Saturday, December 16, 2017

Doornails: A review.

Marley was dead, to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. The register of his burial was signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker, and the chief mourner. Scrooge signed it. And Scrooge's name was good upon 'Change for anything he chose to put his hand to. Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail.
        Mind! I don't mean to say that I know of my own knowledge, what there is particularly dead about a door-nail. I might have been inclined, myself, to regard a coffin-nail as the deadest piece of ironmongery in the trade. But the wisdom of our ancestors is in the simile; and my unhallowed hands shall not disturb it, or the country's done for. You will, therefore, permit me to repeat, emphatically, that Marley was as dead as a door-nail.

So begins Dickens's A Christmas Carol, and while we best remember the expression "dead as a door-nail" from this introduction, Dickens makes it plain that the doornail predates him as a thing than which other things are as dead as.

So why a doornail?

Merriam-Webster doesn't even make any bones about it, defining "doornail" as "a large-headed nail - used chiefly in the phase dead as a doornail."

World Wide Words dates the phrase to at least 1350, and examines how it came to be:

The usual reason given is that a doornail was one of the heavy studded nails on the outside of a medieval door, or possibly that the phrase refers to the particularly big one on which the knocker rested. A doornail, because of its size and probable antiquity, would seem dead enough for any proverb; the one on which the knocker sat might be thought particularly dead because of the number of times it had been knocked on the head.  
    But William and Mary Morris, in The Morris Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins, quote a correspondent who points out that it could come from a standard term in carpentry. If you hammer a nail through a piece of timber and then flatten the end over on the inside so it can’t be removed again (a technique called clinching), the nail is said to be dead, because you can’t use it again. Doornails would very probably have been subjected to this treatment to give extra strength in the years before screws were available.
Screws? No way! You mean it's not nails anymore? I'm going to look into this right NOW!


Well, "dead as a doorscrew" is probably not going to catch on.

But if no one uses doornails anymore, maybe we could come up with something new to be as dead as? After all, it's silly for doornails to only be used as things compared to which one might be said to have left this mortal coil. I grant you that you won't see a doornail get up and go dancing, but you won't see a toaster oven do that either and they're still all over the place. Nobody will be said to be as dead as a toaster oven.

So we need a new thing to be dead as. Something starting with a D, to keep that pleasant alliteration that goes so well with death. Maybe:

Dead as a dachshund

Dead as a DN100

Dead as a doody

Dead as a Denny's

Dead as a dodo

Dead as a Department of Motor Vehicles

Dead as a Datsun

Dead as a disco

Dead as a dandruff

Dead as a dik-dik

Dead as a dilophosaurus

Dead as a Doobie Brother

Dead as a Dickens

Dead as a dingleberry

Dead as Dumbledore

Dead as decorum

Mmmmmm... maybe this explains the continuing popularity of the doornail as a thing used for comparison purposes.

Say, if you were really sick, could you be said to be dead as half a doornail? Maybe if you got totally obliterated you would be dead as a whole box of doornails. There might be poetic considerations that even Dickens hasn't worked out.

Pace Dickens, I think the country will survive a little fooling around with a simile, don't you?

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Friends till the end.

As you look over your Christmas card list, you may find yourself thinking various thoughts:

1) Why do I have fewer friends than I used to?


2) Why am I sending Christmas cards instead of just posting something on Instagram and calling it a day?

Well, the impersonal holiday messages you share online may have something to do with it, but often one simply loses friends over time.

Proximate cause: Kramden's Delicious Marshall

In fact, I have found that friendships break up over many things, but that those things are predictable in the varied stages of life. Here’s my handy list of common reasons friendships break up.

Ages 0-10

Your family moved
You stole my pudding
You ratted me out to Ms. Kloopheimer

Ages 11-20

You’re the opposite sex and there are social school rules about that
You spilled juice (or beer) on my best shirt
We both wanted the same girl

Ages 21-30

You fragged me on Facebook when I didn't pay you back the loan, which I was totally gonna do
My spouse thinks your spouse is insane
You had a baby and I didn’t

Ages 31-40

You took up golf, which I think sucks
You had more babies and I didn’t
You went to work for the competition

Ages 41-50

You moved to L.A. and I just can’t be bothered
You found Scientology
You became a better golfer than I am

Ages 51-60

You bought a motorcycle and I’m revolted by your pathetic attempt to hold on to youth
You stopped going to church when the kids left home
You stopped drinking

Ages 61-70

I finally got sick of your malarkey
You won’t stop talking about your miniature schnauzer, Mr. Piddles
I made a pass at your daughter when I was loaded

Ages 71-Up

We both wanted the same girl
You stole my pudding
I can’t remember who you are
You died

Occasionally you find people who have been friends from childhood and have never stopped being friends. They may be people who have stayed in the same social or geographic area throughout life, like poor people in the same lousy housing project, or rich people in the same small and rarefied atmosphere.

