Smiling with her Eyes

She has a way of smiling
With her eyes

She does it when she is feeling love
Never any other time

It melts me

A long time passed without that look
I watched and waited and wished

As we lay there, enjoying the morning
She looked at me

She smiled
That smile
With her eyes

Best of Alfageeek: Ribbon Jello

This weekend is our 14th annual Independence Day party. Every year my wife says that she’s done with this 150-person event, and every year it seems to happen anyway. She does all the hard work organizing and inviting and whatnot. I have four jobs: preparing the outside (cleaning the cabana, etc.), grilling, making the Ribbon Jello, and telling the Ribbon Jello story.

Haven’t heard the Ribbon Jello story? Well you’re in luck. Just follow that link.

(un)locked

He stood knocking at the door
It was locked
He knew she was inside
He could sense her in there

He tried to pick the lock
He tried to break the door down
The door was open before
He remembered when the door was open

He tried to learn his way in
He studied lock picking
He studied carpentry
He studied architecture

He pleaded with her to open the door
He reasoned with her
He wrote her letters, and slipped them under
She wrote letters back, denying the door was even there

For years, he banged on the door
He banged until his knuckles bled
He scratched at the door until his fingernails were gone
He collapsed at the door and wept

And as he sat there, weeping, he saw it
He saw a key
It was hidden very well
Almost impossible to find

He picked up the key
Terrified that it might not fit
Terrified that it might fit
Unsure whether she was even there anymore

He tried the key
It fit
It caught
It turned.

Impossible to Disentwine

Imagine a fine chain
It fell into a drawer
It became tangled
Impossible to disentwine
A solid ball of chain

When my love was new, it was a fine chain
A long string made of tiny loops
Loops of emotion
Desire wonder adoration curiosity lust respect trust awe tenderness playfulness humor pride validation longing eagerness satisfaction

But now that chain is tangled
It has become impossible to tell where one emotion ends and the next begins
Is that longing or trust?
Is that curiosity or lust?
Does it even matter?
It is all one love

When it was new, it was fragile
Break one loop, like trust, and it was ruined
Break another, like validation, and a whole section would fall away
And had it stayed untangled, a loop like awe or wonder might have rusted
The chain could fall apart without anyone ever noticing
From simple neglect

But it didn’t stay untangled
And so now it is impervious
Break a link and nothing happens
The one love continues on
It can no longer be broken
My love for her is a solid ball of chain

Alone

I like to sit in silence
I like to not be bothered
I like to have time to myself

I like to read in peace
I like to listen to my music
I like to think

I like to cook alone
I like to clean alone
I like to work alone

I like to be alone

But not as much as I like to be with her

Hard Tweets Explained: Anachronism

This is one of those hard tweets that I’m surprised is a hard tweet. Apparently, people (not you, of course.  Other people) don’t know the word anachronism. It’s an awesome word. I just love it to death. It’s from the Greeks, who had a way with words. We shall tear it apart and analyze it the way my father taught me.

My father had a little game: if you came across a word you didn’t know while reading, and you looked it up, you could ask him if he knew it. If he did, you got nothing. If he didn’t, he’d drive you to the store and buy you a candy bar. Nobody ever got a candy bar. Because he knew how to break words apart and figure out what they meant. And being kids, we would always bring him the big, looooooong words to test him with, which are the kinds of words that are best suited to this dissect and analyze approach.

So our word is anachronism. This has three parts: ana/ chrono /(n)ism. ana means backward. It really doesn’t show up all that much in words people know. Analysis is a cool one. lysis comes from a word that means loosen, so analysis is to un-loosen something. chrono you know. It’s for time. Like chronology, or chronograph, or chronicle. ism is a bit of magic that means “make this idea into a noun.” So ana-chrono-(n)ism means backward-in-time-nounishly.

So anachronisms are things that don’t fit the now, but used to fit the then. Corsets, and horse-drawn carriages, and Kodachrome film, and the cover of Newsweek. Stuff that used to be current, and now aren’t.

Of course, love is eternal. If you’ve read my blog, you know that I’m a big believer in love. So that was just a little joke.

Homework: Now that you understand it, go star the damn tweet already.

Best of Alfageeek: Camp Dad

I’ve been keeping up a pace of three posts per week for 20 weeks now. It’s been fun, but I’m finding it more and more difficult to come up with something interesting to say. So I’ve decided to cut back on the original writing a bit. And in between, I’ll do what I’m doing here: give you a short intro, and just link to one of my older pieces.

