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Heating Bill Horrors

   People now talk about heating bills the way they used to talk about sex. Some try to be discreet, but others like to gossip. "I hear the Cumbersoms paid $624 in December because Ralph won't caulk the windows," someone will say. "Janice is devastated."

   The first large heating bill of the season always feels like a betrayal. You're stunned. You think maybe it's a mistake. Then you lash out, disgusted by things you had once loved, such as high ceilings and bay windows. During winters past, you felt a chill creeping into the room, but you were in denial and just put on an extra sweater. You fool.

  Once you start thinking about the heating bill, you become obsessive. December's cold weather activated a brain mechanism that refused to shut off even during the weirdly mild weeks of January. It's as though your house is a cab and you're always watching the meter. Let's be brutally direct: You become conscious of the energy you use.

    The average American burns roughly 47 jillion "British thermal units" of energy daily, plus an uncounted number of French and German thermal units. The general standard, in the past, was that you would turn down the thermostat only if there was evidence that your house was melting the under-lying planetary crust. People took pride in having a house so hot that, in the depths of winter, everyone sat around in undergarments, fanning themselves and holding iced beverages to their foreheads.

   But that's changing. Now we recognize that household warmth, far from a necessity, is a fetish, an indulgence. It's a recent invention of a society grown so soft that its members have forgotten how to kill, gut and don the hide of a wild furry animal. Other than the socialites.

    The good news is, there are many very practical steps that ordinary people can take to keep their heating bills reasonable. In my house we keep the thermostat at 48 degrees and then turn it down at night. It's hard to enter my house because of the towels and spare curtains and stuffed animals crammed by the front door to keep the heat inside. When you do manage to fight your way in, the first thing you see are strange mounds of blankets and clothes in the living room. Laundry? No, my children.

   We've stopped using the gas stove entirely. Often the kids lobby for a "hot meal," and they have been known to get a little whimpery about it. The trick, I tell them, is to eat with great speed, so that the sheer violence of the teeth grinding and gnawing will generate heat in the mouth. This doesn't work as well on frozen food.

   We eat as much as possible, since calories are technically a measure of heat. Then, to keep the blood moving, we burn them off every night during "calisthenics hour" in the living room.

   On the very coldest days, we go in and out of the house so fast you can barely see the door move. When the children insist on leaving, I shove them through the narrow aperture before slamming the door closed. I would like to apologize to my youngest for trying to fit her through the mail slot.

   I got a little rattled the first time I went downstairs at dawn and saw the furniture covered with frost. And our visitors are always a bit taken aback when they come into the house and can see their breath. There have been some awkward moments when I've asked dinner guests to rub their bodies against mine to create what I call "survival friction."

   One overnight guest complained bitterly about a frigid bedroom, even though I lent her an extra blanket and two cats.

   Obviously we cannot have a fire in the hearth because it turns the entire house into a kind of vacuum, sucking cold air in through every crack and then spewing any remaining heat back up the chimney, forcing us to the window to wave goodbye.

   "Where does the heat go?" one of my kids asked.

   "To the rich -- the damn, warm, toasty rich," I answered.

   We've become very class-conscious, all too aware that, as middle-class people, we spend the winter shivering, while the rich will never know what it is like to sit down to a Sunday dinner with chattering teeth. For them, vichyssoise is just a culinary option, not a necessity.

    We shan't despair. We cling to hope. That hope has a name: global warming. Bad for the environment, great for the monthly heating bill. We'll worry about summer when we get to it.

    [This is Sunday's Rough Draft column. I'll report back later on the future of the planet, as revealed in symposia today at the AAAS meeting in St. Louis. It is minus-50 here and I should have brought a coat. Also a notebook, but I borrowed one, no problem. I may look for an Army surplus store, or just wrap myself in layers of discarded newspapers. Last night I ran into Phil Plait, who runs the Bad Astronomy web site and is blogging the meeting, so check that out. Also talked with Marc Abrahams, of the Annals of Improbable Research. I missed Marc's slide show but got to chat afterward with one of his Ig Nobel Prize winners -- very exciting stuff.]

By Joel Achenbach  |  February 18, 2006; 10:29 AM ET
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Next: Blogging From Beyond the Grave


This is too, too funny. I love it.

Posted by: Shiloh | February 18, 2006 10:45 AM | Report abuse

Phil Plait is hilarious, but I had a PETA putoff sense when reminded of Schroedinger's Cat by Marc Abrahams. That may be another quantum v. classical reaction, revisited by Jung in his celebrated justaposition of causality and synchronicity in quarternio.

Posted by: Shiloh | February 18, 2006 10:59 AM | Report abuse

Justaposition v. juxtaposition was intentional, my humor is sometimes obverted.

Posted by: Shiloh | February 18, 2006 11:03 AM | Report abuse

In the advent of global warming and the variety of religious experience we can anticipate in the risen temperatures and tides, this kit will surely figure into some future liturgy:

Canon: "A reading from the Book of Joel."

Congregation: "Thanks be to the A-blog."

A grinning Canon then reads excerpts from "Heating Bill Horrors" to a sweltering mass of humanity.

A homily on the "The Oil Burning Bush - A Past President Remembered" follows with a a cautionary tale to the congregation that "the evils that men do live after them."

Posted by: Shiloh | February 18, 2006 11:26 AM | Report abuse

You haven't known true cold until you have lived with a pregnant woman in June. We could have hung meat in our house. Which would have worked out fine since my wife had red meat cravings throughout her pregnancy.

Now we just reset the thermostats seasonally. 68 in the summer and 76 in the winter. The gas/electric bill is pretty steady year round, eliminating the need for budget billing.

Posted by: yellojkt | February 18, 2006 11:30 AM | Report abuse

Alternative responses by the congregation include, "Blessed be the Boodle," on very high temperature days (aka Big Heat) and "Let us give him thanks and wade," at low tide memorial services in homage to past coastlines in the ante-diluvian era, B.J. (before Joel). I think i've worked this to death.

Posted by: Shiloh | February 18, 2006 11:39 AM | Report abuse

I take total credit for inspiring the bit about cats. This is my sole claim to fame. I lead a sad life.

Posted by: RD Padouk | February 18, 2006 12:07 PM | Report abuse

76 in the winter yellojkt!?! Can I come to your house? Our standard temps are the other way around...76 in summer, 68 in winter. Growing up, I didn't even know what that contraption on the wall was. I just knew we weren't allowed to touch it. The mantra was 'if you're cold, put on a sweater.'

Posted by: LostInThought | February 18, 2006 12:11 PM | Report abuse

This is one of Joel's funniest columns ever. To really get the most out of it, I suggest it be read aloud. Not only is "frost on the furniture" a brilliant visual, but it is also absurdly fun to say. This trick seems to work with a lot of Joel's work. Although, please, don't try reading his columns aloud in the middle of Starbucks. You get some mighty odd looks.

Posted by: RD Padouk | February 18, 2006 12:18 PM | Report abuse

A 78 summer, 60 winter setting (as low as the thermostat goes) prevails at my house in North Central Florida. A truly cold night (under 32) is referred to as a "Four Cat Night" and occurs occasionally, becoming rarer as global warming progresses. It is no joke, however, that last week's cold front froze the cat water dish in the greenhouse, frosting not the pumpkin, but various seedlings INSIDE. The only saving grace was that we avoided the sedan slaloms on the beltway and streets of New York.

BTW, for those into 19th c. music, it's "Aida" today at 1:30 EST on NPR. That's Verdi's version, not the Elton John/Tim Rice Broadway musical version which I have yet not seen nor heard.

For kbertocci, who eschews a/c and some other modern conveniences, I first saw "Aida" in Miami, complete with elephants from the Crandon Park Zoo.

Posted by: Shiloh | February 18, 2006 12:45 PM | Report abuse

Every year at the end of September, I begin frantically sending large $100 or $200 checks to my local gas company, in advance. This amuses them highly, as they have told me I am the only one in their local service area of some 200,000 customers to do this, if you don't count the "one rate plan" people, which I don't and they don't either. I have been unemployed and broke too often. I think about stories about ants and grasshoppers and envision myself in mid-January with no money to pay the bill and creeping icicles insinuating themselves in the window cracks and down the chimney, like in Hitchcock's "The Birds."

This actually works, Joel. As of now the gas company still "owes" me some $35. All to be savagelyu erased and then some on the new bill, due... any day now.

Posted by: Russ | February 18, 2006 2:21 PM | Report abuse

End of Act II of "Aida." No elephants in this production at the Met, as announced, but the Triumphal March was grand. Two acts to go. Working with this background produces interesting results.

Posted by: Shiloh | February 18, 2006 3:30 PM | Report abuse

A few years ago I stayed overnight at my sister's home in Potomac. I awoke the next morning around 5 a.m. I would estimate the bedroom temperature as in the high 40s -- too cold to sleep in, too cold to get out of bed. I shivered for an hour, dressed,put on a hat and went downstairs to read. When everyone else awoke, I asked my sister what the deal was. They were saving money, she said: Thermostat down, I think, to 55 at night, water heater kicked back significantly from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m.

They sold their house not long ago for $900,000. I was glad for them, and for the buyers, too. My sister can now afford heat, and new owners have a little-used heating system in their 5-bedroom home.

Moral: Don't extend overnight invitations to people unfamiliar with posh Washington's odd wintertime traditions. We hillbillies with woodstoves cain't take it.

Posted by: eddie bob | February 18, 2006 3:30 PM | Report abuse

We keep the thermostat at 71 in the winter, 76 in the summer. Of course, I'm in Texas. Temps are crashing brutally into the upper-30s tonight and the family is a'howlin' about how cold it is in the house. I suggest that they try putting on a sweater or sweatshirt and they look at me like I'm an idiot. They have become weak.

Posted by: Bayou Self | February 18, 2006 4:25 PM | Report abuse

I find curling up next to a roaring book-burning helps me stave off the winter chill.

Some suggestions for fuel; anything by Joe Biden, John McCain, Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, or Newt Gingrich.

But, if it's really cold, print the latest iteration of this Blog on heavy cardstock, toss it in fire, and think tropical thoughts.

Posted by: The Lonemule | February 18, 2006 4:40 PM | Report abuse

Lonemule, you could also throw in a cord of James Baldwin (The Fire Next Time), Ray Bradbury (Farenheit 451), Christopher Fry (The Lady's Not for Burning) and that modern classic of historic book burning by Tom Wolfe (Bonfire of the Vanities) for a rip-roaring fire. Those books act as lighter knots.

Posted by: Shiloh | February 18, 2006 4:54 PM | Report abuse

Mulie, I think that's the sweetest comment you have ever posted here

Posted by: newkid | February 18, 2006 5:03 PM | Report abuse

I think I died and went to heaven today--the branch library in our part of the city opened and the ribbon-cutting was this morning. It was like getting the biggest Christmas present under the tree for the surrounding neighborhoods.

It was *so cold* that the ceremony had to be moved into the large bay of the fire station next door whose construction is complete, but doesn't yet have the fire trucks and gear in place. Instead of a ribbon cutting, it was a fire hose decoupling. I didn't stay for this last event on the program (speechifying after speechifying, the children in the audience more restless than I) and swear I'm not making this up.

Hundreds of people showed up. But because it was so warm, the event planners arranged for free cups of ice cream to be handed out (along with a giant sheet cake and cookies and punch). Local paper's website reporting lots of fender-benders in the outlying Hill Country because of near-freezing temperatures. So, a nod to you, Bayou Self, somewhere over there on th Gulf. It *is cold.*

Cups of frozen ice cream not a smart pick for today's birthing bash. Lots of cool Boodle material from this event, plus a statement from a Maverick family member (Bayou Self, you may appreciate this) about the Patriot Act--that brought the audience of those assembled to such silence you could practically have heard a pin drop. Must go Google an interesting 1964 lawsuit.

More later. Must do dishes after my one Google, so hubby says. Bayou Self, been meanin' to ask you, since you were (are?) in televison, just how handsome are you, anyhow? Besides being colorblind. Still holding that colorblind story for you as I am holding the RFK story for Mudge.

Posted by: Loomis | February 18, 2006 5:21 PM | Report abuse

These are for you, babe.

Posted by: Loomis | February 18, 2006 5:29 PM | Report abuse

I loved the part about the blanket and two cats!

It went from 60 to 25 here yesterday. After 6 years of going through 200 gallons a month I finally taped up all the old windows in plastic and got some space heaters. Huge difference. HUGE. (Of course the relatively mild winter hasn't hurt either.)

When the wind blows across the farmer's field you can see the plastic balloon out. I hate getting out of bed to a cold room.

Posted by: Error Flynn | February 18, 2006 6:03 PM | Report abuse

Seattle is freezing too. So cold last night (in the teens) that we were advised to keep the faucets running so the pipes don't freeze. I hate doing that (oh, the waste!), and it makes me anxious all night. The weather forecasters said it would be like this just for a day or two...this will be the third straight night. And they're hinting at snow next week. The sun is out, though...I'm ready for spring! I have become a real weather wimp here - hate it when the temperature is below 32 or above 80. I'm glad I can pay the heat bill - at least, I think I should be able to...

Posted by: mostlylurking | February 18, 2006 6:20 PM | Report abuse

Tonight, according to

20 F. Feels like 7.

Posted by: Error Flynn | February 18, 2006 6:35 PM | Report abuse

Thank you, Loomis, for the links. I do not keep a thermoscope (or thermometer as they now say), but rely on my toes, nose and ears to tell me the temperature. They are finely tuned to climate. Santorio Santorre's devices were less reliable than my various appendages.

