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OPEN: JANUS FILE #0410


Oh, crap. This has not been a particularly good month.

That whole little incident with the fire engine running into my condo at the first of the month? It kind of threw everything out of kilter, as the saying goes. Including my writing. Not just The Janus Files, but other bits and pieces of writing that I do elsewhere.

Here, the last two entries took longer to write than I thought they would. And I am sure there were other things I wanted to write about, but at the moment, I can't think of any of them. And it's just the slightest bit irritating.

Oh, well, time to see if I can get myself back on track, as the saying goes.

CLOSE: JANUS FILE #0410
 
 
 
 
 
 
OPEN: JANUS FILE #0409


Okay, this is the last of the birthday offers that I have been receiving in my email recently. And the timing was pretty good for this one, too.

The offer was from Lenny's Sub Shop, one of a number of establishments specializing in fresh-made subs and similar sandwiches. It was for a free regular-size sandwich. And since the expiration date on this particular offer was today, I running out of time to use it.

After that whole little incident with the fire engine yesterday, I decided that it was as good a time as any to make use of the offer. Even by late afternoon, I'm not completely certain that my brain was back to functioning anywhere near what I would call normal.

I already had a good idea of what I was going to order before I walked in, and a quick glance at the menu only confirmed what I had in mind. I ordered the Deluxe Club Sub -- provolone, turkey, roast beef, and bacon -- on whole wheat bread. All of the sandwiches at Lenny's include "Onion, Lettuce, Oil, Tomato, Salt, Pepper, Oregano, Pickles, & Hot Pepper Relish," but I limited my toppings to lettuce, tomato, and pickles. Maybe some oregano, but nothing else. At least Lenny's isn't like some sandwich shops, where they drown the sandwiches in mayo unless you firmly tell them not to. Ew, ew, ew.

One thing about Lenny's is that while it falls into the category of a fast food place, if you're eating at the restaurant, they bring your order to your table, and they clean the table afterward. I remember the first time I ate there. After I had finished eating, I looked around for the trashcan, and I couldn't find one. I asked one of the guys behind the counter where the trashcan was, and he said, "Just leave it; we'll take care of it." It was something of a surprise, but I didn't worry about it the next time.

A few minutes after I placed my order, they brought my sandwich to my table. It was piled high with the various meats and toppings, especially the shredded lettuce. Various bits and pieces of my sandwich fell out of the bread as I ate, leaving me with still quite a bit to eat when I had finished the sandwich. Or at least the part that had remained trapped between the bread.

As is the case with a number of other sandwich chains, Lenny's bakes their own bread. There have been one or two times when I thought the bread wasn't as fresh as I thought it should be. This time, however, was not one of those times. The bread was at that right spot where softness and chewiness were perfectly juxtaposed -- just right for holding the sandwich together.

This particular Lenny's had a big screen TV, but according to one of the guys behind the counter, the only channel they received aired only infomercials. (I learned this after one infomercial ended, another had begun, and I asked something along the lines of, "Don't you have anything else?") And he said it in way that led me to believe that he had seen most of those infomercials several times over.

On the other hand, they also offer free Wi-Fi. After I finished eating, I wrote yesterday's entry there.

I'm sure I'll be returning. There are at least a few more sandwiches on the menu that I still want to try.

Lenny's Sub Shop
3942 Taylorsville Road
Louisville, KY

CLOSE: JANUS FILE #0409
 
 
 
 
 
 
OPEN: JANUS FILE #0408


First of all, I'm all right. I want to establish that before we go any further. I may be a little sleep-deprived, but I am all right.

That said, I had one hell of a strange morning.

It started around 01.30 AM. I was half-asleep, and trying to fully enter the realm of Morpheus, until I was suddenly awakened by my building shaking, which was accompanied by a very loud THUNK!

Actually, THUNK! doesn't even begin to adequately describe the sound. Not even in all caps, boldface, italicized, and accompanied by a plethora of exclamation points. But I suppose it will have to do.

My first inclination was to try to go back to sleep. That lasted less than five seconds, as it quickly occurred to at least part of my brain that it might be a good idea to learn what had caused said THUNK! I fumbled for my glasses and the flashlight sitting adjacent to them, turned on the lamp, and grabbed my sneakers before going out to investigate.

[NOTE: For the record, I should state that I sleep in sweatpants, socks, and a T-shirt.]

I wasn't the only curious one. Most of my neighbors had been similarly awakened, and were just as curious/concerned/worried as I was. I think it was safe to say that we were all thinking the same thing -- "What the hell was that?" The first thing we learned was that something was blocking the back entrance to the building.

We streamed out the front entrance, and made our way around the building, where we discovered the source of both the blocked entrance and the shake, rattle, and roll which had roused us.

A fire engine had crashed into the building.

I think the first thing resembling a coherent thought that filtered through my mind was, That's something you don't see every day, This was followed in rapid succession by Holy crap!, Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish!, and a few other similarly colorful turns of phrase. It took a few more seconds for What about the firefighters? to slowly filter its way to rational thought. I carefully picked my way to the front of the engine, stepping around some fallen trees, and the engine door that had been ripped off in the crash. It looked like the driver was slumped over the steering wheel, and I asked if anyone needed any help. They said no, so I moved out of the way.

I had a chance to see some of the damage from the inside. I followed several of my neighbors to the unit that appears to have received the most damage. The resident had been in the unit at the time, although fortunately nowhere near the impact. To say that he was not happy was an understatement. He let us take a peek inside, and I could see why he was just a little upset. The fire engine came close to giving him a drive-in window.

[I later heard that the fire engine was responding to an emergency call when, for some reason, it lost control and crashed into my condo complex. I'm going to be keeping an eye out for the investigation.]

I stood around talking with some of my neighbors for a while, and eventually the journalism major in me finally kicked in. It occurred to me that this definitely fit the definition of newsworthiness, and I went back to my condo. I called the newsrooms of all of Louisville's TV stations. I don't think there was anyone at WDRB's newsroom, but I did get through to the news departments of WAVE, WHAS, and WLKY -- after getting recorded messages on all of them. I gave a quick rundown of what happened. The most amusing exchange happened when I called WAVE. The woman who answered my call asked if I could get any photos, and I told her that I had neither digital camera nor cellphone.

This kind of surprised her. "Oh, so you're calling from a landline!"

WAVE and WHAS both sent reporters, although the police and fire departments wouldn't let them shoot anywhere near the fire engine. It made me wish that I did have a video camera. They did shoot from a distance, as well as a brief interview with the fire chief.

Part of me wanted to go back to sleep, but I knew that wasn't going to happen until things died down. That wouldn't happen for several hours. I spent some time in the complex's clubhouse talking with some neighbors who had gathered there. Most of the time, though, I was just walking around, doing something -- anything -- to keep myself awake.

I think it was around 04.30 when a tow truck finally pulled the fire engine back onto the road. That was when we finally got a good luck at the damage. One unit's balcony had been completely destroyed. Someone said that the residents were on vacation. On the good side, no one was there to get injured. On the less than good side, they are going to be in for a BIG surprise when they return home.

It was a little after 05.00 AM when I finally turned off the light and went back to sleep. And I'm really surprised that I even woke up when my alarm clock went off at 07.00. If I had been thinking clearly, I would have turned it off. As it was, I shut off the alarm, and went right back to sleep. It was 10.00 AM when I woke up again.

I had a better view of the carnage in the light of day. At least three or four trees lining the sidewalk had been taken out by the fire engine when it crashed, and it came way too close to taking out a utility pole as well. The back entrance to my building has been roped off with "FIRE LINE -- DO NOT CROSS" tape. As I was going to the library, I saw a car for a restoration/remodeling service in the parking lot, so it looks like they're trying to get things back to normal as possible.

I'm sure this falls into the category of "Man Bites Dog." I would be happy if it happens somewhere else next time.

CLOSE: JANUS FILE #0408
 
 
 
 
 
 
OPEN: JANUS FILE #0407


This is yet another FoodQuest Rerun stemming from a birthday offer. This time, it was Red Robin that was giving me a birthday present, as part of their rewards program. Their present was a free burger, and I went to Mall St. Matthews for another late lunch or early dinner, depending on your point of view.

As was the case on my last visit, the restaurant was not all that busy, which meant I didn't have to wait for a seat. Once I was settled, I took a few minutes to take a careful look at the menu. The one thing I knew for certain was that I wanted to try something different from my first visit.

I decided that I was also going to get an appetizer, and I went with the Guacamole, Salsa, And Chips. This was a basket of tri-colored tortilla chips -- red, white, and blue. (Very patriotic, don't you think?) A red corn tortilla had been formed into a cup, and it was filled with the guacamole. A similar blue corn tortilla cup held the salsa. And as I discovered after the server brought the basket to the table, there were also a couple of chips made from jalapeno-cheese flour tortillas.

The salsa, as I mentioned on my previous visit, is on the mild side. The guacamole had more of a kick to it. It was close to the way I like it, with the right mix of creaminess and chunkiness. It contained tomatoes (which I don't put in my guacamole when I make it at home -- I prefer straight avocado), and what I think was just the right amount of spice. I think the best way to describe it would be to call it an afterkick; the spice would sneak up on you after you had taken a bite. Not hot by any means; just spicy.

I didn't have time to finish all of the chips, because my burger came out close on the heels of the chips. I was in a guacamole kind of mood, so I decided to go with the Guacamole Bacon Burger. With a couple of slight changes. No onions, and definitely no mayo. In case I haven't mentioned it before (and even if I have), mayo is Evil White Slime. There is nothing worse than discovering that they didn't hold the mayo. But I'm getting a little offtrack, aren't I?

Besides the obvious guacamole and bacon, the burger also came topped with Swiss cheese, lettuce, and tomatoes. It made for quite a substantial burger. The blend of flavors was enjoyable, but it might have been better from one viewpoint if it had only come topped with the guacamole and applewood smoked bacon. At times, it was kind of hard to distinguish all of the different components of the burger as I ate it.

As is the case with all of Red Robin's burgers, it came with bottomless steak fries. I think I ended up getting three baskets of fries, and I took basket #3 and part of basket #2 home with me, as well as a good portion of the tortilla chips. I did finish off both the guacamole and salsa.

Red Robin does serve alcohol, so as I had done yesterday when I went to Hooters, I asked if they could make a Spayed Gerbil. Short answer -- no. No Campari. Well, at least they were honest about it.

I think I have one more birthday offer, and I think I'm running out of time to use it.

CLOSE: JANUS FILE #0407
 
 
 
 
 
 
OPEN: JANUS FILE #0406


Like my recent FoodQuest Rerun entry on Moe's, this entry was at least partially inspired by a birthday offer I received in my email. I received several similar offers recently, and it occurred to me that these would be good reasons to write about return visits. I have a limited time in which I can take advantage of these offers, so these entries are going to come rather quickly.

The first of the email offers -- well, the first that I redeemed after the Moe's offer -- was from Hooters. Their offer was for a free plate of 10 wings, and it had to be redeemed within a week of my birthday. I didn't have anything else to do today, so I decided to go to Hooters to receive my birthday present.

Like my first visit to Hooters, I went in the later part of the afternoon. This time, I know that I didn't have to wait to be seated, and I found an empty table. It may have even been the same table I had on my previous visit. I sat my backpack down in one chair, and I quickly rummaged through it to find the email printout for my free wings.

My server this time was a young lady named Danielle. She was about 5'7" tall, and had dark brown hair and brown eyes. I had just found the printout as she came to my table, and when I showed it to her, she asked, "Do you want to go ahead and start with this while you're deciding what else to order?" That sounded like a good idea to me. I wanted to go with a different sauce this visit, and I ordered a plate of boneless wings with the barbecue sauce.

I already had a fairly good idea of what I wanted to order besides the wings, and it only took a quick glance through the menu to confirm my decision. I stuck to the appetizer section of the menu, and ordered the Fried Pickles and "Lots-A-Tots." I was ready to order before Danielle could bring the wings to the table.

There was nothing out of the ordinary about the barbecue sauce. It was a good barbecue sauce; just the right amount of tang and spice. It complemented the chicken quite well. If I ever feel the urge to indulge in the all-you-can-eat wings at Hooters again, I will probably get at least one plate with the barbecue sauce.

The Fried Pickles were pickle slices that were lightly breaded and then deep fried. They came with a dipping sauce, and I had to admit that the taste of the sauce was both interesting and unusual. I wasn't quite sure what it was, so I asked Danielle about it. She told me that it was ranch dressing and hot sauce that was blended together at the restaurant. From the way she described the process, it sounds like they make it in five-gallon batches. Well, I suppose that it would be easier to make it in that large a quantity. It sounds like it would be easy to make at home; the trick would be in getting it to taste right.

Lots-A-Tots are Tater Tots covered with bacon, cheese, sour cream, and chives. Not too dissimilar from a plate of cheese fries or potato skins that I've had at other restaurants. Just a slightly different version of potato as the base. The Tater Tots were nice and crispy -- a lot crispier than I'm ever able to get them when I make them at home. I tried at least a couple of them in the dipping sauce, but I think I ate most of them just the way they came to me.

As on my previous visit, I came at a slow time, so the service was great. Danielle kept my water glass filled, and came by several times to ask if I needed anything else.

I took advantage of the Wi-Fi while I was there, which was helpful when I decided to test Andrew Offutt's theory of good bartenders. One time when Danielle came by, I asked if they could fix me a Spayed Gerbil. I had already brought up a site that had the recipe by way of Google, so when she asked me what was in it, I showed her the website. Unfortunately, they didn't have Campari, so I couldn't get a Spayed Gerbil. On the other hand, this does lean in favor of the staff at this Hooters being good bartenders.

All in all, it was a pretty good (delayed) birthday present to myself.

CLOSE: JANUS FILE #0406
 
 
 
 
 
 
OPEN: JANUS FILE #0405


I suppose I have Joe Manning to thank for this particular FoodQuest entry. If he hadn't been such a colossal douchebag, I probably wouldn't have chosen Panera Bread for this month.

And I think a little background is necessary at this point. Manning is a columnist for LEO, a local publication I usually refer to as the "Liberal Excrement Output." Because for the most part, that's what their output is -- liberal BS. (One of the few good things about it is that they run "News Of The Weird," but I'm digressing.) When Panera Bread opened their latest location in Louisville, Manning used his column for a rant of the "How dare they?" variety. The location was previously the site of a Louisville institution, Ear X-Tacy, and he was absolutely outraged that just another branch of the corporate world would have the temerity to defile what he apparently considered to be sacred ground.

Guess what? The owner of the property didn't see it that way. To the owner, it's a prime piece of business real estate. Panera Bread saw it as a good place to add a location, and apparently they and the property owner came to an equitable agreement on a lease. After a few weeks of remodeling, Panera Bread has a new location open for business.

Now, I know I've been in at least one other Panera Bread location. During the holiday seasons I worked for Hickory Farms in Mall St. Matthews, the Panera Bread location there had the nearest restroom to the Hickory Farms kiosk. I know that my co-workers and I would make quick runs there when necessary. But other than a cup of coffee, I don't remember getting anything there. So, I figured it was still fair game for a FoodQuest entry.

Late last month, I went by the Bardstown Road location. I wanted to take a look at the menu, and in the process, I picked up a Panera Rewards card. I also said to one of the people behind the counter, "You have Joe Manning to thank for my coming in." She gave me a rather puzzled look, and I added, "It was his being such a douchebag in his column that inspired me to come in." I think I may have made her day with that comment. While I was there, I picked up one of Panera's rewards cards, and not long after that, I registered it online.

This morning, I decided on brunch at Panera before going to the library. Among other things, it was on my way. I got off the bus about a block or so earlier than I usually would, which put me right across the street from Panera.

I already had a good idea of what I wanted to order when before I walked in, and a quick perusal of the menu board only solidified my decision. I ordered broccoli cheddar soup in a bread bowl, and coffee. I was told that I had a free pastry on my rewards because I had registered it, so I selected a cinnamon roll.

Let's start with the coffee. I first filled up my cup with Panera's dark roast. It's an eye-opener, to say the least. Now, I love a good coffee buzz, but I have a feeling that I may be buzzed just a little longer than I expected when I selected my coffee. When I went for a refill, I chose half dark roast, half light roast. I think it may take me a few times to get the right ratio. I like my coffee sweet, and one thing I like about Panera is that they have both honey and raw sugar available. I used a combination of the two in both cups.

The bread bowl for my soup was a freshly-baked round loaf of sourdough bread. A big plug had been cut out of the loaf, and was placed to the side of the bowl. The bread had a firm, chewy crust, perfect for containing the soup. Under the crust, the bread was fluffy, and had a delightfully tangy flavor. The soup itself had a mild cheddar flavor, and plenty of broccoli and carrots throughout.

The cinnamon roll was definitely used something other than the sourdough bread. It was a sweet dough, and the filling had plenty of cinnamon in it. The roll was great, but it could have used a better icing. Unfortunately, the icing was only average.

Panera also offers free Wi-Fi, and i took advantage of it. I pulled out my laptop, and checked my email (among other things) in between bites. In fact, I almost lost track of time, and had to hustle just a little to shut down, get everything repacked, and make it to the bus stop in time to catch the bus.

I'm definitely going to be going back to Panera. There are several other soups I want to try, and yes, the thought that patronizing this particular location would piss off Joe Manning gives me a warm and fuzzy feeling.


Panera Bread
1534 Bardstown Road
Louisville, KY

CLOSE: JANUS FILE #0405
 
 
 
 
 
 
OPEN: JANUS FILE #0404


Recently, I saw a post on IReallyLikeFood debating which chain was better -- Chipotle Mexican Grill or Moe's Southwest Grill. Considering that Chipotle doesn't have any locations here in Louisville, and Moe's has four (five, if you count one in Southern Indiana), I have to go with Moe's. Now, if you want to get into a debate whether Moe's or Qdoba, then I could get into the debate. Louisville has both chains, and I enjoy eating at both.

I was a fan of Moe's long before I started FoodQuest, so a regular entry didn't fall into the parameters I had set for FoodQuest. But a couple of weeks ago, I saw a mention on Facebook about a new item that Moe's had added to their menu. This would be the Taco Stacks, and I started thinking that writing about these might make a good FoodQuest Rerun. I also get the occasional promotional email from Moe's, and a little over a week ago, I received an email with a birthday present attached -- one free entree, fajitas excluded. That didn't bother me, because I'm not a fan of fajitas.

A couple of days ago, I decided to use my birthday present, and got lunch at Moe's. Once I confirmed that I could use the email to get a Taco Stack, I ordered a Steak Taco Stack.

One thing I like about Moe's is that you watch your food being made right in front of you. It started with a flour tortilla, steamed to soften it. A small pile of shredded cheese was placed in the center of the tortilla, and a corn tortilla was placed on top of the cheese. On top of the corn tortilla was placed pinto beans, grilled steak, grilled mushrooms, and Moe's queso. (Grilled onions are also part of the steak Taco Stack, but I decided to pass on those.)

Any of the free ingredients were fair game (extra cost for guacamole or bacon), and I added diced tomatoes, sour cream, more cheese, lettuce, and diced cucumbers to mine. The resulting pile was topped with another corn tortilla, and still more cheese was placed on top of that before the flour tortilla was carefully wrapped around the corn tortillas and their contents. This was then placed on the grill for a couple of minutes on each side before it was placed in a basket along with a pile of tortilla chips, and was then handed to me.

