My Dog is in the Doghouse (and a Raccoon is in MY House)

We take good care of our dog, and he has an excellent life: plenty of walks, the occasional backwoods vacation, and lots of love . . . but apparently he doesn't appreciate this, because he has one responsibility-- protect the house!-- and in this regard, he has failed us . . . last week, the insulation guy was finishing up the job, running the cellulose hose into the attic, but he had to beat a hasty retreat from the attic when a mother raccoon, who was protecting a litter of raccoon kits, hissed at him-- kits which are feeding and shitting and urinating right above our bed; I am tempted to toss the dog through the attic access hole, but I know he'd get his ass kicked, so he's lying in a sunbeam now, letting any kind of vermin onto our property and into our attic, pretending not to understand all the grief I've been giving him (and, to add insult to injury, because of the dog's negligence we had to get a "raccoon guy" to spray some male scent up there to encourage the mom to relocate, and apparently-- as I haven't met him-- my wife thinks he's hot . . . so I'm sure she's going to be hearing raccoon all over the place so she can invite him back to "spray his scent" . . . and, honestly, if the scent gets rid of the raccoon, then I'll gladly let my wife flirt with him . . . or whatever it takes-- she did manage to get a "cash" discount from him and I'm inquiring as to how-- because the raccoon are still up there and neither my method-- blasting a radio at them-- nor my son Ian's method-- blasting his trombone at the ceiling-- have had any effect on them . . . the above photo was taken by the raccoon guy and this is the actual raccoon in our attic).

You Can Return Yogurt If It Looks Weird

I opened a large tub of Chobani Greek yogurt and it looked weird-- chunky and striated instead of smooth and glistening-- and though it was probably fine to consume, my wife told me I could "take it back," despite the fact that I didn't have a receipt; I went to the Stop & Shop Customer Service desk and the lady there took it back no questions asked, despite the fact that I was dressed like a slob (gray sweatpants and a gray hoodie) and she didn't even give me a chance to use the words "chunky and striated," which I memorized because I thought I would be interrogated a bit before she allowed me to get a new tub of yogurt . . . so the real question is this: if you're wearing a jacket and tie, can you return a brown avocado?

Do NOT Listen to This If You Are a Prisoner of the Illusion

If you bought your wife a diamond engagement ring, you're probably not going to want to listen to the new Freakonomics podcast "Diamonds Are a Marriage Counselor's Best Friend," which shatters the illusions that diamonds are rare (they're not . . . but the De Beers diamond syndicate tries to make it appear that way) and that diamonds are forever (they are a 20th century tradition, made popular by the advertising firm N.W. Ayer,  who managed to convince the world that a diamond was a tangible representation of love and for a mere two months salary, you were getting a priceless, indestructible investment, but the truth is that diamonds don't hold their value-- the mark-up on them is tremendous and you can't resell them for even half of what you paid . . . in fact, because of "the overhang," all the diamonds already out there, they are quite common) and so my stubborn refusal to buy an engagement ring may have been the only good financial decision I've ever made, though it cost me a lot of pain and suffering (my mother finally saved the day and broke the impasse between Cat and I . . . we recycled a family heirloom).

This Book Is Nothing Like a Michael Connelly Novel

I am slowly making my way through Jim Holt's book Why Does the World Exist? An Existential Detective Story and while in a sense the subtitle is true, as Holt really is searching for clues to the answer to the biggest question of all-- why is there something, rather than nothing?-- but I have to tell you that this is nothing like proceeding through a Harry Bosch investigation; Holt interviews some strange characters (forcing me to learn some new words: Richard Swinburne, an Oxford philosopher who believes that the simplest hypothesis as to why there is something rather than nothing is that an omnipotent God created the universe, explains that he has a theodicy, which is a impossibly precise word that means he has a defense of why an omniscient, omnipotent and infinitely good being would allow evil in the universe . . . Holt calls his tone "almost homiletic," and I had to look up that word too-- it means speaking in the style of a homily . . . just before Holt interrogated Swinburne, he interviewed his "great cosmological adversary," a guy named Adolf Grumbaum who thought that the ultimate question was actually a pseudo-problem, and our problems with time and complexity and the Null hypothesis are all heuristic biases) and while Holt interrogates these folks to the best of his ability, I'm highly skeptical that he's going to wrap this thing up at the end of the book . . . I peeked at the name of the last chapter and it is called "Return to Nothingness" (I knew a teacher who always read the last few pages of a mystery novel first, so he could then go back and enjoy the story and not rush ahead simply to find out the solution to the plot).

Now That's Talent . . .

