The Fantastic Adventures of Allen Ruskin in the 25th Century

"Egads, what the Devil are you?" asked Ruskin, his devilish desire device deflating down drastically.

"Whatever do you mean?" asked Princess BigLots. Alcoa and Trout looked equally nonplussed, all three with their space pants down around their ankles.

"They're not human!" squeaked Pip.

"Of course we're not human," said Trout. "Humans died out long ago."

Pip squeaked "But you're ...."

"Yes?" asked Princess BigLots.

"But you're ...."

"Yes?" asked Alcoa.

"But you're ..."

"Oh dammit, Pip. Anyone can see they're castrati. Come on, give us an aria," said Ruskin, looking around for pants with which to cover his seriously shrunken shock stick.

"We're not castrati," Trout said saidedly.

Ruskin picked a rag off the floor and started wrapping it around his legs like a diaper. "Then what the hell are you? And are there no pants in the future? Honestly, if I knew the future was going to be like this, I would haven't even have bothered."

"But you're ..."

"Blast your eyes, Pip. You say 'but' one more time ..." threatened Ruskin threateningly.

"But ..."

"O.K., that's it!" shouted Ruskin, leaping at his young charge like a jungle jaguar juiced on java.

"But they have no butts!" said Pip, fleeing.

"They also lack other things, which make them completely useless to me. Do you still have sheep or cattle or something in the future? I'd take house cat, if you have one," said Ruskin with annoyance. He took a swing at Pip. "Can you pull other people out of the box?"

"We're robots," said Princess BigLots, the space where her nether regions should have been nethering reflecting back Ruskin's disgusted visage. He had often dreamed of seeing his own face staring out at him from a woman's unmentionables, but not like this.

"Great! Just great! Why did you even bother then? What use am I?"

Princess BigLots blushed, "I, I, I wanted ..."

"Dammit! You're worse than Pip there, and even he can spit it out on occassion!"

"I, I ..."


"I wanted to learn about 'sex.'"

Ruskin stammered, "Well, that completely strains credulity. You'd have more luck learning how to fly!"

"We can fly," said Alcoa, rising a foot off the floor.

"You are no relation of mine!" screamed Ruskin. "And, my lady, if I can even call such a devilish creature like you a lady, considering you are no different than the other two standing next to you, why would you want to learn about sex?"

"Actually, Princess BigLots stumbling across your box was my doing," said Trout cautiously.


"We've cloned humans ... all the important ones. The first black United States president. The first woman United States president. The first highly intelligent beaver United States president," explained Trout in explanation.

"'Highly intelligent beaver,' I like the sound of that," said Pip.

"You, put a garter in it!" yelled Ruskin. "So? What do you need me for?"

"I want your pillar to be the foundation of the new world," said Trout.

"Come on, just say it," spit Ruskin.

"I want your moans to be the clarion call of the future!"

"Come on, be plain."

"I want your genetic code to be the spiral ladder to the heavens!"

"Out with it!"

"I want you to put your third leg in whatever the applicable orifice is and make us more humans."

"What! No more newspeak from you!"

"I want you to have sex with anyone you can get your hands on."

"What? Don't toy with me!"

Trout made several hand gestures.

"Oh, that. Well, of course! Anything I can do to help futurity!"

"With the emphasis on 'do!'" laughed Pip, happily.

"Indeed. Come, to the cloning room!" ordered Trout.

"Where we will certainly come!" giggled Pip.

"Indeed," answered Trout.

"The deed! Yes!" guffawed Pip.

"O.K., let's get moving."

"We'll be doing some moving!"

"Are you going to stop?"

"I won't stop til I get enough!"

"Please, let me take you."

"Let me take you!"

"Will you shut up and come on?"

"I'll up come on you!"

"O.K. I've had it."

"Have you had it?"

There was a crack and a fizzle of ozone. Pip lay flat on his back, a burning mark the size of a halfpenny smoking in the middle of his forehead. Trout pocketed his laser gun.

"Well, I hope that didn't hurt too much," said Trout.

"Do ... you ... like ... the ... hurt?" croaked Pip, before Trout blasted him several more times.

"Honestly, he'd be a good boy toy if there was someone around to shoot him in the head every day of his life," said Ruskin, shaking his head.

What's next for our intrepid infidels? Stay tuned.


The Final Days

I was at the Hamburg Inn this morning, and I noticed two signs: (1) CNN's American Morning will be broadcasting there on Wednesday from 5-8am and (2) Mitt Romney would be stopping there this very afternoon. So I returned this afternoon to see what sort of turnout the Mittster would get. You can see that here.

I definitely could have met him if I had wanted, but I and several other Democrats respectfully stood off to the side and let the diehards shake his hand. But I was close enough to watch his interactions, and let me tell you a couple of things: (1) his wife wears heavy, heavy makeup, and (2) he seems totally fake and unable to connect with the common man. Obviously, I am not inclined to think highly of him, so take that for what it's worth.

I'm hoping to make it to events for Clinton, Obama, Biden, and Dodd later this week. Will provide photographic evidence if I execute on this plan.


Season's Greetings 2007

Well, they nearly didn't make it, but The Mad Little Elves have finally released their 2007 single, coming in just under the wire on Christmas Eve Eve. Without further ado, their latest hit:

White Christmas

Relive last year, when they danced with the Sugar Plum Fairy. And Santa Baby, perhaps the essential track from 2005's album, featuring Traca de Broon on kazoo.

Happy Holidays from G & TdB!


IC applies for UNESCO "City of Literature" designation

The Press-Citizen has the scoop. If successful, the IC would be only the second city in the world with such an appellation. Smart thinking, IWP. Note that it was Hugh Ferrer's brilliant idea -- well played, Hugh!

Press-Citizen endorses Obama and Huckabee

The Iowa City paper's editorial board thinks Obama and Huckabee are the two best candidates -- Huckabee seemingly because he was one of only two Repubs to visit the paper's offices. Given that Iowa City is overwhelmingly Democratic, and that Huckabee is, though affable, manifestly a soft-headed boob who is unqualified to lead the free world, you have to wonder if the Huckabee endorsement is meant to encourage the best possible outcome for the primaries.

In any case, this would be like backing both _________ and _________ for a writing prize. (Fill in the blanks.)


Anyone going to MLA next week?

Because it's going to be really cold and really boring, and I'd rather not drink alone. Alternatively, any Goats from Iowa past residing in Chicago, please feel free to give me a ring or electronic missive.

While we're at it, anyone going to AWP in New York?

Carry on with yuletide cheer, etc.


From Your Good Friends At EarthGoat Legal -- Where Happiness is But a Lawsuit Away

Holiday Party Release Form

"By signing this form, I understand that I have been invited to attend a Holiday Party by the Host. By choosing to attend this event, I recognize that I'm doing so at my own peril, and that the premises may contain many hazards both known and unknown to the Host of the Holiday Party, including, but not limited to: icy sidewalk, icy steps, peanuts, Burl Ives recordings, "John Denver's Christmas with the Muppets," ginger bread, dog hair, Host hair, children of the Host, relatives of the Host, friends of the Host, pets of the Host, wife or husband of the Host, open flames, pointy Holiday tree branches, pointy Holiday tree ornaments, insufficiently stirred egg nog, electric wires, bright lights, flashing lights, ugly lights, jingle bells, fake snow, glitter, fruit cake, and/or pine needles.

By attending, I agree to indemnify and hold harmless the Host from any liability, including but not limited to, that caused by the drinking or serving of alcohol, the possibility of the Host getting drunk and telling everyone what he or she "really" thinks about them, inappropriate dance moves, my own dance moves that may cause injury to myself, unfunny jokes, funny jokes, unflattering Holiday sweaters, disappointing gifts, or "regifting." I recognize that by hosting the Holiday Party, the Host is in no way expressing or endorsing any religion or point of view, including, but not limited to, the existence of Santa, the ability of Elves (herinafter referred to as Vertically Challenged Magical People) to build a Playstation 3, or the consumerism of the Holiday. The Host recognizes that "Santa" is an anagram for "Satan," but assumes no liability for this fact, despite Santa's recorded interest in red clothes and chimney soot. I also recognize that the Host has provided healthy snacks (including, but not limited to, carrot sticks, celery sticks, and cucumbers), and despite the proximity of said healthy snacks to the spinach dip, I indemnify and hold harmless Host for any weight I may gain during the Holiday.

