Spatula City

I'm pretty big on having the right tool for the right job whenever possible. And when cooking, one of the most essential tools is a spatula. But spatulas are almost always too thick, making them hard to slide under food, and the few that are thin enough are floppy and too weak to do the lifting required. We have one that is thin and strong, but it's metal and will scrape our non-stick pans. Is there no happy medium? Has anyone out there found the perfect spatula?

My Christmas Adventure

My Christmas adventure began at 3 p.m. on Christmas Eve. I was actually working that day, and my wife called to tell me there was water dripping from the ceiling in our pantry. So I hurried home and soon discovered that the leak was coming down from the attic. My first impression was that our roof was leaking, but our landlord came and checked it out (thank goodness he went up into the attic instead of me this time) and our next-door neighbor had left his swamp cooler hooked up. The water line running through the attic had frozen and burst, so the water was running down between the walls.

The fact that he spends about 4 hours at home every month didn't help matters. But he left his garage unlocked, so we got the water shut off and started using a wet/dry vacuum to clean up the water. Our pantry has the original carpet put in 40 years ago, and had probably never been cleaned, so we were sucking up brown water. I tried to look at it as a good deep clean for the carpet.

Our neighbor’s sister was in the neighborhood and stopped to see why her brother’s garage was open. We told her what was happening, and she basically did nothing, saying he would be home in a few hours anyway. Then his ex-wife stopped by, and actually went in to his place. His ceiling was about to collapse, so they punched some holes in it to drain the water out. He was coming back from Elko, and apparently the pass was closed so he couldn’t even get home yet.

We vacuumed up what we could (it was an amazing shop vac we borrowed from my parents that actually sucked the water right out of the carpet), and watched it seep back over from our neighbor’s as soon as we vacuumed it up. We did this for a while until the seepage slowed, and went to Christmas Eve dinner at my parents’.

When we came back, one of our neighbor’s friends/employees was at his place starting to clean it up. We did a little more vacuuming and put a fan in there to try to help the carpet dry. By the afternoon on Christmas Day, it was dry and we were able to put all the stuff back in the pantry (it’s directly under the stairs, so it goes back 10 or 12 feet, and it was amazing to see how much stuff we had fit in there).

Despite the general sogginess of the holiday, we had a nice Christmas. My dad gave me and Sam the Dangerous Book for Boys, which is one of the coolest gifts I’ve ever gotten.

The situation is especially funny in light of our neighbor’s profession. Any guesses?

Trouser Time

I really don’t mind shopping, unlike most men. I like buying clothes for my wife, and I like shopping for myself. The one exception to this is buying pants. And the only reason for that is it’s impossible to find my size. I’m a slim guy, and all the pants I can find are at least 2 inches too big in the waist. I can’t decide if that’s because my size is popular and therefore sells out fast, or if it’s because obesity is the norm in today’s society (I prefer the latter theory, personally, because it’s funnier that way). Maybe I should start a “nice ’n average-sized” store or something.

Gift of the Moment

This was an early gift I received, and I must say it is beyond awesome. I stuck it on my dashboard, and it yells a variety of derogatory remarks at other drivers (and pedestrians), thus enabling me to save my voice.


Dream

Last night I dreamed that our whole galaxy was going to be destroyed by a "steam galaxy." For some reason, this was terrifying in the dream. I had access to some alternate universe or something, and I had 40 hours to transport people there to save them.

Before you ask, I'm sure my hordes of loyal blog readers were among those saved.

Tee Hee Dreams

Am I the only one who dreams about things that are totally hilarious at the time but aren’t as funny when you wake up? Last night I dreamed that I was sitting in some sort of auditorium, and some annoying guy I knew from school was sitting a couple rows in front of me. So I turned to a friend sitting next to me and said something like, “I’ll give you $5 if you beat him up. I’d offer you more, but he’s annoying enough that you shouldn’t need the extra incentive.”

Actually, I guess that’s still pretty funny.

Laziness Is Like... Something

I love those rare occasions where laziness pays off. After the last couple of snow storms, I never bothered to shovel the driveway. Even last night I thought “I need to shovel this” as I pulled into the driveway.

Early this morning a front started moving in, with serious winds. It whipped the snow around so much that even if I had shoveled, the driveway would be covered again. So I don’t feel too bad for not wasting my energy.

Today's Entertainment Recommendation




I can't remember what brought this to mind today, but I simply can't think of anything more exciting than a 40-year-old Disney musical about the political upheaval surrounding the impending statehood of North and South Dakota.

Stupid Question

What is it about snowy days that make you wish you could just sit at home drinking hot chocolate and reading under a warm blanket? Oh. I guess it's the fact that it's cold, wet, windy, and slippery outside.

Copycat

Remember my map of what you were going to die from based on where you live? Well, somebody must have liked it, because they copied my idea. Except they complicated it by making multiple maps that are hard to understand, because it had to be published in an actual journal, and we all know that if you want a paper published in a journal, the odds of it being published increase as understandability decreases.

I thought I was in a decent mood today, but I guess not.

Party Timing

Today is my wife’s birthday. I would think it’s hard to have a birthday right before Christmas (it’s certainly hard for shopping purposes). I prefer to have things spread out over the course of the year so there’s always something to look forward to that isn’t too far away. My birthday is in August, when absolutely nothing else is going on.

What do you think is the best time of year for a birthday?

Most Apt Personalized License Plate

Panic-2


This is apt because the lady driving panicked whenever any car around her did anything like turn, slow down, or start moving.

This gives me an idea. What if people who had problems involving driving (lots of accidents, DUIs, etc.) had their follies made public on their license plates? You could easily avoid someone who had DUI x 3 on their car.

Moral Compass

On a scale of 1 to 10 (with 1 being “afraid to step on a blade of grass” and 10 being “I’m gonna kill everyone!”), how bad is it if I were to warm up my car in the morning for 10 minutes before coming to work?

Secret Wishes

Growing my hair out really long (before I lose it all), or coloring it blue

Becoming a chef

Having the practice time (and let’s face it, the aptitude) to become a rockin guitarist

Being the first person on Mars

Being half an inch taller

Running a marathon (although this could maybe happen within the next 2 years)

Giving a son the middle name “Danger”

Flaky

I made this wallpaper the other day from a gallery of images of snowflake crystals. Enjoy!

