Wednesday, June 30, 2004

In hot water

If you've shopped for a major appliance, you're probably familiar with the Federally required EnergyGuide sticker. It is hard to miss, being about the size of a normal sheet of paper and being a nice fluorescent yellow.

The layout of these things are standardized, with a space for the energy usage of the model you're looking at, and a horizontal line graph showing the lowest energy use and highest energy use among all comparable models. And, somewhere on this line is an arrow giving you a visual indication of where this particular model is on that spectrum.

Seems pretty straightforward.

Guess again.

My Dad's water heater is in the laundry room/lavatory which gives me occasion to look at it from time to time, if you know what I mean. Anyway, I got to looking at it the last time I was there and noticed something peculiar. The energy usage number was 4993. The minimum and maximum usages for comparable models was 4624 and 5109 respectively. Which would put this model at about the 76th percentile or about 3/4 of the way from left to right on the graph. So, you'd expect to see something like this
Instead, the graph on the water heater looks like this
Which indicates to me that this is one of the MORE energy efficient models, not one of the LEAST. (Must have been using a reverse logarithmic scale to get it to come out that way. Well, yeah? Doesn't everybody?)

A marketing tactic I will be aware of the next time I need to make a major purchase.

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    Stating the obvious

    One of the ongoing projects at the Aardvark burrow is cleaning up the YAC's room. Let's see, she's 13, so this project has been going on for at least the last 12 years.

    The other day, Mrs. A mentioned to me that we may need to get her another bulletin board for her room. The one she has is half cork and half dry-marker board and she says that the dry marker stuff has been on there so long it won't come off.

    "What have you tried to clean it with?" I ask the YAC?

    She licks her thumb and holds it up.

    "Well, maybe you could use something a little stronger first?"

    "I can't erase some of what's on there. It's important."

    So, last night, as we're putting her to bed (smoochies!), on the way into her room I lick MY thumb and apply it to the "e" in "Voltron Force." (see here for context) Hmmm. Comes right off.

    "I got the marker to come right off, sweetie."

    "What did you erase?" she says, wide eyed.

    "The 'e' from 'Voltron Force'," says I.


    She proceeds to grab the marker and carefully replace the 'e'.

    "Is THAT what was so important?" I ask, incredulous.


    "You are such a bizarre child."

    "Well, DUH!"

    I guess I have to claim her, huh?

  • |

    10.39 Inches in June and still falling

    I didn't mean to. Honest.

    And my mentioning of underwater rides at Six Flags yesterday is just an eerie coincidence. Really.

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    Tuesday, June 29, 2004

    Up, up and away in the Age of Aquarius

    I think I'm way too literal for my own good. At least when it comes to advertising, anyway.

    Six Flags has been advertising their new SpongeBob SquarePants ride recently - In 4-D! And I'm thinking, "No wonder I felt so ripped-off the last time I went! I was shorted a whole dimension!"

    I can just picture the brainstorming session...
    "This SpongeBob SquarePants license we snagged is a hot property. We need to capitalize on it by doing something new, wild and innovative. Who's got an idea?

    Yeah, Lare, whad'ya got?"

    "Well, we could make a ride that makes people think they're actually underwater..."

    "Aw, c'mon Larry! I said new, wild and innovative. Disney has been doing that underwater thing for over thirty years!"

    "Well, what if we built the same old thing, but ADVERTISED it with a catchy slogan that would make people THINK it was wild, new and innovative? That'd be way easier than actually coming up with something new."

    "Go on. I'm listening. What did you have in mind?"

    "This sounds crazy, but what if we told people that our new ride would, like, let them experience a NEW dimension?"

    "Hey! You might have something there - 'The Fourth Dimension!' - I like it!"

    "Uh, actually boss, time is normally considered the..."

    "Yeah, SpongeBob SquarePants in 4-D! Call the marketing guys and get them started on that right away. People are gonna LOVE this."

    "Uh, boss..."

    "Well, what are you waiting on? Let's make it happen people."

    So now you know when you ride the SpongeBob SquarePants ride, it will not only exist in space as an object with height, depth and width, but it will also TAKE UP SOME OF YOUR TIME as well.

    Of course that's time that you'll never get back no matter how much the ride stinks.


    What I really want to know is: Which of the four dimensions did they leave out on their other rides? I mean, talk about draconian cost-cutting measures.

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    Monday, June 28, 2004

    Good thing I can count to ten

    Had to leave for church ten minutes earlier than normal Sunday morning (not the ten referenced in the title). I was scheduled to sing in the morning service and the EAC was accompanying me on the piano. Needed to get there early before Sunday School started so we could get a sound check. Like volume is ever a problem with me. Heh. Anywat, "Be there at 9:15," I was told. Ok, fine, that's no problem. And miracle of miracles, everybody was even ready to go on time. Got in the car and about two miles down the road, Mrs. A says, "Do you have your music?" D'oh! Turned back around and Mrs. A dashed into the house, grabbed the music, and we were back on the road, five minutes later than the first time we left, but still early enough to make it by 9:15 - if the lights were mostly green.

    Made it to the church and got to the sanctuary for the sound check at 9:15 exactly.

    Only the song leader had a men's quartet rehearsing. Fine, no problem. I'll just stand over here and wait. I'm sure they'll be done in just a minute.

    Only they weren't. The song they were singing had a bunch of verses. And they sang them all. Finally, they were done and they briefly put their heads together and then started in on another song.


    It's not like they didn't know I was there and the song leader is the one who had admonished me to be there at 9:15. Stay calm. Count to ten. Do it again. Ah. Finally. Their second song was over.

    Now they're discussing when to meet to practice again (and the way that second song sounded, they need it). And not moving to the side to do it. Try not to think bad thoughts about being told to be there at 9:15, when clearly that was not a good time. Count to ten again. And again.

