Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Well, I'll be.

It looks like the Mayor is still out of town! Nice job on his office, y'all. The chickens were a nice touch. I'm here feedin' them and keeping the goats watered, so no worries about any livestock issues. This extended absence of his makes me think that his "business trip" might have gone a tad awry. I mean, instead of a straight-out docket of meetings in a bland meeting hall somewhere generic, I'll just BET he's probably off on a fact-finding junket someplace tropical, and had one too many mai tais, after which he forgot himself and the burden of responsibility his office carries and started flirting with the waitstaff, one of whom probably didn't appreciate it much because his name is "Bob" and who therefore maybe threw a punch at the Mayor, not realizing that Biff is a former Golden Gloves champion of the 10th grade who takes care to maintain a healthy physique and musculature and was thereby surprised to find himself (the disgruntled waiter) in a match of fisticuffs with our leader, who maybe, through the magic of alcohol, thought that the one disgruntled waiter was a whole HERD of ticked off islanders after his wallet, and so he wreaked a path of destruction at the Sandy Crack Shack, only to be taken down by a tiki torch to the back of the head (wielded by Big Moms Kanuckastan, the proprietress), after which he was hauled off to the pokey to spend a few days cogitating on the inelegance of his actions. Probably. Or, maybe, he's just snowed in, and the internets are frozen up in Michigan, and he forgot to revoke my permissions as guest poster and administratrix, so HA! I'm here, and I'm posting wildly incorrect (maybe) stories about him because.I.can. If I DO find out what happened to him, and find out that he's just been SLACKING, you can expect to hear from me. More details as events warrant.

Friday, February 23, 2007

TGIF, fellow Spiffytonians, TGIF

Today, Rick of RickLeonard.com pays a little visit to Spiffytown, and hatches a plan. ==================================== Can you believe the Mayor ran off an left an entire town in the care of Innerweb roughians like us?? For an entire week?? He's just damned lucky to have a town to return to, if ya ask me. Speakin' of roughians, can I get a round of applause for the girls... Ms Tracy Kaply of www.KaplyInc.blogspot.com... Rennratt of www.rennratt.blogspot.com ... the inimitable Wordnerd of www.doihavetocallitablog.blogspot.com... the ever-literate AC of http://www.achronicleofwastedtime.blogspot.com.... and our very own administratrix, Tiff of http://noaccentyet.blogspot.com Thanks, y'all. (Waits for applause to die down.) My name's Rick and as near as I can tell, I'm in charge of lockin' up and goin' home. But here's a little secret, just 'tween you 'n' me and the innerweb... I'm leavin' the key on top of the door frame. For a reason. See, where I come from, we like to express our affection for the dearly depart, er, vacationing visionary by redecorating his or her office for their return. Sometimes, we redecorate and then brick up the door. Sometimes, we redecorate and install a fully-functional Cadillac DeVille, though that depends on the mechanical inclination and number of volunteers. Sometimes, we redecorate by encasing everything in tinfoil. Sometimes, we fill said enclosure with packing peanuts. Sometimes, we screw all the furniture to the ceiling. Sometimes, if we're really, really lazy and time is of the essence, we just turn a couple of goats and a handful of turkeys loose in the office for the weekend. The point is, we like to express our appreciation for elected officials that take a week off, coincidentally the same week as Mardi Gras, and insist they don't have time to fulfill their bloginess responsibilities, but do have time to comment elsewhere. And if someone just happens to leave a key on top of the door frame... Why, anything could happen! Catch my drift? And thanks for havin' us for this past, glorious week... You've been a great audience!

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Gaining a little perspective

Today, AC takes us on a path to enlightenment, or at the very least partway down an alley toward what isn't scary anymore..... BONUS - terrific quote-age. ====================================== Writing is Easy. You Only Need to Stare at a Piece of Blank Paper Until Your Forehead Bleeds. (Douglas Adams) Guest posting! A sure fire way to create a writer's block out of thin air. Last week I could barely spell blogger and today, well, here goes. First off let me tell you all it is to be near 70 degrees down here, kind of close to where Mr. Mayor finds himself today. I hope he is taking advantage of the shirt sleeve weather to gather some rays of natural Vitamin D. I think there is some theory, maybe even fact, that the sun must be a certain number of degrees above the horizon for Vitamin D absorption, and whether that is occurring this time of year, I don't know. Still, everybody I see today is giving it the old college try. For a moment, nothing happened.Then, after a second or so, nothing continued to happen. (Douglas Adams) Guest posting! topic, topic......Hey, Could I just make a post of Douglas Adams quotes with little or no commentary in between? Except I need to do this today, now, this morning...... I love deadlines. I love the whooshing sound they make as they fly by. (Douglas Adams) He shifted his weight from foot to foot, but it was equally uncomfortable on each. (Douglas Adams) Alright already. If you don't change your beliefs, your life will be like this forever. Is that good news? (Douglas Adams) The other night Mr. AC and I did something we have not done in years....we went OUT at Night and STAYED out Late. Now Biff says he has worked construction so he knows that lifestyle is early to bed, early to rise if you expect to stay clear of saws or atop a roof and sometimes you work Saturdays. Mr. AC generally hits the sack by 9:02 pm to rise at 5:00 am. I sleep less, but arise at 5:00 as well. This sleep requirement keeps us home a lot, and when we go out, its in the daylight hours. We're the late lunchers, the library in the afternooners, the movie matinee-ers. We're not boring people, though, I promise! But last Friday night we had tickets for a concert I'd been anticipating for months and the Mister was informed he Would Stay Awake and that We Would Have Dinner and Drinks Out at a Date Night Hour and that After, We Might Walk Around Downtown and Get a Coffee. Of course he agreed; he loves me and besides, it took care of his having to conjure up a Valentine's Day present. I always say, move out of the way, let me run it. I've lived in this area where I live since 1972 when I came for college. That is 35 years, a figure that really quirks my brow! Over those years I developed a love / less-loving relationship with the town -- I love the geographic beauty, love where I live several miles out and a county over from the City, love the friendly, generous natures of the people. But I have dissed the social, artistic, culinary and entertainment offerings as too few; have laughed off the attempts to finally turn the Old City into anything other than a place to get mugged on your way from a dark parking lot to a seedy bar with a rare blues band playing. Changes didn't happen fast but change nevertheless occurred. My daughter, who goes to college there, kept telling me the Downtown was exciting, while I kept telling her to NOT go Alone anywhere down there, in fact, to Not Go! She defied me. Go figure that! What we learned last Friday night is that the world downtown changed while we were home, tucked in, not just in our nice, toasty comfortable home, but tucked in our old, comfortable notions. We had convinced ourselves that nothing much would ever change. We found a vibrant, pleasantly crowded, well lit, safe feeling and yes I will say it, hip place to go. My town, that I pigeon-holed as satisfactorily commodious but kind of hopeless, actually made something of itself while I wasn't looking, while I was going to bed early, while I was staying home, enjoying stasis. Which led me to extrapolate to all sorts of other areas, to philosophize, to muse, to ponder....how I am ready for change myself. How I want to move on my own potential and make some exciting improvements to my life. It is not unimportant that I took these last 21 years to raise a daughter, get her through college (please God, see her out this last semester), basically hunker down and provide. Its just that now, I can see to a blossoming in the space that opens up. Maybe all it takes is changing one habit, breaking just one pattern. Maybe one walk-around at night, when lights and sounds and scents are changed and charged with a different energy, is all it takes to open my other eye, the one I had squinted shut. And so I end my guest posting...perhaps if I could have set it to music, choosing, say, Chet's Ramble as accompaniment, or better yet, Sanitarium Shuffle....readers might have been better served. At any rate, I'm honored to have been asked. There was a point to this story, but it has temporarily escaped the chronicler's mind. (Douglas Adams)

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

It Worked For Seinfeld

Today's installment of the Spiffytown Guest-post-a-pa-looza is from the darlin' of the South, Ms. Wordnerd herself, who seems to be having a bit of a time finding content on which to write as she travels through the Mayor's realm.... Herein, her offering. ==========================

Ah, the guest post. A lovely thing, eh? You work and work all day to think of something deargodjustsomething new and different and fresh to write and then you come up with it, only to have to post it elsewhere?

