You Got to Be Kidding Me!

Ok…

Posted in Home Improvement, Social Life by Stacy McMahon on October 31, 2006

…I realize I don’t keep in touch with people as well as I could, but you can still invite me to your parties. Maybe I just assume too much when I think people are friends. I’ll try to be more realistic about that.

On a less dramatic note, this was a productive weekend. Concrete steps taken to finally fill the empty space where comfy livingroom furniture should be. Funny Halloween pics taken, old friends caught up with (the graf above doesn’t refer to the entire world) and snazzy curtains hung over the balcony door where boring sheers used to be. That last one means yet another mini-project around the balcony entrance though. The previous owner just screwed the curtainrod brackets into drywall, and I yanked one partially out while hanging the curtains. It needs to be widened about a foot anyway to make it easier to get the curtains out of the way and open the door, so some drywall anchors are in the immediate future. Ah, homeowning.

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Silent Spring

Posted in Books, Environment by Stacy McMahon on October 27, 2006

So I’ve been reading The Hundred Year Lie: How Food and Medicine are Destroying Your Health, by Randall Fitzgerald. It’s a polemic; there are no footnotes or endnotes and while the prose is not really alarmist, it is fairly repetitive and dumbed down. The central theme is that synthetic chemicals found in food and especially in drugs are responsible, not by themselves but in concert with other natural and synthetic chemicals that we consume, for epidemics of once-rare diseases like autism, type 2 diabetes and various cancers.

The author, an investigative reporter, claims to be a libertarian who is concerned to bring us these observations because synthetic chemicals are so ubiquitous that there’s no such thing as choosing to avoid them. That’s a good beginning to a persuasive argument, but he unfortunately follows it up with unscientific anecdotes and assertions of statistical correlations between some chemical in a food or drug item and some disorder in humans consuming it. The only apparantly solid scientific conclusions presented in the book (still without direct references) are the scary “body burden” of 700-some synthetic chemicals in the average citizen of western countries, and eyebrow-raising increases in the rates of things like birth defects, autism, childhood allergies and diseases like asthma, and nervous disorders in the past few decades. If nothing else, I feel vindicated in my policy of avoiding all drugs unless absolutely necessary. Just don’t tell me this shit is in beer!

Signs Are Only For the Literate

Posted in Four Wheels by Stacy McMahon on October 23, 2006

When I was a kid, my dad told me the following story about the machine shop at the engineering firm where he worked. They moved some of their large custom equipment around with a forklift, using a special adapter that dad designed. It worked as intended, until one day one of the knuckledraggers hooked a cable to it sideways to try to move some heavy object sitting near the forklift (or something like that–I forget the details.) The adapter snapped clean in half, but since that was not the way it was meant to be used, the company didn’t spend money redesigning it. They built another one exactly the same, except that dad had a sign put on it saying “under no circumstances side-load this tool”. But, he said with a rueful smile, that was only for people who can read.

I just spent ten minutes setting my tire pressures properly, ironically because some other knuckledraggers (it’s a term of endearment, I promise!) CAN read. Everytime I take my car for an oil change, they read the plate inside the door and set the tire pressures to what it says. The only problem is that I replaced the stock tires awhile ago with ones that happen to take much higher pressures. It says so right on the tire–max press 51 psi. But like clockwork, it always comes back from the dealer at 36fr/34rr, and then I have to pump them up to 48fr/46rr. I know they think they’re doing me a free service, but I guess I’m going to have to start specifically asking them not to. Sigh.

Classic Night Out

Posted in Social Life by Stacy McMahon on October 22, 2006

After finishing five games of pool last night without managing to get anyone else to show up*, Kipp and I decided to head for Rock It Grill and see if some fun could still be had. The Cue Club had been nearly deserted, very strange for a pool hall on Saturday night. Worse, the attendees were approximately 99% male.

I knew the crowd at Rock It would be much better, and sure enough. Even with all three bartenders on the clock, I was reduced to trespassing in the servers’ counter to get my beer. It’s a good thing they know me there. Surprisingly, we found seats along the partition next to the pool tables, and settled in to watch the karaoke.

Around half an hour later, Kipp says “hey, do you see those three girls sitting in front of the stage? They look like they want some company!” I wasn’t entirely in the mood for that, but we all know you never leave your wingman. We watched for a few minutes to see that they really were alone, and went on over.

The first warning sign should have been when the (apparantly) older and soberer of the three just sort of shrugged and said the seats on the far end of the table were open. But we gamely sat down and began to appraise the situation. Only two girls were there at that point; one appeared to be in her late 20s and looked a little sour. The other was cute but barely able to sit up in her chair, plus the only proof she was older than, say, 17 was her presence in a bar after 9pm.

