Quick Takes.

Perennially Annual.

Facts About Dandelions:

  1. The common dandelion, Taraxacum officinale, is native to Europe and was introduced to North America some time in the late 18th century.
  2. Although technically an invasive species dandelions in North America don’t pose a threat to native plants and animals and are an important source of nectar to bees and other insects.
  3. Dandelions are edible in their entirety and given the ease with which they can be grown could be an important food source.
  4. A form of latex has been produced from cultivated dandelions that’s of the same quality of that produced by South American rubber trees but without the same environmental concerns.
  5. Dandelion seeds have been an inspiration to engineers who have produced small windborne sensors that can travel long distances.
  6. Dandelions are a sign of a diverse, healthy lawn.
  7. If you blow all the seeds off a dandelion head and make a wish it will come true if your wish if for more dandelions.
  8. Dandelion seeds are an important food source for many birds.
  9. My neighbor Kevin hates it when people blow dandelion seeds on or near his lawn and, really, do you need another reason?
  10. Dandelion wine, made famous by Ray Bradbury’s novel, is easy to make and will make you really popular at parties.
  11. Dandelions have never lured small children into the sewer and devoured them. You’re thinking of azaleas.
  12. Dandelion roots, when dried and powdered, can be used as a caffeine-free substitute for coffee.
  13. Dandelions are actually more closely related to housecats.
  14. The taproot of dandelions brings up nutrients for other shallow-rooting plants, making it an ideal companion plant.
  15. Dandelions were arrested on suspicion of selling knockoff foundation garments in 1923 but were ultimately cleared of all charges.
  16. In Belgium dandelions are known as dandepangolins.
  17. Dandelions are an uncredited scriptwriter for the 1936 film adaptation of the musical Show Boat, directed by James Whale.
  18. No one’s sure what dandelions do at night or why the shoes you left by the back door had moved three feet to the left in the morning.
  19. Dandelions swept the 1987 World Croquet Championships in Paramaribo.
  20. Dandelions are excellent swimmers. How do you think they got from Europe to North America?
  21. Dandelions pay back loans in a timely manner and with interest.
  22. Dandelions know what you did. Don’t worry–they’re not going to tell.
  23. Dandelions will always let you sit in the window seat on the airplane so you can see the Grand Canyon.
  24. If dandelions invite you out you should go. Seriously, you may not remember it but that crumpled up receipts you find in your jeans the next morning for two bottles of quality scotch, four hundred Twinkies, and a hot air balloon ride make you think it was a great night.
  25. Dandelions did not take down Benny “The Nose” Lewis in the infamous St. Dymphna’s Day Massacre. Again you’re thinking of azaleas.
  26. They’re lions and they’re dandy, hey, what’s not to like?
  27. Dandelions are high in vitamins. Probably. I don’t know which ones but you could look it up.

Source: Imgur

Where In The Worldle?

Source: Wikipedia

Of course I’m hooked on Wordle. Every day before I got to work I solve, or try to solve, the puzzle of the day. My average right now is about four tries, mostly because my starting word always seems to be way off. And it reminds me of how back in those days when I’d ride the bus home from work I’d grab a copy of the Nashville Scene and do the crossword puzzle, sometimes the sudoku, maybe even Numberwang. Once a guy sat down next to me and watched me do the crossword, which just added to the pressure. Then he pointed to a five-letter row.

“You could write ‘toast’ in there,” he said.

I pointed out that there was already an R and a V in the row and that “toast” didn’t fit with the clue anyway.

“Fine,” he huffed, “it’s your puzzle, you write whatever you want.” He looked away and I sat for a minute trying to figure out the odds that I’d sit next to the one who didn’t understand how crossword puzzles work, but that’s another story.

