We Are Going to Be Like the Jetsons!

Sena has been telling me for years that someday soon we’re all going to be like the Jetsons, flying around in bubble-top saucers.

It turns out she may be right.

There’s a news story out about the Jetson Flying Car, which I saw on the Good News Network.  It’s a compact flying car that runs on batteries that are good for about a 20-minute commute. Reports about the altitude the Jetson car can achieve vary, but some say you can get up to about 1500 feet and tour along at a little over 60 miles per hour.

And the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) says you don’t need a pilot’s license.

Can you say “mass mid-air collisions?”

I doubt there’ll be a lot of buyers because the sticker price is close to $100,000, not counting insurance, extra batteries (you’ll need 8 if you want to swap out to recharge), and attorney fees.

The CEO of the company that makes the Jetson car says you can be a pilot in about 5 minutes.

Funny, that’s about the same time it seems to take the typical semi-truck driver in Canada to get a commercial driver’s license, judging from how busy the tow truck operators are up there.

What if the heavy rescue operators in British Columbia and Toronto had to do recovery work on the Jetson cars? True, the cars aren’t that heavy (about 250 pounds), but what if the number of crashes overwhelms Jamie Davis (think Highway Thru Hell on the Weather Channel)? There wouldn’t be enough tow truck guys to drag all the cars out of the ditches.

Did you know the Jetson Cars come as a DIY kit? That’s right, you have to finish assembly of that expensive toy yourself. You better make sure the batteries are hooked up right since you get just 20 minutes of running time before you need to recharge. Average commutes are longer than 20 minutes.

The Jetson car comes equipped with something called a ballistic parachute, which should be enough to send most potential buyers running out of the showroom. Hey, why would I need a parachute?

No worries, you’re unlikely to be flying much higher than 16 feet anyway, according to the co-founder of the company, eVTOL (electrical vertical take-off and landing).

Let’s see how many traffic signs and trees we can take out on the way to the drug store to pick up some Dramamine.

Only one person (the pilot) can fit in the Jetson Flying Car. And of course, there’s a weight limit; it’s 210 pounds, which is going to raise a hue and cry from the equity, diversity, and inclusion police. There’s no flying family eVTOL—yet. That’s a good thing because there will have be some survivors left to collect on the insurance.

On the bright side, there are no ashtrays to empty, no flat tires to change (nobody remembers how to do that anyway these days), and no radio stations to cycle through. You’re going to be paying too much attention to the birds getting caught in the rotor blades and the bugs splatting on your visor.

That’s assuming you’re a multimillionaire and can afford to fly like the Jetsons. Don’t buzz the pedestrians.

The Cigarette Waltz

A couple of days ago we heard a ballet called The Cigarette Waltz by a French composer, Edouard Lalo, on one of the Iowa Public Radio (IPR) classical music programs. The announcer told a little anecdote (most of which I didn’t hear) about the saying “Smoke‘em if ya got’em” which he traced to the World War II era, reflective of the general idea that you can do what you like if you have the means. I didn’t get the connection, frankly.

I was curious about why the ballet Namouna (Valse de la cigarette) was connected with cigarettes. The first thing I did was to look up the ballet on the web. I found the version done by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by—Yondani Butt. That’s actually a better joke than the one by the IPR radio show host.

At first the only thing I could find out about Lalo was that his name is the answer to a crossword clue, which is “composer of the Cigarette Waltz.” I followed several dead-end leads. There’s no real connection with Lalo himself that I could find, unless you count his “hemiplegic attack” (a stroke from smoking?) which prevented him from finishing the score for the ballet.

I read the Wikipedia article summarizing the ballet, which didn’t mention cigarettes.

