Sunday, February 13, 2011

Thoroughly Modern Me (the giveaway!)

It’s February 13, and as promised, I am preparing to honor one of you with the CSN Stores $35 gift certificate code for answering
What is the craziest thing you have ever bought online?

My assistant and I are rating the only five answers on a scale of 1 to 10:
1 being “That’s not at all crazy.”
10 being “That person is a nut case!”

Domestic Diva bought a year’s supply of coconut butter, which we found normal. In fact, we’ve had enough of the stuff in our house to last, gosh, eight years. Honest! We gave her a 1.

Bill H. bought a third copy of a book he’d misplaced. I have him a 6. Not because the purchase was crazy, but because Bill must have been a bit nuts looking for the book. My assistant, on the other hand, gave him a 4, because the action wasn’t crazy. Average, 5.

Pkozuch bought an old telephone switchboard that weighed 400 pounds. Then the dinosaur had to be shipped, so someone had to pay for that. My assistant gave this nut an 8. “Who on earth would use a telephone switchboard? Then who’s going to unload the thing and move it around? Not even a treadmill weighs that much!”

I gave pkozuch a 7. If this object was to become a functional part of life, that’s not crazy but shipping it is. I’d guess shipping cost more than the switchboard itself. How does anyone rationalize that? If the thing wasn’t functional, I go for a 10, but I’m surmising and will stay with my 7. Average, 7.5.

Ashley usually buys clothes. I gave Ashley a 3, because she probably doesn’t need another thing clogging her closet. My assistant wonders why Ashley even responded.

Finally, Shala Darkstone “bought 50 bars of glycerin soap just to get free shipping.” My assistant said that’s a 7—“that’s a lot of soap, but it’s justified.” Since I would do the same thing and I don’t consider myself crazy, I’d go with a 2. Soap in a pair is a great gift placed in a basket on top of a couple of washcloths. Average, 4.5.

That means our winner is pkozuch! Congratulations! I’ll email your code shortly.

We would just like to know the story behind the switchboard—and its buyer, the nut.

I asked our winner to comment on the product she bought online, and here’s the scoop.
“We bought [the switchboard] for $450. Weighing in at 400 pounds, we found that shipping from Connecticut to Wisconsin was going to be $500 to $700. Then a resourceful TSI employee found a company that specialized in shipping computers and electronics.

When we told them it was an old telephone switchboard, it seemed to fall within their usual guidelines. We had to get the seller to haul it up out of their basement, because the trucking firm wouldn’t do that. Once it was in the garage, the trucking firm came and got it and it made the journey from Connecticut to Wisconsin.

We did a little restoration on some wood veneer and got a few new cords for it. If we hooked an incoming phone line to it, there would be some functionality (being able to answer it), although we couldn’t really transfer the call out to an extension.

It is the focal point of my Telephone Museum in our waiting area. Mostly serves as a conversation piece. I have a friend who just got an old phone booth for her birthday. It was an interior phone booth made of mahogany that came from an old hotel. I was excited for her. She told me I was the only person who ‘got it.’ Most of her friends were very puzzled when they asked, ‘Did you want a phone booth?’”

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Do You Live Up to Your Name?

Following a recent event involving a potential client and desperately needed income that didn’t materialize, I emailed an update to several interested friends. One scribed back that the prospect “has just lived up to his last name.”

Clever guy! Why hadn’t I thought of that?

I was still in shock.

My friend’s statement reminded me of a story I’d read in a 1988 USA Weekend about people’s careers coinciding with their last names. “Chiropractors named Bonebrake, doctors named Blood, ministers named Lord, dentists named Smiley and Brush, undertakers named Dye.” For that article, others submitted their names and related professions:

Barker, veterinarian
Burns, fire inspector
Hammer, hardware store owner
Looney, psychiatrist
Sparrowe, ornithologist
Lt. Speedy, state highway patrol
Suing, lawyer
Watts, power company official
Yawn, sleep disorder center manager

Thinking about this led me to draw upon a few friends’ names and their fields of expertise. For my female friends, I used their née names (sounds like a stammer, doesn’t it?), except for one, who said her married name suits her better. Let’s see if any could consider changing profession or name, as I did in ’86.

