Monday, July 28, 2008

The mother of (blog entries about) invention

These are the dog days of summer. (No really, I'm not just saying that.) They are typically accompanied by a lull in blog material. (I am just saying that.) Therefore, I invite you to join me as I proclaim this National Blog Something That's In Draft Week, or NaBloSoThaDraWe. (Also, feel free to add a NaBloSoThaDraWe tag to your blog.) I expect this to catch on at least as well as my Sunday Show & Tell idea. NaBloSoThaDraWe is for those entries that never saw the light of day because they weren't quite as interesting or funny as the ones you posted, but... actually there is no but. While browsing today, I found that I had 77 things in draft. I now have 76.

I have a tape measure. It was made in Korea. But let's not get into the discussion of why in the world we're having to import tape measures from Korea. I'll save that for my first appearance on The Colbert Report.

Occasionally, I'll stand up and measure myself. I'm not sure why. I figure it must be one of two things. Either I'm expecting myself at age 35 to suddenly hit a growth spurt, or I'm really really bored.

The tape measure was an excellent invention. First we had the ruler. Then the yardstick. Then the less popular two-yard stick, which was a little awkward to carry around. Finally some genius said, "Hey, we can put these lines and numbers on something flexible, roll it up, slap Stanley on it, and make millions."

Some inventions seem to have stopped evolving. For example, they're not really making a lot of technological advances with pens lately. The other day I saw a pen with ink that was guaranteed to prevent check washing. Isn't this coming along a little late? I didn't even know people still wrote checks. That would be like if they came out tomorrow with some technological update for 8-track players.

The Erasermate seemed brilliant, for awhile. Then after a few years, we were like, eh screw it, we'll just cross it out. Have you ever noticed that sometimes people don't just cross things out? Sometimes they do this entire black out thing where they scribble and scribble until the paper is nearly worn thru and there isn't a single trace of what once was. Makes me wonder what they had orginally written.

I mean, it's like three or four words marked out. It's not like there's space to write out a complicated assassination plot or some militia manifesto or anything. What are these people writing? What could be so important and secretive that they want to make 100 percent sure not any part of a single letter is visible? "Death To America." "Colonel Mustard did it." "I love the Bee Gees." I mean, no one's scribbling out "milk, detergent, eggs" you know?

Bumper stickers aren't evolving much, either. It would be nice, however, if they could come with an expiration date for them. "Hey '87 Tercel, I think it's safe to take off that Dole/Kemp 96 sticker now. At this point, I don't think there's gonna be a recount. However, Bob Dole does appreciate your support."

Nail clippers. There's another one that hasn't evolved much, though they do have the separate clippers for toenails and fingernails now. And from a fungal standpoint, I'm most thankful for that.

Why do they always put nail clippers by the register? You're getting ready to checkout, you're thinking, "I've gotta find my super saver card, and oh my gosh look at my nails!"

The items near the checkout are always quite varied. It's like a little telepathic message: "While you wait, here are a few things you may have forgotten. Some batteries, a Mounds bar, the National Enquirer, a glue stick, and look, here's some film for the camera you don't own." And I end up buying them. I have like three glue sticks! I haven't used glue for its intended purpose since 1984.

You gotta hand it to candles. They're hanging in there. I mean cars came along, the horse and buggy pretty much gave up. But light bulbs came along, candles evolved. They said, we can burn in jars. We can smell. Burn us at dinner. It'll be romantic. Trust us.

Necessity, of course, is the mother of invention. Unfortunately, necessity isn't sure who the father is.

Do you ever stop to think about how many inventions came about as a result of people making mistakes? Erasers. The backspace key. Liquid paper, which I still say began as a hallucinogen. Prison. Napkins. Child support. TMZ.

I don't understand the whole sliced bread cliche, either. Was slicing bread such a humongous inconvenience that avoiding it became the greatest invention in the history of the world? Did communities stage "bread slicings" instead of "barn raisings?" Were there volunteer organizations like Whole Grain For Humanity that would come in and slice bread for families without the means or manpower to slice it themselves?

