An open letter to the Scottish Parliament

Dear Scottish Parliament,

I am a U.S. citizen with a concern that I must bring to your attention. It is a matter of some urgency to me; I hope it will become so to you.

I and my wife have three sons, one of which is a second year student at the University of Edinburgh. His name is Bryce. Bryce has been living in Scotland on a student visa since the start of his first year, and he plans to live there through the duration of his university studies. He loves Scotland and Edinburgh, and so do we.

But as a U.S. citizen, Bryce is far from home. And even in the age of Facebook and Skype, there is nothing like a package from home. We have tried hard to make it a habit of sending packages to Bryce that contain a little bit of home. We call them “care packages”—small boxes of items that could only have come from his mum and dad, packages that let him know he is loved and missed. We’ve sent several care packages to Bryce in the year and a half since he’s been gone.

Unfortunately, several of them never got to him, and at least one of them arrived purely by accident. The problem is in the way packages are delivered to a flat. Someone (from the Royal Mail, I presume) puts a little slip of paper on the door at the entrance to the building. The recipient of the package must find this slip of paper (if it has not fallen off or blown away), and then go to the post office to pick up the package.

On at least two occasions, something happened that prevented our son from ever seeing that slip of paper. Perhaps it blew away. Perhaps someone else picked it up. We don’t know. We only know that our son never got the slip of paper, even though the Royal Mail diligently delivers letters directly to his flat every day.

On a third occasion, Bryce did get the package we sent to him, but purely by accident. As he entered the building to his flat, he noticed a little slip of paper on the ground. He picked it up. It said that a package was waiting at the post office, addressed to his flat, but for someone else whose name he did not recognize. Bryce was suspicious that it might be mislabeled, because he was expecting a package from us. On a hunch, he went to the post office to find out, and sure enough, there was a package for him. In this case, it was dumb luck that led him to his package.

So here we are, just halfway through Bryce’s second year at Edinburgh, and we no longer have any confidence that the packages we send to Bryce will get to him. They might. But the odds are against it. We don’t know if we should send any more packages to him at all. Scotland can’t seem to get the delivery right.

How can it be this bad in a country so capable as Scotland? How can the land of Sir Walter Scott, David Hume, Robert Burns, Adam Smith, John Knox, Robert Louis Stevenson, etcetera, etcetera have such a bad system of package delivery to flats? Is there no one in Scotland with the vision to fix this obviously ridiculous problem? I cannot believe it.

Please, I beg you, treat packages like letters from the Queen. Deliver the little slip of paper to the flat, just like a letter. Make it better than a little slip of paper—put it on card stock, like a big postcard, with a proud announcement by the Royal Mail that a package awaits the recipient. It would be so easy.

Most honorable, dear Sirs and Madams, the handling of packages by the Scottish postal service is in a state of crisis. Will you delight the world once again with a solution to this most important problem?

I anxiously await your reply.

Most humbly and respectfully,

Daryl J. Lucas
Wheaton, Illinois

Thanksgiving Day

This Thanksgiving Day we had to celebrate the day without Bryce. There were only four people around the table—me, Ruthie, Kelson, and Jake. Gerry was here in the house, but not at the table while the food was still hot, as he was sleeping off a bout of stomach and headache that were going on a week. Here’s the thing: We still made enough for 12.

We did all the usual suspects: turkey (18.29 pounds), stuffing, creamed corn, cranberry relish, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, string bean casserole, asparagus, pumpkin pie, and apple pie. I think that’s it. With the exception of the asparagus, I’d say pretty much all of that is mandatory. It’s just not Thanksgiving without them. So that’s what we did.

But Bryce is in Scotland (“of course,” for those who know him). This University of Edinburgh thing (a.k.a. “Eisenburg,” as Mary Conner attempted last night) does make it hard to come home for long weekends like Thanksgiving. What seems like a birthright to the rest of the college-going crowd just isn’t so for the ones, like Bryce, who are both (a) 3,725 miles away and (b) not loaded. I think that 99 percent forgets about that 1 percent quite easily. In fact, I know they do.

