12/24/11

The long walk.

When Paul and I graduated from high school, he went away to Oswego College in western NY, and I stayed home and commuted to a local college. It was an odd time for two kids who had known each other since 7th grade and had spent the better part of six years as inseparable friends. For the first time since we met, we weren't a ten minute drive or a 20 minute bike ride away from each other. There also wasn't anything called "unlimited long distance" so we didn't talk on the phone much because it was expensive. Neither one of us was much of a phone guy anyway, unless a girl happened to be involved.

We both hated college, and hated what our lives had become. I had unexpectedly been accepted into my father's alma mater, and it was a great school, so I felt I had to at least give it a shot.

I had originally planned to go to RIT in Rochester, NY, but between my unexpected acceptance and (the ridiculously stupid reason of) not wanting to leave a rock band I was currently playing in, I decided to stay home and go to Union College instead. I think if I'm honest with myself, getting accepted there was also a little bit of a relief, since the thought of leaving home was a little scary to me at the time. That first year of college wasn't a great period in my life. The band broke up, I was miserable, I had no real friends because all my old friends were gone and since I wasn't living on campus, I didn't have much of an opportunity to make new ones. I wasn't even sure I had made the right choice of schools.

And electrical engineering? That shit is hard. I have to give my father credit for sticking it out, especially while working a full time job. I don't think I inherited much of his smarts, however, because I had no natural aptitude for math, and almost as little for physics, so it quickly became clear that I was destined to be a C student at best. Every day was going to be a constant struggle to study hard enough and long enough to pass my required engineering classes. It wasn't until I was almost a year into it that I realized the handicap I was working under -- all the other kids who lived on campus "studied together" regularly, and by studied together, I mean they passed around the test answers from the previous year's classes. I was the only idiot trying to get by on brains alone.

Paul was in a similar situation, but with the added burden of having left a girlfriend when he went away to school. He had been dating a junior, so when he went off to college, she got to stay behind. They tried to make it work for a while, but you know how it is when you're 19 -- your mind runs away with you and your head fills with all sorts of imaginary betrayals. Given the long distance nature of their relationship, they sort of unofficially broke up even though he was still in love with her, or at least he thought he was. At the time, I thought it was more of an obsession, since when we did talk on the phone, that's mostly what we talked about. I think she was a kind of anchor for him -- a link to home, a link to the the past, a link to everything good and honest and fine in his life. All the things that being "away" seemed to change and erode. I spent a lot of time doing what you need to do for friends sometimes; I reassured him, agreed with his assessments, told him things were going to work out; even though I knew I was probably just telling him what he wanted to hear.

It's amazing how all-encompassing your problems can seem when you're in college, but when you look back on them ten or twenty years later, they seem so insignificant. Test scores, grade point averages, girls who like you and girls who don't, whether you'll have a part time job for the summer -- writing it down makes it look even more ridiculous. Even so, the pressure can seem immense; I think because behind it all, there is something so daunting that you are only able to think of it in abstract terms. Your future. Your career. The rest of your life. Abstract concepts that, if you were anything like I was while in college, you could only allow yourself to think about for short periods of time, otherwise the unanswerable questions might drive you insane.

The summer after high school graduation was a weird time for us. Summer had barely begun, yet the end of it was always in the back of our minds. We spent the whole three months wondering what was going to happen with our girlfriends and even with our own friendship. We hiked a lot in the woods near his house, talked about our plans and, because we were geeks, played a lot of Dungeons and Dragons. We played the same campaign on and off for most of the summer, until my character Jaxom died in a random cave-in while on a quest. It didn't seem fair, and still doesn't, but by that time in our lives we both knew that life isn't always fair. Sometimes a cave-in happens when you least expect it and there's not a damned thing you can do about it.

We did see each other on and off during that first year, but since my school used some ridiculous thing called a Tri-mester, which split the school year into three equal parts with short breaks in between, our time off never overlapped. He used to come home for break after I had already gone back, and sometimes just for kicks, I'd drive by in the morning and pick him up in the Impala and he'd go with me to my classes. We'd sit in the back and he'd spend about a week being a bad influence on me, drawing cartoons and designing knives and swords in the margins of his notebook while I was desperately trying to understand whatever the teacher was attempting to explain. Once in a while, just to be a wise-ass, he'd raise his hand and answer a question. I don't remember him ever getting one wrong.

It was during the first of these breaks that we vowed we'd start writing letters to each other while he was away, but instead of doing it the normal and sane way, we decided to do it in the spirit of our D&D campaigns -- complete with an ink-dipped fountain pen, parchment paper and medieval script. We called them Scrolls, and even managed to send the first few as rolled up parchments in mailing tubes. The tubes didn't last long because they were a pain in the ass and expensive to mail, so we switched to envelopes almost immediately. The scrolls themselves contained lots of ornate drop caps and plenty of thees, thous and thines with a lot of -eth endings on the verbs to keep things interesting. Over time, we named our own kingdoms and wrote as the relative monarchs of said kingdoms, both trapped by our responsibilities, both looking forward to the day when we could afford to leave our castles for a period of time and wander the land as common woodsmen.

Completely geeky, I know. Even so, it always brightened my day when I checked the mail and had a new scroll from my friend. They always began with "Hail and well met, Lord Virgil," and just reading that salutation brought a smile to my face and lifted my spirits. In fact, it still does. We imparted news officially, as if it were news of the kingdom, and we spoke of our women in couched terms, referring to them as m'lady, harlots or wenches, depending upon our mood and their behavior. The mailman must have thought we were completely nuts, given the sealing wax and weird crests and symbols on the outside of the envelopes.

I saved them, tucked away inside an old notebook from school, and tonight is the first night I've looked at them since Paul passed away in '09. After he died, his wife found some of the scrolls I had written to him - which he had kept the same way I had - and she gave them to me. It was interesting to see both sides of the correspondence in one place, and it was a shock to see, some 25 years later, how depressed and beaten down we both were, and how much strength we took from each other's words of encouragement, even though they were disguised as Kingly Missives.

There was one scroll from Paul that I find myself thinking about every Christmas eve. It was a particularly bleak one because he had finally come to the conclusion that it was over between him and his girlfriend and he was feeling depressed and a bit adrift, and Christmas break was coming up. For the first time since he had gone away, he wasn't planning to see her when he came home for break. At the same time, I had a crush on a girl who liked me "as a friend," and she was all I could think about. I was also seriously contemplating a change of schools, and I hadn't had the guts to spring that on my parents just yet. I had finally figured out that electrical engineering wasn't for me, and I was averaging somewhere around a 2.5 GPA. Needless to say, neither one of us felt much like celebrating.

In the correspondence, we talked about honor and friendship, our own mortality and the future, and the importance of staying true to your beliefs, and to your friends. The scroll began with his news of the break up, and ended with him asking me to write back and tell him what I truly thought about his situation. We knew that even as events in our lives forced changes upon us, we would always be friends -- and through this series of scrolls, two very introverted geeks were able to admit to each other that sometimes in life you need to lean on your friends, and that each of us would be there for the other, no matter what our futures may bring.

He closed his scroll with this:

Snow, falling softly.
Songs and bells ring through the winter night.
People laughing and close....distant they seem.
This is Christmas - a time of love, or so they say.
Where is that love for me? Do you feel the same, my brother?
While others are merry, I shall be empty.
In your kingdom, is it the same?
I will walk in that dark and holy night,
and I will meet you in the fresh snow, and I will smile.
For this Christmas, we celebrate friendship and brotherhood.