While Holiday Party may or may not include a Yankee Gift Swap (where Party Guests exchange gifts, see attached Rules and Liability of the Yankee Gift Swap), I agree that this term is non-derogatory, holds no allusion or reference to this country's Civil War of 1860-1865, and that "The Yankees" is a registered trademark of the New York Yankees Major League Baseball Team, Inc. If I, at any time, or under any circumstances, find myself under any mistletoe, I agree to indemnify and hold harmless Host for any smooching dangers including, but not limited to, bad breath, chapped lips, too much lip balm, spinach dip lip blobs, any style propogated by the French, or peanuts. Finally, I agree to indemnify and
hold harmless Host for any fun or non-fun I may have."

N.B. Article from law.com:

Hosting a party at home involves more than planning a menu. A survey released today reveals that parties in homes and offices may result in trips to the courtroom for some.

Commissioned by LexisNexis Martindale-Hubbell's lawyers.com and conducted by Harris Interactive(r), the survey assessed U.S. adults'
vulnerability to common legal pitfalls during the holiday season.

Nearly one in four (24%) adults do not know that a party host who serves alcohol to a clearly drunk guest may be legally responsible if that person goes on to hurt or kill someone in a car accident. Yet one in five (20%) adults will host or co-host a holiday party this year at which alcohol will be served.

"Most states have 'social host' laws, which hold party hosts liable in certain situations if their guests who drink cause serious car crashes,"
said Alan Kopit, legal editor of lawyers.com.

"Such hosts may unwittingly put themselves in legal hot water by not carefully monitoring their guests' intoxication levels, particularly when they get in their cars. A few precautionary minutes when planning parties can save the time, money and the heartache of the legal ramifications of a guest's crash." Kopit added.

Check Your Coat, But Not Your Professionalism, at This Year's Office Party

Holiday office parties pose additional legal risks, the survey also uncovered. Twenty-nine percent of adults have experienced or observed sexual advances between people who work together at such gatherings, more than at any other work event during the rest of the year, including those that occur after-hours or on weekends or at the office during the work day.

"An office party can be the site of a sexual harassment situation just as much as the office," said Kopit. "Many people view an office holiday party as a fun, carefree gathering of colleagues, during which normal professional expectations are relaxed. In fact, from a legal perspective, just the opposite is true."

According to Kopit, the responsibility to ensure legal safety at holiday parties falls under the purview of business owners. According to the survey, however, many businesses regularly fail to take necessary precautions. Just 16 percent of Americans surveyed say that policy and behavior expectations, including those involving sexual overtures among colleagues, have ever been distributed prior to any holiday office party they attended.

Moreover, only 12 percent have been at a holiday office party at which car keys were collected and returned only to sober drivers. Less than one in three (30 percent) have gone to a holiday office party at which taxi or designated driver service was provided to any employee who needed it.

"There's no reason a business shouldn't celebrate with its employees at the end of the year," said Kopit. "But anyone responsible for such an event should make sure the business, and those attending, are legally safe. Letting everyone attending explicitly know what behavior is prohibited - including that which is flirtatious or sexual - can help remove sexual harassment problems."

"Keeping employees from driving after drinking at the party reduces potential liability of the business, and helps ensure guests stay safe and healthy to enjoy the New Year," Kopit added. "If a business owner is in doubt about the proper procedures to put in place at their office party, he or she should discuss their options with an attorney."

Why donkey burger ends up tasting so bad

I just read a calm, devastating critique of the role and behavior of the Democratic Party, by a blogger named Chlamor. Especially as we are about to pick our leaders once again, I don't want to accept this argument, would like to ignore this blogger's points, but really, it's hard for me to refute. Seeing so much that I suspect and fear put so blatantly, reasonably, succinctly, non-hysterically -- is fairly chilling. The stinging Harlem Globetrotters comparison is particularly wicked.

Yet how can I be of two minds about this? One version of me is grimly convinced Chlamor is correct. Another version is somehow able to simply set that conviction aside when he wants to and follow politics like a normal person. As I've said before, I would caucus for Obama were I still in Iowa. I'm curious what others think about this piece.


Holiday Gift List

What books are y'all ordering for your loved ones this holiday season? In addition to those mentioned in this post, I will be buying Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris, which I thought was quite well done. Anyone who worked in an office during the dot-com era will be particularly impressed, in my opinion. (Side note: wow, they're really pushing Kindle on the Amazon homepage, eh?)


The Continuing Amorous Adventures of Alcoa Ruskin, Headmaster

Princess BigLots Krispy Kreme and Alcoa Ruskin took the whoosh tube down to the Roomba's Closet, where the Miniaturized Library was kept behind a few cans of Tribble-B-Gone. The Roomba looked up at them in evident annoyance, then skittered away down the hall.

"What's gotten into that Roomba?" asked Alcoa.

Princess BigLots smiled a smile that seemed mysteriously mysterious. "Well, I was interested in trying out this 'sex' thing, and he does have a good sucker."

Alcoa blushed, deciding it was much more prudent not to ask what she was refering to. "So, here is the library, and now where is your box?"

"It's here," said Princess BigLots, aiming her Pocket Deminiaturizer.

Suddenly, a grizzled head poked into the closet. "Where's the Roomba?" It was Kilgore Trout, one of Tampax/MillerHighLife/WeightWatchers/Redbull/Stridex University's first students. In 25 years, he had neither graduated nor left the campus.

"What do you want, Trout?" asked Alcoa.

"I just was looking for the Roomba. I was working on my thesis and some Morlocks came up through the sewers again and just made a mess of things. What's with the box?"

"It's something Princess BigLots found."

"It has to do with sex!" exclaimed Princess BigLots. "I wonder if the Roomba will come back?"

"What's sex?" asked Trout, his fishy face fishily fissuring folicles from his forehead.

"We don't know -- that's why we're poking into this box," said Alcoa.

"It has your name on it."

"It is of a long-dead relation, I think."

Princess BigLots opened the lid. "I'm afraid to put my hand in it."

"Stop being so timid -- with boxes, it is sometimes easier to use your finger first and work up to your whole hand," said Trout. "You know, ease into things."

"Great Mobo, it smells like a Karfaluian Krepple Flume in here! There's journals, strange tubes, oils, sketches I can't begin to understand," said Princess BigLots, growing bolder and bolder as if she were a brave explorer diving down into the deepest black hole, the two men at her side gaping open-mouthed at the strange objects inside. "What do you think these plastic tubes are for?"

"They look like Space Worms," said Alcoa, waving a floppy purple one around his head. It had a top like a mushroom and a decidedly veiny appearance.

"I don't think they're food," said Trout, gnawing on the end of one. "But I do taste something -- bitter, oceany maybe. Maybe there from the Great Flood of 2050."

"No, they're older than that," said Alcoa, licking one experimentally. "They do taste weird though."

Princess BigLots took a yellow worm out of the box and wrapped her lips around it, blowing as hard as she could until her eyes bugged out and her cheeks broke into a sweaty sweat. "Well, they don't seem to be musical instruments."

Trout took out his key chain and flipped through the devices hanging from it until he found his electron microsope. He peered at the worms. "There's human DNA on these."

"Really?" asked Princess BigLots, running her tongue across her teeth. "I don't taste any."

Trout fumbled through his keychain again until he found his Little Tykes Clone and Cell Genome Growth Device. "I took this from John Carter, my nephew, who kept reanimating his grandmother through the cells he found on her doilies. I can't tell you how depressing it is when you have to kill your own mother for the 30th time. And she was tired of it, let me tell you. O.K. Stand back. Let's see what we can grow here."

Trout pointed the device. There was a bang. A flash. And then a smell of cordite and electrons. Suddenly, the closet was jammed with two more naked bodies, who appeared strange in every appearance. One was older, on the rotund size, with three legs, one shrunken shorter than the others, and great big bushy hairs growing out of his jowls. The other was a scrawny boy, with the same mishapen leg situation, who looked around with wide, frightened eyes. "Where are we?" he asked in a tremulous voice.

"I don't know, but I like it," said the older man, his middle leg raising up and forcing Princess BigLots against a stack of buckets and Anti-Matter Wipes.

"Are these false legs?" asked Princess BigLots, staring down at the impertinent beast that was jabbing her in the stomach.

"No, they are not. I, madam, am Allen Ruskin, and this young whelp next to me is my valet, Pip. While we are not in need of clothes just yet, I would like to know where we are."

"I think the operative question is 'when,'" said Trout, jumping backward into the closet door as the strange man's leg swung to face him.

"So, I'm to take it this is the future?" asked the man.

"It is."

"Hmm, in my time it was customary for hosts and guests to exchange physical pleasantries upon meeting."

