Posts Tagged ‘blogging’

Revisited: Blogging while jogging, and vice versa

September 16, 2011

Many great artists got their inspiration when they least expected it. John Lennon scribbled the lyrics to “A Day in the Life” on the back of an envelope after he woke up dreaming about them. Pablo Picasso began work on his masterpiece “Guernica” after a vigorous walk along the Seine. William Shakespeare was known to work out with weights and spend 30 minutes on an elliptical machine to clear his mind for wrighting plays.  

Hacks too can find exercise to be a stimulant to creativity. It’s often during my daily run that I come up with ideas for this blog. I’ll be loping along the sidewalk when — boom, out of nowhere — the idea occurs to me that it might be funny to write a history of the human foot, or about my plans to rob a liquor store.  

As soon as I get home, I’m quick to jot these nuggets down on a scratchpad I keep on my dresser (at least, I try to write them down, if I can find a piece of paper not already sodden with perspiration).  

I often think how much simpler it would be if I could just carry my netbook with me as I jog, and work simultaneously on my posting and my endurance. Then I think about how difficult it would be to type and watch for oncoming cars at the same time.  

So this weekend I tried the next best thing — dictating into a voice recorder as I ran, then transcribing the results when I got home. You, the reader, get to travel along with me at the moment this essay is first imagined. It’s like being in on the extraordinary moment of human conception, except without fallopian tubes.  

I hope you enjoy and, don’t forget, be sure to do at least 15 minutes of cool-down stretches when you’re done.  

Runnin’ down the road, tryin’ to loosen my load

OK, so this is an attempt to record what goes on during an average run through the neighborhood, starting out in front of my house, and here I go…  

And this doesn’t look foolish at all, that I’m talking to myself while I’m running. This is the route that I do pretty much every day. It’s about 3 in the afternoon so there aren’t a lot of people around to wonder why some guy’s running down the street holding a microphone to his face.

There’s utility construction going on in the neighborhood, being done by a contractor called “Trenchco.” Apparently they build trenches or dig trenches or maybe they just like trenches. We don’t know what they’re putting in the trenches but I hope it might be better-quality cable. There’s a bunch of workers up the hill. My wife keeps saying we should ask them what they’re doing, but I doubt they know.

It’s about 87 degrees out here, which is pretty warm for somebody my age to be running. I was known to run in temperatures as high as 100 degrees when I was younger. People know me around the city as the crazy guy who runs no matter what. I once ran in an icestorm, but then I fell down.  

More cars as I turn the corner onto the main road. People are looking at me, wondering what I’m doing, wondering why I’m talking to my hand while running in such heat. I think one should explain the other.  

There goes a red truck.

My wife is at home right now playing Wii Fit with my sister-in-law, so they probably have the more sensible exercise idea than what I’m doing. I’ve always been told I should carry ID when I got out for these runs and I never do, so if I ever drop off the face of the earth, you’ll know what happened. Hopefully somebody will find my body before the raccoons do.  

Passing some private homes on the right, and on the left is a new subdivision they started building right before the recession. They got about half the houses built and pretty much gave up. I think they’re townhomes, which is kind of like living in a real home from what I’m told.

Glad you can’t transcribe panting because that’s what you’d be reading right now. There is a little bit of a breeze as I get close to the top of the hill. The sky is pretty clear, some high clouds not doing much to block the sun. I try to keep my head down while I’m running. Every now and then I’ll find money or something. I found $20 the other day, just laying in a parking lot.

Wow, there goes a huge truck from a nearby paper tube company. “World’s leading manufacturer of paper tubes,” it says. Not sure who uses them but I guess you have to wrap your toilet paper around something.  

Passing some apartments on the right, and another newish subdivision on the left. It’s called “The Pines at India Hook,” located interestingly enough on India Hook Road. The apartments are called Village Station and it’s an “apartment community,” not just apartments. So I guess they can charge an extra $50 a month for that.

There’s an older house here on the right that’s now a law firm, I think. Tall, beautiful hardwood trees out front. I’d say oak or maple or — what’s that other kind of tree they have? — elm. Could be any of those.  

Off to my left is an older neighborhood with a “Dead End” sign. I don’t think that’s the name of the community though, I think it’s just a street sign. On my right is the Spring Arbor Alzheimer’s Care center and there are some folks sitting out on rocking chairs today because it’s so nice. I’ll try not to talk too loud so I don’t disturb the Alzheimer’s people. I don’t want any of them wandering up this way.

And now here’s Chandler Place, a so-called independent retirement living facility. I think that’s sort of like an old folk’s home, but with fewer safety rails. There are some “shoppes” up here on the end, one little restaurant we go to sometimes. I’m going to try to cross the street now and go back down the hill toward my neighborhood.  

So I’m headed back on the other side of the street, a nice white picket fence to my right. This is a pretty nice part of town. I figure the distance that I’m running is about 1.6 miles maybe. I used to do it every day, lately not so much because of the heat. I guess that’s a good excuse.  

From this spot I can peek into some private backyards … not much going on at this hour of the day. Every now and then I’ll witness an illicit affair.  

Coming up on the right is what used to be another rest home but is now taken over by a church that does day care. It’s called “Taking the City Ministry,” and the childcare is called “God’s Blessings Christian Childcare”. I think the kids are all inside right now. Not sure of the church’s denomination. “Taking the City Ministry” sounds pretty aggressive but I think they mean it more spiritually.

There’s a flag over there …  might be the South Carolina state flag. It’s all ripped and stuck in some trees, so it’s kinda hard to tell. Maybe the apartment community has their own government and it’s their flag.  

Hitting a downhill part now and going past a shady area and becoming a little less self-conscious about talking to myself while running. Every now and then somebody from work who lives around here will say they saw me running, and I’ll say “oh.”  

OK, coming up now past that half-built Village at India Hook — “single-level villas, no maintenance, clubhouse/fitness center, two car garages,” says the sign. They look like nice places. I think they still try to sell them on the weekends. They’ll put signs up like “move in today” or “agent on duty” but I don’t think they’re trying that hard.  

So this will count as my exercise for the day. I remember back in junior high the most they’d make us run would be 600 yards which, when I think about the marathons and 10Ks I’ve run since, seems like nothing now. But at that time they called it a “walk/run” because they knew we couldn’t run the whole 600 yards and in fact I could not, except one time I got tired of coming in last and sprinted the first 100 yards and was out in the lead and everybody said “hey, look at fat Davis go!” and then of course I ran out of gas and finished last.  

