Seriously? Halloween on a Saturday? Combined With Daylight Saving Time? Who Let This Happen?

I never galvanized the adults in my community to form PAH! (Parents Against Halloween!) and now we're all paying for it, stuck at home on a perfect fall Saturday, beholden to the masses of grotesquely costumed children, serving them candy and treats-- like they don't get enough of those?-- while our own children rake in bags of processed sugar, which I don't have the fortitude to resist, so I'll spend the next month in the throes of diabetic shock, and if I do leave the house today, I'll have to drive very very carefully to avoid all the little trick-or-treating buggers--who will be all hopped up on sugar-- when they inevitably dart out in front of my car and the dog will be barking away all afternoon, because he thinks our home is being invaded by masked gremlins . . . and no one has officially told me when custom dictates that you should man the door when Halloween falls on a Saturday (in the same vein as how no one has officially told me why we participate in Daylight Saving Time) so maybe I'll just leave an empty bowl on my front porch with a post-it attached that says "Please Take One Item."

Men and Women are a Little Different

The head of my department recently progressed from looking a little pregnant to looking very pregnant, and she's getting the usual curious glances and awkward comments-- especially from older gentlemen, who won't mention the actual baby living inside her and instead ask vague questions about how she is feeling . . . but this is to be expected, as carrying a baby is so incredibly foreign to men, it's completely out of our ken . . . while men and women are certainly more similar than different in how they perceive and experience the world, there are certain things that will never translate, such as the complete failure of a woman's ability to comfort a man after he's just been hit in the testicles by a sharply hit softball.

It's That Most Wonderful Time of the Year . . . Again

Like the sands of the hourglass, so are the Sentences by Dave . . . and if you visit here daily, then you know to expect run-ons, awkwardness, miracles, questionable punctuation, and an annual rant on Daylight Saving Time . . . so, without further fanfare, here it is: my middle school soccer game was rained out yesterday and rescheduled for the coming Monday, and normally this wouldn't be a problem, but because some bureaucrat in some windowless office decided that Daylight Saving Time should by November 1st this year, one of my players is going to get kicked in the face with a ball . . . because he can't see it . . . because it's going to get unnaturally dark at ten after five on Monday . . . because this aforementioned bureaucrat in his windowless office doesn't care about the children, who need light after school, so that they can play and not get hit by cars or soccer balls.

Obama Almost Makes Dave Happy! But Ultimately Disappoints Him . . .

President Obama recently spoke out against the amount of "unnecessary" standardized testing in public schools, and proposed a cap on the amount of testing per school year; I certainly agree with him and I'm glad he's taking this stance, but I was disappointed that he did not use the term "positive manifold" to bolster his argument . . . I hope you learned your lesson, Mr. President: the next time you're going to say something about education, check in with Sentence of Dave first.

Only In America

My friend Connell brought a special guest to the pub Thursday night-- a geo-political science professor on sabbatical from Israel for a year-- he's here on some sort of "visiting scholar" program and he's an interesting and friendly guy . . . it was especially fun for me to talk with him, because he's very interested in Syrian politics and his family is originally for Aleppo and lived there for many many generations before his parents left and went to Israel . . . and he's never been to Syria because the border is closed with Israel so he was very interested in all my traveling tales through the country and my take on Syrian politics-- it made me feel very worldly . . . I was a veritable font of information, but I wish I was as knowledgeably about American politics (or something financially useful, like fantasy football) but the most interesting thing about our conversation was how he perceived Highland Park-- he was surprised how rigidly orthodox and rule-abiding the Jewish folk in our town are, especially about the Sabbath . . . he said that's rarely the case in Israel and he was shocked that American Jews are so much more observant than Israeli Jews, but I guess if you're Jewish and live in Israel than that's enough to feel like you're part of the culture, but in America you've got to do a bit more (or a bit less, if it's the Sabbath).

The Test 20: Stars, Caves . . . Whatever

This is my favorite episode of our podcast so far-- it's a festive mix of knowledge, judgement, ignorance, humor, tantrums, epistemology, and cave-hating; check it out, play along, and see how you do.
 

Dave Stoically Accepts His Greasy Fate

For the complete story, you can head over to Gheorghe: The Blog, but the synopsis is this: I have decided to quit creating fictitious band names for my music projects and instead stick with Greasetruck . . . and to celebrate I have released a new song, which turned out just the way I imagined it would . . . a minor miracle in itself.

