Sunday, May 31, 2009

Faster Than A Speeding Bullet

     Do you like the rain, Company? I am not talking about beautiful rain making the valley look very pretty. I am not talking about the nourishing water helping your crops grow. I am not talking about rain falling softly on the porch roof while you fall asleep with your honey on a hot summer night like you are in a county music song. I am not talking about a warm tropical rain where you dance around a muddy street in an impoverished Central American town with the other backpacker from Nebraska that you met on your Spring Break that you are desperately trying to lay. No, I am talking about a bone-chilling industrial rain that you are forced to plod through on your way from Point A to Point B. Like the cold November rain that Axl Rose was singing about in the 1980s. That kind. That's the kind I was walking through, except it was May and not November. But it was still cold. And I don't usually like being soaking wet and cold while I am transporting myself from place to place. So when the rain started and I was like a block from Mike-a-licious' house I decided to stop by in an desperate effort to at least stay dry.
     So I just walk in the door and shake myself off like a dog that just got out of the water when Mike-a-licious gets a very random text message from Gone With the Wind, because we are all young and hip and totally awesome and we communicate via text message like those damn, dirty kids who are always whacking off in your tool shed. Anyway, the text message was to alert Mike-a-licious, and by extension myself because I was standing right next to him, that there was a random man walking down the main highway though town in a full-on Superman outfit. Seriously, Company, I don't have the time or energy to make this shit up anymore. So of course,      Because we are us, we jumped into the truck and took off after the guy.
Well, once we waded our way through the rain and pedestrians and out of town traffic clogging the main street and got to the highway, there was no Superman to be found. He was supposed to have been down by the laundromat, the very same laundromat that sparked all my laundromat rage, and supposedly cars were stopping and taking pictures of him. But of course by the time we got there he was gone. So we did what any good people would do and started cruising up and down the highway. We went through where all the business that the type of person walking down the street in a Superman outfit would be headed: McDonalds, Dairy Queen, the gas station, the friendly local grocery store, etc. He was not at any off those places. We were even looking in windows and saw nothing but the usual mix of tourists and high school kids. Needless to say that we were disappointed.
     Although we were unable to locate this wet Superman I can't but help wonder what circumstances led to this guy to be doing this action in this particular style of dress. I mean, it's not like Gone With the Wind saw an Amish man at a granary, now is it? That would be expected and normal and totally appropriate. But Superman on the side of the highway in the rain? Not so much. My first thought, after having lived for many years in a college town, was that this poor guy was suffering through one of the worst walks-of-shame in history. In the rain. In a Superman outfit. At four-something in the afternoon on a Sunday. In which case he would have been miserable but pretty content about the events of the last 24 hours. If it were around Halloween time, if it were really a TRUE November rain, then maybe I could believe that. Or maybe even if there were a bunch of twenty-somethings floating around the Worldwide Headquarters. Neither of those two are true, however, so I am thinking that this guy is a couple sheets short of a ream.
     So what's his deal? Maybe he's a little, you know, slow? Like he still thinks he is three and can run around the yard with his Superman costume on. That would not surprise me. Drunk? Could he have been drunk? Oh yeah, for sure. You'd have to be awfully drunk on some atrocious mixture of alcohols, including grain alcohol and anti-freeze, to think it would be fun and productive and attractive to run down a US highway in a Superman outfit in the rain. Maybe he lost a bet. Man, I hope he lost a bet. Like he was sitting down at the bar with his buddies and he was watching NASCAR and was like "If this pit stop takes more than 25 seconds I will run down the street in my Superman costume" because there is no way a pit stop is going to take that long but then like the car falls off the jack and the guy who fills the gas tank breaks his ankle and all hell breaks loose and suddenly there is Superman flying down the street in the rain. That's fine, I guess. Maybe he was on his way to a kid's birthday party and his car broke down...I don't know! But I sort of want to. But I will never find out the answer because I never even got to see him. In the end he was just like the Superman: Faster than a speeding bullet. Into a dark, dry place but still fully alive in my memory. Maybe I can flush him out by running around town in my Superwoman outfit. That would probably do the trick. Look for that on maybe a sunnier day. I mean, all this started when I came in from the rain, why would I want to go back out into it?

Friday, May 29, 2009

The Conscience Fund

     There has been a lot in the news regarding government spending and budgets. Especially the federal government, but very little has been said about how the government gets the money that it is spending. Taxes are most obvious source of federal government income, but did you know that they will allow you to go ahead and give them money for free? And you can do it totally anonymously too!
     That's right, Company, the United States Treasury has three funds set up for you to give them money, and by far the most intriguing and entertaining is what is called the Conscience Fund. The Conscience Fund is a fund or account set up by the US Teasury to accept donations, often times anonymous, from people who have defrauded or stolen from the Us Government. The fund was started a long ass time ago, in 1811 to be more precise, and received a whopping $5 in its first year. So it's obvious the word got out quickly and people were lining up to drop money into the thing. I said that with sarcasm, but now as I think about it $5 was a much larger sum then than it is now. That's roughly $61 in todays dollars. But in its over 175 year history it has managed to pull in over $5.7 million. Now that's a hopping fund if you ask me.
     So anyway, you can put money into the Conscience Fund for any reason your heart desires really, but mostly over the years it has become associated with ill-begotten gains. That practice and the name began when the fund received a $1500 check with a note that said "Suppose we call this a contribution to the conscience fund and get it announced in the newspapers; and perhaps we will get some more." And so it began. Donations to the conscience fund run the gammit from the very small to the somewhat large. And by somewhat large I mean more than I pay to house, feed, and clothe all of the Unpaid Interns over the course of a year. A person in Massachussets sent in a 9¢ donation because she had reused a 3¢ postage stamp. Someone from New Jersey sent in $40,000 to cover the $8000 they had previously taken. So whatever it takes to clear your conscience. Another person sent $1000 because they had cheated on their taxes and noted that they would pay the rest of the money they had defrauded if they could sleep at night. Because of this association with stolen or defrauded money some people don't want their money to be put into the conscience fund. In 1932, at the height of the Great Depression, Herbert Hoover and his Cabinet volunteered to reduce their pay but instructed that the Treasury put the balance in the General Fund as opposed to the Conscience Fund. And as would be expected, gifts to the Conscience Fund are not tax deductable. I guess that you shouldn't get a break on forking over to clear your mind about the money you stole in the first place.
     I love this idea. I really do. Not that I want to give more money than I have to to the Feds, but I am a big fan of conscience. And I am a big fan of not getting caught. So the fact that there is a way to reconcile that, especially without forking over your name or location, is awesome. I love it to death. Because I can drop a twenty dollar bill into an envelope and stick it in a mailbox in New Iberia, Louisiana, which is nowhere near where I live or have ever been, and wipe my hands clean of the situation. It's great. I sort of almost want to go ahead and send them a check just for the sake of sending in a check. Just to help the government out. Because I am a nice guy like that.
     Honestly though, this is a pretty cool thing. It gives people a way to make things straight, if not with the IRS or whomever, at least with themselves. Why you would ever make a donation to that fund without doing so anonymously I don't know, because it seems to me that once they know who you are and what you did, they are going to come after you and lay the proverbial hammer down. So not only will you be out the fines and the legal costs and the prison time, but you will also be out whatever you were stupid enough to contribute to the Conscience Fund with your name on it. Dumbass. But at least you can sleep at night. In your cell. With your cellmate Billy Dean who got caught running moonshine in the Arkansas woods. So you've got that going for you.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Saddest Thing of All