Thing is, Bryce handled it. “Happy Thanksgiving, Bryce! I’ll eat an extra pound of turkey for you,” I told him via his Facebook Wall, as is the way these days. “No worries. Got it covered,” he replied. Of course he did. Bryce was never one for letting the world dictate to him. I don’t know the precise nature of his menu, but I’d bet all my remaining good body parts it was not ramen noodles and tofu.

Thus did I consider it a pure mix of blessing and curse, perfectly termed bittersweet, in fact, this Thanksgiving Day. All but one here, the one absent doing what he should be doing, thereby creating a misty-momma situation. There’s joy and pride and pining disappointment all in a swirly cone, like a teddy bear with a chain saw.

So there was this conversation around the table and the promise of a Skype this Saturday morning and a new era’s dawn. I kind of like how history just arrives unannounced like that, don’t you?


This is a time and a kind of life that I wish I could tell you about. This molasses time, this limbo place, this dormancy of a home, with the guys far away at college and the girls on the other side of the planet and Ruthie far away in North Carolina, passes slowly and quickly all at once and in a way that I barely notice and can hardly bear. This, my very own demilitarized zone, a personal no-man’s-land between the vistas where people live, is where I live. In my mind all the time it makes me think of that summer of 2000, that summer when Ruthie took the boys to Virginia, that summer when she nursed her dying mother while the empty house here suffocated me with its emptiness, that summer when the work not just the commute was long and brutal and there were no dogs or roomers to snap me out of it, that summer when long-distance calls had a name, “long-distance calls” (the kind of call no one makes any more), that summer when the pain of peace and quiet hurt like an ulcer. I would come home and scoff at its name, “home.” No one messed with my stuff because there was no one. It was always where I left it—the morning before, the day before, the week before, last month; insanely, I’d wish it would move, and only a little did I imagine that it was crazy to think so. The silence (it wasn’t peace or quiet) would talk to me, “Talk to me,” but I was never in the mood, so I would give it the cold shoulder. Bills would drop to near zero, as if to say, “You’re not needed any more, are you? Is this real? Are you real?” And the passersby/friends, they would think they knew, because they were grass experts; they imagined it must be lonely, but they imagined even more that it must be fun, what with all the shackles gone and all the obligations gone and all the demands gone and all the nuisances gone. “How’re you likin’ your freedom, bachelor? Must benice!” Lemon juice paramedics, that’s what I call them. And so now there are dogs and there is a roomer and sometimes on some days the dishes do move without consulting me, but not very much and not very often, and some of the dirty ones stick like a tick to the countertop space. And so the dogs—they are dogs, so they come find me, and they ask for love and also for chewies, and they break that accursed peace and quiet, praised be. And so they bark whenever someone comes to the door, except that no one hardly ever comes to the door, so they are semi-retired or mostly out of work take your pick. And they bark whenever I let them out, but the neighbors just call the cops, so I don’t let them out except when they are crossing their legs and dancing, and then I have to watch them like a prison guard (because of the neighbors, remember). And so they sleep and whine and haunt my steps and whine and break the accursed peace and quiet in which I have trouble sleeping, because the quiet of absence is cold and loud, damn it. And so I put on music that mourns along; I put on music because I don’t need to cheer myself up, I just need to give my aching heart some company; not because I like to ache, but because I can’t stand to mourn my loneliness alone; because I need to hear something mournful, something on the outside that matches the inside; I need to moan a melody. And so I sit and stare, because there’s nothing to look at. And so I notice that it is getting awfully dusty in the corners of my empty house, but who cares? And so I realize that dust gathers quickly where there’s no one to stir it up. And so I cook something—“cook” something—just in case I get hungry, and because, besides, I’m gonna call Ruthie in a sec and I’m gonna check some Facebook statuses and that’s a tail-waggin’ good time that you don’t want to do on an empty stomach, dontcha know? And so that’s what I’m thinking.