"Like what?" asked Princess BigLots.

"Well," said Ruskin slapping his palms together, "Let me demonstrate. Who wants to go first?"

What trickery and laciviousness can Ruskin get up to in this new innocent era? Find out in our next exciting installment!


NaBloPoMo stats

Number of posts in November: 42
Number of non-Grendel posts: 31
Number of SER posts: 21
Number of comments: 103

Sinterklaas is coming to town

Santa Claus is just one incarnation of a complex, shape-shifting mythical figure whose origins are as hard to pin down as a bowlful of jelly: Odin, St. Nicholas (the Bishop of Myra in present-day Turkey), and a Siberian shaman on mushrooms, to name only three.

Other countries have their own Man in Red. Today is St. Nicholas Eve here in Holland, and tonight millions of children will put out their shoes in hopes that Sinterklaas will leave presents and a poem in them. Sinterklaas was a main ingredient of Santa, brought to U.S. shores by Dutch immigrants. He is such a good guy he rides a white horse. Dresses like a bishop, is the Patron Saint of Amsterdam.

In an eagerly anticipated event broadcast live every year -- my Dutch class tonight was canceled because of this -- Sinterklaas arrives in Amsterdam on a steamboat from Spain. Instead of elves, though, his "helpers" are a colorful group of bracingly un-P.C. characters in blackface, each of whom is called Zwarte Piet (Black Pete).

Zwarte Piet is basically Sinterklaas's Moorish slave who punishes bad kids by thrashing them with a birch scourge, leaving them rocks instead of treats, and even going so far as kidnapping the worst brats and hauling them back to Spain to labor in the workshop.

If you're good, Zwarte Piet is cool with you. He helps Sinterklaas bring the presents. In fact, he seems to be more popular than Sinterklaas. And at the moment he is everywhere and has been for weeks and weeks, despite the fact that he doesn't technically arrive until tonight. You can hardly go outside without being accosted by outlandishly clad white people prancing around in blackface. He is all over the streets, the shops, the malls, television, ads, and so on. Sure he's controversial, and they debate his propriety every year, but as a cultural meme he's way too firmly entrenched. Piet's not going anywhere.

Zwarte Piet, in turn, sadly enough, appears to be connected to a tradition that Saint Nicholas was assisted by a devil, whom the Saint had defeated and made his helper/slave. And if you go a little farther east, Jack Frost starts nipping at your nose with sharper teeth. In particular, the Austrian version of the devil who helps St. Nicholas makes Zwarte Piet look like a Teletubby. I give you ... the ... freaking ... Krampus. The Krampus roams the streets in the dead of night looking for victims to beat with his switch -- something that actually happened to traca de broon's father.

From the Wiki page: "...over 1200 'Krampus' gather from all over Austria wearing goat-hair costumes and carved masks, carrying bundles of sticks used as switches, and swinging cowbells to warn of their approach. They are typically young men in their teens and early twenties and are generally intoxicated. They roam the streets of this typically quiet town and hit people with their switches. It is not considered wise for young women to go out on this night, as they are popular targets."

Happy holidays!

Longish interview with/article on Philip Pullman

about his books, and now the movie, is here. A taste: "It's a foolish thing for the teller of a story to answer critics. If you're putting forward an argument, you can argue back and demonstrate why your argument is better than theirs. But if someone doesn't like a story you've written, what are you going to say? ‘Well, you should'?"


We can dream, can't we?

Today, NPR and Iowa Public Radio are co-hosting a debate in Des Moines among the Democratic candidates (2-4pm EST today!). T-bone was wondering why Ben Kieffer doesn't get to ask any questions, which then led her to wonder why J. Englander doesn't get to ask any questions.

How amazing would that be? I think we'd really get to see what the candidates were made of if they were forced to answer Englander-esque questions:

- You talked about corruption as an issue, was that autobiographical, so?
- You often mention the war on the campaign trail, was your father in the war, did you kill anyone, you must have killed someone, so?
- Healthcare factors into the economy and consumer confidence and healthiness, do you want to address that?

Add your own!


I love a good management-consulting joke

As you are probably aware, Mike Huckabee is in a statistical dead heat with Mitt Romney in Iowa. Romney had long been pumping money into Iowa and NH to ensure decisive victories that would, in turn, presumably create momentum to win the GOP nomination. And for a long time, Romney had a huge lead in Iowa, but that has recently been erased because of the sudden rise of Huckabee.

So, anyway, that's the background that makes the following pretty awesome. From the NYTimes's political blog:

A reporter asked Mr. Romney a pointed question about what he would say
as a management consultant if one enterprise “spent about $7 million and one
spent about $300,000 and they got the exact same results in market share.”
He was alluding to the approximate amounts Mr. Romney and Mr. Huckabee
have spent respectively in the state so far.

Mr. Romney bristled and said: “Sorry, I don’t have a particular comment on that.”

(Edited to add: I don't know why that block quote is showing up with such weird line breaks - it doesn't look that way on the preview. Blogger! Fist in the air!)


Does one yell out, "NaBloPoMo!" the same way one yells out, "Bingo!"?

We did it! Here we are at the glorious end of NaBloPoMo, and we can look back upon our blog postings with pride, by which I mean embarrassment. Okay, I speak only for myself.

For this post, I propose we make the following predictions:

- Republican winner of Iowa caucuses
- Democratic winner of Iowa caucuses
- Ultimate Republican nominee
- Ultimate Democratic nominee
- Bonus: predict vice-presidential candidates as well

I'll kick it off in the comments....


The (Apparently Accentless) Texan in Me Wants to Convene an Angry Mob

A Hoax Turned Fatal Draws Anger but No Charges

DARDENNE PRAIRIE, Mo., Nov. 21 — Megan Meier died believing that somewhere in this world lived a boy named Josh Evans who hated her. He was 16, owned a pet snake, and she thought he was the cutest boyfriend she ever had.

Josh contacted Megan through her page on MySpace.com, the social networking Web site, said Megan’s mother, Tina Meier. They flirted for weeks, but only online — Josh said his family had no phone. On Oct. 15, 2006, Josh suddenly turned mean. He called Megan names, and later they traded insults for an hour.

The next day, in his final message, said Megan’s father, Ron Meier, Josh wrote, “The world would be a better place without you.” Sobbing, Megan ran into her bedroom closet. Her mother found her there, hanging from a belt.

She was 13.

Six weeks after Megan’s death, her parents learned that Josh Evans never existed. He was an online character created by Lori Drew, then 47, who lived four houses down the street in this rapidly growing community 35 miles northwest of St. Louis.

That an adult would plot such a cruel hoax against a 13-year-old girl has drawn outraged phone calls, e-mail messages and blog posts from around the world. Many people expressed anger because St. Charles County officials did not charge Ms. Drew with a crime.
But a St. Charles County Sheriff’s Department spokesman, Lt. Craig McGuire, said that what Ms. Drew did “might’ve been rude, it might’ve been immature, but it wasn’t illegal.”
In response to the events, the local Board of Aldermen on Wednesday unanimously passed a measure making Internet harassment a misdemeanor punishable by up to a $500 fine and 90 days in jail.

“Give me a break; that’s nothing,” Mayor Pam Fogarty said of the penalties. “But it’s the most we could do. People are saying to me, ‘Let’s go burn down their house.’”

St. Charles County’s prosecuting attorney, Jack Banas, said he was reviewing the case to determine whether anyone could be charged with a crime. State Representative Doug Funderburk, whose district includes Dardenne Prairie, said he was looking into the feasibility of introducing legislation to tighten restrictions against online harassment and fraud.
In seventh grade, Megan Meier had tried desperately to join the popular crowd at Fort Zumwalt West Middle School, only to be teased about her weight, her mother said. At the beginning of eighth grade last year, she transferred to Immaculate Conception, a nearby Catholic school. Within three months, Ms. Meier said, her daughter had a new group of friends, lost 20 pounds and joined the volleyball team.

At one time, Lori Drew’s daughter and Megan had been “joined at the hip,” said Megan’s great-aunt Vicki Dunn. But the two drifted apart, and when Megan changed schools she told the other girl that she no longer wanted to be friends, Ms. Meier said.
In a report filed with the Sheriff’s Department, Lori Drew said she created the MySpace profile of “Josh Evans” to win Megan’s trust and learn how Megan felt about her daughter. Reached at home, Lori’s husband, Curt Drew, said only that the family had no comment.

