Zen Stories To Tell Your Neighbor

Zen Stores to Tell Your Neighbor: One of the many things that shaped me into the bleeding heart,  curious and loving Pantheist I am today.

I was probably 12 or 13 years old when my mom showed me one of the Zen stories, and I loved it so much I read the rest as quickly as I could. Once or twice a year, I go back and read them all over again, and every I visit I end up seeing something new.

I especially love the reader comments at the end of each story. Some are deeply thoughtful, others are totally clueless or even sarcastic, but each one brings a new angle, and its a lot of fun to see the different interpretations. These anonymous, forgotten readers helped a young kid like me understand a little bit about what it all meant. Thank you, faceless dozens!

My personal favorite has always been Useless Life. The others are fantastic, don’t get me wrong, but Useless Life has always stuck with me.

There are so few survivors from “the old days” of the Internet, and most of them are blogs, now sporting clever designs and coordinating color schemes. I’m not saying they’ve forgotten their roots (indeed, many of them were trailblazers back then and don’t get nearly enough respect) but they’ve certainly updated with the times. Zen Stories is what it was when I first found it, and likely will be the same until the sad day its finally pulled offline forever. I find some comfort in that.

The Internet of today, series of tubes that it is, is constantly shifting, evolving and moving forward. It is flashy, dazzling and still blazing trails. Zen Stories is static, basic and simple. It is, after over 15 years, still there when I need it, quietly waiting. It is Zen, all the way, and I hope it brings as much pleasure to others as it has brought to me.

Clooney & Race Relations


I somehow stumbled across this old George Clooney article from the year 2000. I don’t know the man personally, but I hope he’s as chill now as he comes across in this interview. I used to love Playboy [insert for-the-articles pun here] and especially when they interview celebrities – they seem to have a way of getting the best stories, without all that a real pleasure to work with and it’s an honor to be nominated bullshit.

Aside from the story about Clooney choking David Russell – I can’t condone violence of any sort, but Russell’s been cruising for a bruising for some time now, from what I understand – there is also this anecdote that rings very true:

[The pig] was a little tiny baby when I was doing Roseanne. I saw him and said, “I want that.” I had a Harley then. I would put him in the saddle bags and ride. Now he’s as big as the bike. I could ride him to work. Man, I love him, but you learn as you get older to be more careful about impulse buying.

I had a brief guinea pig and bird phase myself, so I can relate.

Also: 10 Questions You’ve Always Wanted To Ask A White Person, which was brilliantly followed by: 10 Things A White Guy Has Always Wanted To Know About Black People. This is one of the the only time I’d ever advise anyone to read through the comments of an article discussing race. From there, I learned that Frito Pie is the great uniter, and everyone hates George W. Bush! I do love this delicious, intelligent and post-racial (ahem) world we’re living in.


(Hehe, “ween”.)

Halloween is one of the world’s oldest holidays, dating back thousands of years to the time of the ancient Celts. Contrary to popular belief, it is not based on any festivals for the dead, but rather a kind of new year and harvest celebration called Samhain. The Celts celebrated their new year on November 1, marking the end of summer and the beginning of typically dark and deadly winters.

Celts believed the boundary between this world and the next were blurred on Oct 31, allowing the souls of the dead to return to Earth for a brief period of time. These souls not only caused mischief on the crops and villagers, but also allowed the druids – Celtic priests – to make important predictions about the year to come. Huge bonfires were lit, where the people gathered in costume to make sacrifices to their deities and draw protection for the coming winter season.

Freaky stuff, right? And shockingly devoid of sexiness, considering how this once-sacred holiday is celebrated in the modern age.

Quick, what’s the least sexy thing you can think of? Off the top, let’s say a watermelon. Well, apparently not. (I admit the bite mark is cute)

Sexy fruit costumes, including pineapple and banana varieties, are in season this Halloween. Sexy sea turtle (well, of course) is also available, as is sexy name brand chocolate chew candy and pretty much anything else you can think of.

Look, I don’t have any issue with people stepping out looking like a sexy telegram, sexy bowl of Fiber One or whatever pings your kink. I do have a problem with anyone being charged $70 for a cheap yellow dress that has no outside purpose beyond vaguely resembling a banana. There is a better way. Sexy can be awesome, and it definitely does not have to be cliche. This Mileena  costume, for example, is pretty sweet and actually rather tame if you consider the inspiration. (I personally preferred Katana, in game and in life.)

Dr. Girlfriend can be done with only a few minor adjustments, or more crafty costumers can try their hand at Dr. Mrs. The MonarchSatyrs are technically supposed to be male, but get the room drunk enough and nobody will be in any position to criticize; a few well placed fur bits or plastic flowers and you’re ready to roam. Fans of Arrested Development need only a baby tee, glitter paint and a blonde wig to be Linday Funke in her infamous SLUT jailhouse outfit. Instead of the same old Marge Simpson, why not do a spoof of her Playboy pictorial (nsfw)?

Or say fuck it and go as a nudie mag. (nsfw) The way the industry is headed, why not?

Pack my box with five dozen liquor jugs

I’ve always been curious about the origins of ‘The quick brown fox jumps over a lazy dog’ but never bothered to find it out. Turns out its a pangram dating back to 1885.

