Snake stories have no end.

Today a colleague who is originally from Jordan used a phrase I'd never heard before - "snake stories have no end". My first thought was ouroboros, the snake eating its own tail, which might appear to have no end. But that wasn't what he was referring to. Apparently, the phrase has two meanings. First, there's the more literal meaning. Everyone has a snake story, so if you start telling snake stories, it'll go on all night. There's no end. Then, there's the more figurative way he used it. The members of our group found ourselves telling similar stories from our respective pasts, and he used the phrase as a way to say- we've all got these stories, this could go on all night. I searched it on google and got one (yes one) pertinent hit. But that hit mentioned it as a common phrase. So, I'm putting this here so that the next person who searches it gets two hits. Could that be considered a public service? I think so.

PS: I'd like to state for the record that I'm glad to live in a place where everyone has a snowstorm story rather than a snake story. I am not a huge fan of snakes.


Christmas come early!

I finally managed to buy a German Weihnachtspyramide (Christmas Pyramid, or Christmas Carousel) on  eBay for less than $100!  Actually it was less than $40, including shipping. It needed lots of careful work to remove the dust without busting it up.  Unfortunately, I was doing the work, so it got lots of not-so-careful work to remove the dust and some more careful gluing to put it back together.  Anyway, all of the parts seem to be there except for maybe the glass bearing which I can pick up for $5 online.  Kind of a win!

Now, I haven't had one of these in my home before, so this one brings up a few questions.  For instance - do the angels always look like Bjork?

And does one of the shepherds always appear to be up to no good with one of the sheep?

And does Joseph always look like one of the guys from the bridge of the deathstar?  (Is death star capitalized?  In our galaxy, it'd be DethStarr(R), but this is a galaxy far, far away, so who knows?)

The whole thing is just so wrong that I can't help but love it!  I just wish that the wisemen hadn't been painted in racist stereotypes.  Otherwise, major score!


Turf troubles

I received an email today informing me that, because of the rain, the soccer gods were moving my daughter’s soccer match to the “turf field”.  My first though was “Well, that’s dumb, the turf field will be all muddy.  They should move to the artificial turf field!”  (turf means “grass and the surface layer of earth held together by its roots.”, according to google, and to me).  Reading this email  was immediately  followed by the niggling tension in the pit of my stomach.  I was not properly grasping the intended meaning of the email.   

A follow-up texting session with my wife, and conversations with co-workers confirmed what I suspected - the coach (and pretty much everyone but the landscape industry, and even some of them) were using “turf” to mean “artificial turf”.  Hmm...the language had shifted without me noticing it.  Did I miss the expected intermediate phase where we say “natural turf” and “artificial turf”, or did we just jump to this new meaning?  Based on the results of a few google searches, this looks well entrenched. It is a battle long past winning.

In any case, if I want to speak with specificity in the future, I’ll have to clarify my meaning Maybe I'll go with turfgrass. I sure as hell won't be calling artificial turf, "turf". The sporting industries seem to contrast “turf” (meaning artificial turf) with “grass”.  It seems vague, non-specific, awful.  It looks like the future.


Reinheitsgebot... why?!

Reinheitsgebot - holding back the development of more-interesting German beers for 500 years.  This Bavarian beer law, enacted on April 23rd, 1516 restricted beer ingredients to Water, Barley and Hops.  With growing scientific knowledge, Yeast was also added to the mix.  The Germans seem very proud of it, but I think it seems like a terrible waste of a brewing industry.  Think of the modern beers that would need special permission to be brewed n Germany - fruit beers of all sorts (addition of pumpkin, cherry, rhubarb, rasberry, etc.),  veggie beers (jalepeno peppers, sweet potatoes), milk stouts (addition of lactose, a milk sugar), wit beers (usually containing at least orange peel and coriander), spiced winter ales (clove, cinnamon, etc.) herb ales (made with lavender, heather, chamomille, oregano, gruit,, etc.) coffee and chocolate beers, beers with added rye, oatmeal or  wheat (though some exceptions for this do exist under reinheitsgebot), and honey beers, or any crossovers between beer, mead and wine.  Now, to be fair, it seems like the current german beer laws are more relaxed, though still somewhat restrictive, using taxation rather than outright prohibition to control beer content.  And the EU has weakened a lot of the restrictions, too. But this archaic law is still used as a marketting tool in Germany (and the US)!  Why would anyone think this was something to be proud of?  It’s like saying “In order to preserve the purity of our nation’s paintings, they may henceforth only be painted using the colors red, blue, black and white.”  You might get some interesting workarounds, but wouldn’t you rather have access to the full range of colors?  


Now are the witches...

It’s official - the Swedish are all lunatics. Maybe it’s the long nights in winter, or the long days in summer.  Maybe it’s the jealously of being so close to Norway, but not actually being Norway.  Who knows?  But they're definitely off their collective rockers, for no sane country would have a tradition like Easter Witches.

