Monday, May 31, 2010

Shadow Dancing and All That

Why, look, it's my Andy Gibb trading cards!

Except... they aren't trading cards. They appear to be one large full color poster and a stick of Super Bubble. And I don't even think this is mine.

But it has to be mine, because it was in the bottom of a box that belongs to me.

I don't know where these came from. Maybe someone gave them to me as a joke or maybe I bought them thinking I could put them on Blogger in a few decades after the Internet gods invented easy online personal journals. Dunno.

If I shake the pack, it sounds like the gum is in pieces. Mmm, gum. Now I want a cookie.

Should I open this and examine the innards? Or maybe give it to someone who might find it interesting? Perhaps as a birthday gift.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Should Have Gone to the Beach

See this gorgeous hunka crap? It was a computer about an hour ago.

I think of it as "Emily's G5," because the last person to use it was Emily, our intern at work a few years ago. The rule was she could never turn it off, because it wouldn't come back on. Or would, but not when you wanted it to. Maybe it would come on at midnight a week after you tried to turn it on, or maybe it would purr and turn on instantly. It was better to just put it to sleep and never turn it off.

I thought I'd bring it home and play Dr. Frankenstein with the iMac G5. How hard can it be? Which is also what I said before I ended up having to race around to find the water shut-off the time I decided to fix the tub spout, or the time I thought I'd just install that vanity by myself. All ended well in those cases, but I don't have such high hopes here.

The G5 came apart without incident. I followed these instructions.

"Like brain surgery? Use this guide to replace your logic board."

That went smoothly enough, though I don't own a "spudger" and thought I could use a manicure stick instead. That didn't go so well but an ink pen and a small flat head screwdriver did the job.

So now I have this logic board, and looking at it, I can see clearly that some of the capacitors are busted, leaking goo off their tops. This is what I expected, since that's what happened to most all this era of G5 iMacs.

I am not going to try soldering on new capacitors. We learned in solar school that I am a sucky-solderer. I'm going to send it to a guy instead, a guy who makes his living soldering capacitors onto logic boards. I'm not so sure it will work, since the power supply might have been damaged along the way, and there's at least a 50/50 chance I will screw something up when I try to put this thing back together, but I'm willing to give it a shot for sixty bucks.

Let's hope this ends better than the Tunnel of Fudge Bundt cake mix. The scratch cakes were so much better.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Eat Your Veggies

Lonesome gutter broccoli.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Slice of Paradise

The sound of barking dogs and shouting kids is music to my ears today. It's the sound of Hamilton Park open, finally renovated after... I have no idea how long. How many summers was it closed? Just one? Two? I really don't know. It was definitely closed last summer when the Bolivian parade had to assemble on the street because the park was shut down.

I went across the street today and walked around in the grass. There are dog runs—one for small dogs and one for large dogs—but the fresh, lush grass will still be covered in dog pee before you know it.

The landscaping is stunning. The tennis, volleyball, and basketball courts are redone. The playground is state-of-the-art. I think there's a sprinkle park. And some of the park is just left alone, green and natural. On the border there are brick Victorians and brownstones. I live in the brown one.

In theory, there's even free wi-fi. But I stood in the middle of the park with my iPhone and the only signal I picked up was my own.

I love the new park. More photos are here. But damn, there are a lot of people in it. Hey, you kids! Get offa my lawn!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Fun with Social Networking

I'm working on bigger and better ideas for using Twitter and Facebook, but I just made dinner with the help of both.

This was an accident. When I posted that I didn't know what to do with the stuff in my fridge, I was joking. I had very little, and what I did have didn't add up to much.

Grapes, carrots, tortillas, strawberries, mushrooms, yogurt, orange juice, and goat cheese. How can I make dinner out of that?

Sounded like the components in the world's worst meal to me. (Disgusting things like fried cicadas and rat-on-a-stick excepted.)

But author Zora (on Twitter) and comic book letterer Janice (on Facebook) set me straight.

"Saute mushrooms with butter to draw out moisture, heat tortilla to soften, then fill with mushrooms and a little goat cheese," posted Janice.

