Sunday, December 27, 2009


Once there were two satellite companies: XM and Sirius. Despite blowing through mega millions, possibly billions, they never really caught on. (Recently they merged.) This is to say that the audience of all of the Sat channels added together at any minute don't equal one NYC radio station at that same minute.

My car 'came' with a free satellite radio trial. I had to check it out. WEAK program choices, weak talent, weak imaging, poor fidelity, too many bad songs! What's the point? And you have to PAY for this?

One sidebar: the traffic in real time was helpful, or would be, if I drove more distance. Apparently the traffic reports are overlaid on the navigation map. That's cool. But I wouldn't pay for it.

There are WAY too many ROCK channels, too many RAP channels, too many TALK channels, and not nearly enough music niching. (Maybe they know how few listen.) Even so, seems there are several mainstream formats completely ignored.)

For some reason I haven't been able to fathom, the radio comes on when the car starts even though I don't want it to, and have attempted various smooth moves to defeat it. To this moment, though, the radio is winning.

However, once on, I can turn it off, and sometimes do. But the other night, while driving to a birthday dinner (mine, not the car's and certainly not XM's), with the radio off, all of a sudden there was what sounded like an electronic sneeze. "Was that you?" I asked Terri. "Not me," she said. The mystery faded into the "things you can't figure out" cloud that follows life around.

I did notice WEATHER/EMERGENCY on one of the several electro-readouts. And snow was indeed blowing blizzard conditions, but far, far north of us. I let it pass.

The next day, When I got into the car and started it, there was (finally) no radio - but there was a message on the screen... if you wish to subscribe, call this number. AHHH. The 'sneeze' was the wet goodbye.

GOODBYE XM. Goodbye, what I term, the Big Satellite Scam.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


...the smell of felt (green felt) which was tacked to the plywood upon which my Lionel railroad circled the tree.

... the artifically lonesome sound of the fake train whistle.

... the smell of tablet-in-the-smokestack "smoke" from the steam engine circling the tree.

... hearing "Santa" curse as he'd apparently shock himself 'wiring' Plasticville lights on the plywood.

... running my trains way too fast for the curves...

... getting a second engine, a Santa Fe diesel.

... egg nog - kinda like ice cream melt, sorta.

... family smells: turkey cooking, after shave, whiskey, pine, the whatever-it-is, it's uniquely grandma.

Saturday, December 19, 2009


My annual Christmas letter has been mailed to those for whom we had addresses, and has arrived in San Diego and Los Angeles, in Maine, and Detroit, so it's out. This brings me to posting here in case you want to see it and aren't on the list, which, by the way, has little to do with if you have been naught or nice.


Lest we forget, the whole rationale for this letter is to spoof other letters. I have to find spoofage, so forgive me if I go dumpster diving.

The latter part of the year brought some excitement as I fell while mowing grass and mowed my toes. After surgery, they are still attached. Thankfully, Terri has hidden the hospital bills from me. I write this at T (toes) minus-7 weeks and am still sporting metal pins sticking from two toes. You can empathize – just shove a stapler into your sandal. Or maybe some Christmas Tree ball hook hangers in your socks. Terri’s car was also hospitalized in an unrelated series of mechanical breakdowns. It is now whereabouts unknown since we traded it in just as soon as it stopped smoking. At almost the same time (and actually planned) I too got a new car which I now use for physics experiments because no matter where I park it, it seems to magnetically attract other cars driven by people enjoying a meal at the wheel while on cell phone. Both cars are smarter than we are. Together there are over 600 pages of owners’ manuals. Driving mine home from the dealer just this week, I thought the navigation voice was going to throw a lit cigarette lighter onto my lap since I disobeyed the instruction. “Turn left. Turn left. Turn left NOW. Make a U-turn, then a U-turn. Make a U-turn and a U-turn NOW. NOW!” Both of us have already endured the misery of Our First Squashed Bug On The Windshield. Each bug was carrying a nasty and large depreciation notice. Neither car requires the key to start it – you just need to have it in your pocket. That seems like a convenience but every time you go near the car you start to fumble in the air for the phantom key. It feels wrong. Yes you can USE the key but why? The car senses you. It adjusts everything the way you like it. You push a button and it starts. My car stores maintenance issues IN THE wireless KEY which isn’t even plugged in! Oh – and the cars ‘learn’ how you drive and adapt to it so they can disapprove later.

