Anhydrous Wit

Are you pondering what I'm pondering?

Friday, June 29, 2007

Do as I Say, Not as I Do

I learned from this experience, though, so I'm not really being hypocritical. Still, it's something you might find helpful, and it might keep you from facing the same issue.

Lesson: if you have refrigerated air and host a cookout or other outdoor party, do not leave your door open, even if it is more convenient for you and your guests.

It turns out that, if you leave your door open, your air conditioning will be fooled into operating constantly. This, in turn, will freeze the condenser, and you will be faced with several hot days until the repairman can visit. Thankfully, you will need to pay just $125 for parts and labor to replace the condenser.

Now, can someone explain to me how something can "freeze" if it is on the roof on 100+ degree days?

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Mmm, Meat!

(Bobby Bob, Pinky & the Brain)

I hosted a cookout this past weekend, partly to commemorate the beginning of summer, but mostly because I bought a grill and want to use it for more than just myself. (It works wonders, by the way.)

As usual, only a fraction of my guest list attended, but my place was filled, so I guess I had invited enough this time to result in a decent number. Actually, I had to shoo people from in front of the fridge every time I grabbed some fresh meat, so there might have been just a few too many for comfort's sake.

My problem now is that my fridge and freezer are chock full of leftovers. I bought far more food than I needed, but I had too. After all, what if this were a freak accident and everyone I invited showed up, but I had only bought enough food for 1/4 of them?

Plus, I might have been too generous with the selection I offered. I didn't want to look cheap, though (especially not with that fancy, large, new grill). In addition to the usual hamburgers and hot dogs, my guests could choose from kielbasi, chicken breast, pork loin, sirloin steak, and Frito pie. Burgers could be upgraded to barbecue bacon or Hawaiian (ham and pineapple), not counting garnishes such as tomato, onion, mustard, ketchup, mayonnaise, lettuce, chili meat, or a fried egg. Desserts included fresh, mixed berries (blue, black, and rasp), vanilla custard, chocolate chip cookies, and oatmeal butterscotch cookies. There was more beer and soda in my refrigerator than most people had seen outside of a convenience store. Oh yeah, and there were potato chips, corn chips, and tortilla chips, too.

Most people wanted a plain cheeseburger. I had two takers for barbecue bacon and two for Hawaiian, as well as two for steak. No one asked for a hot dog or chicken breast, not even the guy from my gym who is my part-time, unpaid conscience about my eating habits.

There are now more leftovers in my freezer and refrigerator than I have ever seen outside of my parents' house. It will take me months to get through them all. (So much for eating healthier.) Anyone care to help me out? Just give me 24 hours notice, so I can defrost some of the meat for you.

Heat Wave

My air conditioner is on the fritz. It has been 100+ degrees for the past several days. Now add "again" to both those sentences and give me some sympathy.

It was just over a year ago (almost exactly a year ago) when my air conditioner broke, conveniently during 100+ degree days. (Yeah, it did strike me that, if there were a warranty on the parts or labor, it would have ended just before the item broke again. My stereo did that, too.) There is a bright side this year: this happened during the week, so I'm in an air conditioned office all day, rather than suffering at home for a weekend, as I did last year.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Oh. Yeah. Right.

The NMSU men's basketball coach has been offered a job as head coach for the Sacramento Kings. Coach Reggie Theus says, "When I got involved in the interview process, I really didn't give it much thought. It was just a chance to experience an NBA interview, and I never thought about this really happening."

Come on, Coach Theus. Who are you trying to kid? Nobody goes to an interview for the fun of it. Second, how could you not think about it? At the very least, you had some phone conversations with these people. Maybe they even flew you to Sacramento to meet in person. It's not as if they pulled your name out of a hat.

It's the first day of summer, and we're in the middle of the Chihuahuan Desert. A snow job isn't going to work.

(Note: an official press release has not been made by NMSU. The news came out on a daily intrauniversity e-mail. See ESPN for more information.)

Work Orders

Every two weeks, I have to close work orders that are completed by my crew. (A work order is an assigned task trackable by computer.) Most of them have to do with pruning or pest control. Some of them can be humorous.

Due to missing punctuation, we were asked to "help ants" in someone's office. (I don't know what our pest control technician helped them do.)

"Very bad ants" were reported "all over the sidewalk". That begs the question: How do you spank an ant when it has been bad?

We had to prune "a bush that has thorns which are attacking passersby". I'm impressed. Rarely do we get work orders that are both anthropomorphic and grammatically correct.

