Are You an Alien?

With the recent discovery of “building blocks of life” on Mars by NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity (published in Science on June 7), the portal is once again open to speculation as to whether this possible “life” may have actually visited Earth in the past. Evidence of such visitations are found in the Pyramids of Egypt, Atlantis, Machu Picchu, Roswell, Stonehenge, the Creation Museum in Kentucky and Mar-a-Lago.

With all these excursions, jaunts, sprees and expeditions, the possibility arises of alien genetic interactions with humans. With this background, we present as a public service, the following assessment of your own likelihood of alien heritage.

This is a test of the Emergency Alien System. The podcasters of your area, in voluntary cooperation with ICE, EPA, Breitbart News, InfoWars, Coast to Coast AM, the National Park Service and other authorities, have developed this system to keep you informed in the event of an Alien emergency. If this had been an actual emergency you would be instructed where to turn for news and official information. Don’t wait to find out the truth about yourself from some unsavory character on the street. Take the test below. Remember: this is only a test.

  1. Do you come from outer space? [YES] [NO]
  2. Are you radioactive? [YES] [NO]
  3. Are you televisionactive? [YES] [NO]
  4. Do you have a launching pad in your backyard? [YES] [NO]
  5. Are you allergic to Kryptonite? [YES] [NO]
  6. Do you have relatives in a parallel universe? [YES] [NO]
  7. Do you sometimes get the feeling that you know what someone is thinking before they speak? [YES] [NO]
  8. Are you required to report your current address to NASA every January? [YES] [NO]
  9. Have you ever fantasized that there may be someone named Max Planck? [YES] [NO]
  10. Did you mail in the warranty card on your orgone regenerator? [YES] [NO]
  11. Do you eat from squeeze tubes? [YES] [NO]
  12. Do you collect stamps? [YES] [NO]
  13. Do you qwertyuiop? [YES] [NO]
  14. Do you want to qwertyuiop with me? [YES] [NO]
  15. Do you you own a mylar dog? [YES] [NO]
  16. Do you wear bib overalls and you’re not a farmer? [YES] [NO]
  17. Do you wear sunglasses at night, indoors? [YES] [NO]
  18. Do you have an impending sense of oatmeal? [YES] [NO]
  19. Do you feel like you ought to turn yourself into the authorities? [YES] [NO]
  20. Did you ever forget to wear your glasses and discover that you can see just as well without them? [YES] [NO]
  21. I have an uncle who is a magician. The other day he was walking down the street and turned into a drugstore. How about you? [YES] [NO]
  22. Have you ever characterized Keanu Reeves as a “fine actor”? [YES] [NO]
  23. Do you sometimes get the feeling that you’re not in Kansas anymore? [YES] [NO]
  24. Where do a body meet a body?

         [a] on the sly

         [b] comin’ thro’ the rye

         [c] anywhere, just try

         [d] don’t ask I

         [e] in a Boston Cream Pie

  1. Did you ever get an urge to put your clothes on inside-out and flog yourself with a haddock? [YES] [NO]
  2. A Ritz cracker has two sides. The top is sort of moundy, has seven little holes, and is salted. The bottom is more level, and is unsalted. Which side do you like to put your cheese on? [Bottom] [Top]\

Alien spoor or scat along the Arizona Canal

If you answered “Yes”, “e”, or “Bottom” to one or more of the questions there is a strong likelihood that you are indeed an alien being. Do not be alarmed. Do not dematerialize. Do not eat any broccoli. You will be contacted by the Internal Revenue Service in the near future.

All photos except Mars rover ©James Veihdeffer.
From top to bottom: white mask found in alley attached to electrical fixture; irrigation control valve fixture at Glendale Community College; counter fixture at McDonald’s; abandoned bicycle frame on Arizona Canal; fire hydrant adorned with cowboy hat by anonymous passerby; APS electrical pole insulation patties along canal…or maybe alien poop.



Quirky Words You (May Not) Want to Know

I run across a lot of new words practically every day. Some of them are just “new to me” — many overheard from students (who try to persuade me not to use them), some from podcasts — and some that go back a-ways but that I’ve recently rediscovered.

