Monday, April 30, 2007


The drive home today to my Lakewood hovel took much longer than a drive home should take. Ironically, the part which took the longest was the shortest leg of the trip, that is, the part from the nearest highway exit to my house. I wasn't paying close attention to the clock, but it seems to me that the final leg of my drive took about four hours and 13 minutes. I would like to thank the City of Lakewood Department of Excessive Traffic Lights (DETL) for doing their part to prevent accidents in the home by keeping people away from their homes as much as possible. The clever deployment of traffic lights by the DETL probably saved me from choking to death on a bathmat or inadvertantly diving out of my attic window. Thanks, Lakewood DETL, for keeping me safe and snug in my car, lurching along in one-block increments, cursing under my breath at the pedestrians who are moving along faster than I am. Thank you for keeping me away from the danger zone that is my house. I particularly want to thank you, DETL for the new traffic light on Warren just south of Madison Avenue. Now, instead of having to go all the way to the corner of Madison to get that eagerly awaited red light, I can now stop at the new light 50 yards before Madison. That's right, now I have twice as much opportunity to stop and smell the roses at that intersection. With that newfound impediment to my homeward progress, I can now spend less time in mortal danger at home, where I could burn my hand in the microwave oven or get hit in the eye by a doorknob, and more time listening to radio commercials in my car ("whoah Office Depot whoah, we're here to lend you a hand...") Anyhow, good job Lakewood DETL for keeping me safe.

Some unrelated links below:


Friday, April 20, 2007

The Sandwich Flip

I realize that it has been a while since I posted anything on this blog. I apologize for not waiting any longer. Many things have happened to me since last week, including the following incident. It was a rather traumatic experience, and one that is potentially interesting to my long suffering readers. Here is what happened: I was hungry after a long day of work, so I decided to make myself a ham sandwich. I did so and then stuck it into the toaster oven to warm it up a bit. The fact that I left it in too long and burned one side of it was a foreshadowing of the ordeal to come. So I scraped the carbon deposits off the bread and put the sandwich on a paper plate(not considering its lightweightedness to be a hazard) and I cut the sandwich in half. On this plate I also placed some potato chips and some raw baby carrots (I always try to include at least one serving of vegetables a week). Then, unknowingly putting myself in greater peril, I plopped down onto the couch and turned on the television machine.

I then blissfully proceeded to eat the first half of my ham sandwich. It wasn't bad. A little cheese would have helped, but when I'm hungry, I am willing to live without mere trivialities such as good flavor, pleasant consistency, nutritional value, freshness, safety, etc. So, there I was, sitting on the left-hand side of the sofa, the feather-light paper plate balanced on my left hand, my eyes on the television, one half of my sandwich gone. And then disaster struck. As I was lowering my right arm after sticking a carrot into my mouth I misjudged the location of my plate, possibly because I my eyes were riveted on the boob tube, and my right hand came down with vigor upon the right hand side of the plate. The plate flipped over like a Chinese gymnast and scattered my chips, my carrots and my ham sandwich all over my lap, my couch, and my floor. I immediately sprung into action by emitting what my neighbors have since described as an anguished wail. I then sat in stunned silence for what seemed like a full jiffy, and I suddenly started to laugh. I don't know if I laughed because I was suffering a slight case of shock (don't people in shock often laugh like idiots?), or because, fool that I am, I did not recognize the catastrophe immediately for what it was, but saw only its humorous aspects.

As the shock wore off and I surveyed my food covered trousers and couch and floor and thought about the cleaning up I now had to do, it occurred to me that the main course, my half sandwich, had fallen not onto my relatively clean couch or lap, but had instead fallen to the floor, right next to my feet. My mind then started racing through history -- the history of feet, the history of feet that have trodden the very spot where now sat my helpless half sandwich. And I began to think of my shoes and socks and the soles of my feet, and the shoes and socks and soles of the feet of visitors who have walked with light or heavy step upon that newly besandwiched plot of flooring. And I also called to mind the tiny cat feet which have wandered about my living room in the recent past. And I tried to imagine what remnants of exotic bacteria and sock fuzz and common Ohio dirt and toe fromage and kitty hair might still remain there.

I had a decision to make. Should I clean up the mess and throw away the unfortunate sandwich? Or should I buck up, grab the sandwich, brush off the germs, fuzz and dead insects, and eat the thing? One problem was that the Five-Second Rule had long since ceased to apply to this situation as I had wasted too much time in wailing, laughing and pondering after the accident (the Five-Second Rule states that one may eat something dropped on the floor if it is picked up within five seconds). Another problem was that my hunger was hardly alleviated by the mere morsel I had eaten so far, and the hour was too late for me to consider the arduous preparation of another "meal". I realized that hunger must override fastidiousness. So I decided I would test the limits of this fantastic immune system God has given me. I decided the risk of consuming the microscopic multiculture that might have stuck to the surface of my ham sandwich (and the two potato chips that also landed on the floor) did not outweigh the importance of immediate gratification. I decided that out of sight is out of mind. And I crammed the thing into my mouth.