More often they are relatives of some kind in a tight family, so they’ve always been obliged to stay together through the rough patches. They may be inoperable Siamese twins.

Really, I’m not the guy to ask. I hate everybody. Except you. You I like.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Gordian knot.

My wife is always looking for ways to keep the dogs thinking, keep their mental skills from getting sluggish. I thoroughly endorse this plan. A stupid dog is a dog that can't remember his training. And a bored dog is one that chews the wallboard. 

Fortunately there are a lot of companies that make toys designed to challenge doggies' smarts and make them work for their treats. Here's one we saw mentioned on TV that we thought might make our little guy think. 

The Spot Seek-A-Treat by Ethical Pet! And in French, for extra brain exercise!

As you can see on the picture, the puzzles would be tricky for a dog or a baby. You hide the treats under the flaps (operated with the wheels on the side) and under the sliding caps, and the dog works out a way to get them. Hours of fun!

Or, minutes. 

Our younger dog, Nipper -- almost called him the little dog, but at 100 pounds a dog ain't little -- got the toy and did what you see here. He Alexander the Greaterized it.

Wanton destruction may seem not like an expression of intelligence, but remember Alexander the Great and the Gordian Knot. Every schoolchild knows the legend that Phrygian Gordium had a knot on an oxcart and a prophesy that whoever could unravel the knot would become ruler of all Asia. One might have expected that the king would thus be a man with patience, cleverness, and practical knowledge, for who else could untie an impossible knot? Alexander, some say, having heard the prophesy, just pulled out the ol' sword and hacked the thing up. There! Solved! And the prophesy fulfilled, in that Alexander conquered as much of Asia as he could get to.

One might call him some dummy who solves everything with a sword, and that's one way to look at it. I've never really bought the old saying that when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. It would tell us that when all you have is a sword, everything looks like a neck. That seems to work for guys like Harvey Weinstein; all he has is a screwdriver.

But Alexander fulfilled the prophesy by being bold and seeing the fastest, simplest solution to the problem. The prophesy did not demand that the knot be unraveled by untying it, so I give Alex credit on this one. But I wouldn't want him doing my Christmas lights.

As for Nipper, he's a dog, and you can't explain to him that he has to open the flaps and things to get the treats any more than you can explain to him that he has to take out the wrenched ankle to win the Operation, the Wacky Doctors Game. He's going to sense something he wants that we gave to him and figure out the fastest way to get it. That he won't be able to play with that same toy again is of no consequence. Mission accomplished.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Nosebleeds I have known.

So this is fun -- yesterday morning I blew my nose and gave myself a nosebleed. Whee!

It's interesting to me because I can't even remember the last time I had a nosebleed. Eighth grade?

Trust me when I tell you eighth grade was a long time ago.

I guess the current one was caused by the very wintery conditions we've had lately, leading to exceptionally dry air. Or maybe I have a blood clotting disorder, possibly as the result of some weird cancer, and I'm gonna die by New Year's. I don't know; go to WebMD and you'll always come up with cancer somewhere.

Certainly the nosebleeds of yore had nothing to do with cancer and everything with being a kid. When I was a little boy it seemed like I was getting popped in the nose all the time, either in fights or just falling down or walking into walls. It appeared that bloody noses were going to play a large part in my time on earth. And yet they began to taper off by the middle school years.

Not that I was entirely nosebleedless even then. While I was seldom getting in fights anymore, I did once get sucker-punched in the stands at a basketball game, which put an end to the disagreement I was having with another youth. The gym teacher came to my aid and there I was, head back, in his office chair, trying to save my shirt. (In those days common wisdom said to put the head back to stop the bleeding, but now it is feared one might gag or vomit on the blood and should sit with the head forward.) Another time, in that same gym, I was playing dodgeball -- not my idea -- and was leaving the court when someone helpfully looked at me and pointed to the opposing side. I turned my head in time to catch the ball on my nose. And it was back in the gym office again.

After that, though, no nasal contusion resulting in blood. I'd been in fights a couple of times and a car-totalling crash once, but nothing ever smashed the schnoz. So yesterday's bloody mess was a trip down memory lane.

