Thursday, May 31, 2007

Good News, Everyone!

Go sing Happy Birthday, as soon as you finish here. Or before, it's your life. Don't let ME tell you what to do. Just do it. I got an email today announcing that another terrorist has been captured, with photo evidence. I am a big fan of taking out terrorists, because they have never produced anything good for the world, IMHO. Caution, you may find the image disturbing. Viewer discretion is advised.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007


By popular demand (ok, one request, but I like to take care of my readers) here's the Secret Recipe for some durn fine snacking. And some other junk. But first, I have to say: You haven't lived until you scrape the sludge from 'neath a Slurpee machine. That's some rich livin' raht thar. My night job features plenty such activities, plus all the mopping and stocking and drunk people you can stand. It's entertaining, no doubt. Here's a snapshot of a snack from the office vending machine. They're supposed to be tasty glazed donut holes. And, if you close your eyes, the packaging didn't lie. I just can't look at 'em without thinking Rocky Mountain Donuts. The next snack in the Spiffytown Rolodex of Savory Foods is so simple and nearly healthy, you'll be having cravings for it in no time. That's how it worked for me. You need a roma tomato, sliced colby-jack cheese, Ritz crackers, and seasoning. I use cracked pepper seasoned salt, one shake and it's done. Slice tomato, stack, eat, repeat. It could be argued that the bourbon & Diet Coke are optional. Smoothies are fun for breakfast or whenever, and I've just found out there are whole books devoted to 'em. They're all basically the same: Chuck in some fruit and stuff, add ice, blend. The one I use goes is my own invention, never done by anyone else. At least, nobody has told me they've done this. I think it's rather special, and if you don't then kindly keep that to yourself. Pour OJ in a blender (about 6 oz, if you're into measuring things). Add a banana, 3-4 peach segments from a can, a dollop of plain yogurt, and a handful of ice. Set the motor to 'mutilate' and plug your ears. Pour into as many glasses as it takes, and enjoy. It's my substitute for breakfast some days. Yummay. And finally, the best snack I've made all year. I used my new red toaster oven, cuz I love that thing. Cut a thin-skinned (gold or somesuch) potato into cubes, and cut a small onion into big chunks. Hand mix (that's the magical part) with olive oil, salt, pepper, and basil. Line a baking sheet with foil for easy cleanup, and spread out the mix in one layer. Roast at 400 degrees for 30-40 minutes, until the potato edges are brown. Cool a little and enjoy. Oh, so tasty. Bonus: the place smelled wonderful for the rest of the night.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Five Things Thing

I saw this over at No Accent yet, then at JC's, who tagged me. So I'm it. Time to knuckle down and get this done. My post explaining the mysteries of cold fusion and cheap, abundant, and clean energy will have to wait. Here's the 5 Things meme, which can be counted on one hand (unless you're a Simpson). What were you doing 10 years ago? Enjoying my new remodeling business, took the family to see relatives in California by train, had the 2nd of several marriage crises. Thought I was mature and wise. Still living in our first house, a cute little brick box on the corner in Cedar Springs. What were you doing 1 year ago? Starting my 2nd year at my current company, enjoying life with 2 teenagers, adjusting to how freaking busy one can be with high school activities. Barely paying the bills on our 3rd house in the pseudo-country. Five snacks you enjoy: 1. Tortilla chips (plain or with cheese, bean dip, or salsa) 2. Sliced tomatoes with colby jack cheese on a Ritz cracker 3. Roasted potatoes & onions 4. Wheat thins (or, stack 5 and eat at once, making a Wheat Thick) 5. Banana-OJ-Peach smoothies Five songs to which you know all the lyrics: Oh geez, I learn lots of lyrics. Then forget key bits as the songs collect dust in the back of the ol' brainium, and wind up mumbling through it until the chorus starts. Do I pick church songs, Christmas carols, TV themes, or stuff I listen to every day? Here are the first 5 that come to mind: 1. Amazing Grace 2. Gilligan's Island (tune and lyrics interchangeable with #1) 3. Oh Lately It's So Quiet (OK Go) 4. Let Go (Frou Frou) 5. Love Shack (B52's) Five things you would do if you were a millionaire: 1. Be debt free by sundown & set up the kids' college funds 2. Get my pilot's license and an airplane 3. Buy a motorcycle and an RV, and travel a ton 4. Set up mutual funds to keep earning interest 5. Give a bunch to select nonprofits Five bad habits: 1. Frittering time/ procrastinating 2. Avoiding 3. Saying yes too much 4. Thinking I don't need that much sleep 5. Drinking a bit much Five (g-rated) things you like doing: 1. Bike riding with my kids 2. Flying 3. Cooking 4. Writing 5. Poking campfires with a stick Five things you would never wear again: 1. A mullet 2. White tuxedo 3. Bathing suit with a split up the middle 4. The plastic halloween costume I had at 7 years old 5. Plaid polyester anything Five favorite (g-rated) toys: 1. Bicycle 2. Camera 3. Computer 4. Sharp chef knife 5. Frisbee INSTRUCTIONS: If you participate, include the blog chain that got this here. Remove the blog in the top spot from the following list and bump everyone up one place. Then add your blog to the bottom slot, like so: One Gal's Musing Philly Transplant No Accent Yet What Can't Be Looked For Spiffytown And now for the tag: Er, well, since I swim in the same waters as most of my blogbuddies, I say YOU'RE IT just for reading this. Again. I'll be sorely disappointed if you don't play along. But of course, I'll get over it. Please drive through.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Verbal Intercourse

