Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics

Research shows that 87% of quoted statistics are made up on the spot.  (Yes, I just made that up.)

I’m also guessing that a good 92% of readers believe the title of this post was borrowed from Mark Twain, but according to Wikipedia nobody really knows where it originated.  (Which is good; because thanks to that Wikipedia article, I now estimate that my chances of being accused of improper citation are approximately 0.003%.)

So… it’s that time of the year again.  Even if you don’t celebrate Christmas, you probably suffer the fallout of the season anyway.  So just for fun, I’m going to make up some Christmas statistics.

Of the people who deal with Christmas in some way, I guesstimate that:

  • 23% actually like fruitcake;
  • 15% will pretend to enjoy it if sweet little 90-year-old Aunt Martha offers it to them; and
  • 52% consider it appropriate only for use as a doorstop.

 

  • 56% love Christmas songs;
  • 35% can take them or leave them; and
  • 9% are quivering on the edge of violently gutting the next radio that plays ‘Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer’ just one… more… time…

 

  • 12% are finished their Christmas shopping;
  • 59% have ‘just a few things left to pick up’;
  • 21% are freaking out;
  • 16% will ignore the whole thing until December 24th; and
  • 2% celebrate Christmas without gifts.

 

  • 11% mail out actual paper cards or letters;
  • 24% email greetings;
  • 38% intend to send greetings but will run out of time and resolve to do it next year instead; and
  • 27% don’t bother.

 

  • 69% currently own a Christmas-themed article of clothing;
  • 23% had a Christmas-themed garment at one time but got rid of it; and
  • 8% have never owned any Christmas-themed garment, no matter how briefly (or boxer-ly, if that’s your preference).

 

  • 19% actually enjoy travelling during the Christmas season;
  • 66% dislike the hassle but do it anyway; and
  • 15% flat-out refuse to travel anytime between mid-December and the first week of January.

 

  • 31% will hand-make at least one gift; and
  • 69% will buy all the gifts.

 

  • 99% will eat too much this holiday season; and
  • 1% won’t.  (The rest of us envy your self-control.)

So how did I do?  Take the poll below to prove how full of shit I am (or not)!

Here are my votes:

  • I love fruitcake!
  • I can take or leave Christmas songs.
  • I just have a few things left to buy…
  • I mail out paper cards and letters.
  • I used to have a turtleneck with holly printed on the collar, but I can’t find it, so I must have gotten rid of it.
  • I hate travelling over Christmas but I’ll do it anyway to see family.
  • I usually hand-make at least one gift.
  • I’ll pig out and feel guilty, but not guilty enough to stop.

Click on the survey to vote, and I’ll post the results next week!

This survey doesn’t collect or store personally identifiable information. It’s just for fun.

Book 14 update:  I’m starting Chapter 38, and I’ve finally figured out how the book will end, hooray!  (Yes, I have a very strange writing process.)  😉

6 Comments

Filed under Humour, Life

A Picture’s Worth A Thousand (Swear)Words

Pictograms.  Never has a supposedly simple solution gone so laughably (and swearably) wrong.

I realize that they’re supposed to provide accessibility for the 5% of people who have difficulty reading; and it’s a great idea to add them to signs.  But take away the words, and it leaves all of us bumbling around wondering, “WTF is this supposed to mean?!?”  The ancient Egyptians used nothing but pictograms, and look where they ended up.  Just sayin’.

I’m all for pictograms plus words.  But pictograms alone are like playing Pictionary with art-challenged companions; except that the stakes are your time and sanity instead of gut-busting laughter and minor humiliation when you accidentally draw a pornographic-looking diagram that was supposed to have represented ‘stretch pants’.  (Not that that’s ever happened to anybody I know, nuh-uh, nope).

For instance, after years of exposure to this cryptic symbol, I’ve finally recognized that it means power on/off:

But if I were looking at it for the first time, I’d be stumped.

What is it supposed it to represent?  An apple?  A bathroom sink as seen from above?  A nipple ring?  A cherry bomb?  A sex act?  A giant space probe slamming into the planet and annihilating all life?  Or maybe it’s a finger pressing a button.  Who the hell knows?  Should I push that button or not?

