Tag Archives: Humor

Creative type? No need to apply

It’s Throwback Thursday, and I’m digging deep into the archive to revive this post, originally offered five years ago for your reading pleasure. The problem tackled back then? Lack of creativity in the insurance world. The unfortunate news is, the names may have changed, but the tedium remains.

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I am constantly amazed at the general lack of creativity in the insurance world.

Some companies get a pass here: AfQuack, CuteLizard, FloInAUniform and Mr. Mayhem are actually clever characters selling the world’s most boring product. Everyone else? Meh.

My day today was filled with ADPD applications. Don’t ask. Knowing what the abbreviation stands for doesn’t make it more interesting.

My Beloved, being an independent agent, has access to all kinds of insurance carriers and sends his clients’ insurance packages out to a lot of companies in order to acquire the best pricing and save clients’ money. But naturally, every ADPD carrier demands the use of their own exclusive application form. Completing one of these applications requires liberal use of a calculator and Advil. No cutting and pasting allowed.

The boring forms flow from boring marketing, me thinks. The lack in creativity in company names does nothing for me. I’m a big fan of firms like Google and Starbucks. What is this, to google? What is a starbuck? They were nothing until Google and Starbucks made them something. They could have called themselves Big Search and Coffee Station, but that’s boring. Instead, they forged new ground.

But insurance companies? Noooooo. Combine any version of “risk,” “guard,” “point,” “core” or “dealer”  and there’s a company with that name offering ADPD coverage. No Shazzam or Whoopsie Insurance Companies here, no sirree.

So that was my day: Insurance application forms. Oh, and other miscellaneous paperwork. The insurance world loves paperwork as much as banks do. You know how it takes half a day to sign all the paperwork to buy a house? That’s banks, exacting their pound of flesh and a penny, too. At least half the paperwork performed in the insurance world is dictated by banks. Ever hear of a certificate of insurance? They are horrible, horrible things, these certificates, and the people who require them are masochists for certain, though I would classify a few of them as tortuous sadists.

But, and here’s the big but: I got a creative blog post out of it.

That’s something.

Look what I found

My favorite type of art is found-object sculpture. In a country where the average America tosses five pounds of trash per person per day into its landfills, according to a 2010 Yale University research study, you’ve got to appreciate when a clever artist turns garbage into an objet d’art. Recycling at its finest.

As I waited to board a plane recently, I looked up and noticed this beautiful wall piece.

saxophone art

saxophone closeup

Closeup of Salty Peanuts.

This assemblage by artist Mildred Howard is created from 130 real saxophones, according to the SFO Museum. Above and below the saxophones are the opening bars of jazz great Dizzy Gillespie’s famous composition, “Salt Peanuts.”

 

Get it? A sculpture called Salty Peanuts in an airport? An environment where peanuts is practically a food group (or, at least, it was before the modern era of food allergies).

“The artwork is not only an homage to Gillespie,” SFO Museum writes on its website, “it is also an acknowledgement of the importance of jazz in San Francisco’s cultural history.”

Even better is a found-object sculpture that is actually functional, like this menu board outside the Bull & Bear restaurant in the Waldorf Astoria, Orlando.

bull and bear menu

Look closely at the stand. It’s made of cutlery and kitchen implements. And how about that palm tree in the corner? Clearly, the trunk is made of wine corks (and the coconuts are made of champagne corks). The leaves? Forks. Forks!

But perhaps the cleverest found-object sculpture I saw recently were these robot portraits hanging above the bathrooms in Alexis Baking Company in Napa (if you don’t stop in for the art, drop by for the Huevos Rancheros — served on crispy corn tortillas with black beans and topped with perfectly poached eggs and fresh pico de gallo, they’re the best I’ve ever consumed).

bathroom art

She-Robot and He-Robot are made of old computer motherboards plus kids’ shoes and back scratchers and other paraphernalia. If you’re in too much a hurry to look up when you’re trying to determine which bathroom to enter, check out those little signs on the doors: A donut and a cream-filled eclair.

Well, it’s funny to those of us who are gender-conforming anyway. Touché, Alexis Baking Co.

There was also a surprise inside the ladies’ room (a good one).

bathroom mirror

That image above the vanity is actually a freehand-cut mirror reflecting the painted sidewall.

