Tag Archives: Family Member

Hope You Guess My Name

by Richard

One of our numerous* commentators had a question on the recent post where I talked about remaning Hyper Lad and re-renaming Sarcasmo. She wanted to know why everyone else in the family had a nickname, but I don’t. Although, what I just wrote isn’t a question, is it? More of a statement, but the question comes through, I think.

The reason is simple really: I am my grandfather’s grandson.

My grandfather was Richard Jr. By the time I came along, there were four of us Richards running around and, I guess, he decided we needed to be known by different names so as to avoid confusion. I mean, I can’t tell you the number of times someone called “Richard” and I goo-ed and farted and drooled. Okay, that probably wasn’t the reason, but it’s good enough.

The problem, though, was that his practice of giving out nicknames just sort of spread out from there. And he had a lot more victims friends on which to bestow nicknames during the last decade or so of his life.

See, my grandfather used to coach football for the University of Florida Gators. He retired from that life and went into public service and then retired from that. And then he started hanging around the Gator practice fields to watch the team practice. After a while, he became a sort of institution there and then was pressed into actual service.

If you wanted to get into the practice field, you had to pass my grandfather. He was the gate guard for the practice field and, in fact, still has a small shelter with a plaque dedicating it to him set up at the entrance. Yeah, he was there for a while. And almost every single player who walked through those gates got renamed by my grandfather.

Think about that for a little bit. There are, what?, 80 players on a college football team on scholarship? More walk-ons. And almost all of them got nicknames. Every year more players. Every year more nicknames. And the amazing thing is he remembered them all. At his memorial service, I had a number of very large men come up to me and introduce themselves as Palatka, or Salami Sandwich or somesuch. It was a wonderful experience, laying my grandfather to rest among so many people who loved him like we did.

But I digress.

See, the thing is that he also nicknamed our family members. I’ve got a cousin nicknamed variously Bridge or Goose. My sister is Missie Moto and I was called Mr. Moto, named after some wrestler, long vanished down the memory hole. He also started nicknaming the grandchildren.

And then he died and the practice stopped.

Until, for some reason, nicknames started popping out of my mouth. It seemed like I was channeling the old man, but, thankfully, I’ve had no urge to saddle myself with any more nicknames.**

I’ve really sort of enjoyed the experience, but I know I’ll never live up to the master. After all, he is the one who bestowed the ultimate nickname on my cousin. She’s a lovely woman, who’s last name is Christian. Her nickname? Ima.

*not really

**After all, I’ve already got Hey, You, Dummy, Baldy, the obnoxious guy over there by the punch bowl, and assorted others.


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Freaky Friday: I Did Knot Know

by Richard

Your DNA, the little rule book inside every cell that tells your body what to do and how to look, has led to the solving of a small mystery involving just how it is that a piano won’t fall when being lifted upstairs to a second-story apartment. Unless, of course, it’s starring in a silent slapstick of black and white comedy and is destined to fall at just the last second and narrowly miss some people walking by. But that’s comedy. This is real life.

Seriously. A couple of physicist dudes were looking at DNA and wondering why it doesn’t unwind from its double-helix shape when it’s stretched. In fact, if you stretch a bit of DNA, it actually winds itself tighter in the direction of its helical twist. And that, oddly enough, got these scientists thinking about rope.

In a traditional rope, each individual strand is twisted as much as possible in one direction. The twisted strands are then wound together in a spiral shape called a helix, which itself rotates in the opposite direction. The interlocking of these twists and countertwists gives the rope strength so that when yanked, it does not unwind.

By plotting a rope’s length against the number of twistings in each strand, (Jakob Bohr and Kasper Olsen, physicists at the Technical University of Denmark in Lyngby) discovered that there is a maximum number of times each strand can be twisted — resulting in what they call the “zero-twist point” for the overall rope. A good rope is always in the zero-twist configuration.