My treadmill has equally arcane symbols.  You’d think it would be hard to go wrong — the tortoise means “slow” and the hare means “fast”.

But then there’s this:

I’m okay with ‘time’ represented by the clock and ‘speed’ represented by the rabbit.  But what’s that button with the vertical lines and double back-arrows?  Maybe it resets my time and mileage.  Or maybe if I press that button, my treadmill will suddenly reverse direction and accelerate to warp-speed, catapulting me off the treadmill and through the wall.  I could press it and find out; but I don’t dare.

The little flames under the right indicator are equally worrisome.  They’re supposed to indicate “calories burned”, but they could just as easily mean “your treadmill will catch fire in three… two…”

But I’m sure my treadmill would never do that, because it loves me.  That’s what those hearts mean, right…?

What pictograms do you love to hate?

P.S.  I just found this hilarious interpretation of laundry label symbols

Book 14 update:  Chapter 36 and going strong!  Now, if only my fingers would learn to correctly type “public” instead of “pubic”…

23 Comments

Filed under Humour, Life

Solving The Wrong Problem

I’m a problem-solver by nature — as soon as I’m confronted by an issue, my brain immediately rounds up the metaphorical troops and puts all available energy into finding a solution.  Often this leads to creative solutions or hare-brained inventions, but occasionally I zoom  right past the main issue and solve the wrong problem entirely.

Take this weekend, for example:

We had been invited out to a birthday party, where (as usual) I ate far too much and then topped off my excesses with a couple of delicious beers.

Showing superhuman restraint (if I do say so myself) I managed to behave like a polite adult the whole entire time we were in public.  (Mark a big star on the calendar for Saturday November 24, 2018:  “Diane acted like an adult ALL DAY today!”)

Well, okay, not all day; but most of the day…

Happy and relaxed in the car with Hubby on the way home, I let out a resounding belch and said, “’Scuse me.”

Hubby reacted not at all, neither to the original gross breach of etiquette nor to my subsequent lip service to politeness.

After a couple of beats of silence I turned to him and said, “I guess after belching loudly enough to register on the Richter scale, excusing myself is probably solving the wrong problem, isn’t it?”

He smiled and shrugged.

Thus encouraged, I finished,  “…so next time I won’t bother excusing myself.”

And Hubby just laughed.  (Have I mentioned lately how much I love him?)

And on another note:  Here are some photos that have made me happy lately.  They may not solve any problems, but maybe they’ll make you smile, too.  (Click the photos to see larger versions.)

It’s hard to believe, but one of our azaleas is still blooming! This is “Bloom-a-thon Lavender”, still putting out flowers at the end of November.

The heather is already in bloom, and the pansies haven’t stopped since I put them in last spring.

The last few leaves of the weigela perch like bright butterflies on the tips of the twigs.

We took a trip out to Ucluelet (on the west coast of Vancouver Island) a couple of weeks ago, on a gorgeous calm sunny day.

Even on a calm day, the ocean never rests. This is the Amphitrite lighthouse in Ucluelet. (The person in the middle isn’t actually close to the waves crashing on the rocks – it’s just that the waves are that big.)

It wouldn’t be the West Coast without some gorgeous greens!

Ahhhhh…

May all your problems be easily solved!

Book 14 update:  Despite a busy week, I made it almost to the end of Chapter 34.  All the threads are coming together now!

 

20 Comments

Filed under Humour, Life

Name-Calling

People with names like Gay Barr or Harry Dyck probably have a keen appreciation for the importance of names, but I was lucky that my parents chose baby names devoid of unfortunate double entendres.

Like proud parents, some authors agonize for days over the perfect name for their characters.  I’d like to say that I choose my characters’ names with equal care, but the truth is I don’t.  It’s lucky I never had children – I’d probably have named them Bradley Ulysses Martin or Alexander Steven Steadman and doomed them to eternal taunting when the other kids learned their initials.

