Friday, July 30, 2010

1301 Camo Bike

There appears to be a problem with taking the licenses away from people who get repeated DUIs. Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for it. Countless lives have been saved by taking these menaces to society off the roads.
Except they haven’t totally been taken off the roads.
Now they’re on bicycles.
The drinking bicyclists don’t seem to get bike protocol. Like basic safety rules. Sure they’re anti-social. But some things are just basic self-preservation.
I don’t expect them to shave their legs or anything. Or even wear spandex bike shorts and colorful knit shirts. But I also don’t expect what startled me into nearly killing one the other day.
It was dusk. It was a country road. And he was wearing camo. I kid you not. He was coming right at me on a curve too, and I nearly hit him.
Camo on a bike.
Dude, you want to be seen by cars when you’re on a bike. They’re two-ton hunks of metal hurtling at you at 40 miles an hour.
You’re not sneaking up on them...
Poor dew-ee dummies. They used to be menaces on four wheels. Now they’ve found ways to be menaces on two wheels. Like riding, weaving, and generally driving recklessly on sidewalks.
When you’re on a bicycle, the idea is to share the road and follow the rules you would ordinarily follow as a driver of an automobile. I guess it’s no surprise the guys who couldn’t follow rules when they were driving cars wouldn’t be following rules for bicycles now.
It just seems a little more unsettling when a bike with a basket full of Mad Dog is about to crash into you on the sidewalk.
Pedestrian and bicycle accidents seem so much more intimate somehow.
America, ya gotta love it.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

1300 Sponge Bear

As you no doubt know, when we give animals or inanimate things human qualities it’s called anthropomorphism. We morph them into human-like beings. Sometimes it gets a little unsettling.
I recently saw something a kid had bought from an ice cream truck. It was square. It was on a popsicle stick. It was Sponge Bob Square Pants. I’m all for kids embracing cartoon heroes. Especially those with good moral values. But I’m not at all comfortable with kids eating them.
I’m okay with gummy bears and Pepperidge Farm fishes. But when you know the character, it gets a little, shall we say, cannibalistic. I remember liking cartoon characters when I was a kid. I don’t remember wanting to eat them.
Oh sure, Rocket J. Squirrel teased the taste genes of my Kentucky ancestry. And who wouldn’t like a big slice of Bullwinkle, but still. I don’t remember an ice cream made from Mighty Mouse. Or an Under-Hot-dog.
And Sponge Bob Square Pants ice cream is bad on so many different levels. Are we teaching kids to eat pants, or sponges?
I saw something even worse a couple of weeks ago. The town of McCleary had its annual Bear Festival. A fun community event, part of which is a gathering in the main park on the final day for traditional bear stew. Bear stew I can take or leave, but what was odd was the McCleary Bear Festival poster. It showed a big pot of bear stew, and stirring the stew was a smiling cartoon bear in a chef’s hat.
A bear stirring bear stew.
It was a little bit creepy. I wonder if his name was Hannibal.
I only hope the one in the pot wasn’t named Smokey.
America, ya gotta love it.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

1299 Rearin’

It’s funny how words mean the reverse of what you think they do sometimes. Here’s two entirely unrelated examples.
First, when I was a kid, I heard of the John Birch Society. I knew the Audubon Society, which liked birds, was named after John James Audubon. I’d heard the founder of the Sierra Club, who liked mountains and stuff, was John Muir. So I figured the John Birch Society was filled with people who liked trees.
Sort of like Johnny Appleseed or something. Going around planting birch trees everywhere. When the civil rights movement broke out in the early sixties, I couldn’t figure out why John Birchers hated minorities so much. Hmm...
Second, the other day a friend of mine wrote me an email saying she was rearin’ to go. And she spelled it r-e-a-r-i-n-apostrophe. I had always thought it was spelled r-a-r-i-n-apostrophe, but upon reflection, I realized I had never actually spelled it before, although I had pronounced it “rare-in” a million times.
But, in fact, the word comes from the description of a horse rearing up, and apparently getting ready to head out with some degree of vigor. And it just started to be pronounced with a little more rare and a little less rear over the years...or is the yares?
So next question: Why do they say a horse is rearing when it’s the front part that goes up? I mean, if it was bucking its rear end and kicking out its back legs that would be pretty rear oriented to me. But it’s lifting its front legs and head and stuff. And it’s ready to head frontward. If it was rearing to go, you’d expect it was ready to back up.
So paradoxically, rearing means the reverse of reversing.
America, ya gotta love it.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

