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Our Lives Are Insane

First of 37 parts.

The other day on the airplane I read more of The Omnivore's Dilemma, by Michael Pollan, and when I next saw my kids I gave them an epochal lecture on how we are going to eat better. They will no longer be Children Of The Corn. They will no longer be repositories for transfats and synthetic chemicals and xanthum gum and Yellow 5 and atrazine. At the deep molecular level they will become more organic organisms.

But then, just hours later, we were on the road, and hungry, and had few food options, and suddenly I saw something familiar just ahead: the golden arches.

I was weak.

You have to understand, we were rushed. I had to be somewhere. I did not have time for "a meal."

It made the hunger go away.

I kind of wanted the fries.

(It is conceivable that the Lecture On Food was ultimately not persuasive.)

The bigger issue is, why do we do what we do, even though we know what we do is, quite often, insane? To a large extent we are controlled by environmental and technological forces that we only dimly perceive. Technology is supposedly a human invention, but we are rapidly getting into Terminator country. It is no longer clear that we use technology as much as it uses us. Fast food is just another element of the great machine; it's not an agrarian product.

So often I find myself in situations in which I wonder: How did I get here? Why am I here? And the answer is: Because the machines demand it. That's why, at airports, I'm always sitting on the floor outside the luxury frequent flyer suites. You see lots of people doing it: They park just outside the thin walls of these places in order to steal the wireless signal. It's not dignified, but at least you get online.

Right now I'm in the Business Center of the Something Suites by Marriott, in Asheville. The room is small, windowless and Siberian. It needs only a few shelves and a vegetable drawer to double as a refrigerator.

But it does have a computer that is fully functional, unlike the useless laptop that I broke yesterday by turning it off with the power button rather than the Start menu. The captain had said to turn off portable electronics and I too hastily complied. Apparently using the power button to turn off a laptop is the more equivalent of attacking it with a sledgehammer. This is wanton destruction of perfectly good technology. Only a complete idiot with no respect for brilliant engineering would ever attempt to turn off a computer with the same button used to turn it on.

Now, the Quest For Coffee.

[Interesting new report on Neanderthals. They weren't dumb brutes.]

[Johns Hopkins astronomers aren't digging the new planet definition from the IAU. A press release says that most of them find the new definition muddled at best. Here's the quote from Karl Glazebrook, professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy: "What is meant by 'clearing its orbit?' How does this relate to having an
orbit overlapping Neptune? Clearly Neptune has not cleared its orbit. They should have gone with something clean like a size criterion. Seems to me like a muddled compromise which will just cause more problems (what
about some of the weird orbits extra-solar planets have?) and the issue will have to be revisited again."]

By Joel Achenbach  |  August 25, 2006; 7:17 AM ET
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Next: All You Need Is Louvre



Posted by: Bayou Self | August 25, 2006 8:14 AM | Report abuse

lurker techie here... just for the fun of it, take the battery out of the laptop and let it sit for a few. Keep the battery out and plug in the power cable. Turn on the laptop (should work). wait until it boots all the way up (very important to whisper words of encouragement at this point). shut it down using the start menu. unplug power and insert battery. all should be well.

Posted by: lurker techie | August 25, 2006 8:17 AM | Report abuse

Stealing Wi-Fi is probably a federal crime JA, I wouln't admit to it publicly. See you in Leavenworth.

Posted by: Shrieking Denizen | August 25, 2006 8:23 AM | Report abuse

Joel, if you truly spend that much time in airports, you should get Sydney to spring for a club membership. Sounds to me like it's a justifiable expense!

The spouse has one (at his own expense, I should add) and it's sooo niiice.

Posted by: slyness | August 25, 2006 8:43 AM | Report abuse

Am I the only one who couldn't get into for the last day and half?? I clicked the bookmark, the page would start to load, then freeze. Today, I still couldn't get the front page up, but was able to get here via the Opinions button. Oh, all my other bookmarks work just fine. Talk about technology overtaking our lives!!

Posted by: ebtnut | August 25, 2006 8:57 AM | Report abuse

Rationality applied to individuals only works when there is no psychological wiggle room. Because jumping off a real tall cliff has been shown to always result in massive deformation and death, all but the most irrational avoid doing so even if the drop might be entertainingly exhilarating. Because eating naught but chicken fried steak will only probably cause our coronary systems to collapse, we find it easier to justify. We like to think of ourselves as special. Part of this is the belief that we can beat the odds.

Posted by: RD Padouk | August 25, 2006 9:01 AM | Report abuse

On corn: I just drove from San Francisco to New York and saw nothing but corn fields from Colorado (slight detour) to New Jersey.

I made a similar journey about 15 years ago and distinctly remember seeing wheat starting about Illinois. I kept telling the kids "we'll start to see wheat pretty soon." nope. never. To top it off, in Times Square there's a popcorn store--that's right, a store selling just popcorn-- with corn stalk decor.

The kids' motto of the trip: "Stupid corn."

I'm starting to believe that whole "children of the corn" thing.

Posted by: Kari A. | August 25, 2006 9:03 AM | Report abuse

When I was a college student in the Raleigh-Durham area many years ago, there was something of a food crisis. Campus food service had shut down due to a strike/civil rights action before I arrived. A&P seemed to be a Soviet Socialist establishment--shelves were often bare of anything that anyone thought worth buying. I tended to live on bananas, Dannon yogurt, and Cadbury bars. This being a college town, French cheese was somehow available. Someone probably smuggled it from New York. I don't recall bothering with Hardees. The hotel cafeteria across the street offered mustard greens and other thoroughly Carolinian stuff. The mustard greens maybe saved me from vitamin deficiencies.

Posted by: Dave of the Coonties | August 25, 2006 9:15 AM | Report abuse

Hey Bayou: How's school? We're three weeks in and nearly to interims. My BMI, metric or English, is increasing due to a steady diet of cafeteria food. In our building it is great, but loaded wtih all of the stuff you shouldn't be consuming. I should be over the cholesterol line any day now.

Posted by: jack | August 25, 2006 9:22 AM | Report abuse

I drove across Kansas last month and I saw surprisingly little corn. I saw a lot of cattle pasture. Beef is the real foundation of our diet and corn is a means to an end. Well, not really. I agree with the Pollan hypothesis. We have too much corn in our diet and food chain which makes us, at the very least, overly dependent on monocultures.

The use of high fructose corn syrup is a result of our totally ridiculous sugar import policy which gives huge windfalls to ADM and the Fanjul dynasty, both enormous Republican supporters.

Fast food is not good for you, but some of it is pretty tasty:

I would love a chili-mac three-way right about now.

Posted by: yellojkt | August 25, 2006 9:25 AM | Report abuse

Bubba the grouper finally kicked the bucket after two chemotherapies and other medical intervention that many people can't afford.
I wonder if corn was part of Bubba's diet, directly or otherwise. I know that my dog produces high volume of positively fetid methane when fed with corn/chicken-shaped-corn kibble.

Posted by: Shrieking Denizen | August 25, 2006 9:29 AM | Report abuse

I am falling down the hole of the Black Dahlia murder. Since hubby is in Philly, I stole over to the bookstore on Wednesday night for James Ellroy's somewhat fictionized account of one of Los Angeles' most grisly murders; last night, I made the short drive back to the bookstore for Steve Hodel's account of his sleuthing into the case, fingering his father as the alleged culprit.

Why? Three reasons.

The Ellroy telling is riveting, takes my thoughts away from my eye. Simple.

Second, I was surprised that there is a movie coming out, from Universal Pictures, on Sept. 15 about the 1947 case, based on Ellroy's book, he who also wrote L.A. Confidential. It was seeing the trailer on television that prompted me to buy the Ellroy account--there is some comfort for my homesickness in reading about 1940s Los Angeles, though I myself was not yet on the scene. The September flick stars Josh Hartnett, Aaron Eckhardt, and Scarlett Johansson. The trailer definitely captured my attention.

The third reason is a bit more complicated. It was Hodel's story that yielded up a little bit of my Aunt Carol's (my mother's only sister, younger by about four years) life. By e-mail, she volunteered that she had worked on the Black Dahlia case--taking statements. I wonder if I can dig up her e-mail to me from several years ago? Wouldn't it be fun if she, now almost 88 and former personal secretary to L.A.'s top brass, could attend the premiere? How many people who originally worked on the case are still alive, I wonder? That side of the family is an interesting cluster group of L.A. cops--in one way, shape or form of another. I suspect that Hodel's reconstruction of the case is quite the CSI version of events.

If it's true insanity you seek, look no further than the Black Dahlia case.

Posted by: Loomis | August 25, 2006 9:29 AM | Report abuse

Good morning, friends. Interesting questions sent out, Joel. Do we have the answers? It's a leap to make it a single solution. There are so many events taking place, and some of these are done naturally, that is, without thinking. As to the golden arches, kids have been trained to eat this stuff, and parents have to see themselves fostering many of these habits. It's convenient. It's fast. It takes the work out for the parent. The parent can then do something else more important? My grandchildren are so accustomed to Burger King, McDonald's, that if you sit a plate of food before them, real food, they look at you like you've lost what little mind they perceived you to have. Mine say, we don't like that. And I say, well, what are we going to do? I then go into the lecture mode of how good this food is for you, and all the benefits they're going to reap, they look at me like, have you lost your mind woman. Who cares about that? We want Burger King. I cave in. Don't feel bad Joel, grandmothers do it too.

Read Eugene Robinson this morning talking about Tom Cruise and eating the placenta. Don't that just take the edge off of hunger.

Hello, Nani and Error Flynn, hope life is treating you good. Still missing you something awful.

And yahoo news talking about folks messing around on the job, in other words, not working. I'm sure my friends here at the achenblog would never do such a thing. I have confidence in you guys.

Have work to do today. School started here, and I tried to reach my grandsons before they got out, but missed them. Will try again after school. While walking saw all the buses. Can't believe the summer is over already.

Yesterday I walked from my apartment to my dad's house. And didn't get a ride at all, walked the whole thing. My aunt called and said my dad didn't sound good, and I didn't have my car, so I walked. Middle of the day. Hot. He was fine. And I've walked this morning. So tired.
Hope your day is good, and your weekend the bomb. Please know that God loves you so much more than you can imagine through Him that died for all, Jesus Christ.

Posted by: Cassandra S | August 25, 2006 9:35 AM | Report abuse

Reposted from yesterday, though I find I'm somewhat alarmed to have picked up on the same thing that the astronomers at Hopkins picked up on - what exactly constitutes a clear orbital "neighbourhood"?

I've also added a few thoughts this morning, conjured during my near-sleepless night:


Posted by: bc | August 25, 2006 9:36 AM | Report abuse

The G family has probably logged about 25,000 road trip miles. Very little interstate-highway driving; mostly the "blue highways."

We have what we call Food Rule Number One: we cannot eat anywhere that we can eat at home. That means no to MacDonald's, Wendy's or Hardee's, but yes to Sonic, Jack in the Box, Whatta Burger or Biscuitville.

But mostly we stick to good roadfood diners--small operations with plenty of cars in the parking lot.

That's why we each gained about 10 pounds on our last trip through the Smoky Mountains. A couple of sweet teas with each meal (not to mention the fried everything) can pack 'em on.

Posted by: TBG | August 25, 2006 9:39 AM | Report abuse

Get an Apple, Joel! Even though the battery may catch on fire, I've never had a problem with using the button to turn it off.

It's official - I gained weight this summer. Too many lunches out of the office and not enough schlepping my heavy law school books to and from class. (But please note: my BMI is still in "normal" range. I just have to wear my "fat" pants now.)

So what's a girl to do? I'm going to start with trying to limit myself to soup and/or salad for lunch, for starters. Maybe in a month or so I'll see a little difference.

Posted by: PLS | August 25, 2006 9:39 AM | Report abuse

PLS, be careful with the salad. E coli bug in lettuce is the latest news. That hurts, I love salads. It was found in the packaged salad, but then the food police went to the fields and pulled up some with the bug in it there. I hate it when that happens. Of course the growers are trying to play it down, but be careful. One can't heat lettuce.

