Bagging leaves, and a book is born!

This afternoon I raked and bagged eight bags of autumn leaves—using biodegradable bags, of course. I stopped with eight, because eight is all the curb can contain—and that’s two rows of four bags, no less. Besides, eight bags was about as much as my lower back and my allergies would tolerate.

Mrs. Dim makes my job a little easier. When she clears her yard of leaves, she also blows the leaves in my yard several feet away from the property line. As a result, I hardly need to rake at all; I can just scoop the leaves into the bags, and the job is quickly done.

When I had finished the eight bags, I went inside, cleaned up, changed clothes, and submitted a book to Kindle and Amazon. From their point of view, it’s my latest book, but I actually wrote it in 2002. Because it is satire, I’ve been reluctant to put it out there. When I first wrote it, I had a few copies made at the local printer and shared them with family and friends. I even brought one to a writing workshop in 2003. A pastor who was there read it and giggled over every page. “You have to get this published, J.,” he told me. Well, finally, after all these years, I have followed his advice.

The premise of the book is that a congregation, called FirstChurch, was trying to figure out why they were not as successful as the other churches whose advice they were following. They noticed one difference: the successful congregations had pastors who had written books about the church. So they asked their pastor to write a book. Desperate for material, he gathered material from the various organizations in FirstChurch and sent them to be published, reasoning that showing how to do it is as helpful as telling how to do it.

Here is my blurb for the book cover: “This is not just another book telling you how to make your church grow. Instead of telling, this book shows you what to do. With the help of Salvageable, Pastor Scribble has collected reports and letters and minutes from various organizations in FirstChurch. Together, they tell the story of a place where, as their motto says, ‘The Church comes first.’ Not everyone appreciates satire. This book might not be for you. But if you want a few chuckles over the quirks and oddities in the life of a typical American congregation, this book might be exactly what you are seeking.”

The point of the satire is not to mock any Christians I have known. Instead, the book portrays a mindset of a congregation, one that other bloggers have labeled Churchian. “The Church comes first” says it all. Obsessed with organizational structure and knowing that they need to bring in new members, the leaders of FirstChurch have lost sight of why the Church exists and why they have a mission to bring in new members.

Here is a sample of what the book contains:

NOTICE TO ALL FIRSTCHURCH MEMBERS:

It has come to our attention that some of our members are parking in the three spaces clearly labeled “Visitor Parking.” Because some of our members have recently joined FirstChurch, we are willing to consider this an “honest mistake” for now. Please remember that these three spaces are meant for visitors to the congregation, not for our members. After all, we want to be known throughout the community as a friendly congregation. If members continue to park in these spaces on Sunday morning, action will be taken to remove them from the congregation. Thank you very much.

Your friends at FirstChurch

The Kindle version, when available, will cost three dollars; the print version will cost six dollars. I recommend the print version for two reasons: I was able to use a different font for each organization, something that Kindle does not allow; and I was able to add a running joke regarding, “This page is intentionally left blank,” which would not have made sense on Kindle. I will add links to this post when the book is available. J.

 

With apologies to Lerner & Loewe…

If ever I would leave you
It wouldn’t be in Walmart.
Seeing you in Walmart
I never would go.
Your cart filled with clothing,
Groceries, hardware, and shoes,
They all cost more money
Than I care to lose!

 

But if I’d ever leave you,
It couldn’t be in Target.
How I’d leave in Target
I never will know.
I’ve seen how you sparkle
When sales nip the air.
I know you in Target
And it’s quite a scare.

 

And could I leave you
Spending merrily while at Sears?
With a credit bill
That will not be paid for years?

 

If ever I would leave you,
How could it be in Penney’s?
Knowing how the pennies add up to a lot?
Oh, no! not in Penney’s
Target, Walmart, or Sears!
No, never could I leave you, my dear!

So a string walks into a bar…

So a string walks into a bar. He hops up on a barstool and says, “Gimme a beer.”

The bartender looks at him, frowns, and says, “You’re gonna have to leave. We don’t serve strings here.”

The string says, “OK,” and hops off the barstool. He goes out the door and around the corner, ties himself a couple of times, frazzles himself at both ends, and goes back into the bar. He hops up on a barstool and says, “Gimme a beer.”

The bartender says, “Aren’t you the same string that I just sent out the door a minute ago?”

The string smiles and says, “No, I’m a frayed knot.” J.

So a doctor walks into a bar…

Doctor Edgar Fuller MD limited himself to one alcoholic beverage a week. Every Friday afternoon, he would stop at a neighborhood bar on his way home and order one drink—generally a rum-and-cola or gin-and-tonic, but sometimes he tried other drinks. The bartender expected Doctor Fuller every Friday, greeting him invariably with, “Howdy, Doc: what’re you having today?”