"A spider was found yesterday, and they would appreciate someone spraying there." Since "spider" is singular, shouldn't the work order read "it would appreciate"? (Side note: are people so afraid of one tiny spider - a beneficial organism, by the way - that they can't step on it or swat it themselves?)

"Plum tree ready to pick." That's nice. Thanks for telling me. Now do you want me to do something about it?

"Ants are crawling up building and could possibly enter through windows." Solution: Keep your windows shut.

"Plant plants in potters." But do you think the clay workers will remember to water them?

"Police station parking lot: Please replace open manhole cover in the police dept parking lot. The cover is off and the hole is not protected properly. Some special event cones (police) were placed around it so that a pedestrian or a vehicle will not find their way into it." You mean that, with all those people trained to respond both mentally and physically in a variety of situations, they couldn't do it themselves? (It's probably not in their job descriptions.)

A nice change of pace was being told to "not water the lawn" before a picnic. Usually, work orders tell us to do something.

"Adjust timer on sprinklers in front area. They stay on too long." Thank you for telling professional, degreed grounds managers how to do their jobs.

I am not making this up. We had a request to trap skunks and squirrels at one of the sororities. The house mother who requested it is named "Bunni".

The sprinkler "on the side near the road sprays water into the bedroom window". I'll grant you that it shouldn't be spraying the house, but help yourself out and close the window.

These were all completed in the past two weeks. Imagine how many similar requests we get the other 50 weeks in a year.

All the Sand which Is There

I tend not to order sandwiches when I eat out, unless it's something I can't make myself at home. Still, it amazes me that I get so surprised and pleased by the variation I find in meat on bread.

All cultures have their own bread, be it raised (sandwich, French, etc.) or unleavened (matzoh, pita, tortilla). You can even see different cultures or countries with variations on pancakes (crepes, blintzes, latkes). So, then, why am I astounded that each culture has its own type of sandwich?

I enjoy egg sandwiches. When I was little, I would always order a fried egg sandwich at Olga's Diner (Marlton, NJ). Every time I eat breakfast at McDonald's (rarely), I'll order an Egg McMuffin. Whenever I go to Denny's, I order their Moons over My Hammy (and not just for the name). There's just something special about egg, meat, and cheese between two slices of bread.

Even at Mexican restaurants, I order sandwich-like items. Burritos (for those readers who don't know, it's something rolled in a flour tortilla) are basically a tubular sandwich. I prefer gorditas (Note: not the Taco Bell variant, which is merely a taco with a soft, flour tortilla encasing the hard, corn one) or stuffed sopaipillas, usually at Roberto's (Las Cruces, NM), Chope's (La Mesa, NM), or the Red Rooster Cafe (Anthony, TX). All of these are basically meat and bread, but how imaginative the simple sandwich has become!

Yesterday, Worker Bee and I had to eat lunch at a different restaurant, since the Red Rooster was closed for vacation. I won't name the place because, even though the food was decent, it wasn't good, and the service was terrible. What I really didn't like was the way I felt after ordering. First, the woman behind the counter seemed to think I was beneath her because English is my first language. Second, I was confused because they offered half a dozen choices of fillings for my gorditas, whereas my usual restaurants offer only ground beef. The cashier thought I was stupid because she thought everyone knew they had a choice. When I told her I wanted "hamburger" (i.e. ground beef) in my gordita, she thought I was ordering a hamburger as well. I also had a choice of corn masa (ground corn) or flour (ground wheat, since I'm being pedantic) for the gordita itself. I chose the masa because that's all that my usual restaurants serve. By this time, both the cashier and I were so tense, I didn't even order a Dr. Pepper to drink. That was okay, though, because the soda dispenser was out of order anyway. I felt like the world's biggest gringo. Then, I sat and waited and watched Worker Bee eat his burrito because, even though he ordered after I did, it takes far longer to make three gorditas from scratch than to slop a ready-made filling into a ready-made tortilla. (That was the silver lining to the restaurant's cloud: the gorditas weren't just sitting on a steam table, waiting to be filled.)

Worker Bee was far more successful ordering, but he did have one problem. When he ordered water (agua), he was given a cup and pointed to a plastic vat of liquid and ice. It didn't look like water to me. Since when is water white? Worker Bee (born and raised in this area of Hispanic culture) discovered that agua must mean horchata to whoever operates the restaurant, not water. That would also explain why he was charged $1.65 for a cup of water.

