Archive for the ‘ Off the Wall ’ Category

My New Roomie

Anyone who knows me really well (which is about one person among my readership—my mother) knows that I am not a “pet person”. I chalk it up to the fact that I had negative pet experiences as a child.

When I was five or six, the first dog we got—a black-and-white mutt—I affectionately dubbed “Pinkie”. Which made perfect five-or-six-year-old-sense, because he had a pink nose. (My much later adult senses see this as portent of my budding nonconformist, creative mind.)

Anyway, though a small dog, Pinkie was larger—in exuberance at least—than my younger sister and me. Pinkie had a way of jumping on us and knocking us to the ground. Thus, Pinkie’s days in our family were short-lived.

The next pet incarnation that I—now as a six- or seven-year old—recall was a kitten tabby, who had a way of launching her claws into my heels from under the bed skirt. What can I say? She drew blood, and I was not OK with that! Worse, her bloodletting eeked the fearful element of surprise.

There were several more pet personas in my childhood. Mine were not the only heels attacked over the years, but apparently no one else minded. These later petsonas, I embraced and accepted into my adolescent experience in ever diminishing degrees…

However, I point to the first two incidents as formative in my adulthood satisfaction with the lack of a pet presence of any kind. I have no need for companionship from an animal that would spend more time disrupting my life than enhancing it. I am quite OK without having to clean up after a pet’s bathroom habits or accommodating their equally smelly dietary requirements.

And yet! I may have found the perfect pet for me. Indeed, the perfect roommate. My new roomie has her dedicated pet bed inside my house and is quite happy to stay there. She is free to roam about the house, but only when I tell her to. She is all about cleanliness and makes up for my deficiencies in that regard in exchange for her room and board.

However, she does have some pet-like quirks. As all pets do, she talks to me. When I let her out to explore on her own, she will sometimes stop and summon me with a charmingly melodic tune accompanied by human-like speech that declares, “Error 1: Move Roomba to new location.” At this point, one wonders who is in charge here. Obviously, I do as she commands to get her out of her present predicament, and she goes on about her business.

After all, she is a mere pup who needs my guidance and training. So after she has had the run of the house for a time, I tell her to go to her bed (aka “Dock”). At that, she obediently heads off in the direction of her bed only to veer at the first obstacle. She darts off in the opposite direction, and I swear I hear squeals of two-year-old glee. I chasten her, “Roomie, what did I tell you? That is the wrong direction and you know it.”

She whirls at my voice and weaves and ricochets her way even wider afield. “But Mom,” she says, “I’m cleaning up before bed just like you taught me to.”

“Roomie, go to bed, now,” I say firmly. “One, two, three …”

And still, Roomie has a mind of her own as she sits there glowing at me. I soften. “Roomie, come here, Roomie. Come to Mama.”

In assumed obedience, she heads toward me. “That’s right, Roomie. Come on now, baby. Let’s get into bed like a good girl.”

Upon which she launches off on yet a new trajectory. This time I know I hear shrieks of devious mirth! She is playing with me, but isn’t that what a pet is for? Or a child for that matter?

As I chortle, I am sure I have found companionship with the perfect pet. A pet who talks to me and with whom I can engage in meaningful conversation. A pet that serves a purpose and also provides entertainment. A pet that needs nothing more than a power supply and a little attention. What else could you possibly want from a robot?

Recycling My Last Post

I’m told that my last post, Time to Recycle the English Language, did not come across at all as I intended. Indeed, the complete lack of response was telling. It was a joke, people! But I guess I did a lousy job of making that obvious, and I’ve been so embarrassed at my failure that I haven’t dared to opine to this tough audience again. Until now.

Because I discovered something that makes me think maybe it wasn’t a joking matter after all. Merriam-Webster has confessed that they do remove words from the dictionary! My idea wasn’t so far-fetched.

If you use m-w.com to look up words, then you’re familiar with the annoying if not informative talking head editors in the video clips called “Ask the Editor.” (You know – the ones that make the page take so long to load…) In each of these spots, one of Merriam-Webster’s editors expounds on some topic related to words, their usage, their history, and all sorts of obscure facts about them.

Recently, I caught Peter Sokolowski, M-W Editor-at-Large, in a piece titled, “Why Words Get Cut from the Dictionary.” What was that? You mean, uh, I was right? He began by saying, “What happened to snollygoster, hodad, frutescent, and more?” and went on to say, “To make room for new words, some obsolete words need to be removed.” (I told you we were running out of space in the English vocabulary!)

He gave the following reasons for “cutting” a word: “the thing a word names has long ceased to be used” (especially in the case of nouns) “or the word itself has become dated.” (Didn’t I tell you that “thrice” was useless?)

He continued, “Most words that are dropped are scientific or technical terms.” (Hm, scientists have been known to make up a new word for the original made-up term.) “Terms made up of two or more words are especially vulnerable.” (keypunch?)

