Friday, October 31, 2014

Halloween

"So this is Halloween,
And happy trick or treat,
Let's hope it's a good one,
I especially like candy corn."
- John Lennon

This early lyric, which Lennon later rewrote to be about Xmas (sic) celebrates this very special day when children get to be what they secretly are all year long.  Where does this tradition come from?  

Well, in 1220 Ghengis Khan invaded what was then Armenia.  The Armenians had never seen anything like the Mongol hordes before, and they were all like, "Wow, great costumes!  You must've gone to a lot of work.  And those ponies, where did you get those little ponies?  They're adorable.  Here, have some candy."

And Khan and his hordes returned whence they came and ate all the candy, and the next day they came back, and the Armenians said, "You again?"  And Khan was like, "You got any more candy?  Look how cute our ponies are."  And the Armenians were, "We're all out of candy.  Go away."

Well, that tore it.  Khan invaded for real and next thing you know, it was the dark ages.

And if that's not the true story behind Halloween, then I must've made it up.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Does God Want You Working There?

Someone posted an article on Facebook about whether your career ambition is "from God."  It points out that when you were a kid, maybe you wanted to be an astronaut or a fireman, but since those dreams didn't match up with God's plan for you, you ended up in that dull-ass job you have now.  (Unless, of course, you actually are an astronaut or fireman in which case, why are you reading this blog instead of out fighting fires or exploring Mars or something?)

The article says you know your ambition is from God if "it gives glory to God," it "helps others," and seems "bigger than you can accomplish."  Well, I suppose.  I'm not sure how being a plumber gives glory to God, but I'm sure grateful they're around.  As far as helping others, I find the best thing for me personally is just to stay out of their way.  They're usually better off, and I don't have to put on pants.  And pretty much everything seems "bigger than I can accomplish" on Monday morning.  For that matter, eating an entire "EMT Special" at Daddy D's Barbecue seems bigger than I can accomplish, and so far it has been.  But with the Lord's help, one day I will do it.  Glory to God.

I believe the article means well, but it stops after only three points.  There are a lot more specific ways to be certain your personal career path dovetails with what the Creator wants for you.

For example, is the personnel director or guidance counselor a burning bush?  That's pretty much a tip-off right there.  If you're walking along and a burning bush tells you the world needs another hedge-fund manager, you'd do well to take that seriously.  Thunderclouds are another one.  Have you ever gotten career advice from a thundercloud?  If so, don't ignore it.

If you try doing something else, does a whale swallow you?  Say you leave your job as an accounts manager and go to work as a medical equipment salesman.  But then, on your way to your new job, a whale swallows you, and when it spits you out, you're right back at your old office.  I know, you'll say it's probably just a coincidence, but still maybe you ought to rethink your career change.

You're told to conquer Hittites.  So far as I know, the only person who ever said, go out and conquer the Hittites was God, so if conquering Hittites is in your job description, then that's probably a smart move, career-wise.  Ditto for conquering Jebusites, Ninevites, Canaanites, and Philistines.

Does the health-care package include resurrection after death?  Major medical and dental is fine, but if there's an HMO that says you'll actually come back from the dead, that might be a pretty sweet deal.  Even if there's like a three-day waiting period.  Of course, you got to be careful with that one.  Maybe this has something to do with God, or maybe it's just an ordinary zombie uprising sort of thing, so you need to inquire more carefully.  Will this entail eating human brains or will you just be taken up into heaven?  These small distinctions can make all the difference between fulfilling God's will and being just another pesky undead.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Poetry Recital

In this artist's recreation, we seem to be speaking at the same time.
This is inaccurate.  However, it is true that we commenced both
poems with an ornate majuscule letter.
Nancy and I have a delightful relationship, and often I blog about it, but I don't tell everything.  Sorry, but some of our delights are just a little too delightful to share.  Nancy has given me specific instructions, "Don't blog about that."  What "that" is I will leave to your vivid imagination, but suffice to say, no matter how vivid, your imagination is not nearly vivid enough.

However, I believe I can safely blog about this.