No, it’s not the same at all, this time, no way. Totally different. Totally different.

Disturbing the peace

Yesterday I came home from work to find a “Wheaton Police Warning Notice” on the dining room table, serial number WW76544. My roomer, Gerry, had found it taped to the front door earlier in the day. Neither of us was home when the officer who left it was, uh, visiting. I knew instantly what it was. It was about the dogs.

The police and the dogs have a sort of history. Several times over the last few years—I really don’t know how many, but it’s a lot—the neighbors have called the police about our dogs, and the police have come over and told us that our neighbors are complaining about the dogs barking too much. Usually it ends without incident, since the dogs are never barking when the police show up.

And to be perfectly clear, we’ve tried hard to accommodate those complaints. We’ve put a lot of effort into minimizing the time the dogs spend barking whenever they’re out back. We let them out to do their business, but as soon as we hear them barking, we bring them in.

Not this time. This time they got busted.

It didn’t really surprise me. The dogs do bark. They rightly assume that their job is to protect the house by throwing a holy fit whenever a stranger comes within slingshot range, and on this particular day of infamy, I was already at work, as was Gerry. And it was warm, so we left the back door open so they could come and go as they please. It’s a lot easier than coming home from work three times a day just so they can pee in FHA-approved places, and it’s a lot cheaper than hiring someone else to do it. So it’s reasonable to assume that the dogs were indeed out back barking at the unemployed joggers walking their free dogs at roughly 7:50 AM.

The neighbors also have a history of harassing my family for being loud. I already mentioned their habit of calling the cops on my dogs, but they don’t just hate dogs. When my kids were little, they called the police on my kids for being too loud.

At any rate, I’ve read Wheaton’s ordinance against dog barking; it’s Sec. 14-97, and it’s actually called, “Disturbing the peace.” (Yes, that’s right—the entire Disturbing the peace ordinance is about loud animals.) It’s very specific. It spells out when dogs can bark and when they can’t. At certain hours of the day, the dogs are allowed to bark only for a few minutes at a time, but then they have to stop, and they have to pause for a while and not bark for a few minutes, and then they can bark again, but only for a few minutes, and then they have to stop again. It’s all there—how many minutes they can bark, how many minutes they have to pause, and how many barks and pauses they get per hour. This is the law my dogs broke.

The Warning I got isn’t much more than a little piece of paper, perhaps 4 x 6 inches, but it clearly states that I’m in trouble. It’s the top copy of a multipart form with 17 violation options listed and six words in tiny print at the bottom that tell you all you really need to know: “White Copy – Violator, Pink Copy – Services.” Mine is white.

So here’s what played out. My neighbor called the police on my dogs, and then a police officer came to my house a short time later and wrote me a Warning.

See how easy that was?

I actually thought it was supposed to be harder than that. I was sure that law enforcement involved due process of law—you know, you accuse me, I defend myself, and somebody sorts it all out. But it seems I was wrong. A police officer in Wheaton, Illinois can take care of the whole shebang with one multipart form and a Bic. With the stroke of a ballpoint pen, I’m not an alleged Violator or a suspected Violator or a person of interest regarding a violation, I’m a Violator, period. At least it’s not a felony.

To be fair, the officer’s Warning was about as nice as a bitch-slap can be. He (I assume it was a he, but I don’t know) wrote me a nice note. He didn’t just write in the blank space at the bottom of the 17-item list of traffic violations, “Allowed dog to bark to disturb the peace,” signed by Officer J. Goist, badge 178. No, on the back of my White Violator Copy, Officer Goist added: “A refused [sic] person called about your dog barking constantly in the back. I also heard this. Please be aware of this and minimize the barking. Thanks!”