While my Taco Stack was on the grill, I talked with the guy who had done the assembling and grilling. I asked how popular the Taco Stacks were, and he said that he hoped that they would become a permanent part of the menu. This surprised me, because I had seen a few comments on Facebook -- supposedly from Moe's employees -- who complained about how much of a pain they were to make. The guy who grilled mine was a little surprised when I told him this, because he didn't have any problems making them. Before Moe's, he had worked at Taco Bell, and as he told me, "The Taco Stacks are basically the same as [Taco Bell's] Crunchwrap Supreme." I had to disagree, because it looked like the Taco Stack was an improvement on the Crunchwrap.

I took my tray to a booth I had already claimed (placed my backpack there), got my drink and some salsa to go with my chips, then proceeded to enjoy my meal. Put simply, the Taco Stack was wonderful. When I get a burrito at Moe's, I usually choose the steak option, and the marinated grilled steak didn't fail to please this time. I also loved the mushrooms; an ingredient option that Qdoba unfortunately doesn't have. All of the different flavors blended together delightfully, for lack of a better term.

The tortilla chips are freshly made, and are kept warm until a big scoop was placed in a basket on my tray. I tried a couple of different salsas, but I found that I enjoy the chips best just by themselves. And if you're dining in, you can get refills on the chips.

I'm not certain if the holds true for the whole chain, but this particular Moe's offers free Wi-Fi. I took advantage, combining a pleasant meal with browsing the Internet.

I'm already a repeat customer, so I'm definitely going to be going back.

Moe's Southwest Grill
1001 Breckenridge Lane
Louisville, KY

CLOSE: JANUS FILE #0404
 
 
 
 
 
 
OPEN: JANUS FILE #0403


ARRRRR, I almost forgot that today be Talk Like A Pirate Day! Well, even though the day be almost over as I scribble this, I hope that all of you scurvy seadogs have had a good one.

Since my time is short, I'll keep the entry the same. The two Borders stores here in Louisville closed their doors for good a little over a week ago. One of my last purchases from the liquidation sale was Pirate Haiku. I found the whole of pirate-themed haiku to be . . . amusing, to say the very least. Almost as amusing as the idea of ninja-themed sea shanties. (No, I haven't seen a book of the latter. At least not yet.) But today, a pirate haiku of my own materialized in my thoughts as I was biking, and I hope that you will enjoy it in the spirit of the day:

I have one demand:
Just give me all of your rum,
And no one gets hurt.


Of course, the right rum to be giving this pirate would be Captain Morgan. None of that foul Bacardi swill!

CLOSE: JANUS FILE #0403
 
 
 
 
 
 
OPEN: JANUS FILE #0402


I knew that I wanted to write something to mark this anniversary, but I didn't know what that would be. I think my best entry on September 11 may have been three years ago (Janus File #0271, "Never Forget, Indeed"). But I was looking through some old email, and I found this poem that someone sent to me on September 11, 2003. And I knew that this was what I wanted to share today.

As far as I know, the author of this poem is unknown. At least no name was attached to the poem when it was emailed to me eight years ago. For all I know, the author has stepped forward and claimed credit since then. And I suspect that it has been posted and reposted to any number of websites. I really wasn't interested in checking Google. If anyone does know, feel free to leave a comment.

I've done a little cleaning up in terms of punctuation, but other than that, you see what I found in my email eight years ago.


TWO THOUSAND ONE, NINE ELEVEN (2001/9/11)

Two thousand one, nine eleven:
Three thousand plus arrive in heaven.
As they pass through the gate,
Thousands more appear in wait.
A bearded man with stovepipe hat
Steps forward saying, "Lets sit, lets chat"

They settle down in seats of clouds
A man named Martin shouts out proud,
"I have a dream!" and once he did.
The Newcomer said, "Your dream still lives."

Groups of soldiers in blue and gray,
Others in khaki, and green then say,
"We're from Bull Run, Yorktown, the
Maine"
The Newcomer said, "You died not in vain."

From a man on sticks one could hear,
"The only thing we have to fear . . . "
The Newcomer said, "We know the rest,
Trust us sir, we've passed that test."

"Courage doesn't hide in caves
You can't bury freedom, in a grave,"
The Newcomers had heard this voice before
A distinct Yankees twang from Hyannisport shores

A silence fell within the mist
Somehow the Newcomer knew that this
Meant time had come for her to say
What was in the hearts of the five thousand plus that day

"Back on Earth, we wrote reports,
Watched our children play in sports,
Worked our gardens, sang our songs,
Went to church and clipped coupons,
We smiled, we laughed, we cried, we fought,
Unlike you, great we're not."

The tall man in the stovepipe hat
Stood and said, "Don't talk like that!
Look at your country, look and see,
You died for freedom, just like me"

Then, before them all appeared a scene
Of rubbled streets and twisted beams.
Death, destruction, smoke and dust
And people working just 'cause they must

Hauling ash, lifting stones,
Knee deep in hell, but not alone
"Look! Blackman, Whiteman, Brownman, Yellowman
Side by side helping their fellow man!"

So said Martin, as he watched the scene,
"Even from nightmares, can be born a dream."

Down below three firemen raised
The colors high into ashen haze.
The soldiers above had seen it before,
On Iwo Jima back in '44.

The man on sticks studied everything closely,
Then shared his perceptions on what he saw mostly.
"I see pain, I see tears,
I see sorrow -- but I don't see fear."

"You left behind husbands and wives,
Daughters and sons, and so many lives
Are suffering now because of this wrong,
But look very closely. You're not really gone.

"All of those people, even those who've never met you,
All of their lives, they'll never forget you.
Don't you see what has happened?
Don't you see what you've done?
You've brought them together, together as one."

With that the man in the stovepipe hat said,
"Take my hand," and from there he led
Three thousand plus heroes, Newcomers to heaven
On this day, two thousand one, nine eleven.


-- Author Unknown

CLOSE: JANUS FILE #0402
 
 
 
 
 
 
OPEN: JANUS FILE #0401


No, I didn't forget FoodQuest. I just wasn't sure where I wanted to go this month. Then I remembered that several months ago, I had stopped by Red Robin, and I had picked up one of their Red Royalty cards. I had not gone online to register it until a few days ago. When I did register it, I was reminded that I would get a free appetizer if I visited Red Robin within 14 days. That kind of made it easy to decide where to go this month, didn't it?

In any event, I went by Mall St. Matthews today specifically to go to Red Robin. I timed my visit so that it would be a late lunch or early dinner, depending on your point of view. (What would you call the mid-afternoon equivalent of brunch, anyway?)

Because of my timing, the restaurant was relatively empty at the time. I think there were two or three other tables with diners while I was there. I think there was only one waitress working at the time, since all of the other diners were located in the same general area of the restaurant as I was.

For the appetizer, I chose the Just-In-Quesadilla. This is a flour tortilla filled with chicken breast, mushrooms, bacon, cheese, and tomatoes. It was accompanied by a blue corn tortilla which had been formed into a cup, and was filled with sour cream and guacamole. A similar white corn tortilla cup was filled with salsa, and the accompaniments were rounded out by a plastic cup of black beans.

The black beans were cooked in a chipotle-flavored sauce. They were spicy, but not overwhelmingly so. The salsa was on the mild side. I really didn't get that good a feel for the guacamole; I may have to try a different appetizer that has guacamole the next time I visit.

The quesadilla itself had plenty of chicken and mushrooms, generously filled but not overly filled. Unlike my burger (more on that in a moment), nothing leaked out of the quesadilla except for perhaps some juices. I finished only about a third of it, because my burger quickly followed.

I also ordered a Sauteed Shroom Burger. The menu describes it as "a mushroom lover's dream come true," and the burger lived to the description. The burger was loaded with mushrooms, and topped with Swiss cheese. In fact, it was so loaded that my burger leaked mushrooms and Swiss cheese when I was biting into it. Not that I was complaining by any stretch of the imagination. As I think I have mentioned a few times when writing about pizza, I love mushrooms, and anything that has this much mushrooms in it is a good thing as far as I'm concerned. Red Robin also cooks the butget the way you want it, and I ordered mine as rare as possible.

All of Red Robin's burgers come with bottomless steak fries. They came out nice and golden, cooked to the right degree of fluffiness inside. In this case, "bottomless" turned out to be only two baskets of fries, thanks to the appetizer. I had plenty of fries and quesadilla to take with me for another meal.

I will definitely be making a return visit to Red Robin. There are at least two or three other burgers that I want to try, and more than a few appetizers as well.

Red Robin
5000 Shelbyville Road, #1627
(inside Mall St. Matthews)
Louisville, KY

CLOSE: JANUS FILE #0401
 
 
 
 
 
 
OPEN: JANUS FILE #0400


OVERTURE! CURTAIN, LIGHTS!

THIS IS IT! THE NIGHT OF NIGHTS!


Okay, I finally found the right way to start one of these entries. And if you would like the full effect, may I suggest clicking on the link below:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jdg5CUugQn4

Or for an even fancier version, try this link:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WowalkW6lKg&NR=1

Bugs and Daffy are dressed up a little, and if you pay attention, you'll note that Daffy upstages Bugs a couple of times. But if you want the fanciest version of all (everyone is in white tie), click here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=veaDEdVZryA&NR=1

I can't think of a better way to introduce this particular entry than Bugs and Daffy doing a song and dance number. Can you? (And this is the closest I can come to a big production number.)

All right, as the top of the entry indicates, this is my 400th entry. And it doesn't seem like that long since I posted my 300th entry. As the saying goes, time flies when you're having fun. (Or to use another saying, time flies like an arrow -- fruit flies like a banana.)

I knew this entry has been fast approaching for quite some time now, and I've been trying to think of what I wanted to write this time. Guess what? I'm still thinking. I think the problem is that a lot of what I might use for this entry was covered in the previous milestone entries, and I really don't want to repeat myself. And I really don't want to repeat myself.

I've been doing this since January 2004. And there is something that I've gradually realized. This is now something that I can't not do. I'm a writer; for me, writing is as much of a necessity as breathing.

My friend Paul has put it a slightly different way. I think I saw this on the profile page of his LiveJournal. He says that he is a cartoonist. It isn't how he makes money; but it's what the label on his soul says. (This is probably a paraphrase, because I didn't want to take the time to bring up the profile. It's close enough.)

Writing is how I communicate my thoughts best. I have no artistic ability, only moderate musical talent, and I have enough of a stuttering problem that trying to listen to me can be quite trying indeed. But with pen and paper, or a keyboard and screen, thought and words just start flowing. Well, more or less. There are times when trying to find the bon mot can reduce me to staring at a blank screen in a futile effort to make words appear by magic.

That is the down side, when writing is like driving pocked with potholes, and littered with debris. But when everything comes together . . . that's a feeling like no other. It's what Bugs and Daffy meant when they sang, "And oh, what heights we'll hit!"

I've been looking through some of my old entries while writing this. There are some that I remember quite well, like one of my personal favorites, "The Real Mystery Of Scooby-Doo." That's entry #0003, by the way. There are also some that surprise me, like entry #0176, "All The Time In The World." Feel free to roam the corridors of the past. Go to my Tags page, and use that as a jump-off point. And if you find something that you like, let me know.

You know, sooner or later, I need to write that story about me and the identical triplet majorettes. Maybe that's something I should try to do sometime during the next 100 entries. But for now, I think I'll go back to the opening number to close this entry. To borrow a line from Bugs and Daffy, "On with the blog! This is it!"

CLOSE: JANUS FILE #0400
 
 
 
 
 
 
OPEN: JANUS FILE #0399


Yesterday was supposed to be the start of school here in Jefferson County. Thanks to this past weekend's windstorm, it looks like tomorrow will finally be the first day of school. The storm, however, is a topic for another Janus File. This file is about back-to-school shopping.

Am I right in thinking that the stores put the back-to-school displays out a little earlier this year? The past few years, I clearly recall stores stocking their seasonal sections with various school supplies somewhere around Independence Day. This year, I think it was still technically spring when I saw the first hints of binders, pens, and notebooks materializing on the shelves. I don't remember the specific date, but I do know that it was sometime between Flag Day and the summer solstice.

Wow. When I was going to school (admittedly, that was a few million years ago), if school started this week, the back-to-school sections probably would have been in place maybe two weeks ago. Three at the most. We didn't even get our list of school supplies until the first day of school. Then, of course, there was the mad dash to Walgreens, or Target, or wherever to get what was needed.

Seeing the back-to-school shopping has brought back a couple of memories. The first memory is of crayons, and I will bet that most of you have similar memories. When I was in elementary school, my mother would buy me the box of 24 Crayola crayons. Maybe even the box of 48 crayons. But all of the kids were always hoping for the Holy Grail -- that great big box of 64 Crayola crayons -- with the built-in sharpener on the back, I might add. Any kid who brought that to school was the envy of all of his or her classmates. Of course, these days, they might not be envied as much. I was in Target recently, and I saw a package from Crayola that had 150 crayons in a telescoping plastic tower. I'm guessing that those are 150 different colors; I wonder what all of those colors are. And if that had been around back when I was using crayons, I know I would have wanted one of those just as much as I had desired the the 64-count box.

The other memory comes from when I started fourth grade. As I said earlier, we didn't get our list of school supplies until the first day of school. The one thing that stands out in my mind about that year's list was a couple of lines at the very bottom of the list. It stated most emphatically -- in capital letters, if I'm not mistaken -- NO ballpoint pens, NO felt-tip pens, and NO markers of any kind. My fourth-grade self didn't have the right vocabulary to put into words the thought running through my mind when I saw that prohibition. My adult self, though, knows quite well what I was thinking: "Why are they getting their panties in a wad over this?" I should point out that this restriction probably didn't make it through October; I remember that most of my classmates (myself included) were using ballpoint and felt-tip pens well before Christmas.

This year, Staples offered a discount pass. For $10, customers could buy a card for a 15% discount on all school supplies. Only school supplies, though; you couldn't use the discount on a computer. I got a pass, and I have to say that it has been a good investment. Just on purchases that I was already planning to make, the discount has covered the cost of the pass. And it is still good through the middle of September.

Now I find myself wondering if my niece and nephew have any particular interesting memories of going back to school. I may have to ask them whenever I see them.

CLOSE: JANUS FILE #0399
 
 
 
 
 
 
OPEN: JANUS FILE #0398


People do stuff that really, really baffle me at times.

I'm sure most of you reading this could probably tell your own stories, but I have the feeling that this one is at least a notch or two above most of them.

I was at Heine Brothers Coffee last night, sitting at a table that looked out on the outdoor smoking area. Sometime after I sat down, a couple went out, presumably because one or both of them smoked.

I don't know how much later it was, but I became aware of something . . . well, out of the ordinary going on. It was pretty hard not to notice. The guy was sitting with his back to me. He was literally inches away from me; the only thing separating us was the very large pane of glass. His girlfriend -- well, I hope it was his girlfriend -- was standing very close to him, and looking very intently at his face.

I tried to return to what I was doing on my laptop. That was easier said than done, because whatever they were doing was proving to be a distraction, and I couldn't figure out what they (well, she) was doing.

At one point, the girl realized they had an audience. I must have had something of a quizzical look on my face, because she said, "I'm popping his zits."

I think I managed to limit any reaction to an upward crawl of my eyebrows. What was going through my mind was a different matter entirely. You're popping your boyfriend's zits in public? In front of an audience? Is this something you do all the time?

I wasn't an audience of one, either. There is a group of friends who meet at Heine Brothers on Friday evenings to play cards, talk, and generally socialize. They were sitting at a couple of tables near me, and they noticed that something just a little unusual transpiring outside. One of them asked me, "What are they doing?"

Repeating what the girl had said earlier, I said, "She's popping his zits."

The cardplayers perhaps had a more typical reaction to my revelation. Certainly a more vocal one, anyway. "She's doing WHAT?"

I said, "Yeah. If I had a digital camera, I would be posting photos on Facebook."

They were more than a little surprised by the couple's actions. I know I heard at least one of them saying, "Why would they think this is appropriate in public?" I didn't have an answer. I was doing my best to keep my mind on what I was doing at the time.

The couple had our attention for quite a while. If the zit-popping had taken only a couple of minutes, the odds are pretty good that I probably wouldn't have noticed, let alone the cardplayers. But the girl was being more than thorough about this. She was working on him for the better part of an hour, at the very least. And for at least 10 minutes, she was riding him like he was Secretariat, and she was Ron Turcotte. At one point, I said to the cardplayers, "Good Lord, how many zits does this guy have?"

She eventually stopped. I guess she was satisfied that she had popped everything that even bore only a passing resemblance to a zit. I never did get a good look at the guy's face, so I have no idea whether he merited that much attention to his face or not.

Just when you think you've seen everything . . .

CLOSE: JANUS FILE #0398

OPEN: JANUS FILE #0398A
ADDENDUM

Right after I posted this entry, I was talking to one of the baristas at Heine Brothers. She had not been working Friday night, but when I told her about what happened, she replied, "Oh, I heard about it." (Probably from her co-workers; apparently the cardplayers and I weren't the only ones who saw the action.) She went on to tell me that this was not the first time they did something like this. Apparently, this couple do things like the zit-popping on a regular basis, just to get attention.

Really? I can think of better ways to get attention. Now I find myself wondering if I will be present the next time they decide they want a little attention -- and what they might decide to do to get it.

CLOSE: JANUS FILE #0398A
 
 
 
 
 
 
OPEN: JANUS FILE #0397


Strange as it may seem, I've never eaten at Hooters -- until today, that is.

I've gone in a couple of times; mainly to pick up one of their takeout menus. I've picked them up so I would have an idea of what I would order when I finally did go there to eat. But for whatever reason, I never followed through until now.

There were two reasons behind my decision to stop by Hooters today for a fairly late lunch. One, of course, is the whole FoodQuest project. Since I had never eaten there, it was fair game. The other reason can be summarized in a single word -- Sauce. For several months now, I have been a fan of "Hooters According To Sauce." This is a blog written by a Hooters Girl (who goes by the nickname "Sauce") who writes about the good, the bad, and the occasionally ugly parts of her job. Sauce is also a columnist for Hooters magazine, which is how I originally discovered her blog. By the way, you can find "Hooters According To Sauce" by clicking on the following link:

http://www.accordingtosauce.com/

Now, the entry that got me thinking that I really needed to eat at Hooters sometime was one she wrote on all-you-can-eat wing nights at her Hooters. On one particular night, Sauce waited on a group of eight burly college football players who apparently were trying to find out which one could eat the most wings. The champion finished off 10 plates of wings -- 100 wings. Even when I was in high school or college, I doubt that I could have gone through that many wings. Still, I was curious to see just how much I could eat.

Last week, I went by the Hooters closest to where I live to be certain that I had the right day for all-you-can-eat wings. It was Wednesday, and it's all day long. So, as I said, I went there around 3:30 for a late lunch. I had eaten a fairly early breakfast, so I was reasonably hungry.

When I walked in, I thought that I was supposed to wait to be seated. As a result, I was standing at the entrance for about three or four minutes before one of the Hooters Girls told me that I could sit anywhere I wanted. Since this was that rather nebulous period between lunch and dinner, there were plenty of empty tables, and I quickly found one that I liked. Almost as quickly as I placed my backpack on one of the chairs, one of the Hooters Girls came up to my table.

My server's name was Chelsea. She was petite (5'3" at most), and she had dark brown hair and dark brown eyes. She was a little curious about my backpack. I gave her my standard answer -- "I'm on bike; anything I have to take with me, I have to take with me." This seemed to make sense to her, particularly since I also held up my bike helmet to emphasize the point.