Nog

Can I just take a moment to extol the virtues of eggnog? If ambrosia really exists, it’s in this nutmeg-laced, noggy goodness. I want to start a consumer campaign to lobby for the availability of commercially produced eggnog all year long. What world problems would be solved if we could all just sit down together and bask in the deliciousness? Well, none. But it’s a nice thought.


(I just did a search, and I actually did a nearly identical post last year. I guess I really feel strongly about this.)

Rudolph

This totally cracks me up for some reason.

video

You're the Tops

I decided today that you only really ever need two food toppings: whipped cream and bacon. (And cheese, of course, but that’s far too important to be considered a mere topping.) Think about it—virtually any food can be improved by adding either whipped cream or bacon to it.

The Power of Advertising

Once when I was on vacation with my family, I woke up early in the morning and, in the dim light of the motel room, was certain that I saw a disembodied jacket and pants coming towards me. I put my head under the covers and then took another look, but it was still coming. In a panic I woke my brother, and then it was gone.

I ascribe the nightmare to a commercial for VF Factory Outlet that had clothes moving without people in them. To this day I have not set foot in their store.

Unexpected

We were watching Wall-E with Sam, and when a spork appeared on the screen, he said “That’s a spork!” My wife and I looked at each other. We still have no idea where he learned that word.

Housekeeping

[Note: I'm moving the advice project to its own blog; the email address will remain the same.]

Hooray, the First CYPS Question!

Here's today's question:

I am buying a car with a limited income. I had already test driven this great 94 toyota camry that actually had enough car seats for my 3 kids and drove great, was the same colors as our last kids so my autistic kids wouldn't freak...yeah. I put down $100 to have him save it for me until my funds are available on Sat. Anyway, I went ahead and ordered a carfax, and everything looks absolutely great...except the mileage. It appears that someone rolled back the miles to show 114,000 when it was really 188+. I called the guy selling the car, and he seemed to be as surprised as me. Anyway, after much discussion, he is going to provide me all the paperwork on any repairs on the car (i.e., the new engine), as proof that he is not trying to screw us over. He is also going to sign a warranty that if we have any major problems for the first 6 months that we own the car, he will pay to get them fixed because it has been so well maintained that he doesn't really see it having any problems. What are your opinions?

A little research on the blue book value indicates a difference of about $500 based on what you said about the mileage difference. I would go to kbb.com and check the value again depending on the option package and other specs of this particular car. At any rate, you should not have to pay what he was asking. But before you even talk money, you should have it checked out by a mechanic, if you haven’t already. Given the mileage and the odometer situation, I doubt he could object. If the mechanic says it seems in decent shape, then go ahead and buy it, after you haggle with the guy some more about the price.

So what we should really do is make this more of a forum than a straight “I’ll tell you what to do” thing. After all, I have some of the most intelligent readers in the world (who may or may not be susceptible to flattery). So, after I post my advice, the rest of you can sound off as well. So what do you think?

So-Fa I Cant' Hear You

See, yesterday’s post is one of those examples of “What in the world was I thinking?” Those events usually strike late at night, often in regard to the opposite sex, so it’s weird that this one struck me in the middle of the day about something as banal as a blog.

Anyway, as I lay on the sofa bed last night with that bar in my back (no, my wife just had a bad cough, but thanks for your concern) I realized that the way to be the perfect host is to have an uncomfortable sofa bed. That way you can encourage visitors to stay with you, but there’s no way they’re going to stay too long. Be warned, though, that certain visitors, especially close relatives, may be able to exert the power of guilt to get you to give up your own bed and take the sofa for yourself.

Consider Your Problem Solved

A while back I mentioned the idea of setting up a booth where people could come and whine to me all they wanted. Then today I was dispensing some advice to a friend, and he suggested that if I enjoyed giving out advice I could try to solve people’s problems through the blog. So I propose an experiment. I’ll set up an email address specifically for people to send their problems to, and then I’ll advise them publicly (but anonymously for them) through the blog. It’s like Dear Abby, I guess, but updated to take advantage of the awesome power of the internet.

I still think the listening booth idea could work, but only in person. This way people actually get useful (I hope) advice for when they just can’t make a decision. They’re under no obligation to follow the advice, and I take no responsibility for their actions if they do. If it works, I could eventually move it to its own blog, but in order for that to happen, people actually have to try it.

So let’s give it a whirl. I set up the address consideryourproblemsolved@gmail.com for the questions. Tell all your friends, enemies, and total strangers to send me requests for advice. I accept any question, whether it be “Should I wear brown or blue socks today?” or “How can I find inner peace?”

(You can also send your own advice to me, such as “stop wasting my time with your idiotic ideas.”)

Barbados Slim

Sometime I need to ask a plumber this question: Why are showerheads installed with the assumption that the world is populated by munchkins, Oompa-Loompas, and hobbits?

I am of average height for a male at 5-foot-11, and the pipe coming out of the wall is at eye level for me. Then the pipe bends down, and the showerhead brings the height down even further. If I want to wash my hair by leaning back so I don’t get soap in my eyes, I need Olympic-caliber limbo skills. It really seems like a simple request.

Seen Just Now

A young, not-particularly-bright couple was walking down the street, hand in hand. The girl walked into a telephone pole. Her boyfriend was laughing at her as I drove by.
I can understand how one person walking alone might be lost in thought and walk into one, but between the two of them I would think one of them would have seen it.

Sore Drumsticks

So, as previously mentioned, we went down to southern Utah to spend Thanksgiving with my wife’s family. On Thursday morning, I ran the Toquerville Turkey Trot, which was my first ever registered race. I was a little nervous because it was a trail run. Here’s the view from the starting line:


Hmm, uphill in the mud. This could be fun.

Then we descended into a dry river bed.


Ow, my ankles!

Then there was my favorite part. I promise I did not tilt the camera to make this look steeper.

Not pictured: fun

Oh, and we had Thanksgiving dinner and all that.

Cluckquackgobble

I was discussing the mythological turducken beast with a coworker, and we decided there is no reason to stop with a chicken stuffed in a duck stuffed in a turkey. I would then stuff that turkey in a pig, stuff that in a sheep, and stuff that in a cow. You could feed a small town with just one of those bad boys. And if you wanted to get really crazy, you’d stuff the cow in an elephant and the elephant in a whale. Then you could have the biggest Thanksgiving dinner ever.

I have never had a turducken, so I did a Google image search. It looks kind of gross, but I bet it tastes divine.