My wife is very good at many things: her job, cooking, looking good in sexy boots while shoveling snow, but her two most impressive abilities, while tangentially related, are slightly more obscure:

1) she is incredibly skilled at pouring large quantities of liquid without spilling; e.g. transferring a giant pot of homemade soup into a bunch of plastic containers . . . if I did that there would be a major broth lossage;

2) she can fill the dog bowl to the brim with water and carry it a long distance-- across the kitchen, around the breakfast bar, and past the big table-- without spilling a drop . . . every time she does this, I think she's going to spill it-- and say so-- but it never happens (and she makes fun of me when I barely fill the bowl halfway and-- despite my prudence-- still slosh water all over the floor . . . but I have an obscure ability, too . . . I can close the tops of our metal water bottles so tightly that no one else in the family can open them except me).

Holy Mother of Miracles!

Fanatics of Dave know that miracles abundantly manifest themselves when I am present, but this newest miracle is different, it is in fact more miraculous than all other previous miracles combined-- even more miraculous than the miracle of the balls; last Sunday (which many religions consider the holiest of days) I was driving a bunch of kids and parents to a travel soccer game (and I am certain that this blessed event was a reward for my good deed of carpooling) and when we got home, my friend's canvas chair got stuck in my minivan's back hatch, between the latch and the locking mechanism, and-- after much violent yanking and pulling-- the the chair finally came out, but the yanking and pulling must have broken something, as the locking mechanism now wouldn't catch, and so the hatch couldn't be closed; I drove home with the hatch open, and then tried the laying of screwdrivers and pliers to the crippled area, but to no avail, and while I was finally able to pry the little piece inside the mechanism into place so it would catch, but you still couldn't lock an dunlock the mechanism: if you opened the hatch, then you had to go through the whole process with the screwdriver again to get it to catch, which is no way to live your life, so I closed the latch and decided I would let it recuperate for a few days-- mainly because I didn't want to deal with it or bring it to one of those places where you pay some money and they fix your car, but after several days of dragging soccer equipment over the seats and out the sliding doors, I prayed to all of the higher powers in existence and then I lay my hand upon the handle and pushed the button, and-- miraculously!-- the hatch opened with ease and grace, and then I closed the hatch and it locked with ease and grace-- Jesus healed the cripples and the lepers-- but we all know that religious belief can kickstart your immune system-- but I healed an inanimate object, I healed a car!-- my latch was dead and entombed in darkness for three days, and then rose again, full of strength and latchiness, absolving me of having to pay a mechanic money to fix the problem . . . if this isn't a miracle, what is?

How Did Sheryl Crow Get Motivated to Write "Soak Up the Sun"?

The weather has been really pleasant around here for the last few days, and it's made my motivation to write sentences and record music and practice the guitar and even read a book severely wane; I just want to go outside and soak up the sun . . . and this makes me wonder how anyone who lives in a beautiful climate gets anything done, especially artists . . . I know Georgia O'Keefe found her inspiration in New Mexico, but she's probably the exception to the rule; this might explain why most of the movies coming out of Hollywood are crap, as the weather is so good out there that it must be very hard to focus on making a great work of art (and really, how can you connect and empathize with the common man when it's 72 degrees and sunny every day . . . I'm sure Hollywood movie production people start off  with the best intentions, revising scripts and shooting scenes, but then it's just so damned nice out that they feel compelled to call it a day and go catamaraning . . . anyway, if the weather wasn't so nice here in Jersey, then I'd start a massive meta-study of great artists in the style of Franco Moretti . . .  cross-indexing great works with the location in which they were created, and then see if my hypothesis holds water: that there is a negative correlation between good weather and great art (and if there's someone living in Greenland reading this, and you're stuck inside because it's hailing large chunks of ice, feel free to steal my idea and write the study).

Dearth of These in Central Jersey

Every time we visit Vermont, we envy all the delicious restaurants-- I don't understand why we don't have a hip Mexican inspired counter-service place like Mojo Cafe in our vicinity-- we have plenty of great authentic Mexican food (like the new place in Highland Park, El Sol, which I love)-- but Mojo Cafe is one of those places where someone with excellent handwriting writes the menu on a big chalkboard and they serve local produce and play cool music and have a million different bottles of hot sauce that you can sample, it's a hipster joint, certainly, but the food is really, really good . . . I also wish we had a organic deli like The Moon Dog Cafe . . . there's local produce for sale, amazing baked goods, and excellent and creative soups and sandwiches; I'm not sure why we don't have places like this in Middlesex County, as our population is much denser than Vermont, so someone check out the websites and open something similar . . . thanks in advance!

