Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Woah is me.

A quota of woe
Was fated for Noah
Because he meant "whoa"
But misspelled it "woah"

(I see this error a lot these days.)

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Have Pirates peaked?

I'm a little ambivalent about tomorrow's celebration of International Talk Like a Pirate Day. There are a few reasons, some personal, most not. Here are my thoughts:

1) Right off the top, I confess that I am still a little hurt by the utter failure of Talk Like Slip Mahoney Day (June 2). I know I made many errors in the concept -- the Bowery Boys and Slip himself, the late Leo Gorcey, are hardly remembered anymore. Plus, even for those who remember the many Bowery Boys movies fondly, talking like Slip Mahoney is not simple. Slip's hard-knocks New York accent is easy enough to imitate, but his constant stream of malapropisms is difficult to replicate off the cuff. Malapropisms are hard! You have be to clever to sound that dumb. As I wrote before, any fool can go ARRR and Avast ye, but it's tricky to come up with lines like "You're not holding me here as an accomplishment to the crime because I never accomplished anything in my life, so what's the charge?" I blame myself for thinking we were up to the challenge.

2) The failure of Talk Like a Grizzled Prospector Day (January 24) to catch on should have taught me that the "Talk Like" holiday concept is not infinitely expandable. I don't even hear much about International Talk Like William Shatner Day (March 22) anymore.

3) And I don't think that Talk Like a Pirate Day is even what it used to be. The founders don't update the Webpage very often. Krispy Kreme used to give out free doughnuts on the big day, but there's no mention of it on the company site now. Dunkin' Donuts hasn't done anything for it, I believe, in five years. The day's biggest supporter, humor writer Dave Barry, has been missing for weeks, dealing with a serious family medical issue. (Maybe he'll make an appearance tomorrow.) Childhood Cancer Support in Australia does use the day as a fund-raising opportunity, so I hope for their sake it is not disappearing.

I don't know if any offices are doing employee fun events based on the day, but in the current sensitivity-to-the-point-of-explosion atmosphere, it would seem reckless to celebrate anything relating to a people known for intemperance, violence, thievery, and sexual incontinence. Hey, I'm glad I'm not working in an office anymore!

4) Finally, are pirates what they had been? The main tent pole for the pirate popularity is the Pirates of the Caribbean film series. The first movie came out in 2003, and they've been getting stupider ever since. While there was a lot of smarts in the first film, it got progressive sacrificed for looks and set-pieces as it went. I bailed after #3. They've all made money, but no one knows if there will be a #6 at this point. It may be stuck in Development Hell. If it actually is made, it may be dumber than the dumbest Bowery Boys movie -- so dumb that it will cause a explosion of stupid that will make the Kraken look like a Chiweenie puppy, taking all the fun of piracy with it.

Plus, the Pittsburgh Pirates are in fourth place in the NL Central as of this morning.

So all this is rather distressing. But, of course, I will be ready tomorrow all the same.

What the hey -- Dunkin' Donuts might change its mind and hand out doughnuts. Doughnuts ahoy!

Monday, September 17, 2018

Laundry room. Come in, laundry room.

When my wife's phone pings, alerting her to a text, I feel the need to say "It's not me," even though I'm in the same room. Unless it is me, and I'm texting her in secret for some reason, like not wanting to wake the dog(s) at her feet.

We text each other within the house a lot more than I would have ever expected. Mainly it's because my office is upstairs and hers is down, so vital messages like "What's for lunch?" and "Whatever you're making!" need to be transmitted in an efficient manner.

All this got me thinking about that wave of the future that I remember from childhood -- the in-home intercom. Many of my friends' homes had them. You kids may not have seen them, or perhaps you have, because they were built right into the walls and thus their removal would leave a huge hole.

They all looked like this, right down to the paneling.

These tended to be in houses built in the early- to mid-1960s. The house I grew up in was older than that, so we didn't have them. They seemed to me like real science fiction technology -- the idea that you could call Dad in the basement or your big sister in her room without getting up was amazing. "Sis! Your stupid boyfriend is on the stupid phone again!" Mom could call from wherever she was (the kitchen) to wherever you were (in front of the TV) without screaming. Some of them even had radios, so you could tune in the ball game or some groovy music at will. So futuristic.