“Please”? “Thanks!”? Only polite people say “please” and “thanks.” Message received, Officer Goist. No offense meant, none taken. We’re good.

I’m comfortable with the idea that Officer Goist was just doing his job. The law says my dogs were not supposed to be barking, so he wrote me up. I’m not accusing him of taking a bribe from my neighbor. He says my dogs were barking; I believe him.

But so many mysteries remain. I really don’t know whether my dogs were barking excessively when my neighbor called, how long it took the officer to get to my house, whether my dogs were barking when he got there, whether he stayed around to time their bark-and-pause pattern to see whether it violated the anti-bark ordinance, or whether he let them see him, which would, I assure you, incite them to bark incessantly, since their job is to bark when strangers approach the house with a gun. I don’t even know who called the police; maybe it wasn’t my neighbor after all (though I truly doubt that). And there’s no way for me to find out. All I really know is that someone managed to get me in trouble with the police with one little phone call.

I also don’t understand this bias against loud kids and barking dogs. These noises are endemic to life on our planet. They aren’t lawn mowers or table saws or nail-hammering or jet engines or sirens or garbage trucks—very loud things that we invented. Kids and dogs make noise. When they do, we know they are healthy. When they don’t, we know that something is wrong.

That is to say, dogs are supposed to bark. That’s one of the reasons you get a dog. I was once told by a police officer (in another town, not Wheaton) that one of the best things you can do to deter home invasions is to get a dog. He meant that the barking is a deterrent; he didn’t mean that burglars tend to be cat people. Sure, some say that dogs don’t really deter burglars, since sophisticated burglars have ways of sneaking your watchdogs a treat and shutting them up. I’ve yet to see the evidence on that assertion. Whether true or not, dog barking is still one of the reasons people get dogs. It’s not the chief reason or even everyone’s reason, but it’s one of them. So if we deny dogs the right to bark, what’s the point of getting a guard dog?

But apparently it’s also a moot point, since dogs aren’t allowed to deter burglars after all. So you’re better off getting a cat, since most burglars aren’t cat people.

The biggest mystery to me is how anyone can call this disturbing the peace. I’ve been around dogs my whole life, and most of them bark, like they’re supposed to. And everybody I knew was fine with it. Then I moved to Wheaton, Illinois. Suddenly I’m among a cult of people who consider it a crime for a dog to bark. Is it the Kool-Aid?

I can’t, no matter how long I think about this, figure out what’s wrong with a dog barking.

Is it about noise? It can’t be. Modern life is nothing if not noisy. All but about 500 of us live in cities—the very definition of peace-disturbance, where noise is so constant you can’t escape it. In cities, the noise is continuous and unabated, and all of it artificial. Cars and buses and planes and heat pumps and jack hammers and trains and sirens and horns are blaring 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and apparently people love it, because no one ever calls the police on any of it. In fact, people are flocking to the noise of cities. If you’re a dog and you live in a city, you can’t even get a bark in edgewise. I dare you to even detect a dog barking in a city.

The suburbs are not much different. In the suburbs, people welcome the growling of lawn mowers and the screeching of table saws with open arms. Do you think garbage-truck noises are “peaceful”? Cut lumber and pound nails all day in the suburbs and see if anyone complains. In fact, call the cops on a neighbor for “Mowing his lawn to disturb the peace,” and you’ll get a Warning for being a prick.

So the endurance of noise-making is OK. There’s nothing wrong with it. Nobody minds it. So it can’t be about the noise.

Is it about sleep? It can’t be that, either. My wife used to be a labor and delivery nurse at a local hospital. She worked two or three 12-hour night shifts every weekend. With few exceptions, she had to sleep in the middle of the day on both Saturday and Sunday—while everybody else was lawn-mowing and nail-hammering and table-sawing their disturbed little selves to death. And, of course, my wife wasn’t the only one trying to sleep—there’s a large number of other people who had to keep this schedule, some of them police officers.

