Fond Childhood Memories – Setting My Brother On Fire

OK, the title is a little misleading – I didn’t really set my brother on fire, well, not entirely.  Nor did I enjoy it – at least, not the burning part.

Let me start it this way…

This happened when I was younger, probably around ten years old, which would make my brother around eight.  If I recall correctly, this was in the late summer or early fall – September or October.  I remember it being fairly warm out, but not hot, and my brother was wearing pants.  This will become important to the story later.

The sun was up.  It was afternoon, probably around 3:00 or 4:00 PM.  Throughout the day, my brother and I had been playing with a magnifying glass.  We’re not alone in this, it would seem, as I’ve swapped many stories with friends about using a magnifying glass to burn things – ants, grass, plastic action figures, Matchbox cars, you know – typical boy shenanigans.  Anyway, my brother and I thought it would be a really cool idea to burn some newspaper.  So, we grabbed a newspaper out of the trash that our parents had thrown out, went outside the garage to the driveway, and started focusing the sun’s light.

At first, we only got a smoldering spot that caught an orange glowing ring.  Well, darn!  We wanted to see flame!  We wanted to see fire!  No problem, we said, let’s keep trying.  So, since the sun was off to the side of the sky, my brother picked up the newspaper and held it at an angle so I could focus the light more directly.  We expected more smoldering and smoke.  What we didn’t expect was –

WHOOSH!  The entire surface of the paper caught fire!  Not just a little spot of flame, but an inferno!  Well, to eight- and ten-year-old boys, it was.

My brother yelled out in surprise and a little fear, “AAAUUUGGHH!”  He threw the paper down onto the driveway and picked up his foot.

Stomp!  Stomp!  Stomp!  He tried to stomp out the flame.  For those who have seen paper burn, you know what happens after a few seconds – it curls up on itself.  This paper was no different.  It curled up, and around my brother’s foot.  I saw the flames licking the hem of his pants leg.  I thought I saw his pants catching fire.

“AAAUUUGGGHHH!”  He started to panic a little more.  I could see the flames touching his pant leg, and I got scared too.  I lifted my foot, in the same way as my brother, and –

Stomp!  Stomp!  On the flame I came down, hard.  The flame, however, was on my brother’s foot.

Stomp! went my foot.

“OUCH!” yelled my brother, who promptly fell back on his rear end.  He shook his foot, trying to throw off the burning paper.  I kept on stomping.

Stomp! “OUCH!” Stomp! “OUCH!” Stomp! “OUCH!”

“Stop hurting my foot!”  “Stop moving your foot!”

Finally, the paper came loose.  My brother and I stomped out the remainder of the flame.  As we calmed down, out of breath, we heard an angry voice behind us.

“What the hell is going on?!”  My father scared the bejeezus out of us, moreso than the fire.  “Um, we were using the magnifying glass-”  “And the paper caught fire-”  “And we tried to put it out-” “And it stuck-”  “And my foot hurts-”  We blurted out like a couple of scared kids, which is what we were actually.

“You mean you were starting fires… with this?”  He grabbed the magnifying glass from us.  “And you tried to stomp it out, when the whole time you could have used that!”  He pointed angrily at the coiled up garden hose, not five feet from us.

My brother and I, in unison, replied, “Uhhhh…”

My father yelled a little more about not playing with fire, and getting hurt and all that, and sent us to our rooms, both of us feeling rather stupid.

I never forgot that lesson – use a hose on a fire when one is nearby, and take the magnifying glass farther away from home.

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Mac OSX – “____ is an application downloaded from the Internet.”

I see this warning every time I install or update a program on my iMac and MacBook:

[Program Name] is an application downloaded from the Internet. Are you sure you want to open it? [Web browser] downloaded this file on [Download Date].”

Replace the bracketed items with whatever the appropriate text is.  Here is a recent warning for OpenOffice.org, with a slightly different wording.

Warning Screen For OpenOffice.org

Any way, usually I will see this only the first time I run a program.  Recently, with an update of Skype, the warning showed up every time I started the application.  It was more than a little annoying, especially because it never happened before.  Today, I finally decided to find a solution.

Without boring you with the details, here was the issue.  When tried to upgrade Skype, it wouldn’t let me do it with the regular “drag and drop onto the Application folder.”  I can’t recall the exact message, but it was something to the effect of, “The existing application won’t let you do this.”  So, I logged in with my administrator account, and tried again.  No dice – I got the same message.  So, I uninstalled the existing version by dragging it from the Application folder to the trash bin, then installed the latest version.  That made it work.

Unfortunately, that was also the cause of the repeating warning.  It seems that the account that installed the application has to open it, then click past the warning.  Otherwise, all the other users of the system will repeatedly get the warning every time they try to run it.  So, I logged in with my administrator account, opened Skype, clicked past the warning, then logged out.  When I logged in with my regular account, the warning didn’t reappear.

The lesson?  When you install a program on Mac OSX, open the program first before logging out.

Daughters And Blogging, Take 2

I’ve been privately lamenting my lack of blogging lately –  “privately” in the sense of, “beating myself up.”  There are more than a few reasons for it, but they’re only tangential to this post.

You see, while I’ve been wallowing in self-beratement, my daughters have been blogging furiously.  I’ve mentioned in a previous post how they asked for a blog of their own.  One daughter in particular has been steeping herself in writing lately.  I’m very proud of her – she is writing not only so often, but also so well.  The quality of her writing is ten years beyond what mine was at her age.

So, I’m advertising for her right now.  Her latest post is Five Things, in which she not only shares five things for which she is thankful, but also links to the other blog that gave her the idea.

