Thursday, March 22, 2007


sus·pend (stolen from hang by attachment to something above: to suspend a chandelier from the ceiling. keep from falling, sinking, forming a deposit, etc., as if by hanging: to suspend solid particles in a liquid. hold or keep undetermined; refrain from forming or concluding definitely: to suspend one's judgment. defer or postpone: to suspend sentence on a convicted person. cause to cease or bring to a stop or stay, usually for a time: to suspend payment. cause to cease for a time from operation or effect, as a law, rule, privilege, service, or the like: to suspend ferry service. debar, usually for a limited time, from the exercise of an office or function or the enjoyment of a privilege: The student was suspended from school. keep in a mood or feeling of expectation or incompleteness; keep waiting in suspense: Finish the story; don't suspend us in midair. come to a stop, usually temporarily; cease from operation for a time.
Good morning good people. For a time I'll be suspending Spiffytown. I appreciate your visiting and commenting, and your friendship.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Weekend at the Museum

This last weekend Mrs. Spiffy and I dropped the kids at her sister's and traveled 3 hours and one time zone into Chicago to see the Body Worlds 2 exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry. She's a nursing student, and her anatomy professor highly recommended the exhibit to help with visualizing muscle groups in living (heh) color. The exhibit was an invitation to explore the philosophy, art, and science of anatomy. Very well done. It was an adventuresome trip, and before I get on with it I must say that while I lurve my Buick, it sucks large that I couldn't play my new OK Go (in-ca-redibly cool) CD in it. Stinkin' car came without a CD player. I wrangled one from the car dealer (he handed me a factory deck from a cluttered broom closet, said I could install it myself), but it didn't fit. I found this out after I had removed the entire dashboard. So we were reduced to finding strange stations in a strange town and listening until they got fuzzy or played something irritating. I get to Chicago at least twice a year; there's always something interesting going on, and try to hit the museum at least once a year. Fascinating place, all kinds of stuff to look at and read and stand in awe over/ under/ near/ of. We spent a few hours in the Body Worlds exhibit, and the rest of the day in the general admission areas. It was more crowded than any mall at Christmas, a thriving throng of living, breathing humanity staring in wide-eyed wonder at plasinated, departed humanity. The learning, people, oh the learning. It was immense. Things that would have bored me senseless as a youth were leaping out and fascinating me right upside the head. Stats like this: 26: The length of your digestive system in feet, from tongue to... end. 219 MPH: The speed at which signals travel the nervous system 2-3: The weight of the average brain, in pounds (about 1% of my mass) 20%: The amount of your blood supply required by the brain Rows and rows of well-lit, glass topped tables housed slices and bits and whole organs. Diseased parts were on display next to healthy specimens. The inside of a young, healthy aorta, about 18" long - slippery shiny smooth - compared to crotchety old aorta, sporting what looked like the frozen results of a rice krispies sneeze. Healthy livers next to the fatty, yellowing liver of a moderately heavy drinker, next to the dried-out coffee soaked sponge of a cirrhosis liver. Of course, they had a section on lungs and the effects of smoking. There was a video display with Yul Brenner's last will and testament. It was a one minute loop of him explaining how, since he got sick, he wanted to say one thing: Don't smoke. There was a clear plastic case where smokers could deposit their last packs. It was half full at 11 AM. One table displayed the difference between a 300 pound person's midsection and that of a 120-pounder. Dramatic, to say the least. Mr. 300 only made it to 50, his poor heart couldn't squeeze the blood through his mass and gave up on him. There were lots of very cool displays. Must be seen to be believed. The most interesting to me were the Exploded Man, which had an entire body expanded away to reveal how things fit together (about 12 feet tall, suspended from thin wires. Extremely striking visually), and then one where a man was beside himself. It had his entire musculature standing in a walking pose. Right behind and a little to the side, was his very own skeleton. Teeth fixed in that permanent skeleton grin, eyeballs completing the happy smile. I was a bit worried that I'd be a tad freaked out by all the explicit gruesomeness. It was actually not a problem, except for a few parts. They had a guy hanging in a closet. In slices. Body parts don't bother me, and the the exposed, denuded muscles and whole-body displays were well done and fascinating. But this guy, in his grey-complected, closed-eye segmentedness really got to me. The 2 inch slab that contained his face looked peaceful. Alas, there is more to post but I shall save it for another day. 10 hours of mind-draining work later and I'm only 1/3 of the way through this. TTFN

Sunday, March 18, 2007

In One Word, Answer

I was just innocently creeping around in Lady Jane Scarlett's den, and BAM! She tagged me. (OK, this was mid-January. I never said I'd do it immediately.) 1. Where is your cell phone? Gone 2. Your spouse? Studying 3. Your hair? Disappearing 4. Your mother? Invalid 5. Your father? Retired 6. Your favorite thing? Kidlaughs 7. Your dream last night? Unremembered 8. Your favorite drink? Water 9. Your dream car? Runs 10. The room you are in? Cozy 11. Your ex? What? 12. Your fear? Bears. 13. What do you want to be in 10 years? Tremendous 14. Who did you hang out with last night? S.U. 15. What you’re not? Wet. 16. Muffins? Chocolate. 17. One of your wish list items? Airplane 18. Your dinner tonight? Culver's 19. The last thing you ate? Butterburger with Swiss and Everything, Crinkle Fries, and (of course) Diet Coke 20. What are you wearing? Comfies 21. Your tv? Off 22. Your pet? Sheds 23. Your computer? Slow 24. Your life? Full 25. Your mood? Energetic 26. Your holidays? Short 27. What are you thinking about right now? Tomorrow 28. Your car? Resting 29. Your work? Waiting 30. Summer? Humid 31. Your relationship status? On 32. Your dream vacation? Hawaii 33. When is the last time you laughed? Moments ago 34. Last time you cried? Don't 35. School? Michigan! You're supposed to do this just because you saw it. Now, that's just silly because you'll only do this if you feel like it. Therefore, you are hereby tagged if you meet the following requirements: 1. You read this 2. You feel like doing it 3. You haven't done it before.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Was That It?

