January 31, 2011

Standing Down

Due to the nature of my second career, I find myself with long periods of gainful employment, followed by shorter periods of non-workiness.  My most recent employer, Giant Pharmaceutical House, was going along great guns when I started on my third stint with them, but I knew that if they took too long coming up with the next "magic bullet" drug, things would start turning down.

And they did.

At the end of the year just passed, I was told to pack my bags and move along.  So, I took my coffee cup (the only personal item I'll allow myself at work) and said my fond farewells.  Unfortunately, it was announced last week that about a thousand of my former colleagues will be taking the plunge too. Being a contractor, I'm used to this ... my colleagues being regular employees, not so much.

But this is their problem to sort out.  I have my own issues.

Finding yourself with time on your hands during the worst weather month in the Northern Hemisphere is not fun.  I spent the first three weeks of my free time reminding myself that I didn't have to go to work, therefore I could stop fretting over projects that were coming due.  At the same time I milled aimlessly about the house, playing on the internet and watching television (Note to self:  Have a plan to occupy your time when you retire for real).

And then one morning early last week, I woke up and found that a switch had been thrown in my head.  It was time to embrace my freedom and start paying attention to the things around me.  And it was pretty fucking great. For example:

The best time to buy a gigantic-assed flat screen television is when your work dries up and you have only half the income coming in that you did previously.  It's also a good time to pay Xfinity/Comast/Whatever-The-Fuck-Their-Name-Is more money to get HD service.  I swear to all that is holy, the picture quality is magnificent!  This was no more apparent than when I was watching the exciting motion picture "Twister" and realized that even in 1996, Helen Hunt looked like a shopworn Sea Hag and it would be frightening to even entertain the possibility of what her wrinkled, hatched-faced puss looks like today, fully 15 years later.

Do you like the History?  I do.  Particularly American History.  One day, on a trip to the library, I came upon a book about the opening of the West after the Louisiana Purchase.  This book concentrated on those lice-ridden, beaver trappin', Injun slaughterin' Mountain Men.  Unfortunately, it was written by a Historian.  This meant that I had to wade through pages of dry prose, punctuated with big high faluntin' words that necessitated my having to keep a dictionary close at hand.  I finished the book with some basic knowledge, which will have to be supplemented by finding another book on the same subject written by Stephen King or perhaps firing up the old Roku box to find that 1972 Robert Redford classic "Jerimiah Johnson".

Walking around your house in the daylight gives you new insight on what a piece of shit it really is.  Particularly those half-finished projects.  So, now ALL of the doors and trim in the old homestead are the same color and I'm preparing for the assault on the kitchen cabinets.  This will be followed closely by admitting the harsh truth of the limits of my abilities and paying someone to put down a new kitchen floor.

Good times!

So thanks Giant Pharmaceutical House, for giving me some time off to shift mental and physical gears.  As soon as you've developed that wonder drug that eliminates the heartbreak of rectal itch, I'll be back to ride the wave again.

January 23, 2011

Déjà Vu

I attended Kindergarten before the law required it.  Whenever I'm feeling young, I only have to remember this fact to remind me how ancient I actually am.  However, this is not the point of this particular story.

The site of my earliest supervised learning was a Presbyterian Church somewhere in southern Missouri.  Given that buses had not yet been invented, I was conveyed to and from school every day in a Nash Rambler station wagon driven by a manic/depressive fat woman.  Since the Rambler was the only way for all of us little tykes to get to school, we were all picked up in one run and crammed into the back of the wagon.  This required creative human cargo packing and led to the development of Tetrus.

One fine Spring day, we went on a picnic.  This was fine with us as we could look forward to an honest to goodness lunch instead of the plastic cup of Kool-Aid and the one Ritz cracker that was our usual fare (childhood obesity was not an issue in the late 1950's).  Instead, all of our mothers communicated telepathically and made each one of us a peanut butter & jelly sandwich and potato chips, both wrapped in wax paper that eventually leaked grease through the paper sack that held them.

