Dragonfly Spelling

Spelling Bees are elitist, biased, and culturally insensitive. It’s time for Dragonfly Spelling.

My friend Alexandra was complaining about the spelling bee at the elementary school her granddaughter attends. She told me that spelling bees are elitist, biased, and culturally insensitive. In her opinion, they should be replaced in the curriculum with some other spelling exercise, something that offers an equal chance of success to people of any ethnicity, gender, or sexual preference, irrespective of whether or not they know how to spell.

Alexandra argued, not unreasonably, that children from immigrant households see and hear a lot of their ancestral language, perhaps more than English. She then claimed that this put them at a disadvantage when it came to learning to spell English words.

This argument is nonsense. It ignores not only the fact that kids of Asian backgrounds regularly win these things, but also the advantages of bilingualism. I grew up in a household where everyone spoke French. And yet, I won the fifth grade English spelling bee.

At the final round, in Room 312 of Public School 2 (Alfred Zimberg Elementary) on that day, there were only three of us who had not yet been eliminated: two girls, Janet Gingold and Marion Wasserman, and me. Janet and Marion were the smartest kids in the class and they were best friends. At the Christmas party, they sang Heart of My Heart in harmony and everyone clapped their hands. I was the class clown, and not particularly diligent at schoolwork. But, I was a pretty decent speller.

Mrs Gasworth, our teacher, tapped her pencil against the notepad on her desk and read the next word out loud: “Choir”. That’s a tough one, I thought. It was Janet’s turn, but I tried to think of how I would spell it.

Janet looked uncertain: “Q-U-I-E-R”, she tried. That had been my guess, too. Thinking she’d got it right, I began to ready myself for the next word. I was shocked when Mrs Gasworth said “No, that’s incorrect”.

Good grief, how do you spell it, then? It was up to Marion now to spell the same word, and she looked panicked. She must have thought Janet was right, too. Hesitantly, she tried out “Q-U-I-R-E”.

That would have been my next guess, too, but something about it didn’t seem right.  “That is also incorrect” said Mrs Gasworth, and I was less surprised this time.

But, now it was my turn to panic. Mrs Gasworth turned to me and I searched frantically for a plausible answer.  Something with a K? Like K-W-I-E-R? No, couldn’t be. The class was waiting and I didn’t know what to say.

And in that fraction of a second, something flashed through my Franco-American brain. The previous evening, perusing TV Guide, I had come upon the word choir.  In my mind’s eye, I could see it on the page. I had wondered briefly what it meant before moving on to the next program description.

And now with the eyes of the whole class upon me, I realized that the English word choir comes from the French choeur of the same meaning. It is also the word for “heart”, as the choir is the heart of the church. The TV Guide listing must have been for a concert of some kind.

Everything fell into place. I said, clearly,  “C-H-O-I-R”.

There was a pause. Mrs Gasworth dropped her pencil onto the desk. The other kids thought I was fooling around, and some of them giggled. They were amazed when Mrs Gasworth announced that I was right. She looked a bit surprised herself.

And so, I won the English spelling prize (a chocolate bar), not despite my speaking a foreign language at home, but because of it.

I thought Alexandra’s condemnation of the spelling bee for perceived cultural bias was, at best, misguided. Cultural differences augment us by challenging us to adapt. Spelling bees are a part of the English curriculum, and a word is no more than a word. Can we be sure that the math curriculum is not culturally biased in favor of the children of accountants and engineers?

Nevertheless, I suggested an alternative classroom exercise for her to propose at the next PTA meeting. I thought of calling it Dragonfly Spelling for no particular reason (the origins of the term “bee” are uncertain, anyway). You can think of it as a spelling bee done backwards. In a spelling bee, you hear a word used in a sentence and are asked to spell it. In Dragonfly Spelling, you see a word that someone else has spelled wrong, and you are asked to use it in a sentence. There are no winners or losers, which is as unbiased as you can get.

Alexandra was enthusiastic about the proposal, so I gave her a few examples to use in her presentation. And you, dear reader, may use them to try it, as well.

  • dognuts
  • meaty oaker
  • odor colon
  • sillow wet
  • minipaws
  • dairy air
  • egotesticle


Stealing from Seagulls

Today there was a fisherman on the beach.

I looked down on him from the bluffs as he stood there holding his long rod and facing the waves, right in the middle of Montara Beach. He was a tall, skinny character, wearing blue coveralls over a light blue sweatshirt. With red shoes and a white pail, he looked nicely coordinated. It was all topped off by a broad-brimmed canvas sunhat and punctuated by a pair of black gloves that drew my eye to his hands, even from a distance.

When he glanced up, I saw that a checkered bandana was covering his face. Only his eyes were exposed.

After standing there for some time without catching anything, the fisherman suddenly put down his rod, attempting to set his reel in his little white pail while balancing the rod on top.

He came running up the beach, waving his arms at a couple of seagulls ten or twenty yards away. Something about the way he moved his body made me think he was Chinese. He chased the gulls away from the body of a crab they had been dragging out of the ocean, and then picked the crab up himself, carrying it back to where he had left his rod.

