A Christian legend of unknown origin proclaims that the cross used to crucify Jesus was constructed of dogwood. As the story goes, during the time of Jesus, the dogwood was larger and stronger than it is today and was the largest tree in the area of Jerusalem. After His Crucifixion, Jesus changed the plant to its current form: He shortened it and twisted its branches to assure an end to its use for the construction of crosses. He also transformed its inflorescence into a representation of the Crucifixion itself, with the four white bracts cross-shaped, which represent the four corners of the Cross, each bearing a rusty indentation as of a nail and the red stamens of the flower, represents Jesus’ Crown of Thorns, and the clustered red fruit represent His Blood.

(from Wikipedia:

Living in the future

The WordPress app from the Google Play store is a little sluggish on my Nook Color. Granted, I’ve hacked it into an Android tablet with the nifty CyanogenMod, and I’m out on the porch with spotty WiFi reception. We live in a pretty cool world.

The one reason

Watched Tuesday’s Daily Show last night, the one with Amy Yates Wuelfing & Gibby Haynes. There was much discussion of a particular show at the apparently legendary City Gardens club in Trenton NJ, where Mr. Haynes was playing with his band the Butthole Surfers and Jon Stewart was a bartender. Ms. Wuelfing noted that on this particular night, management had to call the cops to get the band to leave.

Mr. Haynes replied simply, “What’s the one reason a band would refuse to leave?”

So I wondered and pondered, and my immediate first thought was that they were afraid of getting beat up or stabbed in the parking lot. (Mr. Haynes even mentioned that he’d been stabbed on stage once.) Everyone else, including, I’m sure, you, dear reader, knows the real answer. I am ashamed that I did not think of it.

And I really should have known! I know this.

From Cub Koda’s 10 Rules of Rock and Roll:

2. Rock and roll operates on the beat of the Geedus. Put the money in the Cubmaster’s hand and the Cub will rock (that is, no Geedus, no rockus).

source: Marsh, Dave, and James Bernard. The New Book of Rock Lists. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1994. p 3.

I am never as wise as I hope to be. I am never as smart as I think I am.

Typical Conversation about Comedy

Dawn: There was Laurel & Hardy on TV on Saturday afternoons. And the Three Stooges.

Edward: I never liked the Three Stooges. I liked Laurel & Hardy more. And the Marx Brothers most of all.

Dawn: The Marx Brothers and the Three Stooges are different people?

[long, long pause]

Edward: Please don’t say things like that.

Dawn: [laughs] I guess they are. One is three of them and the other is four.


Edward: We have to stop talking about this.

Bereavement is just another slasher flick

So there I am on Yahoo, and there’s this news item, Actor best known for playing ‘Batman’ butler dies at 94. And immediately I’m annoyed, right? The headline doesn’t say the actor’s name. They’re making us click through, to get the name, and see more ads in the meantime. So, whatever, I click through, thinking, at 94, that could be like the TV version guy. But, no, it’s Michael Gough, from more recent movies. One or two I’ve even seen, before I fled from that bloated franchise.

And but then on Yahoo News there’s a box to the right with more news stories. And one of them really catches my attention. It says Bereavement is just another slasher flick. It could merely mean that there’s a movie named Bereavement. But a slasher flick named Bereavement? Really? And this story is alongside other stories with movie titles in them, namely Box Office Preview: ‘Battle: L.A.’ could win again and Casting Call: Megan Fox Headed To ‘Knocked Up’ Sequel, and see how the movie titles themselves are in the quotes? And Bereavement isn’t? So, maybe Bereavement isn’t Bereavement, it’s just regular old bereavement.

So then, that sounds pretty cool, like an interesting description of bereavement, likening it to a slasher flick. What’s that all that about, is I want to know. So I click through to it. Alas, it is just a movie, and it’s just another slasher flick, just like it says. Damn.

Still, a hero ain’t nothing but a sandwich.

Math Games

This morning on the train, I sat down and opened up the Examiner to the games page to do the Kakuro. A few minutes in, I notice the guy next to me, with his own Examiner open to the same page. Only he was doing the Sudoku. I saw that he’d already done the KenKen, which was only a 4×4 grid. “Hah,” I thought. “Amateur.” I smugly went back to the big kids’ puzzle.

I was maybe halfway done with the Kakuro next time I looked over. He was finished with the Sudoku and was working on the Kakuro now as well. And he was maybe three-quarters done with it already. I set back to work, furiously now. No way he was going to beat me.

Of course he did. “Wow. You are fast at that,” I told him. He laughed. “I get a lot of practice,” he offered, quite nice and good-natured about it.

