Theories (Steve Valdez)
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Theory #36AmericanaI was watching a movie the other day with two of my favorite nieces. We had just put on “The Accountant” with Ben Affleck. At one point in the show someone mentioned a painting by Jackson Pollock. I had to explain to them who that was. Later on, the movie brought up the painting “Dogs Playing Poker”. Had to explain that one, too. Soon it occurred to me that these two intelligent, millennial, college graduates may have had some knowledge of American History, but absolutely no clue about Americana. Those memorable and iconic snapshots of American life that only this great country possess.
So I paused the movie and told them we were going to have a little chat about this and see just what they knew.First I said, “Route 66”. Of course, they had heard of it. They said they kinda remembered a song about it and some other things from Disney’s “Cars” film. I sighed. I told them it was nicknamed “The Main Street of America”. Twenty-five hundred miles, from Chicago to Los Angeles. And that it is was the primary artery of transportation across the U.S.
Then I said, “How about ‘The Saturday Evening Post”? They had nothing. I said, “Norman Rockwell on the cover? Kids and Policemen? Ballplayers? Thanksgiving Dinner?” “Oh yeah”, they said. “We’ve heard of him”. I went on to tell them that the man adorned the cover for 50 of the 200 year history of the magazine. And that stories by Jack London, Rudyard Kipling, and Mark Twain filled the pages inside.
Next I mentioned a painting called “The Boulevard of Broken Dreams”. Crickets. I said it was a painting by Gottfreid Helnwein that showed legendary figures James Dean, Elvis Presley, Humphrey Bogart, and Marilyn Monroe sitting in a diner, sharing a laugh and cup of joe. It was an iconic parody of Edward Hopper’s ‘Nighthawks’. Same diner, same number of people inside, but with movie stars replacing the everyday folk in the original. They just gave me a blank stare. I told them they’d recognize it when they saw it.My intent here was not to belittle or embarrass my nieces. I’ve done plenty of millennial bashing in previous theories (see Theory #21). What I wanted was to teach them a little about just what makes this country unique. This was my way of helping to preserve our identity, our Americana, by passing down some information to the next generation. I have a feeling they just waited until after the movie was over and Googled it all.
So I have this friend, see. Nice guy, married, has a couple of kids, even a few grandkids. On the surface, and to most people he comes in contact with, he seems like an affable sort. But just under the surface, there exists a smoldering, bitter, self-loathing human being. Mad at the world, distrustful of people in general, and constantly berating himself for choices and decisions he has made over the years that have landed him in the financial rut he currently resides. The problem is, all that anger is never dealt with and is adversely affecting his family and those around him.
Naturally, I have tried to console my friend. I have reminded him of all the good things that have happened in his life. It’s funny, though. Most people who look back on their lives do it out of regret. Like my friend, they only focus on the things that they would do differently if given the chance. The negative stuff. It only seems reasonable that if you’re going to rehash the past that you would remember the good as well as the bad. But the people that spend a good portion of their time looking backward don’t have any desire to look at any of the positive achievements they have garnered.
One reason that men find this a little hard to comprehend is because, for them, crying doesn’t bring about any of those feelings. But there is something that comes very close. Something that men can relate to and get a handle on. Something cathartic and therapeutic that they can call their own. Women have a good cry. Men take a good crap!
Do you have cats? I have cats. Three of them. We call them “The Kitties”, even though none of them is under 10 years old. They each have different personalities, different food preferences, and different ways they want to be petted. One likes his belly rubbed, one likes her feet held closely to her body, and the other one just wants to sit on your head any chance she gets. One thing they can all agree on, however, is when it’s time to eat. Three times a day I am ‘serenaded’ at feeding time.
Growing up in the West, the majority of my knowledge of U.S. Geography consisted only of what existed on this side of the Rocky Mountains. The Midwest and Eastern states all seemed to blend together in my mind and remembering which state was which was something I really struggled with.
Memory is directly tied to the ability to learn. If I study really hard and ace a test on the states, but two weeks later fail a pop quiz on the same material, then acing that test didn’t necessarily mean that I learned the material. Only that I crammed all that info into my head to hopefully be able to spit it back out at test time.
That’s where mnemonics come in. It’s a method of remembering certain things by tying them to something else easier to recall. For example, HOMES is a mnemonic device for remembering the Great Lakes: Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, and Superior. So when it came time to study the states of the Northeastern Seaboard I made up my own.
“Many new hairstyles visit mass. Really incredible! Not just dull or messy.”
Starting at Maine and heading south to Maryland you have:
“Many (Maine) new (New) hairstyles (Hampshire) visit (Vermont) mass (Massachusetts). Really (Rhode) incredible (Island)! Not (New) just (Jersey) dull (Delaware) or messy (Maryland).”
For a time I couldn’t remember the difference between infer and imply. One refers to the person speaking and the other to the person listening. So I came up with a baseball analogy to help me remember:
“The pitcher implies. The fielder infers.”
Therefore, the one speaking implies and the one listening infers.
Mnemonics have been used from grade schools to Med Schools (I’m sure your doctor still remembers a few). I think this technique should be encouraged in children of all ages. It’s a fun, effective way to learn that will follow them throughout their lives.
TTFN (ta-ta for now).