Some things have yet to be invented, even though there is an obvious need. For example, why don't they sell ironing boards in the shape of pants and shirts? I'd buy two.

Sometimes I wonder about the person who invented the jigsaw puzzle. How did that come about? You're sitting there with this nice pretty picture and suddenly just decide to fire up the ol' power saw and chop it up into a thousand tiny pieces? I think someone may have had some rage issues.

I remember when I was little and Dad bought a jigsaw. I was excited. Looking forward to lots and lots of puzzles. Turned out to be a bit misleading. And we won't even get into the first time I heard the term "carpool."

Do you ever wonder about the person who invented the rubber insulation on electrical plugs?

Inventions like that, you really have to wonder about the trial and error aspect. Like for instance, the parachute. "No, Charlie. Really. This will catch you. Go ahead, jump....."

I think one of the great inventions of all time is the tennis racket. You don't agree? Imagine tennis without it.

Many inventions are the direct result of another invention. Call waiting and caller ID, for example. I wonder how long it took before Alexander Graham Bell started avoiding calls. "Blimey, I know that's Watson again. Why'd I ever give him my number?" I mean, he couldn't really say wrong number. There were only two phones.

I wonder how guys picked up girls before there were phone numbers. I've thought about it. I really don't know. Did they ask girls out by letter? The girl's talking to her sister. "He still hasn't written." "Well, it's only been nine days. Give him time. Guys never write the next week, plus the mail is slow." Or maybe they just hung out at the General Store. They see a girl. "Hey, um, you wanna come over later? I think we're having a bread slicing."

"I love the gal who invented kissin'. I don't recall her name. But I do believe that gal should sit high up in the hall of fame..."

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Branches and roots

Monday was Dad's birthday. I know I haven't posted any updates lately, but he is doing very well. He claims to be walking everyday like he's supposed to, and he recently started a new job. I found myself appreciating his birthday and Father's Day a bit more this year.

Sunday afternoon, we took him out for birthday lunch. He was going on and on about a hydrogen fuel cell or something, so I know he's back to normal. Of course, now I'm expecting just any day to see him on the news: Man Blows Garage Off House. After all, Dad's all about making the blog.

After lunch, we went to the cemetery where Dad's parents are buried. (Doesn't everyone visit the cemetery on their birthday?) I'm ashamed to say I didn't remember exactly how to get there. I've probably only been four or five times that I remember. For whatever reasons, we never visited it as much as we did Mom's family's cemetery.

We were just never as close with Dad's family. First of all, Mom had eleven brothers and sisters. Dad only had two half-brothers, and they were both fifteen to twenty years older than him. Dad was the baby of everyone, by far. At least one of his first cousins was thirty years older than him. He's actually about the same age as his nephew, who I got to meet when Dad was in the hospital for his open heart surgery.

Riding down the quiet, narrow two-lane road that leads to the cemetery, I looked at Dad and tried to imagine what he must be thinking and feeling, about to visit the site where his parents were laid to rest. I couldn't. But in that instant, I appreciated him and I appreciated the day even more.

When we arrived, I instinctively headed for my grandmother's grave. My grandfather's first wife died young and he is buried next to her with a joint headstone. About ten feet away sits my grandmother's stone, all by itself. It breaks my heart all over again every time I see it. Maybe because it seems all too fitting.

As I said earlier, we gravitated more towards Mom's family. Dad's father died when I was one. My grandmother had a serious car accident not long after that and never drove again. I remember Dad would go get her on Christmas Eve day and she would bring presents for us. They were really bad presents, too, like athletic socks with wide red stripes and bad games like dominoes or something. And I feel guilty even as I'm typing this.

Then we'd spend Christmas Eve at my other grandma's house with Mom's family, and we'd go back there for lunch on Christmas Day. I remember sometime on Christmas afternoon, Mamaw or Mom or one of my aunts would fix up a plate and put tin foil over it and Dad would take it to his mother.