I looked at Kipp, and he said “I think they looked better from across the room.” Roger dat! So we sat contemplating our shit-or-get-off-the-pot dilemma, when what to our wondering eyes should appear but two guys, walking up to “our” girls as if they were …with them! The girls must have forgotten that though, because the guys took one look at Kipp and I and began to harangue the hapless and quite-drunk females. This was complete with pointing and hand gestures, shrugging and pretend innocence. I was far too mesmerized with this show to sneak off, but when the guys finally came over to kick us out they were–to their credit–friendly and polite about it. I’m guessing that happens a lot when this bunch goes out…

* Not really our fault. Pretty much all the usual suspects happened to be out of town, and the last 2-3 were busy or not picking up.

Old Journals Pt III

Posted in Politics, Silly/Funny, Social Life, Travel by Stacy McMahon on October 21, 2006

In which we cover Nazism in Germany from WW2 to the present day (well, to 13 years ago anyway)

7:06 pm, Austria, July 4
We are in Westendorf, Austria. It is a resort nestled between steep mountains like in “Heidi” The mountains are very beautiful. I got my money changed tonight, and located the post office. Tomorrow, I will buy stamps and send postcards.
Earlier, we visited the Dachau concentration camp site. It was surprisingly sobering. We were pressed for time, but I saw most of the interior exhibits, and walked to the catholic chapel. There were a lot of noisy, unwashed gypsies camped around it, with signs that I couldn’t quite read. I was angry. They seemed somehow disrespectful.

Really, they did. There was some sort of strike or demonstration going on, or at least a bunch of gypsies (that’s clearly what they were) camped around the Catholic memorial at one end of the grounds. This bothered me because it seemed so out of place. Aren’t there plenty of other places for them to camp, without disturbing the reverence of this spot? Yes, gypsies also died in the camps, but I didn’t see a bunch of Israeli tourists starting cooking fires.

The barracks were long gone, but their foundations still exist, lined up in rows like church pews radiating out from the main buildings. Those buildings, of course, were where the medical experiments, torture and mass murder were done. The gates still say Arbeit Macht Frei (“Labor will set you free”–as vicious a lie as has ever been told to anyone) and the main building has been turned into a museum, full of lurid exhibits to give you the full picture of what went on there. Whatever else you want to say about the Germans, they’ve done an admirable job of owning up to their past. I don’t think, for example, there is such a memorial to the Japanese-American internment camps, or the Cherokee Trail of Tears in the United States. Notoriously, Japan has yet to truly acknowledge its crimes, let alone build a museum. The Soviets and Chinese are held up as heroes of the anti-fascist cause even though their own-people body count eclipses even Hitler’s, etc. I could go on about the subject of dealing with collective guilt–how much is enough and how much is too much, but that’s another post.

Later we went to Cheimsee. The lake in southern Bavaria is home to an island where King Ludwig’s castle was built. We didn’t get to see the castle, but I got photos of the lake, tourboats, and of Leslie, Pat, and Mike. I still need a picture of Laura, but we got a group photo after we decorated our bus. I think tomorrow I will also call Mom + Dad and Karen. On the credit card, of course

Postcard list:
————–
M + Dad (check)
Karen (check)
Elissa (check)
Wendy (check)

+keep one for Vicky (check)

Going to Cheimsee but not visiting Mad King Ludwig’s castle was a recurring theme of this trip. We went to the next town over from the famous one, the less-traveled historical sites, spent only half a day in someplace interesting before decamping for the local equivalent of a freeway exit with a hotel and a walmart. I don’t know why this was. Obviously there’s ‘cheap’ to consider, or maybe someone in the home office actually tried to expose us to less touristy places. Thinking about it now, I also wonder if our concerts were a small piece of the economic development puzzle for these off-the-beaten track towns.

Strangely, I didn’t write down the best story of the day. Since it was the 4th, we’d decorated our buses in the Cheimsee parking lot. Even in those days, being an American in Europe was sort of like being a Yankees fan in Boston, so I wondered how the red, white and blue was going to go over.

We got our answer when my little clique wandered off from the group in order to get closer to the waterfront. Three German guys without shirts and obviously drunk came wandering down the path, shouting something or other and pointing towards the main group of Americans nearby. As the only person among us (one of maybe half a dozen on the whole tour) who understood some German, I recognized phrases like “Foreigners get out!” or the alternative “Americans go home!”. I’ve always told this story as ‘how we escaped from the neo-nazis’, but they were probably just the Deutsch version of your garden-variety ignorant redneck. Every society has them. We casually got up and closed ranks with the rest of our 80+ companions, and the “nazis” passed peacefully by.

