Thursday, October 08, 2009

The Shadetree Guarantee

Waaaay back in 1972, I got into dulcimer making thanks to Bill Bland in Tucson.  He was interviewed in the Tucson Daily-Citizen about his musical instrument store and he talked about his dulcimers using what he called "The Shadetree Guarantee:"
This won't rip, run, rag, bag, sag, wheeze, sneeze, fall out at the knees, or smell bad in hot weather.
I thought this was great schtick and committed it to memory. (And thank you, Bill, for that and for many other musical gifts in my life that keep on giving!)

Fast forward about 17 years to one of many computer swap meets, where I was selling carloads of floppy diskettes. I used the Shadetree Guarantee, rattled off at speed, as part of my schtick to drag in customers. One woman liked that and responded with this (also at speed):
Won't rust, bust, gather dust, wrinkle 'round the edges, bend, break, or tarnish; good for coughs, colds, torn assholes, corns, calluses, and bunions, and it's waterproof, too!
This cracked me up and nothing would do but that I had her write hers down. (She got me to write my schtick down for her as well.) And I believe I even was able to sell her diskettes, so it was a perfect deal.


Urgent: Friends of Lawrence Grey, aka the Grey Mouser

Lawrence Grey, known to many as the Grey Mouser, is dying of cancer. Graves let me know this sad news this afternoon on the phone. I talked to Mouser's brother, Doug Taylor, and have some additional information for everyone.

Mouser is in Encino and is dying of a particularly aggressive oral cancer. At this point, his remaining time is in days at most. His brother is there doing what he can to take care of him, help deal with requests for information, and do follow-up after Mouser dies. Doug is also Mouser's executor.

You can email Mouser at He is not able to talk anymore because of the growths in his throat and he is having some trouble breathing, but he is still reading email and Doug is reading things to him, so it should get through. The meds and the cancer are really draining Mouser's strength, though, so chances are very good that you won't get a response. But time is very short, so if there's anything you want to say to him, do it right now!

In the course of dealing with things, Doug has found that Mouser touched any number of people's lives in positive ways, and I think he'd like to be in contact with as many of us as he can. When you email, please include your contact information. You may want to email a favorite picture of Mouser as well. It's my impression that he'd be keen to know a little more about how Mouser affected your life.

Doug says that Mouser is doing okay under the circumstances. He's definitely pissed about this (yup, that's Mouser) but he's not afraid of dying and is ready for the upcoming journey. You can phone Doug at his cell phone 206-291-3033 at any time. Mouser can't talk but Doug can give you news and you can pass short messages to Mouser. (Anything longer than a sentence or two should go to email.) If Doug's not up/awake/available, he won't answer, so leave a message. Doug seems to be a real mensch and I'm sorry that I didn't get to know him before this. When he's got things wrapped up, he'll be heading back to Seattle.

Sad news indeed.

Addendum, October 12th:

This news came in from Linda Rutenberg (Caitlyn) today:

Doug Taylor, Mouser's brother, reports that Mouser passed away Sunday evening at 12:22pm. He was kept comfortable to the last and died in his home surrounded by friends and family. They were able to have time for one more game of Yahtzee and Mouser won.

Mouser wanted to be cremated and wanted an Irish wake rather than a funeral service. Doug is taking care of the rest of Mouser's affairs and will be coordinating a wake in California and in Seattle. I will be helping him in Seattle. Doug will be returning Saturday but will have to make at least one more trip to California. There's a lot of things he needs to do and, fortunately, one of Mouser's friends is helping him get through all the paperwork.  

It's too soon to have details but what I'm going to ask you to do is spread the word, gather any pictures you have and think of any stories you'd like to share at his wake.   Doug and I will be talking to Leon.   It's also not too late to donate money to Mouser's paypal account [use the email address posted above for this].  Doug has power of attorney and has access to Mouser's account.


[Note: if you don't have a PayPal account, you can probably talk to Graves, me, or someone else and we'll figure out some way to get donations to Doug for all of this.]

Another name to remember at Samhain.  Damnit.  


Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Hedtke's Laws -- add'l

(If you haven't already met Hedtke's Laws 1 through 4, check them out here.)

Hedtke's Law #5: Avoid doing business with fundamentalists.
Comment: This isn't about any particular brand of fundamentalists--it's not like I'm saying "You shouldn't do business with fundie Christians, but fundie Shi'ite Muslims are okay." It's about any kind of fundamentalist: Christian, Muslim, Scientologist, whatever. They're non compos mentis by definition and it's bad form to do business with people who are crazy because you can never be sure if they understand the terms of the deal, or if they won't come to a new interpretation of what they're going to do (or more likely not do) because their God told them it was okay. Identifying if people are crazy enough to put them on the Index is not always possible before the fact, so you do what you can. If they are crazy enough, back away slowly and smile.

