Registering Complaint

I got a notice from the county to register for jury duty. This is different from a summons; it’s sort of preliminary step where they want to remind me that they own my ass and might decide to claim it soon. I need to fill out a questionnaire (why are so many government communications centered on forms?) that basically ensures that I can’t run away. Later, perhaps in the next month or two, I’ll get the actual notice. Unless I don’t.

Being on a jury is weird, but that’s not what I’m worried about. A few years ago I served on a murder trial. It’s dull, and it will kill your illusions about the oratory skills of lawyers, but it’s not difficult or stressful. If it’s my turn again, then it’s my turn.

What bothers me is the uncertainty of it all. I have a trip coming up in a few weeks to which I’m really looking forward. With the two-week response window and time for data processing, there’s very little chance that any summons would conflict with my long weekend. I know this.

Nonetheless my brain is working on the assumption that the notice will arrive while I’m out-of-state and that it will all end with me on the wrong side of the jury box being judged by sensible people, who reworked their plans to fulfill their obligations. I fear they won’t understand that two nights of monster movies at a drive-in in Pennsylvania is more important than waiting around to maybe be selected to possibly hear a case.

Maybe I can submit Vincent Price movies as my defense. At the very least, my crime would seem trivial in comparison to his trail of cinematic slayings.


Detour Into Nature

I turned the corner on a detour this morning and saw a deer wandering across the road. Being all but stopped, and in clear sight of any following traffic, I happily waited for the animal to clear both lanes. It’s kind of a nice way to start the day, getting a glimpse of nature.

Now if only that glimpse of nature stays the hell out of Wendi’s garden!

A Serious Examination of the Human Condition Under National Socialism in a State of Isolation on the Opposing Side of the Lunar Surface

Last night I saw “Iron Sky”, which is not exactly a good movie but is goofy and entertaining. As I was leaving the theater I heard the requisite angry nerd rant. This guy was upset that the movie had been a comedy that had “wasted a great opportunity.”

“It’s like they’ve just given up on hard science fiction!” he complained.

I could have argued that by pointing out the scarcity of such films in the entire history of the cinema, but really there’s no reasoning with someone who went to a MOON NAZI movie expecting it to be serious.

License to Pitch

I’ve used wallets of various design for decades, but there’s one feature that’s always the same: they break my credit cards. I tried carrying my wallet in a front pocket, but honestly it looked like I had an unusually rectangular thigh tumor. More importantly, it wasn’t easy to pull out my wallet when I was seated.

After ordering the latest replacement for my debit card, I decided it was time to try a steel wallet. These are all the rage among the paranoid because apparently naughty people can read your cards with spy beams or something. Me, I just want a wallet that won’t wreck my shit.

I checked Amazon for ideas, and stumbled on This webshop sells metal cases decorated with various posters and iconic images. I scrolled through for a while; nodding, smiling, and shaking my head. Then I saw it: a poster of the spectacular Daleks from Dr. Who and the Daleks.

I’d have recognized the image even without the title, rendered in blocky yellow movie font. The film’s a favorite of mine because of its design esthetic. Also, because it’s fun seeing Peter Cushing acting like a congenially befuddled grandfather.

The Dalek’s command center in the stylish “Dr. Who and the Daleks”.

Because of circumstances I receive my packages at work. I stay friendly with the administrative staff because they have to deal with things like my constant influx of packages. Pro tip: be good to people who can hold up your 2-day shipments of comics.

When my Dalek case came in I rushed to my desk and immediately began transferring everything from my wallet. I made sure to check all the hidden pockets where I tend to stash things like my proof of insurance. Then I had to work out where to put everything. The case was general purpose, with clips in the lid and bottom. Condensing everything from several slots and pockets into two sections took a bit of thought.

I didn’t relish sitting on a hard metal case, so I wouldn’t be able to put it in my back pocket. I’d need to find a different way of carrying it around. Eventually I worked it out, and everything ended happily.


The next day Wendi and I had to drive in separately. It was my City of Villains league night, and Wendi was going to a friend’s house to make crafts. I got in my car that morning, but as the new wallet had altered my routine I had some compulsions to deal with. I’d have to check a few times, just to make sure I hadn’t misplaced it.

I pulled out the wallet and opened it up. Credit cards, documents, random bits of paper — everything checked out. Hold on, where’s my driver’s license? I went through everything twice more, but the license failed to turn up. Crap!

