Golf Dreams

I haven’t played golf since I had surgery on my foot about six and a half years ago. I haven’t even picked up a golf club, much less played a round. So why did I have a disturbing dream about golf last night?

In the dream I was playing in a tournament of some kind and was being carefully observed by some stern-looking rules officials. I was on the green, trying to make a putt. My first effort missed, and somehow rebounded back to me and then rolled off a kind of ledge, and I reflexively caught the golf ball as it fell. I saw the officials tsk-tsking at that obvious rules violation, then I realized I didn’t really know the rules or how many penalty strokes should be assessed for that infraction or where I was supposed to put the ball after catching it. So I dropped the ball on the green, missed another putt, then another, and finally choked on a little gimme. At that point I picked up my ball, flipped it to one of the aghast officials, and said: “That’s it. I’m done!” And that’s when I woke up, feeling a surge of shame at my golfing ineptitude.

So why did I have a dream about an embarrassing golf course episode more than six years after my last actual experience on the links? My theory about dreams is that they are the unconscious brain’s way of sifting together fragments of the day and putting them into some kind of semi-coherent story. I suspect golf became the story line because, as we sat around a great blaze in the fire pit last night, someone asked me what I was going to do in retirement. Since golf is often associated with retirement, that question may have triggered the weird golf dream — fueled by the remnants of a fine Thanksgiving meal and a large piece of pumpkin pie.

If I haven’t played golf in six years and still have humiliating dreams about it, I probably should scratch golf off the retirement activity list. What would my dreams be like if I actually started playing again?

Refrigerator Envy

On Thanksgiving, everyone could use a large, empty refrigerator that is about twice its normal size. You know — a refrigerator that is large enough to allow you to retrieve a can of Diet Coke without risking knocking over multiple aluminum-foil covered bowls, serving dishes, and gravy boats that have been carefully stacked and balanced to consume every square inch of scarce refrigerator space?

Why can’t somebody invent an expandable refrigerator that you could use for the holidays? Like dining room table manufacturers did years ago, when they figured out that you could design tables to be extended so as to include an extra leaf or two when needed? Ideally, the expandable holiday refrigerator would include a special pie storage area, a beer bottle rack that would project out when the door is opened, and an extra large storage area to carefully secure all of the leftover turkey that will be used over the coming week.

Wanted: COVID Concierge

Back in the days when we regularly used hotels, the concierge desk sure could come in handy. If you were in a faraway city and needed directions, recommendations about restaurants or sightseeing opportunities, or reservations, the concierge desk was the place to go. In fact, the good people staffing the concierge desk seemed to know everything you might need to know about the city you were visiting.

We all could use a “COVID Concierge” these days.

We’re at the point in this pandemic, and in the governmental responses to the pandemic, where the rules being applied are becoming a bit overwhelming and hard to process. In Columbus, for example, we’re currently subject to a curfew and regulations imposed by the State of Ohio, plus a stay at home order issued by the county government — and for all I know, the City of Columbus has added an additional layer of regulation. The average person confronts a lot of questions as they go about their lives. How do you know for sure if you’re permitted to walk the dog at 6:23 a.m.? Can you visit your elderly relative at a nursing home, and if so, how? What’s the latest development concerning in-school and stay-at-home learning in your child’s school system?

And if you want to take a trip somewhere — hey, a fellow can dream, can’t he? — you’ll have to figure out the state, county, and local rules and regulations that apply to travelers at your destination, the rules and regulations for any states where you will be spending the night on your journey, and the rules and regulations of your home state and home town that will apply upon your return. Do you need to be tested to enter the state? If so, what documentation must you carry? Has your home state been put on a restricted list by the state of your destination? Will you be required to quarantine for a time period upon your arrival, or upon your return? What are the masking and social distancing requirements at your place of destination? How many gallons of hand sanitizer do your need to bring? And all of these rules can and do change, from day to day, so you need to stay up to the minute on it all.

That’s where the COVID Concierge comes in. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a COVID Concierge to help you navigate through the welter of different regulations and directives, tell you precisely what test you need to take and what documentation will be required, and make the reservation for you? And if you’re looking for a place to vacation because you just can’t stand the thought of being cooped up in your house for another day, the COVID Concierge would be a ready source of information and recommendations about which states would be the most painless to visit right now.

This is a sure-fire business plan in today’s environment. But I am offering it to the public, free of charge, so that anyone can put it into effect and set up their own COVID Concierge service. Just promise to send me the COVID Concierge phone number, will you?

Aspirational Screensavers

Our firm’s computer system recently changed to a new approach to screensavers, taking another quantum leap forward in information technology. When I first got a desktop computer back in the early ’90s, the big screensaver development allowed you to create a message that would scroll from left to right on your screen when your computer went into “sleep” mode. (Mine was “parturient montes, nascetur mus.”) A later upgrade allowed the technologically adept to upload a favorite picture of your kids as your screensaver.