Merry Christmas, my Brother. My friendship and fellowship is my gift to you.

Geeky? Without a doubt. Heartfelt and sincere? As sincere as a 19-year-old kid can be, and that's pretty goddamned sincere. Corny? It may seem so now, but it didn't at the time. At the time, it was a lifeline. That was a dark Christmas for both of us, but we helped each other get through it.

The following year, I transferred to Siena college and he did the same, and we spent four more years in Academia where we muddled through most of computer science, decided that it sucked, and ultimately switched to marketing and advertising, which was interesting and pretty easy if you were creative. Mostly what I remember about those years was the sheer amount of fun we had.

Eventually, we got out of school and got decent jobs; I somehow managed to marry the girl I had that crush on, and a couple of years later, he married a girl he met one summer up at The Slug's family camp. On some level, it's like that first miserable college year never existed. Time fades memories and if you're lucky, you remember the good times better than the bad. Based on some of the stuff I wrote, I think that's definitely the case for me, because I was one gloomy son of a bitch on paper.

Even back then, we both realized life was short. I think Paul felt it more intimately than I did, and I think he also somehow knew that he'd have less time on earth than most. We had more than one conversation about how the life expectancy of your typical viking was about 39, and the life expectancy of a viking warrior was probably much less than that. We marveled at the fact that you could be considered a wise old elder at the age of 35, even though as 19 year old kids, we couldn't even imagine being that ridiculously old. I think that knowledge of his mortality drove him much of the time -- then and later on in life -- and it's probably why he had accomplished more in his 45 years than most people could given twice that number.

Back in 2004, we found ourselves once again living in houses that were roughly ten minutes from each other by car. As a result, for five years we spent countless Sunday mornings drinking coffee and hanging around in each other's workshops. When the snow flew, we'd invariably joke about that scroll, and swear that one Christmas eve, when both of us were home and our wives were asleep on the couch, we'd take that long winter walk. He'd start out from his house and I from mine, we'd meet somewhere in the middle and, with little fanfare save a handshake and a quiet "Hail and well met, brother," we'd break out the flask of Drambuie and toast our lives and the sheer, unbelievable good fortune that had graced us with this enduring friendship.

Every Christmas eve, especially when the moon is full and there's fresh snow on the ground, I sorely regret never having taken that walk. Maybe someday, many years from now or in the blink of an eye, it will still happen -- if there is indeed something after this life, as he always believed.

In the meantime, I'll raise a glass of Drambuie to my friend, my brother, and take a moment to remember the good times we had.

Merry Christmas, Mate.

Hail, and well met.



12/22/11

Step on my back, break your mother's crack.

Or something like that.

A couple of weeks ago, I got a muscle spasm in between my shoulder blades, up toward my neck, so I went to the doctor. He gave me a prescription for a week's worth of muscle relaxers, and sent me on my way. I took maybe three of them over the course of the next day, and in a few days the spasm was gone. Also, I almost missed work because you do NOT want to wake up in the morning after you take one of those things.

I thought that would be the end of it, but no. For some reason, ever since then, when I hunch over at the computer to type, or extend my left arm while I'm sitting, I get what feels like a tingle in the middle of my back, and it radiates down to the first finger and thumb on my left hand. It's the weirdest thing. I figured it would go away in a day or so, but it didn't. So finally, last week I told my wife I was going to go back to the doctor, and she said, "Why don't you try my chiropractor? He's really good." I was skeptical. I watched as many Two and a half men reruns at dinner time as the next guy, and I'd never really been to a chiropractor, even though I've had friends and relatives swear by it. Me, I've always thought of it as a pseudo-science at best, similar to acupuncture. Maybe there's something to it and maybe not.

So I agreed to give it a shot. I know there are some bone-crackers who get into the kooky-spooky spiritual aspects of things and start talking about your energies and your aura and the color of your poop, but when I had my first appointment, this guy didn't seem like that at all. He seemed to be pretty much focused on the mechanics of your body; your posture, your joints, your spinal curvature, things that made sense to me. It was more like talking to a physical therapist. The other thing I liked about him is he put me on the table with my face nestled in some kind of vinyl butt, looked at my spine, felt around a little bit, and said nothing major was "out," which I think is the highly scientific term chiropractors use when they describe your bones. "Your C5 and C7 are out," they might say. Where they have gone, and what they might be up to while they are out is anybody's guess. Whatever it is, they are apparently not supposed to be doing it. I'm pretty sure it involves a hot-sheet hotel in a seedy part of town.

So he asked me more about the referral pain down my arm, told me to lie facedown on the table, and then hooked me up to electricity. He put contacts on my back and connected wires to them, and then I'm guessing he took the ends of the wires and jammed them straight into a 220 volt socket, because suddenly my shoulder muscles contracted, my arms went straight out and my head tried to pull itself into my ass from the wrong direction. (On second thought, there's probably not really a right direction.) Anyway, this went on for a few seconds until he got it adjusted. After he dialed it back to 11, I was just ever-so-slightly shrugging my shoulders every three seconds, like I just didn't care about something over and over. He put some some sort of moist heat pack over the electrodes and my shoulders, and then left me there for 10 minutes.

When he came back, he worked over the shoulder muscle for a few minutes, rubbed some sort of camphor and menthol goop into my neck, told me he thought my pain and weird tingling fingers were due to a muscular problem, and charged me $65. I didn't feel much different, other than now I smelled like someone rubbed me down with Ben Gay and vodka, so I made another appointment and went home. In my head, I figured I'd give this guy a week or two, and then I'd head to an orthopedic or something.

The next appointment went about the same, and again there wasn't much improvement. He sent me for an X-ray, and what that told him is that due to not having great posture (have you ever seen an X-ray of a drummer's spine?) I had lost some of the "curve" in my neck. There was also some bone spurs in my cervical vertebrae because I'm old as dirt and I guess after you turn 40 your bones start doing weird shit to protect themselves and in another 20 years I'll probably have extra phalanges sprouting out of my coccyx or something.

He said the X-ray wouldn't show a disc problem, so he wanted to get an MRI if my insurance would cover it. Either way, he said he thought I could benefit from a good stretching and decompression. I figured he was going to give me some 5th generation, crooked, copy machine printout of some exercises that featured a faceless figure with an oval head and lots of dotted lines, but instead he brought me into the next room where this happened:


I sat back on the table and he put my neck into a vise, and then strapped my head to this sled-like assembly. Attached to the sled was a cable that ran up to the back of the table, and the whole thing was attached to a computer. He programmed it, and after making sure I wasn't too uncomfortable (I wasn't, considering I was strapped to a machine being controlled by what looked like an IBM 486 pc from the early 90's) he turned the lights on low and told me he'd be back in 15 minutes.

The first time it went to 27 pounds of pull, I was pretty sure I was going to be paralyzed from the neck down. I remembered the quality of the graphics on that video screen and prayed it wasn't running Windows Me under the covers, because that OS was so bad it would pull your head off your body just for the fun of watching you die.

After a while though, it started to feel kind of good. It would slowly pull up to 27 pounds, then release to 14 or so. Then back up again. Before I knew it, the 15 minutes were up, and I wanted one of these things for my living room.

I've been on it twice so far and I can't really tell if it does anything or not. It feels pretty good when it stops, but then again, so does stabbing a fork into your eye. I know one thing, I'm going broke in this place. Really what's happening is I'm paying thirty five dollars for someone to give me a half-assed back rub and then pull gently on my head for 15 minutes.*

What I mean to say is, if it's truly muscular like he says, I could probably go to an actual massage therapist and pay about fifteen bucks more for an hour-long massage.