Famous Last Words (Dave Does Risk Assessment)

You're going to want to read the entirety of this rather long-winded sentence, if only because if I die, then you can say "I told you so"; this week in Composition class, we prioritized and classified our worries and anxieties, and then we took a look at the evidence and determined if there was any logic behind our assumptions; this is a good assignment for high school seniors, with graduation and the real world looming in the immediate future-- and how the students order the things they are concerned about makes for entertaining debates (such as the girl who was more worried about shark attacks than the possibility of never finding true love); to get this going, first I review some basic probability, and then we use specious sources from the internet to do back-of-the-envelope calculations, and, finally, we place our topics in one of three categories (Harmless, Don't Panic, and Red Alert); we learned that the chance of being killed by an meteorite is phenomenally low; same with bee stings and lightning; if you apply to more than five colleges, it's fairly certain that you will get into one; and if you're a guy, there's one thing to be concerned about: passing a kidney stone . . . the project also helped me out with one of my anxieties, a thick tree branch has partially cracked off a tree in my yard-- my neighbor had to point it out to me, as the dangling log is very high up (so I can't use my usual method to take it down: tossing a football with a rope duct-taped to it over the limb and then yanking . . . I did get to explain this feat in class and show my students this awesome picture) but after I did the math, I learned to stop worrying and love the log: there are 1440 minutes in a day, and the children and I probably spend three of them (if that) under the exact spot where the log would hit the ground-- my kids play at the park more than in the yard, and if I'm watering the plants in the yard, then I make a point not to stand under the "death spot," so the chance of one of us being hit by the log on any given day is miniscule . . . 2/10ths of a percent-- to put it in perspective, it's less dangerous than something else I worry about: me or one of the kids getting injured while we are skiing/snowboarding-- the chance of that happening is 6.97 injuries per 1000 visits, or 7/10ths of a percent every time you go to the mountain.

It's Happening Again

I am rapidly turning my newish (2008) Toyota Sienna minivan into my beloved and but heavily abused 1993 Jeep Cherokee . . . three years ago, when I bought the van, it was in perfect shape, but now it is missing a hubcap, there's a big scratch on the side from when I scraped my friend's car in the school lot, and the back latch is broken so you can't open the hatch, so I have to get all my soccer stuff out through the sliding doors . . . I'm worried that soon enough I'll be crawling in through the passenger side and using a boot as a cup-holder.

New Words and Old Rules

The oldest rule of discourse is this: never discuss religion or politics (this rule is slightly older than the second oldest rule of discourse: never speak when your mouth is full) but I'm going to make an exception today; the Lutheran Church near my school has this phrase on its placard: JESUS SWALLOWED UP DEATH FOREVER and while I readily admit that religion has never worked its magic on me . . . I'm not sure why this is the case, but jazz doesn't work on some people and ballet doesn't work on others and I don't want to get into why some rhetorical and aesthetic forms work on some people and others work on other people-- it's just the way of the world-- but I can't imagine how this aphorism would attract anyone to this particular church-- it's a weird and morbid and disturbing image-- and I did some research and placard is taken from a phrase in Isaiah 25:8, so it has its basis in the Bible (but so does the phrase "of these you may eat: locust, katydid, cricket or grasshopper" . . . Leviticus 11:22 . . . but you don't see that on any church placards) so I understand where they're coming from, with Easter and the resurrection, but it still seems like a really odd thing to put on a sign; tangentially, on the political front, I learned a new word in Rick Perlstein's book Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus . . . this is the first book in his trilogy of how modern conservatism was formed (I highly recommend the second book, Nixonland, and I'm loving this one as well . . . Perlstein writes dense, high energy prose from a tactical perspective on how conservatives got their hooks into America; his third book just came out and I plan on reading that one as well) and the word is normally a religious one: "chiliastic," which is a very specific adjective that describes "millenarianism," or the doctrine of Christ's expected return to earth to rule for one thousand years . . . but Perlstein uses the word in a hyperbolic and secular way (which is certainly his style) to describe how activists perceived the fight between the light and darkness of Communists and the anti-Communists-- anyway, I think "chiliastic" would be a great word to put on a church placard, as it would certainly make people curious about what was going on inside (especially since it contains the word "chili," which evokes heavenly deliciousness).

U-10 Soccer Players Say the Darndest Things (to their mothers)

Not only is my son Ian's travel team (which I coach) playing some wonderful soccer, but they've also got excellent diction and vocabulary; one player told his mom his favorite part of the Sunday's game was "the anticipation," which is a fairly abstract way to enjoy the sport (although he added that his second favorite part of the game was "getting the ball") and another player confided in his mom that he doesn't need words to get his friend to go where he wants him to go on the field, he uses "telepathy" to communicate with him.