I told Chelsea that I was there for the all-you-can-eat wings. When she asked what sauce I wanted, I asked about the Spicy Garlic sauce. "How spicy is it? I enjoy spicy, but I don't like it when it's to the point where my tastebuds are whimpering in pain." She said that it wasn't that spicy, so I decided to try that for the first round.

A few minutes later, she brought out the first plate. The sauce definitely was spicy -- perhaps just a little spicier than my normal preference. The main problem from my point of view was that I really couldn't detect that much garlic flavor in the sauce. That, I think, was the biggest disappointment with the Spicy Garlic sauce. I also decided that I wanted something else for my subsequent plates.

When I was ready for my second plate, I told Chelsea that I wanted to try the Samurai sauce -- a teriyaki-style sauce. This was definitely more to my preference, and I went with that for the rest of the plates.

While I was eating, I didn't rush through each plate. For one thing, the wings came as straight from the fryer as they possibly could, and I wanted to avoid burning my mouth. For another, I wanted to savor every bite. And I think if I had rushed through each plate, I would have felt full much sooner.

This particular Hooters has free Wi-Fi, so I took out my laptop and took advantage of it. At one point, I showed Chelsea and one of her fellow Hooters Girls Baconcat.com. Unfortunately, neither one asked the story behind the photo (which is what I was hoping would happen).

Since it was something of a slow point when I visited, I would have to say that I had great service. Chelsea kept my water glass filled, and kept coming back regularly to ask if I was ready for another plate.

I started getting full about the time I finished my fourth plate. I was definitely full after finishing my fifth plate, and I had enough sense to say enough. Just to remind you, they bring the wings out 10 at a time, so that was 50 wings I consumed. And well worth the $11.99 price.

I timed my visit right. About the time I was finishing, I saw several Hooters Girls rushing into the back. Presumably, they were arriving to handle the dinner crowd.

It was definitely a good thing that I stopped at five plates of wings. I was more than a little full. One more plate, and I think I would have had a hard time dragging myself out of the restaurant.

Yes, I will be returning to Hooters. I will definitely try something other than the all-you-can-eat wings next time. I've already tested my limits once in that area; no need to do that again.

Hooters Of Louisville -- Dupont
4120 Dutchmans Lane
Louisville, KY

CLOSE: JANUS FILE #0397
 
 
 
 
 
 
OPEN: JANUS FILE #0396


This has not been particularly good week for me. One reason was the news Monday that, despite the massive closing of stores that happened earlier this year, Borders is planning to liquidate and close its remaining stores, with the liquidation sales beginning possibly as early as tomorrow.

Borders is actually something of a newcomer to the Louisville area. When I first moved to Louisville in 1987, probably the most popular bookstore in town was Hawley-Cooke Booksellers, which had two locations; one on Bardstown Road, and the other on Shelbyville Road. What I liked about Hawley-Cooke more than anything else was that either store was quite a bit larger than any of the bookstores available to me when I lived in Murray. And both locations expanded over the years, especially the Shelbyville Road store, as the shopping center where it was located changed its layout considerably.

Another thing I loved was their anniversary sales. For instance, to celebrate their 23rd anniversary, customers received a 23% discount during the sale period. For the 24th anniversary, it was 24%. During the 25th anniversary sale, I remarked to one of the cashiers, "You know, in about 75 years, you guys are going to have a really nice discount."

In 2003, the owners of Hawley-Cooke decided that they wanted to get out of the bookstore business. At the time, Borders was getting ready to enter the Louisville market. They bought out Hawley-Cooke, as well as building two new locations -- one downtown, and one on Hurstbourne Parkway.

Hawley-Cooke shut down for good on Labor Day weekend of 2003. I remember that the last thing I bought at Hawley-Cooke was Ray Bradbury: An Illustrated Life. That weekend was also the weekend of Torcon 3, and the book was one of the nominees for the Best Related Book Hugo Award, which, as I recall, was one of the reasons I bought the book then. I visited both stores that last day, and was at the Shelbyville Road store at closing time. I remember the announcement that came over the PA system. "Hawley-Cooke Booksellers has closed for the last time. Please join us next week, when we re-open as Borders."

Hawley-Cooke closed the Sunday before Labor Day, and Borders opened the following Saturday. On the opening day, I visited the former Hawley-Cooke locations, as well as the store on Hurstbourne, which was just opening. The thing I remember most was that the Bardstown Road store smelled of vanilla, for some reason. The vanilla scent stayed around for at least a year or two before gradually fading away.

I never visited the downtown location as much as I did the other three. It just wasn't as convenient as the other three stores. But I did buy things from all four stores.

Earlier this year, I was surprised to learn that Borders had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, and would be closing 226 stores. A couple of different people on LiveJournal posted links to a list of the stores slated for liquidation. I scanned the list, and two of Louisville's stores would be closing. The two stores that would stay open? The former Hawley-Cooke locations.

I found a few deals at the liquidation sales. I happened to be at the downtown store the last day it was open, and at the Hurstbourne store a few days before it finally closed. It was a depressing scene at both locations -- very little left, and nothing that interested me.

I was really hoping that this drastic closing of stores would keep the remaining stores open. But Monday, I read on John Scalzi's blog that despite everything that had been done, Borders decided that the only course of action would be to close the remaining stores.

If everything that I have heard is true, the remaining stores will begin their liquidation sales tomorrow. Business operations will cease by the end of September. I read that Books A Million is interested in purchasing 35 locations, but it sounds as though neither of the Louisville stores are on the list.

My dream would be to see Barnes & Noble take over the Shelbyville Road location. Both of their Louisville locations are less than easily accessible to me, and the two Borders locations are the two bookstores that are probably the easiest for me in terms of accessibility. I'm guessing that this particular dream isn't going to come true, though.

I will take advantage of the liquidation sales while I can. I think it will be a case of deciding what I want to acquire, and seeing how low the discount will go before I have to beat someone else to the last copy.

CLOSE: JANUS FILE #0396
 
 
 
 
 
 
OPEN: JANUS FILE #0395


I first discovered DiOrio's Pizza & Pub back in April, when I made my stop at Stan's Fish Sandwich. I was a little surprised that I had never noticed it before. It's just off Lexington Road, hidden for the most part by the Stock Yards Bank branch. Still, I thought I would have taken notice of it before then. But as I was waiting for my pizza Friday afternoon, I saw a sign above the bar that read, "Established 2010." Okay, that goes a long way toward explaining why I might have noticed it until recently; it's still relatively new.

As its name might suggest, DiOrio's has the look of a pub. I'm not sure if I would call it dimly-lit, but it's definitely darker than, say, the Heine Brothers where I am writing this. Along the walls are booths upholstered in red (probably imitation) leather, and the seats at the tables are covered in the same material. The bar is the focus of one of the two rooms, and from what I could tell, it was quite well stocked. (I wasn't interested in anything alcoholic, so I didn't pay too much attention to the bar.) Along the walls (above the booths) were several big-screen TVs (I would say there were at least a dozen). At the time I visited, they were tuned to either coverage of Wimbledon or a College World Series game between Florida and Vanderbilt, with the sound turned on for Wimbledon.

DiOrio's sells pizza by the slice, but I was in the mood for an entire pizza. They have three sizes -- 10-inch, 20-inch, and 30-inch (the menu referred to the last as "the massive gibbon"). Not being that hungry, I ordered a 10-inch pizza. With mushrooms, which is pretty much my default order when I get pizza. (I think I may have mentioned this a few times, but I'll repeat it just for clarity's sake -- mushrooms are my favorite pizza topping.)

I visited DiOrio's around 3:00 PM; that nebulous time somewhere between lunch and dinner. There were only a few other patrons in the place at the time, and it was only a few minutes before my pizza was brought to my booth.

DiOrio's serves a thin-crust pizza. As I have said before, I like thin crust when it is still chewy. And this crust had the right consistency; chewy throughout the body of the pizza. The edges of the crust -- which I have sometimes heard called "pizza bones" -- had just the right amount of crunch to them.

The sauce -- well, I may have to go back, because I wasn't paying as much attention to the sauce as I was the other ingredients. It did have the right amount of tang and spice to it, but that's all that stays in my mind at the moment.

The pizza was covered with a generous amount of cheese. Mozzarella; I didn't taste any other cheese in the mix. I was glad that the server had brought a knife and fork to my booth with the pizza, because when I tried to pull that first slice away from the rest of the pizza, the knife was the only way that I was going to separate all of that stretchy, gooey cheese. (Feel free to insert your own "cut the cheese" joke here.)

And finally, we come to the mushrooms. My main complaint with most mushroom pizzas is that the pizza place never puts enough mushrooms on the pizza to suit my tastes. I mean, when you order a pepperoni pizza, it comes covered with pepperoni. Why can't they do the same with mushrooms? This particular pizza was better than some I've had. It would have needed a little more for me to consider it having a generous amount of mushrooms, but I would definitely call it a decent amount.

DiOrio's also has a selection of sandwiches on the menu. And as I said a couple of paragraphs ago, this may be another reason for a return trip.

DiOrio's Pizza & Pub
310 Wallace Ave.
Louisville, KY

CLOSE: JANUS FILE #0395
 
 
 
 
 
 
OPEN: JANUS FILE #0394


"The Hickey That Ruined Christmas."

That's the title that inspired this entry. Or to be more precise, it's the title of the entry on Datingish that is responsible for this entry.

When I went to the Xanga side of The Janus Files Tuesday, one of the featured entries at the top of the home page was "The Hickey That Ruined Christmas." The title caught my eye, and I had to read this entry. Quick synopsis: The writer told about how she got her first hickey at 16, because she wanted to know what all the fuss was when it came to hickeys. She also wrote about her parents' reaction when they saw it. As I was chuckling over this entry, it triggered a couple of memories of my own involving a hickey, and I knew what the topic of this Janus File would be.

As I may have mentioned once or twice, I'm pretty inept when it comes to romance, dating, etc. So this should probably not come as too great a surprise when I tell you that I was . . . somewhat older than 16 when I got my first hickey.

It happened in 1993. San Francisco was the site for that year's World Science Fiction Convention, and as you've probably already guessed, I was attending that Worldcon. This happened on Sunday night of ConFrancisco, after the Hugo Awards ceremony, and I was making the rounds of the room parties.

As I left one party, I ran into a woman I met at the previous year's Worldcon; a woman I'll call Amber. I think we ended up talking for at least 45 minutes. I'm trying to remember how the topic came up -- I do remember that Amber was flirting with me, which is a rare occurrence with me -- but somehow, the topic of hickeys came up. Now that I think about it, though, I think it was because Amber said that she wanted to give me one.

I think my reaction was, "I know how well that will be received when I go back to work." I then told her about two of my co-workers, who I will call Cyndi and Eileen (because that happens to be their names). I told Amber that if I were to show up at work with a hickey, Cyndi and Eileen would want to know all the details on how I got it, and they would give me the third degree to learn those details.

This amused Amber even more, and she repeated her desire to give me a hickey. I agreed to let her do it. As I remember, I was imagining the looks on their faces, and finding the prospect more than a little appealing. As I've said before, I have a talent for curveballing people, and this would really throw a curveball at both Cyndi and Eileen.

So, Amber proceeded to give me my first hickey. I didn't know what to expect, but I do remember that my entire body went rigid, and my eyes flew open in surprise when she did it. Afterward, she inspected her handiwork, and decided that it would definitely be noticeable for more than a few days. That's good, because it would be several days before I went back to work. After all, I was on vacation at the time. I got my first look some time later, when I returned to my hotel room.

The rest of ConFrancisco passed without anyone noticing. Of course, I wear turtlenecks almost all the time, so for the most part, the collar hid everything.

ConFrancisco ended on Labor Day, 1993. (September 6, 1993, if you want the precise date.) I flew back to Louisville on Tuesday, and I went back to work on Wednesday. The only thing that even slightly worried me was that my parents would notice, and I would have to explain it to them. But either they didn't notice, or they chose not to say anything.

Wednesday night arrived -- I was working graveyard shift -- and I went back to work. Now, I wore dress shirts and neckties for work, and the collar of my shirts did not hide the hickey. So, it was just a matter of time before someone said anything. And as it turned out, I was paired with Eileen that night, so I thought it wouldn't be long before I saw more fireworks than Thunder Over Louisville.

It didn't quite work out that way. Work started at 11:30 PM. Eileen did ask the perfunctory how-was-your-vacation questions (so did some of my other co-workers), but little more than that.

It was somewhere between 3:30 and 4:00 AM when she finally asked, "Janus, what is that on your neck?"

I thought, It took you long enough to notice. Managing as innocent an expression as I could, I said in my most matter-of-fact tone, "What's the matter, Eileen? Haven't you ever seen a hickey before?"

That was all it took. She was silent for about a second -- mainly because her mouth was hanging open. She quickly recovered. She said, "What?" followed by, "CYNDI!" And off she went in search of Cyndi, wherever she happened to be at the time. Less than a minute later, Eileen came back with Cyndi in tow, and she pointed out the hickey (which had been quite visible all night, I should point out).

Did I get the third degree I predicted? Oh, yeah. They wanted to know the standard who, what, where, when, why, and how. I don't think I told them that I got the hickey because I was going for this particular reaction. I think what I did tell them was that I met a woman who told me that she wanted to give me a hickey, so I let her. Of course, by the time first shift came in, all of my co-workers both knew about the hickey, and had seen it, with varying reactions. Theresa, the supervisor, seemed to be more amused by Cyndi and Eileen's reactions than anything else.

Amber and I had exchanged addresses, and I wrote her a letter telling her how her handiwork was received. She was delighted. She found my description rather hilarious.

And I think this was one of my more memorable vacations experiences.

CLOSE: JANUS FILE #0394
 
 
 
 
 
 
OPEN: JANUS FILE #0393


No, I didn't forget my FoodQuest for the month. It happened last week, but as you may have guessed, I felt that my follow-up entries on Stan's Fish Sandwich (and its closing) needed to be posted first.

The main reason I haven't visited Culver's before now is basically the same one I had for not visiting Jersey Mike's Subs until January. It's not conveniently located for me. Well, not as conveniently located as other restaurants are. Culver's has two locations in Louisville, and the closer of the two is on Hurstbourne Parkway -- just not a part of Hurstbourne that I normally visit. It's near one of Louisville's Meijer stores. A couple of weeks ago, I happened to visit this particular Meijer. I saw Culver's in passing, and I even made a quick stop inside once I had finished my shopping. I had a bus to catch, so I couldn't stay long enough to order anything. Instead, I reminded myself that I had not made a FoodQuest foray yet this month, and this looked as good a choice as any.

Culver's is a burger chain, based in Wisconsin. Judging from what I saw on their website, most of their locations are in Wisconsin and northern Illinois. They call their burgers "ButterBurgers," and as best as I can tell, it's because all of their burgers are (as they put it) "served on a lightly buttered toasted bun." They also serve several other sandwiches, including a Reuben, a fish fillet sandwich, and a pork tenderloin sandwich.

For this first visit, I decided to go with a ButterBurger. To be precise, it was the Mushroom & Swiss ButterBurger. All of the ButterBurgers are offered as single, double, or triple burgers, and this time, I decided to go with a double burger. The Mushroom & Swiss ButterBurger is topped, as you might expect, with Swiss cheese and sauteed mushrooms. I added lettuce, tomato, and pickle to mine.

All of Culver's sandwiches are cooked after you place your order. You go to the counter, place your order, and they give you a number. You find a table, and a few minutes later, they bring your food out to you.

The burger was juicy. Not to the point where I was dripping stuff all over me, but definitely enough to thoroughly enjoy it. I'm not sure if Swiss cheese can be described as mild or sharp, the way cheddar cheese is. For lack of a better word, it had the right amount of tang to it. I couldn't taste the mushrooms as well as I had hoped. I think part of that may have been my fault; I probably should have left off the lettuce, pickle, and tomato. The next time I order a Mushroom & Swiss Butterburger, I'll have to order it without anything else, to get a better idea of how the mushrooms taste.

Regardless of whether or not I was able to taste the mushrooms, the burger was delicious. I tried to eat it as slowly as possible, but I finished it all too soon.

I know I'm going to be making a return visit to Culver's. I just don't know what I'll be ordering when I return.

Culver's
4630 Hurstbourne Parkway
Louisville, KY

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OPEN: JANUS FILE #0392


If you try to call me at home (which is the only way you're going to call me, since I don't have a cellphone), you are going to get my answering machine. I have discovered that it's an easy way to deal with nuisances such as telemarketers, wrong numbers, and the like. By now, my friends, family, and acquaintances know to start talking at the beep. If I'm home, I'll pick up -- if I want to talk, that is.

I have found that hitting the Playback and Erase buttons on the machine are so much easier than dealing with some of the some of the calls I receive.

For instance, May 17 was primary election day here in Kentucky. Much to my surprise, I had received maybe two or three messages from political candidates. Until the day before the election, that is. When I got home that evening, there were at least seven new messages, and all of them were from various political campaigns. I had to have been in something of a good mood, because I listened to all of them with a sense of amusement more than anything else. Even if all of them were recorded messages.

Which brings me to the main point of this entry. What are some of the more annoying and/or irritating categories of messages that can be left on your answering machine?

In the mildly annoying category, we have the hangup. You know, where the person on the other end listens to the entire message, hears the beep, and only then hangs up the phone without saying anything. If I get an answering machine, and I really don't want to leave a message, I will at least hang up before the beep.

Then we have the category where most of messages seem to fall. A recording is leaving the message. Now, not all of these are necessarily annoying. There are some recordings that I enjoy receiving. Like those from the library. When I reserve a book from the Louisville Free Public Library, they use an automated system to let me know when it's finally available for me to pick up. And trust me, it's clearly an automated system. If you ever heard the message, you could easily tell that it was generated by a computer.

On the other hand, I get other recordings that are not as welcome. Like insurance offers. Or calls offering me a free vacation or cruise just for answering a phone survey. Those get erased before the message even finishes playing. I don't want to have to listen to them a second time, thank you very much.

But one of the most annoying messages I've been encountering recently has been the hold music message. I'm sure most of you have called a customer service line at one time or another. At some point, you get something along the lines of, "All of our operators are currently busy assisting other customers. Please wait for the next available operator," followed by elevator music. That is what I have been getting on my answering machine recently. Once or twice, I get someone coming on before the recording cuts off. They will say my name once or twice, and they seem to be surprised that I'm not there.

Really? If, for instance, I'm calling the customer service line for M&M/Mars, and I get put on hold, I don't have a problem, unless I get put on hold for more than five minutes. But if someone calls me, and I'm put on hold before I even pick up the phone (or the answering machine does), that is just rudeness above and beyond the call of duty. Don't act surprised if you finally come on the line and I'm not there. If I picked up the phone to hear hold music, I would be hanging up in less than a second.

Let me ask you -- what are some of the annoying types of messages that you find on your answering machine?

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OPEN: JANUS FILE #0391


As I mentioned in my last entry, today is the final day for Stan's Fish Sandwich in St. Matthews. They decided to go out with as big a bang as possible, calling it "Stan's Last Stand." And after my second visit a few days ago, I decided that I wanted to stop by one more time.

I made my way to Stan's late this afternoon. The festivities were not contained to just the restaurant. The shopping center (not sure if that's the best term for it, but I don't know what else to call it) where Stan's is located has a open courtyard in the middle, and the party was taking place there as well. (It's probably a good thing; the restaurant itself probably had more people inside than the fire marshal would have allowed.)

