The Last Journey of the Potbellied Puma

In a sense, aren’t all authors members of the society of misfit stories, a scrappy but determined group of outsiders laboring away to tell the stories they feel compelled to pass along, never quite fitting in with the greater community? Maybe, but now it’s official for me, thanks to my latest publication in the February 2021 issue of the Society of Misfit Stories, from Bards and Sages QuarterlyThe Last Journey of the Potbellied Puma.

Subscriptions here, single ebook or physical issues from Barnes and Noble or Amazon.

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This Is the Hill I Die On (Or Mast, Or Whatever)

Thanks to the global pandemic sea shanties are suddenly popular, which fine, great – it’s about time something good came out of all this death and disease. But the rise of sea shanties has meant a corresponding rise in people talking about sea shanties, which has highlighted one of the greatest horrors of the modern age:

People saying “aaargh” when they want to sound like a pirate or old-timey sailor, instead of “aaarrr”.

“Aaarrr” is clearly correct, though people of good conscience can disagree about the precise numbers of “a”s and “r”s. I will also accept “yaaaar”, as Horatio McCallister uses to start every sentence.

High Quality Simpsons sea captain Blank Meme Template
Oh, you didn’t know that “Horatio McCallister” was his real name? Well, obviously I’m more of an expert on this stuff than you, then

But “arrgh” is clearly an expression of distress, much like “augh”

PEANUTS on Twitter: "Football starts today, Charlie Brown...  http://t.co/5KMFELlxLt"
Not the least bit piratical

Can I pirate say “argh”? Sure, I guess, if the pirate in question had stubbed his toe or his parrot had pecked him in the ear or something, but so can a non-pirate, and more to the point this putative pirate wouldn’t start every sentence with “argh” like he would with “arrr”. And more importantly, we can all agree that only sea-faring types would ever say “arrr”. So let’s all agree to socially condemn people who do it wrong.

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Filed under Grammar Gripery, Words Mean Things, Dammit

Another Reason My Mail Carrier Thinks I’m a Weirdo

Though maybe he’s a Lovecraft Country fan

In case y’all were wondering what I got in the mail that was certified by one of the Great Old Ones, it’s the HP Lovecraft Historical Society’s album of carols, “A Very Scary Solstice”. And if you’re wondering why I’m just now getting a winter solstice album, well, congratulations on having everything together and always getting stuff done on time, Smuggy McGee.

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January 3, 2021 · 8:18 pm

Happy Holidays From Internet Manifestation!

Well, 2020 was quite a year for the Internet Manifestation family.  There were many challenges for us all, of course, as there have been for everyone, but we all put our heads down and met each piece of new adversity with a can-do spirit!  Except for Lars in Targeted Psychological Advertising.

Our intern Wally had a great year, even though his first day was January 12th, the very day when the eldritch leviathan first rose from the Atlantic.  “I guess I don’t need to ask if I can have a week off in March to go to Myrtle Beach now!” he said, which really lightened the mood around the office.  Not that we give our interns a whole week off anyway.  Wally pitched in wherever he was needed throughout the year, whether it was cleaning ectoplasm off the walls of headquarters or picking up the corpses of the hideous lunar cyborg sparrows that some mysterious entity had sent to probe our defenses.  He’ll be missed when he moves on to his new job at Amalgamated Defrenestrations, but we’re all looking forward to meeting our new intern, Lobo McCoy.  Welcome to the Internet Manifestion family, Lobo!

In addition to losing Wally, of course, we lost our head of Font and Indentation Policies, Ellabeth Wizenthorpe.  Unfortunately, rather than heading off to a new career with Amalgamated Defenestrations, Ellabeth was eaten by spectral rats that had infested the east wing of Internet Manifestation headquarters before anyone noticed.  Up until then, though, she’d been having a great year, and was learning needlepoint in her spare time.  We’ve decided against promoting from within the department (sorry, Fred and Antonio!), so the position of lead of Font and Indentation policies is still open.  Readers interested in applying should send a resume and at least three references to Human Resources!

