Showing posts with label random. Show all posts
Showing posts with label random. Show all posts

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

I'm not a very good person to ask

SarahK says that Cadet Happy (photoshopper to the stars) sent her an email asking for advice. I've got nothing - except to be careful what you say if you choose to say anything.

For example, I am the sort of annoying chap who greets folks, and companions, and occasionally dogs and horses, and lots of other stuff I drive past on the road, even if it isn't technically alive. Also, I am apparently still five years old, because I can't stop mooing at cows when I see them from my car. I even do this stuff in front of my wife, poor lady.

This can get you some odd looks, and if that were all, it would be enough for some; I blunder on even when the stakes get higher. A couple of months ago I pulled into a drive-through on the way home from working late, and gave my order, and pulled around to hand in my money. Through the window, I spied a young man and his pre-toddler child at the front counter, waiting for their own order. Reflexively I chirped, "Hello baby!" though they hadn't a prayer of hearing or responding.

And that's when the comely teenaged lass working the drive-through window rose up into view, looking at me with a cool bemusement.

I cannot emphasize enough, that window was completely empty when I spoke. I figured whomever it was had stepped away for a moment, and not once did I consider that the voice I heard might have come out of someone who would overhear the stupid things that tumble out of my mouth.

Helplessly I pointed at the counter behind her. Really I thought I was doomed. Would she toss a shake at me? Would the manager get involved? Would twelve cop cars roar into the lot? I guess I look far more like a doofus who talks to random infants than a middle-aged weirdo who propositions high schoolers at the drive-through. She looked back, looked down at me, and went about filling my beverage while I burned with shame.

"Thanks," I said as she handed over my order, trying hard to look chastened.

"Have a nice night, baby," she replied.

So watch what you say to the parrot!

UPDATE - regarding Joel's comment - don't worry, bro, we know your heart's in the right place.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

I'm a Cool Kid Now!

I am going to take a crack at this. Stuff I’ve done is in bold, in italics is yet to be done. Many of these accomplished items are thanks to long all-expenses-paid vacations courtesy of Uncle Sam.

This is the longest post I’ve ever done. Feel free to break it up. Fly.

Start my own blog. I started a blog, but really couldn’t keep up with it. The Nightfly was kind enough to invite me to participate in this one.
Slept under the stars. As kids we used to camp out in the woods behind my house. More recently I would abstain from the tent during our church’s men’s campout. In Florida, one can sleep under the stars in January.
Played in band. Does my church’s worship team count? Long ago, I jumped up on stage and sang “House of the Rising Sun” with some band of Air Force enlisted. It was totally impromptu on my part. I don’t remember much in the way of details. I drank a lot of Wild Turkey that day.
Visited Hawaii. On my way to a temporary assignment to Christchurch NZ back in November 1978. The Navy had a boat tour of Pearl Harbor. The boat carried 200 people; besides me, the two GIs with me and the two sailors driving the boat the rest were Japanese tourists.
Watched a meteor shower. I will be a gazillion years old when Halley’s Comet comes back.
Given more than I could afford to charity. I have given to the point where I was forced to not be irresponsible with what I had left.
Been to Disneyland/world. First went to Disney World soon after it opened when I was 14 years. Of course it’s now 80 miles down the road so I’ve made a few more trips. My one trip to Disneyland was when I was 18.
Held a praying mantis.
Sung a solo. A few times in church. And an intoxicated version of House of the Rising Sun.
Bungee jumped.
Visited Paris. I was stationed at Rhein Main AB near Frankfurt. Paris is not that far of a drive.
Watched lightning at sea. I was in the Air Force, not the Navy.
Taught myself an art from scratch. I’m supposed to be learning to play guitar.
Adopted a child.
Had food poisoning. Does throwing up while drunk count?
Grown my own vegetables. My younger brother used to grow a special kind of vegetable that he didn’t want to talk about.
Seen the Mona Lisa. On my trip to Paris. In that museum whose name I can’t spell. It was on the wall in a case full of an inert gas.
Slept on an overnight train. New Brunswick, NJ to Tampa FL on Amtrak.
Had been in a pillow fight. Though I’ve never been in a blanket party.
Hitchhiked. A long time ago. Would never do it today. Would never pick anyone up. Have you seen the sexual predator list for the Tampa area?
Taken a sick day when not ill. This was tough in the Air Force because when you called in sick you actually had to go to the clinic. In civilian life I was like the Fly.
Built a snow fort
Held a lamb
Gone skinny dipping.
The idea of fish having access to my nether regions never appealed to me.
Run a marathon. A 5K when I was young and skinny. Once I passed my Air Force fitness test while drunk.
Ridden in a gondola in Venice. I’ve never ridden in a gondola anywhere.
Seen a total eclipse. Mama always told me not to look into the eyes of the sun. But mama, that's where the fun is.
Watched a sunrise or sunset.
Hit a home run. Are you kidding?
Been on a cruise. Since 1993, the military has had a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy – I’m sorry, I thought you meant that kind of cruise.
Seen Niagra Falls in person.
Visiting the birthplace of my ancestors. I wouldn’t know where that was.
Seen an Amish community.
Taught myself a new language. I can thank Frau Fineberg and Absegami High School for the German I know.
Had enough money to be truly satisfied. "He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD” Deuteronomy 8:3
Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
Gone rock climbing.
On the same day I hit a home run.
Seen Michelangelo’s David. Someone’s been to Italy, and it wasn’t me.
Sung karaoke. And I’m good. I sing every Sunday, so I’m used to doing it in front of people. Of course the crowd on Sunday morning is more sober.
Seen Old Faithful erupt. When I was 18 I took a trip across the country with two other guys.
Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant. I've treated the homeless, if fast food joints qualify.
Visited Africa. On my way to not visiting Italy.
Walked on a beach by moonlight.
Been transported in a ambulance. The day before Easter this year. Cost me $464.
Had my portrait painted.
Gone deep sea fishing. When I was stationed in Homestead FL. The mixture of open water and Southern Comfort. Let’s just say I provided my own chum.
Seen the Sistine Chapel in person.
Been to the top pf the Eiffel Tower in Paris. A little scary because it sways in the wind at the top.
Gone scuba diving or snorkeling.
Kissed in the rain.
Played in the mud.
Gone to a drive-in theater
. Mom and Dad took us to see Clint Eastwood in A Fistful of Dollars and For a Few Dollars More.
Been in a movie.
Visited the Great Wall of China.
Taken a martial arts class
Visited Russia
. I know some Russians. Does that count?
Served in a soup kitchen. Donated but never served.
Sold Cub/Girl Scout cookies/candies. Though I love Thin Mints.
Gone whale watching.
Gotten flowers for no reason.
Unlike the Fly, I am not blessed with a wonderful bride.
Donated blood. Used to all the time until GIs who served in Europe in the 1980s were rejected. I may have mad cow disease from eating Brit beef in the chow hall.
Gone sky diving. Jumping out of a perfectly good airplane?
Visited a Nazi concentration camp. I spent three years in Germany. Why didn’t I do this?
Bounced a check. I don’t have overdraft protection. I average once per year.
Flown in a helicopter. You will shriek like Ned Flanders, Fly.
Saved a favorite childhood toy. I do have a plaque I won for an essay when I was 10.
Visited the Lincoln Memorial.
Eaten caviar.
Pieced a quilt.
Stood in Times Square. Long ago, when it was a naughty place
Toured the Everglades.
Been fired from a job.
I’m assuming laid off doesn’t count.
Seen the changing of the guard in London
Broken a bone. In my foot. No biggy.
Been on a speeding motorcycle. Honda CX500 back in 1983 in Florida. The bike could go over 95mph, but not with me on it.
Seen the Grand Canyon in person. On the same trip as Old Faithful and Disneyland.
Published a book.
Visited the Vatican
. Again with Italy.
Bought a brand new car.
Walked in Jerusalem.
I haven’t even walked in Memphis.
Had my picture in the paper.
Read the entire Bible. About five times. Of course the Fly has more books to read.
Visited the White House. When my Dad was in the Navy, he worked in JFK’s White House as an air traffic controller. Never saw Marilyn Monroe.
Killed and prepared an animal for eating.
Had chickenpox.
Saved someone’s life.
Sat on a jury.
I was called for jury duty, but was never chosen
Met someone famous. I met Peter Frampton’s bass player, Stanley Sheldon, in a bar in Christchurch NZ around Thanksgiving 1978.
Joined a book club.
Lost a loved one. Like the Fly, too many, too soon.
Had a baby.
Seen the Alamo in person. Town pass during boot camp
Swam in the Great Salt Lake. On the same trip as Old Faithful and Disneyland.
Been involved in a lawsuit. My employer was sued in small claims court. We won.
Owned a cell phone. Company issued.
Been stung by a bee.
Ridden an elephant
. At Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa.
Read all three volumes of The Lord of the Rings. But I saw the movies.
Visited the Taj Mahal. Does the one in Atlantic City count?
Performed in a dance recital. Are you kidding?
Been on horseback while the horse jumped over something.
Won an athletic competition.
Again, are you kidding?
Gotten a straight-A report card. As a lower-gradeschooler
Prayed to Zeus. I have knelt to pray to the porcelain deity.
Watched news coverage, rapt, to see what was going to happen. Like the Fly. During 9/11. I haven’t watched the 6:30 network news in 15 years. Nowadays when something’s going on I “rush” to my radio at noon.
Gotten lost in a building over 500 years old. Been in such a building, but never lost.
Kissed someone milliseconds before bells started to ring.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

