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Debris Fields

Surveying the full sweep of my life I see an array of debris fields. Some are, of course, intangible and symbolic, the result of human error, miscalculation, and the propensity of so many people to fail to appreciate my many virtues. I'm not passing the buck here: I take full responsibility for my overestimation of the abilities of those around me.

That said, most of the debris fields that I refer to are quite literal, in the sense that they're piles of paper that seem to spontaneously appear in my wake. There are old notebooks, press releases, magazines, printouts, books, medical forms, business cards, phone lists, receipts, random jotted scribblings.

What do I see when I look at my desk? Flotsam that dreams of someday becoming jetsam.

I need to pack up the current bunker in anticipation of my move into the Post radio studio where I'll begin my new job as "National Enterprise Reporter," each word of which is a surely an exaggeration of increasing absurdity.

The problem with my desk is not that I suffer from clutter. No, it is that I suffer from too small a desk. There would be no sense of clutter if my paperwork could spread out and find its natural equilibrium and spaciness on a desktop of roughly, let's see...hold on, I am doing the calculation .... 3,722 square miles.

Mostly I'd like to jettison everything and go hardcore ascetic: Become a man who has no desk at all, no paperwork, no computer, nothing tangible, just the ideas in his head and the song in his heart. In fact, skip the ideas: Too much work. And the song would be a quick little ditty, or maybe, at most, a 2.5-minute pop tune, originally released as a 45, like "I'm a Believer."

One of the complications of my new job is that I've decided to stop writing, on principle. That principle, in case you're wondering, is that the moment the writer has an "audience" the work in question becomes contaminated. I tried to explain this to Bob in the Bloggingheads thing we did yesterday (here's the link) but he probably wasn't listening.

It's best to keep one's thoughts to oneself. Particularly since readers often fail to grasp the actual meaning of what I had originally intended to say.

[The rest of this item remains in the author's head.]

By Joel Achenbach  |  September 13, 2007; 12:12 PM ET
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Next: Review: In the Shadow of the Moon



Posted by: College Parkian | September 13, 2007 2:33 PM | Report abuse

OMGOODNESS, a dear bookish friend sent me this link from Curious Expeditions:

Aren't old-school libraries sumptuous and mysterious and perfect in a musty, tooled leather sort of way?

Posted by: College Parkian | September 13, 2007 2:37 PM | Report abuse

flotsam, jetsam

---fave words in the kit.

Posted by: College Parkian | September 13, 2007 2:42 PM | Report abuse

perhaps 4th...Posting and killing the boodle; thereby, have I.

In corner, chastened.

Posted by: College Parkian | September 13, 2007 2:44 PM | Report abuse

jetsam can become flotsam, but flotsam can never become jetsam. It may have once been jetsam, but once it becomes...oh, never mind

Posted by: omni | September 13, 2007 2:45 PM | Report abuse

I'm still trying to figure out that whole "National Enterprise" reporting thing. The potential for dreadful puns is so great.

And regarding desk clutter. I too used to suffer from this affliction. Then I discovered 5-drawer safes. You would be amazed how much stuff you can cram into a 5-drawer safe. (Just don't misplace the combo, cause those folks with the blow torch can get real grumpy.)

Alas, as soon as I created the ideal clean desk environment I felt a twinge of anxiety. Everything was so open. No place to hide. So I fill my desk with magnetic sculptures and little wooden boxes. This convinces people that I am eccentric. And since many geniuses are eccentric, they conclude that as an eccentric I must be a genius. (Whatever works.)

Still, I understand your desire to contemplate deep truths uncorrupted by a callous and unappreciative public. I believe you share this outlook with many great thinkers, including Isaac Newton. He refused to publish his calculus for close to twenty years. He is also reported to have favored clutter.

Of course, he didn't have a five drawer safe.

Posted by: RD Padouk | September 13, 2007 2:52 PM | Report abuse

You did not kill the boodle. Sometimes the new kit doesn't show up right away for some of us. I had to exit completely two times in a row before the new posting appeared. Sometimes I can't see or access it until the following day.

I love the pictures of the library items.

And Joel and I must be kindred spirits at least in terms of how my cubicle desk looks.

But I can always find the answer the rest of the work crew can't recall either in the dim recesses of my decidedly middle aged brain or in what appears to others to be "clutter" but is just my own curious unfiling system. Only when somebody forces me to file my stuff can I not locate it for them. I don't mess with their pristine central files system and I prefer they not mess with my personal desktop one.

I am known as being the "keeper" of this hoary old ivy institution's history--gifts and otherwise--dating back to its founding in 1701.

Posted by: Aroc | September 13, 2007 2:55 PM | Report abuse

As the late, great, incredibly sweet Paul Freund used to say, "A clean desk is the sign of an empty mind."

Of course, he also had paths surrounded by walls of paper on the floor, so I'll add that an unstacked floor is another sign.

Posted by: dbG | September 13, 2007 3:02 PM | Report abuse

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Posted by: RD Padouk | September 13, 2007 3:05 PM | Report abuse

CP, those Praguemites sure know how to do a ceiling. Of course, it's nothing a little popcorn spackle couldn't fix. And maybe a skylight next to the naked cherubs.