I had expected him to put the crab in the pail, or to tear it up and use it as bait, but he did neither of those things. Instead, he just threw it into the sand where he’d been standing.

Then he spent a long time brushing sand off his reel, which had not remained balanced. After a while, he went back to the crab and buried it under a few inches of sand. Then he resumed fishing.

Later on, still having caught nothing, the fisherman decided to pack up and go home. He reeled in his line and picked up his little bucket. Then he dug up the crab. Using the same cloth he had used to clean his reel, he cleaned the sand off of it and put in in his pail.

And then he walked off, all the way to the north end of the beach.

I was glad not to be invited for dinner.

Leave No Hole Unturned

A scattered thunderstorm is possible.

As a department manager at one of America’s great corporations, I got to attend the weekly staff meetings of our unit’s Director. The staff included some of the best minds in the company, people with great leadership potential. Of course, there were also a few imposters like myself.

Most people complain about meetings, but I saw these as an opportunity to learn. Whenever I heard something interesting I would write it down. I present a few of the more interesting locutions here.

The Director

The Director was a vigorous guy in his late fifties who liked to lift weights in the morning before work. He ran extra laps before his annual physical to get better numbers on the heart monitor. This positivity led to an enthusiasm for improbable business opportunities and, in discussions of strategy, to the frequent use of sports analogies.

  1. Let’s play it one ear at a time.
  2. You can’t just bite the first bullet that comes by.
  3. You can’t just email: you have to talk to people manually.
  4. Some things really get your wheels thinking.
  5. The storm clouds don’t always clear at the end of the tunnel
  6. Keep me up to breast on that.


The Director’s admin attended the meetings to take minutes. She started things off by reading those from the previous week and to discussing corrections. She once came in and told us that the boss was not available, he was disposed of.

  1. The rest of the minutes is the same every week. It’s a lot of duplicity.
  2. He’s being Hippocratic when he says that because he does it too.
  3. Do you get the jest of what I’m saying?
  4. It always ceases to amaze me.


We had a one-man mergers group, and the Director loved to discuss his interactions with other companies. He lived in a make-believe world where the company might actually invest in one of these deals. The M&A guy was always very fervent in presenting these opportunities. He liked to talk about mission-critical objectives. The Director would say something about fourth down.

  1. If you have a gold mine, you should fly with it.
  2. Their assets are broader than first blush might offer.
  3. I’ll ask what they want in the way of retribution.
  4. A deal should be win-win for us, if not for them.
  5. By then it will be a mute point

The Marketing Department

There were always a lot of marketing guys at these meetings. Each one was responsible for a product line, and they would talk about what they were doing to sell it. The Director was an ex-salesman and he would make suggestions. The marketing guys would tell him they were good ideas and write them down. Then everyone would look happy for a minute.

  1. Always look at both ends of the coin.
  2. Don’t put the chicken before the cart.
  3. I think there’s a flaw in the ointment
  4. Sunk costs are water under the river
  5. We’ll launch an ad campaign as a peremptory strike.
  6. They’re notoriously famous for that
  7. Don’t reveal anything that might tip our hat to the competition

Product Development

Development was headed up by a succession of interchangeable engineers who wore cotton shirts and khaki pants. We always had one or two major projects under way, and they were always on schedule until they were not, at which point they were suddenly 5 months behind. This was the result of a succession of interchangeable engineers telling their bosses whatever they wanted to hear.

  1. The marketing concept has to be flushed out with more detail.
  2. It’s an estimate based on a back-of-the-pencil calculation.
  3. A modular product is compromised of subunits.
  4. This valve lets the vacuum out.
  5. This guy has a photogenic memory
  6. Project costs are calculated imperially.
  7. We use a process of trial by error.


The finance guy was an accountant who felt audacious taking off his jacket. Standing in striped shirt, tie, and pants, he would describe preparations for the next audit. He kept stashing money in various contingency accounts so that he could “find” more profits at the end of each quarter, enabling the Director to make his bonus. This maneuver earned him a hefty bonus of his own.

  1. We need to recuperate those losses
  2. We’re ready, at least superfluously
  3. Those requests are far and few between
  4. The claim was denied, and righteously so
  5. B2B means Business to Business, it’s an anachronism.
  6. We will leave no hole unturned.


Every week, the factory manager reported on the number of units made for each product. He had a lot of detailed spreadsheets, and he always complained about last minute, rush orders. Then he sat down and went to sleep. He seemed to be awake, but when I sat next to him I could hear him snore.

  1. Trying to solve two birds with one stone.
  2. They have to run between two gauntlets
  3. This group is between the horns of a dilemma
  4. That’s one of our weakest vulnerabilities
  5. This is where we are at this point of juncture

Human Resources

The HR manager was the kind of person who wanted you to know that he really meant everything he said. His brow was permanently furrowed with concern that you might not fully subscribe to his veracity, and he had a habit of repeating everything twice. He had a Ph.D. in education and earnestly wanted to be a general manager. Perhaps because of this, his comments were not limited to personnel, but touched upon everything from sales to distribution.

