Friday, January 31, 2020

Alternative Solutions

Thought for the day: Who indeed will set bounds to human ingenuity? Who will assert that everything in the universe capable of being perceived is already discovered and known? [Galileo]

One could argue that there is a best way to do something, but that doesn't mean it's the only way. Give ten different people the same challenge, and they're likely to come up with ten different potential solutions. (Which is why some business meetings are less than productive...)

Let's just say... some people are more creative than others. They've got more ingenuity and imagination.

Creativity is intelligence having fun. [Albert Einstein]

I reckon one way... and the safest way... to skin a cat is to buy one that doesn't have any fur to begin with.  Having a naked cat would be easier on the ol' vacuum cleaner, but... um... yuk. Sorry. Not too many things creep me out, but they do.

But I digress. This post isn't about cats, hairless or not. It's about human ingenuity. I believe the following pictures will demonstrate that trait quite well, but I'll leave it to you to decide whether or not the people who obviously had a ton of fun coming up with these solutions demonstrated intelligence or not... (I'll let the pictures speak for themselves.)

At the heart of science is an essential balance between two seemingly contradictory attitudes— an openness to new ideas, no matter how bizarre or counter-intuitive they may be, and the most ruthless skeptical scrutiny of all ideas, old and new. This is how deep truths are winnowed from deep nonsense. [Carl Sagan]

Okay, so some of those pics demonstrate some very clever solutions, and others? Okay, nonsense. But funny.

Never ever underestimate the importance of having fun. [Randy Pausch]

                         Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

                              Sometimes, you've gotta think outside the... box.

Friday, January 24, 2020

BAD word! Sit! Stay!

Thought for the day: Man invented language to satisfy his deep need to complain.  [Lily Tomlin]

[image courtesy of unsplash]

Most of you already know it, but I'm a total word freak who revels in the nuances and quirky idiosyncrasies of the English language. As far as I'm concerned, it's a never-ending source of delight and amusement.

I mean, some words are just fun to say, dontcha think? Words like diddly squat, discombobulate, nincompoop, floozy, canoodle, patootie, and keister tickle my funny bone.

Any fun words you'd like to add?

[image courtesy of unsplash]

Some words also have the ability to make me cringe, but they aren't necessarily the so-called naughty words that once-upon-a-time merited a mouth-washing in our society. No, the words that bug me the most are the ones that drip with cruelty and unkindness. It's unconscionable that language, which can be used to edify and uplift, is too often wielded like a weapon to inflict pain.

And then there are the words we're gonna look at today. They're words that some people say should be... banished. Thrown into a dark dungeon and destined to languish in some dark corner with nothing but bread and water forever.


Every January first, Lake Superior State University publishes a tongue-in-cheek list of words deemed worthy of banishment from our lexicon. The first list came about as the result of a New Year's Eve party conversation, in which school P.R. director W.T. Rabe and some of his colleagues entertained themselves by talking about their word pet peeves. (I can totally imagine doing the same thing... how about you?) Just for kicks, Rabe published them the next day, and they received so much feedback and received so many suggestions of other words that should be decommissioned, the next year's list practically wrote itself. Ever since then, the annual list has been compiled from suggestions received from around the world. Nope, there's no teeth in this list. Just a little bit of fun.

[image courtesy of morguefile]
Here, marking year 45, are the words that have been kicked to the proverbial curb this year. (If you feel sorry for them, feel free to open the gate and let 'em back in... )

Quid pro quo: This phrase received the most nominations this year, with a noticeable spike in November (gee, we wonder why…). The popularity of this phrase has the committee wondering what it should offer in exchange for next year’s nominations.