One Friday the good doctor felt like trying something different. When the bartender asked the usual question, he answered, “What do you recommend today?”

The bartender smiled. “I’m just branching out into something new,” he boasted. “We’ve always served fruit-flavored daiquiris: lime, or strawberry, even apple. But now I’ve got some new and interesting flavors: almond, pine, hickory…”

“That sounds interesting,” the doctor said. “I’ll try the hickory flavor.”

The bartender poured some rum into a shaker, added a little syrup, and shook the drink vigorously. He dropped some ice into a glass and poured the drink onto the ice. Then he slid the drink across the counter to his customer. “Here you go,” the bartender announced. “It’s a hickory daiquiri, Doc.” J.

Cold in the Heartland

The blast of Arctic air that has moved across the Heartland this week brings me memories of other winters. Growing up in the Heartland, I was accustomed to a few days some years when the high temperature of the day was below zero degrees F. I was also accustomed to a few days some years when the high temperature of the day was above one hundred degrees F. We learned to live with such extremes, although central heating and air conditioning made the living far easier.

When I was a boy, I watched Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin as they walked on the moon. When winter came, I chose to imitate their excursion in our back yard. The temperature was five degrees below zero, so it was important to leave no skin exposed; but that was just the point. I was dressing up as an astronaut, putting on double layers of shirt and pants, thick socks, black boots (which had five buckles each), mittens on my hands, a heavy coat with a hood, a stocking cap under the hood, and a scarf across my face. Dressed in that fashion, I went through the back door and backwards down the steps, making a giant leap for mankind. I observed the scenery, took samples of the snow, and played astronaut to my heart’s content. For the next couple of years, whenever the weather gave me the opportunity, I repeated the experience, leaving footprints that would never fade, since there is no atmosphere—and hence no wind or rain—on the moon.

It’s hard to describe the difference of a day below zero to people who are miserable when the temperature falls below forty degrees F. Snow has a different sound when you walk on it in the deep cold of winter—instead of crunching, it squeaks. Frozen fog is a sight to see—ice crystals hanging in the air, not falling as flakes. The coldest days come with clear skies, as the snow reflects the light and heat of the sun back into space. That sunlight glaring off the snow can almost blind a person, especially a person wearing glasses that have just become coated with frost when they hit the cold air.

Heartlanders in general, and Chicagoans in particular, are proud of our ability to face all kinds of weather calmly and stoically. We laugh at dwellers of the desert who come to visit in August and wilt, even though the temperature is only ninety degrees, because the relative humidity is also ninety. We laugh at the foreigners who bundle into their heaviest coats when the first snow falls in October and then take pictures of themselves and each other. We know how to drive in the snow, and we sneer at those who slide off the road. Harsh weather makes us strong, able to face any difficulty, unlikely to be overcome by adversity.

The story is told of a Heartlander who died a couple of years ago; he was sent to the devil’s prison for his sins. The devil knew this Heartlander to be a tough man, so he tried his best to make him miserable. He cranked the thermostat up high, but the Heartlander simply relaxed and said, “Feels like a July day back home.” Annoyed, the devil turned the temperature even higher, but all he heard was, “Feels like the middle of August back home.” The devil decided to try the opposite extreme and turned the air conditioner on full blast. Soon fog was swirling, icicles were forming, and even the devil himself begin to shiver. Satan smiled, though, as he heard the man running around in the fog shouting at the top of his voice. Strangely, though, the man did not sound unhappy. Satan lost his smile when he heard what the man was shouting: “The Cubs won the World Series! The Cubs won the World Series!” J.

Maikeeng Spelcek unesisairee

English is a difficult language. Not only does it have a large vocabulary and many exceptions to most grammatical rules, but English spelling is wildly unpredictable. Consider, for example, the words “tough,” “though,” “through,” and “thought.” Add to the list “threw” and “taught.” Various efforts have been made to standardize English spelling, and few of them have succeeded. With some extra time to play around with ideas on a long weekend, here I present the Salvageable seven-year plan to reform spelling in the English language.

These suggested changes would be made, two a year, looking at consonants in January and vowels in July. Spreading the changes over seven years would make it easier for people to adjust, rather than throwing what appears to be a foreign language into their laps all at once. People and places would be allowed to keep their current spelling if they chose, just as the post office allowed Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to keep its final “h” while smaller communities with similar names were urged to drop the “h.” All other written communication would be gradually reformed until English spelling finally made sense.

The change made on the first January would be to drop silent consonants from the language. “Psychology” would become “sychology,” and the book of Psalms would henceforth be known as Salms. This initial change would go almost unnoticed, but it will be already a step in the rite direction, the direction of consistency and predictability.

