Saturday, October 31, 2015

Spoooooky reading.

Every year I try to get some spooky reading in before Halloween. This year I chose The Haunted Hotel, a brief 1878 novel by Wilkie Collins.


Wilkie Collins virtually invented the detective novel in 1868 with The Moonstone, an excellent and complex story told from multiple point of view that revolves around a stolen Hindu gem. The Haunted Hotel is also a mystery story, but one with fantastical elements that make it a ghost story as well.

One of Collins's strengths as a writer is his distinct characterizations. The Haunted Hotel opens with two of them, briefly but strikingly described---a highly respected London doctor and the mysterious, dark woman who comes to see him, claiming she is doomed, although she appears to be healthy. This woman seems to draw everyone around her into this cloud of doom, especially her fiance. I hate to say more, except that all roads lead to a hotel in Venice---a haunted hotel.

Was it spooky? Hey, a Venetian Renaissance palace with dungeons in the basement? Of course! I would say it is mild by modern standards, but a modern reader who is not spooked by it shows a dearth of imagination. There is one scene of an apparition in the dead of night that, if it were to actually happen to me, particularly if in a room with no electric lights, I would probably freak out like every freakout I've ever had in my whole life all at once.

This was one of Collins's latter works, and at this stage in his life he was struggling with ill health and addiction. It shows in his story structure, I think. Potent plot elements are introduced and fade away; key characters just go off somewhere; some things about it that are not supernatural still don't make sense. The Moonstone was much longer and yet was tightly plotted and riveting---this book is rather sloppy. But for mood and character, it gets an A for AAAH!

I would recommend The Haunted Hotel for Halloween, but if you want to start at the top with Collins, start with The Moonstone. It's not spooky per se, but it has a smart detective, a cursed diamond, sleepwalking, thievery, mysterious foreigners, a butler, drugs, and disguises, and it is an excellent book.

Friday, October 30, 2015

So clean you could eat out of it!

Had nothing to do and no motivation to do things I should do (write, work, build the business); was feeling mopey and blah. So I cleaned the fridge.

It's a big job if you do it right, you know. I've timed it before, and it takes two hours to get it done, and that's when I'm not interrupted by calls or dog whines or things. But at the end---Oh! So clean!


I wish I could sleep in it! 
I do put the required box of Arm & Hammer in the fridge to soak up odors. Anyone who has ever moved a refrigerator knows that over time they develop a smell like nothing else in the world, no matter how clean they are kept. The baking soda seems to help. Although it does lead to one of the great product jokes in marketing.


Change every 30 days. Right. No one changes the box every 30 days. Felix Unger wouldn't change the box every 30 days. I don't think Bob Arm and Joe Hammer change the freaking box in their fridges every 30 days. I always change it when I clean the fridge, but you damn well better believe I don't do that every 30 days.

I do try to keep it clean, though. Hey, that's where the food goes, and the most vulnerable stuff, too. Stuff that has to stay cold or it goes all bacterial.

As regular visitors to this blog know, bad things happen when you don't clean the refrigerator. I don't want to scare anyone this close to Halloween, but...

He's baaaaack....

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Road hog.

Mercedes-Benz unveiled a concept vehicle in Japan called the Luxury Autonopod; it's a luxury automobile that can drive itself when you desire it to. Not that I'm in the market, personally; I'm capable of self-driving at all times, and I'm not really quite in that luxury car demo at this stage of my life. Put it this way: To me, a full-size spare is decadence.

Car and Driver cheered over this thing; while conceding it was rather breadboxy, they said, "Passengers enter through the left side of the vehicle, which swings open in a move that makes the Tesla Model X's 'falcon doors' look downright conventional. Giant, 26-inch wheels and whimsical light effects on the grille, wheels, and rear window complete the futuristic appearance."

Futuristic? I guess.


Made me think of something else, actually:


Although it made my wife think of this:


Dr. Strangepork, call your office.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

I want to live in Stars Hollow.

Really, who wouldn't?

Stars Hollow, Connecticut, the town that is the setting for The Gilmore Girls, has everything anyone could want, really. The kids are pretty bright and fairly well behaved, the citizens are only annoying in comical ways, everyone has a job, every storefront is occupied, it has a nifty park with a big gazebo, it has quaint celebrations, it gets all four seasons in the most picturesque ways, the schools seem to be pretty good (if not exceptional), there's a great diner and a lovely B&B, it has a pizzeria and a Chinese restaurant (and yet not one strip mall), everything is in walking distance, you can get groceries and stationery and antiques and books and anything else without going to some big box store five towns over, and a big city is within striking distance if you get bored. 

I'm a casual watcher, my wife being the one who puts it on while I'm working* on the laptop. I enjoy the zippy dialogue and rapid-fire quips; it's one of those shows that give you fifty jokes a minute and if you like thirty, everyone's happy. 


Few people seem really happy in Stars Hollow, but that's all right. I would be if I were there, enjoying life in my century-old two-story home with a nice yard, just steps from downtown.

There's just one thing wrong with the town, actually, and that is: It isn't real.

Stars Hollow (of course it has its own Wikipedia page) was part of the Warner Brothers backlot in Burbank, California, which is why the snow never looked dirty and slushy and the trees were green when people were dressed for fall. Everything has been shot here, including The Waltons, The Muppets, Pretty Little Liars, The Music Man, and The Ghost Whisperer (for part of its run). Probably every Hallmark movie that isn't shot in Canada is shot there. So for a small town that doesn't actually exist, Stars Hollow has a lot of miles on it.

Shows like to feature this kind of town despite the fact that we don't really want to live that way. Most of us would rather drive five towns over and get a good deal for our money than pay higher prices and walk to local shops. Driving is easy; overpaying is hard.**

Stars Hollow is said to be based on some real-life Connecticut towns, including Essex, which is a lovely place on the Connecticut River. I haven't been there in years, but I can attest that it is exactly what you'd want if you like Stars Hollow. Essex, though, has a median household income of $84,937; a median house or condo value of $402,361; and a cost of living index of 144.3, which is considered very high. It's full of little pricey shops and people who can afford them. It's not the kind of town where residents run off to Costco. In other words, it's really better suited for Lorelai Gilmore's wealthy parents, not Lorelai and her daughter.***

And so, as always, it's money money money that makes things nice. Quaint is expensive****. For the rest of us, we've opted to vote with our wallets, and go places where parking is easier, even if that leaves once-busy downtowns empty. I do that too; I do not want to sacrifice financial security to subsidize someone else's bad business decisions*****, and neither do you. That's why we have movements like Shop Locally---to guilt us into patronizing stores with less selection and higher prices.

I wish I had answers for everybody about how to build your own thriving town, but I do know light rail and other boondoggles aren't it.

