Caller ID says “District of Columbia.” Who could be calling from there?

The highfalutin amusements

The Man from Milaca, “watching the Beavers build an ark in rainy Florida”: “Caller ID has been a wonderful thing for me. I’ve used it since about 1982, and it has often helped me identify people that I would not have been able to identify otherwise.


“I’ve gotten some weird numbers in the past: 000-000-0000 (possibly a glitch in the system); 123-456-7890 (I don’t know what to make of this one); 666-666-6666 (the Devil’s hotline?).

“Unfortunately, spoofing has become common. I had one from my home phone number in the last year. There was another claiming to be USPS, but it was a scam trying to get a credit-card number.

“Today, however, I got one that’s immediately become a favorite and the biggest laugh I’ve had all year. Caller ID read ‘District of Columbia.’ Well, I don’t answer those. But the number looked familiar. I said: ‘Gimme a break.’ Then I looked it up. Turns out I’m right. While it’s probably a spoof job, it’s funny to think that 202-456-xxxx would be calling me for any reason. Why? Well, I suspect that the president has other things to do than to call individuals. [Bulletin Board says: Stranger things have happened — especially lately.] The number was the White House switchboard.

“School must be out. The kids are pranking the average citizen. Either that, or I actually do have a hotline to the President.

“This one definitely displaced my hotline to Hell as number one.”

Vanity, thy name is . . . (responsorial)

Wednesday’s Bulletin Board included this note from Semi-Legend: “Plate spotted on a car on Cretin Avenue in St. Paul: ‘SCALES.’

“I figgered the driver (a) works for the Minnesota Department of Commerce Weights and Measures Division or (b) fishes.”

BULLETIN BOARD SUGGESTED: Could be a mountain climber.

We presently heard from Vapid in Vadnais: “Alternatives: herpetologist, judge, dieter, fish taxidermist, musician.”


Our flora, ourselves

Mounds View Swede: “Subject: Four June blooms.

“I was happy to see someone [Al B of Hartland] mention the catalpa trees, because when I saw one not far from our house, I decided to take a closer look. I’ve seen the blossoms only from a distance, but when I got close, I noticed they were more complex than I thought. There were dark lines on the white petals and spots of yellow, too.


“I wondered if that was attractive to certain types of pollinating insects or something — a guide or stimulus to let them know the pollen was ready for consumption and distribution.

“And the small bright-red clusters of some spiraea catch my attention. Looking at them closely fills me with wonder.


“My Empress Wu hosta is really getting carried away with the complexity of its blossom. I don’t think any of the other varieties I have can compare. Some are similar in basic shape, but not in the volume of buds and blossoms on one stem.”


Now & Then

The Gram With a Thousand Rules: “When Nature calls where you least expect it, it can be downright scary to a kid. My youngest daughter is an artist, and when she sent me a photo of her realistic painting of an owl, those piercing eyes brought back repressed memories of my first startling encounter with one. Now, I have seen a few owls in my lifetime, and I certainly haven’t been able to avoid that annoying cartoon owl in the eyeglasses advertisement, but there was something different about this sighting. The moment I saw those all-knowing owl eyes staring at me from the screen I was holding in my hand, it brought it all back. Shivers!

“It was in the first small house we rented in Bloomington. We had a well for drinking water, but the rain barrel was our source for washing. This rain barrel had a loosely fitting cover enabling the downspout to fit into it. I could hardly wait to grow tall enough to dip in that barrel like my big sisters did, so the very first time that my mother sent me out to get a kettle of water, I was excited. I slid the cover out of the way and, standing on tiptoe, peered into the barrel. Floating on top of the water was a spooky-looking owl, staring at me with eyes wide open! I dropped the kettle and ran screaming to my mother. As always, she calmly turned a frightening experience into an educational one, as she lifted the poor dead creature out of its watery grave, paused to stroke it and admire its beauty, and expressed remorse that the poor thing had somehow become trapped.

