Category Archives: Not about books at all really


A while ago, before I folded and made a doctor’s appointment for my sad, too-young-to-be-this-ouchy knees and was simply hobbling about making do, I advised a young co-worker, using up absolutely all of the old-people-speak at my disposal:

“You don’t think it’s important now, but whatever you do, always take care of your knees.”

“Always take care of my needs?”

“No, KNEES. This is not that kind of advice. Knees. Like feet, but higher up.”

Thank God we resolved that. I thought social services might come.

So I finally visited my doctor, who is a very nice person, and she looked at my knees and said, “Do you know your knees are swollen?” And I said, “I thought maybe they were just fat.” She laughed and had the lab take most of my blood.

It’s been a week, and I still don’t know what it is my blood has told them (or not).

They took my blood and now they’re not calling. It’s like I’ve been on a bad date with a vampire.

All the parts of this image have been stolen and shamelessly cobbled together by me. Because information wants to be free. Or at least cheap. And is wondering if you'd pick up this round.


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What’s with the toaster?

Do you ever find yourself in a situation where you just don’t quite know what to do with something? Your carefully prepared, unconscious system of cubbyhole filing is at a loss and you can only think, “heh?”

Recent examples of this phenomenon in my life include:

Phlebotomy Fun Facts!

Today I had some blood taken at my doctor’s office. When they sent me down to their basement lab (I’m not kidding. They have a lab. It’s in the basement), I took a seat in the little chair-with-a-padded-armrest that they make you sit in to draw your blood, and saw a meticulously detailed bulletin board on the wall opposite. Cheery, and featuring yellow construction paper in great profusion, it was titled, Phlebotomy Fun Facts!

Was it intended to distract pediatric patients with happy trivia about blood? I don’t think so, mainly because I’m not sure the under 12 crowd is familiar with the term phlebotomy. There were photos of the phlebotomists, and of a fleet of Mobile Phlebotomy Cars, which either visit the homebound to take their blood, or perhaps convey blood taken in the basement to a larger lab for more sophisticated tests. I couldn’t tell. The print was too small. I did observe a great deal of red magic marker and yellow highlighter and a list of Qualities Needed in a Phlebotomist, outlined in scalloped construction paper. Perhaps this is a recruiting tool, I thought, expecting it to list various qualifications needed for professional bloodletting. But no, it simply informed me that my phlebotomist (presumably) has Good Eyesight, Steady Hands, and Cares About People. If it cheers the phlebotomists up, bully for them. It probably gets demoralizing poking holes in sick, sad, worried people for a great deal of the work day. So: Forward the Bulletin Board!

But I still think darts would be more effective.

Because it could be worse: It could be cake. I stole this image from Really.


Other things that make me go, “heh?”

What’s with the toaster?

Sometimes the zany is just deeply fun, so I leave you with this, from Hyperbole and a Half:

Cat Safety Propaganda

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It’s not easy being green

Back in the days when there was an iron curtain, it used to be that you could find unusual soft drinks behind it. A visit to then-Yugoslavia would see the limited-language traveler considering an innocuous looking purple beverage whose label she could not read, thinking, “hmm… grape maybe? Or some kind of berry flavor…” This would invariably turn out to be something like a plum shandy, leaving the drinker puzzled and dismayed.

It was as though Tito locked a bunch of collective farmers and all their harvest in a seltzer warehouse and said, “Don’t come out till you’ve put everything in bottles.”

With the collapse of the Soviet bloc, this unfettered creativity as regards drink recipes has slowly migrated to the west. Formerly predictable American refreshments are now just as weird. Today I ordered an iced green tea at a popular chain restaurant. It seemed simple: Green tea with ice. I was so wrong…

The liquid was actually green. Not the sort of pale, straw color that you expect from green tea; no, I mean something like light Kelly. And it was fruit-ish. I can’t identify the fruit. Its chemical bitterness led me to believe it was sweetened with some kind of fake sugar, but I can’t remember the zillion different kinds of fake-o-sweet we have now or what they taste like, so who knows?

Far from the same-old, same-old hegemonous culture that large corporate enterprise is said to produce, the North American soft drink industry has reached a truly Balkan level of ick . Soon I expect to be able to purchase at my corner store colas in a number of what I’ve come to think of as “astonished backpacker flavors.” These are inextricable from the mental image of other scruffy students with Canadian flag patches sewn to their rucksacks, gagging. Look for the following taste thrills in your next beverage:

Treacle with overtones of motor oil

Anise and… bouillon?

and the ever popular:

Dissolved mentholated cough drop.

It’s about time we got up to speed. Turn up the Euro Pop.

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This afternoon I spent half an hour in a crowded supermarket taking a cell phone call from my mom’s doctor.

Did you know that the quietest place in a busy supermarket is the condom aisle?

