Four rules to live by (and forget about the underwear)


Always wear clean undergarments with no holes in them. And so mothers everywhere will warn you. A rule to live by. “What if you have an accident and have to go to hospital?” Well, yeah, eh? But my mother, at least, never told me that red-blooded, hairy-chested hombres such as I would come to be risk even greater embarrassments.

honda dreamOccupational hazards. 

The magazine was going through a let’s-economize-on-expenses phase, is why I was headed back to my hotel in … Read more

What’s lurking beneath *your* garden?


Rude revision to one’s life plans: Florida man disappears with bedroom into sinkhole.

The news these days is enough to have us all hiding under our beds. Not that this strategem is foolproof, it seems.


Other network-newsworthy causes for alarm:

Near miss: asteroid.

Near miss: meteorite shower over Russia (largely spares pop. centers).

Near miss: fiscal cliff; sequester still plunging through atmosphere inspiring panic in many quarters.


How many other near misses go unnoticed and unremarked? There’s … Read more

Cymbalalalazophobia: Things to worry about when the sky isn’t falling

So  just the other morning I suffered something like a flash of cymbalalalazophobia, which is hardly surprising, Sara claims, given my lifestyle.

My recent “Hope in dark times” post elicited the following Facebook query:   Is there an official fear of hi-hat cymbals phobia?

If there weren’t, it stuck me that I had a friend who might be uniquely qualified to coin such an expression. Dr. Anthony Alcock is not only a fine classical scholar, linguist, Egyptologist, jazz & blues … Read more

Our friend the hookworm

Bill the Mathematician—yes, that’s Bill of the unaccountably broken back—is not always fully recognized as the trendsetter he really is. Right now he’s in Phnom Penh, on his way to the Pasteur Institute to ask for a dose of hookworm larvae. “I thought I’d found a source yesterday,” he tells me, “as PP now has a National Parasitological Center. But somehow they can’t help because ‘it’s time for exams.’ But they did suggest I try L’Institut Pasteur, so I’ll … Read more

Hope in dark times

Just when things couldn’t get any worse, they did. But it turned out they didn’t really, and Sara’s right, I worry too much.

I’ve just come back into my office, and I heard this horrible rasping from the left wing of my iMac. My mind is going, “It’s the fan, right? It can’t be the hard drive, it can’t be the hard drive, aiyeeeee.”

Careful investigation has revealed the real problem. I had an online jazz station playing, way down … Read more

Life is terrifying

How’s the new year going for you guys? I had a piece of exercise equipment, in a somewhat inauspicious vein, try to crush my skull about 7am on the morning of January the first. Ever since, I’ve been reflecting on the fact that, just when you least expect it, irony can leap out and mash you. I hope, despite appearances, that incident wasn’t a harbinger of things to come in 2011.

Given the fact I was almost bitten to death … Read more

Submarine garrets for starving writers

Writers look for budget accommodation  (Bangkok, 2027)

Here are some things that didn’t fit on the graph in my “Things fall apart redux” post.

The price of fish in Villa Supermarket is soaring, the Gulf of Thailand is getting fished out, China is behaving more aggressively as the superpower-in-waiting, I’ve lost my mother’s copy of Ben’s secret recipe for Montreal smoked meat and I now learn Ben’s deli closed two years ago. It’s as likely I’ll get to … Read more

Things fall apart redux

I sit in my office sweating.

The 27-inch iMac gazes blankly at me from inside its raincoat, the pair of us waiting for the air-conditioner repairmen to arrive. It all started when my old PC laptop clapped out, exposing me to attack by the consumerist virus waiting in ambush. Next thing I knew, I was the proudish owner of a nearly-new iMac super doodah. And now look. The world is disintegrating.

Long-slumbering volcano erupts in Sumatra. Floods in Pakistan, India … Read more

RSVP: Recent outbreaks of random structural violence

Asteroids on sinister trajectories, suicide bombers in china shops. Epidemic this and high-cholesterol that. The failure of the Western metaphysic. Soaring cheese prices. Black holes of uncertain provenance and appetite lurking in the centers of our galaxies, shrinking public spaces in which to smoke, vanishing marine fisheries, incompatibility between relativity and quantum theory, Sarah Palin, language extinctions, cross-species viral infections, cougars in suburban gardens, friggin’ Chihuahuas everywhere not to mention toy poodles, global warming, entropy… Where will it all end? … Read more

Let me explain

There’s a new and especially antibiotic-resistant bug on the loose, threatening to spread worldwide. As though we needed another new epidemic, not to mention all the floods and earthquakes and rising seas and so on. In fact the suspense is killing me, as I await the plagues of toads and suchlike falling from the skies (Exodus 7-12).

But the near-universal spread of the consumerist virus doesn’t get enough press. (Maybe that’s because governments around the world have every … Read more