October 31, 2003


You can thank me later: The Encyclopedia of Lesbian Movie Scenes.

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Here you go … the history of the Jack O' Lantern.

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When Good Pumpkins Go Bad



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Boo Two

While you were working I flew from Minny to Phillly (boy are my arms tired) and headed into the office. Waiting in my inbox was this from Jimmy the Hand …


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Happy Halloween, fair readers. Today's posting will be all-Hallows style, and nothing else (and if it looks like a straight news post, understand that the news scares the hell out of me, and probably should you).

So we'll start with this: A Pumpkin Proposal


Not a bad way to pop the question, eh? Click the extended entry to read the CNN backstory.

From CNN:

A line of carved pumpkins spells out “Marry Me Rose” on the lawn of Rosemarie DelRoio's home in Scotch Plains, New Jersey, October 21. DelRoio's boyfriend, John Pearce, used the pumpkins to propose to his sweetheart while they were both walking through a nearby cornfield maze. She accepted.
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October 30, 2003


Boise State 50, Brigham Young 12

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I Think I'll Go As Frosty

Over the past 11 years I’ve spent on the East coast I’ve often been asked about the Utah winters. “Not as brutal as some that we get in Philly,” I say, “although they were longer … it always seemed to snow on Halloween.”

Turns out I’m wrong … sometimes it snows the day before, as evidenced by this snap sent today by friend Tony:


It’s cold here in Minny, but not that cold.

Posted by Avocare at 08:27 PM | TrackBack

Hey Lady, Nice Pumpkins

Michele writes:

If any one of you so much as looks at my pumpkins in a way other than admiration, I will pick your eyes out with a spork.

How did she know I was staring? But don't worry, Michele … I've never considered your pumpkins with anything other than admiration.

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You don't need to tell me how spectacular the iPod is … I have mine sitting right here next to the keyboard. But if you need more proof, go here.

Posted by Avocare at 08:10 PM | TrackBack

Get Ready For The Fire Hose

A night in the hotel room with nothing but some work, some email, and blogging to keep me entertained … I know I’ve been delinquent with the posts recently—tonight I make up for lost time. Get ready for a veritable fire hose of blogging goodness. (And yes: Minneapolis is cold already.)

We’ll start with this: Bandai Corp’s Primopuel, the latest craze to seize Japan. But here’s the catch: this small, plush, gnome-like toy is a craze among 30- and 40-something women, not young girls. And they’ve taken the craze disturbingly far, with the little soulless tikes serving as surrogate infants for tens of thousands of Japanese women. Hell, they even throw the things birthday parties. Want to be really frightened? Check out this French Primopuel site.

Another testament to rampant loneliness, I fear. (Nothing new, of course … just ask Thoreau.)

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October 27, 2003

Wedding Follow-Up

Hello from the Old Dominion and Richmond International Airport. As I await my flight I thought I'd post the one photo from the wedding that I feel captures some of the flavor without significant incrimination (of others, of course … me, I'm a saint).

So here it is … Girls Gone Wild, Post-Rehearsal Dinner Style. And if you're wondering about the soundtrak, click the extended entry.

Without Me (Clean Version)

Obie Trice
“Obie Trice, Real Name No Gimmicks…”

Beat Changes

Two trailer park girls go round the outside,
round the outside, round the outside.
Two trailer park girls go round the outside,
round the outside, round the outside.

Female Voice

Guess who's back, back again
Shady's back, tell a friend
Guess who's back, guess who's back,
guess who's back, guess who's back,
guess who's back, guess who's back,
guess who's back…

Verse 1:
I've created a monster, cuz nobody wants to
See Marshall no more they want Shady
I'm chopped liver
Well if you want Shady, then this is what I'll give ya
A little bit of me mixed with some hard liquor
Some vodka that will jumpstart my heart quicker
Then a shock when I get shocked at the hospital
By the Dr. when I'm not cooperating
When I'm rocking the table while he's operating “Hey”
You waited this long to stop debating
Cuz I'm back, I'm on the rag and ovulating
I know you got a job Ms. Cheney
But your husbands heart problems complicating
So the FCC won't let me be
Or let me be me so let me see
They tried to shut me down on MTV
But it feels so empty without me
So come on dip, bum on your lips
jump back, jiggle her hip and wiggle a bit
And get ready cuz this is about to get heavy
I just settled all my lawsuits, “_uck you Debbie!”

