Friday, August 25, 2017

Floundering in the Path of Totality!

My wife had been prepared, super-hyped, for the eclipse for months. She'd picked up tons and tons of eclipse glasses. Scheduled her work around the day. The whole nine yards.
I said, "So, I know it's a big deal and everything. But, really, can't we just step out on our deck and look at a partial sun?"

Boy, was I ever schooled.

"You just don't get it," she said with a sigh. "This is a once-in-a-lifetime event. It only happens every hundred years or so."

I did the math. Figured I probably wouldn't be around for another hundred years. Unless they freeze me next to Walt Disney.

"In Kansas City," my wife continued, "we're going to be in about 98% of the path of totality. To truly experience 100% totality, we'll have to travel North about, oh, 45 minutes or so."

"The path of totality" was a new one on me. Matter of fact, I'd never even heard the word "totality" until my wife dropped it on me. 

"Wow," I said, "the word totality is kinda..." The term sounded downright apocalyptic. Bigger than me, than you, than the universe. Words betrayed me. I couldn't describe it.

But my wife did. "Sounds so total," she said with a knowing, scientific nod.

So, yeah, if the solar eclipse was such a big to-do that a new term was created for it, a term so full of awesome that it's only used every 100 years, then color me excited!

Slowly, the days passed leading to the big event. Every layman was using the very special word: "I completed my meal to totality. Soon I'll have to make a path of totality to the bathroom." (A term only scientists should probably use, really, if you think about it.)

The Big Day came! Rain storms ushered it in! Torrential downpours of Arkian proportions! Skies so cloudy, the sun was nowhere in evidence!


Undeterred, yet holding out for the best, we headed North. I never voiced my optimism out loud, but I thought surely if this event only occurs every 100 years, we wouldn't be ripped off out of our chance to see it. Right? RIGHT?

My wife and I discussed our destination. Consulted various weather channels, charts, diagrams. Crystal balls. Just like scientists. And we postulated a very scientific conclusion: "We'll go to Weston, Missouri. We can drink wine. That way should it still be cloudy, it won't be a complete washout."

Spirits high, we traveled North! So did everyone else! Nothing could stop the path of totality! Epic!

In Weston, home of some of Missouri's finest wineries, people took to the streets. Frankly, being a macabre sort, I'd worried that the eclipse might have a strange effect on people. You know, turn them into rapid zombies or something.

To my great surprise, the impending event appeared to bring out the best in people. Jokes were made ("Sorry, folks, the eclipse has been called off."). Young hipsters offered strangers eclipse glasses. Doors were held open. Weather reports were passed on. Smiles shared. Politeness ruled. For the first time, since...well, since at least the last presidential election, I felt a sense of community. That we were all in it together.

Together in misery.
Hopes were dashed. Clouds remained and like big cumulus bullies, they were there to stay. Someone reported from her phone that in Kansas City, they had a clear view.

Dammit! Better 98% totality than none at all!

Quickly, we hopped in the car and raced back. Darkness fell. We pulled off in along the highway, chunked into a Ruby Tuesday's parking lot, for God's sake. So did a lot of people. And watched some totality. But not the whole shebang.

Crushing disappointment reigned. Made much worse by listening to the ecstatic nerds on NPR describe the path of totality they were experiencing. President Trump proved himself Bigger than Science when he looked directly into the eclipse with superhuman eyes, treating it with the same disdain he does that other great scientific hoax, global warming. (And scheduling his war talk the same day as the eclipse? Bad form, President Trump, bad! Honestly, isn't his ego big enough without having to compete with astronomical events? Is he vying for the Kurt Russell role in Guardians of the Galaxy 2 as "Ego, the Living Planet?")
And all we got for our month-long efforts was some wine and 48 leftover pairs of eclipse glasses. I'm selling them now. Cheap.

Or I'll just make some lifestyle changes and live to be in the next path of totality.

Hey, you guys visited Peculiar County yet? Oddly enough, it's in the path of totality a lot of the time. Click here! 

Friday, August 18, 2017

It's a Man's World...unless, of course, you're a praying mantis.

And you guys think you have it bad!
Pity the plight of the poor praying mantis. Gather around for a little science lesson...

The other day my wife and I are sitting on the back deck. She's tending to a potted plant and says, "Hey! A walking stick!"

"Kill it," I scream, because everyone knows sticks shouldn't walk, a mutant aberration of science gone awry. And because everything I know about science I've learned from cartoons.

Upon further exploration, my wife says, "No...wait... It's a praying mantis."

Which is even worse. "Squish it! Get rid of it! For God's sake, destroy the beast!"

"No," says my wife, "praying mantises are good. She'll eat the bad bugs."

Hmm. "What in the world makes you think it's a female?" I ask.

She rolls her eyes, says, "There's a huge difference between male and female praying mantises."

I reached deep into the darkest pockets of my useless and dusty stored facts and plucked out something horrific. "Oh, yeah! It has a head, right? Because after the mantises procreate, the female eats the male's head."

"That's not the difference I'm talking about, but, yes, they do that."

