In which she gets to the new car, or halfway to toity

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If I wrote like I were a truck driver, I would put my idea into the GPS, choose the shortest route, and arrive at my destination in the least amount of time possible. Instead, I write like a tourist wandering around a new city with the vague idea that I might go to the local zoo.

 

I put the address of the zoo into the GPS, choose the shortest route, and head off, eager to see the sloths and Gollum-like tarsiers. On my way, I see hundreds of billboards and decide to check out one of them because it won’t take long, and it’s right on the way to the zoo.

Tariser photo courtesy of motz

Tariser photo courtesy of motz

 

Three hundred and fifty-two times out of three hundred and fifty-three times, I never see a sloth or tarsier because I spend the day at a local winery learning about bâtonnage* or stop to fish for a few hours. While fishing, I notice four kinds of bobbers in my tackle box, and drive to the nearest bobber-making factory to learn how they are made.

 

In my last post, Compound interest, I put “new car” in the GPS and drove off. On the way, I noticed a sign marked off-ramp, began to wonder about compound nouns, and swerved at the last minute to see where the off-ramp would take me.  It took me everywhere but “new car.”

 

Today I finally got there.

 

Several months ago, my husband and I realized my 1997 Bonneville might not make it through another winter. We are cash-only car buyers because I pledged long ago that I would never, ever buy a new car, and I never have, until I did.

 

I have cherished two reasons why I would not be foolish enough to buy a never-owned car. First, once you leave the DDR force shield that covers every car dealer, deadly depreciation rays (DDRs) bombard your car and reduce its worth by up to 9%. Second, I have no interest in paying interest on a car.

 

Our auto search led us to a car dealer to look at fully depreciated cars. Although I am a fairly good judge of character, I don’t know my Buicks from my Bonnevilles. My husband, on the other hand, has a caveman’s instinct for car hunting. He always spears the fattest, biggest mastodon available, and we feast on it for years.

 

During what seemed like three days, but were only three hours in caveman hunting time, my husband went over every inch of a brand-new double-tusked mastodon with shiny gray hair, several shades darker than his own. I pretended to look interested while he looked for cash on its back and something called an APR. Since it had a cash back and the APR search came up zero, we took it.

 

Arriving home in my first and last brand-new car, I realized I had entered fancy territory. As you know, fancy is halfway to schmancy. Or put synonymously, since fancy is the same as hoity, I was halfway to toity.

 

I had no intention to leave the hoi polloi (even if it’s a redundant place to be because it translates to the the many), and then my husband went hunting again – this time for his own mastodon. He found one – an older model exactly like mine, but in black. If that’s not hoity-toity, I don’t know my hoits or my toits.

 

Becoming fancy-schmancy or hoity-toity has required a change of attitude and vocabulary. I must move from being super silly to being supercilious. Rather than shouting out, “Holy cow!” when I see the price tags on shoddy name-brand clothing, I must exclaim, “Holy filet mignon!” To avoid identification with the  double-articled hoi polloi, “Heaven’s to Betsy!” must now be expressed as “Elysium to Elizabeth!”

 

My hoity-toitiness will last about as long as autumn in Wisconsin. By January of next year, my car will be old and my newly acquired rhyming compounds will drop off like autumn leaves. I hope to grow some new ones, befitting my fall from fancyhood. Perhaps I shall be barely-therely, or bleak and meek, or squarely-sparely, or plain mere-here.

 

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*bâtonnage is a fancy French word for taking a big stick and stirring the dead yeast in the bottom of a wine barrel.

 

 

 

 

Compound interest

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If you were lured here by the title of this post, expecting some insight into money, please understand that I do what have to do to get readers. Like most people, I have an interest in money, but I have more outsight than insight; that is, as soon as it is in sight, it usually wings its way out of sight before a lured person can say compound interest.

 

Courtesy National Archives

Courtesy National Archives

However, I am flush with words, have books full of them, store them on my computer, and spend hours everyday stuffing them into other people’s ears – for free. I’m nothing if not generous with them.

 

 

I’m interested in words and find  compound words especially interesting. Hence, I have a lot of compound interest.

 

 

In the intimate life of words, compounding is how words meet and mate.