Another local establishment, Homemade Ice Cream And Pie Kitchen, provided a decorated cake that said something like, "Thanks for 24 great years!" I'm not completely certain on the precise wording; by the time I got there, they had already started cutting the cake and giving out slices. I picked up a slice, and it was quite tasty. (Homemade Pie Kitchen has several locations here in Louisville. I'm pretty certain I've visited one of them before, so if I do stop by, it's going to be another FoodQuest Rerun.)

A couple of local bands had set up in the courtyard, and they were playing. I really didn't pay attention to what they were playing at the time, because now no particular song is sticking in my head. If they had been covering, say, The Beach Boys or Jimmy Buffet, it probably would have stuck in my head.

I arrived as they were starting an oyster roast in the courtyard. They were grilling oysters in the shell, and from what I could tell, the oysters were going as fast as they could be grilled. I approached the table as people were snatching up that last of one batch, so I had to wait a few minutes for another batch to finish grilling. Once the fresh batch was brought to the table, I grabbed four oysters -- I was interested in just a taste, and that seemed to be enough to give me that. Of course, I was so clueless that I had to ask for instructions on how to open the oysters. After watching someone else opening a couple, I quickly picked up on the right technique.

I'm not sure how large I was expecting the oysters to be. Maybe a little larger than they turned out to be, but they were still succulent little morsels, to which I added some of the restaurant's cocktail sauce.

After that, I went to the restaurant proper. As the saying goes, there was a line out the door. It wasn't quite wrapped around the building, but I think it could have easily done so given enough time. Of course, there was also a steady flow of people coming out of the restaurant.

The line was actually moving pretty quickly, and when I finally made it through the door, I saw a notice on a dry erase board stating that the only item on the menu today was their signature item -- the fish sandwich. I glanced at my watch at that point, and with some rapid calculations, realized that if I ordered a sandwich, I would probably miss the #29 TARC that would be coming by within 15 minutes or so. Time to abort that plan.

I picked up a button that said "Stan's Last Stand" with today's date. And I signed a couple of guestbooks both inside the restaurant and in the courtyard. I already knew that the most appropriate thing to say was a line from the late Douglas Adams. In fact, it was the title of one of his Hitchhiker's Guide books:

"So long, and thanks for all the fish."

I even mentioned the line to one of the staff running the oyster roast. She seemed to be amused, and I hope she shares it with everyone else.

And with that, I made my way to the bus stop.

CLOSE: JANUS FILE #0391
 
 
 
 
 
 
OPEN: JANUS FILE #0390


NOTE: I'm calling this a "FoodQuest Rerun" because it involves a return visit to a place I have visited previously, not a new (well, new to me) restaurant.

You may recall that last month's FoodQuest was to Stan's Fish Sandwich, a place that will be closing soon. As in this Saturday is the last day. I mentioned that I wanted to make at least one return visit before they closed for good. I decided to go today, because as Elvis once sang, it's now or never.

When I entered, I saw a sign that warned customers that some items on the menu may no longer be available. Since they are closing in just a few days, when they run out of something, they aren't replacing it. The sign did end with, "Never fear, we will still have the fish sandwich until the end."

That last bit was a relief, because the purpose of today's visit was to try the restaurant's signature item; the fish sandwich.

I think I walked in while the lunch rush was still going on -- either that, or people were just coming in to get one last taste. In other words, the place was a little busier than it was on my first visit. I placed my order, and found an empty table. A few minutes later, they brought out my sandwich.

The sandwich came on the same multigrain hoagie bun that my shrimp burger came on in my first visit. Inside the bun was a whitefish fillet, coating in what appeared to be the same breading that coated the shrimp in my Shrimp Burger. I took a small nibble of the fish by itself, and it had a very mild, pleasing flavor. The breading may have had a slightly less peppery taste, but that could easily be ascribed to daily variations in the preparation. The sandwich came plain, and I added plenty of the cocktail sauce that I used on my first visit.

The sandwich was delicious. That's about the only way I can describe it. I tried to enjoy it as long as possible, but I wolfed it down in just a few minutes.

The final day for Stan's Fish Sandwich is this Saturday, May 28. The restaurant is planning to go out with a bang, calling it "Stan's Last Stand." I think I'm going to make it a point to go there for at least part of the festivities.

CLOSE: JANUS FILE #0390
 
 
 
 
 
 
OPEN: JANUS FILE #0389


Hey, what time is it, boys and girls?

It's Friggatriskaidekaphobia Day!

Okay, I am assuming that there are at least some of you who, once I reminded you what day this is, haven't decided to run away screaming in terror, jump back into bed, and huddle under the covers until the clock strikes midnight again. I would at least hope that most of you are made of sterner stuff than that.

As I have done for the past couple of years, I've been doing a little research into friggatriskaidekaphobia, and triskaidekaphobia -- the fears of Friday The 13th and the number 13, respectively.

I thought that this time, I might start with the etymology of the two words. Let's start with the (relatively) simpler triskaidekaphobia. "Phobia," of course, is derived from the Greek phobos, which translates into either "fear" or "morbid fear." (Phobos is also one of the moons of the planet Mars.) The rest of the word is also derived from Greek:

Tris ---- Three
Kai ---- And
Deka ---- Ten

So, triskaidekaphobia literally means "three and ten fear."

As for friggatriskaidekaphobia, the "Frigga" comes from the Norse goddess of the same name, for whom Friday was named.

And while I was looking around Wikipedia for interesting things about Friday The 13th, I discovered that there is one place where Friday The 13th is considered a very lucky day. That place is Colgate University. According to school tradition, the university was founded by 13 men with 13 dollars and 13 prayers. It is also a school tradition for Colgate alumni to wear school apparel on Friday The 13th, so if by some chance you know someone who attended Colgate, don't be surprised to see them wearing maroon and white today.

If you're still triskaidekaphobic or friggatriskaidekaphobic, I do have a little bit of good news for you. Today is the only Friday The 13th of 2011; the next one won't occur until January 2012. So you can breathe a sigh of relief for a few months.

Of course, Friday The 13th will occur three times in 2012.

CLOSE: JANUS FILE #0389

OPEN: JANUS FILE #0389A
ADDENDUM

And if you're wondering about the title of this entry, it's the motto of Colgate University. In English, it's "For God And Truth." I thought it would be a fitting title for this entry.

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OPEN: JANUS FILE #0388


Another Kentucky Derby has come and gone. And I am certain that throughout the city, more than a few people are breathing a sigh of relief, now that Louisville's annual descent into insanity has ended once again.

My only complaint with Derby is that the Louisville Free Public Library is closed. I could happily spend a good part of the day at a couple of different branches, but I don't have that option. Instead, I usually spend at least part of the day bookstore hopping -- and therein lies the problem.

Trying to figure out how to get from Point A to Point B on TARC really isn't that difficult -- that is, until you have to start factoring in all the people who will be using the bus to get to Churchill Downs. People who don't normally use the bus, except for occasions like this one. People who have already begun their Derby Day partying before they get to the bus stop.

In other words, a bunch of mostly young, noisy drunks.

As I have mentioned a couple of times in years past, one of the TARC routes I frequently use, the #29, is one of the routes that goes close to Churchill Downs. And riding the #29 westbound from St. Matthews to the Highlands early enough on the first Saturday in May is not something for the faint of heart. By the time the bus reaches the intersection of Eastern Parkway and Bardstown Road, it has become a sardine can, and most of the sardines are drunk and noisy. I've never asked any of the drivers on that route if they get combat pay for driving on Derby Day, but they probably should.

I honestly thought that this year, I would not be encountering the sardines. Yes, I would be using the #29, but I would be going to St. Matthews -- away from the racetrack. I figured that by the time I boarded the bus for my return trip, it would be close enough to post time for the Derby that all of the drunk and noisy sardines would (more than likely) be in the infield, getting drunker and noisier, and being the problem of Churchill Downs and not TARC.

I overlooked one little detail. I had neglected to take into account people trying to make a connection with any of the routes going to Churchill Downs.

My first stop of the day had been The Great Escape. From there, I was going to pick up the #29, and ride it to St. Matthews for some further bookstore browsing.

When I left The Great Escape, I saw that I had enough time to catch a bus and ride it up to Bardstown Road and Eastern Parkway, and catch the eastbound #29 there. (There is a point on the route that's actually only a few blocks away from The Great Escape, but I usually use that one when I won't have as long a wait at the stop.) The bus arrived after a few minutes. It didn't look any more crowded than it normally does on a Saturday, and I was anticipating an uneventful ride to Eastern Parkway.

That didn't last long. Just a couple of blocks later, at Bardstown Road and Douglass Boulevard, about a dozen or so passengers boarded. They were all in their early 20s, mostly female, and they were already well on their way to inebriation.

You got it -- drunk and noisy.

And getting more so by the minute. I spotted at least two open cans of beer, which is a clear violation of TARC regulations. The driver could have put the violators off the bus, but I'm guessing that he didn't notice them -- or at least chose not to notice them.

Fortunately, the bus wasn't crowded. Once these revelers had boarded, it certainly sounded as though it were crowded. In fact, it sounded quite a bit more crowded than it actually was.

In addition to being drunk and noisy, this group also seemed to have little if any sense of direction and/or knowledge of TARC's routes. They knew they were going to Churchill Downs; they just didn't know which bus to take, and where to catch it. That's when I said to one of them, "I'm getting off at the same stop you'll need to get off." And the driver also told one of the group that she would let them know when they needed to get off. (I'm guessing that she was wanting to get rid of them as quickly as possible.)

When that group boarded, one thought flashed through my mind. How many more are we going to get? Much to my surprise, there were only about three or four more passengers boarding before Eastern Parkway. Probably also much to the relief of the driver; I talked with him briefly, and he mentioned that his previous run at one point had been packed to the point where he couldn't get anyone else in. (Been there, ridden that, and it's not fun trying to get off the bus when it's that packed.)

I think the driver was quite relieved when he got to Eastern Parkway. (I know I was.) He wanted to get these drunks off so fast that he opened the door as soon as the bus cleared the intersection, instead of waiting until he reached the stop a few more meters away. Not that I objected; it made it easier for me to reach my stop as well. I was already near the door, so I was the first one off. The drunks were piling off the bus as I was taking my bike off the rack, and I pointed them to the stop they needed to get to the track. I then crossed the street to pick up the #29 going in the opposite direction.

My ride to St. Matthews was nice and peaceful. And my best guess is that my return trip a few hours later was pretty close to the time The Kentucky Derby was running. The trip back to the Highlands had about the same number of people it usually does on a Saturday afternoon -- and all of them looked to be well and truly sober.

CLOSE: JANUS FILE #0388
 
 
 
 
 
 
OPEN: JANUS FILE #0387


By now, I'm sure you have all heard the news -- Osama Bin Laden was killed last night by Navy SEALs in a raid on the Pakistani compound where he had been hiding. When I heard the news last night, two slightly altered song lines went through my head:

"Ding-Dong! Osama's dead!"

"There he is, baby, signed, SEALed, delivered, he's dead!"

It was this afternoon that another line from The Wizard Of Oz -- this one more or less as it appeared in the movie -- came to mind:

"Not only is he merely dead; he's really, most sincerely dead."

As you might have already guessed, I am not shedding a tear over this murderer's death. I am celebrating it.

And when I heard the news, I remembered a joke I first heard probably sometime late in 2001. (Modified somewhat to reflect the circumstances of his demise.)

Osama Bin Laden finally meets his end at the hands of the US military. When he arrives at the Pearly Gates, the first person he meets is Patrick Henry, who says, "You tried to deny my people Liberty, so they gave you Death!" just before slamming a fist into Bin Laden's face. He is joined by the likes of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, and 65 others. They administer such a thorough pummeling, beating, and all-around ass-kicking that Bin Laden is beginning to think that surrendering to those SEALs might not have been such a bad idea.

At one point, he finally says, "I-I don't understand!"

Just before he gives Bin Laden a boot up the backside to send him on his way to Hell, Jefferson says, "You were greeted by 72 Virginians! What were you expecting?"

Never forget that Osama Bin Laden has finally received what he so justly deserved. He not only admitted that he was the mastermind of the September 11 attacks -- he bragged about it. He was responsible for the deaths of thousands of others -- including his fellow Muslims -- just because they were in the way of the implementation of his rather nasty version of Islam.

Never forget that Osama Bin Laden died like a coward -- hiding behind a woman. He didn't even have the courage to face his death like a man. He was using one of his own wives as a human shield when he was killed.

To the SEALs who carried out this mission, and to the members of the CIA, NSA, and all the other Special Forces units who played some part in the success of this mission, I have only one thing to say to you:

WELL DONE!

Well done indeed. The world may never know your names, but know that you have done your country, and indeed the entire planet, a greater service than you could ever imagine.

I am glad to hear that the SEALs took custody of Bin Laden's body. There is no way that his grave can ever be used as a shrine, even if the bloodthirsty thugs of Al-Qaeda try to make him a martyr. And I suppose that dumping his body at sea was as good a method of disposing of it as any, but I think you could have done one little thing first.

You should have fed the body into a wood chipper, and fired the results out over the ocean.

CLOSE: JANUS FILE #0387
 
 
 
 
 
 
OPEN: JANUS FILE #0386


I was running out of time on this FoodQuest, in more ways than one. Obviously, I was running out of month, but I wanted to go by Stan's Fish Sandwich at least once before they closed for the last time. They've been in St. Matthews for 24 years, and I read when they lost their current lease, the owners decided that it was time to retire and close the restaurant.

I read about the closing several weeks ago, but as is almost always the case, it was a matter of timing that kept me from visiting until now. I was in the neighborhood Tuesday, I was thinking about it, and I decided that I needed to visit while it was still on my mind.

When I took a look at the menu board, I definitely wished I had stopped by when I first heard of the closing, because I spotted at least two or three things that I wanted to order. After a minute or two, I decided on the Shrimp Burger, one of their po boy-style sandwiches. It comes with your choice of either slaw or lettuce and tomato. Not being a big fan of slaw, I chose the latter. I also ordered a side order of French fries. I found a table, and a few minutes later, they brought my food out.

The Shrimp Burger is served on a multigrain hoagie roll. The lettuce and tomato were layered on the bottom half of the roll, and a massive pile of fried shrimp was placed on top of that. Over to one side of the plate was a respectable heap of golden French fries.

Before tackling the sandwich, I sampled a couple of the shrimp by themselves. Prior to frying, they had been coating in a breading that was quite peppery. The shrimp themselves were sweet and succulent.

At the table were several condiment bottles, including what I think was an in-house made seafood cocktail sauce. I tried it, and it wasn't bad. I prefer my cocktail sauce to have a little more horseradish in it, but it had enough of a spicy kick to it, and I used it on both the sandwich and the French fries. (Much better than mere ketchup!)

The sandwich was wonderful. The lettuce and tomato were fresh, and the hoagie roll held together through the entire meal. As I think I've said before, this is an important point to me. I have had bread fall apart on me on sandwiches, always making at least a bit of a mess, and usually more than just a bit. And as I mentioned, the breading or batter coating the shrimp (not completely certain which one it was) had a bit of a peppery kick to it -- black pepper, to be specific about it.

The French Fries were fried to a golden crisp. There was nothing special that had been done to them; no special coatings or seasonings. Just a nice pile of potatoes cooked to the right degree of crispness. And sometimes, simple is the best way to go. And as I mentioned a couple of paragraphs ago, I used some of the cocktail sauce instead of the usual ketchup for dipping.

After my meal, I found myself wishing that I had visited Stan's Fish Sandwich earlier. Not just earlier in the sense of "when I first read that they were closing." I mean earlier as in even before that. I think it might have been someplace that I might have visited on a semi-regular basis. I'm certain that it will be missed; I looked around the place, and saw at least six Best Of Louisville Awards from Louisville Magazine on the walls, so it has certainly been popular. As it is, I might be able to squeeze in one or two more visits before they close for the final time on May 28.

Stan's Fish Sandwich
3729 Lexington Road
Louisville, KY

CLOSE: JANUS FILE #0386
 
 
 
 
 
 
OPEN: JANUS FILE #0385


I am a member of the World Science Fiction Society.

This is defined as anyone who has purchased at least a Supporting Membership in the current World Science Fiction Convention (aka Worldcon). As I write this, that would be Renovation, which will be held in Reno, Nevada from August 17 through August 21.

For this entry, the important thing about the aforementioned membership is that I have the right to nominate and vote on this year's Hugo Awards, as well as casting a nominating ballot for next year's Hugos. Well, the nominating period ended a couple of weeks ago, so that part has been fulfilled. And yes, I did submit a nominating ballot. As has been the case the past couple of years, I submitted my ballot just ahead of the deadline. This year, it was like less than seven hours before the deadline.

On the LiveJournal side of The Janus Files, I'm a member of a community that shares recommendations for Hugo nominations. We've just finished our busy time of year. It tends to start getting busy somewhere around Thanksgiving, and runs until the nominating deadline. Then everything more or less goes quiet again for most of the year. Which is kind of a shame, really. The whole idea of the community is to have people recommend books, stories, movies, et cetera, when you read, see, or otherwise encounter them. If you read a really good book during the first week in April, let people know about it then instead of waiting until November (when you might have forgotten about it).

Well, the owner and maintainer of this community decided that what is needed is just a subtle little reminder. So, he created the button and link below:


Join the hugo_recommend Livejournal Community
Join hugo_recommend, the Hugo Awards recommendation Livejournal community
Get the button and help promote the community!




And I'm crossing my fingers that this shows up on the Xanga side of The Janus Files.

The community owner wants to encourage activity in the community. He also wants to do more to promote the Hugos. And I just thought I might do my part.

If you're on LJ, and you're a science fiction fan, I hope you'll give the community a look. Same if you're on Xanga. You might not be able to make any recommendations yourself, but you should be able to see what others are recommending.

CLOSE: JANUS FILE #0385
 
 
 
 
 
 
OPEN: JANUS FILE #0384


Okay, Lent is in full swing, and as usual, I look at the whole thing with a somewhat bemused eye. Hey, I'm a Baptist; I've always had the idea that we're supposed to look at anything that smacks of excessive ritual with an appropriately-sized grain of salt. (Somewhere along the size of Ayers Rock.)

If you've read my past entries on the subject, you know that I've mentioned trying to give up celibacy and sobriety for Lent . . . usually with disappointing results. While I might try that again this year, I've decided that instead, I will give up sending emails to people in Nigeria, asking for their help in moving a large sum of money out of the US.

But I digress. At the very least, I venturing away from the planned topic for this entry.

About a week or so after Ash Wednesday, I made a stop by Mall St. Matthews. While I was walking through the mall, I stopped by Williams-Sonoma. One of the staff was doing a product demonstration, and I lingered long enough to pick up a couple of samples. I struck up a running conversation with her, in between her fielding questions from other customers, talking with her co-workers, etc. Somewhere in the middle of this, I heard her say something about having a problem with what she gave up for Lent.

At this point, my curiosity was engaged. With a little bit of a chuckle, I asked, "You didn't try to give up something related to food, did you?"

I don't remember her exact response, but it was something along the lines of, "Working here? Not really an option."

She told me that she had decided to give up Facebook for Lent. Not the entire Internet -- just Facebook.

I asked, "So what's the problem?"

Just before Ash Wednesday, or her decision (I gather that this was a last-minute decision), she had posted all the information about a party she was hosting oeck Fn Facebook. If I'm understanding correctly, this included the invitations sent, when/where the party would be, and so forth. Now, she couldn't check on who was RSVPing, among other things.