Thinking back, I could recall intending to remove my license from the old wallet. I could also clearly remember being distracted by all the pockets in the removable id fold. Had I gone back and pulled out the license? Was it or the id fold still on my desk, or had they both been in the wallet when I’d thrown it away?

Why did my compulsions to triple-check everything never strike when I was throwing my driver’s license away?

I decided to risk driving in to work, in the hope that my license would be waiting for me. Wendi, having found me still in the driveway, expressed somewhat justifiable concern about my ability to not get pulled over. She didn’t press it though, and I drove safely and cautiously to work.

My driver’s license was nowhere to be found.

I whined a bit on more conversational social media. Then I looked up how to get a replacement. As it turned out, all I needed to get a replacement was the license number. I went back to the social media and whined some more.

While I was gloomily formulating a plan for getting a replacement license, I received an email from our chief office administrator.

Hi — the cleaning crew brought me an empty wallet of yours, with a chauffeur license in it. Is this something you meant to throw out?

Why, no. No, I had not. I responded:

OMG THANK YOU! What a fantastic cleaning staff we have!

Then I ran to her desk, scaring the contractors who had never seen me move that quickly. I retrieved the license and put it into the Dalek case. I thought about tossing the wallet again, but I decided to do it at home. At least that way I’d have a few days grace for digging it out of the trash before it went to the curb.

Two weeks later, it’s still on a table in our living room. Despite numerous investigations that came up empty, I’m terrified that there’s still something in it.

Best Friend for a Minute

I’ll never understand friendly people.

I was heading to an ATM, but got caught at a crosswalk by the light. This guy walks up to me and starts a conversation.

Stranger: You walk just like a friend of mine!

Me: Do I…?

Stranger: Yeah. We call him Buddha. He’s big, like you, and real mellow.

Me: Ah…

Stranger: He’s a nice guy, so don’t be offended.

Me: Fair enough…

The light changes, and he’s off to chat with other strangers.

Stranger: See ya! Have a good one!

What the hell was that about? We didn’t cover this in Civics, I’m sure of it.

Socially Unconventional

“How are you?”

It’s not supposed to be a difficult question, but it often paralyzes me. Through trial, error, and the trapped looks on people’s faces I’ve learned that the truth is inappropriate.

“Not well, really. I couldn’t sleep last night after hearing what might’ve been a gunshot.”

“Well, my mom tried to kill herself again. I really don’t know how much more of this I can take.”

“My cat went in to have her teeth cleaned and had a heart attack. She’s in an oxygen chamber, and not doing well.”

This is more than most people want. The convention for casual usage seems to be some variation on “well”, “fine”, or “okay”. Anything less positive is met with awkwardness, if not horror.

When I first realized this, I couldn’t bring myself to lie for the sake of convention. After all, it’s not my fault that they asked without actually caring. Right? So I figured I’d acknowledge their usage of a polite convention.

“I acknowledge your greeting,” I’d say.

That worked poorly and earned me more looks ranging from concern to sympathy. With that feedback, I decided to return the greeting without actually responding to the question.

“Hey,” I’d reply. Or, “Hi.”

That worked well for most situations: passing someone in a hall, entering the small kitchen at work, or trying to get a co-worker to tell me why he’s interrupted me. (I lie, just a little. Nothing helps some people get to the point.)

It just doesn’t feel right in our grocery store. We live in a small, semi-rural town. People around here talk to each other. On the street, in line, at restaurants — it’s a little creepy to my paranoid suburban point of view. When someone here asks how you are, they may actually want to know how you are. Maybe not in detail, but they might be interested in a highlight reel.

It’s taken nearly a decade, but now I can respond appropriately to the local cashiers.

“Fine,” I’ll usually say. This is to mean that nothing in my life is abnormally positive or negative at the moment. If everything’s been coming up Atomic Zombie, I’ll hazard a “pretty well”. A broken down car warrants “been worse”, and when it’s worse than that I’ll just leave it at “tired”.

Then I turn it on them. “And yourself?” I’ll ask innocently, hoping to put them through the kind of mental anguish I’ve suffered for years over this social convention.

“That’s good,” they say. “Paper or plastic?”

The Spider Bombs – “Nudie Cutie”

Some of you may be aware that I have a band. Well, a one-nerd band. It’s called The Spider Bombs, and it’s your basic ukulele, mandolin, rockabilly act.

