Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Public Nuisance?

A few months ago I took out the swath of grass between the street and the curb and put in a raised garden bed.  It had been wasted space that just ended up looking shabby and I was tired of picking up other people's dogs' poop.  I thought some peas, beans, and zinnias might brighten up the space and provide us with some fresh vegetables. 
(This is how it looked back in June when we got the ticket)

The City of New Haven saw it differently and demanded that I remove the garden.  The penalty for failure to comply is a $100.00 fine for each citation.  So far I have only gotten the one citation and I have mostly just ignored it.  When I read the statute under which I was warned, the official charge said "Public Nuisance."  
Here is how the garden now looks, in all its glory.  In a city that is objectively not all that beautiful, is this really a public nuisance?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Talking Schmidt

I was in the car with Isabel last week when we heard a story on the radio about Google CEO Eric Schmidt and his decision to step down from his post on the Board of Directors of Apple.  Over the years I have grown accustomed to translating NPR newspeak into language Isabel can better understand, and when I noticed her in the rearview mirror listening intently to the story I began to prepare a version of the story she could understand.

            Right on cue as the story ended Isabel opened her mouth, only it wasn’t to ask the question I thought she was going to ask.  Instead, she said, “Eric Schmidt’s name sounds like a bad word—like you could use it as a curse word.”  That sounded right to me and the two of us giggled our agreement about the Google executive’s last name.

            And then we created a game that has kept Isabel, Erica, and me busy and amused off and on for more than a week now.  It goes like this:

1)    Think of a saying, expression, or phrase that usually involves the word “shi*”

2)    Turn the word “shi*” into “Schmidt”

(NOTE:  Steps one and two are done silently, in your head.)

3)    Create a story or scenario designed to get the other people in the game to guess the phrase, saying, or expression.

For example, when the founder of Google has a couple of glasses of wine and then starts to get very philosophical, that would be “deep Schmidt.”

See how many of the following you can get:


1)    Eric Schmidt was sitting at an outdoor cafĂ© with his wife, enjoying a quiet lunch, when a childhood friend of his wife approached the two.  The friend went right to Wendy and the two dove right into a long conversation.  After a while, Wendy’s friend said to Wendy, “aren’t you going to introduce us?”


2)    Eric Schmidt leaves Google and devotes his life to quiet contemplation, good deeds, and selflessness.  The Catholic Church recognizes his goodness.


3)    Early one Tuesday Eric Schmidt stopped at his favorite coffee shop on the way to work and bought a double tall vanilla latte.  On Wednesday, Eric Schmidt did the exact same thing.


4)    Eric Schmidt’s brother bought him a jacket, but when Eric tried it on, it was VERY tight.  The jacket was ______ __ _______.


5)    As children, Eric and his three siblings were on the playground just as a huge game of kickball was being organized.  Two captains were named and they began choosing players one by one.  It became clear that one of the captains had something against the Schmidt children.  No matter what, this particular captain simply would NOT pick a Schmidt.


6)    Eric Schmidt shared a room with one of his brothers as a kid.  The room got very hot in the summer sometimes.  They had a window of unusual size and shape, so they could not put a window air conditioner in.  Instead, they had a large fan.  Once, it broke.  Eric unplugged it, got out his tool kit, took it apart, fixed a frayed wire, reassembled the fan, and STILL it did not work.  In frustration, he struck the uncooperative appliance.  Then it worked.


7)    In the Schmidt family there is Eric Schmidt, Wendy Schmidt, Eric Schmidt, Jr., Emily Schmidt, and their pet canine.



So, do you know your Schmidt?  If you think of any others, feel free to add them as a comment to this post.

Answers: She didn't know Schmidt, holy Schmidt, same Schmidt different day, full of schmidt, didn't take any Schmidt, Schmidt hit the fan, dog Schmidt

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Punch Buggy Red--NO Punchbacks

Sometimes while teaching or talking with friends I make reference to Bible stories.  When teaching Lord of the Flies to my fifth and sixth graders this year, I referred to Cain and Able.  Just recently I dropped an allusion to Lot’s wife leaving Sodom and Gomorrah into a conversation I was having with a well-educated friend.  In both cases, the references fell flat and the listeners were left with quizzical expressions.

Whenever this happens, I blame the parents.  (As a teacher I am more-than-inclined to place responsibility where it squarely belongs—with parents.)  So, when my daughter Isabel heard a reference to “slug bug” and got the same quizzical look on her face, I stepped right in and caught her up to speed.  I grew up in Delaware and we called the game “Punch Buggy.”  Erica grew up in Montana and she called it “Slug Bug.”  Whatever you call it, the rules seem to be pretty much the same across the country.

From what I can tell, the game has been played in America for at least 40 years.  If you know how to play, then just remember when we next see each other, I owe you a punch.  If you don’t know how to play, follow this link and get started.