December 28, 2010

What's In Your Stomach? ... At The Autopsy

As if everyday life weren't stressful enough, now I have something else to worry about.  So ... we're all agreed that we are eventually going to die, right?  As if that weren't shitty enough, the fact is that most of us will have an autopsy to see what killed us.  Brains here, lungs there, intestines over yonder ... and once they've figured it out, they just take everything and stuff it back into you and sew you up like a turducken.

While the coroner's assistant is carving you up, he or she will take a peeky-boo at your stomach contents and write down what they find on a piece of paper.  And without fail ... especially if you are famous enough ... some asshole is going to find it and post it on the internet.  Just hope to God that you had the good sense to eat something healthy at your last meal, or people will call you a gluttonous pig, or some shit like that.

The following are a few famous people and an accounting of their last meals, as told by the coroners office.  You make up your own minds what to think:

John Belushi :  Lentil soup.

Princess Diana:  Mushroom & asparagus omelet, dover sole, vegetable tempura.

Liberace:  Cream of Wheat w/half & half.

Adolf Hitler:  Lasagna.

John Lennon:  Corned beef sandwich.

Ernest Hemingway:  Strip steak, baked potato, green salad.

John Kennedy:  Boiled egg.

Marilyn Monroe:  Guacamole & meatballs.

John Wayne Gacy:  Fried chicken and french fries.

Ted Bundy:  Steak, fried eggs & hash browns.

Cleopatra:  Figs

Gandhi:  Vegetables & goats milk.

Elvis Presley:  Ice cream & chocolate chip cookies.

I guess It won't really matter what they find in me, but with my luck, it'll be something really sophisticated, like Totino's Pizza Rolls.

December 26, 2010

Reading Teaches You Stuff

Jan has a couple of weeks off from school for Christmas break, and on one of our errand runs the other day, she wanted to stop by the library.  She has a stable of favorite authors, who happen to be very prolific, so she always seems to have something to pick out.  I went in with her, but held out little hope that I'd find anything that would intrigue me.

I'm a serial reader.  If I happen across an author that I like, I won't even think of switching to anything else until I've completely exhausted everything that he or she has written.

There are exceptions.  Stephen King comes to mind immediately.  This guy needs to give it a rest.  It's not enough that he writes under his own name, but then he starts with a pseudonym and after a while, his books take up a whole wing of a library.  I gave up on him, especially after realizing one day that the book I'd picked up was just like another one he wrote.  He hit rut-ville a long time ago.

My life is littered with authors that I've used up and left in my wake.  Steinbeck, Buck, Hemingway ... and more recently, McCarthy, Turow, Coonts, Gresham (Stephen King Jr.), and last ... and most regrettably Thomas Harris.

With the exception of one novel, Harris has written exclusively about that sophisticated, worldly, man-about-town psychopath ... Hannibal Lecter.

Harris clearly loves the character, and I do too.  I know you're supposed to hate the guy, because he has no compunction killing people and eating parts of them.  But, there's just something about him that you wish that you had a piece of ... his sophistication, his absolute appreciation of the finer things in life, and his general love of just being out there.

One of the devices that Harris uses with Hannibal is his ability to transport himself during times of great boredom or stress.  Stuck in stir for what seems like eternity?  Hannibal tours the great cathedrals and museums of Europe in his mind.  Enduring some rather brutal torture?  He transports himself to the top of an alp, or a quiet meadow on a summer's morning.

Pretty cool huh?  Well, I think so too.  And I've got a situation at work coming up this week that I plan to use the "Hannibal Technique" to get through.

Tuesday morning, I've been tapped (again) to be an observer for something called a "DP Assessment".  This is a big deal at Giant Pharmaceutical House and is somewhat akin to an individual becoming a Mason or a Notary Public.

For six mind-numbing hours, the observer (me) sits in a room and watches the assessor and assessed do Q&A.  The observer does nothing, and his sole purpose appears to be to throw a bucket of water on the participants if the exchanges become too heated ... and to sign and date a piece of paper.  Otherwise, the observer is free to go slowly insane.

Tuesday, I'm going to put the Hannibal Technique into practice.  The only problem is ... I haven't been to one lousy cathedral or museum in Europe, nor have I ever sat on an alp or in a meadow.  Okay, maybe a meadow, but the memory isn't exactly sharp.

So, I'll have to do an adjustment.

I wonder if I can visualize wandering the aisles of Walmart for six hours?

December 23, 2010

Mr. Fixit Strikes Again

Some things are meant to be left alone.  An ex-girlfriend, a rattlesnake ... and a perfectly functioning electrical outlet.

Several  weekends ago, I was wandering around the house and happened to turn on the light over our dining room table.  It's a double outlet.  One side controls the overhead light in the kitchen and the other side, the table light.  The table light has a dimmer function, and it's control is one of those round/turn things,  which I suddenly decided that I hated.  So, I thought I'd put dimmer switches on both sides.

After a quick trip to the hardware store, I dismantled the outlet, but there seemed to be one wire too many for the re-hook.

No problem, as I've replaced every light in the house with no glitches what-so-ever.   Using my best fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants logic, I wired everything up, and turned the breaker back on.

One side worked, the other didn't.

Okay ... I took the whole thing apart again and rewired. There, that ought to do it.  Breaker back on, and the opposite happened.  The one that was lit before ... wasn't. And, like I said, the opposite.

There were only five wires, and for the next 3 hours, I tried every possible mathematical combination of five. And for every combination, only one or the other light worked.  Finally, I gave up when only the kitchen light worked.  We needed that one more.

For the next two weeks, we ate our dinner by forced, romantic candle light, which is fine if you don't care that you can't see your food.

Yesterday, I gave in and called an electrician, who promptly showed up at our door this morning.  After explaining that I had done everything possible and that the circuit must be screwed up, he took it apart, switched a couple of wires around, and both lights came on.

It took a minute and a half.

After cutting him a check for one hundred and twenty dollars, I wished him a happy holiday, and returned to the dining room, where I stared at the glowing fixture ... my shoulders hunched over, pissed and confused.

And then I went to look at that leaky faucet.

December 22, 2010

Reflections On Nothing To Do

Fortunate are those with seniority.  For they get first pick of vacation days and do not have to endure the vacuous hell that is "The Last Day At Work Before The Christmas Holiday".

For the record, it is 8:55 a.m., and my work day ends at 3:30-ish, so I'm staring six-and-a-half hours of boredom right in his ugly face.  My work, what there was of it, is completed.  I have been to the cafeteria for coffee.  I've visited all of my favorite web sites and have updated my facebook and twitter pages.

What to do, what to do?  Let's see, on the other side of my cube, the chatty, young wanna-be hipster woman is talking to the the androgynous young man with the mutant donkey laugh about her evening.  Every breathless revelation from the young lady is answered with a "huh-huuuhhh, huh-huuuhhh" from the hermaphroditically challenged young man.  I wonder if my Swiss army knife blade is long enough and sharp enough to sever both his windpipe and carotid artery in one slash?

Best not to find out.

On the opposite side of my cube, the elderly Asian man chats on the phone with his wife for the 10th time today, and he's only been here for 45 minutes.  The sing-song Mandarin, so charming during the first month or so of my employment, has begun to grate on my nerves like fingernails on a chalk board.  Perhaps a well-aimed blow with my paperweight to the base of his skull will silence him?

Again ... best not to find out.

Just looked at my watch again ... six hours to go.

Saints preserve me ... and Merry Christmas!

December 18, 2010

One Of Those Moments

There's an idea I've been toying around with in my head for some time.  A post about those moments in life that you always seem to remember, no matter how many years go by.  They're the ones that sneak up on you when you least expect it.  Late at night just before you drop off to sleep, or on your morning drive to work when your mind is wandering.  They're not the ones that brought you the most joy ... or the ones that made you the most ashamed.  But they are clarifying, and sometimes signify a passage in your life.

Being that it's almost Christmas, I'll share the moment that I realized that there was no Santa Claus.

