405. Static Electricity Explained

Image result for static electricity imagesEveryone has pulled off a sweater on a dry winter night and seen tiny greenish yellow sparks fly. Do not worry, kids. It’s harmless static electricity jumping about from one fabric to the other. This results from the imbalance of positive and negative atomic charges. Let me explain for the layman reader:

if a proton goes shopping and runs up his Visa card balance on a bunch of electronics, like a big screen t.v. and a new cell phone, when the bill comes in the mail, his neutron partner will explode all over him for his ridiculous irresponsibility and selfishness. Image result for man in an electronics store

She will defend the integrity of the atom to the fissionable end, even threatening to take the baby electrons with her in a nasty divorce if her protean husband does not take all that crap back to Best Buy right now. Now, the proton, being maleish, refuses to repent and return his new toys. He cites the literature about imminent domain, the 14th amendment, and male authoritarian leadership of the family dynasty. He pouts and says things that make no sense, simply fueling the neutron to further rain down sulfuric hell fire balls on him.

Image result for pouty faced peyton manning imagesRest assured, kids, sparks not only fly in the atomic marital gaps (like a huge welding shop on a federal contract.Pow!!) but it can become an electrical storm of a fireworks finale on the 4th of July. Frighteningly Frilling.

Each illuminated static electric pinprick is actually an electronic syllable as the proton is beaten down by the neutron at a rate of 18 to 1, roughly the exchange rate between the Honduran Lempira and the U.S. dollar. Whoops! in the time it took to Google that fact, the rate jumped to 23 to 1. It’s not a fair match, mind you. No, more like a mugging by Muhammad Ali versus the pre-sparkle gloved Michael Jackson.

Image result for muhammad ali and michael jackson picture togetherNow I know it’s not right to mix metaphors and use entangled analogies, but that’s where the fun is, Momma. If you stay on the beaten path, sure, people get your message in a safe, efficient manner; however, if you run through the brambles, you get all cut up and might find some fresh raspberries while the path plodders apply layers of Deep Woods Off. As you forge a new path, the safe ones roll on in their antiseptic hamster ball of protection. I don’t know what that means, but I like how it sounds. However, at some core planet in your inner universe also coexists a form of static– the pops and sizzles of different synapses pounding out novel neural pathways, i.e., the static in the attic.

Image result for man and woman arguing pictureBack to the other static. In the real world mental static can build up inside the brains of arguing marital partners. When really it’s just an imbalance of positive and negative atomic charges. Take the husband, for example. No, put him back. The husband may make some innocuous comment about the price of milk, for instance. Only to be met by a flurry of leading questions from the wife. “What do you know about food prices? When was the last time you went shopping. You don’t even drink milk. Why don’t you drink more water? Do you want to die of dehydration and leave me a young but unmarriageable widow?”

Image result for picture of man drinking waterWhat do you do with that?  First, take a long, slow drink of water. Then deconstruct the mosquito swarm of interrogation with a cleverly relevant compliment. “Honey, you’d be more marriageable than Elizabeth Taylor if I should die of my stupid lack of hydration because I know nothing about shopping or milk. I am not worthy of your tender concern.”

Well, that’s unlikely to be uttered. But, if like a neutral cotton shirt grounds a charged polyester sweater in 8% relative humidity, the clever husband did utter such balderdash and calmed his long suffering wife, this would be an example of harmless grounding of static. Perhaps there would be a slight zap when either party reached for a bedroom doorknob, but that’s a better outcome than the nuclear option.

You see there are actually at least two forces that hold together neutrons and protons in atoms. I don’t expect you to believe me. I don’t believe myself, so I Googled again.

Opposites attract, likes repelAs my chart makes clear, a proton and an electron will attract each other. The closer they are together, the stronger this attraction will be. Two protons (or two electrons) will repel each other. And again, the closer together they are, the stronger the repulsion. Now the nucleus of an atom is positively charged, while electrons are negatively charged. As a result, a nucleus will attract electrons. These electrons will swarm around the nucleus, and the result is an atom.

Image result for nuclear fission imagesHopefully by now it is becoming clear to the reader that men tend to run away from the nucleus while women hold it together with overwhelming nuclear energy known by physicists as quarky charm. The trick involves how many electrons (children) a couple has between them. Studies show that if a man has more than ten children with a neutron partner, he is just too tired to leave. He cannot break through the static bond created by ten kids swirling all around day and night. He’s gonna be exhausted by brunch. The negative charge of the children cancels the positive charge of the proton dad, thus defaulting to the core nucleus being run by the supercharged neutron mom.

And that’s static electricity. Next time I will explain gravity. Till then, I’m goin’ to Jackson…

We got married in a fever, hotter than a pepper sprout,
We’ve been talkin’ ’bout Jackson, ever since the fire went out.
I’m goin’ to Jackson, I’m gonna mess around,
Yeah, I’m goin’ to Jackson,
Look out Jackson town.

