Slightly Out of Synch

Yesterday’s drier, cooler air was an invitation to open the windows and go outside, so I did. What a lovely world we live in. The outdoor spaces are so inviting, and there’s a lot to do out there!

August 5th was the day I finally decided to put out the garden hoses and bring in the extra long extension cord that had powered 2009’s Christmas lights. While I was outside it occurred to me that the lawn could use its annual springtime feeding. And how “pre” does a pre-emergent weed treatment have to occur? Is it too early to put some down for the emergence scheduled for spring in 2011? 2010 is a lost cause, I’m afraid.

When it comes to yard chores I realize I’m late getting started, but in my defense I should point out that there is a certain balance to my calendar. I usually don’t bring the hoses in until November. But getting the house ready for winter is always a challenge. The week between Christmas and New Year’s comes in handy for that, and I do a lot of my autumn raking in April.

The seasons race ahead while I struggle to keep up.

I’d say it’s a fair bet that my Myers-Briggs results will not identify me as a prime candidate to lead a band of primitive hunter-gatherers. Under my guidance, we’d always be late for the harvest and miles behind the herd. For that matter, I would not have made much headway as a Cro-Magnon man either. It’s tough to be successful on a cave bear hunt if you’re just getting around to sharpening the antler points on your jabbing stick when everybody else is set to go.

We all feel pretty advanced when it comes to comparisons with ancient humans who wore animal skins and hunted with spears, but I wonder. Fred Flintstone dressed in a business suit and magically inserted in a downtown Minneapolis cubicle farm or dropped into a board meeting would probably do better for longer than any one of us were we suddenly transferred to the Upper Paleolithic office for a Wooly Mammoth expedition.

I could have done OK during the Bronze Age though I tend to shy away from molten metals. The Roman Empire might have been a congenial place to land as long as I could manage to stay out of the Gladiator business.

Timing is everything.

Historically, what era is your best “fit”?

Lighter Than Air

Here’s a note that came in late yesterday from marketing guru and idea man Spin Williams, who is always in residence at The Meeting That Never Ends.

We’ve got an exciting project underway right now to help some very smart and enterprising people bring back Airships! Several companies are working on it right now, and we have a difficult and challenging assignment here at Spin Williams Ideas and Marketing! Naming!

We’re very, very excited about traveling in these lighter-than-air craft, but please don’t call them blimps, zeppelins or dirigibles! And whatever you do, don’t refer to them as Hindenburgs! All these names are loaded with heavy baggage and you know how it is when you want to go flying – heavy baggage is costly and it slows you down! These are the drawbacks we face:

Blimp – the name sounds round and slow and goofy. In the minds of Americans, “blimp” will always be associated with a tire manufacturer and/or a sandwich shop.

Dirigible – This word is hard to say properly. DEAR-idg-able? Often it comes out as DIRGE-able, and a dirge is always a downer.

Zeppelin – We love the snazzy “Z” at the beginning of this word and the double “P’s”. It has a very nice look and it flies off the tongue, but like so many things, the Nazis ruined it for us! There’s no going back.

Hindenburg – Speaking of Nazis, this name links to a bad memory, even for people who weren’t there at the time and so they can’t actually “remember” it. This name leads directly to visual and aural images of flames and falling and tragedy – unhappy connections, at least until the Broadway musical comes out.

Not The Image We Want

Our assignment is to come up with a new, more popular name to stick on the next generation of lighter than air ships, although our client doesn’t like “airship”. Too much history, he says, preferring “Hybrid Air Vehicle”.

Obviously he is in desperate need of help.

So far at The Meeting That Never Ends, we’ve floated these ideas:

Bubble Craft.
Air Cushion.
Helium Rocket.
Sky Liner.
Fluff Train.
Puff Plane.
Buoyant Bus.
Cloud Cruiser.

Just like taking a trip in a new generation Hybrid Air Vehicle, it’s been great fun to take off, watching the ropes drop away as we rise majestically into a clear blue sky, but we’re a long, long, long way from getting anywhere!

What do you think of our ideas so far? If you have a new suggestion, we’ll consider any reasonable offers, and we’ll even look at the unreasonable ones!

I told Spin I’m a bit partial to “Puff Plane”, but he and his team should also consider “Stout Bird”.

How are you at naming things?

Triceratops Trumps Torosaurus

Yesterday Clyde nominated the triceratops controversy as the likely topic of today’s blog.

Until he mentioned it, I didn’t know there was a triceratops controversy.