Somebody just waved at me from a passing vehicle. Doesn’t necessarily mean they know me, it just means that I’m in the South. Running  past a patch of woods. Every now and then I’ll see deer coming out of here. They’re gradually putting up more and more homes in this area so the deer either have to go somewhere else or figure out if they want to rent or buy.  

Going past Heathwood and Heathwood Forest. Looks like the same neighborhood to me. I’ve run back there on occasion and I think there was a woodsy part so I guess that was the forest. Should be “The Forest at Heathwood” though, shouldn’t it?  

Almost to the place where I normally stop. Still not much traffic out … it’s basically the middle of the afternoon and most decent people are working. I guess I’m indecent, as my tightly clinging sweaty T-shirt will testify. They’ve got some election signs out at some of the houses. These people seem to want Tailor for Judge. Yeah, it says “Carolyn Tailor for Judge” … I thought maybe it was somebody named Judge who was running to be elected Tailor.  

Going to have to cross back over the road now and watch for traffic. Here comes a car but I don’t think he’s going to hit me because of the hassle of accident and insurance reports.  

Alright, well, coming back to my neighborhood. Just beyond where I’m turning is the Westminster Church — there goes a motorcycle, by the way — and there’s a bus from the Christian school that’s associated with the church.  

Back in the neighborhood now, not so many cars. Do have some blind corners I have to watch for in this area and no sidewalk, so some care is required here.

Think I’m going to knock off now because I’m getting back in the area where the neighbors may wonder about me. These are people that are more likely to know where I live and leave notes in my mailbox telling me to stop talking to myself while I’m running, so I’ll be signing off.

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Blogging: My three-year anniversary

September 2, 2011
Three years ago this weekend, I posted my first blog. At the time (pre-Twitter), it felt like I was embarking on a brave adventure into the cutting-edge of digital communications.
 
Little did I know how long it would take for blogging to become passè. About 45 minutes after my first post on September 1, 2008, blogging was officially over.
 
Yet for some reason, I trudged onward. After starting on the way-too-orange Blogspot, I switched over to WordPress in November of 2008, and have been posting almost daily from there ever since. Over a thousand essays later, I arrive at today.
 
Today I’m reposting my original work from that long-ago September. I hope you enjoy this trip in the Wayback Time Machine.

So let’s see what this blogging stuff is all about…

I’m calling this blog “FiftySomethingMan” because I hope it’s mainly going to be about the challenges (many) and the triumphs (hopefully there’ll be some) of being a middle-aged, middle-class sorta-corporate-type in 2008. I’m facing much of the same stuff in my work life that a lot of people are dealing with right now – downsizing, outsourcing, cutbacks, restructurings – and I thought it might help get me through to keep some kind of chronicle as I seem to spiral toward unemployment or forced early retirement.

Sounds like fun reading, right?

I’ll also reserve the right to go off-topic periodically and write about something completely unrelated to work but that still might resonate with my Fellow Fitty’s. (“Fitty,” as I understand it, is a hip modern term referring primarily to the hip-hop performer “Fifty Cent.” Like most Baby Boomers, I try desperately to stay up with these things, but know in my heart I’m failing pathetically.) Not sure yet what those topics might be, but we all know there’s plenty of annoyances out there to keep us aging Boomers complaining.

I guess I should start with a little about myself. A key fact – my true name – will go undisclosed at this point, as I’m hoping the anonymity will give me more freedom to write frankly.

I’m a 54-year-old man, living in the suburbs of a major southern U.S. city with my wife and teenage son and our three cats. I’ve lived in the South for almost 30 years now and, even though I spent my life before that in Florida, I don’t consider myself a typical white Southerner. Thanks to parents who lived in the Northeast until just before I was born and several years of college education, I consider myself an enlightened progressive who is generally uncomfortable around all the NASCAR dads I come in contact with these days. I have a few hobbies, but probably not enough, and until just recently defined myself primarily by the kind of work I do.

I work in the financial services industry, helping process documents the Securities and Exchange Commission requires corporations to produce. I’ve done this for the last three decades. I consider myself very good at my job, and have been recognized as such by my company with a nice salary and extras that have included training opportunities around the world.

In the last few years, however, this training “perk” has been diminished by the fact that it’s mostly Asian workers making a tenth of my pay that I’m training, and I’m basically showing them how to take my job away from me and my coworkers. I could’ve declined the opportunity but the movement of our work offshore would’ve just as easily gone on without me. I was convinced at one point that I was positioning myself as an intermediary who’d be able to maintain his position with the company even after all the work had transitioned overseas, but now I’m not so sure.

My office is located in a drab warehouse office park in a part of town more accustomed to the transportation industry and its giant trucks than to people working on disclosure documentation. They hollowed out a small corner of the warehouse to install us, our air-conditioning and our computers, but kept us close enough to our blue-collar “pick-and-packers” to remind us of the muggy fate that could eventually await us.

There are probably about 40 of us left in the air-conditioning, down from the 80-90 we had only a few years ago. Most of those who have now moved on to another worklife left of their own choice, sensing how they’d eventually be shown the door anyway. Plus, there’s been a parade of countless temporaries who come and go like summer fireflies, many staying long enough to be trained by me and put in a few months before finding full-time work elsewhere.

Where we stand in the current economic downturn is not a good place: our clients are the suffering megabanks and investment houses you hear about in the business news, and the work they are able to give our company mostly goes to those able Asians I trained so well. Only six months ago, I was making almost half my take-home pay in overtime. Then it started getting slower and slower and we all knew something bad was about to happen.

We actually breathed a sigh of relief six weeks ago when our department manager called a rare meeting to announce we were going on a four-day workweek and virtually no overtime. When we were summoned to gather ‘round and saw his trembling hands and nervous manner, we were actually relieved to hear we were only receiving drastic paycuts and nothing worse. Yay!

That seemed to relieve the pressure for him to do something for a little while, but as we continued to plod through the summer doing crossword puzzles and cross-stitch, the fears rose again. And then last week, news of layoffs elsewhere in the company started spreading (no formal announcements, of course; just farewell emails and unreturned phone messages) and again we’re wondering how much longer before the axe falls on our sorry necks.

As I write this now – ironically, on Labor Day weekend – I am perversely comforted by the new job losses. I’ve been asked to pick up some duties from a few of the departed. Others’ absence may require a little more overtime from those who are left. These tea leaves give me another temporary jolt of job security.