And here’s a little excerpt from the Wikipedia article on the subject: “The largest recorded nested bird roast is 17 birds, attributed to a royal feast in France in the early 19th century—a bustard stuffed with a turkey, a goose, a pheasant, a chicken, a duck, a guinea fowl, a teal, a woodcock, a partridge, a plover, a lapwing, a quail, a thrush, a lark, an Ortolan Bunting and a Garden Warbler.”


By the way, I'll be heading down to southern Utah tomorrow for the weekend, so if there's a dearth of posts for a few days, do not despair (although I admit I'd find it extremely flattering if you despaired just a little).

Things You May Not Know about Me

I have never worked in fast food or had any job involving serving food.

My favorite brand of pens is Pilot.

I am not double-jointed.

I firmly believe that nobody is ever as busy as they claim to be (especially, back in my single days, all those girls…)

Last night I dreamed that my eyeball was “deflating.”

When I was a kid, I injured myself so often that my parents had to take me to different emergency rooms so nobody would suspect them of beating me.

The first book I remember owning was Clues in the Woods by Peggy Parish.

I can make sweet pickles out of watermelon rinds.

I secretly want to give my kids Greek names like Apollo and Prometheus.

I actually did once see an unidentified flying object.

Friday Confessional

Those who are around me very much know that I’m always complaining about not having any money. I guess this is because there I feel a lot of pressure as the sole provider for the family, which is a good thing because it helps me avoid ridiculously unnecessary purchases (to a point). But it seems like everyone I know is getting free week-long vacations from rich relatives, or all kinds of goodies from work, or some other grass-is-always-greener kind of thing.

But, as much as I hate to admit it, I’ve been the recipient of some pretty crazy generosity over the past few years, so I really need to be careful about complaining. Here are some examples of me being treated far better than I deserve:

Free trip to Hawaii

Free laptop (I had to perform a minor repair on it, but still...)

(Mostly) free trip to Disneyland

Free baby delivery (courtesy of Medicaid, since I was a poor student at the time)

Free Wii

Various sums of money from parents and in-laws to help out when we needed it


I intended this post as a catharsis, but I think I feel more guilty as a result of seeing it in writing.

Disney and Parenthood

I found a list of Disney animated feature films and narrowed it down to those with a human child as the main character. There are 18 such films between 1937’s Snow White and 1999’s Tarzan. So, if each of those main characters had two parents, that would make 36 parents total. If you count the number of (biological) parents actually known to the audience to exist (and survive the film), the number is 9. The only characters with both parents alive are Aurora from Sleeping Beauty (though she isn’t even raised by them, and I’m not sure if they’re both alive by the end of the film), and Mulan. Seven of the characters are orphans from the beginning of the film.

This was just another one of those things that I had always meant to look up but took forever to get around to. (BTW, Walt Disney's parents survived into his adulthood.)

California Adventure

Last weekend we went to Disneyland with some good friends. We thought it would be a good idea to break up the drive, so on Thursday night we drove down to my in-laws’ in southern Utah. Then we finished the drive to California on Friday.

When we got to the park Saturday morning, we immediately noticed the smell of smoke from the wildfires, and all day we had to deal with ash raining down on us. I even got some in my mouth at one point (which still tasted better than the $8 chicken sandwich I had for lunch). It was weird to see this massive smoke blanket come across the sky throughout the day. (Naturally, I forgot my camera, but I borrowed a friend's and at least got a couple pics.)

Here it comes...








Here’s a little something to remember in case you ever find yourself at Disneyland with a young child: Do not under any circumstances take him on Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. It seems like a nice, friendly little romp, but for some reason the Disney “imagineers” decided to add a Hell section to the ride, just in case any little kids weren’t sufficiently frightened by the rest of it.

Anyway, it was great to have a small group, so we could split up and do different things depending on who wanted to do what. We hit all the rides we really cared about, including the ones at California Adventure (the Tower of Terror and California Screamin’ were incredible).

We ate dinner at Naples Restaurant in Downtown Disney. You know that scene in What about Bob? Where they’re eating dinner and Bob can’t stop moaning because he’s enjoying the food so much? It was just like that, so if you’re willing to shell out the cash (it’s pretty pricey) it’s unbelievably good, especially compared with the cardboard we ate for lunch inside the park. And our server was a very nice man who was born in Communist Romania and had emigrated here a few years ago. His story was amazing.

Sam was having a hard time in the restaurant until a kid just walked up to him and gave him a balloon animal. It seemed the world was just full of nice people that day.







That's Sam sitting by me. Can't you tell?








We stayed in the park until it closed at midnight, and I was ready to call the Guiness folks, because I thought we had actually managed to tire a three-year-old. He nearly fell asleep on the way back to the hotel, but then he perked up again for three more hours. So cancel that record, I guess.


He did manage a nap, though.











The next morning we were to leave and drive back to southern Utah, but the wildfires had closed one of the freeways we had come in on. But a little help from my wife’s brother, who lived in Orange County for several years, enabled us to escape the fires and a lot of the traffic. We spent Sunday night at the in-laws’ again, and were on our way early Monday afternoon.

So, for our first “real” family vacation, it was a tremendous success, due in large part to generous financial support from a friend who may or may not wish to remain anonymous, my wife’s parents for free room and board, and my brother-in-law for his knowledge of California’s less-than-user-friendly freeway system.

Today's Pointless Anecdote

One day when I was in Korea, we were sitting in a little restaurant eating lunch when one of the girls working there came up to me and asked me for some help. There was a white guy sitting at another table, and they were having trouble communicating with him So they wanted me to translate what they wanted into English for him. My companion at the time was a Korean, making me the only other white (which they equated with “American”) guy available.

So I went and sat down by him and started jabbering away about what they wanted. He looked at me blankly. It turns out he was from Spain. Eventually, using two of the three Spanish words I knew, I got the point across to him, but it has always been a good lesson about preconceived notions.

A Free Market Is the Mother of Invention

Warning: This post contains quasi-political material, and may be considered inappropriate for those with the attention span of a 13-year-old.

I have been worried for some time that our country is becoming more socialist (I’m not going to blame a particular party, though, because both sides have contributed to the problem). It’s pretty obvious that people are expecting more and more intervention from the government in their everyday lives (and yes, I did spend my $900 stimulus check). At this point we could depart for a tangential discussion of welfare-statism and the downfall of Rome, but I’d rather talk about human nature in general.

