Friday, July 29, 2016

Back-of-the-Book-Blurb Friday #19

Blog buddy Sioux is hosting Back-of-the-Book-Blurb Friday. I have 150 words to entice you to fake-buy my fake book.

This week, I tear a page from my interminable extra-long workmanlike life-affirming teaching career to reveal some (alleged) drama that definitely happened may have played out I heard about at the lunch table does not represent any real people or incidents that occurred, unless purely coincidental. Take a walk on the riled side, and fake-buy my fake book!

The Checkerboard-Tile Jungle

Telma and Louisa meet most mornings for coffee. Telma, principal of Not Your Public School Academy, relies on Louisa to bring her up-to-speed on the goings-on in the trenches. Lately, there has been a problem with Cutesey Newgal. Cutesey wears little-to-the-imagination leggings and revealing lace tops. She spends more time on her phone than on her lessons. Students don't complain, getting 'A's without effort. Nor do the not-A-students. The weekend parties Cutesey throws more than make up for their lackluster record.

Now Cutesey has been seen on surveillance cameras, antagonizing her fellow faculty. Namely, members of the Woeful Wagging Tongues clique. A copier job interrupted and deleted, a doorstop stolen, on-purpose tardy passes written after the bell, lunches missing from the faculty fridge...Cutesy doesn't have a leg to stand on as she skates on thin ice.

Will Telma and Louisa take Cutesy for a long ride off a tall cliff? (150 words)


Fake Reviews for Val’s Fake Book

Pat Conroy…”The water is not wide enough to protect the reading public from this fake book!” 

Bel KaufmanIt has come to my attention that Ms. Thevictorian has not been going up the UP staircase, nor down the DOWN staircase, choosing instead to declare herself special and take the elevator both ways. I'd like to say her fake book also has its ups and downs, but, unfortunately, it has only downs.” 

E.R. Braithwaite…To Val, With Shock: This fake book is pure trash. It should be tossed into the classroom stove like an unsanitary napkin and burned to a crisp.” 

Harry K. Wong…”Obviously, this author has never set foot inside an actual school. If there's only one fake book you don't fake-read prior to starting your teaching career, make it this one.” 

Mrs. Rayburn…”I have not been exposed to subject matter this shocking since Theodore Cleaver wore a 3-eyed Martian sweatshirt to school. Unlike Theodore's classmates, I am not tittering. I think Val Thevictorian should be sent back to her dark basement lair to fake-write a fake book that is more appropriate than this low-class effort."

Robin Williams as John Keating…”If only Thevictorian was a member of the Dead Author's Society, I would jump up on my desk and implore my students to Sleaze the Day and read this piece of dreck so that none of them would ever be tempted to fake-write anything so abominable."

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Hick Is a Regular Ray of Sunshine for Those Solar Car Boys

Hick is never happier than when he has a project. No matter whether that project is vital to the operation of the homestead, or whether it is a Hick-devised project of questionable importance. Over the past two weeks, Hick has taken it upon himself to ready the grounds for the invasion of the Solar Car Team.

Genius had asked if we would mind hosting the team on their trek through Missouri. They spend most of their time camping out, with a few motel stays interspersed in their itinerary. We have no problem with 24 people pitching tents in our yard and field. Hick even cleaned out part of his BARn so some can rest comfortably on the concrete floor in the air conditioning. We are springing for BBQables, along with several cases of water, since the team is caffeine free. I plan to heat up some beans, and make a vat of my almost-famous potato salad, which is often shoved out of the culinary spotlight due to my delicious deviled eggs and world-famous Chex Mix. No time for those two treats, but potato salad I can do.

Hick has a working toilet in the loft of the BARn. He also has his outhouse down by the cabin. And as he says, "They're mostly guys. They can pee outside." You might think Hick is not a stickler for cleanliness, but you would be wrong. He set to work the day after Genius finalized the plans, to make an outdoor shower.

Here it is, in various stages:

This is how it began. A barrel on top of some skids.

Hick always knew it would be a two-barrel shower. Here he has them both in place, and the initial test shows that the shower does indeed work.