"But why?" I knew the females feasted on heads, just couldn't figure out their motivation. "Are the females tired of a lifetime of male oppression? Are they into weird insectoid, extreme S&M and get carried away? Do they hate males?"

At this point, my wife's not a firm believer in the adage, There's no such thing as a stupid question. "They're just bugs doing...buggy things."

"Well...humans can't do it," I grumble.

Ever the scientist, my wife gives it more thought. "I imagine the males' head is full of protein and good for the eggs. Mantises only mate once, then it's off with the males' head."

"'re saying that the male kinda just hangs out, has sex once, then at the peak of his short life, he gets his head eaten?"

"Pretty much."

"...No wonder they pray all the time." 

For more strange science (not really) and weird wonders of the world (or at least a spooky lil' Kansas town in the sixties), check out Peculiar County by clicking....wait for it...RIGHT HERE! 

Friday, August 11, 2017

The Kansas Power Corporation!

Behold the mighty strength of the "Kansas Power Corporation!" Sounds kinda like a Trump side-dish, doesn't it?

Nope! Guess again! It's just another example of Hollywood's predictably insular view of Kansas. The movers and shakers in Hollywood think all of Kansas is generic, nothing but one giant burg of hick-town Mayberry hi-jinx. Now, granted, the drive across Kansas is hellish, nothing but flat, boring land for the most part, but still...there are big cities here and there.

Recently, my wife and I watched an episode of Supernatural. One of the heroes asked where the villain was. Someone responded, "Kansas."

That's all the cast needed to  pinpoint the villain's location. Because everyone knows the state of Kansas is tiny. Just one giant backward town. In the offending episode, a single utility company under the moniker of "The Kansas Power Corporation" covered the entire state's needs. 

Stop it! Bad Hollywood! No cocaine!

Research, writers!

I swear, popular entertainment abuses Kansas more than any other American state.

Kansas is depicted in one of three ways:

1) Hicks sitting around the ol' fishing hole. No teeth, no smarts, no shirts. Que the Deliverance theme. (Okay, granted there are pockets of Kansas that do indeed cater to this rather specific stereotype, but we also have big cities with indoor plumbing and everything!)

2) "I don't think we're in Kansas anymore, Toto" jokes. (It's time to retire this right now! It wasn't funny the first kazillion times either.)

3) The wild, wild west with shoot-em-ups in the dirt streets. (These days, the only shoot-em-ups in our streets are gangsta drive-bys.)

I say enough! I want to take Kansas back from the incompetent Hollywood writers! Set them straight! Educate them!

(And then move out of this Godforsaken state.)

Click here to read true tales of Kansas (um, except for the ghosts, multiple murderers, witches, and things that go bump in the night).

Friday, August 4, 2017

Accidental 3-D (in Technicolor!)

A fate worth lotsa tears, our TV recently went wonky. Three images: one blue, one red, one I don't know what you'd call it. 

Online "experts" said to fix the color convergence. I did that and it was still wonky. I tried getting more technical. I Googled "Wonky TV" and it led me to weird porn.

Here's the deal, I'm pretty dang sure these online "experts" are the same schmucks that sold us our refrigerator of an eighteen-year-old TV.

Blame it on Best Buy. One of the last mega-stores to have more clerks than customers (and just try and find one when you actually need one!), it's hard-sell city.
When my wife and I went shopping there, lo, those many years ago, the blue shirts were on us like a zombie invasion.

"Here's what you need," said Brian, "top of the line, bang-up model with the best hi-def image possible. Don't know about hi-def? This baby here's redefining the future!"

I was in awe of the TV. Brian's hair, too. Deal-maker. We bought it. (Of course Brian also tried to sell me on gold-plated composite cables--"They improve the picture 100-fold!"--but being no dummy, I opted for the plastic tipped ones).

Huge as a walk-in freezer, you could easily fit three corpses and a bag of chips inside this house of a TV. Awesome! Bigger is always better! And since Best Buy delivered (for an additional thousand dollars or something), double deal-maker!

Two weeks later, after the TV was delivered by griping men, Best Buy's model went half-price, a closeout deal. Technology wiped us off the face of the earth.

Buyer's remorse set in. But I loved the big picture, so I settled.

Until now, it's actually been a good TV. But it's time to shoot it, put it out to pasture. My wife and I have resorted to wearing old-fashioned, paper blue & red 3-D glasses. It works (kinda) with the triple image. But after a while, it's an eye-strain. Plus, my dog thought I was a giant bug and kept growling at me.
We bit the bullet, bought a new TV. 

But how in the world do you get rid of the old one? 

Trash men won't take TV's. You can't give 'em away (without some merciless jackass cutting the cord off for the meager copper inside, thus ruining a {fairly} watchable TV for someone else). I'll be surprised if my wife and I can even lift it outta the house.

I asked my wife the obvious, "Hey, what're we gonna do with the old TV?"

"Put it in the garage and put lots and lots of stuff on top of it."

For more life on the weird side, click here for my newest book, Peculiar County.