Saturday, January 30, 2010

Just a Spy in the House of Love...

When I first returned to central Oklahoma, I noted that the radio listening experience was not an uplifting one. There was simply no way to listen to a station for longer than fifteen or maybe 20 minutes before one's fingers lunged for the station preset buttons in an attempt to find something, anything that the ears hadn't heard possibly thousands of times (KISS-FM, JACK-FM, BOB-FM, The Buzz, KRXO) or was nearly one hundred percent twaddle (KJ103, KSPI). I changed stations more often than I change lanes on I-35's construction zone between Moore and Norman. Reliably amusing, if crude, on-air personalities had become reliably crude, not amusing. And others who had always stunk (Jack and Ron, of course) still did.

But over the last few months, I haven't touched the truck's station changer more than twice or three times a week. We in the OKC area have seen a return of "The Spy." Originally, the KSPI station based in Stillwater went by that name, and a disc jockey named Ferris O'Brien played a wide range of alternative/new wave/punk/indie/whatever name we've given this week to music that hasn't been processed through the A&R grinder releases. Later, The Spy operated out of an Oklahoma City station for a few years, until station owners first switched it to a Spanish-language music format, then to the Spanish-language version of ESPN radio.

O'Brien brought the station back through a local marketing agreement with Citadel Communications. He's said his ultimate plans include buying the station outright. The refreshing aspect of playing Ear Spy in my truck is that I don't hear the same songs I've been hearing for decades -- songs that aren't actually bad, but which can't justify having greater airplay now than they had in their initial release.

There's no way I could claim to like everything I hear on the new SpyFM. I lost my chance to be a bona fide New Waver in the early 80s when I said out loud that I just didn't get The Smiths and I didn't think that Morrissey was really that great, and 25 years haven't changed my mind. I'll probably lose any chance at being "indie," the 21st century equivalent of New Waver ("Not punk. New Wave. It's a totally different head. Totally." Thank you, Johnny Slash) when I say that Vampire Weekend does absolutely nothing for me. But even the things I don't like I can stand, because they're not the same thing that just got played 15 minutes ago on another station.

O'Brien probably has a longterm plan for the station to develop its alternative voice and its promotion of local musicians, and kudos to him. The Spy already features several homegrown programs -- local music on Thursday; rockabilly, jump blues and the actual old-time rock and roll Bob Seger was referring to on Friday evenings; dance music late Friday night and early Saturday morning and a Wednesday night show that features music the Spy would have played had it been on the air for the last six years. The latter's the weakest. While the music is good, the show hosts are a pair of OKC bloggers who, like most of us, are a lot funnier to themselves than they are to others and who do better writing short, sometimes humorous bursts online than they do coming up with enough chat to fill the spaces between an hour's worth of songs (A reason you'll never hear me on the radio, by the way). But even they're playing stuff that's not the same old thing.

I'd love to see O'Brien branch out with a show featuring some of the Americana music of the last few years that's taken country, bluegrass and roots music as far beyond the Nashville hats-and-tarts scene as Los Campesinos! took folkish poppy dance tunes beyond the Billboard graveyard. And there's a little too much Morrissey and way too much Flaming Lips (of course, for me, that level is reached the first time a Lips tune gets played, which shows I'm still not ever going to be cool). But I've found a half-dozen bands I'd never heard of and now enjoy tremendously and I've got a notepad in my car to write down lyrics when I hear them in the non-DJ portions of the day so I can search them later (and stop bothering O'Brien's email inbox with a "What was that song you played about 9:30 this morning" again).

And listening to the radio is fun again. Thanks a lot, Ferris & The SpyFM, and good luck.

(The headline is taken from the song of the same name by the dB's, a power pop band of the late '70s and '80s that deserved the acclaim R.E.M. got and which wouldn't have frittered it away on junk like Up. Or from a different song by the quirky duo of Was (Not Was), who also helped us "Walk the Dinosaur" and warned us that when the "woodwork squeaks...out come the freaks.")

Happy 80th

Today marks that birthday for Gene Hackman, an actor who has probably made only a handful of bad movies in his career. Like The Quick and the Dead, for example, but just about any movie in which one co-stars with Sharon Stone will be on one's list of career duds. And in any event, he was pretty much always the best thing those turkeys had going for them.

His IMDB trivia page says that he was one of the actors originally considered to play Mike Brady in The Brady Bunch TV show. I literally cannot conceive what that would look like.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Travel Musings

Made a trip to a former church to help celebrate a member's life, and so some notes ensue:

1) You can live a mighty full life and make a mighty big difference even if you spend most of your time in one county in a mostly rural corner of a mostly rural state. Nice to know.

