Thursday, November 19, 2009

52-Card Throw Up

Today's word:  little slam.  Definition:  The winning of all tricks except one in bridge.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and assume that this refers to the card game.  And then I'm going to go even further out on that limb and admit that (please don't judge me) I hate cards.  Yes, that's right.  If I'm ever at your house and you suggest a rousing round of this activity, perhaps after we've consumed a lovely meal and are enjoying a glass or two of liquor, know that this sentence will strike a bit of panic in my heart: "Let's play cards."

Ooooh, yes, let's not and say we did.  It's not that I think card games are stupid. On the contrary, I believe there's a great deal of skill in playing them well.  Skill that I do not possess and have proven myself incapable of acquiring. I've been shown how to play poker and hearts and whist, you name it.  Nothing stuck.  When it comes to strategy and playing the odds and figuring out how much to wager and learning all the rules and all the hands ... well, I just don't get it.  My brain doesn't work like that.  I'm pretty much an idiot, and not in a Rain Man sort of way.  If it's not solitaire or spoons, forget it ... definitely, definitely forget it.

So cards, not so much.  But I'm all about board games.  Love 'em.  Anytime I can get a group of people together to shout out words or roll dice or draw pictures while an hourglass runs out, I'm a happy camper.  

This joy, of course, does not apply to the game "Sorry," which is just pure evil and designed to make you almost punch your best friend's husband, and "Monopoly," which lasts too long and frankly has never once ended well in my experience.  In gradeschool my sister and I finished a heated game by hurling the pieces at each other across the living room.  The houses and hotels I could take, but that little Scottie dog smarted.  Do not pass the emergency room, do not collect your copay.

My absolute favorite board game is one called, simply enough, "The Barbie Game."  I grew up playing with my mom's original set, circa 1960.  It's based on the doll, and it goes thusly:  You have four main requirements.  You must earn money, buy a dress, become a member of a school club, get a boyfriend, go steady, and finally, the ultimate goal ... become queen of the prom.

I'm guessing that this embodied the pinnacle of what your average girl thought she could strive for in 1960, so I'm not knocking it.  There was some strategy involved.  For example, don't blow all your money on the Solo in the Spotlight dress.  You can get by well enough with a cheaper one and be on your way to the malt shoppe quicker.  Also, you definitlely want to date Ken.  He's the hottest of the four boyfriends.  Tom has a Clark Kent quality about him that's mildly appealing, and Bob will do in a pinch, but you don't want to end up at the dance on Poindexter's arm.  No, that simply won't do.

Two years ago on Christmas Eve, my sister's friend Tyler came over (as he does every year, since his family is Buddhist and doesn't care that he's getting his Santa fix).  As we always do, we drank heavily and ate all manner of sweets and played a game.  We chose "The Barbie Game," largely because my dad was pouring us shots called Grandpa is Alive, I think. 

Tyler was a good sport about it.  But he apparently felt so emasculated that he found it necessary to pretend not that he was a high school girl purchasing a dress, but a pimp, buying up women and blinging them out.  This seemed to work for him, and I thought it was probably an aptly updated version.

As I recall, his strategy worked, and he did indeed become Queen of the Prom.  Or, in his case, King of the Playa's Ball, depending on how you look at it.  In a way, he achieved a kind of "little slam," winning all tricks except two -- my sister and I, who were left with only our memberships in the Scholarship Club and the Music Club, doomed to pursue terribly boring lives in academia rather than cherishing a tiara. 

But I didn't care. I had Ken.  And not only were we going steady, but I had mom's car and an extra ten bucks.  Screw you, Solo in the Spotlight.  You wouldn't have made it past first base anyway.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Stop, Duck, and Roll

I just have to share this, because it truly was one of those gifts from above that I will treasure always.  The other morning I was waiting at the bus stop, and I saw this group of ducks fly overhead.  There are always tons of them hanging around the pond at the nursing home nearby, presumably plotting their escape from this soon-to-be frigid wasteland.

So a few of them come in for a landing on the grass right in front of me, except the lawn slopes downward pretty steeply.  And one of the ducks apparently misjudged the incline, because instead of gliding in gracefully, he crashed.  This isn't the funny part.  The funny part is that after crashing, he rolled, about three or four times, down the hill, and all I saw were these two little orange duck feet splayed in the air, going end over end.