Remember “Forever Bread”? Or maybe it was called “Never Ending Bread”. Someone would claim that they had bread dough that was a hundred years old, made from an old family recipe. Then they would pull out a baggie and sure enough, there was this small sampling of dough that was revered by all who beheld it. The concept was that you take that ancient stuff and mix it with a new batch of bread using the same recipe. Then, just before you put it in a pan to bake it, you tear off a small piece and put it in a baggie for the next time you make it. Ergo, “Forever Bread”
I suppose that it is possible, not likely, but possible, that this process could go on indefinitely and that the ‘starter dough’ could very well be extremely old. Let’s say that your ‘leftover dough’ is 1% of the entire batch, Then it’s mixed with another batch and 1% of that one is pulled off, the ppm (parts per million) of the old stuff continues to shrink. But technically it’s still there.
Ok, so what? So you know how there’s always a little coffee left in the pot when you go to make more? What if you applied the same concept. Leave that little bit in there when you make a new pot. Add the water right to it. Then when that pot is almost gone do the same thing, ad infinitum. Each cup of new Joe would be infused with the essence of java from long-ago. Ergo, “Forever Coffee”.
I think I’ll make a pot right now.
The concept of truth is one of the foundations of our human existence. We are told when we are very young the value of telling the truth and the perils of lying (see Pinocchio). Often times, lying about doing something wrong is more punishable than the deed itself. In relationships, one person will invariably say, “I can handle a lot of things but never lie to me!” Truth in the business world is often rephrased as integrity. It is a powerful and well-respected quality necessary for success in the workplace.
But just telling the truth isn’t enough in many situations. I heard a young woman say to her friends that in high school, she would occasionally get asked out or to a dance with someone she considered beneath her. She laughed and said that she would just tell the guy that she would never, ever go out with a person like you. And the justification for her meanness was that she was just ‘telling the truth’.
Here’s my point: “Truth without compassion is cruelty” *
Yes, that girl was telling that guy the truth, but without thinking about his feelings it resulted in an overly harsh remark. She could have easily told the guy thanks, but I’m waiting for someone else to ask me to the dance. When your spouse asks you if they look fat in a particular outfit, you don’t have to say, yeah, it makes you look big as a house (maybe the truth). You can say, you know, that outfit, on your figure, might not look quite as good as another outfit might.
Don’t be mean under the guise of honesty. Take the other person’s feelings into account (the definition of compassion). Take the time to figure out how to say what you want to say to someone honestly, compassionately, and with your heart. Truth is a powerful thing. Don’t use it as a weapon!
* A quote I learned from a course in Existential Metapsychiatry
Sprint to the Starting Line
I’m not big on college sports. It always felt to me like I was watching the JV squad while waiting for the Varsity (the pros) to come on. But college sports have given us some of the greatest and most inspirational coaches of all time. Bear Bryant, Knute Rockne, and John Wooden were some of the best at getting their players to do whatever was needed to be done to achieve greatness.
And, of course, you could look up the myriad quotes made by these great men (and women). But the other day, I was listening to an interview of a kid from a college I don’t remember, talk about his coach, whom I also, unfortunately, don’t remember. I wasn’t paying much attention, but then he made a comment that I will never forget. His basketball team had just pulled off an upset win and this kid said that his coach would constantly tell the team to “sprint to the starting line”. Well, that day they certainly did, and never looked back.
The phrase stuck with me. “Sprint to the starting line”. Conventional wisdom says, “sprint to the finish line”. As you approach your goal, whether it’s in the 100m dash or a basketball game, as you get towards the end you turn on the jets. But this one coach emphasized not just playing fast and hard towards the end of the contest, or even throughout the entire contest. He wanted his guys to race to the beginning. To be chomping at the bit. You can just picture a runner or a swimmer making a bee-line to the starting blocks, just itching to explode onto that track or pool. That was the type of mindset this coach instilled in his players.
What I also realized was that this wasn’t just a sports metaphor. If you are looking for a job or trying to get some new tasks started, run to that computer and start looking for what’s out there. Embrace the challenge ahead of you. Don’t wait for the best time of day or the right opportunity to just appear. Attack that task or chore head-on. Momentum is a powerful thing. Once it gets going it’s hard to stop. Imagine having that kind of energy prior to even beginning your endeavor! You will become unstoppable!
Sprint to the starting line. Words to live by. Thanks, coach.
Coffee and Pie
One of my favorite DVD’s is a cult classic called “Coffee and Cigarettes”, a black and white masterpiece from 2004. It’s a collection of 11 vignettes with pairs of famous people chatting briefly about (and over) coffee and cigarettes. One particular story stars Rock legends Iggy Pop and Tom Waits. At one point during their witty repartee that permeates the segment, Iggy comments that their generation is the Coffee and Cigarette Generation, while their parents were the Coffee and Pie Generation. And on it goes…
I would have thrived in their parent’s generation. I love coffee and pie. I think restaurants should reserve special tables for those people that possess those refined tastes that are capable of appreciating the delicate balance of those flavors. But let’s get something straight: the pie can be any type, but the coffee has to be black (see Theory #6).
