Friday, July 29, 2005

Get Thee to the Redwoods

"Yet it is far safer to wander in God's woods than to travel on black highways or stay home." -- John Muir

Unfortunately, we have to travel a black highway before we can get to the safety of God's woods.

Will I post? Who knows?

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Fowl Mouth

This is a travesty.

Barney, a five-year old macaw living at the Warwickshire Animal Sanctuary in central England, is no longer allowed to hobnob with the VIPs after telling a mayor to fuck off, and informing a vicar that she "can fuck off as well."

Barney is not completely ill-mannered, however. He will offer thanks when given a biscuit.

But Barney does seem to have issues with law enforcement officers. When two policemen visited, Barney greeted them with a hearty "And you can fuck off you two wankers!"

So now Barney has to stay inside when visitors come. Can't have the bird insulting the dignitaries. Heaven forbid someone might be offended by a parrot telling them to fuck off.

Time-Waster(s) of the Day

Find out what your sexy Brazilian name is. Or find out which rejected crayon color you are. (I am "Klan White." I find this mortifying, as you can imagine. But it's roughly equivalent to the color I was yesterday, "Found in a Diaper Gold.")

(My thanks to Rose at We Love Astrid, whose blog led me to Blogthings, the site that apparently warehouses these gems. It is a tribute to my obliviousness that I was unaware such a site existed.)

Flies with Moose: You shall hereafter be called "Fabiano Carvalho."

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

What a Dump

Why is it that before you move, when you're sizing up the place and trying to evaluate the task before you, it seems pretty simple? Okay, we'll just pack up the desk and set it right up exactly as it was, and just slide the four-poster bed into the truck (no problem!) and what's a couple of refrigerators between friends? Is that the sound of my vertebrae cracking?

But it's not even the furniture that's the worst. It's the pissy little junk that finds its way into every corner: the dustbunnies that dwell furtively under the dresser, the socks that fell behind the chest where we too often pile our laundry, and the tiny plastic toys that Trailhead Kid dropped behind the chairs during the "Let's see what happens when we drop things from high up" phase. The list goes on ad infinitum.

It's strange how the mess of everyday living piles up during a move. There's a blob of mustard on the counter that has been taunting me since yesterday, but I cannot seem to find the time to wipe it up. There's a pile of toilet paper on the bathroom floor that Trailhead Kid liberated from its roll this morning, and a gaggle of empty soda cans littering the counter, little aluminum casualties of my overconsumption of diet soda.

But when I look at my new house, the elusive dream of clean living seems so close to fruition. The wood floors glow, and still lack pawprints. Trailhead Kid has not yet attempted to determine whether markers work on carpet as well as they do on paper. The prolific dustbunnies have not yet arrived. Even the deck is clean, fresh-smelling, and decidedly free of leaves. The clutter is still in the apartment, behind the chair that is waiting to be moved.

But California beckons. When faced with an incentive, even the spectacularly slothful Traihead can be motivated.

Time to go wipe up the mustard.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

A Farewell to my Upstairs Neighbors

Dear Upstairs Neighbors:

I have lived in this tiny mole hole of an apartment for seven months now, and when you moved in two months ago, you only made it more special. The guy who lived there before you wasn't nearly as interesting -- he apparently spent most of the evening sitting on his couch consuming prodigious quantities of beer, but things never got out of hand. The only thing I ever heard were the loud pees he took precisely every 20 minutes from 9 p.m. to 12:30 a.m.

But since I'm moving, I wanted to take some time to tell you goodbye, and let you know a few things. First, I'm terribly sorry you have thus far been unable to locate the community garbage receptacle. Of course, it's an honest error -- I can certainly understand how you could mistake the area under your deck for a Dumpster. And heck, I don't mind. My dogs found all those used Q-Tips you threw away last week, and that little treasure trove provided them with hours of chewing entertainment.

And frankly, I've always thought bare trees were a little too understated, and kind of boring. The tree next to our building looks so much lovelier now that your eight-year old has festooned it with an entire roll of paper towels.

