Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Literal Truth

I've always enjoyed thinking of how odd sentences sound when you take things that are said literally. I hope you enjoy this modest tale that I wrote in 20 minutes this morning...

Paul ran up from the basement at the sound of the phone. He had been busy moving boxes and hadn't been able to hear anything upstairs for a time. His fear was that the phone had been ringing off the hook. Sure enough, the receiver was lying on the floor, still ringing. He stooped down and picked it up.
It was his good friend Rachel. "Help, Paul! Philo is going bananas! He's throwing them all over the house. What can I do? I was supposed to make banana bread!"
Paul was worried. Philo was Rachel's husband and a close personal friend. It sounded serious. Rachel's banana bread was to die for.
"Will he take Artichokes or Brussel sprouts and throw them around the house? Something not as important as bananas?"
Rachel half sobbed on the other end. "Paul! We're Americans! We don't have that kind of food in the house! We have Spam, hamburger meat, and apples, lots of Chinese takeout boxes."
Paul nodded grimly. "Good point. But I have a plan. Sit tight until I get there."
Rachel was glad she was speaking on her cell phone. "OK. I'm getting into my smallest chair. But I'm having to cram pillows around me to get it as tight as possible."
"That's fine," Paul said absently, thankful he hadn't suggested that she hang tight instead. "I'll be there soon," he said hanging up the phone. That didn't work very well, since the receiver was above the base of the phone, so he instead tried hanging it down, which worked much better.
Paul grabbed his secret weapon and put it into a bag. Rachel and Philo lived just down the street, so he decided to walk. He ran outside, only to be dismayed that it was raining cats and dogs. He was momentarily stunned after being hit in the temple by a Chihuahua hurtling through the air. Thankful it hadn't been a Great Dane, he slipped back into the house.
Due to the poor weather conditions, he decided to drive there instead. He got into his all-wheel drive SUV, and thankful once again that he made sure his model only had one steering wheel (he supposed some all-wheel drive cars made you have to drive with several steering wheel at the same time - why else be called all-wheel?) he drove out of his garage into the horrible weather. It was still pouring. The small cats were bouncing off the car without leaving a mark, but he had to drive carefully to avoid the larger dogs that were raining. It was really coming down.
He made it safely to his friends' house and rushed inside with his bag. He was quite chalant about it. Inside Rachel was not only not non-plussed at what was happening with her husband, she was plussed.
"Here!" Paul said, handing her the bag. "It looks like you still have a few bananas left for bread. For God's sake hurry and give this to him!"
Rachel threw the contents of the bag at Philo. Astonished at the Plantains that he was now covered with, he apparently decided they were close enough to bananas, and began to go plantains instead. Rachel and Paul quickly collected the remaining bananas that were still usable and Rachel began making bread. The smell of it cooking seemed to snap Philo out of his spell. By the time the bread was done, everything was back to normal; all of the bananas pieces had been picked up, and most of it was out of the curtains.
As they sat down to eat the bread, Rachel and Philo insisted that Paul have an extra piece for saving the day.
The End

Raining cats and dogs
going bananas

Friday, March 21, 2008

Kames vs. Kim

Have you ever thought about the strangeness of our naming conventions? Here are some that I thought that I would mention:
1. Kim, Tim, Jim. Why is there no consistency here? Kimberly becomes Kim, Timothy becomes Tim, James becomes Jim. Kim could be short for Kames, Jim for Jimothy, Tim for Timberly. If you're out there reading this, be more adventurous in naming kids things...
2. Isn't it odd how you can just add -bert, -ward, or -mund to names and get new ones? My friend and neighbor Jay has a short name. Often I will add the bert to make it more like a full name and less like a nickname. Doesn't Jaybert have a nice ring to it? Some other names don't work with that suffix, though. Aaron for instance works better as Aaronward.
3. At some point over the years of watching basketball, I noticed that the commentators for some reasons started calling three pointers "trays" or "treys." I never understood why, or even what the word meant, but just assumed it was the sort of normal idiocy that people who are actually paid to watch and talk about games would say. Then I noticed that it was becoming moderately popular as a name. Why? What does it mean? Isn't it an object that you serve food on? No offense meant to all of you out there with a three pointer as your name. I guess "free throw" or "field goal" are too long. But they could be the full name, and the nickname could be "Dunk."
4. I heard Gwyneth Paltrow used the name "Apple" because it gave a connotation of sweetness and healthiness. It's the natural followup to the name "Sugar" in our health conscious culture. I would also suggest to Ms. Paltrow "Aspartame" where she could use a multitude of cool nicknames, like "Asp" or "Party." If she's concerned about the potential headaches Aspartame causes (but I would point out that kids cause headaches too), she could just use "Splenda." Maybe she should ask the opinion of the parade of nannies who will actually raise the child...