The idea is that even though the pie can be light and airy, as in the cloud-like lemon meringue, or heavy and sweet, like a warm, dark pecan, the coffee is the ultimate drink to wash it down with. Forget milk (what are you, twelve?) or water (the ultimate hypocrisy – as in, “I’ll have a donut and a Diet Coke, please”). The combination of the two creates an epicurean Nirvana (not the band). You take a bite of pie, you’re enjoying the sweetness, the decadence, then right when you need just a sip of something to finalize your dining experience, you take a swig of joe. Ahhhhhhhh…….Nothing like it.
OK, so maybe I was a little hungry when I sat down to write this one, but you gotta admit. Few things evoke the smile of contentment that abounds when coffee and pie are the meal of choice.
Alone, But Not Lonely
I had just gotten home from a long drive, and an even longer day at work. The October sun had recently set and I felt like going for a swim. The wife got a late jump running errands and was still out. So I took advantage of the ‘alone time’, went down to our complex’s pool, and attempted a few laps in its frigid, unheated depths. I think I burned more calories shivering than I did from the handful of laps I managed to do. Then it was off to the jacuzzi. I never use the word ‘bliss’, but that hot tub was pretty frickin’ blissful!
There was a guy at the pool barbequing carne asada while I was there. The warm, spicy smell permeated the entire pool area. Once he was done grilling he headed for the exit. But then he stopped at the jacuzzi and started talking to me. He said, “Do you like being alone?” I said, “Yeah, I do.” He said, “So do I. I enjoy the silence and only hearing my own thoughts. But I wasn’t sure if it was normal or OK to like to be just by myself.” I said, “Maybe it’s a guy thing, but I think most men relish the time to themselves. It’s totally normal” He said, “Good. Adios.”
It got me thinking. There are certainly times that I have experienced loneliness, like when my wife is out of town visiting her people for a few days. But there is definitely a difference between being lonely and being alone. They are not mutually exclusive terms. I think most people can be very much alone and also very much not lonely. I hate the thought of that guy I met feeling bad or guilty about such a normal and necessary human feeling.
Loneliness is the craving of someone else’s company. Being alone is the craving of your own company.
So exalt in being alone! Meditate, ruminate, vacillate, contemplate, calculate, differentiate……well, you get the idea.
Never Trust Anyone Under 30
“Youth is wasted on the young.” In the spirit of conciseness, I could just end this one right here. Drop the mic, walk away, game over. But there is so much more to say with regards to this topic I cannot, in good conscience, stop now.
The incredibly insightful and accurate statement above is a paraphrase from George Bernard Shaw’s original quote that went, “Youth is a wonderful thing.- What a crime it to waste it on children!”
Back in the ’60s, the mantra of the youth of the day was, “Never trust anyone over 30”. It was the common mindset that people over 30 were old (REALLY old), out of touch, and could not possibly relate to the younger generation. But the truth is, every generation prior to then and everyone since thought the same way. And the irony is that everyone older than 30 realizes that the ‘twenty-somethings’ are basically full of crap! Hence, the title of this theory.
I was thinking back to a time in my 20’s when I went through a phase of invincibility. I was young, I had a good job, I had a good woman, and in my mind, I had nothing but years and years of success to look forward to. Then I remembered a phase I went through when I made one lousy decision after another, all the while thinking that I was doing the right thing. Then it hit me. The entire duration of my 20’s was one big phase! One big phase of arrogance, misplaced optimism, cockiness, poor choices, and the idea that I was intelligent and mature enough to be able to successfully plan the rest of my life based on my “vast” knowledge of 20-plus years. What a joke. But it wasn’t just me. All people in their 20’s have the same common misconception that they actually know what the hell they’re talking about.
When you’re a teenager, you think you’re smarter than your fossilized parents. And this generally gets you in some pretty hot water. But when you’re in your 20’s the potential for damage is far greater. Once you reach that age you’re convinced that your IQ just shot up 100 points. And that nobody could possibly have anything worthwhile to tell you that you don’t already know. The trouble is, at that age, you’re on your own (maybe) and you don’t always have your parents to fall back on to clean up your messes. The mistakes you make can have a long-lasting effect on your life. Financial mistakes, emotional mistakes, relationship mistakes,…In a way, though, it’s not really their fault. Nobody in their ’20s realizes that you won’t have any clue as to how to manage your life until your 30th birthday. Then, magically, the light bulb turns on. “Oh my God! THAT’S what I should have done!” That’s one of life’s more cruel twists of fate – that when you’re young, you’re clueless, and when you’re older you know better, but by then you’ve already made a lot of crappy, sometimes irreversible, choices.
OK, one last gratuitous Latin quote: “Juventus Stultorum Magister” – Youth is the Teacher of Fools. Johnny Ringo, from the movie Tombstone. Now I’m done, time to drop the mic, walk away, game over.
My mother, who died about 20 years ago, was one of 12 children. Tragically, one boy and one girl died in early childhood. Five boys and five girls survived that hot, arid, Eastern Arizona canyon. The boys grew into strong, intelligent, tough as nails men. The girls, once they were married and had children, became “The Aunties”.