 

The End is Nigh

Yesterday morning, I tried on two different jackets and BOTH of the zippers were broken . . . but my wife tells me there is some seamstress lady in town that will replace them for ten dollars a zipper . . . but then how long until those zippers break?

I Quit, Franzen . . . and I Quit Franzen

Dear Jonathan Franzen,

Regarding your new big book, Purity . . . not only was I NOT fooled by your clever ruse, but I'm also NOT fooled by your attempt to be Tom Wolfe and capture the zeitgeist of our times . . . your mash-up of Julian Assange and Edward Snowden is lesser than each of them, your guilt-ridden and secretive characters are more wooden than cryptic, and your description of a Bolivian jungle is unrealistic and dull-- and this is the only setting in your globe-trotting tour-de-force that I found remotely interesting . . . and so while I'm sorry I read 300 pages of this "bloated and immensely disagreeable" story and I wish the reviewers could have been a little more succinct in how much the book sucks ass, I'll chalk it up as a lesson learned (though I should have learned after your last one) and I'll never read one of your books again . . . but on the bright side, at least I checked it out of the library, unlike my friend and colleague Kevin, who actually spent his hard-earned money on it . . . you can leave an apology for him in the comments.

The Slippery Slope to Dorkville

My son Alex checked out the Monster Manual, The Player's Handbook, and The Dungeon Master's Guide from the library this weekend, and he's persuaded his brother and a number of other kids to start playing Dungeons & Dragons-- they are rolling dice and using words like "constitution" and "paladin" and-- though I thought twice about this-- I've actually abetted their nerdiness by offering some advice and ordering a complete set of polyhedral dice . . . in retrospect, playing D&D is a great way for pre-teens to pass the time before they notice girls . . . but I haven't told my children that if they play too long, then girls won't deign to notice them (not that they would care, at this point . . . but I probably should warn them that they might hypothetically care, sometime in  the far, unfathomable future . . . perhaps I will direct them to a clairvoyant seer with astounding psionic powers).



This Beer Tastes Good

Once again, I've found a beer that tastes really good (Sixpoint Sensi Harvest) and once again, I neither have the discriminating palate nor the gustatory diction to describe it properly, so once again I'll turn to Beeradvocate for some descriptive language that might do it some justice-- and while all the quotes are stolen and verbatim, the final exclamation point is my own:

1) candied grapefruit and mild pine;

2) a thin cap that leaves gentle lacing;

3) resin;

4) slightly sticky;

5) caramel maltiness;

6) super-floral and a bit peppery;

7) grassy, melon vibe . . . pithy;

8) soapy, gingery, fresh hopped up the nose;

9) dank earthy hops with an almost vegetable quality to it;

10) refreshing and quaffable!

I Don't Appreciate Your Ruse, Franzen



I found Jonathan Franzen's 2010 novel Freedom bloated and disagreeable (but I still enjoyed his hyper-realistic style) and I am feeling the same way about his new novel (Purity) but this time around Franzen tried to insulate himself from such criticism with a clever meta-ruse . . . in Purity, he includes a writer named Charles as a character, and Charles--like Franzen-- writes a "big book" . . . but his big book slaughtered by the reviewers; Michiko Kakutani reports (fictitiously) that Charles's fictitious novel is "bloated and immensely disagreeable" and this could certainly apply to the length of Franzen's new novel and the characters inside it, respectively-- despite this, I'm still plugging away at it, mainly for the realism and the scope, and because I always enjoy a clever meta-ruse, even when I recognize it as a "cunning attempt to trick me."

The Test 19: Dating Stacey

In this episode of The Test you'll find out what information you would need to impress Stacey on a hypothetical first date-- it's a hypothetical first date because she's happily married . . . so take a shot and see if you get hypothetically lucky (and if you were intimidated by the "Dating Cunningham" episodes, Stacey assures you that her quiz is "one million times easier" than Cunningham's quizzes).


Could This Be a Game Show?