It’s an interesting situation, though. How rare and wonderful, to be the focus of a campaign to preserve your name millions of years after your extinction. We should all be so lucky.

A couple of paleontologists at The Museum of the Rockies, John Scannella & Jack Horner (oh the awful rhymes he has endured), have concluded that the charming three horned dinosaur we all know as triceratops is actually a juvenile torosaurus. Originally it was thought that they were two distinct types of dinosaur since the skull shapes were so different, but now it seems that dinosaur skulls were quite changeable over time and evidence has been uncovered that plots the development of the wee triceratops into the mature torosaurus.



This sparked indignation from triceratops defenders who challenged the theory because they don’t want to part with the name or the image of their favorite three horned beastie, nor do they want to let go of the idea that it can grow into a fearsome adult with jaggedy skull frills and no fenestration. Extinction is bad enough once. To top that with never-existed-ness is a terrible insult. The stage was set for a Pluto-like debate.

But wait! There’s a game saver!

It turns out the name triceratops came into usage before torosaurus, so under the rules that govern the naming of things that are no longer alive on the planet, the earlier title trumps the latter. Rather than disappear, triceratops takes over torosaurus’s territory completely, so now it is the torosaurus that is no more, and the name triceratops that will live forever, or until an asteroid crashes into the earth and erases us completely along with everything we think we know.

Happy ending? Apparently nobody loves the name torosaurus enough to put up a fight to preserve it. So in this case, it appears timing and popularity have led to a situation where the baby has taken over the adult’s name and identity completely.

The child is truly the father of the man, much in the same way the grown adult named Ron Howard will always be known as “Opie”.

Have any of your childhood features (physical or otherwise) survived the transition to adulthood?

So Long Summer

Here’s a note that came in early this morning from perennial sophomore Bubby Spamden.

Hi Mr. C.,

Well, it’s August, and that means summer is almost over. Just four weeks to go until Labor Day. Ugh! I can’t believe I wasted almost the whole thing. No summer job. No summer romance. And I still haven’t managed to crack level 100 in Crime Wave Zombie Spree, even though I’ve spent almost ten hours on it every single day!

My folks think I’m throwing my life away, but I think the eye – hand coordination I’m developing by playing video games pretty much nonstop is going to be a real valuable skill now and in the future years to come. With machines doing more and more for us, the jobs of tomorrow are going to be mostly button-pushing and joystick bumping marathons, so even the long hours are really, really good practice!

Mr. Boozenporn said in Econ 201 last year that we would have to compete for work with everybody in China, which is a lot of people to have to go up against. And he said the Chinese people know how to work hard, unlike the lazy slobs who grow up in the lap of luxury here in the USA. And then my friend Danny stood up and told Mr. Boozenporn he should be ashamed of browbeating us and lowering our self esteem. Danny said if we started to think we were total losers, we’d flunk all our tests and next year’s Econ 201 class at Wilkie High would be taught online by Mr. Chin from Shanghai!

Everybody thought that was pretty funny. And we all got detention that day.

Anyway, I read this crazy article that said teenagers get extra grumpy in the summer because they get too much daylight, which makes us just like vampires, which is incredibly cool! So I try to act really surly when my parents are around so they’ll start to think maybe I am part vampire, a little bit. What with all the movies and books on the topic if the rumor gets out that I’m kinda bloodthirsty and bat-like, it could help meet girls! I know what you’re going to say – that it won’t matter if I don’t ever leave the basement. Well here’s a secret just between you and me. I’ve been sneaking out of the house around 2 pm every Tuesday and Thursday to go to a nursing home just down the street. I’m the volunteer bingo caller! B-7! G-4! The old people are cool and for some reason I really like watching ping pong balls roll around inside their wire cage.

But don’t tell anybody. I wouldn’t want the folks to think I’m being unselfish ’cause they’d get all dewy eyed about me doing a good deed and it and it really makes me uncomfortable when they blubber. Plus, it would ruin the whole zombie killer – basement rat – part vampire image I’m trying to build.

Your pal,

Ever sneak out of the house as a teenager?

Who Am I?

One job finding strategy for the unemployed in the 21st century involves a process of looking inside to figure out what sort of person you are. This is especially useful for the fortunate ones who do not have to take the very first paying job that comes along and would like to delay putting on shoes and socks for as long as possible.

