Thursday, July 31, 2003

Vacation stuff

Just a few random observations from my vacation.

* When checking out my rental car, the clerk asked for my work number. No problem until I give my extension. Don't need that. There's no field for it on the reservation software. Fortunately I work for a relatively small company (not too many aardvarks running around 'round here), but what if my name was Smith or Nguyen and I worked at a large facility? That extension just might come in handy.

* The car I got was a Mitsubishi Galant. Ok car. Not too much power, but not a slug either. Leg room was good too (at 6'3", that's an issue). Only had one lock. On the drivers side. No passenger side lock. No trunk lock. It wouldn't have been too bad, but there was no electronic lock/unlock mechanism either. It was a minor irritant to have to unlock the drivers door (to access the trunk release) in order to put something in the trunk. Just enough of a nuisance to keep me from purchasing one (not that I'm in the market). Thought it might have been just a rental car thing, but I followed one through downtown this morning. No trunk lock there either.

* Spent Sunday night at my friends house in Vancouver, WA. Nice subdivision. Nice house (way nicer than mine, the dog!). Only one things that I would have wanted different. In order to fit the extra 1/2 bath in at the foot of the stairs, they shortened the steps, making the stairs nice and steep. Not a problem going up, but my size 13s hung over the edge of the step going down, forcing me to walk somewhat like a penguin (not that there's anything wrong with that, if that's what you're into). The first thing I did Monday morning coming down the stairs was channel Rob Petrie (cue music). On the bottom step, my foot slipped off and I did a high kick/grab the rail/throw your arms in the air move that would earn at least a 9.8 on the floor exercise. Unfortunately, my high kick was thwarted by the door frame of the aforementioned bathroom at the foot of the stairs. I peeled a chunk of skin about 1/2" square off the end of my big toe. It stung a little, but I was more worried about dripping blood on the light colored carpets/hardwood floors. Fortunately, after a little hydrogen peroxide (which foams like a big dog when it touches blood, by the way) I was able to lay the skin back down and put a band-aid on it. It never did get sore like I thought it would (but it looks gnarly). Yes, my middle name is Grace, how'd you know?

* Took a day trip into Oregon with my middle brother. Went to all the places of interest, including mom's grave. I hadn't been in four years, but not much has changed (like cemeteries ever do?), only a little more moss on the stone. We went into town (Scio, if you must know) and drove by the high school (where my brother went) and the elementary school (where I went). Both were much smaller than we remembered. Had lunch at the A&W in Stayton (where I was born. No, not at the A&W. In Stayton). Compared to Scio, Stayton is a big town (with a hospital!), and any time you went to town, you had to refill the root beer jug at the A&W. When I was about 9, we were taking out a porch foundation and I managed to split my middle finger open to the bone. We got it cleaned up and wrapped up and dove into the car to head to town and had to stop, back into the driveway, and run back into the house for the root beer jug. Priorities and all.

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    Wednesday, July 30, 2003

    I'm Ba-a-a-a-ck!

    Well, I missed the big contest over at Frank J.'s place, but I decided to answer the questions anyway.

    What is the name of your site?
    A little Aardvark never hurt anyone (For those of you who can't read the really big letters at the top of the page)

    What is your preferred name as a blogger?
    LittleA (Some have said that BigA would be more appropriate, but why give them the satisfaction?)

    How long have you been blogging?
    Since June 11th.

    Give a brief description of your site.
    Opinion, lame humor, irony, life. Not necessarily in that order.

    Briefly praise Frank J. and IMAO. Name favorite post.
    Funny, fabulous, and fence respectively. (How's that for brief? And alliterate too!)

    (I can TOO read!)

    (Shut up! That's not what that means)

    (No, YOU shut up!)

    (Anyway, moving on)

    What's your favorite movie?
    Zorro, the Gay Blade. No really. "There is no shame in being poor. Only in dressing poorly!" How can you not like a movie that gives you lines like that?

    Which Simpsons character do you most identify with?
    D'oh! You need to ask? Two words: Mmmm, doughnuts.

    SHORT ANSWER QUESTION: Everyone knows my solution to random ninja attacks. In 200 words or less, describe your own solution. Remember, while people hate getting randomly attacked by ninjas, they also hate high taxes, so try and keep your solutions cheap.
    Hippies. Everybody knows that ninjas hate hippies more than anything else, so whenever I see a random ninja that might attack I start talking to myself (real loud), "Boy, I sure hope that random ninja doesn't find that group of hippies hiding on the next block!" Once they hear that, they abort their attack on me and melt back into the shadows to go find the hippies. This obviously works because I've never been attacked by ninjas (random or otherwise). The downside is that now everyone else thinks I'm one of those homeless guys walking around talking to himself.

    (Like you aren't?)

    (Shut up!)

    (No, YOU shut up!)

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    Check. Check. Is this thing on?

