Thursday, February 27, 2014

Cats apparently operate on a completely different belief system than the one people and most other animals employ.  I understand that this is not exactly breaking news, but the recent change in weather has ensured that my cats have completely lost all grip on reality.

In cold weather they react in the same way I do: spend as much time as possible wrapped up in blankets and sleeping. This is quite convenient because they don't wake me up in the morning. They don't want to get out of bed any more than I do, and usually give me the stink-eye when I get out of bed at a quarter to six.  Also having warm fuzzy creatures in bed is rather pleasant when the weather is below freezing.  The only real drawback is that the lint trap on the dryer clogs up with cat hair every time I wash sheets.

Warm weather gives everybody spring fever, but I think it makes cats certifiably insane.  Richmond had a Teaser Spring last week.  That's what I call those couple of days you always see in February and early March, when it warms up and everyone zooms around in shorts for a few blissful days.  This is always followed by Revenge Winter, which is winter's last attempt to make  your life hell before spring really takes over. I was excited by the dawn of non-awful weather so naturally I emerged from the wool-blanket cocoon and sat out on the porch for a good bit of the weekend.  Having decided that the cats were probably bright enough not to jump off the second floor porch, I let them have Porch Adventure Time.

Now every time I get near the door to the porch they completely lose their minds.  Since they've been out there in recent memory they have decided that it is always going to be time to go out on the porch.  I don't know why they're so obsessed. I like sitting out there too but the way they carry on you'd think those forty-odd square feet of outdoors were full of mice and lame birds and possibly also a chewy-treat bush.  So I let them outside so they can see that it is now freezing cold again, and they act like nothing's wrong for a few minutes before giving up and wanting to come back in.  When, as you can imagine, they glare at me as if I'm the one who made it cold.  Please note, cats: I am a man of many skills, but controlling the weather is not one of them.

I don't really blame them; I'm searching for signs of spring everywhere.  I wear shorts all year anyway, but annually I look forward to the day when people stop giving me weird looks about it.  A couple of days ago I turned into one of Those People who sees crocuses blooming and immediately posts a picture on Facebook.  Maybe I should succumb completely and combine all the Facebook stereotypes by posting a single picture that involves the cats eating new blooms (they're inveterate plant eaters) thus combining a "my cat" picture, a "spring is here OMG flowers!" picture, and a "this is what I'm eating" picture.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Not to harp on the whole dreams-that-don't-make-sense thing, because honestly they very rarely do make sense, but I had another truly deranged one last night. And yes, I was in Richmond except it didn't look like the city at all other than the presence of a river and lots of bridges.  Lots of very complicated bridges, in fact. Let me explain that the actual city's bridges aren't very complicated because all they need to do is cross the James, which is a pretty basic thing to do.  The closest thing to a complex bridge structure is where 95 joins the Downtown Expressway.  In my dream of course were at least ten big flyovers and all kinds of weird on/off ramps, many of which seemed to lead down to the riverbank where they ended in mud.  There was also a building there that I knew to be the old Liggett-Myers factory but which, of course, looked nothing like the real thing which is long gone. 

The strange thing to me is that, even after I woke up, I was convinced that some of the things people in my dream had said were of earthshattering brilliance, and that I should write them down.  Since this was at about 3am and I went right back to sleep, I didn't write them down, but now that I'm thinking about it, none of these things made any sense whatsoever.  

What weird aspect of the human psyche leads people to believe that? I know I'm not the only one because other people have mentioned it.  I suppose that since, while you're dreaming, it all seems perfectly logical, when you wake up your brain is still a little bit in that dream world and so you still believe that anything in the dream was of vital importance.  

I was feeling a little existential on the way in to school today though and I reached the somewhat depressing idea that dream worlds are representative of our entire belief systems.  We believe that the dream world is important because as long as we're in the dream, it is.  What if our own view of reality is that skewed? After all people went happily about for centuries believing that the sun revolved around the world.  (Apparently there are still some people who believe that. If you are one of those people and I have just disrupted your harmony, I am sorry.) Naturally in the past couple of centuries we've made amazing scientific progress and we know a lot more about the universe than people in the sun-revolves-around-us age.  But...what if these are things we only think we know, and all of our incredible advancement turns out to have been wrong?  That's just really disturbing.  I don't like to feel all secure in my knowledge of something and then discover I had it all wrong.  

I think back to my childhood mispronunciation of "Adirondack." I'd only ever seen the word in print and had never heard anyone say it, so I went on happily believing that it was pronounced "a-DYE-run-dack" until finally I heard it on the radio or something. My pompous belief in my own correctness was shaken badly. 

Sorry, this has been an extremely strange post.  I'll get back to snarky commentary and cocktail evaluations soon. 

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Canned Goo, or why I should wake up earlier and pack a real damn lunch.

