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Archive for April, 2020

Hot mug talk

Another week of our new totally-not-normal is coming to a close. I’m pleased to say that of the three goals I set for myself during the quarantine, I’m going strong with around 2.5 of them.

Since I’ve been writing these posts every so often, I’m going to consider my “more creative output” goal as the .5. It’s something, but not what I was hoping for yet. On the exercise front, I’ve been (doing my version of) running for 2 miles every morning for probably a few weeks now, and I’ve been adding some sets of pushups throughout the day. I can always do more and add additional exercises, but that’s a win. And the beard? It’s still going strong and getting more and more comments on video conferences. A funny thing happened yesterday during a 1-on-1 video chat with an employee. My beard came up in conversation, and she said, “I don’t know why people are giving you shit about your beard, I think it looks good.” I paused for a second and said, “I…didn’t realize people were giving me shit about it.” She backtracked a little, saying, “Oh, I just thought you said people were commenting a lot or something like that…” We laughed, and I said that my wife likes it, and that’s all that matters.

Speaking of my lovely wife, I have a quick story about how she and I interpreted the same thing in different ways. This isn’t at the level of “meat helmets” or “the giant umbrella of Cox” since I think there are only two interpretations, but I wanted to share it. Sometime in the past year or two, I bought some coffee mugs from one of those sites that has thousands to choose from with different sayings, pop culture references, etc. For myself, I got one that says “Harry Otter” and has a picture of an otter with a lightning bolt scar on its forehead and holding a wand. It made me chuckle, so I got it. As a surprise, I got a mug for my lovely wife too. It said, “I read past my bedtime.” I thought it was perfect for her, because I can’t count the number of times over our many years living together that she’s sleepily said to me in the morning, “I read for too long last night.” So I thought nothing could be better than a mug full of coffee stating the reason that she needed said drink.

She liked the mug and starting using it with some frequency. It was soon after that she referenced it and I realized we were reading it differently. She sees, “I REED past my bedtime,” as an admission to those around her that she has this problem. As in, “Hi, my name is Peter’s Lovely Wife, and I read past my bedtime.” I see it as, “I RED past my bedtime,” and therefore need coffee. Both work, but they’re pretty different to me. Not too many verbs would allow for this ambiguity. If it said, “I watched too much Netflix last night” or “I play video games until dawn,” we’d know with certainty. I don’t want to give the mug makers too much credit and assume that they intentionally made the message ambiguous; I’m pretty sure they had one of those two readings (that’s “reedings”) in mind.

So, gentle readers, which pronunciation did you first hear in your heads? And if it’s my wife’s version of the statement, what would yours say? I think mine would be, “I love this stuff and may also be addicted.” Have a good day, and stay healthy.

Ch-ch-ch-changes

Hello, homepeople, and welcome again to Peter’s Super Happy Fun Quarantine Hour! Speaking of which, my dear friend Lisa wrote me the following: “I really want to know when the ‘binge Netflix’ part of all this starts. I keep reading about it on Twitter.” I totally get it. When this all started, I wanted to do so many things. I had all these grand thoughts about writing projects that were shelved long ago, catching up on shows I’d heard great things about, etc. No such luck. I have managed to exercise more though and not trim my increasingly-white beard, so at least I’ve got that going for me. But between working full-time, teaching 4th grade part-time, and refereeing about 75% of the time, I don’t know where I’m supposed to fit in hours of additional television. Oh well, maybe I’ll plan it out better the next time I’m stuck indoors for months. Jesus, I shouldn’t even joke about that.

Anyway, I actually have a topic today. In early 1993, Sloan – probably my favorite non-Beatles band of all time – came out with their first studio album. The first track on that album is called “Underwhelmed,” and it was a huge Canadian hit (and almost completely ignored in the U.S.). In fact, the website Chart Attack made a list of the top 50 Canadian songs of all time, and “Underwhelmed” was #2. In truth, I’m shocked by that, because even though I absolutely love the lyrics and it rocks in concert, it might not crack my top 10 Sloan songs. Also, suck it Bryan Adams and Neil Young.

But the reason I bring that song up is because back in high school, hearing them say “underwhelmed” was a novel and clever play on words. I hadn’t heard it used before or for many years after. In fact, when my friend Tslugmo was looking for a car about a decade later and someone asked if he test drove the 4 cylinder instead of the 6, he said he had and “was pretty underwhelmed by it.” We laughed about him using that word because it was still not something people said and one had to pause to figure out what it meant. But now? It’s a regular frickin’ word. I even saw it this morning in a description of a podcast I was about to listen to. Sloan starts their song by saying, “She was underwhelmed if that’s a word / I know it’s not ’cause I looked it up.” Guess what though? It is now.