And then, when he finally skidded to a stop and righted himself, I swear he looked around to see who was watching . . . and saw me, doubled over laughing.

I wanted to say, "Dude, how could you screw that up?  Landing is like your only job in this world.  Fly, land, quack, swim, eat, poop on unfortunate people and objects, and look good stuffed.  We don't ask much from your species.  Hell, we didn't even make Donald wear pants!"

But I think it was Mother Nature's way of saying, "Eh, we don't always get it right, either."  I find that reassuring.  I'll try to remember it the next time I have my own crash landing on the ice.  That duck will hopefully be long gone by then, but if he's not, I hope to look up from my crumpled heap and see him giving me mad webbed props from across the street.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Sole Train

No word today, just a topic.

So I'm having a bit of an obsession right now with Golden Grahams.  The cereal, not some funky new street drug.  I can't seem to eat enough of them, and I put away about three bowls a day over the weekend.  I do this pretty often with food, just get on a kick and consume something constantly until that undefinable moment when my tastes swing from "Hell, yes!" to "Never again."

The worst time was when I got a quesadilla maker for Christmas. For about four months, that was all I ate every night after work.  Of course I haven't even been able to look at the thing since, but it was fun while it lasted.  Oh, quesadilla maker, don't feel sad.  It's not you, it's me.

I wonder if I'm able to get in these habits simply because I live alone. If I'd felt I needed to justify my dietary patterns to anyone, I might have made an effort to include some variety, or at least felt a twinge of shame at the monotony.  As it is, there's no one to judge me for anything I happen to do.  Eat cookies for supper?  So what.  Fry an egg at 2 a.m.?  Try to stop me. Make brownies and cut out the very middle piece?  Suck it, I'll do what I want.

I once had this conversation with my sister, who also lives alone:
Sister: "Would you judge me if I told you I made a cake yesterday and it's almost gone already?"
Me: "No."
Sister: "How about if I never even put the slices on plates and instead just ate it right out of the pan?"
Me:  "Of course not."
Sister: "What if told you I just left the pan by the side of my bed with a fork in it?"

I say, your house, your rules.  And it doesn't just apply to food.  Does anyone ever close their bathroom door when they live alone?  Or get dressed immediately after a shower?  Or not have the TV, radio, and computer on while talking on the phone? .... they do?  Well, as Bobby Brown so eloquently put it, that's my prerogative.  If I want to keep the thermostat at 75 or stay up till 4 a.m. watching old movies, who's going to complain?  That's the beauty of independence.

I have a sneaking suspicion that my friends with kids secretly hate me for this.  Since I have yet to find that special someone to start a brood with, I have the luxuries of sleeping till noon on Saturdays, discretionary income, and the freedom that comes with virtually no major responsibilities.  Does that make me spoiled or selfish?  Perhaps if I'd turned down several serious marriage offers in favor of carefree living. In reality, my lifestyle isn't decadent or somehow less valuable because I'm single ... it's just different.  I'm working with what I have at the moment, and I'm good with that.

On the downside, you have to learn to keep yourself pretty entertained.  This might have been a problem for me before I lived in Japan for a year -- not so anymore. With almost no one to talk to or anything in English to read, I was forced to be creative.  When I wasn't killing cockroaches or avoiding my topless old lady neighbor, I spent my evenings trying to decipher crazy gameshows on TV and attempting to bake banana bread in my rice cooker. When that failed to amuse, I once resorted to choreographing a routine to the theme song from "Shaft." 

I soon decided that the equation for a tolerable single existence is this:  happiness = the amount of time spent dancing in your living room ... in your underwear.

I honestly don't remember the last time I was bored.  I can't stand hearing someone whining about not having anything to do, because there's always something to do.  What they're really saying is, "There's nothing I want to do."  Did I want to learn the katakana alphabet, or how to whistle the Himi High School song, or every single line in "The Naked Gun," or all the lyrics after "He's a bad mother --shut your mouth?"  No.  But I did it, and now I own it.  Forever.
Sometimes, you gotta make do with what you have.  You gotta find that happy place to escape to in your own head.  You gotta shake what your momma gave you. And you gotta do it to music, alone, wearing as little as possible. Preferably eating a bowl of Golden Grahams.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Nocturnal Admissions

Today's word: dreamcheater.  Definition: I don't think this is actually a word, but it should be.  One who engages in imaginary romantic affairs in their sleep, despite being attached in their waking life.

