“I like to learn new words”

… said a Facebook acquaintance of mine.

Well then, you came to the right place; here are some of my favorites. (Most of these are Sniglets.)

ACCORDIONATED (ah kor’ de on ay tid) adj. Being able to drive and refold a road map at the same time.

AQUADEXTROUS (ak wa deks’ trus) adj. Possessing the ability to turn the bathtub faucet on and off with your toes.

AQUALIBRIUM (ak wa lib’ re um) n. The point where the stream of drinking fountain water is at its perfect height, thus relieving the drinker from (a) having to suck the nozzle, or (b) squirting himself in the eye.

ARACHNOLEPTIC FIT (n.) The frantic dance performed just after you’ve accidentally walked through a spider web.

BEELZEBUG (n.) Satan in the form of a mosquito that gets into your bedroom at 3 in the morning and cannot be cast out.

BOZONE (n.) The substance surrounding stupid people that stops bright ideas from penetrating.  The bozone layer, unfortunately, shows little sign of breaking down in the near future.

BURGACIDE (burg’ uh side) n. When a hamburger can’t take any more torture and hurls itself through the grill into the coals.

BUZZACKS (buz’ aks) n. People in phone marts who walk around picking up display phones and listening for dial tones even when they know the phones are not connected.

CARPERPETUATION (kar’ pur pet u a shun) n. The act, when vacuuming, of running over a string or a piece of lint at least a dozen times, reaching over and picking it up, examining it, then putting it back down to give the vacuum one more chance.

CASHTRATION (n.) The act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period.

CATERPALLOR (n.) The color you turn after finding half a grub in the fruit you’re eating.

DECAFLON (n.) The grueling event of getting through the day consuming only things that are good for you.

DIMP (dimp) n. A person who insults you in a cheap department store by asking, “Do you work here?”

DISCONFECT (dis kon fekt’) v. To sterilize the piece of candy you dropped on the floor by blowing on it, somehow assuming this will ‘remove’ all the germs.

DOPELAR EFFECT (n.) The tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter when you come at them rapidly.

ECNALUBMA (ek na lub’ ma) n. A rescue vehicle which can only be seen in the rearview mirror.[1]

EIFFELITES (eye’ ful eyetz) n. Gangly people sitting in front of you at the movies who, no matter what direction you lean in, follow suit.

ELBONICS (el bon’ iks) n. The actions of two people maneuvering for one armrest in a movie theater.

ELECELLERATION (el a cel er ay’ shun) n. The mistaken notion that the more you press an elevator button the faster it will arrive.

EXTRATERRESTAURANT (n.) An eating place where you feel you’ve been abducted and experimented upon.  Also known as an ET‑ry.

FRUST (frust) n. The small line of debris that refuses to be swept onto the dust pan and keeps backing a person across the room until he finally decides to give up and sweep it under the rug.

GRANTARTICA (n.) The cold, isolated place where art companies dwell without funding.

HEMAGLOBE (n.) The bloody state of the world.

HOOVERGROOVER (hoo’ ver groo ver) n. One who has a neurotic compulsion to leave parallel vacuum tracks in the carpet.

IGNORANUS: (n.) (ig nor an’ us) Someone who is not only stupid but also an asshole.

INTAXICATION (n.) Euphoria at getting a tax refund, which lasts until you realize it was your money to start with.

KINSTIRPATION (n.) A painful inability to move relatives who come to visit.

LACTOMANGULATION (lak’ to man gyu lay’ shun) n. Manhandling the “open here” spout on a milk container so badly that one has to resort to the ‘illegal’ side.

LULLABUOY (n.) An idea that keeps floating into your head and prevents you from drifting off to sleep.

NEONPHANCY (ne on’ fan see) n. A fluorescent light bulb struggling to come to life.

PEPPIER (pehp ee ay’) n. The waiter at a fancy restaurant whose sole purpose seems to be walking around asking diners if they want ground pepper.

PETONIC (peh ton’ ik) adj. One who is embarrassed to undress in front of a household pet.

PHONESIA (fo nee’ zhuh) n. The affliction of dialing a phone number and forgetting whom you were calling just as they answer.

PUPKUS (pup’ kus) n. The moist residue left on a window after a dog presses its nose to it.

TELECRASTINATION (tel e kras tin ay’ shun) n. The act of always letting the phone ring at least twice before you pick it up, even when you’re only six inches away.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

[1] The first time I read this word I had just broken three ribs. It came across my desk as part of a LISTSERV message, and it was the first time in my life that I could neither stop laughing and crying at the same time.