With our firm’s latest advance, we get an ever-changing menu of beautifully framed photographs of evocative faraway places, ancient towns carved into mountainsides, colorful wild animals, and balloons drifting over rugged, exotic scenery under a clear blue sky. I always have two reactions to every one of the screensavers: (1) I wish they would tell me where this picture was taken, so I could try to go there one of these days; and (2) boy, that place looks a heck of a lot more interesting than the scene out my kitchen window.

I’m curious about the psychology (if any) behind the new screensavers. Did anyone do any kind of survey or testing to determine the impact of the wondrous photos on workplace morale and motivation? Did they attempt to determine how many people are just going to stare dreamily at the latest photo to pop up on their laptop, wishing they could be wherever that photo was taken rather than getting ready to start another day of working from home during a pandemic? Or is the thinking that we worker bees will be incentivized by the beautiful photos to work even harder and become more successful in hopes of being able to travel to those fabulous places one of these days?

On balance, I guess I like the screensavers and their depiction of a gorgeous, tranquil world. I wonder, though, whether it wouldn’t be smart to put into the mix some real-world photos of abandoned factories or Chernobyl to remind us that it’s not all puppies and cotton candy out there, and we need to put our noses back to the grindstone.

The Geese Patrol

The Schiller Park pond, like every small body of water in the central Ohio area, has a goose problem. Canadian geese, to be specific: loud, squawking, honking, aggressive, madly crapping creatures that carpet every surface around the pond, including the sidewalk, with rancid goose droppings. You will never hear anyone who lives around any kind of Ohio pond say a good word about the freaking Canadian geese, because inside their noble blck-and-white exterior is utter abomination.

This morning as Betty and I took our walk around the park we noticed this car parked on the street near the pond, and saw a person in a yellow day-glo vest and a border collie patrolling the perimeter of the pond, barking at the geese and scaring the crap out of them (at least, whatever crap remains in view of their standard crapping tendencies). Apparently someone decided it is time to do something about the goose problem at the park and called in Ohio Geese Control, which promises to be “safe, humane, and effective” in resolving geese issues. According to the company’s website, it will “identify[] the site characteristics most attractive to the geese (e.g., security, food, nesting sites, water)” and then “design a custom management program based on the potential for reducing these characteristics.” I’m guessing that the border collie addresses the “security” element of goose pond selection decision-making.

This is a bit of a NIMBY issue, because the Canadian geese exist in our area and are going to locate somewhere. But maybe Ohio Geese Control can get the geese to leave this little pond in the corner of a busy urban park that is frequented by children and dogs, and take their aggressive ways and mad crapping to a more remote rural location, or one of those corporate park ponds with a fountain in the middle that no one actually walks around. Getting rid of the geese at the Schiller Park pond would make 2020 a little bit better.

Jinxing The Year

Lots of people were pretty happy with the election results. Add in some apparent good news on progress toward a coronavirus vaccine, and there are many who have been in a celebratory mood lately. Social media has been littered with photos and video footage of sparkling champagne bubbling away in delicate flutes, ready to be quaffed as part of the party.

Speaking as a Cleveland sports fan, these displays of happiness, glee, enthusiasm, and even confidence for the future are causing me enormous concern about jinxing. 2020 has been an unbelievably difficult and punitive year so far, which suggests that the fates controlling the year are like the fickle and perverse gods of Greek and Nordic myth. My Cleveland sports history means I know all too well what happens when such capricious gods feel taunted or tempted by premature human displays of hope or optimism: that’s precisely when the gods will take steps to crush your soul and send it hurtling into the black pits of despair. Having already steered a pandemic and toilet paper shortages our way, the 2020 gods are clearly capable of just about anything that will further toy with the lives of puny humans.

I’m not saying this is definitely going to happen if the celebrations continue, of course — but it being 2020, why take a chance? Better to remain meek and humble so as not to tantalize the gods with another chance to toss a few more thunderbolts and chuckle at the resulting misery. Better to wait on the celebration until 2021 actually gets here — if that ever happens.

Back To Kindergarten Rules

We’re all still getting used to video conferencing and Zoom and Teams calls, but I’ve decided there are things I like about them. In a way, they take us back to first principles, and the basic, threshold lessons in interpersonal conduct that we first learned back in kindergarten.

Take the “raise your hand” feature. When was the last time you raised your hand to be called on for anything? But you learned about the importance of raising your hand from your kindergarten teacher — mine was named Mrs. Radick, by the way — who got you to understand that if every kid in the class tried to talk at once it would be chaos, which is why there had to be some mechanism to allow order to prevail. Of course, the same concept applies to a multi-party video call, which would quickly devolve into bedlam and gibberish without a method of organization. That’s why I like the “raise your hand” feature, and the fact that it reminds me of grade school days doesn’t hurt, either.