    It finally dawns on the song leader why I'm there and he gets folks out of the way. At 9:25 I do a run-through. No problems with sound. Well, other than the ones coming from me, that is. The EAC played flawlessly.

    Singing in the service later on seemed to go well too. At least there weren't any retching sounds or a mass exodus out the back doors, so I take that as a sign of, at a minimum, acceptance. Kind of the, "He may be a goober, but he's OUR goober," sort of thing.

    Then again, the visitors that sat right in front of me did seem to be in a hurry to leave after the service ended...

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    Company outing

    Went to The Main Event Friday night. Bowling, pizza and pool - hard to go wrong with that.

    Yours truly bowled the high game of the night. Truth is, it's probably my second best game ever. What's the saying? "I'd rather be lucky than good." That was me.

    I bowled a 118 my first game, which is about my average. The second game I started with an open frame. And didn't have another open frame until the 9th. A bunch of spares (besides the ones bowling) and a turkey in the middle. Managed to spare the 10th too, and as a result I wound up with a 186.

    Maybe all those bowling tournaments I watched on TV as a kid are starting to pay off. Either that, or I was channeling "The Dude" Lebowski. Or was it Roy Munson?

    Anyway, I found out today that I won a $20 gift card to Target for having the highest score. Sweet! (even if they don't carry brake fluid)

  • |

    Crisis averted?

    We'll see.

    The EAC mentioned the W-4/I-9 thing to her employer and was told that if she'd get the forms, they would do the taxes. So we sent her off to work today with the correct forms (and we kept copies as well) and we'll see what happens come payday.

    I'm still just a wee bit skeptical, but then again that applies most of the time.

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    Friday, June 25, 2004

    Ethical dilemmas

    Remember folks, when life hands you a dilemma, make dilemmanade!



    You know, is it too much to ask that your daughter not be faced with an ethical dilemma on the first day of her first job?


    The EAC had a good first day at work, even manning the stand by herself for most of the afternoon. I mean, it's NOT rocket surgery. We heard all about it and then Mrs. A asked the question, "So did you get a W-4 to fill out?"

    "No, she (the owner) said something about me being responsible for my own taxes."


    Federal law is very specific on who can be classified as contract labor and who MUST be classified as an employee. The two biggest tests to determine how one is classified are:
    1. Can your employer dictate the way you perform your job?
    2. Can your employer tell you when to start and stop work?
    If the answer to BOTH of these questions is "no," then you are contract labor. If the answer to either of these questions is "yes," then you are an employee. And as a result, your employer is responsible for a) withholding, reporting and paying State and Federal Income Taxes and b) withholding, reporting and paying Social Security taxes - along with their matching portion and c)withholding, reporting and paying any other city/state employment taxes (such as unemployment tax) along with their portion (some are completely paid by the employer).

    I figure it saves the snow cone stand about $70 bucks a month by not paying these taxes, but it will cost my daughter an extra $50 bucks a month to pay the Social Security taxes as a "self-employed" worker. (The difference being a slightly lower matching rate for self-employed people.) I figure the snow cone lady thinks that most people won't even bother to worry about taxes (I'd be shocked if she actually issues 1099s), and so she can operate "under the table" with impunity.

    You know, life would be so much easier if we could just ignore those pesky ethics.

    The EAC wasn't 100% sure she understood the lady correctly, so she is tasked today with asking again about a W-4 (not to mention that there's been no mention of an I-9) just to make sure. If she gets the same answer, she's to finish out the day (since she has no transportation of her own) and I'll call the lady tomorrow and tell her the EAC is not coming back.


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    Thursday, June 24, 2004

    With family like these...

    It's that time of year again, folks. Time for the annual department outing at work (tomorrow). This year we're going to The Main Event (sort of an indoor amusement park for adults - bowling, pool, blackjack (?) and laser tag).

    When I was telling my wife about it, the Youngest Aardvark Child (YAC) was sitting close by. Upon hearing that I was going to The Main Event, she pipes up, "Are you going to do LASER TAG?"

    "Nope. Not planning on it."

    "Why not Dad. Laser tag IS FUN!"

    "Maybe if I was twenty years younger and in better shape..."

    "No Dad, you need to do it." She's practically bouncing up and down at this point.

    "I'm not playing laser tag."

    "But WHY?"

    "'Cause I'm an OLD FART, Ok?"

    "But Dad, you're not old."

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    Much ado about something

    Beginning today, the Aardvark family is now experiencing full employment (at least those that are of an age to BE employed) ... and there was much rejoicing.

    The EAC is coning snow six hours a day, five days a week. And since the snow cone stand is in the historic Stockyards area, the going rate is $7.00 an hour! Sweet! I told her I'd give her a week or so to get settled, then I was bringing a bunch of folks from work to get snow cones one day at lunch. Maybe I'll be able to EMBARRASS her in the process! (An added benefit as any father could tell you.)

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    Thursday? Check. Three? Check

    Hide the children and keep the pets indoors! The (supposedly) twelfth installment of the Thursday Three® is here!

    1. What is the best summer job you ever had, either in high school or college?

    I never had a summer job in high school, and in college, my summer job was the same as my winter, spring and fall job. So how about I freelance a little and tell you about the summer job I had when I was in ELEMENTARY school?

    For many years, my dad was the general manager for a bulb farm. Daffodils mostly, with some iris and gladiolas sprinkled in. The flowers were picked in the spring and in the summer, the bulbs were dug up, separated, treated and stored awaiting replanting in the fall. The bulbs were dug up by machine, but the machine didn't gather them, it just left them laying on the ground. I was a bulb picker. My job was to take a bucket down the row, fill it with bulbs, and empty it into a mesh sack. Repeat as many times as necessary. You got paid by how many full sacks you gathered (just a few cents per sack, as I recall). It was hot, dirty, dusty, back-breaking work, but I did like getting paid. And what else was a ten year old going to do to earn a few bucks? I think the most I ever made over a summer was about $250, but that was BIG money as far as I was concerned.

