HCaldwell:On . . .


What is there to say? I'm not very interesting. I'm not a good writer. I don't even dress well. If you insist on knowing something about me just wander through the archives. It's all there.

Saturday, December 31, 2005

On Regrets Brunch

This is something very similar about how we treat Halloween (Allhallow’s Eve) and how we treat New Year’s Eve. They are both technically twenty-four hour holidays, but we really only observe the occasion in the evening. I think that we miss out on an opportunity when it comes to New Year’s Eve.

There should be a morning observance on December 31st. It could be called Regrets Brunch. It would be a brunch where we look back on the past year and consider all the choices that we did not make, the roads that we chose not to travel down, the people and places that we chose not to visit during the past year and the opportunities that we decided not to pursue. It would be a time of “all the things that I didn’t do” reflection. It would involve eating a lot of fattening foods. We could have omelettes. What more could one ask for in a holiday observance?

I use the word, regrets, in the broadest possible sense. This would not have to be a morose meal. Although, all choices involve some personal costs, the irrevocable loss of the all the other possible choices, for example. It is also true that the other “choices” we might have made might have really sucked when viewed in hindsight. There is certain wisdom in periodically examining the “what if” and “might have been” in our lives. These “unchosen choices” are the dark matter in our personal universes. They are invisible and unseen, but their hidden mass affects every aspect of our daily lives.

There is a drawing exercise where you arrange a complex still life with a number of objects in it. Then you ask the students to draw one of the central objects by “not” drawing it. Instead, you want them to render the object by meticulously drawing all the objects around it. The object in then presented in “negative” space. A complete picture of the place where the object is not present creates a picture of the chosen object.

Regrets Brunch is about seeing ourselves as the product of the choices that we did not make over the past year. We chose to not murder an in-law. We chose to not buy a humongous SUV and spend our kid’s college fund to put gas in it. We chose to not see any movies with Ben Affleck in them. We chose to not paint our house purple with orange shutters. We chose to not send our children away to an Alaskan military academy. All of the options that we did not select over the course of the entire year define who we truly are on the morning of December 31st. We are as rendered by these negative spaces as much as we are by the broad brushstrokes of our past year’s accomplishments.

Even balanced against the bad options that we chose to pass up, there will still be some sad regrets for the choices that we did make. We all make bad choices, but every bad choice is a kind of personal parable. When the clock finally strikes midnight and we are by tradition obligated to make our New Year’s resolutions, we can remember all the dumb choices that we were really, really sorry about at the Regrets Brunch. Perhaps with those regrets fresh in our minds, our resolutions will actually make it past breakfast on January 2nd.

Friday, December 30, 2005

On tax tortures

I guess that I must like scaring myself. Every year at this time, I sit down and try to estimate how much I will have to pay in income taxes for the past year. The thing is that I don’t even do my own taxes. I haven’t done my own taxes for many years. One April, many years ago, I found myself faced with the prospect of trying to figure out how to file income tax forms in seven different states. I was way out of my league. So, I hired a “tax guy”. He did such a competent job that he has prepared our taxes every year for several decades now.

Still, every year I sit down about now and try to figure them out for myself. Rather than doing this exercise earlier in the year when, perhaps, I could make real changes, I do it during the last week of the year. It is too late to make any changes in my withholding forms; the only thing that I accomplish is that I scare the crap out of myself.

The idea behind this torture is to try and figure out the tax forms so that the numbers that I estimate are roughly the same as the numbers that the “tax guy” eventually calculates. Then, I can save myself some money. I should be able to prepare my own taxes for the following year. I have never even come close. Usually, the difference between our calculations is truly astounding.

I don’t get it. I am not a dumb person (although some may wish to argue this point.) I did well in math classes. I can follow printed instructions. I should be able to do this myself, but I am never even close. Some years, my calculations are way high. Some years, they are way low. I use the wrong forms. I consult the wrong tables. I put my numerator where my denominator is supposed to be. I have never hit it on the mark. So, I continue to not prepare my own taxes.

This year my preliminary numbers were heart-stoppingly, mind-numbingly terrifying. I do so hope that I am still really bad at doing this stuff. Please, don’t let this be the year when I finally get it right!