If you're a healthy and careful adult with no action-packed profession or hobby, I'd wager you have not had a nosebleed in some time either. If you're on a blood thinner like warfarin, or you're an amateur boxer or a cop or Batman, then yeah, maybe you've had a bloody nose. For adults it's often an unusual story, and so if you've got a good one, I'd love to hear it.

As for me, I just coincidentally am going to see the doctor today, so if he finds I have an enormous nasal tumor I'll let you know. But maybe he'll just tell me to drink more water in dry weather.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Christmas calories.

Last week I said I might break down and eat that third seasonal doughnut by Dunkin' Donuts, the Frosted Sugar Cookie Donut. "No!" you said. "Be strong! Don't eat the fattening, tooth-rotting sugar bomb, Fred!"

I thank you for your concern, but I did it anyway.

This doughnut was described by Dunkin' Donuts as a "frosted donut with cookie dough flavored filling and topped with crumbled frosted sugar cookies" -- my fear, you may recall, was that it would taste like a sugar-frosted sugar doughnut with sugary-sugar-flavored filling and topped with sugar. I mean, I could just spoon sugar out of the five-pound sack directly into my mouth and save the trip. But that's not what this doughnut was like.

As with the gingerbread cookie I described in the last thrilling doughnut episode, the cookie crumbles on top of this doughnut have little flavor, and seem to be there to provide just texture. The filling is not that pure gout of sweetalanche that other Dunkin' products have had; it does have a bit of sugar cookie taste but not just sugar. However, "sugar cookie" is a flavor that is usually characterized by butter as well as sugar, and is subtle -- I don't feel that it has been captured here. I will say that the doughnut is not aggressively oversweet and is pleasant. While the unsweetened crumbles used in place of actual sugar cookies help prevent it from being too powerful, they still come across bizarre, a cookie that doesn't taste like anything.

On the topic of Christmas and cookies, though, I have to ask Nabisco: What the heck is this?

The Oreo "Winter" limited edition is the laziest excuse for a special Oreo that Nabisco makes. Look at that thing. That is a plain Oreo with red food coloring in the center. No unusual flavor. This is the outfit that gave us Cookie Butter Oreos and Cookie Dough Oreos and Birthday Cake Oreos and freaking Blueberry Pie Oreos, and this is all they do for Christmas? Sorry: "Winter"?

And what's "winter" about this? Red? Obviously they mean Christmas, but they won't say it, or even "Holiday." Christmas is associated with the color red. Winter is associated with white and ice-blue. They're not even trying. This is a lazy, lazy holiday cookie. Too lazy to even call it a "Holiday" cookie.

If they were going to do something for the Christmas season, and didn't feel like inventing a new flavor, they should have made the filling green and red (they used multi-colored fillings in their Candy Corn Oreos and others) or alternated red and green ones in the package. Then call them Holiday Oreos. Or, what the heck, Christmas Oreos.

But just red filling? Cram them in the jar until February and call them Valentine's Oreos. This is just sad.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Honest book blurbs,

"I couldn't wait to finish it!"

"Not highly offensive."

"Words fail me... and the author, too!"

"Doris Razz has tried to write the best book possible on this topic, and you have to hand it to her for trying."

"I'm glad they paid me to read this one."

"Supermodel Elle Emme Enohpee has published this interesting exposé of the fashion world, and perhaps she will even read it sometime."

"The fine, velvet finish of the paper in this spectacular edition was a great comfort to me during an outbreak of cholera." 

"Clarity in writing is so important. I knew who the murderer was on page eight."

"Harvard political scientist Ti-Yu Vee's insight is inversely proportional to his ignorance, and one of them is vast."

"Too short to really annoy me."

"Not the worst thing I've read this year!"

"Doesn't make sense, but I didn't care!"

"Not actually painful!"

"Genius is not a word that comes to mind when one thinks of Hilda Gulgerloaf, but there you are."

"Fulfills his contractual obligation perfectly."

"Ezekiel Dennis the Science Menace, as seen on PBS, undoubtedly does know some things. His own shoe size, perhaps."

"It has pages, and a spine. I was amazed!"

"You won't believe something of this quality could be published."

"Nedd Blarpski has used letters to form words ... and words to form sentences."

"You'll never read a book like this again!"

"It's in the original English."

"I'm not sure that people who like this sort of thing will be the people who will like this sort of thing."

"Best read while hammered."

"It's a book, all right."

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Planted in the past.

Last year I wrote about Glitter Plaques, a popular decorative wall hanging made of plastic that were very popular for a short time and then POOF! vanished. When you're a kid and something is everywhere it becomes as noticeable as the air; then it slowly fades away and, unlike the air, you barely miss it when it's gone. But when you see it again you're astonished at how long it's been. Whatever happened to that thing? Where did it go? Why did it go? It used to be everywhere! 