Since nobody wants to be exposed around here except Hick, he had me pick up a shower curtain at The Dollar Store. It cost more than a dollar. I was not trying to be all artsy-fartsy outterior-decoratory. The plain shower curtains were translucent. So this is the only pattern that you couldn't see through. I had planned to have The Pony pick one out at Walmart, but the more I imagined him looking at a selection of shower curtains and getting one that suited our needs...the more I knew I needed to cut that escapade short and take this one the day I found it.

Looks like Hick also decided to upgrade that shower to three barrels. I guess he thinks the guests might linger in the luxury of running water. Not sure what they're going to stand on yet. Hick will probably come up with some rubber mats from the BARn. Or one of his sheds. Or one of the freight containers.

The barrels have been filled with 55-degree well water for nigh on two weeks. The temperature should be compatible with life. And if somebody wants a COLD shower, he can just pick up the hose attached to the well spigot. In addition, we have Poolio to act as a big bathtub for those bashful bathers. As Genius said, though, "We planned on not having facilities on the nights we camp out."

But wait! We're not finished! Hick also rigged up a hand-washing station!

We are looking forward to the August 1 invasion. Things were dicey there for a while, what with some vital piece of equipment shorting out before scrutineering was over. Another team generously offered a replacement. Day 1 of the qualifying track race saw the Missouri S&T team making repairs to get the Solar Miner track-ready. No laps were under their belt at the finish of the first day of competition.

By Day 2 of the race, Missouri S&T had hit the track and was racking up laps to qualify for the road portion of the challenge. Until a tire blew out about three hours after the start! Not just a blowout, but a broken tie rod! They got it repaired trackside, without pitting. But then, something quit communicating with something else. A coding problem. The coders rigged a work-around so that the Solar Miner could get back on the track. However, they finished Day 2 with only 89 laps. A one-day lap total of 128 was needed to qualify. But don't count them out!

Today, Day 3, the last day of qualifying, the Solar Miner took the track needing 101 laps to meet the two-day total criteria. Three hours in, 50 of those 101 laps had been tallied. All systems were go--until a thunderstorm dumped heavy rains on our hopes. The main problem, according to scuttlebutt, was not traction, but the humidity fogging the driver's vision. But don't count them out!

News from the Solar Car Team front is that as of the close of the track competition this evening, the Solar Miner has qualified for the road race, which starts on Saturday in Brecksville, Ohio.


Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Hick's Latest Catch

Just because Hick starts new projects bi-weekly doesn't mean he forgets his former loves.

Here is the most recent denizen of the Fishing Lair:

Not sure what, exactly, Hick looks for in memorabilia to include in this year-old structure in Shackytown. This one is obviously not attempting to duplicate a real fish. Nor is it equipped with pointy stabbers to actually hook a real fish. Maybe next week, he'll bring home a child's artistic rendering ripped from the pages of a coloring book. I don't know if he plans to hang this catch on the wall, or let it balance itself on the sea-blue counter.

In case you've forgotten what the outside of the Fishing Lair looks like, here it is again, in its beginning stages:

And some of the early treasures on the inside:

In the next few days, I'll share what Hick has been working on for the past week. Let the record show that it is NOT a themed shed for Shackytown.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Those People With a Lotta Nerve and a Lotta Relatives Also Have a Lotta Ancestors

Do you sense a theme lately? Those parking-spot ne'er-do-wells don't put down roots at the gas station chicken store. Oh, no. They follow Val like she's some kind of weirdo magnet vortex for folks with more than the normal complement of axons and dendrites.

You'd think a person could have a peaceful interlude at the cemetery to center oneself, to reconnect with emotion and memories of a departed loved one, to speak aloud softy (it's a CEMETERY, by cracky!) the hopes and fears one might have discussed with that loved one if given the opportunity in life.

Not in Backroads. Especially not if you're Val.