So every woman who washes her hands after a meal gets a nice piece of pie for dessert. Perfect.

 

The joke, er, goat’s on you

April Fools’ Day is a major holiday on my father’s side of the family. My 102-year-old grandmother used to love playing April Fool’s jokes, and my dad loves to tease people.

I inherited 20-some years of my grandmother’s diaries when she moved into a nursing home two years ago, so I dug through her April 1st entries in search of proof of her foolishness. Among entries about lunch, ironing, quilting and visitors, she rarely failed to note it was April Fools’ Day, though in 1998 when 7 inches of snow fell and 2009 when 11-12 inches fell, the weather trumped all fun.

I should mention that Grandma lives in north central Minnesota, where winter is six months long if it’s a day.

In the ’80s, April Fools’ Day was mentioned frequently with her brother-in-law’s birthday.

1985: “April Fools’ Day and Odin’s birthday. We celebrated his birthday with the neighbors coming, too. It was a very nice afternoon.”

In other years, she only mentioned who she fooled, not how. In 1986, it was my cousin Cheri (Grandma’s oldest grandchild). In 1991 and 1993, it was her friend Clarine. In 1992: “It was quiet although I did fool a few after church when we were having soup.” In 2004, she mentions she fooled her niece, Virginia.

In 1996, the lack of fooling got noted: “Cloudy cool day. I didn’t do any April fooling.”

But when Grandma does bother to go into detail about the day’s foolishness, I just have to chuckle.

1991: “April Fools’ … Was a nice day. The New Horizon had a goat they would deliver for $10. Mary called to have one delivered to both Jim & Wally. They blame me for telling Mary.”

Mary is my Aunt Mary, and Jim and Wally are her brothers, two of Grandma’s three sons. Uncle Wally passed away last year, but this joke reminds me of his sense of humor (and is proof of the foolishness on this side of the family!). He and Grandma exchanged pranks regularly:

1994: “April Fools’. I fooled Wally with a letter. It makes me happy. I did get him!”

1995: “April Fools’. Wally planned to fool me so I locked the garage door. He was here but couldn’t get in.”

1997: “April Fools’ Day. I never fooled anyone. Wally came when I was gone and put the bench on top of the car.”

 

For me, I think April Fool’s jokes are most funny when they’re played on someone else. When someone pulls a joke on me, well, not so much.

Researchers have found apes laugh, dogs laugh and babies laugh before they learn any other language. Laughter is pretty much the same across languages, and it has the same cadence for everyone — if you “ha, ha, ha” too fast or too slow, it’s panting or, er, something else.

So, laughter is like sleep. We all do it instinctively, and no one really knows why. Maybe it’s God’s joke. In any case, a good laugh is good for the soul, which may explain Grandma’s longevity.

May your day be filled with laughter.

Travel Tuesday: Find evidence of intelligent life in Roswell, New Mexico

If you were a conspiracy theorist, you might think some clever marketer working for the tourism bureau in Roswell, New Mexico, cooked up the whole Area 51 incident in order to compel space nuts to visit an otherwise mundane town in the middle of the nowhere.

Nah … that’s crazy.

It much easier to swallow the theory that bug-eyed green aliens crash landed at a ranch near Roswell in 1947 and the whole incident was covered up by the U.S. military.

The UFO story certainly makes for interesting sight-seeing in Roswell, a town my Beloved and I visited earlier this year on our way through “nowhere.” It’s Travel Tuesday here on Minnesota Transplant, so let’s relive our reverie.

alien-straight-up

You’d be grumpy, too, if you traveled 50,ooo light years only to realize you forgot your pants.

We stayed two nights at the Town and Country RV & Mobile Home Park, and it was a perfectly respectable, uneventful visit. For a science fiction fan who likes her Star Trek with a side of X-Files, it was a little disappointing to see only stars in the wide open sky.

But not unexpected.

alien-museum

A space craft lands every hour at the UFO Museum.

The highlight of our visit, of course, was the International UFO Museum & Research Center, which is replete newspaper articles, photographs and tchotchkes of the close encounter kind. If you want to believe the story that aliens landed once landed there and the government covered it up, you’ll find plenty of evidence. If you want to believe it was just a weather balloon that inspired the crazies, you’ll find plenty of evidence of that, too.