    2. (And, as you can guess) What was the worst summer job you ever had?

    Same as above. Did I mention it was hot, dirty, dusty and back-breaking? You were assigned a row and you could quit whenever you wanted, as long as you finished your row. I'm sure the rows weren't as long as I remember, but some of them seemed to go on for half a mile or more.

    3. Finally, was there ever a summer dream job you wanted, but you never got?

    Does costume fitter for Lynda Carter count?

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    Wednesday, June 23, 2004


    So Monday afternoon finds me on the road again with the car pointed towards home.

    As is the case quite often on long road trips, the mind sometimes wanders and doesn't always register what the eyes see, especially if it is something off the road not related to vehicular operations.
    "Well let's see I don't think I forgot anything how long have I been on the road not quite two hours there's some cows that'll put me into another Branson billboard Tulsa about eight are those horses or mules I can't quite tell from here and I'll need to get gas that should be a little over three hundred miles on this tank more cows I wonder if I'll get the same kind of mileage going back mile marker 18 almost to the Oklahoma border should take about 15 minutes three elephants by that pond don't think I need to stop at the rest area I should be good to Tulsa ... wha? ..."
    Yes, there were three small African elephants in a field about 10 miles East of Joplin, Missouri. I couldn't catch the name on the building (the one with the pond behind it) but it said something something "Circus".

    Ok, I am sane. (Well, that's still up for some fair amount of debate) At least the elephants weren't pink.

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    ALittle excitement

    (LittleA - ALittle, clever huh?)

    Right, well, moving on...

    So, I'm sitting in my hotel room Saturday night, minding my own business, when the phone rings.


    "Uh...yes...uh...Mr. Aardvark. This is the front desk and...uh...we were just calling to make sure your room was ok."


    "Uh...yeah, everything is fine."

    "Ok,...well, enjoy your stay. Goodnight." Click.

    Well, that was weird. That's the first time the front desk at any hotel has EVER called like that. And it was my second night in this room, which made the call even odder. I wonder what that was all about?

    About 9:40 somebody knocks at the door.

    !?! ... !?!

    Now, it should come as no surprise - me being a guy what was minding his own business, in his own hotel room and in for the night - when I tell you that my first thought was, "WHERE ARE MY PANTS?"

    After a moderate scramble and a peek out of the peep hole, the door was opened to reveal three of Mountain Grove's finest. (Cue Inner Circle music) Turns out there had been a hang-up 911 call earlier in the evening from the hotel, but the phone system couldn't tell them which room it came from, so they were going around checking all the rooms.

    I assured them it wasn't me and they seemed satisfied. (not even looking at me funny the way most folks do) Turns out it was a false alarm.

  • |


    Date: 6-18-04

    Location: Somewhere in the Oklahoman Hinterlands (an unnecessarily superfluous redundancy, I know)

    So I pull up to the toll booth only to discover I'm right behind a double-decker load of pigs (of the porcine variety). Rolling down my window to pay my forced contribution to the taxing authority, my nostrils are assaulted with the malodorous reminiscence of pig excrement and slop.

    As I wait for my change, I plot my revenge for this olfactory crime ...


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    Friday, June 18, 2004

    (Post # 500!) Leaving early today

    I'm leaving about 1 PM, headed for Missouri. I'll be back on Tuesday and back to blogging on Wednesday - maybe with some more PALM POSTS!

    In the mean time ... Y'ALL BEHAVE!

    (Mom said so)

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    My FIrsT Pa'lM pOst

    Thl$ nay ta'kle soMe geTtin'g uSed to'.

  • |


    You know, I work for a pretty good company. Maybe working so many years for a soul-numbing large corporation has its advantages. I know I certainly have an enhanced appreciation for kindness and decency as a result. Because the company I work for is privately held, the owners are able to bring a personal touch to the workplace that just doesn't exist in the public realm. When employees get an extra benefit, you know it's not because the owners have to provide it, it's because they want to.

    Most places recognize employee tenure with a certificate and a handshake, maybe some sort of lapel pin or tie tack when you start gathering a substantial number of years. They do that here to. But after 5 years, you get a booklet to pick a goodie from. (And at 10 and 15 and 20 years too.) And it's not the cheesy socket wrench set or candy dish or duffel bag that you sometimes see, the 5 year stuff is good. I did some checking and most gifts seemed to fall in the $80 - $100 retail range. One of my employees hit 10 years recently and she picked a Bose Wave Radio with CD (retail approximately $500). I've glimpsed the 20 year booklet and there's some REALLY nice stuff in it.

    Anyway, I hit the 5 year mark last month and so I ordered one of these. It came yesterday. It's not EXACTLY like the one I linked to - mine only has 2MB of memory instead of 8MB, but other than that I think they're the same.

    SWEET! Do you KNOW WHAT THIS MEANS? I can now blog from anywhere! Home, work, church, the doctor's office, the car...the BATHROOM!


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    Thursday, June 17, 2004

    Ten, eleven ... hey, who's counting?

    Without going back and counting for myself, all I'm willing to commit to is that this is AN installment of the Thursday Three®.

    1) What book(s) are you reading right now, and what do you think of it (them)? (Not at this particular moment, necessarily--maybe within the past couple of weeks or so.)