Nancy and I have begun reciting poetry to one another.

When I say "begun," I mean we've done this precisely one time.  The deal was last week we each selected a poem to memorize from a book of sonnets of Edna St Vincent Millay, and on Sunday we sat down and recited for each other.  This week, we've thrown the category open to any poem from an anthology of best-loved poetry.

If you think it would feel a little weird sitting in front of someone and reciting poetry at her, you're right.  But it was also delightful.  And equally delightful to hear her recite for me.  Sunday when Nancy said, "Do you want to recite our poems now?" I had to go into another room and run over mine a few times.  Even so, I stumbled in my recitation and had to start over.  But Nancy didn't mind.

Last week was a hard week.  In addition to our usual monstrously busy round of daily stuff we'd gone down to see Nancy's parents.  Nancy's mother, you may know, has Alzheimer's.  She has become difficult and uncooperative.  Nancy took her on an outing, and mamma was unhappy the whole time.  This made Nancy unhappy as well.

When we got home, Nancy was suffering from a mixture of every unpleasant emotion you can name and a few you can't: anger, resentment, pity, self-pity, guilt, frustration.  Did I leave any out? 

Oh, right.  Fatigue.

A few minutes of poetry recital did not make the world go away, but it was a respite nonetheless.

I am no fool.  I know reciting poetry smacks of the sort of thing you do once or twice and then let fall by the wayside because there's the daily bread to get and yoga class and weddings and parents and cats, dogs, chickens, and so forth.  But I don't care.  If we only did it once, and never again, my life would still be one poem the better.  Two poems the better.  I heard Nancy's as well as recited my own.

As of this writing, I have not picked out my next poem, but I promise to you I will.  I'll memorize it too, and recite it for Nancy.

My life can stand the improvement of at least one more poem.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Value-Erosion in Halloween Candy

Several weeks ago, I bought a bag of discount Halloween candy at Costco, and a week ago, it somehow became open.  (I blame Nancy for this.)  Understand this is not premium candy; it might be more accurately termed candy-by-products: what's made of scraps and floor-sweepings after the better candy has been shipped off to distributors, and I selected it for the expressed reason that it wouldn't present an undue temptation; nevertheless, Nancy and I are consuming it at a remarkable rate, and by "remarkable" I mean truly terrifying.

When first opened, the bag sat on a sideboard, because it was too big to empty into a basket.  Now it has been emptied into a basket, and the level is noticeably dropping.  If icecaps are deplete as fast as our candy, polar bears will need to be much better swimmers. 

The danger is not that we will run out of candy before Halloween, rather what I term "Halloween-Candy Value-Erosion."  First, I have assigned each type of candy in our assortment a value:

Skittles              6
Laffy-Taffy       5
Lemon-Heads   4
Gob-Stoppers    3
Red Twizzlers   1
Sweet-Tarts       0.5
Sour-Punch       0.2

As for Skittles, their ranking needs no explanation; but some may find the high score given Laffy-Taffy questionable.  Laffy-Taffy, however, has long been an underrated candy.  I believe the fact it is only available on Halloween makes it suspect in people's minds, and then there its habit of clinging to the wrapper like skin, making it all but impossible to eat without swallowing a little piece of wrapper as well.  Were it not for the wrapper issue, I believe Laffy-Taffy would outrank Skittles itself.  The rest of my rankings should be uncontroversial, but notice that after Gob-Stoppers, the value drops off sharply.  Sweet-Tarts, for instance, qualify as candy only in a marginal sense, alongside Tums antacids, candy valentine hearts, and sidewalk chalk.  Sour-Punch, a candy I was hitherto unfamiliar with, is, according to my son-in-law Drew, "not that bad."  I have tried it.  It is that bad.  Were it possible to do so in this scoring system, I would assign it a negative number, ranking it alongside German licorice.  I believe if we looked into the matter closely, we would discover the existence German licorice was solely responsible for that nation's unfortunate behavior in the last century.

Now take a moment to examine the original distribution of candy-values on a normal curve as shown in Figure One.

