Things I realized this year

In the year 2200, female astronauts will have names like Marge and Betty, according to science fiction stories from the 1950s.

When I get to the office first thing in the morning, the only sign of life is the occasional cockroach. I'm beginning to think we're never going to walk in and find a kitten.

I try not to take it personally that my favorite TV shows are sponsored by Abilify, a prescription medicine for depression.

If the people on the train suddenly lost their smartphones, they'd all have to bring lap desks to lay out the cards for solitaire.

Favorite lines paraphrased from a podcast episode of the Thrilling Adventure Hour:
German vampire: "My name is Nosferatu."
Sadie Doyle: "Is that what it sounds like?"
German vampire: "What?"
Sadie Doyle: "A Scrabble rack of leftovers played as a bluff?"

Every child at the library is quieter than the parent shushing him or her.

At an office downtown I saw an elderly hunchbacked man creeping along with the aid of a walker. He was wearing blue jeans and a black motorcycle jacket. I still don't know what to think of that.

I am quick to be offended but slow to forgive, so it balances out.

Next year the word "wheelchair" will be replaced by "empowerment chariot."

I had believed the whole movie up to that point

We always get training in the office for any new software or upgrades. Reference materials used to include printed text; now they come solely in the form of video tutorials which are much harder to tack to my bulletin board. But the training concept reminds me of a scene from the movie Independence Day that still bothers me years after seeing it. Jeff Goldblum settles into the chair of an alien flying saucer and takes about 1.8 seconds to scan the dashboard and declare that he can figure out how to fly the spaceship. This was the ship that traveled a distance too far to imagine, destroyed all the most picturesque architectural achievements of the planet, and measured 15 miles across. Oh yeah, and it was BUILT BY EXTRATERRESTRIAL ALIENS.

I've been in a software training class where an employee actually keeled over from an anxiety attack and had to be escorted to the hospital; clearly this co-worker was no Jeff Goldblum. Still, it's possible that in the movie we didn't see a dashboard screen aimed at Mr. Goldblum containing a little character saying, "It looks like you're hijacking the saucer. Would you like help?"

Disturbing the peaceful

This must have been tried by now but I haven't heard how it went: At the site of a peaceful protest in an urban area, I would like to see protesters set up a lifelike sculpture of a human being sitting on the ground, fully dressed, holding a sign, and probably wearing sunglasses to cover the dead eyes. Fill it with discarded animal organs and blood, or something similar. Wait for a cop to confront the motionless being and record a video of what happens when he finally whacks it with a club. I'm curious about whether he'd stop or keep going after the head explodes in a cloud of chicken livers.

Beatrix Potter Mud Flaps

These heavy-duty mud flaps are made in the U.S.A. of 3/4 inch durable high-quality rubber. Sold in pairs. Each features the characters of author/illustrator Beatrix Potter.

Easy to install and remove using your vehicle's two-inch drawbar or ball mount - no drilling required. All styles including best-selling Peter Rabbit and Squirrel Nutkin flaps have center hub and support rods of heavy gauge aluminum construction.

New Jemima Puddle-Duck flaps contain a two-pound steel plate molded into the bottom of each flap to increase flap weight and protect against windsail.

All styles including Appley-Dapply and Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle contain a layer of tear-resistant fabric for long-lasting quality.

Sale - 10% discount for Timmy Tiptoes and Cecily Parsley mud flaps, same quality construction as our best-sellers.

I'll see you

Today was Y's birthday; she would've been 44. Our best years together were in the 1980s and I'm starting to think I might not forget her. At the best times our senses of humor traveled side by side at the same speed in the same direction and it was exhilarating like nothing else. The night I learned of her death I fell asleep and dreamt the most basic form of wish fulfillment: The coroner had been wrong! When he pronounced Y dead, he had actually been examining a storefront manikin. He was simply an idiot, the death announcement was a mistake, she was still alive.

