Saturday, February 28, 2015

One weird trick!

I was just wondering what the blog would look like if I start selling ad space.

Conclusion: Even dumber.

P.S.: Never respond to ads like this. People who use words like "belly" cannot be taken seriously.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Tralfaz the spy.

I live on a quiet street, or at least I used to think so. Then I got a dog. Now every night it seems we are living in Grand Central Station.

Here's a typical breakdown of a trip outside. Imagine, if you will, that it is the coldest night of the winter. Not too hard for me to imagine; we've had about five coldest nights of the winter so far. ("This is the coldest night of the winter!" Two days later: "God! That's even colder!" A week after: "Damn it to hell, this is the coldest night EVER!" etc.) Now, commence with odd pacing and whining. From the dog, not me. My whining comes later.

Mrs. K: Honey, he needs to go out. Can you take him?

Me: Okay, sure. (*dramatic sigh*) Come on, Tralfaz.

(Tralfaz, who cannot be trusted out in the fenceless yard by himself, is thrilled for the chance to go out, even though it's become so cold we're now measuring temperature in Kelvins.)

Me: Okay, Tralfaz, go potty.

(Suddenly the sedan belonging to the Athleticson Family comes tearing down the block. Tralfaz loses his train of thought, despite the fact that two minutes ago his bladder was going to go off like an IED. The car whips into the driveway and jerks to a halt in front of the garage. The door opens and Mr. Athleticson can be heard yapping into his cell.)

Mr. A: Good. Good. See that you call them in the morning. Don't tell him about the upgrades yet.

(Tralfaz stands at attention. Mr. A continues to yap up the driveway to his mailbox. Tralfaz looks like he's frozen solid now, except his large nostrils open and shut, open and shut. Possibly he's determining what Mr. A had for lunch seven hours ago. I can no longer with any great accuracy feel my own fingers.)

Me: Come on, Fazzy, get the lead out.

(Mr. A finally gets back in his car and the garage door opens. Tralfaz watches, still not moving a muscle, as the car glides in. Only once the garage door has shut completely does the dog move again.)

Me: Thank you for alertness in protecting us against the menace of the neighbors. Now pee, damn it.

(Tralfaz wanders off the path into the snow. Sniff. Sniff. My feet are going numb. Tralfaz starts eating a chunk of ice.)

Me: Focus, damn it!

(Tralfaz finishes his refreshing ice and remembers that he came out to empty his bladder, which by now must be turning his eyeballs yellow. He manages one pace before another sound his heard. This is the minivan belonging to the Destractiones Family three houses up. No member of the Destractiones can do anything quietly. They floss loudly. The minivan grinds to a halt and so does Tralfaz. He watches. The doors fly open and the sound of teenagers whining pierces the night. Tralfaz sits down on the ice and settles in. This could be good.)

Me: Not now, Gladys Kravitz. Get back to work.

Male teen: --left it out and then they FORGOT it!

Female teen: --think of anything so stupid--

Mrs. Destractiones: (unintelligible warnings and directions)

(A cold gust of wind from the Ninth Circle of Hell sweeps over suburbia.)

Me: Gah!!!!

(Young Distractiones male is instructed to bring trash can up to the curb; does so, singing, as loudly as he can, while the others slowly make their way indoors, bickering. Tralfaz watches, rapt: Will the male actually finish his mission and get to the front door first? Could be a dead heat, which would be the only heat about in the neighborhood.)

Me: Come on, Tralfaz! Get off the stick!

(Distractiones Family huddles inside, the boy a disappointing third. After the door closes and the dog slowly becomes convinced that it will not reopen, he rises to his feet.)

Me: Last chance, Tralfaz. POTTY! (Feeling like an ass for barking "POTTY!" like a Nazi sergeant in a war picture. "SCHNELL! SCHNELL!")

(The pickup truck belonging to Bat Fastird a couple of doors down is suddenly seen coming along the street.)


(Dog is dragged inside. Five minutes later his whining will result in his return outside. Which is right about the time the Athleticson Family minivan, Mrs. Fastird's hatchback, a cop car, two guys racing each other up the block, a miscellaneous SUV, a clown car, and a frigging brass band all get set to come down my street. I start plotting a move to northernmost Alaska. It would be quieter and it couldn't be much colder.)

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Thank you, Mr. Bruno!

I got an e-mail out of the blue the other day -- the news was a little sad, I suppose, but despite that I was over the moon with excitement:

Dear Key,

My name is Barrister.Jacob Bruno  (Esq.) I am a Lawyer; I reside and
practice in the Republic of Lome-Togo. I am writing you this letter
with  good faith in respect of one late Mr.Alan Key, a citizen of
your country  who was my client here in Togo, until his untimely death
in the year 2011, in a ghastly motor accident, which claimed his life
along with that of his wife and only Son, The combination of the facts
that I was his Personal  Attorney and your having the same last name
with him, will indeed enable us collect the sum of ($9.5 million USD)
plus interests accruing, which the deceased kept in a Savings and
Loans Mortgage Institution here in my country.i need your urgent
respond as soon as possible OK? you can reply to  my private email
address for more details and clarification.

