Ahead of the Service Call


My car is just short of 90,000 miles, which is kind of amazing when you consider I work from home anymore. Now I have to work out the important questions: can I get it serviced before the trip to Cedar Point amusement park we’re figuring to take this weekend? And: can I get the interior vacuumed out so the car repair people don’t see how often I’ve clawed bits of fingernails off and left them to fall onto the floor? They’re my fingernails, yes, but I know if I were servicing someone’s 2009 Scion tC I wouldn’t want to run across torn-off fingernails. Also given that we’ve got like fourteen perfectly good nail clippers in the house why don’t I use those? I bet it’s because when I’m at home I almost never get stuck at an excessively long stop light and have the time to maul my own fingers.

I already worry enough about being judged by people I see as much as three times per year, I don’t need to worry about this on top of it. I wonder if I should mention the fingernail anxiety when they ask me to review the servicing.

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In Which I Review The Only Thing I Get At Best Buy Anymore


All right, fine, Best Buy, I’ll review my stupid purchase already.

Ahem. I purchased recently a 30-pin-USB-to-lightning adapter. When I examined it in the store it appeared to be a thing which existed, possessing definite properties of mass and length and ability to adapt. When taken out of the store it continued to exhibit these properties to the best of my ability to determine. When opened up and put into service in my car the adapting properties came to the fore. The fore was not included in the purchase, but I was aware of that fact and did not expect it to be. It did not affect my decision to purchase this product.

This was not my first attempt at buying an adapter. The first one ended in a sad failure. That, too, was from Best Buy but I do not fault the store. I fault my sister. She recommended I buy one of those stiff, thick, Otter cases for my iPod when I finally got one ten years after everybody in the world got one. I like the case. It feels nice and secure. But it’s also big. I suppose my sister got it because in her line of work she’s liable to drop her iPhone from atop a horse, who will then kick the phone a couple times, and maybe bite her for good measure. She trains horses and horse-riders, so this is a normal hazard. It’s not as though she has a job at the indie video store still open in town that somehow keeps going awry. The shop has a canter-up window for horse riders, and she doesn’t have a job there anyway.

I know, tender Best Buy review reader, you might wonder at cantering up to a video shop window. Sure, cantering horses can achieve speeds of 16 or even 27 miles per hour, according to the lead paragraph on Wikipedia that I get by typing ‘canter’ in to DuckDuckGo because yes I’m that guy. But if you’re picking up a copy of, say, George Lucas’s computer-animated thing with the fairy opossums or something that kind of got released a couple years back? Strange Magic or something? Well, you need to do something to spruce that up. Lobbing it toward you at speed is just the trick.

So the Otter case is maybe too much case for my iPod. I don’t work with horses and I sidle casually away even from photographs of them. My electronics just have to survive my forgetting I left them in the dining room, to emotional distress that a thick rubber casing actually kind of helps with. I guess it feels like being hugged.

The case is pretty thick and the first adapter I got was a stubby little thing that couldn’t reach the plug unless I took the Otter case off. The case can be easily removed by chisel and dynamite, I assume. I haven’t got the trick myself. But I had to return the adapter, which your computers with their transaction records know full well. See my review of that, titled, “adapter didn’t fit my iPod’s case”, 450 crafted words about my two minutes of ownership of the thing.

Anyway, I needed an adapter that fit the adapter my car already head. For whatever reason my 2009-model car was “iPod ready” with a plug that wasn’t actually USB or any plug known to humanity. But it had an adapter to go from its plug to 30-pin USB that I lost almost right after I bought the car. It would become one of my Brigadoon possessions, appearing for scant moments and vanishing again. But one time I caught it and plugged it in to the car and it stayed there. I might have used my car-to-30-pin and got a 30-pin-USB to Normal USB adapter, and then got a Normal USB adapter-to-Lightning adapter. We throw the word “Frankensteinian” around a lot but this is the time to.

When I learned there was an adapter with a smaller plug that would be more likely to fit my Otter case I was happy. Not so happy as, say, when Nelson Mandela was released from prison. Closer to how happy I am when it turns out a McDonalds I stopped in has all their Chicken McNugget sauces in pump dispensers so I could put sweet chili sauce on my fries.

