Thursday, May 30, 2013

Small Dogs and Neighborly Harmony

I'm a dog person. I like most dogs, but especially large breeds. You know why I don't care so much for really small dogs? Because they're always so bossy.

Here are the two obnoxious creatures that live next door to us. Their back yard borders ours, separated only by a chain-link fence:

If I'm out there, doing yard work or whatever, they usually get upset and yell at me, "Hey! Stay away from here! This is OUR yard and OUR fence! You can't run your mower that close to us! You can't cut that firewood!" I ignore them.

It gets interesting when our goldendoodle, Cooper, is out playing. He just wants to run around and have fun, but the little canine brats go berserk. They scream at him, "HEY! You stay far away! You can't run up to our fence! IF YOU COME ANY CLOSER WE'LL BITE YOUR ANKLES!!!"

Of course, this prompts him to run along the fence and yell back, "Oh, you guys want to play? Okay! Let's run back and forth! Too bad this fence is here, 'cause it would be fun if we could get together and run all over the place."

They reply, with really angry voices, "It's a good thing for YOU this fence is here, because it's the only thing keeping us from going all Tasmanian devil on you!"

I'm sure that's what they're saying. The bossy little jerks need to take a valium or something.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Mr. Productivity

It's been about a week since I wrote anything here, but I haven't exactly been goofing off. On the contrary, I got all kinds of stuff done lately. It's as if my last name were Workerton, and my first name, Workie.

I did stuff in the yard:

See that in-ground faucet? It wasn't there before. I had to dig pretty deep for the pipe it attaches to. After finishing the installation, I turned on the supply valve, and it worked! No leaks. Water comes out when I turn on the faucet, and stops when I turn it off. Success! Oh, one little thing though... another faucet that I recently installed in a different part of the yard used to work, but now it doesn't. Where's the emoticon for a puzzled look and head scratching? Pipes are tricky!

I played appliance repairman with our washing machine, which recently went on the fritz. (Whatever "the fritz" is, lots of things at our place seem to go on it.)

I had almost every part of this unit out, and somehow managed to get it all back together. And it works! Washes clothes again. Rinses and spins them too. And there are no leaks. After finishing this job, I only had a few screws left over. Obviously they were extra and unneeded, like your appendix. I'm pretty much a genius with electronic and mechanical things, and I (usually) save a fortune by not calling in the professionals. That digital multimeter isn't just there to look good in the picture. Okay, that's largely why it's there, but I did use it once during the repair process.

My neighbor was installing tile in his kitchen this weekend, so I went over and helped with that. We did pretty good, for amateurs.

It looks like wood, but it's actually ceramic tile. Cool, huh?
I'm definitely NOT a genius with tile, so I wanted to get some experience (in someone else's house, hehe!). I like learning new skills.

For the biggest job of all, I spent some time in the garage. There's a problem with the clutch on my old Ford pickup, so the transmission had to come out. Here's the truck:

And here's the transmission:

Notice that the two are now completely separated--proof I was successful. I did this alone, with no help at all. I do not recommend this method. If you're considering removing a transmission, take my advice and get a friend to join in the fun. It's much less exciting that way, and excitement isn't something you need in your garage. During this operation, I invented several new swear words, never before spoken by man. Please don't remind me that removal is the easy part, and I still need to put this back in. I'll nearly destroy cross that bridge when I come to it. Hopefully I will not end up with too many extra bolts.

A guy can't just work all the time though, can he? Sunday we had lots of family and friends over, and we cooked out. I grilled burgers, hot dogs, and chicken kabobs, and also made a huge batch of Dutch oven potatoes.

Thin sliced potatoes + bacon + cheese + 1.5 hrs in an iron pot = culinary bliss.
I must have not used enough charcoal, because these took forever to cook. When they eventually got done, they were delicious. I guess that's a win.

So you could say I'm pretty handy around the house. Fixing things and building things... even cooking things sometimes. I don't do it perfectly, but I can do it all.

Now, for my next project...

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Something For All You Good People To Ponder

In case I have not driven away the last remaining souls who once read this blog, here is yet another English lesson, or what I should just title "Stuff People Say That Really Irritates Me."

