Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Putting A Good Spin On Things


I’ve had a bit of a scary stretch at home over the last few days.  All was well in my world on Sunday afternoon, and I was spending it as I often do spring Sundays, relaxing after a day’s work around the house, doing the weekly laundry, and questioning the wisdom of a number of decisions made in my late teens.  And then …

Silence.

Well, not complete silence as in “I’m in a really weird science fiction book and time has stopped progressing and birds are suspended mid-flight and nary a sound exists,” but silence as in that pathetic dialogue sequence used in about every 3rd M*A*S*H episode:
(shelling sounds in background)

Hawkeye (after about a second without an explosion):  Listen!

Nurse:  I don’t hear anything …

Hawkeye: That’s just it! The shelling stopped!
The “shelling,” in my case, was emanating from the washing machine, and more specifically, the spin cycle, during which the metal sides flap violently back and forth, making far more noise than any wartime battle, the entire machine begins to meander about the laundry room like the players in the classic electric football game, and, when the imbalance in the drum is such that the vibration matches the resonate frequency of the house itself, floorboards begin to loose themselves from their binds to the subflooring, and indeed, the entire structure threatens to separate from its foundation.

As I’ve had this particular washing machine for nearly a score, and considering my steadfast insistence on laundering clothing at least a few times a year, I’ve become quite familiar with the various details of its processes, so when the spin cycle ended prematurely on Sunday, I spun abruptly and remarked to the dog “Alas, Indy, my concern is great, for though my knowledge of the details of this unexpected cessation is limited, I cannot foresee any outcome other than one overwhelmingly negative.”  She bit me in an empathetic show of understanding, and we set off to investigate.

After draining the vat of the water that remained (a three step process, involving 1) using a bowl to scoop out about five gallons, 2) realizing that lowering the drain hose to below the height of the vat would cause it to drain naturally, and 3) lowering the drain hose to below the height of the vat so that it drained naturally), it was a fairly straightforward matter to determine that the little sensor thingy that tells the little guy inside the machine that the lid is closed had broken off.  (“Straightforward” in this case means “that was the only possible cause remaining after checking everything else, even though a moment’s consideration would have pointed to that in the first place”.)

The point of all of this (and really, Dead Acorn, 450+ words of irrelevant nonsense to get to the point?) is that upon reassembly of the machine (after bypassing the switch and duct-taping the leads together, ‘cause DUH), I took a few extra minutes to actually make sure that the steel sides were properly attached to the frame – all “Tabs A” were in “Slots B”, missing screws were replaced, and while perhaps not in showroom condition, the ole beast seemed a bit more solid than before.

Well, I popped up some popcorn for the test load, pulled the chaise lounge into the laundry room, and, after setting the dials for warm water and a small load, started up a regular cycle and waited with nearly-unbearable anticipation as the wash and rinse cycles completed.

Oh please oh please oh please oh please …

And it happened!  The tub began to spin, slowly at first, then more rapidly, flinging water outwardly, forcing it from the fabrics, faster, faster, ever faster … and all in stunning silence.

No earth-shaking vibrations.  No deafening din.  Nothing but a quiet spin and the subtle slurping of water through the waste hose.  The steel panels comprising the sides, being firmly and properly attached, no longer bellowed like the sound effects crew creating thunder at a high school play.  The washer seemed content to stay in its place, performing its task with a heretofore unknown calm.

The posts on this blog do not often have morals (much like their author!  Ha! Thank you!  Thank you!), and when they do, more often than not, it’s something akin to “don’t drink Ouzo when you’re working with electricity.”  But it occurred to me later that I had lived with something quite unpleasant for quite some time, when all along, a few minutes of dedicated attention could have provided a solution and changed my life for the better.  Just the slightest bit of effort on my part could have had such a positive impact on how things could have been, and yet I showed sloth and indifference …

Ok, not really – my actual thoughts were more along the lines of “well, shit, I hope my significant other doesn’t figure out how easy and pleasant it is to rid your life of things that annoy you, ‘cause I’ll be gone afore I can swat a fly!”

Baby steps toward life lessons, I guess.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Six Months, Half A Year ... Whatevs ...


