Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Wednesday, June 30, 2004 11:10 am

It was six years ago today …

Filed under: Victoria — Lex @ 11:10 am

Our little girl, born six years ago today in the midst of a raging summer storm, isn’t so little anymore.

For one thing, she’s up in the mountains with Memie, Papaw and her cousins, having a blast. Without Mom and Dad.

For another, she begins first grade in a couple of weeks.

For another, she appears to be growing into her maternal grandmother’s physique: tall and athletic. She plays soccer, she plays volleyball, and although she can’t catch too well yet, woe betide the young man who says the wrong thing unto her when she has a baseball in her hand because she will. Not. Miss.

But most important, the shy toddler who always used to prefer to play by herself now has a circle of friends whose parents, in many cases, very quietly did some serious schedule rearranging at the beginning of one of the biggest vacation weeks of the year to allow their kids to come to her birthday party Friday night.

Happy birthday, sweetie. Mommy and Daddy love you and are very, very proud of you.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004 9:51 pm

Farewell, Layne, we hardly knew ye; or, In cyberspace, no one knows you’re a fictional creation of some guy with way too much time on his hands

Filed under: Weird — Lex @ 9:51 pm

I’ve just had the most intense “meta” experience I’ve had in two years-plus of blogging. I’m gonna post some on it now, but I’m still a long way from having all my thoughts on this in order, so this might end up breaking off in mid-thought or something. Anyway, I guess I should start at the beginning.

Not long after I began blogging, I was perusing Page’s blog when she mentioned, in glowing terms, a blog I’d never heard of. So I checked it out.

It was some chick named Layne, writing about her life. Ho-hum snooze, right?

Only Layne had some things going for her that most bloggers don’t. For one thing, she had more writing game than most professional writers. I read a lot of blogs, some of them by quite famous people, and post for post hers was far and away the best-written of the bunch. For another, she let everything — and I mean everything — hang out on her blog: not, I don’t think, to be titillating (although I’d be lying if I said none of her posts were), but to be as brutally honest as she could be within the limits of her own lack of limits and what she called her Superpower of Denial. Or, as another frequent visitor to that blog, David Grenier, put it:

I’m guessing this is what the journalers used to call a “trainwreck journal” i.e., one where the person’s life is constantly filled with drama that you almost feel guilty about reading but you just can’t stop.Trainwreck it might be, but the best written trainwreck I’ve ever seen. Layne has a mastery of language and description that makes even the most mundane details seem interesting or funny.

I left the odd comment on her blog, becoming kind of a fringe member of the online community that developed around her blog — or, as another visitor called us, “the people who live in Layne’s comment box.” In turn, Layne started visiting my blog and leaving the odd comment. I felt kind of honored that she’d noticed.

During the year-plus that I read the blog, named Plain Layne, she underwent numerous crises. Most recently, she took the blog down entirely and abandoned the domain name, precipitating an effort by some of the leading “people who live in Layne’s comment box” to preserve the domain name as a gathering place for the online community that had developed, even if Layne, the person who had been responsible for the development of the community, would no longer be participating in it.

But that effort ended when Layne came forward and asked the group to stop.

Or, rather, the creator of “Layne” came forward. Because Layne? Doesn’t exist and never did. She was a fictional character, created by a guy.

(Let’s pause for a moment out of sympathy for, or to mock, some of the guys who read that blog for titillation more than I did and are shivering right now and going, “Ewwwwww.”)

The guy in question is named Odin Soli. He has reclaimed the Plain Layne URL, where you can find a summary of the facts about the Plain Layne blog. He apparently has started a blog under his real name here, where, among other things, he talks about how and why he created the Plain Layne blog.

I’ll be honest: He had me fooled. I suspected the name “Layne Johnson” might be fake, given the contents and the my-boss-could-read-this-blog danger inherent in them. But I honestly thought Layne Johnson was a real, if pseudonymous, person: The writing was too consistently good, the stories hung together too well, for it all to be fake. I’ll grant you that “Layne” blogged much more often and voluminously than anyone who worked as many hours as she claimed to would probably have the time for. But she was, or claimed to be, 26, an age at which I still could get by for extended periods on 4 hours’ sleep a night (and often did, having to start work before 6 most mornings while living through the only portion of my life that ever remotely approached promiscuity). So I thought it was at least barely plausible that she would write so prolifically.

Only not.

So this has been a learning experience.

Do I feel deceived? Cheated? Well, yes and no.

Whatever else “Plain Layne” was and wasn’t, it was a hell of an ongoing story. You always had to wonder what was going to come next, and you seldom, if ever, left the blog thinking that your visit had been a waste of time. I can’t say that about my own blog.

