athlete in numerous sports; another who was there for the fun and little else; and me, the anti-Chamberlain (Michael Jordan was not yet a household word in the mid-late 70s). All together, we were a team of record-breaking caliber, and in our first match-up, we proved it. We met a team of five guys who'd played together on their high school varsity team. It was their polish versus our potpourri. And we set a record I somehow think will forever stand: we lost, 75-8.

That's not a typo.

The coordinator of the intramural program -- the same guy who'd encouraged me to join, insisting it was "all in fun and all talent levels were welcome" -- expressed his wish to us that night that our team disband. In his words (less a couple colorful metaphors), "you guys are just gawdawful".

That got our collective hackles up, after his original greasy assurances, and we decided to see the season through. All 8 games of it. The coordinator was nonplussed, while our opponents admired and applauded our fortitude, appreciating our being the equivalent of a free spot on a bingo card.

I will say that we actually did improve with each game -- in our second 'game', we did score into the double digits, and were only flogged by 40 some-odd points -- and were actually in a couple of the latter games up to the end of the first minute of play. We even won a game, so as to finish 1-7, and holding the coveted 'bottom' of the league (no stress in having to look over ones' shoulder for anyone trying to catch us, which was how we looked at it). We won that game using all the practiced skills and lessons we'd learned throughout the season. And in some small part because our opponent -- at that point a 2-5 team themselves -- failed to show up, allowing us to win via forfeit.
They obviously didn't realize it was us they were supposed to play.

Bottom line for me: it was a season to remember to forget. Unlike the angel I was dating in those days, Terry. She didn't care that I missed lay ups or fouled with a statistical regularity that was truly *yawn*; she believed, at least back then, that I had other attributes, but I digress again.
Just for the record, in our 7 games, I scored 13 points, never made a lay-up, had 3 or 4 rebounds (purely by accident) and committed 28 fouls, without fouling out of a single game. I would have made an almost credible Denver Nugget, back when they really sucked.

Then again, even when they sucked, the Denver Nuggets were never that bad.

So don't look for me to get excited about basketball season. Give me football, or bowling, TV remote aerobics, or my very fond memories of chasing Terry around, which was a helluva lot more fun than drooling a stupid basketball. Even if I found myself to be as out of my class with Terry, as I was on the basketball diamond, trying to pass to the power tackle.


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Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Plutonium Shovel II

*Originally published 12-24-06, and another true storm story, with the potential promise of more to come in a meteorologically El Nino year*

I arose early on Thursday, December 21, and gandered out the winder to see what awaited me. More storm. It had snowed and blowed all night. It was continuing to, as I looked on this bleak Thursday morning about 6:30am.


But by 9am, the winds had died. The snow still falling looked more like a picture postcard than an active part of a blizzard. After a second cup of coffee and a resigned "oh hell", I donned/grabbed the essentials -- boots, backbrace, parka, gloves, and my trusty shovel -- and descended the three flights of stairs to examine my work ahead.

And yes, wiseacres, I remembered pants.

I was confronted with a grim scene: a parking stall width, about 25 feet to the plowed lane (from the night before), varying in depth from 18" to about 4 1/2' from drifting. About 45 minutes to an hour of digging to clear it, by my reckoning. It would include not piling snow in the way of fellow residents with stalls on either side of me. It meant, in essence, shovel, walk, dump, repeat.
I'm getting too old for this sh...stuff.

As I began, I remembered the bad disc in my L4/L5 region, and remembered my chiropractor's recent admonition regarding shovelling: it's best left to a 16 year old with a snow blower.

Great advice from a chiropractor I lean toward adoring (forget it, matchmakers; she's married), save for one wee thing: there weren't any of those around. In fact, no one was outside at this time and in this place but me. So I figured to let the uncomfortable backbrace be my reminder, and my ergonomically-designed shovel to prevent me from exceeding my limits.

After about an hour, I had my stall free and clear, and a nice start on Mount St. Snowphfffft, next to the stairwell entrance. I figured I was done.


I looked around. No one in sight.

Psssst. Hey. Down here.

It was my shovel.

Hey, you yutz...I ain't tired. And you ain't done.

"Says who?", I snapped, not thinking about how stupid it was to be hallucinating out loud.

What about the poor folks on the other side of you?

"Ain't they got their own shovel?"

They ain't got one. And they certainly don't have one like me!

"And what the hell is so special about you?"

I'm a plutonium shovel! I can shovel for HOURS!

" shovel, and I'll go up stairs.."

What a candyass...if I can do it, you certainly can, you old fart.

What was I to do, being shamed by a talking shovel that claimed to be plutonium? Yeah, I know: the obvious answer was to throw it into Mount St. Snowphffft and let it go to town. But it needed me, much as I had just needed it. So I went ahead and dug out the parking space next to mine. Mount St. Snowphfffft was gaining in both size and stature.

Psssst...nice job. Now let's do the two handicapped folks' spots on the other side of the stairwell.

"Where do you think they're going? They can't even get to their vehicles!"

We'll fix that next, candyass.

Being too useful to bend around the stairwell framing, I resisted the urge to forever reshape Mr. Plutonium and resignedly went to it.

After digging out those two, it was about noon, and I felt spent. But not my maniacal "plutonium" shovel:

Ah ahhhh...get their sidewalk next.

"Shovel, there's a property maintenance crew for that.."

They ain't here...we are. And I'm not tired. Now get to it.

Why the hell I had to wind up buying a talking, pushy shovel I'll never know. Maybe that was the price I paid for avoiding married life, but I digress. At any rate, I dug out the sidewalk.

"Now are we done?" I asked the Plutonium Master of the Snow.

Nope...there's the two stairwells...yours and the other one. Get to it.

"Shovel, I don't know about you, but I'm beat".

I'm fine. And if you hadn't noticed, I'm the one carrying the snow.

"But who's carrying YOU?"

Details, details...get to it.

By this time, a number folks were out and trying to get about, looking at their buried cars with looks akin to "Mommy, make it go away...". Worse, I noticed that almost none of them had a snow shovel. They were trying to dig out with trash can lids...catboxes...buckets...even ice scrapers.

