Friday Frivolity: Dollhouse Sequel

If you happen to be one of the folks who bought my first book…Laughing at Life…then you would be familiar with the “Dollhouse” story.  Well, 20 years later, here’s a sequel.

Sue has done some improvements to the dollhouse over the past 20 years.  Now she has decided to put a lot more concentrated effort into finish it.  Although I have some doubts as to when any particular point her decorating could be considered “finished”, I do know that she is very intent on sweeping improvements the past several weeks.

Of course, you do know that this is a typically scaled dollhouse.  It is not miniature.  But it’s not exactly a size easy to assemble with 70 year old eyesight either.  Even when she finishes the grandfather clock, I won’t be able to tell the time from more a foot away.

Before I expound on the clock, I want to back up to the bed she assembled last week.  The bed needed a string matrix to rest the mattress on.  Even though it is her project, she does ask for my assistance at times.  Drilling holes for the strings was her request.  From the directions which came with the kit, she advised me of the size of the drill bit along with a template of the hole spacing.

Now, I have a very comprehensive collection of drill bits.  I’ve got some that are large enough for a prehistoric dentist to drill out cavities of a Wooly Mammoth—if such a hook-toothed monster would have complained to a human.  I also have drill bits small enough to hide in dust if I drop it on my work bench.  But I did not have one of the size described in the instructions.

I opted for the smallest that I did have.  I took out my cordless Milwaukee drill and set the bit in the chuck.  With the jaws of the chuck fully clamped, the bit was not.  Yes, I know, most every store selling these furniture kits also sell “Miniature Tools”.  Pllleeeze…80 bucks for a tool box containing a drill that couldn’t cut through anything tougher than balsa?

But wait.  I have a Dremel that should chuck up this tiny bit.  It did.  With success of that aspect of drilling, I am next faced with the challenge of my spastic hands aligning a bit I cannot see with the marks on the template which are larger than the bit size.  Wonderful.  How could I possibly miss on the spacing when there’s a built-in error factor of 25% within the template marks.  Sue was happy enough to ask for my assistance on another miniature-home improvement project.  She’ll surely be happy with the hole if I erase the pencil mark after I almost hit it with the bit.

Yup, she was pleased so, on to the clock I mentioned previously.  And it also involved holes. I’d already put the Dremel away and dropped the bit.  If I had intended it to wedge into the crack on my workbench, I would have failed. But there is was…scale-wise about like a flag pole in the St. Andreas Fault.  I couldn’t get my smallest screwdriver into the crack.  It’s a good thing Sue didn’t need me to drill holes in the clock.

The holes were pre-drilled but she was getting frustrated trying to install the clocks weights into the drive box. Allow me to assist you in getting the picture of this procedure.  First of all, even if I scanned THEIR picture at 200% you would be hard pressed to note the variance between the weight’s “chain link” and the pre-drilled hole.

Have you seen the Tupperware, Child’s toy Ball of shapes and pieces to put in them.  Kids can eventually learn to fit shapes into the appropriate openings. Because their hands are tiny like the clock pieces, I suspect they would proudly announce “It doesn’t fit, Grandma.” Grandma on the other hand…which are noticeably humongous trying to grip minuscule chains, are much slower to recognize that oblong chains do not easily fit into round holes.

Adult get frustrated and mumble things kids should not hear.  Keep in mind the ROUND holes are there…somewhere, and the OBLONG links are not big enough to go over a mosquito’s head—BUT THEY STILL DON’T FIT…and I don’t have any oblong drill bits.

After a half dozen failed attempts to glue them ‘close’ to the holes, Sue finally decided to forget the weights.  After all, you can’t see them unless you open the door.  And the knob on the door is comparable to a pin-head. Guaranteed: If I were to reach into the dollhouse living room to show off the clock-works, I might utter “Fe, Fi, Fo, fumble”.  Nobody’s ever going to see the clock doesn’t work.

Friday Frivolity: In my Opinion

Ouch…oooh, that doesn’t feel good.  I think I’ve pulled an index finger muscle.  Oh, no…maybe I’ve got mouse-click-induced carpal tunnel.  It is not surprising considering I’ve clicked my way through about a dozen on-line surveys this  week.  By golly, one of these days, I’m gonna win a $1000 gift card.  I wonder if it will be redeemable for a wrist brace.

It seems like almost every retailer now has a link to a survey on their receipt.  Some have instant coupons, but most entice you to their survey with a chance to win.  Beats me why I sucker for that 1-in-a-bazillion chance.  But then, there really isn’t any other good reason to do it.

