Wednesday, January 31, 2007


I emailed Anderson Cooper, of CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360°”, to let him know that I really enjoyed last night’s two sets of interviews: The first with James “The Amazing” Randi and the business manager for psychic fraud Sylvia Browne, and the second with CNN’s reporter Michael Ware regarding his experiences in Iraq.

I then emailed

“Dear Mr. Stewart,

I've heard several people suggest that professional magician and professed skeptic James Randi would be an excellent guest on your show. I agree completely--as a fan of both your show and Mr. Randi, I would love to see you interview him. I think it would make captivating and highly amusing television.

Thank you,
Mark Tabler”

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Update Mishmash

It has been a long time since I posted, so I’ll just do a little stream-of-conscious bibbleblab.

I attended a coin club meeting the weekend before last. Not much to report on. That Jim guy (I think that’s his name) gave a presentation on collecting varieties and resources for identifying varieties. I bought nothing at the auction. I renewed my membership by paying ten dollars.

One of Kim’s mom’s clients gave us a small freezer, which we put in our garage. We got it for free, which is a pretty sweet deal, especially considering that it’s very new.

Before we could move the freezer in, we had to clear space in the garage. The garage was a wreck—like downtown Tokyo after a couple monsters had finished a tough man competition. Or perhaps a better metaphor would be junkyard jenga—it was impossible to pull out or move any item without at least two other items falling over. I therefore had to spend quite a while throwing out old boxes, rolling things up, stacking boxes wisely, and generally condensing the lot. Although I haven’t finished making the garage presentable—not by a long shot—I did manage to make room for the freezer, and give myself some very reasonable hope that I’ll have room to paint on my easel.

As far as actually producing artwork, the closest I’ve come recently is some sketching in my sketchbooks.

I’m trying to get my D&D game back up and running. I have so many old notes, many of which are simple ideas or musings that contradict one another, that simply sorting them is a job in itself. Now that I think of it, my condition of my D&D campaign bears a strong correspondence to my garage. I must endeavor to keep it simple. My players would probably be amused—and would probably also groan—if they saw how many variations on plot ideas and background and history were jotted down, elaborated on, connected to other bits of background or plot, changed again, then discarded. I haven’t made any New Year’s resolutions, but here’s one: Get my game going again, and streamline it.

We’ve played two games of the board game Puerto Rico so far, and it’s pretty good. The rules look complex at first, but game play is actually quite simple. Behind that simplicity, however, is a lot of subtlety. There are many little gears turning in that game, and it’s hard for me to think of strategies.

We also played Settlers of Catan again on Sunday. We had an expanded 5-player game. Kim won. I started slowly and remained behind the whole game. I had fun, though.

I watched “Little Miss Sunshine.” I approve heartily.

Now that it is nearing the end of January, verging on Spring, a young man’s (meaning mine) fancy turns to gardening. And love, sure, but gardening is what I do also. I bet there’s a good way to combine the two. I digress. What should I plant? My ideas are bigger than my garden space, at least for now. I foresee a time when that may be different. When the girls can play by themselves a bit longer in the back yard without eating sand or demanding to be picked up, I may enlarge my garden quite a bit. Presently, though, I think I’ll plant a small early Spring crop of…maybe cabbage? Radishes? I dunno. Later, I’m going to try watermelons. I’ll probably try to use a trellis for that. More tomatoes, of course. Hmm.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Randi's Million Dollar Challenge Rule Change

I see that the James Randi Education Foundations has changed the rules in its Million Dollar Challenge, as discussed in this news article:,72482-0.html?tw=wn_index_1

It looks to me like a great change. In the past, when I've read about the tribulations of dealing with applicants, it has seemed truly exhausting. Amusing at first, or in concept, like skimming the headlines of "Weekly World News" in the cashier's lane; but then, if you actually try to read it, it's a major chore. It becomes more sad than anything else.

Randi seems to be becoming more aggressive, and he certainly doesn't mince words. I, like Randi, have long been a fan of Carl Sagan. Sagan held similar views, but from what I've seen he was always very diplomatic and careful to be seen as explaining and describing rather than attacking. I'm much more Sagan-y than Randi-ish in my tastes, but I have to confess I get lots and lots of joy from watching Randi engage in skirmishes. I think the rules changes will lead to more (very deserving) exposure for the JREF.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

A couple of nights ago I finished reading The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon, and I thought it was quite good. It wasn’t quite what I was expecting. I expected a less earthy story, and thought it would be more offbeat in a cutesy way. Instead, I was treated to a convincing tour of messy human lives in a messy human world, but the tour guide was someone who has a harder time understanding it than I do.