Actually, it was more than a moment.  As I remember, it took me about 10 seconds to put two and two together, which might or might not have been a slow reaction time.

My parents had always been Santa oriented.  Nothing under the tree on Christmas morning was from them.  It was all from Santa.  And they were good at the game.  So good, that it wasn't until my seventh year that I stumbled on the truth.

My Dad was in the long, slow process of turning the attached garage in our small ranch house into a family room, a popular do-it-yourself option during the late 50's.

One evening, several weeks before Christmas, he was up in the attic, running some wiring, and while he was down at the far end of the space, I inched my way up the ladder to take a look, because I had never seen this nether region of the house.

As my head cleared the crawl hole, before me was a Chatty Cathy doll in her box, a toy fire engine and several other toys.  As my mind processed this visual information at the speed of mud, the simple equation evolved ... Santa = Parents.

Making sure my Dad hadn't seen me, I slowly made my way down the ladder and walked over to the steps transitioning the utility room from the garage/soon-to-be family room and sat down.

Wow ...  No Santa ...  But I surprised myself.  I didn't feel disappointed.  I didn't feel sad.  Strangely, I felt empowered.  I knew something now that my parents didn't think I knew.  And my sisters didn't know it either.

Yeah, I could have blabbed ... blabbed to everyone in the house.  But I didn't.  It made me feel ... grown up.  And grown up isn't something a seven-year old feels too often.

A first step on a road that never ends.

December 13, 2010

All I Want For Christmas

These are desperate days for Jan.  The holiday draws near, and despite her repeated pleas of "What do you want for Christmas?", I can't give her an answer.

Yes, I'm one of those assholes.  I inhabit a niche that I believe is reserved primarily for guys.  If I want something, I go out and buy it.  I don't want to wait for Christmas.  I don't want to wait for my birthday.  If I want it, I want it now.

And since I'm turned that way, the things I want, I already have.  A watch?  I have two.  Clothes?  I have some.  A winter coat?  I bought it already.

Sure, there are a couple of things I'd like for Christmas. I'd like a camera.  But the one I want costs 2 thousand dollars.  I'd like a new truck, but the one I want runs around 40k.

Rather pricey,  n'est-ce pas?

This reminds me of when I was a kid.  My parents were tone-deaf when it came to taking hints for Christmas presents.  My earnest suggestions were met with indifference, and so, on Christmas morning, I opened half-assed shit like a twirler's baton (did I exhibit sexuality issues at age 8?) or Lincoln Logs (actually, the pieces made great projectiles).

As the formative years passed by, I gave up hinting and just accepted whatever I received with as much graciousness as a youngster could muster.  However, there were two occasions that I fell mesmerized by two toys that I was convinced that I couldn't live without.  I campaigned relentlessly for these items, but in the end, my cheapskate, clueless parents disappointed me ... again.

To this day, I wonder how my life would have been different if only I had gotten my wish these two lousy times.  Why, I might have grown up to become the President of the United States if only I had received ...


Yes, I know the dick/balls resemblance is uncanny, however an eight year old boy has not been schooled yet to the ways of phallic images, although I can imagine everyone at Topper Toys code-naming this device "dickfinger".  The fact remained that this "gun" shot hardened plastic projectiles at high velocity.  It stung like hell when you were hit in the shirt or jeans with these things, and if you struck bare skin, you could even draw blood!

And of course, as much as I wanted it, I remained Sixfinger-less.  But, I would have taken a volley of Sixfinger fire on my bare ass to get my hands on The Holy Grail of all Christmas gifts ...

Hoochee Mama!

Yes!  I could be Agent 007 being pursued by Goldfinger's crazed North Korean henchmen up hills, through tunnels, across oil slicks ... all the while being subjected to withering machine gun fire!

Wait A Minute

A pink Aston Martin?  Being chased by Tilly Soames?  Oh well, details, details.  That's what imagination is for.  It doesn't matter anyway, because I didn't get this either.  I had held out hope right up to the last minute, because even at a young age, I played the "Made in the USA" card which I thought would win at least my Dad over.  After all, the James Bond 007 Road Race set was manufactured by:

Sears?  Seriously?

Well, I guess even Sears was cool back in the olden days.  Check out the creepy looking James Bond peering over Rusty Racecar's shoulder there.  Kind of looks like Robert Vaughn, doesn't he?  Close enough.  And after seeing this ad, I can kind of understand why my parent's didn't get it for me.  $34.95 in 1963 is kind of like $24,375.23 in adjusted 2010 dollars.  Pricey ...

So Jan, if you're reading this (and I know you're not), here are two great gift ideas for your husband.

And if you'll at least get me the first one, I can promise you some hot "Sixfinger" action.

December 12, 2010

Wrong Room

Epic moments in life ...

Friday morning at work, I was making one of my many stops to the men's room.  When I was younger, one of the cruel nick-names my so-called friends pinned on me was "Peanut Bladder".  If they were still around today, they probably would have changed it to "Ginormous Prostate Gland", but they aren't and that's just as well.

Anyway, I strolled into the men's room, sidled up to the urinal and did my business.  As I was walking over to the wash basins, I noted two pairs of legs in adjoining stalls. I was washing my hands when I heard one of the toilets flush.  The stall door opened and out walked ...

A woman.

I peered at her.  She gaped at me.  And ...

Woman Who Can't Read Door Signs (WWCRDS):  Tell me you're in the wrong place.

Me:  No, I'm afraid you are.

WWCRDS:  OHMYGODOHMYGODOHMYGOD!!  (Bolts toward exit and crashes through door)

Me: (muttering to myself)  Did that just happen?

Man In Stall (MIS):  Was that a woman?

Me:  Yes.

MIS:  Ohhhhhhh ... Shit!  Did you hear me in here?

Me:  Yeah, you were making quite a racket.

MIS:  Ohhhhh, shit.  I wonder if she saw my shoes?

Me:  I wouldn't worry about it.  She looked pretty shocked.  She'll probably have short term memory loss.

MIS:  You think so?

Me:  Yeah.

As I left the wash room, I thought "Hey, that guy had a point.  She got a good look at me and I got a good look at her.  That would be awkward if I saw her again".

So, for a few hours, I scoped out the halls before I committed myself to travel through them and looked around corners before turning them.  But after a while it became apparent that she had taken leave.

I think I would have too.

December 09, 2010

Creepy Internet Stuff

I don't do this very often, but I was up late the other night and ran across this blog post.  Maybe it was the combination of the dark, the absolute quiet in the house and the post subject matter ... but this really creeped me out.

And I thought I'd share ... "Abandoned On Everest".


December 08, 2010

Limbo Land

It's the most wonderful time of the year!  I can't count the number of times I've heard Andy Williams sing that one line on some credit card commercial on television.  Maybe it's a credit card company, I'm not even sure of that.  I vaguely think of only one thing when I hear it ... "is Andy Williams still alive?"  I'm too disinterested to even Google it.

Actually this is the most boringest time of the year, in my humble estimation.  Deep cold has developed in my adopted home; the upper-middle-almost center-Midwest, and it's not even officially winter yet.  This makes it highly unsavory to venture outdoors.  My Christmas shopping is, for all practical purposes, done ... and all I'm doing is waiting out these last few weeks of the year in order to see what the new year brings.

Work is a somewhat welcome distraction, but with everyone seemingly on vacation, there is no urgency to complete anything or start anything new.  Everyone has all but officially shut down until the start of January.  So I mentally slumber through the day, checking the clock's progress every once in a while until it's time to leave.

Home offers little mental stimulation.  The big event last evening was that the cat had decided to take a crap on the carpet instead of in her box.  However, as cat alzheimer's sets in, this becomes more of a common occurrence and will gradually lose it's sense of newness.  Routine sets in.  Dinner is eaten, television is watched, small conversations are had, and bed and sleep are welcome much sooner than the pair should be

Distressingly, I don't have much to write about.  But I don't seem to be the only one. A trip around to my favorite blog sites reveals that I'm not alone.  A trip to some tropical clime here ... a holiday recipe there ... and a dead dog for good measure.