Yesterday was Father’s Day, so my editor suggested I should write about “looking at shit flying through the sky” with my kids. Which was a great idea, except by the end of the day, I was positively wiped. So instead of that, here’s a piece about fatherhood, called Camp Dad.

Hard Tweets Explained: Jokes for Kids

When my oldest was just old enough to talk intelligibly, I figured out that it was ridiculously funny to teach her jokes that were challenging, even to adults. Jokes that required contextual inference that no child could perform. She didn’t understand why the jokes were funny, but she did understand that when she told them, the adults would crack up and tell her she was wonderful. I don’t know if this early experience helped turn her into the outgoing, confident young woman she has become, or if that was always in her nature. But I continued the practice with my other kids, and now all of them can tell a joke.

So when you read these, you have to imagine them spoken in the voice of a 5-year-old.

This was the first one I taught her. Like most pun jokes, it doesn’t make sense when you read it — you need to say it out loud. Get it yet? Pete. Sounds like Peat. Scotland is famous for having Peat bogs. A 2000 year old Scotsman would be decomposed at the bottom of one of those bogs. So you would call him Peat. Or Pete. Are you keeping up? Here’s another one:

This one I had to teach my youngest because it’s riffing on a bogus science story that was going around when she was little. Back in 2011 scientists in Switzerland and Italy convinced themselves (and pretty much nobody else) that they had witnessed neutrinos going faster than the speed of light. Of course, nothing goes faster than the speed of light. So this finding was obviously wrong. And eventually everyone figured out what their mistake was.

"I'm late! I'm late! For a very important date!"

“I’m late! I’m late! For a very important date!”

The conceit of the joke is that if something went faster than the speed of light, it would cause time-travel to happen. We all know this from the first Superman movie, when he orbited the Earth faster than the speed of light so he could go back in time, and not be late for his bar mitzvah or something. It’s science.

Speaking of science:

A tasty, refreshing beverage!

A tasty, refreshing beverage!

So this is another one of those jokes where you have to read it out loud. The first chemist orders water, but uses its chemical formula H₂O. I’m guessing you understood that much. The second chemist sounds like he is saying H₂O₂, which you may recognize (yeah, right), as Hydrogen Peroxide. Hydrogen Peroxide is a ridiculously strong oxidizer. If you get a drop of it on your skin, the cells die immediately and turn white. Drinking H₂O₂ would certainly kill you. And remember, there is nothing funnier than a 5-year-old making jokes about gruesome death. Nothing.

OK, so enough of the easy ones. Let’s get to the really challenging jokes I taught them:

Is this really a potato? Or is it a character in a Dostoyevsky novel experiencing a psychotic break?

Is this really a potato? Or is it a character in a Dostoyevsky novel experiencing a psychotic break?

The reason this joke is funny is because the second potato is surprised that the first potato is talking. Yet the second potato is also a potato. And it says something. Which means it is also talking. So why would it be surprised? Perhaps that second potato does not realize it is a potato. It thinks it is something else, like a human, which can talk.

So, at a deeper level, this joke is exploring the Self Concept. How does that second potato understand itself? Is it having an existential crisis? And since when can potatoes think and express themselves anyway? Perhaps neither is a potato. Perhaps both parties are actually human, but the second is in a delusional state. Perhaps brought on by a psychotic break, possibly through torture and isolation. Maybe in a Siberian prison.

Who knows? Anyway, the joke is rich with irony. And potatoes are rich with iron (9% of the US recommended daily allowance! Just eat 11 potatoes a day and you can completely skip the steak!).

Keeping on the topic of food:

When I google "catsup" most of the pictures were of this Mel Ramos piece. I'm not complaining, but I think that's a little weird.

When I google “catsup” most of the pictures were of this Mel Ramos piece. I’m not complaining, but I think that’s a little weird.

This is yet another pun that you have to read aloud. I’ll wait. … … … OK, done? So the trick at the end of this joke is that “Catch-Up” sounds like Ketchup (or Catsup, which I personally think is a much cooler way to spell that word because it looks like cat soup, which is really gross). Anyway, that’s the overt joke. But the thing that makes this joke funny when a child tells it, is the underlying message of infanticide. That a mother is so sick and tired of her progeny falling behind that she kills them. Again, I refer you back to the lesson of the Hydrogen Peroxide joke: Kids telling jokes about death are fucking hilarious.