Oh, wait. That’s just me. The rest of these guest post-writers ROCK at this stuff. They can come up with the perfect post HERE, then go write the perfect post THERE, without breaking a sweat.

Me? Sheesh. As many of you (Tiff, Hyperion, the rest of the Monkey Barners), I do not respond well to pressure. Time and again, those guys have pleaded with me to write something at Monkey Barn, or at Wordsmiths Unlimited, or wherever. And the Nerd ran and cowered.

So the Mayor (the freakin’ MAYOR) of Spiffytown makes his request, and I say yes. What was I thinking? Just because I contributed a four-line stanza to an otherwise lovely poem at a new blog I found the other day, what made me think I could do this? I mean, I’m going to have to take DAYS off at the not-a-blog to recover from this. Oh. Wait. Never mind. I do that all the time.

Too. Much. Pressure.

What’s a girl to do? Write the best post ever? And use it here? Or write something totally lame, saving the best for her own place? Oh. Wait. We’re talkin’ about me again. ‘Best’ ain’t gonna happen. Lame, however, just might.

So it’s the post about nothing. Much like the show Jerry and George pitched oh so many years ago.

Ah, well, you get what you pay for, Spiffster.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

An epiphany of sorts.

This installment of Guest Posting Week is from Rennratt, in which she confesses to finding a new life direction. ----------- While Biff is out of town on business, I have agreed to step in and help dust his office. While I am here, I am going to confess something. Something so dark, so disturbing, that I prefer to announce it well away from the prying eyes of my family. So, without further ado, my confession:

I have decided to join the Roller Derby. As a result, I have pulled out my torn fishnet stockings, my black eyeshadow, my blood red lipstick...and my utter lack of grace.

It is well known around these parts that I suffer from perpetual clumsiness. What better way to celebrate, then, than to skate/slam into random strangers while dizzying myself into nausea? I am getting pretty excited about this.

I will begin in roughly three weeks - as an alternate jammer. Since I have the attire and scary make up, I lack only a name and a Theme Song. The Theme Song is a no brainer. I shall skate out in time to “Fat Bottomed Girls” by Queen.

The name, on the other hand, is a little tougher. Shall I be Immortal Cin? Ven Detta? Mis Demeanor? Do you, friends of Biff, have any suggestions?

Oh, and if you see my folks? Just tell them I've joined the PTO. That will scare them plenty.

Monday, February 19, 2007

You Being Ok Is Not Part Of My Balanced Diet Of Doom

It's guest posting week here in Spiffytown - being kicked off today by one Ms Tracy Kaply of KaplyInc! Three cheers for TL!! ========================== Last week, Biff Spiffy, Mayor around these parts, asked me to write a guest post, and I, possibly delirious from an excess of carbohydrates, agreed. I must have been as mad as a spoon. Writing guest posts is hard, and generally my natural tendency towards inertia prevents me from such efforts. I consider this to be the blogging equivalent of a V chip, in that it's supposed to keep me out of trouble, but in reality is rather ineffective. See, around at my place, my seven loyal readers, bless their little black hearts, are as degenerate a bunch of loonies as ever looted a zombie run mall, and my style of writing tends to cater to them in what seems a very natural, almost organic, way. I write, they read, we diddle around in the comments a bit, and Bob's your uncle. Everybody wins. But here in Spiffytown, which I'm sure is a lovely place with rising property values and fabulous schools, I have no idea what the denizens may or may not be willing to accept. And I hesitate to embark on the usual round of perversion and insanity for fear of being run out of town on a rail, or brought up on charges of witchcraft, which I hear they're prone to do out here in the boonies, I mean suburbs. And while, in my usual haunts, the mere mention of the Bodacious Rack can often lift me out of any trouble I wander into, I'm not at all sure the local constabulary of Spiffytown will be swayed, although , if they aren't, then we need to moot the topic of pod people again. Anyway, I'm just going to wander around town, keeping a low profile, and trying to find a subject that won't get me tossed out again on my ass. You wait here. -- FEAR ME! http://kaplyinc.blogspot.com

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Flapping My Wings

This Monday, as has been previously mentioned, for those who are keeping track, is the first of many days I'll be Elsewhere. Probably in a windowless room in the back of a seedy motel, just me and a computer and a lonely engineering trainer. Maybe another designer or two, but these classes are usually pretty customized. One of the best parts of this trip is I get to fly there (my very favorite thing). Another best part is when I return, I'll no longer be between jobs, but be able to focus on the new gig. A third best part is it's a week with different scenery. Since I am one who loves variety, this is a good thing. Another (fourth, if you're counting) best part is yon Alabama is roughly 70 degrees warmer than hither. That, my friends, rocks. While we're on the subject of flying, Mrs. Spiffy decided to take Girl on a Girls-Only Vacation during spring break. Where would Girl like to go? Disney World, of course. This greatly pleased Mrs. Spiffy, who used to go with her family every year. They looked into the cost and timing of driving, and opted to fly. Which came as a surprise to me, since Mrs. Spiffy isn't a big fan of flying, and it's kinda pricey for an impromptu little getaway. But, they've decided it Shall Be and both are working extra jobs to make up the difference. It fell to me to book the tickets, since I have some degree of internet air travel booking experience. I compared prices and dates, and surrounding airports, and came up with a good budget number. I selected Southwest and plunked in the dates, credit card number, and hit "Purchase." All was set, and they were committed. Three days later, we discovered afresh that I am an idiot. I got a phone call from Mrs. Spiffy at the office. "Um, can we come home after our vacation?" "I don't know. Do you think you should?" I answered. "Well, it's where we live," she said flatly. Turns out SOMEone had incorrectly thought, with all confidence, that 'round trip' was selected before air travel was purchased. It wasn't. The nice people at Southwest kindly sold me another pair of tickets. Same price as the first leg of the trip, which was just slightly less than the price I'd found for round trip tickets elsewhere. Which is why I'm now working an extra weekend job, to help pay for their little excursion. They'll be camping at Fort Wilderness, which is a much nicer place to camp in February than most anywhere in Michigan. They have an adorable little tent and it's fun seeing Girl count up the trip money that's pouring in from their enterprises. Boy and I will be all bachelor-like for a week, watching chick-flick-free teevee and leaving the seat up, eating spicy foods and burping all we want. Oh wait, Mrs. Spiffy is the family champion belcher, so I guess we'd better come up with something distinctly bachelorey. Any ideas? We may go skiing, who knows. It should still be hella cold then.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Indonesia, Part 1

JC said she really, really didn't want to know how one could deal with not having toilet paper. Therefore, this post is dedicated to her. There are whole chunks of the world that only recently discovered indoor plumbing. And there are some who invented indoor plumbing of an entirely... foreign nature. Back a few years, I got the opportunity to do a music tour in Denpasar, Bali, Indonesia. I was the bass player in a 40-member touring group. We had some amazing musicians and singers, plus a dance team, and spent a week in support of churches in a place that is often very hostile toward Christians (and not just calling them names, either). We played in a variety of settings and configurations, but the coolest place was this giant palace of a building. It made the Orthodox church I visited last week look like a cheesy Vegas wedding chapel. The floor and walls were tiled with marble (the place was e-NOR-mous). The stage had huge marble columns and carved frescoes in the walls, a kind of architectural artistry that I have never seen in America. They do have McDonald's and other American-ish food (Texas Chicken was a big chain there - doesn't exist anywhere else, as far as I know) but you will not find a restaurant that doesn't serve rice. I didn't go to McDonald's while there, but someone on our team did. They got McSpaghetti - lo mein in a thin red sauce - and pieces-parts chicken nuggets. One thing I noticed was the absence of Starbucks. Having made a career in construction, I was very interested in how they did things 12 time zones away from me. There were a few projects underway in the area, and I'd always stop to watch as much as I could. Bamboo scaffolding and concrete forms would sprout from the ground and be crawling with small, limber people with bare feet and straw hats. They have never heard of OSHA or laser levels. Everything was done in concrete and marble and dark-stained wood, and while there were certain idiosyncrasies (like stair steps not being uniform from one to the next), I witnessed a high degree of hands-on craftsmanship. Now, this trip has enough material to fill several posts and I intend to milk it for all it's worth. But, the thing that inspires toDAY's installment is their plumbing customs. Our hotel was the epitome of tropical resort goodness. I didn't realize how much I would come to appreciate it, but the hotel was outfitted with western appliances. They had bottles of Air (Indonesian for water) in the washroom, because the tap water was infamous for causing a condition called Bali Belly. There was no vent fan, but a little stack of candles and a book of matches. That was thoughtful. This view is my room, and roommate Stu. That's marble tile on the floor. Verrry nice. Now, the other places we visited, whether restaurants, orphanages, homes, stores, or churches, had the more traditional Asian plumbing. Known as 'squatty potties,' they consist of a porcelain bowl set in the floor with foot pads along the sides. You stand on the bowl and, well, squat. They feature a 2" drain, which is woefully inadequate for carrying the Cottonelle, so (here's the part that JC's gonna love) they don't use toilet paper. There is a kitchen vegetable sprayer on a hose, that's all you get to work with. Oh, and don't offer anything to anyone with your left hand. It's seen as an insult. Upon this discovery, I saw to it that all business was carried out in the hotel room. The view outside the room A small group of us enjoying the shallow end of the 1/2 mile long pool - I'm the pale one in the one-piece ==================== Programme Update! It's official, Spiffytown will be overtaken by a band of pitchfork-wielding villagers next week (some may be bringing the Throwing Spoons), while I'm in foreign parts (Alabama) for training. MagnifiTiff, SuperHeroine, will be administering justice and lining up the posts in my absence, and I trust that you will be highly informed and entertained. BE HERE! I expect you to visit and comment profusely, for there be some stars lining up to unload their greatness upon you.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Lists of Things