People are lazy. I know this because I’m a person and, being lazy, I assume most other people are lazy too. Ha. But seriously, I believe the main reason people work hard is to get rich. All those backyard inventors have a dream that someday they’ll perfect the self-microwaving dinner and become an instant millionaire. Now, a socialist government tends to take away that guy’s millions and spread it around, which sounds nice if you’re spending your days sitting in a hammock instead of working. Such a government is always concerned about equality of result rather than equality of opportunity. For example, I saw a news article a few months ago about people in France who simply didn’t want to work and demanded that the government provide housing for them. (Just for the record, I’m not suggesting that we do away with all forms of financial aid; I’m just saying we need to be careful about it.)

Now, how does this relate to the list we’ve been working on? My theory is that these advances which make our lives so much better (remember that I’m speaking of technological rather than social advances here, since some people will be miserable no matter what) tend to occur in economic climates where there is a great deal of freedom. Let’s see if our list supports my theory.

Lasers (without which we wouldn’t have CD players, supermarket scanners, or a lot of medical technology): Developed in 1960, in the U.S.

Transistors (making possible radios, microprocessors, and other electronic devices): 1948, U.S.

Photocopier: 1960-ish, U.S.

Microprocessor (I hope I don’t need to explain this one): 1968, U.S.

DVR (i.e., TiVo): 1999, U.S.

GPS technology: 1960 U.S.

Mobile phones: the initial patents were given in 1908, 1947, and 1978, in the U.S. the first cellular network was established in Japan in 1979.

Microwave oven: 1945, U.S.

(I couldn’t find specific enough information on the advent of automatic flushing toilets or databases.)

Now, GPS technology was developed by the Navy rather than the efforts of individual inventors and entrepreneurs, but the list as a whole is very heavily skewed toward the U.S., which has allowed its citizens a great deal of economic freedom throughout most of its history. I believe that this pattern will hold true regardless of the time we examine—whenever a nation with a free market has existed, more great achievements will come from that nation than any other.

What I was really wondering was if anyone could come up with great advances by individuals in a socialist country. I can’t really come up with any, but they may be out there.

The whole point of this is that we might like it when the government does everything for us (free health care, anyone?), but it’s ultimately better to let people compete and work hard on an individual basis to make our lives better.

Congratulations to anyone who has actually made it through this post. I’ll try to make sure I don’t talk about anything else boring for a while.

Sock It to Me

I never used to be comfortable without socks on. I couldn't even sleep without socks. Over the past couple of years that has changed and now I can't sleep with socks on. It's funny how things like that change over time.

BTW, I need more answers to yesterday's post.

Are You Asking for a Challenge?

As part of a line of thought I’ve been entertaining lately, I have a request. I want to put together a list of the greatest advancements in technology (or anything that has really improved the quality of life for humanity as a whole) in the last 50 years or so.

The Sweetest Thing

Ice cream, cake, or pie, and why?

Reset

Why is it that I can have an idea for a blog post that seems totally brilliant, and then the next day it seems like the dumbest thing ever? What is it about our brains that allows us to look at an idea the next day and wonder what in the world we were thinking? There must be some sort of reset button triggered by falling asleep.

We Interrupt This Blog Post

So I was going to write some post regarding my feelings about the election, but I promised myself I wouldn’t. Instead, here’s a haiku about ginger ale.

Bubbling soda sweet

Honey, puréed ginger root

Nectar of the gods

Why Did None of Us Ever Have This Conversation with Our Parents?

“Son, sit down. We need to have a talk.”

“Gee, dad, I’m pretty busy right now. Could we talk later?”

“It’s important. Put down the video game paddle.”

“Fine, dad. What is it?”

“You’re becoming a man, now, so it’s time we talk about the—”

“Geez, dad. I’m almost 18. We had that talk like 6 years ago. Remember the puppets?”

“No, son, this is more important. We need to talk about the elephants and the donkeys.”

“…”

Seriously, why don’t parents ever sit down with their kids and talk to them about politics? Most of us grow up with only a vague idea of which political party, if any, our parents belong to. But wouldn’t it be nice to sit down and tell your kids why you believe the way you do? If parents cared even a little bit about their children’s political education, maybe we wouldn’t have to rely on news-channel pundits to spoon-feed us all our political information. Just a thought.

Good, Better

Good:








Halloween temp tattoos


Better:














Glow-in-the-dark Halloween temp tattoos!

Sam's Halloween Costume















Well, he did wear shoes when we went trick-or-treating...

Appropriate

What could set the tone for Halloween better than finding a dead mouse in your drawer first thing in the morning?

Pink vs. Blue

Before I begin, let’s all take a deep breath.

Okay, are you ready?

Let me start by saying that I’m glad so many people are active in raising awareness of diseases. This tends to happen when someone we know is afflicted with the disease, so it’s natural. Runs/walks for the cure for ________ are great.

There is, however, one aspect of this increased visibility of disease that bothers me, and that’s the trendiness of certain causes. The best example of this is breast cancer.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Breast cancer is a horrible disease, and it kills a lot of women (around 25,000 in the U.S. in 2004, which is the most recent statistic I could find). I would be overjoyed to hear there is a 100% effective treatment for it. But you know what killed 25,000 men in the U.S. in 2004? Prostate cancer.

Here’s a fun experiment. Go to your local grocery store and count the number of pink ribbons you see on products. Then count the number of blue ribbons you see.

A comparative search using googlefight.com shows 44,000,000 hits for the term “breast cancer” vs. just under 12,000,000 for “prostate cancer.”

Now, before someone runs me down in the street, I will cheerfully acknowledge the many double standards in society which favor men, including comparative earnings, entertainment focus, and the availability of clothing with pockets (seriously, that’s worth a ton right there). So I guess I can’t really justify my opinion on the cancer awareness issue, but it does bother me. The end.

Dangerous Habit

I have a dangerous habit that, to quote Count Rugen, is going to get me into trouble someday. When I see someone who is driving like a complete idiot, I will position myself so as to keep them from doing whatever stupid thing they’re trying to do, like zoom around me only to make an immediate turn, or tailgate someone else. What I always fail to consider at the time is that their driving pattern may be indicative of mental instability, and one of these days someone’s going to pull a gun on me.

What dangerous habits do you have? Standing on a rolling chair to hang a picture? Eating meat that’s been out of the fridge for days?