I will pay big bucks for it on eBay!

As I noted in last year's entry, you might expect bendable plastic things like the Glitter Plaques to suffer over time. But what about something like this? Surely concrete is forever! 

I used to see that exact planter everywhere. That is, not THAT planter, it hasn't been following me around like some creepy concrete stalker, but ones that looked exactly like that. Every home with the smallest, most pathetic excuse for a garden or lawn had one. 

Other things people had on their postage-stamp properties were stable grooms (white, usually; the black ones were from an older generation), little Mexican kids with or without burros and wagons, deer, and the Virgin Mary. Probably half the concrete used in Dyker Heights went for that stuff. Gnomes and St. Francis weren't popular at that time. But these particular planters, with that quasi-upside-down fleur de lis, were.

And then they all... went away. 

I've never owned a concrete planter myself; never could commit. I suppose I feared I would plop it down to find out that it was in a terrible place to grow a plant, full of darkness and herbivores, and then I'll have to move concrete. Concrete full of dirt. But all my family members when I was growing up had them, unless they lived in apartments. Maybe those folks had a few stashed away too, just in case. 

I tried to look up manufacturers of these things, and it certainly seems like people in the concrete planter business have a lot on their plate these days. National companies make everything from concrete trash receptacles and water fountains to terrorist-thwarting bollards. None of them will own up to making black grooms or Mexican boys. 

I suspect whoever was making the planters like the one seen above was a regional outfit for the greater New York area, possibly one that got taxed to death in the 70's like a lot of other local businesses. Maybe they made most of their money doing overshoes for the mob before Rudy Giuliani came along. If anyone has any information on them, or would just like to share your own heartfelt nostalgia of concrete and cement, feel free to leave a comment or drop me a line at the usual place (frederick_key at yahoo). We can bond over cement.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Thimbleweed Park: The Obsession.

When the game Myst came out in the 1990s, it was billed as "The Surrealistic Adventure That Will Become Your World." I'm not sure I'd say the same about Thimbleweed Park, but only because it is a lot more funny than it is haunting. It sure had me going to my phone at random intervals to try crazy things to advance the plot.

Obsession? Such a cruel word. 

Myst's various worlds were beautiful landscapes you wanted to explore; Thimbleweed Park is kind of a dump you would want to flee, rendered in pixely 1987 LucasArts type screens (no coincidence that the game is set in 1987). 

This is one of those classic adventure puzzlers, where you have to solve a bunch of puzzles and do a bunch of weird things to get through the story. Although the game opens with a murder, it is really the spiritual brother of LucasArts' The Secret of Monkey Island rather than a mystery like The Last Express. First, because the action menu is typical; your character can Talk To, Push, Pull, Use, etc. the things and people he or she encounters; second, because Ron Gilbert is one of the designers and he invented Monkey Island; and third, because like Monkey Island, this game is completely insane. I loved it. 

(Very mild spoilers may follow....)

Put together through Kickstarter, the game is a strange journey through a the small town of Thimbleweed Park, initially to solve a murder, later to confront a much greater evil. And you do it with the help of... an agent who may be bad, another agent who may not be an agent, a dead guy, a nerd, and a clown. So, you're screwed right off the bat.  

If you play the game through you can use an easy or a difficult setting. If you intend to use the more difficult setting, you will need a tremendous amount of patience, and maybe a tips/walkthrough page, or maybe both. I ultimately wound up using a lot of patience and a few online hints. You can make yourself absolutely crazy trying to get a dime when all you have a nickel, or trying to find a way to get information out of someone when one of your action options is not "BEAT UP".

The game is virtually made up of what would be mini-quests in other games, and they often don't make sense except in the game's own deranged logic. If you are the kind of person who gets furious because your character has to get a particular magazine from a newsstand that's only open after dawn and will only sell that if you can prove your age but you have no ID so you have to get another guy to make you a fake ID and he will only do it for a salami sandwich but the diner has no salami and you have to get them some and -- and so on, then this game may feel like a frustrating waste of time. (Example above is not real, but could have been.) If you like these kinds of challenge, it's right up your alley.

That said, you'll probably waste time anyway, because the game is packed with things to look at. Including at least one alley. There is an entire giant library full of books with short excerpts; there are phone books with everyone who made a Kickstarter contribution; there are even video games within the game, if you can find tokens. (Note: You probably will not be able to find the tokens.)