In a recently hard-to-find burst of inspiration, I spent two hours last night writing a blog post.  It was interesting, it was hilarious, it was outrageous!  After re-reading it this morning prior to posting (a habit I've developed), I realized that I was just trying to out-gross the telling of "The Aristocrats" and moved it into the "one of these days" file.

I keep telling myself that this is my hobby, and that even the most avid hobbyist tires from time to time of tying a trout lure just right, or gluing another machine gun onto a 1/32 replica of a 1917 Spad.  Inspiration is never a constant.  Like the tide, it ebbs and flows.  And although I'm in a dry period right now ...

All I need is one crazy-assed motherfucker to cross my path to kick my ass into gear again.

December 01, 2010

Secret Lives

Tonight, on the way home from work, I stopped at Walgreens for cough syrup and Christmas cards (don't ask).  As I pulled into the parking lot, I saw Jan walking towards the store.  She saw me and kind of half-waved and then picked up her pace and walked into the store.

It was cold and spitting snow, so I didn't blame her for not stopping and waiting for me to park.  I thought she'd just wait inside the entrance for me.  But when I walked in, she was no where to be seen.  I went up and down a few aisles, but no Jan.  So, I went ahead and hunted down the cough syrup and cards and headed for the front to check out, thinking I would see her there.

When I got to the front, I  caught a glimpse of her carrying her purchase and skittering out the door into the parking lot.  When I had paid for my stuff, I went outside, but she had vanished.  As I arrived home, she was taking her school stuff out of the car, so I parked the truck ... and ...

Me:  What the fuck was that?!

Jan:  What?

Me:  Why didn't you wait for me at Walgreens?

Jan:  Oh, were you at Walgreens?

Me:  Well, you waved at me in the parking lot, what the fuck do you mean "Was I at Walgreens?"

Jan:  Oh, yeah.  I was in a hurry.

Me:  What were you doing?  Hooking up with your boyfriend or something?

Jan:  Oh ... yeah!  That's it!  He and I always have our secret trysts in the middle of Walgreens!  Idiot!

Me:  Okay, then what were you there for?

Jan:  To get ... stuff.

Me:  What stuff?

Jan:  You know ... stuff.  You got stuff ... I was getting stuff.

Me:  I got cough syrup and Christmas cards.  What did you get?

Me:  Glare

Jan:  Ohhhh ... okay!  I bought a bag of candy bars for my secret stash!

Me:  Secret stash?

Jan:  Yes asshole ... my secret stash!  Don't you have one of those?

Me:  No.  Pause ... but that's not a bad idea ...

Me:  Where is it?

Jan:  It's secret.  That's why I call it a secret stash, jerk!

Me:  Oh.  What kind of candy bars?

Jan:  Kit Kat.

Me:  Pause ...  Gimme one ...

November 23, 2010

Trilogy Of Trash

It's a short week, my mind is oatmeal and I couldn't dredge up an idea to save my ass.

So what better time is there to haul out the crap!

None ... I repeat none of the following is suitable for work, so don't even try it unless you want your Thanksgiving holiday to extend well into the next fiscal year.

Enjoy ... and Happy Holiday!

You Look Like Shit!

Every Arnold Scream From Every Arnold Movie!

And my personal favorite ...

Nicolas Cage Loses His Shit!

See you soon!!

November 21, 2010

The Inconvenience Index

This past Saturday morning, I woke up at 6 a.m., which is about par for me on the weekend, as I normally get up at 5 a.m. during the work week.  If someone had told me when I was a teenager that I'd be getting up at 5 in the morning on a regular basis, I would have suggested that they go have their head examined, because that wasn't going to be me.  Yet here I am ...

Anyway, I was sitting at the kitchen table, drinking my coffee and looking around the room.  And it suddenly dawned on me that everything looked like shit. Especially the side table in our main "being room".  We had bought the thing when we were first married and were trying to furnish our apartment, and it just looked so 70's, even though we had refinished it.  Disguise is just what it is ... disguise.  Underneath it's still unfashionable 1978, staring you right in the face.

So later on in the morning, I pushed Jan into the truck and we went out looking for something to replace it.  Put-it-together-yourself furniture is always cheaper than going to the furniture store, so we headed over to one of "those" places and in no time, had spotted a large buffet that was not only perfect, but it was 25 percent off.  When the clerk loaded the box with a thousand pieces of wood and screws onto the truck and I said something about the huge tear in the carton, he said to not worry about it because it was so well padded.  And off we went.

After much grunting and cursing, we managed to lug the one ton box into the house and when we opened it up ... voila'! ... half of the material was in match sticks, right at the torn part of the box that "we shouldn't worry about".

Incensed, and full of adrenalin, I lifted the massive load of scrap all by myself and threw it in the back of the truck to return it.  Back at the store, there was much tut-tutting, and after cooling my heels for a few minutes waiting for the replacement, the store manager emerged from the back and told me there weren't any more buffets.

Me:  What???

Store Manager:  I'm sorry, we have some more coming to us in a few weeks.  They've just been so popular!

Me:  Shit ... what about the floor model?

Store Manager:  Oh no, that's our floor model!

Me:  So what?  It's for sale isn't it?

Store Manager:  Oh no, that's our floor model!

Me:  (Death Ray Stare)  Look, I just paid 400 dollars for a piece of furniture.  I'm not walking out of here with just my dick in my hand.

Long Pause Punctuated By Continued Death Ray Stare.

Store Manager:  Okay.

Me:  Good.  I'll pull my truck up out front.

Store Manager:  All right.  There's a fee for putting the table together.

Me:  I'm sure you'll waive if for me though, won't you?

Store Manager:  Uh ... yeah.

So, the Store Manager and his minions loaded the table on the truck, all the while bitching that he had put it together himself and it had taken three hours to do it.

On the way home, I called Jan and told her I'd be there in a few minutes.  She sighed and said that she'd get the tools ready to assemble it.

There are few times in married life that the husband feels like a hero, but when Jan's eyes bugged out when she saw the all-ready-assembled piece of furniture in the back of the truck, I reveled in the glory.

Today, I put up a new ceiling fan in the living room. What should have taken 20 minutes took three-and -a half hours.

It all evens out.

November 14, 2010

Fish Boiled

Several weeks ago, Jan and I attended an evening "dinner" event.  I emphasize dinner, because it was some sort of awards thing, and "dinner" was just a euphemism for shit-on-a-plate.  Knowing we wouldn't eat but a polite bite or two, we had planned ahead with what has become known between the two of us as the "White Gull Inn" defense.

Back in the days before the kid arrived, we experimented with the concept of vacation.  However, we weren't very good at it and ended up going to a lot of crummy places. When we arrived in Northern Illinois, several friends brought up the subject of us vacationing in Door County, Wisconsin, a mere 6 hour drive as the crow flies from our home.  Being dumb-ass still-almost newlyweds, we thought this was a grand idea and booked a weeks vacation there.

After our arrival at what turned out to be an off-season hunting lodge on a place called Kangaroo Lake, we set off to see the sights; and after a day of trudging through what seemed like a hundred cute little touristy shops, we arrived back at our cabin with the realization that we still had 5 days to fill ... with something.

We spent the days straying from one cutesy place to another, and in our down time, found that drinking helped a lot to pass the time.  All week, the helpful lodge keeper had been recommending places of interest for us, and toward the end of the week, suggested that we couldn't leave Door County without experiencing a Friday night "fish boil".  In fact, she had already made reservations for us at the White Gull Inn, which if you believe the press, was the Premiere fish boil establishment in the continental United States.

Jan hates fish, and I'm not real fond of it either unless the entree' has "O-fish" somewhere in it's name.  But we had no other place to go and thought it would make for interesting bragging rights at some time ... "Fish Boil? Why, yes.  Jan and I ate at the top rated fish boil restaurant in the country".

