Even Stranger Things

This column is entitled “Even Stranger Things” as you probably already noticed.  Sorry, but I’m just not ready to let go of the whole “post-eclipse-disturbance-in-the Force” thing yet and there are some seriously strange things still going on since August 21st.  I think you need to know about them.

For starters, I’m still doing doubletakes when I see that darned plastic owl that someone stuck on a post outside my office window.  I don’t even know why anyone would do that.  Those things don’t fool anybody.

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Then there’s this whole Harvest/Thanksgiving-related subculture out there that I just discovered, involving hoisting a massive pumpkin and/or massive squash high in the air with a crane or helicopter and then dropping it into a swimming pool, or on to an old car, or a trampoline, etc.

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Helicopter locked and loaded at 25,000 feet
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The Jolly Green Giant minding his own business, checking the B&G Foods stock price and oblivious to impending doom from above

Then there’s this weird thing going on with my shoes. I walked Mickey last Saturday afternoon, checked to see which way he was facing during his potty stop, came in, took off my shoes and said: “What the heck?  My shoes don’t match!”

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G.Gillson Converse + unknown Converse

My first clue was the colour, as I had been labouring under the distinct impression that they were both grey since I bought them a couple of years ago.

The next thing I did was check the size; they both turned out to be size  9 1/2.

Next I conferred with my wife and forensic shoe-expert-in-residence, Jeanette.  She noted that one shoe was subtly longer than the other, the wear patterns didn’t match and also confirmed that the shoes were different colors.  She speculated that maybe I had gotten one of them wet hopping around on one leg in the foot of snow that fell early in October (another strange thing), or had left one of them out in the sun, or carelessly stepped in a puddle of bleach or worse yet, sulfuric acid.

Then I checked the labels more closely and that was the clincher: they (the shoes) weren’t even made in the same country.

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Label of grey shoe belonging to me

You have to admit; this is pretty weird.  It would be like you met identical twins, fell in love with one of them, got married and then a year later you discovered that you had somehow married the wrong twin.  Or maybe the one you didn’t marry agreed to sub in for the one you did marry, but they didn’t tell you about the arrangement.  If you were in my shoes (!) I bet you would probably have the exact same thoughts. But maybe not.

Wait! You can’t be in my shoes because I’m not even in them!  Someone else has one of my shoes!  And I have one of theirs!  Eclipse or no eclipse, how could this have happened?

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Label from brown shoe belonging to someone else, probably Steve Harris

To get to the bottom of things, I called a buddy of mine whom I’ll refer to as Stephen Harris (not his real name), a retired shoe salesman and former Assistant Superintendent of the Livingstone Range SD No. 68. (Not his actual former occupation.)

This was a supremely logical manoeuvre because:

1). I knew for sure that “Steve” had a pair of light brown Converse my size.

2). We had been together with four other lads from high school in early August for “Geezerfest 2017”.  “Steve” had those brown Converse with him, and I had my trusty grey Converse with me.

3). When we were 17 years old, “Harris” played accomplice to a guy named Brad Mighton who burned a hole in his denim shirt one night at the “my parents are away for the weekend” party I threw.  Steve and Brad proceeded to creep into my bedroom, root around in my closet and swap the damaged shirt for my undamaged shirt, which happened to be identical.  (I didn’t find any of this out until about 30 years later.)  My mother puzzled over that for several weeks after she patched the burned spot and kept asking me how it happened.  And I honestly had no idea.  (Sorry Mom.)

By the way, I swear on Manolo Blahnik’s driver’s license that I’m not making any of this up.

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Manolo Blahnik driver’s license photo circa 1958

So anyway, like I said, I called former Assistant Superintendent Harris:

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Stephen Harris, Superintendent of Livingstone SD No.68 (ret.)

 

Harris: “Hello?”

Me: “Hey Harris.  Happy Thanksgiving.  Have you noticed anything weird about your Converse lately?”

Harris: “Like what?”

Me: “Like maybe one is grey and the other one is brown.”

Harris: “No.  They’re the same colour.”

Me: “OK great.  See you later.”

Harris: “Not if I see you first.”

 

But still, I remained suspicious.

The reason for my persistent suspicion is that Steve only hesitated for maybe 50 milliseconds before answering my question.  Even if he WAS wearing his shoes, he wouldn’t have had time to look down and check to see if they matched.  Try this yourself if you don’t believe me.

I made some other phone calls about the shoes, but I’m not going to tell you about them right now.  And I still have absolutely no clue what happened to my other shoe.  But we’re still on the general theme of strange post-eclipse occurrences and I need to tell you about our recent visitor.

We have been growing potatoes in a pressurized enclosure at the lab recently, more or less just for the heck of it.  One day, Mark Watney aka Matt Damon showed up to check out the crop!  Matt’s looking a little stiff these days, but it’s probably that suit.  But stiffness or no, the fact that he would take the trouble to come up and check us out is pretty unbelievable. Right?