What are they gonna do, take away your birthday?

It’s really one of the classic phrases of juvenile provocation, a statement meant to make the target feel as though he or she is perhaps behaving like a “sissy” or a “wuss” with regard to hesitation in performing a hypothetical act that could result in some form of punishment.  Its effectiveness lies in the psychological grouping of all consequences with one that could not possibly occur, thereby reducing the internally estimated probability that any repercussions will result from whatever idiotic thing the little dumbass is scheming up.

Or something like that.

The point for the present discussion is that one cannot have one’s birthday taken away, but boy-howdy, wouldn’t THAT suck?

Well, yes, one can, and yes, it does.

I’ve been employed in my current position for just a cat’s whisker over 3 months, and it would be difficult to overstate how much I have enjoyed it thus far.  My coworkers are intelligent, of good humor, well-shod, and relatively unannoying in voicing their poor taste in athletic teams for whom they cheer.  I was elated last week when I opened my electronic mailbox and found the following message:

“There is chocolate cake in the break room in celebration of the April birthdays of Genevieve and The Dead Acorn – please help yourselves!”

I was, to be honest, a bit confused initially (my psyche is a place where elation and confusion often coexist), as my birthday is in October, but then it struck me - this must be a work environment the inhabitants of which so enjoy life that an annual acknowledgement is simply not enough, and that a semiannual party is warranted!  I know parents who celebrate “6 month birthdays” for their children, and I have friends who extend their parties into a birthweek, or even a birthmonth, and I thought “well, if this place bounces that way, then coolo-boolo!  I’m tolly down with that!”

As I suspect you already know, it was not the case.  I stopped in Guinevere’s office to offer best wishes and to comment on my enthusiasm for the practice:

Dead Acorn:  “Hey, Josephine – Happy Birthday!  Kinda cool that we do the 6-month celebration as well!”

 JeVassia:  “What the #$!@& are you talking about?”

 DA:  “That email from Hannah.  My birthday’s in October, so I just assumed that the office does something twice a year.  You know, morale, good times, all that stuff.”

 J’Anistia:  “Umm, no.  If it’s not your birthday, there’s an error in your file.  This isn’t Candyland, dumbass.  Jesus.”

 DA (skulking back to office before tears become visible):  “umm … oh … okay.  Sorry.”

So yes … sometimes, they ARE going to take away your birthday.  And it hurts.  I didn’t have any cake that day, and I’m not sure I’ll have any on my real birthday, either.  If I even still have one at that point.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Let's Just Set A Spell ...


The world of Sports & Leisure Viewership can be a wonderful place.  There’s just something special about throwing back a lager or two, watching your preferred player or team do battle against the day’s enemy, engaging in a little light banter with the supporters thereof, some verbal sparring, if you will, letting loose vocabularic venom, perhaps indulging in a bit of speculation as to the interspecies sexual exploits of their maternal lineage, even, on occasion, dabbling in a bit of physical joshery, a brief interlude into playful fisticuffs … it’s truly magical.

While I, to a large degree, am not prone to engage in overly emotional interactions in such settings, preferring instead to keep things at the level of anatomically improbable suggestions toward those rooting for teams opposed to those that curry my favor, and nothing more, I read an article yesterday concerning a rule change to one of the most beloved events our culture knows that simply made my blood boil.

Disirregardless of your particular favorite team or competitor, there is almost universal agreement in attitudes toward certain endgame processes in a number of events, including American Football, football, and ice hockey.  In each of these, if the teams remain tied for some specified duration after the end of the scheduled event, the winner is decided by a bizarrely construed tie-breaker only passingly similar to the original game.  Sudden Death, penalty shots/kicks … whatever the specifics, the issue is the same:  the outcome of the game is to be decided via a process decidedly different than the game itself.  (This is, of course, a matter of degrees, and American Football differs more in the criticality of scoring immediately, as opposed to football and hockey, which employ scenarios far removed from standard play.)

As I said wrote, attitudes toward such situations are almost universally  agreed to be bad; the exception, of course, being the Olympic penalty kick triumph of Brandi Chastain.