I have the MRI scheduled for Wednesday, so I'm probably not going back to him until I have some pictures of the inside of my spine. Wish me luck.



*That sounds dirty, but I'm leaving it.


12/20/11

Beans, Beans are good for your heart.

So the other day, I made these:


Well, I didn't actually make them, I mean I didn't grow them in my garden or anything. But still, I had something to do with their transition to that state.

If you didn't know, I'm a bit of a coffee snob. If someone offers me a cup of coffee and I accept, and they immediately take the can of Maxwell House out of the freezer, I always have second thoughts. Sometimes I'll change my mind and say I'd like tea instead, or sometimes I'll choke it down if I'm trying to be polite. I think "Good to the Last Drop" is probably one of the biggest and oldest marketing lies out there. In other words, I prefer to grind my own beans and I am partial to a darker roast and using a french press.

And then it all went to hell, because I read a stupid article on the stupid internet about how I could roast my own stupid coffee using nothing but a stupid $20 ebay popcorn popper.

I had to try it. Apparently the popper I wanted was called a WestBend Poppery, or Poppery II. I found a Poppery II cheap, so I Bought it Now, baby. Then I went on a search for green coffee beans, having visions of the sweet, sweet aroma of freshly roasted coffee wafting through my house.

I researched a few other things, too. Technically, coffee is "stale" about 5 days after it's roasted. You can slow that down with vacuum packing, but once you open your bag, use it up quick. Green coffee beans supposedly stay fresh and good for 6 months to a year in their unroasted state. I learned about chaff, and first crack and second crack. I found a place called Sweet Maria's, and I ordered up some coffee.

I got the popcorn popper first. It sounded like a worn out blow dryer with a bad bearing, but it got pretty hot and looked clean. I cleaned it up a little more, found a glass lantern chimney to replace the plastic top, and waited for my coffee to arrive.

I had ordered the "sampler pack" which means I got about 8 pounds of coffee total, with four different types of beans from different countries. It finally showed up a few days after the popper, and I was ready to roll.

The labels on the beans read like terms you'd hear at a wine or beer tasting. "Fruited bittersweet balance, chocolate biscuit, plum, sweet spices like cinnamon, ginger, clove and coriander" was on one package, and another read "Dried mango, peach, tamarind, rustic chocolate" (Rustic chocolate? That doesn't sound very appetizing.) I was excited. I had to try this asap.

I set everything up on the kitchen counter and plugged the popper in. I opened one of the bags of coffee and dumped in around 4-5 ounces of green beans, and got a wooden spoon to stir it with until it lost enough moisture to stir itself.

The first thing I noticed was that roasting coffee smells like ass. It smells nothing at all like coffee, and instead of a heavenly aroma of coffee wafting through my house, instead what I had was something that smelled like rotten grass slowly heating up in the sun. I turned on the fan over the stove, and started stirring the beans with the handle of the spoon. Immediately I noticed another problem. In order to look at the coffee, I had to put my head directly over the top of the popper, and since it's a hot air popper, air that smelled like ass was blowing directly into my face. It was like being forced to talk to someone with bad breath because they have something you want. After a minute or so, I noticed the chaff starting to come off the beans. This is the outer skin of the coffee bean, and it's very light. Think of that thin covering over a peanut when you take it out of the shell. Like that. This isn't so bad, I thought, leaning in for another stir.

Suddenly, I was in the middle of a brown, smelly snowstorm and chaff was blowing all over the kitchen. I had half-expected some kind of mess, which is why I decided to do this when my wife wasn't home. It was then that I heard what they call "first crack" and it sounds exactly like it was described. Sort of a popcorn-y sound, but not quite. It was less violent, maybe more like the sound you'd hear if you broke a candy cane in half. Suddenly, all the beans were doing this, and the popper was getting pretty lively. The smell didn't really improve much, however.

After most of the chaff had blown away, the beans started to brown. After about 14 minutes of this, I heard what I thought was "second crack" which sounds just like first crack except it's one higher. I wanted a nice dark roast, so I kept things going for a bit, watching the color of the beans until I had what I wanted. The fan over the stove wasn't cutting it, and the room was getting a little bit hazy. I was pretty sure that I saw the beginning of a little smoke, but I wasn't positive. Maybe the bean fumes were getting to me.

When I had a color I could live with, I unplugged the popper and dumped the beans into a metal colander, in order to quickly cool them. As I swished them around, I leaned in to take a little whiff, and sadly, things hadn't improved. It didn't smell like rotten grass anymore, but it certainly didn't smell like coffee. But that was OK. It was my first try, and I figured I did something wrong. I dumped the beans into an airtight container, and cleaned up my mess. Mission accomplished, sort of.

That night while I was in bed, I kept smelling that ass-grass roasting coffee smell. My wife didn't mention anything when she got home, so I figured airing out the house had worked OK, but this was really strong. It took me a few minutes to realize it was my hair. From sticking my face over the popper, I had that oily stench pretty much embedded in my scalp.

The next morning, I went downstairs to the kitchen and opened the container and...it was coffee! Honest to god, fantastic smelling, fresh-roasted coffee that smelled like you would expect it to. I brewed it up, and I thought it tasted pretty good for my first attempt. It wasn't as strong as Starbucks, but it wasn't as bitter either. I am now going to try a bunch of other bean types, and roasting times, just to see what I end up with. Also, I'm doing this in my shop now. No more kitchen counter. Here's a little video of that roast in the first picture when it was almost done.

I've tried all four in my sampler pack and here's what I've written down in my log so far:

Ethiopia Harar Longberry:
What I am supposed to taste: Hints of dried mango, peach, tamarind, and spicy cinnamon
What I actually taste: Weak-ass Coffee

Sumatra Dry-hulled Aceh Bukit:
What I am supposed to taste: Fruity, chocolate biscuit, plum, sweet spices
What I actually taste: Your Basic Really Good Restaurant Coffee

Brazil Cerrado DP Fazenda Aurea:
What I am supposed to taste: creamy body, very nutty, chocolate in darker roasts, banana, melon
What I actually taste: Average Coffee

Costa Rica Bajo Canet de Tarrazu:
What I am supposed to taste: Brightness (?), heavy fruit aromatics, banana, melon, orange peel, dark brown sugar
What I actually taste: More Coffee

So clearly I have to work on my tasting skills, because I have none. They all taste like coffee to me. Good, and fresh, but similar in nature. I need to learn more about the limitations of this corn popper method, too. Maybe that's my problem. Maybe I need to get an $800 home roaster so I can turn into a pretentious dickhead and pretend I taste all that stuff in those descriptions.

More so, I mean.


12/7/11

Doing it wrong.

This has to be the ballsiest way ever to commit suicide:

Flesh-eating piranhas kill man in Bolivia
By The Associated Press

Authorities say piranhas attacked and killed a young man who leaped into a river infested with the flesh-eating fish in northeastern Bolivia.

Daniel Cayaya is a police official in the small city of Guayaramerin. He tells The Associated Press that the 18-year-old man was drunk when he jumped out of a canoe in the nearby town of Rosario del Yata, 400 miles north of the capital of La Paz.

Cayaya says the man bled to death after the attack, which occurred last Thursday. First word of the incident emerged Tuesday, when it was reported by the Erbol radio station.

Cayaya says the police suspect suicide because the man was a fisherman in the region who knew the Yata river well.