Not only that, they also found that a rope, when it’s in the zero-twist point, will always be 68 percent shorter than its individual components. So, stronger, but shorter. Makes sense to me. What about to you aliens from the planet Flurm? Yeah, back there in the last row. What about you?

Physicist Henrik Flyvbjerg of the Technical University of Denmark, who was not on the research team but is familiar with the work, agrees: The rule of the zero-twist point is universal.

“If there is life on other planets in the solar systems, their rope makers must follow the same rules,” Flyvbjerg says.

I don’t know about you, but I think I feel a heavy-handed metaphor coming on. You know, something about family members being the individual strands and getting twisted up by the others in the family, joining together and becoming stronger by relying on the other strands. That sort of thing. I’m pretty sure you can figure this one out by yourselves.

If you can come up with a better, or at least not so clichéd, metaphor, I’d love to hear it in comments.

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Hidden Talents: The Stinkening

by Richard

This is one of those hidden talents that probably should have stayed, well, hidden.

As I said yesterday, I recently found out that I can do household repairs slightly more complicated than changing out a light bulb, which will be of great comfort to those family members for whom I’ve already done what I laughingly call repairs. Oops. Oh, well. I can make the repairs to the repairs now.

What accounts for this new-found competence? No idea. Maybe I’ve just been touched Ouchdarnit!where’sthebandaids?, the god of household repairs. Whatever. It means I’ve been fixing things.

Even when I shouldn’t. Take, for instance, hidden talent #2: What’s that smell?

This problem hit all at once. I was busy shoveling the remains of a particularly bad dinner down the garbage disposal when the silly thing backed up on me. I tried the usual remedies. I shoved my hand down there and cleaned it out — just after I remembered to actually turn it off and wait for the blades to stop spinning. I tried to plunge it clear and managed to shoot disgusting water/food slush out the other sink and all over the kitchen floor. I even used Drano on the thing. (I know, I know. What can I say? I was desperate.) Nothing worked.

It was time to get nasty.

I cleaned everything out from the cabinets under the sink and brought out my 5-gallon bucket. I put the bucket under the u-bend in the pipes down there and started loosening pipe. Eventually I did manage to get the u-bend off and water flooded into the bucket. Remember when I said it was a 5-gallon bucket? Yeah, well, turned out there was 5.2 gallons of water and gunk in the pipes. Yeah.

After I cleaned up that mess, I got down to business. I started shoving things through the u-bend pipe, looking to dislodge whatever was in there blocking the water. Nothing. I cleaned a little more pipe that would had been attached to the u-bend. Still nothing. So I put all the pipe back together and tried the disposal.

Speaking of nothing. . . It still didn’t work. I sighed and got back to work loosening pipes. After cleaning up from the water that spilled out when I forgot to put the 5-gallon bucket down again, I decided to concentrate on the one pipe I hadn’t cleaned earlier. I pulled out the pipe that lead from under the sink out through the wall and away.

That was when I noticed the smell. Something like a cross between 10-day-dead squashed skunk, that waxy gunk you sometimes find between your toes and what happens when the toilet paper misses just a bit and you’re in a hurry. So, yeah. Bad. Not knowing when to leave well enough alone, pack up and sell the house, I continued.

When I finally got the pipe out, I saw that it was filled with this black, jelly-like substance that stank so bad I could see the stink particles coming off it in waves (Hey! A physics joke. Enjoy.). I dropped the pipe, ran upstairs and caught a giant breath over the cat litter box in Zippy the Monkey Boy’s bathroom and got to work. I carried the pipe outside and upended it over a lush patch of grass, which began to brown before the gunk even touched it. Sticks, leaves and other yard detritus served to clean out the pipe and leave it in a slightly more serviceable condition.

I got everything put back together and, wonder of wonders, it actually worked. Well, except for a small leak, but I managed to fix that with the plumbers friend: crack sealant (that was what we call a punne or play on words).

So, two hidden talents discovered and two repairs made. The next time something goes wrong, I think I’m going to discover a new hidden talent: Finding the name of a good handyman.

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