Tag Archives: random

Hammer Time (or: a Scientific Study in How Dumb You Can Be)


You never fully realize quite how dumb you are as when you’re unintentionally inflicting bodily harm on yourself. Needless to say, after I hit my hand with a hammer yesterday, I’ve been spinning out inside my own head.

I mean, we’re not exactly talking about a difficult job here. I was building a set of stairs for our upcoming production, and *bam*. A straight shot to the karate-chop end of my hand right below the pinky. Didn’t glance the nail, didn’t take my eye off the target; just took a bad swing. Whammo.

And I feel *so, so dumb*. Here’s a task where you know people make mistakes all the time. Carpenters — good ones, ones good enough to build a career on it! — hit their thumbs with hammers, maybe not every day, but at least often enough that if you see one with a blackened thumbnail, you don’t have to ask them what happened. You know! Driving nails is a task where the mistake is not only possible, but given enough time and enough reps, *inescapable*. So if anything, extra care should be given to the task.

Worse still: consider the location of the injury. I wasn’t holding the nail between thumb and forefinger, the classic position for the smashing of a thumb. The nail was already partly driven; I was leaning over the lumber, my hand twisted around to keep the whole wobbling structure steady. Trying to assert leverage where leverage was not leverageable. A dangerous activity in a precarious position: that calls for over-the-top ultimate doubletime caution.

Worst of all: I was demonstrating to a student who had never attempted the task how to drive nails. (Why, at 17 years old in a drama class, a student was having his first brush with driving nails is an issue I’ll leave for another time.) The “teachable moment”, a moment where I know the pressure is on and a student is more likely to remember things that happen than usual, when I’m taking on the aforementioned delicate task. A situation which demands unyielding, double-bagged-for-your-protection caution.

In other words, I looked like an idiot (to my student) while looking like an idiot (attempting the job with, let’s just say, sub-optimal methodology) while looking like an idiot (screwing up the job in the first place).

That’s stupidity cubed. That’s dumb as the proverbial bag of hammers (a cliched simile that hurts me particularly, today, to employ) to the 3rd power.

That, in other words, is very, very dumb.

And if I can be so very dumb in a situation that calls so explicitly for care, caution and attention to detail three levels deep, then how dumb am I acting in other areas of my life, where I don’t give a second thought to the possible consequences?

It’s something to think about; something to feel seriously humble about. And it’s something I’ll be reminded of again and again in the coming days, every time I reach my hand into my pocket (ouch) or try to lift anything with my left hand (yikes) or even lightly rest my hand on a tabletop (yep that hurts too). Or, y’know, when I return to the shop to finish building the aforementioned set of stairs, cuz THAT AIN’T DONE EITHER.

So now I’m curious: what acts of stupidity have made your own idiocy fully apparent to you? What deeds of dumbness have dropped the drapes of false confidence from your eyes? (I’d say I’m doing research but mostly I just want to feel better about myself.)

Related reading: the “You Are Not So Smart” Podcast.

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You Might Be an English Teacher If…


Does anything contribute to sudden discomfort and fits of blinking into the middle distance than a poorly-placed bit of punctuation?

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What the hell does “daily” mean? If it’s sliced everyday, you don’t put “daily” in scare-quotes like that!

Who is the guy who writes the copy that goes on the packaging? Where is their copy editor? Do these people realize just how much strife they’ve caused me? It’s 5:45 in the morning, I’m trying to make a sandwich to send my kid off to school, and now my sleep-addled brain is burning out its tires trying to puzzle out just why in the name of all that’s holy the word “daily” isn’t just the word daily there.

Is it more-or-less daily? Like, some days they slice it, some days they don’t, but on the average, they slice it every day? Or is it “daily” as in taking place on a day?

This all could have been so easily avoided.

Just look at the havoc unnecessary punctuation causes.

All I wanted was a sandwich.

Oh, that novel I’m editing?

IT’S GOING “FINE”, WHY DO YOU ASK?

Here’s an experiment: In the next “e-mail” you “write”, just drop random “words” into quotes for no reason and see how badly you can confuse the “person” on the other end.

Let “me” know how that goes for “you”.