Error Flynn: I use the interior shrink wrap type of plastic window insulation. It's acrylic clear, as tight as a drum and does not balloon when the wind blows. It also keeps the windows clean inside. Although my almost 100 year old house is now insulated, I made it a point to stuff those ubiquitous plastic shopping bags in every crook and cranny to keep down the drafts. I also use space heaters in lieu of central heat (except when it falls below 50F -the low point on the thermostat- and then it's a combination.) I stopped using my faux log propane fireplace when gas went through the roof and stopped using my wood burning stove when it mostly sucked the heat outside and left a residue of ash and tars over everything in the house. Overall, these measures, plus a few others, have succesfully kept my heat and a/c bills at or below $150 a month, not bad for an old 1650 sf house.

For the PETA folk: note that I use an electric heating pad under a large cat/dog bed in the greenhouse -which has a pet door connecting it to the house - and in severe weather, welcome a living fur coverlet to my bed. A coverlet that sometimes becomes crushing on colder nights because access has been discovered by every cat in the neighborhood

The truth is, Joel's kit today doth make believers of us all.

Posted by: Shiloh | February 18, 2006 6:39 PM | Report abuse

Mostlylurking: I'm beginning to sound like Hints from Heloise, but we've had several "keep the faucets dripping" cold nights. I let it drip into the stoppered jacuzzi tub at the far end of the water line and use the water for plants in the greenhouse, or if enough volume has accumulated over several days of cold, add some (biodegradable) detergent, turn on the jacuzzi and get a good cold water pre-wash for all those dirty towels that have been stuffed under doors to keep out the draft.

Posted by: Shiloh | February 18, 2006 6:48 PM | Report abuse

Hey mostlylurking, as someone raised in the beautiful "Daffodil Valley," I, like, feel your pain. I can only recall one or two times in the first quarter century of my life when the temperature fell into the 20s - forget about the teens. The houses just aren't built for that kind of cold. Break out the extra-thick wool sweaters. Make yourself some nice scones and slather on some steaming raspberry jam. Stay warm.

Posted by: RD Padouk | February 18, 2006 6:53 PM | Report abuse

>interior shrink wrap type of plastic window insulation
That's what I had in mind, but I ended up with this other, somewhat thicker stuff courtesy of the local Home Depot. I'll dig it up for next year I guess. Turns out the painter's tape I used to seal this bugger up has torn off some of the paint on the trim.

Allowing the neighborhood kitties in as coverlets has got to get you some kind of critter award. :-)

Posted by: Error Flynn | February 18, 2006 6:55 PM | Report abuse

Mostlylurking, the coldest I ever remember it being here in the South was -4F. We did leave our faucets dripping, but the cold water in the kitchen froze. Afterwards, we put a heater tape on it so it wouldn't do that again. That was in January 1985, if I remember correctly. It was cold enough to kill the ligustrum, and that never happens!

Anything below 75F is cold, as far as I am concerned. My husband is hot if the temperature is above 62, so we have issues. Mostly, I stay cold...if I want to tease him, I put my cold hands on his tummy. Makes him squeal every time...

Posted by: Slyness | February 18, 2006 7:10 PM | Report abuse

Gosh, thanks for all the responses to my whining! Shiloh, saving the dripping water is a good idea...but since I don't have a jacuzzi, I'd probably worry if the bathtub was big enough for holding all the overnight drips (and my math skills are not such that I could calculate it). Excellent idea - and I was toying with something along that line.

RD, the news a mere week or so ago was that the daffodils were blooming early - ruh roh. They're tough, though - much tougher than I am. I have my wool socks, sheepskin slippers, polar fleece top. Drank Godiva hot chocolate and ate toast with cloudberry jam last night, whilst watching the snowboarder "biff" her gold medal goodbye...

Slyness, I realized after I posted that my temperature tolerance is more like 50-80 degrees F. I'm not familiar with ligustrum (at least, it's not ringing a bell right now), will have to google that.

Posted by: mostlylurking | February 18, 2006 7:32 PM | Report abuse

Hey dr - sorry about those crazy curling Italians. I guess there is something to be said for home ice.

And on the subject of curling, I just saw some pictures from that new women's curling calendar....well, gender politics aside, I must admit it did make me feel quite a bit warmer....


Posted by: RD Padouk | February 18, 2006 7:35 PM | Report abuse

Linda: from last boodle...

I think JA mentioned his birthday - in January? December?

Anyway, I'm here whenever you need me.

(hmmm...that could interpreted several different way - but I'm too tired to edit.)

Posted by: ot | February 18, 2006 7:35 PM | Report abuse

for Nani...(and a nice tie in to the kit above)

The Home Fire

Pardon the smile on my face my friend
Dreamin' of reachin' my journeys end
I'm headin' straight for my hearts desire
Gee, it's good to know I'm near the home fire

All of the folks that I love are there
I got a date with my favourite chair
With every step every hope grows higher
Didn't know how much I missed the home fire

The noises, the tv, the rusty old pipes
The cat always teasin' my dog
The neighbours, the quarrels, the screaming of kids
For the first time in years I'll sleep like a log

Heaven is waiting for me, my friend
Seven or eight dreams around the bend
And if you're ever in town inquire
We'll be glad to have you share the home fire

Posted by: ot | February 18, 2006 7:43 PM | Report abuse

perhaps we can have some merriment betwixt us, for the amusement of the Boodle (good-naturedly, as in your last artistic effort) if bc will operate as the go-between, and perhaps even he himself giving some creative input. Not for Joel's BD, but for the First Achenanniversary.

didn't know if you know how to spell Fahrenheit--typo or schwach Deutsch.

Posted by: Loomis | February 18, 2006 7:55 PM | Report abuse

Like the Magnolia, Ligustrum or privet - of the same division/class - has survived in NFL territory (North FL). The die-offs in cold, cold winters have been buttonwood Mangrove and Australian Pines (a non-native specie which should have known better).

The more interesting botanical indication of climate change (this Administration's euphemistic phrase for global warming) has been the inland migration of coastal forests. Over the past quarter century Washingtonia palms and indigenous pines have moved inland about 300 feet during regeneration.

I like to visualize that as Tolkein's "Ents," the tree people that move slowly and laboriously, picking up their roots and gingerly stepping out of the wetlands to dry land. But, in reality, it is simply that the seedlings cannot survive in the rising seawater table their little roots reach to for a drink.

Posted by: Shiloh | February 18, 2006 7:55 PM | Report abuse

I hope dr's not too upset - the headline is Canadians Upset by Swiss:

Dan Steinberg's blog is good too - omni, he mentions Robert Ludlum:

And this in the local paper - I posted it the other day, but at the end of a used up boodle:

Thanks for the ligustrum info...I love the Ents...

Posted by: mostlylurking | February 18, 2006 8:05 PM | Report abuse

Loomis: I do not do SCC, anticipating that boodlers recognize a typo or spelling error for what it should be, can interpret misplaced punctuation and are not all anal retentive and compulsive editors (Lonemule notwithstanding). Also, my first languages were not Americanized English. Finally, Joel promised either moveable type or an edit key, neither of which have been forthcoming. SCC, as I recall from Joel, is a form of self-flagellation and he also promised a key for that function.

Posted by: Shiloh | February 18, 2006 8:06 PM | Report abuse

Oh, for the love of Pete, as Achenfan would say - I posted the wrong link for the Seattle Times sports guy's column -

This one was pretty funny, I thought, as he worked in the shroud, and ice, etc...

Posted by: mostlylurking | February 18, 2006 8:12 PM | Report abuse

Yes, Joel and his promises...Where is the edit function, Hal?!?

Posted by: mostlylurking | February 18, 2006 8:14 PM | Report abuse

Ah, yes, Europeans and ice...My first trip to Europe was a study tour at Oxford when I was a college sophomore. We got to travel around quite a bit. I remember a Sunday afternoon in Edinburgh when a couple of buddies and I had hiked Arthur's Seat and came across a sign for ICED TEA. We were majorly consisted of a glass of tea with exactly two ice cubes the size of my thumbnail.

But it tasted good!

Posted by: Slyness | February 18, 2006 8:49 PM | Report abuse

Well said, mostlylurking, maybe if we turn it into a mantra: edit key, edit key, edit key, Joel will finally hear us. I had also requested an italic key, but was content that boodlers knew the difference in context if not in print.

Loomis, I regret if my sometimes acerbic wit has offended thee, but I have a low tolerance and do not gladly suffer repetitive explanations. It comes from a long, long time of living - or as your poet Eliot (T.S., not George) expressed it:

"It seems, as one becomes older,
That the past has another pattern, and ceases to be a mere sequence-/
Or even development: the latter a partial fallacy,/
Encouraged by superficial notions of evolution,/Which becomes, in the popular mind, a means of disowning the past."
-The Dry Salvages, from Four Quartets 1941.

Posted by: Shiloh | February 18, 2006 9:06 PM | Report abuse

Mostlylurking and Shiloh, around here, privet and ligustrum are both used for hedges. I grew up with a privet hedge, which my mother used for switches. Good way to keep kids in line...Privet has little leaves, ligustrum has big leaves. There is a ligustrum hedge down both sides of our yard, and it is a royal pain in the patootie, as it requires constant attention to look decent. We'll just have to keep shearing it till our ship comes in and we can afford to pay somebody to bring in a backhoe and dig it out.

Posted by: Slyness | February 18, 2006 9:08 PM | Report abuse

Joel may ,in situ, recognize that Eliot was born and grew up in St. Louis - pre-internet.

Posted by: Shiloh | February 18, 2006 9:28 PM | Report abuse

Sly, outmaster, the Ligustrum vulgare is the common privet of Europe that is weedlike. Other varietals, like fine or acidic wines, stem (pun intended) from the same family.

Posted by: Shiloh | February 18, 2006 9:31 PM | Report abuse

It's a Wonderful Life!

It's nice to know I can finally get the liberal arts edumacation that I missed learinng circuit analaysis and FORTRAN66, just by hanging out here.

The closest bunch I can think of that compares is the ELFQUEST forum on CompuServe, around '89.

That's saying something.

Posted by: Error Flynn | February 18, 2006 9:45 PM | Report abuse

Error Flynn: I thought "It's a Wonderful Life" was Jimmy Stewart, or maybe Gary Cooper, but I've never been able to keep up with all those movies - and that's recent experience.

Welcome to liberal arts humor 101. It does delve into the more esoteric and techno, but you cannot help but be happy here.

Posted by: Shiloh | February 18, 2006 10:01 PM | Report abuse

And never correct yourself. We all understand the effects of Romulan Ale.

Posted by: Shiloh | February 18, 2006 10:05 PM | Report abuse

Here in my small town, we're expecting sleet and snow, and I don't look forward to any of it. I was raised in houses where one could see the ground when looking at the floor, and a wood heater that required manual attention. I am not a fan of heat, although when it's really cold I want some heat. I'm in a place now that has central heat, so I'm very thankful because my mobile home had gas, and I just couldn't afford to buy it. I do hope in places that have really cold temps, everyone is inside and warm, but I know that probably won't happen. I'm afraid someone in this rich country of ours will sleep outdoors.

Posted by: Cassandra S | February 18, 2006 10:13 PM | Report abuse

Wowzer on the hockey upset!

I'm staying warm this evening watching a show called Hustle on AMC. Wowzer again. Good show.

I was tucking some papertowels into the small gap in our French doors this evening. Things seem better because of it.

Posted by: Bayou Self | February 18, 2006 10:19 PM | Report abuse

It is not just cats, Cassandra, that enjoy the warmth of my home on a winter's night. Be assured that some of us open our homes to those in need of warmth and shelter and all the Maslovian hierarchy of needs that may lead to the steps to self-actualization, and do it for no other reason than it is the right thing to do.

Posted by: Shiloh | February 18, 2006 10:27 PM | Report abuse

That is good, Shiloh, I just hope no one has to sleep outdoors with temps so low. I also would open my home to someone rather than let them sleep outdoors. My grandchildren are here with me now, but we would make room.

Posted by: Cassandra S | February 18, 2006 10:59 PM | Report abuse

ot, if you're interested in contacting Ms. Loomis, feel free to email me at

I've had some good luck this winter not allowing any of the pets to relieve themselves outside. The yellow lab is an especially good producer and the house stays reasonably warm. I suspect that when the winter cold/flu season is over and our sinus passages clear up, we may be ready to move to a new barn, er, house.


Posted by: bc | February 18, 2006 11:09 PM | Report abuse

My experience, exactly, bc. when cats come in from the outside to use the litterbox, I am mystified

Posted by: Shiloh | February 18, 2006 11:18 PM | Report abuse

We have a forecast of SNOW here on the higher elevations of the Central Coast of California. Top news story of the evening!

Posted by: nellie | February 18, 2006 11:19 PM | Report abuse

It's down in the 30s tonight along the Texas Gulf Coast. And it sounds as though the village idiots who live behind me have their air conditioning running.

Could it be a heat pump or something?

Posted by: Bayou Self | February 18, 2006 11:31 PM | Report abuse

Hey, boodle.

Suffering the grave afteraffects of a late dinner, shrimp and artichoke dip appetizer with a glass of semi-spicy Rivanna (red wine), main course of rack of lanb, spinach with pine nuts, and a rice pilaf, with a bottle of excellent Pepperwood Grove pinot noir (split four ways), then after dinner (and this was my downfall), a Galiano on the rocks with a twist of lime, and coffee. I believe I may have refreshed my Galiano with another half glass.

Read today's boodle with a silly-ass, glazed grin on my face, no idea what I read. Something about...uh...caulking? I forget. Time for bed. 'Night, Loomis. 'Night, Nani. 'Night, Cassandra. 'Night, Shiloh, bc, and Bayou. Boy, you guys are all up late. Pretty chilly here tonight. Thermometer seems to be reading...ah...oh, maybe 11:37 Frahrenheit, or so. That's about what? 16 Centipede? Not a bad idea for a kit topic, Joel. Cost of heating earl. Think about it. 'Night, boodle.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | February 18, 2006 11:42 PM | Report abuse

On a really cold night, heat pumps can sound like someone threw rocks in the dryer (that's why they're not used in cold climates).