However, another feature of Stars Hollow that I alluded to earlier is much more important than money. The denizens of the town, bizarre and eccentric though they may be, generally show one another respect, and mostly show deep affection for the place. Such assets are costlier than gold; they are what we can do for our neighbors even when we are flat broke.

------

* Yes, working. Really. Okay, sometimes. 

** A major theme of my novel Faster & Closer is the impact of retail economy on the people in a small town. "Every blank storefront is the death of someone’s fortune." I know, a regular Fifty Shades of Grey, isn't it? There's a little more to the book than that.

*** It was also inspired by Washington Depot, which has very similar stats, especially the money stats.

**** So buy all my books and give me lots of dough. Thanks.

***** "My quirky artisan underpants and waffle shop is going to take this town by storm! It'll drive all kinds of traffic here, and soon all these empty storefronts will be filled!"

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

World Serious.

Tonight the Beloved Mets take on the Embittered Royals for the first game of the Major League Baseball championship series. I call the Royals embittered because of the way they were robbed! ROBBED! of the championship last year by the San Francisco Giants in seven games. And let's face it: The Giants are, unlike the loyal New York Giants of football, the San Francisco Giants are deadbeats and jerks, who fled their fans in 1958 for greener shores.

But the Mets are embittered too, or at least their fans are, having lost the 2000 World Series to the evil Roger Clemens and his Evil Empire buddies.

On an emotional level, it may be difficult to choose for whom to root.

Oh, who am I kidding.



A kid in a store noticed my Mets cap and asked if I was "all excited." I said I was guardedly excited, that as a Mets fan I was used to failure and disappointment.

But they've stunned me and everyone else this postseason, hanging tough with the Dodgers, steamrolling over the Cubs. peaking at the right time. I think they have the pitching, the canniness, and the defense to take home the trophy.

Everybody sing!


It all starts tonight. Let's go, Mets!

Monday, October 26, 2015

Did not pan out.

We had to make cupcakes for a social event this weekend, and our current cupcake pans have been disappointing us. They are well made, but they were forged from dark metal, which totally screws up the baking time and temperature. Why would someone even make a pan that screws up common recipes in this time of blessed standardization? I see no advantage to it.

I was shopping in Walmart and decided to get some disposable foil pans; that would take care of this project and postpone having to drop serious dough on good, solid, light-colored pans.

Walmart has a billion products in every store... but not foil muffin tins. At least not the day I was there. But what they did have were steel 6-cup muffin tins! Made in the USA! For 88 cents each! I bought two!

Ladies and gentlemen: What you are about to see is not blood, but rust. This is the rust after one batch of cupcakes. Moreover, the rust began after the pans got damp during their initial washing, before they were even used.



I fell for the oldest trick in steel. Of course, uncoated steel rusts; stainless steel, however, doesn't. This is a problem. The 1970 Chevy Vega infamously began to rust almost as soon as it got hit with a northeastern winter. It was the car that almost took down GM; rust ruins trust.

Then again, these pans were just 88 cents each, which is actually cheaper than disposable foil pans, which are close to two bucks each (although they include baking cups). And with our paper baking cups, our cupcakes never touched the actual pans. So I actually saved money, and I still have the pans. Plus, the cupcakes came out perfect.

I don't know, though. Cheap as they are, I feel like steel should have done better than this. It sort of makes me think less of steel, sorry to say.

Not you, big guy!

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Another thing to be grateful for.

Modern hernia surgery!

I haven't had one, but boy do I know a lot of guys who have. I have managed to avoid actually lifting anything heavier than my fork for many years, so I've been safe. Still, it is a fact of life that people get hernias, and men far more than women---inguinal hernias are the most common type, and a quarter of men (vs. 2% of women) will get one. A glance through any old general goods catalog from the late nineteenth century shows a plethora of trusses. Even a Sears catalog from 1934 (seen here, thanks to the Great Lileks) shows a mess o' trusses.

Back in the old days, before laparoscopic hernia repair, you got cut wide open to fix this bad boy. Before that, maybe you got leeches. I don't know. But you may certainly have gotten one of these, or something like it: 



This is the Cluthe Truss, an improved type of truss---so say the five members of the Cluthe Rupture Institute, whose last names all coincidentally were Cluthe. The invaluable Gutenberg has posted  Cluthe's Advice to the Ruptured, which reveals the state of care circa 1912.

"There have always been plenty of places where a ruptured man could go for a truss; surgical supply houses, truss manufacturers, truss dealers, drug-stores, etc. But at these places, though their intentions are good, the men who undertake to fit you have made no special study of rupture, and therefore can do little or nothing for you."

Damn.

"And the trusses they give you, because not based on a scientific study of rupture, don't make proper provision for your requirements."

Maybe if I ignore it, it will go away.

"The worst condition of rupture is the strangulated form. This is a condition where mortification has already set in. If an operation is not immediately resorted to, the sufferer will die."

Holy crap! I guess I'll have to go get cut open!

"Operation for rupture, for reasons stated below has never been much more than a life-or-death chance, even for those with a rugged constitution. Thousands of ruptured people have died under the surgeon's knife."

Double crap! Now what?

Well, you'll be happy to know the Cluthe Institute has the answer: 

"Don't wait till the last minute—don't wait till your rupture makes you absolutely helpless—don't wait till good-for-nothing trusses cripple you up so you can scarcely drag around at all—don't wait till it's too late for a Cluthe Truss, an operation or anything else to save you."

Phew! I'll get one on the 60-day trial with the money-back guarantee!

I have no idea whether the Cluthe truss was any better than any other truss. Skimming the booklet makes me think they did put a lot of thought into it. But the problem is that a poorly fitted truss can actually make it more likely your hernia will become strangulated, and as the various Cluthes state accurately, a strangulated can cause death, and fairly quickly but oh so painfully, with gangrene and stuff. So treatment of hernias with trusses is not generally recommended anymore

So, since we're still susceptible to hernias, man being born to trouble as the sparks fly upward, so we need be grateful for modern hernia care. Almost makes me think it might be safe for me to pick something heavier than my fork up again. 

Saturday, October 24, 2015

October is the coolest month.

It's been nippy at night, but refreshing more than cold. It's been incredibly pleasant. October around here sometimes brings long stretches of rain, but even those can be welcome, especially if summer was hot and dry. October is awesome.

Now that we've had a full month of autumn, I think it's safe to say that October is the nicest first full month of any of the seasons, at least at this latitude. January is as much winter as February is; we're just more tired of it by February. July and August, ditto. April is definitely springlike, but in the worst ways. Ah, but October can be delightful, even playful. And certainly colorful.