Best regards,
Barrister.Jacob Bruno (Esq.)

Oh, boy! Nine and a half big ones! Let's bring up the money pic again!

Official Money Pic of Your Daily Dose of Vitamin Fred.
Poor old Alan. Poor old Alan and his wife and only Son. To die not just in a motor accident, but in a ghastly motor accident, is awfully sad. I guess he had no Daughters, or maybe girls can't inherit in Togo.

I wonder how Alan got all that dough? Considering that the GDP per capita of Togo is $1,100, he must have worked very hard. I never heard of Alan before, but to have stockpiled the annual income of 8,637 of his fellow Togoans, he must have been quite industrious. We Keys have always had a good work ethic.

I'm very impressed that Mr. Bruno was able to find me. After all, there are a lot of Keys around. lists almost a hundred families by that name in the Hudson Valley. How did he find me? Togoan lawyers must be awfully industrious, too! I'll bet Mr. Bruno makes a pretty good commission.

So I thought I would get the money, fill up the living room with dollar bills, and go all Scrooge McDuck on it. How many people get to do that?

But later on, I got to thinking about old Alan, and his wife and Son, and how ghastly that motor accident must have been. I figured there was blood all over Togo's road. It made me ashamed of my greed, and my hunger for wealth, in a world where so many people have to get by on barely over a grand a year. So I put away my spats and my duck bill, and I took a good, hard look at my life.

Finally I decided not to write back to Barrister Jacob Bruno, Esq. Often money left intestate goes to the government. So maybe Alan's cash can go to his fellow Togobans. Each of the 7,351,374 citizens of Togo can get a buck twenty-nine. They can probably all get a sandwich on that down there. Free lunch on me.

I'm sure that Alan, wherever he is, would like that. And his Son, too.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Things that would be different if Remus had whupped Romulus.

Edward Gibbon’s The Decline and Fall of the Reman Empire

Remance languages

Remeo & Juliet

Pope’s title: Bishop of Reme

Mario Lanza’s recording “Arrivederci Rema”

Remano's Macaroni Grill

The Remantic Period

Edgar Allen Poe:
“On desperate seas long wont to reem,
Thy hyacinth hair, thy classic face,
Thy Naiad airs have brought me heme
To glory that was Greece,
And the grandeur that was Reme.”

Holy Reman Empire

William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar, Act III, Scene ii:
“Friends, Remans, countrymen, lend me your ears;
I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.”

There was a Brutus once that would have brook’d
The eternal devil to keep his state in Reme
As easily as a king. (Julius Caesar, Act I, Scene ii)
"What I Like About You" by the Remantics

Remano cheese

All roads lead to Reme.”

Super Bowls designated with Reman numerals

Lord Byron, Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, Canto iv. Stanza 145:
"While stands the Coliseum, Reme shall stand;
When falls the Coliseum, Reme shall fall;
And when Reme falls—the world."
John Heywood, Proverbes, Part i, Chapter xi:
“Reme was not built in one day.”

G. K. Chesterton:
"Before the Reman came to Rye or out to Severn strode,
The rolling English drunkard made the rolling English road."

St. Ambrose:
“Si fueris Remae, Remano vivito more.”

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Remo

Tuesday, February 24, 2015


I was excited to see that it's Google Science Fair time again. I've been waiting for this for months.

"It's Your Turn to Change the World," they say. Okay! I think we're agreed that if there's one thing this world needs, it's changing. I'll start by firing every lobbyist in the country.

No, JK! I know, this has to be all Sciencey. And I've worked that out. At the risk of tipping my hand, I'm going to reveal my blueprints for my entry for the Google Science Fair:

Pretty freakin' awesome, non?

I'll explain what it is for the sake of you less-sciencey types: It's an exploding stick of butter. I know, right? It combines two of the things guys love most:

  1. Butter
  2. Exploding things

This is a clear winner, obviously. My concern is that I haven't been 18 years old in a long, long time, and this competition is supposedly for the sub-adult population. I think I can slip in, though, based on the fact that I'm so young at heart. Anyone who looked at my blueprints would agree. "This has to be the work of a child!" they would say.

Then I would step forward, hand out, and say, "Thanks! And instead of the fifty-grand scholarship, just slip me 25 large and we'll call it square."

It's all for the love of Science!

Monday, February 23, 2015

A nation is only as strong as its water towers.

The site of the irreplaceable Lileks first introduced me to Minneapolis's Washburn Park Water Tower, a fantastic bulk of water-filled goodness guarded by grim sentinels of purity and health.

Isn't that fantastic? It's impossible to look at that thing and not think about the importance of clean water. This structure was built in 1931 by men who well knew what happened to people when the water was dicey. Or in places right now where it is dicey.

For example: Bengal, 1817-1824, cholera pendemic kills hundreds of thousands. New York, 1832, cholera epidemic kills 3,515. London, 1854, cholera outbreak from a single water pump kills 616 people. Zimbabwe, 2008-2010, cholera kills 4,293.

Any wonder clean water was elevated, celebrated, with fantastic towers like the 1883 Weehawken Water Tower?

