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Friday Morning Latin Lesson: Vol CXIII

April 22, 2016

In case you're living under a rock--and if you are, hey, more power to you, I don't judge (freak)--you know of the untimely passing of Prince yesterday.  The diminutive yet iconic rock star was only 57 when he shuffled off this mortal coil. 

This past December, I turned 40.  I'm definitely into my middle ages (yea verily and a hey nonny nonny to you); I'm not sure when it happened, but it did.  I turned into an adult and, though my memories continue to keep me trapped in a continuous loop as a younger, more vibrant version of myself, I am sometimes reminded that I have been alive and cruising through this plane of existence for four decades.

As a middle-aged man, my childhood was stretched across the 1980s, though I still consider the early 90s (when I was in high school) to be the wheelhouse of my musical preference and formative years.  Yes, grunge rock has risen and faded, leaving its fingerprint on the current alternative music universe, and though the heyday of alternative may be behind us, I still love it.  However, to ignore the influence that artists like Madonna, Michael Jackson and Prince had on my musical tastes would be ludicrous.

Isn't she supposed to be wearing
not much more?
When Michael Jackson died (again, shockingly and suddenly), I realized that my youth was behind me.  Those halcyon days were past; MJ's death took a little piece of me with him.  Not only was I reminded of my own mortality, but I was shown that the icons of my childhood were no longer titanic and immortal.  With time, all things would pass, and even those giants of my youth would be beginning to slip away. 

It's already been well-documented how much 2016 has sucked as far as losing talented and well-beloved celebrities.  It may be a quick summation of those we've lost, but there are a few that stick out in my mind above all others.  Earlier in the year, we had the double gut-punch of losing both David Bowie and Alan Rickman to cancer.  Abe Vigoda finally changed the website tracking his mortality to "yes." Merle Haggard has also passed.  And yesterday, of course, we lost Prince.

I will be honest:  growing up, I was never a huge fan of Prince.  I knew his music and I liked most of it; there were times, though, when I grew tired of the constant replays that pumped out over the airwaves in the upper corner of Northeastern Indiana (a land renowned the world over for being a hotbed of musical variety).  It got worse as we slumped toward the end of the millennium and 1999 seemed to be on an endless loop. 

As I have grown older, and my children have suddenly discovered the music of the 80s, I developed a new appreciation for Prince (and Michael Jackson, but that's because my kids treat him like I treated the Beatles growing about feeling old...).  The only Prince I was ever exposed to growing up was what I could pull in on my little clock radios; Prince was "too weird" to be allowed in my house growing up.  But now, when I'm surfing through the stations, and I hear Prince on one of them, I stop.  I listen.  I remember.  Most importantly, I appreciate.

Another important thing is that Prince had a long career, influencing and making music for our enjoyment.  He was a celebrity, an icon, a leader in the industry, and a musical genius; however, you never heard anything from him that was remotely scandalous.  The biggest issue was his fight with the music companies and when he changed his name to a symbol.  Think about that today, in our celebrity-obsessed culture, where those icons we pay a little too much attention to say or do something wrong or dumb or downright stupid.  This never plagued Prince.  Prince was always just Prince.  Nothing more, nothing less. 

With that being said, Purple Rain is still a fucking awesome song.

Princeps mortuus est; vivat princeps!
Pronounced:  "Prin-keps more-too-us est; wee-what prin-keps!"

Hovertext for the translation; bottom of the screen for mobile translation.

I still love this pun.  Animaniacs was the best.

The word "princeps" was used in Rome to mean "first man" or "leader" or even "chief."  Rome, somewhat notoriously, began as a kingdom, where the word "rex" was used for the title "king," although it probably meant something more along the lines of "chief" in those early days.  Once the kings were overthrown and the Republic was formed, the idea of becoming a king in Roman eyes was deplorable, at best, and cause for murder, at worst (see: Caesar, Julius).  As the Roman state moved away from the Republic and more into the rule under one man, the term "rex" was not used to avoid linking the Emperors with kings (Jennifer Lawrence's "okay, yeah, right" .gif goes here); instead, the title "princeps" was used to designate the leader, or the first man of Rome.

The term later moved through various iterations to become the first man in line to inherit the throne after the king.  A shortened version of the word became the title a king's heir received, whether it was his son or his brother or even his uncle--looking at you, Scar--and thus prince entered into the English language (thanks to the Normans).  In case you were wondering, principissa was the feminine version of the word, with the feminine and diminutive forms tacked on the end.  It's more of a "New Latin" construct, but it does mean princess.

I realize, given the shock and fondness that many people had for Prince, it's an easy pun to make, but I do think that this weekend as we reflect on the passing of a rock and musical genius, we all know what it sounds like when doves cry.

Translation:  "(The)Prince is dead; long live (the) Prince!"

Totally Blowing Shit Up Tuesday: Alcohol!!!

April 12, 2016

In chemistry, we teach you that there are five simple reactions:  synthesis, decomposition, single replacement, double replacement, and combustion.  Synthesis is bringing two or more pieces together to form a new unit.  Decomposition is shit falling apart.  Single and double replacement reactions are pretty straight-forward:  they're just switching things out for something new.  Combustion reactions, however, are the stuff of dreams.  Or the dreams of Tuesdays, at the very least.

I have a new lab assistant.
Within chemistry, there are different divisions which add a different layer to the five basic types of reactions.  Myself, I'm an organic chemist.  Despite what several of my dates have thought over the past years, organic chemistry has nothing to do with being a perv.  Yes, I've been accused of being "like that" when I tell a woman I'm an organic chemist.  I mean, take a spin around my blog and you'll know that I'm "like that," but usually not on the first date.  Or the first fifteen minutes of the date.  Maybe.

Organic chemistry is the study of the element carbon and all of its myriad fascinating compounds...with the notable exceptions of carbon dioxide and calcium carbonate (and other metallic carbonate salts...mostly...sort's move on).  These compounds are usually considered to come from non-organic, or non-living, sources...even though animals exhale carbon dioxide and plants take carbon dioxide and form it into sugars.  Oh, and sea creatures make a literal shit ton of calcium carbonate that we use to build things with and as decoration.  Um...again, let's move along.

One thing about organic compounds is that they feature carbon and hydrogen.  Usually, they feature a lot of carbon and hydrogen.  We chemists, always a clever lot, refer to compounds that feature a lot of hydrogens and carbons as "hydrocarbons."  Brilliant, eh?  I thought so, too, as did many of my predecessors!  Now, when you mix together hydrocarbons and oxygen and add in just a touch of flame, something wonderful and enchanting happens!

*inhales deeply*  Magnificent!

What you are seeing here is the mixture of ethanol--yes, the same ethanol that causes you text some gorgeous red-headed girl in the middle of Pennsylvania at three in the morning--vapor, oxygen, and just enough of a heat source to get this thing going.  Since the neck of the vessel is narrow, the fire cannot reach all of the vapor at the same time, so that's why you see that lovely cascade of fire sliding down the insides of the plastic bottle.  The ethanol has pooled a little in the bottom, which is why the bright yellow flames dance in the middle of the bottle once the cascade has reached the bottom.  Heat from the fire has caused the air to warm and rise toward the opening of the bottle, which is why the dancing flames are climbing toward freedom as the fire begins to extinguish itself.

Now, I know I just talked about hydrocarbons, and technically ethanol is not a hydrocarbon; it's an alcohol, which means it has an oxygen inserted between one carbon and one of its hydrogens.  In theory, you could do this with any hydrocarbon with a low enough boiling point that it's a vapor at room temperature.  Butane comes to mind.  As does gasoline (octane)--both of which are hydrocarbons.  Unfortunately, I personally would not try that; the combustion reactions of these gases are pretty spectacularly exothermic (they're hot), and that could cause some issues.  What kind of issues?  Let's find out.