Flotsam and jetsam can never be the same, or transition between one to the other. They are forever separated by their definitions. Jetsam is voluntarily cast overboard; flotsam is accidental. Ne'er the twain shall meet.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | September 13, 2007 3:09 PM | Report abuse

Like Joel, my desk is my debris field. I'm sort of afraid to clean it all up, becuase then somebody might think I don't have enought to do and give me more debris. My hobby bench at home is kinda the same way. There are tools and parts most everywhere (it's 2x6 feet). The actual working space is about 9 inches square.

Posted by: ebtnut | September 13, 2007 3:11 PM | Report abuse

I knew I was wrong, but let me ask this: If I see some flotsam and lift it aboard and then throw it back over...?

Posted by: omni | September 13, 2007 3:13 PM | Report abuse

Omni -- so you want to re-purpose the flotsam and jetsam? You are such a recycler at heart.

Posted by: College Parkian | September 13, 2007 3:18 PM | Report abuse

Life as a debris field. . . I like it. My desk tends to have discrete piles of documents, etc., which change fairly often. Occasionally I get the whole thing clean. At home I expend significant effort preventing the mail, newspapers, periodicals, etc. from turning every flat surface into a giant debris pile. I have had some success at this, to my family's great annoyance.

I particularly like the notion of intangible debris cluttering up my thoughts, emotions and relationships. Perhaps I'll clear it all away and set up mental magnetic sculptures and wooden boxes. That ought to give folks pause.

Posted by: Ivansmom | September 13, 2007 3:18 PM | Report abuse

omni, I'd hazzard a guess that under Admiralty law, it does indeed become jetsam, since Admiralty law would rule that once you picked it up out of the sea, it became your rightful property under the laws of salvage. However, during that period of ownership, it also ceased to be flotsam. Ergo, flotsam cannot become jetsam without undergoing some intermediate stage during which it ceases to be flotsam.*

Kind of like stuff at a yard sale. It's junk, but only until you come along and buy it, at which point it has clearly ceased to be junk (it becomes potential flotsam) or potential jetsam, however, or perhaps "flotsam-in-waiting").

*Footnote: The law of salvage isn't an absolute right of ownership; sometimes you gotta give the stuff back. But in that case you are entitled to a salvage fee. For instance, those two H-bombs that landed off the coast of Spain. If you found one of 'em, I'm pretty sure they wouldn't let you keep it. Just a guess.

(Ivansmom, can I bill omni for my little consult into Admiralty law? Or do I have to eat this one?)

Posted by: Curmudgeon | September 13, 2007 3:26 PM | Report abuse

Sigh. This thing is a mess. I need to rewrite this whole thing.

Posted by: Achenbach | September 13, 2007 3:30 PM | Report abuse

I liked that phrase, "Flotsam that dreams of someday becoming jetsam." The way I read it was that the stuff is metaphorically floating around aimlessly right now, but once somebody pays enough attention to it to throw it away, it will be promoted to jetsam. Kind of an honor, really.

Posted by: kbertocci | September 13, 2007 3:33 PM | Report abuse

Nonsense, Joel. The piece perfectly reflects the nature of debris fields and the confusion inherent in moving hundreds of thousands of papers and small objects from one desk to another -- since, as we all know, it is simpler to move them than get rid of them.

Mudge, bill away. Just remember I get a cut since you consulted me regarding the propriety of a fee.

Posted by: Ivansmom | September 13, 2007 3:36 PM | Report abuse

At the house, I need to periodically discard everything sitting on tables and counters, excluding the popcorn popper, rice cooker, and ghastly pink ceramic knife from Kyocera that goes right through tomatoes.

Since there's words for ocean-borne stuff, there ought to be one for wind-blown. Like the $5 bill that was plopped on my lawn by hurricane Jeanne.

Posted by: Dave of the Coonties | September 13, 2007 3:37 PM | Report abuse

Dave, I believe that falls under "manna from heaven" (q.v. Exodus, 16:14 et seq., and Numbers, 11:7-9).

I suppose instead of billing omni I could bill Joel, only I know what would happen. He'd drop the invoice on his desk, and then it would instantly become flotsam, lost forecver in a sea of debris fields. Unless he cackled maniacally, balled it up, and tossed it in the trash. In which case it would be jetsam.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | September 13, 2007 3:47 PM | Report abuse

But Joel, we love this kit and all the micro tangents, literarily and nautically flavored.

Do you want us to know guess at the inner desk of your mind, ponder your mental flotsam and jetsam?

Posted by: College Parkian | September 13, 2007 3:48 PM | Report abuse


What if Joel tossed it, meaning for it to land on the desk, but it bounced into the trash instead?

The Accidental Jetsam?


Posted by: Scottynuke | September 13, 2007 3:55 PM | Report abuse

Joel, the ending made me laugh, which is a lot more than your recent posts on politicans and wars have done.

Wait a day to jettison the kit.

Posted by: Wilbrod | September 13, 2007 4:05 PM | Report abuse

"you want to re-purpose the flotsam and jetsam" Nah doesn't it mean he is ready to be a mover and a shaker?

