Wednesday, December 30, 2009

OK, Really Quick

It's entirely possible that I'll be away from my computer for some time to come, not that it would make any difference in the frequency of my posts. I just couldn't let that time go by without this acknowledgement.

I know it's been a month or so, but you may recall a feeling of goodwill and a general sense that things were better on November 30 of this year. That's because Bilbo and I managed to get together for some conversation, a couple of drinks, and some tuna sashimi. We're currently awaiting our Nobel prizes for solving all the world's problems during that two-hour session. I think the committee may not have my address right.

After we had satisfied ourselves that the world would be a better place if people just listened to us, Bilbo mentioned our meeting in his next day's blog post, and had this to say: "Since Gilahi hasn't mentioned this earth-shaking event on his blog yet, let me just say that I found the self-described 'aging hippie' to be a funny, erudite fellow with whom I have much in common ... particularly a sense of humor that appreciates the Marx Brothers, Steven Wright, and the immortal Red Skelton. Sadly, we only had two hours in which to solve the world's problems, which wasn't quite enough, so we've agreed to get together again and give it another shot. We can't do any worse than Congress."

I too particulary enjoyed our chat and found Bilbo to be engaging, funny, and a pretty great storyteller (queue "Mutual Admiration Society"). If you ever get a chance, get him to tell you how he met his wife.

I sort of felt bad after he posted the glowing compliments about me. I was just going to say that I felt that neither of us was as obnoxious in person as we appear to be in our blogs.

We plan to get together again, so when you get your big tax refund, all the soldiers come home from overseas, health care is free, the weather is warm, and you see a rainbow, you'll know who to thank.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Such a Deal!

I know that I've used a lot of space here to talk about English abuse. It's a button of mine. Deal with it.

We've all seen and discussed less/fewer, lose/loose, there's no "a" in "definitely", everyday/every day, etc., but this one is just so incredibly ridiculous (no "e" in "ridiculous") that I must admit it never even occurred to me:



Having said that, if you've never visited oddlyspecific.com, I highly recommend it.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A Different Take On An Old Classic

OK, since it's the day before a long holiday weekend and nobody's going to be reading this anyway, I thought I'd do something quick just to have something out there.

My daughter sent me this link, which I'd never seen, so I thought I'd pass it along in case there was anybody else out there that had missed it. Besides, how can you not love The Muppets?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

"Oh. That's very different." - Emily Litella

I was watching Food Network the other day. Despite the fact that I was slipping in and out of a nap, I was surprised by the political tone the network has taken on.

It seems that on nearly every show, the host was telling me to "cool it on Iraq". Now I don't know if they meant that we should be withdrawing troops or just being more patient with the whole ordeal, but I don't really believe that Food Network is the right venue for this sort of political posturing.

There seems to be some feeling among the stars of the network that some other countries may not be up to speed on the whole situation over there. Giada De Laurentiis was saying something about preparing Turkey on Iraq, while Bobby Flay was going a step further and suggesting that we actually "grill" Turkey on Iraq. Rachael Ray, being the cutesy, word-combining, muffin that she is, went so far as to suggest, I believe, that the two countries be combined into one. As she was cooking, she mentioned something called "Turkey-Raq". The countries do share a border, so maybe one big country might not be such a difficult thing to do.

What I don't understand, though, is how preparing (or even grilling) Turkey on Iraq will help us "cut back" on Greece, but that seemed to be an overriding concern. Apparently Greece is something to be avoided, but I understand that the coast there is beautiful.

Further in the political arena, Ina Garten is apparently pleased with President Obama's recent diplomatic forays, as she was going on and on about the benefits of sitting down to dinner with China. She's the only person I've ever heard refer to the country as "the good" China, though. Who knew that someone who lives and cooks in The Hamptons could be such a blatant commie?

The most disturbing thing I heard all afternoon was from the local network scientist, Alton Brown. As nearly as I could tell in my sleepy, dreamy state, he's very much in favor of keeping the nuclear option open, no matter what the conflict is. Despite the new openness in the banks, allowing The United States to collect billions in untapped tax revenues, Mr. Brown was insisting on how good it would be to have the Swiss charred.

I should really try to pay more attention, I guess.

Monday, November 23, 2009

"In... and out..." - Pink Floyd

All right, folks. It's geek time again.

I'm currently on a medication that comes in inhaler form. Attached to each bottle is a multipage document that tells me all of the awful possible side-effects, how to use it, etc. The other day, however, I noticed this on the side of the box for the first time:


"outsert"?

Really?

I've gotta say that in all my years of doing word puzzles and being generally, if not justifiably, proud of my vocabulary and all that, I've never seen or heard the word "outsert".

So, I went to that source of all knowledge, the internet, and asked Google to "define: outsert". Much to my surprise, it came up with 3 definitions.

  • An outsert is a four page card wrapped around and attached to the outside of a magazine or other publication.
  • Any additional printed piece included in a polybag and mailed with the host publication
  • Printed material attached to the outside rather than inserted into a package. Also, package outsert.
Who knew!? So that makes me wonder about the etymology of the word "insert", of which "outsert" is obviously a variant. The online etymology dictionary tells me that the origin of "insert" is:
1529, from pp. of M.E. inseren, from L. inserere "to put in," from in- "in" + serere "join together" (see "series").
OK! So obviously an "outsert" must be from "outserere", which means "out" + "join togeth..."

Wait a minute. The only way this can possibly make any sense at all is if we assume that it's all right to take any word that begins with an "in-" and, if it doesn't quite work for us, substitute an "out-". I believe this may be an idea whose time has come.

I have to say that before I did all this research I was a bit confused by the word, but having looked it up, it has become downright outcomprehensible.

Over the years, I've been outvolved in many, sometimes outtense, conversations about the outtricacies of the English language. If you're of an outquisitive nature, just a little outvestigation can reveal a not outsubstantial number of outtimate, outvaluable details about words, usages, origins and outsights outto the language. It is outteresting to think that this outformation could help you in many ways, from communication to reading comprehension. You could really impress your future boss at an outterview. Imagine not having to struggle with the outdecision of being afraid of using the outcorrect word. You might even become less outhibited about speaking in public. Why, the possibilities are almost outconceivable!

So my pleasure in finding this was pretty much outdescribable. I have outserted a new word outto my vocabulary. One of the cool things about English is that new words can be outtroduced without being outvasive. Some words become accepted, others become downright outactive. This outdomitable language continues to outvite change. It outtercepts new ideas and outcorporates them. It outgests foreign terms. It outcreases daily. There is an outherent evolution to it.

Bear in mind however, and I don't mean to be outdelicate here, that no matter how much you may learn about English, no matter how big your vocabulary becomes, you're never outfallible.

Friday, November 13, 2009

All Right Already



Thanks to all of you who keep asking me why I'm not posting. I'm very sorry, but once again there are things going on in my life that appear to be gagging my muse. And by gagging I mean "applying a gag to", and by "my muse" I mean my inspiration.

I think it says a lot about my readers that I felt the need to explain the phrase "gagging my muse".

Anyway, since J. M. Tewkesbury told me this morning that she was getting more and more disturbed by the giant bug that she sees every time she checks my blog (see previous entry), I just thought I'd pop something in here quickly for a change of pace.

I think the picture above brings a whole new meaning to the term "handicapped bathroom", and brings to mind the question of the day: Are handicapped stalls in public restrooms reserved for the handicapped, or are they simply there for the convenience of the handicapped?

Discuss.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

"I've had enough bad news to last a lifetime" - Del Amitri


OK, it's been a stressful couple of weeks for me. I'm going to try to write about it without getting into too many specifics because, well, you just don't need to know them.

In a nutshell, a two-week period a couple of weeks ago involved 3 different doctors, a dentist (just coincidental) and a blood test at the lab.

For the past two years, I've had an issue with some wee beasties swimming around in my bloodstream. They can check your blood for certain markers that indicate the evidence of said beasties. As I understand it, any numbers below 10 mean you don' t have the beasties, any numbers from 11 to 100 are inconclusive, and any numbers over 1oo indicate the positive presence of the beasties. My first blood test indicated markers over the 1,000 level. Now this isn't dangerous, but it's a little off-putting, if you know what I mean, to know that there are little wee beastie parties going on in your body. There's nothing to be done to evict the beasties except to wait for them to get tired of the neighborhood and decide to move on.