The rule change that has me so incensed is an odd twist on this; odd in that the conclusion of the competition will remain the same, but the rules for advancing to the final rounds are to be changed.

Whisky.  Tango.  Foxtrot.

I refer, of course, to the Scripps National Spelling Bee, and their decision to add an element of vocabulary to their annual event.  Yeah, you read that right.  Rounds up to and including the semi-finals will now include some sort of hare-brained attempt at determining whether or not the student knows what a word means, as if that’s important in the real world.  Those in charge and who made this decision bombilate with rhytiscopia and galeanthropy and leave me with extreme gamomania.  You want a vocabulary test?  Fine.  ESPN4 is always looking for things to air.  But don’t try to dilute the purity of the spelling competition, where a word’s meaning is a clue to overcoming the challenge, and not the challenge itself.  Personally, I suspect an anti-savant agenda being funded, no doubt, by the lily-livered context-dependent self-proclaimed “linguists” over at MeaningMatters.

I’ll be writing a sternly worded letter, of course, expressing my displeasure, and I invite you to join me.  Scripps has stepped out onto a slippery slope, and the inclusion of vocabulary will inevitably lead to disqualifications based on intonation and inflection, and then … I shudder to imagine.  Please help me right this wrong.

Do it for this guy:


"Can you give me the definition?" - with some effort, we can keep this hallowed question from going the way of the dodo.  I can’t spell it out any more clearly.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Not Completely Rad, Just Sort Of ... You Know ...


I recently read a commentary on the googly-tubez about chasing your dreams and passionately pursuing the things that you know in your heart of hearts you were put on this earth to do blah blah blah …

That’s all well and good for those who have dreams and aspirations and that sort of thing, but is somewhat irrelevant for those of us who are just fine being average middle-of-the-pack type of folk.  I guess I assume that had I been put on this earth for some great purpose, I would have discovered it by now.  That’s not to say that had I discovered such a purpose, I would have pursued it; on the contrary, in all likelihood, such a realization would have been responded to with a non-committal shrug and a gradual return to the Gilligan’s Island marathon I was halfheartedly attending to.  I am happy not being driven to excel (I’m fairly certain that I would not enjoy being driven to excel, as I would almost certainly fail at that goal, which, I would guess, would be somewhat unpleasant).  I think I long ago once won a bicycle road race, but it was the “B” category, and I seem to recall thinking “you know, this doing okay at a level that doesn’t require total devotion and, at the same time, doesn’t really put me in a circumstance wherein I truly risk discovering my limitations is something I could agree to.  I’m tolly down with mediocrity!”

Luke Wilson’s character in the movie “Idiocracy” voiced this attitude quite well:
Pvt. Joe Bowers: Why me? Every time Metsler says, "Lead, follow, or get out of the way," I get out of the way.

Sgt. Keller: Yeah, when he says that, you're not supposed to choose "get out of the way." It's supposed to embarrass you into leading - or at least following.

Pvt. Joe Bowers: That doesn't embarrass me.
Well, such was my thinking until very recently.

I think, though I can’t be sure, having never actually had one before, that I may, at long last, have a goal.  I’m not sure if I’m supposed to feel giddy or giggly or anything like that, but I’m not going to compare my “first goal” to the over-hyped goal fantasies of the sort you read about in trashy magazines while standing in the checkout line at the grocery store.  Who knows?  Maybe it is just a simple yearning … a slight urge … a trivial fancy that I’m temporarily taken with.  Whatevs … all I know is that I want to be …

The Radish King.

I’m not really sure what happened.  I was progressing normally along a project completion arc, this one being that of “grow a garden,” and had gotten to the step in which I place the seeds that I have bought into the ground (this is approximately year four of this particular project; last year I completed the “buy seeds” step, and this year I’ve incorporated “planting them”).  I had been told that radishes, in addition to being delicious, are fairly hardy and can withstand some frosty nights and are generally difficult to screw up.  (It did need to be explained to me that simply because the package said “plant ¼” for smaller radishes, and 1” for slightly larger radishes,” I couldn’t extrapolate to burying them a foot under and expect pumpkin-sized results.)