Now this looks like a job for me
So everybody just follow me
Cuz we need a little controversy,
Cuz it feels so empty without me

I said this looks like a job for me
So everybody just follow me
Cuz we need a little controversy,
Cuz it feels so empty without me

Verse 2:
Little hellions, kids feeling rebellious
Embarrassed, their parents still listen to Elvis
They start feeling like prison is helpless,
Til someone comes along on a mission and yells “bitch”
A visionary, vision is scary, could start a revolution,
Pollutin' the air waves a rebel
So let me just revel and bask,
In the fact that I got everyone kissing my ass
And it's a disaster such a catastrophe
For you to see so damn much of my ass you ask for me?
Well I'm back (*Batman Noise*) fix your bent antenna
Tune it in and then I'm gonna enter
Into the front of your skin like a splinter
The center of attention back for the winter
I'm interesting, the best thing since wrestling
Infesting in your kids ears and nesting
Testing “Attention Please”
Feel the tension soon as someone mentions me
Here's my 10 cents my 2 cents is free
A nuisance, who sent, you sent for me?

Chorus 2x

Verse 3:
A tisk-it a task-it,
I go tit for tat with anybody who's talking this & that sh_t
Chris Kirkpatrick, you can get your ass kicked
Worse than them little Limp Bizkit bastards,
And Moby, you can get stomped by Obie,
You 36 year old bald headed scared __ me
You don't know me, you're too old
Let go, it's over, nobody listens to techno
Now lets go, just give me the signal
I will be there with a whole list full of new insults
I've been dope, suspenseful with a pencil
Ever since Prince turned himself into a symbol
But sometimes man it just seems,
Everybody only wants to discuss me
So this means I'm disgusting,
But its just me I'm just obscene
Though I'm not the first king of controversy
I am the worst thing since Elvis Presley,
To do Black Music so selfishly
And use it to get myself wealthy (Hey)
There's a concept that works
20 million other white rappers emerge
But no matter how many fish in the sea
It'll be so empty without me

Chorus 2x

Hum dei la la la, la la la la la, la la la la la, la la la la
Hum dei la la la, la la la la la, la la la la la, la la la la


Posted by Avocare at 02:35 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

October 24, 2003

Wings To Go?

Hello from Buffalo, NY. I'm here for a weekend wedding, and hope to enjoy some wings and Bills / Sabers insults along the way (Wife in particular, a Devils fan, believes the Sabres are an enemy best suited to losing every game of the season).

We all know how weddings can be … running the gap between “terribly boring” to “quite unusual” up to “what happened last night?” I expect this wedding to be more of the latter and less of the former. If so, I promise to do my best to post embarrassing content just barely appropriate for public consumption (or, perhaps, not at all appropriate for public consumption … we'll see how the weekend goes).

So there you go … something to look forward to.

In the meantime, enjoy the Buffalo webcam (click the icon below), and note that wherever this day may find you, it's a place likely warmer than Buffalo.

Posted by Avocare at 01:07 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

October 22, 2003

Northwoods Followup

Greetings from the Northwest Airlines World Club at the Minneapolis airport. Following up on the prior post: If you wondered what the Northwoods look like, early on a crisp fall morning as the ice is just starting to form and the mist rises off the lakes … well, they look a bit like this. As usual, click to see a larger size.

Posted by Avocare at 03:23 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

A Week Already?

Hard to believe it’s been nearly a week since my last post. In that time I’ve traveled from Minneapolis to Philadelphia, and after 36 hours home, to the Northwoods of Wisconsin (think Duluth / Superior, but slightly south).

I’ve been sequestered away in a remote lodge working with clients for several days, and between the poor bandwidth (think 21.6 dialup) and the poor cell connectivity (think “Can you hear me now? Shit … Can you hear me now? SHIT …”) I’ve been nearly disconnected.

The blogosphere reaches nearly all places, though … even lands of cool waters, crisp nights, and Bald Eagles (one of which nearly plucked the lodge van off the road while we headed in from the airport, thinking, I believe, that we’d make a fine if crunchy meal). I return to Wife and Dog tomorrow, but I’ll think often of this disarmingly beautiful land … unique in its serenity, and in the cool calm of the harsh conditions that lie just beneath its surface, waiting for the rise of winter. Don’t take my word for it … come here some day and see yourself.

Blog you from The City of Brotherly Love.

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October 15, 2003

Required Reading

Hello from Minneapolis, where the colors are coming into full regalia. Dashing off to a meeting, but wanted to post something that might add to your day … so I picked this, which was first published in the New Yorker in 1999. Should be of great interest to anyone who wonders why some people seem to have all the influence. And if you happen to know Lois Weisberg, say so in the comments.

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October 13, 2003

Link Queen

I love Michele, in part because every once in a while she sends you something like this. Why do I lug a digital camera all over the world? Well, not for shots like those. Nonetheless, you never know when life is going to happen, and sometimes life is a Lesser Grendel, and you need to take a snap, no?