Sadly, we don't do much to make our water towers pretty these days. Here's a local one:

A dull lump shoved in at the end of a street, surrounded by trees in the hope that no one will ever see it. This is the kind of thing you put up when you take its benefits for granted.

I know frills and architectural niceties are pricey, but municipal projects always seem to run over budget anyway, with nothing to show for the expense. This is a structure erected for a poorly educated citizenry unaware of the threats posed by untamed nature.

You could at least make it pretty. I've seen more attractive basement water heaters.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Manly musings, done in a manly way that features a piano and a toilet.

Further to Thursday's post, I've always wanted to be a guy's guy. My old man could fix anything that was fixable. And if it wasn't, he would get rid of it. He used to flip houses by himself. Not renovate them; actually lift them up by one end and flip them over. Okay, not really.

Once, when he dragooned his weakling son into helping him fix up a place (I could paint and scrub dog hair out of radiators), we found a broken-down upright piano on the second floor. We could have looked into having it fixed up and sold, or we could have carefully brought it downstairs and seen if anyone on the block wanted a free piano. Or we could do what we did, which was chop it into pieces and throw the pieces out the window, into the backyard.


So I've had my moments.

I wish I had been better at math in school, though. Math guys were supposed to be brainiacs and nerds, but some of them became architects and civil engineers and systems designers and other things that are extremely manly while still enabling them to keep their shirts clean. Unfortunately I was bad at math, and ultimately unqualified for any real work, so I had to start editing and writing.

Were I an engineer instead of useless, though, rather than writing I would be doing something worthwhile with my time. Take this guy:

Or take the guys who build giant trebuchets and air cannons and stuff for the annual Punkin Chunkin pumpkin-shooting event. Even the women involved are more manly than I am.

Oh, well. My dad's passed on now, and he probably never did understand how the son who could do what he never could---go to college---could wind up with so few usable skills.

I'm sorry, Dad. I miss you. We'll always have the piano.

Friday, February 20, 2015


UPDATE: Mr. Philbin notes that bologna, not actually containing meat, is acceptable for Lenten abstinence. I reply that such an obvious gag is unworthy of a great mind.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

I'm Joe Butch.

You may have missed it in the newspapers, but last week our icemaker stopped making ice.

A crisis indeed, of large proportions. It's not like it's been so cold and wet that I could put ice trays on the deck and make ice. Although I could. That's not the point. The point is, we need ice and we had no icemaker. Now what?

Well, your man Fred is not the first man you think of when something needs to be fixed. I can fix a sammich; that's about it. But I had a choice: call Sears and have a guy come over and charge me $200 just to walk in the front door, or try to resolve the problem myself. My wife was not going to let me choose curtain #3 (Ignore the Problem and Drink Tepid Beverages).

So I got out the manual for the fridge and hauled the thing out from the wall. Hmm -- little trickle of water on the floor. Could be... uh... well, maybe the tubing is clogged. Okay! Let's check the tubes!

Hmm. One mop-up later, confirmation that tubes leading from wall to filter and filter to bottom of fridge and bottom of fridge to top of fridge all clear. What's on the bottom of the fridge? That's where the pumpy thing is, isn't it?

Yep, pumpy thing. Valve solenoid, says the manual, but it goes on when the icemaker is on and calling for more water. And it looks a little sickly.

There's your problem.
I replaced the icemaker itself maybe four years ago, so I'm going with sickly pumpy valvey thing. Order a new one!

So I did. Patience was employed, ice trays deployed, and now we waited.

When the little box with the new valve solenoid arrived, I got my tools and got to work. I managed to replace the old one with very little trouble, although the new one had an automatic tube connection rather than a screw-on one. Those make me nervous. Just stick the tube in and it attaches and seals automatically! Yeah, until I find out two years later that there's been a slow drip through the floorboards and my subfloor is now essentially composed of 88% toxic mold.

But I got it in and nothing was obviously leaking, so it should all work now, right?

Two days later I had to admit it wasn't just "resting" or "working things out." Still no ice.

I had to remove the icemaker to confirm what I feared, and confirm I did: The water intake had frozen solid. My theory is that Pumpy Valvey, malfunctioning, was not moving the water along as ordered, and ultimately the water that was sitting there just froze. And that's the theory I'm sticking with, since otherwise I replaced the solenoid for nothing.

And, in fact, once I got the ice out of the line -- using hot screwdrivers, a sports bottle filled with boiling water to shoot steam, and a lot of swearing -- everything worked fine once more. So that's why I'm Joe Butch -- I managed to fix something with my own tools and without asking anyone for help.

Now, if any of you know any helpful tips for getting rid of toxic mold, I would appreciate them.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Ash Wednesday.

I don't normally have much to say about Ash Wednesday, beyond wondering how a day that does not even require attendance in the Catholic church is one of the most popular for attendance. Ash Wednesday is not a holy day of obligation, but our local church has at least as many Masses today as they would for a day like All Saints or Ascension Thursday, plus an early imposition of ashes.