All the cool kids are doing it!

It's a list of stuff, see, and you bold the stuff you've done, right, and then whoa, some people are adding little explanations and stuff and...

No - that's OK. I've just slapped myself for that opening. It would have been easier to delete the opening, now that I think of it, and not write any of this as if we were talking and I couldn't just undo it all, with nobody the wiser. I'm leaving it because it's more fun to let you poor innocent folks witness my mental malfunctions. Bold is stuff I've done, italics is stuff I haven't.

Started my own blog - who do they think is doing this meme? Should I run to the mimeograph and run off copies to hand out?
Slept under the stars - childhood camp-outs at friends' houses
Played in a band - a bad idea on several levels
Visited Hawaii
Watched a meteor shower - no. In fact, it brings up a personal sadness: I also missed Halley's Comet the last time it came by. I could possibly catch it on its next pass, but I would be 88 years old.
Given more than I can afford to charity - sadly, no.
Been to Disneyland/world - yes, but I was a toddler and can't remember it. There are photos, however.
Climbed a mountain - it sounds cool, but no.
Held a praying mantis
Sung a solo - almost. I had a speaking but non-singing role in a middle-school musical revue.
Bungee jumped
Visited Paris - I have never been further west than Cleveland, unless one counts Tampa, which is further west by latitude. (Quick trivia - which US city is due north of the westernmost point in South America? Answer below!)
Watched lightning at sea - I've never been all that far east, either, so no.
Taught myself an art from scratch - kinda. I have never been formally coached, so everything I know about goalkeeping I either read or just picked up through trial and error.
Adopted a child
Had food poisoning - ugh. Bad Thai. I hadn't been that sick since I was nine and I ate two pounds of chocolate at one sitting. (Boy was THAT a stupid idea.)
Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty - when I visited people weren't allowed to go the entire way up, so no. But it's incredibly impressive up close.
Grown my own vegetables - this was a big thing for my Italian great-grandparents (and I suspect for many others folks' relatives from the Old Country). They had such an incredible garden. Like many of my generation I lack the patience for this noble hobby.
Seen the Mona Lisa in France - nor anywhere else. I'm gonna flunk all the foreign stuff.
Slept on an overnight train - never been on an overnight train. The ride from Tampa to Fort Lauderdale was kind of long but it was daytime.
Had a pillow fight - I've lost many. I'm the France of pillow fighting.
Taken a sick day when not ill - in fairness, I have also dragged myself in when I ought to have been in bed; once, with bronchitis. My boss at the time called my mother to drive me straight to the doctor because she heard me breathing from the other side of a loud, busy kitchen.
Built a snow fort
Held a lamb
Gone skinny dipping
Run a marathon - even when I was in shape, I couldn't go more than a mile or two. Top runners can reel off all 26 miles at an average pace of five minutes per mile. It's basically running flat out for the length of an entire movie. Holy crap.
Ridden in a gondola in Venice - I would fear for my safety by drowning or pole-inflicted harm.
Seen a total eclipse
Watched a sunrise or sunset
Hit a home run - during intramurals at Rutgers one year. It was so corny you'll think I'm fibbing, but it's true: I hit a full-count pitch down the rightfield line and legged out an inside-the-park grand slam. Sadly, it wasn't the last inning and we would up losing the game anyway.
Been on a cruise - friends who have say I should get with the program. At least the dangers of pole-related injuries would go down.
Seen Niagara Falls in person - the closest has been a wonderful old jigsaw puzzle my Grandma used to own. She also had one of the Space Needle in Seattle. Putting them together on her dining room table is one of my earlier memories.
Visited the birthplace of my ancestors - that would be completely awesome. Maybe I should cruise there?
Seen an Amish community - Lancaster County, PA. Sadly, some of that "genuine Amish" stuff you see when you visit is complete bunk, and you have to wander a bit.
Taught myself a new language - I hardly remember any of the Spanish I learned in school, and haven't ever taken one of those Berlitz or Rosetta Stone deals... we'll say no.
Had enough money to be truly satisfied - eh, the more you have, the more you need. Satisfaction has to come first, and then the answer will always be yes. Fortunately I've never had enough money to forget that lesson.
Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person - what's with all the Italy and France stuff? Is this Jacques Cousteau's meme? "Have you ever piloted a bathysphere at 1000 meters while narrating?"
Gone rock climbing - nope, only hiking over rocky terrain.
Seen Michelangelo's David - friends of ours have a David refridgerator magnet with add-on clothes. Seeing the David in jeans, purple T-shirt, and a ball cap is quite fun. Since this wasn't specified I'm counting it!
Sung karaoke - yes. Let us never speak of it again.
Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt - only in cartoons... and then it's usually called "Old Fateful" and the villian is about to be launched into low orbit, to the amusement of our wisecracking hero.
Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
Visited Africa - no, I missed the rains out in Africa. I'm gonna take some time to do the things we never dared.
Walked on a beach by moonlight
Been transported in an ambulance - not as a patient, but I was in an accident as a boy where my Mom needed to take the ride, and I came along.
Had my portrait painted - I suspect that this is one of those things that sounds cooler than it really is. (Mildly-related trivia: in later MASH episodes all of the cast sit for portraits by Colonel Potter, which are later seen hanging in his office. According to, Harry Morgan actually painted them.)
Gone deep sea fishing - "These gentle giants of the deep feed only on the smallest plankton and algae. Their only natural predator.... is Man."
Seen the Sistine Chapel in person - nope. Not even as a refridgerator magnet.
Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris - as compared to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Vermont? (more Mildly-related Trivia - Monsieur Eiffel also designed the Statue of Liberty. I haven't been to the top of anything he's ever built.)
Gone scuba diving or snorkeling - snorkeling, once. Apparently I did poorly because it seemed impossible to suck down enough air through that tube once I was under the water.