I was going to ask one particularly forlorn-looking 20-something female in ski gear, wielding a small trashcan and flailing rather hopelessly at the drift encasing her vehicle, if she didn't have an Xbox to use on the snow, but my shovel kicked me in the shin and shamed me into helping her.

Help her out; she's a babe.

"I don't care about that; she's half my age!"

She isn't half mine!

I don't think anyone noticed me kicking the shovel back. I don't care if they did.

The next thing I knew, I was helping another stranded female resident..then two gents of Arabic extraction...another female who tried unsuccessfully to use her Kia Sophia as a battering ram, when she tired of using a drinking glass as a elderly gent who was rather amused that I was talking to my shovel...a trio of lads who had combined to attack a drift with a broom, dustpan and catbox...some poor fool who's rear-wheel drive Audi needed a push after being dug out...and finally, a young couple's Toyota Camry. In the midst of all this carnage (pun sorta intended), a couple of 7 year olds approached me tentatively:

"Mr., can we borrow your snow shovel?"

"I and it are kinda busy right now...what do you want it for?"

"We're trying to make a snow tunnel over there (where the plow truck I'd helped liberate the night before had been pushing snow in this part of the lot)".

"I'm sorry, but my snow shovel is plutonium, and says has more important things to do".

I did NOT say that.

The kids ran screaming from the talking shovel.

I'll get you for that.

"I'd a sworn you already had".

It was nearing 5pm by now, and I was at a point I was sure I couldn't climb my stairs to fall face first on the floor.

Okay, candyass...I guess we can call it a day. But I could go on all night long.

"I think I can find the energy to put your plutonium ass up for bid on Ebay..."

I'm just kidding,

So I dragged me and my plutonium shovel up three flights of stairs, and wearily called it a day. And the shovel worse.

Next morning -- predictably -- I felt my age, times two. If it didn't hurt, it wasn't attached to me. I limped into the front room in the unsteady direction of the coffee pot, when I heard IT: I'm ready and raring to go! Who're we digging out today?

I buried the shovel scoop-first on my still snow-bound patio. Last I heard, it was still grumbling...

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Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Snowseidumb Adventure

*from the March 2003 archives*

*2009 Writer's note: picture the snow at the right (a photo I shot during a Christmas storm in 1987). Now double it, and that's what the Spring Storm of '03 did in and around Denver. To the west, it was worse: one location in Gilpin County (where I work and where the upcoming epic took place) got 11 measured feet of snow from this storm*

The winter of '02-03 hadn't done much to relieve the drought conditions that had stricken Colorado the previous summer, bringing on record forest fires and water restrictions. Then, in early March, our local weather forecasters began to predict a 'potentially powerful' snowmaker, bearing down on us from the Left Coast. Phfffft.

In my over 30 years in Colorado, almost without exception, every prediction of 'The Big One' amounted to squat. On the other hand, one Christmas Eve forecast of a 'trace of snow', became the biggest snowmaker in my personal lifetime up to then: the Xmas Blizzard of 1982. One I'd never forget, having found myself at the time, trying to dig out a full-size Ford Bronco from where two of us buried and high-centered it. Not once, but four times, trying to get to work.

On the Monday before 'The Big One' was due, I marvelled that they continued to talk it up with comments like 'this one's for real, folks'. Though I was all prepared for a local version of opening Al Capone's vault, I did let a bit of my old Boy Scout creed take hold (Always be prepared...with food), and stocked up. At the store, I bantered with the cashier and others in line about the doomsayers and storm prediction in general. As I went to bed that night -- and not a flake of snow to be seen -- I fully expected to awaken to another meterological 'six foot chicken at the fair' outside my window, and little else.

I arose at 0500 that Tuesday morning, March 19, and looked out the window, only to double-take: it was snowing. It was snowing hard. So hard, it convinced me of the wisdom of the previous night's grocery stock-up, and leaving my auto today under cover of the carport. With snow falling at a reported rate of 2-3" an hour, more than a foot was already down in the parking lot below, and the few trying to extract their cars were already having a bitch of a time of it.

"What the hell", I thought, "we need the moisture". Little did I reckon on how ironic that thought would become, hours hence.

By mid-afternoon -- with no let-up in the storm -- I figured to go dig out my car. Not to go anywhere: my tortured logic suggested that any snow moved now, would be snow I wouldn't have to move Thursday morning, when I'd have to at least try to go to work. Once I got down to ground level, if I had need of a nitro pill, the sight would have done it: to cut to what was left of the plowed lane to exit the lot, I would have to move snow from a lane 10' wide by 20' long, ranging in depth from 2 to 5', depending on drifting. I must have looked rather ridiculous to anyone looking out their window, as I began the process.

Instead, it began something of a 'block party': suddenly, everyone and their prodigy was outside, trying to extract hopelessly buried vehicles. Before I had finished my own excavation, I had been borrowed to assist in extricating a Subaru wagon, a high-centered Ford 4x4, a Toyota Cor-no-rolla, a Dodge Ram pick up, the Nigerian luge team, two Yetis and a Bradley Fighting Vehicle. With the exception of the Ram, the Ford and the two Yetis, nothing else was able to leave their parking stalls. But at least you could tell what they were, as opposed to mere lumps in the snow. Exhausted, I mounted the stairs, and figured that I'd accomplished the lion's share of my work for Thursday morning.

Then I heard the updated forecast: the winter storm warning had been changed to a blizzard warning; the worst of the storm was due in Tuesday night and Wednesday. After taking a moment to use the kitchen counter as a convenient place to bang my head, I drew solace in the notion of an extra day off from work, and the fact that "we needed the moisture". As I went to sleep Tuesday night, little did I know what was in store for me Wednesday, March 20.

Wednesday began with me deciding to examine the damage from overnight at about 0600: all the shovel work that I and others had plied, had been obliterated. With steady 35 mph winds and snow continuing to fall at 1-2" per hour, the parking lot now looked like the Arctic Ocean, frozen, with 4-6' "waves". But, what the heck: I wasn't going anywhere, and besides, "we needed the moisture".

Then at about 0700, the phone rang, and I was about to step unknowingly into a 21-year time warp. Work was calling: a supervisor from another department had a 4x4, lived nearby, and was getting ready to try to come in to work, and did I want to come in early and help out? Glancing out the patio window into NeverNeverAgain Land, my mind said "NO!"; but before my two brain cells engaged my audio function, out of my mouth came "Sure". I threw together a quick kit, in case I found myself snowed in at work for a couple days, and awaited my chauffeur's cell phone call from the street.

