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.

 

grilling-beef-meat

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.

Seven degrees of separation from busy to lazy

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1_Earth_(blank)Before Walt Disney had the Sherman brothers, Rob and Rick, create the earworm* known as It’s a Small World (After All), the Hungarian writer Frigyes Karinthy wrote about the small world concept in his short story Chain Links. If you take the time to read the four-page story by clicking on the title, you’ll see how Karinthy is able to establish an association between two people unknown to one another with just two acquaintance links between them, and another pair with four acquaintance links between them.

 

Most people today attribute the idea of six degrees of separation to Karinthy. According to the 6° of separation theory, every human being is connected to every other human being by six or fewer links (friends or acquaintances) between them. In its various iterations, the concept now includes Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, a game connecting every Hollywood actor, ham or otherwise, to Kevin Bacon in the required six or fewer links. Go here to test it out.

 

Chain-link-Fence

If the SDS theory is true, we are all just six or fewer acquaintance links from Pope Francis, Macklemore, your crazy neighbor, and every terrorist on the face of the earth. This is good news for the acronym known as NSA (National Snooping Agency / No Secrets Allowed), because the theory can justify snooping on all of us. We are all guilty by association. Of course, the national acronym shows some restraint, restricting its snoops to three degrees of separation for persons of interest. Or so they say.

Someone is watching all your links.

Someone is watching all your links.

What does this have to do with busy and lazy? Back in the old days of crossword puzzle books, I used to play a word game in which you had to start with one word and end up with another by changing one letter of the word in a designated number of steps. I thought of this the other day when I realized how I seem to alternate between busy and lazy. So I started a word list and discovered the two states are separated by seven degrees of separation.

 

I start out BUSY, and all that frantic effort leaves me BUSHed. Tired and frustrated, I begin to BASH my head against the wall and LASH out at some of the people around me. Then I withdraw and build a flimsy retreat of LATHs. Confined by a cage built by my own hands, I postpone what I am supposed to do and find I am LATE for deadlines and for completing my well-laid plans. Once that happens, I lose focus and begin to LAZE around. That hammock-like verb leads to LAZY (hours wasted staring at moving objects on my computer screen).

It looks something like this:

busy

bush

bash

lash

lath

late

laze

lazy

What does this all mean? And why do I keep starting paragraphs with questions? I don’t really know, so I’ll make something up. First, words and how they are spelled can be linked. I like that because I enjoy words and wordplay. Second, ideas can be linked, for example, Frigyes Karinthy’s chain links and Kevin Bacon’s cinema links. Someone clearly needs to discover the links between toilet paper and nuclear fission, as well as vaccines and peanut butter. And I could be that someone if only moving from lazy to busy were as easy as moving from busy to lazy.

 

*Earworm = A song or musical phrase that 
burrows into your head to consume part of yourbrain. The earworm extracts tiny bits of 
sanity, extruding addle, which causes you to
become addle-brained. An ear worm can also 
make bad words come out of your mouth.

 

Photos courtesy of Wikimedia:   Big chain link     Earth

 

In praise of my bed

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Our bed 2

No other lover has been so faithful as you, who wait for me at day’s end, unmoved by my failures and lack of grace, ready to bear me up without complaint and hold me in your embrace through every dark hour.

Magician of the night, I give you weariness and you transform it into rest. I drink the great elixir you prepare for me and awake refreshed in body and soul.

You are the skiff I row to carry me from past to future across the Sea of Dreams, where I have drowned a thousand times.

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Atop your still rink, I glide and spin through the dark hours. When the ice melts, I fall beneath the depths, swim the length of night, and crawl to shore.

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You are the dance floor of my memories.

Each night I meet monsters, lovers, and my other selves, reincarnated from remembrances past. We play upon your darkened stage – dramas, comedies, and mysteries – to our forgetful audience.

You are the envelope I fold myself in to mail myself to tomorrow.

I plant the seed of me in your rich soil, grow new again, reborn each day older than the day before.

You are the cocoon I wrap myself in to shed my younger selves, all the people I used to be.

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I am sovereign of your continent, where I rule over a legion of dreams.

You are the sheet of paper on which I write stories of love and loss, tales too sad to tell or remember.

Unafraid I climb onto the ledge of night and jump. Then I wind myself in the shroud of yesterday’s me and die once more, until I can die no more.

Photos: skiff by phil smith    skater   cocoon

The journey of 10,000 steps begins with a pedometer

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The word pedometer, also known as a waywiser, began sauntering through the English language nearly 400 years ago, though devices that measure the number a person’s footsteps have been around longer than that.  It’s taken me some time, but I finally have one, securely clipped to my waistband to record every step I take. I won the device by going to a health fair at work sponsored by our insurance provider. By uploading my step count, I can win more prizes; sadly, none of which are dark chocolate.