Kissed in the rain
Played in the mud - played FOOTBALL in the mud. Hells yeah.
Gone to a drive-in theater - yes! We saw Hooper with Burt Reynolds.
Been in a movie - I dreamed I was in a Hollywood movie - and that I was the STAR of the movie. This really blew my mind!
Visited the Great Wall of China - ok, for the travel stuff, let's just cool it. "Have you ever done a close flyby of the Sea of Tranquility?"
Taken a martial arts class - almost. My martial-arts buddy was into Philipino two-stick fighting for a while and tried to teach me the basics so he could practice the forms with a partner.
Visited Russia - "Have you ever done an emergency saucer separation at warp speed?"
Served at a soup kitchen
Sold Cub/Girl Scout Candies/Cookies - I added the "Cub" part. And the candy part. It's apparently a gentleman's agreement: the ladies sell the cookies, and then the guys sell the hard stuff. I once sold 630 candy bars at a buck a pop to win an Atari 2600. It was a proud moment.
Gone whale watching - I've never even seen "Free Willy."
Gotten flowers for no reason - I've gotten them for my Ladybug.
Donated blood, platelets or plasma
Gone sky diving - I try not to leave any working airplane until it's landed and parked.
Visited a Nazi concentration camp
Bounced a check - only once. Nowadays I have emergency overdraft, or this would be a far worse record.
Flown in a helicopter - one of my hockey friends has his solo copter license, and he's offered to take us up. To my knowledge none of us has accepted. You know, it's your basic manly-man tough guys who shriek like Miss Muffet at the thought of sputtering around in a plastic eggshell held aloft only so far as the laws of physics aren't paying attention.
Saved a favorite childhood toy - I've saved very little from my childhood, sadly, and am making up for it by hoarding every scrap of flotsam now.
Visited the Lincoln Memorial - nope.
Eaten caviar - Ewwww! No!
Pieced a quilt
Stood in Times Square
Toured the Everglades - no. I have skipped the swamps on my every visit. Which reminds me - the answer to the above trivia question? Miami is due north of the westernmost point of South America.
Been fired from a job - I've bailed on a couple of horrid ones, but haven't ever been sacked.
Seen the Changing of the Guard in London - why, yes. IN MY TARDIS. Stop making me feel like the bumkin I am!
Broken a bone - surprisingly no. I've chipped a tooth, and once I dislocated a pinky that has healed crookedly, but I've never broken a bone.
Been on a speeding motorcycle - holy crap. This is why I won't go up for that helicopter ride. At least here I didn't have to worry about the bike suddenly plunging a thousand feet.
Seen the Grand Canyon in person - this one stings.
Published a book - another near-miss. I had a parody poem published in a student literary magazine, way back in the day.
Visited the Vatican - Nope. Nor have I seen the Pope in person on any of his trips.
Bought a brand new car
Walked in Jerusalem - "Here in the Holy Land, the ancient ways are still practiced... only in a modern fashion." How is this guy still seeing all this from a bathysphere?
Had my picture in the newspaper
Read the entire Bible - I always bog down in Numbers and Deuteronomy, but I've read a good bit of the rest.
Visited the White House
Killed and prepared an animal for eating
Had chickenpox - great, I finally get back into the bold, and it's for this. What's more, I had them when I was 20. Those were an ugly few weeks. I actually left school because I missed too much time to get caught up.
Saved someone's life
Sat on a jury - amazingly, I've never been called.
Met someone famous - I've met people who've subsequently become known: Dawn Eden is probably the best example. My near-misses are funnier, such as the time I watched as seemingly every clerk in Borders came up to breathlessly ask if they could help a shortish, scruffy, jeans-and-work-booted guy who already lugging a stack of material a foot high. "What's with these people bugging this guy?" I asked my Ladybug. "Besides, he looks kind of suspicious to me." She just gaped. "Um... that's BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN." Oh.
Joined a book club
Lost a loved one - too many already.
Had a baby
Seen the Alamo in person - neither the actual Alamo nor any film representation.
Swam in the Great Salt Lake - What the hell kind of meme is this anyway? Is it really way up on people's to-do lists in life to swim the Great Salt Lake? Is this the bathing equivalent of playing Augusta National or running the bulls at Pamplona? "I've climbed the highest mountain on every continent - now to swim the seven lakes! Superior, Huron, Erie, Salt, Tahoe..."
Been involved in a law suit - nothing more than bailiff at mock trial competitions.
Owned a cell phone - yes, but right now it's lost and hasn't been replaced yet.
Been stung by a bee - right on my kneecap when I was six.
Ridden an elephant
Read all three volumes of the Lord of the Rings
Visited the Taj Mahal - I'm pretty sure that ol' Meme Cousteau here hasn't done half this either. For the travel questions he's just listing all the things sitting in snow globes on his bookshelf.
Performed in a dance recital - I could barely dance at my own wedding without pulling something.
Been on horseback while the horse jumped over something - down in Busch Gardens in Tampa, I got to see the Clydesdales up close. It's astounding that something that large can move around so gracefully.
Won an athletic competition - some deck hockey tournaments.
Gotten a straight-A report card - nope. I did get all A's in one subject for a whole year, but never a 4.0 for a single term.
Prayed to Zeus - "Help! Jesus! God! Buddha! Somebody! Zeus! Anybody! Satan! You owe me!" (Yeah, from Futurama. The quote's not exact.)
Watched news coverage, rapt, to see what was going to happen - a few times. Unfortunately, 9/11 was the most recent. I really didn't glue myself to the TV for the recent election.
Gotten lost in a building more than 500 years old - so after listing several old old buildings and structures ol' Meme decides to just lump in all the rest of them, just to make the remaining less-traveled among us feel utterly pathetic; to say nothing of the grand old structures. "OK, it's the Taj, the Great Wall, the Leaning Tower... and then, eh, the Tower of London and the Hagia Sophia and all the rest of it can just be 'all of the above.' " Nice.
Kissed somebody milliseconds before bells started to ring - of course, at a wedding it's often that one has to rush across the room to kiss one's best beloved because of ringing bells (or clinking glass or whatever). I don't think I've ever done that in the other order, however.