That's just crazy. It's like deciding to kill yourself by juggling a bunch of hornets nests while dancing a jig on a fire-ant hill.

12/5/11

I probably won't buy these.

They confuse me. Do they give you the crabs? Or take them away?


And what's up with the company name? Utz? It sounds like the noise you make when someone hits you in the solar plexus with oh, I don't know, a giant crab, for instance. Come on, snack food machine filler guy, stop being a lazy piece. I know you put shit like this in the machine just so you don't have to fill it as often. Next thing you know, we'll have three different rows of Necco wafers up in there to keep those disgusting Chuckles company. Is there anything more vile in taste and consistency than the black Chuckle? No, there is not.

So let's dispense with The Crab Chip, ok? Bring back the Cheddar SunChips, or the extra crunchy Cheetos. You know, the real food. Crabs and Lobsters are nothing more than nasty looking, underwater bugs. All you people who say you love the taste of lobster and crab -- face it; you just love the taste of melted butter.

Speaking of bugs, did you guys see this thing? Holy shit. My wife would have a stroke if she saw one of these in the house. Also, I wouldn't recommend stomping on it to kill it. I have a feeling it might shoot up your pant leg like a giant mayonnaise packet or something. I mean, I'm not afraid of bugs as a general rule, but that thing eats carrots.*

Whole carrots.

Jesus.


*I did some additional reading and it turns out that some people cook these bugs and eat them. That's just disgusting. But I suppose if you could feed it a carrot, a potato and some celery right before you cook it, you could save some time on Weta stew.

Edit: OK, i bought them today. First they are...not horrible. They are extremely salty, and they remind me a little bit of the old Wise Barbecue chips we used to get when I was a kid. I ate most of the bag, but didn't finish them. Sorry to say, they're not my favorite. I think that honor has to go to:


They are awesome. Trust me.




11/22/11

Free Willy.

As regular visitors here might be aware, my wife makes hats, scarves and headbands, which she sells on both Etsy and on her website at www.anniesoriginals.com. In fact, right now, she has a free shipping special going on that runs until Christmas, so consider this my annual plug. Tell her Johnny sent you. It won't get you any discounts, but there's an outside chance it might help me get lucky. It's worth a shot, anyway.

She can also take special orders right up until two weeks before Christmas, so if you want special colors or a certain kind of wool (I have an awesome hat made out of alpaca) just email her and let her know. Hats and scarves only, please. Why do I say that? Let me tell you why.

The other night, she walked in to my office holding her laptop, and she had an odd look on her face. She said, "You're not going to believe this, but I got an e-mail from a lady who wants me to actually crochet -- "

I interrupted her and said, "A penis warmer?" She looked at me like I was psychic or something. Crazy, but psychic.

"Yeah! How'd you know?" she asked. I honestly had no idea how I knew. I just immediately knew. Maybe I am psychic. Or maybe that just says something about how long we've been married.

In case you've never seen one, (a warmer, that is) they generally look like this:


"My dad used to have a red, white and blue one in his dresser drawer when I was a kid," I said. "It was very patriotic."

"Really? Your dad?" she asked in disbelief. She looked stunned and a little horrified, like she was picturing my father wearing it. Or trying to not picture him wearing it, and failing. Then I started picturing him wearing it, so I quickly explained things to clear that mental image for both of us.

"No, no -- he didn't seriously wear it. It was in one of those joke boxes that said something like - 'Just a little present to keep you warm this winter.' One of his friends gave it to him as a gag gift, I think. Or maybe it was my mother. That sounds like her."

She looked relieved.

"It's one of the few fun things I ever found in there when my mother used to punish me by sending me to their room instead of my own," I said. "It didn't look like it would fit anything human." (I had gotten in trouble for going through their drawers, but it had been worth it. It was right up there with the time I found the 'pin-the-boobs-on-the-girl' party game in my grandmother's attic.)

"This lady sounds like she really wants one, but I'm not sure I have time to make it," she said. "Plus I'd have to find a pattern."

"If you make it, I'll model the prototype for you, " I said. "But you may have to size the final product up a bit." She laughed and said, "What do you think I should I tell her?"

"Google it," I said. "I'm sure there's a link you can send her if you don't have time to make one. There are probably a million places selling those things."

Turns out I was right. If you Google "willy warmer" or "penis warmer," you will see hundreds of different types of warmers in all sizes and colors. You may even see some that are being modeled by their very proud owners if your google safe-search isn't turned on. (Trust me. Leave it on.)

So anyway, this got me thinking. I wasn't sure exactly why there were so many. I figured -- gag gifts, ok -- but there were people actually using these things. As in, they had knitted willy warmers as a regular part of their wardrobe. Right up there with socks and shoes, shirts and ties.

So I thought, Maybe it's just me, and this *isn't* really weird. And then I immediately thought, No, it is.

With that in mind, I'm going to conduct an informal poll of the men reading this blog post right now:

Question: Has your junk ever been cold? Ever?

Obviously if you are one of those polar bear freaks, you don't have to answer, because you are bat-shit crazy and therefore your survey response is rendered invalid. I realize I can't speak for everyone here, (and I concede that there may be a random person with some sort of Raynaud's disease of the penis reading this right now) but for the most part I'd have to say that it's like a furnace down there -- summer, winter, rain or shine -- it doesn't matter. In fact, I'd go so far as to suggest that if someone invented some kind of cooling device that you could strap on like one of these warmers, guys would be buying them in droves.

And here's another thing. Most of these are made of wool, or some sort of Acrylic/Wool blend. Wool is two things: Incredibly warm, and incredibly itchy. I've never owned a wool sweater that didn't need a shirt under it, and I can only wear a wool hat for so long before I'm scratching my head like I have a colony of lice setting up a terrorist camp behind my ears. So my second question is this: Why? Why would you want something that itchy placed directly on something that already itches more than its fair share in relation to other body parts? I've included this handy graph to help you understand the ratios here:



By all means, feel free to disagree with me, but I am willing to go on record as speaking for the majority of people who don't have some kind of extenuating circumstances on/in some other part of their body and say this:

You never, ever need to intentionally add any additional heat or irritation down there. Period.

That would be like going to the beach and saying, "You know what my ass crack is missing? Sand. Lots and lots of sand."

Now that I went off on that tangent, let me loop back around and point out that if you want a nice hat or scarf, or are looking for a unique, hand-made Christmas gift for someone special, my wife uses very nice yarn that won't make anything itch. Plus, free shipping for a limited time. You can't beat that.

Just don't ask her to knit you a willy warmer because she won't do it.*



*Unless you pay her a ton of money and let her make it out of alpaca or cashmere and promise to never, ever send her a photo of anyone actually wearing it.

11/13/11

I'm in trouble, you guys.

The other day I stopped over to my dad's house after work, just to catch up and see if he needed a hand with anything. We ended up getting the leaves off the pool cover. He bought this net that goes over the cover and the idea is that you're supposed to be able to just peel back the net and all the leaves will come with it. It works, kind of, but the problem you have is by the time you've pulled them all to one end, you've got about a hundred and fifty pounds of wet, slimy leaves that you aren't sure what to do with. We eventually hauled the swampy goop out on to the grass, then scooped it into some garbage cans, then put the net back. By the time we were done, my arms smelled like I had just given a deep-tissue massage to the creature from the black lagoon.