Surname (definition): former or current occupation [Auntie note]

Byers (dairy or other cattle farmer, one of the earliest recorded surnames): printing-business owner, marathoner, running-footwear specialist [one of my earliest Colorado friends; rather than rearing ruminants, he’s commingled with canines]
Craft (strength, skill): respected, conscious, skilled business owner, no matter which craft he has chosen
Farris (valiant warrior, farrier, blacksmith): she owned a horse, then a veterinary hospital [and valiantly raised three talented children]
Faucett (multicolored, flowery hillside): multitalented artist and spirited, enthusiastic teacher [who’s been one of my best influences for 33 years]
Fisher (fisher): software developer, troubleshooter extraordinaire, BGF, always fishing for solutions
Griffin (definitely a mythical creature): actor, producer, voice talent
Groat (silver coin worth four old pence): Harvard-educated marketeer, school bus driver [worth his weight in gold]
Hackworth (mystery name, first recorded in Devon, whose origin evades genealogists before 1663; probably a habitation name, Haca’s enclosure): landscape architect, business owner, pilot [has the need to escape his enclosure to explore the world]
Hall (one who lived in or near a large house, or hall): piano player, sound engineer, sound studio owner, composer of works for full orchestra, concertos, and chamber ensembles that are played in huge halls
Harloff (strong, brave wolf): U.S. Navy, genius, can do anything, notorious musician—banjo, concertina, fiddle, guitar—sounds like a dirty, ol’ wolf when he does his best Arte Johnson’s Tyrone F. Horneigh [whack!]
Hoffman (farmer): financial services advisor* [tills our fertile globe to grow investments]
Kugizaki (kugi means nail, zaki means point): artist, graphic designer, fine woodworker, cabinet maker [by viewing his new site,** his name hits the nail on the head, ahh, point]
Menza (middle, small stature): refueling, transport, and smaller jet pilot, USAFA Chinese History professor, attorney, writer, overall bright, shortish, fun guy
Mullin (monk, holy man, or if English, miller): musician, Mensa man, inventor, business owner, satellite communications [blessed with intelligence in more fields than a jealous God, but Mullin’s graciously humble]
Phillips (lover of horses): radio station manager, pilot, B-737 CFI, business owner [lover of things that fly, so his horse is a Boeing Pegasus]
Promack (no definitions found that aren’t Apple related, but she has deep meaning to me): dentist, massage therapist, Trager practitioner
Rice (ardour, enthusiastic): teacher, passionate manager of environmental discovery center
Roach (someone who lives by a rocky crag): cinematographer, pilot, sailor
Samolinski (hmm, salmon-shaped boards for strapping on feet and sliding down hills): nearly priest, electrician
Wolfe (cunning, ferocious wolf hunter): woodworking craftsman, ferocious sound engineer [he recently gave up hunting…anything]
Wood (forester, resident of the woods): math professor, systems engineer, symphony-notes writer, arts aficionado, and helper of this writer-editor to find the forest for the trees, to grasp the real issue whilst not overattending to details. How appropriate is that?

I hadn’t considered the prospect’s last name in doing my usual due diligence, but had I blended it with the statement, “My handshake is good,” after saying we didn’t need a written agreement, it might have piqued my mind.

And although my handshake is also good (from milking cows back in Wisconsin), so is my word.

* I will not spell it adviser unless someone pays me to.
** Great site! [happy birthday, DK]

Name definitions came from the 2005 Oxford dictionary on my iBook and the following sites:,

What about Them Packers, eh?

Yippee!! The Packers made it to the Super Bowl for the fifth time (the Steelers for their eighth)!

So Sunday, February 6, I’ll try to figure out how to turn on my old TV, which will probably be like turning on an old guy—just walk past with food and beer and press a button. I expect to see lots of action worth hootin’, hollerin’, and tootin’ for.

I’m an annual football viewer, only at Super Bowl time, and this year the game actually means something to me. I’m a Wisconsinite—born in Wausau, schooled in Eau Claire. Although I lived in Minnesota for seven and a half years in the late sixties to early seventies, the Vikings never elicited any emotion in me. Being a 26-year Coloradan, I’d root for the Broncos over the Vikings. But if the Broncos play the Packers, Green Bay definitely has my support.

While I was on my hike today, I thought, Aside from what Ed taught me a couple of Sundays ago, I know almost nothing about football, downs, defense, or offense. All I know is that a player needs to carry the pigskin across the goal.

From an amateur’s point of view, football appears ridiculous. A herd of huge guys dressed in pads and tights struggle to gain control of an oblong ball that each can easily crush with his hand. Then one guy grabs the ball and runs like hell while the other guys chase him.

So as I hiked, this amateur called her dad in Wisconsin. “So what about them Packers,” I said in my best Wisconsinian when he picked up the phone.

“Hey! Yeah!” I knew we were heading into a good conversation.

After talking about his beloved Vince Lombardi and listing all the old players and their jersey numbers, he filled me in on the rules. The good thing is, he replicated what Ed taught me, so the facts have less of a chance of escaping my skull. At our lesson’s conclusion, he mentioned that learning about football’s defensive strategies and each player’s job are important slices of information too. For another day.

So even though some entrepreneurial guy, Ralph Bruno,* concocted a foam cheesehead that crazy Packers fans wear, I’m not offended. Those folks have balls—something I also have. Mine just need a good pumping.