If I find anything unsatisfactory it is that when I plug in my iPod the system ignores my podcasts and opens up the music player. It’ll play the first song in alphabetical order that I have, and it’ll ignore all directions. So starting the car will include a moment when I hurl myself at the iPod trying without success to The Electric Prunes’ version of About A Quarter To Nine. This is me overreacting. I mean, I bought the Electric Prunes record of my own free will. But if it weren’t for that then the iPod would play Sparks’s Academy Award Performance. Anyway, I don’t know if the problem is this adapter, the other adapter, the car, or just the iPod being difficult because it has to deal with iTunes all day long.

In short, this adapter is a thing which exists, and which possesses definite properties of mass and length and ability to adapt. We should all be so fortunate.

Robert Benchley: Confessions Of A Chess Champion


It’s always fun to read a review of a book that amused someone in ways they didn’t intend. Here, from Love Conquers All, is a review Robert Benchley wrote of a chess memoir.

CONFESSIONS OF A CHESS CHAMPION

With the opening of the baseball season, the sporting urge stirs in one’s blood and we turn to such books as My Chess Career, by J R Capablanca. Mr Capablanca, I gather from his text, plays chess very well. Wherein he unquestionably has something on me.

His book is a combination of autobiography and pictorial examples of difficult games he has participated in and won. I could understand the autobiographical part perfectly, but although I have seen chess diagrams in the evening papers for years, I never have been able to become nervous over one. It has always seemed to me that when you have seen one diagram of a chessboard you have seen them all. Therefore, I can give only a superficial review of the technical parts of Mr Capablanca’s book.


His personal reminiscences, however, are full of poignant episodes. For instance, let us take an incident which occurred in his early boyhood when he found out what sort of man his father really was — a sombre event in the life of any boy, much more so for the boy Capablanca.

“I was born in Havana, the capital of the Island of Cuba,” he says, “the 19th of November, 1888. I was not yet five years old when by accident I came into my father’s private office and found him playing with another gentleman. I had never seen a game of chess before; the pieces interested me and I went the next day to see them play again. The third day, as I looked on, my father, a very poor beginner, moved a Knight from a white square to another white square. His opponent, apparently not a better player, did not notice it. My father won, and I proceeded to call him a cheat and to laugh.”

Imagine the feelings of a young boy entering his father’s private office and seeing a man whom he had been brought up to love and to revere moving a Knight from one white square to another. It is a wonder that the boy had the courage to grow up at all with a start in life like that.

But he did grow up, and at the age of eight, in spite of the advice of doctors, he was a frequent visitor at the Havana Chess Club. As he says in describing this period of his career, “Soon Don Celso Golmayo, the strongest player there, was unable to give me a rook.” So you can see how good he was. Don Celso couldn’t give him a rook. And if Don Celso couldn’t, who on earth could?

In his introduction, Mr Capablanca (I wish that I could get it out of my head that Mr Capablanca is possibly a relation of the Casablanca boy who did the right thing by the burning deck. They are, of course, two entirely different people) — in his introduction, Mr Capablanca says:

“Conceit I consider a foolish thing; but more foolish still is that false modesty that vainly attempts to conceal that which all facts tend to prove.”

It is this straining to overcome a foolish, false modesty which leads him to say, in connection with his matches with members of the Manhattan Chess Club. “As one by one I mowed them down without the loss of a single game, my superiority became apparent.” Or, in speaking of his “endings” (a term we chess experts use to designate the last part of our game), to murmur modestly: “The endings I already played very well, and to my mind had attained the high standard for which they were in the future to be well known.” Mr Capablanca will have to watch that false modesty of his. It will get him into trouble some day.

Although this column makes no pretense of carrying sporting news, it seems only right to print a part of the running story of the big game between Capablanca and Dr O S Bernstein in the San Sebastian tournament of 1911. Capablanca wore the white, while Dr Bernstein upheld the honor of the black.

The tense moment of the game had been reached. Capablanca has the ball on Dr Bernstein’s 3-yard line on the second down, with a minute and a half to play. The stands are wild. Cries of “Hold ’em, Bernstein!” and “Touchdown, Capablanca!” ring out on the frosty November air.

Brave voices are singing the fighting song entitled “Capablanca’s Day” which runs as follows:

    “Oh, sweep, sweep across the board,
    With your castles, queens, and pawns;
    We are with you, all Havana’s horde,
    Till the sun of victory dawns;
    Then it’s fight, fight, FIGHT!

    To your last white knight,
    For the truth must win alway,
    And our hearts beat true

    Old `J R’ for you

    On Capa-blanca’s Day.”

