Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Should Pluto be a Planet, Janet?

My three year old got a new Dr. Seuss book the other day entitled “There’s No Place Like Space”, which teaches kids all about the different celestial objects in our solar system. In a rhyming fashion, of course. As I was reading it to him I got to the part where all the planets are described and suddenly noticed that Pluto was left out.

Duh. Not this Pluto.

I practically did a spit take with my scotch. I know that “scientists” have only recently (circa 2006) decided that Pluto isn’t really a planet - more on that in a bit - but I thought that not only did Dr. Seuss stop writing books in the 1980’s but I thought the main reason for this was because he was dead.

I don’t know what kind of degree Dr. Seuss’ doctorate is in but how did he know Pluto wasn’t a planet? Turns out his book was updated after “scientists” declared Pluto not to be a planet so really Dr. Seuss isn’t to blame here.

But I do blame the “scientists” for deciding Pluto is not a planet since they are the ones that uh... decided it. I did some research and here’s how it went down:

As technology advanced so did our space looking glasses (I think the scientific term is “telescopes”) which allowed “scientists” to discover many more Pluto sized objects in that area of my our solar system. This area has been dubbed the Kuiper Belt, and up until 2005, while close in size to Pluto, none of these objects had been found to be bigger. But then someone went ahead and found one bigger and screwed it all up.  

Since scientist types have to be so hung up on rules, it was decided to have all the space people meet in 2006 to determine what should be done with Pluto. Their choices were to either change the definition of a planet so that Pluto could stay in the club but this would also bring in others and increase the total number of planets to 12, and who hell are these other three objects that think they are planets all of sudden?, or have Pluto no longer be classified as a planet, totally screwing Pluto over.

And as we all know, they decided to screw Pluto. They created a new celestial object classification called “dwarf planets”, and forced all the history books, such as Dr. Seuss’ “There’s No Place Like Space”, to be re-written.

Duh. Not this kind of dwarf.

Side Note: Pluto was discovered in 1930 and while it was named by an 11 year old girl-- it was NOT named after the Disney character. Like most planets, it was named after a Roman god of the underworld.

Duh. Not this Roman god of the underworld.

Pat, as a person in the education field, what is your opinion on the de-classification of Pluto?

Pat: I’m good with Pluto being a “planetoid”. Kind of like Iceland not really being a country, but more of a really cool idea. I bet Pluto could take the criticism.

How many Roman underworld gods are there? Do you really need more than one? I’m not crazy about the idea of the underworld being so big and expansive that more than one god is needed. Kinda’ increases the likelihood that I end up there, and I wasn’t really banking on that. Cool roommates, I suppose, but kinda’ damning in the end.

Christian: But what about having to rewrite all those books that mention Pluto being a planet? Won’t that be spendy? Also, what about all of us who memorized the ordering of the planets using the mnemonic device:

My Voices Entice Me Join Satan? Urgently Now Phaseout  
Mercury Venus Earth Mars Jupiter Saturn Uranus Neptune Pluto

Not only did it help me remember the ordering and names of the planets but it was also a helpful reminder to not listen to the voices in my head to join the lord of the nether regions.

It took me over three years to memorize that and now I’m supposed to just throw all that hard work away? Not to mention if Pluto isn’t a planet anymore the mnemonic device is basically telling me to listen to the voices in my head and join Satan as soon as possible. This is the kind of thing that happens when you start getting rid of planets all willy-nilly like.

Pat:  I don’t see a problem with the mnemonic above. You simply don’t “phaseout”, right? If you find yourself phasing out, just remind yourself of the new classification and rewind and erase that word from the phrase you just said. Piece of cake!

The books I’m not worried about either. Been far too long since we’ve had a good book burning in this country, so “light ‘em up” I say! And printing new one’s ought to be a nice boost for our ailing economy. I know that we were probably hoping for more jobs in services and manufacturing, but I think publishing and bookbinding might just be the means to get us out of this recession!

It worked for these fellas!  It just might work for us!

I’m worried about how much this is troubling you. Would it be easier if, instead of Pluto, we talked about how gravity is really only a theory, or the fact that there was a neutrino that went faster than the speed of light? Or are you done with paradigm shifts for the day?

Christian: All I know is that if that neutrino was moving faster than light then you wouldn’t have been able to see it. And if you can’t see something then how do you know it’s moving? QED

As for Pluto, it’s more that I just don’t like change. I like things to stay the same so that you can count on them. Remember how disastrous it was when they changed the flavor of Coke? I don’t want these scientist changing their minds in a few years and bring back a planet called “Classic Pluto”.

Duh. Not this classic Pluto.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Children on Leashes. Bad Right?

I’ve never put either one my kids on a leash. I have too much... oh, what’s the word I’m looking for...oh yes, respect. Yes, I have too much respect for them to do that. But at the same time both my kids are rather well behaved out in public and neither are the type to run off on their own so who am I to judge? I’ll tell you. I’m perfect for judging. I’ve watched a lot of court room drama shows on TV (like Night Court), I’m pretty good with a hammer, and I really enjoy being super critical of other people.