I had heard of C&E Christians, who only go to church on Christmas and Easter, but it was Curtis Sliwa who I heard refer to A&P Catholics -- ashes and palms. Not sure why those two days are particularly appealing---yes, you do leave church with a souvenir of sorts, but it's ashes (reminder of mortality) and blessed palm leaves (reminder to identify with those who praised and welcomed Jesus to Jerusalem and then turned on him).

Anyway: Lent begins today. I have noted before that the Church was wise to place Christmas at the beginning of winter, since the date of Jesus' birth was unknown. For those of us north of the Equator, it gave us hope and something to do as the days became minuscule. We know when the first Easter took place, as it was pegged to Passover, so its spot on the calendar was determined by God. Thanks, God!

It was -1 degree F. when I took out the dog this morning. Historically, and again for those of us in the north, Lent begins when winter is trying to talk us into hopelessness and suicide and the only ashes we see about are those in the fireplace, the last of the firewood burned up. But when we've traveled through the forty days of our Lenten journey, we find that spring has well and truly arrived.

Hold on, people!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Dead presidents day sale!

Referring to money as "dead presidents" is disrespectful. I mean, Franklin ($100) and Hamilton ($10) were never presidents of the United States. Why lump them in with the others?

The same goes for Susan B. Anthony and Sacagawea, if you want to bring in the coins. Or Senator Thomas Hart Benton ($100), U.S. treasurer Michael Hillegas ($10), Senator Silas Wright ($50), or Chief Justice Salmon B. Chase ($10,000), if you're into the old gold certificates (or even Martha Washington, if you like silver certificates). Why mix them up with creeps like Nixon and LBJ, egomaniacal dopes like James Buchanan, dangerous anti-Constitutional types like Wilson, pantsless wonders like Clinton, or pretty dunderheads like Franklin Pierce (and some other, more recent guys I could name)?

Should we even have people on our money? It seems kind of antidemocratic. Our theory is that our leaders should come from the common stock of humanity and, when their service is done, back to the common stock they go.* Why put our brothers-in-arms on the dough like royalty?

I thought about this for a while, and realized that as a people that constantly forgets our past and our principles---which is one explanation for some of the asshats we've voted for---we need reminders of our heroes and our history. Washington was our modern Cincinnatus, forced to serve as leader but retiring from politics immediately thereafter. Who else in history purposely and peacefully relinquished power before? We need to remember men like that, even in or especially in an age that does not value restraint except when it's used as a cover for cowardice.

Anyway, without people on money, what else would we have? Should we go back to eagles and buffalo? Phony bridges? Monopoly money**?


*God! If only! Now they start foundations so they can fly to exotic places on someone else's dime and nail underage cuties, or rake in millions as lobbyists, or both. 

**Not money from the Game of Life, though, or at least not the version I played growing up. While the money featured such imaginary luminaries as Ransom A. Treasure ($5,000), Hesperia Mint ($10,000), and G.I. Luvmoney ($20,000), it also featured actual luminaries as game inventor Milton Bradley ($50,000) and radio/TV celebrity Art Linkletter ($100,000), who endorsed the game.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Am I too late for Awards Season?

I have my documentary ready to submit to the Academy. It's a short-subject documentary. I think we have a real chance here of winning.

There were a lot of fights over this. The cinematographer and I went back and forth. Some of my best stuff, I argued, was going to wind up on the cutting-room floor. He sniped back that I was being a spoiled Hollywood type and losing control of my vision. I explained that genius has its privileges. Then things got fisty, and the cops showed up. But I think what we have in the end really works!

It's called "Lincoln Center Elevator," and I think you'll agree this is hot stuff.

What do you mean, where's the rest? That's it. It's a short subject, remember? And you have to admit that unlike other documentaries I could name, everything in this one is 100% true. 

Anyway, I'm very excited, and while I think it's unlikely that I'll win -- the competition is fierce! Or I assume it is, at least -- I thought I'd jot down some ideas for my acceptance speech. Doesn't hurt to do some work, does it?

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Valentine's Guide for Guys.

Okay, it's Valentine's Day, and you haven't been thinking about it, but you're thinking about it right now because you're reading your friendly neighborhood Fred.


Relax! Old Fred is here to give you some advice. I've forgotten more about love than you'll ever know. In fact, I've forgotten all of it. But never mind! I'll see you through!

1) Forget the Usual Crap

Flowers, candy, dinner reservations -- just a waste of money. Well, not the reservations; they're free. They only cost money if you actually go eat the dinner. The point is, you don't want to do any of the boring things that every other guy does. All the good flowers and candy and reservations are gone by now anyway. A stale box of Whitman's and some gas station roses are not going to get it done.

2) Avoid These Other Boneheaded Ideas

What does she like? Besides flowers, chocolate, and fine dining, I mean. Clothes! Yeah, right. Good luck getting her something that fits. If it's too loose she'll think you think she's fat; if it's too tight she'll think she's fat. Land mine there, my friend.

Okay, how about jewelry? No jewelry in the gas station, pal. Going to spring for the local jewelry store? Good. Gold is $1,220 an ounce today. Better have a few drinks before you go to lessen the pain.

