Who Dat?

The Anonymizer strikes again!

Random Word of the Day:
Campbellite: (Sometimes derogatory.) A member of the Disciples of Christ. This noun was coined from the name of Alexander Campbell, a U.S. religious leader born in Ireland who founded, with his father, Thomas, the Disciples of Christ Church.

Using the comments section below, please use the word Campbellite in a sentence.

Today’s Random Word of the Day was brought to you by Webster’s New Universal Unabridged Dictionary and the color taupe.

Update: What dis? And why is it accented in gold and not platinum? And why is it a ballpoint pen and not a fountain pen? And, most importantly, why is it lounging around next to some bar nuts in London and not in Baltimore next to my Macintosh right now?!?!?!?!

I’m glad that insatiable conservative greed is so popular in America these days.


Interactive Blog Day!

I just saw an online headline that reads: “Julia Roberts Has Her Twins.”

I expect, if they had more space, the rest of the story would be revealed:

“. . . And Eats Them, Too.”



The Games People Play (With Their Dogs)

Goblin Foo Uvula is the most wonderful dog in the world, but you knew that. If I were a millionaire, I’d take out a full-page ad in the New York Times with her life-sized photo, underneath of which I would write, “Hello!” in fifty-point type. Everyone who reads the New York Times will see that ad, and her cute little eyes will connect directly with their souls, and we’ll suddenly have world peace or a new designer on “Trading Spaces” or something.

Goblin’s favorite game is “I Bring You Hippoo, But I Take It Away Before You Can Grab It.” Her second favorite game is “I Bring You My Stuffed Squirrel, But I Take It Away Before You Can Grab It.” Her third favorite game is “I Bring You My Rope Toy, But I Take It Away Before You Can Grab It.” Hippoo, the stuffed squirrel, and the rope toy are drenched in saliva by the time they are presented, so grabbing them is not my top priority, but if I should happen to get a hold, a rip-roaring game of tug-of-war ensues.

We also like hide and seek.

Random Word of the Day
Mazzard: A wild sweet cherry, Prunus Avium, used as a rootstock for cultivated varieties of cherries. This noun is related to measles, also known as mazers spots.

Using the comments section below, please use mazzard in a sentence.

Today’s Random Word of the Day was brought to you by Webster’s New Universal Unaridged Dictionary and the number 2.


Thanksgiving Selfishness

I was going to post a detailed list of things I’m thankful for—my family, my friends, my other blessings—but I probably won’t. When I was in college, my friend Viki had a talking Barney the Dinosaur. When you squeezed its hand, Barney said, maniacally, “You’re stupendous!” Except our friend Dragomir, from Serbia, heard, “You’re too pensive!”

Slap my ass and call me Yugoslavian, but I think that, today, I just might be too pensive.

After Russell had been in the hospital for almost a month and was starting to get better, we spoke about the theater he worked in, which was opening a new play that weekend. “You’re going to get out of the hospital in time to see that play,” I told him.

“Yeah, I know,” he said.

We both believed it. By the time I see the play, he will have been dead two weeks.

He also said, “I sometimes get the idea that I’m going to get out of the hospital, get healthy, get my strength back, and then a nuclear bomb is going to hit Baltimore and kill us all.”

A lot of good things are happening in my life these days. My marriage, of course. Rob and I were just approved for our Manhattan co-op. Some of my business plans are finally coming to fruition. The Apple Computer stock prices are approaching their previous highs, when I bought a lot of it before the George W. Bush crash wiped me out. And I’m thankful for all of these things, and I’m especially thankful for the people in my life who can share those joys with me.

I just wish there were one more.

Russell Groff, 1978 – 2004


Soup High

Rob, his sister Rindy, Goblin Foo Uvula, and I have left Baltimore for Western Maryland, where it is misty and peaceful and the satellite television doesn’t appear to be working. For dinner tonight, we had grilled cheese sandwiches and some instant soup Rob bought two years ago and hid in the back of the cabinet. At first, I was afraid that the instant soup was past its expiration date, but my husband pointed out that, being a toxic chemical powder, it didn’t actually have an expiration date. That made me feel better until I started feeling the toxic chemical powder scouring my veins, tingeing my blood with its yellow poison. Now all I can think about are Hallmark stores and Radio Shacks, two purveyors of the most worthless crap imaginable. If every single Hallmark store and Radio Shack in the universe disappeared into a black hole, no one would suffer except possibly the collectors of those little figurines. If they were all in there buying figurines as the stores disappeared into the black hole, that problem would be solved.