I thought about this recently, and I quickly thought of two other songs that have since become antiquated. Please note that this isn’t the “ooh, this takes on a new meaning” type of song, like Michael Jackson singing, “I want to love you, pretty young thing” or Kurt Cobain singing, “And I swear that I don’t have a gun.” That’s an entirely different category. But you’re welcome.

The second song I wanted to talk about is “Changes” by 2Pac. It’s more than just my mom’s ringtone; it’s also a solid rap song that still holds up over 20 years later. Well, all except two lines (one more egregious than the other). First up: “And although it seems heaven sent / We ain’t ready to see a black President.” Considering we more than saw one for eight years, and that administration ended nearly four years ago, that line always takes me out of the song for a split second. But not as much as this one: “You gotta learn to hold your own / They get jealous when they see you with your mobile phone.” I love that. Yes, in 1998, cell phones were far less prevalent – I didn’t get my first one until the second half of ’99. But much like Ice Cube rapping about “getting a beep from Kim,” it’s probably best to leave communication methods out of songs since we know those things will inevitably change. Also, I like that he calls it a “mobile phone.” Some people still say that I’m sure, but we’re at the point now where I think people just say “phone.” (Quick aside – I was on a video call for work and my landline rang, and I was quickly made fun of by a few people for still having one of those. It’s happened since, and I try to get in front of it now by quickly saying, “Yes, that’s a landline you hear. I’m old, get over it.”)

Last but certainly not least, let’s end on a higher note. “Same Love” by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis is a 2012 song about the need for gay and lesbian rights, specifically touching upon the illegality of gay marriage. The lead singer and writer, Ben Haggerty (aka Macklemore) references his gay uncle in the opening lines, and then concludes with this verse:

We press play, don’t press pause

Progress, march on!

With a veil over our eyes, we turn our back on the cause

‘Til the day that my uncles can be united by law

Kids are walking around the hallway

Plagued by pain in their heart

A world so hateful

Some would rather die

Than be who they are

And a certificate on paper

Isn’t gonna solve it all

But it’s a damn good place to start

No law’s gonna change us

We have to change us

Whatever god you believe in

We come from the same one

Strip away the fear, underneath, it’s all the same love

About time that we raised up!

It’s still very moving, even though gay marriage became legal in the U.S. in June of 2015 and it appears the aforementioned uncles are indeed married. So yes, it’s now antiquated since it’s fighting for a cause that made significant progress since the song’s release, but I think that’s the perfect type of antiquated.

Got more songs like these? I’m sure there are a bunch of songs about wanting to end a particular war that, ya know, ended. Post what comes to mind in the comments, and we’ll all nod knowingly at the way that life changes.

Picture this


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Hello, everyone. First and foremost, the beard is getting bushier, and my hair is getting harder to contain. When I brush it out, it’s getting more and more Garfunkelish by the day. With no end to this quarantine in sight, I still plan on letting both continue to grow and see what happens. Who said this isn’t fun?

Way back in July of 2007, I wrote on my old blog site about Dr. Evil’s monologue in the first Austin Powers movie: https://peterklein.blogspot.com/2007/07/fuf-22.html. The thing I really focused on was his use of “meat helmets” and how my friends and family pictured that phrase quite differently. (Mine was ground beef formed into the shape of a helmet, which still sounds right to me.) I thought it was super rare for one phrase to elicit such different mental pictures, and something like that probably wouldn’t happen again.

But oh, my friends, I was quite wrong. (Here’s a good time to mention that this post is rated M/I for Mature/Immature. Things will get inappropriate quickly.) In November of 2017, I flew to Utah to interview some final candidates for a manager position in our call center. All of them had good credentials, and naturally the conversations were largely about their experience and how they’d apply it to this role. One gentleman’s resume made it look like he worked at many different companies within a relatively short time, so I asked him about it. He said something to the effect of, “Well, my role was to move around and help different subsidiaries of the same parent company. So it looks like different companies, but it was all under the giant umbrella of Cox.” Sure enough, he had worked for Cox Communications for many years, but that’s not what I heard. All I got was “the giant umbrella of cocks,” and yet I managed to calmly nod and look back to the resume and scribble something down.