OK, so halfway through today I remembered that I had a great dream last night about George Clooney.  I love it when I don't recall things like this until mid-morning.  It's like Christmas.  Only instead of a crappy holiday sweater, I got to unwrap God's gift to women.

Unfortunately, it wasn't a steamy dream.  Here's the scenario:  I was outdoors, I saw his adorable little dog running wild, and I snagged it off the sidewalk so I could return it to him.  I'm pretty sure this was premeditated; although I am a dog lover, I loves me some Clooney even more.  Anyway, I then got to lounge around on his couch with him while he thanked me and flirted with me.  Dammit, even in my dreams I'm not easy!

You know, I have a happily married friend who dreamcheats all the time.  It's unbelievable.  And it's not even with movie stars or made-up men .. it's with actual boyfriends from her past.  I'm not passing judgment.  As long as these guys confine themselves to REM, more power to her.  I'm just disappointed that, as a single girl, I rarely take the opportunity to get freaky even when I'm asleep.

Of course, my dreams are freaky in all sorts of other ways.  I dream every night, without exception, vividly.  I may not always remember every moment, but I never wake up without having undergone what felt like hours and hours of either an adventure or an ordeal.  I dream in color.  I have recurring dreams.  I can still remember ridiculous dreams I had as a kid.  And though I'm 31 years old, I cannot seem to dream about any house other than the one I grew up in.

Sometimes I have nightmares.  But this, I think, you'd have to expect.  Take the bad with the good.  If I get to occasionally wake up actually laughing, I have to pay my dues by jolting awake short of breath, my heart pounding through my shirt.  My nightmares typically revolve around being chased, and wouldn't you know it, I can never run at a normal speed, because my legs feel like they each weigh 200 lbs.  I'm just glad I don't have my mom's recurring nightmare of being in someone's house, though you know you're not supposed to be, and hearing them come home.  Shudder.

So what do they mean?  Beats me.  I don't think that subconsciously I'm trying to run from a haunting past or that my mom is secretly a cat burglar . . . although she does own a suspiciously large amount of silver and ski masks.  I'm not sure there's too much value in deciphering the junk our minds spit up and play around with at night. But it sure can be amusing.  Here's one of the funniest dreams I've ever had (I've never been able to tell this story in person without crying laughing, so I hope typing it goes better.)

Sidenote:  I had this dream while living in Japan, and you'll understand the references soon enough.  It occurred about five hours after having a horrifyingly slimy and gelatinous meal with all the teachers at my school, and about a week after watching "Jurassic Park" on English TV.
The dream:  I'm in a shopping center, and Godzilla is attacking the city. (I'm not making this up.)  Everybody is screaming, and I head out of the mall to run for my life, but not before pausing to convince two teenage boys to stop looting an electronics store and run for their lives.  I burst out into the street and look up, and there's Godzilla, looking suspiciously like the T-Rex from Spielberg's movie.  And then, right in the middle of all the chaos, he sweeps his head down low over the hordes of shrieking people, and he growls very loudly and slowly, "Motherfuckers!"

I don't know what's funnier -- that he can talk at all, or that it came out like a roar, or that of all things, that expletive most perfectly expresses his feelings at that exact moment.  Whatever it was, this dream was similar to my dream last night, in that I didn't remember it until halfway through the next afternoon.  Everyone looked at me funny when I doubled over laughing in the teachers' room at school (for no apparent reason), but then again, they looked at me funny most of the time.

Isn't it crazy how dreams, or just the sense of them, can stay with you?  Sometimes you get up and go to work and just feel weird all day.  It's even worse when you've dreamed about someone from work.  And it's downright awkward if you've had a sex dream about them.  It's also strange to still be mad at someone for something they did in a dream. My sister once couldn't talk to me for two days because I'd done something unforgivable in her subconscious ... completely made up and entirely untrue, but unforgivable.

But we can't help it, can we.  They seem real, our feelings are real.  We have no control over what pops out when we shut our eyes. If we did, I'd be flying all night every night.  With a layover at George's house. Pun intended.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Dance Party US

Today's word:  lazy.  Definition: me.