Because Ms. Drew had taken Megan on family vacations, she knew the girl had been prescribed antidepression medication, Ms. Meier said. She also knew that Megan had a MySpace page.
Ms. Drew had told a girl across the street about the hoax, said the girl’s mother, who requested anonymity to protect her daughter, a minor.

“Lori laughed about it,” the mother said, adding that Ms. Drew and Ms. Drew’s daughter “said they were going to mess with Megan.”

After a month of innocent flirtation between Megan and Josh, Ms. Meier said, Megan suddenly received a message from him saying, “I don’t like the way you treat your friends, and I don’t know if I want to be friends with you.”

They argued online. The next day other youngsters who had linked to Josh’s MySpace profile joined the increasingly bitter exchange and began sending profanity-laden messages to Megan, who retreated to her bedroom. No more than 15 minutes had passed, Ms. Meier recalled, when she suddenly felt something was terribly wrong. She rushed to the bedroom and found her daughter’s body hanging in the closet.

As paramedics worked to revive Megan, the neighbor who insisted on anonymity said, Lori Drew called the neighbor’s daughter and told her to “keep her mouth shut” about the MySpace page.

Six weeks later, at a meeting with the Meiers, mediated by grief counselors, the neighbor told them that “Josh” was a hoax. The Drews were not present.

“I just sat there in shock,” Mr. Meier said.

Shortly before Megan’s death, the Meiers had agreed to store a foosball table the Drews had bought as a Christmas surprise for their children. When the Meiers learned about the MySpace hoax, they attacked the table with a sledgehammer and an ax, Ms. Meier said, and threw the pieces onto the Drews’ driveway.

“I felt like such a fool,” Mr. Meier said. “I’m supposed to protect my family, and here I allowed these people to inject themselves into our lives.”

The police learned about the hoax when Ms. Drew filed a complaint about the damage to the foosball table. In the report, she stated that she felt the hoax “contributed to Megan’s suicide, but she did not feel ‘as guilty’ because at the funeral she found out Megan had tried to commit suicide before.”

Megan had mentioned suicide several times, her mother said, but had never attempted it, and no one who knew her, including her doctors, felt she was suicidal.
On the advice of F.B.I. agents who did not want the Drews to learn of their investigation of the hoax, Ms. Meier said, her family said nothing publicly about the case for a year. Today, the Meier and the Drew families continue to live four houses from one another on a winding suburban street.

“There are no words to explain my rage,” Ms. Meier said. “These people were supposed to be our friends.”

Mailer Wins Bad Sex Scene Award

This is from a book about Hitler, and I think this is a niece and uncle pairing. And just look at the name of the club --

The winner of the dreaded Bad Sex Award was announced today at the In & Out Club in London: the late Norman Mailer, The Guardian reported. Mailer's The Castle in the Forest beat out seven other shortlisted titles, all with cringe-worthy sex scenes. "Then she was on him," Mailer wrote on the offending excerpt from The Castle in the Forest. "She did not know if this would resuscitate him or end him, but the same spite, sharp as a needle, that had come to her after Fanni's death was in her again. Fanni had told her once what to do. So Klara turned head to foot, and put her most unmentionable part down on his hard-breathing nose and mouth, and took his old battering ram into her lips. Uncle was now as soft as a coil of excrement."

"It was the excrement that tipped the balance," said Philip Womack, assistant editor of the Literary Review, which judges the annual prize, according to the Guardian. "That, and the line about Alois [the male character] being 'ready at last to grind into her with the Hound, drive it into her piety'. That was pretty awful."The award was launched in 1993 by Auberon Waugh, who was then the editor of the Literary Review, in order to "draw attention to the crude, tasteless, often perfunctory use of redundant passages of sexual description in the modern novel, and to discourage it." This is the first time the award has been given posthumously.

The award's shortlist, the Guardian reported, included Jeanette Winterson's The Stone Gods, Ali Smith's Girl Meets Boy, Gary Shteyngart's Absurdistan, Clare Clark's The Nature of Monsters, David Thewlis' The Late Hector Kipling, Richard Milward's Apples, and Christopher Rush's Will.

Breakfast with Bill

Bill Clinton paid a surprise visit to the Hamburg yesterday morning. Check out the photo gallery. Former Hamburg patrons will recognize Amit, who apparently was Bill's server.

Dutch high school students rampage against extra hours

First of all, since when do high school kids have a union? Since when do 16 year-olds go on strike? The national government is making them stay in school for a certain number of "useless hours" per year -- corralled into boring study halls when there is no teacher available. So the kids went on strike. They texted and IM'd and organized and threw eggs at Parliament, tipped a car and set it on fire, clashed with riot police in several cities. Police dragged a kid into a van, and the other kids rescued him. Some coverage here and here. Video of a police water cannon being used on the children is here. In my day, it never would have occurred to us to go on strike and take to the streets in protest of study hall hours. I, for one, was too busy sleeping in study hall.


Please Don't Issue #1 is now online

Congrats to Pete et. al on a fine-lookin' launch! Two other Goats are involved in this, the inaugural issue of the newest online quarterly lit mag. When you're done reading it, don't forget to check out the "Submissions/Pitches" link.


What American accent do you have?

If you're American, you do indeed have a specific American accent. It's just a question of which one. A short, easy test can determine it, supposedly. (It sure got mine right: a "Midland" accent -- "You have a good voice for TV and radio." That is so true.)




I think one of my New Year's resolutions in 2004 was to improve my vocabulary. Thus, while I had long received word-a-day emails from Wordsmith and Merriam-Webster, I just that year set up a folder in my email account called Words. Every time a word that I thought could be useful in my writing or in insults hurled during revenge fantasies, I moved it into that folder. And then, of course, I forgot about it. I now have 405 words in there, only a few of which have actually been used in my writing. So I don't think we can call this resolution a success.

To try to make some progress (a few years late), I present to you a few randomly selected words from said folder. You literati out there probably know and employ them all already, but perhaps a wandering philistine will come upon this page and be enlightened.

operose (OP-uh-roas) adjective 1. Tedious; diligent. 2. Requiring great effort.

haptic \HAP-tik\ adjective *1 : relating to or based on the sense of touch 2 : characterized by a predilection for the sense of touch

esprit d'escalier (e-SPREE des-kal-i-YE) noun, also esprit de l'escalier Thinking of a witty remark too late; hindsight wit or afterwit. Also such a remark.

callithump \KAL-uh-thump\ noun : a noisy boisterous band or parade

caliginous (kuh-LIJ-uh-nuhs) adjective Dark, gloomy, obscure, misty.

marplot \MAHR-plaht\ noun : one who frustrates or ruins a plan or undertaking by meddling

sortilege (SOR-tl-ij) noun 1. Divination by drawing lots. 2. Sorcery; magic.

velleity (vuh-LEE-i-tee) noun Volition at its faintest.

parrhesia (puh-REEZ-i-uh) noun 1. Boldness of speech. 2. The practice of asking forgiveness before speaking in this manner.

nival (NY-vuhl) adjective Of, growing in, or relating to, snow.

sequacious \sih-KWAY-shus\ adjective : intellectually servile

peneplain (PEE-nuh-playn, pee-nuh-PLAYN) noun An area of nearly flat, featureless land formed by a long period of erosion.

That takes us up to the end of 2005. Since there's still nearly a week of NaBloPoMo, a random assortment of the randomly liked words of 2006 and 2007 may appear in this space soon.


Commerce Collective

Perhaps that's an oxymoron, but maybe it's time for us MFA types to band together while the WGA members and the studios are locked in battle. Yes, we can become writer-entrepreneurs. I know Gilly and Brando and T-Bone are in; who else?

I am full of good ideas. Surely some of you can act, edit, etc. The world is our oyster. Yea, go with me unto the dawn, or morning in America, or something!

Tidbits from the NYT

1. Somehow, this headline just sums up America these days: Retail Desperation on Display in Early Hours.

2. This movie sounds interesting, but what's more interesting is that AO Scott calls the book it's based upon "near-perfect." Have any of you read it? I'm embarrassed to say I'd never heard of it.


In case you're no longer teaching...

...and miss anecdotes about the antics of Iowa undergraduates (most of whom are not like this, of course), here are a couple:

1. One of my husband's students failed to turn in her paper. After a week had passed and he hadn't heard anything from her, he emailed her. In reply, she wrote, "I apologize for my slowfulness."

2. Two of EG contributor MSF's students recently misspelled the word "answer." They both left out the W. For those of you who know where MSF works, this should be particularly unsettling.