You want in, jump in!

Friday, March 21, 2008

Brothers in Arms

I couldn't keep a dry eye while reading this.
Five-year-old Gaven Cox was given one wish to do anything he wanted. Instead of asking to go to Sea World or to meet Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, Gaven modestly asked for some McDonald's food. The child's parents laughed and told him to make another choice. "He told us he wanted to be an Army soldier," said Melissa Heminger, Gaven's mom. "I was a little bit surprised that he asked for McDonald's, but in reality, he wanted to be a soldier since he was 3."
There are a few bad apples, but the vast majority of GI's are good guys, better guys than I was when I was in. This is just one more example.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Kitchenus Prime

It's said that marriage does something to a guy... but it doesn't do it quite completely. Case in point: behold the "natural breakfast bar, with two stools."

It has a towel rack, two drawers, two stools, and a fold-out table surface. It's a handy and attractive addition to any kitchen, and my wife loves it (and I, her) so of course we're going to be saving up to get one.

Marriage got me? Yeah. But there's that little eight-year boy who would be totally unimpressed - except that the stools tuck underneath the drawers and the whole thing folds down to about 30" x 30" of floor space. It's a Kitchen Transformer.

I must have one.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Wasn't this a Lileks book?

Well, people do need more fiber in their diet.

BEIJING, China (AP) -- Chopped cardboard, softened with an industrial chemical and flavored with fatty pork and powdered seasoning, is a main ingredient in batches of steamed buns sold in one Beijing neighborhood, state television said.
State TV's undercover investigation features the shirtless, shorts-clad maker of the buns, called baozi, explaining the contents of the product sold in Beijing's sprawling Chaoyang district.

Granted that this is over there, but I'm beginning to wonder about the local $4.50 lunch special. (Note to self - avoid the wontons.)

"What's in the recipe?" the reporter asks.
"Six to four," the man says.
"You mean 60% cardboard? What is the other 40% ?" asks the reporter.
"Fatty meat," the man replies.

I hope they use the thin, glossy boxes; they have an extra kick that's hard to find in your generic single-wall cartons.