Well, now I've done it again. I, your humble and appropriately-for-public-office Idiot Mayor of Simpleton, have lost another post. It was passably good, too. I went to put the CD I got for Mrs. Spiffy's VD present ("No, really, it's for you") in my new computer, and without looking too closely, pushed the wrong button. The power button. As windows vaporized one by one from my dual monitors, 35 minutes worth of writing did too. I suppose I've had worse occasions of 'time I'll never get back' - but dang it's frustrating. I should probably compose in a format that auto-saves. Anyway, back to the subject at hand. It's a co-ink-a-dink of epic proportions, since I had started a post about my long-time romance with keeping lists, and then happened upon Wordnerd's site where she tagged me (don't go see unless you're willing to be unwittingly tagged like I was, only if you go now it'll be wittingly and you'll have nobody to blame but yerself) with a 'make a list of six weird things about you that everyone is doing internet phenomenon (and DON'T call it a meme)' thing. A list! Yay! One of a list of my many favorite things! Almost enough to make me lurvitate. Almost. I start most every day with a list of some sort. I created a comb-bound book to contain my work-related lists (spiral notebooks are too easy), because I had a season where I practically wallpapered my little corner of the cube farm with stickynotes. I appear much more organized now, but the days I misplace or can't reach my listbook, I get grumpy. It creates a very seductive illusion of productivity and importance. Besides, once I write something down, I'm free to forget it, since that bit of useless information is no longer cluttering my brain. Appointments, calls to make, paperwork to finish, all can be safely forgotten for it is on a List. Now I have mental capacity for really important things like... uh, like... blog posts? Monty Python quotes? The lyrics of my favorite poem? Well, at least I'm in prestigious company. Einstein reputedly didn't know his own phone number. When an incredulous reporter asked him about it, he asked, "Why should I memorize it, since I know where to find it?" I'm such a listophile, I like to make lists of things I've already done. Shower... check. Shave... check. Breakfast... check. It's comforting to know that before I even clock in I've accomplished so much. The thing that's saved my compulsive list-making life is the discovery of this rule: All lists contain 3 items, no more, no less. That way the important 3 get done. Oh look! My day's already complete! Of course, then you can add another item to keep it at 3... For today's exercise, I'm making an exception to the Rule. Okay, on to my obligations. Here is my List of 6 Weird Things About Biff Spiffy. 1. I like to keep lists. See above. 2. I absolutely love trampolines. I am the most undignified sight you could see on one, but I'll bounce the night away, get into 'rocket wars' with anyone willing, and flail around like a sped on speed for endless hours. I used to have a trampoline, but took it down after witnessing Girl snap her little arm into the shape of an S one evening. Should have happened to me long before it did to her; once I was bouncing with a friend who is roughly my size (think huskypants). He launched me over a fence. It was not pretty. 3. Spiders fascinate and terrify me. Simultaneously. I once watched a wolf spider for several minutes (while on a ladder - 2 stories up), convinced he was looking at me curiously, much like a puppy or billy goat might. Then I turned him into hairy goo with my hammer. I really enjoy studying their creepy, creative web-spinning, prey-stalking, and trying-to-bite-me ways. The very worst thing about spiders is that if one lands on you, unlike other buggy critters, he can't just fly away. Oh no. If you brush at him, he has to either crawl all the way wherever he's going, or rappel - and I can't have that. Jibblies. If you want more reasons I'm skeeved out, go here and scroll to January 17. 4. Q-tips are more important to me than any other part of my morning hygiene rituals. We can run out of toilet paper, and there are ways to work around that. Shampoo gone? Use soap, or just rinse vigorously, it'll keep until tomorrow. But if I can't squeak out my ears, it bugs me all day long. 5. I don't have any fetishes. As someone who has spent some significant time on The Interwebs, I'm beginning to think I truly am weird for not being into feet or midgets in drag or bikers wearing diapers chasing nurses dressed like smurfs. I do like a goofy sense of humor though. Oh, and good spelling. Yeah, I'd have to say spelling is a turn-on for me. 6. I'm known as the Polite Police at my house. There is nothing that drives me up one wall and down the other like poor table manners, particularly open-mouth chewing. Gaah! Celery, carrots, and tortilla chips are noisy, and I can understand that. But when I can hear you masticating a banana or slurping soup, I just go out of my head. And, please don't hold your fork like a shovel. Thank you.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Now THIS Is How To Celebrate

For your loathsome holiday enjoyment, here is a Valentine's Day post from accurately self-proclaimed funnyman, Avitable. Most of you who read here already know Evil Genius Tracy Lynn, so this may be a little redundant, but hey, funny is funny.

Sponsored by STD Floral, providers of the 'Sorry I Gave You The Clap' Bouquet ============================ Programme Note: (Like that fancy spelling? That's for my international readers) I will be offsite all next week, Monday through Saturday. I'll be a stranger in a strange land, learning my new job on the high-falutin' proprietary engineering software. I expect to be surrounded by people who speak a different language and have unusual dental formations, and who knows if the Internet has penetrated such foreign parts. However, you can count on Spiffytown to bring you the most for your entertainment dollar, oh yes. The village will not go dark, and I will tell you how. Later. ============================ Last night I was roped into another long, drawn-out game of Cowboys and Indians. The rules of this game go thusly: The cowboy waits on the phone while the Indians try very, very hard to sound American while sapping my will to live through repeated requests for highly personal information, interminable waits with ultrashat smooth jazz music, and multiple transfers. Yes, Charter has still not come through with providing the service for which the meter is now running. They say on the 15th a technician will arrive to take on the daunting task of opening a little plastic box and attaching a wire. Good thing I have a place to go where the internet flows like sugar from a hole in the bottom of the bag. ============================ Somehow the subject of kids with Wal-Mart bags on their feet came up last night. It sent me back to my days as a snot-nosed schoolkid. Okay, lots of things send me back there, but you're missing the point. I had the old-fashioned black rubber boots, with the thick felt liner and metal buckles on the side. Since they were made of rubber, you would think they'd be waterproof. Not so. My mom, in her ever-watchful wisdom, would bundle us up by first slipping our little feet into 3 layers of socks, bread bags, and then the boots. Yep. Wonderbread, in case you wanted to know. My feet had a fresh baked yeastly aroma for most of my childhood. When Moonboots were invented, I could ditch the bread bags because the fashionable one-piece design tended to keep slush and water out for a little longer. I loved 'em, for the baglessness and the quickness. An ADD riddled (undiagnosed, because that hadn't been invented yet either) kid who wants to go out sledding does NOT want to be hampered by shoestrings and buckles and the like. At school, we didn't have traditional lockers. They were wooden shelves with a coathook in each, open for the world to see. Along the hallway floor there would be rows and rows of moonboots. One day at the end of class, I was leaving late for some possibly detention-related reason. My moon boots sat nearly alone in the deserted hall. I inserted a socked foot, and felt something strange therein. I wiggled my toes, but couldn't figure out what was inside. I turned the boot upside down and shook gently. Out plopped a soft, perfectly formed dog turd. It had been collected while frozen, and left to thaw in my warm and cozy boot. Tragedy was averted because I caught it before full-meltdown mode - odorless and stainless, which is not a turd's normal state. The perps were never brought to justice, which bothers me still. Maybe that's why I've never gone to any class reunions. Perhaps I should be grateful. From that day on, I compulsively check every shoe before installing it on my enormous foot, saving me from countless golf balls, spiders, and other buggy encounters.