Posted by: LostInThought | February 18, 2006 11:43 PM | Report abuse

SCC: Frahrenheit. That's obviously s'pose a be Farbenheit. Fahren. Fahrenblite. Fahren, that's Deutsch. Means, like...go, or travel. Right, Loomis? Ask Loomis. She knows Deutsch.

Here's something weird: the temperature seems to be rising. The little icon in the corner of my monitor says it's now up to 11:54.

Bob Costas seems to be hosting Saturday Night Live. But he isn't very funny. And where's Tina Fey? And Horatio Sands? I think I'm going to bed.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | February 18, 2006 11:58 PM | Report abuse

Bayou Self,
If/when I write out my story regarding colorblindness, which also involves a two-headed calf, remind me to work into the tale Oliver Sachs' book, "The Island of the Colorblind."

Just remember that all posts to the Boodle are posted at Eastern Standard or Daylight Time. For those of us foreigners in flyover land--Central, Rocky, or Pacific time zones, it's not as late as you may think. In fact, for Eurotrash, it may already be tomorrow, or for americaninsiam, very early in the morning.
Mudge, also never eaten 16 centipede before but remember the first time I was introduced to escargot--and have loved them ever since. This may sound silly to you, but I'll also never forget the man who got me to like bleu cheese dressing, which ties into the story of colorblindness. It'll all make sense one of these days.

Hope Joel is enjoying his conference. Thanks to bc's link, I looked at some of the conference topics and many sounded interesting. Looking forward to several fun Kits.

Now it is getting late here. Night, all. Sleep warm. Sweet dreams.

Posted by: Loomis | February 19, 2006 12:12 AM | Report abuse

It's below zero around here but will warm up tomorrow. Going home to the cat blanket and Olympic reruns.

Hope you feel okay in the morning, Mudge.


Posted by: boondocklurker | February 19, 2006 12:30 AM | Report abuse

It was grand waking up to cur's biting wit. The temp here has dropped to 4:18 during the night.

Posted by: Shiloh | February 19, 2006 4:17 AM | Report abuse

...keep the thermostat at 48 degrees and then turn it down at night...joel in kit
...memories of thermostat settings of
64,60 and 56 in winterwonderland wisconsin
brought to mind... jimmy carter sweater
moments...the return of spring days and
the truly high feast day of ceased burnt
offering to the winter gods when furnace
is shut down for the season,oh joy!...

Posted by: an american in siam... | February 19, 2006 5:31 AM | Report abuse

Breakfast, inspired by Loomis and whetted by Cur's rack of lanb (with rosemary, baby) has been named in her honor, "Huevos Loomis con Caracol a la Francesca" It was unreal. I had started to post the entire recipe during the preparation, (and while the convection oven was pre-heating the kitchen - to keep in accord with the kit), but a formerly feral neighborhood cat became very friendly and deleted it by pawing the keyboard. Barely a yearling,he was overcome with gratitude, I think, by having the liquid drained from the French Helix Snails (pre-cooked) poured over the dry cat food when I went to the greenhouse for chervil and parsley.

BTW, I always keep a can of escargot around in case of emergencies. The yearling feral cat has never allowed me to touch him, has bolted every time I moved, and suddenly - after the snail juice - jumped into my lap as I typed with Italian heaven smelling fingers that had minced garlic, shallots and prosciutto. I don't think it was my personality that made the difference in attitude.

Huevos Loomis con Caracol al la Francesca, prepared as a fritatta, is recommended by the chef as a Florida gulf coast breakfast variation on Texas toast.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 19, 2006 5:59 AM | Report abuse

and, good morning, Siam, or should I say good night?

Posted by: Shiloh | February 19, 2006 6:03 AM | Report abuse

Just got up and looked out the window, no snow so far, and the roads look okay. That's good for me because I want to go to Sunday school, and service at eleven. My grandsons are here, I'm planning on waking them up to take them also. I'm going to hear groans and get dirty looks, but we're going if it's in God's plan. Hope everyone is warm and toasty. Have a good day whatever the weather, and mudge, hope you're not feeling the effects of whatever you consumed last night. I will certainly pray for all, and hope you do the same for me, not because I think you're bad folks, but because I love you dearly and want good things for you. Stay warm.

Posted by: Cassandra S | February 19, 2006 6:32 AM | Report abuse

Sleeping grandchildren rousted for church brings this to mind:

"Has it been observed to what extent outward idleness, or semi-idleness, is necessary to a real religious life (alike for its favourite microscopic labour of self-examination, and for its soft placidity called "prayer," the state of perpetual readiness for the "coming of God"),I mean the idleness with a good conscience, the idleness of olden times and of blood, to which the aristocratic sentiment that work is dishonouring -that it vulgarises body and soul-is not quite unfamiliar?" -FN, The Religious Mood

Let sleeping grandchildren lie. They will become more godly for the idleness.

Posted by: Shiloh | February 19, 2006 6:51 AM | Report abuse

Grandmother does allow them to sleep and be idle, as you put it, but not this morning. I want to take them with me. After rousing them, and getting the clothes on, they will be fine. And ready to go. It's just that first rousing where one wants to cling to the bed. I go through it myself, but eventually move, and I'm usually okay. With so much going on in the world and so many choices for young people to make, and not all of them good, I believe religious training is in order. I'm just old fashion that way. And I realize that even with that, my grandchildren will make mistakes, but I want them to have something that does not fade with the light of time, and is sure and true, and not of this world, but of a better world. So, if we have to get up early to get some of that, so be it. Their souls are precious, and need food, just as their bodies do.

Posted by: Cassandra S | February 19, 2006 7:03 AM | Report abuse

My tongue'th all futhy.

Would everyone thop pothting tho loudly? Thank you.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | February 19, 2006 8:35 AM | Report abuse

Rack of lanb covered with Rosemary's Baby? Ewwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | February 19, 2006 8:36 AM | Report abuse

During my army days, cur, at the time of that previous war - the Cold War - our complaint was that "it felt the whole Russian Army marched through my mouth in muddy boots."

Posted by: Shiloh | February 19, 2006 8:40 AM | Report abuse

like, as in I like lanb, and Rosemary ain't so bad either.

Posted by: Shiloh | February 19, 2006 8:42 AM | Report abuse

Purge and Pitch are the answers, if anyone was listening to Will Shortz on NPR this morning.

Posted by: Shiloh | February 19, 2006 8:48 AM | Report abuse


The story of the workers in the vineyard is supposed to teach that people who come to know God later in life get the same reward as people who grow up like your grandchildren, with religious instruction in their youth. It is a lesson that I have always had trouble believing, based on my own experience. My life has been much easier (in terms of the ability to deal with hardship, that is) because of the early training, and my daughter benefitted greatly from regular attendance at church/Sunday school as well. Your grandchildren are very blessed to have you in their lives.

Posted by: kbertocci | February 19, 2006 8:49 AM | Report abuse

My, isn't everyone in a good mood this fine Sunday morning! My kids never had a choice about church, either, Cassandra. I'm ready, myself, just waiting on the husbandly unit, who is unaccountably slow on Sundays. Must be a North Carolina thing. Glad you didn't get snow, although the forecast here is for sleet tomorrow.

And yes, the going to church does appear to have an impact. Yesterday, my older child called with a question. She was going to a surprise birthday party last night and wanted to know if she should take a small gift to the hostess. YEESSS!! I think she hasn't fallen far from my mother's (very proper) tree.

Posted by: Slyness | February 19, 2006 8:51 AM | Report abuse

Yes, kbertocci, but isn't the point of the parable of the vinyard that we who were early taught faith do have an easier time all along, although we get the same reward as those who come later? And we shouldn't begrudge the same reward for the latecomers, because of that?

Posted by: Slyness | February 19, 2006 8:55 AM | Report abuse

In my case, the mandatory attendance at church as a child fostered a spiritual naivete' that has taken a lifetime of contemplative understanding to bring back to the beginning.

Posted by: Shiloh | February 19, 2006 9:04 AM | Report abuse

Slyness, you are right, of course.

Posted by: kbertocci | February 19, 2006 9:04 AM | Report abuse

I am the dust mote riding Joel's coat tails. How often I wish I could travel in his suitcase wherever he goes--say, umm, Bodega Bay and Paso Robles, Japan, and St. Louis.

It must be colder up there than the proverbial spell-sister's suckling implement of spiffitude, but how I would love to head there today and tomorrow to see these places and visit with these individuals:

Fort Belle Fontaine Park
The Bissell connection to Lewis and Clark is well-established, Bissells having arrived with Loomises in ancient Windsor, Conn. in 1639, home of the famous Windsor knot and Windsor half-knot.

I would, without a moment's hesitation, visit Rev. Robert Tabscott. I hope, since talking to him last, that he is still the pastor of the small church, now in East St. Louis, I believe, that is the church that printer Elijah Lovejoy once attended, Lovejoy being the first martyr of the American press. Tabscott is the leading authority on Lovejoy as well. Although Tabscott doesn't do computers, he is as charming and intelligent a man as any I've met or spoken to, and a lovable character to boot.

*Joel, Tabscott will show you where to throw your ink around (inside joke).
**Note to Cassandra, when I began my quest, it was Black reverends who first helped me--without too many questions, with asking for pay, and swiftly, I might add. Too bad Black history is relegated to just one month of the year, this one, February.

I would try to find Charlie Galt Clark, just to catch up on old times, and perhaps ask him for one last dance under the stars on the old wooden platform of the old train station in St. Charles, just up hte banks of the Missouri River.

Then, dust mote that I am, I would join Joel at either the swankiest bar in town or the dumpiest dive, to listen to him talk science.

It is now clear that Karl Rove sent the Lone Mule to bray among us. Looks like Joel foiled that plot. TeeHeeHaw! (channeling Buck Owens of Bakersfield) But, prayers be given to Ward Cleaver, it now looks like Jeb Bush's chef is trying to do a hatchet job on me. But I'm enjoying my new moniker: St. LindaLoo.

Sing it again, Sam: Meet me in St. Louie, Louie.

Posted by: Loomis | February 19, 2006 9:16 AM | Report abuse

Great timing on your Rough Draft article, Joel. It was 13 degrees in Fairfax when I got up this morning. I had to chip the firewood apart.

Posted by: RD Padouk | February 19, 2006 9:25 AM | Report abuse

Jeb Bush's chef takes refuge not in Beard or Child, but e.e.cummings the Cambridge ladies who live in furnished souls.

Posted by: Shiloh | February 19, 2006 9:26 AM | Report abuse

for loomis at 12:12:02am and shiloh at
6:03:03am in blog above...

that would be "good evening" shiloh...:-)

as a rule of thumb when the rising sun's
rays reach the TEMPLE OF DAWN in bangkok
the western wisconsin sky is aglow with the
sun's setting...... when the sky above the
andaman sea off phuket is bathed in the
splendor of a tropical sunset it is then
sunrise in wisconsin...a 12 hour spread CST
on clock...13 hours during central DST...
as rules of the thumb go it works ok...
... it is understood that sunrise and
sunset times for north america are much
more changing over the span of one year compared to equatorial southern thailand...

Posted by: an american in siam... | February 19, 2006 9:33 AM | Report abuse

Thanks for the reckoning, siam, and the poetic telling of it. The poet-philopher and artist-poet are often little understood.

Posted by: Shiloh | February 19, 2006 9:44 AM | Report abuse

Often misunderstood, too, is the Oriental mind, as little known as Asian cooking methods.

A nod to my reporter friend Nicky for this phrase that tells the story about age-old Chinese torture techniques: the ancient punishment of "ling chi," usually translated as "death by a thousand cuts."

Yan Can Cook.

*Ling chi also known as the Mushroom of Immortality.

Posted by: Loomis | February 19, 2006 10:19 AM | Report abuse


Most tired of verbal jujitsu. Benevolence behooves us all here on the Boodle.

Posted by: Loomis | February 19, 2006 10:21 AM | Report abuse

I keep in my kitchen, Loomis, this bit of Laotzu:
"If the sign of life is in your face
He who responds to it
Will feel secure and fit
As when, in a friendly place,
Sure of hearty care,
A traveler gladly waits.
Though it may not taste like food
And he may not see the fare
Or hear a sound of plates,
How endless it is and how good!"

I can only imagine Louis crabbing about the food, or Benedict spitting out the eggs, to understand having an honor thrown back in one's face. I don't mince garlic and shallots with a cleaver. The sword of righteouness does just fine.

Posted by: Shiloh | February 19, 2006 10:30 AM | Report abuse

I?m sitting in the hotel bar with a half dozen science humorists. This is the life!

I remember reading Joel Achenbach?s "Why Things Are" column for years, and it was hysterical. He?s sitting next to me now, talking about the Washington Post, reporters, and the decline of the web (I may have that somewhat mixed up).

One person listening to him is Marc Abrahams, who runs the Annals of Improbable Research. Marc presented a two hour tour-de-force a little while back about the world famous "Ig Nobel awards, given to people who have done dubious (and generally unintentionally hilarious) scientific research. He showed pictures from people who have won awards for

creating a big foam suit to act like armor, and then letting a log swing from a rope and smack into him, hard (think end of the movie Predator),

inventing Karaoke, ...

Anyway, at this bar was also a woman by the name of Elizabeth Kolbert who just won an award from the AAAS for a series of articles she wrote on global warming. Also here was another freelance journalist by (coincidentally) the name of Joel, whose last name I missed, and Lara Ricci, an Italian journalist who writes science humor in Italy.

This was a fascinating evening, full of fun and also some serious discussion on the future of newspapers, the attacks on science (a huge topic at this meeting!)? but mostly a lot of big laughs (Joel Achenbach?s writing is very funny; he used to hang out with Dave Barry if that means anything to you) .

I?ve observed over the years, and it?s been confirmed by countless other scientists, that the real business of meetings is conducted at restaurants and bars. The symposia, the posters, the plenary lectures? those are interesting, and they can spark conversations, but those conversations thrive and bloom over drinks and calamari. Maybe I can figure out some way of getting it included in my per diem?