And in her whole life, as long as I knew her, she never once complained. Of course, now I wonder why was it like that? And I imagine her sitting there on Christmas Eve and Christmas morning all by herself. And I can't think about it without becoming deeply saddened. And I just want to tell her I'm sorry now, but I can't. So that's why it breaks my heart anew each time I visit her grave.

Sunday afternoon, I walked around more than usual and tried to find more Bone family graves. It's an old cemetery with lots of graves dating back to the 1800's. There were two Bones who were in the Confederate army and one who served in WWII.

With Mom's family, I've heard many stories. And what I don't know, I still have Mom, four uncles and three aunts that I can ask. But with Dad's family, I hardly know anything. And there's no one left to ask other than Dad. So I asked lots of questions, trying to learn all I could.

I don't know why it had never hit me before, but I realized that my grandmother was the only person buried there that I had actually known. And I miss her, for sure. But standing there Sunday, I found myself missing relatives that I never met.

That started me thinking about doing research on Dad's family. I want to get to know, at least in some small way, the family I never knew. I want to write things down and be able to pass along stories to the next generation. And if I don't do it, who will?

Dad told one story Sunday that I'd never heard before, although not family related. We passed a house where a classmate of his had lived many moons ago. Dad said he drew the boy's name for the Christmas party in sixth grade, so one day he asked him what he wanted. The boy's response? "You can just get me some cigarettes."

"If heaven was a town, it would be my town, on a summer day in 1985. And everything I wanted was out there waiting, and everyone I loved was still alive..."

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Go Go Gadget Charger?

It's time for another installment of Sunday Show & Tell. OK, there's not really a Sunday Show & Tell as far as I know, but there could be. For your enjoyment today, I present my car charger:

(Please note that I'm not a professional photographer. I consider myself more of a scene capturer.)

Car charger is a bit of a misnomer. It doesn't actually charge your car. Though it would be really cool if it did. It would also be kinda cool if it played mp3's, or if it at least had a laser pointer on it. But that's neither here nor there.

What I would like to point out today is the relative shortness of my car charger. (Photo is approximately 1/2 actual size.) This has proved quite impractical as far as talking on the phone while it is charging. I either have to end a call to charge my phone for awhile, or I have to put my ear really close to the cigarette lighter, which is located somewhere between the radio and my knee.

Last night, I went to a minor league baseball game with Kywana and some children. (What? I can't be flipping jet skis every single weekend.) We did the usual ballgame stuff. The kids got a hug from some guy dressed in a polecat outfit (who I hope was the mascot). We sang "Take Me Out To The Ballgame" during the seventh inning stretch. And we discussed the correct lyrics to a Britney Spears song. (Which I thought said, "Oops, I did it again. I played with my heart." It really takes on a much deeper meaning that way if you think about it.)

When we got in the car after the game, I asked the female portion of Kywana to plug my phone in to charge. Upon arriving back at Kywana's house, I retrieved my car charger, and it looked like this:

It appeared that the wire had been violently ripped out of the unit! (Notice the flagellum-like extension protruding from the right side. And also the two golf tees near the top of the photo. They're all over the place around here.) What had happened? I wondered if my car charger would ever work again.

Then a few seconds later... Oh! It's like a tape measure or something. The cord is retractable. Oh! I see now. I've only had this phone for nine months. I would have figured that out eventually.

Hey, cut me some slack. I was in a horrific, low speed jet ski accident last weekend.

"I feel stupid, but I know it won't last for long. I've been guessin', and I could've been guessin' wrong..."

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The backwards entry

The weekend recapitulation has begun. Please remain seated and keep your eyes on the blog at all times. The ride is actually running backwards today, so we'll begin with today and end with Friday, just hitting the highlights.

(Note: All times are approximate.)

Right now: I'm looking at a plate with five grapes on it. I had a whole bunch, but one had a bad spot on it. Just leaving one didn't feel right, so I left five. A nice OCD-friendly number.

Thirty minutes ago: I went downstairs, got some grapes out of the refrigerator, washed them, put them on a plate, brought them upstairs and started eating them.

Thirty-one minutes ago: I started craving grapes.