A Sad Tale of Abuse of Power

On May 21, 2012, Barbara Alice Mahaffey died of colon cancer in her home in Vernal, Utah. It was 12:35 AM, and her husband Ben and a friend who was also an EMT were at her side. Within ten minutes, a hospice worker and a mortician were present to attend to the remains… along with Vernal police officers Shawn Smith and Rod Eskelson. Instead of allowing Mr. Mahaffey to grieve and attend to his wife’s body, they insisted that he stop what he was doing and help them search for any prescription painkillers his wife had been using.

The search was warrantless. No one knows how the police came to be there in the first place.

“I was indignant to think you can’t even have a private moment. All these people were there and they’re not concerned about her or me. They’re concerned about the damn drugs. Isn’t that something?” Mahaffey said. Mahaffey said he was treated as if he were going to sell the painkillers, which included OxyContin, oxycodone and morphine, on the street. “I had no interest in the drugs,” he said. “I’m no addict.”

Not surprisingly, Mr. Mahaffey wasn’t happy about what happened, or how he was treated. He complained. And the story gets worse.

Mr. Mahaffey says he asked Assistant Police Chief Campbell where his officers had gotten authority to enter the home without invitation and conduct a warrantless search, and was abruptly told that the Utah Controlled Substances Act granted the requisite authority.

City Manager Ken Bassett dismissed plaintiff’s concerns by saying that his own parents had recently passed away, and that although their prescription drugs had not been seized by the police, he would not have cared had the police done so. He also informed Mr. Mahaffey that he was being “overly sensitive to the actions by the police, and that the police were only acting to protect the public from the illegal use of the prescription drugs.”

The city attorney told Mahaffey that his contract with Good Shepherd Hospice waived his rights to be protected from police intrusion in his home, but no such clause in the contract appears to exist.

Chief of Police Dylan Rooks allegedly told Mr. Mahaffey that “this is a great program and we’re going to continue it,” meaning the active pursuit of drugs in the community.

After trying to have “meaningful, man-to-man” conversations with Vernal officials, and finding them “rude and condescending,” Mr. Mahaffey turned to the courts and filed a federal lawsuit against the city, police officials and the two police officers who invaded his home.

I don’t much care for attorneys, and there are far too many frivolous lawsuits clogging up our court system. In this case, however, it appears that everyone in Vernal has lost their sense of decency and humanity.

“Note the utter lack of compassion, the inability to see a grieving husband as anything other than a potential drug dealer. Note the priorities on display. The most important thing the cops had to do that day was get those drugs out of that house. Preventing someone from using Barbara Mahaffey’s pills to get high, or preventing Ben Mahaffey from–God forbid–using pain medication not prescribed to him at some point in the future, was more important than giving a widower a last moment of dignity to say goodbye to his wife of 58 years.” (Radley Balko, Huffpost)

The maraschino cherry on top of this cake of shame is found in this article from the Salt Lake Tribune, which reports that a former Vernal detective has been charged with stealing prescription medication from a couple under the guise of repeated “pill checks.” It would seem that the elected and appointed officials in Vernal would do well to cleanse the inner vessel and re-examine their priorities. Violating basic dignities at one of the most sensitive moments in a person’s life bespeaks a shameful lack of humanity; this lawsuit should act as a wakeup call for those involved, but based on the response thus far, what I’m predicting is that they will circle the wagons, deny any wrongdoing, and continue their campaign of ignoring fundamental civic rights.

The Old Wolf has spoken.


In Memory of Lunch Hours Past…

… and a good share of my disposable income.

Zions Book Store

Sam Weller’s Zion Book Store, a ten-minute walk from my office and for decades a fixture on Salt Lake’s Main Street.

Weathering the TRAX construction with grace and fortitude, Weller’s ultimately made the decision to locate to smaller quarters in Salt Lake’s Trolley Square and shift a portion of their business online. The loss to downtown was incalculable, but the Salt Lake City government has only itself to blame for allowing the downtown area to die on the vine in favor of several downtown malls as well as encouraging a pattern of growth that supported large corporate buildings instead of smaller, affordable retail space.

Nothing pleased me more than rummaging through Sam’s massive used book section – there was always treasure to be found there. While Weller’s continues to serve the community, their likes will not be there again.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Figaro, the Transparent Cat

I love the art of Disney, particularly the craftsmanship that was present around 1940 when both Pinocchio and Fantasia came out. These are probably examples of the finest 2D animation ever produced, and both have long been among my favorite films.