But “thee and thou remain because Shakespeare and the Bible are still a part of our current linguistic culture.” Sigh. I guess that means thrice has also been saved from the editor’s sword. Well, snollygoster!

 

P.S. It appears that M-W has also removed, cut, deleted, archived the video upon which I sought to save face here. I promise, I did not make this up! But now, you probably think this post is the real joke…

Time to Recycle the English Language

According to a May 19, 2014 article in Time magazine, Merriam-Webster “revealed 150 new words that will be added to its collegiate dictionary this year, ranging from ‘hashtag’ and ‘catfish’ to ‘dubstep’ and ‘crowdfunding,’ most of which speak to some intersection of pop culture, technology and the Internet.”

Never mind my personal opinion as to the usefulness of these new words, I wonder, can our collective vocabulary handle any more “new” words? Do we really need more words?! Do we not have enough already with which to express ourselves? Can we not communicate clearly and intelligently with all the words we already have?

I fear that our English language vocabulary is the ultimate representation of text bloat. It conjures up images of “The Blob” that never stops growing and consumes all of us in its insidious infiltration of our culture. We cannot stop it nor run from it.

Yeah, I guess we don’t have any choice about the constant ooze of new words into our language given that “pop culture, technology, and the Internet” will continue to intersect and branch and morph. So what’s to be done? How are we to cope without being overrun by our own verbosity?

I have a solution, radical though it may be. I propose that we declare the ~1.5 million entries now contained in Merriam-Webster Unabridged as critical mass. That should be adequate, don’t you think?

But because the populace—not just the word nerds among us—will not be happy if they are no longer allowed to make up words because they don’t know how to use the ones they already have, my plan is this. For every batch of new words that M-W gives credence to, they must reduce the lexicon by the same number of words.

Think about it. We must contain the blob. But we will use a measured, systematic approach. Just as M-W accepts for consideration submissions of new words from the masses (“user-submitted words”), M-W will also accept nominations for words to be removed from the dictionary. I mean, can’t you think of a number of words that you haven’t thought of in years? When was the last time you used or heard the word “thrice” for example? Indeed it seems pretty useless these days. I’ll go first. I nominate “thrice” for deletion!

But sure as the word disappears silently, someone will go looking for it and raise a stink because they can’t find it. So in my plan, I propose an interim phase before words are collectively forgotten for good. Let’s archive them first. We move the nominated and M-W approved words subject to deletion to an Archive folder for a specified period while we get used to the idea of speaking, writing, and composing poetry without them. In Blob terms, we put them on ice, which proved to be the only way to stop the menace. This also provides saving grace just in case we change our minds about a particular word we just can’t part with. However, everyone knows that once you put something in Archive, you can never find it again anyway.

So as agreed, when the archive period is up, the words will be unceremoniously swept into the Recycle Bin by a process that runs during the night. I’m guessing we won’t miss them at all. We’ll just make up new ones.

Nuts!

Conscientious consumer that I am, after having a surprisingly uncharacteristic experience with a particular product recently, I felt compelled to bring it to the attention of the company. I wrote the following letter in hopes that they would tell me I really wasn’t nuts.

Dear Nut People:

I write to you regarding a recent purchase of your Emerald Sweet & Salty Mixed Nuts (9 oz).

I am sorry to say that I was disappointed in the product, which was not up to your usual standards. Although I really like the taste of um, the product purported to be within the plastic container (aka your nuts), I am not overly fond of the taste nor texture of the plastic container itself.

Enclosed please find the product label as proof of purchase, along with the unexpected sample of the plastic container material, which I am no doubt fortunate to have not ingested! Indeed my delicate palate recognized it immediately as a manufacturing process faux pas. It was totally lacking in flavor and its texture resembled nothing nut-like at all!

Please forgive me if I have gone nuts over this, but I’m thinking the traumatic surprise I endured entitles me at the least to a lifetime supply of Emerald nuts! Despite the trauma and mental anguish this has caused me, I am nonetheless capable of being completely reasonable so as to allow you to determine the type(s) of nuts and the frequency/quantity in which I find myself nuts.

As stated, I included the product label and the actual offending bit of green plastic (same as the container material) as enclosures. Visual and tactile aids never go out of style.

My goal of course was to score some free nuts! and to have some fun in the process.

My efforts were rewarded promptly, if not in the same spirit of fun. Within two person-weeks or something like less than 10 business days, I received the following response by mail:

Thank you for your recent letter concerning Emerald Sweet and Salty Original Blend.

Diamond Foods is proud of its reputation for high-quality food products. Our strict quality-control standards, special processing equipment and continual quality checks help to ensure a product that is free from any undesirable material. Therefore, we are at a loss to explain the foreign matter you found. We have notified both our Quality Control and Production Departments of your experience.

We apologize for the quality problem you encountered and any inconvenience you experienced. We appreciate you bringing this to our attention. Enclosed is a refund. We hope you will replace your product and continue to enjoy our Diamond Foods products.

Encl. Emerald Snack Product Coupon 2

Score! The “Emerald Snack Product Coupon 2” enclosure was actually three coupons – two for free products and a third for $1.00 off.