"Carrot salad with spritz of OJ and vinegar and salt. Grate the carrots, like a slaw," tweeted Zora.

Both agreed I should slice the strawberries. Or I think they did. Janice said to macerate them. I don't even know what that means. Zora said to toss them with a teensy bit of sugar and a drizzle of lemon or vinegar. Janice said to macerate them in orange juice. I chose the juice because... well, because of a technicality on Twitter, I didn't see the sugar bit until later. And I stirred a little honey into the yogurt, which was a good suggestion from Janice since this was a cheap yogurt that tasted a little funny.

The result was absolutely delicious. It was the little touches that Zora and Janice just know... the soaking, the butter, the spritz. And now I want to write to them every night for advice. Or maybe at least once a week.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Bannerman Castle

Yesterday, I was surprised to see a big photo of Bannerman Castle on my Yahoo homepage.

That's the place I kayaked to last Memorial Day.

Here's a link to the photos I took there, for those searching for photos of the site.

Monday, May 24, 2010


My solar-powered LED light-in-a-takeout-container works!*

Uh, sort of. If I jiggle the ground wire a tiny bit. Not going to light up much during the zombiepocalypse at this rate.

*Note to self: Buy candles.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Looking for a Sunny Day

I rolled out of bed late yesterday after a late-ish night out with some of my comic book-related pals, then had to race around to get out of the house on time. I had a class to get to at 2:30 in Brooklyn.

The commute turned out to be incredibly short and easy, as the location is right by the L train, which is a straight shot from here. PATH four stops to 14th, L train from there five stops to Lorimer.

The class, however, was not so easy. But it was a lot of fun.

A group of ten of us took little solar panel squares, glue-gunned them together into arrays, then soldered in connections using wires and soldering irons. We used breadboards, jump connectors, diodes, and various metal gizmos to rig up circuits using the panels, which charge up rechargeable batteries.

In the end, we stuck the three-part gizmos (solar array, circuit, batteries) into take-out food containers.

And the sun went down right as we finished. (And I raced back to JC to catch an 8:40 screening of Saturday Night Fever at the 1929 movie palace.)

I'm charging the batteries today, hoping that the LED lights turn on once the sun has done its job. But it's kinda gray and rainy out...

Friday, May 21, 2010

Hark! Louder!

I usually wake up at around seven. This is after I first wake up at six, when my alarm clock goes off. Once out of about 20 times, I manage to drag myself out of bed then in order to get something done before I go to the office, but usually I just smash the snooze button and go back to sleep.

This morning, I probably did this. I don't know, of course, since the process of snoozing doesn't involve me being sentient.

But then at 6:30 a.m., I really did wake up.

Tick tick tick tick tick tick tick...

What the hell?

I tried ignoring the steady ticking, but still it continued. That ticking wasn't there when I went to bed. Had I left a watch nearby? No.

Tick tick tick tick tick.

I opened an eye. The sun streamed in through the two lights in my office, and a tiny bit of light poked in from the air shaft window in my bedroom.

Tick tick tick.

The sun. Oh. Of course.

I was being tormented by the solar-powered environment friendly pooping Hello Kitty.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Well Hello There Kitty

When Marc said he'd picked up something for me in Korea, I suspected him of purchasing a sausage.

Instead, it's a caganer, much like my Fidel, Obama, or TinTin caganers!

Okay, not really a caganer. But it's a plastic, Asian facsimile of one. Anyway, it's way more "environment friendly" than a sausage, at least according to the copy on the package. And it's solar-powered.

What could be better than a solar-powered pooping Hello Kitty? Almost nothing.

Except maybe... one you could turn off. See the video for what exactly this thing does. And does. And does.

Sunday, May 16, 2010


So I have this friend.

She's smart, savvy, nice, cool, and I've known her since 1984.

Which is why, on her blog, I was surprised to learn that she was one of a group of plaintiffs who won a civil settlement against the diocese from her Catholic elementary school.

Yes, that's right. Someone I know, and have known a long, long time, was abused by a priest when she was little.

When she sent me a link to her blog, I clicked right over. She's a great, hilarious, clever writer.

Huh, that's not what I expected.