Auntie Dora was the beauty. Tall, thin, elegant. Could have been a model. Probably still could be. Auntie Marie, who passed away recently, was the bean counter. Very business savvy. A whiz with numbers, accounting, and investing. Auntie Cissy (Cecilia), was the funny one. Great sense of humor, strong faith, and traditional family roots. Aunt Minnie (Erminia, my mother) was the seeker of knowledge. A Legal Secretary for the Mayor, avid reader, always eager to learn new things and help those around her excel. Auntie Carmen was the adventurer. Incredibly full of life. She loved to travel and explore and experience the world.
These brief descriptions of five incredible women merely scratches the surface of the beauty, love, and spirituality that they possess. But this isn’t just about them. As it turns out, with the hundreds of children, grandchildren, cousins, nieces, and nephews that these women (and their brothers) have produced, I have come across one lady who seems to be imbued with all the qualities of these great people. The looks, the brains, the financial prowess, the faith, the exuberance, all rolled up into one fantastic woman.
This one’s for you, Julie Kathleen.
Don’t Poke the Bear
For those of you who know the bear, this is not new. But a gentle reminder can be very beneficial for all concerned.
He’s the man in the mirror.
He likes to hibernate, to frolic with his cubs, to read, to watch a ball game.
He has a dual personality.
He’s David Banner and the Hulk, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. He’s that Two-Face guy from Batman.
He is a rock. He is an island (and he’s also been listening to a lot of Simon and Garfunkel lately).
He is Joe Average. He takes care of business, he takes care of those he cares about, he lives day to day and, for the most part, tries to do the right thing.
He is docile. He is mellow. He lumbers about. He leans against things to scratch his back.
His motto is: “Just. Leave. Me. The Fuck. Alone”
To be fair, everyone needs a little nudge from time to time. l little motivation is good for the bear. Keeps him from going into hibernation all year long. But a little nudge is not the same thing as a poke. A poke means you’re instigating something. A poke means you’re yanking his chain just to get a response. A poke means that you have lost your fucking mind.
Have you ever seen a shark frenzy? Ever see lions feasting on a zebra carcass? Have you ever seen piranha “nibble” on a water buffalo? The bear laughs at these pitiful examples of nature’s darker side. “Ha!”
He will smother you. He will tenderize you. He will vivisect you. He will scar you. And that’s all while you’re still alive!
There is no need to continue. The rest is no only too graphic to describe, but also unnecessary. Everyone knows that if you poke the bear, it does not end well for the poker. But when in doubt, just remember his motto. It says it all.
When Einstein came up with his Special Theory of Relativity (1905) and his General Theory of Relativity (1916) he transformed the way that people had looked at the world for the past 200 years. Newton’s theories of physics (Classical Mechanics) had been the accepted standard model of the universe. But even as scientists began to accept Einstein’s mysterious theories as the new model for the “New Physics”, most people (including scientists) were at a loss to explain exactly how it all worked.
Einstein, who had a great sense of humor, became weary of the countless people who asked him to explain it. Once he quipped,
“When you are courting a nice girl, an hour seems like a second. When you sit on a red cinder, a second seems like an hour. That’s Relativity.”
As difficult as these topics are to understand, they can be explained to just about anyone, regardless of one’s science background, if broken down into these three basic tenets.
All motion is relative
Mass and Energy are interchangeable
Space and Time are not absolute
These brief, concise statements can be expanded in as much or as little detail as an audience can assimilate. From grade schoolers to graduate students, everyone can gain at least a little more of an understanding of what Relativity Theory is all about by starting with these three concepts…and someone who can explain them.
Love at First Sight
A lot of people believe that “Love at First Sight” is a purely physical phenomenon. One person sees another person and, based on their physical attributes, they fall in love. But often that intense, initial attraction to a particular body-type or skin tone or face/hair combination is mistaken for LAFS.
I think I can qualify the difference, because one day, many years ago, it happened to me.
During my first year of college, I attended the University of California at San Diego. I got in on my grades, but since only part of my tuition was paid, I had to find a job. I was looking for something on-campus that worked around my class schedule. What I found was the UCSD Day Care Center. They had two small houses built on a small hill separated by a fence. The little kids, 0 to 2 yrs old, were in the upper house, and the big kids, 3 to 5 yrs old, were in the lower house.
I had a blast. Changing diapers one day, making paper airplanes the next; overseeing snack time, and patting them on the back while they napped. It was a Monday through Thursday gig and I usually picked up my check on Thursdays.
One day I was told that my dough would not be ready until Friday, so I came in then. I was just going into the lower house when I saw a young woman walking by the center of the fence heading towards the exit. I was about 30 feet away, so I didn’t get that good of a look at her. But something possessed me to find a way to stop her before she left. There was this kid, Doug, standing next to me, so I told him to go over there and ask her what her name was, give her my jacket, and ask her if she would hold it for me for a few minutes. OK, in retrospect, it was a lot to ask a 4-year-old.
So I ran back to the house, grabbed my check, and headed to the fence. I met Doug halfway there and asked him what her name was. He said, “T-shirt”. I said, “Thanks, Doug.” When I finally reached that spot she was still there, waiting with my jacket. She said her name was Sharon (T-shirt??) and that Doug had told her that I had asked him to ask her her name. (Thanks again, Doug). Apparently she volunteered at the Center on Fridays, which is why I never saw her before. If it hadn’t been for that payroll mishap, I might not have ever met her.
