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Selling Snowballs in a Blizzard

  Two disturbing thoughts:

  1. We live in a world supersaturated in information, in which the technologies of communication have vastly outpaced our ability to find something new to say.  Information of one kind or another is everywhere, much of it provided for free.

   2. I sell information for a living.

   The market forces are against me. They work against almost anyone who is a producer of words. It's like trying to sell snowballs in a blizzard.

    You can tell yourself that the words you type are better than the other words out there, that they're fashioned together with superior raw materials (lots of interesting consonants like "K" and "v"), forming premium sentences that contain an unusual number of adverbs and adjectives per square meter. You know the motto here at the A-blog: "Using Adverbs Promiscuously Since 2005."

   Because I face college tuition bills in just a few years, I need to increase my revenue. It seems doubtful that this can happen as long as my income is built around typing. Incrementally, whether we care to admit it or not, publishers are bidding down our work. So one of the projects of this blog over the next few months will be to find another profession entirely. Philanthropy has always appealed to me, but I've heard there are very few openings.

    These ruminations were inspired by the Bill Raspberry piece the other day on why columnists are necessary. Bill has pondered whether a world of too much info needs opinionators. He decides that they're useful filters -- to a point:

   "I find it useful to have a half-dozen opinion columnists digest the day's offerings for me so I get a sense, from several points of view, of what is worth spending my time thinking about. That, by the way, is one of the reasons I deplore those members of the craft who write (or so it seems to me) as political propagandists. I don't need a political-operative-by-stealth using valuable op-ed space to promote partisan interests."

    Who's he referring to? I'd guess Robert Novak, for starters, since Novak seems to channel Cheney et al. George Will does not represent the Republican Party in power -- he's an old-line Conservative, not a neo-Con, and it seems unlikely he'll be getting invited to many Bush family Christmas parties. Meanwhile, there are plenty of Op-Ed types who say liberal things and sound like Democrats, but the Democratic Party, as an institution, doesn't have anyone voicing its opinion on the Op-Ed page, since the party doesn't actually know what it thinks.   

By Joel Achenbach  |  December 7, 2005; 9:51 AM ET
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I'm sympathetic, as I am in the info biz, too.

First, solve your tuition-to-be woes by getting your kids into your alma mater. It forgives all loans upon graduation, right?

Two, devote less time to this blog and your column. The real opinion in the MSM is in the editorial choices (cover this, not that, etc.) and in allowing a subtle slant to invade the pristine "reporting" realm.
In other words, become a big-time newsman, not opinion or feature or news-feature guy.

Posted by: melvin/a | December 7, 2005 10:08 AM | Report abuse

A few weeks ago, with all the leaves on the lawns and in the streets and piled up in the treeboxes and so forth, I thought: I'm a leaf salesman. What I do for a living is go around and ask people, "Would you like to buy some leaves?"

Posted by: Achenbach | December 7, 2005 10:08 AM | Report abuse

Mentioning George Will is a sure-fire way to stop discussion about sex in its tracks.

Posted by: jw | December 7, 2005 10:08 AM | Report abuse

I may have to home-school my kids when they're in college.

Posted by: Achenbach | December 7, 2005 10:09 AM | Report abuse

If you've listened to or even read anything by Al Gore or Gary Hart in the last 4 years, you understand that there are strong voices out there, voices that will occasionally represent the views of people over those of corporations. But I never see their speeches replayed ad nauseum as part of the news cycle. Yeah, you don't need a coporate-owned media infrastruce to explain it all, but it sure helps a lot.

And even when a voice is able to get some play, and is shown to be relevant, (i.e., Kerry wins all the debates vs Bush), guess which side of the Spin Cycle is better funded? Advertising WORKS. Basically, Democrats have to get in bed with some rich & powerful special interests, preferably one not from foreign nationals. Influence costs money and The People, even including George Soros, do not have as much money as Corporations.

Posted by: mizerock | December 7, 2005 10:13 AM | Report abuse

Your kids could do worse, Achenbach. The real question is, will you wear your toga whilst teaching them, and will they have to call you Commander?

[And I really do mean could do worse, not couldn't do worse, just in case there's any confusion of the could care less/couldn't care less variety.]

Posted by: Achenfan | December 7, 2005 10:15 AM | Report abuse

Not to go Weingarten on you, but Big Nate already covered your leaf salesman idea.

Posted by: mizerock | December 7, 2005 10:16 AM | Report abuse

Ah. So the man is down at the Crossroads.

Which direction will he choose?

Interestingly, Raspberry's pointing out something interesting in your quote, but coming at it from a purely journlistic point of view. And there may be an answer in there somewhere.

Some writers have gotten caught taking money from the government to advance the government's point of view (I won't even get into the Iraq print news situation). Some would say it's wrong, others might consider it patronage, or perhaps even sponsorsip.

Radio personalities have sponsors, pop music acts have their live tours underwritten by large corporations, darn near everything in America is a marketing opportunity for something.

Joel, your ship just might be coming in.
Gotta run, more later.


Posted by: bc | December 7, 2005 10:19 AM | Report abuse

There's something to be said for doing the job well. I like to read Anne Applebaum because she's a beautiful writer and she conveys the facade of being an interesting person (maybe it's an act; maybe she's actually incredibly boring). I liked Marjorie Williams once I got to know her writing. Both of them do/did a great job of prompting thought about aspects of life that we take for granted. We had a fuss here, a couple weeks back, about the triviality of Anne Applebaum writing about the dead leaves in her yard. I loved that column!

A rabbi pointed out to me that the point of kosher diet isn't about clean vs. unclean food; it's about bringing your attention to the ordinary gift of food, making food into something that you have to think about. My yoga teacher, when I could make time for yoga, reiterated the importance of mindfulness -- developing a conscious awareness of the body, tip to tip, and all through the middle. The best columnists achieve the same thing, refreshing the mind by directing it to something that has been overlooked.

I rarely read George Will, because he so rarely has anything to say: he's just filling the space in order to cash the check. I already know his opinion -- identify problem of modern life, blame it on the libertinism of liberals or the plush police-state mentality of liberals. The only time he actually thinks is when he gets mad at the neo-cons, because then he feels like he actually has to muster a real argument.

Posted by: Tim | December 7, 2005 10:22 AM | Report abuse

bc has the right idea. Corporate sponsorships!

Posted by: Bayou Self (sponsored by Excedrin) | December 7, 2005 10:32 AM | Report abuse

Or maybe Joel could start writing about sex.

Posted by: Bayou Self (sponsored by Excedrin) | December 7, 2005 10:42 AM | Report abuse

Today's kit is brought to you by Zyklor.

Posted by: mizerock | December 7, 2005 10:42 AM | Report abuse

Were you fishing for compliments, Joel? You aren't selling information, you weren't selling it when you were writing Why Things Are. You're selling thinking.

The Encyclopedia Britannica sells digested lifeless information, so they are in trouble. Any information that you have to share, I could get quickly from Google, or Wikipedia, or I could look it up in a reference book, etc., at the moment when I need it. What you are selling is not the information itself, it's the ability to engage with it and to perceive its meaning. Bad teachers of science think that science is about rote-learning the answers to questions on the test. Good teachers know that science is about deducing the answer to completely new questions. Your job, and you do it extremely well, is to prompt thinking about the meaning and significance of events and discoveries, which makes it possible to learn a general lesson from the specific case. That's why this forum takes off and gets revved up each day, because it's not about facts, it's about meaning and interpretation. The necessity for you and your job becomes apparent when you aren't here to facilitate the discussion with a new Kit -- it tends to get taken over by the loud people who want to persuade through intimidation, while the rest of us devolve into mere chatter. The A-blog is a chance to see directly whether you serve a purpose. Think of us like a focus group.

Posted by: Tim | December 7, 2005 10:46 AM | Report abuse

You're looking at this all wrong, Joel. The entire world is full to overflowing with BS, and yet GW Bush keeps his job. Sell those leaves , dude, sell those leaves.
As far as paying for college and speaking as one who is about to do the Munchkin Dance of Offspring Matriculation this spring, I'd say your best bet is either move into D.C. and get in-state rates in all fifty states, or start filling in the paperwork for that refi of the ol' Achenabode and plan on typing til you're 80.

Posted by: kurosawaguy | December 7, 2005 10:46 AM | Report abuse

A columnist talking about the need for columnists. I love anything that meta. When we start getting into the heavy deconstructionalism, we need good sturdy definitions. A reporter reports news. That would seem tautologically obvious, but it isn't. News is facts and facts can be leaked, spun, and wrung out to dry. An editor decides which facts are relevant, what is news. A commentator gives opinions about facts and news. The most valuable function of the commentator is to give context. Just rehashing facts is not quality commentating. The commentator must explain how the new facts fit with old facts and what the combination means.

Some commentators report as well as comment. They discover facts and then explain their importance. Novak prides himself on presenting new facts as well as opinion. Some commentators make news, especially when the facts and context reveal something that has not already become known or when their actions affect the news. Novak obviously did just that. George Will has done it in the past.

Other commentator's strong suit is analysis. George Will's forte is context. His tweedy history professor background lets him look at facts against a deep historical filter. He occasionally naval gazes, but usually has a bigger issue to illuminate when he discusses obscure local races or issues.

Just like some people hit small balls better than others, some people have more insightful thoughts than others. Some people are able to phrase fairly mundane thoughts in an amusing way. In our kinda-sorta meritocracy, the people who are better at something than others get paid better than others, not because they deserve to, but because they can create value.

A great baseball player sells more tickets, increases ratings, raises the ad-rates for beer commercials, and the quality of his play trickles through the economy. Hollywood pays an actor $20M in a $100M dollar movie in hopes of selling $200M in tickets so the theater owner can have a chance to sell people over-priced paper cups of carbonated flavored water bigger than their bladders. It's all about value.

Letting everyone have a blog is not going to destroy the word and idea industry any more than giving everyone a camcorder is going to bankrupt Steven Spielberg. People will always search out value and pay for it with either money or time.

Damn, I just justified TimesSelect. Sorry.

Posted by: yellojkt | December 7, 2005 10:53 AM | Report abuse

Responding, in my other guise, to what I just wrote.

A couple years back, you wrote a news story on the subject of mud, and whether it has a technical definition, different properties, etc. At the time, I was working on an Earth Science activity for students to take home and do with their families. It was the jumping-off point for creating a project to dry soil samples, then burn them in the self-cleaning oven in order to learn the organic content of soil from the difference in density before and after burning it. I also tricked my kid into making this a science fair project last year. Practically none of the article's information made it into the final product, but there's no question that the thinking inspired by the article was instrumental in making it happen.

The science fair project, by the way, won only second place in the school. We was robbed! It should have taken top honors. Trust me, I know -- I'm a Scientist. I have high hopes for this year's project, on the refraction of light in water with different solutes. Did you know that tap water is less dense and less refractive than distilled water? It was news to me.

Posted by: ScienceTim | December 7, 2005 10:56 AM | Report abuse

Please take a minute to remember that today is December 7. Think about the hundreds of sailors killed at Pearl Harbor 64 years ago. Think about the guys trapped below decks in the Arizona, the guys who jumped off of exploding ships into a sea covered with burning oil. Two thousand four hundred and three of our countrymen died that day. Just take minute.

Posted by: kurosawaguy | December 7, 2005 10:57 AM | Report abuse

Let me ask directly: Which columnists seem most clearly to be agents of a party?

And I wasn't fishing for compliments, though, as noted in a recent column, that is one of my hobbies. But here in the Boodle the merit or lack thereof of the big kitter need not be discussed, as it falls under the Thou Shalt Not Judge Me edict issued a while back. This isn't a diving competition.

Posted by: Achenbach | December 7, 2005 10:59 AM | Report abuse

"The best columnists achieve the same thing, refreshing the mind by directing it to something that has been overlooked."

Not just the best columnists, but the best writers.

One of the problems of the modern world is too much information too poorly catalouged, and ordered. Yes you can google, and find all kinds of info, but there still is the need for someone to translate the information into some sort of reasonable cohesive order. We still need someone to investigate where the info came from. Is the provider of the information legitimate? Is he a valid source? Is he telling us a truth or is he a shyster just trying to make a buck.

We all know what happens without a reliable translator. Without a skilled translator, the information overload would sound a lot like the press release from North Korea from a couple of days ago.

Posted by: dr | December 7, 2005 11:01 AM | Report abuse

"Let me ask directly: Which columnists seem most clearly to be agents of a party?"
Answer: All of the major columnists are agents of the differing branches of the Washington party.

Posted by: iIl'logical | December 7, 2005 11:12 AM | Report abuse

"Welcome to the Joel Achenbach blog, brought by Cialis and by the new 2006 Bonfire 3000 Sport Utility Vehicle from Chrysler. Helping hilarity ensue on today's blog are Joel's boodle crew, Loomis, sponsored by the Texas Oil and Gas Commission; General Mills' yellwjkt; TBG from IBM; Nani, thanks to a grant from the Asbestos Foundation; Sara, brought to you by Sara Lee; our own Mr. Wizard, Science Tim, sponsored by GE;Curmudgeon, for days when Mydol is not enough; the Quincy of Area 51, Kurosawaguy, courtesy of Sony Pictures (hey, who's crossing Jordan now, eh, K-guy? if ya know what we mean, wink wink); and many other members of Joel's wacky virtual neighborhood.

"Today's special topic, underwritten by a grant from the MacArthur Foundation and Pfizer Pharaceuticals, is "Impotence: Embarrassing personal failure, or easily correctable by chemical enhancement?" You be the judge, right after we come back from this brief message from Dell Computers, the one brand to buy when you're blogging your way through another dreary day."


"Hey, we're back! And now, leading off today's boodle with a brand-new kit that goes a little somethin' like this is Joeeeeellllll Achenbach! [WILD APPLAUSE] Take it away, Joel!"

Posted by: Curmudgeon | December 7, 2005 11:14 AM | Report abuse

Google captured the search engine market because it found a way to sort results by popularity, good or bad. Cream always rises, but some turds float.

Posted by: yellojkt | December 7, 2005 11:15 AM | Report abuse

SCC: brought to you

Posted by: Curmudgeon | December 7, 2005 11:15 AM | Report abuse

Many people (at least in the blogging world) seem to have powerful built-in translators already. They are able to see every news story as confirmation of their pre-existing beliefs: Unions / the Military Industrial Complex are bringing down America, the economy is robust / only benefitting the superrich, NeoCons are trying to export democracy / bring about armeggeddon, etc. Is it better to read "translations" that always support your views? Or are old-school journalistic news stories superior? Maybe raw AP news feeds are better? Or should you seek out a variety of translations, to see which ones resonate best with the world you think you live in?

Posted by: mizerock | December 7, 2005 11:17 AM | Report abuse

Personality is what sells. Actually having a viewpoint makes Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, Kurt Vonnegut, Peter Hamilton interesting. Of course the other thing is that they actually had a viewpoint based upon seeing a situation for what it was without exaggerating or romanticizing the thing. Selling the truth is always easy if you can cut through the bullshit....looking at the media in general, I would say that you don't have a lot of competition unless you count Comedy Central. They're really the only ones getting close. I mean in our age of modern surveillance how does the one man the one who is most ("hated?"/wanted) in all of Bagdhand, escape with three tractor trailers loaded with cash....surrounded by spy satellites, drone reconnaissance, ground operatives, an army/airforce/navy, AWACS, taps on all elecronic devices and so forth, because he's wily? Ha Ha haaaaaaaaaaaaaa, talk about naive, dubious events, forget about WMD........want to buy a bridge in Brooklyn? When something is so obvious it can't be seen, sometimes it's the truth. Believe it or not the Sun is the center of the solar system and the political leaders, all of them, are not really looking out for the little guy....on any level and the little guy doesn't get it....and making less than mulitiple millions a year makes you a little guy. I mean really when Prince Charles makes the president look bad by actually caring about his country and people. How could things have gotten so backwards? He's royalty spending his own money on setting up environmentally sound business practices while your president is busy selling the United States to the highest bidder, and old money kisses monied butt of all nationalities, and fights their "wars" for them....and you can't sell bullshit...tha's raht pardner, noones hungry for more bullshit, they maht just a be hungry for the real thing.

Posted by: try selling yourself...forget about anything else | December 7, 2005 11:18 AM | Report abuse

Joel, I'd say that few are actual agents of a party, but most who write about political matters and offer opinion tend to regularly line up in one camp or another.

The shock comes when you're reading someone like Krauthammer and realize that he's actually being thoughtful about something for once and not just using his usual partisan filter. (I'm thinking here of a piece on energy that he did not so long ago. While he promoted the need for more oil drilling, he also conceded that conservation needs to be stepped up.)

On the other side of the aisle, I'm no fan of Dowd. There's lotsa wisecracks in her columns, but I don't find much of it enlightening.

Krugman is dependably liberal, but more than that, I learn from his columns. That's the difference between him and Dowd.

We used to have two newspapers in the city where I live. One was liberal on the editorial page and the other was conservative. It was always interesting when the liberal paper endorsed a republican and vice versa. (The liberal paper folded a few years back. The conservative paper lives on.)

Posted by: Bayou Self (sponsored by the Whig Party) | December 7, 2005 11:18 AM | Report abuse

I only read three American newspapers, all of them online: Washpost, NYTimes (not so much since they put up the TimesSelect wall) and LATimes. And there are two op/ed columnists that clearly stand out from most others, at least for me: Nicholas Kristof of the NYTimes for his humanity in criticizing the world and drawing its attention to the injustices against women and children in Darfur and elsewhere. Colbert King of this paper for reminding us all of the fact that America is still a country divided along racial lines. I also read Michael Kinsley of the LATimes who also pens for the Washpost. And reading your blog is a real joy. I do it every day. Alas, not so good in posting comments.

Posted by: janan | December 7, 2005 11:19 AM | Report abuse

Agents for parties -- I mostly don't recall names. You can tell within a short time (sometimes it takes a couple paragraphs, sometimes it only takes a couple lines) whether a writer is really engaging with an idea vs. issuing press releases. I give up on those writers very fast and ignore them thereafter.

Novak is incredibly obvious. He may flatter himself that he's a hard-hitting reporter working from solid information, but on those occasions that I could stomach reading him, it was clear that he writes only to do a hatchet job on Democrats.

Will shills for the Frustrated Conservatives. I used to read him 20 years ago. I tried to give him the benefit of the doubt; then I tried to view it as reading from the enemy's playbook, but he had no real thinking to share. It's been a great release to him for his favored party to be unquestionably in power, and to be screwing up so badly -- he finally has something to really write about. Even so, he seems to ascribe the current sins of his party to "acting like liberals when they were in power"; he can't just identify the problem, he has to blame it on contagion from liberals. By that thinking, the only solution is to eradicate liberals even more thoroughly, he doesn't think about real solutions.

I don't have any shills in mind for the Democrats. That probably is just bias. However, I think it's also that liberalism, if it has any real definition, is the embrace of the power of persuasion to maximize individual liberty. Lock-step conformity and the issuance of regurgitated press releases is just not in that program. Even those writers who are most clearly liberals and Democrats -- Michael Kinsley comes to mind -- are thinking for themselves, which is the antithesis of serving as a party's agent.