Monday, February 12, 2007

The Post That Never Was (But Is Now)

Recreating an eaten post might be difficult. I don't know, since this is my first. I'm usually a compulsive saver, ever since the Green Screen of Doom ate my term paper on Construction Materials way back in my 'college lite' days. Oh, it was a masterpiece on single-ply membrane roofing, it would have brought tears to your eyes. As I was putting the finishing paragraph on it, *PHOOMP* - the screen went dark, and 5 hours of work disappeared. At 1AM. The night before it was due. This was back when Commodore 64's were still available, and the 386 hadn't been invented yet. I did recompose the whole thing and aced it, but I had my lesson firmly in place, never lost any significant work over the years. Until yesterday. Anyway, on to a riveting description of a lazy Sunday at Spiffytown. I slept in, which is unusual for me. I awoke at the usual time (4:50 AM), thought a second, rolled over, and set to sawing new logs. It was glorious, snoozing well into the crisp white morning. There were dreams, weird and wild adventures full of corporate intrigue, nuclear explosions, and rescuing a damsel in distress (rawr!). The details are too fuzzy and surreal to describe here, since I've gone to the all-ages format. Finally around 8:30, I hauled my carcass off the flannel sheets and padded to the office, where I sipped hot coffee and caught up on some blog reading. Suddenly, it was time to go to church, and I made an executive decision: I'm staying home and playing hooky. I announced all my ambitious plans, which included some writing, a couple laps around the neighborhood, and finally installing the internet cable properly since it had warmed up (relatively speaking, since 20 degrees feels a lot warmer than minus 14). Mrs. Spiffy and the kiddos got dressed up and off they went. I finished some writing, did some reading, and moments later they were back. OK, not moments... 2 hours had passed and I was still in my captain's chair on the computer. Not a thing to show for it; I just couldn't get motivated when the snow was flying sideways past my window. I went upstairs to fix a feast of chicken and potatoes, but nobody was that hungry, so we went with grilled cheese for the kiddos and the leftover Biff dish for me (doctored up per Chachi's recommendation, good call!). Finally, in mid-afternoon I showered and got bundled up for the cold. I realized something yesterday as I stepped steaming from my tiled booth of boiling bliss - my day really doesn't start until I get my shower. I was rarin' to go, chock full of motivation and energy. I disconnected the internet, grabbed my tools, and trotted out into the frosty afternoon. My tired little drill was on the charge all weekend, but the cold had gotten to it and I had to twist it like a screwdriver to finish the last hole. The siding didn't shatter when I peeled it from the wall around the front door, and I did rejoice. I piled my coiled cable on the mini-porch and fed it through the wall, climbed into the trusses and walked it over to the cable box. Down through the wall plate, out the hole under the Source of Internet Goodness, and I was nearly done. As the last of the daylight oozed from the sky, I went to open the little plastic box. Which, by a stroke of brilliant foresight, is tucked 1/4 of the way behind my storage shed. And has a special fastener holding the box shut, to keep unauthorized persons out. I tried all of my allen wrenches, a needlenose pliers, a clear-handled screwdriver, and was contemplating the sawzall (Porter Cable Tiger reciprocating saw, to those who get a woody around real tools) when it finally became fully dark. It gets significantly colder when it turns dark in my neighborhood. Screwwit. I called Charter 3x, but so far have gotten no help. I may embarq on a full-on rant if it doesn't get turned around and quick. Boy needed me home last night to fix up the internet for his homework requirements, so I hurried off to save the day. Mrs. Spiffy had restrung the cable inside to the unused teevee outlet, as had been arranged before, but nothing was working. I arrived and Boy was busy on an art homework project, and couldn't be budged from the computer. I asked him what he so desperately needed the World Wide Web for, and he said... "To look up some words." Turns out he actually owns a dictionary. Has for years. Last night, he learned how to use it. My only major accomplishment from Sunday was getting a haircut. Now, I hate sitting for haircuts. Not sure why, but to be truthful I prefer the dentist. Needles and drills and funny smells and burning teeth don't bother me nearly as much as feeling my own prickly hair crawl down my shirt. Mrs. Spiffy has been my barber for most of the last 17 years, since she says 'Store-bought haircuts make you look like Frankenstein.' Hard logic to argue, since the wedding pictures all show a young Frankenstein in a white tux. So every once in a while, usually 3 weeks overdue, I'll get the supplies out, perch on a kitchen chair, and grit my teeth. This haircut was rather a rerun, which usually is good (if you like the way it went last time) but this was a repeat of an episode we had a few years ago. She's clipping away, and suddenly stops, eyes wide, and says, "Oh. Oh, crap. Now I gotta make the other side match." It's a little shorter than I prefer, but at least it's not wonky. I am noticing the grey-factor is increasing; the sides look as though 'clear' may actually be a hair color.


Blogger ate my homework. I had a post today, a wonderfully brilliant concoction. Then my computer locked up. Unsaved words, hundreds of 'em, vaporized. It was my best post ever.

Sunday, February 11, 2007


There's a party game over at Monkey Barn, go see! Play! It'll be fun.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Beef & Incense

We went to a wedding today. It was a big fat (insert European ethnicity here) theatrical wedding, but I guess they all go like this in an Orthodox church. This was my first time inside an Orthodox outfit. It was a grand, sprawling building, the cornerstone proudly proclaiming 2000 as its year of dedication. It had a great, dark grey metal dome in the center, white stucco walls, modern storefront windows inset with very European looking stained glass, and giant arched oaken doors. We pulled into our parking spot right on time, knowing that weddings always start a couple minutes late. We went to the big wooden doors, and Mrs. Spiffy rattled on the handle. Vigorously. Then she tried the other one. They made a deep, clanking sound like a castle drawbridge under siege. I cringed and shuffled quickly over to the breezeway doors, as if we'd just played Ding-Dong-Ditch-It on the neighbors. We slunk down the hallway toward the dome, and could hear some warbly high-pitched sing-song coming from the sanctuary. As we rounded the corner, I was aghast to see the wedding party on the chancel, and a full house. Everyone was seated, and things were well under way. We ducked around the photographer and videographer and found an opening in one of the back pews. Apparently, this is a tight ship, and when they say it starts at 3:30, they mean the bride is on stage at 3:30. Crap. The first thing I noticed, other than our dear friend in the white dress, was the incense. The place smelled amazing, steeped in the kind of aroma you could get used to but not sick of. As we settled in, the enormous scale of the place came into focus. The dome overhead was littered with stylized portraits of all their favorite saints and prophets, with a giant Jesus in the center. At least, I think it was him. All the saints looked distinctly white and well groomed, with Matthew and John writing their gospels on ornate gilded desks and showing off their scrolls as if they were appearing in a life insurance commercial. The front of the building was hollowed out and covered in gold leaf. There was a painting of some androgynous saint, perhaps Mary, but he/she was obscured by a frescoed wall of dark mahogany scrollwork, more painted saints, and arches. All the action was taking place in front of this wall, and it was interesting action indeed. They guy in the big golden robe would sing-say something, and then a barbershop quartet would echo in pentatonic harmony from the side of the stage. Sometimes they repeated what the priest said, sometimes they sang in Latin, and sometimes they just made stuff up. Back and forth, forth and back with the sing-saying and the echoing, waving crosses and incense around, jingling bells and marching around the altar 3 times. Although I have no idea what was said, I think it was beautiful and probably means the couple is now married. As the crowd was being dismissed, it became apparent that the groom's side had gotten the memo about dress code. Apparently this is his church, and everyone was decked out in variations on black. Black suits, dresses, ties, everything. Everybody greeted the couple with a hug and a kiss, and several hearty slaps on the back. Our side was distinctly American, with pastels and lime green and polka dots (I just adore polka dotted dresses, don't you?). The greetings were far more sedate, handshakes and a moment of eye contact were all some could muster. I tried not to feel self-conscious in my non-black getup, but any anxiety melted when the radiant bride came to greet us. We bailed out of the reception, even though it was already beginning down the hall. It was early afternoon, and there was time for a night out on the town. Besides, I've given up drinking temporarily for the Shrinking Piggies, and didn't want to be tempted. Especially not in a church. As we were driving through downtown, we played our favorite date-night game, called "I dunno, what do YOU wanna do?" There was no hockey or concert in the arena, none of the bars looked all that great, and we weren't dressed for the outdoor ice skating rink. So, we went home and watched Over The Hedge with the kiddos, and I made a weird little meal. I was in full experimentation mode, as I've never had anything like this before. Don't even know what to call it, would you help name the thing? It did turn out, and I'd like to hear if it's a hit anywhere else in the world. =============== 1 1/2 lb. ground beef Onion Chopped garlic 2 cans french-cut green beans Italian bread crumbs Spices & olive oil Flaky Layers Grand rolls (Pillsbury) Preheat the oven to 350, and drizzle some oil in a frying pan Chop half the onion, sautee with 1 tsp. chopped garlic Brown ground beef with garlic & onion Season liberally while cooking - Montreal Steak Seasoning, crushed red peppers, salt & pepper Place dinner rolls in the oven when preheated Toss beans in a baking dish with 1 tbsp olive oil, oregano, italian seasoning, basil Drain beef Return beef to heat, chop and add the rest of the onion, add about 1/2 cup bread crumbs Stir until coated Combine beef and beans, bake until rolls are done, about 8-10 minutes Serve. Get surprised compliments. Watch it disappear.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