Forty-five minutes ago: I wiki'd Dido. Did you know her real name is Dido Florian Cloud de Bounevialle O'Malley Armstrong? Sounds French-Irish. Also, she was born on Christmas Day, 1971. And she is supposed to have a new album coming out September 23rd.

Forty-five minutes and ten seconds ago: "White Flag" by Dido came on iTunes.

Four hours and fifteen minutes ago: I decided not to fold towels.

Four hours, fifteen minutes, and one second ago: I thought about folding towels.

An indeterminate amount of time ago, but still today: I watched a couple of old movies--Blackboard Jungle, with Sidney Poitier and Vic Morrow. And Alfred Hitchcock's The Trouble With Harry. They were both excellent. I love Turner Classic Movies!

Reverting back to the present (What? It's my blog, my rules): Christopher Cross just came on iTunes. I will not wiki him. I will not wiki him. But it's... really... hard.

Still present: Actually, that was kind of cool. It's like Back To The Future III, where they kept going back and forth in time and no one had any idea what was going on.

Still present, part III: OK, this is getting pretty long. So far, despite how exciting the Dido fun facts were, you've been on the uphill portion of the ride. Now, we're about to crest the hill. For the remainder of this entry, everything will go much faster, and you may or may not hear people screaming and small children crying.

One day ago, aka Saturday: Little Joe and I went to my friend Jamie's house on the lake. It was there that I fell off a jet ski for the first time in my life.

We were all three on it at the time. I was driving. Jamie was sitting between Little Joe and I, just to clarify. Her visor had blown off--due either to my fast and furious driving style or, more likely, a loose fit--and I had circled back around to look for it. We briefly discussed if and how long it might float. I thought about all the times I had seen the "Will It Float?" game on Letterman, and tried to remember if they ever used a cloth visor, but it seemed unlikely.

Reverting back to the present: Coincidentally, I caught the end of Hope Floats today on TV. "Birdee and Bernice, the coolest chicks in Smithville. So don't you ever think about leaving me again, because I need you." Sniff, sniff.

One day ago, picking up where I left off: It was about this same time that I began to ponder why the lifeguards on Baywatch didn't have jet skis. Not that I watched the show much... after Nicole Eggert left. But it seems to me they could have gotten to people a lot quicker on a jet ski, rather than just with that little orange floatie thing.

Anyway, we could talk about Baywatch all night. But back to our story. I located Jamie's visor and rescued it, and was feeling pretty good about myself. For about five seconds. When I tried to turn around to head back to the house, I turned a bit too sharply, and we all went over. It was actually fun. I'd do it again if I were still allowed to touch the jet ski.

Reverting to the present one last time: Christopher Cross' real name is Christopher Geppert. He recorded a new Christmas album that was released on iTunes last November. He won five Grammy Awards in 1981. But most importantly, he was mentioned in "The Millennium" episode of Seinfeld, where Newman reveals he booked Christopher Cross for his Newmannium party, which he started planning in 1978.

Two days ago, aka Friday: The Darryls were going out with a couple other people and invited me along, but I declined. Then I tried to hypnotize myself. I said, "When you wake up, you'll be exactly the same person you were before." You know, just in case.

This concludes your ride today on IYROOBTY. Please exit via the blogroll on the right and enjoy your stay in the blogosphere.

"If you get caught between the moon and New York City, the best that you can do, the best that you can do is fall in love..."

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Mystery of the frozen scene

While flipping channels Friday, I came across the following scene from Seinfeld on cable channel 8:

There was no movement. No audio. It was just frozen there on my television, as you see it here. A scene where Jerry and George appear to be talking.

I looked around. Was I the only one who could see this? Was Larry David trying to send me a signal? Was my TV set even on? Was this my second bowl of Apple Jacks, or third? Maybe, just maybe, this was my "if you build it, they will come" moment that I had waited on for ten years since the series finale.

After about ten or forty-five minutes, it became apparent they weren't going to play the rest of the episode, so I changed channels. The event gradually and quietly slipped into the dark recesses of my brain. Until the next day.