So disturbing the peace is not about sleep-deprivation. It completely ignores the very population that can least afford it.

I’m pretty sure I know what it’s really about: being annoyed.

If you still think my neighbor’s phone call is a legitimate disturbing-the-peace complaint, I won’t say you’re crazy, I’ll just ask you a question: What’s really wrong with dogs barking at 7:50 AM? Mrs. Robinson finds it annoying, that’s what.

Actually, that’s exactly it. The Wheaton ordinance uses the very words, “cause annoyance to any person of normal sensitivities” to define The Violation. That is, annoyance with animal noises is the sole criterion for deciding what “disturbs the peace” in Wheaton.

Except that it’s not just Wheaton. According to my brief scan of Internet-available stuff on this topic, there’s a long legal history of defining peace-disturbance this way. Somebody finds it annoying, therefore it disturbs the peace.

I have a huge problem with this. To criminalize something because it’s annoying is backwards. The chief purpose of law is to protect society from vigilante annoyance, not defend it. Just ask Rosa Parks.

I live in a community, so I’ll go along with the community’s rules, but Sec. 14-97 is stupid. The best thing I can say about it is that no one has thought it through. We can’t afford to make it a criminal offense for a dog to bark a lot, while simultaneously allowing lawn mowers to keep night-shift nurses and police officers awake between shifts. It’s hypocritical, inconsistent, and ridiculous. Not to mention cat-embolding.

Let’s be honest. When my dogs bark “constantly” (as legally defined) at 7:50 AM, it’s not really about disturbing the peace. It’s just an excuse for someone to let their lack of appreciation for dogs to come to the surface and explode—legalized whining, to put it bluntly.

No matter. I’ve decided to teach my dogs how to use a table saw. That’s legal.

On the death of my mom

Aboard the Explorer of the Seas, August 2, 2004
Marilyn June Wymer aboard the Explorer of the Seas, August 2, 2004

Marilyn Lucas, Nov. 27, 1934 – July 4, 2007

I had the privilege of speaking at the memorial for my mother last week. It was held at Arlington Forest United Methodist Church, 4701 Arlington Blvd., Arlington, VA 22203 on Saturday, August 4, 2007 at 1:00 PM. It took me a month to put my thoughts together, but this is, more or less, what I came up with. I wanted to share it with you.

I guess this is the time when I’m supposed to say a few words about my mom.

But I cannot.

There is no way for me to say just a few words about my mom.

And if I were to say just a few words, I would have to use big ones. I would have to say that my mom was meticulous, righteous, deferential, gentle, responsible, selfless, hardworking, frugal, self-effacing, persistent, patient, creative, dedicated, loyal, gracious, graceful, sacrificial, honest, faithful, godly, persuasive, undaunted. But I’m not a big fan of eulogizing people, so I’d rather not go on like that.

In my world, sometimes people will say, “He’s a good man,” meaning, “Underneath all the rough and ugly, he’s basically a good person.” Often that kind of statement is more of a defense of the person’s badness than a show of admiration for his goodness. That was not my mom. She was, in a very simple and potent way, the kind of person many of us aspire to be. That is to say, I could describe her as a good cook, a good mother, a good wife, a good citizen, a good worker–I could describe her as a good woman in every way that matters, and if you knew her, you would not disagree with me, even a bit, nor would you be tempted to “balance out the story” with details of “Marilyn’s wild side.”

But my mom was not an open book, either. She was more of a mystery to me than I would have liked. I knew her as well as any son could know his mother, and yet I knew very little about her. The details of her past and present both stayed well hidden from my view all the way to her dying day, and that I do regret.

Still, my mom is not the sort of thing you can say just a few words about. If you want to be fair to her, you have to use a lot of words. Some of the best would be quite small, like kind, fair, and wise. Then you would have to add those big ones.

