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Archive for the ‘Miscellanea’ Category

Life on the Treadmill

Being retired, I am free to range far and wide at leisure, often on errands of little importance. I’ve been known to drive 20 miles merely to drop off my recycling, eat lunch, and purchase dog treats.

My life of indolence is well-earned, mind you. I paid my dues — all those years as a wage slave, commuter, taxpayer, husband, and father. Today, as I go through life piddling around and enjoying the scenery, I feel no remorse.

Of course, I do sympathize with folks who are still on the treadmill. Both of my sons, for example, work very hard at life. Ah, yes, I remember it well.

When you think about it, life on the treadmill is the norm everywhere, for all creatures. A minor percentage of lucky humans can “retire,” but the rest of creation works hard every day to survive. They do it all their lives.

Consider the example of a certain hawk I see each time I drive to Athens.

The main road from my fair city, Jefferson, to the nearest metropolis, Athens, is U.S. 129. It is a divided four-lane highway, fine and scenic, lightly traveled, always a pleasant drive.

About halfway between Jefferson and Athens is the unincorporated community of Redstone. In that area, on the west side of the highway, the pine/hardwood forest gives way to vast open fields that go on for several miles.

This is where the hawk perches on a powerline, the perfect vantage point to scan the open fields for prey.

I see the hawk virtually every time I drive through Redstone. He is always perched somewhere along the powerline. He is, I assume, focused intently on the field below, alert for movement in the grass.

This is the hawk’s treadmill. He has done this, and will continue to do it, for as long as he lives.

About six months ago, after the presence of the hawk in hunting mode got my attention, I began to look for him. Spotting the hawk became a routine part of my trips to Athens.

On the rare days when I didn’t see him, I was deeply disappointed. But on most trips, there he was, perched motionless on the wire, on duty.

Eventually, it occurred to me that I had seen the hawk in that familiar pose dozens of times, but I had never seen him in pursuit of prey. In truth, I only see him for about 20 seconds at a time. The odds of being able to watch the hunter go hunting are against me.

But last week, the odds broke in my favor.

On my way to Athens one morning, I spotted the hawk up ahead in his customary pose on the powerline. Suddenly, as I drew alongside, he took flight.

He launched himself from the powerline — more accurately, he dropped from the line — and soared in a straight, graceful trajectory toward a spot in the field.

Like an airplane coming in for a landing, he approached the target. Based on his glide path, I could identify the location of the prey ahead of time.

Then, with delicate precision, he extended his talons and picked up a small grayish something from the floor of the meadow.

With the prey secured, the hawk rose into the air again, wings flapping powerfully.

Before I rounded a curve and lost sight of him, he was flying toward a bank of trees in the distance, his lunch dangling from one talon.

 

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The Odd Gecko

Back in 2007, I was shopping for a piece of southwestern furniture. Specifically, a small side cabinet. Southwestern furniture is an alien commodity in my part of the country, so I went online.

Before long, I found a promising website — a furniture manufacturer in El Paso. The prices were good, and the designs were just right. They offered cabinets of several sizes. The rep emailed me this photo to show examples of their work.

I selected the model on the left, in a whitewash color.

One further option was to have the doors inlaid with 4×4 Mexican tiles, which was a cool idea. They sent me this selection of available designs.

I chose the stylized blue waves — middle row, left side.

My cabinet arrived a few weeks later, and it was great.

Except for one thing: the waves had been placed in the door vertically instead of horizontally.

In other words, they were facing up and down instead of sideways. They were not, like, in the natural position of, like, actual water.

Sending the cabinet back wasn’t practical. The thing only cost about $150, and a big chunk of that was the shipping. So, even though water doesn’t flow uphill, I sighed, made my peace with it, and kept it.

Fast forward to 2011. After four years of being irritated every time I looked at those accursed, unnatural waves, I decided to do something about it.

First, I read up on how to set 4×4 Mexican tiles. Apparently, all I needed was Liquid Nails and some colored grout.

Next, I went online to find suitable replacement tiles. I couldn’t find a wave pattern I liked, but I found a festive blue gecko on a yellow background. I ordered 10 gecko tiles and 10 plain tiles in matching yellow.

While awaiting shipment, I removed the doors from the cabinet and chiseled out the offending wave tiles. They came out cleanly. In pieces, but cleanly.

The 20 new squares arrived intact. The yellow was a bit more piercing than I expected, but the geckos were cheery. And, unlike the waves, I could orient the geckos however I pleased.