In Western Maryland, with our soup powders and cheeses, we are alive.



It’s funny the way our brains work, our ideas and our little rituals. When something happens, we start following the script as closely as we can. This is what we’re supposed to think. This what we’re supposed to say. This is the correct posture to hang our heads and the proper amount of wince to apply to our lips. I must shed exactly this many tears before I reach for a tissue.

This is what we’re supposed to write in our web logs.

My friend Russell died today. He was twenty-six. It may be technically incorrect to call him my friend. I didn’t know him very well, or for very long, but the instant I met him, I felt as if he was going to be my friend. But then he went and died, so now he can’t. Please don’t post a comment that you’re sorry. There’s nothing to be sorry for on my behalf. I don’t matter.

Russell himself was not a big part of my life, but I put a lot of energy into his getting well. I conquered my horror of prayer meetings and attended four in which I prayed with all my might. To what and for what, I don’t know. Rob and I have been taking him books and videos, and Rob cooked a week’s worth of meals for Kevin, Russell’s husband. I’m not congratulating myself for what I’ve done. It obviously wasn’t enough. We thought he was going to get well, and then he didn’t. I can’t stop myself from thinking it’s rather like the recent presidential elections. I thought Kerry was going to win. I put so much of my energy into ensuring that result. He should have won. But he didn’t. Kerry lost. Russell lost.

I’m being melodramatic, of course. I just came home from the hospital, from standing over his dead body and “being there” for the people who really knew him. If that doesn’t call for melodrama, I don’t know what does.
The best thing I can say is that he died with a smile on his face. He really did. The next best thing is that people Kevin talked to from all over the country who told him that they woke up last night to see Russell standing over their beds, saying goodbye. He didn’t say goodbye to me. He barely knew me.

But I’m saying goodbye to him.


The Dusk of a New Era

I recently embarked on a new era in my life, one in which trouble just rolls off my back like water off a duck. I have actually not seen water roll of a duck per se, but it stands to reason. Perhaps I’d better investigate this further, because my new era is off to a shaky start.

My new era has a theme. It’s called “Protecting My Sanity.” If things work out, I’ll start printing up tee shirts that say “Protecting My Sanity Since 2004.” Except by the time I actually get around to it, it will be two thousand ten. Protecting My Sanity is, in theory, easy. What do we do? We don’t stay around when people abuse us. We avoid situations that are physically or mentally unhealthy. We are no longer available for those unrewarded “little favors” for others that end up consuming my life.

As Homer Simpson once said, “In theory, Communism works.”

I want to add “We no longer need to get the last word in Internet arguments,” but I can only deal with one miracle at a time.

Protecting My Sanity Since 11 November 2004 at 11:23 p.m.


Batten down the Hatches

My web log, the beloved Upside-down Hippopotamus, has come under attack. Oh, yes. I know you must be shocked, clutching your pearls in open-mouthed consternation, but it’s true, my little broccoli flowers. It’s true.
Spam. Spammers. Spam-spammity-spammers. They’re posting comments in my archives, dozens every day, advertising porn and illegal prescriptions and-cheekily-services to protect web logs from spammers like themselves. It’s the Spam Mafia, the Cosa Spamma.

Sometimes they post just a link. Sometimes, they pretend to be legitimate commentators and include a line or two of praise. My favorite is from “,” who notes, “I agree with what you say—makes sense to me. Looking for some Propecia?”

I block about twenty IPs per day, but this just makes them more determined. I just know they’re Republicans; who else would expend so much effort to destroy other people’s hard work and trick innocent web surfers into purchasing illegal Propecia, all in one fell swoop?

And then there are those who repeatedly post links to their books about underground movies.

Don’t get me started.


Cogito, Ergo Sum Rabidus

Looking back over the extensive archives of this web log, I think one thing above all else is crystal clear: I am my own worst enemy. Except I’m reading a book now that provides a more interesting interpretation. “I” (that is, my consciousness) am not the problem; the “problem” is the way my mind thinks, and I am not my mind. My mind is only a tool of my consciousness, and I have evolved beyond the point where the mind is always a useful tool.

This is a relief akin to the plop plop fizz fizz of Alka-Seltzer. I know it sounds kooky, but that is exactly what I’ve been needing to hear for years. Tools can be shut off. They can be put away. They can be used as needed and not forced into action in every situation. All of my adult life, I’ve been using a buzzsaw to make peanut butter sandwiches. I’ve been using a hammer to clean my teeth. I’ve been using a roofing nail to write the Great American Novel.