So, on Friday night, we headed out for the White Gull Inn.  At the appointed time, all of us diners were herded into the Inn's courtyard, where a sizeable wood pyre had been constructed.  There was a circus made of cutting raw fish into hunks; skin, bones and all; and throwing them into a gigantic kettle along with some potatoes. The kettle was then placed on the pyre and the material lit.

After about an hour of watching the kettle sit in the fire, and consuming many drinks, it was time for the coup d' etat.  A coffee can full of kerosene was tossed into the fire at the base of the kettle and a huge flaming eruption followed.  Like this:


Water and foam boiled out of the kettle, making a mess of everything, and as the chefs gathered the fish and potatoes, we were herded back into the dining room to wait for our meals to be delivered.

In the menu, the dinner was supposed to look like this:

Okay ... Not Too Bad.
Even If You Don't Like Fish

However, what arrived at our table looked a bit more like this:


Jan took one look at her plate and immediately covered it with her napkin.  I thought she was being a little melodramatic, so I put on my "go" face and took a forkful and shoved it my mouth ... where it stayed for about one and a half seconds before I spit it out into my napkin.

Boozed up and hungry, we thought that maybe we could eat the potatoes, but they were covered with gross fish foam.  They had already taken away the complimentary bread and crackers, so we were stuck.  Not wanting to offend the owners with our persnicketyness, we pulled and pushed at the dinners until they had been spread around the plate enough to mimic having been eaten ... at.  I even threw a couple of pieces under the table for extra "I ate some" realism.

Finally, the check came and we bolted.  Fortunately, it was just after 9:00 and we had time to go find another place to eat.  Unfortunately, the county as a unified whole, rolled up it's sidewalks at 8:00 and went home to eat fish boil.

We went the length of Door County, first east-west, then north-south ... and nothing was open.  There wasn't even a McDonald's.  What kind of God-forsaken land doesn't even have a McDonald's?

And then we stopped at a gas station, with one of those new-fangled mini-marts (a radical idea for it's time).  We loaded up on pretzels, potato chips and Fritos ... as well as a twelve-pack of beer and headed back for the cabin.

I'd like to tell you it was the best meal of our young lives. But frankly, it sucked.  We went to bed gassy and bloated ... and still feeling unsated.

When we left the next morning, we told ourselves that we'd have a story to tell when we got home.  But in the real world, a "story to tell" and 20 dollars will get you dinner for two at Chili's. 

And a blog post.

November 02, 2010

Nobody Predicts Me

Back in about, oh ... let's say July, I started to see the media ads increase for the November elections.  As it slowly dawned on me what absolutely awful choices there were for the offices of Governor and U.S. Senate, not to mention the lesser races, I told myself that I wasn't going to be brought to the level of holding my nose while I marked my ballot.  And I decided to sit this election out.

And as the weeks and months moved along, I remained convinced that my decision was the right one.  I didn't want to be responsible for any of the sorry lot getting into, or remaining in office.

That is, until last night.

I was watching one of the early evening news shows and one particularly smug reporter asshole confidently predicted that this guy ... and that guy were going to win because most people would stay home and not bother to vote.

That got me a little hot under the collar, so after work today I drove over to the village office in Antioch to vote, simply to upset that asshole reporter's ... and others ... worthless projections.  Turns out I wasn't the only one.  The pretty large parking lot was packed and people were parking on the streets and highway running past the facility.  And there were over 500 people inside, crushing each other for the chance to fill out a ballot.

And I hope when I wake up tomorrow morning and turn on the radio, that every single one of these carefully "polled" predictions were wrong.

I'm tired of people telling me what I'm going to do before I even do it.  Piss on you news media.

Or maybe that's the way they planned it ...

October 31, 2010

Adult Scares For Halloween

Like most people our age, Jan and I are starting to contemplate retirement.  In fact, Jan has already turned in her retirement notice at her school district and will call the Spring of 2012 her last as a full time teacher.  I'll probably call it quits at that time too.

So, we're starting to seriously consider a move south (no, not Florida ... no, not Arizona) because we really have no desire to spend our final years in Northern Illinois.  In fact, not a week goes by that one of us doesn't blurt out a sentence such as "I can't wait to leave this horse shit area".

But moving to another area means buying another home. And, of course, that means selling this one.  Unless you've been living under a rock for the last three years, you're probably well aware that this isn't the easy-peasey proposition that it used to be at one time.

Keeping this in mind, we've spent the last year making careful improvements to the inside and outside of our house, always considering the cost versus benefit of the work we have done.  I figure that by the time we're ready to put the house on the market, we'll have done everything we need to do to have it in selling shape.  In fact, I've planned one last item that I'll plant in the front yard when the "For Sale" sign goes up.  Kind of a sales coup de theatre, if you will ...

No One Can Resist Wavy Inflatable Guy!

However, most tip-top real estate agents, like HGTV's Sandra Rinomato (does anyone else find this woman incredibly hot?), will tell you that your physical abode isn't the only factor in selling.  It's also "neigborhood, neighborhood, neighborhood".  If the neighborhood is shit, then you can  have the Taj Mahal sitting there and it still won't move.

The Only Reason I Watch "Property Virgins"

It was only fitting that on this All Hallows Eve morning that I walk out on my driveway and observe the following next door.  A sight to truly chill any prospective home sellers shit down to it's very core ...

(click on picture for extra-horrifying effect)

I don't think an army of Wavy Inflatable Guys can overcome this gruesome sight ... "Hillbilly Ron's House of Horrors and  Lowered Property Values".  The stuff of nightmares.

I wonder where I could find a discrete arsonist?

October 28, 2010


Your 50's are the time when you start to hate your parents.  Not hate them in general, but hate them for certain things you find in yourself.  Looks, speech, mannerisms ... you name it ... it's their fault.

If you're determined, you can overcome the speech and mannerisms.  With a little money, you can even overcome the looks.  But there are other things that are ingrained deep inside of you, that you may struggle to change, but find that you can't, no matter how hard you try.

With  me, it's my nagging inability to overcome a grudge or a slight, perceived or real.  My parents were hill people; my father from West Virginia and my mother from the Ozarks.  They could hold a grudge like you wouldn't believe.  Decades upon decades.  And when they couldn't think of any, they either made them up or turned on each other.

There were a lot of things they taught me ... not to be.  I was determined that when I grew up, I would not strike my children, I would not constantly lose my temper, I would not be intolerant of other people and I would not be coarse and unrefined.

For the most part, I've succeeded.  Except for the grudges.

And this week I developed a two-fer, both on the same day.  One as a result of a situation at work, and one from a long time friend.  I believe both were inadvertent from the parties involved.  And since I've almost convinced myself of that, I still find that I can't let either instance go.

I do all of the standard avoidance techniques.  I keep busy and direct my feelings in other ways.  But the human being can't stay occupied, physically or mentally 24 hours a day.  So there are times when the mind stands down.  And the feelings of anger and betrayal rush in to fill the void.  Once they get a foothold, they're tough to lose again.

With me, time is a great healer.  But time isn't moving fast enough.  I keep telling myself that in a week, or a month, I'll feel different ... that I'll smooth out and chide myself for wasting all that time on bad feelings.  But it isn't a week, a month, or even a day from now, and it sits there gnawing at me. Daring me to lose my temper and ruin everything, just so for one minute I'll feel vindicated.

So, here I sit tonight in one exhausting conundrum.  I'm irritated at my inability not to be irritated at a situation.  This is somewhat amusing to me, because I'm continually counseling other people to "calm down" and "let it go".  Shit, I can't even take my own advice.

I hate my parents.

October 24, 2010

Obligatory Halloween Post

And why not?  Barring some national disaster, the media hype will be honed in on the night of ghouls and goblins, as Halloween seems to have taken a firm grip on the number two spot as a day of fun and celebration.

In this instance, "Fun & Celebration" is defined as dressing up as pagan pimps and whores while getting drunk on your ass and acting like a sexual deviant.

Oh, I guess I'm just jealous.  Being firmly imbedded in the baby boom generation, Halloween lost most of it's charm for me after my age moved into the double digits.  It came back a bit when our son was a tadpole, but that was many years ago, and now I merely tolerate the task of handing out bite sized pieces of sugary shit to whatever rug rats show up at the door on the appointed night.