I have one small nit to pick, however – it has bothered me since I sat through 4 consecutive showings of Pinocchio in 1972 or thereabouts – I noticed it then, but had no way of verifying what I had seen at the time.

As Gepetto drifts off to sleep, he sends Figaro to open the window.


As kitty pushes the window open and walks out into the moonlight, the color artists got a bit mixed up:


Notice that you can see the window frame through Figaro’s body.

A tiny detail and forgivable, and I had no way of verifying this until the advent of VCR’s and DVD’s, but I’m glad that I wasn’t just seeing things.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Rare color photos of Paris

These images, and many others found at Paris1914, were taken using Autochrome Lumière technology, an early color photography process, patented in 1903 and invented by the famous French Auguste and Louis Lumière. The Lumière brothers were the earliest filmmakers in history.

Avenue Hoche – 1919

10th Arrondissement – Wandering flower vendors in Place de la République in front of the Verines Armory – 10 May, 1918 – Auguste Léon

These images capture a Paris normally seen in grainy black-and-white photos, and bring a life to the city that can be seen today. In truth, it shows that Paris is very resistant to change – other than abominations such as the Pompidou museum and the glass pyramid at the Louvre, the city looks today much as it did then.

The full collection was available at paris1914.com, but it appears this website has been taken down. You can see a few more color photos of Paris from the epoch here.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Raping the public… legally

About a decade ago, my identity was stolen. An insurance card I had given to a family member was lost in the state of Florida, and some drone got his hands on it. All of a sudden I was being contacted by debt-collection companies for things like trips to a hospital in an ambulance, 9 months worth of rent, cell phone accounts with T-Mobile, and a host of others.

It took me about 4 years to get my credit reports cleaned up, and countless hours of time on the telephone, writing letters, and filing police reports. Through it all was dealing with the collection companies, and it was brutal. These people are relentless bullies, and they care about only one thing… collecting. Explaining to them that I did not owe said debts was fruitless. Explaining that I had been the victim of identity theft was wasting breath. Even after multiple explanations, I had agents offer to discharge the debt if I was willing to pay 50¢ on the dollar. Nothing I said made a difference. They kept calling until I informed them, by law, that they were no longer allowed to do so. [1]

Now comes word of a new scam being perpetrated on the public by a company called Corrective Solutions, and others like them. This article in LA Weekly outlines how DA’s offices have partnered with some very ugly, very mean people to terrorize consumers into paying stiff fees for bounced checks, all in the name of “diversion” – meaning keeping cases out of the court system – but really for only one purpose – increasing the flow of revenue into the DA’s coffers.

An extract from the article outlines the sad tale of Carole Hirth:

In fact, it was banker scheming that landed Carole Hirth in trouble last year. More than a dozen major banks have paid multimillion-dollar fines for reordering purchases and delaying deposits solely in order to generate overdraft fees. In Hirth’s case, PNC was holding her direct deposits until it withdrew her outgoing charges — effectively overdrafting her account so it could charge extra fees.

She knew none of this at the time she wrote a $393.86 check to Dominick’s, a Chicago grocery story. The 59-year-old was in the hospital being treated for Crohn’s disease when the check bounced. For some reason, the store never tried to redeposit it, which most merchants do. If it had, Hirth says, the check would have cleared. Instead, the Safeway-owned chain sent her a letter.

“I had been back from the hospital for just four days when I checked the mail and thought, ‘Oh, my God,’ ” she says.

Hirth went straight to Dominick’s, wrote a new check and paid a $35 bounce fee. She considered the problem fixed.

But four months later, she received a letter from the Cook County state’s attorney. It said that she’d been accused of deceptive practices and that she faced up to a year in jail and a $2,500 fine. The only way to avoid this fate was to pay $649.86, which included penalties and a diversion course.

“I already paid them,” Hirth says. “I contacted [the grocery store’s] ethics department and said this was just wrong. I spend enough money there. I told them they should work with me. I told them to look up my Safeway card. I’ve been shopping with them for the past 30 years!”

Safeway said there was nothing it could do. She’d have to contact the state attorney’s office.

Hirth called the toll-free number on the letter but got nowhere.

They accused me of committing a fraudulent act. They said that if I don’t pay everything and take their class, I could be arrested and end up in jail. He was very, very mean,” she says. “I told him that I didn’t understand how that could happen. I said I’d already handled it, it should be cleared up, but he just went on and on and on.”

Hirth wrote another letter to Safeway, begging the grocer to contact the prosecutor’s office on her behalf. The letters and phone calls kept coming.