Here's how it worked at the memorial concert for George Harrison: Toward the end of the show, after the big crowded-stage noisy superstar numbers, when you thought that was the finale, musician Joe Brown came out and sang the final song accompanied by his ukulele playing. I've viewed it multiple times and the visual display that gradually starts just after the one-minute mark gives me the chills every time. (Link to YouTube, five minutes)

Uncertainty by Jonathan Fields leaves nothing to chance

This isn't funny ha-ha, just funny weird. A book on Amazon has a publication date of September 29, 2011 and on today, its publication date, it has 34 five-star reviews, all dated today, September 29, 2011. I can't think of another book that was purchased by so many speed-readers. (Link to Amazon page for Uncertainty by Jonathan Fields)

Honey, let's pull out all the stops tonight

Sex in the 1780s was one of the subjects covered by Ariel Levy in last week's New Yorker magazine, in the Books section. She writes:
Late eighteenth-century London even had its own fabled piece of erotic machinery, the so-called "celestial bed." It was invented by James Graham... In 1781, Graham moved to Pall Mall and introduced his "wonder-working edifice": forty glass pillars surrounding a twelve-by-nine-foot electrified bed, covered by a glass dome, tilted to what Graham promised was the ideal angle for conception, and wired so that a pipe organ produced "celestial sounds" as a couple copulated upon it
Due to a lack of imagination, I can only think of one song that a pipe organ would be playing in such a setting:
Roll out the barrel, we'll have a barrel of fun
Roll out the barrel, we've got the blues on the run
Zing boom tararrel, ring out a song of good cheer
Now's the time to roll the barrel, for the gang's all here

Three short paragraphs

I started to read the new Psychology Today article about narcissism, but when I found that it didn't apply to me I lost all interest.

Sometimes I speak before thinking, usually at work. I was at my desk leafing through a stack of reports in my lap to answer a question for a lady who had stopped by my cubicle. It didn't take long to find the answer and before the lady left, I made a point of telling her that all the reports I had been paging through were also available as free downloads from our company's network. The way I said it was, "Everything in my lap is available for free online."

Highly recommended: This episode of Affirmation Nation with Bob Ducca, in which a character experienced in healing strategies for body and mind reviews a new product, the Colonica Handheld Travel Bidet (Link to three-minute audio).

High society

F. Scott Fitzgerald must have had a fun time coming up with the names of the people who came to the parties at Jay Gatsby's house. They included:

The Chester Beckers

The Leeches

Edgar Beaver

Clarence Endive

The Stonewall Jackson Abrams of Georgia

The Fishguards

The Ripley Snells

Mrs. Ulysses Swett

S. B. Whitebait

Maurice A. Flink

Newton Orchid

The Catlips and the Bembergs and G. Earl Muldoon

James B. ("Rot-Gut") Ferret

George Duckweed

S. W. Belcher

The Smirkes

Faustina O'Brien

Mr. Albrucksburger and Miss Haag, his fiancee

Ardita Fitz-Peters

and Miss Claudia Hip

...so as you can imagine, it was quite a summer. (From chapter 4 of The Great Gatsby.)

Microphone and telephone

In an office environment, the person who steps up to speak at the podium can't resist creating this exchange:
"Good morning!"

Audience responds, "Good morning."

"Oh, you can do better than that! Good morning!"

Audience responds, "Good morning," a little louder.

The speaker cocks his/her head to the side, one fist on hip, and says, "Oh, let's try it one more time! Good morning!!"
This could go on. I've never seen it tried at a memorial service though.

Given the chance, it would be hard to resist power games at the office, like commanding a large group of people to speak, even though the outcome is to alienate the entire room.

At a previous job, we used to have an out-of-town VP whose bag of tricks, during a long-distance phone call, included uncomfortable silences to make you nervous. My boss warned me about it so I was prepared, when it happened, to let the silence play out when I had to give the VP an unwelcome answer. Years later, the VP relocated to work in our building and it was hard to be intimidated by a guy who looked like a big pink frog.