But it would take a lot more words than we can say here in this place to do right by my mom. It would take a real big lot. And we do not have time for all the words I want to say about my mom, not here at least.

So what I will do is say just a little bit more, and then let you take it from there. That little bit more is my bittersweet wish list.

What do I wish?

I wish Mom had told me more about herself. I still don’t know why she moved to Washington, why she never went to college, or why she had only three kids. I don’t really know what her trip to Florida with Grandmother Wymer was like. I never even saw the pictures till last week.

I wish I had heard about it when she learned she would need to have a hip replaced. I wish I had heard about it when they replaced it. I wish I had heard about it when she had a stroke. I wish I had been one of her trusted confidants.

I wish I had seen her without her dentures, just once, before she got pneumonia. I wish I had told her more than I did how beautiful she was.

I wish I had gone on more trips with her.

I wish we had gone to more Wymer family reunions, because I’m pretty sure my mom was at every single one that has taken place since I was born. And if I’m wrong, I wish I knew what could have been so important to have trumped her pilgrimage to that event.

I wish I had taken my kids to see her more often. I wish we had not lived 800 miles away. I wish we ALL had gone on more trips with her.

I wish I had more pictures of her playing with my kids. I wish I had more shots of her making gingerbread houses, and of decorating the house for Christmas. I wish I could relive one day in our house at Christmastime the way Mom made it feel when I was little.

I wish I could have given her someplace to go in retirement.

I wish I had her knack for cooking. I wish I could tell her that she made ordinary dishes taste so good I always felt superior to people who thought you have to eat rich to eat well. I wish I could eat just one more meal made by my mom.

I wish I had Mom’s recipe for cranberry relish, zucchini bread, carrot cake, and potato salad. Those were awesome.

I wish I had thanked her for sending me to Seven Springs, Pennsylvania in 1980-something with a bag full of candy and other snacks, because I still remember looking into that bag and thinking, “Dang, that woman sure loves me! There’s enough good stuff in there to make me fat!”

I wish I knew who her childhood friends were, where they played, what games they liked to play, where they liked to play, what they did with their spare time, and what they did with their spare time when it was too warm to skate on the pond. I wish I knew where that pond was. I wish I had seen her skate more. I wish she had gotten to skate as a pro.

I wish I knew who her first boyfriend was, and whether it was Dad, and if not, what that was like.

I wish I had taken her to another Redskins game, or even better, gotten her to meet Joe Gibbs.

I wish I had given her a surprise birthday party–just once.

I wish I could tell you more about her. I wish she could tell you more about me.

I wish we had just one more day.

Emergency exits

My wife works as a staff nurse at a hospital, in the Mother-Baby unit. Mother-Baby is the unit where the mothers and babies go after the mothers deliver the babies.

It is quite a fortress. If you want to get in, you have to get permission; the doors are locked. To get in, you have to pick up a phone outside the unit that is hotwired to the unit inside and ask permission to enter. If the unit receptionist grants it, she pushes a button and the door opens (then closes automatically behind you).

But it is a Hotel California. Once inside, you cannot leave unless you get permission. To get out, you have to ask the unit receptionist for permission to leave. If she grants it, she pushes a button and the door opens. If she doesn’t, you get to live out your remaining days in a Mother-Baby unit. (They do have bathrooms.)

I have been told that they do this for security reasons. Simply put, they don’t want anyone to steal a baby. (I am told it has happened before, and I give them the benefit of the doubt. In fact, I believe a baby was stolen from a Texas hospital within the last few weeks.) So they have put a Great Wall around it and created a Great Bottleneck—one door to rule them all.

This locked-from-both-sides automagic door is the only way in or out of the unit. There is no alternate or back-alley exception, as far as I know. I know you can take an elevator up to the Labor and Delivery Unit (a design feature even I can appreciate), but I imagine that any babynapper wannabe would have difficulties using this as an escape route. So, realistically, the One Door is the only way in or out of Mother-Baby.