I rarely take the survey to actually help the store improve.  Generally, I only take the survey to be eligible for the sweepstakes.  Did you know that you cannot participate in any of these sweepstakes where they are prohibited by law?  Darn, that takes most of the fun out of it.

Oh, and don’t forget the carte blanche permissiveness of most sweepstakes:  No purchase necessary.  Seriously?   Now you tell me, where can I get postage stamps without purchasing them?  Yup, you can ONLY enter the sweepstakes two ways.  On-line, with a valid “purchase receipt” …or by mail, if you don’t make a purchase at the sweepstake sponsor’s store.  Last I knew, the postman will not deliver an entry which has no purchased postage stamp on the envelope.

In case you have not read any sweepstake rules lately—and most of them are boilerplate—here’s a couple which I believe are extremely important.

You must be 18 years, or older, to enter.  Oh, but wait…if you are, in fact, under 18, and happen to win a sweepstake prize, your mom can sign your “affidavit of eligibility.”   Excuse me?  I’d have to do more research to be sure, but this sounds like it’s bordering on prohibited by law in most jurisdictions of the United States.

Reading the rules further, I find the ultimate, superfluous, caveat.  If for any reason, including but not limited to, misdirected, mutilated, unintelligible, written, telephone, or electronic communication;  hardware or software program failure;  network or computer malfunction …or for that matter…failure or difficulties of any kind; your entry will be declared invalid.  Whoa, hold it there!  Ya mean, if y’all don’t get my entry, cain’t read it, or it mysteriously rockets into cyberspace, it taint no good?

Oh, yeah, and “Any prize notification returned as ‘undeliverable’ may result in forfeiture.”  May result in forfeiture?  Hmmm, summarizing:  A 16-year-old, running from the law with no forwarding address who tosses their entry in the gutter, may not win?

With all of this in mind, you might imagine that I often succumb to filling out the surveys rather flippantly.  In addition to the aforementioned superfluous rules, some of the questions within the survey itself are hardly applicable to most of my shopping experiences.  Here are some thoughts that reverberated in my skull while filling out a particular retailer’s survey.

How would you rate your overall shopping experience?  Hmm, how to answer this rather limited question?  I didn’t go into the store to buy overalls, only a tube of glue.   Even if I did want clothing, what’s with the gradient of choices between 1 and 5?  All they needed were two options…succeeded or failed.  You know what?  If they really wanted a valid survey, they should give out receipts for failed shopping ventures.  Yeah, the greeter could hand out an Exit Interview form saying “good bye” to empty-handed shoppers at departure.   “Sorry you couldn’t find anything to buy, but here’s a dissatisfaction receipt with a chance to win a gift card.”

Was there a sufficient selection for you to choose from?   I obviously bought the item I was shopping for, so apparently the store having one in stock was sufficient.  And again, why five  choices from which to choose—5, being Highly Satisfied…1, Not Satisfied.  I have always done better with true/false tests than multiple choice.  Either I am or am not satisfied.  Furthermore, by virtue of the fact that I’m taking this survey on-line, the question is moot.  I bought something that resulted in me getting the coded receipt to access this survey, so the selection had to be sufficient.

Was the merchandise arranged in a way that made it fun to shop?  Fun?  I went to buy a tube of glue.  Though I use glue in a well ventilated room, I suppose someone who sniffs glue for “fun” would likely rate this question a lot higher than I did if the store would have some bags and glue samples in a private sniffing room.  That’s just not going to happen though.  Even a long-since-teenaged geezer like me has to validate my age before the self-checkout will allow my purchase of glue…and it better not be open.

How would you rate the price-to-value of the item(s) purchased?  A tube of glue?  When was the last time you comparison shopped for glue?  Besides, how could I be sure of its value this soon after purchase?

Considering your checkout experience, was the employee considerate of your time (1, extremely pleased to 5, unsatisfactory)?  Oh, boy, that’s really not so tough to choose between 1 and 5.  I mean, a “5” would probably be they scanned the glue and tossed it to me.  Conversely, I’d surely rate it a “1” if they read the infinitesimally small print, warning label to me.  The best and worst are relatively easy.

But how do you know if it’s a “2,” “3” or a “4” when they ask if I want a bag or not.  There are so many ramifications to accepting a bag.  My contemplation over whales, recycling and ozone alone, can usurp lots of my valuable time. It’s a very quick slide from a “2” to a “4” rating.