I do a lesson with my Composition class on removing the "clutter" from their writing-- I like to teach the lesson just after a student uses the word "plethora" in an essay (or "myriad") and once we learn about clutter-- I use a couple of George Carlin bits to drive the idea home-- then, to completely exorcise the bombast, we write "clutter riddles"-- incredibly dense and prolix descriptions of everyday occurrences . . . and we try to guess what each passage is describing; I think this would be an excellent game show (perhaps The Test will do a trial run)-- here is an example that I wrote, and I'll put the answer in the comments:

1) when your antagonist commits an iniquitous act, you may find benevolence from a higher power, who will beckon you to enter the semi-circle and stand parallel to the diameter and then behold-- the sphere will be bequeathed to you by the hands of authority and you may launch the orb towards the halo in the firmament for one half the value, but still not no a negligible amount;

and here's my favorite one this year from the students;

2) the portal to the universe increases in magnitude and the fragile, delicate spheroid is ejected and immediately surrounded by a group of similar-minded experts who, with much frenzy and brouhaha, congregate, awaiting the high pitched frequency sound that will satisfy them. 

What the Teens are Talking About

As a high school teacher, I'm privy to the exciting social lives of teenagers . . . here's a snippet of conversation I overheard between two sophomore boys as they walked down the hall: "The PSAT is a total lie-- you know how they said that Spanish moss is a lichen . . . it's not."

TV is Bad For Kids

Don't be fooled, even if your kid is watching something educational-- like a documentary about philately-- you still have to worry, as not only is watching TV bad for your brain, but the TV itself is a health hazard: recently, there has been a rash of injuries caused by children toppling over flat screen TVs . . . I'm sure the same could happen with a bookshelf, but when a kid suffers a bump on the head from Dickens or Flaubert, it isn't as sensational and dystopian as a concussion caused by a hi-def flatscreen.

Dogs Will be Dogs

It was yesterday morning, 6 AM, dark and chilly, and I was walking the dog . . . but I was in the home stretch, nearing my driveway-- the dog's feces bagged and tossed in a dumpster-- and I was ready for a well-deserved cup of coffee, when-- with a yank so sudden my fingers didn't have time to clench-- the leash shot out of my hands and Sirius shot across the street into the darkness of the neighbor's yard, chasing a cat . . . and I was angry at myself, for not seeing the cat, and angry at my dog, for being such a cliche, for being so hackneyed and lame . . . for being the kind of dog that liked to chase cats; for being such a typical chauvinistic stereotypical canine who couldn't control himself when he saw that arched back, those glowing eyes, and that rigid tail . . . so I stomped into the house, told my wife I didn't have time for a cat-chasing dog because I had to go to work, went back outside with a treat, and-- luckily-- heard the jingling sound of his collar, and then, once we were back inside the house, I wondered if I should actually give him the treat . . . because then I would be rewarding his cat-chasing . . . but I decided cats were an attractive nuisance, and the people that own them shouldn't let them roam the town because they eat songbirds and tempt dogs . . . and dogs will be dogs and so I gave him the treat because he returned home after his little adventure (and I'm really not sure what he would actually do with a cat if he caught one . . . hopefully we'll never find out).

The Test 18: Plants and Things

This episode of The Test is probably as close to educational as we'll ever come . . . we all performed so well that we didn't even need the Voice of God to save us from our ignorance; so give it a shot and see if you can do as well as the ladies, and remember, it's not easy being green.


Garage Sale Day!

There is nothing quite like the mania to which my children and their gang of friends succumb during our town's "Garage Sale Day" . . . armed with a bit of cash and the materialism our culture has inculcated into them since birth, they scour the sales like a horde of leaf-cutter ants and proudly return with war stories and fairly useless junk-- for example, by Saturday afternoon, our household was the proud owner of TWO miniature pool tables, but then Alex decided to trade his miniature pool table (the more miniature of the two) with a friend for a cotton candy machine, but I quickly put the kibosh on that and he ended up with something fairly useful: a case full of high-quality poker chips (and there was some talk among them about designating Friday nights for "pool and gambling" and this was cute because they're all under twelve, and even cuter because they were wearing recently purchased garage sale fedoras and sunglasses).

Rock 'n' Roll Mathematics #1



There's a mathematical paradox in The Fabulous Thunderbird's song "Tuff Enuff" . . . if you work "twenty-four hours, seven days a week," then you won't actually have any time left over to "come home" and kiss your girlfriend's cheek . . . unless, of course, you have "eight days a week" to show you care (and I'm not even going to comment on the creative spelling of the title . . . or maybe I will: "Tough Enough" looks so much better).