  1. That’s not a normal situation. It’s an abrogation
  2. It’ll happen not far in the distant future
  3. Every time he does that, it just exasperates the situation
  4. He was really chasing at the bit
  5. Now we’re all in the same shoe
  6. He’ll be coming here on a periodical basis
  7. I had to pour oil over ruffled feathers
  8. He always manages to land with his feet up

The Apron and the Knot

A tangled tale of apronology.

Monday  afternoon

Hi Dianne — I decided to cook today (beef goulash), but I keep having trouble with my apron. It’s a blue French apron with strings that go behind my back, and every time I every time I try to tie them together back there, the knot comes loose. I fiddled with it all afternoon, until finally I managed to twist something into place that held. But it was a bulky contortion, at best.

When I got done cooking I tried to reach back there and get the knot untied, but it kept snagging, and I found that I couldn’t get the apron off. After a bit of this, I lost my temper and pulled at it real hard. Unfortunately, this just made matters worse, and now the thing is frozen into a knurl that is harder than a rock. I’m stuck in my apron. You’re out of town and Eric is in San Jose, so I have no one I can turn to. Do you think I can go next door and ask Frank for help? I don’t want to look silly.

Tuesday Morning

Hi Dianne  — I couldn’t use the hot tub last night, and I had to sleep in my apron (Frank wasn’t home). I was up all night because the knot kept digging into my back. At least I didn’t have to worry about drooling.

But Eric is coming over this afternoon, so everything should be okay. He was a Boy Scout.

PS – Will paprika stain my sheets?

Tuesday Evening

Well, Eric came over today but he wasn’t able to get the knot out of the apron. The canvas straps are stiff, and they’ve been pulled on so much since yesterday that he couldn’t get them to slip at all. He even tried prying it with a screwdriver, but the blade wouldn’t go in.

So, he called up his friend Peter. Peter works at Sam’s Crab House, and he knows a lot of people. It turns out that one of them is an apron specialist. Peter was sure he would be able to help. “Miguel knows all about aprons.”

We headed over to Sam’s.  Miguel must have been busy with other apron victims, though, because we had to sit in the waiting room for quite a while before he could see me. Apron removal specialists are in high demand, I realized. The waiting room at Sam’s is furnished with a long bar and comfortable stools, and Eric and I were sitting there patiently when Miguel’s assistant, his brother Juan, came out to collect his co-payment.

So I bought another round, and we waited a while longer. Finally, Juan ushered me into a bustling, cavernous kitchen that doubled as both an apron exam room and an OR. There, I met Miguel. A large, ill-shaven man of about fifty in flannel shirt and soiled trousers, he was wearing a black apron of his own. This gave me pause for a moment because I had been expecting the white coat of a clinical apronologist. But Miguel seemed to know what he was doing. He examined the knot with the confident air of an expert.

“Not a problem,” he announced, after some study. Then he went off to get an apron removal instrument, a “navaja” is what he called it. Figuring that this was some sort of specialized device available only to professionals, I began to relax, confident that I was in good hands.

But I grew alarmed when Miguel returned wielding something that looked like a butcher’s knife. And even more so when he raised it over his head and tried to grab at my apron. That’s when I screamed and started running around the kitchen, with Miguel chasing me and everyone else trying to get out of the way.

Juan positioned himself in front of the door, blocking my exit. “The boss gets upset when we chase patrons through the dining room,” he explained. I turned around and ran the other way.

On my third vault over the steam table, however, my toe caught on the edge and I ended up crashing to the floor. Miguel was on top of me in a flash and, with the help of Juan and several others, he held me down and performed the apronectomy.

It probably would have gone better if I had struggled less. There would have been less collateral damage. As it was, the EMTs gave me two units of blood and I’ll probably get released tomorrow. I’m wearing a hospital gown right now, but they told me the apron is in the plastic bag with my clothes.

Raccoon Redux

A raccoon is caught in flagrante delicto

One of them almost got in the other night.

This time I heard it coming, though, and although it was a close call, I was able to ward it off. Years ago, some kind of commando got in undetected, and once entrenched it was difficult to dislodge. This time, however, the attempted break-in was under the window where I sleep, and it woke me up. At about one in the morning, I heard a scraping sound. Listening more closely, there was a heavy, irregular grunt. Someone was trying to break in to the crawlspace under the house.

I had to fight to keep my pulse under control as I recalled the episode years ago, when another raccoon had managed to rip open one of the gratings. It had set up a nice little encampment under one of the bathrooms, and apparently enjoyed scratching its back on the underside of the tub, all the while issuing little cries of bliss. This interfered with my sleep, and eventually I decided I had to chase the thing out from under there.

This proved quite difficult to do. Seeking advice at Hassel’s Hardware, I was told to throw an ammonia-soaked rag into the nest. Raccoons don’t like the smell of ammonia and, although they can rip open steel gratings, they can’t figure out how to get rid of the rag. And so they leave, at least in theory.