Caveat time:  the "whoosh bottle" is a pretty simple experiment, but you need to make sure you're safe doing this.  After you swirl the ethanol around inside the bottle, dump out the excess liquid.  Make sure the bottle is not cracked or structurally compromised.  And, for the love of God and anything else you might find even the slightest bit holy, be fucking careful.

Why?  What happens if you're not careful and don't follow the instructions?  You'll end up like this dipshit here: 

Fortunately, no one was hurt.  I don't know if the bottle was cracked or if there were any other issues, but the excess ethanol was not dumped out.  That left way too much fuel for the fire and the expansion of the gasses trapped inside the bottle was too rapid for the bottle to hold together.  Thus, kaboom.

In the top experiment, the phenomenon witnessed is called "deflagration," where the fuel is ignited and burns away until no more fuel is left to consume.  It's like a very fast, very hypnotic, very pretty log burning in the fireplace.

The second is a detonation, because the container couldn't hold it and everything went boom.

And notice, aside from some bad glasses on the teacher's face, no safety equipment was used (although flannel shirt girl did have the fire extinguisher ready and handy for the teacher to use).  Safety first...or, somewhere in the top five.

JAK (Part 1)

April 11, 2016

When I was in the 8th grade, I had a crush on three different girls at the same time.  These polyamorous leanings probably weren't that unusual given that in the average 13-year-old's body, there's a raging maelstrom of hormones swirling around and anyone who smiles at you or even lets their gaze linger for a few moments is crush-worthy. 

To be fair, the first girl I had a crush on, Jody Rupert (as usual, names are disguised just enough to avoid lawsuits), I had crushed on since the beginning of 7th grade.  That was the year that the new students from Lancaster Elementary were incorporated into Salamonie Elementary and Middle School, where I had attended since the first grade.  Jody sat behind me in science class, and I turned around to talk to her one day early in the school year and it was love at first sight.  She didn't really say anything, but she had the most beautiful green eyes that I had ever seen.  Or maybe they were "hazel," since I have a difficult time discerning between green eyes and hazel eyes sometimes--especially when twenty-eight long years have intervened and tampered with the memories.

Jody had blonde hair and slightly vulpine features--high cheek bones, a bit of a pointed nose--and a delicate, albeit non-feminine, frame.  Her hair swayed back and forth--almost bounced--when she walked.  She was kind and friendly...though she was annoyed with me almost immediately.  I know that she was kind, though, because she tolerated me turning around and talking with her every day after I finished my in-class work.  Plus, she was pretty smart, too, which really appealed to me, especially when coupled with everything else.  However, she was quiet and not nearly as voluptuous as I tend to prefer, but she was still pretty and kind and didn't shank me in the middle of frog dissection, so all those things were a bonus in my mid-pubescent mind.

The second girl I had a crush on was Angie Submachinegun, whom I fell for one day in algebra class.  She was also a Lancaster transfer, but my lecherous thoughts did not begin until the middle of the 8th grade.  I was sitting in the back of the room one day, which happened to be right after we had gym class, and for whatever reason, Angie Submachinegun decided to wear a thin, white t-shirt after we had finished with gym.  Again, for reasons that escape my memory, she went to sit down in her seat which was one seat ahead of me and to the right.  When she went to sit down, she was turned 180 degrees from how she would normally sit, resting her right knee on the seat and gripping the back of the chair with her hands.  This caused her arms to push her breasts together in a manner most magnificent; when coupled with her thin, white t-shirt, this really put her sub-machine guns on display.  It was instant lust from there on out.

Angie had light brown hair that was curly.  She had big, blue eyes, rounded cheeks, and the kind of mouth that always seems to smile.  Despite it being only the 8th grade, she had an hour-glass frame.  She was short, too, so all that feminity was really packed into a nice, neat little package.  She, too, was friendly and nice.  She was a little more outgoing and bubbly and friendly than Jody.  Unlike Jody, I don't think Angie has or had any idea that I crushed on her so. 

The last girl I crushed on was Kim Firebolt.  She was kind of a blend of both Jody and Angie.  She had wavy dark blonde hair, green eyes, and her mouth always looked like it was smiling because I think her mouth always WAS smiling.  She was taller than Angie, shorter than Joy, and though her breasts weren't nearly as large as Angie's, they were still finely shaped.  She was very athletic, and so she had a great ass to go with the rest of the package.

The thing about Kim was that she was very, very extroverted.  She went beyond friendly and bubbly.  She was loud.  She loved to laugh and she had a great sense of humor--maybe not as dark and twisted as mine, but it was still a good one.  She was fun.  Kim did have a couple of drawbacks, however.  One, her older brother was one of my good friends; he's one of the few friends of mine that have had hot sisters.  The other drawback was that the Firebolt family were big Purdue fans.  Big. 

Unlike Jody, I never asked Kim or Angie out or to go with me or whatever the fuck stupid dating ritual middle school kids did in the Great Lakes region of the Midwest.  Shuck each other's cobs?  I don't know.  I'm sorry that last joke was so corny.

Of course now, almost thirty years removed from those halcyon days of middle school awkwardness, I could never see myself with any of these girls.  I've grown as an adult and changed and--

Oh, who am I kidding?  Thanks to the wonders of the Internet, I broke my own rules and did Facebook searches for all of them.  Jody is stunningly gorgeous and Kim still has awesome boobs and is still smiling.  Unfortunately, I couldn't find Angie, but I found ten thousand women with the same name, many of whom I wanted to see naked. 

However, the important thing is that these three were the last crushes I had in middle school; despite never letting Kim nor Angie know and despite countless rejections from Jody, they were the three that I focused on the most as I made that transition from the awkward days of middle school into the really awkward days of high school.  In addition, these three young women introduced me to a part of my psyche that I would eventually embrace fully as I grew older...albeit, somewhat unintentionally.

Friday Morning Latin Lesson, Vol. CXII

March 18, 2016

As referenced earlier in the week, this is a busy and fun time of the year for people who enjoy classical history and dipping into the hagiography of the Catholic church.  Which is true:  I haven't been quite this busy blogging for three or four years, at least.  Four entries in one week?  Amazing.

And what have I talked about?  Oh, the usual things.  I've just rehashed the fact that I like desserts (especially pie), drinking, and redheads.  Nothing new here, I know.  Hope you were sitting down for that shocking revelation.

I glossed over the murder of Caesar for the Ides of March post in favor of the murder of Odoacer, Rex Italiae, since I felt like mixing things up a bit for the Ides of March post this year.  Same with St. Patrick:  I didn't so much discuss Patrick's life, legend, and legacy so much as I focused on some of the peripherals that are associated with Irish "history" and St. Patrick's Day celebrations.

Anyway, as is known, Julius Caesar was murdered in the Theater of Pompey on the Ides of March--March 15th--because various senators were worried that he had accrued too much power for himself and the Republic was moving toward rule by a single citizen...which, of course, happened a few years after Caesar's murder.  His murder was the thing that precipitated the end of the Republic; I think we call that irony.

Caesar was stabbed 23 times, and according to some "forensic" studies I've read, only one of the stab wounds was really deep enough to kill him.  It may have been that murder was not what was on the senators' minds when they attacked him, but more just to teach him a lesson.  Although, 23 stab wounds is quite a lesson.  What they didn't tell you is that there was one last senator in the group who had a bunch of lemon juice to pour in those wounds.  Talk about cruel and unusual punishment!