By the way, a disposable plastic container fell on my head as I was eating dinner on my patio the other night. I appreciate the loan, but I just bought a whole case of them at Costco. I'll be sure to leave it on your doorstep after I'm finished moving out.

I do hope your rehearsals continue to go as well as they have since you moved in. Elephant training is such a lost art, and you work hard at it. I can hear that dedicated team of pachyderms walking above me at all hours! What a work ethic you have!

Finally, I want to thank you for helping me solve a problem. Before you moved in, my two-year old was sleeping way too late on weekends. Weekends are a time to be productive, and frankly, I was growing tired of having to awaken the little slugabed in the mid-morning! But since you thoughtfully moved your ten-year old neo-punk rocker into the bedroom directly above, this hasn't been a problem. We don't even need an alarm clock anymore on weekends, because our kid wakes us up now once the music comes on at 6:30 every morning. What an early riser your son is! You must be very proud.

So in sum, we will indeed be moving out shortly. It is my most fervent hope that the people who move into this apartment treat you as well as you've treated us.

All Due Regard,

Your Downstairs Neighbors

Neither Fish Nor Fowl

“So you’re a vegetarian, huh? Y’eat chicken?”

Of course I do. I’d love to chat, but I really need to go now. I have to go out to my garden because some of my chicken plants are ripe and I really want to pick them before they get too soft and mealy. I like my chickens fresh off the vine.

There are many degrees of vegetarianism. There are the pesco-vegetarians (they eat seafood, but no other meat), ovo-lacto vegetarians (no meat at all, but dairy products are allowed), and vegans (if it came from an animal, had anything to do with an animal, or at any time inadvertently brushed up against an animal, no dice). Vegetarians sometimes will move across these categories. For example, someone might decline to eat dairy but still eat shellfish, on the theory that a clam might as well be a plant. Or someone might otherwise be vegan but still be willing to consume honey, on the theory that bees don’t really mind if a human eats their honey as long as they get enough themselves. So when one offers only the vague “vegetarian” as a self-description, others can be forgiven for wondering exactly what foods are acceptable.

But the chicken guy is kind of pushing the limit.

I’ve seen another version of this play out in Asian restaurants, and it goes something like this:

“Is there any meat in your egg rolls?”

“No, no meat. Just pork.”

Just pork. Time to go pick the pig plants. I’ve speculated that this may be a language barrier problem. It’s happened so many times that I’ve started to wonder whether perhaps the English word “meat” sounds a lot like the Chinese word for “anything other than pork.” This theory is supported by the experience of Trailhead’s spouse in China, with an interpreter. When the interpreter specifies no meat in Chinese, there is never a “no meat, just pork” interchange.

Or it could be a cultural issue, in which the ham takes on such a mythic position in a society that it begins to transcend identification as a lowly meat. Apparently the Italians have the same issue with prosciutto, according to this article, which relates the following vignette:

A man walks into a bar and asks for a sandwich, no meat. The waiter brings back a bun with ham and cheese. "I said no meat," the man objects. The waiter replies: "That's not meat - that's prosciutto."
Oh, okay. What was I thinking?

Postscript: Feel free to leave your statements on why vegetarianism is idiotic in the first place in the comments section. Though I’ll save you the trouble by reciting some of them here: 1) it’s unnatural, because cavemen ate meat; 2) well, aren’t carrots people too? 3) you can’t be healthy unless you eat regular servings of fatty red meat ; 4) all you people eat is lettuce. So, just for the record: I have no problem with meat-eaters. If I shunned carnivores, I'd get pretty lonely pretty quickly. By all means, go enjoy a turkey sandwich. Or a tofurkey.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Did You Get the Memo?

It has come to my attention that bloggers suck.

We are pathetic, emotionally stunted losers who have nothing better to do than share with the world our pithy “insights” on 1) what that bastard Justin did at the party last night and like OMG I’m like never going to speak to him again; 2) what a hairy-warted skid mark George Bush/Harry Reid/Hillary Clinton/Karl Rove is, depending upon one’s political affiliation; 3) how the vacuum cleaner broke last night in the middle of cleaning up whatever it is you dropped onto the floor, you maladroit jackass; or 4) the prevalence of slugs on the West Coast.

