Happy National Intern Day! (a.k.a You’re Getting Old Day)

It has come to my attention that I’m getting old. This revelation occurred to me while I was conversing with our summer intern at the agriculture office. Starting next month, he will be a sophomore at NC State University. Despite his enrollment in a premier institution of higher learning (I also attended NC State), he confessed that he cannot write in cursive. 

“How do you take notes in class?” I asked.

“Laptop–nobody takes notes on paper anymore,” he said, with a sense of bewilderment, as if paper was as antiquated as papyrus.

“Do you have textbooks?” I asked.

“Well, kinda, we have e-textbooks,” he said.

Oh, I miss the days of tangible tomes–you know those big heavy textbooks that could be repurposed as an anchor once they’re out of date. Sadly, kids these days will never know the pure joy of getting assigned a used textbook that already has the answers written in it. Nor will their back muscles develop adequately. I swear the backpacks in our day had their own gravitational pull, and likely weighed more than the kids wearing them. Nowadays the only reason kids wear backpacks is to advertise for North Face; they certainly don’t use them to lug around textbooks and Trapper Keepers. 

FYI: The intern didn’t know what Trapper Keepers were either. I had to explain to him that Trapper Keepers were basically overpriced folders, in which middle school boys stuffed all their papyrus; meanwhile, middle school girls used them to neatly organize and catalog their correspondence, that is the notes that were passed back and forth on the information superhighway, also known as the back row in class. 

It makes me sad that kids these days never experience the excitement of passing notes, of making shadow puppets in the overhead projector, of playing pencil break and paper football, of piloting paper airplanes that fly straight and true. 

Now, with only electrons used for learning, school sounds a lot less electrifying.

Board By Board

In a moment of inspiration, I once grabbed a crowbar and decided on a whim to start a small home improvement project. I decided to start re-siding my house with hardie board and installing insulation in the walls. Now, two and a half years later, I’m finally on the last wall of my house, and I no longer feel inspired. I can firmly say I’m now anti-inspiration. I’ve come to the conclusion that if I need to be inspired to do something, that something probably doesn’t need to be done. 

Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure I saved a ton of money by doing the work myself, but that said I likely also lost several years off my life-expectancy due to lead poisoning. People always talk about how well-built old homes are, but in reality, I think old homes are just well armored. The old wood boards I pried off my house were likely covered in so much lead that I could have pawned them off as metal at the scrap yard. They had at least a dozen layers of paint, dating back to the original paint used way back in 1893. 

On a positive note, in the two and a half years it has taken me to re-side our house, I’ve had a lot of time to think about life priorities and core values while climbing up and down a ladder toting hardie board. Once, after a day of much introspection, self assessment, and ladder climbing, I had a self revelation and decided upon the following maxim as my new personal life slogan, “Never start a project you can’t finish in two hours.” 

However, now that we have a child, I’m considering a revision: “Never start a project you can’t finish in twenty minutes.”

The Missing Link: A Universal Banana Peel

According to my WordPress blog stats, my international audience is rapidly expanding, especially in the Axis of Evil countries. Perhaps this shows that getting a bee in your bonnet is universally funny, no matter whether you wear a bee veil or bee burka. In fact, having such a big following in Iran has really got me wondering if humor could help bridge the divides between warring cultures and countries. 

I was hopeful. But after trying to expand my horizons by studying high-brow humor–you know the stuff you might see in the New Yorker or McSweeney’s–to pinpoint something that might possibly bridge the rural-urban divide in our own country, I’ve concluded that humanity is doomed. 

Try as might to find some of that high-brow stuff funny, most of the time I feel like I’m forcing a smile. To me, it’s clever, but not funny. Funny is stuff that makes you laugh out loud, or better yet belly laugh so hard you have stomach spasms. 

For me, there is nothing that makes me laugh harder than stories of well-intentioned men doing stupid stuff. For some reason that premise really resonates with me (not sure why). Thus, if we put the Founding Fathers of my sense of humor on a Mt. Rushmore of Mirth, they would be Ernest P. Worrell, Jerry Clower, Patrick McManus, plus the Generic Visage of Writhing Man (that is, any man whose face reflects the fact that his body is bent over clutching an appendage in some form of self-induced pain).   

But I understand that as much as I find these things funny, other people do not. I remember growing up that my mom would always look at my dad incredulously as he belly laughed while watching America’s Funniest Home Videos. “How can you find a man falling from a ladder funny?” her expression asked. 

