Learning About Sign in Math Class

I knew a kid in high school that would pass the time by signing his name. Just writing autograph after autograph. He didn’t do it artistically or as vandalism. He just did it repeatedly. He’d sign a page in his notebook like 100 times. Sometimes, in math class, he’d show me the work he’d done. I’d nod my head and fake a look of interest—that look with raised eyebrows and a mouth halfway between a frown and a smile.

I never understood the obsession with signing his name. I was a lazy note taker, sure, but at least I paid some attention.

We were never really friends. We aren’t even friends on Facebook! He hasn’t crossed my mind since I graduated high school. I probably wouldn’t have thought of him and his autographing again. Then I had to go and make this:

Matt Aromando Entertainment System

I guess him and I aren’t so different after all.

Side note: I bought a Super Nintendo in the early 90’s with the money I made from my First Communion. I made that image after recently seeing a sticker on the wall of a bathroom in a bar. I went 20-ish years before realizing that Nintendo and Aromando are the same length and end with the same three letters.

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A Very Boston Conversation

Boston ConversationOne morning I walking to work from the subway in Boston’s Financial District. As I arrived at one particular intersection, I saw a lean business man who was wearing sunglasses and looked rather tense. He started crossing the street as a car made a slow creep through the traffic light (which I couldn’t tell the color of). The car, because it was driving through the cross walk, caused the man to scream, “I’m in the cross walk!” to the overeager driver.

A second, slightly older man who was walking behind the first man shook his head at the screaming guy and very passively and calmly said, “Shut the f*ck up, dude.”

I loved it. I get mad at cars when they cut me off in cross walks too but I don’t blow up with extreme, vein-popping, rage.

The response was good too. Someone who sees this kind of behavior all too often and gives a kind of defeated, “Shut the f*ck up.” He was so tired of saying the word “f*ck” already that day and it was only 9:00 AM! Then, to complete his exasperation, he used the word “dude!” Perfect.

How did this confrontation end? Everyone just kept on walking, no further discussion. Maybe this could have happened anywhere but my mind instantly went to, “Oh Boston, you’re so charming.” That delightful amount of bitterness that makes people feel alive.

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The mother who’s never met a child before


photo credit: Susan NYC via photopin cc

I’m walking into the subway station near my apartment, a reasonably rural part of Brooklyn at an off-hour for traveling into Manhattan (which exists from time to time during the week). I see a women standing in the turnstile, moving at a curiously slow pace through it. After a second or two, I see a three or four-year-old boy pop out from under the turnstile. She was helping him walk through it together.

After going through the turnstile, there is a staircase to go down to the train platform. The little boy runs to the top of the stairs and stops. He grabs the railing to wait for his mom, like he just did with the turnstile, or to possibly go down the stairs that way that toddlers do: one step at a time, cautiously.

The mother sees her train—a shuttle train that is known for coming frequently and waiting at the station a long time for passengers—on the platform. This causes the mother to run down the stairs swiftly past her son. She turns around to say, “No, I’m not picking you up,” like he can run down the stairs. Like it was his fault for being so slow. As if his response was going to be, “Sorry mother, I’ll quit dilly-dallying.”

Instead, the little boy plants his feet at the top of the stairs and begins to cry, as children do. She has to take a walk of shame past me to go back to the top of the stairs and pick him up. I’m not a parent, I don’t even have a pet, but this has nothing to do with how to raise a kid. I’ve just seen and been a child myself.

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Nerdy Currency

Videogame  GoldAn amazing number of people look at me and correctly guess that I, “do something with computers.” That seems like a broad concept—most people “do something” with computers—but I know that they mean. It’s that I either work in IT or that I’m a programmer. So, I can’t really pretend I don’t seem nerdy but I really don’t think of myself that way…usually.

Then I remember that I think of video games as a denomination of money.

For most of my purchase-making life, I remember video games costing around $50 dollars.* Now they are generally closer to $60 but my memories are too ingrained to change now. So when the price of $50 comes up in my life, I think of that as the cost of one video game. Any multiples of $50, I think of the number of video games that could buy me. When any thing is about the Benjamins, it’s about how many pairs of video games that could buy me.

I think this is because for most of my purchase-making youth, video games were consistently the most expensive things I would buy. Or maybe it’s because they would manufacture gold cartridges (the basis for that image above) for games in the Legend of Zelda series and it confused my childhood sense of what money is. Either way, I’m not about to let go of this.

*With the noteworthy exception being Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire for Nintendo 64. I remember seeing it on sale for $95. Ninety-five dollars—in 1996—a price that is still insane by today’s standards.

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Mashups, for words!

photo credit: Curtis Gregory Perry via photopin cc

The sign for a motor hotel.
photo credit: Curtis Gregory Perry via photopin cc

Lately, I’ve been obsessed with the concept of a portmanteau—cramming two words into one word, like “breakfast” and “lunch” forming “brunch.” It’s one of those terms I’ve heard from time to time but always forgot the name of. Well, no more! I can’t stop thinking about them now.

Since I’ve started noticing portmanteaus, I keep finding them. Like, did you know Godzilla is a portmanteau, too? According to Wikipedia, “Gojira is a portmanteau of the Japanese words: gorira (“gorilla”), and kujira (“whale”).” Mental Floss informed me the other day that the candy Toblerone is a combination Tobler (the person who invented its last name) and “torrone,” meaning nougat in Italian.

Really though, to keep me from forgetting what a portmanteau is again, I needed a big, silly, funny portmanteau to make me remember it forever. Just in time for election season to be over, I present that Gerrymandering—the practice of adjusting the borders around voting districts to gain a political edge—is a portmanteau of the words “Gerry” and “salamander!” That’s because the first guy recognized for this act of politics was named Gerry and one of the voting districts he created looked like a salamander. We say “spork” instead of “combination of spoon and fork” and we say “Gerrymandering” instead of “Gerry’s Salamander.” I can’t forget that!

Oh, also, Gerrymandering is a big problem facing democracy in America.

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Do you know of any interesting or surprising portmanteaus?Twitter #portmanteau