     Let's talk about two different incidents that occurred within 100 miles of the Worldwide Headquarters that are strikingly similar but which are spun very, very differently.  Let us start with situation number one:
      In the sure-fire finalist for the worst parents of the year award, two people, a woman aged 20 and her boyfriend/baby's daddy aged 22, were drug into court to face charges stemming from the death of their 10-month old daughter.  She was found dead of a morphine overdose after the mother left her in the care of the father.  Brilliant.
      Now on to situation number two:
A 28-year-old woman was found dead on a couch in a domestic abuse shelter two hours after she had laid down to take a nap.  Post-mortem toxicology results showed a lethal level of heroin in the woman's blood.  The mother of three had a history of drug abuse and was staying in the shelter after her release from a drug treatment program.  The county coroner ruled the death an accident.
     So if you sort of sit down, then stand up and take a step back, and then blink three times and look at these two situations they are strikingly similar.  I sort of want to put it in list form but instead I am going to put it in paragraph form because I want you to have to read it, not get it skimmed down into list form for easy consumption.  But lets look at it anyway, shall we?  We have two humans.  Both humans died of a drug overdose.  Both were in the care of someone else.  Yet for one the humans it is an accident, and for the other the caretakers are hauled into court.
     Now, now, now, settle down.  I can hear all of you yelling at me at once like drunken, crazed Midwesterners watching college football on TV when they scream at the players on the TV at the top of their lungs even though there is no way that it will change anything or the players will hear.  I don't care how loud you scream, Keith, your voice isn't going to carry from the trailer park all the way to Iowa City so that highly paid college athlete can hear you encourage him to run, okay?  But I can hear you all screaming at me through your Ethernet cables and I just want you to settle down and stop for a little bit.  Hear me out, please.  I understand that there is one major and totally important factor here that I have been totally ignoring.  In one case the victim was a child who could not control its environment or what was introduced into its body.  In the other case it was a fully functioning adult.  Fine.  I understand, but the situation is still skewed.
      I am not saying that the neglectful parents of that little child shouldn't be in chains and an orange jumpsuit in front of a judge to pay for their crimes.  They should.  They should be punished to the full extent of the law.  And there should be a massive internal investigation going on within the ranks of government as well, because the system should have weeded out someone dumb enough to smoke a ton of opium for weeks around his 10-year-old daughter and sterilized them long before they even had the chance to procreate.  But it didn't.  I guess that the point I am trying to make is that shouldn't there be some culpability on the face of the people running the shelter to make sure that the known drug addict didn't have access to heroin?  Or am I totally off base here?
     I understand that running that sort of shelter is not an easy thing in the least bit.  And I know that the residents can come and go as they please, and that their every movement can't be tracked.  Okay.  Fine.  So maybe then the thing that is grating at me is that the coroner called the death of the 28-year-old an accident.  Because there is nothing accidental about it whatsoever.  Well, maybe not nothing.  Certainly the people at the shelter didn't want the girl to die.  And certainly she didn't mean to inject herself with so much heroin that she would pass away.  But her death was far from accidental.  She didn't have to take heroin.  If anything the death of the young baby was more accidental because she didn't inject herself and her parents were just trying to get high, not kill her.  
     Either way both stories are sad.  And in the end the results of these two very similar stories lead exactly where we would expect them to.  The parents will spend a significant amount of time behind bars for their indiscretions, as well they should.  The family of the young woman at the shelter will gather quietly to pay their respects and the children will end up the helpless victims.  And sadly, none of it is accidental.  And that's the saddest thing of all.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Question

     If you hadn't figured it out by now, Company, part of my daily rounds of the information world is the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel online edition.  Not that I don't like the paper proper, I do, but I don't usually have time to read that large of a paper every day.  Plus, where I live, that particular paper doesn't usually arrive until the next day, so the news is already out of date.  Plus, the online edition has like a blog that sort of tracks breaking news as the day goes by.  And it has a bunch of other exclusive features that I like too.  One of the things that they do is post these little polls for you to take part in, just for fun I guess.  Sometimes they are about the hometown Milwaukee Brewers, sometimes they are about current local events, sometimes they are about you opinion on some national news story or maybe about your plans for the upcoming holiday weekend.  Whatever.  It's a pretty easy system; you just click on the little button that goes with your choice and away you go to the results.  There are no recounts or hanging chads or anything.  You think it would be easy enough.  But yesterday I came upon a question - one with only two choices for the answer actually - that stopped me in my tracks.  It so befuddled me that to this point I have not answered it, and I doubt I ever will.
     "Are you generally an optimist or a pessimist?"  That's all it asked.  It seems to be an innocent enough question.  I mean, there were only two answers: a.) optimist and b.) pessimist.  So simple, right?  Not so much.  Because if there is one thing that I have learned about organization and grouping in all my years of being alive on this Earth, Company, it is that the fewer categories you have to choose from the harder it is to classify things.  Take all the pens in whatever container you keep your pens and try to organize them into only two piles.  Yeah, it doesn't work very well.  It's doubly hard when it's yourself.  Because I can tell you that if there was a "half optimist/half pessimist" option I would have chosen that in a heartbeat.  If there were maybe three choices, or five, or maybe like sixteen I would have been able to find something that I can feel comfortable calling myself.  But "optimist" or "pessimist?"  I'm just not sure.
     I mean, it's not so much that I can't figure out why I AM one of those two as I can figure out all too easily why I AM NOT either one, which turns into an awful, vicious cycle.  Let's take a look at an example.  Just shout out a starting point.  Choose either one.  Pessimist?  That's a great suggestion.  We are going to start with pessimist.   So I'm a pessimist.  Okay, great.  I was just watching the Brewers game and Corey Hart was up to bat and I said "Watch, he's going to strike out." and he struck out.  Fine.  I don't want to steal the construction barrier with Sister because I am totally sure that we are going to be caught.  Well that's just dandy.  But I always just sort of have this hope and faith that things are going to turn out okay.  Sure I've lost about half of my retirement savings recently with the recession, but I know that in the end the stock market will always trend upwards.  Sure I might have blown most of my rent money on chocolate chip cookies but I know that I will always scrape by.  Whatever.  So I guess that I am an optimist.
      So I am an optimist, am I?  Well that's okay.  I know that we can work it out.  I have a reasonable expectation of success going into any situation.  But not so.  Oh no.  First of all, I might act like I know what I'm doing, but underneath all that hope and faith and "reasonable expectation of success" I am really expecting it all to tank.  And tank badly.  Like I might be going in smiling with a nice firm handshake, but down below the surface, in that part of your body behind the beast bone where you literally, physically "feel" your feelings, all is amiss.  It's like a sailor in a dinghy desperately trying to bail water before the hold is even filling.  The little monkeys at typewriters in the back of my mind are busy typing out contingency plans: A, B, C, and D.  Sometimes all the way down to H or J.  Never I because that looks too much like a 1.  But I digress.  That's how it goes.  I am just always sort of waiting for it to all come tumbling down around me like a house of cards, and I am not so sure as to why.  Maybe it's because then I am prepared for whatever comes around.  Maybe it's because when things don't go wrong then I am pleasantly surprised, and I like being pleasantly surprised.  That's a sign of optimism, isn't it?  Plus, despite the little sailor working away furiously with his little bucket deep in the bowels of The Miles Standish I still go marching in anyway, as if even farther back in the recesses I know all is well.  That's a deep down optimism, isn't it?  I still have the hope and faith that things are going to turn out okay.  I still know that the stock market will always trend upwards.  So now I am an optimist again and we are back to square one.
     And so the cycle goes.  Optimist.  Pessimist.  Back and forth.  I am constantly flipping between the two like a coin in the air on the 50-yard line on an October evening.   And I am still not completing the question because I just don't know.  I understand that I am going to go point my little mouse at one of the bubbles and make my choice and that as soon as I click it I am going to be sorry that I did (pessimist).  I understand that no matter what I pick it's not going to change a whole lot in the grand scheme of things, butterfly effect be damned (optimist?) Maybe I am realist.  Or maybe I am making a mountain out of a mole hill.  That's probably more like it.  There really is not reason that I, or anyone else, has to fit into those narrow categories, despite what the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel online edition has to say.  But the pull is still there for me to decide.  So I am going to decide and I want you to as well.  I am going to post the same question to all six of you regular readers and I want you to answer.  I am going to give you a week to decide so get on it and we will discuss the results afterward.  How does that sound?  I am a little afraid of how this will turn out.  Oops, there goes the pessimist in me again.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Sounds in the Night