Famously (thanks in part to Shakespeare's dramatization of the event), Caesar withstood the attack until he saw his friend Brutus among the attackers.  In the play, Caesar asked aloud "Et tu, Brute? Then here falls Caesar."  In actually, he probably said "Kai su, teknon?" (according to Roman historian Suetonius, at least), which means "And you, child?" in Greek.  Whichever is more correct is debatable (not like we can ask anyone, unless the Doctor shows up to clarify Caesar's final moments), but I like to think that right before asking either of these questions, Caesar queried the senators as such:

"Estne pugio in toga, an solum tibi libet me videre?"

Pronounced: "Est-nay poo-gee-oh in toh-ga, ahn so-loom tee-bee lee-bet may wee-dare-ay?"

That's no dagger.
Translation in the hovertext (I remembered how to do it).

Pugio was the Latin term for a dagger.  It's related to the word pugno which means "I fight" or "I combat" and several terms in English have been derived from this root, including "pugilist" which is a fancy word for "fighter" or "boxer."  To tie this all up together, my beloved Fighting Irish play their opening round tournament game today against the hated skunkbears from Michigan.  In Latin, the term for "Fighting Irish" would be "Hibernii Pugnaces," ergo I shall be watching the game tonight and shouting "Imus Hibernii Pugnaces!" at my computer screen.

Well, not really, but you get the idea.

In case you can't hovertext:  "Is that a dagger in your toga, or are you just happy to see me?"

Happy Saint Patrick's Day!

March 17, 2016

If I were a better writer, I'd track down what iteration of the Saint Patrick's Day post this is.  I am not that person, however, so I'll just roll with it.  Pretend the Germans just bombed Pearl Harbor.

I've discussed in the past how Patricius (the man who would become Patrick) was a Roman citizen of Brittania who was probably a member of some minor noble family.  He was already a Christian when he was kidnapped and taken to Ireland, where he served as a slave for several years before escaping and making his way to mainland Europe.  After a trip to Rome, he returned to Ireland and drove out the snakes (symbolism for the pagans) and converted the Irish to Catholicism.  He then went on a spree of church building through the British Isles and ended up in Northern Indiana where he founded the greatest Catholic University on the Face of the Planet and Possibly the Universe.  That last part might be apocryphal.

Or he might have been a composite mixture of another Irish saint, Palladius, who also made a lot of churches but isn't nearly as tied in with the weak excuse to drink Guinness and behave like an asshole on the 17th of March.

As far as stouts go, Guinness is a pretty weak one.  Thanks to the craft beer revolution here in America, I can think of at least ten stouts that are far better than Guinness.  Stouts are actually a subset of porters, which are dark brown ales that are made with roasted malts, giving them the darker color.  They're typically stronger than their lighter-toned cousins, and the strongest of porters came to be known as "stout porters" and eventually just "stouts."  Nowadays, stouts are typically just the darkest of beers and the word "stout" has little to do with the actual alcohol content (for instance, Guinness, the "best" stout, weighs in at a paltry 4.3% abv, per the wiki entry).  And here's the real kick in the teeth for those who want to link Guinness (certainly a true Irish brewer) and stouts with Ireland:  Porters were first developed and named in London, England.  The dark color, thicker consistency, and affordability of porters made them popular with--sit down for this--porters (men who carried things).  Since the beer was cheap to make and was somewhat undesirable (philistines), it was shipped to Ireland where it quickly grew in popularity.  To lower costs even more (hooray, free market capitalism!), Guinness began brewing porters in the late 1700's and by 1780 was one of the top producers of this kind of beer.

So, not only is Patrick, the Patron Saint of Ireland from the British mainland, so too is the national beer of Ireland an English import.

Best damned leprechaun ever!
Well, the leprechaun has to be a true Irish symbol, right?  Well, yes and no.  The leprechaun, for all its connotations with being Irish, rarely appears in Irish mythology.  When the leprechaun does pop up, it is typically a mischief-maker, but more commonly is associated with being a loner who moves about the countryside repairing shoes.  A leprechaun is more similar to German sprites and gnomes than it is with any of the pantheon of Irish mythology.  In fact, the leprechaun appears so rarely in Irish stories that it's assumed to be a later addition to Irish lore than more traditional Irish spirits, such as the Banshee or the Tuatha de Danaan (which is a whole wide range of Irish spirits).  There is even confusion with what to do with a leprechaun, should you manage to catch one.  He (they are almost invariably male) will either give you his pot of gold (another property of the leprechaun that seems to be a late addition to the story) or he will grant you three wishes.  Most depictions of leprechauns center around the stereotypes of the Irish, especially in America, and many traditional Irish people look at leprechauns as just a prop for tourism.

Well...if Patrick isn't all that Irish and Guinness is a British import and a leprechaun is just a symbol for anti-Irish propaganda, what about the color green?

Green, White and Orange
has never been sexier!
Finally, we've found something that does seem to be a true symbol of Ireland...ish.  Ireland, of course, is known as the "Emerald Isle" because of the lush, verdant fields and the magnificent greenery that can be viewed in the countryside.  It makes sense, then, that the Irish national color would be green and that they would march into battle or rally behind a green banner, right?  Sure...except the green flag of Ireland is actually younger than the flag of the United States.  The "traditional" Irish flag featured a lot more blue than any other color for most of its history (Ireland, of course, being a loose conglomeration of kingdoms until the British conquests).

It wasn't until the late 1700's (Guinness is actually older than the green flag) that green began to be used as a symbol of Ireland.  Inspired by the French Revolution (and probably a little by the American Revolution), the United Irishmen raised a banner of green with a harp emblazoned on the field (the harp actually is a traditional Irish symbol) sometime around 1790.  Part of the choice of the color green was to stand in opposition to the orange color associated with the Orange Order, which was a symbol of King William of Orange and the Glorious Revolution of 1688.  William of Orange, of course, was an "English" king and was thus a symbol of British rule over the Irish.  After the Irish Rebellion of 1798, the modern Irish flag with the green, white and orange was introduced as a hopeful means of bringing a peaceful end to hostilities between the Catholic majority (the green) and the Protestant minority (the orange) of Ireland, with white being the symbol of peace in between the two groups.

Well, fuck.  It seems as though all the things we naturally associate with the Irish and Saint Patrick's day aren't all that Irish.  Unfortunately, leprechauns, the Irish spirits that most Irish want to disassociate with their Irish heritage, are the most Irish of all these symbols.

Next, you're going to tell me that the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, a school in Northern Indiana with a French name by a priest of Romanian heritage isn't all that Irish either!  The nerve!!!

However you decide to celebrate Saint Patrick's Day, just remember to lay off the brogues and drink responsibly.  Maybe enjoy some basketball and don't make an ass of yourself.

Happy Saint Patrick's Day!

Cave Idus Martias...

March 16, 2016

This particular week of the year is a big week for this blog.  One thing that always fascinates me, or at least tickles that little piece of my brain that implores me to write, are the various holidays, observances, and feast days that litter our calendar.  Monday (March 14) was Pi Day, or, if you're into that kind of thing, Steak and Blowjob day (which I've never observed/celebrated).  Thursday of this week is St. Patrick's Day, which has a special meaning to me since I went to Notre Dame AND my blog readership saw a sudden uptick in traffic when I first began writing summaries of a few of the big saint feast days, St. Valentine's Day and St. Patrick's Day.