A few days ago I referred to my parents' innate, thriftiness.  I shouldn't complain about their tightwaddy nature because the apple didn't fall far from the tree and I am also cheap.  The problem is that while the apple didn't fall far it managed to roll in a weird direction after it fell.

Somehow my belief in saving money is that it's perfectly okay to rack up a bar tab that rivals the Portuguese gross national product, because I got three bars of soap for a dollar earlier in the day.  Good job there, Gibbs.  You saved $2.19, so now you can spend $21.90?  Apparently that's just the way my logic works.  Pity that my logic, like the rest of me, is really really bad at math.  Even so I go about buying things I do not actually need and, of course, running up bar tabs, and then patting myself on the back for saving money on other random things.

Unfortunately one of my areas of economic fervor happens to be food.  If I were as profligate with food as I am with booze I would eat like a king.  I would probably also look like the Sta-Puf Marshmallow Man.  This is not the case and I insistently buy cheap cuts of meat and day-old bread.  People shy away from that stuff but seriously, the store is not going to sell you ptomaine-in-a-box, are they?

I was getting really sick of buying school lunches.  Those things are three bucks a pop for teachers and, let me tell you, they haven't gotten any better since we were all in high school. The barbecue sandwich isn't bad but the chicken and hamburger both taste like cardboard and even Duke's mayonnaise doesn't save them. I don't know how anybody can ruin applesauce but somehow the school cafeteria does. I decided it was high time that I started bringing lunch to school.

The inherent problem here is that I am a completely nocturnal person.  Therefore in the morning I have precisely enough time wake up, feed the cats and look angrily at the alarm clock before sliming my way out of bed and hopefully into the shower before I head for school. This does not allow time to actually prepare anything edible.

Apparently I had already given my body the idea that it wasn't getting anything actually edible for lunch, because in a burst of cheapness I bought a whole bunch of canned crap at Kroger.  I have always relied heavily on canned goods because...well, they're cheap.  Also I can stockpile them so I always have canned crap in case I haven't gotten real live vegetables and stuff.

Canned green beans are one thing but I have just learned that canned pasta is something else again, and I don't know what that something is but it is certainly not food.  Remember Spaghetti-O's? Dear God, that stuff is horrendous.  There's no meat involved and the sauce is about ten percent tomato and ninety percent sugar. The noodles are limp and nasty because the stuff was cooked and canned about forty years ago.Also the sauce is an unpleasant orangey color that, given the texture of the stuff, bears a distinct resemblance to cat barf.  If you think Spaghetti-Os are vile, try the generic store brand.  Store brands at least don't try to charm you with cutesy names; the ones I got just refer to themselves as "Pasta in Sauce."  (I like to think of them as Bob's Good Tyme Pasta Noms.)

The beauty, of course, is that I got them for a quarter apiece. They are foul and probably giving me some kind of weird disease, but they were really cheap and I don't have to eat school lunch. (No, I'm making myself eat something even more disgusting.)

I don't know how to break my cycle of nasty lunches. Maybe in my next life, I'll have a job that pays enough to have lunch sent in from a nice restaurant.  Or maybe I could just be organized enough to pack a damn sandwich.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Hi! I'm from Pagan God's Sacrificial Plain and Hootenanny Holler.

Because, in the immortal words of Allie Brosh, I surf the internet like an attention-deficient squirrel on LSD, I discovered the meaning of the name "Kokomo."  I got to this point because I was reading The Bloggess, who referenced the place, and of course I had to look it up in Wikipedia to learn all about Kokomo because I'm really weird like that.  Also I like to know random things about cities, even small cities in Indiana that I have never and probably will never visit.

I am utterly fascinated by word origins in general, but especially with place names.  I often suspect that if I weren't inextricably tied to the city of Richmond that I would probably base my choice of a city on its name and either how elegant or how bizarre it sounded.

Even though some of them are perfectly cool cities, I think the most boring names are those that commemorate a founder.  Hagerstown, Lynchburg, Martinsburg...meh.  Nice towns and all (or at least Lynchburg is...sorry Hagerstown, your ship set sail and sank) but I just can't get worked up over the names.  Philadelphia, which does in fact mean "City of Brotherly Love," is a noble idea and has a nice ring to it.  New York is an interesting choice since it ended up being about a squillion times bigger than the original York (pop. 153,000). There are in fact quite a few New Londons in the U.S., but none of them even approached being a big city. There's one in Frederick County, Maryland, that really doesn't even exist anymore. I think it now consists of two houses.  New London, indeed.  A lot of Eastern cities ended up with the names of English towns anyway--e.g., Richmond and Norfolk.  While not exactly exciting the English names have the advantage of sounding aristocratic and let's face it, Norfolk needs all the help it can get.  Newport News confuses people but it's a cool story--it's where Captain Newport landed and news from England.  And, of course, there's Baltimore, named for the title of the Calvert family--but really it refers to landholdings in Ireland and means "The Moor of Baal."  Cool. Pagan gods who demand human sacrifice.  You can never go wrong with that.  Then, given that Baltimore is an extremely dangerous city, maybe everyone decided to take the name literally.