And thus began the self-inflicted absurdity of the next four and a half hours.

Getting to his vehicle -- another full size Ford Bronco 4x4, which should have been a tip-off for me -- was a chore. I'm 6' 2'', but my legs aren't, and I used every manner of crossing the twin parking lots to the street, including a back stroke, before I finally made it to the street, soaked and exhausted. But, what the hell: in a full-sized 4x4, no worries.

I'd forgotten about '82. But not for long.

After stopping off for gas and coffee, we were off. So what if it took us three attempts to break through the plow cut across the ramp onto US 6 West? We were two guys in a 4x4 with hot coffee, chains, two cell phones and a shovel. We could handle it. Until we reached the turn-off for Clear Creek Canyon, that is: it was closed.

We already knew I-70 was closed in every conceivable direction. So while the supervisor conferred telephonically with the boss, I pondered the options: (a) run the blockade, and try US 6; (b) turn around and go home, as the boss was urging us to do, or (c) take a look at Golden Gate Canyon, a couple miles up the road. A more winding road, it wasn't as prone to rockslides and other hazards as was US 6. My partner in pending absurdity mulled it a moment, then with a maniacal grin said, "yo, dude, let's do it!", and we were off yet again.

Arriving at the turn-off for Golden Gate Canyon, we were enthused to find that the road had been plowed. Thus, we plunged forth, two guys in a 4x4 with coffee, chains, two cell phones and a shovel. Less than a mile in, our ne'r be daunted spirit received a boost, in the form of a road grader, plowing the road from the direction we were headed. Further fortified by a second plow coming from the same direction, we reckoned we'd make work about an hour and a half after departing on our intrepid journey.

Then the bill for all of the self-inflicted absurdity came due, as we reached the Jefferson/Gilpin County line, and the plowed road.....disappeared.

From a nearby resident, we learned to our consternation that Gilpin County didn't plow this end of the road, as it "wasn't a priority". We'd have to get to the fire station, about 7 miles further on, to reacquire a road we could discern.


But our "we've come this far" overrode our "which is far enough", and we decided to go for it. For about 3/4 of a mile. Then, drifting a bit right of the unbeaten path, we just flat buried the Bronco, period.

And there we sat, two guys in a high-centered 4x4, in the midst of a raging blizzard, with cold coffee, two cell phones that were "out of service", chains, a shovel, and a "oh wow, I coulda stayed home!" look. With a couple of heart-felt "aw sh**s", we got to work.

Forgetting for a moment the dire circumstances, the scenery round abouts was most impressive: a foothills canyon vista, snow-filled and silent, save for the sound of the wind and blowing snow through the trees, sullied only by our occasional colorful metaphors, as we struggled to dig out enough snow from underneath the Bronco so the tires could have something other than snow and air to get some grip on. At one point, my cohort bemoaned the fact that he'd forgotten his camera; I took a different view, and was glad that this was so, not wanting self-taken and damning photographic evidence for our upcoming competency hearing.

Time was clearly of the essence: not 100 feet ahead of us was the remnant of a plow lane, where a truck with a plow had apparently cut from the canyon road into a subdivision, before we happened along. That visible track was rapidly disappearing, hastening our efforts to dig snow that seemed to be procreating beneath the vehicle, faster than we could shovel it out.

After digging out what I was sure was the Grand Canyon equivalent of snow from beneath the Bronco, there we were, lying underneath the vehicle, trying to chain it up. The absurdity of the moment -- two thoroughly soaked guys, with a stuck 4x4, frozen coffee, uncooperative chains, two 'out of service' cell phones and an inadequate snow shovel -- finally reached the sublime with the following conversation:

"What was that about needing the f***ing moisture?"

"We don't need the f***ing moisture. The ground does".

"So what are WE doing, sucking up the ground's f***ing moisture?"

"Putting on these f***ing chains".

"Then let's get these f***ing chains on and let the ground have it's f***ing moisture".

"F***ing works for me".

After another 30 minutes of chaining, shovelling, shivering and making poignant, pointed comments about the f***ing moisture -- and a little over two hours after we buried it -- the Bronco successfully broke out. Now we had a little over 6 miles to negotiate to get to, hopefully, plowed road again. Since my driver couldn't make out what was left of the earlier plowed track in the road, and I almost could, he drove and I navigated:

"You're in the track...bear right...right...your other right...bear left...switchback ahead...bear it...left..."

"Just remember, we need the f***ing moisture".

"How could I forget the f***ing moisture? Your left...your other left, dammit..."

When we reached the fire station in Golden Gate Canyon, we found a plowed road that looked like gold to us. A quick 'high five' and we were once again two irrepressible thoroughly-soaked guys in a chained-up 4x4 with frozen coffee, useless cell phones and a drowned shovel. The rest of the drive was an anti-climax, as a normally 40 minute drive had taken 4 and 1/2 hours.

With our arrival at work -- and plenty of astonished looks greeting us -- I went to get dried out and give back some of that f***ing moisture that belonged to the ground. Meanwhile, my cohort regaled all who'd listen of our epic journey. Later, I was approached by two or three employees who had pretty much the same question and answer:

"Are you who was with Jack in Golden Gate Canyon?"

"Yeah, why?"

"You guys are f***ing idiots!"

"And your point is what?"

I wound up staying at work the next four days and three nights, until the roads were fully re-opened. The parallels to the Xmas Blizzard of 1982 were far too many, including the seminal one: I shouldn't of answered the phone then, or in '03. If my phone rings in 2023 in similar circumstances, I might just have hearing loss. Perhaps I won't even have to fake it by then.

Whatever else you take from this true story, just remember this: we really did need the f***ing moisture. Well, at least the ground did.

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Seymour On Leonid, Yeti, Dishes

Seymour, for a pet rock, is easy to read.

"Am not!"

For a rock, he's also got good ears, for something without 'em.

Seymour, for example, listens to the radio when I do at home. Not only does he hear the news, he grasps it, to some level of juvenile comprehension. For example, Seymour just heard that the Leonid Meteor Shower is happening on the evening of November 16.