You will confirm immediately my original statement that this is not a premium selection of candy.  The median score is 2.5, somewhere between Gob-Stoppers and Twizzlers, the latter of which is pretty much just flavored wax.  But a look at Figure Two shows heart-sickening decline of values that has occurred in less than a week.  The bell curve now looks like an anaconda attempting to pass a Volkswagen.  This is accounted for by Nancy's and my grazing habits in the candy basket.  We have already eaten all of the Skittles, and what Laffy-Taffy remains is red, partly because it is less desirable than yellow, and partly because it tends to camouflage itself as Twizzlers or Sour-Punch.  The remaining assortment of candy veers dangerously close to the Sweet-Tart and Sour-Punch end of the spectrum.  Bear in mind also, this precipitous transformation has occurred in just one week, and there are several days remaining until Halloween.

One might think, that having eaten all the best candy out of the assortment, Nancy's and my candy-eating pace would slacken, but indeed it seems just the opposite.  I can only account for this as some sort of "feeding frenzy" such as you see among sharks who suddenly bite at everything that moves, even fellow-sharks, perhaps out of an instinctive fear that if they don't act quickly, all the good chum will be gone before they can get any.

The menace lies in the reaction of the neighborhood children when they receive fistfuls of inedible candy as a reward for dressing up in their adorable little Yoda and Batman costumes.  The neighbor children are sweet-tempered, cherubic even, but it does not do to push them too far.  To my knowledge, no one has ever attempted to foist off sweet-tarts and sour-punch and attempt to call it candy.  Who knows what form their unholy retribution will take?

Time alone will tell.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Excerpts from The Kind-of Sutra

Chapter XVLMM

Of Televisions and Remotes

Varieties of Remotes and Their Buttons:

A Remote for the Television
A Remote for the Cable Channels
A Remote for the Roku
A Remote for the DVD Player
A Remote for the Stereo
A Remote the Purpose of Which is Unknown, But Which May Not Be Discarded Lest it Be Needed Later

Care must always be taken to use the proper remote for the proper function.  For example, it would be futile to attempt to turn on the DVD Player with the Television Remote, even though the Television Remote seems to have a button for just that purpose; nevertheless, many remotes may change volume.  Care must be taken, moreover, with the remote not to push the wrong button thereon; if "screen within a screen" pops up, it can be the devil to get it to go away.

Seeking and Finding

In this position, the Man wishes to find the remote, and the Woman is out of the room.  They do not touch.  The Man begins by calling out the Woman's name.  "Have you seen the remote?" he will inquire.  The Woman is to respond with the last place she saw it, and the Man is to say he hath already looked there.  Nevertheless, he will look again.  If the remote is where the Woman said it is, he will say nothing of it.  It is is not, he will ask her again and continue searching.

Mutual Seeking and Finding

In this variation, neither the Man nor the Woman knows where the remote is and both want to find it.  They are in the same room looking together.  They do not touch.  Each may volunteer places he or she has seen it last, or where it "ought" to be.  If the Man approaches too close to the Woman, she is to say, "I am already looking over here.  Go look over there."  When the remote is located, one of them may say, "If it had been a snake, surely it would have bitten us," otherwise, one may inquire, "How did it get all the way over there?"

Woman Watching, Man Bored

The Man sits on the couch.  The Woman lies on the sofa.  They do not touch.  The Man reaches for the remote, and the Woman is to say, "Put that down, I'm watching this."  The Man says, "I am just adjusting the volume," and presses the volume button with his thumb.  The Woman says, "Not that loud.  That is too loud."

Man Watching, Woman Disgusted

The Man sits on the couch.  The Woman enters the room and says, "Are you watching that?  That is disgusting."  The Man replies, "I was not really watching this."  The Man changes channels.