But they’ll laugh at you in Jackson, and I’ll be dancin’ on a Pony Keg.
They’ll lead you ’round town like a scalded hound,
With your tail tucked between your legs,
Yeah, go to Jackson, you big-talkin’ man.
And I’ll be waitin’ in Jackson, behind my Jaypan Fan,

289. Something/ Nothing?


I liked Todd Rundgren’s music in the 1970’s. His double album Something/Anything (1972) was pleasant enough as I recall. Not groundbreaking or toothchipping… just enough of something salty and sweet together, like tortilla chips and chewy caramels for my ears to chomp.  He played all the instruments and sang all the tracks, which is pretty impressive, I think. I recall a review in the Washington Post that called him the clown prince of rock n roll. I guess that was accurate. He made some money along the way and did a good bit of successful producing. So I suppose he knew a thing or two. I mention him as a surveyor’s reference point in time and culture that I am racing away from.

I saw him at the Kennedy Center in 1973, I think, with his Nirvana band. (No, not that Nirvana band! Duh!! They were still in elementary school then.) I wore gold glitter across my metrosexual collarbone and sprinkled more on the tops of my literally blue suede Converse sneakers. And, yes, filthy ones, I wore other clothes. [Strike that last image from the record, your Honor.] It was a fashion statement I will never need to restate, unless it would get me out of prison early. Get this: during the show some joint burning pothead (not the Burrito Manchild ) was being escorted from his seat by security when Rundgren stopped the show and told the wannabe cops to leave the guy alone. Strangely enough, they complied. Who knew that celebrities on stage commanded civic authority? Keep in mind that Richard Nixon was in the White House, and at the Opera House next to our auditorium, Washington’s finest sashayed in the great hall under JFK’s bronze bust while the other glitterati pranced about during a shared intermission. Someone should have lost his scheduling job for that faux pas. When hauled before the review board the next day, in response to the question, “What were you smoking?”, Ted the scheduling director pleaded simply, “something, anything”. “Shoot him!”

Bust of JFK in the lobby of the Kennedy Center

Fasten your seat belts as I whip the narrative violently away from this scene. The other day I believe a musical person by profession at my Sunday School table told her husband that he should never agree with me or say “Right” if I just said “Right” or “Never” if I just said “Never”.  Okay, hurt me. I believe it was a case of Something/Nothing. Robert was confused.

“Can I say ‘Right’ when you say ‘Right’, Dear?”

“Yes, but not when he says it. Okay?”


I whispered, “Right on, Robert. Right now. You’re righteous. Right?”

He looked at me like I had an ice cream cone on a hot summer day… and he didn’t. “Oh no you don’t, Buddy. Not a single lick.”

“Ri…. ri…ri…”


Crackamundo, he heeled.

I get a good bit of this reaction from others. I must provoke a certain socially acceptable disdain in folks who feel familiar and comfortable enough to mildly insult me. They tell me I bring it on myself and I can’t disagree. I think it is a pheromone that I emit.

The other night after our ballroom dance class a bunch of us went to a local restaurant and had a drink and an appetizer. I sat across from my lovely bride who sat next to Don the dancing dentist. Within a short period of time Don felt familiar and comfortable enough to drill and fill me. He asked my wife where our daughter got her musical ability. My wife said something like ‘Well, I took piano and guitar lessons, but my husband did not. His family didn’t do much with him.’ To which Don replied something like ‘So you contributed something and your husband contributed nothing’ or something like that.  To which I complained, “Don, don’t you even use novacaine before you stick a knife in a man’s gums?”

We chuckled nervously. I wanted him to think that I am a dangerous ex-con with a hair trigger temper and pistol under the tabletop. At least I wanted to think that he thinks I’m  more dangerous than an ex-hairdresser with a sparky blow dryer in hand. I am no marshmallow, Dude! The bullseye on my back is an unfortunate birthmark not an invitation. But alas! It’s a target for the disenfranchised to franchise like a McDonald’s. (If  you have any ideas what that last sentence means, would you please personal message me? I’d really like to know.)

So, the theme, the overarching theme that I must support with related drivel… hmmm. I seem to have lost it along the way. This is of no concern to me since I don’t usually follow the rules of proper writing. I just accelerate to maintain control. I first over heard this statement in a small English pub outside of Bury St. Edmunds, East Anglia in 1973 or so. Some American military guys were talking quite loudly as they sucked down pints of ale. One guy was reviewing driving training he’d received State side. He was yakking about driving through a culvert when he blurted, “I accelerated to maintain control”, as if that were the punch line to an extended joke. I was seventeen and alone. I wound up chatting with one of the military dudes. He was righteous and much smarter than I was. He told me of the vast peacekeeping mission of the military, how they were agents of peace. I did not believe him, still don’t. However, I had a copy of a science fiction book that a former classmate claimed to have written. Wilbur even autographed it for my girlfriend’s gift.  This military guy clarified that the Great and Powerful Wilbur was lying, which was true, of course, but it wasn’t nearly as cool a story as having gone to school with a famous science fiction author. Just another something/anything that turned into nothing. Why do folks insist on the truth when a faint gauzy blur will do just as well? We know Bigfoot doesn’t exist, but why crush us?

“Hello, it’s me
I’ve thought about us for a long, long time
Maybe I think too much but something’s wrong
There’s something here that doesn’t last too long
Maybe I shouldn’t think of you as mine”
Something cannot come from nothing. Right?
“I’ll have an Anything with a twist of lime.”
Oh where is Todd Rundgren when you need him?