     Well Company, I had a fantastic time camping over the Memorial Day weekend.  Seriously.  That was the most fun I have had camping in a long, long time.  I came back beat red (but with a wicked hat line on my forehead: Dr. J says I look like a bobber) with sunburn and stiff and sore in places that I didn't know I had, but I still had a great time.  There was, however, one major problem with camping that I had a problem with.
      See, since I was camping with other people, and the majority of tents including mine, are not soundproof in the least bit, I was afforded the rare but precious opportunity to get some feedback as to what I am like while I am sleeping.  Yeah.  Because I know what other people are like when they are sleeping: like I know my dad talks in his sleep, I know that The Pharaoh snores like it's going out of style, stuff like that.  But I never knew what I did.  I always assumed that I laid there peacefully all night long, even though in reality I knew that wasn't true.  Like you and your mom and your best friend Ron, I am sort of like an amateur archaeology student in the morning.  Since I was there but unaware as to what was going on all night long I am left to study clues that I find to figure out exactly what went on.  If I find that the pillow is wet that means that I was probably drooling.  Yeah, I do that sometimes, I will admit it.  Maybe I was dreaming about food or some girls at the beach or something, who knows?  Sometimes I wake up with my head where my feet started and vice versa.  Then I know it was a really wild night.  Apparently.  Stuff like that is about all I have ever had for clues as to my nighttime behavior, and I have always wanted to know.  I have even considered putting a video camera or audio recorder in there just to satisfy my own odd curiosity.  Now, however, there is no longer any need.
      That's right, the results are in.  And I don't like what I see.  Or am told in any event.  First of all, I snore.  Great, that's all I need.  I don't think it was terribly snoring and I sort of hope that it had to do with the dry air and the terrible position in which I was lying, but I still have to face the fact that I was snoring all up and down that campsite.  Sad.  I always sort of prided myself on that being one of those things that I didn't do, but no longer I guess. I knew that I was doing it anyway because my throat was so sore in the morning, so I wasn't terribly surprised when I was notified officially.  I can live with it in the end I guess.  I mean, it doesn't bother me.  And no one has ever noted it before.  I am hoping it is a sporadic incident but I am just not sure.  In any event it is nice to know.
      I also found out that I talk in my sleep, which is far more disturbing to me.  Far more disturbing.  Why, you ask?  Well that is fairly easy.  Talking in my sleep is far more disturbing to me than snoring because I have no control over what I am saying.  Well, scratch that, let's just say that I have no conscious control over what I am saying, how's that?  It's bad, that's how it is.  Because I could say anything.  Anything at all.  I could be talking shit about all the people who are sleeping in the same room as I.  I could be singing show tunes.  I could be saying horrible, horrible things.  Or I could just be saying my phone number.  You never know what will come out.   I always knew that my dad and my sister talked in their sleep on a regular basis, and I even witnessed them having a conversation with one another one time, that was kind of neat.  And now I am the same way.  I would love to know what I was saying; I am sure that it sounded like a very one sided telephone conversation.  But still, I worry.  I worry a lot.  I am a sleep talker, and I can't deny it.  Someday, someone is going to use that fact to get some juicy and embarassing information out of me and I am going to be royally pissed off.
     So that was the startling new personal information that I learned over this long holiday weekend.  Be careful what you wish for, I guess.  Now I know and I am not happy with the knowledge.  But it is what it is and I can't get too worked up about it I guess.  Besides, I can always plead forgiveness because I was asleep and really didn't know what I was saying.  And there are about a million cures for snoring out on the market.  So I will be fine.  I hope.  We will see the next time.  I guess I will talk to you later, maybe even after I go to bed!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day

     It's Memorial Day, Company, the traditional start of summer. And it couldn't come soon enough. I am sorry if you have to work on this long weekend, but those of us who don't greatly appreciate your making the world go 'round. As for those of you who are fortunate enough to be off on the last Monday in May, I hope you are not having to work around the house, like staining your log cabin or finally getting started on the "honey do" list which includes "remove ice from rain gutters" which Mother Nature has graciously done for you already. That was a smart move on your part to go ahead and wait on that one. "Check belts and fluids on snow blower for upcoming winter" though is probably not going to do you any good at this point. Better to leave that one for next fall and maybe replace snow blower with lawn mower and then you can get something worthwhile accomplished.
     For those of you who have nothing to do but recreate, however, I have an important reminder. While you are in the backyard, sticking out your beer gut, wearing a tank top and jean shorts and an apron that says "captain party" with a Blatz in one hand and a flipper in the other waiting for your steaks to be burnt to a crisp it is important that you think about the real reason that you have the day off. The real reason why you are able to be as ridiculous as you are. The reason for Memorial Day is to comemerate the sacrifice of the millions of people who laid down their lives in Hispanola, Europe, South Carolina, the Pacific, North Africa, Bosnia, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, and even those three guys that fell down and scraped their knees in Grenada. And not even that. Let's go beyond that. There are millions more who are serving in the Armed Forces and who have served in the Armed Forced who weren't wounded, who thankfully never had to go into battle, who maybe manned a computer terminal deep within a mountain stronghold but who were still as important to the security, safety, and success of this nation. They deserve to be comemerated as well. And that is what Memorial Day is all about.
     Oh yeah, did you forget? Everybody thinks that Memorial Day is all about mattress sales and water skiing. But it's not. Not at all. What these men and women did in service of their country and their countrymen was of such a high importance and honor that we take a whole day of our time to pause and reflect on their actions, and to celebrate the freedoms that we have been afforded by those actions. The idea behind having a day off from living a very real and horrific version of the movie Office Space is that the the single best way to celebrate those freedoms and succeses is to revel in them. You want to celebrate the fact that you can pick up at a moments notice and go camping? Go camping. You want the celebrate that you are fortunate enough to own a boat? Cruise around the lake. You want to celebrate that you can enter a hot dog eating contest to win tickets to see Foghat at the county fair? Start eating. That is the point. If you don't take that time to do something and reflect on WHY you still have that right, then you aren't being true to the idea of Memorial Day. And you aren't doing the great deeds and sacrifices of all those brave men and women justice. And that would be the greatest travesty of them all.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Down Into the Basement

     Do you collect things, Company?  I know a lot of people do.  I am one of them.  Stamps, porcelain figurines, coin.  I have never collected any of those things.  But one of the things that I did collect almost religiously in my wild and younger days were keychains.  Yeah, everyone had a collection of keychains, maybe a bag of them or a junk drawer with like seventeen of them wedged in there.  That doesn't count as a collection, I am sorry to inform you.  But most people had some keychains somewhere, so I know that you are not terribly impressed.  I went all out, however.  I had one of those big boards with all the holes in it on the wall with the metal hooks and I hung a keychain on each hook.  Oh yeah.  It was sweet.
     WAKE UP!  I know that you are bored to tears having the hear about my keychain collection.  But there is a point here, kids.  The point is that the keychain I had on my ring wasn't cutting it.  It was one of my most favorite ones, it was from about 1978, it had Tweety Bird on it and it said "Great America," which is a theme park near Chicago and which is one of the many, many Six Flags.  And people call it Six Flags now days but anyone who grew up going there still calls it Great America.  Anyway, that's what I had, but it was getting all scuffed up in my pocket with my keys and change and strippers phone numbers and whatnot, and so in the interest of not ruining it I went down into the basement to get a new one from my collection.
     When I went down there and into the corner that has always served as my play area, I was sort of taken aback.  More stunned than anything.  Because while I was down there I was climbing over and around and through piles of all the shit of my childhood.  Toys and games and stupid frivolous things that I had made, all saved up for some sort of reason, and I was struck by just how good I had it.
     And it sort of made me wonder how good my kiddos will have it.  When I ask my mom about why she keeps the boxes of Micro Machines and Lincoln Logs and Matchbox cars she notes that she is saving them for my kids, or my sisters kids or whomever.  But the more I get to thinking about it, if my kids get all that stuff, PLUS all the stuff that I buy them, that's going to be way too much stuff.  It will be more than they can ever play with.  Even if I don't buy them a PlayStation 7 they still won't be able to cope with all the stuff that is thrown at them.  You know what that means?  I am not going to have to buy my kids any stuff.  How do you feel about that?  And what if my kids aren't interested in the same stuff as I am.  What if all they like are Barbie Dolls or their drum set?  What is going to happen then?
      Well that brings me down to the point.  Like any good detective, I take all the evidence from the scene as a whole.  The fact that some of my elementary school artwork and a super awesome Wisconsin map puzzle that I drew all over, as well as some strange random newspaper articles still exist down there tells me that my mom just can't bring herself to throw them out.  And I can't say I blame her.  She will go on and on about how it is not a high priority and she doesn't know what I want to keep if you call her on it, but I am thinking more that the old softie just feels more comfortable having them down there for some reason.  Or at least I am hoping that is part of the deal.   Because, to be honest with you, Company, I sort of feel more comfortable with all that stuff still down there.  Plus, it fascinates me to see it and go through and remember.  And sometimes it makes me ask why I would have kept some of that stuff.  And sometimes it makes shake my head at what a little dorkball I was.  But mostly what it does it reminds me what it is like to be a kid, which helps me immeasurably when I am wondering why a certain kid wanted that certain thing they wanted.  Unfortunately that is something that adults often don't understand.
     So all that went through my mind while I was standing down in the basement, and in the process of trying to sort it all out in my mind a great sadness set in.  I sort of began longing for those days, which of course you can't get back.  Time is like that, it's always going in one direction.  You can't turn this Oriental Express around and go back to Constantinople.  But that's just the way it was.  And so time and feeling made it so I had to get out of the basement.  And I am quite happy with the bat and baseball keychain I picked that says "Life's A Pitch."  It's prefect.  My basement was perfect.  The moment was perfect.  Strange things happen when you venture down into the basement, no?