Thursday, December 29, 2005

On end of year lethargy

For me, there is always a sort of limbo lethargy period from December 26th to December 31st. I wouldn’t call it a letdown so much as retrenchment. It is the beginning of a period of time when I am struggling to put the routines back into my routine. Just like the rest of the year, there are always bills that need paying, rooms that need cleaning, and cars that need washing. Yet, daily life seems to be a bit out-of-focus during this time of year. It takes a lot more effort to get even life’s littlest chores accomplished.

I suspect that it is related to the bicycle-riding phenomenon. Did you ever ride a bike for a long period of time? When you finally get off, it seems like you are not only moving way too slowly, but also that your ability to walk takes more of a conscious effort than usual. It feels like walking through molasses. Actually, I have no idea how it feels to walk through molasses. I have never walked through molasses. I don’t believe that I have ever met anyone who has ever walked through molasses. I can’t recall ever reading about anyone who actually walked through molasses. It would require a lot of molasses and be very messy. Why do we say that?

See, case in point, writing this blog requires a sustained mental effort to even stay on topic.

After cruising along at high speeds on a bike with minimal muscle effort, the mind rebels at the amount of work required to move relative short distance at the relatively slow walking speeds.

What was I talking about again? Oh yeah, limbo lethargy time.

From Halloween on, we gear up our lives in order to accomplish all the extra holiday chores and preparations that the season requires of us. Finally, just after Christmas, we start to slow the pace back down again. True, New Years is a major holiday and many people do have celebrations that require extensive preparations, but it is really the very tail end of the holiday dog for many people. We are rapidly returning to our “normal” routines. The routines, however, seem to take a lot more effort right now. Time and we seem to be moving rather slowly. No, I refuse to get stuck in that stupid molasses analogy again.

It usually takes me until about the middle of January to fully acclimatize to the pace of everyday life without the flurry and fury of holiday preparations and anticipations. This is my cool down period. I am winding down. I am lethargic. I feel as though I am in a slow moving limbo world. No molasses involved here, just life.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

On holiday visitors

This is the season of mass mailing, of mass shopping, and of gaining personal mass. It is also the season of mass family visitation. Today, we had only a little notice that soon our home would be invaded by a Mongol horde (relatives).

My wife and I had to spring into action in order to make our house look slightly less like a crime scene. We engaged in what my wife refers to as “fifty-two pick-up” and I call “throw every loose item in sight into the nearest closet, cabinet, or drawer where it will remain until the next time we move when we will unload the closets, cabinets, and drawers into cardboard boxes and say, at least, one hundred times per hour, “I wondered where this had gone!””

Her title is snappier. Mine is more accurate.

Monday, December 26, 2005

On making promises

The people who know me well would say that, although quirky at times, I am a rational person. I do not subscribe to a belief in “magic”. I walk under ladders all the time. I have broken a number of mirrors, not to tempt the fates, but because I can be clumsy. I would never pay money to have my fortune told. Astrology can be fun to make fun of, but I do not believe it has the ability to foretell my future. I am a firm believer in the ascendancy of reason over superstition.

I believe that the only real “power” in the words that we speak is in how well we speak them and in what are intentions are at the time. Yet, there are some words that I hesitate to utter aloud. I have always felt that these words had a power beyond the rational. These words are almost magical. Uttering these words has a deep and binding effect on the person who speaks them. So, it is extremely rare for me to actually say the words,

“I promise …”.

Weird, huh?

I hesitate to use them, because in doing so, I get the sense that I am obligating myself without conditions to do whatever is necessary to fulfill the promise. I know that fulfilling the promise will transcend convenience, comfort, or self-interest. Regardless of what the future may hold, I know in my heart that a promise, once made, is a debt to a higher cause that cannot be cancelled and must be repaid whatever the cost. I never, ever, ever speak the words (I promise ...) casually. When I do say them it is always the product of careful thought and with a real sense of confidence that I can live up to the terms of the promise.

It is my only real superstition.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

On holiday travels

Having observed the traditional “long drive to the relative’s houses for Christmas visit”, it is good to be back home again. Having observed the traditional “kids opening Christmas presents” this morning, the home is a huge mess again. Having observed the traditional “eat massive amount of things that are really bad for you” over the last several days, my coronary arteries are undoubtedly, equally messy. Ah, well. Merry Christmas to you and yours.

