Who needs to count sheep?

There was an ad on the radio a couple days ago for a revolutionary new prescription sleep aid; the latest in a long line of sleep aids claiming to be “non-addictive and non-habit forming.” (Believe that and I’ve got some ocean-front property in Arizona you might be interested in.) At the end of the commercial came the usual list of possible side-effects that make the cure sound worse than the disease. Midway through the list was one that really caught my attention.
May cause drowsiness.
Isn’t that the entire point?

The Green Green Grass of Home

It didn’t rain much in July or August. As a result, the grass went dormant and didn’t need to be mowed. It’s at times like these, when the yard requires zero maintenance, that I feel like a lawn care genius.
September’s rainfall has been somewhat higher, with several inches in just the first week or so. The grass is growing again. Last week the grass in the backyard was deep enough that Wylie could hide by just laying down.
It rained some more over the weekend with the result that on Tuesday evening, I spent an hour in the backyard. It wasn’t intentional, I just couldn’t find my way back to the house.
I don’t feel like such a genius now.

The Rest of the Story

After reading yesterday’s tale of laundry day, SueP wrote to ask for “The Rest of the Story.”
I suppose the request makes sense. After all, the tale ends almost as soon as it starts. There’s a brief explanation of why water doesn’t burn, followed by the revelation of a washing machine full of clothes and water with smoke coming out of it.
Clearly the water is on fire! Given that this takes place at Blair’s house, you know there must be a story behind it. Maybe the inhabitants of Pluto, enraged at losing their status as a planet have declared war and set fire to the laundry as a first strike? Or maybe it’s something more mundane after all, but with all that setup, surely there’s at least a half-dozen fire trucks!
This is exciting! Sue was doubtless looking forward to reading the next paragraph (both my other readers probably were too), and when she scrolled down a little further, there it was: Nothing. Nothing at all.
With that lead-in, you can’t help wondering, what’s going on? How can he stop there?
It’s simple really. It’s not that I didn’t want to write more, it’s just that “the Rest of the Story” is quite anti-climatic.
My best guess is that I just overloaded the washing machine. Once I realized where the smoke was coming from, I took the sheets out and washed them along with a shirt and some towels that had been previously overlooked.
That’s pretty much it. No spaceship battles for Terry. Wylie didn’t get to fulfil his dream of riding in a fire truck. Nothing dramatic at all. I didn’t even get to write about the smoke detector going off!
Leaving it with smoke coming out was just more interesting.

Where there's smoke there's…Laundry?

Water is a most interesting substance. It forms the basis of life as we know it and can be used for cooking, cleaning, swimming or dumping on your younger brother.
Aside from dumping it on my brothers, one of the properties of water which I’ve always found interesting is that it’s composed of Hydrogen and Oxygen. Combine them and they form water; but separate them and they burn – leaving water as the only residue.
Given the tendency of its constituent elements to combine in a flash of flame, water seems an unlikely choice for extinguishing a fire, and yet that’s exactly what you use in most cases. (The most common exceptions being, of course, grease and electrical fires.)
The reason it’s safe to use water on most fires is that once they’re combined, the Hydrogen and Oxygen atoms form a bond which requires a great deal of energy to break. In order for a fire to split water molecules back into individual atoms, the fire would have to be around 6,000 degrees Fahrenheit. By comparison, the water in your water heater is generally only 140 degrees or so. Nowhere near the temperature required for the gases to dissociate and burn.
Knowing all that, perhaps I’m being something of an alarmist. But I can’t help thinking it might be cause for concern when midway through a load of laundry, smoke starts coming out of the washing machine.


Avast ye skurvy dogs! Are y’not knowing what day this be? That’s right matey, t’day be Talk Like A Pirate Day! ‘Tis the one day out of the year when ye can talk like a pirate without being insane!
And don’t be fooled lest ye find yerself walking the plank! The genuine Talk Like A Pirate Day be celebrated on September 19.
And a hearty thank ye to Cap’n Dave Barry for shivering timbers nationwide by popularizing this event back in 2002!
And lest ya be taken for a lily-livered landlubber, sail over to Tom Smith’s island and download the “Talk Like A Pirate Day” song!

Some slightly more original excuses

Friends of mine are getting married on September 30th and unfortunately I can’t make it. The real reason is a prior commitment, but Chris and Karen both have somewhat warped senses of humor (this no doubt helps them put up with me) so I offered a list of reasons for my absence and left it up to them to choose which ones applied:

  1. I’m on the run from the law.
  2. Galactus has promised to spare the Earth provided that I become the new Silver Surfer.
  3. If I don’t act, V.I.K.I. and the NS-5s will impose their own brand of social order “for our own good.”
  4. My katra is currently on its way back to Vulcan.
  5. I have a prior commitment.
  6. Dom and I are scheduled to fly a job for the firm.
  7. I’m out hunting replicants.
  8. Jobe Smith is taking over cyberspace and must be stopped.
  9. The frakking toasters destroyed my home world and I’m busy protecting the last remnants of my people.
  10. Voldemort is growing stronger and Harry Potter must be protected!
  11. Boss Hogg is up to no good and I need to be available in case Daisy comes by for some help.
  12. I just entered the Federal Witness Protection Program.