After we washed up, we went upstairs because he had some computer questions for me. First off, computers and my father do not get along. It's like he emits some sort of anti-energy that just makes electronics do bad things to good people. I'm not sure exactly what it is, but I've fixed his computer many, many times over the years, from DOS 5.0 on up. I think the worst stretch was probably Windows Me. That OS was such a steaming pile of crap I finally told him that unless he let me upgrade him to XP, I wasn't going to work on it anymore.

Anyway, that's all in the past. Now he has a newer Dell, a flatscreen monitor, and a CPU that more than meets his needs. There hasn't been much in the way of computer support lately other than a question here and there about getting pictures in and out of the thing. He has three grand-kids now and they keep him pretty busy taking pictures. So I sat down and flipped the power on and waited for his machine to boot while he went and changed his clothes.

Here's where the story gets interesting. There was a folded piece of paper on the desk, and I picked it up. It had two things written on it, and they were:

johnnyvirgil@nycap.rr.com
15minutelunch.blogspot.com

Oh, shit.

My father had finally found my blog. I'm not sure exactly why I feared this, but I wanted to immediately kill the person who told him about it. I wasn't sure if he had already read it, or if he was just planning to check it out and hadn't gotten around to it yet. When and if he did, the next domino that would fall is that he would find out I wrote a book. You're probably wondering why I never told him I had written a book, or that I write a blog. I'll get to that in a bit, if you're still reading by then. (I have no idea where I'm going with this post, just so you know.)

I had a very strange reaction to this news. I immediately felt like I was 10 years old again, and in the dog house, waiting for my dad to get home from work. Like I had done something wrong, which is an odd reaction to have about something I've put so much time and effort into over the years. Even now, this entire chain of events mystifies me, and I've spent the last few days trying to figure it all out, because intellectually, I find it patently ridiculous, but there's this little kid part of me that still doesn't want him to read it.

I've been trying to figure out what this says about our relationship, given that I'm not living in his basement and delivering pizzas part-time or anything. I mean, I'm a responsible, modestly successful adult with a decent job, a lovely wife and a nice house in the woods, right? So why the hell would I care if he read my blog or my book? After thinking about this for a while, I've come to the conclusion that it's because my father is a lot of things that I'm not.

My father has always been my biggest inspiration. He's done some amazing things in his life, and I've always held him up as an example of how to be a good man, a good husband and a good father. He joined General Electric when he was fresh out of high school, and was accepted into a sort of work-study program they offered at the time. You'd work during the day as an apprentice, and they would pay for you to take college courses at night. Their goal was to turn you into an electrical engineer or something else they could use. If you didn't do well in class, all bets were off and you were out. My grandfather didn't have the money to send my father to college, so this was his only way to get there, and he was determined. He worked his ass off and made it through, and he and my mother were married shortly thereafter.

Our childhood seriously couldn't have been better, and I'm thankful every day for the fantastic memories he's provided me, and the sacrifices he's made throughout his life to make our lives easier. He and my mother raised four children to adulthood, and I really couldn't ask for a more involved father, or a better role model, when it comes to that. And therein lies the rub, I think. Sometimes, his expectations (or my perception of them, at least) can be hard to live up to.

First, let me tell you a little bit more about my dad:

1. Staunch Roman Catholic
2. Right wing conservative
3. Thinks most TV sitcoms are offensive
4. Thinks all R-rated movies are trash
5. G-rated sense of humor
6. Strict moral philosophy

So you can see where we might be at odds a little bit. For instance, I don't personally think that R-rated movies and raunchy sitcoms are going to cause the end of civilization as we know it. (I think it's probably going to be China, and reality TV, if you care.) I've been writing this blog since 2005, and I'm not above going for the easy laughs, as you are all probably aware. Basically, any absurdities I see that make me crack a smile, or anything that makes me wonder if we're all insane will usually end up here. To me, these pages are a harmless diversion that allow me to vent with some degree of anonymity about the crap I see every day. I think my reaction to finding the address of my blog written down on a piece of paper on my dad's desk was mostly related to the above list.

Do I sometimes say things in my blog that might not be appropriate in polite company? Check.

Do I write some stuff my father wouldn't find funny in the slightest? Double Check.

Do I write some stuff he might find morally offensive? Check. Check. Check.

I think each of us contain multitudes -- we are different people to our friends, spouses, co-workers and parents; our personalities and behavior somewhat depend upon the moment in time we find ourselves in. Like the parent of a toddler who curbs their use of crude language when the child is within earshot, or the feigned politeness we show to the cop who pulls us over, we vary our behavior -- in effect, who we are at that very moment -- to fit our current situation.

Take, for instance, the father-son dynamic. I believe the framework of this relationship is built when you are fairly young -- and good or bad, it continues to exist at some level, unchanging, regardless of how old you both become. I will always be my father's son, and as a result, that fact transforms me to some extent. I will always be the kid, he will always be the parent. I modify my behavior in an effort to fit into this particular version of me that I think he expects to see. For instance, I very rarely swear* when I am around him, and I only share humorous stories if they are solidly G-rated. I basically become Opie Taylor from Mayberry, and that's how it's always been. My brothers and my sister do it too. Hell, maybe everyone does the same thing around their parents and I just never realized it.

On the other hand, there's always the possibility that it's not what he expects. I don't know. Maybe he wouldn't give two shits if I made a off-color joke or dropped an f-bomb in conversation. I'm not really sure, to be honest. When the four of us were growing up, we very rarely subjected to physical discipline. An occasional, well-placed spanking wasn't out of the question, but mostly it was the sternly uttered words, "I'm really disappointed in you" that really caused us to feel remorse for whatever we had done.

So I think my initial reaction was nothing more than the deep-seated, subconscious echo of a dorky 10-year-old kid desperately scared of disappointing his old man. Interestingly enough, however, knowing that on an intellectual level doesn't necessarily make the feeling go away. My father is the kind of person who makes you want to strive to be a better man, which is an amazing trait to have, however I think the problem is we don't always agree on what constitutes "better." And I think I'm finally OK with that, and I hope he is too.

I remember one time when I was in college, I was doing a series of cartoons for the school paper. One of the characters was named Joshua Stone, and he had a tall basketball playing roommate named Sky, and the joke was that Josh had recurring flashbacks and for some reason, Sky could see them. I put Dr Ruth's face on a spider's body once. (Trust me, it was hilarious.) Anyway, my father came and talked to me about it one night, concerned that the cartoons I had been drawing were becoming drug-related. I assured him that I was not, in fact, taking drugs, and that I was just drawing a stupid cartoon for the paper, and I understood that he probably didn't find it funny. Also, as you can probably guess, that was my last cartoon for the paper. Intentionally or not, our conversation had sucked the fun out of it for me, and made me believe that perhaps it wasn't the best use of my time. I've always kind of regretted giving that up so easily.

That was then, and this is now. So, my father knows about my blog, and I assume he also knows about my book. For all I know, he's already read it just never said anything. So the big questions become these: (1) Am I going to continue to write this blog, and (2) Will I write differently, censoring myself, always with the potential audience of my father in the back of my mind?

The answers are "Yes, I will continue as long as I find it fun," and "No, not if I can help it." I'm pretty solidly me, and I guess at this point, he has probably accepted (if not always approved of) all aspects of the person I've become. He did his best, and I think we're both pretty confident that I turned out OK. (For the most part, anyway.) Besides, I figure it's always his prerogative to simply stop reading if he doesn't enjoy my particular brand of humor. Maybe I'll even give him a copy of my book for Christmas.

I'm just hoping he doesn't ground me.



