Saturday, December 10, 2016

Memory holder.

This basket has been in the family since the 1990s, as you might guess from the logo design:

Have never understood the "be stylish to your life" part. "Add style to your life"? "Be stylish with the actions in your life"? "Treat your life stylishly"? Anyway, it's a lot to ask from a plastic basket.

I believe this basket, made by a company called Iris, came from the late, lamented Lechters Housewares, which folded 15 years ago. The basket was purchased for apartment use. It was meant to be a caddy to hold all cleaning supplies, so they could be carried from room to room together. Although oven cleaner is not great in the living room, and Endust doesn't get much use in the bathroom, it was still convenient and useful. I'm not sure if it is fitting or ironic, however, that all these years later it has developed a layer of grunge on the bottom and may have to be discarded.

Getting back to that nineties logo for "Mesh Basket": you might think Iris had gone the way of Lechters, or for that matter, Chumbawamba, Doug, or AOL discs. But you'd be wrong!

Mrs. Key (the lovely and talented) got a new box to hold dog food, and as an elevated feeder for the big guy's bowls. And just the other day I noticed the label:

Yes! Iris is still out there, making things (in the USA, pilgrim!) that hold other things. As someone whose idea of organization is "I think I left it on that pile, or maybe that pile, or possibly the other pile," I fully support the making of things that hold other things. It's not that they'll get me organized; it's just that I can put the piles away in the boxes and ignore them.

After Christmas, Walmart and other retailers have specials on storage bins. You can bet that Iris will be there.

I feel a kind of weird kinship with the company, even though I only have the two products and one of them may have to be thrown away because it's its own Superfund site. But when something is willing to hang around for twenty years, I'm willing to show it some love.

I have some Christmas ornaments like that. Some human friends, too, actually.

Friday, December 9, 2016

The Snake in the Glass.

This program contains graphic images and mature subject matter. Viewer discretion is advised.

(EXT: Near the side of the road. Uniformed cops walk and talk, talking into walkie-talkies. CSI folk in lab coats and gloves kneel, pointing at this and that. Detective Bacon, shaking his whiskers, approaches the lead investigator, Peter "PB" Barilotto. It's been a rough year for both of them.)

Detective Bacon: What's the riddle this time, PB? Why did the snake cross the road? 

PB: Or not quite cross it. 

Bacon: Ew.

PB: Pretty brutal. 

Bacon: Hit and run?

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Immaculate Conception.

There are some erroneous concepts that need to be cleared up about this day, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception:

1) It's not Jesus's conception. Even Catholics get this wrong. Jesus's miraculous conception is honored on March 25 (the Feast of the Annunciation)---reasonably, nine months before his birthday is celebrated. It gets confusing, because with Christmas coming up, we're thinking about Jesus's babyhood. The Immaculate Conception is the day Mary was conceived, as she was born without Original Sin, unlike the rest of us slobs. But why is Mary's conception celebrated so close to Christmas---especially since we don't really know what dates any of these took place?

2) I'm not sure why December 8 was chosen, actually; a reading of the history of the feast shows that it arose slowly in the monasteries, and other dates were used at times. All I can say is that it should be celebrated and 12/8 had a 1 in 365.25 chance of being precisely right -- if you presume divine guidance along the way, the chances improve immeasurably.

Interestingly, the Annunciation is not a US day of obligation, meaning Catholics are not obliged to attend Mass that day, but the Feast of the Immaculate Conception is. Why?

3) Everyone knows that Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland, that George is the patron saint of England, that Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland, and that Archangel Michael is the patron saint of Papua New Guinea. (What, you didn't know that?) Well, the Virgin Mary, as Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, is the patron saint of the United States of America. (A lot of Catholics don't know that, either.) (Brazil, too.) So it's not just a day of commemorating the Queen of the Saints; it's a national holiday in this country as well. Which is why, unlike other days of obligation like the Assumption of Mary into heaven (August 15) and All Saints Day (November 1), which may be abrogated in the U.S. if they fall on a Saturday or Monday -- in other words, the feast is moved to the neighboring Sunday -- the Feast of the Immaculate Conception always requires church attendance in America regardless of the day of the week upon which December 8 falls.

In the United States, and indeed throughout the Western Hemisphere, devotion to Mary is extremely strong. Her appearance at Guadelupe occured on December 9, 1531, when the church had barely arrived here. In 1859 she appeared three times in Wisconsin---really.

The church does not accept these things easily, by the way, so don't go running to the local parish because you see Mary in a potato chip. It is far easier for you or me to become a publicly proclaimed saint than to have a claim of an apparition from Mary accepted by Rome. It's true! We don't have to walk on water or chase all the snakes out of Cleveland; we just have to get murdered while preaching the Gospel. There's a lot of that about these days. Fans of Dan Brown's novels may think that people are getting killed because of the Catholic church's secrets, but in fact people are getting killed because of Christianity's very public knowledge.

On this feast day, I, as a Catholic, suggest you go visit your parish if you're Catholic, or even if you're not---what could it hurt? You might be inspired by it. You might even enjoy it.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Beware them both!

“Forgive me if I am not justified in what I ask,” said Scrooge, looking intently at the Spirit’s robe, “but I see something strange, and not belonging to yourself, protruding from your skirts. Is it a foot or a claw?”

"Checking out my skirts, eh?" said the saucy Spirit.

"Dude! Claw!"

“It might be a claw, for the flesh there is upon it,” was the Spirit’s sorrowful reply. “Look here.”