My boss has an office like that (It's not my fault, really) and a store room like that (ok that is my fault). But come October there is going to be a whole lot of filing happening.

It strikes me that the clever journalist could make the piles inot something. Say a sofa like thing on which an intrepid National Enterprise Reporter could have his afternoon naps.

Posted by: dr | September 13, 2007 4:08 PM | Report abuse

Joel, I think Kit 2.0 is clearly an improvement. The first paragraph makes a lot more sense (at first I thought you were being ironic. I've heard of such a thing.) and the whole piece flows brilliantly.

The thing is, though, *we* knew what you were trying to say all along. Your thoughts were clear, it's just the words that seemed a little bit cluttered.

Which, of course, is what makes the whole thing so delightfully meta.

Posted by: RD Padouk | September 13, 2007 4:19 PM | Report abuse

Dave, that was MY $5. It blew out of my hand when I was standing in line to buy batteries. It's okay, I won't charge you interest.

Posted by: kbertocci | September 13, 2007 4:19 PM | Report abuse

I just wanted to point out that one of my questions made it onto Liz Kelly's chat.

I've dreamt of this day for so very long.

Posted by: RD Padouk | September 13, 2007 4:30 PM | Report abuse

RD and another boodler who I will not "out" without permission also posts -- very witty! -- are celebratologists, too.

We can all freely admit our occasional drives-by on that blog, now.

Who knew?

Posted by: College Parkian | September 13, 2007 4:38 PM | Report abuse

Just saw a new term for things you just put down somewhere until you really need them: *Object limbo*.

If only I didn't have *thought* limbo.

Posted by: dbG | September 13, 2007 4:48 PM | Report abuse

The key to understanding this whole "National Enterprise Reporter" gig lies in the void created in the tablo-fantasist genre by the recent demise of the Weekly World News. "National Enquirer" is already taken, but with "National Enterprise" you get just a tinge of Trekishness, that hint of green blood and pointy ears that says "Buy me, I'm chock full of grotesque, bizarre, and just plain whacked out stuff, with a soupcon of alien abduction and anal probing for spice!"

Posted by: kurosawaguy | September 13, 2007 4:49 PM | Report abuse

I am indeed a clutterbug, although lately I've been on a tear to get things in order. I've finally assembled stuff to take to Goodwill this weekend (found a center more nearby me than the one I used to cart things to), and then it's back to the big box full of stuff that needs filing. And *then* there's the shredding. *sigh* It never ends, alas.

Got my flu shot this morning -- never too early for me. The last time I got the flu was in August 1999, which is pretty early, but I'd just got back home from vacation in the mountains of North Carolina -- I guess the virus knows no geography -- and the vaccine hadn't shown up in our neck of the woods yet. Unfortunately, I ended up with a lovely case of pneumonia, which lasted about 3 or so months. Talk about exhaustion -- geez, that was rough. I don't want that happening again. Now that I'm back at the gym (sort of -- at least the tendonitis went away with Advil and rest), I'm trying to minimize my risks of getting stuff I don't want.

Which brings us full circle in the clutter discussion.

I guess.

Posted by: firsttimeblogger | September 13, 2007 5:02 PM | Report abuse

uh-oh. I killed it. Or maybe I put it in a box. Or *ouch* shredded it.

Posted by: firsttimeblogger | September 13, 2007 5:27 PM | Report abuse

Who was it who put a bit of doggerel together,

Flotsam? I've got some.
Jetsam? I can get some.

Ogden Nash or someone like that

Posted by: Yoki | September 13, 2007 5:37 PM | Report abuse

Firsttime, glad you got your flu shot as I just got over - more or less - having the flu. The last time I had the flu was at least 20 years ago, maybe more. I am very glad we have a lighthearted Kit as between the subject matter in the last two and being sick, I was getting really depressed reading the Boodle. I find clutter pretty depressing too, but at least I can do something about it, unlike world events. Since we moved into this smaller house I don't find as much stuff hanging around, there isn't room, for one thing. Before the move I was shredding a lot of old paperwork when I came across a box full of old financial papers. It was way too much to shred so I burned it all in the fireplace. It took me a week or more doing a ream's worth at a time.

Love the words flotsam and jetsam, happy to know their definitions as I would have used them interchangeably.

Posted by: Bad Sneakers | September 13, 2007 5:51 PM | Report abuse

Change is never easy and often fraught with insecurity.

Posted by: Shiloh | September 13, 2007 5:55 PM | Report abuse

You know, I have to say I'm still confused about the term "National Enterprise Reporter".

Other than its specific usage among SF fans, "Enterprise" is about as common in current speech as "flotsam", and when used typically refers to businesses. JA to be business reporter? Or is it supposed to refer to the meaning as a "bold undertaking"? And if so, why is it singular?

The first thing that came to mind is that it sounds like a sponsored position eg next to the Hertz Reporter for International Affairs.

CP, loved the libraries. Yeah, I could live there.

Posted by: SonofCarl | September 13, 2007 6:02 PM | Report abuse

I thought that Joel had been assigned to the mergers % acquisition desk to report on transportation companies. Glad to be enlightened.