Squares of cardboard picked from the ground are first soaked to a pulp in a plastic basin of caustic soda -- a chemical base commonly used in manufacturing paper and soap -- then chopped into tiny morsels with a cleaver. Fatty pork and powdered seasoning are stirred in.

Alton says: "Now, be sure that the cardboard is thoroughly soaked before chopping, because this helps to break down the cross-grain bonding in a typical box. You want to make sure the adhesives are completely dissolved, so they rinse away. Don't skip the rinse - that stuff will overwhelm the taste of the spices and leave you with gummy baozi. Gummy baozi is BAD. Then chop fine, and add a tablespoon of kosher salt, ¼ cup of mustard, ¼ of paprika, two eggs, and your fresh parsley."

"This baozi filling is kind of tough. Not much taste," [the reporter] says.

Skipped the rinse, didn't you? I'm going for pizza.

"... It fools the average person," the maker says. "I don't eat them myself."

Well, you know what they say - you want to eat ethnic food at a place where you see a lot of that ethnic group in the dining room.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

The Option

Over in one of the infamous FFO threads, a favorite target is rude driving.

Usually, it's the fancy cars - Beemers, Lexii - or SUVs. You also get the double-whammy: Escalades and such, belonging to both classes, which increases the effect exponentially. You know, 'cause a guy shlepping around in a Hyundai can't possibly be heading to anything as important as their golf and cocktail hour at the Snotty Yacht Club.

(OK, that's a brutal stereotype.)

One commenter called it "The ***hole Option" and guessed that it was a dealer upgrade for certain makes of car: tinted windows, blinkers that don't work, hi-beams that automatically come on whenever you tailgate; that sort of thing. Lately, though, I suspect that it's an after-market product, because the unlikeliest cars are beginning to show evidence of the Option... minivans.

Either people are buying them as a post-ironic expression of hipness, or they're trying to be less obvious targets for traffic citations, or they're just parents who never outgrew the Option. Whatever the class, they are demonstrating the same utter lack of consideration for fellow drivers. I wonder if considerate driving is going to be extinct within my lifetime, with the roads of New Jersey emptied of all but the hardiest souls, who don't mind swapping paint with fellow commuters, holding themselves ready to ram or be rammed at any moment.

Until then, I've decided to make the Option work for me. I mean, if someone else is hogging the passing lane, why should I be the one sitting patiently behind them, taking the heat from a guy who obviously needs to start brain surgery in fifteen minutes? I simply slide to the side. If Hokey Pokey thinks I'm a hassle, wait until he has two tons of light truck inspecting the molecular structure of his trunk. Enjoy your SUV enema.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Scenes from a suburban supermart

I ran low on stuff. This meant a trip to the SnS (sorry Ricki) for needfuls.

Good start - I got decent parking. It's not usually a concern but my knee is a little painful right now. As a result, it was harder to elude the man who drove all the way here from Texas in a Canyonero.

Inside safely, and stumping up and down the aisles with my cart. It's nice in here, even if the produce is a little sketchy. This will also sound petty, but I like the dried apple rings if I can get them, and they never seem to have them here. Dried apples keep longer than the fresh apples and I can nosh during the workday without worrying about cores, or where to put a half-eaten apple where it won't get on my work, or roll onto the floor.

On the plus side, the sales are usually very good. So far, most of what I was looking for is discounted in some fashion. Found single-serving juices on one of those deals and stocked up; it's usually cheaper to buy a half-gallon but I never finish them before they go infectious.

First impressions in the coffee and tea aisle...

Happy - I love the smell of the fresh beans in their dispensers. Sad - it reminds me how much of the stuff I've been drinking lately. It's a little Simpsons-esque:

"I gave up coffee for Lent."
That's good.
"Five weeks later, I'm back up to three cups a day."
That's bad.
"But I only had one today!"
That's good.
"...but I also had two cans of Coke."
. . .
"That's bad."
Can I go home now?

So - on to the tea. Hey, sale on green tea. Let me pull over so as not to block the tea section and stand off to one side and look. And now, let me look for five minutes at the back of the grouchy lady who cut right in front, spent teabag in hand, trying to match it with a new supply. Possible responses:

a) "Nice sale, isn't it? Do you see anything you like?"
b) Nothing. Just narrow-focus disapproval, a hot pinpoint between the shoulder blades, like burning leaves with a magnifying glass.
c) "Gee, it's lucky I stopped here for no damned reason - if I was shopping for tea I couldn't see a thing."

I chose d) wait for eye contact and smile politely. I would have loved a reply in kind - I would even have settled for b) - but I got e) blank, indifferent stare. She made me feel inconsiderate for waiting for her. It was if I were actually a cardboard cutout in the middle of the aisle: why is that there? I could get cardboard lint on my sweater as I brush past it!

Life's short. Moving on.

Cereals are NOT on sale. They make it quite clear that the half-buck rollbacks are permanent, everyday prices. The companies do this every couple of years, as I recall, perhaps drawing inspiration from Charlton Heston in the Ten Commandments, busting into the granaries to feed the starving Hebrews. Henceforth, heavily-sweetened grain products shall be made affordable to the masses, and not just to moneyed special-interests. Lay down your McMuffins and donuts and eat healthily, orphan and Warbucks alike!

I didn't actually talk that way out loud at Stop n' Shop. For one thing, there was a guy there, thoroughly describing the selections over the phone - I didn't want to look weird. One suspects that the overseer was the actual shopper, and the guy with the phone was his instrument, his projection into the actual shopping world while he lived the higher life of the mind elsewhere. Even at affordable prices, Warbucks doesn't have to do the actual legwork for his breakfast.