    Well, to tell you the truth (why start now?), I'm not really reading anything at the moment. I'm usually a big reader (in every sense of the word), but for some reason the last six months or so, I haven't been able to generate the required interest. I have a SF anthology that I've started (using it to read if I have to sit and wait somewhere), but I haven't picked it up in over a month. I'll probably take it along on the trip this weekend. I did read My Name is Asher Lev on Saturday. My brother gave it to me a year ago and it went on several trips to my dad's without being opened. The only reason I started it Saturday is that I donated platelets and needed something to read. Then once begun, I had to finish it. There is a sequel that I'll have to check out from the library and read at some point. I fournd MNiAL to be moving and disturbing. It's one of those books where you feel you know all the characters and empathise with each one, and as a result, you are conflicted whenever they have trouble understanding each other. I'll definitely read it again.

    2) What book(s) have you begun reading several times, and never seem to quite finish? Why?

    The Ring of Five Dragons - Eric Van Lustbader. I'm a SF kind of guy and as a result, I've read some far out stuff and liked it. I'll usually give books 100 pages to hook me, and almost always after I've invested 100 pages, I'll go ahead and finish the book (some of which I'm still waiting to get better after turning the last page). For some reason this book didn't capture my imagination and so the alien culture remained just that. I made it about a third of the way through and set it down. Very unusual for me. Maybe I'll try again some day. Then again, maybe not.

    Stranger in a Strange Land - Robert Heinlein. I've read other Heinlein works before and since, but just couldn't make it through this one. I guess you could say I didn't grok it.

    Dune - Frank Herbert. Ok, this one doesn't really belong here, it really belongs under number 3, but I put it here because the first time I tried to read it I only got about 20 pages before I put it down. I was in high school and one of my buddies was ga-ga about this book. Maybe that's what put me off, I don't know, but I finally gave it back to him and told him I just couldn't get into it. THEN, when I was in college, I ran across it again, picked it up and couldn't put it down. (I think somebody in the book store must have used the voice on me.)

    Special mention: The Shannara books by Terry Brooks. I read The Sword of Shannara as a teenager and was incensed that it was a BLATANT RIP-OFF of the Lord of the Rings. Refuse to read another one. Period.

    3) What book(s) have you read more than once? Why?

    Why? Why not? I like a good story and enjoy re-reading quite a bit. I don't think it's any different than watching a movie more than once. I know people that won't re-read a book, but have watched The Wizard of Oz or Gone With the Wind or Star Wars dozens of times.

    I tend to re-read series more than stand alone novels.

    Novels I've read multiple times

    The Hobbit - J.R.R. Tolkien
    The Cyberiad - Stanislaw Lem
    The Space Merchants - Frederick Pohl & Cyril M. Kornbluth
    Stand on Zanzibar - John Brunner
    The Bourne Identity - Robert Ludlum
    I, Robot - Isaac Asimov
    Ender's Game - Orson Scott Card

    Series I've re-read multiple times

    Completed series:
    The Chronicals of Thomas Covenant - Steven R. Donaldson (6 books)
    The Lord of the Rings - J.R.R. Tolkien (3 books)
    Bio of a Space Tyrant - Piers Anthony (5 books)
    Dorsai - Gordon Dickson (at least the first 4 books)
    Foundation - Isaac Asimov (I only count the original 4 books)
    Pern - Anne McCaffrey (technically not done, but I've reread the first 6 books many times)
    Merlin trilogy - Mary Stewart (3 books, oddly enough!)

    Series still being written:
    The Sword of Truth - Terry Goodkind (8 books so far)
    The Wheel of Time - Robert Jordan (10 books so far)

    I'll usually re-read the whole series at the release of every 2nd new book unless there's a long lag between books, then I might re-read them every time there's a new book. Too many characters to keep straight otherwise.

    Ok, now I feel like reading.

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    Wednesday, June 16, 2004

    Listing to the side

    What to put on the list for Father's Day?

    Mrs. A says that "books, music, movies" is not specific enough.

    Ok, fine.

    The Cyberiad by Stanislaw Lem - One of my all-time favorites. You have to be a certain kind of geek to like this book. I am that geek.
    Midshipman's Hope by David Feintuch - The first of the Seafort Saga (Hope) series. Military strategy and an unbending code of ethics. In the 22nd century, of course.
    Any puzzle magazine (prefer Dell over Penny Press). Ok, that's not a book, but close enough.

    Queen - A Night at the Opera
    Kansas - Point of Know Return or The Best of Kansas
    Greig - Peer Gynt Suites 1&2
    Dvorak - Symphony Number 9 "From the New World"
    Josh Groban - Josh Groban
    Chuck Mangioni - Feels so Good or Land of Make Believe
    Spyro Gyra - Morning Dance or Incognito

    Ernest Saves Christmas - I happen to like Ernest. Sue me.
    The Fifth Element - Don't blink or you'll miss something. And Chris Tucker is a hoot.
    Kelly's Heros - "All the time, these negative vibes."
    Batman - Jack Nicholson IS the Joker, and Kim Basinger ...
    Muppet Movie - De fleem is hokey-dokey.

    That ought to give her some ideas. (and probably give you nightmares)

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    Tuesday, June 15, 2004

    Then again...

    I was going to put a big, introspective post here, but I thought about it and decided that was a lot of work. I think I'll stick with shallow fluff instead. In other words, business as usual.

    Carry on.

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    Reading between the lines

    Scene: Early morning inside the Aardvark burrow. We pick up in mid-conversation between LittleA and his wife...

    Mrs. A: I don't know why we're so tired all the time. Maybe we have mono...

    LittleA: Heh. Would you look at the size of those bags under my eyes. Good thing I'm not flying today. I'd never make it on the plane..."We're sorry sir, only ONE carry-on allowed."

    Mrs. A: You know, you could get some Preparation H® to put on those. I hear that's supposed to work.

    LittleA: I don't THINK so! ... ... ... Hey! Did you just call me a butthead?

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    Monday, June 14, 2004

    Anyway, ...