And he wants me to stop it.

"Seymour, it's a celestial event, quite beyond my ability to affect. It's going to happen. No power on Earth can stop it".

"AlGore can!"

"Wha...say WHAT???"

"AlGore can stop global warming! So I figure he can stop the slaughter of all those helpless meteors!"

"Seymour...AlGore is scamming you. He can't stop global warming, except by shutting his mouth".

"He...he is???"

"Yes, Seymour...he is. Why?"

"Uh..don't check your credit card bill too closely next month...".

*rrrrr*...Life with a pet rock.

During the recent two days of snow locally, I made reference to yetis and yak, snarling traffic on my commute to work into the mountains. Seymour saw it this way:

"What yeti? Where?! I wanna see!"

"Seymour, they're out there. But they're scary. You know, like that creature you saw on the first The Outer Limits (TOS) episode that had you hiding under the love seat for a week".

"Ooooooooooooooh..*shudders*...but if they were out there, then why won't you let me fix the DVD remote to better defend us?"

"Seymour, remember when you did that with my old VCR remote, and didn't tell me?"

"Uh, no...remind me.."

"Uh...I accidentally vaporized the refrigerator...and the apartment next door.."

"That's not my fault!"

"Seymour, relax...yeti avoid people. They won't bother us up here".

"But the yaks will!"

"The yaks won't bother us, either".

"Uh-huh they will!"

"How, Seymour?"

"Everytime you get sick, YOU yak!"

"TMI and not the same thing, Seymour..."

Life with a pet rock.

And, of course, there was the time I forgot to power down the computer before I went to work. When I got home...

"Seymour, what are you doing?"

"Surfing the 'Web!"

"How is a pet rock surfing the 'web? And look what you did to the key board!!!"

" a stronger keyboard next time, you cheapskate!"

*Ugh*..."So, what did you learn on the 'web?"

"I learned that your dishes reveal your personality?"

*OMG*..."Okay, Seymour...what do my dishes tell you?"

"That you're chipped and haven't been done in a month..." *rimshot*

There's something really wrong with a pet rock, having access to a *rimshot*.'s been longer than a month, and I digress.


"Not funny, Seymour".

My offer to pay the shipping for anyone who wants a pet rock, still stands.

"Does not!"

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Saturday, November 14, 2009

Da Newoik Connection

*First published on this hyar blog August 2, 2006*

Proof, if any were really needed, that sometimes it does, indeed, get cold even there.

*Blogger's note: True story upcoming*

It was February, 1990. In my then corporate job as a wee cog in a vast corporate machine, I was sent to Richmond, IN, for a pre-labor dispute survey (ie., to prepare a plan for the facility to operate in the event of a labor dispute at contract time, later that summer). One can tell that I was a junior in the org, since I 'won' the honor of travelling to nowhere fit to travel to in February. But I digress.

I flew into Indianapolis, and drove the hour and a half or so it took to get to Richmond (on the IN-OH border along I-70). It was cold and blustery, but no biggie until the next day, when an ice storm beset the area.

It was early that morning, shortly after I skated to the plant, that I got a phone call from Corporate: I was needed to travel to Poughkeepsie, NY, to interview a client on a billing issue. ASAP. I would have to drive back to Indianapolis, fly into Newark, NJ, and drive up to Poughkeepsie. That day. Ugh.

So began what I least expected: a journey to Hell. Twice.

As it was about 9:45am, I had little room for error: my department's corporate secretary got me booked on an 12:30p flight out of Indianapolis to Newark. So I hit the road in my rental car, skating the miles back to Indianapolis along an ice-sheened and accident-laden I-70. Don't ask me how I remained apart from any of the collective nonsense in the ditches and medians.

I made Indy with time enough to check in and board the friggin' plane. Which, after de-icing, only took off about 30 minutes late.

Interestingly enough, the ice storm hadn't extended itself to the East Coast; but the rain, drizzle and fog had. Newark was marginally visible.

That could have been my worst luck of the day. Alas, it 'tweren't.

Got down, off-loaded, found my luggage and kept it in hand (one of my cohorts had warned me that Newark was, er..."not a nice place"), got my rental car, map, and was on my way north toward the very near border with NY, where I'd be skirting the western edges of the monstrosity of culture, business and population, NYC. Which, in the drizzle and fog, I couldn't see a lick of.

At the border, I inquired of the toll booth babe (I'm being overly generous hyar) as to if I was on the right road to "PoughkEEpsie" (my pronounciation). She brusquely corrected me -- "it's PoughKIPsie!" (her sharp prounciation) -- and abruptly followed it with a sharp "stay on this road an' follow the signs", along with a look of "move on, cretin".

The corrected cretin drove on.

Amazingly, I found PoughKIPsie, after crossing the Hudson River on a rather impressive bridge span. Even more amazingly, after a quick call to the business I needed to find, I found the business on the opposite bank of the river in a run down-looking industrial park. Interview conducted. Answers obtained. Results phoned back to corporate. Badda boom badda bing, a snap, y'knowadda mean?

It was now about 6pm, and I had but a short journey back down the turnpike to the Newark Airport, where I'd dump the rental cahr (the toll booth Gestapo fraulein's prounciation), get a hotel room for the night, and return to Indianapolis on the 'morrow.


I headed south, still in the drizzle, and in traffic that was much heavier than I'd reckoned with coming north. That was my first hint that something was amiss in the mist. The next hint I should have grasped: as I crossed the line back into NJ from NY, there wasn't any toll booth stop with a Gestapoesque grammar wench awaiting me. I should have grasped the significance of the difference, instead of merely muttering an insincere "thank ye" to no one in particular.

About 30 minutes later, I could see activity that indicated an airport: aircraft, low in the sky, dropping toward somewhere off to my left (east), without the tell-tale fireballs that would suggest they were falling instead of landing. So I began to look for a sign for the airport turnoff.

One that never materialized.

I knew there'd been signs leaving the airport; but I was danged if I could fathom there not being any to guide some western grammatically-challenged schlep back to the same airport. So after driving far enough to no longer see in-bound planes landing somewhere to my left, I exited and returned north, only to see the same thing: planes now landing somewhere off to my right, but not a sign to guide me how to get there.