Posted by: Cassandra S | August 25, 2006 9:56 AM | Report abuse

When you live in small town Saskatchewan, you don't get fast food. Dining out means you had supper at the local greasy spoon. You know you are in a big town if your town has 2 greasy spoons. You are pret near a city if you have 2 greasy spoons and a chinese food place. But this lack of fast food meant that part of your really important memories are fast food.

When we were kids, and went twice a year to the city, we'd always eat at the cafe in the Eatons store. It was de rigueur that you ordered the fish and chips. And then for the trip you home you stopped at Kresge's and got a pound of Smarties. Not quite fast food, but close.

And then there was the trip to Regina when I was in eighth grade to the legislature to observe government in action. My only significant memory other than that politicians are like a bunch of poorly behaved children, was buying the gallon jug of rootbeer at the A & W in an actual glass jug for consumption on the school bus trip home. Most kids did this. Home was 3 hours away. Nuff said.

And then there was when Saskatoon got its first McD's. I could tell you about the first real pizza I ever had, but I think you get the idea. Farm kids from Saskatchewan when I was a kid considered anything that took less time to cook than legumes as fast food.

On the upside, it meant your mom cooked a lot, and a normal supper was stuff like fried chicken, or roast with potatoes and gravy, and a hamburger was not something you had in a bun.

Posted by: dr | August 25, 2006 10:03 AM | Report abuse

Glad to know we've finally located Joel: working in the Business Crisper of the Asheville Mariott's Kumquat Suites.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | August 25, 2006 10:05 AM | Report abuse

That movie version of the "Tha Black Dahlia" will star Mia Kirshner in the role of Elizabeth Short. A 30 year old playing the part of a women who died at 22.

But that's OK because Mia can pull it off.

(got to keep my horndog linker rep alive)

Posted by: omni | August 25, 2006 10:12 AM | Report abuse


You're rule sounds like Yellojkt's Rule For Picking A Fast Food Chain:

"When choosing between two nationally franchised chains, go to the one that has their closest branch furthest from your house."

And the McDonald's Corollary:

"Never eat at a McDonald's if you have another choice."

We ate a lot of good regional food while on our trip. We had game (elk, venison, buffalo) in Denver; Mexican (or Tex/Mex) in Phoenix, Colorado, San Antonio, and Texarkana; some variation of barbecue in Kansas City, Dallas, and Memphis; "meat and three" in Nashville. Sometimes we just went with what looked good where we were. We had Thai in Palo Alto and Cajun in Blacksburg.

Posted by: yellojkt | August 25, 2006 10:13 AM | Report abuse

With us we are once again rapidly entering the insanity time, school starts after Labour Day, followed shortly after by swimming lessons, guides/sparks and hockey (both kids). All of this is not really bad but it makes dinner a challenge, it anyone has tips on how to get kids dressed in hockey gear (about 15-20 minutes) plus eat a somewhat nutricious meal in under 45 minutes please HELP! Forgot to mention somewhat fussy eaters.

Jack you mentioned you have been back to school for three weeks, grade/high or university? Is that an all year program? Also sorry to hear about your Aunt, you family is having it share of troubles lately, you are in my thoughts and prayers.

Posted by: dmd | August 25, 2006 10:16 AM | Report abuse

Gertie's brick oven pizzerie-- best all-you can-eat pizza buffet... if by "best" you mean the most variety of toppings guaranteed to clog your arteries and send you into a carbohydrate/sugar coma.

The dessert pizzas are popular with the kids and have to be believed (cheesecake, oreo, butterfinger, bavarian creme pizza). I liked the bavarian creme pizza, it did taste like bavarian creme.

I myself loved the seafood pizza with the tiny shrimp, and the californian vegetarian with ranch cheese, sunflowers, broccoli, etc.

There's a ranch steak-potato pizza that is the perfect pizza for homesick Idaho cowboys.

If you're ever in Twin falls, pay a visit. You won't regret the experience or the price. Nobody's forcing you to eat ALL that, you know ;).

Posted by: Wilbrod | August 25, 2006 10:21 AM | Report abuse

Hey, dr, when you say you grew up on a farm, can you give some details? Approx. acreage, what your principal crops were, etc.

I remember Kresge's--we had a couple around suburban Philadelphia. Didn't they eventually morph into K-Mart? (I think that's where the "K" came from. There were a category of stores we called "5 and 10s," after the famous Woolworth chain name. In addition to Woolworth's (which were EVERYWHERE) and Kresge's, there were G.C. Murphy's, and IIRC something like "McCrory's." There were few things more exciting back then as a kid than going into a Woolworth's that you'd never been in before> Wood-planked floors, kindly ladies behind the counters, pretty good lunch counters (the one in Ambler, Pa., had terrific french fries, very long and narrow, and cooked in peanut oil). The G.C. Murphey's in Willow Grove was one of the first stores I remember that had air conditioning, which they kept cranked down to about 65 degrees, and it was pure ecstasy in high summer to drive to Willow Grove and go stand in Murphy's in the AC. And right near the door they had a popcorn machine, so you know it was the Next Best Thing to Heaven.

dr, I assume your folks subscribed to my old newspaper, the Saskatoon Picayune-Spitoon, that I used to report for back in the early 1800s.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | August 25, 2006 10:22 AM | Report abuse

Cassandra - really? Hadn't heard that one. Guess I'll have to stick with soup. (Not canned, of course!)

Interesting goings-on here, a glass door to a conference room just completely shattered. Slightly cut one person, but everyone else is OK. Of course, this being an office of lawyers, the cracks about torts and products liability were flying.

Posted by: PLS | August 25, 2006 10:26 AM | Report abuse

Mudge, that would be late 1800's right, Saskatoons history starts around 1880.

We had Woolworth's here as well, the company I used to work for bought a lot of the old chains here parts of K-Mart, and other department store chains. I grew up in the suburbs but we had those old stores too, I loved wandering through them, also love old fashioned hardware stores still a few around.

Posted by: dmd | August 25, 2006 10:30 AM | Report abuse

Here's a brief history of Saskatoon, notable because when you read the entries, it is the opposite of Joel's column, history of a much calmer lifestyle.

Posted by: dmd | August 25, 2006 10:33 AM | Report abuse

I e-mailed this to a couple of boodlers, who thought it was hilarious, and one suggested I post it. It's a clip from the David Letterman Show where he ostensibly presents a clip from Microsoft honoring Bill Gates' retirement. It's quite good.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | August 25, 2006 10:43 AM | Report abuse

Our lives are insane indeed. . . and we have only one child. My observation is that back-to-school schedule juggling increases exponentially with more than one (and no, RD, two dogs isn't easier and three untrained Labs are even worse).

Take today: After work, I drive to Tulsa for an evening "gala" and back home. Boy is invited to a birthday on the other side of town (about 15 miles away) 6 - 9. Ivansdad has rehearsal scheduled for 5-8 in a nearby college town (10 miles from us, about 25 from the birthday party). I arrange for Boy to go home with school friend also attending party. Pack birthday present, swim trunks, transportation note with homework in school backpack. Search for lost book report book. Take Boy to school, get to work myself. Turns out Ivansdad has no rehearsal, too late to change other plans. He will pick up Boy from party.

Yesterday I had to take my laptop (new battery, no conflagrations) to work for a meeting and had four separate destinations, one connected with the Boy's schedule. He came home from school, went with Ivansdad to rehearsal, met me at fencing. We both bagged the "back-to-school night" option following fencing. And yes, he got a McDonald's stop. Feh.

Posted by: Ivansmom | August 25, 2006 10:46 AM | Report abuse

And we'll continue to eat like the machine tells us to as long as we subsidize corn and sugar. Cheap corn, cheap sugar equal cheap fast food beef and chicken. Without subsidies McDonald's couldn't put a burger on your tray for less than three bucks, I bet.

As to the whole Pluto thing, dwarf planets, minor planets, inconsequential planets, I nominate calling them planettes.

Posted by: miamibob | August 25, 2006 10:50 AM | Report abuse

I agree that there is something culturally criminal about not checking out the local food when on travel. But sometimes it is nice to see something familiar on your plate.

Posted by: RD Padouk | August 25, 2006 10:52 AM | Report abuse

I rather liked "ice dwarves".

Posted by: Wilbrod | August 25, 2006 10:56 AM | Report abuse

Just saw this article questioning the validity of BMI index.

Posted by: dmd | August 25, 2006 11:00 AM | Report abuse

i think i'm pretty spoiled food-wise. i buy ~95% of my groceries at trader joe's, known for not using additives and preservatives. if i have an urge for a hamburger, in-n-out, which uses only fresh ingredients, is only 5 minutes away. a good mexican restaurant, a bakery, and homemade donut shop are within walking distance. in fact, it's time to take my morning stroll to the donut shop for the morning coffee ritual.

Posted by: L.A. lurker | August 25, 2006 11:02 AM | Report abuse

My aunt and I were exchanging information about another family member on my mother's side, and she has mentioned some interesting tidbits about her years with LAPD from time to time, so I print the interesting e-mails and save them.

On July 11, 2003, she wrote:

You mentioned a new library [being built in your neighborhood}. Vista put in a new one a couple of years ago. I wanted to get a book so put my name on the waiting list. The book was written by a former L.A. detective (after my time) who says his father killed the Black Dahlia. I was secretary to the Chief of Detectives when that murder happened. Although it was not part of my job, he volunteered my services several times when the Homicide detectives got too busy. He had me take down the confessions of two or three people who came in to confess. The lead detective (Blanchard?) also dictated a complete summary of everyone that [sic] had been interviewed or suspected. Consequently, I am really interested in reading the book. The name is Black Dahlia Avenger.

Aunst Carol fleshes out more details in her July 22, 2003 e-mail.

Posted by: Loomis | August 25, 2006 11:03 AM | Report abuse

I try not to think about food too much wherever I am, because it affects my BMI index.

I stopped enjoying classical fast food in general a few years ago, though Joel's remarks about McFries reminded me about how great they are.

Yes, I'll have the fish and the salad for lunch today, but I'll be thinking about the McFries, dammit. Good thing there isn't one nearby.

Don't get me anywhere near a Popeye's, either. I'll have a 3 piece meal (spicy, with the buttery biscut), and sides of red beans and rice and the onion rings. MMmmmmmm.


Posted by: bc | August 25, 2006 11:04 AM | Report abuse

May I interrupt to say that, using the metric method of the last kit, my body-mass index is well over 400?

Darn you, Achenbach. Darn you to heck.

Posted by: ZachBG | August 25, 2006 11:05 AM | Report abuse

Since I'm feeling, like, really pedantic today I should point out that another way to view sanity is as a measure of deviation from the norm for a given population. Since it is rare for the precise norm to be actually occupied in any group, this means we are all, strictly speaking, at least a little bit insane.

Posted by: RD Padouk | August 25, 2006 11:16 AM | Report abuse

i forgot to mention that grad school is not good for bmi and life sanity, but you all probably knew that. ok, off to get coffee.

Posted by: L.A. lurker | August 25, 2006 11:17 AM | Report abuse

RD if we are all a little bit insane, that would mean it is the norm, therefore the deviation would be sanity? I like that.

Posted by: dmd | August 25, 2006 11:19 AM | Report abuse

dmd: Thanks for the kind words. My gig is high school biology servicing a small largely rural, lower middle class/impoverished, live-paycheck-to-paycheck-one-step-away-from-doom population. I have a little bit of experience teaching kids from all socioeconiomic levels, including a stint as a GTA at university. Funny how the needs of the very affluent and the impoverished children merge in the context of needing adult guidance. A lot of thrir respective loads of baggage are the same.

Posted by: jack | August 25, 2006 11:23 AM | Report abuse

When the spouse and I really want to do the sinful food thing, we go for Bojangles' Supremes: four fried chicken tenderloins and a biscuit. Bojangles has the very best biscuits in the known world, so they must use lard as the fat in them. The chicken is wonderful too, if not good for you.

Been out of the back-to-school loop for four years now. Second kid is a junior in college, but she went to a boarding school the last two years of high school so we've been empty nesters for a while. I don't miss the school insanity at all. Of course, that means I have no excuse for the insanity that's inherent in my life.