The really bizarre ones are fun, too.  Nanty Glo, Pennsylvania is apparently named for some weird luminescent swamp gas.  I haven't quite figured out Soddy Daisy, Tennessee, but it sounds like a fun place to say you're from.  Unlike, however, Lower Squankum, New Jersey. I just can't imagine having to hold your head up in public and say, "Yes, I'm from Lower Squankum."  Of course so many New Jersey names are Godawful. Maybe that's why those folks have such a notorious chip on their collective shoulder.  Growing up in a place that is seriously named Ho-Ho-Kus probably gives you some serious issues.  Virginia isn't exactly immune; we have here the lovely town of Bumpass.  Yes, you read that right; although its denizens pronounce it "Bumpus" (Of course they do).  And supposedly it derives from the French "Bon Pas," or "good pass."  This is all well and good, but you'd think that somewhere along the line people would have realized that keeping the original French name would have looked a lot better than what the rest of the planet will read as "Bump Ass."

Oh, and Kokomo means "Black Walnut."

Hey, Poland!

Blogger is a lot more comprehensive than it was when I first started blogging...oh God, twelve years ago.  (If you'd like to read those ancient posts they're probably more interesting than this one. There's a link down at the bottom of the page somewhere.)  Back then you just sort of posted crap and people read it and that was it.

Now you can find all kind of interesting statistics about your blog--like who's reading it, which browser they use, where they are and their approximate shoe size. (Just kidding on the last one.)

I'm sort of excited that as of this morning I'd had 102 page views in the mere week the new and possibly improved blog has existed, which means that either the same two of you are looking at this thing a lot, or I'm actually getting some interest.  Weird.

The "where people are" is sort of interesting too. It really only tells you which country your visitors are in (though it apparently refuses to recognize the Confederacy, I'll live with it).  So far I've had a hundred page views from the US and two from Poland.  This is interesting because at present I don't think I know anyone in Poland and was assuming that my views were all from my friends who felt guilty because I posted stuff on facebook.  Which is probably still true, but at least someone else has blundered in here.

Dear Random Polish Reader: I apologize that this is a blog written entirely in English. I would say something in Polish,  but all of the Polish words I know are either names of foods, or something dirty.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Checking in from the Garden of the Undead

I just went through a confusing few minutes as I clicked on the little "next blog" thingy to see what you would see if you just landed on blogspot and started surfing.  I figured they'd be organized in some kind of chronological order so the next one would be whoever had posted right before or right after I had.

But they're all about gardening and, in many cases, children.

After leafing through about fifteen other blogs (which did have some nice gardening tips), I realized..."Oh.  Blogger links them up by subject matter."  Except that in this case the "garden" in question is really just a tribute to a long dead movie palace, so I guess they just scan the blog's title.  In which case, why didn't they link to other blogs about tea? or drama critics? or imperialism?  

I'm thinking of retitling this thing "Undead Monkey Fetuses on Alien Spacecraft" just to see who they try to hook me up with.

Duck, Cover, Bend Over and Kiss Your Ass Goodbye

Today my school had two emergency drills to make up for the ones we'd either sort of forgotten to have or the ones we were supposed to have during Virginia Snowpocalypse '14 (that would be the successive storms of 3" and 5", respectively, and yes, those are ", not ').  One was a fire drill, which is basic enough; everyone just gets the hell out of the building.  This is a fairly small building as high schools go and it's all brick and cinder block, so I'm not too worried about fire.

I am not too worried about most major potential catastrophes because I figure that the chances of them actually happening to me are fairly minimal--except, of course, my whole airplane thing, but I solve that by simply not getting on them.  If I spent every day worried about the school burning or the apartment burning or catching NorovirusAIDSEbola, I'd be so jittery and distracted that I'd walk into traffic. Hopefully if that ever happens I will walk in front of a nice old lady from Westhampton who will actually stop and not in front of any of the Broad street buses, which do not stop even if you want to get on them.  A Broad street car once famously didn't get rerouted for the Tobacco Festival Parade and hit Roy Rogers and Trigger smack in the ass.

The other drill did worry me a little, though.  This one was a lockdown drill.  Lockdown drills came into being after the Columbine massacre and are the appropriate emergency response to a person with firepower. And they're really kind of scary.  You're supposed to herd your students into the part of the room that's least likely to catch direct fire.  You lock the doors and windows, pull the blinds, and cover up the window on the door.  You trust no one and wait until someone unlocks the door.