“A couple of years later, we moved down the road into a six-bedroom place to accommodate my married sisters and their kids who had moved back in with us during the war. I had my own bedroom for the first time in my life, and one night when I turned on my pin-up lamp, I froze as my hand touched something creepy. My mother’s twin sister, Bonnie, was visiting us, and when she heard me scream, she came to my rescue. She told me it was just a baby bat hanging there; not to worry, she would remove it. When she touched it, it flew up to the ceiling. Aunt Bonnie sent me for a broom and a dustpan, and after delivering them to her, I stood outside my closed door listening to ominous sounds of whooshing, whacking and thumping. Aunt Bonnie must have clumped around that room for a good 10 minutes before she emerged, victorious, with a mangled dead bat in the dustpan. There sure as heck was no beauty to admire, but just like my previous encounter when Nature came calling with the dead owl, this was another educational experience to remember. A violent one, but memorable.”

Our pests, ourselves
Bastard Bunnies (etc.) Division (responsorial)

Friendly Bob of Fridley: “I feel I must respond to the comment made by The Daughter of the Gram With a Thousand Rules concerning the Y2K hubbub of several years ago: ‘. . . after we all ‘survived’ Y2K (remember how worried everyone was about that changing of the calendar and how it might affect computers and electronics?).’

“Yes, it could have.

“This was a very real problem, and neither funny nor phony. I know, because at the company I worked for at the time, I ended up in the forefront of the battle with Y2K. Because many news outlets, and indeed most of the general public, deem this (after-the-fact) to have been some sort of conspiracy, it is very often now brushed aside as foolishness. One of my co-workers even suggested to me that it was a RELIGIOUS conspiracy. Unfortunately, this company waited (against the urging of many in the computer field) until mid-1998 to seriously address what was about to happen, and as a result, we had to scramble mightily to avoid shutdowns and worse.

“Here’s an example. People thought there was no big deal with the computers (and anything else with an internal ‘calendar’) when the year changed from 1999 to 2000 — that either computers were smart enough (they were not) to handle such a date change, or that there would be no ambiguity if dates went to 1900 or even 0000. For early PCs (and there were still plenty of them in commercial use at the time), at 11:59:59 p.m. on December 31, 1999, the internal clock would then reset to something like January 1, 1983. Would you like to receive a bill from somewhere that says it is 17 (or 100, or 2,000) years overdue, and you owe a huge penalty? Maybe you would be denied Social Security payments because the computer now thinks you have not reached the required age. Or your cable service was shut off because you did not pay for the current month and year.

“Within our company, we identified many critical systems that needed to be updated, or else production would be shut down. Real stuff.

“The main reason that this is pooh-poohed by so many is that the work that I and others did forestalled what could have been a genuine fiasco. From the outside, it can look like it was all made up, but it was not. We just did not make a big show of it, and in fact were ordered not to make public the kinds of things we were doing. Like it or not, that’s how things worked, and I suspect other companies had the same philosophy.

“If it sounds like I am taking this a bit personally, well, I am. There is a lot more underlying technical stuff I cannot go into here (and covering myriad possible scenarios), but to anyone who would listen (and most would rather cling to their own personal beliefs), I preached and explained this problem. A contract person who was hired to coordinate efforts solving this told me I gave him the best and most pertinent information to help him. Oh, and the company let me go after that because of medical problems, without so much as a bit of recognition of my work.

“Yes, it was and is personal.”

Perchance, to dream

Katharine With One Dog Only: “I’m nearly falling asleep at my desk today because I dreamed most of the night that I was rushing to get to Gate 106 at the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport with two enormous pit bulls riding on my wheelie-suitcase. Every time I got to Gate 106, there was a sign saying: ‘Gate 106 is now located at the other end of the airport. You’ll get your 10,000 steps today!’ I got hot and sweaty, and I stripped off clothing until I was racing back and forth through the airport wearing only my bra and undies. At one point, I told the dogs to get off and walk. One dog replied: ‘My mother and I don’t understand you. You need to enunciate better.'”

Today in history

Two days late (sorry, Pedagogue! We fell asleep at the controls!), here’s The Retired Pedagogue of Arden Hills: “Subject: Will the winner please step forward and accept … ?

“Today, June 27, is Lottery Day! No, not the ‘I’ll have to check my numbers to see if I’m a winner,’ day. It’s the ‘Lottery Day’ chronicled in Shirley Jackson’s short story of the same name, first published in the June 26,1948, issue of The New Yorker.

“It begins: ‘The morning of June 27th was clear and sunny, with the fresh warmth of a full-summer day. . .’

“The ending? You’ll have to read it for yourself. All I can say is: ‘Rock on!’”

Band Name of the Day: Y2K and the Fiascos

Website of the Day: “The Lottery”


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