It might seem rare that thinking too much is a problem, especially in George Bush’s America, a fantasyland where thinking is virtually illegal. Surely there are those (say, fifty-one percent of the electorate) who need to learn to think at all before they need to worry about what constitutes too much. But for those who have evolved beyond that stage, the mind can turn on a dime. It can be productive, focused, and helpful one moment and muddled, depressive, obsessive, and sabotaging the next. The author of the book I’m reading estimates that eighty-five to ninety percent of the thinking of supposedly intelligent people is not helpful and may be intensely harmful, depending upon the nature of the thoughts. It makes sense. Every brilliant person I have ever met has achieved only a fraction of his or her potential, and ninety percent of them fight actively every day against the misery of their minds. We fool ourselves with the idea that more and better kinds of thinking will lead to happiness, when the solution is to interrupt our ceaseless monologue, to pull back from it, to be quietly amused at the antics of a tool that has run amok, like Apprentice Mickey’s brooms in Fantasia, as we commune with the calmness behind the thinking.

So I have learned that I am not my own worst enemy after all. It’s my mind that’s the culprit. Now I just have to see if my new health insurance covers lobotomies, and I’ll be set for life. Stay tuned.



I am a knitting failure. I bought the wrong needles! Oh, I look back, mortified by the cocky arrogance in my last post. Then, I was on top of the world. Then, I envisioned a dashing future of knitting by day and being a killing machine by night. Now, the hard, cold hand of reality has whomped me with a bitch slap to rival no other bitch slap in living memory, save perhaps the slap Mommie Dearest gave Christina when she was pulled out of boarding school, the heretofore standard in bitch slapping and the official “Bitch Slap Heard ‘Round the World” of nineteen eighty-one.

Donna Beth Joy Shapiro specifically told me to buy scarf needles.

I bought sock needles.


Arts, Martial and Otherwise

My crazy family is at it again. Last time they got it in their heads to do something, they all voted Republican, a sure sign of congenital insanity that—due to either recessive genes or strategic adoption—I was thankfully spared.

The time before that, my father got stung by a scorpion.

Now they’ve gotten themselves involved in a zany Israeli martial art called Krav Maga. Krav Maga (pronounced KRAHV maGAH)* is not a beautiful and graceful skill like the Asian martial arts; it’s quick, brutal, and no-nonsense, like the Israeli agencies that employ it. My father is negotiating with the Krav Maga organization to be their representative in the Baltimore area and is offering private lessons to our family to practice teaching it.

Frankly, I don’t know which is sillier: the bizarre Republican idea that people like my father have, that they’re going to be pulled by Islamist terrorists from the Lexus SUVs in their gated communities and forced to defend themselves in hand-to-hand combat . . . or my bizarre notion to go along with it and take these lessons. I, at least, live in the inner city and will probably, sooner rather than later, have to protect myself from Christianist hordes stirred up by the right-wing hatemongers, or from the growing masses of the disenfranchised who have no place in Bush’s America.

Well, the first class was last night, and I must admit to finding it emotionally satisfying. I realized after a couple of punches that I had never before in my life hit anything as hard as I could, and while I’m generally a pacifist, I can’t deny the exaltation of doing so (even though I tried not to imagine the weighted torso dummy I almost knocked over was Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice).

A newly minted killing machine, I rushed after class to JoAnn Fabrics to purchase yarn and knitting needles. Donna Beth Joy Shapiro is going to give me private knitting lessons! Knitting, I understand, is the new yoga. I was never so hot at the old yoga, but I figured I’d give this a shot. It’s a skill I hope to get a lot more use out of than Krav Maga.

Scarves for everyone!

* If you pronouce it KRAVE MAGga, you will get hit.**

** You will probably get hit anyway.


Four Eyes

I was chatting with a friend of mine online the other night, comparing the size of our . . . geekiness. He said that when he was in junior high school, he still wore glasses and was of the opinion that the kind with the photosensitive tinting lenses were really cool. I told him that I didn’t wear glasses when I was in junior high school but wanted to so badly that I intentionally failed an eye exam. Unfortunately, I couldn’t remember from moment to moment whether I was pretending to be nearsighted or farsighted, and my results were so sporadic that I got sent home with a pat on the head and no prescription. Why I wanted to wear glasses at all is a mystery for the ages, especially at a time when I was already persecuted daily for my existing nerdiness. Now that I actually need glasses, they’re actually pretty annoying, but at least I got some tiny, titanium-rimmed Japanese numbers. Karmic retribution was never so fashionable.


