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shameless pleading





April 2011 Issue

Semper Ubi Sub Ubi


Alright, already, a little late. I’ll explain in a moment.

Hey, TWD has 863 “likes” on Facebook. Awesome. I hope we hit 1,000 before the whole Zuckerbergian shebang goes belly-up. I read a news story last week that said FB is ludicrously over-valued and early investors are trying to unload their shares (I believe the actual phrase they used was “claw their way out”) before reality sets in and the bubble bursts.

Waiting for the other shoe to drop in Cybertopia has been a kind of hobby of mine for years. Way back when (mid-90s) I thought Cliff Stoll was right on the money in branding the whole net-evangelist circus (Negroponte, et al.) as “Silicon Snake Oil,” and Nicholas Carr and Evgeny Morozov are both worth reading on the subject of the internet and society, especially claims made recently that Twitter and Facebook will be the magical agents of a global wave of freedom.

Which is not to say that the internet doesn’t have its good points. A few years ago I suggested that people check out Arts & Letters Daily for pointers to interesting long-form articles. ALD is still going strong (though listing a bit to starboard much of the time), but I’m happy to report that several other sites have since appeared that also point to worthwhile things to read on the net. Best of the breed at the moment is probably The Browser, closely followed by Longreads and the aptly-titled Give Me Something To Read. There’s usually a bit of overlap between the sites at any given moment, but checking them all once a day certainly beats hanging out on Fark (Woman Survives Tornado by Hiding in Tanning Bed!) or, God forbid, the Huffington Train Wreck.

By the way, I changed the layout of this page from 90% fluid to 1000 px wide so that the columns would end closer to where they should. Let me know if this is screwing up anything at your end. Any screen resolution 1024 x 768 or higher shouldn’t have a problem. You people on iPads should just suck it up and tilt your heads or something.


We interrupt this digression for an important announcement: The Word Detective website depends on your support to pay the bills. If you find this little circus helpful, interesting, amusing and/or worthwhile, please subscribe or contribute to our survival. Fifteen bucks per year is only four pennies a day, but it makes a huge difference at this end. It’s like magic. Here’s your chance to be a magician.


Onward. Um, has anyone noticed that there seems to be something pretty seriously wrong with the weather? We’ve been spared the horrible destruction in the South, but it’s been raining more or less non-stop for two weeks, often violently, and we’ve had two tornadoes hit within a mile of us in the past month (both following precisely the same path, which is very weird).

I suppose I should explain why this issue of TWD is so late. So I’m sitting on the living room couch a couple of weeks ago, and I notice that Boots the Cat is staring at the ceiling. This is not unusual, because Boots is obsessed with ceilings in general, and this ceiling in particular due to the honking huge ugly ceiling fan the previous owner of this pile installed. We’ve always meant to take it down, but that would leave a big hole in the ceiling and would also require me to climb up there, which, as will become apparent in a moment, would be a very bad idea. Anyway, I glance up and notice that Mister Boots is actually staring at a huge, nasty-looking spider crawling across the ceiling and due to arrive above my head in about 30 seconds.

I have a problem with spiders, which is too bad because this house is infested with about nine different species of them. I’ve taught myself to ignore them most of the time, at least the little ones, but I happen to know this one is the kind that bite, a lesson I learned about a week after we moved in, when I sustained a chomp on my hand that took a month to heal. So I hop up and go out to the kitchen, where we have a tall, heavy chair of the sort intended to be used at a breakfast bar (which we do not have, so I don’t know why we have the chair). It’s tall enough to put me up near the ceiling, so I drag it into the living room and clamber awkwardly up, intending to show the spider a fascinating article on funicular railways I’d been reading in the magazine our local electric coop puts out instead of reliable power. I’ve never met a spider who wasn’t totally into railroads, so maybe we can be friends.

In retrospect, I figure that my shoulders must have been about eight feet above the floor when everything went wrong. Somehow the stool began to tip, launching me into thin air, whereupon gravity kicked in and I fell straight to the wooden floor, landing on my right shoulder. From eight feet up. The Very Heavy Stool, meanwhile, was doing its own acrobatics, and somehow managed to land on top of me, smashing my left knee, left upper arm and (go figure) my right hand. It hurt. Everything hurt.

Long story short, nothing was broken, but I had bruises all over and, more importantly, seemed to have torn or otherwise damaged the tendons in my right shoulder, making that arm unusable and very painful. Breathing, in fact, was very painful.

That was more than two weeks ago and my shoulder still makes sleeping difficult. And since I have only limited use of my left arm because of the ms, I haven’t gotten a lot done lately. You should see the lawn. It’s awesome.

So, in the end, the spider got away and I have had to promise at least once a day ever since not to climb up on anything ever again. What makes this all even more stupid on my part is that I have fairly regularly fallen of off ladders outside in the past few years, so my sense of balance is clearly no good anymore.

This cat is a piker.

Elsewhere in the news, Inky the Cat is mad at me because I said she’s beginning to look like a bowling ball with ears. But she is. I think she’s making up for being the runt of the litter and last in line for food as a kitten, and she’s doing it with a vengeance. If she notices you making a sandwich, for example, she races out to the living room, where most informal eating takes place, and positions herself carefully for the most effective begging. Once the food arrives, she perches on the arm of the sofa and cries piteously until you give her a bit, then a bit more, and so on until the score is You 3 bites / Inky 7.

Inky the Insistent

Then, as the last morsel nears your mouth, she howls like her tail is on fire, stands up on her hind legs, and swings her paw at your face in hopes of intercepting the last precious bit of food on the planet.

I think she may be getting a little spoiled.

What’s worse is that (a) the other cats are starting to notice that her abominable behavior gets results, and (b) the dogs have realized that the cats are cleaning up and now sit directly in front of the TV, blocking the view while wagging their tails like idiots. I think I’m gonna take my chances with the coyotes and start eating outside.

Oh well, that’s it for now. Sorry this issue is late, but remember that if you subscribe, you never have to wait for the website to be updated even if I’m indisposed. I am constitutionally incapable of missing column deadlines. There were actually a couple of nights right after my fall that it hurt too much to lie down, so I sat up all night writing columns, popping Motrins and watching infomercials. It was weird. Every cat and dog in the house gravitated up to my office, like a slumber party with fleas.

And now, on with the show….

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