My Own Personal Ice Age

Whoever built the building I work in was apparently—hmm, how can I put this delicately?—a steaming pile of monkey droppings, at least when it came to the HVAC system. We have been having temperature problems all year, and the company has been trying to get it fixed for months.

I have 4 a/c vents in the vicinity of my cubicle (and none in the rest of the room), and this week they’re all working overtime. It will be frigid for an hour, then they’ll turn off for 20 minutes, then they’ll turn back on again. My theory is that there is a group of biologists, climatologists, and anthropologists studying my reaction to the constant warming/cooling cycle. I hope they’re able to learn something useful.

What would it be okay to get kicked out of?

Moron club

The KKK

Crafts store

Museum of earwax sculpture

Jail

Snake handlers' meeting

I'm Even Clever in My Dreams

Last night I dreamed that I came up with a clever idea for a blog post, so I wrote it down in the dream. But when I woke up, I couldn’t remember it. Oh well, at least I got to post about having the idea…

Stick Around


When I was a cub scout, I stuck these on the ceiling beams in my parents' basement. So they've been there for about 20 years, which I think is pretty impressive.







[Bonus points will be awarded to whoever can identify the movie from which I took the title of this post (although there are probably a bunch, there's one in particular I'm thinking of. Half credit if you get the answer by googling it.)

And the Oscar Goes to...

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

(... if there was an award for the movie with the worst hair ever. Seriously, go watch it again. Every character looks truly horrible.)

Underrated

(I thought I'd balance yesterday's post)

Janitors

Toaster ovens

Patience

Pineapple

Fishing

Overrated

In N Out

HDTV

Hybrid cars

Diet Coke

Musicals

Convertibles

(It had been a while since I potentially offended any of you. So, who wants to argue, and what do you want to add?)

Happy Strike-Day

Last Friday was Sam's third birthday. Now that he's finally getting old enough to understand what that is, we decided to actually go out and do something. He loves bowling on the Wii, so we thought he'd enjoy bowling for real.
He was pretty intimidated at first, but once he got the hang of it we couldn't keep him out of the lane (and the older "serious bowler" gentleman next to us was none too pleased).
















I need to start carrying a real camera around for these things.

Oh Come, All Ye Whiners

There seems to be an innate desire in all of us, to some extent, to complain about things. Some people seem to complain non-stop, while others rarely say anything negative. I would like to see some hard data regarding stress levels and complaining. Does it increase our stress by making us focus on it more, or does it have a therapeutic effect on our physical and mental state? And, more importantly, can I list “whining” as a hobby when I am filling out a form that asks?

That gives me an idea. Do you think I could set up a booth where, for an hourly fee, I would listen to people complain about anything they wanted to? I bet people would pay for that sort of service. I would listen and nod concernedly, and offer empathy. Think Lucy’s psychiatrist booth from Peanuts. What do you think?

Duck and Cover

Nature is going to get you pretty much wherever you live, and for a long time I've wanted to compare geographic areas where certain natural disasters are likely to occur. So, based on maps I found at government websites and the Red Cross, here's a reasonably accurate representation of the risks you run when you choose a place to live. I couldn't find any decent maps showing extreme heat in the summer or extreme cold in the winter, but those combined cover pretty much the whole country, so keep that in mind as you look at this.

Now and Later

You know how kids will put up with long-term, potential pain in order to escape temporary but sure pain? Okay, that was a terribly unclear question. Imagine a kid gets a splinter in his finger. He will put up with that pain, which would go on for days or weeks, rather than have you dig it out with a needle, which would hurt for just a minute but prevent infection. Or they would rather not get a shot, although it would keep them from getting sick.

Well, as adults we can see how immature they’re being. Of course it makes sense to endure a little discomfort now in order to prevent future troubles. Then we go and purchase an adjustable-rate mortgage and a car we can barely make the payments on, because we’re so going to get that promotion. And then we don’t floss.

Toe Jam

Some years ago I broke one of my toes (the one next to the pinky toe, if you must know), and since it healed I have been able to pop it at will. Sometimes when I’m bored I just sit there popping it and my other toes, which seem easily poppable as well.

What strange things does your body do?

Boring Political Post

A lot of people have been watching the televised debated between the candidates for president and vice president. Sometimes I feel guilty for not watching and seeking to educate myself more about the candidates, but then I realized something: There is no correlation between what a candidate says before election and what he or she will actually do in office. In fact, we should probably elect the loser of the debates, because that person is obviously not skilled enough at lying, which would make their administration a little more transparent. Either that, or we should force them to take lie detector tests.

An Experience I Am Not Anxious to Repeat

I live in a duplex. Our neighbor isn’t home much, but he does smoke, and in the winter the smoke comes through our heating ducts, which makes us sick. Eventually (fast forward through the long, boring explanation) we figured out that the problem may be that the attic is not divided, so I resolved to put up a sheet of plastic up there to keep the smoke out. So I did that last weekend, and it was not an experience I am anxious to repeat. I had to lie lengthwise on 2-inch beams, holding the plastic with one hand and the staple gun in the other. The ceiling is less than 5 feet at the peak, and at the edges it’s a 20-degree angle (I had to review some high-school trigonometry to figure out that angle—I hope you appreciate it), so even lying down I couldn’t reach all the way to the edge. But the worst part was the dust. Oh, and the fiberglass bits in my eye. I had a long scarf wrapped multiple times around my head, and I was still blowing dust out of my nose for the next 24 hours.

A Story

Once upon a time, my wife had a cell phone.










Eventually, the phone stopped working.








So I decided to get her a new phone (and one for me, too).









Phones are expensive.











But Verizon Wireless lets you upgrade every two years for free.












So I ordered her a phone on their website, but it didn’t work.








So I called and placed the order with a friendly customer service agent.








Then I found out that they were sending the order to the wrong address (which I had double-checked when I sent the order).










After 7 emails and a 40-minute phone call, they are sending the phones by overnight shipping, at no charge.












The end.

Today's Depressing Statistic

60%

That's how much of the money I have paid into my 401(k) over the last year has been lost. I knew I should have gone for the mattress-stuffing-equity plan.

Surprises that are never good

Anything involving your bank

Anything involving your insurance company

Anything involving your dentist

Getting called to your boss’s office unexpectedly

Traffic reports

Breaking news

Contest!

Fill in the blanks:

One _________ short of a _________.

The winner gets a selection of paper clip sculptures made by me!











