Monday, January 31, 2011


I'm no English major, but I do love our language.  There's so much you can use it for.  Humor.  Expressing love.  Venting.  Making your wife grimace.  Which, coincidentally I do often when attempting humor.

One of my passtimes is to change the lyrics to songs on the fly.  It's like rapping but without the gold tooth or commercial success.  I usually do this to make myself laugh, but when Heather's in the car with me it seldom induces the same reaction. I am more likely to get a roll of the eyes than a guffaw, and sometimes elicit a head shake (the disapproving kind, which says "how dare you violate the song like that").  Today, for example, a song came on the radio that starts with the line:

"I saw a man today, his whole world upon his back; a living monument opposed to my success".  It's a great song about reaching out to the less fortunate, but I couldn't help but modify it as I sang along "I saw a man today, his whole world upon his back; a living monument to why homeless people shouldn't have pianos". 

Ok, I admit, it wasn't my best work (which usually fits the tempo and construct of the original better without adding or removing total number of syllables, and has been known to carry on for a good portion of the song) but it's the kind of thing that makes me laugh at myself, and is the reason Heather has learned not to ask me what I'm laughing about if there is nothing noticably funny occurring coincident with my outburst.  I didn't even get an honorable mention raised eyebrow today.

But the English language is not just a pleasure-giver in the realm of humor, it also keeps me occupied during times of boredom.  I downloaded the free app "Words with Friends" for my iPod touch (full disclosure: Apple does not endorse or in any way fund this blog.  If anyone at Apple would like to change that please contact me) which is basically Scrabble, but with a different title so the makers don't have to pay the folks at Hasbro any royalties (Hasbro is also not affiliated with this blog, unfortunately).

You may think that I enjoy playing Words with Friends because it gives me a chance to flex my lexiconical (is that even a word?) muscles, but the best thing about it is how it helps my vocabulary grow.  This is because one of my friends (I'm not calling you out, but you know who you are) uses another app to cheat. 

Ok, cheat is a strong word.  She uses another app to "help" her find words to use in the game.  I know this because nobody has words in their accessible memory like (and these are actual words she has played) "grith", "sialoid", and "turgor". And those are just from our present game.  The last one, where I lost by 50 points, had such gems as "tunicae", "beguine", and "zaxes".  No, that's not me mistyping "taxes", that's a 62 point "help"!  I also know she uses an app to help her because she has the audacity to use it WHILE I'M IN THE SAME ROOM AS HER!!  I didn't protest too loudly when her husband gave her a couple of words but a machine?  Even Kasparov lost to a computer.  But hey, at least I'm learning new words (a zax is a hatchetlike tool for cutting and punching nail holes in roofing slate by the way).  Bonus points to you if you noticed this blog's title can be read as word smithing or words my thing.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

A Day at the Museum

Last October Heather asked me what I wanted for my birthday, and as I really have pretty much all the "things" that I want (ok, maybe there's an ipad like device on my wish list, but I'm still waiting for the technology to mature a bit) I told her a day together doing something I enjoy would be great.  Heather's not a huge fan of museums and such, but I am, so she agreed to take me to a museum in Denver for a day.

Then she got sick.  Several visits to the E.R, some new meds, a couple of hospital stays, and our day at the museum was put on the back burner.  Finally last week she was able to make good on the promise and so we headed up to the mile-high city.  Of course, Colorado Springs, where we live, is also over a mile high, but the name was already taken, so we had to settle for "the two kilometer high city".  It doesn't have quite the same ring to it, but our Canadian friends dig it.

Ok, sidebar.  My boss Sandy is a dual-citizen from Canada, and although she doesn't read my blog I have to give a shout out to our Northerly neighbors.  It seems Mexico gets all the attention when it comes to bordering nations, and I think it's time for a North American Smack Down.

Many people would argue that Mexicans have had more positive influence on our country than Canadians, but is that true?  The first argument would likely center around the millions of migrant workers that come from Mexico every year to fill our great need for agricultural and construction workers.  At least the kind that will work for $1.50 an hour.  I will admit that Canada has not been such a large source of workers, but sometimes it's about quality, not quantity.  No, we don't have Canada to thank for our cheap strawberries and lettuce, but what about Jim Carrey and Michael J. Fox?  Can you really compare delicious fruit with "Dumb and Dumber"?  How incomplete would your life be without "Back to the Future"?  Advantage Canada.

Some would argue that our cuisine has been greatly enhanced by our Latin-American friends.  From tacos to quesadillas, nachos to burritos, we have some great foods thanks to our migrants from the South.  What have the Canadians given us to tantalize our palates, they would ask?  Have you ever heard of Canadian Bacon?  How about washing that down with some Canada Dry ginger ale?  Ok, that's pretty much all I could come up with, and I prefer real bacon to ham going under the guise of "bacon", so I have to give this one to Mexico.