I was headed to town to pick up some chips for The Pony. Never mind that I had just been in Save-A-Lot the day before. In fact, that is what spearheaded the trip. The four new Lay's Potato Chip flavors are out now, you know. Chinese Szechuan Chicken (inspired by Sichuan peppers), Brazilian Picanha (skewered-grilled steak with chimichurri sauce), Wavy Greek Tzatziki (flavored with dill, garlic and other spices) and Kettle Cooked Indian Tikka Masala (a tomato-based dish with tumeric and cumin).

When I saw those chips, I picked up a bag of the Wavy Greek Tzatziki, and the Brazilian Picanha. I figured The Pony would like the first because it looked something like Sour Cream and Onion, and the second because it had little meat skewers pictured on the bag that looked like steak.

The Pony loved the Brazilian Picanha. I had one (ONE! you CAN eat just one Lay's Potato Chip!) and thought it was great. So The Pony asked me to get more, because if this contest is anything like the old ones, there will be the best flavor that can never be found. Even though we did not open the Greek ones yet, The Pony wanted me to grab a bag each of the Indian Tikka Masala (because he's heard about this dish on the cooking shows) and the Chinese Szechuan Chicken (because Hick likes him some spicy Chinese food).

Chip mission accomplished, I decided to run by the cemetery. I usually go once a week, but last week there was a funeral a couple of plots over, and the next time we were in a hurry and took a different route back home. It's only a couple miles from the gas station chicken store. And I have all the time in the world now that I'm RETIRED. So off I went.

Pretty sure I've mentioned the convenience of Mom's plot. The row right next to the road, so I can do a drive-thru visit. I pulled over and parked. It's on the wrong side of that blacktop lane that winds through the memorial park. But it's not like there's a rush hour. The only traffic I see is the grounds crew sometimes, and they're not on the roads.

I had just parked and rolled down the window and put Satellite/XM on the Prime Country station. Mom always liked that, so I'd tune it in when I picked her up for our monthly bill-paying Friday excursions. She'd tap her hand on her thigh and say, "This is REALLY good music." I noticed that the flowers put there by my sister the ex-mayor's wife were gone. Gone! They had not even been in a metal holder, like the one that got ripped-off by lowlife scrap metal thieves. Only in a plastic holder, set upon the long engraved marker (no headstones in this joint) next to the screw-in plastic holder that was the purloined one's official replacement. I made a mental note to let Sis know. Along with the fact that the flowers The Pony and I had put there still remained.

In the side mirror, I saw a gray sedan coming down the road behind me. I followed it in the rearview mirror, then picked it up with my peripheral vision as it pulled up alongside T-Hoe's passenger door. And stopped. I did NOT turn my head. No siree, Bob! I'd learned my lesson the day before with that air hose doofus! Do not engage. I turned my attention back out my window to my mom and dad's plot. I was in the middle of a one-sided conversation already, you know.

Gray Sedan s l o w l y rolled on down the road. Turned right. A direction where there is nothing much except a road that branches off for the groundskeeping crew. The main road continues around to the right, back to where a caretaker's mansion older-style home sits back in the trees. That road winds on around the section with the fountain. And back to the top exit, or loops back to where I was parked.

Gray Sedan stopped. Backed up. Sat there perpendicular to T-Hoe, at the bottom of my road. Like when that crazy Michael Myers in the original Halloween stopped the stolen station wagon and backed up after Jamie Lee Curtis's friend hollered, "Hey, jerk! Speed kills!" I assure you that I hollered nothing. But the lady behind the wheel was looking at me through her passenger window.

Something is taken away from the mourning experience when you are being watched. I swear, I had not even been there THREE MINUTES when Gray Sedan Lady decided I was in the way of her I Can't Wait mission to do her own mourning. Seriously. What's the rush? They're not going anywhere.

It's just like when you get there early for your 9:00 a.m. doctor's appointment, and you're the only person in the waiting room, and the next patient signs in and sits in the chair right next to you, eschewing the other 29 empties simply yearning for a butt to fulfill them.

I told Mom I'd be back another time to spend longer, and started up T-Hoe. Put him in gear as Gray Sedan started back toward me. Went by on my right, because after all, I was there first, and was on the wrong side of that deserted lane. In my mirror, I saw Gray sedan pull over behind where I'd been. A lady got out and started walking across the plots. Like she couldn't have done that with me sitting there.