Down the seasonal aisle - because "Nifty Yet Slightly Cheap Crap You Don't Need, but it Seemed Like a Good Deal at the Time" doesn't fit well on a placard. I didn't buy a sun hat, or a soft-sided mini-lunch cooler with knock-off thermos, or Blondie's "Parallel Lines" on CD, or the sixth Harry Potter book in paperback, or a beach chair, or patriotic paper cups and plates, or "snak-n-go snacks" too cheap to afford either correct spelling or a spot alongside respectable brands in the actual snack aisle.

Frozen entrees - check. New toothbrush - check. Sport drink for next game - check. (Pain-free knee? Hope so by then.) Shampoo, conditioner - check. All on sale, actually. Cereal was not among my purchases, since it's about all I actually have plenty of in the house. That poor guy may still be there, reading nutritional data for all I know.

The self-chekcout may be an excuse for stores not to hire as much help, but I really like them. You avoid the whole "38 items in the express lane" people, pack your stuff so watermelons are underneath eggs and potato chips, stuff like that. The Acme folks have it down to a science: they give you the scanner, and next to it, where the normal conveyor would be, there's a three-bag-wide stuffing station. The SnS, however, has roughtly the same setup as a standard checkout, with the long automatic belt hustling your purchases to a small staging area - only it's longer. As a result, you send your groceries down ten feet of wasted space for them to stack up so quickly that the scanner scolds you: "Please bag some of your items before scanning the next purchase."

The next person in line huffed off - I'm the 38 items guy now, I suppose. But there are three other self-checkouts open, and an actual express lane. Oh, and for the record - whose dumbass idea was this layout? The self-checkout seems to strongly imply solo shopping, as in "nobody at the other end of the conveyor to bag for me." Why make me chug back and forth like I'm rallying on the baseline with Pete Sampras?

So, off I go, stumping down to bag... only to hear the scanner complain in the distance: "If you are finished, please select your method of payment, or hit 'Cancel.'" This device sounds the way tea lady looks.

And in the end, I got 34 of the 38 items at discount, and saved thirty-two bucks, and can now brush my teeth and go to bed.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Near the street where I live

Tracey asks, I answer - because actual content is too-oo-oo harrrrd...

1) What is/are the major grocery store(s) and which one do you like? Why, please?
Around here, it's ShopRite, PathMark, Foodtown, Acme, and Stop n' Shop. The local SnS has the best produce, Acme has great sales, and the rest are just there. SR and PM have that annoying capital with no space in the name (minus points). Oh, and we also have A & P, which was my regular shopping choice for years until I moved too far off.

2) Do you have Target stores?
I loves me my Target. We have three I visit commonly, one near my job and two in Ladybug's general area. Tons better than the WalMarts (grrrrr on annoying capital with no space) - they are less well-kept, and thus feel cheaper and tacky.

3) How many Starbucks have you personally visited (guesstimates okay) and will you blow them up for me?
Honestly, I'm a Dunkin's guy. Have gone to a few Starbucks, mostly in bookstores or on long road trips.

4) Do you have Ikea stores?
Exit 13-A, New Jersey Turnpike. A big ol' mooma jooma of a store. I'm not a fan. Minus points - my old hockey league played in a place called RexPlex, across the parking lot, until about two years ago, when we got padlocked. (I wouldn't call the number anymore, btw.)

5) What is the price of gas right now?
$2.75 per gallon is the leader in the clubhouse. I've seen as much as $2.99, but that's at the crazy station that is always a dime higher than everywhere else.

6) What is a popular chain restaurant, what kind of food do they serve, and do you go there?
We have them all here in Central NJ - Chili's, Applebee's, On the Border, Bennigan's, Pizzeria Uno, Longhorn Steakhouse, Olive Garden, Johnny Carino's, Macaroni Grill... I've probably even missed a few. Chili's is my favorite of the list (hence first), and Applebee's is probably last, for two reasons - first, Pepsi products; and second, the "no medium-rare" rule.

7) If you don’t have professional sports teams, what city’s teams are geographically closest to you and do you root for them?
We have the Nets (basketball) and Devils (hockey); and in football, the Giants and Jets, though named elsewhere, are geographically in the swamps of Jersey. There are also a host of minor league teams in the four majors, and even pro soccer in shouting distance - the Red Bulls.

The Spider, who is from South Jersey, would list all the Philly teams, because it's really a different state down there. And north of here, you get a lot of Rangers (hockey) fans to mix with the baseballers who prefer the Yankees or Mets. New Jersey is pretty conflicted.

8) Do you see lots of 20-somethings wearing pajama bottoms as pants, you know, in public?
You know, here and there now that I think about it.

9) Do you have a neighborhood that is known as the gay neighborhood? What is it called?
Asbury Park, NJ, has a large gay population that has been rejuvenating the town where all else have failed. New Hope, PA (60-75 minutes off) is also gay-friendly. In nearby Philadelphia they have something they call the "gayborhood," and have even put up discrete rainbow signs to help people locate it. We don't have clever nicknames here, though.

10) What is the latest thing that everyone is talking about?
The plot to carry out a suicidal assault on Fort Dix, NJ. At least they were actually targeting soldiers and not civilians. I'm much more fearful that the next plot will center around a mall or something.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Stay off the roads

There is no room for both your car and eleventy-thousand gallons of water.

That is all.

NO... ok, wait, there is one more thing. It's been raining all over New Jersey for two solid days, some towns are under about four feet of water, and the roads are impassable everywhere. So, when confronted with a long line of cars waiting patiently, one can safely reason that the drivers are NOT out for fun, admiring the weather. Therefore it's a bad idea to drive down the wrong side of the double-yellow lines to pass them all. At the next traffic light, there's another quarter-mile line of cars who are now uncomfortably staring at YOU, Mr. Too-Good-to-Wait-in-Traffic. Get a clue.

Friday, April 13, 2007


update, 10:00 pm - this should be it for the night. I actually drew a hockey comment, too, which makes me happy. It takes so little...