Later, she wrote that she hadn't even told her college boyfriend of three years. So I guess it isn't surprising that I didn't know and none of us knew.

The blog is fascinating, and she tries to tell the story without being salacious and most importantly, she tries to explain why she didn't tell her parents or the police.

Here is the blog. You have to go back to the first entry to read it in chronological order, just like my blog. But it's a lot shorter, thus easier to scroll back.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Shame It Wasn't the Lotto I Won Instead

Like the "Perfect Attendance" awards I'd get in middle school, these certificates herald dubious achievements. And clearly, they slipped in before I started throwing away all the scraps of paper I'd collect on my trips.

Once, I'd treat mementos as sacred. Little slips of paper that would jog my memory. "Remember that hot day we climbed to the top of Borobudur and all the kids crowded around in their headscarves to take photos with the tourists?"

I found them in the bottom of a box and they *did* jog my memory. I'd forgotten all about visiting Prambanan Temple, the largest Hindu temple in Indonesia. It's from another time, since in my life, I measure things in sections. There's pre-college, college, the indie rock years, the East Village years... and all these were pre-MariesWorldTour, pre-2001, pre-Australia, Spain, Uganda, Namibia, Kuwait, pre-Cairo, pre-teaching, pre-revising my expectations, from when hopes and dreams were not hopes and dreams, but rather definites that just needed time to materialize. Another lifetime. Was that really me?

And this will pass. Soon this past decade will be a distant memory, not of scraps of paper. We don't do those anymore. No, the last decade is one of blogs and online photo albums. The lost decade, the second the electricity goes out.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Cats and Dogs

Aww, this is just adorable. My young pal Daisy made me this card after I sent her the dog bag.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

How Can This Help Me Sell Books?

So this is kind of entertaining. Check out Stuart and me in this video at 04:57.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Computer Nostalgia

It feels like I've been getting rid of stuff for years. Once I started seriously moving around the globe, I realized how much of a burden stuff can be. Especially after I paid to keep all my junk in storage for a year-and-a-half, and then when I unpacked it, marveled at how little of the stuff I actually wanted or needed.

So how is it that I still have SO MUCH STUFF? Ugh! It's a never-ending battle to get rid of junk. It's like my garage has a secret one-way tunnel, and crap is quietly shoved through from an alternate junk-filled reality when I'm not looking.

Last time I moved, I sold the old Super 8 projecter on eBay, also the 1992 Powerbook Duo 230 and all its accessories, fed all the 45s and cassettes into the computer, sold four long boxes and two short ones of comic books, and put all all film and negatives into binders. I even labelled them. I shredded years of paper and hauled boxes of books to the used book sale.

Why, then, is all this crap still with me? I feel like I should get a dumpster and just pitch it all out the window.

Yesterday's achievement was this: I recycled my 2002 iBook. I sent it to a place called for $30. I got an extra three bucks for still having the original box and the original software, which someone in the alternate reality had kindly shoved into my garage a few months back.

I did pause, though. When I finished MariesWorldTour in December, 2001, I was home for about three weeks before heading to my new life in Australia. My reward to myself for having completed such a daunting task as going around the world for a year? A brand-new iBook and a cool new toy called an iPod. Both were phenomenal. The laptop was miles ahead of all the computers I'd previously owned, and the iPod opened up a brand new world of lightweight travel.

The iPod is long since gone, sold by a savvier Marie who quickly realized that iPods have a short shelf-life. I keep up now, mostly, but I barely use the one I have since I haven't lived in another country for the last few years and don't drive much. But the laptop stayed with me well past its expiration date.

I had a pang of remorse when I packed up the little-laptop-that-could. This laptop lived in Australia twice, traveled across the US and to Mexico, moved to Spain, Uganda, Namibia, Kuwait and Cairo with me, and went along when I visited New Zealand, Sri Lanka, Bangkok, Kenya, and Kenya. I swapped out the keyboard in Kuwait and paid to have the bezel replaced in Cairo. I dragged it up and down eastern and southern Africa in 2005, from Uganda to Namibia to Cape Town to Lesotho to Dar to Arusha to Nairobi and back to Uganda.