Or so I keep reading. Though I really knew this already.

But it’s always a pleasure to have someone point it out again, especially if they make me laugh while doing so. This particular screed has all the subtlety of a pipe bomb, but it also possesses the virtue of being mostly true. And it’s so funny I had peed my pants a little by the time I was finished reading it. Here’s a sample:

If minds had anuses, blogging would be what your mind would do when it had to take a dump.

Oh come on. You say that like it’s a bad thing.

Actually, I believe a fair case can be made that my mind does, in fact, have an anus.

I appear to be arriving very late to this discussion. That is because I comport in every respect with the Pathetically Oblivious Blogger model, one who is so extravagantly self-involved that I am busy writing posts about slugs and volcanoes and spawning salmon, to the exclusion of noticing what rational people are talking about at the moment. My mind has been spending a lot of time on the can. And thank goodness, because otherwise I might have been working.

So. Bloggers are verbally masturbatory, vacuous twits, and are profligate wasters of bandwidth. Well, yeah. What’s your point?

Besides, we all know Justin really is a bastard.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Who's Your Papa?

A mail carrier from Florida is this year's Ernest Hemingway look-alike.

But the most interesting story in this article is about Richard Hemingway, 44, of Davison, Michigan, who found out last year that Ernest Hemingway was his father, via his mother's deathbed confession. He was born five days before the elder Mr. Hemingway killed himself in Idaho. The article continues:

Ernest Hemingway secretly married his mother while living in Cuba, likely while also married to fourth wife Mary, and supported her financially, said Richard Hemingway, who described himself as a machinist, amateur inventor and poet and song writer. His mother passed on advice from Ernest Hemingway, telling Richard Hemingway not to study great classical literature. "He believed it would keep writers from developing their own style," he said. "I stayed away from the great books of literature."

Richard attended the 25th annual Hemingway Days festival this week in Key West. Last year he entered the look-alike contest, but didn't even make the finals.

But this is the money quote: "I would have taken writing more seriously if I had known Ernest was my father."

Why? Well obviously, the thinking was "well, heck, if I knew I had Ernest Hemingway's blood running through my veins, I probably would have been more confident about my abilities."

How many of us live our lives assuming there's nothing spectacular within us, and so simply don't bother to try certain things?

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Coming Soon: Old Growth Blogging

As the script below the title of this blog indicates, I do engage in other pursuits beyond lawyering, idling and blogging. The two mentioned near the title are inextricably allied; the one always involves the other. Only rarely do I wander without photographing, and never am I able to photograph without at least several yards (and more often, several miles) of wandering. But I experience the two as wholly separate ventures, and I love each of them for mostly different, but overlapping reasons.

Almost all of the photography I do is outdoor nature photography. And to do it, I've hiked on and off trails, dived reefs, had a run-in with Texas's finest for (inadvertent, I assure you) trespassing, and sat for hours in front of prairie dog towns, tide pools and fields teeming with the audacious color of spring wildflowers. I've been close enough to an alligator to hear its soft grunts, and close enough to a wildfire to feel its heat and smell its searing, acrid odor. Every second has been a gift, and yet I know I have barely scratched the surface. So many others have done so much more.

For some time my shooting was limited to, collectively, a few weeks each year. The places I wanted to shoot were not within an easy distance of my home in the Midwest, and other things in my life demanded the time that I might otherwise have devoted to traveling and photography. Perceptions are all relative, of course. I used to fret constantly that I just couldn't make it to this or that Important Photography Destination that year, and maybe not even the next year. But to hear my friends and family tell it, I was always heading off to some far-flung place.

The beauty of life now is that my home is right in the middle of an Important Photography Destination. Many of the subjects I enjoy shooting most are within a thirty minute drive. Many more I can reach in a day. The price was leaving behind a circle of people I was intensely attached to. It took many months for me to realize that I before I moved, I enjoyed close proximity to "my" people and yet regretted the distance from my photography; but now it is time to enjoy my photography and yet regret the distance from my people.