I’ve been looking around on the web, and I can’t believe I’ve got this all right, because it makes absolutely no sense.  Apparently, back in more superstitious days, they used to believe that witches has some sort of big feast in a certain meadow in the Baltics (named Blakulla, not to be confused with Blackula), on the Thursday before Easter.  It all had something to do with Judas betraying Jesus releasing evil into the world (because evil only started 200 some odd years ago, right?)  So anyway, with all these witches about, they lit bonfires to scare them away.  Why witches, who were believed to be in league with the devil, and presumably going to burn in hellfire would be afraid of a bonfire is not explained in the sources I read.  

But it gets way weirder.  Somehow (and I'd really like to hear how this happened), the tradition has morphed into little girls dressing up as Swedish witches and going door to door trading little pictures they’ve made for Easter candy and treats.  Alternatively, they may bless you in exchange for the treats, said blessing taking the form of being hit with birch branches.  Now, I know the picture you have in your head - pointy black hats, black capes, flying on brooms, cats and green skin.  Well, scrub that image away. These witches like to wear layered, oversized clothing and scarves on their heads, have obvious freckles, red lips and rosy cheeks.  And this being Sweden, they tend to be blonde.  The cats and brooms can stay.  Swedish witches have those too.  

So tell me. How in the mother-loving world do you get from the first scenario (lighting bonfires to keep away scary witches on their way to a banquet) to the second scenario (adorably freckled bag-lady witches trading artwork and blessings for candy)?  No, really, tell me.  I want to know. Damn, Sweden, what were you drinking?


More Milwaukee Echoes

It has been noted that the recently revealed plans for the new Milwaukee Bucks Arena dramatically echo the much tinier Bel Air Cantina.   Looking at the pics below, I'd have to agree!  This is getting kinda creepy!  I wonder if the effect is caused by the Go.D.S.E.E.D?
Some people on social media say the new Bucks arena looks like the BelAir Cantina on Water Street.


Milwaukee Echoes

Did you ever notice that some of Milwaukee's architecture has produced echoes within the city?  For instance, the Reiman Bridge (below, left) that links the Milwaukee Art Museum's Calatrava addition to the parking structure across the street is echoed in the updated 6th street viaduct (below, right).

Less obviously, the arch of the Hoan Bridge (below, left) is, at least to my eye, echoed in the arch of the roofline at Miller Park (below, right).

Are there other echoes of Milwaukee's architectural icons?

Does the Allen Bradley clock tower echo the towers on St. Josaphat's Basilica?

Do any of these have echoes?  Am I starting to see things where there's nothing to see?  It wouldn't be the first time!


Bravely Mangled

Is it just me, or does the Ballad of Brave Sir Robin owe something to the song Tipperary Far Away?
Check out the videos below which should start at the points I find similar:
The Ballad of Brave Sir Robin (at about the 50 seconds point)

Tipperary Far Away by the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem (at about the 30 second point)

There's an obvious lyrical similarity, but I think the music is meant to sound similar as well.  Once again, I think the British are getting a lot more out of this movie, than I did.


Tut tut, looks like...erm... rain?

I realized today that “tut tut” as in “Tut tut, looks like rain” from Winnie the Pooh , is an attempt to render precisely the same sound as might be rendered tsk-tsk or tch-tch or referred to as clucking one’s tongue. I don’t think I’ve ever made the connection between any of them before. I feel quite the fool. Also, in my electronic perusal of the “tut tut issue”, I stumbled across another set of discussions noting that the word “erm” seen in British works (The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy has a few, if I recall) ought to be pronounced with a British accent (duh) and ends up not far from an American “um” And similarly, the British “er” thereby corresponds to the American “uh”. Now I just need to go back and re-read all of the books I've ever read that contained any of these terms, just so that my memory of the book will properly reflect the authorial intent.  


Cut it out.

Something I keep seeing everywhere on the web (though I suspect it’s been going on as long as people have had the ability to speak):  A group gathers with a common interest in some topic (their hobby, their place of residence, their job, their philosophy of life, etc.), and proceeds to discuss the topic at some length.  After a while, it becomes clear that the common usage of words is too inexact for careful discussion of fine points of interest.  So, they narrow the definitions of a few words, redefine a few words, maybe even invent a few words.  This greatly facilitates their discussions.  Then they encounter someone who hasn’t been part of their group, but who shares the same interest that led to the groups formation.  They are then shocked, SHOCKED!, to find that this individual is mis-using the terminology that they’d revised so long ago.  People being people, they then use this difference to mark the person, who should be an ally and a friend,  as an outsider, and they attack.  It’s so unnecessary.  Please, can we have a little self-awareness,  a little kindness, and calm the fuck down?  Thanks.