Words for Beyond Words

I finally finished Carl Safina's book Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel and it's one of the most powerful and moving things I've read in a long time-- I actually had ambitious plans to summarize numerous portions, but the book is over four hundred pages and dense with details, so you're going to have to trust me, this is a really good one; here are a few things to whet your appetite:

1) Lyell Watson's description of an old lonely matriarch elephant standing beside the ocean enjoying the ultrasound rumble of a blue whale and possibly communicating back with her own deep voice: "the blue whale was on the surface again, pointed inshore, resting, her blowhole clearly visible . . . the largest animal in the ocean and the largest living land animal were no more than a hundred yards apart, . . . commiserating over the back fence of this rocky Cape shore";

2) the cruelty of the ivory trade, both to human-slaves and to elephants . . . as late as 1882, slavers chained humans together and had them carry the heavy tusks from the Upper Congo to port-- a 1000 mile slog-- and, as protocol had it, if you got sick, you were killed (to prevent malingering) and if you grew to weak to carry your tusk and your child, then your child was killed, because, as the headman logically explained: "We cannot leave valuable ivory on the road . . . we spear the child and make her burden lighter . . . ivory first";

3) the descriptions of wolves in Yellowstone, their infinitely complex personalities and hierarchies and forays and betrayals . . . the touching moment when Wolf Twenty-one, at the tail end of his years, watched his pack hunt an elk and then headed in the opposite direction, to the top of Druid Peak-- his favorite family rendezvous point-- where he lay down in the shade of a big tree and died . . . on his own terms;

4) the tool use of various animals, including apes, chimps, elephants, insects, dolphins;

5) the self-awareness and theory of other minds that dogs, dolphins, killer whales and primates possess;

6) the variety of killer whale types-- fish eaters, whale eaters, dolphin eaters, seal eaters-- and the various strategies that different tribes of whales use to hunt;

7) the intelligence and creativity of dolphins . . . you can train dolphins to "do something new" for a treat . . . and they will synchronize this creativity with another dolphin . . . my students have trouble with that task;

8) the vast intelligence, empathy, and abstract thinking ability of killer whales . . . and the many injustices done to them in the wild and in marine parks;

9) a lot of other stuff . . . this book is groundbreaking and belongs on the same shelf with two other recent great books about nature: The Sixth Extinction and Wild Ones . . . read all three before you die!

Read This in the Voice of Stephen Wright

I finally sprung for a vanity license plate, but I don't want people to know how vain I am, so I got 58T * CA3.

Open Letter to Tyreese


It's the zombie apocalypse and you're trudging through Georgia and the anti-theft tags at Kohls aren't going to trigger any alarms and you can help yourself to the stuff in anyone's closet, so go ahead and trade your sweat-stained long-sleeved shirt for something lighter and maybe put on some shorts as well . . . it's the end of the world and you never have to do wash again (and I'm not even going to inquire if you've been changing your underwear).

Dogs and (Sleeping) Kids . . . You've Gotta Love'em

Each morning, just before I leave for work, I go upstairs and give each of my children a kiss on the forehead-- they're always sound asleep and they look so peaceful and they never even stir-- and I realized yesterday, that when I head up the stairs to do this, the dog tags along, and he gets into the beanbag chair beside Ian's bed and pretends to go back to sleep and he waits for his farewell pat on the head . . . and he doesn't have to do this, because I've already walked him and my wife is downstairs and he's totally ready for the day, but he must like this ritual as much as I do.

Keep On Chewing

Every season, The Walking Dead ramps up the gore a little more, but my wife and I are unfazed: sixty -plus episodes of zombie apocalypse have desensitized us to the point where we can eat dinner while watching the most horrific blood and guts, and even worse: we had no problem eating chicken while Gareth and the cannibals simultaneously dined on Bob's leg, while Bob was fully conscious . . . our chewing was synchronized with their chewing and it didn't bother us at all . . . and I definitely remember at the start of the show, when the zombies ate a horse, I nearly lost it and decided I could never eat while watching, but I've overcome my squeamishness and so has Catherine (during the first episode of the fifth season, a zombie killed a human by biting his face off and Catherine nonchalantly took a bite of pizza and then turned to me and said, "That's a new one.")

