Monday, October 28, 2019

Inquiring Minds Want To Know

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published October 30, 2019]  ©2019

From time to time, my husband has observed, “it must be really hard living inside your head.”  Alas, this is often true.  I wish brains could have a turn off switch where you could say, “OK, we’re done for today! Do not even think of contacting me again until at least 7 a.m.”  But my brain just never wants to quit.  Around 2 a.m. I wake up and start pondering both ponderables and imponderables.  They just won’t go away no matter what tricks I use to get them to shut up.

Now, both the good news and the bad news is that a lot of these issues can be answered without even getting out of bed if you have your Smart Phone plugged in on the bedside table.  But looking things up in the middle of the night is a slippery slope.  Once your phone has seduced you to turn it on, you suddenly need to check the weather, email, your favorite advice column, the latest news.  Then you’re truly never going back to sleep. 

Here are a few things I have recently pondered late at night:

(1) What is the difference between flotsam and jetsam?
(2) Why don’t Eskimos have scurvy?
(3) What did the appendix used to do before it became an obsolete organ?
(4) When TV commercials get cut off in the middle, which they often do, does the advertiser still have to pay?
(5) Why do international political conflicts among countries always seem reminiscent of youth soccer teams? 
(6) What percentage of the bandwith is taken up with selfies?
(7) Numerous books have been written by people who purport to have come back from heaven.  Why hasn’t anyone come back from hell?
(8)  What does the dog think when it sees you naked?
(9)  Is it truly darkest before dawn?
(10) Why can’t a woodchuck chuck wood?
(11) What IS a woodchuck, anyway?
(12) How can there be fat-free Half & Half?
(13) How many angels CAN dance on the end of a pin and why exactly do we care?
 (14)  How can so many writers all  be “New York Times No. 1 Bestselling Authors”? 
(15) If you really like Couple A and you really like Couple B, why do Couples A and B never hit it off at your dinner party?
(16) Can you have two colds at once?  If you already have a cold then someone you know has a cold too but with different rhinoviri, can you get their cold as well?
(17) Why do dogs sleep so much?
(18) How did early man keep from freezing to death in cold climates, even with fire?
(19) Are clams really happy?
(20) Why is the plural of moose “moose” and not mooses or meese?  (Think tooth/teeth, goose/geese)
And most puzzling of all:
(21) Why does melted cheese taste so much better than the same cheese at room temperature?

I think you’ll agree that no one could sleep with all that circulating among their circuits. There is not room to answer even all the answerables on this list, but here is the result of my (daylight hours) research on a few:

 Jetsam is debris deliberately thrown in the water; flotsam was not.

There is enough Vitamin C in raw meat and fish to prevent scurvy.

The appendix’ possible function was to help early humans digest plant cellulose, like tree bark.

Most dogs that sleep 22 hours a day have nothing else to do.

Woodchucks are actually the same as groundhogs and are herbivores who have no interest in chucking wood. 

The phrase is actually “happy as a clam in high water,” i.e. high tide where it is protected from hungry humans. Clams’ actual mental state has never been scientifically assessed, even by NIH.

Moose is likely derived from an Algonquin language that didn’t have plurals; also, the English language just has tons of annoying exceptions designed to annoy foreigners learning our language and native speakers as well. 

It is only darkest before dawn in the human psyche; scientifically, it is darkest at the midpoint between dusk (sundown) and dawn (sunrise).

 As for Hell, it probably has those tire shredder things so that once you’re in, you can’t back out.

Yes, you can have two colds at once; it’s called “co-infection. The “fat” half of Half & Half was replaced with corn syrup. 

That Couple A and Couple B didn’t hit it off at your dinner party is truly one of life’s imponderables. 

International political conflicts have exactly the same dynamics as youth soccer teams: constantly changing teams and alliances.  

Humans have evolved to prefer smoothness, gooeyness and warmth in food, the essence of melted cheese.

You don’t want to know what the dog thinks when it sees you naked.
Now go to sleep already.