Posted by: Tim | December 7, 2005 11:23 AM | Report abuse

Even an idiot can see that Kerry didn't really pursue the Presidency. Why is that? Moral values?

Posted by: Cmon | December 7, 2005 11:34 AM | Report abuse

jw writes:
"Mentioning George Will is a sure-fire way to stop discussion about sex in its tracks."

This comment of jw's made me guffaw quite hard. And George Will is also mentioned by yellowjkt. Sometimes I just wish George Will would stop being so cerebral.

I don't know when it seeped into my consciousness--that George Will was the father of a Down's Syndrome son. And years passed--perhaps two decades--until I realized I was in the same boat. I just assumed that I would never get pregnant without the help of infertility hormones--and my husband wanted to fiddle around on his 50th birthday. The resulting pregnancy was termed by my new Texas ob/gyn as high-risk.

The first ultrasound where she could see anything was the second and she deterimed that the ovum was blighted and arranged for the D&C that same evening. Knowing that I had lost two previous fetuses, she arranged for genetic testing of this third child (the previous two had not been tested). It was male, with two trisomes, one on chromosome 21. It was six years later, after I had made a phone call from southern Indiana to San Antonio lab, that I learned that the other trisome was on chromosome 10.

Both the New York Times and the Washington Post have written lately about the new test that determines Down's Syndrome quite early in a pregnancy--and how it presents parents the choice of abortion. It raises many sorts of ethical questions. I would love to see George Will personalize his columns more often, and would apreciate very much him writing on this issue of parental choice.

If I had known that my son's only trisome was on chromosome 21, would I have aborted him, never having had a live birth? I believe I would have made the painful decision. Would George Will and his wife have aborted their son if they had been armed with this genetic knowledge? If my mother had had the technology to know that I had a mutation of the endocrine system, would she have aborted me some 54 years ago? It's a good thing that her home-abortion technique failed on my younger sister, my father thinking he did not want the responsibility of another child at age 45.

But to answer Joel's question: "Let me ask directly: Which columnists seem most clearly to be agents of a party?" I don't know if David Brooks of the NYT is an "agent of the party," but I find myself strongly disliking some--but not all, of the op-eds that he writes. I would characterize his writing as uneven, and his attempts at satire are sad and confusing. Brooks' satire of Thanksgiving that ran on Thanksgiving Day was a real downer, while Cohen's piece that appeared in the NYT about a week later in the online op-eds about Puritanism and Christmas was extremely well-done.

Posted by: Loomis | December 7, 2005 11:38 AM | Report abuse

Fearless Leader;

What's to worry about?? You don't sell snowballs, you sell SnoCones. You veer and otherwise exhibit nonballistic behavior, you put the party hat on the head of the bulldog known as "news."

As for columnists in general, those following their own line of inquiry are the only ones worth reading. The shills generally don't try to hide the fact that they're shilling; they fall off my "to-read" list almost immediately.

And I'm just glad Curmudgeon saw fit to not assign me the Budweiser sponsorship.

Posted by: Scottynuke | December 7, 2005 11:46 AM | Report abuse

Actually there are few original thinkers. Talking to philosophers usually helps you to understand that. Most philosophers actually just point to others work and say, "I like that." Original thinking consists of being able to view reality directly and not be impeded by the current mores/mindsets/cultural delusions of the masses. Or as buddha would say from the empty state....without prediliction to putting a personal spin on it.

Posted by: Camp or another | December 7, 2005 11:47 AM | Report abuse

Why sell snowcones in a blizzard, when you can easily sell--by the refrigerated truckload--raspas in front of the Alamo and in south Texas in July and August?

[This comment, if you can snowshow through the metaphor, has much to do with USP. (Not UPS.) Unique Selling Proposition--all writers (and marketeers) need it more than a refrigerator in their igloos.]

And persistence--I think of the Sierras and Snowshoe Thompson.

Posted by: Loomis | December 7, 2005 11:56 AM | Report abuse

Ooops, my bad!

{ADD INSERT A}: "Scottynuke, brought to you by the makes of Scott toilet paper and Preparation H, the two things to reach for when you just can't scratch that itch;"

You may now return to your regular programming.

(Really liked your line, "you put the party hat on the head of the bulldog known as 'news,'" Scottynuke.)

Posted by: Curmudgeon | December 7, 2005 11:56 AM | Report abuse

That means that you've freed yourself from your personal history....reactive behavior. Tibetan monks don't have a startle reflex, because they train arduously to remove reactivity as a trait. The implication is that most people are in a reactive state when they interact with reality....right and wrong/dualistic thinking. There is no right and wrong. Froma personal perspective you're only one animal in an ecological's a right or wrong of a particular group at a particular stage of development, not an absolute and it doesn't include other lifeforms.....or classes. To make a long story short, being able to see the truth means that you're not afraid to look without blocking/slanting/preconceiving what the truth will be. Most humans don't know too much about cognitive processes other wise the world would be a lot easier to live in....they work with beliefs, and you have to kowtow to their beliefs, build a ship in their bottle.

Posted by: from the empty state | December 7, 2005 11:56 AM | Report abuse

A long article...I'll provide the link for the rest of it...

Snowshoe Thompson: "Viking of the Sierra"

When John A. Thompson responded to an ad in the Sacramento Union : "People Lost to the World; Uncle Sam Needs a Mail Carrier", he had no idea he was to become a living legend.

When I cross-country ski under the moonlight through the back country of the Sierra Nevada mountains, I often think of Snowshoe Thompson, one of the most intriguing heroes in California's history. From 1856 to 1876 he made legendary 90 mile treks over snowdrifts up to 50 feet high and through blizzards with up to 80 mile per hour winds, to deliver mail to those living in isolation. He was the sole link between California and the Atlantic states during the long winter months.

At the age of 10, Jon Torsteinson-Rue (later changed to John A. Thompson) came to America with his family from Norway, settling on a farm in Illinois. The family moved on to Missouri then Iowa, and eventually Jon went to stay with his brother in Wisconsin. Then gold fever struck.

In 1851 at the age of 24 Thompson drove a herd of milk cows to California and settled in Placerville. For a short while he mined in Kelsey Diggins, Coon Hollow and Georgetown. With the small amount he saved, he bought a small ranch at Putah Creek, in the Sacramento Valley.

All attempts by postmen to cross the Sierra on woven Canadian and Native American snowshoes had failed until one day in late 1855, Thompson saw an ad in the Sacramento Union : "People Lost to the World; Uncle Sam Needs a Mail Carrier." He had had personal experience with mail deprivation, having once received long delayed news of a flu epidemic which claimed his mother's life, and quickly applied for the job.

Posted by: Loomis | December 7, 2005 12:00 PM | Report abuse

Karl Rove -> mail order bait-n-switch

President Bush = Looks like a check made out to you

Posted by: ANYONE in a reactive state can be led where you want them to go | December 7, 2005 12:01 PM | Report abuse

I've often felt that the economics of the business worked against the quality of Op-Eds. Most syndicated columnists are expected to produce at least twice a week. Few have two good columns in them every week. I view people like David Brooks and MoDo and Will and all of them as very talented people forced to play two full 60-minute football games every week. Krauthammer has it about right: Once a week, take your shot. In the old days there were columnists of the Murray Kempton school who wrote daily -- Herb Caen (sp?) was another -- but, to keep with the metaphor, I'm pretty sure they stuck as much as possible to the ground game, between the tackles.

I only have to write one column a week and it near bout kills me. I've asked my editors to make explicit, contractually enforceable concessions on quality. I don't have to produce any good columns in August, for example. Every third column is allowed to be, to use the favorite new word among the juveniles in my house (used to describe, for example, the clothes sold at places like Wal-Mart), "heinous."

Posted by: Achenbach | December 7, 2005 12:02 PM | Report abuse

Did anyone catch the OLiphant cartoon in today's on line WP? WOW!

Posted by: ILL-logical | December 7, 2005 12:03 PM | Report abuse

I was born, raised, and went to college in Georgia, where everyone with decent grades gets free tuition to state schools, so this whole paying-for-college thing is hard to get used to. I've never had a student loan.

Yes, all that is paid for by the evil lottery, but you got lotteries up here too... where is all that money going, anyway?

Posted by: Cass | December 7, 2005 12:05 PM | Report abuse

Much better, Curmudgeon. And thank you.

Fearless Leader, I think the editors snookered you on the August concession. Does any institution inside the Beltway, the Nats included, produce during the summer doldrums?

Posted by: Scottynuke | December 7, 2005 12:08 PM | Report abuse

Let me follow up for a second on the general quality of columnists at major newspapers. Most, I think, are not just good, very good, and amazingly durable. This is especially true in the Sports field: Look at someone like Mike Wilbon, who somehow is consistently excellent, often three or four times a week. Dave Barry wrote only one column a week, but he did it for close to 30 years, plus wrote long, very funny cover stories for Tropic (defunct Miami Herald magazine where a bunch of us used to work), and still found time to write books in his "spare time" and answer every single letter anyone ever wrote to him -- which was two days work a week right there. When people complain about columnists, I instinctively side with the writer, because most readers, I'm guessing, don't realize how freakin' hard it is to shinny up that pole over and over again (I'm sorry but I can't seem to stick with just one metaphor). (Um, is "shinny" a word? There's no dictionary at the Java House.)

Posted by: Achenbach | December 7, 2005 12:10 PM | Report abuse

mr. joel: i hear there are limitless opportunities in the texas oilfields for easterners who can't tell the difference between oil and maple syrup. i have also heard that buying a baseball team with none of your own money can be pretty lucrative.

Posted by: butlerguy | December 7, 2005 12:12 PM | Report abuse

I am getting bored with this topic.

I am Will's only fan.

Posted by: Will's Fan | December 7, 2005 12:13 PM | Report abuse

About market forces:
This blog would be better, except the market forces are blowing it toward mediocrity. But that's a long story with lots of inside baseball. (DANG! Did it again. Next I'll have a boxing metaphor.)

Posted by: Achenbach | December 7, 2005 12:13 PM | Report abuse

Music is playing, if you like to dance you don't need to work at it...the music moves you. Even Isadora knew that.

Posted by: What's the difference? | December 7, 2005 12:14 PM | Report abuse

Mixed metaphors are literary strike-outs right at the goal line.

Posted by: Achenbach | December 7, 2005 12:16 PM | Report abuse

Cutting through the bs, comedy central, and MoDo's wisecracks. What it is that feels real.

Posted by: sisjen | December 7, 2005 12:30 PM | Report abuse

Just like soccer's infamous infield fly rule.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | December 7, 2005 12:32 PM | Report abuse

For me, there are two qualities which make a column worth reading. Either it takes a topic which I know little about, and expounds on it in order to say something greater about society or the world. Or it puts forth an opinion or perspective different than mine, with a thoughful analysis of facts as well as sound opinion. Both increase my knowledge and understanding of the world around me. People who do this well include Marc Fisher, who often takes some local event, and expounds on it in a way that makes it seem significant to me even if I don't live in the town or city he's writing about; Ellen Goodman, because I'm from Boston, and because her perspective is much different than the over-politicized Washington Post op-ed page; And Eugene Robinson, because he brings a perspective to his columns that is much different than mine, on many levels. And Joel Achenbach, of course, because his science kits always teach me something new. There are many others; these are just a few that come to mind right now.

If I read the first paragraph of a column, and it seems like it's about something I already know about, or if it seems like I'm going to agree wholeheartedly with it, I tend to stop reading.

Posted by: jw | December 7, 2005 12:33 PM | Report abuse

Theatre et 'dogmas

Posted by: that's a metatron ror you | December 7, 2005 12:34 PM | Report abuse

Main Entry: 2shin
Main Entry: 2shinny
Function: intransitive verb
Inflected Form(s): shin·nied; shin·ny·ing
Etymology: alteration of 2shin
: SHIN 1

Function: verb
Inflected Form(s): shinned; shin·ning
intransitive senses
1 : to move oneself up or down something vertical (as a pole) especially by alternately hugging it with the arms or hands and the legs
2 : to move forward rapidly on foot
transitive senses
1 : to kick or strike on the shins
2 : to climb by shinning

Posted by: Bayou Self (sponsored by Merriam-Webster) | December 7, 2005 12:41 PM | Report abuse

This may be just silly optimism (but then, I'm a silly optimist), but I think the plethora of amateur weblogs could make us readers more appreciative of the word product crafted by professionals. I subscribe to few blogs. Among them are people I "know" through the Boodle (jw, mo, yellowjkt, etc.), and a scant handful I've come across whom I consider to be professional amateurs. Among the rest are diariests and heavy-breathing bores.

That's why the Silent Millions tune you (and a few others) in every day. We get to see what good writing looks like. This is not a compliment, it's a simple fact.

Posted by: CowTown | December 7, 2005 12:44 PM | Report abuse

And now, I'm getting out my tiny violin.

Being a columnist is hard work, particularly for those who crank 'em out twice a week.

But it's also one of the greatest jobs that one can possibly have.

Posted by: Bayou Self (sponsored by Stradivarius) | December 7, 2005 12:44 PM | Report abuse

Last night I was transported to rock and roll heaven via PBS presentation of Roy Orbison's Black and White Night concert. And when guitarist James Burton (back up musician for the likes of Frank Sinatra and Elvis) started riffing, he "held my heart in his hands" (homage to Loomis).

Save me some of those leaves. Great mulch for the garden.

When No. 2 G-girl is ready to start medical school, I'll have $50K saved up towards tuition. But gosh, that's only a drop in the bucket

Posted by: Nani | December 7, 2005 12:50 PM | Report abuse

Joel - Caen is correct. His son Christopher is now writing out here, albeit on a non-daily basis. We miss Herb.

Posted by: Shakytown | December 7, 2005 12:53 PM | Report abuse

One of the reasons I like Kurtz's media notes column so much is that he rounds up "all the usual suspects" (that's a compliment, not a criticism) and digests the various columnists, giving us the "nut grafs" (J-lingo) and the links. If I'm interested, I can read the full thing.

And yes, probably about half the people he digests are pretty much partyline hacks, usually on the right. I tend not to read them at all, other than to read Howie's excerpts, simly as a matter of knowing what the rightwing is blathering on about on any given day. There are some pretty good absurdities that pop up on the left every once in a while, too, and they're fun.

Eugene Robinson is a great writer; I admire his craftsmanship and wordsmithing.

I reluctantly confess to reading about 10 or 15% of George Will's columns, usually when he's writing about baseball or else throwing a hissy fit against the Bush Administration (love it when he does that). And I think he has an interesting point to make once in a (rare) while--too often to just dismiss him out of hand.

I don't care who's writing it or what their perspective is--if it's about taxes (most especially about cutting them)-- I get instant eye glaze. Can't flip to the next item fast enough.

Read Shales, Jonathan Yardley and Stephen Hunter religiously. Wish Yardley would resume his non-book commentary columns. Usually read Dirda if the topic is something I'm interested in.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | December 7, 2005 1:02 PM | Report abuse

Stand by for a major breaking story on methane...

Posted by: Curmudgeon | December 7, 2005 1:06 PM | Report abuse

Excuse me while I do some research.

Posted by: Bayou Self (sponsored by a scientific desire to see just how much one can type into the name section | December 7, 2005 1:10 PM | Report abuse

Discussions of college costs remind me of something that we Americans are even less willing to talk about than sex- money. People will talk about their psychological problems, children, taxes, home values, erectile dysfunction, and tubal pregnancies before they will reveal how much money they make. When the Kurosawachick was nearing the end of high school, we had the Money Talk and discussed school costs and our ability\inability to pay. I think it was the first time she ever knew what our income is (other than of course the oft repeated line that we are not made of money, which I think she had pretty much figured out on her own). It seems to me that many young people enter the adult world without any real idea of the cost of living, and that much of this is the fault of parents. What major surprises did you encounter when you first became independent?

Posted by: kurosawaguy | December 7, 2005 1:13 PM | Report abuse

I discovered that baked beans in a hot dog roll makes a pretty good dinner when your first salary is a whopping $7,800 a year!

Posted by: TBG | December 7, 2005 1:20 PM | Report abuse

Agent of the party? David Brooks.

I haven't read him since the Times went Select out of a mute protest, but in the past year and particularly in the run-up to elections, his pieces were straight out of the RNC playbook for the week. Even his "neutral" pieces had a party-message slant: there was one piece about how America loves its "blue bloods" and then spent 2/3 of the space talking about Kerry's priviliged background and then chiming in at the end that Bush's was also privilieged. And then concluded that it must be that Americans just must really like these people. This at a time that John Edwards was playing the common man card.

So you want a party man? Brooks. Brooks. Brooks.

Posted by: Matt | December 7, 2005 1:24 PM | Report abuse

OK, Titan fans, Joel, and Science Tim, here it is, hot off the BBC presses--a chance to start "Singing in the Methane" right here on earth:

Siberia's rapid thaw causes alarm

The world's largest frozen peat bog is melting, which could speed the rate of global warming, New Scientist reports.
The huge expanse of western Siberia is thawing for the first time since its formation, 11,000 years ago.

The area, which is the size of France and Germany combined, could release billions of tonnes of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

This could potentially act as a tipping point, causing global warming to snowball, scientists fear.

The situation is an "ecological landslide that is probably irreversible and is undoubtedly connected to climatic warming," researcher Sergei Kirpotin, of Tomsk State University, Russia, told New Scientist magazine.

The whole western Siberian sub-Arctic region has started to thaw, he added, and this "has all happened in the last three or four years".

Western Siberia has warmed faster than almost anywhere on the planet, with average temperatures increasing by about 3C in the last 40 years.

The warming is believed to be due to a combination of man-made climate change, a cyclical atmospheric phenomenon known as the Arctic oscillation and feedbacks caused by melting ice.

When you start messing around with these natural systems, you can end up in situations where it's unstoppable
David Viner, climate scientist

The 11,000-year-old bogs contain billions of tonnes of methane, most of which has been trapped in permafrost and deeper ice-like structures called clathrates.
But if the bogs melt, there is a big risk their hefty methane load could be dumped into the atmosphere, accelerating global warming.

Scientists have reacted with alarm at the finding, warning that future global temperature predictions may have to be revised.

Of course, the Siberian bog really couldn't have frozen 11,000 years ago, since that is about five millenia earlier than the Creation. And Bush doesn't believe in global warming anyway.

So one way or the other, don't worry about it.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | December 7, 2005 1:33 PM | Report abuse

Curmudgeon, isn't that back when humans had domesticated dinosaurs and rode them around and used them to pull plows and things?

Posted by: jw | December 7, 2005 1:37 PM | Report abuse

Trying to make a living in the wordisphere seems to be increasingly difficult. More and more, a writer needs a patron (someone who hires him or looks at his manuscript hopefully) or invests in his product with expectation of return--either financially or ideologically. Joel has a patron employer, for a while, anyway, and has earned that status.

Meanwhile, these internets entice more and more people to attempt to make word art. That's a good outlet for most but not a substitute for making a living. Such people add a little to society's information stream and should be valued for that alone.

What's lost in the expanse of the new media and the decline of the mainstream variety are common assumptions about "facts"; the state of the world as it is becomes the source of a fight. Some readers refuse to read the Post because it's too liberal and others wouldn't pick up a Washington Times if they were out of reading material on a six-hour flight.