I also play Worldle every morning. It’s fun and a little easier than Wordle, mostly because there are fewer countries in the world than there are words in English, and I’ve always liked maps so I think I have a better than average sense of geography. But a few days ago Worldle tricked, I think, almost everybody, with a clue so obscure it was almost impossible. Looking at a map feels like cheating, probably because it’s cheating, but I did, and a friend of mine who also plays every day told me he “spent about an hour swimming around in Google Earth” before finding Bouvet Island. Here’s a quick description from Wikipedia:

Bouvet Island (Norwegian: Bouvetøya[3] [bʉˈvèːœʏɑ] or Bouvetøyen)[4] is a Norwegian uninhabited protected nature reserve. As a subantarctic volcanic island, it is situated in the South Atlantic Ocean at the southern end of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, making it the world’s most remote island.

And of course anyone who knows me knows what my first thought was when I found it.

Source: Tenor

That’s really my first thought with almost every location that comes up in Worldle. Sure, Bouvet Island is cold, dark, and there’s nothing there, just like Winnipeg, and it may not be high on my list of dream destinations–tops for me is Sri Lanka, which has fascinated me since I was a kid and heard Arthur C. Clarke lived there. I didn’t even know where Sri Lanka was at the time but I thought it must be a fascinating place. Anyway I wouldn’t turn down a chance to visit Bouvet Island. Or anywhere else. Even Winnipeg.

Anyway, because it’s that day there’s also this:

 

 

 

Marching On.

March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb, but sometimes…

March comes in like a lamb and then starts tearing up the place like a lion and who knows when it’s getting out of here?

March comes in mad as a hare and goes out like a sleeping dormouse.

March comes in like a mushroom and goes out like a marshmallow.

March comes in like your boss with a really bad hangover and goes out like someone from Human Resources.

March comes running in to tell everyone the circus is coming and slinks out when it admits the circus won’t be here until June.

March comes in like the New York Marathon with everybody excited to get started and ends like the New York Marathon with only about a quarter of the people who started and they’re all exhausted and just glad it’s over.

March comes in like it forgot its keys and goes out like it really wants to know when the locksmith is going to get here.

March comes in like a crocodile and goes out like one of those frilled lizards that run around on their hind legs.

March comes in like the Superbowl and goes out like your kid’s soccer game.

March comes in like lava—something the movies you saw on TV when you were a kid made you think was going to be a much bigger concern when you were an adult—and goes out like quicksand—something else the movies you saw on TV when you were a kid made you think was going to be a much bigger concern when you were an adult.

March yells at you to get off its lawn, but why? You’re walking on the other side of the street.

March comes in and sets the curtains on fire but also does the dishes.

March comes in and everyone pretends to be really busy until it leaves.

March comes in like a Jackson Pollock painting and goes out like a clown painted on velvet.

March comes in like that guy in that movie that you recognize from that other thing but you just can’t remember his name and goes out like someone doing an ad for reverse mortgages.

March comes in like Chinese takeout and goes out like a pizza delivery.

March makes like a tree and leaves you with excruciating allergies.

March comes to your dinner party with a cheap bottle of wine and leaves with an expensive one.

March knew it came in here for a good reason but can’t remember what it was.

March comes in like a raccoon in your garbage can and goes out like a possum under your porch.

March comes in like a string of expletives and goes out exegetically.

March punches you in the back of the neck then buys you a drink because it thought you were someone else.

March comes in like a Bruce Springsteen concert and goes out like an 8-track of Tom Jones’s greatest hits that someone just threw at you.

March comes in like a colonoscopy and goes out like getting your taxes done.

March comes in like Tyrannosaurus rex—really cool, but terrifying, and goes out like Pachycephalosaurus—really cool because it’s a dinosaur but, I don’t know, should we be scared of this one?

March is just a month.

The Old Snowshoe.

Source: Wikipedia

In just a few years Curling, which had its modern debut at the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan, after originally being part of the 1924 Winter Olympics, went from an obscure sport understood only by Canadians to a popular phenomenon with men’s teams, women’s teams, and mixed doubles teams playing in tournaments worldwide and still only understood by Canadians. With this remarkable success many Olympic watchers have been asking, what will be the next big breakout sport? The most obvious place to look is back at events that were once part of the Olympics but that have since been discontinued. Here are some of the top contenders:

  1. Bandy

Best described as “hockey with a ball” the game of Bandy is definitely one that’s been bandied about.