The voice navigation system and I had words. “Navigation on” beep “Navigation” “Cancel...” “Say State” “Cancel, No I don’t want... “Kansas” “I didn’t...” “City? Say City?” C’mon!” “Common, Kansas. Say street name” “HOLD ON” “Holdon Street. Say Number...” Plus I think it has an attitude. Kinda snotty, almost clipped, impatient – a female who would be played by Tilda Swinton. This is nothing like the nice British lady who spoke from Terri’s Jaguar nav. Her new nav sounds like she’s a cultured twenty something living with her rich parents in Shanghai after education at Oxford. When recording the prompts, she was wearing her hair down, cascading over the shoulders of her tight-fitting white blouse. And.... where was I just now?

Austin is growing, much like Minneapolis did while we were there. We can drive down almost any road and as we shout over the navigation system voice, can say, “that’s new, that’s new, that’s new!” The economy HAS affected Austin but surveys insist that the economy here is still vibrant. Happily, music still rules! It’s amazing how much good live music there is. We remain in a several year-long drought (which did impact the whistle-fest.) Recent rains have slaked the thirst of some of the plants and trees though the big lake remains about 20 feet below full. El Nino is supposed to bring us extra moisture this winter. Personally, I am certain that has nothing to do with it – our cars will make that happen. We expect it to rain mud.

Now that I have retired from pushing the lawnmower, you should see the guys we hired! They have an amazing mower the operator stands on - it goes very very fast and does ballet! moves – turning on a dime. Dancing With the Stars could have a spinoff: Dancing with the Standonit Mower. Or Line Dancing with Weedwackers.

People seem to comment on the critters we have had visit us – this year I got more aggressive as some beasts were digging up our shrubs. The tally: 3 Armadillos, 1 Raccoon, 1 cat. Just down the street a Bobcat was sighted; and yes, a rattlesnake of some size, said to have survived a Lexus SUV riding back and forth over it. You have to wonder what THEIR navigation system thought about that?

At this writing, Sarah Palin is just beginning her book tour. While she is starring in the Psycho shower scene with John McCain’s campaign wet staff, I saw McCain slather on some be-nice unguent and refer to her as a ‘good friend.’ Huh? He DID look like an old bald weasel when he said it. If she ever gets into real power I fear the rest of the world will drop us from their fantasy-world-government league.

This seems to have been the year when the whining and crying reached out and touched us all – the assault was everywhere. I saw John Stewart asking, “Why now?” He’s right. It came upon us, cresting like a Tsnunami – Obama, Healthcare, The Wars, H1N1 shots, the stimulus package – not the 24 hour Cialis – the other stimulus package. Here’s my take: I blame the media. If there was no publicity, a lot of this stuff would die on the vine. It’s like a mass frenzy of mob-thought (you know: the mob IQ drops, responsibility is lost in the cushion of numbers.) Maybe people are that frustrated. Hey, 665 MILLION people in India HAVE NO TOILETS. Look it up. That’s frustration. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the U S of A could befriend millions of citizens of the world with toilet donations? Porcelain diplomacy! That’d be the ticket. Imagine Hillary in Rashanamanapour, making the first ceremonial squat! Villagers would claw through crowds, just to get to touch her polyester pant suit.

We could trade toilet paper for oil. Or, we could say, “Hey, wipe out that field of poppies and we’ll deliver a dozen spanking new construction toilets...”

I don’t want to bring down the tone of this letter, but the world is supposed to end in 2012. At least you won’t feel singled out. Personally, I don’t believe the gloom and doomers, or that the Mayans really meant their calendar to go on forever. But some do – I have a friend who lives on a boat who has stockpiled hundreds of cans of Dinty Moore and Chef Boy R Dee. He’s anticipating chaos. Better hope he doesn’t drop the can opener overboard.