TheFishmonger's Nature Files #217

I think we may have the stupidest robin in the whole world living in our backyard.  I do not believe she will have descendants.  I say she because a quick google search I just did tells me that it's the girl robin that builds the nests.

First a nest appeared on our deck, in a chair which had been pushed in to our patio table.  This is the third year in a row that this feat has been attempted, and it always ends badly for the nest.  We are not fans of angry mother birds verbally assaulting us each time we walk onto the deck.  So each year, the chair gets moved around the corner and the nest is quickly abandoned.

This year was even more inept than usual.  The chair that was selected is made of cast aluminum and has an open weave pattern.  I repeatedly removed nesting material when it was place on the chair, but Mama Robin insisted on building there.  Eventually, she managed to get a nest  built and mud-mortared before I could clear the grass and sticks away.

Upon examination of the nest, I realized that the fool robin had decided to build the nest so that the open square was directly under the center of the nest.  Her construction efforts resulted in what appeared to be a fine, bowl-shaped nest, but with one, small problem - it had a hole in the center!  This was not a small hole.  It was big enough for two or three robin's eggs to pass through simultaneously*.  Beneath the hole was a largish mound of grass and mud which, despite Ms. Robin's best intentions, did not magically cohere to fill the hole.

A few days later, a new nest was started, in the branches of our viburnum.  It was promising at first - bowl shaped, with no large holes in it.  Unfortunately, it looked a little precarious.  When I noticed the nest, I wondered how it was staying in place.  Rather than being centered on the branch juncture, it was cantilevered out into space.    It seemed an engineering marvel.  Or at least it seemed so until the rains began.

Mama robin sat dutifully on her eggs as the rains came day after day.  After a couple of days, a distinct slump was visible in the nest.  It took on the appearance of a split level ranch nest, with mama and the eggs spending their time in the lower level.  It did not seem like a good trend.

This morning, I peeked out at the nest location to find only a tuft of grass.  Examination of the area below found two smashed pale blue eggs.  Oddly, rather than the actual nest, I only saw another tuft of grass.  Had Miss Bird neglected to apply mud to her construction?   It seems unlikely.  Further investigation is clearly called for.

Mama robin is now sitting disconsolately on the branch where her nest once was.  Though I feel bad for her, it's increasingly obvious that the robin genetic pool would be negatively impacted if she reproduced.  For the sake of future generations, this is all for the best.  #ThinkOfItAsEvolutionInAction

* This was not confirmed by experiment.



I was on the train, and had a very tight schedule.  But when I saw that the station we’d temporarily stopped at had a coffee counter, I couldn’t resist hopping off to quickly grab a cup.  I had a few minutes, and there was no one in line.  I’d easily make it back on board before the train left.  This was important.  If I missed the train’s departure, I’d be late for my appointment. That would be bad - not end of the world bad, not diagnosed with terminal cancer bad, but bad, nonetheless.

Walking up to the counter, I was suprised to see that Dessa, one of my favorite hip hop artists, was working the counter.  Not wanting to bother her, I played it cool and just ordered my coffee.  I dropped a $50 on the counter and Dessa placed it into the register before counting my change back to me. When I looked at my hand, rather than a $20 bill, there was a portion of a $20 silver certificate!  Large portions of the bill, with a distinctive blue seal had been sliced away.   I pointed out that a large portion of the bill she had just given me was missing.  Dessa was not bothered.  Murmuring ‘Sorry.’, she reclaimed the fragment and deposited another partial silver certificate onto my palm.  I pointed out the problem and, looking mildly annoyed, she replaced it with a third portion of a different $20 silver certificate.  Again I protested, and this time she gave me the irritated look a barrista might give someone who insisted that the white sugar they’d been given was unacceptable because it was clearly manufactured in the West Indies, and they could only use white sugar which had been manufactured in nations that had never been British colonies. I arched forward to look in the cash drawer. Sure enough, it was filled with silver certificates, cut into useless chunks.  My brain blanked. What the hell?

Glancing back, I saw that the train was getting ready to leave now, I gave up on getting coffee, reclaimed my $50 and ran for it.  As I approached the train, I had a sudden brainstorm - if I stopped by Dessa’s apartment, I could just get a cup of coffee there!  As I altered my course toward her apartment, I had a momentary qualm.  How would I get in?  I didn’t have a key to Dessa’s apartment.  Ach!  Then I recalled that the pot of hot coffee would undoubtedly be in her basement laundry room, which was unlocked!  I sped on, quickly reaching the apartment building and entering the dimly lit basement laundry room, lit by a single naked ceiling bulb. Clothes were piled here and there and shelves packed with random items lined the walls. Search as I might, I could not find Dessa’s basement laundry room coffee maker.  There’d be no coffee for me.