``The challenge in cleaning any house,'' MacGregor told me, ``is not so much in getting it done, or in getting it started, or even in all that cleaning work in-between.''
``Makes it sound like there's no challenge anywhere at that rate,'' I admitted.
He nodded. ``But there's got to be some challenge, or where's the sport in it?''
``Section B, isn't it? Right after the comics page and the recipes?''
MacGregor shook his head. That's the business section. ``The challenge is in doing all those parts, and particularly in that order, what with how you need to be doing something for all of them.'' I had no idea what was going on, but it seemed like a reasonable thing to say. There's no sense my petty doubts slowing down a great thinker.
``How are we supposed to get a house cleaned without doing anything to clean it, then?'' I'm pretty sure I said this, since MacGregor had the next line.
``The answer lies in eating.''
MacGregor held up his hand, or at least I trusted it was his hand. He wouldn't fib about a thing like that. ``If you need to cook but you haven't got the time, what do you do?''
``Go to a restaurant?'' I shrugged. ``Anyone can go to a restaurant; it's a free country. But that doesn't help the house-cleaning problem. You can't just go to a restaurant and tell them you want a cheese omelette and the dining room picked up. They'll spit in either your food, your DVD player, or your hair.'' And, I might have added, there's the problem of what do you tip. I might have added; find MacGregor and ask.
``You're thinking too petty,'' he said, seeming like he was about to claim pancakes were the better option. ``And it doesn't solve the cooking problem; it just shuffles it to someone else. Try again and we won't charge for this one.''
``I suppose we could have a candy bar, although that leaves the wrapper laying around. That's actually making reverse progress on the house-cleaning problem.''
MacGregor shook his head. ``You're too conventionally minded, that's the problem. No sense of innovation.''
I confessed I am, but it keeps my problems to the familiar old ones. I haven't been completely gobsmacked by fresh problems in years, and it takes the pressure off solving a problem if you've had it for so very long.
``If you can't make the effort to cook, get a crock-pot. Slice up your ingredients, pour some water in, set it to simmer and then leave it alone for several hours. Leave it alone a few more hours, and soon, you've got a perfectly good meal you can leave alone entirely. You barely have to show up to eat it.''
``And you want to apply this to the house-cleaning problem?''
MacGregor slapped the table which he carries around just to make his hand hurt. ``We set your house in a gigantic ceramic basin, fill it with water, add some carrots, potato slices, and endives --- don't tell me you haven't got endives you don't know what to do with,'' he said, and I didn't, since I'm not perfectly sure an endive isn't that thing where a book lists all the footnotes in the back by what sentence needed footnoting, ``and in a few hours you come back and it's clean.''
``That seems like a lot of water to put into the problem,'' I said, for fear of disappointing his gleeful table-slap.
``It is! Oh, don't tell me you'll let the water bill scare you out of progress?''
``I have to let something, or how will I be laughed at by future generations?''
``No courage! Well, I have an alternate plan.''
``Microwaving the house?''
He shook his head. ``We sneak filled trash bags into the house, and then every trash day you carry six or more out. It's all the satisfying part of house-cleaning, getting all this rubbish out, and it's ready-made.''
``That sounds more my speed. But where do you get the bags of trash to be thrown out from?''
He sighed, and looked wistfully at his own house.
Trivia: The annexation of Hawaii was done by direct legislation rather than by an 1897 treaty, as the treaty appeared unlikely to obtain the needed two-thirds majority in the Senate. It passed the Senate 6 July 1898 by a vote of 42 to 21. Source: 1898: The Birth Of The American Century, David Traxel.
Currently Reading: Today and Tomorrow And ..., Isaac Asimov. Aaand there's the unnecessary smugness about the superiority of science over all other human products, particularly with how other fields never come around to concluding the old school is just wrong. (There's not any schools of philosophy fallen at least as far out of favor as the classical elements? And this after Asimov pointed out if you labelled earth/water/air/fire as solid/liquid/gas/plasma the Greeks would look up-to-the-date.)