Monthly Archives: May 2013

No Matter How You Clip It, It’s Still Gonna Grow Back

English: Reel lawn mower

English: Reel lawn mower (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As springtime wanes, we begin our downhill push to the summer solstice. This phenomenon happens every year on June 21, marking the first day of summer. I am saddened by the return of the hot and humid weather, but hold tight to the realization that fall is a mere three miserable months away and soon followed by the icy grip of winter.

As you can probably tell I tend to lean more toward the cool weather, but let’s take a moment to examine exactly what it is that makes the warm weather months so desirable to so many people. I begin to ponder this notion. We take vacations during the summer. Hmm… But that’s something we can do in the winter also. We can swim, fish, and participate in varied water sports during the summer. Once again these are all activities that can be held during the winter months, albeit on occasion, ice would have to serve as a substitute for liquid H2O.

The one thing I can muster is that grass must be cut during the summer and lies dormant during the winter. It is for this reason that lawn care will be the subject of this post, and what could be more appropriate when speaking of lawn care than the almighty, the all-powerful, lawnmower.

Now long ago in days of yore manly men were perfectly happy shaving the tops of their medieval lawns with scythes, sickles and other barbaric blades of mayhem and destruction. Then one historic day in the early nineteenth century an engineer working in a textile factory developed the first mower of the lawn. It was very similar in construction to the un-motorized real type mowers still in use today.

Then down through the preceding years, namely 1870 and 1885 vast improvements were made, making this mower of the lawn much easier to use. Not until that glorious day in 1919 when the first gasoline powered mower was constructed had such a liberating device graced the annals of mandom. Needless to say the rest is history. Today we even have lawnmowers that are built for racing and travel close to the century mark in miles per hour.

But I digress. Let us continue shall we?

Now I like a freshly clipped lawn just as much as the next guy, but that’s about as far as it goes. When it comes to my yard I’m not a stickler as many are. I don’t aerate, nor do I fertilize. Any water the grass receives falls from the sky. I don’t spread pesticides, insecticides, weed killers or any other ”cides” on my lawn, although I have been known to consider treating my entire yard with Roundup. I don’t even bother with planting grass. I just cut what grows, which by now is a wonderfully diverse selection of weeds.

In short, if I gave my writing endeavors the same attention that I do my lawn, my novels would be in a sad state of affairs to say the least.

So in an attempt to back out of this post gracefully, I’ll leave you with this bit of advice. Drain the gas from that newfangled lawnmower; invest in a solid scythe–a sharp blade being a must. Spend the summer hacking away at the grass the old-fashioned way…A million medieval weed whacker’s can’t all be wrong.

Post script: A scythe is one of those things Death carries…Just so you’ll know if a cloaked figure carrying a large metal blade turns in your direction, he’s probably not coming to cut the grass.

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Don’t Bother Me, I’m Chasing Honeybees Amongst the Pretty Blue Flowers. Now Bug Off!

European hornet Français : Frelon (Vespa crabro)

European hornet  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Things that creep, crawl, scurry and buzz their way into our psyche are a part of daily life we cannot escape. If I were to attempt to discuss the entire insect world, it would take the better part of a lifetime to read this post. Instead, I will stick with a few species that are familiar in my neck of the woods and what I have learned about them through my years on this planet.

Without too much scientific mumbo jumbo, of course.

I will say, however, that it is estimated that there are at least ten quintillion insects currently inhabiting the Earth. And yet we’re the ones screaming about overpopulation with our measly six billion.

We’ll choose from this monolith a few species native to Virginia. Among the stinging insects we have honeybees, bumblebees, carpenter bees, paper wasps, yellow-jackets, hornets, and the Pièce de résistance, the Japanese Hornet.

Have you ever seen someone who was scared of a stinging insect? Get the two within close proximity and you’ll have a form of modern dance on your hands, never before witnessed by human eyes. Other than that, these various bees, wasps and hornets fly around, gathering nectar, killing other insects and making babies.

We will now slip into the depths reserved only for the dreaded Japanese Hornet. This beast has been known to kill at least forty people a year…In Japan. What we have in this country is the European Hornet, which is often mistaken for its violent Asian counterpart. And despite popular myths, the hornets that reside in the mid-Atlantic region are less aggressive and no more poisonous than smaller stinging insects. In fact, they will defend their nest vigorously only when provoked and have been known to retreat from human aggressors.