Image by moritz320 from Pixabay

Speaking of Human Resources, good old Nick Yathapopolis in HR has been doing great work.  He had a busy year, thanks needing to fire several employees who could no longer meet Internet Manifestation standards after becoming infected with the dread brain worm of ancient Y’thorglith–exit interviews are hard enough to conduct without needing to do them while wearing a wire mesh suit keyed to anti-brain worm frequencies!  Still, he had time to squeeze in a visit to the mysterious gray monolith that recently manifested in the Mojave desert, and he reports that it was time well spent.

Everyone’s favorite Internet Manifestation employee, Marge in Speculative Accounting, spent another year trying to learn how to do pivot tables in Microsoft Excel.  You’ll get it one of these years, Marge!

Johnny Yojimbo, who heads up Electron Redirection, has had a fantastic year, despite suffering from a disorder that forms the abstract shapes he sees against his eyelids when he closes his eyes into arcane characters that transmit messages that are as unusual as they are unwanted.  He also learned four new languages in 2020, one of them still spoken by humans!

There are plenty of other members of the Internet Manifestation family that have been doing great things in 2020, but frankly it’s hard to keep track of the survivors, what with the eldritch leviathan and the hijinks it’s been getting up to, so I’ll sign off here. 

I hope you and yours are doing at least as well as we are, and looking forward to 2021 with the same anticipation!

Free happy holidays clipart the cliparts 6

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I Just Can’t Stand This

In case you aren’t familiar with it for some reason, the classic show Parking Wars is a reality show that airs on A&E. The last new episode was filmed back in 2012, but it shows in reruns to this day, because who doesn’t enjoy watching people yell angrily about parking tickets?

As great as the show is, though, one thing about it has always bothered me. In approximately half the episodes, someone will get a ticket for parking in a no standing zone and argue to the beleaguered parking enforcement officer that they “were parking, not standing”. Sometimes, they will buttress their argument by pointing out that they are not from Philadelphia/Detroit/Staten Island/whatever, and that’s why they don’t know about this peculiar regional parking rule.

Throughout all the arguments that inevitably follow, though, the representative of parking authority, no matter who they are or what city that work for, never seems to think of explain what the difference between parking and standing (when it comes to automotive rules), actually is.

Now, the readers of this blog are all the sort of people who would thoroughly learn all traffic rules and regulations before getting behind the wheel of a car. But for the benefit of those readers who don’t drive, the difference is this: Parking is stopping a vehicle for any purpose other than loading and unloading people or stuff, while standing is stopping temporarily to pick up or drop off passengers (as in, what you might do at a taxi stand).

It’s not that difficult to understand – basically you just need to lay out the “No Stopping” > “No Standing” > “No Parking” hierarchy – but for some reason no one bothers with the definition. They just go in circles, with one person saying “you can’t park in a no standing zone” and the other saying “If I wasn’t allowed to park here, the singn would say ‘No Parking'”. It makes (sort of) good television, but it seems odd.

Unless it is because the parking enforcement person knows about the loophole in some municipalities that make parking and standing mutually exclusive. Which, it could be argued, allows you to park in a No Standing zone, so long as no one but the driver leaves…

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Filed under Words Mean Things, Dammit

Black and Blue

I don’t know why this is such a difficult thing for people to understand, but Blackbeard was the famous pirate.  Bluebeard was just a serial murderer of wives.  I’m not sure why either murderous criminal would be considered a good corporate symbol.  But if, for instance, a company that sells hair care products wanted to use Bluebeard as a mascot, going for some kind of jolly roger motif is way off base.  Bluebeard’s whole thing was keys, so might I suggest his use by a lock manufacturer?

This guy wouldn’t last a day at sea

At least Edward Teach had a certain amount of flair (come to think of it, a beard products company that had Blackbeard as their mascot could try to bring back his striking fashion statement of wearing a bunch of lighted slow-burning matches in his beard – it’s hard to find beard matches these days).

Pirate Edward Teach Corsair - Free vector graphic on Pixabay

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This Pillow is Annoying Me

Actually, to be precise, this pillow case is annoying me. Also irritating me is the lack of standardization between pillow and pillow case sizing, for throw pillows designed for couches. I won’t go into that now (look for my upcoming 6-part series on pillow irritations for that). But suffice to say that I had a heck of a time finding covers that would actually fit these new pillows I bought to stop my head from bonking into the arms of my couch when I lie down on it, because none of the covers I could find seemed to quite fit.