My original plan was to plant radishes, along with some peppers, cucumbers, lettuce, and maybe even some corn.  I got a little confused, however, at the corner Liquor’N’Seed, because they had several different types of radish, which threw me for something of a loop, to say the least.  “I just want the round red ones,” I said.  “Well, congratulations,” the seed girl said with dripping sarcasm.  “You’ve just narrowed it down to three hundred.”

They all had a good laugh at my ignorance, and it must have kind of hit a sore spot, because I did a little research on the googly-tubez that night along with my regular web-perusing activities.  I was overwhelmed, to say the least.  There are black radishes, white radishes, mild radishes, hot radishes, radishes that grow in winter, radishes that dress up like watermelons

I will grow them all.  Peppers, corn, and squash?  I’ll leave those to lesser gardeners to cultivate.  I will focus with laser-like intensity on my beloved radishes, and vendors at the local Farmer’s Market will avert their eyes as I pass, rightfully ashamed at the embarrassing radishional offerings they tender.  Rebecca Loudon will file a lawsuit citing copyright infringement, but will drop it upon full realization of my Radish Kingosity.  Letti will battle over which is best suited to serve as a vehicle for the yield I shall reap!

Odd … psychotic delusions of grandeur with regard to the scope and importance of my projects don’t usually occur until around year six.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Hittin' The Sauce ... Hittin' It HARD ...


They’re working me.  Working me hard.

The WINCO, I mean.

I really like that place – just about everything about it.  I like that it’s employee owned, I like the no-frills atmosphere, the dual-customer checkout lines, that they don’t take credit cards in order to keep prices low, the sense of community and the relationships you form, however fleeting, as you wind your way through the aisles, encountering the same fellow shoppers time and again.

The prices, of course, are simply unchallenged in the valley, generally speaking.  And while this may sound somewhat nonsensical, sometimes … sometimes they’re too low.  I’m talking writing about things like $0.39 for a can of pickled artichoke hearts or $0.99 for the new Lays Festering Flesh® flavored potato chips.  Stuff they know I detest, but that I just might buy if the price is right.

I know it’s just a little game to them, seeing what item that I absolutely loathe they can get me to buy, and I don’t begrudge them their fun.  Heck, I even have a little admiration for them, and I occasionally get a chuckle upon seeing the case of Bar-B-Q Diet African Hedgehog Tongue gathering dust in the pantry.

I’m a bit concerned about what they’re up to with the newest twist to their tomfoolery, however.  They seem to have grown tired of inducing me to buy small quantities of obscure and never-to-be-used products, and have pivoted to efforts of making me stock myself out of my own home.

I first noticed the sale display a few months ago.  “Tomato Sauce, 8 oz. cans, $0.18,” read the hand-written sign.  It was low-key and non-aggressive, but something about it caught my eye as I was rounding the condiment aisle.  “My god …” I muttered, as I slowed to a stop, staring in disbelief.  “Get your fat ass to one side or the other!” yelled an elderly shopper from behind me, jamming her cane into my ribs.

I knew that such a sale wouldn’t last long, and, in fact, I fell into a bit of a panic as I saw an employee walking toward me, carrying a sign.  Luckily, she didn’t seem to be seriously injured as I helped her up, though she seemed to regard my denial of tripping her on purpose with skepticism as she explained that she was heading to the produce aisle.

Anyway, the 8 oz. can of sauce is just about perfect for someone in my position.  It can be used to make a single pizza, or to pour onto a single piece of lasagna, or to make a single serving of garlic cheese bread … oh jeez, this is getting depressing.  Let’s just say it’s a versatile product for one who lives as one.  The Winco pranksters had obviously done some reconnaissance work in preparation for this.

I purchased a flat (24 cans) that day, and was floored a week later when I returned to find the price still in effect!  I marveled at my good fortune as I stacked up another flat, looking forward to being rich in sauce for months to come.  And then … the same thing happened the next week, and the next, and the next.

They’re working me.  Working me hard.