I have trouble hearing properly on cell phones, and as a result tend to shout into them. So I crouched on a little step-stool there by the Trojans and listened to an internist tell me all about aortic aneurisms.

There are two types. Well, who knows? Maybe there are a dozen. I learned about two today: thoracic and abdominal. Happily, I learned about the kind that are fairly regular in shape and only four centimeters in diameter.

In retrospect, I wonder what the heck that step-stool was doing in the condom aisle.

I mean, the highest shelf is a little below eye-level.  I think most people browsing the

This is an aisle at Thompson Dean Drug in Sioux Falls, Iowa. I offer it here for scale.

 prophylactics would be tall enough to reach them – sort of a You-must-be-this-tall-to-ride-this-ride phenomenon.

Of course there are little people and folks in wheelchairs to be thought of, but the step-stool can’t be much help to those with limited mobility, so really that just leaves the under-4-foot crowd, of which there are few. Are people sending their children to buy condoms for them? I can see it now… “Do you like being an only child, Jane? Good. Here’s Mommy’s wallet – off you go.”

Regardless of age or height, any shy people hoping to buy vaginal lubricant or pregnancy tests today between 4:00 and 4:30 were out of luck, because there I was, parked in front of those and other supplies, yelling “WHAT?” and “You mean we need to see a thoracic surgeon and a vascular surgeon and – wait, which do we have to do first?”

During a long silence on my end, a friend spotted me and put her hand comfortingly on my arm, then looked startled and said, “Sorry!” Sorry because I was on the phone? Or sorry because she found me in the condom aisle? We may never know.

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I Love you, Eustace Tilley!

Since my mom took a spill last week, we’ve been spending a fair amount of time in doctors’ waiting rooms, catching up on the latest in periodical literature. For the rugged awaiting x-ray, there’s Outdoor Life, from the pages of which I bring you:

Great Moments in Taxidermy

1876: Martha Maxwell shows her specimens at Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia.

How could you not want to find out more about that? I refer you to the delightfully informative Mississippi Library Commission Reference Blog.

Here’s a photo:

Image courtesy of the good folks at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Foundation

Also revealed by Outdoor Life: The Secrets of Garlic Bait. They are safe with me.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that Vogue is smarter than I remembered (or possibly, I am just less dim). Thumbs up, Vogue, for interviewing Timothy Geithner, and for your brief but useful book reviews.

Cosmopolitan however, remains a box a hammers.

Not the cover of a current issue, but I like this one much better. For more, visit

But I was sucked right in by their feature story on how to give yourself a bikini wax without violating the Geneva Convention. My summary:

  1. Buy home waxing kit.
  2. Follow directions.
  3. Being waterboarded is still more comfortable.

 And Cosmo? Your piece, 50 Great Things to do With Your Breasts? I don’t even know what to say to that… Do you have a room full of fifteen year old boys who write the copy now? When I am so bored that I need a list of things to do with my boobs, I am confident that the nice people from the asylum will come and take me away.

 Tune in Next Week, when you’ll hear me greet that delightful and rare compendium of waiting room diversion with: “Ooh Lookie: A New Yorker!”

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Veni Mani Pedi

Today I trimmed the dog’s nails. The dog is 90 pounds, and he does not like having his nails cut. With frequent breaks for treats and chase-the-ball (not to be confused with fetch – the rules of chase-the-ball specify that the person throw or kick the ball for the dog to chase. When the dog has chased it, he looks up from where the ball has come to rest in order to let the person know that it is time to come over and throw or kick the ball again), I tried to win the dog over to the idea that nail-trimming is not fatal. Though he liked the treats and the games, he remains unconvinced.

What? They look fine to me.

You would think that 90 pounds of dog would somehow wear down his own nails during the normal course of his digging, romping and walks. Walking on pavement does something for the back paws, but because of the way most dogs pick up their feet, the front, left unchecked, would grow to resemble those of your weirder old-time Asian emperor.

I have thought of buying a metric ton of emery boards and hiding a dog treat underneath them.

There we were in the back yard, me shuffling around on my knees trying to grab a paw in one hand while I scratched an ear with another. It’s a beautiful sunny day and being able to be in the backyard with the dog is wonderful. I found myself singing along to our little project. Blondie’s Greatest Hits. Specifically, “Someday/I’m gonna’ clip nails/I’m gonna’ clip them/I’m gonna clip ‘em, clip ‘em, clip ‘em, clip ‘em…”

 Yeah. I’m really very glad that I work most weekends. This means my day-off activities tend to fall on a Monday, when the neighbors are at their jobs and won’t bust a gut laughing at me.

 Of course, Blondie only led to worser things:

Don’t sleep in the subway, Darling,

Don’t something-or-other else…

Which makes me recall that the 70’s were distinguished by a kind of crime-wave in New York. I have been known to sleep on the subway, on occasion. I even know people with the uncanny ability to wake up just as the train pulls into their stop, sort of like waking up the instant before your alarm clock goes off in the morning.