Posted by Avocare at 07:26 PM | TrackBack

A Final Word On Micah Clark

For everyone who read and commented on my post about Micah Clark and my exchange with his mother Renita, I wanted to write a final post to say “thank you.” The links to and compliments about the post were high praise for me, but frankly, the attention and comments were of much greater value to Renita. Indeed, in reply to my message letting her know that some 700 people (and now well over 1,000) had read The Fine Edge and the post about our exchange, she replied:


Thank you, dear friend, for your most recent post. Yesterday, October 6th — the date of your post — was my birthday. I had hoped for some connection with my son that day and felt disappointed when it seemed there was none. But then…your story. It was both a gift and a blessing.

With deepest gratitude,

My distinct and wonderful pleasure, Renita. And to all of you who read and felt Micah’s story, I extend a heartfelt “thank you” as well … you had cause to make a special woman feel some joy on what was surely a difficult day, and for that you each deserve to rest well and contented tonight.

And may it be so.

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Testing; LetterGate

Hello from Detroit. For those who saw the “Test” post that was up yesterday: I was having some difficulty posting over the weekend (which is why there were no new posts for several days), and that post was part of HostingMatters trying to fix the problem, which they did. Once again, they provided wonderful support.

On to the post I've been trying to make since Saturday morning …

Hmmm. I read here a story describing how different newspapers around the country are getting letters from soldiers in the field describing a favorable picture of Iraqi reconstruction.

The only problem is that the letters are largely identical.


Dirty tricks? Or dirty tricks meant to look like dirty tricks? Or just some NCO in the field trying to get recognition for his troops? Read the article and draw your own conclusions (and note that I cross-posted this here).

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October 10, 2003

The Yellow Rose of Emily Dickenson

This morning Wife didn’t believe me when I told her one could sing any Emily Dickenson poem to the tune of “Yellow Rose of Texas.” Given the dark nature of Dickenson’s verse, I find this especially ironic and funny.

Here, try it yourself! First, click this link to hear “Yellow Rose of Texas,” then sing along to this typically chipper Dickenson ditty, Because I could not stop for Death:

Because I could not stop for Death—
He kindly stopped for me—
The Carriage held but just Ourselves—
and Immortality.

We slowly drove—He knew no haste
And I had put away
My labor and my leisure too,
For His Civility—

We passed the School, where Children strove
At Recess—in the Ring—
We passed the Fields of Gazing Grain—
We passed the Setting Sun—

Or rather—He passed Us—
The Dews drew quivering and chill—
For only Gossamer, my Gown—
My Tippet—only Tulle—

We paused before a House that seemed
A Swelling of the Ground—
The Roof was scarcely visible—
The Cornice—in the Ground—

Since then—'Tis Centuries—and yet
Feels shorter than the Day
I first surmised the Horses Heads
Were toward Eternity—

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October 08, 2003

RPS Society

Join the World RPS Society, and never be bored again.

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Smashing Earth

Hello from Minneapolis, where it is … oddly … quite warm. We expect a beautiful fall day here, in fact … check out the Minneapolis webcam (click the camera icon below this post) and see for yourself (it’s dark at the moment, of course … I mean, it’s 6:30 AM here, right?).

One of the bloggers I came to enjoy through creating The Command Post with Michele was Lt. Smash, who published a blog from the Iraqi theater. Now that he’s returned from duty, he's Citizen Smash and you may read his fine blog here.

Yesterday Smash posted about a small earthquake he felt in San Diego, which reminded me of this interactive online map produced by the United States Geological Survey (Smash later linked to the “Report It” section of the USGS site as well). The link I’ve posted is already narrowed to Smash’s part of the world, and sure enough, there’s his quake, the little teal square down Tijuana way. Play around with the map and visit the other USGS links there; it’s a great site.

The ability to look at maps of earthquakes in real time? I don’t know about you, but that’s PRECISELY the kind of Star Trek stuff that as a kid I always dreamed my computer would do …

UPDATE: For the even more curious, Smash's quake looked like this (from the same USGS site; click the image to see a larger version) …

Posted by Avocare at 07:44 AM | TrackBack

October 06, 2003

One Bloogle of Separation

On August 7th of this year I posted The Fine Edge, an account of a hike Wife and I made to Utah’s Catherine Pass and Sunset Peak. Notable about the hike, other than the extraordinary scenery, was that a search was underway in the area for another Utah hiker, Micah Clark, who had been missing for several days. They found Micah’s body later that day very near where we had tread. I wrote at the time:

Yesterday afternoon we learned that they found Micah’s body about 1:00 P.M., about one mile from his truck at the trailhead, which would put his location at Catherine’s Pass and Sunset Peak. It’s very possible that the whistles I heard were the alert of the party, calling the others to note that they had found his camera and tripod. I suppose I won’t know.