If I were Congress, I would create a bi-partisan commission to study my joblessness with the aim of issuing a 2,000 page report detailing my options sometime before Christmas. The report would probably tell me I don’t have the resources to support so much dithering, but by the time I read it, we’ll be at the holiday recess, and things don’t really ramp up again until sometime in February.

But I’m not Congress, so for me the next best thing is to spend some time sitting in a beach chair in the August sunshine, poring over a list of multiple-choice questions that will eventually tell me who I am and what kind of job might make me happy. Easy work, and there’s no harm in it as long as I stay under the daily limit for pina colada consumption.

Of course, this relaxed approach assumes there are millions of attractive, available jobs that prospective employers are anxious to fill, and the only problem is deciding which of the ripe, succulent fruit to pick! Nice fantasy! I already feel the drinks kicking in.

So, what sort of person am I, and what would I like to do?

I am the sort of person who does not like self-examination. What I would really like to do is have someone else tell me the answer this question.

One thing I learned about personality assessments is that asking a question only once is for losers. You have to ask the same question a dozen different ways to try to get around people’s strange compulsion to be consistent. As a result, the test feels like having a conversation with someone who is really not listening to you.

I am still waiting for the results, but I have already figured out all on my own that I am the sort of person who would enjoy writing Personality Assessment Tests.

Choose the answer that feels right. Don’t spend too much time thinking about it.

Are you the sort of person who …
Likes to think things through?
Goes with your first instinct.

Do you like to …
Plan things down to the minute?
Make it up as you go.

When you socialize with others do you …
Like to have it on the calendar well in advance?
Organize a party on the spur of the moment.

If you have a major project to complete at work do you …
Make a list of all the steps before you begin?
Start immediately and think later.

Palate cleanser! In each of the following pairs of random words, which is more appealing to you?






Back to the ‘don’t-think-too-much-about-these’ questions!

Are your favorite kinds of questions …
The same over and over.

When you try to answer repetitive questions do you strive to be …

How much thinking is too much?
A lot?
Any amount.

How much did you think about that last question?
Not at all.
More, now that you bring it up.

Placenames! Pick only one! Don’t judge them on how they sound or look, only on how they make you feel!

Death Row.

Vatican City.

Beaver Cleaver’s House.
The Bates Motel.

The Rock of Gibraltar.
The Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame.

The Naval Academy.

Last round! I’ll have another one of whatever it is I’ve already had!

Would you rather have people say you are …
Afraid of change.
Afraid of routine.

When you take a trip do you …
Plan every moment in advance.
Grab a wad of cash and walk out the door.

You would like to have lunch with …
Lindsay Lohan.

Reaching the last question on the assessment makes you feel …
Like I should re-check my answers for consistency.
Like having another pina colada.

Thanks for completing the assessment. If you’ve thoughtfully answered every question, you are the sort of person who has a lot of time and patience and does what they are told to do as a courtesy to others and possibly out of some weird compulsion to complete every task, no matter how meaningless.

If you skipped past all the above nonsense to get here, you are a free spirit and a line-budger who just wants to get it over with and move on to the next thing.

Really, that’s who you are. Unless you have some other idea?

New In Town

Here are photos of this week’s new arrivals at Barb and Steve’s farm.
Watch for updates at their blog, Out To Pasture.

Lassi & Kona

This is what Barb says about them:

We are enjoying the two immensely. They are scared. But the bravest one (Lassi) i’m afraid is pretty dumb also (just kidding). Got her head stuck in a narrow part of the fence panel and yelled like bloody murder when I was trying to get it back out. So tonight I’ll be afraid to sleep and will run out every two minutes to check to see what mischief she’s gotten herself into. Kona is more shy and more sensible. Dream and Alba are not sure yet. We will keep the kiddos separate from the Big Girls for a couple weeks.

I don’t know about goats, but that seems like a smart choice to keep the newbies and the old hands apart for a while here at the beginning.

When you are in a brand new place and nothing is familiar, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and a bit dumb, especially if one of your first moves is to get your head stuck in a fence. If you’re lucky, your hosts will be patient about helping you extricate yourself. They’ll even go out of their way to check on you. This is not always the case when you’re a rookie. Those who are already established are required by nature to size you up and to assess your worthiness. Sometimes the newcomer can begin to feel like an imposter.

When I was 12 my family moved from a lovely little spot in the Hudson River Valley just north of New York City to the edge of an agricultural city in central Illinois. I went to school in a small town ten miles outside the city limits – not far but the distance was great enough to reach a whole new level of reality concerning New York and Out East.