There was a reason for this; it only took me two hours to figure it out.

So there I was, driving north, hearing an airport somewhere nearby off to my right (it was dark by now), with not a road marker telling me how to negotiate the seemingly short distance east to get to it. After driving far enough north to decide I'd missed something again, I went back south.
The only change: the airport and falling planes were now off to my left again.


I wanted to go back north and find that Gestapoette and scream "PoughKEEEEEEEEPSIE!" at her fifty times, but that was for another lifetime. Right now, the only thing that mattered to me (and my becoming disgruntled sphincter), was finding the friggin' airport.

So when I got about center to where the airport seemed to be off to the east in the still foggy mist, I exited, and headed east on a surface street. About 20 minutes later, I was pulled over by a police officer, who apparently recognized a lost soul when he saw one; particularly a lost white soul in a 'burb that was predominantly ethnic (Elizabeth, NJ). Unfortunately, my relief at being pulled over rapidly vaporized when he started to tell me how to get where I wanted to go, got another call, and in a hurry just pointed and said "go that way and turn right!".

Back where I'd come from. With some degree of reluctance, I did.

See previous north/south refrain.

Now I'm not frustrated anymore; I'm nails-bitten-in-half angry. So much so, I tell my sphincter to suck it up and just f***** deal with it. I go south once more, and take another exit, north of the previous one, to try again a probe to the east.

20 minutes later, fugettaboutit. No airport. But I can hear planes just to my north.

So I head back west. North. Next exit. East again.


It was later that I learned that I'd gone north on one interstate (turnpike), but come south on one more to the west of the other somehow. Hence, the lack of signage sayin' "Hey Youse..yahr, youse finoke in da rental cahr: dis way over heah".

I finally find the cahr rental place, and blow an enormo sigh of relief as my sphincter is allowed a bigger sigh of relief. Then I happily hop aboard a van to my hotel, a Holiday Inn near the airport.
As we approach it, I turn to the driver and ask in mock horror, "is this the Holiday Inn or Newark Correctional facility?": in the lights of the facility, I see that the first two floors of the building had bars on the windows.

She didn't seem to appreciate my sense of humor. Perhaps I should have given her the eyebrow wiggle afterward, but I began to suspect she mighta had "dat type of dem connections, 'ey...".

What she appreciated even less -- as I would gain another snippet in my rather lacking northeastern etiquette education -- was the fact that I didn't offer up a generous tip after I disembarked at the hotel front guard In the words of Heart, "if looks could kill..."

Fortunately, I drew a room on da fourth floor with a view of nothing, though at least the windows weren't barred this high up. Guess the gangstas ain't got no ladders that high. Better still there was no apparent curfew or bed check.

Early the next morning, I was ready with tips (aka, bribe money) to get me to the airport, and aboard my flight back to Indy. The shuttle driver -- a bent nosed Soprano-lookin' sort widda penchance for grunting in lieu of forming woids -- seemed singularly unimpressed widda fin I left widdem. At least he delivered me to the ahrpoht, an' not da East Rivah, y'knowadda mean?

Needless to say, but say I will: after arriving back in Indianapolis, the drive back to cold, blustery Richmond was a joy. Really.

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Possession Is Nine-Tenths Of the Problem

*From the old Out of Cyber Thin Air website archives; originally published 1998, updated 2008-09*

Demonic appliances? Surely this is something of an overreach. Only in the minds of Stephen King, Hollywood, or a retired coworker who hates the computer age, does such go from imagination to a degree of reality, right?

It's always been my take that when a home appliance goes phffft, it's defective, worn out, or -- in my case -- improperly used. Fix it or replace it, and that's that.

Or is it?

Murphy's Law says that "if anything can go wrong, it will". Nothing out of the ordinary there. But having done a wee bit of research on ol' Murf, I uncovered an obscure, little-knowd Murphyism as addendum to the original: "the devil's in the details".


I 'spect the devil is moving beyond the detail stage.

Look at it with the same twisted logic that I regularly do: if the "devil" can possess Man, why wouldn't it be able to possess anything that Man creates? In the Stephen King short story The Mangler, the devil possesses a large steam clothing iron. In Hardware Wars, the Dark Side of the Farce -- arguably demonic -- made tactical use of toasters, waffle irons and electric hair curlers. In Star Trek (TOS), the devil took over the main computer of the Enterprise, until cast out by Mr. Spock's devilishly clever math question.

Don't think that for a moment, the "devil" -- whatever you conceive it to be -- doesn't have access to cable, and learns a thing or two from shows like The Jerry Springer Show.

Recently I received a letter from a friend in Texas, wherein she noted that her sewing machine was "acting possessed". I considered this most ominous: imagine the havoc that demonic spirits could do from within a sewing machine, seamlessly sabotaging critical buttons and stitches that fall at the most inopportune moments (forgetting Janet Jackson for a mo'). It seems to me that this was a stitch in bad need of a cross.

So I made one up.

Always willing to extend the hand of politically incorrect and dubious assistance to a damsel in a dissed dress*, I personally designed and field-tested an exorcism ritual, targeting not specifically only her sewing machine, but a variety of other common home appliances:

1. First, make sure that absolutely no one else is home. You don't want the ejected spirits to have an escape outlet, nor do you want to be made fun of at the next 30 or so years of family reunions.

2. Unplug all other potential "host" appliances (see #1).

3. Shut the door to the room; shutter the windows and turn out the lights.

4. Light three candles, placing them in such a manner as to not set the room on fire, lending aid and comfort to the enemy, let alone enhancing those family reunion stories.

5. In a pleasant, conversational tone, introduce yourself to the possessed appliance. Calmly tell it what you intend to do: you're going to recite the following litany until the demons vacate the premises (note: you must maintain a straight face at this stage; sincerity, real or imagined, is important).

6. Start by telling the possessed appliance this: did you hear about the skeleton that clattered into a local bar and ordered a beer and a mop? (if you hear a tiny shriek from within the device, don't be dissuaded; continue)

7. Follow with this one: did you hear about the constipated mathematician? He worked it out with a pencil (any noise from the device signals progress...continue).

8. Then hit it hard with this one: avoid dangerous cults by practicing safe sects (the device will begin to tremble, the shrieks will intensify; don't back down now).