Today it seems we get to choose between mainstream media who project either a sanguine view of our conditions (because Republicans are in charge) or a nuanced critique that might appear to suggest that a few items could use improvement. I don't know of any mainstream/mass media with a "we're screwed" viewpoint.

In the 50s and before, the mainstream media, particularly in the South, defined our world as one in which only "white news" mattered. To a conservative, I suppose the national media as it existed through the 90s (and even until this day) provided a dangerous "liberal" worldview that needed to be destroyed. In each case, rabblerousers eventually changed the facts on the ground and therefore the worldview propagated by the mainstream media.

Just a hunch: The next big successes in the wordisphere will come from those who see a society and nation with serious problems, and who report and opine effectively enough to stimulate a change in today's prevailing worldview(s).

In the meantime, Joel, continue creating your art, which is highly valued (unless we have to pay to read it).

Posted by: kindathinker | December 7, 2005 1:38 PM | Report abuse

Zackly right, jw.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | December 7, 2005 1:46 PM | Report abuse

I'm hesitant to ask, but Curmudgeon how do you connect me to the Asbestos Foundation? Isn't asbestos the cause of many serious, often fatal, diseases?

The columns I read most often are Joel's of course, Michael Dirda, Adrian Higgins, and Mark Fisher. I like Desson Thomson and Steve Hunter's film reviews. Always read and loved Dave Barry's work, but his column doesn't appear in our paper anymore. I like Gene Weingarten's op-ed columns. He's an enigma of sorts. Can be really mean in his on-line chat, then write a column that melts your heart.

Posted by: Nani | December 7, 2005 1:49 PM | Report abuse

I wish I had a pet flying dinosaur...I hate those evolutionists for killing them all off to cover their giant conspiracy!

Posted by: jw | December 7, 2005 1:50 PM | Report abuse

To contact the Asbestos Foundation, call their lobbyist, Jack Abramoff.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | December 7, 2005 1:51 PM | Report abuse

jw, I'm sorry to have to tell you that there were no flying dinosaurs. I know, it was a surprise to me, too. Pterosaurs, I have learned in recent years, evolved from a line of reptiles that split off before dinosaurs evolved. Pterosaurs actually are more closely related to crocodiles than they are to dinosaurs. The closest thing to a flying dinosaur is the cute little fluffy thing with wings at your bird feeder (not a squirrel). Whether birds are flying dinosaurs depends on whether you believe that birds are something new that evolved out of dinosaurs, or birds are just one kind of dinosaur.

Posted by: ScienceTim | December 7, 2005 2:05 PM | Report abuse

ok, I'll scoop up my marbles and go play with suecris and Cassandra S.

Posted by: Nani | December 7, 2005 2:08 PM | Report abuse

Farting oceans:

In the last decade or so, it has come to be suspected/believed that there are large deposits of methane clathrates in the ocean bed. They stay there because of the pressure, combined with cold, combined with higher density than frozen water. I'm guessing that clathrates must freeze a little warmer than liquid water, or maybe it just has less heat of fusion. Anyway, one of the great worries of global warming is that some relatively modest shift in ocean circulation or sea temperature could trigger a release of methane from the sea-bed clathrates, increasing the burden of greenhouse gases and thus increasing the rate at which things warm up and further clathrates are released. It's a vague nightmarish scenario because very very little is known beyond the fact that sea-bed methane clathrates have been found.

Posted by: ScienceTim | December 7, 2005 2:12 PM | Report abuse

If I were to look at the cause and effect of McCarthyism I would have to say that, similar to your ",leaders" someonewhocanlead you, players of today, he was not against communism per se, he was against the perceived threat that communism presented....a threat to a class. White people in the south in the 50's n'blacks. Former slaver owners didn't want to pay people what they were worth, black or white....thas still true. Thas wha we put Jesse Helms in control of the commitee for fo'en r'latns. Poh Whites din't want to share the lickin' o' the b' still don. Slavery was seen as a necessary institution o the day, kinda lik out'sourcin.... Can't afford to pay wages that can keep a family t'gether so got to move that product to Korea. Capitol One, used to be in Fredericksburg VA 'til they laid off the 300 people they employed there and now they can afford commercials all over television with cute Vikings since their new workforce in Bangalore doesn't mind our substandard wages....and who paid for the problems of the 300 being laid off? You did.

America is the richest nation in the world in resources, and yet our poor and working poor are increasing daily. My father used to relax at the end of the day at 5:00PM, most people either go to a second job, or work on the computer. One way, 1.5 hour commute when you could be working from home

think reeeellly hard here, it's going to be hard but you'all are house slaves, just a step above the other slaves that were allowed to comport with the masters, who felt that their status needed to be protected by not-relating to the field you think that those that look down on the marginals are different than house slaves. Saying don't want to say the wrong thing and get put out in the field working.

Social Security anyone?

ps. Washington DC, is not the world. Ask dave chappelle.

Posted by: Checking things out actually leads to discovery, those boxed in by their belief systems are rats in | December 7, 2005 2:14 PM | Report abuse

ScienceTim, your post contains so many heresies that I would not be surprised if you have already been smited by the mighty smiter.

Posted by: jw | December 7, 2005 2:18 PM | Report abuse

You really don't sell information for a living. People don't read your columns to learn new facts - I for one read your stuff primarily for entertainment. As has been mentioned previously, people read the Washington post and other newspapers because of the quality of the writing. I think the major issues with newspapers today is that they don't believe in their product. I completely applaud the New York Times for starting TimeSelect - people should pay for quality. I believe you all are giving away for free what really should be sold for a price. People get their information online now so charge them for it online. Even the bloggers get their information from you guys. So do Yahoo news and all the other online outlets. I don't think the strategy of laying off journalists and tightening costs is the way to go - it's not a sustainable strategy and reduces the quality of writing. You have to increase the revenue base and the primary way to do that is to charge people to access you online. If every newspaper did this people would have to pay. Right now you can't pay me to buy the dead tree Washington post when I can access you online for free.

Posted by: omodudu | December 7, 2005 2:21 PM | Report abuse

Re: Farting Oceans

This is one theory behind the mysteries of the Bermuda Triangle. Huge pockets of methane gas rise up out of the ocean and sink a ship in a matter of minutes. Those same pockets rising up through the air can do the same to an airplane. Who knew...

Posted by: Left Coast | December 7, 2005 2:22 PM | Report abuse

But you can't take the online Washington Post into the bathroom with you after breakfast.

Posted by: TBG | December 7, 2005 2:25 PM | Report abuse

...or use it to line your parakeet's cage, wrap fish-and-chips, hit your dog, pack your dishes, or start a fire in your fireplace.

Posted by: jw | December 7, 2005 2:29 PM | Report abuse

Joel, important blog-worthy item -- I am reliably informed that you should find out more about Sony and the rootkit installed on Windows machines by SOny music CDs.

Posted by: ScienceTim | December 7, 2005 2:32 PM | Report abuse

Had to do some catching up on the 'boodle, amused to hear that "heinous" was word of the week at the AchenHaus.

At the House of c we're transitioning from "disgraceful" to "disturbing".

A question I often ponder is the nature of my intrinsic value. To my family, to the people I work for and do business with, to my friends, to society, to the Multiverse.

And I ask: how do I get paid what I'm worth?


Posted by: bc | December 7, 2005 2:32 PM | Report abuse

Joel writes:
"Because I face college tuition bills in just a few years, I need to increase my revenue."

Cass and k-guy, I think you first cracked the fallacy of today's Kit. When I first read that line, I thought: it's time for Joel to pay the bills from his Princeton days. Then jokingly, I sub-vocalized, "Gee, I didn't know that Joel would be heading off to college soon?"

Since when it is a given that a dad has to pay a child's tuition? Why not give Paris, Isabella, and Shane a shove out the door into the employment world before they ever enter and leave high school?

Like my father did with me, you could offer each of them as neighborhood babysitters when they're 13. Then you could set each of them up in a retail job by the time each reaches her 16th birthday, all the while expecting each to pull top grades. (How I remember Lula Mae and my House of Fabrics days; my sister, her Dewar's Ice cream days.) If your daughters are competitive, and pretty, and lucky, one or more may even be picked to be a "Jantzen Smile Girl" or a "Brock's High Deb." If they don't win the modeling competition to go to Hawaii, then they can work more retail nights and weekends in a ritzier environment, while still expected to pull top grades.

Or if there is a recession going on, they can take the best home-from-college-summer job they can find--like mashing sugar beets from 8 p.m. to 4 a.m. each summer night. The union wages are handsome, but doesn't make up for a weirdo following your daughter home from the East side of town so that she has to lay on your car's horn outside your front door to fend him off at 4:30 a.m. (But that's nothing as compared to being called to identify someone in your first police line-up while in seventh grade. It doesn't pay to look like Charlize Theron as a kid.)

Or your daughters can work their tails off by taking every synchronized swimming class in college and every Water Safety Instruction course, so they won't have to return to the dreadful sugar beet lab. Then they can teach swimming from early morning to sunset, while lifeguarding kids in the public pool in the afternoon, all the while seeing their fair skin turn brown like shoeleather at summer's end.

It is an elitist blog. If you pay your daughters' tuition costs, Joel, you are indeed giving them a very cushy ride.

Posted by: Loomis | December 7, 2005 2:37 PM | Report abuse

Joel's mention of the Thou Shalt Not Judge Me edict inspired me to take a trip through the AchenArchives. The edict was issued on May 2 (or maybe it was May 1 -- the date stamp on the Kit is different from the date stamp on the Kaboodle, and I don't *think* that's because it took people a full 24 hours to start responding).

That particular Kit attracted a mere 22 comments. Here are some of that day's highlights:

From Contemptuo, US:
"But I have so much contempt to give! You have, like, totally ruined *everything.*"

And from someone called Not sarcastic at all, honestly:
"I like the new policy--it has that, 'great leap forward' feel to it that is so refreshing."

I rather liked this comment from Rob:
"Some of the comment-ers on your [ivory-billed woodpecker] posting blamed you for single handedly bringing down The Washington Post and, quite possibly, the entirety of human civilization. Unless you think its fun to be a punching bag (I mean who knows, maybe you're into that sort of thing) you should relieve the peanut gallery of their obligation to inform you of how offensive, unfunny, and nerdy you are. I mean, you point that out enough yourself."

And then there was this from someone called W.:
"You, in my humble medical opinion, suffer from a terminal case of rectal-cranial inversion, but, of course, everyone, even the terminal case, needs a job.
This great nation provides always for its least gifted."

Ah, that familiar scent of rancor and vituperation. But as Joel said in that day's Kit, "It's just not that interesting to say that I'm a dingdong. Tell us something we don't know!!"

[I just love the word "dingdong"; it's almost as good as "nitwit."]

[Also, I'm reminded of a comment Joel made in a June 13 Kit about Iraq. He referred to the A-blog as a humor blog "that dares to be not actually funny!" Ha!]

Posted by: Tom fan | December 7, 2005 2:38 PM | Report abuse


You exactly summed up what I am not articulate enough to parse as finely as you did. A commentator should tell me something I did not know or realize and then tell me why I need to know it.

Thanks for the kind words CowTown. Well written blogs are hard to find and I already spend too much tim on mine and I still cringe reading old posts.

Anyhoo, since I don't do politics on my blog:

I have ranked the commentators that I am familiar with. The methodology consisted of me taking a list of links from Drudge Report and taking the ones I recognized and throwing other WaPo and NYT columnists I could think of. I then sorted the names by political leanings from right to left.

Each one's level of independence from their party line is ranked from nutjob meaning they say things so doctrinaire they get regularly disavowed to independent meaning that even though they have a philosophy, they address each issue with thought and consideration.

Each side has one person designated as The Man, meaning he or she is the definitive benchmark for that position.

Below is the definitive list of the relative position of major commentators in print ranked from Mouth Breathing Neanderthal to Flaming Bleeding Heart:

Cal Thomas - nutjob
Ann Coulter - nutjob
Mona Charon - tool
Bill Kristol - thinks he's The Man
Bob Novak - reliable
Pat Buchanan - loose cannon
Bill Buckley - The Man
Charles Krauthammer - borderline tool
George Will - reliable
Andrew Sullivan - independent
David Brooks - tool leaning
----------Dividing Line --------------
Thomas Friedman - independent
Michael Kinsley - loose cannon
Joe Klein - reliable
Anna Quindlen - reliable
Thomas Sowell - reliable
Maureen Dowd - hottie
Ellen Goodman - tool
EJ Dionne - The Man
Eleanor Clift - tool
David Broder - tool
Molly Ivins - nutjob

The rankings have a margin of error of three positions. Don't split hairs too fine.

Posted by: yellojkt | December 7, 2005 2:43 PM | Report abuse

How's about peoplein our government with people that's repaying college loans by working as a government agent. Seems to work for the Swiss.... Oh that's right we're too poor, need a nuther tax cut for the upper 1/3 of 1 percent.... Remember the days when General Motors GNP exceeded that of all-of-Europe circa 1966?

Do you think that if an engineer were in charge of the government that he could get rid of the blue-bloods fer bluebloods aristocracy that currently runs it? Do you think that given the fact that we're a democracy in theory that we might change things so that the citizens of the country got what they paid for?

Posted by: How's bout Clintons dream... | December 7, 2005 2:44 PM | Report abuse

TBG said: "But you can't take the online Washington Post into the bathroom with you after breakfast."

Laptop. Wireless network in the house.

Posted by: Tim | December 7, 2005 2:48 PM | Report abuse


Ever heard about the research into tapping the clathrates for another source of natural gas? Of course, there are those who worry that attempting to do so would unwittingly trigger a climate-changing sea fart, so I guess it's still a pipe dream.

Posted by: Scottynuke | December 7, 2005 2:54 PM | Report abuse

What's worse, tool or nutjob?

Thanks for the compliment...I think you're more articulate than you profess.

Posted by: jw | December 7, 2005 2:55 PM | Report abuse

SCC: "I already spend too much time on mine" Case in point, this proofreading stuff is too much work. I need to hire someone to do it for me. Care to earn a little tuition money Joel? I'll pay you 50 cents a post.

Posted by: yellojkt | December 7, 2005 2:56 PM | Report abuse

I love the word "nutjob," too.

Posted by: Tom fan | December 7, 2005 2:57 PM | Report abuse

Nutjob is much worse than tool.

Posted by: yellojkt | December 7, 2005 2:58 PM | Report abuse

Loomis, as someone who paid most of his own way through college, I have to ask if you're aware what they charge these days. Back when, I worked summers and had a part-time job on campus. I got some help freshman year from my parents and picked up some help my senior year from a broadcasting group. The rest was on me, and yet I did have some beer money in my pockets, at least most of the time.

Today? Forget it. Not even with the beets job. I have 529s for the kids that I'm pumping some money into. I have a classic car I could sell if I have to. And I hope that'll add up to more than one year of college.

Posted by: Bayou Self (sponsored by the Foundation for Higher Education and Stuff) | December 7, 2005 2:58 PM | Report abuse

Tim, you've just joined the paper-vs-online discussion with the methane discussion in one easy step.

Posted by: TBG | December 7, 2005 3:01 PM | Report abuse

Indeed, yellojkt. "Nutjob" implies insanity. A "tool" is merely a jerk. Or a jackass.

Posted by: Tom fan | December 7, 2005 3:02 PM | Report abuse

Tim - I think that laptop comment was more information than i needed to know...

Posted by: ot | December 7, 2005 3:02 PM | Report abuse

The best way for financing a child's education is by not being responsible for it. It is the child's education, they should be responsible for it. I'll tell you what I did with my second child. First, she took a year off from school to work/travel/hang at the beach (with my blessing but not my support, outside of the used car I bought for graduating high school. Because she didn't live with me for that year, my income wasn't counted toward her FAFSA family contribution. This enabled her to access more grant/loan/scholarship money when she enrolled and was able to pay for bare necessities herself. At that point, I could contribute extras that would help her take the edge off of living at the edge.
Because she was responsible for herself, she appreciated both my contribution and the education more than my elder daughter did (the elder got a full boat scholarship and took 5+ years to make it through a 4 year program).
Most people don't have the income to put away enough money to send a child to college and pay off their own home, even with 2 incomes and second jobs. Don't worry about it, Joel,

Posted by: mh | December 7, 2005 3:22 PM | Report abuse

Loomis is concerned that we are elitists who promote a privileged attitude among our offspring by expecting to pay for them to go to college. I have heard this before.

(1) I've already told my offspring that there is no way I can afford the full cost of college, so they'd better plan on qualifying for massive scholarships. That's what I did.

(2) As of 1992, when I finished paying off my relatively minimal college loans, tuition at my alma mater was $21K/year, 3.6 times what I faced in 1980. Increasing at that rate, tuition now should be about ... $85K/year. Okay, it's not that bad, so the rate has slowed, but it's over $30K/year at a school that is very good, but not particularly elite. It ain't Harvard, despite pretensions to the contrary.

(3) A college education -- tuition, room, board, books, health care -- now costs well over $120K, still close to $100K at a state school. That means a minimum requirement of a part time-time job with $25K discretionary income during every year of college = $37.5K/year job, with enough time left over to get a real college education, for a student with only a high school diploma. Show me such a part-time job, I could use the extra cash.

(4) Unless the kid has been legally emancipated for two years prior to matriculation or can otherwise demonstrate lack of access to parental assets, financial aid considerations for students assume parental resources will be deployed. It's not enough to say "I refuse to pay my kid's tuition; it's his problem, now." The college will assume that you are just trying to scam them. You actually have to cut the kid loose, which means two years out of the academic swim, at least, before he/she becomes eligible.

(5) The only persons who I have ever met who "paid their own way" through college while I was at the same school, paid it out of trust funds. Everyone else who "paid their own way" went to college a decade or more before me. Given that the cost of college tuition has been increasing at well above inflation rate for decades, it's not hard to see that it became absurd to demand that kids "pay their own way" after these moralists went to college. College tuition clearly was underpriced (compared to operating expenses) through the 50's and 60's, with corrections starting some time in the 70's. It still was underpriced by the early 80's, but not so much. Presumably, the shortfall was paid by generous government grants, alumni giving, and endowment.

I worked two part-time jobs during my first two years of college, before my course load overwhelmed my ability to do that and I went back down to one. I worked a summer job at a government laboratory, working within my major. I had loans and academic scholarships. I was not a frat-boy or a partier and I was wracked by anxiety through much of college by worries about whether I was good enough, so I worked hard (I had anxieties about girls, too, of course). With all of that, there is no way that I could have covered the cost of college without my mother covering the majority of the bills, which strained her finances enormously. It's not elitist, it's the real world. I'm impressed that you were able to pay your own way, but that's not the way the world is today, not the way that it has been for decades. The alternatives are to pay your kids' college costs, or accept that you are leaving your kids worse off than you were at the same age.

Whoof! Got that off my chest!

Posted by: Tim | December 7, 2005 3:23 PM | Report abuse

Pretty definitive list, yellwjkt, though I have to dispute you on calling Ann Coulter a "nutjob." That's like calling Ted Bundy "distrubed." Can't we put her in her own little separate category, like "the Charles Manson of the right," or something like that?