There's a Christmas-tree-topping star, an elegant pen holder, and a collapsible cube. Get yours before the Louvre calls!

The best (and worst) seasonal candy

The Best

Mellowcreme pumpkins—Halloween

Cadbury eggs (and the chocolate mini eggs)—Easter

Chocolate rabbits—Easter

Mint chocolate M&Ms—Christmas

Boxes of chocolates—Valentine’s Day

The Worst

Those weird peanut taffy things—Halloween

Conversation hearts—Valentine’s Day (I still like them, but they somehow seem like terrible candy)

Candy canes—Christmas


I have a feeling this list is far from complete. What is missing?

please enjoy the music while your party is reached

Do you know anyone with a cell phone that gives you the message “please enjoy the music while your party is reached” (and then proceeds to play a song) when you call it? I really, really hate that. Not only is it unlikely that the two of us share identical musical taste, but telephones don’t transmit the full range of the human voice (let alone hearing), so all you get is crappy, staticky mess. If it’s designed to keep people from wanting to talk to you, then my kudos go to whoever came up with the idea, because every time I get that message, I am sorely tempted to hang up and never call again.


I guess I get extra cranky when I'm tired.

Collision Course

I’ve never been particularly athletic, but this summer I started running on a reasonably consistent basis. As the summer has worn on, I have developed a sneaking suspicion that cyclists and runners don’t get along. I imagine the cyclists are thinking “Out of the way, slow-poke! Get yourself some wheels and travel like a civilized person!” And, in response, the runners are thinking “I don’t need some stinking bike that costs as much as a car to get my exercise! Nice helmet, poindexter!”

Am I imagining things again?

Straightjacket

I’ve never considered myself a collector of anything, probably because I don’t have the discipline to cut stamps off of envelopes. But a look in my coat closet reveals that I collect jackets.

I think we all have some sartorial idiosyncrasies, be it sweaters to knot about our shoulders, silk scarves, or jackets. I personally think few things can compliment an outfit (not that I’m admitting to wearing “outfits”) as well as having the appropriate jacket. I need a jacket for every possible weather condition, from warm and rainy to cold and snowy, to just going out for a night on the town (it could happen someday, and I might as well be prepared).

I’m running out of room in the closet, so I guess I’d better start getting rid of my parachute pants collection; it’s starting to look like they’ll never be back in style…

Parking, Metered

I have this fascination with obscure and insanely specific aspect of human nature. For example, in the morning it seems like the cars in the parking lot are all parked pretty well. Then, after everyone has come back from lunch, a lot of cars are having trouble staying in the lines. My theory is that people are always late coming back from lunch. But lots of people are late coming in the morning, too, so I don’t know if that makes any sense.

Recently Spotted around Town

A luxury car pulling in to a trailer park

A gas station with an electronic sign showing a price of $1.23 (and 4/10, too), while the rest of the signs were about $3.50

Mud Flap, Baby Mud Flap

There are a number of narrow streets in my neighborhood. On the street I mentioned in that other post, there is a house. This house was rented by a wonderful family who, after being robbed 4 times in two years, decided it was time to find someplace else. The house is now occupied by a number of people who may or may not be related in some way. All I know is that they have 5 nearly identical, enormous, lifted trucks. They look like this:














They also have a couple of cars in addition to those trucks, and sometimes there are 6 trucks. So at any time, at least three vehicles are parked on the narrow street with the concrete barriers on the other side. It's not wide enough for two cars to go by simultaneously. I predict that this winter at least one of those trucks will be hit by someone sliding on the ice.

shutupshutupshutupshutup

Suppose you know someone who absolutely drives you crazy. You think every word that comes out of this individual’s mouth (Ha! I typed “moth…”) is utter garbage, and you honestly find it hard to refrain from punching this person, or at least screaming “shut up!” whenever they’re in the room.

Suppose this person isn’t someone you ever really have to work with; it’s more someone you see occasionally at social functions. Do you just ignore the person and mentally yell “Serenity now!” whenever they’re around, do you try to get to know them better in the hope that you’ll come to be friends, or do you give in to the urge to commit physical violence and find peace in the ensuing 15 to 20 years away from society? Please note that I’m not asking what you should do, but rather what you actually do.

This template is not condusive to creating polls

When the economy stops circling the drain and drops in, how will you respond?

a) Curl up in a fetal position and cry

b) Grow a beard and move to the desert

c) Sell pencils (and possibly organs) on the street

d) Loot as many stores as possible

e) Find yourself a nice little dumpster and settle in; then begin training rats and raccoons to become your unholy army of the night

f) _________________________________

pepe le pew

Last night I dreamed that a skunk got in our house and I had to gently herd it outside. Then, when I left this morning, I smelled skunk when I stepped out the front door. I assure you there was not a trace of skunk smell in the house. Maybe I have secret animal psychic powers.

Hats Off

Why don’t people wear hats anymore? I’m not talking about the deliciously huge hats women wear to the track or the moronic trucker hats people wear around, but rather the kind of hats people wore when dressed up for a night on the town. Deep down I have a sneaking suspicion that if we all wore hats, the world would be a more peaceful place.

Okay, not really, but I think it would be a more dapper place, which is something in itself.

I Beg to Differ

I'm fascinated by the way people are afraid to disagree sometimes. For example, sometimes I hear someone voice an opinion, and I'll offer a contrasting one—not to be argumentative, just to explain that I see things differently. Then the other person will sometimes try to agree with me or come up with something conciliatory to say.

This also happens with food. It's perfectly fine if my wife doesn't like smoked gouda. She doesn't need to apologize about it (but sometimes she does anyway).
I mean, it's nice that we don't want to offend other people. But we have every right to our own opinion.

If you hate this post, that's great! I want to hear all about it.

Can you believe this is post #400?

What do the following three paragraphs have in common?

Last night I noticed that a neighbor had planted one of those tiny pine-tree-like shrubs, and it brought to mind a question I have had for a long time: Why would anybody want a pine tree in their yard? The needles stand ready to stab you if you get too close, you can't climb them, and their shape prevents them from providing useful shade.

I had a great idea for a restaurant. It would be a Western-themed restaurant, and it would be kind of like the Training Table, except you order your food using a telegraph at your table (the menu would give you the Morse code for your meal). Then it would be sent out to your table on a little train. Wouldn't that be an awesome place to eat?