It went from sunny, warm, and beautiful back to scraping the windshield and bundling up. At least most of the snow is gone, and the floodwaters are receding. The route I take to work each morning was closed* for a couple days because the swamp had claimed the road in several low spots due to huge amounts of runoff. Most roads are back to normal. *closed to 'other people' that is. Those without urgent business on that road, and a Jeep. ========= Is there anything better than a brand new box of boxes of Girl Scout Cookies? I just let my teeth sink through a layer of soft chocolate and creamy peanut butter into a crunchy fresh center of crispy cookie goodness. Mmmm, that tasted like another one. Must save room for Thin Mints. Don't tell the Piggies. ========= I got a whole lotta nothin today. So, on to entertainment news. I heard that not only is the original cast of Futurama back at work on new episodes, but they are also making four movies! The first, Bender's Big Score, is in production even now. Cartoon-wise, Futurama is second only to Looney Tunes in quality, character development, sophistication, artwork, and being flat-out funny. The voice work is stellar - perfectly cast with immense talent. In fact, Billy West, who does a multitude of characters for the show, took over voicing many of Mel Blanc's characters for newer WB shows. Every episode makes me laugh out loud, which is still true after repeated watching. I own the entire collection (yes, I'm that much of a geek) and it's my most prized set of DVD's. I can relate to most of the characters: Professor Farnsworth, the grumpy misunderstood aging inventive genius with an entire collection of doomsday devices and an intergalactic spaceship; Fry, the clueless but good-natured idiot; HedonismBot (who wouldn't want to eat grapes?); even Hermes Conrad, who lives for collating and stamping. I'd have to say if I were going to be any character, it'd be Bender. Narcissistic and calculating, he's an all around fun guy who can store things (and even brew beer) in his belly and beat people with one detached arm. Plus, he has a wicked cool antenna. If you were going to be any cartoon character, which one and why?

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Acts of Service

Today it was distinctly less springy than the last 2 days. I wore a Hawaiian shirt anyway. I believe the weather should match my mood, not the other way around. Yesterday Boy was job-shadowing me. Although we could visit career fields that interested us, we had no such program at my school. I would have enjoyed it. His school has it as a grade requirement, and the students have to spend at least half a day with an employee and answer specific questions. Well done program, and it was fun for both of us. We went out to lunch at the local burger joint (which used to be a railroad depot, then a dentist's office, and now a restaurant). Good food, very friendly if not flawless service (sometimes things need repeating, but it's a short walk to the kitchen and the waitresses are so nice it's impossible to get frustrated), and cheap prices. And, it's the only sit-down joint in this little town (besides the dark & smoky saloon). It's frequently frequented by the same old-timers who have been in town their entire lives, farming or raising families or keeping businesses. One grumpy-looking codger shuffled to a corner table, and before he plopped his wrinkly butt on a chair, the waitress had his drink on the table with a smile. He hardly acknowledged her exceptional care and service. It got me to thinking about how and why people serve each other. Back in my pizza days, we had a customer who was, shall we say, a regular. I'd answer the phone and give my 20-second speech thanking the caller for calling and would you like to try this or that special today? The instant I was done, he'd say, "Yeah, this is Earl," and hang up. Within 15 minutes, he'd have a piping hot medium pepperoni-onion-beef pizza at his doorstep, with a Coke (no ice). He paid $15 for a $9 meal about 3 times a week. We drivers jockeyed to get that run, and everyone worked together to ensure he got perfect service. It wasn't just the money; he was genuinely a nice guy who liked to keep things simple for himself and everyone else. We had other customers who tipped exceptionally well, but they were such insufferable plicks that nobody wanted to deal with them if at all avoidable. I think people generally want to do nice things for people. It feels good to make someone smile, and in many cases it's a requirement if you want to earn good money. Motivation is a tricky thing to me. I always want to think only the noblest of motives are present in me, but I know better. People always do things that are in their perceived best interest - even unpleasant things. Whether that interest is preserving a sense of righteousness, loyalty, or duty - or simply looking good, feeling good, or being in control, all activities produce some kind of payoff. Whether it's worth it is another matter. Some folks, however, make me want to either a) avoid them; b) poke them in the forehead with a pointy stick; or c) sic a skilled SpooNinja on their sorry asses. I don't mind getting the bird if I cut someone off in traffic, because cutting people off (no matter how unintentional) is frustrating to the cuttee. But if I've gone out of my way to be kind, gracious, and generous - and then get the bird - that sucks. I take that kinda stuff personally. Ever had someone who couldn't pay you enough to be nice to them?