"What about your email? Doesn't Facebook send replies to your email address?"

Not how she did it, apparently. The only way she could get the necessary information would be to check Facebook . . .

" . . . And you can't check Facebook," I finished.

Am I being redundant in stating that it appears as though someone didn't think things through before making that decision?

I managed to keep my reaction down to a few chuckles. Bursting into uproarious laughter probably would have been less than polite.

Now, I usually encounter at least a couple of people writing about what they give up for Lent. I remember in particular one person who always goes on what she refers to as "the crazy Lenten diet." I don't remember the particular details, but I do remember that it sounds kinds more than a little crazy. But most of the time, I get the impression that the people thought about it before making that decision. This time . . . not so much.

This is one of those times when you end up hearing something like, "It seemed like a good idea at the time."

CLOSE: JANUS FILE #0384
 
 
 
 
 
 
OPEN: JANUS FILE #0383


For the March FoodQuest, I decided to visit Louisville's Old Chicago location. I know when I first announced this little project that I was probably going to visit Molly Malone's during March, but I received a sign that I should choose Old Chicago instead. That sign came in the form of one of those junk mail ads that I'm sure you get every week. A couple of weeks ago, the mailer included an ad for Old Chicago that included coupons. Coupons are good, so a few days ago, I went to Old Chicago for lunch.

I glanced at the menu briefly, but this time, I had already decided that I wanted to try their lunch buffet, the Rush Street Pizza Bar. Old Chicago dishes up their pizza with two different kinds of crust, and I was interested in trying both. And I was in the mood for a little bit of variety.

The pizza bar comes also comes with a choice of salad or a cup of soup. I chose a cup of their chicken tortilla soup. The soup was spicy, but not overwhelmingly so. It was pleasantly spicy, as a matter of fact. It left a little bit of a tingle on the tongue, but that was gone before the end of the meal.

On my first trip to the pizza bar, I also picked up a garlic breadstick and what I'm fairly certain was a couple of their Sicilian Pepperoni Rolls. (That's the only item on the menu whose description matches what I selected, anyway.) The pepperoni rolls are pepperoni, mozzarella and pepper jack cheeses, and green onions rolled up in pizza dough and baked. Each one was a tasty little bite, and I could probably make a meal out of an entire order. (The same holds true for most of the appetizers menu, for that matter.)

The breadstick could have had maybe just a little more crust on the outside, but definitely had the right amount of chewiness. I had made my first trip to the pizza bar after placing my order, and the soup was waiting for me when I returned to my booth. The breadstick was the ideal accompaniment to the soup -- perfect for dipping in the soup at least a couple of times.

As I mentioned, Old Chicago has two kinds of pizza crust. The New York-style crust is thin, and hand-stretched. The Chicago-style crust is the thick crust, and if you order a whole pizza, it is served in the pan.

My own preference is for a thick crust with my pizza. I like a pizza that's chewy, and I like a pizza with, for lack of a better term, substance to it. And that is a pretty good description of the Chicago-style crust. I'm not completely certain, but I suspect that their breadsticks are made he from the same dough as the Chicago-style crust (minus the toppings, of course). The menu describes it as being "perfect for hearty toppings," and it looks as though it could handle a large number of toppings.

I arrived there somewhat early during their lunch "hour" (on the weekends, it's from 11AM to 3PM), and there weren't that many customers in the restaurant at the time. As a result, there really wasn't much turnover in the pizza selection. The Chicago-style pizza that I sampled was topped with ground beef and plenty of mozzarella and/or provolone. Actually, all of the pizza were generously topped with cheese. You know how the cheese in the pizza commercials always seems to stretch on and on and on? That's what it was like taking a slice from the pans at the pizza bar. The crust was wonderfully chewy, the cheese hot and gooey (but not so hot that it caused burns to the roof of my mouth), and there was the right amount of other toppings. (I think there was something besides the ground beef, but I really didn’t stop that long to pay attention.)

I really don't have anything against thin-crust pizza. The type of crust I don't like is the type that is baked to a crunch. That's not the type of thin crust that Old Chicago serves. As the menu describes it, the thin crust is "baked crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside." I sampled both a pepperoni and a plain cheese pizza in the thin-crust style. The pepperoni pizza had generous amounts of pepperoni (something I wish all pizza places would do with mushrooms on their mushroom pizzas), and the cheese pizza was an excellent opportunity to see how Old Chicago handles your basic, no-frills pizza. Again, the pizza was hot, but not so hot to burn the roof of my mouth.

I made three trips to the pizza bar, and despite the fact that I wasn't completely pigging out, I was pleasantly and thoroughly stuffed. And this was a Sunday brunch for me -- I had not eaten anything before going there. I still had room for the chocolate chip cookie that comes at the end of the meal. The cookie probably could have used a few more chocolate chips, but it proved to be a satisfactory end to the meal.

This particular Old Chicago location has free Wi-Fi (for all I know, they all do), and I availed myself of the opportunity to check my email. The only drawback was that I had to be careful not to get my keyboard or mouse greasy.

Pizza is not all that is on Old Chicago's menu, although it does seem to take up the largest part of that menu. Also listed on the menu burgers and other sandwiches, pasta dishes, calzones, and several fish selections. Both the website and the menu give prominence to their wide selection of beers, which, frankly, doesn't hold much interest for me.

I think I may be making some return visits to Old Chicago. I want to try one of their "build your own" pizzas. Or a calzone. Or a Mushroom Double-Swiss Burger. Or . . . okay, I think you get the picture. They have a lot of interesting items, and I want to sample a few more.

Old Chicago
9010 Taylorsville Road
Louisville, KY

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OPEN: JANUS FILE #0382


To one and all, a Happy Pi Day! Or a Happy Albert Einstein's Birthday, if you prefer to celebrate the day that way. And if by any chance someone reading this has applied to the Massachusetts Institute Of Technology, may you be receiving good news this day.

Last year, I mentioned that I really didn't have anything new to write about pi, or Pi Day. Well, things are a little different this year.

It goes back to Christmas. My brother and sister-in-law gave me a pi plate for Christmas this past year. Yes, you read that right -- a pi plate. It’s an off-white ceramic pie plate with blue printing. In the center of the plate is a lower case pi. (This is important -- in mathematics, the upper case pi means something altogether different.) Spinning away from the pi in a spiral is the numeric value of pi -- 3.14159265358979, et cetera, ad infinitum (et ultra!).

As I have mentioned in previous entries, I have memorized the value of pi to 35 decimal places. After receiving the pi plate, I have been inspired to extend that memorization just a little further. Though at the moment, I'm really not certain how far I want to go.

I can state that, so far at least, I have added another 10 places to my memorization, making it a total of 45 decimal places. If you're curious, that would be:

3.14159 26535 89793 23846 26433 83279 50288 41971 69399

And yes, I did type that from memory.

I'm getting close to making that 50 places. I'm pretty certain that the next five digits in the sequence are 37510, but right now, I would have to consult my pi plate or some other reference source to confirm.

When I had memorized pi to only 35 places, I used the song "Memory" from the musical Cats as a mnemonic aid. I sing the digits to the tune: "Memory . . . three point one four one five nine . . . " I reached 35 digits at the end of one verse, so that's why I stopped where I did. I've decided that I need another mnemonic tune, though.

Right now, I'm working on using "The History Of Everything" by The Barenaked Ladies as my new memory aid. If you don't recognize the song, it's the theme song to the TV series The Big Bang Theory. I've been doing a little counting, and if I'm not too mistaken, using the tune for the first verse of the song (which is what you hear each week at the beginning of The Big Bang Theory) will take me to 70 digits.

Why that particular song? Well, I think you will all admit that memorizing pi is something of a geeky thing to do. What better song to use than the theme song from a TV series where most of the major characters are ubergeeks?

I'm just having one slight problem, though. "Memory" is a slow to moderately paced song. It was easy to fit the digits into the rhythm of the song. "The History Of Everything," on the other hand, has a much more rapid pace. Even with the digits I have already thoroughly memorized, I find myself stumbling trying to sing them to the tune. It's definitely a matter of pacing. I've also tried singing pi to the tune of "The Major General's Song," and I have found myself stumbling more than a few times with that tune as well. I can handle the tune without any problem; after all, it was also the tune for "The Elements," which I memorized several years ago. A series of numbers seems to have a slightly higher degree of difficulty to fit to a fast-paced tune than just words.

One way or the other, I think I will stretch my memorization to at least 70 decimal places. (And to be absolutely clear, this is after the decimal point.) I like to think that for someone with my gift for memorization, it should be as easy as . . . pi.

[SIDENOTE: I just checked the entry for pi on Wikipedia. I was right on that sequence of digits, so I guess I have pi memorized to 50 places.]

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OPEN: JANUS FILE #0381


I had a . . . well, slightly strange incident yesterday while I was riding TARC. To be precise, I was riding the #55 (Westport Road) route. At one stop, a blind man and his guide dog boarded. (No, that's not the strange part. Be patient for a minute or two, please.)

Once man and dog were settled, and the bus continued on its way, he asked the driver to let him know when he reached a certain location downtown. He needed to catch another bus, and ride that one to connect with the #29 (Eastern Parkway).

That is when I found it a little strange. I'm assuming that most of you reading this probably don't live in Louisville, or are otherwise unfamiliar with TARC's routes. The trip he described was an unnecessary detour. Make that highly unnecessary. It would be like me traveling from Louisville to Boston by way of Atlanta, which make sense only if you are flying Delta.

I said, "You do know that you can pick up the 29 at Shelbyville Road and Breckenridge Lane, don't you?" (Several different places along Shelbyville Road, actually, but I wanted to keep things simple.)

No, he did not.

At that point, the driver finally chimed in, mentioning that the 29 goes all the way to Oxmoor Center. I was somewhat surprised that she didn't say anything before I did. After all, wouldn't you expect one of TARC's drivers to know the system better than the passengers?

That is when I was really surprised. The guy said that he had lived in Louisville for 27 years, and this was the first time anyone had said to him about the routes. (From the way he talked, it sounded as though he had been using this unnecessary detour that entire time.)

As it happened, I was planning to get off at Shelbyville and Breckenridge to transfer to the 29. I let the guy know as the bus was approaching the stop, and I let him know when the 29 arrived a few minutes later. I got off before he did, but I'm assuming that he and his dog reached their destination without any problem.

And I suppose that was my good deed for the day.

CLOSE: JANUS FILE #0381
 
 
 
 
 
 
OPEN: JANUS FILE #0380


As I have mentioned, one of the reasons I decided to do FoodQuest 2011 was there were a number of places that I wanted to try, and this was my way of finally going to some of them. Case in point -- Wild Eggs. I have been thinking about eating there since they opened almost three years ago. I realized a few days ago that it was almost the end of the month, I had not decided on a FoodQuest for the month, and I finally said to myself, "Hey! Why not Wild Eggs?"

I suppose the main reason I had not visited Wild Eggs was timing. They are open for breakfast, brunch, and lunch. They close at 2:30 PM weekdays; 3:00 PM on weekends. There have been a few previous attempts, but I always managed to get there after they had closed for the day. Not this time. I made sure I arrived there Tuesday with plenty of time to enjoy brunch.

I decided to start with coffee. Wild Eggs's menu describes their house blend coffee as "A rich, bold blend featuring the earthy coffees from Sumatra and Java, blended with the clean crispness of Ethiopian Yirgasheff and Kenyan AA coffees from the African continent. These coffees are finally melded with Brazil Bourbon Santos and Costa Rican Tarrazu coffees for smoothness and a hint of sweetness." Okay, the flowery descriptive prose is out of the way; now here are the nuts and bolts. This is a dark roast coffee. Befitting a breakfast restaurant, it is an eye-opening coffee, although at the time, I didn't realize it. My waitress brought a small carafe of coffee to my table, and my plan was to drink all of it. I had at least four cups, and I think there was still some coffee remaining in the carafe when I finally decided that I had drunk enough.

There have been a few times when I have consumed enough coffee that I was left totally wired. The Wild Eggs coffee didn't affect me like that. I went there around 11:30 AM, and I think I left the restaurant somewhere around 12:15 PM. It was some 10 hours later when I realized that I was still feeling a buzz from the coffee. Surprisingly enough, I was able to get to sleep without much difficulty around my usual time. But I'm beginning to digress . . .

It took a while for me to place my order. No, the place wasn't that busy; in fact, my waitress came by two or three times asking if I was ready to order. My problem was that I couldn't make up my mind on what to order. And before my visit, I had taken several looks at their menu online. Wild Eggs has a lot of interesting dishes; I probably changed my mind two or three times before finally placing my order. (Hmmm . . . some follow-up entries may be in order here.)

I finally decided on getting one of their "Build Your Own" omelets. This starts with three eggs and your choice of cheese, with an additional charge for other fillings. I chose the Cheddar/Jack cheese, and added mushrooms. I think I may have mentioned once or twice that I love mushrooms, haven't I? The omelet also came with skillet potatoes and an everything muffin.

When omelet arrived a few minutes later, it was light and fluffy, oozing with cheese as I cut into it. The mushrooms appeared to have been sauteed before putting them into the omelet. More importantly, there was an abundance of mushrooms in the omelet. The problem I generally have when I order a mushroom pizza is that the places never put enough mushrooms on my pizza. I think that the people at Wild Eggs would make an excellent mushroom pizza, because they know how to add mushrooms. And I am digressing again, aren't I?

The skillet potatoes were diced chunks of potatoes, with the skin on, fried to a golden brown but not greasy. I think I detected just a little bit of onion in the potatoes as well, but not an overwhelming amount. I have read a number of other reviews of Wild Eggs online, and I have noticed that several reviewers wished that they had the option of hash browns instead. I have to agree to some degree -- I love hash browns, and now I find myself wondering how well Wild Eggs would do them. (I'm guessing pretty well.)

When she brought my meal, my waitress also brought ketchup, Tabasco sauce, and another hot sauce. None of these were needed; I thought the food was flavorful and delicious without having to add anything else.

The easiest way to describe the everything muffin, I suppose, is to call it an everything bagel in muffin form. I could see it dotted with poppy seeds throughout the muffin, and I could detect a hint of onion and garlic as well. Not as much as I would have liked; I like a stronger onion and garlic presence. It came without butter, which I also would have liked. These, however, were only a couple of minor quibbles in what I found to be a wonderfully filling meal.

One of the reasons I decided to go with an omelet is that Wild Eggs is getting close to selling their two millionth egg since they opened. The lucky customer would win breakfast for a year. I'm reasonably certain that I was not the lucky customer; I feel quite sure that they would have informed me if I had been.

I am definitely going to have to make a return visit. Several return visits, most likely, because I want to try more of their menu. Like their French toast. Or their blueberry pancakes, which they call "Violet, You're Turning Violet." Or their Bananas Foster waffles. Or . . . well, I think you get the idea. I plan on writing about those return visits as well. Call it a "FoodQuest Supplemental."

Wild Eggs
3985 Dutchmans Lane
Louisville, KY

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OPEN: JANUS FILE #0379


There are just some feats that, once accomplished, other people should not try to surpass. Throwing up at the library would have to be at the top of the list.

It was almost two years ago when I wrote about getting rather ill at my local library. (If you want the specifics, it's Janus File #0234, "Still Welcome At The Library," posted February 29, 2008.) I really didn't give too much thought to it at the time, other than give thanks that the staff didn't brandish pitchforks and torches in an attempt to drive me from the library. And I really am glad that I was still welcome the next time I visited. (The Bon Air library is the closest branch to where I live, after all.) But if I had given the matter some thought, I probably would have hoped that they wouldn't have anyone else become as spectacularly ill as I did -- ever.

I guess it was a couple of weeks ago that I related the incident to Trish, a recent addition to the Bon Air staff. She found it somewhat amusing. (I didn't at the time, but once I was feeling a little better, I found it a little more amusing.) I had completely forgotten about the conversation, until yesterday . . .

I guess this story really begins either Monday or Tuesday. I had gone to the library, and as I was waiting for the elevator, I saw what looked like a puddle of coffee on the floor right in front of the elevator. I looked over at the children's area, saw Angel at her desk, and said, "Hey, Angel, it looks like someone spilled some coffee here." She brought over some wipes, and was pushing them around with her foot as the elevator doors closed (with me inside). Again, I didn't give it much thought, until yesterday . . .

Yesterday afternoon, after leaving the library, I went to the bus stop. Trish was there, waiting for the same bus, and as I brought my bike to a stop, she said, "Well, someone managed to outdo you!"

I had no idea what she was talking about, and I asked her to elaborate.

Remember that puddle of coffee I saw on the floor a few days earlier? It wasn't coffee. It was a puddle of vomit. (At the time, I was glad I had avoided stepping in it. Now, I was definitely glad of my avoidance.) And it wasn't just that small puddle, either. According to Trish, someone had become violently ill in the stairwell between floors -- all over the stairwell. She didn't go into complete detail (and for that, I am grateful), but this person "decorated" the stairwell so thoroughly that they had to get someone from the main branch to handle the cleanup. (The day of the incident, I do remember seeing signs blocking off the stairwell. Now I know why.)

At least when I tossed my cookies, I managed to confine things to a relatively small area.

I was just a little surprised that someone managed to surpass my little feat. I'm really, really, really hoping that no one else comes close to surpassing this one.

Come to think of it, I'm betting that the library staff is hoping the same thing.

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OPEN: JANUS FILE #0378


This particular entry has been simmering on the back burner, so to speak, for several months now. It started when I picked up The Day I Shot Cupid at the library . . . or maybe I saw it at the bookstore first. Wherever I saw it first, I checked it out of the library, mainly because the title caught my attention. And as I started looking through it, the beginnings of an entry began forming in my subconscious. And since today is Valentine's Day, it seemed to be the right time to finally write it, with some appropriately romantic music in the background. (In this case, that would be Bon Jovi's "You Give Love A Bad Name.")

As I said, it was the title that caught my attention. But as I flipped through the book, a few things surprised me. For one, Jennifer Love Hewitt is a pretty decent writer. For another, she seems to have a slightly twisted sense of humor (I like that in a person).

Some things didn't surprise me. For instance, her statement that she was a hopeless romantic. She came within a week of being a Valentine's Day baby, and for Persephone's sake, take a good look at her middle name, people! As Ms. Hewitt put it, "Hello? I was born to be a hopeless romantic." But then she started talking about how in at least one version of the Cupid myth, Cupid used his arrows to make people fall out of love. The more she thought about it, the more she realized that what she needed was to shoot Cupid (hence, the title of the book).

Nice idea, but I tend to think that shooting Cupid is letting him off way too easy. One illustration in the book shows Cupid smoking a cigarette, while a barrage of arrows is being fired at him. Nice, but that still isn't enough.

I think the proper treatment (or at least a good start) for Cupid would be to chain him to a rock, and have an eagle gnaw at his liver every day. The liver would regenerate overnight, just in time for the eagle to visit again. (For those of you who are less than completely cognizant with Greek mythology, that is the punishment meted out to Prometheus for giving fire to man.) I still think that might be much too mild a punishment for Cupid, though. There needs to be more pain involved.

I'm enjoying the rest of the book as well. There is one section, though, that still has me trying to decide whether it is really, really hilarious . . . or TMI. And of course, this is the section that caused me to search out the book in the first place. That would be the section on vajazzling.

Okay, a little backtrack. I first became aware of The Day I Shot Cupid after I caught a YouTube clip of Ms. Hewitt on Lopez Tonight. In the segment, she was talking with George Lopez about the book. She then totally surprised him by mentioning the section where she described having a . . . certain part of her anatomy decorated with Swarovski crystals. When she said that it looked like a little disco ball, Lopez replied, "Who said disco sucks?"