Posted by: slyness | August 25, 2006 11:27 AM | Report abuse

Aunt Carol types a zillion words per minute, but no longer breaks her writing into grafs. I shall do so for easier reading:

July 22, 2003

Dear Linda:

The notice that the book (Hodel's Black Dahlia Avenger) was available was in the mail Saturday when we came home. We had a bite to eat and then went to the library just before 5 p.m. I have read quite a bit of it so far.

The first part is about his dad, mother, siblings, and his early childhood. This is apparently his way of building a profile about his dad to show that he was capable of such a crime.

After I returned to work after my second maternity leave, I was called into the Personnel Office to be interviewed by the newly appointed Deputy Chief W.J. Bradley. He said that he had only one question to ask me and that was if I was going to be having any more babies. When I told him not that I knew of he asked me to be his secretary. When he was a captain in Forgery, his secretary had to leave suddenly because of the death of her mother and I was sent to fill in during her absence. That is how he knew me. I think I worked for him about 11 years. Whenever he was transferred, he asked that I go too.

At the time of the Black Dahlia murder, he was Chief of Detectives. His name isn't even mentioned in the book. Although it was not part of my duties, he volunteered my services on several occasions to take down the confessions of some of the many people who said they did it. The secretary in the Homocide Division was swamped with all the extra work.

Later, a new Chief came to the department, the case had not been solved and Chief Bradley was transferred to the Bureau of Corrections. This was a newly established bureau as the jail had formerly been part of another Bureau. They had to find an office for us so made one in the Lincoln Heights jail.

One day, Finas Brown, one of the lead detectives, came to the jail and dictated an entire summary of the Black Dahlia investigation. I kept a copy for myself and wish I still had it. One day we were cleaning out files and I must have accidentally destroyed it.

When Chief Bradley retired, I had to wait for a new list to be established so had an Acting Dep. Chief for six months. When the new list came out I got the #1 man on the list - Dep. Chief Frank Walton. He took me with him when he was put in charge of the Patrol Bureau. Before any of us really knew much about Vietnam, Frank retired to go to work with the State Dept. to train the police in Vietnam. He wrote great letters about his experiences before and during the war. He eventually compiled them into a book. He was a former Marine who had been in the Black Sheep Squadron keeping watch over Pappy Boyinton.

Consequently the Acting Dep. Chief once again became my boss while we waited for a new list. Tom Reddin was the #1 man. When he was sent to Technical Services, I went too. Later we went to the Detective Bureau. Once again, I was working for the Chief of Detectives. When Tom Reddin was appointed Chief of Police, he took me with him. In all of these assignments, we were considered to be part of the Chief's Office but I never worked directly for Chief Parker. All of those jobs were interesting.

Sometime after the Black Dahlia murder, Carl and I went to a movie at the old Million Dollar Theater on No. Broadway in downtown L.A. The picture was the Blue Dahlia. Usually, I don't remember a movie two weeks after I see it, but that picture stuck in my mind because it reminded me so much of Elizabeth Short's murder. The victim in the picture was cleansed of her blood in the mortuary and I always felt there was a connection. I didn't realize the movie had been produced some time before. I knew that the press had given her the name Black Dahlia because of her black hair. I just learned from the book that press had used the Dahlia because of that movie. The book has held my attention and I am anxious [sic] to read the rest of it.

Posted by: Loomis | August 25, 2006 11:45 AM | Report abuse

I'll eat anything, but c'mon, pad thai with beef or chinese takeout is better than a greasy puddle of hamburger goo or bland piece of chicken between medicore bread anyday.

Do you humans have NO sense of smell and taste?

Posted by: Wilbrodog | August 25, 2006 11:50 AM | Report abuse

This week has been the Pre-back-to-school- Panic week for my three (all in different schools, different back to school nites etc, hooray!).

Normality and insanity are relative, as RD Pedantic points out. (Having fun with ya, RD. Heh heh. Please don't get upset with me.)

I would add that morality appears to be relative as well.

"Tonight, on a 'Very Special Relativity', Tom Cruise, Mel Gibson, and Floyd Landis discuss the works of Phillip K Dick, Sylvia Plath, and Victor Conte."


Posted by: bc | August 25, 2006 11:55 AM | Report abuse

There is a KFC right up the street from me and I will never go there. I haven't had their food since my oldest daughter, who now has children of her own, was about 7 and got violently sick after eating at one of them. I had a burger at Burger King three months ago, in the middle of moving in here, when hunger and convenience overcame common sense. In general, I might have one meal per year from a burger chain. Chain restaurants do not appeal to me as I believe that they are to blame for the increasing number of people wouldn't know truly good food if it bit them. I'm sure they have also helped to put a lot of "mom and pop" restaurants out of business. I love Dunkin Donuts as much as anyone, and here in their home state you can't drive more than a few blocks without seeing one, but I do lament not having a good small bakery nearby. That said, when travelling, it is a comfort to see a familiar fast food chain when the other options are limited or a "pit stop" is required.

Posted by: Bad Sneakers | August 25, 2006 12:01 PM | Report abuse

I find strangely comforting the idea that sanity is a deviation from the norm of all a little insane. Occasionally, when I ask myself why I'm doing a particular activity that doesn't, objectively, make sense, I actually stop. Mostly, though, not.

RD, when the Boy is being particularly tediously precise, as children can be ("It isn't 3:30, it is 3:28"), I call him a pedant. He finally figured out that it isn't the same as "peasant" and I'm not sure he finds it insulting.

Posted by: Ivansmom | August 25, 2006 12:05 PM | Report abuse

L.A. lurker-
I live in a town halfway between SJ and Gilroy with 33,000 inhabitants (we get a garlic aroma and morning fog when the wind is from the south) and I feel we've really arrived now because a Trader Joe's is being built here. The Safeway across the street must be shaking in its boots.

Do you ever go to Tito's Tacos in Culver City? Not exactly health food, but great tacos. I used to live a few blocks from it and ate there once a week or so.

Posted by: ac in sj | August 25, 2006 12:08 PM | Report abuse

I've been on many roadtrips over the years and like to refer to McD's as "America's Bathroom."

Posted by: ac in sj | August 25, 2006 12:13 PM | Report abuse

i'm still convinced mcd's puts crack on their fries - how come they are sooooooo good??

Posted by: mo | August 25, 2006 12:21 PM | Report abuse

Anybody betting that Weingarten's mysterious cover story is about McD's bathrooms?

Posted by: Wilbrod | August 25, 2006 12:22 PM | Report abuse

Fast food. Junk food. Taste enhancig additives. Second helpings. Big servings. Tobacco. Uncontrolled emigration. Epidemic obesity. The economy. Public access to healthcare. Interfaces. Intersections.

Are there any exits??
Are there any exits?

Posted by: LEO | August 25, 2006 12:30 PM | Report abuse

I really hate to bother you guys, but I need a nutritionist, a certified, real one. I need food guidelines for the obesity project I'm working on. The health educator does not want the responsibility of telling the kids what to eat because she says some of these kids may have pre-existing conditions, and she's right. I want examples of good foods to eat. I was thinking individualized meal planning, but that maybe taking it a bit far, and it does require a lot of work. I'm heading up this project, and I get the feeling I'm going to be doing a lot of the work. If there's a nutritionist out there, HELP!

Posted by: Cassandra S | August 25, 2006 12:34 PM | Report abuse

Kari A, it just dawned on me. The reason you didn't see any wheat is that it's the wrong season. Wheat is sown in the fall and reaped in the spring, in May or June. Corn is sown in the spring and harvested in late summer to autumn.

Posted by: slyness | August 25, 2006 12:35 PM | Report abuse

ac in sj: i live just north of culver city, but i've never been to tito's tacos. i'll give it a go when i'm over there (i looked it up - it's very close to where my auto mechanic is).

trader joe's is great for forcing supermarket prices down. (for example, up until a couple of years ago, tj's sold a half gallon of fresh oj for 2.25, so regular stores always had to put their oj on sale.) during the massive supermarket strike, i learned to live off of tj's and never switched back.

cassandra, if you google nutrition for kids, you can find a lot of online information and even lessons. i'd pick out sites that appear to be run by non-profit or government organizations.

Posted by: L.A. lurker | August 25, 2006 12:42 PM | Report abuse

How could Bayou Self just type his name and disappear again? I want to know how the new job is.

Posted by: nellie | August 25, 2006 12:42 PM | Report abuse

Loomis -- for the benefit of those of us who aren't totally up on our high-profile murders, can you give us the Readers Digest version of the Black Dahlia case? I know it's NOT the one about the doctor who supposedly killed his wife and blamed it on a one-armed intruder, but I can't remember any of the basic details re. Black Dahlia, so Aunt Carole's message is out of context.

One of the truly sad things about this imperfect world in which we live is: Fat is what makes food taste good. I don't have a big sweet tooth . . . but Bojangles? Oh, my. Then again, you could take a 2 x 4, and if you would bread it and fry it in peanut oil, I would no doubt eat it with gusto. The good news is, the South Beach approach lets you eat fat, just not bread which I don't like much anyway. I used SB to get beach-ready a few years ago, and have pretty much stuck with it. The only downside is, you spend A LOT of time cooking and shopping for groceries. But there are worse fates. And it's expensive. But then again, fast food is cheap for a reason.

Another thing to ponder: organic groceries. When my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer a few years ago, all of us started reading everything we could find about it. I went to a lecture given by the head of oncology at Cornell Presbyterian, and the audience questions were mostly: "What the he&& is the deal with all this breast cancer? A few generations ago, it was relatively rare. Now there is no one in America who doesn't know someone who has suffered it."

The oncologist's response was: "We don't know, but we're closing in on it. In the meantime, here's what we do in my family. Don't waste your money on organic produce, buy conventional, and wash it really really well. But meat? Fish? Eggs? Basically, any animal proteins, BUY ORGANIC."

So that's what I've been doing. I actually notice that I am healthier and feel a lot better, except for the slowly-going-broke part.

Posted by: annie | August 25, 2006 12:44 PM | Report abuse

ac in sj, I'm cleaing flecks of salad off of my screen because of you. That's funny.

I once stopped in a McDs for a roadtrip restroom visit, and in opening a stall witnessed a scene that I cannot describe here without invoking Hieronymus Bosch and HP Lovecraft.

I went into such a state of shock at that scene of, of, *gastric catastrophe* that I, as regular as the sun, locked up solid for nearly a week.

As I walked out, I advised a person behind the counter that I was unable to used their restroom due to its condition, and that they should call for a HAZMAT team and possibly an ambulance because the person or persons who had experienced this, this, latter-day Cretaceous-Tertiary event and left the hideous KT boundry layer behind them probably wasn't going very far. I suggested following the footprints, but didn't stick around to see where they led, like into the McEmployees Only doors that go into the McKitchen.

I still shudder thinking about it now, and wonder if that person washed their hands.

Sorry about the trip into McWeingartenLand, folks, I just felt like I had to get that out of my system.


Posted by: bc | August 25, 2006 12:49 PM | Report abuse

re food, fast food, poisoned food, etc...seems to me that we are all going to die no matter what we eat. this seems to be true in spite of our technology, massive employment of denial, reading the Wapo, etc. if we extend our lives by 'eating healthy', i.e. wheat germ and yogurt, we will all get obscure cancers, or even better, alzheimers. so for dinner tonight i'll take a nice big steak cooked over a bed of charcoal, with a side of corn on cob (with real butter and real salt), and a nice cheesecake for dessert. i'll be at the gym for two hours of heavy lifting in the morning. life is short. eat what you want.

and, pluto schlmuto.

Posted by: butlerguy | August 25, 2006 12:49 PM | Report abuse

I see here that Wilbrod and I are on the same wavelength.

RD, you're not alone -I have to apologize for my pomp and pedantry all the time. And we're not alone.


Posted by: bc | August 25, 2006 12:50 PM | Report abuse

dmd - you are quite right. If I were ever to meet someone who was mathematically normal, I would consider that person alarmingly freakish. I mean, just how do you have 1.7 children?

Ivansmom - my daughter does the same thing when I tell her it is bedtime. Darn those new-fangled digital clocks.

bc - Don't worry, I have been called far worse. Usually by me.