Side note: the hand-written menu (on fluorescent poster board tacked on the wall) was entirely in Spanish. I was able to translate most of it, even tocino (bacon), although Worker Bee had to explain that winnie is a hot dog (I guess the Mexican pronunciation of "weenie").

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Neither Rain nor Sleet nor Dark of Night...

...will keep the Postal Service from hiding vital information from its customers. (Warning: rant ahead.)

The Las Cruces Post Office has been criticized for slow mail delivery, even intra-town delivery. I haven't noticed such a problem, except for one time seven years ago, when it took three weeks for a letter to get from me to my parents in Albuquerque. (I could have driven it there myself in 3.5 hours.) I do have a complaint, though, about the national postal system.

Every so often, I get a large card stuck in my mailbox. It usually depicts characters from the comic strip "Cathy" advertising special delivery services. ("Pay more, and your letter will receive 'special' attention and arrive on the same day you'd expect a regular letter to arrive.") Not too long ago, there was a card (with "The Family Circus") asking us to put non-perishable food in our mailboxes for charity. Where, then, was the card with popular comic strip characters notifying us that the price of stamps was going up?

Yeah, I know what you're thinking, and you're right. I am so woefully ignorant of the outside world that I am the one person in the country who didn't know about the two-cent increase in a first class stamp price. (It appears that my unfamiliarity with celebrities (see "Check This Out" on 4/17/07) is indicative of my general unawareness.)

Perhaps it was on TV or in the newspapers. Oops! I watch very little TV and don't subscribe to the newspaper. (Have you seen how pitiful my local paper is?) Maybe it was on the radio. Maybe, but I'm only in my car for about ten minutes at a time, and the news always seems to be about Iraq. How about word of mouth? Nope. When was the last time anyone I know talked about the Post Office? (Maybe back in the 70's when my dad was working on E-Com with RCA.) How did I find out about the increase? From my ATM. Well, sort of.

I was busy putting away my card when I saw something about "new 41-cent stamps" disappear from the screen. ("Wait. What was that?" appeared to be useless in going back to the information.) Stamps have been available from my bank for some time. Still, something in the long-enough-to-be-noticeable-but-too-short-to-be-useful ad sounded different. Tie that in to a comment my mom wrote (!) about getting "new" stamps, which sounded different than buying "additional" stamps. So, I had to ask my mother directly, and now I feel like a little boy still dependent on her for everything.

Here's the crux of my complaint. If the Post Office can send out cards advertising their services and charity work, can they not actually use the same method for actual, relevant information? If they used the mass media (i.e. "news" services) to broadcast the change, why didn't they fall back on the method already in place, which is a direct line to their customers? (Even if someone tosses all junk mail and pays bills online, s/he still goes to the mailbox once a week to get the circulars from the local grocery stores.)

Here's another hint to the Post Office, since I'm already telling them what to do. Tell your customers! (That sounds redundant, but here's why it's not.) I've been to two different post offices in two different cities (Las Cruces & Albuquerque) a total of three times within the past two months. Not once did I see a simple, black-and-white, 8.5"x11" computer-generated sign announcing the price increase. Not once did I see even a hand-scrawled note on a piece of scrap paper.

If you can't mail your users a notice, nor even post a sign for the people that come to you, how can you possibly do anything else right?

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Take Five

I received yet another assignment on behalf of someone else this morning. Apparently, it is now my job (1) to see if the parking lot paved last summer was actually completed and (2) to estimate the cost of any asphalt or concrete work yet to be done. Just add Supervising Engineer and Construction Manager to my skill set!

I need a break. Better yet, I need to go home early.

Doing Someone Else's Job

Judging from the mess of paper completely obscuring my desk (none of it mine), I am indispensable at work. That means they can't fire me because then they'd have to work themselves.

Every month, I process the solid waste contractor's invoice, so they can be paid, and so we can bill the individual departments. This is actually Ob's job.

Take Two: I am assisting Worker Bee (my new name for the office manager) with a presentation that Boss will be making next week. The topic is green building, sustainability, and LEED. If you don't know what that is, that's okay; I don't know either. The person who does know is Ob, but I'm doing his job here, as well.

Take Three: Although Worker Bee is taking the lead on this presentation, one of my primary duties is to write memos, send e-mails, write reports, create presentations, etc. for Boss. Sometimes, I even accompany Boss to these presentations so I can click the button on the computer that advances the presentation, all the while listening to Boss speak off the cuff, totally disregarding the material I carefully crafted for him. (On this particular presentation, Worker Bee and I aren't even sure it is to be a presentation because of an e-mail Boss replied to without reading. We're also not sure about the topic, because Boss's e-mail reply stated one topic, the "presentation" we're creating is on a parallel topic, but the input which Boss inflicts on us before flitting away ("drive-by management") is different than either of those.)

