“Okay Google, why do you ask such ridiculous questions?”

We’ve talked about the Google Maps app before, including the difference between Stella (The smart one), and her dumb sister Gladys (who just gives bad directions, doesn’t seem to know where to go, and might actually send you flying into a ditch if you’re not careful). This morning, I thought I had Stella with me, but then I think we picked up Gladys along the route. You see, here’s what happened…

My commute has been stupid for the past week or two, because either the roads are wet (because it rains ten times a day), or the sun is rising right out of the asphalt in the middle of the road. This morning, it was all of those things, plus there was an accident on Rt.32 “in Columbia” which is not really specific or helpful. Stella assured me that her estimate of 1 hour and 15 minutes was my best route. I trust Stella, so on I went. Then about ten minutes into the journey, Gladys hit Stella over the head, gagged her, and stuffed her in the trunk.

Dumb Question #1: “We’ve found a faster route that saves 27 minutes. Would you like to accept?”

What do you think? Do I want to cut my commute almost in half? No! Stella made a promise. She committed herself to getting me to work via the best route. She told me so herself, so dang it, you’d better be right about this. Of course I want to accept!!!

Then, on my way home tonight–and this has happened before–I drive about 10 miles up Rt. 32, and one of the suggested routes it to get off at Great Star, get back onto Rt. 32 in the opposite direction, go back to the agency, and start over. Dumb Question #2: It’s 19 minutes longer if you go that way. What do you think? You wanna?

Hmmm… I dunno…. sounds awfully tempting.

One last thing. We have one of those stupid Google Minis. Now, I get it. If I had the Ring Doorbell, and a WiFi-enabled deadbolt, and the Nest thermostat, and a Nest smoke detector, and all that other cool and expensive stuff… we could do stuff with the Mini. We typically ask it dumb questions while we’re watching TV, like “Okay Google, how old is Alex Trebek?” Sometimes, it tells us.

But at other times, it just ain’t our day. My granddaughter asked it a question about the Power Rangers (Yes, they’re back on Netflix), and the response was, “I’m sorry I can’t help you. Something’s not right.” My granddaughter said, “Well fix it.” Google responded with, “What would you like me to fix?” And my granddaughter’s reply was, “Your actions.”

I’ll just leave it at that.

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Why is this called a “Patrick Desk”?

This name has been bothering me. Patrick Desk. Why would anyone call this piece of furniture a Patrick Desk? Who the hell is Patrick? I might have the answer. All research on this slant-front desk calls it just that. . . a slant-front desk, or a Governor Winthrop desk. Was Governor Winthrop’s first name Patrick? No it was not. It was John.

So, digging deeper, it was my daughter who stumbled onto a Gov John Winthropstory from the mid 17th century about Goody Garlick. Wife of Joshua Garlick, Goody was, by all accounts, a mean, nasty gossip who got through her day talking about people behind their back. Garlick worked in the Gardiner family home in Massachusetts, and when the lady of the house became ill, she began screaming as if possessed. When they asked the woman what was wrong, she complained of being pricked with pins from the double-tongued woman, Goody Garlick. Was she a witch?

It was Governor John Winthrop, a Puritan lawyer, who heard Garlick’s case. He reviewed the evidence against her, and declared it insufficient. It was during proceedings such as Garlick’s where Winthrop would travel to the accused’s place of residence to hold inquiries–in front of her peers, and it is here where the origin of the Patrick Desk has its roots. The initial version of the desk consisted of the slant-front top which could be placed on top of folding, collapsible legs, easily transported to remote locations. Though relatively portable, the desk was still heavy.

Winthrop cinched the desk onto the back of his favorite draught horse, “Patrick,” a sturdy mount, capable of carrying such a load, as well as a rider. When a case such as Garlick’s arose, Winthrop could be heard saying, “Time to get ol’ Patrick ready.” Many believed Patrick to be the desk that he used to sign official court records, or stays of execution for those accused of witchcraft. And that is one explanation of how a mahogany, serpentine-drawered, ball-and-claw foot, fold down, slant-front desk could come to be called a “Patrick Desk.”

Or is it? When I informed my uncle—owner of the Wagon Wheel Antique Shop in Ellicott City—of my quest for the truth, he knew exactly the origins. When I picked this up, he referred to it as the Patrick Desk. The key in the desk top’s lock said, “Patrick Desk.” I mentioned that I was working on the Patrick Desk, and he said, “That’s great.” So I said, “You know, I can’t find any indications of why this thing would be called a Patrick Desk.”

