Saturday, December 31, 2016

Tiny Bits of Nonsense: November/December 2016

Here is the November/December 2016 edition of "Tiny Bits of Nonsense," featuring some of my latest tweets:
Other bits of nonsense: 
October 2016 | September 2016 | August 2016 | Olympics Edition | June/July 2016 | May 2016 | April 2016 | March 2016 | February 2016 | January 2016 | December 2015 | New Year's Edition | November 2015 | October 2015 | Halloween Edition | September 2015 | August 2015 | July 2015 | June 2015 | May 2015 | "Back to the Future" Edition | April 2015 | March 2015 | February 2015 | Valentine's Day Edition | January 2015 | December 2014 | Holiday Season Edition | November 2014 | Thanksgiving Edition | October 2014 | September 2014 | August 2014 | July 2014 | June 2014 | May 2014 | April 2014 | March 2014

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Tiny Bits of Nonsense: October 2016

Here is the October 2016 edition of "Tiny Bits of Nonsense," featuring 10 of my tweets for the month:
Other bits of nonsense: 
September 2016 | August 2016 | Olympics Edition | June/July 2016 | May 2016 | April 2016 | March 2016 | February 2016 | January 2016 | December 2015 | New Year's Edition | November 2015 | October 2015 | Halloween Edition | September 2015 | August 2015 | July 2015 | June 2015 | May 2015 | "Back to the Future" Edition | April 2015 | March 2015 | February 2015 | Valentine's Day Edition | January 2015 | December 2014 | Holiday Season Edition | November 2014 | Thanksgiving Edition | October 2014 | September 2014 | August 2014 | July 2014 | June 2014 | May 2014 | April 2014 | March 2014

Saturday, October 8, 2016

A Suggestion To Improve Weather Forecasts

The weather forecast for today had called for rain. Definitely rain.

The weathermen on the local TV stations had been in agreement. There will be showers, they said.

It will not be a great day, one of them confidently predicted.

As it happened, I'd had a great day planned. My wife and I had tickets to an outdoor chili pepper festival. More than 60 food vendors offering samples of spicy sauces, spicy jams, spicy chocolates, and spicy drinks. A full afternoon of burning my mouth and torturing my intestinal tract. I was really looking forward to it.

(I nearly wrote that the chili pepper festival would be our hottest date yet and that it would spice up our marriage. But rather than run the risk of making you groan, even if intentionally, I decided to throw these jokes out there as an afterthought, in between parentheses, instead. A fair compromise.)

The forecast dampened my spirits. There was no point in taking a long subway ride to the festival if it was going to rain.

I put my trust in what the weathermen had said. It will not be a great day. So last night I told my wife that it would be best if we skipped the festival.

Jump ahead to this morning. I woke up and I lay in bed, doing what I normally do when it's raining: debate whether it is worth getting out of bed. I should be productive, shouldn't I? But how can I be productive in this weather? I can't go out there, I'll get wet. But even if I don't leave the house, I can't just lounge around in my pajamas and cover myself from head to toe in blankets for the rest of the day. Or can I?

Once I finally decided to roll out of bed, I walked toward the windows and opened the blinds, just to see how hard the rain was coming down. Not hard at all, as it turned out. I didn't see one drop of water falling from the sky. There were clouds, yes, but no sign of precipitation, no real threat of showers. I could go out there, after all. The weather held up for the chili pepper festival, and my wife and I went. It all worked out.

Still, I was upset. Upset with the weathermen. They screwed up, again. They nearly ruined my day with their erroneous forecast. They promised me rain, and they broke that promise. Shame on them.

Weathermen make mistakes. We all know this. We understand that they are unable to predict weather with 100% accuracy. And surely they understand that we're still going to complain about it, and we're going to complain about it a lot. It must affect them mentally, to some degree. They work under a high-pressure system.

Something needs to change. The current method of forecasting the weather isn't working. This is my idea: Switch the weatherman and the lottery host. Why not? The weather forecast feels just as random as the lottery draw. At least it would be more exciting my way.