Orientation, in fact, was the first order of business. I had to figure out how the 20 tiles would look best on the doors. I’m not sure about the math, but there are a heck of a lot of possible combinations.

Then, as I was arranging and rearranging the tiles, I became aware of a problem: one of the 10 geckos didn’t match the other nine. It was similar, but not identical.

Thanks, warehouse.

For a few minutes I sat there, drumming my fingers and thinking about my options. I concluded that I could (1) demand a free replacement tile, (2) order and pay for a replacement tile, or (3) somehow cleverly conceal the error.

It made sense to at least attempt option three. If I failed, I still had two remaining.

Happily, I did not fail. And I’m rather proud of the solution I settled on.

The project went quickly and without mishap. The Liquid Nails worked great. The grout was easy to apply. All in all, a good outcome.

Here is the finished piece.

Can you spot the odd gecko?

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As I pointed out in recent posts about funny people names and funny place names, some words are inherent knee-slappers.

Having done people and places, I now drop the third shoe — things.

Here is a highly subjective list of words that strike me as amusing, some because they sound funny, others because of the image they evoke.

Shout ’em out to get the full effect. Not in a public place, of course.

—————

Aardvark
Akimbo
Alfalfa
Alka Seltzer
Anemone
Arugula
Atitter

Baboon
Babushka
Bamboozle
Banana
Barf
Bassoon
Bazooka
Bichon Frise
Bimbo
Bivouac
Blooper
Blubber
Bong
Bonkers
Boogaloo
Boogie-woogie
Brouhaha
Bugaboo
Bunion
Burp

Caboose
Cahoots
Canoodle
Cappuccino
Caribou
Catawampus
Chacalaca
Chihuahua
Chimichanga
Cockatoo
Couscous

Darjeeling
Derriere
Didgeridoo
Dillydally
Diphthong
Dither
Dollop
Dolt
Doodle
Doofus

Efficacious
Emollient
Emu
Ennui
Epiglottis
Eschew
Esophagus

Fandango
Feeble
Festoon
Filibuster
Finagle
Flabbergasted
Flimflam
Floozy
Flotilla
Flubber
Flügelhorn
Flummox
Fruit of the Loom
Funk & Wagnall’s

Garbanzo beans
Gazebo
Genuflect
Gesundheit
Gherkin
Giblets
Ginkgo biloba
Gnome
Google
Goulash
Guacamole
Gubernatorial

Heebee jeebees
Hemidemisemiquaver
Hippopotamus
Hodge-podge
Hoity-toity
Honky-tonk
Hootenanny
Hullabaloo

Iguana
Impromptu
Indubitably
Innuendo
Insouciance

Jackanapes
Jambalaya

Kabuki
Kaopectate
Kaput
Kerfuffle
Kibitz
Kokomo
Kookaburra
Kumquat
Kung Pao chicken

Labradoodle
Lackadaisical
Lederhosen
Lhasa Apso
Linoleum
Lisp
Llama
Lollipop
Lollapalooza
Lollygag
Loofa
Lunatic
Lymph node

Macadamia nut
Macaroon
Malarkey
Manatee
Mau Mau
Medulla Oblongata
Mongoose
Moo Goo Gai Pan
Mukluk
Mustachioed

Nabob
Nachos
Nadir
Naugahyde
Nerf
Nincompoop

Ocelot
Oink
Ointment
Onomatopoeia
Orangutan
Oyster

Pantaloons
Papoose
Percolate
Persnickety
Picayune
Pinot grigio
Pipsqueak
Pizzazz
Platypus
Poltroon
Polyp
Poobah
Prune
Pumpernickel
Pusillanimous
Putz

Quack
Quagmire
Quark
Quiche
Quixotic

Raconteur
Ratatouille
Razzle dazzle
Rhinoceros
Rhododendron
Rhubarb
Rickshaw
Rumba
Rutabaga

Sacroiliac
Sassafras
Scallywag
Schmooze
Schmuck
Schnauzer
Schweinhund
Scuppernong
Seersucker
Shama Lama Ding Dong
Shenanigans
Shish kabob
Skedaddle
Smorgasbord
Smurf
Snarky
Snausages
Snorkel
Snort
Spitz
Spittoon
Spumoni
Squeegee
Squid
Sufferin’ succotash
Swizzle stick

Thespian
Thwart
Titillate
Tomfoolery
Tonsils
Tsunami

Unctuous
Undulate
Ungulate
Uvula

Vamoose
Voodoo

Waffle
Wallaby
Wart
Wasabi
Wazoo
Weebles
Wheedle
Whiffenpoof
Whirligig
Wiener
Wienerschnitzel
Wigwam
Willy nilly

Yak
Yodel

Zamboni

Aardvark.