Artisanal: One nominator described this word as an “obfuscation,” describing an “actual person doing something personal for another unknown person.”  The committee agrees this word should be banned for well water… but not for sandwiches.
Curated: Like “artisanal,” this seems to be another attempt at making something more than it is, especially when used in reference to social media (or Banished Words Lists). As Barb from Ann Arbor says, “Save it for the museum.”
Influencer: According to Urban Dictionary, “A word Instagram users use to describe themselves to make them feel famous and more important when no one really know who they are or care.”
Literally: Surprisingly, this word hasn’t already been banished, but here it is, one of the few words in English that has begun to serve as its own antonym. Many of the nominators cite this word’s use for figurative expressions or emphasis, which is literally annoying.
I mean: It’s easy to see why this phrase was nominated, right? I mean…
Living my best life: The committee very much enjoys exercising its authority in banishing words annually–literally the capstone of our year–but as Eric says, apart from reincarnation, are there “options for multiple lives”?
Mouthfeel: A word used by foodies to describe the texture of food or drink in the mouth, which the committee feels should be banished entirely from food reality TV shows. As our nominator asks, “Where else, exactly, would you like to touch your food or beverage?” This one just doesn’t feel right in the mouth.
Chirp:  This one is a new insult for the non-millennials on the committee. Before we get chirped for being out of touch, as our nominator suggests, why don’t we leave it to the birds?
Jelly: An abbreviation of “jealous,” the committee agrees with the nominator of this word who suggested that it’s better left for toast.
Totes: Another abbreviation, this time of “totally.” Totes overused.
Vibe / vibe check: A new use of the 60s term, “good vibes.” This one just doesn’t vibe with us anymore, unless the speaker is actually vibrating.
OK, Boomer: This phrase caught on late this year on the Internet as a response from millennials to the older generation. Boomers may remember, however, that generational tension is always present. In fact, it was the Boomers who gave us the declaration: “Don’t trust anyone over 30!”
Are there any words or phrases you'd like to  add to the list? (If you wanta do it for real, see the school's nominating form  HERE)
You know, I was thinking...

If there's a list for words that should be erased from usage, (or at least put in time out) maybe there should also be a list of words we'd like to ADD to common usage...

Like some of these:

Carcolepsy: an affliction that makes some people fall asleep as soon as the car starts moving. 

Cellfish: people who are more interested in their phones than they are with the people who are right there with them.

Askhole: Someone who asks an endless string of stupid, pointless, and obnoxious questions just to hear the sounds of their own voices.

Exhaustipated: too tired to give a crapola

Carcheologist: The person who has to dig out all the crap that's hidden in and under the car seats.

                                               Nostrildamas: Someone with a real... nose for the news. 

                                                 Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

[image courtesy of unsplash]

Friday, January 17, 2020

Please Hold

Thought for the day: If it weren't for electricity, we'd all be watching television by candlelight. [George Gobel]

[image courtesy of morguefile]
And if it weren't for telephones, I reckon we'd all be sending smoke signals.

To tell the truth, I had no idea what I was gonna write about for today's post. Oh, I had a few nebulous ideas, but nothing that stirred much enthusiasm in me.

Then Monday happened, and serendipity struck.

When I went to my ophthamologist last week, she prescribed another eyedrop to add to my daily regimen, and told me to come back in a month to have the pressure remeasured.The staff kindly made a return appointment for me, and I went on my merry way.
That afternoon, Smarticus' next surgery was scheduled, and you guessed it... it fell on the same day as that aforementioned appointment.

No problem, right? I simply went online and canceled the appointment, and figured I'd make a call to the (ugh!) appointment center on Monday to reschedule.

OY! Big problem! First, after dutifully entering all the required information into the automated system, the robo-voice told me all lines were busy, and there'd be a wait of anywhere between 56 minutes and an hour and 23 minutes... (Where do they come up with arbitrary numbers???) so did I want someone to call me back. To sweeten the offer, I was assured that I "wouldn't lose my place in line." A no-brainer, right? So I left the required information, and about two hours later, give or take, I got that promised call-back. Cool, huh?

Nope. Not cool. An automated voice once again informed me that all lines were busy, but the next available assistant would take my call. (Why, why, WHY did they call me back, if they were only going to put me on HOLD again?) Silly naive me thought it'd only be a short wait. After all, I was next in line, right?