Here's how it would work: The lottery host would use Ping-Pong balls to project the high temperatures for the week. "The first ball up…an 8, the next...a 15, the third...a 19, the next...a 23, and the final ball...a 31, making the five-day forecast 8, 15, 19, 23, and 31."

It would be a weather lottery, and we'd play along by purchasing tickets. What if you had accurately predicted these numbers? You'd never be more thrilled by below-freezing temperatures!

Even better: The weatherman would help you select the numbers on your tickets by forecasting future lottery draws. Let's see what the Doppler can really do.

"Checking in with our radar, you can see that we have a Ping-Pong ball coming in from the south on Monday, and that's going to bring a number in the high teens. There's a 20% to 80% chance it could be a 16."

The lottery draw forecast could be called Accu-Draw, or Accu-Balls. Just a suggestion.

If a weatherman were to predict the lottery numbers correctly just once, we'd be so happy with our cash prize that we wouldn't care that he's wrong so many other times. It's a win-win for everyone.

Getting back to the chili pepper festival: I had a great time. The highlight of the day came when I tasted a pepper-based jam that had the word "devil" in its name. The vendor warned me that it would be extremely hot, but I ignored her, scooped a glob of the jam onto a cracker, and swallowed it whole.

I then did my best impression of Homer Simpson reacting to Chief Wiggum's merciless pepper of Quetzalacatenango.

My mouth was on fire. For minutes, I scrambled around the festival, desperately searching for water to drink, from any source. I looked to the clouds above me and I thought to myself, "I wish it was raining right now."

Friday, September 30, 2016

Tiny Bits of Nonsense: September 2016

Here is the September 2016 edition of "Tiny Bits of Nonsense," featuring 10 of my tweets for the month:
Other bits of nonsense:
August 2016
Olympics Edition

June/July 2016
May 2016
April 2016
March 2016

February 2016

January 2016
December 2015
New Year's Edition

November 2015
October 2015
Halloween Edition

September 2015
August 2015
July 2015

June 2015

May 2015
"Back to the Future" Edition
April 2015
March 2015
February 2015
Valentine's Day Edition
January 2015
December 2014
Holiday Season Edition
November 2014
Thanksgiving Edition
October 2014
September 2014
August 2014
July 2014
June 2014
May 2014

April 2014
March 2014

Monday, September 26, 2016

The Sting Of Googling Sea Urchins

Earlier this year, my wife and I went on our honeymoon to Hawaii. I'm often asked what we did while we were there. The answer is, we did a lot. We kayaked, snorkeled, we swam. And, in my case, I read.

I read articles on sea urchins. Many, many articles on sea urchins, and whether they are poisonous.

I became concerned after I was stung by a sea urchin -- nature's Koosh ball -- at one of the beaches we visited. Deeply, deeply concerned.

I made contact with the sea urchin while snorkeling. I was reaching for a ledge by the shore to steady myself when I accidentally set the palm of my left hand on the urchin.

I let out a curse word. No one heard it, except for maybe a couple of sea turtles and a clownfish that were nearby. And I said it while underwater, so it was muffled anyway. It came out as, "Fmmmmmk!"

I only felt the sting for five minutes or so. The pinching sensation went away after that. I didn't really think much of it after my wife and I left the beach.

But that night, as I lay on the couch in our hotel room, I thought back to my encounter with the sea urchin, and I examined my palm. Should I be concerned that I was stung? I wondered. Is a sea urchin sting harmful to my health? I better Google it, just to be safe.

Here's what I learned: It is not safe to Google it. It only leads to more confusion.

I searched the question, "Are sea urchins poisonous?" There were 87,200 results. I read approximately 65,532 of them.

I started with result #1. "Physical injuries from the spines of most sea urchins are possible, but only a few urchins are venomous," it stated. That was somewhat reassuring.

This was the headline for result #2: "Are Sea Urchin Spines Venomous? Yup!" That was not at all reassuring. Was the sting of the headline more painful than the sting of the sea urchin? Yup!