But Tuesday...Tuesday was the Ides of March, which, on the Roman calendar, translated to the fifteenth of March.  In case you've been living under a rock, you should know that I love some Roman history as well as Shakespeare.  That makes the Ides of March one of those days that, as a blogger with a penchant for writing about ancient history, I should circle on the calendar and put gold stars in the little box marking the date.  It was especially fitting because Tuesday, on the Roman calendar, was dedicated to Mars...for whom the month of March was named!  The Ides of March on the day honoring Mars!  Whoa!

Stabby stabby.
And...I kind of dropped the ball on that one. 

The Ides of March are famous for being the day that Julius Caesar was murdered in the Theater of Pompey by a gang of sixty senators who feared that Caesar had grown too strong politically and was looking to consolidate his power, thus ending the Roman Republic.

Kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy, then, when the murder of Caesar was one of the events that sounded the death knell for the Republic and ushered in the age of the Empire.

But, I have not come here to bury Caesar.

No, our story takes us to a time roughly 500 years later.  Even though the Roman state--kingdom, republic, empire--had existed for some 1200 years, all good things must come to an end.  By the end, the Western Empire was a ramshackle shell of itself, a ghost barely clinging to the territories that men had conquered and secured centuries before.  The last Roman Emperor--and that's a contentious title--was Romulus Augustulus, who knelt before a Germanic invader named Odoacer in 476.  This ended the Roman Empire in the west and ushered in the very first Kingdom of Italy on that fateful September morning.  Odoacer placed the crown upon his head and was ever since known as the first Rex Italiae, or King of Italy.

For all intents and purposes, Odoacer was allowed to rule in Italy (which included some of modern day France, Switzerland, Hungary, Austria, Slovenia, and Croatia) by the grace of Emperor Zeno, who controlled the Eastern Roman Empire (later, the Byzantine Empire).  For the most part, Odoacer was a decent king.  He settled the unrest within the kingdom, helped secure the borders against outside tribes (especially the Burgundians), and generally saw himself as a proxy ruler for the real last Roman Emperor, a man named Julius Nepos, who had been deposed (but not killed) by Romulus Augustulus' father.  Told you that "last Roman Emperor" title was contentious.

Unseating the "rightful" Roman Emperor in the West had never sat well with Zeno, and so he tried to control both parts of the empire by setting Odoacer upon what was essentially a throne in Italy.  As mentioned earlier, for the most part, Odoacer was a decent guy (for a barbarian) and a fairly good king.

It's good to be the king.
We know this both from records that exist as well as the fact that he became popular enough and powerful enough that Zeno began to worry.  A man of Odoacer's status and charisma (he was a very successful military leader, prior to becoming King of the Italians) would most likely chafe at Zeno's hegemony and eventually become a threat.  To that end, Zeno decided that Odoacer must be killed.

Odoacer, for his part, was satisfied with just being Rex Italiae and not worrying about the East so much; he saw Zeno and the Eastern Roman Empire as allies and friends and had no designs on conquest of the other half of the Roman Empire.  Zeno didn't see things that way, however.

This was not the first rodeo for Zeno in which he murdered someone he had set up on a puppet throne to ostensibly extend his rule.  Which is why Theodoric the Ostrogoth--or Theodoric the Great--was so eager to lead the invasion of the Kingdom of Italy from his home in the Balkans.  Theodoric had already seen Zeno assassinate and murder several other men who were in positions of power--positions that Zeno had set them in.  Theodoric, who was smart enough to know what was up, saw that he, too, would probably soon become one of Zeno's targets, and so he decided to get the hell out of Dodge.

Theodoric and his merry band of warrior Goths--along with some other tribes--led a very successful invasion of Italy, beating back Odaocer's forces time and again.  Odoacer managed to punch back and hold off Theodoric's forces for a while, even besieging a city in which Theodoric and a large portion of his army was trapped.  However, in a very strange, and likely one of the few moments of Gothic solidarity, one of Theodoric's cousins sent over a large force of Visigoths to savage the Italian countryside. 

This spelled doom for Odoacer.

In addition to protecting and rewarding his people, Odoacer had been good to the church.  Odoacer had been very respectful of all of the various Christian sects that were spreading out across Europe at the time, even though he, himself, was an Arian Christian.  With Theodoric's forces pressing in, Odoacer retreated to Ravenna--the seat of his power, where he had been crowned king when Romulus Augustulus abdicated--and continued to fight what he had to know was a losing battle.  Finally, in 493, the Bishop of Ravenna, a man name John, out of respect to Odoacer and all he had done for the Italian people and the church, brokered a peace between Odoacer and Theodoric.

The war ended and things were promising to become a little more normalized.  To celebrate the peace, Theodoric invited Odoacer and some of his men to a feast.
This is fabulous.

Cue the Rains of Castamere.

In a very Game of Thrones twist, Theodoric planned and planted several of his men among the crowd at the feast with the very intent of killing Odoacer and his allies.  Odoacer, who was not quite the bumbling idiot that Theodoric assumed him to be, caught wind of the plot against him and planned appropriately.  When the time came for the attacks, Odoacer and his men were able to foil them.  Theodoric, however, would not suffer defeat lightly.  In frustration, he drew his sword and hurled it at Odoacer, striking him somewhere in the upper chest/throat area--it was described as "hitting his collarbone."  Odoacer fell and died there at the feast with Theodoric standing over him.

The date:  March 15th, 493.

In another very Game of Thrones twist, Theodoric hunted down and killed Odoacer's family, including his wife and daughter.  His son was exiled to Gaul, but when he entered Italy later in life, Theodoric had him captured and executed. 

So, while the Ides of March are most famous for being the day that Julius Caesar was cut down for having too much power and potentially tearing down the fabric of the Republic, the Ides of March are also famous for being the day that the first King of the Italians was cut down for having too much power and potentially tearing down the fabric of Zeno's rule in the East.

If you're an Italian ruler, you would be wise to beware the Ides of March, indeed.

Happy Pi Day!

March 14, 2016

As a man who has enjoyed a few sugary treats over my forty years of life, I have come to the conclusion that desserts fall into three categories:  cake, ice cream, and pie.  All desserts are just some subset of these three, with pudding being the superfamily over all of them.  See what I did there, Britain?  No angry messages left in the comments.

Bears...always funny.
Each one of these delicious treats has a certain aura and mystique surrounding them.  Cake, for instance, is celebratory.  Marking another successful circuit around the sun on an annual basis after springing forth from your mother's womb?  Have some cake!  Finally shuffling off that employment coil and heading into the sunset of retirement?  Have some cake!  Decided to stick your dick in one vagina for the rest of your life?  Cake me, baby!  Even at bachelor parties, the stripper jumps out of a cake.  Cake is for celebrating.  You're never having sex again?  Let's eat cake! 

Ice cream is fun.  Hot day?  Let's have some ice cream.  Celebrating a birthday?  Well, hell, let's have some ice cream along with that cake (see paragraph 2).  On a date?  Well, we're not quite to the marriage and wedding cake step, so let's have some ice cream!  Even the ice cream man drives around in a fun, festive cart with Pop Goes the Weasel or some other song from your childhood blaring over the loudspeakers while he patrols the neighborhood like some sort of angry, frozen dairy treat bearing predator of the sea.  Sure, he has his victims bound and gagged in the back of his festive refrigerated van, but, man, for a few moments while you're picking out the overpriced, frozen dairy treat from the menu on the side of the truck, the ice cream man sure seems fun!  Who wants a side of chloroform to go with this drumstick knock-off?  Me!!!!!!...zzzZZZzzz...

I went to a dark place again, didn't I?

Pie, however, isn't really celebratory (the stripper doesn't jump out of a giant pie, does she?), nor is it as fun as ice cream (man, this pie just doesn't fit into the sugar cone like I was hoping!).  No, pie is something completely different.