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Try On A Nice Turtleneck

     In my post "Try On A Nice Pair of Slacks" I wrote about how it is generally inappropriate to wear blue jeans to your big job interview.  And I stand by that.  However, because you and I and that other guy standing over by the bus stop live in a "do as I say, not as I do" type of world, and because I am wise enough not to take my own advice, I went to something resembling a job interview in jeans.  Well, not really.  That's a lie.  I did go, however, in shorts and a T-shirt, which I would normally do.  But this wasn't your normal job interview.  Still, I was worried about my appearance and apologized to Chef Tel, who was doing the interviewing, to which he responded "well at least you have a shirt on."  Wait, what?
     That's right, someone outdid me.  Outdid me in a way that I never expected that I would be outdone.  Never ever.  This guy came to his interview, for a job, which he obviously needed if he was applying for it, without a shirt.  I can only assume that he was also wearing blue jeans, because he just must be that kind of guy.
     I cannot begin to stress just how inappropriate it is to attend your job interview without a shirt, people.  Seriously.  I mean, there are only a handful of jobs - male model, lifeguard, operation patient come off the top of my head - that I would even consider interviewing shirtless for, and even then I think I would just wear some easily removed garment and take it off when they asked for it.  For example, I would wear a button-up shirt with very weak button attachments as opposed to a tunic or a judicial robe.  But still, like I said, I think I would wait until they asked me to remove it.  I mean, if you go to the doctor's office and just automatically get naked after the nurse leaves and says "the doctor will be with you shortly," which is bullshit by the way because you know as well as I do as well as does the nurse that the doctor isn't going be coming through that door anytime soon.  It's going to be roughly 20 minutes at the very least before you see anyone in a white coat floating around.  Anyway, if you are the type of guy or gal who just drops trow and loses the skivvies whenever you are the doctors office, and then the doctor has to come in and say "I am sorry, sir, but you don't need to be naked for me to flush your ears" then you are a weirdo.  So think about that.
     What I would not do, ever, is show up for a job in the food service industry without a shirt on.  For a couple of reasons.  First of all, they are so worried about cleanliness that they make you wear a hat or a net on your head hair.  Quite frankly, I think that if the powers that be in the health department are freaking out about getting your not-so-natural blonde locks in the spaghetti, I imagine that they would REALLY like you to cover up your mangy treasure trail while you serve up everyone's broasted chicken.
     Secondly, I don't know if you have noticed, Company, but the most famous sign on any restaurant in any town says "No shirt, no shoes, no service."  It's almost an alliteration, and it rolls nicely off the tongue.  It's an American service industry mantra.  So what makes one think that, although one cannot go into a 7-Eleven and buy a Butterfinger Crunch ice cream bar with no shirt on, you can go into a restaurant and get a job.  How does that work in your brain?  Honestly?  Did you really think that was going to fly there guy?  How much meth would you have to take over what period of time to make that equation balance in your head?  For how many years would you have to live under the power lines for that to make sense?
     I mean, even Joe Dirt would wear a shirt to a job interview, for Christ's sake.  I didn't ask many questions at the time but now, the more I think of it, the more questions I have for Chef Tel.  I sort of want to call him up and ask him for every little detail.  I want to call the guys from CSI:Miami to reconstruct the scene with some ballistic gel bunnies and inappropriately expensive designer clothes for police work.  I want to get a professional writer in to work with a psychologist to recreate the emotions and tensions of the interview, I am so fascinated.  Actually, I don't imagine that there were any tensions.  Because unless it is summer and there is a body of water nearby, or maybe I am talking to an old guy who has been mowing the lawn, if somebody is saying something to me who is not wearing a shirt, I am going to have a hard time taking anything they have to say seriously.  He'd be telling me all about how he was a bartender for six years at one of the most exclusive clubs in Las Vegas and I would be staring at that one long chest hair that sticks out about three inches left of his right nipple.  That is measured from the center point of the nipple, by the way, not the edge of the aureole like some people like to do.  That's just how it is.  So if you want a job, go out and get a shirt.  And put it on.  I guess I always thought that was just sort of common sense.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Let's Talk About Pictures: Neon

For our May special promotion we are going to take one photo every day and comment on it.  Sounds fun, doesn't it?
     So, I typed the word "neon" into the Google Image Search and it came up with about a thousand pictures of neon signs.  6.7 million pictures of them, actually.  Which tells me a couple of things.  First of all, it tells me that "neon" has come to mean neon signs just like "ink" has come to mean tattoos.  That's fine.  I can deal with that, it is just part of the evolution of culture and language and whatnot.  We will get the linguists right on that.  Right after they are done working on the tube technology.  Anyway, so "neon" means neon signs.  I've learned that from my 6.7 million search results.  The second thing that I have learned is that people care a lot more about colorful signs than they do about chemistry.
     That is bullshit.  Chemistry is super important.  Nothing would exist or work the way they do without the many, many interactions that occur on a regular basis down at the molecular level.  That's a fact.  And even if you concede that point and still refuse to see how awesome and essential chemistry is, think about all the stuff we wouldn't have if some chemist wasn't messing around with some beakers and a bunsen burner somewhere along the way.  TV, rubber tires, makeup, plant food, toothpaste, pantyhose.  Enough for you?  
     Anyway, neon is a noble gas with the atomic number of 10.  It's way on the right side of the periodic table of the elements, which is that giant, strange chart that is always hanging on the wall that you have no idea anything about and can't figure out to save the life of you.  It is found naturally in the air, and that is where it extracted from in order to fill our signs.  And those signs are put in windows of strip malls and bars from Maine to Hawai'i.  And even in Canada.
     So let us talk about the signs, shall we?  I am not a fan of neon signs.  I never have been.  I find them gaudy and unseemly.  Which is fine.  I guess that I am a little bit of a conservative guy.  I suppose that I can understand why they are so popular all the time though.  First of all, they are pretty exciting at a base, animal sort of level.  It is bright color that you can see from 614 miles away on a dark night, letting you know exactly whether or not there is vacancy at that seedy motel.  Plus it's sort of like a magic trick.  I mean, it's air that glows.  And who wouldn't be amazed by that?  
     And neon, probably because it is beautiful and magical, has become an American icon.  Look at any black and white Life magazine picture of Route 66 and tell me that it isn't.  Stand on the strip in Vegas and twirl around like Mary Tyler Moore and tell me that it isn't.  Go into any small town bar and tell me that it isn't.  It is as American as apple pie, or John Deere tractors, or country fried steak.  All of which is pretty amazing for a simple gas that doesn't play well with other elements.  Luckily for us it gets REALLY excited when it gets to interact with electricity.  And luckily for us all those chemists were messing around with it one day.  I guess that you are going to be taking a second look at that periodic table of the elements, won't you?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Let's Talk About Pictures: Buzz Lightyear

    For our May special promotion we are going to take one photo each day and comment on it.  Sounds fun, doesn't it?
      Yeah! Buzz Lightyear.  Toy Story.  All that jazz.  Love it.  Actually, not really.  I saw Toy Story about nine years ago when it came out and I won't lie, it didn't leave a lasting impression on me.  I mean, I seem to remember it being good enough.  I seem to remember being entertained, and I might have a Buzz Lightyear or Woody action figure buried at the bottom of a moving box that came in via a Happy Meal or something, but it's not like went out and bought a giant Buzz Lightyear pillow to put in my race car bed.  But yet here I am, literally 14 years after it came out in 1995, and I am writing about Buzz Lightyear.  So there must have been something endearing about the movie.  And Buzz was obviously a successful character if I know him and I know what movie he was in and I know what he was all about.  But he wasn't quite amazing enough to make me go with those fifteen million bratty kids and see Toy Story 2.  So where does that leave us?
      Well, it still leaves us trying to decide what to decide about Buzz Lightyear.  I mean, he's pretty cool right?  A little condescending but be basically means well.  He's part jet pack, so that makes him super cool, right?  But then again, he wears a helmet 24/7, and we all know what that means, don't we?  I think those are little water wings on his arms, which go right with the helmet.  But he's been to space, and only cool people and those who have written a huge check out to the Russians have been to space.  Plus, he hangs out with cowboys, and chicks LOVE cowboys.  Or at least guys that pretend they are cowboys.  And he was in a movie so he's automatically awesome, because I have never been in a movie.  I've been on COPS a couple of times but that doesn't count.
     In the end I think we can safely say that Buzz Lightyear was and is a pretty cool guy.  And I am a little jealous of his space suit too, to be honest.  I would have so much fun with that thing if I could borrow it for like the Labor Day weekend or something.  Especially if I had a few first and was firing the rockets off in an indiscriminate fashion.  So I guess that Buzz is alright in my book.  And I think I would still like him even if he didn't have his suit on.  So rock on with your bad self.  And, can I borrow your suit this weekend?  It's Memorial Day.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Let's Talk About Pictures: String Cheese

