Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Klingon for Social Occasions

Being a fan of CBS's Big Bang Theory, I wasn't exactly surprised that this week's episode opened with the characters speaking Klingon.  But I laughed anyway.  The fact that a fictional language -- or maybe it's a real language created to flesh out fictional characters -- remains such a fixture of popular culture is funny in itself. And that was the inspiration for a column I wrote about ten years ago for Howdy, then the humor section on AOL.  In celebration of the wonderful, unrepentant geekiness the interest in Klingon represents,  I thought I'd take this occasion to resurrect that column here.



Admit it. You've always wanted to attend a Star Trek convention. But you're afraid you just wouldn't fit in. Sure, you're a fan, and you watched all the various episodes. But you don't have a Starfleet uniform, and you can't do that split-finger Vulcan salute. Somehow, you feel that you just don't measure up to the dedicated Trekkers, the ones that know the names of every female character who has ever locked lips with James Tiberius Kirk. Well, have no fear.

The Klingon language is a very hot topic among trekkers. If you take a moment to learn a few simple phrases of conversational Klingon, you'll be rubbing appendages with pointy-eared, exotically-garbed Trek-heads faster than you can say "Live Long and Prosper." Learning the following phrases will take a little practice. Just remember that the key to proper Klingon pronunciation is to pretend that you are walking barefoot on broken glass while trying to cough up a hairball.

Here's your lesson:

"h'Yarg! b'Nok ----- . mM'i d'weebik duRg"
Translation: "Hi! My name is _____. I'm 45 and I live with my mother."

"y'hHah! g'uTza oRomol'a zaSla ak'chEz s'Umuj aPnat!"
Translation: "Whew! Those Romulan burritos are murder! Sorry about the wallpaper!"

"w'ikkEe mukO i'gboy wOoo tookIe'ookie mAa'gne!"
Translation: "Picard might be smarter, but Kirk gets all the chicks."

"oO'eE Oo AhHa wAllaH bIng b'Ang!"
Translation: "Hey, baby, I've got my phaser set on 'love'."

"yAkY blEicka Ima w'oo bAgg'ag G'er!" Translation: "No , this isn't Klingon make-up!"

"hIya ffutS oStsa Ah'ma gG'ahna aMah'Ahnklas!"
Translation: "Hey, watch this, I can do the Vulcan nerve pinch on myself!"

"dAfeIg haArdfi nUmoite pOtue vilGuNe zlIfgna blAdrfo."
Translation: "I'd like to see Patrick Stewart in one of Shatner's wigs."

"uiHo VaZieg yOnbi gdIlrg mUflit gUgh!"
Translation: "Something about bony ridges on a woman's forehead gets me all squishy."

"gIcola uhTifoy mlEgthi fhUtomu varfGiO!"
Translation: "I got your logic, pal. RIGHT HERE!"

"g'Hak! g'Hak! g'Hak! g'Hak!"
Translation: "I'm not talking, I'm choking! Quick! Someone Heimlich me!"

Now, that wasn't so hard, was it? Practice a few minutes every day. Eventually, your larynx will stop bleeding and your throat will develop the thick scar tissue necessary for that authentic Klingon accent. Then, when the next Trek convention comes to town, lay in a course and....Engage!


Wednesday, November 05, 2008

My Election Night

I voted by absentee ballot a couple of weeks ago because I had to be in Denver for a technology conference on election day. 

Given the reported voter registration issues -- real and contrived -- and the way things played out for the last couple of presidential elections, I assumed it would take several days before we'd know the real winner.

So I was completely surprised when I returned from dinner with a colleague to find the bar in the lobby of my hotel crowded and very noisy. People were cheering, and my first thought was that they were watching some sort of sporting event. But then I noticed that the TVs were tuned to CNN, and that the text along the bottom the screens proclaimed Obama the next president.

The people in the bar were grinning and laughing and generally behaving as if their team has just won the Super Bowl.  I ordered a drink, sipped it a bit while watching the action on the tube, and then headed to my room.

I called my wife, and together -- though some 2000 miles apart -- we watched John McCain's moving and gracious and classy concession speech, and then watched Obama's even more moving and incredibly powerful acceptance speech.  It was an inescapably emotional moment.  The sense of change was -- and still is -- tangible.

Maybe I'm a sentimental, overly optimistic old fart. Maybe not.

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Monday, September 15, 2008

Storm Damage 9/14/08

Storm Damage
Originally uploaded by Bob Rhubart
About an hour after my daughter called from Columbus to report that a wild wind storm was uprooting trees all over her neighborhood, the same thing began to happen in Bay Village. It wasn't long before my wife and I heard a huge thump that shook the house. The limb in the photo was the source of that thump. I now have a hole in my roof, crushed gutters, big cracks in interior walls, and probably other relatively minor structural damage. Waiting on the tree service now to remove the culprit.