The addition of all of the sack lunches made the quarters in the back of the Rambler even tighter than usual.  Inevitably, I was crammed between the legs of a young lady named Cherry, and her sack lunch.  After a few minutes, Cherry tapped me on the shoulder and whined "You Squashed My Lunch!"  I looked down and sure enough, her lunch was squashed.

I shrugged my shoulders at her and turned away, but the whining machine didn't shut down.  "You Squashed My Lunch!  YOU SQUASHED MY LUNCH!" After a few minutes of this, I turned to her again, and using a nifty phrase I had just learned from my Dad, told her to "shut the fuck up".

This seemed to do the trick and she quit whining.  Fortunately there were no repercussions.

This memory was dredged from the back of my mind one morning last week, when I received a phone call from Jan.  She was on the bus with her class, headed to the far southern regions of Chicagoland to visit Argonne National Laboratory on a field trip.

In preparation for her trip, we had purchased a deluxe version of the Oscar Mayer "Lunchable" lunch pack, containing tasty perpetual lunch meat, cheese, crackers; and (bonus!) a juice box.  This was stored in the refrigerator and covered with post-it notes indicating that I should keep my slimy hands off of it.

That morning, she was trying to put the Lunchable in her Jimmy Choo lunch bag and was having trouble fitting it in.  Always helpful, I grabbed the bag from her and gave the lunch kit a couple of sharp punches  so that it fit, and then zipped the bag up.

When she called that morning from the bus, I thought she had been in a crash because she sounded very upset.  But instead of some horrible vehicular accident, she was pissed at me because my careful packing of her lunch kit had caused the juice box to rupture, soaking the rest of the package contents.

"So, you squashed my lunch!  What am I going to do for lunch?" ... she whined.

Me:  Does Argonne have a cafeteria?

Jan:  Yes.

Me:  Do you have money?

Jan:  Yes.

Me:  Then problem solved.

You will note that I did say "Then problem solved".  I did not say "Then shut the fuck up".

I may have pulled it off when I was 5 years old, but I'm not stupid enough to try it again.

January 20, 2011

Mixing Religion & Food ... Sort Of

Last night I was moving around the television channels, trying to find something to watch other than re-runs of Mythbusters, when I came to rest on a program about Mennonites.  I'm not a very religious person, so I soon moved on, but later in the evening, I started wondering, what the hell is a Mennonite?  This morning, I went to that internet source of all things accurate, Wikipedia, and did a little page surfing.

And I came away basically saying to myself, "What the hell is a Mennonite?" In the article, I did zero in on the word "Anabaptist", which caught my eye only because the character Chaplain Tappman in the book Catch 22 was an Anabaptist, but as near as I could figure out, Mennonites and Amish are about the same thing.  And since Wikipedia does tend to over-simplify a lot of shit, this is what they look like:

I'll keep one of these in my wallet to help me in spotting them.

I was doing a couple of more searches in order to learn just a little bit more, when it became obvious that googling Mennonite brought up more food related things than religion.  Apparently, Mennonites like to eat ... a lot.  And they seem to like, in my humble opinion, bland fatty foods.  But the lack of variety surprised me.  They like food, but the selection is kind of slim.  This seemed to be the favorite dish:

Vereniki doused in Schmont fat with farmers sausage

It took a little bit to find recipes, but Vereniki is basically a boiled doughball. Schmont fat appears to be dough gravy ... and farmers sausage looks like something that was deposited on my lawn this morning by an off-leash dog. But I'm sure it all tastes blandilicious!

The other favorite is a compilation of various foods to create a late-afternoon meal called Faspa.  The most popular interpretation of the word Faspa is the Florida Association of School Personnel Administrators.  Although this sounds like a fun group, I doubted it was the definition I was looking for, and further digging proved me right.  The meal consists of rolls (more dough), butter, jam, cheese and coffee.  More things can be added, but the most popular embellishment to the meal appears to be pig tails, preferably en casserole.  For those of you wondering what this porcine concoction might look like without making it yourself, here's a two picture recipe:

Step One:  Remove tails from pig

Step Two:  Serve piping hot!