The previous post, AAH! The Beach!!, describes one her her favorite places – the mountains. 😀  No, actually… it’s the beach.

Anyway, check out their blog.  Comment on it, if you like – they’d really appreciate that.

And maybe, just maybe, I’ll get out of this funk and write more regularly.

Silly Things People Say

I love words.  I love language.  I love linguistics, although I don’t really know much about it other than language families, dialects, and other simple, basic concepts.  Any linguists out there who are reading this now are thinking to themselves, “This guy doesn’t know anything about linguistics!”  Well, they’re right.  Oh, well – save it for the comments below, Mr. or Ms. Linguistics-Person.

Anyway, some things that people say, self included, don’t make a lot of sense.  When I hear them, I wonder if they really know what they’re saying, or if they just say it because they’ve heard other folks say it.  Here are some idioms, phrases and words that come to mind:

I could care less.

People usually say this to mean I don’t care at all.  But, that’s not what it says.  What they are actually saying is that they do care, and that there is some amount of care that is less than they currently feel.  What they really mean is I couldn’t care less.  See, now it says that they care so little that they couldn’t possibly care any less than they do.

You can’t have your cake and eat it too.

Say what?  Why can’t I?  Let’s say I sit down and am helping myself to a piece of cake.  Now, I’m not a big cake eater – it’s OK, but I don’t have a sweet tooth.  Anyway, let’s say that, as I’m eating my cake, my wife calls out to me, “Hey, Stud, what are you doing?”  (OK, she never calls me Stud, but this is my story, just go with it.)  I’d answer, “Well, Sweet Mama (again, I don’t call her this), I’m having cake!”  See!  I’m having cake.  AND I’m eating it, too!  What do you say to that, huh?  Don’t tell me what I can or can’t do!  In fact, if I don’t have the cake, I can’t eat the cake.  It’s at this point that my wife would say, “What?  You have cake, and you didn’t get me any!”  Uh-oh, now I’m in for it.

Bite your tongue!

People say this usually to mean, “Be quiet!  Don’t say anything!”  Now, I don’t know about you, but when I bite my tongue, I am anything but quiet. Usually, I cry out loudly, followed up with a string of not-so-nice words.  So, I just don’t get the saying.

There’s more than one way to skin a cat.

Really?  Is there?  If so, how the heck did you come about this knowledge?  Wouldn’t the SPCA or PETA hunt you down for doing this?  I’m pretty sure it’s illegal in many states and municipalities too.

Flip the bird.

Extending your middle finger to a person looks nothing like a bird to me – at least, not any bird that I’ve ever seen in real life or pictures.

Buy One, Get One.

I don’t get this, not at all.  If I buy one item, I dang well better get one item!  Sheesh!  What would I do instead, buy two to get only one?!  It’s all in the marketing, I reckon.

Great minds think alike.

Excuse me, but I think that mundane minds think alike.  Otherwise, we’d be buried in a plethora of great ideas.  No, I believe that Great minds think differently.  That’s what makes them great.

Plain vanilla.

Plain vanilla?  Really?!  Have you ever tasted vanilla?  It’s anything but plain!  Every vanilla flavored ice cream tastes different from the last.  Vanilla is a fine flavor, and one of my favorite.  Honestly, it’s chocolate that’s boring – it’s just chocolate, the same flavor over and over again.  Sure, add sugar, or cream, or salt.  But, it’s still just chocolate.

If it isn’t one thing, it’s another.

Well, duh.  It either is this thing, or it is not this thing.  This isn’t rocket science here.

It’ll be in the last place you look.

This is another duh statement.  Who the heck keeps looking for something after they’ve already found it?

Your guess is as good as mine.

No, mine is better, because I’m smarter than you.

How about you?  Are there any phrases that strike you as odd, ridiculous, or just plain wrong?

Album 10 of 10 – The Join Something Blog Challenge

Artist: Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Album: Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, Etc.

I’ll round out this blog challenge with a little night music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.  I have to do this, you see, because Eine Klein Nachtmusik is my favorite song of all time – of ALL TIME.  I must have hummed this song a million times since the first time I heard it in third grade music class.  Also, I really like classical music, so I had to have it in my collection of ten albums.

Without further adieu, here is Wolfgang’s song, as performed by the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Erich Kleiber, and recorded sometime in the 1930s.  Think about that, this recording is eighty years old or so.  The historian in me is swooning.

Album 9 of 10 – The Join Something Blog Challenge

Artist: Rodney Atkins
Album: If You’re Going Through Hell

Country music is a new passion for me.  I’d go so far as to say that liking it shows a huge change in my life and musical tastes.  It wasn’t too long ago when I couldn’t stand the twangy sound of a country singer’s voice.  Now, I can’t get enough of it.  If you told teenage BeefGriller that he would one day love country, he would have laughed at you.  Teenage BeefGriller was terribly closed-minded at times, I’m afraid.

But I digress.  Country music is thoroughly infused with love of family, country, faith and fun, not necessarily in that order, or all at once.  Country music artists are passionate about their subject, and this really resonates within my soul.  This particular song is a favorite of mine, and I plan on adopting the singer’s technique when boys begin to call on my three daughters.

Album 8 of 10 – The Join Something Blog Challenge

Artist: Phil Collins
Album: No Jacket Required

This is a required album for me.  Throughout high school, and into college, Phil Collins was my favorite singer/songwriter.  I know, I was a real rebel, living on the edge of society, wasn’t I?  Regardless, I listened to all of his music countless times.  I still like it a lot, too, but I’m not as into it as I was back then.  Phil Collins’s music had a particular and distinct quality, and it got to the point where I could hear if he wrote any particular Genesis song.

So, here is my favorite Phil Collins song, Take Me Home.