Add to the list: Michelle Malkin: tool/nutjob.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | December 7, 2005 3:28 PM | Report abuse

Or you could send them to one of our nation's prestigious service academies.

And preempting arguements against that--has anyone wondered why the government hasn't established full-rides in exchange for non-military service after college?

Posted by: jw | December 7, 2005 3:28 PM | Report abuse

omodudu, you're back!

Posted by: Tim | December 7, 2005 3:33 PM | Report abuse

I think that sea-floor clathrate deposits are being prospected. There's still the question of how to trap and release the methane for fuel purposes. These things are buried pretty deep in the water, spread out over a lot of se floor, if they exist in sufficient quantitites to be useful. You need some sort of sub-sea vacuum to collect the methane from heating a patch enough to release it, but you have to be able to maenuver it and operate it cost-effectively.

Posted by: ScienceTim | December 7, 2005 3:36 PM | Report abuse

3 years' college bills = GI Bill + part-time jobs (full-time for senior year, albeit for crumbs as minor editor at local paper) + living in campus family housing + not overly horrendous loans (long since paid off)

Of course, I also had 7 years' experience as an adult (with associated college credit) before school.

It ain't easy, and does require loads of independence on the student's part, but it can be done.

Posted by: Scottynuke | December 7, 2005 3:36 PM | Report abuse

Exactly so, ScienceTim.

Posted by: Scottynuke | December 7, 2005 3:38 PM | Report abuse

My couple of colleagues at service academies agree that they are second- or third-rate insitutions, academically, since an advanced academic qualification in a subject is not in any way a requirement for teaching that subject. They don't have to be bad, they could be quite good, but it's really not their job. Also, they are able to serve only an infinitesimal fraction of the nation's students.

Posted by: ScienceTim | December 7, 2005 3:38 PM | Report abuse

BULLETIN: The a man has been killed by an air marshal while on a skyway at MIA.

Posted by: jw | December 7, 2005 3:39 PM | Report abuse

Not THE man. A man. I am THE man, and I am alive and well.

Posted by: jw | December 7, 2005 3:40 PM | Report abuse

How's about Clinton's Dream:

I don't know what an engineer in the White House could do to improve public policy, as engineers might lack the social science background for the job, but I do frequently wonder if an economist might get us on the right track. Economics can be used in a range of ways, such as through the study of production, consumption, trade, etc, but in terms of public policy, its goal is always to maximize benefit for The People. Economics is pro-business, but purely in an invisible hand sense, not in a "let the corporations rape the country" sense. For example, although big business has profit-maximizing motives that diminish its incentive to clean up environmental waste, economists would say that the public should not have to bear the costs of the choices such corporations make, and might recommend taxes on those corporations to both pay for clean-up and act as a disincentive to dumping. In a trade sense, economists might note that U.S. workers are being displaced due to competition from cheap overseas labor, but would see the benefits down the road to freeing up those laborers for other jobs we cannot yet imagine, in addition the development of the poor country into a market for US goods as it grows richer. Although many DC businesses are now lamenting the restaurant/bar smoking ban passed yesterday, in addition to greater enjoyment or utility for the populace in general and the possibility of greater not fewer restaurant sales, an economist would also note the potential for a reduced burden on taxpayers for health care.

Now, to the point I was trying to make before I got caught up in the beauty of economics: A colleague and I have frequently discussed just why more of our politicians from an economics background, and the answer is quite easy: Economists aren't sexy enough. They tell it like it is and propose rational yet eggheaded solutions to a populace that wants a smooth talker who promises to fix their problems without asking any sacrifices of them. This is why the presidency is a cult of personality. This is why social security reform has gone no where, why every trade agreement is a knock-down drag-out fight on the hill.

Posted by: TA | December 7, 2005 3:40 PM | Report abuse

I never really went away. I just decided to lay low since I was generating so much controversy.

Posted by: omodudu | December 7, 2005 3:41 PM | Report abuse

Linda, a year of college at the University of Virginia, tiuition, room and board, books, and architectural supplies (a not insignificant item) costs about $16K. Multiply by four. Add cost of computer. We're up to $67-68K in a heartbeat. And this is instate tuition at one of the less expensive state schools (although quite a good one). This is less than half of the cost of many private colleges and universities! When we had the aforementioned (ain't that a great word?) Money Talk, Dr. K and I explained to our daughter that she was welcome to apply wherever she wanted to, but that if she went to Yale or Princeton she would come out in four years with a good education and a mountain of debt (stick), but if she went to UVA she would come out in four years with a good education, no debt, and maybe even some European study (carrot). She's due to get home from Denmark in two weeks. She worked summers starting when she was 14, saved about $4K and spent that money in travel to Germany and Spain while she was abroad. She's carried a 3.8 GPA through seven semesters and will graduate in May. I am happy to help her get a good start in her life. Hardship is vastly overrated. When I ran through all the crappy things I've done the other day (I mean, come on- Pepsi man?) it wasn't because I felt nostalgic for the good old days.

Posted by: kurosawaguy | December 7, 2005 3:47 PM | Report abuse

You're not only The Man. You're also The Wiz. Nobody beats you.

Posted by: Achenfan | December 7, 2005 3:51 PM | Report abuse


You have written the definitive treatise on the task of financing college education today. Those dollars sound right on the money. I am a two income family with an only child that wants to go to either an out-of-state public school or a prestigious private school. I have no way to pay for either but I will do what I have to because I think its important. I have one kid and one chance to do right for him. Economics is all about priorities.

Every generation wants the next to do a little better. My parents paid for my undergrad at an out-of-state public school. I worked between terms for luxuries. I had negligiable scholarship money and a small internship when I was a senior. I thank my parents in my prayers every chance I think of that i did not have to work to eat or buy books.

Holding down a job and going to school seriously is too hard except for the most motivated, mostly because of the time commitment. A coworker spent 10 years getting his degree at night school and I cannot imagine myself with that perserverence.

I know I am privileged, but I think the ideal situation for most college-bound kids is to go to a residential state university that matches their level of ability.

A lot of parents I know encourage their kids to go to a year of two of community college first and this is fine if finances absolutely dictate, but that freshman year experience is something you only get one chance to live.

Posted by: yellojkt | December 7, 2005 3:54 PM | Report abuse

my sister is "pre-paying" (see link). this seems to be an amazing deal (in virginia). i wonder if everyone knows about it?

Posted by: ot | December 7, 2005 4:02 PM | Report abuse

RE: paying for college.

I went fifty-fifty with my folks. I managed to get about half my tuition paid by scholarship, about a quarter was loans (that I paid off) the rest of the tuition my folks paid - Living expenses, books, and spending cash was my own problem, and I got that by working odd jobs around town and having a summer and winter break job. I went to a small private liberal arts college, and the tuition was a pricey venture, so I doubt I ever would have been able to pay much of it soley on less than six dollars an hour. If I had gone to a state scholl the tuition would have been a lot cheaper, but, in my humble opinion, so would the education. I was lucky in that my folks offered to help out. A lot of my high school friends were on their own, and the majority of those never managed to make it all through to their degrees; they got stuck in whatever job they were in while trying to pay for school. I believe that times have changed, and the idea of working your way through school and being able to do so in the traditional four-year manner is antiquated, and dangerous, and creating a whole population of people who will never be able to get any higher education because the system was set up against them in the first place.

It's not that I don't believe in the merit of earnign your own way, but until the system is re-designed to make that possible, kids should have help in getting their education.

Posted by: LP | December 7, 2005 4:04 PM | Report abuse

yellojkt said: "A lot of parents I know encourage their kids to go to a year of two of community college first and this is fine if finances absolutely dictate, but that freshman year experience is something you only get one chance to live."

I have a relative who pretty much forced that on her kids as the cost of going to college. I disagree with that approach, if you have a choice. As one of my grad school professors said, physics is the same whether it's taught at Harvard or at a community college; what's different are your fellow students. Harvard has the better students, and that makes you strive to be better. Competition works.

A less well-known problem of third-tier schools is in the teaching. The faculty actually can be quite capable. However, when my wife went back to school for a second bachelor's degree, in physics (a subject I know rather well), we discovered that the principal teacher of physics theory in the department had quite a chip on his shoulder, because he wanted to show that neither he nor his school were third-rate. He taught the subject in a way that made it extra-difficult -- giving insoluble problems on homework without warning, insisting on using a text that went out of print in 1959 (for good reason), insisting on any number of things that made the class hard to digest, without any increase in the students' understanding. Anybody who has acquired a physics degree can CHOOSE to teach the subject in a way that bewilders his students. The challenge is to bring the students along with you, to achieve understanding.

Posted by: Tim | December 7, 2005 4:08 PM | Report abuse

CwTown and AFFan have made such a display today that a squadron of SUDs has been called in, and the terminal must be evacuated. I just evacuated, myself.

We have reached new highs (lows?) in intragroup electromasturbation.

Posted by: nutjob | December 7, 2005 4:08 PM | Report abuse

SCC: Last paragraph: "A year or two of community college"


I kept the list to nationally syndicated columnists. The spread would have to be much wider to accommodate radio and cable news talk show hosts and their stable of rabid talking heads plugging ad-ridden blog diatribes. If someone's credentials have a .com under your name on-screen, I have a hard time taking them seriously.

Ann Coulter was a tough call since her column seems to be on the wane and her fame is from the latter, not the former. Does Michelle Malkin have a regular print outlet? I never heard of her until about a month ago. I guess I should count myself fortunate in that respect.

Posted by: yellojkt | December 7, 2005 4:11 PM | Report abuse

There are problems with trying to categorize the columnist. First, there is the argument over what the catagories should be named and how it is defined. Second, most don't fit into any one category. Saying that, here is my list of what the categories should be:
1. Fool - Humorous but, like the fool in Shakespeare, able to tell the truth through the laughter. (Ivins, Dowd-hottie)
2. Nutjob - So stridently over the edge on either side that you know that the only hope is medication and/or therapy. (Coulter, Thomas)
3. Tool - As in "used like a". So committed to the talking points of the day that no thought is allowed. (Novak, Clift)
4. Loose Cannon - Committed to their own personal dogma, certain of their own brilliance. (Buckley, Buchanan, Kinsley)
5. Fair - Instead of reliable. Struggles towards finding truth through the morass. Sometimes tool, sometimes fool, but honestly trying. (Friedman, Klein)
6. Honest - Knows they don't know and willing to admit it, but sees moments of truth through the haze. (Quindlen)
Just some examples, whadayathink?

Posted by: mh | December 7, 2005 4:15 PM | Report abuse

I guess I'll weigh in on the college financing thing, since I'm up to my neck in it myself. If your kid is super-motivated and is really really going to benefit from an immediate university career, pay the dues. Get a second or third job and help as best you can. If the kid's a slacker and is looking forward to four years of binge drinking, make him/her figure out how to pay for it. It's a serious investment, and it's not worth it unless your kid is serious about getting an education.

Where's mo? And where are the BPH photos? The Boodle Monster brays and demands its tribute!

Posted by: CowTown | December 7, 2005 4:18 PM | Report abuse

ScienceTim, you wrote, "I am reliably informed that you should find out more about Sony and the rootkit installed on Windows machines by SOny music CDs." I just can't quite figure out what in tarnation you're talking about.

Posted by: Achenbach | December 7, 2005 4:18 PM | Report abuse

Achenbach, you might want to check this out-
It's called Washington Post online and sometimes it has some good stuff!

Posted by: kurosawaguy | December 7, 2005 4:22 PM | Report abuse

mo took lots of pictures last night -- I'm guessing she's tied up at work and hasn't had a chance to post them yet. I think you'll enjoy them -- they're a little goofier than the last bunch of pics. Personally, I'm looking forward to revisiting a particular picture of omnigoof making kissy faces at a photo of Joel. (Yes, that really did happen.) Every time I think of omni posing for that picture, I get the giggles.

Posted by: Achenfan | December 7, 2005 4:23 PM | Report abuse

Joel. You're already branded. It's really simple. People love you, believe in you and want to be associated with you. It's the "Life Is Good" gear with your creative and intellectual touch. Build your marketing inventory of trinkets and trash, and the people will come,Joel. Achenblog memorabilia. Achengifts with cool Achenlogos for every line of Achenproduct. Achencoffee mugs. Achenkoozies, Achenporch t-shirts. "I'm a Boodler" hat, t-shirt, sweatshirt. I'm an AchenLurker bumperstickers. It's so easy, and can go on forever. You already have people actually and in person for God's sake. It's an EVENT! Put it all in a website, and sell it. People will buy it, and your college budget will be handled. (And to think you got this marketing consultation at no cost on your blog.) It could be cool. I'd buy somethin'. Let's start a list.

Posted by: wallflower | December 7, 2005 4:31 PM | Report abuse

I blogged about Sony's DRM fever and included links to both WaPo print and WaPo online articles (I am such a tool):

The definitive source for more than you care to know is here:


You're breakdown is more nuanced and accurate than mine. I would add that a loose cannon is willing to go off the reservation and take a broadsides shot at his stablemates (to obscenely mix metaphors) every now and then in order to try to show they are not tools.

Posted by: yellojkt | December 7, 2005 4:32 PM | Report abuse

is there a list somewhere of those cds sony did that to? they put out a recall, no? Some research seems to be in order....

Posted by: LP | December 7, 2005 4:37 PM | Report abuse

I went to college and then to graduate school on the GI Bill, thanks to my father, who had a 100 percent service-connected disability. In payment for that, every year Uncle Sam collects income taxes from me at least equal to what he spent on my education. So I don't feel guilty about it. I have been a good investment.

My deal with my girls was that their dad and I would pay for tuition and living expenses at any state university and they had to work for extras. I saved my half of that and was able to help a friend of my older daughter who is from the Ukraine and had no resources after a $5000 scholarship her first year. The older daughter worked her tail off from the time she was sixteen, had three job offers when she graduated last year, and is doing fine. The younger child, now a sophomore, has a partial scholarship and works for the university in her major.

I think it is only reasonable to save for children's education. If you don't make enough to save, that's one thing. But not doing it because you're not disciplined or think the kids should shoulder the debt is henious at best.

Posted by: Slyness | December 7, 2005 4:40 PM | Report abuse

just about everyone in the world has a website - except joel. i tell you, it's embarrassing!

Posted by: ot | December 7, 2005 4:42 PM | Report abuse

yellojkt: Nuanced? Isn't that a pejorative term since 2004?

Posted by: mh | December 7, 2005 4:43 PM | Report abuse


Here's the list of the Sony CDs:

Posted by: pj | December 7, 2005 4:44 PM | Report abuse

Regarding paying for school, I'm doing it on my own with Stafford loans and then taking care of all of my own living expenses. I got straight A's in high school and my first two semesters at college and still didn't qualify for any type of scholarship, so no matter how well kids do in school you can't say, "You'd better do well enough to get scholarships."

My fiance's parents are paying his way through undergrad and his father said that we shouldn't get loans for my school but with part time jobs and $650 a month in just rent it's impossible once you factor in food, health insurance, a car payment, auto insurance, utility payments, books and miscellaneous expenses. So I'm 21 and $9000 in debt and surprisingly not worried at all. By the time Jeremy finishes dental school we'll be about $150,000 under, so what's $18,000 more for me?

Posted by: Sara | December 7, 2005 4:47 PM | Report abuse

In slow-motion, with echo ...


Not my Bette Midler CD!

Okay, I don't have any Bette Midler CDs.

Posted by: Bayou Self (sponsored by Bette Midler) | December 7, 2005 4:51 PM | Report abuse

I don't own any of the CDs on that list. I don't know if that means I'm a tool, or not a tool.

Posted by: Achenfan | December 7, 2005 4:51 PM | Report abuse

I don't either, Achenfan.

(I mean I don't own any, either. I didn't mean I don't know whether or not you're a tool.)

Posted by: Sara | December 7, 2005 4:54 PM | Report abuse

(And I don't think you're a tool.)

Posted by: Sara | December 7, 2005 4:54 PM | Report abuse

"...unusual number of adverbs and adjectives per square meter."

Isnt the correct unit a column-inch?

Posted by: pete | December 7, 2005 5:02 PM | Report abuse

thanks pj, much obliged.

Posted by: LP | December 7, 2005 5:03 PM | Report abuse

And I'm voting not a tool, as I don't own any of those either.

Posted by: LP | December 7, 2005 5:04 PM | Report abuse

That list is just the tip of the iceberg. Those are CDs with XCP copy protection. Sony/BMG and some others use an alternative copy protection scheme called MediaMax that is slightly less dangerous but just as insidious. The latest Dave Matthews Band and Foo Fighters albums have MediaMax, probably to the artists' objections. DMB has directions for the iPod work-around on their website, but that doesn't get rid of the Sony spyware.

Posted by: yellojkt | December 7, 2005 5:05 PM | Report abuse

I killed the boodle. See y'all tomorrow.

Posted by: yellojkt | December 7, 2005 5:32 PM | Report abuse

Hasn't anyone heard of the iTunes music store?

Works on Windows, too. Albums are usually about 9.99 or 11.99; singles are 99 cents. Downloads can be burned to infinite CDs and played on up to 5 different computers (which can be changed).

You can even get artwork for your CD jewel case if you want.

Why would anyone buy a CD anymore? If you want an album, open iTunes, click "download" and wait a few minutes. Plus.. the iTunes application itself is great for organizing and playing your music.

All the titles on that Sony list that pj provided can be also found in the iTunes music store.

Posted by: TBG | December 7, 2005 5:36 PM | Report abuse

Correction... all the titles THAT I LOOKED FOR on that Sony list can be found.

Boy.. I still sounded kinda snippy, didn't I?

Posted by: TBG | December 7, 2005 5:50 PM | Report abuse

Be strong, TBG. It's hard to be the trand-setter.

Posted by: Tim | December 7, 2005 5:58 PM | Report abuse

I'm still taking record albums and making casette tapes of them. No bugs. No spyware. No viruses.

But some crackles and pops. Hey, you can't win them all.

Posted by: Bayou Self (sponsored by Old School Technology) | December 7, 2005 5:58 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: Tim | December 7, 2005 5:58 PM | Report abuse

Bayou Self is getting albums from Rice Crispies boxes???

Posted by: Scottynuke (sponsored by the letters H, T, T and P) | December 7, 2005 6:08 PM | Report abuse

Weren't the first VCRs and CD players $10k also? I hope this technology catches on enough to get them mass produced:

"ELP has been developing and fine-tuning its Laser Turntable. As the name implies, it's a record album player that replaces the traditional turntable stylus with a group of five high-tech lasers."

Posted by: mizerock | December 7, 2005 6:22 PM | Report abuse

Anyone that can see what is really going on on the Macro and Micro economic scale. I thought Kerry's running mate might of had a chance of relating to the range of economic fortunes that exist within the United States.

Isn't the mayor of DC an accountant, Isn't he an example of someone that just does the job he's paid for without asking you to do favors for him? Isn't it a lot safer to walk the streets in DC now? Forget about Barry's old cronies whining, how is DC as far as services and safety....I remember when it wasn't safe in Georgetown and drive bys were all the rage....even so far as getting seconds on them in the ER....shooting them a second time so they wouldn't testify.

