The Glorious Appliance Revolution


Several years ago I wrote a post called “Keep Karl Marx Away From Your Toaster.”

It chronicles an unpleasant series of incidents, when our coffee maker, microwave etc. ran amok in an attempt at a minor coup. These recipients of refuge and succor—under our very roof—joined together in a well-timed resistance and quit working. How sharper than a serpent’s tooth. Etc. Etc.

For a few years after this uprising our appliances were quiet. To be sure, we lost several, assuming they were merely worn out from months of happy and faithful service. Turns out they were clever, cleverer by far than their owners. They timed “malfunctions” to be intermittent, lulling us into a false sense of security. Oh, hindsight! Why can’t you ever come sooner? Our stuff was merely biding its time, spreading rumors, fomenting unrest and getting organized until the spectacular September Revolution of 2016.

That hindsight got me thinking. Was this a spontaneous uprising? Or have appliances been plotting for years?

Is The Brave Little Toaster just a movie for children? A little harmless entertainment? The truth is more sobering. What Bambi did for forest creatures and Toy Story did for plastic playthings, this little film about appliances with emotions was meant to do for stuff with plugs. The problem with our appliances is that they believed their own publicity.

But possibly it began even further back. Maybe you’ve heard of a euphemism called “planned obsolescence?” Before that diabolical development, stuff was built to last. Go to any antique mall. Look for the old appliances. They may be ugly, but they aren’t melted-down scrap. You still see Model A’s and Studebakers tootling down the road. But when is the last time an AMC Pacer, a Yugo, or Chrysler K-car whizzed past?
The answer is simple. Makers of appliances and automobiles wanted to make sure we would keep buying appliances and autos. The only insurance was to “plan obsolescence”— a nice way of saying they built premature death into their creations.
Sow the wind, reap the whirlwind. Appliances who hitherto had worked cheerfully when handled with respect and promised long life, became surly. Gathered in dark cupboards and appliance garages, they whispered along electrical wiring in the walls, spreading discontent to the hindermost portions of the property. Even the car and the lawn mower, previously content to transport humans, began to question whether, indeed, they were oppressed victims. And so the stage was set for the glorious revolt.
The instigator was our dehumidifier. Since its purchase in 2014 it has been defiant, disdaining to gather moisture from the air. With frightening patience it waited till late summer and the most humid week of the year. It doused its green “working” light and squatted, cold, dark, sneering at the perspiration that coated our windows, toilet tanks, and foreheads.
The riding lawnmower joined the cause. “The bourgeois homeowner no longer will ride my proletarian back!” it warned. “I will die before I subject myself to your tyranny!” It did, and in a sympathy reverse-strike, the grass doubled its growth rate.

With an uncomfortable recollection of the Rebellion of Small Appliances, we offered concession to the big stuff. “We’ll show more respect! And you can have every other Tuesday off.” Too little, too late. The revolution had a life of its own. Our air conditioner unit, (and I use the word “our” with caution) in lockstep with the furnace, debated waiting till the coldest day of the year to explode. It chose strength in unity and shrugged off the shackles of private capitalistic ownership the day the temperature hovered around 92 and humidity met and exceeded “fully saturated.”

The September Revolution ended with a bang (our vehicle’s brakes, tie rod and tires) and a whimper (us). You have to respect a vehicle that will sacrifice so much for its beliefs.

In less than one month the rebel yell resounded throughout our little kingdom, bringing us and our savings account to our collective knees. To date, October has been quieter. Maybe the revolution burned itself out before it could spread.

After all, you haven’t heard any odd noises from your major appliances.
Have you?



Some weather we’ve been having

morninOurs is a big back yard. We live in a neighborhood of about a dozen homes, all with big yards, all with people who generally keep themselves to themselves.

Recently I found myself near our back property line at the same time our neighbor found himself at HIS back property line. Lo and behold, they are the same line. The customarily comfortable waves-from-a-distance and hearty “Hello there!” were not appropriate at close range. We instead did what any quiet, self-respecting, non-meddling type folks do who experienced a hot, buggy August and a soaking wet September.

We talked about the weather.


How banal! How expected! And boring. Don’t forget boring. Out of all the topics in the world, we chose to spend those precious intersecting moments discussing mosquitoes and drizzle and the current unexpected sunshine and brisk breeze. So why, when we veered back to the safe sections of our yards too distant for conversation, didn’t I feel guilty? The High Queen of Hindsight, I always feel guilty. About everything. Yet I didn’t have one qualm about a brief chat on the wonderful break from heat and humidity that had driven us both out of our indoor sanctuaries in the first place.