Other kindergarten concepts apply to video calls, too — like taking your turn, and trying not to interrupt the person who is speaking, which means waiting a decent period after the speaker appears to be done to account for potential technological glitches. These rules are essential to making video technology work, but they also embody core concepts of politeness and civility. I’m sure there are video calls that turn into unfortunate shouting matches, but I’d guess that, on the whole, video calls are more well-mannered and the participants tend to be more deferential and well-behaved than in direct, in-person interaction. The use of the mute button, to make sure that the discussion isn’t interrupted by barking dogs of the garbage truck rolling down the street, is another form of courtesy.

Mrs. Radick would approve of all of this.

The Play-Doh Effect

Last night I participated in a virtual game night. The participants had all received a gift box that included items to use during the event. One of the items was a small jar of Play-Doh, and at the end of the evening the participants were asked to use their Play-Doh to sculpt something that evoked the year 2020.

Let’s just say the people who received a cylinder of brown Play-Doh didn’t have to get too creative to accurately depict 2020.

When I opened my little tub of hot pink Play-Doh, it was the first time I had smelled Play-Doh in years. I took a long, lingering whiff of that heady, almost overpowering scent, and it brought a smile to my face. The fragrance of fresh Play-Doh is unique and immediately recognizable; anyone who has ever played with the stuff will forever be able to easily identify it in a blind smell test. And rolling a soft lump of Play-Doh around in your hands and letting your fingers sink deep into it just adds to the total tactile experience.

We all know by now that one of the symptoms of coronavirus is loss of smell. If you can’t smell Play-Doh, therefore, you probably should head straight to the doctor’s office. So why not go to the nearest toy store, pick up a tub of Play-Doh, and conduct your own personal COVID-19 screening? After you take that first whiff, I think you’ll feel better.

Look for the jars of brown Play-Doh to maximize the 2020 experience, but don’t be surprised if they’re sold out.

Another Hour Of 2020

I had a bad dream last night, cried out in my sleep, and woke Kish up. As I rolled over to try to go back to sleep, I looked at the clock and noticed it was precisely 2 a.m. It’s probably not a coincidence that 2 a.m. is the specific time that Daylight Savings Time ended, and the clocks were being set back an hour. My subconscious may have sensed that and cried out in horror at the thought of adding an hour to 2020. As I went around the house today, changing the clocks, I decided that the experience should be memorialized in bad verse:

Another Hour Of 2020

We’ve worked to stay strong,

And tried not to cower,

But we grimace at adding just one more hour.

It’s already too long,

We don’t want to extend,

No, we all just want 2020 to end.

The year has been cursed,

And unremittingly sour,

Why prolong the misery with one more hour?

We’ve been looking forward

To when this year is done.

And it’s time to celebrate that it’s 2021.

We don’t want another,

No, sir, we’ve had plenty!

We don’t need another hour of 2020!

Bacon Masks

The Hormel company has developed a bacon-scented face mask. The company created “breathable bacon” masks to promote its “black label” bacon, and a limited number of the masks, one of which is shown above, will be distributed, for free, to people who signed up for a chance to be selected for a mask on the Hormel website and are chosen to be one of the lucky recipients.

Alas, if you haven’t signed up for the bacon mask lottery already, you’ve missed your chance. According to the CNN article linked above, the contest closed on October 28.

We’ve already seen lots of designer masks in the mask market, so I suppose scented masks were inevitable. On the widely accepted theory that a little bacon makes everything better, experimentation with a bacon-scented face mask was inevitable. Can milk chocolate, peanut butter, and chili scented masks be far behind — if they haven’t been introduced already? And I suppose you can argue that a bacon-scented mask serves a scientific purpose: since one of the most definitive symptoms of COVID-19 is loss of sense of smell, a heady, bacon-scented mask could serve as a kind of early warning system. If you couldn’t smell your mask anymore, you would know it is time to go get tested.

I wouldn’t want a bacon-scented mask, which seems like it would get old pretty darned fast. Still, you have to admire Hormel’s initiative. Who’d have thought that 2020 would see giant leaps in the design — and smell — of face masks, and the exploration of new frontiers in everyday exposure to the wonders of bacon? It’s just further proof that necessity is the mother of invention.

Sports Versus Farming In Metaphor Land

Recently I was in a multi-person email exchange at work. The metaphors and similes were flying thick and fast and had taken a decidedly rustic turn when the B.A. Jersey Girl, who as her name suggests doesn’t initially hail from these parts, accused the sturdy Midwesterners involved in the exchange of “going all agro” in our references.

It was a fair comment, but it wasn’t the first time someone had observed that the metaphors and similes being employed weren’t particularly enlightening to all participants in a discussion. Usually, that happens when a non-sports fan finally cries out in frustration at being bombarded with rapid fire, increasingly cryptic sports references.