“That’s easy,” he said. “I bought it from the Patrick family.”

Really Uncle Ed? Seriously folks. . . All the rest of this article is total BS, but thanks for hanging with me until the big reveal.

I Didn’t Need That

Cars these days come with a lot of useful stuff. I love satellite radio, power windows, power seats, the automatic trunk release, windshield wipers, and brakes. But there’s a lot of stuff that I don’t need, or stuff that makes me wonder if the engineers who designed my car actually drive the same kind of car. I also wonder if you would like to know what these things are, because I’m sure by now, you’re wondering if I’m going to tell you. Good news. . . I am!

I miss the little knob on the “day/night” mirror that lets me shift the mirror up, and then—this is key—shift it back to its original location. Instead, I have an auto-dimming mirror which does virtually nothing to dim anything automatically. To be fair, I drive a Kia, and I doubt many of the folks in South Korea have to deal with Chevy Suburbans and jacked up Dodge Rams following too closely and beaming their headlights directly into their rear-view mirrors, so why would they design something to avoid that? Oh, and I think it was in a previous post when I wrote that little phrase when I realized, all mirrors are rear view, aren’t they? Front-view mirrors are simply called windshields.

I also miss the tilt-wheel steering column. Instead, I have a tilt-telescoping column, which sounds all fancy and stuff, but it doesn’t really tilt. Oh, maybe one degree or so. It basically gets higher or lower, but doesn’t tilt all that much. If it did, it would be easier on my hands/wrists/arms while I’m driving for what seems like forever on Route 32. I guess it is rather convenient, though, to have a steering column that pushes in so the short guy at Jiffy Lube can reach the pedals for the 30 seconds it takes him to drive it over the pit.

Kia also thought it would be cool to have a “refrigerated” glove compartment. The salesman made a point of highlighting this to me when I bought the car. There’s a little twist knob thing inside the glove box that opens a portal to the cold air from the air conditioner and shoots it into the glove box to keep candy bars from melting. There are a couple of things wrong with this. First, this is a stupid feature. It doesn’t make it refrigerated, it just makes it cold. A second thing, there’s no room for candy bars or anything else that I want to keep cold, because the glove box is already full of a 2,496-page owner’s manual in a tri-fold, faux-leather presentation case, and 412 McDonald’s napkins. The third thing is, who the hell puts candy bars in their glove box? Are you storing them for the winter? Isn’t winter cold enough to keep the candy bars from melting? Why can’t you just eat one stinking candy bar? Just. Eat. The candy bar.

So what could they have engineered into my little car to make me happy? Insulated cup holders. An in-dash Keurig. Massaging seats. Hovercraft mode. Polarizing windshield. Heated glass to melt the ice in the winter. An electronic message board to communicate with other drivers. An “I just wish you’d go” signal. Self-cleaning wheels. An EZ-Pass that would pay for my coffee at Chick-Fil-A. Electrostatic glass so I don’t need a sunscreen in the summer. Front-mounted worm hole generator to alleviate traffic congestion. Drone view to find a good parking space. And maybe. . . just maybe. . . a bright, rear-facing light to flash at the Chevy Suburban in my rear-view mirror.

Underestimation

On my way to work, I often use a four-way stop at Ten Oaks, which is along the back way (read, not Route 32) to work. I’ve written about this intersection once before in my post, “Coexisting with Civility.” This intersection, as I’ve noted, performs more effectively than a roundabout. People approach and just instinctively know what to do. Your turn, his turn, your turn, her turn, your turn, MY turn. Magical.

Today, this was an intersection of impressive horsepower. A show of might. A display of flagrant, American purchasing power.

To my right, dressed all in black, with tinted windows, 18-inch aluminum wheels and Brembo brakes—powered by the 460HP 5.0-liter V8—the Champion. . . FORRRRRD MUSSS-TANGGG!

And to my left, wearing the bright red cape, trimmed in flat black, with 20-inch chrome wheels—the shaker scoop over a 392-cubic inch 465HP Dodge V8—The CHAL-LEN-GERRRRRR!

Okay, enough with the wrestling drama. . . There was also some little sporty car, possibly a Honda or something. I don’t know. . . it was silver. What I do know is that, whatever it was, the other two could have eaten it if it had gotten in the way. He did leave his stop sign with vigor, and he had one of those little four-cylinder mufflers that sounds like a fart machine, and THAT is what started the display.