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Happy Pi Day

That's pronounced "Pie Day," not piday (as in bidet). Just thought you should know. Ahem. Well, on to more sophisticated things. Boy is my job shadow today, so he'll learn why Dilbert is so popular in the office. I was thinking t'udderday how miraculous it is that I made it to adulthood. Specifically because of a long and storied history with bikes. I never thought at the time of my youth that bicycles hated me, but as I review the pattern, one could get the distinct feeling that they really thought I should be dead. Malicious little weasels, all of 'em. My first memory of myself on a two-wheeler has me zooming down the sidewalk, Dad holding the back of my seat to make sure he didn't have to explain howcome I came home all bloody. We went back and forth down the sidewalk a dozen times, and finally I could keep the thing upright. Until I got to a heave in the sidewalk, which I could have navigated except for a brief moment of panic. And a tree, which jumped out in front of me. Luckily, I was going slow enough to cause very minimal damage. Little did I know, this was only the beginning of the Cold War between my bikes and me. My friends and I would terrorize the neighborhood, being as cool as little Christian Reformed Dutch kids can be. We weren't allowed to ride bikes on Sundays, but we made up for it the rest of the week. Clothespins and playing cards in the spokes, homebuilt ramps and obstacle courses, and reenactments of Emergency 51 made up my neighbors' soundtrack. We'd ride up to the Gene Meyer Pharmacy and spend our meager allowances on candy and "fireworks" - smoke bombs, snakes, snap-pops, and ladyfingers. Back at the ranch, we'd wreak whatever havoc could be wrought and invent ways to play with fire. A favorite trick was to stick a smoke bomb in the frame by the back wheel, light it, and cruise up and down the street like a motorcycle gang, belching macho exhaust. Once my aunt came back from Kentucky and handed me a sack of fireworks she got from a roadside stand. I don't think my dad knew she did this. I reached in and grabbed a smoke bomb, installed it in the frame, lit it and waited for the fuse to burn down. Next thing I knew, I couldn't hear, my tire was flat, a buncha spokes bent and twisted, and I was on the ground. That was my first experience with an M-80. In Little League, there was a kid named Ernie who had an amazing BMX-style dirt bike. It was Hulk Green and had knobby tires, a bottle holder, and motorcycle grips. I broke the 10th Commandment all over that thing. Ernie let me touch it once, but he'd never let me ride it. Then, one early May morning, I came downstairs. It was my birthday, and Mom had made breakfast (which was special, we lived on cold cereal most days). There, in the living room, was the Green Monster. I was an odd little kid, because my first thought was, "We're not supposed to have bikes in the living room," and my second was, "Dad stole Ernie's bike! Sweet!!" The truth was that Ernie was getting a new bike, and our dads worked a deal that got me his old one. I was ecstatic, and immediately took it out for a test drive. It was heavy and hard to pedal, but I looked like Evel Knievel on the thing, except for the tight white jumpsuit and broken bones. For now. As I practiced coasting downhill on my new bike, I hit a bump in the road. I remember watching the pavement come closer to my face, and then nothing. I heard some kid crying, and began to realize it was me, as I was standing in my doorway with the neighbor who had scooped me up to bring me home. The first thing my mom saw was, I'm sure, not a pretty sight. Where her boy's face should be was a gooey mess of hamburger and gravel. I had skidded to a stop on the right side of my face, and remember showing up to church unable to open one eye for 2 weeks. That bike and I never got along too well after that. Different bike, different time, same hill. I was cruising on my purple sparkly chopper with the banana seat and a 3-speed gear shifter on the crossbar. It was a total badass 70's bike, and I would ride around like one of Heck's own angels. On the way home from school one day, enjoying a long downhill coast toward a normally busy intersection. There was no traffic, and I really didn't feel like stopping. I picked up speed through the intersection, certain there were no cars approaching. Suddenly, my chopper and I were airborne, but in different directions. The bike was launched half a block to the north, while I rocketed south - into the windshield of a magically appearing car. I slid off the hood and onto the pavement. I crawled to the side of the road, thinking it was a bad idea to lie in the street because you could get hit by a car like that. Another memorable event for my mom. I got out of it with a nasty bump on the head and a gash on my leg. At the time, they weren't able to detect any brain damage; it must have been present before the accident. There are many, many more stories. Fortunately I had a little more brains and skill by the time I found myself riding through mountains and next to logging trucks and sheer cliff faces, and the rest of the stories seem pretty tame. Remind me to tell ya some slow news day in the future. ============= Sometimes I think about things, and this is one of those times: Is there a Chinese restaurant anywhere that has hot water at the sink?

Monday, March 12, 2007


Inspired by Aly Kaply, niece of Der Spoonflinger Herself, is a post of prankmatic proportions. I've always been a fan of lighthearted mischief. Anything that causes someone to say naughty words and then forget about it is good times for me. From an early age, I'd play ding-dong-ditch-it on the neighbors, or TP a friend's house, or try the Flaming Poo trick (never with full success). The advent of Licensed Driverhood brought a whole new realm of naughtiness, as we could stage our prankiness far from our parents, which was always a plus. I'll not tell of my night in jail just yet, because that wasn't SUPPOSED to be misdemeanor malicious destruction of property. It just turned out that way. In school, there were a couple of kids who got matching Jeep Wranglers. On the last day of school, their Senior Prank was to park said Jeeps on the steps, blocking the office doors. Seems harmless enough to me, but they were not allowed to graduate. Poor schmucks. There was a kid who severely annoyed one of the football players. He enlisted us, his teammates, to help him exact revenge one afternoon. The annoyer had parked his VW Rabbit at the end of a row near the woods. A dozen of us picked up the car, walked it about 30 yards over, and placed it bumper-to-bumper between two trees. It was hilarious watching the kid try to wiggle the car out of that spot, carefully backing-and-forthing for about 20 minutes. I had a girlfriend after high school whose big brother was a first class, full scholarship geek of epic proportions. In his 20's, he was a big fan of Yanni other such smooth jazz, had a studio apartment, and was an airport parking lot attendant. A trio of us decided it was Prank Night, and raided his apartment. We saran-wrapped the toilet and applied Fishstink (aromatic fish bait in paste form) to the doorknobs, light switches, and ice cube trays. We gave up on stuffing the bathroom with wadded up newspaper, because we were both lazy and impatient. Finished with the demolition of his cozy, familiar surroundings, we set off to his place of employ. The kid in back had a tank sprayer filled with water and fully pressurized. Think fire extinguisher with a hand-pump. We pulled up to his booth and girlfriend chatted with him a moment. Then, Kid In Back let loose with a mighty spray from the hose. Big Brother smelled a rat, since his sister was normally not friendly to him, and closed the window before suffering a really wet uniform. On the way home, KIB couldn't be satisfied with his failed prank, and hosed down neighboring cars at stoplights. This earned me a personal visit from the very pissed-off driver of an orange GTO, who opened my Chevette's window with his bare fists. I was lucky to escape with only a bloodied ear. I've heard, but never witnessed, that if you pinch a goose's beak shut, he'll poop uncontrollably. There's a local legend involving a college student who captured a goose, some duct tape, and a neighbor's car. Hilarity ensued, including a completely ruined interior and one dead goose. That's a bit extreme for my style. I've messed with cars before, but only by stretch-wrapping the entire vehicle (poor driver late for leaving, trying to saw through a dozen layers of plastic with a key, inventing new cursing combinations) or filling the car with packing peanuts via the sunroof. My favorite recent pranks involve some toys Boy and I found at a novelty shop on Mackinac Island. He got a shock-stapler, which made no sense to me until I borrowed it. I got almost everyone in the office with that contraption, including the boss. Anyway, we were out to lunch on the Island, and he asked the waitress if she knew how to fix it, because he had just bought it and it wouldn't staple. She turned it over, studying it, not noticing the wires, until she finally squeezed it and ZZZAAPP!! Got a hearty shock. She flung the toy across the table, wide eyed and stammering. Naturally, we all cracked up. I leaned over and suggested that it would be OK for her to get Boy back for it. She came out moments later with our drinks, Boy's conspicuously handed to him first. He took a long drag, and his face twisted up like he had smelled rancid skunkmeat. He swallowed hard, exclaiming, "EEeeew! What IS that??" She had poured a half-cup of pickle juice in with his Diet Coke. Simply excellent. Any grand schemes you'd like to share?