On the strength of this, I bought a can of ammonia from Hassel, soaked a rag in it, and crawled down through the trap door leading to the space under the house. This was a dark place full of cobwebs and mud, and I didn’t like being there at all. It was unfortunate that the trap door where I crouched was located at the far end from the suspected raccoon nest, but I was unwilling to venture any further. Do your best, I thought to myself, somewhat ineffectually, and I balled up the rag in my fist and threw it as far as I could. This turned out to be about four feet, and it had no discernible effect on the raccoon population. However, I did ruin a shirt by getting ammonia on the sleeve.

After this foray into chemical warfare, I tried talking the kid next door into crawling under there with a broomstick, but he wanted too much money. Finally, I managed to get rid of the thing by applying the principles of physics: I left the trap door propped open, allowing free raccoon transit. Even with only one raccoon, the partial pressure of raccoons under the house had to be higher than the partial pressure of raccoons in the rest of the world (although not while it was sleeping, as its kinetic energy would then be zero).  By allowing the system to equilibrate, I knew that the little beggar would have to come out sooner or later (Dalton’s Law of Raccoons). After a few nights, the dogs next door alerted me that my tenant had gone out to forage, and I ran out to shut the door. The broken grating had been replaced by then, and so territorial integrity was finally restored.

Thinking back on that unfortunate episode, I realized that the present alarm had to be taken seriously. As much as I wanted to roll over and go back to sleep, I couldn’t allow this animal to break in and establish an outpost under my house. It was cold and I was warm in bed, but all good men must come to the defense of the premises (when threatened). I couldn’t just go back to sleep.

I got up and staggered down the hall in my underwear.

Somehow, I managed to find a flashlight and stepped through the patio doors out onto the back deck. I swept the yard with the beam, seeing nothing along the back wall. Then, near the shrubs, the bright glint of two eyes stared back at me. An animal with a striped tail stood motionless in the middle of the lawn, insolently sizing me up.

Unarmed men, this is a good time to point out, are not at their best confronting wild animals while clad only in their boxers. As the raccoon considered what to do, I tried to hold my ground. But I kept imagining razor-like teeth and claws, while thoughts of rabies also vied for my attention. Eventually, I said “Go away,” as forcefully as I could. I may have added, “please”. And the raccoon must have been impressed, because it turned around and disappeared into the darkness near the fence. After a while, I went back to bed.

It took a while for my heartbeat to slow down again, but finally I managed to get to sleep. Not for long, though. In a short while, the scratching resumed, as distinct as before.

Cursing, I returned to the patio door with my flashlight. This time, I caught sight of the animal slinking around the corner of the house. It was hiding in a narrow pathway bounded by high shrubs and leading to a latched gate, biding its time and hoping I’d go away. I was hesitant to corner it in this dead end, especially in my underwear, and so I needed an alternate plan. I decided to come around from the other side of the gate and try to flush it back out into the yard, hoping it would run away. I ran inside and put on a pair of pants. Then, feeling decidedly bolder, I grabbed a broomstick from the garage and headed around to the gateway.

Hoping the neighbors would forgive me for the noise, I started banging the stick on the gate. After a bit, I peeked between the boards with the flashlight, and sure enough, the raccoon had fled to the far end. It was in the main yard again and near the fence. Summoning my courage, and hitching up my pants, I opened the gate and advanced down the walk, while making a racket with the broomstick against the wall of the house.

My light caught the raccoon for an instant as it ran along the top of the fence before jumping into the neighbor’s yard. The dogs must have been sleeping, I guess, because they remained quiet. Feeling a bit disappointed by this, I stood there listening for a while. No hint of raccoon. So, I went back inside, leaving the broomstick by the patio doors, just in case this wasn’t over. And again, I tried to go back to sleep.

This time my nap lasted all of an hour. At that point, an even more raucous rasping awakened me from under the window. Once again, I cursed and jumped into my pants. Grabbing flashlight and broomstick, I threw open the patio door and stepped outside. This time the raccoon had made enough noise to rouse the dogs, and they were barking furiously next door. I decided to add to the commotion by raking the broomstick on the metal patio chairs.

In the midst of this commotion I found the raccoon with my light, near the side of the house. It froze in the beam, clutching the end of a piece of metal grating it had half torn from the wall beneath the window. From the looks of things, it had just now succeeded in making the opening large enough for a raccoon to pass through. Dalton’s Law, I realized, now favored its ducking inside.

But Dalton’s Law is based on statistics, the probable motion of a population of raccoons. It further assumes that this motion will be random, and that the raccoons will be infinitely tiny point-raccoons. Here, however, was a single instance of a raccoon poised to move in a non-random manner. Statistically anomalous outcomes were imaginable. For a moment, the animal hesitated, and I wondered as I banged on the chair. Would it climb in through the hole and try to hide, or would it panic and flee the racket I was making together with the dogs?

Finally, the commotion proved too much for it, and the raccoon turned and vanished under the ceanothus and over the fence in the corner of the yard. They have a dog over there, too, but it’s a little froufrou thing with bows that wears a sweater whenever they walk it. It’s not the kind of dog that confronts a raccoon. Not without a pair of pants.