Monday, October 21, 2019

The Power Of Dogs

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published October 23, 2019] ©2019

After our beloved English bulldog Winston died suddenly of a heart attack in our living room in 2016, Olof and I were so flattened that we swore we’d never have another dog.  But a local rescue agency with radar for mushballs asked us to foster several dogs “just for a week,” and before we knew it, we were suddenly the adoptive parents of Lily, a 7-year-old 15-pound bichon-poodle with rotten teeth and breath so bad it could scorch your eyebrows.  This was apparently why she had been relinquished by her former owner.

Like Winston, she also turned out to have pretty serious allergies. I informed our vet that we were adopting another allergy-afflicted dog who also had serious dental issues, so she could go ahead and put down the deposit on that Mercedes. We consider Lily’s medical care our new 401k. 

Like many dogs, Lily considers it her personal duty to defend us from faunish peril, including and especially tiny lizards.  Our back doors are open pretty much year-round to let air in and Lily out, so it is not surprising that occasionally a small reptile makes a wrong turn and ends up in the house.  Recently Lily saw one scurry from the hallway into the guest bath.  An alien life form had breached the barricades and invaded her personal territory! Totally unacceptable!  When I came to investigate her hysterical barking, I found her she standing at alert just outside the open bathroom door, one foot up in pointer position.  This would make more sense if she were actually a pointer, rather than a bichon-poodle mix.  But she wanted me to be clear that the intruder was still in there. “You will not go in there on my watch!”  she seemed to be saying. 

But go in there and rout it out herself?  Hell no. 

And while we’re on the subject of bathrooms, it is not surprising that dogs would consider bathroom activities to be social events.  From Lily’s perspective, every time she makes a shadoobie, we’re always standing right there, opaque bag at the ready.  The fact that we don’t seem to need bags ourselves is irrelevant; it’s still a communal activity.  If the bathroom door is not closed tightly, Lily will nose it open and join the occupant. In fact, she’s fairly annoyed if you exclude her and will park herself just outside the door where you can easily trip over her and do a face plant into the armoire which would serve you right for being so anti-social.

Once inside the bathroom, she will join Olof as he stands in front of the commode. She assesses the proceedings with the laser focus of an Olympic Figure Skating judge.  Artistic presentation? Meh. But given the added difficulty elements inherent in Olof being 72, she is more than willing to bump up the score for technical merit.

Once Lily’s dental problems had been ameliorated to the tune of $1,500, she began eating voraciously and quickly packed on four more pounds.  You don’t have to be a mathematician to realize that four pounds on a 15-pound dog is not a desirable percentage of weight gain.  Every month when she goes in for her CADI shot (immunotherapy allergy shot) she gets a weigh-in as well. 

“Lily, you little porker!” we admonish her in front of the vet if she’s over 20 pounds.  We swear that she has somehow figured out how to get into the refrigerator after we’re asleep despite the lack of teeth marks in the cheddar. “It’s middle-aged spread, Lily,” I say sympathetically on our way out.  ‘Happens to the best of us.”

While Lily has become fast friends with our pool guy, she regards our lawn maintenance man as her mortal enemy.  The second he shows up on Wednesdays with his lawn mower, 19.9 pounds of enraged white fluff is hurling itself at our French doors.  “He’s stealing our grass!  Again! And you let him!”  She is eager to sink her three remaining teeth into the side of his mower. Despite her lack of bravura in the face of small reptiles, she is unafraid of machinery. 

We really have no idea what Lily’s first seven years were like other than that she was obviously abused by male persons. We learned this after Olof returned home shortly after the foster agency had dropped off Lily for her “one week stay” and she sank her teeth into Olof’s leg.  But she has gotten over that, and is utterly devoted to Olof. In the morning, Lily likes to wake up Olof for her morning walk by standing on his chest and engaging in what he calls “nuclear kissy face” – a full-on doggie saliva facial guaranteed to make sure she cannot be ignored.

From being adamant that we would never have another dog after Winston, we can only ask ourselves:  how would we ever live without one?

 Lily visiting the grandkids in Los Angeles

Lily and Olof on Lily's 10th birthday Oct. 11, 2019

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Toilet Paper Roll Inflation: Stop The Madness!

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published October 16, 2019] ©2019

I hope you’re paying attention because this is a serious subject.  I’m talking toilet paper roll inflation. 