Posted by: Maggie O'D | September 13, 2007 6:09 PM | Report abuse

I think they gave him the title because he is, ahem, and enterprising fellow now reporting on the National desk.

Posted by: dr | September 13, 2007 6:12 PM | Report abuse

And may Joel's new position never remind us of Hamlet (although the flotsam and jetsam references do tie in...)

Thus conscience does make cowards of us all,
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pitch and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry,
And lose the name of action.

Posted by: Wilbrod | September 13, 2007 6:12 PM | Report abuse

Surely this clutter will drive us all to depression. I have never begged for a new kit before. The thought of thinking about this subject for one more minute is enough to drive me to madness.

I throw the stuff away and they keep bringing more. They put it in boxes, and mail me the stuff. They put bags in bags, and thrust them into my hands, and my neighbor triumphantly hands me a stack of printouts from the conspiracy sites, an inch thick it is, and I read it and think that the historical record of these curious times must be preserved, let historians giggle. Time capsules, indeed, concrete-sealed, blocks of stacks of papers and clippings, and projects gone awry, plywood and rosewood, chunks too precious to burn, half-finished paintings and sculptures, refinish that old desk! Make buckminster fuller domes with that old pvc pipe! Repair the old mower, it's too good to waste.

Posted by: Jumper | September 13, 2007 6:31 PM | Report abuse

Recycled angst is angst.

Posted by: Shiloh | September 13, 2007 6:39 PM | Report abuse

I thought recycled angst was called children.

Posted by: SonofCarl | September 13, 2007 6:41 PM | Report abuse

That, too, is true, SOC

Posted by: Shiloh | September 13, 2007 6:43 PM | Report abuse

FYI I added a few links, including one to bloggingheads, where, if Bob is telling the truth, our little chat will be posted sometime tomorrow.

I don't know what National Enterprise Reporter means. But it's on the National desk, meaning, unless I fall on my face, my stories will usually run in the A section and conceivably on the front page. Enterprise means "random impulsive stories." Reporter means I guess I can't just tap-dance my way through it.

Posted by: Achenbach | September 13, 2007 7:21 PM | Report abuse

A Google search of "National Enterprise Reporter" brings up a lot of hits on this "Tim Egan" guy who works for some paper up in New York. Evidently he won some sort of newspaper prize or something. Anyway, the clear implication is that to be a "National Enterprise Reporter" is considered a pretty big deal in certain circles. So I guess we should be enthusiastic that Joel has scored such a sweet gig.

Just as long as it doesn't distract him too much from the Achenblog. Cause, you know, priorities must be maintained.

Posted by: RD Padouk | September 13, 2007 7:25 PM | Report abuse

This may have been posted before ---

Posted by: nellie | September 13, 2007 7:40 PM | Report abuse

Seriously, I think I speak for the entire Boodle when I say how delighted I am at this obviously significant professional opportunity. And if this means that our little social club has to wait a few more days between kits, well, it's all for the best. I just hope that this new position leads to an ever accelerating blaze of glory that endures for the final two decades of your career.

By "blaze of glory" I mean, of course, one that is well compensated.

Posted by: RD Padouk | September 13, 2007 7:41 PM | Report abuse

I should have said, when I posted this, that it is a quiz ---

Posted by: nellie | September 13, 2007 7:52 PM | Report abuse

Nellie I liked that quiz and I think you should all be glad I cannot vote in your elections my top three - Kucinich, Edwards, Paul. I noticed they were not placed that high on the overall ratings.

dr, loved your ode to autumn. Spent the entire outside on a glorious day, warm and sunny with a pleasant breeze.

My desk at work is not cluttered it has a neat serious of piles all over it, they exist because I fear if I clear them away I will need them.

Posted by: dmd | September 13, 2007 8:07 PM | Report abuse

Clutter is genetic. My wife could always find my son's desk by looking for the one that looks most like the one I had in high school.

Posted by: yellojkt | September 13, 2007 8:07 PM | Report abuse

nellie - the quiz was fun, although I kept wanting to check a box that said, Yes, but..
or No, but... That's me- wishy washy. I was surprised when it was Kucinich, Edwards, Paul, just like dmd.

CP - loved the library picks. I guess Peabody's was my fave since I've actually been there a time or two.

Bad Sneakers - glad you're feeling better. Definitely time for flu shots.

Posted by: Kim | September 13, 2007 8:23 PM | Report abuse

This triggers a song of some sort...

Abba fans will lynch me for this, but I know Mo will be pleased..