Anyway, every 6 months or so I'd get another blood test and every time, my numbers would actually increase. Apparently the beasties found my body a very attractive place to live. I mean, the temperature's a pretty constant 98.6 degrees F, food is provided daily, lots of entertainment opportunities, housing prices are low, the schools are good, nearby shopping, and so forth.

On my last doctor visit, he prescribed yet another blood test and explained to me that some people never get rid of the beasties and go on to live, and I love this phrase, perfectly normal lives. This is the same guy who would describe a truck full of Jell-O Pudding rolling over your chest as "a little pressure". Anyway, as I was about to leave, he asked if there were any other issues and, like the addle-pated idiot that I am, I mentioned a small development that had occurred recently. He immediately got the doctoral look of concern and demanded to check me out. He poked, he prodded, he actually inserted things into me. He then declared that I would probably need surgery and referred me to a surgeon.

So the next morning I go to the lab and get impaled for a blood test. A few days later, I go to see the surgeon. He poked, he prodded, he inserted things into me. He asked how old I was. When I told him that I was 52, he asked when I had my last colonoscopy. I told him that I'd never had a colonoscopy. He said that he wouldn't even consider operating on me until I had a pre-op colonoscopy and a pre-op checkup with my physician including an EKG. He then referred me to a gastroenterologist.

So a few days later I go to see the third doctor. I got a description which sounded to me like, "We move a full crew and lots of heavy machinery into your body, burn off anything that's in the way, snip off anything we don't like, and get lots of before-and-after photos. It's incredibly painful, but you'll be unconscious." You're damn straight I will.

I won't give you any information at all about the day-before preparation for the colonoscopy, except to say that I was very disappointed to learn that vodka does not count as a "clear liquid" for these purposes.

So I'm in for the procedure. I can tell that my body is in full retreat because they had to stab me 3 times before they found a vein. I'm wearing a T-shirt, socks, and a gown that's, shall we say, immodest. They had me roll over on my side and I watched as the doctor put the hypodermic into the IV drip (it was a clear liquid, I would've rather gone with the vodka). The last thing I remember seeing was the large television set on which my intestinal tract would soon be displayed in hi-def. This, folks, is reality TV.

Finally, we come to the good news. Six months ago, the markers for the wee beasties in my bloodstream had escalated to 3,435. In this last blood test, the number was down to 8. Remember that anything below 10 means no infection. Also, after the procedure, the gastroenterologist told me that everything looked good and that, to quote him, "Surgery is not indicated." Just as the three greatest words in the English language are "I love you", the 4 greatest words are "surgery is not indicated". Trust me.

Plus I got a whole folder full of pictures of my innards.

No, no matter how much you beg, I will not post them here.

I'm hale and healthy, folks. Also, next week starts two weeks' vacation for me, and I get to enjoy it knowing that I'm wee beastie-free and I don't have the prospect of surgery hanging over my head.

For all of these things, I am grateful.

Gone, gone at last, gone at last
Gone at last, gone at last
I had a long streak of that bad luck
But I'm prayin' it's gone at last
--Paul Simon

Monday, October 5, 2009

Unclear On The Concepts

I don't know if it's me or if things around me have started changing. I find myself uttering the phrase, "You're kidding, right?" a whole lot more often than I used to.

We went to the movies yesterday (The Invention of Lying, a very funny concept that could have easily been condensed into a 5-minute Saturday Night Live skit but was a bit stretched for a 2-hour movie). Before going into the theater, we made the ritual stop at the concession counter.

If you've been to the movies lately, you know that a small popcorn comes in grocery sack and a small drink comes in a 55-gallon drum. A large popcorn is backed in on a flatbed truck and a large drink is delivered via fuel tanker. We ordered a small popcorn and a small Mr. Pibb. The guy behind the counter asked if we'd like to upgrade to a large and informed us that by doing so, we'd get free refills.

?

Is it just me? If I've ordered the smallest version of something that you offer, would I ever want to get the larger version if all that gets me is even more of what I've just ordered? Who came up with this marketing ploy? Does anybody ever accept this offer? If so, why?

I can see where this might work at, say, a bar. If I ordered a margarita and the waitperson told me that if I got a jumbo margarita then I could get free refills, I'd certainly go for it. But if I don't think I can even finish your smallest pork chop, don't try to sell me a whole pork loin by telling me that I have the option for free pigs.

And now, a brief word on conjunctions. Before the movie, our good friends at Sprint put a reminder on the screen that said, "Don't forget to silence your cell phone and enjoy the movie", which immediately prompted me to say, "Gosh, I remembered to silence my cell phone, but I forgot to enjoy the movie." You see, these were two different, unrelated concepts that they were trying to convey here. They didn't need the "and", and it changed the whole meaning of the sentence. What they wanted there was two sentences: "Don't forget to silence your cell phone. Enjoy the movie."

Yeah, yeah, I know. Trivial little English language peeve. Nobody except Bilbo and me cares. However conjunctions can make a difference in interpretation. Consider the following two sentences:

1) He's got long hair and he's brilliant.

2) He's got long hair but he's brilliant.

When using "and", the first clause is simply descriptive. When using "but", there's an implication that he's brilliant despite the fact that he has long hair, and therefore that long-haired guys are not, as a rule, particularly smart.

Not sure how I got off on this tangent when I was talking about popcorn.

"It was a stupid post and I read the whole thing."

"It was a stupid post but I read the whole thing."

Come to think of it, conjunctions may not necessarily make such a big difference after all.

He's kidding, right?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Good Day/Bad Day

It's good to know that during these trying times, equal weight is being given to the important issues of our day.

Good day for: The other half, as federal prosecutors in New York said a review of Bernard Madoff's records showed that only about 50 percent of the jailed financier's customers had lost money -- the rest withdrew more money from their accounts than they deposited. Madoff is serving a 150-year prison sentence for cheating clients out of billions of dollars. (CNBC)

Bad day for: Inequality, as a British store, Debenhams, is launching a line of underpants for left-handed men. The underwear -- made by U.K.-based Hom -- will have a horizontal opening instead of a vertical slit accessed from the right-hand side. The innovation is supposed to help save time and embarrassment for those accessing the area from the left. "In our view," said Rob Faucherand of Debenhams, "this is a vital step toward equality for left-handed men." (Reuters)

And I loved this quote concerning the configuration of right-handed underwear from the Reuters article so much that I feel compelled to add it here:

Almost 10 percent of British men are believed to be left handed but men's Y-fronted underpants have traditionally had a right handed opening from the time they were invented in 1935.

"As a result," Debenhams said, "left handed men have to reach much further into their pants, performing a Z shaped maneuver through two 180 degree angles before achieving the result that right handed men perform with ease."

So any of you left-handed men out there who were lucky enough to make money from Mr. Madoff's schemes should get your hands out of your pants and stock up. Unless you just enjoy that kind of thing.

So where are the left-handed bras that have the hooks on the other side?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

In A Land Called Honalee


We were heading back from lovely New Jersey (lovely in the sense that it could be seen in the rear-view mirror). We had received a very nice gift basket from my in-laws which contained, among other things, a large bar of Mandarin Orange and Bergamot Scented Soap. Given the length and scenic-ness of this drive, we will often discuss things, any things, just to pass the time.

Spouse: So what is soap, anyway? It's just lye and fat, right?
Me: Hmmm... do you know the chemical rule about "like dissolving like"?
Spouse: No.
Me: Well, certain compounds, like water which has two positive hydrogens on one side of the molecule and a negative oxygen on the other side are called "polar", and those compounds will only dissolve other polar compounds like salt, which has a positive sodium on one side of its molecule and a negative chlorine on the other side. Other compounds, like petroleum compounds, have their entire molecules surrounded by positive hydrogens and are called "non-polar". Those compounds can only dissolve or be dissolved by other non-polar compounds. When you boil a strong alkali like lye with fat, it forms chains of hugely long molecules that are in fact so long that they can be slightly polar on one end and slightly non-polar on the other, which is how soap can work by dissolving both.