From a personal preference point of view, I'd want to put a lot of Schmont fat on that.  I mentioned above that the Mennonite list of favorite foods seems to be pretty slim.  In fact, according to one blog on Mennonite eating that I came upon, Welcome To The Bowman Bunch,   the unfortunate author ate nothing but the following for every meal of her life:

Farmers Sausage
Schmont Fat
Cherry Mose (?)

Well, I should talk ... if it weren't for Jan's protests, I would eat nothing but baked chicken, rice and frozen corn.

I'll bet that all of this food talk about baked, fried and boiled dough; plus those yummy pig tails have made you ravenous.  And since this is a food related post, what kind of asshole would I be if I didn't leave you with my favorite Mennonite recipe:

Plumi Moos (Sunday Soup)
4 cups water
3 cups dried fruit
1/2 package cherry Jello
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 tablespoons corn starch

Cook fruit in water until very well done.  Then mix sugar with cornstarch and enough water to make a thin paste.  Let cook a few minutes to take away the starchy taste.  Then take from stove and add cherry Jello.  Serve warm or cold.

When you're done, it should look exactly, precisely like this:

Does It?

If not, just ladle on Schmont fat until it does.  Let me know how you like it ... Atvadus!

January 15, 2011

Do The Right Thing

It's 2011.  Pronounce it "Twenty Eleven".  One hundred years ago, did people say "One Thousand Nine Hundred Eleven?

No, they pronounced it "Nineteen Eleven".

It is not "Two Thousand Eleven".

So ... stop it.

January 13, 2011


One of the things that I've figured out in my life is that I tend to do things when no one else is doing them.  Consciously or not, I buck the trend.  When the economy is bad and everyone stays home, I go on vacation.  When everyone is getting fired from their jobs, I get hired.  When everyone gets fat, I get thin.  I don't do it on purpose, it just happens.

So, I picked the dead of Winter, instead of Spring, to change my image.  Yes; I changed my haircut.  Drastically.

It all started about a month ago, when I happened to bump into a neighbor at the store who had her adorable seven year old son in tow.  As we were standing there talking, the young boy looked at me and said "do you have a wig on?"  Resisting the urge to kick him in the nuts, I chuckled richly and told him no.

Ah, children and their innocent no-holds-barred questions.  Wouldn't you just like to pack every last one of them into a rocket and send them blasting into deep space?  However, this little bastard's remark did make me start thinking about the state of my hair.

With little change, I've basically had the same hair style since high school. My hair grows unevenly and is curly, thinning and gray ... all at the same time.  It looks like it doesn't belong on my head.  And I hate the fact that it blows all over the place in even a small breeze, making me look like I was recently electrocuted.

I knew that there had to be a hair paradigm shift.  So, over the weekend, I went ... where else?  To the internet, to find nifty hair styles for mature men over 50.  And I found out, that no matter what site I visited, that I should have my hair styled in the manner of only two men.  The first:

Mature George Clooney

Yes, he does have nice hair.  But my hair isn't the same "make up" as his.  In fact, If my stylist tried to shape my hair to match his, she would more likely end up with the following version of George Clooney:

Pre-Pubic Hair George Clooney

Not too promising.  The second of the two over-50 men whose hair I should try to emulate is no other than that man-about-town fashion plate:

Mature Keith Richards

Well, at least this one wouldn't require a stylist.  All I'd have to do is set my hair on fire and then douse it with sheep piss.  Finding the jaunty hat might be a problem though.

Okay, I kind of lied too.  There were other over-50 hair styles for guys that were featured.  How about this one?

This Is What I Look Like Now For Chrissakes!

