Monday, June 14, 2010

Birds Got Badges!

I would like to dedicate this entry to my sister-in-law, Becky, who passed away very suddenly last week on June 8, 2010. We will miss you, Becky. Thanks for making our lives so much brighter.

I think birds have badges that they strive for, much like those the Boy Scouts strive for. Okay, wait a minute; I’m not completely off the deep end yet. I really do think they have badges, and here’s why.

Just about every time I’m out driving, a bird will suddenly fly across the front of my car. It comes out of nowhere, just a tiny body flashing in front of my speeding car, and then it’s gone. And, of course, with my out-of-control imagination, it’s because that bird was trying to earn its Car-Diving Badge.

I always sincerely shout, “Way to get that badge!” as I picture the bird sitting on a tree branch, scared to death after having just dived in front of my car, and receiving the applause and congratulations of its fellow birds. Then a small ceremony in which it receives the Car-Diving Badge (a rough rendition of a human car with oak leaves) and a kiss from the bird queen.

Okay, maybe the bird is just an idiot and doesn’t actually see my car coming, but I like to think about badges. In fact, here are some more bird badges (and how to earn them) that I just know are real:

The “Bomber Trio”:
Window-Bomber Badge: place a “bird-dropping” on a human house window just below the eave. The only way I figure they can do this is dive straight at the window, then pull up sharply at the last minute and drop their “bomb” at the same time. I know of at least one bird in our neighborhood that is sporting this badge since last Saturday.

Car-Bomber Badge: we all know how this one is earned. The only tricky part here is finding a freshly washed car.

Laundry-Bomber Badge: circle over (or land on) full human clotheslines after a big meal of blackberries. And your target has to be white.

Grill Badge: earned by building a nest in a human’s bar-b-q grill. The nest must be constructed overnight, started as soon as the grill cools from the humans’ last grilling session. (There’s a tiny finch in our backyard that has earned this badge many times.)

No-Flinching Badge: sit on the road and stare at oncoming cars without flinching until the last second, then fly straight up and freak-out the human. This is actually the badge that comes after the Car-Diving Badge. This badge is mostly presented posthumously. (I’m sure you can figure out why.)

Impossible-Home Badge: build a nest in the most impossible, out-of-the-way place you can find. The smallest, most hard to reach place is best. Extra oak leaves if it bugs the humans but they can do anything about it.

Okay, I’d better cut this list short. Watch the birds in your location, especially when you’re driving, and see if I’m not correct in thinking, BIRDS GOT BADGES!

Friday, May 07, 2010

Killing Yourself For Health

Two days ago I was diagnosed with high blood pressure. I wasn’t really surprised because I could tell something weird was going on with my body the last year or so. I’ve been frequently tired, my heart seems to skip a few beats now and then, I get dizzy every so often, and I’ve reached, as my doctor so eloquently put it, “the magical age of fifty.”

And so now I see the immediately need for more exercise. I should get this old body back in shape. Drop the flab and get back the toned and tight body of my earlier years. Become once again that lean, mean fat burning machine I was when I got married some 24 years ago. Re-create the Greek god Adonis physique that….

Aw, shucks, I need to drop about twenty pounds and hope my gut decides to recede just a bit so I can see my toes again.

That’s all I ask.

I saw a young man today on the drive in to work who seems to share my need and quest for health. He was dressed in what I’m sure is expensive bike riding clothes, riding what I’m sure is an expensive bicycle. He had that look of fierce determination you see on the faces of athletes. That look of getting into and staying in shape. That look of willing his body farther and farther no matter how painful the exercise, no matter how much his body screams for rest. And I applauded him (silently, of course, I was driving). I wanted to shout, “Go, man, go! Push it, push it, kept it up! Be a role model for all us fat slobs to look up to, give us the “after” picture we should be striving for, give us motivation!”

But I didn’t shout that. Instead, I shouted, “Watch out! You’re going to kill yourself!”

A strange thing to shout you say? Not really. See, this young man was straining on his bike pedals, powering himself up a steep grade of the four-lane road, in traffic, in the right-hand lane, IN THE ROAD. That’s right, in the road, mixing with heavy morning traffic, dwarfed by all the other vehicles driven by people trying to get to work.

When he first came into my field of vision, a very large, very scary tanker truck was bearing down on him. I said a quick prayer that the truck driver had seen him and would start applying his brakes. My prayer was answered, but almost too late. The enormous truck began jumping and skipping as the driver apparently just noticed the bicyclist and tromped on the brakes. As I went by in the left lane, the truck switched lanes behind me to get around the young man, opening a spot in the right lane into which roared a large delivery truck. In my rearview mirror the delivery driver was visible through the large windshield of his truck. He seemed to be interested in the car next to him. I think he was planning on changing lanes, and was checking to see if there was room. When he turned his eyes back to the road ahead and saw the bicyclist, his look of surprise was complete. He, too, applied his brakes quickly, his truck leaning forward as its momentum was checked.

From my angle, it looked as if the delivery truck was now inches from the bike. Impossibly close. I steeled myself for the sight of the boy flying over the handlebars to receive the ultimate case of road rash. But, luckily again, the driver missed and went around, leaving the healthy young man to take his chances with the next motor vehicle in line.

At this point, the bicyclist was out of my line of sight and I continued on, somewhat shaken, to my place of employment. And I started wondering. Is getting and staying healthy worth the incredible danger he was putting himself into? Are tight, lean, healthy muscles a just reward for staring Death--taking the form of multi-ton vehicles--in the face every day? I don’t think so, especially when there is a five-foot wide, freshly paved walking/biking trail paralleling the road where all this was taking place!

I guess I’m thinking in some silly, old fashioned way and, I don’t know, maybe I’m weird, but it seems to me you shouldn’t get healthy by trying to kill yourself.

Hmmm. Makes me wonder. Oh, well. I guess I’ll just go downstairs now and plug in the treadmill. And hope the stupid cat doesn’t try to jump on there with me, ‘cause that’s dangerous.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Ital. or Not Ital.? That is the question.

I had a question recently that set my old brain to churning. A simple enough question: “Is the rule of underlining words to denote italics no longer fashionable?”

Hmm, very interesting.

In my opinion—and I daresay the opinions of most editors—the underlining of italicized words was only necessary back in the typewriter days when there was no way to italicize words. Now that we all use word processors, we can use actual italics and it looks great.

As long as (ah, here comes the exception), the font being used allows a clear difference between the regular and italicized words. For example, if you’re using something like Courier font, there’s not a lot of difference between them. But, fonts like Times New Roman have a good, clear difference.

So, yes, I would say use actual italics and forget the underlining rule. By the way, the underlining rule for book, movie, etc titles is still in effect, but many editors (and again I'm guessing) prefer the italicized versions. To me, anything underlined in a manuscript is to be viewed as emphasized, as in someone shouting. But, then again (I really should stop this), I prefer to see the shouting italicized rather than underlined.