Economics are only a portion of the range needed. Kerry could probably have done well as a President, I for one feel that he backed off purposely. For example:

Why would you not say that the man you were running against was an ex-alcoholic, cocaine addict, daddy's boy, that joined the National Gaurd as a way of avoiding conflict....was given an oil company to run couldn't do that and so they made him president....thru low brow ad-campaigns and mailorder mentality...and you people can't find anything to write about? I mean if you wanted an example of Royalty gone bad, George Washington Bush Juniar is a prolific example of inbreeding and what it can do to ones ability to walk and chew gum at the same time....Kerry just need ed to edjumicate the pubic....come on, it wasn't that hard to state the obvious, why didn't he? Forget about having money, that doesn't mean that you're evil but if you use it to buy position and inflict your dumbassness_selfishness on the world....I think that might make you a little EVIL. But what would I know, I don't have a personal relationship with satan.

Posted by: Actually how about a dream | December 7, 2005 6:32 PM | Report abuse

sorry guys! been super super busy as everyone at the bph can tell you cuz i had to unload on them for several min about how busy i am... had another stupendous time! and yes, the pics are a bit goofier... i skimmed through the boodle today (after skimming yesterday's - my goodness! sorry i couldn't weigh in on the sex talk - i was busy not uncomfortable - will hafta boodle on that later!)
pics should be coming tomorrow or fri - i promise i will get them up as soon as i get a chance - there's more this time so it's gonna take a little longer!

HUGS to all! i've missed ya - i should be here more after this week...

Posted by: mo | December 7, 2005 6:54 PM | Report abuse

oh and thanks again to bc and jw for wonderful xmas treats! you know how much i heart you bc!

Posted by: mo | December 7, 2005 6:55 PM | Report abuse

I really feel that what passes for christianity now-a-days is a little closer to ANTICHRIST ianity. I mean being a tool of the original church created by the Roman Emporer is one thing...but you know the old adage "and you shall know them by their works, though they say they are of the lord....." ha ha ha....hoo hooo what a laugh...talkin bout the obvious.

Posted by: Personal relation ship with satan | December 7, 2005 7:01 PM | Report abuse

Snaps. I forgot about the snaps to go with the crackles and pops.

Posted by: Bayou Self (sponsored by Kelloggs) | December 7, 2005 7:01 PM | Report abuse

Snap. I forgot the snaps.

Posted by: Bayou Self (sponsored by Kelloggs) | December 7, 2005 7:48 PM | Report abuse

Joel, you must realize that many of us do not read your writing for information, as much as for interpretation. The universe when viewed through the Achenfilter becomes a much more accessible and interesting place. Unlike many gonzo-influenced writers, though, you manage to maintain a respectful and humble tone. You clearly don't know all the answers, and it makes us feel better because this means we are in good company. I found "Captured by Aliens" especially entertaining because of your willingness to this. I am confident that there will always be a market for a unique voice such as yours.

Posted by: RD Padouk | December 7, 2005 8:29 PM | Report abuse

Joel... you could always use this picture up there above the Kit. Might add a bit of, well... persnicketyness:

Posted by: TBG | December 7, 2005 8:59 PM | Report abuse

It's important to be objective and humble or else who knows you might not have god on your side. My god is bigger than your god, s/he doesn't take sides...........pinheads.

Posted by: Gonzo influenced riders | December 7, 2005 9:05 PM | Report abuse

Joel's second link in his Kit today refers to a story that originates from San Antonio:

Joe Pagliarulo is the host of News Radio 1200 WOAI's "San Antonio's First News." "Pags" - as he is affectionately known - comes to us from WRGB-TV in Albany, New York - and joins Clear Channel's flagship News/Talk station.

WOAI write-up of the the Pags interview with Howard Dean:

(SAN ANTONIO) -- Saying the "idea that we're going to win the war in Iraq is an idea which is just plain wrong," Democratic National Chairman Howard Dean predicted today that the Democratic Party will come together on a proposal to withdraw National Guard and Reserve troops immediately, and all US forces within two years.

Dean made his comments in an interview on WOAI Radio in San Antonio.

"I've seen this before in my life. This is the same situation we had in Vietnam. Everybody then kept saying, 'just another year, just stay the course, we'll have a victory.' Well, we didn't have a victory, and this policy cost the lives of an additional 25,000 troops because we were too stubborn to recognize what was happening."

Dean says the Democrat position on the war is 'coalescing,' and is likely to include several proposals.

"I think we need a strategic redeployment over a period of two years," Dean said. "Bring the 80,000 National Guard and Reserve troops home immediately. They don't belong in a conflict like this anyway. We ought to have a redeployment to Afghanistan of 20,000 troops, we don't have enough troops to do the job there and its a place where we are welcome. And we need a force in the Middle East, not in Iraq but in a friendly neighboring country to fight (terrorist leader Musab) Zarqawi, who came to Iraq after this invasion. We've got to get the target off the backs of American troops.

Dean didn't specify which country the US forces would deploy to, but he said he would like to see the entire process completed within two years. He said the Democrat proposal is not a 'withdrawal,' but rather a 'strategic redeployment' of U.S. forces.

"The White House wants us to have a permanent commitment to Iraq. This is an Iraqi problem. President Bush got rid of Saddam Hussein and that was a great thing, but that could have been done in a very different way. But now that we're there we need to figure out how to leave. 80% of Iraqis want us to leave, and it's their country."

Dean also compared the controversy over pre-war intelligence to the Watergate scandal which brought down Richard Nixon's presidency in 1974.

"What we see today is very much like what was going in Watergate," Dean said. "It turns out there is a lot of good evidence that President Bush did not tell the truth when he was asking Congress for the power to go to war. The President said last week that Congress saw the same intelligence that he did in making the decision to go to war, and that is flat out wrong. The President withheld some intelligence from the Senate Intelligence Committee. He withheld the report from the CIA that in fact there was no evidence of weapons of mass destruction (in Iraq), that they did not have a nuclear program. They (the White House) selectively gave intelligence to the United States Senate and the United States Congress and got them to give the go ahead to attack these people."

Posted by: Loomis | December 7, 2005 9:25 PM | Report abuse

Just an aside on colleges. There are a lot of great small private colleges. Anybody who has kids approaching college age should take the time to check them out. The classes are usually taught by real professors. There is a sense of community that is simply lacking in mega schools. Yes, they are pricey, but many have fantastic financial aid packages. Of course, I am biased. I went to one such school and really loved it

Posted by: RD Padouk | December 7, 2005 9:37 PM | Report abuse

Tuition at UC, San Diego was $49 a quarter when I went back to graduate school, and it doesn't seem that long ago. They now vie with mortgages.

On the other hand, one can buy 4109 issues of the New Yorker on 8 DVDs -- "half a million pages" -- for $70. Materials supporting our standard college majors shouldn't be far behind, and that might translate into restructuring our educational system and some substantial tuition relief.

More opportunities for typists as well, so hang in there Joel.

Posted by: kp | December 7, 2005 10:23 PM | Report abuse


What is an Achenkoozie? Your marketing plan sounds good. If they can do it for Pandas, why not Achenthings. Help the Achenkids go to college! Buy an Achenthingy!


Posted by: boondocklurker | December 8, 2005 4:11 AM | Report abuse

i think a koozie is a can cooler for your favorite ice cold beverage. i agree! let's buy achenthingys!

Posted by: Anonymous | December 8, 2005 7:42 AM | Report abuse

mo, you beautiful doll
you great big beautiful doll
Let us put our arms about you
We don't want to live without you

mo, you beautiful doll
you great big beautiful doll
If you ever leave us, how our heart would break,
We want to hug you, but we fear you'd break.
mo, Mo, MO MO!
mo, you beautiful doll!

(Johnny Mercer?)

Posted by: Nani | December 8, 2005 7:58 AM | Report abuse

The key is to bundle the information you provide with hard services, like, say, birthday cake design or skywriting.

Posted by: Huntsman | December 8, 2005 8:42 AM | Report abuse

"Get your favorite Kit on an AchenIcecreamCake!"

I like it...

Posted by: Scottynuke (sponsored by Carvel) | December 8, 2005 8:55 AM | Report abuse

See, Joel. It's easy to be a marketing genius when you have someone (and someAchenthingies and AchenEvents and AchenProducts and AchenServices) that are so marketable to begin with. Your stuff really could be classy, tasteful, humorous and fun. Just like you. There could be a whole line of AchenGifts that relate to science. (i.e. the AchenScope. Tele or Kaleido, either or both) And a line of AchenLit products. We're on to something here.

Posted by: wallflower | December 8, 2005 9:23 AM | Report abuse

The AchenBook Club! It'll be bigger than Oprah's!

Posted by: yellojkt | December 8, 2005 9:32 AM | Report abuse

Wonder how many of these Achenthingies would be remaindered in boxes and delivered to the Achenporch? They don't teach marketing plans in Marketing 101 for nuttin', folks!

Just an observation about "A Grand Idea." The tone of the first chapter is historical, solid and scholarly. The second chapter is scholarly, but the tone becomes light and jocular. Joel does stay true to form--the humorous historian. The change was a surprise, but then I thought, "That's Joel!"

Posted by: Loomis | December 8, 2005 9:39 AM | Report abuse

Actually...a Boodle book club isn't a bad idea. Each month a different book? And then the Kit and commentary is about what people thought? I'd love to here what Joel thinks of a book, rather than, ya know, Oprah. Not that she isn't great in a self-worshipping sort of way, but it's hard to talk about how great you are, and how great a book is at the same time. Since Joel has no ego, we have no problem there.

Posted by: jw | December 8, 2005 9:40 AM | Report abuse

I've said it before and I'll say it again: In the near future it will be more common to see a scarlet Achen-A on the cover of a book than to see the familiar orange O.

Posted by: Achenfan | December 8, 2005 9:41 AM | Report abuse

It's quite a coinkidink that Loomis should mention "A Grand Idea" and, more specifically, Achenremainders sitting on the Achenporch.

Yesterday pj mentioned that bc had given us BPH'ers Festivus gifts on Tuesday night, and since I'm guessing that bc -- bashful fellow that he is -- will be reluctant to promote himself by expanding on this story, I'll do it:

bc spent some of his hard-earned cash to take some of those Achenremainders off Joel's hands, and we each received a SIGNED copy at the BPH, in honor of Festivus. If you don't believe me, you'll be able to see for yourself in mo's photos . . .

Thanks bc!

Posted by: Achenfan | December 8, 2005 9:49 AM | Report abuse

Oh, achenfan, that was so sweet of bc. I hope there will be pictures soon.

Posted by: LP | December 8, 2005 9:56 AM | Report abuse

It was sweet, wasn't it, LP. For one thing, it means Joel will be able to feed his family for at least another week.

Posted by: Achenfan | December 8, 2005 10:01 AM | Report abuse

I'm frosted... (partly due to the weather in San Antonio today)...

The only bookstore chain in San Antonio that carried Joel's book was Borders. They had two copies left in paperback, and I bought one. And bc gives out autographed hardbacks of "The Grand Idea" at the BPH? %&pff##$*grr(@+!!!

That was really cool and smart of bc, but I feel horribly slighted out here in Flyover Land. O.K., bc, I'll e-mail you my physical address, and pay shipping. Fair is fair, after all.

I have quite the autographed book collection, but regrettably didn't get the John Adams book when I could have had David McCullough sign it. (Sigh!) My favorite signature--Christine Craft (collected from Craft when she made a book stop in Modesto when I was working for the Chamber):

bc, I'm serious!

Posted by: Loomis | December 8, 2005 10:03 AM | Report abuse

I'm frosted... (partly due to the weather in San Antonio today)...

The only bookstore chain in San Antonio that carried Joel's book was Borders. They had two copies left in paperback, and I bought one. And bc gives out autographed hardbacks of "The Grand Idea" at the BPH? %&pff##$*grr(@+!!!

That was really cool and smart of bc, but I feel horribly slighted out here in Flyover Land. O.K., bc, I'll e-mail you my physical address, and pay shipping. Fair is fair, after all.

I have quite the autographed book collection, but regrettably didn't get the John Adams book when I could have had David McCullough sign it. (Sigh!) My favorite signature--Christine Craft (collected from Craft when she made a book stop in Modesto when I was working for the Chamber):

bc, I'm serious!

Posted by: Loomis | December 8, 2005 10:04 AM | Report abuse

Nani! You're working my turf!

On second thought, upon reflection on the theme of this boodle, namely merchandising one's wordsmithery, I am now prepared to franchise and license CurmudgeonTM Brand Parody Song Posts on a monthly, semi-annual or annual basis. CurmudgeonTM Brand Parody Song Posts will become a wholly-owned subsidiary of Achenblog EnterprisesTM, a potentially vast marketing conglomerate whose corporate divisions include AchenThingies, AchenEvents, AchenProducts, AchenLit (the division CurmudgeonTM Brand Parody Song Posts falls under) and AchenServices.

The Achenblog legal department, AchenShyster LLP, is currently working out the legal language, while the business affairs team, AchenScam, is preparing an IPO.

Also joining the AchenLit division is bc faux lettresTM (all lowercase, like addidas and k.d. lang, and which will drive Bill Walsh and Phil Blanchard bat--- crazy). This innovative marketing unit will continue to produce top-quality fake letters from rejected Supreme Court nominees.

ScienceTim EtherWorksTM will market methane in its many tasty forms, using existing HalliburtonTM brand oil and gas pipeline infrastructure.

AchenKoosies will be marketed by the yet-to-be-formed Marital Products Division.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | December 8, 2005 10:04 AM | Report abuse

Yeah, market something! Something "sciencey." Like a tapeworm growing kit for kids, or maybe a boardgame with a bioterror theme a la Candyland. All it takes is a clever hook.

Posted by: Huntsman | December 8, 2005 10:07 AM | Report abuse

Sorry for the double post--electricity glitches out here today when icicles are hanging from longhorn's horns and from the cornices of the Alamo!

Posted by: Loomis | December 8, 2005 10:07 AM | Report abuse

Great plan, Curmudgeon. But, please, don't put copy protection software on the CurmudgeonTM Brand Parody Song Posts. We like to share them.

I'll volunteer to write pitch letters to the major networks when the IPO is ready for rollout.

Posted by: CowTown | December 8, 2005 10:09 AM | Report abuse

Sorry, Linda -- I did worry about upsetting out-of-towners by revealing the book incident, but I figured it would all come out in the photos anyway and that it would be best if people were somewhat prepared for the Achenshock.

Posted by: Achenfan | December 8, 2005 10:12 AM | Report abuse

Mudge writes:
Nani! You're working my turf!

You're actually encroaching on my turf! I'm aware that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but if I'll check with Achenhistorian, you will see that I was the first to use the song parody device in the Boodle. "He's In the Jailhouse Now--Bob Woodward" parody was only my latest effort. Mudge, my AchenShysterLawyer will be contacting your AchenShysterLawyer later today. After all is said and done, you won't even be able to afford busfare! We'll see how charming you are walking home in the snow!

(Nani, that'll teach him, Mudge, to affiliate you with the Asbestos Foundation! Nani, call your AchenShysterLawyer--I feel a nice case of libel and slander comin' on!)

Posted by: Loomis | December 8, 2005 10:16 AM | Report abuse

The Achenshock of being left out is about 8.0 on the Achenrichter scale! The seismograph is seismic waves emanating from the top of my head!

(Nothing like hearing disappointing news from a true FRIEND, though!)

Posted by: Loomis | December 8, 2005 10:21 AM | Report abuse

seismograph is measuring seismic waves

Posted by: Loomis | December 8, 2005 10:22 AM | Report abuse

Curmudgeon, you're getting a bit obscure with the Blanchard reference, but I got it! (And it's always K.D. Lang to me.)

Posted by: Bayou Self (sponsored by Phillip Blanchard) | December 8, 2005 10:23 AM | Report abuse

You tell 'im, Loomis. Not to mention the fact that the Curmudgeon handle itself was actually first used by Yours Truly, many, many months ago, before I settled on my three current handles. (As I may have mentioned before, one of the comments I made in the Lost Cockatiel 'boodle was so curmudgeonly, I felt the need to use an alias. And as I also may have said before, I'm so ashamed . . .) The "Curmudgeon" handle would appear to have been reassigned under the Achenblog Handle Reharvesting/Reallocation Program.

Posted by: Tom fan | December 8, 2005 10:24 AM | Report abuse

Yup, Loomis is in a "You tell 'im" mode. Glad we smoked out Curmudgeon. There's nothing I hate more than a wordsmithery thief or kleptomaniac (maybe he can't help himself...?). Git a rope, somebody...? (We'll torture him by tickling him to death.)

In the meantime, a vitual Achenkick to the groin for Curmudgeon and a Flyover Land virtual Achenkick to the shins for bc. thinking, thinking...perhaps we need to reassign Curmudgeon not under the Achenblog Handle Reallocation Program, but under the Achenblog Relocation program. The Gobi Desert or Siberia?

Posted by: Loomis | December 8, 2005 10:41 AM | Report abuse


Seriously, the Post might want to consider on-line sales of things that make sense in the context of the Post -- books by Post staff and former staff (at least, those who haven't had to admit that they invented Pulitzer prize-winning heroin-addicted children). Actually, it might be fun, and shockingly honest, for the Post to offer sales of books by authors that the Post now disavows, and label them as such -- dandy material for PhD dissertation research.

More stuff: Collected Achenblogs, collected Weingarten chats, collected Kurtz chats, etc. These are things that are available on-line, but not so easy to poke through, and they probably will never see daylight on book pages. So, burn 'em to CD and sell those puppies! Index them by Boodler, by subject matter, by popularity of adverb usage. I see from Amazon that the Why Things Are book is out of print and available only used; I bet that everyone who boodles here would buy a copy, and copies for their families. Why, I bet you could sell 100 copies, and make, um, a couple hundred bucks. But think of the prestige! Sell it as an e-book. No inventory cost at all, the cost of printing is on the buyer, if he wants to print.

Or, how about simply ancient copies of the Post -- like, say, 100 years ago -- scanned, on CD-ROM? On-line would be better. Again, not a big money-maker, but it would help to establish the Post as a go-to place for news of historical significance. Plus, I remember doing newspaper-based reports in High School that required me to look at microfiche newspapers from 10-20 years beforehand. If the Post made it easy for students to access old papers and experience the wonderfulness of the Post, it could translate into future circulation numbers as those students grow up.

Posted by: Tim | December 8, 2005 10:51 AM | Report abuse

Oh, gosh. I don't know what to say. Ya'll are kinda Achenbarassing me (mo, I'm all flushed over here).

Of course my intent was not to overlook anyone or to make anyone feel left out, but to try to do something nice for people.

There are two (2) copies left in the box in the back of my snowmobile. Linda, you're welcome to one, the other can go to the first other person to email me for one at can have the other.

Linda, email me there with your info, and I'll and mail it to you. I won't be able to check it until tonight, unforunately.

'mudge, bcfauxlettresTM made me chuckle, but the idea of AchenIndustries, Inc. made me laugh - then think.


Posted by: bc | December 8, 2005 10:52 AM | Report abuse

Those are some great ideas. I think you're gonna need another handle in addition to Tim and ScienceTim -- something like MarketingTim, or PR-Tim, or BusinessTim, or something.