Everybody's Doing It

Stolen from Tiff, Wordnerd, Bob-Kat, Blitz Krieg, and other copykat types. Uncanny in accuracy, and more fun than I thought it would be. Although, should it bug me to a high degree that it left the apostrophes out of my descriptions? Cuz, you know, it does. They didn't have a spot in the assessment for anality or grammatical nerdiness.

Somebody Owes Me An Hour

It's dark again. Friday, when I came in to work, it wasn't. It's a ripoff and a scam, and I won't stand for it. So, I'll sit. Meh, it's like getting to watch the season change again. This weekend was fraught with lovely weather, the kind that entices and seduces and falls on its glorious knees begging you to come away with it. So I spent as much time as my pale sack of flesh would tolerate out-of-doors. It wasn't exactly warm by normal standards, but 48 is downright balmy after you get acclimated to 12 and below. I went wogging this morning, and it was an adventure. The warmth of the weekend melted lots of snow, but the cold that comes with nightfall turned the runoff into a thin & crispy crust glazing over the asphalt. In the dark, it's tough to see the difference between black pavement and black ice. I expected to do the instysplits at every moment, and only let my guard down under streetlights, where it was plain to see whether I was on dry land. This coming Wednesday is Pi Day, as the numeric date is... well, if you don't know already, you're not geek enough to appreciate it. This PSA is brought to you so you have time to set up the catering and buy the booze. Leave party invitations in the comments, I'll come to each of your celebrations. Time to Earn My Keep, which means that this morning I have an actual deadline and better do something or join the Former Employees Club (there actually is one, they meet monthly at a local pub. There's a Future Former Employees Club too, we go out for lunch on Fridays).

Saturday, March 10, 2007

80, My First Numbered Post

Numbering posts is the trendy thing to do, and if I ain't trendy, then cornflakes don't come with ratpoo anymore. It's also trendy to notice visits to blogs, and as I write this the sitemeter says 3061 people have frittered away precious time here. That's about 38 visits per post. If I ever want to catch up to the Real Bloggers, I better write more. Plus, ETW says if I don't write every day she's not getting her money's worth. And we can't have that. I got some presents from the wimmins' trip to Disney. Cooking presents. Sweet. And, since it's sunny and a very nice 48 here today, I'm thinking they brought back some weather too. Warm enough to traipse about jacketless, and the snow is receding from the driveway. It was even sparkly enough to get the car washed. This morning I rose and shone and made some experimental scrambled eggs with the Mickey egg rings. They turned out more tasty than artistic; they didn't come with instructions, but since I'm a guy I wouldn't have read 'em anyway. Today is another numbered day. Seventeen. Way back in 1990, when silver and rose were the cool colors to have in a wedding, Mrs. Spiffy and I got all dressed up and tied a knot. That was a long time ago, seemingly in a galaxy far away. The church we got hitched in is still just up the street, but lots has changed since then. We didn't have teenagers or a mortgage or a history at the time. Happy anniversary, Mrs. S. To celebrate, we spent A Day About Home. Traditionally, our anniversary is a very big deal, and we'd plan elaborate trips or events. This year, we'd both been traveling a lot recently, and Boy had driver's training right in the middle of the day. So, we took him to class and went downtown to go for a walk in the sunshine and get some lunch at a place we'd never been. Went to San Chez Tapas Bistro, a Spanish place in an old building right in the center of downtown. Lotsa windows, and the place got quite crowded by about 1PM. There was a womens' expo downtown, and the joint was packed with females of every stripe. I was one of maybe 3 guys in the room (not counting the cooks). The food was wonderful, we got hummus appetizers and paella, and a local amber beer. Lunch beer is the best. Another item of Disney loot I got was a "Dismembered Mickey" cutting board. I love the flexible plastic ones. They take up almost no room in the cupboard, and you can funnel whatever you've just chopped into the mix. Last night I made a concoction in an attempt to copy this dish from Bombay Cuisine, a nearby Indian restaurant. Amazing stuff. It has chicken, spinach, and spicy creamy goodness to it. Recipe follows. We were planning to have friends over, but they bailed out on us and I was already in full SuperChef mode, no way I was just gonna have spaghetti after getting all amped up to be exotic (at least for Dutch people). It really turned out as something good, but it's no match for the real Indian version. Have no idea what I was doing. Pictured are the leftovers, which were scarfed for dinner today. Get this stuff: 3-4 chicken breasts 2 cans spinach Red bell pepper 1 medium onion, chopped Salt, pepper Curry, turmeric, thyme Basmati rice 4 oz. Cream cheese Dollop sour cream 1 pint Jim Beam Don't forget to have a well stocked kitchen, including stove, oven, pots, pans, sharp things, and flippers. No, not fish flippers (although you could flip fish with one), but food flippers. AKA Spatula or Turner, depending on which silly accent you've adopted. First, put the Jim Beam on ice. Sip. Repeat during cooking. Splash some oil into a pan and sautee onion. Cut chicken into bite size chunks and cook. At this point I started the rice, as it takes about 55 minutes from zero to done. It's not Minute rice by any means, but it was worth it. Hearty, tasty stuff that. Expensive, but I was going for UltraYum, not just regular yum. Sprinkle the chicken generously with curry, turmeric, salt & pepper. I probably used 1 1/2 - 2 tsp. curry, and 3/4 - 1 tsp turmeric. It should turn very yellow. Red pepper was sprinkled by the pinch, about 1/4 tsp. Turned out very mild, could have used more. Add cream cheese and sour cream (could use heavy cream or half & half too, but I failed to get any); melt Stir until well coated. Add bell peppers, chunked up. Last, drain the spinach and add to the mix. Fold into a baking dish, bake at 350 until the rice is done, about 20-30 minutes. I baked up some Flaky Layers Grands rolls too, because I like 'em. A lot. You can tell by my stunning lack of momentum in the Shrinking Piggies Smackdown (go see the update!) Scoop out some yummy rice onto plates of hungry minions; top with chickenny spinachey goodness, and watch it disappear. Oh, it were quite good.