For our May special promotion we are going to take one photo each day and comment on it.  Sounds fun, doesn't it?
     OH MY GOD.  I love string cheese.  It's fantastic.  It's the food of the Gods if you are a sort of obese Midwestern guy.  Or a three-year old kid.  But I don't care.  I don't even know what kind of cheese it's made of, which will probably surprise all of you as much as it surprises me.  But that is probably because I don't care.  Not one bit.  It's delicious.  It's stringy.  I get to play with it while I eat it, which I can't do with mostaccholi and meat sauce.  And only sometimes with mashed potatoes. 
     My favorite kind of string cheese is most definitely smoked string cheese.  Admittedly, this is not for everyone.  For some people, in their mind, the same process that is used to make a kickass ham should really not be used to make cheese.  But I don't care.  Because it's like taking pure deliciousness and infusing it with another kind of pure deliciousness.  Oh man, it's heavenly.  Sometimes, I don't want the smoked kind.  Sometimes I want the original, normal kind.  And that's okay.  It's all okay.
    Hell yeah it's all okay.  String cheese is great for everything and everyone.  Unless of course you are lactose intolerant.  But it is good for you if you are a kid because they like it and can play with it.  It is good for you if you are a grown up because they like it and it's a healthy, perfectly proportioned snack.  Let's be honest, these things don't come in nine foot long sections.  If they did I would be there in a heartbeat.  And I would be gnawing on it from one end to the other like it is a long-ass noodle and I am either Lady or The Tramp.  And I would be able to meet whomever is munching on the other end, which would be super cool.  Super duper cool.  
     So string cheese can lead to romance, and marriage, and babies and white picket fences and the whole lot.  How many foods can do that?  I mean, try to get green peas to do that.  Or beef stroganoff.  Not gonna happen.  But it can happen with string cheese, which is so great it's both a play toy AND  food.  Which means it's a multi-tasker.  What more can you ask for?  Not much.  Except for some string cheese.  In any situation.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Let's Talk About Pictures: The Australian Outback

For our May special promotion we are going to take one photo each day and comment on it.  Sounds like fun, doesn't it?
     So this is the Australian Outback that I have been hearing so much about.  Hmmm...yeah, I am not so sure about this one.  I usually like places like this.  I have always wanted to vacation in the Great Plains.  But even this might be a bit much.  I once had a professor tell me that the state in which I lived was a "go-through state" that people only went to on their way somewhere else.  And I am kind of thinking that this place might end up being that for me.  I can see myself tooling down this road at about 600 miles per hour in some Australian rental car and probably freaking out when I came head to head with a road train, but I can't see myself, say, camping here.  Mostly because I don't see any trees or water anywhere.  And those are two things that I generally like to see around me when I am camping.  I would even be willing to camp somewhere that there was no water on the surface but there was a pump and a well for drinking water.  That would be okay with me.  But there isn't even that here.
     I can't image that there is much else you could do here.  Maybe have a snake ranch or something.  You certainly couldn't hold a major tennis tournament here, that's for sure, which is why the Australian Open is held across the continent in Melbourne.  You couldn't even put up like a factory or something here because it's so far from supply lines and whatnot, although maybe a solar farm would work here.  Lay out a million billion solar panels and let them bake in the sun all day long with some huge wires leading off into the distance.  If you were an university scientist studying sagebrush or really red soil I guess you would love to roaming around here with some grad students and living in a tent and talking to a camera crew from National Geographic or something but I can't really see what else you would do here if you came here by choice.
      I suppose though, that there is a certain romance to this place.  I mean, if I look at it through my non-existent artist's eye there is a certain something about the perfect blue sky and the red, red rock, and the white clouds with streaks of grey with the misty mountains off in the distance that make an interesting color scheme.  And there is something stark and wonderful about the emptiness and loneliness of the place that makes me want to go there.  It just draws me in.  So does the extreme nature of the place, too, I have to admit.  The weather, the conditions, the distance, the stillness, the whole nine yards.  I love it.  And I want to destroy it with my dust plume sticking up from behind my rental car of justice.  Oh it would be great.  And it would be there.  And so would I

Monday, May 18, 2009

Let's Talk About Pictures: Telephone

For our May special promotion, we are going to take one photo each day and comment on it.  Sounds fun, doesn't it?
     Okay, every single one of us has seen a phone like this.  Unless of course you were brought up under a rock or maybe you are four.  You may have seen it in a different color, probably tan or maybe white, but you've seen it.  Sometimes you can still find them in hotels, especially the mom and pop-type places that used to be on the highway until the freeway went through and now they are sort of just off the beaten path.  Those ones usually are super technologically advanced, at least as far as these phones go, in that they have a little red light on top of them in case you have a message and they have this little plastic insert that goes around the buttons that tells you all about the features of the phone and how to call out and how to reach the front desk.  
     Part of the reason these phones are to cool is because there is like this little secret cavity back behind the place the receiver sits so you can grad be receiver in one hand and the base of the phone in the other and sit on the edge of your desk to take your important call like you are Barney Miller or something.  And you need that little handle cavity back there because you have to take the phone with you as you wander around the room because the little curly cord that connects the receiver to the base looks like it can stretch for miles, and it can if the phone is attached to the wall like you were used to when you grew up, but the base station is not attached to the counter so when you walk away it will come with and crash to the floor and make an awkward ringing sound as the clappers hit the bells that make it ring.  So anyway, the cord won't unwrap unless the base station is attached so you just take the base station with you as you walk around until you wrap it around your legs like fifty-six times and you fall over.  I guess that the only ending when you use this phone is that something falls down eventually and makes you utter a curse word that the customer service representative on the other end hears and causes them to start thinking less of you.
     Two things that I see in this photo though that I do not like about these phones.  First of all, look at the ridges.  Tons of tiny ones that give it a nice looking texture but makes it really hard to clean when you get pizza sauce or Kool-Aid on it.  You just can't get down into those ridges without some rubbing alcohol and a Q-Tip.  And for someone who spills EVERYTHING on EVERYTHING that is a big deal.  And I always make a habit of eating over my phone, because, quite frankly, I can't imagine why you would eat anywhere else.  So it's not a good situation for me.
     You know what else is not a good situation?  Take a look at that keypad.  Those keys are in the reverse order of the keys on a calculator.  Same ten keys, totally opposite order.  On the phone, the 1 is on the top.  On your adding machine; on the bottom.  Figure that one out.  You think the people at Ma Bell would have gotten together with the folks at TI and had some continuity.  This doesn't seem like a big deal, but it's messing with my head.  I used to work in a job where I used an adding machine almost constantly.  I was so proficient at it that I could do it very quickly without looking.  Fine.  But now I work at a job where I am on the phone constantly, dialing phone numbers, which because the phone is backwards from an adding machine, I mess up ALL THE TIME.  I can't get a phone number right to save my life.  GAG ME IN A FREAKING SPOON!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

News and Notes

Just a quick note for all of you Company, I am taking the weekend off to attend my sister's wedding, and all the Unpaid Interns have escaped again.  So we will be silent this weekend but we will be back on Monday with May's Special Feature.  In the meantime go back through the archives and read some of your favorite posts from days gone bye, maybe read parts of many and pretend it's a clip show.  Please send any congratulations to my sister and any gifts, cards, or money directly to me.  ;)