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    Friday, July 18, 2003


    I am heading out for an ELEVEN DAY vacation (not counting tonight!). I don't expect to have internet access for most of that time and so will probably not blog much (unless I get the shakes and have to). Thanks for coming by and I hope you'll come back.

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    Are you trying to be funny?

    Well, I checked in over at Frank J.'s place. I liked most of the responses to the non-poll questions, but the best poll answer is definitely #1 (it looks like it belongs on a humor site).

    I have decided not to request special treatment from the Humor god to switch me to the last group (on account of my vacation. Have I mentioned that?). This contest thing is probably a big enough pain for him as it is without everybody requesting this and that (besides, I was all out of virgin sacrifices anyway). If I can get to a computer, I'll compete, if not...I'll BEG FOR A PERMALINK ANYWAY. PLEASE, OH PLEASE, OH PLEASE?

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    T minus 9 hours

    Woo hoo! I'm going on vacation. I'm going on vacation. Neener, neener, neener. (well, THAT was mature!)

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    Thursday, July 17, 2003

    I'm just your puppet on a string

    Whoa! Channeling the BeeGees again.

    The Humor god posted the contest schedule last night (good thing for me I've been working late!) and it looks like my vacation won't monkey up the works. (Methinks the Humor god would not be best pleased being referenced in the same sentence with the word "monkey." Quick, some appeasement!)

    Frank J., you're the bestest, most funniest, uh, least liberal assclownish, ur, hippie hatenest, pixelateneous (???), Humor god there ever was! (There, that should hold him)

    But today he's posted that he may tighten the schedule! What will this mean? Will my vacation interfere after all? Will Frank J. have mercy? Oh, the horror! The drama! The suspense!

    Don't touch that dial! (No, not that one, the one next to it, idiot!)

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    Maybe those words don't mean what I think

    Have you seen the Camry commercial with the tie-in to Universal Studios?

    It starts out showing how you would drive going to Universal. Shots of empty streets with a car driving normally. Then it shows you how you would drive coming home from Universal (after riding all the roller coasters, etc). Shots of a car spinning in circles and zigging and zagging, again in empty streets. While they are showing the car spinning in circles the words (and this may not be EXACT, as I'm doing it from memory) "Toyota does not condone or endorse these driving techniques" appear on the bottom of the screen.

    Say WHAT? Now I know what they mean is that they are not encouraging YOU to go out and drive like a fool, but that's not what they say. How exactly are they not CONDONING or ENDORSING these driving techniques when they have INCLUDED THEM IN THEIR COMMERCIAL? Did somebody from the ad agency slip in this footage when they weren't looking? Saying they don't condone or endorse these driving techniques implies that they didn't intend to include them in their commercial.

    We didn't WANT to include those shots but we were blackmailed into doing so by those thugs at Volvo (Think Safety, Think Volvo!).

    The fact that they paid somebody to perform these driving techniques shows that they CONDONE them (at least in this particular case) and the fact that they included footage of these techniques in their commercial is an explicit ENDORSEMENT of them.

    Sheesh. Maybe I just need a vacation.

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    What if?

    There was a wreck about three cars in front of me this morning. Both guys involved seemed to be OK. I was thankful that it wasn't bad (but mostly thankful that I wasn't involved too). I got to thinking about the kind of day these two guys were having. No question about it, their day sucks.

    Me, I'm mostly a glass half full kind of guy. I have my moments when the glass is half empty, but more often than not, I can find something positive about most situations. Who knows what would have happened to them today if they hadn't gotten into a wreck. There are endless, Groundhog's Day like scenarios, aren't there? Some bad, some good. It's not rational, but I tend to think that bad things happen to us sometimes to prevent even WORSE things from happening. These guys are bummed out about having a wreck, but how would they feel if they knew that having this fender bender prevented them from dying in the wreck that was going to happen three miles down the road?

    Like I said, it's not rational, but that's the way I think.

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    T minus 2 days

    When will it get here? I feel like a little kid. Are we there yet? How much longer? One thing's for sure, I have enough work to keep me busy.

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    Wednesday, July 16, 2003

    I know you are, but what am I?

    Representative Elijah Cummings (D-Middle School), chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, won't meet with President Bush because he hasn't been able to meet with President Bush.

    You can't break up with me, 'cause I'm breaking up with you! Grow up already.

    But this does raise some interesting questions.

    Do Rep. Cummings' constituents really care about what's going on in Africa?

    If so, how is declining this meeting in the best interests of his constituents?

    If not, how will passing up an opportunity for face-time better allow him to advance their interests in the future?

    Why is it still the Congressional Black Caucus and not the Congressional African-American Caucus (CAAC! CAAC! Quick somebody give him the Heimlich!)?

    Are white/asian/hispanic people living in Rep. Cummings district being disenfranchised because of his membership in the CBC?

    Why isn't anyone protesting the CBCs exclusionary entrance requirements? They have yet to admit a non-black member.