But very soon I will be able to enjoy a little bit of both. A long-planned weekend in the California Redwoods is almost upon us. Friends of long standing and deep attachment will converge on a little cabin in Northern California next weekend. There will be incessant talking and hysterical laughter, and there will be hiking and a heavy photography pack.

The weekend after will see the Trailhead Family making for the wilds of Northwest Montana, the place that is the most difficult for us to leave once we find ourselves there. Trailhead Kid will spend time bathing in the extravagantly adoring aura that only grandmothers can generate, while TK's parents hit the backcountry in Glacier National Park making lots of noise and yelling "Hey, bear!" around every blind corner. And again, there will be a heavy photography pack.

And because I am a magnet for the ridiculous, there will almost certainly be fodder for blogging.

Quote of the Day

The incomparable Courtney Love, who has -- gasp -- gained a few pounds since getting clean:

"I was really, really thin because of what I was doing. When all these little teenyboppers finally go into rehab, they're going to get fat, too."

Ain't that the truth.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Once Again a Member of the Landed Gentry

Trailhead has a new house.

The difference between Indiana and the Pacific Northwest with respect to real estate prices is positively stroke-inducing. The first time I logged onto a real estate website out here, I almost swallowed my tongue in horror. For a time it looked as though I would need to market one of my kidneys to be able to afford a home. Fortunately, the institutional kindness of a mortgage lender saved me from such a fate, though the closing this afternoon was only slightly less unpleasant.

So, thanks to a real estate agent with the patience of Job, our willingness to sign about 200 documents (I'm not kidding), some of them captioned "This document means nothing, we just want to make you sign again because we are drunk on our power over the masses" (I am kidding), and the benevolence of a faceless loan originator, I will be eating dinner on the hardwood floors of my new home tonight.

Pizza, perhaps.

Time-Waster of the Day

Mount St. Helens has been rumbling again.

One afternoon last March I was tooling down the road and happened to look to my left and saw a huge mushroom cloud rising into the sky. I thought, "What the f...?" Then I realized what it was, and turned on the radio.

Here is one of the Mount St. Helens volcano cams. It's cloudy today, but on a clear day it's pretty cool.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Slug Mug

The Southwest has scorpions.

New England has blackflies.

The South has monstrous, crunchy palmetto bugs.

The Pacific Northwest has slugs. Big ones.

We captured this fellow's portrait on a trail in the Hoh Rain Forest in Washington's Olympic National Park several weeks ago.

You really have to watch for them while you're hiking, or, well...squish. They're everywhere. There are black slugs, green slugs, and slugs bearing a kind of camouflage pattern. There is even a yellow slug, revoltingly dubbed the Banana Slug.

I'll pause for a moment while you contemplate that.

Slugs even serve as something of an unofficial mascot on the Olympic Peninsula. The Hard Rain Cafe, a funky little deli and convenience store outside the entrance to the forest, sells a wood facsimile of the slug as a refrigerator magnet, complete with cute little antennae and the obligatory "Olympic National Park" emblazoned on its rump.

I rather like living in a place whose most noteworthy regional pest is a creature as innocuous and unhurried as the lowly slug. When I lived in an ancient apartment building in Florida, it was part of my morning ritual to remove the ever-present cockroach from my shower. But the slug, though slimy, is simply not threatening enough or repulsive enough to get worked up over.

In a way, the unassuming slug reflects the prevailing atmosphere of the Pacific Northwest. This area is populated with the friendliest people in the country, and the mood is almost universally easygoing. (Except, of course, for the occasional methamphetamine addict, which every state has.)

So all things considered, I greatly prefer the local slugs over the skittering, creeping vermin I've encountered in the other places I've lived. Here, my shower is always empty when I step into it, and my most taxing morning ritual is preparing my coffee.

Time-Waster of the Day

Mark Fiore's latest. And arguably, greatest.

This may even be better than Right-Wing Ralphie.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

The Pope Goofs Off, Too

The Pope wants you to take a vacation. And to set the proper example, he is on vacation himself this week, in the Italian Alps.