The Challenger noticed that, and then he noticed the Mustang, clearly in an opposing position, and he established himself as his namesake. There was a loud chirp of squealing tires as he wound his first gear out near the red line, and then his tires hooked up, and he left the area promptly, and with authority.

The Mustang, now that his opponents had already cleared the area, gave less of a show. Nonetheless, he couldn’t let that gauntlet slap across his grille with no response. He rolled forward into the clear intersection, and then sent a million decibels through his injectors and out of his exhaust system as he went into hyper-drive.

But there’s one thing that NONE of these drivers had noticed before. They were so busy trying to impress each other that they failed to notice the fourth vehicle in the ring. They were so quick to leave, that they all missed the show, for there I was.

The 2011 Kia Optima, equipped with a stunning 2.4-liter motor with wheels and lights and stuff. I clicked off ECO mode, flipped my shifter into sport mode and jammed down the accelerator, wound out first gear as I tore across the intersection. The sound coming out of my exhaust was about the same as what was coming from the bar when they were making my Pina Colada at Chili’s.

Pure awesome. . .

Volmares: Roots of the Central Maryland Urban Dialect

There are many lost languages in North America, including Apalachee, Mohawk Dutch, Tilamook, and Yurok. But some have not become completely extinct. A few hundred years ago in this very region, the original settlers of Baltimore practiced a very rich dialect that is still spoken in many areas in and around the city. It was in 1608 that Captain John Smith explored the upper Chesapeake Bay, specifically the area surrounding the Patapsco River, which means “backwater” in the Algonquian dialect.

The original settlers of that area blended their English with sounds from the local Algonquians, and that evolved into the dialect originally called, “Vol-ma-res” which in Algonquian, translates loosely into “Majestic Waters.” The settlers mimicked their language, right down to the pronunciation of Valmareese, and it is this Valmareese accent that has given the region around Baltimore City its rich lexicon and vibrant treat for the ear.

The diacritical marks have all but disappeared from the written language. Most notable among them is the ewmlaut (not to be confused with the German “umlaut”). The ewmlaut (pronounced “EWWM-lowt”), uses two backward slashes, typically over the vowels “O” or “U” (e.g. ȍ), also seen as a conjoined O and E or U and E, such as “Œ.” The “auhawn” diacritical mark is expressed as a small circle beneath the A (e.g. “ḁ”) and is typically pronounced as “ehhAY.”

An exception to most of these rules seems to be a diversion of the original Algonquian. When a U with an ewmlaut (an accented long U) follows certain consonants, everything after the U is slurred. The most widely known example is the English word, “ambulance.” In its original Algonquian, ambulance (any form of conveyance of the infirmed), would have been pronounced as AM-byu-lantz. As the language evolved into Valmareese, the pronunciation changed to Am-b’-lamps, and is still used widely throughout the urban centers of Baltimore.

All of these pieces have helped form the modern day dialect which evolved from the original Valmareese, into what is now called “Bawlmorese.” You may have heard traces of this dialect near the neighborhoods of Baltimore. For clarity, I’ll avoid all the diacritical marks in the following examples, but will attempt to phonetically express the sentences, although it is impossible to express Bawlmorese accurately in written form.

“Yewse awl better come ouwn in here an’ giyt yewur dinner, ouhr it’s gohna git cold.”

“Hey, did’a Owh-ri-oles win dere heome owhpener, th’other day?”

“When yewse hiear a amb’lamps*, yewse better pewhl owhver to da sahd of da rowhd.”

(* Also pronounced “am-blantz”)

“Hey Jimmie, bring me a glayss o’ wuhrter ouwt o’ tha zink.”

It is still very common to hear the Bawlmorese dialect in use even today. To hear it in its native glory, it’s best to visit the Hampden, Bel Air (also pronounced “B’lair), Canton, Fells Point, Locust Point, or Highlandtown (also pronounced “Hollin-town”) regions of the city, particularly diners, grocery stores, beauty shops, and lottery ticket sales terminals.

By now, you should realize that this whole thing is complete BS. But if you’ve made it this far down the page, “Awww. Gawd love ya, hon.”

Here’s a link to help you: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sa3Tl3t88Mc

 

Futility

Five liters of unbridled anger roars in the lane beside me. The red glow of the traffic light reflects off the glistening black paint of the Mustang’s hood. The driver grins behind the cloak of dark-tinted windows, no doubt assessing the worthiness of my machine. I am undaunted.2015-gt-mustang-doing-a-burn-out

I pull my front wheels to the stop line, cautious of the changing light, watching it, for I know my vengeance is coming. The Mustang revs, loudly boasting its readiness. I sneer, tightening my grip on the leather-clad wheel. It’s on.