1298 Mullet

So I was reading this news article the other day. Seems Iran is not content to just call us the Great Satan and build secret nuclear bombs and stuff. Now they are taking issue with our hairstyles.
They recently banned “decadent Western haircuts” for men. They included in that category “spiky hair, ponytails and mullets.” For once, I find myself in agreement with them. I don’t know what a mullet looks like on your average Iranian, but its no “business in the front party in the back” on most westerners I know either.
Thank you Iranian anti-mullet mullahs, but it is a shame you perceive mullets as part of the same style continuum as spiky hair and ponytails. I guess you haven’t been to a county fair recently.
But the whole thing made me think again of the BP oil spill and the effort to use nylon bags stuffed with hair to absorb it. What if some of those nylons were stuffed with shorn mullets? Isn’t there also a fish called a mullet? And isn’t it found worldwide in warmer coastal waters?
I sense the potential for confusion. Especially in areas where they actually cook and eat mullet and make things like dirt pies to keep their hungry bellies less painful. A mullet hair bag may seem like easy prey.
At the very least as a great ready-made fuel source. Like a charcoal briquette, but large. One oil-soaked hairbag per hibachi.
So I wonder if they’ll be using mullets the hairbag to cook mullet the fish. I’m guessing not only would Iranians ban it; mullets cooking mullets wouldn’t be kosher either.
I asked a rabbi what he thought. He said it was a tangled moral issue, and he’d have to mull it over.
America, ya gotta love it

Monday, July 26, 2010

1297 Hair Police

It’s funny the rumors that start after a big tragedy. Like the BP oil spill. It wasn’t long before you heard of beauty salons and barber shops collecting hair.
Supposedly, hair was a great absorber of oil and Gulf clean up companies were stuffing it into old nylons and making soaking sacks. You got this image of little hair-stuffed lumpy nylon things. Not unlike Cabbage Patch dolls.
Except they were Hairpatch dolls. Going to work cleaning up the gulf. Maybe you could buy them at Christmas and send them to the Gulf and they’d come with a little card. “Hi, my name’s Suzy Oozy and I’m a super-soaker.”
It was also interesting this hair collection thing eventually expanded to a rumor that it was the law that you had to collect the hair. And they were enforcing it in beauty parlors across the land.
I don’t think so. With state budget collapses I’m guessing no one has any money for a hair police.
“Sir, I gonna have to cite you for not turning in that freshly shaved soul patch.”
“Step away from the hair pile with your hands up, lady, and now that I see you’re missing some armpit whiskers too—hand ‘em over.”
“Confess and you won’t be arrested. Where ya hiding the used Brazilian wax...”
Nor is it true that BP’s coming up with a new PR campaign to get their good name back. It’s only a rumor they’re starting the “Free Oil for Haiti” program. Although it sounds possible.
“Need oil for your cookstoves? Oil to heat your shacks? It’s yours for the taking, thanks to BP. U-Pick oil. You skim it, you keep it.
BP is floating oil your way today.
Free Hairpatch for Haiti Doll included for a limited time...”
America, ya gotta love it.