Pros-

Already played as a demonstration sport at the 1952 Winter Olympics

Very similar to hockey

Popular in Scandinavian countries

Cons-

Very similar to hockey

Popular in Scandinavian countries

Did I mention it’s similar to hockey?

  1. Skijoring

Also known as “ski driving” Skijoring is, well, water-skiing on snow, with a single skier pulled by a horse, a dog team, or a motorized vehicle. It may be a speed race or may involve jumps and tricks.

Pros-

 This has a high degree of difficulty as the skier must maintain their balance while being pulled, which makes it exciting to watch.

It has a long history among the native Sami people of Norway.

The Summer Olympics have Equestrian events and this would be a good parallel.

Cons-

The Olympics have kind of an image problem and horses, or even dogs, on snow and ice could potentially put the animals in danger

The motorized version is basically what your cousin Larry did in the backyard that one winter with a brick on the pedal of his go-kart and, well, your aunt complains about the doctor bills to this day.

  1. Synchronized Skating

It’s exactly what it says, but, unlike synchronized diving, Synchronized Skating can have teams of up to twenty people all working in unison.

Pros-

That many people on ice working together has a big wow factor.

Similar events, although showier, are already often part of the opening ceremonies.

Cons-

That many people on sharp blades on ice moving together seriously raises the odds that someone’s going to get cut and bleed all over the ice. Also a “pro”.

  1. Ski Ballet

Ballet on skis. It’s the sort of thing you pretty much have to see.

Pros-

No matter what you think of ballet it has an athletic quality, requiring both endurance and control.

Cons-

Judging artistic events is subjective and therefore always controversial, and given the issues around ice skating it’s not surprising the IOC doesn’t want to add another one to the mix.

  1. Snowshoeing

Also known as “snowshoe running” this is a speed event that involves running in shoes specially designed for crossing snow.

Pros-

Currently part of the Winter Special Olympics

The difficulty can be appreciated by anyone who’s ever run, or just walked, in snow.

The World Snowshoe Federation has their own magazine. No, really!

Cons-

Kind of at a loss here. Seriously, this is amazing. Even with specially designed shoes crossing snow at high speed is an impressive feat. The only con here is that Snowshoeing isn’t a major Olympic event.

Off The Menu.

Source: Fromoldbooks.org

“Where’s the menu? Okay. So what’s good here?”

“Well, they have a big plate of festering pus with a tableside flambé presentation. It’s not on the menu but you can ask for it.”

“What?”

“That’s just a ridiculous question. I’m not even sure why you asked since I haven’t been here either and the server doesn’t know what you like.”

“I’m just asking for recommendations and trying to get some idea of what I might like. And making conversation. What’s so wrong with that?”

“Hey, did you know orange roughy used to considered a garbage fish by fishermen who called it ‘slimehead’?”

“Do you want to go to another restaurant? How about we just go home?”

“Well, we already did a lot of research before we picked this place because you’re so picky. You don’t like chains. You won’t go to any place that has more than two locations.”

“So I like to support local businesses.”

“The menu has to be really specific. Beef and chicken have to be free range, no veal, no pork if we can help it, and no shrimp.”

“Shrimp might kill me!”

“It would if you had an allergy. And the place can’t be too dark inside.”

“I like to see what I’m eating.”

“You want a window table, close to the front.”

“Everybody hates being stuck in the back next to the kitchen.”

“And that’s just when we go out. You’re just as picky at home. You want crunchy peanut butter blended with creamy because you want it crunchy but not too crunchy. You want ranch dressing on your sandwiches instead of mayonnaise but it has to be homemade and thick enough to spread and so it won’t make the sandwich too damp. And to prevent that you want a piece of lettuce, but only one piece, on both slices of bread, with the dressing on the inside. You want white bread but it has to be the artisanal kind, and it has to be sliced and lightly toasted.”