Read on, MacDuff, at your own risk.

incel (n): an involuntary celibate. “A subset of straight men calling themselves “incels” have constructed a violent political ideology around the injustice of young, beautiful women refusing to have sex with them. These men often subscribe to notions of white supremacy. They are, by their own judgment, mostly unattractive and socially inept. (They frequently call themselves “subhuman.”) They’re also diabolically misogynistic.” [The Rage of the Incels]

deep state (n): the so-called permanent power élite or “moneyed, cultured élite” —  the non-governmental insiders from banking, industry, and commerce” whose access to information allows them to rule in secret. (see John le Carré’s 2013 novel, A Delicate Truth). Also see this intriguing apocryphal account of Deep State Wine.

choad (n): <vulgar> A loser or undesirable person…and that’s just the nice version. Don’t write this where others can see it—like on a classroom whiteboard.

wratched (adj): <slang> in poor shape or bad taste, “ghetto.” As near as I can tell, it’s an urbanized form of “wretched” but always pronounced as one syllable with the last part sort of slurred, …tchd, that is, “ratcht.” My students have forbidden me to use this.

tag question (noun phrase): a grammatical structure in which a statement is turned into interrogative fragment, as though to ask for a tacit confirmation. “Y’know?” as in “Nice day, isn’t it?”; “You’re Samantha, right”?; In Sherlock Holmes-era novels, a character might end a sentence with “Eh wot?” but I’ve been instructed never to try that. In the British sitcom, The Office, Ricky Gervais would end many of his statements with “Yeah?” “That’ll save us money, will it, yeah.” (OK, I already knew this one, but it’s always fun to quote Ricky.)

And now, recently heard on The Daily Show:

sick burn (noun phrase): a clever and cutting remark that makes someone look silly or feel embarrassed. Shaping your hands like two guns and imitating blowing the smoke off them is a good way to tag the burn.

gobemouche (n): <GOB-moosh> a gullible or credulous person. From French gobe-mouche (flycatcher, sucker), from gober (to suck or swallow) + mouche (fly). Earliest documented use: 1818.*

…not be confused with a “goober”: A foolish, simple, or amusingly silly person.


[Insert political figure of your choice here]


pitchfork rebellion (noun phrase): When the peasants, or common folk, literally or figuratively fashion their farming tools into weapons of war — as in the 1685 Monmouth Rebellion, or when villagers of South Stoke, outside Bath, recently saved their historic, 150-year-old Packhorse pub from being turned into an apartment complex.

duck or decorated shed? (nouns): from the 1972 book Learning from Las Vegas by Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown. Some buildings are like ducks—the exterior is perfectly suited to what’s inside and they can’t be anything but what they look like, as their shape clearly indicates.

A decorated shed, by contrast, is a generic structure with a purpose identifiable only by its signage. Is it a clothing store, a restaurant, or a hotel? Just check the sign.

“If one business decides to close its doors, we can remove the sign and add another. No additional construction necessary.” [The Architectural Mirror]. See also 99% Invisible (one of my favorite podcasts): “Lessons from Sin City”

(Photo: Center for Learning at Glendale Community College) **

dead cat bounce (noun phrase): A Wall St. phrase indicating a small, brief recovery in the price of a declining stock, derived from the idea that “even a dead cat will bounce if it falls from a great height.” The phrase can also be applied to any instance of a brief resurgence following a severe decline.***

tent-pole movie (noun phrase): widely released initial offerings in a string of releases that are expected by movie studios to turn a quick profit, usually accompanied by big budgets and heavy promotion and expected to support a wide range of tie-in products such as toys and games. However, in the TV biz, there’s the concept of the hammock: If a network has two tent-pole series, it can boost the performance of a weak or emerging show by inserting it between the two tent-poles.

TCK – third culture kid (noun phrase): a child raised in a culture other than their parents’ (or the country on the child’s passport, where they are legally considered native) for a significant part of their early years. They’re exposed to a greater (often dismaying) variety of cultural influences. TCKs move between cultures (and languages!) before they have had the opportunity to fully develop their personal cultural identity. The first culture of such individuals refers to the culture of the country from which the parents originated, the second culture refers to the culWorld in Words logoture in which the family currently resides, and the third culture refers to the amalgamation of these two cultures. “You always feel out of place.” (The World in Words podcast, May 17, 2018)

Despoiling the Egyptians (phrase): Basically a sort of reverse “cultural appropriation” (the act of taking or using things from a culture that is not your own, especially without showing that you understand or respect this culture). The phrase has come to mean any use of another culture’s art and ideas for purposes that may wholly contradict their original intention.

From St. Augustine: In the Hebrew scripture, Exodus 3:21, God tells the Israelites to “despoil the Egyptians” as they left their bondage by taking gold and silver statuary or other works that had been pagan or profane and use the metal for their own, finer purposes. [On Christian Doctrine, Ch. 40, section 60; cited in Hecht, Doubt, 201]

“The Israelites are promised that they will leave Egypt not just with their freedom but with great wealth. “You shall strip the Egyptians bare,” goes the promise, in colloquial English of today. Sure enough, this week the Israelites prepare to leave by “borrowing” objects of silver and gold from their neighbors. Borrowing? Not exactly. Everybody knows, that they are leaving Egypt for good with no intention of returning.” [“Despoiling the Egyptians”: An Exercise In Moral LogicRabbi Lawrence A. Hoffman, Ph.D.]