While driving on seeming endless stretches of boring highways, I once again observed the fascinating phenomenon of being “velocitized” It is that feeling that, even though you are traveling at one hundred feet per second, you are moving very slowly. I, often, think about this effect while I am driving down the highway. I ponder whether or not the effect is only a product having grown up in the modern era. Would people from earlier times, before we had vehicles capable of traveling at sixty miles per hour or more, be susceptible to being velocitized? The only way that someone in, say, the sixteenth century, could reach the speed of one hundred feet per second, would be if they fell a great distance. It is doubtful that they would remain at that speed long enough to actually be velocitized. They would also end up very dead before they could communicate their experience to anyone else. I suppose that you could do a study using people who had never ridden in cars before, Amish or maybe, third world residents, to see if they also become velocitized in a car at highway speeds. Boring. My fantasy is go back in time (yes, I know that really smart people say that it is impossible to travel back in time. I am not a really smart person. Therefore, I am allowed to have my fantasy.) and bring someone like Benjamin Franklin back to the modern era. Ben and I would get into the car and go on a road trip. I could see for myself if being velocitized is only a product of having grown-up with the experience of going very fast. He could tell me in some clever homily whether or not he was experiencing the same feeling that he was traveling very slowly.

“You may delay, but time will not”
-Benjamin Franklin
“You are velocitized, but I am not”
-Fantasy Benjamin Franklin

Thursday, December 15, 2005

On shoveling snow

There were about three inches of heavy wet snow on the ground this morning. By this afternoon, that had grown to about six inches and snow was still falling. This definitely darkened my mood today. I was of two minds when I got home. I felt certain that either I was going to start an extended “Blog Break” and stay away from the Blogiverse for awhile or I was going to write a soul searching post. Writers, professional or otherwise, seem to always find a soul-searching article or two in them. I, suppose, that is partly human nature, this urge to share something deep and personal with others. It is also true that readers like to read them. After all, reading the soul-searching words put down by a writer is a way of being let in on a secret. We all like being let in on a secret. It was the highlight of many of our childhood intrigues.

The problem here is that I find most soul searching monologues to be very morose. I am not a fan of morose. The fact that most secrets are from the darker side of our lives just contributes to this tendency toward depressing topics in these pieces. After all, we don’t usually keep the bright moments of our lives a secret. We share good meals, marriages, births, bad jokes, loves, promotions, and accomplishments with our family, friends, neighbors, and anyone else within range. No, our deeply held secrets are not usually those things that we would want to shout out on the street corner. They are kept carefully chained up in our internal dark places for good reason.

Instead of writing some sad piece of tripe that would; surely, trigger an extended leave from any more blog writing, I decided to go out and shove the three point two metric tons of snow off of my driveway instead. (I didn’t really weigh it. I just like the way that “three point two metric tons of snow” sounds when you say it aloud in a game show announcer voice.)

In the movie, Bruce Almighty, there is a great scene where Morgan Freeman and Jim Carey, as God and Bruce, are mopping a large floor together. Bruce Almighty was not my favorite movie. It was a bit too smarmy for my tastes in comedy, but I did really appreciate that scene. I didn’t appreciate it so much for its heavy-handed metaphorical subtext, but simply because I have mopped large floors. If you have never been blessed/cursed with some time in the world of commercial janitorial services, then let me tell you it is not all about the glamour and excitement of picking cigarette butts out of urinals. There are moments of quiet introspection after the building has closed up and almost everyone else has gone home. One of them is the process of mopping a large, open area with an industrial mop either alone or with a partner. Unlike mopping your kitchen or bathroom; in order to do it without exhausting yourself or leaving spots untouched, you have to fall into a kind of whole body rhythm that is like that found in cross-country skiing or ballroom dancing. As you swing the heavy mop back and forth, it lulls you into a very focused introspective mindset. You can get a lot of thinking done while mopping a large floor. Unlike cross-country skiing or ballroom dancing, there is a prize in the bottom of this box of Cracker Jacks. When you are done, you can stand back and take pride in a shining spotless expanse of flooring. You get just a moment to appreciate perfection.