    Since all the members come from urban districts, couldn't it just as easily be the Congressional Urban Caucus and allow all Reps from urban districts to join without having to check the color of their skin?

    Their website says that the CBC was formed to "provide political influence and visibility far beyond their numbers."
    Why should they have more than their proportionate share of influence and visibility?

    If they have a disproportionate share, doesn't this mean that other Americans are now under-represented? How is that fair/right?

    And most importantly, why do I keep asking all these questions?

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    I'd like to say thanks

    Isn't it odd how the tiniest things can bug you?

    Take the phrase "We'd like to thank..." for instance. People say this all the time when what they really mean is "Thanks to..." It's as if there should be a corresponding piece of the sentence that starts with "but".

    "We'd like to thank our sponsors, but we're just too busy right now."


    "We'd like to thank our sponsors, but since we're all a bunch of self-centered prigs, we won't."

    My standard response when I hear this phrase is to say (quietly of course) "Why don't you?" My kids even know this bugs me. At football games, the announcer comes on and starts "We'd like to thank our sponsors" and pauses slightly before he names off whoever happens to be up next on his list. If you sit close to my family, you'll hear both of my kids say "BUT WE WON'T!" during the pause (I wonder where they picked that up from?).

    In two years, if everything goes according to plan, my oldest daughter will be valedictorian of her high school. I keep wondering if she'll slip an "I'd like to thank" into her speech just because she knows how much it bugs me (I know I would!)

    Don't even get me started on how people say cavalry.

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    This could be a problem

    Not to whine or anything, but this whole permalink contest at Frank J.'s place may not work out according to my nefarious plan. It looks like this contest will drag into next week at which point I will be cut off from cyberspace, experiencing something strange called "life."

    How will I be able to be an obedient sycophant to the Humor god if I don't have web access?

    I'm sure I'll think of something.

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    T minus 3 days

    Ah, the tantalizing lure of time off. It's becoming harder to keep my mind on work the closer my vacation gets. Must. Stay. Focused.

    Or not.

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    Tuesday, July 15, 2003

    There's a contest to be won

    Which would explain the new addition to the right. Calling Glenn Reynolds a "Liberal Assclown" seems almost sacreligious. However, since I have given Frank J. the title of "Humor god", I guess it's alright (who am I to question what goes on on Mount Olympus?).

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    The tenterhooks are set

    What does it mean when you start dreaming about blogging? I woke up this morning and remembered dreaming about topics I could blog about. Yesterday, I had forgotten how long it had been since I started, so I looked back to my first entry. June 11th. Wow, its been over a month already? It's amazing how quickly this has become a normal activity for me.

    Now for the confession. I have told only two friends about my blogging (and only then because I needed SOME sort of feedback). One friend thinks it's just another one of my oddities, and the other is semi creeped out (Why would you want complete strangers to read this?) My family doesn't know. Even my wife doesn't know. It's not that I've written (or will write) anything that I'm ashamed of or afraid they'll see, but more a sense of personal space and freedom. I have a limited anonymity on the web (anyone who really wanted to find me would have no difficulties, I'm sure) and can be myself with potentially millions of my closest strangers.

    My anonymity also explains my Monday through Friday publishing schedule. It's hard to blog from home and still keep it a secret. I do plan on telling my wife, but probably not until I need to migrate from blogspot (uh, yeah honey, um, this bill for a domain name and hosting? Well, uh, um, you see, um, I don't know anything about them). Again, I have written nothing that I am ashamed of and wouldn't want her to read. Just not quite yet (ok, now they're all going to file you under "P" for "Psycho-Nutjob")

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    Headline High Jinks

    Something has been bugging me about Iraq. All the news reports we get tell us how many of our soldiers are hurt or killed. It comes across like we're just passively getting shot at with little to no recourse. No wonder some people are hand-wringing. Where is the other side to the reporting? How many Iraqi insurgents have been killed or wounded as a result of these attacks? If the information is presented at all, it's usually buried deep in the story.

    Let's take a test. How much different psychologically are these two headlines?

    "One American Killed Overnight in Iraq" vs. "One American, Six Iraqi Gunmen Killed Overnight in Iraq"

    Why is it we're only seeing headlines like the first one?

    UPDATE: Then again, there's this headline today. First one like it that I can recall.

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    T minus 4 days

    Four days left to vacation. Unless something unusual happens, they'll be four crazy, hectic, never-work-on-what-you-planned kind of days. Let's hear it for the status quo.

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    Monday, July 14, 2003

    Insert foot here

    A little more on the autistic boy.

    His case is not severe and if you didn't know he was autistic, you would just think he was just a little more weird than your average teenager. He has a hard time focusing on what's happening around him, but then again a lot of kids his age demonstrate that characteristic.

    Towards the end of the carwash, we finally had a chance to take a break. I was sitting in the shade drinking some water when another car pulled in. This kid (let's call him Skeeter) had found a ball and was tossing and chasing it around the parking lot. His dad was standing close to where I was and kept calling him.