Further north October is much like our November; further south I guess it's just part of the same smear as September. But at this band on the globe October stands out in some of the most breathtaking ways. There is a mountain road by the Hudson that is a menace to life and limb in October because if you hit it while all the leaves are in brilliance you may drive off the road, overcome by glory.

April gets a pass for all its oft-crappy weather because we're sick of winter and we're happy for the hints of warmer spring and summer to come. But pound for pound, October has the finer weather. It does, however, hang around with November, the bleariest month, and December, which is just as bad but: Santa Claus. I, however, do not assign guilt by association, and I support October in all its ways.

We have one week left, so enjoy it! Then it's all naked trees, darkness, and rain, but that's not October's fault.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Weird Al will outlive us all.

Today is Weird Al Yankovic's birthday, and although he turns 56, he should rest assured that he will outlive us all.

And he's happy about it!

Why do I say that? Not because of his vegetarian diet, which came as a shock to me---this was the guy who once sang that he'd "rather have a Big Mac or a Jumbo Jack than all the bean sprouts in Japan." No, the vegetarian diet is no guarantee of burying your contemporaries and their children. I just say he'll outlive us all because he's well on his way to outliving everyone he's parodied.

Some of his biggest parody hits include "Eat It" and "Bad" (takeoffs of Michael Jackson), "Another One Rides the Bus" (Queen), "Living with a Hernia" (James Brown), "Six Words Long" (George Harrison), "My Bologna" (the Knack), and "Smells Like Nirvana" (Nirvana).

Look at Al's body count: Michael Jackson: Dead. Freddy Mercury: Deady dead. George Harrison: Zen dead. James Brown: Hardest working man in death. Doug Fieger: Also dead. Kurt Cobain: He's not only merely dead, he's really most sincerely dead.

If I were Madonna, I'd be nervous.

Now you may well say, "But Fred! Look at all the others he's parodied, everyone from Toni Basil to Lorde. They're not all dead! Some of their careers may be dead, but they're not!"

I say: Give it time.

And note the key bit of information---dead careers. Al marches on, from success to success, while those he parodies wind up on the skids or in the box.

Weird Al is a career vampire.

So if you're Coolio, or the Offspring, or Billy Ray Cyrus, or the Backstreet Boys, or Don McLean, or anyone else Weird Al has ripped off, beware. He'll either take your career or your life... or both.

And he does it with an accordion.

And that's why he's so WEIRD.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Beware . . . BLENDOR!!!!!!

Wikipedia tells us that the Waring Blendor was introduced in 1937. It wasn't the original blender; it wasn't even Waring's original blender. The first blender was patented in 1922, and Waring produced the Miracle Mixer in 1933. The Blendor was an improved model, and Fred Waring used the O in the name to differentiate it from the other blenders out there. We learn that "The Waring Blendor became an important tool in hospitals for the implementation of specific diets, as well as a vital scientific research device. Dr. Jonas Salk used it while developing his polio vaccine."

It was also useful for these:


This booklet, from 1956, was among the family heirlooms I found in my late mom's cookbook. I don't recall us ever having a Blendor---or boozy drinks out of the blender we did have, for that matter. I came along well after 1956, though, so she may have inherited the booklet from someone who did have a genuine Waring, and a taste for frozen champagne punch.

Here's the panoply of Waring products from the back cover:


You notice that the mixer is a Mixor. I guess it was Fred's thing. Oddly, he did not trademark Blendor, but he did trademark Mixor. It is a dead trademark now, though. Maybe the trademark office thought Blendor was too silly to trademark.

The Ice Jet was no doubt useful for daiquiris. The Durabilt travel iron probably didn't make very good cocktails.

But "Pickups and Cheerups" is full of wonderful blend(o)r drinks. In fact, there are some seasonal beverages. Let's have a look at what's inside!



You may be surprised to see that Halloween Punch is mainly iced tea and ginger ale and no alcohol, but Halloween really did used to be considered a children's holiday in the United States. (Note the cover of the booklet: "Alcoholic Drinks for Grown-ups / Nutritious, Delicious Beverages for the Whole Family".) I don't quite know when the adults started buying costumes for themselves. but it wasn't that way in 1956. The Graduation Punch is also boozeless, but easily spiked. I've heard of the Tom and Jerry, but I didn't know it was considered a Christmas beverage.

As before with Mom's promotional booklets, I have to find the most appalling recipe to feature; that brings us to the Fizzes page:


Right across from the ever-popular daiquiris are the Fizzes, two of three of which contain raw egg. Yes, that death-dealing salmonella bomb. Don't worry, though; the rum or gin will kill the germs. (Maybe. I don't know. Probably not.)

I have to confess that many years ago a friend of mine and I were hanging out in his family's rec room, which featured a full bar, and we dared each other to pull a drink recipe at random out of the ol' Mr. Boston book and try it. We got the Silver Fizz---gin, egg white, and all. As I recall, it tasted like a mix of cardboard and anxiety.

Over the years I've known many people who were quite attached to blender drinks, either for health or for dessert or for alcoholic stupor. I think we all owe a debt of thanks to visionary bandleader Fred Waring and his Blendor. Dr. Salk, too.*



*Recipe for Salk vaccines not included in booklet.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Bad pants.

It's not so bad when you have bad pants and you stay inside. Yes, there's always the chance that the house will burn down and you'll escape, but the only pants you'll have left are the bad ones you were wearing when you went out the window. There's a greater chance that someone will come to the door, and you forget you have bad pants on, and answer it, instead of hiding behind a wall and pretending no one is home, as you should.

I had bad pants.

This was a pair of sweats that I think I got in a drugstore. Extremely comfortable, of course, but nothing I'd wear in public, mainly because they didn't have pockets. You need pockets for your keys, your wallet, your phone. I'd worn them to take the trash out in the wee hours before the sun came up. Aside from that, these were strictly indoor pants. You couldn't wear them to do yard work; they were too soft. A stray rock from the lawn mower would rip right through them. These were bad pants, but they were bad loafing pants, not bad working pants, and I was okay with that.

My wife hated them not for their impracticality or their lack of pockets; she hated the color. I thought of them as lavender, but looking at the Benjamin Moore Color Gallery, I'd guess they were closest to Oriental Iris. Which is kind of an odd color for a man's pants, even sweat pants, I admit. But my wife didn't have to wear them, and as long as I kept inside with them and didn't answer the door, it was fine.

I confess it was a non-optimal color. 
Then we got a dog.

Now there was the new problem: Me taking the dog out in those pants. You can't not take the dog out because your pants look funny. And don't think for a second I could use the presence of the pants as an excuse to shirk. My wife would rather I be publicly embarrassed. At night I could get away with it; a long coat might help. In the dark, someone could mistake them for bad jeans, which is marginally better than bad sweats. But in the warmer months, when the sun was out so much longer, and no long coat would be worn? You march upstairs and put on something less humiliating, young man.