There is one thing about that section (pages 107-109 of the hardcover edition, by the way) that I am glad Ms. Hewitt mentioned. She said that the first week after she had this done, she had an uncontrollable urge to show off her decoration, but managed to resist. For that, I have to say one thing: Thank you very much, Ms. Hewitt. I feel quite certain that if you had given in to that urge, there would have been photos plastered all over the tabloids. And you have much more class than that.

When I logged into the LiveJournal side of The Janus Files, I discovered that the Writer's Block question of the day was, "If you had the power, would you permanently eliminate Valentine's Day?"

You know, it would be tempting. But if I eliminated Valentine's Day, I would also be eliminating the day after, when all of that candy in the stores is discounted 50% or more.

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OPEN: JANUS FILE #0377


"Go with throttle up."

Those words were spoken 25 years ago today. The last words received from the space shuttle Challenger just before it exploded, 73 seconds into its mission.

Five years ago, I wrote that I couldn't believe that it had been 20 years since the Challenger disaster. And now, it's hard to believe that another five years has passed. It doesn't seem that long. (As Douglas Adams said, time is an illusion caused by the passage of history, and history is an illusion caused by the passage of time.)

I've been taking a look at that entry today, and I have been trying to think of something that else that I didn't say five years ago. I'm having a hard time thinking of something new, though.

One of the people on my LiveJournal friends list mentioned a "joke" that started going around -- that NASA now stood for "Need Another Seven Astronauts." I'm glad I didn't hear that one 25 years ago. I probably would slammed my fist into someone's face, and more than likely done so without even thinking about it. The one so-called joke I heard that day was bad enough. I had stayed at home most of the day, watching the coverage on TV. When I finally went out that evening, someone told me that the bad jokes had already started. The one they had heard was, "Hey, what does this red button do?" That person didn't find it particularly funny, either.

I do remember The Tonight Show that night. Joan Rivers was the guest host that night. When she came out at the beginning of the show, she said that she just couldn't do a monologue that night. She was a firm believer in the adage "The show must go on," and she went on with a much more subdued show that night. It was probably one of the classier things I have seen her do.

I remember the Columbia breakup, and more vaguely, the Apollo 1 fire (the anniversary of which was yesterday). And I keep remembering the quote from Konstantin Tsiolkovsky (which once again, I hope I am not mangling too terribly): "Earth is the cradle of mankind, but we cannot stay in the cradle forever."

IN MEMORIAM
MISSION 51-L

Gregory Jarvis
Christa McAuliffe
Ronald McNair
Ellison Onizuka
Judith Resnick
Richard Scobee
Michael Smith

OV-099 Challenger

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OPEN: JANUS FILE #0376


In my last entry, I mentioned that I had a cold. While the worst of it was over in a couple of days, I still didn't feel like eating all that much for about a week. And that more or less put FoodQuest 2011 in standby mode for the same amount of time. On the other hand, I did put together (at least in my head) of restaurants where I had not eaten before, and I am fairly certain that I will have not only enough to cover FoodQuest 2011, but also FoodQuest 2012, should I decide to continue this little project next year.

I had recovered enough by last Sunday that I was ready to commence the project. I had even decided where I was going to go -- Jersey Mike's Subs. What I didn't realize last Sunday is that Jersey Mike's closes at 7:00 PM on Sundays. Want to guess when I went by there? Yeah, it was already closed when I got there. So, it was, "Okay, let's try this again next week." Fast forward to yesterday, and this time I was remembering to swing by Jersey Mike's before going anywhere else.

Before I go any further, I suspect I need to mention a couple of things, both of which are answers to questions you may be asking right about now. First, why haven't I gone by Jersey Mike's before now? Simple -- location, location, location. Jersey Mike's has only three locations in Louisville, and only one of those is anywhere close to where I live. By contrast, Subway has somewhere around 50 locations in the metro Louisville area (and this includes southern Indiana), and I can think of at least seven of those that are closer to where I live than the nearest Jersey Mike's.

I'm guessing that the second question is, "Why did you choose this place?" As I said when I first wrote about FoodQuest 2011, my goal is to go somewhere I have not visited previously. This is going to include both chains and local establishments alike. And while Jersey Mike's may fall closer into the category of fast food, I don't plan to make that particular distinction when choosing places for FoodQuest 2011. The only criterion I plan to use is that I have never eaten at the place before.

As I said, I wasn't going to make the same mistake twice, and I went to Jersey Mike's somewhere between 11:30 and 11:45 AM yesterday morning. I was the only customer at the time, and was hoping for a few minutes alone so that I could study the menu. That wasn't going to happen, however. I would say that it was less than two minutes later that a small crowd entered behind me. I was still deciding, so I told them to go ahead and order. The only problem there is that no one else was ready to order, either. I suspect that may have been just a little annoying to the staff, having a half dozen or so people, and no one wanting to order. Eventually, though, people started placing their orders.

By the time most of the crowd had placed their orders, I was ready to place my own order. I went with the "Famous Roast Beef & Provolone" sandwich, on wheat bread. (The menu lists it as #6, but there doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason to their numbering system.) I got it with tomatoes, pickles, and lettuce.

First, let's take the good. The bread was sturdy, chewy, and just crusty enough. When I order a sandwich, I want the bread to be able to hold everything together while I'm eating it. If the bread starts to disintegrate when I still have half of it to eat, I'm not particularly happy. Jersey Mike's bread holds up, or at least it did in this instance.

The roast beef was thinly sliced, and there was plenty of it. There was also plenty of lettuce. That's one thing that seems to be a constant with any sandwich place -- they always give you plenty of lettuce. So much, in fact, that there is almost always some that escapes from the confines of the bread, to be scooped up and eaten once the sandwich is finished. The lettuce and tomatoes looked fresh. At the very least, I didn't see any indication that they were not fresh, so I'm willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.

As I noted, while just about every sandwich place is generous with the lettuce, they seem to be less so with other toppings. This seems to hold true with Jersey Mike's; I wish they had put more pickles and tomatoes on my sandwich. When I go to Subway, I can usually get them to put more pickles on my sandwich; I'll have to see if the people at Jersey Mike's will do the same on a return visit.

Okay, I've noted the good, so now it's time to move on to the not so good. In this case, it's the cheese. While they put plenty of roast beef on my sandwich, they were somewhat stingy with the provolone. I knew it was there, but there was so little of it that it was hard to detect the flavor of the cheese among that of the roast beef and other toppings. I want to be able to taste the cheese, too! On the other hand, this was probably the only thing I didn't like about my sandwich.

I noticed five different TVs in the place, and it seemed that each one was tuned to a different channel. There was only one that had the sound on. That TV was tuned to The History Channel, and I kind of wished that all of the TVs had been tuned to the same channel. The TV with sound was out of my line of sight, and it was somewhat disconcerting to see one channel and be listening to another.

My overall impression? Not bad. As I noted, they could stand to put a little more cheese in their sandwiches. I picked up a comment card, and I will be making that specific comment.

Will I go back? Probably. I do want to give some of their other sandwiches a try; particularly their meatball sandwich. And it so happens that I hadn't checked my mailbox for a couple of days. I remembered to check it last night when I got home, and found one of those coupon mailers inside -- which included some coupons from Jersey Mike's. Might as well avail myself of their use -- and it might be worth a follow-up entry.

Jersey Mike's Subs
9156 Taylorsville Rd.
Louisville, KY

CLOSE: JANUS FILE #0376

OPEN: JANUS FILE #0376A
ADDENDUM

I just realized something that I should have mentioned last week. Last Monday was my anniversary. I started The Janus Files on January 17, 2004. The Xanga version, anyway; the LiveJournal version didn't begin until 2007 (although all of the older entries are backdated).

Wow, seven years. It really doesn't seem that long.

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OPEN: JANUS FILE #0375


If you asked me how I was doing Thursday evening, I would have told you that I thought I was coming down with a cold. After Friday, that would have definitely been, "I've got a cold."

I usually catch a cold only once a year. And it almost always follows a predictable pattern. It starts with an overall achy feeling, and a scratchy throat. I then start feeling like I am trying to run a marathon though molasses. At the same time, I start to feel like my body and my mind are quite in sync with each other. This is the worst part of the whole thing for me, and it usually lasts for 36 to 48 hours. After that, it's just a cough that lingers on for a week or two.

Thursday night, the ache and the scratchy throat began to make their presence known. There were a couple of other things as well. There are the occasional uncontrollable fits of coughing -- which kind of goes along with the scratchy throat, come to think of it. And the burning eyes that look even more bloodshot than usual when I look in the mirror. And I could drink less than half a cup of water, and seems that an hour later, it feels like I am having to pee a gallon or more. (Which is ridiculous, because the maximum capacity of my bladder is only about 500 milliliters.) Of course, this is probably a side-effect of the fact that I haven't felt like eating much in the way of solid food since Thursday night.

This actually seems to be a rather mild cold, all things considered. I really haven't felt all that congested. The worst part has been the coughing. At this point, I have coughed so much that any cough now hurts both in my throat and my diaphragm. I've been popping plenty of cough drops, and I have drunk quite a bit of tea with honey. It makes things feel better, at least for a little while. (Of course, there's that whole needing to pee thing an hour or so later, but it's a trade-off.)

I will say that I think I'm about ready to resort to the old family remedy -- equal amounts honey, lemon juice, and bourbon. It soothes the throat, and if you consume enough of it, you really don't care if you're sick or not. I would have already done so, but my good friend Jim Beam was absent from my condo. I had to go to Rite Aid this afternoon to pick up a bottle. Strictly for medicinal purposes, you understand.

At the moment, I kind of wish I had either a Snuggie or an electric blanket. Or perhaps both. There were a few times both Friday and Saturday nights when I was shivering uncontrollably. And this was despite wearing a sweatshirt, sweatpants, and socks, and burrowing under a couple of afghans, which under most circumstances keeps me quite warm.

I've had some trouble sleeping the past few nights. Part of it was the coughing, part of it was the constant need to get rid of surplus fluid from my system, and I think part of it was the shivering.

I'm starting to feel a little better. I suspected that this weekend was going to be the worst of this cold, and I've been been pleasantly surprised that it hasn't been any worse.

I will be more than happy once the cough finally goes away.

CLOSE: JANUS FILE #0375
 
 
 
 
 
 
OPEN: JANUS FILE #0374


Happy New Year, everyone! I certainly hope that your hangovers are not too severe.

I am guessing that at least some of you are making, or have made, resolutions for 2011. For the past two or three weeks, I had been thinking on and off about what my resolution for the new year might be. During the past week, I finally decided what that resolution would be.

The simple description can be found in the title for this entry. I'm calling the project "FoodQuest 2011."

I have decided that at least once a month, I am going to visit a restaurant that I have not visited before.

At the moment, I am trying to decide how easy or difficult this will really be. I can think of a number of places where I have visited once, maybe twice, and would like to revisit. Much as I might like to include them on the list, I'm not going to do it. I might include them as a sidebar, but not as part of the main FoodQuest.

One new restaurant a month. That's 12 restaurants in all. The question is, can I find them?

I know one category that will probably not appear on the list -- Chinese restaurants. It's not that I dislike Chinese food -- quite the contrary, in fact. My problem here is that I think I have tried most of the Chinese restaurants in my part of Louisville. If I can think of one or two where I have not previously eaten, they might just make the list.

I've also tried most of Louisville's local pizza establishments as well. I know I haven't tried Impellizzeri's Pizza, so that is definitely one for the list. And I don't think I have ever tried Za's Pizza, either. I know I have gone in and picked up their takeout menu, but I think that is it. I do know that Wick's, Bearno's, and Tony Boombozz are out.

One place that I have been wanting to try for a couple of years is Lynn's Paradise Cafe. I finally discovered its location a few months ago (more by accident than anything else), so FoodQuest is as good a reason for trying the place. And I am pretty certain that I will be visiting Molly Malone's for March (albeit sometime other than St. Patrick's Day).

And I am not restricting FoodQuest to strictly local establishments. I know of at least two or three chains that I have been wanting to visit, and again, this will give me a good enough reason to finally try them. And if I am lucky enough to do a little traveling this year, that will more than likely open new possibilities.

For the moment, though, let's focus on Louisville, and restaurants in Louisville. Does anyone have any suggestions that they would like to make? Please leave a comment, because I am always interested in trying new restaurants.

And yes, I do plan to write about each of the restaurants I visit, and post the writings here. I mean, what's the point of mentioning this resolution here if I don't?

FoodQuest 2011 begins . . . now.

CLOSE: JANUS FILE #0374
 
 
 
 
 
 
OPEN: JANUS FILE #0373


I like sandwiches. No, scratch that. I love sandwiches.

Don't get me wrong; I enjoy a good meal. But there are times when eating has to be quick and easy, and nothing fills those criteria quite like a sandwich.

I don't particularly obsess over sandwiches most of the time, but I have been thinking a little about the subject after my annual viewing of How The Grinch Stole Christmas. And this isn't as crazy as it might sound. Think about the song "You're A Mean One, Mr. Grinch," sung by the incomparable Thurl Ravenscroft. There's one line in the song that goes, "You're a three-decker sauerkraut and toadstool sandwich . . . with arsenic sauce!" It was that line that, during an idle moment, started me thinking. If you were going to call a sandwich "The Grinch," what would you put in it?

Obviously, I'm not going to include toadstools or arsenic sauce in it. Not only do I want to enjoy this sandwich, I want to survive consuming it so I can write about it. So, I need to consider alternatives that are not only palatable, but are also nontoxic.

First, let's consider the bread. My personal choice would be a thick-cut whole wheat or multigrain bread, or even a hearty sourdough bread. I'm trying to think whether or not to toast the bread, but that might be something I would have to try both ways.

From there, let's take a look at what goes inside the bread. The sauerkraut is fairly straightforward. My only consideration here would be that it would have to be well drained.

Since toadstools are definitely out, what about grilled portabello mushrooms? Depending on the size, one or two caps per sandwich would do quite nicely. And if you wanted to get a little more extravagant, add some sauteed mushrooms on top.

Now, for the "arsenic sauce." I'm thinking that it should be something spicy; something with a nice kick to it. In fact, I'm thinking of a sour cream-based horseradish sauce. One with a lot of horseradish in it.

Those would be the main ingredients, as delineated by the song. But what else might the Grinch sandwich include?

There are other lines in "You're A Mean One, Mr. Grinch" that reference food. The ones that would be most applicable here are "You've got garlic in your soul" and "Your heart's a dead tomato splotched with moldy purple spots." I think the garlic could be something added to the horseradish sauce to give it even more of a kick, or possibly added to the sauteed mushrooms if you were adding them. Sliced tomatoes -- without the moldy purple spots, thank you very much -- could be easily enough added.

And even though cheese isn't mentioned in "You're A Mean One, Mr. Grinch," I usually like some sort of cheese in my sandwiches. In this case, I think the right cheese would be a mild baby Swiss cheese. I want something that could melt quickly, and even serve to meld everything together.

Okay, Now I think I'm getting just a little hungry. I want to create a Grinch sandwich, just to see if the reality matches my visualization.

CLOSE: JANUS FILE #0373
 
 
 
 
 
 
OPEN: JANUS FILE #0372


I ride the bus. Most of the time, when I reach my stop, I'll tell the driver, "Watch out for the crazies, because they sure as hell won't be watching out for you." (If you've ever watched Hill Street Blues, remember Sgt. Esterhaus's admonition of "Let's be careful out there." I deliver my parting in much the same tone.) Usually, this will elicit a chuckle from the driver. Last Sunday, on the other had, was a prime example of why I leave with that parting shot.

If you read my last entry, you know that my bike was out of action last Sunday. Other than that, it was a normal day. I picked up the #23 bus right outside where I live, and I was riding it to Hikes Lane and Breckenridge Lane -- planning to transfer to another bus. I stood up as the bus neared my stop, which meant I had a clear view of what happened. The proverbial bird's eye view, as a matter of fact. A much clearer view than I really wanted.

Before I go any further, please keep in mind that it has been unseasonably cold in Louisville the past week or so. Normally, the high temperatures are in the mid-40s, and the lows are in the 30s. For the past week or so, however, the highs have only been in the 30s. Yes, this is relevant to my little tale -- as you will soon discover.

The speed limit there is 35 MPH, and the bus was probably going a little slower than that. It was a couple of blocks away from my stop when I noticed a car zipping past the bus; probably going just over the speed limit. Most of the time, this wouldn't pose much of a problem But if it wasn't a problem, I wouldn't be writing about it, now would I?

As the car raced past the bus, I started to say something scathing to the TARC driver about that car's need for speed in what is probably classified as a residential area. I didn't get to finish my comment, because right then, the car apparently hit what must have been a patch of black ice on the road.

The car started to skid. In fact, it executed a 90-degree skid; the likes of which I don't recall seeing outside of a movie or TV program. I would have found it quite impressive had the driver not come to a complete stop less than 10 yards in front of the bus -- and blocking both lanes of traffic.

I have to compliment the TARC driver. She managed to stop the bus without even coming close to the car. (If I had thought about it at the time, I would have called TARC the next day to offer my praise. Unfortunately, I didn't.) She waited -- somewhat impatiently, I should add -- while the idiot who had just pulled the skid got his car repositioned and drove off.

My parting shot to the driver was a little different this time. I told her, "Watch out for the crazies. As you just saw, they sure as hell aren't watching out for you."

She couldn't disagree with me there.

CLOSE: JANUS FILE #0372
 
 
 
 
 
 
OPEN: JANUS FILE #0371


Last week, I wrote about the crank arm on my bike falling off, and my various (mis)adventures trying to get it secured in its proper place. Once it was finally in place, I thought that was the end of the matter. I hoped it was the end of the matter, anyway.

If that had been of the matter, you would be reading something else right now. But you already know that, don't you?

It started late Saturday night. I was riding my bike home. It was the typical bike ride home; nothing out of the ordinary going on. Until I felt it, that is. Or maybe what I should say is, until I felt IT.

The wobble in my left pedal had returned.

I stopped for a minute to assess the situation. I think the first thing to go through my mind was I line I had read in a book recently:

"Crap crap crappity crap."

The good news was, I was a little over halfway home. The bad news was, I was still about halfway home, and I was reasonably certain that the crank arm wasn't going to stay attached for the rest of the ride. Compounding the problem was the fact that a light drizzle was falling; it didn't feel like it would get worse, but it was still enough to make things a little unpleasant.

It was long past the time that TARC had stopped running for the night. I was going to have to hope that the crank arm would stay on as long as possible, and since the bike shops were closed on Sunday, wait until Monday to try resolving the problem yet again.

I decided to coast between pedal strokes as long as possible. I realized that the more I pedaled, the sooner the arm would fall off. Yes, it was going to take longer, but it was also likely that it would shorten the distance that I would have to walk the bike home.

In spite of my best efforts, the crank arm finally fell off about a third of the remaining distance home. Well, I had given it my best try. Once it did fall off (with quite the audible "CLUNK!" as it hit the pavement, I might add), I stopped to pick up the pedal, stuck it in my jacket, and continued as best I could. Which wasn't as bad as it could have been, I might add. Instead of walking my bike home, I came up with the idea of pushing the bike (mostly with my left foot) while I was sitting on the bike. It was a little faster than walking the bike would have been. Just a little bit, though.