I had a boss, a big Swedish guy, who would routinely call me into his office, announcing to all, "Biff, I need to have verbal intercourse with you." It still creeps me out a little. At any rate, the discussion continues regarding how communication works. Now, I'm no expert in practically anything. And, to boost Hyperion's hypothesis, 64% of all statistics are made up on the spot*. So, please ingest the following with a small amount of sodium chloride. I went looking things up, which is easy to do with the Power of The Interwebs at my outsize fingertips. Wikipedia is always first, because they OWN research these days. Nevermind that the articles are written by the likes of me (albeit, hopefully more smarter likes than I). The Wiki article cites all kinds of studies relating to communication. It mentions work by Charles 'Deathbed Confessional' Darwin which argues that "all mammals show emotion reliably in their faces." I then discovered that there are actual names for all sorts of expression - object communication (clothing, or waving sticks threateningly), haptics (I guess it's a shorter word than 'touching'), chronemics (manipulation of time), oculesics (eye contact), and paralanguage (tone of voice). Too much to think about indeed. The study cited by my friend was done in 1971 by Albert Mehrabian. He's the 7%-38%-55% guy. It makes sense, especially considering how easily we pick up on whether someone is telling us the truth in face-to-face communication. If you tell me you like me, but won't make eye contact and have the scowl and tone of voice that suggests you like me as much as brussels sprouts, I might be inclined to doubt your veracity. How much does it matter though? In this forum, where we're all insulated to varying degrees by miles of cold copper wire (or fast & sexy fiber optics) and flat, unblinking monitors, we can claim anything. We can also believe anything - or not. If you're new to Spiffytown, you might believe I'm a hott, well-muscled and ridiculously wealthy entrepreneur with the keys to all of life's mysteries. In case you're still wondering, it's true. The blogs I visit tend not to be written by overly cynical people. How can I relate to someone for which everything sucks and there is no hope? To make witty observations without injecting some personality and heartfelt opinion means very little to me. The point of our discussion was to explore why online friendships are so valuable to me. Is it a substitute for 'real-live' face to face community? Of course not. Friends who know and care for me, who spend hang-out time and can ask about my business, are essential. What, then, makes the blogworld so attractive? I heard recently on NPR about a social experiment conducted on the subways of Washington DC. A violin virtuoso was standing on the platform, playing for passersby. Most paid no visible notice. A small percentage paused for a moment to listen. A tiny handful of people stopped to hear a few minutes' worth of music that would have cost them plenty to get in a concert hall. He collected $59 (including $20 from someone who recognized him). Those questioned said they were too busy, or in a hurry to get somewhere, to notice the beauty right before them. That got me to thinking about how easy it is to miss people in 'real life' circumstances. How would you know if you passed a potential best friend in the grocery store, or had so much in common with the gruff-looking guy with the beer gut at work? That's one door that online friendships opens up. Discovering people from their thoughts out, rather from appearance in. *Todd Snider, 'Statistician's Blues'

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Nothin Doin

There's not much to see here. Life continues, working a lot, and running around like stick people. A question for you: I heard from a friend that only 7% of communication is understood based on words. The rest: 38% is eye contact, and 55% body language. What do you think? How does that affect your online friendships?

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Swimming With Incompetent Sharks

You know, it'd really be nice to be doing new work. You know, the stuff that pays the bills. Fresh projects which smile back at me from clean sets of drawings. These don't have the angry, sloppy red marks of poor coordination or contractors' mind changes on them. They make me whistle while I work. Instead, I'm on my umpteenth day of sorting out which of the 301 connection photos I got from the project engineer are correct, and which are hopelessly botched. They are welded connections. The building is now finished, and no welding is allowed. The entire team which ran this project (when catching mistakes would have been easy) has been sacked. I've made 2 cross-country trips to inspect this dog, and the installer has visited countless times - but never got it all the way right. This crap is costly, in time, dollars, and mental resilience. Maybe I should become a truck driver.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Tuesdays are for

Good morning Surf Reporters (you know who you are). Nothin' to see here, move along. So why post, you ask? Good question. It's because a) it's what I do and 2) I have some questions. I've been told that after meeting my mortality nose to stump, I can expect to freak out at some point in the future, since it hasn't happened yet. As I regained consciousness, I assessed reality pretty quickly, recognized where I was and knew what had happened based on the evidence around me. It was a fairly matter-of-fact affair. There are also interpretations and meanings being assigned to the accident and the fact that I'm not dead or smushed like a frog on the pavement. The question, in two parts: Have you had a delayed reaction to a big event? If it were a message, what do you think it's saying? Would you be s'kind as to tell me about it?