The writing frequently verged on poetry. It was often funny. (In particular, this post is without question the funniest thing I’ve ever read about corporate meetings. For best results, read it to yourself as if the dialogue were badly dubbed English in an old martial-arts film.) And although some of the experiences recounted were just bizarre, others were universal, sometimes touchingly so.

And as I said, I enjoyed some of the more titillating posts, but titillation was never high on my list of reasons for reading the blog.

Let’s say I’m disappointed. I wanted Layne to be real because I wanted to believe that there was someone out there who really was that honest, who wrote that well, whose tackling some of her strongest demons in public was helping me tackle some of my own in private.

Plain Layne also raises some questions, which I do not now have time to ponder, about the nature of reality. Layne Johnson wasn’t real, and yet she was as real to many of her frequent readers as the people they see at work everyday — more so, in some ways. So how do I know whether I am real? (To borrow a line from Jim Capo: Because I blog, duh.) I didn’t take much philosophy in college — it was one of the few liberal-arts subjects I didn’t take at least three swings at — so I’m not well equipped to address some of this stuff. (Help me out here, Tony?)

But aside from whatever conclusions I can wrestle to the ground on the nature of reality as illustrated by the Plain Layne phenomenon, I think I’m done with Plain Layne. I won’t be participating in the ongoing online community of the people who (used to) live in Layne’s comment box. They’re perfectly fine people, don’t get me wrong. But the ongoing crisis that was the life of Layne Johnson gave me a feeling akin to that you might get when you and six strangers happen to be standing around when the levee springs a leak: You need to fill and place the sandbags first, get acquainted later. And what with all the crises, for me, at least, “later” never came. Whether that’s a good or bad thing, I have no idea.

Hereby resolved

Filed under: Odds 'n' ends — Lex @ 9:33 pm

Just before my most recent vacation, someone told me to have a good vacation. So I did. Wow, what a difference! Why have I never done this before? From now on, I’m doing this on all my vacations.

Memo to self: Stop by the drug store

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 1:09 pm

Because you never know when you might need some PT-141:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A drug that seems to drive female rats mad for sex may offer the first real scientific aphrodisiac for women, U.S. and Canadian researchers said on Monday.The drug, Palatin Technologies Inc’s PT-141, is being developed for use to fight impotence in men, but the researchers said tests showed it also aroused female rats. …

The female rats flirted more when injected with the drug and Pfaus and his colleagues said: “Females treated with the highest dose of PT-141 also attempted to mount the males.” In rats, this is considered a sign of sexual impatience.

In humans, however, it is considered merely [your punch line here].

Monday, June 28, 2004 9:24 pm

If you thought our judicial system was f — uh, messed up …

Filed under: Ew. — Lex @ 9:24 pm

you were right.

Warning: Ewww.

Going, going …

Filed under: Victoria — Lex @ 6:41 am

For the first time in six years, I woke up today in my house, without my daughter in it.

Yesterday, I ran her and her cousins Taylor and Jordan up to the mountains, where they’ll be spending the week with Memie and Papaw. Memie has been looking forward to this for a long time, and when we got there she had T-shirts ready for the girls that said “Summer 2004″ and something like “Memie’s girls” or “Memie and the girls” on the front, along with a photo of these three granddaughters, and each girl’s name on the back.

Victoria always has been kind of a homebody, but nothing lasts forever. When I called to let ‘em know I’d gotten back to Greensboro safely (yeah, right), Mom said the first thing out of Victoria’s mouth after I left was, “Memie! Now that the grownups have gone, can we watch a video?” When she asked Victoria if she wanted to talk to Daddy, I distinctly heard V’s reply in the background: “No, thank you.” Ah, geez, twist that knife, kid. (She did get on the phone later to tell me goodnight.)

When you have a child, everyone tells you to enjoy ‘em because they grow up fast. That’s a lie. In some ways they come already grown up, even as they’re squirming in the light, still wet from the womb and with the umbilical cord not yet cut.

Saturday, June 26, 2004 10:36 pm

“Always look on the bright side of life … “

Filed under: Hooper — Lex @ 10:36 pm

Waaaaah!!!

What’s wrong, buddy?

I had a accident in my bed!

Oh, I’m sorry. That happens sometimes, huh? Well, c’mon over here and we’ll get your wet clothes off and get some clean ones on.

OK. (sniff) But I had a GREAT nap!

postCount(‘108826115552534856′); | postCountTB(‘108826115552534856′);

Caution: Dry stream bed ahead …

Filed under: Housekeeping — Lex @ 10:46 am

Posting might be light for the next little bit, for two reasons:

1) Someone apparently was under the mistaken impression that a journalist would have something interesting to say to a family reunion on the topic of “The Value of the American Family Today,” so I’m having to gin up something interesting. (Although when you enter a phrase in Google and come up empty, you’ve got to know it’s going to be hard going.)