    "Skeeter, put down that ball and come over here."

    "Skeeter, come help wash this car."

    "Skeeter, get over here and help."


    At which point (without thinking), I said, "I don't think that's his name." ('cause he obviously ain't respondin' to it.)

    About this point in time, I recall that Skeeter IS mildly autistic and is behaving normally for someone with that condition. (mmm, boy! Haven't had shoe leather this good since the winter of aught-one!) Fortunately, his dad didn't take offense and after a slightly awkward pause, I got up and said, "Well, I'd better get out there and help with this car." (Yeah, that's me, Mr. Smooth)

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    It sounded like such a good idea at the time

    My kids aren't going to camp this year. Our family vacation overlaps the camp dates by several days, so camp is out. Both kids are OK with that and since they're not going to camp, you would think that we wouldn't have to get involved in any camp fundraisers, wouldn't you?

    That would be wrong. This weekend, not only were we involved, but we were IN CHARGE (Who am I kidding, my wife was in charge, OK?).

    Saturday was the carwash. From 8 AM to 1 PM. Outside. In Texas. In July. What was I THINKING?

    Going into the day, I'm thinking that I'll be able to supervise the kids, maybe run the hose, chat with the people waiting in line. HA! Two families showed up to work. Total count: 4 kids, 3 parents, and 1 youth leader. That's eight people, of whom, two, at any given time, were holding signs on the corners, leaving six to wash cars. One of the remaining kids is a 13 year old who is slightly autistic. Needless to say he was more in the way than he was helpful. When he wasn't off somewhere playing, he mostly concentrated on the car logos and the tires (no I don't mean wheels, I mean tires).

    We worked from 10:00 to 12:30 without any breaks. On the plus side, we did raise almost $400 and didn't scratch, scrape, dent or damage anybody's vehicle. On a personal level, I considered the day a success when my worst injury was a little too much sun on the backs of my knees (Let's just say that I have a history of not being too coordinated. Another reason I don't use power tools). That white stripe on my arm (where I wear my watch) is now a hot pink bracelet. Who said I was afraid to wear pink?

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    T minus 5 days

    Vacation in five days. I feel like a horse that's headed for the barn after a long ride. Smell that? Oats and hay and shade and fresh, cool water. Let's pick up the pace a bit and get there sooner, wa'd'ya say?

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    Friday, July 11, 2003

    Billions and billions

    It's just not the same seeing it written. It has to be pronounced like Carl Sagan would do it, "Bill-yuns and bill-yuns." My friend (call him BigDog. I do.) sent me the link to this article. Oddly enough, though neither of us is very scientifically minded, we both enjoy stuff about astronomy (In college, I always said I liked astronomy 'cause it was the study of heavenly bodies).

    I think it's cool that astronomers have found this planet (or evidence thereof), but the 12.7 billion year age they give it sets off a nervous tic in me. What's the margin of error here?

    There are a lot of events in my life that I don't recall my exact age at the time they happened. You know you're old when you remember what you were listening to on the radio at the time and narrow down the year from that (oh yeah, that was when Blue Oyster Cult's "Don't Fear the Reaper" was big).

    Anyway, is it 12.7 billion exactly? Might it be 12.6 or 12.8 billion? How about 11 billion? If it turns out to only be 5.5 billion, will the scientists feel the need to issue an apology (sorry, we forgot to clear the calculator's memory and we didn't know Joe's kid had been playing with it)? I don't know about you, but I prefer my scientists to be precise (you are 23.2 kilos overweight as of 4:03 PM this afternoon). It's when they're precise about things they CAN'T POSSIBLY know for sure, that it drives me crazy.

    Then again, maybe it's not the scientists, but just the science writer (Let's take out all the occurrences of 'may be' and 'approximately' and 'estimated' to make it more forceful. After all, it's MIND boggling!" Maybe I just don't boggle easily enough.

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    Bobbie Green is a brave woman. You and I both know, "you can't fight city hall." Yet, that's exactly what she's doing.

    One of her neighbors painted the sidewalks in front of their house gray. Bobbie didn't like the way it looked, so she complained to city hall (not a fight I would have picked, but hey). They told her there was no ordinance prohibiting the painting of public sidewalks as long as it wasn't graffitti. So, Bobbie bought some paint and some rollers and headed down to city hall and proceeded to paint THEIR sidewalks. The response?

    "Here's your ticket for criminal mischief." Evidently it's only legal if it happens to somebody else. No double standards here. Move along.

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    West Nile

    I am so tired of hearing about mosquitos and the West Nile virus. Why does this continue to be a story? Last year there were 4,156 cases nationwide. Of which 284 people died. Big whoop.