Man and Woman Watching, Woman Leaves Room

The Man and Woman are watching together and the Woman leaves the room for she must sort laundry or feed the dog.  The Woman says, "Pause it until I return, for I do not wish to miss the next part."  While the Woman is gone, the Man does not pause but rewinds, estimating the length of time until her return, and presses play, trying synch it up so that when she returns, the show will be exactly where she left off.  If the Woman does not return in the expected time, the Man must rewind again, this time going back not quite so far as before.  He may do this as many times as required until her return.  If she does not return in two or three times, he may begin to wonder just how long it takes to sort laundry anyways.  When the Woman returns, she may find the show is on a part she has already seen, and the Man may need to fast-forward to get to the part where she left off.  If he inadvertently fast-forwards too much and skips over that part, the Woman is to say, "Why didn't you just pause it like I said?"  The Man is not to respond to this.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Alexander the Great's Academic Progress Report



Needless to say, this sort of thing
is unacceptable.
To Phillip King of Macedon and Queen Olympias,

Your Royal Highnesses,

You may remember meeting me at "Open Lyceum Night."  I am Alex's Logic teacher.  I also teach him Geology, Biology, Physics, Aesthetics, Metaphysics, Medicine, Psychology, and Practical Philosophy.   

The reason I'm writing this is I'm very concerned about Alex's progress in my class.  Frankly, I don't believe he is living up to his full potential.  Currently, the most I can say for him is he may one day be called Alexander the Mediocre, or Alexander the Could-Have-Made-Something-of-Himself-if-He'd-Applied-Himself.  I'm sure you expect more from him than that, and so do I.

Alex seems easily distracted from his studies.  I had taken the class to the archery range to demonstrate that motion is the "actuality of potentiality as such," which is one of the standards of our Core Curriculum here in Athens.  At first I thought Alex was really "getting it," but then he began shooting arrows in all directions, killing two of his classmates and injuring another, so I had to put him in "time out."  He asked if he could take some arrows with him to practice for homework, and when I asked how many he needed, and he replied, "Five or six thousand ought to do the trick," so I suspected he only wanted to get up to mischief.

His academic progress would be concerning enough, but there is also the matter of his interactions with his classmates.  I have already alluded to the unfortunate incidents on the archery range, but I'm afraid this behavior is all too typical.  The other day during recess, he was bragging that he was the son of Zeus Almighty, and one of his peers said, "Prove it."  I was looking forward to overhearing a bracing discussion of First Causes and Universals and Particulars, but instead Alex instigated a tussle.  Before I could separate the boys, Alex had killed his interlocutor, annexed his lands, married one of his favorites to the victim's sister, and appointed him governor.

Needless to say, this sort of behavior is not acceptable.

I bring these matters to your attention in the hope you will address them with Alex at home and stress to him the importance of a solid education, as well as respecting other people's feelings and property, and not killing them.

Thank you for all your support,

Aristotle

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Yet Another Million-Dollar Idea

If you read this blog on a consistent basis, from time to time I will give you an idea that is guaranteed to make a million dollars.  The world is littered with millionaires who were ordinary shmoes like you until they happened across one of my little blogs.  Zuckerberg was reading an off-hand comment of mine one day, and said, "Social networks, huh?  That's so crazy it just might work."  Jeff Beezos said, "Pedaling books online?  Might be worth a try at that."

So in case you haven't made your first million yet, here's the idea.  

It was inspired when Nancy said to me the other morning that her nose was getting bigger.

What do you say to someone who says that?

My immediate reply, "No, your nose was always that big," I had sense enough not to make.  Dorothy Martin didn't raise no fool.

I assured her that her nose was just as lovely as ever, if not more so, but Nancy was not convinced, I fear.

There are books for prepubescent little boys and girls with titles such as "Your Body is Changing," or "Congratulations, You're Becoming a Man," or "Why am I Bleeding?" but so far as I know, there is no corresponding set of books for those of us approaching that long dreamless sleep.  Titles like, "My Feet Hurt" or "Hey, I'm Shorter than I Used to Be," or "My God, My God, What is Happening to My Nose?"  

The person who introduces this series of helpful titles will not only provide a boon to humanity but will no doubt become a gigantic publishing magnate along the lines of the "... for Dummies" books.

I leave you now to make yourself rich.