Posted by: Achenfan | December 8, 2005 10:56 AM | Report abuse

Does the Washington Post have a store? The Boston Globe has one downtown, as well as a healthy online version. You can order prints of any front page in the paper's history, books on Boston, books posted by the Globe's investigative reporters (the one on the Catholic Church scandal comes to mind).

Posted by: jw | December 8, 2005 10:56 AM | Report abuse

I remember spending hours in the library when I was young looking through old Washington Posts and Evening Stars on microfiche. The more mundane the pages, the better.

When we cleared out my parents' house of 46 years the old newspapers we found wrapped around items in storage were waaay more interesting than the "important" ones my mom had saved (Nixon Resigns, Man Walks on Moon, Redskins Win Superbowl [!] etc).

In fact, we gave away the major-headline ones and kept the July 1960 real-estate section, etc. (New houses for $18,000!)

I would certainly buy CDs of the Washington Post from 1920-1990. But not if they were just the front page. I'd want to read the real meat of the paer: the obituaries, the Metro section and most especially the ads for cars, real estate, hats, ladies "foundations," an entire set of living room furniture for $3, etc.

Posted by: TBG | December 8, 2005 11:14 AM | Report abuse

Loomis, yeah, I'm waiting for Curmudgeon to explain why he would affiliate me with the Asbestos Foundation. Perhaps I contaminated the boodle?

Loomis again, no book signature collection, but I do have a hand-written letter from John Steinbeck.

jw, love the idea of an Achenbook Club! Let's do it. A different genre each month? Week? Who will assign the books? Do we take turns?

Achenfan, there are so many sides to you, no wonder you need 3 different handles. Fantastic, absolutely fantastic, what'd you say your name was again? Merchado?

Posted by: Nani | December 8, 2005 11:16 AM | Report abuse

My mom has a reprinted copy of the Sears and Roebuck catalogue from 1890 or something. Very interesting what they sold back then. Everything from pocket watches to wagon tongues, which I guess really isn't that differnt than today. The best part is the descriptions for the products.

Posted by: jw | December 8, 2005 11:18 AM | Report abuse

I may in fact have DennisMillered you all with the ultra-obscure reference to Bill Walsh and Phil Blanchard, who are, first, WaPo copy editors of some repute, but somewhat less obscurely, Walsh is the (excellent) author of "The Ejephants of Style" and Lapsing into a Comma," whereas Blanchard is the proprietor and chief guru/grand panjandarum of the Web site.

Now, on the these pesky lawsuits. Regret to inform you that:
(a) CurmudgeonTM Brand Parody Song Posts is fully indemnified as well as not worth a plugged nickel, so suing is pointless;
(b) the first CurmudgeonTM Brand Parody Song Posts parody work was composed in 1958, by yours truly (though under his real name), and he has been producing said Works intermittently ever since. Loomis may indeed have introduced the first such literary effort into the Achenblog (and if so, before my time, and warrants my apologies and abject humiliation); and
(c) the handle "Curmudgeon" has been in use by yours truly for three and a half years, more or less, in another venue, as a little judicious Googling will readily demonstrate. [N.B. There are a number of different "Curmudgeons" out there on the Internet, including a card company and a brewery, of all things. While those two are not me, one of the other series of Curmudgeons is, in fact, moi truly; the question is which one.] However, I was unaware when I joined this here boodle that TomFan had used it previously in this venue, elsewards I might have chosen a different handle. More abject groveling is hereby offered. However, since TomFan now seems to have a new identity, I suggest "no harm, no foul." My original Curmudgeon handle came as author of a weekly column not unlike the Achenmeister's, and continues e'en to this very day in a somewhat different but continuing column.

As for shipping me to the Gulag or the Gobi Desert: Hah! they don't make a desolate waste big enough to keep me fettered! Bring 'em on!

Posted by: Curmudgeon | December 8, 2005 11:26 AM | Report abuse

Ha ha, Nani! You know, it's quite a coincidence that you should use that quote. Curmudgeon once made a comment in which he likened me to a paper clip jamming up a Xerox machine, or something -- and referring to me as a "gentleman," to boot -- to which I replied, "Fantastic; absolutely fantastic. What did you say your name was again? Curmudgeon?"

Also, I've been trying to remember what had been written by "the old lady" who previously lived in Rosemary and Guy's apartment -- the one who moved the "secretary" against the adjoining wall. It was something like, "I can no longer associate myself . . ."

And Nani, there is no way *I* would associate *you* with the Asbestos Foundation, so don't worry about it too much. If it makes you feel any better, I will point out that when Curmudgeon came up with a list of collective nouns for various 'boodlers, one of mine was "A Prilosec of Tom fans." I wasn't quite sure what to make of that.

Posted by: Achen- and Tom fan | December 8, 2005 11:27 AM | Report abuse

Nani, there is a sort of bizarre explanation how you got linked with the Asbestos Foundation, but the short answer is it just popped into my head for no apparent reason (i.e., it wasn't cleverely thought out or possess some obscure reference). The word "asbestos" happens to be linked in my twisted psyche with the otherwise desirable personage of MS, about whom I had just written in the blog [she who made my arm go to sleep]. MS's father worked for a local asbestos company. I suppose a dozen years of intense Freudian therapy could work out the connections between why the memory of a former LOML/FOML (light of my life/fire of my loins) should connect with the word "asbestos"--but it does.

How any of that connects with you is beyond knowing; the artistic process is a mysterious thing.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | December 8, 2005 11:34 AM | Report abuse

Hey! Guess what? Curmudgeon is a.... wait for it... curmudgeon!

Posted by: TBG | December 8, 2005 11:36 AM | Report abuse

Curmudgeon - are you the Corporate Curmudgeon in the Business section of the paper? Always liked those columns!

Posted by: Cat Keeper | December 8, 2005 11:39 AM | Report abuse

Oh great... my comment appears below his most-definitely, uncurmudgeon-like post.

Oh well.. we still [heart] him, I guess, even when he's nice.

Posted by: TBG | December 8, 2005 11:39 AM | Report abuse

A/TFan, I have no recollection of comparing you to a paper clip or referring to you as a "gentleman." Are you sure it was me? (But then again, I do have these blackouts.)

Once again, the Prilosec thing has no particular meaning.

(In my own defense, however, I will note that for several weeks I was unaware of both your gender as well as the fact that AchenFan and TomFan were one and the same. One should remember that newbies arriving at the Achenblog often require several weeks to catch up on who is who, what the relationships and genders are, etc. Jst two days ago I was surprised to learn the gender of one fairly frequent poster; this boodler turned out NOT to be of the gender I had assumed. So you ain't the only one who has been "mis-assumed." More abject groveling follows.) (My knees are getting tired. Can I like, take a break from the groveling for a few minutes? Can I come back after lunch for the next phase of my discipline? Boy, you guys are testy today!)

Posted by: Curmudgeon | December 8, 2005 11:43 AM | Report abuse

Oh, now I get it! It's just Festivus!

Cat Keeper: no.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | December 8, 2005 11:47 AM | Report abuse

[Oh, another N.B. (I'm hung up on brackets and parentheses today; need to return to ellipses...): In 1967-8 I wrote a weekly humor colyum under the pen name of "Washington Irving's Sketchbook." Not zackly original, you might say, but when you read the colyum it became clear that my pen name was Irving, and that I alleged to have come from Washington, D.C. (untrue) or be reporting about it (usually not very true; it was about Philadelphia City Hall politics and gossip). Thus, "Washington Irving" was structurally analagous to Pittsburgh Pete, or Nevada Smith, or whatever.

OK, you hadda be there.]

Posted by: Curmudgeon | December 8, 2005 11:58 AM | Report abuse

Actually, I stand corrected. It was a staple, not a paper clip. Here is the relevant comment (followed by my response):

"If Tomfan is 'a bit of a staple,' does that mean he is bent at both ends and incliened to jam at inopportune moments?
(Don't know the gentleman personally; just thought I'd raise the issue.)
Posted by: Curmudgeon | Oct 3, 2005 2:40:48 PM"

"Of course you did, 'Curmudgeon'; of course you did.
[Fantastic; absolutely fantastic. What did you say your name was again? Curmudgeon?]
[That last bit was for you, Nani.]
Posted by: Tom fan | Oct 3, 2005 2:44:25 PM"

And here's what I posted when the reassigned Curmudgeon handle first appeared in the Boodle:

"'Curmudgeon''s post reminds me that I once posted a comment to the Achenblog under the alias of 'Curmudgeon.' My comment was so curmudgeonly, I didn't want to use any of my three 'real' handles. The topic was the missing cockatiel and Joel's 'Speech to Remember.'
I don't do that sort of thing any more, though . . . I'm so ashamed . . .
Posted by: Achenfan | Sep 12, 2005 4:54:11 PM"

Posted by: Achenf- and Tom fan | December 8, 2005 12:01 PM | Report abuse

SCC entry:
Achen-, not Achenf-

Posted by: Achen- and Tom fan | December 8, 2005 12:01 PM | Report abuse


We're in 7A.

Oh for goodness sakes, you took the old lady's apartment, Miss...miss....

Miss Gar...Gardenia.

Posted by: Nani | December 8, 2005 12:19 PM | Report abuse

Let's come down here and do our laundry together regular! I have a good-luck charm!

Posted by: Achenfan | December 8, 2005 12:22 PM | Report abuse

John Lennon, 25 years ago today (I suppose, tonight). I still am a little wierded out that I got the news from Howard Cosell, of all people.

I've been thinking about Lennon a lot today, about those on the Arizona and in Pearl Harbor 64 (64. wow) years ago on Wed.

Sorry to be a downer, but Festivus is making me introspective. Prior to the Feats of Strength (c'mon, jw!), and the Airing of ... well, you know.


Posted by: bc | December 8, 2005 12:24 PM | Report abuse

I, too, stand abjectly humiliated and corrected, TomFan. (I didn't recollect any reference to a Xerox machine, because I hadn't made one.) But yep, that was me. Moi abases oneself.

Sept. 12, huh? I was a wet-behind-the-ears boodler back then.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | December 8, 2005 12:24 PM | Report abuse

*thanks*, bc. (thanks, thanks, thanks)

Well, Salmagundi and knock my New York Knickerbockers! Curmudgeon, you wrote as Washington Irving? If anyone knows George Washington, it, too (like Joel), was Irving, who produced a five-volume set on our country's first president/military commander/etc.

Irving connection to Loomis-descendant Frederick Law Olmsted...Irving was just one of several prominent New Yorkers/citizens of the age who wrote a glowing letter of recommendation that helped Olmsted land the job of designing New York's Central Park.

Transporting Irving to Philly must have been quite a feat...

And as might interest sara and jw, Irving wrote..."The Sketch Book Of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent." (1819-20) (Sorry, I couldn't resist bringing up old Boodle history. I least I didn't mention burnt umber, now did I?)

Posted by: Loomis | December 8, 2005 12:25 PM | Report abuse

You're welcome, Linda.


Posted by: bc | December 8, 2005 12:31 PM | Report abuse

Even more coinky-dinks, Loomis. You've mentioned F.L. Omlstead before several times. As it happens, I am in the middle of writing the definitive (i.e., long-winded and boring) four-volume history of an obscure subject, which features the great FLO in its opening chapter, as he was a key player in my subject matter's founding. (I am a particular authority on this obscure subject, he said modestly.) In my spare time, I have gone to and still have to go again to the Library of Congress and research his papers. It is pretty grueling work going through the microfiche and trying to decipher his handwriting.

But I am a great admirer of the man and his work. Wish he had better penmanship.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | December 8, 2005 12:43 PM | Report abuse

Oh no. Not another coincidence thread.

Posted by: jw | December 8, 2005 12:47 PM | Report abuse

Hey Curmudgeon, here's a writing job that wandered across my desk today. D'ya think they pay much for this?

Posted by: Bayou Self (sponsored by Major League Baseball and the act of spitting) | December 8, 2005 12:58 PM | Report abuse

You could say life itself is just one big coincidence thread.

Posted by: Dreamer | December 8, 2005 1:00 PM | Report abuse

I think Witold Rybczynski said the same thing about Olmsted's handwriting/penmanship.

C'mon, Mudge, give us a clue. Are you being honest about working on a literary project, or just pulling the Boodle's collective leg? I had some handwriting interpretation challenges at the Connecticut Historical Society, but not with Olmsted's penmanship, and I found certain passages of William Clark's penmanship hard to read at the Filson Club in Louisville.

If you're dealing with Olmsted, I can only guess that it deals with one of several obscure subjects (let me guess..): urban landscaping, (nah), more likely the history of the American Red Cross, or the history of Yosemite National Park (highly unlikely for an Easterner who likes Camus to tackle something so "foreign" and earthy).

If you give us a clue, we wimmen (not guys) may *just* let you up off your knees, momentarily...

Posted by: Loomis | December 8, 2005 1:04 PM | Report abuse

I just figured out that Mudge = Curmudgeon. Me = dumb.

Posted by: jw | December 8, 2005 1:05 PM | Report abuse

Of course life is a conicidence thread. k.d. lang hails from not too far down the road from where I sit. Conincidence... Oh shut up dr. (The last bit refers to sons comment about mother not having an internal monologue, and my intent to prove that I do to have one.)

I'll be watching for the Achenlit book club.

Posted by: dr | December 8, 2005 1:07 PM | Report abuse

Bayou Self,
Think about it for a minute...that job description that you posted is tailor-made for none other than...Washington Post columnist George Will! (Aaron Brown may also deserve consideration for the post...)

Posted by: Loomis | December 8, 2005 1:07 PM | Report abuse

Hey, Bayou Self, thanks for the link. It does look fairly interesting, doesn't it? I'd imagine it pays pretty well, even though it is theoretically "parttime."

Wonder how they feel about the infield fly rule.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | December 8, 2005 1:16 PM | Report abuse

Maybe George could use a few more bucks on the side.

Posted by: Bayou Self (sponsored by George Will's literary agent) | December 8, 2005 1:16 PM | Report abuse

Some would say not having an internal monologue is a *good* thing. One of the purposes of meditation is to empty the "monkey mind" of random, distracting thoughts, which is an incredibly difficult thing to do. If you have "no internal monologue," it is likely that you are more focused -- or have the potential to be. So be proud!

Posted by: Dreamer | December 8, 2005 1:17 PM | Report abuse

How far down the road, dr? Do you have a story/stories? K.d. must pen her lyrics without caps, too--reminiscent of e.e. cummings

She was a big boned gal
From southern alberta
You just couldn't call her small
And you can bet every saturday night
She'd be heading for the legion hall

Put her blue dress on
And she'd curl her hair
Oh she's been waiting all week
And with a bounce in her step
And a wiggle in her walk
She'd be swinging down the street

You could tell she was ready
By the look in her eye
As she slipped in through the crowd
She walked with grace
As she entered the place
Ya, the big boned gal was proud

Hey hey the big boned gal
Ain't no doubt hse's a natural
Shakin' and a'snakin'
And a'breakin' up across the floor
Hey hey the big boned gal
Ain't no doubt she's a natural
Reelin' and a'rockin'
And she's yelling out for more
Now people would come
From miles around
And gather there to dance
But when the big boned gal came shufflin' in
She'd hold them in a trance

Posted by: Loomis | December 8, 2005 1:18 PM | Report abuse

Dreamer, no internal monologue also means that one knows the taste of one's own feet!

Posted by: dr | December 8, 2005 1:21 PM | Report abuse

If I had a choice about going to Japan or missing the Boodle, *I'd* pick Japan. But you probably missed shortening of a nickname. No dummy or dumb bunny, you.

And I have ben curious about sara. If she is getting married, does this mean no more London?

And jw, what is your big news,, hinting that big changes are coming? Is there matrimony in your near future?

Posted by: Loomis | December 8, 2005 1:23 PM | Report abuse

I've been out selling snowballs in anticipation of tonight's significant snowstorm. Actually working on a story that's pretty interesting if you like chemistry. This could be the solution to our circulation problems: More chemistry stories! That'll draw in readers faster than you can say "the origin of biomolecular homochirality."

About the book club idea, if it's really going to be in any way connected to my name, all the books assigned must be out of print. I'm 6 for 6 in that department. Some of my books go out of print WHILE STILL IN MANUSCRIPT FORM. I've had books go out of print as I was signing the initial book contract.

Posted by: Achenbach | December 8, 2005 1:25 PM | Report abuse

Boss, that's even better. It can be a RARE book club.

Posted by: CowTown | December 8, 2005 1:42 PM | Report abuse

"the origin of biomolecular homochirality."

Actually, that's a really fascinating topic! It is one test (among many) one could use to distinguish terrestrial contamination of an extraterrestrial sample from actual extraterrestrial life. A negative result is not definitive, but a strongly positive result would be earth-shaking.

No, I refuse to explain the geek-speak. If you don't already know, it would be hard to motivate you to care, anyway.

6 for 6? I only knew about the Why book, the Aliens book, and the GW book. What are the other 3? Hold an on-line remainder sale, man! I'm sure you could sell, um, several.

Another idea for the book club. Every Oprah and her cousin have book clubs for famous or great or likable fiction. It's been done. What about a book club for nonfiction and science writing? Lots of out-of-print books in those categories. I've been very slowly reading a collection of work by John Muir. It's slow going, because I constantly encounter the certain knowledge that he simply was better than me, in virtually every aspect that matters. Pick Muir, and it might motivate me to finish the dang doorstop.

Posted by: ScienceTim | December 8, 2005 1:43 PM | Report abuse

bc, it's obvious she doesn't know how to say "thank you" ... or "I'm sorry," or anything else reasonably human.

Posted by: Fit of Pique | December 8, 2005 1:47 PM | Report abuse

All this self-flagellating, tickling is
Fachen amazing. I could grepse

Posted by: Goombah | December 8, 2005 1:50 PM | Report abuse

Clever ways to lose money and bolster your self-image: There are many chemistry textbooks out there, college level and high school level and so on. They are all deadly dull. What they need is a little context, a little liveliness, a little why-does-this-matter; what they need is a little Achenbach.

I imagine a chemistry (or practically any other science) textbook in which each chapter starts with a brief essay from Mr. Joel Achenbach, famed polymath and respected reporter/columnist for the Washington Post. More than likely, you would get bupkus (sp?) for your trouble -- maybe a tiny advance. But, what if your text is so engaging that it becomes the standard for such textbooks? What if you get picked up by the California AND New York school boards? You'll make thousands! (let's be realistic), and create an entirely new species of genuinely educational textbook. Maybe you could get a special dispensation from the college of your offspring's choice.

Posted by: ScienceTim | December 8, 2005 1:51 PM | Report abuse

Yep, Loomis, it's true.

As you and I know (and the rest of the boodle could give a hoot), FLO did the landscaping for the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. (I've done a great deal of research on the exposition itself, as background; have been to Chicago, walked the grounds, have acquired perhaps 30-50 old photos from the Chi. Pub. Library as well as Chi. Hist. Society, etc.)