National Geographic

     B-Town showed up in my office yesterday.  This is not abnormal.  But what she had in tow certainly was.  With her was a short, middle-aged, balding man with glasses.  I think he was wearing a sweater vest.  He sort of looked like he should have been a high school math or English teacher, once of those guys who has been doing it for twenty years and all the kids know and sort of like but aren't buddy-buddy with.  Or like maybe he should have been hanging around working at a library at a college somewhere, I am not quite sure.
     But anyway, this guy was from National Geographic.  The magazine.  And he was a totally cool and charismatic man.  Here he was, poking around my office, asking about a haunted property a couple of towns over.  How exciting!  Or at least one would think.  I am exited now that I think about it.  But at the time I wasn't.  I was too busy running around gathering files and printing out information like I would do with any other customer.  But now that some time has passed I am a little more excited, and I don't know if it is about what he was writing about or if it was just the fact that he was from National Geographic.
     See, National Geographic is a bit of an American icon, sort of like Life (the magazine not the cereal or board game) or the Saturday Evening Post.  And when you are a geographer by trade like A-Town or myself, it is even more so.  I don't know about you, but when my mom started getting the subscription to National Geographic for me it was like a turning point in my life.  Well, not a turning point maybe but certainly a sign of maturity.  But anyway, I loved it.  I loved it so much I would go to the library and thrift store and rummage sales and get old copies so I could catch up with what I missed for all those years.  Eventually I had hundreds on my shelf, which was awesome until I had to move and couldn't bear the thought of hauling them up three flights of stairs.
      Something has changed with National Geographic in the last couple of years, however.  My favorite part of the magazine was that it always had articles about places.  An article about Manitoba.  An article about the Baltimore wharf.  An article about Victoria Falls.  I loved it.  One time they did an article about US Highway 93 and I was so excited I had to change my shorts.  I read it so many times that to this day I can look at a map of one of the states that road goes through and recall different parts and characters from the story.  But in the last couple of years the focus of the articles have changes.  They aren't about places as much anymore.  They are about the dinosaurs that roamed the Earth eleventy billion years ago.  They are about the migration of whales.  They are about cloning sheep.  And quite frankly, that is not what I signed up for.
      And A-Town and I have talked about this before.  I have felt this way for some time and when he asked me about it I could have cried because it meant that I wasn't crazy and I wasn't alone in thinking this.  So I was naturally excited to hear that the author from National Geographic was doing an article on a place, on an event, on a locality as opposed to the emerald ash borer or the Mexican tickworm.  And to have the article written about somewhere so nearby, that is neat.  I mean, I understand that I am not going to go down in history on the written page for this one.  I am not going to be in the article.  And neither is A-Town. (And B-Town had better not be.)  And there is about a 98.72% chance that the information that I gave the man won't be in the article either.  But I can't help but feel as if I were a part of it somehow, that I gave it a boost forward towards completion.  And that has to count for something, right?  Like at least a photo credit or something.  

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Hilarious Things

Here are some things that I think are hilarious:

1.) People who speak English with a stereotypically foreign accent.  Like if an actor is speaking perfect English in a stereotypical German or French or Indian accent.  I am not talking about someone who is from Germany struggling to get by in daily life while speaking English, I am talking about an actor or just weirdo doing it for the hell of it.  If they tried to speak it with a Hottentot accent I would probably pee myself.  Or be really confused.

2.)  Sausage.  Just about everything about it makes me giggle.  The shape, the fact that old delis have smoked sausage hanging from their ceilings, the fact that it's tied together sometimes.  Also, it's often made out of a cut of meat called the "Boston butt" which, because I am a boy just gets me all excited in a third-grader-who-just-heard-the-teacher-fart kind of way.  

3.)  Randomly throwing random things at random people.  This might be the funnest activity in the history of man.  Would you like to see me laugh my ass off on a regular basis?  Call me into your office, then, as you are talking to me, launch a ball of paper or a capped pen at someone who happens to walk by.  I will probably laugh so hard I will start to choke.  So maybe brush up on your mouth-to-mouth recussitation first.  Especially if you are a chick.

4.)  Little kids.  Have you ever seen that show Kids Say the Darndest Things?  Or watched America's Funniest Home Videos?  Yeah, kids are hilarious.  Until they acting like little shitheads.  But they do and say things that are really truly hilarious if you are an adult.  And they they add the facial expressions on top of it and their limited vocabulary and grammar abilities and it is over the top.  Enjoy it because by the time they are teenagers they will be stealing your car and knifing you in your sleep.  I've seen it a million times.

5.)  Any video in fast motion set to the music from Benny Hill.  Oh yeah.  It could be a video of one of the guys from Deadliest Catch gutting a fish they accidentally caught in one of their traps and I would laugh my ass off.  Seriously.  If you took an episode of Sex in the City and put it in fast motion to the Benny Hill song I would watch it all day long.  And that might be the worst show that's not on MTV.  That's just how magical that combination is.  

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Faith

     Well Company, I can't hold you by the hand and lead you from place to place through everything all the time.  Sometimes you are going to have to do a little digging on your own when it comes to the stuff we are talking about.  Well today is one of those occasions.  I have added a link to an article that I am going to talk about, but this is a long and drawn-out case and this article is only a little snippet.  If you wish to know more I am sure that if you type in any of the names you read here you can find a million billion articles about the whole deal.  So there, take that.
     What I really wanted to talk about today though is faith.  Faith, is a pretty tricky thing.  It's sort of like water.  Water is an amazing substance.  There is nothing in nature that it like it.  It behaves in ways that nothing else does.  Most substances contract as they get colder.  Water expands.  Most other things easily combine and get pulled apart.  Not water.  It's like two dogs humping: it takes ridiculous amounts of energy to pull it apart, and it growls at you when you try to do it.  Oh, and everyone has to have water.  And so it is with faith.  It's like nothing else that affects you.  And everyone has it.
        Nope, I'm sorry you are wrong.  I know that you are racking your brains, Company, and throwing out suggestions like we are on Win, Lose, or Draw or something, but you aren't going to find a single person who doesn't have a little faith within in some way, shape, or form.  Even if it is (look at that, three words that are each only one letter different but that have wildly different meanings, how do you feel about that?) the undying faith that there is no such thing as faith, it has hidden itself within your being, just like all that water you lose through aspiration hides itself as breathing.   The point here, Company, is that faith isn't religion; they are in fact two very different concepts.  But faith is always there, and it can be faith in anything.  Even if it is (there they are again) the faith that there is really nothing in which to have faith.
     Let's look at an example of two people who had very different areas of faith that ended up with the very same result.  First we will talk about the folks in the article we listed above.  In it we learn a date has been set in the state's trail against Leilani Neumann, who is charged with second-degree reckless homicide in the death of her daughter.  What happened is that Neumann chose to pray for her daughter to be healed rather than take her to a doctor for treatment for her diabetes.  Neumann had faith in God and religion and none in modern scientific medicine.  Her faith was not rewarded, however, and her daughter passed away from complications from her disease.
     Let's flip that on its ear.  See if you've heard this sort of story before.  When I was a teenager my grandfather was found to have cancer.  Not uncommon.  Like most people he had faith in that modern, scientific medicine.  He went to radiation.  He suffered through chemotherapy.  In the end, and despite the best efforts of his doctors, nurses, medical professionals, etc, he succumbed to his cancer.  His faith was not rewarded, either.  Two people, two very different areas of faith, but both of which led to the same conclusion.  "Two roads diverged in a wood, and I, I chose the one less traveled."  And here the converged.  And no matter which you chose, you ended up at the same place.  Two faiths.  One reward.
     It doesn't matter what you place your faith in, be it God or the Devil or that it will rain on Tuesdays or in the goodness of peanut butter, what matters is that you have faith in something.  And you do, even if it is in that faith does not exist.  So don't worry and don't fret.  It's cool if you have faith in blue sky, and it's cool if you have faith in rain.  It's cool if you have faith in the irresistible force, and it's cool if you have faith in the unmovable object.  Just as long as you realize that you have faith, and that it's a part of you, and that you can't deny it.  I have faith that you will agree.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Mother's Day

     Yes, I know Company.  I can read a calendar.  And you can read a date.  Up at the top it says Monday, May 11, 2009.  And Mother's Day never, never ever, comes on a Monday.  I understand, and I get it.  But here is the deal, Company: I was unable you bring you a spectacular Mother's Day post on Mother's Day.  So you are going to have to settle for a Belated Happy Mother's Day post the day after, which should never, ever be.  Even if your mom sucked balls, she was still completely awesome.  Regardless of what she did in terms of raising you, she still had to push you out and for anyone who has done it (which I very obviously have not), I am sure they will tell you that it is a hell of a feat.  So thank her for that.
     Luckily for me, I had a kickass mother.  I am sorry to use harsh words, but she is.  Always has been.  It scares me to death that I just typed that sentence.  And it scares me even more that I didn't delete the hell out of it.  Now that's a sure sign that I am growing up.  Anyway, the point here kids is that its pretty common for people to sort of take their mothers for granted for a good portion of their younger lives.  Like you rebel and act like an ungrateful little pig and there she sits, just sort of waiting for the day when you sort of get your head out of your ass and realize what exactly it is all about.
      And she doesn't deserve that, but that's how it goes.  And that's how it went.  I have sort of taken my mom for granted for many, many years.  Maybe not THAT many but too many.  I realize now just how great she is and just how great she has been for so long.  I could never do enough to repay her just for being her, especially since she keeps heaping it on more with each passing day.  Since you can't every hope to repay your mom for what she's done for you just by bringing you into the world and giving you some sort of chance to make whatever you want out of yourself, is to give her a phone call, maybe stop by if you live nearby.  Tell her you love her if you do and maybe just say thanks for everything.  That's what I do.  And I know I am a day late and a dollar short here today, but I took care of business yesterday.  And I hope you did too.
     Happy Belated Mother's Day to all you moms out there!

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Shattered Glass and Free Soda

Two cool things happened to me in one night the other night.  Please allow me to tell you about them.

