Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Does anyone have the time?

As I recall, my first watch was a Timex. The commercials on TV at that time boldly announced that a Timex could, “Take a lickin’ but keep on tickin’.” With that watch, I was prepared to dive into the greatest depths of the ocean (which was 360 miles away). Smash through a brick wall (just in case a door stuck closed and I was trapped inside).  Drop the watch in a cement mixer (which I would be using to repair the wall I just smashed), chisel it out of the hard dry lump of cement, and it would still work. I would be able to tell what time it was and be home on time for dinner. Pretty amazing stuff in the mind of a young boy.

I found out that Timex’s do not last forever and over the intervening years, I have worn many different watches and for a while, I wore none at all. I had a cell phone and that worked just fine to tell me when to be home for dinner. Using a phone for a watch has some unique advantages. The best is not having to set it. The watch automatically synchronizes, a big word that means make two things agree. In this case, the time on my cell with the cellular company clock. That clock gets it’s time from the National Institute of Standards and Technology, which in turn sets its clock by Father Times watch. (I have it on good authority that Father Time uses a Timex.)

The next major advantage of using a cell phone is its multiple functionalities. Even many not so smart phones can surf the web, have built in calculators, act as mp3 players, send short snippets of text to other phones, and if really necessary, can be used to make an actual phone call.

A few times, I found having to fish out my phone to be quite awkward. If my hands were full, or dirty, or it seemed to be a socially unacceptable time to be fumbling with a cell phone, I would not check the time. Then I would be ceaselessly worrying about being late for dinner.

Because of this predicament, I purchased a new watch and yes, it was a Timex. It is a nice two-tone gold and silver color. It looks splendid upon my wrist. Now if both my hands are busy, I can simply glance down at my wrist. The other morning I was drinking a nice hot cup of coffee and eating a piece of toast. Suddenly I had the urge to know what time it was. With a quick flick of the wrist, I turned the watch to gaze at it-and immediately jumped up in pain from pouring hot coffee all over myself. 

On a side note, this post is shorter than most others. I apologize, but I just glanced at my watch and realized I am going to be late for dinner.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The dangers of car-shopping

     My beloved and I went shopping for a new van recently.  New car shopping is inherently dangerous to health, primarily because of going into sticker shock. But, as I found out, there are more insidious dangers lurking while looking at cars.

We arrived at the car dealership and spoke with a salesperson, telling him exactly what we were looking for. We had done our research, looking at “Consumer Reports”, speaking with friends and neighbors, and talking with our insurance agent. We decided on a used Toyota or Honda van with less than 30,000 miles. The salesperson took us around the lot, showing us vans that met those criteria. As we approached one van the salesperson said, “I probably shouldn’t even show you this van, it just rolled off the truck this morning and I am sure it is a mess.” Sure enough, the van was well loved. It looked like 5 kids had just climbed out of the van after playing soccer in the mud. It was trashed. I had a greater appreciation for the job dealerships do in cleaning up cars before we buy them.

We moved on to the next vehicle and I noticed that my head began to hurt. Right up on top. I felt a monstrous, painful, bump up there and immediately thought that I had bumped my head on something, but I couldn’t remember what or when. Six hours later the lymph nodes over my ears and down the back of my neck began to painfully swell. I suspected that I had been bitten by some critter and that was the cause of the painful bump on the top of my head. At first, I thought I might have been bitten by the Egyptian Cobra that had escaped from the Bronx zoo. I turned to the Internet and did some research and quickly concluded that the snake hadn’t bitten me. First, the venom can kill a full grown Indian elephant in 3 hours. I took my pulse and realized I wasn’t dead and it was six hours after the attack. Second, the escaped snake had been recaptured two weeks earlier.

Researching deeper, I came to the conclusion that I had been bitten by a brown recluse spider. I would have much preferred a black widow, since that sounds so much more theatrical and dramatic. But I suppose I will settle for the brown recluse. I imagine that when I stuck my head into the van, the sunlight glinting off the shiny dome of my head startled the introverted, venomous, eight-legged critter, and it sunk it’s fangs into my skull.

This is not the first time I have self-diagnosed maladies using the Internet. Just recently I diagnosed myself with a kidney stone. Beloved asked me if I was going to see a real medical professional. I informed her that the best web sites indicated that I should go to the doctor if I had blood in my urine, or if I developed a fever. I told her I had all ready paid myself $70 for diagnosing myself.

Beloved wrinkled her nose, rolled her eyes, and scowled at me as she asked, “What if you are wrong.”

“Then I will refund my money.” I told her.