As of this writing, I’ve got what I conservatively estimate at 800-1,000 cans of tomato sauce.  As I try to rationalize this  internally, I find that I’m persuading myself to explore new uses for it.  It’s been 2 weeks since I’ve brushed with actual toothpaste, and the engine in the Zuke Of Earle seems to have developed an odd knocking since I made the observation that it had a consistency similar to 10w-40 motor oil.  It hasn’t done a damn thing for my split ends, that’s for sure.

I hope I can find some control soon.  The kitchen is nearly stacked full, and I’m having some trouble navigating the dining room.  I don’t hold any animosity toward the rascals down at the store … I’m sure they meant no harm; it’s just that sometimes a little fun can get out of hand, and that’s okay.

God forbid they lower the price of Spam.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Thinking Inside The Box


I have yet another addition to my ever-growing list of Loftily-Envisioned-Yet-Bound-To-Become-Barely-Functional-And-Nothing-More projects, a sub-category of the Do-It-Yourself genre in which I was recently awarded a Lifetime Achievement award.  (The award is widely considered as an apology for the travesty of justice incurred when my now-legendary 1983 “Homemade Cycling Wind Trainers” effort was snubbed.)

My current work is in preparation for an anticipated greater commitment to and reliance upon my bicycle(s) for excursions on which I would normally convince myself to drive with little, if any, resistance from any internal agonist advocating health or environmental benefits.

I’m serious this time, dang it!  Quit giggling!

I have had, for several years, one of those child-carrier trailer thingies that attaches to the rear axle.  The Live Acorn, of course, is well past the age of wanting to be seen with her dad needing such transport, and my original plan of using it to garner the sympathy of comely lasses at the park by borrowing a friend’s baby and explaining that the mother had died during childbirth never really came to fruition, and so it’s mainly been employed to haul beer and peanuts home from the store.

But no more!  “It’s time to get serious!” I said to myself in a stern, lecturing tone, and then chuckled, because I always try, unsuccessfully, to raise one eyebrow when I speak in a stern, lecturing tone, and I find my persistence at this task amusing.  But apparently I was stern and lecturing enough, because I set about ripping all of the nylon fabric that comprised the child carrier off of the trailer frame in a chaotic fit, my thought (or whatever it is that passes for thought in the midst of a chaotic fit) being that if I destroyed any transportational capability that existed, I would be forced to replace it with something.

And sure enough, it worked seems to be working:

Above:  I really hope that neither Ernesto Colnago nor Eddy Merckx reads this … it’s enough that I lose sleep knowing that I’m using one of the great classic Italian road frames as a utilitarian grocery hauler.  I don’t need either of those two showing up and kicking my ass.

I write “seems to be working” as technically, I have not reached the “Barely-Functional” part of the project yet, though all it really needs is to be connected to the frame.  In my younger days, I would have opted for a duct tape-based approach to minimize effort and time, but alas, I am not the impatient flibbertigibbet I once was, and am committed to a hardware based solution involving bolts and lockwashers and other hardware-y types of things.  I also plan on painting flames on the side, and perhaps Thomas The Train on the front.

I showed this picture to several people, and there seemed to be a common reaction of “umm … it’s quite … large, isn’t it?  Are you opening a catering service?  You ARE joking when you occasionally mention getting rid of dead hookers, aren’t you?”  And yes, while it may seem a bit excessive, I’m simply erring on the side of caution.  Plus, the lid is going to comprise two pieces that slide together with a hole for Indy’s neck, akin to the tables used to serve the eastern delicacy “brains of live monkeys” (that would be the east side of Dead Falls, North Dakota – I’m pretty sure outside of there, that’s just a rumor).  She loves it already:

Above:  She’s now part boxer.

Well, crap ... it just occurred to me that I didn’t measure the front door …

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Pasta Point Of No Return


As her boldness grows, so does my fear.  Never did I dream I would long for the days of her waiting for me to succumb to slumber before she executed her ravenous raids; yet what I would give now to go back to that time, when I could lay at least part of the blame on myself for nodding off with some (or all, in certain cases) of my meal sitting seductively at the exact level of her mouth, as if I’d intentionally left it there for her to consume.  I couldn't really fault her, much less ascribe malicious intentions on her part.  The food wasn't technically being guarded, after all.