Monday, May 14, 2007


This morning I stopped by my insurance agent and the crash site. I have AAA, and my agent has always been outstanding to work with. I hope not to report Bob-kat style troubles to you... but the Carol Beers episode made her trials so much more enjoyable. From here, anyway... I don't think I missed the telephone pole by inches. Another day to count my blessings. A: Curb jump location B: Did I miss it?? C: Divot created by Marlon's windshield and roof D: Clump of trees which stopped the car and provided my first alert view of the outside world (imagine them upside down and much closer) E: Where I waited for the ambulance. I brought a layer of grass clippings and an assortment of pine cones to the hospital with me

Hand of God

Today was another wonderful Spring day. I was invited to attend church with my friend Mitch. I haven't been in a couple months, so I met him there. It's one of the local mega-churches, it meets in a converted shopping mall. Enormous. It was a good time, great music and a Mary-oriented Mother's Day sermon. It was nice to see some friends there. After that, I went to my apartment and had leftovers for lunch, read a book, and decided to repeat this week's bike trip. It was gorgeous outside, and thoroughly enjoyed the ride. Returning home, I called my friend Neil to see what he was up to. He was just closing up his roadside stand for the afternoon, and invited me over to his place for some brews. We chatted and enjoyed a couple IPA's in the back yard. Eventually, his wife called out that she was ready to go for their annual Mother's Day dinner. I hopped in the car and waved goodbye. On the way home, I started to feel nauseous. It came in waves; for a moment I thought it had passed, but then I would mentally locate the Lysol and scrub brushes in the event I couldn't pull over in time. I crossed a bridge and considered pulling into a driveway, but there was a pedestrian in the way so I stayed on the road. Scott Simon was reading the news on NPR, and it became too much noise. I turned off the radio. At a stop light, the world began to spin a little and I broke out in a cold sweat. Through the intersection, I figured I could make it the 1/2 mile to the apartment, but a hundred yards later I was looking for a place to pull over. Then I woke up. Things didn't look right. They didn't sound right, either. I felt disoriented. Some of the stuff that was in my car was lying by my face. I realized (surprisingly quickly) that I was hanging upside down from my seatbelt. The engine was making weird noises, so I turned it off as I released the seat belt and came to rest on my head. Outside the broken windshield I saw a lush green tree. Very close up. I saw the blue stripes on the flaccid airbags. I knew vaguely through ringing ears that this was not good. I fished my legs out the driver's side window and found myself on a grassy hillside. I sat up just as a man came around the car to see if anyone was hurt. He had the expression of one who was expecting to find something very nasty indeed. His relief was audible. Not sure whether I should move, I hazarded a glance at the car. It was flat on its back like a tortoise, new tires helplessly skyward. The fender near me was folded in half. I lay down on the grass, feeling clammy and woozy, while more motorists gathered around. The first responders were wonderful, doing everything right and asking thoughtful questions. Moments later sirens arrived, one by one, until 5 agencies had gathered. A state cop came and held my head still until the paramedics arrived. A sheriff breathalyzed me and found that I did indeed have only 2 beers (BAC .02). I was strapped to a backboard, neck braced, and hoisted into an ambulance. The friendly sheriff handed the paramedic my ticket. I asked if they could locate my cell phone, but it wasn't found before the ambulance sped off to the hospital. I got stuck with a variety of needles and sticky electrodes, while the paramedic kept me talking and signing release forms. At the hospital, I was parked in the hallway while blood was drawn, spine was checked, guts palpated, and joints wiggled. Nothing but a headache to report. After 2 hours in the hallway, I was taken in for my first head CT scan. It was over quickly, but something smelled funny. I hope they didn't cook my brains (freakin' radiology zombies). Another half hour in the hallway, and the phone and water I requested in the first hour arrived. Mrs. Spiffy arrived just as they were discharging me. We stopped by the impound yard on the way to the apartment - I needed my keys and phone, and snapped these photos. The driver's side fender Poor Marlon came to rest on the roof, breaking the windshield in 2 places Contents of the glove box spilled out when the airbags deployed I don't remember a moment of the accident. I remember looking to pull over, then nothing. The doctor said it was probably a vaso-vagal nerve reaction; something upset my stomach, causing me to faint. Not a scratch or bruise on me. The car is totaled. I looked at the crash scene. I crossed 3 lanes of a curving road, jumping the opposite curb. The car flipped, plowing nose-uphill into a clump of small trees. I missed a telephone pole by 5 yards. The other side of the road featured mature trees and a deep ravine which carries a creek. I'm choosing to give God credit for the outcome. And hugging my kids tonight.