Shortly after I started reading it, I asked Kim if the central character, an autistic teenager, reminded her of me. I asked because I’ve expressed some of the same viewpoints, and I recognized myself somewhat in that character. Also, in past conversations with Kim and other friends, we’ve discussed how autism in some ways just seems to be a more extreme form of being a man—like humans occupy the whole spectrum from non-autistic to austistic, with the typical woman being in the non-autistic range, and most men ranging from slightly to notably autistic, and the people diagnosed with autism simply being moreso. (Of course, as I said, this is just autism “in some way.” I don’t know much about autism. I’m not a psychologist, but I play one in book reviews.) We had good fun one evening with a test from a magazine in which we had to look at photos of faces and identify which emotions they were exhibiting. Kim, Helga, and Barbara got most or all answers correct, whereas the two Chrises and I faired poorly; my score was dismal, and I was forced to ague that the test sucked and I was right and everyone else was wrong and why couldn’t they see that and it was all pretty stupid anyway? And another night, or maybe it was that same night, I said I couldn’t understand why a woman would have been insulted by something that Pat had said, and Helga called me a Vulcan.

Anyway, where was I? I’m out of time. It was a good book.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Art, Coin, Garden Miscellany News

Art: A few days ago I created a lame sketch of Kim. It's nothing at all to brag about. I can, however, brag about Erin, who creates wonderful page-filling watercolors and encourages her sister to do the same.

Coin: I received a gift certificate for the Louisville Numismatic Exchange. The horrible thing about that is that it's so finite. I look at it and think, "I can spend this, and then it's all over. I'll be able to get nothing else." It makes it very hard to decide what to get. Over the past month or so, though, my coin-collecting obsession has ebbed, as it does from time to time. Now spare me-time goes to a few other Web sites, reading, and brushing up on various game rules. Numismatics will come back with a vengeance soon enough.

Garden: It's only January 11, but the warm mooshy weather gets me in the mood for diggin'. Due to said weather, my hollyhocks are sprouting, and the daffodils and crocuses (and perhaps some tulips) are coming up. That could be trouble. I'd sure like some bitterly cold weather to kill off both garden vermin and whatever is making me sneeze (besides my head cold). I've been talking big to Erin about my garden plans this year, but I need to remember that I tend to bite off more than I can chew. My big new plan for this year's garden: Watermelons.

Skepticism: The poinsettia didn't kill me, nor did I retch, hallucinate, or get the vile squelchies. I sat by my phone for hours and hours awaiting a call from those "Mythbusters" guys, but they must not read this blog.

Dreams: I couple of nights ago, I dreamed I was on the Moon with two other astronauts. I was collecting soil samples, and found a bunch of mud at the bottom of a crater. Inside the mud were greenish spots that looked like algae. It was amazing. We were very excited that we might have found both water and life on the Moon.

Games: 1) I got the board game "Puerto Rico" for Christmas, but I'm not up on the rules yet. Looks pretty cool, though, and maybe I'll get a chance to play it soon. 2) Also, after a three-year absence, I'm working on getting back into my Dungeons & Dragons campaign. We'd pick up right where we left off. I've mentioned it to my fellow gamers, and it was met with a very positive reaction, and now that I've brought it up I'm sure it's expected so I guess I better get cracking. 3) Kim and I played "Seafarers of Catan" for the first time last weekend. We played with Brooke and David. It was fun, and I'm looking forward to playing it again with some of the game board variations. David won. Kim had a remarkable showing. I performed very poorly, which has happened with alarming frequency in recent "Catan" games.

Movies: Brian, Kevin, and I saw "Children of Men" last Friday, and it was very good. Though I found the story engaging, I was equally impressed by how the movie was put together technically. It was a finely crafted film. Some of the sequences were very clever. And if you ever wanted to see a tense action/thriller movie in which most of the good guys never so much as touch a gun, this is it. (Spoiler: Actually, none of the good guys touch a gun, I think. But you don't realize this until half way into the movie. That's when you find out some of the good guys are bad guys.)

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

This may be my last post.