The only character name I really researched was Aydan Kelly (the main character in the Never Say Spy series).  I spent hours searching for the perfect Irish name, because her Irish heritage was going to be an important subtext in the story.  I finally settled on Aydan, which is Gaelic for “little fire”.

If you’ve read the series, you’re probably thinking, “Um… what?”

Yeah, you’re right.  Not only did Aydan’s heritage turn out to be completely irrelevant to the story; but I also unwittingly selected a spelling that isn’t even Irish – a while ago, a lovely Turkish reader named Aydan wrote to me, curious about how I’d come to select her quintessentially Turkish name for my “Irish” character.  Oops.

I may be casual about naming most of my characters, but I always worry a bit when I’m choosing a name for a villain.  I can only imagine what it must be like for a reader to discover that a vile sociopath is named after them.  (Though I will admit there’s a certain passive-aggressive satisfaction in naming an unsavoury character after someone who screwed me over in real life.  Not that I’ve ever done that.  Much.)

Bad associations aside, some names give me a completely illogical visceral reaction.  “Alicia” feels cold, controlling, and uptight to me, and I have no idea why.  I’m sure there are thousands of loving, warm, funny Alicias in the world (and if you’re an Alicia reading this, I apologize – I’m sure you’re a very nice person).  But I’ve never met an Alicia, so my oddball bias remains.

And some names give me warm fuzzies for no apparent reason.  I’m sentimentally saving “Joy” for an extra-special character because if I’d ever had a daughter, that would have been her name.

What names give you a visceral reaction (good or bad)?  Or just for fun, run your least favourite non-friend’s initials through the Bad-Guy Hippie Name Generator and share, share, share!

Book 14 update:  It was another good writing week!  I just hit Chapter 33 and Hellhound is being himself – I was laughing out loud while I wrote last night.  I love my job!

43 Comments

Filed under Writing

No Regrets… Much…

I have a hard time finding ‘work/life balance’, because I work from home and I love my work.  Sometimes I’m more stressed when I don’t work than when I work all day and half the night.

But I do try to allow myself some guilt-free indulgences every now and then.  The indulgences are easy.  The ‘guilt-free’ part?  Um… not so much.

I’ve read a lot of motivational books, so when I’m enjoying a treat or taking a break and I catch myself feeling guilty, my inner motivational speaker pipes up:  “Do you really think you’re going to be lying on your deathbed thinking, ‘Gee, I really wish I’d eaten broccoli instead of that ice cream thirty years ago’ or ‘Dang, I wish I’d worked longer hours’?”

According to the books, that’s supposed to work; but my twisted mind just can’t resist rhetorical questions like that.

I immediately imagine myself weighing five hundred pounds and dying in agony from diabetes-induced gangrene in my extremities, heartily wishing I’d chosen the broccoli instead.  Or being a hungry 92-year-old huddled in a cardboard box in the rain, cursing myself for not working harder while I still had some earning capacity.  A vivid imagination isn’t always a good thing.

I try to comfort myself with the knowledge that I love writing and I can continue to work for the rest of my life if I need to (as long as I don’t get dementia, and that’s a whole ’nother nightmare).  But the way book sales are plummeting these days, there’s no guarantee that I’ll be able to make a living as an author even next year, never mind in a few decades.

That’s when I start to envy people who coast through life doing whatever they damn well please without worrying about the consequences.  They just assume that somebody will take care of them when it all blows up, and somebody usually does.

But not always.  And since I’m capable of foreseeing catastrophes caused by goofing off for half a day once a week, I can only imagine how wild-eyed I’d be if I completely dropped the ball and took a whole weekend-

Hang on.

I can’t actually imagine it.  Because if I could cause a personal apocalypse just by taking a few hours off or eating a box of leftover Halloween candy (not that I’d actually do that… okay; yes, I would), how could the outcome get any worse?

Hmmm.

’Scuse me, gotta run — there’s a junk-food-and-binge-reading session calling my name!

Does anybody else get the guilts from goofing off?