Everybody screamed
when I kissed his bat lips
and they must have thought they dreamed
when I kissed his bat lips
all my friends cruel
they had never seen that bat lip curl
he drooled like a fool
nearly petrified 'cos he was

Taken by surprise
when I kissed his bat lips
couldn't quite believe his eyes
when I kissed his bat lips
my whole brain went wild
as I held my breath
the world stood still
but then he just smiled
I was in the seventh heaven
when I kissed his bat lips

One of these days
gonna tell him I dream
of him every night
one of these days
gonna show him I care
gonna teach him a lesson alright

I was in a stroke
when I kissed his bat lips
suddenly I took the cloak
when I kissed his bat lips
leaning over me
he was trying to declot
my brains in the E.R
and I couldn't help it
I just had to kiss those bat lips

One of these days
gonna tell him I dream
of him every night
one of these days
gonna show him I care
gonna teach him a lesson alright

What a crazy day
when I kissed his bat lips
all my sense had flown away
when I kissed his bat lips
my whole class went wild
as I held my breath
the world stood still
but then he just smiled
I was in the seventh heaven
when I kissed his bat lips

when I kissed his bat lips

Posted by: Wilbrod | September 13, 2007 8:29 PM | Report abuse

SCC: should be "my whole brain" (not class) in the penultimate stanza

Posted by: Wilbrod | September 13, 2007 8:32 PM | Report abuse

To return to College Parkian this morning, did anyone see this? Does this mean that U.S. Fatties have hope? (I, of course, include myself in this class.)

Shrinking Kilogram Bewilders Physicists

PARIS (AP) -- A kilogram just isn't what it used to be. The 118-year-old cylinder that is the international prototype for the metric mass, kept tightly under lock and key outside Paris, is mysteriously losing weight -- if ever so slightly.

Posted by: Maggie O'D | September 13, 2007 8:39 PM | Report abuse

Ironically, the kilograms that compose my set of weights seem to be getting heavier with each passing year.

Posted by: RD Padouk | September 13, 2007 8:53 PM | Report abuse

Apparently men can soar above high C pitch naturally--without having to get their zippers stuck.

Posted by: Wilbrod | September 13, 2007 8:54 PM | Report abuse

I just got 300 g. lighter! Thanks Maggie.

Posted by: Yoki | September 13, 2007 8:56 PM | Report abuse

Oh MoD, I saw that and will share with my tech writing students about the sheer importance of definitions.

But the shrinking, no doubt, is due to a combination of red wine and Parisian mood. So, we in the North Americas will not shrink similarly.

But, perhaps Dietetic Tim has another theory.

Posted by: College Parkian | September 13, 2007 8:58 PM | Report abuse

Ignore DyaneticsTim, as that would be a scientology robot.

RD ONE LAST MOONFLOWER! And against a background of sweet autumn clematis flowers. Such loveliness and scent! Did your progeny sit still to watch a moonflower unfold?

Note: apparently, Datura species are also sometimes known as moonflowers. Highly hallucinogenic, are the Daturas, some known as Jimson Weed. I would never grow that sort of LunaPlant.

Off to walk College Barkian.

Posted by: College Parkian | September 13, 2007 9:04 PM | Report abuse

Quick question to ponder - if they can determine how many people are watching something on TV, is there also a way to determine how many people turn the TV off simultaneously when the president starts to speak?

Posted by: Bad Sneakers | September 13, 2007 9:05 PM | Report abuse

The plant has a bunch of buds forming, but I don't know how late in the season the vine will continue to bloom.

I am very grateful to have witnessed these flowers. The ghostly white blossoms, which combine delicacy with great size, made me feel as if I were in the presence of magic.

Alas, nobody else in this house is much into such things.

Posted by: RD Padouk | September 13, 2007 9:31 PM | Report abuse

On the president quiz, I was amazed to see the top three names were Obama, Clinton and Edwards. I was amazed because I have been a registered Republican all my life! Things change.

Posted by: nellie | September 13, 2007 9:35 PM | Report abuse

After reading how remarkably bats fly... I guess it takes talent to fly like you're too drunk to know up from down, indeed, this made me think of another famous acrobat..

He'd fly thro' the air with the greatest of ease--
A daring young bat on the crying night's breeze--
His movements were graceful, all birds he could please,
And my love he purloined away.

This young bat by name was Myotis frater,
Small, short, and handsome, a well made traitor,
Where'er he appeared the sky loudly rang
With vibrations from all squeakers there.
He'd gyre from the sky on moonflowers below,
And one night he gyred by my love,
She winked back at him and she shouted " Bravo,"
As he swung by his wing up above.

Her father and mother were both on my side.
And very hard tried to make her my own bride,
Her father ho sighed, and her mother she cried,
To see her throw herself away.
'Twas all of no avail, she went there every night,
And would throw moonflowers on the air
Which caused him to meet her, how he ran me down,
To show you would take a whole fair.

One night, as usual, I went to her home,
Found there her father and mother alone,
I asked for my love, and soon they made known
To my horror she'd fled away.
She'd packed up her nest and eloped in the night
With him with the greatest of ease,
From the redwoods high he had seduced her down
To the ground with his aerobatics

Some months after this I went to a zoo,
Was greatly surprised to see in bamboo
A note in red letters, which did my rage brew,
That she was appearing with him.
He taught aerobatics and messed her bird's nest
To help him to live at his ease,
And made her assume a Chiroptera name,
And now she flies on the night breeze.


She float thro' the air with the greatest of ease,
You'd think her a bat on the crying night breeze
She does all the work, while he takes his ease,
And that's what's become of my love.

Posted by: Wilbrod | September 13, 2007 9:41 PM | Report abuse

My sister used to say she thought Debris would make a great girl's name.

"And the winner of the 2008 Miss Teen USA pageant is Miss Arkansas: Debris Fields!"