Yesterday, at times, on the ridgeline trail, we were very close to the edge. While the trail itself is not dangerous, a slip could have resulted in easy tragedy. Somewhere along the way, either on the trail or just off it, Micah Clark slipped. He came prepared, walked where we walked, traced the same trails others had traced, and slipped where others did not.

For me there was a message in yesterday’s experience … not one of melodrama, but one of a simple reminder: Each day we walk the ridgeline, the margin between meadow and 800-foot exposure, the margin between fortune and misfortune. It is a fine edge.

Artists and authors have cast this message with greater justice than can I, but the message remains, and it was as tangible for me yesterday as it was 12 years ago when I absent-mindedly stepped off the curve and into Salt Lake City traffic, as it was the morning of September 11th, 2001, when I had the good fortune board a commercial flight that arrived safely at its destination. Each day we walk the fine edge. People slip. We should hold those whom we cherish close to our heart.

Again, I wrote that post on August 7th (read the entire thing here), and on September 17th I received an automated email noting that a comment had been added to the post. The comment read:

Alan: I happened across your story “The Fine Edge” quite by accident. It is beautifully written and reduced me to tears as I read about Micah. It brought back all the tender feelings of those days up on the mountain as we waited, hoped, and prayed for him. I am Micah's mother. I wanted you to know that he was a good man with a kind and generous heart. His love of the outdoors has given me a new appreciation for nature, as I now try to see things through his eyes. We miss him so very much. Thank you for your account of that day. May I ask…who are you and what is Avocare?

I was shocked when I read the comment, speechless for a moment until I managed an “Oh my God” to Wife. I took a few moments to consider a response, and then emailed a long reply to Renita Clark, expressing my sincere condolences for her loss, and attempting to explain Avocare, weblogs, and why her web search had revealed a story about her son, written by a stranger whom neither she nor he had met, published on a website unaffiliated with any professional organization. In part I wrote:

I wrote the post about Micah for the same reasons I write about nearly any post: I come across an item, or a vista, or an experience, which I simply feel I should share with others. Micah’s story was one I connected with, in part because I have spent countless hours hiking in the Wasatch or the desert alone … not something that many people would do, but which Micah clearly loved. The fact that I had made that hike alone several times before; added to the fact that we were hiking on the day Micah was found made the experience even more powerful for me.

I again thank you for your comment and kind words. I hope you don’t mind that I wrote of my experience … if you are at all uncomfortable with the story being on the web, I’m more that willing to remove the post … just let me know.

A few days passed before I received Renita’s reply. She was kind and considerate, noting:

I don't mind at all that you wrote of your experience up on the mountain that day. I'm actually very glad you did…it offers a whole new perspective. It's comforting for me to know that even in death Micah has touched others. Hundreds came to his funeral and the gathering the night before, and told us how Micah had impacted their lives for good throughout the years. For a mother to know that she has sent home a good and honorable son, it is a great blessing.

I am going to be putting together a memorial booklet for family and Micah's closest friends. I would like to include your story “The Fine Edge” if it's okay with you. Please let me know.

I said “yes,” of course, and in our last exchange of emails told Renita that I felt this entire experience was remarkable, and that if she wouldn’t object I’d like to try and capture it in another post. Here's her full reply:


By all means, please write the post you mentioned. I will be anxious to read it.

Isn't it amazing that by the simple act of typing “Micah Clark hiker” into the search engine, I would find your beautiful story? I can't tell you how my heart was touched. How curious is it, that because my son died, two otherwise strangers would have reason to correspond?

A group of Micah's friends and family climbed to the site of his death this past Saturday and planted a tree in his memory. I read them your story … it was so appropriate …. and it touched their hearts as well. Thank you.



Even now, reading that note, I skip a breath, amazed at our connectedness. The adage “six degrees of separation” isn’t simply pop culture or an urban myth. It comes from a very well established body of sociological research regarding social networks, which is perhaps best recounted by Columbia’s Small World Project, which you can see here.

For me, though, my exchange with Renita illustrates something even more remarkable: that the intersection of blogs and powerful search engines reduced Renita and me to one degree of separation … two independent events—a journal-style post and a web search—immediately linked two strangers in an unmediated exchange. It’s an extremely powerful thought: as we post, we are indexed. As we are indexed, we are made searchable. As we are made searchable, we become accessible to the full universe of users.

