Robert Fulghum Quotations

The Quippery

Anything can happen. The great banana peel of existence is always on the floor somewhere.

Anything not worth doing is worth not doing well.

Fulghum’s Tool Rule: “Unpredictable complexity that replaces reliable simplicity is not progress.” He gives the following examples of simplicity that would be hard to improve on:
A Wheelbarrow
A pencil made of wood and graphite, with an eraser on the end.
A paper clip.
A clothes pin.
A claw hammer.
A pocket knife with two blades.
A classic mouse trap.
A shovel.
An axe.
A broom.

Doing a straight-forward, clear-cut task that has a beginning and an end balances out the complexity-without-end that often vexes the rest of my life. Sacred simplicity.

I keep sputtering out at intersections where life choices must be made and I either know too much or not enough. The examined life is no picnic.

Imagine that Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson are far out in the English countryside in pursuit of a unique case involving an agricultural mystery.
They have settled down in their sleeping bags in a small tent for the night.
Just before dawn, Sherlock nudges Dr. Watson awake, and says,
“Watson – look up and tell me what you notice.”
Dr. Watson tells him that he sees the stars – that the clear sky means the weather will be good in the coming day – that the very faint light in the east says it is almost dawn. “What do you notice, Holmes?”
Holmes sits up. “I notice that someone has stolen our tent during the night.”

Infinite possibility in all things is a certainty. That pretty much covers theology and philosophy for me.

I once listed all the good things I did over the past year, and then turned them into resolution form and backdated them. That was a good feeling.

I use Cheer. I like the idea of a happy wash.

Maybe we should develop a Crayola bomb as our next secret weapon … And every time a crisis developed, we would launch one. It would explode high in the air … and send thousands, millions, of little parachutes into the air. Floating down to earth — boxes of Crayolas.

On a very local scale, a refrigerator is the center of the universe. On the inside is food essential to life, and on the outside of the door is a summary of the life events of the household.

One of life’s best coping mechanisms is to know the difference between an inconvenience and a problem.

One of the very few reasons I had any respect for my mother when I was thirteen was because she would reach into the sink with her bare hands – bare hands – and pick up that lethal gunk and drop it into the garbage. To top that, I saw her reach into the wet garbage bag and fish around in there looking for a lost teaspoon. Bare hands – a kind of mad courage.

Question: If you could live your life over, what changes would you make?
Answer: None. Well, maybe I wouldn’t have eaten some bad oysters, and would forgo the times I had too much wine and was miserably hung over. But otherwise, I’d live it all over again – knowing that the hard and troublesome events almost always led to something good in the long run. Every difficulty contained possibilities for something that proved better.

Some of the most wonderful things have to be believed to be seen. Like flying reindeer and angels. Like peace on earth, goodwill, hope, and joy. Real because they can be imagined into being. Christmas is not a date on a calendar but a state of mind.

Think what a better world it would be if we all had cookies and milk about three o’clock every afternoon and then lay down with our blankets for a nap.

We could learn a lot from crayons; some are sharp, some are pretty, some are dull, while others bright, some have weird names, but they all have learned to live together in the same box.

Weddings seem to be magnets for mishap and for whatever craziness lurks in family closets. In more ways than one, weddings bring out the ding-dong on everybody involved.

Good Night, Sleep Tight…

This time last year I was counting the number of itchy bites I got each day, mostly on my legs. I was convinced I was the victim of grass mites, mosquitoes and/or ants. Then one morning  I found three bites under one arm and a cluster of ten bites on my chest. Uh oh…

Bedbugs? Did we bring bedbugs home with us when we drove from Arizona to Alberta at the end of April? Yikes!

A number of years ago a friend’s home got bedbugs and at that time the treatment was to heat the whole house to an even temperature of over 120 F for at least an hour. It was an expensive procedure.

(By now I had worked myself into a lather, as they say). I called the local bug assassin company. They sent one of their  exterminators out that afternoon. He looked carefully at everything in our bedroom. He could not find any sign of bedbugs. He explained that didn’t mean there were no bedbugs – just not enough to constitute an infestation.

