Monday, December 9, 2019

Don’t order the pesadillas!

Okay, I’ve been learning Spanish (I have one of those internets on my desk) for about an hour a day for several months now, which I think pretty much makes me an expert. Certainly, I’m qualified to give advice about the talking of it. Now, a lot of time in Spanish you can make a plural by adding an s. But not always. Like, even though “tu” means you, you would never ask the names of several people by saying “Como tus llamas?” That would lead them to understand that you wanted to consume their herd of Peruvian pack animals.

Monday, December 2, 2019

Home of the Old Machinery Museum

I presume you are unaware of the existence of Mondovi, Wisconsin, up in Buffalo County. That’s about to change. Because in the year 1879, onetime resident Menzus Raynard Bump (May 28, 1838 – May 6, 1913) was a member of the Wisconsin State Assembly. Menzus R. Bump. He alone makes Mondovi worthy of note. But wait! It gets better. Also in 1879 (while Bump served  as a Representative),  Dutee A. Whelan was born in Mondovi. And Dutee A. Whelan grew up to be… a Wisconsin State Representative. Bump and Whelan. Two names that shall be forever linked in our memories.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Lives of the Philosophers, Pt. 7

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel was called Wilhelm at home because his father and grandfather were also Georg. This is the only thing about him I’m pretty sure I understand. I’m okay with that, since his work is used to justify so many opposing philosophies (Marxism, fascism, liberalism, conservatism, Lutheranism, idealism, logical positivism) that if any of them is right everybody else has him wrong. Maybe they all do. This is the guy who said “Sein und Nichts sei dasselbe,” which I think means that existence and its absence are the same thing. So, plenty of wiggle room for different interpretations.

Monday, November 18, 2019

Deadly Pencils of Yesteryear

See, you think you’ve totally exhausted a topic and then a new and exciting avenue of inquiry opens up and you’re inundated with a welcome flood of useless knowledge. I was considering how old-timey telegraph guys were always shown licking their pencils and I remembered a thing my dad had called an indelible pencil. I looked that up and what it is is there’s dye mixed into the pencil lead and you can wet it and it soaks into the paper and you can’t erase it. They’re rarely used now for two reasons: We got ballpoints. The dye was poison.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Then there's "cousin."

Logically, shouldn’t the word “atlantic” mean warlike? Why is there a soft c in hard cider? Quince is a delicious but very sour fruit that should, all things being equal, be called “fifteen” in Spanish. While we’re on the subject of pome fruit, why would you ever buy just a single pear when phonetically speaking you could get a couple of them for the same price? But look, what I really want to point out is that English lacks a genderless term for an aunt or uncle. I’d like to suggest “aunk.” Try it out. You can thank me later.

Monday, November 4, 2019


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Monday, October 28, 2019

Which is worse?

Vampire or werewolf? Mummy or zombie? Taco Bell or Arby’s? Barry Manilow or Olivia Newton-John? Monopoly or Scrabble? Mickey Spillane or Danielle Steel? Edsel or Corvair? Jeff Koons or Thomas Kinkade? Yankees or Dodgers? Weddings or graduations? Hangnail or razor burn? Earthquake or hurricane? Constipation or diarrhea? Kiss or Motley Crue? Pug or Shih-tzu? Flat tire or dead battery? Mice or roaches? Circus Peanuts or Atomic Red Hots? Stalin or Hitler? Insomnia or narcolepsy? Migraine or sciatica? Stroke or coronary? Boredom or panic? Anger or apathy; rage or indifference? Wondering or knowing? Life or… well, actually, we have no alternative.