“Up to this point the game had proceeded along the lines generally recommended by the masters,” writes Capablanca. “The last move, however, is a slight deviation from the regular course, which brings this Knight back to B in order to leave open the diagonal for the Q, and besides is more in accordance with the defensive nature of the game. Much more could be said as to the reasons that make Kt – B the preferred move of most masters…. Of course, lest there be some misapprehension, let me state that the move Kt – B is made in conjunction with K R – K, which comes first.”

It is lucky that Mr Casablanca made that explanation, for I was being seized with just that misapprehension which he feared. (Mr Capablanca, I mean.)

Below is the box-score by innings:

1. P – K4. P – K4.
2. Kt – QB3. Kt – QB3.
3. P – B4. P x P.
.4 Kt – B3. P – K Kt4.

(Game called on account of darkness.)

Capsule Dream Movie Reviews: Circle of Blue


Look, it’s really effective when that amusement park scenic-railroad ride dives under the surface and turns into an impossibly long trail leading Night Court‘s Dan Fielding into the discovery of the shadowy conspiracy and their fiendish machine that’s apparently setting up to destroy the world. It’s just that Circle of Blue as a title seems way off-point for a Muppet movie that as far as I can tell doesn’t even have any Muppets in it.

Robert Benchley: The Most Popular Book Of The Month


[ In Of All Things, Robert Benchley includes a review of the phone book in a mode of deliberate misunderstanding that’s at least still current. Benchley though goes on at greater length with deeper thought than most people writing this sort of piece do, which is one of the things which made Robert Benchley turn out to be Robert Benchley, and includes one of his less-common but still popular pithy quotes. As he predicted elsewhere, though, the quote gets better if you take more than the single sentence from its paragraph. I confess also not being sure just what’s meant by “clb bdg stbls”. ]

New York City (including all Boroughs) Telephone Directory— N. Y. Telephone Co., N. Y. 1920. 8vo. 1208 pp.

IN picking up this new edition of a popular favorite, the reviewer finds himself confronted by a nice problem in literary ethics. The reader must guess what it is.

There may be said to be two classes of people in the world; those who constantly divide the people of the world into two classes, and those who do not. Both classes are extremely unpleasant to meet socially, leaving practically no one in the world whom one cares very much to know. This feeling is made poignant, to the point of becoming an obsession, by a careful reading of the present volume.

We are herein presented to some five hundred thousand characters, each one deftly drawn in a line or two of agate type, each one standing out from the rest in bold relief. It is hard to tell which one is the most lovable. In one mood we should say W. S. Custard of Minnieford Ave. In another, more susceptible frame of mind, we should stand by the character who opens the book and who first introduces us into this Kingdom of Make-Believe— Mr. V. Aagaard, the old “Impt. & Expt.” How one seems to see hinm, impting and expting all the hot summer day through, year in and year out, always beading the list, but always modest and unassuming, always with a kindly word and a smile for passers-by on Broadway!

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Past Customers Have Thought …


“You bought a power brick for your computer recently! Won’t you please review it?” The Best Buy e-mail was simple, and its declarative statement true. But to review it? What could I possibly say?

“Please?” the e-mail begged. “Pleeeeeeeeeeease?” I didn’t even know my computer had Helvetica Extra-Whiny. So naturally I refused.

They sent me a follow-up e-mail. “You still haven’t reviewed the power brick you bought for the Apple MacBook Pro Limited Edition with Peppermint Stripes”, it said, making me wonder if I’ve missed something in not licking my computer. “Couldn’t you please let other potential customers know what to expect?”

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A Guide to Some Municipal Parking Garages


8th 4th Street Meeting Parking Deck

The county-famous Meeting Parking Deck is designed for anyone with a need to have a meeting today. Gate attendants are constantly keeping track of which spaces are free and which people have not yet met anyone, and a roving pack of feral docents guides visitors into teams where they can hold meetings or — using the cylindrical tower at the north-east corner of the structure — even start to facilitate networking or some such rot. This parking deck leads the way in the whole Lesser Pompous Lakes Area as being the fourth-largest small-business incubating parking deck and counts dozens of small-business success stories to its credit by stealing the mail from the Lastman’s Glurge Small Business Development Center and Discount Candle Emporium. Maximum parking fee of $18.50 per day which can be waived with proof that you know someone who died of boredom during a Total Quality Management seminar.

Continue reading “A Guide to Some Municipal Parking Garages”