The whole process reminds me--unfortunately so--of the laughable "Duck and Cover!" film.  You know, the one where the family protects themselves from an A-bomb blast by getting under their picnic blanket. We are assuming in the first place that the main office has somehow figured out there's an intruder, a bad one, in the building and has alerted us before the guy goes berserk. The way most classrooms are set up, there are one or two doors on one side and windows directly opposite.  This means that there's no place that couldn't be directly in the line of fire from one direction or the other.  Also, most classroom doors,even the sturdier ones, have windows that could pretty easily be shot out.  And when the window is shot out...well, whoever's inside is screwed.

Lockdown drills, now that I think about it, are exactly like the "Duck and Cover" film in one respect: they're mostly worthless.  In the event of an actual emergency--to borrow a phrase from the Emergency Broadcast System--I sincerely doubt that the procedure could be enacted in time, that anyone would even remember it, or that it would be effective.  But we can't just go admitting these things and so schools nationwide have official procedures for responding to such a horrific attack.

The submarines of the second World War have one multiple use escape hatch.  You can evacuate about five men at a time and the process for each five takes about fifteen minutes.  There are somewhere between seventy and ninety men on the boat.  The Lusitania--a much larger vessel than any sub--took a torpedo hit and sank in seventeen minutes.  You do the math.  So why do the submarines even have the escape hatch?  So the sailors' moms will sleep well at night.

Why do we have lockdown drills in schools? So all of us will sleep well at night.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

My parents were a very strange version of thrifty.  They never bought a car "on time;" they pointedly refused to buy me name brand sneakers or designer jeans when such things were fashionable in the 80s.  I am indeed a member of the first wave of "brand" sneakers.  Before the dawning of my people you had pretty much Keds and Converse All-Stars.  Then the 80s happened and all of a sudden you were obliged by advertising, your peer group and possibly God to have Nikes.  Only Nikes would do for a couple of years but then a few other brands cropped up as Acceptable.  I, of course, being the child of extremely cheap people, was still making do with Converse--if I was lucky, that is; one time Mom actually bought a pair of sneakers for $5.00 at Giant Food.  It was not, needless to say, one of my prouder moments.  Once I had a part-time job I was able to save enough for my first pair of Nikes which, predictably, fell apart within a few months just like the five dollar supermarket pair did.

The parental logic was that $75.00 for a pair of shoes that wouldn't last a damn bit longer was highway robbery and, once I realized that it really does not matter what high school kids think of you, I saw their point.

There were some times when they refused to go cheap.  Clothing (apart from shoes, of course) had to be high quality.  This did not mean that it had a designer label--because, like the brand name shoes, putting "Jordache" on a few yards of denim does not mean that it holds up one damn minute longer. Quality usually meant that it came from a reputable department store.  Thus at an early age I learned that Hutzler's store and its friendly rival Hochschild, Kohn were the acceptable stores and that nice people did not shop at the Hecht Company.  It was okay to splurge on the Hutzler prices because you knew that what you were buying was well-made and reasonably stylish, if not quite the cutting-edge label fad.  Hochschild's merchandise had the advantage of being so hopelessly stodgy that it had never been in fashion and therefore was in no danger of going out of fashion.  Which was good, because if you bought something at Hochschild's it was probably going to last longer than you were.

Even though the big stores are gone in almost every city, I still firmly believe that it's allright to spend money on well-made clothes.  I was all excited when a few years back I realized that Wal-Mart sold basic things like jeans for really really cheap.  And, unlike their predecessor K-Mart, the stuff didn't look like it was made of plastic, so I loaded up on cheapo jeans and shirts.  As it turned out, the cheapo jeans are not made of plastic.  What they are is made by child laborers in Asia who are being paid three cents a month and may or may not be kept in hamster cages.  These children are obviously aware that fat Occidentals are buying this stuff and man, are they pissed, because they make sure that a)the belt loops fall apart so your jeans fall down, b)the pocket develops a rip so that your phone/car keys fall out and into a puddle, or c)a giant rip develops right in the seat which is not a problem unless you are going commando that day but if you are going commando it is a big big problem and you will get arrested. All of the above have happened to me since my inadvisable purchase of Wal-Mart jeans (except the arrest part--when the damn things ripped I was in a part of Baltimore where no one notices a little exposed butt).  I always wonder about those poor Asian child laborers anyway. It must suck enough to have to make Wal Mart jeans, but imagine being the kid who works in the factory that makes plastic vomit.  We think it's funny at the joke shop, but here's a kid whose family has to live on three grains of rice and he's making fake vomit that Americans will buy for five dollars in Ocean City.