2) I miss those folks.

3) I do not miss the length of the drive, or the H.E. Bailey Turnpike -- a road which I have previously described as "paved in Braille."

4) Always nice to visit a store you haven't seen in awhile to browse the used music selection. Although I'm somewhat torn. On the one hand, my willingness to take a chance on a band that looks interesting increases dramatically when the CD costs me ninety-seven cents. I have found many an unknown gem this way. On the other hand, I feel kind of bad, because if I'd paid attention to them when the CD was released, their catalog might not be filling the remainder bin today. If only there were some venue that could play certain songs by a wide range of artists in some fashion that allowed you to sample the output of new or previously unknown performers. It could be free to listeners, but supported perhaps by advertising revenue. And it could be broadcast, so that people could listen in homes, at work, or in their cars. When will some creative genius produce such a system?

5) Some modern artist has seen fit to add his or her colorful work to the words of Tacitus and Ronald Reagan displayed on a highway billboard. They are illegible, which one might think would defeat the purpose of either commentary by or notoriety for the tagger. But at least the self was expressed! And probably esteemed.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Once Again

A sermon appears, as if by unseen electronic forces, upon the Interwebs, and is available for your perusal, contemplation and dozing...

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Is Civilization Just a Prehistoric Hangover?

Possibly so, according to this archaeology professor from the University of Pennsylvania.

Human beings transitioned gradually from hunter-gatherers, or people who wandered around picking up whatever was laying around to eat and occasionally procuring their own food. This group is also sometimes called "teenagers." Over time, they developed agriculture, wherein they grew their food and stayed in one place. Agriculture is a more efficient method of producing food and it supported more people, so folks began to gather around each other more, leading to cities.

Dr. Patrick McGovern -- whose name gives us a clue to his heritage and that may or may not play a role in his discovery and theories -- says that the first folks who settled down in one area to grow plants may not have done so in order to grow plants they could eat. Cooking technology was such that not enough food would be prepared that way to require more plants than could be gathered during the usual nomadic or semi-nomadic wanderings. In other words, baking bread didn't produce such a great product that people said, "Hey, we ought to stop wandering around gathering up wheat to bake this stuff, because if we stayed in one place and grew it ourselves we could have lots more of it!"

No, Dr. McGovern says -- somehow or another they had learned that grains, mixed with moisture, did something that made drinking the resulting product a whole lot more interesting than drinking plain water (It also made all of the members of the opposite sex more attractive, which could be another reason for the population boom. Which means the concept known as "beer goggles" may have developed long before we had the terminology to describe it.) The demand for this product was such that people settled down to be able to grow enough grain to meet it, and voila! Civilization!

Dr. McGovern's earliest samples are from pottery found in China that dates to 7000 BC. The method by which our ancient ancestors added moisture to the grain is not particularly pleasant to describe, but I will say that along with beer goggles, "backwash" is also a modern concept that has very old roots.

In an interesting twist, it seems that many modern-day alcohol consumers have reversed the civilizing process suggested by Dr. McGovern. Rather than staying in one place, they will often wander a familiar circuit, stopping at several different places to see and gather what alcoholic beverage they can find before moving on to the next. This group is sometimes known as "college students on spring break."

(H/T Arts and Letters Daily)

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

"The End," He Said.

No more wisecracks, no more cooking tips, no more slow meditations on life, morality, love, evil and baseball. Author Robert B. Parker died at his desk Monday -- a setting he would probably have preferred for his death to any except maybe a ballgame or a boxing match.

Parker created Spenser, a private detective who headlined 37 of his 65 books. Later he added Jesse Stone, a kind of younger version of Spenser who was a police chief in a small Massachusetts town, and Sunny Randall, a female private investigator who also worked in Spenser's Boston and who sometimes dealt with some of the same people. In recent years, he had written both Westerns and young adult novels, some of the latter of which were of Spenser as a young boy and adolescent.

With the exception of those two new genres, a lot of Parker's output over the last 10 years or so had become repetitious, almost as though he had cut and pasted sections of earlier novels together on a word processor but changed some character names and incidents just enough to not be reprints of the earlier works. But the snappy patter and wry observations of his central characters usually carried enough energy to keep readers going to the end of the story and feel glad they'd done so (As always, when I write about Parker, I exclude Hundred-Dollar Baby from that statement -- it's an ugly story with an ugly ending that fails on so many counts that if it were the first Parker book I read I'd have used the other 64 for kindling without cracking them open).