This is the kind of thing that makes apartment living look very good.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Gas prices, shrapnel, toxic fumes, and a beautiful lawn

In The Plus Side of High Gas Prices, Joseph over at Plunderbund writes:

Yes, gas prices are much higher than they used to be.

And yes, the cost of fuel is impacting the cost of groceries and everything else we buy.

But maybe the news isn’t all that bad.

Joseph cites increases in the use of public transportation and the use of bicycles as benefits. Those are very good things, indeed, but while we're at it, isn't it about time we got rid of gasoline-powered lawn mowers?

I realize that some people are going to react to that idea the same way others react to even the hint a threat to their Second Amendment rights. But come on, we're talking about lawn care, not personal security. And really, isn't using a gasoline-powered mower to cut grass a bit like using an inverted helicopter to trim your hedges? What's next, using  a small nuclear reactor to toast bread?

You can buy area rugs larger than most of the lawns on my street here in Bay Village, yet some of my neighbors have what are the lawn mower equivalent of NASCAR racers. A blade of grass is such a tender thing. Even multiplied by a factor of millions, is all that horsepower necessary?

I bought an electric mower many years ago when my gas mower finally died. Now that my electric mower is getting tired, I've been using an old push mower. Doing the lawn manually takes a lot less time than with the electric, mainly because I don't have to drag a hundred-foot extension cord around. And pushing the manual mower around takes only marginally more physical effort. I mean, you have to push something -- at least until someone invents a solar-powered lawn Roomba

Admittedly, the quality of the cut from the push mower isn't up to power mower standards, but that's probably because I haven't had my mower sharpened since I bought it, which has to be about ten years ago. But still, is it worth $4 a gallon for precision lawn grooming? Are we that anal?

There are other very real benefits to consider in dumping power mowers. As reported in Consumer Affairs, a study by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that nearly 80,000 Americans are treated every year for lawn mower-related injuries. The most common of these are caused be debris sent flying by the mower blades.

On the environmental front, People Powered Machines cites an EPA statistic that gas mowers cause 5% of US air pollution. 

In light of these statistics, you have to wonder why we're so devoted to spending Saturday mornings traversing our lawns behind a convenience that has proven its efficiency at spewing shrapnel and dangerous fumes and increasing the population of the nation's emergency rooms.

And let's not even get into the question of why we have lawns in the first place...

Elderly Brothers at Wilberts, 5/29/08

Towel, please, and keep the beer coming.Cleveland faux-folkers The Elderly Brothers  will open the CD release party for the Troubadours of Divine Bliss this Thursday at Wilberts in downtown Cleveland.

I have a limited number of free tickets for this event. Ping me on Twitter.


Sunday, May 25, 2008

35 and Counting

Bob and Kathy Rhubart 1972 This past weekend Kathy and I celebrated our 35th anniversary with a great dinner at Momocho, where we learned halfway through the excellent meal that our very gracious and affable waiter was owner/chef Eric Williams.  This was our first visit to Momocho, but we promised Eric that we wouldn't wait until #36 to return.

Last year at this time I posted exactly the same photo you see here, but we look so damned cute and so disgustingly young that I figure it's worth a reprise.  That's a guitar case on the floor. Nearly forty years later I still have that guitar, plus two amazing daughters, two equally amazing granddaughters,  and, knock wood, a damned good life. I owe pretty much all of that to my Chippewa goddess. Thanks, Kathy.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Not so lost in translation

Among the spam in my inbox this morning, I found this:

From: "bio

Subject: "Increase your copulation organ"

Message body:

"Extend your rocket with loads of inches running on the chief therapy. Go instantaneously to and penetrate the praiseworthy therapy on the market."

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

A sure sign of Spring

Solar Ferris Wheel
Originally uploaded by Bob Rhubart
The object in this photo is a little solar-powered Ferris wheel, maybe a foot tall. It came into my possession a couple of years ago in one of those weird, overly complex office Christmas gift exchange rituals. There is an electrical cord, but I've never plugged it in.

Though I don't remember how it ended up this way, exactly, the Ferris wheel is positioned in my office window so that at pretty much the same point each Spring, the morning sun hits the little solar panel (the rectangular gizmo on the right side of the base) at just the right angle to produce enough juice to turn the wheel. The little solar panel faces east-southeast. The Ferris wheel started turning last Thursday, which, as it happens, was the first day of spring 2008.