The sweats finally gave up the ghost after probably a decade of faithful service. The fabric gave way in what I would call the crotchetational area. No fixing that! So I cut them into rags, in the hope that they would continue to be useful, and continue to annoy my wife in some small fashion.

Of course, now every item of clothing I bring home has to face inspection. Should have seen that coming. I guess I was blinded by the Oriental Iris.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Sucks to be Yoo-Hoo?

Halloween is coming, and I would never dream of giving the kiddies something of which I had not approved. It just wouldn't be right.

To that end, I sampled something odd:


Something new this year, the Yoo-Hoo flavored chocolate candy.

You may not be familiar with Yoo-Hoo beverages, as I have heard that they did not escape the clutches of thirsty New Yorkers and other Northeasterners for many years. I remember it being mentioned to that effect on an episode of The Tracy Ullman Show back in the stone age; Dan Castellaneta played a weenie who was in love with Tracy from their childhood on the East Coast, and imported Yoo-Hoo in case she ever reappeared in his life.

Yoo-Hoo was developed to be a chocolate soft drink that did not require refrigeration. I think it's delicious, or at least I did, as I have not had a bottle in probably more than a decade. I was sad when they discontinued the vanilla flavored Yoo-Hoo, but that's life. It still comes in strawberry, though.

Funny that it should come out this year; I had just been thinking about Yoo-Hoo. Yogi Berra, who passed away on September 22, was a pitchman for the stuff for years. Once a woman asked if "Yoo-Hoo" was hyphenated. He said, "No, ma'am, it's not even carbonated."

To be fair to this candy, I should have bought a bottle of Yoo-Hoo to see if it tasted like the beverage, but I didn't. I have to say the chocolate was a little weird, but then Yoo-Hoo, being thinner than chocolate milk, was always a little weird too, a sort of non-carbonated egg cream. I think this candy was a fair approximation.

But it could have been better. The company that made this treat is Palmer, signified by the cutest candy logo in town:
Which also gives away the game. Palmer makes a bazillion great-looking low-quality chocolate Easter bunnies. And that's fine; the small kids don't turn up their noses at a giant chocolate bunny because it's not Teuscher. But a discriminating adult might. So is the Yoo-Hoo good enough for my valued trick-or-treaters?

I may have to buy a sack and eat a few more to find out. Then of course the question becomes not "Is it good enough for my trick-or-treaters?" but "Will it make it to any of my trick-or-treaters?"

Monday, October 19, 2015

Dictionary ditty.


Like everyone else, when I’m composing an opera or anthem and I need to rhyme a word (you’d be surprised how many choral cantatas require rhymes for “orange” and “slovenly”), I go to RhymeZone. It’s certainly the most popular English-language rhyming dictionary online, and it’s brutally honest when it needs to be (“Number of rhymes for slovenly: 0”). 

On the other hand, as a professional editor (yes, really) I am reliant on Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (Eleventh Edition), the gold standard in the industry. I own a copy; I have the app on my phone and my iPad. Sometimes I even rely on the Web site, and that’s where inspiration struck.

The M-W site not only lists definitions, parts of speech, pronunciation guides, and a billion ads; it also has synonyms, antonyms, and rhymes! I was very excited, because when I looked up crash course to see if it was officially hyphenated, I found rhymes for it.

That inspired me: I was determined to gather a bunch of unusual rhymes from odd words I looked up, and when I had a bunch of them, to test my mettle by turning them into a poem.

And that is what I have done. I confess to some tweaking to make it work, but at no time used any other rhyming dictionary. So allow me to present my Merriam-Webster Rhyme Poem, also known as:


"Ethel, Bill, and Old Man Joe; or: Eat, Drink, and Be Merriam-Webster"


Ethel was a lovely candy striper
Who’d seen so many patients pay the piper.
Like Old Man Joe, whose eyes were far away
She knew he’d not again be A-OK.
Joe never spoke, he never said a word,
Just silently consumed his soybean curd.
Then Doctor Bill, who thought to make a treaty
With Ethel, whom he fancied as his sweetie,
Said, “I can help Old Joe! I’ve had a crash course
In gerontology!” But Doctor Clothes Horse
(As Ethel called him) was nothing but accoutre
In medicine absolutely no sharpshooter.
His claims to help, she thought, were overtop
And nothing more than lupine agitprop.
But Doctor Bill determined to be smart
And help Old Joe, and win this Ethel’s heart.
He sought knowledge from the great and minuscule,
Consulting at the golf cart motor pool
With other doctors, the knowledge motherlode!
He bought them clubhouse chess pie a la mode.
But brilliance came alone to him, an add-in,
And stuck inside his mind like some big pushpin.
The next day he brought Joe a bowl of ice cream
He’d flavored with the products of a coal seam.
Joe hollered when he tried this booby-trap!
“This sucks!” he screamed, his voice a thunderclap.
Ethel cried, “You’ve been as silent as pine wood!”
Joe said, “’Cause up to now the food’s been good.”
Bill thought, Now Ethel’s love shall be my foison!
But she was mad because he’d fed Joe poison.

Moral: You may seem smart, all clever and cephalic,
But no one really likes a big smart aleck. 

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Spilled my julep.


1871: Whitewater riverboat gambling turns out to be an unpopular idea.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

'Tis the postseason to be jolly!

Some people have asked, as a followup to my postseason column, how I feel about the events so far. As you may recall, my predictions were based entirely on what I wanted to see happen, not on what I thought would happen. And so, to this point, I'd have to say I think things are...


...pretty darn good!

Three of the four remaining teams were in my top four preferences: Beloved Mets, Hard Luck Cubs, and Not Quite as Hard Luck But Still Need a Boost Royals. The Blue Jays were at #7. Which means three teams I rooted for the least have been eliminated. And the Royals just gave the Jays a pretty good thumping in game 1 of the ALCS, so my streak may be continuing.

Teams I expected to do better fell into two categories: Too Big to Fail and Just My Luck. The Cardinals looked unbeatable. The Pirates could beat anyone but the Cardinals. The Dodgers owned the West. Where are they now? Golfing.

The Just My Luck guys included the Yankees... yeah, just the Yankees. I knew they had struggled all season and probably played above their heads, but I figured that they would turn on some magic Yankee switch and burn through the playoffs, and if the Mets made the Series, they'd murder us in four or five games, like in 2000. Not this time!

That said, I absolutely hate the second Wild Card team anyway. You fight like the devil to get to the playoffs and it comes down to one game? This isn't the NFL. It's like Scatman Crothers racing up the hotel in The Shining to save the day and (spoiler alert!) catching an ax in his chest.

"I made it!"