I don't know if it was divine intervention or the kinship of all living things, but something told me to check channel 8 again on Saturday. So I did. And I found the exact same scene. Still there. Still frozen. Like a hidden treasure waiting for me to kiss it and turn it into a beautiful princess.

By that time, I was certain this was no random occurrence. Someone was trying to tell me something. But what? And then it hit me. If I could somehow figure out which episode the frozen scene was from, I would thereby solve the mystery of the riddle and surely know what Larry was trying to tell me.

I began to analyze the scene. It appeared fairly generic, but I noticed a couple of things. They weren't in Jerry's apartment. They appeared to be in some sort of office. Also, George was older, so I was thinking Season 8 or 9. Within about fifteen seconds, I had my guess: The Bizarro Jerry.

The only thing left to do now was to check to see if I was right. Well, that and take a picture of the TV screen for blog purposes. Since I don't yet have Seasons 8 or 9 on DVD (hint hint), I had to dig thru my library of Seinfeld VHS tapes. This task was made slightly more difficult by the fact that before I knew the names of each episode--or that the episodes even had names--I would label the tapes with my own descriptions.

For example, instead of The Fire, I wrote "Jerry heckles a heckler." Instead of The Pie, I had "A mannequin looks like Elaine." Instead of The Rye, I put "Accidentally recorded Caroline In The City." Anyway, you get my drift. I finally found the episode I was looking for and fast forwarded to the scene. Booyah! I was right!

I'm still not really sure what this all means, other than I know a really really lot about Seinfeld. It's either very exciting or very very sad. Since this is my blog, we're gonna go with exciting. Surely there must be a need somewhere for my uncommon ability, a place at Larry David Enterprises for me.

I turned back to channel 8 later in the day Saturday, and they had resumed regular programming. Of course they had. But not before and until I had solved the mystery of the frozen scene.

It's all in a day's work. My name is Bone. This is what I do.

"Now for ten years we've been on our own. And moss grows fat on a rollin' stone. But that's not how it used to be..."

Friday, July 04, 2008

Takeru, Joey, & Me

I watched the annual Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest on ESPN today. It has become as much a 4th of July tradition around the Bone household as grilled burgers and shooting bottle rockets out of your bare hand. Because really, few things are as American as forcing fifty-nine hot dogs down your esophagus in ten minutes or having second degree burns from putting on your own fireworks show.

Congratulations to this year's winner, Joey "The Clay Aiken Of Bacon" Chestnut. He defeated the legendary Kobayashi in a five dog eat-off to claim the title for the second consecutive year. And this has inspired me to share with you a tale of my own recent athletic prowess.

Last Saturday, in the immortal words of Flock Of Seagulls, I ran. I participated in a five mile race, finishing with a time of 39:10, which was OK. I've only been running about once a week since my 10K in May, so I was satisfied with a sub eight minute pace.

More importantly, I set a new personal record for the most races I've run in a single year, with two. This not only surpasses, but doubles my previous all-time high, of one.

But the most impressive thing about last weekend was that I actually got out of bed at 5:45 on a Saturday morning to go and run five miles. My bed was beckoning me, my body was crying out in protest, and my fish was swimming around as if to say, "What in the world are we doing up at this hour? But as long as we're up, feed me."

This brings up an interesting question: What possesses the runner to do such things? What inspires the runner to run? Some might say it's the sense of accomplishment and personal fulfillment one feels when one crosses the finish line. I say, poppycock!

It's all about the free cookies, bananas, watermelon, Gatorade, soft drinks and other refreshments provided after the race. Oh, and the free t-shirt. Not to mention the blog material it provides. That's why I run.

Still, I'm sure others would say it's the opportunity to wear super sexy, super short running shorts without being subjected to (much) public ridicule, banished from society, or thrown in prison. To wit:

Happy 4th of July, all! Have a hot dog, or fifty-nine. And here's hoping no one has a "reversal of fortune."

"The cloud is moving nearer still. Aurora borealis comes in view. Aurora comes in view. And I ran. I ran so far away. I just ran. I ran all night and day..."