I'm Planning a Sesquicentennial Exhortation of Clinquant Omniscients

I was talking to a friend last night, who exclaimed at one point, "Wow, I've never put a 'daddy hat' on you before. I know you have kids, it's not like they're secrets, but when you were talking about them just now I really made the connection." Well, dang - I'm a full-time Dad, so that came as a bit of a surprise. So, here's a story riddled with kiddos. Date Night is a sometime tradition in Spiffytown. It started many moons ago, where each parent would have a night alone with a kidlet once every week or month or so, then switch kiddos for the next one. During busy seasons, which seem to run together, Date Night is often neglected. I caught up a little bit a couple weeks ago. I took Boy out for Chinese on Tuesday, since the wimmins in our house don't care for it. We piled on the wontons and cashew chicken, chatting about plans and skiing and odds & ends. He just started driver's training last night, which is vastly different than when I was a beginner driver. First of all, it wasn't offered in winter - which, if you ask me (and I know you're asking since you're here), is a good idea, teaching 'em how to drive in snow, since (surprise!) it snows here. Second, there's the waiting list, which for him was many months. And (c), there's the cost. When I was a whippersnapper, it was offered through the public schools using ginormous Caprice station wagons (built like tanks) for the road and crappy little Volares for the range. All using tax money. No charge to the whippersnapper. However, now we have to fork over hunnerts to get him trained up. As a capitalist, I suppose that makes good sense. As the one paying the bill, it pisses me off. Not enough to vote Libertarian, but still. I discovered he's been invited to Sweetheart Swirl, which was supposed to be last weekend but canceled because of a little weather. It's happening this weekend, and he's happy because he doesn't have to go clothes shopping. Yep, he's a man after my own heart. Speaking of which, I found out about this game he likes which involves math... and bloodshed. Oh, it's fun alright, but I had to cringe every time he scored a hit. If you click, play vs. the computer... Girl and I went out on Thursday, to a nice place near the 'movie village.' It's a little city all to itself, where you can stroll the covered sidewalks from theater to record shop to restaurant, art gallery, coffee house, and salon. I got Fettuccine Jambalaya, and she got a wood-fired pizza. As we gourmeted ourselves to contentment, I heard about her little stalker. Oh yes, she already has a stalker. His opening line to her was, "My girlfriend just dumped me, and I'm lonely. Will you be my girlfriend?" Um, no thanks. He persisted over the weeks, trying to wear her down with his abundant charms and questionable hygiene skills. She continued to politely decline his advances. Finally, she asked him, "Would you like my father's phone number?" He did not get any clues from this. "No, why would I want that??" She eventually took her plight to a teacher, and he's calmed down since then. That's my girl alright. She has a custom when we're out in public of asking everyone we encounter, "Do you like your job?" Waitresses, cashiers, stockers, snowplow drivers, anyone. Sometimes it's when she notices a particularly grumpy worker. Other times it's as if she's doing research, to find out what kind of job she's going to want. Often she'll get glib, off the cuff answers. Sometimes there's a surprised and thoughtful response, one lady even coming to the verge of tears. Ever the conversationalist, she announced at dinner one night that she wanted each of us to tell our Most Embarrassing Story Ever. I have so many to choose from, but I narrowed mine down to the time I was trying to impress a girl at a dance, and just before delivering a sure-fire opening line ("Hi!"). I sneezed. In her face. Oh, it wasn't pretty. These little buggers are fascinating. I had a few memorable times of being 'alone with dad' when I was a kid, and I want to make sure it's not an unusual thing for us.

Wordnerd's Armpit

There has been much talk lately of the perils of winter driving. Especially since we got a serious dose of winter recently. Now, I do my best to drive responsibly and professionally at all times, and avoid getting or giving the bird or rude names (do NOT fail to click those links, unless you're a limp wristed pusillanimous pansy). I've been driving well more than half my life, and have made a living of it at times. My early driving record was fairly atrocious, but I've recovered nicely and am the darling of insurance agencies everywhere. In fact, I was once interviewed by a gecko. But, that's another story. Today at lunchtime, I was tooling about the countryside in my trusty Jeep, munching pretzels and enjoying the swirling, glittering snow - bright and shining like millions of stars in the sunlight. I traveled down a dirt road in very rural farm country, twisting and turning with ease and confidence. We were in 4-wheel-drive, my Jeep and me, and life was good. Snow drifted across the road in a few places, and I plowed through like a daggone car commercial. I half expected an elephant to be dropped onto the luggage rack from the sky, to make a a point about the excessive strength of my vehicle. The time came to return to work, so I swung around in an intersection and continued from whence I came. The clouds thickened and the snow became grayer. I plowed through another weak little drift, and felt my wheels pull to the right. I countered left and added some gas, trusting my fourby to pull us out, but I continued traveling right. Suddenly, I found myself leaning into my passenger seat and slowing quickly. I stopped a few feet short of a scrubby little tree, and about 3 inches from a bobwahr fence. Yep, I was ditched. Irrevocably. Houston didn't have problems like this (probably because it doesn't snow there). Rocking it just made matters worse, and I sunk slightly into the tundra. To add spice to my predicament, I had no idea where I was, street name wise. And, I left my AAA card at home. Brilliant. There was a farm house 1/4 mile in front of me, and another one 1/4 mile behind. I called Jason at the office, to see if he'd be in my neighborhood (with the plow truck and a tow strap) any time soon. Then he asked the dreaded question: "Where are you?" Crap. Crap crap crappity. I told him I'd call back, and decided to run for it. Grabbing my gloves... then another layer of gloves, and another sweater... I climbed down out of the driver's side door and headed for the nearest faraway house. The wind was biting and harsh, but it wasn't a terribly long walk. The driveways, however, were interminable. Rather than spend another 4 minutes in the cold to find out a house was unoccupied, I hazarded a peek in a mailbox, hoping the homeowner didn't keep a salt-filled shotgun by the kitchen window to ward off mailbox raiders. Nothing. I walked a little way more and scored a freshly-filled mailbox, sporting an envelope with an address on it. I called Jason back and he Mapquested me, saying he'd be along shortly. I climbed back in Jeepers (I'm really starting to think it needs a name, any suggestions?) to wait for my eventual rescue. I pondered my plight, and the plethora of vehicular problems which permeated my past. I've been fairly fortunate, this being only my 3rd time in a ditch. No serious accidents to speak of, only a few minor crunches (other than the time I was hit by a car while riding a bike, and another time I hit a car while riding a bike - I'm sensing a pattern here, but I might be getting overly parenthetical). This isn't so bad, except for the utter helplessness of it. I'm ok, there is no known damage, and I didn't hit any frozen cows. Still not a bad day. Eventually, Jason and his truck and chain arrived, we shoveled out a little hollow hooked it up. Within 60 yards we had tugged it out backwards. The upside? It was a 2 hour lunch, and I got to prove again that I am an idiot. Any adventures you'd care to share?