The lesson of good quality clothing came home again when I got dressed this morning after having organized my sock drawer in recent memory.  This is not something that happens often but I was tired of spending five minutes digging through the gigantic pile of socks to find a mate.  (Maybe I should get over my fetish for patterned socks--if they were all black or white this wouldn't be a problem.) I pulled out a pair of argyle socks that still fit just fine, have functioning elastic, have no holes and have not faded.

I bought them at Hutzler's in 1986.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

On cleaning out some cabinets in my classroom, I ran across some relics of a long ago era.  Or maybe an age, like the Pleistocene.  This is what happens when you occupy a room formerly the realm of a nearly ninety-year old English teacher--I found a couple of Classics Illustrated comics.

To tell you how truly elderly these things are, I don't even remember them being available when I was a kid, and as I face a new crop of high school kids this year, I feel somewhat older than carbon.  I had a sizable stack of them that had been my dad's when he was a kid, dating them precisely to about 1684.  Actually, I just looked at one of them and it has a copyright date of 1946--the year my dad turned nine and twenty-three years before I graced the delivery room at Greenville General.

This particular one is Ivanhoe.  I remember struggling through the real thing when I was somewhere around junior high school and let me tell you, that book is enough to make birds drop out of the air.  Sir Walter Scott was good at concocting a plot, but unfortunately suffered from serious diarrhea of the pen.  The Heart of Midlothian was, quite honestly, the only book I've ever given up on--I slogged through three hundred pages of that damn thing and nothing had happened except for somebody walked down the street.  I think someone also got pregnant but it was so mired in prose and early 19th century propriety that she may have just bought a goat.

Side note: the coolest thing, to me, about Sir Walter Scott is that he was responsible (if unwittingly) for the names of several Virginia crossroad towns.  Back in the 1880s, the president of the Norfolk and Western Railroad and his wife toured the newly-completed trackage between Norfolk and Petersburg. Since there were no existing towns of any size on the line, new stops were built to serve the passing trains.  Since the wife had just finished reading some of Scott's novels, she named the new towns for places in the novels.  Hence we end up with Wakefield, Waverly and Ivor, Virginia.  There's also Disputanta because the couple couldn't agree on what to call that one.

Anyway, Classics Illustrated really aren't that bad.  They certainly went a long way to expose kids of their day to actual literature. (Even if I don't like Sir Walter Scott, personally.) The art isn't too bad in most of them, though the coloring is a little off.  The sky of medieval England seems to have changed color on a regular basis, and by "changed color" I mean went from actually sky blue to pink to orange to green. Vegetation is pretty reliably green, but tree trunks are occasionally pink and there is one castle wall that is decidedly Carolina Blue.

Somewhat bizarre colors aside, the series is a far cry from the Graphic Novels of today.  I capitalize here because I want you to understand that I know that these things are Not Comic Books, but a Genre to Be Taken Seriously.

Bullshit.  They're comic books.  I have seen graphic novels foisted upon hapless classroom teachers "Because kids can get into them!"  Poor grammar notwithstanding, as a classroom teacher I am not here to entertain children.  If I were I'd have gone into vaudeville.  I don't care that many Graphic Novels have a dark and twisty side, that they psychoanalyze their characters. They. Are. Comic. Books.  As such, they might be highly entertaining.  I'll even admit to enjoying a couple of them; though they tend to be--for my taste at least--a little overly busy.

I don't know that I really advocate the use of Classics Illustrated as teaching tools, but something of their ilk would be nice to have around today.  I'd rather have my kids reading a weirdly-illustrated version of A Tale of Two Cities than analyzing the angst of Batman's repressed inner child.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Snow days are simultaneously the best thing ever and a giant pain in the ass.  They are amazing because (especially in snow-panicky Virginia) you usually find out about them the night before it snows.  This means a couple of things: You know you're going to be able to sleep in, and that you justify having more cocktails than would normally be advisable on a weeknight.  This in turn leads to snow days being awful because you frequently start them with a hangover.

Snow days are also horrible because once you actually have the day, all of your exciting plans for what you would do with a day off promptly fail to come to fruition.  This is partially because of the aforementioned hangover, but also due to your general cold-related lethargy and the simple fact that you live in a city that doesn't get snow very often and is thus full of panicky, no-drivin' fools when it does snow.  If you venture out by car you might die and if you venture out on foot your tootsies will be all cold and possibly damp.

Furthermore nothing is ever actually open on snow days.  We had two last week and while I was smart enough (and cheap enough) to stay in and avoid the cocktail temptation, I was bent on going to soak up some culture or at least do some shopping.  Now I am smart enough to stay very far from a grocery store in a Virginia snow storm, but I figured at least I could hit the art museum which was of course closed. So were all of the other museums in town and as far as I could tell, all stores of any interest whatsoever.  I almost went to the Lowe's Home Improvement Center because it was open and I was getting really bored.