9. And follow immediately with this one: what do you get when you cross a Jehovah's Witness with an atheist? Someone who knocks on your door for no reason (the machine should really start rocking about gottem' on the run).

10. Now it's time to show the demons you mean business: what does an elephant use for a tampon? A sheep (the shrieks should now be at fever pitch, and if the machine had eyes to roll, they'd be spinning like tops).

11. Now go to full-court press: a bear and a rabbit are taking a sh** in the woods. The bear turns to the rabbit and asks, "Mr. Rabbit, does sh** stick to your fur?" and the rabbit responds "why no, Mr. Bear, it doesn't", so the bear wiped his bum with the rabbit (the demons within are now beyond shrieks, and it seems as if the device is about to explode...).

12. Now for the set-up for a knockout: what's the difference between a saloon and an elephant passing gas? A saloon is a bar room, and an elephant passing gas is BARRRROOOOOOOOOOMMMM! (sometimes, this will negate the need for #13 in and of itself; if not..)

13. And now for the pastry resistance as they say in France: if a sheep is a ram, and a donkey is an ass, why is a ram in the ass a goose?

Like Ahmadinejad and his Iranian imam, fleeing a hog stampede, you'll hear one last, tortured spasm of groaning agony, and with that, your appliance will be demon-free.

I must conclude with a word of warning, however: do not try this with possessed computers, especially if possessed with Windows Vista. Haven't found a counter for that 'un just yet...

* ducking boos and throwd thimbles...

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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

"Rabbit Tracks....Train Tracks.."

Every so often, I tend to underestimate a scammer: his/her grasp of English words or phrases, etc.

But not that often. And certainly not this time.

I introduce you now to Groysman Stortz, scammer emeritless bonehaid, and his initial effort to give moi the business (
Friend, my name is Stortz Groysman, I am the operational manager in account management section incharge of credit and foreign bills of one of the prime banks here in South Africa (ABSA, as it would later be learned). I realise you will be surprised to recieve this mail, I got your contat through the SAIE when searching for a reliable person who will assist me. And I am writing in respect of a foreign customer of my bank who perished with his whole family in an autocrash.
Since his death, I personally have watched with keen interest to see the next of kin but all has proven abortive as no one has come to claim his funds and no other person knows about this account has no other beneficiary and until his death he was manager of his company.
The total amount involved is $106,000,000 USD *mondo TOING* and we wish to start the first transfer with $6,000,000 and open successful transaction without any disappointment from your side.
He went on about modalities, trust, confidentiality, how banking ethics there prevent him from active participation in this deal, which is why he needs a reliable foreigner like moi...yada, yada, yada.
In conclusion he says at the conclussion of the transfer I will get 65% of the total fund, and for your help I will allot you 20% of the total funds which should be for you good compensetion, yes. When you recieve this leter kindly email me or you can call me to discuss. My number is 0027 73 124 1987, my email is
Yours respectfully, Dr. Stortz Groysman