Re: MacDuff — I know the actual Macbeth line is “Lay on, MacDuff,”(Act 5, Scene 8) meaning, roughly, “start the fight,” but “lead on” is just too common to not take advantage of.
From: A.Word.A.Day, with Anu Garg
** The Center for Learning (known among students as the “Fortress for Learning”) is practically the visual definition of a decorated shed…minus the decoration.
*** Re: “dead cat bounce” — also the name of a contra dance (a kind of energetic “called” couples folk dance, like a square dance). According to Kentucky contra dance enthusiast, Susan Vogt, “there’s a part in the dance where you go forward toward the people in the opposite line and push back on your partner’s hands like a bounce.”


I’m reaching out to all my churchified friends here to explain what kind of operation this is.

Ok, we know it’s a Methodist operation, presumably the first one, or at least the first united one. And, located as it is in a gentrified north-central Phoenix neighborhood (Central Ave & Bethany Home), it’s not like they’re some kind of wratched religious enterprise that can’t afford a proper sign. After all, they’ve got the unleavened dough for this imposing bell tower.

But the wording of the sign here has me ready to call out the Vicar-General of Grammar* for a ruling.

So is the place a sort of churchy church? Or do parishioners go to the “first church” at 9am and then do a sort of follow-up booster-shot service that’s just “church.” Frankly, we’re out of theories but before we throw ourselves at the mercy of the Judicial Council, perhaps some kindly blog follower can shed some holy light** on this.

* If it was a mosque, we’ll call for the chief grammarian, known as the Sharm El Sheikh, and if it was a temple, I believe the Rosh Meshuggana is the authority of choice.
** heiligenschein to you.
(We may have made up some of the stuff in the first footnote but the 2nd note is for-reals.)
All photos ©2018 by the author



Ask the Witch-Answer Guy

 A civil servant who wishes to remain anonymous has submitted the following question:


Q: How can I avoid a witch hunt?

A: Don’t have witches around.



Though a witchety bush might be OK

…or a rare Canadian blue witch

Witchety bush photo taken at Boyce Thompson Arboretum near the historic copper mining town of Superior, Ariz., 55 miles east of Phoenix.
Blue witch photo taken in Hamilton, Ontario.

Safeway vs Customers

My neighborhood Safeway recently did some remodeling.

Unfortunately, they apparently didn’t bother doing any customer consultations and, assuming they used a professional design firm for their new layout, the designers apparently didn’t do any customer focus groups either.

So what they did was re-do the entire store product layout which not only meant several weeks of construction nuisance for shoppers, but more importantly: none of us could find anything.

Yes, I’m sure we mostly eventually found our usual items but I’m guessing my own shopping expedition time increased by 25 percent…and that’s not for buying more things; that’s time wasted wandering up and down aisles to see where they’ve now got my frozen pretzels, hash browns—even orange juice (which took me literally 5 minutes to find and only because I interrupted a stockperson who was yakking on the phone.)

Frankly, I spent several weeks avoiding the Safeway in favor of my other venues: Trader Joe’s, Fry’s and the neighborhood WalMart food store (save your snarky comments for someone who cares).

Because: not only could I not find things, the Safeway design geniuses decided to hang aisle signs that can only be read from a very narrow angle. Thus, if you’re coming out of the coffee products aisle and turning your cart into the next aisle, it’s really really difficult to read the list on the board.

Other grocery venues have solved this by either having a triangular sign, readable from either side as you approach the aisle, or by having a straightforward outward-facing sign.

Now, I think I know what happened. They wanted to add some aisles (two, I’m told) and this caused them to have to narrow-down existing aisles. Maybe they figured the new narrow aisles required a narrower signage configuration. But they never field-tested this with customers.

The remodeling also involved massive relocation of nearly all the products. Bread, for example, moved completely across the store and OJ was moved from a back wall to an interior aisle. And god-only-knows where my hash browns are.

But Monopoly game adherents will be glad to know they can still waste their time endlessly pasting in those pointless tiles.

Deep State Wine

A new wine purveyor seems to have entered the oenology scene recently. We say “seems” since it’s not entirely clear what the provenance of this “purveyor” is. And by provenance we don’t just mean “where” but “who” and “what” as well. In fact, “purveyor” is as close as we can come to describing the nature of this super-secret organization.

[click on photo to view]

The wine itself is simply labeled “DSW”—if you can find the marking at all. (Hint: you have to hold the bottle up to a light source to see the subtle engraving in the bottle.) In fact, it took sources deep inside the industry who spoke on condition of anonymity to find out that this apparently stands for something called “Deep State Wineries.”

From what we can discern, no one knows precisely who these winemakers are or where their vineyards are located. Some say that the vineyards actually are moved around the globe, season by season, possibly perched in corner acres of otherwise respectable terroirs. For this reason, these sources have dubbed the shadowy vintners “wine terroiristes,” though it’s not clear if this is simply an insider joke.