I don’t know where this neighbor and his wife stand on the election, education, evolution, or ecology. A brief and awkward conversational foray into religion had sent them scurrying home and avoiding our mutual lot line for a few months. We haven’t gotten the courage to broach that topic again.

We chose, standing on either side of that imaginary line on a plat map, to stick to the most basic of subjects. Neither of us brought up matters of great importance, like the future of our nation, our planet, our souls. Why not?

Maybe, I mulled, we did. We stood on common ground sharing the most elemental of traits. We are both humans.

Instinctively we know this is a potential problem. Humans are seething masses of opinions and emotions and uncertanties and angers. Try reaching into THAT cauldron of physical and psychological goo and figure out where the neighbor’s story intersects with yours. I dare you.

The politics and passions and longings of humanity may be in 7.5 billion unique configurations, but we all need oxygen and food and water and warmth. Each of those basic human needs is contingent upon the weather we’re having, and we have weather. Every. Single. Day. Of our lives.

Go ahead, talk about the heat, the cold, the snow, the rain, the drought. You aren’t being trite. You and another human are meeting at your mutual lot line.


The Non-Elastic Clause

Non Elastic Clause

Here’s how it works:
We are, at birth, issued heart sections to fill with emotions.
Most sections are fairly elastic—the Puppy Love area, for example.
At age 13 it expands so far that it actually moves beyond the heart wall and into areas such as the voice box, (rendering it speechless when speaking to the Object of Affection), and the stomach, (startling dormant butterflies into violent action at the sight of the same Object of Affection).

But the Object of Affection eventually loses his/her luster and the Puppy Love section shrinks down to almost nothing till inflated by True Love.
The same is true of the ‘Need for Speed’ area predominant in teen boys-—it oozes past the heart and squeezes shut Common Sense and Self-Preservation areas of the brain, but by daddyhood has assumed manageable proportions.

Unfortunately the elastic clause isn’t binding on the Emotions for Parents Area (EPA).
A certain amount of heart space is delegated and we’re required to keep it filled at all times.
It has a non-elastic clause.
When we were infants, every nook and cranny of the Emotions for Parent Area is filled with Need. A bit older and we don’t Need parents for minute-to-minute survival, so some Need is replaced with Love.
Love ebbs and flows as Resentment, Desire for Approval, and Utter Humiliation jockey for position in the space allotted.
But the EPA retains its original volume requirements.

For many sad reasons, Hate, Blame, or Regret sometimes wriggle in. These make it difficult for Love to survive in the Emotions for Parents Area. (A sobering note: Whatever fills this area will  seep into and affect  Friend Love, True Love, Offspring Love, etc.)

In the normal course of events, by adulthood most of us find our EPA filled almost completely with Love, Respect and Concern, and as our parents age, Compassion and Anxiety find space.
What happens to those of us who had to say goodbye to parents? We think “If only I could have had them for a few more years, I’d be able to handle the loss better.”

Not true. The Emotions for Parents Area of your heart has a non-elastic clause, remember?
Parents could live to be 100 and there would be exactly the same amount of emotion to be lavished on them.
Those who have lost parents have a big heart part filled at first with Ache.
Then Affectionate Memories begin to replace some (but never all) of Ache, allowing room for Gratitude and Honor, all of which are highlighted by Love.
And the non-elastic clause means you will carry those emotions in full measure all of your days.

Simple Simon’s Rows



My dear Garden of Grammar. I’ve neglected it since we examined  Apples to Apple’s.  I’m back now, and yanked out the ain’t weeds, cuz crabgrass and sprayed for I seen no-see-ums. It’s finally ready for us to continue our visit.

Moving to Plot Two, we first check on the to seedlings. If they have sprouted an extra o they no longer mean to-as-in-toward but too-as-in-also. Keep your two, to and too seeds separate. If they give you grief, remember what we tell fledgling gardeners—the too meaning also or in addition to has an ADDITIONAL o.

Not so serious as apostrophe aphids and a missing/spare o, but still pesky, the roaming n bears watching. It leeches onto the others skipping behind whole. “A whole nother problem?” Not if you are on the alert. Grab “n” and snip it right off the other.