Since you have to work several different characters, you may find that you need to coordinate their actions in a way that will not make internal sense. For example, for a character to solve a puzzle in one part of town, you may have to switch to another character in another area who can do a required action to enable the resolution but would have no reason at all to do so. Go ahead and do it, and hang the motivation.

If that advice doesn't make sense, don't worry, it will.

As you proceed the air of menace grows, only exacerbated by the background humor. It's darkly funny, but you do come to care about the characters, at least most of them. Yes, even the clown. Maybe even especially the clown. And even if, as in Monkey Island, your characters' safety is seldom a concern, there's no guarantee you'll get a happy ending.

Ultimately it's an extremely meta game, and I did find it engrossing and enjoyable and often hilarious. So I'm happy to help out, as the creators request during the closing credits:

We wouldn't want them to have to get real jobs. We want them to make Thimbleweed Park 2. Hey, if Monkey Island could run five games, they can squeeze out another Thimbleweed Park, I'm sure.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Holey doughnuts!

Christmastime is here again! How do I know, you ask? Because it's rainin' themed doughnuts!

As often -- way too often -- in the past I have undertaken to review Dunkin' Donuts seasonal offerings, a job that was complicated by the fact that the usual two seasonal choices were upped to three this year. But on advice of my doctor, I kept it to two, with snide remarks about the third. (Actually my doctor's advice would probably be "Eat kale," so we didn't discuss it.)

The three seasonal doughnuts for Christmas 2017 are: 

1) Gingerbread Cookie Donut

2) Snowflake Sprinkle Donut

3) Frosted Sugar Cookie Donut, or Donut Not Appearing in This Blog Post. 

So here's doughnuts 1 and 2:

Let's look at them in reverse order.

The Frosted Sugar Cookie was described in the literature as "a frosted donut with cookie dough flavored filling and topped with crumbled frosted sugar cookies"; this made me think of the pumpkin-shaped doughnut from 2014 that was actually too sweet for me. Considering that there are very few things in this world that are too sweet for me, this scared me off it.

But the Snowflake Sprinkle also disappointed in its way, because it was really just a frosted sprinkle doughnut. Sure, the sprinkles are shaped like snowflakes, but is it worth going out of your way for that? And while I hate to rat on my local Dunkin' Donuts shoppe, the press release describes this item as a "frosted donut with red icing and special snowflake sprinkles" -- you'll notice my doughnut had white icing. Problem in the back office? Hmm.

The most interesting one was the Gingerbread Cookie, which was okay but completely bizarre. Here's the thing: It looks like a doughnut with gingerbread cookie bits stuck in the icing, but that's not really what's going on. The cookie bits are all for texture; they have virtually no flavor. There's a good deal of gingerbread flavor, but it's all in the doughnut icing. That's not really a bad thing, but a weird thing, as you can imagine. It's like a ventriloquist act where the dummy is the straight man -- nothing's where you expect it. It took me the whole doughnut to figure out what was so odd.

So there's my take on the three Dunkin' Donuts seasonal doughnuts; you may have a different experience. Or you may wish to report on what your local store or chain is up to. I may have more to add if I break down and go back for that Sugar Cookie monstrosity. I hate to be so rough on a chain store I enjoy, especially at this season of love and brotherhood. I'll say this: even if they had utterly dismal doughnuts at Dunkin', it'd still be worth going there for the coffee, and that's a plain fact, Rudolph. Go get ho ho hopped up on caffeine at Dunkin' this year.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

One less thing to file.

"Forget the manual; no one reads them. Corporate says from now on we're
just releasing all the information on YouTube as 'Appliance Hacks.'"

Saturday, December 2, 2017


Advent begins tonight with the vigil Mass, and you know what that means:

Twenty-three shopping days until Christmas!

Moreover, it means that a lot of our friends who haven't been to church since Easter will start trickling back, and God bless them for it. When I was a young chap about town I would go to church once a week -- on Wednesdays, at lunch. I was trying to become a Christian, but I wasn't going to let that dictate my weekend plans. So honestly, not throwing stones here.

Catholics are pretty tough on these things; if you don't make the days of obligation, which include every single Sunday (or the Saturday vigil), that's a serious sin that requires Confession. In my pre-Catholic days I didn't know that, or much else, really. It's been a long journey.

But I didn't mean to write about that. What I meant to write about is SINGING!