I've got nothing, mentally or physically. I figure that the best way around this is to blog. Herewith, a running diary of my astounding day home from work:

7:20 - alarm.
7:30 - snooze.
7:40 - snooze.
8:30 - slept through the last snooze. Finally woke, and sat up with difficulty directly proportionate to the weight and payload of the truck sitting on my chest.
8:32 - inventory. Stuffed head? Check. Scratchy throat? Yes, a new item in stock. Well, they give me sick days for a reason.
9:03 - after a nap, a call to the Boss to make it official.

9:04-10:55 - oblivion. Not sweet. Involved dreams of being lost on major highways utterly devoid of fellow travelers. All towns abandoned. Standard anxiety crap, I suppose.

12:40 pm - finished a biography of Wyatt Earp, by Casey Tefertiller. Very well-done, heavily researched; an even account of Earp comes through in all the conflicting sources of the day. Time for lunch and a shower, but not in that order.

1:45 - turns out that I need a new razor; the outside of my throat is now as scratchy as the inside. I thought that I had this thing licked last night. Ladybug even stopped by for a surprise visit, with soup and vittles (she's a sweetie); felt right as rain by the time I went to bed last night, but like a pile of spoiled leftovers this morning. Getting a little better now, though. More soup. Soup is a beautiful thing, my friends.

2:00 - hey! It's ESPN Classic, a great way to waste time watching that which has already gone. In this case, a discussion of American and National League rookies on This Week in Baseball! Yay, Mel Allen.

2:15 - date of original broadcast? My sixth birthday. Ron Guidry is celebrated for a complete game win, 20th of an eventual 25 (and the Cy Young Award for the AL). There's Thurman Munson talking about the Gator now. And the rookies, holy cats: Alan Trammel, Lou Whitaker, Carney Lansford, Paul Molitor, Bob Horner... And who holds the (then) National League record for most homers by a rookie?

2:25 - ooops. I guessed Ralph Kiner, but I was wrong twice: Wally Berger and Frank Robinson, with 38. (It may be more now, but I honestly don't know and don't care to look it up now.) I whistled along flawlessly to the closing credit song, too. It never goes away. (Amazingly, it doesn't seem to be on You Tube, but the opening theme is here - click the "classic TWIB theme" link near the top of the page.)

3:08 - missed two phone calls, which I must return. Be back a little later. ...

4:21 - it's later, now. (And when will now be then?) Looks like the Islanders, in defiance of any hope and common sense, could get their concussed franchise goalie back for tomorrow's game two. I shall say nothing. RDP's health is fragile enough.

4:27 - my PC mouse is annoying me. It chooses to scoot from where I'm clicking up to the close window box, or down to the opposite corner, the 'start' button. Luckily, Blogger won't let me close a page with 'unsaved changes' so I haven't accidentally lost my post. It's an optical mouse and I've done everything I can think of to solve this problem, short of tossing the thing out of the window. (Admittedly, that would not solve the problem either, but it would be cathartic.)

4:30 - what the heck was that?

4:31 - hm. It's the emergency radio for my buddy, an EMT. He usually doesn't leave the radio on when he goes to work. I almost had to tell them to come over here because they just gave me half a heart attack.

5:13 - I'd been following this post on a favorite blog for some time. The upshot of it seems to be that, because a few players (from an archrival, some objectivity right?) got mad at the Islanders' ice-cleaning crew, the poster (and a few of his commenters) have decided to take umbrage. But not because of the crew's behavior, but because that crew is made up of cute girls in tight outfits. I finally had to inject a couple of facts into the discussion (horrors), and quoted the rulebook. The reply I got is simply unsatisfactory to my mind. Again, let me repeat - the Islanders did NOT create this job. They simply hired different people to fill it. And what gets me is all of the harping on about their looks - as if a pretty young woman can't act professionally, and that having them on the ice during TV timeouts somehow detracts from the game. If they hit the rink for a few double salchows or something, I would fully agree, but how on earth can they distract from the game when the only time they're out there is when the commercials are running - and to do a legitimate job? It makes no sense, and the whole "get them wimmins off the ice while the menfolk play their hockey" attitude is a howling farce. What is this, the Syrian Hockey League?

5:23 - yeah, I ruined a perfectly good post with hockey.

5:26 - the past week, my computer has insisted every single day on running some cockamamie updates and then restarting at the drop of a hat. The only thing it seems to accomplish is to make me stop what I'm doing every ten minutes. Seems not to be happening after today's reboot, however.

5:33 - for the chess players in your life, a fascinating page from a fellow named Tim Krabbé. There's a lot of depth, and some fascinating stories behind some of the games and players: this gentleman, for example. (And "The Full Morphy," heheheheheh.)

More later...

7:07 - welcome back. (Gee, that's optimistic.) Did my taxes while I was gone, because I've been procrastinating. I had calculated everything on paper, but I remembered the mass of useless clicking involved in e-filing and it put me off until the third-to-last minute. Small refund. Anyone want to institute a flat tax? Mitt? Rudy?

7:09 - one thing that I did not claim on my return: the imaginary ten thousand dollars I won playing fake cards. Got pretty lucky, actually - I busted a player on the very first hand, and had an exceptionally loose player right behind me. Took him down on the third level of blinds, built a commanding chip lead, and bled the other folks dry. My one lucky call was catching three of a kind on the river to beat a guy with two pair (I had him on a straight draw and got very lucky). If it were that easy in real life I wouldn't have to ref games in my spare time.

7:13 - I should consider some sort of dinner product soon. Perhaps more soup? ...

8:15 - back again. The Ladybug talked with me, agreed that dinner product was good, and brought over some pizza. And now, the nominees for Luckiest Fella Alive.

8:44 - mmmmmm..... pizza. But the Ladybug was sad - at the counter of our favorite local place, she saw a sign reading, "Support the Revolution: Vote for Sanjaya." Uhm... NO. Stern can lay the hell off. It's terrible trying to spoil other people's innocent fun. Even the Vote for the Worst guy says that he doesn't expect to actually determine a winner, and his site actually helps the show's ratings and bottom line. So who is Horrible Howie, anyway, to try to decide what shows are good enough? How is it, when a parents group or something organizes a protest they're painted as intolerant, backward dolts, but when a single person decides to use his platform to dictate to others, it's a laugh? Or worse, a "revolution"?