The first couple of snows of any winter are always occasions for glee, but by the third or fourth everyone's over it.  In this last one, I kept thinking that I should go out to take pictures, but I did that in the first snowstorm (which was more picturesque anyway) and really no one needs to see twenty more poorly-focused pictures of Broad Street Station in the snow.  Every time I looked out the windows, Grove Avenue was utterly deserted.  Sheesh, the first time this happened a few weeks ago, people were wandering the streets like toddlers, gazing with awe at the snow.  This time the few people I saw just looked grumpy and damp.

Finally, I developed a plan that took care of my by-then crushing boredom and answered the question of where everyone was.  I went to cocktail hour.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Links! I has them!

So I also decided to start linking to some things I use to waste time, down at the bottom of the page.  I figured y'all could find "I Can Has Cheezburger" on your own, but I've been appalled lately by the number of people I know and whom I considered to be intelligent life forms and yet do not know of the miracles that are known to man as The Oatmeal and Hyperbole and a Half.   And also there are pictures of movie palaces. And Richmond.  And Richmond movie palaces.

Irrational Fears

Most people have an irrational fear of something.  Some of these are only tenuously irrational, though.  People will confess to an irrational fear and then say something like "dogs."  Well, the fact of the matter is that it's entirely possible a dog could bite you, though chances are it won't unless you do something mean to it first.  Or you smell like bacon.  Hell, I've bitten people because they smelled like Krispy Kremes, so I can't go blaming dogs for their occasional misguided action.  Also before anyone wacks out on me, I need to point out that while I am predominantly a cat person, I am also very fond of dogs and am not implying that dogs are sitting there plotting to bite/eat everyone who walks down the pike.  (I may be but the dogs aren't.)  So, that's actually a rational fear, because it's something that could actually happen.

On the other hand I've never heard anyone say that they're afraid to ride in a car.  That would actually be an extremely rational fear because car accidents happen A LOT, and statistically most people in the United States are probably going to be involved in at least one car wreck in their lives.  And no one runs around thinking "oh shit there might be a car wreck today."

Then there's the next level of somewhat but not quite irrational.  These are the people who WILL NOT get into the water at the beach because they saw Jaws back in 1977.  One word, people: FICTION.  (Perhaps these people are afraid of a giant rubber shark just like the one in the movie, which of course is totally rational.  If I saw a giant rubber shark swimming toward me I would realize that I had just lost my damn mind and I would freak out.)  Really though, while shark attacks do happen, they are extremely rare.  I think fewer than twenty occurred worldwide last year and when you consider that on any given day there are probably a million or so people swimming at beaches, the odds are pretty slim that Mr. Shark is going to target you as a tasty snack. Still, it could happen.

I am also at that level of irrational because I am terrified of flying.  On planes, that is.

See, this is irrational for the same reason that fearing shark attacks is irrational.  Statistically I'm highly unlikely to die in an airplane crash, but the fact that if I'm on an airplane and it crashes I will definitely die means that there's a tiny bit of reason there.  It could, in fact, happen--though it's bloody unlikely because I avoid the issue by not flying.  Hell, I never go anywhere more than two hundred miles from Richmond anyway so it's not like I need to fly.

But then you have your actual, utterly irrational fears.  I have one and I share it with a friend and colleague.  We are both afraid of midgets.  When asked why, we--being English teachers--feel compelled to remind the questioner what "irrational" means.  I'm not afraid the midgets are coming by night to bite my knees, nor do I harbor any belief that they're all children of the devil or anything.  I'm just plain afraid of them and that's why it's an irrational fear.  Also fear of the dark: The dark is not going to do anything to you. It's what's IN the dark you need to worry about.

Naturally I love reading about all those weird phobias that have names, like triskaidekaphobia (that would be the fear of the number thirteen) simply because they're all so very irrational.  What do you expect the number thirteen to do to you? Render you unable to count accurately? I always picture those number-shaped birthday candles, a 1 and a 3, grinning maniacally and lurking in dark alleys.

Some of the good ones I've encountered recently:  one student is afraid of birds.  Not even raptors, which could probably really ruin your day if they wanted to.  Just plain birds.  You know, because barn swallows are known for homicidal tendences.  Her reasoning? "They're gonna peck my eyes out. Like in The Birds."
Again: FICTION!!! But I suppose it could technically happen so it's probably one of those not-totally-irrational things.  And thunder: lots of people seem to be afraid of thunder. Why? "It's loud." Well, so is the godawful music you listen to and you're not afraid of that. Thunder doesn't do anything to you.  Lightning does and it doesn't seem to bother anyone.

The best of all time though is the kid who's afraid of cabbage.  Cabbage. You know, that leafy green vegetable that is a staple of Eastern European cooking?  Again--cabbage is a vegetable. It is not self-mobile. It is also not sentient.  It couldn't do anything to you if it wanted to but being all non-sentient it can't even want to.