But if the length of his career meant that Parker would continue to produce even into the twilight of his skill's erosion, it also made for a long, long high point. He wrote his first novel, The Godwulf Manuscript, while teaching literature at Northeastern University. Although it took him several years to write, he sold the manuscript to a publisher in a mere three weeks, and it wasn't because of his pretty face.

Hoist a beer or punch a thug in ol' RBP's name if you've a mind to, or maybe toss off a witty quip that's even faster than your fists (and might necessitate their use, if said in the wrong company). But be careful that you live now so as to merit good things in the life to come -- St. Peter's just acquired a new bouncer, and he's not easily intimidated or fooled.

P.S. -- The post headline comes from Parker's rigorous devotion to the word "said" as a speech tag in his dialogue. Longtime fans know that when a different speech tag appears, Something Interesting is going on.

Monday, January 18, 2010


When you're big enough to help any country in the world after any disaster, any time and anywhere, then you can step up and say how things are done. Until then, put a chaussette in it, bake us some croissants and get out of the way while the grown-ups help people, Pierre. And while we're at it, cierra la boca tambien, Hugo.

Sunday, January 17, 2010


This week's sermon is up, here. It is a repeat from a couple of years ago, so if you're a longtime reader (Hi, Mom!) you might find it familiar.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

I Missed Something

When people object to how much college sports personnel like coaches and athletic directors and such get paid, a standard response says that they're being paid more because that's what it takes to get the best and brightest people in their fields into those positions.


So why is the University of Southern California going to pay money to a guy with a 12-21 career won-loss record as a head football coach? A guy who won one more game than he lost as a college coach and who lost three times as many games as he won as an NFL coach? A guy who in one season scored six secondary NCAA violations as well as a "letter of inquiry" from the organization, which is the polite and legalese way the NCAA uses to say "What the heck do you think you're doing?" A guy whose previous tenure at USC also made sure NCAA investigators could put food on their tables because of his recruiting methods. A guy who recruited thugs who couldn't keep on the straight and narrow long enough to make it to new student week. A guy who got called "immature" and a "liar" by Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis.

I'm finding it hard to figure out how USC will justify spending the dough on its new coach under the "pay more to get the best people" rubric. And I'm finding it even harder to figure out why they pay the athletic director who got them to hire him anything at all.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


Obviously, the people of that nation need our prayers and our earthly resources for assistance. As you offer them, please be certain to deal with established, reputable helping agencies so that you reduce your risk of being defrauded or otherwise victimized by possible scammers.

As for the prayer, it should not surprise you that I believe there is an established agency for that as well, although you should feel free to engage in solo work in this area also ;-)

The Journey of a Thousand Pages

Well, OK, it's the techno-thriller Polar Shift by Clive Cussler and Paul Kemprecos, so it's really nowhere near a thousand pages. Nor would it be worth reading if it was and, yes, I'm talking to you, Mr. King.

But I picked this up used, in order to have something to read while I ride the exercise bike, and at least one former owner, like many folks, used whatever paper was at hand to mark his or her place. And like many other times, that paper was forgotten whenever the book passed along to the used book store or book drive or wherever. I think, in fact, that I've got reminders of two previous owners. One is a business card for a woman who worked for a biotechnology company in Maryland. The other is a couple of room charge receipts for a person with a completely different last name than the person on the business card. The receipts are for meals during a stay at a hotel in Maui, Hawaii in March of 2007. They're more interesting, although I think the biotech lady's business card is trying to hide the fact that it's slowly moving across my desk towards the white-out. It may be planning to disguise itself and make a break for it.

From the receipts we learn that, if you stay at this particular hotel in Maui, you can expect to pay nearly eleven dollars for a turkey sandwich. However, the sales tax is only 4.2 percent, which makes us folks in the OKC metro area prick up our 8 percent or so sales-taxed ears and take notice. But we also learn that a breakfast buffet at this hotel -- excuse me, "resort and spa," ran $25.95 apiece. A "bakery basket," which I'm hoping is not resort-speak for a couple slices of toast although I'm not going to put it past them, rings up another six bucks. And a bowl of cereal with fruit tacks on another eight bucks. For that amount, Snap, Crackle and Pop probably need to throw in a show as well.

Judging by the respective tip amounts, the breakfast waiter did a better job than the lunch waiter. And had neater handwriting.