The Test 17: Financial Literacy (and Idiocy)

This week's episode of The Test is quick and painless (unlike last week's epic) and special guest Scott and I perform admirably on Stacey's quiz about financial awareness, plus we all collaborate on a new (and disgusting) theory of consciousness . . . and-- as a special bonus-- Stacey remembers a number association from a previous episode!


Woe For the Modern Man

In 2012, Anne-Mare Slaughter explained "Why Women Still Can't Have It All" and though she took some flak for her hypothesis-- that in order to achieve the same things as men, women need to be either superhuman, self-employed, or well-off-- I think her sincerity really resonated with women trying to be super-moms and super-employees and also have some kind of social life and maintain a house . . . but enough about women . . . if you listen to Hanna Rosin, then women are doing fine and it's the men we need to worry about, so-- in order to balance the scales-- I'll offer a lament for them, because in today's litigious circumscribed world, where anything you do might be recorded and put on the internet, and where any misstep might result in a lawsuit, men can't have it all either: you can't bring your kids to the pub on Sundays, you can't let them ride bikes without a helmet . . . in fact, you've got to keep track of your kid's whereabouts on a daily basis . . . it's very taxing and stressful, and it's difficult to relieve this stress because due to the ubiquity of digital cameras, it's tough to maintain a mistress with any degree of secrecy and it's even tougher to take a trip to the local brothel (especially for men of the cloth, video surveillance has made their vow of chastity far more literal than it used to be) and you don't want to tell an off-color joke in public, because it might be recorded for posterity, or even rant in your own home-- you might be banned from the NBA for life-- and you can't drink liquor at work, like Don Draper in Mad Men . . . or take a nap on the couch in your office (like Don Draper in Mad Men) or light fires on the beach without a permit or smoke cigars indoors or get in a fistfight at school (without being considered for a psychological evaluation) or any number of "manly" things . . . so if you want to maintain your status as a family man and keep your job, then certainly men can't have it all either . . . unless-- which Slaughter points out-- you're rich . . . then all this need not apply, and you can use a term that was probably created by a man: f#$@ you money. 

Would Gandhi Curb Stomp a Bully?

On Friday, during the morning announcements, the principal reminded us that it is National Bullying Prevention Month-- and this is certainly a good thing, as bullying is gradually going the way of the dinosaur (or at least meat-world bullying . . . cyber-bullying is another issue entirely) but then he told us National Bullying Prevention Month is sponsored by the leading national anti-bullying organization in the United States . . . STOMP Out Bullying . . . and my homeroom class and I found this name to be a bit oxymoronic, harkening back to the old days, when the only way to defeat a bully was to punch him in the face . . . so either we're not getting the irony (but I doubt a national anti-bullying organization would have an ironic name) or STOMP is an acronym for something a bit less violent . . . but I can't find anything about an acronym in their mission statement, so I'm guessing the tone is intentional and sincere and I'm wondering why they don't go all the way and add the word "CURB" to the front end.

Sitcoms and Everything Else: Now and Then

The difference between watching a sitcom in the 1980's and watching a sitcom in 2015 is this: back then, you were never quite sure what you were going to get . . . you'd be settling in for WKRP in Cincinnati, hoping for some humorous hijinks with Dr. Johnny Fever and Venus Flytrap (and some dueling cleavage between Bailey and Jennifer) and suddenly you're thrust into a "very special episode" about people being trampled at a Who concert . . . but today, because of the fragmentation of media, everything is much more genre-based and tone specific . . . there's very little straying from a show's particular formula-- I'm not sure if this is a good thing . . . the fact that we can control the tone of everything we consume, whether it be music, TV, or political commentary-- while we get what we want, there are less surprises: imagine a "very special episode" of 30 Rock, where one of Tracy Jordan's children gets seduced and creepily molested by "the bicycle man."

Pathetic Fallacy



According to weather.com, the Northeast is in "the cone of uncertainty" as far as Hurricane Joaquin is concerned . . . but really, aren't we all living in our own personal "cone of uncertainty," though we sometimes forget this is the case?
A New Sentence Every Day, Hand Crafted from the Finest Corinthian Leather.