I'm not Catholic. And to be sure, Pope Benedict XVI and I have our differences. For example, he is the leader of one of the world's largest faiths, and I am an obscure blogger. That, and our viewpoints differ with respect to almost every issue on which he takes a position. But this is a proclamation I can stand behind: "[Holidays] have become almost a necessity to recover in body and spirit, especially for those who live in the city where the often frenetic conditions of life leave little space for silence and reflection."

Perhaps I should send him a copy of How to be Idle.

As a kind of bonus, Benedict offers up this lovely -- and true -- remark on the value of exploring the natural world: "In contact with nature, people can again find their true dimension. They rediscover themselves as creatures, small but at the same time unique."

Amen, brother.

Idiocy of the Day

Mark this date on the calendar. I find myself in the decidedly unsettling position of being in agreement with John Tierney.

I, for one, will sleep better tonight knowing this dangerous miscreant will be behind bars for the next 25 years. What a relief to know that prosecutorial discretion is alive and well in Florida.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Brother, Can You Spare Your Two Cents?

"Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life." -- Confucius

"Kill my boss? Do I dare live out the American dream?" - Homer Simpson

I've blogged a bit about the value of idling, and the need not to gorge on work. But what about the people who enjoy their work so much it doesn't feel like work? What of them?

Well, these people should kneel and kiss the ground, because Fortune has smiled generously upon them. They are lucky, but perhaps not great in number, if these statistics are to be believed. (Though I know there at least a couple of these charmed folks who read this blog.)

To those who aren't so fortunate at present: What about you? What occupation would be so enjoyable to you that it wouldn't be work?

Note: Your answer doesn't have to be practical, realistic, or likely. If your dream occupation were any of those things, you'd be doing it already. (And if you are, tell us that too.)

So cough it up. Don't be shy.

Lurkers of the world unite.

Time-Waster of the Day

Drag and drop states into a blank template of the United States. Once you drop the state, it disappears, so you never have a frame of reference other than the U.S. border. Kansas is, of course, a pisser. (Confidential to "Ace": Go ahead and try it. Even you can be humbled.)

Sunday, July 17, 2005

An Afternoon with Kayaker Fred and The Spawning Salmon

Considering that the most toned part of my body is my mouse-clicking finger, it should not surprise me that after yesterday's kayaking trip, my arms are dangling from their sockets like flaccid pieces of overcooked spaghetti. The most challenging rapids on the river were only class 2, but they were enough to tax this relative novice.

But not enough to tax Kayaker Fred, our host. Kayaker Fred is a veritable paddling Buddha, able to glide serenely through any eddy, in any direction he cares to go. Our other host, Brenda, flipped her kayak on one of the more challenging rapids, and yet still managed to hang onto the beer.

I have a long way to go.

Despite my flailing through the rapids, it was an enchanting day on the river. Shorebirds flew overhead with freshly caught fish clutched in their talons. A group of turkey vultures were gathered on the bank, feasting on an enormous, and very dead, salmon. We paddled past a bald eagle's nest. The occupant was at home, staring down at us as we floated by.

As we were heading downstream, hordes of salmon were swimming in the opposite direction. It's a comical and yet admirable sight to watch them struggle upstream. When they come to a particularly daunting rapid, they commence a vigorous wiggling of their tails, then fling themselves forward with all their might. All this effort for the opportunity to lay or fertilize some eggs, and pretty swiftly thereafter, die. And then get eaten by turkey vultures.

There's a law firm metaphor somewhere in all this, I just know it.

More Fun with Thoreau

Hee hee: "Men have become the tools of their tools."

Yeah. No kidding, Henry.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Intellectually Pretentious Quote of the Day

"If a man walks in the woods for love of them half of each day, he is in danger of being regarded as a loafer. But if he spends his days as a speculator, shearing off those woods and making the earth bald before her time, he is deemed an industrious and enterprising citizen."

Who else? Thoreau, of course.