I am happy about the pedometer for two reasons. First, I like the idea that my school and insurance company are focusing on health rather than sickness. And second, I like being rewarded for taking care of myself. I wish the rewards included reduced premiums for making good choices, but then the yearly salary of the company’s CEO – over $14 million – wouldn’t be so healthy. And like all insurance companies, mine is all about that kind of health.

Not my pedometer or your father's pedometer. More likely your great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great grandfather (if he happened to be from southern Germany).

Not my pedometer or your father’s pedometer. More likely your great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great grandfather (if he happened to be from southern Germany).

Besides making me happy, the pedometer reduces my paranoia a bit. I have a terrible habit of reading about medical horrors. In the age of the Internet, this is a very bad habit indeed. I have instant access to what is killing me, and you’d be surprised about how many germs, bacteria, viruses, syndromes, and diseases have it in for me. And now, chairs.

For millennia people have turned their backs on chair and mooned them – yes, mostly behind layers of clothing, but still. And do you think chairs just take it sitting down? If you answered yes, you’re right. Most chairs just sit there, though the occasional chair may swivel or rock. However, if you answered yes, you’re also wrong, because now chairs’ evil intentions have been revealed.

Sitting four hours or more at a time negatively affects insulin levels, good cholesterol, fat-burning ability, and bone density. Long-term sitters have shorter lives, which may or may not be a good thing, depending on how much you have saved for retirement. (Don’t take my word for it – about the chair sitting, not the retirement – take these words or these ones or these ones, but please put them back when you’re done.) So those lush, comfy recliners with cup holders and places for your remote calling you to sit back and relax are really just electric chairs covered in fabric. This saddens me because I always thought I had a good relationship with my rocking recliner where I write most of my posts. I’m pretty sure I have spent months of my life in that chair, never realizing those were the actual last months of my life. This concerns me. Not only will I die younger than I would have, but I will die out of order.

Several websites on the oracle known as Google recommend 10,000 steps per day to maintain health. That’s my aim and I better get to it. So far this morning, I’ve managed 57 steps from bed to bathroom to kitchen to chair. Only 9,943 to go.

 

 Photo courtesy of anagoria at Wikipedia.

Furniture for life

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Do you worry sometimes that your coffee table will not protect in case of an emergency? Or have you considered what you would do if you were innocently drinking coffee in your living room while watching the news that the zombie apocalypse had arrived, and just as the weather guy came on trying to hide his delight that another snowstorm was on its way, a zombie broke in with a gun? Finally, is it your considered opinion that every piece of furniture should serve more than one purpose, and the main purpose should be saving your life?

 

 

If you said yes to any or all of the above questions, I have two things to say to you. First, you may need professional help. And luckily for you, I profess to help others, so you could say I’m professional. Second, if you hurry, you might be able to get a piece of furniture that is easy to clean and, unlike your side table, can protect your life.

 

 

What am I talking about, you ask? That’s a good question, and it is one people frequently ask me. If you must know, I’m talking about the bullet resistant home defense coffee table offered on Craigslist.  I copied the text of the ad below and cannot take credit for the double “think”ing or the exclamation point.

 

 

Picture Bullet Resistant Home Defense Coffee Table

This coffee table is not only modern and will look great in your home but it can save your life. Bullet resistant acrylic 1 1/4" think (sic) x 24" wide x 48" long. As you can see we tested it out at 15 feet and the only think (sic) that could penetrate it and come out the other side with less than deadly force was a tactical slug. Please email for price!

 

For those whose home decorating style preference can best be described as Modern Paranoia, this is a must-have piece of furniture. Of course, if the person/zombie trying to shoot you while you are lounging in your living room is using tactical slugs, I think the bullet can penetrate the acrylic. Every time I read the ad, I get a bit confused. Is a tactical slug the only thing (think) that can penetrate with less than deadly force?  Just in case, it wouldn’t hurt to wear your bulletproof loungewear around the house. If you are reading this blog, I assume you have some.

 

 

If you would like a sofa to go with your coffee table, you can now order a bulletproof sofa with a hidden gun safe underneath the cushions. Go here to learn more about it.

 

 

Clearly it’s time for me to find a new recliner, perhaps one with a hidden grenade launcher that is released when I pull the lever for the leg rest. Of course, then I would have to have an armored TV in case I accidentally launched it when that weather guy came on.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Classless in Wisconsin

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The calendar and thermometer have been arguing about whether it’s really spring here in northeast Wisconsin. The calendar, who happened to major in English, has already written this year’s story and insists that we are just a Memorial Day away from unofficial summer. The thermometer, a math geek, sees the world in numbers, and kindly pointed out this morning that the number at 6 a.m. was 36 degrees. My heart is with the calendar, but my feet side with the thermometer.