Book 14 update:  It was a great writing week!  I hit Chapter 30 and I’m working on the last few details to wrap up the plot.  I’m on a roll!  (And I’m not goofing off.  Just sayin’.)  😉

22 Comments

Filed under Humour, Life

What Were They Thinking?

You know how you’re cheerfully going along and everything makes perfect sense, and then you find something that makes your brain screech to a halt and yelp, “Wait, what?”

This week I encountered more ‘what-were-they-thinking’ situations than usual.  For instance, I sometimes use preservative-free eye drops that come in teeny individual vials:

0.4 ml: About 7 drops

You’re supposed to open the vial, use what you need, and throw away the remainder to avoid contamination.  Each vial holds about seven drops.  But… most people have two eyes.  Why would they create a vial that holds an uneven number of drops?

At first glance it seems illogical, but I guess it’s actually marketing genius — they know you’ll have to waste part of each vial; and more waste for you equals more sales for them.  (Sometimes finding answers isn’t as satisfying as one might hope.)

Also:  This weekend I was at an art conference, where I learned about a new drawing tool.  It works like a wax crayon but also has water-soluble elements so you can drag a wet brush through it and get a watercolour effect.  Very cool indeed!  But why did they call it a ‘Woody’?

The Stabilo Woody: It even comes wearing a condom… erm, sorry; “protective sleeve”.

Not even the conference presenter was able to say ‘woody’ out loud without snickering.  I can’t believe that nobody on the Stabilo marketing team ever said, “Hey, you know that’s slang for an erect penis, right?”  (Or maybe they were snickering when they named it.  Hmmm.)  So wrap your hands around your woodies, folks, and let’s get this party started!

Moving right along…

Also at the conference, I found this sign in the bathroom:

It says “Please press the grey circle for 5 seconds to flush”… and there’s a grey circle on the sign.

I wonder how many people did what I did:  Read the sign, saw the grey circle, and thought, “But pressing a dot on the wall won’t flush the toilet.”

The sign was actually referring to the grey circle on the dual-flush control for the toilet far below; and it was necessary because the other half of the control didn’t work.  But why would they put a grey circle on the sign and mount it so high it seems unrelated to the toilet?  It would have been much more helpful to place the sign directly above the actual control with a downward-pointing arrow.

I chuckled at this garbled communication, but maybe the joke’s on me.  Maybe I’m the only person who ever looked at the sign and momentarily wondered if I was supposed to press the wall.  But I don’t think so.  The grey circle on the sign looked suspiciously finger-smudged.

And now I’m giggling at the thought of people repeatedly pressing the dot and wondering why the toilet wouldn’t flush.

Any oddball events in your world this week?

Book 14 update:  I got into Chapter 27 this week.  It’s fun to be a fly on the wall when Reggie Chow and Holt The Magnificent lock horns!

P.S. For those who asked for an updated photo of the trellis project that singed my toes, here it is completed and installed:

The last of the dahlias and glads are still hanging on, and yesterday I planted another 700 bulbs. We’re looking forward to the spring blooms!

26 Comments

Filed under Humour, Life

“Random” Passenger

I used to love flying, back in the days when I could throw everything I needed into a carry-on bag and board the plane without getting hassled about my shampoo bottle or *gasp* my jackknife.  Back in the days when they still made airplane seats to fit normal adults instead of emaciated waifs with abnormally short legs.  Back in the days when they still served actual food on board.

Remember how we used to joke about airline food?  Well, the joke’s on us.  If we had known back then that today’s “airline food” would be ten mini-pretzels and half a cup of pop, we’d have shut up and reveled in our good fortune.

And don’t even get me started about security… oh, wait; I’m already started.  Hang on, ’cause here we go.

So you know how the security scanner automatically selects some poor schmuck random passenger for groping and harassment “additional screening measures”?  News flash:  It ain’t random.  It’s specially calibrated to go off like fireworks every… single… time… I pass through it.

Usually it’s not too big a deal, because I always strip to the point of marginal decency before I go through the scanner anyway.  When the inevitable lights and sirens start up, I assume the position, they search/swab/manhandle any luggage item and/or body part that catches their fancy, and then I get re-dressed and carry on.