But, the most fun for me is the demographic questions at the end of the survey.  I like to skew the marketing profile.  For one of the surveys I submitted this week, I checked that I was single, had 12 children under the age of 18 and an income under $15,000.

Hmmm, now that I think about it, answering like that probably ruined my chances at the $1000 gift card.

Friday Frivolity: Full Disclosure

First Disclosure:  I would like to get just ONE order for one of my “Laughing…” books as a result of my Friday Frivolity blogs.  I’ve been blogging stories for almost 5 years and have not had even one measly order for a book from a blog.  I’m going to discontinue this blog very soon and would like to finally get an order.  I’ll even offer free shipping…just comment to this story with your e-address.

Second Disclosure:  This particular story, “Full Disclosure” is from Laughing While Shopping

Ever read the small print on a package?  It’s getting more distressing for me as the years wear on.  Oh sure, it’s troubling because of my diminishing eyesight, but also from diminished capacity to understand the rationale for much of the small print.   Such was certainly the case when we left a major home improvement store.

It wasn’t that long ago that I’d go buy bolts and nuts out of bins.  Yup, I’m old enough to remember hardware stores on the corner.  Those neighborhood proprietors would stock fasteners in ceiling-to-floor walls of drawers, drop-down wooden bins or stave & hoop barrels.  If you are  too young to remember those barrels, they’re arched slats held together by steel bands—mostly used today as decorative planters spilling dirt and bloom into the yard.  Back in my adolescent years, my grandpa often took me to the hardware store where he’d grab what he needed from a barrel or bin, toss it in a paper sack and proceed to the cashier.

Okay, so maybe it wasn’t all that long ago and there still are a few hometown hardware stores. However, I think those days of buy only what you need are gone.  Today, such hardware items are in baggies, shrink wrap or blister packs.  Yesterday…not yesteryear…Sue and I bought a pair of brass machine screws and two plastic nuts and washers all neatly packaged in a plastic bag.

I was happy we found exactly what I needed.  Often the marketing of such items is seemingly packaged with the intent of overstocking.  Not their shelves…my storage bins!  Nevertheless, most of my family would testify that overstocking my storage bins is my delight, not my displeasure.

But, I digress from my story.  These were packaged precisely sufficient for my need.

I guess Sue was bored as we drove away.  In itself, that’s quite disparaging as to my ability to entertain her.  Aside from that, she likes to read.  First she read the shocking news that I had not purchased a toy.  Ahhhh, more precisely, the BAG which contained the nuts and bolts was not a toy.

Aw, gee whiz, …and to think I almost bought a dozen bolts just to get enough bags to fill with beans for my bean-bag-toss game.  Oh rats, they went on to nix the thought of refilling the bag in Warning Number 2.  Once I had removed the hardware, I could not refill the bag with anything.  No beans, no rice, no dinner leftovers…nothin’.

Before I could recover from this no recycle for personal use caveat, Sue continued with even more distressing, specifically-stated cautions.  Would you believe we can’t use the empty bag in a baby’s crib?  For what purpose?  You’d have to staple a hundred of them together to make a sheet.  Of course… there was at least some temptation…the packaging was a delightful baby blue.

Oh, but there’s more about this simple little purchase that annoyed me.  I fully realize the diverse ethnicity in the United States has caused lots of things today to be printed in multiple languages.   That fact doesn’t trouble me.  Predictably, the package’s Identifications, Features, and Instructions were in both English and Spanish.  No big deal.

What, then, was so abrasive to me?  The Warnings, which I just highlighted as foolishness, were only in English.   Apparently the packagers figured only Anglo-Saxon descendants would be dumb enough to toss all their scrap plastic bags into a kid’s playpen.

Hold on…, don’t toss this book in the basket just yet.  The worst is yet to come.  As Sue neared the end of her perusal of the bag, she exclaimed:  “Ohhhh… My… Goodness!  Ed, we’ve got to keep this bag.”

You do remember that I mentioned Sue reading thou shalt not keep the bag for any purpose.   I will testify without duress, Sue is not predisposed to disobedience.  Okay …alright …if the truth be known, she does indeed tear off all the “Do Not Remove under penalty of law” tags.  However, such actions are mitigated by trying to satisfy some residual teenage rebellious attitude still swirling in her head.  But, why would she suggest we save a tiny, plastic, perforated, non-zip-lock baggie in flagrant violation of regulations clearly stipulated…in ENGLISH?  The answer lies in the producer:   Keeney Mfg. Co.

For those of you who are not aware of Sue’s heritage, she began life as a Keeney.

See, I told you the implications of small print are often very perplexing to me.