Fascinating, no? Speaking as someone who once majored in chemistry, I can only tell you that any aspiring young chemist would have been riveted by this explanation. We're wild that way. Remind me to tell you about how Teflon was invented and how the Quaker Oats company made more money for several years from oat hulls than it made from the oats themselves.

At this point, you could literally hear her eyes roll up in her head. I had to grab the steering wheel and splash the remainder of my soft drink in her face to wake her up.

Spouse: When I ask you a question like that, I expect the answer to at least be entertaining.
Me: Oh.
Spouse: Even if you have to make something up.
Me: Oh. Um. Well.... Soap is actually dragon poop.
Spouse: There you go!
Me: The size of the bar of soap depends on the size of the dragon.
Spouse: I see.
Me: And the various scents come from what the dragon eats. Our new soap came from a breed of dragon whose diet consists largely of mandarin oranges and bergamot.
Spouse: Now that makes sense. Thanks for the explanation.

And thus our drive from New Jersey was made more pleasant. It was only later that I thought about adding some information on where liquid soap comes from, but I thought it best to leave that part out lest neither of us ever bathe again.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Other Side of Being a Nice Guy

It seems that a lot of my posts are inspired by other posts, and this one is no different. Having just read Restaurant Refugee's post about the kindness of Metro employees and doing the right thing, I thought I'd pass along a little experience of mine from the other side of the coin.

I dropped by World Market the other day to pick up a bag of my favorite coffee, Costa Rican Terrazzu, on which I've been hooked ever since my vacation in Costa Rica. I go out of my way to get that coffee there because A) they carry it, B) it's cheaper there than anywhere else I've found it, and C) they have a coffee club which gets me every 7th bag for free.

The total for my coffee came to $9.01. I handed the lady a twenty, she handed me my change, and I headed out the door. Now I'm one of these anal-retentive people who has to have all of my money in my wallet in a certain order. All bills facing forward, sorted from smallest to largest. Needless to say, my change is never handed to me this way and I spend a few seconds turning bills around and rearranging them before putting them into my wallet.

I was doing this as I was strolling out to my car when I realized that I had $19.00 in bills in my hand. I had already put away the 99 cents. I must admit that my first thought at this point was an evil one: Wow! A pound and half of coffee for a penny!

Then I started thinking. I know, that'll get you every time. This lady's cash register is going to be $9.00 short at the end of the day. At the very least, she'll probably have to make it up out of her own pocket. If she has a history of this sort of thing, the consequences might be even worse for her. And I'll just be damned if I'm going to screw up my karma for a lousy nine bucks.

I turned around, went back into the store, and got back in line. When I got to the register, I told her that she had given me way too much change for twenty. I showed her the receipt and the $19.00 I still had in my hand. She was completely perplexed and got out a calculator. I told her that the correct change from a twenty for $9.01 should have been $10.99 and that she had given me an extra $9.00. From the way she thanked me, I'm guessing that this is not her first offense.

So she may not be the best cashier in the world, but if she gets in trouble, it won't be because of me.

Not expecting a pat on the back here or anything, it was just the right thing to do. Just sharing a glimpse into an otherwise uneventful life.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

A Rose By Any Other Name

The three of you that still bother to read this space on those rare occasions that I'm inspired to post something will have probably realized by now that I have what I like to call "opinions" when it comes to rock & roll music. I like to call them "opinions" because others tend to call them "boneheaded ideas about trivial things that you insist on talking about even though no one cares a bit about them but you."

A couple of weeks ago, I found myself alone at home on a Friday night. I immediately lapsed into a behavior that has been performed by bachelors since the dawn of time: I picked up the remote and started surfing channels. Friday night programming being what it is, my eye was caught by one of those interminable "list" shows that are the programming mainstay of VH1. This one was a repeat of "The Top 100 Hard Rock Songs of All Time."

[Self-Awareness Caveat #1: I do realize that I am not VH1's target demographic.]

I figured that at the very least I'd probably get to hear a few good songs and see how much I agreed or disagreed with their list.

[Self-Awareness Caveat #2: I do realize that my taste in music is quite different from the people who voted for the songs on this list (See SAC #1, above).]

I really have no right to complain about anything on the list, since A) due to SAC #1 I was not even aware that I would have needed to go to VH1.com and vote and B) my vote would probably have not made one whit of difference in the results. Still, I have to wonder about some of the songs that ended up on this list.

Now at this point, you're probably asking yourself, "How can he possibly be critical of others when he's watching something as brainless as VH1?" My answer to that is to cite the argument that is so frequently and eloquently stated by my friend Urban Bohemian:

"Shut up. "

I was actually sailing along through this show, amazed and horrified at times that songs such as Rob Zombie's More Human Than Human and Rollins Band's I'm A Liar were included, but somewhat mollified that songs like Deep Purple's Smoke On The Water (one of the talking heads said, "This song has an opening riff that even your grandmother knows"), Lynyrd Skynyrd's Free Bird ("For the rest of your life, whenever you go to a concert, some idiot's gonna stand up with a lighter and yell, 'FREE BIRD' somewhere in the audience"), The Kinks' You Really Got Me, Led Zeppelin's Kashmir, The Who's Don't Get Fooled Again and Iron Butterfly's In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida were on the list. You have to take the bad with the good.

So you know how this works. They cover 20 songs in an hour and they show 5 hours in a row to cover all 100 items on the list. I came in somewhere in the 80's, so I watched over 3 hours of this stuff waiting to see what the voters at VH1 thought was the greatest hard rock song of all time. Quite frankly, I'm not sure that I could come up with a single song that I think is "the greatest hard rock song of all time." I'm not sure that I would even try to pigeonhole certain of these songs into the category "hard rock."

But I do know this: No song by Guns & Roses qualifies as the greatest hard rock song of all time, and certainly not Welcome To The Jungle. Heck, that's not even the greatest Guns & Roses song of all time, and I don't know that many Guns & Roses songs.

I had some stuff in here about my personal opinions of Axl Rose, but I decided that they probably had nothing to do with the music. I'll just toss this out as trivia to any who may not know: Mr. Rose chose his stage name only partially because his real last name is "Rose." The main reason was because it's an anagram for the words "oral sex." Guess he didn't want to be known as Earl Sox or Ax Loser.

There must be tens if not hundreds of thousands of songs that could qualify as "hard rock." Look at some of the giants of the genre: The Rolling Stones, Deep Purple, Aerosmith, The Who, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd... the list goes on and on. Groundbreaking is what most of these artists were.

Guns & Roses? Really?

Friday, August 14, 2009

Geek Humor

Given Mike's recent post describing engineers, and given the brief discussion I had with LiLu and Lemmonex at the most recent happy hour about really enjoying bad jokes, I thought I'd take this opportunity to pass along a couple of geek jokes from my past.

Now you'll need to be something of a geek to get these, and at least one of them comes from days as a chemistry major. I feel compelled to tell you up front that these are not particularly good jokes, so if you groan, I'll know you got them. If you laugh, I'll suspect you're just being kind.


1) An engineer and a mathematician are interviewing for the same job. First to be interviewed is the engineer. The interviewer says, "I have a question that I like to ask in order to help determine problem-solving abilities. Suppose there's a fire in my trash can and there's a bucket of water on the chair next to you. What would you do?" The engineer says, "I'd pick up the bucket of water and pour it on the fire." The interviewer says, "Good, good. Now suppose the bucket of water is next to my desk and the trash can on fire is on the chair next to you. What would you do?" The engineer thinks this is sort of ridiculous, but says, "Why, I'd pick up the bucket of water and pour it on the fire." The interviewer says, "OK, good. You can go. We'll be in touch." Next up is the mathematician. The interviewer eventually asks him the same question, "Suppose there's a bucket of water next to you on the chair and the trash can beside my desk is on fire. What would you do?" The mathematician says, "I'd pick up the bucket of water and pour it on the fire." The interviewer says, "Good, good. Now suppose the trash can on fire is on the chair next to you and the bucket of water is next to my desk. What would you do?" The mathematician says, "I'd move the trash can to the side of your desk, move the bucket of water to the chair next to me, and that would reduce it to a problem I've already solved."