Friday, July 23, 2010

1296 Parado-crits

I wonder sometimes about the erosion of morals in our culture. Far too many gray areas these days. Maybe it’s partly because we trivialize things that used to be a big deal.
Like recently, when they executed two-time murderer Ronnie Gardner in Utah. They did it by firing squad. Regardless of how you feel about capital punishment, it was still a little weird that the Utah Attorney General announced the execution of the execution on his twitter account.
There just seems to be something really really wrong with “tweeting” a human being’s death. We need to come up with a serious name for short announcements of grave import. Twitter and tweet don’t cut it.
I was in a parade on the 4th of July and witnessed more erosion. The 4th was on a Sunday, but there were five different churches in the parade. The parade itself was after regular church time but the line-up and setup time was right in the meat of sermon city.
I thought, shouldn’t you be in church actually worshipping instead of setting up for a public show in a parade? I can see them proselytizing on a Saturday or a Monday parade but “Remembering the Lord’s Day and Keeping it Holy” doesn’t sound like an admonition to hoot and holler behind the high schools and horses.
And what was even weirder? The parade rules expressly forbid anyone to give anything out from the parade. But two different church groups I saw were going along the sidelines giving out popcorn and water bottles. They weren’t actually “in” the parade so they were sort of only bending the rules.
Situational morality, from churches for gosh sakes. The pure white dove’s looking a little gray.
That’s something to tweet about.
America, ya gotta love it.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

1295 Agnail

I ran across a weird word the other day and it made me wonder. I was looking in the dictionary for one word and, as is often the case, my eye was caught by another word altogether: “agnail,” a-g-n-a-i-l-. “Agnail,” I said to myself, I’ve never heard of such a thing. Curious, I read the definition.
It said, “1. A hangnail. 2. A painful swelling around a fingernail or toenail, a whitlow.” I’d never heard of a whitlow either and was tempted to look it up, but first, I was caught by the etymology after the definition. Turns out it comes from the Middle English agnail, which in turn comes from the Old English angnaegl, meaning “painful prick in the flesh.”
Aren’t words fun.
To me angnaegl sounds like a pirate, saying hangnail. “Yarr, I gots me a angnaegl.”
But it one of those interesting things about language that it grows away from and back to simplicity. You would think agnail would be a bastardized form of hangnail, mushed down by lazy usage over time, but it’s actually the reverse. Hangnail comes from agnail.
Because “ag” does sort of sound like “hang.” And hangnails often start with a ripped piece of flesh, when you bite or tear off a nail wrong, and it gets infected and swollen. And the ripped flesh is often hanging.
So folk etymology, as the dictionary puts it, transformed the word so it means more. The apparent reverse of the type of word development expressed in terms like “for shizzle.”
Angnaegl itself goes back even further, to Indo-European protowords, the absolute roots of language. The syllable angh means pain. Think anxiety, anguish, and even angina. Or the sound you make when you first rip off a nail.
America, ya gotta love it.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

1294 Fascia Fashion

The other day I was driving along, and I chanced to notice an alteration on a building I’d seen before. They were changing their fascia.
And I thought, there it is, a change in fascia fashion.
Because what they were doing was removing the canopy in order to update the look of their building. And it was funny because it was the same canopy that they had put on in 1987, to update the look of their building.
All those canopies from the late eighties and early nineties are coming down now. And the newly exposed flat buildings look more modern somehow.
I wonder if the canopy salesmen back then had that built into their sales pitch. “And here’s the good thing, 20 years from now, you wanna update your building again, you just take the canopy down. We’ll even throw in removable nuts and bolts and hole-patching stuff. Whaddayasay? Anything stopping you from closing this deal today...?”
Speaking of fashion. And perhaps courageously facing the elements like a canopy. I alluded in my last commentary to the poor folk who ride motorcycles and still have to put on their hot leathers, even if it’s a hot day.
Road rash knows no season.
So it’s pop on the hot helmet and squiggle into the stifling leathers to ride around in the fresh air.
And I thought, you know what, they ought to get those Gerbing people on the case. You know, the ones who make that heated clothing. That is an amazing and useful innovation.
Maybe someone can talk them into producing refrigerated clothing. Then someone could come up to the biker and say dude, those leathers are really cool.
And the biker could reply honestly, “yep.”
America, ya gotta love it.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

