Archive for December, 2010

That’s bullshit: Holiday name edition

Today is the eve of the new year, hence we call it New Year’s Eve.  The apostrophe is required because of the possessive nature involved, right?  Well then, why the hell isn’t it Christmas’ Eve on December 24th?  It’s the eve of Christmas, so the same (correct) logic should apply.  The holidays themselves start to muddle things.  Christmas and Christmas Day as names make sense to me, but do we really need to say New Year’s Day or even the commonly abbreviated New Year’s?  I suppose I could make the argument that “New Year’s Day” is really short for “the day of the new year,” but couldn’t I then use that same line of reasoning to advocate for “Christmas’ Day”?  Two things are for sure: first, when my birthday becomes an official holiday due to excellence in sporadic blogging, I’d like for everyone to call it P-Dawg Day (or The Feast of St. P-Dawg) and the day before to be P-Dawg’s Eve.  Second, this whole gray area of naming holidays is utter and complete bullshit.  Have a happy and healthy New Year, everyone.

p.s. I just realized a couple of days ago that tomorrow will be 1/1/11.  I thought I’d mention that now before 500 of your closest “friends” use that fact as a Facebook status.

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That’s bullshit: Rhyming edition

My buddy Jon gave me some new music recently, and one of the bands on the first cd is awesomely named “We Were Promised Jetpacks.”  I have to assume that whoever named the band is near my age, because jetpacks and hoverboards were supposed to be abundant by now based on the shows and movies of our youth.  (My mom’s equivalent band name might be “We Were Promised That We’d Be Using the Metric System,” incidentally.)  In any case, this band is Scottish, which is obvious from the first line of the first song.  The lead singer says, “I swear I heard my name,” and the way he pronounces “heard,” it rhymes with “swear.”  That’s a serious accent.  (A quick sidebar, your honor: If you say, “I heard it’s near, I swear,” there are three words with “ear” in that sentence with three different pronunciations of it.  Oh English, you confuse me yet again.)

That line and that rhyme and not bullshit, in case that’s where you thought I was going.  I actually think that’s quite cool.  It did however get me thinking, and when it comes to rhyme, people with certain accents have it way easier than Americans.  Let’s say I end line one of a song with “start” and am looking for a word at the end of line two to rhyme with it.  I have a healthy selection, including “heart,” “part,” “smart,” “Pop Tart,” “Qwik-E-Mart,” “Paul Blart,” “holy crap I have to fart,” etc. 

If I were from England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Australia, South Africa, or probably some other places, my options don’t stop there.  To me, the R in “start” would be silent or negligible at best, so other rhymes could be “hot,” “cot,” “the wife of Lot,” “I just got shot (bonus internal rhyme!),” “I woke up and I was a robot,” etc.  That makes song and poetry writing at least a small percentage easier for people who hail from other countries.  I bet most of them don’t even realize how fortunate they are that they can rhyme “Descartes” with “dry rot.”  That’s bullshit!

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Lyrical breakdown: Kid song edition

I realize I’ve already spent three entire posts on children’s songs, but sometimes I just can’t help myself.  This is one of those times, my friends.  We have a cd that someone from my lovely wife’s work burned for her, and it’s pretty damn cool.  There’s a Ziggy Marley song that I like, a very pretty Arlo Guthrie song, and a song called “Still the Same Me” by a group called Sweet Honey in the Rock that I genuinely like and sing around the house all the time.  Well, there’s one more that I heard a few times and thought was cute before I ever really sat down and listened to the lyrics.  Upon doing that, my opinion has changed slightly.  Allow me to present “If I Ran the World” by John McCucheon.

If I ran the world, everything would change
The food and toy stores would be free
With door to door delivery
Oh, what a party it would be
If I ran the world

Not to start off on such a picky note, but there’s no real position called “World Runner.”  Maybe I’m being a typical arrogant American, but I’d guess that our President is probably the closest to that job description.  Anyway, this guy’s campaign starts off fairly strong, as free food and toys would certainly be a reason to vote for someone.  It would, ya know, cause millions of people to lose their income, but that doesn’t seem to bother the artist.  And if all food is free, do we really need the delivery also?  I’d happily go somewhere to feed my family for free, not to mention the already increasingly sedentary nature of our society that could benefit from getting out of the house (even if it’s for more food).  I’ll give him one point: if there were an unlimited supply of food and toys for everyone in the world, I can imagine that atmosphere being akin to a party…at least at first.