So I decided to test the IQ waters a bit, and responded as follows:
Dr. Grayman Stork:
An interesting prostitution you offer me. Sell me more information so I can make an ingrown incision on what to due here.
U. R. Phulovit
Perhaps I stunned him with my intellectual reply; I receive in response to my reply, the exact same letter as he first sent me. So I test the IQ waters a bit more:
Dr. Gayman Stork:
I have floundered this offer of yours furthage, and I am sediment that my parcipitation will require you give me 35 purscent. Give back to me as soon as porpoise if this is accessible to you.
U. R. Phulovit
However he received my first go, my second reply apparently cleared his mind (by going *yaaaaaa* right over it):
Dear Phulovit,
Thanks for the e-mail, the contents of which are well understood. It is nice hearing from you. Will it be possible for you to come here in person to South Africa and open a non-residential account wher this money will be deposited for onward transfer to your account in your country. Please endeavour to answer me this vital part before the end of today so that I can proceed with the next stp. I will enclose here again my private telephone number (see above) which was included in the proposal previously. Remember there is a need for you and I to maintan absolute confidentiality about this untill the conclusion of this transcation . In your reply enclose your private telephone and fax number for me.
So, let's test the IQ waters a wee more with this reply:
Greyskull Dork:
I supphorse I could ventura to South America to reside with a blank account there, okay. But I canno call you, becuz I am herring impaled, and I can no conserve on the phone. I can no here what another persuasion speeks. But this is gud for confrontatinality, cuz I can keep a secretion, I promise. If this is okay, tell me please what is next.
U. R. Phulovit
Either he can't read worth a hork, or he sees how poorly I write back, and thinks *schwing, I got me a mugu*. But he also insists on that necessary (to him) phone call:
Dear Phulovit,
I read you clearly and the contents are well understood. I still want you to send me your phone number so that we can talk about this transcation to make you understand what need be done next and when.
Now I can be both dumb and indignant:
Graystok Hork:
Perhaps you don't not standunder what I am spelling you: I AM DEAD. I CANNOT HERE ON PHONE. I CAN REED EMALE. I can standunder what you say hear. If you wash me to help you, writ to me what it be you knead of me to due, and we can work it out, we can work it out, yes? Unless you descriminade again deaf peeple?
U. R. Phulovit
Apparently, he reads this okay, and what's more, he's got a politically correct streak in him:
Dear U. R. Phulovit,
sorry if i offended you, i do not descriminate against deaf people the only thing i need to do now is to find out from you if you can come here in person to south africa if you cannot then we will need to hire an attorney tohelp us so that we can open an account in your name where this fund will be deposited for onward tranfer to your account in your country. Please reply me immedaitely on getting this e-mail once again i do not descriminate against deaf people.
Oh my Gawd. So I let him off that hook:
Dr. Snorkel:
Okay...I take you at yer werd. Now, I need to grovel to South America? I am not shore of how I do this. Do I fly to Johannesbrahms or Peoria, pleese? I will haf to do sum reserch.
Or you say you higher aturkey to do all the things? Witch wood you prefur me to do? Pleese tell me and I will triy too do what werks brest for you. Since you askanced for my help, I want two give it.
U. R. Phulovit
It appears that even Stortz Groysman -- with all of his new nicknames -- doesn't fancy having me come to meet him in person:
Dear Phulovit,
Thanks for your e-mail let us hire an attorney over here south africa first to handle everything for us. send to me your international passport copy or id copy through attachment to my e-mail. I want you to reply this e-mail immediate on seeing it. keep everyting very confidential please.
I hate it when I'm so agreeable:
Dr. Storch:
You don want me cum South America? Okay, I no cum South America. I agree you higher aturkey. I send you my passphart.
U. R. Phulovit (I sent him the usual passport used by U. R.).
Now, Dr. Stork starts mixing business with a little personal chitchat:
Dear Phulovit,
Okay, tomorrow i will meet with the attorney to know how much you need to pay him for a to start the process of change of ownership.
Are you married? if you are how many kids do you have and what do you do for a living? For me i am married with two kids.
First I got him sorry about discriminating against deaf people; now let's get him sorry he asked something personal:
Dr. Starch:
Okay, I wait to here how mooch I will owe aturkey for charge of ownershep. You tell me how mooch, I pay.
I wish you not ask me aboot my exparried. Painful to recur. She die three years ago from somethink doktor call "colossal conglomerated mass of solidified mucus". I meserbul with her dog. We only marry one year, no chilrun.
Now you make me bum.
Yep, I made him sorry (probably for not the same reasons):
Dear Phulovit,
i regret much i bring this up and upset you. i didn't know. With money from our transaction, you can find another wife, you see.
I send you a form from my bank that you must fill out and return to me. But before you do this, i need you to wire the money for the attorney. i wish you to send it by MoneyGram. The amount for the attorney and account opening with our bank will be TWO THAUSAND SIX HUNDRED UNITED STATES DOLLARS. $2,600 DOLLARS. Can you do this?
*sniff*..putting away the kleenex for my faux ex (my real ex...pbbbbbbbbbbt):
Dr. Greymatter:
Okay, I will colic two thausund sex hundrid dollurs for your aturkey, and send it to monygram. I got the farm you want it same tyme, or latur (the ABSA application form, the same one I received from good ol' George Nyerere, if you remember him a couple blog entries back) ?
Now that ol' Grayback has my undivided, if misspelled attention, he locks on the money like a laser beam:
Dear Phulovit,
Yes, fill out the form and send it to me but before that send the money through moneygram so that i can start with the account activation in my bank. Send it as follows:
Micheal Ezeanwu
Johannesburg, South Africa
$2,600 USD
please, this is important. i need you to try to do this before the end of the day so that by tomorrow the attorney will prepare the change of ownership of the money before transfer. send the information of the money to me in the e-mail after.
Alrighty then:
Dr. Greysanatomy:
I will get the farm filled out soon. You ask for the mony soonest, so I go to Monkeygram and sned it like you say: $260.
This gets back a panic-stricken response within the hour:
Please the amount is $2,600 USD, not $260! Please don't send the wrong amount, it will hurt my efforts here. Please you send the $2,600 agreed to. E-mail me when this is done, please.
I didn't reply until the next day, but my reply sets his mind at ease, briefly:
Dr. Strangelove:
I not do that! I do jest as you bad, and I sned $2600, not $260. I kan ad two, okay. The lady at Monkeygram she very nice and she give me referral number as well as a pat on my haid. She so nice to me. She say number is 29430651 and she smell me to give it to you cuz you knead it, so I due.
U. R. Phulovit
The next day, good ol' Graymatter Stfork is a touch terse:
dear phulevit
please check the refrence number you gave me and resend it to me. it is wrong.
Time to get emotional again:
What? It's wrawng? Nooooooooooooooo! IT CAN BEE! She the nice lady took my mony! It has to be writ! She didn't give me receept. I go back and see what happened, okay.
This, apparently, Groysman Stortz expects U. R. to successfully clear up:
Dear Phulovit,
Please do, i will be waiting to hear from you soonest i have instructed the bank to wait please you can alos return the form correctly filled to me as am waiting to hear from you. Please attach the receipt to me through e-mail once you conclude with her at the moneygram.
Now it's time to pee a tad in his Wheaties, though not completely:
Dr. Who:
The Monkeygram lady was most angered with me. She make me copy of receept witch i send you. she say i am idiot and make me cry. she also say you being dishornet with me about the mony, witch she say is sended. She herd my feeling.
She say mabbe the aturkey you hire took the mony and didn't say to you? I don't know who to truss now.
A day to ponder all this, and Storkster is starting to doubt my sincerity:
I believe you are now turning this in to a big joke i just spoke to them in the bank and there is no moneygram in my secretary's name please go back there and sort it out with them and resend the money. can you please return the form i gave you (the ABSA bank application) it seems to me that you are not interested in this business.
My reply:
I AM SINSEER! I REELY SEND MONY! I SEND YOU THE RECEET! How can you say I jock with you? The monkeygram hear say you get money theyre; I am cornfuzed by all this. What do I do now? I sended you all I haved.
U. R. Phulovit
Before I allow him to reply to that, I add this separately:
R you their? I ax you, since Monkeygram lady say mony sended, and you seys it knot, what do I do? Can you pay fee and deduck it from my phart of the deel? Pleese tell me okay.
U. R. Phulovit
The no-longer patient Stork decides he wants no more of me:
He's got one part of it right, shore 'nuff. So I bow out with my typical grace and style:
Mr. Groysman Stortz with a sh**load of other names you answer to as well,
Thanks for playing Scambait The Scammer, where people like you think you've found a big mugu, only to find out that you've been made to look the bigger one! You stupidly tried to match wits with an experienced scambaiter, you blithering idiot! Dang, you were easy, too: how you make a living at this, I'll never guess; but one thing's certain -- you're sucking air on this 'un.
But don't take it too hard. Only you and I know about this. Well, okay, so the "laughing behind your back" folks at your MoneyGram know, too. Oh....I almost forgot....and so does ANYONE WHO READS OR SURFS THE INTERNET! How about that? I posted our entire email exchange for the whole online world to read! Now you're internationally famous!
As a world-renowned MORON.
No need to thank me, Stork. The pleasure was all and entirely mine.
U. R. Phulovit
Yes, folks...I really AM a stinker.

