So There We Were . . .

I had two instructors, both from earlier generations, who were both Air Force veterans. They had served in competing, er, that is, somewhat different branches of the Air Force. Fred had flown stuff like B-52s for the Strategic Air Command. Charlie had served in the Army in WWII and then managed to end up flying in the low, slow, and on-the-go side of the Air Force in Tactical Air Command. Fred had been an officer, Charlie a senior NCO. Very senior NCO. Both had stories . . .

So, it was one of Those weeks at Ye Little Airport. Fred and Charlie were both cranky. The airport manager was cranky, the mechanics had been giving us pilots more dirty looks than usual, and the flight school manager was . . . Well, the bills for the big yearly inspections on three of our planes had hit in the same week. Oh, and between winds too high for students, and clouds too low for students and birds both, not much folding green had come in to help with the bills.

So, there I was, seated at the desk behind the main counter. I could just barely be seen, sort of a red tuft poking up over the faux-wood. Fred and Charlie came in in the midst of a warm discussion. Very warm. Increasingly warm, using acronyms about half of which I understood. TAC, SAC, FAC, NDB, MACV, SOG, AHB, and a few other things, interspersed with suggestions of a lack of manhood and an absence of aviation prowess. Things got heated enough that I popped up like a prairie dog with a pony-tail and said, “Sirs, should I go check on the materials in the hangar?” The gents wanted to use salty language, which they would not do if a lady (or me) was present.

Charlie glanced at Fred and nodded. “Please do.”

“Yes, sir.” I went out into the hangar and made certain that the things in the cabinets were where they should be. Some were not, so I put the oil back in the oil rack, the washing supplies into their place, and so on. After roughly five minutes, I returned to the main office. Both gents were glaring at each other, as usual. This was an old, old debate that went back to, well, before I started flying. I’ll leave it right there.

I have no idea why, what devil inspired me, but I opened my mouth and started to sing a little ditty I picked up from a gent who was a career NCO with the [redacted state] Air Guard. It is/was sung to the tune of “My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean.”

“Oh here’s to the regular Air Force/ With medals and badges galore.

“If it weren’t for the [gosh-darned] Reservists,/ Their @ss would be dragging the floor!”

That’s the chorus. The verses are more pointed, and have saltier language.

Both gentlemen turned, glared at me, and snarled. The phone rang and I answered it, so I have no Idea what would have happened next. I do know that by the time I finished rescheduling the student, then booking a photography flight, the gents had turned to attacking their common enemy:

The US Navy.

And so peace descended once again on Ye Little Airport.

Chubs, Glugs, and Dollops

I was reading a recipe over at Cedar Sanderson’s blog. She calls for a glug of milk. Since she’s cooking by feel, I’d guess based on my limited experience with hand-mixing biscuits that it’s about a scant third of a cup. My glug tends to be about a quarter cup or a scosh [“skoh-sh”] less.

We agree on a chub of sausage or ground meat, however. And her dollop is almost the same as mine, give or take what we are dolloping. Note that this is dollop as a measuring term, not as a verb. Dolloping onto a surface is what you do with dough or mashed potatoes (or mashed turnips). You dollop an amount of something.

English, especially the Southern-Midwestern Cooking dialect, is a strange language.

A chub is the blunt ended, soft (unless still frozen) package of ground meat or sausage. It varies between 12 ounces and a pound or so. You can get a ten-pound chub, although at that point I think we are up to a log-of-beef or club (if still frozen) rather than a chub.

Original from Instacart, used under Creative Commons Fair Use.

Anyone who has seen meat sold in chubs knows instantly what “one chub of breakfast sausage” looks like and means. If you have a frozen chub, and don’t thaw it completely, you can make tidy slices for sausage or hamburger patties, then let it finish thawing. I’d say 9/10 thawed or so, bot rock hard. Unless you are using a band saw, in which case please clean the blade before and after cutting your frozen chub. Do not use a table saw. Just don’t. No.

A dollop means take an eating spoon (as opposed to serving spoon or stirring spoon) and scoop an amount of something into it, then plop the ingredient into the main dish. I tend to dollop garlic, flour if I’m browning it in butter (a very heaping tablespoon or so, ish), shredded cheese, and things like that, where amount-to-taste is more important than precision measuring.

A glug for me tends to be wine, or balsamic vinegar, and is probably less than a quarter cup, as I mentioned above. I don’t bake by feel. That way lies disaster, because I bake so rarely and most of what I bake is unforgiving of guestimates. I will use a glug of something the same way as I use a few shakes of this spice or that condiment.

When in doubt, measuring is always safe. When trying a new spice blend, measure. I got surprised by real Thai curry powder once. I was used to grocery store Thai curries, not “made in Thailand for Thai cooks” curry powder. My sinuses were clear for the rest of the semester, meaning Spring Break to late May.

If you’re not sure, here’s a guide to some other measurements:

Day-job Daze

Mr. Trotter [assistant track coach]: What do you mean?

Puzzled Junior: The doors are locked and it looks like there’s stuff in the bus still.