Posted by: Loomis | February 19, 2006 10:36 AM | Report abuse

A couple of 'boodles back you asked me why I like Tom Shroder's "Old Souls" book so much. Although I don't feel that any synopsis or review I could provide here would quite do justice to the book, I will venture to say that I like the way Tom writes, and the book's topic -- reincarnation -- is something that intrigues me and something that I am prepared to consider as a possibility.

The book (nonfiction) is about the research of Ian Stevenson, a physician and psychiatrist who has spent some 40 years interviewing children who recall details of what appear to be past lives. Stevenson has compiled about 2,000 cases. He allowed Tom to accompany him on some field trips to Lebanon, India, and parts of the U.S.

As the subtitle of the book suggests, the cases are indeed compelling -- although Tom doesn't go so far as to say that they constitute hard evidence for reincarnation. He uses a very pragmatic, fact-based approach -- as one would expect from a serious journalist -- but also demonstrates tremendous respect for Stevenson and his beliefs as well as considerable broad-mindedness.

Throughout the book, Tom asks himself what all this convincing evidence Stevenson has gathered means, both overall and in terms of his own personal beliefs. Whether or not Stevenson's data are proof of reincarnation per se, they seem to suggest *something* within the realm of the paranormal.

Here is an excerpt from the opening chapter:

"While I struggle with my fear of dying, [Stevenson] is wrestling with his own fear of annihilation: that his life's work will end, largely ignored by his peers. 'Why,' he asks for the third time since night has fallen, 'do mainstream scientists refuse to accept the evidence we have for reincarnation?' . . . Now we are near the end of our last trip together, perhaps the last trip of Stevenson's career. It dawns on me in the noisy chill of the microbus, droning and rattling through the night, that Stevenson's question is not rhetorical. He is asking *me*, the outsider, the skeptical journalist who has seen what he has to show, to explain. How can scientists, professed to hold no dogma that reasonable evidence cannot overturn, ignore the volumes of reasonable evidence that he has provided? . . . After all I have seen and heard, do *I*, at least, believe? . . . He wants to know. He is asking me. He deserves an answer."

[Tom offers an answer toward the end of the book, which I'll post below. I should also mention that THE Joel is mentioned in the book -- including in the part I'm going to quote. Stay tuned . . .]

[Weingarten is also mentioned, but I think I'll stick to the Achenquote.]

Posted by: Tom fan and Dreamer | February 19, 2006 11:14 AM | Report abuse

Thank you very much for your answer, Tomfan.

Must have a longer discussion on dreams some day. Your attempts to discuss it have not gotten a lot of response and Joel's Kit on dreams that one day didn't really have people who stuck to the topic for very long.

There are the night dreams when images and names and scenes and languages fly into the dreamscape (great WaPo piece on Dada art today, BTW), and then the daytime dreams--really just fantasies that the world could just be a whole lot better place.

Saw DVD/Nick Cage's "The Lord of War" on Thurs. night. Didn't think I'd like it because it was a hubby pick, but ended up liking it *far more* than I had planned on. Felt same way about M. Night Shyamalan's film, "The Village" after I had seen it.

Posted by: Loomis | February 19, 2006 11:27 AM | Report abuse

"My turn to participate in the SSE [Society for Scientific Exploration] conference came in its closing session: I was one of five panelists in a discussion on how the media covered science. We each had prepared a ten-minute set piece on some related topic, but we soon discovered that the real reason for our being there was to allow conferees to vent an immense bitterness about the way 'alternative' scientists were dismissed, or even abused, by journalists. The panel consisted of three reporters . . . and another friend of mine from The Washington Post, a writer named Joel Achenbach. I had been invited largely because the man organizing the conference knew that I was writing a book about Stevenson, and I suggested that he invite Joel, who was writing a book, as Joel said, 'about aliens.'

". . . Joel not only stole the show, but managed to nearly incite a riot by insisting that the scientific mainstream was mainstream for a reason: It made sense, it didn't go off the deep end or jump to conclusions or engage in conspiracies to suppress truth. It simply insisted that things be proven in scientifically rigorous ways that can be repeated and potentially disproven in objective experiments.

"For this he was denounced roundly by an orator in the audience . . . . The man said that he himself had helped to prove the effectiveness of cold fusion -- nothing less than a potential source for unlimited, free, clean energy. And yet his advances were being ignored because the mainstream media held that cold fusion was impossible and journalists like Joel slavishly believed what the mainstream dictated.

"'If he really had discovered how to make cold fusion work,' Joel said afterward, 'I don't think he's *need* anyone to believe him. He could just light up Washington with a bottle of water, and call it a day.'"

-- from "Old Souls: Compelling Evidence from Children Who Remember Past Lives," by Tom Shroder

["light up Washington with a bottle of water and call it a day"! Ha!]

Posted by: Achen- and Tom fan | February 19, 2006 11:29 AM | Report abuse

OK, one more, to wrap it all up:

"'. . . saying, "These kids know what they know because they are reincarnated" . . . seems too simplistic to me. Too linear. It's assuming we know things we don't know, like what "time" is, for instance, or "personal identity."

"'So I think I'm reaching the same conclusion I reached the first time, that these children are less important for what they say about the specifics of what happens after we die, than for what they say about how the world works -- that it's mysterious, that there are larger forces at work, that -- in some way -- we're all connected by forces beyond our understanding, but definitely not irrelevant to our lives.'

"Finally, Monticello's iron gate appeared before us. Closed and locked. We had time to return, go for a run, and still make the convention's closing banquet. As I headed back to campus, Joel, as usual, had the last word.

"'I'm not arguing with that as a personal insight,' he said. 'Just don't think it's science.'

"Only later did I think of a retort: If it's not science, maybe it should be."

-- from "Old Souls: Compelling Evidence from Children Who Remember Past Lives," by Tom Shroder

Posted by: Achenfan and Dreamer | February 19, 2006 11:38 AM | Report abuse

[I apologize for Achenbloghogging. That said, and while I've still got the floor, I just want to say thank you to everyone who gave me tips re. Bag Balm -- they were far superior to Heloise's Hints ("Next time you go to the grocery store, save the plastic bags, because you can re-use them as storage and carry bags!!") Also, thank you all for asking me how Hong Kong is, but I haven't actually left D.C. yet. (I left my job about a week ago so I could focus on move-related odds and ends and thought I wouldn't be able to do much 'boodling. Ha! As Joel said in "The Grand Idea," people always find a way.]

Posted by: Achenfan | February 19, 2006 11:43 AM | Report abuse

Bah. I bungled the Achenqote. It should read "'If he really had discovered how to make cold fusion work,' Joel said afterward, 'I don't think he'D *need* anyone to believe him.'" [Not "don't think he's need"]

Posted by: Achenfan | February 19, 2006 11:49 AM | Report abuse

Oh, Joel's just a fussy old Rationalist. Why let things like unrepeatability & lack of disprovability get in the way of a fun view of life?

Posted by: Bob S. | February 19, 2006 11:59 AM | Report abuse

Dreamer: The Upanishads, Bhagavadgita, and in some ways The Dhammpada illuminate the essence of reincarnation. They are difficult for most Westerners to read, but are worth the effort.

"Proving" reincarnation is like proving God, mostly unnecessary - but the possibility of reincarnation as a scientific quest seems worthy of a Templeton prize if provable.

Augustine on immortality and Aquinas on proving God, provide direction, but Pascal best sums up the quest:

"The heart has its own order; the intellect has its own, which is by principle and demonstration.......The heart has its reasons, which reason does not know."

Happy hunting.

Posted by: Shiloh | February 19, 2006 12:09 PM | Report abuse

Achenfan (or more appropriately, Tom fan and Dreamer), nice to have you drop in. Tom's book sounds interesting - I'll have to see if the library has it. I read GeneW's (and Gina's) I'm With Stupid recently - hilarious - and I'm in the middle of his hypochondriac book. Joel gets mentions in both.

Have you seen the new What the Bleep movie yet? I've seen ads for it in the paper, and thought of you. Good luck with the move - it will be great hearing from you in HK! Make sure you pack your "Hi Boodle" sign!

Oh, and my husband has used Bag Balm for years - his dad was a farmer - my husband's hands are always torn up. He had me pick up Cornhusker's Lotion the other day, too.

Posted by: mostlylurking | February 19, 2006 12:10 PM | Report abuse

"Science humorists", now *that's* a job I could get into.


Posted by: bc | February 19, 2006 12:36 PM | Report abuse

The Achenblog got a plug in the Bad Astronomy blog comments - even a couple of quotes from Kits past. Kewl...

Posted by: mostlylurking | February 19, 2006 12:47 PM | Report abuse

The Texas cold wave must be invading Florida from the west. It was supposed to be sunny today; it's not, and I'm consuming more than my 47 jillion shares of BTUs in electricity today.

Posted by: Shiloh | February 19, 2006 12:51 PM | Report abuse

I read the Bhagavadgita when I was like 10 or 11, after escaping from Catholic school when they couldn't answer my questions. (I guess I couldn't undertand why God would have the nun beat me when it was really the next kid that talked in line. You're either all-knowing or you aren't.)

But I found D.T. Suzuki's "Manual of Zen Buddhism" more useful. It's also a good deal shorter, which appeals to my sense of elegance in nature. :-)

I've actually had an audience with J.C Burnett a.k.a Ramtha from the "What the Bleep" movie. I didn't (and don't) "believe" in her channeling, but I must say the the advice she gave me was at least as enlightening as anything else I've come across.

I really liked Joel's cold fusion comment: "He could just light up Washington with a bottle of water, and call it a day."

I just wish the mainstream religions would hold themselves to the same standard.

Posted by: Error Flynn | February 19, 2006 12:55 PM | Report abuse

I was fortunate, Error, in 1960, upon returning from Korea and Japan, to have had several encounters with Alan Watts at an outdoor cafe in Berkeley. Watts drew heavily on Suzuki and wrote a little piece titled "D.T.Suzuki: The Scholar Who Makes Light of Learning," citing him, in words appropos to this blog today: "When Zen commits itself to a definite system of philosophy there is no more Zen. Zen just feels fire warm and ice cold, because when it freezes we shiver and welcome fire."

Posted by: Shiloh | February 19, 2006 1:23 PM | Report abuse

Alan Watts in Berkeley, wowsers. I was < 1, just getting up the gumption to utter a complete sentence at the time.

Fire warm and ice cold, indeed.

"Hungry? Eat. Tired? Sleep."

Posted by: Error Flynn | February 19, 2006 1:38 PM | Report abuse

Today I prefer to see it in the Japanese sentence particle "Wa"

Posted by: Shiloh | February 19, 2006 1:45 PM | Report abuse

"Eat when you're hungry and sleep when you're tired."
--hangtag on outdoor clothing created by mountaineer Royal Robbins and his wife, Liz

Liz and Royal Robbins are a remarkable couple who designed remarkable, innovative clothing. They followed a trail that began in Yosemite as climbing pioneers, and led to the creation of an exceptional outdoor & travel clothing line.

***note: GREAT PHOTO
Yosemite: Half a Century of Dynamic Rock-Climbing: North America Wall
By Royal Robbins

Posted by: Loomis | February 19, 2006 1:51 PM | Report abuse

Yes, lots of my wardrobe *is royal.

Royal Robbins. Yuk, yuk!

Posted by: Loomis | February 19, 2006 1:52 PM | Report abuse

Cool pic of Yosemite!

I'm forced to point out The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) is now playing in glorious Technicolor (albeit not widescreen) on Turner Classic Movies even now.

And Daytona is looking GREAT in HD.

Posted by: Error Flynn | February 19, 2006 1:56 PM | Report abuse

If there is sun at Daytona I'm surprised.

Posted by: Shiloh | February 19, 2006 2:09 PM | Report abuse

My mental casting of boodlers in Robin Hood is incomplete, where is Kguy when you need him?

Posted by: Shiloh | February 19, 2006 2:11 PM | Report abuse

Great article, Joel. I'm going to go shave my 2 dogs and 3 cats and use the hair for warmth.

Posted by: Valerie | February 19, 2006 2:12 PM | Report abuse

Re-reading the kit for the third time, and finding it funnier each time, stirred another memory.

The old Riverside Hotel on Las Olas Blvd in Ft. Lauderdale had a bar/lounge where lunch was served. There was always a real fire burning in the fireplace, summer and winter, with the a/c turned to arctic settings. Then it was a cozy atmosphere, today it would be a wretched excess. I don't know if it's even there any more - the hotel or the fire in the fireplace.

Posted by: Shiloh | February 19, 2006 2:50 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for the comments this morning. I'm just getting back with the grandsons, and we're stuffed. Had pizza after church, and I think they enjoyed themselves. I enjoyed them, think the time spent together is better than money. Hope everyone is enjoying their Sunday, bless you all. Seeking salvation for one's soul through Christ Jesus is good anytime.

Posted by: Cassandra S | February 19, 2006 3:44 PM | Report abuse

Hey, kurosawaguy, your guy made it to today's Post! Steven Hunter has a column about lesser-known Samurai films, noting the mastery of Kurosawa in the process:

Posted by: pj | February 19, 2006 3:48 PM | Report abuse

Hey, mostlylurking:
No, haven't seen the new extended director's cut of "What the Bleep" yet, but, as you might imagine, I've been looking forward to it for months. (To be honest, I'd love to see *all* the footage of the interviews with those scientists.) I had hoped the new version would be released in D.C. before I leave for H.K. (was supposed to be some time in February, last I heard), but it doesn't look like that's going to happen. Hopefully I'll be able to catch it while I'm away; if not, there's always the DVD -- which, of course, I plan to buy regardless of whether I see the film in a theater.

Error Flynn [I'm still getting a kick out of that handle]:
Yeah, I'm not sure what to make of the JZ Knight/Ramtha channeling claim either (and I wonder if it sets the film up for more ridicule than it would otherwise attract). But you're right -- he/she sure does seem to have a lot of wisdom to impart.