There is a poinsettia on the table between my desk and my co-worker’s. In order to demonstrate the non-toxicity of poinsettias, I licked some sap (after some leaves had been blasted off in one of our innumerable rubber band battles.) My co-worker told me that the poinsettia came with a large label stating that the plant was highly toxic to people and animals. “That’s bull,” I said, and ingested some. It tasted like icky lettuce, with a hint of broccoli.

I’m confident that I shall be fine. But if I convulse and die, thank you for your time.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007


Our family tradition is to spend New Year’s Day in our pajamas. Monday morning I was able to sleep quite late (9:15) after an evening of year-end carousing. Well, it wasn’t so much carousing as socializing and eating lots of really tasty treats, though I did have a glass of wine. Kim’s mom watched the girls on New Year’s Eve, and she spent the night and watched the girls as we slept in. That was a very nice set-up for us.

So I got up and stayed in my pajamas, and after a while I showered and put my pajamas back on. Then Kim had the idea of going to the grocery to get something for the crock pot (something for which I’ve recently expressed a desire). She wanted to go to Kroger.

By now it was early afternoon. We worked on lunch, and then I called my parents to wish them a Happy New Year. My mom answered.

“Hi, Mom!” I said. “Happy New Year!”

“Well,” she said, “Happy New Year to you! Where are you?”

“I’m at home.”

Slight pause on her end of the line. “What are you doing?”

“We’re just hanging around in our PJs. I just was calling to say Happy New Year. Nothing much.”

Another slight pause. I could tell that my mom was making some kind of mental adjustments. She asked, “At home? Are you feeling OK?”

I thought for a second, wondering what was throwing her off, and answered thoughtfully,

“This is Mark. We’re just spending our New Year’s Day at home, not doing much…”

“Let me talk to Kim for a minute, and then I’ll tell her to put you back on,” she said.

At this point, as I handed the phone to Kim, I realized that something was up.

Kim and Mom spoke for a minute. Kim’s half of the conversation consisted of laughter and a stream of suspiciously vague comments: “All right. Hee hee. Yeah. Yeah. Hee hee. Oooh. OK. Right. Hee hee. OK. Yeah. Yeah.”

She handed the phone back to me. “What’s going on?” I asked.

“Nothing, I don’t know what I was thinking, I guess I just had too much to drink last night and I’m a little hung over. Hah hah.”

“Ooooooo-kay,” I said, knowing full well that the glass of wine I’d had the night before probably rivaled in quantity the entire amount of alcohol that Mom had consumed over the past sixty years.

I talked with her and then with Dad, and hung up. I asked Kim what was going on, and she just shrugged and tried to play it off, trying to keep a straight face while saying that she supposed Mom had just overindulged the night before.

“C’mon,” said Kim, “Are you ready to go to the store?”

Suspicious conversation by spouse and mother. Hmm. And Kim trying to get me to leave with her. Hmm. Kim’s mom had agreed to come back, after going home for a little while, to baby sit—arrangements for which I’d heard no discussion. Hmm.

We walked out to the car. Kim hurriedly got into the driver’s seat. “To the store, huh?” I asked was we backed out of the driveway. Just before Kroger, Kim changed lanes and got onto the Gene Snyder Freeway.

“Wherever we’re going, my mom almost spilled the beans, didn’t she?”

“What do you mean? We’re going to Kroger.”

Then we got on I-71 north, toward Cincinnati. And I noticed a packed gym bag in the back seat. “Are you going to take me out to the woods and shoot me?” I questioned. She just laughed. Then I asked, “Should I have done a better job saying goodbye to the girls?”

“Ohh, honey, no, it’s OK,” Kim answered.

So I just sat and watched the scenery as I wondered where she was taking me. Amy and Dan’s house? Someplace in Cincinnati? General Butler State Park?

It turns out that one of my guesses, General Butler State Park, was on the money. We exited at Carrollton—and pulled into the Kroger. Kim told me that we had a lodge rented for the night. We shopped in our pajamas at the Carrollton Kroger, then went to the park to check in.

Within two hours I went from lounging on the sofa contemplating lunch to standing in the rain in my PJs, scrounging for kindling, just outside Carrollton, Kentucky.

Our little cottage was nice and cozy. And Kim is so sweet. There is nothing in the world that can compare to being kidnapped by a gorgeous, sexy, thoughtful, interesting woman, dragged off to an isolated cabin with a fireplace, and forced to wear pajamas or nothing. I love my wife so much.