 

 

Nouns, the parts of speech that never forget a name, live to meet other words and partner up. One day a hand reaches out for a bag, slaps a logo on, and voila, the $10,000 handbag is born. Later in a city, a building rises up to scrape the sky and calls itself a skyscraper. During a show, a magician saws his sister in half and ends up with a half-sister. Back at the farm, Old MacDonald takes a hog, washes it up, expecting it to keep it clean, and finds that his idea is pure hogwash. Then he splits a horse four ways and ends up with a quarter horse. Fun, isn’t it?

 

 

Compounding is not just for nouns. Verbs like to get into the action, as do adverbs, a kind of word that can’t be in a relationship without trying to modify its partner. Prepositions, the words that let you know what’s up and what’s going down participate, as do adjectives, those opinionated words that always have something to say about every noun they meet.

Courtesy of Library of Congress: DN-0068144, Chicago Daily News negatives collection, Chicago History Museum

 

Some compounds, like bridegroom, are monogamous – two nouns become one and everything they own is joint property. They take seriously the ancient truth: what the dictionary hath joined together, let no auto-correct put asunder. Others are more like the bride-to-be; they flash their hyphen to show they’re engaged. Open compounds go on dates, visit the amusement park, ride the roller coaster, and eat ice cream together, but maintain their distance and avoid PDAs (public displays of affection). Many compounds start out in an open relationship, get engaged, and end up in a closed relationship.

 

 

 

Much of my compound interest comes from rhyming compounds. I like their razzle-dazzle sound. Many of them disparage others, looking down their noses at the jibber-jabber of the snake oil salesman; others have a keen eye for disorder and will call you out if you shilly-shally or dilly-dally. *

 

 

I’ve shared all this to tell you about a car, but as you can see, my thoughts are all higgledy-piggledy, and I’ve used up my cyberspace allotment. So now I’ll have to backtrack and write about the car next time, unless I miss the off ramp again.

 

 

 

*I sort rhyming compounds like I sort my buttons: all in one big pile. There are dozens of ways to categorize them, but since this is a family friendly blog, I would like to afford linguists some dignity and not talk about their piles. If you find yourself disturbed by this and would like to make a case out of it, I’ll see you in court. Tennis or basketball – it’s your choice.

 

 

 

Actually I could care less

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Caring requires time and effort. It’s like filling up a bucket, except it’s filling up the mind and heart with a person, a thing, or a cause. You have to think about the object of your caring, which means shifting your brain from idle to at least first gear.

 

Science moment: Assuming you have a brain, and frankly, the fact that you are reading this blog creates doubt, said assumed brain idles at about 6 to 11 calories per hour. Actual thinking increases the amount of calories only slightly, which explains why there are so many thickheaded people about.

 

If caring were math, it would be the whole numbers, which depending on who you trust and I’m not sure it should be me, includes zero. Getting from caring to the nothingness or zero of not caring requires sliding down the scale of care like a firefighter sliding down the firehouse pole.

 

Couldn’t-care-lessness is measurable and getting there requires another simile. It’s like untying a balloon full of concern and attentiveness and forcing all of it out by stretching the neck of the balloon to produce sounds not unlike those experienced during gastrointestinal distress. Once all of that air is satisfyingly released (and you know exactly what I’m talking about), you have emptied yourself and have reached the “Om” of OMG, I couldn’t care less.

Care-o-meter

Once this nirvana of carelessness has been achieved, you must never think about the subject again, so as to not disturb your care-o-meter. This explains why I avoid reading tabloid headlines in supermarket lines and tend to weep any time I come across bad words like…Warning! BWA! (Bad Words Alert)….Bieber, Kardashian, and Brangelina.

 

Hearing or reading about what the not-to-be-mentioned people wear, don’t wear, eat, don’t eat, kiss, or don’t kiss knocks my brain out of idle and forces me to not care about what I just heard or read. The very act of not caring about the information tires me out and often leaves me at the place where I could care less if I tried, but I don’t have the energy or inclination to do so. More often than not I exhaust myself into numbness and discover I could not care less, but this usually requires dark chocolate, wine, or both.

 

So, yeah, sometimes I really could care less.

My bucket’s list

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  1. Spend one day without getting kicked

 

  1. Find the end of the rainbow and hold the gold

 

  1. Get a handle on why my most important work always goes down the drain

 

  1. Go to the beach and keep my bottom sand-free

 

  1. Chill out with champagne

 

  1. Make people stop trying to carry tunes in me

 

  1. Take part in the ALS ice bucket challenge

 

  1. Visit the bottom of the wishing well and bring home some cash

 

  1. Learn how to empty myself through meditation

 

10. Kick one person before I die
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The Rabbit Wars: Urine, You’re Out

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The petunias in all their glory being surveyed by a wascally wabbit.