Friday, July 15, 2005

It's a Good Thing I'm not Valerie Plame

Oddly enough, after three whole days of blogging, the Nobel Foundation still has not called. Though I'm a little confused by their silence, I'm sure it won't last. Alas, I know it's only a matter of time before the paparazzi start in. Accordingly, to ward off the crushing hordes of adoring fans peeping through my windows, I am blogging semi-anonymously. This means that I took a zippy little pseudonym like Trailheadcase, didn't post my name or picture on the blog, and only divulge select details about myself in my posts. I also set up a hotmail account, the address of which is

But I also knew that if I didn't tell anyone about this blog, I would have exactly one reader. Me. So I e-mailed a few people who are obligated by genetics or friendship to take a passing glance at this blog. If you are reading this, you are almost certainly one of them. This circumstance accounts for the "semi" in "semi-anonymously." The idea being, if anyone not in the aforementioned category takes a wrong turn in cyberspace and lands here, I will be anonymous to them.

So Friday afternoon, I e-mailed an established and successful blogger whom I have never met for blogetiquette advice respecting the Gender Genie, which I posted as the Time-waster of the Day. I found the Gender Genie on her blog. She is a wonderful lefty political blogger (okay, she's Echidne of the Snakes, minor Greek goddess and blogger, and she had an amusing post about raisins on Friday that you should read). She replied quickly and kindly, with a "Dear [my first name], good luck with your blog!" and the requested advice.

It took me a moment to notice that she'd addressed me by my real name, but then I was stumped. How did she know my name? I went over and over in my mind the ways she could have figured out my name. Did I accidentally sign my real name to the e-mail? Is she really, in fact, an omniscient goddess, as she claims?

Turns out neither. (Well, I'm pretty sure she's a goddess, that's just not how she knew my name). Believe it or not, it's a little known fact that when you sign up for an e-mail account under your real name, that name actually appears in the recipient's in-box when you send an e-mail. Little known, that is, to people who have been living under a large boulder in the Gobi desert for the last ten or so years. Way to impress the big dogs, Trailhead.

In sum, I believe it's a very good thing I never became a secret agent, because I would have been assassinated before sundown. Who needs Karl Rove?

Running from the Law

One post about the law profession is enough (so I'll just add this one more.) It's been good to me. It's paid my mortgage, put food in my mouth (probably far too much food), and taught me the value of goofing off. And I have managed, through sheer luck, a little nepotism, and good work on my part, to end up in possibly the sweetest legal job in the world. I will spend some time with it today, and I'll even enjoy some of it. Then I'm going kayaking.

Coming Soon: Saturday Kayak Blogging

Time-waster of the Day

This is great fun. You can plug text into it and it tells you whether it thinks the author is a man or a woman.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

American Idle II

First, a confession. I practice a profession whose members sell their time by the hour. No, not that profession, but close. I'm a lawyer. So I know a bit about workaholism. I've never suffered from it, as any of my supervisors, past or present, would readily confirm. But I have observed it at close range.

It's not pretty.

In the law -- and I suspect in other occupations as well -- there's a sort of perverse competition over who can work the most hours without dropping dead of an aneurysm. It's often a matter of pride to stumble around the hallowed halls of a law firm, eyes bleary, hair askew, coffee in hand, muttering about how you've billed 150 hours already this month and its only the 15th. And that's on a Saturday.

It's quite a spectacle, really -- sort of a martyr's sweepstakes, if you will.

This happens to some extent even at the firms who bill themselves as "lifestyle" firms. At those shops, the martyrs are sometimes admired, sometimes scorned, but always paid very well. Money, it seems, is the prize for the winner of the Hours Marathon -- that and a hearty pat on the back. Congratulations, pal. You have single-mindedly worked to death any life you ever had beyond the office. That's certainly a triumph.

Ultimately, that's the difference between the true-blue work addict and someone who works hard enough to get the job done well and then goes home -- the superiority complex. The addicts trumpet their ability to utterly beat the shit out of themselves. For them, robotic stamina is a badge of honor. There also seems to be an element of fear; if they stop, will they ever be able to start again? And if they stop, they might feel something. Can't have that.