Naturally I wish them all the best, but it’ll be fun to see how many of those references they can figure out and which one(s) they choose to accept. 🙂

Dinner and a floor show

One day last week Laura and I decided to go to Lone Star for dinner.
More specifically, it was Lone Star #4306. I don’t know why that would matter, but they seem to worry that people won’t know that bit of information. Neither the waitress nor the hostess told us the store number. They no doubt guessed – quite correctly – that we didn’t care about the store number. (Besides, how strange would it be if either of them greeted us with “Welcome to Lone Star #4306, the 4306th store in the chain”?) But the management (probably at the corporate office) compensated for that by programming the register to print the store number across the top of the check in the same size print as the name of the restaurant. It seems quite odd, but most managers seem to be odd in one way or another. But I digress…
It used to be that you could go to Lone Star (and this was the entire chain, not just #4306) and while you waited for your food, you could munch on peanuts and throw the shells on the floor. It leant a fun sort of folksy air to the place and made for some crunchiness as you walked to your table. That ended a couple years ago when the health department (I have no idea what level, but it does seem to be a national thing) declared that anything fun, folksy or crunchy was unhealthy and forced them to end the whole peanut thing. (This no doubt also made life a lot easier for the staff members who had to sweep up the peanut shells at the end of each day.)
Despite the lack of peanuts (or shells) we still enjoyed our dinner and halfway through the meal something most unexpected happened.
Lone Star has a Western theme to it and the background music is Country. The song playing right then was “You Never Even Called Me by My Name” and David Allan Coe was just about halfway through explaining how his friend Steve Goodman had ended up writing an extra verse for it, making it the perfect County and Western song when the music switched to Tracy Byrd’s “Watermelon Crawl.”
What happened next seemed like something from a musical, where one of the characters says something to someone and the next thing you know the know, the entire cast, plus all the extras in the background are suddenly singing and dancing as if it’s a perfectly common occurrence and the entire population spontaneously feels the need to sing. And just like the residents of one of those only-in-the-movies towns, the moment the music changed, the entire restaurant staff started dancing!
Bunny Sue Fu and others have told me that this is a common occurrence, but evidently I’ve never timed my dinners correctly. And just like the folks in those movies, the people working in that restaurant seemed to be enjoying themselves.
And then, just like in the movies, the moment the song ended, everyone went back to work.

Bart versus Jethro

Although I don’t usually watch the show, it was still interesting to note that The Simpsons has been on TV since 1988.
When The Simpsons first aired (as part of The Tracey Ullman Show), Bart was eight years old and enrolled in the fourth grade at Springfield Elementary.
Today, eighteen years later, Bart is still trying to finish the fourth grade. Sure, he’s 26 and still living at home, but you have to admire his tenacity. Cousin Jethro may have managed to move to Beverly Hills, but Bart seems determined to manage at least one grade higher than Jethro’s third-grade education.

Out of Touch

Our department head quickly walked through the office this evening, talking to nobody in particular, “I lost my blackberry!”
Someone (possibly me) promptly asked, “That’s bad?”
(Although, I use technology to stay in touch, I dislike the idea of being connected 24×7.)

Alternative Transportation

Back in May of 2003 I bought a Honda Civic hybrid. I had several motivations, but mainly it was the geek factor of being able to get 50 miles to a gallon. Three years later, gas prices have nearly doubled, the waiting lines for hybrids are measured in months, and suddenly I’m looking like a genius! 🙂
One of the people who’ve expressed jealousy about the car is my coworker Greg. While I’ve been getting 46-51 miles per gallon for the past three years, he’s been getting 20-35 depending on which car he drove. Back in June, he decided to get a motorcycle, in part because of the gas mileage (he recently calculated it at slightly more than 80 miles per gallon).
On my way to work on Friday, I spotted someone who has both of us beat when it comes to saving gas.
I don’t know where she works, but about half a mile from the office I spotted a woman who was clearly on her way to work. She was dressed in a green skirt with a matching jacket and was wearing heels.
Nothing unusual about that, except that she was riding on a Razor scooter.
As I watched, she zipped across the street, picked up the scooter, walked across the grass (the heels no doubt do a great job of aerating it), put the scooter down in the parking lot on the other side, pushed off, and continued on her way.
I’ve seen plenty of people ride scooters, and if you live near the office, that’s probably a fun way to do it. But she’s the first person I’ve ever seen riding a Razor in heels.