When I shovel snow, I do so in that same very methodical (anal) way. I like to be able to stand back when I am done and see all the shovel tracks in crisscrossed, precise, angular rows. I am sure that this is a symptom of some personality imbalance, but in the hierarchy of gremlins who mess with the machinery of my psyche this one is probably lucky to be a second stringer. I find that there are certain times when your thought processes seem less distracted, clearer. I have written on several occasions about those moments that seem to bring the world into a sharper mental focus: late at night, just before falling asleep, in the shower, and after the birth of your first child. It has almost become a theme here. I guess that I would now have to add the physical exertions of shoveling snow at night to the list. Unlike the eerie quiet of the very early morning hours, the evening quiet of snow shoveling is a harsher regime enforced by the constant scraping of the metal shovel on the concrete and the inhospitable isolation of the cold. I get a lot of thinking done while shoveling snow. Unrelated things fall into recognizable patterns much more easily.

Want to know a secret?

I wrote this entire piece, word per word, in my head while shoveling my driveway. All I did when I came inside was to spend five minutes typing it out. It is a long post. There was a lot of snow.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

On missing out on shoe's clues

I had lunch by myself today. Since I was a “singlet”, the restaurant seated me right next to the serving area so that I could dine while appreciating the sounds of glasses clinking and food debris being scraped from plates. While I was enjoying my coffee, I could not help but overhear two young women who were discussing their involvement in a recent argument. The discussion began with a very detailed rendering of what everyone had said. It sounded like…

“Then she like said, “you shouldn’t like have been in his car to like begin with". Then I like said, “yeah, like well, ….”

Overall, it was a pretty unremarkable exchange. Then a remarkable thing happened. Midway through her dialogue, she suddenly inserted a person-by-person, very detailed description of what shoes every woman who had been present in the room had been wearing.


I am not going to comment on the spasmodic use of the word, “like”.

I am not going to comment on the differences between the way men and women perceive interpersonal situations. I have been married long enough to know that I would end up on the wrong end of that discussion. I would be bringing a Chicken McNugget to a gunfight.

No, what I found to be most fascinating was that the shoe descriptions seemed to provide the other young woman with real insights into the personalities and motives of all those who had been present. Where did this come from? When they were teaching the “shoe” theory in interpersonal communications class, I must have been absent. Have I been missing something all these years?

I decided that the next time that I am involved in a lively exchange of differing viewpoints with a group of people, I am going to disengage for a moment and check out everyone’s shoes. Perhaps, there is something more to “the language of leather and laces” than the title of a porn flick. I will report back here with my findings.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

On the funniest things

I recently left a comment on Delenda Est Carthago: The greatest guest star in television history? where I mentioned Jesse Jackson reading “Green Eggs and Ham” on SNL. This was one of the funniest things I have ever seen on television. This started me thinking about the things that I find to be “the funniest”. I think this must be like a fingerprint and is absolutely unique to each person.

I don’t do memes/tagging. It seems uncomfortably close to doing chain letters, but I decided that I would create my own meme and only tag myself. So, here it is.

What is the funniest classic movie of all times?
“Night At The Opera” – Marx Brothers
(Actually, almost any Marx Brothers movie would be a very close second.)

Funniest character in a stage play?
Mrs. Malaprop from Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s The Rivals
(I love her line: “If I reprehend any thing in this world, it is the use of my oracular tongue, and a nice derangement of epitaphs!”)

Funniest moment on television?
Christopher Lloyd as “Jim” on Taxi.
The scene where he is taking his driver’s license test and is answering the question “What does a yellow light mean?” I think it is called the “slow down” scene. I have seen it twenty times and I still roll on the floor laughing. A close second would be a recent episode of “Las Vegas” where the casino owner’s ashes were flushed down the toilet as part of her “funeral”.

Funniest book?
“Without Feathers” by Woody Allen.
(I don’t really care for his movies, but his comic writing is absolutely brilliant.)

Funniest comic strip?
Tie vote here between “Dilbert” and “Opus”

Most unintentionally funny writing?
19th century essay on embalming entitled “To Dispel The Fear of Live Burial”

Funniest stand-up?
I was lucky enough to have been in the audience for one of Steve Martin’s first college circuit appearances. I laughed so hard that I was in pain. More recently, I also really enjoy Rita Rudner.

Five funniest words?
Oddly, phlegm, crenellated, octane, frazzled

Funniest salad ingredient?
Day lily flower buds

Monday, December 12, 2005

On a hidden accomplishment

When I was in the ninth grade, I was part of pilot program/study to test methods for increasing reading speed and comprehension in high school students. My entire high school was given a reading test. From these tests, a class of volunteers was created that contained one third of the best readers, one third of the worst readers and a mix of “average” readers. Although we lost our study hall period for the year, we were each granted extra credits for participating in a one period per day “reading” class.