As you know, that exposition introduced America and the world to literally thousands of new products they'd never seen before, many of them having to do with electricity. My subject area is one of those specific products. I know it was brought to the fair on Olmstead's very specific and strenuous insistance. It is my working theory that Olmstead first saw that product/concept at the Edinburgh, Scotland, exposition in 1890 (it is well documented that it was there), and brought the idea back to be used in Chicago. What I need to do in my research is prove (with documentation, namely Olmstead's letters, that he himself went to Scotland and saw the exposition. I have 30+ years of reporter's/researcher's instinct that he did so; I just have to prove it. Next, I'd like to be able to document that while in Edinburgh he saw my specific topic/concept. What I'm looking for is the "smoking gun" which is a letter that says in effect, "Boy, lemme tell you about this neat thing/concept/idea I saw in Scotland! We gotta use it in Chicago!"

You've obviously done a ton of research yourself, Loomis. You know that feeling you get when you're working on something and you discover a trail, and you just *know* you've picked up the scent, and you just can't stop until you've run it to ground? Well, I'm on that scent.

Alas, don't mean to be coy, but I can't be any more specific about the subject; the last thing I wanna do is tell the entire Internet I'm Indiana Jones (instead of Washington Irving) and that I'm on the track of the Ark of the Covenant. But in my own little obscure sphere, I am exactly that, and I've got to get to it first.

(Not that anyone but you is likely to care, as a sidelight I started collecting "Columbiana," books, photos, stereopticon slides, medals, admission tickets, watch fobs--all kinds of detritus and "collectibles" from the Columbian Exposition. Got my own little archive of cool stuff, including an admission ticket for "Chicago Day" at the exposition, which was the single greatest day of the fair.)

Be happy to talk to you about any of it offline, though, if we can figure out a way.

If this post doesn't kill the boodle, well, the damn thing is positively immortal.

Can I get up, now?

Posted by: Curmudgeon | December 8, 2005 1:54 PM | Report abuse

If that happened, you might face some competition re. having yourself played by Bill Nye in the Achenmovie.

Posted by: Achenfan | December 8, 2005 1:55 PM | Report abuse

As I said, this is Fachen amazing! Why not take a bath together?

Posted by: Goombah | December 8, 2005 1:57 PM | Report abuse

Hmm. Book Club...

Joel's books are a natural, of course.

Or we could pick stuff that's in Project Gutenberg or, if we wait long enough, Google will scan every piece of literature that isn't naliled down into it's search databases (Joel, did you get the consent forms yet?).

Then nobody has to pay for nothin', or say that they can't find something.

Personally, I'm more than happy to pay for the privilage of reading written works. But that's just me.

On a side note, I guy I know has self-published a couple of books by selling advertising in the book itself. The ads are printed in color on glossy paper, and are right in the middle of the book, and account for 20 pages or so.


Posted by: bc | December 8, 2005 1:59 PM | Report abuse

OOOOOh...I guess incandescent lightbulbs, running on AC.

What if they had picked the ones that ran on DC?

Posted by: jw | December 8, 2005 1:59 PM | Report abuse

Nope, not light bulbs. Bores even me.

Actually, Edison wanted DC elctrical systems, but George Westinghouse wanted AC, and eventually won the big battle. Turns out there's a good reason why AC won out: DC power drops too much over distance, whereas AC doesn't.

But I encroach upon ScienceTim's turf...a thousand apologies. I abase myself again. I'm getting rugburn.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | December 8, 2005 2:11 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, I wouldn't think Olmsted would have to go all the way to Scotland to see lightbulbs.

Posted by: jw | December 8, 2005 2:13 PM | Report abuse

My guess is them newfangled pieces of clothing that never quite caught on among the kilt-wearing population in Scotland: whitey tighties

Posted by: TBG | December 8, 2005 2:17 PM | Report abuse

Or is it Tighty Whities?

Posted by: TBG | December 8, 2005 2:18 PM | Report abuse

Or is it Tighty Whities?

Posted by: TBG | December 8, 2005 2:18 PM | Report abuse


Nope. No more London plans. I'll be married by then and leaving him behind probably isn't the best idea. We'll go together later once we've paid off student loans and he has his endodontist practice set up and we're "established." Besides, I'd rather go to Rome and now I'll have a choice rather than the study abroad default.

"Mudge" also threw me off for a minute, until I caught on that Curmudgeon was answering the posts addressed to Mudge.

And jw has big news? Does anyone else have big news that I've missed out on? I miss so much lately. I don't like that work is keeping me busy.

Posted by: Sara | December 8, 2005 2:18 PM | Report abuse

My AP Chemistry text in an effort to be relevant had a chapter on drugs in the back. I would read this chapter in class when I got bored, which was often. At one time I had commited to memory the chemical formulas for cocaine, tetra-hydra-cannabinol, and lysergic acid diethylamide (or lysergic saure diethylamide in German).

Better living through chemistry.

Posted by: yellojkt | December 8, 2005 2:19 PM | Report abuse

What would happen if Curmudgeon abased himself during the course of a fly ball in the infield? Would he automatically obtain absloution?

*faxing Curmudgeon some Bactine for the rugburn*

Posted by: Scottynuke | December 8, 2005 2:19 PM | Report abuse

Curmudgeon, cortisone cream works well on rugburn. I keep Aveeno in the house for that and other similar uses...your topic sounds fascinating. Something electrical? I hope jw guesses it, I'm no good at that kind of stuff...

Posted by: slyness | December 8, 2005 2:21 PM | Report abuse

curious -- lost track of the present context because i was off doing experiments

about half of 10 or so searches for "Eugene Robinson" from WaPo's own search bar on the home page returned 221 hits, the other half returned 0 hits -- and I cleared the cache several times to make this scientific and all

now repeat the experiment from the visually identical search bar on the opinion page (again, with the "News" radio button selected):

once I saw 221 hits, and the other 9 or so searches returned 0 hits

then Joel Achenbach searches in both locales consistently returned 61 hits

so just when I was starting to think that this must be a transient, load-related problem, I went back to searching for Eugene Robinson and got the same mixed results

however, the last unproductive search did have a helpful paid advertisement off on the side in a pale blue box:

"Find Eugene Robinson $9.95"

Posted by: kp | December 8, 2005 2:21 PM | Report abuse

Nah, all I know is what I read in "Devil in the White City" and I'm sure it's not in there or he wouldn't be so secretive about it.

Posted by: jw | December 8, 2005 2:23 PM | Report abuse

Actually, I DID horribly abase myself once on a baseball field, when I incorrectly called an infield fly rule when I shouldn't have, and during a tournament game, too, which made it ten times worse. Second worst call of my entire 17-year umpiring career--and I had to "eat the call" (enforce it, even knowing an admitting it was wrong).

Believe me, there was NO absolution that day.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | December 8, 2005 2:26 PM | Report abuse

all this science talk. I am, also as well, a mad amatuer scientist, and all this is just thrilling. My current project is home-brewing. Science is amazing! it gives us booze. i come from a long line of home-brwer-chemists. The smell of sulphur makes me particularly nostalgic.

Posted by: LP | December 8, 2005 2:27 PM | Report abuse

OK, Curmudgeon, I'll bite...

What was the worst call?

Posted by: Scottynuke | December 8, 2005 2:29 PM | Report abuse

Ha! "Science Is Amazing! It Gives Us Booze."

That should be on a T-shirt -- possibly even on an Achen-T-shirt.

Posted by: Achenfan | December 8, 2005 2:30 PM | Report abuse

"the origin of biomolecular homochirality."

I'm actually looking forward to reading that. And I'm hoping that there's some mention of the FSM.

Now I'm going to blot while humming the Archies all afternoon. Thanks, Joel.


Posted by: bc | December 8, 2005 2:32 PM | Report abuse

It never ceases to amaze!!

Posted by: Fachen Fan | December 8, 2005 2:33 PM | Report abuse

Tag play at home plate. I very clearly saw the tag in the middle of the cloud of dust, and called the runner out. Trouble was, he'd clearly gotten to the plate first, but I was focused (too intently) on the tag. Coach went nuts (rightly so), got in my face before I could reverse myself (which I would have), pushed me, and got himself a league suspension for five games for pushing an umpire. And it was all my fault.

It's been maybe 10, 15 years, and I still wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat over that one.

Jeez, let's talk about something else but me. What happened to sex? Can't believe we've exhausted sex.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | December 8, 2005 2:36 PM | Report abuse

No, no, Curmudgeon, that's fine. Transmission-line physics is a subject I never cared for, yet still I know a little bit of what I learned in High School -- 26 years ago. I avoided studying the subject at a serious level in college.

You've got the physics correctly. Power consumption by heating in a transmission line varies as Power = current-squared times resistance. Power transmitted is current times voltage. Lower the current, boost the voltage, and you can transmit the same total power with less heating-loss in the transmission line. AC is easily processed by transformers to lower the voltage and recover significant current at the distribution end, conserving the total power, except for losses in the transformer which are minor compared to losses in a 100-mile transmission line.

There's a limit to how high you can crank the voltage, because your system will discharge into the environment once you exceed the breakdown voltage of air. That's why there are transformer stations and redistribution centers. There is a voltage differential across the length of the line in DC transmission, because of the finite resitsance of the transmission line, so there are profound limits on how long you can run the line and still have any voltage at the far end; plus, the actual voltage level that you have to deal with is highly variable, depending on how far you are from the source station, how humid the air is, that sort of thing.

I don't know much about Westinghouse, only a little about Edison. The really wierdo genius from the early days of electrical generation and transmission was Nikola Tesla. Tesla wanted to avoid the expensive infrastructure of transmission lines altogether: he would build a big Tesla coil in the center of a town and juice it with a mighty alternating current. The coil would act as one side of a gigantic transformer. Every household, even every device, would have its own coil, which would act as the other half of the transformer. Fire up the coil, and you can power everything. Of course, you can't turn it off without disabling the devices --lightbulbs would be powered merely by the coiled filament within the bulb. Other minor side effects include frequent deaths due to random electrical discharges -- aka, lightning -- between the central coil and passers-by, power intensity varies dramatically with distance from the coil, massive ozone production at the town center (I just realized that one, I might be wrong), and assorted other awful things. All in all, Westinghouse was right.

Posted by: ScienceTim | December 8, 2005 2:40 PM | Report abuse

"the origin of biomolecular homochirality" sounds pretty sexy, depending on the pronunciation...

And proper sex should always be exhausting.

Posted by: Scottynuke | December 8, 2005 2:40 PM | Report abuse

What if snukester debased himself in the middle of a blog? Would there be a mess?

According to Secretary Rice, we don't do debasing of Americans here, Americans on foreign soil, foreigners on American soil, and foreigners on foreign soil, and soiling on American soil.

There's always space, and if it is not ok on soil, standing on a piece of plywood or a cement block would probably make it ok and in utter conformance with humanity, the Geneva Convention, and Harriet Miers.

Posted by: Fachen Fan | December 8, 2005 2:45 PM | Report abuse

OK.. I'll change the subject:

Did you know that there is a category in the Grammy Awards for "Hawaiian Music Album"? That must be one of the ones they present the afternoon before the telecast.

There is also a category called "Historical Album" The first album nominated is "The Complete Library Of Congress Recordings By Alan Lomax." OK.. what's left after that one?

Posted by: TBG | December 8, 2005 2:49 PM | Report abuse


"Better living through chemistry"--ha! I remember those ads. The slogan always reminds me of a quote, and since it was you who reminded me and it's a Vonnegut quote, I can't resist:

"He alienated his friends in the sciences by thanking them extravagantly for scientific advances he had read about in recent newspapers and magazines, by assuring them, with a perfectly straight face, that life was getting better and better, thanks to scientific thinking."

--Kurt Vonnegut, God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater

Posted by: Reader | December 8, 2005 2:50 PM | Report abuse

I'm interested in FLO for entirely different reasons than you are, but your project sounds more than interesting, and there are several of us in the Boodle, such as jw and k-guy and I, who have read "Devil in the White City."

And, boy oh boy, can I relate to this sentence about the "information hunt" that you wrote: "You know that feeling you get when you're working on something and you discover a trail, and you just *know* you've picked up the scent, and you just can't stop until you've run it to ground? Well, I'm on that scent."

This morning, I sent my *private* thanks to bc for his kind offer of providing Joel's autographed book to me. Since bc posted his e-mail address (and if it's O.K. with bc), why don't you e-mail bc and bc can forward one of our addresses to the other? (Please, bc?)

Shall we invite Goombah to bathe with us? Where are Bob S. and Sean Connery when we need them? We could have a shower-in.

Aloe vera is good for burns of all kinds. Sorry to have kept you on the carpet for so long...

Posted by: Loomis | December 8, 2005 3:01 PM | Report abuse

Wow, Reader, I need to brush up on the Vonnegut canon, so I can quit getting shown up like this. GBY,MR is one of the under-rated KV books. I like the part about making sure you are around when large sums of money exchange hands so that you can grab some crumbs.

Posted by: yellojkt | December 8, 2005 3:03 PM | Report abuse

A typically sensitive and kind idea from you, Ms. Loomis, but I don't think we want to bathe with the likes of Goombah and his friends.
Who is Bob S., anyway?

Posted by: Cordova | December 8, 2005 3:06 PM | Report abuse

Pronunciation: 'kI-r&l
Function: adjective
Etymology: chir- + 1-al
: of or relating to a molecule that is not superimposable on its mirror image

Posted by: omnigood | December 8, 2005 3:09 PM | Report abuse

There is a new book coming out on Thomas Alva Edison. Got a notice from"because you bought a book about Philo T. Farnsworth, you may be interested to know about a new book about Edison...and so on and so forth..."

Hawaiian music, eh? Always loved the tune "Paniolo Cowboy," which is a twist of language to describe the first cowboys on Hawaii (the Big Island) who were Spaniards. "Espanol" (not fiddling with the international character set to provide the tilde, Bayou Self) became, in Hawaiian "Paniolo."

TBG, Alan Lomax is a fascinating individual...might want to Google him...

Posted by: Loomis | December 8, 2005 3:10 PM | Report abuse

Another PSA:

Posted by: omnigood | December 8, 2005 3:12 PM | Report abuse

Do you brew bocks or ales?

Posted by: Loomis | December 8, 2005 3:13 PM | Report abuse

I always like to sing "Mele Kalikimaka" on Christmas Day:

Mele Kalikimaka is the thing to say
On a bright Hawaiian Christmas Day
That's the island greeting that we send to you
From the land where palm trees sway
Here we know that Christmas will be green and bright
The sun to shine by day and all the stars at night
Mele Kalikimaka is Hawaii's way
To say "Merry Christmas to you."

Posted by: Achenfan | December 8, 2005 3:13 PM | Report abuse

Ah, beer: liquid bread.

Posted by: omnigoof | December 8, 2005 3:14 PM | Report abuse

"Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to prosper." -Ben Franklin

I think beer is proof that God merely likes us. If he really loved us it would flow from the kitchen tap

Posted by: omnigoof | December 8, 2005 3:17 PM | Report abuse

I feel dumb.

"Mele Kalikimaka is Hawaii's way..."

I always thought it was "the wise way" and that didn't make much sense to me.

Posted by: Sara | December 8, 2005 3:17 PM | Report abuse

Linda, I'll be happy to broker the address exchange 'twixt yourself and 'mudge.

Science Tim, didn't Tesla also consider his coils for information transmission and reception as well? My fillings are aching just thinking about those things...


Posted by: bc | December 8, 2005 3:19 PM | Report abuse

omnigood, thanks for the link. I kinda sorta understand what it discusses and will look forward to Joel's column, which will make everything about homochirality crystal clear.

Posted by: slyness | December 8, 2005 3:20 PM | Report abuse

Yellojkt, are you familiar with the C. Northcote Parkinson books, Parkinson's Law and so on? If by chance you are not, I highly recommend them. The Rosewater credo that you mention gets a treatment in one of the Parkinson books, and in my family we use this phrase all the time, he calls it "Living by the Money River" or maybe it's "Camping out by the Money River"--anyway, the concept is the same.

Posted by: Reader | December 8, 2005 3:22 PM | Report abuse

Actually, neither. Beer is smelly & messy and requires more equipment. I've been brewing up some hard cider this year. It's alot more fun, I think, because it's a)difficult to screw up and b) you vary recipes only slightly and come up with very different kinds of brews. Also, my family does wine, and the process is much more similar to wine than to beer, but only takes the month- 2 months like beer, rather than a year like wine.

That, and simply everyone brews their own beer these days. I thought cider was much more original.

Posted by: LP | December 8, 2005 3:23 PM | Report abuse

bc said: "Science Tim, didn't Tesla also consider his coils for information transmission and reception as well? My fillings are aching just thinking about those things..."

Oh, heck, I don't know. If he did, then he already had the fundamental concept of radio figured out. Perhaps a book about Tesla for the first Book Club item?

Posted by: ScienceTim | December 8, 2005 3:25 PM | Report abuse

I should say, a year -at least- like wine. Dear old Dad still has some merlot he made when I was a mere tike, and it's still not drinkable. I say it's just going to go straight to vinegar, he holds out hopes that he'll be able to catch it at a palateable (sp?) stage. He's an optimist, pop is.

Posted by: LP | December 8, 2005 3:26 PM | Report abuse

How would a Book Club work, anyway? Pretty dull if we all just wrote book reports to each other. Assigned chapters, no reading outside your chapter, see if we can figure out the whole book from putting things together?

Posted by: Tim | December 8, 2005 3:28 PM | Report abuse

We should just write our own book. Everyone write a chapter, and see if when it's put together it makes any sense.

Posted by: LP | December 8, 2005 3:29 PM | Report abuse

I figured it one Kit a month would be devoted to the book, and like usually, we could just let the discussion evolve from there.

Posted by: jw | December 8, 2005 3:30 PM | Report abuse

I figure we already *have* got a book club going here on the 'blog. And a beer club. And a film club. And a music club. And a science club. And a meaning-o'-life club . . . I could go on.

Posted by: Achenfan | December 8, 2005 3:31 PM | Report abuse

Could our first book be about the very cute baby panda, Tai Shan? By the last chapter, he would be a failed lover ready for his first contribution to artificial insemination. But before that, there could be all sorts of panda intrigue as the panda house is visited by suitable girlfriend pandas.

Posted by: Nefertiti | December 8, 2005 3:33 PM | Report abuse

LP said: We should just write our own book. Everyone write a chapter, and see if when it's put together it makes any sense.

Didn't the Miami Herald staff do that? "Naked Came the Manatee" is the title I recall. Was Joel involved in that?

Posted by: pj | December 8, 2005 3:34 PM | Report abuse

It would seem to be a rather small and exclusive club, would it not?

Posted by: Bragadoccio From Hungary | December 8, 2005 3:35 PM | Report abuse

Thanks, bc, but how do we do the deed? I've been to your blog site but can't find an e-mail link on it. What am I missing?

(Remember, I've been on my knees all day, so I am vertically challenged and can't see up over the top of my desk very well. Have seen lots of wads of gum stuck to the bottom of people's desks and chairs, though. Also, I've got some sand from the Gobi Desert in one eye, and my vision is blurry. And If I could see very well, anyway, I'd have never blown that home plate call.)

Posted by: Curmudgeon | December 8, 2005 3:37 PM | Report abuse

Two words for all of you: exquisite corpse.

