Category Archives: Thoughts @ Large

• The water reservoir on my WaterPik is leaking and I need to replace the rubber stopper. WaterPik’s online store wanted $2.99 plus $3.95 shipping for one stopper.  Various sellers on Amazon wanted $12.99 with free shipping for 6 stoppers.  Cheapskate Craig spent the next 15 minutes in an internal debate between paying $6.94 to fix the problem at hand vs. buying stoppers in quantity and getting a 69% discount per stopper.  What would you do?

• I was trying to play a Beatles CD on my computer and make a copy of “Blackbird” so that I could learn the guitar chords.  My PC was able to play the first track (“Back in the USSR”) and the second (“Dear Prudence”) but when I tried to skip to “Blackbird” the media player kept hanging up.  At first I thought that my Windows Media Player might be out of date, so I downloaded another CD player.  Same thing.  What in the world?  Did this CD have some weird kind of digital copy-protection?  Well, after a half-hour of various attempts to play it, I finally unloaded the CD and saw the crack in the disc.

• My answer to the WaterPik stopper dilemma was this:  I figured I would have to replace the stopper once more, at most, before it was time to discard the unit and buy a new one. Therefore, buying just one stopper, and taking the chance that I would need no more than one additional replacement, seemed to yield the lowest probable cost.  All that calculating just to save $6.05.  I hope the calories that my brain burned made the effort worthwhile.

• My spouse and I just saw a good theater movie, The Invisible Man with Elisabeth Moss.  Afterward, we stopped in at a local upscale hotel bar to have a drink and a burger.  The bar was busy, it being Saturday night, and various characters filed in and out, it being a hotel.  Halfway through our drinks, two men started trading barbs from opposite sides of the bar (it sounded like a continuation of an earlier exchange) and the bartender had to intervene. One of the men was sitting next to us.  We continued our conversation, ignoring him.

Later, when our dinners were served and my spouse’s ordered-rare burger was delivered well-done, I remarked to her how this was the second time in a row her food was overdone in this restaurant.  This prompted the jerk-next-door to crane his neck around and ask, “So this happened to you before?”  I’m not sure what corner of my brain this came from, but I met his bleary gaze and said, “We’re having a private conversation,” and I turned back to my spouse.  And that was that.  The jerk turned into The Invisible Man and eventually left the bar, unnoticed.  Straw Dogs II did not ensue.

• I bought a new guitar earlier this year, officially my Christmas gift from my spouse and the first I have owned since college days.  Feeling enlivened, I signed up for some lessons, as I have never been able to do anything with a guitar except strum.  The lessons are okay but aren’t exactly what I expected.  I thought they might be like golf lessons, where the first things you learn are the fundamentals like posture and grip.  But instead, we have gone directly to songs (“Blackbird” and “Wildwood Flower” thus far) which have mostly served to highlight how bad my fundamentals are.  Perhaps my instructor figures I’m too old a dog to learn new ways and she may be right.  Nevertheless, I persist.

• Needless to say, I don’t buy into claims that Democrats and the “liberal media” want the coronavirus disaster to worsen in order to bury Trump’s 2020 re-election chances.  But I do believe that Big Media has a vested interest in heightening their viewers’ anxiety about the pandemic.   The more we fear, the more we watch; the higher the ratings, the greater the network ad revenue.  Sandersian as this sounds, liberal media is not the problem — corporate media is.

• It’s astounding how many aspects of once-ordinary life now look radically different when viewed through the lens of our coronavirus stance.  Television commercials for Caribbean cruises.  Vacations to Italy offered on “The Price is Right.”  Any group of people shown in close proximity, whether celebrating a victory or supporting a political candidate.  I have never been a social butterfly but the recommended person-to-person distancing feels like a virtual coffin.

• Employing the same decision-making tools I used in the Great WaterPik Stopper Debate, I decided this is a good time for people like me to utilize our capacity to entertain, as there are plenty of dour commentators and despairing lamenters as it is.  So, for the next month or so, I will be posting various non-coronavirus-related features here, as if this surreality did not exist.  Call it a survival mechanism.

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• I recently noticed that the water pressure in our shower was low and that the flow rate dropped when another faucet opened or a toilet was flushed.  This never used to happen.  So I looked at the situation and figured that the pressure regulator on our water supply was either filled with sediment or some internal part was broken.

the do-it-yourself bible of my younger yearsIn the old days, armed with my well-worn Reader’s Digest Complete Do-It-Yourself Manual, I would have shut off the water and taken apart the regulator to see if I could clean it out myself and save us some bucks.  But here is where a few decades of life pays its rewards.  It is more likely I would have taken the thing apart only to have some piece crumble in my hands, and then the hardware store would have no replacement part because the manufacturer went out of business, and meanwhile we have no water and someone is now standing in front of me asking when I’m going to turn on the water because someone has to get a shower and leave for an appointment in an hour.  Intuiting that, present-day me decides to call a plumber.  Experience has a way of teaching things that do-it-yourself books and videos never cover.

• I make a mean tossed salad, I really do.  Invite me for dinner someday and I will raid your produce drawer, and probably a few other places in your pantry, and if given enough warning I will bring other fresh goodies with me (maybe even radishes) and then I will make excellent salads for all of us, custom-prepared so that Person A can have her broccoli and bleu cheese while Person B enjoys his black olives and ranch.  I may not cook worth a damn but I could have had a stellar career as a greens-tender, if such a position existed.