And, finally, last night I started having this really interesting dream. It was just like a movie, complete with a narrator. There was this girl who was dating a guy, and she had a necklace she always wore when she wasn't around him, but she took it off when they were together. I think she was cheating on him, but I was awakened after only a couple of minutes and never got to find out exactly what was going on. They both spoke with British accents, and they were black. I only mention their ethnicity because it made me realize that I almost always dream about white people (except for dreams about being back in Korea). Whether this is just because I'm about as pasty white as they come, because I grew up in a very white neighborhood, or because I'm subconsciously a bigot, I have no idea. But it was nice to get a little variety in my dreams.

Okay, these things have nothing in common other than the fact that I was thinking about all of them this morning, and I didn't feel like giving each thought its own post. I'm economizing and passing the savings on to you!

[Update: Nathan and I were talking and fleshed out the restaurant idea a little more, as explained here.]

[Update to update: I guess the train thing has already been done, but my idea would be aboue a million times cooler. Plus there's the Paul Bunyan/telegraph thing.]

Terms Our Children Will Grow up Not Knowing

Retirement

Stock market

Internal combustion

MPG

Dividend

VHS

Honeybee

Gnat Terrors

When it comes to running/cycling/whatever you do to get exercise outdoors, you can choose between several annoyances. If you exercise outside, you can pretty much choose between heat stroke and swallowing copious amounts of insects.
If you go in the heat of the day, the bugs are sensibly taking shelter somewhere, so you are free to gasp for air without fear of mosquito bites in your esophagus. But you run the risk of losing more body weight through sweat than you actually possess.
For those who prefer to exercise in the morning or evening, the temperature is pleasant, but you probably actually gain weight from the truckloads of bugs you will inevitably swallow and/or inhale. After running in the evening, I often have to pick gnats out of my hair, and I might spit out one or two a couple hours later.
So here's my solution:















The bonus is that those roving bands of rebellious fencers will choose an easier target to attack.



My pirate name is:


Iron John Flint



A pirate's life isn't easy; it takes a tough person. That's okay with you, though, since you a tough person. Like the rock flint, you're hard and sharp. But, also like flint, you're easily chipped, and sparky. Arr!

Get your own pirate name from piratequiz.com.
part of the fidius.org network

And in honor of International Talk Like a Pirate Day...

Saddle up

So I'm plant-sitting for Brooke at work this week.















Can you tell I've been trying all week to finish watching a Western?

I had an onion tied to my belt, which was the style at the time. Now, you couldn't get white onions because of the war; all you could get...

Do you ever get stuck in a conversation that you can’t get out of? I’m not talking about those times when you have to be somewhere else or there’s a rational need to leave, but rather those times when, with every word the other person utters (it’s typically just a two-person conversation), your brain threatens to escape your body and make a break for it. All you can do is try to play some old TV theme songs in your head, or maybe design circuits if you’re the engineering type, all the while searching for an opportunity to escape.

Now I’m boring myself just thinking about those situations.

Pong

Sam likes to play ping pong. The problem is that he can barely see over the table, and as a child of not quite three years, he still needs to develop some hand-eye coordination. He typically chases the ball along the ground, smacking it with the paddle. So he usually destroys a ball every time we play. In order to avoid that, I thought it might be nice to suspend a ping pong ball from a string and let him go at it, which would keep him from running out into the street after it and also help him learn some coordination.

video

This was after he smacked me in the groin with the ping pong paddle to express his impatience (it took forever to figure out how to get the ball so it wouldn't fly out of its little harness when he hit it).

Call Me Ishmael

I just had an age-old unsolved question brought up by Brooke. She asked me how my name is supposed to be pronounced, which is something I occasionally have pondered with no clear answer. Is it one syllable or two? I do know that if it’s two syllables you’d better emphasize the first one, because I’m not a girl. But is the vowel just a long O sound, or is it a diphthong morphing from the O sound to a “wuh” sound?

At any rate, I decided it’s my prerogative to mandate the pronunciation of my name. So what should I do? One syllable, two syllables, plain O sound or “jowuhl”?

Dissonance

All right, musically inclined people, I want an answer to something. Why does an octave have 7 notes instead of 8? It really needs to be a “septive” instead. And don’t give me that “It’s from low do to high do crap either. Can I say I work from Monday to Monday and collect 6 days’ worth of pay? No. Counting from do to do is only 7 notes. Mathematically, that’s like saying 12–5 is 8: it doesn’t work because you don’t count the 12. You count from 12 to 11 (1), from 11 to 10 (2), from 10 to 9 (3), from 9 to 8 (4), and from 8 to 7 (5).

Sorry, it’s been a bit of a tense day.

Take My Ego, Please

Okay, the new blog is up and ready, complete with its first writing sample (but read the introductory post first, at the bottom of the page). If I don't already have your email address, you'll have to give me one to include on the list of people allowed to access the blog. If you're squeamish about posting your e-mail address in the comments, either go create a new account just for this or send it to me via email at jojohoser@gmail.com. As for the rest of you, I'll add the e-mail addresses I already have for you, unless I hear otherwise.

most unique license plate cover:

"I'd rather be watching The Andy Griffith Show."

I guess you have to admire the loyalty someone has for a show that hasn't been produced in 40 years...

With thoughts of peace and courage for you

There have been a number of people at work who have lost loved ones recently, and it’s of course a common custom to pass around a sympathy card. I wholeheartedly support the idea, because sometimes it helps to know that people are aware of the pain you’re feeling.

What I don’t like, however, is that everyone writes the same thing in these cards. Then again, there don’t seem to be a lot of options. Sometimes I am passed the card for signing and half a dozen people have already written “our thoughts and prayers are with you.” That’s a lovely sentiment, and I suppose if we all have the same sympathy there’s no harm in expressing it with the same words. But it becomes trite when we don’t even attempt an original sentiment. With the power of the internet, it only takes a few seconds to find a nice little quote or even a list of appropriate sayings.

If that’s too much work, just buy the card yourself so you can have dibs on the “thoughts and prayers” thing.

Lend Me Your Eyes

Some people use blogs to record actual to-be-published writing, and I was considering doing the same thing (with fiction, since I have no more interest in writing non-fiction than I do in reading it), since it’s not like I spend all day at work being edited too. But it might be helpful motivation for me to work on my writing more, and I personally believe that my blog readers are among the most exceptionally intelligent people on the planet. As such you might be able to help me make improvements. If I do this it will be an invitation-only blog, so my question is, by a show of hands, how many of you would be interested in adding one more blog to your already bloated reading schedule?