And finally, I found a Google book entry after using the search terms “why is Namouna called the cigarette waltz.” The book’s title is “Traveling Sprinkler Deluxe: A Novel,” written by Nicholson Baker, published by Penguin Group in 2013. It might help to read the Wikipedia synopsis of the ballet before you read Baker’s passage, which mentions a cigarette:

“It’s true that there is an opera by Edouard Lalo called The King of Ys about the flooding of Ys, based partly on a forged Breton ballad by Theodore Hersart de la Villemarque, and true that Debussy had wildly applauded Lalo’s ballet Namouna while at the conservatory, and had memorized parts of it, including perhaps the scandalous waltz in which Namouna rolls a cigarette for her paramour…”

It’s still not exactly clear what’s going on with the cigarette, but because the waltz is described as scandalous, I wonder if there was something salacious about the rolling of the cigarette. The slave girl Namouna is, after all, flirting with Ottavio.

Baker’s point is probably that the ballet is not so much about the cigarette as it is about a larger issue, judging from my general sense of his passage. Larger than a cigarette anyway.

There’s a book titled “Cigarette Waltz: Seventeen Short Stories Adaptable for Theater” by Philip-Dimitri Galas” but I was unable to access any inside text.

Alas, I couldn’t find Cliff Notes about it.

Hammerhead Worm Invasion!

The other day Sena and I were talking with a landscaping consultant about a job we’d like done on our backyard patio. He uncovered a worm in the dirt, and it seemed to wriggle energetically. Jumping worms had been in the news a lot last month. The consultant picked it up and the worm seemed to jump out of his hand.

Sena exclaimed, “It’s a jumping worm; kill it!” The consultant picked it up again and, much to our surprise, simply crushed it in his hand. However, he doubted that it was a jumping worm and hinted that much of the news lately about jumping worms (an invasive species from Asia) was overdone.

I don’t know how he got rid of the crushed worm in his fist.

But I suspect he wouldn’t crush a hammerhead worm in his hand (although I wouldn’t bet on it).

They are also being reported in the news recently, although they’ve been in the country for decades and probably longer. They’ve possibly been sighted in Iowa. The hammerhead worm is another invasive species from Southeast Asia. If you cut them up, the pieces will grow into new worms.

They also carry a toxin on their bodies. It won’t kill you or even harm you that much if you get it on your hands, but you should wash up thoroughly if you nonchalantly crush them in your fist.

The hammerhead worms eat earthworms, which could make things even harder for them because jumping worms displace common earthworms by outcompeting them for territory.

Right now, the best way to rid your garden of hammerhead worms is to kill them by sprinkling salt or spraying vinegar on them.

I can’t help wondering if there might be a way to teach hammerhead worms to eat jumping worms.

But then, how would you get rid of the hammerhead worms? They don’t have any natural predators. There are a number of ways humans can control the population in their immediate vicinity.

Just don’t crush them in your fist.

Invasion of the Pregnant Man Emojis!

I just saw a pretty funny story in the news about an old guy who was not allowed to donate blood at a Scotland blood bank because he refused to answer a new questionnaire asking whether or not he was pregnant.

I thought that was uproariously funny. Then I read the rest of the story and found another punchline: The director of the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service defended the question on grounds of respect for inclusiveness. So, I had a good laugh about that one too.

I wonder if there could more than just a yes/no question about whether a guy is pregnant. We need space for an essay response: “No, but my 33-year-old son is living in our basement. Would you please adopt him?”

There are two other comical trends. One is providing tampon dispensers in men’s bathrooms. Another is the chuckle-provoking pregnant man emoji. What kind of email message would you use that for unless it’s a joke?

The issue is less farcical when you consider there is a rare psychiatric disorder known as delusion of pregnancy in men, otherwise known as Couvade syndrome. I never encountered it in my career as a psychiatric consultant in the general hospital.

And there is a psychiatric disorder known as pseudocyesis or delusional pregnancy as well as denial of pregnancy in women.

This reminds me of a fascinating episode from Blue Planet II in which David Attenborough filmed the transformation of a kobudai wrasse female fish into a male.

I gather some people are pretty angry about this exaggerated inclusivity trend. I’m not sure why.

We all need a good laugh whenever we can get it nowadays—as well as a fresh perspective.

Cribbage Tee Shirts!

Sena got me a couple of cribbage themed T-shirts and they arrived yesterday. One of them is perfect for a retiree like me. The other has an image of the perfect 29 hand. It’s also perfect for me, not because I’ve ever had a 29 hand, but because I’ll take any lucky talisman I can get.