Classroom 1900's

Be that as it may, could, would, or should, my school semester has ended, the papers and tests have been marked, and the grades put in. Now that I am no longer  teaching, you could say I was “classless.” (And you would not be the only one to say so.) For the next two months I plan to read, write, loll around, dither, wander and meander, and practice retirement.

 

However, since I believe that you’re never too old to learn something new, or too young to learn something old, or even too new to know now what you didn’t know then, I am looking into summer classes that I will not only enjoy but will also be able to apply toward maintaining my certification credentials.

 

(The 56-word sentence above, masquerading as a paragraph, gives me secret pleasure because while I don’t allow my students to get away with that kind of writing, I let myself get away with it. We teachers get our pleasures where we can.)

 

I found one writing class, which satisfies both my interest and my certification needs, but I have been hoping for another. So far I haven’t found anything, but I did create a wish list of classes I would be interested in.

 

  • Risk Management and Interplanetary Scandinavian Studies

 

  • Therapeutic Zoological Phonemes in the Writing of Dr. Seuss

 

  • Urban Uterine Ultrasound Graffiti

 

  • Astro-Psychology of Real and Unreal Estate

 

  • Obstetrics Music Performance
  • Electrical Entomology
  • Microscopic Macro Studies in Micro-Linguistic Microcosmic Microwave Microchips in Microbiology

 

  • Slavic Plant Pathology and Philosophy

 

  • Genealogical Genomes in Gender Genuflection

 

  • Ethics of Folkloric and Gnomic Engineering

 

  • Bovine Dance Studies

 

  • Collaborative Dolphin Engineering
  • Chicana/o Environmental Accounting Literature

 

  • Art History of Post-modern Horseshoes

If I can’t find anything else this summer, I guess I will have to wait until next year when I am classless once more.

 Classroom Photo

Windbreaking News: White-collar crimes

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My imagination has been investigating the case of Maureen O’Connor, the felonious former first female mayor of San Diego, who “donated” two million dollars from a philanthropic foundation to a number of casinos she frequented. Apparently, she misunderstood what the casinos meant when they told her they “worked with” people who have gambling addictions.

 

 

Ms. O’Connor’s attorney, Eugene Iredale, had this to say:

 This was not, we think, a psychiatric problem or a characterological defect because there is substantial evidence that during this same time, there was a tumor growing in her brain, in the centers of the brain that affect and control, logic, reasoning and, most importantly, judgment.

 

 

Due to these extenuating circumstances, Ms. O’Connor will undoubtedly receive a lighter sentence. However, word has leaked out (snuck out by my imagination from the unexplored part of my brain) that her lawyer, Mr. Iredale, is facing charges of his own.

 

 

Like his client, Mr. Iredale is being accused of misappropriation. In her case, it involves money and affects a limited number of people; in his case, it involves suffixes and affects all of us.

 

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As an attorney, Mr. Iredale has long lived in a lavish environment of polysyllabic diction (lots of big words) and now feels compelled to include at least one seven-syllable word every time he talks, even if it means stealing suffixes from legitimate, hardworking words. In the article on the CNN website, Mr. Iredale (now incurring ire over dale and hill) sticks a stolen “-ological” onto “character” and comes up with “characterological defect.” His crime may affect millions. Now that he has put that so-called word on the internet, people may start using “characterological,” which will cause other people to want to poke their ears with sharp sticks; and those poked-out ear people will need otolaryngological help, which will only be available if that particular suffix isn’t stolen. Clearly, this man must be punished.

 

 

Several local groups have laid claim to the suffix that Mr. Iredale so wantonly pilfered. The local San Diego Archea-……. Center insists he stole it from them. However, the Gastroenterology Department of the San Diego Mercy Hospital contends that the suffix belongs to them. Dr. Gutzman, head of the department and the man leading the probe into what happened to the tail end of their medical word, says he has been unable to treat any gastroenter-…….. problems since Iredale’s “appropriation.” In addition, Morton Liebig, has brought suit against Iredale. “I’ve been a path-……. liar all of my life, and since that article appeared on the CNN website, I have been diagnosed with WCTS (Washington’s Cherry Tree Syndrome) and can no longer tell a lie. I’m a lawyer, too, and now I’m out of work.”

 

 

The court, of course, will have to sort through these claims and make the final decision as to whose suffix Mr. Iredale stole.

 

 

According to sources in my own living room, Mr. Iredale plans to have an MRI to check the part of his brain that affects and controls “logic, reasoning, and most importantly, judgment.”

 

 

Ironic, no? Or as Mr. Iredale might say, “Ironicological, isn’t it?”

 

 

Photo: DN-0080053, Chicago Daily News negatives collection, Chicago History Museum.