Poor little laptop. It had been so loyal... except that it's not actually human. It's just a heap of obsolete electronics, much of them probably toxic.

I ignored my pangs and packed the laptop up, along with the spare old keyboard. I'd erased and reformatted the hard drive, taken off the password, and tested the NewerTech battery. The battery alone was worth twice what I was getting for the laptop, but I was happier to get rid of it than to go to the effort of selling it for a higher price on eBay.

I printed out the buyer's FedEx Ground prepaid label and dropped the box off at the mailing center.

The entire experience was entirely unsentimental. The proprietor took the box and went back to serving other customers. I hesitated a second, then left.

I am now four pounds of obsolete electronics lighter.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Fridays Are Free Days

In theory, I don't work on Fridays. It's a day off in the Middle East, and when I originally signed up for my job, I was one of many employees and had to keep Fri-Sat-Sun for myself, for my writing projects. And while I have increased my working hours, it's by my choice. I do sometimes go in on Fridays, but I like that I don't have to go in.

Yesterday, I scheduled my day tightly. I'd go to the post office, then to the county offices to research two apparently abandoned houses I've been looking at with my friends (one for each of us), go to the other county offices, research the liens on the properties and try to find some records on what exactly is "contaminated" about the soil in the yards (meaning is it an underground oil tank or something more sinister), then go to work for a few hours, then see a certain superhero movie on opening day at the IMAX cinema around the corner from my office. The Marvel opening was a few days ago, but I'd opted to go to the Strand bookstore that day instead, to hear a popular cartoonist be interviewed.

Since I had to go to so many different locations in Hudson County, I got my car, Henry the 1990 Ford Taurus. I walked to my garage, threw my packages in the trunk, and backed the car out into the street. I tested the garage door opener which I'd left unlatched last week, and after a little tugging and running the chain back and forth, the opener worked again.

I got into the driver's seat of my car, shut the garage door behind me, and... wait, why is the brake light on?

I turned the emergency brake on and off. The light stayed on. Shit.

I'll just run by the post office, then go drop the car off at Mike the mechanic's, and I'll head to the sheriff's office on foot from there. I'll walk to the second office, then to the train... hell, that's a lotta walking.

As I drove to the post office, I contemplated my options and the lack of direct buses. But then when I put on Henry's turn signal at a light, nothing happened. Double shit.

I tried the headlights. Nothing. The radio. Nothing. The fan... nothing.

I wonder if I have brake lights.

The "Check engine" light flickered on, off, then back on.

Maybe I'll walk to the post office too.

I went around the block and—with racing heart and a fair amount of nervous sweat—headed up to Mike's. Henry the Ford's mechanic is an old-school J.C. guy at Alpha-Omega Vehicle Repair up past Little India, on Newark. I'd originally found him from recommendations by other customers on He's been maintaining Henry since 2004 or so, which is about when I realized that the plan that Turbo and I had when we bought Henry in California in April, 2002—to buy a thousand-dollar clunker and drive it into the ground on our way across the US—wasn't going to work. Henry was too reliable, too solid a car. He wasn't going anywhere and I'd let his maintenance slide, but Mike cleaned him right up and kept him going with minimal work every since.

Mike had a line of cars and looked busy. I doubt my sudden arrival was on his itinerary. But he took the time to come outside and check out my warning lights.

"There's nothing on."

"What? Really?"


No warning lights.

"Maybe... huh... it fixed itself?"

He laughed just a little.

"No. Look. You don't drive it that often, so when you turn the ignition key, it can stick a little. Make sure it's in the right place."


"Uh, okay, er... thanks." Maybe I was red from embarrassment. I felt kind of like a car hypochondriac but it's better to have it checked out than not. I thanked Mike and shuffled off to the post office and then to the Kafka-esque warren of hallways in the county administration buildings.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

1999 Archives

I was looking for some photos last week and started digging through old CDs.

I didn't find what I was looking for, but I did find one CD of photos scanned in by a photo store. They were in a proprietary format and I thought I'd better do something about that fast, if I still could.

