Monday, April 30, 2007

Pizza Hut Gives it Away

Pizza, the old adage goes, is a lot like sex - even when it's bad, it's still pretty good.

With that in mind, drop on by your participating neighborhood Pizza Hut on Tuesday between 3 and 5pm and they'll set you up with a slice of their new hand-tossed style pizza for absolutely nothing.

Not to look a gift slice in the eye, but what exactly does "hand-tossed style" mean, anyway? Did Pizza Hut develop some newfangled proprietary machine that makes pizza dough with fake hands?

Call me old-fashioned, but I still prefer to have my dough tossed by humans.

The F#*%in' Union!

One of my co-workers sent me this vintage TV spot highlighting the many contributions of union workers to our society.

As a proud member of the Texas State Employees Union, I really enjoyed it. Too bad we don't have muscle like that around here.

NSFW (language), particularly in a right-to-work state like Texas.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Kate Tops Cancer Fundraising Goal

I'm happy and proud to report that Kate has exceeded her $4,000 fundraising goal for the Texas 4000 for Cancer ride.

Although her new job covering regional issues, transportation and health care at the Austin Business Journal precludes her from making the 70-day ride from Austin to Alaska this summer, Kate hasn't stopped raising funds for the American Cancer Society and working to support the team in other ways.

She will be riding the ATLAS ride on June 2, which is a fundraising send-off ride for the Texas 4000 team that goes from Austin (or Cedar Park, to be exact) to Lampasas. You can register for that ride here.

I fully supported Kate's ride to Alaska, but I'm glad she won't be gone for 70 days because I would've missed the hell out of her.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Psychedelic Howard Johnson's

This late Sixties animated TV spot for the once-nationwide restaurant/motel chain Howard Johnson's targets kinder of all colors with a mighty hip interpolation of "Frere Jacques."

You still see HoJo branded motor lodges around, but the restaurants have all but gone the way of the dodo. reports only three Howard Johnson restaurants remain in business in Maine (Bangor) and upstate New York (Lake Placid, Lake George).

Friday, April 20, 2007

The Standardized Spew

Right now I can hear the principal blaring over the PA system at the middle school across the street from my house. She's giving instructions for the dreaded TAKS test and it's making me a little sick to my stomach.

When I was in school, we had to take the Iowa Test of Basic Skills every year to measure our aptitude. I never really had a problem with standardized testing until fourth grade when a girl sitting in the desk in front of me vomited voluminously right in the middle of the reading comprehension section.

After covering her half-finished bubble grid in a yellowish swirl of breakfast and bile, she slowly made her way toward the classroom door, leaving a trail clear out into the hallway. Miss Perry let us go outside while custodial staff tended to the emetic nightmare.

The next morning, two more students vomited during test time. I decided that was enough. I told Miss Perry I thought I too might barf and she sent me to the nurse to wait for a ride home.

I faked being sick to my stomach and stayed home for the rest of the week watching reruns. Upon my return, I was allowed to make up the Iowa Test in the solitary comfort of an empty classroom.

My parents knew the whole thing was psychosomatic, but what were they going to do? I was traumatized by that little girl's throw-up.

At least now I know I'm not alone in this irrational fear. There's even a word for it: emetophobia.

The intervening years have made regurgitation an easier reality for me to stomach. Drinking too much in college did wonders for desensitization, and I figure I'd get even less squeamish as the parent or guardian of a sick child.

In the meantime, though, I still prefer to be as far away from vomit in all its multicolored forms as possible.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Too Late the Hero?

I read advice columnist Cary Tennis’ "Since You Asked..." in Salon almost every day, but the reader responses to letter writers are where I really get to wrap my head around the juicy philosophical dilemmas of post-modern American existence.

Today’s column is about reconciling heroic dreams with everyday living – pertinent stuff for untethered dreamers who spend a little too much time in the clouds.

Few of us are destined to become heroes as that term is commonly understood. Better to seek honor where you can find it, I think. There is dignity in small steps even when no one celebrates them. As Minutemen/fIREHOSE bassist Mike Watt once told me, “It’s in the doin’.”

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Ambien Noise

I abstained from alcohol last night and took an Ambien 15 minutes before bed as directed.

I drifted off quickly thereafter and slept until about 6:30-6:45am. It wasn’t a very deep sleep, though. I do feel better and more alert than I would have after waking up in the middle of the night, but I’m still sluggish and hazy. I don’t feel an extra spring in my step or anything like that.

Monday, April 16, 2007

I Give Up. Where's the Drugs?