As we blog, we become prone to the world … we are no longer participants in the electronic network, we become part of the global SOCIAL network. Blog regularly and the nodes and degrees surely diminish, one by one, until the entire world is just outside the room, only one click away from walking through your virtual door.

Renita had it right: “Isn't it amazing that by the simple act of typing ‘Micah Clark hiker’ into the search engine, I would find your beautiful story?” It is amazing, Renita, amazing, and also a bit overwhelming. But I’m glad you found The Fine Edge and that our degrees are down to zero.

After all, fellow bloggers: the chance to connect with … even contribute to … the lives of our readers—isn’t that why we write?

Posted by Avocare at 07:46 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Toys For Iraq

Last night I received this email from Michele:

As you have probably heard/read by now, Chief Wiggles has started a Toys for Iraq project, a humanitarian effort to bring smiles to the faces of Iraqi children.

The project has grown tremendously over the past week or so, with many major corporations asking to get involved. The Chief has already received over 150 packages of toys and school supplies from his readers.

Tomorrow we will launch the new home for the toy project: Operation Give.

We hope we can count on you to participate in this great cause by spreading the word and linking to Operation Give on your websites.

Check out the site and see what the project is all about and how you can help. If you have any questions, feel free to send me an email.

Thanks in advance,


Done and done. Visit, read, give. After all, SURELY you have one of these lying around the house, yes?

Stuffed animals
Small cars and trucks (non-military)
Flying discs
Non-military toy planes
Coloring books
Candy (hard candy is better, chocolate melts in the heat)
Toothbrushes & toothpaste
Dental floss
Brushes and combs
Socks and underwear, for both boys and girls, aged 3-18.
Pencils and small pencil sharpeners
Lined paper or colored paper
Colored pencils
Pens and markers (Avoid crayons, they melt in the heat)



Posted by Avocare at 08:10 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 05, 2003

The Drive

A week ago Monday I drove from Las Vegas to Torrey, Utah, and for the portion of the trip between St. George and Torrey I drove blue highways, passing through Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, Grand Staircase National Monument, and Capitol Reef National Park. Camera was in hand throughout, of course, and here are some of the snaps I took along the way (as always, click 'em to enlarge 'em). But first, two snaps I like very much: the first is a shot of the evergreen-and-aspen clad flanks of Boulder Mountain …

… and the second is a shot of the cliff overlooking the Capitol Reef visitor center and fruit orchards, a cliff at the top of which I asked Wife to marry me (she said “yes,” and I only had to dangle her over the side for two minutes) …

Now, on with the snaps …

Cliffs At Zion

Fall On Boulder Mountain

Chimney Rock, Capitol Reef

Scenic Drive Sunset, North & South, Capitol Reef

Sunset Upon Grand Wash & Capitol Gorge, Capitol Reef

Sunset Upon Capitol Reef

Finally, to see how Capitol Reef looks from above, visit the shots I took from 25,000 feet here.

Posted by Avocare at 01:38 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 04, 2003

Don Michele Homer

homerdonut.jpgMy good friend Michele is spending her day enjoying the festivities that can only come with the opening of a new Dunkin’ Donuts. I love Michele. I love donuts. I post this in honor of both.

Posted by Avocare at 07:50 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

How Long?

LONG. Days since Wrigley Field hosted a World Series Game: 21,178 (10 October, 1945 for those scoring at home).

Posted by Avocare at 05:33 PM | TrackBack

October 02, 2003

The Numbers Game (V 4)

On August 8 I posted the third Avocare Numbers Game, in which we saw how many stories a Google News search generated for various search terms. Now for another benchmark:

  • Iraq + Victory: 2,930 stories then, 3,670 stories now
  • Iraq + Defeat: 1,650 stories then, 3,050 stories now
  • Iraq + Failure: 4,050 stories then, 5,180 stories now
  • Iraq + Liberation: 924 stories then, 1,490 stories now
  • Iraq + Occupation: 9,650 stories then, 9,530 stories now
  • Economy + 2004 + Election: 1,280 stories then, 1,960 stories now
  • Iraq + 2004 + Election: 1,880 stories then, 2,020 stories now
  • Iraq + Quagmire: 440 stories then, 842 stories now
  • Howard + Dean + Lose: 276 stories then, 351 stories now
  • Howard + Dean + Win: 1,230 stories then, 1,690 stories now

And two new items:

  • Wesley + Clark + Lose: 380 stories
  • Wesley + Clark + Win: 1,260 stories

(Cross-posted here)

Posted by Avocare at 06:30 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack