Thursday, March 31, 2011

True Story

"Elisha Scudder was crossing the bay in a canoe -- saw a bear swimming -- struck at him -- missed, the axe going out of his hands into the water. The bear, tired of swimming, mounted into the canoe, and remained in it till it reached the shore; stepping out, and marching off deliberately, without even thanking the ferryman."

Monday, March 28, 2011

When I was 12, "don't touch gravel" was considered an exciting game.

While reading over the weekend I came across this intriguing section:

"After school to-night I went out into Abbie Clark's garden with her and she taught me how to play 'mumble te peg.' It is fun, but rather dangerous. I am afraid Grandmother won't give me a knife to play with."

I looked up mumblety-peg and discovered that it is a game wherein two players stand across from each other with their feet apart, and take turns throwing pocket-knives into the ground, aiming to get as near to their own feet as possible. The person who gets the knife closest to his or her foot wins. You can also win by getting the knife IN your foot, but that is not desirable.

Variations on the game involve drinking while playing, which is obviously a terrible idea, and throwing the knife at the other person's foot rather than your own, which if combined with the alcohol variant seems likely to result in serious injury. Throw in trick tosses and we have a recipe for certain death.

The twelve-year-old girl who wrote the section above goes on to say, in the same paragraph: "Abbie Clark has beautiful pansies in her garden and gave me some roots." I gather from this that both players survived the game without incident, but it does leave me in some doubt as to how many children in the past couple hundred years reached adulthood with all ten toes.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Now I Will Never Have an Empty Inbox Either

It's good to have friends who know your interests.

Cf. Ivan's previous post.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Another sequence of events concerning salt.

1. I get up at an ungodly hour for an appointment the cardiologist made me make several weeks ago.

2. Doctor tells me I am totally fine, but I should lie down quickly in certain cases of nausea, pain, or grossitude, or I will probably faint.

3. I wonder why I got up at an ungodly hour, drove fifteen miles, and paid twenty dollars for a six-minute appointment in which I am being told something I have already learned through trial and error.

4. Doctor adds that I can have "all the salt in the world" including "pretzels, chips, whatever, load it on!"

5. I feel immensely satisfied with life, having just been issued a medical imperative to incorporate Cheetos to my daily diet.

6. I wonder what condition I can develop in order to be told that I am also required to ingest all the saturated fat and hydrogenated oil in the world, because otherwise I really only get to lick the salt off the Cheetos, not eat them.

7. I am sad.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Thank you, great giver of alpacas!

On Saturdays, the post office closes at noon, but the building stays open until three, so you can still check your mail if you are very lazy and have not showered by noon, not that that has ever been an issue for me, no sir. Last weekend I happened to miss noon by about ten minutes, which was distressing as I found a yellow card in my box that said, "You have too much mail." That means I have to go to the window and ask for my mail, like it's 1902 and I'm Anne of Green Gables. Sometimes this card means something exciting has come, but more often it means Axa has sent me an enormous report that cannot physically fit into my box. The post office is willing to crush or destroy almost anything to get it in the box, but even they cannot make that Axa report small enough. They might as well file it in the recycling bin, because that's what I do before I even leave the building, but I guess it would be illegal if they did it. Anyway, it didn't bother me much that I was missing out on an Axa report -- until I remembered that I told Axa to start sending them to me electronically. Which means the yellow card indicated that there was a chance, albeit low, of something interesting having come.

This part of the story actually has no bearing on the rest of it, but I felt it needed a bit of suspense at the beginning, so that you could experience, in miniature, the day and a half that I spent thinking, "WHAT IS IT?" and therefore see why it was so funny when I finally found out what it was. When I returned on Monay I was still mostly expecting some enormous nuisance from one of the many organizations that exist to plague me. What I got was this:

I appear to have been mysteriously subscribed to Alpacas Magazine. That, or I hit the best jackpot ever. Which is the jackpot that randomly sends people camelid-related periodicals. Now that I think about this, there should be a lottery that is not about money, but is about completely unexpected things happening at unexpected times. They would be good things, obviously. Things like, you buy a ticket, and six months later a stranger mails you a postcard from Brazil telling you that you are the brightest star. (That will make perfect sense in a minute.) Everyone would win this new surprise-based lottery, and none of them would be tempted to funnel their sudden wealth into a doomed restaurant and lose it all, which apparently is the typical fate of lotto winners.

Anyway. I have been reading this magazine, and so far, one thing I've learned is that the advertising of the alpaca-breeding world trumps all other advertising I've ever seen. For example:

First thought: "That's not Sirius Black!" Second thought: "Actually, Sirius Black was an Animagus, so maybe it could be Sirius Black!" Third thought: "This ad couldn't be any weirder." But I was wrong. Behold the inside:

My loyal friend Simon P. and I have a tradition of trading headlines that we have misread. Recently I sent her the headline "Heavy Rains Linked to Humans." I had misread it as "Heavy Rains Linked to Hamas," which led me to believe for a moment that Hamas had genuinely impressive powers. She wrote back and said, "I misread your Hamas as Llamas." I don't know if that would be impressive for llamas or not. They do spit, after all, if you want to consider that rain. But the point is that I sometimes fall victim to little reading errors. When I read the right-hand side of this ad, for some reason I read it as "Satan King," and I must tell you I was very confused as to why the Satanic alpaca was being depicted among puffy clouds with a heavenly light shooting out of its head. Even now I am not entirely sure what's happening in this ad, but it's sort of a masterpiece if you ask me.

Now that I've got that important advertising analysis out of the way, I should say this is actually a terribly interesting magazine that many people could benefit from. There's this one article on alpaca behavior in which someone complains to the author that his alpaca spits. He believes it is simply the nature of this alpaca to spit. If this alpaca existed in a neutral vacuum, the gosh-darned creature would still spit. The author asks him, nonchalantly, what he is doing when the alpaca spits. He says he is picking nits out of its fur. She says, "Stop doing that." I really think the lesson here also applies to humans. No one is born a spitter. So to speak.

There's also an entire article on how to take good pictures of alpacas that is really about how to take good pictures, period. And, to my delight, it ends with an explanation of why you should never send a designer an image that is 72 dpi and expect it to print well on paper. Seriously, alpaca-photographers, non-alpaca photographers, and, to cover all our bases, photographers who may or may not be alpacas. Don't do this. It makes your designer spit.

I'm almost done here, but there are a couple more things. First, did you know there was such a thing as Berserk Male Syndrome? Yes, of course you did, because you remember college. But that's not what I mean. Evidently if you hang out with a baby alpaca too much, the baby starts to think people are alpacas too, and then when they're adults, they start feeling that they need to defend their territory from you. Apparently this is quite dangerous, and the condition is incurable, and generally they end up being euthanized. Fortunately it is rather rare. Usually when alpacas are mean, it's because you're picking nits out of them or giving them images that are 72 dpi. Anyway, it's a great name for a syndrome. Flexible usage.

Second, aside from the holy alpacas above, there is some great marketing in here. Take this tagline for example: "When roses aren't enough for your girl... try Rosehaven Alpacas!" While there are relatively few circumstances under which is it practical to bestow a bouquet of alpacas on someone, I love this idea both figuratively and literally.

And third, this:


Monday, March 14, 2011

And stop sending me junk mail!

Ring, ring.

Simon: Hello?

Dude: Hi Simon, this is so-and-so from Distinguished Academic Press. I'm calling about your resume.

Simon: Okay.

Dude: Now, this position is in Manhattan. I understand you live outside of Manhattan?

Simon: laughs


Simon realizes Dude actually has no clue where anything is located north of Yonkers. For all he knows, dragons live there, in the hinterlands.

Simon: Yes. Several hours outside of Manhattan.

Dude: Oh. Really? Wow. Well, we'll call you for a phone interview if we don't fill this position with people we can bring in directly.

Simon: Thank you so much. Goodbye.

All I can think is, surely this press has published an atlas he could look at sometime?