Friday, July 31, 2009

News Flash: Dogs Fitting In

Here are the dogs. They are both rat terriers from my dad's kennels. Jibbly is the black one with hair. Ysabella is the white one without hair.

Since I wrote about them before, they have reversed roles. Jibbly was coming out of her shell slowly, while Ysa blossomed all at once. Now Ysa seems timid, preferring to retreat to her crate until pried out. Jibbly is acting like she owns the place.

Once Ysa is on the couch beside someone, she's fine. As a pup, she has trouble with transitions. She seems frightened of going out the door. Once outside she is fine. And she is fine approaching the door from outside when she is ready to go inside. But she balks crossing over the threshold.

Both are healthy and happy and eating and fitting in.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

My Alma Mater

In its own way, this is the most beautiful campus in the world. Julia and I sat on that footbridge, day or night, watched and listened to the bayou.

When I did job search as I finished graduate school, I had an interview at my alma mater and at another university--one which was a cut above, with regard to research capabilities, which is what graduate students mostly consider.

I was torn. But when I got the offer to return to the bayou, I realized that I did not want anything else.

Oh, by the way, the University has classrooms, dorms, a huge library, and all the other stuff you need to educate a dozen thousand students.

Somehow, despite the fact that a medium sized university immediately surrounds this bayou, the natural beauty of this place is preserved. And somehow the administration manages to all-but-hide this jewel on their web site. I found it after a close inspection.

Monday, July 27, 2009


This is a lemma related to Murphy's law.

Even though you can't tie a knot that will hold in the face of any adversity, if you drop two sets of headphones in your bag, upon removal you will find them tied in undefeatable knots.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

What's In "A Name"

Julia and I were in a nearby city with a Mexican population so large that there is a Mexican side of town (with excellent authentic food).

We passed a sign that said,

"Sanchez" Auto Repair

Yes, the "Sanchez" was in quotation marks on the sign. What the heck was that?

Was the guy's name Santanna, but everybody called him Sanchez? Was the guy's name Sanders, but, since he served Mexican customers, they called him Sanchez?

Or did the guy have some deconstructionist outlook that views language, and also names, as artificial constructions that shape an arbitrary personal reality, such that any attempt at communication does not transmit information regarding a shared reality, but only reveals the biased worldview of the "communicator."

The latter is not likely because he is still in business. You can be a deconstructionist history professor, but not a deconstructionist auto repair person. "You say that your car is not running. But your car is 'running' our environment toward a cataclysmic ruin. $525.82, please. I don't take 'checks.'"

Friday, July 24, 2009

Dos Perros

Dad let us pick out two dogs when we visted him on vacation. I had sent him a check earlier for one and he had returned it. The economist in me says, "I don't want you to sacrifice the amount of money you could get from selling a dog." But he would not hear of it.

We ended up picking out a very shy, small hairless dog. Also, the boys and Julia fell in love with a personable black hairy dog that Dad was going to give away. I did not want a hairy dog, but since she was so well behaved and playful, I relented.

Julia named the hairless one Ysabella. We call her EEsa.

My 12 year old kept trying to hang stupid names on the black dog. He wanted Rascal II, for instance. Too weird.

When he declared--probably his tenth sundry declaration--that the dog's name is Jibbly*--I perked up. She is, indeed, a Jibbly. It sounds sort of silly and fun, but unique.

Ysa bloomed at once. She became snuggly, playful, and possessive of Julia, just like Rascal was. She is so small that she could sit in an oversized coffee mug, but she does not eat food, so much as she attacks it for prolonged periods of time. She frolics, rearing up on her hind legs, throwing her forepaws up in the air, and pouncing. She's adorable.

Though Jibbly was so personable and playful at Dad's, she did not react well to the change of scenery. She wanted to sit on the couch, not get down and explore, not go outside (when I took her outside she only wanted to head to the front door to go back inside), not do anything, even eat or drink.

After we had her for about four days Jibbly began to throw up rocks. By rocks, I mean . . . rocks, like from my dad's yard. The largest one was the diameter of a quarter, and as thick as three quarters put together. The smallest was the size of two stacked dimes. There were four rocks in all. That may have had something to do with why she did not eat for so long.

After around a week Jibbly decided that our yard was not the most horrible place in the world and even got down from the couch. She began eating normally. She also began playing with us and with Ysa.

So now Jibbly is easier to like. Ysa's only problem is that she is not yet house trained. Alas. You can't spell "puppy" without a whole lotta' "p."

*The name "Jibbly" comes from a Homestarrunner cartoon. It is the sound Strongbad and others repeat over and over when they are weirded out to the point of twitching incoherence. I see Jibbly spelled on the net as Jibblie, but the pronunciation is not as clear with that spelling, a fact that been commented on by others on the net.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Morte d'Canid

I previously talked about Rascal.

The electric fence failed repeatedly. Two batteries and a collar replacement later, the fence failed for the final time. Rascal got loose and was hit by a car.

We cried a lot.

On vacation we visited my mom's grave. On her headstone was a picture of her.

With Rascal.