Friday Frivolity – Life’s a gas

This is a story from one of my books.  Each book has 30 such humorous, real life, tales.  If you buy all three by writing to me (edlaughing@yahoo.com) I will not charge shipping.  So, 3 “Laughing…” books, $25.28 (tax incl.)

Life’s a Gas

Last week, a long-time friend of mine was lamenting about growin’ old because her maladies were mounting a considerable assault on her well-being.  Hmmm, my maladies are giving me wonderful opportunities for entertainment and edification.   Each time I see a specialist or go in for some procedure, I marvel at the amazing things modern medicine has to offer.

The other day I had an Esophogram.  What an incredible experience. Okay, so it wasn’t exactly tasty having to drink a concoction with a consistency akin to a Soda Shop Malted (yes I’m THAT old), but the technology of the testing devices was astonishing..

I mean to tell you, this equipment was a lot bigger than Star Trek’s tricorder, but almost as impressive as it peered into my body.  I got a chance to see the monitor as the doctor scanned my swallowing technique.  Yikes!  It looked like a python swallowing one white mouse after the other.

Of course, that thought did have a somewhat detrimental effect.  When it hit me that each gulp I was making coincided with another white mouse heading for my stomach, I had a slight involuntary, convulsive ripple in my stomach.  But, hey, they’ve got people to clean up the little puddle that escaped onto the table.

What did they expect, anyway?  Laying a guy down on his stomach and asking him to imbibe plaster of Paris through a straw is just asking for puddles.  I hope they didn’t let that stuff dry too long.  Late in the afternoon, I was still chiseling remnants of that concoction from my mustache.

But that wasn’t the only stuff I had to drink.  When I first arrived in the examination room, the attendant nurse advised me of what was to come.

“I’m going to mix these crystals in this water and you will need to drink it as quickly as possible.”

“No problem,” I replied.

“I mean you must drink it immediately and completely.  These will act like Alka-Seltzer and put a considerable amount of gas in your stomach and esophagus.  You’ll feel like belching, but please refrain.”

“Wait just a minute.  Hold on there.  You’re going to deprive me of a primal pleasure of Male-dom?  Are you tellin’ me, you’re gonna fill my belly with gas, and I can’t burp?”

“That’s correct.  We need that gas to remain there to expand the stomach and esophagus to enable a clear picture.”

“Well, here’s a little different picture.  You’ve starved me for 18 hours to shrink my stomach.  Now you’re going to induce bloating.  Why didn’t you let me eat a juicy breakfast at my favorite diner?  I could have burped and there’d still be plenty of expansion in there for a clear picture.”

She laughed, but otherwise ignored my plight.  “Then we’ll ask you to slowly, but steadily, swallow the contents of this cup.”

She handed me a large cup containing several pounds of nearly-congealed concrete.

“Are you kidding?  I don’t need to actually swallow this.  My dear, if you pour this into my mouth it WILL go down…swallow or not.”

Again, a chuckle, but no compassion.  “I’m going to raise this table to the upright position and then you can just step up onto the platform, and we can begin.”

Wow, was that slick.  They raised the transporter table to vertical.  I fully expected to see “Bones” McCoy enter the air lock any minute.

Anyway, up on the platform: Lights off, camera on, down with the Alka-Seltzer, and I quickly started sucking on the straw of the other liquid.  Have you ever tried drinking plaster through a straw?  What’s worse is trying to down that triple-thick potion with a belly full of Pop Rocks effervescing more COthan a case of champagne.  Abstinence from belching was the least of my worries.

But, you know what?  That stuff didn’t taste bad at all.  I’m not good at flavors.  It wasn’t exactly pina colada, but kinda fruity.  More like a banana shake.  Hmmm, I think my mind imagined that flavor because it felt like whole bananas slithering down my throat.  But at least the flavoring helped suppress the gag reflex.

All in all, it was a rather exciting morning.  I got a chance to witness some amazing technology, had delightful interactions with some fine people, and came away with a full stomach…. and no aftertaste.

So you see, the maladies associated with growing old aren’t really so bad, providing you have the proper perspective.  Life’s a gas.  …At least that morning it was.

Side Effects

The dictionary defines Side Effect as something which occurs in addition to an intended effect.  The term is mostly applicable to medicines…which is exactly why it came to the forefront of my frivolous thoughts today.

In conjunction with a recent visit to my doctor, I decided to get a renewal on a prescription I had not needed for over a year.  To get the right script, I retrieved the “Pharmacy Prescription Info Sheet”.  True to my nature, I perused the entire text of that document.