The petunias in all their glory being surveyed by a wascally wabbit.

The petunias can barely contain themselves in the flower box behind the house. Each one is a small poem written in pink, coral, or purple. And like all good poetry, the petunias both teach and delight.

 

My other yard poems are the geraniums. They have taught me two lessons. First, hummingbirds like them. Second, rabbits generally don’t. Part of the delight of geraniums comes from those same reasons.

 

Petunias, on the other hand, have taught me that rabbits see things differently than I do. To me, my white box of colorful petunias is a feast for the eyes; to the rabbits in the neighborhood, it’s a feast.

 

If he were a jackrabbit, this would be jack in the box.

If he were a jackrabbit, this would be jack in the box.

I like rabbits, and I enjoy watching them, but I don’t like them enough to let them eat my petunias. We had a long hard winter and several rabbits survived by eating the bushes in the back. The rabbits processed a good foot of each bush into scat, but I never complained.

 

Encouraged by my leniency, they thought it would be okay to eat my petunias. First, I tried soaping down the box, hoping the smell would deter them. Instead they sat in the box, munching away, with their sanitized paws. Naturally that gave me pause, so I sprinkled pepper around the box, hoping they would hotfoot out of the box and take their paws elsewhere. When that didn’t work, I thought it would make good sense to bring out the big PP, which stands for predator pee (or PredatorPee, a real company), which, of course, makes good scents for plant protection. And the best good scents for rabbits are bad scents, long-toothed and hungry bad, as in fox urine.

One of the bunnies checks to see if I am watching the petunias.

One of the bunnies checks to see if I am watching the petunias.

 

My husband found a different product that uses putrescent egg products to encourage the bunnies to forage elsewhere. The repellent works well and keeps the rabbits from seeing my flower box as an all-you-can-eat salad bar. When it rains, the spray dissipates and the rabbits come back, so it requires repeated spraying, which makes good cents for the company.

 

Probably overcome by guilt and shame for eating my petunias.

Probably overcome by guilt and shame for eating my petunias.

The rabbits still visit the yard, and I have seen them among the hostas in the early morning. We have developed a wary truce. The petunias are there to feed my soul, not their bellies. I plan to stop stewing about the flowers as long as they stay away; otherwise, I might start stewing the rabbit

The part where she discovers she dowses

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Dowsing, the idea that two disparate objects can find one another based on mutual attraction, is much like the belief in love at first sight: one person holds his or her heart in hand, feels it bending toward another and discovers the person who will make one of two.

 

Practitioners of dowsing swear that by using a tree branch or rod, they can find water, minerals, or other objects buried in the earth. Love-at-first-sighters believe the heart needs only a glance to find true love.

Courtesy of Wikicommons

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

 

I believe in dowsing as much as I believe in love at first sight, which is not at all. Dowsers have been subjected to testing and come up equal to chance. Love at first sight is the same. Chances are it will work out; chances are it won’t.

 

After I heard about dowsing when I was a child, I found a y-shaped tree branch and searched for water in the yard. Nothing happened. It turns out I didn’t need a stick to find the water that had already been discovered and conveniently came out of the outside faucet and through the garden hose into my thirsty mouth. I was as unlucky in dowsing as love at first sight. I did, however, later experience like at first sight, which led to love, but that is a different story.

 

I hadn’t thought of dowsing for decades until the other day when I realized I was a master dowser and had been for years. My dowsing is unique in that with my handy tool I find not things, but people; and not under the earth, but atop it.

 

The object used to find these people is a wheel with about a 15-inch diameter, and once it is in my hands, I achieve 100% accuracy in finding a particular kind of people: idiots.

 

The wheel I use is conveniently attached to my car, so I don’t have to carry it about. Once I pull out of the garage, the wheel instinctively leads me to idiots in other cars who don’t use their blinkers, who tailgate, who are clearly texting while driving, and who drive too much above or too far below the speed limit, or weave in and out of traffic curious to find out if everyone’s brakes still work. Unlike traditional dowsers who are looking for a desired object, I don’t seek these idiots out; my steering wheel finds them.