Posted by: RD Padouk | August 25, 2006 12:51 PM | Report abuse

Joel- wait till you get to the part where Pollan hunts his own pig. I was crying from laughing so hard. The middle is somewhat boring so skip it and get to the end, its great.

Posted by: discreet | August 25, 2006 12:53 PM | Report abuse

bc - I used to work at McDonald's. I usually got stuck cleaning such things up. Done scarred me for life.

And yes, I always washed my hands as the training video demanded.

Pointless digression. Anybody ever see the Krusty Krabs training video shown on SpongeBob Square Pants? Eerily realistic to those of us who have done hard time with a spatula.

Posted by: RD Padouk | August 25, 2006 12:54 PM | Report abuse

RD, I have seen that KK training video, and it is funny.

I never worked at a fast food place, and swore not to in my mid-teens after I visited some friends working at a KFC, watched them get into a chicken fight in the kitchen, then saw them stuff all that chicken into a bucket and hand it to a lady at the drive-thru window.


Posted by: bc | August 25, 2006 12:55 PM | Report abuse

nellie, my thoughts exactly! Bayou Self, we know your life's insane, give us the details!

Posted by: mostlylurking | August 25, 2006 12:55 PM | Report abuse

Mudge, dad farmed 3 quarter sections, usually red spring wheat, barley, and oats when I was young. A little later he took out the oats, and added the politically incorrect rapeseed, now named canola. He farmed the land his granddad homesteaded. Its now farmed by some cousins and dad is a retired gentelman, and handyman to all. This is my dad and my mom.

We had cattle, pigs, and occasionally chickens (my mom really hated those so mostly grandma raised them for her). We always had humoungous gardens. Potatoes enough for every meal, twice a day, for the entire year. Peas, corn, cabbages, lettuce tomatoes, onions, beans, carrots, cucumbers and tons of other veggies through the years. We had no apples trees till I was grown, but we always had stawberries and a raspeberry patch alone that was the size of a city yard. We had sand cherry trees and plum trees. We picked June berries (Saskatoons to many, and otherwise the western red service berries), chokecherries, and pincherries for jams, jellies, and syrups.

We just did not buy a whole lot. Fruit in the winter, oranges and bananas, and apples, but most things just were home grown. It was a really self sufficient lifestyle then. If you were hungry, even when we were wee tykes, we knew we could just go out to the garden and steal carrots, or in winter go down to the cold room, and open a jar of something. Of course mom would eventually find out and then you'd be in trouble. And if you were 'helping' dad in the field, well, you could just chew on a handfull of wheat, and make gum.

Its too bad its changed now. Few farms are so diverse anymore.

I should also maybe clarify something. My husband is right behind you in age (57). I am a relative spring chicken, and am still hanging tooth and nail to my 40's, where I shall remain thank you very much, but growing up on a farm the way we did back then, on the prairies, it was a world apart from now. I understand older and usually simpler things better.

Posted by: dr | August 25, 2006 12:56 PM | Report abuse

Concerning insanity, I believe that as we become adults, our bodies change, but perhaps our minds do not. Children want to be like their peers. They see difference as being not a good thing. It makes them stand out, and they don't want to stand out, they want to blend in. Adults(some) want to be seen as perhaps doing better or making it. Our culture and environment rewards living on the edge. It actually feeds on this, so we're sucked into this mode of thinking and doing. As Joel said we feed the machine. If we buck, we're perceived as being lacking and slightly or abundantly, odd.

I am a fifty six year-old African-American female living in the South, with more health ailments than Carter has liver pills, with all the baggage that goes with that, including but not limited to the poverty and lack of basic necessities, that is so much of the trademark of someone like me. Our society is based on class, and it doesn't matter how much we debate this issue, it is true. My father said yesterday, that he had little sympathy for people like Mel Gibson or Tom Cruise when they run into problems from the antics that they pull. My father said, the bottom line for rich men like this, is that they can go to the grocery store and buy whatever they need. They can afford food, and there are millions of people living in this country that cannot. That there are people all over this world that survive on far, far, less. And he (my father) couldn't get worked up over their problems. It certainly is one way to look at this world, but I said, yes, you have a point, a good point, but I don't believe it is limited to just the food. It's complicated and simple at the same time. Yet I feel there are so many other issues before us as human beings. And I believe the basis of all of it is that we don't treat each other as human beings. That to me is the heart and soul of every atrocity(sp?) committed by man.

Posted by: Cassandra S | August 25, 2006 12:56 PM | Report abuse

"...can't fool me; I know there ain't no sanity clause..."

Posted by: jack | August 25, 2006 1:09 PM | Report abuse

Here's the blurb from amazon about Ellroy's book:

Based on a notorious, unsolved Los Angeles murder case, the central drama of this hard-boiled mysteryset in the late 1940sbegins when the body of Elizabeth Short, an engagingly beautiful and promiscuous woman in her 20s, is discovered in a vacant lot, cut in half, disemboweled and bearing evidence that she had been tortured for several days before dying. Dubbed "The Black Dahlia" by the press, the victim becomes an obsession for two L.A.P.D. cops, narrator Bucky Bleichert and his partner, Lee Blanchard, both ex-boxers who also are best friends and in love with the same woman. Despite a huge effort by the department, leads seem to go nowhere, and Bucky is mortified when he inadvertently helps to suppress evidencethe apparently innocuous fact that a woman he spends many nights with, casually bisexual Madeleine Sprague, daughter of a crooked real-estate tycoon, knew "the Dahlia" and slept with her once. Bucky begins to fear for his future, but slowly and dangerously, he learns that his is one of the tamest crimes of corruption committed by the many people he knows. Building like a symphony, this is a wonderful, complicated but accessible tale of ambition, insanity, passion and deceit, with the perfect settingof booming, postwar Los Angeles.

Here's the official movie website:

Posted by: Loomis | August 25, 2006 1:09 PM | Report abuse

As always, Cassandra, you put things in the correct perspective. Life would be sooo much better if we treated everyone as human beings.

Posted by: slyness | August 25, 2006 1:13 PM | Report abuse

Padouk asks, "I mean, just how do you have 1.7 children?"

RD, I've found that a large, well-sharpened meat cleaver does the trick.

Hope that helps.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | August 25, 2006 1:14 PM | Report abuse

Here's a tidbit about the film Blue Dahlia--that is 60 years old, like Mudge is. Perhaps his folks even saw the flick when Mudge was in utero (eons ago in Pompeii)!

Shortly after this film released, a young woman named Elizabeth Short was murdered in Los Angeles. The local newspapers dubbed the case the "Black Dahlia" as a morbid twist on this film's title. Unlike the movie, the Short murder case is still unsolved.

When Alan Ladd was called up for military service, production on the movie (then still in the screenplay stage) had to be rapidly stepped up. According to a near-legendary story, screenwriter Raymond Chandler offered to finish the screenplay by working drunk: in exchange for sacrificing his health to produce the requisite pages on time, Chandler was permitted to work at home (a privilege rarely granted to screenwriters) and was provided two chauffeured cars, one to convey the completed pages to the studio and the other for his wife. Chandler turned the script in on time. Many now believe the "drunkenness" was simply a ruse by Chandler to wrangle extraordinary privileges from the desperate studio.

In Chandler's original script, the murder was committed by the shell-shocked Buzz. The War Office forced Chandler to rewrite the script, as it was not deemed acceptable to portray an American serviceman as a murderer

Posted by: Loomis | August 25, 2006 1:15 PM | Report abuse


I really appreciate the sentiments in your last comment. And I tend to agree with your father. I was raised very religiously, and along with my relative success in my career has come a massive dose of guilt at having what I have. (Nice clothes, nice car, ability to send my daughter to school wherever I want, etc.) I still have a lot of student loan debt hanging over me, but I feel compelled to put money in the collection plate every time I'm at church, to donate to charities like the March of Dimes (my favorite) or the Red Cross. And yet the guilt? Is still there. I know to appreciate and be grateful for what I have (heaven knows I've worked hard in school for long enough), but as long as I'm well-fed, well-clothed, and well-housed, I'll always feel that twinge of guilt. What makes me so "entitled" to that which millions of others don't have? Sigh.

Posted by: PLS | August 25, 2006 1:19 PM | Report abuse

Mudge - you both scare and delight me. I like that in a person.

Posted by: RD Padouk | August 25, 2006 1:25 PM | Report abuse

That's actually quite possible my mother saw "The Blue Dahlia" while I was in utero, Loomis; she was a big fan of Alan Ladd, and went to a lot of movies. I grew up liking him, too, and then much later I found out he was as short as--or shorter than -- me, well that just iced the cake. Come back, Shane! Come back! Mother needs you!"(one of the greatest unconscious double entres lines in all of cinema).

I'm reasonably certain that Chandler was spoofing the studio when he claimed he wanted to write while drunk. In at least one of his essays about the craft of writing he is very explicit that (in his opinion) you can't write worth crap when you're drunk/stoned. And while he certainly enjoyed a gimlet from time to time (see the opening and ending of "The Long Goodbye," my favorite Chandler), he was also a pretty meticulous craftsman. Of course, the studios dealt with all manner of people with "artistic temperaments," many of whom were drunks, so they never knew when they were having their leg pulled or not.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | August 25, 2006 1:27 PM | Report abuse

My, insanity is taking many forms today. And that's just at work.

Dr, that sounds like a great garden and all around an idyllic life of backbreaking labor.

RD, I think sometimes the Boy qualifies as 1.7 children, if not more. When he was a toddler he would make up games where he was several distinct persons, and I had to interact with them (usually battles of some sort). I would ask, "How many of you are there anyway?" We finally established that more than six Boys was too many.

Cassandra, the last few days you have written some incredibly insightful posts on a variety of issues. All this work with the kids may have stimulated something. As the Boy would say, "You rock!" Please keep it coming.

Posted by: Ivansmom | August 25, 2006 1:31 PM | Report abuse

Hey Joel---nice one!... you're thoughts on food hit the mark. It's all the sugar content that's overwhelming besides of course Xanthan Gum---what is that stuff anyway. Cutting down on all these things is so difficult---imagine training for the Olympics---I think all athletes deserve a gold medal just for sticking to their impossible regimes.

I do fitness training with some serious athletes and they make me feel the guilts everytime I eat goodies. But then I look at the rest of the human population and realize I'm not as bad as most. But how far do you go if you're not training for the Olympics? that's the big question. How much deprivation is healthy even if it is in one's best interest overall.

Posted by: Miss Toronto | August 25, 2006 1:32 PM | Report abuse

cassandra, i think your father's attitude is very rational. i mean why give a rat's patootie about the details of rich famous people's problems when there are so many other real problems in the world?

Posted by: L.A. lurker | August 25, 2006 1:33 PM | Report abuse

Why is this Kit the first of 37 parts? Does Joel have 37 distinct examples of life as insane? Is there some other significance to this number, like 37 planets? I can't think of any cliche with "37" (the answer to life is 17, Heinz 57) but my experience is extremely limited.

Posted by: Ivansmom | August 25, 2006 1:34 PM | Report abuse

Thinking of insanity, last evening whilst wandering through deserted room previously occupied by young folk who never leave, I caught a little bit of Entertainment Tonight. They were talking about that Karr fellow, interviewing friends neighbours, and schoolmates.

I ask you since when did the murder of a child become entertainment?

Are we so morally depraved that we accept sensationalism and tradgedy as entertainment.

Posted by: dr | August 25, 2006 1:40 PM | Report abuse

I Wikied 37 and got 37 A.D. Some decidedly unusual people that year. Maybe that's what Joel was thinking of.

Excerpting from the Wiki for caligua:

'Following this auspicious start to his reign, Caligula fell seriously ill in October of 37, and, as Scullard remarks, "emerged as a monster of lust and diabolical cruelty."

Ancient sources, like Roman biographers Suetonius and Cassius Dio, describe Caligula having a "brain fever". The symptoms of Caligula's condition as well can be attributed to an attack of meningitis.[citations needed] Philo of Alexandria reports it was nothing more than a nervous breakdown, as Caligula was not used to the pressures of constant attention after being out of the public eye for most of his life. Rome waited in horror, praying that their beloved Emperor would recover. He became better, but his reign took a sharp turn. '

Posted by: Wilbrod | August 25, 2006 1:50 PM | Report abuse

I thought the answer was always 42. 37 is a nice prime number (and I think Joel was kidding - let's hope so).