I can't figure out why the GPS coordinates I inhabit are always the place to be.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Those People With a Lotta Nerve Sure Have a Lotta Relatives. Or Kindred Spirits.

Seems like only yesterday Val was ranting about the NERVE of some people. That's because it WAS only yesterday. Let me be the first to warn you...they're baaaack! And at the scene of the original crime against Val's special parking privileges.

Uh huh. There I was, headed for that parallel-like parking space by the air hose, due to my first and third choice spaces being taken again...when a dude whizzed around the pumps and parked his little blue sports car in the handicapped space.

Of course Val was not headed for the handicapped space. She is not handicapped. And she has no H placard. Just like that SportsMan! Not a plate, not a placard to identify himself as one who needed special parking. People like him are the reason the differently-abled have such a hard time getting gas station chicken!

I pulled T-Hoe around him, cut into the empty space, and backed up so as not to block the dumpster or the air hose. Backed directly into the confines of the lines of that parking space. I looked in T-Hoe's door mirror. Sportsman was still sitting in his blue sports car. I counted up my exact change and opened the door to disembark. Let the record show that I took my own sweet time. No need to jar sore knees by hopping down. I slid my heels past the running board. Leaned a minute on T-Hoe's door to let circulation come back into my joints. We elderly are like that. Then I started walking toward the corner of the building. Toward the blue sports car. Perhaps I favored my sorer knee, my left knee, more than usual. Not-Heaven's Chimes! Is it MY fault if Sportsman might have thought I was indeed differently-abled?

I can assure you that such a false fact would have made him no nevermind. He was out his blue sports car door and around the corner before I got to his bumper. Inside, he went directly to the counter. Never mind that the owner was waiting on someone else, with another lady in line behind her.

"How are you?" The owner is always polite to the customers, even though she rules her oft-turned-over staff with an iron fist.

"Livin' the life! I'm livin' the life!" SportsMan stood there in his khaki shorts, his red-and-blue baseball-jersey-style shirt, and brown flip-flops. I saw nary a flaw on his tanned legs that might have warranted a parking spot for the handicapped. He kind of reminded me of Guy Fieri from Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. That kind of attitude. That kind of hair. He was buying PowerBall tickets.

Far be it from Val to deny a dude his right to play the lottery. But I think he could have complied with the parking etiquette of civilized society to do so.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

People Have a Lotta Nerve, Which Makes Val Need to Let Out Some Hot Air

Friday I had some errands to run, like picking up about 100 pounds of chemicals to feed Poolio, and cashing a mileage reimbursement check for Hick, and picking up some shredded lettuce for my Super Nachos from Save A Lot. Technically, Hick had commanded The Pony to go get the Poolio chemicals, but I didn't see why TWO of us should drive to town, so I roped him into riding shotgun with me in T-Hoe.

Sure, I had to promise him Domino's Pizza after procuring the chemicals. But I had a companion and a go-fer, which I am not going to have ever again in three-and-a-half short weeks...Excuse me. I had something in my eye.

We picked up the pizza, and The Pony feasted on the way to the rest of the errands. Of course on the way home, I stopped for my 44 oz Diet Coke. Courtesy of The Pony's two feet. My regular parking spot that I am SHOCKED does not display a RESERVED FOR VAL sign was taken. Taken by a ne'er-do-well who could not even manage to pull all the way to the concrete tire-bumper. The spot over on the side, where you can drive into an unpaved drainage ditch between the gas station chicken store and CeilingReds Pharmacy if you go over the concrete tire-bumper, was taken up by a truck and trailer parked sideways. Taking up about 5 spaces. It's not like the gas station chicken store has unlimited parking. Probably about 15 spots at the most, if you consider the whole perimeter.

Lucky for me, my second-choice spot was open. It's at the side of the store, by the dumpster and the air hose. There are two spots there along the building, end to end, parallel-parking style. The first one is marked HANDICAPPED. I never park there. But other cars do, without H plates, and without H placards hanging from their mirrors, and disgorge drivers who have no discernible impediments. I drove through that one and parked in my regular second-choice spot. Within the lines.