The Kinds of People Who Get Murdered

I’ve been distressed and in some only vaguely understood way compelled by the recent news concerning poor John P. “Jack” Wheeler III. He was very much the star of Rick Atkinson’s “The Long Gray Line,” which book I read not long after it came out in the late 1980s. It’s not like I’ve spent the last twenty years constantly thinking about him, but, still, I would think of the book, and him, from time to time. Great books stay with you like that.

Wheeler himself graduated from West Point in 1966, and later he earned an MBA from Harvard and a JD from Yale. He was the chairman of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, responsible for getting the memorial built. (You kids wouldn’t believe the fuss about that at the time.) He was also the first chairman and CEO of Mothers Against Drunk Driving. More recently, apparently, he’d launched the American Warfighters Fund, working to end the ROTC ban at Harvard, Yale, Stanford, and Columbia.

So what’s really weird is that on Friday last, New Year’s Eve, 2010, some minutes before 10:00 a.m., someone called the Wilmington Police Department about a body tumbling out of a Waste Management truck into the Cherry Island Landfill. And that body turned out to be Jack Wheeler. And somebody, according to the Delaware Medical Examiner’s Office, murdered him.

Part of why I’m compelled by this saga may just be normal, prurient interest, what with a marginally prominent government official meeting such a gruesome demise. Part of it, too, might just be that I also happened to have heard of him at something of a formative time in my youth. But I think a lot of it is what I first took to be the sheer unlikeliness of it. The Atlantic Monthly’s James Fallows was a friend, turns out, and he points us to this quote from the story in the Delaware News Journal:

“This is just not the kind of guy who gets murdered,” said Bayard Marin, a Wilmington attorney who represented Wheeler. “This is not the kind of guy you find in a landfill.”

And I follow what he means. But, then again, I don’t. Who, then, are the kinds of people who get murdered? Who is the kind of guy you would find in a landfill?

I truly don’t mean to be flip about this. And I’m certainly not in any way condemning the way Bayard Marin or James Fallows feels, since I think I must have felt the same way initially, and they knew him where I didn’t. But what do we mean when we think that there are kinds of people who get murdered and kinds of people who don’t? And what does it mean to our worldview when the kind of person who doesn’t get murdered does, in fact, get murdered?


There’s been something of a stinkbug invasion here in the mid-Atlantic this fall. We’ve had pretty small ones, though, compared to this honking monster that a friend in California encountered yesterday.



For some reason, the ones I’ve seen have mostly been on the Metro. I guess they’re commuters too. Like me.

This California specimen, though, is a great wonder and mystery to me. We all agree he’s a Pentatomoidea, right? But beyond that, who knows? He’s bigger and much narrower than Halyomorpha halys, our brown marmorated stink bug. He’s narrow like Mecidea major, the narrow stink bug. But, then again, he’s got more of the coloring of Halymorpha than Mecidea.

What is he?

Baby Raccoon on the Metro

I was on a Green Line train on my way home. Our train stopped at Fort Totten, and some girls, clearly tourists, who had boarded with their family at L’Enfant Plaza, spotted a baby raccoon on the wall next to our car. They were charmed, as young girls would be, at such a cute little baby animal, taking pictures of it and all, but then they lost interest in it when it fell off the wall, under the train. I was horrified that it had fallen, and I got off at the next stop and caught the next southbound train back to Fort Totten. I was able to find the little guy on the tracks, and he was going back and forth, crying and fairly helpless. He was tottering back and forth — I couldn’t tell if he was just too young to walk straight yet or if he was maybe injured somehow.

I asked the next train driver if there was anything he could do to help. He directed me to a supervisor, who said they wouldn’t do anything. So then I tried the station manager. Then another Metro worker. Then another. I called Dawn to get the number for the Washington Animal Rescue League, but she volunteers with them and said that she knew that they didn’t do wild animals. She gave me the number for DC Animal Control instead. I called them and they said they might send somebody but they might not. Jesus, would nobody would help this poor little thing?

I fretted and paced and waited while train after train came through, but nobody else came to help. So I emptied out my backpack, thinking maybe if I could get down there I could put the little guy in it and somehow get him back to the grass over the other wall. I waited until a train came through and the big board said it would be six minutes until the next one. I jumped down from the platform onto the tracks and went over to try and rescue him. He was crouched under the high voltage rail, of all places. I grabbed him by the back of the neck, hoping he’d go limp like a kitten and let me pick him up. But instead he tensed all up and started screaming and bared his teeth, so I got scared and let him go. It was only then that I noticed how bloody his front paw was, how hurt he was. I was afraid to touch him again, though, so I climbed back up on the platform.