Once home, I put the bike problem out of my mind until Monday. Fortunately, my plans for Sunday didn't include going anywhere that wasn't readily accessible by TARC.

Monday morning, I set out once again with crank arm in my jacket. If anything good had come out of last week's exploits, I already knew that St. Matthews Schwinn was no longer in business. I could start somewhere else this time.

And I had a somewhere else in mind. It was Bardstown Road Cycles, a store I had patronized on occasion. That had been the location where I would have gone had Bicycle Sport not been able to reattach the crank arm last week. As far as I know at the moment, it was also the last bike store that was reasonably close to where I live. If they couldn't fix it, I was hoping they would be able to direct me to a store that could that was still somewhat nearby for me.

The good thing about this is that the same TARC route that runs in front of my complex takes me right to Bardstown Road Cycles -- the stop is just a few doors away from the store.

When I wheeled my bike in the side entrance, the guy at the register asked, "How are you doing?"

I said, "If you've got a crank arm, I'll be doing great."

He was on the phone, and he said, "Give me a few minutes, and I'll be right with you."

While I was waiting, someone else who worked in the store finished what he had been doing, and asked me what I needed. I gave him an abbreviated version of the events that I related in Janus File #0369. when I got to the part about St. Matthews Schwinn having gone out of business, he looked up and said, "I did not know that." (I heard that same sentence from the rest of the staff as well when I told the much longer version a little later.) As he was looking at the crank arm, I mentioned that the guy at VO2 had said that it had been hollowed out, and that was why my initial attempt to resecure the crank arm had been unsuccessful. But after taking a look at both the crank arm and the nut that holds it in place, the mechanic said that he didn't see anything wrong with the crank arm. On the other hand, it looked as though the nut had some stripped threads.

The mechanic told me that he wanted to try putting a new nut on first. He said that he believed in going for the less expensive option first, which in this case was replacing a nut that costs 50 cents as opposed to a crank arm that costs $20. That sounded like a pretty good idea to me, so I told him to proceed. As he was tightening the nut, I described my own attempt, and its rather ignominious result. He said that it could be a little tricky to get it as tight as necessary; a conclusion I had already reached about a week ago.

Once the nut was thoroughly tightened, and I paid for the transaction, I was on my way. I think it's going to hold this time. Of course, that's what I thought last time. At least now I know where I'm going to be taking my bike for any future repair work.

CLOSE: JANUS FILE #0371
 
 
 
 
 
 
OPEN: JANUS FILE #0370


As I think I have mentioned at least once or twice, I have a near-eidetic memory. I remember a very high percentage of what I see, read, hear, etc.

There is just one little downside to my memory. I also have a very strong and very random absentminded streak. When that comes into play, it's usually not a pretty sight. On those occasions, my memory comes pretty close to being as Swiss Cheesed as Sam Beckett's. And unfortunately, I don't have an hologram that only I can see giving me the necessary information.

By now, you've probably concluded that I am about to regale you with a tale of my absentmindedness. And you would be absolutely correct. Just sit right back, and enjoy the story.

It started late Wednesday night. I went to Kroger to get a few groceries. As is usually the case, several of the items were on special this week, and I pulled out my Kroger Plus card to get the discount during the checkout process. Once I paid for my purchase, I shouldered my backpack, gathered the shopping bag, and made my way home.

Everything was fine until the following day. As I was getting ready to go out, I noticed that my shoulder pouch was unzipped. I know it had been zipped the previous evening, because I had unzipped it to get my Kroger Plus card. I didn't think anything unusual, other than I had forgotten to zip the pouch after going through the checkout line. But something flashed through my mind. I looked inside, and quickly began running through a selection of choice expressions that would have given even George Carlin pause. Something that should have been the pouch -- wasn't.

That something was a card case. Now, it doesn't contain anything most of you would consider vital. You know, stuff like cash, or credit cards, or my ATM card. It didn't even have my library card inside. What it did contain was my Kroger Plus card, my Borders Reward card, my Books A Million discount card, my Qdoba card, my . . . all right, I think you get the idea. I keep all my various rewards/discount cards in it, and while I could eventually replace all of them (and have had to do so a couple of times), replacing everything would be a massive pain in the neck.

Even as I was discovering that the case was missing, I knew what had happened. Obviously, I had taken out the case the previous night when I was at Kroger. I remember putting the card back in the case, then putting it in the child seat of the grocery cart while I was getting everything else together. I thought I had picked up the case and put it back in my shoulder pouch. I thought wrong.

I was now reasonably certain that I had left the case in the basket when I left Kroger. I was also hoping that it had been turned in to the customer service desk, because having had to replace all those cards at least twice before, I was really not looking forward to the prospect of having to replace them once again. (I don't want to think what the people at Staples and Office Depot think of me, since I've had to call both of them multiple times to get replacement cards.)

At that point, I had to remind myself to take things one step at a time. Let's go to Kroger first, and see if by some chance it is there. Worry about replacing the cards if and only if it isn't there.

Fortunately, I was already planning to go in that general direction, so stopping by Kroger was little more than a side trip. I went to the customer service desk, told the girl behind the counter what had happened, and asked if anyone had turned in the case. She opened what I presume is the lost and found drawer, and I found myself holding my breath as she looked through the drawer. A moment later, she asked, "Is this it?" as she pulled the case out of the drawer and held it up for me to see.

I knew I had been holding my breath, because I suddenly released it in one big rush. I said, "Yes!" I'm pretty certain that was quickly followed by, "Iloveyou Iloveyou Iloveyou." I think she must have had this sort of thing happen more than once, because she merely chuckled at my response as she handed me the case.

Nothing was missing from the case, but then again, there really wasn't anything worth taking. I put the case in my shoulder pouch, and I made certain that it was securely zipped before I left the store.

Thank Ghu and Roscoe this wasn't a case of "Oops, I did it again."

CLOSE: JANUS FILE #0370
 
 
 
 
 
 
OPEN: JANUS FILE #0369


Okay, I've had my workout for the day. Actually, in the past two days, I have probably had enough of a workout for four or five days. And not by choice.

It didn't start that way. It was late yesterday morning. The plan was to go to Target to pick up a couple of things, then pick up the Sunday Courier-Journal, then go to Heine Brothers to check my email before meeting some friends for dinner. Sounds like a simple enough plan, right?

Things started going wrong before I even reached Target. I was biking through the parking lot of the Bashford Manor Kroger when I noticed something strange with the left pedal of my bike. For lack of a better term, it was wobbling. And when I stopped to take a look, the left crank arm fell off. Trust me, this is not supposed to happen.

After muttering a few choice expressions from George Carlin's repertoire, I quickly assessed the situation. Fortunately, there is an Auto Zone not far from where I was, and I knew I could get the tools necessary to reattach the crank arm. This also meant backtracking about half a block, because I had already ridden past it. Still, a minor problem at this point.

I went to Auto Zone, explained the problem to one of the staff, and he found the correct socket for the ratchet wrench. I still had the nut, because the crank arm has a little plastic cap for instances just like this one. I went outside, attached the crank arm in the correct position, and tightened the bolt. I thought I had tightened the nut sufficiently. (I know that some of you are snickering at this point, so you can stop right now! I've just barely begun this story!)

I went back into Auto Zone, returned the ratchet, and thanked the staff member for his assistance before resuming my trek to Target.

I made it to Target without further difficulty, and acquired the items I had planned to acquire. It was as I was on my way to Wal-Mart to pick up the C-J that I noticed something.

The crank arm was wobbling again.

Obviously, I had not tightened the nut as well as I could have -- or should have.

At this point, the alpha plan for the day was quickly disintegrating, and I was just as rapidly formulating the beta plan of action. Pick up the C-J, and try to make it home before the crank arm fell off again. Once I was home, call the friends I was going to meet for dinner, and have them pick me up at Heine Brothers instead of at my condo. Then, pick up the #23 TARC outside my condo, and ride it to Gardiner Lane Shopping Center.

The beta plan didn't last very long. I made it out of Wal-Mart's parking lot, but not much further than that. The crank arm fell off again while I was going through the parking lot of the adjacent Lowe's. More muttered choice comments, and the beta plan was being adjusted to my walking my bike home. I could have stopped by Auto Zone again, but I decided that it would probably be a better idea to just take my bike to St. Matthews Schwinn today, and let them deal with the crank arm.

I stuck the crank arm and pedal in the pocket of my jacket, and made the journey home. I called my friends, gave them the short version of my problems ("bike trouble"), and arranged for them to meet me at Heine Brothers. Then because walking my bike home took longer than riding it would have taken, I washed a load of laundry while waiting for the next bus to arrive.

Fortunately, nothing else went wrong the rest of the day, and my friends were greatly amused by my story.

Today, the plan was simple. Go to St. Matthews Schwinn, have them reattach the crank arm (presumably better than I had done), then be on my merry way.

You probably already have an idea of where this is going, don't you?

Getting to St. Matthews was uneventful; it was simply a matter of picking up TARC at the right times. I got off the bus a few blocks away from St. Matthews Schwinn (at the stop closest to the store), and walked the rest of the way without any problem. It was only when I approached the store that I noticed that it was virtually empty, and there was a sign directing people a few doors down if they were interested in purchasing any of their remaining inventory.

Oh, great. They've gone out of business.

I was walking away, weighing my options on where to go next, when either the building's owner or a representative of same was walking up to the store. She confirmed what I had already concluded; that the store which I had patronized for most of my bike repairs was indeed out of business. They had closed up shop just last week, and judging from her tone of voice, she was even more irritated by the turn of events than I was. She did mention another bike store a few blocks away. I thanked her for her information, and followed her directions.

I had never seen VO2 before today, mainly because it was several blocks off Shelbyville Road. (I would not have known where St. Matthews Schwinn was if i hadn't been a regular customer, and had been directed when they moved a couple of years ago.) Once again, I told what had happened to the person there. He told me he couldn't help me, because they didn't carry the parts for, as he put it, "department store bikes," and he thought the crank arm would need replacing.

Undaunted, I thanked him for his help, then hit the road again. I still had at least two places to try, and one of those, Bicycle Sport, was only a few blocks away. By this time, I was starting to get just a little irked, because pushing a bike probably take quite a bit more energy than simply riding it does. As I said, I was getting far more than my usual workout.

By the time I told my story to the people at Bicycle Sport, I more than likely could have turned it into a comedy routine. They seemed to find it somewhat amusing. One of the people looked at both the crank arm and the bolt to which it attaches, and decided that some grease on both the bolt and nut was the cause of the arm falling off. He gave both a thorough cleaning, then reattached the crank arm.

You probably will not be surprised when I say that I was feeling just a little trepidatious as I mounted my bike. With everything that had happened the past day or so, I would not have been surprised if the crank arm fell off the first time I put my foot on the pedal. I put my foot on it -- and the crank arm stayed where it was supposed to be.

I breathed a sigh of relief.

By this time, I know how it feels when something is going wrong with the crank arm. All too well, I might add. Everything seems to be functioning normally. Let's hope that the grease assessment was the correct one.

I don't want to go through this again.

CLOSE: JANUS FILE #0369
 
 
 
 
 
 
OPEN: JANUS FILE #0368


Well, November is coming to a close, and with it, another National Novel Writing Month (also known as NaNoWriMo). I didn't officially register as a NaNoWriMo participant, but I did give it a shot. My line of thinking was something like this: I'll start writing, and if it looks as though I will make the 50,000 word threshold, then I will sign up, submit my novel for verification, etcetera, etcetera.

It was a great idea, in theory.

I had an idea that I thought would make a novel-length work of fiction. I still do, as a matter of fact.

The first couple of days went more or less all right. I didn't get quite as much written as I wanted, but I figured everything would balance as the month went on. I figured that I would have days when I wrote more, and days that I wrote less.

That's when I experienced something that can only be described as the mental equivalent of driving along at 87 MPH, and instead of shifting from fourth to fifth gear, shifting from fourth to reverse.

Everything came to a grinding, screeching halt. And in a somewhat spectacular fashion, too, I might add.

It wasn't that I ran out of idea. The idea is still locked away in my brain, waiting to come out. What happened was that I got sidetracked for a couple of days, and ever since then, nothing is flowing through my fingertips to the keyboard.

And it's not like I haven't been writing. I have been writing various other things, including several entries here. I didn't have any problem writing anything except the novel. Definitely a case of Murphy's Law at work here.

I think I'll keep working with this story. I just don't plan on mentioning anything until I get it finished.

CLOSE: JANUS FILE #0368
 
 
 
 
 
 
OPEN: JANUS FILE #0367


I'm sure that most of you reading this have probably already read more than a few columns and/or blog entries on the topic of "What I'm Thankful For." It sounds as good a reason as any for an entry, so here's my take on the topic for this year.

At the moment, I'm thankful that Heine Brothers Coffee had at least a couple of locations open today. Even if my usual location (the one closest to home) wasn't one of the open ones. And I am thankful that the second closest store to home is one of the open stores. At a certain point, sitting around home just gets a little boring.

For that matter, I'm thankful that there are some restaurants that are open on Thanksgiving. For a number of reasons, my family can't get together for both Thanksgiving and Christmas, so we usually do the latter. Trying to cook a Thanksgiving meal for one . . . well, it just takes all the fun out of holiday cooking. And I can decide what I want to get. This year, it was Golden Corral -- steak over sushi.

I'm thankful for the usual litany -- family, friends, health.

I'm especially thankful for my niece and nephew. I love them to pieces, but they have made me realize that I would be a really terrible parent. I'm still indebted to my nephew, because ever since he was born, my mom has stopped asking me when I'm going to find a nice girl and settle down. (Probably not going to happen, Mom. At this point, I've concluded that there isn't a female on the entire planet that is that masochistic.)

I'm thankful for any and all of you who may be reading this, whether it's on Xanga or on LiveJournal. One of the things I discovered when I started The Janus Files was discovering other interesting journals on both sites. And I'm thankful that some of you leave comments, because that's the best way of knowing that there is an appreciative audience out there.

I'm thankful that I'm not Judith Griggs. Thankful that I didn't make myself the laughingstock of the Internet. And especially thankful that I didn't piss off over half the Internet in a spectacularly stupid fashion.

I'm thankful that the Republicans did so well in the recent elections. Sorry, but the Democrats strike me as being incapable of organizing a Cub Scout picnic, let alone the government.

I'm thankful that Blue Bell Ice Cream still packages their ice cream in half gallon cartons, and not the ever-shrinking cartons that other ice cream brands are forcing upon us.

I'm thankful for things like Velveeta, cream cheese, and condensed cream of mushroom soup, and all of the quick and easy recipes that can be made with conveniences like these.

I'm thankful that my Thanksgiving plans did not include getting felt up by the perverts with badges known as the TSA.

I'm even thankful that it's almost Christmas. Yes, Christmas shopping can be stressful, but watching my niece and nephew opening their presents, and seeing their eyes light up, makes it all worthwhile.

I hope that all of you have had a wonderful Thanksgiving, and that you didn't overstuff yourselves too much.

CLOSE: JANUS FILE #0367
 
 
 
 
 
 
OPEN: JANUS FILE #0366


Okay, it has been just about a week since an email sent from Cooks Source magazine to Monica Gaudio over unauthorized use of one of Ms. Gaudio's article ignited a firestorm of outrage against that magazine. (If you haven't heard about this, just scroll down and read my previous Janus File. That should give you at least the basic information on that little fiasco.) It appears that there is at least one person out there who doesn't appear to put much stock in learning from the mistakes of others, because he is about to make the very same mistake that Cooks Source did.

This time, it's happening to a writer named Suzanne McMinn, who runs a website called Chickens In The Road. She's also a photographer, and based on the photo I have seen on her website, she's a pretty good one at that. One photo on her site is of three goats belonging to some friends. Those friends have that photo on their own website -- with Ms. McMinn's permission, needless to say.

You can already tell where this one is going, can't you?

That photo also now appears in the November issue of Dairy Goat Journal; both in the print and online editions. From what Ms. McMinn has been able to ascertain, the photo was copied from her friends' website, and Ms. McMinn herself has been given neither proper credit not compensation for its use.

Ms. McMinn is not happy about this, to say the very least.

She contacted the publisher of Dairy Goat Journal in an attempt to politely resolve the matter. She asked that proper credit be given to her in the magazine's online edition. The publisher first told her, "It appears to be your photo," when comparing the photo in the magazine with the photo on Ms. McMinn's website. (I've seen the McMinn photo, and the page from Dairy Goat Journal with the disputed photo. trust me, this is the same photo.) And when she very politely listed her requirements for proper credit, the publisher hung up on her.

Okay, now she's pissed. (Hey, if I were in her position, I would be, too.)

Like Ms. Gaudio, Ms. McMinn wrote about this on her blog. And that blog entry managed to make itself known in a comment on the Whatever. I clicked on the link, and well, I think you know the rest.

First of all, how clueless is this publisher? Is he totally unaware of what has been happening this past week? Does he not realize that the Internet is probably now waiting for someone else to do something just as stupid as what Cooks Source did? Does he think that this couldn't happen again?

So far, most of the comments have been of the "I'm really disappointed" variety. Several of her readers have stated that they plan to cancel subscriptions to Dairy Goat Journal and other magazines published by the same company. But so far, no one has said or done anything that would indicate that Dairy Goat Journal is about to make the same mistake that Cooks Source made.

Repeat -- so far. How long is that going to last?

Stay tuned -- I think the Internet is about to pick up its pitchforks and torches again.

CLOSE: JANUS FILE #0366

OPEN: JANUS FILE #0366A
ADDENDUM

Okay, maybe the Internet won't be in an uproar, after all. What a difference less than a day makes.

I 've read the latest developments at Chickens In The Road, and it appears that the publisher of Dairy Goat Journal has decided not to go down the same rocky road that Cooks Source did. Ms. McMinn writes that the publisher called her after reading her most recent entries, and has agreed to pay her $2100 for the photo, which is triple what she would normally charge because of the original unauthorized usage.

The publisher also mentioned the Cooks Source fiasco, which leads me to believe that he had a very clear idea of what could easily become his worst nightmare.

Several commenters have suggested that Ms. McMinn should put a hold on celebrating until the check has arrived in her mailbox, been deposited, and (most importantly) cleared the bank. Good point. A rubber check would turn this from ugly to very ugly.

For the moment, though, I'm willing to believe that someone is willing to learn from the lessons of history, and is not going to repeat them.

CLOSE: JANUS FILE #0366A
 
 
 
 
 
 
OPEN: JANUS FILE #0365


In one of Tom Lehrer's songs, there is a line that goes, "Remember why the Good Lord made your eyes, so don't shade your eyes, but plagiarize, plagiarize, PLAGIARIZE!"

This was not a sentiment that was welcomed when I was in college. As I may have mentioned once or twice, I have a degree in journalism from Murray State University, and in most of my courses, the opposite was pounded into our skulls. Perhaps even twice as much in my journalism courses, this was pounded into our scholarly brains:

PLAGIARISM IS A BAD THING.

I feel quite sure that this holds true for any other institute of higher education you care to name. Which is why something I read yesterday had my jaw dropping faster than Wile E. Coyote's after the Roadrunner had just kicked in the afterburners.

It started when I was reading John Scalzi's blog, the Whatever. His first entry of the day was a tale of what can only be called stupidity above and beyond the call of duty. As a matter of fact, I think the last time I read about something this spectacularly stupid, it was on the website for The Darwin Awards, and there was a fatality involved.