Mr. Trotter: That’s impossible.

He disappears, followed by Fr. Martial [the headmaster] and Fr. Gonzales. The clergy return, with Mr. Long-Slavic-Last-Name.

Fr. Martial: I saw it, you saw it.

Fr. Gonzales [shaking his head]: Well, this is why we call them “the Highlander.”

Mr. L-S-L-N: Because there can be only one ready, on time, at any given moment. St. Fiacre as my witness, both of them were ready ten minutes ago!


I was grading away after class when I glanced at my computer screen. An all-hands urgent e-mail flashed at me. I clicked it open.

“The PTA meeting had sandwiches left over from Zippy Chick. They are in the workroom, with sauce packets. Please eat them!”

I joined the inbound trickle. As I passed Mrs. Parabola’s room, she waved, “I want a crispy if there are any left.”

Me: Can do.

Indeed, a large mound of sandwich containers covered the center of the main workroom table. I snagged a regular and a crispy, and a teriyaki packet for mine.

Sr. Tranquilitas sat in the corner, sandwich in hand and a beatific smile on her lips. She observed, “Some days, a hot chicken sandwich from Zippy Chick really is the answer.”

Many nods and murmurs of agreement followed her words. We dispersed quickly and quietly, treasure in hand.

But They Matched at Home: Musician World Problems

Spotlights are wonderful things if you are an audience member. They are dreadful if you are a performer. They are hot. They blind you. And perhaps worse, they reveal that your black jacket and black slacks do not match. Or your black blouse and skirt. Awkward!

It’s a bit of a joke—OK more than a bit—among the goth and related communities that you need to make certain that your blacks all match. Anyone who has tried to pair up green and green, or green and a few other colors, know that not all shades play well together. Green seems to be infamous for that, although I have seen shades of red that clashed in unpleasant ways. But black should be black, and so what if one has a little more blue and the other is a tad bit greener? In a dark club, at night, no one will notice. Right? Glamor goths seem a bit more concerned about this than are others, but you can be unpleasantly surprised that some combinations collide.

For classical musicians, and others under spotlights or sunlight, clashing blacks become very evident. For several years, I noted that a certain gentleman in a local orchestra had a bluish-black tailcoat but greenish-black slacks. The stage lights made it obvious, and brought out the clashing secondary hues. Last year he got new slacks, and the problem went away. I suspect that the coat was made of wool, and the trousers of cotton or wool-blend, leading to the problem. Different materials plus different dyes causes different shades of the same dominant color.

When everyone else’s blacks match, you don’t want to stand out. For that reason, I am very careful to make certain that my black blouses and black skirts match before chorus concerts, or are close enough that no one notices any difference. All are cotton. The skirts are twill, the blouses are a plain weave, and both are slightly bluer than “pure black.” It works. For performances with the symphony, I have a dress. It is all cotton and all the same material, so I do not have to worry about the painfully bright stage lighting making me look odd.

Black and green seem the hardest to match, or to get to blend well. For years, my wardrobe was black, khaki, blue, and one pair of green-brown slacks. A friend teased me about being Mennonite, because my colors were so plain and my style so modest. But everything worked together, and as long as I didn’t wear a blue shirt with the green-brown pants. I had no problems. Other than matching my blacks. My plumage has grown a bit more colorful since then (white dresses for summer church, a few true purple or cool purple-rose turtlenecks), but 90% of it is interchangeable. Yes, I do get dressed in the dark, fairly often. I don’t like sartorial surprises.

However, last week, I got out my black “I’m faculty” long-sleeve, official issue tee shirt and tried matching it with black corduroy pants. Not happening. The shirt had too much green in it for the black pants. The combination was unattractive. However, very, very dark hunter green with a black undertone? Perfect!

Yep, goth/musician-world problems. The struggle is real! 😉

Overheard in the Halls, Episode Thirty-Three: Spring has Sprung

Jocular Junior: I can’t believe you did that!

Defensive Junior: Why not?

J.J.: You were dumpster diving. And ate it!

D.J.: Look, she tossed an unopened bag of chips and an unopened can of pop. You’d be stupid not to grab them.

J.J.: [incredulous] But they were in the garbage.

D.J. [irked] Unopened. That’s like, two dollars of snacks. Her discarded materials are my windfall profits.

Passing Senior: I’m gonna tell Mr. Ledger you said that.

D.J.: Go for it.

(Mr. Ledger is our economics teacher.)


Frustrated Freshman: I am so tired of this wind.

Mrs. Parabola [under the breath]: Tell me about it.

Sulking Sophomore: How come the wind only blows on track-meet days?

Me [under the breath]: Because you never pay attention to all the other days that end in “y.”

March has been a touch blustery. In other words, normal.


I am rounding the corner when I behold Sr. Scholastica [aka The Dean] addressing a young gent.

Sr. Scholastica: Where is your tie?

Young Gent: Um, my dad borrowed it?

Meanwhile, around the corner, Sr. Hygiene [school nurse] and Mrs. Omnisapientia [the secretary] are checking a young lady’s skirt length.