Friday, May 11, 2007

IF You See A Faded Sign At The Side of the Road

Good morning! I bring you tales of travels. Last night it was gorgeous, schpring in Michigan is really pretty nice when it eventually arrives. Sunny and 79 when I got home from work. I had an appointment to go talk quietly in a small room for a couple hours 25 miles away, but the outdoors was calling. So I canceled. Instead, I heated up my leftover steak & taters in my toaster oven (love that thing), peeled on my Under Armor, shorts, and a fire-engine red shirt (both for my commitment to high fashion and traffic visibility), and hopped on my bicycle. I struck out without a plan, as is my wont. Leaving the parking lot, I went right, then left, then left again, and on a whim went straight instead of left again. Left would take me along the White Pine Linear State Park - a rails-to-trails path which stretches from Comstock Park to Cadillac. It's a nice ride, but the scenery is familiar. Instead, I crossed the Grand River and headed toward Riverside Park. The park was simply lousy with people. All shapes, sizes, and stripes (some with spots), on foot or wheel, enjoying the evening. There was a soccer field loaded with older kids chasing the ball with all their might. I passed scores of moms with little bambinos in various wheeled apparatus. Riverside has an 18-hole frisbee golf course, so there were all kinds of disc-flinging folks walking around chasing their toys. At least 4 family picnics were underway, with charcoal grills perfuming the air with hot dogs and overdone marshmallows. I got to the end of the 3 mile long park and kept going. Riding onto Monroe, I found the road exceptionally lumpy, but got to see the amazing architecture of the old fresh water treatment plant from a new perspective. Round turrets and parapets in glazed, rust-colored brick caught the sunlight and sent it around like a giant disco ball that seemed to spin as I rode past. The park system picked up the trail again along the river, closing periodically for construction. I don't think I've ever seen the entire river trail open all at once; it is pretty extensive and they're always improving it. I crossed the river repeatedly on historic bridges and foot paths, taking whichever trail caught my immediate fancy. There were lines and lines of people fishing off the boardwalks and bridges. You could catch a hint of fishy aroma, but I never actually spotted a real fish. I crossed into Ah-Nab-Ah-Wan Park, which is a great expanse of manicured lawn and paved trails between the GR Ford Museum and the Grand River. The city fireworks are held there on Independence Day and a couple other festivals in the fall. Great spot for a concert, or to get food onnastick. Over the crashing roar of the fountains, I heard a deep, insistent drum beat. The south end of the park features model Indian burial mounds - big grassy knolls which call out to kids to climb and roll down (the actual historic burial mounds are downriver about 10 miles in a swampy area). In a little valley between the mounds and the park, a group of native Americans were seated on lawn chairs around a giant drum. Each had a mallet and was beating on the drum and singing in call-and-answer style. A little girl in a leather skirt was dancing a few feet outside their circle. I slowed to listen and rode over the foot bridge, the song and beat bouncing off the Amway Grand Plaza concrete and glass walls. I went just a little further, circled the museum and the university, and headed back. I rode past the final resting place of Gerald Ford, interred in a garden beside the museum last December. Since then, they've put up a tall wrought iron fence around the garden. I suppose it's only open during museum hours or tours. The drums were still thumping their echoes off the buildings as I retraced my route, on the opposite bank of the river where possible. The sun sets late here in the western side of the eastern time zone, leaving plenty of light well after 9PM. People were still out in force, although there were more couples holding hands at this hour. I came through riverside park and heard clanking, grunting, crashing noises like people throwing bricks and raccoons into metal garbage cans. A group of guys, dressed up in medieval armor like the Knights of Swamp Castle, were standing around a pair of their own. The two in the middle were carrying shields and round blunted swords, bashing each other in halting, awkward thrusts. A girl was watching disinterestedly from the open door of a Plymouth Dart, clearly waiting for one of them. I pondered how one gets a girlfriend with a hobby like that, but quickly remembered there's someone for everyone. Surprisingly, I found myself full of energy by this point, sprinting for whole sections of the park. Thick clouds of IN's (Eyeball Gnats, using the acronym promulgated by strict adherence to the IKFSA*, which, no matter where you are, kamikaze directly into your blinking peepers) were loitering over the path in unexpected places. I ate at least 3 bugs, maybe more. One felt like it was still clinging to my uvula today, its carcass refusing to be moved. I bounded into my kitchen and wondered how far I'd went. I retraced my steps in Marlon (the grampa car) and clocked it out: 15 miles. Not bad for a lazy late spring evening. *Innernational Kownsel on Fonetikly Spelt Akronims