Anyway, back to my original point. I saw something in her from a distance, but up close it hit me like ton of bricks. Shy smile, soft voice, thoughtful eyes,…I don’t know what it was. The physical attraction was there, but it wasn’t the first thing I saw. All I saw was that she was the one I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. I just…knew. And, 38 years later, she’s still the one. LAFS is alive and well and happening all around us. Keep your eyes peeled.
Why is it that every time someone refers to aliens from other worlds, they are presumed to be a lot smarter than us and a lot more technologically advanced? If you believe that extra-terrestrials exist out there somewhere, then you have to believe that there would be quite a few of them, not just a handful. And given the size of the Universe what are the odds that every alien race would be mentally superior to us? The laws of probability do not support such an assumption.
So I propose what if the first aliens from another world that we encountered were dumb asses? Maybe they happened upon an advanced civilization in their travels, stole a spaceship, and stumbled across the earth by accident. There was a movie back in the ’80s called ‘Morons From Outer Space’. I never saw it, but obviously people were exploring this idea back then, too.
I just think it’s a distinct possibility that with all the speculation and anticipation of an advanced society contacting us and helping us answer some of the many unanswerable questions about the Universe that we have, they might just come by and ask US for help. Or for directions. Well, at least the female of the species would. The male would probably not even admit they were lost.
Groceries are expensive. With the demand caused by COVID-19 from consumers to stock up on things, stores have lost the incentive to put items on sale. They know that people are going to buy whatever they put on their shelves at whatever price. Occasionally, you will see something marked down 50 or 75 cents as a token reduction to show that they aren’t price gouging. And although they aren’t actually inflating their prices (which some places have tried), by not putting items on sale like they did before all this happened makes things difficult for consumers like you and me.
So we grin (even though nobody can see it through our masks) and bear it. But I have decided to take advantage of this predicament and apply it to my personal situation. Like a lot of people, I have been forced out of work and required to hole up in my home until all this passes. As such, I am eating more. More quantities, more varieties, more often. I recently brought back a favorite staple of mine, ice cream, as a way of soothing the inner turmoil that a life of quarantine has saddled me with. Yeah, right. I like it, I buy it, I eat it, I buy more!
Ah, but here is where I get back at those guys. Normally, I would go to the store whenever I run out of something. Theoretically, I could make an ice cream run every third day. But now I only buy groceries when I’m out of a lot of things, which is about once a week. So, whether I eat the entire tub of ice cream in 3 days or 3 hours, I’m not going to pick up another gallon for a week. Ergo, I am compelled to make my yummy frozen indulgence last the duration of one week, my spare tire remains only partially inflated, and I screw the grocery stores out of $3.50 of ice cream that I would have gladly forked over to them every other day!
“Victory is mine!”
Only the Strong Survive
I’m certainly not the first person to make this statement. I think it was either Nietzsche or Captain America. Not sure.
The original emphasis was on physical strength. The strength that endures through hard times and adversity. The strength that gives you the confidence to conquer all that comes your way. I’m sure the intent was meant to give people a way to cope with the difficulties of everyday life.
However, there exist many different types of strengths. Strength of character, the strength of heart, the strength of faith, the strength of mind…Therefore, any size, gender, or age of the person has the potential to become strong within themselves.
That means that you don’t have to be Hercules to survive this world. My definition of strength, in this case, is “doing the work”. You have to put in the work to survive and/or be successful. Studying, reading, exercising, attending classes, networking…whatever it may be. You have to be consistent, resilient and have commitment.
The work needed to accomplish this is difficult but doable. And the work itself, obviously, varies from person to person. But the concept is the same. Each person knows what they must do. One of the hardest parts is just getting started. And the key to that is “Running to the Starting Line”. But that’s another theory.
Wow! That was my first teaser! Cool.
The Baby Whisperer
I’ve always liked little kids. Other people’s, mine, my daughter’s.
I have heard people say that the coolest thing about being a grandparent is that you can have as much fun with the kids as you want; get them all wired up, and then give them back to their parents. All the fun and little of the responsibility. Kind of a selfish mentality, if you asked me. But they are also completely missing the point.
That is not the coolest thing about the whole grandparent gig. The best part is that while the parents are still in the learning process of how to manage that little bundle, you’re the pro! When they don’t want to eat, you can get them to eat. When they don’t want a bath, you can get them soapy. When they are crying and won’t stop and won’t sleep, it’s Pops (See Theory #31) to the rescue.
Getting them to sleep can be one of the hardest things to do, but not if you realize that babies have an innate preference for certain types of music. After years of personal research on what music is most likely to lull a baby to sleep, I have ascertained that baby girls prefer Show Tunes and baby boys prefer Western songs. And neither wants to be sung to – they want to be hummed to. I’m not saying that babies don’t like to be sung to, because they do. What I’m saying is that when they are fussy and squirmy and just can’t seem to get comfortable, humming does the trick.
For the girls, I recommend “On the Street Where You Live” – My Fair Lady, “Feed the Birds (Tuppence a Bag)” – Mary Poppins, and pretty much anything from the Music Man. For the boys, when I say Western, I don’t mean Country. I mean “Red River Valley” and “I’ve been working on the Railroad” and “Down in the Valley”. Place the baby on your shoulder with your head up against theirs and hum these tunes softly and slowly, over and over, and the little ones will drop off into a peaceful slumber.