Take Four: Ob's constant companion told me to print a document, found online, which he was told about in a meeting. He didn't know what the URL was, and it was a simple enough task to do himself, but since he's busy driving around campus all day, and all I do is sit in the office picking my nose, I must do it for him.

I know that there's far more I do for my coworkers, but that's all I can see right now. Everything else must be in a lower strata of my desk.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Annual Evaluation

Rather than making New Year's resolutions like the multitudes, I prefer to evaluate my life on my birthday. Not only is it conveniently located halfway through the year, but it allows me to be different than the general public. Plus, whereas resolutions have a one-year time limit (and the inherent pressure to perform or guilt if you fail), my "goals" are open-ended, so I still can strive for them, but there's less tension in the process. Here are the three things I would like to do.

1) Continue improving my eating habits with the goal of slimming down.
2) Continue working out, with an emphasis on my upper body. I'm happy with my legs, and I know my abs are under there someplace, but I still have trouble seeing my chest and arms. (I want arms and shoulders like Robomarkov.)
3) Learn how to ride a bike.

A Good Weekend

Robomarkov came to share my birthday weekend with me. We enjoyed ourselves both working and relaxing. It was productive, fun, and - best of all - I didn't think about work once. Here's a list of what we did.

- Worked out & had my annual fitness check at the gym (generally positive, with some backsliding).
- Declared a moratorium on negativity on my birthday.
- Indulged ourselves with cheeseburgers and frozen custard. (Calories don't count on your birthday. Since my birthday was on a Friday, they didn't count for the rest of the weekend, either.)
- Drank good beer. (Russian Imperial Stout by Stone Brewing Co., better known for their Arrogant Bastard label, will knock me on my ass. Isotopes Slammin' Amber isn't the greatest amber brew, but it deserves a chance, at least for the novelty.)
- Slept in.
- Bought even more pots & potting mix for my veranda veggie garden. (Note: carrying 40-lb. bags of potting medium upstairs is a good workout for the legs.)
- Cleaned up the insides of my computer (figuratively & literally).
- Remounted the broom/mop hanger/device/thingy which my mom pulled off the wall.
- Hiked "A" Mountain.
- Bought a gas grill. (What are you doing on the first day of summer? Better yet, what are you doing next weekend? I need help assembling it.)
- Read two books.

It was a darned good weekend.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Short People

In case Boss walks in and looks over my shoulder to see what I'm working on, I'll preface this by pointing out that I'm on my lunch break. And, if he can see over my shoulder, I must be sitting down, which brings me to the topic at hand....

While waiting for my car yesterday, a short man was making conversation with me. As he talked, I realized that his style of conversation and his build reminded me of a good friend from high school. Then I thought that his mouth reminded me of my friend's friend. As the man walked away, his gait resembled that of my friend's other friend. All three, like this man, were short.

Of course, I'm 6'3" tall (metric users will have to convert it yourselves; all I know is that I'm a shade under two meters), so "short" is a broader term for me than for most other people. The average height given for American men is 5'10". My high school friends were all shorter than this, which made the comparison to the car-repair man that much easier.

Maybe it's just because I've always been tall for my age, but many of my friends have been short. I have a picture of me and three friends which my dad took right before my junior high graduation. Naturally, I'm standing in the back. (I learned at a very young age that I should always go to the back or to the end of the line because they usually arranged us by height or alphabetical order.) My shortest friend at the time stood right in front of me. The kicker is that both of us wore navy blue blazers that day, and they matched exactly in color, and he stood directly in front of me, so the photo makes it look like I have two heads!

Short people are fun.

More Birthday Thoughts

One of my golfing coworkers congratulated me on my birthday and asked how old I am. He said, "That's even par on the front nine. That's pretty good." Yeah, but what does that mean?

I had a somber thought that I am now half the age my father was when he died. Does that mean I'm officially middle aged?

This Won't Hurt a Bit

I took my care in for an oil change yesterday. It reminded me of my annual physical.

