Karma Tree

The Karma Tree grows outside a house. It has beautiful orange fruit most months of the year.

It is common to find Karma Fruit on the street, a short way away. The fruit generally has one bite taken out of it, and a mouthful of the fruit on the street nearby.

The thing about the Karma Tree is that the fruit looks like a sweet tangerine, but it’s not. It’s a “mandarin lime” tree, or “rangpur.” The fruit is very sour. Maybe more sour than lemons. Mandarin limes are rare in that town, so people expect the fruit to be sweet.

Mandarin limes. They look like tangerines, don’t they?

The tree is named “The Karma Tree” because, if people are polite and ask permission to pick the fruit, we happily caution them about the taste, and invite them to take some. But, if they take the fruit without asking, we don’t have a chance to warn them. A few steps down the road, they discover the taste the hard way.

The fruit of the Karma Tree has its uses. It makes excellent marmalade, is a useful flavoring in cooking, and can make a lemonade-like beverage.

Also, it is a pretty tree. I think that is the original reason it was planted there.


I’m the Donut Tire

A “donut tire” is the miniature spare wheel carried in many cars. It’s good enough to use in an emergency, but it looks funny and you would not want to use it for long.

The cats at my house generally prefer my wife to me. They tend to gather on and around her. Maybe it’s because she’s warmer or because she’s just generally a better person. That first one is true, but I’m not ready to concede the second.

When she’s out of town, the cats gather around me and I feel very popular. When she’s back, they instantly switch back to her.

We’ve decided that, as far as the cats are concerned, my name is “the donut tire.” Good enough to use in an emergency, but it looks funny and you would not want to use it for long.


Cheese Crackers & Existential Horror

H. P. Lovecraft was a fiction writer in the early 20th century. He’s known for his weird tales. Many of them were published by a magazine literally titled Weird Tales. I’m fond of his stories for lots of reasons.

Tucked into one of his stories — The Shadow Over Innsmouth — is a scene where the protagonist stops at a grocery store. The store is part of a larger chain called First National. That was a real-world grocery chain founded in 1853. The chain had been doing business in H.P. Lovecraft’s part of the world for 78 years when the story was written.

The store visit in this story makes an amusing statement about human nature. The protagonist, despite ominous warning signs, is driven by curiosity to visit to this strange place. Once there, what is the first thing he does? Head into a familiar chain business.

It’s kind of like a modern American traveller crossing an ocean to see exotic things, and then walking into a Starbucks. It’s funny that, nearly a century after this story was written, folks are still going to exotic places to do familiar things.

Anyway, that bit of social commentary is not why I’m writing this blog post. While in this store, the protagonist buys “cheese crackers and ginger wafers.” Those words are not capitalized, but they sound remarkably specific to me.

I wonder if there was a First National near H. P. Lovecraft, and if he was in the habit of buying cheese crackers and ginger wafers there. If so, then it pleases me to think that the creation of some the most iconic monstrosities of fiction, including the famous Cthulhu, was powered by cheese crackers and ginger wafers.


The Guy at the Aquarium

In mid December, I received this text from a friend. It was addressed to me and another friend:

OK guys I need mailing address for each of you please. And don’t give me any of that “Oh God don’t buy me anything” s**t because I already did and it doesn’t matter if you don’t like it because the guy at the aquarium said he wouldn’t take them back.

It’s good to have friends that can make me laugh. 馃檪

Side note: I hear the above was inspired by a 1934 movie titled The Thin Man starring William Powell and Myrna Loy. It was shot in six days and won the best picture award.


Safety Donut

Once upon a time, a Krispy Kreme opened in our town. At first, there were long lines to get donuts. My wife and I waited a month before going, so that we wouldn’t have to wait.

A month was not long enough. When we arrived, there was a line winding through the shop. We got in line, but soon there was an announcement that they were out of donuts.