A quickie

1. Thanks to everyone for keeping NaBloPoMo alive!
2. No one reads anymore.
3. I just finished Antoine's book. It was excellent! I will be giving it as a Christmas gift, along with PJKM's Trendy But Casual (see buying info on right near top), which is also excellent!

Your library in your hand?

And what do we think of this?


Write What You Know

MEXICO CITY — Forensics experts said Monday that flesh found on a plate, fork and frying pan in the apartment of an aspiring horror novelist was human, and that DNA tests were planned to confirm whether it came from the body of his girlfriend.

Dr. Rodolfo Rojo, chief medical examiner for Mexico City's prosecutor's office, said muscle found on the plate and frying pan in suspect Jose Luis Calva's apartment corresponded to parts missing from the corpse of his 32-year-old girlfriend, Alejandra Galeana.
Police found Galeana's body in a closet in the suspect's apartment last week after her family lead police to the building.

When asked if Calva had eaten the woman, prosecutor Octavio Romulo Salas said: "That is the assumption that exists."

Authorities found pieces of lime beside chunks of flesh in the apartment, leading them to believe that Calva seasoned Galeana's forearm with the fruit after he allegedly strangled, hacked, and then fried up parts of her body, Rojo said.

Two or three days passed between Galeana's death and her grisly discovery — too much time to test Calva's digestive system for traces of her flesh, Salas said.
Police discovered the lower part of a leg presumed to be Galeana's in the refrigerator of the apartment. They also found knives, a box cutter, blood stains and a pair of shoelaces that may have been used to strangle her, prosecutors said.

Their search uncovered an unfinished novel by Calva entitled "Cannibalistic Instincts." On the cover page, a masked image of "Silence of the Lambs" killer Hannibal Lecter had been altered to resemble Calva's face, Salas said.

One witness, whose name was withheld, told prosecutors that Calva was fascinated by animal porn, witchcraft, and the explicit and sadistic novel "120 Days of Sodom."
Calva supported his cocaine and alcohol habits by forcing another girlfriend to sell handmade copies of his novels and poems for about a dollar (euro) a piece on city streets, prosecutors said.

The surviving girlfriend, whose name was also withheld for her protection, told police that Calva was initially charming, winning her trust with poetry. But he soon turned jealous, controlling and obsessive, and once attempted suicide, the woman said.

Prosecutors said Calva may have killed two other women whose dismembered bodies were found crammed in cardboard boxes and suitcases in Mexico City in 2004 and 2007. Like Galeana, both were strangled.
One of those cadavers, found in April, was missing its hands and feet, prosecutors said.

The other body, found in 2004, was that of Calva's former girlfriend, Veronica Martinez.
Calva, arrested last week, is being treated at a local hospital for head injuries he suffered while trying to escape police by swinging down balconies from his upper-floor apartment.
He will likely be charged with homicide counts that carry a maximum sentence of 50 years in prison, Salas said.


Technically a post

I got nothing, but I'm happy. Pyromania on vinyl thanks to Traca, brother arriving tomorrow... if you let enough go, all the real things come back. I don't want your photograph, I don't need your photograph, ALL I'VE GOT IS YOUR PHOTOGRAPH.


Denis Johnson, Robert Hass win National Book Awards

Tree of Smoke won best novel at the National Book Awards. Mr. Johnson couldn't attend the ceremony because he is "on assignment in Iraq." Hopefully, this will give his writing the wide appreciation it so thoroughly deserves.

Robert Hass's Time and Materials won for poetry.

Denis graduated from the IWW in 1974, and both gentlemen have taught there.

Sherman Alexie won for young people's literature with his book The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.



I'm taking an evening Dutch class here in Haarlem. The instructor, Gerard -- tall, skinny, mid-40s, sense of humor, fine enunciating voice, patient and calm -- never gives the feeling that he's just doing his job. If I ever teach English here, I hope to emulate him. With ease he handles all of us, with our different advantages and difficulties, from Poland, Iraq, Spain, Morocco, Romania, South Africa, Guatemala, Venezuela, Turkey, and the U.S. (there's one other American).

Anyway, for his contact info he gave us his URL. The class has been going for months, but it wasn't until last week that I, on a lark, typed it in. Turns out he's a writer who has published three novels and three books of stories and done other writerly stuff. One of his links in particular caught my eye, in which he recommends books "for a foggy fall afternoon." Among them: Cheever's stories, books by Tobias Wolff, David Leavitt, Nabokov, A.M. Holmes, Raymond Carver ... and Ethan Canin (Emperor of the Air, which was pubbed in Dutch as Nachtreizigers (from the story "We Are Night Travelers").

Next class, I approached him after the bell and said, "I checked out your Web site and see you are a writer. I really liked your list of books and was pleased to see Ethan Canin in there."

"Oh!" he gushed, in raptured English. "Eth-uhn Cahn-uhn is my idol! Better than Carver!"

"Do you read those books in English or Dutch?"

"Sometimes English, but my English is not that good. I've read most of those books in Dutch."

"That's funny because ... Eth-an Can-in" -- (I actually hedged on this, falling somewhere between the correct pronunciation and the Dutch one) -- "was my teacher!"

His eyes bulged. "Oh, but this is rare! Whatever happened to him?"

"He's teaching and still writing. He's written a few movies. I think he has a new novel coming out." (He does, aimed for next June.)

"How old is Eth-uhn Cahn-un?" Then he looked a little worried. "Do you say ... Eth-un Cahn-un, or...?"

"EEETH-an CAYN-an. I believe he's 46 or so."

"Oh, good." Nodding soberly. "Then there will be more. I bought that book of stories when it came out here. I think it flopped, but I went around to everyone I knew and said you simply have to read these stories."

I asked if he had read The Palace Thief. No. Or heard of Richard Yates, who would fit right in on his list. He had not. So next class I brought The Palace Thief and Eleven Kinds of Loneliness to loan him.

"I will bring for you next time the Eth-uhn Cahn-uhn stories in Dutch." Here's where I caught the twinkle in his eye. "Perhaps I should make your extra assignment to read them?"

So that should be interesting. The most advanced book in Dutch I've tackled is Pietje Bell in Amerika, by Chris van Abkoude, one in a kind of wry, comical Dutch boy's adventure series (that is actually reminding me of the Chums of Chance in Against the Day). Takes me about half an hour to fully understand every word on a page of Pietje Bell. At that rate, it will take me 89 hours to read Nachtreizigers. Hopefully knowing the stories will help me get better faster at the language! Who woulda thought?

"Next time you see Eth-uhn Cahn-un again," he added as we were leaving, "tell him in Holland he has at least one fan, but he is a great big fan."


NaBloPoMo continues (for now)

Okay, I have to post today, but really I want you guys to keep posting about the caucuses (see below).

Here are a couple of points of interest to me, however:

1. This is an article on the collateral damage caused by the writers' strike. You wouldn't usually associate writers with dry cleaning, but they are indeed linked!

2. I am going to Chicago and NYC this weekend. Although apparently the massive copper pipes that make up the Internets do indeed extend into these metropolises, I may not be able to keep up my rampant, inane posting this weekend, and this means our (my) dreams of NaBloPoMo are imperiled. If some of you smartypantses out there could post Fri., Sat., Sun., and Mon., I would appreciate it. If not, well, so be it. RIP, dreams.


A simple request

If you were still living in Iowa and could caucus on 1/3/08, for whom would you caucus and why? I am soliciting input.


Sometimes, if not all the time, the desperation and craziness inherent in writing really gets to me

And here's some crazy (go to Comment # 32) --

But who will speak for the crackhead hippos?

The Associated Press

GAUHATI, India -- Paris Hilton is being praised by conservationists for highlighting the problem of binge-drinking elephants in northeastern India.

Activists said a celebrity endorsement such as Hilton's was sure to raise awareness of the plight of the pachyderms that get drunk on farmers' homemade rice beer and then go on a rampage.

"The elephants get drunk all the time. It is becoming really dangerous. We need to stop making alcohol available to them," the 26-year-old socialite said in a report posted on World Entertainment News Network's Web site. Her comments were picked up by other Web sites and newspapers around the globe.

Last month, six wild elephants that broke into a farm in the state of Meghalaya were electrocuted after drinking the potent brew and then uprooting an electricity pole.

"There would have been more casualties if the villagers hadn't chased them away. And four elephants died in a similar way three years ago. It is just so sad," Hilton was quoted as saying in Tokyo last week. She was in Tokyo to judge a beauty contest.

Her publicist couldn't immediately be reached for comment Tuesday.

Hilton promised to improve her bad-girl image after she completed a jail term in June for violating probation in an alcohol-related reckless driving case.