You can even join the research center (I did) though I can’t find any evidence of that on the internet right now. Must be a cover-up of some sort (I’ve heard the system is rigged, so you never know).

Next door to the museum is an awesome little gift shop filled with photo opportunities around every corner (do flying saucers have corners?).

alien-area-51

Creepy place.

Alien Zone Area 51 is worth the price of admission (which as I recall was $3 a person, but don’t trust me — who knows what kind of alien lobotomy might have been performed on me while I slept).

alien-landing

These aliens are closer than they appear.

Enjoy a beer with an alien bartender, or perform an alien autopsy (I just realized autopsy is a seven-letter word; look out Scrabble fiends!). Just so we’re clear here, the beer bottles were empty and the scalpels had no blades.

 

alien-autopsy

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.

We were having so much fun, we could hardly tear ourselves away. Even with supernatural rocket fuel.

alien-blast-off

Buckle up, buttercup. Prepare for launch.

We found a couple of T-shirts we couldn’t leave town without (and believe me, there are as many T-shirt shops as there are ufologists on Main Street). Roswell is also known for a specific green chile sometimes  called Hatch chiles. We picked up an ocean of canned Hatch chiles at the local grocery story and made some kick-butt posole soup, which isn’t the worst sort of souvenir.

A story about dinner

In anticipation of giving away the chest freezer in our garage when we blow this popsicle stand, my Beloved and I have been eating our way through months of Costco deals, food finds, meal ingredients my stepdaughter purchased but decided not to eat and various leftovers.

Well, we can’t just throw it out. That goes against my constitution, which is one founded by a girl who grew up in the ’70s when a bag of Doritos cost 25 cents and people were starving in Africa.

(I know. They’re still starving in Africa.)

In any case, freezer diving makes for some interesting meals. Last week, I found a zippered bag of smoked pork tenderloins. Not one pork loin. Not two. Three smoked pork tenderloins.

One was shredded and dressed with a leftover half bottle of barbecue sauce in the fridge to become delicious pulled pork sandwiches.

The second pork tenderloin became a pot of posole, which used up a huge can of hominy and another huge can of green chili peppers we picked up in New Mexico (we visited New Mexico in April).

And just when I couldn’t bear to eat another bite of pork, I whipped up a batch of creamy chicken enchiladas. Made with two-week-old corn tortillas. And pork instead of chicken.

The creative cooking continued today when I found a ring bologna in the bottom of the freezer.

Let’s be clear. I don’t buy ring bologna.

I might buy turkey kielbasa. Maybe polish sausage. But never anything called bologna. Bologna is for politicos. Not for eating.

In any case, my Beloved — who loves almost any form of sausage as much as he loves me — must have found this ring bologna in some butcher shop on one of our travels.

(Label indicates its of Wisconsin origin. Of course.)

Fortunately, Google provided a recipe for Ring Bologna with Sauerkraut. And I had a can of sauerkraut. As well as celery seeds and caraway seeds — we hit the “use it up” lottery!

For a side dish, I had a craving for spaezle but no interest in making it from scratch (“press dough through a large-holed colander”? are you kidding me?). But look! I had a have a half a bag of cavatelli in the pantry. What’s cavatelli, you ask? Right! Only I would have a half a bag of it in my pantry sitting next to the red quinoa and the Italian pearled farro. Cavatelli are small pasta shells that look like miniature hot dog buns (Wikipedia is awesome, don’t you think?). And, the first recipe I found after typing “buttery cavatelli recipe” into Google included asparagus. Yes! I’ve had 15 spears of asparagus sitting in a water-filled cup in the back of my fridge for at least three weeks. Time to use it up!

I would have taken a picture of my plate if I had thought of it. Because I have no shame and I don’t mind filling other people’s Newsfeeds with pictures of my dinner. Honestly, what’s the alternative? Inflammatory posts about the political candidate you can’t stand? My dinner looks pretty good compared to that. To be fair, I saw a lot of Halloween costumes in today’s Newsfeed. But you get my point: It could be worse than my dinner. In any case, I didn’t take a picture of it because at dinnertime I hadn’t even given Thought One to a blog post. So you’ll just have to imagine it.

But now, as the Chicago Cubs warm up their November baseball bats, I’m writing a blog post because it’s November 1, and I’m trying to turnover a new leaf in a month known for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month).