Eugene Robinson has a nice take today on tabloid news:

There was a funny piece the other day on the breakup of Kate Hudson and Chris Robinson (they seemed so happy!), and why it matters to people - basically it's a break from all the bad news. I can't find it online though.

And a nice appreciation of The Knack's drummer, Bruce Gary:

Posted by: mostlylurking | August 25, 2006 1:51 PM | Report abuse

dr, great description of your farm growing up, I am a rural wantabe (although having grown up in the suburbs I doubt I could handle it). Your earlier post reminded me of trips to Hamilton with my Mom when after shopping, Dentist's appointments we would go to the restaurant at Eaton's - lovely memories. We are close in age and I too can appreciate the difference from the world I grew up in to the world my kids will grow up in, they have many advantages now but most of all I wish I could just send them out the door to play with instructions to come in for supper like my mom did. Instead, even though I live in a relatively low crime area they get stern warnings about strangers etc and cannot go anywhere alone.

Ivan's mom I was going to reply earlier that I have 2.3 kids as the younger one has so much energy that she must be considered as more than just one child.

Cassandra I love your posts. Similar to PLS I have always had some guilt in how fortunate I was growing up and in my life now, but we try with the charities we support and how we raise our children to help. I cannot undue the injustice in the world, just try to make sure I do not make it worse and do what I can to make it better.

Posted by: dmd | August 25, 2006 1:52 PM | Report abuse

Nelson, hope you can get help on the protein digestion front, there are enzymatic solutions out there and cooking does part of the job (but not all), however some techniques are better than others.
I can't believe that soy is more digestible than beef. Sorry, just can't. ;).

Posted by: Wilbrod | August 25, 2006 1:53 PM | Report abuse

Uh-oh, some dark matter just threw the blog into a time warp again.

Posted by: Wilbrod | August 25, 2006 1:54 PM | Report abuse

dr -- although we didn't have nearly as much land, and the only product we managed to sell were horses (OK -- one 4-H catch-it-calf) I grew up in rural ranching country in Colorado. It's now a bedroom community of Colorado Springs, but there are a few small ranches left.

I didn't eat in a McDonald's until my best friend in high school got her driver's license and we went to the Springs. She was an army brat and had an entirely different upbringing. Malls, fast food and the "normal" teenage lifestyle. Yes, I am taking today's definition of normal into account.

When I was really little we shopped at Higby's Mercantile, the general store in downtown. Wide wood plank floors, even the pickle barrel.

My mother canned all of our fruits and veggies for the winter. Made her own jams and jellies, bread, etc. She allowed no candy or soda in the house. We ate fresh, but not lean. this was before cholesterol ruined food.

My poor mother was appalled when she found out her grandkids (who were raised in Fairfax) do not think of McDonalds as the Spawn of Satan.

I eat nothing but fresh in summer, Trader Joe's in winter. I eat just enough protein to stay alive. However, I eat this way because of health issues.

I bet if I didn't have some of the physical problems I have I'd be hiding the scale, eating McFries (they make me terribly sick), and scarfing down on Taco Bell. I can't eat hamburgers at all -- i get deathly ill.

So even though I have the perfect diet (I could use a lot more protein, but I can't digest it) it's only out of necessity. I ain't crowing about my nutritional superiority.

I'm afraid I'd go home hungry from a BPH should I ever get the time to drive up for one. TBG told me the main attraction is greasy cheeseburgers! Sounds delightful!! Just looking at one and I'd be sick :-)

Cassandra -- contact your local hospital or other health clinic -- or just look in the yellow pages. There should be a registered nutritionist, maybe not in Asheville, but somewhere nearby.

Chow down everyone. Eat a big, juicy burger, topped with cheddar cheese and all the fixings, dripping with grease. Side of steak fries, soggy with ketchup (the vegetable). Eat with delight, with gusto, with, well, with relish of course!!

I'll nibble on some spinach out of the bag, or have a bowl of my super fiber-super vitamin loaded cereal with soy milk (can't do dairy).

Posted by: nelson | August 25, 2006 1:54 PM | Report abuse

It was simpler then if you grew up rural wasn't it. We lived an hour from the city, but only went twice a year, and one of them was for the dentist. Today I have a brother-in-law who lives in the city and drives to work in my small hometown daily. A lot of people do it. And going to the city twice in a day is not unheard of.

We are the lucky ones Nelson. We might have had little money to spare, but we had a lot of other very important stuff. Its something I think a lot about. I know I am lucky and just like PLS, I do feel just a tad guilty for all the riches I have in my life.

Posted by: dr | August 25, 2006 2:00 PM | Report abuse

Alan Ladd was 5'5" (Mudge's height)! You really can nail 'em, Mudge! I assume you knew him from your days on the Mayan basketball team?

From Wiki:

Alan Walbridge Ladd (September 3, 1913 - January 29, 1964) was an American film actor. He was famous for his emotionless demeanor and small stature (5'5"/165 cm tall). In just about all of his films he played either the hero or a bad guy with a conscience.

Ladd was born in Hot Springs, Arkansas to English immigrant parents, and died in Palm Springs, California of an overdose of alcohol and sedatives at the age of 50.

After first becoming a star with his performance as a hitman with a conscience in This Gun for Hire (1942), he became most famous for his starring role as a gunfighter in the classic 1953 western Shane. Veronica Lake was an ideal co-star; as she was so petite, she made him seem taller than he really was.

Posted by: Loomis | August 25, 2006 2:02 PM | Report abuse

Given all the reduced-size people on this blog, I wonder if Mudge's one of the tallest people at the BPH.

Posted by: Wilbrod | August 25, 2006 2:04 PM | Report abuse

actually bc and dolphin are pretty tall...

Posted by: mo | August 25, 2006 2:14 PM | Report abuse

while i actually may be the shortest bph attendee...

Posted by: mo | August 25, 2006 2:17 PM | Report abuse

I didn't know Veronica Lake was so short - her wikipedia entry says she was 5'2", but may have been as short as 4'11" (which is still a smidge taller than me!). I didn't realize she and Alan Ladd had died so young. Not sure why this "matters" particularly, but it's interesting, and for those of us vertically challenged types, it helps to know that not everyone is as tall as they seem. Or sound - I went to a Gordon Lightfoot concert last weekend and was suprised at how little a guy he is - always pictured him as tall and lanky.

Posted by: mostlylurking | August 25, 2006 2:19 PM | Report abuse

At the last BPH, I think there were 14 people there, and I think mo might have been the only one shorter than me, Wilbrod. None of the rest are remotely vertically challenged.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | August 25, 2006 2:21 PM | Report abuse

While I'm not into eating too much red meat (as much as I enjoy it) or carbs, I am ALL about eating as much chemical preservative as I can.

I figure I'll live to be a brazilian.

mo, Objects in your digital camera may be larger than they appear.


Posted by: bc | August 25, 2006 2:36 PM | Report abuse

Wanna change that trend, Mudge? We should be able to find a low dive that will concuss everybody over 5 feet 5 when they try and enter.

Posted by: Wilbrod | August 25, 2006 2:39 PM | Report abuse

I've got to be careful about low dives, Wilbrod; there's not too many I'm still allowed to go in. And none at all in southeastern Pennsylvania and many parts of New Jersey.

But in theory, I'm game.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | August 25, 2006 2:55 PM | Report abuse

No low dives, please. I'm 5'8" in heels. And you don't want to see my ballet-dancing-deformed-toes if I have to take them off to get in the door!

Posted by: PLS | August 25, 2006 2:56 PM | Report abuse

Loomis -- Whoa!

That Black Dahlia description is quite mind-bending. Murder. Torture. Bisexuality. Promiscuity. Hard-bitten cops unwittingly sharing the same lover with the high-society victim.

It is really *really* too bad that Aunt Carol didn't keep the full set of notes since the book was "based on" the case, a phrase that covers a multitude of sins and artistic license-taking. It would be interesting to know how much of this really happened, it just all seems so improbably lurid.

LA in the first half of the 20th century must have been quite the place, if "Chinatown" and now this are anything to go on.

Cassandra -- like everyone else, I love reading your posts. Keep 'em coming. I can see his point, but I'm more with you than with your dad on the question of rich people's problems and their sympathy quotient. Yes, it's hard to have money problems even for yourself, and it's intense agony when you have children and cannot provide them all the things they need. I am *the last* person to romanticize poverty especially since I have never experienced it for real. (As some of my favorite writers, from Fran Liebowitz to Christopher Hitchens, have pointed out, there's a big difference between being poor and being broke.)

So yeah, having adequate nutrition, health care, housing, education, leisure opportunities, and -- most important of all by far -- freedom from WORRY are better than not having those things. Not just different. Actually better.

But man does not live by bread alone. Tom Cruise has more money than a lot of reasonably prosperous nations. But he's sick in the head. Mel Gibson is even richer than Tom. But he's sick in his soul. Financial problems you can solve, or at least temporarily paper over(food banks, pro bono lawyers and doctors, public assistance)a lot of the time. Soul-sickness is much more stubborn, as is bat-sh%$ craziness.

And like a lot of people with serious, high-stake problems, money not only can't solve Tom's and Mel's issues, it is actually making them worse. They have such ridiculously enormous amounts of money that they are permanently shielded from any consequences for their actions. When was the last time, do you suppose, that anyone said "No" to Tom or Mel? When was the last time anyone in their lives (unless you count Brooke Shields, which I don't) called them out on their excesses?

Mel can buy his way out of any trouble he gets into, and he apparently gets kid-glove treatment no matter what he does, so he will never hit bottom. He is never going to stop drinking. He will most likely kill himself with it, a useful working definition of impoverishment. Tom can afford to construct an entire alternate reality in which everything is someone else's fault, and he can move his family into it,too! A working definition of hell.

I'm also struck by your point of how much better the world would be if everyone treated everyone else like a human being. Not only with kindness -- though heaven knows, that would be a fine start -- but also with the respect that comes from holding people accountable. People still flock to Tom Cruise's movies. EIGHTY PERCENT of people who responded to one poll said they will still go see Mel Gibson's movies.

What if we didn't? What if the public said, "Good luck with all that, let us know when you're fit for polite society again?" In short, what if we treated them like human beings, instead of like performing fleas, just put on Earth for our entertainment?

Posted by: annie | August 25, 2006 2:58 PM | Report abuse

And PLS, you don't want to see me trying to get on a stool that's just right for somebody 5'8".

There must be a Goldilocks bar or something for different heights, no?

Posted by: Wilbrod | August 25, 2006 3:02 PM | Report abuse

Now, now, little fellas, no need to be so touchy about your altitude impairment compared to your normal-height imaginary friends. I think very kindly toward my "little buddies" and I try to be generous and understanding about your evident disadvantages in polite society. For instance, whenever I drop an object, I call out "Look out below!" I bring a supply of miniature hard-hats with me, to hand out as necessary (also handy for serving Chex-mix). I try to be conscious of whether I might fail to notice a head or box an ear, as I stride heroically through low-lying fog. I tell you, I'm a peach of a guy. Why extend your teeny-weeny, and oh-so-darling, vituperation towards me?

Posted by: ScienceTim | August 25, 2006 3:10 PM | Report abuse

Sneaking out early to run for the bus to go slap a big chateaubriand on the grill (sorry, you non-red-meat persons) and whip up a little red wine sauce for our weekend houseguests, who are arriving any minute. Got the Glenfidditch mellowing and the Bombay Sapphire chilling, and fresh corn to shuck. Everybody have a good weekend. (Come to think of it, in honor of the aforementioned Raymond Chandler, I just may have me a gimlet this evening. Maybe two.)

Posted by: Curmudgeon | August 25, 2006 3:10 PM | Report abuse

I wonder how our French colleagues would translate my little jest? I'll have to try Babelfish...