Subjective Produce Experience


I opened up a carton of grapes to find this little label on the underside of the lid:

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But shouldn’t *I* be the one to decide that, carton of grapes? Isn’t it up to ME what flavor these bulbous purple orbs hold?

Am I not master of my own taste buds? Do I not bite into the grape myself and feel it burst like a cow’s eyeball betwixt my molars?

YOU DON’T TELL ME WHAT TO THINK!

(Upon further review, the grapes were actually very tasty. Possibly even delightful-adjacent. I’ll point out, though, for the benefit of the copywriters for these particular grapes, that I don’t know what “fresh” tastes like [and neither, I suspect, do they], nor do I know what a “satisfying flavor” is [and neither, I suspect, do they].)

In fact, since noticing this odd little blurb inside the carton of grapes, I’ve noticed that tons and tons — maybe even most — ad copy is like this. It tells you — brashly, confidently, even arrogantly — what your experience of the product will be. But aren’t these things subjective? Doesn’t every single thing we experience get filtered through our own rose- or mauve- or barf-colored sunglasses? I can’t know, under any current technological parameters, what your experience is when you bite into a juicy, ripe grape. Hell, I can’t even be sure that the color you see is the same purple that I see. Your rods and cones might be all inverted and misshapen, and you actually see a blue, yellow, or (I shudder to think) brown grape. Or maybe it’s MY rods and cones that are all upsey-downsey. All I can do is assume that your experience is pretty darn close to mine and agree that we’ll use the same word to describe it, and go through our lives hoping for the best.

But I can’t know what it’s like to be inside your head.

 

And these grapes, unless they’ve made some truly staggering leaps in sentience, damn sure can’t know what it’s like to be in mine.

Truth be told, I can’t even be sure that you have any experience at all. I can’t even be sure that you’re not a robot. I can’t even be really and truly sure that I’m not a robot.

But let’s not go getting too existential. They’re only grapes after all. (And maybe I took my recent re-viewing of WestWorld too much to heart.)

*eyes the carton of grapes suspiciously*

*chomps one*

*tentatively considers grape sentience, and by extension, grape genocide*

*decides it’s worth it and eats most of the carton*


Sprout Tells Me a Story


“Dad, I have to tell you about this guy.”

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“Oh, yeah?”

“His name is Rocker Baddo.”

“Wow, that’s pretty cool.”

“Um, it’s cool, but he’s not a nice guy.”

“No?”

“Well, he’s a mean guy with powers. He catches people with his magics and his powers are being mean to animals, and he makes mean animals like dragons catch him. And he makes dragons catch other people, too.”

“Really?”

“Yeah. You’re putting this on Facebook?”

“Maybe. I’m not sure yet.”

“Okay, well, you should show someone. Put their name on the website, too.”

“Maybe I’ll do that. What else can you tell me about the guy?”

“Well, he smacks people with bombs. And he sneaks up on people to catch them. And he — you remember what I said about him that he says, when he sneaks up to scare you? He says BRRRRRRAAAARRRRRRR.”

“Wow!”

“Spell that word, too. And do you need me to tell you more?”

“If you like.”

“Okay, well, the worstest part that he does is when his stomach blows up with the little blower, it goes all over the city until everybody gets dooms right in the tower. (It’s just too long for me to sit, daddy.)”

(He gets up and starts monster-stomping around.)

“That’s okay, bud. Anything else?”

“I think there’s a lot more to tell you. Guess what? The other part is when the goats come out. After he does, he gets a lot of mean animals to come out, and after the animals come out, the animals are critters and they walk around like mean monster walkers but they’re robots. And when they blast people, people fall down. And when that happens, they put fire on you and your eyes, and then you don’t wake up anymore.”

(Jesus.)

“That sounds pretty scary.”

“Yeah, very scary.”

(At this point — he was stomping around like a mean monster walker robot, and unplugged the laptop, which distracted him enough to derail the story entirely.)

Oh, to have that amount of creativity, and the total indifference to whether it makes a damned bit of sense.


A Week Away


We were away from the homestead for a few days on a much-needed vacation. Missed a metaphor Monday and a couple of other posts I might have made in the meantime. So instead of a deep-dive on a topic, here’s a rapid-fire scatter-shot swipe at a few things I think I’m thinking about the week.

