Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Putting A Good Spin On Things

I’ve had a bit of a scary stretch at home over the last few days.  All was well in my world on Sunday afternoon, and I was spending it as I often do spring Sundays, relaxing after a day’s work around the house, doing the weekly laundry, and questioning the wisdom of a number of decisions made in my late teens.  And then …


Well, not complete silence as in “I’m in a really weird science fiction book and time has stopped progressing and birds are suspended mid-flight and nary a sound exists,” but silence as in that pathetic dialogue sequence used in about every 3rd M*A*S*H episode:
(shelling sounds in background)

Hawkeye (after about a second without an explosion):  Listen!

Nurse:  I don’t hear anything …

Hawkeye: That’s just it! The shelling stopped!
The “shelling,” in my case, was emanating from the washing machine, and more specifically, the spin cycle, during which the metal sides flap violently back and forth, making far more noise than any wartime battle, the entire machine begins to meander about the laundry room like the players in the classic electric football game, and, when the imbalance in the drum is such that the vibration matches the resonate frequency of the house itself, floorboards begin to loose themselves from their binds to the subflooring, and indeed, the entire structure threatens to separate from its foundation.

As I’ve had this particular washing machine for nearly a score, and considering my steadfast insistence on laundering clothing at least a few times a year, I’ve become quite familiar with the various details of its processes, so when the spin cycle ended prematurely on Sunday, I spun abruptly and remarked to the dog “Alas, Indy, my concern is great, for though my knowledge of the details of this unexpected cessation is limited, I cannot foresee any outcome other than one overwhelmingly negative.”  She bit me in an empathetic show of understanding, and we set off to investigate.

After draining the vat of the water that remained (a three step process, involving 1) using a bowl to scoop out about five gallons, 2) realizing that lowering the drain hose to below the height of the vat would cause it to drain naturally, and 3) lowering the drain hose to below the height of the vat so that it drained naturally), it was a fairly straightforward matter to determine that the little sensor thingy that tells the little guy inside the machine that the lid is closed had broken off.  (“Straightforward” in this case means “that was the only possible cause remaining after checking everything else, even though a moment’s consideration would have pointed to that in the first place”.)

The point of all of this (and really, Dead Acorn, 450+ words of irrelevant nonsense to get to the point?) is that upon reassembly of the machine (after bypassing the switch and duct-taping the leads together, ‘cause DUH), I took a few extra minutes to actually make sure that the steel sides were properly attached to the frame – all “Tabs A” were in “Slots B”, missing screws were replaced, and while perhaps not in showroom condition, the ole beast seemed a bit more solid than before.

Well, I popped up some popcorn for the test load, pulled the chaise lounge into the laundry room, and, after setting the dials for warm water and a small load, started up a regular cycle and waited with nearly-unbearable anticipation as the wash and rinse cycles completed.

Oh please oh please oh please oh please …

And it happened!  The tub began to spin, slowly at first, then more rapidly, flinging water outwardly, forcing it from the fabrics, faster, faster, ever faster … and all in stunning silence.

No earth-shaking vibrations.  No deafening din.  Nothing but a quiet spin and the subtle slurping of water through the waste hose.  The steel panels comprising the sides, being firmly and properly attached, no longer bellowed like the sound effects crew creating thunder at a high school play.  The washer seemed content to stay in its place, performing its task with a heretofore unknown calm.

The posts on this blog do not often have morals (much like their author!  Ha! Thank you!  Thank you!), and when they do, more often than not, it’s something akin to “don’t drink Ouzo when you’re working with electricity.”  But it occurred to me later that I had lived with something quite unpleasant for quite some time, when all along, a few minutes of dedicated attention could have provided a solution and changed my life for the better.  Just the slightest bit of effort on my part could have had such a positive impact on how things could have been, and yet I showed sloth and indifference …

Ok, not really – my actual thoughts were more along the lines of “well, shit, I hope my significant other doesn’t figure out how easy and pleasant it is to rid your life of things that annoy you, ‘cause I’ll be gone afore I can swat a fly!”

Baby steps toward life lessons, I guess.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Six Months, Half A Year ... Whatevs ...

What are they gonna do, take away your birthday?

It’s really one of the classic phrases of juvenile provocation, a statement meant to make the target feel as though he or she is perhaps behaving like a “sissy” or a “wuss” with regard to hesitation in performing a hypothetical act that could result in some form of punishment.  Its effectiveness lies in the psychological grouping of all consequences with one that could not possibly occur, thereby reducing the internally estimated probability that any repercussions will result from whatever idiotic thing the little dumbass is scheming up.

Or something like that.

The point for the present discussion is that one cannot have one’s birthday taken away, but boy-howdy, wouldn’t THAT suck?

Well, yes, one can, and yes, it does.