Though now that I think about it, that plastic tub of leftover cole slaw in my fridge did move a little bit last night.  It'll be forming a mayonnaisey army any day now.

Dubious Health Practices

It should come as no surprise to anyone that I cast a dim eye on those who are obsessively healthy.  I drink, smoke, eat fried food and do a wide variety of other things that are really, really bad for me.  I've been blessed with a metabolism that, while it no longer actually keeps me thin, allows me to do all this and not become obese.  If I ever bother to work out, I do so because I want to tone up a little bit for beach-oriented purposes.

I have never been the sort of person who does things for my health because I already do so many things that are bad for it.  If I did enough healthy crap to actually compensate, there would need to be more hours in the day, and anything less would just seem like trying to stop a freight train with a doorstop.

If you ever see me eating salad, it's because I actually wanted salad and not because I want to cut out poly ungluclear transsiberian fats or whatever the hell it is this week that "Good Morning America" tells us is out to kill us all.  I love salad, and I especially love it when it comes after oysters, soup, fish, a palate cleanser and roast and just before cake, ice cream, cheese and nuts.  Let's not forget all the tasty wine.  Although wine is OK, at least it will be until some other jackass working on a graduate degree finds out otherwise, because apparently some weird crap in it makes you not have a heart attack.  So I guess red wine is sort of like Diet Coke.  Fat doesn't exist if you have a Diet Coke with the fat stuff, and I can eat all the nice cream sauces and cake I want if I counterattack with red wine.  I'm cool with that.

And isn't it fun how every year or so a different food is either sent by God to make our lives longer (and pure and angelic by extension, one assumes) or sent by the Devil to make us fat and explode in a giant aneurysm? (After which we go to the fat unhealthy people corner of Hell which, I only hope, has good bar snacks.) I remember back in the late 70s the bete noire  was the egg.  It was full of cholesterol, and cholesterol was the worst thing ever.  Then a few years later someone decided that eggs were actually really good for you even though they were high in cholesterol, but it really didn't matter anymore because all of the magazines, papers and TV "newsmagazines" had found something else to terrorize people with/help them sell advertising.  This has led to a complete maelstrom of fad foods over the past couple of decades to the point where I can't remember if I should eat pomegranates because they'll keep me from getting prostate cancer or if I shouldn't because they'll give me encephalitis. By now I think the right idea is to just binge on everything and figure that the black-eyed peas will balance out the cigarettes, which themselves are busy cancelling out the lycopene in the tomatoes, which can't remember what they're supposed to do but it's OK because they've teamed up with red wine to prevent heart disesase.  The red wine and tomatoes may not be getting much accomplished but they are probably setting up an Italian restaurant somewhere around my pancreas.

The creepy thing about the health freaks is that they're so damned self-righteous.  I have a tendency to light a cigarette when I leave the apartment and walk to my car in the morning.  Grove Avenue is very popular with joggers and every one of them looks at me like I just harpooned their mother and a baby seal. Keep it up, folks, and your mom is toast (though I'll probably take a bullet for the baby seal).  Mind you these are the same people who eschew sidewalks and jog in their annoying little reflecty suits in the middle of the damn street. In the dark.  Hey, bro, your lungs are in great shape but I can't always see your reflecty suit until you're about five feet from me and splat you're done. And...hehehe...after I run your toned, Lycra-coated ass down, I'm going to light a cigarette.

Monday, February 10, 2014

This is probably the closest I'll ever get to being political, but I'm still going to pass it off as etiquette.

 Although I hadn't intended to add a second post in one day (wow, revive a blog and you get really  verbose!), I did feel the need to vent a little bit. 
Dear population of the world: Please do not congratulate me for anything that is not my personal accomplishment.  

This sounds a little obvious, doesn't it?  I mean, you wouldn't congratulate me for Bode Miller's skiing triumphs, would you? (I'm using Mr. Miller as an example because the Winter Olympics are going on this week and I just saw him on the TV last night.) Seriously, you really wouldn't congratulate me for any skiing-based thing whatsoever, unless it was "you totally did not kill yourself and/or fourteen other people while the skis were attached to your person!" because I do not ski, never have and never will.  

I'm talking about something a little more theoretical.  In the past few years, I've been congratulated for a number of things that have nothing to do with me.  The College of William and Mary had a transgender Homecoming Queen.  I was congratulated for my alma mater's surprisingly liberal move.  Maryland approved gay marriage. I was congratulated for my state (well, I did live in it at the time) being progressive.  The Church elected a very liberal Pope. I was congratulated.