I have not always been so accurate with my diagnoses. The first time I diagnosed myself, I discovered I had Kuru, which comes from the cannibalistic eating of undercooked brains from infected family members. When I told Beloved about my discovery she stated, “Hmmm, that’s interesting, when I cook your relatives I always make sure they are well done before we eat them.”

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Spelling bee

GCMS held their school spelling bee this past week. Middlest was selected from amongst her classmates to compete. She was less than enthused; she was downright depressed. With all of her activities, she did not want to add another one. Mother asked, “Did you tell your teacher you didn’t want to compete?”
                “Another girl already tried that. The teacher told her there was not anyone else who wanted to compete. Like really? There is a whole class full of AP English students who could compete.” Middlest expressed her frustration with a roll of her eyes and a scowl. “Last year was more fun, when Littlest and I competed together!” Which they did; both of them made it to the last round. Being stumped on baccalaureate and annihilate.
                The preparation continued. Mother reading a word and Middlest spelling it. With scientific precision Middlest rattled off the proper spelling for each word. When she missed one, she would write the proper spelling on a sheet of paper for further review. Mother read the word, “similarity” and Middlest commenced, “S-I-M-I-L-A-R-I don’t understand why I have to do this!” Her transition between spelling and complaint was smooth and seamless.
                The next word was deceit. Which prompted a discussion of the ‘i-before-e-except-after-c rule and all of its corollaries, such as ones you can disprove with science and other weird options. Littlest piped in, “I thought every time I read that word in a book it was spelled, i-e-t.” to which Middlest responded, “I hate reading books that haven’t been written.”
                The evening of the spelling bee arrived. Middlest again expressed her unwillingness to compete. Littlest offered to take her place, “No one will know it is me.” Middlest rolled her eyes, “No, it is ok, I will do it alone. But I wish you were competing with me.”
                That night Middlest got out in the second round. The word that tripped her up? Loneliness.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Going green...stinks.

Target is selling seeds for vegetable gardens. Wal-Mart is selling fertilizer. Even the corner drug store is in on it, marketing wildflowers. I have to admit, I am suspicious of buying seeds at a department store, big box store, or a corner drug store. My parents had a rather large garden while I was growing up and they purchased all their seeds at a garden store. The kind of store that smelled like fertilizer, miracle-gro and cow manure. Stores that smelled like a place to buy seeds. Stores that stacked bales of hay and bags of peat moss, just for children to climb in and pretend all sorts of glorious adventures while their parental units discussed the advantages of one kind of tomato plant over another.

I think my parents had a book about growing a garden, because somewhere they found instructions on composting. This idea of composting has kept with me. I compost. I do not have a garden, but I have some wonderful compost. I take food scraps and toss them in a pile, turning the pile on a periodic basis, i.e. whenever I feel like it. It is a thoroughly laid-back process, which is perfect for me.

Mom and dad read about composting and decided to try it themselves. They, of course, did it by the book. They first bought a bale of hay. This was a glorious thing, since we no longer had to go to the garden store to have grand adventures; we had them in our own back yard, with our very own bale of hay. Sometimes that bale of hay was a horse, a mountain to climb, or a boat to row across a shark-infested ocean. Oh what a glorious time that with our bale of hay; until mom and dad sacrificed it upon the compost pile. Following the articles advice, layers of food scraps were alternated between layers of hay. Layer after layer, until the entire, wonderful, imagination-fueling bale of hay was reduced to a pile of fermenting food scraps.

After a few weeks, the memory of the bale of hay was dim and the compost pile was simply a pile. This pile, as far as I could tell, was to simply sit there and do nothing, except destroy a bale of hay. Thankfully, we were intelligent and imaginative children and quickly found other games to play, pretending the weeping willow, by the creek, far behind our house, was a castle or fortress and the pine trees in the back yard were enemy soldiers advancing upon us.
Finally, it was time to turn the compost pile and spread out the remnants of the bale and last week’s dinner upon the garden. This really stunk. No, I mean it. It really…stunk. The most revolting, stomach-turning, make-you-want-to-vomit smell, known to man erupted as that pile was turned over. It was so bad, that even though it was a very hot day, we closed the windows to keep the smell from infecting the house. Children riding by on their bikes spontaneously burst into tears and pedaled furiously to escape the zone of death. Fully-grown adult men were reduced to piles of wobbly jelly. It was bad.

Just the other day I drove past the old family homestead. By homestead, I mean a 30’x40’ colonial with attached one car garage sitting smack dab in the middle of suburbia. The house is located one mile from a former airport, now shopping mall, and one mile from a major local college now known for its green work on sustainability. Although a few decades have passed since the stinking kill-the-bale of hay incident, I thought for just a moment I detected that horrid aroma lingering in the air, ever so faintly. In fear I rolled up the windows and accelerated quickly to escape.