Now, Mr. Scalzi was writing about something he read on the LiveJournal page of a young woman named Monica Gaudio (illadore), so I went to her site to get the story straight from the horse's mouth. It started with an article she posted online about apple pie, how it has been around longer than the US Of A, and how recipes for apple pie have evolved. Last week, a friend of Ms. Gaudio's saw the article printed in a magazine called Cooks Source, and contacted her to say, "Congratulations, and how did you get this published, anyway?"

Ms. Gaudio had no idea what her friend was talking about, but after a few minutes with Google, she found the Cooks Source website and their Facebook page. And she found her article, which to my understanding was a copy-and-paste job from the article posted at the Gode Cookery website.

Now, at this point, Ms. Gaudio was probably just a little miffed, and she contacted Cooks Source about the matter. When someone from Cooks Source asked her what she wanted, she said that she wanted an apology on the Facebook page, a printed apology in the magazine, and for Cooks Source to make a $130 donation to the Columbia School Of Journalism -- roughly, 10 cents per word for her article.

I am copying the response from Cooks Source directly from Ms. Gaudio's entry, because I want to get this correct. Seeing as how several news outlets have done the same, I don't think she will be too angry:

"Yes Monica, I have been doing this for 3 decades, having been an editor at The Voice, Housitonic Home and Connecticut Woman Magazine. I do know about copyright laws. It was "my bad" indeed, and, as the magazine is put together in long sessions, tired eyes and minds somethings forget to do these things.

But honestly Monica, the web is considered "public domain" and you should be happy we just didn't "lift" your whole article and put someone else's name on it! It happens a lot, clearly more than you are aware of, especially on college campuses, and the workplace. If you took offence and are unhappy, I am sorry, but you as a professional should know that the article we used written by you was in very bad need of editing, and is much better now than was originally. Now it will work well for your portfolio. For that reason, I have a bit of a difficult time with your requests for monetary gain, albeit for such a fine (and very wealthy!) institution. We put some time into rewrites, you should compensate me! I never charge young writers for advice or rewriting poorly written pieces, and have many who write for me... ALWAYS for free!"


(At this point, I should state that I have seen the article at Gode Cookery, and I feel certain that the "rewrites" were because Ms. Gaudio was quoting a number of medieval sources in the article. Quoted them precisely, retaining the medieval spelling. Do I really have to mention spelling has changed just a bit over the intervening centuries?)

Seriously? How could anyone be in journalism for 30 years and not have the slightest understanding of copyright law, the definition of plagiarism, and journalistic ethics? If I were to travel back in time to when I was in college, and present this to my Intro To Journalism course, I'm pretty certain that everyone in the class would have said, "What the hell was this editor thinking?" And don't get me started on what my professors would have said. "Scathing" would be far too mild a description of their comments.

She may have been miffed before, but now, she was seriously pissed off. (The phrase she used was "mad as hell.") She wrote about what had happened on her LiveJournal page, and was wondering what she should do next.

A funny thing then happened. The Internet got involved.

As I mentioned, John Scalzi wrote about it on his blog. Neil Gaiman and Wil Wheaton wrote about it on Twitter. Several mainstream media sources posted articles about it, including CNN, The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, Time, The Wall Street Journal, and The Guardian. And these are just the media outlets that I quickly found with a Google search.

As the story spread, more people read it, and "outrage" doesn't begin to describe the response. Those who read the story decided that Something Had To Be Done. And indeed, Something Was Done.

People started bombarding the Cooks Source website and Facebook page, making their displeasure known. I didn't read all the comments (At this point, I don't think it's possible), but some of the ones I was able read are some of the most vitriolic remarks I can remember seeing.

Someone on Facebook also started thinking -- Had Cooks Source engaged in acts of plagiarism besides this one? They started checking, and to make a long story short, the answer is yes. Oh, Zarquon, has Cooks Source engaged in acts of plagiarism! There's now a page on Facebook where people are documenting the magazine's history of plagiarism. Some of the sources from which Cooks Source has "lifted" articles (always writing for FREE!) include Martha Stewart, Paula Deen, the Food Network, and Disney. These entities were, until now, unaware of the plagiarism. That has changed.

I think the lawyers are about to get involved.

This isn't going to be pretty.

All because one editor was totally lacking in journalistic ethics, completely clueless as to what constitutes public domain, and arrogant enough to think she didn't have to pay when called on it.

I can think of only one way to end this entry. I'm sure that somebody somewhere has already used this riff on the old Master Card commercials -- probably multiple somebodies -- but this is the perfect fit:

Donation to Columbia School Of Journalism -- $130. Not becoming the laughingstock of the Internet -- PRICELESS.

CLOSE: JANUS FILE #0365
 
 
 
 
 
 
OPEN: JANUS FILE #0364


I think I may have mentioned this joke once before: A library calls one of its patrons to inform him that he has a book that is quite overdue. When the patron asks how big the fine is, he is told, "We're naming the new wing after you."

I was reminded of this joke after seeing an item in this past Sunday's Courier-Journal. The first paragraph says it all: "A novel checked out in 1975 from the College Of William & Mary library is back in the stacks."

According to the story, Pat Harkin, a William & Mary alumnus, found the copy of QB VII in a box, and finally returned it last week after intending to do so for the past few years. Harkin got off lightly; William & Mary's library has a fine cap of $35. If he had had to pay the full late fee (a dime a day at the current rate), it would have been somewhere around $1300. The story also mentions that Harkin made a cash donation to the library that was somewhere in between those two amounts.

I just have one little question about this story:

How the bloody hell did this guy even graduate?

I remember back a few centuries ago, when I was attending Murray State University. There was one thing that you could count on seeing at least once every semester in The Murray State NEWS. More than once, come to think of it. It was a reminder -- more of a warning, really -- to all seniors that would be graduating. They would have to settle all fines, parking tickets, fees, etc., before they could actually graduate. If I recall correctly, you couldn't even get a copy of your transcript if there were outstanding parking tickets.

I would think that most colleges and universities would have a similar policy regarding graduation. So, does William & Mary take a more . . . relaxed view toward unpaid fees? Or was this an instance of something occasionally slipping through the cracks?

Either way, I hope that Harkin finished reading QB VII before returning it. If he had it out for that long, he should have at least read it once.

CLOSE: JANUS FILE #0364
 
 
 
 
 
 
OPEN: JANUS FILE #0363


Gabriele Veneziano's theory of quantum physics states that everything is connected. If you watch CSI: NY, you've probably heard Mac Taylor saying some variation this, usually with the addition of "we just have to figure out how."

Over time, I have discovered that this can be an excellent way of describing Google searches. You may be searching for one thing, and discover something else entirely that fits the search criteria. Case in point: How do you think Alfred Hitchcock, Honor Blackman, Peter Lawford, Patrick Duffy, and even M. Night Shyamalan would appear in the same Google search? What is the starting point for this search?

I can see the wheels turning in your heads as you try to figure out this riddle. I can also see the somewhat blank expressions on your faces when you realize that you are unable to think of a solution to this puzzle. Which are quickly turning to somewhat irritated looks that say, "Enough, already! Quit trying to prolong the suspense, and just tell us!"

This particular search had its origin in Janus File #0359 -- the entry about how Lois Duncan's publisher is releasing updated versions of her suspense novels. Last week saw the release of the first three -- I Know What You Did Last Summer, Killing Mr. Griffin, and Don't Look Behind You. I remember seeing somewhere that the latter had been adapted into a made-for-cable-TV movie, and I was curious enough to read reviews of it.

(Actually, all three of these books have had dramatic adaptations. From what I've read, though, only two of them are worth watching. From what I can tell, both Killing Mr. Griffin and Don't Look Behind You stay fairly faithful to the books. I Know What You Did Last Summer is something else entirely. If it had stayed close to the book, the movie could have been a thriller worthy of Hitchcock himself. Unfortunately, you had a Hollywood hack of questionable talent, little if any imagination, overinflated ego, and a vision of himself as auteur who took the book and turned it into Just Another Teen Slasher Movie. Ed Wood could have done a better job turning I Know What You Did Last Summer into a movie. But I'm starting to digress, so I'll end my rant now.)

Let's see . . . where was I? Oh, yes. I went to Google, and I entered "don't look behind you movie" in the Search box. Actually, a number of options kept appearing as I entered the criteria, and the one I wanted came into view once I had typed "don't look be." I moved the cursor down to that option, and with a click of the mouse, I had my results.

As I anticipated, most of the initial links were of the adaptation of Ms. Duncan's book, which starred Patrick Duffy (and Pam Dawber, for that matter). But as I started scrolling through the search results, I received several surprises, one of which was a fairly pleasant one.

That particularly pleasant surprise was in the form of a number of links regarding a 1971 TV-movie, Ellery Queen: Don't Look Behind You. This movie was based on the Ellery Queen novel Cat Of Many Tails, and starred Peter Lawford in the title role. According to what I read on some of those pages, this movie was a pilot for an Ellery Queen TV series that didn't sell. I've seen Ellery Queen: Don't Look Behind You several times. I liked it, and I would love to get my hands on a copy. Unfortunately, I don't think it's available either on VHS or DVD.

Ellery Queen: Don't Look Behind You has Ellery on the track of a serial killer (nicknamed "The Hydra" by the newspapers) who uses dyed silk cords to strangle his victims -- blue cords for the male victims, pink cords for the female victims. Other than that, there doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason to how The Hydra chooses his victims, except that they keep getting progressively younger. I think Cat Of Many Tails is probably out of print (as are probably all of Ellery Queen's novels), but if you can find a copy, it's worth a read. You may have a better chance finding the book. (In the book, the newspapers gave the killer the nickname of "The Cat.")

The next search result that caught my attention wasn't for a movie, but instead an episode of a TV series. "Don't Look Behind You" was an episode of The Avengers. And here is where Honor Blackman figures into the various connections. This episode first aired in 1963, and Blackman (as Cathy Gale) is John Steed's partner, not the more familiar Emma Peel (played by Diana Rigg). I've never seen this episode -- come to think of it, I don't think I have seen any episodes of The Avengers that didn't star Diana Rigg. Hmmm . . . I may have to see if Wild & Woolly Video has any of the Honor Blackman episodes, and correct that oversight.

"Don't Look Behind You" was also the title of an episode of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, which first aired in 1962. I've never seen this episode, so I can't really comment on it.

And finally, we come to M. Night Shyamalan. This link is to a poster for his latest movie, Devil. Apparently, the poster uses the line "Don't look behind you . . . the devil's trapped in a lift." I haven't seen the poster for myself, because this search result has a warning that the site might harm my computer. I think I can forgo taking a look at the poster, seeing as how that seems to be the extent of using "don't look behind you."

I discovered one other set of connections from this search. The director of Don't Look Behind You was David Winning. I took a look at Winning's entry on Wikipedia, and it noted that his biggest studio movie to date was the second Power Rangers movie, Turbo: A Power Rangers Movie. Among the cast of that movie was Amy Jo Johnson, who also starred in the adaptation of (drumroll please) Killing Mr. Griffin.

When Mac Taylor and his CSIs discover how things are connected, they solve the crime for that week's episode. There may not be any crimes solved with a search like this, but the results are quite enlightening.

CLOSE: JANUS FILE #0363
 
 
 
 
 
 
OPEN: JANUS FILE #0362


[WARNING: I feel that I should warn you that what you are about to read is going to be a little graphic, and probably not very pleasant to read. You might want to scroll past this to another entry if you don't think you can handle it.]

I'm probably not what you would call a particularly nice person. As an example, on one email list to which I belong, I use the sobriquet "Angelus." And for those of you who are fans of Buffy The Vampire Slayer and/or Angel, and you are familiar with the whole Angel/Angelus dichotomy, yes, that is why I use the name.

I've described myself as hardboiled, cynical, callous, and lacking in compassion -- and those are my good points.

But every once in a while, I run across something that is so beyond the pale that it even stuns me. That's what happened to me a few days ago.

A few days ago, I visited The Theologian's Cafe, which is probably one of the most popular sites on Xanga. Dan is regularly featured on the Xanga front page, and he was featured there once again a few days ago. The title of this entry was "Girl Who Threw Puppies Into The River." And if you're thinking that isn't a particularly happy title . . . well, you're right.

The entry dealt with a video posted to YouTube a few weeks earlier. Calling the video horrifying would be far too much of an understatement. It showed a teenage girl (the age that I've seen most often is that she is 14) wearing a red hooded sweatshirt throwing six puppies into a fast-moving river.

The video lasts only 44 seconds. The video opens with the girl already in the windup with the first puppy. The camera follows the puppy as it flies through the air and hits the river with a visible splash. The camera then goes back to the girl as she bends down to a large plastic bucket where the other five puppies are awaiting their fate. One by one, she scoops up another puppy, winds up, and throws it into the river. As the fourth puppy is being thrown, you hear what sounds like someone saying, "Whee!"

The puppies aren't dead in this video. You see them squirming in the bucket and in the girl's hands. You hear them crying and whimpering. They look too young to even be capable of barking yet -- again, a couple of places that have reported this story say that the puppies were only three days old. And in a couple of stills I have seen from the video, the girl is clearly smiling.

What sort of person could do this?

For that matter, what sort of person would make a video of this atrocity, and then post it to YouTube? The girl clearly had an accomplice operating the camera while she threw the puppies into the river. That person could have (and should have) stopped her at any time, but he or she didn't. In my mind, the camera operator is just as culpable as the the girl.

Once the video was posted to YouTube, the details become just a little murky. The one thing of which I can be certain is that the overwhelming response was outrage. (And that's something of an understatement.) The video was determined to have been shot in Bosnia. Local authorities tracked down the girl, but for whatever (several have been given), they decided not to bring charges against her. And that set off even more outrage. I've seen quite a few comments on various websites stating that the girl should be thrown into a river. I agree, but her camera operator needs to get tossed along with her. Preferably after both have been outfitted with concrete galoshes.

Adding to the general murkiness has been a number of videos and stories popping up in response to the puppy-throwing. One was a story that a 75-year-old grandmother was able to rescue five of the puppies. I have my doubts about this one. For one thing, the puppies shown with this story were quite a bit bigger than the ones thrown in the river. For another, the puppies in the video had black and white fur; the "rescued" puppies were black and tan. Maybe this grandmother was able to rescue another batch of pups that were similarly mistreated. If that really is the case, more power to her. I just don't think it was this particular batch.

One video that was posted was supposedly a follow-up by the puppy-thrower, apologizing for what she did. The apology claims that the puppies were ill, that she had been told to get rid of them, and she didn't know of any other way to do it. That video is no longer on YouTube, because there was enough doubt as to its authenticity. This one is sick on just so many levels. Even if all the claims were true, and the puppies did have to be put down, there had to have been a more humane way of doing it. If I had been in that position, I would have found some other way of putting them down. Throwing them in a river was cruelty just for the sake of cruelty. (Quite frankly, if I'm going to engage in cruelty, it is going to be done for a specific purpose.)

Another reason the "apology" video irks me more than a little is that it was posted with the name of someone other than the girl in the video. Nice going -- divert attention from the real monster here by giving the name of someone who didn't do it. At least half the Internet is howling for the blood of the puppy-thrower, and we have someone pointing them in the wrong direction.

And there is one more thing that disturbs me about this incident. I've heard and read that torturing and mistreating small animals is how most serial killers get their start. This has me wondering -- a few years from now, will the puppy executioner become another Ted Bundy?

CLOSE: JANUS FILE #0362
 
 
 
 
 
 
OPEN: JANUS FILE #0361


As I've mentioned from time to time, I get around by bike. Which means that if I have to take anything with me (and that is just about all the time), a good backpack is essential.

Make that backpacks. I have several, in a number of different styles. For instance, if I'm making a quick run to Kroger, I'll grab one that usually stays empty. I'll stick some reusable shopping bags in it, and possibly the document case containing my TARC schedules, and off I go. There are a couple of sling packs that I use as auxiliary packs if I'm returning a bunch of books to the library (or if I'm anticipating checking out several books).

At the moment, my primary backpack is the one where my laptop spends most of its time when not in use. (That way, I know where it is. As I may have suggested at times, my condo is something of a Fibber McGee's closet.) It's made by High Sierra Sport Company. To be precise, it's their "Access" model.

The primary reason I chose this backpack, of course, is because it has a padded compartment for my laptop. After that, it was cargo space. I like a backpack that has lots of cargo space. Besides my laptop, I also carry the charger and wireless mouse, a couple of notebooks, and various and sundry other items.

While the main feature behind my choice of the Access was the laptop compartment, there was a feature I discovered after I purchased it. It has a built-in rain cover that tucks into its own compartment when not in use. Looking back on an occasion where I was caught in a downpour (and some of the things in the backpack I was using getting more than a little soaked), I thought this was possibly the best feature of all.

Unfortunately, the rain cover was also where I had a couple of minor problems with the backpack. The rain cover's compartment is at the bottom of the pack, and it zips closed when not in use. When I'm wearing the backpack, the zipper hits me just above the waistband of my slacks, and it rubs against my back. Even if I tuck in my shirt, it doesn't last long. A minor irritant, but one I can handle. The big problem occurred one day when I discovered that the slider of that zipper had become caught in the one of my belt loops. It happened as I was trying to take the pack off, and I discovered that it wouldn't. Not only was it impossible for me to take off the pack, I couldn't reach around to disengage the slider from the belt loop. Fortunately for me, this happened to me when I was on the bus, and I was able to recruit the aid of a fellow passenger. In the process of separating the zipper from the belt loop, the zipper was well and truly broken. (Better than having the damage done to my slacks, though.) Again, not a major problem, and the backpack was still able to perform normally. It just became a little difficult keeping the rain cover in its compartment when not in use.

Several weeks ago, I was looking at High Sierra's website. As I was glancing at the main page, one link in particular caught my eye -- the one that said "WARRANTY." I clicked, and quickly learned that most of High Sierra's products have a lifetime repair or replace warranty. (Products with wheels have only a five-year warranty.) With another click, I found the company's address, and I wrote a letter. I told them what had happened, and asked if this was covered under the warranty.

I mailed the letter, and about a week or so later, I received a letter from High Sierra. Yes, that was covered under their warranty, and they told me what I needed to do to return the pack. I followed the instructions, finally found a box large enough to hold the pack, and after dashing off another letter listing both the problem and the return authorization, I took it to the post office.

A few days later, I received an email from High Sierra. I had used my post office box, and since they were shipping by FedEx, they needed my home address. I replied with my address, and requested that a signature not be required. Hey, I live alone, and if I'm not at home, well, there's no one to sign for it. They sent an email when it was shipped, and said that I should receive it within a couple of days.

As I figured, the package arrived when I wasn't at home. On September 9, I returned home to find a rather large package resting against the door of my condo. One quick glance showed that it was indeed from High Sierra, and it was my backpack. (Yes, I am keeping the box. It should come in handy if the need arises to return it again.) In addition to my backpack, they included a $10 rebate coupon for my my next purchase of a High Sierra product. (That probably won't be until 2011, because I usually look around for backpacks during the back to school shopping season.)

A few days later, I was riding the bus. A woman and her daughter got off at the same stop I did, and at that point, I noticed that the daughter's backpack was also made by High Sierra. Not certain of the specific model, other than I could tell it wasn't an Access. I told the woman, "Good backpack," adding, "Mine's from the same company." I asked her if she knew about High Sierra's warranty. She didn't, and I gave her a somewhat condensed version of the story I just told you. I also gave her their website, and she said that she would have to check it out later.

I guess word of mouth is some of the best advertising. And good customer service, too.

CLOSE: JANUS FILE #0361