Terri has dropped the whole Christmas Card choice and purchase on me. I am drawn to cards which are on both ends of any conceivable scale – I like the abstract ones but also the homey-glitter-in-the-snow-on-the-pines cards. Limping into the Hallmark store, though, is not so much a fave. I feel this is a world in which I don’t belong. It’s like Stepford – smiling sales people with strange eyes. Here’s a rack of talking ornaments. Here’s a box of Orna-Mints! Here’s a simulated crystal keepsake onto which you can have engraved the height of your child... each year’s growth can be placed at the approximate true height on your forever pre-lit tree with 400 poke your eye out branches. So know that this beautiful accompanying card was purchased with great care by a man holding his breath to avoid the potpourri and scented candle chemichristmas.

We wish you cheer and peace.

Bob and Terri Wood

Sunday, December 13, 2009


Per the doc, I ran a two week course of Ibuprofen for pain management. Stopped last night. Holy Moly, the pain is back. I had no idea that stuff worked as well as it did!

Tuesday, December 08, 2009


This year I bought Hallmark Christmas cards. Nice, but probably overpriced - about a buck a piece. If someone could come up with an internet app for Christmas cards - and I know there are ecards out there but I mean a really good multi-card automated system, I think they'd make out like a bandit.

Please give me a piece of your new riches if you develop this idea.

Think of it - database management... no stamps... no cut tongues licking the darn envelopes.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009


I know there are so many other important things 'out there' in the real world - The White House party gatecrashers (or is it gatecasheriners?), Tiger Woods and his Holly Jolly Christmas (this just in - he thought the fire hydrant was a garden gnome and we know how evil THEY are...)

But my global reach extends only so far. Today I bought our new supply of Christmas cards. They were on sale, and the selection was surprisingly limited - this - on December First? I didn't want the smiling Santa Face which I later found (35 cards for $3) at the food market. Instead I chose a nice sort of abstract design that looked good to me and seemed to say SNOWFLAKE Christmas - an ideal image. We rarely get snow this far south, but it's fun to watch the cars in Dallas slide into one another in the snow. They run that video on local TV in a loop instead of the Yule Log.

And where do you get Christmas cards? At the local HALLMARK GOLD STORE OF LOVELY CRAP, of course. The store has a scent. The scent is designed to make you think warm thoughts of gramma, as she removes a freshly baked batch of gingerbread to go with her freshly whipped cream. This is to loosen your wallet. It apparently works as I got out with $97 worth (worth?) of cards, one of the few selections where I could get them all in the same design.

There are figurines which greet you from their holy altars of Shelves, record your own message cards (ah - tech!), cards for every incarnation of relationships: "Sure we're divorced but at this special time of the year I wish your tree tinsel gets caught in the vacuum cleaner you stole when we split our stuff up - there was NO court order on that - anyway I hope the tinsel jams the motor, starts a fire, and burns down my half of your damn house." Harsh, but admittedly seasonal.


"Psychologists say the holiday season is one full of depression. I was going to send you a more expensive card but on my way to the store I saw a rag-tag kid standing shivering in the snow in front of the coffee shop. So instead of buying you a better card, I treated myself to some hot chocolate, to cheer myself up."
Season Greetings.


"Why your card is not sealed: I found an online story of how some workers at the Hallmark glue factory had H1N1 flu and may have coughed into the vat of glue. So what would YOU do? Merry Fluless Christmas."

We've lost addresses over the travels and also some people have apparently removed us from cherished status to aw, let's just stop this back and forth once a year because we'll never see them again anyway and who cares - Bob is odd and his stupid Christmas letter... is just hard to follow.

Well, the letter is done, though Terri has to edit or scowl still. The cards are in house. The list has been printed. Now if you don't get one, it's because we haven't heard from you in a long time - the statute of card exchange limitations is two Christmases, I believe.

I will publish the Christmas letter for those who want to see what they missed, after all the cards have been sent and would have been received if the temp posties can find your address.