It wasn’t until she got in touch with Arons that she discovered she wasn’t being threatened by Cook County. It was Corrective Solutions, which has contracts with 21 counties in Illinois.

Notice three major instances of douchebaggery in this one single story:

  1. Bank malfeasance (reordering deposits and withdrawals to create deliberate overdrafts and charge fees)
  2. Corporate insouciance (once a charge has been submitted to collections, nobody gives a rat’s south-40 – there appears to be no one inside a massive corporation who cares or who can deal with human situations)
  3. Consumer intimidation by Corrective Solutions using the name of Cook County to perpetrate their scheme, but fully with Cook County’s blessing.

The Napa Valley Register filed an article in October of 2012 describing a class-action suit against Corrective Solutions and another company, and outlining practices similar to what happened in Hirth’s case above, but the news is not good – most consumers won’t even benefit from  any possible settlement, and the companies will likely continue to operate in one form or another. Indeed, Corrective Solutions is a rebirth of American Corrective Counseling Services, which lost a class-action suit against it, filed for bankruptcy, paid nothing, and began operating a few months later under a new name, free and clear, as reported in the LA times article.

The fight against this kind of corporate and governmental misbehavior continues. The war will be long and hard, and there will be bodies left on the battlefield, many belonging to innocent victims who made honest mistakes and found themselves caught up in a web of greed. The good news is that many legal advocates are aware of what is happening, and will continue to fight until this sort of program is outlawed by statute.

In the meantime, the more people who know what’s happening, the more ammunition they have to fight back. Read the linked articles. Be careful with your finances, and don’t roll over for the bullies.

This has been an Old Wolf public service announcement.

[1] A recent example: A family member has set up payment arrangements with a collection company in Idaho, in order to pay off a medical bill. The payments have been kept current for the last 18 months. Despite that, this letter is sent out monthly:


No mention of current account status, no “thank you for your payment,” just the constant threat of legal action. I’ve written the office to complain about this lack of courtesy and ethics, and no one has ever bothered to respond.

Parenting: No, there’s no manual, but this might just help.

9 Things I Learned In The Parent Encouragement Program, AKA Rotten Parents Anonymous

By Drew Magary, Jan 18, 2012 2:20 PM

Note: by permission of the author, Drew Magary, I have here reproduced a “more-or-less family-friendly” version of his awesome post, because it’s got some great ideas in it. If you don’t care about language that would make George Carlin feel right at home, you can read his original version here at Deadspin. Heaven knows I could have used this plainspeak about 35 years ago.

The Parent Encouragement Program is a series of classes and workshops that are available to parents living in the D.C. area. The introductory class is free, and so I went a couple of weeks ago, because it didn’t cost anything and because I need all the help I can get. The title of the workshop was “Why Don’t My Kids Listen To Me?” On that premise alone, I’d say roughly three billion people could have stood to attend. I grabbed a pen and a big legal pad for taking notes, and I went to go learn how to not be a terrible father.

The class I went to was located on the third floor of a nearby church. It was the kind of multipurpose church room that would be perfect for an AA meeting. This was fitting, because I felt like I was attending a meeting of Rotten Parents Anonymous and not some night class for supposedly normal people. Our teacher was a very perky 40-year-old woman, who readily admitted that she was a teacher in the program because it helped her remember all of the junk that she was supposed to do in order to be a good parent. Her kids were all teenagers and she still had issues dealing with them. I found this fact completely deflating. Here was someone who was GOOD at parenting, and she still felt compelled to go to classes and still had kids with terrific douchebag potential.

The class started with a bit of role-playing, with people from the audience reading from a scripted exchange between a child and a parent. They demonstrated three different techniques of parenting: Authoritarian Parenting (Bob Knight-types who yell at their kids and whip them with hickory switches), Permissive Parenting (hippie dipweed parents who let their kids do whatever the hell they want), and Democratic Parenting (the right kind of parent, who establishes firm boundaries for their child and gives them a certain amount of freedom within those boundaries). The aim was to teach us how to be Democratic Parents. I was more than willing to learn. I have yelled at my kid. I have given my kid timeouts. I even tried spanking my kid a few times, which was mortifying. All of it failed, and all of it made the problem worse.