Weird Phrases

At work, two different friends mentioned phrases to me that are quite common, but when you stop to think about them make you scratch your head.

1. Mind your P's and Q's. I seem to remember watching a show on the Food Network where they explained the origins of this one, but it honestly baffles me. Why those letters? I'm going to keep minding all of my letters of the alphabet. Lots of other people focus on the P's and Q's, so the S's and T's are going to be my primary responsibility.

2. Another friend said something about "reading me the riot act." I don't know if that is supposed to prevent rioting or encourage it by telling you step by step instructions on how to do it. I prefer to think it's the latter. Step one - gather in a group (it's hard to have a riot with one person. That's usually called "going postal."). Step Two - get really angry about something. You don't have to understand it at all. In fact, it's usually better if you have no idea at all about the real issue - just try hard to be suggestible to someone with an agenda of some kind. Step Three - smash things, shout, and swear profusely. Step Four - Find someone in authority who is trying to restore order and prevent people from being hurt and attack them as being evil fascists who are trying to stop people from having fun. Teach them to have laws to protect people, evil fascists. Step five - Steal and loot as much as possible from the evil people who have stores and shops and actually force you to pay for things. Step six - I don't know any more of the steps. She stopped reading me the riot act at that point.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008


Have you ever noticed that coupons will say at the bottom that they have a cash value of 1/20 of a cent? Have any of you ever tried to exploit that? The next time that you have to pay $5 for something, try paying with 10,000 Friskies coupons. Let me know what happens...

By the way, you'll have to make sure that you have exactly 10,000 coupons and not 9,998. I'd recommend counting them all in front of the sales person. Just don't lose count or you'll have to start again.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Emily Dickinson

A friend at work had some extra calendars, one of which had some great images of New England. Each month also had a poem by Emily Dickinson. Until recently I had never had any interest in poetry. I do, however, remember an English teacher telling me that most of Emily's poems can be sung to the tune of the Yellow Rose of Texas. To me this brings up a good question: If we have trouble with the rhythm of poetry, could we pick a song at random and write poetry to it? Give it a try. I'm going to try something with an actual melody, but feel free to try rap as well, I suppose.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Raisins and Prunes

Thought for the day:
Why are dried grapes called raisins and dried plums called prunes? What about dried bananas or dried pineapples or other dried fruits? They don't seem to have special names. How about bananins? Pineappunes?

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Questions that need answering...

There are some unanswered questions that transcend all others, and I have made a list of several of them in hopes that the answers may yet be determined in my lifetime. Here are a few - Some are not original, but instead are the type of questions that effect every man, woman, and child in existence.

1. What is Goofy? Is he a dog? If he is, why does he talk and wear clothes, when Pluto does not?

2. Why don't Porky Pig and Donald Duck wear pants? When they show them coming out of the shower in a cartoon, why do they put a towel around themselves if they don't usually need pants?

3. Who are these doctors and dentists who are always the one of ten who don't support something? "Nine of out ten doctors believe that drinking water is important to your overall health." Is the other doctor a moron or just someone who can't make up their mind? How do you know the 1oth doctor isn't your doctor?

4. Is there anything scarier than this? I drove past a gas station last night that had a little sign where they can change their messages - normally things like "Hot dogs - 2 for $1." This one said "We do taxes." Is it just me, or is the gas station the last place you would think to go to get your taxes done? I'm planning on going to a CPA soon and ask for an oil change and to replace my brakes. I bet it will be cheaper than going to a mechanic. I already have a good quote from H&R Block.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Slovakia - Our Drive to the Plant

We were heading to Nove Mesto. We flew into Vienna, rented a car, and then drove across the border into Slovakia. I have never driven a stick shift car, and all of the vehicles were manual transmission, so my coworker Aaron was elected our driver. We had been told that we were to decline extra insurance on the rental car, and we did so.