 

Unclichéd

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According to me, clichés, once très nouveaux, began life as bon mots, lighting up conversations like small flambeaux, small feathers in speakers’ verbal chapeaux, as tasty as escargots. But, alas, alack the day, they grew stale, worn, dim, left as empty shells on the conversationalists’ dinner plate, having had their meat carefully extracted years ago.

 

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The matrix.

According to reliable sources (not me), printers are responsible for the first clichés, French for the stereotype blocks used to make books, pamphlets, and advertisements. Cliché, past participle of clicher, is derived from cliquer, the sound you know in English as “click.” After setting type, printers used pressure or heat to create a copy on heavy paper, plaster of Paris, or felt. They placed this copy, known as a matrix or mat, in a casting box, poured molten metal in, and voila, created a stereotype that could print endless copies of the original.

 

The stereotype.

The stereotype.

 

If you’re like me (and if so, please send my condolences to your family), you read that last paragraph and something in you clicked. Cliché, stereotype, casting – are we heading into a post about Hollywood movies? No, not today.

 

 

I have a soft spot in my heart for clichés. They remind me of photos of people in Wal-Mart. With a haircut, more clothes, and intensive therapy they would look just fine.

 

So, without further hellos, or as Shakespeare would surely say, without further ado about nothing, or as so many Americans mistakenly say, without further adieu, here are my suggestions.

 

At the crack of dawn could be the dawn-crack (much like daybreak) or dawn’s crack. Example: The minute I saw dawn’s crack, I knew it was time to leave. (Note: If your name is Dawn and you visit Wal-Mart, I am not talking about you.)

 

 

Few people cry over spilled milk, but many parents cry over spilled red Kool-Aid.

 

 

Since people are busier these days than they used to be, help in your hour of need needs to be reduced to your half-hour of need. The internet-addicted could stand by people in their five minutes of need.

 

 

We could give last but not least a rest and start using first but not most.

 

 

Climbing the ladder of success could be restated for the rich and powerful as stepping on the escalator of success.

 

 

The two clichés using “sad” need antonyms. Sad but true provides happy but false, and sadder but wiser gives us happier but stupider. Example: Yearstricken lost hours of her life clicking on links to funny tweets and lolcats, leaving her happier but stupider.

 

 

And finally, when people are clearly not worth their weight in gold, we could at least allow that they are worth their weight in aluminum.

 

 

 

Photos:

Stereotype: http://digital.nls.uk/50years/pops/1971b.html

Matrix: http://the-print-guide.blogspot.com/2010/05/wayback-view-stereotype-plate-making.html

Frequently Not Asked Questions: Three

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Why is your hair still brown?

 

First, let me say that I have never seen or heard of the color “still brown,” so I cannot answer your question.

 

However, since you asked and made me look, I checked online and discovered that a number of stills are, in fact, brown. My hair color is very close to the still used to make Ukrainian vodka that is pictured in Wikipedia, kindly offered to the world by Arne Hückelheim. So that answers the question you didn’t ask: Is your hair still brown? The answer is yes; however, I much prefer that you call it moonshine brown.

 

Now back to your question. What exactly are you trying to imply? Are you interested in probability theory? Did you suddenly notice the green grass in the picture of the vodka still and realize that I have green eyes? Do find that odd? Or is it just me? More importantly, shouldn’t that last question really be: Or is it just I?

 

Naturally (and that’s what were really talking about when we speak of hair color) all those minor questions lead to the ultimate question: What are the odds of having both brown hair and green eyes?

 

I don’t mind answering that question, but if that is what you are asking, I wish you would have come out and asked me that in the first place.

 

As you know if you have ever taken Biology 301 Biomathematics at the University of British Columbia, Dr. Sarah Otto asked her students that very question in her lecture notes and gave a simple formula to discover the answer based on Bayes’ Rule.

 

P(B|A) = P(B) P(A|B) / P(A)

 

If you are like Dr. Otto, you probably understand this; if you’re like me, you don’t. To me, it looks like someone stuttering in math.

 

(Oddly, the motto at UBC is “a place of mind,” written in lowercase letters. Apparently the Biomathematics department took all of the capital letters to use in its program, so none were left for the motto. The world is full of these small sorrows.)

 

Third (and this is my last attempt to answer your question), I entered the world with dark brown, almost black hair. Somewhere along the way, I lost it and started wearing blond hair. In adolescence I grew tired of that, looked in the mirror one day and noticed I was a brown-haired girl, the literal meaning of brunette, so I forsook blondism. My freshman year in high school, I grew nostalgic, remembered the fun I had as a child and bleached my hair blonde. I didn’t have more fun, so my sophomore year I returned to my roots and went au naturel, hairwise.

 

Fourth, if you must know, my hair color is merely a pigment of my imagination.