Friday, December 30, 2005

Thanks A Thousand And Three! (x2)

P.S. Thanks to my loyal reader(s) for putting Shrink or Fade over the 2.006k hits mark well before 2006! I love you, one or all!

Busy Week at Green Acres

Foof. What a hectic week. So much to blog about, so little time. The nine minutes I have between crises right now allows no actual post, only a list of the posts I intended to do this week:

1) A rant against Jiffy Lube (summary: criminals).
2) An exploration of competency to refuse treatment, and a bizarre series of legal hearings on the matter (summary: Our Small State is severely messed up).
3) An existential post about the hole in my roof, interwoven with lyrics from the Beatles' "Fixing a Hole" (summary: pleeeeaze, does anyone know a decent roofer in the Smallish City?)
4) A discussion of what's going on here at the Facility, which I think I'll start refering to as Green Acres (summary: body fluids. And solids.)

Cast your vote for one of the above, I might actually get around to writing one.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Sex and the Smallish City

My dear friend 2 was over here just now, eating Thai food. We were having a lovely visit. But she had her watch on the table with the "countdown" function running. "In case you're wondering why I have the watch on the table with the countdown function running", she said, "it's because I left a candle burning at home and have to remember not to stay too long or my house will burn down." Shortly thereafter she departed.

Subsequently, I have come to suspect that "I left a candle burning at home" is girl-code for "I have to make sure I leave in time to watch two more episodes of Sex and the City before bed." In fact, I suspect that the whole "I left a candle burning..." charade itself may have been developed in a SATC episode.

Can anyone confirm or deny?

Mountain Rescue

In Vermont for Christmas, I spent Sunday morning skiing at “big” mountain. I was surprised, pleasantly, by the preponderance of non-caucasian skiers on the slopes that day. Perhaps it’s because it was Christmas morning, and all good WASPs were home opening presents. But I hoped it was because skiing has become a bit more democratic in recent years.

On my last run, curving around a twisty but nearly flat trail back to the parking lot, I rounded a corner to find what appeared to be an entire extended family of Indian (asian subcontinent) persons. Most of them were casually standing around on their skis, while one woman was sprawled motionless in an uncomfortable-looking position in the snow. Seeing me, she said, in a heavy accent, “Please! Help me! Help me take my skis off!” No one in her party appeared interested in the situation.

“Are you hurt?”, I asked.

“No, no, I just can’t take my skis off. I need to slide down on my bum.”

I glanced around at her colleagues, with an expression meant to convey, “How about giving her a hand?”, but only blank looks responded. The woman on the ground flailed slightly and again entreated my help. I popped off my skis, got down in the snow, and popped off her skis.

“Oh, thank you! Such a good man! Such a good man! Always, it is this same hill, every time!”

She took her skis, one in each hand, and proceeded to slide down the hill on her bum, as promised. The incline was so minimal, though, that she really couldn’t slide, and appeared more like a crab dragging herself along. Her companions puttered along beside. I slushed down the last 30 seconds to the car, wondering what the whole scene meant. Maybe no one in the party knew how to take skis off? Or maybe this happened every ten minutes, and they had decided not to enable her antics any more? Or maybe there is some cultural prohibition about male family members manipulating objects attached to the feet of female relatives? Or maybe, out of extreme caution, they were waiting for a ski patroller to appear (and mistaken me for one—my outfit looking similar to the patroller uniform)?

Driving away, I mused “Hmmm… ski patrol… now that might be a better job than shrinking…”

Also, I considered whether this incident qualified as “saving a life”, but decided probably not.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Porn PS2 Wire Tap Piercings LL Bean Microsoft Assault Weapon Enlargement

I am a goal-oriented type of guy. This morning, in the shower, I was seized by a new and immediate goal: “2006 hits by 2006”.

This blog has, since inception, generated an average of just 29 hits per week (and there’s a good chance that 10 of those were me hitting myself—masochist that I am.) In recent months, the hit-rate has bumped up a bit. But this week Shrink or Fade will need nearly one-hundred hits to reach its goal.