How about a gift card to her favorite store? How about showing her exactly how much you love her by showing her exactly how much you spent, eh? Yeah, that'll work, cheapskate.

Spring for pricey gift bags. These were $1 for 3.

3) Think: What's Hot Now?

Fifty Shades of Grey, right? Fantastic. So shell out for the helicopter ride, the glider, the weekend in the penthouse -- oh, wait, if you had that kind of dough you wouldn't have to ask me for advice. You'd have people for these things. What else is popular in the book and movie? Handcuffs, silk rope, duct tape? Great. You try giving her that and she'll call the cops.

4) Something Practical?

Sure, like a nice barbecue tongs or a new trash can. Or a Bissell carpet cleaner. That'll be awesome.

You know what? Maybe you should go hide somewhere until the fifteenth. Then pretend you were kidnapped and escaped. Sure, you'll wind up having to tell the story to the FBI, and they'll know you're lying immediately, but if you get some male FBI agents and tell them the truth they may let you go with a warning. And you'll get to keep your spleen.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Perfect for high-speed chases in those hard-to-reach places.

New pilot program vehicle from the NYPD:


Kind of cuts down on the intimidation factor, doesn't it?

"Sir, do you know how fast you were going?"

"Well, if you caught me in that thing, I'd guess about...12?"

Hey, I like the Smart well enough. I think they look like fun to drive. I'd be afraid of actually driving one on the highway, or in a stiff breeze, but I enjoy when others drive them. I always hope to see one park and 23 clowns spill out. When a friend of my wife's heard they were made by Mercedes Benz, he started to call them the Mer.

New York's CBS station says that "The NYPD has begun a smart car pilot program where Mercedes Benz vehicles will be used in Central Park, parking enforcement and school safety divisions. The department wants to phase out scooters and use more smart cars because of their features like air bags and air conditioning."

I don't know; I think even scooters have more machismo. Batman would rather zip up on his Batscooter or even his Bat Mall Cop Segway than pull up in the Bat Mer.

What if they have to arrest someone? What are they going to do, strap him to the roof?

"This is Officer Blart; we have a suspect in custody, send backup."

"Oh, you're on the scooter, Blart?"

"No, we have the Smart car."

"You have a car? Haul him in yourself."

"No, I... er, it's not that kind of car."

"We're busy. You got four wheels? Handle it, Blart."

The little thing supposedly can go 100 mph, so in theory you could have a high-speed chase. I'm just imagining a fleet of these in hot pursuit of O.J. All doing 45.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Food is so FUN!

Were I editing the health and nutrition section of a women's magazine, I would ban the words veggie, yummy, fun, chow, delish, tummy, bod, gobble, brew, and belly. A writer who turned in copy with any of those words would be dismissed so fast she would find her desk cleaned out before she got back to it. If the copy had more than three exclamation points, I cannot guarantee that I would be able to control my actions.

Who the hell is the audience for these things, preschoolers? Why don't women demand that their magazines treat them like adults? They expect it everywhere else in life.

But no, you open any women's magazine to the health section and you read something like:


There's no better time to start your detox regimen! That means a trip to... the junk drawer?

"People don't realize that inanimate objects have the potential to cleanse and energize their bodies," says Penelope E. Wasserkress, author of Old Crap, New You! How to Revitalize Your Health with Just Things You Have Lying Around and the Price of One Best-Seller.

Boost your bod with these 8 health hacks---right from the junk in your trunk!

1. Eye on Iron

Everyone knows iron jazzes up your blood and puts zing in your spleen. And there's plenty of iron in the junk drawer! Just melt an old tool in the pressure cooker, whip in some lo-fat cream, and dig in!

2. Let's Bounce

You know that ball of rubber bands in the back of the drawer? Try tossing some with your fave lo-carb pasta sauce for a fabu entree that puts the pep in your step.

3. Wad Ya Got?

Get all those fiber-filled scraps of paper and pizzeria coupons and Chinese restaurant menus into a wad and stir-fry with noodles and veggies for a yumilicious homemade Pad Thai! Best of all: paper is indigestible, so no calories in this colon crusher!

4. Lace and Leather

Who doesn't love an adorbs pair of tootsie-wear? And their lovely laces? Vague and indeterminate studies prove that shoelaces contain piles of antioxidants that fight disease and cancer. Roll some up as a garnish, chop some into a salad, or use them to tie veal.

5. Unlock Health

All those old keys are useless right? Wrong, girl! They're packed with zinc, magnesium, copper, and other things from the periodic table that your metabolism craves! Brew up a cuppa keys with some strong decaf espresso, leach out some nutrients, and lock in some goodness!

6. Test Your Metal

Say adios to cancer! Did you know paper clips contain aluminum, a metal that crunches cancer cells and a big-time booster for eyes, ears, nose, and islets of Langerhans? Throw a handful on your salad for a good-for-you crunch.

7. Fifty Shades of Yay!

Sure, twist ties are fun in the bedroom, but they're also fun in the kitchen! Rich in vitamins K and L, plastic-coated twist ties can be twisted into fun shapes and boiled in a slow cooker on high for 15 hours into a tasty soup. 