There was a time, and I’m talking like five years ago, that toilet paper rolls were pretty standard.  This, of course, was because the toilet paper dispensers in most bathrooms were pretty standard too.  But then Double Rolls came along – twice as much toilet paper in one roll so you presumably only had to change it half as often, unless you had a toddler who liked to grab the end and run through the house with it.  (I once had such a toddler.)  Or in a moment of temporary insanity, you went for the street food in Tijuana.  (No amount of toilet paper in the world will cover that.) 

Fortunately, the Double Rolls still fit on the toilet paper-dispensing spindles in my 1947 house.  But then Mega Rolls suddenly appeared which purported to be equivalent to four regular rolls, or two double rolls.  As a senior citizen, I do not need to annoy my few remaining synapses with toilet paper math. 

Of course, none of this matters since the Mega Rolls don’t fit in my toilet paper dispensers anyway.  If you need an industrial-sized shoe horn to wedge it in there, it doesn’t roll, which is, after all, the point of the thing. I have accidentally bought Mega Rolls several times when I was in a hurry because increasingly, that’s what’s on the shelf. 

But just when you think it can’t get any crazier, now there are Super Mega Rolls, which purport to be the equivalent of 36 regular rolls (or 18 Double Rolls or nine Mega Rolls) crammed into six giganto wads for which I’d have to buy a free standing dispenser that I’d have to set in the bathtub of my tiny little bathroom. 


I’m sure you’ll agree that Feature Inflation has already consumed our country in the form of consumer goods that have increasing numbers of idiotic features added to them for no other reason than manufacturers seem to think that people want them. For example, alarm clocks that have a choice of six revolving glow-at-night colors all of which make it impossible to find the controls that actually set the alarm.  (I was gifted with one. I hate it.) 

Major appliances are even worse.  It is my personal view that any appliance for which you need a manual is poorly designed.  My husband might rephrase that as any appliance I can’t work without consulting a manual is not only poorly designed but, if small enough, should be hauled out to the driveway and run over with my car.  I have a very low frustration tolerance for electronics. 

Feature Creep truly terrifies me.  This is why I will ultimately end up in Assisted Living.  Not because of my health but because I can’t fix the remote on my TV after I’ve accidentally pushed one of the dozens of useless buttons on the damn thing. I will need to live in a place where they have people who do that. 

(This is the career of the future, millennials.  House calls to help us oldies override all the features on our Smart appliances.  You could make a living.)

I realize it’s a bit of a stretch from toilet paper inflation to feature creep to grade inflation, but it’s really all part of the same scary mind set. When I was reading articles this spring about high school valedictorians, I was amazed to read that some had Grade Point Averages over 6 – on a 4-point scale.  When my sons went to high school, the only classes that were weighted to 5 were actual Advanced Placement courses since they were considered college level and counted as college credit. If you took every AP class the school offered, the maximum GPA you could achieve was 4.3.  Now it appears that you can get GPAs of 5 or even 6.  If toilet paper roll inflation is any indication, will there be 10-point GPAs on a 4-point scale?

OK, time to take my nitroglycerin pill.

I maintain that toilet paper rolls are symptomatic of our society’s constant desire for bigger, better (I’d dispute better), more. 

There’s nothing I can do about grade inflation or feature creep. Sometimes you just have to pick your battles. This is why I implore you all to write to your Congress person and implore them to pass legislation about toilet paper roll inflation.  What’s after “Super Mega”?  Super-Duper Mega? Super-Duper-Ultra-Wowie-Zowie Mega?  Will toilet paper rolls become the size of basketballs?  Will you need special dispensers mounted on your ceiling that could fall on your head in an earthquake and knock you unconscious? (If you live in California, you can’t be too careful.) This is a real threat unless we fight the Toilet Paper Industrial Complex now!

Meanwhile, start hoarding those Double Rolls.  They’re a vanishing breed. 

Regular, Double, Mega, and Super Mega Rolls

Even un-rolling a third of this Mega Roll, it is too
tight for the dispenser

 Original size toilet paper roll: Virtually extinct

Double Rolls: still roll-able

 Too big for toilet paper dispensers in my house