It ain’t a novel.

But it’s something.

 

Washing our hands of a low performer

We had to evict a resident from our house today.

She wasn’t pulling her weight. Let’s just say, she wasn’t able to get hot anymore. Maybe she was undergoing menopause, if you catch my drift. Given her role around here, “not getting hot” just wasn’t acceptable. My Beloved tried to rehabilitate her, but the $33 thermal regulator or igniter — or whatever we invested in — didn’t work (I don’t know the difference between a wrench and a channel lock either but thank goodness, my Beloved does). To be fair, I think we bought her used and fixed her up at least once in the past nine years, but having her go kaput now still was disappointing.

So we gave her the heave-ho to make room for a new resident with a hot box. Recently, we had been planning to acquire a much bigger box of sorts, but that plan was thwarted. So, on our eighth wedding anniversary, we settled for buying a new dryer.

In 95% humidity, we dragged the old dryer out of the house and installed the new one. Fun. Happy anniversary, honey.

The dried-up old dryer is on the curb, thumbing for a ride. Good riddance, girl.

dryer hitchhiking

Quartzsite, a home for hermits and heroes

One person’s armpit is another person’s oasis.

If I were doing public relations for the travel bureau in Quartzsite, Arizona, that’s the tagline I’d be pushing.

Quartzsite, our point of interest this Travel Tuesday on Minnesota Transplant, is about 90 minutes north of Yuma, Arizona, where my Beloved and I wintered for a couple of months earlier this year.

All I knew before visiting there was that Quartzsite was just east of Blythe, California, which was the home to many happy memories growing up.

Not.

My only memory of Blythe was camping there one night in July 1982 when it got down to — down to! — 105 degrees at night. My family of origin was doing a summer vacation loop from Minnesota to the Pacific Ocean and back, and Blythe was a convenient stop on the way from Disneyland to Phoenix. I remember lying on top my sleeping bag in the pop-up camper sweating it out and dreaming of ice cream cones and Icees and swimming in the iceberg-infested North Atlantic.

Native Minnesotans can’t take that kind of heat.

Quartzsite, at the same latitude as Blythe, is known as the RV boondocking capital of the world. Literally thousands of campers descend on the area for the town’s famous gem show and swap meet every January and February (because, believe me, no one is shopping in July and August in Quartzsite for anything but icy beverages).

Not sure what boondocking is? Think squatting in a Wal-Mart parking lot where you can spend the night for free, but you have to bring your own water and TP. That’s Quartzsite. Combine campers too tight to pay for nightly hookups with a traveling flea market and you get a lot of cheap junk. So if you like cheap junk, you’ll be in paradise. Prefer to buy your baubles at retail? Well, you have to appreciate the natural beauty of Quartzsite.

Quartzsite

OK, I don’t mean the cacti. I mean the endless sunshine and wide open spaces. If you want to escape traffic and zoning restrictions and government oversight, Quartzsite is a hermit’s Shangri-la. It kind of reminds me of Mad Max (the one with Mel Gibson), only with a McDonald’s and cheap gas.

Besides the flea markets, the one place you have to visit in Quartzsite is Hi Jolly’s gravesite.

Before you think folks in the desert may have no imagination, you have to hear the story of Hi Jolly.

Back in the mid-nineteenth century, the U.S. military cooked up a plan to use camels for communication and transporting freight in the arid Southwest. A Syrian named Haiji Ali came with the first 33 camels (later, 41 more camels joined the fray). As is typical with us Americans who can’t (or refuse) to get our tongues around foreign names, the soldiers changed Ali’s name to Hi Jolly, and this is how the camel herder came to be universally known.

According to the historical marker posted near his grave, “On the Beale Expedition in 1857 to open a wagon road across Arizona from Fort Defiance to California, the camels under Hi Jolly’s charge proved their worth. Nevertheless, the war department abandoned the experiment and the camels were left on the Arizona desert to shift for themselves.”

Hi Jolly died in 1902 at Quartzsite, and his headstone, if you can call it that — maybe pyramid stones would be more accurate, is a memorable testament to the Syrian immigrant, noting thusly: “Cameldriver ~ Packer ~ Scout ~ Over thirty years a faithful aid to the U.S. Government.”

Hi Jollys burial place

Next Travel Tuesday: Algodones Dunes