8. Stick to It

Scotch tape is almost as great as the namesake we health writers belt after closing an issue. Full of fiber, fenugreek, and folate, your average roll of invisible tape does more than wrap presents---it wraps up bacteria and viruses! Tape up a baked potato or a flatbread turkey sandwich to add crispy goodness. Secret Health Bonus: You can stick some on your nose and pull it off to see how clean your pores are!

Look, I understand that no one wants to sound stuffy or hectoring in these kinds of magazines, as they did in the 1800s ("Bad Mothers Give Their Child the Fatal Grippe"), but stupidity helps nobody. I've worked at these magazines and the women who assign and the women who write these things are not generally morons, but they are obsessed with the idea of making the copy Fun! I just want to know: does Fun! have to = Stupid?


NB: Everything in the above sample article is a 100% falsehood. Don't go poisoning or hurting yourself with it. If you are dumb enough to try these "cures" and kill yourself, don't come running to me.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Dog blues.

I was born just one of eight
Dropped at once, maw couldn't wait
She couldn't put clothes on my back
But I was loyal to the pack

My papa was a lazy slob
Makin' puppies was his job
He wasn't workin' like a dog
Jus' lay there like a hick'ry log

It's a dog's life
Ain't no denyin'
It's a dog's life
Ain't no point in cryin'

If not for fleas I'd be alone
Looks like I'm down to the bone
The Man wants me to up 'n beg
He can go an' hump my leg

Sometimes my spirits get to saggin'
But I look back and my tail's waggin'
Get my bowl an' turn the spigot
Life is tough but I can dig it

It's a dog's life
That's why I wail
It's a dog's life
Jus' chasin' my tail

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Wise guy.

Lately it seems like everyone wants my opinion. Everyone wants a piece of Fred. They finally realize that my lifetime of experience has given me wisdom desirable to all. Some old timers complain that by the time they know everything no one wants to hear it, but clearly that's not the case for me.

The first call came from Buffalo. Not an actual buffalo. They don't know about my smartiness. No, my phone said it was a call from the city of Buffalo, a town I've been to a few times. I was glad that they finally realized that they needed some Freddin'.


"Hello, sir, I am calling from the New York State Department of Health and we are conducting a survey of New York residents ages 18 and older. Have I reached a cellular phone number?"


"Are you driving a vehicle right now?"

"Yes. I'd better hang up." So I did and sat back on the sofa. You can't just dish out the wisdom to everyone.

The very next day I got a call from Syracuse. I hoped that they might have something more interesting to ask me about. "You're on, Syracuse!" I said. "Go!"

"Hello, sir, I am calling from a survey company that is speaking with residents of New York State about their energy usage. Am I speaking to a head of the household or someone who makes decisions about the use of energy in your home?"

"No, sorry, I have a wife. Thank you for calling."

So you see, I was unable to share the wisdom, but not because I was lacking smarts, but because people ask me the wrong questions. As soon as these people get their act together, I'll be happy to help out.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Benefits of freezing to death.

Well, I finally found something to do with all the #&$^*#& snow we're getting.

Yep, it's the world's chilliest, most ubiquitous cup holder. And it's free! Approximately 10,000 per lawn.

I'm beginning to make peace with this freaking winter, even though as I write more of the white crap is falling. The reason is that I've come to believe that living in northern climes makes you tougher and more resourceful. I remember a history teacher who told our class that it was no coincidence that all the great cities of the world were clustered within about ten degrees of latitude: New York (40°40′N), Rome (41°54′N), Paris (48°51′N), London (51°30′N), Munich (48°08′N), Peking* (39°55′N), Jersey City (40°43′N)... Something about being cold half the year and hot the other half was like tempering steel. I think his theory extended to why the North won the Civil War.

I was thinking about that the other day, and about bull. What do I mean? I wonder sometimes. No, what I mean is this: In Mexico, when there's a crazed bull in an arena, they send out a highly athletic man in a uniform that provides ease of motion, armed with lances or a sword. We just let the clowns handle it.

You can say that warmer areas have more disease, hurricanes, vicious insects and animals, dangerous swamps and jungles, etc. etc., and that's all true. But winter will kill you just standing there.


*It was Peking back then, in the Mesolithic Era. Why they changed it, I can't say. People just liked it better that way.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Two-ring circus.

As I warned the other day, today is World Marriage Day. Can you believe it? I feel like I just took down the decorations from last World Marriage Day.

Today is also the Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time. And the first reading was from the Book of Job:

Job spoke, saying:
Is not man’s life on earth a drudgery?
Are not his days those of hirelings?
He is a slave who longs for the shade,
a hireling who waits for his wages.
So I have been assigned months of misery,
and troubled nights have been allotted to me.
If in bed I say, “When shall I arise?”
then the night drags on;
I am filled with restlessness until the dawn.
My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle;
they come to an end without hope.
Remember that my life is like the wind;
I shall not see happiness again.

Very appropriate, no?