Posted by: ScienceTim | August 25, 2006 3:13 PM | Report abuse

New Twist on the Hobbit Tale: Cross-bred descendants claim they are descended from the "hobbits".,13673,501050606-1066965-1,00.html

Posted by: Wilbrod | August 25, 2006 3:16 PM | Report abuse

Cassandra -- you mentioned a need for the services of a genuine nutritionist. Try calling your local hospital for advice. They generally have nutritionists on staff. They aren't grant-funded, they're funded by overhead, so they can be a bit flexible about how they spend their work time -- the hospital might be willing to release a nutritionist for a few hours to help review dietary information that you would be preparing to deliver to a group of children.

Posted by: ScienceTim | August 25, 2006 3:16 PM | Report abuse

This just in from Disney:

Mudge, you're making me drool Have a great weekend!

Posted by: mostlylurking | August 25, 2006 3:17 PM | Report abuse

bc sez "Sorry about the trip into McWeingartenLand, folks, I just felt like I had to get that out of my system."

McDonalds food tend to get a lot out of your system. Not as reliably as Pizza Hut, but pretty effectively nonetheless.

And I have a bone to pick with Wilbrodog. My dog has a notoriously finicky stomach. Any table scraps at all clean out his system. We have him eat only Lamb and Rice dry food. I recently bought a diferent brand and he loved it. I then bought yet another brand and he eats it only when he gets desparate enough.

Our vet changed brands of dental chews recently and those do not agree with him at all.

Posted by: yellojkt | August 25, 2006 3:17 PM | Report abuse

SciTim, I had a 6 feet plus friend who made fun of his short friends.

This was to compensate for the fact that most scarecrows and skeletons would say "boy, you look skinny" to him. He liked feeling big rather than a frail flagpole.

Just WHAT are you compensating for?

Posted by: Wilbrod | August 25, 2006 3:20 PM | Report abuse

Hey, I get to poop when I want, so no worries about keeping my system clean.

Don't hand a dog lots of saturated fat such as chicken skin, gravy, etc. all at once, not good for the pancreas, whatever that is. All I know is, Mcgrease hamburgers-- right through me, ugh.

Lamb & rice kibble rocks. I like lamb and rice, no kibble, too. Nutro Lamb and Rice is pretty good. Iams sucks except for their biscuits.

If you want to rock your dog's dinner bowl-- have you checked out Nutro Ultra? Organic, no corn. Salmon, Lamb, and chicken meal.

This kibble tastes better to me than many so-called dog treats, and better than any other kibble, too. If your dog can't poop at will, go slow in changing dog foods.
Nothing's worse than having to go outside then waiting 3 hours for the door service.

Posted by: Wilbrodog | August 25, 2006 3:35 PM | Report abuse

And much as I hate to admit it, a lot of times when a new food doesn't agree it's because I simply overate the new food AND my usual kibble as well, as well as whatever I found lying around as I was in eating mode....

So use common sense, don't let your dog eat too much of any new food and cut back his rations accordingly. If your dog gets queasy easily, DO NOT mix kibble with other stuff since kibble is harder to digest and swells up in the stomach.

When I eat something with relish and then throw it up, I ate too much, and also sometimes the food was too warm for me.
Ah, my mouth says yes, yet my tummy says "fire in the hole! Must eject!"

Posted by: Wilbrodog | August 25, 2006 3:44 PM | Report abuse

Now I'm all hungry for pad thai. How can I get Wilbrod to cook it for me?

I must lick some hands, press some flesh, eye some asian women significantly, and sniff to catch wind of a thai restaurant, maybe that'll work.

Good of you to try and feed your dog properly, Yellojkt. Many dogs go on hunger strikes cause that's the only way they can say they hate the food.

Posted by: Wilbrodog | August 25, 2006 3:49 PM | Report abuse

Willbrodog, have you thought about trying babelfish to interpret your obviously excellent langauage skills to English? Although be aware, 'pad thai' might come out as 'catfood'. You just never n=know with babelfish.

Posted by: dr | August 25, 2006 4:02 PM | Report abuse

I didn't think about the hospital, thanks for reminding me. And thank you all for your responses to my comments concerning the social issues. Annie, Joel calls it feeding the machine when we don't hold people accountable.

PLS, it was not my intention to make you feel guilty. Just wanted to offer another perspective to life in America.

Micheal Dyson gives Bill Cosby a hard time about the comments he makes concerning young African-Americans and their lack of taking advantage of the opportunities available to them and improving their lives. Cosby has a point, but it is not the whole point. And Dyson has a point, but not the whole point. Both men present good arguements, and realistic ones, but it is not the whole reality. There are so many variables that affect African-Americans and their lives in this country, and one can never disavow slavery, and its retched consequences.

Posted by: Cassandra S | August 25, 2006 4:02 PM | Report abuse

Wilbro*, I've been feeding my doggies Nutro Ultra for years, they seem to think it's good stuff. My childhood dog could not resist getting into the garbage (ours or other people's), eventually did her own pancreas in.

yellojkt, should I be glad you felt like you could Mcrun with that pun?

I'm blasting off now as well.


Posted by: bc | August 25, 2006 4:02 PM | Report abuse

I was born to parents who were 5' tall (mom) and 5'5" (dad). I've got an older brother who's 5'7" (and maybe has shrunk now). At my tallest I was 5'9, although I think I've dropped an inch. I like to joke that I used to put my mom in my pocket and we'd go out for walks together. . . As I think I look like both of them, it couldn't have been the milkman or the mailman. Although. . . .

Posted by: firsttimeblogger | August 25, 2006 4:17 PM | Report abuse

Meant to add -- just don't throw me out!

Posted by: firsttimeblogger | August 25, 2006 4:20 PM | Report abuse

Mudge, have a good weekend and enjoy yourself and your guest. I guess what I'm trying to say is be the birthday guy!

Have a good weekend folks, tell your families you love them, give God some of your time, and try, try, to get some rest.

Posted by: Cassandra S | August 25, 2006 4:33 PM | Report abuse

Oh, I have a brother your height. Same general family height background, although my dad had a 6 foot uncle.

The brother has problems finding hats, his head is so swollen about being the tallest in his family.

But yeah, definitely related. Just a freak recombination of genes.

Posted by: Wilbrod | August 25, 2006 4:40 PM | Report abuse


Do you have a computer in the class where you're teaching the kids nutrition?

One place to start with the kids might be

There are games based on eating well and also a place to figure out what the best food and portions would be for each individual.

Not perfect, but it's a start.


ac in sj, your remark about your nickname for McDonalds reminds me that we call Maryland "The Drive-Through State"

(My sincerest apologies to bc, Tim, Scotty, Mudge, etc etc)

Posted by: TBG | August 25, 2006 4:42 PM | Report abuse

Watching George Burns wasn't enough to create doubt?

Posted by: Wilbrod | August 25, 2006 4:43 PM | Report abuse

re: Pluto,

As bc pointed out, we were discussing the whole orbital clearing issue last night, Johns Hopkins! Where's your citation of the Boodle?!

*with a look of offended smugness*

Posted by: Dooley | August 25, 2006 4:44 PM | Report abuse

I see that Stanford J. Newman, cigar manufacturer, and, one assumes, aficionado died recently. He was 90. This, good friends, is the source of psychological wiggle room.

Posted by: RD Padouk | August 25, 2006 4:46 PM | Report abuse

All this talk about being tall and short, reminds me of my middle son, who shall be named tall boy.

One day the tall one comes along and rests him arm on my head. I am conveniently his exact armpit height. It was not pretty under there. There seemed to be something deathly in the neighbourhood. I begged but he would not cease or desist. I looked up at him, and realized, I could see up his nose (that was not very pretty either). Everytime he comes along and flaunts his superior tallness, I remind of the view from the ground.

Posted by: dr | August 25, 2006 4:48 PM | Report abuse

And once again causality takes a blow as Pluto's departure as a planet sends gravitional ripples through Earth, causing a temporary time-space rift in the WaPo system.

Posted by: Wilbrod | August 25, 2006 4:56 PM | Report abuse

Our 10-year-old son passed Mrs. D.'s height earlier this year. Every now and then she'll slaughter him in a game of basketball, just to keep him in his place.

Fortunately, he should have several years before he passes me.

Posted by: Dooley | August 25, 2006 5:00 PM | Report abuse

Cassandra, I know you didn't intend to make me feel guilty! :-) That feeling was there long before you wrote your comment. Have a good weekend!

Posted by: PLS | August 25, 2006 5:13 PM | Report abuse

dr -- yes we are the lucky ones -- going waay back to the thread about growing up rural. Being raised in the middle of completely pristine, wide open and beautiful country has shaped very much who I am today. We kids used to ride the horses everywhere; we had thousands of undeveloped acres we considered "ours" even though we didn't actually own them.

No one in my family has ever been bitten by the over-consumption bug. Everyone but me can afford plenty, but the way we were raised I think keeps my sibs living with a materialism that is just what they need -- not too much more.

Wilbrod -- I eat fish and eggs to get protein. It's the heavy meats like beef I struggle with. I can't digest lactose, hence the soy milk. Said I wouldn't mention this again, but I may have a wider menu selection after the surgery I am facing this fall. Maybe.

I went to school with a family that had the freakiest genes regulating height. There were about 6 kids, and every other one was either very short or very tall.

The oldest was a girl -- she barely hit 5'. Her sister was 6'. The next child, also a girl, again struggled to hit 5'. Then the first boy, very tall. The next kid, a boy, got the short gene.

You could tell the birth order of a Peterson kid by his/her height, as long as you knew that Karen, the eldest, was short.

I'm the tallest in my family -- sort of. I'm 5'8" -- my brother is an inch taller, but because he's a guy, everyone thinks of me as the tallest, if one adds gender into the mix.

Gotta add one comment about the Neandertal link Joel had in the kit. Not enough info in the link to really figure out what's going on at the site -- but I'm dubious. I'd have to read the actual paper -- see all his data and arguments.

But it's still just one site. And from the sounds of it, a site that has perhaps had it's strata disturbed.

If Neandertals had a rich, creative material culture, it should show up at all their sites. Evidence for it wouldn't hinge on one man's interpretation of one site.

If I remember, have the time (have to start packing) I'll try and find the guy's work and see what he really has. Who knows? He may be on to something.

Posted by: nelson | August 25, 2006 5:19 PM | Report abuse

Been in training all day... *SIGH*

I'm 5'10", but my daughter's catching up fast! :-O

TBG, what's to mind???


Posted by: Scottynuke | August 25, 2006 6:30 PM | Report abuse

Linda, finally had time to go back and read the Dahlia threads. Your aunt was surely involved in a lot of very interesting work. I remember the movie Blue Dahlia movie from the matinees that played on afternoon tv before soaps operas and talk shows ate up the daytime airwaves. The story of the Black Dahlia comes up a lot on those cold case shows. Not that I watch those a lot or anything...

Goes right back to that sensationalist bent humans - me included- seem to have. Its like rubber necking history.

Anyway, its so very interesting that you had family involved in the real case.

Posted by: dr | August 25, 2006 7:11 PM | Report abuse

For all you anti MCDs and other fast food places check out this gormmet place near Stanford U in CA. A burger with 54 toppings that takes a half hour to eat.

Posted by: bh | August 25, 2006 7:34 PM | Report abuse

Thanks, TBG. We have one computer, but it's not hooked up. Our community organization and the building is volunteer work. Some of our residents pay the note and the utilities at the building. I'm a volunteer. We don't have much, but not complaining. It's an effort to keep lights, water, and phone on, nothing fancy. We rent the building out for banquets, wedding receptions, etc. But with the increase in gas and everything following that increase, rental engagements have not been good. We're hanging on by a thread. I do appreciate the offers of help, we need all we can get, and some more.

I'm going to contact the hospital here, and see if I can't get them to offer something for our program. Meal planning would be great. One of the hospitals has offered to send a fitness person if we will foot the labor cost. And the health department is going to contribute and evaluate our results. It's coming together, but much work is needed. Also, the 4-H here has offered to help with the food and nutrition workshops.

Posted by: Cassandra S | August 25, 2006 7:40 PM | Report abuse

RD Pad.. The last of my great-grandfathers passed away in the early 90's, in his early 90's. The last time I visited with him was six months or so before his death from lung cancer (which had already been diagnosed as terminal), when I arranged to go down to Savannah for his birthday. As we walked (the half-mile or so!) to the post office to get mail, I asked him if there was anything in particular that he'd like for me to get him for his birthday. He asked for a box of tiparillos (he had given up his Pall Malls years earlier, but still liked a small cigar most days), because the women didn't stop him from smoking, but they wouldn't get him any!