2) For unrelated family reasons, I need to transcribe and post a lengthy article, currently extant only in 6-point type in a disintegrating newspaper page on microfilm. It’s fascinating to me for family reasons, and that alone would make transcribing and distributing it to family worth the effort, but it also deals with a historical subject that’s been in the news a bit for the past few years, so you might find it interesting, as well. I’ll post here when it’s up, but the length requires I give it a separate page and not incorporate it into the blog.

I appreciate your patience and indulgence during this period. But then, most of you five are at the beach this month anyway, I think. Anyway. postCountTB(‘108826152371099218′);

Tuesday, June 22, 2004 9:16 pm

I’m back

Filed under: Housekeeping — Lex @ 9:16 pm

Not much to say except that for the past week, life has been — wait for it — a beach. I’ll have more to say once I see what y’all have been up to in my absence.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004 6:35 am

Benefits and drawbacks

Filed under: Odds 'n' ends — Lex @ 6:35 am

People with no lives Regular Blog on the Run readers will recall that last November I learned I had sleep apnea and got fitted with one of those things that pumps air down your airway while you sleep.

It didn’t make the dramatic difference that it had for some other people I know with the problem, but I am sleeping better. One reason I know this is that I’m dreaming again, which I had pretty much stopped doing several years ago. (In hindsight, the reason is obvious: I never slept long enough at a time, or got deeply enough asleep, to dream.)

So now I’m dreaming again. Most of the dreams are the usual absurdist stuff of dreams. Some are even funny or otherwise entertaining. But I had one two nights ago that involved people, though not events, from my past that left me profoundly sad when I woke up. And I don’t know which was sadder: the dream, or the fact that it was only a dream.

Saturday, June 12, 2004 5:57 pm

Priorities

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 5:57 pm

Me: Guys, who would like to go to the Natural Science Center this morning?

Victoria: Me!

Hooper: Me!

Me: Today is a special day out there. Today is Dinosaur Day!

V&H: Yay!!

Me: Victoria, do you have a favorite dinosaur?

Victoria: The Tyrannosaurus Rex. Because it’s the king of dinosaurs, right?

Me: That’s what the name means, yes. Hooper, do you have a favorite dinosaur?

Hooper: Yes!

Me: Which one is your favorite?

Hooper: The biggest one.

Friday, June 11, 2004 9:43 pm

Quality journalist for sale (cheap)

Filed under: Weird — Lex @ 9:43 pm

Came out of an impromptu meeting with my editor today and he noticed that I had something sticking to my heel. It was a price tag: $39.50. So I guess that’s what I’m going for these days.

I wonder if Ann would pay that much to keep me.

Domestic terrorism

Filed under: There but for the grace of God ... — Lex @ 9:41 pm

How in the hell did I miss this?

Rage over a zoning dispute turned to cold, calculated revenge as a Granby (Colo.) man in an armor-plated bulldozer went on a rampage of destruction in the town Friday afternoon that left 13 buildings damaged or destroyed and himself dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.Marvin Heemeyer, 52, the former owner of the Mountain View Muffler shop on the west side of Granby, took out his revenge over a longstanding dispute over the construction of the Mountain Parks Concrete batch plant. The town of Granby had approved its construction three years ago despite Heemeyer’s vehement objections and a failed lawsuit against the town over it.

In a 90-minute rampage, Heemeyer left a path of destruction through town Friday with a homemade “tank” that he had constructed from a D9 bulldozer. Heemeyer had secretly built his improvised “tank” in a metal shed adjacent to his muffler shop.

Such scenes usually are played for laughs in the movies. (I think “ER” had an episode this past season about a guy in a bulldozer, but I didn’t see it and don’t know how it was played.) But this guy was deadly serious — and it’s only luck or the grace of God that he didn’t kill anybody. In fact, if he’d set off a bomb or walked into one of the buildings and started shooting, instead, the outcome would’ve been much worse.

One of the guy’s targets was the newspaper office, which he’d have knocked down completely if he hadn’t run into the corner where the printing press was bolted to the floor. Apparently he was angry about critical articles the paper had published about him.

A legacy for Ray Charles

Filed under: Salute! — Lex @ 9:39 pm

The Rude Pundit thinks it’s going to take a lot of work to create a legacy worthy of the father of soul music. And, I would add, a high tolerance for expletives.