The book? Not bad. It centers on some quirks of how the world's magnetic field works and how every now and again, the north and south magnetic poles can swap places. When that happens, compass needles point the other way, and a whole lot of potentially much worse things might accompany the change. Kurt Austin, a troubleshooter for the National Underwater and Marine Agency, has to stop a couple of baddies who want to make the poles swap places and wreck things so they can take over the world. And he has to work with a scientist related to the scientist who originally came up with the theorems that make this happen. She's a pretty girl, if you can imagine that. Cussler and Kemprecos probably had fun spinning this yarn, and I had fun reading it. I hope the previous owners did too, and they may rest assured that there is no personal information on the receipts and in any event, I'm feeding them into our office shredder before tossing them in the trash.

Monday, January 11, 2010

It Happens to Every Panda...

Well, the National Zoo's pair of pandas, female Mei Xiang and male Tian Tian, attempted to mate Saturday night.

According to the story, the attempt was unsuccessful and Mei Xiang was artificially inseminated. I am quite sure that if Tian Tian ever learns to read, he is going to be royally ticked off at the Associated Press for spreading this news around. We're told that zoo officials "carefully observ[ed] the pair for several hours and determin[ed] that mating had not been successful..." Artificial insemination was done quickly, we're told, because female pandas are generally fertile only about one day a year. Some thoughts:

1) Whom did the zoo officials tick off in order to get this detail? "You forgot to kick in for the coffee again, Fred, so you're stuck on the randy panda watch this year."

2) It takes several hours to determine that mating hadn't been successful? As I recall from locker-room discussions during my boyhood days, success or failure at this particular endeavor (the latter of which never happened to anyone, at least as far as the information approved for public release was concerned) was generally determined rather quickly. Indeed, the mere fact that an attempt lasted several hours was at least worth an "attaboy!"

3) Might it be possible that the several hours of observation played a role in the failure of the mating? Perhaps Mei Xiang is modest. Perhaps Tian Tian is the possessor of some exceptionally smooth panda moves that he doesn't want stolen by a bunch of opposably-thumbed wannabes.

4) After the mating didn't succeed, the pair of pandas was anesthetized so that artificial insemination could take place. I wonder if the zoo had to sub-contract the anesthesia to another organization: "Sleepy-Time Services, for when your zoo animals just aren't 'in the mood.' We knock 'em out, you knock 'em up."

5) I am quite certain that every wife who has been nagged by her husband regarding disparate levels of enthusiasm for the frequency of this specific aspect of married life is now cutting this article from the newspaper, highlighting the infrequency with which pandas mate, laminating it and preparing to brandish it at the appropriate moment, along with the ominous warning, "Better count your blessings, buster."

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Slow Warming

As we gradually begin thawing here in OK, it's interesting to see how quickly perspectives change on what words like "cold" and "warm" mean. Since we'll climb past freezing, we say it'll "be warmer." Well, technically, it won't be bone-chilling cold, but I suppose it's perspective.

During one of my Chicago winters, we had a stretch of almost two weeks when the temperature didn't rise above five degrees. And since my school was on Lake Michigan, we were lucky; away from the lake the highs were minus five degrees. You simply got used to covering every bit of skin possible and layering on a good percentage of your total wardrobe each time you ventured outside. For that matter, you kept a good percentage of those layers on when you were inside, too -- a couple of the dorms I lived in were old buildings not overburdened with insulation or window caulk.

Then one day, as I trudged out the doors into the city-wide meat locker that had taken up residence on my campus, I felt strange. After only a half a block or so, there was an uncomfortable stuffiness about all of the layers I had on, and I found myself loosening my scarf. Not very much further on, I'd rolled my hat up from my eyebrows. And by the time I stopped at a crosswalk, I had -- avert the children's eyes, this is the kind of risky behavior we don't want them knowing about -- unzipped my coat.

Around me, I noticed similar daredeviltry. Well, we were college students, and that group is known for wearing the potential consequences of its behavior but lightly. But even the professors were walking around with their parkas open and ancient, first-generation polyester "knit" hats stuffed in their pockets.

What a wonderful day! Across campus, friendships were re-kindled as people discovered that the overstuffed red ski jacket they had walked past each day was actually someone they knew! The air was sweetened by romantic stirrings as it became possible to determine gender in the person to whom one was speaking (hair length doesn't help in that nearly as much as you'd think it would when you're on a college campus, even back in the mid-80s). The cold would return the next day and linger for another week, but it could not chill the spirit of renewal that had come onto campus. Many indeed were the students who enshrined the wonderful day of warmth in their memories, promising children yet unborn that they too would hear of this miraculous time.