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Rob Bitcon, elemental analysis specialist, posing with Mark Watney aka Matt Damon, Martian potato specialist

But speaking of not believing me, I do have one teensy confession to make here:  that wasn’t Manolo Blahnik’s driver’s license photo back there.  That was actually a high school yearbook picture of Terry Bradshaw, former QB for the Pittsburgh Steelers.  (four Superbowl championships in six years!)  I don’t know why I used Bradshaw’s picture instead.  Must have been that pesky eclipse.  And that  wasn’t a photo of Stephen Harris either.  That was actually the famous shoe designer Manolo Blahnik.

And speaking of shoe designers, I’ll leave you with one last photo.  I swear this really is a picture of Chuck Taylor, supersalesman for the Converse  shoe company, and also the biological father of the Chuck Taylor All Star basketball shoes.

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Chuck Taylor thinking about something.  Probably basketball.  Or maybe shoes.

I think Chuck was also fond of this saying: “Never judge a man until you walk a mile in his shoes.  You’ll be a mile away. And you’ll have his shoes.  Even if they don’t match.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fake Owls

Fake news is making headlines these days although outrageous, bogus news stories are nothing new.  For example, the National Enquirer, famous for fake news, dates back to shortly after the signing of the Magna Carta, as shown by the July 5, 1215 woodcut (below right).

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Mermaids Negotiate Peace Treaty Between France and England

(Actually I’m lying.  The National Enquirer started in 1926.)

You have to admit though, that there have been some great fake headlines over the years.  One of my personal favorites is “Face Of Alfred. E. Neuman Appears In Slice Of Toast On  Pope’s Breakfast Tray”  Or maybe it was “Face Of Pope Appears In Slice Of Toast On Alfred E. Neuman’s Breakfast Tray.”  I forget which.

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OK, maybe I made that headline up.  Nobody even knows who Alfred E. Neuman is any more.  And I have no idea who the guy in the toast is.

But  here’s  a real fake headline that appeared in the Weekly World News in 1937.  The tipoff that it’s fake is that Hilary was only eight years old in 1937.

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Speaking of aliens, how about the whole Bigfoot On Mars thing that hit the news in late 2007?  OK, maybe the shape in the picture below sort of looks like it has the torso of a Sasquatch, but the rest of it looks more like a seal, or maybe a walrus.

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Bigfoot en route to potato field

 

 

 

 

 

But while we’re talking about fakes, let’s talk about this whole business of using fake plastic owls to keep pigeons from crapping on your roof or balcony.  There’s this gigantic fake owl industry (well, pretty big fake owl industry) built on the premise that pigeons are stupid, and can’t tell an immobile owl-replica from the real thing.

But this isn’t true.  The gigantic fake owl industry is built on the fact that humans can’t tell the difference.  I know this because there is a grassy expanse  on the other side of the parking lot just outside the window of my office.  There’s a fake owl tacked on to a post at the edge of that grass.  Every time I look out my window, I do a double-take and think to myself, “Dang!  Look at that owl!  What the heck is it doing over there?”

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Fake owl mocking me with its immobility

The pigeons figure out that the immobile plastic object is no threat after a couple of days, tops.  Then they start laughing at us humans.  To my point, here’s a little  vignette I ran across on a fake-owl debunking site which says it all:

“I remember telling my wife when we were first dating to get a fake owl to scare the pigeons away, she pointed over to the next balcony where a fake owl was covered in pigeon shit.”

And from the same site:

“I think the fake owls work better if you have a lot of real owls around your place. Nesting boxes, tall pole perches, mowing your orchard, leaving a light on near your garden/orchard and playing owl calls over the stereo are good ways to attract screech owls and barred owls. (Horned owls, too.) When you get a bunch of real owls, the other birds can’t always be so sure that the owl decoys are fake. (It helps to move the fake owls around a lot, too.) ”

So these people went to the trouble to attract a bunch of real owls to their orchard or whatever, but they still spent money on fake owls.  Plus, it sounds like they spent a lot of time moving the fake owls around.  What was wrong with the real owls?  It just goes to show you that you can fool a couple of pigeons all of the time and you can fool all of the pigeons for a couple of days, but you can fool all of us humans as long as you have a healthy supply of fake owls, especially the ultra-realistic ones that flap their plastic wings, move their heads and hoot convincingly.

I think that people should just quit diddling around with stupid fake owls and move on to something like this:

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Unretouched photo taken near my house

That bad boy probably cost a fortune, but this next picture puts it all into perspective:

IMG_1330 (2)That, my friends, is a Porsche Cayman.  And there was a Maserati parked on the street in front of that house.  I am not making up so much as a single syllable of any of this.  There wasn’t a single femtogram of pigeon poop anywhere on those vehicles, either.

I wouldn’t shit you about this.

Next column: How to scare away car thieves