*I've often wondered about this mystical power that we give words. Who decides the relative order of crudeness? What makes "shit" worse than "crap" and "crap" worse than "poop" and "poop" worse than "feces?" It's really funny when you think about it. As far as I can tell, it's all the same shit. Different day, perhaps, but still....


11/11/11

10/31/11

Happy Halloween, Ladies.

I'm afraid WhirlyBird will have to wait. I took a look at my Google Analytics yesterday and got a little swept up in the search terms people used to get here. I haven't looked in quite a while and I was beginning to forget how sick and twisted and generally confused by the internet people are. So with that as an introduction, I'm going to let Google entertain me today. And maybe you, too. I guess that's always an added bonus. So here you go:

Fantastic Google Searches that Somehow Led People to My Site

بنات تركيات -- Unfortunately, I don't know what you're asking. Or even what you want of me. I tried a few translation programs on the web, and the only hit I could find was this video for someone or something called Turkey Blocks. So I think it has something to do with chicks in tight pants coming out of some sort of genie teapot and then dancing to the music of someone who looks like a 12-year-old middle-eastern pimp. And there might be invisible turkeys. At least that's my interpretation.

!z!zz!zzzz!,!!zzzzzzz!!zz,zzz -- I'm not exactly sure how you found my blog while electrocuting yourself, but I hope you enjoyed your brief time here. In your next life, remember the hot wire is black. Usually. Unless you're wiring a 4-way switch and then it's too complicated for me. On second thought, don't pay attention to anything I say and hire an electrician.

Animals Humping -- Way to be non-specific. You don't care what sort of animals, you just want to see them doing it. I'm going to have to break it to you gently -- you were led astray by the Great Google. There are no animals humping here. There are animals, and there may be a small amount of humping, but there are no animals humping.

baking soda and lemon for vagina -- I've heard of the baking soda thing, but the lemon is new to me. My advice to you is to skip the lemon. At that point, it's starting to sound a little too much like a recipe. I'm half tempted to tell you to just dip it in egg whites and then roll it in breadcrumbs, but I'm pretty sure that would be bad advice.

Belly mold -- I'm not sure what you're looking for here. A way to make a mold of your belly or a solution to a disgusting medical problem. Just in case it's the latter, there's this amazing stuff called Mold Armor that I recently discovered. I sprayed a little on my moldy black porch railing and it was like a small miracle. I'm not sure if it's safe for your belly or not, but I can guarantee that if you have anything even slightly discolored up in there, it wont be for long. You'll probably get a free bleaching in the bargain just from the run-off.

Dear Scrotum -- I had to do some research on this one. Turns out, it's one of the oldest McCartney/Lennon feuds on record. Ultimately, even though the song was written by Lennon and credited to Lennon/McCartney, Lennon did finally relent and go with McCartney's suggestion that he use the name "Prudence" instead.

Geddy Lee in the swimming pool! -- I am still laughing at the exclamation point. It makes it sound like Geddy snuck into Bernie Mac's back yard one night at 2 am and made a little too much noise. When Bernie's wife yelled downstairs to find out what was going on, Bernie yelled back "Geddy Lee in the swimmin' pool! Call the po-lice!"

how to keep your cat's butt from smelling -- I think you might have the front of your cat and the back of your cat mixed up. Usually it's the nose that does the smelling. I drew a little diagram to help you out:
Keep that picture handy and do me a favor. Make sure you refer to it before you kiss your cat's nose again.

octopus in a bikini melting an ice cube -- I am at a loss here, since I have no idea how this search brought you to my blog; yet I cannot get this image out of my mind. It haunts me. Octopus. Bikini. Ice. There's only one thing that can get my mind off this bizarre combination of oddities. And that is:

things made with human skin -- That's pretty horrifying, and I supposed it's appropriate for someone prepping for Halloween. I guess that search turned up a few too many links because the next search was a little more specific:

human skin britches -- There ya go. Now you're getting the idea behind Google. Next time add in your waist size and inseam and I think you'll be all set. You may also want to rethink the "britches" part, grandpa. Try "pants" or "trousers" or "chaps," if you really want to get kinky. You'll eventually end up at The Gap like everyone else but at least you tried.

Happy Halloween, everyone! (Save me a Reese's. )

10/21/11

Opposites don't always attract.

Last weekend I am pretty sure I experienced the absolute opposite ends of the musical spectrum, and it may have temporarily broken my music bone. On Friday, I got a call from Yort and he said his friend was playing at a place in Saratoga and asked if I wanted to go. I asked him where, and he said "Caffe Lena's." I said, "HELL YEAH!" and made the devil signs with my hands and then went and told my wife to not wait up because I was going to go out with Yort and get all folked up.

Caffe Lena, if you don't know, is an historic musical venue in Saratoga, NY. I've been there a few times, and while I'm not generally a fan of folk music, it doesn't hurt my insides as much as rap or country so sometimes I've been known to sit through a set or two when asked. This place is famous and the list of people who have played in this room is staggering, considering it's about the size of my living room and kitchen area combined, and has a low, dingy drop ceiling and no ventilation. And did I mention that they don't serve alcohol of any kind? Not even an Irish coffee to be had. This place is strictly sandwiches, pastries, coffee and tea. So you have to either really enjoy this sort of music or be there at the behest of a friend to voluntarily sit through it while stone cold sober.

The trio we were there to see is called Bread and Bones, and even though it's folk, they are really good musicians. The harmonies were spot on, and the lyrics were pretty cool from a story-telling perspective. At the very least, I could certainly appreciate the craftsmanship. At one point the ukulele came out, and the singer said, "You can't play an unhappy song on the ukulele." I leaned over to Yort and said "Hey, it's just like a wave runner!"


So the other bad thing about this place is that it's soooo small you can't really make comments or jokes because you have 15 people in the audience paying rapt attention, and if you even try to sneak a fart out in the middle of a song everyone in the room instantly knows it. So I kept further comments to myself and we cooled it on the jokes after a while and just listened to the songs because people were starting to get a little pissed off, I think.

Bread and Bones were the opener and I wanted to leave afterward but I guess that's not really good form since the four of us were about 1/3 of the audience. So we stayed through the break and caught up with Yort's friend for a bit. At that point the coffee was going right through me so I hit the bathroom. There wasn't an inch of the wall not covered by graffiti -- it was crazy. And they were really, really adamant about not peeing on the floor:


I especially appreciated the fact that, rather than just saying "DON'T PEE ON THE FLOOR" they gave you several possible alternatives, each of which were pre-approved and management sanctioned. The fact that the sign itself looked like it had been pissed on many times in its history was a standing testament to the passive-aggressive behavior that apparently runs rampant in hardcore folk circles.

Next up, we had Sally Spring. Sally and her husband are a duo, and he plays a pretty decent guitar. Not a fan of his backup singing style but Sally had a pretty good voice. Sally also played guitar and it was friggin' amazing to watch her because she is at a slight disadvantage:



As Yort said, "I'll never complain about how hard it is to play guitar with my short, stubby fingers ever again." It was kind of mesmerizing at first, but after a while you sort of got used to it. OK, no you didn't. But it was still pretty amazing and an incredible example of not letting a handicap stop you from accomplishing your dreams.

So I'm all good on the Folk music for a while. For me, it's sort of like that piece of fruitcake your great-aunt gives you when you visit her on Christmas. When you're eating it with your coffee you're thinking, "Hmm, this isn't so bad. I can choke this down to make her happy." but after about the 3rd bite you're ready to wad it into a ball and stick it to the underside of the table and hope nobody notices. Then when she gives you the leftovers, you politely thank her and throw it out of your car window on the way home.