And thank you everybody for the reading recommendations. We've even managed to sort of stay on topic, what with the fire ice and warm cold reference and all.

Posted by: Dreamer | February 19, 2006 3:58 PM | Report abuse

SCC entry:
"fire warm and ice cold"
[Not sure where that other combo came from. I must have a few wires crossed.]

Posted by: Dreamer | February 19, 2006 4:04 PM | Report abuse

I have to say, when JZ was channeling Ramtha, on a visceral level, she was channelin' baby.

Her voice (when she was Ramtha) really hit you in the gut. It was a birthday present from my girlfriend, held in the top floor of some townhouse in Manhattan. I was on the stage crew in school so it didn't take much to recognize the correctly-timed fans blowing curtains around, but she honestly gave me a real solution to what was at the time a major question for me.

I'm not proud; I'll take insight and enlightenment wherever I can get it.

Posted by: Error Flynn | February 19, 2006 4:16 PM | Report abuse

The Riverside Hotel still thrives, in an utterly gentrified reincarnation, amidst "trendy" Las Olas landmarks. I'm pretty sure the eternal flame is extinguished, though, and I have to say that at least is probably an improvement, although gentrification in general is usually a mixed blessing at best.

Posted by: kbertocci | February 19, 2006 4:30 PM | Report abuse
Who Is Osama? Where Did He Come From? How Did He Escape? What About Those Anthrax Attacks?
A Half-Dozen Questions About 9/11 They Don't Want You to Ask


The events of September 11, 2001 evoke painful memories, tinged with a powerful nostalgia for the way of life before it happened. The immediate tragedy caused a disorientation sufficient to distort the critical faculties in the direction of retrospectively predictable responses: bureaucratic adaptation, opportunism, profiteering, kitsch sentiment, and mindless sloganeering.

As 9/11, and the report of the commission charged to investigate it, fade into history like the Warren Commission that preceded it, the questions, gaps, and anomalies raised by the report have created an entire cottage industry of amateur speculation--as did the omissions and distortions of the Warren Report four decades ago. How could it not?

While initially received as definitive by a rapturous official press, the 9/11 Report has been overtaken by reality, not only because of unsatisfying content--like all "independent" government reports, it is fundamentally an apology and a coverup masquerading as an exposé--but because we now know more: more about the feckless invasion of Iraq, more about the occupation of Afghanistan and the purported hunt for Osama bin Laden, more about the post-9/11 stampede to repeal elements of the Bill of Rights, more about the rush to create the Department of Homeland Security, an agency to "prevent another 9/11," which, in retrospect, is plainly about cronyism, contracts, and Congressional boodle.

Many of the amateur sleuths of the 9/11 mystery have based their investigations on microscopic forensics regarding the publicly released video footage, or speculations into the physics of impacting aircraft or collapsing buildings. But staring too closely at the recorded traces of subatomic phenomena involved in a one-time event can deceive us into finding the answer we are looking for, as Professor Heisenberg once postulated. Over 40 years on, the Magic Bullet is still the Magic Bullet: improbable, yes, but not outside the realm of the possible.

But there is surprisingly little discussion of the basic higher-order political factors surrounding 9/11, factors that do not require knowledge of the melting point of girder steel or the unknowable piloting abilities of the presumed perpetrators. Let us proceed, then, in a spirit of detached scientific inquiry, to ask questions the 9/11 Commission was unprepared to ask.

1. Who is Osama bin Laden, and where did he come from?

On this point, the report retreats into obfuscation. While acknowledging that he had something to do with resisting the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, the report suggests, without explicitly so stating, that the links between Osama and the United States were practically nonexistent. This will not parse: until the present Global War on Terrorism, the CIA's operation against the Red Army in Afghanistan was the biggest and most expensive covert operation in the agency's history. The 9/11 Report provides no convincing documented refutation of Osama's links with the CIA, given that the agency was running a major war in which he was a participant. Similarly, the report's authors did not plumb the informal U.S. government connections with the same Saudi government whose links with the bin Laden family could have provided a cut-out for any CIA-Osama relationship. [1]

2. When were Osama's last non-hostile links with the U.S. government?

Consistent with its view of Osama's relationship with the CIA during the anti-Soviet enterprise, the 9/11 Report ignores the possibility that he may have had a continuing relationship with the U.S. government, particularly with its intelligence services. The report brushes this hypothesis aside with a footnote to the effect that both the CIA and purported second-ranking al Qaeda figure Ayman al Zawahiri deny a relationship. [2]

One may doubt the veracity of Langley's denials of a relationship with Osama bin Laden and his associates, given the lack of truthfulness of its earlier statement to the Warren Commission about not having had a relationship with Lee Harvey Oswald. Or in alleging that an employee named "Mr. George Bush" whom the agency cited in its reporting of the events of 22 November 1963 was a completely different person from the George Bush who subsequently became the 41st U.S. president, after serving as Director of Central Intelligence.

Likewise, Mr. Zawahiri's assertion of not having received a penny of CIA funds deserves the searchlight of skeptical scrutiny. What the report describes as Zawahiri's "memoir" is actually a broadside published in a London-based newspaper in December 2001, i.e., after the events of 9/11. It was obviously intended as a call to the Muslim faithful for a holy war against the infidel desecrator of the holy places; would such a person, conscious of the need to gain recruits in a war of pure faith against the Great Satan, have confirmed having been on the payroll of his principal enemy? It is no more likely than for the current President of the United States, in drawing parallels between the war in Iraq and World War II, to advert to the fact that his grandfather's bank was seized by the U.S. government in 1942 for illicit trading with the Third Reich.

Indeed, U.S. intelligence agencies have had, purely as a function of their charters, relationships with most of the world's scoundrels, con-men, and psychopaths of the last 70 years: from Lucky Luciano and the Gambino Mob, to Reinhard Gehlen and Timothy Leary, to the perpetrators of the massacre of 500,000 people in Indonesia in 1965, to the Cuban exiles who blew up an airliner in 1976 [3], to such shady characters as Ahmed Chalabi and his friend "Curveball." Among such a gallery of murderous kooks, bin Laden and his cohorts do not especially stand out.

More dispositive than these speculations, however, are the very real connections between Washington and Islamic jihadists in the Balkans throughout the 1990s. The report hints at this relationship by mentioning the presence of charity fronts of bin Laden's "network" in Zagreb and Sarajevo. In fact, the U.S. government engaged in a massive covert operation to infiltrate Islamic fighters, many of them veterans of the Afghan war, into the Balkans for the purpose of undermining the Milosevic government. The "arms embargo," enforced by the U.S. military, was a cover for this activity (i.e., using military force to keep prying eyes from seeing what was going on).

A key Washington fixer for the Muslim government of Bosnia was the law firm of Feith and Zell. Yes, Douglas Feith, one of the principal conspirators involved in launching the Iraq war under the banner of opposing Islamic terrorism, was a proponent of introducing Islamic terrorists into South Eastern Europe. Do the "Islamofascists" of pseudo-conservative demonology accordingly seem less like satanic enemies and more like puppets dangling from an unseen hand? Or perhaps the analogy is incorrect: more like a Frankenstein's Monster that has slipped the control of its creator.

3. How did the President of United States React to the August 6 2001 Presidential Daily Brief?

Although the August 6 PBD had been mentioned in the foreign press since 2002, it did not come to the attention of official Washington until then-National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice impaled herself upon the hook of 9/11 Commission member Richard Ben Veniste's artful line of questioning in mid-2004. Blurting out the title of the PBD, "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.," she let the cat out of the bag--or perhaps not. Having opened Pandora's Box, the commissioners displayed no troublesome curiosity about its contents.

What concrete measures did the president take after receiving perhaps the most significant strategic warning that any head of state could have hoped to receive about an impending attack on his country? Did he alert the intelligence agencies, law enforcement, the Border patrol, the Federal Aviation Administration, to comb through their current information and increase their alert rates? Did the threat warning of the PBD (granted that it did not reveal the tail numbers of the aircraft to be hijacked), in combination with the numerous threat warnings from other sources [4] elicit feverish activity to "protect the American people?" Not that we can observe.

So what was the actual response of the U.S. government? Here the 9/11 Report exhibits autism. As nearly as we can determine from contemporaneous bulletins, the president massacred whole hecatombs of mesquite bushes and large-mouthed bass, perfected his golf swing, and hosted various captains of industry in the rustic repose of Crawford, Texas. In other words, he presided over the most egregious example of Constitutional nonfeasance since the administration of James Buchanan allowed Southern secessionists to take possession of the arms in several federal arsenals. The 9/11 Commission's silence on this point is an abundant demonstration of its role as an apologist, rather than a dispassionate truth-teller.

The testimony of federal officials about what they did up to and during the attacks is telling, in so far as the false and misleading statements of witnesses provide clues. Ms. Rice, her tremulous voice betraying nervousness, averred, against the plain evidence of the public record and common sense, that a PBD stating that Osama bin Laden was determined to strike within the borders of the United States was too ambiguous to take any action.

Likewise, then-Attorney General John Ashcroft may have perjured himself when he denied under oath that acting FBI Director Thomas Pickard came to him on July 5, 2001 with information of terrorist plots--information that the Attorney General "did not want to hear about anymore," as NBC News reported on June 22, 2004. It might be considered a matter of Ashcroft's word against Pickering's, except for the fact that Pickering had a corroborating witness.

4. Who wrote the script for the rhetorical response to 9/11?

The smoke was still rising from the rubble of the World Trade Center complex and the Pentagon when the unanimous and universal cry erupted in government circles, and was relentlessly amplified by the media, that this was "war," not a criminal act of terrorism. How very convenient that this war, declared against a diffuse and stateless entity, would trigger long-sought legal authorities and constitutional loopholes which would not apply in the case of a criminal act. [5] Torture, domestic spying, selective suspension of habeas corpus, all the unconstitutional monsters whose implications are only clear four years after the event, all slipped into immediate usage with the rhetorical invocation of war.

This was not merely war, it was unlimited war, both in the sense of total war meant by General Ludendorff (civilian rights being trivial), and in the sense of lacking a comprehensible time span. "A war that will not end in our lifetimes," said Vice President Cheney on Meet the Press on the very Sunday following the attacks. How could he be so sure during the fog of uncertainty following the strike?

If bin Laden and his followers were merely a limited number of fanatics living in Afghan caves, as we were assured at the time, why did the Bush administration relentlessly advance the meme that a decades-long war was inevitable? Could not a concerted intelligence, law-enforcement, and diplomatic campaign, embracing all sovereign countries, have effectively shut down "al Qaeda" within a reasonable period of time--say, within the period it took to fight World War II between Pearl Harbor and the Japanese surrender?

Four years on, Vice President Cheney, doing a plausible imitation of the radio voice of The Shadow, continues to publicly mutter, in menacing tones of the lower octaves, that the war on terrorism [6] is a conflict that will last for decades. [7] This at the same time as the junior partner of the ruling dyarchy, the sitting president, is giving upbeat speeches promising victory in the war on terrorism (i.e., Iraq, the Central Front on the War on Terrorism) against a papier maché backdrop containing the printed slogan "Strategy for Victory."

It is curious that no one--not the watchdogs of the supposedly adversary media, nor the nominal opposition party in Washington, nor otherwise intelligent observers--has remarked on this seeming contradiction: victory is just around the corner, yet the war will last for decades. Quite in the manner of the war between Eastasia and Oceania in 1984.

In earlier times, this contradiction would have seemed newsworthy, if not scandalous. Suppose President Roosevelt had opined at the Teheran Conference that the Axis would be defeated in two years. Then suppose his vice president had at the same time traveled about the United States telling his audiences that the Axis would not be defeated for decades. An American public not yet conditioned by television would at least have noticed, and demanded some explanation.

So question number 4 concludes with a question: why does the U.S. government hive so firmly to the notion of a long, drawn-out, indeterminate war, when Occam's Razor would suggest the desirability of presenting a clear-cut victory within the span of imagination of the average impatient American--a couple of years at most? Or is endless war the point?

5. Why did the mysterious anthrax attacks come and go like a wraith?

For those in immediate proximity to the events, the September 11attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were frightening in the extreme, but they had not the slow accumulation of dread that the anthrax scare of October 2001 presented. Far more than any anomaly concerning 9/11 itself, the anthrax mystery is the undecoded Rosetta Stone of recent years.

The anthrax attacks were the most anomalous terrorist attacks in history: clever, successful, unpunished, causing five deaths and a billion dollars' damage. Yet never repeated. This alone makes them remarkable in the annals of criminal activity, but there is more--the intended victims (at least those with an official position) were warned in writing of their peril in sufficient detail that they could take steps to administer an antidote. Is this characteristic of terrorist attacks by "al Qaeda," or by any known Middle Eastern terrorist group?

Except for the ambiguous first attack (which killed a National Enquirer photo editor), all the deaths resulting from the anthrax plot were incidental--mail handlers and innocent recipients of mail which had been contaminated by proximity to the threat letters. Evidently the West Jefferson anthrax strain was more powerful and had greater accidental effects than the plotters had intended.

But what did the plotters intend, if they did not will the deaths of the addressees of their anthrax letters? It was pure coincidence, perhaps, that the anthrax scare was at its height, producing psychosomatic illness symptoms among members of Congress and staffers, just as the USA PATRIOT Act was wending its way through the legislative process. This measure, which originated among the same Justice Department lawyers who legally opined that torture was wholesome, was rammed through the Congress after enactment of the authorization of the use of force in Afghanistan. Why is this sequence significant?

The then-majority leader of the U.S. Senate, Tom Daschle, wrote a curious op-ed in the Washington Post four years after the events just described. [8]. In attempting to refute the administration's allegation that it had been granted plenary wiretap powers in the Afghanistan authorization, he stated that he and his Senatorial confreres explicitly rejected an administration proposal to authorize an effective state of war within the borders of the United States itself.