1293 Facility

The other day I was in a facility. I guess they call restrooms “facilities” because they facilitate something. In this case the removal of organic waste.
Facility is a better euphemism in many ways than the term restroom. Restroom has always seemed a little vague to me. As if the act of excretion is somehow bound up with the idea of exhaustion.
I’m often quite energetic when I have to go, and resting is the furthest thing from my mind.
Anyhow, when I went into the restroom I saw an individual who was doing his darndest to shuck all his biking leathers so he could get to his business. And he wasn’t doing so with any facility.
It had been a sunny and hot day, so all the roads were filled with as many bikers as the waterways were filled with boaters. Sun being rare here in the great northwest, when it hits we indulge in our expensive toys to the max.
It’s always seemed unfortunate to me that when it’s 90 degrees out, you don a ton of stifling hot leather so you can hit the roads in your, um, open-air two-wheeler.
Seems counterproductive somehow.
Still, once you’ve, like me, suffered major road rash from crashing motorcycles, it’s worth it to put up with the hot.
But the poor guy in the restroom was having trouble with all the buckles and zippers, and hands numb from holding handlebars wasn’t helping.
He didn’t look too restful.
So the sign on the only unoccupied stall was even more disheartening to him. It said, “Temporarily Out of Order.” And that’s a pretty weird sign when you think of it. Why not just “Out of Order?”
Temporarily? Should I wait?
Maybe I’ll rest a little, while I do...
America, ya gotta love it.

1292 Cartage

I much admire the folk who have selected alternative methods of transportation. They’ve certainly minimized their car-bon footprint. But it’s obviously led to challenges. For them.
It’s also exposed the rest of us to the resourcefulness the car-less have had to exercise when it comes to finding ways to transport all their stuff.
Because the great thing about a car is, it carries you¾and it carries your stuff too. You get to bring along your trunk. Bicyclists and Motorcyclists don’t have the same luxury.
So they devise interesting methods of car-tage. Even though they technically don’t have a car.
My favorite is the reused kitty litter bucket. I don’t know if you have to be a cat lover to be a bicyclist, or vice versa, but I sure see a lot of bicycles with kitty litter buckets draped over their back fenders.
I suppose because they are square and hang better than round paint buckets, but it still looks funny. Like a roving kitty toilet trolling for cats that gotta go.
Motorcyclists notch it up. They often have elaborate leather saddlebags, or the even more durable and roomy fiberglass ones. Mounted to their motorcycles rear end and looking quite automotive, almost like disembodied car trunks but on either side of their back wheel.
Not long ago I saw my absolute favorite, a motorcycle towing a trailer. It had two wheels side by side like a regular trailer, just scaled smaller to be towed behind the motorcycle.
And I thought, wait a minute, the front end may look funny, and you sure as heck don’t have the protection, and you’ve got a lot more bugs on your teeth, but dude...
Now you’ve got four wheels.
Now you are a car.
America, ya gotta love it.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

