Our Nation’s Capital

From a newsgroup post dated January 15, 2010:

You know those overhead signs in supermarkets that tell you what’s in which aisle? There are several variations, but I assume you know roughly what I’m talking about.

Safeway, at least around here, has them arranged to list a category, and then three items in that category you’ll find on that side of that aisle, such as:


or maybe

Canned meats

Well, tonight we stopped into a Safeway down in Washington to grab a couple of things, and Aisle 2’s left-hand sign read:


I suppose there might be some innocent explanation, that they moved the beer there from somewhere else and didn’t bother to change the top line, but still…

And that “and” just somehow makes it perfect; it’s not just beer, it’s beer and beer.

For breakfast.

Esprit d’escalier

From a newsgroup post dated December 12, 2009. “Esprit d’escalier” is French for “spirit of the staircase,” and refers to thinking of the perfect comeback only after you’ve left the party or other event.

I completely failed to come up with a suitable comeback this evening.

Situation: We’re going out to dinner, and I’m explaining to Julie about George Smith, and my sudden realization that the first-person narrator is Wayne Ellsworth, who is a weirdness magnet.

“Like you,” Julie said.

“I’m not a weirdness magnet,” I said.

“Sure you are. You attracted me, didn’t you?”

I still haven’t figured out what I should have responded.

Useless Details

From a newsgroup post dated July 20, 2008:

My family has been naming cars since my Dad got a second-hand gray 1936 Ford during World War II and named it Boadicea. The following are the cars my parents and I have owned:

Boadicea: gray 1936 Ford sedan
The Olds: forest green 1948 Oldsmobile
The Wagon: light green 1954 Chevy wagon with fake wood sides
Bianca: white 1964 Chevy Greenbrier passenger van, with red stripe
Melanie: tan 1969 VW bus
Daphne: green and white 1972 VW bus
Cinnamon: red 1980 Chevy Citation

Julie & me:
Solid Jackson: gray-and-white 1957 DeSoto Firesweep hardtop
Harry Carry the Dirty Dog: white 1971 Toyota Corolla with several large patches of brown body putty
Gretchen: Miami blue 1978 VW Rabbit
Lambert: gold 1976 Dodge D-100 pick-up with huge white camper top
Magellan the Voyager (Maggie): maroon 1984 Plymouth Voyager minivan
Polychrome (Polly): silver 1986 Chevy Spectrum
Winnie: gray 1991 Plymouth Voyager minivan
Sally: arrest-me red 1993 Buick Skylark Gran Sport
Ariel: silver 1998 Isuzu Oasis minivan (built by Honda)
Brandi: “apple-red” 2008 Hyundai Elantra

Why I Love My Wife Part 1,326

From a newsgroup post dated June 15, 2008, which I’m taking slightly out of sequence:

So I was mulling over possibly drastically rewriting a key scene in Sorcerer’s Justice, and I ran it past Julie, the only other person in the world who’s read the first draft of Sorcerer’s Justice, explaining the changes I was considering, and why.

She thought about it for a moment, then said, “It would cut down on the blood and gore.”

I agreed that it would.

That can’t be good,” she said.

Note: “Sorcerer’s Justice” was eventually published as A Young Man Without Magic.

Life of A Salesman

From a newsgroup post dated October 17, 2007:

Elsewhere there’s a discussion of a very annoyingly condescending salesclerk someone dealt with recently; I remarked there that such salespeople are fools, because you sell more stuff with flattery than condescension.

Which reminded me of an incident, lo these many years ago, which I didn’t post there because it wasn’t relevant, so I’m posting it here. Not that it’s relevant here, either, but it’s my newsgroup, so I can post it anyway.

I was in the audio department somewhere, I think at Circuit City, considering whether to replace all or part of the stereo system I bought back in 1973. I was chatting with a salesman, who was doing a pretty good job of ingratiating himself without being pushy or condescending, and I had explained that I maybe wanted to upgrade my twenty-year-old system.

He asked what I had.

“A Sansui 661 receiver,” I said.

He nodded. “A decent unit in its day,” he said, “but you can do better. What have you got for speakers?”

“MicroAcoustic FRM-1s,” I said.

“Well, you aren’t going to replace those,” he said. “There isn’t anything better.”

Whereupon he managed to flatter me immensely, and impress me with his knowledge, at the same time he lost the sale. He was the first salesman I’d met since 1975 who’d ever heard of the MicroAcoustic FRM-1, and if he said that no one had improved on it, I believed him, so I didn’t buy new speakers.

I did spend a pleasant half-hour chatting about audio equipment with him, though.


From a newsgroup post dated August 18, 2007:

I am sometimes amazed by what words various spellcheckers don’t recognize.

The built-in spellchecker in Eudora, for example, doesn’t recognize “internet” or “website” or pretty much any other words describing the technology it works with. It does recognize lots of names, such as Rome, Venice, and Lawrence, but not Evans.

And I have just noticed that the dictionary in WordPerfect 10 doesn’t recognize “whores.”

That doesn’t seem like a very obscure word to me.

The electronic version of Boggle I sometimes play allows you to add words to its dictionary easily, so it now recognizes a lot more than when I got it, but I still sometimes hit peculiar lapses. And then there are the obscenities — straight out of the box it didn’t acknowledge “fuck” or “shit,” which isn’t surprising for a game aimed at kids and which I’m sure was deliberate, but it did recognize “shite” and “cunt.”

How odd.

Trailer Park

(All new!)

So we saw “The Guardians of the Galaxy, Volume 2” Monday afternoon (and had a lovely time, thanks). It has long been my custom to assess the trailers accompanying any movie we see in the theater, so here we go:

There were eight trailers. This is excessive. It hasn’t been that long since five was the norm.