Given the administration's repeatedly demonstrated refusal to accept any limitation on its powers, it is logical that the rebuff on the war powers authorization was followed by the prompt submittal of the Justice Department's draft of the PATRIOT Act, containing many of the domestic authorities the Bush White House had sought in the use of force legislation. How doubly coincidental that two of the limited number of addressees of the threat letters should have been the offices of Daschle himself, and Sen. Patrick Leahy, then-chairman of the committee of jurisdiction over the PATRIOT Act.

Needless to say, the measure was passed by an even more comfortable margin than that enjoyed by the 1933 Enabling Law in the Reichstag. [9] Notwithstanding buyer's remorse exhibited by many members of Congress, and current efforts to amend its more onerous provisions, it appears we are saddled with the main burdens of its edicts in perpetuity.

How the government placed this perpetual burden on its citizens is bound up with the mysterious anthrax scare of October 2001, an outrage that, unlike 9/11, does not even merit an official explanation. No one has been charged.

6. Why did Osama bin Laden escape?

"Wanted, dead or alive!" "We'll smoke 'em out of their caves!" All Americans know the feeling of righteous retribution that attended the hunt for Osama bin Laden in the autumn and winter of 2001. Yet, suddenly, it fizzled out and became subsumed in attacking Iraq and its oilfields.

We know the explanation. Somehow, bin Laden escaped in the battle of Tora Bora, because "the back door was open." Only after the invasion of Iraq, more than a year later, was there general acknowledgement that resources intended for Afghanistan had been diverted to the buildup for Iraq. The public was lead to believe that supplemental appropriations for Afghanistan were siphoned into the Iraq project beginning about mid-2002.

But the strange apathy about Osama's whereabouts began sooner than that. In a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations, then-Senate Intelligence Committee Bob Graham states the following:

"I was asked by one of the senior commanders of Central Command to go into his office [this presumably means the CENTCOM Commander, GEN Tommy Franks. Underlings do not summon senior Senators into their offices]. We did, the door was closed, and he turned to me, and he said, 'Senator, we have stopped fighting the war on terror in Afghanistan. We are moving military and intelligence personnel and resources out of Afghanistan to get ready for a future war in Iraq.' This is February of 2002 [emphasis added]. 'Senator, what we are engaged in now is a manhunt not a war, and we are not trained to conduct a manhunt.'"

Senator Graham elaborates on this matter in his book, Intelligence Matters, on page 125:

"At that point, General Franks asked for an additional word with me in his office. When I walked in, he closed the door. Looking troubled, he said, 'Senator, we are not engaged in a war in Afghanistan.'

"'Excuse me?" I asked.

"'Military and intelligence personnel are being redeployed to prepare for an action in Iraq,' he continued. 'The Predators are being relocated. What we are doing is a manhunt. We have wrapped ourselves too much in trailing Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar. We're better at being a meat axe than finding a needle in a haystack. That's not our mission, and that's not what we are trained or prepared to do.'"

In the first excerpt, the military officer might be ambivalent about the change in mission, merely saying that the U.S. military is supposedly not trained for conducting manhunts. The second excerpt provides more substance, suggesting that Franks himself agrees that looking for Osama bin Laden is a mug's game ("We have wrapped ourselves too much in trailing Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar.")

There we have it: as early as February 2002, the U.S. government was pulling the plug. Or was it even earlier? Gary Berntsen, a former CIA officer, says in his book Jawbreaker that his paramilitary team tracked bin Laden to the Tora Bora region late in 2001 and could have killed or captured him if his superiors had agreed to his request for an additional force of about 800 U.S. troops. But the administration was already gearing up for war with Iraq and troops were never sent, allowing bin Laden to escape.

Now, Berntsen is a typical Langley boy scout who buys into most of the flummery about the war on terrorism; but it is precisely for that reason that his testimony is worthwhile. Here is no ideological critic of the Bush administration and its foreign policies--on the contrary, he shares many of its assumptions. Like fellow Agency alumnus Michael Scheuer, he has experienced the cognitive dissonance of dealing with the administration's policies at first hand, and wishes to report on his findings.

Is it plausible that the United States Military, disposing of 1.4 million active duty troops and a million reservists, could not scare up 800 additional troops to capture what was then characterized as a fiend in human form? Perhaps the then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Richard Myers, explained it best in a CNN interview on 6 April 2002, well after the hunt for bin Laden had apparently been concluded:

"Well, if you remember, if we go back to the beginning of this segment, the goal has never been to get bin Laden." [10]

What can one conclude from this series of questions? If the 9/11 mystery is like other great, mysterious events--such as the Kennedy assassination--the course is probable. For a year or two, raw emotion over the event forecloses inquiry; for the next several years after that, the public's attention wanes, and the desire to forget the painful memory predominates.

In a decade or so, though, some debunker will bring new facts into the public arena for the edification of those Americans, then in late middle age, who will view 9/11 as an intellectual puzzle: far from the urgent concerns of their daily lives.

Many people may, by that time, accept that the official explanation is bunk, and suspect that the government had once again tricked the American public, those ever-willing foils in the eternal Punch-and-Judy show. But the majority will neither know nor care about obscure international relationships during a bygone era.

In 1939, the English author Eric Ambler wrote a brilliant and now-disregarded novel whose theme was that the political events culminating in World War II were indistinguishable from the squalid doings of ordinary criminals. Let us quote from that novel, The Mask of Dimitrios:

"A writer of plays said that there are some situations that one cannot use on the stage; situations in which the audience can feel neither approval, sympathy, nor antipathy; situations out of which there is no possible way that is not humiliating or distressing and from which there is no truth, however bitter, to be extracted. . . . All I know is that while might is right, while chaos and anarchy masquerade as order and enlightenment, these conditions will obtain."

Werther is the pen name of a Northern Virginia-based defense analyst. Werther can be reached at:

[1] Bob Woodward's 1987 book Veil describes the informal connections between personages in the U.S. government and the Saudi government, including the ubiquitous Prince Bandar. A tête á tête between CIA director William Casey and the Prince supposedly resulted in a false-flag "terrorist" bombing in Beirut to retaliate against the bombing of the Marine barracks there in 1983. Regrettably, the dead were mainly civilians.

[2] 9/11 Commission Report, 23rd footnote to chapter two, page 467.

[3] This is the case of Cuban "freedom fighter" Luis Posada Carriles, who is suspected of sending the jet-borne Cuban Olympic fencing team to Valhalla in order to express his opposition to Fidel Castro. The incumbent administration, otherwise so steadfastly opposed to international terrorism, has been resistant to extraditing Mr. Posada --no doubt the administration is casting an eye on Florida's electoral votes.

[4] To include the Phoenix Memo, FBI agent Colleen Rowley's urgent bulletins from Minnesota, tips from foreign intelligence agencies, warnings from the Federal government to its high-ranking government placemen not to fly by commercial airliner, the contemporaneously noted presence of art students-cum-Mossad agents within two blocks of 9/11 operative Mohammed Atta, and other indicators.

[5] Long sought by Messrs. Cheney and Rumsfeld, whose formative and traumatic experiences in the executive branch were shaped by their revulsion against attempts by Congress, the federal bench, and the American people, to restrain Richard M. Nixon's assertion that the Constitution does not apply to a sitting president.

[6] The phrase "war on terrorism" is, as many people have commented, a somewhat hazy conception, being a war on a tactic, much as if FDR had declared war on naval aviation after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Significantly, the popular mind has contracted this phrase into "the war on terror," an even more illogical coinage. If the U.S. government is truly at war against a mental state that gives rise to ill-defined dread, it should disestablish itself forthwith, to the benefit of our rights, our bank balances, and our physical safety.

[7] "Cheney Warns of Decades of War," BBC, 6 October 2005.

[8] "Power We Didn't Grant," by Sen. Tom Daschle, Washington Post, 23 December 2005.

[9] The Enabling Law passed the Reichstag by a vote of 444-94, whereas the PATRIOT Act passed the House by a margin of 357-66, and the Senate by a vote of 98-1. Curiously, the Enabling Law was supposed to sunset in four years: on April Fool's Day, 1937, precisely paralleling the four-year expiration of many of the PATRIOT Act's provisions. Perhaps the eerie similarity reflects the influence of Nazi legal scholar Carl Schmitt on neoconservative lawyers of the Bush administration like David S. Addington, John Yoo, and Viet Dinh.

[10] News transcript: Gen. Myers Interview with CNN TV,

Posted by: che | February 19, 2006 5:24 PM | Report abuse

Dreamer: After reading che's post, I could only think in Orwellian newspeak. Fire ice and warm cold may have been prescient. Zen inverted on the walls of the Ministry of Truth.

kbertocci: Thanks for the update on the Riverside hotel and for the use of a word I use regularly and that my small town clients find curious, asking "is that a real word": gentrification. Even as it occurs around them.

Che: !

Posted by: Shiloh | February 19, 2006 5:57 PM | Report abuse

A gentle hint to che:

one word: hyperlink.

Posted by: kbertocci | February 19, 2006 6:01 PM | Report abuse

"congressional boodle?"

Posted by: kbertocci | February 19, 2006 6:02 PM | Report abuse

pj: The Steven Hunter link was a refreshingly spoofy link after reading che's WERTHER. Kguy would probably enlighten us all, on both, if he was around. An earlier summons - a casting call - went unanswered.

Posted by: Shiloh | February 19, 2006 6:11 PM | Report abuse

Congressional capitulation, more likely. The parallels in WERTHER are eerie in their similarity to my political blog comments and comparisons to the Reichstag fire and events leading to the collapse of democracy and rise of fascism.

And even as we blog, a cartoon in the name of freedom of speech has sparked conflict across the global reach of Islam - from Pakistan to Indonesia. Coincidence, not likely. Orchestrated, most certainly. OBL, an agent of change; GWB, likewise.

The incident at Sarajevo was fanned into a world engulfing flame.

Ice freeze, fire hot, q.e.d.
Global warming is real.

Posted by: Shiloh | February 19, 2006 6:35 PM | Report abuse

Hmmmmmm. Wonder if K-guy IS Stephen Hunter? That'd be way cool!

Posted by: Curmudgeon | February 19, 2006 6:35 PM | Report abuse

Okay, I only scanned che's post but it is by far the best thing he has posted. It even has footnotes! Lonemule and che both making good posts on Achenblog. 'Tis a wonderful thing to behold!

kurosawaguy = Stephen Hunter? That would be interesting. I don't think k-guy has as many guns as Hunter does, though.

Posted by: pj | February 19, 2006 6:48 PM | Report abuse

Yes, but is Che prepared to dig up the long-hidden secrets behind the "Bonsai Kitten" scandal?

Sure, they assured us it was all a hoax, but...

Posted by: Bob S. | February 19, 2006 7:07 PM | Report abuse

I was trying to remember what tangent took me back to the BonsaiKittens after all these years, but now I remember. It was today's WaPo articles on Chinese internet restrictions, which were themselves a tangent from my reading of Flemming Rose's reasonably eloquent defense of his publishing of the Finnish cartoons. All in all, a fun day spent meandering around the internet.

Posted by: Bob S. | February 19, 2006 7:17 PM | Report abuse

Bosnia kittens,hoax, spoofery? I am too close to my annoying menage to go beyond the first page, it might give me even more bizarre ideas and provoke a PETA protest.

My tangent took me to W.B.Yeats "The Second Coming," 1921, q.v., in which he saw the gyre - or cycle - of Greco-Roman civilization ended by the advent of Christianity and in the "growing murderousness of the world," saw signs that the 2000 year cycle of Christianity itself was coming to an end - to be replaced by a system antithetical to it.

That may not necessarily be any of "the people of the Book" but internecine struggles among people who share the Old Testament is not unknown. In in his Anima Mundi/Spiritu Mundi, later coined by Jung as archetypal memory, that Yeats' vision was suggested by the words:

"And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,/Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?"

Posted by: Shiloh | February 19, 2006 7:57 PM | Report abuse

Oops, forgot my tie in to the kit: The prospect that events of the day will get so hot that they turn to yet another religion based conflict is a less amusing "Heating Bill Horror."

Posted by: Shiloh | February 19, 2006 8:04 PM | Report abuse

Yuk, yuk! Alas, recent history suggests that the beast slouching toward Bethlehem is a selfish, juvenile bully, capable of major disruption but not of creating significant change.

Posted by: Bob S. | February 19, 2006 8:06 PM | Report abuse

Hitler, yes, Bob S., but Yeats predates the holocaust, and global warming is a gradual process, punctuated by certain events. I choose to adopt neither the "lack of all conviction" nor the "passionate intensity," Yeats referenced, but take the middle way.

Posted by: Shiloh | February 19, 2006 8:23 PM | Report abuse

Yuk, yuk.
I hope K-guy is NOT film critic Hunter. Hunter was absolutely misogynistic in his "Brokeback" review. Wish that Ang "Annie" Lee were to refilm "Brokeback" from women's perspective.

SCC to Bayou Self:
Oliver Sacks, not Oliver Sachs

Posted by: Loomis | February 19, 2006 9:20 PM | Report abuse

Our new branch library in San Antonio, opening Saturday as I mentioned, is named after writer Maury Maverick Jr., who wrote:

"Hookers, Truman, and the Blinding Red Light"
Feb. 22, 1981

My old daddy [Maury Maverick Sr.] was mayor of San Antonio from 1936 to 1938 and was the first mayor in these parts to bring doctors to the City Health Department who were board-certified public health specialists.

The doctors told him, and so did the policmen who had common sense, to let the prostitutes operate in a specific location, have health clinics to prevent venereal disease, provide police patrols to keep young men from getting their throats slit, and let the military set up their own clinics for its soldiers.

That was done until the preachers stopped it. The prostitutes scattered all over town, disease went up, crime genenerally increased and so did rape....

So how do we diffuse the bomb of testosterone, guys?

Posted by: Loomis | February 19, 2006 9:28 PM | Report abuse

I think I need to defrost my eyeballs from all this cold...
What were we talking about just now?