The next morning, I was out in the back replacing the torn grating. In a way, I felt bad for the poor raccoon. It had put in a whole night’s worth of hard work pulling the screen out from its metal frame, cleverly working on the weakest part of the design, only to be thwarted at the last moment.

After a while, Frank came over and said hello. Frank is my neighbor and he’s even older than I am.

“Was that you out here last night with a flashlight?” he wanted to know. “I was watching TV and I saw a light movin’ out here.” Frank is a good neighbor and a vigilant insomniac. He has a sharp eye for burglars, but not for raccoons. He might be a bit hard of hearing, as well, because he didn’t mention the banging.

“I was gonna call the cops, but I figured a burglar wouldn’t be using a flashlight,” he added.

The use of felines to repel raccoons is recounted here.

Virtual Emoji

Improve your social media presence with the latest development in emoji technology

Hey can you do me a favor? I need some bagels and I can’t actually move around much right now. Could you pick some up when you come over? [smiling face emoji}

You need bagels? Sure 👍, how many and what kind?

Get me eight. Four garlic and four onion. Thanks!
[person bowing deeply emoji]

Ok, no problem 
 Though your emoji game is seriously lacking 😀

That just shows how little you know. My emoji game, as you call it, is far more sophisticated than yours. You are an emoji novice [smirking face emoji], barely above the emoticon level.

What are you talking about?

You are using simple pictographic emojis. Primitive. I, on the other hand, know how to incorporate the more nuanced virtual emojis into my writing. It’s easier and more expressive [fingernail-contemplating smugness emoji].

WTF is a virtual emoji?😕

It is a tacit emoji that simply refers to the little picture thingie without actually having to look it up.

Don't you have regular emojis? 😘

I have them, but there are so many that they bewilder me. You have to hover the cursor forever to find out what each one means, and then it never turns out to be the one you want. I find it easier simply to type the desired meaning in brackets. The bracketed words then refer to the emoji, which in turn refers to the emotion in need of expression. The actual emoji is merely implied, never really used. Think of it as para-semiotic writing.

Ok now I understand. You got a nap and I didn't.

Virtual emojis work just as well as the real ones, and you save yourself a lot of trouble by not having to search for them every time [flustered man looking through open file cabinet emoji].

That emoji doesn't exist! I'm not sure about the fingernail one, either.

That’s an additional advantage of the technique. You can use brackets to refer to emojis that haven’t been invented yet. No need to wait [time waiting for no man emoji]. Virtual emojis just bypass the need for a picture entirely. They let you express emotions that are too subtle or that might be difficult to represent with pictographs. For example [schadenfreude emoji] or [penis envy emoji].

You know, you might actually be onto something.

You can combine virtual emojis with pictographic ones or with each other to make compound emojis. Then you can express ideas that are even more complex! [you 🛏 me emoji]

Are you coming on to me?😚


I think virtual emojis are even better than the real ones. There’s actually no need to use the silly pictures anymore. We could just string virtual emojis together like words in a sentence and communicate that way.

That's an incredible idea! It could revolutionize the way people use Facebook!🙄

It isn’t really my idea. It dates back to the cavemen.

Cavemen invented virtual emojis?

Sure. They invented words so they wouldn’t have to draw pictures of everything in the dirt [man with stick scratching picture of attacking tiger in sand emoji].

I see.

But seriously thanks for picking up the bagels [man eating lox with onions and cream cheese on toasted garlic bagel emoji].

No problem. So, how come you can't get out of the house?

[mouse in shower 😱 slip ♿️ emoji].

Dating Websites for Seniors

The last game of musical chairs

Recently, I told a friend that I wanted to find someone to go hear live music with, and he suggested that I look into dating websites. I was skeptical about this, at first, since I think of myself as too old for online dating. But I found many websites that do serve the older age brackets, and even some that specialize in that market. Here’s a look at what some of them have to offer, the kinds of people you meet, and some of the advanced techniques I’ve used to pick up chicks. Well, okay. Hens.

Senior Dating Websites

The Websites

Many websites specialize in helping people find one another in matches suitable for romance, travel, or friendship . They maintain a database of each subscriber’s descriptive profile, a mechanism for matching people, and some kind of chat system for interaction. There’s usually free access to a limited feature set, and you pay a subscription fee if you want the whole shebang.

I found that every site is the biggest site. All claim to dominate their market segment.  Every site is the world’s largest, is number one in my area, is the top local senior dating service, is the premiere site for tattooed, overweight graduates of Monroe High School. Size matters, because the more game, the more meat, so users have reason to flock to the dominant player. That’s where the average male is most likely to find a date.

Judging my attractiveness to be somewhat less than average, I decided to sign up for a half dozen sites to increase my odds.