Eventually, I got the last nail by straddling the dog and picking up his paw the way you pick up a horse’s hoof. He’s got to go to the vet tomorrow for a limp, so I really wanted to clip as many as I could with him lying down.

So, to recap my day –

Dog nails: trimmed.

Neighbors: (ones that are home) now secure in the knowledge that I have a vast array of disco tunes in my repertoire.

Dog treats: entirely depleted.

My work is done.

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The benefits of being nearsighted

This morning on my way to work, I spotted two preppy, sporty-looking ladies walking with a golden retriever. This immediately prejudiced me in their favor because, you know –  goldens are maybe not quite as cute as those paragons of dogdom, the mutt or rescued pittie, but they are pretty nice.

But the really distinguishing feature of this threesome was the women’s headgear. I peered at them down the road, thinking: shower caps? Those little scrub-things that surgeons wear?

And then it came to me: Gumby Hats! A la Monte Python! Two blond-bobbed suburbanites in $200 sneakers were sporting the knotted-hankie toppers that launched to fame the phrase, \”My Brain Hurts!\” 

The classic Gumby

 The dog was sensibly hatless.

 So there I was, nearly in tears, about to drive off on to the opposite sidewalk in my glee, when I discovered, no: they’re wearing baseball caps.

 Such a disappointment.

 And I suppose I should be concerned at the apparently imminent need for new glasses that this reveals, but I can’t help being tickled. It kind of made my day.

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Fashion Bridges Cultures, Staves off Hypothermia

My latest bright idea:

The Down Burqa!

You take the full, Afghan chadri (you know, the kind of burqa that just has a little, net opening to see out of – basically, a tent that your feet stick out the bottom of), and you make it out of the same puffy, down-filled, water-repellent nylon they use for parkas & sleeping bags. Then you line it with thinsulate.

Mmm… toasty! I think it could really catch on. Warmth & concealment (either for devotional or bad-hair purposes) in one tidy package.

The Midwest meets the Middle East.

Hockey mom meets… Imam?

We could make them in all kinds of colors & get L.L. Bean to offer monogramming.

 Start corralling investors. I’ll fire up the sewing machine.

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In These Shoes?

We’ve had a lot of snow this year.

As a result, my already backward fashion sense has sunk to new lows. I have discovered that I can wear four layers of clothing to work and be perfectly comfortable. “Aren’t you cold?” ask my shivering colleagues. “No, and I’m not this fat, either.”

My wardrobe consists of tall, fleece-lined boots that come up over my knees, leggings, high-tech thermal undie tops, wool skirts, turtlenecks and cardigans. I wear all of this simultaneously and am probably impervious to bullets.

Happily, because I live and work in old, slightly damp buildings, I am static-free. If I went somewhere chic (or at least, more water-tight), I could electrocute people with a simple dance move. Even the most cursory ear-scritch would enable me to affix house pets to the ceiling. Please, someone, take me somewhere with deep-pile carpeting so we can try this out! In the name of science, I beg you.

In the spring, it will look as though I am successfully dieting, as I gradually shed layers.

But for now, my look is on the cutting edge – of the ice planet Hoth.

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Squirrel on a Wire

I work in a very old building, at least by American standards. It’s pre-civil war. There was a catastrophic fire in our little town long, long ago, and a local philanthropist offered to (if I have this right) Roof People’s Houses For Free. I guess a big risk-factor for burning down at the time was roofing shingles. I know beans about the history of roofs, so I’m thinking maybe they were wood or tar paper. There’s a lot of slate around here though… Anyway, Philanthropist Guy offered clay tile roofs – the fireproof wave of the future – for next to nothing.

Which is why the building I work in has a tile roof.  Otherwise known as: Squirrel Condos.

I really like the squirrels, and don’t mind them (or the birds) living up there at all. I’m inside, they’re outside; all is just ducky.

Because this is a suburban environment, there are various electrical, phone & cable wires strung from the tops of structures to a number of telephone poles. In a marvelous example of adaptive behavior, the squirrels have made the one outside my window their super-highway.

Even this one squirrel who’s missing part of his tail gets around up there. If you’re a city dweller, you might wonder what animals have tails for. I’ll tell you: balance. So Stubby is like the weaving drunk who you think you should help cross the street, but maybe he’s ok on his own… nope: going over… no, he’s got it… maybe… whew, he’s across.

Squirrel has his day all planned out. He has regular errands, and lurches madly across the wire outside my window about once an hour. If he chimed, you could call him a grandfather squirrel. And though I have entertained notions of going outside with a catcher’s mitt on occasion Just in Case, so far he has performed his high-wire antics admirably.

 I love nature.

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