If I wanted, he could spray selected surfaces in our bedroom with a product that his company was having a lot of success with. He explained how he would use it and how safe it was for humans once it had dried. We could use the room again in four hours. Oh, and the cost was a bit less than $200.

I said “Make it So!” He instructed me to strip the bed and wash the bedding in hot water. That would kill any bugs residing in our quilts, pillows etc. He told me not to bother washing anything else. Any bugs that weren’t killed in the first few hours would track us down at night and they would be killed too because the spray would keep working for many months.

The spray was a complete success – that was the end of the bites.

Good night, sleep tight
Don’t let the bedbugs bite.
But if they do, then take your shoe and
Hit them till they’re black and blue.
– Childhood Rhyme –

More About Bedbugs

Bedbugs were all but eradicated in the developed world by the 1950’s because of pest control products like DDT and chlordane – and the widespread use of vacuums and washing machines. Today, however, bedbugs are on the rise again because of increased travel and fewer chemical control products.

Adult Bed bugs are the size and color of a flat apple seed. They hide during the day in mattress crevices, box springs, baseboards, behind electrical switch plates, in picture frames, and even behind wallpaper. At night, the carbon dioxide we exhale lures them out of their hiding spots. Once a bed bug finds a host, it will usually feed for 5 to 10 minutes. Sometimes the feeding shows up as a pattern of three bites in a cluster or row. The host usually isn’t wakened by the feasting because bed bug saliva is an anaesthetic.

If you think you have bedbugs, call a professional. In my humble opinion, this isn’t a do it yourself job.

Bruce Did It

Our resident moose: Bruce

I’ve been re-reading some of my favourite books. For the past month I’ve been immersed in the wit and wisdom of Robert Fulghum.

In one of his stories he describes how his family settled on a way to discuss the normal daily shortcomings and idiosyncrasies of family members  – in a playful, respectful way.

In my Seattle household there are seven of us: five core family, a housekeeper, and a large stuffed moose …

One morning when I was raging around the kitchen over who drank the last of the milk again and didn’t go to the store for more again, in walked Myrna with the moose. “John (the moose) did it, ” she said, ‘and he’s so very sorry.’ The moose did look guilty. We laughed. John took his chastisement gracefully. Milk crisis forgotten.
– Robert Fulghum in the essay ‘My Fault’

Well, we just happen to have a resident stuffed  moose too (we named him ‘Bruce’). With only two humans in our household, shall we say we are experiencing a certain degree of ‘testiness’ caused by 13 months of a lot of two-some-ness. The idea that all of our fumblings, mumblings, faults and foibles were actually the work of Bruce the Moose  seemed like a brilliant idea.

Everybody knows they could do better, but nobody feels bad getting reminded in a secondary loony way.
– Robert Fulghum –

It has worked very well. ‘Bruce’ is silently stoic, but you can sense he is  building a database of good things to remember, such as: buy crunchy peanut butter – not smooth –  always, not almost always; if you add a lot of beans to the family diet don’t comment on the ‘noisy response’ a few hours later; don’t stack three slippery, loosely covered containers on the top shelf of the fridge.

Have you and your family developed some new coping mechanisms in the past year?

Algorithms and Victor Hood – What’s That All About?

The newly published author, Victor A. Hood, is better known to followers of his blog as Al Hood. His work can be found at:  The Cvillean – The adventures of little read writing Hood.

Al recently published an autobiography, “So, That’s What It’s All About, Alfie!” I wanted to purchase it. I knew it was being sold by Amazon,  but wondered if it would show up in a ‘Google’ search. I started with the author’s name and the name of the book. The search engine came back with  some books, including ones about Robin Hood, some obits, a type of range hood… but not what I was looking for.

Next I went to Amazon.com and looked in the book section for “So, That’s What It’s All About, Alfie!” Amazon told me I had used too many words, so they showed me 2000 results for a search for the words ‘so thats all’. Al’s book was fifth in the results. The first four books were about preaching, teacher leadership and sex education for youth.

I then tried searching in Amazon for Victor A. Hood. While Al’s book did come up on the top of this list, Amazon asked me if I meant to search for Victoria Hood. That was an interesting suggestion because in Al’s book, he noted that his mother had hoped he would be a girl. She had already picked out a name: Victoria.