Friday, March 9, 2007

Various Things

Happy Friday! A few things to report, then it's time to apply my snotlocker to the archaic spinning implement-sharpening device. Er, something. Last night I made Beef Strogatiff, and holey freaking cow was it good. Never had it with a) ground beef and b) rice instead of noodles, but it was deeeeligh. How do I know it was a hit? No leftovers again. Crap. I wanted some for lunch today, but it's the price you pay for cooking something good. I used the white wine AND red pepper (1/4 tsp - probably a pinch hotter than needbe), and savory doesn't come close. Creamy, rich, and extrayum. I used cream of celery soup too, because every time I try mushrooms, they taste like mushrooms - and that just doesn't work for me. However, I did get a comment that 'this dish needs mushrooms,' so if that floats your boat, so be it. (In case you're wondering, no those aren't my boobies in the picture. Not my kitchen either.) =============== Mrs. Spiffy and Girl returned safely late Wednesday night from their week at Disneyworld. They didn't want to come home. I can't say I blame 'em, since it's freaking Disneyworld - and it was 80 degrees there, compared to 12 here. They're both tannish-pink and full of tales to tell. Girl dumped about 500 photos onto the computer last night, I'll hopefully get to see them tonight. =============== Rhetorical question: Can you be a pirate if you're from Boston? Maybe it's a silly question, but practice the Boston accent: "I pahk my cah in hahvahd yahd..." Now try and roll off a hearty "AAARRRRRGH!!" with that affectation. =============== Last night I found myself locked both in and out of work. Our lunchroom/ restrooms are part of the shop's keying and security system, while the office is separate. I ducked into the echo chamber toward the end of the day, and when I washed up and came out, discovered that I was the last one in the building. Fred, a coworker, thought HE was the last one in the building. Alarms set and doors locked. My keys, naturally, were in the office. Fortunately, I have experience with breaking and entering. I've "had to" break into my own house, churches, offices, and friends' houses before, and can do amazing tricks with a butter knife and coat hanger. The biggest lifesaver is that I had the occasion to know the shop's alarm code; that would have been harder to explain. After about 20 minutes of fiddling, and calling to bail out on Boy's Parent Teacher Conferences (way to go, Boy! He's the art teacher's favorite student, and all-around good kid), I shivered out to Esme The Jeep. Rooting around in the little compartment between the seats, I found an old keyring. Sometimes it's possible through creative wiggling to get another key to work, so I brought it along. The first key I tried turned the lock effortlessly. Forgot all about that spare. Yep, I'm still as smart as ever.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Down In Flames