The Features


The first step at each site was to fill out a profile, describing myself with a brief paragraph and by answering some questions. Most of the women’s profiles that I looked at overflowed with banality. Like to laugh. Love my family. Take walks on the beach. Kind and loving. I can only assume that the male profiles are similar but more boastful. Ghostwriters are available, and since women seeking men don’t see the profiles of other women, they have no idea that they’re all the same. Sweet racket. No one can read this stuff for long without going numb, anyway.

In contrast, I approached this autodepiction with great earnestness. How best to describe myself? Cougars and dirty old men might be tempted to lie about their age, but I am a man of honor and will stoop to no such subterfuge. Bent on cold honesty, I bluntly described my carnivorous personality, laying bare that I might be a bit of an acquired taste. Truth in advertising.

Next, there was usually a place to describe what you were looking for in a match. Every woman wanted a man who was honest and kind, and it surprised me how many specified “makes me laugh”. And “romantic”. Made me laugh. I left this part blank for fear of excluding anyone.

I had to use sushi
I had to use sushi

Then I uploaded some pictures of myself. People upload all sorts of pictures, images of their families, their dog, their last vacation, multiple copies of the same shot. One woman told me that some men pose with a large fish, damp emblem of their endowment. I wanted to do the same, but I couldn’t find a whole fish, so I had to settle for sushi.

Another woman’s pictures were all taken with a purple hat in front of a mirror. She wasn’t smiling in any of them, just scowling at the camera like she hated the hat. I figured I’d take it off her hands:

Dear TRFeldman
I wonder if you would consider selling your hat. The purple color and large flower on the side are quite fetching, especially in photo number 21 of 25. Your stern stare above the granny glasses reminds me of Ms Cole, the school librarian who once smacked my ass with a ruler. If you are willing to sell the hat let me know how much and if you have Paypal.

A week later she hadn’t answered, so I figured I’d try again:

If you won’t sell the hat, how about letting me take a better picture? They have these 3D printers now that let you make a real duplicate, and I can make myself a hat, too. Not sure how it works, actually, maybe you end up with a hat made of ink. It’d maybe run all over my hair, but hey, lots of old ladies have purple hair, why not an old guy? Better fey than grey.


The next step was to search through the profiles to find potential matches. You could do this yourself or let the site’s algorithm do it for you.  I searched the profile databases with criteria for age and for location. Some sites wouldn’t let me set the minimum age above 45. I guess they don’t realize there are age brackets for shuffleboard.

Then I played matching games that let you Like pictures of women from a series that they present you with. If my Like was reciprocated, I would be notified and invited to contact my reciprocal Likee. Sometimes there was a picture but the profile was blank. Meat market. Sometimes the pictures were not so recent. Buyer beware.

Most sites automate this, matching data sets by psychological profiling (or possibly astrology or random selection) to identify smaller sets of potential match-ups. A daily batch o’matches is then sent out. However the matches are made, marketing will trademark a name and sell it as artificial intelligence to their pining customers. For better or worse, Zoosk’s  Behavioral Matchmaking™ system (“powerful”), Match’s Synapse (“intelligent matching technology”), eHarmony’s 29 Dimensions of Compatibility (as observed by site founder Dr. Neil Clerk Warren), and EliteSingles’ Big 5 personality test now held the key to my future happiness.


Armed with my latest matches, I was ready to hit on some babes, or at least message some matrons. There were systems for sending email and chatrooms to let me accost these ready women. Transcripts of everything are saved, so I would be able to keep all my paramours sorted out. There are also various encouragements for the shy and reticent: suggested questions to ask; alerts telling when someone is online. Flirt or Fave buttons, for those too meek to type, send a message that basically says “why don’t you hit on me”.

The People You Meet

Reading the profiles is like people-watching on a screen. You sit around looking at pictures of women, and if you want, you can find out a little about them by reading the profile. You don’t even have to hit on them, it’s fun just doing that.

I wanted to concentrate on women who do some of the same things I do, like breathing and pining for sex, but sometimes I had trouble understanding what they had written. People described themselves as  ENTP and GGG and I didn’t know wtf. For seniors, in particular, the jargon may lead to misunderstandings. For example, many women specify “no hookups”, but when I met one I learned that didn’t refer to oxygen.


One woman wrote that she was obsessed with dining out. She knew about all the famous chefs and wanted to eat in their restaurants. If a new place opened she wanted to try it, check out the whole menu over several visits. This lady ate out all the time. Then I looked where you answer the questions and she had put that she really liked to cook. So I couldn’t figure that out. If you eat out all the time, when the hell do you cook?

I contacted her and we chatted a few times until finally, I realized what was going on. The woman really did like to cook, and she put a lot of effort into it. She’d start in the morning with marinades, mother sauces, clarified butters. The afternoon was spent dicing vegetables and baking cakes. But when the roast came out each evening and she sat down to it, she realized that, as good a cook as she was, she was no match for the professionals. And so she had to go out.

This was expensive, of course, what with all the food wasted, and that’s where the online dating came in. Every night a different guy would show up and ask where she wanted to go. No vegetarians, had to be guys who were seriously into food. I was honored when she asked if I wanted Mondays, but I still said no. Monday is my bowling night.