For the tie breaker we look to history.  Canadians have long been our friends, due in part to our having common ancestors, but probably stemming more from their French influence, which rendered them incapable of mounting any successful military campaigns against us.  In fact, had the Canadians been able to prevent us from getting their heavy cannons from Fort Ticonderoga, we may have lost the Revolutionary war.  Compare that with the Mexicans, who killed Daniel Boone.  It is reported that weeks before his death at the Alamo, Daniel Boone was working on the means of mass producing the coon-skin hat, which would have forever altered the face of American fashion.  We'll never know what could have been.  Canada wins.

Ok, back to my story.  Heather and I had a great day at the the museum of nature and science.  We got to learn about Colorado wildlife, gemstones, the solar system, and the difference between a good Egyptian embalming and a bad one, among other things.  We saw some cool dinosaur fossils, and I couldn't help but imagine what it would be like if all the displays came to life at night.  With no Teddy Roosevelt wax figure I'm guessing it would be badly in need of some leadership.  Whatever the case, it was a pretty awesome day.  Now to start working on getting Heather to an Art museum.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Helping You Start Your New Year Right

Another year has begun, and you know what that means.  That's right, it's time for you to find some inadequate part of your life, and make a half-hearted attempt to change in that area, only to give up within a couple of weeks.  Of course, no one really keeps their New Year's resolutions and there's a simple cause for this: they are too hard.  Luckily for you, I'm here to help you find some more attainable resoultions for this year.  Take as many as you want from this list, but don't be ashamed to save some for next year.

1. Put on some weight

It seems that losing weight is one of the most broken resolutions each year.  I commend you for wanting to be healthier and possibly more attractive, but in resolving to lose weight you're really thumbing your nose at the rest of the world.  Most people are striving hard just to keep from going to bed hungry each night, and here you are with a fridge and pantry full of goodies, depriving yourself.  Instead you should be resolving to enjoy the bounties of living in the good ole US of A.  Let Cambodians have the market on skinny.  You're an American, and it's your right - no, your duty, to be obese.

2. Watch more TV

This one kind of goes hand in hand with number one. With cable, satellite, DVR, big screens and HDTV, there is absolutely no reason you should be spending your free time doing anything other than sitting in front of your television. Why resolve to get to the gym more when you can sit on the couch and watch contestants on The Biggest Loser working their butts off (literally)?

3. Yell at your kids more

There was a time when adults tolerated children because the kids knew their role - be seen and not heard.  Nowadays children are coddled and while it may make you feel better when you restrain yourself from beating the daylights out of them, certainly a little psychological trauma won't kill them.  In fact, when they are adults they will thank you for helping make them stronger.  What happens when they work for a jerk who yells at them all day?  They just grin and say "that's nothing compared to how my dad used to yell at me".  They have a nagging wife who never gets off their case?  "She's got nothing on mom!"  Don't think of treating your kids with love and compassion as nurturing them, think of it as weaking them.

4.  Be more judgmental

This one may be harder to accomplish, as you may find yourself already excelling in this area.  But it feels so good to look down on others that you always have room for growth.  Be sure to focus on externals, such as attractiveness, cleanliness, education - any area you can find a deficiency in another person where you perceive you are doing better.  Remember: it's tough to excel, but it's fairly easy to find someone doing worse than you.

5. Take up smoking

While it's hard to argue that smoking isn't an expensive, health threatening and stinky habit, once you take this up you are guaranteed to have a great New Year's resolution each year as you swear off your nicotine addiction for a few days in January for perpetuity. Plus let's be honest: controlling the burn rate of an object with your mouth is really cool.  And it's a great excuse to take a break from work every half hour.

6. Buy more portable electronics

Hey, the Chinese have to feed their families too.  Just because they're communists doesn't mean they don't have hopes and dreams.  Those hopes and dreams may involve crushing the USA, but who am I to judge?  Most importatly, it's way too easy for friends and family to distract you if you don't have an iphone, kindle or PSP to suck up your attention.  Interpersonal relationships are so 20th century.

7. Develop a phobia

Phobias are great conversation starters (for those unfortunate times when you're away from your tv and your portable electronics' batteries are low).  If you don't have a natural terror of spiders or heights, do some research on the web and get yourself an unhealthy fear of non-organic foods, or airport scanners, or Southerners.  The sky's the limit!

8. Procrastinate more

It's easy to brag about going back to school and getting a degree or building an addition on your house in 6 months, but it's even easier to talk about doing it and never getting around to it.  You may think people tire of hearing you talk about your big plans, but that's only because they do.

9. Comment on your favorite blog

It takes a lot of work to write a good blog, and even a mediocre one like this one consumes some of the author's time, which could have been spent watching tv, playing on their computer or judging others. Quit being a silent consumer and give some positive feedback already!