This story problem had me overheating my few precious brain cells. You're in a car, going a constant speed. To your left, there is a 2' dropoff. To your right, there is a fire truck, going the same speed as you. In front of you, there is a galloping horse. You cannot overtake the horse. Behind you, there is another horse, also going the same speed. How do you get out of this situation? (you may need a pencil) Get your drunk ass off the merry go round. Shamelessly ripped off from Bob and Tom this morning =============== Go check out the Shrinking Piggies site, if only for the cool diminshing mascot. Show your support, we shrinkers are chugging along! =============== A discussion th'other day about fired people generated some very interesting tales. Anyone who has been in the workplace any length of time knows of someone who either quit or was sacked. Sometimes it's exceedingly sad, and sometimes it's spectacular. Now, I've been reassigned/ downsized/ upsized/ recruited/ laid off/ fired/ rehired many times in my long and storied career. I've never gone 2 weeks in a row without working since I was 17. Ever. It was a milestone to reach a point where I get two weeks' paid vacation; to date I've never put 'em together in one clump. I like to sprinkle short trips on long weekends throughout the year. But that's beside the point, which I think is this: I don't tend to panic, for there is always work to do. I know how to exit a company somewhat gracefully, because burning bridges is generally bad for one's career path, especially if you have a lot of water to cross. Before I put more metaphors in a blender and hit 'puree,' let me get to the stories. One employer is rich with stories of tumultuous turnover. As an industry leader, it has been growing steadily since the company was founded. You would think in a high-unemployment state like Michigan, one would be able to find high quality, highly qualified people. You'd be wrong, because the good ones are usually taken. We had one guy that came from a lifetime of field construction to work in the office. He used the first 6 months as 'learning curve' time, as he barely knew how to work a computer and keep track of things. He'd come in, prop his feet on his desk, have the office assistant fetch files and coffee, run back and forth making single copies, and make an occasional phone call. Sometimes he'd just stare out the window for hours. When the 6 months were up, he began becoming belligerent, and it seemed he would try to piss off the boss. He'd get into shouting matches, march around trying to create alliances in the cube farm, and go to the president to complain about the VP. The office pool had him being fired a full 3 months before it actually happened. On the way out, he hugged everyone. Even me. It was hella weird, as he and I were cordial coworkers, but not hugbuddies. Ever. Soon after the door clicked shut behind him, I began to realize some of his files were missing. No, wait. All of them. He had deleted his entire network file system. It took 3 days to recover most of the information, and months for his projects to quit swirling around the bowl and settle down. The VP he had locked horns with was a brilliant accountant, great with numbers and analysis, but a bit awkward with people. He was promoted from Controller to VP of Operations after several successful years with the company. One time we were chatting in the common area of the cube farm and I commented that the place ran far better while he was out on vacation, and when would he be leaving again? The gasps from adjacent offices were audible. His face scrolled through various expressions like a slot machine, trying out which reaction to choose. I suddenly realized I may have started my own Doomsday Clock. He laughed insincerely and went back to his corner office, I'm sure to draft my pink slip. In a grand and surprising twist, it turns out he was sacked soon after that (much to my relief). We had a guy in management who was there for years, but one day he simply wasn't. Normally there would be a staff meeting to announce personnel changes and plans to keep projects flowing. Not so this time; there was a vacuum of mysterious silence. The only explanation anyone could get was, 'He did something we couldn't tolerate.' Months later at a project managers conference in Florida, the boss and a buncha guys were at a bar into the wee hours. He had been gulping wine all night, and was decidedly more animated than usual. A few of us sidled up to him and asked, "Whatever happened to old Harry?" He did a spit take, spewing red wine across the bar. As soon as he recovered, he recounted the tale. "One day I was checking on why the mail server was bogging down. I noticed his account had lots of massive files, so I opened one. Let's just say (he said in a loud, conspiratorial drunk-whisper), he was emailing his girlfriend. I saw his wiener." He was mortified, and immediately escorted Harry out the door. Harry's explanation? He was bored. The most spectacular stomping-off-the-job I've ever witnessed came from a guy I replaced as an estimator. He was with the company for years, and frequently complained that his pay was too low. The boss would tell him that he was being paid all the company could afford, and the guy would grudgingly accept the answer and go back to work. One day, he walked by the fax machine and, as was custom at this office, picked up the faxes to deliver them. Right on top was a statement from the company's IRA manager. It listed each employee's salary, including the boss. Now, I have no problem with the boss making lots of money - it's the reward for starting and keeping a successful company. But this poor schmuck found that not only was he at the bottom of the pay heap, but the boss was taking in more than the combined payroll of the entire staff every year. Suddenly, the 'we can't afford to give you a raise' argument seemed, well, a little weak. In his bitter rage, he went to his office and crashed the hard drive on his computer. He then made 50 copies of the document, and distributed it to all the employees, and even faxed it to vendors and customers. He stormed off in a huff, never to be heard from again. When I was running a new network cable in his former/ my new office, I discovered all sorts of treasures. Turns out the boss had his reasons for keeping him at a humble salary; I found dozens of empty liquor bottles in the drop ceiling, as well as virtual stacks of porn on the recovered hard drive. How about you? Any juicy meltdown stories?

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

The Hairy Edge Of The World

It only takes 2 tablespoons of water to drown an adult human. This is why I'm not afraid of deep water. One of the coolest places on earth to swim is the Bay on South Manitou Island, Michigan. Of course, for 7-10 months a year it's hella cold water, but for the brief window of perfect weather it's amazing. There is a rocky, gravelly beach that slopes gently and turns to soft sand when you're about knee deep. The slope continues to about 8' deep; by bouncing, I can walk on the sandy bottom and come up for air between steps. My favorite thing to do is face out into the bay, eyes open, where the bottom drops out. A sandy canyon where the water turns from green to deep blue, and the abyss stretches out to invisible depths. It's like standing on the edge of the world. On our last trip, we were hiking around the island with a herd of middle school kids on a beautiful August day. A helicopter appeared, zooming and circling around the island, then went over to North Manitou, and back to swoop about South again. Later that night I asked a ranger if she knew what that was all about. She told me the sad story of a 50-something hiker who had a heart attack while climbing a giant dune. The call came in but the rescuers didn't know which island he was on. He expired, and according to the ranger, it wouldn't have mattered if the helicopter had gotten to him 10 minutes earlier. It got me to thinking, that's probably how I'd want to go. Now I'm a big fan of not dying. But if and when the time comes, I think being in the great outdoors on a beautiful day, doing something I enjoy, and exiting quickly and irrevocably would be preferable to a wide range of other options. I certainly wouldn't want some rescue team to exhaust themselves trying in 10 minutes to reverse 30 years of cholesterol and sloth. Since, as has been said, one can drown in a puddle, I pondered the situation that might ensue. The coast guard generally doesn't dispatch a chopper to rescue a poor schmuck flailing about in a gutter. The story might read, "Biff struggled against the current and his sodden clothing, but finally succumbed to a pint of dirty runoff." Now that's just undignified, and I can't have that.