Trusty GraphicConverter made short work of the proprietary format. I saved the files as JPEGs and tossed the old CD. The photos were highlights of some trips I took in the mid-to-late nineties. These are images from Istanbul. In 1999, I went with my friends Mark and Yancey over to Egypt (not knowing I'd be living there a decade later). After the trip, Mark went back home since he had a big-deal job editing some famous comic books at the time, while Yancey and I went on to Jordan. Then Yancey left to go home and take care of his dog, while I flew to Istanbul to meet my pal David Wohl, who happened to be at a comic book event in Europe. Somehow I had talked him into meeting me in Istanbul.

This wasn't altogether uncommon. I was always wheedling David into some nutty trip—rafting, Istanbul, Galapagos. He was marvelously low-key about it. "Sure, why not?"

Here are the scans I had from Istanbul.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Hot Rod

Some days, I ride a 1987 Kawasaki to work.

Sunday, May 02, 2010


Had I left the house at 7 a.m. for the storage unit, like I'd planned, the day would have been so much easier.

But I can't remember the last time self-discipline was my friend, so instead of being in my car driving through the Holland Tunnel at 7, I was tossing and turning after awaking from a zombie-threat dream. My friends and I were having a party—imagine that—amidst a zombie invasion. Having to occasionally shoot a pal who had gotten bitten was just part of the evening.

I finally got out out of the house and cruised over to the tunnel approach line at 11:30. This normally isn't a big deal on a Sunday, but weather was unseasonably hot, traffic was already congested, and I poked in Henry the Ford Taurus's nose right behind a Mazda.

Windows were down and the Mazda blared "Jungle Boogie" all the way through the tunnel. I flashed back for a second to driving a blue Volvo into the tunnel in 1988, my guy friends jumping up and down to "Mary Mary" by Run-DMC. Or maybe I imagined that.

Traffic was slow enough that I had time to contemplate the tiles along the sides. White, American cheese orange, and grime. When was the last time they were cleaned? 1990?

The Manhattan side of the tunnel was even worse. I inched forward, wishing I'd taken then Brooklyn approach to South Street instead of heading around Battery Park.

Drive... brake... wait. Drive... brake... nervously check all gauges for signs of crankiness... wait.

Finally I was at the storage place, just above South Street Seaport.

In the course of trying to drag the old server out of the storage unit (which was my mission), I managed to drop about 200 comic books on the floor. I dismantled and rebuilt Kraiger's tower of boxes so that it wouldn't fall on his head next time he came downtown. I threw the server into the back of the car (it's going to find a good home somewhere--haven't worked out where yet but surely someone needs it more than the storage unit does) and headed back around the tip of Manhattan to J.C.

I got through the tunnel back to the Jersey side in a minutes, and headed to my garage.

Beep. Beep.


The sound of a battery running out in a smoke detector filled my garage.

Where is that?

I scanned the ceiling until I found something that looked like a smoke detector. I managed to rip it off the wall, and that's when I discovered that is was hard-wired in.

Not anymore.

Beep. Beep.

Next, I tore open the garage door opener. Nothing that looked like it took batteries. I unlatched the opener so that it didn't work and studied closer.

Nope. No battery there.

Beep. Beep.

Ugh, I'm an idiot. I know what that is.

I could see two smoke detectors in a box of tools that I'd left in the garage last time I moved. I tore them both open. The first was a dud — empty battery compartment. But the second had a battery in it. I ripped it out and tossed it into the box. I turned the garage door opener back on and...



I left it unhooked and manually shut and locked the door. Screw it. The busted door would still be there next time I got to the garage, along with the wires sticking out of the ceiling.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

No Escape

This cracked me up. My friend Sean, who inks comics, got me on his Washington Post front page yesterday.

Let's take a closer look.

What is happening here is that his newspaper account is linking to his Facebook Friends list and putting up a random story. My random story.

Funny and spooky all at once. Especially because I am sure I've locked down all that stuff about using me in social networking ads. My privacy settings are super-high too, but since Sean is on my A-list, he gets to see it all. Facebook is pervasive, the octopus with a hundred million tentacles, whose prime directive is to find a way to monetize its massive membership base.

And the Washington Post? They don't know I'm alive. But for a split second, it felt like they did.