Many divorcees have had a bad experience with an unfaithful man. Their twelve-year-old photos often accompany text describing a desire for honesty and fidelity in a match.

dear fogmother
I noticed in your profile that you want a loyal man. Then I saw the picture of you cuddling your black and white Abyssinian pomapoo. Since dogs are so loyal, I thought you might want to meet a man who shares other traits with your pup.

• For large ears, look for Basque men. They have very long lobes.
• For a prominent nose, the obvious recommendations are Jews and Italians, but check out Indian men, too.
• Your chosen color scheme will be difficult to match, but right now if you head to Burning Man you can probably find a  white guy who is, like, really dirty and it’ll be almost the same.
• I can’t tell from the picture, is the dog’s tail long or short?

As for the long tongue, I’ll let you do your own research. Good luck!

The same woman came up again in my daily matches about two weeks later. So I wrote to her once more.

You have come up once again in the daily matches sent me by the artificial so-called intelligence that produces these pairings. Since you were chosen twice out of fifteen 10-person samples taken (with replacement) from a larger population of people our age, it’s possible to estimate the size of that parent population. I won’t depress you with the result of that calculation, since you might conclude from it that you are destined to run into me again. I know you would prefer a Basque.

Another woman described herself as a sapiosexual, which is someone who is aroused by a partner’s intellect. In other words, someone who wants to fuck your brains out. This lady got in touch with me because my profile had no spelling errors, which put me in the top two percent of subscribers. I immediately wrote back.

Dear Jan
When you got in touch, I was happy to meet a sapiosexual. Then, looking through your pictures, I noticed one of you in a lab coat and suddenly realized that you are a scientist and not likely to be asapient, either. This excited me, as I, too, am sapiosexual, and particularly attracted to women who look smart by wearing glasses (opticosapiosexual). Also, I like your smile (risiopticosapiosexual).
I must confess to a puerile fantasy of meeting you, sapiotropism leading to sapiosexuaggregation. At first, we enjoyed some good, old-fashioned socratisapiosexuconfabulation. Then, our sapiocredibility established, we engaged in reciprocal tonolingual salivary osculostimulation and sapiosexuophagy leading to the inevitable secretory sapiostasis.

How to Pick Up OWILFs

Compared to bars, I find the biggest advantage of websites is that, when I first approach a woman, I can get out more than just a sentence or two before she decides to ignore me. I usually try to write a few lines, cite part of her profile, and point out something we have in common, some way in which we could interact. It’s good to include questions. Here are some of the more successful come-ons that I’ve used.

Dear CoolJosie8
I understand you like camping. Me too.  I like being out in the wilderness because no one stares at me. I like campfires, and chopping wood with an axe, but the best part is setting up the tent when you pound on the little pegs with a mallet. Wham! Let’s meet somewhere and plan a backpacking trip. Wouldn’t it be fun to be alone in the woods together?
Dear tar sands
Hello. You have come up in my matches of the day. I looked at your profile but you didn’t fill in the section describing your desired match. From this I surmise that you’ll take pretty much anything. Since I’m routinely snubbed and occasionally reported by the women on this site who do have standards, I thought I’d take a run at you. Why not drop me a line and say hello?
Dear GoodCookGal11
Your profile says you’re very proficient in the kitchen. Please help me. I have been recently rendered a bachelor and am struggling to feed myself.
I bought a microwave because the girl at Safeway said it’s the easiest way to cook. I also have a frying pan but the kitchen’s a mess and I don’t think I can find the stove anymore. I had to set up the microwave on the chair, but I figure I can eat standing up. Can you tell me how to make chicken livers and pesto? I’m desperate.
Dear nbl1745
I see that you used to be a teacher. I wanted to tell you that I like kids and have some experience teaching, as well. Last year, I taught the kid next door how to use a slingshot and now he keeps the cats out of my backyard. We started out shooting 5 mm ball bearings. The cats would squeal and run like hell if you hit one. Now he wants to try an 8 mm ball, see if he can kill one. Kids nowadays, so precocious. Aren’t you glad you retired?

Cat Sitting

Roger has two rare polydactyl cats. He asked me to come over and take care of them while he went on vacation.

Hi Roger

I want you and Gillian to have a great vacation. So don’t worry about your house or the cats. I’ve got everything under control.

Eric came over last night and after dinner, he and I decided to sample some of your fine Scotches, as you had kindly offered. So I want to thank you for your hospitality. Scully didn’t much care for Scotch, but Mully had a few licks and didn’t seem to mind it. So I gave her a little more and she climbed in my lap while Eric and I kept sampling.

After a while we decided to have a little game of toss-the-cat. We were sitting in the living room only a couple of feet apart, and we got her going in a nice little back and forth rhythm. She seemed to be having a ball, thrashing about and turning somersaults in mid-air. Then Scully came over to see what all the noise was about and Eric got a great idea.

He picked Scully up and tossed him over to me, while at the same time I tossed Mully to him. The cats crossed in mid-air and they could wave to one another as they passed at apogee. To get our timing right, we had to stand further apart, at opposite ends of the room. Scully was a little less enthusiastic than Mully, but wtf, don’t spoil the game, cat.