But that wasn’t the end of them …yet. About an hour later these same buffoons came back around on a peddle-boat. Without any waterborne Jews or foreigners to bait, they’d started in on each other. In full view of the hated Amis two of them proceeded to stand up on the wobbly craft and start swinging. The drunker of the contenders wound up his arm like Bugs Bunny in one of the old baseball-themed Looney Toons, and put his whole body into his punch. Of course the other ultimate racist fighter sidestepped, and Mr. Auslaender raus! sailed right over the side. I don’t remember the details, but he must have hit bottom because when he stood up the water wasn’t much above his knees. It’s too bad we hadn’t managed to spread the story very far–only the five of us really got the full humor of that little show.

Next: a three day rest stop in the Austrian Alps and more of my unintentionally funny comments on girls.

Lightning Interruption

Posted in Blogroll, Four Wheels, Outdoors, Silly/Funny, Travel by Stacy McMahon on October 19, 2006

Just want to toss this out: Micheal Totten’s hilarious attempt at storm-chasing as he drives his new-to-him Acura RSX home to OR. He is far more likely to be washed away by rain than kidnapped by terrorists. If I ever get to meet the guy, let’s hope photography and beer are involved!

Old Journals Pt II

Posted in Social Life, Travel by Stacy McMahon on October 19, 2006

This is the second in a series of excerpts from the 21-page journal of a trip I took to Europe the summer after high school. The first post is here. I finally remembered the name of the tour company: American Music Abroad. They appear to still be in business, and hey, why not? It was generally a fun time, and a way for kids whose families don’t take overseas vacations to see a place they never would otherwise.

Folks, this trip took place in 1993. Thirteen years ago! That’s almost half my life, and I was an adult at the time and even still remember it reasonably well. Can I really be that old? I guess so. Anyway, let’s join my 18 year old self in Germany again, as the tour really gets underway:

We stopped in Heidelburg, where there is a large castle, and an ‘Altstadt’ or old town. I changed $80 into deutschmarks. I now have DM92,10, 90 French francs, and 20 swiss francs. Germans like coins. They come in denominations as high as DM5. I have DM2,10 in change. I also have $1.84 in American change which is worthless here. I have to sit next to a real pete on the bus (coach, sorry. “bus” is politically incorrect. They’ll get mad at you and play Neal Diamond on the stereo really loud for the rest of the day if you say it.) The pete is big, fat, clumsy, dumb, crude, friendless, annoying, smelly, possibly gay, camera-happy, and takes up half my seat as well as his own.

Let’s pause here while I explain two things. First, as I warned you last time, my attitudes and language were a bit different back then. Today I would take exception if someone else included “possibly gay” in a list like that, especially since there are so many other perfectly good (bad?) items on it. Second, some of my friends in high school used to call annoying idiots “petes” after–naturally–a guy named pete who was an annoying idiot. It’s quaint to read that now, and sort of underlines how long ago all this was.

Opening the emergency hatches in the roof fixed the A/C situation. As long as we’re moving, there is a breeze inside that’s more than adequate. There was a big castle in Heidelberg. It had a 45,000 Liter wine cask in the basement. I wandered around the castle and the altstadt and briefly got lost along the river (the river Neckar) In Dinkelsbuehl tonight, I had my first glass of beer. It was Loewenbrau. It tasted nasty and I got slightly tipsy even though I didn’t finish it.

Yup, my first beer at age 18. Without stretching the point too much, it really was a more innocent time (and if you’re my age, that’s a scary thought!) and plenty of us on this trip were enjoying our first chance to imbibe. I mean hey, it was still illegal back home!

July 3, Dinkelsbuehl.
Today we all (Me, Patrick, and Mike) slept through our alarms. We woke up at 8:30, and skipped breakfast. I showered and was the last to leave the room. I bought some tape to mark my film cans and some postcards. I also bought a 0.76 Liter bottle of orange juice. That was my breakfast. My lunch was some strawberries that I bummed off Laura. She and Leslie came to our room for awhile and talked this afternoon. After they left, Pat and I talked for awhile and Mike fell asleep.

For some reason, I was diligent about listing the names of people who figured in my day. I’m glad now that I did, though some of it is hilarious because, of course, I was eyeing up all the girls in the group:

Tara is really cute, and she is nice to me …a rarity among the girls on this tour. She suggested that I spend the last of my change on ice cream. I did, and it was good. Now it’s time for an evening shower, and then dinner. Concert tonight at Bad-Windsheim.

Ah, our first concert. I just may have been wrong about the 10-hour practices back in PA being superfluous, or maybe people just had a lot of wine with lunch. Either way, it’s just a good thing we weren’t singing for our supper, because…

12:23 a.m. The concert was very bad. We were out of tune and had poor tone quality. The band directors were too low down for the brass to be able to see them, and we messed everything up. At least the people didn’t kill us, though some walked out. I don’t want to play in this band again. It is just too bad. Bad-Windsheim is a neat town. It has narrow streets and picturesque buildings, and a real nightlife. I think that Europe is a neat place to visit, but I don’t want to live here. I do want a car, though.

