The Sky Always Comes Last

IMG_4858Richard and Julianne decided to buy a jigsaw puzzle while they were here.  (Curse them!)  We spent part of their visit working on the puzzle, which features a painting of a beach scene at twilight, with about half of the picture consisting of the sky.  (Curse them both!)

Of course, we couldn’t finish the puzzle during their visit.  (Of course!)  So the unfinished puzzle sat there on the dining room table, taunting me, its bizarrely shaped pieces spread across the polished wooden surface.  (Heh hehYou’ll never finish me, old man!)  So I spent part of Sunday working on it, and finally completed the water, the beach, and the horizon, which left me with . . . the sky.  (Give up, old manFeel the sting of failure when, after weeks of frustration and anguish, you finally sweep me, uncompleted, back into the box and put me in a closet hoping you never see me again!)

It is a standard rule that, in any jigsaw puzzle of an outdoor scene, the sky will always be the last part of the puzzle that gets completed.  (The sky is unconquerable!)  That is because the sky is always the hardest part of the puzzle, and the normal progression of puzzle completion goes from easiest to hardest — first the edges, then the obvious landmarks, then everything else but the sky.  (The sky rules!)  And then the puzzler hits the wall and all of the accumulated momentum and false hopes crash and burn, and finishing the puzzle becomes a cold, hard slog of trying to find one miserable piece at a time.  (Heh hehThat’s rightThat’s rightAnd it will never happenNever!)

Aren’t jigsaw puzzles supposed to be a pleasant leisure time entertainment activity?

The U-Trou End-Of-Day Downer

What’s a fitting way to end a cold, glum, overcast, rainy workday with clouds so low-hanging they mask the tops of Columbus’ mini-skyscrapers, a day so grey and gloomy you expect Bela Lugosi to come leaping out from behind every door?

IMG_4859How about seeing a sodden pair of discarded underwear in plain view on a downtown street corner as you’re walking home for the night?

I wondered:  what are a responsible citizen’s obligations to society when he or she encounters some saturated Hanes on a public sidewalk during a persistent rainstorm?  Use their handy umbrella to move the inexplicable yet offensive sight out of the right-of-way and happily out of public view, while taking care not to touch the item with a human hand?  Keep a wary eye out for a pantless miscreant doing his best Gene Kelly Singing in the Rain impression?  Alert the authorities that apparently functional garments are being left willy-nilly on downtown street corners?  Wait to see whether cleaning crews remove it in timely fashion?  Satisfy your curiosity about whether the u-trou would freeze solid overnight.

I shook my head at the sad and miserable sight, and then walked on.


Sometimes the fates are unkind.  The delivery of our new, smaller washer and dryer has been inexplicably delayed, so of course Penny would pick this morning as a perfect time to barf on our bed.  Therefore, this afternoon we’ll be hanging at the Hausfra Haven laundromat, where there’s a vintage Galaxian for entertainment and a weight and fortune scale.

My fortune was:  “you love to flatter people but seldom mean it.”

Hot Showers And Home Ownership

A shower is an essential part of the morning routine.  You get squeaky clean and move back into conformance with prevailing social hygienic norms.  You ruthlessly eliminate that lingering case of bed head.  And you finally complete the drowsy transition from blissful sleep to outright, whistling-as-you-get-dressed-for-work wakefulness.

IMG_4820I like my showers hot.  In fact, scalding is closer to accurate.  I like clouds of steam to rise from the shower floor and fog up the shower door, so that I could write “Kilroy was here” with my index finger if I desired.  I want to emerge from the blistering deluge wide-eyed, scourged clean, and as red as a Maine lobster fished out of the bubbling cookpot.

Unfortunately, for the last few months this hasn’t been possible.  At our rental unit, the hot water temperature never got above tepid, probably for cost saving and liability avoidance purposes.  Even at the maximum heat setting, a shower had no sizzle.  As a result, the morning shower there was not a particularly satisfying experience — functional but ho-hum, and sort of like getting woolen socks from your grandmother as a birthday present.

But now we are in our own place and in complete control of the hot water heater, which has been cranked up to high-end, fast-food-carry-out-coffee-before-they-got-sued-into-moderation temperatures.  Yes, I think: this is one of the essences of home ownership and the American Dream.  Now I get to decide water heat, and “room temperature,” and what to put on the walls, and how much light there will be in each room.

So turn that shower handle to maximum at your own risk, baby!  Let the scorching begin!

Another Tiresome Browns Rant

Knock, knock!

Who’s there?


Orange who?

Orange you glad the Cleveland Browns embarrassed themselves, again, with an overhyped helmet announcement today?

In case you missed the big news, the Browns have selected a new shade of orange for their helmets — one that they say “matches the passion of the Dawg Pound.”  (They claim it’s “brighter and richer,” all at the same time.)  The facemask on the helmet will go from white to brown, which “represents the strength and toughness of Cleveland.”  And there’s a new, sort-of-snarling cartoon dog to serve as a logo for the Dawg Pound.  Hooray!

How about this:  instead of choosing colors to reflect “passion” and “toughness,” how about a team that plays every game with passion and toughness?  How about representing the poor, long-suffering fans of Cleveland with wins and playoff appearances, rather than a stupid brown facemask?  It’s probably a good thing that the facemask is brown, because the Browns organization should shove it, and all other marketing gimmicks and silly cartoon dogs, where the sun don’t shine until they start playing like an honest-to-God professional football team rather than a long-running national punch line.

Doesn’t anyone in the Browns organization realize that this announcement make this sorry franchise look like it is paying more attention to color swatches than fielding a decent team?  Since we apparently can’t put together a winning team, I guess we’ll have to hope that the Browns’ subtle color judgments will earn an interior decorating award or mascot branding award.

Boy, the Browns have really lost their way, haven’t they?  It’s humiliating.

The Cold Weather Workout

I think there are lots of good reasons to walk in the morning, especially on cold mornings.  But is losing weight one of them?

There is an intuitive logic to the notion that walking — or for that matter, doing much of anything — in the cold will help you lose weight.  Calories are, after all, units of heat.  If you’re out in the shivering winter weather, it stands to reason that your body will need to burn calories just to keep warm.  So you would expect that cold weather would be a plus factor beyond the benefits provided by walking, generally.

IMG_5799Some medical research supports that reasoning — and also indicates that walking in the cold affects the fat cells in the human body.  There are unhealthy white fat cells — presumably the jiggly, blobby glop that Brad Pitt and Ed Norton stole from the liposuction clinic to make soap in Fight Club — and healthy brown fat cells, which help the body burn heat.  If you’re out in colder temperatures regularly, you apparently increase your supply of that good brown fat.  (Incidentally, am I the only person who didn’t know there there was good fat and bad fat?)

Of course, as is always the case in the health area, there are contrary findings.  One recent study questioned whether cold-weather exercise burns more calories and also found that low temperatures increase the amount of an appetite-stimulating hormone, ghrelin, in the blood stream.  So, when you walk in the cold, you’re not only not burning more calories, you may be setting yourself up for a post-walk, diet-killing chow down of epic proportions.

I’ve long since stopped trying to figure out which of the competing health studies should be followed and simply tried to do what seems to work for me.  I like walking in the cold because I like breathing the crisp air, and I feel mentally sharper and more fit when I get to the office.  Whether I am actually sharper and more fit, I’ll leave to the researchers.