I’ll likely write more about it at some point. For now, I want to let you know about my new release.

“Nudie Cutie” is about finding love in an exceptionally unlikely place: the sex-kitten lab of Dr. Breedlove. It’s a space-a-riffic visit to the world of the nudie cutie classic “Kiss Me, Quick”.

Please give it a listen.

Our Oratorio

I met Wendi during my freshman year in college. She transferred to University of Michigan in the winter term and, seeking out like-minded people, joined the Champions game I was in.

For those unfamiliar, Champions is a Hero System RPG for playing comic book super heroes. If that doesn’t make sense to you, just understand that we were a merry band of geeks armed with bags of dice and 2-liters of caffeinated beverages.

I instantly took a shine to her, and not just because she happened to have estrogen. She was attractive, funny, and confident. Also, she was a junior. I figured she was out of my league. She didn’t agree, but I had no idea of that. I was busily having an odd sort of breakdown in which I started creating my own reality.

Fortunately a summer spent back home rooted me firmly in consensus reality again, and I’ve never lost my mind quite that severely since. Nope.

Um. This was meant to be a fun post. Forget all that stuff about my stupid brain, okay?

Fast forward to my sophomore year. As the fall term progressed Wendi and I started hanging out more, in part because I had switched to the dorm next to hers to be with the majority of our friends. I’d skip Russian class so we could share long lunches at my dorm’s cafeteria. I was failing anyway, so I figured that I might as well enjoy myself.

By the time November came around, I’d started working up the nerve to ask her out. On a date, not just another of our semi-regular trips to the hobby store.

Then Wendi got tired of waiting for me and started going out with Bruce. I call him that because he was fixated on an ex that who reportedly looked like Demi Moore, specifically as she appeared in “Ghost”. I wouldn’t know; I never met either of them — Bruce and Demi, I mean, although I’ve also never met Bruce or Demi.

Wendi and I were still having lunch together, as I nobly stayed beside her just in case Bruce died. The wisdom of this plan was confirmed for me when she bluntly said she’d have gone out with me if I had asked. It hurt to know for certain that I’d blown it, but now I could hope for another chance. All I had to do was never to give up on her. I’d stay at her side, believing that I’d just be happy enough if she were happy.

As it turned out my resolve was never tested, which is probably for the best. My intentions are good, but my attention span isn’t brief so much as it is deeply lazy. It can’t put forth the effort needed to focus on such a long-term commitment.

Less than a week after dropping truth on my lunch, Wendi called me. She had gotten tickets for a performance of Messiah but couldn’t reach Bruce. Would I like to go?

My instinctive reaction was to decline, as I knew that I was not fit for an evening of culture. Fortunately I quickly recast the event as an opportunity to spend time with her — under date-like conditions, no less! Sometimes my brain works perfectly well, thank you.

The night of the performance found us sitting somberly in the theater, trying to absorb culture while deciding whether or not this constituted a first date. By intermission we were worn out. We talked nervously, and out of desperation we scrutinized the program.

That’s when we finally realized that the lyrics were in English.

For the rest of the evening we giggled uncontrollably, under the resentful glower of those around us. I remain unashamed; you can’t expect the repetition of a sentence for five or six minutes to be met with gravitas — not from Gilbert and Sullivan fans. The line we were hearing rattled through my brain, transformed into the meter of “Modern Major General”.

     “He was rejected and despised
     And despised and rejected
     And despised and despised
     And rejected and rejected…”

After that we felt very much relaxed and ourselves. Over dessert at Stucchi’s we talked comfortably and decided that we were indeed dating. We’ve been best friends ever since. I have no idea what happened to Bruce, but his loss was my gain.

We’ve had ups and downs, like any couple, but every time we hear the “Hallelujah” chorus we look at each other and smile. We may not be cultured, but we’ll always have Handel’s Messiah.

Stopping a Thought Train

I’ve had Train’s “Soul Sister” stuck in my head for weeks. It’s especially aggravating because they are such lazy lyricists, simply stringing along rhymes without building anything out of them.

Last night we watched anime with George and saw several episodes of “Soul Eater”. In the shower this morning my brain conflated the two, and I wound up humming something less awful (though still not very good).

Hey, Soul Eater!
With Maka, your meister
And your witch cat, Blair
White, spiky hair
The move Witch Hunter’s just not fair

The tune is still stuck in my head, but at least I’ve got new words for it.