They’re extra-large because they’re 100 per cent cotton—not because I have an Arnold Schwarzenegger chest. They’ll shrink some, but we won’t leave them in the dryer very long.

One or both should be lucky for me, so I might wear them when we play. Usually, the winner is whoever wins 2 out of 3 games. We don’t use the skunk rule and we don’t play muggins. In fact, we help each other count our scores.

We switch off between playing Scrabble or cribbage. I usually lose the Scrabble games. The other day she played “um.” I looked at her and said “Um?” She just said, “Challenge me.”

I decided not to challenge and was glad. I still lost. I looked it up later in the Scrabble dictionary and it’s in there. It means to hesitate or pause speaking. Believe it or not, “ummed,” “umming,” and “ums” are also legal.

“Ummification” is not legal.

Cribbage scoring is more straightforward than that, and if you can count to 31, you’re generally OK.

Scott Boulevard Trek

We took a walk on Scott Boulevard on a gorgeous day. We said hello to the Sitting Man. And we found a new sculpture of a praying dog just inside the entrance to Harvest Preserve. It looks like a very pious Bassett Hound. We don’t know the significance of the piece. I did a quick google search and couldn’t find anything comparable although there were hits on praying dog sculptures.

The Sitting Man reminded me of a quote I thought was by Winston Churchill and it turns out it’s by Franklin Delano Roosevelt: “Be sincere; be brief; be seated.” Sena did a pretty good job of calling a Mourning Dove. However, we never got a reply.

Also, inside Harvest Preserve yet visible from Scott Boulevard, is a sculpture of a boy climbing out on a tree limb to catch a cat. I wondered whether there was ever a quote about going out on a limb. It turns out there is: “Don’t be afraid to go out on a limb, that’s where all the fruit is.” There are variations of it and it’s often attributed to either Will Rogers or Mark Twain. Quote Investigator says it’s from a journalist named Frank Scully, who coined it in 1950.

I don’t know if we’ll ever find out what that praying Bassett Hound is all about.

The Proof is Way Out There

I watch the History Channel show, The Proof is Out There, hosted by Tony Harris, an American journalist and filmmaker. The show reviews videos of paranormal events, supposed cryptids, and other weird stuff and generally ends up debunking at least half of them. I’ve seen some of the videos on another TV show, Paranormal Caught on Camera, which airs on the Travel Channel. Interestingly, the hosts of that show tend to uncritically endorse the authenticity of the videos while The Proof is Out There usually debunk them as faked.

I don’t know how the videos get swapped between the two shows. In fact, the last episode I saw of The Proof is Out There was subtitled “The Skinwalker Edition.” The History Channel blurb on it says that Tony Harris “…travels to the Skinwalker Ranch, a place known as the epicenter of strange and mysterious phenomena.”

In fact, Harris does nothing of the kind and many of the videos were previously aired from other episodes. The only connection with Skinwalker Ranch were a few photographs from another History Channel show, The Secrets of Skinwalker Ranch. I wonder if the producers of that show didn’t allow Harris to actually evaluate the alleged paranormal events of their show because they were afraid he would debunk them.

Obviously, the title of the show “The Proof is Out There” got its name from the X-Files subtitle, The Truth is Out There. Some viewers have suggested that there may be another meaning to the subtitle, which is that the truth may be “out there” in the sense of outlandish or crazy instead of from aliens in outer space.

So, what’s going on with The Proof is Out There? Is it designed to do a better job of picking out the faked paranormal videos? Sometimes they miss them, like the one about the glitch in the matrix which turned out to be a cool camera trick.

Most often they hedge their bets and say they don’t know what’s going on in the video. But they don’t shy away from calling something a hoax if the evidence points in that direction.

On the other hand, do the producers of The Proof is Out There somehow collude with those of other paranormal TV shows, sharing videos and creating the impression that they’re more objective just to sustain interest in the show and even deliberately foster controversy for the same reason?

That would be way out there, although I still like the show. And the cryptid chaser parody, Mountain Monsters, obviously pokes fun at other sasquatch-themed shows. Not only do they get away with it, some people love it for just that reason—including me.