I remember that we did a lot of exercises where a word or a random group of letters was flashed onto a projection screen for a fraction of a second. We had to immediately write down what we thought the word had been on the screen. We did what seemed like hundreds of timed tests where we read brief essays on a particular subject. We, then, took a quiz on the subject. A day or so later, we would be given a second quiz to see what we remembered about the essay. Sometimes, we would read lists of randomly placed words and sentences while looking through an eyepiece that supposedly recorded our eye movements. I can recall different groups of adults in suits who would sit in the back of the room each day and “observe”. I developed a real appreciation for the plight of lab rats. Sadly, we were never offered any cheesy rewards for our efforts.

I never heard the results of this study. We were not supposed to know how we were doing during it so as to avoid compromising the final results. I have always been curious about the conclusions. I wonder if they ever did anything with it.

Two years later, the English teacher who had been one of our many reading instructors told me that I had been selected for the study, because I had tested as the best reader in the entire school. She told me this because I had done badly on a “Romeo and Juliet” exam in her Honors English class. I was being scolded for blowing off the test. She said that during the reading class, I had scored something like eleven hundred words per minute with a ninety-six percent comprehension rate. I have always been rather proud of that fact. Although the scores probably had more to do with genetics (my mom and dad were both voracious readers) than any real exertion on my part, I did get to have at least one shining moment at that high school. No one ever knew about it. Too bad I didn’t inherit the gene for throwing a long, spiral pass with a football. That one is never kept secret.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

On Brunch

The family went out for Brunch today. I like Brunch. It is a wonderful combination of my favorite foods at a more humane time of the day. The name is even kind of fun and whimsical. “Leakfast” just doesn’t have the same panache.

When I used to work a lot of nights, I often ate "Brupper" at around midnight. Eating breakfast foods late at night is a real treat. It is almost as much fun as watching the odd assortment of strange people who are eating it with you. Of course, they probably were thinking the same thing about me.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

On returning some books to the library

I had to return some books to the library today. While out on this errand, I became enmeshed in what is a holiday tradition in this area: traffic gridlock. I crept along for about three blocks and after twenty minutes finally turned off onto a side street to get past the automotive tangle ahead. Now, I could creep along in one lane of northbound traffic instead of two. "Oh, joyous season..."

As I barreled along at minus five mph, I saw a yellow sign along the side of the street. It read, “Traffic Calming Ahead”. “What a strange sign”, I thought. However, just as I crept past the sign I was suddenly engulfed in an overwhelming wave of peace and tranquility. Rainbow colored highlights glinted off my windshield. The radio, which had been playing a medley of Rod Zombies Greatest Hits, suddenly retuned itself to the sounds of the “Rain Forest Accompanied by Sitar and Pan-flute.” All was right with the world. I just wanted to stop the car right there and hug my fellow drivers on this grand road of life. Perhaps, we could hold hands and, maybe sing a song. “Kumbi-yah …”

As I turned back onto the main road from the side street, I was startled as the sounds of discordant guitar riffs once more caused my rear view mirror to vibrate violently. My blood pressure started to peak. I couldn’t believer how awful the other drivers had suddenly become. Did they all get their licenses at Sears? “If this #%! in front of me doesn’t take his %^@!* foot off his &@^!!# brake, I’m going to ….”

Friday, December 09, 2005

On why I don't do these quizzes

I always end up as the weirdest possible choice. I am already aware of this fact. Why do I need to be reminded of it...?

What Character Are You?

Which Fantasy/SciFi Character Are You?

A controlled personality with a vast range of skills and behavior, you are often intrigued by the people and places surrounding you.

"In the strictest sense, I did not win -- I busted him up."

Data is a character in the Star Trek universe. A biography is at STARTREK.COM.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

On glorifying marginality

In a world where spelling bees and poker are considered sports, where "life coach" is considered a profession and where reality shows are considered to be entertainment.

Paying five dollars for a bottle of water isn't that out of line.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

On when I visit someone

When I visit someone's blog, I do so using the same set of standards that I would use if I were visiting someone's home. I am the guest. They, as the host or hostess, are offering me the hospitality of their home. They are sharing a part of their life with me. For this gift, I owe them a measure of courtesy. Other than the obvious courtesies of not urinating on their sofa or stealing their television, I also avoid making them feel uncomfortable about their decision to invite me. When I leave, I want to be invited back.

