Friday, February 24, 2017

Close Call

I went to lunch with a group of my martial arts girlfriends yesterday.  One, who happens to wear a hijab (she's a Muslim of Egyptian descent) told us a story while we ate.

Seems that she was in the grocery store parking lot recently putting her shopping in the trunk of her car when she looked up to see a woman running at her full tilt, a total stranger.   As she noted, it would have made sense just to get into her car as quickly as she could, but in the moment that didn't even occur to her.  In these days of batshit crazy politicians encouraging anti-Muslim sentiment, she assumed the woman was coming to harm her, and she was standing there mentally going through the moves she's learned in taekwondo and jujitsu (this is NOT a woman you want to attack, for the record...she's a bad mo-fo black belt) and deciding how best to defend herself when she realizes that the woman is smiling at her.

The woman gets to her, gives her a huge hug and says, "I'm so sorry our president is such an ignorant asshole!  We all support you."  And walks away.

I love the sentiment.  I love that this happened in my white-bread small town.  And most of all, I love the fact that my friend would have absolutely beaten the shit out of that woman if she'd come looking for a fight instead of in friendship and solidarity.  She is physically small but she takes no crap whatsoever and I think its awesome that she was ready to take on a bigot had push come to shove.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

And While On The Subject Of The Weirdness Of English...

...try reading this poem out loud!!  Insanity, thy name is my mother tongue.

The Chaos (by G. Nolst Trenité, a.k.a. "Charivarius"; 1870 - 1946)

Dearest creature in creation
Studying English pronunciation,
I will teach you in my verse
Sounds like corpse, corps, horse and worse
I will keep you, Susy, busy,
Make your head with heat grow dizzy.
Tear in eye your dress you'll tear,
So shall I! Oh, hear my prayer,
Pray, console your loving poet,
Make my coat look new, dear, sew it!
Just compare heart, beard and heard,
Dies and diet, lord and word,
Sword and sward, retain and Britain.
(Mind the latter, how it's written).
Made has not the sound of bade,
Say said, pay-paid, laid, but plaid.
Now I surely will not plague you
With such words as vague and ague,
But be careful how you speak,
Say break, steak, but bleak and streak.
Previous, precious, fuchsia, via,
Pipe, snipe, recipe and choir,
Cloven, oven, how and low,
Script, receipt, shoe, poem, toe.
Hear me say, devoid of trickery:
Daughter, laughter and Terpsichore,
Typhoid, measles, topsails, aisles.
Exiles, similes, reviles.
Wholly, holly, signal, signing.
Thames, examining, combining
Scholar, vicar, and cigar,
Solar, mica, war, and far.
From "desire": desirable--admirable from "admire."
Lumber, plumber, bier, but brier.
Chatham, brougham, renown, but known.
Knowledge, done, but gone and tone,
One, anemone. Balmoral.
Kitchen, lichen, laundry, laurel,
Gertrude, German, wind, and mind.
Scene, Melpomene, mankind,
Tortoise, turquoise, chamois-leather,
Reading, reading, heathen, heather.
This phonetic labyrinth
Gives moss, gross, brook, brooch, ninth, plinth.
Billet does not end like ballet;
Bouquet, wallet, mallet, chalet;
Blood and flood are not like food,
Nor is mould like should and would.
Banquet is not nearly parquet,
Which is said to rime with "darky."
Viscous, Viscount, load, and broad.
Toward, to forward, to reward.
And your pronunciation's O.K.,
When you say correctly: croquet.
Rounded, wounded, grieve, and sieve,
Friend and fiend, alive, and live,
Liberty, library, heave, and heaven,
Rachel, ache, moustache, eleven,
We say hallowed, but allowed,
People, leopard, towed, but vowed.
Mark the difference, moreover,
Between mover, plover, Dover,
Leeches, breeches, wise, precise,
Chalice, but police, and lice.
Camel, constable, unstable,
Principle, disciple, label,
Petal, penal, and canal,
Wait, surmise, plait, promise, pal.
Suit, suite, ruin, circuit, conduit,
Rime with "shirk it" and "beyond it."
But it is not hard to tell,
Why it's pall, mall, but Pall Mall.
Muscle, muscular, gaol, iron,
Timber, climber, bullion, lion,
Worm and storm, chaise, chaos, and chair,
Senator, spectator, mayor,
Ivy, privy, famous, clamour
And enamour rime with hammer.
Pussy, hussy, and possess,
Desert, but dessert, address.
Golf, wolf, countenance, lieutenants.
Hoist, in lieu of flags, left pennants.
River, rival, tomb, bomb, comb,
Doll and roll and some and home.
Stranger does not rime with anger.
Neither does devour with clangour.
Soul, but foul and gaunt but aunt.
Font, front, won't, want, grand, and grant.
Shoes, goes, does. Now first say: finger.
And then: singer, ginger, linger,
Real, zeal, mauve, gauze, and gauge,
Marriage, foliage, mirage, age.
Query does not rime with very,
Nor does fury sound like bury.
Dost, lost, post; and doth, cloth, loth;
Job, Job; blossom, bosom, oath.
Though the difference seems little,
We say actual, but victual.
Seat, sweat; chaste, caste.; Leigh, eight, height;
Put, nut; granite, and unite.
Reefer does not rime with deafer,
Feoffer does, and zephyr, heifer.
Dull, bull, Geoffrey, George, ate, late,
Hint, pint, Senate, but sedate.
Scenic, Arabic, Pacific,
Science, conscience, scientific,
Tour, but our and succour, four,
Gas, alas, and Arkansas.
Sea, idea, guinea, area,
Psalm, Maria, but malaria,
Youth, south, southern, cleanse and clean,
Doctrine, turpentine, marine.
Compare alien with Italian,
Dandelion with battalion.
Sally with ally, yea, ye,
Eye, I, ay, aye, whey, key, quay.
Say aver, but ever, fever.
Neither, leisure, skein, receiver.
Never guess--it is not safe:
We say calves, valves, half, but Ralph.
Heron, granary, canary,
Crevice and device, and eyrie,
Face but preface, but efface,
Phlegm, phlegmatic, ass, glass, bass.
Large, but target, gin, give, verging,
Ought, out, joust, and scour, but scourging,
Ear but earn, and wear and bear
Do not rime with here, but ere.
Seven is right, but so is even,
Hyphen, roughen, nephew, Stephen,
Monkey, donkey, clerk, and jerk,
Asp, grasp, wasp, and cork and work.
Pronunciation--think of psyche--!
Is a paling, stout and spikey,
Won't it make you lose your wits,
Writing "groats" and saying "grits"?
It's a dark abyss or tunnel,
Strewn with stones, like rowlock, gunwale,
Islington and Isle of Wight,
Housewife, verdict, and indict!
Don't you think so, reader, rather,
Saying lather, bather, father?
Finally: which rimes with "enough"
Though, through, plough, cough, hough, or tough?
Hiccough has the sound of "cup."
My advice is--give it up!