I dove deeper into the results, link by link, page by page. I discovered a published study on sea urchin toxin that was 67 pages long. Sixty-seven. If I was on my own on this honeymoon, it would have been reasonable for me to read it, but I now had a wife to consider. We hadn't blocked out much time in our itinerary for sea urchin research.

I decided to instead focus my attention on much shorter articles. After several hours of clicking and clicking, I passed out on the couch around 3 a.m. I was exhausted. Perhaps a side effect of the sea urchin sting?

The last thing I remember from that night was my skimming treatment tips from a doctor in Kansas City. (What, you don't seek medical advice on dangerous sea creatures from health professionals in the Midwest?)

The good news is that the next day I woke up and felt great. I'd recovered from the sea urchin and Google. I was relieved.

Not too long ago, my wife and I were dining at a seafood restaurant and the waiter informed us of the special of the day: sea urchin pasta. I told him I'd need a few more minutes to decide. I pulled out my phone. I Googled, "Are sea urchin pastas poisonous?" I began to click.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Keep Calm And Keep Your Eyes Closed

I attempted to meditate for the first time this week, and it stressed me out.

I'd seen an advertisement for a meditation workshop led by a yoga teacher, and I signed up right away. I thought I could benefit from it, both mentally and physically. 

I didn't realize how much my health had suffered this summer until my doctor tested my blood pressure during a recent visit. It registered higher than usual. As I sat there on the examination table, with my sleeve rolled up to my shoulder, flexing my bicep to impress my doctor, I wondered why that would be the case.

Do you exercise regularly? my doctor asked. Well, of course I do, I answered. Of course, I don't, but I would never tell him that. I never tell my dentist I don't floss regularly, either. I do, however, lie to health professionals regularly. I'm not proud of it, but I'm too ashamed to admit the truth to them. It's why I only see them once or twice a year. It has nothing to do with insurance.

I can only speculate, but I don't think that a lack of exercise, or my diet, or any other factor within my control contributed to my elevated blood pressure. Rather, I think it's the result of a trying summer in which a spambot accused me of being an imbecilean airline screwed me out of a donut, and several stand-up comics called on me while performing at a comedy club.

Whatever the reason, I knew I had a problem that needed to be addressed. I had to lower my blood pressure. I had to eliminate the stress in my life. And I had to make sure my doctor didn't find out that I wasn't exercising regularly.

Hours after the visit with my doctor, I came across the advertisement for the workshop in a local magazine. I read it as a sign, a call to action. Meditation was the answer, a way to strengthen my body, mind and spirit, through quiet thought and reflection. It would be freeing.

And it would be free. The teacher wasn't charging admission for the workshop -- important, because the idea of spending money to manage my stress only adds to my stress.

I was optimistic. I had a lot of confidence in the teacher. I'd Googled her, and her credentials were impressive. She was the bestselling author of four books on meditation, had appeared on a number of news programs, and had taught classes around the world.

I was certain she could help me -- nay, I was certain she could heal me. This was my expectation: I would walk into the room, she would listen to my story, and then, through the power of meditation, she would take away my anxiety and release my stress. They would evaporate into thin air, and I would become happier and more relaxed than I've ever been.

This is what I thought would happen, essentially:



That is not what happened. Quite the opposite. The yoga teacher didn't heal me. She confused the heck out of me.

The start of the workshop was promising enough. She asked the participants -- 11 or 12 of us, altogether -- to close their eyes. Easy. I've been closing my eyes for 35 years.

I closed my eyes. And then I opened them, to make sure the others had closed their eyes. They had. I closed my eyes again. I opened them again. Should I still have my eyes closed, I asked myself. Yes, I should, I discovered. I closed my eyes again.

After that...well, the teacher didn't take away my anxiety or release my stress, I can tell you that much. She spoke for approximately 10 minutes, stringing together words that, to me, collectively held little meaning.

I wish I had written down what she'd said after the fact. Here's a brief list of words I remember hearing:

- "Fame"
- "Audacity"
- "Merchants"
- "Bro"
- "Taylor"
- "Ray J"

I may be mixing up my experience at the workshop with my experience watching Kanye West on the VMAs telecast last Sunday. But the teacher's speech made just as much sense to me.