You ever hear this one? "He's good people."

I've been around folksy folks who like to say things like that. "I sure like ol' Buck Chapman. He's good people." Or, "That Slim T. Pronghorn feller sure is good people. His brother Lefty is good people too. They both are. They'd give you the shirt off their back any day of the week, and twice on Sunday." Or even, "You know who's good people? Cactus Jack Skalkaho. I've known CJ for a lotta years, and I've always said he's good people. It's too bad we can't all be as good a people as he is."

Don't get me wrong. I like old-timey, 19th century Western Americana-type stuff. On a scale where 1 is stubborn tradition and 10 is extreme progressiveness, I'm probably about a 1 1/2. No, make that 1 3/8.

I know there are expressions that don't conform to the usual rules for singular/pluralism. In Turkish, when you want to say "good day" (at a greeting or departure), the words you'd use translate directly as "good days." We sometimes speak of politics as a single thing, when clearly the word is plural. "The media" is likewise technically plural, but often used in a singular sense.

...but I don't care about any of that. I think calling one person good people is about the dumbest sounding thing you can say. Please don't ever say this around me.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

What Irony is, and What it Ain't

Ring the metaphorical bell, because class is back in session! It's a class in the Unintimidated School, which is kind of like old schools in that we care about using words correctly, as opposed to joining trendy conventions of misuse. We're not at all Old Skool, as we feel that is an inane, largely meaningless phrase. In that sense, you could say the Unintimidated School is ironic, or at least the term "Old Skool" is. (Also, we feel it's impolite to kick things, and proponents of Old Skool are always kickin' it.)

Let's get something straight: "ironic" is a term way too often misused. When you notice that something is coincidental, unexpected, or occurring under interesting circumstances, why not just say so? Too many kids (and even adults) like to claim these situations are ironic. Irony is when something turns out completely contrary to what's expected, given the usual meaning or behavior of the elements involved.

It's ironic when an ambulance runs over you, or a murderer saves your life. I could say "How ironic! A hard hat fell off the shelf and landed right on my head, giving me a concussion." This would be a correct use of the term. Some incorrect uses would be, "Hey, I was just thinking about you, and now I've run into you in the elevator... how ironic!" and "Oh, your son has the flu? That's iroinc; my daughter just had the flu."

YouTube features numerous parodies of Alanis Morisette's Isn't It Ironic, a song filled with things that are not ironic at all, about which she sings, "isn't it ironic?" This makes the song itself sort of ironic, but in a way that was probably not intended. If you like, go and search the YouTube, watch a few of these vids, then come back and finish up here...

A few correct examples:

- A character in Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five, a novel dripping with irony, returns safe from war to find that his friend was killed in a hunting accident at home. "So it goes."

- Shirley Jackson's wonderful short story The Lottery explores mob mentality and destructive traditions in a fictional small town where all the citizens gather annually to draw slips of paper from a box. At the story's conclusion, readers learn that--SPOLER ALERT!--the one with the winning slip gets stoned to death. There is irony in the town's naming their ritual "the lottery," because this usually refers to a contest for cash or some other desirable prize.

- The title character in Forest Gump somehow always comes out on top, despite his low intelligence and complete lack of planning. Of particular note is the fact that the dimwitted neophyte Gump repeatedly saves the life of his leader and mentor, Lieutenant Dan. He literally saves Dan's life in battle, his naive blunder saves the shrimping business they share, and he eventually saves Dan from a downward spiral of depression and self-destructive behavior, inspiring Dan to find a reason to live. Not bad for a guy once deemed borderline retarded, eh?

If you want some fun, everyday examples set to a catchy tune, I recommend this little number by comedian Bo Burnham: (Warning, this song will get stuck in your head, making you spell out I-R-O-N-I-C continually for the next several days.)

Now I'll let you decide. Is it ironic for me to teach literary concepts using silly online videos? If so, that's okay. I'm happy as long as nobody comments, "How ironic! I was just listening to Alanis Morisette this morning," or "Bo Burnham is my favorite funny guy, and U by C is my favorite blog. That's ironic."

Thank you.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Missing 15 Year Old Girl from Maine--Please Help!