If cranial electrotherapy stimulation was having a beneficial impact on my ability to sleep (an iffy proposition to begin with given the paucity of scientific evidence supporting its efficacy), it no longer seems to be working now.

I can make it through the work week fine if I only have one night of waking up at 3:30 or 4am and not going back to sleep, but two consecutive nights of that will send me into a slothful, pissy stupor that wastes what little daytime energy I have on feeling guilty about my impaired functioning. Counseling, meditation, walking, running, eating right and not drinking anything other than red wine all have their place, but sometimes you've just gotta bring out the big guns of Big Pharma.

So today I went to the doctor, plunked down 20 dollars and a Blue Cross/Blue Shield card, and walked out with a wholesome bagful of Ambien samples.

I can’t wait to take those little blue babies out on a test drive.

The Other Johnny Walker

Reading about longtime DJ Johnny Walker getting fired from KLBJ-FM in last week’s Chron made me feel sad, old and very glad I never decided to pursue a career in radio.

Writer Kevin Brass’ description of the 52-year-old Walker’s cramped apartment, his collection of antique radios and his "long-divorced" status reads like something from the margin of a Coen Brothers script. Having to record seemingly live airbreaks into a computer sounds like the ultimate indignity of them all.

I once chafed at the classic rock kick assism embodied by stations like KLBJ, but I can't help feeling bittersweet at the knowledge that it's all about to go the way of the caboose.

Photo of Johnny Walker by John Anderson

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Runnin' Down a Dream

My Ron Titter bandmate David Wyatt and I have decided to enter ourselves in the 23rd Annual Chuy's Hot to Trot 5K and Kid K on May 12. The run benefits Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Central Texas.

After enduring years of being the last kid picked for kickball, I never figured I'd do anything fitness-related as an adult. Having an athletic girlfriend is making me reevaluate my reluctance, though. I'll do this 5K thing to test the waters and consider working up to longer runs if I enjoy it.

David and I met by Town Lake around 8:30 this morning to start the conditioning process. It was surprisingly chilly and lots of trees were down from last night's windstorm. I haven't run since high school and my body was well-aware of that. Neither one of us could run for more than several minutes at a time, but hopefully we'll be in good enough shape to run the entire 5K by May 12.

I think we need a retired high school coach or an ex-Marine to follow us up and down the Town Lake trail with a bullhorn, calling us a couple of no-good pissants and questioning our sexuality when we falter. That would just about cinch it.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Here's Chism in Your Eye

The Texas House tentatively passed a bill yesterday that would raise the marriage license fee from $30 to $100 unless couples agree to take an eight-hour marriage education class. Authored by the ever-reactionary Warren Chism (R-Pampa), House Bill 2685 would grant a free marriage license to couples who take the class (unless they’re gay, of course).

Aside from the paucity of legitimate research demonstrating the long-term effectiveness of premarital education in actually preventing divorce, whether I choose to avail myself of such a service is none of the state’s goddamn business. Chism’s bill is primarily a sop to faith-based organizations that would reap a windfall in class fees for conducting what amounts to state-sanctioned religious indoctrination.

At the same time, the bill is another attempt to make up revenue lost through property tax cuts primarily benefiting wealthy landowners by imposing a regressive, fee-based tax that will disproportionately bite the poor.

Naturally, Chism doesn’t want to stop at prodding Texas couples into premarital education. He also wants couples seeking divorce to take a 10-hour marriage crisis class or wait two years until their divorce becomes final. Chism’s ultimate goal is to do away with no-fault divorce altogether in the holy name of the wee widdle children. I guess as long as they’re not eating government cheese, it is fine by him if children grow up in a home with two angry parents who hate each other.

There’s no romance in divorce, but it is a basic human right on the same level as marriage. Not allowing it creates a marital relationship built on political, economic and spiritual coercion instead of interpersonal respect.

Fortunately, Chism’s bill has yet to find a Senate sponsor, which makes its chance of getting signed into law questionable at best.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Shower Power!

I believe my shower woes are over! My contractor completed the job this afternoon. The second bathroom is fully back in business after a five-month hiatus.

There have been no more shower leaks since the gap between the shower pan and the threshold was properly caulked. In addition, the whole bathroom looks better because he installed trim around the paneling. I'm thinking I might paint it once I get a free weekend.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Considerably More Than Eight Miles High

This Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress flew over my neighborhood yesterday. It was in town as part of a historic aircraft tour sponsored by the Collings Foundation.

I know my photo isn't great, but I don't have a telephoto lens and those old World War II planes fly higher than you might think. The Statesman reports that a B-24 from the very same tour was "soaring 2,000 miles above Central Texas." I honestly didn't know they could go that high.