So I judge thee, those who put their kids on leashes and take them out in public.

Why does my brother, Mr. Barkies, get to walk in front?

Pat, you’re with me on this one right?

Pat:  Well, you gotta’ judge someone, right, or you’re just gonna’ end up judging yourself and that ain’t gonna’ get you to anyplace you want to be. Might as well judge the child leash people.I suppose we could give them points for efficiency and ingenuity, and they do help teach a certain order and structure, but, yeah...it’s kinda’ hard to read an article about human trafficking and then see an image like the one above--someone en route to their daily double latte before the daily excursion to the dog park--and not do an ethically based judgemental double-take.

I’m with you. Human leashes are silly. And not very nice. But I’ve also always had a problem with sheepdogs. Even repeated viewings of The Shaggy D.A. couldn’t make me like them more. Ugly dogs, plain and simple.

Christian:  OK, so we are in agreement that these people should be judged (The leash people, not sheepdogs). But how harshly?

Let’s say you make some new friends, via work, or the neighborhood, what have you. They seem nice and you enjoy their company. You have them over for dinner and decide to go for walk and BAM! The leashes come out and the next thing you know their kids are roped up like cattle.

Everything is going fine, but then they put their kid on a leash
and things start getting weird.

Is this a deal breaker for you with regards to remaining their friends?

Pat:  I’m struggling a bit with the image above. Did we take acid?

Honestly...I’ve never had that experience, or one even remotely close to it, so I’m going to bag out of that argument and also suggest that you seek out new friends.

But, yeah...there are certain things that are deal breakers for me...and they are usually pretty superficial. Richard Marx CDs in the car. Voting republican. Swastika tattoos. Mike’s Hard Lemonade™ served at a hosted dinner in place of wine or beer. I am just judgmental enough to let those get in the way of a beautiful and lasting friendship. Might as well throw child-leash people into the mix...why the hell not?

Christian: OK. But now let’s say it’s a family member or relative. Since it’s hard to cast off family and you kind of have to accept them as who they are, we’ll go ahead and assume that you’ll keep them as family members.

But would you ever say anything to them about the leashes? Let’s say, for example, they are visiting for Thanksgiving and everyone decides to go for a nice post-turkey stroll about the neighborhood and then BAM! They unleash some leashes and leash up their kids. Do you say anything or just keep your mouth shut?

Pat:  Two things come to mind:

1.  In both of your hypothetical scenarios described above, you used the onomotopeia (geez, that’s a tough one to spell!) BAM! to describe the sound of the person bringing out the child-leash...or the leashed-child...not sure which one. Does it really make that sound? If so, I really want to meet some of these friends/families of yours. If not...why do you taunt me with such vivid and descriptive scenarios that can’t possibly live up to reality?

Christian: BAM! is not so much supposed to be a sound but more of a representation of a sudden shock or turn of events. It’s a way of injecting more suspense and excitement into the dialogue. BAM!

Pat: 2.  You say “...you kind of have to accept them as who they are...”  with regards to family members. Really? Is that written in stone somewhere? I’ve been working on changing the fundamental essence of my spouse for ‘bout near 20 years now. Far fewer years with the kids, but I’m still doing my best to mold them away from their base tendencies. Am I going against some universal family credo?

Christian: BAM! No it’s not written in stone. I was just trying to make the point that BAM! It’s not as easy to disassociate yourself with family as it is with friends. BAM!

So are you then saying that in the case of a family member being a leash user - or a leashy, as they are referred to in prison (I assume) - you would say something in the spirit of BAM! Changing the essence of loved ones? BAM!

Pat:  Absolutely! BAM!

Change those motherfuckers, family or not! Double BAM! Whether in prison--BAM!--or in the top bunk of your three year old’s room--toddler BAM!--tell those freaky people to get with the BAM! program, yo! BAM!BAM!BAM!

Christian: Wow, what an exhilarating paragraph Pat! I’m out of breath just from reading it. I even found myself reaching for my asthma inhaler until I remembered I’ve never had asthma. But check out this paragraph:

WICKACHI-POW! BLAMMO!!! So in conclusion KABOOOOM!!! we are in agreement that putting your kid on a leash is RAT-A-TAT-TAT-TAT-TAT!!! bad.  And, WANG-CHUNG!!! if you come across someone doing so, SHAZAM!!! you should say something, WEEE-OOOO WEEE-OOOO!!! even if they are a close loved one. TORNADO POWER WINDS!!! Does that sound right Pat? AHHHHH!!!

Pat:  Yes.  Yes it does.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Saying Goodbye to The Stage Dives

I’m getting older. Not a shocker...we all are. I get that. But I’m getting older without my knowledge, like I’m a passive victim to the slowly growing numbers of gray hairs (on my head, chest, eyebrows, ears...I could go on) and face wrinkles taking over that image in the mirror. Most of the time, to be quite honest, I am fine with this. I can age gracefully, and will do so happily. But sometimes forces beyond our control throw our reluctant aging in our faces, and make us wince at the effects of the creeping hands of time.