I'm sure I've noted this before in this blog, but even in Advent when the hymns are often familiar Christmas tunes, northeastern Catholics hate to sing in church. That's mainly the case everywhere, though, not just in church. Not like church is different because we're belting out the Latin. For the most part, if you expect us northeast Catholics to do any public singing, we have to get our drink on and be dragged to karaoke, and even then there's a good chance we'll sneak out the door before our turn comes up at the mike. We look at Baptist services with a mixture of awe and horror. Look how faithful they are! Look how happy it makes them! Why aren't they dying of embarrassment? 

I guess we know that most of us don't sing particularly well, but really, it's no excuse. As one of our musical directors says, the Good Lord gave her that voice and she's gonna give it right back to Him. Of course, she sings like an angel, so it's not the best advice coming from her.

I've had compliments on my singing, which is really gratifying, but I'm still shy about the church singing. When no one else in your pew is warbling, you get self-conscious. Worse, I've been known (by me) to screw up the words even on things I know quite well, because of under- or overfocus. It's sad when my mouth trips right out of the gate, and I wind up spewing

O come all ye faceful
Troyful and trumpumpant
O come ye all come ye
To Bebblehem

And then I think of the poor late Linda McCartney, wife of Beatle Paul, who got caught out in 1990 on concert audio released by some sound guy connected with a Wings show. For you kiddies who don't remember Linda, or Wings, or the Beatles, let's just say that a lot of people used to accuse her of being a no-talent who would have been a nobody if she hadn't married Paul, and this audio track seemed to confirm it. Had the Internet been around then it would have been everywhere in a day. As it was, a lot of radio stations played it. I heard it because I listened to the Imus in the Morning show in those days, and they made a lot of hay out of it. (Remember their slogan: "We're not happy until you're not happy.") Here it is:

Paul McCartney's defense of Linda's substandard background vocals is that she was dancing, and he released video to show she was busy and not focused on vocals. No one's singing is great while they're running around.

But I think of that sometimes when I'm screwing up words to the Gloria or a standard hymn, or just singing like crap. Maybe my voice is blending with the other singers, but God sure hears me. I'd like to do a good job, but my mind wanders like a toddler in a toy store. Some days my voice sounds like I swallowed a frog and his croak got stuck on the way down. But I generally try to do my best, and I hope everyone else will too this year.

We used to have an old-timer in our church who could not sing a note, but it wasn't for lack of trying. He was awful, and he was loud. I thought he was fantastic. I still do.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Ranking friends.

Too dull; just "some guy,"  really

Professional connection, so you're stuck together

Okay if you're in the Drones with Bertie Wooster; otherwise barely above Adjunct

Friendly person who doesn't really do anything for you

Does something for you but is not friendly

Does something with you that is not friendly

Does something with you, but there's no warmth

An Associate with warmth

Someone you're really eye-to-eye with, except maybe in England

A guy you know and like who is on your level; now we're getting somewhere

A Fellow that you can count on

A closer Ally; less likely to stab you in the back

Even less likely to stab you in the back, lest you both go to the big house

Unity of vision leads to greater loyalty

Someone you can endure traveling with

Someone you can endure swiping money with

Someone you could endure going to jail with

Pulling the oars for the same boat, but he could suck at it

Pulling oars in the same two-man boat, so he'd better not suck at it (TV cops would rank this higher)

People see you together, they know you're up to something

People see you together, they think "Molatov cocktails"

Someone you actually like

Someone you like even more, at least in Australia

Guy from the 'hood upon whom your favor rests

Guy from the 'hood whom you trust

Guy from the ranch whom you trust

Guy you really trust but may not like so much

Brother from another mother
A good guy, but one who seems a little phony

Guy you can't do with out, until a girl comes between you; think the "Road to" movies

A good guy, period

A good, fun guy

Someone who would go to jail for you

Someone you would go to jail for

Blood brother
Someone you have bled for

Top of the heap; someone you would bleed out for

Not on list:

Supporter (too subservient); Disciple (too subservient; too biblical); Helper (too subservient; too blah), Entourage (too subservient; too showbiz---and there's no actual friends in showbiz).

Thursday, November 30, 2017

You knit too much.

If you live with a knitter and you celebrate Christmas, you're probably up to your ankles in yarn by now. If your knitter has not been at it since Labor Day at the latest, take her to the doctor. There must be something wrong.

My wife delights people (including me) every Christmas with handmade presents, knitted or crocheted with loving care. Like a home cook who has progressed beyond the basics, she takes instructions (patterns) and modifies them to her own preferences. Many she makes up on her own.

But I do worry about her knitting, and I'm not kidding when I say she's actually given herself knitting injuries and yarn callouses. Knitting may one day become a safer alternative to football, since people love to watch it but the injuries are less severe. She promises to stand for the national anthem.

