where words come from
Two Cents Worth
(Steve Cecil was a columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle)
HOW FAST WILL CALTRANS FIX THE MAZE COLLAPSE?
I looked it up in the Department of Land Transportation handbook, and the DOLT code is fairly straightforward. To estimate the time in days you divide the length of damaged roadway in yards (55) by the number of adjacent counties (3), multiplied by the governor's hat size (7) = 128 days. They should be done around the end of August.
IS THERE FINALLY HOPE FOR THE 49ERS?
We were never hopeless, even when we were talentless and coachless. We were "helpless," with Steve Take-A-Knee Mariucci; we were "hapless," under Dead-Last Dennis-Erickson; we were even "hype-less" after Terry Anonymous-Source Donahue leaked that video by Rick Up-Your-Morale Reynolds. But the Faithful never lost hope.
WHAT SHOULD BE THE SEQUEL TO "SNAKES ON A PLANE"?
There are three: An overthrown Arab government flees in a 747, but no airport will let them land because they're "Sheiks on a Plane!" Then, J.K. Rowling's 83rd Harry Potter novel features Slitherin's own in "Snape's on a Plane." And finally, a psycho Tom Hanks makes express deliveries for an Omaha beef company in "Steaks on a Plane."
WHAT EXPLAINS THE APPEAL OF JOURNEY'S "ESCAPE" ALBUM?
"Escape" is the classic hook-up / break-up / make-up album, as evidenced by its three Top 10 singles -- "Don't Stop Believin," "Who's Crying Now?" and "Open Arms" (the last of which has closed more deals than Michael Milken and Donald Trump combined).
HAS TV EVER DONE YOU ANY HARM?
I remember seeing a group of people clustered in front of a store window one evening, watching a color TV for the first time. I was about 6 years old. The only harm it ever did was to my backside, when I watched cartoons instead of doing my chores.
WHAT IS YOUR HIDDEN TALENT?
Mine is the inane ability to absently anagram your name (Lisa = Sail, Dennis = Sinned), your car's name (Pontiac = Caption, Mustang = Guts Man), your pet (Parrot = Raptor, Rattlesnake = Ankle Taster), your soft drink (Pepsi Cola = Episcopal), or even your software (Microsoft = Is Comfort).
WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST EXPERIENCE WITH ALCOHOL?
A high school friend snuck into her parents' bar and poured some rum, vodka, scotch, gin, bourbon and tequila into a quart jar, and we all passed it around at the drive-in movie. I remember taking a sip and shuddering. Later, I held her hair back as she hurled.
WHAT'S THE BEST ADVICE YOU EVER GOT?
While anxiously dreading an impending tax audit a couple of years ago, my accountant told me to "stop agonizing over it. It might not be possible to make things better, but that's no reason to make things worse." Along with that advice (which I kept), I got a refund (which I did not).
WHAT WAS THE BEST NEWS YOU GOT ALL YEAR?
Local favorite "Not Giving You a Ticket" was running neck and neck down the backstretch with dark horse "Like to Make an Offer." But after holding off a late challenge by longshot "Found Your Wallet" at the corner, the winner in a photo finish is "Dad, I Got Into Georgetown."
WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU GOT STUCK CLEANING UP SOMEONE ELSE'S MESS?
As a football coach, I was in the announcer's booth taking stats when the clock-keeper made an honest mistake that ultimately decided the outcome of a close game -- in our favor. Afterward I stood guard outside until the angry Visitors dispersed (much to the relief of the 65-year-old volunteer still inside).
DO YOU SEE GAS RATIONING IN THE FUTURE?
Yes. And doctors, police, teachers and other high-priority commuters should see no change in availability. "Good drivers" -- those without accidents or citations -- can buy as much gas as needed, at a higher price. Students, seniors and other low-priority drivers could buy a limited amount, but the uninsured, unlicensed, illegal aliens or convicted drunk or reckless drivers get no gas.
WHAT'S THE BEST LESSON YOU EVER LEARNED IN HIGH SCHOOL?
As a city boy transplanted to the country, I ended up at a rural high school where some students carried loaded .22-caliber rifles in the gun racks of their pickups -- without incident, I should note -- so I learned not to sweat the petty things (and never pet the sweaty things).
DO YOU KEEP YOUR FEMININE HOBBY IN THE CLOSET, OR ARE YOU PROUD OF IT?
I tell anyone who'll listen about winning first place at the fair for pasta sauce made with homegrown tomatoes, and second place for peach-apple jelly made with fruit from trees I planted. You can take the boy out of the farm, but you can't take the farm out of the boy.
HOW DID YOU MEET YOUR SWEETIE?