I gave up after waiting for more than an hour, and I've gotta tell ya, it gave me enormous pleasure to slam my phone receiver back into its cradle. (One of the pleasures of owning a landline. Also... I have NEVER accidentally dropped my phone into the toilet or run it through the washing machine. Just saying...)

Then I took the phone off the hook. Phooey on 'em! I had stuff to do, dammit!

And I was MAD! SOOOOO mad, I wanted to punch the wall and scream. So natch, I did what any other perfectly normal weird irate writer would do... I wrote a silly poem that evening:

'Tis a sad and tragic story,
But one that must be told,
About a most unlucky fella
Whose call was put on hold.

A recorded voice informed him
There'd be a slight delay,
'But your call is quite important,
So please don't go away.'

Then began an endless loop 
Of an irritating tune,
Plus timely saccharine assurances
That someone would answer soon.

'I'm sure this won't take long,'
The foolish man did say.
'I'll simply sit and wait my turn...
Why not? I've got all day.'

Minutes passed, and then passed hours,
As life went on around him.
Yet still he sat, phone pressed to ear,
For his determination bound him. 

The longer he waited,
The more he had to stay.
His call'd be answered any sec,
So he mustn't go away.

With zero sleep and little food,
He clutched his phone for days.
He began to hum that damnable tune,
And his puffy eyes looked crazed.

Then finally, on day twenty-two or three,
The music stopped; he held his breath,
And he heard a woman say:

'Thank you for your patience.
I'm so glad that you could stay.
Now won't you kindly tell me
What I can do for you today?'

'Your mattress stinks; I'll not return
To your crummy store Sweet Slumber.
I demand my money back!'
'So sorry, sir. Wrong number!"


On Tuesday, I played it smart. I called the dreaded appointment center first thing in the morning. So first thing, in fact, after dutifully entering all the required information into the automated system, I was informed that the place didn't open until 8 AM. (The slackers!) There was a happy ending, though. I called on the stroke of eight, and by golly, I was first in line, and the task was accomplished in a matter of minutes. From now on, I will ALWAYS make that call at 8 AM. Burn me once, shame on you. Burn me twice, shame on me.

So are automated telephone systems and being put on hold the banes of your existence, too? Oh, and let's not forget those delightful robo-calls. (I guess there weren't enough people being duped via email, eh?) If none of those things make it to the top of your pet peeve list, what does? (Why not write a poem about it? HA) And, ya know,  if we can't beat the system, we might as well laugh at it...


Kinda makes ya nostalgic for the good old days of telephone, doesn't it? Well, except maybe for those pesky party lines. You know... when you knew your nosy neighbor was listening to your call, because you could hear her open-mouthed  breathing. Oh, but remember those really sweet helpful operators? Remember... Earnestine?

                                    Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Why Write?

Thought for the day: Cheers to the new year and another chance to get it right. [Oprah Winfrey]

Holy moly! It's 2020!!! Hard to believe, isn't it? Crumb, I still think of our thirty-some-year old kitchen floor as being new. I mean, the hoopla over Y2K seems like it was only a few years ago... doesn't it?

Yep. Time definitely flies. It's very fortunate for us that we're essentially the pilots of our own lives, which means we have the power to prioritize and decide how to spend that time.

Talking about time, it's also time for our monthly IWSG posts. (Um, in case seeing that badge didn't give it away...) As always, thanks to our fearless leader, Alex Cavanaugh, for founding this fine group, and thanks to all the other nurturing guys and gals who've helped turn it into the thriving community it is today. I'm telling ya, this group offers better support and lift than the world's most expensive bra. (No pesky underwires, either!) To join this super supportive group of writers and to see links to other participating blogs, please go HERE

JANUS: Roman god of beginnings, transitions, and endings
This is the time of year I usually get a little two-faced, and maybe you do, too. Like Janus, I find myself looking both backward and forward each time a new year begins. You, too?