Thursday, February 3, 2011

Hungry for Chess

He left me. The emptiness I feel inside cannot be filled in any other way. I miss the occasional glances across the travertine marble table, the quiet comments, candles brightening the board, tumblers of Glenlivet Scotch.

Utterances such as “Oh no, I didn’t see that,” “Crap!” and “Can I take that back? My hand was only off the piece for a second” enveloping an otherwise peaceful environ added perfectly to the ambience.

Only once did it end in complete frustration, maybe twice. After all, it’s not about winning, it’s how you play the game.

He left me to move back to Delaware to be closer to his daughters. Although he loved Colorado, skiing, kayaking, gardening, and international travel from this centrally located state, he said, “If something happens to me, it makes more sense for me to be in Delaware than for both girls’ families to come here. You know, I’m almost 82.”

So the next thing I knew, we were throwing a love-filled farewell gathering for George and Jeanne. They had lived in Colorado for about 30 years: she, a retired school nurse, he, a navy guy with a PhD in chemistry who had worked until retirement for DuPont. In Telluride, he’d taken to gardening, and lucky for me, he taught me what I know in that department—and how to drink Scotch.

From spring till autumn, I’d garden with George—he in their gardens, me in mine, then his kindness drew him to help me, probably from pity. He could make a dirt pile become a terraced work of art. I’d pop a silk flower atop the pile and call it a day.

On warm summer afternoons, the three of us, which sometimes grew into eight or more, would enjoy happy hour in our back garden by the fire pit. Life couldn’t be better.

But all year round for about 10 years, George and I played chess together on Thursday nights. It is this game, the mental challenge, and his company I long for most. Unlike racquetball, whose competitiveness I quite enjoy, chess acts like fertilizer coursing through and enhancing my neurological pathways. Unlike golf when everyone’s eyes are on me, we closely watch the board, anticipating our challenger’s next move, and our own. And unlike sex, I don’t have to do it alone.
Our between-game conversations flowed with depth and humor, and our equally challenging Ping-Pong matches kept our hearts beating together. I have thanked Jeanne many times for loaning me her husband on Thursday evenings.

Concurrently and until recently, my daughter would challenge me to three games of chess a night, but as texting has become her favorite pastime, chess with her lacks appeal.

So the invitation is out: Join me for chess Thursday or Friday evenings. I might not be the best, but I’m up for a challenge, and maybe even a Scotch.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Television, Tennis Balls, and Kitties

In 1975 I quit watching TV because of something my high-school English teacher, Mr. Schumacher, said. “You girls, you cross your legs and nervously bob a leg up and down. Well, you’re just wasting energy.”

My mind immediately took that statement and nudged it a step further—into the living room. How much time and energy do humans waste doing nothing but staring at the box of movement, delighting in entertainment others have created for those less motivated? Perhaps you see the action of bobbing legs and the inaction of watching TV as unrelated, but you don’t live in my head.

After that English class, and except for occasional fixes of 60 Minutes and Saturday Night Live, I quit watching TV and soon became repulsed by the noise. By college, September 1977, I’d completely quit. Ironically, though, I was on TV as an evening news anchor for the college station, lights shining brightly, accentuating imperfections.

To this day, 35 years later, friends who’ve known me for two to nearly four decades will say, “Have you seen—? Ahh, right, you won’t know this, but on TV…,” and they’ll describe a show that has made an impact on them. Friends don’t mind sharing with me, and they respect my difference without rolling eyes.

Many of my Colorado friends don’t watch the telly, either. There are just too many outdoor, theater, arts, music, sports, literary, and social things to do. And don’t forget the book. God led two of my friends’ families to grant me their libraries after my friends passed, so when it’s cold and blustery outside, a hundred books raise their hands shouting “pick me!”

Of course, movies, tax preparation, and pussy cats cross my mind too. (Yes, it’s that time again to contact my preparer, aka my former.)

Last night before Ivy, 17, and I popped in the movie Pulp Fiction, our two puddy cats were rolling around the floor being fat, furry, and cute. It reminded me of when Ivy, herself, was still a scoop of mashed potatoes—a rolly, squishy, bubbly, babbling little dish. Her dad and I would watch her explore and learn, then pause and fill her diaper. It provided hours of aromatic entertainment.

So I ask, with all the creative things to do with time, who needs TV? And if simply watching a baby, cat, or dog doesn’t provide the needed excitement, try tossing a cat, three tennis balls, and a dryer sheet into the dryer (Ivy’s idea). It’s more fun to watch through a glass door (my two cents).

Just kidding.

It’s just as fun to have a metal door, then watch the cat stumble out after a few turns.
No, not really. Would I do that?

Author’s note: When I came upstairs after shooting the cat in the dryer, I said to Ivy, “That cat is such a sport. He handled the turns in the dryer so well.”

Ivy’s incredulous look said, “You didn’t. Did you?”