Posted by: TBG | September 13, 2007 9:52 PM | Report abuse

Works for me, TBG, as long as that poor girl doesn't get called "white trash".

Posted by: Wilbrod | September 13, 2007 9:58 PM | Report abuse

I guess Bush's offer to bring home the extra troops he sent over for "the surge" will be touted as a reduction ("we're bringing our folks home!") just like announcements that the deficit isn't as big as they had predicted is touted as some sort of deficit reduction.

Posted by: TBG | September 13, 2007 9:59 PM | Report abuse

All I care to see is news of a term reduction from this administration.

Posted by: Wilbrod | September 13, 2007 10:15 PM | Report abuse

Oh, TBG, you know math. It's all relative. 2 + 2 = 5 for very large values of 2. :-)

Posted by: dbG | September 13, 2007 10:17 PM | Report abuse

Dietetic Tim? DyaneticsTim? Gosh, I take one day off to observe Rosh Hashanah with my family, and people start making up new personalities for me. As if I haven't already fractured my personality enough for you people.

Posted by: The *Tims | September 13, 2007 10:29 PM | Report abuse

Will some fur therapy help your outrage, Tim(s)?

Posted by: Wilbrodog | September 13, 2007 10:40 PM | Report abuse

TBG, that's reductionist politics, isn't it?


Posted by: bc | September 13, 2007 10:41 PM | Report abuse

Secondhand smoke is bad for man and beast alike:

Thus ends Science Thursday for now...

Posted by: Wilbrod | September 13, 2007 10:50 PM | Report abuse

Secondhand Smoke not only is available as a boodle handle but would be a kick ass name for a rascal in a poorly made Western.

Posted by: bill everything | September 14, 2007 12:01 AM | Report abuse

I'm proud of my clutter. I live the Law of Entropy. Unfortunately, when I apply the converse I can't find a darn thing. A corollary to the LoE is the duplicate tool law: when entropy scatters my tools to the point when searching for a particular piece becomes an excercise in futility, this necessitates the purchase of a replacement. For some reason, Country Joe's "I Feel like I'm Fixin to Die Rag" has been looping through my mind tonight.

Posted by: jack | September 14, 2007 12:01 AM | Report abuse

Thank you for sharing that song; I never heard of it. I looked it up and his website. Very amusing.

It's been parodied/updated for recent events by a few people, too.

Posted by: Wilbrod | September 14, 2007 12:19 AM | Report abuse

JA, that sounds fantastic - congratulations again! Don't forget us minions.

I'm not sure about the usage of "blaze of glory" though. Traditional usage seems to be along these lines:

"Secondhand Smoke, pass me that ammo can, and crack open that last bottle. We're going down in a blaze of glory, friend"

Posted by: SonofCarl | September 14, 2007 12:32 AM | Report abuse

The Fixin' to Die Rag always made me angry and sad, during the Vietnam war. Not that it was ever declared a war. Still makes me feel that way - we've learned nothing.

Country Joe McDonald - my favorite song of his is Save the Whales:

And Not So Sweet Martha Lorraine:
Dark song, but reminds me of the Summer of Love.

Posted by: mostlylurking | September 14, 2007 1:41 AM | Report abuse

I like both. I'm not sure who Martha Lorraine is other than, apparently, a witch, but the folksong style is nice.

Posted by: Wilbrod | September 14, 2007 1:58 AM | Report abuse

Forgot to ask...

So Debris was W.C.'s brother? Sister? What????

*TGIF Grover waves on the path to work*


Posted by: Scottynuke | September 14, 2007 5:07 AM | Report abuse

'Morning, Boodle. 'Morning, Scotty.

I think if you did the research, you'd find that Debris Fields was married into the W.C. Fields clan, not biologically related. Her birth family descends from the same clan as Dirk Struan, hero of James Clavell's mega-tome, "Noble House." Before she married into W.C.'s family, she had an earlier marriage to an Arabic sponge merchant. So when she married one of the Fields people, her pre-wedding name was Debris Struan Al-Loofah.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | September 14, 2007 6:00 AM | Report abuse

Oh, and before I forget...

Yesterday when I referred to the Accidental Jetsam, please don't think I was referring to Elroy's half-brother Elmond, who looked rah-ther like Mr. Spacely and was written out of the script for "creative reasons."


Posted by: Scottynuke | September 14, 2007 6:48 AM | Report abuse

And like our Joel Debris was an extremely enterprising newspaper reporter in her day. Som,e people even thought she was like Gary in the TV show "Early Edition;" she seemed to know what was going to happen before it did. She always had a couple of police and fire scanners in her home, car and office, and was so mazingly quick she was often the very first person at the scene of a disatser. Sometimes when police, fire/rescue and EMTs would arrive at the scene of, say, a plane crash, Debris would already be there com,bing through the wreckage looking for survivors, and you could hear the first responders talking on their intercoms, "Wow, there's Debris Struan Al-Loofah!"