The Orange One continues to have his own personal version of the Midas Touch, which is the same as the fabled king who turned everything he touched into gold, except in the case of the DT, he turns everything he touches to poop. This week he’s poopifying the NFL, getting his poopy little fingers into all its nooks and crannies and ensuring that we can’t even watch a brainless game for a few hours on Sunday without having conversation hijacked and steered into the mountainside that is the poop-in-chief. I’ll leave it to you to figure out that while DT claims he’s having a hissy fit about the flag and by extension the military, it’s interesting that he’s doing so by disparaging a league wherein something like 3/4 of the players are black. Let’s not forget that the taking-a-knee thing started out because of race issues and had to do with visibility, not the flag or the military. You might argue that the national anthem isn’t the place for such protests, and maybe it isn’t, but the point of protest isn’t to make things as comfortable and unobtrusive for bystanders as possible, now, is it? Oh, there was also that kerfuffle with the Golden State Warriors and Steph Curry. (Also mostly black.)

Whatever, the Daily Show and Samantha Bee and other venues have handled this better than I can; if you haven’t watched their clips, you should.

And while I’m on the subject of the DT (sorry, it’s been a while and he’s on a roll — a sharknado-rolls-downhill kind of roll), he’s intimating that our aid efforts to Puerto Rico are in some way concerned with the island’s debt. Never mind that Puerto Ricans are citizens, so it’s kind of like a few major cities are crippled, starving, and barely in communication. They’re people. And he’s worried about their debt in the same breath as talking about their literal survival. If you’re not enraged, you’re not paying attention.

In other eff-you-I’ve-got-mine news, I was sitting beachside with my kids, watching them do their best sandpiper imitations — chasing the waves and foam around, cackling and basically being adorable — and a pair of old ladies comes strolling up the beach. One of them slows down as she nears us. This isn’t totally unusual — grandparents tend to love watching little kids play, and as far as little kids go, mine are particularly adorable — but I glance at her and notice not the usual smile of watching the younger generation at play, but the sneer of the put-upon. Turns out, we were right in her walk path, which I guess I should have known, given that there was only an entire beach around us in literally half of all the available directions. She huffs a little and detours around us as closely as possible, even going so far as to step on my little finger as she resumes her path.

I feel like this may have been her little way of making the beaches great again, but I can’t be totally sure of her political leanings after such a tiny interaction.

While walking to a restaurant to pick up dinner one night, I saw a group of kids (and man, that sentiment crossing my fingers onto the page made me take a good, hard look at myself, because they were certainly college-aged) sitting at a sidewalk table in front of an ice cream shop. Six or seven of them, clearly all there together. In total silence. Not a word being said. Their attention, instead, entirely engrossed in their cell phones. I stopped. I stared. They didn’t notice me. (I’d have taken a picture, but I left my phone charging in the hotel room — it was dead from playing video games while my kids splashed in the pool all afternoon.) I continued to stare, and they continued not to notice, until a full thirty seconds had passed and I became uncomfortable.

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I know, I know. It’s nothing new, these youths and their cell phones. But it shook me. I mean, Panama City Beach (aka the Redneck Riviera) is a haven for college kids having a good time, and here they sat, passively shoveling ice cream into their beaks, staring blankly at their little hypno-boxes. Creepy.

Vacation is great, but it’s terrible for eating. I figure my diet was roughly 60% grease-based, 35% straight-up fried, and maybe 5% green — and that green was only in the form of guacamole smeared on something else deep-fried. I don’t know that I’ve ever been happier to see my own kitchen and my cast-iron murder skillet (come on, that thing is a home-defense system as much as it’s a dream for searing a steak).

And on the six-hour drive back from the beach, I was amused to be barraged with example after example that my theory about the rampant-yet-undiagnosed road disorder, PBV syndrome, is a real thing. Give me a minivan doing 75, and I’ll show you a beat-up old chevy that was doing 65 a minute ago now driving 80. Maybe I’ll mock-up a pamphlet and plant a few of them in doctors’ offices around town.

That feels like a heck of a lot of negativity. Here to right that ship is the sunset from our last night. I’m pretty sure there are at least a hundred shades of crimson in the sky, and I’m almost certain that the blue of the ocean here is described as “cobalt conundrum.”20170927_193132

 

 


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