Sunday, March 30, 2008

Happy Anniversary to Me

My archives say it was yesterday but I think that's because the time stamp has been screwed up on both my own blogs since day one. I'm sure that being the lover of double numbers that I am, that five years ago today I started my first blog. This one. It took me a while to get it off the ground and figure out what I wanted to with it, but nonetheless, I put up my first post on 3-30-03.

I called it LA Stone Speaks at first, intending to be anonymous, but I changed it to Last One Speaks within the first couple of months I think, the premise being the last one in the room still gets to talk. I've done a lot of talking since then, and started a new blog, or writing for a new blog every year in this same week for the last five years. I think five is enough. I don't intend to take any more gigs but I've come a long way from the day when the first time I hit 25 readers felt like I hit the jackpot. And of course, I've come out under my real name once blogging at Detroit News blew my cover.

I have no idea what my reach is now since I don't have access to stats for all of them, but I expect between all five blogs, it's no less than 3,000 a day on average. I expect it might be more. But really, I would still be doing this even if I was still only reaching 25 readers.

I was born to blog. It's the perfect format. Informal, conducive to short rants, and damn if I don't sometimes feel like I'm making a difference in the public narrative. But the best part has always been the cyberfriends I've made on line and the ability to stay in touch with my real world friends that I may have lost to distance and time otherwise.

Thank you all for reading and commenting and keeping me company along the way. I would have never have lasted this long without every one of you.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Dream a little dream of me

I've been working on my dream skills that I had put aside for many years. Or rather it was more my skills had vanished when I reached a point where they scared my psyche into retreat. I just wasn't able to do it anymore after a particularly cognitive dream. It's not a practice for the fainthearted. Controlling your dreams can be terrifying, or at least it has been so for me.

One of the first exercises in this practice is to conciously look at your hands in your dream. In other words to willfully recognize you are in a dream and deliberately make that conscious move. The first time I ever succeeded was in 1974, I think. I immediately went into a state where I felt like I was falling into an abyss. I woke myself up in a cold sweat and didn't try it again for a long time. Over the years, I've looked at my hands many times without those ill effects and for a while in the mid 90s became more proficient at remaining aware in my dream state. Eventually I scared myself silly again in a very vivid dream and found myself again unable to continue.

In any event, I've recently taken up the practice again and last night I successfully looked at my hands for a long time. They're looked big and almost disembodied but they were clearly mine. I made a fist to sustain the image. When I opened it I found a flower in my hand. It looked a lot like this wild garlic. I tried to maintain the focus to do it again but I woke up instead.

I slept for ten hours and dreamt heavily, but they were ordinary mixed up dreams, mostly about politics but at one point I was at my Dad's home. He had moved to a foreign country in a resort town with a lot of open air restaurants lining the streets. I was happy to be there.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Quick note

I've been working this week so I haven't made it here much. The weather has been so beautiful, I've been outdoors a lot. Today is supposed to get close to 80 degrees. Tomorrow is supposed to drop into the low 50s. There are times when this feels just like New England here, except for the longer days and all the flowers.

I'll try to do something interesting so I'll have something to tell you this weekend.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Houses and Pot

I'm working today so just a couple of links to amuse you. If you're wondering how much your house has fluctuated in value, has a cool widget that will tell you and also in some cases, will bring up a picture of your house. I thought that part was spooky but the tool is cool.

On a brighter note, this is the fun story of the day. Oaksterdam College, where for $200 bucks and the price of couple of textbooks, you can learn about the fine art of growing superior marijuana.
''My basic idea is to try to professionalize the industry and have it taken seriously as a real industry, just like beer and distilling hard alcohol,'' said Richard Lee, 45, an activist and pot-dispensary owner who founded the school in a downtown storefront last fall.

I think it's great idea. Needless to say, the cops aren't that thrilled but the DEA says they aren't going to try to shut it down even though they keep a small amount of pot on the campus. I'd bet money, they will be tracking the graduates though.

Monday, March 24, 2008

To post or not to post

I'm so hopelessly unphotogenic but I'm thinking, thanks to Elisson tweaking the lighting, this shot is better that the one at DetNews that people see every day. I'm thinking about posting it on the sidebar at the Impolitic.

I really need to get some better head shots. I'd like to replace the one at DetNews and we're about to move Newshoggers to its own domain. I get my own bio page at the new blog and I'd like to post a picture. Maybe I could get a longer shot for that though. I look better from a distance.

Drug War News

I haven't forgotten the drug war. I have new posts at Newshoggers, including the latest from MA. Barney Frank is going to file a bill tolegalize marijuana at the federal level. That probably won't go anywhere but I see the reformers in the Commonwealth have been busy. Looks like they may win something this year on the state level at least.