There’s a camera right there, so very close to where I jumped down. I was sure that sirens would go off, that the station manager would come over the loudspeaker and scream at me to cease & desist, that passengers on the platform would start yelling, that something would happen anyway. But nothing. There was a woman nearby kinda watching me, but she didn’t say anything until I came back up to the platform. She said maybe she saw sparks shooting from the raccoon’s tail when I touched it, like maybe it had touched the high voltage rail or something, but I have my doubts about her seeing any such thing. Surely hope not anyhow.

Around this time too some other raccoons arrived on the scene, an adult and two equally young pups, from up the hill, the same general direction from where this one had fallen down onto the tracks. They were all chattering, maybe calling to each other. Every so often one of the other babies would climb up towards the wall from where the one fell, and I’d groan and yell and tell them to get off there. Would another one of them fall? The adult, the mother I assumed, kept grabbing these by the neck and trying to carry them back up the hill, but she could only take one at a time, and the other would cry or try to climb up to the same precarious wall.

Animal Control called me back, and then I called them back. I kept asking when some agent would arrive, but he was coming from the other side of the city, apparently, and was stuck in traffic. And after all this time I was a nervous wreck, worried about the already poor hurt raccoon on the tracks and scared that one of the other ones was going to climb up and fall as well. I finally had to admit defeat and run away. I boarded the next Green Line train that came into the station and went home.

I called Animal Control again later, from home, talking to the same woman I’d been speaking with before. She didn’t have any news. She said that she’d have probably heard from the agent if he couldn’t find the raccoon on the tracks, so maybe that’s some good news. She said she was working again tomorrow afternoon, and I told her I’d call her back then.

Hundimiento Zona

Hundimiento Zona 2 (1)

Originally uploaded by Gobierno de Guatemala

Really, really, very really, really weird sinkhole. It’s strangely so perfectly round, and the seemingly bottomless-ness is freaky too.

I always find it discomforting, I feel ashamed and stupid somehow, when an event or phenomena is apparently actual and real, but it presents or just feels more like a movie special effect or something.

Forty-six years old


Originally uploaded by ebohls

Here I am, 46 years old today. Just got back from a bike ride around Ocean Avenue. Before that we toured Fort Adams, which tour included a very spooky jaunt through the listening tunnels under the earthworks. Soon we’re going to change and go to dinner at an Italian restaurant up Memorial Avenue, not sure which one yet. Really, having a lovely time. Wish you were here.

Cellphones Now Used More for Data Than for Calls

Fascinating article in the NYT today about cell phone usage. Apparently they’re now used more for data than for actual phone calls. This calls into question their very name, no? I mean, they’re more used as other devices rather than as phones qua phones, so maybe we shouldn’t even call them phones anymore.

While we’re at it, I suppose I’m maybe even old fashioned, calling them cell phones, too, instead of mobile phones. They don’t necessarily even use cellular technology anymore. They’re digital now right? And cellular is an analog protocol? Maybe? I’m on shaky ground here, not really knowing what I’m talking about.

Let’s just go with mobile devices, now, instead of cell phones.

Although likely I’m this morning being influenced by the fact that the NYT article refers to them as cell phones throughout. Wait, not even as cell phones, but rather as cellphones. All one word. Must be in their style guide, which I’d generally trust. They really worry about these things.

More fun, though, was a quote from a telecom analyst, who says, apropos these devices being now more looked at rather than talked into, “Handset design has become far less cheek-friendly.” I like that: cheek-friendly.

Ominously, though, comes the prediction from the CEO of Sprint Nextel, expecting that soon we’ll be charged by amounts of data rather than voice minutes. I have enough trouble keeping track of minutes. How am I ever going to be able to track bytes?

And, lastly, there’s this astonishing statistic regarding American teenagers and texting. To wit:

American teenagers have been ahead of the curve for a while, turning their cellphones into texting machines; more than half of them send about 1,500 text messages each month, according to a recent study by the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project.

I don’t know what the sampling here is, whether it’s half of all teenagers or only half with cellphones. Oh, probably the latter, now that I think about it. But, still, whatever, dude, that’s a shitload of texting going on.

So this made me wonder as to my own cellphone usage. I got a new phone last month, replacing a smart phone with a dumber one. It was like the old one, an HTC Touch, was a little mini computer that happened to be a phone. And making and receiving calls on it was a pain in the ass, frankly. And texting was an equal pain, given the touch screen instead of a separate keyboard. So my new Samsung Intensity has a slide-out physical keyboard, much easier to use. And a single button gets me immediately into a new text message. Love it.