WHUMP

As I noted in the earlier piece, it'd be nice for the Cubs to finally get off the schneid and win the pennant, and I'm sure I'll use that to console myself if the unthinkable happens and the Beloved Mets fail to overcome. If the Mets do lose (and let me just say, I fully 100% expected the Dodgers to pull it out even when Howie Kendrick was down to his last strike), the Cubs had better just win the damn World Series and get it all over with so we can all say hurrah, then start hating them like everybody else.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Ask a Suspicious Sheep!

Dear Suspicious Sheep: 

The people in my office seem to be acting strange lately toward me. We've heard rumors of layoffs, and I'm afraid they've heard that my head is on the block. What should I do? 

-- Nervous in New Rochelle


Nervous:

It's obvious that they know you're going to lose your job. In fact, they've probably shoved you off the sled so the wolves will eat you while they flee. Quit before their evil plan comes to fruition! Run! Run, I say!

--Suspicious Sheep


***

Dear Suspicious Sheep:

My girlfriend says she is going to visit her cousin Erma this weekend, but I think she may be cheating on me and going off with some guy. She's always texting in the bathroom every time I look through the keyhole. Should I accuse her?

--Sleepless in Sheboygan 

Sleepless:

No question about it: She's dumping you for some other guy, you freak. She'd dump you now but she's probably trying to find a way to get some money or maybe pricey gifts or some bales of hay out of you. Run! Run from her! Run away!

--Suspicious Sheep

***
Dear Suspicious Sheep: 

I want to wallpaper the family room, but my husband says it's too much work to put up and too hard to take down. He's trying to get me interested in alternating vertical stripes, maybe in blue and violet. The wallpaper I picked is more tasteful than that. How do we resolve this impasse? 

--Decorating in Decatur 

Decorating:

Wallpaper is very hard to take down---you'd probably need some serious munitions, maybe a mini-gun. Stripes could require explosives. All this violence is very unnerving. Best bet: Run away! Run from the walls! Go now! Run!

--Suspicious Sheep

***

Dear Suspicious Sheep:

I got this milk in the supermarket yesterday, but I'm thinking it may have gone off. The expiration date is three days away, though. What do you think? 

--Thirsty in Throckmorton

Thirsty:

That milk is probably gone beyond baaad---it's poison! Do not touch it! Do not sniff it! Do not listen to it! Just drop it in the sink and run! Run now! Run away! Run far far away!

--Suspicious Sheep

***

Dear Suspicious Sheep: 

My neighbor always comes back from his "business trips" to Mexico with a trailer full of plastic sacks of white powder. He says he is importing Mexican detergent for his new artisan soap business. Then strange men come and go in the dead of night. He seems to be adding a lot of large guns to his collection lately as well. Am I right to be suspicious? 

--Awkward in Austin

Awkward:

Naaah, he sounds okay. Be friendly. Maybe he'll give you some soap.

--Suspicious Sheep

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Peak leaf peek.

I've written before how treacherous peak leaf is, even here in the gorgeous Hudson Valley. It's not like Christmas or Valentine's Day, where it's circled on the calendar and that's the day. What actual date do the most amount of trees have the most amount of color? It's like so many things in life; you never know until it's passed.

That said, I think yesterday might have been that day.





I like New York in October.

Sorry to see the leaves go. It didn't occur to me until I had deciduous trees of my own to care for, but these lazy bums just stand around naked as a jaybird for fully six months out of the year, November through April. Just sticks in the dirt.

Oh, they are glorious now, though, God bless 'em all.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Dr. Ghoulsby's House of TERROR!

Halloween came early for me, children... I found myself trapped---TRAPPED! in the clutches of the fiendish Dr. Ghoulsby! 

I managed to escape by the skin of my teeth---which is quite fitting, actually.

I got this photo from my horrible imprisonment:



I don't think dentists wonder much about why people hate seeing them. Unless you're in dental agony, you're expecting your dentist to be a source of pain, not of relief. You don't think your sick teeth will kill you (WRONG!) and yet this guy hurts you more than your doctor, who treats you for things you know will kill you.

So much money goes into your dental health, too. Teeth make up such a small percentage of your body weight, and yet can easily swallow the majority of your healthcare spending, especially if you---like me!---have no dental insurance.

And that's where Dr. Ghoulsby's Office of Horrors comes in. When I went to see him I was anticipating a clean bill of health and a pat on the head and a "See you in six months!" Instead I got a "Gee, this tooth is a little soft by the filling" and a "We're just going to drill off that bit and patch it" and popping off the old filling and GOD WHAT IS THAT AAAAAAAH

What it was, was my rotten ol' tooth that had decayed under the filling, requiring a crown. Readers of this blog and its many Thing I Shouldn't Eat entries will have no trouble guessing how my enamel got to its low estate. My quick hi-how-are-ya bloody-gums cleaning turned---TERRIFYINGLY!---into thousands of dollars and two more visits. What the hell?!?

For the record, my dentist is an excellent dentist and an excellent human being. I couldn't praise him more if I were Donald Trump ("He's the BEST dentist in the world with a YUUUGE practice..."). And even he couldn't soften this blow.

I'm no fan of horror movies; my imagination is too horrible unaided. And I know there's more than enough real horror out there in the world. But for me, this was as bad a horror show as I want to endure this fall. I'd take twice the pain at half the price; I almost wish he'd pulled the damn thing.

Too late now.

MUCH TOO LATE!! MWAH AH AH!!!!!!

(I guess I'll have to say a novena that thousands of people buy my books so I can pay Dr. Ghoulsby to set me free. I think this may be karmic punishment for the character of Tilly McHeath, D.D.S., a.k.a. Matilda the Hun, Measleyville's craziest dentist, in MacFinster. Sorry!)

Monday, October 12, 2015

This block's juuuuuuust right.

Fellow in the neighborhood sent out a warning:

"That block's too sunny. That block's too clean. This block's juuuuust right."

He didn't say whether he thought that the bear was my very large dog, Tralfaz, who has been compared to a bear before. (Quote from a county sewer employee as I was walking the dog: "Hey, it's a bear! Ha ha ha! It's a bear!")

But this was a real black bear that was seen wandering around the block in broad daylight.

I know that the American Black Bear is considered something of a joke compared to other bears in American territory; with a weight of around 240 pounds (cf. Grizzly, up to 800; Kodiak and Polar, well over 1,000), the black bear is smaller than many guys and even some dogs. Compared to other bears, the black bear is more like a super-size raccoon. Still, I would prefer not to wrestle with one, and I would suggest you not try it either, even if you are feeling kind of buff because you've been, like, hitting the gym.

We don't get a lot of bears in my part of the scenic Hudson Valley, even though we're not too far from Bear Mountain. Every now and then one pops up in town, gets a little too chummy with someone's trash cans, and then you get the cops and the animal control guys and the sleepytime darts and the bear is magically transported back to the woods, scores of miles away.