“Okay, okay, I get it. I’m sorry.”

“I just hope you appreciate the effort I go to.”

“I do, really.”

“I’m sorry I snapped like that. Let’s just order.”

“Okay. So what’s bad here?”

Games People Played.

Actual Christmas Parlor Games Of The 17th, 18th, and 19th Centuries:

The Ribbon

Everyone would be given a piece of string or ribbon to hold while one person in the middle of the room would hold the other end of all the strings or ribbons. The person in the middle would then say either “pull” or “let go”. When asked to “pull” all the players would have to let go of their strings. When asked to “let go” they would have to pull. Players who got the commands reversed would have to pay some sort of penalty, because it’s not the holidays without strings attached.

Shoe The Wild Mare

Players would have to straddle a wooden swing high enough that their feet would be off the ground and hit the bottom of the swing with a hammer and hopefully not fall off. Players who lost would have to pay some sort of penalty—usually a broken arm.

Jacob! Where Are You?

A version of Blind Man’s Bluff this game involves a blindfolded player who calls out, “Jacob! Where are you?” while chasing another player with a bell. If the bell ringer is caught the players trade places, which makes it a hilarious game for two people and a chance for everyone else to just wander around and drink.

The Toilette

One person would take the role of Lord or Lady. Everyone else would select or be assigned a toiletry item—a comb, a brush, a mirror, etc. When the Lord or Lady called for an item the corresponding person would have to answer. Or the Lord or Lady could call “All toilette!” and everyone would have to jump up and change seats. Each person would take the item of the previous seat holder. Playing this today would be a chance to assign Uncle Jerry the nose hair trimmer and maybe he’d get the hint to use the one you gave him last year because his nostrils look like they’ve been stuffed with porcupines.

The Doctor

One person chosen to be “The Doctor” would go around the room and each person would have to feign an illness. The Doctor would then prescribe the most ridiculous treatments he or she could think of. After going around the room the Doctor would then go back and ask each person what they’d been prescribed.

Hot Cockles

In this version of Blind Man’s Bluff a person would be blindfolded then hit and would have to guess who hit them. This game was a great opportunity to get into the Christmas spirit by taking revenge on someone for something they did back in July.

Steal The White Loaf

A person would sit at a table facing away from a piece of bread or cake and other people would try to grab it without being identified, which seems to be a common theme in Christmas parlor games and maybe how the whole “Secret Santa” thing got started.

Snapdragon

A large dish of raisins would be doused with brandy and set on fire because it just wouldn’t be Christmas without flames. The idea of this game was that everyone would take turns reaching in and grabbing a raisin from the dish. The winner would be the one with the most raisins who didn’t need medical treatment or set anything else on fire. To this day, though, more people have been sent to the hospital by family games of Monopoly.

Source: Tenor

How D’You Like Them Apples?

It’s October and time to finally put to rest one of the most vexing seasonal questions of all: what is the difference between apple juice and apple cider?

Apple juice: Non-alcoholic.

Apple cider: May be non-alcoholic or alcoholic. Traditionally alcoholic in Europe the term “cider” referred to raw apple juice in the US for a long time in spite of its derivation from a Hebrew word meaning “strong drink” before the rising popularity of alcoholic cider.

 

Apple juice: Filtered, clear.

Apple cider: Generally unfiltered; may be clear or cloudy.

 

Apple juice: Pasteurized.

Apple cider: Generally also pasteurized but at a lower temperature or shorter period, giving it a shorter shelf life. Left alone will either turn into apple cider vinegar or applesauce.

 

Apple juice: Consumed year-round, mostly by children.

Apple cider: The alcoholic variety is consumed year-round, mostly by adults, while the non-alcoholic variety is consumed in the fall at church picnics by people who think it sounds kind of seasonal and also it’s cheaper.