I’m taking some action. This post, for example, contains what I imagine to be popularly Googled words. Perhaps that will bring a few walk-ins. Also, I am offering FREE leftover wrapping paper to the first 10 visitors.

But to meet this challenge, I’m really going to need your assistance. Can you help?
Maybe you have friends who can read-- you could send them over. Maybe you work at a search and can bump S.o.F. up a notch or two. Maybe you just want to send me a check or money order (unrelated.) Anything you can do would be appreciated. Ground rules, though:

1) I don’t need any pity-hits. This has to happen fair and square, or fail trying. I know it’s hard, but please limit yourself to one visit per day until the end of the year (then, you can resume hourly visits.)
2) Family members, employees, lackeys, Agency agents, ski buddies, and persons who have ever won anything from or are wholly owned subsidiaries of Shrink or Fade are ineligible for prizes.

Thank you, and goodnight

[ed. note: I strongly suspect that the recent boost in hit-rate is related to the covert Presidential wire-tapping we’ve been hearing about lately. Come to think of it, the readership increased just after I mailed to the Republican National Committee a check made payable to “Democratic National Committee”. I realize this was not so nice, but the RNC kept mercilessly soliciting me, even after I wrote them a nice note suggesting that they save their postage, so you really can’t blame me.]

Thursday, December 22, 2005


Our snowy little city has the most fabulous Christmas lights. It took a while for them to grow on me; my first couple winters here, I thought they were pretty tacky, bordering on obscene. Before long, though, I started bragging about them. "Our Christmas lights are designed by a guy on acid", I'd tell people from more stolid towns, "and approved by a city council on angel dust." Now, I gaze at the bizarre, Seussian geometries in utter joy and awe. They fill me with luminous creativity in the dark of the year.

My first photos, above, didn't quite capture the best spirit of these works of wonder.

That is to say, they didn't quite convey what it's like to spin around under these lights, half-drunk, at 2am, staggering home from a holiday party on the other side of town. But, with a little photographic experimentation, I think I captured the essence.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

I got you what I wanted you to have

Well, it’s that time of year again at the hospital. Some folks we haven’t seen in a long time are trickling in, much the way relatives you’d forgotten about seem to materialize around this season.

Last week the nurses polled the patients for Christmas “wish list” items. These ranged from cigarettes, to airplanes, to PS2 games, to “two cheeseburgers and a coke”.

This afternoon I wandered into the staff break room, snuffling for cookies, and found the room filled with the Christmas gifts the staff had selected for the patients. The enormous pile consisted of roughly two dozen units each of shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, soap, tube socks, and underwear.

Part of me was thinking, “Please, God, yes! Please make them use this stuff, even just for a day!” Part of me was thinking, “This is a poor substitute for an airplane.”

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Apparently I'm Losing

Just now one of my colleague's patients approached me in the hallway and, apropos of nothing, said: "I have the score. It's me 92, you 90." Then he walked off.

Every time I think I could tolerate some other line of work, I wonder if I'd get bored on the job.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Advice on Messes

I don’t know if any of you will need to make a Really Big Mess at any time in the near future, but just in case you do, I can offer some advice. A simple, efficient, and possibly permanent method for making a real god-awful mess is:

1) Put a can of Diet Coke in the freezer to chill.
2) Forget about it and go off skiing for the day.

It’s as simple as that. When you get home, you’ll be greeted by a mess of epic proportions that defies all efforts at cleaning. Not that this ever happened to me. Certainly not today.

It's a small, small, small, small town.