So far the presence of the bear has not led to any mysterious maulings or disappearances of small pets, but there have been odd incidents involving us. When we've taken the dog out before sunrise or after sunset, we've gone with my big police flashlight and an air horn. A couple of weeks ago the flashlight caused my wife to be mistaken by a neighbor for a burglar; fortunately the truth was discovered before the police were called.

I'd rather be mistaken for the bear than a burglar, myself. It'd be embarrassing to be arrested for being bear in public.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Wrecking Crew wrejects.

Comic book fans fondly recall the Wrecking Crew, a gang of superpowered criminals whose plans usually involve wrecking things. Created by Len Wein and Sal Buscema, the Wrecking Crew are often thwarted by Thor, although the thwarting rights have also gone to the Defenders, Captain America, and others.

Despite all this thwartation, the Wrecking Crew is pretty cool. Great group name, great individual names: the Wrecker (the leader), Piledriver, Bulldozer, and Thunderball. With names like that, you know however the wrecking is accomplished, it won't be subtle. 

"Wreck softly, lads!" -- something never said by the Wrecker
In addition to these main four, there was also the Excavator, who lasted one stupid adventure before breaking his magic shovel. (Really.) But the big super-secret of the Crew is that the Wrecker, tired of being thwarted, tried to increase the membership of the Wrecking Crew and advertised for new supervillains. Here's a few who submitted resumes via Indeed.com:


FINALISTS

Chopper: Big broad with a superpowered ax and a motorbike; turned down the group's offer to join when the OWN network offered her a reality show.

Rotary Hammer: Fit in well with the Crew, but they really hated his supervillain name. Efforts by R.H. to convince them that the rotary hammer is a powerful tool of destruction led to embarrassing titters. He ultimately withdrew from contention, but turned up in Ecuador, committing crimes under the name El Martillo Perforador.

Mover: His impressive strength at first masked the fact that he only moved things from place to place; the wrecking was incidental. It seemed to go against the group's zeitgeist. An argument was made by Piledriver that plundering, raiding, and theft involved moving things, so that was still important, but he was voted down since the thing being moved was what the Mover usually wrecked.


CALLBACKS FROM FIRST INTERVIEW

Drill: Good at knocking holes in things, and was in excellent physical shape, but kept losing his bits.

Circular Saw: A vicious killer at heart but equipped with a lower and upper guard that rendered her too safe to do some good quality wrecking.

Podger Spanner: Cheery, chubby British man with a long-handled, superpowered wrench. Everyone liked him, but he politely refused to try to meet the fitness requirements. 


FIRST INTERVIEW FAILURES

Router: Group was excited to meet someone who would rout the good guys, having been routed themselves so often, but the Router could only carve wood.

Nail Gun: Sounded pretty awesome, but on further review appeared better suited for the Construction Crew.

Chisel: Failed the skills test when it took half an hour for his "Asgardian chisel" to bust a cinder block.

Sister Sledge: Expecting a woman with a magic hammer, disappointment set in when the disco supergroup came into the conference room. 

Keyhole Saw: Cool costume and an enchanted saw, but he admitted that it can only make teeny holes.


DID NOT GET CALLED

Air Compressor: Could only blow things up. Like, blowing them up with air. Didn't seem like he could add much to the team.

Pressure Washer: Work history revealed his history as a do-gooder, using his superpowers to clean things. The Crew then reexamined its ad on Indeed.com to see if they had unclear wording. 

Staple Gun: Nail Gun's weaker kid brother.

Floor Scraper: To quote Thunderball, "We may always lose, but we still have some standards."

Needlenose Pliers: Just a doof with a pointy nose.

Sandy the Sander: The "sanding belt" he wore supposedly gave him the power to make things super smooth. 

Emergency Lighting: Some guy who wandered over from the electrical department. 

Friday, October 9, 2015

Death to kale!

Wednesday was National Kale Day, and I missed it!

But it raises the crucial question: Who gives rat's pitoot?

Except for kale farmers, of course. But they are known to keep National Kale Day in their hearts all the year 'round.

Oh, yay, a toolkit to help me celebrate kale.
Kale is everywhere, kale is everything. We need a day to celebrate it?

Kale is okay. I think it's edible. My wife cares for it less. We might accept it as a passable side dish. But that's what it is. It is not a religion.

I'm not sure when the kalevalanche began, but it was more than a year ago Epicurious thought that the phenomenon had already peaked, and then had to correct itself. Snooty chef to the 1% Alice Waters said in an interview last year that she'd gotten into kale "20 years ago," long before the plebes -- but it's not like she's jumping out in front and taking all the credit. She says that she was "a little late." So don't you dare say she's high-falutin.

You know who does high-falute? The annoying kale braggarts. I have sat in an office while trendy young urbanites nearby traded dining tips; as the "conversation" went on, each had to be kalier than thou. You may have been there yourself, listening to bright young creatures recommend restaurants, and as the world's most precious pissing contest continues the restaurants must to get smaller, healthier, more obscure, harder to reach, and more utterly imbued with kale.

We have been down this road with other things. Arugula, avocado, cilantro, pesto. Some study pops up calling some food the new freaking ambrosia of the gods, which will essentially render you so healthy you can heal small injuries like E.T., and all the weenies flock to it like---well, like flocks. Another article last year pondered what the next kale would be... and yet a year passes and we're still up to our butts in kale. How long, O Lord?

I am almost at the point of praying that something horrible will be revealed about kale---its nutrients are blocked from absorption, like oxalic acid does to the iron in spinach (kale does contain oxalic acid---just saying), or it invalidates your vaccinations, or it gives you diagonal blue stripes, or that after a few years of steady consumption it causes catastrophic failure of the genitalia. Anything, just to shut the kaleiens down, please!

Thursday, October 8, 2015

The dogs of war.

It's hugely irritating to find that someone has let their dog crap on your lawn and just left it there. It's utterly infuriating when you happen to own a dog yourself and never, ever do that to anyone else.

Having reared Tralfaz for some time, I have become something of an expert in dog poop. At a guess, and without getting all Forensic Files on it, I'd just the mystery crap to have been left by a medium size fellow with a healthy diet. I've seen a few of that description wander by. Whoever it was also tagged the neighbor a couple of weeks ago, and I cleaned it up so my own dog wouldn't get blamed.

What do you do about this?

Here are some options that occurred to me.

1) The Sign: We've had some luck with warning signs in other places in the neighborhood, or at least they seemed to me to work. Some I've seen are pretty large and serious:




Others are small but to the point:


But since there are signs liked these around, you would think that it would not be necessary to educate someone on this nice point of civilized behavior. The perp is most likely someone who thinks he's getting away with something, if indeed he thinks at all. So a sign alone doesn't seem to do the job, except he may think that he can let the dog crap with impunity anywhere there isn't a sign, in which case he's a moron anyway.