The Pony went inside for my magical elixir, and I sat in the comfort of T-Hoe with the air conditioner blasting. It's been in the upper 90s here for two weeks, you know. No sooner had The Pony rounded the corner of the building than a car pulled up on my right. A man motioned for me to put the window down. I did. That's how we roll around Backroads. Perhaps he needed directions.

"Are you using the air pump?"

This guy must not have been very bright. Because I was obviously sitting behind the steering wheel, chillin' to extra Freon Hick had added a couple weeks ago. I was not bent over the tire with a pink rubber hose in my hand.


"I need to use it."

As we would say at the teacher lunch table: "Sounds like a personal problem to me." Of course, I am no longer on the payroll, and somebody else's butt will be in my unofficially reserved chair in the cafeteria come August 18th. So I did not utter that retort out loud. I did, however, roll my eyes at him, heave a heavy sigh, jam T-Hoe into reverse, and back into the handicapped spot behind me.

Little Mr. Self-Important was mouthing something through my just-upped passenger window. It didn't look like anything vile, but then again, I'm no lip-reader. Perhaps he was passive-aggressively saying he would wait until I left. But what would be the purpose of THAT, since he had the nerve to suggest that I was impolitely parked? I put on my sunglasses and glared at him as he pulled his car over perpendicular to my previous parking spot.

That's right. He parked IN FRONT of where I had been parked anyway. My space was of no use to him. Had I chosen to put T-Hoe into DRIVE, I could have T-boned that car. Let the record show that the air hose is plenty long. That I've been parked there before when people pulled in and aired all four of their tires. And that one day, a truck pulling a long trailer loaded with a backhoe and a Bobcat parked by the dumpster, and the dude aired up the tires on the backhoe. No shortage of air hose.

WHAT IS WRONG WITH PEOPLE? Why do they feel so entitled? Why can they not delay the gratification of their deflated tires? It's not like I parked there and unloaded a suitcase or pitched a two-man tent for an extended stay. The Pony was out within 60 seconds with my soda.

When I used to put air in T-Hoe's tires (and by that I mean when The Pony used to hop out once a week to air up that bad tire that Hick almost had fixed after 6 months except for telling the guy the wrong one so that the good tire was fixed), I did not run up next to people parked in front of the air hose at Casey's and ask if they were using the air hose. Because, like the one at the gas station chicken store, that was a marked parking space. NOT a reserved space for air-pumpers.

I suppose I should just take this as a sign that it's time to redouble my efforts to get my proposed handbasket factory off the ground.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Time to Make RAYCE While the Sun Shines!

This summer, while Hick works and schemes, while The Pony sprawls on his subterranean couch and games (that's a verb, he's not sprawled on his games), while Val taps the keyboard in her dark basement lair...Genius is a man of action. He left Wednesday with his collegiate solar car team, to compete in the 2016 American Solar Challenge Formula Sun Grand Prix. That last word is pronounced PREE, you know. Just so there's no unnecessary heh-heh-ing.

Right now, I would imagine Genius and his team are armpit-deep in scrutineering. Not my word, though I have been known to make up a few. It looks like they are in Pittsburgh this weekend, taking part in the American Solar Challenge-Full Track part of their competition.

If you go to that first link, showing the teams, you can scroll down and see Genius's team, #42 Missouri S&T, with a prototype of their car, the Solar Miner. It's much prettier than that now. I've seen a picture of it, but that is not for current release. Genius is in the front row, first on the left. Here is LAST YEAR'S car. Genius is third from right in that photo.

Looks like you can keep abreast (heh, heh) of the competition once the 2016 race gets started via Twitter and Facebook, and flickr IF you have those newfangled social media accounts!

We have a picture of LAST YEAR'S entry #42 right here. And here. And Here. Along with LAST YEAR'S results. can keep up with the press releases here. Good luck to Genius & team with this part of the competition right now.

Also, I did not make up that RAYCE word in the title!