In July a bigger step would be taken by standardizing the letter “a.” From now on, when someone wanted to rite the sound “a as in pan,” that sound would be represented by the letter “a.” When someone wanted to rite the sound “ai as in pain,” that sound would be represented by the letters “ai.” This step would remove a lot of silent “e”s from the ends of words, and people would find it helpful to know alwais how to pronounce their “a”s.

The next Januairy we would stop doubling consonants and would use, for example, only one “t” in the word “litle.” This smal refinement would saiv time for riters and for readers, maiking English more and more acesible to al.

In July the time would hav come to standardize the leter “e.” From now on, when someone wanted to rite the sound “e as in bet,” that sound would be represented by the leter “e.” When someone wanted to rite the sound “ee as in beet,” that sound would be represented by a double “e.” Once agen, the geseeng gaim about how to pronounce certen werds would bee ended.

A tinee change would bee introduced in the next Januairee. A sound that has no consistent speleeng would get a new rule. The sound represented by the leter “s” in the midle of the werd “mesure” would now bee speld “jh,” chaengeeng the werd to “mejhure.” This smal change helps to set up a biger change that wil come the foloweeng Januairee.

But next, in July, wee could standardize the leter “i.” The sound of “i as in bit” would alwais be riten with an “i,” wiel the sound of “ie as in biet” would alwais bee speld “ie.” You can see wair this is goeeng. In the comeeng yeers, wee wil bee takeeng up “o” and “u” as wel.

Now the excietment bilds as wee comit ourselvs  to cleer phonetic speleeng. “Phonograph,” for egzampel, would beecome “fonograf.” Everee tiem wee wanted a “k” sound, wee would riet the leter “k.” This big step asures us ov a Januairee to reemember.

In Julie wee fienalee come to terms with the leter “o.” Frum now on, the sound uv “o as in hop” wil alwaes bee riten “o,” wiel the sound uv “o as in hoep” wil alwees bee riten “oe.” Wee ar moer than half-wai throo the proses, and wee ar maekeeng good progres.

A yeer after maekeeng al the consonants foenetik, wee wil hav noetisd that wee skarslee need the leter “c.” It now oenlee apeers in kombinaishun with the leter “h” in werds such as “cherch.” Wee need simplee to drop the “h” and let the leter “c” maik the “ch” sound, and wee ar wel on our wai to beter Inglish.

Cum Juelie wee kan deel with the leter “u.” If wee want the sound “u as in cut,” wee simplee need to riet “u,” wiel if wee want “ue as in cuet,” wee would riet “ue.” The manee tiems wen the “ue” sound is speld “oo” can bee canjd, soe a dubel “o” wood now alwees sound liek “oo as in book.”

Haveeng canjd “ch” intue “c,” wee ar now free tue taik the uesles leter “x” and let it repreesent the sound foermerlee represented bie “sh.” “Xut the doer” miet seem stranj tue our ies at ferst, but wee wil get uesd tue it oever tiem. Alredee transliteraixun frum Cieneez to Inglix uezez the leter “x” this wai.

Bie theez ruelz wee hav eeliminaeted the need to uez the leters “w” and “y” as vouls. Frum nou on, the “au” sound wil alwais bee riten “au,” never “aw,” and soe on.

Bie the fienel Janueairee uv this proses, wee ar redee foer the last big canj: wee wil replais everee “th” wiq the leter “q.” But beekauz the leters “th” repreesent tue diferent sounds, wee wil hav tue distinguix “q as in qeeng” frum “qh as in quis.” (In unrefoermd Inglix, that wood bee “th as in thing and th as in this.”)   Frum qhis tiem on, Inglix wil maik perfekt sens tue everee reeder, and the spelcek funkxun on our kompueter proegrams wil bee entierlee unesisairee.

Bie the wai, quis iedeeu did not begin wiq Salvajibel. Kredit iz due tue Dolton Edwards, hue roet “Meihem in ce Klasrum” in 1949. Ie enkounterd it in a book kald “The Astounding Science Fiction Anthology,” publixd in 1951. J.

Rumor control, continued

After I posted about Facebook this morning, some new information came to me which needs to be added to the previous post:

  • The name “Facebook,” said backwards, sounds like, “Kubsafe.”
  • Kubsafe was a goat-headed god worshiped by some of the indigenous people of West Africa, as well as by some of their descendants in the Caribbean islands and along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico.
  • It is said that if a person walks into a dark room, faces a mirror, and says the name of Kubsafe three times in a row without pausing, the face of the god will appear in the mirror. Under certain circumstances, that figure in the mirror may try to harm the person who has invoked him.
  • People of a certain age (or a certain level of maturity), having read this information, will try that very experiment tonight.

You have been warned. J.