Of Snakes and the Mice Who Feed Them

This is my snake, Reggie*









*Okay, I didn't have a picture of her, so this is a picture of another valley garter snake, but she looks pretty much exactly like that.

This is what Reggie eats:















No, not the quarter.
You can buy frozen mice at pet stores as food for reptiles. They come in varying sizes: pinkies, fuzzies, hoppers, and adults (which is one of those things I could never imagine knowing before). At first it seems gross to feed cute baby mice to a snake, but it's the healthiest food for the snake, and you get used to it.

Reggie eats about once a week. (Snakes are the easiest pets to care for.) But sometimes in the fall snakes won't eat well, because they are preparing for brumation, which is the reptilian form of hibernation.

Anyway, two nights ago I put a mouse in Reggie's cage and then forgot about it. Then last night (right before dinner, as luck would have it) my wife brought it to my attention that Reggie had not yet eaten the mouse, which was starting to look a little bit gross under the heat lamp. So it wasn't a pleasant sight or smell to clean up, but it was still better than the rotten potatoes.

Know Thy Blog

This is a Wordle of my blog, which is a graphical image that shows the most commonly used words in it. Apparently I'm concerned with the "people" I see "around."
Cool find, Todd.

Gimmee Gimmee Gimmee

So the other day my friend Jer gave me one of the two or three best gifts I’ve ever been given (okay, it was partially in payment for doing some work, but it was far and away beyond what I should have received). So that begs the question: What is the best gift you have ever received? I love seeing the subjective value of gifts, so I’m hoping some of you say something like “a new car” and others say “a dried flower.”

Housekeeping

I recently discovered that pretty much everybody had a better-looking blog than I did, so I decided to look around for a new template. Bear with me while I mess with the features and such.

The Most Useless Things I Ever Learned

How to use the card catalog at the library

The Spanish Armada sailed in 1588

How to tie a bowline knot

Base 6 math

The use of a pogo stick


Can you top those?

Brrr!

Apparently, summer has gasped its last breath. Lat night was the first time since spring that I saw people walking around in coats. And it was still about 65 degrees outside at 9 p.m.. I’m always amused that if we had a 65-degree day in March, people would be running around in shorts, but because it’s in the summer, people bundle up. Our perception truly is relative.

Dream Log 2

Last night I dreamed that some huge meteorite hit the earth, and it started snowing immediately. I was with my family in some sort of shelter, and I started worrying that the dust cast into the atmosphere would severely limit food production and we’d all starve. I woke up before much else happened, and frankly I’m glad I did.

She Looks So Familiar

How often is it that you see someone you think looks familiar but can’t immediately identify? It doesn’t happen to me that often, but almost every time we go somewhere my wife says she thinks she recognizes someone. So apparently I’m either woefully anti-social and don’t know many people, or she’s super social and knows far more than most of us do. Or maybe one of us is just crazy. In fact, all of those options could be true.

Policy Update

For those of you keeping track (i.e., me), I decided to combine this blog and my seldom-updated family blog. So occasionally you will see actual news and events relating to my life, as opposed to the results of the arbitrary firing of synapses in my brain. Lucky you!
We now return you to your regularly scheduled stream of consciousness.

Zion

Well, I don't usually post when I'm on vacation, but I guess I'll post a couple pics of us in Zion National Park on Saturday. Thanks for being quick with the camera, Calee, even though it was a bit creepy that you took most of these pictures without our knowledge.


















I don't know what happened to this one, but I'm too lazy to crop it.

















Sam was thrilled that we let him walk on the sand in bare feet.


"I want to be by the water, but not in the water...
I can't get the captions where I want them. Deal with it; I'm on vacation.

Temper, Temper

It always seems to me that people get mad over the stupidest things, and then I go and get mad over something that other people would find bizarre. So it seems that anger, like laughter, is relative.

What are the really idiosyncratic things you get angry about? For some reason I get mad if I get a spot on my tie or dress shirt, but I wouldn’t really care about a scratch on the car.

Tag

You know those questionnaire things that used to be sent around by email but are now typically posted on blogs? They ask your favorite breakfast cereal is, what you are currently reading, and other similarly detailed questions.

Well, I was wondering what those would look like if species on different planets were viewing each other's blogs. Here are some samples of what I think it would be like.

How many eyes are you using to read this?

How many planets orbit your star?

How many senses do you have?

Do you prefer type I or type II supernovae?

Is your physiology carbon-based, silicon-based, or another element?

How many planets has your species colonized?

Did you like the way the Harry Potter series ended?

Please?

All of you who have blogs out there (using Blogger, anyway), I'm issuing a plea. Please, please, please follow these directions to eliminate a tragic annoyance.
First, go to your Dashboard and select the Settings tab.





Then select the Comments menu.





Then select No in the item referring to word verification.





And life will be a lot easier for those of us who want to comment on your blog. The word verification is a big, fat waste of time unless you get a dozen spambot comments every day. I mean, let's face it. Most of us have something like two regular readers, and all this feature does is make me think "Hmm, what a great post. I'd like to leave a nice comment, except that I hate the word verification! No comment for you!"

Good Gravy!

I have a hunch that we all consider ourselves pretty normal in most ways. But I also have a feeling that we all eat at least one thing that others would find totally bizarre. Here are a couple culinary confessions of my own:

Cheese and jam sandwiches (it has to be cheddar and grape jelly, though)

Lockhart Surprise—cubed, fried spam (yes, I said spam) in a creamy soup (there was a specific kind we could get in Korea that you can’t find here, but cream of chicken is pretty close) served over rice

Fess up. What weird things do you eat?

Cookin' up Trouble

I like to think of myself as a decent cook (among other self-appointed titles), but I do make the occasional blunder in the kitchen. The other day I put some tomato soup on the stove and got to work making some grilled cheese sandwiches. Well, I was out of counter space, so I put the lid for the margarine container on the stove. After a moment I noticed that it was quickly melting. I had turned the wrong burner on, and the tomato soup was sitting there doing nothing. So I quickly tried to take the remains of the lid off of the stove, turned off the burner, and turned on the correct one. As I was trying to remove the molten plastic from the one burner, the tomato soup started scalding, because in my haste I had turned it on too high. It was truly something you’d see in an exceptionally boring television show (i.e., a show with no sex or violence).