Everyone has a favorite Halloween story, and they're all better than mine, as I can recall only two events on that particular night that remain in the back of my mind.  They lurk there simply for the fact that they aren't my proudest moments in the years I've being roaming the surface of the earth.

The first, when I was 12 years old, I'll blame on hormones. I was madly in "like" with a 12 year old girl down the street, but my like was unrequited because she had a 17 year old boyfriend with a tricked out Chevrolet.  Even though 12 is a ripe old age for an Ozark Mountain girl, I thought there was something basically wrong with the relationship.  Later I would connect this feeling with the word "pedophile".  Isn't it nice when you can link a word with a feeling?  Sort of like "masturbation".

Regardless, I thought the best way to deal with the situation was to do the old "wax-on/fuck-off" routine on his car on Halloween night, when he would undoubtedly visit his girl.  At the appointed time, I approached his car, but the very second the wax square touched the car window, the house light flared on and the front door crashed open and the chase was on ... me on foot and he in the souped up Chevy.  Through the neighborhoods we went ... me ducking from bush to bush, and he roaring up and down the streets, his car taking hand-fulls of well thrown chat every time he passed my hiding place.  After a while, his concern for this car's finish outweighed his desire to kick my ass up between my shoulder blades, and he retired.  I eventually serpentined my way home that evening and was never found out.  A definite "win" for me.

On another Halloween Saturday night during my high school years, I found myself alone in the house and was forced to deal with the trick or treaters by myself.  In those days, there were no "set" hours for going door to door and as the night wore on I became increasingly irritated that I was missing large chunks of "Saturday Night At The Movies" on NBC because of the constant door bell.  I had been left a partial pot of chili for dinner, which now set coagulating on the stove top.  Noticing that some of the little darlings were making their third or fourth visits to my door, I began answering it with one hand full of candy and the other holding a ladle full of cold chili.  Plink, plink went the candy ... Plop, plop went the chili.

I often wonder what happened when those greedy little monsters returned home and found their bags of individual treasures coated with a film of meat, beans and tomato sauce.  I like to think that I gave them their own Halloween experiences to remember.

Those days of dickery are long gone now.  This year, as usual, I'll buy way more candy than I need for the few kids that will venture on to our cul-de-sac.  Then I'll spend the rest of the evening wolfing down "fun size" Three Musketeer bars.

Happy Halloween ...

October 23, 2010


Author's Note:  (Even though this is a dumb blog, I am the author, right?)  I've posted a lot of trash in the past year and a half, but there are times when even I can't throw some shit out to the general public. The following post is one of them.  At the time, I was heavily influenced by a sports columnist at ESPN, who seemed to effortlessly blog major sporting events as they were happening.  So, I thought I could too.  I was wrong ... And this is the result.  Since it's the weekend, maybe nobody will read it and I'll be safe.  For you unlucky few who've stumbled on to this, please tolerate ... from March 2010, a post originally entitled "Blogging Oscar".

I've always enjoyed reading blog posts from bloggers blogging in their blogs about important entertainment events.  Things like the Super Bowl, the Grammies and the Senate Health Care Debates.  So, with almost a year of blogging expertise under my belt, I thought I'd take my turn at blogging a major entertainment event. Who knows, this could be the big break into the dog-eat-dog literary world that I've been waiting for all these weeks. The thought of seeing my byline in such standards as Life, Look or Saturday Evening Post magazines is enough to make me swoon.  So ... tonight I will be blogging that spectacle that is known far and wide as The Academy Awards!

3:37 p.m.  Okay, the first thing I've got to find out is when the show starts.  I know for sure that it's today. Ah, there we are ... 7:00 p.m. CST.  Better make sure I've got dinner cleared well in advance.

6:52 p.m.  I've stumbled into what is apparently the last Barbara Walters pre-Oscar special.  I think this is because Babs actually passed away 5 years ago and has been replaced by a Disney autoanimatronic robot.  After a trip down memory lane, Barbara and Sandra Bullock try to trick each other into revealing what kind of tree they would like to be.

7:01 p.m.  Crowd reporter Kathy Ireland looks positively breathless, and possibly drunk as she blathers about something, while George Clooney trolls for a new girlfriend along the security fence.

7:05 p.m.  ABC is showing some sort of countdown clock in the lower left-hand portion of the screen.  24 minutes until what?

7:11 p.m.  Morgan Freeman shows up, having been nominated for the best actor in every single motion picture made during 2009. Jennifer Lopez explains why wearing clothing is good.  Sarah Jessica Parker has chosen to wear her "Mr. Ed" horse head.

7:22 p.m.  Jeff Bridges looks terrific.  Like me, he was a pretty boy early in life, but has grown into craggy good looking old dude.  Actually, he resembles me only in the fact that we both have beards. Gabourey Sidibe's dress is ... Shit, you just can't make morbidly obese people look good, no matter how hard you try.

7:27 p.m.  Everybody is heading inside.  Kathy Ireland still looks drunk.

7:32 p.m.  Neil Patrick Harris gays it up.  After descending from the ceiling, Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin fall flatter the Meryl Streep's boobs in their opening.  Apparently, Henny Youngman wrote their routine just prior to his untimely death in 1998.

7:43 p.m.  I love Jeff Bridges.  He always looks stoned out of his mind

7:48 p.m.  Christoph Waltz wins best supporting actor for Inglorious Basterds.  Metaphors abound.

 7:58 p.m.  Up wins best animated feature.  What a fucking surprise.  In other amazing news, the sun will rise tomorrow.

8:01 p.m.  Miley Cyrus looks all set for the trailer park debutante ball.  Hopefully, she starts those long overdue elocution lessons on Monday.

8:03 p.m.  Best Music Award goes to Crazy Heart.  I must go out and buy the soundtrack.  Walmart, here I come!

8:12 p.m.  Robert Downey Jr. appears as a presenter.  I'm disappointed because he's not wearing his Ironman costume.  However, he does mention Tony Stark.  Not good enough though.

8:16 p.m.  Best original screenplay goes to The Hurt Locker.  Exciting shit.  Quenton Tarantino looks pissed.

8:22 p.m.  Ahhhh!  What rock did they pull Molly Ringwold out from under?  She is taller than Matthew Broderick though, but who isn't?  Nice tribute to John Hughes.  Too fucking bad they ruined it at the end by bringing out the aging "Brat Packers".

Well, an hour and a half into this spectacle, and it seems to be bucking for a contender for "most boring Oscar broadcast ever".  Everything seems to be going according to plan.

8:31 p.m.  Logorama wins best animated short.  Music By Prudence takes best documentary short. And Prudence is actually in the audience! The crowd goes semi-tepid!  The New Tenants grabs best live action short.  This has to be the dreaded Dead Zone of the broadcast.  I'm starting to nod off myself.

8:39 p.m.  Oh boy.  Ben Stiller comes out dressed like a character from Avatar.  I actually feel sorry for him because he knows he's flopping monumentally.  Star Trek for Best Make Up?  Holy shit, they'll give out an Oscar for anything.  I didn't know pointy ears and bad tattoos were that difficult to do.

8:51 p.m.  Something, something wins the award for best script adapted from a Burma Shave sign ... or something like that.  Why don't they take all of these incomprehensible categories and present the winner at another venue, perhaps the Denny's in Pismo Beach?

8:55 p.m. Shit, here comes Robin Williams.  Kill me now.  To his credit, he keeps it down with only one lame joke as he presents the best supporting actress thingy to Mo Neek Man Ink Moe Nick Mo'Nique.

9:05 p.m.  Geez, I'm getting sleepy.  What time do I have to get up tomorrow?  Oh yeah, 5:00.  Shit, Monday again already.  What happened to the damned weekend ... Just think, in two more years, I can retire, maybe.  It all depends on the economy.  Huh?!  What?  Oh, another award.  Some guy is talking about how he almost died 5 years ago and almost wasn't here for tonight.  Touching ...