2) An engineer and a mathematician are converging on a pretty woman. The mathematician says, "You know we can never actually reach her." The engineer responds with, "Yeah, but we can get close enough!"

3) Werner Heisenberg and Rene Descartes are ordering lunch at McDonald's. The counter person asks Descartes, "Would you like a hot apple pie with that?" Descartes answers, "I think not" and he disappears! The counter person turns to Heisenberg and says, "Did you see that?" Heisenberg answers, "Maybe."

4) Three Native American women had children. The first gave birth to a little boy on a buffalo skin. The second gave birth to a little girl on a mountain lion skin. The third one gave birth to twins, a boy and a girl, on a hippopotamus skin. This just goes to prove that the squaw of the hippopotamus is equal to the sum of the squaws of the other two hides.

5) [For my finale, the only thing I learned from 3 semesters of calculus] What do you get when you cross an elephant with a rhinoceros? You get an elephant times a rhinoceros times the sine of theta. What do you get when you cross an elephant with a mountain climber? You can 't do that because a mountain climber is a scaler (scalar).

Please don't beat me up at the next happy hour.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Thanks for all the music, Mr. Paul


Les Paul (1915 - 2009)

Making an Informed Decision



I suppose it's possible that at some point in my life I will cease to be amazed at how some people get by in the world, but I'm beginning to lose hope. I'm just back from lunch and this is the conversation between a Subway employee and a customer just behind me:

Customer: How much is a 6-inch tuna?
Employee: [pointing at the menu just over her head] Four dollars.
Customer: How big is it?
Employee: How big is a 6-inch sandwich?
Customer: Yes.
Employee: Um... 6 inches?
Customer: You mean, like, onetwothreefourfivesix?
Employee: Yes.
Customer: Oh. In that case give me two foot-long Spicy Italians.

I think this might qualify for a page in one of my favorite blogs.

Try as I might, I simply cannot fathom the thought processes, if they can be called that, of the customer while this conversation was taking place.

Did she think she might confuse the employee into giving her two foot-long meat sandwiches for the price of one 6-inch tuna? Is there some form of "6" besides onetwothreefourfivesix that I'm not aware of? Does anyone really walk into a Subway thinking to themselves, "I'm gonna have either a 6-inch tuna or two feet of Spicy Italian"?

Isn't this like getting all the details for a one-way flight to Atlanta and then buying 2 round-trip tickets to Omaha?

It makes me wonder if she asks the person at Home Depot how tall their 8-foot stepladders are, or the person at the 7-11 how much a 32-ounce Big Gulp holds.

Life just shouldn't be this difficult, people. I'm only thankful that she was behind me and not in front of me.

No, I'm also thankful that I don't work in retail.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

A Touch of Gray

But I feel I'm growing older,
and the songs that I have sung
echo in the distance like the sound
of a windmill going 'round.


--Deep Purple


I find that as I'm getting older, the reminders that I'm getting older become more and more frequent. I'm not talking about aches and pains or the fact that I'm slowing down. I'm not talking about those little grunting sounds I make every time I sit or stand. I'm not talking about the fact that I don't dare eat pizza after 8:00 PM any more. I'm talking about simply having conversations with people

This actually came to mind after reading some of the comments on Shannon's blog in which she referred to the 1976 movie "Logan's Run". Some folks had no idea what the reference was all about, and that really surprised me since I saw that movie in the theater when it was initially released. It takes a while for it to settle into my brain that that was 33 years ago and that a very large percentage of the population wasn't even born then.

Frankly, not being much of a videophile, it was actually pure coincidence that Shannon came up with a movie that I had just happened to see. Typically when I think of pop culture, I think of music which I dearly love and love to talk about.

Here are a few things I've mentioned in recent years and the responses I've gotten to them:

ME: I have "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" on CD.
RESPONSE: Who are they?

ME: Thought I might plug in a little Billie Holiday.
RESPONSE: Who is Billie Holiday?

ME: I'm looking forward to seeing Johnny Mathis this weekend.
RESPONSE: I know that name....

ME: Man! I actually got to see Leon Russell in concert last weekend.
RESPONSE: [blank stare]

Part of the reason for this is that most people aren't very interested in the roots of the music they choose to listen to, if they choose to listen to music. Part of the reason for this is that a lot of folks, unlike me, don't have the benefit of having older siblings and the music they listened to. Part of the issue is that my taste in music tends to run to those artists that make the Top 100, but rarely if ever make the Top 40. But if I'm honest with myself, part of the reason is that I tend to cling to these things from my youth like cat hair on a sweater.

I suspect that I could easily list off the pop/rock groups from the past 25 years that have intrigued me enough to actually purchase some of their music: The Dave Matthews Band, Green Day, Counting Crows, David Gray, Ozric Tentacles (find them on YouTube, they're pretty amazing), Flogging Molly, Collective Soul, Crash Test Dummies, Del Amitri, Gin Blossoms, Hothouse Flowers, Indigo Girls, Sass Jordan, Matchbox 20. There may be others, but the list is small compared to what I own from the 30 years or so before that. I'm surprised that I came up with that many, but 25 years is a long time.

So in the interest of higher education, I'm including these 4 clips from the artists I first mentioned. This is a tiny, tiny sample of the sort of thing I'm talking about, and these wouldn't even qualify as my favorites. They're all just very, very good. Perhaps you can hear the echoes of some of your favorites in their music.

I hope you enjoy.

Possibly the apex of '60s psychedelic rock -


Smooth, smoky, the blues done right -


An incredibly smooth voice. 73 years old and he's still got it -


He can't sing, but he can write and he OWNS the piano -

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

"I'm not quite clear about what you just spoke" - Crash Test Dummies

I would like to relate a conversation that occurred at last Friday's Blogger Happy Hour between Lemmonex, Malnurtured Snay, myself and another blogger whose name unfortunately escaped me. Bear in mind that there were a lot of people in a very small space and the music was thumping. I will try to relate this based on what I believe Lemmonex actually heard versus what was actually said:

Snay: This is [Blogger whose name I didn't get]. This is Lemmonex and this is Gilahi.
Blogger: [to Lemmonex] Oh! I read your blog all the time!
Lemmonex: Really! Thank you!
Snay: [to Lemmonex] You're fatter!
Lemmonex: [with a look that would have reduced a lesser man to ashes] I'm WHAT?
Snay: You're fatter!
Lemmonex: WHAT DID YOU SAY?
Me: [leaning in to Lemmonex's ear] You're fuh-LAT-er-DUH! You're flattered!
Lemmonex: Oh! Man, I was about to give you a lesson in what not to say to a woman.

And I believe she would have, too.

At least this is what I think Lemmonex heard, based entirely on her reaction. If I'm right, I think she showed admirable restraint.

It occurred to me afterward that there was no good way to mis-hear the word "flattered". Even if the "L" sound had come through, you definitely wanted to be sure that the "D" sound on the end was heard as well.

See what you miss by not attending these events? Not only was there music, good people, good conversation, and good booze, there was very nearly a murder as well.

So hey, let's be careful out there.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Random Bits & Pieces



A few random thoughts from my list of blog ideas. None of them seem to lend themselves to complete posts, so I'll just list them here.

  1. Just in case you read this, Mb, I haven't forgotten that you tagged me for a meme, nor am I ignoring it. I'm just having a hard time finding the keepsake I wanted to talk about. Some keepsake, huh? I'll get to it, I promise.

  2. I've never been one to argue the relative benefits of animals, but I can't help but notice one thing: There are stores that successfully sell worms, leeches, and crickets, but people in front of the library have a hard time giving cats away.