I was leaving the corner after making the Kid Drop this morning. It's kinda like a rural drug deal; I enter the deserted parking lot, drive around like a dog getting ready for a nap, and park in my designated spot facing the wall. Lights on. Another parent comes in, and does the same thing counterclockwise. The bus arrives, and we wordlessly exchange kids for... for what? Damn, I'm getting gypped... My dealer's gonna hear about this. Anyway, I was on the way to work through the frozen mist-draped orchards, and happened to glance to my left. Gaah! The sky was blue! I swerved a little, then remembered I am cool and unflappable. It's just the sunrise. Only, I hadn't seen it on my commute in months, and was accustomed to inky darkness. Off to the east, the sky was awash in deep blues and greens, the clouds showing silvery edges on their bottoms. It was worth getting up for. Spring is on the way. I know this, because the Early Newsgirl says Detroit is having a heat wave (it was 7 degrees - above zero - during my truncated workout, while West Michigan enjoyed a nipply 3 degrees). Photo courtesy of coworker Melissa's camera phone, because she had the presence of mind to snap a picture (although her view came an hour later than mine).

Wednesday, February 7, 2007


This my linkalicious (and late) February entry for the assignment from Wordsmith Kingfisher. Never heard of Wordsmiths? It's great fun, and you should play along! ================================ “What's the matter, Billy?" I asked my roommate, sliding another beer in front of him. The dark and slightly smoky bar was mostly deserted, except for a few regulars. He was obviously upset, and becoming a little drunk.

“My life sucks. I want to help people, and I have some real gifts. This world needs me, but nobody wants me around.” His shoulders shook a little as he heaved a sigh.

I did my best to cheer him up. “Aw, c’mon. Everybody loves you. Why do you think they call you ‘Smiles?’ Now listen, that thing you did at the gravel pit? That was amazing.” I reminded him of the time he rescued the little girl that had drifted out to the middle of the lake in a tiny raft. Now, this may strike you as odd, but… Billy Evans can fly. He can’t do anything while flying, because it takes all of his focus, but he can go places in a hurry. Since there was a big crowd for a July 4th party, and he’s got a bit of a messiah complex, he decided to walk out to her. The showoff. I could tell he was faking because his feet weren’t really touching the water most of the time. But the crowd went wild with cheers and applause, even before he got halfway there. He reached the raft and almost tripped over it, breaking his concentration. He sank into the water, grabbed the raft, and swam back with the girl in tow.

He groaned. “Yeah, that was cool. But afterward they all turned on me. I was lucky to get out of there alive.” He was right about that. He was mobbed upon his return to shore, and the crowd pressed in on him all night asking what other special powers he had. He tried to blow them off, but they wanted to be healed and levitated and dazzled with magic tricks. He finally relented. Touching his temples and closing his eyes, he began to glow a little. After a very brief moment, nothing happened. “There,” he said. Everyone looked at each other and shrugged. Then someone took a swig of beer. It had turned to water. He miraculously converted all the alcohol in the park into water. His ability to fly came in very handy that night.

I tried again. “Look, all heroes have their problems, but they don’t whine about it. Peter Par… I mean, Clark Ke… Take Bruce Way… Ok, they all whine. But everyone still wants them around when there’s trouble.”

“They think I singlehandedly put Blatz out of business. I’m banned from Wisconsin for life. Nobody invites me to parties. I don’t have health insurance or a girlfriend. I’m a total loser!” he sobbed.

I had to admit I was running out of bright sides to show him. “Hey, at least you’re unique. No other superhero has a burlap costume. Now fly away home and pick up some beer on the way, would ya?”

Bits of Wisdom

Ok, I'm a slacker. But, as my friend Mike likes to say, "It's not procrastination if you plan it that way." I'm working on my Wordsmith challenge, which is due today, and really wanted to post some stories but I find myself owing time elsewhere (stupid work). A couple tidbits follow, with more to come today. I came out in my T-shirt and shorts this morning, fresh from an early workout into the -7 degree pre-dawn darkness to start the Jeep. I wanted it toasty and defrosted when finished getting ready. As my nosehairs crystallized and my breath formed a fog around my head, I looked up and noticed a nearly full moon and long streaks of light in the sky. I said 'Huh,' and turned to go back inside, because the sweat on my legs was solidifying. I suddenly realized the city lights were in the other direction, so I stopped to look again. It was a grand display of Northern Lights, shimmering lines of pale blue-green light between the stars and me. Beautiful. (Photo credit) ======================== Here's a little life lesson I got from my buddy Mitch: A man was walking down the street when he was accosted by a particularly dirty and shabby-looking homeless man who asked him for a couple of dollars for dinner. The man took out his wallet, extracted ten dollars and asked, "If I give you this money, will you buy some beer with it instead of dinner?" "No, I had to stop drinking years ago," the homeless man replied. "Will you use it to go fishing instead of buying food?" the man asked. "No, I don't waste time fishing," the homeless man said. "I need to spend all my time trying to stay alive." "Will you spend this on greens fees at a golf course instead of food?" the man asked. "Are you NUTS!" replied the homeless man. "I haven't played golf in 20 years!" "Will you spend the money on a woman in the red light district instead of food?" the man asked. "What disease would I get for ten lousy bucks?" exclaimed the homeless man. "Well," said the man, "I'm not going to give you the money. Instead, I'm going to take you home for a terrific dinner cooked by my wife." The homeless man was astounded. "Won't your wife be furious with you for doing that? I know I'm dirty, and I probably smell pretty disgusting." The man replied, "That's okay. It's important for her to see what a man looks like after he has given up beer, fishing, golf, and sex."

Monday, February 5, 2007

A Tale of Two Ships

This was emailed to me recently and I enjoyed it. I went looking for the source, and the earliest version I found is at Lost Socks Insanity. Reprinted here, because you need to know. The USS Ronald Reagan passing by the USS Arizona Memorial, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. BEAUTIFUL!

When the Bridge pipes "Man the Rail" there is a lot of rail to man on this monster: shoulder to shoulder, around 4.5 acres.

Her displacement is about 100,000 tons with full complement. Capability • Top speed exceeds 30 knots, powered by two nuclear reactors that can operate for more than 20 years without refueling • Expected to operate in the fleet for about 50 years • Carries over 80 combat aircraft • Three arresting cables can stop a 28-ton aircraft going 150 miles per hour in less than 400 feet

Size • Towers 20 stories above the waterline • 1092 feet long; nearly as long as the Empire State Building is tall • Flight deck covers 4.5 acres • 4 bronze propellers, each 21 feet across, weighing 66,200 pounds • 2 rudders, each 29 by 22 feet and weighing 50 tons • 4 high speed aircraft elevators, each over 4,000 square feet Dates • Dec 8, 1994 Contract awarded to Newport News Shipbuilding • Feb 12, 1998 Keel laid • Oct 1, 2000 Pre-commissioning Unit established • March 4, 2001 Christened by Mrs. Nancy Reagan • May 5, 2003 First underway • July 12, 2003 Commissioned • July 23, 2004 Arrived at home port in San Diego, CA

Capacity • Home to about 6,000 Navy personnel • Carries enough food and supplies to operate for 90 days • 18,150 meals served daily • Distillation plants provide 400,000 gallons of fresh water from sea water daily, enough for 2000 homes • Nearly 30,000 light fixtures and 1,325 miles of cable and wiring 1,400 telephones • 14,000 pillowcases and 28,000 sheets • Costs the Navy approximately $250,000 per day for pier side operation • Costs the Navy approximately $25 million per day for underway operations (Sailor's salaries included).