If you keep scrolling down at the link, I posted on a great oped by the writers of the show The Wire on jury nullification and the WOsD. Fairly recent is the retroactive application of federal sentencing reform in crack cases and the bone headed banning of tiny plastic bags in Chicago. That will surely stop the white powder drug trade in its tracks.

I mean how are they going to package the stuff without those teeny baggies? It's not like you can fold up coke into a slick piece of paper or anything. Meanwhile, some pack rat who can't throw away anything could get arrested and fined 1500 bucks for possession. Of an empty baggie. Jebus. The prohibs are a lot dumber than the addicts.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Just for you all a...

I hope everyone had a great holiday who celebrates this one. I skipped out on the family festivities myself. It's been a mellow day. I slept in this morning and will be enjoying some leftover pizza and a beer for my Easter dinner shortly. Maybe two beers so I can fall asleep at a reasonable hour and not get too far off schedule.

My Easter treat for you all can be found at my other blog where my weekly media bytes post is mostly politics free. All kinds of fun links over at that post. Make sure to try out the Awareness Test. I failed it. I'd be interested to know if anyone else passes it. And the marshmallow peeps show is not to be missed.

I love you all dearly.

[graphics via and via]

Saturday, March 22, 2008

I just lost another friend

The surest sign of old age is that you start reading the obits regularly and the saddest part is, you find people you know and love in the listings. Hal Benoit died in Nashville at the age of 52 from heart failure. We lost touch when I moved from the Happy Valley so I had no idea he had left Noho last year.

Still, I loved this man with all my heart. He was a dear friend, a really kind and decent human being and a fabulous guitar player that never received the acclaim he deserved from the music industry.

Rest in peace buddy. You'll be missed.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

I feel like a million bucks...

I got a million dollar bill in the mail today. Really. Along with a 15 page letter from Tiran Zaken of The world famous Zaken Corp. Mr. Zaken wants to pay me to make five thou a month for just making a few calls to find him some overstock inventory to sell. It works too. There's two whole pages of testimonials from real people who are making big bucks.

I thought at first the Nigerian spammers had decided to try snail mail, but the letter didn't contain any glaring typos on a quick scan so I googled them to figure out who this guy was that was looking for a select group of only 100 people who REALLY want to get rich quick. It's a real company and there's even a blog with about four entries over three years among the pages of complaints.

There's a bit of an argument over whether the complaints were generated by a disgruntled employee who went into business for himself, but I thought the best testimonial was from the couple who ended up only losing ten bucks on express mail charges. Shockingly, the $148 'commitment package' with instructions on how to make the money exaggerated the speed of the returns and the ease of finding the surplus inventory by using the super secret list. People were doing better with the phone book.

I think I'll take a pass on this fabulous offer myself but I'm keeping the million dollar bill. I'm going to see if the guys at my convenience store will make change for it when I buy my next lottery ticket.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Happy St. Paddy's Day

Don't drink the green beer. I'm having a Guinness myself.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Life is a bagel field

So explain this to me. I used to do as much of my shopping in little bodegas as possible because big grocery stores have never made sense to me. It's not just that the big behemoths take an hour to walk across but the way they stock their goods is different in every damn store, even within the same chain. I mean one place puts cereal and granola bars in the same aisle, and another will put the granola bars in the cracker aisle. The fruit strips could be anywhere from next to the pickles to the toilet paper aisle. But you get used to it and just learn where they keep things.

This bagel question is bigger than that. Of all the puzzlements I've ever encountered in these places, this one defies comprehension and as far as I know, this is only grocery on the face of the earth that uses this strategy. But let me preface this by mentioning we're not talking about real bagels here. We're talking about the pale imitations that pass for bagels in these parts. The closest thing to a real bagel is a Brueggers in the big city and as any true bagel connoiseur knows, the only real bagel is from H&H in NYC. Something to do with that East River water I'm told. But I digress.

So the grocery store in question, an aging and rundown Food Lion where it pays to keep an eye on the expiration dates, is where I buy my imitation bagels and I noticed something curious lately. I can buy a six pack of Lenders in the frozen food section for a buck. They're usually about $1.20 but they've been on special forever. Over in the dairy section, lurking above the eggs, they sell the same package, unfrozen for $1.49. In the bread section, the exact same package, although it's unchilled by the egg case, costs $3.59 or so. And the store occassionally makes its own bagels that they sell for $2.50 but while they're the freshest, they're the worse imitation and I can't believe anyone who likes bagels would buy those twice.

So I wonder who would buy the most expensive ones when you can walk up half an aisle and get the egg case ones if you prefer them unfrozen and have already figured out the store baked ones aren't edible? As for me, since I freeze them after I eat the first bagel anyway, I've been going with the frozen ones. Why pay more when they suck anyway?