    Had a good weekend. A little excitement on Friday night that turned out ok - cosmetic tire damage only, no front-end problems. Mowed the grass (which didn't QUITE need baling, but was close) and donated platelets on Saturday, though, thankfully, not at the same time. Managed a nap on Sunday afternoon too, though it was more of a "rest" than a nap since I remember tossing and turning quite a bit.

    VBS report at church Sunday night and, because the kids met their goals, the pastor and his wife showed up with their hair sprayed green and purple. (It does take a LITTLE bit more concentration to listen to a sermon delivered by a guy with green and purple hair, but not too much. I think it bothered him more than any of the rest of us.) As Ray Stevens would say, if he was in San Francisco, it would be so unremarkable that people would think he was an insurance salesman (The Haircut Song).

    Or a preacher.

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    Funky blue

    In somewhat of a blue funk today - and, as is the case with most blue funks, I have no idea why.

    Could be work. Lord knows, I've got plenty of it.

    Could be lack of sleep. I can't figure out if I was restless last night, or just dreamt that I was restless. Either way, it was hard to open the peepers this morning.

    Could be Asher Lev. Read My Name is Asher Lev Saturday. It haunted my dreams Saturday night, and I'm still processing it.

    Could be none of the above.

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    Friday, June 11, 2004

    A year older but none the wiser

    Well, it's been quite a year for ALANHA. Looking back, I'm amazed that I'm still here. Even more amazing is that YOU are still here.

    I took the opportunity to review the last year and pick out one post a month that I liked. They aren't necessarily the most important things I've posted about, but I think they're a pretty good representation of what ALANHA has grown to be about.

    (It helps if you keep in mind the official ALANHA motto: Consistently Meeting Low Expectations.)

    Early on, I did a little more politics and news coverage than I do now. I also found my early posts very difficult to read. They seem stilted and forced to me now, but they were the best I could do at the time. I guess there's something to be said for posting regularly.

    Anyway, humor me (and maybe vise versa) by allowing me to recommend these "best of" posts from ALANHA.

    June 2003 - Yelling at the news where I reveal that I've grown up to be my father after all.

    July 2003 - On the road again teaching the EAC how to drive.

    August 2003 - Cogito, ergo sum...Spiderman! where I demonstrate my natural agility and athletic prowess. No. Really.

    September 2003 - Pun - ishment: a post which reveals the depth of my illness.

    October 2003 - Anachronicity - No, it's not an album by the Police.

    November 2003 - Running with scissors on the day after Thanksgiving.

    December 2003 - My outside voice sometimes, unfortunately, mirrors my inside voice.

    January 2004 - At the intersection of blogging and life and who should be standing there but Nate!

    February 2004 - A ham is born and promptly blogs the experience.

    March 2004 - I know you won't believe this, but I channelled Tim Taylor for a moment or two...and then had to lie down. (Ok, THAT part you believe.)

    April 2004 - My daughter, Silly who still believes everything her Daddy tells her. (In spite of her Mother's advice.)

    May 2004 - Jeudi Trois: which is how the Martha's Vineyard/Hamptons crowd would say "Thursday Three" I believe. Anyway, one of my favorite sets of questions and a guest appearance by Spock.

    Let's hope the next year is as entertaining as this last one has been. Thanks to one and all for your participation and support.



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    Thursday, June 10, 2004

    An Aggie's Dozen

    Time for the 'lebendieth' installment of the Possum's Posers.

    Good thing I had extry (sic) (I know you are, but what am I?) time to think.

    1) Assuming for the moment that "The South" still has a distinct and recognizable sense of itself within the greater universe of American culture (not having been homogenized and starched into being nothing more than merely another place on the map), when was the first time you ever felt or noticed that difference or distinction?

    I remember the first time I laid eyes on Fort Worth. I arrived in mid August. Looking out the truck window at all the BRICK houses and the DRIED, YELLOW grass, I remember how alien it felt. In Vancouver, Washington, most houses had wood siding and the grass was green all year 'round - without having to be watered much at all. Watching people WAVE at each other when they merged in traffic (using their WHOLE HAND!) And seeing the "Foat Wuth, Ah luv you" bumper stickers! And the men in light blue suits with cowboy hats and boots on! People here still laugh when I say that one of the things I like about Texas is that it has all four seasons. Granted, the winters are mild and the summers are not, but you can tell when you've moved from winter to spring and from summer to fall.

    But "The South" is more than geography, it's a feeling you get that you fit in your own skin, and that everybody fits in as a part of the whole. I think that's why in the South, there's no such thing as a 'stranger', there's only folks you haven't met before.

    The first Sunday I was here, the family I was staying with had already made lunch plans that they couldn't add me to, so they arranged for another family from church to have me over after church for Sunday dinner. I never once felt like I was an outsider even though these folks had seen me for the first time that morning. My first experience with brisket and the ritualistic watching of the Cowboys. And I came to realize, this experience wasn't a fluke. Most folks I met treated me the exact same warm, welcoming way. (as opposed to screaming in horror and running away like all those villagers used to)

    2) Assuming our original assumption is still valid, list three of distinctions about the South that you believe are positive, and worth being emulated by others.

    Honor. The sense of honor still runs strong in the South. The idea that you do the right thing just because it's the right thing, no matter what people say or how much it hurts.

    Family. The South has roots and family is important. I know lots of places that this is true, but the Southern family is different. The family in the South is more than just the folks that happen to be born into it, it's the outliers and hanger's-on that get swept up into the family and are accepted as such even though there is no blood that ties them to it. Sometimes it's a neighbor kid, or a single gal or guy from church, or a friend from school who doesn't have a good home to go to and spends more time at your house than his own. Or maybe it's a dorky college boy who just needs to rent a room 'cause the dorms are full.