If I ran the world each kid would have a bike
A swimming hole not far from home
A bedroom of their very own
No one would have to play alone
If I ran the world

I have no issues with this stanza at all.  In fact, it’s this stanza that let the entire song slip right past my critical ear for a couple of months.  What a nice gesture: as World Runner, kids would all have friends and various places to have fun.  I support that. 

If I ran the world all homework would be banned
Our school week would be just one day
And all the rest we’d have for play
I’d triple every teacher’s pay
If I ran the world

You hear that?  It’s the sound of goodwill being squandered.  Where shall I start?  Banning homework is a clear case of pandering to the children of the world, though if World Runner is an elected position, it would all be for naught since they’re too young to vote.  More importantly, why significantly dumb down the world?  School once a week and no homework?  School isn’t supposed to be everyone’s favorite activity, but it’s obviously necessary.  Kids wouldn’t learn to read until they weren’t kids anymore at that rate, so they wouldn’t be able to do homework very well even if it weren’t prohibited.   As for teachers making more money: I’m all for that…normally.  They should definitely be appreciated more monetarily in our current society.  That said, who thinks it’s a good idea to cut teachers’ workloads by 80% but then increase their salaries threefold?  You know who: the teachers.  He clearly wants the powerful Teachers’ Union backing his candidacy, even at the cost of an upside-down compensation structure.  That’s the worst idea this guy’s had yet, even if his heart is in the right place.

If I ran the world there’d be no underwear
I’d never comb my hair
Peace would break out everywhere

Scratch that last thought of mine.  Paying teachers too much for little work at least makes sense on some level since many teachers are overworked and underpaid.  But who the fuck is clamoring for the eradication of underwear?  Is its existence a common gripe that I’ve somehow avoided my whole life?  The next line oddly switches to focusing just on our narrator.  “I’d never comb my hair,” he says.  Sounds like someone’s letting his power go literally to his head.  “I run the whole damn world and I don’t like combing my hair so I’m not gonna.  Na na na na na na.”  Then his supreme logic kicks in and somehow equates “0 underwear + 0 hair combing = Peace.”  Not sure I follow you there, buddy.  And I’m all for peace, but I think your plan for it needs to be more than waiting for it to “break out everywhere” like a benevolent Ebola virus.

If I ran the world each meal would have ice cream
The faucets would run juice and stuff
The tofu farms would have it rough
And everyone would have enough
If I ran the world

Remember that free food from before?  Well guess what, boys and girls…it comes with ice cream!  Oh yeah, we’re including breakfast too, don’t you worry.  What?  You want…water?  Nah, fuck that – have more juice and stuff.  And don’t worry, there’s plenty more where that came from.

If I ran the world I’d never change my socks
My bedtime would be late at night
There’s always be a hallway light
Whatever’s wrong I’d make it right
If I ran the world
Whatever’s wrong we’d make it right
If we ran the world

We’re back to the narrator owning his statements and gladly telling us that he’d have smelly feet.  In fact, he seems very proud of his plan.  These next two lines change things just a little, as it tells me that the narrator is either a kid himself or a very sheltered adult.  Let’s say he’s a kid; does that excuse the poor choices he made in his campaign promises up to this point?  Hell no.  Picture the society this guy/kid wants to create.  The World Runner has bankrupted an untold amount of companies by making food free yet somehow an endless supply.  (Sounds like he’d have to reinstate some sort of slavery to make that happen, but I’m sure he’s thought it through.)  Everyone is woefully undereducated and most likely obese with the copious amounts for ice cream, sugary juices, and an endless – and free! – supply of food.  What else could make this global society less utopian?  Got it – let’s all have dirty feet, unkempt hair, and have our nether regions flap around in our undergarments willy nilly.  At least teachers would finally make some dough.  And there would theoretically be peace “breaking out,” but even the crunchiest hippies would have to consider at what cost.  (Maybe not, as hair-combing and sock-changing may not be too high on their list of daily activities.)

In short (too late for that?), I sure as hell don’t want this person as the World Runner.  I think his goals are short-sighted and would ultimately do way more harm than good.  Even with the prospect of free, unlimited burritos at my fingertips, I’m afraid I won’t be punching the chad next to John McCutcheon’s name should that day ever come.

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Taking none for the team

There are two types of opening a door for someone. The first is where you pull it open, hold it, and wait for the person to pass you as he or she walks through the doorway.  I’ll call this method the After You.  The second is when you push the door open, wait for the person behind you to get within reach, and “pass” the door to him or her before you continue on your way. Let’s call it the Push and Transfer.  Everyone ok with my assumptions and name-assigning so far?  Good.

