Friday, May 30, 2008


We try to be a very humane and environmentally conscious household and for the most part I think we do a really good job. A nagging thing, though, has been how we use those hated plastic grocery bags to package our dog waste. Any bag that has holes and is thus unsuitable goes directly to the recycling bin, but the intact ones get used as a knottable glove so that our neighbors don't grow annoyed at mounds of dog poop growling alongside the road.

But this makes the bags landfill, and I've never been comfortable with that. I wanted to start a compost pile but it turns out using cat or dog feces in compost invalidates it (or ought to) for use in a vegetable garden. So with some research we found the Doggie Dooley, an in-ground composting system that should exactly fit the bill.

It comes with everything but the hole, however. So I've been working on ours. You need to do roughly a two foot by two foot square, two feet deep, and then go deeper in the middle, as deep as you can to stay below the frost line so the thing has a chance for working in the winter. Then you add the enzyme powder and water, then the dog stuffing, and voila, problem solved.

But you still gotta dig the hole. With a spine like mine, that ain't easy. So far you can look at it as either a five day hole or a five hour hole. I can scrape at it for about an hour at a time before I begin daydreaming of life as an invertebrate. And here in New Hampshire, rock is just about as common as dirt, so there's a lot of digging out and around and hoisting and doubt: you never know if you're excavating a bowling ball or a Volkswagen.

I'm just about done, though. Another day/hour should do it. My strategy has been that of the great sculptors where I lay down on my stomach, torso hanging over the abyss, hand trowel in hand, breaking up everything that is not a hole. After the Zen-like sessions are past, I measure my success by depth, the rocks I've removed, and the actual hole. Ricky likes to stand in it and has become my measuring stick. I'm not sure how tall he is but he's beneath ground level at this point. If I could get Sabrina below ground level I'll call it done.

But then I'll be filling my hole and it will no longer be one for there will be things in it. All grocery bags from that point forward will be recycled, though hopefully using reusable ones will mostly eliminate that problem.

And eliminating is what this post is all about.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Book Fear

Went in to the town bookstore a few days ago. Left me very scared. Those heinous extra-large, extra-priced mass market paperbacks have still not disappeared or noticeably lessened but rather seem to have spread. Looking at some of Bernard Cornwell's Grail Quest books, the only editions were trade paperbacks for fourteen bucks apiece. They had the latter two books of the trilogy so to read those would cost almost thirty bucks. Um, if they were available in mass market editions for half that I would have picked them up.

Bottom line is that once again I'll buy the books used from somebody online and pay less money but half of it in shipping charges. Who wins in this mess? As a book buyer I've been pushed to the fringe and I'm sure I'm not alone.

Once there were good old days...

It occurred to me that a collection of books is a library and that a collection of e-books is a floppy disk. DRM controlled ones will die with your next Microsoft induced operating system upgrade, but that's another rant.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


I'm going to try some posts of purposely shorter length. They won't take as long to write, and I'm not sure that I can do it. Let's see.

Jack Vance is a brilliant writer. Everything I'd like to say about him has apparently been said here by someone named Nick Gevers. The piece also mentions the Vance Integral Edition (or VIE) which was an edition (two actually, one a bit fancier than the other) of his collected works, restored as much as possible to the original manuscripts.

This was done by a group of several hundred volunteers and took years to complete. The books were sold on a subscription basis and once printed, were gone. Someone involved had said he'd figured out a good way to get a free set of the original 44 volumes: purchase 2 and then wait until the subscriptions closed, then sell the second for double the purchase price. Based on the few sets that have appeared on eBay, he would have been right.

The "corrected" VIE texts are also serving as the basis for commercial reprints, another gratifying result of the project. Now if the band could just get back together and give the same treatment to other worthy authors...

Friday, May 09, 2008

Suspended Animation

My surgically repaired right eye had been getting worse the past few months which led to terrible eyestrain as my left eye had to do more work. The eye doctor cut something open with a laser on Monday and things are better but different. I still need to rest them to take care of the eye strain but that's not an easy thing to do. I also am feeling addictive symptoms to the meds I take for my back and neck issues; when that happens, which is all too regular an occurrence, I leave them alone until I'm over it. I'll use the damned things but I won't let them get bigger than me.

Which is all to say that I'm staying away from the computer as much as I can for a few more days. So even though the blog entries have been sparse, they're going to be sparser still until next week some time. That's just the way it goes sometimes.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Commercial Madness

When I was kid, hour-long TV shows were around fifty-two minutes of actual show, including credits, with the rest filled in with commercials. Today hour-long shows are ten minutes shorter (TEN MINUTES!) and it seems (although I haven't timed it out), that some cable shows and specials have an even worse ratio. It seems that just as though I start to get into a show, BAM, I get hit in the head with a commercial.

That's one minute of commercial for every three minutes of show. This ain't why there's a flat-screen on my Christmas list.

More frequent commercials aren't news and I'm sure that someone somewhere could make a compelling case for doing this. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't buy it but that may because I'm starting to get crotchety as I get older. Be that as it may, why do the commercials have to be so damned LOUD? I can't even relax in front of a baseball game because not only are the commercials as regular and unrelenting as body shots in a Tyson fight, their soundtracks are frequently obnoxious music that either doesn't fit the product (is that Led Zeppelin on those Cadillac bits?) or so inanely repetitive (, for example) that I plug my ears and repeat la-la-la over and over until it's, um, well, over.

But then it comes back, usually in about five minutes...

To paraphrase Robin Williams' famous remark regarding cocaine, television commercials are God's way of letting advertisers know they have too much money. I don't need a Time-Warner commercial during every segment every show on every night on every channel. I tune them out, they turn me mean and nasty, and land them squarely atop the list of Last People I Will Ever Do Business With Willingly. Another note on the aforementioned ads: um, yeah, got the point during the first bit the first time I saw it. Why, oh why, do you feel the need to run on the Cartoon Network in the middle of weekday afternoons? There are no adults watching! Really. My kids are watching and I overhear that damned annoying tune and guess what, I will never, ever, ever go to their website as long as I live.

Or as long as there's still, anyway. I've still got to get along, you know. But geez, it's still with less and less TV. Which isn't a bad thing. It's just that in the past it's been a choice, kind of like having an apple pie in the refrigerator, a snack that I can always dip into if I happen to get the urge. It's become the enemy now, a source of annoying sounds I can't get out of my head no matter how many nails I drive into it.

It's past the point where whatever value I'd get from watching any given show is outweighed by the annoyance factor of the commercials. TV advertising has almost become like spam e-mail to me, where I'd never consider buying anything it shows me. The problem is that Neilsen can't tracks folks like me. Um, assuming there are others.