And their parents will say, “How did you do that?!” And you’ll say, “I’m a grandparent. It’s what I do.”
Sex. Wow. Where do I begin? So many things that could be talked about. But I want to chat about one specific problem and one potential solution.
The problem – frequency. How often should we do it? At night with the lights off? In the afternoon in broad daylight? After work? Before breakfast?
A lot of couples like to have sex randomly, spontaneously. When one person wants it, they propose it to the other person. The response is either yes or no. Then something either happens or it doesn’t. The problem with that is if only one of them feels like doing it, it doesn’t happen. Spontaneity is great but often leaves people wanting.
The alternative is scheduled sex. You plan to do it on Monday nights, Saturday mornings, or whenever. But not only is this the direct opposite of spontaneity, but it also has the potential of being boring, even if the number of “events” actually increases. And if the appropriate time arrives and one or both parties are not in the mood, then it’s no fun for anybody.
The solution – Celebration Sex! The couple keeps the random sex going. Sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn’t. But then they add to that: sex on Presidents Day, sex on Groundhog Day, birthdays, anniversaries, Labor Day…..Couples can choose the holidays ahead of time or as they approach. And if you pick different ones every year, it won’t seem planned or routine. Everybody wins! Sex becomes an event for all seasons!
You can call it whatever you want; Beyond Burgers, Impossible Burgers, both trademark names of their respective “plant burger”. And you can tout that it tastes more like meat that other non-meat patties. But it’s a veggie burger, people. No more, no less.
Side note: Why are people who are so against eating animals always trying to find things to eat that taste just like animals?
Thought I’d weigh in on the baseball cheating scandal like everyone else.
First of all, every team from every era since time began has tried to steal signs from the opposing team. Every one of them. What MLB is telling us now is that the problem wasn’t sign-stealing per se, it was using technology to assist in sign-stealing. So what they are saying is that if your guy is on second base, and he looks into the catcher’s crotch, then signals the batter as to what pitch is coming, that’s ok. But if a camera in the center field looks into the catcher’s crotch, then signals the batter as to which pitch is coming, that’s not ok. Ludicrous. Either stop all cheating or get better at hiding signs. Like football.
Baseball has been dealt with another black eye. Just put a raw piece of meat on it, learn from it, and move on.
Spelling Always Counts
This was one of my first theories from way back in the day. Before cell phones, before emojis. But even with the plethora of different ways to communicate now, my original statement remains true.
The first thing that jumps out in a text or email or even a birthday card is a misspelled word. It might as well be highlighted. Then the reader, consciously or subconsciously, wonders…was the person in a hurry and didn’t want to bother correcting it, did they know it was misspelled and were too lazy to change it, or do they just not know how to spell? The person reading the communique is not only wasting time trying to figure out what the problem is they are also making a subtle judgment on the sender as to their level of intelligence.
This also applies to abbreviated texts and emojis. What if someone is flirting with you inappropriately? Imagine that! And instead of saying LMA (Leave Me Alone), you type LMAO ( Laughing My Ass Off). When you thought you were discouraging him, you were actually encouraging him!. Same with emojis. What if you’re trying to impress someone and you think that you are sending him a smiley face with one hand waving and you accidentally send him a smiley face with one hand-picking his nose?!
OK, you’re probably thinking that I’m making a HUGE deal out of nothing. The fact is, nobody thinks twice about spelling when they read something that has no errors. Nobody says, “Wow! There wasn’t one spelling mistake in that!” But they do notice when there is a mistake. The bottom line here is that everybody makes typos. All the time. All I’m saying is take the time to CHECK YOUR WORK. It shows that you care about how you come across to people. It doesn’t take that long and it can keep you from being thought of as less than you actually are.
SPELLING. ALWAYS. COUNTS.
Baseball: Leave it alone!
Baseball has been around for almost a century and a half. And like most sports, it has had its share of equipment upgrades, team re-alignments, and rule changes.
The pitcher’s mound has been raised and lowered. Teams have jumped from one league to another. Baseballs have been juiced and un-juiced (but let us not open up THAT wound!).
Though sometimes annoying, these changes are bound to occur from time to time. But what makes them tolerable is that they originate from MLB itself. Or the Player’s Union. My point is that the changes are made by the League and for the League.
And then, someone allowed non-baseball folks to have an opinion. Announcers, columnists, the “casual fan”. And their opinion was universal – “The game’s too long, the game’s too slow. There are not enough runs being scored. There are not enough home runs. There are too many strikeouts.” Nails on a chalkboard, people, nails on a chalkboard. They say that more people would watch the game if there were a time limit on it, or if only a limited number of extra innings were allowed. Stop already!
Where to begin………First of all, these complainers are not trying to make baseball better, they are trying to make their lives and jobs easier. A faster pace and fewer extra innings would make the announcer’s job, which is just an ad-lib infomercial of the game, much easier because they wouldn’t have to work so hard to make up little anecdotes for the listener to enjoy. I guarantee you, if they were paid by the hour and not by salary, we wouldn’t hear a peep from them on this issue!