The next night, we headed to the Palace in Albany for a concert by Dream Theater, a band that Yort is a huge fan of. I can appreciate that they're all complete masters of their respective instruments and I like some of the music but unfortunately I'm not a huge fan of the singer's voice. He's got great pipes, but he's a little too Queensryche-ish for me. My friend happens to be their tour manager so he generally gets us in for free and it's always good to catch up with him. It was a really great show, and I was glad I went because they recently got a new drummer named Mike Mangini, and I had been wanting to hear him play. He's ex-Extreme and ex-Steve Vai, and he's an incredible player. The funniest thing about this band is that they make me feel tall. On stage, they look like giants, but when you meet them in person, they're all like five six. The new drummer is about 5' 3" I think. His set is pretty crazy, and takes about two and a half hours to set up. I sent this video to Yort and after viewing it he said, "So I assume you're heating your house tonight with the remnants of your destroyed drum set?"

All great guys though. This was the first time we got to meet all the members of the band. Normally, one or two will show up for the after-show, but I think there may have been radio station involved or something because they all came down. It was the first time we had met John Myung, the bass player, and when I shook his hand it felt like I grabbed onto the root of a tree. I looked down at our hands and I immediately saw what a lifetime of playing 6-string bass for hours a day could do to you. His fingers looked like they were the transplanted toes of an albino chimpanzee. They were all bulbous on the ends and formed entirely of hard, yellow callouses, with a thick, half-inch long fingernail on each. His fingers could have punched through a steel door. The shit we do for our art, I guess. Amazing bass player even though he doesn't have human hands.

We talked to James Labrie about his performance and how good his voice sounded and he said he's been taking better care of it lately. I asked him about a technique I read about once where you can dunk the top half of your head in a sink full of warm salt water and actually breathe in through your nose a little and suck the water into your nasal cavity. It's sort of like a full metal jacket neti pot. He just looked at me strangely for a second and then Yort said, "Are you asking him if he drowns himself?" Then James said, "I have to go stand over here now," and edged away from us. Not really, but that's what it felt like. Anyway, a fantastic show as always.

This weekend I'm depressing myself doing winter-prep yard work. I don't know what the hell I'm doing -- I sat down to write about whirlyball, and this came out instead and I decided to post it anyway. What can I say. I'm a mess. I need some blue sky autumn weather. This rainy stuff is sucking the life out of me.


10/18/11

Today is a day like any other day. Except with Angels.

My buddy Rob's new book comes out today. I read an advance copy and it was a ton of fun. It is the best sequel to Mercury Falls ever written and if you haven't read the first one, I would totally recommend getting both books and reading them together. Well, maybe sequentially would be better. I suggest starting with Mercury Falls, in other words. Not that you couldn't read this one first and then back-track but then you'd be all kinds of Star-Wars messed up and you wouldn't care about Anakin at all. No wait, I'm getting confused.

At any rate, if you like Douglas Adams and quick humor, get this book. I'm already looking forward to the third in the series, because the 2nd book is setting up the dominos for some big stuff to come. You can get it here.

I'll let Rob tell you about it in his own words:

This has been a wild ride, starting with self-publishing Mercury Falls in 2009, getting picked up by AmazonEncore in 2010, and now having them publish the sequel. During that time Amazon Publishing went from being a notion floating around in Jeff Bezos' head to being the worst nightmare of the big publishing houses - the same publishing houses that wouldn't give me the time of day three years ago, by the way. Pardon me a moment while I shed one very small tear.

Fortunately, I've never written with agents or publishers in mind. I've never tried to write something that was "marketable" or that fit into any defined niche. I just write books that are interesting and fun. And guess what? When you give readers the opportunity to buy reasonably priced books that are interesting and fun, people buy them! I've been absolutely thrilled and humbled at the success of Mercury Falls, and I'm especially thankful to those of you who have supported me from way back in my Mattress Police days. Thanks, guys. You made my dream come true.

I hope you enjoy the new book. I worked hard on it.

Rob

10/17/11

Sick. In more ways than one.

So I'm some kind of sick. Not sure what it is, but I feel like I got bit by some tropical insect that sucks the life out of you and makes it so all you want to do is sleep. I'm not sure if it's allergies or what, but I feel like my head is a balloon on a string floating slightly above my neck. So my Cleveland trip story will need to wait a few days until I hopefully don't feel like a steaming pile. In the meantime, I saw this on the way home:



I know what you're thinking. So what? They're all excited and happy about having an open apartment for rent and wanted to share the news. I can certainly understand that.

A little too happy, I think. I don't think smiley faces and balloons are really appropriate, given the, um, circumstances:


I'll be back in a day or two, I promise. Assuming I don't succumb to what I can only assume is a tsetse fly bite. If so,



10/11/11

Robo Nurse. For the guy who has everything.

Now put your elbows on the table and relax, as my doctor says.



I finally got my blackberry service back, so I was able to transfer a few pictures from my trip to the old home office last week. We flew out to meet with the team and also to play whirlyball, the most ridiculous game in the world. In case you don't know, it's sort of like a combination of basketball and lacrosse, except you're riding around in a bumper car with no steering wheel. And yes, it's about as absurd as it sounds. I hope to tell you this tale of adventure in the next day or so.

Until then, keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the sky. Although I wouldn't recommend that position if Robo Nurse is standing behind you. She looks like she means business.

10/4/11

Book your stay now!

Don't pass this up! Book your romantic getaway weekend today at Shady Pines B&B, a quaint Bed and Breakfast nestled in the woods of upstate New York.


Two cute cottages and one master suite available for rent by the day or week (3-day minimum).

Master suite features a fully-equipped kitchen, Master bedroom and adjoining full bath. Cottages have shared bathroom and outside dining area, both only a short walk from your sleeping quarters. The smaller cottage sleeps two, the larger, four. All three are heated by a centrally located fire pit. Please call 518-893-0545 for reservations.

In other news, Yort and I built these last weekend.


Yes, it sucked. We made a stack of kindling trying to get the wedges cut right. I wish I took a "before" picture because those old stairs were built out of 2x12's and blocks of wood 15 years ago by monkeys with hammers who needed a quick way to get from one floor to the other without climbing a rope ladder or installing a Bat-pole.* (Although if they did the Bat-pole, I probably would have left it.)


*I never noticed before today that Batman's pole was fatter than Robin's, although I guess it stands to reason.

9/27/11

Wish you were here.



Well, not all of you at the same time. That would probably ruin it.

We went camping with our friends Vidna, Pootie and Bee last weekend, and had a great time. Just wanted to post up a few shots. Looks like this weekend is another wash-out. I can't catch a break, weather-wise.

I don't even bother to take pictures any more. I just bring these guys. It's like having a really good camera that carries itself.

You can check out a couple of Vidna's shots here and here, and one of Pootie's here.


9/26/11

Stomping. It's all the rage.

I saw a commercial for these the other day -- they're a new kind of slipper for kids that basically do action X when you stomp on them. They flop their ears, open their eyes, flap their mouths... It's a pretty good idea, if perhaps a tad unsafe on the stairs. They're basically a non-electronic version of those light-up sneakers all the kids had a few years ago.

I'm pretty sure they didn't they do any sort of marketing research before naming these things, though. Almost all the names rely on some sort of dumb alliteration. BeBop Bunny, Perky Puppy, etc. They went off the rails a bit with "Playful Blue Puppy." I think they may have been running out of steam at that point.