My appointment was at 1:30 p.m. I was there about five minutes early, turned over my car keys, and sat down in the waiting room at exactly 1:30. They didn't actually drive my car onto the rack to service it until 3:23 p.m. (much like the doctor's office, where they make me sit for an hour before someone checks my weight, temperature, and blood pressure, at which time I sit for another half hour before the doctor deigns to arrive). While I was waiting, I finished one book, read several chapters in another, and got so tired of sitting that I stood and paced in the waiting area. (When I made the appointment, I asked if I could get a time after work, so I wouldn't have to leave early. The guy adding me to the schedule insisted that they had to have me there no later than 1:30. Then, in the time-honored (irony, people!) fashion of those who threaten you with losing your turn if you're late, they didn't take my car until nearly two hours after the appointed time.)

The service bay was close enough that I got to watch as a trainee took 45 minutes to add windshield fluid, add transmission fluid, drain & check the oil, air up the tires (even though he didn't know how much pressure they're supposed to have, because it's not listed on the driver's door, as it is with most cars, so that's where he looked), and stick his hand deep into the engine to check something else. All this time, he kept asking questions of his trainer, who was servicing the car next to mine. In the same amount of time, the mechanic on the other side completed oil changes in two cars.

The trainer wasn't much better. At the end, the trainee kept staring at my steering wheel or the control panel, with a puzzled look on his face. The trainer came over and made a gesture, and the trainee shook his head. The trainer then fiddled with something under the hood then looked at the trainee, who shook his head again. This happened three times. Then the trainer got behind the wheel and leaned back in the seat at least ten times, looking at the trainee every few leans, and the trainee kept shaking his head. I don't know what the problem was, but my car got me home last night and to work this morning. I guess my car enjoyed whatever the guy did to my bucket seat.

What disturbed me even more, though, was the cleanliness -- or lack thereof. The trainee had gloves on, I presume to protect his hands from oil, dirt, etc. However, what good does that do the finish of my car when he touches the door handles, steering wheel, and ignition with the same gloves? (I insisted when I paid that they clean everything he touched.) I had the thought that it would be like getting a prostate exam then watching the doctor hand me my pants without taking his gloves off.

Actually, one of the customer service people said that they clean the gloves (supposedly) between servicing the engine and touching the inside. That doesn't make me any more comfortable. In that case, the doctor would check me, wash his hands while wearing the gloves, then hand me my pants. He still has the gloves on! (Side note: so what if hand sanitizers kill 99% of the germs; they don't actually remove the dirt from your hands, do they?)

Finally, this is the first anniversary of my blog, which means it's my birthday (and why I've hidden this at the end of my post). I'm feeling older than usual today, particularly because, the past two mornings, the soundtrack of my dream when I've woken up has been Barry Manilow songs. It's good for my sanity that it was a different song each morning, but what does it say about my age that I have two Manilow songs programmed in my memory?

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

The Tortoise and the Hair

Yeah, yeah. I know. But "Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow" would have been too obvious.

I need to be more creative in other aspects, as well. Each time I get my hair cut, the stylist finishes by asking, "Anything else I can do for you?" Each time, I think (but refrain from saying), "Can you keep my hair from falling out?" I ought to come up with a better line.

A year or so ago, I entered a drawing at my hair cutting/styling place. On the entry form, it asked, "Would you like to be a Redken hair model?" Well, heck. Phrase it like that, and the answer is a resounding "Yes!" Of course I'd like to be a hair model because that would mean I have hair to model! (I can feel my friend in San Diego nodding his head vigorously.) I'm more like a hair horrible example.

I get my hair cut once a month. I don't remember how often I went when I was young, but I think I could get away with less frequency then. With less hair, it becomes more obvious when it's too long or out of place. (On the brighter side, bedhead almost never happens any more.) I've always preferred short hair anyway, and I think I look younger after a haircut. (With a temptation like that, why not have it done every week?)

When in college, I decided that I would let my hair progress naturally (no artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives). The primary motivator was that products like Rogaine and Just for Men are so darned expensive. Now I can look in my mirror and appreciate the condo I can afford by not wasting money on hair preservation, but my ego takes a terrible hit.

"Speaking of hair, the other day, a man came up to me and said, 'Doodles, your hair is getting thin.' Well, who wants fat hair?" (Doodles Weaver)

Monday, June 04, 2007

Talkin' 'bout My Generation

I saw a "news" report yesterday about the upcoming 40th anniversary of the "summer of love", in which Baby Boomers embraced sex, drugs, and rock and roll in San Francisco, California. My initial reactions where what you'd expect from me: "Who cares?" followed by "Since when is something that happened 40 years ago 'news'?"

