Eat It with a Spoon!

A while back, I had occasion to notice a couple of people as they ate their salads at lunch. Because they were father and son, I noted (or feministically assumed) that their common method must have been influenced (or imposed?) by the common female in their lives. Regardless, in that family, they attempt to eat lettuce and the other possible uncooperative vegetative components of a salad by scooping and balancing them onto a fork before the fork meets its oral target with whatever is left on the fork. At that rate, just how long do you think it takes them to eat a salad? Perhaps it depends on the salad?

I didn’t have time to find out! But it caused me to examine my own familial tradition of stabbing salad components with a fork to bring them collectively to one’s mouth. I must say that after a long history of personal salad satisfaction, I find little fault with this inherited practice that sometimes does require chasing the tiniest, last vegebits around the bowl or plate to spear them.

Oh, alright, I admit that in the final-stage attempt to appease the ingrained mantra to “clean my plate” (or is it my learned desire to glean everything I’ve paid for?), I have been known to use the surreptitious nudge of a finger to coax those last bits onto the fork.

I suppose that means I’ve adopted a hybrid approach for the efficient dispatch of a salad.

In Copenhagen quite some years ago, I was game to try whatever the locals ate. And so I discovered the fast-food offering of a potato salad, or rather a salad potato. The picture showed a baked potato with toppings that seemed to sprout out of it. Damn, but there was lettuce on that potato!? Not to be confused with potato salad as we know it nor potato on/in a salad…

With my fork, I explored that novel concept reservedly, not knowing how it might influence my culinary practice all these years later.

These days I confess that I eat a lot of “prepared” foods as dinner entrées, but I also make a huge green salad with a variety of vegetative enhancements to accompany the entrée. I continue to use the preferred method to stab at both the entrée and the salad in turn, which yields immediate gratification. But when I get down to the last bits of both—or maybe even before then—I give up on the stabbing method … I find that I have taken to combining the entrée (“potato”) with the salad. Because at this point, even the fork-scooping method is futile.

Yes, I have embraced a new methodology: Eat It with a Spoon!

Mix it up, eat it up, eat it all up with a spoon.

Dig, dip into it all with a vessel that though it has measure, is prone to overflow.

Is it a potato or a salad? A salad or an entree? Who the heck cares?! Eat it all, eat it up with a spoon…


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?

I just set my alarm clock for the last time…

I mean I’ve set it to my new workday wakeup time of 6:30 a.m. instead of the 5:30 intrusion that has alarmed me for most of the past two years.

Gone are the days of being startled awake at such a ridiculous hour. Because tomorrow I start my next career adventure…

After a really difficult decision that forced me to choose between two very different job offers, I chose the path most people would not. Are you surprised?

Mind you, the first step in the process of choosing either one was to decide whether I could leave full-time contracting for the first time in nine years. After being my own boss (more or less) under my dba, FineLines, for as long as any single full-time job I’ve ever had, it’s huge to think of giving up that independence.
It’s also “great” to ponder giving up paying for my own health insurance…

It’s hard to think about not having those breaks of time off between contracts.
It’s equally difficult to imagine actually being paid when you take time off…

Given that my 90-year-old mother will be moving to live near me soon, it would be nice, I reasoned, to have a constant job schedule for a change, so my care giving also can be predictable. Having a steady income in the countdown years to Social Security benefits is another point in favor of going full-time, right?

One significant drawback of taking a full-time job is that it would make it kinda difficult (but not impossible) to cling to my unemployment shtick/persona. This blog would never have been started without the recurring theme of joblessness throughout my career. I have so much material yet to blog about!

But with all this and other factors, I have almost convinced myself that becoming a captive again is the best choice right now. Actually, I was hoping to make this my last job choice ever before retirement (which is still not going to be in this decade), but I’m not quite ready to say there might not be other possibilities to consider at some point.

Good then. My brain is tricked into thinking that this decision doesn’t have to be forever. Ah, that feels a little less scary.

Now to consider which opportunity to embrace, which path to take? The two could not be more different.

There’s the corporate job with big industry, the type of job that years ago, I would have expected and wanted to end up in. I’ve been contracting for this company the better part of two years, and so it would almost be like just a continuation of what I’m used to… such as getting up at 5:30 in the morning? Ooh, no, thanks.

But it’s actually a pretty exciting program to work on, one that has international significance and requires a SECRET security clearance. OMG! How cool would that be?

The other opportunity is with a non-profit. Right away you know that spells less money, right? Yep, it’s true. But I have an established work relationship with this organization, too. I’ve been doing work for them on a freelance basis for more than a year. And doggonit, but I enjoy the type of work I’ve been doing. I love the work they do, which is equally engaging if not yet international in impact. And I’d be working from home. Throw the annoying alarm clock out the window!

Still, I owed it to myself to consider all aspects–or as many as I could think of–of both, pros and cons, tradeoffs and negotiations, which I mulled over and fretted over, lost sleep over. But the more I compared them, the less different they seemed. On the subject of employee benefits, I was surprised to discover that they seemed to be on a par. When time ran out, I had to just make a decision. Turn one down; accept the other.

Here’s the serendipitous if not ironic part: the big industry enterprise is a corporate sponsor of the little non-profit.

When I walked out of the office of big industry on Thursday, I still didn’t know if I’d made the right choice. Who in their right mind turns them down? Why, me of course.

So tomorrow I start my latest career adventure working right here in my home office. You see, this way, my brain will be tricked into thinking that I’m still an independent. We can ease into the realization of this full-time employee thing later. Much later than 5:30 a.m.  …

I thought this was MY birthday?

I am already cursed by having a birthday when everybody else but me gets flowers and other sweet overtures. But I was awakened to this year’s birth day by the mother of my birth, who after offering the initial birthday greeting, went on to dump on me her frustrations with her obstinate husband of the day before. OK, that’s no different from any other time we talk… But this is my birthday! After going on a bit about that, her parting sentiment was about how one of my sisters is going back to work Monday after being on leave, and she’s sure she’s going to be fired.

Happy Birthday, Paula.

Later I had lunch with that same sister. I have to give her major points for arranging several days in advance of today to buy me lunch. I am entirely grateful for her thoughtfulness in this gesture, knowing that her finances don’t really allow for such an extravagance.

But she, too, used our time together to dump on me about her problems. Dredging up her hurts from a past marriage, from her childhood!, and from her present-day work situation (that she thinks she’s going to be fired from).

Happy Birthday, Paula.

She didn’t ask me anything about what’s going on with me since we last talked (and we don’t talk often due to constraints on her end). I had to interject a thing or two from my own frustrations. But it seemed pointless. My problems don’t come close to hers (thank God).

Surely, this is not what I get for MY birthday?! I want do-overs!

When I got home, I found that the mail brought no birthday greetings at all. However, I noticed that a flower pot on the porch had been moved. Hm, I know I didn’t do that…

Upon investigating, I saw the reason. The pot had been moved to help camouflage a greeting card and protect it from blowing away or being otherwise vanished from my porch.

With good reason. The card was from my step-brother, who had gone out of his way to stop by on MY birthday, and it included a $100 bill.

I haven’t heard from the other two siblings (yet?). But the contrast among the various things I was “given” by my family today is striking! There are too many inferences, implications, and analyses rife to go off on here…

But all that aside, it’s my birthday, and I rather prefer the gift that came with no burdens attached. I would have preferred it, even if it came with no money at all. On My birthday.

It’s only one day. It’s supposed to be mine.

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 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.


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.



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