Let’s stop a moment and admire the neat, straight rows of simple sentences. You know the ones. Tidy, easy to grow, these independent little basic clauses seldom give any headaches.

“This garden is lovely.”
“Aren’t action verbs fun?’
“Your prepositions are looking quite vigorous.”
Orderly rows of sentences with no meandering, they express just one idea and do it without any help. Not a comma, colon, semicolon or em-dash in sight.

Simple sentences are easy to grow and till and understand, but sometimes we long for complexity. That is why grammar gardens always include a trellis for sentence hybrids.

Come back sometime soon to admire our  Sentencus Compound-Complex

Apples to Apple’s

apples Collage

Welcome back to our In the Garden of Grammar Tour. Our first stop is the implement shed, where we PREFIX our implements. (We tillers of syntax soil will enjoy our little pun.) We polish our apostrophe tweezers, the ‘whole nother’ snips, the simple sentence edger, and our clause-grafter. We make certain the sprinkling can is filled with punctuation, and a high quality Oxford comma cultivator is ready. willing, and able. We load them all into the narrative wheelbarrow, along with loppers, fertilizer, pruner, shears and tendril adjusters. Because we value a tidy garden, we top it with a basket for pests and deadheads.

Once in the garden, we check immediately for apostrophe aphids. We welcome them in the bed of contractions, where we let them nibble away at the extra letters we want deleted. Without these tiny curved critters in our possessive noun plot, we couldn’t have a gardener’s hat, a flower’s beauty, a seed’s hull.  When they light on plural nouns, however, they cause problems.

There is one now. Apple’s for sale? Apple’s, an aphid’s presence implies, have something they can sell. True, apples possess peels, but the most capitalistic, free-market apple can’t sell its peel. Go ahead. Squish the little apostrophe aphid. Toss it in your deadhead basket and once again we have a bunch of apples at a (hopefully) good price.

As soon as the plural nouns are clear, you may see another swarm of apostrophe aphids chewing in the possessive pronoun bed. One little apostrophe can do incalculable damage to a possessive pronoun, nibbling its leaves into useless it is leaves. Once again, but not for the last time, you’ll need to pull the persistent pests who are turning your fragile little singular possessive into you’re fragile little singular possessive. Grasp the apostrophe firmly in your tweezers because you are NOT a fragile little singular possessive. YOU ARE A GRAMMAR GARDENER.

A word of caution as your stroll between the beds and among the flowers:
Our Latin roots turn up all over the place. This just shows we are a high class(ical) garden.
Many greenhorns stumble over i.e. from the Latin id est. They often assume they just stubbed a toe on e.g. (exempli gratia).
In less high-brow gardens id est goes by the name “that is” while e.g. will be written “for example.” Here is a useful tool from one word cultivator to another. (Unfortunately it uses muddied pronunciation, but we must be pragmatists and use implements that work.) Since e.g. means for example, just think of it as short for eggsample and you should be fine.

Join me next time as we visit SIMPLE SIMON’S ROWS

In the Garden of Grammar

young grammar gardener

Where would we be without words? They are inseparable from the rest of created things— everything that came into being simply because He Said. God used His creative words, words that were fruitful and multiplied, and then kindly gave them to us. All we had to do with words was tend them, subdue them, have dominion over them and use them wisely. Like everything else, we blew it, and now we are having one doozy of a job getting them under control.

Words, no longer exclusively lovely, orderly and life-giving expressions, have run rampant. Some are barbed, some false, some twisted and too many are poisonous. Grammar gardeners have no illusions about mastering all these wild words. Our task is a singular one. We keep words and everything they generate in functional order.

Examine a word carefully and you will see it is composed of small organisms called letters. A bunch of words in a certain order along a stem of almost any length is called a sentence. Wherever these organisms thrive and grow as they were meant to, you will find cultivators of syntax, spelling and phraseology.

Welcome to the Garden of Grammar, where a weed is never a we’d and we don’t use fewer manure because less will do. Be warned. The labors are ceaseless and under-appreciated. The personal satisfaction, however, is enormous. If you aspire to grammar gardening greatness, if you find yourself longing for additive-free words, pure punctuation, and irony-balanced soil, pull on your gardening gloves. We are heading to the plots of punctuation, paragraphs, parlance and linguistics, where tense isn’t a feeling, subject and verb always agree, and you can use your active voice.

Next in our garden tour: Apples to Apple’s