Hedtke's Law #6: I know it's not perfect, but it's Thursday.
I knew I already had a #6 and this is it. This was developed in response to an employee who kept banging on me about how our manuals could be better. Sadly, my writer had a hard time figuring out that what we were doing was first and foremost a technical writing job. She used to bitch me out about what she’d call my "freelancer’s attitude" and would go on at some length about how the manuals could be better if we worked on them longer. I never disagreed with her--after all, they could be better than they were, particularly if we were given time to do so--but we didn’t have the time and it was my distinct experience that the audience we were dealing with probably wouldn’t notice the difference if we did. (We were still getting a 92% “meets or exceeds customer expectations” rating from independent market surveys, so killing ourselves to make that additional 8% just didn’t seem worth it for the amount of work.)

In response to this harangue about quality, I finally developed Hedtke's Law #6, which said that whatever we might do to make the manual better, our deadlines were the most important thing. If we didn’t ship the manual on time, after all, we’d get beaten up for it. If we didn’t make our deadlines often enough, we’d all lose our jobs and then we could take consolation in being on the moral high ground as we looked for another job. Furthermore, I said, if we weren’t given the resources, the time, or the prior planning necessary to create perfection, then I wasn’t going to beat myself or the team up to solve someone else’s problem. I preferred sleeping and I wanted the team to do as much of that as they could, so I wasn’t planning on ordering everyone to spend extra time on polishing something that wasn’t going to see more than a few hundred copies sold, ever. This was not Great Art, this was just pushing writing out the door for pay.

Hedtke's Law #7: Too much rigor produces rigor mortis.
This one isn't mine, either. It was a comment in the intro to my physics textbook in college, probably about the only thing I remember from it. It was an excellent description for a good approach to teaching.


I'm sure there will be more laws as I recall them, but they don't come to mind until I actually have occasion to use them, when I write them down here so I'll remember them in the future.

For more on Hedtke's Laws, click here.

Quote du jour II

WWJD if he had an affair with the wife of one of the apostles and then bribed the apostle to shut up?
If you know, please tell John Ensign. --Denys Howard


Quote du jour

This one's nicely pointed.
"It's a good thing the Mormons have never faced discrimination or prejudice, because the way they're constantly trying to beat up on everyone else, it's hard to imagine anyone defending them should, some day, they ever find themselves on the receiving end of prejudice." --John Aravosis at AMERICAblog Gay


Tuesday, October 06, 2009

How Nonsense Sharpens the Intellect

This is a fun article with more information about how the brain works. A little nonsense makes you think better.

This does not explain Fox News. There must be a premise of functioning neural pathways as a foundation, I guess: you know, you can't think better if you can't think at all. 


Edward Gorey meets Star Trek

There's not a lot more to say. Check it out.


Monday, October 05, 2009

Carrie Fisher's "Wishful Drinking"

I'm trying to think if I can be in the Bay Area to see this somehow.  It'd be worth a try...


"No, tell me, Mr. Bones, what's a Grecian urn?"


Rewriting the Bible--because God couldn't be expected to get it right the first time!

Conservapedia reports on "The Conservative Bible Project," a translation project to rid the Bible of 'liberal bias' and that would, among other things, 'debunk the pervasive and hurtful myth that Jesus would be a political liberal today.' (I have this image of Jesus as Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck--with Ann Coulter in the role of the whore who's been sav├ęd by them, natch--because you just know that Jesus would be some kind of fat clod who's lying to preserve The Truth.)

The premise is that they're going to start with the King James Version as their baseline (does anyone spot a First Flaw already?) and they're then going to just... translate it into contemporary English. They've eschewed the use of people with educations and backgrounds, as in this quote from the main page:
The committee in charge of updating the bestselling version, the NIV, is dominated by professors and higher-educated participants who can be expected to be liberal and feminist in outlook. As a result, the revision and replacement of the NIV will be influenced more by political correctness and other liberal distortions than by genuine examination of the oldest manuscripts. As a result of these political influences, it becomes desirable to develop a conservative translation that can serve, at a minimum, as a bulwark against the liberal manipulation of meaning in future versions.
There are also comments about the need to remove "socialist" elements from the translation and to "Express Free Market Parables; explaining the numerous economic parables with their full free-market meaning." There's also a goal of avoiding "dumbing down" of the text so that it's at a higher than 7th-grade reading level. Funnier still is that not only have they missed their audience again, but that bullet is followed by a bullet that starts with the classic misuse: "Utilize Powerful Conservative Terms."

It's really kind of fun to see so much ignorance flying a flag, you know? It's a shame that the whole goal is to rewrite the Bible into something that's even easier to use as the baseline for fascism and stupidity. The idea that translating the text might actually require historical context is lost on these yahoos, as is, well, almost anything except their own agenda of being unhappy with anyone having an opinion they don't like.

One wonders if the dicta about killing witches and about wearing coats of two fabrics will be kept. You can just bet that the comments about homosexuality are going to be bannered somehow.

Amazing. I can see this whole website as an argument against ever teaching the peasants to read; it keeps giving them ideas above their station.