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Music and Tagging

Thanks to Wordimus Nerdimus for the musicthing tag, I have to come up with 7 songs I'm into - WITH AN ESSAY on each - and then fling my tags upon other bloggertypes. I'm not alone in saying music is a huge part of my day. When I'm driving, I'll often have talk radio on, but at work, at home, or on solo bike rides, I've got a couple thousand of my favorite tunes ready to feed my need for rhythm. I'm always on the lookout for new stuff, and my tastes are varied all over rock, alternative, electronic, and world. I do need to get some classical in me, stuff without operatic singing or squeaky sleepy olfolks music. I'm not sticking strictly to the rules, partly 'cause that's how I roll. I'll pick 7 artists, since my MO is to find one I like and devour everything I can find. Heave-ho, here we go... OK Go: I've been on a total immersion diet of these guys for WEEKS now, and while I always move on to something new, their 2 CDs are my best music purchases of this century. I ain't kidding. Master musicianship and hooks, pop sensibility, intelligent humor and soul-stirring harmonies all come together. I like 'em a lot, enough to list 7 just for them (plus a bonus). Shortly Before The End: Horribly sad lyrics, but incredible build-up and gorgeous melody There's a Fire: Polyrhytmic song where every instrument is quirkily understated, and I love the earnest storyline. Don't Ask Me: Danceable, singalongable, and the most fun angry song evah. Video here. Let It Rain: Pretty AND fun. Whoever can tell me the time signature wins a prize (difficulty: no internet help!) Lately It's So Quiet: Nobody can 'oh' like these guys. Modern day Jon Anderson with the falsetto. Get Over It: Hay! I love this song. A Million Ways: One zero zero zero zero zero zero ways to like this tune. Bass line is just one. The Fix Is In: A song about getting lost in Boston that just makes me tap my enormous toes. Dave Matthews Band: Ants Marching is the song on the radio turned me on to these guys, and the quality stands up to ridiculous amounts of repeat listening. I particularly like the live version, Carter shines as one of the greatest drummers on the planet. I have a religious experience every time I hear Bartender (from Busted Stuff). Switchfoot: More Than Fine is one of my theme songs. Might Have Ben Hur is another one that I always drop everything and pay attention to. Def Leppard: Rock of Ages. As a pre-licensed teen, I walked for miles in a light rain to go buy Pyromania because that song would not leave my brain. A turning point in my musical curiosity. Rush: My heroes all through high school, and the only band I've seen live four times. I wanted to play bass like Geddy Lee, although for some reason I never wanted to sing like him. Tom Sawyer got me hooked, and I can sing along to any of their tunes from Fly By Night through Grace Under Pressure. Talking Heads: I'm gonna make them representative of the quirkier side of my music, even though it's pretty mainstream. Same with the B-52's, Bjork, Massive Attack, Peter Gabriel. AfroCelt Sound System: Another group I've never gotten sick of. Great driving music. This is an All Skate tag (cue organ music from The Wrong Trousers). If you're reading this, you're tagged!

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Greetings and Salad Dressings

I don't believe I've ever been more spoilt on my birthday, even including the time I got a pony. When I was a wee tot we had a big backyard to-do, and it was stuffed with other wee tots, hot and steamy and all wearing sticky polyester. There was a fort made out of a jungle gym and some horse blankets, a big picnic table loaded with cake and picnic food, and games & prizes a la Bozo's Bucket Bonanza. Other kids were winning the contests and getting prizes, and it was MY special day, dammit. I remember being a total ass that day. Good thing I've grown up, at least a little. My daughter's handmade card to me last night said 'Growing older is mandatory, but growing up is optional.' Here's hoping for some of both. Thanks to Wordnerd and Tiff and Kenju for the birthday mentions around the interwebs - how fun to get so many visitors and wishes! You guys rock! And a hearty hi-ho and heaps o' thanks for my friends who stopped by. I just wish I hadn't seen the card Blitz sent me. Not sure I can look him in the eye anymore. The celebration continued last night, as I met the Spousal Unit at Meijer (if you don't have a Meijer near you, get one) to get some dinner supplies. It was steaks-on-the-grill night, the first time the grill has been fired up in 10 months or so. Did you know the Bible says grilling is man's domain? Yep. It's right there in 2nd Kingsford. Anyway, we got a cuppa two tree items, and up to the house for the festivities. We had planned to have friends over, but they pussed out. They'll be up Friday and we can do it all over again, but they missed the best grilling I've ever done (if I do say so m'self). The grill scrubbing took as long as the cooking, but it was worth it - I've never been a fan of last year's charred remains in this year's food. I made garlic mashed potatoes, a pan full of sauteed onions and green & red peppers, and hand-rubbed seasoned steaks. El-yummo. S'all I got time for this morning, I'll leave you with a couple representations of me last night: This is me after a couple doses of bourbon, cooking and singing some new OK Go tunes. This is me when I finally got back to my bed. Except I didn't have cat food in bed with me.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Making Pudding