The sound of revelation

At the office I sent an email to a supervisor to get his decision on a part of a project. If I heard from him soon, I would be able to proceed and make the deadline. After half an hour I began to wonder when he'd reply. Then I heard "Pfffff. Fffffft. Ffft. Fffffffffft," from his cubicle -- the sound of compressed air being used to clean a keyboard... and I had a better idea of where I ranked on his list of priorities.

"I once was lost, but now I'm f-OW!"

I am ashamed to be one of the last people in the country to learn about Christian paintball, because as it turns out I've lived within driving distance of America's Best Christian Paintball Park, located in southeastern Wisconsin. (Link to Promised Land Paintball)

Their web site includes testimonials:
"I am very grateful for your ministry. One of the things my wife said she wanted me to be was more fun. Well now I have help." Ron
NOW I realize why my relationships have failed.
"We drove over 2 hours to get to your park. I came with a friend's youth group. It was my first time paintballing. Once I saw your park and many fields, I was in Heaven." Justin
That must've presented a challenge for the person who had to deliver your eulogy, Justin.

Obviously, there would be no problem opening a Muslim paintball park, and the competition would be a healthy one. [After five seconds on Google] Oh crap, I can't make up anything anymore: (Link to Muslim Paintball Games of Kentucky)

This Side of Paradise

There was a street fair in the neighborhood a few weeks ago. I do believe I've had enough Peruvian flute music to last me the rest of the year.

The high point and low point of the year are, so far, food and a phone call, respectively. A narrow range of experience. No naked marathons to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro, no improvised explosive devices blowing my arms and legs off.

The highlight was discovering donuts and bacon on the treats table at work. Context is everything: It was a surprise, it was 3:00 in the afternoon, and for the year preceding, the treats table had nothing but stale licorice and dusty packets of generic microwave popcorn. Then on that Magic Day, March 3, I came around the corner and there was more bacon and donuts than a person could eat, and I was the last one to find it. I could take as much as I wanted because everyone else had already had their share. There had been a meeting of important people upstairs and they had cast off the remnants to the little people. When I first saw it I involuntarily made some little grunt. I took a handful of everything and scuttled back to my cube and made it disappear in an efficient manner. With great dispatch. You can go to Donut Lodge or Bacon Plantation and get the same food but it's not going to be a surprise; the impact will be like a tap on the nose. A light touch. (There were no ill effects.)

For the low point, understand first that I turned off my phone's ringer about ten years ago. If a caller is someone I know, they start to leave a message and I can hear that and pick up. But tonight I turned on the ringer in case my brother returned the message I left on his phone. I was anxious to hear whether he had landed a better job. The phone's ringer had been on for less than an hour and when it rang, like a chump I picked up instead of screening it, and godDAMN it was somebody else who wanted my money.

They are so good at my alma mater. My old institution of higher learning. Their highly refined technique is: Get a young female graduate who can maintain a smile (you can tell it's there) on the phone, be bubbly and act interested in somebody twice her age, strike up a conversation about the school you have in common, and propose that the alumnus pledge $200, or $100, or $50, or $25, or how about just $10, and Oh My God their endowment is $5.9 BILLion, I just looked it up (wow that girl is good) and now I'm glad I didn't pledge anything but invited them to send me a mailing. If girls had been half that interested in me while I was a student there, well, it boggles the mind, it would have been like... unexpected fried dough and cured meats.

Visit your local library

I found this document on a shelf in the downtown location of the Chicago Public Library some years ago, and it was so unique that I never threw it away. It's a photocopy of a four-page letter dated 1990, all hand-printed in capital letters on graph paper, addressed to a government official. Converted to normal capitalization, it begins:
Dear Sir:
I would like to take your time by addressing this letter to you as a son would to a father. There comes a time when a man is appalled over what is happening to him in his own country: His mail pilfered, his brain "wired" by a device that is simply constructed and implanted by the CIA...
The rest of the letter is hard to read because the sentences are lengthy and sometimes turn out to have no verbs corresponding to the nouns way back at the start of the sentence.