Monday, March 5, 2007

Backing Up

Well, it feels as though a month has gone by without much of my involvement on this little endeavor we like to call Spiffytown. Which, basically, is true. And I'm grateful. I know that when I'm hankering for some communication from friends in the 'unreal world' of the Interwebs, I'm grateful when I find new words to devour. I love love love reading stuff, especially from friends who have interesting and fun and thought-provoking things to say. Check my blogroll if you're short on interesting-fun-thoughtful stuff today. Regarding the title, I never have caught up to the things that happened early on in my travails and travels. The Alabama trip was wonderful all around, not least because of meeting a friend in person that I discovered online. Sarch is a newish blogger who has been haunting many of the same haunts I haunt. On my first day in a strange town (Birmingham - it's like home, only with more traffic and less snow (and a bit of an accent)), he suggested we meet at a local (Loco) watering hole. "It's a bar, but they have good food too," he said. Turns out my hotel was downright convenient to his place of work, and only a stone's throw from the restaurant. We met after he got off work, and for my part, I had an absolute blast. Some people think folks you meet online aren't real; in fact I've gotten to know many people online who I now count as genuine friends. Oh sure, most aren't close enough to go catch a movie or pull me out of a ditch if need be, but true friends nonetheless. Sarch is the real deal, full of easy friendly chatter on topics ranging from faith and family to work and motorcycles. We gossiped extensively about other bloggers, but none of you, my dear readers. I would never. We enjoyed Yeunglings and hotwings and burritos, and the time was up too soon (I pooped out early, as I am getting noticeably old). I would do that again in a second, and but for not wanting to pester the poor guy, would have enjoyed another get-together. There's always next time, right? My classes were both easy and challenging, fast paced and interminable. It's weird how things can be so paradoxical. I was enjoying the learning of new things, understanding a program that has certain idiosyncrasies; but the weather outside was generally nice, sunny, and warm. Which gave me a mild dose of the Cabin Fever. I was itching to be out in it, since the home weather was chock-full of ice, snow, and nosehair crystallizing cold (I call that the BFP, or Booger Freezing Point). The class consisted of me and one well-qualified instructor. There was another student enrolled, but he punked out at the last minute. My instructor and I went out to lunch each day, and I learned about his fascinating career path and history with this company, and the cruise he and his wife just took with some church friends. The entire time was worthwhile. After hours, I found myself with some time to kill, which I had expected to be filled with homework and catching up on office/ home stuff. The instructor had given me some suggestions, and each night I tried something new. One night I took a driving tour of the pretty parts of Birmingham. Would have been prettier, I'm sure, in the daylight and without a heavy rain. Another time I visited the McWane Center, a hands-on science museum with an IMAX theater. Still another time, I visited the McWane Center when it was open. That was infinitely more fun. What a cool place, especially for those of us (me) who have to touch everything. I flew an airplane (poorly), made a cartoon, watched tornadoes being formed, and blew smoke rings from a giant steam table. There was a bed of nails also, which was surprisingly comfy except for a few pointy bits in the shoulderbone region. They had video butterflies and stone waterfalls, a fascinating Rube Goldberg contraption that kept me mesmerized for about a half hour, and all manner of physics and art experiments. I highly recommend the place, but it's sure to be much more fun with a friend or a few youngsters. In all, it was a wonderful trip. I wouldn't change a thing.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Homo Erectus!