Mr. Sandman . . .

The night before the night before last night, I had the strangest dream:

A middle-aged black woman who once survived an attempted murder goes to a dog convention. The murder attempt had been several slits across her throat, and she still bears ugly twisted scars that she hides under a flowered scarf. At the dog convention, she hands out stickers of a cartoon Boston terrier. She wants to make people smile. She does not have a dog.

Cut to her moving into a new apartment. It’s squalid, but the architecture is interesting. The elevator opens into her living room, and she likes that. No one is supposed to be able to make the elevator door open in her living room unless he or she has a key. But the building is old, disintegrating; things don’t work the way they should. Upstairs is a convenience store, and the customers find their way into her apartment at night, while she’s sleeping. At that very moment, as she hears the strangers moving around in her home, she swears that she will make something of herself. “I’m going to run for office,” she whispers.

A year later, our heroine is on the city council. Her grimy building is being cleaned and renovated. A construction crane looms outside, lifting scaffolds and other supplies up to workers on the roof. The woman leans out the window and smiles, proud of what she has accomplished. At that very moment, something being lifted past her window on the construction crane catches the scarf she uses to hide her grotesque scars. The woman is pulled out the window. She clutches the construction equipment for dear life, but years of hard living have worn her down. She loses her grip and falls to the pavement below.

And that woman, my little celery stalks? That sweet, determined, middle-aged black woman with the twisted scars across her throat? That woman was me.



You may be surprised to learn that I have secret information about where the terrorists are. Oh yes, we are led to believe that they are all cackling in Iraqi spider holes,* but I know the real scoop. Those wily devils have infiltrated the good old U S of A and are doing their darnedest to make life difficult for us red-blooded, god-fearing Murricans.**

They are designing applications for New York co-ops.***

The past week has been a nightmare of paperwork, forms, letters, bank drafts, phone calls, faxes, and FedExes as Rob and I have prepared documentation every penny that has ever passed through our hands. I even had to send a photograph of my childhood piggy bank. I kid you not.

The worst part is not the comprehensive intrusiveness, which was expected, but the sheer impenetrability of the forms, which were so badly put together that at times I quite literally couldn’t figure out what information I was being asked for. Top it all off with my nontraditional income and financial status, and it’s been a real hoot to try to present myself in the best manner possible, let me tell you.

The end result of all of this will be a beautiful little co-op studio on the Upper East Side for Rob and I to enjoy while when we’re in New York. That is, if we’re deemed acceptable. We must be perfect! Perfect, I say! If the board gets a whiff of the fact that Rob always leaves the cabinet doors open, that will be all she wrote.

* We have always been at war with Eastasia.

** They tend to leave the green-blooded ones alone. No one knows why.

*** Just kidding, co-op board that’s evaluating my application and found me through Google! Ha ha.



My Boston terrier has a first name

It’s G-O-B-L-I-N

My Boston terrier has a second name

It’s U-V-U-L-A

Oh, I have to feed her every day

And take her to the park to play . . .

Because Boston terriers have a way of



Like the Wind

You can run, but you can’t hide. It seems I’ve heard that somewhere recently, yes? The thing is, I can run . . . all of three hill sprints.

I did it again tonight, this time dragging along jwer for documentary evidence. Also to watch him die from the exertion, although he thoughtlessly didn’t accommodate me on the latter.

But I can’t hide. I tried once, but they found me.


The Train to Hell

I once read a short story about a man who made a pact with the devil. I’m fuzzy on the details of this particular one, pacts with the devil being all the rage, but I remember the man being given a pocket watch or some such thing that he could use to freeze his life forever at the moment it was activated: he would stay the same age, in the same physical condition, and in the same financial and social situation for all time.

The problem was, he was never sufficiently satisfied with his life to want to use the pocket watch. No matter how good things got, he felt they could always get a little better before he would want to live with them permanently.

Finally, he died without using it, and the devil came to collect his soul. The devil made him get on a ghostly train filled with all sorts of revelry: gambling, drinking, music, unbridled sex. “This is the train to hell,” said the devil. “Enjoy all of these things while you can, because your eternal torment begins when it gets there.” At which point, the man activated his device and spent the all of eternity having fun with the sinners on the train that never arrived in hell.

With my luck, my eternal train to hell will be an Amtrak stuffed to capacity with people braying into cell phones.