Oh yes, there are tales to tell. This week it's my birfday, and according to my Death Clock it won't be my last. I should have a good 45 years or so left, so I don't have to go all nutz like the guy I heard about on Bob & Tom yesterday morning (given 1 year to live by his doctor... one year later, he's still alive and not gonna die due to a misdiagnosis). So, I'm a-living. I was showered with goodies by the kids and Spousal Unit this past weekend, and at the risk of being all braggy, I'm fixin' to tell ya about it. First, I got to make breakfast. Fried sliced potatoes, brown-n-serve sausages, and the BEST scrambled eggs ever (add a spoonful of cottage cheese for each egg, salt & pepper, then shovel 'em around a non-stick frying pan with a spatula until cooked). I got a box of chocolate truffles and a flowering plant-thingy for the apartment. Then it was off to a mystery address. But first, we stopped by Best Buy for my new favorite CD. I got their newest one first, and love it. The older one is just as good - a whole new raft of favorite tunes! Buy it. You can thank me later. From there, Mrs. Spiffy handed me an envelope with an address scribbled on it. "Go here," she said. We drove 45 minutes west to the lakeshore town of Grand Haven, found the street, and started looking at addresses. It was an industrial neighborhood by the airport, and the addresses were far apart. We must have driven right by it, because the numbers were going the wrong direction again. Turning around, I realized the address I was looking for WAS the airport. I pulled in the long drive past the airport sign (F-100 Super Sabre on a pedestal) up to the B&B flight office. A tall guy was walking around inside stuffing a chewy granola bar into his face, chatting about the windy weather with the girl behind the counter. "Oh, you must be here to fly. Jennifer will go with you." I was pretty bouncy by this time. In case y'all didn't know, I love to fly. I'm what might be known in Latin as 'pilotus beginnerus interruptus' (or something) - I've started flight training, got my books, completed ground school - but due to time and expense, haven't yet completed. Still an A-list dream though (you know, after securing things like food and shelter and whatnot). I've got about 12 hours of flying time, including 4 takeoffs and one landing. Jennifer was friendly and happy, and handed me a couple headsets while she completed some paperwork. She grabbed the keys and we walked to the hangar across the lawn. Mrs. Spiffy came trotting up while we were pushing the Cessna 172 out of the hangar to begin the preflight checklist. I kicked the tires, sumped the fuel, checked the oil, and made sure not too many rivets were missing. I hit the master switch and heard the gyros whirring to life, another full-body rush at the excitement. Jennifer invited Mrs. Spiffy to climb in the back seat, if she promised not to barf. "I can't clean up that sort of mess, so don't make one." I climbed into the left seat as Jennifer got buckled into the right and we completed the checklist. I primed the engine and turned the key. The propeller spun, engine sputtered and then roared to life, filling all the senses with vibration and motion and noise and power. Jennifer asked if I knew how to taxi. I nodded, and she told me to take it out to the runway. Sure, I know how to taxi - but being good at it is something entirely different. The rudder and nose wheel are controlled by foot pedals, the tops of which operate differential brakes. I weaved down the taxiway like a drunken senator, watching the wingtips to make sure I didn't shear off a gas pump or hit one of the half-dozen planes on the tarmac. We successfully made it to the runway entrance and mashed the brakes for the runup - revving the engine up to 1700 RPMs and checking the magnetos. Everything was set and Jennifer announced our takeoff to area traffic. She gave me the go ahead to get on the runway, and mentioned we should be centered and pointing the right direction before I gave it full throttle. It was a good thing, because I was itching to go. There was a 20-26 MPH headwind, and I could feel the buffeting before we even started rolling. We were to rotate at 50 knots and take off at 70. I pushed the throttle all the way in and we were moving. We had barely reached 50 knots and we were off the ground - the wind had saved us a couple hundred feet of runway, and I grinned like a retard in a dunking booth as I pointed the nose skyward. Jennifer looked back at Mrs. Spiffy, who was gripping the upholstery like a cat over a washtub and rather pale. She instructed her in the fine art of using an airsickness bag in case it got to that point as we climbed to 2000 feet. I cruised around the lighthouse and turned southward, following the beach. It was cloudy and windy, but the warm spring day had countless fishing boats on Lake Michigan and all the homeowners sprucing up their landscaping. It was gorgeous. We neared the power plant and Jennifer said it was time to turn around. I asked if I could do a steep turn, but she thought it'd be a bad idea with Mrs. Spiffy's questionable gastric condition. We began our approach and descent, the tummy-tickling thrill of the first drop in altitude when I pulled back the throttle, and returned to the airport. I added flaps and neared the trees while Jennifer calmly suggested I add some power so we don't land before we reach the runway. The wind was coming at us diagonally, so I had to bank left while steering right with the rudder to keep us on track. We crossed the threshold and cut power, floating ever so gently to a soft landing, flaring as long as possible until the nose wheel finally touched down. I can't wait to go again. Later, we met my dad and sisters at the theater to see Spiderman 3. Very entertaining and pithy, it's fulla villains and morals to the story. I totally ran out of energy while we were waiting for our order at O'Charley's after the movie, nearly falling asleep in my spinach dip. T'was a good day.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Chewing Hair