It’s a med formulated to “reduce itching, redness and swelling associated with many skin conditions”.  Perfect, that’s the one I need.  Further down the page it revealed possible side effects.  “When applied to the skin (as if anyone would think to squeeze some on a toothbrush) it may cause hives.”

Now, my farm-acology (not to be confused with a phonetically similar word) says the physiological interaction of hives and skin is itching.  Hold on there, Bubba.   I want the prescription ’cause my skin itches, not to cause it to itch.

Oh, but wait…just to clarify hives pharmacologically, it went on: “may cause burning, itching and redness”.  No, I’m not making that up.  The same cream that I wipe on a skin rash may cause a bigger rash…not to mention “difficulty breathing, swelling of the mouth, face, lips or tongue.”

Well, there you have it.  No more itching on my arm, but my tongue swells up enough to choke me.  They really didn’t need to tell me to seek immediate medical attention if that occurred.

It seems that every medication now comes with disclaimers of detrimental side effects.  I’m quite certain most of you have heard about the classic “…lasting more than 4 hours…” side effect.  But, I think I’ll not go there.

I’m not sure why side-effect disclaimers need to be the propriety of medications.  Considering the recent barrage of political TV ads, I kept waiting for small print at the bottom to declare: “May cause headache, nausea and vomiting”, which, ironically, seems to be just about the most common side effect of prescription drugs.

Many meds warn: “May cause drowsiness”.  I once got a script to help me overcome insomnia.  It had the warning: “Do not operate machinery or drive as it may cause drowsiness”.  Darn…you mean mowing the lawn is no longer an option when I can’t sleep?

And why are all side effects negative?  Just once I’d like to read a disclaimer that’s favorable.  Wouldn’t it be great if Lopressor® reduced stomach acid build up in conjunction with its expressed purpose of reducing blood pressure?  Oh, no, no, no…its side effects include both diarrhea AND constipation.  That’s kinda like a weather report of possible intermittent showers.

I take an anti-cholesterol pill every night.  It would be nice if it had a positive side effect of drowsiness.  Even better — the ultimate complementary side effect might be: “Taking this medication may cause euphoria”.  Now there’s a side effect I’d like to see on all my Prescription Info Sheets.

Oh, oh, but wait…Would the delightful side effect of euphoria become adverse if it lasts more than 4 hours?

Some Bits of Humor

Sue’s uncle is a Master Carpenter.  He built his home which included a workshop instead of a second car garage.  Because he recently changed residences, the house would be sold. Sue’s cousin made arrangements for distribution of all of Uncle Floyd’s carpentry items.  Though I dabble at projects involving wood and tools, I think I am closer to being a Master Scrounge than even an “Apprentice” in the carpentry trade.  Therefore, I was granted the pleasures associated with cleaning out Uncle Floyds workshop after all of the major items were gifted.

I was thrilled at this opportunity.  I don’t really have space for large tools, yet always manage to find room for a few more screws.  Despite all the major tools being claimed, I brought home two van-loads of “stuff”.  Today’s Friday Frivolity is my ‘Thank You’ letter to Sue’s cousin.

Sue and I expedited emptying your dad’s workshop by simply boxing up everything that wasn’t breathing.  As we agreed, I was to “clear out” the workshop, keep what I wanted and rummage the remainder.  We didn’t bother with sorting as we packed up.  I would do the sorting on rainy days at our house.  It has rained a lot, so I’ve had many hours to review your dad’s “Home Depot” stockpile

For the moment, set aside your previous assessment that I should be living under the watchful care of shrinks at an Acuity Deficient Residence.  Even Certifiable individuals, who tend to often be on the verge of euphoric orgasm, are capable of “reasonable and explainable” joy.

I had no idea how much I am like your father, or visa-versa.  I sorted out enough hack saw blades to last most DIY guys half a dozen years.  I looked up onto my pegboard to see if I might need any from Uncle Floyd’s inventory.  Hmmm, I had 4…Floyd had 8.  I figured  Floyd’s wisdom is superior to mine, so now I have 8 and still there are 4 to sell at rummage.  Thank You very much.

When I finished with saws and blades, I dumped all the drill bits I found scattered throughout Uncle Floyd’s drawers, cupboard shelves, shoe boxes and old Marshmallow Creme jars onto my bench.  Wow, your mom sure used a lot of Marshmallow Creme.  I must have found at least 50 full of sundry woodworking needs.