Dave Attell, Artie Lange, and The Menzingers! New Brunswick Was Hopping . . .

Saturday night, on our way to see Dave Attell at The Stress Factory, we passed by The Court Tavern and there was a HUGE line to get in, which I've never seen (especially since bands don't go on until late) and I inquired as to just what was going on and some very happy hipsters said, in unison: "The Menzingers! They usually play much larger places, but once in a while they do a smaller venue!" and while none of us (Stacey, Kristen, Joe, Cat, Mooney, and me) had ever heard of The Menzingers, we were fascinated by the hype and swore we would go back and try to get in after the show; as we walked up to The Stress Factory, we saw a black Nissan Sentra (a rental?) stop in front, and a nerdy-looking guy wearing glasses got out of the car and removed the cone blocking the driveway, and then Dave Attell pulled in . . . we speculated that the guy riding with him was his opening act, and we were right -- his name was Louis Katz and he was by far the best opening act I've seen at The Stress Factory-- but still, you would think the opener would do the driving and the headliner would be in the back seat (of a much cooler car) snorting drugs and consorting with hookers, but I guess both guys live in New York, and Attell offered Katz a ride . . . anyway, Attell was great: smooth, relaxed, quick-witted, and interactive, an old master-- the only time the show ground to a halt was when Artie Lange showed up and did a few jokes and plugged his podcast-- Lange is looking sloppier than ever and his comedy is a bit plodding, especially in juxtaposition to Attell (plus there were some microphone problems) and the night ended with the typical discussion of why there aren't any young break-out female stand-up comics (who aren't lesbians) . . . or, as Stacey pointed out to Kristen, perhaps there are great female stand-ups and you just don't listen to them.

Better Get a Bucket

I thought I was at the end of my crime-fiction binge, but I was able to fit one more "wafer thin" novel into my gullet without exploding like Mr. Creosote-- I read the first Harry Bosch novel over break (The Black Echo) and it is definitely worth starting at the beginning; the plot is wild, convoluted and gripping, and you also find out about why Bosch has been demoted, why IAD is on his tail, and why his sense of humor isn't as keen as that of John Rebus . . . Bosch was a "tunnel rat" in Vietnam, and some of his fellow rats figure prominently in the novel's caper plot; now that I've read a few, I see the general formula of a Harry Bosch novel: there's an investigation that administrators do not want investigated; Bosch gets involved; no one else really wants to follow through the way Bosch does, so he ends up on his own; he is asked to stand down, but he becomes obsessed-- despite the fact that Internal Affairs is watching him for foul-play, breaches of protocol, and corruption-- and he eventually reaches the truth, which is not as neat and/or pretty as he would have liked, and he pays a heavy price for this knowledge . . . but he can handle it because his soul is nearly dead anyway; Connelly's brilliance is in the details-- in the description of the 1970 photo of the tunnel rats, each man's dog tags were taped together to prevent jangling when they went "out of the blue and into the black," and the novel is worth reading solely for the stuff that happens under the ground, in the L.A. sewer system and the spider holes in Vietnam (nearly as good as the Vienna tunnel stuff in The Third Man).


Spring Break: Cold Weather and Discounts

Our Spring Break in Vermont had very little to do with spring; the house we rented near Weston was surrounded by deep snow (deep enough that walk around the yard, I had to wear snow shoes to avoid sinking in past my knees) and one night there was a snow storm and the next night there was an ice storm . . . the last day was wild, it warmed up and all the icicles were falling from the trees; and because of two excellent discounts, a good time was had by all . . .

Discount # 1) Okemo Mountain's Spring Skiesta Card . . . this is the best deal going, for $109 dollars you can ski every day from March 20th until the end of the season; the boys and I went to the mountain five days in a row, something I have never done before-- it was the perfect set-up for spring riding-- which is fun, but can be slushy and exhausting-- because if you get tired, you can just leave and come back the next day instead of trying to tough it out, which is never a good idea when there are high speeds, trees, and cliffs involved (our legs were jello by the fifth day, but we took the six person covered lift to the top anyway-- the ride was surreal: the mountain was enshrouded by a cloak of thick fog, the trees were covered in ice, and we were viewing it all through the curved orange plastic of the protective bubble, which was coated with a thin sheen of rime; the limited visibility made for a scary ride down, but we survived and unanimously decided against going for a sixth consecutive day);

2) my wife, inspired by this podcast, asked for a "good guy discount" at the Vermont Country Store in Weston and got ten dollars off a pair of Rieker Daisy clogs that she had her eye on (which were already on clearance . . . think of all the money she saved by spending all that money!)