Hey, you see what I just did? I made fun of marriage. Just like I was complaining about the other day. And I've enjoyed decades of loving marriage. All five of my wives---

Did it again. No, my one wife has stuck with me through everything, God bless her. I know I'm lucky. With the best will in the world, a person can find himself or herself in a failing marriage; can discover that his or her partner has been unfaithful, or is crazy, or abusive, or hooked on drugs, or any number of horrible things. And even if you're both in for the long haul, and you don't face societal disintegration, plague, natural disaster, war, or anything else than can ruin normal human relations, you can face unemployment, temptation to stray, family drama, debt, doldrums, disease, and all kinds of disruptions that can push a normal marriage to the edge. People who have stayed married and still love each other deserve respect and even envy. It's not easy.

But then again, life is not easy. It's actually easier to get through it with someone you love and trust. Somehow we have been getting the message that it's easier and better to go it alone all the time. Someone's not telling the truth.

I'm glad that so many girls still dream of weddings. I wish we did a better job of preparing girls and boys for marriage. Then again, we do not do a really good job of preparing them for adulthood in general, so it's not surprising.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Proud to be a New Yorker.

Former New York Assemblyman Vito Lopez is probably no more of a piece of garbage than any state's lowest, creepiest slimeball legislator. Every state in the union has someone like him: a tin-plated glad-hander who thinks he's a man of the people and a man for the ladies, despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Two former staffers sued after the scum weasel harassed them. He probably thought he was irresistible.

Think again.
The great news for the people of New York State is that WE get to chip in to pay the plaintiffs more than half a million dollars to settle the lawsuits. Thanks, Vito! That's some fine legislating there!

Part of the reason we're on the hook for this jackass's behavior is that the women wisely included longtime Assembly speaker Sheldon Silver in the lawsuit. Sheldon the Felon was recently arrested following a federal probe that he used his power to send business to a law firm to which he was connected, a firm that was so grateful it sent him a big fruit basket. Oops, I meant half a million dollars. Or maybe there was a fruit basket too. He protected Vito over the years---there were as many as eight women known to be at the pointy end of Vito's attention---and now we have to pay.

Personally, I can understand why we're on the hook, but if we can't just use Shelly's slush fund to pay for it (conveniently about the same amount of cash), I think it should be solely the responsibility of voters in the 53rd and 65th Assembly districts---Vito's and Shelly's, respectively. They kept sending this asswipes to Albany. Let them have the bill. Whatever my representatives have been up to, they've at least been smart enough to not get caught yet.

Oh, yes, I'm proud to be a New Yorker this morning. Most state capitals are packed with sleazeballs, but at ours you could probably throw a rock and indict whomever it hits.

Friday, February 6, 2015


Okay, so it's cold. Big deal. It's the first week of February; of course it's cold. We can deal with this.


Last night was the coldest we've had so far this winter, with a temperature below 0 F and a cold wind to make it worse. I was out with an injured relative who had to navigate a poorly cleared path on an orthopedic walking boot---the tractionless cam boot---which required gripping my coat to get over an icy patch. We proceeded like a very short, cold, and miserable conga line.

As I write this, AccuWeather reports that we've warmed up to 2, with a "RealFeel" of -3. So the wind has basically stopped.

On that note: RealFeel is a trademark of AccuWeather, used to replace wind chill and heat index and things like that, I guess. Unfortunately, the term "RealFeel" has been so popular that it has also been trademarked by manufacturers of drum practice pads, cell phone covers, flight simulator software, and---inevitably---condoms and related lubricants. Which is an appropriate pairing, as Old Man Winter is hosing us right now.

Winter used to not bother me so much, because, like heat in the south, you could avoid it by running from the house to the car and the car to the office and the office to the car and the car to the store and the store to the car and the car to the house. But once you have a dog, you are at the mercy of the elements. And the elements keep coming---even with no place left to stash the snow, more is coming this weekend. Old Man W don't care.

I keep reminding myself that next month is March, and although most of March falls in winter, it is the beginning of spring, damn it all. We can get through this. Probably.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Indiana Jones V.

Years later, Professor Jones found himself being stalked by one of his earliest and most implacable enemies.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

How you like me vow?

In keeping with the ecumenical theme from yesterday, I saw that the Archdiocese of New York has been seeking the longest-married Catholic couple within the archdiocese, who will be honored this Sunday, the 8th, on World Marriage Day.

(The lovely Mrs. Key was prepared to throw our names into the miter, as it were, until I reminded her that the honor is for people whose marriage has actually been the longest chronologically, not just felt the longest.)

Well, I think it's great, and I trust many blessings will be given the couple they celebrate and the runners-up as well. Marriage is not something to be taken lightly.

I do take marriage seriously, although I try not to take myself so. That's probably one of the reasons Mrs. K and I have been together as long as we have.

If I had to give advice to a couple starting out, I would say you have to be better than the culture. These days we love romance and love, but once that knot is tied, we disparage and insult it. We prefer novelty to anything enduring. We're basically a culture of toddlers. If you want to stay married---and there's no reason to get married at all if you don't---you have to be better than that.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Blaising throats!

Today is the feast day of St. Blaise (d. 316), the legendary wonder-worker and martyr of the early church. May also be spelled Blase, but I'm always afraid it makes him sound like the patron of ennui and French writers.