2) The Ambush: I sit in the house, peeking out the window, until they come by and the dog drops a brick; the moment they start to move off, BAM! I burst out of the front door and scream like a maniac.

Of course, that means I can do nothing else all day but sit by the window. And since this is (as far as I know) the first time they've ever done a dump-and-dash on my own lawn, I could be waiting there for days, even weeks, until my number comes up again. It might have come in the dead of night, which starts around seven at this time of year. This just isn't going to work. Then there's....

3) Technology: Buy some of those cheap security cameras and train them on the front lawn. When a puppy plop appears, review the recording. Get a screen grab of the irresponsible person and the dog in action; print up flyers and posters and put them on every lamppost and utility pole, and in every mailbox, in this part of town. The shame offensive!

I think this could be very effective. The main problem is the investment. Night-vision security cameras (for it would require that) are not cheap, and the way the property is laid out, for the cameras to get a good solid picture all the way from the secret camera hiding place, they would have to have excellent range. I have many expenses that take precedence over a poop project like this.

4) The Sign II: Maybe something a little more personalized:

Dear Inconsiderate Neighbor:
                I couldn't help notice that your medium-size dog has been allowed to crap on others' property at will, and that your dog's foolish owners have made no attempt to clean it up. Please be advised that I am actively seeking your identity and address---first, to complain about you to the local dog license office and the police, but mainly because my dog is about three times the size of yours. You had better believe it when I say his poop looks like an earth mover just deposited a load of fertilizer. I shall make it my main mission to deliver his droppings to your property every day until you apologize for your lack of consideration; afterward, if any dog, even one that is not yours, should defecate on my lawn again, I will hold you responsible and once again begin the storm. Thank you for your time.
                                Sincerely, Frederick Key

Nah -- that's no good. Who has time to read anymore?

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Little orange balls.

In the yogurt, no less. 

The new NBA season kicks off October 27, so to gin up excitement among the yogurt-slurping children who are or could become basketball fans, there's this:


I got it on deep discount last month because the expiration date was coming up quick. These little cups of vanilla yogurt come in a four-pack for eating by children (or overgrown children) on the go. What's so basketbally about yogurt? Glad you asked:



Little orange balls!

We've seen this kind of thing before, of course; yogurt, the once-healthy ideal hippie dairy treat, now comes with everything from Froot Loops to Snickers in the plastic cap for mixing in to the sugared yogurt. I know, I know, I say like it's a bad thing. The iron rule of food drift is: Everything healthy that can be made less healthy will be.

In this case, the little orange balls are not flavored orange, but are actually little round bits of white chocolate. The taste is almost indiscernible, even on their own. Mixed in to the yogurt, you essentially just taste the yogurt.

This Alpina yogurt, of which I had never heard, may be healthy as far as its non-chocolate section goes; it's not very sweet, and is in fact quite tart, like a traditional yogurt. Alpina is actually huge in South America. They have, however, struggled some in the US market. On the other hand, they claim to have cracked the code in combining real coffee with yogurt ("This has been a challenge for food companies because of high acidity levels in both coffee and yogurt" says Buffalo Business First), so there's that.

Meanwhile, they have little orange balls, which come with stickers in the four-pack:



Collect 'em all, kids! Stick them on your school textbooks! Stick them on the side of Daddy's car on the way to school! Stick them to your baby brother's fontanelle! And get ready for tip-off!

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Badass Fred.

Yeah, we used to get into some trouble when we were kids.

We were badasses.

Still am. 

Everyone nowadays says he's a badass. They consider themselves badasses by nature, engaged in badassery, badassing their way through life. Look, sister, you may be the most badass junior benefits administrator in the HR department, but that don't make you a badass in the world at large. Not like Fred.

Yeah. Fred Badass.

Of course, no one who's really a badass calls himself that. It's like being tough. You have to let other people call you tough. Usually after you just nailgunned your forearm to a plank, ripped it off, rubbed a little dirt onto it, and got back to work. "Wow! Lucy's tough!" they'd say. Sure. Badassishness works the same way.

"But wait!" you say. (That's just like you.) "You're calling yourself a badass, which you just said disqualifies you from badassdom."

That's right---unless you've been at it as long as I have. Then you've gone all the way through and out the other side. Even the rules of badass appellation designation no longer apply.

How long have I been at it? Long time. Me and the boys, we used to go downtown. Me even go alone sometimes. Then us boys would talk about chicks, about fights, about how we were too badass to care about using personal subject pronouns when we should be using personal object pronouns and vice versa. Then we'd get some smokes and a couple of bottles, and raise some badass-flavored hell.


Then we'd hop on our Big Wheels and ride.

'Cause we were badasses.

Over time I got badasser and badasser, until I was the baddest badass of them all.

How bad?

A proctologist once said he'd never seen an ass as bad as me.

Or as bad as I.

Yeah, man. And when this badass shows up, you better watch out. You better not cry. You better not pout.

And I ain't even telling you why.

Badass Fred. Yeah.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Baseball playoff outlook.

Well, now we've gotten past the regular season, and it's on to the Major League Baseball playoffs. Baseball fans worldwide may be waiting on my predictions for each series. Feh---let 'em wait.

Of course, the fact is I have no idea who's going to get to, let alone win, the World Series. Nobody knows anything, as William Goldman said about the movie business, and countless others have said about sports. ("Nothing" is also quoted as being something about which nobody knows, but the meaning is the same.)

The question of who I'd like to see win, however, is different.

What we have now is:

Astros at Yankees (Wild Card game)

Cubs at Pirates (Wild Card game)

Astros/Yankees winner vs. Royals

Cubs/Pirates winner vs. Cardinals

Rangers vs. Blue Jays

Mets (hooray!) vs. Dodgers

FACT: Shea Stadium was perfectly round, and surrounded by dark blue shag parking lots.

So rather than doing power rankings or anything, I'm basing predictions on which teams I like and dislike. In the order in which I want to see them win:

#1. THE METS

I've loved the Mets since I was a little kid and they made it to the 1973 World Series. The 1986 team was awesome, winning 108 games in the regular season and clinching in August, but they came soooooo close to losing the NLCS to the Astros and the World Series to the Red Sox. Yet they were so good that they should have repeated in 1987 and 1988 (as Mookie Wilson predicted), but A) the Cardinals were an awesome team in the 80's, B) the Dodgers were an awesome team in the 80's, and C) New York was shin-deep in cocaine at the time, including (it would appear) the Mets locker room. Soon we were wallowing in the mediocrity of the 90's, the momentary thrills of the late 90's to mid 00's, and then crapsville. Now we have a chance, although this team either hits all at once or not at all, and it looks like everyone is so hurt that someone's arm may actually fall right off in the middle of an inning.