Eventually the letter charges the director of the CIA with treason but never reveals anything of interest. The letter's style is a mix of lawyer-speak and State-of-the-Union phrases like "all of the items contained therein and pertaining thereto," "both at home and abroad," "in times of peace and in times of war," and "my inalienable right."

The writer mentions the US Constitution at least five times. He gives his birth date and religion, for what it's worth. He takes care to note in his heading that he composed the letter at "0710 hours eastern standard time, 0610 hours central standard time." For good measure, he adds that he's sending a copy of the letter to the president.

To seal the doom of the accused, the writer finishes by claiming that he has evidence stored in three safety deposit boxes, and then he names the banks and their locations. Dude! You're not fully paranoid if you give away that kind of detail to the government.

Despite the writer's recommendation that the CIA director answer a list of questions while "under a truth drug," such events never came to light, and an online search implies that the writer must have died years ago, leaving no remains but those brain wires, I imagine.

Things I haven't missed from the last condo

1. One of the owners received complaints from the people living in the unit below his, that water was leaking from his bathroom down into theirs. So he called a plumber. The plumber examined the bathroom and said that his plumbing was fine but his bathtub needed a recaulking and that would stop the leaks. The plumber never got paid, because "he didn't do any plumbing." I don't know if that owner applied the same principle to good checkups at the doctor.

2. The condo management company cashed one of my checks twice, according to the bank, first as an "electronic transaction," and again the following day as a regular paper check. I didn't even know this was possible, and the bank teller's eyebrows went up when I showed her the paperwork and got it resolved. The condo management company was incompetent in many ways; this was the most innovative.

3. After the condo board fired that management company in favor of a better one, an owner contacted the new manager to say that he was about to sue the condo association unless they patched the roof above his top-floor unit. (This was his first call to anyone on the subject.) The manager gently explained that since the owner was a member of the association, he would, in effect, be suing himself for repairs. He backed down; good man.

And proud of it

A man in a business setting described his race as "first-generation Caucasian," and I lost track of whatever he said after that.

Mother's Day

The 39-year-old woman took a marker and wrote "PUSSY" on the leg of the boy who lay unconscious. The woman was at home with three kids: one was her 13-year-old daughter, and the daughter had invited two of her friends, a girl, 13, and the boy, 14.

The kids and the mom were in the woman's home on a Friday night, and among the four of them they had beer, pot, and cocaine. The woman also gave a couple of her prescription morphine pills to the boy, and that's why he was still unconscious on Saturday. That's when the woman wrote the word on his leg.

When the boy failed to wake up, they finally called for help, the boy died two days later in the hospital, and a year later the woman was found guilty of murder by a jury that included a relative of mine.

Salesmanship

A pitiful acquaintance, now selling a single magazine subscription door to door, visits Mrs. Bridge in her home:
At length he became aware that she was waiting for him to explain the visit, so he worked out of his pocket a crumpled little magazine which was titled The Doberman, and he held this up for her to see.

"Oh?" said Mrs. Bridge.

"I don't guess you or Mr. Bridge'd be much interested in subscribing to this, would you?"

She had suspected he was selling something, and she knew that whatever it might be she would have no use for it.

"I really hadn't planned on subscribing to any more magazines, Mr. Gadbury."

He nodded in complete understanding. "You wouldn't want it unless you had a Doberman." Then an idea came to him and he sat erect and asked, "You don't have one, do you?"

"No, we don't."

"Nobody does," he said despondently. "They eat an awful lot, I think."
From the novel Mrs. Bridge by Evan S. Connell.