But finally, after an exhaustive search, I found this design:

The birds are a nice touch

It’s probably not the first design I would have chosen, but as I said, the choices that would actually fit my pillows were limited, and at first I was perfectly happy with it. But then I noticed those details on the trees, and not I can’t unsee the problem, which alert readers have no doubt already seen. Clearly, someone tried to suggest the look of birch trees with the little notches that allow the off-white of the pillow cover itself to show a little contrast with the gray. But check out where the tree is in front of that (massively-beracked) deer. Now we see black in the notches rather than white, and since black in this case represents the deer that can only mean those notches are actually void space in the trees, not bark patterns.

Actually, as I think about it, maybe the black makes more sense for a bark pattern than the white.

Photo by Patrick Hendry on Unsplash

But that just makes it worse, and anyway, the trees on the pillow cover still seem to have notches cut out of them for some reason. This is very upsetting, and I think I need to go lie down on my couch.

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Choose Your Raconteurs Carefully

Fusilli Jerry” is a classic episode of the TV show Seinfeld, possessed of various cultural markers. One of these is Kramer’s quote “You meet a proctologist at a party, don’t walk away. Plant yourself there, because you will hear the funniest stories you’ve ever heard.”

Yarn | You meet a proctologist at a party, don't walk away. ~ Seinfeld  (1989) - S06E21 The Fusilli Jerry | Video clips by quotes, clip |  ca9e90b5-8405-4a3d-8693-08c1eff3f7fc | 紗
Kramer explaining proctologists

Unfortunately, as I recently discovered, the same doesn’t hold true of septic tank technicians, despite the tangential relationship of the two occupations. The guy who pumps out septic tanks may be gregarious and have a lot to talk about, but that doesn’t mean his anecdotes will be all that entertaining.

This got me thinking, what occupations would tend to have good stories to tell? Now is a good time to make a list, as we all prepare for a time when we have parties again.

So far, I’ve got:

  • Test pilot
  • Wildlands firefighter
  • Bartender
  • Astronaut
  • Flight attendant
  • Carny

I’m sure there are a few others. I’ll update as I think of them, for use in making lists of invitations.

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That’s a Strange Way to Spell “Charles Babbage”

I was driven from my comfortable home recently in search of a burrito, which search took me to the village of Hamilton. As I drove in, I noticed for the first time a sign proclaiming Hamilton to be the birthplace of “John Attanasoff, Inventor of the Computer”. Now, as all computer geeks and steampunk enthusiasts know, that title properly belongs to Charles Babbage.

Babbage is the one on the right

Granted, “Inventor of the First Digital Electronic Computer” is a bit wordy for a sign in a 45 MPH zone, but maybe they could do some kind of multi-sign Burma Shave thing. And true, Babbage never actually built his difference engine so maybe a sign mentioning him would need a few caveats as well, but I think we can all agree that precision in language is important when discussing computers, digital or otherwise.

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Halloween Walk

Halloween, folks!

I took a very interesting walk this Halloween morning, shortly before dawn. Barely had a begun when I noticed a hot air balloon drifting overhead. I see quite a few hot air balloons over my house, on windless mornings and evenings, but this was the first time I’d seen one during actual twilight. It made for a striking sight, because every time whoever was aboard triggered the burners the whole balloon envelope would light up against the gray sky. It was something to see.

Balloon is dead-center in each shot – this is what happens when you don’t have the right lens

A bit later I startled a pack of coyotes, and watched their shadowy forms darting with liquid grace across a nearby field until they’d crested a hillock and left my view. Again, this was unusual, because while there are plenty of coyotes around here, they are usually heard but not seen.

(No photo because elusive)

Finally, as I approached the house, I came across the grisly scene of a scattering of bloody scraps of fur and broken bits of bone.

Clearly, two of these scenes are related to one another. The only question is, why are passing aeronauts dropping cracked and bloody bones near my house? Is it some sort of message, or just chance that they wrapped up some dark airborne ritual while they were overhead? Updates as I gather them…

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Filed under Bonechilling Ideas