I made an excellent executive decision on which method to utilize when I went to Chipotle a couple of nights ago. As I pulled into a parking spot by the restaurant, I noticed a big van a couple of spots away.  It stood out because at least a dozen young women with “Citrus College Basketball” on their sweatshirts got out of it and started walking toward the front door just as I was. I booked it to make sure that I arrived before them, because I knew full well how much extra time it would take for me to get my food if I were behind that group. The first woman of the group was just a couple of feet behind me as I approached the door, so I did what I had to do:  I went for The Push and Transfer.  I straightened my arm, forced the door open, established my place in front of them, and then said “Here you go” when she took the door from me. “Thanks,” she said, but the pleasure was truly all mine. 

Before I ordered, I looked back at the gaggle of women basketball players.  (They travel in gaggles, right?)  I counted, and there were 17 people in their group.  I mentally commended myself once more and stepped confidently up to the counter to place my order.  It’s not easy to be thanked for being polite while performing a selfish action, but I managed to pull it off.  And then I ate a kick ass burrito.

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The long and short of it

In my last post, I wrote about a particular name and nickname. That got me thinking, which isn’t always a good thing. (Just ask my lovely wife, who has to put up with me saying things on a daily basis like, “If you add another S to the end of Saltines, it becomes another word that’s interestingly related to the first.” She’s a good sport.) This time I started pondering the names of certain celebrities and their use or lack of use of nicknames.

First off, let’s look at famous folk who use nicknames and marvel at how strange it sounds to use their proper ones. John Depp sounds pretty weird to me, as does Alfredo Pacino. Then you take someone like Bill Murray and turn it into William Murray, and that’s sufficiently different to me. In fact, if I saw a roster of some sort with “William Murray” listed, it wouldn’t cross my mind that that’s the same name as someone famous. I would with the previously mentioned ones though, or others like Tobias Maguire. I think Edward Murphy would catch my eye, but it’s hard to say since it sounds so very normal.

I actually have a real life example of this that I just thought of. An old friend of ours got married a few years ago to a nice man named James Carter. It took months and a second time seeing them before I realized that we have a former President with that name. It just seemed like a standard, common name to me. Now that I think about it for another few seconds, I’m more struck by the fact that Carter has gone by that nickname for his entire life. I guess only a few people thought, “I like him, but I just feel weird electing a grown man named Jimmy.”  Readers, what other celebrities can you think of whose names sound funny when using the proper ones? Feel free to branch out into sports as well, because things like Peter Rose will surely sound weird to most of us.

Let’s flip this thing around now and look at famous people who do not use nicknames. Off the top of my head, I thought of Katie Hepburn, Johnny Malkovitch, Billy Hurt, Tommy Jefferson, and Bob Loggia. For bonus points, we’ve got Bill Randy Hearst. Who else can you think of?

And now the big question: Which of these two types of name/nickname changes sounds odder to you? Are you more thrown by names like William Crystal or Mike Jackson? Comment away!

Lastly, I’ve mentioned a few times either here or on my old site that it took me decades to find it strange that someone is named Sigourney. The same is true with Chevy, I’ve said. Well I got a new one: Dabney. Really? I just accepted that his name is Dabney without giving it a second thought? It sounds like someone with a bad cold or a speech impediment trying to say Daphne.  Or part of an Elmer Fudd tirade.  Or how one treats a minor wound on his patella.  Or…aw forget it.

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Faux familiarity

Earlier this week, I was talking to a guy I’ve known through work for a few years.  “Does Jacqueline still work for you?” I asked.  “No, Jackie parted ways with our company almost a year ago,” he replied.  That simple interaction immediately made me remember a story from my past, and I guess it was obvious because cocked his head a little and asked, “What?”  So I told him.

When I was in college, I worked with the incoming freshmen and transfer students in small groups as a member of the Orientation Staff.  Even though I had a couple hundred advisees over the course of one particular summer, I tended to recognize most of them when I saw them around campus during the next two academic years.  After I graduated and remained working on campus for a while, I still ran into them when they were then juniors or seniors.  One afternoon, I went to the little cafe just a one-minute walk from my building and went up to the counter.  I immediately recognized the young lady in front of me as a former advisee and so I greeted her warmly.  “Wow, you remember me?” she asked.  I asked how everything had been going, and at one point, I slyly glanced over to her nametag to help me out.  “Jacqueline,” it told me in block letters.  At the end of our conversation, I said, “Take care, Jackie.  Great seeing you.”  I’d intentionally chosen the nickname to show familiarity and prove that I’d indeed remembered her. 