And that brings us to our final joke, which is actually a riddle:

Picture the scene. An adult hears the riddle. They think of brown sticky things. They filter out the ones that they think are not appropriate for 5-year-olds. They come up with some lame guesses. They give up. The 5-year-old delivers the punch line. You see, sticks are ordinarily brown. And they are sticks, which makes them stick-like, or as we might say, stick-y. So the adult realizes that they, themselves, were the brunt of the joke. And they are ashamed and embarrassed. So they laugh heartily to deflect the pain. They bury the pain and the shame deep, where nobody can find it. Because they are adults. And that’s what adults do.

Back Roads

I grew up in a small town in Michigan, near Ann Arbor. We weren’t actually in town. Rather, we lived in a township adjacent to the village. We shared the same zip code and the same schools, but it was actually several miles between us and town. So there was a lot of driving in my life. At first on bikes, and eventually in cars. And most of that driving was on back roads.

The original chick magnet

The original chick magnet

Some of the roads were paved, but most were dirt. And when you are a young kid with a small fast car (a white Ford Fiesta, with cool red racing stripes), and you watch the Rockford Files and Dukes of Hazzard on TV, you get to be pretty good at navigating those dirt roads. The Fiesta had front-wheel drive, and an emergency/parking brake you could engage by pulling a lever between the seats. This was a good idea, because the brakes on these cars lasted a few thousand miles, and then you either had to go get new ones (yeah, right), or you needed to use the engine to slow yourself down. In case of emergency, the parking brake would help.

But that parking brake also helped you spin the car around like Jim Rockford. Turn the wheel hard, quick pull and release on the parking brake, and the back end would be set free from the road surface. Then when you had spun sufficiently, let out the clutch and gun the engine to pull yourself into forward motion again. This is how I would take pretty much every turn on those dirt roads. I was turning 90 degrees, but I got there via 135-45=90 (the car turned 135 degrees, then back 45 degrees, and away we go).

In the winter, I often did a similar maneuver, but never on purpose, and it always ended up with my car in a snow bank. The car was light, so this wasn’t really that big a deal. I kept stuff to shove under the tires in case of a particularly difficult snowbank extraction.

I was on the debate team (easy there ladies, settle down) and the meets were all over the state. And Michigan is a big state. The meets always started at like 8am. So that meant I was driving around picking up my teammates at 4am to make it to school, where we’d all get into a van and the coach would drive us several hours to some other school far, far away. On one of these trips, I decided that I wasn’t going to bother stopping at a stop sign. There were fields all around and nothing was growing at the time, so I could see for miles, and I knew quite well there would be no cars at that intersection when I reached it. I did glance in the rearview, but the headlights behind me were round, not square, so I was not terribly concerned.

I blew through the stop sign and flashing blues came on behind me. I pulled over. I was wearing a suit, as was my male teammate.  My two female teammates were in dresses. It was a fish & game officer. He said there had been a report of out-of-season hunting, and thought we looked suspicious. Ever since that episode, when he had occasion to see me in a suit, my buddy Jeff would say, “Going hunting?”

The other guy in the suit was my best buddy Bill. He lived a couple miles from me, and we had been hanging out together for years. When we were younger, I would drive my bike to his house, and we’d have adventures. Once I had a car, I’d drive that to his house, and we’d have adventures. He lived in a subdivision, and the subdivision owned a small beach on a nearby lake. Anybody in the subdivision could use it, but nobody was responsible for maintaining it. So it kind of sucked.

What's your sleep number?

What’s your sleep number?

My friend Bill decided we should do something about that. So we went to an old junk pile in the woods (in Michigan, if you need anything, you can just go find it in an old junk pile in the woods; it’s like a rural Room of Requirement), and we got an old mattress. The fabric was gone, so it was just a queen size mattress-shaped tangle of rusty springs. We carried it out of the woods, laid it on the road behind my Fiesta, and hooked a rope between it and the Fiesta’s trailer hitch.

You read that correctly—the Fiesta had a trailer hitch. I’ve never seen a trailer small enough that it could be pulled by a Fiesta. But there you have it.

We drove down to the “beach” dragging the “mattress” behind us. Sparks flying. It was glorious.