Zamboni.

 

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According to students of comedy, the funniest sounds in the English language are the plosive consonants.

I’d never heard of a plosive, either, so I looked it up. Plosives are sounds that start suddenly with a burst of air — the letters b, d, g, k, and p.

In the play The Sunshine Boys, one of Neil Simon’s cantankerous characters went a step further and specifically praised words with a “k” in them…

Fifty-seven years in this business, you learn a few things. You know what words are funny and which words are not funny. ‘Alka-Seltzer’ is funny. You say ‘Alka-Seltzer,’ you get a laugh. Words with ‘k’ in them are funny.

‘Casey Stengel,’ that’s a funny name. ‘Robert Taylor’ is not funny. ‘Cupcake’ is funny. ‘Tomato’ is not funny. ‘Cookie’ is funny. ‘Cucumber’ is funny. ‘Car keys.’ ‘Cleveland’ — ‘Cleveland’ is funny. ‘Maryland’ is not funny. Then, there’s ‘chicken.’ ‘Chicken’ is funny. ‘Pickle’ is funny.

Pros also know you can count on the “oo” sound to get a laugh. Who can resist a well-delivered baboon, papoose, or prune?

Some words are just intrinsically funny. To follow up my recent post about funny people names, here is a list of place names that pass the funny test.

Abbottabad
Abu Dhabi
Addis Ababa
Antwerp
Apalachicola

Baden-Baden
Bagdad
Bangkok
Boise
Bora Bora
Botswana
Bucksnort
Bugtussle
Bummerville

Chattanooga
Chattahoochee
Coosawattee
Czechoslovakia

Gobbler’s Knob
Guadalajara

Hassayampa
Hialeah
Homosassa Springs
Hopeulikit

Idaho

Kalamazoo
Kennebunkport
Kickapoo
Kissimmee
Kokomo

Lackawanna
Lake Titicaca

Machu Pichu
Mesopotamia
Minnetonka
Montevideo
Mozambique
Muckle Flugga
Muleshoe

Nacogdoches
Needmore
Nether Wallop
Nicaragua
Nickajack

Okahumpka
Okeechobee
Okefenokee
Oxnard

Paducah
Pahrump
Pismo Beach
Panacea
Possum Trot
Potawatomi

Rancho Cucamonga

Saskatchewan
Serengeti
Shakerag
Sheboygan
Skidmore
Skidoo
Smackover
Snellville
Sopchoppy

Timbuktu
Tippecanoe
Toadsuck
Tucumcari
Tuzigoot

Wagga Wagga
Walla Walla
Waxahatchie
Weeki Watchee
Wewahitchka
Willacoochie
Winnipeg
Woonsocket

Zimbabwe

Abbottabad.

Zimbabwe.

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Dr. Marie et al

I’m Sorry, I haven’t a Clue is one of those daffy game shows on BBC Radio in which witty panelists play word games before a live audience.

One game they play on the show is Straight Face. In it, the panelists, one at a time, are given a word to say out loud. If anyone in the audience laughs — “even the merest hint of a titter” — the panelist is eliminated.

Straight Face is quite challenging because, let’s face it,  some words are inherently funny. When a panelist is assigned to say “diphthong” in a hushed auditorium, the audience is hard-pressed to remain silent.

I was reminded of inherently funny words a few days ago, when I arrived home and found a message on my answering machine from my periodontist, reminding me of an upcoming appointment.

My periodontist is Dr. Marie Schweinebraten.

That’s pronounced SHWY-knee-brotten. The word is German, describes a type of pork roast cooked in beer, and does not roll easily off the tongue.

Around her office, no one attempts to say Schweinebraten. People just call her Doctor Marie.

All sorts of words — people, places, and things — are naturally funny. When one says them out loud, one often pauses and chuckles in appreciation.

Or, maybe it’s just me.

Anyway, in honor of my friend Dr. Marie, I put together a list of my all-time favorite people names that are funny and/or fun to say.

And, yes, I know Oompa-Loompas aren’t real and Harvey Wallbanger is a drink. Please, cut me some slack.