He was definitely another of those people who give ammunition to folks who want to rationalize away dumb choices!

Posted by: Bob S, | August 25, 2006 8:13 PM | Report abuse

In case anyone didn't see Jon Stewarts take on Rocky's visit to see the president.
Quite amusing.

Posted by: dmd | August 25, 2006 9:48 PM | Report abuse

Yes, my life in insane.

Hello to all who asked about me. Today I ventured into the school cafeteria and had a rather large eggroll, a serving of corn, a serving of mashed potatoes and a serving of mixed fruit. I could've had a milk to go with it, but passed. It cost me about $2.50.

I popped in here before classes started this morning, read Joel's post, saw that nobody had commented, so I did the quick hit at the top of this thing. Sorry it took me time to get back. I'm still lurking around here, but I don't get the time to comment.

I'm teaching high school journalism. I have basic courses during the first period and I fight to wake them up. I have a homeroom class second period. I have a mouthy class that I could strangle third period, every other day. I have a photojournalism class with six students every other third period. I have the advanced journalism class, where we cobble together the yearbook, during fourth period. Fifth is my conference period, meaning I get to fool around. In this case, "fooling around" means I'm frantically figuring out what it is I might be doing the next day or the day after that.

I've mastered the best times for comandeering the copy machine, how to make transparencies and stuff like that.

It's going okay. But the year is still young.

Hope all is well here in the 'Boodle.

Posted by: Bayou Self | August 25, 2006 10:35 PM | Report abuse

This just in. I've now been notified that I scored a 278 out of 300 on the state of Texas journalism teacher test -- covering writing, editing, headlines, captions, photos and cropping, and more -- and will be allowed to continue working at the school.

Meanwhile, I'm thinking of possibly gassing that third-period bunch.

Posted by: Bayou Self | August 25, 2006 10:36 PM | Report abuse

Bayou - It's fascinating, ain't it, how little most teachers actually require to feel (mostly) fulfilled, and how seldom they receive it?

Oh, well, not so different from most everyone, I thimk!

(Does anyone still use, "I'm thimking..." with wry humor, or is it strictly a typographical error now?)

Posted by: Bob S. | August 25, 2006 11:53 PM | Report abuse

Bayou Self, great to hear from you. Seems like they start school early in the South. Here, they don't start till after Labor Day, but then they go till almost July. You should read Teacher Man by Frank McCourt - it's hilarious. Well, I thought it was hilarious, but I would never have the guts to teach, especially high school. Good luck to you - I'm sure you'll do fine.

Posted by: mostlylurking | August 26, 2006 12:54 AM | Report abuse

bayou: Glad to hear your classes are doing well.

Speaking of an insane pace to life: up at five this a.m to the sound of a honking horn across the street; out of bed at six; got breakfast biscuits by seven; boodling at 7.15; now out the door by eight for soccer, etc. Wheeeeee!

Posted by: jack | August 26, 2006 7:22 AM | Report abuse

Good morning, friends. Bayou self, I love teachers. Teachers are so important, and I know that sometimes they're not treated important and they may not feel important, but they are, so very much. And that third period class may turn out to be the your best class. Lord knows, teachers are not paid like they're important, and I believe that to be so very wrong. Hang in there, bayou self, I'm praying for you, and clapping all the way.

Good morning, Nani and Error Flynn.

Hope the weekend is off to a good start. I'm planning on attending a "rainbow tea" this evening. I'm looking forward to it, never been to one.

I'm asking for the prayers of my friends here for one of my church members. He's a trustee at the church, and I was informed yesterday that he had a heart attack. Haven't had an update, but hope he is okay.

Thanks again, friends. I'm really happy that I have all of you as my friends. Remember God loves you so much more than you can imagine through Him that died for all, Jesus Christ.

Posted by: Cassandra S | August 26, 2006 8:56 AM | Report abuse

I'd vote for 'Teacher Man' too. An example of someone who survived.

Teachingis one of the most unsung jobs and one that receives the least respect. It deserves far more. Its not something I could do, and you are a brave man.

Posted by: dr | August 26, 2006 9:51 AM | Report abuse

Cassandra, my prayers go out for you and the people you love.

When I was 8 years old, I lost about 60 pounds and then was diagnosed with diabetes. My Mom turned into a health food nut and literally tortured me with food. My school friends wouldn't sit next to me because I had to eat gross foods like pea soup, wheat germ, tomatoes, and sardines. At home, I had to take urine tests before each meal and if it showed up positave for sugar, something got cut from the menu. My food was weighed on a scale, no seconds, which left me hungry all the time. Out of the 3 kids, I was the one who volunteered to do the dishes, especially on the nights chicken, corn on the cobb, or watermellon was served because I got to eat the bones, cobbs, and rhines off the plates of my family members. To this day, my wife complains that I crack the chicken bones open with my teeth and eat the marrow. I like to explain this behavior by saying there must be some nutritional content in bones the my body is craving.

Some parents claim they have kids that are picky eaters. I just think some kids have never been hungry...

My favorite diet is what I call the "dirt and animal" diet. the idea here is if you don't wash the dirt off of what your eating, don't eat it. Works pretty good for diabetics.

I'm traveling to North Carolina tomorrow, Outer Banks for a week. My family and my brother's family will be sharing a house which makes up 11 kids under 14 years old, but since I'm not going to work during that time, I will still consider it a vacation, unlike 2 months ago, when we went camping and got showered by 10 inches of rain. hopefully there will be no hurricanes.

I think the OB house is wired for internet. I'm thinking of sneaking the CPU, Keyboard, cable and speakers and leaving the mouse and monitor at home. Would that be mean to the 7 others that would like to browse the internet?

Posted by: Pat | August 26, 2006 10:27 AM | Report abuse

I was much surprised to see the number two story on Brian Williams' NBC News last night and see a name and face I recognized--Karen Meredith Ballard, the Gold Star Families for Peace mother whom I spent the most time talking with at Camp Casey II in Crawford, Texas last August. She gave me not one but two of her business cards, which I still have. Her hometown is Mountain View, Calif., on the Bay Area's peninsula.

The NBC story focused on her son 1st Lt. Ken Ballard and how he was killed in Iraq. Apparently, the truth is just coming out from the Pentagon that he was killed my friendly fire or fratricide, rather than by the enemy. There is as much shame in this story--and how the Army bungled the release of the truth, as there is for the story of Nadia McCaffrey of Tracy, Calif., our former hometown, about whom I blogged several months ago.

These war mothers' stories are tales of tragedy heaped upon tragedy.

The NBC footage from last night's broadcast is here:

Today's Mideast edition of Stars and Stripes also has the story at this link:

By Joseph Giordono, Stars and Stripes
Mideast edition, Saturday, August 26, 2006

For more than a year, 1st Lt. Kenneth Ballard's parents believed he had been killed while fighting Iraqi insurgents with the Army's 1st Armored Division.

Instead, they learned later, Ballard was killed in a friendly fire incident on a U.S. base.

Spurred by high profile cases like that of Ballard and Pat Tillman, the Army has been reviewing "hundreds" of casualty reports involving combat deaths since 2001, officials said late Thursday. They spoke on condition of anonymity because the policy is not yet official.

First reported by The Associated Press, the review will order all battalions that are either in or have deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan to ship copies of all 15-6 Investigation reports on combat deaths to Army officials. The reviews have so far been confined to the Pentagon over the past two months, but the order will be sent to units in the field soon, officials said.

Posted by: Loomis | August 26, 2006 10:33 AM | Report abuse

Pat, you better be careful: your family might hide the speakers when you get home.

Have a great trip! This is the PERFECT week to be at the beach, especially down south where most of the kids have already returned to school.

Posted by: TBG | August 26, 2006 10:45 AM | Report abuse

Hello all, and greetings from the Key West boodle bureau--I'm taking refuge in the internet cafe for a few minutes. It's HOT out there! The high temperature is not higher than my home a couple of hundred miles to the north, but the average temperature sure is--that means, it doesn't cool off much at night, and it gets hot very early in the morning.

My husband is painting a picture on Duval Street but he can only work for short periods before becoming almost literally "burned out." He's doing a "portrait" of La Terrazza de Marti, aka La-Te-Da, a famous gay-themed nightclub. Then he'll make prints of it and sell them at the street fair during Fantasy Fest (the big festival at the end of October)--that's the plan, so does that mean our little weekend vacation in paradise is tax-deductible? Hmmm.

Posted by: kbertocci | August 26, 2006 11:31 AM | Report abuse

Pat: I love the OBX beaches. We once ushered in the new year in Duck, NC. Quiet, plus unfettered access to the beaches and the Wright Bros. Memorial.

Bayou: I feel the same way, at times, about my 4th period. 30 in all, and a very diverse bunch indeed. As a matter of fact, I've usually drawn the assignment for teaching our non-college bound students. I've also been told that it takes a special person to teach these special children. One learns a lot from these kids and their own unique perspective on things.

Posted by: jack | August 26, 2006 11:35 AM | Report abuse

Front page porch story in today's Santa Rosa, CA paper.

Posted by: bh | August 26, 2006 12:39 PM | Report abuse

scc "wretched" 8/25/06 post at four something.

Believe it or not, I've never been to the outer banks in North Carolina. I'm thinking it's a beautiful place, but if I have to get on a ferry to go, don't want to do that. Too much water. I went to Fort Fisher this summer with the kids, and I didn't get sick, but I think I would probably be pushing it to engage in that activity again. If I could just see it without having to travel on water.

Thanks, Pat. Yours sounds like a really difficult childhood. I would really love to help the kids avert some of the diseases that go along with obesity. Continue the prayers. Enjoy your vacation, and enjoy the outer banks.

Posted by: Cassandra S | August 26, 2006 1:55 PM | Report abuse

I also developed that annoying chicken bone habit, Pat. I don't have type I diabetes, but can empathize to some degree, I had relatives and friends who went through that kind of acute weight loss and incessant hunger.

The dirt and animal diet is what I try to follow much of the time myself.

Kids who are picky eaters normally are just not as hungry as their parents think they should be. The parents force food, the kid finds they have a way to drive their parents nuts by not eating, and so it goes on.

I had a friend who was an picky eater and also hypoglycemic--runs in the family. Her fiance could cook no wrong, though. He got her to eat eggplant before she realized it was eggplant. She gained over 40 lbs by eating way too much greasy carbos he would cook for her.

HE once said "look, she has all those so called health problems and she's perfectly fine eating all those forbidden foods."

I said "I don't call gaining 40 lbs in 2 months perfectly fine."
That and she was having mood swings that could have justified committing her for mental health observation.

To all you parents with picky eaters, JUST let your kids be picky. I, due to the "eat what you can before it's gone" mentality and basic concepts of manners would have eaten a bite of anything to be polite no matter how much I hated it.

Once when I was roughly 8, I ate a helping of quiche at a friend's house which I didn't like. But I cleaned my plate, it was polite. Later my mom told me my friend's mom said I ate like a man in a kid's suit. I was pretty ticked off at the implication I was a big eater, because her cooking was &^&%^&% and I was being polite. My friend picked at the food, which should have tipped me off as to the "food dynamics" in the house. I mean, who feeds 8 year-olds quiche?

I did have weight problems then and also to this day. But I have NEVER gained 40 lbs in 2 months and expect I never will.

Again, let your kids eat what they like as long as it's healthy. Half of the dysfunctional eating patterns-- anorexia or binge eating-- comes from people not knowing they should eat when hungry and stop when they're full. I have a sister who worries her daughter doesn't eat enough.
The daughter likes salad and other healthy food, so I told her to lighten up, give some choice, and her daughter'll eat more when she needs to, she's healthy.

Posted by: Wilbrod | August 26, 2006 2:29 PM | Report abuse

I just read Joel's Rough Draft column. It is, as expected, quite funny. I also can see no way that it could be considered offensive to the French. There may, however, be some members of the art community who take exception. It might be prudent to ready ourselves for a barrage of incendiary posts from irrate cubists.