Then there's this one:


The Unusual Unicorn? What makes him unusual? The fact that his horn looks like soft-serve ice-cream? Because that's pretty unusual. Or maybe not. I don't have any unicorns so I'm probably not the best judge of horn quality. Maybe it's just the first word they stumbled upon that met their very low alliteration standards. On the flip side, I'm now going to assume that the 'usual' unicorns are the ones I see all the time. I probably won't even brake for them when they're crossing the street anymore. BAM! Who gives a crap. Those stupid things are all over the place.

And this:


Yes, it's the One-Eyed Monster, which is not at all a euphemism that's been around since the dawn of time. They had to go and muddy the waters, didn't they? Now when someone asks me if I'd like to see their One-Eyed Monster, I'm going to need to clarify a few things first. Are they a pair? Are they fuzzy? Wait, this isn't really helping. Not only is the name highly suspect, but apparently it's been knighted like Paul McCartney, because it's using the honorific "Sir." Like that lends them some credibility or something. I can see the marketing execs sitting in the conference room brainstorming about the name. "There's just something missing. We need to pump these up. Add something to make that One-Eyed Monster stand up and be noticed. Hey! I know! Let's just add a 'Sir' on the front. Hell, it worked for Alec Guinness, and he was a nobody."

Initially, what I found confusing was the question of whether or not they are two separate monsters. After thinking about it for a few seconds, I determined that they would have to be, otherwise they'd just be a regular two-eyed monster that had been even more inappropriately named.

I don't know. It's probably just me, but there's something in my brain that refuses to accept "stomping" as a valid activity if One-Eyed Monsters are involved.


I'll probably have to go for the BeBop Bunny.

9/13/11

See you in September.

Who remembers that song? My dad, that's who. I'm not that old. But be warned -- this post will be the equivalent of "HEY YOU KIDS! GET OFF MY LAWN!"

It's autumn, and therefore I am spending a lot of time in the Adirondacks. I wait for this season all year, but it's always so fleeting. This past weekend my wife and I went to one of our favorite haunts, and the weather was perfect.

We weren't sure what to expect because of all the storm blowdown we've been hearing about, not to mention the washed out roads. The access road to this place isn't great to begin with, so we figured there was a pretty decent possibility that we'd be turning around at some point. We got a bit worried when we saw a sign on the access road about a bridge being out, but when we got to the lake the only thing there that indicated something was going on was a big-ass crane. But the work was done and for the most part, we had the place to ourselves. We paddled out to one of our favorite sites, and it was vacant so we took it.

It's always interesting to see what the idiots got up to on labor day weekend. Other than the typical issue of people not knowing how to dig a frigging hole and cover it back up if they have to go to the bathroom, the site wasn't in bad shape. Some melted cans and bottles in the fire ring, but not too much garbage in the site proper. But how ridiculous and disgusting is this?


Yeah, so I had to actually touch that thing in order to move it far, far away from our site. The most digesting part? As I was moving it, the bottom fell out. You haven't lived until you've heard a sound like PHUT! and felt a 5-gallon pail of liquified fecal matter suddenly become almost weightless.

People are stupid. Do they think the rangers have nothing better to do than go around the lake and retrieve 5 gallon pails of crap? I just don't understand this mentality.

Also, over the years I've gotten pretty good at telling whether someone I've never seen or met is a stupid asshole or not. For instance, if you do this to a live tree, you are a stupid asshole:


Why do I keep coming back here? Because of this:


I'll move poop for that if I have to, I guess. But I also bought a canoe carrier. My theory is that if I can go somewhere more difficult to get to, there will be fewer stupid assholes. But there may be a fault in my logic because there are different types of stupid assholes. There are lazy stupid assholes who 2-stroke it in with a cooler full of beer, but there are also meathead stupid assholes who decide to prove how badass they are by hiking ten miles with a keg of beer on each shoulder. I guess we'll see.

It was pretty peaceful except for about an hour on Saturday afternoon when a family of five came in for a day of kayaking - mom, dad, and their three kids. The kids were loud and obnoxious and pre-teens and therefore incapable of shutting the hell up for any length of time greater than or equal to three seconds. They also felt the need to stop at the flat rock in the middle of the lake directly across from our campsite and get out. The kids repeatedly threatened to jump in and the parents repeatedly yelled at them to get back in their boats. At the top of their lungs. For a solid 30 minutes.

It's a ROCK for god's sake. It's not a ride at Disneyland. They were also trying to imitate the loons and failing miserably. They sounded more like german police cars. The loons were having none of it, and immediately vacated the premises.

We then witnessed the exact moment that primitive humans discovered the echo. They yelled things and were amazed and delighted that the spirit of the mountain yelled the exact same thing back at them. In their own voices. It was apparently like magic. They did this for another ten minutes until I couldn't take it any more and yelled "HEY YOU KIDS! GET OFF OF MY LAKE!"

No, I didn't. I just yelled "SHUT UP!" -- and they actually did.

Hello? Have you noticed that there isn't another sound for miles EXCEPT FOR YOU? No, you have not.

And why? Because you are clueless idiots. Anyway, sorry for the rant. This vacation stuff is supposed to be relaxing.

On the way home, we saw this:



I can immediately tell you a few things about this family:

1. Their house smells like cat pee and wet dog.
2. You probably don't want to walk in their yard.
3. You should never, ever eat anything they bring to the bake sale.

I still owe you guys a few stories, but between trying to see if I have enough material for another book, insulating my basement and trying to get outside as much as possible this month, I've been neglecting my poor old blog. Oh, and my computer has been in the basement for the last week because it's the only one I have with a camera on it and we've been trying to figure out which one of the cats has the poops.

That's a good use of a $2300 computer, right?

9/1/11

Auto Repairs made easy.

I met my brother for lunch today and he was showing me his new car. I asked him what kind of mileage it got, and he told me around 22, which I thought was really low.

Turns out it's a V8 with all-wheel drive. I asked him to pop the hood and show me the engine, since I'm a guy and I like looking at V8's because it's in my blood.

He popped the hood and here's what I saw:



Seriously? V8, I don't even know you any more. There was a little door for the windshield washer fluid, and a dipstick. That's it.

It might as well have a sticker on it that says:



Either that, or it should just have a mechanical arm that reaches out and grabs your wallet out of your back pocket and then punches you in the nuts with it.



8/25/11

Hey Kids. Don't be afraid of the dark.

There's this movie that's coming out soon called "Don't be Afraid of the Dark." It's a remake, although I don't recall the original -- but I don't care because I'm a fan of Guillermo del Toro, so I have high hopes.

I love a good horror movie and my wife hates them, so I don't get to see them as often as I'd like because they're really more fun to watch with someone else who appreciates a good scare. My friend Yort asked me if I had seen the previews for this movie yet, and then he sent me this picture:



I've since seen the preview, and this thing lives between your sheets, down toward your feet.

Holy shit, don't listen to that guy doing the voice over. Based on what I'm seeing in the preview, you should be TOTALLY afraid of the dark. They should name this movie "Be Scared Shitless of The Dark." Lulling you into a false sense of security with that other title is not only really mean, it's false advertising. I could see it if you shined your flashlight down to the bottom of the bed and your sheets were suddenly full of kittens or Care Bears or something, but really, this thing is totally uncalled for. If you haven't seen the trailer, it's here.

OK, maybe Care Bears were a poor choice on my part.

At least the teeth are small and crooked, so if this happens to you, I hope you're an orthodontist because then at least you'd have something to bargain with.