  3. University of Maryland University College - Is that the stupidest name for a school you ever heard of? For those of you outside of the DC area, this is a real school that advertises on TV constantly. I can't decide if this institution was founded by really forgetful people or stutterers. If they're going to reuse multiple synonyms in their name, they could have come up with a better acronym than UMUC: Maryland University Scholastic Institute College (MUSIC), Maryland Institute Scholastic College University for Education (MISCUE), Academic Scholastic School/Halls Of Learning and Education (ASSHOLE). You can see that the possibilities are endless. Why UMUC? They may as well have called it Maryland University University Maryland University University (MUUMUU).

  4. You hear people say, "I couldn't believe my eyes/ears", but no one ever says, "I couldn't believe my nose!" Is your nose somehow more trustworthy than your other body parts? What about your spleen? Can you trust your spleen?

  5. The best way to make the highest score you've ever had on any video game is to be playing it when your spouse/SO says, "OK, I'm ready to go now". And no matter how much you try to explain that it's your highest score ever and if you stop now you'll lose it and this is bigbigbigbig, it's somehow not as important to your spouse/SO as their sibling's wedding that you're already late for.

  6. Didja ever notice that most people who talk about how much they LOVE New York City are the people who have left it? If it means that much to you, go back. The last thing we need here is yet another import telling us at every opportunity how the place they're from is better than the place they've chosen to be. And I don't care what you say, you always have choices. If it really means that much to you, you'll find some way to get back there. Otherwise, we just don't want to hear it.

  7. Why are there no seedless lemons? There are seedless oranges, tangerines, watermelons (sort of), etc. We're always juicing lemons and having to pick out those slimy seeds. How hard could it be to come up with seedless lemons?

  8. Really, on a purely objective level, how can you ever tell how contented a cow actually is? They pretty much look the same no matter what. How do we know the best milk comes from contented cows? Maybe the best milk comes from cows that are white hot with rage. We just don't know how to judge cow moods.

  9. Geek Alert: If odometers were in binary instead of decimal, my car would have 63 miles on it. On the other hand, if they were in hexadecimal, my car would have 1,118,481 miles on it.

That's all. Any questions above are mostly rhetorical, but if you want to answer any of them in the comments, please feel free. Also, any more Maryland University College School Institution Maryland University University University University acronyms could be fun.

Monday, August 3, 2009

"Gimme a head with hair. Long, beautiful hair" - from "Hair"



I got a haircut last week.

I've mentioned more than once in this space that I wear my hair long. If I happen to mention a haircut to someone, they often say, "You get your hair cut?"

No. I let it grow down between my shoulder blades and by sheer force of my indomitable will I make it stop right there.

But even before it was long, I got the response that every guy on the planet who has hair has gotten. Walk into the office, your local bar, school, church, AA, whatever, and someone will inevitably say, "You got a haircut!"

Really?

What is it that makes people want to tell you something about yourself that should be pretty obvious to you? I used to think that perhaps I could stop this activity with smart-ass rejoinders.

"I got 'em all cut."

"No, I washed it in very hot water and it shrank."

Didn't faze anybody. After spending an hour in a chair for a wash, cut, and blow-dry, then shelling out a month's salary for the privilege of smelling like a French brothel for the rest of the day, people still felt compelled to tell me just in case I hadn't noticed.

A couple of years ago, I lost my mind one night and shaved off my beard. Everyone I met the next day said, "You SHAVED!"

"No, I just decided to grow it inward for a while."

"You have an uncanny knack for grasping the obvious."

"What was your first clue, my total lack of chin or the IV I'm attached to because of the blood loss?"

What's the special thing about changing your hair or facial hair that makes people feel they need to tell you what you've done to yourself? Nobody ever says, "You put on deodorant!", "You took a bath!", "You finally flicked that thing out of your nose!" It's the failure to do these things that elicits comments, and then it's usually behind your back. I'm tempted to start every conversation from now on with "Your hair is exactly the same!"

Just stop it. Resist the urge. Guys know when they've done these things.

You read my blog!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

"I Wanna Hold Your Hand" - The Beatles



[Note: Despite the fact that today is Thursday, this post is TMI only in that it was an embarrassing event that happened to me. There is no content which is sexual, scatalogical, menstrual, involving vomit, or in any other way disgusting. You have been warned.]

When I was a teenager, the glaciers receded and left in their wake ice cream parlors, Pizza Hut, movie theaters, and other places to which teenagers could go relatively inexpensively for a date. I was out with my then girlfriend, Joy, to see a movie. I don't remember what the movie was, but it must have been hugely popular because there was an enormous throng of teenagers pressed tightly together in front of the concession stand before the feature started.

Now, as teenagers are wont to do, Joy and I were hanging all over each other. Conjoined twins are no closer together than she and I were. She was standing to my left. I had my left arm around her waist, she had her right arm around my waist, and I was holding her left hand in my right hand across the front of our bodies. Got the image? Take a moment to visualize it, because it's important.

We had been standing there for some time waiting for our shot at a barrel full of popcorn, a freight-car size box of Milk Duds, and a 55-gallon drum of Coke. All the while there's laughter, waist-squeezing, and hand-caressing going on. We were joking and talking and looking forward to a sugar-coma inducing, bladder-stretching couple of hours in a dark theater when I happened to glance over just in time to see Joy tuck a wisp of hair behind her ear.

With the hand that I was still holding.

A quick glance down confirmed that it was actually not Joy's hand that I was holding. Surprise. Leaning forward and looking to my left, I saw another teenage couple standing next to Joy. Remember how we were standing? This couple was standing in a mirror configuration to us. The girl was standing next to Joy and her date was standing to her left. Suprise squared.

For the past 10 minutes or so, I had been holding, squeezing, and sensually caressing the hand of a total stranger. A male total stranger. He and I both came to the realization of what was going on at the same instant, and pulled our hands away from each other so fast that we almost hit a few more total strangers.

Fortunately, we were all able to get a good laugh out of it. Joy never did let me live it down.

So Joy, if you're out there and happen to read this, the whole world now knows the truth.

You have man hands.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

"Hello. Is there anybody in there?" - Pink Floyd


(Pen & Ink sketch by Gilahi - 1993)


For those of you who see this, meaning you still monitor this space, thank you so much and I apologize for being away for so long. For those of you who do not see this... well... what's the point of saying anything to you anyway?

I'll try to do better. Things are happening in my life that have made blogging a bit of a back-burner activity, to say the least. I hope that I'm beginning to see glimmers of things that mean that I'm feeling a bit more human and may be getting back to my old crotchety self. No promises, but I miss you guys so I'll give it a shot.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Many Thanks (and a couple of suggestions)



Dear Messrs. Clapton & Winwood,

Thank you for putting on one helluva show at the Verizon Center last Saturday.

Thank you for performing nearly the entire one-album catalog of Blind Faith songs, particularly for opening with a kick-ass version of I Had To Cry Today.

Thank you for reviving the Hammond B-3 organ, which took me back to such acts as Blind Faith, Strawberry Alarm Clock and Iron Butterfly.

Thank you for the little unexpected treats, such as Mr. Winwood's all-alone-on-the-stage rendition of Georgia On My Mind, which seemed so oddly out of place among all the psychedelia of the evening and yet worked so well.

I cannot begin to thank you enough for not subjecting your audience to any version of I Shot The Sheriff, which wasn't a particularly great song when Bob Marley first did it, but when performed by a middle-aged white guy from Surrey descends to the level of a "Weird Al" Yankovich parody.

Thanks also for not subjecting us to Wonderful Tonight or Tears In Heaven.

Thank you for not letting egos get in the way, thereby letting the two of you share the spotlight on songs that were originally done by one or the other. Ending the evening's songlist with Mr. Winwood's Dear Mr. Fantasy couldn't have been better chosen.

Thank you for that pretty incredible 10-minute rendition of Jimi Hendrix's Voodoo Chile.

Props to the stage directors who set up cameras for the Jumbotrons so that we could occasionally see fingers flying over fretboards and keyboards.

Thank you for the stunning acoustic rendition of Can't Find My Way Home.

Although it's still nearly a month away, thanks for making my birthday a special one (and thanks to my wife and my good friend for the tickets).

Thanks for dedicating the evening strictly to the music. Two and a half hours of one song after another with pretty much no talk in between them. As each song ended, I found myself anxiously awaiting the opening chords of the next one.