For my part, I'll say thanks, but no thanks. I will do my work well, and I'll do enough of it to live, and no more. There are trails to be hiked, mountains to be climbed, reefs to be explored, dogs to be petted, kids to be cuddled, lovers to be entwined with. This is my to-do list. I need to get to work on it.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

A Blog by Any Other Name

Oddly, I’ve never liked the word “blog.” Blog, blog, blog, blog, bloggety blog. It sounds a bit like something that would come out in your Kleenex on the third day of a severe and lingering head cold. But I have yet to find a sufficiently vibrant substitute. "Weblog" is only marginally better in that respect, and "continuous commentary" reminds me more of what I get from my two-year old on any given morning.

So pass the Kleenex. Blog it is.

American Idle

So, the average American worker "wastes" 2.09 hours per "eight-hour" work day, according to a survey conducted by America Online and This figure does not even -- gasp -- include lunches and scheduled break times. Personal internet use was the biggest villain, followed by socializing, conducting personal business, "spacing out" (my personal favorite), and a category of acts tantalizingly dubbed "other," which I suspect includes examining one's fingernails, peeling split ends, or even getting a little action in the supply closet.

To hear the pundits tell it, this is nothing less than a national catastrophe. An MSN Money article bleats that the results of this "informally conducted" survey suggest "we're a nation of slackers -- worse at wasting time at work than even human resource professional [sic] suspected." (Even worse than the human resources people thought? Somebody get my smelling salts!) Not to be outdone, the headline on ominously intones "Wasted Time at Work Costing Companies Billions."

Oh, the horror.

Frankly, I'm a little disappointed. Only 2.09 hours? I thought Americans were better idlers. But I do have some hope for Missourians, who are the biggest loafers in America, reportedly spending a delicious three hours and twelve minutes a day goofing off. Indiana, bless its indolent little heart, finished second in the idler sweepstakes with a respectable 2.8 hours of leisure. (I suspect the reason Indiana lost to Missouri is my relocation from Indiana some months ago, which greatly improved the state's productivity statistics.)

But really. Disregard the bellyaching about lost productivity and lazy workers. The results of this survey are cause for cheer, not a sermon.

In the preface to his new book How to be Idle, the delightful Tom Hodgkinson tells us why slacking is not only harmless, but desirable:

In the West, we have become addicted to work. Americans now work the longest hours in the world. And the result is not health, wealth and wisdom, but rather a lot of anxiety, a lot of ill health and a lot of debt.

This book seeks to recover an alternative tradition in literature, poetry and philosophy, one that says not only is idleness good, but that it is essential for a pleasurable life. Where do our ideas come from? When do we dream? When are we happy? It is not when staring at a computer terminal worrying about what our boss will say about our work. It is in our leisure time, our own time, when we are doing what we want to do.

Perhaps it's a sign of how alienated we are from this outlook that I found How to be Idle in the humor section of my local bookstore.

In any event, it's probably safe to assume that a copy of How to be Idle is not lying on Missouri Governor Matt Blunt's nightstand. Apparently, Governor Blunt was a bit exercised over his state's first place finish in the poll. In a statement the MSN Money article aptly described as "prickly," Governor Blunt insisted that "[n]obody can match the work ethic of Missourians. This survey, which our busiest citizens did not want to waste their time on, cannot undermine decades of experience. Missouri workers are among the most productive in the world."

Apparently Governor Blunt has never furtively enjoyed a game of spider solitaire between policy meetings. I doubt it has occurred to him that Missourians are so productive because they allow themselves a bit of idling during the work day.

But vice-president Bill Coleman demonstrates some grasp of the matter when he says "[t]o some bosses, this is a startling figure. Others, though, will view this extra wasted time as so-called 'creative waste' -- wasted time that may well have a positive impact on the company's culture, work environment, and even business results."

Hmm, you think?

Up soon: Yes, I know we must work. But why binge on it?

Froggie Goes A-Bloggin'

Hello. I, along with everyone else on earth, am now blogging. Yes, I know. Someone alert the media. How will I ever handle the demands of fame? Perhaps one of my three readers could offer me some advice. Dad? Mom?