When we’re taking ourselves too seriously, I think it’s healthy when somebody comes along and makes us laugh at ourselves.

Weather Sealing Your Door Jambs

The other day I mentioned that I put off replacing the weather sealing around our sun room door because of the heat. Yesterday, I did it in the morning before it got to 100 degrees, because there was another Excessive Heat Warning.

I saw a YouTube video of how to do this, and a guy was pushing the replacement strip in the kerf with a chisel. “Kerf” is a just fancy word for a slot in which you push the tab of the strip into the door jamb.

As I watched the video, I thought to myself, “I hope he doesn’t tear a hole in the strip with that chisel.” Then the guy actually warned viewers to be careful not to rip the weather seal with any sharp tool used to push the seal into the kerf.

It’s actually pretty easy to push the seal into the kerf. You just press it in with your fingers. The hard part is trying to keep your hands and work area clean while you’re peeling out the old strip. You do this by gripping it with needle nose pliers and pulling it out of the kerf just to get it started. This can lead to what amounts to a mini-rock slide spilling on the floor and maybe even in your face. You might think this would make you look like you worked really hard, mitigating any fallout from the mess you made.

Of course not! That’s because it’s hard to explain to your better half why there’s a pile of dirt, pieces of old seal on the floor, and grime on the fresh, new seal (the color of which is, of course, white) in addition to the swarm of hornets and flies, sparrows, the odd skunk—which you tried to hide by wiping things off with a new sponge that is earmarked for other cleaning jobs around the house, and calling pest control.

You can either try to measure the strip first and cut it before installing it or just start pressing it in at one end and estimating where to trim it (You can easily trim with a pair of stout scissors; don’t use the pair in the kitchen) when you get to the other end.

I tried the latter and the technical term for the unfortunate resulting quarter inch piece across the top of the doorway I added to make up the shortfall is “tacky.” Because of the orientation of the kerf tab, you can’t just flip it around to make it look like there’s no gap. That trick never works, apparently.

Fortunately, I’m entitled to a limited number of tacky handy man moves. Good luck.

The Scientific Skinny on Bigfoot

What’s up with this Bigfoot thing? Could it be a few humans with the rarest form of Hypertrichosis (Werewolf Syndrome)? You know, some scientists said that Patty, the hairy creature featured on the Patterson Gimlin film back in the 1960s, was not genuine because she had hairy breasts. Hey, guess what? If a woman has Hypertrichosis she can grow hair anywhere, even on her breasts.

But I guess that would not account for the huge size of Bigfoot. Why would they be seven or eight feet tall? They’re sometimes described as being ferocious carnivores. What would they find to eat in the forests? Deer, maybe. But are they quick enough to catch deer?

Can a 1,000 pound bipedal humanoid chase down a deer? Hey, it’s more likely Bigfoot could be a grazer. Some of the largest animals on the planet eat nothing but grass. Take cows for example. They’re pretty big and they munch on things like grass and frosted mini-wheats—with just a little milk they squeeze from their non-hairy breasts.

That’s a tough skill to master when all you’ve got are hooves. And like some chimpanzees who can learn to crack nuts with big rocks, if cows don’t get the hang of milking themselves by the time they’re a few years old, they just never get it. They’re stuck with trotting to Hy-Vee to get a gallon of two percent.

But sometimes you hear about Bigfoot making these tree structures. That’s what some people call them. They usually don’t look like they amount to much. It’s not like they have a well-defined sun room or even a roof. It’s a stick laying across another stick, unless you’re watching the TV documentary Mountain Monsters. Then they’re split levels or log cabin vacation lodges with a jacuzzi.

And how about the noises that Bigfoot makes? The sounds vary a lot from screams to deep bellows to nasal twangs reminiscent of Willie Nelson singing “You Were Always on My Mind.” Do they have a language of some kind? Or do they just grunt and growl and ask where to get the best beef jerky?

Bigfoot sometimes knocks on trees. I’m not sure why. It could be like knocking on wood for luck, I think. Maybe it’s their music. Knock three times on the big tree if you fear me.

This stuff gets pretty deep after a while. Your thoughts?

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