    Food. Barbecue, catfish, hush puppies, grits, corn bread, chili, biscuits, cream gravy (with or without sausage), ribs, brisket, pork chops smothered in creamed corn, mashed potatoes, home made ice cream, watermelon, ranch style beans, andoille sausage, boudin, etouffe, crawfish, peanuts, pecans, salsa, tortillas, tacos, enchiladas, kolaches (lots of Czechs in Texas), ham hocks and beans, bacon strips in homemade baked beans, peaches, chicken fried steak, ...

    You can find these things in other places, but there's no place that does them quite like the South.

    3) Have you ever been to another place outside of the South that seemed to have that same sense of "Southernness" to it? If so, where was it?

    Can't say that I have. Like the saying goes, "I may not have been born here, but I got here as fast as I could."

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    O beautiful for heroes proved In liberating strife.
    Who more than self the country loved
    And mercy more than life!
    America! America!
    May God thy gold refine
    Till all success be nobleness
    And every gain divine!
    What he said.

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    Delayed gratification

    My Thursday Three® answers will be late today, as I have a bi-monthly meeting this morning followed by lunch with my wife.

    In the mean time, I'll leave you with a quote that's played several times on the Bill Bennett show this week.
    Communism only works in Heaven, where they don’t need it, and in Hell, where they already have it. - Ronald Reagan

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    Wednesday, June 09, 2004

    I love doing that

    This morning I was holding court having a conversation with one of my employees and the subject of silly songs came up. (Imagine that!) She's about fifteen years older than I am, but having grown up with much older siblings, we seem to intersect culturally a lot more than you'd think.

    "What was that one about kissing and hugging Bill?" she asked.

    "You mean,
    Keep your mind on your driving,
    Keep your hands on the wheel,
    Keep your shifty (beady?) eyes on the road ahead.
    We're having fun,
    Sitting in the back seat,
    Kissin' and a huggin' with Fred?"
    I say.

    "Yeah." she says.

    "Never heard of it."

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    Now that the electricity is back on, I don't have anything to write about. And I just can't seem to work up a good rant complaint about anything. I mean, life is GOOD. Hmmph.

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    Tuesday, June 08, 2004

    Oh, come on, people!

    I left some low hanging fruit ...



    ... **crickets chirping** ...


    [mutter] You want something done ... [/mutter]
    Overcoming Arachnophobia - Peter Parker

    Understanding Actuarial Underwriting Tables - Daredevil

    Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better - Supergirl

    Who Moved My Cheese? - Mighty Mouse

    Democracy for Dummies - Captain America

    Inside the Ed Wood Story - Underdog

    What To Do When You're In a Pickle - Larry Boy
    Ok, to humor Terry (Popeye and Olive Oyl), how 'bout we open it up to ANY comic book/comic strip/cartoon character?

    Any takers?

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    Staying power

    At least so far. Like a recovering addict, I'm taking it one day at a time.

    And if you'll forgive me for saying it, the worst thing about not having electricity is that you are completely powerless. (ba-da-bum)

    No, really.

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    Monday, June 07, 2004

    Truly it is written that the rain falls on the just and the unjust alike

    However tis the just who take it somewhat more personally...


    And on the seventh day of the sixth month in the eighteenth hour, the Lord did most graciously grant his servant the power of cooling; and cooling was had throughout the land and there was great rejoicing in the habitations thereof.


    And the people didst feel the cool comfort for nigh on three parts of an hour. Which made the great anguish of its perishing all the more merciless. Yeah, and forsooth, the people were sorely vexed; and a great wrath arose and stirred among the people. With pitchforks and torches they prepared to lay waste. Verily, twas only the absence of a dignitary of so great a power that stayed the people's smiting vengeance.

    And then, in the darkness was felt a stirring of the breeze. Soft? What is this that doth present itself so comfortingly upon my brow? Tis the cool comfort once more returned! Perchance to stay?

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    Things that occupy an otherwise empty mind

    Non-fiction books written by superheros:

    Some are obvious
    Buns, Thighs, Abs and Pecs of Steel - Superman

    Don't Worry, Be Happy - Overcoming Bipolar Disorders - Bruce Banner

    Blinded by the Light - Near Death Experiences - Bruce Wayne & Dick Grayson
    Others not quite so
    Overcoming my Addiction to Public Nudity - Jay Garrick
    Can't forget the business titles - From Boom to Bust? - Wonder Woman
    And then there's my favorite
    The Porpoise Driven Life - Aquaman
    Your turn.

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    Pride goeth before a fall

    The power went out at 11:30 last night, came back about 2:15 and then went out again sometime later. It's still not back.

    Naturally, we picked up our frozen stuff from our friend's freezer yesterday and went grocery shopping to replace what we lost yesterday afternoon.


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    Friday, June 04, 2004

    POWER to the PEOPLE!

    Sixty-three hours and counting.
    Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power. - Abraham Lincoln
    I'm ready to be tested. Really. Maybe along the lines of Sir Galahad? "Wait! I can defeat them! There's only a hundred and fifty of them!"
    It is said that power corrupts, but actually it's more true that power attracts the corruptible. The sane are usually attracted by other things than power. - David Brin
    So I'm insane. Sue me.
    If absolute power corrupts absolutely, does absolute powerlessness make you pure? - Harry Shearer
    No. Stinky, but not pure.
    Power corrupts. Absolute power is kind of neat. - John Lehman
    Most powerful is he who has himself in his own power. - Seneca
    Oh, sure. Like Rome didn't have SLAVES to generate all their electricity...
    Never work just for money or for power. They won't save your soul or help you sleep at night. - Marian Wright Edelman
    Wrong sister. Keeping the temperature in the house below 85 DEFINITELY helps you sleep at night...and the utility company wants cash.
    Power, however it has evolved, whatever its origins, will not be given up without a struggle. - Shulamith Firestone
    On the contrary. We gave it up just like ::snap:: that.
    We thought, because we had power, we had wisdom. - Stephen Vincent Benet
    And it was true. Try using your Encarta CD-ROM without it.
    Once, power was considered a masculine attribute. In fact, power has no sex. - Katherine Graham
    Oh, power has sex all right. It's NO POWER that has no sex. Because it's TOO DANGED HOT!
    I don't like being outsmarted by insignificant humans... even if they DO have special powers! - Lord Zedd
    If I could only get my hands on one of those Power Rangers...