Those days are gone.

(NOTE:  This is yet another hell-hound based post, as my existence in and of itself remains bereft of sufficient goings-on to merit putting to pixels, and generally serves best as a non-pharmaceutical alternative to Halcion.)

As some of you may know, my lifestyle is one that lends itself to making large batches of various foods and storing them in an appropriate fashion such that individual portions may be prepared with little effort and time, and without regard to the societal and somewhat arbitrary norms of when meals should be taken.

That is to say, I live alone, and make giant pots of spaghetti sauce, freeze individual servings, and eat at midnight in my jammies.  It’s quite pathetic, in all honesty.

Nevertheless, it is as such.  While I do have certain “go-to” menu items, such as the aforementioned spaghetti sauce, and chicken breasts (which can be used in a nearly infinite number of dishes, of which I cook exactly three), it occurred to me the other day that I had not made lasagna* in quite some time.

“O widest of noodles commonly found in grocery stores, how I have forsaken thee!” I cried upon my realization.  “Your ruffled edges so lovely; ‘tis shame ‘pon me that I have forgot, but I will boil you on the night next, so that right will be made, and you shall be layered twixt cheeses of four and the thickest of sauces!”

The next day, I ventured off to the store, and got all the fixin’s: various tomato sauces and pastes, some Italian sausage, peppers, onions, tequila numerous cheeses, and a couple of boxes of noodles.  I was set!  Never had I been so prepared for a culinary endeavor.

Well, as is my norm in such projects, I made entirely too much sauce (I really should write down a recipe and actually use it), but fortunately, I had bought two packages of noodles.  “Not to worry!” I told myself.  “You can just make two batches, and maybe share with friends, who will then pass on an act of kindness to others, and world peace will be achieved and it will have originated in your very kitchen!”

As it happens, there are 18 noodles in the boxes of the brand that I purchase (homepage:  www.cheapestthingicanfind.com), and I use 16 per pan of lasagna.  This is perfect, as there are a couple of spares for the inevitable torn-beyond-use-even-in-the-middle-layers noodles, and I cooked up a box, rinsed them, and laid them out on some towels to dry off a bit.  The whole operation was proceeding swimmingly.

Alas, my elation was short-lived.  I had turned away from the noodle-bearing counter to momentarily give attention to the Sudoku puzzle that appears in the local newspaper, for the day was Sunday, and only it remained to be completed for me to notch the rare Sunday Trifecta of crossword, Jumble, and Sudoku.  Such was my rapt focus that the slurping and chewing had grown quite loud and had apparently gone on for quite some time without my noting, for when I finally turned, there remained only 9 noodles, with Indy giving a strong effort toward reducing the count even further.

#~!!@*&%$,” I screamed, as that is the normal protocol for alerting her that she has done something objectionable and that she should retreat to beneath the bed for several hours.  This time, however, proved to be shockingly different.  She turned, front paws still on the counter, and seemed to contemplate the situation, as if mulling over some difficult decision.  “#~!!@*&%$,” I said again, though with nowhere near the authority as I had just moments before.  “#~!!@*&%$?”  She stared for a moment longer, then dropped to the ground and walked off slowly toward the backyard, glancing back one last time with a menacing sneer before exiting through the doggie-door.

And so it is a new world for me.  The delicate balance we had crafted seems to have been shattered, and she appears to have moved from the planning stage to active implementation in whatever hostile takeover scheme she has concocted  Worst of all, I had to boil another pot of water to cook enough noodles from the other box to finish the lasagna, and those noodles seemed to be defective and didn’t reach the entire length of the pan, but I didn’t realize that until I had poured out the water, so I had to boil water a third time just to cook half a noodle to patch up the bare spot in the corner.  And now I have ¾ of a box of noodles, and I’ll never get back on a proper noodle schedule, always having a partial box sitting on the shelf as a reminder.  And I messed up the Sudoku.

I hate Italian dogs.

* Is it "lasagna" or "a lasagna"?  I really don't know.  I imagine the battle will continue to  rage long after I have expired.