On a less expletive-riddled note, Rolling Stone has published an excellent epitaph by Van Morrison:

This music is way beyond marketing. This music is global, and its appeal is universal. Ray Charles changed music just by being himself — by doing what he did and translating it to millions of people with the wide-ranging effect of his one-of-a-kind soul. That’s his legacy. I think that the music of Ray Charles will probably outlive us all — at least I hope that it will.

Assuming we don’t manage to all blow each other up, I know it will.

I hope the concessions stands are really well stocked

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 9:38 pm

Drunken English soccer fans are a plague upon the landscape whenever they follow their favorite teams across the Channel to play — they commit assaults and vandalism, drive while drunk and on and on. So how are Portuguese police dealing with it when English teams come to Lisbon?

They’re letting them smoke dope instead.

That is, you’ll pardon the pun, stone brilliant.

Thursday, June 10, 2004 7:18 pm

Jack Ray hits the last road

Filed under: Salute! — Lex @ 7:18 pm

Ray Charles has died. He was 73.

If any one person invented soul music, and by extension rock ‘n’ roll, it was he, with such songs as “I Got a Woman” and “Hit the Road, Jack.” “Georgia (On My Mind)” is an American classic, and his rendition of “America the Beautiful,” with its colors and imagery offered up by a man who had been blind since age 7, was unfailingly moving. Personally, I think it would make a better national anthem than the one we’ve got.

Not much more to say.

Wednesday, June 9, 2004 8:12 pm

Why customer service matters, or, How Mike the night clerk probably got fired

Filed under: Ew. — Lex @ 8:12 pm

I once worked in a variety of really crummy service jobs, but I always tried to be polite and helpful even to people who were behaving like total horse’s asses, because even in the pre-World Wide Web, pre-PowerPoint era (yes, kids, Daddy really is THAT old), I was terrified that something like this might happen.

I had my own bad experience with that chain once in Atlanta. Put it this way: We only got any action after my wife threatened to notify the Fulton County Department of Public Health about conditions there. I am so not making that up.

(Link via Ed.)

A cousin checks in

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 7:58 pm

cousin: Hey Lex
Lex: Hey, (man)! Whazzup?
Lex: (squinting at new AIM buddy icon cousin has sent) Who’s that supposed to be? Colin Powell?
cousin: No My Friend – It is the one the only
Lex: Manuel Noriega?
cousin: there are no tanks in the city
cousin: the usa is lying
cousin: they are not attacking us
Lex: OOOOOoooooohh!!! THAT guy! I LOVED him!
cousin: of course
Lex: Reminded me of the Black Knight in “Monty Python/Holy Grail”: “It’s only a flesh wound!”
cousin: He was hired by some TV station in the middle east – funny stuff
Lex: As newscaster or comedian?
cousin: both
cousin: to tell the real story
Lex: Man, I have GOT to get satellite.

Not alone in the universe. Not unique, either.

Filed under: Housekeeping — Lex @ 7:47 pm

I just learned that Yahoo! lists two other blogs besides mine titled “Blog on the Run.” One of the listings appears to be obsolete. But the other one, a worthwhile compendium of geek information that’s well over my head, actually calls itself “Blog on the Run.” However, it appears to date back only to August 2003. So I got here first. Nyah, nyah-nyah-NYAH, nyah!

Greetings

Filed under: Housekeeping — Lex @ 7:05 pm

Welcome to those of you who are visiting here after listening to today’s “The State of Things” on WUNC-FM. I didn’t hear the program, but I understand that Melinda and Ed Cone mentioned this humble blog, and I appreciate their doing it and your following up on it.

Hang around a while. Put some music on. Fix yourself a drink. Have a seat. There’s 2 years’ worth of archives, so make yourself comfortable. Feedback, even critical feedback, always welcome.

Flattery

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 6:06 am

A co-worker yesterday asked if I were Mr. Sun. I’m not. I’m not nearly that good. And I know who Mr. Sun is. But it was nice to be asked.

Tuesday, June 8, 2004 8:44 pm

Argument fodder

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 8:44 pm

RetroCRUSH presents the Top 50 Song PARTS of all time. Yes, song PARTS.

I’m not going to argue about order because on this subject it’d be an argument no one could win. But I will say this: I learned something about #36 that I didn’t know before. #44 isn’t even the best song part on that album. And #19, which I first heard on Christmas Day 1971, changed my life forever.

(Link via Nancy.)

Saturday, June 5, 2004 12:54 pm

“One war is enough”

Filed under: Salute! — Lex @ 12:54 pm

As we prepare to mark the 60th anniversary of D-Day tomorrow, I have stumbled across this essay, published in The Atlantic Monthly in February 1946, by a veteran of that recently ended world war who had also served as a war correspondent at Iwo Jima and Okinawa. Other than the work of Paul Fussell, I don’t recall reading anything remotely like it by another WWII veteran.