We had our Mexican controller, Octavio, with us, and he caused a minor sensation when we crossed over the border and we had to show our passports. I would imagine that Mexican passports were rare heading into Slovakia. The border areas were a lot like toll booths. I couldn't help looking around as we went through to see if I could find any sign of what I suspect were the more stringent protective areas left from the Soviet days, but I didn't see anything.
Everything went smoothly at first. Aaron kept to the speed limit briefly, until we saw that like the US people totally ignore it. At that time he decided to "follow the flow of traffic." We sailed through Brataslava and into the middle of Slovakia. At that time, there really only appeared to be one main highway in the whole country, and we were on it. About half way through our journey, we came around a bend to a overpass, and a truck was stopped on the side of the road. The driver had lost his load, which were crates and boxes, and they were strewn all over our lane. The lane to our left had cars in it, so there was nowhere for us to go. Aaron just drove through them. We didn't want to stop and inspect the damage because we couldn't speak the language, and I don't believe that we had a cell phone that worked either. We kept going and for a while everything seemed OK.
But then, what we feared in the back of our minds happened. Our speed started dropping and the temperature gauge started rising! We were more than a little nervous. This continued formsome time, until we weren't going that fast at all. We barely made it to the plant, but then the admin assistant there helped us get a new rental car. There ended up being some trouble because we had not asked for the extra insurance, but it worked out for us in the end.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Tales from Slovakia

I spent some time in Europe for my previous employer. Twice I spent a week in Slovakia, which I found fascinating. Now, I don't want to generalize, but it seemed from the people we encountered in our plant that we were visiting that the Slovakian men were on average a bit taller than the average American man. I found this ironic because the hotel we stayed in had very short beds. The hotel rooms had separations everywhere. There were two short single beds in the hotel room I was given, but they were separated almost as separate rooms themselves by dividers. When you first went in the room, there was a sort of foyer, with fiberglass type dividers splitting the bedroom. Very strange.

Brataslava also was a study in contrasts. You could still see the ugly Soviet era apartment buildings towering in the distant, all grayish white and all looking exactly the same. Much of Brataslava was booming, with new residences, shopping centers, and roads being built. It was quite amazing. It's been probably 3 years since I've been there, and I'm sure that it has changed dramatically even since then.

Friday, February 22, 2008

The Story of Kelli

This anecdote isn't funny, but is something that I thought I would share. While I was growing up, there was a girl in grade school that I had a major crush on from first sight in first grade all through sixth grade. Not only was she pretty, but she seemed like a nice girl. I won't give her name, for fear of libel/slander/whatever. Alas, her niceness didn't seem to last. When I returned to school in seventh grade, she like everyone else suddenly seemed to go insane. I never have seen such a transformation from pleasant or at least neutral people to hateful people as I did in the transition to junior high in seventh grade. Looking back, I wonder if the water supply had been poisoned.

Kelli was a cheerleader, and like many other people thought it was funny to mock me. After this happened a several times, we had an intense exchange with the result that she never bothered me again. We also seldom spoke after that. I think we had a couple of brief "it looks like rain" sort of conversations in high school, but nothing extended or personal. That was fine with me.

In college for the first year or so I stayed in contact with my few close friends from high school, though that soon changed as time wore on. During that period, I heard that Kelli was taking dance classes in college and had found that she had a cancerous tumor in her leg. Pretty serious stuff. I remembered that we had once been friends, and I decided that I shouldn't hold some silly things that she did in junior high against her. It was tough, but I bought a card and wrote a note. Now currently I can have a tendency if I talk too much to put my foot in my mouth. Back then, I was a little worse. I'd put both feet in my mouth, which would result more often that not in falling to the ground on my butt.

Whatever I said to Kelli, it was heart felt. I merely told her that I and my college friends (at least those that did that sort of thing) were praying for her, and I must have said that because of our strained relationship after junior high that I wasn't sure that I should contact her. Something like that.

Some time later I received a response (which I didn't keep.) It's hard to understand what people mean from what they say. I remember her saying something to the effect of "Thanks for the card, I appreciate the prayers. I know how hard it must have been for you to send this card." I took it that she was getting in a bit of a barb, since I must have laid it on too thick about our estranged friendship in the original card. That was my reading of the tone at the time.

I heard that she recovered and grew back her hair, and I didn't really think any more about her until several years later when we were 28. My mom sent me a clipping from the newspaper. Kelli had a recurrence of cancer and had died. It shook me a great deal, that someone so young and fit could succumb like that. Though I had never realized it consciously before, I guess there had always been in the back of my mind this idea that I might see her again someday and feel proud of myself and what I had become. You know, a sort of "So there" moment. Now that wasn't going to happen. I remembered our friendship in grade school more vividly after that, and I really was shaken.

The moral of the story? I don't know that there is one, other than you never know what is going to happen and when. If you have something to say to someone, don't put it off.

Monday, February 18, 2008

The Worst Big Budget Movies?

I was thinking recently about some of the worst big budget films out there. I have a good friend who says that Waterworld (with Kevin Costner) fits into that category. I only saw it once, but I didn't think it was that horrible. Of course, this kind of thing is always subjective, but I do have a few to mention.