In every house I knew of where these things were installed, though, they had ceased to function. I don't recall ever seeing one used, but I do recall people telling me they didn't work. These things were, of course, hardwired, so there's no reason I can tell you why they would malfunction anymore than the electrical socket would suddenly stop working. I guess the units just broke. But their importance in daily family life is demonstrated to me by the fact that no ever bothered to have the system fixed.

What the hell, Mom can always scream, right? She could shatter glass with that voice.

NuTone was the company that made most of these. Invisible Themepark has a nice summary of the history of the home intercom, although I think they're mistaken in saying this was only a feature of rich people's homes. I remember some developments that had been chucked up in the 1960s, the kind of home Rodney Dangerfield lived in in Easy Money, that had intercoms. Tiny backyards, but intercoms. The moms yelled anyway.

What absolutely stunned me is that NuTone is not only still with us, but they still make home intercoms. And not only that, but they're still wired into the wall. In fact, if you have the old wiring from an old system, they can have new units attached to it. I might have thought they'd do the system wirelessly now, but I guess that'd be just another phone. Or a non-walkie talkie.

As appealing as the idea is, I think I'll pass. After all, if I wanted to alert my wife, I'd have to get off the sofa, walk to the unit, call for her, wait for her to get away from the desk (disturbing Nipper and Tralfaz, sleeping on her feet), and answer the call. Easier to text.

Or yell. Yelling works.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Alternate names.

We love our dogs Tralfaz and Nipper. As I've explained before, Tralfaz's name came from The Jetsons, from the episode where J.P. Gottrockets, the original owner of family's dog Astro, comes to reclaim him -- we discover that Astro's original name was Tralfaz, which he hated. (The name has deeper roots than that episode, as explained by Yowp here.) We mostly call him Fazzy. And Nipper, of course, got his name from the RCA Victor dog Nipper, the one who could recognize "his master's voice" on the ol' Victrola because it was so lifelike. Plus, as a puppy, Nipper nipped. 

But we have thought of other names through the years that might have suited them as well or better. You want to name a puppy early, so he gets used to the sound of it being associated with him, but you don't get a sense of his eventual personality that young. Same with kids. Thumper Lunks could become a famous brain surgeon; Hortense Gertrude Splenndorfus could turn into a rap artist. Although she'd probably call herself Furiouz H.

Naming after a short time would have been a problem too, or Nipper would have gone through life as Hungry Hungry Zippo. He was so very hungry as a puppy, and no surprise, as he was almost fully grown at seven months. Now he's the dog that is more likely to give me a hassle at mealtimes. That's when I want to call him Randy, after the kid brother in A Christmas Story: "Every family has a kid who won't eat. My kid brother had not eaten voluntarily in over three years." That would make Tralfaz Ralphie, and he's not much of a Ralphie. He probably would think a football was a good Christmas present. 

Hoover would have been a good name for Tralfaz, but we only knew that after we got Nipper. Nipper loves treats, but doesn't always police up the crumbs. Tralfaz will go around and get everything. Hoover would be a good name for a dog that does that, or Dyson if you're being more modern. Although hoover is still a verb in England. 

For a while, Crash seemed to be an excellent name for Nipper. The puppy energy was way bigger than his puppy muscular control. If he chased a ball downhill he'd go butt over ears; if he charged down the hall he could stop on a dime about as well as an F-15 Super Eagle. 

This looked like it would be his autobiography.
But he calmed down over time, learned to adjust his speed to conditions, and he slams into stuff and people a lot less than he used to. He still pulls like an ox, so Ox could have been his name (not Bull, because he had his little surgery).

Bear would have been a good name for both these dogs, but it would have to have been Tralfaz. When you have two dogs and one is bigger than the other, that one has to be Bear. If the little one is Bear, the big one has to be Elephant, and that's silly. Collectively, considering all their shedding, they could be the Hair Bear Bunch.

Galoot might have been a good name for Tralfaz. He is a big goof, as a galoot might be. But he's also much more sensitive than one would expect a large dog to be, which is not that galoot-like.