This may mean that sometimes there are moments when I say nothing, because what I might say could be easily misinterpreted as being harsh or hurtful. Rather than taking that risk, I say nothing. This is not dishonesty. This is not cowardice. This is simple courtesy. This is my duty as a guest in this "home". I do not need to see my own words in a comment in order to feel that I have some importance: that I am right and they are wrong. An ungracious comment will not add to my stature as a writer or a person.

I like reading Zen stories and parables. From Zen Lessons (translated by Thomas Cleary), one of my favorites is about the "Vermillion Outhouse". It talks about someone who has not yet reached [understanding], but is always willing to show off his learning by "using eloquence and sharpness of tongue to gain victories. [That person] is like an outhouse painted vermilion-it only increases the odor."

On a very selfish level, I know that ultimately I hold the absolute power when visiting someone's blog on the Web. I never have to return to that blog if something offends me or makes me uncomfortable. With that security, I can afford to be gracious. I never have to be hurtful. I can have better things to do with my time.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

On winter

Well, winter has finally arrived in all its frigid glory.

I realize that technically we are still in the fall, but Autumn is my least favorite season so I like to hurry it along as much as possible. I suppose that I shouldn't be too anxious for the Winter Solstice, since winter is actually my second least favorite season.

The cold, snow, ice, and early darkness make this a very unpleasant time of year around here. I have seriously considered moving to some part of the country where the winters are little more than a momentary dip on the thermometer, but I am not sure if, in the long run, that would really be any better. Emotionally, I need the foulness of winter, so that I can look forward to enjoying the pleasant spring and balmy summer. It is like the saying about banging your head on the wall. It feels so good when you stop. Winter is banging my head on the wall. I need to look forward to it stopping.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

On my fruitless search for the perfect platitude: a year's worth of notes to self

"Someday, I'll find it", (head thrown back, Mad Scientist laugh) "Ah ha ha ha...yes, E-gor, the world most horrendous homily - then I and only I, ha ha, will dominate every embroidered sampler, quotation crawler, and bumper sticker in the universe…”

The Universe is like an SUV. It takes a lot of energy to get it running and it is difficult to park.

My writing process is effortless in much the same way that diarrhea is effortless. The results are also similar.

Life is a polish sausage, tubular and filled with animal by-products.

Cell Phones: God's way of selling car insurance.

The urge for healthy living is powerless in the face of a double chocolate donut.

The main reason that men just don't get "it" is because women just don't want us to know about "it"; hence, their use of the undefined "it" to describe "it".

Note while walking through the department store: Any cologne or perfume that can be sampled from more than twelve feet away is probably a poor choice.

If tomatoes really are a fruit, why do they taste so bad when you put them in Jell-O?

A man has not sexually matured until he can unfasten a bra strap with one hand. If he is wearing the bra at the time, he may be dexterous, but his maturity has indeed taken an "interesting" turn.

"De-regulation" is just nature's way of saying, "Thanks for the campaign contribution!"

First Rule of Picnicking: When you suspect that there may be a direct relationship between the bird in the tree overhead and the amount of mayonnaise on your sandwich, it is best to proceed cautiously.

The pain of downsizing is only felt in the lower extremities.

If you want your restaurant chain to develop a reputation for fine dining, do not name it, "Hooters".

Any typos entered into the address bar of your browser will automatically send you to a porn site.

"Enlightened self-interest" is another name for politics, except without the enlightened part.

Cat Feeding Time is unaffected by the change from Daylight Savings Time.

The chance that your teenager is listening to you is inversely proportional to the importance of what you have to say.

"Last Chance" as it applies to renewing a magazine subscription is the industry code for "This is the first of one hundred and ninety seven pieces of mail that you will receive in the coming weeks."

One of the great mysteries of life: What do you do with a finished coloring book?

I have never met anyone who was named after a mid-sized city.

I can sum up the government's solution for this winter's high heating bills into two words, "Be Cold". And to think that all this time the answer to world hunger was right in front of us, tell all the starving people to just "Be Hungry".

Really smart people don't get elected. Really honest people don't get re-elected.

Newscasters always say, "a frantic call to 911". Is "frantic" the only adjective that one can officially put in front of the phrase "call to 911"?