I continued on before I heard the rest of the discussion. Fast-forward fifteen minutes.

Bing,bing,bing. All eyes go to the Voice From Above, the PA system speaker.

Fr. Gonzales: All high school boys, come to the lunchroom. Repeat, all high school boys, come to the lunchroom.

Groan heard ’round the world: Uniform check!

My male students filed out, returning in ones and twos.

Not too much later, Bing, bing bing.

Sr. Scholastica: All high school girls, come to the lunchroom.

Everyone got a uniform check, whether they needed it or not.


Sr. Scholastica, Fr. Martial [the Headmaster] and Fr. Gonzales [travel coordinator and a few other things as well] have called a high-school faculty meeting.

Fr. Martial: It’s that time of year again.

Br. Vector: Cricket season?

Fr. Martial: That too. Contest season.

Unison faculty: Uuuuuuugggghhhhh.

Fr. Gonzales: So, band, orchestra and choir on the thirtieth and first. [reels off a list of departments and dates] Track will be whenever it is rescheduled for, but not on Good Friday or Maundy Thursday. And academics?

Sr. Mary Conjugation: The twentieth through the twenty-fourth.

Mr. Long-Slavic-Last-Name [after taking along sip from an enormous coffee mug] Could be worse. They could all be in the same week again.

Unison faculty: Uuuuuuggggghhhhh.

Mrs. Hankie: That was worse.


I am about departing the office after turning in work for a student who is ill at home. As I turn the corner I hear suspicious murmurs from behind a half-open fire door. I glance around the door and behold two students. I can see light, but not air, between them.

Me: Ahem.

Amorous undergrads: Yeep!

Me: What are you doing?

Sloppy Senior: Nothing, Miss Red!

Me: I think you need to be doing nothing in the lunch room with the rest of the high school.

They slink off, and I shadow them into the lunch room. Yea, verily, spring has arrived.


Whirrrrrr, thppt. Whirrrrr, thpppt. Whirrrrrr, thoooot.

All eyes turn to the copier.

Mr. L-S-L-N: What was that?

Fr. Gonzales: I don’t know. It’s not supposed to make that sound.

Miss Strings [pulls copies out]: It was the hole punch. The one we’re not supposed to use.

Pre-Caturday Post

“I am soooooo done with this week already.”

So, I dumped some stuff on someone’s guest bed for a moment. Which became an hour. Which meant that Squatter’s Rights came into effect.

“You didn’t say don’t sit on the hat.”

Sun-bathing. Athena T. Cat in her “spring and summer morning chair.”

Cabbaging onto a New Leaf

It is one of those phrases I never think about until someone else boggles. I was talking about maps and navigational charts, and observed that I had possessed one for the area under discussion, “but a student cabbaged onto it and I haven’t gotten a current one.” The instructor blinked hard, and observed that my dialect and my accent did not match. And added that he understood the meaning, but had never heard “cabbage” used as a verb.

When I was growing up, at least within the Red family, “to cabbage onto” something was to steal, often by borrowing and somehow never returning it. I never thought about it being somewhat unusual. “Took a cotton to her,” is common in the US South, or was. “Turn over a new leaf,” even though it didn’t refer to plants. But “to cabbage?” Apparently it is a Midwesternism, found in Nebraska and parts of the Dakotas. Now, these are states settled by people who grew and stored and consumed large amounts of cabbage as part of their native cuisines (Germans, Bohemians, Scandinavians, Irish, Poles, Mennonites and Hutterites). So my guess is that cabbage theft was known, and disapproved of, and so “to cabbage” meaning “to steal” became part of the regional dialect. However, the OED says that the oldest usage of cabbage as a synonym for “to steal” goes back to 1793, and England, so who knows.

Cabbage onto. “To take a cotton to” meaning to like, which might come from how sticky short-staple cotton fibers are (they cling to everything because of static). “To tree” means to chase some animal or someone up a tree, literal or otherwise.* English doesn’t seem to have many other instances where a plant is verbed. Perhaps “to tomato” in the sense of to pelt someone with rotten produce, perhaps. I’ve never come across “to turnip,” or “to cucumber.” As metaphors and similes, sure. “Cool as a cucumber,” “red as a beet,” “he’s in a pickle,” which originally referred to the keg, barrel, or vat of brine used to preserve whatever was being pickled.

English is strange.

*”To pine” as a verb goes back a ways, but traces to Latin poena meaning a punishment, not pinus (also Latin) as in the tree.

I had to laugh . . .

So there, I was, driving Down State to visit friends last week. I could see the smoke of a grass or range fire a long time before I got close. I also had a CD in the stereo(Ghostlights by Avantasia).

Just as I got into the smoke, close enough to smell that it was mostly grass with a little brush, the chorus of “Babylon Vampyres” began.

Babylon is burning, shining from afar
Babylon is burning
From sunset to sunrise
Babylon is burning
and you‘re glowing like a fiery star
And no one can tell if we’ve been for real

(Tobias Sammet “Babylon Vampyres”)

I laughed. The timing was just too perfect. Yes, the Universe has quite a sense of humor!