I feel guilty for such a heartless attitude. It reminds me of how two of our cats will attack the third one whenever she cries out with a stepped-on tail. In a sense, we’ve become no more than animals looking out only for ourselves and our own families (if they’re lucky). The global economy is ruled by the law of the jungle, I guess, even though like my cats we’ve been semi-domesticated.

What will follow in future postings (I think that’s what they’re called) are stories of how and if I survive this downturn, and what happens if a pudgy grey-haired guy is thrown out into the job market only a few years short of what would have been his retirement.

Maybe the attitude I’ve cultivated while working with hundreds of twenty-something trainees halfway around the world will somehow serve me when I end up interviewing with one of their American cohorts, trying to get myself another job.

We’ll see.

Revisited: Looking for a new hobby (perhaps in the lobby)

April 3, 2011

I like to think there’s a deeper meaning to life, that there’s a rhyme and a reason for why natural calamities wipe out whole nations and why that guy cut me on in traffic just now and had the nerve to give me the finger. There has to be some unifying force that holds the universe together and makes order prevail over chaos.

I think it’s in the rhyme. I believe there’s a relationship between words which sound alike that goes far beyond any other connection they might have. When I’m preparing to make life-altering decisions, I consider what activities are already a key part of my existence, then take on new enterprises that rhyme with these.

When I bought my current house, a major selling point was that it was located at the corner of Shadowbrook and India Hook. When I was looking to buy a reliable car, I remembered how touched I was by the Oscar-winning performance of Henry Fonda in “On Golden Pond,” and chose to purchase a Honda. Since my favorite processed dairy products are all cheeses, I selected Jesus to be my preferred Living God.

Now I’m looking for a new hobby that aligns with what are currently my two predominant pastimes, jogging and blogging. Both of these diversions have given me enormous pleasure in recent years but they need a supplement. I’ve been a casual runner for over 30 years, and I’m rapidly approaching the age where I need to take on an exercise that’s physically less taxing. I’ve tried walking but I’m afraid it will lead to caulking or stalking, and I’ve never been very good at home repair or serving 30-month prison terms. Blogging holds no significant health hazards, if you don’t count neglecting to take your cholesterol medicine because it would make a good post topic, and I look forward to continuing it.

Perhaps I’ll also take up clogging. This traditional European dance has migrated to the Appalachian Mountains and become popular with country folk in my part of the South. Once danced with wooden shoes, more sensible footwear now predominates, though the emphasis on stomping out a downbeat with enthusiastic footwork lives on. While creating audible percussive rhythms has its appeal, I’m not sure I can do it with my feet. I’ve never been a coordinated hoofer, and I’m afraid my fellow dancers would look unkindly on audible percussion I made with my face.

How about logging? Though typically considered more of a vocation than an avocation, I’m sure there are elements of commercial forestry that could be amusing. Have you ever seen those lumberjacking competitions on TV where guys balance on floating logs or race the clock to chainsaw a redwood into submission? I suppose it’s dangerous, yet I could probably stand to have a little more peril in my life. I wonder how you get started in such an enterprise. Is there an association I should contact, or do I just show up in the nearest woods and start hacking away? This may take more research.

I also understand there’s an activity called mud bogging. The popular off-road motorsport involves driving a vehicle through a pit of mud, with the winner determined by whoever goes the farthest before sinking into the underworld. Typically, vehicles competing are four-wheel drives, but I’m not sure that’s anywhere in the rules. I wonder if they’d let me use my old ten-speed bicycle. I can’t imagine I’d get very far at first, though I’m willing to practice diligently until the ooze declines to absorb me.

I’m also intrigued by fogging, as it’s practiced in movies and the theatre. There’s nothing like a looming haze hovering just above the floor to create an atmosphere of menace. Until recently, it took expensive equipment and huge quantities of dry ice to create roiling banks of smoke, but cheaper fog machines have now become available to the public. I’m thinking of employing such a set-up to increase the drama that accompanies my entrance into an office at work. My proposal to re-price inventory on a weekly rather than quarterly basis stands a much better chance of being accepted by management if the ominous threat of supernatural intervention is implied. And the PowerPoint presentation would look a lot cooler, too, especially if I supplemented it with lasers.

I don’t know that there are many opportunities in modern American society for flogging. I’m sure there are those who deserve a ritual whipping for a variety of offenses, yet our so-called “civilized” structure of law typically forbids it. Singapore was in the news a few years back for planning to flog a young American caught chewing gum or passing notes and letting his shirt tail out or some such crime. Maybe I could practice my new hobby there. On my next business trip to India, I can arrange for a connection through Changi Airport, and the authorities could have a collection of miscreants lined up for me near the baggage claim. As long as I don’t have to go through security twice.

Other than these options, I’m running a bit short on ideas. I went to a rhyming dictionary online and found a few other possibilities.

Hogging has several meanings, though most don’t lend themselves to leisure pursuits: one involves shredding waste wood, one is cutting a horse’s mane as short as possible (what fun!), one refers to the stress put on a ship as it passes over a wave, and one is the practice at some fraternities of rounding up the rotund for a party. Hardly the stuff of hobbies.

Nogging refers to brick masonry built up between wooden uprights or studs. I’ve started an interest group on Facebook for this topic, but don’t hold much hope of a response.

Pogging, according to the Urban Dictionary, is the act of talking on a cell phone while driving, causing horrible annoyance to those nearby or, alternatively, the act of performing sex with a female with the use of a … whoa, hold on there. How can the same word have one meaning so innocuous and the other so provocative? The UD offers an imaginary conversation among the hipsters who speak this lingo, but it’s not much help in clarifying the difference: “Hey, do you want to go pogging?” “Sure, we can pog all night. I hope there is a good turnout.” “Oh, there will be. I’ve called grandma, and she’s got all her book club coming.” My grandmother just recently became comfortable using a cell phone, and I don’t want to be part of anything that further confuses the meaning of “wireless device” for her.

I’m not sure this rhyming strategy is going to work. I suppose there’s Always Alliteration. Let’s see what the Urban Dictionary might suggest: There’s Belly Bracelet, Jingle Jowels, Joe Jonas, Jewfro, Juggalo …

Enjoying the first day of my blogging retirement

March 22, 2011

Brett Favre, here.

First, let me offer a sincere thanks to those readers who were nice enough to comment on the Monday post announcing my “retirement” from blogging. Kym, Valerie, Paul and someone or something called “deyank,” I assure you that your kind words mean a lot. Your offer to commandeer a small plane and fly down to my Mississippi farm to physically drag me back to cyberspace was most appreciated.