9:00 - Life is Worth Living, from 1954. Speaking at the remove of three generations, Bishop Fulton J Sheen makes more sense in two minutes than most modern speakers make in a year. Oddly enough, his topic applies to Stern and American Idol - the two halves of freedom: freedom FROM and freedom FOR. To sum up - freedom from is concerned with means: to be uncoerced, free from violence, unrestricted; freedom for is concerned with ends: towards what goal is one directing those choices? His point is that either without the other leads to grave errors, and in a small way Stern displays this. He abuses the first freedom, with no positive goal in mind. He gains nothing and merely causes others trouble; at the worst, he costs people their jobs. As Sheen recognizes, in practice this means freedom only for the strong, who impose their choices on everyone else.

Sheen's analysis, with barely any updating, applies in a much larger fashion to the wider world. The West is guilty of having only the first freedom, as he well recognized - freedom of choice with no end to direct those choices. He used the analogy of a farmer. "I'm free to plant whatever crop I please on my own land," he says, but he has no goal in mind; he tries several different crops only to give up on them after a few weeks. The result is that he does much more work than other farmers, constantly ploughing and resowing; and for all that extra work he reaps no reward, no harvest. In Communism (Sheen argues), the reverse is true. They have the second freedom; freedom for an end, a definable goal. In order to achieve the goal, they simply deny anyone any choice that opposes it. "You are free to do and say what you please, so long as it pleases the state." And this destroys the will of man, made free by God, usurping His authority to such an extent that it enslaves man in a manner that God Himself does not do. It does not fulfill man's will, it abrogates it.

Well, read "Islamism" for "Communism" and you will be miles ahead of just about every expert in understanding current affairs.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Some random stuff

» The thing with work is that it’s not just one major project, but all the other small stuff that has to go on while the project is running. I have to do so many niggling tasks that I feel like the rest of the staff are working harder than I am. It’s a mental block more than anything else; got loads done yesterday all by myself – not coincidentally, felt like a million bucks.

» Nobody uses their turn signals. I’m convinced there must be a rash of thefts of turn signal sticks. Seriously, some prankster is jimmying open car doors and just yanking them right out of the steering columns. It’s the only rational explanation.

» Back on 2/28 I wrote: “I’m cautiously optimistic. Just typing that probably ripped Rick DiPietro’s ACL or something, but I can’t help it.” I should have helped it. The Isles started losing important games to teams trying to catch them in the standings, and then lost DiPietro, their starting goalie, to a neck injury. He sat tonight while the Isles got clobbered in Ottawa. I think the last team I rooted for that had any success was the ’86 Mets.

» On a related note – one of hockey’s many “unwritten rules” is that you don’t run other teams’ goalies. As a result, goalies don’t really get bodychecked, but they still get contact. If you hassle a keeper you may distract him enough to score, or get him to slash at you and take a penalty. If you just run him over (and make it look like an opponent pushed you) you may put him out of the game. I don’t think it’s intentional, as in, “Gee, let’s hurt the goalie,” but in the back of the mind there’s the thought – “he’s playing well, let’s rough him up and rattle him a bit.” In this case, DiPietro had come way out of his net to beat a forward to a loose puck, so he was more exposed than usual; again, this happens. Steve Begin didn’t clobber him on purpose; but neither did he dive out of the way or anything. It’s all part of the game; and no, I’m not calling sour grapes here. I could use Dwayne Roloson’s injury during the ’06 Finals as a good example as well. Coaches tell guys constantly, “You’ve got to get physical with these guys,” and “Go hard to the net,” and there isn't a magical switch in your head when, at a split-second's notice, an off-balance goalie is in your path.

I’ve been run my share of times, though thankfully I’ve never been hurt badly enough to leave a game. On my level, though, the temptation is worse, because most teams on my level don’t carry a backup at all. If the goalie goes down, they have to borrow a guy from another team or toss some gear on a non-goalie – thus losing two good players instead of one.

I’ve played for nearly every team in our league at least once along the way, and so have most of the goalies. As a result, no matter what happens in a game, the goalies always get along. As an example – I was playing defense one game when a scuffle broke out at the opponent’s net. Of course we all ran over. The other goalie saw me from the corner of his eye and actually wound up to clock me, but I said, “Steve, it’s me.” He instantly goes, “Oh – hi, Mike.” And then he clocked someone else.

» I picked Kansas to win the tournament. Jayhawks fans – I’m sorry.

» Shannon C of “I’m Seriously, Damn It!” spoke very kindly of me the other day – said that blogs like mine (and Tracey’s and Ricki’s) help her and that she reads regularly. This, of course, was two days after I wished for Mark Millar to be run over by Stan Lee in a Hoveround. (Irony 1, Christian Witness 0.) But still, my sincere thanks for the kind words; it keeps me going when I’m feeling blue. A word in season, how good it is!

» Speaking of which, this is an interesting reply to my Captain America rant. I think that KG and I disagree less than he supposes. I don’t think patriotism is obsolete at all; I just think that Mark Millar thinks it is. And having read my Lewis (in this case, The Four Loves), I am aware that blind patriotism has its dangers. I also think, however, that the ideal is necessary. Too many people talk as if blind patriotism invalidates all patriotism, as part of a general outlook that supposes that anything gone wrong means that it getting it right is impossible, and not much worth trying. To no-one’s surprise this means that people risk little, and aspire to no greatness of any kind - works, words, spirit, or virtue.

There’s a whole post related to this, just starting to percolate inside of me. For now I’ll just note that, for a society that likes to discount the Fall of Man, we do an awful lot of worrying about the fall of our principles.