Firstly: a pangram is a sentence that uses every letter of the alphabet at once, making them ideal for testing typewriters, keyboards and selling you on fonts. They exist in almost every language and can be complete proper sentences, like the dog and fox, or a perfect pangram, using each letter a single time, ex: Cwm fjord bank glyphs vext quiz, technically considered an anagram of the alphabet. There are even phonetic pangrams, focused on the pronunciation of the language rather than the letter itself.

It was first seen in The Michigan School Moderator in March 1885 as a suggested writing exercise. Since then, it has been redone (The original sentence began A quick brown fox, not The quick brown fox) and reused by everyone from Western Union to Microsoft. It maintains a firm place in American pop culture.

As I said, panagrams aren’t unique to English, and almost all languages have at least one popular panagram – even Klingon!  Sadly I am unable to reproduce it in the original Klingonian (?) characters, but it appropriately translates to: Because of your apparent audacity the depressed conqueror is willing to fight you.

If you’re bored to death of the fox and the dog, here’s a few other  pangrams to help test out your fancy new pen:

  • Jack, love my big wad of sphinx quartz!
  • My ex pub quiz crowd gave joyful thanks.
  • A quick chop jolted my big sexy frozen wives.
  • Watch “Jeopardy!”, Alex Trebek’s fun TV quiz game.
  • Pack my box with five dozen liquor jugs (my personal favorite)

The purpose of pruning: an updated theory

Anyone who has even taken a swim or gone through puberty knows that prolonged contact with water (such as in a pool or ocean, or in your sweaty shoes) will prune up  your digits for some length of time.

The popular theory goes thusly, as explained in 2001:

When hands are soaked in water, the keratin absorbs it and swells. The inside of the fingers, however, does not swell. As a result, there is relatively too much stratum corneum and it wrinkles, just like a gathered skirt. This bunching up occurs on fingers and toes because the epidermis is much thicker on the hands and feet than elsewhere on the body. (The hair and nails, which contain different types of keratin, also absorb some water. This is why the nails get softer after bathing or doing the dishes.)

Run that through the Straight Dope Laym-man’s Terms Generator and we get this, from 1987:

Since the underlying tissue doesn’t absorb water, the stratum corneum [very thin, topmost layer of skin] can’t spread out and it buckles like asphalt on the highway in the summer sun.

THE UPDATE! I recall reading several months ago about a new study on why fingers, toes, and sometimes entire soles wrinkle up when wet for long periods. At that time, I did not have a blog, so I probably prattled on about it to my husband as he put his smiles and nods on autopilot and read something political online. However, I was reminded again of this misunderstood phenomenon when I came across a NYT article that blows the absorbed-moisture theory out of the, well, water.

Basically, absorption doesn’t have a damn thing to do with it. In fact, there’s absolutely no absorbing going on at all. It’s all about traction. Like a tire, your fingers can’t grip when wet, but add some water redirecting groves courtesy of the central nervous system and you’re practically Spider Man.

In the study, an evolutionary neurobiologist and his co-authors examined 28 fingers [ed: photos of fingers, actually] wrinkled by water. They found that they all had the same pattern of unconnected channels diverging away from one another as they got more distant from the fingertips.

I like my major scientific studies with a few more than 28 fingertips involved, but this new theory does make a lot of sense, especially when you consider this: nearly a century ago surgeons observed that no wrinkling occurs if a nerve to the finger has been cut.

Fun trick to scare your children:  pierce through just the stratum corneum of your fingertip with a (STERILIZED!!1) needle ** and then chase them around the house, moaning. It doesn’t hurt even a little bit, since the topmost layer is only dead skin. As a decorated honors student in junior high, I freaked out my friends on more than one occasion with needles jutting out of the pads of my fingers like a poor man’s Wolverine.

** DON’T DO THIS. It can be done, is all I’m saying.

A strikingly indecent society

What made being alive almost worthwhile to me, besides music, was all the saints I met, who could be anywhere. By saints I mean people who behaved decently in a strikingly indecent society.


It is daylight in Afghanistan. There are many unwelcome fires there, and, many, many human beings are trying to put them out.

– Kurt Vonnegut / photo credit

Earwax facts

This particular subject is on my mind for two reasons:

  1. My husband’s  got a nasty ear infection, of which he has a long history.
  2. I got a real humdinger of cerumen out this morning, that so impressed me I just had to brag.

Cerumen – in case you, like me, didn’t know – is just another word for earwax. Like most other gross excretions, ear wax is made by your body, for your body, primarily with dead skin, protein and fatty acids. Earwax helps  you by protecting and lubing up the ear canal. Lesser duties include protection against infection, insects and water – we think. The actual scientific functions of cerumen is not certainly known.

DID YOU KNOW? There are two types of earwax: wet and dry. It’s all in the genes: a single gene mutation determines your wax type, which is believed to be linked to ethnicity. The dominant wet wax is most common in White and Black individuals, while the recessive dry wax is seen primarily in Asians and Native Americans. No more than 3% of those of European and African descent have dry wax, but over 95% of East Asians do.

Obviously, ethnicity is not the final factor in deciding what earwax you’ll spend your life with. I’ll let The NYT take us home:

The single mutation in the earwax gene is one in which a G (for guanine) is replaced with an A (for adenine). People who inherit the version of the gene that has A from both parents have dry earwax. Those who carry two of the G versions, or one G and one A, are destined to live with wet earwax.

I cannot say for sure what gender, sexual orientation or hair color my future babies will inherit, but I do know that my cerumen  will go on. Call me strange, but I find that both comforting and fascinating.