    Now, I'm sure it's a big deal to those who actually contract the disease and an even BIGGER deal to those that die (an almost 7% mortality rate is pretty high), but let's face it, the odds of you getting this thing to begin with are pretty small. In fact, you're WAY more likely to die in a BICYCLE accident (750 deaths in 1999) than you are from West Nile. Why don't we have daily stories about the dangers of bicycle riding? There were 42,000 motor vehicle deaths in 1999, and oddly enough, I'm not afraid of driving. But have a couple of hundred people die from a mosquito-borne disease and now I'm not supposed to go outside? Of course, we could fix those pesky mosquitos if we could still use DDT, but that would mean that a government agency would have to admit it was wrong. I like the lottery odds better.

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    It's so sad (sniff)

    Some days you eat the bear, some days the bear eats you. Blair, meet the bear. He'll be attending Harvard in your place.

    On the bright side, she could always get a job as a reporter for the NY Times.

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    Thursday, July 10, 2003


    You ever get one of those 'gut' feelings? I've got one now and I hope I'm wrong. But in case I'm right, I want to be on record BEFORE it happens.

    My prediction is that Lance Armstrong, the 31 year old wunderkind of cycling will NOT win his 5th straight Tour de France. It's not because he isn't capable and not because he falls short of being the best cycler the sport has ever seen, but because of fan interference. With the strained relationship between France and the US, it must be particularly galling (Gauling?) to have an American beat the French at their own sport, year after year after year. I think some whack-job will snap and do something crazy to interfere with Lance (the old stick in the spokes trick maybe?) that will perhaps destroy his chances of winning this year.

    Like I said, I hope I'm wrong. We'll know for sure in seventeen days.

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    An all day meeting today. Too bad I couldn't call in sick. At least it looks like we may wrap it up early.

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    Wednesday, July 09, 2003

    It's hip to be square

    My friend Barb laughed with me today (I'm sure she wasn't laughing AT me! At least I think. Maybe...). She read my answer to Question 4 on Acidman's quiz. That's right. I haven't done much on the wild side of the ledger. That doesn't mean that I haven't THOUGHT about it, but wild to me is on a whole different scale than for most folks.

    All my life I've pretty much lived between the lines. I can't tell you exactly why 'cause I'm not sure I know myself, but I think a large part of it has to do with having and keeping my dad's respect. It's one of my most prized possessions, but it also makes me pretty traditional (you mean dull, man). I've never cheated on my wife, never done drugs, never been on a three-day binge (I have had a couple of one-day binges, though), never stolen anything (except for that one time when I was a kid, and then only 'cause they pissed me off), never cheated on my income get the picture. To top it off, I married a girl who makes me look like a wild man (not much hope of increasing my hip-quotient there).

    Yet I still manage to have fun. Of course what I think of as fun is stuff most of you wouldn't do unless you were in a nursing home. Go figure.

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    I must obey

    Frank has instructed all his loyal minions to link to him on his one-year blogging anniversary.
    I'll go one better by dedicating this song to him.

    To the tune of "Love Was Made For Me and You" (you know...the "L is for the way you look at me" song)

    Frank has told us all to "Link to me"
    For his blogging anniversary
    Frank is very, very extraordinary
    He's so very funny, let's pitch in and send him money

    Frank has all
    The humor you adore
    Frank beats Scrappleface
    Frank will Nuke the Moon,
    Nuke it big
    And nuke it soon
    Frank's the man
    For me and you

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    Tuesday, July 08, 2003

    Acidman's questions

    I might as well jump onto the bandwagon and answer Acidman's questions.

    Here they are.

    1. Do you have a personal hero? If so, who is it?

    I have had many people I looked up to, but I don't know that any of them rate "hero" status. Audie Murphy always impressed me. His simple roots and heroic deeds were inspirational to thousands (tens, hundreds?) of kids. It was not where you came from but WHO YOU WERE that made the difference. He gave off a sense of doing what was right no matter how difficult or what the personal cost. I couldn't care less about his acting.

    2. What is your favorite book of all time and what made it so effing good?

    Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card. Great underdog to hero story. Appeals to the loner in me.

    3. What does “diversity” mean to you?

    Ironically, it means monolithic thinking. It means "gimme" what I haven't earned.

    4. What is the wildest thing you’ve ever done?

    Nothing comes to mind (sigh).

    5. Do you regret doing it?

    Heh, heh. He said "doing it."

    6. Can you drive a stick shift?


    7. What’s the highest speed you ever traveled in a car?

    105 MPH.

    8. Were you driving, or riding at the time?


    9. Which is better: snakes or spiders?

    Jim Stafford says it best.

    10. What is the most disgusting thing you ever ate?

    When I was a kid, I used to experiment by putting weird stuff on my sandwiches. My mom was OK with it, but she made me eat whatever I fixed. Trust me, Nestle's Quick does NOT belong on a sandwich.

    11. Have you ever crapped your pants? Be HONEST!

    I've had the occasional "juicy fart", but never the full blown experience.

    12. Was losing your virginity an enjoyable experience?

    Umm. Yeah.