I didn't actually look this one up, since ... well, I'm lazy.  Not all the time, but in select moments, shockingly so.  For instance, about two minutes ago I was lying here on the couch, and something caught the corner of my eye, and I looked up to see a gigantic spider scurrying down the wall, just as fast as its eight enormous legs could carry it.

And I did nothing.  Granted, I am lying on a heating pad, having done something inexplicable and annoyingly painful to my hip, and killing this thing would have required cat-like reflexes that I simply do not possess at the moment. But it unnerves me a bit that not even the threat of that same brazen arachnid scurrying over my bare feet within the hour could induce me to get up.

Because that's what they will do, surely.  It is our greatest fear.  Those creepy creatures that inhabit our homes always -- yet are only sporadically driven into the light, much to their embarrassment and our horror -- harbor a secret desire to do only one thing:  crawl on us.  Their secret agenda is to dance across our skin, preferably in the middle of the night, when we cannot feel their multiple feet tap-tap-tapping away, like a little Fred Astaire with a thorax.

Otherwise, why would we be so scared of them?

There's nothing worse than attempting to kill a bug and failing.  This means that, not only is it still lurking somewhere in your bedroom, but it saw your face as you tried to squish it.  And now it's pissed.  This is why I'm a fan of sprays rather than shoes as weapons of death.  You can't really "miss" with a spray. Plus, you don't have to hear anything crunch.  As an added bonus, nothing escapes the tissue and scurries across your hand as you screech like a schoolgirl.

Which I have done, despite psyching myself up and trash-talking whatever's hanging on my wall. I don't know why I turn these encounters into a battle royale, as if I'm playing out a confrontation foretold in an ancient legend.  I half expect whatever it is to turn to me with a steely glare and growl, "It's a good day to die."

Sometimes, with spiders, I live and let live, depending on their proximity to my pillow.  There are moments when I hope they will cry out "Salutations!" and spin a delightful web with the words "Some Pig" in it.  I should stop doing this, assigning insects human traits. It would make flushing their bodies so much easier.

Centipedes are another story.  I am literally distraught if I miss one of those bastards.  Cockroaches?  That's a whole other blog and likely a lifetime of psychological counseling.

For now, I'm going to pretend that I never saw that spider.  I'm going to let it go.  And against all my better instincts, I'm going to assume that I will not wake up at 3 a.m. with tiny dance cards strewn about my sheets.


Monday, November 9, 2009


Today's word: mediatrix.  Definition: A woman who is a mediator.

I've never thought about this before, but I'm guessing that the suffix "trix" can only be added to words that end in "tor."  As in "dominatrix" is a female "dominator," and "terminatrix" is a female "terminator."  This is a shame, really, since adding "trix" makes everything sound so much more badass.

For example, if I told you we were going to resolve our differences with the aid of a mediator, you would think, "Okay, fine. A calm, unbiased third party will help us gain perspective."  But if I told you our session was being conducted by a mediatrix, you might assume there would be whips and chains involved.

Because of course "trix" has gained the scandalous reputation as being associated with sado-masochistic sexual appetites and conjures images of a leather-clad seductress in stilettos spanking a submissive.  At least it does for those of us who had cable growing up.

I think it would be interesting to combine mediatrix and dominatrix as a profession, and to send this woman in to broker the vote on healthcare.  I'm willing to bet we get an acceptable resolution much faster if the threat of being hog-tied and doused with hot wax looms large over the senate chambers. Would "death panel" be a good safeword? Then again, we are talking about Washington, which seems to be a veritable breeding ground for disturbing nocturnal extracurriculars, so maybe this effort would backfire.

I once heard the phrase "With great power comes great libido," and I wonder if that's true.  It seems to be.  It does appear that the "L" in "election" immediately transforms into an "R" the minute the polls close.  But I also wonder if we would be equally shocked, if not more so, to learn what our neighbors do behind closed doors. 

Not that I intend to pry.  I really do think I'm better off not knowing -- ignorance is bliss when it comes to learning embarrassing secrets about people you need to talk to every day.  I will probably have a difficult time interacting with you if I automatically picture you in lacy underwear. Especially if you're a dude.  That's a keep-it-to-yourselfer.

Here's another example.  When I was in college, my friends and I lived on the top floor of our dorm, and the antennas on the roof often interfered with any electronic equipment.  Stereos, computers, you name it. They sometimes went on the fritz.  For a few days, this phenomenon affected my friend's cordless phone, and she could pick up other people's conversations.