Pie is pure sex.

Pie is a lot of work.  Sex is a lot of work.  When you make pie, you have to make the crust, you have to fill the crust, and then you have to put another crust over the top of the filling.  And the crust?  Yeah, it's so flaky and delicious because it has lots of layers.  There's some sex pun in there, but it's late and I can't be bothered to connect the dots.  When you make cake, you just dump some stuff into a bowl, crack a few eggs, stir, bake, done.  You don't need to frost cake; cake is pretty damned delicious as is.  Frosting is just...well, the icing on the cake!

No, pie is something more, something that is in tune with the deepest seated needs and wants of our psyche.  Eating pie makes us feel good, sure, but it also makes us feel a little naughty after enjoying it.  There's something a little lascivious about enjoying a pie. 

Hell, pie is even used as a euphemism--and I use that term lightly--for sex.  A woman's vagina has been likened to a slice of pie for a long time running.  Maybe it's because the shapes of the two are somewhat similar in appearance.  Maybe it's because they're both delicious.  Maybe it's because your face is a mess when you eat either of them without using your hands.  I'm not sure, but I do know that it does sound a lot nicer to liken a vagina to a pie than it is to describe it as cakey in any way.  When Eugene Levy was encouraging Jason Biggs to shove his dick in a dessert, he didn't tell him to fuck a cake.  No sir.  It was pie!  American Pie!  Yum.  *pukes*

 And, do I really need to mention Warrant and their assault on our early 90's radio experiences?  I didn't think so.  But it tastes so sweet it makes a grown man cry...

I apologize for any and all earworms this spawns.

Even though there's no real relationship between the value pi, which is the ratio of the diameter of a circle to it's circumference, and pie the delicious, salacious treat, we've still come to associate the dessert pie with March 14th, which is 3.14...or the first three digits of pi the mathematical value.  At least in America.  Those silly Europeans write March 14th as they don't celebrate pi day until the 31st of April.

Oh.  Right.

So, join me today in celebrating a unique number, pi, by treating yourself to a lascivious and tasty indulgence, pie the round circle dessert.  Oh, hey!  There's our connection!

Mind.  Blown.  Indeed.

100% Chance of It Happening When You Least Want It To

February 24, 2016

As I've confessed here many a time, I'm a tinkerer.  I tinker.  I fuck around with stuff I probably would be better served to just hire someone who knows what the hell they're doing to do.  But, I don't.  I do it.  AND THEN I hire someone else to do it for me.  At ten times the cost.  At least.

The water heater being a prime example of this.

A couple of years ago, I bought a car.  It was not a new car.  I did that once, and then the car proceeded to destroy not one but TWO engines--the first before I even paid the bastard off.  Ah, life as an adult.  For the record, I didn't tinker with either of those blown engines.  I trusted OnStar a little too much with the life and quality of my oil, to be honest.  Screw you, OnStar.  You owe me an engine.

I digress.  I bought a car.  Not a new car.  It was after the aforementioned car destroyed its second engine (on the way to church, no less).  I bought a Subaru Outback, so that I could impress all the hipsters and MILFs in Durham (trust me, it's a hot car here).  More impressively, I bought a 1998 Subaru Outback.  For reference, that's the same year the I graduated from college.

A Panty-Dropper if ever I've seen one!

The best part?  It had fewer miles on it than the car that destroyed two engines. 

Everything was fine for the first four or five months.  Then, one day, while waiting in line at a drive thru, the car suddenly lurched and the check engine light came on.  Great.  Not only was I getting punished for eating shitty fast food by clogging my arteries and sending my sodium count through the roof, but I also now had a lovely amber light glowing at me from the depths of my dashboard.  Not cool, man.  Not cool at all.

The light went off, though, later that same day.  And then came back on a few days later.  And then off again.  And on.  And off.  It was a lot like my last relationship--hi-yo!!!!

This off-and-on was a pattern for a couple of months until I finally went to my mechanic (for an oil change) and I asked him what the hell was up with the light coming on and going off.  He hooked a monitor up to the car and the computer told him it was a "knock sensor error."

Shhh...pretend we're not here.
He's probably trying to sell us something!
If you're like me, then you might have been clueless as to what a knock sensor was up until the very point that you heard it was in error.  The knock sensor is kind of like a tuning fork for the engine; it basically makes sure that the engine is running okay and that the pistons are all firing at the desired rate and tempo.  Thank you, Google, for teaching me that.  I also learned that day that changing a knock sensor was easy.  Any boob could do it.

Well, buddy, I'm just the boob to try that out on!

Last summer, I also picked up a slow leak in one of my rear tires.  Fantastic.  Oh, and all the coolant ran out of my air conditioner.  No biggie.  Except that it's a black car.  With leather seats.  And summers are hot here in North By God Carolina.

So, I did what any sane, rational human being would do:  I parked the car.  I did nothing with it.  It wasn't going to pass inspection, it was hot, it needed an oil change, and I couldn't afford to get the knock sensor replaced or the tire fixed.  Instead, I drove a tiny, beat down, dilapidated 2002 Saturn SL.  You can imagine the chick magnet that dream machine is.

This past weekend, I decided that I needed to step away from the Saturn and fix the Subaru.  In addition to the tire and the knock sensor, the battery was run down and I couldn't get it to jump.  Add that to the list of things to fix.  But, hell, I had some great weather for working on the car!  It was a lovely weekend.  Beautiful.  Warm, highs in the low 70s, and not a chance of rain at all.

Well...except maybe Sunday there could be some sprinkles.

Or, you know, a pretty intense downpour to start shortly after you lift the hood on your car and begin working with the electrical systems!
Mind sharing that umbrella, ma'am?

Which is precisely what happened. 

Oh, and when I went to put the spare on the car, I discovered that the spare was flat, as well.  It was a thing of beauty, really.

So, after removing the tires and the battery, I loaded them all up in my other car and went off to replace them.  Just as I was about to pull away, the sky opened up and I had to scramble to get my tools put away (inside the car), and close the hood.  By the time I got home, the rain had stopped, and things were dry enough that I could finish the repairs.  As one more "Fuck you" from the Universe, the car's alarm was activated with the new battery, and so I about pissed my pants when I hooked the positive lead to the battery and the alarm system started blaring in my right ear.

ABOUT pissed my pants.  This isn't TMI Thursdays anymore.

With the battery switched, I turned to the knock sensor.  For the record, yes, a knock sensor is easy to replace.  However, what they didn't tell me was that a knock sensor is a real bitch to get to, especially if you have big, meaty claws like I do.  Or sausage fingers or however you want to describe the size of my hands.  *tips cap*  Ladies.

However, when everything was settled and done, I fired the car up and, after a very sluggish start (I suspect I need to put a new starter in the Black Beast soon

), the car turned over and ran rather smoothly.  Most importantly:  no amber lights on the dash.

Despite the rain and all the other stupid stuff that went on, I believe this was a job well done, and it totally makes up for me not being to free that bottom element from the water heater.

Totally Blowing Stuff Up Tuesdays: We're Back!

February 23, 2016

If you have been a reader of this little slice of the Internet, you know that there are a couple of things that I like.  Well, boobs, yes, and they usually travel in a pair, so good job.  You aced the pop quiz.  Nicely done.

The other things I like are explosions and doing stuff around the house that makes me feel all handy and manly and rawr, I want to feel some boobs now.

This story begins on Valentine's Day. I was preparing to take a shower ere heading off to the grocery to get something to cook for dinner.  I turned the water on and left it run so that I could climb in and enjoy the warmth of the wet water running down my tortured and aching muscles.  However, when I stuck my hand in to check the temperature, it was like feeling ice pelting down on me. 