If no clouds block the sun, the wheel will turn until about 10am every morning, until sometime late in the summer when the sun's trajectory changes. Then the wheel goes to sleep until the next spring.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Life in the City with the Hole in the Middle

Some days are just weird.

This morning, driving up W.139th toward the Triskett Rapid Station, I saw a person back out of his/her driveway directly into a parked car. The person paused for a moment, then drove off.

At the station, the train, once again, was late. When it finally arrived there were few seats left. As I took up a position in the aisle, I watched as a women quietly but firmly said "excuse me" to a young guy, maybe seventeen or eighteen, who was slouched completely across one of the seats.

He looked at her blankly.

She asked him to make room to allow her to sit.

Still the stare from the kid, now with an obvious touch of who-the-hell-are-you defiance.

The woman repeated her request, a little more forcefully, and when the kid did absolutely nothing, she wedged herself into the seat, kind of hip-checking the kid so he had to make room.

Looking into his eyes, she remarked on the kid's lack of manners. He just pulled his hoodie over his face and went back to slouching, occasionally laughing and making snide remarks to no one.

The woman, bless her, never backed down. I wouldn't want her angry with me.

This afternoon, I went down to the newstand in the Penton Bldg to get a Diet Coke. The very nice lady who cashiers there was obviously upset about something, nearly in tears. When asked, she mentioned that someone had stolen the money out of a jar on the counter that she was using to collect donations for some sort of charity. All I could do was shake my head in disgust.

"It's an ugly world," I said.

"And it's gettin' worse," one of the other customers said.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Because we need something to look forward to

Cleveland Lakefront

Looking north from the 16th floor of the Penton Media Building in downtown Cleveland, Ohio, on a gorgeous July day. Note the sunlight and the green things and the absence of ice on Lake Erie

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Wind Ate My Hat -- and other tales of Winter Misery

This morning, after taking about 20 paces out of the unfortunately named Terminal Tower, one of those  75 mph gusts of wind that are all too familiar to those who work in downtown Cleveland (The City with the Hole in the Middle) blew my favorite baseball cap to its new home in a distant galaxy.

The week started off on a sour note anyway.

On Monday I drove, as usual, to Triskett Station to take the train into the city. That plan was shot to hell because North America's Best Public Transportation System didn't send any plows to clear the parking lot until 8am.  There was no place to park, so I drove to work.

On Tuesday, the Triskett Station parking lot had been plowed, but that left every section of the parking lot ringed by mini-Himalayas of plowed snow.  There was no direct route to get from my parking space to the station entrance that didn't require ropes, pitons, and Sherpas. Which reminds me -- I have to call the folks at Base Camp to let them know I'm ok.

The situation downtown isn't much different, and the Giant Hole in Public Square only adds to the aggravation, because I can no longer take the diagonal route across the Square, past Key Tower, and the across the Mall to get to the Penton Bldg.  It'll take months to fill the hole, and then an extra six weeks just to clear away the yellow tape that is wrapped around everything.

Have I mentioned that I'm tired of winter?


Tuesday, March 04, 2008

I got my sticker

I voted at 7:30 this morning at the Dwyer Senior Center in Bay Village.  No line, no waiting at all.  The low-tech, pen-and-paper approach was a bit of a surprise, but the learning curve was not an issue.

Afterward, a very cold, uncomfortable young man in the parking lot asked me to sign a petition to allow casino gambling in Ohio.  I like casinos.  I told him where he could find coffee.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Not all that nasty

Another ominous drive-time forecast this morning:

Nasty morning commute (again) - Weather: Cleveland weather forecast, news, video and more: "The Winter Storm Warning is still in effect for Northeast Ohio. Read the Winter Storm Warning report here. The roads are still slick in places, likely enough to cause some accidents around the area. Check out our traffic page for incidents on your route. and get road reports from The Plain Dealer here."
But the rotten weather has had an interesting side-effect.

Each weekday morning I drive from my home in Bay Village to the Triskett RTA station, where I take the train into Tower City. Over the last two mornings I've noticed a dramatic decrease in the traffic on I-90 west -- at least between Columbia Rd. and the West 150th exit -- and a marked increase in the number of cars in the Triskett parking lot, and a corresponding increase in riders on the Rapid.

Smart people. Maybe their interest in avoiding a hazardous commute will carry over to a more permanent use of the Rapid Transit system -- even when the weather improves.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

The Primaries, Hillary, and Change

Just now, while listening to the BBC Newshour on Sirius, a reporter covering the New Hampshire primary asked a man-on-the-street why he was voting for Hillary Clinton. His reply:

"Hillary can make change, and she has the track record to prove it."

Can she break a twenty?