Then there's always this one:

Kill Me Now (Nice Jacket Though)

So, to say I was discouraged is an understatement.  I had a haircut scheduled for yesterday and no cool pictures to take with me to guide the hands of my stylist.  At the appointed time, I trudged into the shop and as I plopped down in the chair, Teresa asked "The usual?"  Instead of my meek agreement, I summoned all the testosterone left in me and shouted NO! After everyone had stopped staring at me, I calmly explained what I wanted. A half-hour and a pile of hair later, I had what I came for.  I was pleased, and as I left the shop, I reaped my share of appreciative looks and complements from all of the other lady stylists, particularly after I handed each a 5 dollar bill.

No doubt, you're all saying to yourselves "Why Rob, what does your hair look like now?"  And I would reply to you ... what do you think I am?  Some kind of narcissist?  But, if you look at my About Me picture with a magnifying glass or microscope, you can sort of tell.

Now, if I can just run into that neighbor lady and her smart-shit devil's spawn again, I can extract some satisfaction.

Wig my ass.

January 11, 2011

One Blog Is Usually Enough

Like most of my ideas, I'm not sure of the exact events that led me to start my blog several years ago.  I knew that I liked to write, and I did have some subjects that I wanted to write about.  In addition, I had a lot of time on my hands.  The more blog posts I put up, the more confident I became; and after a month or so, I thought I had more ideas than I could possibly fit into "Frogs For Lunch".  So I started another blog, and then another, and then another.  By the time I realized that I was out of control, I had started three other blogs, all with no direction.

Finally, common sense took hold.  I admitted to myself that I barely had enough ideas to keep "Frogs" going on a regular basis, and let the others die a slow death.  But, like other peoples' failed blog attempts, they mostly still float around in the ether, ever present, but abandoned.  Yesterday, I happened to run across one of my old ones, and found the post reprinted below.

Jan and I were getting ready to go on our month-long road trip out west, and I knew I needed to get the car checked up before we left.  The repair shop found a gazillion things wrong with it.  Jan was teaching summer school, and so rather than waiting all day, I walked home.  Later in the day, after the repairs were made, I walked back to pick the car up.  It was a nice early summer day, and I took my camera along. 

From 2009 and a blog long dead, here's a post I titled "The Long Walk" ...

As I mentioned several posts ago, I had to take a walk to the auto shop yesterday to pick up Jan's car.  And I brought my camera along to save the memory in pictures.  Come along with me!  (You can click on the pictures to make them larger)

This is the park just up the street from my house.  No Smoking!

Ugly yellow Smart Car.

Pitter Patter Pre-School with Pink Jeep out front.

"The Market"  Where I buy all of my losing Lotto tickets.

Grass Lake Road.  Careful crossing!  Lots of traffic.

Oooh!  Garage Sale!

Just a bunch of junk.  No one is interested.

Stupid cat.  It thinks that I can't see it.

Stop Teenage Abortion!  This sign has been up for over a year.

I like this house.  But I'd put it somewhere else.

Another park.  You can't smoke here either.  Nazis!

Surveyors.  Someone is selling their house.

This truck looks like mine.  Only it's a "Sport".

Waterford Lake

Rules of Waterford Lake.

Another Garage Sale.  She wants too much for the cabinet.  Good luck bitch!

Beck Road.  Looks like a long way!

Crummy chairs.  But they're free!

Secluded walk.

The only house built in failed subdivision.  Been there for 3 years.  Sad.

"The Hill"

Magical Mystical Garden.  Note wizard, sea dragon and Weeds!

Let's picnic in the driveway!

7-11.  Think I'll get a drink and some more Lotto tickets.

Linden Plaza.

My bank.

Finally.  I'm here!

The $1,157.15 car.  Let's go home.