But last week I got extra-special treatment.  The scanner went off and I assumed the position as usual.  The screening agent must have really liked me, because I received a particularly thorough pat-down – she should have given me flowers afterward; or at least a nice kiss.  I don’t know why it’s supposed to be less ‘sexual’ to get your PTA (pussy/tits/ass) squeezed and fondled by the backs of the agent’s hands instead of their palms; but maybe I’ve just been away from the dating scene for too long.

Anyhow, after my X-rated interlude I figured I’d be good to go… but I was wrong.  The explosives scanner picked up something on my suitcase, too.  That got everyone’s attention.

So in addition to getting publicly felt up, I also won the booby bonus prize:  Having every single item in my luggage removed and laid out so everyone could scrutinize it.  Mom really was right:  Always buy nice underwear.  Even if nobody ever sees you wearing it, at least it’ll look pretty when it’s spread out on the security conveyor in front of dozens of gawking bystanders.

By that point I was beginning to wonder whether I had actually packed some dynamite without noticing; but fortunately they didn’t find anything.

At last they allowed me to get re-packed and re-dressed, and I made it to the boarding lounge with everything but my dignity, privacy, and equanimity.  I left those behind at Security – I guess they had to confiscate something after all that kerfuffle.

Anybody else got “random passenger” tattooed on their forehead?

Book 14 update:  I hit Chapter 25 this week!  The middle of a book is always where I start to question my writing ability and sanity, but fortunately I know by now that it’s all part of the process.  Will… push… through…

41 Comments

Filed under Humour, Life

Ruminants, Ice Cream, And Welding Feet

I often send cryptic reminders to myself when I think of a blog topic but don’t have time to write the whole post.  Usually a few words are enough to jog my memory, but when I discovered this email on my laptop a few days ago, I was confounded:

“Ruminants.  And ice cream.  Welding feet.”

All-righty, then.

I do actually remember sending the email; but beyond that I don’t have a clue.  It must have been something so weird that my brain discarded it in self-defence.

I guess I’ll never know, but at least “welding feet” still makes sense (to me, at least).  ’Cause you never know how foolish you’re willing to look until you’ve shuffled around wearing welding gloves on your feet.

(Note:  I’d like to emphasize that it wasn’t my fault – I didn’t know I was going to be welding.)

Hubby’s uncle Bert had offered to fabricate a trellis for us, so I drew up the plans and we went over to his workshop.  I planned to hang over Bert’s shoulder and watch the master at work, so I had worn jeans and a denim jacket and brought a welding helmet and gloves.  But when he offered the stinger to me, the learning opportunity was too good to pass up.

Everything was going fine… (that is to say, I sucked just as badly as when I first tried welding as a teenager) …until I felt a sizzle on my toes.  And then another.  And another, until I was doing a funky little soft-shoe shuffle in an attempt to avoid the pain.

Yep, I had worn nylon running shoes instead of my usual boots (see “not my fault” above) and specks of red-hot slag were burning through my shoes and socks and toasting my toes.  But I wasn’t about to abandon my educational opportunity, so that’s how I ended up shambling around with welding gloves on my feet like some deranged leather-toed waterfowl.

My welding didn’t improve much, but at least the trellis is solid and I had fun revisiting another long-abandoned skill!

And best of all, there’s no photographic evidence of my latest goofball performance.  Instead, here’s the almost-finished product:

We still have to clean it up, attach the decorative panels (they’re only laid in place in the photo), and paint it. Then it’ll support our peach tree in an espalier-type setup against the garage wall.

Any oddball activities in your life this week?

28 Comments

Filed under Humour, Life

Evil Seagull Lady

The other day I was down at the ocean (and I’m still thrilled that I can get there in fifteen minutes).  This is my favourite time of year to go to the beach – the days are crisp and the tourists are gone, so it’s only me and the waves and the seagulls.

And the Seagull Lady.