9:11 p.m.  Another winner for something.  This one appears to be wearing a shoe on her head.  Boy, you have to give the producers of this show some credit.  They're trying like hell to rush through all of these nothing categories.

9:18 p.m.  Zzzzzzzz.

Monday 6:38 p.m.  Okay, so I went to bed.  I knew who was going to win the big categories anyway.  Jeff Bridges, Sandra Bullock and The Hurt Locker.  Ho-hum.  You know what would be really awesome, is if one year, all of the categories were won by one movie.  I'd stay up to watch that.

Seriously, this live blogging stuff is the shits.  I'm never, ever going to do it again because it's too hard.  And after reading this over, it appears that live blogging is post death.  So, I'll just save this travesty and publish it sometime in the future.  Who knows, maybe you'll want to be reminded  who won the academy awards next fall.

So, for all of us here in not Hollywood, I bid you goodnight and leave you with a moment of Oscar Gold ...

October 20, 2010

Oh, That's Why ...

Hey guys, ever wonder why you wake up in the morning with a hard-on?  No?  Well, don't feel too bad, because I think the only two things running through a man's head when he wakes up in morning are "Shit, do I have to get up already?"  And "I have to piss."

In fact, you probably equate the fact that you have to piss with having an erection to begin with, hence the phrase "Piss Hard-On".  But think about it ... you generally have to urinate at some points during the day and you don't get an erection.  Okay, maybe sometimes but it's not an all-the-time occurrence.

Hmm ... It's a real head scratcher.

And it was a real head scratcher to the people at the Journal of Sexual Medicine, who commissioned a study on "night wood" and found out that a human male trait called NPT is the cause.

NPT (nocturnal penile tumescence) occurs when the male is in REM sleep and although he may be dreaming about being chased by a herd of hungry velociraptors instead of sex, his brain sends out some sort of signal that causes an elevation of nitrous oxide in the bloodstream and ... BLAMMO!  Instant woody!  The study pointed out that the erection doesn't necessarily occur in the morning, but may happen at any time of the night.  AND ...  not only do adult males experience this effect, but so do teen males, child males, baby males; and even FETUS MALES.

Eww.  Wow, no wonder we're so screwed up.  We probably had a stiff-o in our mother's womb.

This is all very interesting and I suppose the subject would make for lively conversation at your next cocktail-type gathering.  And, if you allowed me sufficient time to get oiled up, I'd probably be the one to initiate it. This may explain why I'm not invited to a lot of parties.

One of the things I thought about while reading the article, was "isn't that JUST LIKE my stupid body to give me a gift like that in the middle of the night ... WHEN THERE IS NO WAY IN HELL that I'd be able to use it".

I can see it now.  I'd wake Jan out of a dead sleep with some witty banter like "hey, look at this!"  Then I could spend the next hour trying to remove my pillow from my ass.

Actually, after thinking a bit, I did have an epiphany, sort of ...  Why risk the embarrassment of going to your doctor with some fake flu symptoms and then ... at the end of the visit, mumble something about "Viagra", or "Cialis", when I can just let my fingers do the walking to the industrial gasses section of the phone book and buy a humongous tank of nitrous oxide!


October 17, 2010

Ten Cents A Dance

On Saturday, Jan and I did our usual share of weekend chores, which included grocery shopping.  There was a time that I enjoyed this activity.  But for some reason, I've started to put it into the category of mowing the lawn or doing laundry.  Tedious, except when I'm hungry, and then only slightly bearable.

Maybe grocery stores are different now than in the past, or maybe I'm just more choosey, but it's a rare event if I can find everything I want at one store.  So, we divide our shopping between two, one for staples, and another for produce and certain select items.  The clientele at the two stores are different, but strangely the same.  The Walmart that I frequent, is usually populated with a large percentage of Northern Illinois hillbillies, who live in old vacation camps west of town.  The other, Piggly Wiggly, usually has a large percentage of rapidly aging Eastern Europeans.  I still can't figure out where they come from, but I've been told they mostly live in an exotic sounding burg just south of me, named Venitian Village.

Anyway, "The Pig", as most people around here call it, is a fairly decent place to shop.  There's a wide variety of ethnic foods, and most of the checkers (male and female) aren't terribly rude and have some interesting jailhouse tattoos.  And once or twice a month, they have in-store promotions, that always are semi-cool.  Who can resist a real NASCAR auto or the Oscar Meyer Weinermobile on display outside the store's main door?  They also have their share of local celebrities, mostly professional football players, signing autographs inside the store, although for some reason they always set them up back in the dairy department, where it's cold as the proverbial witches tit.

So, on this particular Saturday, as we entered the store, we noticed all of the employees wearing Chicago Bears jerseys and I knew that one of the fabled football greats would be there.  Who would it be?  Jay Cutler?  Julius Peppers?  "Da Coach" Mike Ditka?  We hurried to the back of the store, where we anticipated a line stretching for hundreds of yards, winding up and down the aisles, and saw sitting at a card table ...

Jimbo Covert.

Yeah, I know ... who?  Well, for all of you non-Chicagoans under 40 years old, Mr. Covert was a left offensive tackle during the Bears one-and-only Superbowl win in 1985.  What's an offensive tackle?  Hell, I don't know.  I didn't think anybody on the offense was supposed to tackle anybody, otherwise they'd get a penalty.  But that just shows how much I know.

Anyway, Jimbo was sitting behind his card table, flanked by two vapidly smiling PR twenty-somethings (who probably didn't know who he was either) with a stack of Miller Lite emblazoned photos and NO ONE lined up in front of him.  He looked rather forlorn ... forlorn and slightly pissed-off.  All around him, shoppers maneuvered their carts around the table trying to pick up milk and eggs and looking just a little annoyed that their right-of-way was being blocked by this guy.  A few stood and gawked at him, no doubt waiting for the Tombstone pizza samples to pop out of the toaster oven that was also inexplicably perched on his table along with the photo glossies.  I overheard one elderly gentleman exclaim, to nobody in particular, "Hey, you signing autographs or something?"

How sad.  I thought later that it was a shame that once-storied gladiators of the gridiron should have to spend their later life shilling watered down beer to make ends meet.

Later, after we returned home, I looked up Jimbo on the internet to see what misfortunes had led to such a sorry fate.  However, I was mildly shocked to learn that Mr. Covert has had quite a successful career since leaving football.

Then I asked myself why someone who obviously is in pretty good shape financially feels the need to sit for four hours in a suburban grocery store to pick up a quick 500 dollars?  Walking around money?  Needless to say, I didn't feel very sorry for him after the fact.

Maybe it's just my jealous side raising it's ugly head again, but maybe this week I'll make a few moves and finagle myself a card table set-up in the dairy section of The Pig on some future Saturday.  I can see it now ... "Come In And Meet ROB; Noted Former Agricultural Mid-Level Managerial Mule ... Sponsored by Boones Farm Strawberry Hill Wine!"  All I'll need is a stack of head shots and a felt tip pen.

Crap ... I'll bet I sign more autographs than Jimbo did.

October 10, 2010


During our road trip out West over a year ago, we took a lot of side trips to National Parks and Monuments.  Until you're visiting these places, you have in the back of your mind that these are warm and fuzzy little experiences. Free of all worry and danger.  But this mindset couldn't be further from the truth, and the people on the front lines at the parks will be the first ones to tell you.

The subject re-crossed my mind recently after I read a short article shoved away in the travel section of some on-line newspaper about a man from Burbank, California who fell to his death at the Grand Canyon several weeks ago.  He was trying to hop from one rock outcrop to another at Pipe Creek Vista on the South Rim (a regular stop on the tourists trail) when he apparently had a brain fart and misjudged the distance and fell 500 feet to another outcropping below.

Our trip was the third one to the Canyon, and of all the places I've visited over the years, this is the place where you see the tourists divided into two distinct camps ... overly cautious and batshit crazy.  Jan falls solidly into the first group.  In fact, we had to cut our visit short because her fear of heights, combined with the elevation caused her to have a panic attack; something I'd never seen her do.  Me ... I'm borderline batshit crazy.