I leave it to you to determine its relevance, if any, today.

Thursday, June 3, 2004 8:37 pm

One last Memorial Day story

Filed under: Salute! — Lex @ 8:37 pm

Sometimes it’s the little things that mean the most.

Priorities, people. Priorities.

Filed under: Weird — Lex @ 12:34 pm

In New Jersey, at least, it looks as if ladies’ night will soon be a thing of the past (annoying free reg. req.).

“The decision makes it pretty clear that this bodes trouble for bars that have ladies’ nights and similar programs in New Jersey,” said J. Frank Vespa-Papaleo, director of the state Division on Civil Rights, who wrote the 13-page order. “It will have important widespread implications for bars.” …Vespa-Papaleo’s ruling cited a portion of a 1959 state appellate court opinion: “Once a proprietor extends his invitation to the public, he must treat all members of the public alike.”

Absent an “important public interest,” sex discrimination is illegal, Vespa-Papaleo wrote.

You’re telling me that getting women drunk as cheaply as possible is not an “important public interest”?

Wednesday, June 2, 2004 8:48 pm

Wait a minute. Where’s my wife on this list?

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 8:48 pm

The 100 Most Beautiful Women of All Time.

No. 1? Audrey Hepburn. No surprise there. (I wouldn’t vote her No. 1, but I know lots of people who would, is what I’m saying.)

But Liv Tyler (No. 2) ahead of Rachel Hunter (No. 98)? As my daughter (too young to be on the list) says, “Nuh-UHHHH-unnh!!”

What think ye of this list?

Bang for the buck

Filed under: Panthers — Lex @ 12:49 pm

The old saying in football is that offense wins games but defense wins Super Bowls. It’s an old saying for a reason: It’s true way more often than not. But the bulk of the NFL’s salary money goes to offense, a new USA Today story shows.

If I hadn’t read the story, I would guess off the top of my head that the biggest driver for that is that good quarterbacks tend to get paid a LOT more than good anything elses. A related point, I would think, is that the highest (and therefore most expensive) draft picks are more often offensive players, particularly the so-called “skill” positions (i.e., QB, RB, WR). It’s an interesting issue.

One thing I was delighted to see: the absence of any Panthers on the accompanying list of players getting paid $10M or more in salary-cap money per year. Earlier in the franchise’s history, particularly after the team’s improbable 1996 run to the NFC final, it tended to overspend on names on both sides of the ball (e.g., Sean Gilbert, Lamar Smith). More recently, it has done an excellent job picking up good players with character on the cheap (e.g., both of last year’s starting corners at the beginning of the season). The team’s draft picks this year suggest that the Panthers might have reverted to old habits; I’ll try to put together a more detailed analysis supporting that troubling point before training camp starts.

UPDATE: Rookie Panthers WR Drew Carter, who tore each of his anterior cruciate (knee) ligaments in college, has torn the left one again and will miss the season. Color me cynical, but I wondered from the git-go why they drafted a guy with two bad ACLs and who managed a whopping 1 TD in 31 college games. At least he was only a fifth-round pick, so he couldn’t have been very expensive.

Tuesday, June 1, 2004 8:58 pm

Monitor spew alert, or, It’d be hilarious if it weren’t so damn scary

Filed under: Black-box voting — Lex @ 8:58 pm

Diebold: Because democracy is too important to leave to chance.

The Times finally gets one right …

Filed under: Black-box voting — Lex @ 6:09 am

… with a piece advocating open-source software for electronic voting machines.

The gist is: The government hires some outstanding programmers. They write an operating system for voting machines, then place it online, where literally anyone can look at it, critique it, debug it, suggest improvements. It’s the principle that gave rise to the Linux computer operating system, and it’s particularly appropriate in this context because the system that counts our votes ought not be secret and proprietary.

It’s a key ingredient in the only formula that has a chance of guaranteeing accurate election totals: Voting must be auditable. Other essential ingredients: voter-verified paper ballots; intensive exit polling; widespread, random spot-check recounts; automatic recounts in close races; automatic recounts in the event of anomalies (e.g., vote totals differing significantly from exit polling); etc.

Auditable voting isn’t pie in the sky; we have the technology and know-how right now, today. We just need the will, and the impertinence to ask anyone who opposes it why they don’t want votes counted accurately and so, by extension, hate America.

Finding cures for disease

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 5:43 am

And in tonal dissonance with my post below, Dong Resin thinks we could find cures for many diseases in just days if we’d only get over the whole dignity thing.

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