In addition to his faith, to which he was true through torture and to beheading---being a bishop of Christ in Armenia was not illegal anymore at the time, but was about as safe as being a bishop of Christ in Iraq right now---Blaise was known for a miraculous Heimlich maneuver of his time. When a boy was choking to death on a bone, he commanded the child to cough it up, and that was enough to save the boy's life. For this he is honored as the patron of throat ailments. American Catholics are said to be particularly fond of the annual Blessing of the Throats on his feast day, a blessing to ask the Lord for protection against illness.

Here is where we invite the troll to comment You chritsjerks ar so stupid blessng throts y not just eat som frog entrials maybe get a flue shot dumasses. And thank you for stepping up to the plate, Mr. Strawman!

To a truly ignorant ruminant of the troll variety, the Blessing of the Throats might seem rather superstitious compared to taking a CDC-approved flu shot. Of course, being that the main influenza virus expected to arrive this year was not the one that did, you might be better off with the Blessing of the Throats---if you had to choose one. The Church is all for you getting your flu shot, and most communicants for the Blessing will probably also have gotten a shot. I don't know if someone's telling you to avoid vaccinations, but it isn't the Church.

The Blessing asks for God's help, it doesn't force Him to do it. Asking God for help is not superstition. Wearing two candles strapped to your throat in the belief that they will repel viruses is superstition. Let me know if you see a Catholic doing that.

As for me, I never got around to getting my flu shot and I skipped the Blessing. So I guess I'm doomed either way. Send chicken soup just in case. Or money. I'll buy my own soup.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Groundhog Day again.

As I write this on Monday morning, it's snowing like crazy here in the Hudson Valley.

You know what it did on Saturday? Snow. The week before? Snow. All January? Snow snow snow snow. The temperatures have been pretty consistently nothing with a windchill of a lot less than nothing.

All I'm saying is, that #&^*@ groundhog had better come through today. All of them. Punxsutawney Phil, Staten Island Chuck, even you, Fafa.

Yeah, you, you furry little creep.
I really wanted to stay in bed when I saw the five inches of snow we got overnight with a lot more joining it. Supposed to go to at least six p.m. But the dog had to pee, so up I got. It's already so deep on the lawn from this snow and the previous unmelted snow that it's up to Tralfaz's flanks, and he is a big freaking dog.

It's hard to stay motivated in this kind of weather for anything but maybe making pea soup and killing yourself. But I will try to get some writing done today nevertheless. It's the mark of a professional to soldier on despite mere earthly concerns.

All work and no play makes Fred a dull boy. All work and no play makes Fred a dull boy. All work and no play makes Fred a dull boy. All work and no play makes Fred a dull boy. All work and no play makes Fred a dull boy. All work and no play makes Fred a dull boy. All work and no play makes Fred a dull boy. All work and no play makes Fred a dull boy. All work and no play makes Fred a dull boy. All work and no play makes Fred a dull boy. All work and no play makes Fred a dull boy. All work and no play makes Fred a dull boy. All work and no play makes Fred a dull boy. All work and no play makes Fred a dull boy. All work and no play makes Fred a 

UPDATE: Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow and predicts six more weeks of winter. Staten Island Chuck, on the other hand, did not see his shadow, and calls early spring. That means you get to live, Chuck. Phil, I'll see you later.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Return of the drop kick!

Many football fans would be surprised to know that the drop kick is still officially on the books in the NFL. Many more think it's another term for the punt. Still others are only are aware of the phrase in terms of the band The _______ Murphys or as something a devout stereotype might fervently wish for Jesus to do to them through the goalposts of life.

To drop kick, you drop the ball on the ground and kick it when it bounces. In American and Canadian gridiron football it was used to kick the extra point after touchdown; also as a surprise move to kick a field goal (so Wikipedia tells us). It is an important skill in rugby. But since our football was made pointier at the ends to facilitate passing, its bounces have become less predictable, and a drop kick may never get to the "kick" part. The last successful drop kick was done by Doug Flutie in 2006; it was his last game ever and they called it for laughs. The last successful drop kick in the NFL prior to that was in 1941.

There are strong disincentives at play with the drop kick. If you try it and the ball bounces away from you, it is a fumble; if you kick it after more than one bounce it is an illegal kick. It also is no longer an important tool for the field goal anymore. The league has penalties now to protect the kicker on a field goal attempt, and those along with other rule changes mean that having to pretend you're not going to kick a field goal when you are is alien to us. Much more common is setting up for a field goal as a fake for a pass or run, but even that's rare.

Also, nowadays if you try a drop kick and fail, you look like a big stupidhead. If you succeed you're a genius, sure, but who wants to roll the dice on that? No one practices this play anymore; what are the odds of pulling it off? Even Randall Cunningham, one of the greatest athletes to ever play QB, a guy who screwed my Giants over once with a 91-yard punt, never pulled off a drop kick.

So I doubt we'll see a return of the drop kick in today's Super Bowl, but it would be great if we did. Sorry, sad football; we're much more likely to see an underinflated football than a drop-kicked one, and with the whole world watching New England's balls, that's not going to happen either.