She announced plans to do charity work in Rwanda, but the trip was postponed until next year.

Sangeeta Goswami, head of animal rights group People for Animals, told The Associated Press: "I am indeed happy Hilton has taken note of recent incidents of wild elephants in northeast India going berserk after drinking homemade rice beer and getting killed."
"As part of her global elephant campaign, Hilton should, in fact, think of visiting this region literally infested with elephants," Goswami said.

Another conservationist said elephant alcohol abuse was just a symptom of the real problem.


Writers' strike

Here's an interesting (and, in my opinion, mostly spot-on) analysis of the situation that has led to the writers' strike.


The wired world

I saw this article in today's Sunday Styles. While this guy is full of shit about a four-hour workweek, I was heartened to see (at last) someone point out a very obvious fact: IMing is productivity-destroying. Fine, it's fun, but it very rarely helps you get your work done faster or better, in my opinion. But then again, I'm 35, so maybe this is just one of those "In my day..." diatribes.


Norman Mailer has died

Obituary here. Kakutani thoughts here.

A choice quote from the obit: "Mr. Mailer belonged to the old literary school that regarded novel writing as a heroic enterprise undertaken by heroic characters with egos to match." I'd like to see a renaissance of the first part of that sentence (novel writing seen as heroic enterprise), but I think the idea of writers as heroic, egostical characters has probably caused more problems than progress by emphasizing this over the enterprise itself. It seems to me that, for instance, certain writers succeeded in spite of the fact that they were drunks and/or assholes, not because of these traits. But it's seductive for a younger writer to think there's some causality there. Now that I think of it, this notion probably led to all of reality television, too. In fact, it explains all of America today. QED.


Only 21 more days of NaBloPoMo

Let's face it: we're all getting older. Some of us more than others. Like Grendel, for instance. Anyway, today I had one of those horrifying moments when it became clear that not only was I doing something my mother does, but I was doing something my mother does that I have frequently decried as unacceptable and probably indicative of a steep decline into insanity. What I did was to take some of the clutter from our house and put it into my car since we're having visitors this weekend. Now, that sentence looks banal, but the content is, frankly, horrifying. It means that I have crap that I cannot organize, crap that I am also perhaps irrationally unwilling to dispose of, so I am placing it in my car as though my car is a storage facility. And speaking of storage facilities, my mother has several - God only knows what shit is in there. Before you know it, I'll be collecting worthless magazines, and the guest room will be filled ceiling to floor with them, which is not something my mother does but is something one of my friends' mothers does, and all of the mothers' neurotic behaviors really start to blend together after a certain point.

But let me get to my question, which is the following: in what ways have you manifested disturbing behavior reminiscent of your parents? And, as a follow-up, is anything more unsettling than this, other than perhaps anything involving Dick Cheney? Don't leave me hanging, ye goats of the earth.


In my day, all we had is Pop Rocks and Coke

WASHINGTON - Millions of Chinese-made toys have been pulled from shelves in North America and Australia after scientists found they contain a chemical that converts into a powerful “date rape” drug when ingested. Two children in the U.S. and three in Australia were hospitalized after swallowing the beads.

With only seven weeks until Christmas, the recall is yet another blow to the toy industry — already bruised by a slew of recalls last summer.

In the United States, the toy goes by the name Aqua Dots, a highly popular holiday toy distributed by Toronto-based Spin Master Toys. It is called Bindeez in Australia, where it was named toy of the year at an industry function earlier this year.

Moose Enterprises said Bindeez and Aqua Dots are made at the same factory, which is located in Shenzhen in China’s southern Guangdong province. Last week the Chinese government announced an export ban on more than 700 toy factories in the region because of shoddy products.

The company said that the product is distributed in 40 countries but that it was up to the individual countries and distributors to determine whether the product would be pulled. The toy beads are sold in general merchandise stores and over the Internet for use in arts and crafts projects. They can be arranged into designs and fused when sprayed with water. Scientists say a chemical coating on the beads, when ingested, metabolizes into the so-called date rape drug gamma hydroxy butyrate. When eaten, the compound — made from common and easily available ingredients — can induce unconsciousness, seizures, drowsiness, coma and death.

Naren Gunja from Australia’s Poisons Information Center said the drug’s effect on children was “quite serious ... and potentially life-threatening.”

The recall was announced by the Consumer Product Safety Commission on Wednesday several hours after published reports about the recall in Australia.

The two U.S. children who swallowed Aqua Dot beads went into nonresponsive comas, commission spokesman Scott Wolfson said Wednesday. A 20-month-old has recovered completely while the other child, whose age was not known, has been released from a hospital after five days and is recovering, he said.

“To prevent any other child from being hurt, we are calling upon parents to take the product away immediately,” Wolfson said.

In Australia, the toys were ordered off store shelves on Tuesday when officials learned that a 2-year-old boy and a 10-year-old girl were hospitalized after swallowing the beads. A 19-month-old toddler also was being treated.

The news jolted the toy industry because Aqua Dots has been one of the few bright stars of the toy selling season, which, along with overall retailing, has gotten off to a sluggish start. The item, which had been heavily advertised, had appeared on many toy experts’ list of must-have holiday toys, and toy sellers are now in the midst of canceling advertising and scrambling to figure out how to replace it.

Chris Byrne, a New York-based toy consultant, noted that the incidents could have been isolated, and Spin Master may be erring on the side of caution.
“This is something that they could not have foreseen. This is an extremely hot toy. ... It’s a little scary,” Byrne said.

In a statement, Toys “R” Us Inc., said that it issued on Tuesday a “stop sale” on the entire Spin Master Aqua Dots product line in its North American stores and on its Web site after it learned of the news. “We understand that Spin Master and U.S. regulatory authorities are investigating this product and we have asked Spin Master to fully explain what it believes happened,” said the toy seller in a statement.


The local news

Yesterday, there was a local election here in the IC. There was record turnout, not because of the hotly contested city council race, but rather because there was an ordinance on the ballot that would have required all bar patrons to be 21. (You may recall that 19-year-olds can get into bars here but are not supposed to drink, which, in turn, means a steady stream of revenue for the city since there are about 10,000 arrests for possession of alcohol under the legal age in the police blotter every day.) Anyway, students registered and voted in large numbers, and the ordinance failed.

Now, what I'm wondering is whether this surge in registration will translate into high student turnout at the caucuses. I've noticed a curious thing among my students, which is that they'll be all into Barack Obama or Ron Paul or whomever, but when I ask if they're planning to caucus, they say no. Young people, being a Facebook or MySpace friend of a candidate doesn't mean that they'll win! You have to show up!


So, I was doing a little research for the next installment of Alcoa Ruskin ...

How to Build Your OwnPersonal Programmable Sex Android or RobotWarning: Some sexual content. Not suitable for minors.

This android is controlled from your computer using USB connection (see USB Central for USB developer resources) or you can use the very simple (although nearly obsolete) parallel port interface. Motors and other parts can be purchased at specialty stores or over the Internet. For everything here (excluding the doll) should cost you under $100 (for the parallel port model).

Vibrating motors are used to provide stimulation since this simplifies things a lot. Vibrators are small to fit easily inside your doll and just need a pair of wires for control. Vibration is a reasonable substitute to mimic the pressure created by the muscles and by the pressure of vasocongestion. At high frequencies vibration is felt as a continuous pressure. See Biomechanics and Functional Anatomy of Human Female Genitalia and Contemporary views on female pelvic anatomy for more info about the muscles of the female genital tract and how they work. This particular android does not move, movement requires much more in terms of power output (bigger motors), gears and other mechanics. If you would like movement, build this first, then experiment with movement after you get used to working with the electronics and the programming.