I only have a couple of cavils about the whole evening. First, what was with that row of spotlights on the back of the stage that were shining directly into the audience's eyes? When those lights went bright white, we couldn't see the stage at all. Please keep in mind that your audience largely no longer consists of teenagers with young ears and eyes. We're a bunch of ridiculous old people wearing tie-dye.

Also, with regard to the slow, acoustic version of Layla.... well, I'm not quite sure how to put this diplomatically.... It sucks, Eric. I can understand that you may need a second guitarist of the caliber of Duane Allman to do the song justice and you didn't have that for this performance, but I really can't understand why you would choose to do an elevator-music version of such a classic piece of rock while omitting such gems as Bell Bottom Blues, Lay Down Sally, Promises, or any Yardbirds, Spencer Davis Group or Traffic tunes at all. You had two virtuoso keyboardists there, either of whom could have done amazing jobs on that long piano interlude. I would have loved to have seen Steve Winwood performing that.

Finally, having mentioned the sharing of songs earlier, I was struck by the paucity of Steve Winwood songs (aside from the Blind Faith stuff). I would have loved to have heard I'm A Man, While You See A Chance, Higher Love, Roll With It, Arc Of A Diver, and/or Gimme Some Lovin'.

I do understand that between the two of you, the catalog of songs is enormous and a concert covering all of these would have taken hours, but heck, I was willing to sit for hours.

All in all, though, it was a very special evening which, as I had hoped, focused heavily on Blind Faith. I never thought that I'd get a chance to see (half of) such a seminal, influential rock group as that. Despite the couple of picky criticisms above, it was an incredible evening of incredible music from two rock & roll legends.

I appreciate it.

Sincerely,
Gilahi

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

To b or not to b



I've written about this before. This is what I've sunk to. I'm writing a blog entry, and not for the first time, about not writing my blog.

I'm sure there are some of you for whom blogging is as easy as breathing. The words just flow and they're witty and urbane and people love to read your stuff. I envy you. I'm sure there are some of you on the other end of the spectrum who agonize over every adjective, semicolon, and apostrophe before you put your finished product out there for the world to see. Believe it or not, I envy you, too.

I find that, probably like most of you, I tend to fall somewhere in the middle.

If I write something just because I feel like I should or because I feel guilty about not writing for so long, then I'm rarely satisfied with the results. I believe I've written a few pretty good things, a few clunkers, and a lot of mediocre stuff. You have no idea how many things I've written in this space that you've never seen because I was so unhappy with what tripped off my fingertips that I didn't feel it was in any way salvageable. Those went into the bit-bucket. Times like these I think it might be a relief just to shut the thing down, but to continue to read and comment on all those blogs that I enjoy so much. I certainly don't want blogging to become a chore.

On the other hand, I'm loathe to let go. Occasionally someone tosses a pole-dancing bear or an extremely funny Joe Cocker video my way, and I'd like to be able to share those. On rarer occasions, I'm inspired to write about such things as cause-and-effect or medical procedures or even painting a ceiling or a hallway, which people seem to enjoy. This last one was so well received that a blogger who visited my home demanded to see the results of the effort. But even with these, I've never written more than 13 entries in a single month. I've been doing this for over a year now and, if I've read things right, this is my 102nd post.

Not exactly setting the blog world on fire here.

There's also the consideration of all the great people I've met just by writing a few little things down and putting them out there. I've had a grand time with some folks, a few of whom I would even consider friends at this point, that I would in all likelihood never have even met if it wasn't for blogging. Would that fade away if I stopped? Are there great friends out there that I haven't met yet and will never meet if I stop doing this occasionally?

I'm torn.

So which is better? A) Blogging very, very rarely and then only when I'm in a pretty good mood and feel inspired to do so, B) putting mediocre stuff out there just for the sake of putting stuff out there, or C) just shutting down the blog but continuing to read and comment on others?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Signs Revisited



Spotted on Chincoteague Island, Virginia.

There are 3 things wrong with this sign:

  1. They don't mention whether the quality is of the "high" or "low" variety. (Hint: It wasn't the former.)

  2. They weren't very hospitable.

  3. Should be trivial and obvious to the casual observer.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Friday Funnies

This has been around for a while, but it was just forwarded to me for a second time, and it still cracks me up. Hope some of you enjoy this as much as I do.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Switch


Switchin' is easy.
Oh, it's essential and you know
when you flick it,
you can start a new episode.

--Golden Earring

(A.P. Somewhere in Virginia)

While attempting to determine the thought process of whoever it was that felt it might be a good idea to send Air Force One flying 15000 feet over Manhattan accompanied by a fighter jet without telling anybody, scientists at the Gilahi Institute of What The Hell Were You Thinking (GIWHWYT) have discovered a small 'switch' in the human brain that allows ordinary individuals to seamlessly move from Plan A to Plan B with no adverse affects on the surrounding population. People with adequate switches in their brain can accommodate unexpected changes so readily that anyone who observes their behavior would not even realize that the switch has been utilized. Some individuals appear not to have this switch. These individuals become so completely focused on Plan A that any unexpected event causes them to appear to be drooling idiots to anyone who might witness their behavior. These individuals are now thought to be the cause of all violence, road rage, war, premature balding, heart attacks, strokes, cramps, wardrobe malfunctions, eye tics, stock market crashes, bad movies, economic downturns, rap music, halitosis, accidental pregnancy, and Milli Vanilli.

Scientists were surprised to observe that both 'switch-enabled' (SE) and 'switch-deficient' (SD) individuals had a nearly overwhelming urge to beat the crap out of SD individuals.

This is big news. It explains a lot. The article goes on to cite examples of the thought patterns of SE/SD individuals in different circumstances:

SE: Darn, I'm already in line at the grocery store and I forgot to pick up a bag of Potato Poopies for little Hiram's lunch. Now I have to get out of line and it will probably add 10 minutes to my shopping experience.
SD: Darn, I'm already in line at the grocery store and I forgot to get that jar of Anti Monkey Butt for Aunt J-Lo. I can't possibly get out of line so I'll just leave my cart full of groceries here and block everybody else while I continue shopping.

SE: Oops! Missed my exit. Now I have to either turn around at the next interchange or take an alternate route.
SD: Oops! Missed my exit. There's nothing else I can do, so I'll just pull over to the shoulder and back my car down the expressway to get back to it.

SE: Uh-oh. I should be turning left here and I'm not in the left-turn lane. Now I have to either turn around at the next opportunity or take an alternate route. (See above)
SD: Uh-oh. I should be turning left here and I'm not in the left-turn lane. But I'm turning left here. I'll turn on my signal and block traffic until the left-turn lane is completely clear and then make an illegal turn. People sure do blow their horns a lot.

SE: My program crashed. I need to find the problem and fix it.
SD: My program crashed. I know the code is good so I'll just run it again. My program crashed. I know the code is good so I'll just run it again. My program crashed.... (this SD was never heard from again).

SE: Even though the phone is ringing, I'm assisting this customer in person so I will ignore it.
SD: Yes, we have those in blue, green, red and.... Hello, thank you for calling Ye Olde Flip-Flop Shoppe.

SE: This person seems bored/uninterested/horrified. Perhaps I'll ask them a probing question or simply change the subject.
SD: ...and despite the nosebleeds, I just can't seem to keep my finger out of there blahblahblahblahblahblahblahblah-de-blahblah....

SE: I thought about eating this doughnut, but I've added a couple of pounds lately so I'm going to pass.
SD: I've added a couple of pounds lately, but I thought about eating this doughnut so I have to eat this doughnut.

SE: "Trickle-Down Economics" is a failed theory. The idea that "a rising tide lifts all boats" is only workable if you're so out of touch with reality that you believe everyone has a boat.
SD: Ronald Reagan was a god.

SE: That Gilahi is a very insightful guy.
SD: I keep reading this Gilahi guy and he's just not very funny.