It was like having a grave for Rascal there, too.

I didn't want my kids to start crying so I didn't show them.

Monday, July 20, 2009


At the scene of my son's auto accident, the police asked whom I wanted to tow the wrecked truck. I gave them a name.

They could not reach my preferred wrecker service. They called another wrecker service who lived a mile from the scene.

The following day, I visited Ken's Wrecker Service. I said, "How much do I owe you?"



An expensive tow is $75. But, an economist understands that Ken was called out by the police and, as I stood there digesting that price, he had already performed the service, so I had no bargaining power. I would have bargaining power if I were stuck on the side of the road, calling different wrecker services.


I replied, "Impressive!"

He didn't know what to say.

Later, as my wife and I were looking for her cell phone in the car, calling it with another cell phone, Ken hemmed and hawed about how he had cleaned up the glass and had spread sand over the oil slick.

Yeah--I had watched Ken's labors. Some glass dust was on the road. Every window and windshield unbroken, but the front windshield was cracked, leaving the dust. The entire operation took him a minute.

But an economist understands absolute monopoly power, so I did not argue. It was nothing personal on Ken's part. It was business. He had me. He used all the power he had.

Since the month-old transmission had significant resale value, I needed the truck towed to my mechanic.

Ken did not get that job. Another wrecker service towed the truck from Ken's yard to my mechanic.

Nothing personal. Just business.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

3:30 AM

The phone rang at 3:30 AM.

My 19 year old said, "Dad, there's been an accident."

"Are you all right?"


"Is the truck all right?"


"Where are you?"

When I got there the police and ambulance were there. The officer asked questions about what happened and if drugs were involved. He took his word for it, even though police in this county have a reputation for hauling out the drug dogs even if you just failed to signal a turn.

The ambulance took my son's passengers to the emergency room and I took him.

They were all walking around. The girl had all the skin scraped off her chin, but was otherwise all right. The boy was all right.

My son needed seven stitches perpendicular across his eyebrow. His chest was cut and bruised from the seat belt, but there was nothing they could do for that.

The truck was totalled.

The truck was left to my wife and I by my father-in-law who died of leukemia in 1997. We had put around $3,000 of work into it--which was approximately the value of the truck--a month ago.

Goodbye second vehicle.

But my son is able to walk and talk and enjoy life.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Vacation Update III

Part I: Rook

Rook is a Parker Brothers game that uses a weird deck of numbered cards (usually 5-14). Rook is like spades with a few twists. I remember going to my grandma's house and watching mom and dad play the game with my grandparents and their friends.

My grandfather played Rook on his death bed. He lingered in the hospital for three weeks after his heart attack in 1976. He had a few intravenous drips going, for which they taped some sort of board over his wrist and palm--I guess so he could not pull the IVs out.

He tried to shuffle and cut the IV board. He would mock my grandmother's bid now and then, as he had done many times. "90, by gawd!" He would discuss his luck at the cards and talk about what was going wrong and going right in the game.

I wrote a poem about the experience. It was special to me, but is probably confusing doggerel to the rest of the world.

I watched the U. S. Bicentennial celebration from the hospital chapel. I met a girl that I really liked, named Deanne Davis, from Raceland, Louisiana. My previously planned summer camp started and my parents insisted that I go. My grandfather died while I was there.

I was not going to tell a story about Wiley Edwards's quietly cantankerous son. This was about the vacation. But you need all that to understand why I had such a great time playing Rook with my 17 year old, my wife, and her aunt.

The first night, my son and I beat them badly. The next night, they began to beat us, but then we pulled nearly even before they won by a few points. It was great fun.

Part Two: Togetherness

My 17 and 19 year old boys had planned on us dropping them off to spend a week with their friends while we visited with relatives during our vacation. But the 17 year old decided he would rather stay with us.

The 19 year old was going to stay with a friend who would be moving out of his parents' home and into an apartment. But the friend was not out of his parents' home, and his parents were not amenable to putting up my son for a week.

So all three boys stayed with us. They were often bored. We always needed two hotel rooms. Eyi. Expensive.

Though everyone was dismayed at what might have been, I don't know how the vacation would have felt if we had not been together.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Vacation Update II

A low point of the vacation was going to Lafayette, Louisiana and not being able to find good cajun food.

My sister-in-law took us to her usual place--Guidry's. Guidry is a great Cajun name. I even used it in Furnace Angel, my horror short story that crossed reality TV with Cajun folklore.

Guidry's was closed for a week or so. Sis-in-law could not think of another great Cajun place and neither could a friend she called. So we ate Greek food at the restaurant beside the hotel.

The food was great. Julia and I got a sampler platter that had some dolmades, hummus, tabouli, spiced lamb and spiced chicken. My 19 year old got an eggplant stuffed with other veggies--I warned him that it was a bold move. He hated it. My other two kids got stuff they liked. Sis-in-law hated feta cheese and hummus and could barely eat the shrimp--she didn't like the spices.

But the real high point was the laugh I got from my 11 year old.

A belly dancer performed. Nice.

