Where in the World is Alf? (Part XVI)

Following Part XV

May 18-25, 2003

Sunday, May 18, 2003

My boring-blog-drive from downtown to my driveway.

Monday, May 19, 2003 (pre-journal)

My friend, Dan, sent me this snapshot that was taken at his home in Taipei. It shows Miss CHINA and others. Apparently SARS is keeping his pool parties low-key.

Monday, May 19, 2003

Today was a very special day to celebrate with ice cream.

Guess why!

Tuesday, May 20, 2003

There are only four people who can identify this.

DURHAM, NC According to a Duke University study released Monday, a majority of human interaction and communication now occurs within the context of consumer product reviews on the Internet.

"In our increasingly soulless, mechanized world, it might seem that we're becoming more disconnected from those around us," said Duke sociology professor and study head Dr. Allan Piersall. "Well, the happy news is, people are talking to their fellow humans as much as ever. Only, they're most likely weighing in on the new Ferris polarized sunglasses from Eddie Bauer or expressing dismay over the lack of cleanliness at the Boca Raton Holiday Inn."

From the tens of millions of consumer reviews posted on retail giants like Amazon.com to the more specialized message boards of Motorcycle.com and Macaddict.com, Piersall estimated that 80 percent of all human discourse now takes the form of product reviews on the web.

While some online reviewers give little more than basic pros-and-cons of a product or a one- to five-star rating, many use the write-ups as a vital means of self-expression, providing in-depth anecdotes about their own experiences with a particular product, or even their autobiography. On Amazon.com, some reviewers create deeply personal Listmania! lists, such as "The Best Kung Fu Movies Ever" or "Things You Absolutely Need To Survive Working In A Cubicle."

"Through these product reviews, in which we fulfill our collective desire to guide our fellow humans to good purchasing decisions, a sense of community emerges," Piersall said. "But just as important, a sense of self emerges. By publicly expressing our feelings about the Coleman Quickbed air mattress, we tell people not merely about this product, but about ourselves."

With reviews running the gamut from commentary on the Criterion Collection DVD of Fellini's 8 1/2 to the usefulness of a portable Weber propane gas grill versus the traditional full-size standup model, Piersall said that "once again, we are talking."

Wednesday, May 21, 2003

Do matchbook collections ever reach the point of attaining a 'critical mass'?

The answer is "No" ... but do you know why?

Thursday, May 22, 2003

THOCBDC brings you yet another hard-to-identify 'corkscrew' picture. Can you find the little engine in the big picture? If not, 'click' for the cheat-peek.

Where's the Corkscrew?

Back in 1997 Holland and her mother, Pam, went ballooning with us at Chateau d'Oex. Back then she was keen on building snowmen and snowangels. But, six years is a long time in the life of a young girl. Anyway, her recent high school graduation picture does not give full-body 'credit' to this now long-legged runway model.

Holland Graduates

PS: From CNN Breaking News:

CAIRO, Egypt (May 21) - The Arab satellite station Al-Jazeera aired excerpts Wednesday of what it said was an audiotape of Osama bin Laden's top lieutenant calling on Muslims to imitate the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in strikes on the United States and its allies in the war on Iraq.

"Oh Muslims, take your decision against the embassies of America, England, Australia and Norway, their interests, their companies and their employees,'' the speaker said. ''Turn the earth under their feet into fire."

Hmmm ... Norway's Stormfjordfuheren ski-troops must have played a much bigger role in Iraq than what we thought. Or, maybe like most of the rest of the world, Osama's followers just plain hate Norwegian food.

Friday, May 23, 2003 (pre-journal)

A week ago today (May 16th) THOCBDC gushed forth with yet a new offering from the Texas penal system (via the ever useful conduit of Pen Pals Behind Bars) ... well, let's put it (her) in her own words:

Sex - Female
DOB - 03/21/76
Seeking - Women, Friends, Men, Legal Help
Race - Hispanic
Religion - Catholic
Convicted Of - Capital Murder
Release Date - LIFE Sentence

California Beauty
I'm 27 years old w/long brown hair and captivating eyes. I stand approx. 5'4" and weigh 135 beautifully shaped pounds. I'm a very outgoing, passionate open minded, and affectionate woman w/ a good sense of humor. I enjoy life and all it has to offer. I have a diversity of interests some being drawing, art, sports, travel, reading, dancing, aerobic, and cooking. I love the beach and the beauty of nature. I like spending time w/that special man in my life and I enjoy making him laugh and seeing him smile. I'm seeking for a man whom is open minded, non-judgemental and mentally, emotionally, and financially stable, who knows what a lady needs and likes.