It's only natural. There's a certain sadness in closing the book on another year. A sense of loss for the people who've passed from our lives, nostalgia for joyous events now over and done with, and perhaps even a touch of regret for decisions made and opportunities missed. But, you know what? It's a NEW YEAR, people! It's okay to think about the past year, or even about all our past years, but let's not forget to look forward, too. If we spend too much time staring at the rear view mirror, how can we possibly appreciate the wide open road in front of us and make the most of all the beautiful sights along the way?  Sure, we're all getting older, but doggone it, we're still here. So carpe the hell out of each diem.

[image courtesy of unsplash]
I reckon the start of a new year is also a good time to take stock of our lives, so to speak. To maybe question the things we've been doing, and ask ourselves if we should continue on the same path. Otherwise, we run the risk of sleepwalking through life, doing things because of habit or tradition, rather than purposeful intention.

It reminds me of a story, a story about a young bride and one of the first meals she prepared for her new husband...

It was a beautiful ham, but before roasting it, this lovely young bride whacked off a large chunk of the meat and chucked it straight into the garbage can. This immediately prompted her astonished (and financially responsible) husband to ask his dearly beloved why-oh-why-dear-heart was she trashing what looked like a perfectly good piece of meat. The sweet young thing batted her eyelashes and said she did it because that's what her mother always did. So, the next time they saw her parents, the young man asked his mother-in-law about her unusual ham-cooking method. She said she did it that way because that's how HER mother always did it. By this time, the young bride was as curious as her husband, and they could hardly wait to hear Grandma's response to the riddle about the wasted hunk of ham. When they asked her, she laughed, and said, "Back then, I didn't have a pan big enough to hold the whole thing."

Isn't it funny how we sometimes get caught in traditions without questioning the purpose or logic behind them? Perhaps, in writing, we may meticulously follow the "old rules" without questioning whether they still apply, or if they're particularly well-suited for our particular style of writing. For example, I'm a real stickler for grammar, but (gasp!) I don't always write in full sentences. Some writers say that in the pursuit of creativity, anything goes. Wanta end a sentence with a preposition? Go for it! Split an infinitive? Have at it! Lift your head to the heavens and say, "I am writer! Hear me roar!" Then write what you want to write the way you want to write it.

Or not. What do you think?

Okay, let's move on to this month's question, shall we? What started you on your writing journey? Was it a particular book, movie, story, or series? Was it a teacher/coach/spouse/friend/parent? Did you just "know" suddenly you wanted to write?

Gee, if that quote is correct, maybe the reason I wanted to write is because I'm an... exhibitionist??? I mean, if we share part of our souls in our writing, we're stripping away our comfortable veneer of pretense and baring our inner feelings to the world. That's a scary thought, isn't it?

Unless... unless...

someone.... even one single someone in the whole entire world... reads what we've written and says, "Hey! That's how I feel, too!"

It's about making connections, and THAT is why I write. To tentatively touch someone's heart, to make them laugh or cry... to feel... to relate. And when I take stock of my life, THAT is why I will most likely continue to write.

Lots of teachers and professors offered me great encouragement, and possibly, without them, I may have never bothered. Maybe. Reading has always been important to me. I like to say that when I was born, I popped out of the uterus with a book in one hand and a flashlight in the other. (It's dark in there, ya know!) So it's possible that, even without encouragement, I wouldn't have been able to resist the magical power of words, both reading them and writing them. There's nothing sudden about it. I think I've always been enchanted by the power of words... so why wouldn't I want to try to wield some of that power myself?

Even so, I greatly appreciate those people who believed in me. Like Abe Lincoln said, I had a friend who believed in me and I didn't have the heart to let him down.

I sincerely  hope someone is encouraging YOU. And by the same token, I hope YOU are just as quick to encourage others. Your words, especially words of kindness and encouragement, can have a huge effect on someone else's life. You have the power to make a difference.

                           Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.