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Monday, November 9, 2009

Anatomy of a Piss-off III

With my seemingly contrite 'cave-in', I receive this message from Kelley Ko on Saturday, June 16:
"Uranus: I will be waiting for the wiring information of the company's balance as I instructed. This delay has terribly affected our operations, do you understand this? We are in dire need of those funds. I am trusting you that you will not fail me this time".
So I made up two Western Union receipts, complete with made-up MTCNs (Money Transfer Control Number), and emailed these to Kelley on Saturday evening. I even went so far as to note for him as you note, I did not keep my 10% fee, feeling guilty about how I treated you in this deal, so I sent the whole amount, less the WU fees. If confession is a tonic for the soul, I hope mine will be salved with this act.

Now, for those of you who are familiar with South Park, specifically Season 7, there is an episode wherein the entire show is taken up by Cartman's left hand seemingly possessed by a hand-puppet version of J-Lo, to the point that Ben Affleck dumps the real J-Lo to romance the hand-puppet version, with Cartman attached. Right up to the end, Kyle, Stan and Kenny aren't buying it, thinking it just an act on Cartman's part. One he vehemently denies.
Until Kyle finally concedes that maybe it was true. Which is what Cartman was waiting for all along.
Well, Kelley's reaction to taking the WU information I gave him, and taking it to his WU office on Monday, June 18, comes through like flying turds into a high-powered fan:
And just like the aforementioned Eric Cartman in that aforementioned episode, it was time to close this series with a Cartmanesque reply:
You might have a point, Kelley, but to more immediate issues...have you ever seen South Park? Are you familiar with the character Eric Cartman, if you have? If yes, then you'll understand fully what's going to follow; if not, here is what Eric would tell you:
I lied.
He would then follow up with something like:

Neener F***ing Neener,
I just F***ing fooled you,
Neener F***ing Neener,
You're a F***ing Mugu!

Thanks for letting me drag this out an extra round. I was busting your balls, just busting your balls, Kelley. As for your point on how I will pay for this .... MWAHAHAHA! I will pay by hanging a trophy on my wall...your money order! And I will pay by publishing our email exchanges for all the Internet world to read! And all I had to do was play easy to your lead-in!
*BUZZER* LOSER! LOSER! LOSER! You have a right fine day, Kelley.
And that's how you find the commonality between Hillary Clinton, Kelly's Heroes, South Park and an email scammer, at least here in the world of Skunkfeathers.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Anatomy of a Piss-off II

Upon receiving my upped 35% withholding fee, the tone of Kelley Ko's emails took a distinct turn to the chilled:

"I am waiting for the wiring information of the company's balance. You will not withhold additional funds beyond what was agreed. If we do not get the company balance within 24 hours, we will take LEGAL ACTION AGAINST YOU".

I guess he wanted that to stick. So I responded as you might expect: I didn't. On Friday, June 8, comes this from the Ko-ster:

"I want you to realise this is business and no joke. The company is in very URGENT need of our funds which you are holding back. We offered you this job because we were of the impression you will be an honest representative for us. I am insisting that you hold to our original agreement and send the company balance immediately as we will brook no further delay (rather eloquent, ain't he?). I plead with you to be reasonable in your own interest."

So I decide to show him some reason, Oddball (from Kelly's Heroes) style:


Now there you go again...more negative waves. Have a little faith, baby...have a little faith. Now go on, get back down in your hole. Kelley, making threats you can't follow through on is foolish. It really is. You need to 'go widda flow', just like ol' Oddball I quoted there. Since you made an empty threat, I am going to up my withholding to 40%.

That drew a same-day retort:

"Uranus, I really do NOT appreciate the games you play here. I have warned you before. The company will go to ANY LENGTH TO SECURE ITS FUNDS. YOU HAVE 24HRS TO WIRE THE COMPANY'S BALANCE. YOU GOT IT?"

Ooooooooooooooooooh. Da poor puddy tat get mad. So let's make him madder:


Now I'm up to withholding 50%. You keep threatening, I'll keep upping.

On Saturday, June 9, comes this salvo:


Ooooooooooooooooooooh. Da poor puddy tat's madder. So let's throw somemore Oddball philosophy his way:

Kelley: WHY DON'T YOU KNOCK IT OFF WITH THOSE NEGATIVE WAVES! Why don't you dig how beautiful it is out here? Why don't you say something righteous and hopeful for a change?

So, "the company will go to any length to secure it's funds", eh? Whaddaya mean there, Kelley? Whatcha gonna do, Kelley? Hmmmm? Youse gonna come ta Houston, eh? Youse gonna bring soma da boyz in da hood, an' make widda badda boom badda bing, Kelley? Fuggetaboutdit! Youse don' know da town like I does, youse mug. But youse play ball wid me heah, an' mebbe I cut you in onna piece of th' action heah, y'know wadda mean, phinoke? In da meantime, I'm gonna keep 60% of da poke heah, Kelley. Ah'm gonna learn ya, Kelley, ya don' git nowhere makin' idle threats, putz.

Comes Monday, June 11, and Mr. Ko has gone from threats to something akin to grovelling:

"Dear Uranus: I beg you in the Name of whatever you believe to understand the plight of the company at the moment. This delay you are causing us is terribly affecting the operations. PLEASE wire the company's balance as agreed. We never expected this from you...and there are much more outstanding payments pending for you to take care of *TOING*. All can be forgiven but you must wire the funds immediately."

On Tuesday, June 12, he followed up with this further grovel:

"Uranus: Please keep the percentage you want and wire the company balance for the sake of peace. We are in urgent need of these funds. I never expected this from you. This behaviour of yours is extremely UNFAIR."

*TOING*...I'm being *UNFAIR*? I am, in his realm. Therefore, I decide to let him think he hit a resonant chord with me there:

Kelley: a good friend of mine discussed with me this situation, and to my surprise, she sided with you. She says I am being most immature and unfair to you, and if my word is my buns, I should make good to you.

Since her opinion is one I have always respected until now, I have decided to adhere to our original agreement. I will withhold only 10%, and I will send the respective balance to the two designated company recipients you had specified earlier. I will do this on Thursday, June 14.

I do not expect you to retain my services in view of how I behaved; I am rather impulsive sometimes. But I am okay with you firing me. So...I will email you when the transaction is complete.

Next up, Anatomy of a Piss-off III.