• Some people “collect” experiences.  For example, there are those whose goal is to attend a baseball game in every major league park in a single season.  There are those who wish to step foot on every continent.  One person’s mission was to visit a pub next to each of the 270 underground stations in London.  And one person, it seems, intends to view every one of the 110 films (and counting) in which Liam Neeson has performed.  Indeed, I am now sort-of watching what may be either the 27th or 43rd or 71st of those films, along with the aforementioned person.  I have nothing against Liam Neeson, mind you — he perfected the role of the sensitive, tough-under-fire problem-solver extraordinaire, the very trait that my co-watcher admires in me.

• I never served in the armed forces.  Everything I know (and don’t know) about serving in the armed forces comes from films.  If I were to believe how military service is depicted in modern films, I would conclude that only the baddest of the bad-asses, or those who want to become bad-asses, need apply.  Compare this image with those who served in (and won) World War II: factory workers and salesmen, florists and actors, plumbers and painters.  Everyday guys, your dad and mine.  At least that is what I learned from those John Wayne and Robert Mitchum films.

• Why is train travel not very popular in the United States?  For the answer, consider this: when a film calls for its hero to become trapped and hurtle near-powerlessly to his demise, what vehicle is chosen as his conveyance?  Elephant?  Rickshaw?  Segway?  No — train.  People distrust trains in films and for good reason: they are enormously heavy, have tons of momentum and ride slippery rails.  All that romantic clickety-clack is just a distraction from the high-speed havoc underfoot.

• When a Cheerio falls onto the floor, I leave it there — it may help save a drowning ant.

• I just opened a gallon of milk whose container insists that I should have consumed it several days ago.  I think the fact that I bought the milk before it expired and took it home and kept it nice and cold before I opened it should count for something.  Ungrateful milk.  We’ll see whether it seeks revenge.

• It is probably wiser to let words flow like wine than the other way around — but this may depend on how one chooses her words.

• I need to read more Nietzsche.  I may not agree with even half of his aphorisms but I did appreciate this one: “Convictions are more dangerous foes of truth than lies.”  Given the convictions of Congressional Republicans and the lies that emanate from the White House, it would seem that, together, they’ve got things covered.

• So the Scrabble Gods have decreed that a few hundred words that were already words will now count as words.  They also decided OK will count as a word, even though it is not.  I guess OK must have won the Scrabble Electoral College.

• There are takers and partakers.  Some of the latter are as intolerable as the former.

• People’s final wishes are not so much wishes for themselves (since they won’t experience them) but the experience they would force upon whomever has to deal with their earthly remains.  Making elaborate plans for others to carry out (my nostalgic wish was to have my ashes scattered in Schenley Park in Pittsburgh) is not very considerate.  So, I say give your survivors a break — don’t direct them from the grave and don’t ask them to do gratuitous things.  And I say to my loved ones, when I’m gone, do what works for you.  You’ll know what that is, and we may all rest assured that I will not object.

• All this rumination about final arrangements… it must be the milk.

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Newton’s Law: What goes up must come down.

Einstein’s Law: What goes up depends on the observer.

Murphy’s Law: What goes up…. no, it doesn’t.

Otis’s Law: What goes up will not come down if the cable breaks.

Glenn’s Law: What goes up orbits the earth three times and splashes down.

Scotty’s Law: What beams down must beam up.

Trump’s Law: What goes up did so because of me.

Mueller’s Law: What went down will eventually catch up with you.

Grassley’s Law: What comes up must be put down.

Que Sera Sera’s Law: What goes up, goes up.

Hefner’s Law: What goes up for more than four hours must seek medical attention.

Shakespeare’s Law: Like as waves make towards the pebbl’d shore,
so does what goes up hasten to fall the more.

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On Radon

This is a public service announcement.

When we were in the process of building our house 15 years ago, I came across a map of radon concentration in North Carolina that suggested we should be concerned about it.  I asked our builder about radon mitigation and his response was basically, what’s that?

I guess I chose to be preoccupied with other things, because I took his word for it, and we did nothing about radon when we built our house. But years later, I tested our house and found radon levels of 6 picocuries/liter downstairs, where my office is.  I know, 6 is just a number.  But 6 picocuries/liter is 50% higher than the “actionable” level suggested by the EPA and 50% higher than the level ruthlessly cited by real estate agents everywhere as the level that makes your home unsalable if breached, regardless of your own sense of peril.

So finally, I mustered the energy to clear out all the leftover construction materials that  our builders “helpfully” left behind in our crawl space, and I contacted a radon-basement specialist in our area (the only one, actually) and they properly and professionally sealed our crawl space and installed a radon exhaust fan, and the radon level in my office area dropped from 6.2 to 0.9 picocuries/liter (close to the environmental level).  I was amazed.

Folks in Wilmington and Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, fear floods and hurricanes and many build their houses on pillars to ward off storm damage.  It is my guess that far fewer people in Western North Carolina protect themselves from radon damage, because it’s invisible, it’s not BREAKING NEWS on CNN, and it can cost a few thousand dollars upfront to install something that will help your family live a longer life.

I wish I had been more insistent with our builder.  What was wrong with me?

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