Sigh… These nut people chose to acknowledge my complaint but not my creativity. I suppose you could say, what do you expect from a company of nuts?

On the other hand, I suspect that they privately enjoyed what they politically correctly ignored. And so my work here is done.

 

 

I don’t even know what to call this

“T is for Thursday”? “T is for Turtle”? “The last Thing I could have Thought of that I’d have to deal with Tonight”?

Help me out here. My Thoughts are all over the place from a quite unexpected event this evening, and I can’t seem to hone in on what it “means” or what I think about it. Yet, I’m pretty sure there’s a blog post here somewhere. So without too many interruptions (of which there have been a couple), I just want to throw this experience out there to you while it’s immediate post-real-time.

Today is my “Friday” this week, because I’m off tomorrow. I came home with little intention for this evening, except to gear up for the “other” work I need to accomplish this three-day weekend and perhaps get some rest in advance, because I seem to have come down with a cold.

So I’m putzing around – you know – the little stuff you need to accomplish, but which serves the important purpose of helping you avoid doing the big stuff you really need to do. I unlocked the back gate so I could transport recyclables from my garage to the recycle bin in the backyard. I had made three or four trips to the backyard, when upon my return to the garage, I was greeted by a complete surprise. A most unusual visitor. An incredulous creature, the likes of which I have never seen around here in my 20+ years of residence.

A huge turtle was sitting in front of my garage opening as if he/she had come to call. When I say “huge,” I mean about 10 inches long and 7 inches wide. It gave me a start! Where could it have come from? I’m guessing that someone’s pet has escaped? I went next door to get my neighbor to attest to the fact that I was not hallucinating.

But what am I to do? I don’t want it to come to harm. We agreed that I should call Animal Control. Upon which the turtle crawled on over the threshold of my garage and under my car.

I’m thinking this was the smartest move on the part of the Turtle. I had no plans to go out again tonight, so the fact that it stopped squarely under the path of my tires is not an issue to me. Indeed, it was a brilliant move by my new friend, the Turtle, who by now is confident in my intentions toward him, my desire to shield him from harm, but just in case, this “check” move eliminates any revision of my travel plans for the evening.

I waited on hold to speak with Fort Worth Animal Control for some time after placing the call. In the interim, I was able to check on my friend to see if he had perhaps changed course. Nope, I was happy to see that he was still sitting in the same safe spot under my car. When someone finally answered, she shared my amazement at the probability of my Thursday Turtle Tourist visit. As she wrote up a dispatch order for Animal Control, I asked whether I should close my garage door so as to keep Turtle from venturing out from the safety of my intentions. She agreed that I should, because she was reporting that I had the animal “contained.”

I am now not only a shelter in the storm, a friend in time of need, a chosen refuge from whatever Turtle came from, but also I am an officer responsible for the legal protection and restraint of wildlife!

For how long, I did not know. Good thing that “I came home with little intention for this evening.”

When my phone rang, I also saw the Code Compliance truck in front of my house. First, I opened the kitchen door into the garage to check on my captive. In the meantime, he had moved and was practically sitting on the doorstep to enter my house! While this startled me yet again, I was gratified that he still seemed to trust and seek my intentions for his care.

I yelled to the Code Compliance officer that I would open the garage door where he could easily find and apprehend the Turtle. The officer was able to walk right in and pick up my friend, upon which he noticed blood on one of his front legs. My Thursday Turtle had been injured!

Now I know why Turtle sought me out, right? Its Turtle-tuition led him to me at a rare moment when I would find him, and find compassion on him.

So that’s my Thursday Turtle Story. I’m pretty sure there’s a blog post here somewhere, but I need your help to make sense of it… or not.

 

I’m Back

And you know what that means.

I can once more characterize myself as “UE” or Unemployed. As an independent, who has only been offered (and accepted) contract positions for the past seven years, I’m not sure I can legitimately characterize myself as unemployed, laid off, let go. Regardless, I’m pretty sure that I still haven’t learned how to make it seem otherwise.

Let’s back up. I am more than grateful that my most recent contract dovetailed so perfectly into the one before that. I never took for granted the fact that I managed to parlay one, then two contract gigs straight into a third. The result is that I was serially employed for 28 months!

… without any substantive time off. Sorry, in all honesty, I just had to throw that in there… the fact that the time/money tradeoff always taints the unemployment angst.

But back to being “back.” Because this development is so fresh, I propose to take you with me on this latest adventure in real time. It’s only been since Thursday, December 5, and I have many curiosities to share already.

Let me get back to you on that…

I LOVE rain!

For the second week in a row, tepid Texas skies provide the moisture that my yards and plants and soul need to survive.

The overcast skies that some find depressing are to me the harbinger of Nature’s provision for its own.

In the clouds I find hope.

In the thunder I find promise.

With the rain I find an outpouring of Grace and a reminder that He will provide. 

In this flood of knowledge I find peace.

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