Leave Your Message After The Beep

I have things neatly arranged so an e-mail is generated whenever a call comes in to the phone at home.

I realize that may sound strange and other-worldly, so for any millennials who might be reading this, I’ll explain:

A “home phone” is a telephone that stays in the house.  Odd, I know.

This comes in handy for people like me who happen to know a lot of other people who were born in the previous century.  This population still believes calling “home” is the best way to reach someone.  Should one of these troglodytes leave a message, I’ll be able to read it within moments.

That is seldom the case these days.  And yesterday, a very 21st century thing happened.



That’s right.  If you read between the lines, you can see that a machine called my machine and left a message.

That message was sent by the machine on the desk at home to the machine in my pocket.  The message?
Press 3 to tell the machine not to call my machine anymore.

I listened to the message and I can confirm that’s what happened.  Unfortunately, when I heard the message, it was too late to press 3 to do anything, because the machine that called was no longer listening.

Too bad.  I regret the missed opportunity that could have led to fewer machine-generated calls in the future.

I think what I need is a machine that can respond quickly by pressing 3 when it matters most.  Then I wouldn’t have to know anything had happened.

Twenty years from now, how will messages reach you?  




Space Shanties

Today’s post comes from Captain Billy, skipper of the pirate ship Muskellunge.


Me an’ me boys is crazy-excited t’ hear that NASA has discovered a underground ocean on th’ largest moon of Jupiter!

Not that we’s lookin’ fer other seas t’ sail, on account of this one here is fine, an’ plenty large enough. Plus, a Jovian Lunar ocean with a roof over it made of 95 miles of ice raises serious questions about navigation an’ winds an’ how tall can yer mast be t’ keep from scrapin’ th’ underside.

There’s no disagreement among me boys on this point – a ocean up in the stars don’t have th’ same allure as th’ one under the stars that we all enjoys so much.

But th’ possibilities is what has us thrilled.

If there’s oceans out there orbitin’ that vast gas giant, then what’s there t’ prevent there from bein’ Jupiter pirates? An’ if there’s Jupiter pirates, don’t it follow that there’d be Jupiter grog an’ Jupiter booty?

All of it incredibly massive, of course!

So naturally our imaginations ran away wit’ us, an we began t’ wonder what sort of sea shanty we might sing up there if we went, even though there’s no way we’d go (so don’t ask)!

Th’ song we made up is t’ th’ tune of one of our home world favorites – Stormalong.

O we’re sailin’ under an icy dome.
Way,hay, Ganymede.
We’re a long long way from our Earthly home.
Aye aye we’re on Ganymede.

An’ there ain’t no wind for to fill our sails
Way, hay, Ganymede.
It ain’t clear what sailin’ here entails.
Aye aye we’re on Ganymede.

But the ocean’s salty an’ dark and deep.
Way, hay, Ganymede.
If there’s monsters in it, let them sleep!
Aye aye we’re on Ganymede.

If there’s fishes swimmin’ beneath our feet
Way, hay, Ganymede
Please be slow an’ fat an’ O.K. to eat.
Aye Aye we’re on Ganymede.

Though it’s scary here an’ th’ water’s cold,
Way, hay, Ganymede
May the seas be calm an’ the booty gold!
Aye Aye we’re on Ganymede.

When you’re far away, what song reminds you of home?

Pi Day Squared

Today’s post is a re-post of a guest post from two years ago, when Sherrilee first discussed Pi Day.

I’m a geek. I admit it. I love trivia; I love learning things. I have three magazine subscriptions: MentalFloss, Scientific American and National Geographic. I love Star Trek and have seen every episode of The Big Bang Theory. So three years ago when I first read that there are people out there who celebrate Pi Day, I was intrigued.

Pi is the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter and is expressed as – 3.1415926…. into infinity. It’s decimal representation goes on forever and never repeats. Since March 14 is 3/14, it has been adopted as the day to celebrate the mathematical constant of pi. There is even a website where you can send Pi Day email cards and see Pi Day videos.

Although I’m not a serious fan of math, Pi Day seemed like a perfect holiday for my inner geek.