US Navy welcomes the USS Bill Clinton Sunday July 2nd '06 Vancouver, BC, Headed for Seattle, WA. The US Navy welcomed the latest member of its fleet today.

Pictured above:

The USS William Jefferson Clinton (CVS1) set sail today from its home port of Vancouver, BC. The ship is the first of its kind in the Navy and is a standing legacy to President Bill Clinton "for his foresight in military budget cuts" and his conduct while president. The ship is constructed nearly entirely from recycled aluminum and is completely solar powered with a top speed of 5 knots. It boasts an arsenal comprised of one (unarmed) F14 Tomcat or one (unarmed) F18 Hornet aircraft. Although they cannot be launched or captured on the 100 foot flight deck, they form a very menacing presence. As a standing order there are no firearms allowed on board. The 20 person crew is completely diversified, including members of all races, creeds, sex, and sexual orientation. This crew, like the crew aboard the USS Jimmy Carter, is specially trained to avoid conflicts and appease any and all enemies of the United States at all costs. An onboard Type One DNC Universal Translator can send out messages of apology in any language to anyone who may find America offensive. The number of apologies are limitless and though some may sound hollow and disingenuous, the Navy advises all apologies will sound very sincere. The ship's purpose is not defined so much as a unit of national defense, but instead in times of conflict the USS Clinton has orders to seek refuge in Canada. The ship may be positioned near the Democratic National Party Headquarters for photo-ops. It is largely rumored that the ship will also be the set for the upcoming season of MTV's "The Real World."

Sunday, February 4, 2007

That's MINUS Seventeen

It seems lately that I only get to go skiing once or twice a year. It's always a good time, and I usually can hobble around without too much discomfort afterwards. But, for some reason, it always seems to be on the coldest blooming day of the year. And so it was today. The high was to reach a balmy 6 degrees, but when we bailed out of the Jeep at high noon, it was all of 3. With a wind chill (at the flat airport) of -13. I was pretty certain that on the slopes, with weird wind patterns and the highest point in the county we could expect some nastier wind chills. I had promised Boy after our Long Beach trip last weekend I'd take him to the hill, and since church was canceled and the sun was peeking out, we decided there was no better time than the present to burn a day on the slopes. Boy is halfway through his season pass, and every time he goes out he has a blast. He has a friend on the ski team, so we called after we hit the road to see if she'd join us. She would, and we picked her up on the way. The roads were loosely packed with cars heading to and fro the beer stores and party destinations, as I hear there was to be a game on teevee today (yay Colts!). We arrived at the local 'mountain' and I coughed up my bank card so it could be bent over. I have my own skis, and Boy has his season pass, so we kinda got a twofer. But, it still came to $39 for a 4-hour pass. All I could do was shrug and get dressed. Boy and his friend had been here several times and wanted to ski The Face, this hill's attempt at an expert run. I tried to talk them into a run on the bunny hill, since I was certain to be rusty. They almost relinquished, which means we were immediately riding the chair lift to the tallest point on site. The uphill ride was lovely and serene, except for the harsh, biting east wind. Even though I had 14 layers, I wished for a couple more. We dismounted the chair lift and I remembered what was so thrilling about skiing on the 6-foot unloading hill: I am completely at gravity's mercy. Oh sure, I could influence my destiny, but only Gravity truly controls it, as far as a fat man on skis is concerned. This is the same hill I first skied upon, way back in 1981. The place is largely unchanged, except for the addition of snowboard terrain. The same chair lifts that hauled my shivering butt up the hill way back then are still chugging along, the same fences (mostly) keep daredevil kids from a certain doom, and the same menacing snow cannons are mounted along the sides of the hills. I remember getting off the Ski Club bus, watching a few skiers slalom down the hill, and thinking, "This looks easy. Let's hit the biggest hill." On that day, The Face was littered with moguls. I had no idea how to get off a chair lift, let alone ski a mogul. I spent 65% of that run on my snow-packed tookus, and decided I best take advantage of gentler slopes until I sort things out. I rode the Double to the top of a long, straight, shallow hill ideal for the 'advanced beginner.' Since it was long and straight, it was possible to build up some impressive speed after a while. Especially if you go in a perfectly straight line, since you have no idea how to slow or turn yourself. I feverishly willed myself to the left or right, and sometimes my skis would miraculously obey. Sometimes not, such as the time I neared the creek that divides the hill from the lodge and rental buildings. I willed myself to a stop in a hurry, since the bus wouldn't be leaving for another 2 hours and I had just learned about hypothermia in science class. My methods were sloppy, but effective: simply fall over. Worked every time. Not much for impressing the snow bunnies, but I was sure falling in the creek would impress them less. My technique has improved over the years, and I can hang with most of the folks I ski with (my kid). Falling over is a thing of the past, for the most part. Except for one time today, when the young decided we were all going to make a sharp right turn to exit the chair lift. I was on the right, and wasn't in on the plan, so I skied straight ahead. They steered me firmly into a steel stake, planted ever-so-solidly in the snow. Ow. We had an awesome time, rocketing down long and nearly deserted slopes, veering off through the woods, and even trying out some jumps. I tried several by sheer accident; once I followed Friend of Boy up a steep hill, only to find that the steep hill ended in a pretty serious jump. Nothing but sky. I'm sure it would have been graceful and amazing, if done by someone younger and less fat - and who expected a jump to be there. I landed it, and was wiping my frozen brow when I found myself standing on air again. They had cleverly cut a ledge into the hill, so one moment you're on snow and the next you're not. Again, this could have been cool were it not a total surprise. I landed on my skis, but my hips, knees, and teeth slammed together as I mentally reviewed my company's health plan. No permanent damage that I know of, but I couldn't do 4 minutes on the stair stepper this morning. Boy got in the habit of losing one of his skis every time he got on the chair lift. If you've never practiced, it's a challenge to get off the lift hill with one ski. He would routinely veer left, bounce off the wooden fence and fall over. There he would wait until someone a few chairs back delivered his escaped ski. It was great fun to watch. At the end of 4 hours, we retreated to the lodge for some nutrition (elephant ears and hot cocoa) while we shed our gear. My face was showing the effects of the bitter cold. I'm told I had purple cheeks, which is not good as far as I can tell. My bandanna face-warmer was frozen solid, the fog on my glasses had turned to frost, and my toes, legs, and butt were numb. My pantlegs were mashed into my skin inside my ski boots - I can still feel the phantom creases in my shin. The most glorious feeling was peeling those hard plastic boots from my feet. Okay, the 2nd most glorious - a long shower set to 'boil' was pretty darn nice at the end of the day. I can't wait to go again. =================== By popular demand, here's the recipe for the chili I made last night. Note: this is NOT health food. Bacon grease and tofu do not go together. It was a smaller batch, and turned out very red and tomatoey. I skipped the cooling step, and it was slightly noticeable, but it still turned out delicious. I'm having it for lunch today, and really looking forward to it. Yum! Spiffy Chili Big can dark kidney beans 1 1/2 lbs ground beef 1 lb REAL bacon (NOT turkey bacon) Green, red, and yellow bell peppers Onion Fresh garlic 2 big cans chunk tomatoes Small can seasoned tomatoes V8 juice (optional) Chili powder Ground red pepper Cayenne, Tabasco, or other spiciness to taste Corn flour

Drain beans, toss in stew or crock pot with all the tomatoes, mix. Dump a heap of chili powder (4-5 tsp) and 1/2 tsp red pepper over top and start simmering. Fry bacon extra crispy. Set on paper towel to cool. Sautee chopped garlic and ½ onion in the bacon grease, toss in pot when done Fry ground beef in same pan - add a generous sprinkling of Montreal Steak seasoning and chili powder, drain well Crumble bacon into pot Chop and add remaining onion, bell peppers Simmer covered 2-4 hours, stirring occasionally Add V8 if more liquid is needed Refrigerate 2-4 hours or overnight Return to simmer or crock pot 2 hours Add spice to taste. If too spicy, add sugar 1 tsp at a time. ½ hour before serving, slowly stir in corn flour to thicken. Serve with shredded cheese, corn bread or rice, sour cream.