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    Thursday, June 03, 2004

    Unwritten social laws

    There are some things that, while not necessarily forbidden, are just not done in public. Like picking your nose (fortunately, or unfortunately depending on which side you're on, the automobile doesn't count as "in public" even though it has all those windows and all), or flossing your teeth, or blowing your nose while at the dinner table, or shall we say, making "fine tuning" adjustments to various parts of your anatomy. These are the things that you see people do without seemingly a second thought while you're thinking, "I would never even DREAM about doing that."

    I saw another violation of an unwritten social law yesterday while dining at Taco Bell. And while not on the level of the aforementioned violations, I was nonetheless sitting there thinking, "That wouldn't even have occurred to me."

    You know how when you buy a drink at a fast food place, the refills are free? (which is why you should ALWAYS buy the smallest size) I watched a woman pull up, get out and come in with her Taco Bell cup. She dumped out what was in the cup and proceeded to refill it and walk out.

    Now, I'd been there some time when I witnessed this, so I know she hadn't just been there. Sometimes, when this happens routinely, the management of a place will put up a sign saying "free refills for this visit only" or something like that. But when it's not a routine occurrence, there is no sign, because EVERYONE SHOULD KNOW that this is the rule. And yet, there are people who don't. Or worse yet (which is what I believe, being all cynical and all), they know but DON'T CARE, or somehow think that they are the exception, or that it's only wrong if someone catches them. Where do people get this attitude of entitlement?

    Then again, I could be over-analyzing things and really just need a nap.

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    Thursday? Thursday? Nope, nothin' special 'bout Thursday that I recall...

    Wait a minute! Better check out the Awesome Possum for my Thursday talking points.

    First question: What is the most daring thing you have ever done in public?

    I'm really not a very daring guy. But I DO have a hat that used to make my kids complain about being seen with me. "You're not going to wear THAT hat again, are you Dad?" I bought it in San Francisco. (Now CUT THAT OUT! Not EVERYONE in San Francisco is that way, you know) It has a built in pony tail that matches my hair color. I wear it for the shock value in case I run across someone I know.

    Second question: Who was your favorite Cartwright on Bonanza?

    Hoss, though I always thought he was named that for his brain capacity. He's the type of guy you want when the job requires a size 40 shirt and a size 2 hat.

    As a bonus, the best Bonanza parody I've run across is by Isaac Air Freight. It's the story of Little Joe as the prodigal son. If you've never heard Isaac Air Freight, it's worth investing in their classic CD.

    Third question: The South has long been known as a hotbed of scientific research and innovative inventors. (Yes, really!) Assuming for a moment that you yourself are an innovative Southern inventor, what device, tool, apparatus, implement, contrivance or other synonym do you think the world is ready for?

    A Combination Brain Capacitor/Teeth Regeneration Ray. So I can ZAP all the stoopid (sic), toothless rednecks I see in the hopes that their children WON'T GROW UP JUST LIKE THEM! Do it for the children!®


    I think someone needs a nap.

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    It's a good thing it's not summer

    Or it would really be hot.

    I think the high yesterday was in the low 90s. The night before last, when the power went out, the house wasn't too bad since the AC had been on all day and the temperature dropped about 15 degrees when the storms blew in. It was stuffy, but not too uncomfortable to still be able to sleep well. Last night we were still without power, which meant the AC had been off all day and so the house was 82 degrees when we went to bed. And still 80 degrees at 3 AM this morning. We didn't open the windows before we went to bed because a) there were more storms coming in and b) someone has nightmares about people coming through the windows when we leave the windows open and wakes up screaming. I finally opened the windows at 3 and told Mrs. A that she should start thinking happy thoughts. The bedroom cooled quite a bit and the temperature in the living room at 6:30 was all the way down to ... 77!

    There are still quite a number of people in the area without power, although in our neighborhood it seems confined to about three blocks. It is aggravating when you can look out your front door and see that the folks across the street have power. Mrs. A spent a good deal of yesterday ferrying around our very sick friend and so when I got home, both girls were sprawled across their beds acting moody and listless. Packed 'em up and spent the majority of the evening hanging out at the mall.

    Fortunately, our water heater is gas, so we still have hot water for showers, even if you have to take them by candlelight. (Which could be FUN if it were under different circumstances, if you know what I mean. Nudge, nudge, wink, wink.) And Mrs. A got most of our perishable foodstuffs over to a friend with freezer space, so I don't think we'll be out too much there. Mostly it's just inconvenient.

    I hope the electricity is back on by this evening, 'cause I think everyone will be a little more congenial with a good night's sleep. I told my boss this morning that I was going to sit in my cube and try to not tick anybody off today by acting like Mr. Crankybutt. We'll see.

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    Unexpected news

    Of an indeterminable nature.

    I talked to my Dad on Sunday and he had gone to see the doctor on Thursday and after examining him, she thought they could be going in the wrong direction with his diagnosis. His problem could be related to an obstruction of his bladder. So, she sent him off for an ultrasound and called in some new medication to the pharmacy. When I talked to him, he hadn't heard the results from the ultrasound, but said that after taking the first dose of medication on Thursday night, he felt much better on Friday. And on Saturday too. Better than he's felt in a long time.