Just back from a holiday party at down the street. The hostess was a young woman who had come to my place last month when I was looking for a roommate—but had found a place of her own. I knew no one else at the party. But one guy turned out to be living in the apartment I’d inhabited four years ago. He thanked me for the improvements I’d made (e.g., under-counter lighting in the kitchen) and noted that the cable TV is still turned on, free. Another fellow turned out to be the ex of a long-ago roommate (and, briefly, love affair). That was fascinating—we compared notes about how we’d each been written into her novel. The hostess’s cat, Boomer, is a celebrity, having been on the Friskies Cat Food box in his younger day. The hostess herself is a bit of an enigma, which is always refreshing. It was a good party.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Christmas List

I dreamed last night that Babar and Father Christmas visted me, and said I could pick seven Christmas songs to banish for all time (as well as pick seven to protect against all enemies foreign and domestic [that was actually the phrase they used-- odd, huh?]) So, I gave it a little thought. Here's my list:

Songs to Banish:

1) Little Drummer Boy (dumb dumb dumb dumb-dumb dumb!)
2) Adam Sandler’s “Hanukkah Song” (yeah, it was funny the first time, the first year. Now, not so much, even for Jews.)
3) “Deck the Halls” (always just reminds me of fala[la]fel)
4) Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer (One more time and I’m getting my gun…)
5) Feliz Navidad (I suspect people are afraid of being un-PC if they speak out against this foreign-language song. But you must agree: it has to go.)
6) The 12 Days of Christmas (and all derivatives, including the MacKenzie Brothers’ version, and, especially, “12 Days of Deer Camp”)
7) “I Saw Three Ships” (Good for you. I’ve seen hundreds. Who gives a rat?)

Songs to Save:

1) Adeste Fideles (Aren’t “laeiti triumphantes” and “ragem angelorum” just spine-tingling phrases, even in Latin? Especially in Latin.)
2) Bruce Springsteen’s “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” (“All you people been good out there? That’s not many, not many…”)
3) The Waitresses “Christmas Wrapping” (If I had had to choose just one Xmas song to take to the desert island…)
4) Joy to the World
5) I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus (Envision: Santa at the Playboy Mansion. Now: write a song.)
6) Silent Night (but only if sung by professionals. Preferably, Johnny Cash.)
7) Angels We Have Heard on High (I guess I am a sucker for Latin, really.)

Thursday, December 15, 2005


The winter solstice has become an important day in my life. No no—haven’t converted to paganism (just yet). But I am on a vaguely spiritual mission, or compulsion. I’m aiming to climb, during winter, all of the 4,000+ foot summits in New Hampshire (of which there are 48, in case you’re playing along at home.)

Now some feel that the winter in New England “drags on” or is “too long”. Utter nonsense. From the perspective of a winter peak-bagger, winter is just too damn short. Starting at the solstice and ending at the vernal equinox, we get only three months per year to pursue the goal. The weeks fly by, and the opportunities to get to the mountains must be jealously guarded. So many hurdles and distractions, during those months: the holidays, annual ski trip, the flu, dead car batteries, bad driving conditions, the lure of tropical sailing junkets, nice warm bed, etc. etc… All must be shoved aside and a path beaten to the mountains before the mind weakens and the body follows.

Right now, I’m in pitiful physical condition. Nine months of loafing and sailing have taken their toll. But I’m feeling the internal agitation, the foot tapping, the quad tensing, that tell me the season is almost here. Will I finish the list this year? Maybe. 42 down, six to go. And a kick-ass six they are.

Why do this? You mean other than the sheer joy of it? Well, I’ll tell you— only a few hundred people have succeeded at this before. If that sounds like a lot, check out how many people have summitted Everest….

(Above, the view from Mt. Monroe, January 2005…)

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

12 Things To Do Before I Die That I’ve Already Done

1) Go to Africa
2) Scuba dive
3) Hike down the Grand Canyon
4) Bike from the west coast over the Rockies (twice)
5) Ski in trees in Utah
6) Sail across a sea
7) Be in the house when someone dear to me died.
8) Climb all forty-eight 4,000ft peaks in New Hampshire
9) Spend a full day with someone without uttering a word
10) March on Washington to protest something I thought was wrong.
11) Save an animal from euthanasia.
12) Save a life (debatable— this is pretty subjective in my field of medicine. But I think I probably have.)