When she was married to the Arab sponge merchant, they had a daughter named Brett. She grew up and in her teens moved to Hollywood, where she got involved with the wealthy scien of film director Alexander Korda, who was having an affair with the late San Francisco city councilman Harvey Milk (who you may remember was assassinated). Korda and Milk had adopted a son, and he and Brett got in trouble with the law. Warrants were issued, and police were told to go pick up Al-Loofah, Brett, and a Korda-Milk.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | September 14, 2007 6:49 AM | Report abuse

It's bad enough that Charles Krauthammer rewrites all of George Will's columns one day later, now he stole "annus" from Joel. At least Chuckie knows that Iraq is "horribilis" instead of "mirabilis". BTW, we're winning in Iraq now.

Charlie needs to pull his head out of
a) the sand
b) Dubya's nether regions
c) somewhere else the sun doesn't shine

Posted by: yellojkt | September 14, 2007 7:15 AM | Report abuse


Get ready for a near-real-time "Are You Kiddin' Me???"

Many of you know me as an easy-going guy. Today the cafeteria staff at work really put that to the test.

I wander down to the service line, and see the special: "Two eggs Benedict with Hollandaise sauce, plus coffee."

Sounds good, so I flag down the short-order cook. Nice woman, English is not her native tongue. "I'd like the special, please."

"OK Sir, how would you like your eggs?"

*raised eyebrow*

"Eggs Benedict are usually sunny-side up, aren't they?"

"OK, yes."

I go and get my coffee. She hands me a plate with two sunny-side up eggs.


"I'm sorry, I wanted the special. Eggs Benedict is served on an English muffin, with sauce."

"Oh, OK. You go get a muffin and I'll start new eggs."

*RAISED eyebrow*

I give her a sliced English muffin and she puts it on the grill, next to the eggs. The sunny-side up eggs go on the muffin, and then she starts looking for the sauce.

"Oh Sir, I don't want your eggs to get cold while I find the sauce," she said as she placed a plate on top of mine. Nice lady, really. Couple of minutes later, she comes back from the kitchen and ladles the sauce on the eggs...




"Thank you," I said as I took the plate and headed straight to the manager.

"Good Morning," I said to the manager. "If you post a special on the board, the cook should know how to prepare it, don't you think? This is an interesting interpretation of Eggs Benedict, wouldn't you say?"

She gave me the meal free of charge.

I told myself it was huevos rancheros.



Posted by: Scottynuke | September 14, 2007 7:37 AM | Report abuse

'mudge - Groan....Sigh!


Posted by: Bob S. | September 14, 2007 7:43 AM | Report abuse

Women's soccer update...

U.S. beats Sweden 2-0.


Posted by: Scottynuke | September 14, 2007 7:50 AM | Report abuse

Scottynuke, it's so typically male and occidental of you to think that just because you know how SOME people have prepared Eggs Benedict in the past, now EVERYONE is supposed to make it that way. Sheesh!

(hmmmm.... Sheeshburger for tomorrow's lunch special?)

Posted by: Bob S. | September 14, 2007 7:51 AM | Report abuse

And this is interesting...

*picturing bc, *Tim, martooni, 'Mudge and me tinkering in the garage*


Posted by: Scottynuke | September 14, 2007 7:51 AM | Report abuse

S'nuke - great laugh to start my morning. I wish I could have seen your face when the red sauce covered eggs came back. I can't believe you ate it!

Posted by: Kim | September 14, 2007 8:09 AM | Report abuse

Eggs Benedetto?

Posted by: College Parkian | September 14, 2007 8:12 AM | Report abuse

Just had a quick moment to check the news before I head out today but saw this article on a local firm that is hoping new technology it has developed can help track miners. The product is currently being tested in W. Virginia.

Posted by: dmd | September 14, 2007 8:25 AM | Report abuse

Oh my, Scotty. I would have been absolutely livid at the sheer incompetence. Though I no longer eat eggs benedict in restaurants, after Tony Bourdain's expose in Kitchen Confidential. I have, however, eaten Eggs in H311 (eggs poached in extra-hot salsa, served in a tortilla bowl with rough toast on the side) and it is delicious. Someone once told me the dish is good for a hangover, but I haven't tested that theory.

Morning Cassandra, Error, Annie.

Posted by: Yoki | September 14, 2007 8:44 AM | Report abuse

S'nuke-At least your experience can be attributed in part to a language barrier. We recently dined at one of our area's "finer" establishments ("finer"=2 regular menu entrees that aren't deep fried). They were out of nearly everything, including tomatoes for salad, so I decided to live dangerously and order the "broccoli cordon bleu." "Chicken breast stuffed with broccoli and butter served with sauce." I knew when I ordered it that it would be a frozen concoction delivered by the same wholesale distributor every other restaurant around here uses, but I held out a faint hope that the sauce might be freshly prepared. It was, it was freshly microwaved cheez whiz.

Morning everyone! A few snow flakes this morning and we're expecting a hard freeze tonight but then things are supposed to warm up for the weekend. Hope I can find enough sheets to cover my tomatoes and flowers.

Mudge-you remind me of Frostdottir's unusual 4th grade fixation with Middle East politics. She had a long tale that wove "Yo, sir, are you fat?" with that "Knittin' yahoo."