Posted by: Wilbrod | February 19, 2006 9:30 PM | Report abuse

I suppose, Loomis, although I have not seen the film, nor am familiar with Ang Lee, that we can begin by saying "a woman's perspective" or "all women's perspectives," (although I got your meaning and did not find an SCC necessary) and can diffuse the bomb of testerone, not by emasculation, but by understanding its imperative to survival of the specie; by keeping government out of the bedroom; and by remembering that the moral duty of religion is not to regulate, but to teach.

Posted by: Shiloh | February 19, 2006 9:37 PM | Report abuse

The exchange of nuclear weapons would certainly cut down on the heating bill. In fact, there would be no more heating bill, just nuclear winter, perhaps.

Posted by: Loomis | February 19, 2006 9:38 PM | Report abuse

Shiloh writes:
(although I got your meaning and did not find an SCC necessary)

Shiloh, you ascribe to me far more than what's there, many times I think. The SCC was for Bayou Self regarding Sacks's book "The Island of the Colorblind," since Bayou Self is colorblind. The subject/topic with Bayou Self is genetics, not war.

Posted by: Loomis | February 19, 2006 9:41 PM | Report abuse


Thank goodness for timestamps, otherwise I would have to accuse myself of blog-plagiarism of a sort, but I officially posted the Yeats poem on my blog 3 full minutes before you posted your comment at 7:57. Still, it's a little weird.

Posted by: kbertocci | February 19, 2006 9:43 PM | Report abuse

Let me ask you a loaded question. (pun intended this time)

If the moral duty of religion is not to regulate, but to teach, how well is religion teaching today? Since you replied in such a broad (pun not intended) fashion, craft your answer any way you please.

Posted by: Loomis | February 19, 2006 9:48 PM | Report abuse

Picturing the West: Scarred, Flawed, Beautiful

Inspired by the bicentennial of the Lewis and Clark expedition, the photographer Robert Adams recently spent a few years retracing the explorers' path back home: from the Pacific, along the Columbia River, across eastern Oregon, through stretches of timber cultivation and clear-cutting and past family farms, where picnic tables are parked in the shade of apple trees.

Lewis, it is said, lapsed into depression and may have committed suicide a while after he returned east in 1806. "Going east was more difficult than going west," Mr. Adams has noted, implying that discovery and progress carried the burdens of civilization.

There is time to catch "Turning Back," the pictures the photographer shot on his trip. The show, at the Matthew Marks Gallery in Chelsea, closes on Saturday. Like the book that goes with it, it needs pruning. But its gravity wins out. Exhibitions like this don't come along often, nor do photographers like Mr. Adams.

Posted by: Loomis | February 19, 2006 9:56 PM | Report abuse

Too well-written not to give you more.

I mean an emptiness that exists at the edge of something else. The edge of civilization is also the beginning of wilderness, a nowhere place, neither one thing nor another -- a shifting point.

Photography is inherently about edges: about where a photographer chooses to stand, in what direction he or she points the camera, and where the picture's frame then makes an edge out of what shows through the viewfinder.

Lewis and Clark explored the edge of the world as they knew it, when everything looked fresh. You might say Mr. Adams makes pictures that restore freshness to seeing that same part of the world, not via spectacle, but by focusing on what is at the edge of our vision, on what we tend not to see or to consider worth seeing.

In general, he does this by avoiding incident and a sense of time. His featureless skies are mostly sullen, without passing clouds. Bearing silent witness, the pictures flirt with a kind of banality while striving toward the elemental.

Their obvious opposite is the work of Ansel Adams, a virtuoso who devised fantasies of escapism for Depression-era Americans, turned Yosemite into paradise, the redwood forests into prelapsarian cathedrals.

Robert Adams, on the other hand, inspects what is scarred, flawed and humdrum, his virtuosity, which at its peak is every bit as considerable as Ansel's, serving reality, pretty or not.

Posted by: Loomis | February 19, 2006 10:02 PM | Report abuse

Wow! A sudden flood from a wasteland. I'll take kbertocci first with a word coined by Jung: Synchronicity. And then go to her blog to see it for myself.

Posted by: Shiloh | February 19, 2006 10:09 PM | Report abuse

The Sunday Times February 19, 2006

Found this piece of reporting moments ago at and am posting it here, since we are very much on-topic with this.,,2087-2047373,00.html

UK radiation jump blamed on Iraq shells
Mark Gould and Jon Ungoed-Thomas

RADIATION detectors in Britain recorded a fourfold increase in uranium levels in the atmosphere after the "shock and awe" bombing campaign against Iraq, according to a report.

Environmental scientists who uncovered the figures through freedom of information laws say it is evidence that depleted uranium from the shells was carried by wind currents to Britain.

Posted by: Loomis | February 19, 2006 10:22 PM | Report abuse

Now, Loomis, in answer to your question: Religion, predating government, once taught government, then became its tool. Today, religion in America, having relinquished, to the deist freedom of religion, its authority, has ceased to teach and works instead to regain its passe' hegemony over government. That is a too broad brush, but conveys the essence of the argument that Christianity - and Islam - have strayed beyond what their founders taught and have assumed roles inconsistent with those founders. It may be a last, desperate, gasp or a self-induced death wish for a heavenly paradise; whichever, I cannot say with certainty.

Posted by: Shiloh | February 19, 2006 10:30 PM | Report abuse

Shiloh writs:
A sudden flood from a wasteland.

Now, what can you tell us about the calcium-sensing receptors, Shiloh?

Posted by: Loomis | February 19, 2006 10:39 PM | Report abuse

I think that you might be George Will. You rather write like him. Take that as you may.

Posted by: Loomis | February 19, 2006 10:40 PM | Report abuse

When my father did participate in organized religion, it sometimes would turn out to be a disaster. The worst was one day across from Travis Park at St. Mark's Episcopal Church. After services were over and while he was shaking hands with the preacher, one of San Antonio's most important "high society" women came up and in a loud voice accosted him with a comment: "Why, Maury Maverick, what are you doing in church? I've heard talk around town that you were a communist, but I guess you couldn't be if you go to the Episcopal Church."

Poor old Papa's face went livid. With the voice that would have been the envy of a drill sergeant, he said back to the woman: "I hear talk around town that you are an old whore, but I guess you couldn't be if you go to the Episcopal Church." Episcopalians began to scatter like chickens, the preacher rolled his eyes in the back of his head, and I damn near wet my pants. God almighty, that was a nightmare.

"Writing about my Father: A Risk I Want to Take" by Maury Maverick, Jr.
June 8, 1980

Posted by: Loomis | February 19, 2006 10:52 PM | Report abuse

Scientific evidence disproving shot scatter Cheney claims in shooting of 30 yards. More like 15-18 feet. 28 gauge bird shot same length barrel accident recon demonstrates BBs don't penetrate more than 3 millimeters into flesh at 30 yards. Scatter pattern of 18 inches on the victim from upper torso to face is inconsistent with shot from 30 yards. Shot pattern and penetration only consistent with a discharge of 15-18 feet.

Posted by: Teemu Lundqvist | February 19, 2006 10:57 PM | Report abuse

If anybody out there is looking for a handle with which to join the Boodle, might I suggest that Bonsai Kitten or Bonsai Kittens would work well.

Posted by: Bayou Self | February 19, 2006 10:58 PM | Report abuse

Now, Loomis, those were all fun and I love them - in particular, my nemesis, George Will, preferring "The World as Will and Idea," but grinning at the Maverick Twain and remembering to render unto calcium-sensing receptors that which is theirs, and to God, that which is God's. Your humor is outdone only by your volubility.

Posted by: Shiloh | February 19, 2006 11:06 PM | Report abuse

Linda: Thanks for your link to the Robert Adams photo exibition. I love Ansel Adams and his photographs and love your opinion of contrasts between the two Adams. I'll check it out.

Still cold here, winter has returned. More cat cover tonight.


Posted by: boondocklurker | February 19, 2006 11:14 PM | Report abuse

Walk a day in another person's moccasins, Shiloh.

BTW, you might want to go to that local city government you work for and talk to the woman on the city council who is blind. Take her to coffee, invite her to lunch. Then you may no longer complain how long it takes you to prepare the report (you're being paid to do, I assume?) for her in Braille. Or amybe youcan just make a tape recording?

She's the real hero of your story, Shiloh. You're the anti-hero and play the two-bit part.

Posted by: Loomis | February 19, 2006 11:23 PM | Report abuse

Does governing mean you never have to say you're sorry?

Above all, the anti-mensches now ruling America are destroying our moral standing. A recent National Journal report finds that we're continuing to hold many prisoners at Guantánamo even though the supposed evidence against them has been discredited. We're even holding at least eight prisoners who are no longer designated enemy combatants. Why? Well, releasing people you've imprisoned by mistake means admitting that you made a mistake. And that's something the people now running America never do.

--Paul Krugman in tomorrow's NYT Select

Posted by: Loomis | February 19, 2006 11:26 PM | Report abuse

SCC: exhibition. Cold makes typing hard as I huddle in blanket around the steam kettle. (Tie to boodle topic.)


Posted by: boondocklurker | February 19, 2006 11:26 PM | Report abuse

It's already Presidents' Day in D.C.--about 12 minutes to go out here. In honor of the occasion, a song!

Where have all the flowers gone, long time passing?
Where have all the flowers gone, long time ago?
Where have all the flowers gone?
Young girls have picked them everyone.
Oh, when will they ever learn?
Oh, when will they ever learn?

Where have all the young girls gone, long time passing?
Where have all the young girls gone, long time ago?
Where have all the young girls gone?
Gone for husbands everyone.
Oh, when will they ever learn?
Oh, when will they ever learn?

Where have all the husbands gone, long time passing?
Where have all the husbands gone, long time ago?
Where have all the husbands gone?
Gone for soldiers everyone
Oh, when will they ever learn?
Oh, when will they ever learn?

Where have all the soldiers gone, long time passing?
Where have all the soldiers gone, long time ago?
Where have all the soldiers gone?
Gone to graveyards, everyone.
Oh, when will they ever learn?
Oh, when will they ever learn?

Where have all the graveyards gone, long time passing?
Where have all the graveyards gone, long time ago?
Where have all the graveyards gone?
Gone to flowers, everyone.
Oh, when will they ever learn?
Oh, when will they ever learn?

Where have all the flowers gone, long time passing?
Where have all the flowers gone, long time ago?
Where have all the flowers gone?
Young girls have picked them everyone.
Oh, when will they ever learn?
Oh, when will they ever learn?

Pete seeger- sanga music inc -bmi

Posted by: Loomis | February 20, 2006 12:49 AM | Report abuse

ot, keep the home fire burning; I'm on my way.

Some say the world will end in fire;
Some say in ice.
From what I've tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To know that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

(R. Frost)

"Care must be taken, evidently, to keep the world at room temperature."

Posted by: Nani | February 20, 2006 9:28 AM | Report abuse

Loomis - You had some questions earlier that I didn't catch back when ...

I'm still in TV, but not on the air. I also work in print as an editor, and that's my main work. I'm a decent-looking guy, but I'd leave it at that. The kids, however, could be fashion models.

In the 40s here today. And then warming up more as the week goes on.

Posted by: Bayou Self | February 20, 2006 10:54 AM | Report abuse

How I spent my Sunday evening.

My 6-year-old son received a Hot Wheels track setup for Christmas from a relative. But the thing is clearly for kids who are older, so we set it aside. Well, on a cold and intermittently rainy Sunday afternoon, he spotted it. Mom let him get into it and soon I had a clear assignment to help him put the thing together.

I want to use the right words to describe the experience. I'm searching here for the correct nuance and, technically and linguistically, the right phrasing. I do this because I know you demand it as a fellow boodler, each and every one of you. Here goes.


It took hours, working on and off, while also dashing out to grill chicken for dinner. (Yes, it was 30-something outside. A little cold weather isn't going to stop me from grillin' dinner.) At one point, absorbed as I was in the project, I almost forgot about the chicken and had to rescue it. I was just in time, I'm happy to report.

For those of you who don't have kids, instructions on complicated toys aren't what they used to be. Instead, they have been replaced with with amouts to an IQ test. There are illustrations and, from them, you must move to a higher level of intelligence and solve the puzzle of how Landing Ramp A affixes into Unnamed Slots on the Round Thing. But, adding to the fun, all you have to go on is the occasional one-word explanation "Snap!" Yeah, it was a snap alright. I'd like to snap the neck of somebody at the Hot Wheels plant.

Anyway, all the slots and ramps and track pieces and guardrail sections and whatnot all finally came together, long after my son and his twin sister were in bed. So there it was, waiting for them in the morning. They had about ten minutes to play with it before heading off to school. The cars shot out of the shooting-out thing and up the track and, often, jumped the space to the other section and back around and over the loop and back around. It was a success.

Then the cars fell apart. They're made to come apart so that different weighted pieces can be put inside of them, thus changing the physics of the Hot Wheels learning experience. But I couldn't immediately figure out how to do that stuff, let along simply put the car back together in any form that would roll on the track. So that'll likely be my assignment this evening, unless the kids are more advanced than the Hot Wheels people expect them to be. Wish me luck.

Posted by: Bayou Self | February 20, 2006 11:10 AM | Report abuse

Good Luck, Bayou Self! Thanks for the morning laugh - I'm not laughing *at* you, I'm laughing *with* you - although you're probably not laughing right now. I'm so hopeless at following assembly instructions that I don't even try. And the print is so small that I can hardly read it anyway.

Posted by: mostlylurking | February 20, 2006 12:23 PM | Report abuse

Ah Bayou is wrestling with the internationalized "no instruction" instructions. After taking heat for nonsensical translations they simply stopped trying, and replaced them with stick diagrams to illustrate motion.

I think they're inspired by particle physics lecture notes in electron spin.