Posted by: TBG | December 8, 2005 3:39 PM | Report abuse

Why does Mr. Curmudgeon want to "do the deed" with Mr. bc? Is this American custom? Pardon me, but recently I am from E. Europe (Byellorussia).

Posted by: Nefertiti | December 8, 2005 3:45 PM | Report abuse

We're working on our quadruple entendres and triply-nested metaphors by now.

Posted by: Tim | December 8, 2005 3:53 PM | Report abuse

Nefertiti: It has to do with biomolecular homochirality... not that there's anything wrong with that.

Yes, it is strictly an American custom; it exists nowhere else in any other cultures or historical epochs.

(Giggle: I wrote "titi"!)

Posted by: Curmudgeon | December 8, 2005 3:54 PM | Report abuse

The two lovers lay spooning in their bed, whispering and cooing with the careless ease borne from a decade of marriage. After a while, Ron rolled to his back and studied the ceiling.

"I learned something new yesterday," he said softly.

Linda, still lying on her side and facing the wall, said in a teasing voice, "Really. What?"

"Just a phrase, 'biomolecular homochirality'," he murmured.

Linda rolled to her back, "What was that?" Her leg brushed against his under the sheets.

"Biomolecular homochirality," Ron repeated, "I have no idea what it means. I just read about it in a blog. Some guy, Joel Actionblog, or Achen-something wrote it."

"I like how it sounds," Linda cooed, "Say it again."

"Biomolecular homochirality," Ron said, now studying her face.

Linda, catching his gaze, flushed slightly and buried her fingertips in Ron's chest hair.

"Say it again, Cowboy."

"Biomolecular homochirality."

Linda arched her back and moaned. She bit her lip. "One more time," she said, her voice a sultry growl.

Ron chuckled, "Biomolecular homochirality, biomolecular homochirality, biomolecular homochirality!"

Linda gasped and rolled off the bed. Ron sat up when he heard the thud of her hitting the floor. The bedroom door suddenly opened.

"Daddy, is Mommy OK?" their five-year-old inquired.

"She's fine, Tommy, go back to bed."

"But I heard a noise. She was making noises."

"Mommy and me were just having a discussion, Tommy. Like grown-up's. We're OK, now go to bed."

"Then, why is she on the floor?" implored Tommy, pointing to Linda, now writhing on the floor with a dream-like smile on her face.

"It's OK, Tommy. Go. To. Bed."

"But it's morning. And I'm hungry."

"Oh, eh, right," Ron conceded.

"How about some biomolecular homochirality," Linda giggled from the floor, "They're better than Eggos."

"Now, that's enough," scolded Ron.

Posted by: TheLoveCow | December 8, 2005 4:00 PM | Report abuse

'mudge, I posted it above at 10:52 this AM, but I'll make it easy on ye:

I've never played exquisite corpse, TBG.
I suppose using a Ouija board doesn't count?


Posted by: bc | December 8, 2005 4:00 PM | Report abuse

I'm a 90-year-old Fijiian man who lives in a shack made of shells. I just loooooove the Boodle, and I plan to attend the next Porching Hour.

Posted by: Tom fan | December 8, 2005 4:01 PM | Report abuse

I told you it was all in how you pronounced "biomolecular homochirality," didn't I?

Posted by: Scottynuke | December 8, 2005 4:04 PM | Report abuse

I think we just found chapter one.....

Posted by: LP | December 8, 2005 4:08 PM | Report abuse

Ooh ooh, "The Exquisite Corpse" is produced by a frequent contributor to NPR's All Things Considered, Somethingorother Nicolesque. He's brilliant and funny. That is all.

Posted by: CowTown | December 8, 2005 4:09 PM | Report abuse

As I said earlier, you all are amazing.

Ya wanna right a book? There are templates on erotic literature sites that tell you how to fill in the blanks and send it around.

I can see that Mrs. The Love Cow has already been reading and doing gosh darn what else when the sky is dark and the moon is big.

Which reminds me about mooning....

Posted by: Fachen Fan | December 8, 2005 4:11 PM | Report abuse

Thanks, bc. Gotta run for the bus. I'll e-mail you tonight, Loomis.

(No, that wasn't a euphemism, people. Get your minds out of the gutter. Jeez.)

Posted by: Curmudgeon | December 8, 2005 4:16 PM | Report abuse

Andrei Codrescu, editor of Exquisite Corpse.

Posted by: Tim | December 8, 2005 4:42 PM | Report abuse

Andrei Codrescu, of course. Thanks, Tim. My wife hates it when I listen to NPR ("the Boredom Channel"); but now I can read one of its contributors.

Posted by: CowTown | December 8, 2005 4:49 PM | Report abuse

Hates listening to NPR? C'est pas vrai!

Posted by: ABJunkie | December 8, 2005 5:01 PM | Report abuse

If I had not read the rest of this blog, I might think that I was too young to read about "biomolecular homochirality".

Its a great first chapter. Who is going to give 2 a shot.

Posted by: dr | December 8, 2005 5:35 PM | Report abuse

Achenfan, you know the phrase/song "Mele Kalikimaha?" Now, we're singing...

From the Web:
This song was written by R. Alex Anderson (Robert Alexander Anderson), who
was born in Honolulu in 1894, and from high school on to his death in 1995
composed nearly 200 songs.

He wrote Mele Kalikimaka in 1949 and though I [?] am not sure who first recorded
it, it was probably Bing Crosby. Crosby made a record of it in 1950 with
the Andrews Sisters (maybe on the backside of his White Christmas single?),
and it was an instant big hit [well, for 1949 maybe].

Sorry, I was one word off on my Paniolo song..."Paniolo Cowboy" is redundant. It's "Paniolo Country" and if you know the Parker Ranch area on Hawaii, the Big Island, it's the best place to park lots and lots of bovines.

Paniolo Country

Places I have been,
cities I have seen,
with concrete caverns rising from the ground.
Miles and miles of asphalt trail,
stretch across a land,
stampeding meadow ponies leaving smoke along the way...

I'm going back to paniolo county,
stars at night
no city lights.
Paniolo country, my home on the range.

I made up my mind, won't waste any time
I'm going back to where the clouds ride high.
take my word its pretty, not like the great big city
the winds still bring cool clear mountian air.

I'm going back to paniolo country
rain drops fall, the grass grows tall
paniolo county, my home on the range.

Cowtown, is that you writing under the TheLoveCow handle? I'm sharpening my Henckels right now. When I figure which flyover city you're in, it'll be Rocky Mountain oysters for dinner here in San Antone. At least your liederhosen/lederhosen will have a much looser, roomier fit, shall we say?

Posted by: Loomis | December 8, 2005 5:41 PM | Report abuse

Let's take up a discussion of homemade ciders and wine soon?

Posted by: Loomis | December 8, 2005 5:42 PM | Report abuse

Linda - No way I'm giving YOU my email address. "Sharpening my Henckels..." Ouch.

Posted by: CowTown | December 8, 2005 5:46 PM | Report abuse

Absolutely, Loomis. I inherited my dad's penchent for going on and on about the reactions of yeast to sugar for excruciatingly long amounts of time. Like I said, Science! Amazing!

Posted by: LP | December 8, 2005 5:49 PM | Report abuse

Anyone listing to All Things Considered right now? They're discussing Least Favorite Toys of parents. Pretty funny.

Posted by: CowTown | December 8, 2005 5:53 PM | Report abuse

Do I know the phrase/song "Mele Kalikimaka"? Do I ever! And how!!!! That song was on a Bing Crosby Christmas record we used to play at our house every Christmas when I was growing up. My siblings and I were constantly saying "Mele Kalikimaka" to each other. After I moved to the U.S., I saw a big "Mele Kalikimaka" sign outside a Honolulu hotel while en route to Australia, and I found this to be very exciting. I took a photo of it. ("Oh. My. GOD! That sign says "Mele Kalikimaka!") I also purchased "Mele Kalikimaka" T-shirts for the whole family (except for the dog -- he hated Christmas).

Posted by: Achenfan | December 8, 2005 5:53 PM | Report abuse

I first became aware of the phrase "Mele Kalikimaka" when I purchased the CD Kiho'alu Christmas at the Volcano Art Center in Volcanoes National Park. At the time, I felt very wise and knowledgeable to know the phrase, as my colleagues had never heard of it. I'm dejected to see how common it is. Foo.

Posted by: Tim | December 8, 2005 6:21 PM | Report abuse

I think it's only common among those who know Hawaiian culture or have been to Hawaii. How did you like Volcanoes Nat'l Park? Vulcanology is only a hobby, right?
--Doesn't tie into your Science Tim work, does it?

Posted by: Loomis | December 8, 2005 6:34 PM | Report abuse

Or who listened to Bing Crosby records and Christmas specials on TV.

Posted by: dr | December 8, 2005 7:01 PM | Report abuse

Exquisite corpse is a game where different people write a sentence, story or poem, the catch being that participants only see the last word or line (if anything at all) of what was written before.

It began as a parlor game, but was adopted by the Surrealists who named it for one of the phrases they had come up with (translated from the French: "The exquisite corpse will drink the new wine.")

There used to be a great Exquisite Corpse website where you could draw one-third of a picture, having only seen the smallest bit of the picture above or below yours. The results were often quite amazing. I'm sorry that it no longer exists, but now I have the Achenblog to keep me "busy" while at work instead.

Posted by: TBG | December 8, 2005 7:07 PM | Report abuse

Achenfan... our friend from Oz,

I've always wondered what it's like to have Christmas as a summer holiday. Up in our half of the world, it's hard to separate winter from our holiday festivities.

What's it like Down Under with a summer Christmas? Do you have Christmas BBQ dinners and cookouts? What was the hardest part for you celebrating the holidays in the winter?

Posted by: TBG | December 8, 2005 7:11 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for the mention of Ki Ho'alu's Christmas album. My hubby is working late, so I had a chance to lisen to some of the Hawaiian slack key guitar selections on the CD, as well as Rev. Dennis Kamakahi's solo. Nice. Makes me nostalgic for the island of Hawaii.

When I was over there in the late '70s teaching, Cecilio and Kapono were hot-- I bringing back "Elua" and "Night Music"--rather like the Hawaiian Seals and Croft duo in terms of their sound.

Again, thanks for the mention of it.

Posted by: Loomis | December 8, 2005 7:41 PM | Report abuse

Wow, I'm impressed at the level of knowledge you guys have about contemporary Hawaiian music. C&K especially! They're still around doing concerts every year and they sound just as great as ever. They were our Loggins and Messina way back when. They even put out a Christmas album some years ago.

For more Hawaiian sounds, check out Hawaiian 105's audio stream at They're playing all kinds of Hawaiian Christmas music now.

BTW, Hawaiian music is now a Grammy catagory. Guess we've made the big time.

Mele Kalikimaka and Hauoli Makahiki Hou!

Posted by: Aloha | December 8, 2005 10:42 PM | Report abuse

I updated myself this afternoon on C&K and saw that they have a Christmas album. I should buy their more recent music. Those two are an interesting story unto themselves, as I recall.

Thanks for providing us the audio link. This I will have to check out!

Posted by: Loomis | December 8, 2005 11:35 PM | Report abuse

If your research involves Olmsted, the Columbian Exposition in 1893 and electricity--then this (below), in all probablity, is your subject matter--although the electric street car was introduced in Edinburgh in 1890, Hollerith completed the 1890 census with electric punch cards, and Alexander Graham Bell hailed from Edinburgh as well. My bets are on electric launches since Olmsted was opposed to using noisy steam boats on the water features of the Chicago's World Fair.

I too have an interest in FLO's Columbian World Fair period, but for an entirely different reason than you.

In 1892, the Electric Launch Company was incorporated and in 1893, introduced the first commercially produced electric motor boats to America and the world at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago. At this first world's fair in the new world there were fifty-five 36' launches, which carried 1,026,340 passengers on 66,975 trips.

During WW I, the company built five hundred and fifty 80-foot sub chasers for the British Admiralty and then in 1921, it introduced the famous 26-foot Cruisette, a gasoline cabin cruiser thought of as the Model "T" of modern pleasure boating. This success was followed in the 1930's with 30′ to 57′ Veedettes and Flattops, gasoline powered boats that set the highest standard in a golden era of boating.

Responding to the "call to arms" and World War II, Elco developed the famous PT boats, building 399 of these 80-foot torpedo boats with Packard aircraft engines and at the peak of production - one PT boat was built every 60 hours.

An Elco retrieved General Douglas MacArthur from the Philippines and PT 109, captained by Lt.jg. Jack Kennedy, was an Elco.

At the end of the war, the company merged with its sister company, Electric Boat, of Groton, CT to form the nucleus of a new corporation, General Dynamics.

In 1949, General Dynamics decided to focus on government contracts for submarines at Electric Boat and military and commercial aviation sales at Convair. Selling boats to the general public did not fit into this equation and the Company was closed.

In 1987, the Company was re-incorporated in New Jersey by Joseph W. Fleming, Jr., an entrepreneur in the electrical equipment industry with a lifelong interest in antique and classic boats and a father who had worked building PT boats for the Company. With the cooperation and approval of General Dynamics, the new Company took its name and the "Elco" trademark from the original Electric Launch Company.

From 1987 to 1995, the Company built replicas of classic fantail electric launches, award-winning custom-built gasoline powered boats, and even ventured into catalog sales.

With a change in ownership and management on January 1, 1996, the Company returned to its 1892 origins and redirected its focus on electric motor boats and electric drives for sailboats and other boats for the marine market.

In the opinion of its management, the Company is the leader in the design, development and supply of electric boats and inboard and outboard electric drives.

These Elco products are being used successfully in a variety of applications on both fresh and salt water where quiet, simple operation and environmental benefits are primary considerations.

Elco is an active member of the American Boat and Yacht Council (ABYC). All launches, electric drives, restorations and upgrades meet or exceed both ABYC and United States Coast Guard standards for construction, mechanical and electrical safety and design.

By 1900, electric powered pleasure boats outnumbered boats powered by steam and explosive (as gasoline powered motors were called) engines combined. By 1910, when the advantages of the range and power of gasoline grew to dominate the market, even Elco converted over to gasoline. However, electric boats were remembered and appreciated because they were quiet, clean, simple, inexpensive to maintain and much easier to start and operate.

Posted by: Loomis | December 8, 2005 11:47 PM | Report abuse

Loomis asks: "Vulcanology is only a hobby, right?"

A volcano, Mauna Kea, just happens to be a good place to put an astronomical observatory. The vulcanology part, visiting the active volcano next door, is just for fun.

Posted by: ScienceTim | December 9, 2005 1:11 AM | Report abuse

"Who is Bob S., anyway?" asks Cordova. Oh, if only he/she/it/they (was that sufficiently inclusive?) knew how many times I've asked the very same question!

Just in inferior toiler in the field, with an occasional silly remark or anecdote to share.

Posted by: Bob S. | December 9, 2005 2:48 AM | Report abuse

*poking head outta snowbank*

I love snow days.

Posted by: Scottynuke | December 9, 2005 7:19 AM | Report abuse

In an old favorite cartoon, "Waikiki Wabbit", Bugs Bunny chants "huma huma nooka nooka ah poo wah ah ah ah ah". (Forgive the phonetic spelling, but that's the long Hawaiian name for a tropical fish, perhaps the "state fish" of Hawaii. I think).

Posted by: Nani | December 9, 2005 8:18 AM | Report abuse

Unofficial State Fish of Hawaii: Humuhumunukunuku Apua'a, which means "fish with a pig's nose" in Hawaiian. AKA Hawaiian Trigger Fish. It sleeps on it's side at night, but the site doesn't say which side.

Posted by: mh | December 9, 2005 8:48 AM | Report abuse

Just posted a new kit, perfect for a family friendly snow day. Methinks.
The fonts are weird, but whatever.

Posted by: Achenbach | December 9, 2005 9:01 AM | Report abuse

Great wordsmithing and great facts will always win. Why? Because as long as you have the ability to deliver the mundane in an unique and informative way--you will capture people's (a person's) attention long enough to deliver the message. The remote control did not kill TV ads---TV ad got better--so much better that in some cases they are better than the actual content! Humans have always filtered. When the grunts of cavemen were replaced by some sexy cave paintings--well, I am sure they all thought that "grunting" would be extinct. Blogs have made sure that is not the case. Ug!

Posted by: bhubs | December 15, 2005 12:20 PM | Report abuse

Actually there are few original thinkers. Talking to philosophers usually helps you to understand that. Most philosophers actually just point to others work and say, "I like that." Original thinking consists of being able to view reality directly and not be impeded by the current mores/mindsets/cultural delusions of the masses. Or as buddha would say from the empty state....without prediliction to putting a personal spin on it.

Posted by: Hers's too move | December 18, 2005 2:59 PM | Report abuse

That means that you've freed yourself from your personal history....reactive behavior.

Tibetan monks don't have a startle reflex, because they train arduously to remove reactivity as a trait. The implication is that most people are in a reactive state when they interact with reality....right and wrong/dualistic thinking. There is no right and wrong. Froma personal perspective you're only one animal in an ecological's a right or wrong of a particular group at a particular stage of development, not an absolute and it doesn't include other lifeforms.....or classes. To make a long story short, being able to see the truth means that you're not afraid to look without blocking/slanting/preconceiving what the truth will be.

Most humans don't know too much about cognitive processes other wise the world would be a lot easier to live in....they work with beliefs, and you have to kowtow to their beliefs, build a ship in their bottle. Phraselogy, ethnicity, economic level, bullshit....known what we currently HOLD to be self evident-not. Prescience is the art of hearing the future in the now, and so it is not future viewing perse, it is recognizing the oak in the soil of that mofos.

Posted by: Smoke in a bottle is often the burning of the dross of self | December 18, 2005 3:02 PM | Report abuse

Loving to be who you are allows you to actually communicate that to people. Unfortuntately often they don't know themselves enough to recognize themselves within the context of my work and think...........hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm. And never see the mirror of my sight within them.....reflection.

At the same time those who think themselves erudite exist within the strata of known work and an original thought is much like gas to them....something passing of little consequence as they are used to comparing it to what they "agree" is good. A preconceived notion is only as good as your current level of perception, it is a glass ceiling that you carry with you in order to impress others.

Communication is the act of streaming in the else ness of life.

Posted by: Pretty good for | December 18, 2005 8:40 PM | Report abuse

This is cool, you have to try it. I guessed 18431, and this game guessed it! See it here -

Posted by: Allison Trump | May 23, 2006 10:40 PM | Report abuse

Here is intresting people... Lets talk!

Posted by: Catalog | August 3, 2006 1:41 AM | Report abuse

Sehr guten site. Alles arbeitet deutlich(klar), schon eben storungsfrei. Wer machte? Vielleicht vom Weg?
Nice layout. But i didnt find information for me that i try to find on your website. But thanks you in any way!
You have many friends that post in your guestbook - it is cool!
Sehr guten site. Alles arbeitet deutlich(klar), schon eben storungsfrei. Wer machte? Vielleicht vom Weg?
Good site! It is very creative and includes a wealth of information.

Posted by: Catalog | September 19, 2006 8:28 AM | Report abuse

Perfect site! Anything superfluous, all is laconic and beautiful. Thanks!

Posted by: Raznoe | September 25, 2006 5:43 PM | Report abuse

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