Having had a full day now to think about my decision, I’m not quite ready to rescind it. It was very relaxing last night to attend to the routine details of everyday life — going to the dentist, taking a brief jog around the neighborhood, suffering a gut-wrenching session in the john thanks to some disgusting sealant hygienists are putting on people’s teeth these days — without having the pressure of producing a post hanging over my head.

Now, it’s Tuesday morning, and I’m sitting at work, getting tired of playing Scrabble and reading online stories like “Hillary Duff debuts new bangs on Twitter” and “Woman goes to court with monkey in bra.” (Sadly, no details on the monkey’s hairstyle). So rather than do any actual work, I’d like to try and explain further about my retirement decision.

One of the “undisclosed personal matters” I referenced yesterday has to do with a very ill member of my family. I got to thinking how counterproductive it must be to my karma to be constantly sniping snarkily at every subject under the sun. I’ve long prided myself on being a cynical curmudgeon, but that just seems like the wrong attitude to have when you’d give anything to see a close relative return to health. Doctors, friends and associates are much more willing to help and sympathize with a normal human being than with an anti-social a-hole.

My feelings began to crystallize when I was watching the NCAA basketball tournament over the weekend. I was griping to my son about not just the quantity of commercial interruptions, but also the lack of variety in the ads. With some of the games broadcast on small-time cable outlets like TNT and TruTV, there are only so many advertisers they’re able to round up. So the viewing audience is left to either watch for the twentieth time as the president of Sprint tells us how he looked up the word “unlimited” the other day, or blow their brains out.

However there was one commercial that, despite its incessant repetition, genuinely pulled at my heartstrings. It was the one of the dad offering safe-driving advice to his five-year-old daughter sitting behind the steering wheel of the family sedan. As he runs through the usual cautions, the fidgety little girl stops him cold with two words: “Daddy, okay.”  The interruption is so sincere, so true-to-life, and so touching, that I couldn’t help but tear up briefly at the thought of how fast our children grow up. In the next scene, the pre-schooler has evolved into a sexy hot teenage blonde beautiful young woman, and the voiceover notes how time passes so quickly where our kids are involved.

Then, to top it all off, Knut died. Knut was the zoo-born polar bear rejected by his mother at birth, slated for euthanasia, then saved by attendants who hand-raised the youngster while the world fell in love with the doe-eyed cub, forgetting that he’d grow up to be more than happy to sever your carotid with a single swipe of his paw. We all remember where we were the moment we heard that Knut had passed away. I was driving down a highway near my home, and had to pull over into the breakdown lane so I could break down.

Now, I’m trying to be a kinder, gentler Davis. And I’m trying to figure out how I can do that and at the same time write scathing, topical satire. As I work through this minefield, I anticipate I’ll be producing two or three new posts a week, published at no particular time of day, whenever the mood and the muse move me. If you’ve been a regular reader in the past, please continue to watch for me. And the occasional kind comment will be a thrill for someone in such a fragile, needy place right now.

So, like Brett Favre, I still want to play. I still think I can make an amusing contribution to someone’s day, I’m just not sure when and where it’s going to be. Brett is limited in how he can display his talents — scrambling away from adoring shoppers at the local Bi-Lo or throwing a quick down-and-in to a puzzled mailman surely give him some satisfaction. I hope to get the same feeling with my occasional posts.

And in a final homage to Brett, please enjoy the following photo of my lower torso. Sorry it’s draped in pants, but the New Davis doesn’t show his junk.

Farewell, at least for now

March 21, 2011

Hear me, America.

(One of the cool things about being on American Idol has got to be the opportunity to address the entire nation as one. It’s not just host Ryan Seacrest who gets to drop the frequent imperative “America, do this” or “America, do that.” Even the contestants are allowed to implore all 307 million U.S. citizens to “vote for me, America.” Since I doubt I’ll ever have the chance to appear on this top-rated talent show (not because I can’t sing — that hasn’t stopped the current crop of would-be Idols — but because I have a pathological fear of Jennifer Lopez), I’m using my blog instead to address the .00009% of America that views my writing on any given day.

Today, I announce my retirement from DavisW’s blog. This will be my last new post for the foreseeable future. I’ll continue to toss up some stale retread of a previous posting on a daily basis for a while, at least till I lose interest in that. Then, I’m out of the blogging business.

There are several reasons why I’m making this move at this time.

One, I’m tired and I’m stressed out. Since December of 2008, I have written a fresh post virtually every single weekday. In over two years, I missed only a Tuesday in February ’09 when my son had major abdominal surgery, and a week at the end of 2010, during which I suffered a complete physical and mental breakdown, or maybe it was just a head cold. It’s become too much pressure to produce something new on a daily basis.

Second, the concept of “blogging” has become passé. It’s yesterday’s news, something grandpas do to keep their friends and families apprised of their bowel movements. I was never able to fully get into the likes of Facebook and Twitter, and am too technologically backward to try to anticipate the next big thing. I thought for a while that the latest in new media was going to be sneaking up behind people and shouting into their ears, but I’m not sure my 1,200-word essays lend themselves well to that format.  Seems likely I’d get punched before I was halfway through my treatise on the commercial that sells “privately-enhanced” two-dollar bills, in which five-year-olds color pictures of Yellowstone National Park all over Thomas Jefferson’s face.

Thirdly, I’m not getting a lot of comments from the readers indicating how enthralled they are with my prose. A kind word from someone who got a chuckle out of my observations goes a long way in re-energizing me, and these have become few and far between. About a year or so ago, someone contacted me online and said I’d get a lot more response if I went into the “settings” portion of WordPress and checked some box. I waited and waited for the avalanche of feedback he said I should expect, and instead the three or four comments I had been receiving each day trickled down to next to nothing. In retrospect, I have a feeling this person was up to no good, and actually convinced me to sabotage my own site, and now I’ve forgotten which box I checked. I still get occasional comments from a deranged ex-roommate, though that’s proven more frightening than rewarding.

I’ve tried to “monetize” the blog by offering it for sale on Kindle, and have actually made a number (47) of sales. How pathetic this revenue stream is became clear the other day when I met with my CPA to review my income taxes for last year. He asked about the W-2 I received from Amazon declaring an amount of $21.65 as taxable income, and I told him I made this money as a professional blogger.

“I guess we should report this,” he said reluctantly. “I’m seeing more and more of these online sales: there was a guy just in here who made a couple thousand dollars last year selling half-used cans of old paint through Craigslist. Maybe that’s something you should look into.”