The next morning I looked at the newspaper. The recorded high had been twenty-five degrees.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Chilled Memories

Here in Oklahoma we're suffering from near-record cold temperatures -- with the worst problem being that while we've had single days with temps this cold or colder, we haven't strung together several days of the zero-neighborhood readings for quite some time.

The coldest day I ever experienced was Super Bowl Sunday in January of 1985, when I was regularly freezing my hind end off in Evanston, Illinois. As I recall, some of the wind-chills expected during the daytime were around 80 below. So most everybody stayed inside as much as they could, although there was probably some loon from Minnesota walking around going "What's everyone inside for on a balmy day like today?" They were like that.

Complications developed, however. I was a dorm officer (I can't remember why), a position which, in an all-male dorm on Super Bowl Sunday, carried with it certain expectations. Namely, that a variety of salty snacks needed to be purchased for the evening's game watching.

I know, you would suspect that students at a school like Northwestern would be above plebian entertainments like television, let alone televised sporting events, let even more alone an event like football instead of something refined and dignified like badminton or croquet.

In any event, the game would be watched by me and my fellow Hinman House Friars, and in order to sustain our energy and thus help our favorite team win -- they were counting on us, after all -- we would need those salty snacks. But the bitter cold meant that no one's car would start.

The solution arrived in the form of a guy who had parked nearest the door to the dorm the day before and who had run an extension cord out the door, which he attached to an electric blanket placed under his hood. His car would start. And for a fee -- if I recall he was in the school of business -- he would get people around town.

During the day, the Arctic blast moved out and things gradually warmed, with a wind chill factor near zero. So during the game, we were able to order pizza. The delivery driver worked for a company that, at the time, did not allow drivers to take tips. We tried to get our driver to take one, as he had braved what was still pretty frickin' cold weather, some ice and a generally cruddy night to deliver our rations. But he said he couldn't, as it would get him fired. Being college students, we hit upon an alternate solution:

"Well, you wanna warm up here for a minute and have a beer?"

"Drivers are taking forever on their deliveries tonight; the dispatcher don't expect me back for 20 minutes. Sure."

And they all lived happily ever after.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Un-imaginarium of Dr. Cameron

It took me awhile to get around to seeing Avatar, which it seems is the same way for a lot of people, as the film's box office receipts are holding steady instead of declining.

While James Cameron has made some really fun movies -- Aliens, the first two Terminators, the underrated Abyss -- he's also done some schlock, like Titanic (Spoiler alert: The ship sinks). The more advanced his career and the more chance he's given to produce his own vision unfettered by studios or folks who can tell him what to do, the less interesting his stories have become. And Avatar, as we've heard over and over again, is a story he's been working years to tell.

Cameron himself had a big hand in inventing some of the technology used for the 3-D version of Avatar, and he's said he had to wait for computer-generated imagery (CGI) technology to advance to the place where it could realistically show the world of Pandora and its large blue inhabitants, the Na'vi. The story, however, is an utterly by-the-numbers account of a human being first exploring Pandora mentally linked to an artificially grown Na'vi body so that humans can negotiate (or bully) a way to get something called -- I am not making this up -- unobtainium that they want really badly. Of course the human realizes the back-to-nature Na'vi are much better than his own people. Of course he learns the ways of the natives and becomes one of them, and of course this happens because of a girl. Yes, she is blue, 10 feet tall, has a tail and her face looks kind of like a cat's. But so are the rest of the Na'vi, so it's OK.

Because of its technology, Avatar has been compared to Star Wars and another movie whose wizardry broke new ground in the way movies looked, Pixar's Toy Story. Avatar's story is flat and completely predictable, but people could make the same arguments against Star Wars and Toy Story. Step back from the first, and there's no way anyone could really believe the Death Star is going to destroy our heroes or that Luke isn't going to make the shot that blows it up. Step back from the second, and there's no way anyone could believe that Woody won't save the day for the other toys or that Buzz won't somehow be a part of it so they can be friends.

You don't have to take the same step back to predict nearly every turn of Avatar, though, down to a good percentage of the dialogue. Both Lucas and the Pixar people created entry points to their stories along with their trailblazing use of moviemaking technology. The amazing (for their time) visuals and such simply helped set the characters and action in the places that their stories described.