Onto the wonderful world of creepy-crawlies. Namely, the American Cockroach. Why the American Cockroach, you ask? Because among the four most common species (the German, the Asian, the Oriental and American) the American is the largest and lives the longest. Like the Oriental, it can also fly. And on top of all these reasons, this cockroach is an American cockroach. And as you may know, Virginia is in America.

Another tid-bit you may not know about our friend the cockroach: When decapitated, cockroaches can still survive for several weeks. If given nutrients and put in the refrigerator, the head can live even longer. This tells me one very important piece of information about this hearty insect: It’s stupid.

Have you ever seen someone who is scared of creepy-crawlies? They too, when in close proximity to one of these six-legged creatures, can create an interpretive dance that rivals even the best Russian ballerinas.

And last but not least, the piss-ant.

Well, there ain’t so such thing. The term can apply to any wood ant. The formic acid they excrete produces a urine-like odor, hence the name “piss-ant.”

Well there you have it. Our excursion through the Virginian insect world. …Hey! That gives me an idea for my next novel: A radioactive praying mantis mates with a twelve-legged bumble bee and produces an Americanized Japanese Hornet. I can see it now. Bestseller here I come!

Postscript: I bet you’re thinking “spiders would have been a good thing to include in this post.” But since they are actually arachnids, they just wouldn’t fit. And man oh man, talk about interpretive dance…

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It Done Broked Again!

Foto einer Glühbirne (an),

Foto einer Glühbirne (an), (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you strip our capitalistic society down to bare bones, it’s all about “buy stuff, sell stuff.” Now within this simple concept, there must be a supply of goods and a supply of buyers with which to purchase these goods. Because of this, Men Who Think Great Thoughts created the notion of “planned obsolescence.”

This idea holds that products have a predetermined moment where they will become obsolete, like a light bulb that eventually needs to be replaced. This mainstay of production serves both the consumer and the manufacturer… well, until taken to the extreme.

For instance, there is a light bulb located within a fire house in Livermore, California, which has been functioning for over 110 years. While the inhabitants of the fire house appreciate this bulb, if all light bulbs were constructed in this fashion, manufacturers would be few and far between.

On the other hand, have you ever replaced a blown light bulb and had the new one flash and die just as you screwed it in? Indeed, this would line the pockets of light bulb salesmen but would probably cause an uprising amongst consumers. This, in turn, would precipitate an increase in muggings of light bulb salesmen laughing their way to the bank.

One place planned obsolescence affects me is in the wearing of blue jeans. As we all know, the longer we wear a well-built denim garment, the better it feels. Notice I did not say “the better it looks.” For once again, we all know the longer we wear that same well-built denim garment, the worse it looks. I would wear my jeans until everything but my naughty bits were exposed. And then sadly hum taps as I buried my old friend in the waste basket.

Slamming on the breaks and shifting into reverse, timeless is what an author wants his work to become. But sometimes, due to a dated storyline, an obscure writing style or anyone of a thousand other things, unplanned obsolescence can slip in and void the work.

In conclusion, when that light bulb blows in the dark of night, stay calm, knowing that a replacement is nearby. But remember, I won’t say that Thomas Edison didn’t invent the incandescent light bulb in 1879. But there was some scuttlebutt about an Englishman named Frederick de Moleyns receiving a patent for the first incandescent light bulb in 1841.

Ain’t life funny?

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Please Run That by Me One More Time…and Try to Make Some Sense This Time

Dog sunny Day Afternoon

Dog sunny Day Afternoon (Photo credit: allert)

Whether writing a novel, a novella or short story, I’ve learned that just because I know what’s in my brain, doesn’t mean my readers do. I must convey my ideas to my readership in a clear and concise fashion. In other words, they must know what I know.

I find that in the advertising and packaging industries, this particular formula does not ring true.

For instance (and allow me to set the scene):

A slightly disheveled bedroom, early morning light streams through the windows. A young couple awakens. The man, in his early twenties, rolls from the bed, donning nothing but tighty-whities. He pulls on a pair of pants, all the while smiling at the attractive young lady still lying in the bed. As he heads for the bathroom, the woman throws back the covers and steps onto the floor, wearing a man’s button-up shirt with the fringes of her underwear visible from behind. She also makes her way to the bathroom.