    13. Should oral sex be outlawed or encouraged?

    If we outlaw oral sex then only outlaws...oh, never mind.

    14. Name one man with a fine ass.

    Barney Google (May be too big a stretch for some.)

    15. Do you watch golf on television? If not, will you iron my shirts?

    Yes and no.

    16. Who is Martha Burk?

    A master of the double standard with way too much free time. Maybe she could iron your shirts?

    17. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

    I'd like a better singing voice.

    18. Do you eat raw oysters?

    Nope. Can't keep 'em down.

    19. Are you claustrophobic?

    Not so much. I've been known to enjoy squeezing in to tight places.

    20. If you rode a motorcycle, would you wear a helmet even if the law said you didn‘t have to?

    You'd better believe it. One of my brothers left his two front teeth imbedded into his faceplate. If he hadn't been wearing his helmet, he'd be dead.

    21. Name five great Presidents.

    Reagan, Washington, Teddy Roosevelt, Lincoln, and so far GWB.

    22. Name three crappy Presidents.

    Clinton, Carter, LBJ

    23. Now call me fanny and slap my ass. Just kidding.

    Can you give a virtual ass-slapping?

    24. This is the 4th of July. Did you set off any fireworks?

    No, but I wished I could've.

    25. If you could have dinner and conversation with anyone in the history of the planet, who would you choose?

    Winston Churchill. We'd eat plenty of red meat, drink plenty of wine and liquor and spend the evening swapping pithy commentaries on the modern world.

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    The Summer of '42

    When I go see my dad, I usually turn to KTXR 101.3 FM - "The Gentle Giant" when I get close to Springfield. I listen to almost every kind of music out there, with the exception of (c)rap. Heavy metal - fine, alternative - good to go, country - okey dokey, classical - no problemo. It pains me to say this but KTXR is practically easy listening (how sad it's come to that at last). But it's also interesting listening. Their playlist is about as varied as they come. They'll play a Seal track and follow it with Tony Bennett; you'll hear Glenn Campbell and Madonna and Andy Williams back to back. For me that's perfect - I like all that stuff. I've been known to make my kids suffer through "The Old Record Collector" program with Wayne Glenn until we got too far away to keep the signal.

    Thursday night they played an instrumental track of "The Summer Knows" aka the love theme from The Summer of '42 (circa 1971). Not many songs elicit a strong emotional response, but for me, this song's on the list. I was nine years old in 1971. I can remember the first time I heard the lyrics, "and unashamed, she sheds her clothes." I was shocked! This was a song about S...E...X... Just as bold as you please. My father pronounced it pure SMUT and said it and the movie it came from were just raunchy.

    Of course, having my dad say that reinforced my thought of it being dirty, which meant that I thought about it a lot more than I would have otherwise. After a few years, The Summer of '42 started showing up on TV. First as a "Movie of the Week" and later as Saturday afternoon fare. I would have been dead if I'd been caught watching it, but I watched as much as I could every chance I got. It was the stuff twelve year olds dreamed of in their wildest fantasies - an older woman initiating a boy into the ways of the world (nudge, nudge, wink, wink). And they talked about RUBBERS!!!!! It was all quite stimulating (ahem).

    How odd that a melody would stir up all those butterfly-in-the-gut feelings after all these years.

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    Monday, July 07, 2003

    The Streaker

    There's a set of low rent apartments down the hill from my house (mostly older folks judging by the number of ambulence visits per week). A couple of years ago (and several years after The Streaker incident) I was turning onto my street and had to wait for a bus to let someone off. Guess who's my neighbor?

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    I stopped in Oklahoma City to get gas and grab a bite to eat (not necessarily mutually exclusive). Since this was my first stop since leaving, I also needed to "let off a little dog water," as my father would say. Mickey D's urinals were black. This struck me as odd, seeing as how I'd never seen a black urinal before, but I'm thinking, "OK, whatever." Then I looked to my right and noticed that not only were the urinals black, the commodes were solid black too, including the seat.

    No way am I using a solid black toilet.

    To explain why, I guess I should tell you about The Streaker. For the squeamish, stop reading here. Trust me.

    When I worked for The Company (Fortune 500 electronics retailer, HQ'd in Fort Worth), I worked on a floor that had well over a hundred people. Most of them women and only about a dozen or so men. Needless to say, there was a huge potty disparity (funny, but this was never an issue for management, which was disproportionately male). Every floor in the building had restrooms in the inner corridor (next to the elevators). For the guys, it was two urinals and two stalls. Our floor extended under the roof parking and so was much bigger that the floors higher up (which is why we could have so many people). Because of this, we also had interior restrooms. An additional three urinals and three stalls. Due to its location, most men used the interior restroom as their "primary", and in fact had preferred stalls to take care of their business (referred to, of course, as "one", "two" and "three"). Some guys had been known to delay the urge until their stall opened up.