#2. THE CUBS

No World Series championship since 1908. No National League pennant since 1945. Although W.P. Kinsella once wrote a story in which the Cubs winning the pennant was believed (by the Cubs' coach) to be the sign of the impending Armageddon, it's almost worth it if these guys can get finally get it done. When there's no other rooting interest I have to root for the guys who have waited the longest, and no one has waited longer than these guys. Then again, the Mets went 0-7 against the Cubs this year, which makes me less sympathetic than I could be.

#3. THE ASTROS

True, that the Astros almost beat the Mets in that 1986 NLCS, when the Astros were in the NL, But then again, they did not. The franchise is as old as the Mets, and while we have a 2-2 record in World Series championships, Houston's got a 0-1 record. Maybe it's time.

#4. THE ROYALS

Small-market team with a storied history, but little to show for it since 1985. I was rooting for them in the Series last year, but maybe not hard enough.

#5. THE RANGERS

Another team with a long history of not winning the World Series. going back to 1961 and its roots as a Washington Senators franchise.

#6. THE PIRATES

Pittsburgh fans have much to be proud of with one of the great old franchises, but not in a long time. Until recently they sported a record 20 losing seasons in a row. Even the Cubs, with their ridiculously long drought in postseason play, never achieved a length of suffering like that.

#7. THE BLUE JAYS

The Jays have a pitcher I really like, former Met R. A. Dickey, and they kept the Yankees from winning the AL East. And Canadians are nice about sports, except hockey.

#8. THE DODGERS

There are STILL guys around here who are heartbroken about these traitors leaving Brooklyn. Not so many about the Giants going to San Francisco. Maybe because the Dodgers that left Brooklyn were on a huge upswing, and the Giants not. Anyway, did I mention 1988 and the NLCS? Uh-huh. My boss at the time and I sat shiva after Orel Hershiser slayed us. And if they advance this year it will be over the Mets' hopes and dreams. Boo. But because they are a once-beloved Brooklyn franchise, they edge out the Cards in my rankings.

#9. THE CARDINALS

Did I mention that the Cardinals knocked the Mets out of contention in 1987? And since then the Cards won two championships to our none? Bleh.

#10. THE YANKEES

Twenty-seven championships. And being a Mets fan, I have to hear about them all the freaking time. It's like being the little brother who always gets beaten up. Twenty-seven championships is enough for, say, the next 75 years. Lose to Houston and go home, you greedy slobs. Thank you.

Even at Citi Field, you are not safe from schmucks with Yankees jackets.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Face it.

Forty-eight degrees Fahrenheit at 7:30 this morning. 

Only one house in the neighborhood has refused to cover its swimming pool. 



Saturday, October 3, 2015

We are all about to die!

I am not panicking about Hurricane Joaquin, which appears to be on a trajectory to head away from us. Why would I worry about something like that when the entire PLANET is about to be DESTROYED?!

It's true and I know it's true, because Cablevision, my cable company, told me. Jim Dolan would never lie. I know he loves us, too; we get the cable bill first, ahead of all the other bills, every single month, and unlike our other utilities we have to pay prior to consumption of services. That's devotion. They're just scared that we'll leave them!

But we may all be leaving soon. Here's what the e-mail says:

Between October 4 and October 13 you might notice a very brief interruption in TV service due to sun outages. 

Holy crap! The SUN is going OUT?


Screw the TV service -- if there's a sun outage, there will be a permanent interruption in US! 

So if the sun goes out, how long until we all die? We would have a grace period of about eight and a half minutes before the light stops coming to us, and apparently that would include the heat as well. I don't know if we'd get any data that tells us the sun went out in that time. If we did, it might give us just seconds for NASA to instruct us to kiss our butts good-bye. Then WHAM! Frozen ice ball.

Now, it may seem a bit odd for a guy who endorsed the SMOD 2016 campaign to fret over a thing like the sun going out, but if the sun is just going to puff out like a candle, there won't be a lot of time to prepare for the end. With SMOD, at least we'll have some warning. 

Anyway, I went back to the e-mail from Cablevision to see if I could pinpoint when the sun was supposed to go out. 

As the sun’s path across the sky gets lower each day, there are times when it goes directly behind a TV satellite and its radiation overpowers the satellite’s signal. This results in what is called a sun outage. 

Oh. 

Damn.

I guess I have to pay my cable bill after all. 

Friday, October 2, 2015

Another story from the bargain bin.

This is an interesting soap product.


Yes, it is a hand soap meant for children, and is by Kandoo. It popped up a basket of sales at the grocery store. My mission: Make an uneducated guess as to why.

I can say a couple of things in its favor right off. First, there's no dadblasted Disney character present. Although the turtle on the label looks like a bit like a cartoony Teenage Mutant Ninja type to me.* The bottle, a friendly shade of green, is shaped like a happy frog, so they have all your amphibian needs covered. The spout and the soap itself are purple, the soap being a lighter colored foam. Essentially they came up with an eye-catching kids' product that used just purple, green, and white instead of the usual panoply of colors that looks like clown barf.

The base of the bottle is wide and thick, which is very helpful for the tykes. Those who have to reach up high to get to the top of the sink, and approach the bottle at a bad angle, are as likely to send the bottle flying off the vanity as they are to get some soap out of it. This makes it as easy as could be hoped for a kiddie pump bottle.

I'm sure they product-tested the squirt soap on the little squirts, but I find the scent rather odd and hard to place. Sort of like Miscellaneous Berry. It supposedly contains fruit extracts, so that's exactly what it might be. When I wanted extra cleanliness and mixed a handful with some Purell, the combined scent was powerfully reminiscent of beer wort from fruity homebrews. Haven't smelled that in maybe fifteen years, but it took me right back.

It is an odd soap in other ways. I find that the color stays on the towel if you don't rinse off properly, but that's not a bug, it's a feature---the idea is to teach the kids how to wash their hands. I guess I need some rinse reminders myself. The color comes right off in the wash, so don't worry about staining the good guest towels.

I think it may have wound up in the bargain bin just as a sale, to drum up interest in the product, and I hope so. Hoover's says the parent company, Nehemiah Manufacturing of Cincinnati, is a smallish outfit of $27.3 million in annual sales---a plucky David compared to the self-care Goliaths that fill our supermarket shelves. So if you have little kids, or even if you don't, try the Kandoo soap and see if you like it too. And if you are a homebrewer, try the Purell thing and let me know if I'm right.

---

*As it turns out, it's Captain Clean, a super-strong frog.