Coming soon: 12 Things To Do Before I Die That I May Never Get To

Monday, December 12, 2005

Small city games

Several winters back, I played great game with a young woman in my neighborhood. It’s a long story, how we emailed for months without succeeding in meeting each other. Despite walking the same route around the neighborhood almost every night, we somehow kept failing to connect. Eventually I started leaving subtle messages around in public, to see if she’d find them (the first, a note inside an empty carton of her preferred ice cream flavor, duct-taped to a street sign, took her two weeks to notice.) Later, when we still hadn't crossed paths, I emptied my change jar into a plastic bag, hid it in a tree on a street corner, and started leaving notes stapled to telephone poles with tips on how to find it. It took her a while, but one night she excitedly emailed that she had found five pounds of coins in a tree, and a note instructing her to take it to a specific supermarket and use a particular machine to exchange the silver for bills. Hidden behind the machine was another note leading to a bit of a goose chase, but finally ending up with us meeting for a very nice dinner at which we spent the $73.27 proceeds from the jar.

Now my change jar has nearly refilled, and I’m itching to hide it in a tree again. I have an notion to challenge a fellow blogger here in town to find it. Again, someone I haven’t met… but, judging from her posts, she seems the type to go in for such antics. And readers could follow the action from both sides. Any suggestions on a new kind of hunt to create? It has to challenge my powers of stealth, and the other's powers of observation...

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Bless us all

Let’s run some numbers, quickly.

The world’s population stands at roughly 6.45 billion. Let’s estimate that the average person sneezes, on average, twice a day (though the San Diego Union-Tribune reports that this number may be as high as 4x/day, even without a cold.) Now let’s also conservatively assume that someone “blesses” you for your sneeze one out of four times. Sure, there are times you’re alone and no one blesses you—but remember those times you sneeze in a meeting, and get blessed by five people at once.

Crunching the data above, I estimate that the Lord’s blessing for sneeze-sufferers is being requested, on average, 37,302 times EVERY SECOND, 24/7/365. This must be very distracting for the Almighty, who surely has more important issues to worry about. Of course, it’s possible that God is focused enough that he/she can work even with this din going on in the background. But why take the chance? Why risk calling the Lord’s attention away from, say, peace in the Middle East, just to demand his blessing on the man behind you in line who is having a touch of hay fever? Assuming God actually responds to human’s requests for intervention in the first place, wouldn’t we do much better to redirect our efforts towards something that matters? Perhaps, in fact, this explains why the world is such a mess: for generations, we have been foolishly guiding the Lord’s attention towards the common cold, rather than, say, famine, war, and poverty. Just as a case in point, I’m sure I get more verbal blessings out of a five-day sniffle than the average HIV sufferer gets in a year. Is that sensible?

Atheistic readers will probably protest that the sneeze-blessing is not intended literally to invoke the Lord’s assistance, but rather to provide moral support to the runny-nosed afflicted. But this argument doesn’t really hold up, either. In scientific polling, I’ve discovered that almost no one cares whether they receive a blessing or not. It’s more that people feel uncomfortable if they fail to bless someone else. They fear the other person will see them as uncaring and stingy. People deliver up the blessings to allay their own anxieties.

Personally, I wish everyone would just stop it. I find sneezing distracting enough— waiting for the follow-up blessings to wrap up just furthers the interruption from whatever I was doing. Think I’m cuckoo? Do some more math. Let’s say, conservatively, that the natural sneeze process (anticipation, attempted suppression, sneeze, and recovery) takes 15 seconds, and that a “blessing” adds another 3 seconds. Assuming the numbers quoted at the top of the page, and a life-expectancy of 78 years, this means you’ll waste a minimum of 13 entire 24-hour days of your life just sneezing. Now, let’s say that eliminating the blessing could shave just three seconds off of the sneeze process. Presto! You just got three full days of your life back. Not too shabby.