Saturday, February 3, 2007

The Blizzard Of 07

Yep, that's what they called it alright. They had Rick & Scott, the daily morning talk show on the radio today (on a Saturday!), taking calls about where people were and how bad it was. People were bragging about how many cars were in the ditch and how much snow had drifted across their little stretch of road. Last night I attempted to hook up my glorious Highest-Speed-Ever internet service. I went outside in the harsh and blowing winter, drilled a hole through the garage wall to the cable box, and began stringing cable. My battery drill refused to finish the next hole, so I went inside to get warm while it recharged. After about 3 minutes of getting warm, I decided this was stupid and ran the cable across the family room to the office. It's now joined the ever-growing list of Unfinished Projects, but it will get done as soon as the weather breaks because the wire needs to pass through a closet that's been emptied for this occasion. Into the living room. It's screwing up the ambiance of the Teevee Room, and I can't have that. Currently, my black and coily pipeline is tucked neatly behind a couch, until it gets to the office door. Then it's a trap for woodland wildlife, just waiting to string your leg up in the knotty mess and take you down. Once my duct tape thaws out, I'll fix that problem too. Yeah, I got class, what of it? The internet is a-blazing. However, my 7-year-old computer is not. I discovered just how much of the former slowness could be blamed on dial-up sluggishness: not nearly enough. I've spent 23 hours cleaning up, debugging, and deleting old dusty crap from the ol' family puter. There were scraps of games, smileys, all manner of bookmarks, and unused programs from the Clinton era littering its innards. I nodded off several times in my captain's chair to the clicks and whirs of a previously neglected hard drive. Norton thinks I'm virus free, but I'm not so sure. I'll be unpacking Tracy Lynn's toolbox soon to see what else might lurk in the circuitous recesses of my old machine (thanks again, you rock!). I had planned to post a post this morning, then take Boy skiing. I looked out my window, shivered, and said something along the lines of "Oh, HAYell no." He had been invited to the movies with one friend and sledding with another, so we set up for next week and I got to work on my wadded up mess of a computer. I took a nap while Windows installed 12 updates I'd missed over the years, and woke up ready to do something. The weather outside was frightful, but there was no delightful fire inside, so what to do? I hit the garage door opener and watched snow blow in from the 4 corners of Hoth. The door slid up, up, up, and still all I could see was snow. It was a full 30" deep against the garage door. I gamely pulled on my duck boots and leather gloves and grabbed my trusty shovel. An hour later, Mrs. Spiffy came out all bundled up, only the whites of her eyes showing. I could tell it was her because the kids are far too smart to come out in weather like this. We shoveled in silence for a few minutes, then agreed that a snowblower sounds about right for a Saturday afternoon. The driveway was only 1/4 done, but the Jeep was warmed up for the upcoming provision run, and I had high hopes that she could blast through the shin-deep drifts. Sure enough, she had us into the deserted byways in no time. The radio cackled on about how stupid one would have to be to travel on a day like this, and there were times when I might agree, except my tires kept an amazing grip on the road and the heat was a-crankin', so I led us in a chorus of 'It's Not So Bad.' We arrived at the nearly deserted Home Depot and joined a short line of folks who were there for the same reason as we. It was down to the Ultra Pricey, High-Testosterone models, or a couple different mid-size driveway specials. I narrowed it down to two machines with the same engine; one had electric start, and the other had metal blades. I went with the metal blades, because when I throw a rock, I want it thrown. I finagled a gas can into the deal (I already own 3 gas cans, but they were all in my garage. Empty, of course), swiped the card, and we were off into the whiteout again. But first, the gas station. I filled the Jeep and the new gas can and went inside for the provisions. We'd run out of toilet paper and bread, which is bad if you're gonna be snowed in for the weekend. The cashier shared with me that she didn't like Charmin because it sticks to her ass. Hello? Did I need to know that?? Now I'll be all skeeved out thinking about it every time I visit the littlest room. Jibblies. On the way home, we noted the tracks in the medians and shoulders that indicated all the pileups we'd heard about. Apparently it was a very busy day for crashes, and we had missed the worst of it. We passed one car being pulled out after collecting a day's worth of snow on the roof, and came up to another freshly-spun compact jobby, lights on and facing the wrong way. I eased onto the left shoulder with the four-ways flashing, and asked if I could help. The girl behind the wheel said they were OK, but it was stuck pretty good. Her passenger boyfriend came out and helped me dig snow from under the body and back wheels, but after much pushing and tire spinning, it was still buried. A guy with a big red truck pulled over and asked if he could help, and we welcomed him and his tow strap. A short tug and she was free. While I helped him wrap up the tow strap, a guy passed slowly on the highway, window down and scowl on his face, shouting, "Get off the road, assholes!" I waved, hoping for some of BrendaLove's telekinetic powers. He'll wind up in a ditch someday soon, I'm sure of it. We got home and I immediately set to work with my new toy. It was fully assembled, had Factory Oil installed, and was raring to go. Two pulls and it roared to life, ready to chew through the piles of fluff that just kept coming. As I was making my 3rd pass, satisfied with the enormous rooster tail I could create, I remembered an announcement I heard in Kindergarten. Mr. Van Essen, the principal, came into class and asked us all to make construction paper sympathy cards for the widow across the street. Her husband had been shoveling snow over the weekend, and died of a heart attack right in the driveway. I remember running home that afternoon to warn my dad that shoveling was bad, and clung to his leg as he got his coat and hat. He assured me that I had nothing to worry about, for he had a snowblower. It was a great beastly thing, rusty green with a big smoky engine on top and chains on the tires. He'd come in smelling of gas fumes and cold, grumbling about another window that he'd have to fix in the spring. I was happy to join the club of former-shovelers today. And so, as I read the announcement that church is canceled tomorrow, I'm ready for anything Momma Nature can throw at me. I think I'll be staying in and brewing up some of my blue-ribbon chili tomorrow; come over for lunch, if you're brave enough!

Friday, February 2, 2007

Laying Pipe

My Cable Guy was hooking me up with the new High Speed Pipleline yesterday. But not yet. Oh no. I'm well into Friday and still have no blazing fast internet to speak of. I'm told it's turned on. The new Expanded Teevee package is functioning, calling to me, inviting me to trade sleep for Mythbusters or MXC or a documentary about aircraft carriers or boll weevils. But the phone and internet - not so much. I spoke with the Cable Guy three times yesterday. Not sure which of us was cluelesser, but the result was much nodding while pretending to understand for both of us. The IT Guy at work says I need to have a router with a firewall, otherwise I can expect to be infected within 35 seconds of plugging in. I asked Cable Guy if the cable modem came with a firewall, and he said I could download one free after I get connected. Craptacular! So, I can get a virus while trying to protect myself from viruses. The recommended solution was a new router for $50, and installing a Windows service pack which I gave up on last year because at dialup speeds it would take 11 days. I stuffed the whole thing onto my new external hard drive (which I bought last month to comply with the new No Personal Music On Company Machines policy) in about 11 minutes, and drained it into my thirsty home computer last night. I might be ready to hook it up tonight... But first, there's the matter of some wiring. Cable Guy asked, "How do you propose I get the wire from your cable box to your office?" I gave him my answer, and he said, "Oh. We don't do that. We drape it along the outside of your house and drill through the wall into the room you want." Call me picky, but that didn't work for me. The cable box is on the side of the garage facing the back yard, and the office is on the front of the house facing the street. He'd have to string it across a driveway, front sidewalk, front door, and down the steps to the office, and that just screams 'fugly' to me for some reason. Since I'm a recovering builder and have all the tools and some of the skills necessary, I asked him to leave me some cable and I'd do it myself. I tried to forget that I am paying for the installation, and IT'S FEBRUARY. Coldest week of the year so far. Vinyl siding tends to shatter when touched in this climate. Remind me to bite my tongue next time, would you? (On a side note, we DID get half the install cost refunded, because he didn't bring the cable modem. Coming in the mail. Grr!) So, that's my project for the evening. If I don't slip off a ladder, die of exposure, or chuck my computer out the window, I'll be posting again tonight.