Finally, I’m dealing with some undisclosed personal matters that require me to step out of the limelight for a time. Like Disney singer and actress Demi Lovato, I’m currently trying to resolve ongoing physical and emotional issues that I prefer to address in private, away from the glare of publicity. Like Demi, I too am a sensitive artist who has rocketed to international fame at a trajectory that my psyche has had difficulty keeping up with. Demi reportedly had eating disorders, was beginning to cut herself, and exhibited inappropriate behavior such as punching out a back-up dancer travelling with her on last fall’s Jonas Brothers tour. My issues would be viewed by most as less severe (I don’t even know any back-up dancers, as their presence isn’t widespread in the financial printing industry where I work), however they are plenty serious for me.

Also going on indefinite hiatus will be my so-called “mini-blog” http://davisontv.wordpress.com/. A third blog that I announced at the beginning of the year never materialized. I had hoped to be selected by the Charlotte Observer newspaper to be a part of their “Pounding Away” series, in which a trio of husky Carolinians would chronicle their weight-loss efforts, but my application was passed over in favor of the three goons seen below.

At least I didn’t have to pose for a silly photograph.

What kind of retirement I’ll have I cannot say. It could be a Brett Favre-style affair, and I’ll continue showing up day after day to miss wide-open receivers despite the fact they’re wearing Wrangler jeans. Or, it could be something more along the lines of what Johnny Carson did, slipping out of the public view with incredible dignity and conveniently dying a few years later.

If the urge to write humor returns, and I can view the exercise as exhilarating rather than obligatory drudgery, I’ll be back. If not, I’ll see you around.

More highlights from my new mini-blog

January 14, 2011

More highlights from my new mini-blog, http://davisontv.wordpress.com

+++

I’m all in favor of letting people die with the verb of their choosing.

If you want your obituary to say you “passed away,” that’s fine. If you prefer to have “gone to meet Jesus,” I still get the point. I’m even okay with you being “ingested by a chipper” if you and your family wish to be that specific.

But you need to make it clear that you have died, and I shouldn’t expect to run into you at the grocery store.

A recent obituary in our local paper claimed that Gus Johnson had “gone home.” To me, that’s a little vague. Has Gus taken a drive to New Jersey? Had he been playing in the park till his mom called him in for dinner? Had he scored a run from third base?

To say he had “gone home” implies a little more warmth and coziness than I’m guessing actually occurred.

When the time comes for me, as it must eventually come for us all, I plan to either “kick the bucket,” “buy the farm” or “head out to that big roundup in the sky.” I don’t plan on “going home” unless it’s to frighten ungrateful survivors as one of the living dead.

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Struggling to compete in the new low-cost niche of the fast-food market, Wendy’s began a series of nationwide ads yesterday promoting their new “9 cent menu”.

“We recognize that our customers are watching every penny they spend, and we’ve responded to that,” said Wendy’s vice-president Aaron Rubin. “Now, you can get a hearty meal at Wendy’s and not empty your wallet.”

Included on the new menu, called the “Niner Diner,” are the following, all available for only nine cents each:

  • Three french fries
  • Half a bun
  • Pickles discarded into the trash by previous customers
  • Ketchup packet
  • A napkin
  • Yesterday’s newspaper (mayonnaise stained)
  • The cherry from the top of our ice cream parfait
  • A visit to our restroom
  • The words “we look forward to serving you at the next window”
  • Grease from the burger grill
  • An unidentified pill
  • Some hair

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TRUE STORY:

Two newly elected Congressional Republicans missed the official swearing-in ceremonies last week while attending a party with supporters.

But they watched it on TV and, when the time came to take the formal oath, they recited the oath to the television, thinking that would suffice.

Unfortunately, the Constitution barely mentions TV, and instead requires members to be sworn in “within proximity of the Speaker.” So they met later in the week with new House leader John Boehner to clean up the procedural mess they had created.

A series of early votes cast by Rep. Pete Sessions of Texas and Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania had to be scratched from the record. However, their support for convening a committee to consider repeal of the new health care law, which they consider unconstitutional, will stand.

The misunderstanding occurred only one day after the new Republican majority in the House conducted a first-ever reading of the Constitution in the chamber. Republicans who swept to victory in November elections had made a strict interpretation of this nation’s founding document a basis for their campaigns.

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A man who lost his voice yet still resides in a beautiful home caught the nation’s imagination yesterday when a video of his story went viral on YouTube.

Only days after a similar case, in which a homeless man demonstrated his smooth broadcast voice to passing motorists, Ed Williams told of how he awoke Thursday morning in his suburban mansion with a bad case of laryngitis and had been unable to speak above a croak ever since.

“Help me please,” read a hand-lettered sign Williams held as he stood near a busy Cleveland intersection. “My throat is really sore and I’m almost out of cough drops. God bless you.”

Williams, no relation to Ted Williams, the so-called “Homeless Man With the Golden Voice,” recounted to reporters how he spent years using his voice to make casual conversation, speak with loved ones, and achieve a successful career in real estate. It’s through that career that he was able to afford a 4,000-square-foot Tudor home with four bathrooms and a three-car garage.

“Now, after all that talking, I can barely communicate above a squeak,” Ed Williams pantomimed at an impromptu press conference. “I lost it all. Well, not the house and the cars and the cash and the great job, but I can hardly talk thanks to this awful cold.”

When news of the story spread, donations of lozenges, gum and cough syrup began pouring in from around the country. By Friday afternoon, Williams said he was feeling better.

“My heart is warmed by this show of support,” Williams whispered with a still-fragile voice. “I think I’ll go home now and lie down for a while.”

Live-Blogging the BBVA Compass Bowl

January 10, 2011

While most people look forward to tonight’s BCS championship contest, it’s easy to overlook some of the other post-season college bowls that have played out in recent weeks. For those who quickly grow weary of football played at the highest level, these lesser games offered something else: mediocre teams playing in contrived contests featuring players and coaches of questionable integrity.

One such match-up was staged this past weekend in Mobile, Ala. The storied BBVA Compass Bowl Game, with a long and distinguished history going back to last summer when it was first thought up, showcased the marginally successful Pitt Panthers (7 wins, 5 losses) versus the thoroughly average Kentucky Wildcats (6 wins, 6 losses).

Beyond the long-simmering rivalry between Pennsylvania and Kentucky over who has the best coal, there was another story line. Which side has the most suspected criminals? Fans of the blue-and-gold from Pitt would point to their recently fired coach, Mike Haywood, arrested on New Year’s Eve on domestic violence charges. Followers of the UK program could claim their team is equally sordid, arguing that the Dec. 10 arrest of starting quarterback Mike Hartline on charges of disorderly conduct and public intoxication was every bit as seedy as Haywood’s alleged sins.