Case in point: concerts. I like going to shows. Live music shows. Smaller the better, in my opinion. Trouble is, smaller means cheaper. Cheaper means more affordable to those without means (and 401ks and mortgages and pensions and full-coverage health insurance...hey! Aging is suddenly sounding nicer!). Those without means are usually younger than those with means.

And thus the rub. Consider the following:

- “Hey, aren’t you a teacher?”
       - “Yes”
- “Did you teach at _____ high school?”
       - “Yep.  Still do. Were you in one of my classes?”
- “No. But I think my aunt had you as a teacher, and then my older sister.”
       -  “Oh...so, do you like this band?”
- “Yeah, they’re pretty cool. Is one of them, like, your son or something?”
       - “No.”

So...dear friend, Christian. You, of the same age as I. I beseech you...what advice have you for this aging show-goer? Do I need to call it quits? Is it time for season tickets to the symphony where the seats are cushy and you can nap while the musicians play, and then you go out for a “nightcap” consisting of tea and perhaps a trifle?  

Christian: Yes, I totally feel your geriatric pain on this one. I too love going to shows, or as you call them “music shows”, and also can sometimes feel a bit out of place due to my advanced age, or as I like to call it, my “state-of-the-art” age.

One thing you want to make sure you do is dress appropriately. Since there are a lot of young hipster types here in the Portland scene, you want to make sure you fit in. They mostly dress in dark colors so you should do the same. I recommend dressing entirely in black. Head to toe. That way you will just blend in with everyone else and not cause any additional unwanted attention to you or your age, that, say... wearing a shockingly bright lime green sweater that says “I  LOVE THE 80’s” on it would. Not that I would know.

Second, and most importantly, never talk to anyone while you are there. Your first mistake was talking to this guy. Once he approached you, you should have made every effort to end the conversation as quickly as possible. Here’s how it should have gone:

- “Hey, aren’t you a teacher?”
       - “No.”
- “But didn’t you teach at _____ high school?”
       - “No. That was someone else that wasn’t me.”
- “But I think my aunt had you as a teacher, and then my older sister.”
       -  “They sound like whores.”

At this point he most likely walks away, thus allowing you to avoid any awkwardness.

Also, I know we are not quite 40 yet, but people are now saying that 40 is the new 30. And I think they also are saying that 30 is the new 20 so by the transitive property and protractors this means we are now the new new 20. Which means you are probably actually younger than that snot nosed kid. You can’t argue with math.   

Pat:  Whores. I hadn’t thought about that. That’s a good one. Next time!

I don’t know what sort of hoodoo you did with those words up there, but thanks, because now I have this weirdly affirming confidence that math makes me younger than other people at the shows--music shows--I go to. I like your dark religion, Christian!

I don’t really have a problem with being close to 40 (or 30...or 20...or preteen...how exactly do those protractors work?). What I struggle with is when others see me as being close to 40, and they see what I’m doing as inappropriate. Is going to a show--a music show--against the law for near 40 year olds? Is playing on a swingset alone at a crowded playground “inappropriate” for someone my age? Is it socially taboo to go to storytime at the library for a bookreading while my kids browse the stacks?

These social norms are too damn constricting, man!

By the way, at a friend’s party last night--a friend I have known for many many years and who is my same age, as are many of our collective friends, most of whom were also at the party--as I walked into the kitchen from the backyard to get a refresher on my drink, what was I assaulted with but a, “Hey, I know you! You were a teacher at my school. Is it weird being at a party where kids who could have been in your class are partying too? I think that would be weird!”


Christian: Yes that does seem weird. I usually only get stuff like “Hey, aren’t you that cool guy?” or “Hey, you’re that cool guy aren’t you?”, so it’s hard for me to relate.

But from what I’m hearing, you sort of feel like this guy right?


You said that you struggle with others seeing you as doing something inappropriate for your age, but are they? Or is it you that feel like maybe you are doing something inappropriate for your age?

I say this because a friend of mine who is definitely not me, was thinking about this the other day and realized that the reason I might feel this way is because when I was younger and saw someone older at something like this it seemed odd to me. Of course, my friend, was thinking maybe I was just projecting my naive opinions about age from my youth onto others and that in fact others don’t care at all and it’s actually just me that feels self-conscious for no good reason. At least that’s what my friend was thinking. He’s very smart and super good looking.

Have you actually had other people comment or suggest that you are too old to be going to these shows or are you just assuming they feel that way? Maybe it’s you that needs to let go.*

Pat: No. They say they think it’s great that I get out and do stuff that they never think of. Or that they never have time or energy for. And they kind of say it in a way that sounds like they might not really mean it, like they’re really just trying to get out of an awkward situation.  

Thanks, Christian. Now you have me doubting my friends AND wondering if I really look like that guy at some obscure Rock en EspaƱol concert.

* Don’t exactly know what this sentence is supposed to mean but it sounds really good placed here.