For 10 minutes, my eyes were closed. And for 10 minutes, I was completely and utterly lost. I didn't know if she was providing instructions, or sharing an inspirational message, or something else entirely.

Don't take my word for it. Watch this clip from the workshop:


Once the teacher finished speaking, she asked that we open our eyes. I did, and I took a good look at the other participants. What I saw surprised me. They were smiling. They were calm. They were relaxed.

I was none of those things. I was upset. I was frustrated. I was demoralized. My anxiety and stress hadn't evaporated; they'd condensed. What had the others heard that I hadn't?

I quietly slipped out the door, I went home and I turned on the TV. Maybe watching a movie would help me relax. I searched Netflix for The Green Mile.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Tiny Bits of Nonsense: August 2016

Here is the August 2016 edition of "Tiny Bits of Nonsense," featuring 10 of my tweets for the month: Other bits of nonsense:
Olympics Edition
June/July 2016
May 2016
April 2016
March 2016

February 2016

January 2016
December 2015
New Year's Edition

November 2015
October 2015
Halloween Edition

September 2015
August 2015
July 2015

June 2015

May 2015
"Back to the Future" Edition
April 2015
March 2015
February 2015
Valentine's Day Edition
January 2015
December 2014
Holiday Season Edition
November 2014
Thanksgiving Edition
October 2014
September 2014
August 2014
July 2014
June 2014
May 2014

April 2014
March 2014

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Tiny Bits of Nonsense: Olympics Edition

It's an Olympics edition of "Tiny Bits of Nonsense"! Here are some jokes about the Summer and Winter Games that deserve a medal (or not): Other bits of nonsense:
June/July 2016
May 2016
April 2016
March 2016

February 2016

January 2016
December 2015
New Year's Edition

November 2015
October 2015
Halloween Edition

September 2015
August 2015
July 2015

June 2015

May 2015
"Back to the Future" Edition
April 2015
March 2015
February 2015
Valentine's Day Edition
January 2015
December 2014
Holiday Season Edition
November 2014
Thanksgiving Edition
October 2014
September 2014
August 2014
July 2014
June 2014
May 2014

April 2014
March 2014

Saturday, August 6, 2016

My Own Personal "Pokémon Go": What I've Been Searching For This Summer

I have not downloaded Pokémon Go. I have not played it. I have not located Pokémon, or captured one, or trained one or battled one. 

I have, however, spent hours upon hours this summer exploring the city -- not for virtual pocket monsters from Japan, but rather for something else entirely, something not quite as obvious.

Pictures of ice pops.

It began with an idea for this blog. The backstory: It was a typically warm summer day in New York City, and I was in the mood for an ice pop. But not just any ice pop. I was in the mood for a red, white and blue ice pop. You're undoubtedly familiar with this ice pop. It's a staple of virtually every ice cream truck. It's cool, it's colorful, it's patriotic. It's the quintessential frozen American treat.

Fortunately, I live in a city where ice pops are easily accessible this time of year. Walk no more than 10 blocks in Manhattan, and you're sure to find an ice cream truck parked on a corner.

Allow me to repeat myself, for emphasis: You can walk to an ice cream truck here. When I was a kid, I'd have to run for my ice pop. I would hear the ice cream truck jingle from inside my home, and I would have a Pavlovian response -- I would drool, bolt out the door, chase after the truck and bark. "Stop! Please stop! I have loose change in my pocket and am willing to spend it all!" More often than not, I'd fail to catch up, and I'd have to turn around, sans ice pop, as the music faded in the distance.

But here, the trucks wait for you. They're stationary. I don't need to run. Or bark. This is what makes New York so great.

So, I wanted a red, white and blue ice pop. I casually strolled a couple of blocks, taking my sweet time, and, sure enough, there was an ice cream truck. I surveyed its menu. I was specifically looking for the Rocket pop. I was pretty sure that was what it was called. That's how I remembered it from my childhood. It is shaped like a rocket.