—————

Alger Hiss
Ali Baba
Amadeo Modigliani
Amanda Tapping
Ana Kournikova
Angelina Jolie
Antonio Banderas

Babe Didrickson Zaharias
Barack Obama
Bela Lugosi
Bilbo Baggins
Björn Borg
Bo Diddly
Boutros Boutros-Ghali
Bruce Boxleitner
Buckminster Fuller
Buster Keaton
Butterfly McQueen

Cannonball Adderly
Chester Nimitz
Christina Aguilera
Claude Monet
Condoleeza Rice
Conway Twitty

Dag Hammarskjöld
Daniel Patrick Moynihan

David Hasselhof
Diane von Fürstenberg
Dizzy Gillespie
Donatella Versace
Dweezil Zappa
Dwight Eisenhower

Earl Scruggs
Eddie Rickenbacker
Eli Lilly
Elihu Root
Elvis Presley
Emilio Estevez
Engelbert Humperdinck
Estes Kefauver
Evel Knievel
Ezra Pound

Farrah Fawcett
Fatty Arbuckle
Felix Frankfurter
Ferruccio Lamborghini
Forrest Gump
Francis Ford Coppola

Gaylord Perry
Georgios Papadopoulos
Giada de Laurentiis
Gina Lollobrigida

Grover Cleveland
Grover Norquist
Gwyneth Paltrow

Harry Houdini
Harvey Wallbanger
Hedy Lamarr
Herbert Hoover
Hiram Fong
Hoagy Carmichael
Hoot Gibson
Horace Greeley
Horatio Alger

Idi Amin
Iggy Pop
Iron Eyes Cody
Isabella Rossellini
Ish Kabibble

Joey Butafuoco
John Cameron Swayze
John Dos Passos
John Sununu
Jomo Kenyatta
Julio Iglesias
Justin Bieber

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Lady Gaga
Lakshmi Singh
Larry Csonka
Lee Iacocca
Lemony Snicket
Leon Trotsky
Leonard Nimoy
Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo DiCaprio

Liberace

Mahatma Gandhi
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
Maria Sharipova
Marie Schweinebraten, DMD
Mario Cuomo
Marlon Brando
Martina Navratilova
Michael Bublé
Millard Fillmore
Minnehaha
Muammar Gadhafi

Nadia Comaneci
Natassja Kinski
Nefertiti
Nipsy Russell
Norman Vincent Peale

Oliver Wendell Holmes
Omar Sharif
Oksana Baiul

Oompa Loompa
Orville Redenbacher
Otis Spunkmeyer

Pablo Picasso
Paul Prudhomme
Peewee Herman
Percival Lowell
Pia Zadora
Picabo Street
Portia De Rossi
Punxsutawny Phil

Quinton Tarentino

R2-D2
Reince Priebus
Rip Torn
Rip Van Winkle
Rod Blegojevich
Rush Limbaugh

Samuel Gompers
Scaramouche
Silvia Poggioli
Slobodan Miloševic
Sonia Sotomayor
Spiro Agnew
Strom Thurmond

T. Boone Pickins
Tex Ritter
Thurgood Marshall
Tim Tebow

Truman Capote
Twyla Tharpe

U Thant

Vladimir Putin

Westbrook Pegler
Willy Wonka

Y. A. Tittle

Yogi Berra
Yoko Ono
Yo-Yo Ma
Yvonne Goolagong

Zaphod Beeblebrox
ZaZu Pitts
Zebulon Pike

Zsa Zsa Gabor

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A few years ago, when my retirement was looming, but not yet announced, I cracked open a fortune cookie and found this message:

I’m not one to pay attention to fortune cookie messages and other omens, but this one certainly gave me a feeling of satisfaction. The slip of paper immediately went up on the refrigerator, where it remains today.

Next to it are two other fortunes I saved. The first one is three or four decades old:

The second one — surely one of the great Universal Truths in a fortune cookie ever — also came from the recesses of the  past:

One day recently, I decided to Google fortune cookies and see what I could find. The result was a mix of real and fake messages. Frankly, it was a weaker catch than I expected.

Here is a sampling. You can decide for yourself.


Finally there is the classic “help” message. Even when I was a kid, this one was familiar to most of the population:

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Out of Oredr

I present herewith a special selection of spelling and grammar errors I discovered locally — in Jefferson and other places I frequent on my daily rounds.

I certify that all photos were personally taken by me. No image-Googling was involved in the preparation of this post.

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One last batch of entertaining typos — entertaining because they were made by someone else…

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More amusing typographical errors for your entertainment…

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Finding a typo you made before it goes public: always a relief.

Finding someone else’s typo, displayed for all the world to see: always entertaining.

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