[graphic via]

Friday, March 14, 2008


I may be cranky about the time change but I can't complain about the weather. It's been just beautiful. Spring is really the best time of year here. It's warm, the flowers explode in a riotous confusion of colors and the bugs don't arrive in earnest for a while yet. In short, it's entirely pleasant to spend the afternoon outdoors.

So I was out driving around yesterday afternoon and I took the shortcut to avoid downtown. Shortcut is a bit of misnomer as it doesn't save any time unless you take it during rush hour. It cuts off four traffic lights that can hold you up at that time of day but otherwise, it's not really worth it except it's a more pleasant drive. It cuts through the poor section of town that hunkers down around the railroad tracks but at either end the view is rural and gorgeous.

I've lived here over three years now and one of the things that has amazed me is how lax the police are about cars. My inspection sticker was expired for months and nobody stopped me. Even when I was pulled over for running the stop sign a few months ago, the cop ignored the sticker. So imagine my surprise to discover a roadblock on the shortcut. They were doing a license check. Just licenses, not registrations although I couldn't fail but notice that if the driver was black they also peeked around at the license plate, I assume to check for a current sticker. I was waved through with a bare glance at my license.

Astoundingly, there were a couple of people pulled over, I assume because their license was expired. Amazing really. Their cars were a lot nicer than mine. Why would anyone drive an expensive car without a valid driver's license?

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Simpler Times

When I was young, you got your news from reading a few newspapers and watching an hour of network news. Which in my house was either Cronkite or Huntley and Brinkley, depending on my Dad's mood. Then you watched Dino getting drunk and smoking cigarettes on the teevee.

And the commercial would likely be something like this.

It's not like nothing bad ever happened but somehow, the world felt like a nicer place in those days.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Classical gas

I'm glad I gassed up the car on Monday. I wasn't going to because I wanted to take the shortcut home and I had enough to wait a day, but I paid $3.19 on Monday and the next day it was up to $3.49. Looks like we'll hit four bucks a gallon this summer. And people wonder why I don't drive much anymore? Even with my little fuel efficient Toyota, it adds up fast.

Who knows where the time goes....

I want to know who the hell decided changing the time twice a year was a good idea and even worse to change the time on a different schedule this year. I was shocked and dismayed to discover they had changed the clocks this week and nobody bothered to tell me. I don't watch TV and I didn't see a word about it on the internets.

Needless to say, I'm my usual cranky and foggy self and will be for the next two weeks while I adjust but those who know me well will be surprised to learn that I immediately changed all my clocks to conform. Well except for the car clock which I had never bothered to change the last time.

I thought it might help if I tried just accepting it instead of mounting my biannual protest. It didn't.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Curtain call on the bulb show

The bulb show is now over I think but if you check out the outdoor cam you can see the snow has melted considerably since I first posted it. The pond is visible again and it's sunny today, but judging from the way the trees are moving, I'd say that wind is icy. If you missed it or want to see more, I found a Flickr gallery with 159 photos. I liked this one, this one and also this one from a different photographer.

60s Flashback

I've been in a rather reflective mood since I found out John died, but I'm still not really ready to write about him yet. However, my sister got me going on this other train of thought when she sent me this video of Hearthstone Castle. The video isn't that great and I found better information as I researched it, but it's worth posting because it's narrated by the Sandy Moy, the wife of Henry Moy, who is a guy I went to grammar school with. Oddly, I was just thinking about Henry the other day for a different and unrelated reason. Spooky.

Anyway, Hearthstone Castle is of particular interest to me because it belonged to the family of my first serious boyfriend, Charlie "Doc" Parks. Although the castle was "in the family" I don't believe I ever set foot in it and I was trying to figure out why I know pratically every inch of that property like the back of my hand, but didn't remember the castle itself. In googling around, I discovered it's because it ended up in the hands of the other side of the family, the Jennings. I was never clear on why, but the Jennings and the Parks didn't mix much.

So I never got to go inside the castle, and I never saw any ghosts but I am sorry to see how far it has deteriorated. It appears there was a time when it would have been easier to restore.

On the other hand the rest of the property was our private playground in the early 60s. We spent a lot of time at the pond, skating and building huge bonfires where we would smoke pot and get silly. And I have fond memories of spending time in what we called The Big House. It was like being inside a living game of Clue. I remember the first time I saw the conservatory. The picture doesn't do it justice. In those days it was filled with huge trees and elegant furniture.

Still, I didn't spend a whole lot of time there. I never quite sorted out why the Parks ended up on the poorer side of the family while the Jennings ended up with the big houses. I spent the bulk of my many hours on the property in the carriage house that you can barely see to the left of the mansion in this photo. Doc's sister lived there and as servants quarters go, it was still an elegant residence on its own.