For the rest of the interview, I did my best to refrain from picturing “the giant umbrella of cocks,” but it was tough. Thankfully, once the interview ended and I was alone in the conference room with my co-worker, she turned to me and said, “I almost lost it when he said ‘the giant umbrella of Cox.'” “Thank you!” I said, probably too excitedly. (Yes, my colleagues and I have that kind of work relationship.) We joked for a bit about how hard it was to keep a straight face, and then I mentioned I kept picturing said umbrella. So did she, and our versions varied.

I’ll ask you to pause here, gentle readers, to please close your eyes and think about the mental image you conjure up when you picture a giant umbrella of cocks, because we’re definitely in “meat helmet” territory here. Got it? Ok, let’s proceed.

For me, it’s mostly a regular umbrella, except the metal “skeleton” that holds the umbrella fabric in place is comprised of penises going from the center to the outside instead of metal rods.¬† The handle is the same as normal. Can you picture that? Is it anything like yours? (Your mental image, that is.)

My co-worker had a different take. For her, the entire part that opens up in comprised of fused-together Cox Communications instead of just replacing the metal radii, and – get this – the handle…is a penis shaft. What an inspired addition!

I naturally emailed a few of my friends to ask their opinions. One unnamed friend wrote back immediately: “I see one giant penis head umbrella. No shaft, just a metal rod with the curved handle attached to the mushroom head.” Wow. He completely ignored the inherent plural nature of the phrase and totally changed the game. Another friend wrote back saying that his mental version was like my co-workers but with one difference: “No penis handle though. That would be weird.” He then wrote a long email explaining that in order to keep the umbrella together, we would need multiple caulks. Oh, and how Courtney Cox would probably need to buy one of these. So yeah, they’re my friends for a reason.

There you have it, folks. Meat helmets and the giant umbrella of Cox. I can only hope that someday I’ll come across another of these magical phrases. Did any of you picture something different, like little dicks hanging like fringe from the ends of the open umbrella? Well that’s a sentence I never expected to write in a somewhat public forum. Think that’s my cue to sign off. Take care, everyone.

Homework at the homestead


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Hi everyone, and welcome back to Peter’s Super Fun Quarantine Hour! I’m your host, Peter, and…yeah, that’s all I got.

Like millions of other people, my lovely wife and I are helping our kids with their coursework while trying to keep our normal jobs and our sanity. (Quick tangent: I just used a figure of speech called a zeugma, where one word is applied to two different ones. For example, in the spoken word poetry read by Mike Myer’s character in “So I Married an Axe Murderer,” he says, “She stole my heart and my cat.” A definition I found online used this as an example: “John and his license expired last week.” Online it also said that it’s pronounced “zoog-ma,” when I was definitely taught it as “zoig-ma,” so we’re all learning things today. Ok, maybe not so quick of a tangent after all.)

Back to the fun of distance learning. Two things stood out from this past week. The first involved some Social Studies homework and a quiz. I think it’s a tad ironic to be studying society when we’re forced to be apart from it, but that’s neither here nor there. This homework was about Spanish explorers finding our home state of California and the Native Americans inhabiting the land. My daughter and I read through the chapter together, and then started her online, open-book quiz. I suddenly recalled the joy of the open-book quiz – the answers are all right there! They were so few and far between that I actually enjoyed not having to guess or search my memory banks for too long. So we read the first question, and I remembered where that part was in the chapter. “See, it says right here that one of Spain’s main goals of exploration was to claim new land, so let’s click on that answer.” And so it went for about a dozen questions until my daughter submitted the quiz. I was surprised to see that we could check the score right away, since all of her other quizzes had some kind of short answer sections and needed to be actually graded. But I was even more surprised when we clicked and it said that she/we got 50% on it. That’s right, I failed a 4th grade open-book test. I still don’t know how, honestly. When my son took the same one with my lovely wife’s help (they’re fraternal twins but have nearly identical homework), they did almost as poorly as I had. We think it’s just a bad test or something since we looked up what should be the answers, but it still wasn’t a huge ego boost to “help” her to a shitty grade.

Speaking of my son, he had a very different task in both subject matter and level of challenge. It was a test for spelling and vocabulary, and it asked him to identify the correct spelling of this week’s list of words. The online page showed three words, one correct and two misspelled. Here’s the problem with the assignment that our son gleefully pointed out right away: there was a red squiggly line under two of the three words, thereby telling him at a glance which ones were right. Oops. Someone didn’t quite think that through. We found it hilarious though, and we didn’t mind a gimme after the Social Studies debacle. (Seriously, it said that Cabrillo liked San Diego because the cove was calm – it says it right in the fucking book!)

That’s all for today, folks¬† Stay healthy, and have fun with your Anti-Social Studies.