One night, she happened upon two people who were ... how shall I put it ... enjoying each other verbally.  Toward the "end" of the conversation, (let's call it the climax, for lack of a better word) the man took it upon himself to call out the woman's name.  Her FULL name.

a.  Who does that?
b.  Why did it have to be someone I knew?
c.  Why did I have to sit next to her in Biology 110?

These are all valid questions, I think.  Suffice it to say that I found it hard to share notes without inquiring if it was good for her.  Maybe we could have been lab partners with the help of a mediatrix.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Judy, Judy, Judy

Today's word: oreodont.  Definition: Any of various extinct sheep-sized ruminant artiodactyls of the family Merycoidodontidae, widespread during part of the Tertiary in North America.

Cross-referenced sub-definition for those of us who understood nothing after sheep-sized:  artiodactyl means a hoofed mammal that has an even number of toes on each foot.

I'm was trying not to get hung up on the "oreo" part of this word, since I dwelled on doughnuts in my last post, but I've really been on a kick lately with "milk's favorite cookie."  Oreos hold a special place in my heart, largely because I spent every Saturday morning as a kid with a huge stack of them, a cold glass of milk, and Muppet Babies on TV.  

I'm a bit of an Oreo purist -- I don't do double stuff or mint or peanut butter or golden or whatever the hell else they have out on the market these days.  I like 'em simple and I like 'em a little soggy, and I especially like 'em in ice cream.  Every time I go to Dairy Queen, I intend to try something new, and inevitably I walk out with an Oreo Blizzard.  If I could have one of those and a mocha frappuccino every day, I'd be in heaven. I'd be 400 lbs. and broke, but I'd be in heaven.

So there's the first part of "oreodont," but I should probably address what it means.  I don't know much about sheep, other than I've heard they're super dumb and just will not stop screaming, despite rigorous analysis by institutionalized cannibalistic psychopaths.

But my first memory is actually of a sheep, a stuffed lamb that someone gave to my sister when she was born.  It might have been the fact that she was ill that cemented this memory in my head, because I also remember the little oxygen tent and standing on our driveway when my dad came home from the hospital.  Is 2 years 11 months too young to have a memory?  

In any case, getting a sister seems like as good a time as any to start remembering things, although I don't recall walking into her room while she was sleeping and flipping on the light in protest.  Evidently I was quite the little shit those first few months. Apparently I told my mother I was going to lock myself in my bedroom until I got a brother.  I would still be there.

The story my family and friends love to tell about me, and the one I will share with you now, involves me wanting, and I quote, "a little black baby named Judy."  I don't know where I got this idea, but according to my parents, when anyone asked them what our new family addition was going to be, I responded with this phrase. This declaration must have seemed perfectly reasonable to me, and I proclaimed it joyfully to whoever would listen.  (I talked early and coherently ... and I talked a lot. I'm quite sure I'm getting several motormouthed offspring in retribution.)

But alas, when delivery day arrived, out popped yet another white kid of German-Russian heritage, to be named not Judy but Meghan and who would never sprout an afro.  I, on the other hand, would rock the 'fro from second grade until seventh, courtesy of bad perms.

I'm not sure this dream of mine has completely died, however, since I've always wanted to adopt children and would be delighted if they were of a different ethnicity.  And I'm not alone.  I was recently talking with a friend about how beautiful multi-racial kids are, and she confessed that she's always wanted an African-American baby ... with apologies to her husband, who is as white as she is. Since they plan to conceive the old-fashioned way, I asked her husband what he planned to do about that.  His reply: "Work late?"
I don't think my dad spent too many neglectful nights at the office, judging by the fact that my sister looks just like him, and I look just like my mom.  My sister and I look nothing like each other, and though I've always been curious about how it would feel to be instantly recognizable as siblings, I've never truly lamented the fact that we each have our separate identities. (I've also never held a grudge against her skin color, which would have been an instant conversation-starter for awhile there.)

In the end, what binds us together isn't eye color or bone structure -- it's knowing someone who's known you since the beginning, the person you made your first memories with. Mine started with a lamb.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

You Blinded Me With Pastry

Today's word: tokamak.  Definition: A doughnut-shaped chamber used in fusion research in which a plasma is heated and confined by magnetic fields.

Okay, you had me briefly at "doughnut," and then you lost me.