She may be drafted by the Washington
Redskeins or the Tennessee Tatting.

Yarn crafters know they are addicted, and they seldom try to hide it. Some celebrate it. Check out Yarn Harlot or Yarn Addict or Mochimochi Land or the Crochet Crowd. They love their addiction. Some make a living from it. They may die in the alley with a skein under each arm, knowing how sad their relatives will be that they took the needle, but they don't care.

And that's why I fret a little.

One day I serenaded the lovely Mrs. Key thus:

You knit too much
You worry me to death
You knit too much
You even knit for my pet

You just knit
Knit too much

You knit for people
That you don't know
You carry your stash
Wherever you go

You just knit
Knit too much

You knitted in the car 
Till they made you stop
Then you knit a holster
For the traffic cop

You just knit
Knit too much

You knit your afghans
More than fifteen feet
You yarn-bombed
East Forty-second Street

You just knit
Knit too much

She didn't approve. She just sneered at me over her flying needles.

I have a feeling I'm gonna get some knitted lumps of coal in my homemade Christmas stocking now.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017


As I write this, I am sitting on death watch for this old pal.

The guys are coming to take away the fridge after almost 18 years of dependable service. I hated to say farewell at this time, just because it was a bad time to drop a grand on another appliance, but when one's ice cubes become mushy, one must do what one must.

It's a blank canvas now, for the first time since we moved in. Business cards, photos, kiddie drawings, comical magnets, calendars, lists, schedules, cartoons, magnetic clips, holiday decorations, all manner of things have been stuck to the face of this humble machine. It has been our Kenmore. But tonight we shall be Kenless.

Eighteen Thanksgiving turkeys have gone in and out of this thing; eighteen roasts for Easter. Just seventeen for Christmas, since we didn't make it to this year's Christmas.

Oh, well. It was the first fridge we bought. Well, not counting the tiny one we got after the landlord's fridge died at our old apartment and he wouldn't replace it. That one was -- no kidding -- built in Yugoslavia, and performed about as well as a Communist country appliance might be expected to. What it mostly did was generate enormous hunks of impenetrable ice around the interior freezer. After it went kaputski, we got by with a little bar-size fridge until we inherited another one. Then we got a new one with the house.

And now it's going away.

Since we've been here we've replaced every other appliance, small or large, except the stove. From the hand mixer and microwave and toaster oven to the furnace and AC unit and water heater, from the dishwasher to multiple coffeemakers and coffee grinders to the rechargeable flashlight, even parts for the ice maker inside the fridge -- twice -- everything has been replaced but the stove and the refrigerator. After tonight, the stove stands alone.

My wife never cared for this fridge. I was just happy that it was frost-free. And that it's seen us through years, happy and hard, flush and busted, challenging and simple. I can get sentimental for something that just happened to be standing around during major milestones, it's true.

All right, Kenmore, your refrigeration is done. Time to get you emptied of your remaining half-chilled contents as we await the new machine.


The outfit from which we purchased the new one, which I will identify only as "Blowe's," called us to say, well, looks like the fridge didn't get on the truck after all. To which I explained that the shipper (a subcontracting outfit), whom we had been told by "Blowe's" to call this morning, had said that the guys were coming late, and was "Blowe's" sure that the fridge did not make it on the truck?

Call ya right back...

Nope, still there in the store! How about that! Well, we'll just try to get that to you tomorrow. 

I strive to be polite to customer service people, having done some of that work myself and having reached an age of some sober adulthood, but that set off Angry Yoda immediately, and boy was he pissed.


Yes, right, we'll do that. 

AND WE WILL BE EXPECTING A CALL IN THE MORNING TO TELL US WHAT TIME. (Which we did not get this morning, which is when we called and were referred to the truck guys, and someone just lie lie lied to us.)

Yes, you bet.

As you can guess, I was pretty sore. Imagine how mad I would have been if I did not work from home, and had taken off Tuesday to accept delivery of the appliance, just to be told that maybe I should have taken Wednesday off instead, or possibly Thursday... I'm sure my supervisor would have loved that.

So we'll see, "Blowe's," we'll see. Keep you posted....


New fridge arrived at one, actually sooner than we'd been told, so I had to scramble to empty the old one. We bid Ken a fond farewell. The new one seems to be working just fine. A happy ending? Mmmmyeah, but not entirely, not till I pay the credit card bill....

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

The Good-bye House.