The thing about this kind of statement is that none of these things were my doing in any way, shape or form.  By the time William and Mary made its move, I'd been out of college for twenty years.  By the time Maryland did its thing, I had been so pissed off at Maryland and hated it so much that I hadn't bothered to vote in its elections for years because I didn't give a damn what happened to it.  And out of approximately nine gazillion Catholics in the world, I'm fairly sure my feelings about the selection of a Pope didn't really count.  Also ever since I moved back to Richmond I've been going to the Episcopal church because I'd rather be a good Richmonder than a good Catholic.

Also, the well-wishers assumed that I agreed with all of these things.  Maybe I do and maybe I don't--it's not my plan here to take political or religious stands--but in any case, unless the speaker happens to know that I do, it's a rash assumption.

What I find most presumptuous was that in none of these cases was the speaker a member of the organization/institution for whose actions he congratulated me--which adds patronization to presumption.  If you're not a Catholic, a W&M alum, or a Marylander, it really isn't your business what they do--unless it's directly affecting you.  

Imagine one of those "This Site Is Under Construction" Icons from the late '90s...

... because that's kind of what's going on.  I'm trying to merge the old blog with this one because I really like some of my old posts and I don't want to delete them, and theoretically there's a way to do that except for how I can't figure it out, because I'm really a Luddite anyway and I don't appreciate technology that is any more advanced than vacuum tubes which I don't understand either but they are warm and glow so...  And that is why some people believe I have ADD.  Except for how ADD doesn't exist anymore because it wasn't politically correct enough, and now it's ADHD and... Oh, bother.

Anyway, this is the first entry on the new iteration of my blog.  Welcome back to the Colonial, now located at  Hopefully I'll figure out how to merge the old content sometime soon so that this thing will look a little bit less like an Army requisition form, and it will have all the tasty goodness you were used to once upon a time.

I was actually somewhat productive last week and wrote three different things to post here, but I did that on my own computer and I'm doing this now on a school computer (Sssh.  Everyone thinks I'm writing lesson plans) and it didn't cross my mind that I might email them to myself so I could post them from school.  I'll get that sorted out when I also merge the blogs.

Therefore I'll start your re-entry into my world with the bizarro dream I had last night.  It was sort of spectacular because it was a dream that actually happened in installments.  It was a weird weekend sleepwise.  I slept in way too late on Saturday, which may or may not have been related to various activities involving corn-mash-based products on Friday night.  I then napped on Saturday afternoon, went to the movies that evening and went to bed early.  I proceeded to sleep for about twelve hours, woke up, had lunch with some friends and then decided it would be a good idea to nap again, which of course should have meant that I wouldn't sleep properly Sunday night.  This was not the case. I  hit the sheets and was out cold until it was time to get up this morning and be all producto-teacher.

In the course of these massive sleep attacks, I had a continuing dream which made absolutely no sense at all upon reflection but, like all dreams, made perfect sense while it was still going on.  Why do dreams DO that?  In the real world, if I saw a giraffe walking down Grove Avenue I would either think that the circus was in town or I'd seriously question my own sanity. In a dream, though, it is perfectly and unquestionably normal that not only do giraffes walk down Grove Avenue but that they got there on magic cardboard airplanes and then that you ride them around town before eating them because they are made of ravioli.

This dream was one of those dreams where you're in your own house in your own hometown.  Neither the house nor the town look anything like the real version but you know that's where you are.  So here I was in my house (well, actually my apartment, because while I still have a house I don't happen to live in it at the moment) and I kept discovering new wings of the house that I had forgotten about.  This is also a recurring dream of mine.  I have no idea why.  Then at some point the whole apartment (which, again, bore no resemblance to my real apartment) became underground and then turned into a bank vault.  And, of course, I did not question in the slightest why I would be living in a bank vault.  Maybe it's just what I do, I live in vaults.  Then I woke up.  But--when I napped later--I was right back in the same vault (which I still believed to be my apartment), only this time, the cat could talk.  I don't remember what he said, but he could talk, which was pretty cool.  Then I woke up again and that was it for the vault/apartment-talking cat dream.

I love seeing those "dream number" books at convenience stores.  Apparently, you can consult it to find your dream and then it tells you what numbers to play in the lottery.  I'm pretty sure if there's actually an entry for "vault apartment and talking cat" it will say "You are too weird to win the lottery. Get a job."

The idea of dream interpretation strikes me as amusing because all of my dreams are so utterly mutated that I don't see how they could possibly be interpreted.  I mean, most of the "dream interpretation" books say things like "If you dream of a giraffe...".  They do not say what it means if you dream of a giraffe made of ravioli, much less what will happen if you do or do not eat it. Believing in dream interpretation is sort of like taking a fortune cookie seriously.  And whatever happened to fortune cookies?  They used to say cool things like "You will meet a strange woman."  Now they say smarmy things about being kind and loyal and a true friend.  Great, even the damn pastry shop is trying to reform me.

Gotta jet.  The cat just told me a giraffe walked down the street and it smells like fortune cookies.