But I didn't see a Rocket pop on the menu. I did see this:


The Firecracker. It was shaped like a Rocket pop. It shared the same colors as a Rocket pop. But it wasn't a Rocket pop.

I better not risk it, I thought to myself. I needed the real deal.

I searched for another ice cream truck. Ten minutes later, I located one. It was selling this:


The Firecracker Jr. The son of the ice pop I'd been introduced to just moments earlier. Somehow separated from one another. They were clearly related: same pointy head, same ridged surface, same height, practically. The resemblance was uncanny.

I moved on. Eight blocks later, another truck, and another variation on the red, white and blue ice pop. It was called, strangely enough, Red, White & Blue:


It didn't look like a rocket at all. It looked more like a low-calorie barbershop pole.

Feeling a little frustrated and impatient, I decided to hunt for the Rocket pop in Central Park. Central Park is the epicenter of ice pops and ice cream bars in New York City. It's teeming with ice cream carts. There are more ice cream carts than trees in Central Park. Surely, I'd find a Rocket pop there.

I found this instead:


The Bullet/Firecracker/Red, White & Blue. I'd never come across a frozen dessert more unsure of itself than this one. It was suffering from a major identity crisis.

By this point, I'd lost interest in eating a Rocket pop. I was far more interested in tracking down other variations of the red, white and blue ice pop. This would be my own personal Pokémon Go. There would be no app or GPS tracker. I would just have a vision, persistence, and way too much time on my hands.

For weeks, I eagerly examined the menus of every ice cream truck and cart I passed. Along the way, I discovered the Bomb Pop:


The Cyclone:


And, finally, the Turbo Rocket:


That's seven different names for a red, white and blue ice pop -- not counting the plain-old, non-turbo Rocket pop from my youth, which I never did find. Sean Combs has never had so many names.

The idea for the blog was to share pictures of all of these red, white and blue ice pops and add my own dry commentary on how absurd it is that there are so many of them. You may have noticed that I did snap photos, and that some of them are slightly out of focus, or were taken from a distance or at an awkward angle. There's a reason.

I was nervous.

I was reluctant to hold my phone in the air, in plain sight of ice cream vendors, and photograph their menus. I couldn't shake this feeling that they would be unhappy if I took a picture without giving them money and making a purchase. Like an Elmo in Times Square.

I tried to be as discreet as I could. I'd wait until the vendor was looking the other way, or waiting on a customer, or was otherwise distracted. There were several close calls. My heart raced each time. There's no way I could ever take photos of ice cream menus professionally.

The last photo in this post, of the Turbo Rocket, is courtesy of an ice cream truck near Central Park. I'd taken it while the vendor was busy with work inside the vehicle. I walked away, proud of myself for having successfully collected yet another red, white and blue ice pop pic with my phone's camera. I was 20 feet from the truck when I turned my head around. Why I did this, I have no idea. But I noticed that the vendor was now sticking her head outside of the truck window. She was staring right in my direction, with an agitated look on her face.

I whipped my head back around and picked up the pace. I was rattled, but it was OK. I'd captured one final photo of a red, white and blue ice pop on my phone. I'd caught them all.


UPDATE: One month after publishing this post, I found a new red, white and blue ice pop: the Mega Missile. Maybe I haven't caught them all.


Sunday, July 31, 2016

Tiny Bits of Nonsense: June and July 2016

Here is the June/July 2016 edition of "Tiny Bits of Nonsense," featuring 10 of my tweets during the past two months:
Other bits of nonsense:
May 2016
April 2016
March 2016

February 2016

January 2016
December 2015
New Year's Edition

November 2015
October 2015
Halloween Edition

September 2015
August 2015
July 2015

June 2015

May 2015
"Back to the Future" Edition
April 2015
March 2015
February 2015
Valentine's Day Edition
January 2015
December 2014
Holiday Season Edition
November 2014
Thanksgiving Edition
October 2014
September 2014
August 2014
July 2014
June 2014
May 2014

April 2014
March 2014