As I write, Gorillaz are telling me all about windmills. I loves me some new music. While I was out last week for reprogramming, I got a call from a customer on a project we'd closed out many months ago. He says the inspector finally came through, and wouldn't finish the inspection because he found some missing items. That can't be, I told him. My installer is a pro, and knows what he's doing. But, through a commitment to customer service (and really no other way out), it was decided I was going back out into the field. On Monday, I booked a Tuesday morning flight to Washington, with a plan to drive to Cambridge for a meeting Tuesday afternoon with the customer, and the Big Meeting Wednesday morning with everyone. I arrived at our local International Airport with plenty of time for an 8:00 departure. Only, the flight was rescheduled for 11:30. That would make it hard to keep my 2:00 appointment. After a 2 hour wait in line, I was rebooked on Midwest to Milwaukee, then to Reagan National Airport. It didn't make sense to go west before going east, but hey, it would get me there almost on time. I was game, and happily trotted to my gate. I asked for a window seat, and got a snort from the gatelady as she told me 'They are all window and aisle seats.' We descended the stairs and it became apparent why the snort; I climbed aboard a Chrysler minivan with wings (ok, it wasn't a Chrysler, but a Raytheon Beech 1900D). I expected to see wood on the sides. As I stepped over the hump in the floor where the wing strut went through, I found my seat near the back. The seat in front of mine flopped over forward when I touched it. The back of the airplane featured a 3-wide bus bench up against a wall which was being thumped and rattled loudly by the baggage handlers. The windows were tinted smoky brown, and there was no PA system. The enormous young copilot shut the door and checked for daylight around the edges, then thanked us for flying and wished us luck. He said if anyone needed to communicate an emergency, we should come up and talk to him. I suddenly wished there was a bathroom on this plane. As we got to the runway, I was impressed by the massive amount of thrust generated by the twin propellers. I was pushed back into my wobbly seat with considerable force, and it made me forget the peeling paint on the engine cowl for a moment. We were aloft in no time, and crossed Lake Michigan as the crunchy center of a cloud sandwich. There was a fluffy layer of thick marshmallow clouds below, and wispy cotton stretched above. It was beautiful. I arrived in Wisconsin over mini icebergs in Lake Michigan and snowcovered residential neighborhoods. Milwaukee is Midwest's bustling hub, but one entire terminal seemed deserted. I wandered around while waiting for my next flight, and spotted something... icky. It reminded me of the scene in the Eddie Murphy movie Coming To America involving excessive hair product. The second leg of the trip was AWESOME. This time I boarded a brand-new-looking Boeing 717, and they proved the Midwest slogan, 'the best care in the air.' Not only were the flight attendants friendly and professional, but the seats - They were ALL business class seats, leather upholstery, 2-2 configuration, wide enough for my fat ass AND some wiggle room. The lunches they served were delicious, and my friendly seat mate awoke me from a nap to let me know the cookies were coming. So what, you may ask? Well, let me tell you, if there's one way into my heart, it's via warm chocolate chip cookies, and more than one, thank you. They have earned a customer for life in me. Plus, the plane was on time, which is always something one hopes for. I arrived at Reagan National and got my Dodge Magnum station-wagon-with-attitude, and made the trip to the jobsite. It was a beautiful night, and I had time to take some decent pictures. Unfortunately, I did NOT have time for the meeting; the place was closed down by the time I showed up. The next morning, we met on site and began going through the inspector's concerns. Turns out his concerns were not only justified, but not hardly concerned enough. I found missing items and missed connections and enough things just plain wrong that if there was a heavy snow and a little wind, I would not be found inside that building. A long list was made and provided to my installer, and he set about making things right, which is good. That left me with a little time to kill before my flight out, so after returning the car and writing my report, I found myself at the Steven Udvar Hazy Center (silly name for an awesome airplane museum). It's on the Dulles Airport property, and features bunches of airplanes and flight artifacts. Boy and I spent an entire day in Washington DC a few years ago at the Smithsonian Air & Space museum, so this was right up my alley. It features all kinds of sweet airplanes, real adventurer stuff, and baby changing rooms. It's true. Also, it may have featured Oliver North. I walked all the way around him, but didn't ask if he was him because he was in conversation and that would have been rude. On the way out, I overheard one security guard saying to another, "Homo erectus! Homo erectus was found all over Asia, I tell you!" The hell? Is this what rent-a-cops normally discuss? Tell me, I don't know. The time came for me to sprint across 8 lanes of heavily-laden human traffic to my gate at the airport. I did so, arriving at my gate right on time (4:04) for a 4:14 flight. Only, um, wait. The display showed my flight leaving at 5:51. Which would wreck my connection in Detroit. I waited in line, which is what you do when you buy a Northwest ticket, moving at a rate of one passenger per 28 minutes. I started out #6 in line. #7, the nice lady behind me, missed a flight to Houston that would have saved her connection because of the long wait. Two hours later, I was told that the airplane that would take me from Detroit to Grand Rapids was in Washington DC as we speak, undergoing repairs, and would likely be delayed as well. I was further told that I should fly to Detroit because "chances are good" I would make it to Grand Rapids tonight. That was the best he could do, he said with a shrug. I went to the seating area to wait further. After a moment, I felt a bit peckish and picked up some pepperoni pizza from the purveyor across the parkway. Midway through my 2nd bite, I was informed that the gate had changed, pack up your belongings and trot (1 mile) to B15. B15 was under construction. There were bulldozers and open dirt at B15. As it turned out, we were to take a shuttle out to the 'remote parking area' for our airplane. My fellow passengers and I finally boarded a variable-height all-purpose shuttle bus, and waited (which, as you know, comes standard with a NWA ticket). Finally, we drove out to an airplane, parked all alone on the tarmac, and after extensive adjustment and wiggling, were able to walk directly from bus to plane. With a little rain shelter, too. That was a nice touch I must admit. After getting cozy in my $15 upgrade exit row window seat, we waited some more. Another 30 minutes or so. It was rush hour, said the pilot. Naturally, we arrived in Detroit well after my flight to Grand Rapids departed. It was at this point I began wondering about new acronyms for NWA: Not Working Again? No Way Anytime? Nincompoops With Airplanes? Turns out there were more to come, as Northwest has an entire gate dedicated to rebooking broken connections. And, as you would expect, the rebooking center features the customary long wait. 2 hours again. I found that I was automatically rebooked for 8:30 the next morning (it was now 9:00 PM or so), but I was on my own for where to stay and how to pay for it. It's a 3 hour drive from Detroit to GR, so why can't they just give me a free rental car and I'd be on my way? "Oh, we don't have any agreements with rental companies," she said. "Isn't there any other way?" I asked. There happened to be one more flight that night to Grand Rapids, but it was overbooked. I could fly standby, if I liked. Yes, I liked. So I waited in THAT line for about 1 hour while all the confirmed passengers boarded. I made it aboard as one of the last 3 allowed, and I was grateful. I slunk into the very last row, up against the bathrooms in an Airbus A320. 158 passengers in front of me continued to breathe and make the air humid and stale as we waited some more. The first officer announced he was resetting the lights, and did so. The cabin went dark, then flickered, then the lights came on. Except for the 'fasten seat belt' lights, which seemed to be the initial problem. 3 resets later, they called a mechanic. I took a nap to avoid the chatty Spaniard beside me as the mechanic worked the problem. I awoke an hour later to find myself not in Grand Rapids, but still in FREAKING DETROIT. It's a 20 minute flight. This was not turning out to be my day for travel. As I now announce, I made it home safely. Even my luggage made it home, which impressed me substantially - but I still harbor some bitterness toward Northwest.

Today, Girl and Mrs. Spiffy are in Disneyworld enjoying 80 degree swimming weather. Boy and I went to Crystal Mountain to go skiing, and had the ultimate best weather day ever. It would have been perfect except for a potentially broken thumb and a really broken cell phone. Clumsiness aside, it was a perfect day. I almost forgot how much Northwest sucks. Almost.

Friday, March 2, 2007

The Post I Almost Posted

Well, I'm back in town. Thanks for leaving the lights on for me, and I was pleasantly surprised to find my key still works and there's no saran wrap on the toilet. First, mega-thanks to Tiff, Guest-Hostess Extraordinaire who put up the guest posts (not put up WITH, mind you). And thanks to y'all who kept the place running. I enjoyed seeing what you'd come up with (and in some cases, what you wouldn't come up with) the days I could get online. ================ This is what I almost posted last Friday, with much much more to write. But, I had another surprise trip come up, a whirlwind tour of Virginia, DC, and Maryland to deal with jobsite problems. There ensued adventures galore, tales of which are forthcoming. Today. I promise. I've already returned Rick's Rent-A-Goats and paid the bill, and I'm planning to choke and barbecue Tracy's chickens for a big party tonight. Stay tuned!