Both farms and sports are rich sources for the metaphors and similes we use to accentuate our points in colorful, graphic ways. There are more of them than we can possibly list. From the barnyard, we’ve got “fox in the henhouse,” “flown the coop,” “the horse has left the barn,” “chickens coming home to roost,” “strutting like a rooster,” “carrying the water,” “room like a pig pen,” being a “bell cow,” “acting like a sheep,” and “squealing like a stuck pig” — and that’s just “scratching the surface.” From the sports realm, we’ve got “home runs,” “slam dunks,” “fumbles,” “bunnies,” “Hail Marys,” “doing an end around,” “calling balls and strikes,” “blowing the whistle,” “play book,” “the ball’s in their court,” “putting on a full-court press,” “bush league,” and countless others that are “on the bench.” You may have used some of these yourself, and no doubt you can think of others.

I’ve tried to watch the overuse of sports references at work to be mindful of the non-sports fans out in the world; now I’ll also need to be mindful of farming references, too. But it makes me wonder: if you aren’t from the Midwest or other farmland areas, do you sprinkle your conversation with “agro” concepts anyway? And if you don’t use sports and farming metaphors and similes to illustrate your points, what references do you use to replace them?

Bridging The Sci-Fi Gap

As I’ve mentioned before, if you made a Venn diagram of Kish’s and my tastes in TV shows and movies, the areas of intersection would be a lot smaller than the untouched parts of the “Kish” and “Bob” circles. One of the genres that would be squarely on my side of the circles would be science fiction.

Until Away, that is. There have been a few sci-fi shows that Kish has tolerated, like Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, but Away is the first show I can remember that Kish actually really liked. There’s a reason for that: unlike many science fiction films and TV shows, which get caught up in technology or aliens or grim visions of humanity’s future, Away is all about the people. The plot of this Netflix show involves a five-person, multinational crew that is making a three-year voyage to Mars, but the mission also provides a structure for the backstories of the principal characters. For every depiction of weightlessness on the crew’s ship or every technological mishap the crew must deal with, there are plenty of flashbacks and lots of human drama. We liked the characters — led by Hilary Swank’s driven but tender mission leader Emma Green — and were interested in what was going to happen to them and their loved ones. More than other science fiction show we’ve seen, Away struck a very neat balance that reeled in both of us.

Of course, it being 2020, that means Away had to be cancelled this month, after just one season. We finaly find a sci-fi show that falls within the intersection part of the Venn diagram, and it is snatched away just as it is getting good! And it seems as if the healthy dollop of personal stories might be part of the reason for the cancellation: some critics felt that the show didn’t have enough of the science and technology elements that diehard sci-fi fans crave. And no doubt the cost of the show — which had a lot of “production value” and high-end special effects — had something to do with the cancellation decision, too.

We’re sad that Away was cancelled and hold out hope that some other streaming service or channel will pick it up — but even if that doesn’t happen, I’m encouraged that Away found a means of bridging that difficult sci-fi appeal gap. Away has shown it is possible, and maybe somebody will advance the ball even more next time. And if science fiction offerings can be moved from my circle to the intersecting zone of the Venn diagram, anything is possible. Who knows? Someday, someone may actually find a formula that would move period-piece melodramas from Kish’s circle to the intersection zone.

Nah!

Street Walking

Since we’ve returned to Colimbus from Stonington, I’ve had to get my street walking reflexes back.

Not that kind of “streetwalking,” of course. I’m talking about literally walking in the street, with the traffic — exactly what your Mom told you not to do. In German Village, if you want to walk (and I do) and you want to maintain social distancing (and I do), you’re inevitably going to be veering out into the street from time to time to avoid approaching walkers and joggers on the sidewalks.

Street walking requires special awareness that wasn’t needed in Stonington. Up there, in our neighborhood, most streets don’t have sidewalks, so you walk in the street as a matter of course — but there’s really not all that much traffic, and not many parallel-parked cars (or joggers or bicycles, because of the abrupt steep inclines everywhere). In German Village, those are three of the things you’ve got to look out for when you venture into the street. You’ve got to be mindful of whether there are people who are in those parked cars you’re thinking of walking between in order to dodge those approaching walkers, because people in parked cars may be getting ready to pull out. And you need to be sure to look both ways, because you could have a cyclist or jogger approaching from either direction. And you’ve got to watch the cars, too, obviously— some of them are moving pretty fast, flouting the speed limit, and angry at the world. They don’t like sharing the street with us social distancers. And you need to be sure to wear white or other bright colors, to ensure you are seen by the drivers, cyclists, and joggers you’re trying to avoid.

I sometimes wonder whether walking in traffic to maintain social distancing is more dangerous than the coronavirus. It probably is, but it does keep you alert and on your toes first thing in the morning.