Oh, and it gets much, much better reception. Oh, and it’s a lot easier to use with a Bluetooth headset.

As to usage, it’s got handy counters. In the 22 days I’ve had this new phone, I’ve dialed 28 phone calls and received 8, whereas I’ve sent 34 text messages and received 44. Apparently I text more than I talk, although it’s hard to factor in the land line I’ve still got at home, which takes care of some of the talking but none of the texting.

Anyway, an interesting article, I thought.

Obama Caught Lip-Syncing Speech

I thought the video was a bit lame, only mildly amusing, but the supposed blog entry was just so tone-perfect:

apology to my fans

obviously i am going through some shit right now. i’m
going through enormous pressures, and there are
definitely some personal issues I’m dealing with right
now. fact is, i didn’t wnat it to happen but it happened.
It’s pretty hard goibg out there every night and doing it.
I think in the back of my mind i knew i was not ready for
that and i shouldn’t have done but but thats life. i am a

thanks to all my TRUE FANS who have stood by me.
ignore the haters and the people who feed of negativity.
i could definitely use all your positive energy right now.

love always,


The scroll at the bottom had some pretty good nuggests too:


Annual Nutcracker Extravaganza

Saw the Washington Ballet’s Nutcracker last night at the Warner Theatre. Gosh, this is my 7th year seeing it with Dawn. And our friend Becky N., too, natch.

You know how much I loves me some Elizabeth Gaither and Jade Payette. Alas, although we could have had either as the Sugar Plum Fairy, or even Elizabeth’s BFF Laura Urgellés, we got Maki Onuki. But Maki Onuki was just fine, of course, and they gave me Ms. Gaither as the Snow Queen and Ms. Payette as the Dew Drop. So all was well.

Rounding out the showy parts were Sona Kharatian in the Spanish Dance, Ms. Urgellé and Tamás Krizsa as the Anacostia Indians, Morgan Frederick as the Lead Cardinal, and Jared Nelson as Ms. G’s Snow King.

Best recovery of the night goes to the poor Ribbon Dancer who wiped out downstage left, pretty much right away, but who got back up and jumped right back into beat. Nicely done. I’d have dashed off in tears.

We went to Jaleo before the show. What a treat, as we hardly ever go out to eat. Since we had a 7:00 p.m. curtain, we sat down at 5:00, before the hockey crush. Oh, yes, lots of patrons in red jerseys. Especially delicious were my choices, the Espinacas a la Catalana and the Escalivada Catalana, which I of course ordered in honor of Stephen Maturin, famous surgeon and spy. We also shared Cebolla asada con queso Picón, Arroz cremoso de setas, and Coliflor salteada con aceitunas y frutos secos.

And sangria. Yum.

President Obama in Olso

A stunning speech:

My favorite passages:

[M]ake no mistake: Evil does exist in the world. A non-violent movement could not have halted Hitler’s armies. Negotiations cannot convince al Qaeda’s leaders to lay down their arms. To say that force may sometimes be necessary is not a call to cynicism — it is a recognition of history; the imperfections of man and the limits of reason.

… [T]he world must remember that it was not simply international institutions — not just treaties and declarations — that brought stability to a post-World War II world. Whatever mistakes we have made, the plain fact is this: The United States of America has helped underwrite global security for more than six decades with the blood of our citizens and the strength of our arms.


Somewhere today, in the here and now, in the world as it is, a soldier sees he’s outgunned, but stands firm to keep the peace. Somewhere today, in this world, a young protestor awaits the brutality of her government, but has the courage to march on. Somewhere today, a mother facing punishing poverty still takes the time to teach her child, scrapes together what few coins she has to send that child to school — because she believes that a cruel world still has a place for that child’s dreams.

Let us live by their example. We can acknowledge that oppression will always be with us, and still strive for justice. We can admit the intractability of depravation, and still strive for dignity.  Clear-eyed, we can understand that there will be war, and still strive for peace. We can do that — for that is the story of human progress; that’s the hope of all the world; and at this moment of challenge, that must be our work here on Earth.

SNL & the War on Christmas

It may be just that I’m getting older, but I’ve been really enjoying Saturday Night Live this year. And, more importantly, I’ve been thoroughly and utterly charmed by the guest hosts these last two episodes. Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Blake Lively, despite being awfully young and apparently very successful, seem so earnest and hard-working and also just so genuinely pleased to be hosting. They both totally won me over.