Last year I convinced my boss that I should be able to use my floating holiday for Pi Day and then sent out a few invitations to my neighbors. I pulled out all my cookbooks that might possibly have pie recipes in them and poured through them. Over the weekend before Pi Day, I did all the shopping – had to hit three different stores to get everything. I even stopped at the local liquor store and let the sales people recommend three bottles of wine that would “go with pie”.

The weather on Pi Day was wonderful. I was able to open all the windows to get fresh air and the sun streamed into the kitchen while I worked. I made seven kinds of pie: Dutch Apple, Cherry Apricot with Almond Crumbles, Bannoffee (toffee with bananas and whipped cream), Pecan, Peanut Butter with Chocolate Chips on a Pretzel Crust, Blueberry and finally, Crack Pie (gooey butter on an oatmeal cookie crust). The refrigerator had to be completely re-organized and I had to press the fireplace mantel into service to keep the finished pies out of reachof the dogs.

Everything turned out like it should and tasted great. It was relaxing to spend the day in the kitchen and it was fun to have another holiday in March to celebrate.

What is your favorite Pi(e)?

Burn After Reading

Once I heard that some state officials in Florida have been cautioned against using the words “climate” and “change” right next to each other” in official documents, I felt inspired.

Not by the restriction, but by the way it appears to have been delivered.

Such a written rule would be subject to ridicule of course. But it appears this bit of language and thought control (if it exists), is being carried out as a matter of verbal-only policy making.

This is genius, and also a throwback.

For eons human beings have remembered complex stories and concepts through an oral tradition and the construction of elaborate rhymes. I was intrigued. How could you make it quick and memorable but also put it in a configuration that would enable you to  distribute the “rules” uniformly but without a trace?

I summoned Trail Babboon’s poet laureate, Schuyler Tyler Wyler, and instructed him to create a few lines of verse that would be capable of communicating such a language prohibition to legions of bureaucrats, paper-trail free.

I told him:

  • Verse one must ban the term “climate change”
  • Verse two must outlaw “global warming”
  • Verse three has to prohibit “greenhouse gasses”
  • The fourth verse must end with the word “irony”.

S.T.W. was unimpressed with the subject matter, but for ten dollars he got to work and was back within the hour:

It’s wrong to talk of “Climate Change”.
That phrase is now verboten.
These words, in tandem, don’t arrange.
It upsets them what’s votin’.

And “Global Warming” is taboo.
Because we do not buy it.
For thinking only, you’re free to.
But as for speaking? Quiet!

And likewise,”greenhouse gas” must pass
into the realm unspoken.
This rule must stay invisible
like air on which you’re chokin’.

These verses are not policy.
They’re a device, mnemonic,
to stop the floods. Y’all’ll see.
Effective and ironic!

What words or phrases would you like to ban?

The Tale of the Mail

Today’s post comes from 9th District Congressman Loomis Beechly, representing all the water surface area in the State of Minnesota.

Greetings Constituents,

Getting out ahead of the inevitable demands, I’m releasing all my e-mail to the public today.

In terms of the amount of text produced, I’m not nearly as prolific as the former Secretary of State, but I hope I’m in better political shape than she is by being more open more quickly.

Hillary released 55,000 pages. I think I’ve got about 235, total. That’s not a lot, until you start reading them. Then it feels like Moby Dick. Say what you will about the varied talents of politicians. Some have a literary gift, but there’s a reason I kiss babies for a living.

Anyway, anyone who wants to is fully entitled to read through everything I’ve written. I’ve got absolutely nothing to hide, and there are a few things I can’t find in the e-mails that I wish someone would locate for me.

  • The address of my second cousin in Minot. Aunt Sophie sent it to me about two years ago and I thought I put it in the “Relatives” folder but apparently not.
  • My Linked In password. I kept forgetting it so I got cagey and sent it to myself in an e-mail message that had no outward reference to Linked In. That’s the problem.
  • A recipe for making a Crock Pot chicken that looked so good I made a special effort to save it, but now all the chicken recipes I can find look incredibly boring. Was I dreaming?