I’ve been employed in my current position for just a cat’s whisker over 3 months, and it would be difficult to overstate how much I have enjoyed it thus far.  My coworkers are intelligent, of good humor, well-shod, and relatively unannoying in voicing their poor taste in athletic teams for whom they cheer.  I was elated last week when I opened my electronic mailbox and found the following message:

“There is chocolate cake in the break room in celebration of the April birthdays of Genevieve and The Dead Acorn – please help yourselves!”

I was, to be honest, a bit confused initially (my psyche is a place where elation and confusion often coexist), as my birthday is in October, but then it struck me - this must be a work environment the inhabitants of which so enjoy life that an annual acknowledgement is simply not enough, and that a semiannual party is warranted!  I know parents who celebrate “6 month birthdays” for their children, and I have friends who extend their parties into a birthweek, or even a birthmonth, and I thought “well, if this place bounces that way, then coolo-boolo!  I’m tolly down with that!”

As I suspect you already know, it was not the case.  I stopped in Guinevere’s office to offer best wishes and to comment on my enthusiasm for the practice:

Dead Acorn:  “Hey, Josephine – Happy Birthday!  Kinda cool that we do the 6-month celebration as well!”

 JeVassia:  “What the #$!@& are you talking about?”

 DA:  “That email from Hannah.  My birthday’s in October, so I just assumed that the office does something twice a year.  You know, morale, good times, all that stuff.”

 J’Anistia:  “Umm, no.  If it’s not your birthday, there’s an error in your file.  This isn’t Candyland, dumbass.  Jesus.”

 DA (skulking back to office before tears become visible):  “umm … oh … okay.  Sorry.”

So yes … sometimes, they ARE going to take away your birthday.  And it hurts.  I didn’t have any cake that day, and I’m not sure I’ll have any on my real birthday, either.  If I even still have one at that point.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Let's Just Set A Spell ...

The world of Sports & Leisure Viewership can be a wonderful place.  There’s just something special about throwing back a lager or two, watching your preferred player or team do battle against the day’s enemy, engaging in a little light banter with the supporters thereof, some verbal sparring, if you will, letting loose vocabularic venom, perhaps indulging in a bit of speculation as to the interspecies sexual exploits of their maternal lineage, even, on occasion, dabbling in a bit of physical joshery, a brief interlude into playful fisticuffs … it’s truly magical.

While I, to a large degree, am not prone to engage in overly emotional interactions in such settings, preferring instead to keep things at the level of anatomically improbable suggestions toward those rooting for teams opposed to those that curry my favor, and nothing more, I read an article yesterday concerning a rule change to one of the most beloved events our culture knows that simply made my blood boil.

Disirregardless of your particular favorite team or competitor, there is almost universal agreement in attitudes toward certain endgame processes in a number of events, including American Football, football, and ice hockey.  In each of these, if the teams remain tied for some specified duration after the end of the scheduled event, the winner is decided by a bizarrely construed tie-breaker only passingly similar to the original game.  Sudden Death, penalty shots/kicks … whatever the specifics, the issue is the same:  the outcome of the game is to be decided via a process decidedly different than the game itself.  (This is, of course, a matter of degrees, and American Football differs more in the criticality of scoring immediately, as opposed to football and hockey, which employ scenarios far removed from standard play.)

As I said wrote, attitudes toward such situations are almost universally  agreed to be bad; the exception, of course, being the Olympic penalty kick triumph of Brandi Chastain.

The rule change that has me so incensed is an odd twist on this; odd in that the conclusion of the competition will remain the same, but the rules for advancing to the final rounds are to be changed.

Whisky.  Tango.  Foxtrot.

I refer, of course, to the Scripps National Spelling Bee, and their decision to add an element of vocabulary to their annual event.  Yeah, you read that right.  Rounds up to and including the semi-finals will now include some sort of hare-brained attempt at determining whether or not the student knows what a word means, as if that’s important in the real world.  Those in charge and who made this decision bombilate with rhytiscopia and galeanthropy and leave me with extreme gamomania.  You want a vocabulary test?  Fine.  ESPN4 is always looking for things to air.  But don’t try to dilute the purity of the spelling competition, where a word’s meaning is a clue to overcoming the challenge, and not the challenge itself.  Personally, I suspect an anti-savant agenda being funded, no doubt, by the lily-livered context-dependent self-proclaimed “linguists” over at MeaningMatters.

I’ll be writing a sternly worded letter, of course, expressing my displeasure, and I invite you to join me.  Scripps has stepped out onto a slippery slope, and the inclusion of vocabulary will inevitably lead to disqualifications based on intonation and inflection, and then … I shudder to imagine.  Please help me right this wrong.

Do it for this guy:

"Can you give me the definition?" - with some effort, we can keep this hallowed question from going the way of the dodo.  I can’t spell it out any more clearly.