The scene changes: Both stand in front of a large mirror, the female shaving her head with a disposable razor as the man scrubs his teeth with a used toilet brush. The camera pans back, the screen darkens and a company’s logo appears, finally revealing what the commercial is actually trying to sell.

Not exactly “clear and concise”, is it?

I’ll admit that example was a little over the top, but come on. It seems that some commercials are written for absolutely nothing… Kinda makes you wonder from which elementary school these advertisers obtained their degrees? Moreover, what company would actually purchase these ads to promote their products?

Maybe I should rethink my career choice?

Continuing the bedroom theme, in the early 1970s, the Ivory Snow Company chose a pretty young actress cuddling an adorable infant to grace their boxes. This young woman turned out to be none other than porn star Marilyn Chambers. Talk about burying the lead…clear and concise? I think not.

Now let’s jump on our ladders and crawl out of the bathroom.

There’s a commercial that has recently surfaced that promises pure dog and cat food. It asks the viewer if the food that they’re feeding their pet now contains the proper nutrients in the appropriate amounts; such as, “Is your pet getting too much protein?”

Ugh.

Stop the presses. Correct me if I’m wrong, but unless things have changed recently, cats and dogs are carnivores. If they were living in the wild, they would eat nothing but protein, except for the occasional grass salad. If you want to sell me dog food, sell me dog food. I don’t need a multivitamin for my pet…clear and concise? Nope.

 ‘Nuff said.

I believe I have laid some of your most worrisome questions to rest which leaves me with a very satisfied feeling. One could almost use the term “warm and fuzzy” to describe it.

Oh, and the product being advertised in my example earlier in this post? It was obviously a commercial introducing a new anti-inflammatory cream exclusively for vegan dogs and cats. Duh.

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Two Steps Back

Cathode ray tube

Cathode ray tube (Photo credit: Micah Sittig)

Hello and thank you for joining me for part 2 of “Do You Really Want Your Plane to be That Plain?” There was just too much good stuff to fit in a single post. So let’s get down to it, shall we? If you haven’t read my last post please start there.

I’m going to start by telling on myself. I mentioned in my last post that my idiosyncrasies were another story. And since this is another story, here goes.

I am a musician. I have played guitar for years and have always loved good, hard rock. Now with the amplifiers of today, you can get nearly any sound you can imagine. However, I refuse to play on anything but a tube amp. Tube amps were replaced by transistors, and when this happened, the warm sound of the tube was lost.

I had my small amp rebuilt several years ago, and since tubes are not easy to come by, it was a bit of a chore to obtain the necessary implements. In fact, I think the only manufacturer of the old-style  tube is located in Russia. I was able to find mine through some friends who owned thirty-year-old stock. And viola! An old amp with and old sound.

Some folks, including myself, are not particularly fond of the microwave oven. I do own one, but only use it occasionally to heat up certain foods. If you’ve ever tried to cook a fresh piece of meat in a microwave, you’ll find that it cooks quickly, turns gray, and depending on the cut and species, tastes somewhere between a clump of smooth mud and salt-treated saw dust. All in all, a great idea for communication towers, but as far as food? Start a fire instead.

Now, I come to the crème de la crème. A small portion of the population lives without computers, cell phones, microwaves, and probably still uses a dial telephone. I’ve coined a term for these individuals. They shall henceforth be known as “The Elitist Hold-Outs.” They work in their gardens each summer, they shy away from anything more technologically advanced than a ballpoint pen, they cook three great meals each day and go to church on Sunday.

I affectionately call mine “grandma.”

So there you have it. The lack of technology in a technological world. It can be done. And sometimes, maybe it should. Oh, and just one more personal idiosyncrasy. In a world inundated with new movies almost weekly, my family tells me that I am slightly behind the times, insofar as I rarely watch a film that doesn’t include a shark, tornado, or some combination thereof.

So I put in my VHS copy of Jaws, unplug the microwave, and keep an eye out the window. I hear tell there may be a twister looming on the horizon.

Follow the yellow brick road…

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