And the casual fan? Why would anyone even care about the casual fan? By definition, they only tune in to the game when they are bored with everything else. Nothing else to binge-watch on Netflix, the Cooking Channel is showing a baking show and I don’t bake, all my “texties” are really annoying me right now…..Then they turn on the game and they say, “What a boring sport! I would totally watch it more if it was only an hour-long”.
I define “texties” as people that you text on a regular basis.
None of them have making the game of baseball better as a priority. It’s all about their own agenda. There are reasons that no time clock exists. Baseball is a game of strategies. Each pitcher has certain strengths and weaknesses, as does each batter. And those qualities change as the game goes on. After several innings the pitcher gets tired, the batter learns his “tells”. The fielders know the batter’s tendencies and where he is most likely to hit the ball, depending on whether he’s facing a lefty or a righty. Are there runners on base, is this a day or night game, what is the air temperature, what is the elevation of the field…? These and many more are all variables that are taken into account on every pitch. Both teams set up their players accordingly, wait for the pitch and the result thereafter, then based on that, make an adjustment or two, then do it again.
Baseball is not a sprint. It’s a half marathon. Extra innings make it a full marathon. If all you can see is the score or how many times the ball leaves the park, then not only are you missing the entire point of the game, you are in no position to force your self-centered opinions onto the baseball community. I am part of that community and I will fight for baseball. Not because I love it (and I do), but because I get it.
Leave baseball the hell alone!
The Old American
The other day, a friend of mine had some Kettle Corn, so he offered me some. I said, “No, thanks. I don’t like Kettle Corn”. He was incredulous. “What?! How can you not like Kettle Corn? What are you, un-American?”, he said jokingly. I replied, un-jokingly, “No, I’m just ‘old’ American”. In other words, I don’t like…
Sugar in my popcorn
Salt in my caramel
Wheat in my beer
Flavors in my whiskey
Anything with an Italian sounding name in my black, no I don’t want room for cream and sugar,
drink any time of the day or night, scalding hot coffee.
God vs/ The Big Bang
If this were titled, God vs. Religion, I could have written pages and pages and kept adding new material as I read or learned it. But for the sake of brevity, I chose this one particular comparison.
Is it as the religious community believes, that God always was and always will be? Or is it as scientific community believes that in the beginning, there was nothing, a void; then the Big Bang occurred, and the Universe began. People have been debating this for a long time; Theologians and Physicists, priests and laypeople, church ladies, and science geeks. One of the problems is that in a lot of arguments and discussions, the two parties believe that one side has to be right and the other has to be wrong.
One of my favorite Albert Einstein quotes is,
“Science without religion is lame; religion without science is blind.”
Science and religion are NOT mutually exclusive. Both can exist simultaneously. In the case of God vs. the Big Bang, my take is fairly simple:
God created the Big Bang.
Wild Caught vs. Sustainable
What a crock! Six months ago, my usual haunt for fish tacos started advertising “Sustainable Fish.” According to the little sign they had posted, they were proudly doing their part not to
promote overfishing and environmentally destructive fishing methods of fish caught in the ocean. Farms. Fish farms. That was the answer.
Six days ago, that same seafood joint started advertising “Wild Caught” fish. Salmon, cod, trout…According to the little sign they had posted (which was probably on the back of the other little sign), they were proudly doing their part to not promote environmentally destructive fish-farming practices, including water pollution and the threat to local flora and fauna.
Are you kidding me? Can a restaurant be more hypocritical? Pick a side, why don’t you! The irony is that there are just as many good things and bad things about catching fish in the ocean as there are about herding them and rounding them up on fish ranches.
Besides, I heard a rumor the other day that focusing on just the fish that taste good is racist because not all fish get the same opportunity to lie dead and seasoned on some human’s plate.
You Can’t Say That!
From the “Too bizarre to be true, but still is” Department…..
A prominent liberal city in Northern California (Berkeley) is planning to ban the use of “gender-specific” words in the city’s Municipal Code. “Manhole” will now be “Maintenance hole”, “Manpower” will now be “Human Effort”, and the last, and certainly most inane, the terms “fraternity and sorority” will now be “Collegiate Greek System Residence”.
I wish that I were making this up because then it would be funny. But since it’s for real, it’s just bizarre. The rationale for this change is that “eliminating any gender preference language within the municipal code will promote equality”. Other words that apparently strike fear into the hearts of the townsfolk of Berkeley are:
- Brother – changed to Sibling
- Maiden (name) – changed to Family (name)
- Repairman – changed to Repairer
- Ombudsman – changed to Ombuds
Rather than rant and rave about how ridiculous this is, I thought that I would take the high road and continue their list with some things I think they forgot. Such as:
- Boyscouts and Girlscouts – should be Nature oriented badge earning youths
- Boysenberry (which was invented by crossing a blackberry, a raspberry, and a loganberry) – should be Hybridberry
- Busboy – should be Table scrap collector
- Showgirl – should be Topless Burlesque actress
- Woman and Female (because they contain the word man and male) – should be a Person with childbearing abilities (that certainly doesn’t have to if they don’t want to!)