Re-blogged from M.S. Fowle:

Please Help Find Nichole

I’ve never said this to any of you, but PLEASE REBLOG THIS! We need as many people as possible to see it, even if you live overseas – PLEASE REBLOG or REPOST!
This past Sunday night, a local teenage girl went missing and no one has seen or heard from her since.
MISSING: Nichole Kristine Cable
15-year-old Nichole Kristine Cable of Glenburn, Maine was last heard from Sunday night at around 9:20pm. Her parents have reported that she had received messages on Facebook from an unknown male and had plans to meet up with him. From what I’ve gathered, he posed as one of her Facebook friends to get her to accept a friend request and started messaging her.
There is little to go on as far as the “person of interest” goes – only that he is male, used a fake name and is supposedly driving a small black car. A few other teen girls have come forward to say that the same man had contacted them as well, but he removed them from his friend’s list when they refused to meet him.
Nichole’s last known whereabouts is on Route 221 in Glenburn, Maine.
If you’d like to get involved, this is the Facebook group that’s been formed to get information out:
I’ve also sent out some tweets about this, using the hashtag #FindNichole and #FindNicholeCable – please go to my Twitter profile and Retweet them:
I don’t care where you live or if you think it might not help – IT WILL! Reblog, Repost, Retweet – whatever you can! Think of all the different people who follow you online – they come from all over. Let’s use our social media outlets to spread the word and bring Nichole home!
I will update you once more information is received. Thank you for whatever help you can offer.
* * *
UPDATE: Authorities are now looking for anyone who may have seen a black Ford Ranger pickup truck (similar to the one pictured below) in the area of Rt. 221 near Rt. 43 and Rogers Market or near West Old Town between 8pm Sunday (May 12th) and 2am Monday (May13th). *Read the full article >>
Nichole Cable Case - Ford Ranger

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Heaps of Beeps

Howzit, folks? Since I just gave you a Stuff Caleb Sez, let's now do an entry in Stuff George Carlin Said. Because I like to keep things balanced, and also because I never get tired of G.C.

"Everything beeps now."

As usual, he's right. When I was a kid, we didn't have many things in our house that beeped. There was one phone, it was stuck to the wall, and it rang with an actual bell. You know, a round metal thing inside being struck by a tiny hammer. To make a call, you had to literally dial the number. Zip-zip-ziiiiip! 

Want to change the TV channel? You had to walk across the room and turn a big mechanical knob. (The choices were 2, 4, 5, 7, and 11, plus a few UHF stations that usually didn't play anything interesting.) We called it tuning in a station, and it was slightly less trouble than tuning a piano. Even though it only had a 17" screen, the TV itself was about the size and weight of a Smart car.

We were one of the first families I knew to get a microwave oven. It was an Amana Radarange, and it didn't beep. Like our TV and our telephone, it had... wait for it... yep, big round dials to set the cook time, plus a few clunky mechanical buttons for "Start," "Stop," and "Light." It made our food hot, and nobody ever struggled with how to program it.

But things changed, and several years ago, almost everything in the house beeped. Some things beeped when we pushed their buttons, other things beeped to get our attention so we'd know when it was time to wake up or when our toast was done. And don't forget beepers. They beeped too!

Nowadays, most devices have been replaced by the smart phone. It's a camera, video camera, video game, GPS, calculator (and scientific calculator!), TV, alarm clock, remote control, flashlight, Rolodex, and even a phone. And it beeps a lot. I still have a separate electric shaver, because as far as I can tell, they haven't made an app for that yet. I checked into the Motorola Razr, but that turned out to be a very misleading product name.

I wonder what George would have said about smart phones.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

I Need to Clear My Head

I'd like to catch up on a few miscellaneous things today, but I promise to soon return to the English lessons. <sarcasm> Because I'm sure everyone enjoys those! </sarcasm> (I know a little HTML.)

First, let's update one of my favorite features here at U by C, Stuff Caleb Sez! Here is something that recently came from Boy Wonder:

[By the way, this whole conversation started after he told me his strategy for winning a level in Angry Birds Star Wars, which he was playing at the time. I said it wouldn't work and suggested another approach. He went with his idea, and it worked. He won--the game and our dispute.]