Sometimes people with great frustrations and limited connections with reality will sit in the corner and chew their hair. Or gnaw on their legs. This isn't a story about that. But it's close. In kindergarten at Sylvan, a very young Biff Spiffy found himself observing some strange girly behavior. One pretty reddish-blonde girl named Laura particularly intrigued him. Nobody knows if she had anything to do with his tendency to talk about himself in the third person. At any rate, I had a crush on Laura. She and her peers would regularly chew on their glorious long hair while coloring or learning the alphabet or listening to Miss V reading about Dick and Jane or cats in hats. Me, being of short boyish hair, had no idea why this was a good thing, but it looked tasty. So, one day while waiting in recess line, I wound up right behind Laura. Her hair was hanging right there next to me, all clean and shiny (and so far unchewed that day). It seemed reasonable to me to try the hairchewing. I didn't see what was so great about it, and apparently neither did Laura. Her indignant shriek was my first clue. "Miss V! Biff's chewing my hair!!" As a chorus of classmates sang 'eeew,' I was hauled by the arm to Dr. V's office (no relation - most Dutch names start with V). It was only my first year of Big Kid School, and I was already in trouble. As I waited in the sparse lobby, my eyes fell upon the Board of Education. It was strategically placed so that a waiting ruffian wouldn't miss it - a pine paddle the size of a canoe oar, with holes drilled in it so it would be sure to make a terrifying whiff through the air on it's way to contact with a young behindus. The school nurse (or secretary pressed into nursehood by default) was seated at her desk. I decided right then it'd be better to die in a puddle of my own barf than call on her for help. She silently looked at me over her horn-rimmed spectacles with the disdain. If she had spoken, I'm sure she would have used words like 'urchin' or 'nefarious.' I finally met Dr. V with much fear and trembling. His kind eyes and reasonable speech couldn't fool me; I knew this guy had a dungeon in wait for the first kid to cross him. I was determined to escape that office and never return. That visit went on my Permanent Record; if not in the official file, at least in the memory of my classmates. I do believe I put an end to the practice of public hair-chewing at that school for the rest of the year. Anything like this ever happen to you? No? Ahem. Oh, well... me neither.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Alphabet Goop

Remind me to tell y'all about things I've been meaning to tell y'all, but never have had the combination of a computer, time, and inspiration (or is it memory?) at my fingertips at the same time in the last week. Exciting things like GAP and flags, conquering mountains (sorta) and rants. Buttfour now, that'll have to wait. I've been tagged. I like me a good game of tag, especially with a great big pile of people at the Castle Park (officially Rotary park or some such, but with a giant wooden play structure with bridges and tubes and towers and creative use of truck tires). Since I'm It, and the goal of a good It is to quickly make someone else It, here goes: A - Attached or Single? Animated. It begins with A, so let's leave it at that. B - Best Friend: I don't rank 'em that way. I'm a collector of friends. Lots more valuable and interesting than philately. Some are pretty to look at, some are for taking along into battle, some are for trusting with the keys to the Viper. Or the dungeon. None are expendable. C - Cake or Pie: Ice cream cake. Chocolate. D - Drink of Choice: Water, averaging over 3L/ workday. Still chubby, so what they say about it making you lose weight is in question. E - Essential Item: Deodorant. Smelly people are not taken seriously. F - Favorite Color: Blue. No, yelloAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHRRRRGGH! G - Gummi Bears or Worms? Ew. Fork over some chocolate, preferably truffles. H - Hometown: Grand Rapids Michigan, home of the Remington 12-Gage Shotgun (according to Bruce Campbell anyway...) Furniture city, they call it. Has a river. And restaurants, and churches. Buncha people too. I - Indulgence: Bourbon. And chocolate. Not usually at the same time. J - January or February: January. February is when winter starts to get old. K - Kids: Teenagers. Love 'em. Fascinating creatures, creative and smart, always surprising. L - Life is incomplete without: Oxygen. M - Marriage Date: 3-10-90 N - Number of Siblings: 2 or 4, depending on which version you've got. 2 younger sisters, both in Michigan. One older brother in PA, and another sister I've never met. O - Oranges or Apples? Oranges. Citrus makes me happy. P - Phobias/Fears: None really, but spiders come in pretty close. I made out with an earwig once, that was icky. Never want to do THAT again. Q - Favorite Quote: Oh geez, there are too many favorites. I'm going with 'Better to be silent and thought an idiot, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt." Attributed to Solomon, Ben Franklin, and Abe Lincoln. R - Reasons to smile: Healthy, happy, employed, and surrounded by people to love who also love me. S - Season: Fall for bonfires and sweatshirts and leaves and cider, beauty and change and snuggly blankets. T- Tag Three: Short & sweet: Tiff, AC, Stew U - Unknown Fact About Me: If I tell you, wouldn't it then change into a known fact? This is a self-defeating question. I'll never be able to stop answering it, thereby laying bare the very fabric of my soul. Which, if you look really closely, is kinda gross. But, in the continuing spirit of playing along, heregoes: I don't have a TV, or a home phone. And I don't miss either. V - Vegetarian or Oppressor of Animals? Neither. I leave oppression to others, but I am a firm supporter of PETA (People for the Eating of Tasty Animals). W - Worst Habit: Not finishing things. X - X-rays or Ultrasounds? Y - Your Favorite Foods: Z- Zodiac:

Thursday, May 3, 2007

The Difference

The difference between this bird and me is... I got nothin. And, he can fly. And he isn't indoors at work on a beautiful day. Not that I'm complaining, mind you. Have a nice day.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Faux Paws

While you may not be able to say this post was inspired per se, the idea came from the tales of home-improvement woe over at Blitz's joint. Many years ago, I was the proprietor of a remodeling outfit. We specialized in kitchens, bathrooms, windows and siding - and insurance repair. A nearby city had public dollars available for homeowners who needed repair work done, and this family hired me to provide a new kitchen and bathroom, including vinyl flooring. It was a 50 mile drive each way from my little hicktown to the heart of the 'hood. They were nice folks and were thrilled to have their house spruced up. The homeowner would start drinking beer from a mayonnaise jar around 9AM and wouldn't stop until long after we left, which was usually by 7PM (we regularly put in ridiculously long days). His hobby, while we were there, was to make observations. He'd lean against a wall and watch us wrestle sheets of subflooring into place over freshly reinforced joists and say, "That wall looks to be about 9 degrees off. I used to be in tool & die, so I know my degrees." We smiled and nodded, because the customer is always right, even if it is only 1/2" over 4' (6 tenths of a degree, if you're following along at home). Every day he reminded us he used to be in tool & die. Kids were running around continuously, often barefoot, and it was a very good thing they had an alternate door to use. We got the plumbing and electrical done, cabinets installed, and high gloss blue marble laminate on the countertops. We were ready for flooring, so I called Steve, my trusty vinyl man. He was a great big dude with long and wild black hair, an outstanding craftsman as long as you left him alone. Nice enough guy, but he did NOT deal well with customers. Steve was working on the floors while I loaded my trailer. The littlest kid came running in and hovered over Steve's shoulder, asking 40 times-per-minute "Whatcha doing?" Steve was uncharacteristically gracious, and kept the kid entertained while he measured and cut. The homeowners (Grandma and Grandpa to the kid) came and stood in the doorway to watch as well. I came in just as Steve looked up and commented, "Yaknow, your kid here looks just like the mailman!" Grandma and Grandpa exchanged horrified glances. I've never seen someone stammer and backpedal so furiously. Rather than implying a secret liaison between the mother and the postman, he was trying to say he looked like Karl Malone (nickname: The Mailman), and it was meant as a compliment. Steve quickly finished his work, muttering to himself the whole time. Anything like this ever happen to you?

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Petrichor and Wormucking

It was a lovely spring day yesterday, the lush green grass and burgeoning leaves adding a richness of color to the mottled gray skyline. Fat, heavy drops of rain exploded on the pavement and made the bushes outside droop under the downpour. Worms are streaming across the parking lot from wet to wetter, many giving their gooey all under the uncaring crush of tire and heel. I love the smell of freshly mushed worms. Or is that geosmin? Probably that. ******************* Here in Grand Rapids, we have a weather ball. It's a nostalgic device that sparked up many memories of a very different downtown, with crowded streets and Depression-era construction, exposed structures and odd angles. The stainless-and-neon beacon sat atop a tower mounted on the roof of Michigan National Bank (which has been bought and re-bought a brazilian times since then) for decades. It came down as I was graduating high school because it was wrecking its building, which wasn't designed to support a 64-ton sail rocking in the wind. It shined upon a generation with a vaguely remembered poem about what the colors meant. A local TV station resurrected the weather ball and mounted it next to its main tower at the intersection of I-96 and US-131, and includes a live shot of it (with the rhyme) in all its forecasts. Thought I'd share, since all y'all probably don't have one. What local landmarks do you have? More reading, for the insatiably curious: GR Business Journal History WZZM TV 13 Restoration Color Key (will resize your browser window)