1291 Juxtaddressed

I just returned from an extended drive through some rural sections of our county. I was quite amazed at the resourcefulness, resiliency, and entrepreneurial spirit of folks in our great land.
Namely, how many businesses were doing two things at once.
Not just that two businesses shared the same address with different spaces, suite numbers and stuff. Like that juxtaddressed one in Tumwater.
You’ve probably seen it. There’s this place called Lord’s Gym. And it’s right above a pizza place called Infernos. I suppose it’s safe for now. Not everyone draws the connection. Let’s hope they don’t rent the empty space above Lord’s Gym to Dante’s Dance Studio.
No, I’m talking about when it appears one entrepreneur is actually doing two businesses together. They’re usually stuck way out on a country road and if there was only one business at the address it wouldn’t survive.
So they combine two ideas in one location. And you try to visualize the connection in the owner’s mind. What were they thinking? Like the plumbing supply and beauty supply place. Hey, they both have supplies...
Or the gun shop that also sells beads. Is it because you need to look good when you shoot a dear, or do you use number 5 bead shot?
But the one that got me the most was on a dark and spooky backcountry road. A simple sign said, “Child Care -- Taxidermy.”
I can here the complaints now...
“Um, ever since I picked Billy up he seems a little... still. Was it something he ate at your place, ‘cause he’s a little glassy-eyed. Yeah, I’m not complaining, you certainly took care of that ADHD thing.
And damned if he ain’t top notch at keeping the door propped open...”
America, ya gotta love it.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

1290 Three Ways

Why is our culture so conflicted when it comes to the number three? One second it’s bad, the next two seconds it’s good again. Maybe it’s because it’s an odd number or because dividing things up three ways never comes out even.
Try knocking down a third of the pins in bowling.
Doesn’t work. 3.333333, it’s just annoying.
We are definitely of two minds when it comes to threes. “Two’s company, three’s a crowd” tells us three can be a barrier to intimacy. But the whole obsession with ménage-a-trois suggests otherwise.
We say “third times a charm.” But then we turn right around and say someone is a three-time loser.
It takes four balls to end a time at the plate, but only three strikes. Lots of campers like the luxury of a third wheeler. But no one wants to be the third wheel at a social occasion.
When you say double-X, you usually think of a larger clothing size. When you say triple-X, it’s lack of clothing that comes to mind.
And what’s the whole deal in sports? What does the number three have to do with hat tricks? Is it the same hat they toss into the ring?
Trifecta I sort of get. You got your “tri”, which means three so you can guess that “fecta” means something Latin, like fact or accomplishment or something.
So if you catch a cold and the flu and get food poisoning, all at a Mariners Game, would that be a tri-infecta?
Finally, if you build three houses, people think you’re pretty good at it. If you successfully complete three marriages, people have a different opinion altogether.
For some reason, people don’t admire you for having enough X’s to win at tic-tac-toe.
America, ya gotta love it.

1289 Fidget Niche

I was reading an article the other day on Bowerbirds. They’re the species whose male birds build elaborate nests to attract females. What’s cool is they don’t just stop at building a nest. They decorate and landscape the things with everything they can get their beaks on. Pop bottle caps, rose petals, beer cans, dead beetles.
Like a conceptual artist on acid.
They reminded me of us. Because they so frenetically attempt to fill every little niche of their space, lives, and time.
Like the other day, I was at a big box home improvement store and out front, someone had exploited the on-your-way-in-from-the-parking-lot-feel–like-something-to-eat-or-drink niche. They had set up a little espresso stand.
But your average home improvement store doesn’t have enough latte drinkers, so the stand had expanded its offerings. It also offered hot dogs.
And it championed that fact. They had a sign that said “The Best Hot Dog Espresso Stand in the World.” Yum. Maybe my tastebuds are different, but doesn’t a hot dog and a latte sound like a culinary clash?
“I’ll have the mochacino, and make sure I get extra onions on that polska kielbasa.”
But hey, they filled a niche, so more power to them.
A couple of customers in line at another espresso place caused me further reflection. They had I-Phones and they were fidgeting with them. Flipping the orientation around. Calling up apps, diddling with the screen.
And it occurred to me, these people are perfectly happy to wait in line, as long as they had their I-Pacifier in hand to fidget with. They can do their business, send some texts, check their calendar, even play a little video game. Not iconic behavior, but I-Phonic behavior.
The answer to the enduring-poor-service-in-a-long-line niche.
The I-Fidget.
America, ya gotta love it.