I have a slot car track, but not enough room to really use it. When I was a kid they had these places with great big cool tracks, 8 lanes at least, and you could vault your little hand-built slot car to scale speeds of like 3 gazillion mph. This was very exciting, and usually enough to splatter them against the wall on that huge banked curve. Then you could spend the next week's homework hours putting it back together, and try again.

Good luck Bayou!

Posted by: Error Flynn | February 20, 2006 12:46 PM | Report abuse

When we lived in Michigan, we really did keep our thermostat at 45 one winter. But we ate cooked food.

Posted by: Olive Oyl | February 20, 2006 1:13 PM | Report abuse

I loved Hot Wheels as a kid back when they were largely gravity powered. Now that they are powered by electric launchers, the track tolerences and other factors are much touchier. They are almost like Red Ryder BB guns: You can shoot your eye out with one.

Posted by: yellojkt | February 20, 2006 1:16 PM | Report abuse

It seems the boodle is on vacation today as is half the US. I can never figure out what is going to open and what is not. UPS (Brown) is driving around but UPS (RWB-red,white,blue) is not. Most banks are closed but stores are open. In Illinois we celebrate Lincoln's Birthday on the 12th so some offices closed then are open today but others are closed in honor of Washington whose real birthday is the 22nd.

Good luck Bayou Self. That sounds like a daunting task. The last thing I put together with written directions were some chairs for my daughter. The directions were in Eqyptian Hyroglyphics (sp not right but you get the gist). I had to redo one because the left widget was where the right should have been but ultimately succeeded.

We never did the Hot Wheels thing but it sounds like fun if the cars leap from ramp to ramp.

I have been debating with my daughter whether curling is a sport because of the althleticism - the younger generation are sometimes more literal than their elders. Apologies to dr, perhaps. I have no problem with it being in the Olympics, since it was played all winter in nearby towns where I grew up and was as much a sport as sliding downhill on anything.

Our Men's Curling team seems to be doing very well. One American team of Ice Dancers was in second after last night so that is good, too.

Just rambling - back to work.


Posted by: boondocklurker | February 20, 2006 1:18 PM | Report abuse

It's bee-yoo-tiful here today in N Central FL, and I can't complain. Haven't put the heat on for a couple of days, and NO you can't move here. *wink*

As an employee of a public utility, here is what we recommend: 78 degrees (or higher) w/ ceiling or floor fans for comfort in Summer, 68 degress (or lower) in winter.

Now, WE generally turn our central AC/heat off when we leave the house each day because it is temperate enough that the house temperature varies only by a few degrees. That's easily remedied when we get home, usually within 30 mins of turning on the unit.

Your water heater should be set *no higher* than 120 degrees. Anything more wastes energy and could be a scald risk.

Use Energy Saver settings on your fridge and your dishwasher. Use cold water to wash your clothes. Make sure your dryer filter is free of lint or blockages that would make it harder for clothes to dry.

Turn ceiling fan blades down in the Winter to push warm air down (especially if you have high ceilings) and in the Summer, turn them up to circulate the air better.

Weatherstrip & caulk. Use blinds or curtains to keep heat in/cool out.

Dress for the season; wear a sweather and socks during Winter, shorts or lighter clothing in Summer.

Make sure your CO (carbon monoxide) detectors are in working order.


Use your oven to heat your house - EVER.

Leave space heaters unattended - EVER.

Use a gasoline generator indoors - EVER.

Posted by: amo | February 20, 2006 1:19 PM | Report abuse

Oh yeah, have your unit serviced in Spring for Summer and in Fall for Winter. Yes, twice a year. It's worth it - definitely. Servicing our unit and simple conservation dropped my monthly bill almost $100.00.

Feel free to post questions if you have them. I'll try and monitor the blog from work periodically and answer them in groups. Technically, it's work-related blogging.


Posted by: amo | February 20, 2006 1:30 PM | Report abuse

amo, ceiling fan. Clockwise pushes air down? Counterclockwise pulls air up?

Posted by: Nani | February 20, 2006 1:43 PM | Report abuse

Good advice, Amo, and it is a great day today. I almost drove to GV today, but have a city council meeting here in OC tonight (and one in CK tomorrow night) so may not get to "town" until later in the week. I'm in the constant process of remodeling this old house and there's a lot of stuff you can't get in this county. My shopping list for Lowe's/HomeDepot is growing long enough to make the trip worth the time and energy (petrol). Drop me an e-mail if you're available for lunch any day after tomorrow.

Posted by: Shiloh | February 20, 2006 1:46 PM | Report abuse

I have very bad code.

Code very good. Make funny stories.
Shiloh call me dominatrix. Good name. Make funny stories. Shiloh cook. Make Loomis Huevos. Make Loomis feel better.

No letter to Steven Spielberg 2day. Very bad.
Read good. Make funny stories.
Sleep good 2.

Posted by: Loomis | February 20, 2006 2:13 PM | Report abuse

Loomis: Try lots of hot tea with lemon and honey - and going to bed before midnight. If that doesn't work, try a few Jack Daniels straight up. I find that it (1) either kills the cold germs, or (2) you won't care any more.

Posted by: Shiloh | February 20, 2006 2:26 PM | Report abuse


I'm not sure. Researching and will get back to you; I only know (for sure) that if you have moveable fan blades to turn them down to push hot air down and turn them up to regulate temperature in Summer...

Shiloh, we're a little busy today so I may not get to email you until tomorrow...Would love a meet up if time permits. Haven't forgot about your picture, but painted my place this weekend and that plum wore me out!

Posted by: amo | February 20, 2006 2:33 PM | Report abuse

I deeply regret to report to the boodle that I am not the winner of the $365 million Powerball pick. I tried, really I did (well, $5 worth anyway). Had I won, I would have remembered all of you (well, most of you) in a very generous manner, too. So it was your loss, too, alas.

And I had other such good plans, too. *sigh*

Posted by: Curmudgeon | February 20, 2006 2:58 PM | Report abuse

amo, another one that people don't ever seem to think about: don't EVER store the gasoline can next to a gas water heater...had many fires from fumes being ignited by a pilot...

Posted by: slyness | February 20, 2006 2:59 PM | Report abuse

So, Mudge... It turns out with a different amount of effort (you bought tickets and I didn't) we both had "virtually" the same chance of winning, didn't we?

Posted by: TBG | February 20, 2006 3:13 PM | Report abuse

A Lottery Tale told by a prof at UF.

When the Florida Lottery was fairly new, a minister won, but claimed he had found the ticket in the church parking lot. Which led the prof to observe "your chances of winning the lottery are only slightly improved if you BUY at ticket."

Posted by: Shiloh | February 20, 2006 3:18 PM | Report abuse

Lindaloo, bless your heart Sleepy Time Gal! Brew yourself some hot lemonade sweetened with honey, (not sugar). Whilst sipping, steep yourself in an old fashioned deep deep bathtub filled with water so hot it turns the skin pink. Some bubblebath bubbles for a touch of whimsy. Oh, and close the door so it gets nice and steamy and dreamy. Actually, leave it open a crack so you can hear me playing Schubert's Serenade on my air piano.

Posted by: Nani | February 20, 2006 3:19 PM | Report abuse

yellojkt - Yes, you possibly could put your eye out with the Hit Wheels thing that my kids have. Thankfully, there were two, clear plastic shields that each installed easily to the system after only about 20 minutes of fumbling about.

You know, for the hell of it, I searched the Hot Wheels online site to find the set I put together. It's not there. I suspect a few angry dads wanting to snap some necks may have led to its demise.

Error Flynn - Slot cars! We had a place a short bus ride away when I was a kid, with about 10 different tracks. You brought your own car and controller and paid for time. The place was a'hoppin' on a Saturday. Much of my childhood was whiled away there. I also had HO cars and track. Hot Wheels that, yes, worked solely via the amazing principles of gravity. I had model cars that never ended up looking quite like the picture on the box. And on and on. My sister used to make cracks about my interest in "little cars," but she just didn't understand boys, I guess.

Posted by: Bayou Self | February 20, 2006 3:30 PM | Report abuse

Note to Hal: The "Columns & Blogs" page has a link not to this kit, but to the one written on Feb. 9.: "Knowing Your Parents".

I had the privilege of studying great questions of philosophy with Dr. Robert Almeder, who uses a lot of the Stevenson work in discussions about reincarnation.

I agree that reincarnation has not been proved by Stevenson, but I suggest that it may not be 'proveable'. What I enjoyed most about the research was the development of criteria for testing events that might be hypothesized as memories of past lives.

It was an inspiring example of critical thinking.

And, to make a token attempt at staying on topic: Is it true that hot water freezes more quickly than cold water? I seem to have picked up that bit of trivia somewhere in my travels.


Posted by: DoubleVision | February 20, 2006 3:35 PM | Report abuse

Oh Curmudgeon, Oreo Cookie Man, Singer of Songs That Go A Little Sumpthin Like This, at least, like Randall P. McMurphy, you tried.

Posted by: Nani | February 20, 2006 3:42 PM | Report abuse

TBG: Thanks for that Voice of Reason comment on the lottery!

Dave Barry had a funny column on the lottery when Florida first went into the "Government as Numbers Runner" biz. He noted that since your odds are better to be hit by lightning (particularly in Florida) than to win the lottery, there should be a special lottery whereby you buy a ticket and then if you get hit by lightning, it pays off.

Posted by: kbertocci | February 20, 2006 3:42 PM | Report abuse

And, Loomis, Chicken Soup. I have a pot on now with Matzoh Balls and noodles. Be sure to inhale the steam from the soup. Sorry I can't e-mail a cup or two.

Posted by: Shiloh | February 20, 2006 3:44 PM | Report abuse

I know they have a spot on the Internet for everyone and everything, but even a place to complain about instructions and assembly of Hot Wheels tracks?


Posted by: Bayou Self | February 20, 2006 3:45 PM | Report abuse

In the world of curling today, a good game between the American mens team, and ours. They will re-match in the semi-finals.

Boondocklurker, that question has been disscussed and perhaps in the past the athleticism of curling was not so apparent, but at the level these guys are at, its certainly a power and strength sport.

Is the Olympics a celebration of athleticsism, or is it a celebration of sport? I think it errs on the side of sport. If you go right across the events at this Olympics, that is certainly the broad message I am getting.

There seems to be a lot more emphasis on team events this year. Pursuit events in speedskating and cross coutnry, and team jumping in ski jumping.

And right now the team in playing for Gold in hockey. Watch carefully if you can to catch the Swedish coach's little boy. His wife is Canadian, and the tot is dressed split Swedish/Canadian. What a sweetie. Coach says his wife is cheering for Sweden though. Me too. I always like the cheer for the underdogs.

Except in curling.

Posted by: dr | February 20, 2006 3:47 PM | Report abuse

Also, off to that pillaried of capitalism, WalMart, and get yourself some long johns,everyone and a toque.

Posted by: dr | February 20, 2006 3:50 PM | Report abuse

Took my son to visit a little college in faaaar southwestern Virginia this weekend (think west of Cleveland), where it snowed 4 inches on Saturday morning. The campus tour was done in the snow and his sneakers were soaked through.

Thank goodness for Wal-Mart: he got a new pair of sturdy hiking boots (probably hand-crafted by small children somewhere in the Third World) for under $20 and it saved the weekend.

Posted by: TBG | February 20, 2006 3:57 PM | Report abuse

For Linda Loo et al--Wyoming was in the deep freeze, schools closed Thursday and Friday...also today for Presday. We hit 35 below, with combined wind chill, over the weekend. Am reading a great biography, "Gelhorn," by Caroline Moorehead. Martha Gelhorn, as you likely know, was the only Hemingway wife to leave him first...Am now starting the part about the Spanish Civil War. Hem, himself, spent considerable time in Wyoming. Wrote parts of one novel here,and a short story called "Wine of Wyoming," in which the main characters drove around in cars, but not much happened except driving and wine. Get well...drink tea and read.

Even more off-topic: Did anyone see the great Larry King interview last night with reporters Woodward and Bernstein? They see a Watergate type parallel with today's politics.

Posted by: thereIsaidit | February 20, 2006 4:13 PM | Report abuse

Here's the link to the transcript of Larry King's show with Woodward and Bernstein:

Thanks for metioning it, thereIsaidit.

Posted by: DoubleVision | February 20, 2006 4:24 PM | Report abuse


"Third World"?

Posted by: Cassandra S | February 20, 2006 4:26 PM | Report abuse

Thanks, Nani. I haven't often been compared with Randall P. McMurphy, but I guess it could be worse. But like Randall, if I'd won the Powerball I'd have taken you all out deep-sea fishing.

TBG, beg to differ. My odds of winning were miniscule, infintesimal, even. Since you didn't buy a ticket, you had no chance whatsoever. I had $5 worth of fun and day-dreaming. No regrets here. I think I've only ever bought two Powerball tickets, anyway. (But play the Mega Million once in awhile.) Is it irrational? Sure. Something wrong with that?

Saw a few minutes of the Woodward/Bernstein while channel-flipping, though I usually loathe Larry King and normally wouldn't watch.

RIP, Curt Gowdy, age 86. A good guy.

Curious that the TV news shows are giving big play to the Chertoff/port management story, but WaPo seems to be burying it. Just totally amazing how poilitically tone deaf Chertoff is.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | February 20, 2006 7:40 PM | Report abuse

Whoa. Didn't realize there was a new kit up.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | February 20, 2006 7:50 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for the nice comments, folks. I met Joel for the first time a few years ago, so it was pretty cool to see him again at the AAAS. I am the blogger who told him about the Google ads, by the way. Probably created a monster here... :-)

Posted by: Phil Plait, aka The Bad Astronomer | February 21, 2006 12:36 AM | Report abuse

This guy is riding a scooter to/from work each day, in Minnesota:

Posted by: 1st_timer | February 21, 2006 7:51 AM | Report abuse

Excellent and very helpful

Posted by: Zaraza | July 29, 2006 12:02 PM | Report abuse

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