The Boss of Me

I am self-employed, so I don’t have a boss. The nineteen nineties saw an epidemic of business books with the theme “The Customer is Your Boss,” but I never bought into that. It was bad enough that the customer was “Always Right” in the twentieth century, they had to go and be the boss, too. Luckily, the advent of the George W. Bush Confederacy of Moronic Chimpanzees nipped that silly notion in the bud. Corporations in our brave new world don’t answer to their customers or anyone else.

But I digress. I’m thinking about bosses today because this afternoon, when I was making a tempeh hamburger, the microwave beeped while I was doing something else. I think I was organizing my vitamins, an undertaking akin to the damming of the Three Rivers Gorge. I took so long to get to it that it beeped again, haughtily. “You’re not the boss of me, microwave!” I informed it.

That felt good.

I like that expression, “You’re not the boss of me.” I don’t know where it came from, but I hope it stays with us, unlike “that’s dynamite!” or “where’s the beef?” which were products of their very limited time. “You’re not the boss of me” expresses a universal truth. You aren’t the boss of me. I am bossless. Hear me roar.

Good lord, microwave, I’m coming!


Just Do It?

I have a new determination. The fate of my old determination is irrelevant. My new determination is to do hill sprints every two days. Hill sprints are sprints up a hill, as fast as my little legs will carry me. The hill in question is two blocks from my house, and, as it happens, my little legs can’t carry me very fast. But it’s the nature of my determination to persevere.

I am a winner.

Yesterday, I went to the mall to buy some new running shoes. My old ones had developed a squeak (only the left one, actually; it was an asymmetrical squeak). Today, I sprang out of bed at ten forty and went running. I was lying on the bathroom floor by ten fifty, trying to keep from throwing up.

I had done three hill sprints.

My body is a conspiracy of aches, concerns, and flab.



Funniest Thing Heard in the Past Week: “That’s the last thing I need, to go cocktailing with Morgan Fairchild,” said a good friend of mine in New York when faced with that very prospect.

Funniest Thing that Happened in the Past Week: The disappearance of one of the voters I drove to the polls.

Funniest Sign Seen in the Past Week: A sticker on the lamppost on my corner reads: “WANTED??? FEMALE $ILVERRR! BACK GORILLAH TO LOVE AND MAYBE MARRY!!! NO PRE-NUP!!! $$$$$$”


Jeremy Dean

It was bound to happen sooner or later. As your faithful correspondent, I’ve sailed the seven seas and crossed however many continents there are to bring perilous and exotic experiences to your humdrum lives. And last week, my little chickadees, was no exception. Last week, in fact, brought the most perilous and exotic experience of all.

Two words: timeshare salesman.

Or is that three words? Four? Time share salesman? Timeshare sales man? Time share sales man?

When my dear friend Elizabeth invited me to her timeshare in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, I was happy to go-even though I’d be required to sit through a “presentation” at eight fifteen on Monday morning, a time when civilized people are still abed. And as any civilized person would, I see salespeople, especially of things I don’t want or need, as adversaries to be thwarted, defeated, utterly obliterated. But I have enough conflict in my life. So I met Mr. Jeremy Dean determined to enjoy myself . . . at least, as much as is humanly possible at eight fifteen on a Monday morning.

More specifically, I decided to pretend I was on a date. Over breakfast, I threw on the moth-eaten mantle of my most sparkling persona and asked probing and insightful questions about his background and interests, never allowing the topic of timeshares to even be mentioned.

I stared deeply, deeply, deeply into his eyes as he chewed his omelet.

Oh, dear reader, what a time we had, Jeremy Dean and I. We ate. We chatted. He showed me what he had to offer, and I pretended his dingy, Days Inn Bland condominium was the bees’ knees. It was the most charming date . . . until he led me into a vast room crammed with tables, and at these tables sat dozens of married couples, and with each of these married couples sat a timeshare salesman.

And then I realized. There, in front of everyone, my date expected me to put out.

I have never attended an orgy of such magnitude. All around me, the numbers flew. I could pay as little as this much per month. I could get a special deal, lucky me, only available at that very moment and never again anywhere in the universe. My beloved Jeremy Dean was only after my money, the whore. And when I turned him down, I was led into a separate room to meet his pimp, a barely intelligible Neanderthal who rearranged the numbers, shifting this here, that there, until he came up with an offer that was precisely half of the “special deal” from before.

I suppose it pays to play hard to get, but at that point, I was all “Not tonight, I have a headache.”

So I did what I always do after a bad date: gave them a fake phone number and prayed I wouldn’t run into them again.

Talk about awkward.


Halloween Scenes

A skellington.

A divvil.

Lady Bumblebug.

Our favorite trick-or-treaters.