Monday, July 12, 2010

1288 Millionerror

I read some interesting statistics the other day. On the one hand, it was positive economic news. On the other, well, you be the judge.
As we’ve foundered in the doldrums of a wimpy recovery, millions of Americans are still out of work. Unemployment continues to hover around ten percent. Sure, you can say that means ninety percent employed, but to the ten percent out of work, wacko anti-government ideas seem more and more attractive.
And to those on the edge, and suffering in underemployment, a similar jumping onto the disaffected continuum, from tea parties to terrorism, seems imminent.
Economic ennui is not a prescription for social stability.
But here’s the good news. Our millionaires are doing better. The number of US millionaires rose fifteen percent in 2009, bravely surging through the pit of our great recession. It’s true that they fell twenty-one percent in 2008 but, hey, they’re recovering.
So if 4.7 millionaires each have a million dollars, that’s at least 4.7 trillion laying around. Of course, many of those millionaires are actually billionaires, which helps account for the fact that the 4.7 of them own 55% of all US wealth.
As the population of the United States is 307 million or so, that means that the other 302 million of us have to divvy up the other 45%.
Sounds fair to me.
I once read an article where it said the wealthiest five percent of the people pay fifty-five percent of the taxes. Funny how the math seems to work out.
Let’s hope the poor folk don’t catch on it’s because the suffering rich folk have fifty-five percent of the wealth.
And I hope for gosh sake, the millionaires don’t make the millionerror of complaining about paying the new sin-tax on fancy imported tea.
America, ya gotta love it.

Friday, July 09, 2010

1287 God 1 - Jesus 0

An interesting thing happened not too long ago that some might call a miracle. Others would call it a random act of nature, because something was struck by lightning. Insurance companies used to call that sort of thing an act of God.
And that’s sure what it looked like. Because what happened was, a bolt of lightning struck, and set aflame, a statue known as “Touchdown Jesus.” The image of the gentle shepherd then burned vigorously to the ground.
It was dispiriting to say the least.
The statue was nicknamed “Touchdown Jesus” by the general public because it was a representation of the upper torso of Jesus holding his hands high in the air in a pose not unlike a football referee signaling a goal. Torso and arms topped out at 62 feet tall.
But here’s the interesting thing. The statue was erected by a Protestant church. The evangelical Solid Rock Church to be exact. You may recall that one of the big reasons Protestants broke away from the Catholic Church was because the Catholic Church was treading dangerously into what the Protestants felt was idolatry—worshipping graven images of the Lord and assorted luminaries.
To the Protestants, praying to a statue of the Virgin Mary was akin to the naughty wander-weary Israelites bowing down to a golden calf.
The Solid Rockers might protest that the statue wasn’t a graven image per se, since it was made from plastic foam and fiberglass overlaying steel, but still...
I’m not sure what it means. God, as they say, works in mysterious ways. Is he trying to tell us he doesn’t like idols?
Or he doesn’t like football.
Let’s just hope there’s no “Soccer Jesus” somewhere that he isn’t destroying by lightning.
America, ya gotta love it.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

1286 A Nil

Once again, the World Cup has come and gone, at least for the USA. It’s interesting to note that for a brief while, while we had a team in contention, there was some interest this year. Maybe Major League Soccer in the US helped.
Or all those soccer moms are finally having an effect.
Still, soccer is a much more defensive game than most Americans are used to. And that’s not good. Long periods of activity without any tangible result remind the average American of the drudgery of his or her workplace. Who needs to follow a sport that reeks of that?
Back and forth, back and forth, “red cards” and “midfields” and “advancing on goal” blah blah blah. Who needs it? Just rush to the end of the field with eleven men and force your way across.
And how about the way our sports broadcasters adapted to the lingo? They changed the word zero because of the World Cup. Like tennis folks favor “love,” so soccer folks love to use the word “nil” when referring to zero. Games are “one/nil” or possibly “two/nil.”
It may be because using the word nil makes it sound like more than zero. Zero sounds as if the team did nothing. But no, instead of laying a big fat goose egg, they were actually scoring nil points as they fiercely held their opponent to one.
But really, if the American sportscasters wanted to be consistent, they’d have to call the game what everyone else in the world calls it, football.
Of course they can’t, that word is taken in the American vocabulary. By a democratic game where everyone marches down the field, and each time the make a goal, they score not one point, but a whole six-pack.
America, ya gotta love it.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