"Stupid" may be "as stupid does" but "Really stupid usually requires waiting for a lengthy report from an independent commission."

"Breathless" would be good euphemism for "Dead".

Someday they will find a drug to cure people who feel the compulsion to fold up their clean underwear. It will eventually be found to cause heart attacks.

Life is like a video game, except that you only get one life, no special powers, and the bosses are pretty much invincible.

If God really wanted us to exercise, he would have given us all gym memberships.

"Yes, stupid sayings…mine, all mine, ah, ha ha…ha…ha hah...ha. (cough)."

Saturday, December 03, 2005

On tribology

Someone recently introduced me to the word, "tribology". From what I've read, it is the study of friction, lubrication, and things rubbing against each other. Since this is such fertile ground for any number of dirty jokes, I can only imagine that a drunken Tribologists Convention is a real yuck-filled laugh riot.

It is difficult for me to get a number of disgusting images out of my head concerning their possible choice for a secret handshake.

Friday, December 02, 2005

On an unwritten obligation

I was remiss in not writing a post lamenting the ever-earlier start to the Christmas shopping season. Today while doing some electronic housecleaning, I found a "note to self" in my PDA written on October 5th of this year after a visit to the local mall. It reads,

"Start working on lyrics to a song entitled,
"On the Eighty-First Day of Christmas"."

There, I have now fulfilled my obligation.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

On-line Christmas shopping

When it comes to Christmas shopping, I am the poster child for Christmas shopping avoidance. Since I suffer from an impaired gifting ability anyway, this time of year is acutely painful for me. I don’t like shopping that much, but I particularly dislike shopping at this time of year. With the exception of the hardware store where I can wander in a semi-religious trance for hours, I only enter stores with exactly what I want to purchase already determined well ahead of time. Wandering the aisles of one or several stores looking for indeterminate gifts ranks right up there with chewing on a ball of aluminum foil. I have not done any of my gift shopping yet this year.

If I could describe my ideal Christmas shopping experience, it would start by getting a list from each member of my family detailing the item, address of the store where it can be purchased, and the approximate cost. I would then go through the list to eliminate the items that

a. Would require a second mortgage.
b. Specify muzzle velocity, number of Kilotons, or British Thermal Units.
c. Make any sounds that Dad could discern from a distance of more than two feet.

I would go to the bank and withdraw the appropriate amount of money. Then with my pared down list and cash in hand, I would visit each store in turn. I would walk in, pick up the item, pay for it, and go on to the next store. At the end of the day, I would bring all the items home and hide them behind my suits in the eleven cubic inches that my wife allows me to have in the corner of our closet.

On Christmas Eve, I would take the gifts out and disguise each one as a taped-up crumpled wad of colorful holiday wrapping paper. Then place them under tree to be discovered in a flurry of Christmas morning shouting and paper shredding. Alas, it has never worked out like this.

Last year, the news channels buzzed with the promise that online shopping had, at last, come into its own. I sensed that my salvation was at hand. Around the first of December, I sat down at the computer and started in. I quickly discovered that Web designers had done a masterful job of creating animations, web pages, menus, and ads; all designed expressly to prevent me from completing the task in a timely manner. After an orgy of “this page contains no data”, “sorry, out of stock”, and "picture not available" messages, I finally finished the selection process.

I, of course, then had to pull out my credit card and enter the multiple digits that allowed unfettered access to my entire financial history. As I pressed the Enter key to transmit this information, I couldn’t escape the nagging fear that I was actually beaming it directly into the bedroom of a fifteen year old in Kiev.

Over the next few weeks, my purchases trickled in. Those items that shouldn’t get wet were left on the front sidewalk during a pouring rainstorm. Those that should not be frozen were left out on the porch for eight hours on the coldest day of the year. Those items that I thought would provide the greatest surprise were delivered into eager young hands just after school let out with pictures and full-descriptions plainly visible on the labels.

To complete the joy of the season, I had to look forward to the hemorrhoid inducing experience of getting the credit bill a month later. Online shopping did not make the Christmas shopping experience less painful for me. It just changed it from being an acute pain to being a chronic one.

This year I am going to stick with what I know and shop where I am most comfortable. Every one on my list is going to get the same hand-selected gifts from me. They will each receive one pound of double-hot-dipped galvanized eight-penny nails and two eight-foot sections of schedule forty, inch and a half PVC pipe.