All that seems to be known is that the group is some kind alphabet organization — CIA? FBI? NATO? UNICEF? — much like the name of the wine itself.

As to what’s in the wine, we can only go to “memos” from admittedly shady sources:

“If you’re looking for bright, fruity and approachable acidity…keep looking,” said one aficionado.

“Hints of tobacco and damp oak,” said another.

“Complete absence of mango, lemon, buttery almond and Fuji apple,” yet another shadowy figure said.

“Definitely not gluten-free. Indeed, it seems like the vignerons have gone out of their way to add extra gluten!”

The bottle is notoriously stingy with details. The label appears to have been redacted of any useful information and the initials DSW, as noted, are visible only when the bottle is held at a certain angle under a black light.

One oddity about the distribution: for some reason the product, while not readily available in general, is specifically not available within the boundaries of the District of Columbia. As a result, a lively black market has arisen in Alexandria, Arlington and Bethesda, along with the inner sanctum of Great Falls National Park.

One “Deep Stater” sums up the tasting profile thus:

“It has a foresty mouthfeel…but not that amusing golf-course-kick-your-ball-back-onto-the-fairway-type woods. No, this is more of a dusky, heavy-timber woodland terroir where large-footed creatures dare their prey to show themselves and would be happy to have your eyeballs for breakfast. Salut!

12 Days of Aggravation

Male Call}*

…in which the Male Call Advisory Board™ attempts to relieve some of your holiday season stress by declaring a moratorium on 12 Kinds of Aggravation. Presumably, the powers that be, who are known to be avid followers of Male Call (after a morning of CNN, Fox & Friends and Morning Joe), are paying heed.


All that many of us really want for the holiday gifting season is less aggravation. Here are a few empirical guidelines for you singletons.

  1.  No use of the word “gifting.”

Ok, but seriously…

  1. No matter how much holiday fun you’re having, don’t plan an extended vacation together until you’ve endured a road trip.

Picacho Peak — on the road from TUC to PHX

Oh, wait, you already made that mistake. Let’s start over:

  1. No matter what else you’ve done, you’re not a couple until you’ve taken a vexatious road trip together. (Over the river and through the woods to Granma’s does not count.)
  2. Men: In your dating profiles, stop writing what you think people want to hear and write about the true you. You know, like your alleged love of cuddling, chilling a Netflix night, and how laid-back and drama-free you are. The women see through this nettlesome subterfuge.
  3. Women: Stop fake-complimenting yourself: “My friends say I’m funny, adventurous, and look younger than my age.” In fact, leave all those tiresome adjectives out. If you’re funny…be. If you’re adventurous, describe an adventure. In short, use the screenwriter’s maxim: Show Don’t Tell.
  4. Men: You need to know that women are aggravated by your crappy-looking shoes…and apparently they especially hate the socks-with-sandals thing unless you’re a sand volleyball player. (Same goes for “flooders,” aka “high-water” pants).
  5. Women: Take it easy on the garish pink club-going outfits unless your name is Paris Hilton. Same with capris — the “soccer mom” of fashion — unless your name is Alessandra Ambrosio (However, the Male Call Advisory Board tells us there’s such a thing as a “cropped ankle pant” that isn’t too bad.)
  6. Everyone: You don’t get to tell everyone how fair or honest you are (“I guess I’m just too honest for my own good!”). Factitious.
  7. Men: Stop lying about your height. This is women’s number one peeve when they finally do meet you.
  8. Women: Stop posting pictures of your cat, dog or flowers as your Meetup profile pic. Exasperating.
  9. Oh, and stop no-showing at Meetup events: über-exasperating.
  10. And when you do have to cancel going to an event with your friends, you don’t need to add “You guys have fun!” Irksome. Just cancel the RSVP and go to the party you really wanted to in the first place.
  11. Everyone: Don’t give someone driving directions to your meeting place by referencing all the landmarks you and your bothersome besties are familiar with: “Take Via Linda to the Sprouts then turn left at Home Depot and keep going past Trader Joe’s. It’s next to the new Starbucks.” In Arizona, this is known as “Scottsdale navigation.”
  12. Advertisers: Give us all a break and retire the galling phrase “Give the gift of…” as in “the gift of Amazon Prime / adventure / a calmer mind / Master Class / productivity” etc. when you know it’s not a real gift category.










So there you are: Enough pointers for the 12 Days of Christmas, Hanukkah, Winter Solstice, Kwanzaa, Boxing Day and Festivus (for the rest of us) to get you through to National Fruitcake Toss Day (Jan. 3).

Originally published by the author in City Sun Times (an excellent metro Phoenix community newspaper), Dec. 4, 2017.
Picacho Peak photo (c) copyright 2012 by James Veihdeffer