1285 Working Dog

A new “day” is being foisted on the business world. Tired of the normal distractions, they’re proposing a “take-your-dog-to-work-day.”
Now, I love dogs. I love them so much I don’t have one, because it’d be too cruel with me never home. But is the already productivity-impaired American workplace really prepared for another day of disruption?
Casual Friday was bad enough. Study after study has shown people work less professionally when they look less professional. Then it was “take-your-daughter-to-work-day,” a praiseworthy attempt to expose females to the glass-ceilinged workplace. Then the backlash, “take-your-son-to-work-day.” Pretty soon the workplace was looking like a daycare center.
The “take-your-dog-to-work-day” folks are asking businesses to consider programs permitting employees to bring dogs in the workplace. They say, “Business should understand how beneficial such programs can be to employees and their canine companions, as well as the company bottom line. Studies have shown that employees who bring their dogs to work tend to be more efficient, happier and healthier in the workplace.”
No word on how customers feel.
Because they tend to be miffed.
Do I want to go to a restaurant where Fido’s nipping at my table scraps? Trip over Bowser while I’m shopping for boxers at the clothes store? Have Fifi growling at me when I’m talking to the undertaker?
And if we start with dogs what’s next? Bring your snake to work day? Soon the workplace is a daycare center and a menagerie.
That’s what I came to work to get away from at home!
I say no. The workplace is not home. They need to be separate. I don’t car how much happier my air traffic controller feels, I don’t want his Shih Tzu jumping out of his lap and crashing my plane.
America, ya gotta love it.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

1284 Where There’s Smoke

I guess I’m getting cranky in my old age.
Like the other night. I’ve peacefully drifted off to sleep. I had my bedroom window open, catching the gentle summer night’s breeze. I’m doing my best to reduce my carbon footprint and not use air conditioning. And on summer nights, it’s nice to have the fresh air wafting through the house.
Since I get up early I go to bed early too. Anyhow, I’m stirred out of my slumber by a strange smell. It’s smoke.
About the time my subconscious registers that fact and starts to turn on the alarm chemicals in my body, I hear voices. My panicky and yet still partially dream-addled brain interprets the voices as fearful.
I wake fully up in complete sphincter-clenched adrenalin-energized crisis mode. The smoke smell is intense, and appears to be coming from my window. I run over, look out and neighbors are sitting around their new portable fire pit. Laughing and drinking, smoke billowing into the fresh summer air.
That’s when the cranky part kicked in. Because this neighbor of mine is a liberal in good standing. He’s all against global warming. He doesn’t like carbon dioxide emissions and greenhouse gasses generally.
Yet here he is burning big chunks of wood, and smoke-polluting my fresh summer breeze. Not to mention infusing my bedroom with the odor of charred alder.
We all have our blind spots I guess. Just because there’s a burn ban on, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t fire up the chiminea on the back patio.
It’s bad enough his loud party woke me. That’s what you get when you live in a neighborhood.
It’s filling my house with the lingering stench of burnt wood that really got me fired up.
America, ya gotta love it.