An elderly woman drove up and parked as I was walking down to the water’s edge, but I didn’t pay much attention – I was focused on getting to my favourite sandbar while the sun was turning the waves blue and silver.  I made a beeline for my special spot and stood there smiling, tuning out everything but the gentle hush of the waves and the cries of the seagulls.

Except… there seemed to be more seagull cries than usual.  And they weren’t the normal squawks that seagulls emit while they’re casually flying overhead deciding whether to shit on you.  These were more urgent squeals that were easy to translate:  “Feed me!  Feed me!  Feed me!”

I glanced over to see the Seagull Lady seated on a big driftwood log holding a bread bag and surrounded by gulls.  She tossed handful after handful of bread to the greedy crew, who gobbled it up and screamed for more.

I had several thoughts in quick succession:

  1. “Aw, that nice little old lady must love gulls.  That would make a great photo, with her sitting on that big log backlit by the sun and surrounded by birds.”
  2. “Jeez, I’m glad that’s not my house right next to the parking lot.  Now I know why there are always dozens of squawking gulls and a river of birdshit on their roof.  I bet the homeowners would love to smack that nice little old lady.”
  3. “I wonder if that nice little old lady knows that bread is unhealthy for gulls and she’s not really doing them any favours?”

That’s when my brain took a hard left (as it frequently does) and kickstarted my urge to create stories of mayhem and betrayal.

My next thought was this:

“What if that little old lady actually hates gulls?  What if she’s purposely feeding them bread in the full knowledge that it will make them malnourished and less able to fend for themselves?  OMG, what if that little old lady is actually a twisted psychopath who intentionally inflicts suffering on all living things?  That would make an awesome storyline!”

…And that’s what it’s like to live inside my head.

So the next time you see a woman at the beach gazing across the waves and smiling, don’t assume she’s all zen-and-happy-meditation.  She might be devising evil plots…

*

P.S. I’m travelling, so I’ll catch up with comments later in the day.  “Talk” to you then!  🙂

Book 14 update:  I hit the 50% mark this week, hooray!  This is where the plot gets complicated…

25 Comments

Filed under Humour, Life

Just A Nutjob

I have to confess:  I’m obsessed with nuts.  All sizes and shapes and colours; from soft to firm to rock-hard, and everything in between.  Such a glorious variety… mmmm!  And there’s nothing like that delicious crunch when I crush them between my teeth.

Guys, stop wincing – it’s nothing personal.

The other day I checked the grocery list and chuckled.  There were only three items on it:  Peanuts, walnuts, and pine nuts.

This was in addition to the dried-fruit-and-peanut mix that’s always in my car in case I need a snack while I’m on the road; the can of salted cashews in the snack drawer; the almonds and almond flour in the baking cupboard; and the big bowl of unshelled nuts that takes up residence on our counter every year as soon as fresh nuts become available.  (And you know I’m secretly snickering at “fresh nuts”.  There’s nothing better than cupping a nice big handful of… okay, I’ll stop now.)

And there’s always at least a gallon of peanut butter in the freezer in addition to the jar that’s currently in use; but I don’t actually include that in my nut count – peanut butter is a staple food that transcends nutdom.  (If only I could say the same about myself.)

If there’s peanut butter, there’s hope.  If there’s no peanut butter… *shudders at the thought*  I’m not even going to go there – it’s too traumatic to consider.  I’m sure most guys would agree that a nutless day is a bad day indeed.

Hubby is bemused by my love affair with peanut butter.  If we eat the same leftovers a few days in a row I get tired of them no matter now delicious they might be.  But peanut butter?  I eat it for breakfast every… single… day.  And I have for decades.  I just tell Hubby he should be glad that when I find something I truly love, my commitment problems magically disappear.  😉

I do realize that peanuts aren’t actually nuts at all – they’re legumes.  But I’m still nuts for them.  I know; sometimes I’m such a goober.

And now I can’t get the song “Goober Peas” out of my head.

Any other nut nuts out there?

Book 14 update:  I made it to the end of Chapter 21, and circled back to tune up some details in earlier chapters.  It’s fun to weave in all the little loose ends!

37 Comments

Filed under Humour, Life