“Transformers: The Last Knight” looks big and loud and stupid. I am so not interested.

The remake of “The Mummy” does not look very promising, either. Both these first two trailers were so loud that I was beginning to worry the whole feature would be unpleasant and ear-tiring, but fortunately that did not turn out to be the case.

“Spider-Man: Homecoming” was the first trailer that was not just a barrage of noise and CGI. It had moments of character, bits of humor, and generally lots of stuff to indicate that the film is not just a noisefest and lightshow. I expect to see and enjoy this one.

“Alien: Covenant”… I dunno. It looks better than the last couple of Alien movies, but that’s saying depressingly little. I think I’ll pass.

“Dunkirk”: It’s a war movie. It looks as if it’s a well-made one, with some good characters, but I’m not much on war movies these days (with exceptions for superhero war movies). If the word of mouth sings enough hosannas, I might check it out.

“Star Wars: The Last Jedi” looks pretty good, and I still plan on seeing every feature in the series. It would take a real stinker to make me stop. The three prequels were building up a significant amount of suckage, but the Disney takeover has cleansed my palate and renewed my enthusiasm.

The trailer for “Thor: Ragnarok” has a little more CGI than I really wanted, but the line “I know him from work!” sold me — I wanna see it. In general, the Thor series has not been at the top of my Marvel list (not that they suck, they just aren’t as good as some of the others), but this one has promise.

And finally, the next Pirates of the Caribbean film — does it even have a definite title yet? — capped off the previews. I regret to say that even though I loved the first one and it’s always a delight to watch Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow, I think the series has outlasted its sell-by date. Zombie sharks are one of those ideas that sounds great in a late-night conversation but should probably not actually be used.

All in all, it was a very loud set of trailers.

Word of the Day

From a newsgroup post dated March 5, 2007:


I’m not sure whether it was my sister Jody or my mother who came up with that; it’s a spoonerism for “tummy grumbles,” of course, and means a digestive upset that’s inconvenient but doesn’t reach the level of vomiting or full-scale diarrhea.

When I started to think about posting this I was quite sure it was Jody’s word, but the more I think about it, the more I think it was Mother’s. I don’t suppose it matters, since they’re both long dead.

It came to mind… well, yesterday I finished off a package of bacon that had been in the refrigerator for awhile. I think from now on I’ll make it a rule: If bacon smells funny, don’t cook and eat it.

The All-New Tennessee Waltz

An all-new post! (Well, sorta; it’s an edited version of something I’d posted on a private BBS.)

So we’re back from our spring vacation, which was riding along with friends as they visited Tennessee.

To explain a bit: we’ve gotten in the habit of traveling with our friends Jim and Susan on our less-elaborate trips that don’t have any special purpose beyond getting out of town for awhile. The mechanics vary, but in this case they made pretty much all the arrangements because they have a big ol’ car they bought specifically for road trips (I’m not sure whether it’s officially a truck, SUV, or station wagon, but it seats six adults comfortably and still has room for a cooler and some luggage) and an AirBnB account. Julie and Susan did most of the planning; Susan did most of the driving.

So last Saturday we got picked up disgustingly early and drove to Knoxville, where some of our former neighbors now live. (Jim and Susan, Sam and Sandy, and Julie and I, all lived in the same part of Gaithersburg, and our kids grew up together to some extent; Jim and Sam were leaders in Julian’s Boy Scout troop. None of us live in Gaithersburg anymore.) We stayed with Sam and Sandy for two nights, driving around the Great Smoky Mountains in between. Visited Gatlinburg and Cherokee NC, saw the damage from the recent forest fire, visited the world’s largest knife store.

Monday we moved on from Knoxville to Nashville, our final destination, where Sandy had booked a house overlooking the river a little northeast of the city, in Madison, TN. I’m not sure whether Madison is part of Nashville or a suburb, actually. Anyway, it was a great rental, with two comfy bedrooms (and a third we didn’t use because it didn’t look as comfy), a deck and balcony overlooking the Cumberland River, and lots of other amenities, including a cat named Bolt. Jim and Susan had never had a cat, so they weren’t sure how to deal with him, but he was a pretty friendly and cooperative animal.

We didn’t know until we got there, but the house is apparently owned by a moderately successful singer/songwriter who rents it out when she’s not in Nashville — which is often, since she tours a lot. The day we arrived she was leaving for somewhere else entirely. (Mexico, according to her webpage.)

So we spent a few days in and around Nashville, seeing the sights and hearing the sounds. Toured the Ryman Auditorium and the Hermitage and the Country Music Hall of Fame, saw Studio B where all RCA’s Nashville artists of the ’50s and ’60s recorded (e.g., Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, etc.), went honky-tonking on Lower Broadway, took a boat ride on the General Jackson, saw the Grand Ole Opry, visited the Johnny Cash Museum, etc.

The one thing we’d meant to do that we missed, due to sloppy scheduling, was eating at the Bluebird Cafe. Oh, well.

The weather in Knoxville was horrible, with rain that sometimes worked up to torrential; the weather in Nashville was mostly great, but that rain meant the Cumberland River was running very high — by the time we left, it was twelve feet above flood stage. The downtown riverside promenade was under a foot or two of water. Fortunately, the area is accustomed to this — no damage is going to occur until you get maybe 20 feet above flood stage. (In 2010 a flood crested at 42 feet. That was bad. Lots of places have stuff about how they rebuilt.) It did mean the General Jackson couldn’t do their regular route because the water was too high to fit safely under some bridges, so we didn’t see downtown from the water.

Our rented deck gave us a good view of the river, as I mentioned, and looking at the trees on the far bank we saw that the river rose a lot just while we were there.

And Saturday we left early and came home, where I’m trying to catch up on everything, and here we are.