Eager to see how both squads would respond to such challenges (and since I couldn’t work in the yard because it was raining), I tuned in to the ESPN broadcast at noon Saturday. Not only that, I live-blogged the back-and-forth action that continued right up to the final gun, when it was determined that Kentucky sucked 2.7 times more than Pitt.

For those of you who had something better to do on Saturday and missed it, I’m compiling the highlights here in today’s post. I hope you are able to pick up some sense of the pageantry and excitement that was the BBVA Compass Bowl Game.

First Quarter

15:00 — Kentucky kicks off to Pitt.

14:46 — Pitt cheerleaders begin the game-long chant “Let’s go Pitt!” Where it is they want the team to “go” is not specified. Players assume they’re being encouraged to continue hurtling through the cosmos on this fragile blue orb we call Earth.

14:30 — Pitt gains one yard on an off-tackle run.

12:20 — The growl of a big cat resounds from the public address system throughout the stadium. Whether it’s designed to strike fear into the Pitt Panthers or the Kentucky Wildcats is unclear, but neither team is noticeably frightened.

10:03 — Kentucky coach is named Joker Phillips. This will provide at least a small measure of amusement each time it is mentioned during the game.

9:17 — First three possessions result in turnovers. Sloppy play by both offenses continues throughout the first half and is characterized as a “defensive struggle” by game announcers, though it’s much more likely that both teams simply stink.

6:52 — Fan holds up sign for TV camera reading “SEC Stomps Pitt & OregoN“. ESPN appreciates the shout-out and broadcasts it nationally.

3:46 — At the end of a 6-yard draw play for Pitt, a player is apparently decapitated. Upon further review, it is determined that his helmet simply came off.

1:12 — Former Pitt coach is called a “real Pitt man” and, moments later, a “true Pittsburgher.” There must be a subtle difference, since sportscasters are known to never repeat themselves.

College-age men wearing football costumes frolic about the field, occasionally falling down.

Second Quarter

15:00 — It will only take me 15 minutes to find out if I can save 15% or more on my car insurance.

13:34 — I go to the bathroom for no more than six or seven minutes (think I got a bad omelet for breakfast) and when I return, the score has changed from 3-0 into a 3-3 tie. Fortunately, I’m recording the action on my DVR and can back up to see what I missed. (A guy kicked a football through the goalposts).

5:57 — A Kentucky receiver goes offsides, a penalty flag is thrown and the play is blown dead. On-rushing Pitt defensive lineman tackles Kentucky quarterback anyway, just for fun. A fight ensues as additional penalty flags fill the air. This is about the most action we’ll see in the first half.

2:22 — I’m told I can watch Sunday night’s Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl (Nevada vs. Boston College) on my smartphone. The promo displays some of Kraft’s most iconic brands, including Oreos, Miracle Whip, Ritz crackers, Maxwell House coffee, Kraft mayonnaise, and Kool-Aid. If those are the foods they plan to fight hunger with, I’m not sure the effort will succeed. But it’s a nice thought.

Halftime score: Pitt 13, Kentucky 3.

Halftime highlights:

ESPN’s “Sports Science” segment looks at the physics that make Auburn quarterback Cam Newton such a great player. The fact that he’s 6-foot-6, weighs 250 pounds and can run explains at least part of his success.

Remainder of halftime report is taken up with talk about the BCS Championship game scheduled for Monday night. Little mention is made of the current game, despite the fact that both schools have marching bands striding up and down the field. Might’ve appreciated at least a brief analysis of why that football kicked through the goalposts at xxx resulted in three points.

Brief interview with Kentucky coach Joker Phillips (“hee-hee”) reveals his second-half strategy. “There’s no question that we need to take the fight to Pitt,” he observes.

Third quarter

14:16 — Fan holds up sign for TV camera reading “KEntucky WinS Over Pitt — It’s iN the Cards”. Again, ESPN is appreciative.

13:02 — College-age men wearing football costumes continue their play, occasionally falling down as they do.

8:55 — I can’t find the remote! It was lying across my prone torso only moments before, and now it’s gone. I wanted to check the score of the Austin Peay vs. Murray State basketball game, now playing on ESPNU.

8:35 — Oh, there it is. It slipped down behind the couch cushion.

3:56 — Officials call for a booth review of a disputed play on the field. The head referee thinks that one cheerleader for Kentucky isn’t wearing any underwear, while the linesman thinks she is. After five minutes of examining the videotape replay, they rule that she was wearing underwear but that it was flesh-colored.

Fourth Quarter

13:58 — Fan holds up sign for TV camera reading “I’m wEaring a rainbow wig and have my cheSt and face Painted with bright, toxic colors. Will this be eNough for someone to notice me?” This time, ESPN recognizes the plea as a desperate cry for help and contacts the proper authorities.

8:22 — Trailing 27-10, Kentucky tries a field goal that will get them within 14 points. It’s, like, a million miles wide right.

6:57 — A blocked punt that set up a second-quarter Pitt touchdown is named the “H&R Block Never Settle Play of the Game”.

3:39 — A crawl across the bottom of the screen announces that the trophy ceremony following the game will be shown on ESPN3, rather than on plain ESPN. I don’t get ESPN3. I do get it as part of my cable package, but I don’t get why it exists.

1:07 — With the game’s outcome determined, Pitt’s acting head coach is doused by his players in a shower of ice water. The water is filling in for Gatorade, which is serving an academic suspension.

Final score: Pitt 27, Kentucky 10.

Recharging the ol’ batteries

December 27, 2010

Back in college at Florida State, I had several good friends who were studying music at the university. Though it may come as a surprise to many who tend to associate FSU more with football than any sort of artistry, the college at the time had one of the top music schools in the country, second only in some rankings to Juilliard.

Two of these guys excelled on keyboard instruments, one on piano and one on organ. So it came as no surprise for the latter of these, that a common joke was told.

“His major is organ,” his friends would tease, “and his organ is major.”

No matter how many times it was said, it was always funny.

+++

Some regular readers of these postings — I’m looking at you, Paul — have noted what they perceive to be a certain change in the quality of the blog.

Perhaps it shows itself in word choice. What I think of as a creative stretching of the rules of language may come across to some as simply awkward phrasing. So turning “mayonnaise” into the action word “mayonnaising” to describe the act of applying that eggy condiment to my sandwich is seen by some as questionable. Changing “prehensile” into the adverb “prehensiley” to tell how my cat picks up food bits with his claws is viewed as dubious.

