The Great Outdoors

Lake Tahoe

I just got home from spending a week at a writer’s workshop at South Lake Tahoe, CA.  (Sometimes I write “in Lake Tahoe,” but I understand that while one can be “in” Omaha, Nebraska, one cannot actually be “in” Lake Tahoe unless one wants to get very wet.)  So just about everyone I know who professes a love for the “Great Outdoors” is probably very jealous.  But the whole outdoors thing is virtually wasted on me.  I loved the workshop and being in the cabin in the woods; it’s all very Waldonesque.  But I want to end every sentence with the phrase “if you like that sort of thing” and hastily add “which I don’t.”

Don’t get me wrong (oh, go ahead, it won’t bother me), I have nothing against the out-of-doors per se, if you like that sort of thing, which I don’t.  I just have a few minor complaints and reasons why I prefer to be in-of-doors.

First of all, there are bugs outside. Flying bugs, crawling bugs, spiders (which, I know, are technically not bugs), biting bugs, blood sucking bugs. Mosquitoes and flies and (shudder!) ticks.  Indoors there may be bugs, but you can kill them or pay to have them killed, which I prefer.

Outdoors there is weather.  And it is entirely arbitrary and somewhat whimsical.  Too cold or too hot, depending on the season.  Rain or snow.  Ice and wind.  Tornadoes, hurricanes.  Also forest fires, mudslides, earthquakes and avalanches, which are not weather, but just Mother Nature trying to be funny.  People always tell you “dress in layers,” which is terrific advice for people who are not smart enough to stay inside where the only layers you need are in your lasagna.

In-doors we have air conditioning.  We have heat.  We have cable and wi-fi and streaming videos.  We have books and e-books and newspapers.  We have electricity and lights! We have food and coffee (!!!) and we don’t waste them on trying to “keep warm.”  We have electronic games and e-mail and Facebook and stupid blogs and Twitter.  You can get to some of these things outside, too, but why?  Why are you out there? Did your car break down on your way to something fun to do inside? Going to the movies or a concert or a play or out to eat? Otherwise, I don’t understand. Oh, and one more thing that you weird outdoors people will never fully appreciate, apparently:  indoor plumbing.  Yes, bathrooms! Not outhouses (gross) or just behind a tree somewhere (grosser), but real bathrooms with toilets and hot water and showers and tubs.

So, anyway, kids, take my advice:  don’t go outside no matter what anyone says about it unless the building you are in is on fire.  Stay inside.  Watch TV.  Order delivery.  The phone and the internet are your best friends and they will keep you inside where it is nice and safe and warm.  Just remember two words from your Uncle Ed:  Outside bad.

 

What You Don’t Know About Washington’s Birthday

GeorgeOn Monday we will celebrate the holiday we now call “Presidents’ Day.”  It used to be George Washington’s birthday, which used to be February 22nd but started being moved around so that Federal employees could have another three day week-end.  (GW’s birthday became “Presidents’ Day” because people thought we weren’t paying enough attention to other great Presidents like Warren G. Harding and Millard Fillmore.) Moving George’s birthday around has been a thing to do, it seems, for quite a while.

When George was born, the date was NOT February 22, 1732.  Not in the English colony of Virginia when GW was born and not in Britain or any of her colonies.  The date on the calendar that day was February 11th, 1731.

If you want all of the gory details, you can find them here:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gregorian_calendar#Difference_between_Gregorian_and_Julian_calendar_dates

But if you want the short version, read on.

People have been trying to figure out what day it is for a long time.  The Romans had a calendar, which they named after Julius Caesar — the “Julian” calendar.  It was okay and worked for a long time except that it miscalculated the time it takes the Earth to orbit the Sun.  The stupid Romans had calculated a year as being 365 days and six hours in length.  They were probably confused by those goofy Roman numerals.  1582 years later, smarter people calculated a year as being 365 days, 5 hours, 49 minutes, and 12 seconds.  The Romans were off by 10 minutes and 48 seconds!

That may not seem like a lot of time to you, but if you add it up over 1582 years, it amounts to a considerable amount of time.  It’s about 10 days.  (1582 X 10 = 15820 (minutes) / 60 = 263.67 (hours) / 24 = 10 days and some change.)

Ten days!  Something had to be done!  It was an international crisis.  Luckily for all of us, the Roman Catholic church had some smart people working for them and they convinced Pope Gregory XIII (silly Roman numerals again) to set the record straight.  So the Pope declared the old calendar was wrong and created a new calendar (which he promptly named after himself).  This can get really complicated real fast because it has to do with (among other things) when we celebrate Easter.  Easter has always been connected to the lunar calendar and is supposed to coincide with the vernal (Spring) equinox (when daytime hours and night time hours are about the same — 12 hours).  During Caesar’s time, that day was about March 22nd, but by 1580 it was happening around March 11th.  You don’t need a calculator, you just notice “Hey we had 12 hours of sunshine today” to figure it out.

Okay, so you can understand what the Big Deal was about.  We certainly cannot allow Easter to be on March 11th.  If left to its own devices, it would continue to slip until it was happening in December and then Christmas would Easter and Easter would be — oh, it would have been a terrible mess by now.

