We have received your application for a Spontaneity Grant. Please fill out the enclosed forms in triplicate, and return them to us complete before the specified date. In addition, you are required to provide a detailed timeline of your plans for spontaneous acts, along with an estimated budget and certified copies of applicable local permits.
Thank you for your support for the Spontaneity Initiative.
The other day, for reasons I don’t recall, the word “hoosegow” entered my mind. If you’re like me, you know it mostly from Westerns. It’s what crude cowboys called a jail. “Throw him in the hoosegow!”
It occurred to me to wonder about the origins of the word. Off the top of my head, I guessed it was one of those American borrowings from Dutch, like “boss.” The “hoose” element sounds like the Germanic “hus” or “huis,” meaning house.
So I looked it up. Turns out it’s not Dutch but Spanish, from the word “jusgado,” meaning jail. One of those cowboy borrowings from the Mexicans, like high heeled boots and sombreros.
And now you know too. Because I’m generous. Not a master of languages, but generous.
A Spanish-speaking friend tells me jusgado does not mean jail, but a male prisoner in a jail. This means dictionary.com is mistaken. I want my money back.
My back yard seems like an entirely different place in winter. Places where I could walk easily in summer are hard going — or dangerous — in winter. The contours are different. The colors are different. That muddy place I try to avoid in summer doesn’t even exist (conceptually) now.
It’s like I’ve moved.
I’ve lived in the north and I’ve lived in the south. As I’ve said many times, I hate winter with a hot hate that I only wish would warm me up.
But winter does give us the opportunity to travel, so to speak. My yard in Florida was pretty much the same all the time. My yard in winter is a foreign country.
Not a very nice foreign country, I’ll grant. But it’s a change. A poor man’s holiday. In Siberia.
An eponym is “a person after whom a discovery, invention, place, etc., is named or thought to be named.” An example given by Merriam-Webster goes, “Toadfishes burp the songs of their eponyms; one sort of toadfish is called the singing midshipman. —John Hersey, Harper’s, May 1987.”
Someone shared the video at this link on Facebook today. It’s “The Battle of Maldon, the Lego Version.” The creators went to the trouble of staging the story in Lego figures. They commit the sin of horns on Viking helmets, but let’s face it, you can’t be too scrupulous when you’re dealing in Legos.
“The Battle of Maldon,” of course, is a famous Anglo-Saxon poem describing a battle between Englishmen and Norsemen in 991. The Norsemen won, due either to cheating by the Vikings or the stupidity of the English commander (depending on your point of view).
By the way, it’s generally agreed that the Viking commander that day was Olaf Trygvesson, a major character in my novel The Year of the Warrior. Some years back I read historians saying they’d decided it wasn’t him after all, but now everybody’s saying it was. So I guess they changed their minds.
Now and then – not every day – I come up with a Grand Unified Theory that explains one or more of life’s great puzzles. And being the generous soul that I am, I share my insight with you.
Because I’m all about the giving.
Here’s what I figured out this summer.
I have observed, from my own experience and from comments on Facebook from sea to shining sea, that pretty much everywhere that people live in the US, all the streets are being dug up this summer. I mean all the streets, as in, if you try to find an alternate route because your usual route is under construction, you’ll certainly find that route under construction too. And if you find a tertiary route, behold, there the bobcats and scarifiers will be also.
Obviously this is a massive conspiracy. But what is it in service of?
This is my insight:
Under pressure from animal rights activists, behavioral scientists have been severely restricted in their use of laboratory rats in mazes. Funding for animal experimentation is drying up.
So the behavioral scientists have turned to the government for an alternative experiment. Streets are being dug up all over each metropolitan area, not for maintenance purposes, but to construct increasingly complex mazes. The progress of our automobiles through these mazes is being systematically tracked by drones in the air.
I think this is the only sufficient explanation for the disruption in our daily commutes.
Remember, if the government denies this obvious truth, that in itself is proof that I’ve guessed right.
An eight-year-old boy emerged from a medically induced coma with a remarkable story of visiting heaven and meeting a wide variety of people, including a literary agent who encouraged him to sell his story to a major publisher. Seems legit.
Harper Lee’s Watchman has captured the hopes of many readers, and now the author’s lawyer has announced the discovery of papers that may be yet another manuscript. Yes. That part’s true. Not even the lawyer appears to know what those papers hold, but The Onion has gotten hold of the title, “My Excellent Caretaker Deserves My Entire Fortune.”
Electric Lit reports that several publishers are now announcing newly discovered sequels to many of your favorite classics:
Programming notes: Tonight, on NPC, 8:00 pm Eastern: MR. CHIEF EXECUTIVE MAN (Superhero Drama): Tonight’s episode: “The Legitimate Grievance of the Ant People” (Repeat). Following a string of minuscule acts of terrorism, Mr. Chief Executive Man employs his superhuman interpersonal skills to make contact with the Queen of the Ant People. Learning that the Ant People object to humans stepping on them on sidewalks, he assures the Queen that he will draft an executive order forbidding all humans from ever leaving their houses again. Peace is restored. (Reminder: Viewing of this episode is mandatory for all citizens.)
The Ovente Steam Espresso Maker may be a great gift for someone you love this summer, especially if they would enjoy getting their coffee from a Dalek. With a cup of joe from this baby, you’ll have the strength to fight back against the footless foes who point at you and say, “Procrastinate!”
South Dakota may already be on your Top 50 list of American states you want to visit, but the state’s tourism czar hopes to bump up your expectations by comparing the Mount Rushmore State to Mars–not the maker of little chocolate candies that melt in your mouth, but not in your neighbor’s thieving hand, but the red planet, the fourth rock from the Sun. “Why die on Mars,” they ask, “when you can live in South Dakota?”
Why? We’ll tell you why.
1. Mars Has Little Snow
Mars is a cold planet with way more carbon-dioxide than South Dakota, and it does have some snow, but it keeps its snowfall in carefully drawn boundaries around the polar caps. Does it fall on the streets and villages of Mars, clogging traffic on Martian highways? Not on your life.
Mars keeps its snow in neat areas, out of trouble. (Source: NASA)
On the other hand, South Dakota lets the snow fall all over the place—on cars, on vacationing skiers, and even on grade-school children trying to get a bit of work done outdoors. In the city of Lead, the average annual snowfall is almost 200 inches. That’s over 16 feet! You won’t see that on Mars.
Here’s a fun song about how there are too many Irishmen in the world. I first heard this on a cassette many years ago. For our younger readers, a cassette was like a hard drive made from black tape, which was held in a tape deck that would play non-digital audio that sounded way better than anything we have today. It was as if you were in the room with the musicians.