- Human Beings (because it contains the word man) – Lots of choices for this one: Carbon Units, Bone Bags, Monkey Kin, or my personal favorite, Meat Puppets
I am not unsympathetic to the cause of equality. Sometimes people just go a little nutso.
The Fanny Fan
My daughter tells me that Fanny Packs are making a comeback. Or maybe she’s just the one-woman crusade determined to make sure that happens. I don’t know, but if so, it’s great timing for my invention – The Fanny Fan.
It’s a fact of life that as people get older, they are in less control of their bodily functions as when they are younger. I am speaking specifically about flatulence. It’s unavoidable. Every now and then, a little “air biscuit”* is going to escape without the permission of the donor. But have no fear. Enter the Fanny Fan.
The Fanny Fan is a small cordless fan concealed inside of a fanny pack. When putting on the device, just make sure the pack is placed over your backside. A mesh lining in the pack lets the air from the fan blow out and dissipate any unwanted odors in the general vicinity. Yes, a modicum of smell is bound to make its way to a passerby’s nose occasionally. But the difference between that and being hit with the fumes from a full-blown blast is (g)astronomical. A small on/off switch is located on the strap when the fan is not needed.
In Church, in the grocery store, or while out on a stroll, the Fanny Fan allows you to go through your normal daily routine free from the fear and embarrassment of the occasional extraneous emittance.
And yes, I am willing to discuss partnership offers.
*I think Whoopi Goldberg was the first person I heard use this expression. Priceless.
Tell Me Again, Why Am I Going to the Gym?
What if maybe, just maybe, at this precise moment in space and time, I’m SUPPOSED to be fat, and out of shape
The “G” Word
My dad was a pretty funny guy. At 5’1’’ and about a buck fifty, he was a ball of fire. Always yelling, screaming, annoying waitresses, embarrassing the rest of his family. Classic little guy syndrome. It wasn’t until about the time that his children started having children that I saw another side of him. Gentle, loving, great with the babies. Unless one of them happened to call him the “G” world – Grandpa. Talk about don’t poke the bear (Theory #25)!
You see, as much as he loved his kids and grandkids, he couldn’t accept the concept of himself being a grandparent. So he made them call him Pete. Which was even funnier because his real name was Epitacio.
Fast forward 50 years and I have become his legacy. At least in that regard. None of the new generation of my people is allowed to call me ‘grandpa’ or ‘gramps’ or anything else starting with a ‘G’. Nor do I call them my grandkids. I just call them “my daughter’s kids”. And they call me ‘Pops’. The older ones do, at least. The 6 and 8-year-old. The babies (4-year-old twins) call me Popsy. Not my idea, but you gotta give them credit for creativity.
Being the babies of the brood, they are continuing the generational trend of non-conformity. “Rules?”, they giggle. “The Status Quo?”, they snicker. Not them. So Popsy it is. For now. It’s definitely better than the “G” word.
I had a thought. I’ll bet 50 years from now, their smaller generations of themselves will shake things up a bit, too. They’ll probably just call the twins, “Hey Old Guys!”
Math is Hard
Having a degree in Physics and enduring myriad calculus classes, I believe I am more than qualified to sound off on this subject.
Math is the only subject that creates an emotional response when brought up in a conversation. People either love it or hate it. There is no in-between. And many people base their love/hate feelings about it on situations that occurred while they were in school.
Those that math came easy to sat in the front of the class, answered every question correctly, and, for the most part, felt pretty good about themselves. Those that had difficulty with math sat in the back, scowling, and agonized over how slow the clock was moving.
What differentiates math from other subjects is that in other classes, you’re taught new things, you study them, and you either learn and remember them or not. But math, and this is at almost every level, is taught under the guise that it “isn’t that tough”, “is actually quite simple”, “is something everyone should be able to understand”. And because it’s “supposed” to be easy, and half the class is getting it, when you don’t get it, you feel stupid. It’s easy and everyone else understands it except me. Therefore, I must be a dumbass!
The truth is that MATH IS HARD! It is an abstract subject that constantly changes its rules the farther along you go. First, only positive numbers exist, then you have negative numbers. Then you can’t take the square root of a negative number, then all of a sudden, you can. What teachers should be telling all their students at every level is that MATH IS HARD. Some people may get Algebra right away, others will do well in Geometry, but most people don’t understand every aspect of the subject.
If students were told that MATH IS HARD rather than easy, then they wouldn’t feel so stupid when they don’t get it right away. It’s a difficult subject, they are normal, and the ones that do get it, are just good at math. It’s up to the teachers to let all of them know, that if they don’t catch on right away, it’s OK; it’s just the nature of math.
Math is hard. Period.
Using paper as a toilet tissue dates back to 6th Century China. The TP we use today is a variation of the first roller-based paper that came about in the 19th century. Since then, the debate regarding “over” or “under” has raged on throughout the teeming masses.
Having spent many years studying physics, as well as a 3 yr stint as a Night Custodian at Disneyland, I feel qualified to finally put this topic to rest.
As it turns out, the orientation of the toilet paper has to do with the Angular Momentum of the roller juxtaposed with the Rotational Inertia of the paper. And, after solving a few rudimentary second order differential equations, the result is QED – quod erat demonstrandum. In other words, “over the waterfall”.