What I find intriguing about this is that on the inside, the One Door is marked with a clear, large sign that explains the rules of exit. It says, “Emergency Exit Only.”

””Homeland security, indeed.

Signs we do not need

One day, it just hit me. We have a lot of unnecessary signage. Most of the ones that first caught my eye were wasting our time beside the road, allegedly for purposes of traffic control. But the more Iooked, the more I saw. This short list is just a taste of the most obvious.

No Turn on Red When Pedestrians Are Present
Why do we need a sign to tell drivers not to run over people?

Stop For Pedestrians in Crosswalk
Do I need to repeat myself?

Merge Left
What is the alternative, Careen into the Ditch on the Right?

Do Not Stop On Tracks
Why not?

(Cityname), Population x
What are you going to do with this information?

This is a dishwasher magnet. Each word on this dishwasher magnet (usually shaped like a STOP sign) is upside down with respect to the other. You can flip it over to indicate the state of the dishes in the dishwasher.

Dear people: If the dishes have dirt on them, they’re dirty. Otherwise, they’re clean.

In a culture addicted to urging itself to avoid, uh, addictive drugs, this is the word we use to alert people to the existence of a pharmacy inside a grocery store. How about using the word “Pharmacy” instead?

Emergency Escape Route
You see these outside every elevator in every public building in every city in America. Has anyone ever used one of these? Ever?

Once while waiting for an elevator in the office building where I used to work, I studied the Emergency Escape Route map pasted to the wall next to it. I had worked in those offices for seven years, and this was the first time I had paid attention to it. I spent several minutes trying to work it out, but I could not make sense of the map. I kept trying to imagine taking the route depicted, but I could not understand it. Given my intimate knowledge of that floor, I got frustrated fast and kept trying.

After about five minutes, I finally realized that the map was oriented 90 degrees to the right of the direction I was standing; I had to translate the route in my mind in order to understand the way so simply laid out in red.

I guarantee you: If I had been decrypting this during a fire, I would have been burned alive. I’ve since studied Emergency Escape Route maps in other buildings and found that most have the same flaw—they are simply not oriented in the direction you are facing.

Place Face Up On Dash
Pay the money to park, and this is what they tell you to do. If that is not municipal rudeness run amok, I don’t know what is.

STOP! Important Customer Information
This sign, which now appears on all post9/11 mailboxes (the blue ones that you used to see on every other street corner), goes on to say that you are not allowed to put any packages in the mailbox “for security reasons.” I am still trying to figure this one out.

Sidewalk Closed
This is one of my favorites. Typically I see it bolted to a chain link fence, which is in turn cemented to a traffic barrier, which, of course, is blocking your way. Two feet beyond the barrier is a hole 20 feet deep, where a construction crew has excavated a basement for the next Walmart. There is no sidewalk not to take. Nevertheless, we have been duly signaged.


Let me know if you have any favorites of your own.

On the questionable existence of certain ingredients

I made a foolish promise. I promised my wife I’d learn how to cook.
The are many reasons for the foolishness of this, but it all starts with the content of the recipes. Most of them name ingredients which, were they not in published books, would arouse suspicions of a high school prank.

I think “capers” was the first. Have you ever seen an aisle sign in the grocery store for “capers”? Me neither. How about, “Cake flour”? “Pimiento”? “Zest”?

I have managed to find cake flour.

Is software good or evil?

Software has enabled us to change typed documents without having to retype them. That would seem like a good thing. And yet, in order for this to happen, I have spent $23,812 over eighteen years on the hardware and software components needed to run a word processor, have had to upgrade my Operating System six times (not counting service packs, hot fixes, and variants) at an average time sink of 15 hours each, and had to reinstall those Operating Systems 115 times.

On the upside, I’ve saved $32.94 in White Out. (There has been no net savings on paper due to the need to reprint bogus documents before proofreading them carefully.)

Perhaps software is good?