Searching and Algorithms – What’s that all about?
The results we see when we search for anything is decided by an algorithm. This is a set of instructions with certain conditions that will deliver a pre-defined result. The people who write these algorithms influence what you are going to see. A Google Spokeswoman unintentionally confirmed this by saying:

We do today what we have done all along, provide relevant results from the most reliable sources available.
– Google Spokeswoman in response to a WSJ article in 2019 –

“The most reliable sources available”  – someone is deciding for you what the reliable sources will be.

Now the Government Wants to Decide What you will See
The Canadian Government has introduced Bill C-10, the internet streaming tax. The primary goal of this bill, as stated by Openmedia.org, is:
… expanding Canada’s Broadcasting Act to apply to all streaming audio or video content on the Internet… In addition to the taxes… C-10 would grant the CRTC the right to set quotas for how much of a streaming platform’s content must be CanCon (Canadian Content), and to require… apps, websites and search results to make CanCon appear more frequently and prominently within the service.

The Canadian Government deciding what you should see. What could possible be wrong with that?!?

For more about Algorithms, click these links to my posts:
Math and Number Quotations
Algorithms – Do They Have a Hidden Agenda?

‘Rona Virus – Efficacy and Straws

Straw efficacy: Tim Horton’s has retired their red plastic straws. In my ranking system, these straws had a 95% efficacy at removing the contents of a Tim Horton’s Iced Capp. The new white cardboard straw has only a 90% efficacy because it is wider than the ‘valley’ that holds the “good to the last drop” stuff at the bottom of the cup. The red straw has a 100% efficacy rate for durability. The white paper straw has a 75% efficacy rate because it starts to get squishy about 3/4 of the way through the drink.

The word ‘efficacy’ is very old. It dates back to the 1200’s! It didn’t enter my consciousness until this year, when the term was used in relation to COVID-19 vaccines.

Vaccine Efficacy
A vaccine with an efficacy rate of, say 85%, means it demonstrated in trials that it could reduce moderate to severe disease by 85%. To do that, the vaccines initiated an immune response that  reduced the number of viruses in the lower respiratory tract. To date, the vaccines are not believed to be sterilizing vaccines that completely stop the virus in the upper respiratory tract too.

In time, the vaccine may prove to be a sterilizing vaccine in some or most of the population. Until then, some governments, such as the one in my province, explain the vaccine in terms of effectiveness in preventing severe disease, hospitalizations and death from COVID-19′.

Here is an excellent explanation of the Covid Vaccine: University of Colorado.

What about Mask Efficacy?

I somehow doubt there will be a mask efficacy rating for the products used by the general public during Covid. There are simply too many variables – material, fit, care in use; indoors vs outdoors; social distancing and other factors limiting people’s activities;  age, immunity, viral load and length of exposure of participants… Analyzing masking is going to be either a statisticians dream or nightmare.

In preparation for the (hopefully) soon removal of mask mandates, last week I performed a small test on public perception of an unmasked person (me). I had to drop a sample off at a medical lab. I walked two car lengths across a parking lot, stood in an outside lineup of one (me) for about two minutes then handed the sample (while still outside) to the masked attendant who, by protocol, stepped outside to receive it.

While I was being a line of one, there was, for a few seconds, a lineup of two – another ‘client’ arrived. Unlike me, she was masked. When the attendant moved to the door to summons me, the masked lady behind me swiftly moved forward to try to hand her item to the attendant. As she came up beside me, she suddenly drew back. I don’t know whether it was because she saw I was unmasked or whether she realized that I was handing a sample to the attendant too.

Either way, I didn’t learn anything about public perception because the attendant and the client were masked – I couldn’t read anything in their faces.

Efficacy of the Virus

Efficacy isn’t actually the term used to describe Covid mortality – it is called  Case fatality. In both Canada and the USA it is 1.8%. There are, however, an unknown number of people who have had Covid, but were not diagnosed with it, which drops the case fatality rate by some unknown amount. The fatality rate in terms of the entire population are .07% for Canada and .18% for the United States.

I’m hoping we aren’t invaded by a new and more deadly variant so that our province  can move towards full removal of restrictions by the end of June… inshallah…