So Pope Gregory the 13th said that March 11th 1582 would become March 21st and the calendar would jump ahead 10 days.  Order would be created out of chaos!  Unfortunately, the Catholic Church did not own the calendar all over the world and it took a long time (170 years in England) for his calendar to be adopted almost everywhere. (The Greeks didn’t adopt it until 1923, but they are, after all, Greek.)  Actually, taking away those 10 days from people created chaos out of order.  Workers rioted in the streets, shouting “Give us back our ten days!” (You see, because they weren’t going to be PAID for them.  Kind of like being a Federal employee on furlough two years ago.)

Okay, where was I?  Oh, yeah, George Washington.  Sheesh, I said this was going to be the short version.  So England and her colonies finally adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1752.  George was 21 at the time.  He could have just kept on keeping on, in spite of the new calendar, but he was kind of a stickler for details and changed his birthday to February 22, 1732, which effectively made him a year younger.

So, kids, that’s the story of why you don’t know nuthin’ about George Washington’s birthday and why Monday, Feb 16th is a Federal holiday.  Well, anyway, it sort of explains some of the reasons why.

Ambien Adventures

Kids,  don’t try this at home.  The prescription drug Ambien has been a cause for concern for people for some time now.  People have reported having hallucinations and other side effects.  Abien is normally prescribed as a sleeping pill, usually just to help people who have trouble falling asleep.  As far as I know, this is why my doctor prescribed it for me.  However, Wikipedia, the Internet research tool for people who don’t care if stuff is true or not, says it can be used to treat “some brain disorders,” so maybe there is something they are not telling me.

Be that as it may, this summer I had an Ambien adventure of my own.  I was traveling from Nebraska to Virginia, and I stopped for the night in Breezewood, PA, a town that is famous as an  entrance and exit on the Pennsylvania Turnpike and nothing else. There’s also a Dunkin’ Donut shop there.

You probably don’t know this, but the town in Nebraska where I used to live did not have even one donut shop for years.  They had a DD, but it burned down and was never rebuilt.  And nothing  else has been able to take hold there. One of those Crispy Creme places tried for awhile but ended up closing down.  Now I ask you:  what kind  of town is it that can’t support one lousey donut shop?

So there I was – in a motel across the street from a Dunkin’ Donuts, which seriously has to be the best donut in the entire world, and I did not give into temptation but took my medicine and went to bed.

That night I dreamed I got into my car and drove across the street and bought a half dozen cake donuts, three of them chocolate covered and three of them plain.  Then, in the dream, I drove back to the motel and proceeded to devour all six of them.  It was a great dream.

The next morning I awoke to find an empty Dunkin Donuts box on the bedside table. In my Abien aided sleep, I had actually gone out to my car, driven  over to the DD, purchased my donuts, driven my car back to the motel, and eaten them.  While I was asleep!  I’m going to have to assume I got dressed and undressed before and after this shopping trip becaue  I don’t remember getting arrested for driving in my underwear.  So, kids, this cautionary tale comes with a moral:  Drugs are bad, just say no, and never eat donuts in your sleep.

Killer Cat Terrorizes Blogger

Take a good look at this beast.  If you see this creature walking around  loose, approach him with extreme caution.   Better yet, inform the local police and avoid this mad killer, if at all possible.  Sure, I can hear what you’re saying– he looks like a sweet, harmless little kitty, probably named Fluffy or Snowball or  something.  But I can tell  you that he is a complete psychopath.  He likes to lay in wait for his next victim  and then spring out of hiding and  attack!!!  He also likes to wait under your desk until you are sitting at your  computer, and then he sneaks up on you  and bites you on your bare feet.  Of course, if you wear shoes all of the time,  this will stop him.  However, since he  also likes to bite the  occasional toe that sticks out from under the covers at night, this wearing shoes idea might  not be the final solution, especially if you don’t sleep by yourself — or if you don’t sleep by yourself,  yet, because you will if you wear shoes to bed.

It doesn’t matter because this horrible little creature will probably laugh his evil cat laugh “MEEE-HAAA HAAA HAAA,” and attack you some  more.  I researched this on the Internet  and the consensus seems to be that the poor animal is suffering from neglect  and just needs more attention from his master.  Fur balls!!  This is  two-for-a-nickel cat psychology that will only end with you covered in scars  from head to foot.

The only way to end this madness is to give the cat the  house or apartment you live in and go live under a bridge somewhere.   Trust me, you will thank me later.  Sleeping under a nice dry bridge has got to  be better than sleeping in shoes or — ouch!! — sleeping next to someone who does. Run for your life!!!

Netflix Shares Sink

The other day I saw a headline that read “Netflix Shares Sink.”  I didn’t read the article, but I was very pleased for Netflix and I bet they are very happy. I know that this is a problem that some people have had for many years.   Some people squeeze the toothpaste tube from the bottom and some people  squeeze it from the middle or (shudder) the top. Some couples fight about the other person’s mess, others fight about territory. Some solve the problem by having two sinks in the bathroom, others  have solved the problem by always living in places that have two bathrooms.  When you have two bathrooms you have peace.  But it seems that Netflix has found a way to live with someone and not have this problem.  I wish they would tell the rest of us how they do it.  Imagine!  They are sharing a sink!  I wonder how they do it.  And the poor people are having financial problems on top of everything.  This shows you that no matter how bad things get, you can always rise above your problems and learn to share.  Bravo, Netflix!  And God speed.