Never mind that I had only been to New York City a handful of times. I was instantly popular, and there was a space of about three days where, if I had known what was happening, I could have become the undisputed ruler of my middle school.

My advantage (and curse) had a lot to do with the sounds and sights of NYC that had filtered through film, TV and radio to that small town. Everybody knew that New York City was The Big Apple, populated by ruthless tough guys and wealthy big shots. Business there was conducted under a different standard that virtually required a certain amount of despicable big city behavior. Anybody from New York City was bound to have secret ways of getting what he wanted. It might involve cement overshoes and a body tossed in the river. So be it. People were interested to see what I would do to assert my authority in a place where the nearest river was only 2 feet deep. Dropped into that new environment, I was a dangerous mystery – unpredictable and scary cool.

Given a different personality and a new set of goals, I could have been the Vito Corleone of Macon, Illinois. Instead, I got my head stuck in the fence, and it didn’t take long for people to realize I was the opposite of what they expected. It was a huge personal relief for me when they finally figured it out, though for the kids who wanted to be hit men and gun molls instead of farmers, the disappointment lingered for several years.

Have you ever been the “new” person? How did you adapt?

A Scary Story

What a lovely and sometimes chilling assortment of creature stories we had yesterday. It is now clear that bats, deer, moose, raccoons and baboons are reaching out to us with their various appendages offered in friendship, but we always seem to screech and run the other way, or stab them with a pitchfork.

No wonder there’s no peace in the woods.

While I have no doubt that every story on yesterday’s blog is absolutely true and each tale unfolded exactly as described, one third person account did seem rather fantastic and urban-legendish. It came by way of a report from Namibia on baboon behavior, which segued into this …

“When we were in the South we had campfires every night and the sky was so clear and full of stars–making planetariums jealous, as usual. Anyway, conditions were perfect for scary story telling and the best one I heard was from our student Morgan. She loves reptiles and used to have a boa constrictor. It was big enough to get out of its cage and it was free to. Anyway, she noticed that it was sleeping next to her in bed at night, like how cats and dogs like to do that. But then she took it into the vet because she noticed that it wasn’t eating anything, and hadn’t been for a few days, so obviously she was concerned. The vet asked, “has it been doing anything else out of the ordinary lately?” and Morgan goes, “Well, he’s been sleeping next to me…” and the vet says, “We have to put it down immediately! Your snake is preparing to eat you!”

I found this tale fascinating. What was the snake doing? If you were a hungry animal, how could lying alongside your next meal help you? I couldn’t imagine what sort of biological need might propel such a strange behavior. So I decided to look into it more deeply. My painstaking research involved typing the phrase “snake is preparing to eat you” into the search box at Google, and it took me to this post at a question and answer board from three years ago.

I’ve heard this story twice in the last week from two different sources, typical friend-of-a-friend preamble. In the story a boy (or in the other version a girl) notices that their large pet snake hasn’t been eating its food. He calls the vet who tells him the snake is probably fine but to call back if he is still worried. The snake has the run of the house and usually sleeps curled up at the end of the owner’s bed. The owner notices that the snake is still not eating and has started to lie full length on the bed beside him at night. He calls the vet again who asks if there have been any changes in the snakes habits or sleeping pattern. The owner describes how the snake is sleeping stretched out and the vet replies, “you must bring in your snake immediately and have it destroyed. it was starving itself because it wanted to eat you, it lay beside to see if it was long enough to swallow you yet.”

Aha! Of course! The snake was measuring its potential victim! . I didn’t get that the first time I read it through. I assumed the tactic was psychological – the boa was probably sleeping beside its prey to put the prospective meal at ease. That’s how I reasoned it out. Smart! I guess I’d be easy prey for a meal-measuring boa constrictor, if boa constrictors did that.

I discovered after a few more minutes’ research that the whole crafty-snake-in-the-bed thing had been completely debunked at Too bad!

I felt superior for about ten minutes. An urban legend, exposed!

But like any slasher film or monster epic, there was one final realization that turned my smug satisfaction to horror. It hit me like a moist, rabid, soul-sucking bat flailing in panic against the side of my head. It was this:

What started out as an alarming story about a hungry snake had turned into a mortifying story about a fully grown adult who needed to use a website to confirm that a scary story told around a campfire on a starry night was, in fact, a fabrication.

The Internet had replaced my brain! Aiiiiiiiiiiiii!

Have we been completely swallowed by our computers?

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