Went to dinner with Daughter at a hamburger place we like. The order-taker asked if I wanted a drink; I said no. Daughter said yes. While we were waiting she offered me some of her drink, and I took a sip, but said that's enough; not fair for me to decline a drink and then drink yours, if it's an unlimited-refill option.

This led to a wonderful conversation on ethics in soft-drink consumption, as I made the case that it was not right to share a drink if there was an unlimited refill policy. But it's just you, and it's not going to be a lot of pop. Doesn't affect the principle; it's a rationalization. But look around, you don't see wires hanging from the ceiling, paint peeling off the walls. They're doing okay. All right, then, how rich does someone have to be, for it to be moral to steal from them? Back and forth, arguments and counterarguments. New example: see this salt shaker - would it be wrong to take it home?


Correct. Now, if I wished, I could use every grain of salt on my French Fries, and that would not be a violation of the implied correct use. It would be a lot of salt, but there's no limit on salt usage. But would it be wrong if I poured out the salt and took it home?



Because you're saving it for later at another location.

Correct. And on it went with other examples, working back around to the issue of sharing pop. And then she laughed and showed me the cup.


THANKS A LOT MY BURGER. Except it proved my point: the cup gave permission. You cannot assume permission.

I do enjoy these times. Always enjoyed her company, but you can't argue ethics with a five-year-old. I mean, you do, constantly, after a fashion, but it's not the same.

Nothing is ever the same. For example:

Daughter wants to learn how to drive, and of course I'm not in favor of that. Teach them to drive, and the next thing you know, they're one step closer to independence and autonomy. I remember the conversation I had with my wife: are you really looking forward to walking past her room and seeing it empty? Walking in, picking up things on the shelf, brushing away a tear?

"No," she said, "but I still think she should go to kindergarten."

"THAT'S HOW IT STARTS. And the next thing you know you're cleaning everything out because you're staging the house for sale because it's the oh-joy-empty-nester downsizing fun time."

Well, of course, no, but parents know what I mean. Every step forward is a step away. Driving is a big thing, and when she drives it will make my life easier; the other day I took her to her class, picked her up, drove her home, drove her to the dentist, drove her home from the dentist, drove her to work. She got a ride back from friends. My main job that day? Transportation.

But I like it. I like being useful. A man needs to feel useful. But part of being useful is imparting skills to the next generation - important skills like "not using the left foot for the brake and the right for the gas," so we went to the school lot to practice. She'd driven around the church lot with Wife earlier that day, and loved it. She just loved it. When I suggested another practice session, I got a HECK YEAH and she bounded down the stairs.

I think she'll be a good driver - the proper mixture of respect and enjoyment. After doing the lot a few times we ventured into ACTUAL REAL STREETS, which involved OTHER CARS, and it really did feel surreal. I'm just not used to seeing her behind the wheel, because of course I'm not. But it's good. It's good that she's learning. Confidence! It's a delight to see.

When we pulled up in the lot, I put the car in park, pulled up the parking brake, and shut off the engine. Ready? Ready. She got out on her side and I got out on my side and we went around the back of the car, passing each other, heading in different directions, and when I got to the other side I felt more old and alone than I've ever felt in my life.

Of course, that's just a fleeting emotion. I have to laugh at it now, because it is a bit maudlin and dramatic, and also because I have numbed myself with alcohol. It's a lovely night out here in the gazebo! Grapefruit vodka and BAE brand fizzy grapefruit soda. It's a cocktail of my own invention. I call it the "Grapefruit vodka drink."

At least I waited until the sun went down.

Which was spectacular.


I'm always surprsied to see this stuff in bulk. Who saved it? Thank you, person who saved it, but why?


Super-enriched! Back when that was a good thing. Now it means CHEMICALS, of course, and we all know that you must eliminate all chemicals from your diet.

Bacon postcards.

Someone saved a hundred bacon postcards.




If you were with us last week - and I don't know why you wouldn't be - we continued the tale of the Government Agent who's fighting the Phantom League. They hijack trucks. Trucks carrying sensitive equipment. The Phantom League is run by a guy we see only in shadow, but we know damned well he's one of the men who owns a trucking company. Compared to Japanese masterminds and Crimson Ghosts, it's mild stuff, and it's been quite a clip-show so far.

The summary:

The old gurney trick. It's so powerful it makes cars change color:


Back at the board room, Hal tells the board that he suggests there's a leak in the organization, since everything he's told the board has been learned by the criminals. Hal tells them the government has decided to start shipping critical materials by train. He stands up and thanks everyone and says "That's it, gentlemen." The serial ends.

Just kidding! The Phantom League Phantom returns - gaze upon his indistinct shape, and tremble!

There's some Government Equipment in a warehouse, and if the henches will just go underground and cut a main line, all the alarms on the block will ring and no one will be able to tell who's being robbed.

And it works! This really needs Yackety Sax:


Hal says the thieves may have some stuff from the warehouse, but, as he explains to his spunky non-love interest secretary type woman, who has not yet been put in peril, the crooks will have to hit the train, because they have footage of bridges blowing up they haven't used yet. Well, no, but he might as well.

At the trainyard he finds Regan, the designated bad guy, and I think we know where this is headed. Jam on your hats tight, everyone:


This I love: the fellow throws a missed punch with such force he temporarily traps himself in a phone booth.



The crooks escape on a train that happens to be pulling out, and since there's no way a car can keep up with a train, Hal says "there's an airport on the edge of town" because of course they can fly and of course there's a plane ready to go.

Meanwhile, other henches are setting up dynamite to derail the train so they can steal the parts they need to add other parts so the Phantom League Phantom can sell the device to, as he put it, "a foreign power." The plane catches up with the train.

"Say, what's that distant, high droning sound I hear over the calamitous rattle of the wheels and the deafening sound of the engine?"


Oh hi it's some nice fly boys, come to say hello


Hal does the only sensible thing: he decides to parachute in front of the train.



Stupidest government agent ever. Good thing he's dead; someone competent can take over.

By the way: we didn't see the planted explosives go off. Anton Chekov is shaking his head.

(I like this one anyway. It's B-grade, but it's the abscence of technobabbly BS is frustrating.)


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