For help in soldering your circuit see the ApogeeKits FREE Illustrated Guide to Electronics Soldering. Well written guide to electronics soldering. Lubricating fluid is pumped into the cervix of the doll with a micro fluid pump (the one illustrated at this link is being developed to cool computer chips). To control the amount of fluid delivered use a return line to the lubricating fluid storage tank and a valve on the line going to the doll. This prevents your pump from flooding the doll or from the motor squealing if you obstruct its flow. Lubricating fluid is a 0.9% saline solution with glycerine added (900mg of sodium chloride per 90ml of distilled water and 10ml of glycerine). Warm to body heat; use an insulated container to retain the heat. See the photos of the parts to understand how everything works. You'll need four 12 volt controllers with opto-isolators. The tiny pager vibrator motors are rated at 3.0 volts and around 100mA current draw so you can operate two of them in series (to drop the voltage to each down to around 2.5 volts) from one output of the ULN2803. When operating motors from the 5 volt supply of the interface connect the ULN2803 Pin 10 to the +5 volt power supply to connect the internal clamping diodes of the ULN2803. Pager motors generally sell for $2.00 each as do the 5 volt mini-fan and the medium power 12 volt motors. The pump was $10.00 (a windshield washer pump from a Japanese car). To find out more about pager vibrators go here. Place a 100pF ceramic capacitor across the terminals of each motor to help cut down on the noise generated by the motor brushes. The 8 outputs control the following:

3 volt vibrator motor (2) right and left labia majora mimic labial vasocongestion/erection (Note: these low voltage motors are wired in series and can be operated directly from the ULN2803 output)
3 volt vibrator motor (2) mimic vaginal plexus vasocongestion (as for vibrator motors above)
3 volt vibrator motor (2) mimic superficial muscles encicling the vaginal opening (as for vibrator motors above)
5 volt mini-fan, scent (mimic perfume vapour from warm skin) (run directly from ULN2803 output)
12 volt motor mimic levator ani/pubococcygeus muscles (requires opto-isolator/power transistor)
12 volt pump, vaginal lubrication (requires opto-isolator/power transistor)
12 volt motor mimic anal sphincter muscle (requires opto-isolator/power transistor)
12 volt motor mimic rectal musculature (requires opto-isolator/power transistor)

Each of these locations will be determined by the size and build of your doll. The descriptions above refer to anatomical locations; see the "Biomechanics and Functional Anatomy of Human Female Genitalia" (see link for this free publication above) for where these locations are.
Each input is a microswitch usually using a piece of flexible plastic tubing. When triggered, it connects the normally open (NO) lead to ground or common (COM) lead of the switch(see the interface booklet for more information). The microswitches are located at:

mons veneris
labia majora (2 switches, one for each lip, wired in parallel)
vaginal entrance
2cm inside vagina
deep vagina

As you can see the doll can sense what is going on. These switches cost between $0.75 and $1.00 each so the entire nervous system will be under $10. Place a 100pF ceramic capacitor across each switch's contacts to help cut down on any high-frequency noise generated by the switch or picked up by the wires running back to the interface.

All in all, about $30 for the motors, $20 for the motor controllers, $10 for the micro-switches, $20 for the parallel port interface (more for the USB interface) and $15 for a 12 volt power supply or about $95 in total. I haven't included the cost of the doll or any stuff you'll need to attach the motors etc. since this will vary by the motor type, the doll and your own skill level. In most cases the small vibrator motors can be placed in aluminum tubes, secured with epoxy cement and the ends of the tube sealed with small plastic caps or tape. Dip these in latex or liquid PVC and attach where needed. Suspend internally with springs to provide a resting tension). For the fan motor, mount it over a hole in a small project box. Inside the box, a small piece of sponge with some perfume on it supplies the scent. Make one-way valves from thin pieces of acetate plastic (used for page protectors) so when the fan is not running the openings in the box are closed. When the fan is turned on, it sucks air through the holes, over the sponge and distributes the scent.

Programming. Use any language you're comfortable with, see the examples in the parallel port booklet for how to address each input/output. You can address the parallel port using the Java language Java Communications API. For more info see http://java.sun.com/ Free programming tools for sex androids and robots are available at the Maria Script website. The Maria Scripting Language is a language specifically designed for describing sexual behaviors.

The basic controllers are shown above. Starting at the bottom and moving counter clockwise are the parallel port board which has its own 5 volt power supply built in and a ULN2803 transistor array. The ULN2803 can handle power up to 500mA per output. At the top of the photo is an AC (alternating current) controller for 117 volt AC. It uses an optical isolator to isolate the high voltage from the interface and a triac with a heat sink to control the power. It is controlled from the ULN2803 on the parallel port board. At the right side of the photo is a dual 12 volt controller with its own regulated power supply and two power transistors. Schematics for the opto-isolator circuits are here on the parallel port page and should be fairly straightforward. I've used a 4N38A opto-isolator with 2N6044 power transistors for the DC controller and an MOC3011 opto-isolator with a a BT137 triac for the AC controller. You can use other opto-isolator combinations depending upon what your suppliers have available (the control signal comes from the ULN2803 on the parallel port board). As you can see, all the boards are simple to build. To control a beefy 12 volt motor should cost you $5.00 or LESS in parts (resistor, opto-isolator, power transistor, diode)

Above is a schematic for a simple 12 volt positive regulator which takes DC or AC input from 15 to 24 volts and outputs 12 volts DC. Heat sink the 7812 regulator for maximum output. Depending upon the size of the motors you may want to construct a separate regulator for each motor and run all regulators from a common unregulated supply. You can also use the same schematic with a 5 volt regulator (LM7805)

The photo above shows the three types of motors used. On the upper left side, the large black motor is actually a 12 volt pump from the windshield washer of a car. Used for lubrication. At the bottom is a 6 to 12 volt motor outfitted with a weight made from a brass bushing. This motor is used to replicate the actions of large muscles (levator ani/pubococcygeus and the anal sphincter and rectum). The tiny motor to the left of the last motor is a pager vibrator. This motor is shown in more detail in the next photo.

The pager vibrator motor (used to mimic vasocongestion and the muscular lining of the vaginal walls) and the microswitch (used for the android's "nerves) are shown in the photo above next to an ordinary pencil for scale. The vibrator motor comes with the weight attached. The microswitch has normally open and closed contacts; the red button is the actual switch part. It doesn't take much pressure to trip this switch.

Shown above is a tiny 5 volt fan that can be used to waft perfumes or other scents into the air.

Available at some computer parts stores

Second me

After editing a book about it, I couldn't resist trying it out. Of course I, Xochi Weatherwax, chose the fox head.

That's me sitting among some ruins on a beautiful island.

Found a place to do some meditation.

And some hocus-pocus.

I decided to try being a zebra. That's some guardian robot checking me out, somewhere.

Here's what it looks like when I fly as a zebra.

Meeting traca for the first time in SL. Took her about half an hour to get set up.

It's free to join SL, but you are homeless. To have your own place costs a little bit. Haven't spent money yet, but I'm thinking of buying a little plot. Maybe an Earth Goat Island, with a virtual Fox Head, where we could hang out anytime, would always be a place to go? Would anyone else agree to try out this wacky thing if I did? It wouldn't cost you anything.


Opportunity strikes

So, the TV and movie writers are officially on strike. Despite the disruption that this will cause my evening routine, I think it represents an opportunity for our very own Brando. I propose that he film a daily news clip or two and post it on YouTube. A frenzy of adulation will ensue, and he'll be the next Jon Stewart. And then we can ride his coattails into "Stars: They're Just Like Us" (where Brando will be photographed getting a butter burger at Culver's, and maybe we'll be partially visible in the background). Who agrees with me? Other than, um, EVERYONE?


College towns

I'm keeping our dreams of successfully completing NaBloPoMo alive. In today's New York Times, there was some good news for those of us who remain in the hinterlands: college towns have emerged from the subprime mortgate mess relatively unscathed. Iowa City is numero dos on the list of towns that find themselves in good shape, mortgage-wise.

I'll try to come up with something better for tomorrow. But perhaps YOU have something you can contribute? Signs point to yes.


Vampiro, Jr.

A Mini-Me emerged into the world for Vampiro and his lovely wife Halloween morning. A 7.5-pounder, the boy is fetching and is already displaying 'tude by starting out with a "faux hawk" do. Congratulations to Mr. and Mrs. Vampiro!



So our much-richer brethren, the TV and movie writers, are going on strike. I'd say good for them, except that this apparently immediately threatens my personal enjoyment of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report. Also, it will apparently dry up the market for options on books, since there won't be any writers available to adapt them into screenplays.

Still, I think we can safely say that, like the music industry and the publishing industry, the movie/TV industry may be in need of a serious shakeup. Thoughts? Maybe the TV writers will take this opportunity to crank out some novels. I have no opinion as to whether that would be good or bad.

(My favorite part of the above article is that it notes that Starbucks expects to see an uptick in business in the LA area as underoccupied writers look for places to hang out.)

Updated to add: Incidentally, you may not be aware that a certain frequent visiting faculty member with the initials C.O. got a sweet deal writing for Alan Ball's new HBO show. I'm not sure how this affects him - ie, whether all the episodes had been written already or not.


All about me

Well, I've been a bit absent lately, as I was waging an honorable but ill-fated war against Blogger. Fine, I lost: I set up a Google account and am back in business.