In that time-honored college courtship ritual, I kicked her. We were in a steeply tiered theater-style classroom, and while crossing my legs I booted the back of her head with my size 16s. She was pretty (and pretty mad), but when she turned around and looked up, my dimples did her in.
WHAT WOULD IMPROVE AIR TRAVEL?
Bigger seats. A 6-foot-4-inch person isn't comfortable in the same seat that suits a 5-foot-4-inch frame. I don't need warm nuts and cognac like in First Class, but my Coach cushion could use a few more inches in front of my front and behind my behind.
ANY CELEBRITIES WHO WOULD MAKE GOOD PRESIDENTS?
We already watched Bill Clinton star in "Porky's does Pennsylvania Avenue," followed by George W. in "Richy Rich Goes To Washington." Maybe now it's time to see "More True Lies" with Arnold Schwarzenegger or "Damn, Saddam!" with Robin Williams. Imagine President Madonna in "Star Wars: Virgin Menace."
WHAT WAS YOUR CHILDHOOD PET?
One summer I took my lawn-mowing money and bought a ring snake. I still remember the sight of him all coiled up, spiraling down the toilet after my mom found out. Maybe that's why they're called ring snakes.
HOW WILL THE COLOR-CODED TERRORISM WARNING BE USEFUL?
Personally, I'd prefer the musical warning scheme they were considering, where classical means "low" risk, folk is "general" and jazz is "elevated." Rock would denote a "high" risk, and if you ever hear Heavy Metal blaring from the Oval Office it means George W. is going off the rails on a crazy train.
WHAT'S YOUR NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTION?
I've got to find a way to quit throwing food down my neck. For one thing it's unsafe, Mad Cow Disease was just a wake-up call; what's next, Sullen Salmon Syndrome? Grumpy Pork Pangs? Cross Chicken Complex? Scientists link eating with obesity, but economists link it with poverty. Have you noticed how expensive it's gotten to get and stay fat? We're talking four bucks for a box of cereal, and you still have to buy the milk! I've thought this one through and I'm definitely done eating.
ARE THE MEDIA OVERREACTING TO THE ANTHRAX SCARES?
A is for those attractive anchorpersons, Henny and Penny.
N is for the nonstop news they dispense to the many.
T is for our titillating television and all the secrets it coaxes.
H is for the half of them that turn out to be hoaxes.
R is for ratings and reporters and the recognition they crave.
A is for America; land of the spree, home of the knave.
X is for x-rays, which used to be rare except now we expect them to be everywhere.
Put together it spells anthrax you pundit, the media's antidote for overexposure to Condit.
IS STEM CELL RESEARCH MURDER OR SCIENCE?
You have reached Stem Cells for the Advancement of Murder and Science. Thank you for calling SCAMS. Please choose from the following menu options: If you are a member of the Flat Earth Society, press 1. If you are a Luddite, press 2. If you are a generally befuddled individual, press 3. If you are being lapped in the human race, press 4. If you have been abducted by a UFO, or are receiving aid from more than seven government agencies, please hold and the next available Stem Cell Murder and Science representative will assist you.
IS THE SOPRANOS DEFAMATORY TO ITALIANS?
Oh, please - if the Italian Mafia wanted "The Sopranos" off the air, it'd be gone - bada bing! Consider the possibility it's responsible for putting it on the air. Far from defaming Italians, the show sanitizes them and folds them neatly into society. Never mind the thinly veiled castration metaphor in the name and the hackneyed stereotypes that pop up like those targets at the police shooting range. Come see the softer side of the mob (or I'll slit your nostrils).
HOW MUCH FAITH DO YOU PLACE IN SCIENCE?
I place no faith in science - absolutely none. In fact, I try to place my faith and my science in separate buckets altogether (to keep one from spoiling the other). For me, science explains those things that can be explained; faith explains the rest. And the best thing about science is that it doesn't even need my faith. Science couldn't care less if I doubt gravity - it knows I'll still fall! Faith, on the other hand, is all worried about my feelings, and wants to have long talks about what I really believe. Meanwhile, water freezes at exactly 32 degrees, regardless of my indifference to its phase change.
DO DOGS BELONG IN THE CITY?
Responsible urbanites have been asking this question for ages. While the case "for" has always been strong (protection, companionship, warmth), the case "against" is somehow getting stronger (aggression, barking and poop). But the debate escalates into absurdity when dog-loving felons ring in from prison to build a business supplying exotic breeds. Meanwhile, the inmate's lawyers/adoptive parents/kennel masters set an example that everybody on both sides finds so disgusting it makes you want to rub their noses in it.
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