• I really thought there were still a few absolutes in life, some things that, even in these fractured times, every rational person can agree on.  For example, though I do not share their passion, I understand why nature-lovers object to bear traps.  And while I think the alt-educated people who refuse to vaccinate their children are supremely misguided and negligent, the damage caused by their selfishness is, for now, limited.  But I draw the line at mosquito activists.  Mosquito activists!

• What would it be like if we had no heritage?  By that I mean, what would we be like, what would our cultures be like, if we lived our lives based on what we personally experienced and not the dusty heritages that our parents and relatives drummed into us, defining and confining our actions and reactions?  It may be that most of us, the world over, adopt and cultivate our own heritage-brand that we then operate under, carving out our narratives from our kindred’s experiences while acting as if we experienced their events ourselves.

• Last fall, my friend Eric introduced me to the Spelling Bee game in the New York Times and I am now hooked.  It’s a game that doesn’t last more than a day, one can leave it and pick it up at will, and while it offers more challenge than an everyday word-search, one is spared all the weightiness of solving the crossword puzzle.  And for me, the Spelling Bee also offers a meta-level of amusement arising from my attempts to find longer, compound words hiding among the seven letters provided that day.

Here are a few examples I found (with my definitions) that I am sure amused only me:

  • BABYLIT  –  children’s books with washable pages?
  • NAGBOT  –  someone who reminds you of the obvious, over and over again
  • KNOBBOY –  the doorman’s understudy?
  • LAXABIT –  the pill you take when you only have to go a little
  • HAMDOWN  –  annual barbecue and fiddle festival in Ames, Iowa

Needless to say, none of these words were accepted.

• P.S.  A quick update on our water supply pressure regulator.  The plumber replaced it.  Pressure and performance is back to normal.  Cost: $300.  Makes me think I should have at least tried to clean or replace it myself — could have saved a few bucks.  I’ll never learn.

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•  My new artistic credo is, go bold or go home.  Like Andy Warhol, minus the decadence. I’m getting too old to play things safe and, frankly, safe isn’t all that interesting.

•  That said, I do have self-imposed limits on what I write about here.  I rarely if ever share family stories, because (a) they are not my own to share, not matter how entertaining they may be, and (b) I am very conscious about other people’s internet privacy, such that it is.  Also, while I could mine my own childhood for any number of polemics, some dead dogs should remain in the ground to decompose.  Better safe than smelly.

• Here’s some artistic boldness.  It’s titled Chicken Story.  Play it full-screen for max bold.

•  Something’s very wrong.  I have been cutting out carbs and exercising for the last week — shouldn’t I have dropped 10 pounds and 30 cholesterol points by now?

•  On a related note, Fiber One has got to be the worst breakfast cereal in the solar system.  It looks like cat litter and tastes like… well, used cat litter.  It should be sold in feed stores.  I wanted to mix the rest of the box into our birdseed but my wife, wisely, said no.

•  We still have a landline because cell service is unreliable where we live.  And we are still training ourselves not to pick up the phone when we get calls from an unknown number, even if it appears to be from our local area code.  Our friends may be annoyed when we let their calls go to the answering machine, but I trust most will understand that our ratio of spam to legitimate calls is at least 7-to-1.  (Nationwide, the ratio is about 1-to-1.)

•  Some tech company needs to invent a house-wide noise-cancelling system that activates whenever Canon in D is played by anyone on any device within earshot of me.

•  The difference between celebrities and nobodies is that lots of people are willing to pay (or stay up late) to see/hear celebrities tell stories.  Conversely, no one wants to listen to your story about seeing Miley Cyrus at an interstate rest stop.  Well, maybe some do.

•  Seeded raisins must be really popular or else I am really unlucky.  Every time I look for seeded raisins in the grocery store, only the seedless ones are left.

•  I have finally concluded that the TV show The Walking Dead isn’t very realistic.  I mean, we never see the zombies eat anything (except for the rare human, and they are eaten rare) so what exactly fuels zombie muscles?  If we are to take that show seriously, shouldn’t the walkers at least be shown drinking Red Bull or gumming Velveeta?

•  Speaking of Walkers: If every human who ever walked the earth (over 100 billion of us!)  were buried in one place, each in their own 6-foot x 12-foot plot, the cemetery would be the size of Texas.  Abel’s grave would be in the northwest corner of the panhandle, which is the most Republican district in the United States.  For what it’s worth.

•  1796 was the year that the city of Cleveland (originally spelled Cleaveland) was founded.  This would prompt young Ohio farmboys to launch what would become an autumn ritual: meeting behind the barn to smoke cornsilk and make sly biblical references to Cleaveland, without ever mentioning or remembering which party is supposed to cleave unto whom.  The descendants of those farmboys carry on today, as Cleveland Browns fans.

•  Now-You-Know Department:  This figure-8-shaped item (at right), which most people would just call a plug, is actually a C7 connector.  The prongs on the appliance comprise the C8 connector.  These are most commonly found on audio/video devices.  Sadly, now that you have eaten of the Tree of Electrical Knowledge, you must be banished from the Garden.  Depart then, and cover your connectors in shame.

•  Every violent tragedy now, we are all asking, “Is it a hate crime?  Is it terrorism?” as if the name we assign to it will somehow put it in a compartment removed from normal life.  Sad news: this is normal life.

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