No wonder we kicked Japan's ass.

UPDATE (4/10): Mere hours after this post went up, the Statesman changed the online version of its story to read, "2,000 feet above Central Texas." The original "2,000 miles" version can be found in last Saturday's print edition.

Lenten Workplace Cussing Moratorium: Epilogue

My attempt to give up cussing in the workplace for Lent petered out a few weeks back. Ultimately, this noble but doomed effort at self-improvement did nothing other than demonstrate how much more I cuss in the workplace now than when I started working.

Cussing has become too engrained in my workaday muscle memory for me to just give it up in the absence of an actual threat to my livelihood. I never said "fuck" or any variations thereof, though. That's gotta count for at least a standby ticket to the kingdom, right? Answer me, goddamnit!

Friday, April 06, 2007

"Becoming Ill"

Some poor fellow died yesterday after "becoming ill" in his Jeep Wrangler while driving and running into a sign pole in the middle of downtown Houston.

What exactly does "becoming ill" mean, anyway? I suspect it's a euphemism for vomiting, but it could mean a heart attack for all we know.

I wish the police and/or the papers would be more straightforward about that sort of thing.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Shower of Shit

Almost five months after my shower first started leaking, I climbed in my $2,500 rebuilt shower for the first time this morning and it started leaking right where the old one leaked.

I lost my shit upon discovering the water pooling on the bathroom floor. I pounded my fists on the chest of drawers and bellowed out a fusillade of fuck-laden invective. I’m not proud of my inability to manage anger in such situations, but my current state of sleep and confidence deprivation was bound to allow an outburst to slip through sooner or later.

The contractor is coming by this afternoon to look at it and try to figure out what’s going on. Apparently it worked fine when they were testing it. If he can’t figure it out, I suppose I’ll have to find someone who can, which is a daunting prospect on many levels. Who knows when the goddamn thing will be fixed?

Of course my anger over this goes way beyond the rather mundane pain in the ass of not having a working second bathroom I don’t really need. Getting the shower fixed was one tiny aspect of my anxiety flare-up that was about to be resolved. Now it’s not and that’s what pisses me off more than anything.

UPDATE: My contractor came by and he thinks the problem was a missing layer of caulk between the shower pan and the threshold. I hope he's right, but I'll have to wait for the caulk to dry to know.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Shock Me

So I’ve decided to treat my anxiety-driven insomnia with shock therapy.

Lately I’ve been wearing something called an Alpha-Stim cranial electrotherapy stimulator. It administers a tiny electrical current to my cranium through conductors clipped to my earlobes. The general idea behind cranial electrotherapy stimulation is that the current “evens out” the racing brain to alleviate the symptoms of anxiety, stress, depression and/or insomnia.

Frankly, I have no idea how it works or if it works at all, but I do know I've been getting much better sleep since I started wearing it for an hour a day. The irony of voluntarily shocking my brain while officing in a former psych ward isn't lost on me, either. I think most people just assume it's an iPod.

Whatever the Alpha-Stim is or isn’t doing, it’s probably safer than popping a bunch of Simply Sleep tabs night after night. You can only get an Alpha-Stim with a prescription in the U.S. and they’re not exactly cheap. I’m borrowing the one I’m wearing now and the FDA can confiscate it from me when they pry it off my cold, dead earlobes.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Save Those Central Market Receipts

Central Market mailed out another sheet of coupons this week entitling the holder to everything from free kitchen shears to $10 off shrimp with a $40 non-alcoholic purchase. Each coupon is good only for a couple of weeks.

Best of all, you can take advantage of these offers even if you don't spend $40 in a single visit. According to the checker I spoke with this morning, you can save receipts and combine them to reach $40. This works well for me since I rarely do a week's worth of shopping at Central Market.

Monday, April 02, 2007

'57 Dallas Tornado

Today is the 50th anniversary of the 1957 Dallas tornado. Descending from the sky without warning around 4:30 in the afternoon, this twister killed 10 people and caused extensive damage in Oak Cliff and the Trinity River bottom area near Parkland Hospital before dissipating northwest of Love Field.

Although the death and damage tolls from this tornado weren’t off the charts, the fact that it moved along a northerly course just west of downtown Dallas made it the most photographed and filmed tornado in history up to that point. You still see ’57 Dallas tornado film used as stock footage today. Film from this storm also helped meteorologists advance the science of tornado forecasting.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Good Advice

Thanks to everyone near and far who offered advice in the comments and via e-mail about my anxiety-related insomnia and job situation. Some of the advice is practical and some of it is profound, but I appreciate it all.