January 10, 2011

A Simpler Time

Over the holidays, Jan and I gave in to our base instincts and purchased a flat screen TV.  There are all sorts of logical bullshit reasons we gave ourselves for doing it.  But I believe the only two things that really drove us to the decision was that our son had given us a Roku box for Christmas and that the 2,000 pound Sony Trinitron sitting on our stylish "made for a flat screen TV" entertainment center looked like a huge gray turd perched in our living room.

Last night, after marveling at how much better the football games looked in HD, I settled in to watch some "regular" television.  And I couldn't find a damn thing that I was interested in.

Imagine that.  With over 300 channels of programming to watch, there was nothing that I deemed entertaining enough to sit through.

When I was young, I lived in a small midwestern city.  I'm old enough that I remember when my family bought our first television.  A 16 inch black and white Philco in a real wood cabinet with doors that you could close over the screen when you weren't watching it.  Our town started out with one television station, CBS ... followed by the NBC station 1 year later and the ABC affiliate 6 years after that.

So, at any time, we had the option of watching one of only three channels. Again ... imagine that.  Normally, I would think that was pretty archaic.  The dark ages of television broadcasting.  But as I look back on it, it made things a hell of a lot simpler.  Three things to watch ... A, B, or C.  And almost all of the time, there wasn't even that choice, because Daddy-O made the choices for us.  Which required no compromise, but patience on my part.  Particularly Saturday night.  I had no problem with Mr. Lucky, Peter Gunn and The Third Man (Michael Rennie was my idol).  But to get to the prize ... Gunsmoke, I had to sit through an hour of the incredibly boring Perry Mason.  I think the one thing that turned me off of that show was, even as a kid, I realized that there was no suspense to it what-so-ever.  No matter how improbable, this fucker Mason never lost a case.

But, of course, things have evolved.  And I wonder if my experience as a child with limited choices ruined me for the cornucopia of programs I have to choose from now.  It occurred to me recently that I still watch only three channels.  Right now, it's HGTV, DIY Network and The Discovery Channel. The Food Network used to be number one, but it fell from favor when I grew weary of the always smarmy Bobby Flay, trying to figure out what was wrong with Rachael Ray's boobs and the Robert Irvine  scandal.

But I'm already growing tired of my 3 current faves.  I can always guess which house the lucky couple picks on House Hunters, unless they throw in that "I managed to get the place for 40k less" ringer that they never tell you about.  I only like Renovation Realities because I enjoy watching the dimwits trying to kill themselves and the Mythbusters narrator is starting to get on my nerves in a big way.

Whatever the root cause, neural or social ... it appears that I'll always be a three channel guy.  So it's probably time to start checking out some new replacements.  I haven't watched anything on the OWN Network yet, so maybe it's time to give Dr. Phil and Suze O. a second chance.

And, given my advancing age and apparent inability to deal with multiple choices over three, perhaps I ought to check out the RLTV Network.

I've always had a crush on Joan Lunden and Florence Henderson.

January 05, 2011

2011 - The Year In Review

Whether you're a true news junkie, or even a news first-time-user, most people love the week between Christmas and New Year's Day, simply for the fact that everyone and their mother puts together the most momentous news events of the year that is just about to end.

But I say, why wait until the end of the year, when you can save yourself hours or days of tedious research and recap "2011 - The Year That Was" in only 5 minutes of slovenly web browsing.  See if you can remember where you were and what you were doing when these historic news events of 2011 went down.

Jan. 1 - The World Almanac announced that there were only 364 days remaining in 2011.  Thousands of federal inmates marked the occasion by scratching a hash mark into their cell walls.

Jan. 2 - John P. Wheeler, advisor to 3 presidents, Vietnam veteran and recent depositee in a Jersey landfill is seen on video tape from a Wilmington, Delaware convenience store hours before his body is found.  He is reported looking confused as he makes his purchase, presumably because the price of a pack of Kools went up 2 percent on New Year's Day.

Jan. 3 - "Noted" researchers report an alarming decline in the bumble bee population.  In related news, the Suter Corporation, makers of Bumble Bee Tuna, announce an across-the board price increase.  In related, related news, I find that Bumble Bee Tuna actually has a facebook page.