And there’s our last sign of the times for this section. I was such a car nut back then that my residual knowledge today can still irritate the hell out of people. I’ve spared you the lengthy description, but not only did I want a European car, I knew exactly which model and engine option. I may even have known the price–and notice everything is in DM. This is long before anyone was talking about Euros.

Tomorrow, we visit Mad King Ludwig’s castle and re-enact World War II on the Fourth of July!

Old Journals Pt I

Posted in Travel by Stacy McMahon on October 17, 2006

How exactly did a week go by since my last post? Feels like I put it up yesterday. Anyway, since very little worth babbling about is going on with me lately, let’s step into the way-back machine and visit a time when a lot was happening. This post and maybe the next few will feature excerpts from my personal journal on my first trip to Europe, the summer after I graduated high school in 1993. I’m copying them word for word and as close to the original formatting as HTML allows; you are fairly warned that the language and thoughts are those of an 18-year-old, and accordingly lack 30-something social graces. Enjoy!

Day 1, Lancaster, Pa. Franklin + Marshall College

forgotten items list
—————–
1.) Deodorant
2.) Calculator

Today we had 2 largely useless meetings, I discovered that Mr. Schoonover is an asshole and he acts like a faggot, we practiced for an insane, point-of-diminishing returns amount of time (almost 10 hrs.) and we were locked out of our dorm by some pencil-neck security man. The guy that came to unlock the door was straight from central casting. he could have been on C.O.P.S. He got out of his jeep and said “You guys locked out here?” duh! How many pennsylvanians does it take to screw in a light bulb?

Bugosh quotable quote #1:

“let’s start with the trumpets. -Oh, that’s a french horn.”

Bugosh, whose first name was (I think) David, was the head band director. The program was to put together a band made up of high school students from around the eastern seaboard, and go around western Europe seeing the sights and playing concerts. An interesting concept, and the actual experience …well, read on:

1

19.20 (7:20 p.m.) , Koblenz, Germany : July 1
The drive from Brussels was long and almost uneventful. We seem to have had bad directions and got lost. Also, the air conditioner on the bus is incapable of beating the heat with the sun shining in through the windows. We arrived at the hotel an hour late, hot, sweaty, irritable and tired. As am I. time to sleep.

And that quick-and-dirty graf wrapped up my entry into Europe. It was a marathon trek from Lancaster to NYC, to Brussels and immediately (I think–we did tour Brussels at some point but that may have been on the way back) to Germany before we took a real breather. Tomorrow, northern Germany!

This Is What I Come Back To?

Posted in Silly/Funny, The Intrawebs by Stacy McMahon on October 12, 2006

Seriously, I can’t leave you people alone for three days. Cory Lidle crashes into an apartment building, Kim Jong Il attempts to explode a nuke, Rep. Foley doesn’t understand that a pageboy is just a haircut, and now Mark Warner isn’t going to run for President in ’08.

Of course, the real news is the Canucks versus the Enormous Mary Jane Plant in Afghanistan (feed me!!!)–what would life be without Fark?

In the meantime I’ve been reading up on Civil War blockade runners and how to get your pilot’s license. As usual, I want to do about a week’s worth of stuff everyday, but I’m sure I’ll pick one soon. Probably flying, since the market for blockade running has been pretty dead the last 145 years.

And finally I am contemplating camping this weekend, even though the overnight low is predicted to be in the mid 30s. That’s why they make 30-degree sleeping bags, right? Or at least that’s why they make nice hot campfires …and booze!

Dear people, You are hopeless. Sincerely, Me

Posted in Silly/Funny, Snark by Stacy McMahon on October 8, 2006

1.) Lady at Home Depot who looked directly at the piece of dryer vent, then pushed her cart directly into it.

2.) Ethnic family standing in the middle of the service road outside Home Depot, completing their crossing only after cars screeched to a halt to avoid flattening them. This would have made a fantastic picture from my POV, with an SUV braking at a cocked angle while all the people stood around right in the center of the lane in front of it.

3.) Guy in REI parking lot who like many most all SUV drivers left ten feet open on his right while crowding me so much on his left that we both had to come to a complete stop before safely passing each other.

4.) Two different people who stopped way short of traffic at a stoplight, then crept slowly forward a bit at a time. Don’t ever do this. Not ever.

5.) Lady in the left lane of Rt 50 going about 42mph, but clearly enchanted with whatever the person on the other end of her cell convo just said.

6.) Unseen idiot at Seven Corners who could not decide which way they were going and brought all three lanes of the 7/50/whatever-the-other-one-is intersection to a traffic jam worthy of Wednesday afternoon rush hour.

7.) Moron on Rt 7 who unaccountably waited nearly 2 minutes for a green light before making a right turn. No, there isn’t a sign.

Not only all in one day, but all within a couple hours, and I know I’m forgetting a couple. Anyone have a mountaintop for sale?