It tasted fine, and I felt and still feel all right. Although there was a kind of a "fuzzy" sensation in my mouth for a few hours.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Trivia Time!

I apologize to my readers for the dearth of new material on this blog. I especially want to apologize to my most avid readers (speaking of which -- a big shout out to the good folks at the Piscataway Asylum for the Criminally Deranged.) The fact is that I've been fairly busy these last few days: Saturday I cleaned my bathroom, Sunday was sock drawer inventory day, Monday I had to get an extension on my city taxes. It's a veritable merry-go-round here at Casa del Neil or, as the locals call it, the House Where That Strange Guy in the Kneesocks Lives. I have always thought of this blog as a casual blog, the kind of blog that doesn't require the public to check constantly for updates. Another name for this type of blog is the lazy man's blog.

Anyweigh, I have decided to make it worth your while to read my latest post (in stark contrast to my usual posts.) As many of you don't know, I am somewhat of a trivia buff. I collect trivia, I remember trivia, I even create trivia. Now I would like to share some trivia with you, my esteemed reader (speaking of which, a big shout out to the American Society of Illiterates). So, sit back, relax, grab a bucket of fried chicken, and read on.

- The Dalai Lama wears a wig when he is working his factory job on weekends.
- Disgraced baseball player Pete Rose played most of his carreer with a prosthetic leg.
- The alphabet was originally used by the the ancient Greeks to insult the Etruscans.
- The number 4 was invented over two hundred years before the rest of the numbers.
- French war hero and president Charles De Gaulle never woke up before noon.
- Archimedes was not actually Greek, he was Puerto Rican.
- The onion is the only food that explodes in outer space.
- Orangutans cannot tell the difference between ice cream and frozen yogurt, but they do recognize frozen custard.
- In Turkey people live in houses shaped like drumsticks.
- Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes, wore mittens to hide his webbed fingers.
- Of all the American presidents, Millard Fillmore had both the largest and the smallest feet.
- If you linked together all the paper clips in the world they would reach from the Earth to the planet Jupiter (though there would be some significant gaps).
- Henry Ford used to drink gasoline to amuse people at parties.
- Bill Gates is not only the richest man in the world, he is also a world class gardener, having once grown a radish the size of his head.
- Arachnids have no sense of humor.
- On a bet, promoter P.T. Barnum raised an army and conquered large areas of Central Asia.
- The Declaration of Independence was written by accident.

That's all for now. I don't want to give away all my trivial nuggets at one time.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

With Chicken Comes Wisdom

Yesterday I was in the mood for fried chicken. It's a mood that doesn't come over me as often as it used to. That may be because of the disappointing quality of most commercially available fried chicken. In fact, it is a matter of public record (it might even be on Wikipedia) that I believe KFC causes diarrhea. ( I wonder if KFC deliberately creates that effect in order to get people to come back to their restaurants? If so, then I would suggest they try a different marketing strategy.) Anyhow, I was encouraged by a coworker to try a fried chicken franchise I had not tried before. He said it was the best of them all. I won't name this particular restaurant chain, but I will say that it is named after a comic strip character with large forearms.

So, up to the drive-through window I drove, with my watering mouth, empty stomach, and high expectations. I ordered the number 3, which includes three pieces of chicken and one side dish and biscuit. I parked my car and proceeded to dig in. It's not really a great idea to eat a fried chicken dinner in one's car, for a number of reasons, including the fact that the yellow oleo substitute which is meant to be slathered on the biscuit could inadvertantly squirt out of its package and soil the dashboard, but I was listening to the radio. (I just had to get the latest, up-to-the-minute information about the Don Imus Affair. I only wish the radio updates were every 30 seconds instead of every 30 minutes.)

Well, right off the bat I noticed that the chicken pieces were quite small. That seems to be the norm at all chicken take-out joints anymore. I think they all get their chickens from the same midget chicken ranch in Arkansas. (I still remember the old days when drumsticks were longer than two and half inches long, don't you? Or is it just another of my false memories? If this shrinking chicken trend continues, I bet that some day we will be able to fit a thousand drumsticks in a space where today only twenty will fit. Think of all the storage space that will be saved.) Another thing I noticed is that the crunchy coating has a strange yellowish tint to it. I have nothing against yellow. Why, nobody admires bananas more than I do. But it just looked a little odd to me. But I figured, big deal, it's all going to be in the dark in a few seconds anyway. So I dug in.