It's a tough thing, names. I think we did a good enough job with them. We used the recommended two syllables. At the very least we didn't give them Irish surnames, like Bailey or Riley. There's a lot of that kind of thing about.

Friday, September 14, 2018

The lurking shed.

You ever see a shed that looks larger than its house?

I couldn't get the whole house in this iPhone photo, but trust me, there is precious little more to it than what you see. And lurking behind: Shed.

It is not the largest shed I have ever seen, but the house really is a cottage. There's no one in it just now; the people are gone, the for-sale sign is out front. I'd guess it's just a four-room home, big enough for one, maybe a little tight for more. And if it gets too crowded, someone can always sleep in the shed.

Not that I think anyone has ever done it, though, although I suppose you can if the weather isn't too cold. But assuming that's not the purpose of the shed, why did this tiny home have such a large shed?

Lately I've been hearing about the "she shed," supposedly the counterpart to the "man cave." I don't think this really works. I don't know any sheds that have large sofas, cable for a wide-screen TV, WiFi, fan posters, pool tables, card tables, refrigerators, and chip bowls. If you have such a thing, it is no longer a shed, it is a clubhouse. It's no more a shed than the man cave is an actual cave. And if you have a she shed. then you need a real shed, because you still need a place to put the tools and flower pots and lawn mower. Then they start calling you "Two Sheds," and that's just silly.

I personally wound up with no shed at all, as living in the Outer Boroughs convinced my wife that if we had a shed we would wind up with strange teenagers drinking and smoking pot in it. I suppose that's possible wherever you live, but we left the city years ago. I could be Fred "No Sheds" Key, I suppose.

But if I did have a shed, I wouldn't get one the same size of my house, in a gloomy color, and park it in the backyard so it looked like it was sneaking up on my house to eat it.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Beware of dog.

People have used dogs for security for millennia. Here's a famous mosaic from Pompeii, telling people to Cave Canem, or Beware of Dog

Perhaps a more useful one would have been Cave Mons Igneus, or Beware of Volcano.

As the owner of two large dogs, I have considered using such a sign. It would be useful to deter burglars. But there's really no need for a sign, because the dogs go crazy if someone comes up on the porch uninvited.

Don't get me wrong: My fuzzy baby lumpkins are as friendly as you might want. I've even composed a song about how friendly the bigger one, Tralfaz, is, because his size sometimes alarms people. Both the dogs love to meet people and other dogs. Tralfaz is such a peace-lover that he doesn't even play-fight with dogs. The smaller one, Nipper, will still do that with some dogs he thinks will be up for it. They've never acted aggressively toward a human being when away from the house, although sometimes they've regarded people with a little suspicion, and sometimes the odd bark. My wife thinks these people may be cat owners. We can't discern any other similarities, and we don't know if they own cats, but the dogs would be able to tell.

But really, our guys are very fond of human beings. So I can't say for sure they would be good watchdogs if push came to shove. They act a good game -- Nipper is totally ready to tell the FedEx man or the UPS guy off in spades. But if someone broke in, especially if we humans were out, would the guys just lick them and show them where the jewelry is?

I think probably not. Although friendly by nature and by nurture, these dogs do understand what constitutes our zone, and violators get a warning. If it was late at night, or if they were here alone, and someone came in without being accompanied by us, I do think there would be hell to pay. They say that dogs like to have a job, and absent an assigned one they will find one. Since we have no sheep to herd, no voles to hunt, I believe they see their job as Guardians of the Den, even though we did not get them for that purpose. And I believe if the chips were down, they'd carry out that job well.

In fact, a couple of weeks ago we had the driveway fixed while I was out, so when I returned I couldn't park in the garage as I normally do. So Nipper heard me coming in the front door rather than the garage door -- and as I opened the door he came running and barking like he was going to murder me. (Tralfaz sat tight -- I think he knew it was me on the porch, or maybe he was delegating to the junior staff.) Nipper has what it takes.

Anyway, we have a really, really loud security system too, so I think if the Wet Bandits broke in it would be complete pandemonium in here. I am not entirely sure any of us would survive. The police could come into a house with a blaring alarm and a bunch of dead humans and dogs. It would just be too terrifying all around. The cops might think we were hit by a volcano.