There's some kind of Eskimo fetish
going on out there...apparently

So, I let it run for a little while longer.  Still cold.  Then I turned on the sink's hot water faucet.  Call Manny and Sid, cause we got another Ice Age on our hands.

At which point, I uttered many a swear word, almost all of them beginning with "fuck."

Fortunately, I have a brother who is a plumber and an electrician.  Unfortunately, my brother the plumber and electrician lives four states and approximately 13 hours away.  Fortunately, there is this website called Facebook, where you can stalk your old high school crushes AND ask your handyman siblings for assistance when needed. 

He told me to press the reset button.  Reset button?  I didn't know there was such a thing.

There is.  It's usually hidden under the top panel and it's big and bright red and you can't miss it, even if you think you can.  You will immediately hear the water heater switch on, too, upon pressing it.  Neat.  Sexy AND informative, this blog.

So, I crawled into the darkened depths of the crawlspace and pressed the reset button.  Everything was Jim Dandy, Hunky Dory...for about 36 hours.  On Tuesday, I had to reset the water heater four or five times.  All the mind-numbing cold water pouring out of the mind...and so I lost count.  But it was definitely a whole number and it was more than three and less than seventy five.

Anyway, I decided to act.  Coming home early on Wednesday afternoon, I drained the water heater and rushed off to buy a replacement kit for the water heater elements--those things which do the yeoman's work of heating the water in the tank.  It set me back about $40.  Not a problem.  The problem was, though, that I began to worry just a bit, because in order to heat all that water inside the tank, it requires electricity.  A LOT of electricity.  So, I was fearful of electrocuting myself under the house with no one around to notice that the lights went dim for a few moments and that the lovely smell coming from under the floorboards was not dinner, but it was, instead, roast Dad.

Precisely what I was trying
to avoid doing...
Spoilers:  I'm savvy enough to have found the correct switch to throw on the breaker box, AND I double-checked the flow of electricity through the machine.  Multiple times. There was none.  Cool.  Let's do this.

Switching out elements on a water heater is actually fairly easy.  I'm here to attest to this.  For real.  It took me all of fifteen minutes to get the top element switched out.  I was pretty proud of myself.  I was going to get this done in an hour and a half (an hour of the project being the draining and the shutting off of power) and we would have hot water by dinner time.

Eh, not so fast, my friend.

The bottom element...was a bitch.  To put it kindly.  I sliced the living hell out of my knuckles trying to get the beast to move.  I laid on the wrench, pushed, sprayed it with all manner of lubricant, tapped on it.  Nothing.  It would not move.

After two hours, I decided to call in professional help.  Enter Kevin, the friendly guy from Roto-Rooter some national chain who laid on the wrench, pushed, sprayed it with all manner of lubricant, tapped on it, nothing.  He even put a hex nut head on the element and stood on the wrench.  It. Would. Not. Budge.

Well, fuck me running. 

There's a little back story to fill in here, as well:  the water heater was easily 30 years old.  I'm shocked that it lasted this long.  It was not up to code, and since I'm looking to sell this money pit house in the near-ish future, I made the decision to get a new water heater installed.  Again, I relied on the professional.  Mostly because there was a SECOND fear lurking in the back of my mind while dealing with maintenance on a water heater.  Namely, that it would build up pressure and burst, shooting through my house like a rocket.

Seem far-fetched?  Again, not so fast, my friend.

I know I give Mythbusters some shit for their "scientific" claims for all their experiments, but there is some serious proof in the pudding here.  That video should set you up with another video to watch from Mythbusters where they destroy a small house by having a water heater shoot THROUGH the entire structure.  It's pretty impressive.  For real.  Watch it.


Oh...the explanation.  Right!  When the pressure builds up inside the inner chamber of the water heater, the water begins to get really pissed off.  It wants to expand, to turn to steam, something--anything!--to relieve that pressure (which is why there is a pressure release valve on water heaters).  These water heaters are engineered to release out the bottom in just such a scenario (rather than rupturing and shooting shrapnel everywhere, which is actually a lot worse than what you just watched), which unfortunately turns them into rockets.  Rockets that fly 500 feet in the air, gushing superhot water, but rockets nonetheless.

Ah, science!

So, not only was I glad to not have electrocuted myself, but I also am glad that I had the professional install the water heater so that it was up to code AND installed correctly.  Even if my $40 fix-it-yourself project suddenly turned into something that cost over $1000.  I'm up to code, and there's nothing firing off through the two floors of my house and the roof.

Oh, and the showers?  Yeah, they're nice and hot now.  And I don't have to crawl under the house in order to press the reset button on the water heater.  Now I can save all that energy for pushing better, more sexy buttons.

Yeah, I'm not sure what that means, either.

Some Things Haven't Changed...

February 15, 2016

I was looking at my stats the other day, for giggles (and shits), now that I've decided to make a concerted effort toward blogging again.  I will probably never get back to the level of 2009, when I was writing something new nearly every single day...and sometimes two a day.  Wow.  That's something akin to actual effort.


I know the last few years have say the least.  Some shit went down--some of it I'll talk about, some of it I was legally bound not to speak about.  Some of it, well, it's just better left unsaid.

However, there are things that don't change...such as the shitty weather forecasting around these parts.

This is not exactly what I was looking for, Google.

In North By God Carolina, the weather and--more specifically--the snow predictions have been right once over the past ten years.  Well, maybe twice--there was a ten inches plus forecast last year that ended up around 8, so I'll give them some leeway there.  Although my power was out for two days, which meant I couldn't make coffee, and I had a tremendous headache, which filled me with even more murderous rage, but I couldn't do anything about it because I had a terrible headache.  So, maybe I shouldn't give them a pass. 

Today was another one of those swing-and-a-miss forecasts.  We were supposed to have a weather system move in, but we were assured to worry not our pretty little heads about accumulations.  It wouldn't be an issue.

My son walked into the dining--or the room that serves as my office--and announced, "It's snowing!" last night right before he went to bed.  Sure enough, I looked out and we had an inch on the ground, easily.  It was dry, powdery stuff, because the air temperature was cold enough that the water droplets didn't have time to properly expand before they changed to ice.  How's that for science? (it's a little more complicated than that, but whatever).  Had it not been so dry, it might have been three or four or maybe six inches.

I stepped outside and it was that beautiful, heavy snow-falling kind of night.  There was a muffled quiet that had spread through the darkness, and the silence and solitude was magnificent.  I loved it.  It reminded me of so many snow events of my youth.  It was the kind of snow that reminded my why I like snow so much.

However, the forecast also didn't really call for snow.  Just freezing rain.  Or sleet.  But not a lot of snow.  Maybe some mixed in with the rain.  That's all.  Don't worry at all.  No accumulations, kids!

Or do worry...because they told us not to.

The only reason I'm complaining is because I had everything set up to work from home today, and it was going to be glorious.  It would be quiet.  There would be solitude.  I could drink coffee as often and as much as I wanted.  I didn't have to wear pants!!!
I guess it's boot season...

And then they cancelled school.

I don't blame them.  It's gross out there.  Cold and wet and snowy and icy.  It's all the reasons that I don't like snow, now that I'm an adult...or at least pretending to be one.

So, the quiet is out the window as every neighborhood kid screams while riding a sled down my frozen driveway.  And, since the children are home with me, I have to wear pants. 


At least the coffee is still hot and flowing.  For now.  I don't want to say anything TOO loudly, else the Universe might decide to intercede.  Again.