178. Tangled words, wires and narratives

In my line of work I hear a lot of stories, so many that it’s easy for wires to get crossed and confabulations to occur. It’s as simple as confusing song lyrics when our order-seeking brains close loose data points into coherent narratives. For years I thought the chorus to John Lennon’s “Across the Universe” was “Jack-a-roo Day Ohhhhmmm”, and referred to a little boy version of John Lennon day dreaming. Wrong! The lyrics are “Jai Guru Deva Om”, a meditation mantra of sorts. According to a reproachable source I found on-line–

So all together it means, “I give thanks (victory) (salutation) to Guru Dev (or heavenly teacher), om”.

Well that’s a different twist to the same sounds I heard. Despite my forced framing of the lyrics, I could not redefine them. It reminds me of our Japanese exchange student Yushi and his lovable language concoctions. My daughter Grace came home from high school in 2005 talking about this exchange student who was like a lost puppy, who was living with a retired dentist, and could we keep him? We had a spare room since Erin was in college. We met Yush and found him to be very much like an exotic lost puppy. We accepted the challenge. Yush’s English was spotty at best. His most common expression, uttered after a fruitless search for English words, was “Sumsing”, accompanied by a nasal laugh over a wide helpless grin. Even now, years later, when there is a quiet moment in our family, and someone asks another, “What are you thinking?”, it’s not unusual to hear the reply, “Sumsing”. Followed, of course with a snorty purse dog laugh.

He loved sports greatly but did little academically. He and I played basketball and chess; we watched a lot of sports on television. And we went paintballing once then to an Orioles/Red Sox game in the spring of 2006. Yush was a character in his own way. One night as we sat down to dinner of chicken, green beans and rice, Yush looked to me and said, “Missa Hahny, you got riscence?”

I was perplexed but began using context clues to complete the pattern.

“Do you mean rice, Yush? Would you like some more rice?”

“No, riscence. You got riscence?”

“I’m not following you, Yush. Are you asking about a special rice with incense? Like an aromatic basmati rice?”

“No, no. When you do counseling, you got a ricense then?”

“Ohhhhh, you mean LICENSE. Yes, Jackaroo, I have a license.”

It must have been around New Year’s when this conversation took place. I told my friend Dave about it. The next weekend when all of us went to visit him and his family over the holidays, he had a welcoming sign on his front door that said,


As I said earlier, Yush and I played a lot of chess. One day he moved all his pieces directly in front of my pieces so that no movement was possible. He said, “I win.” Sometimes he’d stack the pieces, putting a pawn on top of a rook and declaring it a queen. It didn’t help his game. He lost a lot of chess games that year. Meanwhile we watched playoff NFL football games. One Monday on the way to school, he asked me, “Missa Hahny, why blacks always win?” Once again I put his words into a previous context. I thought about the games we had watched the day before and pondered a nonracist answer that made sense. “Well, Yush, there are Black players on both teams, so Blacks will always win.”

He smiled at me and what I thought was a nice politically correct answer.
“No, I mean in chess. Why blacks always win?”

That’s when I realized he was jerking my chain. “You little crustacean. Because I always play black. That’s why.”

Image result for highway sign bridge freezes first pictureYush laughed his little chihuahua dog nasal laugh at me. Like the 90 degree day in May when we were driving to a picnic for the exchange students. We crossed a bridge that had a sign posted: “Caution, bridge freezes first”. He turned to me and asked, “Missa Hahny, you sink bridge will be freezed?”

Yush joined the tennis team at school, but he often forgot to stay for practice. If he remembered to bring his racket, he forgot practice. If he had his racket and remembered he had an away match, he missed the bus. The only proof I had that he actually did sumsing with the racket was he sporadically hit balls against our two garage doors. Thump, thump, thump, while our border collie Nick retrieved any misses. Then it was ON, because Nick would not easily release the retrieved tennis ball unslobbered. But I think that dogs speak all languages, and he and Yush communicated better than any persons did.Image result for border collie with tennis ball pictures

Yush loved eel. We went to a Japanese restaurant in a nearby larger town and that was his first choice. His smile and eyes and sighs of comfort all matched up that night. It was home cooking, baby. I’m afraid that many nights there was loneliness and feeling “otherly”. He liked our dog Nick and the t.v. character Mr. Bean, neither of whom said much. Oh Yushi! I think he was a lost puppy in Tokyo too. His lack of work ethic frustrated his successful father who told me I should be glad I had daughters and not sons to raise. Years later in a Christmas card Yush asked, “Why am I still small? I have no girlfriend” as if I could answer that question and state of being. My best answer is “Sumsing”…Chihuahua, huahua, huh, huh, huh.

Image result for multicolored beaded necklace picturesConnecting the dots is how we make meaning out of disparate details, dots, words, symptoms, signs, etc. We pull the thread of coherence through these bouncy beads in an attempt to make patterns, units of order, and ultimately a slice of reality that fits the larger pie of reality we already know. We often get it wrong, isn’t that right Yush?