What can I say? I love words and enjoy playing around with them. I’m still trying to figure out a way to work my two favorites — “jubilee” (a time or season of celebration) and “bolus” (a soft rounded ball, especially of chewed food) — into the same sentence. I’ve even considered staging an annual festival to honor gnawed, sodden masses of nutrition, just so I can promote the First Annual Bolus Jubilee.

Then there was the incident this past Friday, where I re-posted a biography of the artist Christo that had run only five days before.

“Wow, Davis,” wrote one commentator who claims to have roomed with me during my freshman year of college, though I recall no such living arrangement. “You re-gifted your blog from Dec. 19th. This might be the first re-gifting in the brief history of blogging. I guess we can all count our blessings twice.”

Well, maybe I intended to republish the piece so quickly because there was such a demand. Maybe it’s like those “instant classics” they show on ESPN, when a particular athletic event is so enthralling that it demands to be watched again only several days after it originally aired. Maybe I intend to run the Christo post every day from now on. He is, after all, the preeminent fabric-draper of buildings and geographic features of our time, and would be thoroughly deserving of such recognition.

The reality, however, is that I probably need a break, or a “hiatus” as they call it in the broadcast television and hernia repair industries. Excluding the weekends, and the unfortunate incident Friday that ruined several people’s Christmas Eve, I have posted original content in this space every single weekday for almost two years. Regardless of whether or not I felt funny, whether or not I’d had a tough day at work, whether or not I’d had a root canal on the number 12 lateral incisor, I showed up every day on WordPress with a unique offering. Occasionally, it was even humorous.

Now, after an estimated 520 essays, I’m going to take this week between Christmas and New Year’s off. Starting tomorrow and continuing until January 3, I’ll be re-running classic Website Reviews and other works that first appeared in late 2009 and early 2010 in this blog. Think of it as something akin to the various TV marathons we’re seeing a lot on cable over the holidays, only (hopefully) a bit more entertaining than back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back episodes of Top Chef: Boiling Water.

Given the chance to recharge my batteries, I am confident that I can return in the New Year with fresh and amusing compositions, many of which will use real words. Look for other changes as well here at DavisW’s Blog, as I attempt to remain current and keep up with all the latest in online technology. For example, all new posts appearing in January will be dated in 2011, whereas I had only used 2010, 2009 and 2008 in the past. I’m also thinking of publishing a picture of myself in which I’m wearing something other than a T-shirt.

So hang in there, you 162.17 average daily readers. Enjoy the “revisitings,” as I’m calling them, for the next week. Or find something more constructive to do with your life, like getting up from your computer long enough to recall that you have loved ones living in the same house that you can say “hi” to.

I hope to see you back in January.

Ask Mr. Ethiquette: Several questions today

December 17, 2010

Dear Mr. Ethiquette,

I’m a working-class white Southern male, except that I’m not technically working because I’ve been unemployed for over a year. My job in the textile industry was eliminated when the company moved production to China, and I can’t find anything new, especially with just a high-school education.

My wife lost her job in state government last month, just as my unemployment benefits were running out. Our 19-year-old son can only find work at McDonald’s and is thinking about joining the Army instead, except he’s a little concerned about the whole dying-in-Afghanistan thing. My 11-year-old daughter was doing well in school until funding was cut and her teacher was replaced with a mannequin.

Meanwhile, all around us, roads and bridges are crumbling, families are losing their homes and average Americans have given up all hope that the future is going to be any better.

Can you explain to me why I continue to support Republican policies that give more money to the wealthy and have virtually no regard for my situation? Why would I vote so consistently against my own self-interests? What is wrong with me?

— L.P., Columbia S.C.

Dear L.P.,

Gays are going to be allowed to marry each other!

Democrats want to take away your guns!

There’s a war against Christmas being waged by liberals who aren’t as God-loving as you!

Muslims are building a mosque near Ground Zero in New York!

African-Americans and Hispanics continue to walk among us!

Have you forgotten about all this?

— Mr. Ethiquette

Dear Mr. Ethiquette,

You’re right! I forgot all about that. Sorry, I guess I was distracted by trying to figure out how I was going to feed my family.

— L.P., Columbia, S.C.

Dear L.P.,

And don’t forget Congressional earmarks! And Nancy Pelosi! And the lamestream media!

— Mr. Ethiquette

Dear Mr. Ethiquette,

Right, right. So sorry to waste your time.

— L.P., Columbia, S.C.

Dear L.P.,

That’s OK. In stressful times like these, it’s easy to forget what’s important for America.

— Mr. Ethiquette

+++

Dear Mr. Ethiquette,

What is considered proper these days when holding open a door for someone? Is this only something a man does for a woman, or is it a common courtesy that should be extended to all?

What do you do when they’re coming up behind you, but they’re far enough away that you have to hold the door for a few additional seconds? They often break into a trot to keep you from waiting, which seems to defeat the whole purpose of why you’re trying to be nice to them. Especially when old people are involved — I hate to make grandma jog across the parking lot because she doesn’t want to inconvenience me by waiting for her.

And what about automatically opening doors? Should I stand in front of the sensor to keep the doors open for a straggler, or can I count on their own physical bulk to take care of this for them?

Modern life is so confusing for a person like me who wants to do right by their fellow human beings.

— H.R., Denver, Col.

Dear H.R.,

Truly you are a dying breed, but I’m glad there are some of you still out there who want to be nice to strangers.

If there is someone immediately behind you as you enter a door, it is proper to hold the door for them, regardless of their gender. Sometimes it can be difficult to tell if it’s a man or a woman anyway, what with all the trans-sexuals and trans-gendered and transvestites out there. And don’t even get me started on the gays.

If the straggler is more than a couple of feet behind you, do not hold the door. The whole idea of this exercise is to be polite, so you kind of defeat the purpose by making them sprint forward so you’re not holding the door so long. At that distance, you can’t really be sure they’re coming in the same door as you anyway. Maybe they plan instead to scale the wall to a second-floor window and enter that way. Maybe they have superhuman strength and prefer to bash a new entryway into the building. Maybe they’ve mastered teleportation and plan on reassembling their atoms inside, without ever even using a door. You don’t know.

As for automatic doors, I believe these are a scourge upon the land. They encourage weakness in our population, and have contributed immeasurably to the decline of Western Civilization. What’s next to be automated? Zippers? Car doors? Will we soon require attendants to bring a glass of water to our lips so that we may drink without effort? No wonder we have an obesity problem in this country.

I think I’ve answered your question in there somewhere. Thanks for asking.