Hand “brace” bits—both auger and center bit—are easy to spot, so I sorted those out first. High speed, power drills have just about the “Brace and bit” drills obsolete. But, I still have my grandpa’s hand-powered brace, so a big THANY YOU for some old (1950s) super strong, super long, deep drilling, big hole bits for that brace.  Of course, looking at the longest bit of this type does beg the question of when I might ever be tempted to auger a half-inch diameter hole through a 16-inch thick block of wood…using a hand-cranked brace.

Nevertheless, as a collector of anything potentially useful (as well as stuff with no foreseeable use), I am truly grateful.

Masonry bits are also quickly identifiable so corralling them was my next task.  Measuring their sizes and “branding” each one as I put them in a clean plastic “pen” was going very smoothly.  Smoothly at least UNTIL I picked up a bright chromium, unused, still in its original packaging, life-time guaranteed, Craftsman, tungsten carbide tipped, bit.

So…I’m glad you asked…why would a drill bit in store-bought condition surprise me?  Because it was the fourth 1/4 inch size that I’d found. Yes, it’s true.  Concrete bits do wear out, so having a back up is a rather common practice.  But, why would Floyd have purchased (but not used) a new 1/4” bit when he had 2 other quarter inchers that were in excellent condition. Not to mention hang on to the 4th masonry bit that didn’t have a carbide tip.  Actually, disregarding the importance of carbide tip, it does seem a bit unreasonable to save any broken tool that had obviously bit off more than it could chew its way through.

Alas.  Quarter inch is a common size.  Turns out I had 3 of that size just as Uncle Floyd did.  Yah, like I said.  Floyd and I have very similar thought processes.  Thanks for the shiny new masonry bit.  I know I’ll find something to mount on my workshop cinder block wall.  Hmm, maybe a shelving unit for Marshmallow jars.

Now, with the masonry bits put away, the thirty-pound pile of fluted steel on my work bench only had bits for glass, metal drilling, hole saws—which do not work with a saw, …spade bits—which I suppose could work in the garden, …and even a few spoon bits—which only look like a spoon but couldn’t hold broth let alone a noodle.

I mentioned my collector mentality, didn’t I?  Imagine the excitement of a philatelist finding a stamp he doesn’t have in his collection.  In my sizable accumulation of high-speed ‘twist’ bits, I had never come across a 29/32nd bit.  My heart sped up and I stopped breathing to reread the size stamped on the bright steel bit.  Yup…29/32.

There’s a reason this bit is in pristine condition.  I’d bet it’s never been used.  Who would ever need that sized hole? They don’t make dowels that size. Even if they did, I’d use a 7/8 bit and a big hammer. I mean…how much resistance can a 32nd of an inch of wood put up against me and a ten pound sledge. (Thanks for that hammer, also)

However, most of all, Thanks for the peace of mind that I will no longer worry about not having the right sized twist bit for any job.  Adding in Floyd’s bits now completes my collection—1/16th through 1/2 inch at 32nd inch increments.  I just sat there, mesmerized by that  splendid array of steel.  And not just a complete set.  I now have a back-up …or 3… of each size.  Except the 29/32 bit of course.

I’m done for today. I’ve still got good sized pile (even though I’ve never really understood “good sized” quantitatively) of miscellaneous drill bits to sort through — not to mention the huge assortment of files, hand tools, screws, nails, nuts and bolts still awaiting my attention.  Oh, and paint too.  But paint is a whole different story. Another day maybe….

Friday Frivolity: What’s in the fridge?

How many times do you open the fridge to “see what’s there” but nothing appeals to you.  No, I am not referring to Twilight Zone sounds or voices that nobody else hears.  Those are both issues which should be addressed by a shrink.

I’m thinking about those moments when you don’t really have a specific purpose for opening the refrigerator door. You know…snack attack.  An squad of combatants scaling the walls of your stomach. The enemy is boredom. Your idle moments inspire a reconnaissance mission to the fridge.

Of course, you don’t have a known target when you open the door.  The territory inside the fridge is ever-changing.  Restaurant leftovers hide in ambush beneath Styrofoam lids.  Cold air tumbles out as you reconnoiter each shelf, pushing aside Tupperware of last night’s surplus of tuna casserole.  Though the compressor is screaming close the door, you continue your search for a snack, not re-heat dinner. Nothing on the shelves.

Why is there a veggie drawer.  What are they hiding from.  Tomatoes, otherwise known as love apples, no doubt have their own reason to stay out of public view. But wait, there are Northern Spies in there—close the drawer.