 

Unlike this steering wheel, mine is attached to a car. Courtesy of D-Kuru on Wikimedia Commons

Unlike this steering wheel, mine is attached to a car. Courtesy of D-Kuru on Wikimedia Commons

I don’t use the term idiot lightly. A person has to commit driving acts that jeopardize lives to fit the category. Drivers who take the parking spaces I want are not idiots, they are merely selfish.

 

Idiot dowsing is equal parts uncanny, unnerving, annoying, and disturbing (much like the extremely long sentence that follows). Idiocy here in northeastern Wisconsin is clearly on the rise based on the numbers I discover as I white-knuckle through traffic, using my blinkers; leaving space between me and the car ahead, which is immediately filled in by a speeding, lane-jumping lunatic, which causes me to create more space, leaving room for yet another lunatic, and so on until I am back to where I started even though I’ve been driving for half an hour – much like Wonderland Alice who was told by the Red Queen, “…here we must run as fast as we can, just to stay in place”); obeying (or practically obeying because what’s an extra 5 miles over) the speed limit; eschewing* phone use because I need both hands on the wheel to avoid the swervers; and identifying each nitwit by calling out loudly, “You idiot!”

 

I want, as is my wont, to remain positive and to avoid letting them figuratively and almost literally drive me crazy, so I have decided to keep a notebook like birders do. Yesterday I saw three red-hooded idiots, two Toyotan morons, a brown-headed blockhead, and a silver Cadillacan cretin. Imbeciles and muttonheads are almost too common to mention, but I intend to record them all. Mark my words (or at least my errors), future idiotologists will find my records valuable in tracking the increase of dunderheads in cars in Wisconsin.

 

*Each time the word eschew is used on this    blog, both the writer and reader are granted  one piece of dark chocolate. If you don’t likedark chocolate, please let me know and I will kindly eat your piece.

 

 

 

What’s cooking?

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Barbecue season in Wisconsin begins once the top of your grill is visible above the snow drifts and ends when the snow is so high it’s impossible to find your grill out on the deck.

 

 

Take a walk around the neighborhood on a Wisconsin summer evening and you are bound to smell steak, brats, venison burgers, salmon, hamburgers, hot dogs, or lake perch smoking on planks of cedar, sugar maple, black cherry, or golden alder.

 

 

Last week after our own non-grilled dinner, I sat on the couch reading a book while my husband relaxed in the recliner working on his computer, and the grandchild conducted a physics experiment in the bathtub to discover how much sloshing was needed to saturate the bathroom rug.

 

 

The next thing I know, a sweet smell saunters into the house, sits right next to my nose, and says, “Get a load of me.” So I do, and I say to my husband, “What smells so good?”

 

 

He takes a big whiff. “Must be Ray grilling.”

 

chicken-grilling

The smell grows stronger and I get curiousier, so I walk outside to see what Ray is grilling in front of his garage. He isn’t. So I check out in the backyard, but he’s not on his deck either.

 

 

I look up and down the street, determined to find the source, but now I can’t smell it. I go back inside to check our oven. My husband is now as old as me and like so many people his age, forgetful. But it’s not that either. I check the basement, the back rooms, the laundry room, and the garage. I can’t catch a whiff of that pleasant smell anywhere except the living room.

 

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That’s when I noticed my hat. Earlier in the day I had been going in and out to work in the yard and had set my hat on top of the floor lamp. When I sat down to read after dinner, I turned on the lights and started slow cooking my hat.

 

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This method of cooking hemp hats allows the aroma to infuse the house.

 

Four years ago I bought that hat for my first trip to Europe and wore it the following two summers from England to France to Hungary to Russia. I have always counted on it to be on top of things, usually my head, but I counted wrong when I put it on top of the lamp.

 

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My smoking hot hat.

 

The first words of the grandchild after completing the bathtub science experiment were, “What’s that good smell?”

 

That sweet smell, child, is my hat, my hemp hat.

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Oddly a hat is also called a lid.

 

I ordered a new one, identical to the first, and will save my smoked version for fishing and gardening. I learned two things from my own experiment in hat cooking: one, a floor lamp does not make a good hat stand; and two, the saying “Put that in your hat and smoke it” can be as literal as it is figurative.

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This hat is still raw and crunchy.