Posted by: RD Padouk | August 26, 2006 2:53 PM | Report abuse

Plus he, like, totally disses the cuneiform writing of the ancient Sumerians, thus risking the wrath of the anthropological community. I hear they can be a testy lot.

Posted by: RD Padouk | August 26, 2006 3:06 PM | Report abuse

I am watching Jacques Pepin. "The brownie, for me, was the best dessert I discovered in America."

Ah...forget apple pie, brownies are the national American dessert ;).

Posted by: Wilbrod | August 26, 2006 3:40 PM | Report abuse

Why do YOU get the preview, RD? I haven't seen it posted yet.

Posted by: Wilbrod | August 26, 2006 3:47 PM | Report abuse

Wilbrod - The Sunday Washington Post is delivered to my suburban Fairfax home in two parts. The "news" section arrives Sunday AM. The "features" section, including the Post magazine, arrives sometime the previous afternoon or evening.

Sadly, the arrival of this latter section has been known to be the highpoint of my Saturday night.

Posted by: RD Padouk | August 26, 2006 3:58 PM | Report abuse

One of the things I loved when I moved to Seattle was being able to buy the Sunday paper on Saturday. Not so great for the news section, but I had more time for the features. Now that I subscribe, I have to wait till Sunday for the whole thing. Sounds like the Washington Post has it all figured out.

Cassandra, make sure you let us know how the "rainbow tea" turned out. I've never heard of that before, but it sounds delicious.

Posted by: mostlylurking | August 26, 2006 4:17 PM | Report abuse

Don't worry, Cassandra--no ferry to the Outer Banks. You just cross a reasonably small bridge and you're there. (There is a small ferry if you want to go to Okracoke Island, but it's not necessary--you still have more than 80 miles of OBX without going all the way down to Okracoke.

I think we vacationed on OBX for severn straight summers--have stayed variously in Duck, Southern Shores, Avon, Rodanthe. Like Duck the absolute best. We one had a 44-hour vacation at Duck--got there on a Sunday afternoon and two days later had to evacuate for Hurricane Bonnie--took four hours to get off the island.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | August 26, 2006 4:24 PM | Report abuse

I don't subscribe, because I'm allergic to newspaper ink in large doses. With the change to the new ink, it does help. When I was a kid I actually helped my siblings deliver the Post, if you can call unwilling semi-slave labor on mom's orders "help."
I was a sub whenever they were sick, helped with the collections, etc. And one day I made the mistake of stuffing the Sunday sections (normally delivered late Saturday afternoon) together. Before I knew it, I was drafted into doing that for two hours every Saturday afternoon so the newspapers could be delivered whole Sunday morning.
It was during that period I developed my allergy to fresh newspaper ink. Later, when my siblings hit high school and no longer wanted to deliver newspapers, I was freed at long last.
Eventually I noticed an adult had taken over the delivery routes with a car, and they'd just deliver the Sunday extra stuff on Saturday night. They'd fling the newspaper anywhere, too. Shoddy service.

I was like "gosh, THEY don't stuff the newspapers together?" That'd have saved me a lot of Saturday afternoons.

I had no idea it is now the industry standard to deliver Sunday newspapers in installments, I always thought it was their shoddy service. I mean, really, it was a case of "hunt the newspaper" every morning, worsened on snowy mornings, usually the newspaper was nowhere near the front door or the driveway.

We kids never did that. We had a route of over 200 customers within a 1 mile radius and we'd always be sure the paper was on the doorstop, because we had a lot of elderly customers-- we knew them all, and we couldn't have them slipping to go get the newspaper.

Now with gas the way it is, kids with wagons or bikes may be more cost-effective all over again.

Posted by: Wilbrod | August 26, 2006 4:38 PM | Report abuse

In keeping with the Achenblog motto, "Clouds are hard", here's a book that we should add to our reading lists: The Cloudspotter's Guide

And a fun website to check out:

Posted by: mostlylurking | August 26, 2006 4:41 PM | Report abuse

Cassandra, do tell... was the rainbow tea party like this?

Posted by: Wilbrod | August 26, 2006 4:59 PM | Report abuse

Speaking of hurricanes and Bonnie, our local television news on Friday night showed the local Red Cross making preliminary preparations for Ernesto--whatever its strength, wherever it may make landfall. The National Weather Service now shows Ernesto taking a more easterly track, away from Texas *curses*, perhaps into the Florida Panhandle, the Alabama or Mississipi shores, or quite possibly New Orleans (again).

Let's hope all are more prepared than last year--weaknesses in emergency response evident for both Katrina and Rita.

Our drought story was under the front-page banner today:

Drought only gets worse

With relentless heat continuing to bake the region, and August 2006 on track to become the hottest month in San Antonio history, a 17-month-long drought shows no sign of ending soon. ...

The average temperatures for January through July make 2006 the hottest such period ever recorded in San Antonio, and, so far, August is shaping up to be the hottest of any month ever recorded -- beating out two previous Julys.

The 88.4-degree average through Aug. 24 was well ahead of the 88.1 recorded in July in both 1980 and 1998.

Posted by: Loomis | August 26, 2006 5:38 PM | Report abuse

My Sunday Post feature sections get delivered *with* my Saturday Post on Saturday morning.

Some time a few years ago the delivery guy (whatever happened to the paper boy?) realized he could save an entire trip by throwing them both at once into the driveway.

But I do not allow anyone to touch the Sunday parts until Sunday. I just feel like the world would tilt or something if we read Sunday's paper on Saturday.

But it is tempting when I see the entire Sunday paper on sale at Safeway on Saturday afternoon to buy it and then bet on the Saturday night games or something.

Posted by: TBG | August 26, 2006 5:48 PM | Report abuse

Waiting for home deivery of the WaPo or the NYT would mean that the news would be days old by the time a hard copy reached your doorstep. I once knew a gentlemen, Mr. Charlie, who was well past his centennial when he passed from this world. He often told stories of how the mail was delivered by a horse drawn cart. In his day, I'm sure that news was at least a day or two old before it reached his homeplace. Its interesting to consider the psychology of internet use in the context of nearly instantaneously available information.

Posted by: jack | August 26, 2006 6:04 PM | Report abuse

SCC: delivery...sheesh

Posted by: jack | August 26, 2006 7:20 PM | Report abuse

If cloudwatching gets you in mood for more sky stuff check this Atmospheric optics site out:

Learm more about sunsets, cloud shadows, moon distortion, etc.

Posted by: Wilbrod | August 26, 2006 10:57 PM | Report abuse

BTW, thanks for the links, mostlylurking.
It is true that communing with the sky is a mood lifter.

Posted by: Wilbrod | August 26, 2006 10:59 PM | Report abuse

I delivered the Post for a decade. back then the comics/accessories came from a press in Pennsylvania and were trucked to the local areas on tuesday.

And I still get up around 3:30 am every morning. If I could drive, I would be on the road to OBX right now. It's always a fun trip. I don't let my kids do tv, gameboy, ipod or any of that stuff on the road and the answer to "When are we going to get there?" is always "Half past..." which turns the subject of the conversation to monkeys or whatever the next thought somebody feels worth expressing. My kids whine a lot less this way.

Now I'm going to unplug and sneak the computer stuff in the minivan. Hope to get back with you guys later!

Posted by: Pat | August 27, 2006 3:53 AM | Report abuse

Good morning, friends. Wilbrod, thanks for the link, and that is exactly what a rainbow tea looks like, with all the tables a different color. Women in the church get to play fancy with the table decorations, and they work in teams. Of course, they raise money for this event, but the tables were so beautiful, and I enjoyed it a lot. It was a small country church, but a lot of people for Saturday afternoon. And there was food, lots of food. And cakes, pies, banana pudding. I did not eat any of those goodies. Came home and had cake.

If one can ride to the outer banks, that's better. I would love to see the outer banks. I think it is so awful to live in a state and not know what it looks like, I mean other people know your state better than you do. That has its beginning in slavery too.

Good morning, Nani and Error.

I'm up so early this morning, I don't know why. I want to go to church this morning, and try to get some things in order for the week ahead. With school starting back I need to get the math and reading program in a forward position. I am tied up with the obesity program, but going to do math and reading too. It's one day, so that shouldn't be a problem, but tired already. Hope the weekend is going good for all of you.

Looks like the hurricane might be heading our way? I hope not. I don't believe the Gulf is ready for that, especially that work on the levees. They didn't look that stable on the Spike Lee documentary. And from what I've seen on other news programs, those systems look like a rehash of what was before?

Too much to worry about, I'm praying. And I've prayed for all of you. I know that you know by now, God loves you so much more than you can imagine through Him that died for all, Jesus Christ.

Posted by: Cassandra S | August 27, 2006 5:25 AM | Report abuse

Cassandra here is an article on a program called Grow a Row, Give a Row (or something like that - bad memory strikes again). Has some interesting ideas you may be able to use.

Posted by: dmd | August 27, 2006 7:29 AM | Report abuse

This morning I just read your article "An american road trip... in France". It was fun to read for me it was a deja vu. Last November I did the exact same thing except that my trip was two weeks long with a canadian friend of mine.My trip took me from Paris to the Mont Blanc down to the french riviera back up to Brittany, Normandy and back to Paris driving for five hours in the fog. I drove 3990 km in two weeks, I am sure that you can figure the millage... My friend had this grand plan of where we were going to be and when we were going to be there. I like to travel and make plans as I go along. She admited later that the trip was a lot more fun the way I went about it. We did visit places that she never would have even thought about. We visited some castles like Fontainebleau and of course Versaille,and my theory is after you see one it is very much of the same thing over and over.I am french and I know about that part I have seen a lots of castles in my life... But by taking the trip that we did we saw places that are not on any tour guides like medieval cities that are being rebuilt , or some 8 century castle that are crumbling and are still fun to go into. Driving into the Burgundy region we sampled some of the best wines, got lost and tried to find a place to stay for the night and end up in one of the nicest gites de France (equal to a B&B in the US) for $45.00 for the night including a great breackfast. I drove in the fog and misty clouds on our way to the Mount Blanc,cringed at the idea of another tunnel (I hate tunnels)and finaly see the Mount Blanc emerge in the sunlight. We spent the day in Chamonix . My friend took the cable car to go to the top of the Pic Du Midi while I waited nursing some hot chocolate I don't like hight.When we left Chamonix we took some pictures of the glaciers that came all the way to the edge of the highway,it was impressive. From there we made our way To Lyon to see the textile museums. We had to stay in Lyon longer than expected. Before I left the U.S. I had bronchitis which was turning into pneumonia. Finding a doctor was easy, and the cost was minimal $20.00 for the visit and $18.00 for the prescription which would have cost me $100 plus dollar in the US. We finally made our way to Marseille after stopping at Avignon,Valence,and Nimes where we visited the arenas and the square house,Plus few other places along the way. The two days we were on the french riviera in Marseille it rained but it was still very nice and pittoresque. After leaving Marseille I decided to go to St Marie De LA Mer. Our detour was worth it it was outside of the tourist season and the shopping was good, the place had so much charm that I would go back anytime.The area is very rugged with rice patties, white horses and bulls raised no doubt for the bull fights with a sprinkling of pink flamingoes here and there, just beautifull... Of all the places that I had gone to this was my favorite, we still did not have much sun but we love it anyway. The food was great and the price was unbeatable $10.00 for bull steack, frenchfries, salad cheese coffee and mineral water included and the sound of the Gypsy kings in the background....The rest of the trip was rushed we had lost a day here and there. we still took our time to go to Limoges and see the Porcelain factories, St malo in Britanny , go to the Mount St Michel and stop to pick up some oysters at Cancarneau so we could have them for dinner at my mother's place in Normandy. Are you out of breath yet. We had to be back in Paris by Saturday night I had to return the car in Paris .Sunday and Monday we visited Paris. Renting a car was not a problem for I had made my reservations in advance from the U.S. I dont drive standard it was of course more expensive but it was worth it. Next year I will take the same trip again but this time with my husband and instead of staying in hotels we will stay exclusively in the Gites for they were the best value and were really charming.

Posted by: christiane williams | August 27, 2006 9:03 AM | Report abuse

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