From the foldings of its robe, it brought two children; wretched, abject, frightful, hideous, miserable. They knelt down at its feet, and clung upon the outside of its garment.

“Oh, Man! look here. Look, look, down here!” exclaimed the Ghost.

They were a boy and girl. Yellow, meagre, ragged, scowling, wolfish; but prostrate, too, in their humility. Where graceful youth should have filled their features out, and touched them with its freshest tints, a stale and shrivelled hand, like that of age, had pinched, and twisted them, and pulled them into shreds. Where angels might have sat enthroned, devils lurked, and glared out menacing. No change, no degradation, no perversion of humanity, in any grade, through all the mysteries of wonderful creation, has monsters half so horrible and dread.

Scrooge started back, appalled. Having them shown to him in this way, he tried to say they were fine children, but the words choked themselves, rather than be parties to a lie of such enormous magnitude. Scrooge had seen juvenile delinquents before, but these took the biscuit. They looked like a couple of Grade-A creeps.

“Spirit! are they yours?” Scrooge could say no more.

“They are Man’s,” said the Spirit, looking down upon them. “And they cling to me, appealing from their fathers."

"'Appealing' is not the word I---"

"This boy is Politics," shouted the Ghost. "This girl is Entitlement. These desiccated beasts are that which look appealing in the daylight, the guardians and providers of happiness, but in truth they appear as you see them now. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased. Deny it!” cried the Spirit, stretching out its hand towards the city. “Slander those who tell it ye! Admit it for your factious purposes, and make it worse. And bide the end!”

"Wait---Politics and Enwhotlement?"

"Politics," said the Spirit, with strained patience, "and Entitlement."

"No, sorry, I don't understand."

"Look," said the Spirit, "it's very simple. Technology and free trade will help alleviate much of the suffering from poverty and want that plagues mankind, but they also sow the seed of destruction. People will come to think only of material goods, adhere to consumerism, deny the soul, and ultimately demand their needs be met by the actions of the state. All kinds of ills follow. The devaluation of work, destruction of social order, Entitlement thinking, see? You're a businessman, consider macroeconomics. Christmas Yet-to-Come would tell you himself, but he never says anything."

"It's rather pleasant that people will be starving in the streets less," mumbled Scrooge.

“But that's the point,” said the Spirit. "Because of these two brats, all that misery will come round again. Only this time instead of people rioting because they have no bread, they will riot because they have no free education, no government guarateed Xboxes."


"Never mind. Not sure myself."

"Well, now, Spirit, I hardly think your predictions need be so dire," said Scrooge. "And even if they were, is that anything I can fix? I thought you just wanted me to be a nicer guy."

"Look, you asked about the kids," said the Spirit. "I wasn't the one that brought them up. No wonder YtC doesn't bother engaging in conversation."

"Now, about those Xboxes..."

The bell struck twelve.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Holiday limericks.

Six famous holiday songs, rendered as limericks. 

Frosty the snowman was fat
Came to life when he put on a hat
"Let us run! Let us play!
For the heat of the day
Will soon make me a ten-gallon splat!"

Sleigh bells ringle and tingle and stuff
Lovely weather to ride through this puff
Grooving with Farmer Gray
At the end of the day
Is all Currier-Ives kind of fluff

With thadneth I write this epithtle
For Christmath I with I could whithtle
Without two front teeth
I can't with you peath
Or thay "Thusie thits on a thithle"

Oh the weather is starting to blow
But there's no place that we need to go
Out there it all bites
But the fire delights
Let it snow let it snow let it snow

"You really had better just come
And yes, you can carry your drum"
He was there on the hay
So I started to play

Rudolph the freaky young deer
Had these nostrils that caused rampant fear
But then Santa the geezer
Said "Light up that beezer
Let's deliver some holiday cheer."

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Where in Hell am I?

In giving out directions to our house, we and those who receive them have noted that they differ in small but potent ways from those offered by Google Maps, Garmin, and other GPS services. It's not surprising. Good as these technical assistants are, they don't live here.

Determinism supposes that to know everything is to be able to predict everything, but even Google doesn't know everything. The locals would know which road is shorter even if less direct, which road is a total speed trap, which road takes you to the part of town where drug dealers rule the streets.

The latter happened to us in the scenic and historic town of Paterson, New Jersey, the state's tenth most dangerous town (but they try harder!). It's a town full of dead factories and abandoned buildings. While trying to get back to I-80 one night, Garmin sent us all over the place, and eventually straight to the worst neighborhood in town. Twice. In my brand-new car.

I thought I'd done something stupid, until I happened to hear another guy complain that the exact same thing happened to him, in Paterson.

Garmin was either trying to kill us, or just didn't have all the facts.

Sometimes I would fight Garmin over an issue, like I got wind of a backup ahead due to a tractor trailer incident or something ("Major problems on the 287 where a truck full of condoms has collided with a truck carrying chicken parts; police blame delays on rubbernecking"). If I pulled off the highway to seek another route, it would try to direct me right back to the problem I was trying to avoid. Eventually it would say huffily, "Recalculating." I'd offended it.

Look, Garmin, if your directions require me to drive through Hell, I'm not doing it, okay?

Norway's a little out of my way.

It makes me worry that self-driving cars and trucks are going to be a problem. Not that I think they'll crash through "Bridge Out" barriers and plunge into lakes---although we can't rule that out---but that I think they'll be forced to take bad routes, be hijacked constantly, and run things and people over to protect their own contents. They'll make instantaneous but poor judgments. They may even be worse drivers than we are!

Go figure.