I'm the first to admit that science is not my strong suit.  My strengths lie in the verbal region, not so much in the quantum physics area ... or maybe even basic chemistry.  Wouldn't know, never took it.  Avoided physics like the plague.  I can't read a periodic table for shit, but I can knock you out a quality limerick in about five minutes:

There once was a girl with a blog
Who kept her kind readers agog
With quick random thoughts
Some not quite for tots
Her daily life became a log

There you go.  Is this a useful talent?  Probably not.  I'm not going to discover a cure for cancer via wordsmithing, and I haven't yet been able to turn these skills into anything remotely marketable or profitable. 

Maybe I should have concentrated on the sciences in school.  I did enjoy biology, but that was largely because my high school teacher showed us controversial videos and conducted a class urine lab, before which my friend Josh's sample leaked in his shirt pocket. And also because my friend Rachel danced her fetal pig across the table for me just before we dissected it.  Good times.

In college, I took the bare minimum science requirement, putting it off until spring semester of my senior year.  In fact, I ended up taking it with my sister, who's two years younger.  Just before our final exam, she tried to persuade me to put in a long study session with her.  I chalked this up to sophomore zeal and, suffering from a terrible case of senioritis, did the one rebellious thing of my liberal arts career and blew off preparing for it. 

The next day, as I paged through nine terrifying pages of test, realizing that I knew almost none of the answers, I glanced over to find a tiny smile on my sibling's face as she breezed through it. She aced it -- I passed.

Despite those two hours of panic, I don't necessarily regret that decision.  Honestly, if I had college to do over again, I would have blown off more study sessions and had a bit more fun.  As it was, I worked my ass off for four years, and none of it was easy.  Well, except for "Shakespeare: The Movie," which was perhaps the greatest class ever invented.

But you have to go with your strengths, right?  I mean, I'm reasonably intelligent and have a pretty decent memory, so I'm fairly confident that I could have prepared for a completely different career path and been at least competent in my field. Case in point:  I'm not good at math, but I pulled straight A's in high school simply because I went in 45 minutes early every morning and got help from Mr. Smart ... who was, indeed, very smart, although Mr. Patient might have described him better.

Would every day be torture if you weren't doing what came naturally to you?  Maybe.  But it might be the kind of torture that comes with a much higher salary, and that would make up for some of the pain.  Don't get me wrong -- nobody is more surprised than me that I can actually make a living with an English degree.  Excerpt from every career conversation I had during college:

Small-minded person:  "What are you majoring in?"
Me:  "English.  With minors in history and religion."
Small-minded person:  "What are you going to do with that?"
Me:  "Correct your grammar, remind you that all this stuff has happened before, and debate whether there's anyone up there who actually cares."

(Sidenote:  I never correct people's grammar.  I find it insulting and pretentious.  Just so you know.)

So I guess we take the talents we're given, even if they seem as minuscule as fixing misplaced modifiers and run-on sentences, and we run with them, and hopefully spin them into something we can stand to do for 8 hours a day and sometimes beyond. We all have our little niche. Some of us are ridiculously amused by misspelled words, and others geek out over doughnut-shaped tokamaks.  But we shouldn't try to pretend we're something that we're not.

Mmmmm ..... doughnuts.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Deep Woods On

Today's word: mosquito.  Definition: If you don't know what a mosquito is, please visit Minnesota in July for a complete and painful education.

I have to go on record here by saying that, luckily, I am one of those people who don't attract these little buggers in droves (much like single straight men as well, evidently). In fact, I just read an article that was devoted entirely to the study of why mosquitoes are attracted to some people and not others.  It might be chemicals, or hormones, or pheromones, but some of us can gallop through a field at dusk and come away with just a few nibbles, while others can wave an arm out the car window and pull it back covered in red welts.  My dad is the latter.

If my dad even thinks of venturing outside in prime mosquito season, I'm convinced that's the signal for the half-dozen rogue insect agents who have been hiding inside the house to attack him.  Nothing works to keep them at bay, but he has found a product that eases the irritation following the assault.  It's a skinny white tube called Skeeter Stick.

I don't know what's in this magical medical wand, but whatever it is, it's strong enough to nearly knock out a full-grown poodle when sniffed.  How do I know this?  I plead the fifth.  And before you cry animal cruelty, you should know that that dog suffered no long-term ill effects and lived to be 17.