Caleb: Dad, you know why kids are sometimes smarter than adults?

Me: Ah, what?!

Caleb: I said, do you know why kids are smarter than adults?

Me: Ummm, no. I don't think they are.

Caleb: Dad, they are. Sometimes. You know why?

Me: No, I don't know why, because I don't think kids are smarter.

Caleb: Well, they are. Sometimes.

... and as soon as I left the room, he mumbled, "And by sometimes I mean all the time."

Five minutes later, he tried again.

Caleb: Dad, kids are smarter than adults. I know they are, so don't say it's not true.

Me: Okay, fine. What's your point?

Caleb: You want to know why?

Me: Yes. Please tell me why kids are smarter.

Caleb: Because adults know so much stuff, there's no room left in their brains. But kids have lots of room in their brains to think of smart things.

I hate to admit it, but he may be onto something. I've got decades of useless knowledge cluttering the recesses of my cranium, making it difficult to think clearly and come up with innovative solutions to, say, a video game involving light saber-wielding birds and pigs dressed up as stormtroopers. His mind is an empty slate, leaving him free to devise the best trajectory when launching those little digital birds... and to form an argument like the one he just gave.


By the way, I've been updating the other pages here, easily navigated using those tabs at the top of the page. Mainly, I've been adding pictures to the pics page, but if you haven't checked the Bozo List lately, there might be some new-to-you updates there too. I'll add some more books to the books page soon. Man, am I productive, or what?

Hey, one more thing. Leave a comment, whydontcha?

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Better Check the Telephone Wires

Hey, folks. Real quick, I just want to share something I call long run-on sentence to introduce a little news story I encountered this week that isn't very important or even interesting, but it's kind of funny when you follow it with a caption I came up with, and even though I try to keep the political stuff off my blog because I feel there are other places for those discussions and I want Unintimidated to just be kind of fun and silly, I'll allow this because, like I said, I thought of a great comment, and most of you will get it, assuming you are familiar with childish rhymes:

I wonder if it was someone's pants.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Self Motivated, Task Oriented, and Very Thorough

Here at the Unintimidated headquarters, we expect everyone to help out, do their part. We used to make job charts to organize the workload and remind the younger ones among us of their rotating, day-to-day duties. For some reason, we haven't done a job chart in a while, and yet the place is holding together. This is probably because the Mrs. and I point out what needs to be cleaned, tidied, thrown away, de-urinized, etc. as we go along. When our threats and warnings get serious enough, someone usually steps up and accomplishes these tasks.

But there are some things we don't even have to mention. The kids keep track themselves. For example, every day someone gathers all the towels--clean and dirty ones--and carefully places them on the bathroom floor for us, without even being asked. Whoever it is usually remembers to also open the shower curtain and aim the shower head into the room while the water runs for 5 or 10 minutes, leaving a puddle approximately 3 inches deep. I'm so glad they save me the trouble of ruining our floor and everything else in the room. I can relax and know it will be done for me.

If there's ever a dispute about whose turn it is to do this, they apparently work it out together.

No. 3 Offspring: When are you going to make sure all our towels get soiled?

No. 1 Offspring: It's your turn to do that. I've got scatter all our shoes across the family room today.

No. 2 Offspring: She's right. And that means I'm in charge of finding about 18 cups and filling each one halfway with milk, juice, or soda to leave out in the kitchen.

No. 3: Are you sure it's not my turn for that? I could swear I did the shoes yesterday. Remember, I even went above and beyond by adding a pizza box, some crayons, and most of our board games?

No. 1: No, that was Saturday. So now you have towels, I'm on shoes, and 2 does cups.

No. 3: Oh, that's right. Hey 2, you should also put a little bit of cereal and milk into several bowls and leave them various places throughout the house. It will really put the finishing touch on your job. I'll help you!

Aren't they great? This stuff gets done every day, without fail. With all of them helping so diligently, there's hardly any work for me and the wife to do around here.

~ Fear not, dear reader. I'll soon return to my English lessons series.~

Note: This is probably the first time all week I've used the word "de-urinized" on my blog, or in anything I've written. Sometimes there's only one word to describe a particular thing or activity, and you're glad when you find it.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Let me tell you how many this bugs me.