Both of those lead up to the bigger concern here, which is why do Baby Boomers keep subjecting the rest of the United States to their thoughts, wants, etc.? TV shows (Happy Days, Thirtysomething, The Wonder Years, and so on) and commercials remind the rest of us how crucial they must be to our existence. Oliver Stone, the movie director/producer is so stuck in the past that every movie he makes is about the 1960's -- and the Baby Boomers can't resist watching. Now we get a reminder of something that happened 40 years ago (before many of us were born, thank you), as if it were a recent event. (Side note: President Kennedy was shot over 43 years ago, and people are still investigating his assassination.)

Let's examine that a little more closely. A lot of the late 60's involved college students, so lets assume one was 20 years old in 1967. That would mean the person is turning 60 right now. Aha! Now they can use this as a national "Gasp! I'm getting old!" movement, as if it hasn't happened to anyone before. I work with some Boomers, and they've been whining about aging and being in their mid-fifties for years (since they were in their early fifties). Don't you think it's awfully convenient timing that the Medicare overhaul happened just before they become eligible? Call me cynical, but I don't think it was to help out their parents, who have been using Medicare for years already.

Oh yeah, another whine that the Boomers have is that their parents (World War II veterans and spouses) are "The Greatest Generation". Where was this recognition before? Why didn't they appreciate their parents before they started dying? Because they were too into the sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Now they're facing their own mortality and want to make up for the years of self-absorption and recent guilt.

What about the rest of us, the "lost" generations? Everything is so focused on the Boomers (Vietnam era), their parents (Bobby Soxers/WWII era), and their grandparents (WWI era) that no one else seems to matter. My parents (and their parents) were "lost" in that time between war generations. (Random thought: why are the warring generations supposedly more important than those of us who have waged peace?)

I'm fairly certain that someone (most likely a Boomer) would counter my argument by reminding me that I am (by accident of birth) a member of Generation X. I've never liked being classified, least of all as an age group that was typified by Ethan Hawke and Winona Ryder movies. Please, world, don't assume that they speak for all of us! None of my friends fits in that mold. You may ask, "So why should you speak for Generation X?" The simple answer is, "I don't." The long answer is, "Neither should what Hollywood assumes is Generation X". Need I remind you that it was Hollywood, under control of the Boomers, who made these movies, and it was the Boomers themselves who dubbed us "X"?

Friday, June 01, 2007

To Bee or not to Bee

I was a champion speller in my youth, and my mom has never forgotten that, so she turned on the national spelling bee last night. It was vastly different than in my day.

First, and most obviously, the words were impossible. Not only because they were tricky to spell, but because no one actually uses those words, even in the loftiest or most technical speech. Back in my day, you could actually hope to use some of the words we were given.

Second, nearly all of the words in the final rounds were of foreign extraction. I'm not talking etymologically; I mean actual foreign words (Polish, Hebrew, and French, to name a few). This was not allowed in my years of competition.

Third, competitions like this should never be televised. A spelling bee itself is incredibly boring to watch, even for the parents of the last few remaining contestants (though not as physically painful as an elementary school band or choral concert). So, in order to make the event more TV-worthy, lots of useless "information" is shown. Do I really need to know the biography of a twelve-year-old? Do you have to have an "exit interview" with each losing contestant? And, although having the word on the screen (so I could determine that it wasn't in my dictionary, either) was nice, I was about ready to shoot the commentators (who should go to a lower level of hell than TV golf commentators).

Check that. Fourth, and even more annoying than the commentators, were the contestants themselves. The kids delayed the show just as much as the commercials and showmanship. This was another rule change (and not for the better) since I competed. A speller always has been able to ask for the word's definition and for it to be used in a sentence. However, now competitors may request the word's etymology, its language of origin (not necessarily the same thing, apparently), alternative definitions, and alternative pronunciations. Then, every single contestant requested this information repeatedly. Ad nauseum. Look, kid, if you don't know the word after the first time you hear the definition, what makes you think that three (or five) more times will pull it out of your brain? Attempt it (or say you give up), get off the stage, and let us get on with it.

Apparently, there was a time limit -- two, actually. First, the child had a set time to assimilate as much information as there was (which every contestant used to full disadvantage). Then, get this, they could ask for bonus time! And this was even before the thirty seconds they were allowed to actually spell the word! I need to find out who makes the rules and ask them to shrink the time limit, and maybe also the number of times they could ask for additional information. Heck, the operation to remove all four of my wisdom teeth took only three quarters of an hour -- and I was blissfully unconscious at the time.

Let's not forget the man who was reading (repeatedly) this information for the children. He was a saint. If he "goes postal" and takes out everyone in the hotel lobby, I can't convict him.