It's been 25 years

She said that she was working for the ABC News
It was as much of the alphabet as she knew how to use
Her perfume was unspeakable
It lingered in the air
Like her artificial laughter
Her mementos of affairs

By a bicycle factory as they sounded the siren
And returned into the dancehall she knew he was the one
Though he wasn't tall or handsome she laughed when he told her
I'm the Sheriff of Nottingham and this is Little John

The big light came through my window and it opened up my eyelids
And it snapped them up like roller blinds and told me things that I did
I can't face another day and night of good ideas and complications
And I'm thankful that I didn't open another bottle of inspiration

When we first met I didn't know what to do
My old love lines were all worn out on you
And the world walked 'round my mouth
I didn't mean to say it
I just blurted it out
As you pretended not to notice
Or be taken aback
And I loved you there and then
It's as simple as that

He's got all the things you need and some that you will never
But you make him sound like frozen food, his love will last forever
Still he knows what you want and what you don't allow
And I hope you're happy now

As I stepped out upon the landing my heart was already down the stairs
She's in the bedroom with that boy of hers
Though her face is creased and her eyes seem strange

What do we care if the world is a joke
(Tokyo Storm Warning)
We'll give it a big kiss
We'll give it a poke
(Tokyo Storm Warning)
Death wears a big hat 'cause he's a big bloke
(Tokyo Storm Warning)
We're only living this instant

In the spring of 1986 Elvis Costello released King of America; in the fall he released Blood and Chocolate. All lyrics by Declan MacManus.

Use words

When I was a kid, I couldn't tell a joke because I kept laughing. The punch line, coming out of my mouth, sounded like a combination of words and giggles that people couldn't understand. I worked on that until I could keep a straight face, and as a grownup in an office, a bunch of us had the most fun sharing a sense of deadpan humor and understatement that gave us a healthy perspective when under pressure.

Then emoticons were invented for email communication and deadpan humor was out of style. The little faces at the ends of sentences were like a poke in the ribs: Get it? I made a joke there! Here's a smiling face on its side to denote that fact! I know I'm out of step with everyone I know, but I can't get used to it, and I hope it never comes to this:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. :o)

Now is the winter of our discontent. :-[

Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. : p

If you're like me you just read this book

An account of collegiate entrepreneurship from Mike Birbiglia's book Sleepwalk With Me:
Keith... was expelled for making fake IDs in his dorm room. He had built an enormous driver's license from Arkansas that people stuck their face in. And he would photograph them, and then laminate it.

Vented

A recently elected congressman says he's "...ready to go to war," in reference to his willingness to carry out his constituents' wishes. Somehow, I get the feeling that politicians who use war metaphors for a desk job are unlikely to have ever served in the military. This seems to be the case here, according to his House of Representatives web page biography. Source of the "ready to go to war" assertion: (Link to Time magazine)

Every day I'm reminded of the impact of heredity. When I intentionally offend someone, I get that behavior from my dad. But when I accidentally offend someone, I'm taking after my mom.

I never saw the movie Avatar, and don't plan to, because its advertising was too full of cliches. Avatar is one of 58 movies and TV shows that have used a version of "we're not in Kansas anymore" as listed in this compilation from some poor hard-working soul: (Link)

Baby names for your consideration: Harbinger, DeFault, Pandowdy

New book out: "1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die." Come and make me. I'm ready to go to war over that one. (Link to Amazon)

Drama in real life

Watching from the restaurant window, we saw the young couple, probably college kids, leave the restaurant and go out to their car, parked just out front. The boy plucked a slip from his windshield; it was a parking ticket. The girl beside him looked it over and they spoke for a second. The boy took a step away, held the ticket out in front of him, and ripped it into little pieces. Then he walked over in front of his car and knelt down to a manhole cover where he stuffed the paper bits into the hole. They drove off.

Dood! Just tuck the ticket into your pocket and go home, jeez. You're lucky the cop had moved on. (I assume the cop wasn't watching.)

She so funny

I lost her site and then found her again:
(Link to shoesonwrong)

Choreography

The union of music with movement of the human body can yield the most complete fulfillment of the human spirit's expression. The most famous examples include the ballet Swan Lake with music by Tchaikovsky, seen recently in the 2010 movie The Black Swan.

Another example of the triumph of choreography is available here, particularly at 50 to 54 seconds into the video. This performance enters into the realm where words become inadequate, and there is nothing left to do but watch and remember.

(Link, Brotherhood of Man, 1976)