So my father spends the better part of the summer girding his loins and every other part of his body against creatures whose only purpose in life is to feed on human blood.  You know what else does that?  Vampires.  

And yet, somehow we don't romanticize mosquitoes in the quite the same way.  I have yet to pick up a series of teen novels that feature handsome, brooding, misunderstood mosquitoes who are hopelessly attracted to the lonely, edgy girl in school and can't help embroiling her in the mayhem of evil ticks and fleas.

I really don't get this vampire obsession that has sprung up in the last year or so.  Sure, it's sexy to fall under the spell of someone irresistible who wants nothing more than to devour your neck . . . as long as they don't also intend to drain you of life-sustaining fluids and transform you into the undead.  Leave a hickey if you must -- I can fix that with a turtleneck.  But nothing they sell at Old Navy will cover up an eternity of insatiable thirst for human blood. 

Maybe I'm simply too old to swoon over the delicious danger of cavorting with parasites, even if they do look like Robert Pattinson.  But I guess if Hollywood can romanticize vampires, it could probably work similar magic with West Nile.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Eight is Enough

Apologies. The last two weeks have had me working overtime at the job that actually pays my bills, and I haven't had enough mental energy left at the end of the day to post.  What's that?  Yes, I think I would like some cheese with my whine.  Here we go.

Today's word: octosyllable.  Definition: A word of eight syllables.

First thought: Isn't it odd that the word octosyllable only has five syllables? 
Second thought: How many words out there really do have eight syllables?

Like any person today with a healthy amount of curiosity, I naturally pulled up my search engine and typed in "eight syllable words."  Here are some that I found:  unconstitutionality, electronegativity, (you can keep on counting them on your fingers, I know you're doing it) unidirectionality, autosuggestibility.  I'm not sure whether these are actual words, although they seem legitimate enough.  I would have opened yet another tab to check, but I was stopped by the following suggestion to the eight-syllable question on Yahoo Answers.  

Yes, Yahoo Answers, that bastion of intellectualism (in-tel-lect...damn, only seven) that beckons to the desperate and downtrodden.  This was an "answer" (we didn't say they would all be right, now did we) posted by someone:  antidisestablishmentarianism.

Now, I don't know if I should be comforted by the fact that this "answer" (I have to keep using quotes, because the term is so loose) received zero votes on the site, presumably of confidence in the future of mankind, or if I should be even more disturbed by the fact that someone out there either doesn't know what a syllable is or mysteriously has twelve fingers on which to count them.

But really, shouldn't we expect to receive some ludicrous responses when we essentially ask thousands of complete strangers to weigh in on our issues? You'd have to imagine you'd get a cross-section of the population, which includes morons, dimwits, and your general idiots.

We don't do this in real life.  When I have a question or a problem, I don't think to myself, "Who's the dumbest person I know?  Let's get that perspective.  Yeah."  No, I go to someone with either expertise in the subject or life experience, someone whose opinions I respect or whose views are valuable. This is not to say you might not find a similar guru on Yahoo Answers ... but the law of averages says that most of the really quality minds are busy elsewhere.

Unless, of course, your question is potentially embarrassing, in which case, the Internet would seem to be the greatest invention ever.  One of my friends recently told me that there's nothing sadder than going into Google, typing in "can you" and seeing what autopopulates to finish the question.  Go ahead, do it.  It's an interesting window into what's foremost on the minds of America's youth. 

If you're not up to it, let me summarize by saying that there are countless young girls out there who are unnecessarily confused by all the ways in which a person can and cannot become pregnant.  I couldn't help but be reminded of a conversation I overheard on the bus about six months ago between two girls.  I'd estimate their ages at about 16.  It was slightly dramatic and vulgar, and the end went like this:

Girl #1:  "I ain't worried bout gettin' pregnant, cause I'm on the pill."
Girl #2:  "Girl, the pill don't keep you from gettin' pregnant.  It just kill yo baby."

I don't know what was said after that, because my ears were bleeding from the sheer ignorance.  I was engaged in an internal debate about whether to turn and correct them when I almost missed my stop.  At the time, I wasn't sure it was my place to intervene.  But in light of the internet question forum phenomenon, which dictates rightness by popular opinion, maybe I should have.  Perhaps we've been leaving them to Yahoo Answers for too long.