It appears that there may be hope for the development of an artificial switch which could be implanted in the brains of SD individuals. Unfortunately the surgery is fatal a large percentage of the time. Half the scientists at GIWHWYT want to refine the technique until the operation is considered safe. The other half feel that an 80% fatality rate in the target group is really not such a great loss after all.

I suspect there's a new telethon in the future.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Great Ideas #1 and 2



Wife and I have become quite the social butterflies of late.

I'm from the Atlanta area and Wife is from somewhere north of here. We were, shall we say, pretty well established and living on our own when we met. We each had our own circle of friends, hers up north and mine down south. Maybe this is a pattern that couples go through, but for the early part of our relationship we spent most of our time with each other. We would occasionally see friends, but it was always an effort due to distance.

She used to lament our lack of outside contact and sigh that we needed to make new friends.

Not so much any more. Witness our schedule for this month (gleaned from our shared Google calendar):

March 29 - Lunch with friends in Columbia
April 4 - Lunch with blogger friends, Evening birthday party for neighbor
April 11 - Lunch with friend
April 12 - Brunch with relatives in Baltimore
April 13 - Happy hour with blogger friends
April 17, 18 - Visit family in NJ
April 18, 19 - Visit long-neglected friend in NJ
April 23 - Jazz concert at the Birchmere with friends
April 25 - Lunch with blogger friend, Party at blogger friends' home
April 26 - Lunch with friend

Note that there are only one or two occasions above where we'll be seeing any of the same people, and this doesn't include half the people to whom we still have outstanding social obligations. Also, we still make the effort to go on a date every single weekend, just so we can spend some time with each other and treat each other to some place nice.

While gazing out at our back yard last night, I commented that we needed to do some weeding. Wife pointed out that we simply don't have any free weekends on our calendar any more.

Thus came great idea #1, with full credit to Wife: "We should invite all of our friends over here to pull weeds." How great is that? It could be like a painting party where we provide pizza and beer. Since our yard is just really not that big and since we have approximately 9,547 friends, the yard work would be done in 10 minutes and then it's just a matter of waiting for the pizza guy.

I built on that with great idea #2. You know how marketers are always re-casting things with cool names so that it sounds like something it's not? I suggested that we just send messages to all of our friends inviting them to a "Weed Party".

"We'll provide the weed, you just have to take a pull."

Brilliant. Everybody would show up and wouldn't know the real party theme until we started handing out the gardening gloves.

And I suspect it would probably have the added effect of clearing our calendar for the next few months, until we could make some new friends.

Speaking of friends, thanks to Bilbo for bestowing a "Friendship Award" upon me:



Now in the interest of full disclosure, I have to say that I've never met the man, and we often have conflicting points of view. However we are reasonable (if occasionally stubborn) guys, and respect the idea that different people may have different takes on things. What a concept. I have every confidence, though, that if we spent a couple of hours in a room somewhere with a little bourbon and an adequate supply of ice, we could between the two of us solve all of the world's social, political, and economic woes.

If only someone would listen to us.

Thanks, Bilbo!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Hurrah for degrees.info!

You may recall my last post in which I expressed some dismay at an advertisement for an online university website offering me a quick degree if I had an interest in "Public Speach". This didn't even take into account the whole idea of getting a degree in "Speach" on the Internet where people don't typically hear you speak. And I didn't even mention the fact that "speech" is a noun and they really meant "public speaking" (or perhaps "speeking").

Well, I'm proud to say that the good folks at degrees.info are continuing to pursue their fine tradition of academic excellence, despite the fact that they're still trying to sell me something using Christmas trees in April.

Popup ads irk me. The fact that the Google ad blocker is such a piece of crap that it blocks almost no ads at all irks me.

However occasionally an ad does make my life easier and brings me some joy. Witness the latest ad that I got that Google failed to block:



Again, you probably can't see what I immediately saw. Suffice to say the "Public Speach" is now not the only thing for which I could pursue a degree via this august institution.

I thought for a bit about a rant regarding this, but I did that before. Upon further consideration, I realized that a picture really is worth the thousand words I could have written.

Monday, April 6, 2009

I Know You're All Wondering Why I Called You Here

There is a certain website that I like to go to (only at night and on weekends, of course) that has hundreds of games that I can play for free. The biggest downside of this site is that before each game I have to sit through the display of an ad for 30 seconds or so while my game is "loading". The only good thing about this is that sometimes the ads can be as diverting as the games. Take this one from degrees.info, for instance:



You can see my source of amusement, can't you? No? It's not enough that they're showing me Christmas trees in April, let's zoom in on the seventh tree from the left:



That's right, internetters, according to the small type on the left, if your talent is "Public Speach", then you're just one online form away from a degree. And if you think the irony here is the idea of getting a "speach" degree online where no one can actually hear you speak, then you've entirely missed the point (and I do have one, as Ellen Degeneres says).

Now I'll be the first to admit that I'm somewhat anal when it comes to spelling and grammar. I remember being on a fishing trip and seeing a small general store that had its offerings listed all around the front of the building: Bait, Tackle, Snacks, Soft Drinks, Beer, Flim. Yes, flim. My first thought was that if anyone should know how to spell, it should be a sign painter. But then I remembered Gene Wilder's character, The Waco Kid, talking to Cleavon Little as Sheriff Bart in Blazing Saddles: "Come on. What did you expect? These are simple people. People of the land. You know... morons." So I let it go.

Then there's the "Wafle Shop" in Alexandria, near The Birchmere. There's a huge awning with "Wafle Shop" on two sides of the building. At least this gets peoples' attention, though, and from everything I hear that's pretty much all this establishment has going for it aside from the fact that they're open 24 hours a day.

But come on. Here's a web designer creating an ad for an online university fergodsake! Wouldn't you think that someone from info.com read and approved this ad? Would you want to get a degree from a site that puts this much care and planning into what they do? Does the phrase, "Do you want fries with that" qualify as public speach? How about, "Welcome to Wal-Mart"?

It makes me wonder if they have degree programs in riting, bookkeaping, bizness, fizzix, or furrin langwidge.

When you get your degree certificate from degrees.info, instead of saying that you graduated Magna Cum Laude, it should say that you chose this school Lawdy How Come?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Monkeys and Maras and Deer, Oh My!

You learn things when you travel. You may learn that the oldest rum distillery in the world doesn't necessarily make the best rum in the world. You learn that the rum you get in the islands has 3% more alcohol than the rum that's shipped to the States. You learn that dark rum is actually aged in used bourbon casks, which appeals to a bourbon-lover like myself. You learn a lot about rum. You sample the rum and then you don't really care any more.

You learn that Barbados, which produces tons of sugar, has contracts with European countries to export X tons of that sugar annually. If there's a bad year, crop-wise, they may end up exporting so much sugar in order to fulfill their contracts that they don't have enough for their own use, so one of the largest sugar-producing countries in the world ends up importing sugar from other countries.

Then you learn stuff that might actually be interesting. As mentioned over in this article, you learn that monkeys in Barbados are green.



They're not kelly green or avocado green or OD green or even Green Canary green, but they do certainly have a green cast to their fur.

If green monkeys don't convince you that you're in a fantasy land, check out this deer:



Is that weird or what? It's a real deer. Honest. I saw it. I took that photo.

But you start to feel like you're in The Neverending Story or The Princess Bride when you're busily snapping pics of green monkeys and weird deer; your wife pokes you and rather shakily says, "Um.... look behind you;" and your immediate reaction is "whatinthehellisTHAT?"



I took these pictures so you'd all know that it wasn't the rum talking. This is a mara. They're rodents, about 18 inches to 2 feet tall. I have to say that I've been watching nature shows all my life, I've worked with wild animals, and I'd never heard of a mara or seen anything quite like this. It's sort of a kangaroo-bunny-deer-mule looking animal. In true fantasy-movie fashion, they have weirdnesses like three toes on their back feet and four on the front. They can run 18 MPH and are related to guinea pigs.





We went to see the monkeys but admit it, you just gotta love this face:



Apparently they make pretty good pets if you get them when they're young, if you don't mind the idea of 2-foot, 25-pound rodent wandering around your house. Heck, some of you may have that situation right now and not even realize it.