Besides, we don’t put veggies in the veggie drawer.  It’s cheese in ours and shredded cheese will not satisfy a hunger pang.  Ah, hah…there’s another drawer at the bottom.  Don’t bother to open that drawer.  Nothing but onion flavored potatoes there.

You close the door.

Now comes my follow-up question.  Do you actually let go of the handle before you reopen the door?  Certainly you’ve overlooked a tasty tid-bit in your first search.  This time you look in the door shelves.  Foolhardy thought.  Condiments are categorically not snacks in themselves.  The desire is for quick satisfaction not a bologna sandwich.

I don’t know about you, but my hunger pangs are not satisfied by crunching on carrots.  If you do go straight to the veggie drawer, be sure to knock before you pull it open.

Friday Frivolity: un-canned SPAM

I received a SPAM e-mail the other day.  Even though such mail irritates many people, there’s not much that can be done.  Yeah, most e-mail providers have junk mail detectors, but every day phishers and scammers are finding ways to sneak around the filters.  The law isn’t much help either.  The CAN SPAM Act of 2003 makes the practice legal.  No, I’m not making that up and the Act is not relevant to legalizing the canning of a meat product.

I’ll admit that I don’t peruse e-mail that gets routed to my Junk mail box.  But memos in my Inbox at least get a quick look as long as they have a Subject.  The Subject of the particular memo I mentioned above was “USPS Delivery Failure Notice”.  Considering the volume of packages we ship and receive, I considered it plausible.

Considering the severely limited volume of my instinctive brain cells, it is equally plausible that I glanced at the content of that memo.

It was actually quite well contrived.  The USPS logo was certainly authentic appearing.  Yet, the very sight of “USPS” in the header of an e-mail did seem inappropriate, if not counterproductive.   Regardless of deficiencies in my intuition, skepticism is my insurance policy.  Regardless of the potential for one of our packages being stranded somewhere, such a Failure Notice would be in my roadside mailbox, not delivered through cyberspace.  I quickly resolved that I would not click on anything but my tongue…and to report it as SPAM.

But before I deleted it, I did read on.  The first sentence also provided conclusive doubt to the legitimacy of the notice.  It stated they “…couldn’t deliver to you address.”   I didn’t click the link to discover what they’er…I mean, their reason for the failure to deliver.  I was quite certain it would be equally ungrammatical if not totally illogical.

Yet, the longer I stared at the memo, the more my mind attempted to construct what might have been behind the link.  My imagination conjured up………

You’re package is being held do to wrong address information.  The contense of the package only reviled your e-mail address.  Please send additional $25 for extra handlings and good address.  Credit Cards accepted.

No, no, that’s not it.  This is much more enticing……  Were working for Ed McMahon.  He is supposed to deliver a Million-Dollars to you, but Publishers Cleaning House had the wrong address.  It is too risqué to try to deliver it again.  Please give us you bank account number and we will deposit the money.  

Okay, that’s enough fun for now.  I sure don’t want you to think this is SPAM.

Friday Frivolity: Soup for Lunch

[This story is one of 30 in my Laughing in Stitches book.  “…Stitches”, as well as “Laughing at Life” and “Laughing while Shopping” are  available for $8 each—plus postage.  Please order direct from me; EdLaughing@yahoo.com]

Once, shortly after we were married, Sue was ill.  Earnestly desiring to impress her with my care giving, I wandered into the kitchen to fix her lunch.

I say “wandered” as the kitchen is a strange land for me to visit without a guide.  In my basement workroom, I can locate hand tools with my eyes shut, find the appropriate fastener with the proficiency of a voice-activated robot, and know where every power tool is stored.  That is my homeland.

The kitchen is across the border.  Regardless that the instructional words on cans, boxes and documents in the kitchen appear to be in English, I am unable to properly translate the subtle variances of stir, mix, blend and fold.  Oh, but I’ve got “beat” quite clear in my mind.  Yeaaah…the difference between beat and whoop are visually acute in my masculine mind.  However, to my mind, the kitchen instruction to “beat” is in an ambiguous category with whip, puree and whisk.  (Though at one time, I thought whisking was what my mom did to me, with a broom, when she wanted me out of her kitchen.)

Considering that Sue—border guard, guide and translator, was languishing in bed, I needed to fix something I was familiar with.  Soup and fruit seemed like a good choice.  Fruit was quite easy.  Get out the trusty “never-needs-sharpening-slice-everything-effortlessly” knife and whack away.  Wow, it really looked easy on TV.

