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June 19 1998, Friday



he reading I've been doing while sick hasn't been especially heavy. I find special entertainment value in reading old publications about technology. There's nothing better in this regard than old Byte magazines from the early 80s (I actually had a subscription back then), when you could easily pay $200 for a simple serial board. I didn't have any Byte magazines in easy reach, so I made do with a book called The World Wide Web Bible, which, having been published way back in 1996, was perfect for my purposes. It came with a CD-ROM containing lots of dated software. The CD ROM is even more useless now than the book. This got me to thinking (or, in my case, musing) about the shelf-life of various kinds of information. Some creations seemingly have eternal value (Van Gogh's Sunflowers, the Illiad, old copies of National Geographic, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band, the Joy of Sex and even, for some reason, the Bible), whereas some are only curiosities after a time (most Disco music, Pre-Raphælite paintings, old copies of Newsweek). Then there are forms of information, works upon which people slaved for months, that are now utterly worthless. CD ROMs containing Netscape 1.1 fall into this final category.

As I do various things here in the Shaque, I occasionally have ideas for other projects that I am working on. I usually write these ideas as cryptic scrawlings on old envelopes. There's an envelope here from Mara Balassa in Vail, Colorado postmarked November 13th, 1995, and I've been using it to take notes for my people index. I just happened to glance down and see that, at the bottom, are notes, terms to define, scribbled some two and a half years ago back when I was writing the Big Fun Glossary:

Hard Core
Septum piercing


here aren't a lot of people around here to play my whimsical games upon, but my psychotic brother, Don, is usually around. Today I found a couple of glossy marketing-gimmick stickers in the trash and as I carried them around wondering how to deploy them, I randomly asked Don when his next scheduled bowel movement was to take place. He claimed he didn't know.

"Well, how often do you go?" I asked.

"Once a day," he replied.

"When did you go last? Yesterday?"

"I didn't go yesterday at all."

"That means your next bowel movement must be coming soon. Here, let me schedule you for 2:00." And with that, I stuck one of the stickers to the clock at the 2:00 and added, "That way, when you take a number two, it'll be a number two in more ways than one!"

My brother found this all pretty funny, and he was laughing about as hard as he ever does about anything. All this talk about taking a dump got him wanting to take a shit right then, but he was worried our Dad was going to return from the supermarket with groceries, and if there's anything our Dad hates, it's Don retreating into the bathroom when he's needed (everything Don does, including bowel movements, are rather involved processes). When groceries come from the store, you see, Don is expected to help carry them in. But I pointed out that it was unlikely the groceries would be coming any time soon, so I moved up Don's scheduled bowel movement to 11:00am, relocating the sticker on the clock and everything.

When he was all done (thankfully, I wasn't there), Don came up to the Shaque to milk some more humour out of the event.

Those of you who have never had a brother don't know the conversations you've missed. I would never talk like this to anyone else in the entire world, no matter how well I got to know him/her.


nd there's more to the tale of the clock with the sticker stuck to it. At a certain point in the afternoon I went into the house to fix myself my first cup of coffee (instant coffee, of course) in three days. When I looked up on the wall, I noticed that the sticker I'd stuck to the clock was peeling up at the corners. The clock is one of those that has no glass face plate; the arms just stick out nakedly across the dial. One of the sticker's corners had reached up high enough to catch the second hand and time looked to have ground to a halt as it does occasionally in Einsteinian thought experiments. Hoagie [what I call my mother] was just then getting home from a fruitless day of attempted watercolour model painting, and I asked her what time it was so I could reset the clock. Unlike a figure in an Einsteinian thought experiment, her mass was not approaching infinite, though she was in a cranky mood (as usual for when she gets home from any outing). She just snarled something at me, so I let the issue go.

Later though, up in the Shaque, she announced that the clock was losing time and she'd tossed out the old battery. So we had another big snarly match as I pointed out the specific reasons why the battery was not at fault in this story. Since I was viewed as the origin of all these problems, I was given the task of fishing the battery out of the trash, not a difficult task at all.

DON and I have been bonding a lot today for some reason. We both took Fred the Dog down to the floodplain and raced a little "4 by 4" remote control truck I dumpster dived back in May. Those are the kind of gadgets Don really likes, though he'd prefer it if it were a tank, preferably with Nazi, Maoist Chinese or Soviet insignia. We had to be careful though; Fred the Dog was in a frisky mood and he reached out to snatch it a few times as his odiferous bulk whisked by. I really need to give that dog a shampoo sometime; I've never known any living animal to reek so bad. And it's all accumulated doggy body odour, nothing special. He doesn't roll in poo, decomposing corpses or anything like that.