1. Superman IV - It was some time before I even realized that Christopher Reeve had made a 4th Superman movie. I don't remember it being in theatres. After I saw it, I realized why. I found it painful. The worst parts were the scenes with Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor. If you remember the comics, Lex is supposed to be bald. In the 1st movie, Gene Jackson pulls off his "wig" at the end of the movie and is revealed as bald. In the 4th movie, he is apparently wearing his wig again. However, the wig has a bald spot...

2. Dungeons and Dragons - Truly awful picture that my friend Matt and I went to see without his wife. Staying home was the best decision Lina ever made. Thora Birch tried hard in her role as the queen, but she didn't have a chance of saving this movie from its terrible script.

3. Catch and Release - Kevin Smith is funny, but the other characters (especially the leads) are to me so unsympathetic as to make some parts of this movie actually appalling. I'm a big Jennifer Garner fan for her work in Alias, but this movie was not a good career choice for her.

and the worst one of all time in my opinion...

Hudson Hawk. I went to see this film against my will, and I believe I had the first white appearing in my hair upon coming out of the theatre.

Again, these are just big budget films. There are plenty of TV movies that are most likely far worse. Also, there are many films (The Saw pictures, the American Pie series and its ilk of crude humor) that I might dislike even more if I ever went to see them. However, they hold no interest for me because of their subject matter.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Product Idea

Ideas I had for products that never quite made it…

Electric Abacus

Electric Kazoo – think of the difference in sound between an acoustic guitar and electric guitar. Imagine the possibilities

Tackle Tiddlywinks - a boring game made more athletic

Diet Oil of Olay - save calories by replacing all that unhealthy oil with applesauce

Hollow potatoes - this is to make it easy to have potato skins. Hey, they serve donut holes, right?

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Restaurant Service

Have you ever had really poor service when you go out to eat at a restaurant? If you pay by credit card, I have what may be an innovative solution to your problems. When you get your receipt with the total and the slot for the tip, enter a negative amount. For example, let's say the bill was $30.00. Write in your tip of ($5.00) or -$5.00, and then write in the total as $25.00. Why should you be the only one suffering if they gave you the wrong food and were disagreeable about it? If the service is really horrible, write in the tip as ($35.00). Then they owe you $5.00. Hold out your hand for the money as the waiter/waitress comes by.

Please note that this would never really work. But at least you can have some satisfaction in thinking about it, right?

Monday, February 11, 2008

The need to have an enemy?

My original purpose in having this blog was to communicate the humorous, or at least what I hoped to be humorous. I find my posts of late to be straying from that charter. This is another of those.
Have you noticed within ourselves the need to have an enemy? Not necessarily a person, per se, but often abstract concepts? I think that many people of varied backgrounds may agree on this, whether they believe it is a vestige remaining through our evolution from animals who were in constant conflict to stay alive, to those who may call it an element of original sin.
An example of this attitude is the feelings some people have over sports teams. Have you, like me, been appalled at behavior at sporting venues when you go to see a game? Or shaken your head at what you hear about football matches in Europe where rioting occurs? There have been stories of people murdered after they perform poorly in football matches. I remember one in particular in South America.
Does anyone remember Mitch Williams? He was a closer in the World Series that gave up a winning home run to the other team. I remember reading how immediately afterwards fans pulled up outside his family's home to spew their anger and hate at him. They were harrassed for some time after that. He was never the same player after that World Series experience.

I think some of us need a place where we can direct our anger and frustration at the world, and sports and politics are a frequent way to do that. I see it in my own life. I'll give an example of a sports team. There is a university that I will not mention that has long been a lightning rod for my anger and hate, and admittedly it is foolish of me. It started when the people I knew from high school who were going there were complete jerks and enemies of mine. It continues to this day, when I can freely say that of all of the people I have met who have attended this school, only one can I say to have liked. The others have a mix of arrogance and sports' obsession that tend to push me away.
Still, whether I believe I have reasons to feel this way or not, I don't really. It's a silly "outlet" for my anger that does nothing more than to fan the flames of all of those parts of myself that I want purged. Rather than being an outlet to vent, it actually makes things worse. This is true for more than just sports teams.
Again, for me it seems that when people attack my beliefs or things that I have expressed an opinion about (whether it be TV shows, books, music), it will often come across as a personal attack on me. Is it really? Usually not, but most of the time that doesn't stop me from feeling that it was.
What is my point to this? I guess that I have a lot of work to do, that even being aware of this part of myself doesn't mean that I can stop it necessarily, though they say admitting the problem is at least a first step. But I think that this is a problem for society at large, maybe not to the same degree as it is for me, but maybe for some a bigger problem. I hope and pray that we as a people come to recognize this part of ourselves and not let it overcome us.