Get ready for the next English usage lesson (or, if you find these dull or annoying, just move along). I'll probably do five or six of these. I might take a little break midway through to share some other silliness.

My radio has been playing an ad for a car dealership that claims to measure its success by "the amount of cars we've sold and the amount of people we've made happy." FAIL! You cannot make any amount of people happy, only a number of them. And you can only sell a number of cars.

All morons who do not understand this simple concept, pay attention. I'll try to put it in very simple terms. If you can count something (One, Two, Three...) or someone could ask you how many of that something you have, you quantify it by number. For example, you can speak of the number of chicken wings you ate last night, the number of girls who turned you down for a date, or the number of raccoons that have taken up residence under your porch.

If you can measure something, by volume, weight, or other such quantification, you should speak of it as an amount: the amount of money in your pillowcase, the amount of Pabst Blue Ribbon in your fridge, the amount of lead paint you ate as a child, and so forth. Can someone ask you how much of something you have, as opposed to how many? If so, tell them the amount. This type of quantity can be converted into the numerical type by expressing the amount in terms of discrete units, e.g., how many dollars or how many cans of PBR. This is usually a more awkward expression, however. And please don't ever talk about the amount of dollars you have (remember, counting!) It's number of dollars, amount of money. Most of all, don't ever tell me about the amount of people to whom you've sold cars.

Got it?

Good. That's been bugging me.

Class dismissed.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Knock It Off With the Literally

As you know, here at U by C we feel correct English grammar and usage are important. Tonight I start a series of posts highlighting some common sins against good English. If you feel a sense of deja vu it's because I've written about this stuff before. More needs to be said, though. Call it venting. Call it my attempt to raise awareness. I understand the futility of expecting anyone to improve as a result of a few silly little blog posts. I still have to write this, because people are getting UNDER MY SKIN!

From Snorg Tees

How can so many people fail to realize how stupid they sound saying literally when they mean to say virtually, seemingly, or practically? Even educated, generally articulate people are making this blunder.

No, you idiot, you were not literally blown away by the announcement. You're still standing there.

Don't tell me you will literally die if you have to suffer through one more day of [insert unpleasant situation]. I'm almost certain you'll survive.

There are plenty of ways to add emphasis without claiming something actually happened in a literal sense, when everyone knows this is not the case.

During a recent interview about her role in the musical Rock of Ages, professional dancer-singer-actress-airhead Julianne Hough said:

"Well, what I love about '80s rock music is the amazing, fantastic melodies. In pop music, it's all about the techno beat to dance to in the club and the repetitiveness, whereas in rock music there is literally, like, balls-to-the-wall singing and playing. I love it."

Ms. Hough, the balls-to-the-wall idiom started with aircraft throttle levers or steam engine governors... something like that. Nevermind. It's evolved now into a metaphorical expression. That is, unless you use it literally. Do you mean to say in rock music there are actually balls against a wall, and that's what you love about it?

You're doing people a disservice with these statements. Flula, for example, is a German man trying to master English, and dingbats like you are not making it easy.

In the near future I'll write about other stupid expressions I wish people would quit using. Because some of these, like, literally drive me insane.

Jennifer Lawrence for President of the World!

Just a little something to share with you tonight, because I love it...

Photo courtesy of, um, some website Google found for me.

It seems whenever Jennifer Lawrence (who has a serious shot at dethroning Zooey Deschanel as Queen of Quirk) tries to do glamorous, she comes across as goofy, hilarious... and so CUTE!

I was delighted to stumble onto this story today, because 1) Just look at how funny J-Law is, as usual, and 2) She did this to the grossly over-rated Sarah Jessica Parker. Sarah, you might as well face the fact that you've just been owned. By Katniss Everdeen. (Might be time to throw in the towel.)

Sarah showed up wearing a hat that's ridiculous even by Hollyweird standards and what looks like a gown made of gold foil. From where I sit, she was asking for it!

I stared at my screen, watching the GIF play about 300 times, and could do so all night. Jennifer, you have both hypnotized me and restored my faith in humanity. You're my hero.