After I put on a band-aid and tossed out the red-blotched banana pieces, I took a much slower approach to the apple.  Even if not picture-perfect slicing and dicing, fruit-cutting was completed without further mishap.

Soup is not particularly challenging to me.  The Campbell kids often join me for lunch.  They are advocates of my open, heat, and eat protocol.

I was one proud guy to escape the kitchen without a fire or bloody stub—the cut should heal sooner than the burn.  Do you know how fast water boils in a dish rag mopping up a little spill on a glass-top burner?

My task of fixing lunch for my ailing wife was complete.  I even made a delectable-looking arrangement on the tray with the fruit, crackers, and some cheese.  Then, with the decorum of Jeeves, and a chest rivaling a ruffed grouse, I strutted into the bedroom with her lunch.

She was so grateful.

Initially, anyway.

Upon sampling the tomato soup she inquired as to what I had used to dilute it.

I proudly responded, “Dilute it?  Oh, no,  dear, I didn’t water it down.”

“Then how much milk did you use?”

“Ahhhh, milk?  I didn’t use milk, either.  I didn’t want to weaken the soup, hon.  You need all the nutrients you can get from each spoonful.”

She quickly rose up in bed.  I was quite amazed that only one spoonful of soup would result in such expedience in her recovery.

“What part of concentrate don’t you understand?”

“Concentrate?  On what?” I meekly offered as the air noticeably hissed from my deflating chest.

“Concentrate on what it says on the label.  Dilute with one can of milk.”

Well, that was it.  No more kitchen privileges for me.  At least not unsupervised.

Sue’s in control of the kitchen.  I cook outside.  Fewer dials, settings, and no recipes to follow.  Toss it on, keep the flash fires under control, and pull it off while the meat’s still limber enough to chew.  That’s about all the cookin’ I can be trusted with.

Friday Frivolity: In the Loop

It’s definitely a slow week in the news room when the headline of this Friday story is an expose on Froot Loops.   But, my news room is always of a frivolous nature.  By now, you shouldn’t be surprised when fine print on cereal boxes possesses my mind like a fiendish demon.  I was hungry for food and starved for entertainment.  Besides reading, what else exciting is there to do when you eat breakfast alone.

Normally, Sue fixes me breakfast and eats with me.  Not much to read on eggs, sausage & toast and not much reason to peruse Peanut Butter jars when she’s there to converse with.  However, the other morning I was up very early and my stomach growls for satisfaction about every two hours whether Sue’s awake or not.  So, I grabbed milk and a box of cereal.  It had been a long time since I’ve tasted Froot Loops.

As milk dissolved the loops into swirls of color, I challenged myself to identify which fruits each color represented.  I felt the need to validate my guesses by reading the Ingredients.

All I can say is Kellogg’s is safe from FDA investigation.  Though phonetically implying Fruit, I believe “Froot” is actually hydrogenated vegetables.  Not a single fruit is represented within the box.  Not in any form—flavor, fiber or filler.  Colors may infer fruitiness, but what flavor is Yellow 6, Red 40 or Blue1?

Oh, and what can you make this pronouncement on the box:  CORN USED IN THIS PRODUCT CONTAINS TRACES OF SOYBEANS.  Kinda made me wonder if the Oats were tainted with dandelions, but not enough to warrant such a disclaimer.

With great skepticism, I reached for a second cereal box.  This one proudly advertises “Mixed Berry; naturally and artificially flavored.”  Aside from the obvious question of what other way there might be to flavor something besides naturally or artificially, I hurriedly rotated the box to the Nutritional Facts panel.  Mixed Berry?  Humph…since when is Apple a berry.  Apples were the top “Berry Flavored Filling” ingredient.  I love apples but don’t try to sell me them as berries.

Unlike the circular “loops”, the second box of cereal I selected was Grape Flakes, #3.

REALLY?  Flakes made from grapes?  Okay, I’ll admit grapes may be round and berry sized but a berry flake, …NOT.  I mean, come on, berries make great toppings for ice cream.  Even with a name like Smuckers®, they don’t make a Grape syrup.  Black, Blue, Straw, Boysen and Triple but no Grape.  Beats me why someone would think grape in flake form would be a big seller.  Let’s see, hmmm, do they even make Grape Nuts any more?

This investigation got the juices flowing in my stomach…and I’m not talking fruit juices.  My Omeprozole™ couldn’t turn off the influx of gastric acid into the cereal mix I had ingested.  In the future, it would be better for me to eat cereal before my eyes…or my mind…can focus on the deceiving of Flakey and Frooty cereal ingredients.