Had Toy Story been a traditional hand-drawn cartoon it would have worked -- differently, perhaps, but it would have been just as effective. Had Lucas made Star Wars with, say, 1960s-level Star Trek TV series technology, it probably would have worked as well. After all, the "prequel" trilogy showed that when Lucas had access to more impressive cinematic magic-making tools, it didn't necessarily translate to more impressive movies.

I read an Avatar review in which the writer compared the movie to a very beautiful woman who comes up a bit short between the ears; the kind, he said, that every guy has dated at least once even though he knows there's not a whole lot there. I never had that opportunity, so I'll take his word for the comparison, but I definitely had an understanding of Gertrude Stein's description of her hometown of Oakland, CA: "There's no there there." Avatar is a wowser of a video game and offers a lot of new things that we'll probably see a lot of in movies to come, and those things will help moviemakers stretch the boundaries of what the screen can show us. But there's no story in this story and no character in these characters. We don't have to be told to ignore the man behind the curtain, because there's nothing back there.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

That Bad or Just Bad?

New Year's Day finally brought me the chance to see the new Sherlock Holmes movie, released on Christmas Day.

My first attempt was stymied when the theater I went to had a sold-out show and better than an hour to the next one. Don't like any movie theater enough to sit around it for an hour. The thought of checking out another movie instead crossed my mind but left as soon as it saw that the only other movie my mind cared to see had been viewed last week with the family.

Another theater offered Holmes at the right time, so in I went. Director Guy Ritchie has answered the question, "What if Saturday Night Live made a Sherlock Holmes sketch only using Robert Downey, Jr. being Robert Downey, Jr., instead of acting like Sherlock Holmes? Oh, and it's a post-11:30 sketch. Or a post-1995 sketch, which is just as bad." It will not surprise you to know that no one was asking that question.

Downey is Downey, and can amuse with his particular projected mix of cluelessness and savvy. Transferred onto Holmes, it means he does so with an English accent, and he comes off very much like John Cleese mixed with Benny Hill. He neither looks nor acts like any version of Holmes ever, from the Arthur Conan Doyle-written and Sidney-Paget illustrated original through the best-known Basil Rathbone movies through the best-period Jeremy Brett of Granada Television's 1980s version. Of course, he doesn't have to, but since his different vision brings nothing of value to the movie, it's simply annoying (Interestingly, the character who looks most like the classic Holmes is the villain, Lord Blackwood, played by Mark Strong. It'd be interesting to see if Ritchie intended that, but it's hard to believe he's that clever. He willingly married Madonna, after all).

The film is diffuse and scattered. A sort of CSI deduction ex machina sequence substitutes for the kind of observation and deduction that is Holmes' usual working method.

Worse movies were released this holiday season, so money spent on Sherlock Holmes is not wasted as thoroughly as it might be. But if that's the best that it can manage, then there is a lame game afoot indeed.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Random Birthday Facts

Because I used to work at a college, I have a lot of friends listed on my Facebook. This is not bragging; this is what happens when you work with students who like to add nearly everyone they meet to their Facebook pages. And you have friends who make up Facebook profiles for their cats.

I somehow feel it would be rude to "un-friend" them since they've not done anything that merits it. So I cyber-trudge around with a ridiculously long list of people linked on the page compared to the short list of people with whom I regularly interact. It also means I often have no idea when some of them look at their own lists, say "Brett who?" and de-list me. I decided to use that list as an aide to a charitable cause to which I donate. I donated money per month based on how many people on my list had birthdays that month. Some random facts I learned through this experience:

1. If you try this out yourself, put a couple of extra bucks away to get ready for October. For some reason (cough - New Year's Eve nine months earlier - cough), that month featured about 17% more birthdays than its closest competitor. My apologies to those of you with birthdays in October who were just traumatized by what you may not have considered before right now.

2. And second place was September. Again, my apologies to those of you who have had to contemplate certain aspects of the way your folks celebrated Christmas that you'd been suppressing. My birthday is in September; I am one of you.

3. January has by far the lowest total. People pay their taxes in April.

4. I know a freakishly large number of people who share my birthday. In fact, it tied October 23rd as the day with the most friends' birthdays on it at 7. I'll give the nod to my birthday because I know at least two more people who are not on Facebook who share it and because it's my birthday and I'm an incredibly biased judge. A few days featured six birthdays and there was a pretty good collection of those with five.

5. There were probably between 15 and 20 days throughout the year on which none of my friends had birthdays. Tomorrow, for example.

6. Whenever your birthday is, hope you enjoy it and the new year of 2010!