1.) I was doing laundry at my favorite laundromat the other night, and all was going well.  Actually, all was not going well.  See, sometimes I am anti-social, and laundry day is usually one of those times.  I am hauling around large amounts of textiles.  I am usually dressed in my shittiest, worst fitting and mismatching clothes.  So I generally don't want to be seen.  But on this night I was.  There were two, scratch that, two and a half people in there.  I say two and a half because there were two ladies and one little kid.  Fine.  I can handle that.  And they have about three quarters of the machines used up with their laundry, their bedding, etc.  Fine, I can deal with that too.  There were lots of machines available and for as anal as I am sometimes I can deal with using a machine that is not the usual one that I use.  Later on some guy, who obviously does not do a whole lot of laundry and who I found out was a fisherman from out of town (I sort of thought that when I first saw him, what with the garbage bags he was using as laundry sacks).  Anyway, fast forward to later, while I am waiting for the last ten minutes of the dryer cycle.  I am watching the Brewers game with my back turned to the rest of the room when I hear a slam, shattering glass, and a kid crying.  Now, I hear you gasp.  Don't.  The kid was fine.  He was just a little startled.  But what had happened was that the lady had shut the dryer door and the glass on it just shattered.  Into a million billion pieces on the floor.  Oh man was it sweet.  The lady wasn't even roughousing or anything.  She just shut it like a million people have done a million times before and WHAM-O!  Glass all over the place.  I could barely stop laughing.  It was seriously sweet.

2.)  Fast forward to a little later in the night.  I stop at the friendly local gas station to get some gas for the DykeSedan.  What, did you think it ran on dreams or what?  So I get some gas and make some decisions.  Sometimes in your life you have to make decisions.  I decide that I am going to get some fuel injector cleaner and something to drink when I go inside to pay for my fuel.  So I walk in the door and see no one behind the counter.  I am momentarily confused until I am startled by movement.  The girl working at the gas station was sitting at the little table in the hot lunch area and scratching scratch off tickets with some guy.  She starts to get up and I said "Sit down, relax.  I am not ready for you yet.  I will let you know when I am."  So I wander around, look at the ice cream, fill up a 32 oz. fountain drink, and proceed to the checkout, notifying the girl on my way past that I am ready.  So we banter, as people are want to do, and she grabs my fuel injector cleaner and rings it up and says "$3.29."  I notify her that I have gas as well.  So she rings that up and names me her price.  And it doesn't seem right, so I grab the drink and say "I have this too."  She responds, non-chalant and matter-of-factly "I'm not going to charge you for that."  So I say thank you, pay my bill, bid her good evening and wish her good luck on her scratch offs.  Then I proceed out into the night.  Wasn't that nice?  That made my night, even more than the shattered dryer window.  Just a small, random, act of generosity and kindness from somewhere that you wouldn't expect it.  Thanks girl.  You are very nice and I appreciate it.  That made me happy.  And that's the coolest thing you can do.  

Friday, May 08, 2009

Your Feet Smell Like Fish: Update

I don't know if you remember, Company, but a while back we talked about fish pedicures and the problems they were causing, and one of my central focal points was that sometimes the government takes itself a little bit too seriously. Well, they have certainly taken that to a new level as they have, not unexpectedly, ordered the closure of our favorite little suburban Milwaukee fish pedicure store.
Yeah, that's right. And it's a little bit ridiculous. Those of you who are part of the government bureaucracy are going to sit there and tell me that they were just doing their job, that they were just enforcing the rules that they are mandated to enforece, blah, blah, blah. But I don't buy it. They very well could have figured out a way to make this fly, but instead they chose to be narrow minded and single out this entrpreneur, at a time when this nation and that state in particular desperately need entrepreneurs. Bold strategy.
Basically what happened was this: The Wisconsin Department of Regulation and Licensing decided that the business was a pedicure business, despite the fact that in no way are they dealing with or altering the toenails of the clients. And of course, manicure and pedicure businesses have strict laws regarding the sanitation of their instruments, which the state ruled they were not doing with their fish. And so it goes. The salon is closed. Up your nose with a rubber hose.
Apparently too the state decided that they workers at the parlor must be licenensed as cosmotologists since they apply lotions and perfumes to people's feet. I would license them maybe more as foot fetish people but that's just me. The store contends that it does not offer traditional pedicures, but offers a unique exfoliation treatment, which of course has much less stringent rules and regulations. No surprise there. But the state disagreed and now the shop sits idle, waiting to be moved.
But wait, that's not how it went down. The shop wasn't ordered to be closed. At least that is what the DRL says. They state that all they did was send a formal notification of their decision and their recommendations that they are going to present to the secretary, whomever that is. And the secretary then can decide if the place needs to be closed, regulated, fined, whatever. So yeah, that's all there is to it. It is effectively an order of closure and everybody knows it. And so the place is gone and that is all there is to it. RIP fish pedicures. Just a little too abnormal for the government to deal with, I guess.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Life and Death

     Well Company, we need to talk about death.  There have been some deaths in the Big Dave and Company family and their families and I think that we should address the journey to the great beyond.  
     Montgomery Burns, of Simpsons fame, once called sitting the great equalizer.  But that's not true.  Death is the great equalizer, because it is the result for everyone.  It doesn't matter how your death comes - whether you linger for years in an assisted living facility or you plow your crossover vehicle into the back of a slow moving combine on a rural county road - there is no way to escape it.  It will come for each and every one of us sometime, somewhere.
     But death doesn't so much impact the dead as it does the living, now does it?  Well, okay, yes, it does impact the dead in a very abrupt, significant, and final sort of way.  But that's it.  It comes and it is done.  Not so much for those of us who stick around.  It sort of lingers in the lives of those around the deceased in a way that can never be measured.
     Unfortunately during our time alive, many of us spend too much time chasing and worrying about the wrong things.  We make ludicrous attempts to accumulate wealth and possessions that in the end we can't take with us.  I mean, you can throw benjamins down into the grave with the casket, or maybe stuff the lining with coins, but it is not going to do any good down there.  And yes, much of the wealth that you accumulate during your lifetime is in the name of your family and your kids or something, but that is not the point.  The point is that once you pass, and that lid closes on the casket and the burly men with the shovels start throwing dirt back down into the hole, the most important thing that you leave behind with those who cared are moments and memories.  And the form in which those take will be the direct result of the type of person that you are.
     And it works in reverse, too.  It's sort of sad that the only times we bother to sit down and celebrate people's lives are once those lives have ended, but that's just how it is sometimes.  And that's the only way in which to properly observe a passing.  The wonderful thing about this custom though is that once the gathering starts and the stories start to unfold and the memories begin to flood back is when we all get the true sense of who the person was.  Because it is never the ailing loved one in the hospital bed that comes to mind, it's your mother calling you in for dinner at the top of her lungs, it's your father attempting to test out the slip and slide, and your grandfather taking you fishing.  That's what comes back to the living of the dead.  And if you lived you life the right way then your legacy will be handed down the right way and your death will have the right meaning.  Funny how in life we realize the meaning of life, isn't it?

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Tinfoil Hats

Okay Company, so I was surfing around some Blogs of Note the other day, trying to figure out what makes them so much superior to mine since mine has never been so recognized, and I stumbled across one that had for one of its subject listings the term "tinfoil hats" which made me think to myself "Why aren't there more things written out there about tinfoil hats?" First of all, here is a picture of one on a cat: Actually, there were a lot of pictures of cats wearing tinfoil hats. TONS. There were also a lot of pictures that someone somewhere posted of strange tinfoil hats. It's not so much that they were strange, they were just strange as tinfoil hats go. Let me explain. I would expect most tinfoil hats to be made by bat shit crazy people who are trying to prevent the aliens from reading their brain waves or by trying to improve their reception of the radio stations that they get on their teeth. So I sort of expect the hat to fit that mold, with all sorts of crazy pieces sticking up at all manner of angle or direction, maybe with a neat little tinfoil tassle on top like in the cat picture. But this dude, or chick, or whomever, took the idea of the tinfoil hat a totally different direction. He actually made regular looking hats but out of tinfoil, like a baseball cap or one of those hats German guys up in the Alps are always wearing.

This guy apparently owns more than one hat:



I am really glad that he got that stylish t-shirt to inform all of us of his multi-hat lifestyle. I was worried that maybe he only had the one, so that if it got dirty or maybe a playful dog stole it in the park one day his head would get cold. In Japan there is cult that wears specially made tinfoil hats. Apparently, they believe in a conspiracy based entirely on the electromagnetic field, and a two millimeter thick layer of Cost Mart tinfoil is all that it takes to defeat the conspirators. That kind of makes me wonder what kind of lazy punks are running this conspiracy. Because I am guessing that if they have the kind of money to manipulate the electromagnetic field in some way, they have the money and the technology to defeat simple cooking utensils.