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Who Knew??

Found recently in an article about the wonderful weirdness of the English language: the rules governing the order of multiple adjectives preceding a noun.  "The WHAT?" you say?  "There are rules for that?"  Yes, really.  And if you're a native English speaker, they doubtless come so naturally to you that you don't even think about them unless someone else messes them up.

Chart copied from here.

I bet this sentence sounds perfectly normal to you: "The beautiful, large, round, orange plastic pumpkin sat by the front steps."

I bet this one does not: "The plastic, large, orange, round, beautiful pumpkin sat by the front steps."

We talk about an "old blue metal" wheelbarrow, not a "blue metal old" wheelbarrow.  A "lovely young dark-haired girl," not a "dark-haired young lovely girl."  It's a "long, narrow, wooden" cane, not a "narrow, wooden, long" cane.
Then there's the "thin blue" line, and "Big Red" gum!  Even those follow the rules.  Who knew.  I'm so glad English is my first language...for this and many other reasons it must be absolutely infuriating to learn English as a secondary language.


Monday, February 13, 2017

Sticking Up For Their Own

My best girlfriend has a daughter Thing One's age.  She's had a tough time with middle school, courtesy of the resident group of 'mean girls' in their grade.  She and Thing One have known each other since kindergarten and through the years have become very close friends.  This girl got on the school bus on Friday afternoon with a storm cloud hanging over her head.  As she later reported to her mother, Thing One immediately asked her what the [unkind but fully-justified epithet for the mean girls redacted] had done now.  Upon hearing that they had nothing to do with her bad mood, he then asked if her boyfriend (who is a buddy of his) was being an idiot again and if he needed to go talk some sense into him!  I'm so glad that those two jump to each other's defenses the way they do and you could NOT pay me enough to go back to middle school.  (shudder)