I hear more screaming that might be slightly less than joyous.  I better go and make sure no one's body parts are mangled.  At least, not on my property.

Friday Morning Latin Lesson, Vol CXI

February 12, 2016

I swore that I wouldn't fall back into the same traps of rehashing ancient legends, tales and history when I fired this thing back up, but then I trotted out the falling down the stairs story that I had already told about Betsy Hagar.  I guess this is just lazy writing.  Welcome to the rest of the Internet, Jenks!

I know that today isn't Valentine's day, but it's this weekend and no one reads a this blog ever on the weekends, so I thought I'd also fall into the old habits of writing about saints on their feast day.  I mean, when it comes to lazy writing, go big or go home.

Or just don't write at all.  Looking at you, 2015!!!

Anyway, on Sunday, the calendar page flips over to a gigantic pink heart and a box of chocolates and a giant Vermont teddy bear--no, NOT Bernie Sanders.  We're talking about an ungodly huge stuffed bear that is sure to get your female counterpart to cross her legs at the knees forever while she stares icy daggers at you with every chance she gets.

Speaking of ungodly...

One of the symbols of Valentine's Day is Cupid, the Roman god of erotic love.  He is the son of Venus, and depending on who you ask in Rome, you will get a different answer as to his father's identity.  If we follow the Greek tradition, Eros (Cupid's "Greek counterpart) just sort of arose from the Chaos at the beginning of it all.  Some people will tell you that Mercury is the father (hence the wings), others insist Vulcan is the father because he was, after all, married to Venus.  Still others prefer to insist that Mars is the father, because there is a certain beauty in describing love as being both erotic and warlike.


In Roman traditions, Cupid is a beautiful youth with a quiver of arrows at his belt and a bow at his side.  He's deadly accurate with those arrows, too:  one shot of his golden-tipped arrow and you're doing things you never thought you would ever do.  Cupid's arrows are very much like tequila.

However, Cupid gives and Cupid taketh away.  In addition to his golden-tipped love darts, Cupid could also fire off lead-tipped projectiles that would turn you from being a wanton and love-filled youth and into Grumpy Cat, but with less personality and more bitterness.  Essentially, me.

Cupid's most famous myth is the one where he is sent to destroy the beautiful Psyche, but in a somewhat ironic twist, Cupid falls in love with the mortal and ends up not killing her.  Psyche is pretty fucking hot, and this makes Cupid's mom, Venus, upset and thus dispatches her son to do her dirty work.  Instead, once Cupid sees Psyche, he wants her immediately and we get, as is usually the case, a case of divine kidnapping. Nothing says love like stealing your girlfriend from her home and locking her in a dark room (no, seriously...don't do this).  According to the legend, Cupid spirits Psyche off to his palace where he keeps her in a dark mention of whether he lured her into his chariot first with candy or went strait to the chloroform.  At night, he comes to her (and probably on her), telling her of his love for her, but she can't be allowed to see him (because then the jig will be up as she would instantly recognize him as Cupid).  Concerned--and here is where her sisters, jealous that Psyche is getting some godly dick--Psyche sneaks a lamp into the room while Cupid is asleep and she lights it, discovering that her lover is Cupid.  In her excitement, she spills some oil on him, burning him awake (I'm sure he would have preferred a blow job), and, seeing that Psyche now knows his godly identity, Cupid flees.

No. Psyche. With an 'e' on the end!
Psyche goes off to search the world in order to find Cupid, but she can't, so she implores his mother--the one who wanted her dead in the first place--to help.  Yeah.  This is going to end well.  Being that she's a psycho jealous bitch, Venus tortures Psyche, sending her on impossible tasks that she somehow manages to complete.  Finally fed up, Venus sends Psyche into the Underworld to retrieve some of Porserpina's beauty with the instructions not to look at it.  As Admiral Ackbar once said:  IT'S A TRAP!  Curious to see what this beauty is, and perhaps to use a little for herself, Psyche does not heed Ackbar's warning and instead peeks in the box and is condemned to eternal sleep.  Cupid "stumbles" on her in the wild while she is out cold and feels her up revives her, sealing the sleep back in the box.

Impressed by her perseverance, Jupiter decides to deify Psyche, that way she can wed Cupid as an equal and not have that whole immortal/mortal dynamic that plagues so many other couples in mythology and tragic literature.

Wait.  What?  Jupiter didn't just say, "Nice job, kid?  Here's my dick!"  Huh.  Will wonders never cease?

Anyway, this is a story about how love conquers all.  Or maybe it's a story about how we kind of lose our minds when we're faced with love.  Or just a nice set of boobs (you know who you are).

With that in mind, here's this week's Latin phrase:

Amare et sapere vix deo conceditur.

"Ah-mar-aye et sah-pair-aye wicks day-o con-kay-dee-tour."

Even a god finds it hard to love and be wise at the same time.

It wasn't until some time after Alexander the Great died and before the Roman Empire rose to power in the Mediterranean world that Cupid went from being a handsome youth to the chubby little spanker we know him as today.  As his symbolism for both Heavenly and Earthly love began to be translated over into Christian mythology, Cupid became more of a cherub type image, and that's how he persists today, morphing into a more cartoonish caricature of himself.  If that's possible.  Unfortunately, Psyche hasn't followed along with him, and so Cupid has become associated with a sort of cruel prankster who enjoys seeing people fall in love with the wrong partner.  His most famous modern namesake is the "dating" site OKCupid, whose abbreviation (OKC) always makes me think of the Thunder and Kevin Durant.

Wait a minute...Kevin Durant is deadly accurate shooting, as well.  Holy shit, guys!  Kevin Durant is Cupid!!!

Happy Valentine's Day!

An Even MORE Tragic Finale

February 9, 2016

I come to you, handful of blog readers, with hat in hand, ready to issue an apology for the oversight.  After writing last week's blog, I sat and thought on it (I have a lot of traffic to contend with on the daily commute) and I'm pretty sure that I had already told the story of falling-not-falling down Betsy's stairs.

Close enough to the image
I was trying to invoke

My shame, it is evident.  Do with me as you will. 

*ties blindfold around eyes* 

*lights cigarette*

But wait.  If you pull the triggers on that firing squad, you'll never get to hear the even more tragic tale of what happened after Betsy's graduation party!

Oh, I see I've earned myself a brief stay of execution.

Now, for this, you need to realize that I lived in a dingy little backwater town called Markle, which confidently strode the border of Huntington and Wells Counties in Indiana.  I lived on the western (read: far more cool and hip) side of town, so I went to Huntington North High School in Huntington, Indiana (don't ask where Huntington South is...).  Huntington was the county seat of Huntington County (amazing, I know), and as such was the largest city in the county.  Most of my friends lived in Huntington, not Markle.  It was a ten mile drive to Huntington--you know, all day trip type distance.

Betsy was one of those Huntington-residing friends.  Another was my good friend Matt Webb (it's almost like Matthew was a popular name for boys born in the middle of the 70s), and so it was that I made sure to go to Matt's graduation party.  I think it might have been the same weekend as Betsy's.  Don't ask for specifics; it was twenty a few years ago.  I've imbibed a few drinks and had mind-altering drugsblowing sex since then.  Details are a bit hazy.  Concentrate and ask again later.

Anyway, my friend Matt was a doctor's son, and a fairly successful doctor, at that.  As such, he could afford the finer things in life...such as a pool.  A pool which was fully engaged when I showed up at his party.  However, this was his "official" graduation party, and so all of his family--including ten thousand younger cousins--were at the party, and they were using the pool.