Posted by: frostbitten | September 14, 2007 8:45 AM | Report abuse

Howdy - quick Boodle-by on my way to a conference. Thanks, Mudge, for that hilariously elaborately painful series of puns. Thanks, Scottynuke, for that great story. Two laughs in one morning! And hey Error Flynn, I'm thinking of you. Whenever I open a window and the computer says "done. Error on page" I say, "Hi Error!"

Posted by: Ivansmom | September 14, 2007 8:48 AM | Report abuse

Scottynuke, I'd do that Lunar X-prize in a heartbeat if someone would pay me while I did it.

There's also an X-prize for automobile design and engineering that we'd mentioned on here earlier, for a mass-produceable (sorry) vehicle that can get 100 mpg and meet stringent fuel emission standards.

As far as the fields go, my desk is typically resembles a paper rubble pile, and I when I look for a document, I become something of an archaeologist, digging through appropriate contextual strata to find the correct deposit.

Speaking of deposits, some consider my desk not a debris field, but a septic field.

I should also add here that while I do make a good Eggs Benedict or Florentine (the sauce is the key, of course), free huevos rancheros sounds good to me.


Posted by: bc | September 14, 2007 8:57 AM | Report abuse

I have a big dividing line in restaurant qualities.

There are melted shredded cheese nacho restaurants and there are cheese sauce nacho restaurants. The latter do not get my business more than once.

Posted by: yellojkt | September 14, 2007 8:58 AM | Report abuse

New Lunar Kit.


Posted by: bc | September 14, 2007 8:58 AM | Report abuse

I found this so humbling, is that a word?

Posted by: CB | September 14, 2007 8:59 AM | Report abuse

A few friends who eat out often think I'm a pretty good cook. One in particular will eat anything I've prepared, even if he just ate dinner.
After S'nuke's and frostbitten's stories, I now know why.
(BTW, ideally, the eggs on an eggs benedict should be poached, but sunny side up will work. And real Hollandaise isn't that hard to make, and would be a darn-sight better than cold pizza sauce. Good thing you went for the english muffin; she might have chosen a blueberry muffin.)

Posted by: LostInThought | September 14, 2007 9:03 AM | Report abuse

Wow, CB - thanks for that link.

Posted by: Kim | September 14, 2007 9:11 AM | Report abuse

I'm fixing a hole where the rain gets in
and stops my mind from wandering
where it will go

Posted by: Anonymous | September 14, 2007 9:19 AM | Report abuse

I like salsa eggs myself. S'nuke you were pretty easygoing in that you actually ate the eggs (waste not, want not).

I can't stand hollandaise sauce, and now I know I have good reason to dislike it... eww, I wish I didn't know.

The worst restaurant for never giving you what was ordered would have been a local McD's back in VA.

Mudge-- could you translate those puns for me? For some reason I'm not getting Debris Stuan right inside my head at all.

Posted by: Wilbrod | September 14, 2007 2:27 PM | Report abuse

Hello! Good Site! Thanks you! vpaudzdkohq

Posted by: glsnllwvby | November 23, 2007 5:53 AM | Report abuse

Another big drug maker, Pfizer, for example, was harshly criticized in 2001 for reporting that its painkiller Celebrex caused fewer ulcers than older drugs after six months of use. Pfizer’s study had originally been designed — but failed — to show that Celebrex caused fewer ulcers after a full year of use. Yesterday, Merck and Schering said they did not yet know the results of the trial. They said they were changing the endpoint only because they want to be able to analyze the data more quickly. A panel of outside scientists recommended the change last Friday, said Lee Davies, a spokesman for Schering. Mr. Davies declined to disclose the members of the panel. Dr. Howard Weintraub, the clinical director of the New York University center for the prevention of cardiovascular disease, said cardiologists were especially concerned about the trial’s results because Zetia works...

Posted by: eedxaejerb | November 24, 2007 8:17 PM | Report abuse

Add UV radiation from the sun, and the magnitude of sorting out what is truly carcinogenic becomes evident. Aging is a major cause of cancer, associated not just with chemicals, but a normal process called telomere shortening. So, except for high exposure workers, it is completely unfounded to claim that there exists a chemically driven cancer epidemic. Accusing cancer researchers of choosing not to address prevention shows a lack of understanding of the biology of cancer. To infer that the interest in therapeutics derives from the fact that cancer treatment has somehow become an industry is to be misinformed. Despite ads suggesting that drug companies...

Posted by: gqonxuskmz | November 24, 2007 8:24 PM | Report abuse

For this is where candidates Wanda Adams and Lawrence Allen Jr. have their storefront campaign headquarters, 12 blocks apart. The area also is where both candidates have worked on some of Houston's grittier problems, earning their credentials as grass roots public servants. Cullen, its empty storefronts and busted sidewalks intertwined with signs of redevelopment and neighborhood pride, symbolizes a district full of need and promise. Adams, on leave as a coordinator of the city's Go Green Initiative for recycling and other environmental programs, has the support of the district's outgoing councilwoman, Ada Edwards. At least three other council members are in Adams' corner, along with former Mayor Lee...

Posted by: viknshfnjz | November 25, 2007 11:34 AM | Report abuse

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