The Good-bye House

by Frederick Key

It was a ten-thousand-piece jigsaw puzzle and the top of the box was missing. No one knew what the finished puzzle would look like, although parts assembled around the edges seemed to indicate a lake with rowboats and ducks and a shore to the right, a blue sky with some clouds above.
Actually, the ten-thousand figure was just a guess, since the rest of the box was gone too. Seemed like a good guess.
Allen and Joe hovered over the puzzle, Joe at the shore, Allen at the sky. Maria just sat at the side, breathing. The puzzle had been assembled enough to take up the whole of the long table in the white rec room. There were four other tables, plastic ones, for cards and board games. The huge puzzle would not have fit any of them. Maybe two thousand pieces had been put in place. None of the hands who had removed the pieces from the box were still at the Center. They weren’t anywhere now.
“Can I have some of those sky pieces?” asked Allen. He clutched a dark blue baby blanket in his lap. Joe thought it was for security, but he didn’t ask.
“They’re water,” said Joe.
“Could be sky.”
“Okay,” said Joe, passing over a handful of pieces that looked pretty clearly like they had wave patterns. Allen reached for them, which caused him to pull the rack with his drip. He winced and reached with the other hand instead.
“All right, kiddos,” said a voice behind Joe. Now Joe winced. Nurse Ben said, “Time for those pretty little pills. Joe, here’s yours.”
Ben, tall, beefy, and only a little tubby, held a paper bowl out in front of Joe. The bowl was round, like an egg, and couldn’t be put down without spilling. Joe had to admit the pills were pretty—green and white, red, orange. Even the black tablet was shiny, like obsidian. A nurse’s aide placed a cup of water in front of Joe, on a small patch of table with no puzzle pieces.
“I’d like to skip them today,” said Joe. “If you don’t mind.”
“It’s all fine with me,” said Ben, bringing a bowl to Maria, “but you signed a release, Joe. You promised to follow our system here. I’m sure you want to honor your word.”
“Not today.”
Ben placed held out a bowl to Allen, whose little face gnarled. “Joe,” Ben said, “you know what you said you would do and why. I don’t care about the reasons behind it. My job is to make sure you follow through. We’ve discussed this.”
“I’ve changed my mind.”
“But you can’t. Now, do you take those pills here, where we can watch you do it, or do we have you moved to the third floor?”
Joe took the pills. The aide checked his mouth to make sure they were gone. Joe knew the staff would stick to him for at least twenty minutes to make sure he didn’t try to puke them up.
Maria quietly took her pills, one after another, each followed by a sip of water, like she was eating candy.
“I hate this stuff,” said Allen. “They taste funny.”
“Yeah,” said Joe.
Allen mumbled something else.
“I said I don’t wanna die.”
“Well, don’t sweat it, kid,” said Joe. “I figure you probably have at least seventeen more days.”

Monday, November 27, 2017

Unsuccessful automobiles.

The Hudson Gnat
This small version of the popular Hornet was known as "the car with the imaginary backseat,"  years before AMC made one for real with the Gremlin.

The Ford Mocus
Drivers could not successfully direct this vehicle.

The Chrysler Le Viscount
Sequels are seldom as good as the original.

The Nissan Rubric

The Suzuki Geisha
Putting a lighter spin on the Samurai's notorious rollover problems, the marketing campaign ("It Rolls Over...For You!") offended geisha and disenchanted the public.

The Nash Blobular
A monster-movie inspired relic of the early 1950s, the "monster Nash" was also known as "Nash Teeth" and "the Thing that Ate Nash."

The Holden Oldie
Attempt at retro seldom works in automobile design.

The Ford Bhopal
Only regional appeal in foreign markets.

The AMC Burner
"Hot stuff!" they said; "Combustible!" said National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The Cadillac Boat
Just a bigass car with power everything. "Feels like you're driving nuthin'!" said its fans. Did not feel that way to the people outside of it.

The Dodge Bullet
Name was just silly.

The Pontiac Zipper
Someone asleep in the Department of Naming the Cars that week.

The Chrysler Plea
Part of the original bailout in the 1970s.

The Buick YCAC
The popularity of Ford's LTD led to Buick trying nonsense initials on this car. Unfortunately people guessed what  it stood for (You Can't Afford a Caddy) and caught a resentment.

The Volkswagen Karmann Sutra
Too racy for the 1960s.

The Saab Story
"Not funny," said Car and Driver.

The Rolls-Royce Spook
Went one specter too far.

The Volvo Box
At this point they just threw up their hands and admitted the cars were boxy, so they released a cube with wheels. Didn't work out. Years later Nissan had better luck with essentially the same car.

The Subaru Emote
Even too cutesy for Subaru.

The Renault Guppy
Just sad.

Then there's this.