    One day the guys were having their usual afternoon gathering in one of the offices (never a formal meeting, occurring more or less spontaneously and lasted until something work related came up, which sent the slackers, myself included, scattering) when one of the guys brought up the fact that somebody had left a big streak of crap up the back of the seat in one of the stalls. This brought a mixed reaction from the group, some not believing that anybody would just leave crap on the seat, some laughing at the supposed condition of the guys shorts, others were repulsed, and some just wanted to know, "what stall was it?". One guy didn't believe it, so he had to go check for himself. He came back laughing. A couple of us pointed out that this was not the first time recently that this had happened, but we just hadn't though to mention it. Once it was out in the open, we figured out that it had been happening for about a week. There was much speculation over who could be the culprit along with several accusations (and denials). Whoever it was, we had a nickname for him: The Streaker. The Streaker hit at least once a day, sometimes twice and he became regular fodder for conversation - "The Streaker hit stall two this morning."

    About a week later I solved the mystery. I happened to be going into the restroom when I heard a flush and a guy came out of one of the stalls. When he left, I checked and sure enough there was the now ubiquitous "streak". This guy was a temp we had hired to make a copies of old lease files. We brought in a copier for him to use and stuck him in an out of the way room. He was forty-ish and while not fat, he was bulgy and his butt stuck way out when he walked (no wonder he left a streak). He had only been working for a couple of weeks and him being The Streaker was a no-brainer.

    Nobody wanted to talk to the guy about it, and when his temp job ended a week or so later, so did the crap on the toilet seats.

    I repeat: No way am I using a solid black toilet.

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    The weekend

    The trip was a success (insomuch as I made it there and back without any major road incidents), and I made it home with a carload of "loot": pictures, movies, slides, tapes, records, books. The car was completely packed. It took me at least 15 minutes to unload once I got home. Now the challenge will be to sort through the stuff to make some sense of it. I have all of the pictures, including those that my siblings had sent over the years. I don't think it makes sense to send them back. My thought is to purchase a flatbed scanner and burn them all on CDs and give everyone a copy. That way, I can also get them out of the old bulky albums and store them more economically (space-wise anyway). If I start now, I may be able to get it done by Christmas.

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    Thursday, July 03, 2003

    The 4th

    I'm driving to Missouri this evening to spend the 4th of July with my step-mom and my dad. They are both 85 and in so-so health. This week, they moved closer to town - into a much smaller house, but closer to my step-mom's family (next door). They're having an auction next week to sell all the stuff they couldn't move. I'm going to pick up some things to bring home, most notably, my dad's records and tapes (including some reel-to-reels) and the slide projector and 50+ years of slides. Ah, sweet nostalgia.

    I'll be back on Monday.

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    I am a cynic. I read somewhere that cynicism was just an ugly word for pattern recognition. I also sometimes describe myself as an idealistic realist. That's a little confusing. It works like this. I am idealistic enough to believe that the world should work in certain ways. I am also cynical enough to know that the reality will fall far short of my ideals.

    Because of this, I tend to look askance at pronouncements from businesses, politicians, and special interest groups. When I go into the grocery store and they are in the middle of a six week renovation, I don't believe the sign that says, "We're remodelling for YOUR conveniece." No, if it were for MY convenience, you'd have left the store EXACTLY the way it was and would stop screwing around with the layout. While we're at it, if you're really interested in my convenience, why don't you spend another $12 an hour and hire two more checkers?

    The truth is, it's not really about my convenience as much as it is about THEIR bottom line. I'm really OK with that. I just wish they didn't feel like they had to lie to me. How refreshing would it be to see a sign that says, "We're going to have a mess for the next six weeks, but we think we'll meet costs in six months and turn a nice profit on the deal by this time next year. Don't forget to pick up some fresh baked bread."?

    "In order to serve you better" is another slogan that gets trotted out. Sounds good doesn't it. I want my bank to explain how expanding to six teller windows from four, but only staffing three at any given time serves me better. My inner cynic says that there was budget money they had to spend in order to keep the same budget for next year.

    The latest thing is the announcement from Kraft that they will be reformulating their products and reducing their portion sizes to, "encourage healthy lifestyles and make it easier to eat and live better." I find it hard to believe that this is their highest concern. Maybe it's really all about reducing their risk of obesity lawsuits (which are a complete crock...oooh, of butter!) while simultaneously increasing their profitability (we'll sell the 4.6 oz package for the same price we used to sell the 5.4 oz package - a 14% top line increase that will fall straight to the bottom line). Nothing like sticking it to somebody and getting them to tell you how wonderful you are in the process.

    At least Kraft has given us notice of what they're doing. Next time you're buying ice cream, you may want to check to make sure it's really a half gallon. Several big name companies (Dreyer's for one) have started packaging ice cream in 1.75 quart containers that just so happen to be the approximate same size and shape as the 2 quart containers (wouldn't want you to tell them apart, where's the fun in that?) and sell them for the same price. Package downsizing is not new, though, the candy bar makers have been doing it for years.