Once we got there, we backed the car down to the shore line, threw the mattress in, and let it settle to the bottom. (This was all Bill’s idea, by the way; he was a fucking genius.) Once it was there, I put the Fiesta into first gear, gunned the engine, popped the clutch, and dragged tons of weeds out of the lake. We did this several times. Turned it into a veritable oasis of weedless water. Brilliant.

The Fiesta served me well. When I went away to college, I drove it to Massachusetts and used it to get around here. It turned into a bank of sorts. Whenever I needed money, I would just park it on the street, wait for someone to smash into it, and then go get insurance money for repairs. The insurance company didn’t seem to care whether I ever had the repairs done, so it was just a way of extracting countless dollars from a worthless car with a relatively low insurance premium. Looking back on that, something doesn’t make sense there, but that’s how I remember it.

When I finally had to get a new car, my landlord offered to buy my Fiesta for a dollar. I think he overpaid.

Hard Tweets Explained: Rectifier

I’m not much of a lunch person. I bring soup pretty much every day. My wife really likes to make soup, and I like to eat soup, so that works out well. But every Thursday, a group of us head out to Thai or Indian. Both restaurants are less than a five minute walk. And the service is quick.

As it happens, a few of the usual crowd were out or tied up with client meetings, so it was going to be just three of us last Thursday. And the other two had decided to go for sushi for a change. At first, I was excited. I texted my wife “Sushi today!” But then I figured out that the place they were going was really far away, and I didn’t want to leave the office that long. So I bailed out and ate a bagel I found in the kitchen instead.

So Friday came along, and my wife texted me after work: “stopping for sushi.” She is on a gluten free diet, and while she loves sushi, that diet limits her options (regular soy sauce has gluten, and it contaminates everything). So I have to conclude she was stopping for my benefit, which is just so incredibly sweet. I’m a very lucky man.

The scary part is you can't even see what's behind what you can see.

The scary part is you can’t even see what’s behind what you can see.

So as I’m anticipating the arrival of my dream girl with the raw fish, I went to the bar to evaluate my cocktail options. The most obvious choice, sake, is not something I stock. It occurred to me that I should rectify that situation. I really like sake. That gave rise to the tweet, which I’ll probably get around to explaining eventually.

But sake wasn’t an option so my focus shifted to plums. Plum wine is another Japanese restaurant staple, and while I don’t stock that either, I do have plum liqueur. So I made my usual Ketel One vodka martini, heavy on the vermouth, and added a splash of plum liqueur. It was a little sweet, so I added a bit of sparkling water to lighten it up.

The sushi was great. And I mean that in both senses of the word great: both delicious and excessive in quantity.

It turns out the place had a pretty good gluten free selection, so there were plenty of rolls for my wife (she’s not a raw-fish-eater). For me, in addition to the usual fish suspects suspects, she got otoro. I was unfamiliar with this; although it’s a staple in Japan, it is fairly rare here in the USA. Otoro (or O-toro, or ootoro, or just toro) is a particular cut of the blue fin tuna which is quite different from the regular dark red “sushi tuna” you have probably had. It’s pink. It looks like spam. To my occidental palate, it takes exactly like the regular tuna sushi. It has no texture at all. It simply disappears when you put it in your mouth. It’s ridiculously expensive. Bottom line: don’t bother.

Diamonds of Diodes are a girl's best friend, because they keep her phone at 100%

Diamonds of Diodes are a girl’s actual best friend, because they keep her phone at 100%

So back to the tweet. I thought, “I need to rectify that.” A rectifier is an electronic gadget that turns AC power into DC power. It’s an important part of the “wall wart” you plug in to charge your phone. There are a bunch of ways to build a rectifier, but my favorite (being a person who has favorites of such things) is to put four diodes into a diamond configuration. You put the AC into the top and bottom, and pull the DC out of the left and right. You may recall that AC current goes plus/minus/plus/minus. I explained this a while ago, so I won’t cover that again. (You can use inductive reasoning to figure out what that coil is on the left side of that circuit diagram.)

A diode is a little silicon doodad that only lets power go through it one way. So when there is + coming in on the top and – on the bottom, the plus goes out the right and the – goes out the left. And when it switches so + is on the bottom and – on the top, then the + still goes out the right and the – still goes out the left. (Technically, the + is going in, not out, since these are electrons moving around.)

Anyway, you aren’t going to build one of these, so I’m sure you don’t care how it works, but it does work, and it’s one way to build a rectifier.

Homework: plumb the depths of your basement in search of diodes so you can rectify your next sushi craving (but skip the Otoro).