Like this, but with MORE purple
Unlike Betsy's party, I had no grand schemes or designs or speeches to deliver.  What I did have was a small bag of the ugliest fucking ties that the Seventies could have ever vomited up and called fashionable.  Matt was a big fan of retro fashion, and so I knew he would love these.  My dad didn't want them, so I folded them neatly and put them in a bag and took them to Matt's party. 

I was right.  He loved them.  He gushed over how happy they made him.  I felt pretty good.  Having a big slice of cake probably didn't hurt.  I spent probably an hour at Matt's house talking with him, his younger brother (he was a sophomore at HNHS), his mom (she worked at the school), and his dad (never met him before that day).  It was a great time.

After overstaying my welcome, I shook Matt's hand, congratulated him for graduating (I mean, why not?) and turned to go.  As I was leaving, Matt stopped me and said, "Hey, come back later tonight.  After dark.  A bunch of people are coming over.  It's going to be a pool party."  There was a hesitation, and then he added, "You can bring a suit...if you want..."

Now, the important thing here is that Matt and I ran in many of the same circles in high school.  This meant that, at this pool party, where bathing suits may or may not be needed, there was an excellent chance that several of the girls I had crushed upon over the course of the past four years would be in attendance, including Rachel, Amy, Elizabeth...and Betsy.

Holy shit.  I might get to swim naked.  With Betsy Motherfucking Hagar.

(This was not her middle name.  It was Anne.)

Ecstatic, I went and visited a couple of other friends, where they, too, were talking about Matt's graduation pool party.  Oh, the debauchery that the night promised.  It was almost too much for my 18-year-old mind to process.  I was almost literally aquiver with excitement. 

We'll just call it excitement and leave it at that.

Not Betsy...but another perfect blonde
I drove home, practically floating the whole way I was so happy.  I got home, parked the car, went inside and began preparing.  I got fresh clothes, grabbed the swim trunks (you know, to be gallant), and then hopped in the shower, scrubbed myself until I was pink and fresh-smelling, and then shaved and trimmed.

I was looking and feeling good.

I made myself some food and then sat down on the front porch with my parents to eat.  That's when my mother started in.

"Did you have a good time?"

"Yes, quite.  In fact--"

"Well, good.  You've been gone a lot over the past couple of weekends. I think it's about time to wrap up the graduation party circuit."

"Well, you see--"

"There aren't any other of your friends--your good friends, your close friends--parties to go to, right?  Good."

"Well Matt Webb--"

"You just went to Matt Webb's house.  You gave him all those old ties.  No need to go back."

Instead of arguing further, I just frowned down onto my plate and said, "Yeah, I guess not."  It's not like I could tell my mom that I had been invited to a pool party where I might see the nakeds.  Especially not ones that I had pined for for years, written erotica about, or developed pubescent carpal tunnel syndrome over.  Dejected--nay, defeated--I stayed home with my parents that night.

And yes, Matt had his pool party.

And yes, there was skinny dipping involved.

And yes, Betsy was there.

*peeks out from under blindfold*

Oh, what's that?  I've earned my freedom by spinning that tale?  Well, thanks, I'll just be going now.

*thinks back to what might have been on that fateful night at Matt Webb's house*

On second thought, just end it for me now...


February 2, 2016

The other day, I was asked about breathing life back into this blog by a very attractive, very funny, very sexy young redheaded woman.  I pondered it for a few seconds days and, at her continued urging, decided that, yes, I guess I could maybe string a few words together in a manner somewhat pleasing for your senses.  Because, when have I ever been suggestible to the words of a hot woman?  Right?

Then I realized that it's Groundhog Day.  Groundhog Day!  The symbolism of rebirth, of being dragged unwillingly from a warm den and tunnel!  Oh, the symbolism is strong with this day.

Fear, anger, hatred?
A Groundhog knows not these things.

And once I began thinking about the symbolism of Groundhog Day, I remembered that it was the birthday of on Betsy Hagar, the Teutonic goddess on whom I crushed throughout high school, unrequited, silently, there in the corner...there in the spotlight.

*clears throat*

You get the idea.

At this point, I don't remember all the stories I told in the past, and frankly, I don't feel like going through all my past entries and reading everything that I've already written.  I mean, I like you guys; I just don't know if I like you that much.  Except you.  Yes, you.  You know why.

In movies, there's always the guy pining for the girl who is way out of his league, and he wants her from afar, but he never summons up the courage to tell her that he writes and masturbates to erotica about her that he has deep, deep feelings for her?  And then at the end of the movie, he finally grows a pair, and he walks up to the girl and he tells her that he loves her and then she always--always--falls into his arms and they go off and presumably live a happily ever after life filled with, presumably, lots of sex and blow jobs?

Well, that's what I decided to do with Betsy...from the safety of the other side of graduation.

We were the Vikings.
After we shuffled of the educational coils of one Huntington North High School, I did the graduation party circuit.  I went to a lot of my friends' parties and did what I could with cards and gifts and stuff--it felt a lot like Squidward in that episode of SpongeBob where he's playing Santa Claus but is basically just giving away all his shit to make SpongeBob feel good?  Yeah, that was me with post-graduate gifts.

This is the situation in which I found myself at Betsy's graduation party, cheesy card and shitty gift in hand, my heart racing in my chest as I pondered the speech that would certainly win Betsy's heart and make her mine for that happily ever after story, complete with lots of sex and blow jobs.  I walked in, gave her the card, she gave me a hug, and...I got distracted talking to someone else.

Now, I don't know if you remember a lot of the graduation parties that YOU went to, but, well, they are thrown so that the graduate is the center of attention, so that the graduate is showered with undying adulation from their friends and family, so that the graduate is the center of the spotlight.

They're not thrown so that some other dork can have his teen romcom ending to his high school career.

And so it was at Casa de los Hagars.

The longer I stood in Betsy's living room, the more unnerved I became.  Eventually, I gave up, since she was ringed by a least a dozen other attractive high school girls (all fellow graduates of HNHS Class of 1994) serving as sort of a Midwestern Swiss Guard.  I approached Betsy, got another hug, and told her that I needed to be going.  She asked if I couldn't stay longer (I think I had another party to get to, honestly), and I made the polite small talk of telling her I wanted to, that I would miss hanging out with her, and that I hoped to see her again soon.  Not quite the romantic ending that I had built up in my mind, but it was still gallant.  Ish.

Spoilers:  I never saw her again.

Now, sure, in high school, I was an athlete.  I wouldn't describe myself as athletic, but I also wasn't a tub of lard that hurled himself forward by the mass of my gut sticking three feet out in front of the rest of me, either.  And while I had decent dexterity of foot (pedantry?), I, like everyone else, would still trip and fall slip and make a fool of myself.

As I was walking down the steps from Betsy's living room to the door, a framed photo collage that was propped on the back of the couch and leaning on the banister railing slipped and fell behind the couch.  It was loud, at it startled me a little bit.

Betsy, however, thought that I had keeled over and came running to help me.  There was a look of confusion on her face when I was standing there, quite upright, attempting to get the picture collage unwedged from behind the couch and back in its place of display.

"Are you okay?" she asked.

"Yes, quite.  The picture just fell, that's all."

"Oh, I thought you had tripped and fallen."

There was a long moment where we stared at each other, and then I finally said, "Well, no.  However, I guess I shook this loose while walking down the stairs..."

We bid each other adieu once more, and then I walked out of her life, forever.   And the last thing she said to me was that she thought I was enough of a clumsy lummox that I had fallen down the stairs and done myself a grievous injury.

No.  Not the romantic ending I had envisioned for that particular relationship.  But at least I felt her boobs pressed against me.  Twice.

Small victories.