Over the next several months, I went to that cafe between one and four times a week and saw her there a good percentage of the time.  “Hi Jackie,” I’d say.  “The usual?” she’d ask, and I’d nod.  (The usual for lunch was a turkey burger with cheddar cheese, pickles, and ketchup.  I loved that turkey burger, and I’m seriously salivating just thinking about it.  I don’t think it’s worth the hour and a half drive it would take me to have it for lunch, but it was might tasty.) 

One day, I was asked to do an academic presentation for the new crop of Orientation Staff, which was a cool “back where it all started” event for me.  Before I got started, I looked out at the soon-to-be student advisors while they settled in after a snack break.  Near the front was a familiar face smiling broadly at me.  “Oh hey, Jackie,” I said, smiling back.  I was actually pretty proud to see a former advisee now filling my old shoes, but I was distracted by other staff members’ looks of surprise or even shock.  “It’s ok,” Jackie told them.  “What’s ok?” I asked.  “You’re the only person who calls me Jackie,” she said, “I told them when we met that I wanted to be called Jacqueline, but it’s cool that you call me that.”  “Oh,” I said pretty sheepishly, “You don’t like ‘Jackie?'”  “It’s ok, but my last name is Robinson, so…”  I nodded, as if to say, “Of course it is.” 

So there you go.  My attempt to prove my familiarity with someone in turn made it clear that I didn’t really know her at all.  You smell that, folks?  That’s the rare but provocative scent of irony.  And it goes great with turkey burgers.

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Scheduling difficulty

I called my dentist’s office a couple of days ago. A woman answered, and I told her I wanted to schedule a cleaning. She asked my name and then asked my phone number. “Oh, I’m not sure what it would be under – maybe my cell,” I said, and the proceeded to give her that number. “Ok,” she said, “Someone will call you back.” “What?” “It’s my second week here, and I don’t know how to make appointments yet,” she replied. She told me it would be within ten minutes, and imagine my surprise when the phone actually rang eight minutes later. I answered, and it was the same woman from before saying she was ready to set my appointment now. I’m sure I had some combo of my head tilting and my eyebrows raising, but there’s no video available to support that.

I re-gave her my name, and she said I was due for a cleaning and an exam. “When do you want to come in?” she asked. “Well, I’d like the first appointment of the day if possible, so whenever that’s open.” “So…when do you want to come in?” she repeated, as if I hadn’t come close to answering her question the first time. “When is the first appointment of the day available?” I asked patiently. “Well, the first appointment tomorrow is 11am,” she responded. “No, I meant the earliest time anyone can be seen – when is that slot open?” “You mean 8am?” “I think you see people earlier than that, because I remember coming in at 7 or 7:30 before,” I said a little less patiently. “Oh, I don’t know our hours yet.” Awesome.

Foolishly, I complicated things. “Last time I was there, I really liked who did my cleaning but I don’t remember his name. He was a tall, nice, African-American man. Can you see when he’s open?” “You mean Dr. Cohen?” she asked. Not wanting to judge a Jewish book by a black cover, I asked, “Does he fit my description?” She laughed and said, “I don’t know the doctors’ names yet.” “Ok, if can you just please let me know when you have a 7:30 appointment open, even if it’s in a week or two from now, I’ll book that regardless of who it would be with.” She searched for a couple of minutes, found Wednesday morning open, and scheduled me. I hung up, shook my head, and wrote the appointment in my calendar.

Half an hour later, my phone rang again. This time it was someone else from that office saying that Wednesday unfortunately would not work because there was no one to do the cleaning then, just the exam. I rescheduled for Monday, confirmed and reconfirmed the time and date, and made the change in my calendar. I’ll be there then, but I’m not supremely confident that anyone will be expecting me.

Here’s the thing: I’ve been new before. I know what that’s like, and it’s a daunting and frustrating thing to have people ask what seem to be routine questions to them but are complicated by a mixture of a lack of knowledge and a fear of looking bad early on in the position. That said, maybe they should wait for their trainees to know the doctors’ names, hours of operation, or the premise of how to schedule an appointment before they’re allowed to call patients to, ya know, schedule an appointment during the hours of operation with a doctor. I know, I ask way too much of people.