Primavera Baltazar # 1135341
Terrace Prison
1401 State School Road
Gatesville, TX 76599 USA

Confused over the exact location of the Terrace Prison, THOCBDC wrote directly to the head jailer in Huntsville (*). This morning the Bilingual Ombudsman at the Texas Department of Corrections replied:

Subj: "Texas Department of Corrections"; TDCJ-ID  
Date: 5/23/2003 10:02:17 AM Eastern Daylight Time 
From: inst.xxxx@tdcj.state.tx.us 
To: Corkscrew@aol.com 

Dear A. Erickson:

This is in response to your recent inquiry regarding your possible interest
in corresponding with an offender "pen pal" incarcerated within the Texas
Department of Criminal Justice - Institutional Division (TDCJ-ID). The old
Texas Department of Corrections (TDC) was renamed TDCJ-ID in 1989, as a
result of legislative order.

Regarding corresponding with TDCJ-ID offenders who are unknown to you:
Please be aware that there is a high possibility that you will be making
yourself vulnerable to deception from these offender(s), and you may have
funds or assistance solicited from you out of manipulation more than out of
genuine need. This is unfortunately a common practice, conducted and carried
out with the assistance of persons in free society who act as agents to
secure the initial ad space on the Internet soliciting prison pen pals.
Offenders have no such access, and soliciting funds through deception is
strictly against TDCJ-ID rules for offenders. However, sadly, many continue
to endeavor in such for personal gain.

Regarding offender Baltazar, Primavera #1135341, records show that she
currently weighs 199 pounds, not 135. (**) She is in fact 27 years old 
and 5' 4" tall, and is serving a life sentence for 1 count of Capital Murder out 
of El Paso County. She will be eligible for parole review in May of 2041.

If we can be of further assistance please let us know.

Lxx Lxxxxxx
TDCJ-ID Bilingual Ombudsman

TDCJ-ID Office of Ombudsman (P.O. Box 99, Huntsville, TX 77342)
(936) 4xx-xxx1 - Fax (936) 4xx-xxx8  -  inst.xxxx@tdcj.state.tx.us
This information is provided to you in accordance with Section 493.016 Texas
Government Code, and Agency policy. An initial response will be provided
within ten days, with a final response usually within thirty days. Concerns
reported as "life threatening" are addressed on a priority basis.
Confidentiality requirements can restrict some information from being

* Prompted by THOCBDC's concern with its readers' need to know exactly where to send money and marriage proposals.

** Underlining provided by THOCBDC.

Friday, May 23, 2003

Almost six months after the event we finally got around to having the film developed:

Happy New Year

Saturday, May 24, 2003 (pre-journal)

Reader Tammy ... (well, accidental-reader Tammy) ... was browsing with one of the Image gadgets from a "widely used" search engine. She was looking for "really cute baby pictures" when she "came across your grim pickled baby pictures." But, let's let her pick up the story:

Subj: pickled babies
Date: 5/22/2003 1:32:20 PM Eastern Daylight Time
From: xxxx_tammy@hotmail.com
To: Alf@corkscrew-balloon.com

Hi Alf,

I was just looking for some really cute baby pictures when I came across your grim pickled baby pictures. I was quite emotionally disturbed when I saw them, as I'm sure you can quite well imagine I'm just wondering if there is any way for your to remove them from such a widely used image search engine??

It's not for the sake of people like me, but for young children who might be on the internet... once you've seen something, you don't forget it easily. Perhaps you should have a page on your site that gives people a warning of what to expect?

I don't know. By the way, what's the story behind the babies?

Sorry if this was inconvenient, but the pictures are quite disturbing, go on, admit it.



Concerned, THOCBDC went to various search engine Image-sweepers and typed in "really cute baby pictures" as well as "cute baby pictures" and even "baby pictures". Nothing 'pickled' popped up. Only when THOCBDC narrowed it's search to "dead pickled babies" did the inquiring engine offer up a glimpse of the contents of the Bangkok Museum of Forensic Science (Dept.: Babies, Dead & Pickled).

Normally only readers from Ogrish or referrals from the Widow Despair ever find their way to THOCBDC's exclusive 'mirror' of Si Quey's Place ... and when they do they spend precious little time looking at anything else. Being highly focused shoppers, rarely do they want to explore our world of old corkscrews, hot air balloons or elephant polo. Yes, in some ways Si Quey's Place is our own little dark secret ... one that caters to a ... ah ... dark crowd. Have YOU been there yet?

Saturday, May 24, 2003

Any glassed 'Bubbly' that is considerably larger than the standard bottle of Champagne (such as Magnums, Double Magnums ... and the bigger stuff, which can quickly range in size up to that of a diminutive teen-ager) should not be carried under-the-arm in the normal baguette position.

From Si Quey's Place

Sunday, May 25, 2003

Coming attraction .......

Next: Part XVII

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