So, like, what's up with you guys? Are you aware that today is the kickoff of National Novel Writing Month (aka NaNoWriMo)? A hundred and fifty years ago, when I was still a city-dweller, I participated in this event and cranked out a nonsensical 60,000-word yarn entitled Thinly Veiled. It was published on my office printer and bound in the finest vinyl binder I had on hand. When I was in the midst of writing this, my only completed novel to date, I followed a couple of simple guidelines: (1) when the action lags, add a talking animal, and (2) if you can't tie up all the threads at the end, make everyone die in a blimp accident. Yes, I agree that this sounds more appealing than anything I've written since, though it isn't quite as entertaining as the Amorous Adventures of Alcoa Ruskin.

I'm considering participating again this month, given that I have four (4) incomplete novels just itching to be finished so that we can definitively say that they were a waste of time instead of merely suspecting it. Anyone with me? If not, what about having this blog participate in National Blog Posting Month (aka NaBloPoMo)? That means a post a day for the month of November, which hath only 30 days. We can do it!

In other news, we still live in Iowa. We are continually claiming that we are on the verge of moving to LA, or SF, or Austin. Politicians are swarming the state, and we are looking forward to caucusing. We're undecided and open to lobbying/bribery if you'd like us to caucus for your preferred candidate, Mike Gravel. When we go on walks with our very handsome baby son, we pass many of your old domiciles and think wistfully about the snows of yesteryear. And then we go home and watch TiVo. And then everyone dies in a blimp accident.


My Favorite Case of All Time

54 F.R.D. 282

United States District Court, W. D. Pennsylvania.

Misc. No. 5357.

Dec. 3, 1971.Civil rights action against Satan and his servants who allegedly placed deliberate obstacles in plaintiff's path and caused his downfall, wherein plaintiff prayed for leave to proceed in forma pauperis. The District Court, Weber, J., held that plaintiff would not be granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis who in view of questions of personal jurisdiction over defendant, propriety of class action, and plaintiff's failure to include instructions for directions as to service of process.Prayer denied.


Plaintiff, alleging jurisdiction under 18 U.S.C. § 241, 28 U.S.C. § 1343, and 42 U.S.C. § 1983 prays for leave to file a complaint for violation of his civil rights *283 in forma pauperis. He alleges that Satan has on numerous occasions caused plaintiff misery and unwarranted threats, against the will of plaintiff, that Satan has placed deliberate obstacles in his path and has caused plaintiff's downfall.Plaintiff alleges that by reason of these acts Satan has deprived him of his constitutional rights.We feel that the application to file and proceed in forma pauperis must be denied. Even if plaintiff's complaint reveals a prima facie recital of the infringement of the civil rights of a citizen of the United States, the Court has serious doubts that the complaint reveals a cause of action upon which relief can be granted by the court. We question whether plaintiff may obtain personal jurisdiction over the defendant in this judicial district. The complaint contains no allegation of residence in this district. While the official reports disclose no case where this defendant has appeared as defendant there is an unofficial account of a trial in New Hampshire where this defendant filed an action of mortgage foreclosure as plaintiff. The defendant in that action was represented by the preeminent advocate of that day, and raised the defense that the plaintiff was a foreign prince with no standing to sue in an American Court. This defense was overcome by overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Whether or not this would raise an estoppel in the present case we are unable to determine at this time.If such action were to be allowed we would also face the question of whether it may be maintained as a class action. It appears to meet the requirements of Fed.R. of Civ.P. 23 that the class is so numerous that joinder of all members is impracticable, there are questions of law and fact common to the class, and the claims of the representative party is typical of the claims of the class. We cannot now determine if the representative party will fairly protect the interests of the class.We note that the plaintiff has failed to include with his complaint the required form of instructions for the United States Marshal for directions as to service of process.For the foregoing reasons we must exercise our discretion to refuse the prayer of plaintiff to proceed in forma pauperis.It is ordered that the complaint be given a miscellaneous docket number and leave to proceed in forma pauperis be denied.


Another good idea for a Web application, this site commissions abstracts for articles in recent American magazines and publishes them online. You never have to worry about actually reading that pile of Atlantic Monthlies. But if you like the abstract, there is often a link to the article online. You can even work for them (click on the Writer's Area).


The Amorous Adventures of Alcoa Ruskin, Headmaster of Tampax/MillerHighLife/WeightWatchers/Redbull/ Stridex University

Alcoa Ruskin sat in his Work Bubble, injecting his dinner into his thigh. It was steak and mashed potatos, and the potato-extract was lumpy, as usual.
"Oh, to have lived in a simpler time!" sighed Alcoa, cringing uncomfortably as a lump moved through his artery toward his knee. "I am not made for this 25th Century! I wish I lived a long, long, long, long time ago!" Suddently, he felt the shudder and heard the loud ringing "danger! danger! danger!" that meant Princess BigLots Krispy Kreme, Tampax/MillerHighLife/WeightWatchers/Redbull/Stridex University's only student, had dialed up his Work Bubble. Alcoa rose slowly past Mattress King Viagra, the old, brittle head of the history department. He waved at Mattress King. Mattress King looked up from the pile of books and maps he was sitting on. He looked as if he had been crying hot salty tears that seemed to be the hot salty tears of someone who was very old now and did not feel quite so hot and salty at all and was probably just as lost as Alcoa was but who had never really shared much considering the fact they were always kept locked in their plastic Work Bubbles lest BigLots needed something at an odd hour of the day. BigLots was their only student, the cost of college education now being so high that schools only had one student, divvied among the 12 colleges on Barsoom. Earth had been abandoned since the 23rd Century, when the Prophet Al Gore came back from the dead and threw everyone off the stagnant garbage pile the Earth had become. Even with millions of miles of airlessness between Earth and Barsoom, the universe still smelled like a used diaper.
BigLots sat at her plastic desk, tapping her foot impatiently as Alcoa rose through the floor and came to a shuddering stop in front of her. He piled some of his books into a chair and smiled "Hello, BigLots. What can I do for you?"
"I want to know about sex!" declared BigLots.
"What? What are you talking about?" asked Alcoa. He was genuinely as clueless as a detective who had no clues.
BigLots jabbed her ComputerPen at the air in front of her. An image floated above her head. Two people. A man and a woman. "Are they fighting?" asked Alcoa.
"No! They're having sex! I want to learn what they are doing!" declared BigLots.
"Well, what's it for?" asked Alcoa.
"That's why I'm asking you. You're the headmaster. Old Mattress King couldn't tell me anything." BigLots looked at the writhing image longingly, her cobalt blue eyes like puddles of water poured from a fishbowl that had been knocked over by a tabby cat. "It looks wonderful!" she sighed, wringing her hands in front of her sighingly.
Alcoa watched the flickering image. "Where did you find this?"
"In the library. I was, I was," the fish in her eyes jumped and sparkled as if falling out of the bowl hadn't killed them but made them even stronger and more scaly, if either Alcoa or BigLots knew what a fish was, since they'd all gone extinct a long time ago. "I saw your name on an old box in the Miniaturized Library, and I looked inside with the DeSmallifier."
"Alcoa?" asked Alcoa.
"No. Ruskin. He was the headmaster here too, but a long time ago. And the box, the box," the fish let go of their hooks and swum up to her forehead and then splashed down into her cheeks. "There are so many things in the box. The box is so full of things. Things. Wonderful things in the box!"
"So, you discovered a thing in a box?" asked Alcoa increduously. "You're like this because my long dead relation put his thing in a box?" The ghost people fighting above BigLots head were making him uncomfortable.
"Many things in many boxes. Boxes of all shapes, sizes, and colors! It seems to be all he did, if I understand what he's left behind." her face flushed pink like a new sunset on the third ice moon of Jupiter, all pinkly gauze and flutter. "But I didn't read very far. I was too frightened and embarassed." BigLots turned away from Alcoa in fright and embarassment.
"Well, let me see your box, and I'll see if I can get this all straightened out," declared Alcoa.
"You think you can straighten out your ancestor?"
"I don't see why not. I am a headmaster."
"Oh, Mr. Ruskin! I don't know what to say!"
"Bring me your box, and I will take a poke at it," said Alcoa.
"I should very much enjoy your poking of my box!"
"You and I will poke your box together!" declared Alcoa, his eyes looking into BigLots but not thinking of fish because he didn't know what a fish was. "We will poke it until there is nothing in your box left to poke!"
What awaits these two interstellar innocents as they reach back into the deep dead past of a world long dead? Tune in next week!