Although there are a lot of guard rails on the South Rim keeping you and the great nothingness separate, there are a hell of lot more places where it's just wide open. One trip, one slip or one moment of not-paying-attention to what you're doing, and you're lunch meat. Sure, there are Park Rangers interspersed along the sightseeing points, but I think they're just there to report the accidents, because no one stops anyone from doing stuff like this ...

The Batshit Crazy

I caught the above two in a relative moment of quiet. Before I took the picture, they had been frolicking around on the end of that outcropping like a couple of grasshoppers on crack.  I tried to make a bet with Jan on how long it would take them to fall, but she couldn't stand looking at them anymore and made me leave.

After a while, even I caught the fever and started to test how close I could get to the edge of the rim.  You know, where you stand with in a foot of the edge and then crane your neck over?  Like this ...

Literally Nothing But Air Six Inches Behind Me

About 30 seconds after Jan took this picture, she had her panic attack.  Probably for the best as I no doubt would have become even more foolish and tried some outcrop jumping myself.  It's hard to describe, but there's just a feeling that comes over you and you get this urge to start taking chances.

I did a little quick research and found that since achieving National Park status, over 500 people have died at the Grand Canyon.  Surprisingly, just over 50 of them were from stupid pet tricks like the one tried by the gentleman from Burbank several weeks ago.  As you would expect, the remainder were the usual heart attacks and strokes from out-of-shape people who took on more walking and climbing than they were built for at the moment.

When I read Jan the article, she wondered what the last thing was that went through the guy's mind when he realized that he had fucked up his ill-thought jump.  She thought he said a prayer, and that is soooo Jan.

I guessed, probably correctly, that it was "Aw Shit", as "Motherfucker" would have taken too long.

Anyway, that's what I would have said.

October 09, 2010


Just cleaning out the old iPhoto files on a really unseasonably warm Saturday night ...

October 03, 2010

Worse Than A College Tuition Loan

Even though I cancelled our newspapers a long time ago (print is dead), I still keep up with the news through on-line sources and television.  On-line print is the best place to find unusual stories that the big media might not have enough time or interest to bring to the masses.

For example, I was under the impression that World War I, and everything pertaining to it, was over a long time ago.  Specifically, 92 years ago in 1918.

Not so ... that is until Sunday, October 3rd.  That is the day that Germany will pay the last installment of the reparations imposed on it by the Treaty of Versailles in 1919, one year after the war ended.  Under the terms of the Treaty, Germany was deemed solely responsible for World War I and was required to pay damages done to the Allied countries and peoples between 1914 and 1918. The total sum owed was determined to be 10.4 billion dollars, an overwhelming shitpot load of money for that era.

There was much debate at that time about what kind of strain the debt would put on the German people, and indeed, Uber-economist John Maynard Keynes bluntly stated that the Germans would not be able to formulate correct policy due to it's inability to finance itself. Prophetically, the Nazi party gained dominance of the German political scene in the late 1920's and 30's, and many historians credit the reparations as the main cause of World War II.

There were attempts to alleviate the strain on the German economy.  The Dawes Plan of 1924  and the Young Plan of 1929 granted Berlin loans to meet the reparation payments.  But these proved ineffective and when Adolf and his gang took over, all payments stopped. I can't say that I blame him, but it reminds me of an old classmate who skipped out on his college loans by moving and never leaving the government a forwarding address. I never knew if they caught up with him or not.

Of course, it would have been pretty stupid if Hitler had continued to pay the debt, particularly after his occupation of one of his principal payees, France.  And his continued payments might have resulted in something like this ...

General Von Rundstadt:  Mein Fuhrer!  The Allies have just invaded Normandy!  We must release the Panzer Corp to drive them back into the sea!

Adolf:  What, are you nuts?  I just made a 33 million mark reparations payment!  Do you know how much petrol those fucking tanks suck down?  Gas ain't cheap ya know.  We'll be eating Ramen noodles for a month now as it is!

Pretty embarrassing ...

Anyway, after Germany was defeated in World War II, it seemed the Allies had learned their lesson, and instead of charging more reparations, they just divied the country up between themselves, which didn't turn out to be such a good idea either.  After the Soviets took their share of the country and went home, it was decided that no more reparations would be paid until Germany was reunified. And sure enough, 20 years ago, the payments picked up again.

So, on October 3rd, the final payment of 94 million dollars will be made, ending the whole mess.  I'm sure the veterans of World War I will be glad to hear that ... and there are four of them left, believe it or not.


September 23, 2010

Farewell Ma Bell

A good proportion of our lives are spent doing things out of habit.  We do things "because that's the way they've always been done", or we realize that there are better ways to do things, but we just don't want to expend the time and effort to do them, even though they may be easier on us in the long run.

Take the land line telephone for example.

If you've been around as long as I have, this was as much a part of your home when you were growing up as the refrigerator, the oven and indoor plumbing.  It was either perched on a decorative table in your home's entry way, or hanging on the kitchen wall.  Maybe even both.  I even remember the type of telephone that we had (there really weren't any choices) and the phone number.


The phone was always there.  It was the first purchase I made when I moved away from home and into my first apartment.  And whenever Jan and I moved, it was on the short list of hook-ups right along with gas, water and electricity.

Then, about 20 years ago, we became aware of the growing popularity of these new-fangled gadgets called "cell phones".  Although they were pretty awkward and clunky, they were pretty cool, so we bought two "bag phones" for our cars and used them occasionally.  The service was expensive, and the connection was  spotty at best, but as with most new technology, it got better and less expensive.

In fact, the technology became so much better, that we began to use our cell phones more than our land line phone.

Realizations sometimes creep up on you ... slowly.  One day, about 5 years ago, I was paying our monthly bills and as I opened our AT&T envelope, the thought crossed my mind that it was really a useless expense.  Seventy-plus dollars a month for the privilege of being interrupted at least five times an evening by junk calls. But, as soon as I paid the bill, I promptly forgot about it until the next month.

After a while, it became annoying.  I started to ask the question "Why do I still have this phone?" And as I think about it, maybe it was just sentimentality.  One day I called AT&T to see if I could find a package to lower my bill, and lo-and-behold ... "Yes" said the customer service agent.  "Why, I see that you're not using many features of the package you have."  And so I negotiated another package, for thirty dollars a month.  However, when my next bill came, new charges and federal and state taxes added up to save me a whopping five dollars a month over the previous bill.  Well played AT&T ... well played.

Unbelievably, to me anyway, three more years went by with the same shopworn act being played out.  Rob gets phone bill, Rob pays phone bill, Rob gets steamed, Rob promptly forgets about phone bill until the next month. Repeat process ad infinitum.

Until last Monday.

Last Monday, I came home from work, called AT&T, sat on hold for one hour and 45 minutes ... and cancelled my phone service.  And as expected, there was much dramatic hand wringing on the part of the customer service agent.  "But sir, you've been with us since 1977!" This was followed by the "deal" ploy.  A lower rate package with coupons!  When this angle failed, it was time for the heavy guns ... fear.  Your cell phone won't work when the electricity is out (huh?).  911 won't be able to find you.  You'll lose your cell phone and then what will you do?  Huh? ... Huh?

But my mind was made up.  The customer service agent and I said our fond farewells and a 58 year old bond fell to the wayside.  I had joined the growing ranks of "The Others" ... those without land line telephone service.

On Tuesday afternoon, I came home and picked up the telephone.  And there was no dial tone.  I disconnected our three phones and placed them in a box in the basement, where I'll run across them again one day, stare at them for a second or two, and then deposit them in the trash.

As we turned in Tuesday night, Jan mentioned to me how nice it had been to go a whole evening without being interrupted by any trash phone calls.

And it was good.

September 22, 2010

Marketing Unpleasant Things

Tonight at 10:09 p.m. CST, Fall officially begins, and I don't know about you, but I'm going to stay up past my bedtime to celebrate it right.