IF it's not one medical problem it's another. It now appears that, in the past few days, a mild case of athletes' foot has blossomed into a major disabling condition. My smallest toe on my right foot is actually swollen now, and it's painful to climb ladders. I've blasted it with every fungicide I can find in the house and I'm hoping the fungal mycelia don't spread to my brain before I can peck out my final farewell musing with pencil clenched between my teeth.


  couple good inspiring links I found today while reading Wired's website:

Radio4 All - You think websites are a good way to get your message out to the masses for cheaps? There're older, lower-tech, more effective (though less legal) techniques, too. How about Pirate Radio? This website brought out the Kappa Mutha Fucka spirit still flowing in my blood.

The Myth of Computer Obsolesence - Car manufacturers have convinced most Americans they need a new chariot every four years. The computer industry is playing the same game, though, objectively, it's not likely that you really need to throw out your 166 MHz Pentium and buy a 666 MHz Pentium II. I've been making these same arguments for months.

there's no need for all that power - This article addresses the amusing fact that, for the most part, no one is currently capable of writing software to take advantage of all that surplus computing power being shipped in cutting-edge PCs.


  was helping my Dad with the toilet this evening, trying to keep it from running all the time. We had the lid off the tank and I wrestled with the valve and floater system. It's all very simple and cheap, and seemed to have suffered greatly from the heavy sediment load contained in the streamwater used for toilet flushing (yes, we have two entirely separate plumbing systems, one for undrinkable stream water and the other for "drinkable" rainwater). We decided the valve must be replaced, and in the meantime the only way to flush the john is with buckets of water. There's nothing too new about that; the toilet's sewer system has its own share of chronic difficulties. For my part, I never use the indoor toilet at all. I do as the bears do when I have to do what I have to do.


  waged yet another massive assault upon whatever microscopic entity is inhabiting the ventral stalk of my smallest right toe. I went through my mother's veterinary cabinet looking for all the really potent stuff "not for use on humans." If you have a serious medical condition and choose to treat it yourself, you have to get used to using veterinary supplies, since over-the-counter medications are far too watered-down to do anything but reverse mild ills (or, in special cases, cause tussin euphoria). The only inexpensive alternative is to dress up as a goat and have your girlfriend check you in to the local pet doctor. How did America let the Republicans fuck up health care reform? Oh, that's right, they are selfish, reflex-driven idiots. Silly me.

As I looked at my toe, I was suspicious that perhaps a bacterial infection had moved in. You see, I've never had a toe swell up from athlete's foot before. This latest problem struck out of nowhere while I was bedridden with fever and now I'm wondering if some bacteria decided to take advantage of the sudden warmer condition of my extemities resulting from my higher body temperature (generated, of course, to fight viruses in its core). Perhaps some background is necessary.

  • Siamese cats are tawny all over their bodies except for their extremities, where they are black. Scientists, five-year-olds and magicians have shown that this is caused by the relative coolness in those areas. Somehow the pigment sets up as a lighter colour when exposed to sufficient heat.

  • People suffering from leprosy are only attacked on the colder parts of their bodies: arms, legs, nose, ears, and (but you don't learn this in school) their external genitalia. The responsible bacteria cannot tolerate core human body temperatures.

  • Almost all mammals have external testicles, since their sperm cannot mature at core mammalian temperatures, though birds apparently do not have this problem.
      (This is one of the several proofs I can think of offhand demonstrating that God is either a myth or imperfect. Another proof is the fact that retinal layers in the vertebrate eye are exactly opposite the way they should be for most efficient vision; squids and octopi are the only animals with anything close to technologically perfect eyes.)

  • My father tells me that during World War II, when he and other American troops were transported in a dubious cattle car in Europe, he contracted a serious case of scabies. He says that up until he was cured (by being doused with enormous amounts of powdered DDT), the scabies attacked him most severely at his wrists and ankles, evidently where the temperature was most conducive to their happiness.

The point of all this is that quite possibly something (the athlete's foot fungus or perhaps a bacterium) took advantage of the unique temperature conditions of my foot while I had a fever, allowing it to expand to unprecedented destructive power.

It's the first Friday Night I haven't had any alcohol since... probably since the 80s.


one year ago
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