Mr. Gordon-Levitt’s take on Donald O’Connor’s Make ‘Em Laugh was a terrific homage. And Blake Lively (despite being distractingly attractive: she makes me feel kinda like Norm McDonald’s impression of Larry King: “Blake Lively? She should be called Blake Lovely!”) had her own charming musical number monologue, this time with various cast members as Muppets. There was snow and singing and general merriment. And who knew Jason Sudeikis could be such an amazing Fozzy?

One minor quibble, though. They sang Hark! The Herald Angels Sing, but, weirdly, removed all the God and Jesus references. So, instead of:

Hark the herald angels sing
Glory to the newborn King
Peace on earth and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled
Joyful, all ye nations, rise,
Join the triumph of the skies;
With th’ angelic host proclaim
Christ is born in Bethlehem.

Hark the herald angels sing
Glory to the newborn King.

We got:

Hark the herald angels sing
[Animal sings grunts instead of lyrics]
Peace on earth and mercy mild,
[Swedish Chef sings smorgadyborgady gibberish]
Joyful, all ye nations, rise,
Join the triumph of the skies;
With th’ angelic host proclaim
[Beaker sings gibberish meep meep beep]

[skipped line]
[all sing smorgadyborgady gibberish]

They cut out Glory to the newborn King and God and sinners reconciled and Christ is born in Bethlehem. Kinda weird, huh? It was otherwise a wonderful performance, both funny and warm at the same time. They either had some sort of weird reverence for the God stuff, so they excised those bits so they wouldn’t have Muppets and the Gossip Girl chick seeming to make a mockery of it, or they just wanted to remove Christ from Christmas, like Bill O’Reilly says they do.

Or maybe I’m making too much of it. Probably.

Still, fun hosts and good episodes. Although I also feel the need to note that Potato Chip at the end of the Blake Lively episode was easily the worst sketch I can remember in all 35 years of the show, ‘cepting the Jean Doumanian years of course.

Wrong Number

[Text message 1:23 PM] Wat yuh doin?dis bubbles.

[My reply 1:24 PM] I don’t know anyone named Bubbles. I think you have the wrong number.

[Text message 1:26 PM] Nigga frm da cfe I meet yuh on da train carter I can’t beileve yuh don’t rember mah name.

[My reply 1:29 PM] No, seriously. I’m a 45 year old white guy named Ed. I don’t think you’ve got the right number. Sorry.

[Incoming call 1:30 PM]

“Hello. This is Edward.”

“Oh, I guess I do have the wrong number.”

“Yeah, sorry about that.”


Edward Moore Kennedy, 1932 – 2009


It little profits that an idle king,
By this still hearth, among these barren crags,
Match’d with an aged wife, I mete and dole
Unequal laws unto a savage race,
That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me.
I cannot rest from travel; I will drink
Life to the lees. All times I have enjoy’d
Greatly, have suffer’d greatly, both with those
That loved me, and alone; on shore, and when
Thro’ scudding drifts the rainy Hyades
Vext the dim sea. I am become a name;
For always roaming with a hungry heart
Much have I seen and known,– cities of men
And manners, climates, councils, governments,
Myself not least, but honor’d of them all,–
And drunk delight of battle with my peers,
Far on the ringing plains of windy Troy.
I am a part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethro’
Gleams that untravell’d world whose margin fades
For ever and for ever when I move.
How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnish’d, not to shine in use!
As tho’ to breathe were life! Life piled on life
Were all too little, and of one to me
Little remains; but every hour is saved
From that eternal silence, something more,
A bringer of new things; and vile it were
For some three suns to store and hoard myself,
And this gray spirit yearning in desire
To follow knowledge like a sinking star,
Beyond the utmost bound of human thought.

This is my son, mine own Telemachus,
to whom I leave the sceptre and the isle,–
Well-loved of me, discerning to fulfill
This labor, by slow prudence to make mild
A rugged people, and thro’ soft degrees
Subdue them to the useful and the good.
Most blameless is he, centred in the sphere
Of common duties, decent not to fail
In offices of tenderness, and pay
Meet adoration to my household gods,
When I am gone. He works his work, I mine.

There lies the port; the vessel puffs her sail;
There gloom the dark, broad seas. My mariners,
Souls that have toil’d, and wrought, and thought with me,–
That ever with a frolic welcome took
The thunder and the sunshine, and opposed
Free hearts, free foreheads,– you and I are old;
Old age hath yet his honor and his toil.
Death closes all; but something ere the end,
Some work of noble note, may yet be done,
Not unbecoming men that strove with Gods.
The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks;
The long day wanes; the slow moon climbs; the deep
Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends.
‘T is not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down;
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are,–
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

by Alfred Tennyson