Fall brings with it many cherished traditions.  College football, apple picking, carving pumpkins ... And getting a flu shot.

Jan is a big flu shot person.  She never misses one, come hell or high water.  On the other hand, I shun them like my mother's broiled liver surprise.  In past years, there has always been an anxiety linked to flu shot season, primarily because there never seemed to be enough vaccine available.  People would drive to the ends of the earth and wait in lines for hours for the privilege of being stuck in the arm with a needle.  And, as with Jan, they would go ahead and get the flu later on anyway, but always with the claim that "it would have been worse if I hadn't had my shot".

Bullshit indeed ...

This year, there's something a little different.  There is plenty of vaccine for everybody.  This is good for the public at large, but presents a problem for the vaccine maker.  How to get rid of all that damned vaccine and make some money off of it.  So, in case you haven't noticed, there are lots of new places you can get your flu shot.  Like drug stores and big box hardware establishments ... and even Walmart.

But, since you have so many places to choose from, all of the above places have to start being a little creative and actually market the product and service so that you will buy it from them, and not somebody else.  In one year, places that turned you away, now fight for your flu shot business.

Inevitably, some of these marketing efforts are a bit clumsy and bizarre in their execution.  This afternoon, I was in a large chain drug store, looking for a pack of razor blades (because 2 years on one blade is probably enough), when I saw the familiar table set up in an aisle manned by someone in nurses garb.

In front of the table was a sign indicating that you could get your flu shot right there, right then.  And they even had a poster mascot ...

LOL Indeed!

I smiled, but skittered away quickly.  While I was doing my razor blade hunting.  I wondered if they had a cute name for the mascot.  But I don't think they did.  If it were me, I'd name it "Stabby".

Imagine, a busy mother trying to get her kids to do what every kid in America has nightmares about ... getting a shot.  All she has to do is say "Hey kids ... want to go see Stabby?"  And of course the kids would fall all over themselves being first in line.

God, I should have been in advertising.

September 21, 2010

Amazing Inventions

Last Saturday night, I was lying on the floor watching a movie, when I became aware of noises from the house next door.  There was much clanking and grinding and hammering of metal going on, and as I looked out in the dark from my side window and noted that the time on the clock was 9:45 p.m., the first thought in my mind was ...

"What the fuck is Hillbilly Ron doing now?"

Ron has been my neighbor to the west for over ten years now.  And when he's not trying to shoot me full of arrows or scaring the shit out of me with bloody severed deer heads, he's immersed in scatter brained money making schemes.  These include, but are not limited to, bicycle and lawnmower repair, reclaiming used freezers and refrigerators and cornering the market on crappy kiddie lawn toys and structures.

I realize that you can't necessarily pick your neighbors, and I know it could have been worse, but every time Ron stumbles across his next sure thing money making scheme, I can feel the value of my home go down ten grand or so.  Imagine, if you will, a "For Sale" sign in my yard, and as prospective buyers pull up in my driveway, they see this to their right ...

You Thought I Was Kidding About The Refrigerators?

Anyway, back to Saturday night.  It was totally dark, so I couldn't make out what Ron was doing out in this driveway, but the noise went on until almost 11:00, when it mercifully ended.  Grateful that I would be able to go to sleep in peace, I forgot about it until Sunday morning, when I stepped outside and saw this ...


Yes, it appeared to be a tennis/volleyball/badminton net welded to a trailer.  And on closer inspection, it was exactly that.  The only thing I could think of was that Hillbilly Ron had decided to expand his empire and go into the "Rent-A-Tennis/Volleyball/Badminton Net For Your Party" business.  Although the logistics of playing any of the three games with a net welded to a metal trailer with numerous sharp edges would seem to be difficult, I'm sure Ron will highlight the X-TREME angle of his set-up from a marketing standpoint.

I don't know, maybe I'm just jealous of Ron's imagination and business savvy.  I just hope he doesn't keep this piece of shit parked in his driveway forever.


Update:  Much to my chagrin, I found out later in the day that the local high school was having their homecoming parade (on a Sunday afternoon?) that day and that this was a "float".  And this was exactly the way it was dragged through the streets with no embellishments whatsoever.  So, I may have been full of shit about his intentions, but he still gets an F+ for float making.

End of story.

September 19, 2010

The More I Know, The Stupider I Feel

First of all, let's get this out of the way.  "Stupider" is a word because I just looked it up in the dictionary, so for all of you spelling fanatics out there, just back off my shit.

Okay, now I'll start ... As I begin to near the point in life where I can only jokingly consider myself middle-aged, I'll admit there are times when I think I'm a pretty darned smart guy.  After all, I graduated public school and went to college; and while there managed to pass a few English classes, a handful of history courses and even one law class.  The fact that I did miserably in my chosen major of business doesn't matter anymore because my business career ended about 10 years ago and anything I do now is just for the money and not for the stupid notion of "job satisfaction" as some crazy people would have you believe.

I also think I'm smart because I'm still alive, even after that incident at the dog food plant where I mistakenly put my foot in the trash compactor they called "The Pulveriser" and it started to eat me and it was only dumb luck that I was able to pull my foot out of my boot and haul myself out of it's terrible maw. But even then I was smart because I was able to walk around the rest of the day with only one boot on and managed to fashion a shoe out of a cardboard box that nobody noticed except two people who asked me why I was wearing a cardboard box on my foot.

But, as often happens, just when I'm feeling really smart, something comes out of left field and makes me feel really stupid.  This happens a lot when I'm reading or watching television.  Several years ago, I started to see the phrase "Deux ex machina" pop up a lot in book and movie reviews.  My usual reaction when I see something like this is to take two seconds to reason it out, right or wrong, and move on.  In the case of this particular phrase, I just told myself that it was some sort of French/Italian pig latin that meant "two former machines".  And even though this made no real sense, it was more important that I finish the article than to fuck around finding out what it really meant.

Finally, I saw it so many times, that I looked it up.  "Deux ex machina:  A narrative ending in which an improbable event is used to resolve all problematic situations and bring the story to a generally happy ending."

Huh?  What the hell does that mean?  I couldn't wrap my mind around it, and it wasn't until I watched the movie "Dodgeball", that it made any sense.  In the movie, Vince Vaughn's character is going to lose his gym to Ben Stiller's evil character until a crate full of cash labeled Deux ex machina is wheeled out and Vince is able to pay off his mortgage, foiling Ben.

Having solved that nasty little mystery, I went on my merry way until several months later when I was watching the movie "Contact", which by the way would have been a pretty good picture if they had just left the first and last parts out.  Kind of like "Apocalypse Now" would have been pretty good if they had just cut out that last part with the Colonel Kurtz horseshit.

Anyway, in the movie, James Woods is asking Tatum O'Neal's lookalike (I can never remember her name) if she's ever heard of "Occam's Razor".  And again, just wanting to watch the rest of the film and not be bothered, I reasoned that Occam's Razor must be some kind of shaving device made out of a clam shell.  And I was happy ... until I saw the damned term again.

So I looked it up and sure enough, it was some fucking Latin phrase just like Deux ex machina.  Is it any surprise that Latin is a dead language?  I doubt the Latin's even understood it.  No wonder they switched to Spanish.  "Occam's Razor:  The simplest explanation of a theory is usually the one that makes the fewest assumptions".

Huh?  It's been months now, and I still haven't figured this one out.  This reminds me of my freshman year in high school when I mistakenly thought that math was not my enemy until the first day of Algebra class and I realized what the term "brain dead" truly meant.  I ended up transferring out of that and taking "General Math I and II", effectively keeping me from attending Princeton and having to settle for Southwest Missouri State College, where they still wouldn't let me in until I passed the math entrance exam which consisted of counting the number of pyramids on a line.  I aced that baby though.

Anyway, I still don't know what fucking Occam's Razor really means. There's an off-chance that if I watch "Dodgeball" again, there may be visual aid that helps me there also.

And Algebra ... maybe one for Algebra too.