My right thumb finds the “ECO” button on the steering wheel, disabling it. I won’t be saving fuel this time, friends. My left foot depresses the brake pedal, holding back the 190 horsepower that paces in its stall, trying to escape, waiting to throw its rider. My right foot sends more revs to the orange tachometer needle. My eyes study the traffic light. My ears ignore the wail of the stallion to my right.

The Mustang eases to the thick white line, our bumpers neatly aligned. We do not make eye contact. Our cars taunt each other. The amber light on the cross street glows, and I know I’m seconds away from victory. Three. Two. One. Green.

I release my left foot and jam my right to the floor. The Traction Control warning lights up on my dash as the tiny front wheels lose traction in the remnants of loose salt, spread so profusely a week earlier in anticipation of a quarter inch of snow.  Damn it!

The chrome horse on the Mustang’s fender rears up and kicks its hooves as steam blasts from its nostrils. The Mustang leaves two trails of black evidence in the street, visible only until the tire smoke blocks out my view of his taillights as he blisters into the future, leaving my Kia Optima coughing and embarrassed. The engine wheezes like a turbocharged leaf blower. By the time the Mustang has reached the next county, I’m traveling at a speed of almost 25 miles per hour.

Until we meet again, Mustang. I will turn off my traction control, and we’ll see who’s boss around here. Oh yes, we’ll see.

The Baltimore Civic Center

Image result for baltimore civic center
I was at Monster Jam yesterday at a place they now call the Royal Farms Arena. Call it whatever you want, but it will always be the Civic Center to me. Standing there amidst all the trucks, I started recalling all the times I’ve been to the Civic Center, and it has been the most random of events.
Maybe the first thing I remember was a car show, which included the Batmobile, fresh from the TV series. Burt Ward was signing autographs. I also remember the Bonnie and Clyde movie car was there.
Hard to say what was next, but it was either the Royal Highland Guards (Scottish Military Tattoo with bagpipes… Dad loved them), or it might have been a Baltimore Clippers Image result for baltimore clippershockey game. I was still very young for both of these, but I do remember standing for the Clippers “fight” song. I still remember the general tune. I think I even had a Clippers seat cushion.
In 1976, it was Elvis in one of his very last performances. The Jordanaires carried most of the show, as the King was rather sick. I can’t remember if the big stamp controversy was before or after he died, but there was the “thin Elvis” stamp and the “fat Elvis” stamp. In concert, we saw fat Elvis. At the time, we thought it was cool, but my brother and I weren’t super Elvis fans. We knew of him, of course. Everybody did. Nowadays, it’s pretty cool that we got to see Elvis in concert.
Next was probably the Baltimore Skipjacks hockey team. They rolled in after the Clippers, and I don’t think they held the same place in Dad’s heart.
There was the Ringling Brothers, Barnum & Bailey Circus (with elephants, of course). We also saw the Shrine Circus there a couple of times. For a while, the Shrine Circus was held at the Fifth Regiment Armory, but I suppose it outgrew the place and moved to the Civic Center.
We saw a Rock and Roll Revival there, with such people and groups as Bill Haley and the Comets (Rock Around the Clock), Little Richard, and tons of others I can’t remember.
Next was the Tractor Pull, where a bunch of guys with big trucks compete to see who can pull a 22-ton weight the farthest. In those days, the hero truck was the Orange Blossom Special, which was loud and really cool. I seem to remember a loud train whistle blaring just before he hit the accelerator and the truck literally jumped off the ground. Awesome! Oh, and the guest star was this relatively new monster truck called Bigfoot or something like that.
Image result for orange blossom special pulling truck
Later on, Mary and I saw Alan Jackson in concert there. Of note, I’m pretty sure my brother saw Led Zeppelin at the Civic Center.
There was the Baltimore Blast indoor soccer league, and I had a surprisingly good time. “Goran Hunyak!” I think he was the goalie at the time. I don’t know. The crowd yelled his name, so I yelled too. We went to the game because of a British guy we worked with who wanted to see indoor soccer. (Crazy Americans…)
My daughter graduated from UMBC at the Civic Center.
And that brings us back to Monster Jam, 2018. The place is still going, and it still looks exactly as I remember it from my first trip there in probably 1968 or 69. The seats are definitely the same ones that were installed in 62, and the bathrooms look about as you would have expected from back in the sixties.
A word of caution though, if you go back now, hot dog prices have increased by 1,000 percent, give or take.