Seriously, pore through the texts and give a shout if you find anything interesting. The better you know me, the more you’ll realize I’m just an ordinary, good-hearted guy who bumbles along from day to day and struggles to keep track of things.

Maybe not just exactly like you, but close enough for government work.

Your Congressman,
Loomis Beechly

Influential critics have demanded you turn over all your correspondence, electronic and otherwise. Will you?

Ask Dr. Babooner

We are ALL Dr. Babooner

Dear Dr. Babooner,

I was not at all surprised to learn yesterday that researchers have found evidence to support what we already know to be true about over-indulgent parents – that they turn their children into selfish, sniveling little narcissists by showering them with false praise.

My child is an adult now, but when she was in elementary school I was appalled at the way the other parents hovered over their young, pumping them up with unearned compliments for work that was mediocre at best.

For example, I was volunteering as a classroom helper in the third grade when my little Emily produced a vivid colored-pencil portrait of her art teacher. Because I firmly believed then, (as I do now), that we spoil our children by exaggerating their accomplishments, I simply told her it was “… the best thing I’d seen produced in the room that afternoon.”

That was an undeniably true statement. Of course it was MUCH better than that – she could produce college level work in terms of perspective, composition and shading – but by measuring it only against the art created by her classmates I was purposely downplaying Emily’s talent as a way to get her to try harder the next time.

Mere moments later, the other parent in the room held up her son Jimmy’s chaotic rendering of a bowl of fruit and declared in front of the entire room that it was a work of pure genius – worthy of the great European colored-pencil masters of the renaissance. We all nodded in support of this ludicrous claim so as not to embarrass this helicopter mommy and her incompetent, blotch-scrawling offspring, but really! Next to Emily’s splendid teacher-portrait, Jimmy’s fruit bowl was a ghastly mess.

I could see that Emily was confused, and for that matter so was Jimmy. To have his meager attempt at art praised over her superb accomplishment was confounding to everyone who could recognize the raw touch of a genuine master.

In other words, it baffled everyone.

Years later, Jimmy has become exactly the kind of self-indulgent adult I expected to see – a flamboyant do-gooder who is always drawing attention to his accomplishments by mentoring youngsters, caring for stray animals, raising money for social causes, and working as a paramedic and first-responder to save the lives of people who invariably turn around and praise him in exactly the same extravagant way his mother did all those years ago.

I would tell you how much better off Emily is, but she has instructed me to stop discussing her with other people, especially strangers. Which just shows you how modest and grounded she has become!

Dr. Babooner, why aren’t more people as good a parent as I am?

Darn Impressive Parent of a Perfect Youth

I told D.I.P.P.Y. she has no real reason to gloat. Every parent believes he or she is doing it right and everybody else is wrong. And while I won’t say her techniques are completely sub-par, I do think she might benefit by staying focused on her own work rather than judging others.

But that’s just one opinion. What do YOU think, Dr. Babooner?

A Little Bend in the Light

I was trying to get my mind around the news that astronomers have observed multiple images of a supernova exploding by simply looking in the right place and understanding the strange effects of Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, when the phone rang.

It was Trail Baboon poet laureate Schuyler Tyler Wyler calling to beg for a commission.

Things have been a bit tough in the poetry game of late, and what with large companies like General Mills and Target retrenching, the slogan and tagline market has dried up almost completely.

“Give me something complex to boil down into a few lines of verse,” he said. “I have to keep my toolkit sharp in case the discount clothing and packaged food industries bounce back and there’s a sudden need for fresh jingles.”

Of course I gave him the only thing I had – that a star exploding on the other side of the universe nine billion years ago has appeared in our sky at least four times, and it all makes perfect sense. I told him I would buy him a cup of coffee next Wednesday if he could make it rhyme.

Here’s his reply:

To see a Supernova pop
is not so hard to do.
Just float some denser galaxies
between the star and you.

Then get it properly aligned
Nine billion years ago,
to let dark matter intervene
so you can watch it blow.

The light from the explosion
has to go around each side.
So when you view the fireworks
you see it multiplied!

The images arrive distinct
and separate as they please.
A single Supernova that can say
cheese cheese cheese cheese.

What spectacle would you watch over and over and over and over?


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