About midway through my first bite, as I chewed the greasy morsel, I realized two things: one, this brand of fried chicken tastes exactly like the chicken served at the competing chicken restaurants, and two, I think this chicken is going to be hard to finish, due to its nausea-inducing quality. But I pressed on, finishing the first, second and third pieces, the mashed potatoes swimming in spicy gravy (which wasn't too bad, actually) and the imitation biscuit, minus the yellow oleo substitute (and a nice clean dashboard I have now, too). I washed it all down with the two inches of Dr. Pepper in a cup full of ice and I drove off-- full, but not really satisfied. And full I stayed for hours. Those midget chicken parts are surprisingly dense. Or am I the one who is dense? I'll let you judge for yourself. But keep in mind that my occasional expeditons into the world of fried chicken are learning experiences, like my occasional trips to White Castle. With each trip to these places, I grow in wisdom, even as my lifespan shortens just a bit.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The Rake Method

Do you know what works pretty well at removing impacted snow from under a car that is stuck in your driveway? Try one of those metal rakes (the kind that rises up and smashes you in the face when you carelessly step on it). It does a really good job at loosening and grabbing the compressed snow. Is this rake method something I learned this past winter during the nasty February snowstorm we had? No. Did I read about it on No. Am I recalling the ramblings of old Jebediah Donner telling me in my childhood of his hardscrabble life on the Great Plains in the winter of 1910? No.

I learned the rake method on Easter Sunday in Lakewood, Ohio. I learned about it after struggling in vain for 40 minutes to free my poor car using my snowshovel and my dirt shovel and my desperate, freezing fingers. I learned the rake method as a result of having gone through this stupid, freak, Lake Erie-fueled, four day snow machine. The same snow machine that caused the Cleveland Indians to flee the city for the more temperate climes of Milwaukee in order to play their next three home games, their first three having been snowed out. Why do I bring this up now? I don't know. But I swear by Al Gore's jowls that the only global warming I believe in is the kind that happens when you make a bonfire out of his collected speeches.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

The Heat Wave is Over!

Here in Northeast Ohio it was 80 degrees the other day. It was hot. I tell you, I was sweating. I felt the cruel sun baking me as I foolishly jogged down my street, my untanned Irish legs causing problems for those drivers not wearing sunglasses. The windows in my house were opened to give me relief from the oppressive April heat. It was so hot that day that I had to put an ice cube in my Dr. Pepper. Such is not the weather one expects in Ohio in early April. However, that's all behind us now, for Mother Nature has seen fit to provide us with some much-needed relief in the form of subfreezing temperatures, gusting winds and snowfall. Thank goodness! I thought I'd never see a gray sky or a snow plow again. I just wasn't ready to face another day without icy roads, a drafty house or a sidewalk to shovel. And as an added bonus, all those unsightly tulip plants in my yard have been dealt a devastating blow to their solar plexus (plexi?) by this frosty front, and will probably find it hard to make a comeback. Meanwhile, I sit inside, my legs covered up to avoid any incidental contact with any errant UV ray that may break through the two mile thick cloud cover.

Monday, April 2, 2007

Opening Day

As I sit here listening to the neighbor's dogs, amazed at their endurance, amazed at the neighbor's cluelessness and inconsiderateness, my thoughts turn to the new baseball season. Today is opening day, and a beautiful day it is. As I write this, the Cleveland Indians are giving a proper thrashing to the Chicago White Sox. That is a nice start to the season. For the Indians it is an atypical start. I believe that in my lifetime, the Indians have only won two opening day games. (I could be wrong, I may be overestimating, actually.) So this is a nice change of pace. I must keep in mind that the game is not over yet, and that even with an 11-3 lead in the 5th inning nothing is sure, particularly with the Cleveland bullpen being as unreliable as it is.

I interrupt my own train of thought to mention just how glad I am that my neighbor only has two energetic young dogs. I mean, as loud as the two dogs are, as irritating and exasperating as it is for me to be able to hear them clearly through my double-paned windows, it could be worse. He could have 40 dogs instead. He could have enough barking canines to awaken people on the dark side of the moon, but he only has two. As it is, these two dogs' voices carry only as far as the lower part of the earth's exosphere. I bet the jumbo jet 35000 feet above Cleveland has to roll up its windows when the two dogs are outside. Well, the barking has stopped. I bet that it has something to do with complaints from some helicopter pilot who was worried that he couldn't hear his own chopper blades above the din of the yelping dogs.

Anyhow, I have high hopes for the Indians this year, despite the fact that every single year of my life they have not won a world series. I may even go to a game or two this baseball season, though I will have to save up some money to afford food and drinks. I think I ought to have enough saved up by June (I'll have to check with my financial advisor).