Tinfoil hats also have something to do with Linux for all you IT professional types. I got as far in the definition as the words "floppy" and "bootable" and I has to stop because I couldn't stop snickering. As to why they would call it that I don't think anybody will really know, or science will ever be able to figure out. No, I believe it has to do with keeping you safe from spyware or something, but I am not sure. Contact your friendly local computer person if you have more questions regarding Tinfoil Hat Linux, because I barely know how to type. But the site I was looking at to find out about Tinfoil Hat Linux had this sweet picture on it.

Isn't that cute? My buddy Christoff has a picture on the Linuz penguin where his front license plate would be if he lived in a state that required a front license plate. I always thought that was pretty cool. His now wife got that for him, which was nice. Way better than what I have in my front license plate spot, which is just another license plate. Just like my back one but without the stickers.
What if I put stickers of tinfoil hats on my license plate instead of the ones with the month and year on them? I am sure that they would put me in a nice hospital where they made me wear a helmet all the time. It would be pretty sweet looking on my DykeSedan though. Especially once I put a sweet tinfoil hood ornament on there to guide my way. I wouldn't seem so crazy then, now would I?
Did you know there is a song about tinfoil hats? Well there is. There are probably several but if you follow this link you can hear this specific one being sung by Sylvia and Emmeline Spankhurts, who are not cats, okay? They are otters. Looks like someone wore their tinfoil hat a little too long and got aluminum poisoning through osmosis.
Interestingly enough, creating videos of otters singing songs about tinfoil hats is not generally regarded as a symptom of aluminum poisoning. But if you start having hypersensitivity to things like light or darkness, heat or cold, noise, etc. then you might be in trouble and you should seek medical attention. And you should probably start taking your tinfoil hat off at night. Unless of course you have some really old tinfoil that is actually made out of tin like from back in the day, in which case you would probably get tin poisoning and should look for symptoms such as eye irritation, redness, or pain, vomiting, nausea, etc. You know, more old school symptoms to go with your old school hat.

So there you go: all you need to know about the ins and outs of the tinfoil hat. You can find a lot more out there if you just sort of look around because as it turns out there is a lot of stuff out there. So look around an enjoy. And have fun with your tinfoil hat, Company. It looks just lovely on you.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Cinco de Mayo

     It's Cinco de Mayo today, Company, which PePe will be happy to tell you means, roughly translated, May Fifth.  This is the day when most of the world takes a little known Mexican holiday and pretends that it cares just so it can get all shitfaced on cheap tequila and Dos Equis.  It's kind of like the Mexican version of St. Patrick's Day.  
     So anyway, I actually wrote this post yesterday, on May Fourth, which PePe will be happy to tell you means, roughly translated, Cuatro de Mayo. I wrote this post ahead of time because, by the time whomever opens the door on Tuesday morning at 7:30 am opens the door, I will be lying prone on my desk, drunk out of my mind, passed out, wearing nothing but a giant sombrero covering my naughty bits.  There will be a pair of well-used maracas on the floor just below my right hand, as if they fell from my hand as I passed out.  Tightly clenched in my left hand will be a giant bottle of the cheapest tequila known to man, with about 1/5th of the booze and a little green worm still in the bottom.  On a small slip of paper tightly coiled and stuffed in the neck of the bottle will be the phone number of an overweight Mexican wrestler who was really a Mexican wrestler but still dressed up as Jack Black playing Nacho Libre anyway.  And there will be one of those tuxedo T-shirts covered in dried vomit wadded up in the corner.  That will be the scene that will await someone in the morning.  I fully expect that person to go home sick for the day.  And that's just what happens after Cinco de Mayo breakfast.
     Anyway, that's how I plan to celebrate the holiday: by answering phones and staring at a computer screen naked with a raging, mega-hard hangover.  How exciting.  Meanwhile, Mexicans all over Mexico will be doing...wait for it...normal Tuesday stuff.  You know, working in their offices and manning the counter at their stores.  Maybe working on an oil derrick.  Driving a taxi.  Whatever they do.  See, as it turns out most Mexican people don't really celebrate the Mexican Army's defeat of French forces in the Battle of Puebla in 1862.  But we do.  And I am not sure why.  Oh yeah, because in the Western world we just want a reason to get shitfaced while eating tacos, in stark contrast to March when we got shitfaced while eating corned beef and cabbage, which by the way no one in Ireland ever ate.  Except for maybe the British.  Think about that one.
     The similarities between St. Patrick's Day and Cinco de Mayo are really quite striking if you think about it, which I will not do because I will be spending my day trying to turn down the brightness on my monitor and chugging crushed up aspirin like it's Alka Seltzer.  Which I will also be chugging.  So happy Cinco de Mayo.  If you served in the Mexican Army on May 5, 1862 then congratulations on your bravery.  If you are Mexican I hope you have a wonderful day.  If you are anything else, enjoy your Corona.  And you look awfully good in that sombrero and serape, Duke.

Monday, May 04, 2009

A.C.R.O.N.Y.M.

     Like many people in America, I spend the haze that is my morning (at least on weekdays) watching The Weather Channel.  It's not so much that I like The Weather Channel (I do though, I love it) but it's that, at 6:39 am long before I've taken a shower or set foot outside or even got within 25 feet of Juan Valdez or any of his caffeinated cronies, the only way for my foggy brain to process information is for it to be repeated over and over to me, every ten minutes on the 8's.  And the friendly local weather is something that I need, because I need to know whether to just walk to work like normal or whether I have to make up some fake errands to do at lunch to I have an excuse to take the car the four blocks to work.  But the bottom line is that I watch The Weather Channel a lot in the morning.  And this morning they were talking about something exciting.  They were talking about Vortex2, or should I say V.O.R.T.E.X.2.  Yeah, that's right.  It's an acronym.
     Vortex2 is a program put on by like a combination of eleventy billion different groups and agencies in which they basically decided to put like 80 vehicles with maybe 160 people inside of them - not in each vehicle, these aren't clown cars we are talking about here, these people aren't Shriners and this is not a parade people - but like two people in each of 80 vehicles, right in front of and around a super dangerous tornado somewhere out in the middle of the Great Plains in order to film, study, and probe the hell out of it with their instruments.  This is all well and good.  I would love to do this someday but it's kind of becoming like the "in" thing to do and so I don't want to do the "in" thing that everyone is doing.  But I still think it's hella-cool (oh yeah, I busted that one out on you, you are going to have to live with that forever) and so I was watching all about it on The Weather Channel.  But then  the guy sprouted out how Vortex was an acronym that stood for Verification of the Origins of Rotation in Tornadoes EXperiment 2 and I was about done with that.
     See, I am not like anti-acronym or anything, but I am becoming concernicus about how people are using acronyms when they really don't need to be.  This is a prime example.  Here's the deal: if you are chasing around tornadoes, you can name your project or experiment or whatever you want to call it Vortex2 just because you want to.  The reason is that tornadoes have a lot of winds spinning around in a circle, which is called a "vortex."  That is the central core of a tornado, that is what you are chasing.  So you can call your project "vortex" if you want to because THEY ARE DIRECTLY INVOLVED WITH WHAT YOU ARE DOING!.  You don't need to turn it into some retarded acronym that no one is going to care about or think is cool just because you can.
      Seriously, that's not how acronyms work.  That's backward.  All the good acronyms start as something and then become an acronym.  The Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus because your SCUBA equipment; the guy who puts it on you your SCUBA instructor.  It started as the long form and now nobody even knows what SCUBA stands for anymore, save you and I.    Remember this one:  "Mini Me, stop humping the Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation!" Of course not.  Because that became the LASER long before Dr. Evil ever muttered that phrase in the service of comedy.  It wasn't like some scientist in a laboratory somewhere at some high-dollar university was like "Holy shit, this thing is cool.  I think I'm going to call it a laser!" and then they set about figuring out what that meant.  It wasn't like a bunch of physics students were stoned out of their mind at a frat party one night and one of them said "Huh huh, laser.  That's a funny word." and then they busted down to the lab to build one out of old R2D2 parts.  No.  That's not how it works.  Not at all.  But we seem to have forgotten all about that these days.
     So it goes backwards.  We come up with awesome names and then insert a bunch of periods and think we are cool.  Blech. Or should I say B.L.E.C.H. for Barfing up Lame Effluent on my Couch Here.  Yeah, that just happened.  That's how we do it these days.  But it's wrong.  And it pisses me off.  Be Vortex2 just because you want to be Vortex2 and you are all about tornadoes.  Don't be an acronym.  Just be you.  That's all there is to it.