    All I can tell you is that it's not too early to start laying in your winter's supply of Double-Stuffs.

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    Wednesday, July 02, 2003

    On the road again

    I took my daughter driving Monday night and Tuesday night. On Monday, we headed west of town to get away from most of the traffic. There are also blessedly few parked cars by the side of the road once you get out of suburbia, and I have to admit this played no small part in my thinking. A worst case (not THE worst case) scenario for me is my daughter traveling our nice, relatively quiet neighborhood street scraping every parked car as she goes by. Anyway, it was off to the countryside. We spent thirty minutes on the interstate access road, as that met all of my requirements: wide lanes, little traffic, few curbs/sidewalks/bridges/guardrails, and a moderate speed limit (40 MPH).

    I had forgotten just how foreign the concept of driving had been to me at that age. You mean you have to pay attention to your speed (tachometer and gears will come later), temperature gauge, idiot lights, side mirrors, rear view mirror, direction, lane position and traffic all at once? It's so reflexive now that I have had to remind myself of when it wasn't. No big scares our first night out, unless you consider her first left hand turn at a four way stop. Let's just say she was in a HURRY to get out of the intersection (Ok honey, it's turn and accelerate, not accelerate then turn. No, we won't tell mom you had her car on two wheels. That'll be our little secret). I only had to nudge the wheel a couple of times when she was yielding to oncoming traffic (No, you don't have to jump the curb to make sure you're out of the way. Just stay put and you'll be fine).

    Tuesday night we didn't go quite as far out of town. We found a lower traffic road by the lake and a big (empty) church parking lot. The road wasn't quite what I had been expecting, but by the time I realized that, she was already behind the wheel. The speed limit was 20 in most spots and 30 in others. It also had plenty of turns. So far so good. It was also much narrower than I thought it was (funny how that whole wide/narrow perspective changes when you're not the one behind the wheel). No major incidents, although there was one time that I thought we were going to be the proud owners of a new mailbox (No honey, you missed that thing by at least three inches. You're doing fine. Why don't you nudge to the left just a skosh?). She also overshot her first left turn into the church parking lot (It's OK, lots of people need to do three-point left turns. You'll get the hang of it). We parked and backed out a few times and practiced lots of left turns and a few right turns (that bump was your rear wheel going over the sidewalk. Maybe we should practice tomorrow in the hospital district).

    With all that, for having less that one hour of real road experience, I think she's doing great. Let me know where you live and we'll come practice in YOUR neighborhood.

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    Tuesday, July 01, 2003

    Oops, did I do that?

    This past week, the Supreme Court handed down decisions on affirmative action in college admissions and struck down the Texas sodomy law. I keep wondering what the Law of Unintended Consequences will do with these decisions. You know how this works. You start out to accomplish "A" and as a result also accidentally accomplish "B" and "C". Sometimes "B" and "C" are GOOD things, but sometimes they are not. Take, for instance, the specially formulated (and coincidentally, more expensive) gasoline we are forced to use (by the EPA) to reduce air pollution. It may produce fewer emissions, but also has managed to leach the hazardous chemical additives into the ground water.

    What will be the unintended consequences of allowing the use race as a factor in college admissions? What are the unintended consequences for ruling against the sodomy law? I think we should hope for good "B"s and "C"s, but you will excuse me if I prepare for the opposite, n'est pas?

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    My youngest daughter (12) saved up enough allowance money to buy the latest Harry Potter book Friday night (all 896 pages of it). She read very little Friday night, but did read most of Saturday and Sunday. She finished it yesterday before 10 AM.

    She comes by it honestly. My wife and I are both big readers, but the kids read more like me. I read in big gulps. Once I am engrossed I can't put a book down until it's finished. It consumes me (in the last 24 hours I read a 400 page paperback - Orson Scott Card, if you must know). I can, however, go weeks between books (a good thing too for marital harmony's sake). My wife is a more methodical reader. She's not a slow reader at all, but she's more likely to read a 50-100 pages a day until a book is finished. Truth is, she doesn't read in big gulps because she's too busy to read for extended periods.

    The kids are gulpers like me. We go to the library every two weeks (even during the school year) and check out between 10 and 20 books for the kids (and occasionally one or two for mom and dad). Sometimes we have to recheck some, but the majority of the time, they've all been read (sometimes twice). We don't let them read when the eat lunch on the weekends or they will take two hours to finish a sandwich and some chips.

    When I was in high school, I had a friend who owned almost every book written by ERB (Edgar Rice Burroughs). The Tarzan series, the Mars series, the Venus series, the Pelucidar series and more. Most of these had serial plot lines that became very predictable, but I ate them up anyway. Every day, this friend would bring two ERB books to school and I would give him back the two from the day before. ERB was rather prolific, so it took me several weeks to finish them, but I read two books a day no matter what.

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