The 11 year old was embarassed. He tucked his head into the neck of his shirt like a turtle. As the belly dancer was walking away, the waitress came up to the table and asked us if we needed anything else.

The 11 year old tentatively stuck his head up out of his shirt and said in a quavering voice, "Therapy."

Friday, July 10, 2009

Vacation Update I

I discussed our problems getting started on vacation. I was going to do regular updates, but we have not had Internet access for most of the time. We were supposed to have plenty of access, but it has not worked out.

I will try to limit myself to one gripe per post and I will try to give one bright spot per post.

The biggest gripe is the car's air conditioner failure. In Louisiana heat, the AC worked for a few minutes yesterday and not at all today. When one needs a mechanic, the answer is "next Thursday, maybe," so we have had to bear with it. We are planning on (from now on) leaving early in the morning and stopping by noon or so.

A high point of the vacation was being able to complete a 1,000 word story for an Everquest II player-written book. The adventures of the unfortunate gnomish seige engineer, Pestal Pickworthy, are (I think) off to a good start.

I am still editing Pestal's first adventure a bit, but it is mostly there. Since I'm going to give away the story, I'll eventually publish the whole thing here.

More highs and lows tomorrow.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Virtual World Literature

Everquest II, the interactive online game, has introduced "player-written books."

Players can buy virtual notebooks for their virtual characters, write about 700 words in them, save them, reproduce them, and sell them for virtual money.

I have my first story planned. I'm not sure about copyright--I bet Sony will claim it--so I'm giving the it away for only virtual money. I am going to use a tidbit that I learned in Empires of the Sea, as a pattern for my first story.

I'm still planning, but here's what is there so far. Pestal Pickworthy, a gnomish scientiest who has ambitions to be a seige engineer, has tried to approach the barbarian commander of a doomed fortress, only to be rebuffed as an inconsequential pest.

Finally Pestal corners the commander's jester, who had been left for dead, and convinces the jester to tell the commander about Pestal , who understands that the ogre trenchworks will see no success at the gates, but will endanger the fortress's ravelin, which has a fatal flaw.

The jester departs, then eventually a detachment comes from the barbarian commander for Pestal. Pestal is elated and attempts to spill all his advice to the commander, only to learn that the commander merely wishes to replace the fool, who died of injuries, with Pestal, whom the fool recommanded as the most entertaining raving lunatic left in the fortress.

Pestal's hissy fit leaves the barbarian in stitches. Pestal becomes violent and is judged to have outlived his usefulness as a fool. The commander orders Pestal to be flung from the catapult toward the enemy.

As the commander watches the gnome fly and hears his screeched curses, he realizes that the ravelin is, indeed, vulnerable and moves at once to shore it up.

Pestal miraculously survives and attempts to enter through the weakness in the ravelin just as it is sealed.

I'm sure there's a moral in there somewhere. 700 words, huh . . .?

Thursday, July 2, 2009


Two months ago the car started giving the "I'm too hot!" alarm, an insistent pinging that attached to my brain stem.

The mechanic said that with no leaks and plenty of fluids, I must have a faulty sensor, which he did not know how to replace. I tried to make the car overheat by idling it for an hour--a car is at its hottest when idling. No leak, no heat. Guess the mechanic was right. Drove the car again.


I was going to have it fixed, but then I became addicted. I would get in the car and drive for a couple of minutes just to hear the


Finally it came time for vacation and my wife, who has no tolerence for substance abusers or sonic abusers insisted that the pinging be remedied. I took it to another mechanic who replaced the sensor.

That mechanic said it was low on fluid. He added water. Water poured out through the radiator, just as fast as he poured it in.

Replaced the radiator. $300.


He tested the temperature by hooking a monitor into the car's computer. The car was really hot. No faulty sensor.

Thermostat was bad. Replaced.


Radiator cap would not hold pressure, which meant that the fluid got hotter than it should. Replaced.


The only other part of the cooling system outside the engine was the water pump. The coolant is pumped into the engine and heats up, then is pumped through the radiator, a big heat sink that allows the heat to radiate into the air. The radiator works better when the car is in motion, because there is air rushing over it and carrying the heat away. But if the water pump is broken, the coolant does not circulate out of the engine so the heat will not radiate away.

Bingo! (Or maybe Pingo?)

The water pump is like a fan that blows coolant through the system. My fan blades were slightly loose on the fan's shaft, so when the fan was going slow--when the car was idling--water was pumping, but when the fan sped up, the loose blades would not turn because the shaft was spinning so fast.

So the coolant was circulating through the engine at slow speeds, but not at fast speeds. That explained the strange fact that my car got hotter when driving than when idling.

Replaced the water pump. The problem was fixed. We left on vacation a day and a half late and about 250 more dollars short.

Now where am I going to find another


Wednesday, July 1, 2009


An audio treat can be found at

I laughed. I laughed more. I learned nothing about life. The writing was excellent.

You can listen live or download it for your mp3 player. They also have a podcast, if you want to hear a horror story each week. Their usual story is not as humorous as Stepfathers, however.