So the purpose of this class was to find the happy medium, that place where you say the EXACT RIGHT THING in order for your child to do what you want him or her to do. Talking to your kids is like perfecting a golf swing. You have to get the technique just right, otherwise everything goes to Pluto. And whenever you pick up new techniques, you have to remember them all simultaneously and execute them correctly in a single instance. This is bloody annoying. Kids shouldn’t work that way. Evolution should have knocked some of the snotty defiance out of them. But nooooooo. No, asking them to do something doesn’t work. You have to CRAFT what you’re going to say. You have to offer creative solutions to problems, which is totally exhausting.

So the lecture began and immediately people started asking questions. And the teacher was remarkably patient, given that virtually all the questions were specific to that parent’s one kid and had no universal application. One lady droned on and on about how she was separated from her husband and that the husband bought her kid too many toys. LADY, TELL YOUR DIVORCE LAWYER. You’re ruining the learning process for the rest of us. Another lady said her husband was too much of a pushover for their kids WHILE THE DUDE WAS SEATED RIGHT NEXT TO HER. She just threw his butt under the bus in front of 50 total strangers. I wanted to buy the guy a soda.

But eventually, we were given some legitimately good advice as to how to handle these little demons. Here now are some of the more basic techniques of Democratic Parenting (I also like to call it Huxtable Parenting):

Never repeat yourself.
The second you repeat yourself, you’re dead. The kid will just be like, “Hey, I can just sit here and dad will say the same stuff over and over again. COOL.” Kids think this way because they’re evil. Say it once. If the kids don’t act, take them by the hand and guide them to their task. This piece of advice caused me to ask a question:

ME: What if your kid is naked on the floor and screaming her bloody head off and you literally can’t take her by the hand and guide her to the sink to brush her teeth?

TEACHER: Just avert your gaze, hold out your hand, and stand there until she knows you aren’t interested in her B.S.

I tried this later in the evening. Totally worked. IT’LL NEVER WORK AGAIN.

No drive-by parenting
You have to get down face-to-face with your kids to ask them to do stuff. You can’t stand at the bottom of the stairs and yell at them to stop putting hamsters in the blender. They won’t give a rat’s south-40. Hamster-blending is too much fun.

Talk to your kids as if they’re normal human beings.
None of this, “You need a wowwipop” stuff. The idea is that if you treat them as mature adults and talk to them with respect, they will reciprocate. I wanted to bring up Norv Turner as a counterpoint to this, but we were short on time.

Accept that your children are going to do annoying things.
We were told there was a list out there that detailed typical behaviors for children based upon their age. Two-year-olds will throw things. Five-year-olds will break things. There are certain annoying facets of children that are simply the cost of doing business, and accepting that makes it a little bit easier to tolerate it when your kid is spitting in your ear.

Never do for a kid what a kid can do for him or herself.
This was the big one. Sometimes, your kids will stand there for eight hours before they brush their teeth and you’re just like TO TOPHET WITH THIS, and you grab the brush and assault their mouth because it’s EASIER to do things for them. But once you do that, they’ll never do anything for themselves. You have to have Herculean patience to let them figure those things out, and then that problem is solved for the long term.

Never chase a kid.

Never get locked into a power struggle.
If you say to your kid, “Hey, eat your dinner,” and the kid is like , “No,” and you’re like, “You’re grounded if you don’t,” and the kid still says no, you’ve basically signed yourself up for a full night of PAIN. Because now you’re in a power struggle with a kid, and you won’t want to lose because you won’t want them thinking you’re a wuss, and they won’t want to lose because, hey, what’s an hour wasted to them? NOTHING. Kids were born to waste time. They have nothing better to do. May as well ruin your day while they’re waiting to become drinking age. If the kid doesn’t eat dinner, the kid doesn’t eat.

Never ask “OK?” at the end of a request.
You have to explain what needs to be done. For example, if you say, “Hey, your shoes are still on the floor,” the kid is more likely to put the shoes away than if you say, “Hey moron, put your shoes away, OK?” I got home from this class and I was shocked at how many times I said “OK?” at the end of something. Even when I was actively trying to prevent myself from saying it, I still did anyway. It’s like a bloody tic. The best way to get kids to do something is to present them with a problem that they can help solve.

The only person you really have any control over is yourself.
That’s pretty much the beginning and end of this. There’s only so much you can control with your kids, and it’s best to praise them when they do what you want instead of berating them for the times when they fail to act. You’re never gonna get them to do everything you want at all times. They aren’t programmed that way (even though they ought to be). You have to learn to tolerate some of their crap, and then be firm and friendly in the face of extraordinary rebellion. It isn’t easy, and I’m probably gonna have to take a lot more classes just to fail less. But trying is the most important part. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go tell my kid to stop throwing baseballs at the TV set.