    So, when I said earlier that he may live another ten years out of sheer orneriness, I may have been prophetic. Who knows. I'm in uncharted waters, and my Dad's reluctance to seek medical attention has contributed to everyone's increasing reliance on supposition and speculation as to what his condition and prognosis is. This latest change may be indicative of a possible return to normalcy, or it may be just a temporary respite like the calm before a storm. Only time will tell. He did turn 86 last week, so even a return to normalcy may turn out to be a temporary respite.

    I hate the yo-yo nature of this situation; sounding the alarm only to discover you cried wolf, only to discover there was a wolf after all, only to discover that the wolf was de-fanged and de-clawed, only to discover that he had a pistol hidden away who knows where, only to discover there were no bullets in the gun...

    Two of the things in life that bug me the most are 1) not knowing and 2) not being able to influence the outcome. Which makes this situation seem tailor made to teach me something. (i.e. I don't like it)

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    Wednesday, June 02, 2004

    We got no power, Captain!

    Big thunder-boomers last night. Much wind. No power.

    At least at home. We just got a generator truck hooked up at work, so that's why I can post this.

    All Aardvarks accounted for and a-ok.

    See you tomorrow.

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    Tuesday, June 01, 2004

    Well, that was fun


    It depends on who you talk to on whether or not the Youth Lock-In on Friday night was a success. If you define success as "no major fights or broken bones" then, yeah, I guess it was a success. If, on the other hand, you define success as having a planned, coordinated activity designed to bring new, possibly unchurched youth in and introduce them to the Youth Ministry and ultimately to the gospel...well, time will tell, but on the surface, I'd have to say we fell somewhat short.

    The plan was to start at 7:00 and have scheduled activities until midnight, with movies and games (including pool, ping pong, foosball, air hockey, PS2, and a variety of board games) after that. The theme of the lock-in was a lock-up, with youth assigned to one of four "cell blocks" and a name tag with their name, number (for door prizes) and an acronym of the crime they had committed (so they could have fun guessing what they were in for). Each cell block had time in the "yard" (outside) for recreation, time in group therapy for team building, and time in the shop to make license plates (well, not really, but we did make stuff with duct tape). Each activity had a Bible verse associated with it, and at the end of all the activities was a "parole" hearing where you were released for good behavior after reciting the verses. The movies scheduled were "Holes" and "Ernest goes to Jail" - both appropriate for the theme.

    Sounds good on paper, doesn't it. The only problem was that we had to do this with real kids.

    Like the four boys who showed up early, signed their I-will-abide-by-the-rules card without even looking at it and then began asking when they could play the instruments (drums, guitars & bass guitar). "We're not doing that tonight, guys," the Youth Minister says. At which point they slouched sullenly over to a corner to plot their strategy.

    Or the girl who shows up and asks, "Is there a band?" "No," I tell her. "Do you know if there are any other lock-ins?" she asks. After giving the same answer, she gets back in her car just as another guy pulls up. They get out and talk about it for at least fifteen minutes before deciding that this was the place after all.

    Or the guy who shows up wearing his CD player and headphones, and who leaves them on anytime instructions are given.

    Or the guy who forgets that he has his grandpa's 5" pocket knife in his pocket and then tells me, "I think I lost it when we were outside." Great. It's only lost on the preschooler's playground. And it's only midnight. A couple of fruitless searches with a flashlight and I decided to wait until daylight. (Found it and kept it until right before time to go)

    Or the group of girls who had obviously never seen the inside of a church before. "Can we turn on the radio?" "Well, how about a CD? I've got a mix in my car." "Is it Contemporary Christian?" "No." So they proceed to sing the show tunes from their last school play - which from all indications was a little bit on the bawdy side.

    The regular Youth kids (as in the ones who actually come regularly on Sunday) in attendance: 4. Total number of youth: 25. And there was very little interaction between the two groups. The church kids were intimidated by the antics of the others and the non-church kids were there to hang out with their friends. There was one girl who attends every so often that was the common link between the two groups.

    The four band boys were in cell block A. They refused to take part in any of the scheduled activities. "That's gay," is a direct quote. The Youth Minister, instead of asking them to pick up the phone and call for their rides, negotiated by giving them everything they wanted. "You don't have to participate and you can play the instruments once we have free time if you promise to not make trouble," or something very similar to that. He did make them say the verses first, though, and something may have accidentally soaked in, but if it's ok with you I won't hold my breath waiting to see.

    That capitulation set the tone for the rest of the evening.

    On the whole, though, most of the kids were ok. There were about five or six that kept pushing the envelope, egging each other on to more and more outrageous behavior. You don't always need to go to the zoo to see wild animals. I kept wondering why some of them had even bothered to come as determined as they were to NOT do anything that could be considered uplifting, wholesome, or even cooperative.

    We never did find out who made the hang-up call to 911. The police woman was not amused.

    As a rule, about 1/3 of the food and drinks were wasted, either spilled or thrown or left to ruin.

    Thirsty? Open a coke, take a drink or two, set it down, walk away. Repeat until all the cokes have been opened.

    Hungry? Grab a handful of chips, throw some on the floor or at a friend, toss the rest in the air and eat whatever falls in your mouth. Make sure to crush the chips before you pull your hand out of the bag so the next guy only gets small crumbs. If that's too crude, just fill a plate with food and leave it lying around. Repeat until all the food's gone.

    And when we asked them to help with a little of the clean up, the worst offenders were the most indignant. I am convinced that left to their own devices, their houses would be filthy in less than three days and condemned by the Health Department within a month.

    And as frustrating and disappointing (as in - they act more like three year olds than teenagers) as the night was, what saddens me is that these kids didn't get this way overnight. Their parents are the ones who allow them to act without consequences. From the limited interaction I saw between some of the parents and the kids, I have no doubt which of the two is in charge. It breaks my heart to think of the potential these kids have and that for some of them a cell block may be an all too real future.

    Believe it or not, from what I understand, this year's lock-in was much better than last year's.

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