Stomachs empty, we saw that the Mexican restaurant across the street was having happy hour. We enjoyed their margaritas and tacos enough that we have been back many times since.

But, here’s the thing: when one has had a margarita with a meal, one should be careful not to drive home too soon after drinking. So we’ve agreed that — in the name of safety — we should have a safety donut after happy hour. It’s the responsible choice.


Experience is what you get right after you needed it

A favorite saying of mine is “experience is what you get right after you needed it.” That’s something I started saying some decades ago, and I still go back to it.

It sums up a reality of being human; every time you do something, you’re doing it with more ignorance than you will have later. At least, that’s the case if you’re able to learn from experience.

This is true for most tasks, from tying shoes to raising a child. Sure, there are simple tasks that people can be experts on before they do them. But, with the big, important things, we’re all working with some level of ignorance. Even if we’ve done it before.

It would be comforting to go into a task thinking that there’s nothing left to learn. It’s humbling to accept that there are things we haven’t understood or mastered. But we have to accept this, or we’ll stop learning from our experiences. It is quite possible to have lots of experience, and zero skill.


How My Cat Threw a Cascar贸n At Me

One day, I was busy working at my desk, when suddenly a cascar贸n (confetti-filled egg) came flying at me. It missed, and I looked in the direction the egg came from. I saw my cat looking placidly back at me.

That was unexpected.

Cascarones. Image by Luisfi [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

So here’s what happened. For many years, we were living in Santa Barbara. Every year, Santa Barbara has Fiesta, and lots of people sell cascarones (confetti-filled eggs.) The tradition is to crack them open over (or on) peoples’ heads, covering them with confetti.

Our family has an addition to that tradition: get extra cascarones and hide them somewhere. Then use them months after Fiesta, when it’s least expected.

That is why my son happened to have a cascar贸n the day we moved out of Santa Barbara, three years ago. I was the recipient.

Me with confetti in my hair. Take a careful look at the top left corner of the picture. See the orange cat? Apparently, he was paying attention.

Fast forward to today. The cascar贸n had landed next to me. I was sitting at my desk, looking up at the cat. Next to my desk is a tall book shelf. The cat was sitting on the book shelf, looking down at me.

My son moved away a year ago, so he couldn’t have thrown it. But I do remember that, when we moved, he informed me that he was saving another cascar贸n for when I least expected it.

Clearly, my son had secretly trained the cat throw the cascar贸n at me on this day. Luckily for me, it’s tough to throw accurately when one has claws instead of thumbs.


Villainous Idiom

Fictional villains often have a theme. It makes them more interesting.

In Games Workhop‘s game setting, there are “chaos gods”, each with their own theme. One for sorcery, one for decadence, and so on.

The chaos god of plague is Nurgle. So here’s the question: if one of the other chaos gods started spreading plagues without asking Nurgle’s permission, would that be plagueiarism? 馃檪



verb informal

When a perceived authority figure explains something, and you’re not sure if they are just kidding.

Calvin’s dad was really good at dadsplaining, as seen in this comic.

This is a word that came into being during a conversation with my son. I later checked the internet, and found that others have come up with this word, too. The meanings vary. But this is what the word means to us.


Horace Smith’s “Ozymandias”

In Egypt’s sandy silence, all alone,
Stands a gigantic Leg, which far off throws
The only shadow that the Desert knows:鈥
“I am great OZYMANDIAS,” saith the stone,
“The King of Kings; this mighty City shows
“The wonders of my hand.”鈥 The City’s gone,鈥
Nought but the Leg remaining to disclose
The site of this forgotten Babylon.

We wonder,鈥攁nd some Hunter may express
Wonder like ours, when thro’ the wilderness
Where London stood, holding the Wolf in chace,
He meets some fragment huge, and stops to guess
What powerful but unrecorded race
Once dwelt in that annihilated place.

Horace Smith wrote this as friendly competition to Percy Shelly’s Ozymandias. More information available in the Wikipedia article.