After a while, the ceiling started getting in the way, and we decided to move the game outside. So we took the last bottle out to the backyard. We kept moving further and further apart to see how far we could toss. By now, both cats were squealing with delight. When we got out to fifteen feet, though, they collided in mid-air and fell to the ground between us. I was able to grab Mully, but Scully jumped over the fence and into the next yard. Luckily, the Doberman that lives there chased him right back and Eric managed to tackle him, so don’t worry, he’s not lost.

We got back into cat-throwing position, but unfortunately, on the next toss, I put a little too much into it and Mully went sailing over Eric’s head. She hit the big tree back there and slid down the trunk, then scrambled back up and out onto a branch. She’s a really good climber!

She was sitting out there on that branch, maybe twenty feet up, and we didn’t know what to do. We tried throwing rocks at her to make her come down, but I think we only managed to hit her once and it didn’t work. Then Eric got another idea.

He found a piece of wire in the shed that you use for a workshop back there, and by tying a weight to its end, he was able to throw it over the branch that the cat was sitting on, near the base. Then we each grabbed one end and pulled it back and forth, until finally we managed to saw through the branch.  When it fell, it hit the workshop roof, but I’m sure it won’t cost much to repair the window and gutter.

Mully came down on the roof, too. We were able to pick her up with no problem after she slid over the gutter and fell to the ground, though. She seemed a little dazed, but don’t worry, she’s fine now. The vet says it’s only a mild concussion and the cast should come off in three weeks.

I hope you guys are having a great time. And tell Gillian not to stress over the home front: I haven’t missed a feeding and the litter box is clean.

Your friend,


Battle of the Sexes

What if they held a war and no one came?

I met a woman once who told me there were men who tried to paw her on the very first date. While I understood their motivation (she was very attractive), I reflected that there could be some debate about whether such a primitive approach expresses a hirsute, masculine trait or simply reflects a lack of self-control.

In another man’s worldview, potential partners are peers, not conquests. One does not normally paw a peer. Or rather peer pawing, when it does occur, involves a mutual consent which is arrived at by subtle communications that some of us have never been very good at. In a number of my more paleolithic gender mates, this ineloquence leads to pawing behavior.

It is preferable to paw primarily those who also share other interests, so that the hours when one’s paws are tired can be spent doing things other than fighting. One therefore forms a more circumscribed set of potential pawing partners, a club so exclusive that there may be times when it contains no members at all. In some males this condition may augment the tendency for early-onset pawing.

The subtle communications to which I have alluded should begin with some exploration of areas of mutual interest. You may like the same music or sports. If you’re both into meditation, you can kill a lot of time right there. You can avoid future conflict by distinguishing those who want to wear diamonds in a box at the opera from those who are more into blowing weed and listening to the Stones. And it is appreciated when you show interest in something more than the size of a peer’s paws.

At some point these preliminary exchanges give way to outright pawing. This transition has traditionally been managed through two strategies, which we shall call the Forceful Y and the Artful X. The Forceful Y involves groping a lady’s breasts as soon as you can figure out where they are while you assume she’s only pretending to resist. The Artful X entails sitting close to a guy, letting him smell your breath, and seeing how long it takes before he stops pretending anything at all.

The men who make overtures to women in the manner described by my friend would probably find a more reserved approach to be timid. And there are surely women who prefer an assertive advance, and who shun those gentle souls who so undaringly respect them. On the other hand, the limited vocabulary that her erstwhile suitors had brought to those subtle communications had seemingly dissuaded my friend from seeing them again. I suppose she wanted a better linguist.


My first kitchen purchase as a new bachelor was a wok

I bought a wok today. It was an impulse buy while getting frozen dinners in a Chinese supermarket. It was a 10-inch teflon wok, with a handle, black with silver trim and dressed up in red cardboard packaging.  I had to have it.  Eleven dollars (plus tax).

When I got home, I decided to do a stir fry to break it in. I didn’t have any meat or fish, but I had onions. Every stir fry needs onions. I put the wok on the biggest burner I have and turned it on high, then went off to slice the vegetables. I did two onions the long way and minced a few cloves of garlic. Looked through the ‘frig to see if I had anything else, but nah. Onion stir fry it was going to be.

So back to the wok, which by now had turned an incandescent red and was radiating enough heat to make the straight lines between the tiles on the wall behind it appear wavy in the shimmering air. I figured it must be ready.  I put on two oven mitts, my French apron, and a welding mask, grabbed the wok handle in one hand and tossed in half a cup of oil with the other.

Bam! The oil splattered explosively, but I was ready for this (I’ve done it before). I quickly threw in the onions and garlic, and started trying to do that thing you see Emeril do, where he flips the pan with his wrist and everything turns over real nice. I always wanted to be able to do that, and I figured with this deep wok shape it ought to be easy. I did pretty well, too, lost just a couple of slices. It was only when I slipped on one of them and fell down that I spilled the rest.