My girlfriend was laughing when she told me that story, but then the conversation took a more somber turn.  My friend also has a daughter Thing Two's age, who, due to the nonmutable pecking order of school bus seating that has the oldest kids in the back and the youngest in the front, sits close to Thing Two in the middle of the bus somewhere.  Apparently the younger daughter came home on Friday and informed her mother that a couple of the kids on the bus were bullying Thing Two.  She and Thing Two have been classmates since preschool and she is VERY protective of him, as is her big sister.  The younger girl was absolutely livid.  I made some calls, another mother sent an email, and apparently the situation was addressed at the school level today.  I'm supposed to get a call tomorrow morning explaining what happened.  Independently of whatever happened at school, though, the older daughter also took matters into her own hands.  Seems that the girl on the bus who was responsible for the bullying (another fifth grader) got herself read the riot act loudly and publicly by one tall, beautiful and really seriously pissed-off eighth grader after school today!  God I love that kid.  And her little sister, too.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Just Signed My Baby Up For High School

Not sure why this is bothering me so much.  It's not like I didn't know it was coming, after all.  He's halfway through eighth grade.  The school has been talking about it since November.  He's been in a pre-tryout training program for freshman soccer run by the HS coach for months already, too.

Something about the paperwork part is getting to me.  Looking at the courses online.  Figuring out what to sign up for and how.  Creating online accounts at the school, ours and his.  His middle school is tiny.  The high school, massive.  800 kids per grade, plus or minus.  Going to be a huge change for him.

His online course registration window opened this morning.  When I came downstairs, Thing One and Himself were at the computer getting his selections in.  Besides being a big school, its a good one.  An almost paralyzing variety of course options.  Should he take all honors courses?  Just a few to focus?  Which electives?  Everyone has an opinion but it all boils down to knowing your kid.

We decided to sign him up for a few honors courses (math, science, social studies) and start with regular level for the others (health, language arts, Spanish.)  You have to choose and rank six electives; they will give you four.  To absolutely nobody's surprise, his first choice was Introduction to Geography.  (Did I tell you that he won the middle school Geography Bee *again*? Third year in a row: now waiting to hear if he made it to the state competition for a third time as well.)  Invention and Innovation.  Music Theory and Composition.  Intro to HTML and Web Design.  Art 1.  Keyboarding and Piano.

The kid is 13, will turn 14 in July.  He's only an inch or so shorter than my 5'10" now, with floppy teen hair, difficult adolescent skin and the all-pervading smell of Axe body spray following him like a cloud.  Sure doesn't look like anybody's baby anymore.  And yet, he parked himself in the middle of my kitchen the other day after school while I was running around like a crazy woman and refused to move until I gave him a hug.  He still kisses me goodbye in the morning at the bus stop (in front of the bus!!) and gives me grief if I don't look in on him on my way to bed at night.  He still voluntarily talks to me too...what's going on at school or at soccer or with the girls.  I'm sure that at some point we will lose some of that closeness, and I think that's what is really bothering me about this whole transition.

Not much I can do about it and I know everyone goes through it.  I'll deal just like everyone else does, but thinking about him growing up makes me sad.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017


The balance of political power is too lopsided right now.  We seem not to be able to stop anything that isn't outright unconstitutional, no matter how appalling it is.  It's a nightmare and I can't wake up.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Well, Shit

The bad guys won again. I feel just like I did when Trump won the election. His surrogate/supporters won tonight too. Bad run we're on as a country. 

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Dumb Luck

Love my contractor.  His name is Tony.  Older Italian guy.  Salt of the earth.  Former star high school football player with two bad knees to go along with the trophies.  After five surgeries on one knee couldn't fix the damage, he finally gave up and scheduled a knee replacement.  Orthopedic surgeon is doing a pre-op exam of the knee, sees a rash, says "I think this is eczema, but go get it checked before I operate."

Tony goes to the dermatologist.  My wonderful dermatologist, as it turns out.  The rash is eczema, but the doc says, "As long as you're here, let's check out your skin."

Long story short, doc finds what turns out to be a melanoma on his back.  A small one, thank God.  Doc took it off on Monday. Even a small one leaves a hell of a hole after you clear the margins...eight internal stitches, eighteen external ones.  I checked in with Tony today to see how he was doing.  He'd just heard from the doc that the surgery was successful and that they got it all.

That, my friends, is one fortunate man.

Time In A Bottle

Okay, time can slow down now, please. When I was a kid, I remember my mother saying that the days were long but the years were short.  I d...