I held a gun in my hand for the first and only time in that garage. Doc and Bob, his brother-in-law, were big on guns. Every year they would go out on the back acreage during hunting season and not kill a deer. Oh, they always had a story about how they flushed the buck right into the arms of a competing hunter, but I always suspected they really didn't have the heart to actually shoot a deer. They just liked going out on the hunt.

Still, I think they paid rent to be there. Doc's family for some reason ended up with the dairy farm. They ran it and we used to go every day at 4:00pm to feed the calves. I used to love that. The barn always stank of a curious combination of rotting manure and the sourish smell of calve milk but those little cows were so cute. And watching the milking process was always impressive. Lots of noise and stainless steel and the cows were herded onto a ramp that was over our heads. They would be stamping and mooing impatiently wanting to get back out into the pasture. They had a big herd. If memory serves, for a time, they sold milk under their own label.

Everybody expected Doc and I would get married. We didn't. I don't think my mother ever really forgave me for leaving him. But that's a long story for another day.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Rest in Peace

This has really been a spooky day. On top of the appearance of the mysterious black doormat, I just got an email from his old girlfriend who found me through the blog. My friend John died suddenly on Sunday. I almost blew off our dinner date last week. I'm so glad now that I didn't. I really can't say anything else about it at the moment. It's rather a shock.


I just discovered that sometime between 7:00pm last night and 11:00 this morning, someone left a doormat in front of my door. It's odd. Both the doormat, which is a strange kind of looped nylon that doesn't look like it will be particularly effective and the fact that someone just left it and didn't tell me.

I like surprises and all but I find it a little unsettling. I don't know many people in this town, almost none in fact and I can't imagine that the three people who know where I live would leave it without stopping in to say hello. I wonder if it's a case of mistaken identity? Or do you suppose I have a secret admirer in the McCompound who's trying to win my heart via mud prevention?

Monday, March 03, 2008

A breath of spring

Winters are really long in lovely downtown Northampton and one of the surest cures for cabin fever was always a trip to the Smith College greenhouse. There isn't much that fifteen minutes in the tropical room can't cure on an ordinary day. But by the time March rolls around, most people are really sick of snow and ice and cold and Smith in its wisdom invented the annual Bulb Show.

Locals rarely attended during the two week run because it's crowded and they keep it up until the flowers die so you can go two days after and enjoy the heady aromas without battling the tourists. However, in the last couple of years they've installed a live webcam in the main entry room so you can watch the people strolling through. I found it amazingly empty today but it is Monday. Best tourist viewing is of course on the weekends. Looks like a good show this year as well. I hear the theme is orchids.

New this year is the outdoor webcam. The view is pretty dismal at this time of year but it does provide a nice contrast to the indoor scene and a way for an expat like myself to keep track of the local weather. Judging from the choice of outerwear, it looks like a warm day by New England standards. I hope they keep that one up through the summer. It will be fun to see the outdoor gardens bloom.

Meanwhile, I can't help but be pleased that my view outside here more closely resembles the indoor view there. I'm shivering just looking at all that snow.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Keesie's meme

So Kees invented a complicated meme and asked us all to play. His rules were too complicated so I simplified them a little. I took the third sentence out of the first post that wasn't just a throwaway reprint of some joke or something. Which took some scrolling for some of you... It takes a long time to collect them all but it was fun and I was needing to catch up on my reading anyway. So here's my try at Overheard around the Chatham Artillery Punch Bowl. As instructed, it starts with a quote from our dearly departed Acidman.

Acidman: They will come again, but I am ready.

Key: Yeah, like that's going to happen.

T1G: Before I could check into it, I got a call from a cousin, letting me know about it, too.

Richard: You See! Half of them little guys are smoking and the other half looks sad because they AREN'T...

Marcus: Most you see are really ugly...and stupid...usually done on a dare, or drug/alcohol induced.

Vman: And my crappy cellphone doesn't do it justice.

Yabu: I got my woman out of bed to have a look-see.

SWG: .... 'tis the simple pleasures that drive me, folks..... and the simpler the better.....

Maeve: Yep. simple pleasures in life.

Rube: Me, I'm what you might call a Silmarillion guy.

Elisson: (Who comes up with these kooky star names, anyway?)

Ms Sandy: I can not even believe what I have to do today.

Zonker: It's amazing that we get anything done these days, isn't it?

GOC: I am so pissed at him.

Erica: Hey... Denny may be grouchy, but he is very frichen civilized.

GuyK: I yell all time and nobody listens!

Kees: And take that smirk off your face, pronto.

Catfish: I think we all had a great time.

Redneck: Until next time...

Parkway Jim: The tour is concluded. The bus will depart in fifteen minutes.

And thus ends another successful blogmeet of the Blown-Eyed Blodgers.

[Graphic shamelessly stolen from photoshopper extraordinaire, Elisson]