1283 Ban-handler

When I was at the airshow not long ago, I met this really annoying guy. Well I didn’t actually meet him, I did my best to avoid him.
Because he was one of those guys who are always pushing a ban. Ban this, or ban that, usually some form of ban taxes. A ban-handler if you will. A profession initiative signature gatherer. I could tell he was a pro because he sounded like a street hawker in Las Vegas.
He’d get your attention by asking if you were a registered voter. If you looked his way he’d say, “Good then I need a couple of signatures to ban the new tax and ban state-run liquor sales.”
If you even twitched in his direction, he’d swoop in. Your best defense against him was to have some other poor schmuck swept in first. The ban-handler only had one aggressive personality to use at a time.
Now understand. None of us likes taxes. But what we really hate is tax waste. And it’s scammers like this guy confusing the two that can cause trouble.
The irony was, every time the guy said repeal taxes, he was standing on a tax-paid-for road, at a tax-paid-for airport. At one point he was thrusting his petition while three people who were paid for with taxes were innocently standing nearby. They were army guys from Fort Lewis.
Our tax dollars at work.
Used to be, people went out and got initiatives signed because they believed in the cause. This guy was just a reformed street bum. Using every method he’d learned bumming money for cigarettes and booze and turning them loose for signature bounty money.
They ban aggressive panhandling, why can’t they ban aggressive ban-handling too?
America, ya gotta love it.

Friday, July 02, 2010

1282 Landscape Lingo

It’s interesting how different endeavors develop their own lingo. The inside words and phrases aficionados speak to each other. Like boaters and their “ports” and “starboards” for left and right. And their “ladders” for stairs and “sheets” for ropes.
Don’t ever ask a boater to put sheets on your bed. It makes for a very uncomfortable night’s sleep in your berth.
I saw a presentation the other day on a park that was being done by a “landscape architect.” I wasn’t really sure what a landscape architect was. My experience in landscape design is limited to deciding which to pluck first, chickweed or dandelion.
I guess the difference between a landscape contractor and a landscape architect is that landscape contractors plant stuff. The landscape architect said they “installed plants.” Sounds cool, I guess, but a little insensitive to the organic versus inorganic aspects of said plants.
There’s a subtle distinction in the “is it a living thing” category between “planting” a tree and “installing” a tree. The latter sounds more like it’s a light fixture, or a muffler.
The landscape architect also talked about the soil he was installing at a particular site and the consequences when an inopportune rainfall saturated said soil before a beauty bark berm had been erected. He said what resulted was a “fine-graded muck.” Well yeah. If you’re going to have muck, it darn well better be fine-graded.
I liked the juxtaposition of such opposite terms as fine-graded and muck. Or the implication that anyone was serious enough about dirt, mud, and such-like that they would even apply some sort of grading system to it.
Especially since most of the mucking I’ve done is in horse stalls.
Fine graded muck. Those are some premium barn apples dude.
America, ya gotta love it.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

1281 Fashion Check

I think the Fashion Police have simply given up. Beaten down by the relentless assault of poor taste infecting America today. They fought the good fight but just didn’t have the wear-withal to even keep up appearances.
They were simply overwhelmed.
At least so it seemed recently when I was at a great local event. Now maybe it was because it was Fathers Day and an airshow, so all the Fathers were entitled to dress however they felt, but I don’t know.
Assuming men are intrinsically poor dressers is too easy. Some of the fashion-don’ts were almost flagrantly applied. Like a late hit to a blind-sided quarterback.
One guy had on red and white striped pants. Except the stripes were wide, like on Betsy Ross’s famous creation. He had matching Old Glory shoes too, as well as a blue t-shirt with white stars on it.
He was also directing traffic. I had to conclude he had answered a temporary job ad for a flagman. And they hired him anyhow. “Well, I was expecting a bright orange vest, but I guess you’ll have to do...”
The other flagrant foul I saw was a guy who had on four different kinds of camo clothing. Five technically. He had on fuzzy fleece camo pants, which must have been marsh-type camo because they were two inches high-watered. Another type of leaf camo vest. A desert camo cap. And camo shoes of course. All of it pretty much green and tan and chaotic-leafy patterned.
But underneath the camo vest he had on a red and black buffalo check flannel shirt.
Which was camo in a sense¾but only if he laid down on a checkerboard!
Take that fashion police!
Check and Mate and game over.
America, ya gotta love it.