And just this week I saw that same expression on my wife’s face as I broke out in uncontrollable laughter at the SimpliSafe Fireworks video that has been circulating. To me, this video represents the peak of humor—a well-intentioned man trying to impress his family by shooting off an industrial sized firework. Unfortunately, Cape Canaveral was booked, so he doesn’t have the adequate launching pad needed for a rocket of this size. Instead, his tiny front yard in suburbia will have to do. The dad, gung-ho to impress his familial relations, gets in such a hurry (likely he didn’t read the instructions) and overlooks a critical step in rocketry, namely adding the rocket to the launching tube. Thus, the rocket fails to launch. Instead, it gives off a minor warning explosion before nearly blowing up the Minivan parked in the driveway, allowing the family adequate seconds to flee for their lives. Perhaps the funniest thing about the video is the particulars of the fleeing: the mom instantly grabs the baby in the bouncer, showing proper maternal instinct; meanwhile, the dad instantly runs away, leaving his other more mobile offspring to fend for themselves. 

Every time I watch this video, I just can’t help but laugh. Hopefully, my readers in Iran will, too. I imagine Americans doing stupid stuff could be a real hit there.

Of Dearth Vader Bees and Bears

Seemingly, every June, the old men in my county will begin the annual ritual of lamenting the rain deposits in their rain gauge. And that’s if we even make it to June. Sometimes it turns dry and hot in May, at which point the sound of old men talking about dry rain gauges is the first indication that the Dearth has officially arrived, that nothing is blooming, that nectar has dried up, that the bees are getting ready to break bad and turn to the dark side. 

Dearth Vader bees, I call them. Angry, menacing bees that strike fear into even the bravest beekeepers. Not that I’m claiming to be one of them, but don’t let my trembling hive tool fool you–bravery is not the absence of fear, but action in the face of fear, trembling action included. 

Also, I just want to point out there is no shame in bravely running away from a boiling, raging Dearth Vader hive. Discretion is the better part of beekeeping. However, I’m pretty sure I have scientifically proven that bees can fly faster than an out-of-shape man can run, so you’re better off just laying down on the ground and playing dead–plus, that will save you from any Dearth Vader bears in the vicinity. Bees and bears alike, nobody likes the ninety-plus degree days of summer. 

Recently, a man spotted a large black bear in his fenced suburban backyard in our county, and it made front page news in our local newspaper (we don’t get many bears this far down the mountain). This particular bear was merely trying to empty a bird feeder of its contents. However, the man felt the need to confront the bear, armed only with a pot and large spoon. He said later, “I have read that that is what you’re supposed to do, but in retrospect that was probably not the best thing to do.”

I’m not sure what is more intimidating–Dearth Vader bees searching for any drop of sugary liquid or Dearth Vader bears that are willing to breach backyards for mere bird feed? All I know is that the Dearth is upon us, and bees and bears alike are hot and hangry. 

Ode to an Old Stove

Disclaimer: No mice were harmed in the writing of this blog post. One merely napped for an eternity after it chewed a wire in our old stove and decomposed, producing an oversized stench that was surprisingly difficult to trace. First, I checked the usual places for gag-producing odors—the trash can, diaper bin, sink drain, and dishwasher. Nope, not the specific odor molecules in question. Unable to pinpoint the source, I tried to drown it out with a downpour of Febreze. But, three days in, the smell grew worse than the time a possum sequestered itself in the wall. At our wits end, Natalie and I pulled everything out of the kitchen, stove included.

The movement caused the hidden carcass to emit an intense burst of unwholesome particles, at which point Natalie’s nostrils detected the proximate location. I trained my nose on the coordinates and confirmed that the odor originated deep beneath the left back burner.

The stove in question was an old Hotpoint stove, circa the 1950s. Natalie was quite fond it, since it had achieved vintage status, even though the stove was a danger to both mice and men. Before it killed the mouse, it had nearly killed me. A few years ago, I was cooking grits and frying some bacon at the same time: metal spoon stirring grits, metal fork flipping bacon. I can tell you from experience that one does not fly backwards, as if shot out of a cannon, when suddenly jolted by electricity. That is the stuff of cartoons. Instead, after becoming a conduit for electrons, one’s body merely goes limp and sinks to the floor. There, you feel like taking a nap for a while, save for a pounding headache.

Even after the stove electrocuted me, Natalie’s devotion to it held strong and she decided not to replace it. She recommended a much cheaper solution, a wooden spoon. So the moral of this blog post is if you ever want your spouse to discard a sentimental kitchen appliance in favor for something more modern and less life-threatening, place a dead mouse in it. Not long after we discovered the mouse carcass, the Hotpoint took its final plunge into the scrap metal bin at the trash depot. It had cooked its last piece of meat, a rodent.