— Mr. Ethiquette

+++

Dear Mr. Ethiquette,

So what exactly is the point of this advice column anyway? You’re trying to address that area where ethics and etiquette intersect? I can appreciate the need to apologize to a neighbor that you almost ran over with your car, or the prison inmate you’re about to execute. And you covered those two topics nicely in your first two installments.

I’m not sure what else is left. How are you going to make this a regular feature of this blog with such a shortage of issues?

— D.L., Toronto, Canada

Dear T.L.,

You know what? I hate to admit it, but you’re right. It was a stupid idea to begin with.

Today’s post therefore marks the end of the “Ask Mr. Ethiquette” feature. Like Larry King, I’ve enjoyed my tenure entertaining and informing America, even if he did it for 60 years and I just started earlier this month. But there comes a time for all things to end, so I’ll take my cue from Larry and Oprah and Barbara Walters and all the other retiring titans of infotainment, and I’ll say goodbye.

Thanks for reading.

— The Late Mr. Ethiquette

We interrupt this blog to report that it’s cold

December 8, 2010

I was checking those site stats that WordPress claims I’ll “drool over” the other day, and nearly shorted out my keyboard with the excess sputum. A record 8,853 readers viewed my blog during the month of November, an average of almost 300 people daily. Looks like I’m finally developing a nice level of steady readership, I thought.

Then I looked more closely at the details.

On virtually each separate day, my most-read post was one I wrote over six months ago. The piece was a Website Review of a site that sells the “no!no!” hair removal system, often advertised on late-night infomercials. It was a fine bit of writing, I’ll admit, but hardly worthy of such continued viewing by what on some days amounted to half my readers.

I decided to Google “no no hair removal reviews” and discovered that my post was on the first page of searches returned, only a few entries down from the sponsored links by the makers of the electronic tweezers. My blog was becoming a go-to location for no!no! customers wishing to praise or vent their anger at the wisdom of their purchase.

“My senior citizen mother looks like a man who hasn’t shaved for a day after trying to make this jerky piece of very difficult equipment work properly,” wrote one commenter.

“On commercials, I did not see nor hear any guarantees of permanent hair removal, just the promise of no!no!-ing less often than shaving or chemical hair removal,” said another. “Trying to shape your own eyebrows is a fool’s errand if you’re using a handheld machine.”

“The machine burnt some hair to shorten it but I would get a much better result with a razor,” offered yet another reader.

“After fighting for a few months with the company, thank God I got ALL my money back,” noted Sharzie McMahem of the website nospamcomcast.

My dreams for the success of this blog didn’t rest on cornering the market on discussions about questionably effective hair-removal products. I aimed to cover a multitude of life’s topics from a humorous angle, commenting from the perspective of a fifty-something guy just trying to bring a little digital excitement into his life (I don’t count my annual prostate exam). I didn’t intend to become a message board for overly hirsute women unhappy with their mail-order purchases.

But you should be flexible in this new era of online communications, so I think I need to go with the flow. Today’s post will be the first in a series of articles that examine the challenges and delights that come with being a mammal. Having hair cover parts of our body that we may not want to be covered is a problem that perhaps I can do something to alleviate. Since information is power, I will from now on use this site as a virtual meeting place for those who want to learn and tell about all matters hairy.

Today’s installment: a brief social history of hair.

Hair has great social significance for human beings. It can grow on most external areas of the human body, except on the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet. Hair is most noticeable on most people in a small number of areas, which are also the ones most commonly trimmed, plucked or shaved.

Hairstyle may be an indicator of group membership. During the English Civil War, the followers of Oliver Cromwell decided to crop their hair close to the head, as an act of defiance to the curls and ringlets of the king’s men…

WE INTERRUPT THIS BLOG POST TO BRING YOU A MATTER OF URGENT IMPORTANCE. THE FOLLOWING IS A REPORT OF FAKING BREAKING NEWS

EASTERN HALF OF U.S. ( Dec. 8 ) — Employees arriving at offices in large swathes of the country report this morning that it’s “really, really cold” or “freezing out there.”

The deep and prolonged cold snap follows the arrival of an Arctic Clipper earlier this week that left locations from Maine to Wisconsin to Georgia with record low temperatures. Cars had trouble starting, heavy coats had to be located from rarely used closets, and cups of coffee had to be reheated once people arrived at their work. In a related inconvenience, some homeless people died.

“I can’t believe how cold it is this morning,” Jim Hooper, a financial analyst, told workers in his Towson, Md., firm just moments ago. “It’s incredible.”

“Man, I thought I would freeze my butt off,” said Allen Moyer, a bank employee in suburban Cincinnati. “I had to scrape the windshield on my car for a good ten minutes to get all the ice off.”

“I can’t stop shivering,” reported Amy Binder to her fellow cashiers at a grocery store in Charlotte, N.C. “Look at my hands. Really, just stop what you’re doing for a minute and look at my hands.”

Meteorologists speculate the annual arrival of winter late in the year was responsible for the icy blast that left millions of people jabbering endlessly about the weather. It seems the Earth’s annual rotation around the sun causes different parts of the globe to heat up or cool down for months at a time.

“I don’t remember it being cold last year,” said Dalton Stern, a salesman at an Atlanta car dealership. “I almost slipped on an icy patch out where they watered the grass yesterday afternoon. It’s definitely colder than it’s ever been before.”

“I don’t know about all that scientific stuff,” commented Alyce Bishop as she sat shivering at her desk, still wearing her hat and scarf despite the fact that the thermostat on the wall right in front of her recorded a balmy 71 degrees. “I think it’s God opening His refrigerator to get a snack and the cold air just rolls out from heaven down to us.”

Many also interrupted fellow employees who were obviously working on deadline with tales of children and pets who were also feeling the effects of a plunging thermometer.

“My daughter finally got a chance to wear that cute scarf I made for her,” said Angela Royston, a loan officer at a Lexington, Ky., bank. “You know the one I was showing you a picture of? The one I spent all summer crocheting? You remember, you said you liked the parts that were red? You know the one.”

“I tried to let the dogs out and they just stood at the door, sniffing the air,” reported Gerald Hawkey, a copy editor at a rural Pennsylvania newspaper. “I said, ‘go on, it’s not going to kill you,’ and they finally went but you could tell they didn’t like it.”

“And they say global warming is melting the ice caps and raising the sea levels,” observed Staten Island attorney Eric Newsome. “I could go for some of that global warming right about now.”

“It is so cold,” added his secretary. “Very, very cold.”