Jan. 4 - Representative John Boehner (Rep-OH) is locked in as the incoming Speaker of the House of Representatives.  Predictably, he cries ... but only after outgoing Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Dem-CA) tells him he has an "itty-bitty weenie".

Jan. 5 - Two individuals from Washington State and Idaho are announced as co-winners of the 380 million dollar Mega-Millions prize.  Mega-millions of Americans eat from a cold plate of envy and despair along with their morning coffee.

Be sure to mark your calendars for January 5, 2012 when I'll return (God willing) with ...

2012 - "The Stupendous Year That Was"

January 04, 2011

A Very Rare PSA

In my constant quest not to do any real work, I tend to travel the internet a lot.  As with everyone, most of this time is wasted, but it sure is a lot of fun.  I've found that if you do this enough, eventually you come across something useful.

Last night, I came across two really great sites that I could actually see getting some use out of on a long-term basis.  And they hit all three of my criteria for useful shit,  1) They might benefit me, now or in the future.  2)  They're both simple.  3)  They're FREE.

Think of this as a Public Service Announcement like they used to have on old-timey television when there were only 3 networks.  Most of you remember ... you'd come home drunk at 4:00 in the morning and turn on the TV and there was the station's weatherman interviewing some church pastor about an all-you-can-eat bean dinner that would benefit starving children in the Congo.  And all the while your watching it, you wonder why the church doesn't just send a couple of sacks of dry beans over there instead of giving all the parishioners chronic gas, and also, your amazed that the weatherman can actually talk about something other than the weather, but then it's apparent that he's not doing a very good job during the interview and he probably should just stick to the weather after all.

It's kind of like that.  And besides, after that abortion of a post I put up yesterday, I think I owe to everyone to print something sort of worth while.  But I noticed that most of the first blog posts of the year that I read yesterday were really sucky too, so maybe we were all just hung over, or depressed, or some combination of the two.

Anyway, here are ... what I think are two great sites:

Evernote  Most of my ideas are shit, but I have a lot of them never-the-less.  I have been putting them down in a Word file, but with my incompatible computers, I have a file here, a file there and one more over there, so I never have anything all in one place.  I also like to clip articles, recipes, pictures, videos, web pages and e-mails.  Word sucks for this and everything is in a jumbled mess across three computers.  It's enough to make a girl cry.  I've only worked with it for a few hours, but this fucking Evernote thing is amazing!  I can jam all kinds of shit into it, and keep it in some semblance of order.  And because it's web-based, I can access it from anywhere.

Teux Deux  The fancy phrase for this is a "Productivity Application".  In reality, it's just a row of days, with a text input box and a row of dotted lines beneath each day.  Type your to-do into the given day, and then come back and click on it to cross it off when it's done.  You can drag things between days, and anything you haven't completed at the end of the day will automatically copy over to the next day. What's great about it is that you can use it for both business and personal.  And again, because it's web-based, you can access it from anywhere at anytime.

Okay, now that I feel I may have actually done something useful here, I can go back to writing about the stupid shit I usually stick in this blog with a clear conscience.

January 03, 2011

The Cold Light Of Day

To mangle-ise and old Andy Williams Christmas classic:  "It's the most DE-PRESS-ING time of the year!"

Three months of winter are spread out before us.  Three months of cold, wind, snow and ice.  Stuck indoors with not a legitimate holiday in sight.  Three months of 40 hour work weeks, where the little voice inside your head can't pipe up and say "Fuck it ... it'll wait until after the holidays."  Because guess what time it is?  After the holidays.

So welcome back to the most dreaded week of the year.

But there is a silver lining to that black cloud hanging over your head.  Deep inside you ... you know that by the end of the week, you'll have adjusted and the routine will have set in again.

And that's what it's all about.

So, if you'll excuse me, I have some work to do.