 

Apple juice: Squeezed from the fruit using modern equipment, processed, and bottled within twenty-four hours.

Apple cider: Fruit and pulp are pressed in ancient stone building. The juice is then left to ferment for months or years while druids perform strange rituals over the barrels.

 

Apple juice: Usually served cold but can also be served hot and flavored with spices such as cinnamon, cloves, and star anise.

Apple cider: Always cold because of its aura of menace. Sucks the life force from cinnamon sticks like Billy Zane in The Mummy.

 

Apple juice: Made from a variety of red delicious apples specifically bred for juice.

Apple cider: Made from cursed apples that grow in orchards planted in forgotten graveyards.

 

Apple juice: Apples are harvested by industrial means in large quantities.

Apple cider: Apples are harvested by hand by tough withered Steinbeck characters with names like Nick, Skipjack, and Hortense.

 

Apple juice: Found on grocery store shelves next to the powdered drink mixes.

Apple cider: Found in the refrigerated section of the grocery store next to the beer, but may also be sold to you in the alley behind the store by a tough withered Steinbeck character with a three-day beard, an eyepatch, wearing a tattered trenchcoat, and carrying an axe. Answers to “Hortense”.

 

Apple juice: May be made from concentrate.

Apple cider: You know it’s thinking something.

 

Apple juice: Family friendly; often sold in bottles adorned with cartoon characters.

Apple cider: “We only fly the flag of the Jolly Roger,” says Hortense, glaring at you.

 

Apple juice: Goes great with a child’s afternoon snack of graham crackers or ginger snaps.

Apple cider: Lurks in the darkness waiting for the proper incantations that will release the demons trapped in its depths.

 

Apple juice: May have added sugar.

Apple cider: “I’d be more concerned with what it takes,” says Hortense, wiping something from her axe.

 

Apple juice: Makes adults nostalgic for carefree summer days of running barefoot through the tall grass with friends.

Apple cider: Wants you to pour it out over a blood sacrifice performed under a full moon, thus opening a portal to the netherworld where dark and mysterious creatures still reign.

 

Apple juice: Has a diuretic effect.

Apple cider: The only thing known to dislodge that bubblegum you swallowed in third grade.

Source: Wondermark


Source: Wondermark

It’s A Sign.

Source: Google Maps, because I wasn’t fast enough with my own camera.

My wife and I were driving through my old neighborhood recently and as we went by a strip mall she said, “Oh, the upside down sign is still there.”

I’m not sure when exactly the upside down sign was first installed. I remember seeing it a lot, though, because I lived nearby and we passed it regularly.  I’m pretty sure I was in my early teens. Maybe I was even younger. It was there when there was a miniature golf course behind that strip mall—a miniature golf course where my friends and I spent a lot of summer Saturdays before it finally shut down. It was there when there was an arcade in that strip mall where my friends and I played a lot of video games, and when there was still a Radio Shack there. It was there when there was a small market that, for reasons no one ever understood, carried a lot of different imported beers from around the world—and this was in the ‘80’s, long before the craft beer craze. Also long before I started drinking beer. I only know about the market that carried a lot of imported beers because I’d go in there sometimes to buy a candy bar and I’d see this unusual stuff called “Guinness” in the refrigerator case, and I’d always think, well, if it’s beer it must not be that different from the Michelob my father drinks, and it would be several years before I’d discover Guinness resembles Michelob about as much as, well, a miniature golf course resembles a Radio Shack, but that’s another story.

The first few years it was there, every time my friends and I passed it, I’d say, “What’s wrong with them? Why don’t they fix that sign?” And my friend John would say, “Well, maybe it’s working for them. It’s getting attention.”

He was right too. The sign must be working. It’s still there, and the business it advertises is still there. In fact it’s the only thing that hasn’t changed. Well, there’s probably at least one place nearby where you can still get Guinness.  

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