You would not believe how long I sat here and tried to come up with some setup in which you would have a pair of maras as pets, since you got them young they'd be orphans, and this would allow you to sing, "Two maras, two maras, I love ya, two maras...". I even figured you could name one of them Annie.

But then I realized I'd just have to apologize for it.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Bare Naked Pole Dancer

I don't usually post things like this, but this one is so sensitively done and just so beautifully rendered. I'm really not a pole dance fan, but I've never seen anything quite like this one. I hope no one is offended.


video

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Confessions of a Luddite



Despite the fact that I work in the computer bidness, I find that I'm often at best behind the times when it comes to technology. Sometimes I just don't understand the appeal at all.

I was actually called a Luddite by a friend a couple of years ago because I didn't have A) a computer and B) a DVD player.

Well, I don' t have a computer because my company gives me a laptop to work with. I do have a separate disk drive that I download all my personal stuff to, but I see no reason to purchase my own computer when I have unlimited access to a quality, state-of-the-art system for free. Plus, I'm a computer guy. Computers are my work. I don't relish the idea of coming home every evening and popping open work.

I have since remedied the DVD situation twice over.

There are various reasons that I don't keep up with technology. Sometimes there are terribly adverse side-effects, but most of the time I simply don't care. I don't see how going to the trouble of setting up or installing the latest thing-a-ma-jig (version 2.1) is going to enhance my life, at least not enough to make it worth the trouble.

Plus I'm cheap and these things often cost money. But I'm not interested in many of the things that are free, either.

I don't Twitter (or tweet).

I don't Facebook.

I don't MySpace.

I don't Tumblr.

It took years, but I do have a cell phone. I don't have a PDA. In fact, my phone doesn't even have a camera. I still write things down in my Day-Timer and refer to it.

But despite all my issues with new technology, despite my aversion to things high-tech, despite my avoidance of whatever the "latest" doodad is, there is one piece of technology which I dearly love and which I look forward to trying out every time I see one. If it weren't for the potential embarrassment factor, I could play with one of these things for hours. This is simply the niftiest piece of technology that has ever been invented:

Thursday, February 26, 2009

"Miss those Georgia piney woods" - The Osborne Brothers

That's better. Bluegrass trumps anything Bon Jovi will ever even aspire to.

Part 2

You may recall in our last episode, Gilahi had managed to land a nonexistent seat on an airplane with an exploding engine that was leaving approximately 2 1/2 hours past its scheduled departure time for a 1 hour, 20 minute flight to Atlanta. The high points of the story so far have been that we've had a couple of glasses of wine and my wife found a penny. I should point out here that we had actually planned to arrive in Atlanta in time to grab a bite of supper before driving the hour and a half to central Georgia, where we were staying. We thought we would have been in Atlanta by now. We're just leaving Virginia.

Also, there was the extremely humorous and creative use of a simile of the babysitter in a slasher movie and how her horror parallels ours. By now, she's taken a butcher knife from the kitchen without noticing that one is already missing, and is moving slowly through the house with the knife raised in her fist to eye level, which everybody knows is not the proper way to defend yourself with a knife.

Anyway, the flight itself was pretty uneventful and we landed in Atlanta some 2+ hours late. It was one of those occasions where applause breaks out on the airplane as soon as the wheels touch down.

We go to the rental car counter and get our pre-reserved rental car. After just a couple of wrong turns (it's late, and we're tired and hungry), we finally find the bus that will take us to the rental lot. We're dropped off right next to space #39, containing our rental which is approximately the size of a roller skate. I throw the bags into the trunk as a fine, misty rain begins to fall. We climb into the car, adjust the seats, adjust the mirrors, put the key in the ignition, turn the key and... nothing happens. Not a click, not a whirr. This car is deader than Rod Blagojevich's political career.

So I walk through the rain to the main building in the lot. There is a lady behind the counter who, by all indications, is extremely angry at the piece of gum in her mouth. I explain the situation to her, and she asked me if I wanted a car just like the original one I had. Any other time, I would have said, "No, I want one that works", but I was just so tired that I told her that all I cared about was that it didn't cost me any more. She gave me another key and we got a car a few spaces down which, happily, ran well.

In case you're not familiar with the Atlanta area, Interstates 85 and 75 run north/south through the center of town. I-20 runs east/west through town, and I-285 is the perimeter highway that encircles the city. The airport is just south of I-285. I want to be east of the city to get on the highway that will lead me to small town central Georgia, so I want to go north on I-85, around the east side of I-285, and then east on I-20 to my exit. However it's now dark, driving rain, I'm tired, and it's been many, many hours since I've had any food. I fail to negotiate the fact that I-285 is round and, much like our beloved Washington Beltway, has north/south/east/west designations that change depending on where you happen to be. You see it coming, don't you? I went the wrong way on I-285. I didn't realize this for many miles. By the time I did, I was only 9 miles away from I-20 (albeit on the west side of I-285), so I decided to just continue on, get on I-20 east, and go through town.

My wife is hungry too. She starts asking when we're going to stop. I tell her that we really don't want to stop in this part of town this late at night. Believe me. Never the less, we're both hungry and grumpy, so as soon as I feel that we've gone far enough past the city limits, I pull over and start looking for food.

At this point, all of the lights would go out at the babysitter's house.

We found a place that offered "chicken and seafood" and was open at 9:30 PM on Christmas Eve. How great is that? We park the car, run through the driving rain, and stop at the door.

I've read many restaurant reviews, and there's one little thing that I've never seen mentioned. I really believe Tom Sietsema (The Washington Post's restaurant reviewer) should add this to his column. If there's a very large person frisking people before they can go in, this restaurant may not be the best place for haute cuisine. Amazingly, we are so hungry that I submit to being searched before entering the establishment. Apparently my wife didn't appear as threatening as I, since they let her pass unmolested.

The interior of the establishment was smoke, pool tables, and low lights. The music was so loud that the balls were actually bouncing on the pool tables. A man wearing a Dekalb County Department of Sanitation uniform stopped by our table for several minutes to tell us how happy he was that we were there spending Christmas Eve with him. We never saw any indication of the advertised chicken or seafood.

Even in our exhausted stupor, it eventually dawned on us that this probably wasn't the best place to get something to eat. As we were leaving, we asked the very large gentleman, with whom I was now so intimately acquainted, if he knew where we might get something to eat at 10:00 PM on Christmas Eve. He told us that there was a Waffle House right across the street. We decided to keep driving.

We ended up in beautiful Conyers, GA, before we spotted a Comfort Inn on the side of the road. At this point, we just wanted a cube with a bed and a shower, so we pulled over. I had already phoned my family and told them that there was no way we were driving for an hour and a half on a two-lane road in the middle of the night in the pouring rain in the condition we were in.

When we walked into the lobby of the Comfort Inn, a young lady came from the back room and quickly and efficiently gave us a room. We asked her if there was any place at all in Conyers where we could get something to eat. We were hoping for something like a Ruby Tuesday's, or a TGI Friday's. Anything that might be open late on Christmas Eve.

"Just across de bridge is a Wapple House," she said. "Dey have BIG wapples and good coppee and hamburgers and chicken..." and she proceeded to recite the entire Waffle House menu to us as if it were some exotic establishment serving viands from The Sorbonne.

We would have eaten old tires with radiator water at that point, so we went to the Wapple House, as that establishment has forever been redubbed in our minds. I ate an egg and cheese sandwich with hash browns and a soft drink. My wife had grilled cheese and iced tea. You know what? Much like the Buddhist story of the man and the strawberry, it was some of the best food I ever ate in my life.

That's it. We slept, showered, and got up to a glorious sunny Christmas Day in Conyers, GA. We arrived at my family's house approximately 14 hours later than we had planned, but the adventure was over and we had survived it.

Had we driven, we would have saved the cost of two airline tickets, overnight lodgings, a rental car, and it would have taken us approximately 11 hours to get there.

Oh, and the babysitter kills the slasher and runs out of the house to the waiting arms of her boyfriend, but when the police go inside the house, there's no sign of the guy. So you know there's going to be a sequel.

There always is.

 
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