The Truth About R2D2

According to my son Alex, the reason R2D2 makes all those beeping sounds is because he only speaks in profanity, and so he's beeping himself to insure that Star Wars is appropriate for kids (this does make sense . . . if I had to spend that much time with C3PO, I'd curse a lot too).

Music For Winter and Spring

Two new seasonal Slouching Beast songs:

1) "Long Winter" is a testament to just how long and brutal this winter was . . . I recorded it back in February and my voice sounds even raspier than usual . ..  because it was so cold and dry for so long; check out the bass riff, I played it on my short scale Danelectro Longhorn, and the song was inspired by a Christina Gutierrez line from Serial;

2) "Shining Incident (Averted)" is my tribute to spring, or to making it through the winter without going Jack Torrance on your family . . . while it's not exactly Vivaldi, the vocals are a little more chipper and there's a full-fledged jazz interlude at the bridge . . . happy spring break!


What Doesn't Kill You, Might Make You Dumber, But You Also Get Some Good Stories

Much has been written about the inspirational power and profound consequences of having a good teacher-- but there's a dearth of information on the importance of having a few bad teachers along the way: truly mean people (like my fourth grade teacher) and incompetents and weirdos may not put us pedagogically ahead of Finland and Japan, but these folks do make our kids tougher, more jaded, and provide them with loads of entertaining stories that they can pass along to their own children (I lost twenty-five points once on a test because I didn't have the proper heading . . . and if you had a certain gym teacher in our high school, it was pretty much a forty-minute free-for-all melee with the floor hockey sticks, day in day out . . . and then there was the guy who made the high school kids race around on those little scooters . . . etcetera, etcetera).

There By The Grace of God, Goes My Snowboard

I'm glad I showed some compassion towards a mom and her son who were rudely blocking a main thoroughfare on the ski mountain-- my first impulse was to tell them they were sitting in a horrible location (and it was a horrible location, they were blocking a long flat narrow cruiser trail which you need to ride through with some speed in order to get up the incline to make it to the trailhead) but I saw that she was dealing with a meltdown: her son-- approximately six years old-- had taken off his snowboard and appeared to be done for the day, even though there was a LONG way to the base lodge, so his mom told him to walk down and stay to the side of the trail, and then she turned away so she could see her phone better, in order to call her husband, and in that moment her son dropped his snowboard and it went rocketing down the hill and he went running after it, screaming and wailing and crying, and the mom missed all of it, including the climax, when the board shot over the lip of the trail, catching some air before it plummeted over a cliff and into the woods . . . and I had to be the bearer of bad news-- "Miss! Miss!" I yelled, and then I told her what happened and by this time she was actually on the phone with her husband and she launched into an expletive laced description of what happened, and my kids, who got to watch the whole thing, and really enjoyed it, especially all the F-bombs, but on the way home, we stopped at the ski store and bought a pair of snowboard leashes (which I had gotten out of the habit of using) so that Alex and I would never have to endure that particular humiliation (and not only is it humiliating to have your snowboard race down the mountain without you, but it can also really hurt someone).

Bosch vs. Rebus

I think I've reached the end of my detective fiction binge-- in a New Yorker article, Joyce Carol Oates recommended Michael Connelly and Ian Rankin as masters of the genre, so I read a few Connelly books and an Ian Rankin (Standing in Another Man's Grave) and I liked both authors and will read more of them . . . here is my breakdown of Harry Bosch (Connelly) and John Rebus (Rankin) . . . they are both no longer married and each has a daughter, but Bosch's daughter is a chip off the old block (a chip off the old Bosch?) and wants to be a detective like her dad, while Rebus is almost estranged from his daughter; both detectives are old school and willing to bend some rules to get their man, but while neither are corrupt like Vic Mackey, Rebus seems more willing to associate with the underbelly of society to get what he needs; Bosch seems more obsessive and unrelenting (although Rebus can be a bit obsessive as well) while Rebus is more willing to down a few pints or some Highland Park scotch to unwind; both men like music, but Bosch loves jazz while Rebus likes classic rock (and is prone to making Led Zeppelin jokes) and though it's hard to tell, because I read random books in each series instead of starting at the beginning, both men seem to be surrounded by women that they have history with . . . anyway, thanks Joyce Carol Oates . . . if you have any other recommendations, just leave them in the comments.
A New Sentence Every Day, Hand Crafted from the Finest Corinthian Leather.