Saturday, December 31, 2005

The Producers

I've been working. A lot. All day, every day since Christmas. It sounds bad but I have to say: at least I only wished I was dead ONE night this week. It used to be every night, even the weekends. I'm getting pretty battered loading boxes. I've only had about five bruises in my entire life and now I probably get that many per week. The coolest part about that job is when I leave the building and pull off my gloves and my hands smell like a pair of dirty feet. Mmmm... vinegar.

I've also been painting with my father and brothers-in-law. We're still working on that big house. It's huge. But we were at a dive sandwich shop eating lunch today and my father-in-law began to regail us with stories of his past business ventures and misadventures. They all end with him getting screwed over by his business partners.

He told me how HE originally developed the oversized cup holder (the kind you hang on the window in your car). Patent lawyers said it shouldn't be patented because of the ease of making a slight modification to attain a new product. They had orders from retail stores in Florida and were able to get a mold for the plastic injection. Then his partner used their money to stave off his own personal debtors. The mold got repossessed. The partner moved in the night and a third partner made the improvements they all decided on and went in to business for himself. He changed the name from "mugholder" to "mughugger."

Their is a guy from my inlaws neighborhood who just developed some snowboarding gloves that have a zipper across the knuckles so you can flip down the fingers and use your bare hand to strap into your snowboard bindings. I thought those were common hunting gloves. But he got someone in Hong Kong to start making them. My inlaws all act like he's already a millionaire. I just know that I've been boarding for over half my life and I refuse to pay over $40 for gloves (the fancy zipper gloves will retail for $80). Besides, the GOOD boarders I know use very light gloves, not giant thick ones. But that boy works at the same job I just quit for a lower wage and I recieved more than ten times the stock options he will. He's in Hell. I hope he makes some money off the gloves. Rumor is you can by them at Costco in Sandy (if you're in the area).

But my father-in-law stressed the importance of how "That's what you have to do." I need to start inventing things, he says. I didn't want to brag to him about the Kleenex box you can clip to your belt and other ideas I came up with (those actually only took me about two minutes. Those guys at the Sharper Image have quite a racket going).

I could probably come up with a legitimately cool invention if I just sat down and thought about it. So let's try it. Let's all become inventors.

Sorry is Always Too Late

I've been writing this blog since October and I've said a lot. I wanted to take the opportunity to apologize for some of my actions:

  • First, sorry to my daughter, who now thinks cardboard air fresheners are necklaces. I will get you the best therapy this country has to offer. Translation: I will take you shopping.

    As an aside: She just started peeing in the potty. She says, "I made yellow." She says next time she wants to make pink.

  • Sorry to the city of Winnemucca. It's a lovely place... to serve a ten to twenty year sentence. When I go to prison I'm going to ask the judge to send me to Winnemucca (I'm not saying I'm a bad dude, that just seems to be our default solution to the great many problems in our nation).

  • Sorry to people who do not have any sense of identity and mistakenly think that my observations of social behavior are instruction as to "what is normal" and how they, themselves, should behave.

  • Sorry to sexy grandmas. I just get a little creeped out, that's all. Like I said, give me 30 more years and I'll probably be singing a different tune.

  • Sorry to Apatosaurus for my bad spelling.

  • Connecticut can still cram it, as can the police and dentists.
  • Who Shall Inherit the Earth?

    The tards shall. If you said "the meek" you were wrong. Dead wrong.

    Me: Hey, this box has a Grand Junction, Colorado address printed on it twice but it keeps coming to the Provo, Utah truck.

    Pineapple (the acting supe; that's just what people call him): Let's take a look... Yeah, zip code 84512. That's Provo.

    Me: But do you think it's more likely that someone wrote the wrong street address and city (twice) or that they put on the wrong zip code?

    Pineapple: My palm-scanner says it goes to Provo.

    Me (hesitantly): Okay then.

    Where will the package go after it reaches Provo? Only the palm scanner knows. Homeboy's college educated. Fruitcup will kick your trash all over Techmoland.

    In Pineapple's defense he seems like a NEW supervisor who wants to toe the line to impress the big men upstairs. The company has cutting edge technology to make only the best mistakes.

    Thanks to Stephen Malkmus

    I don't know him but, out of everyone, he's the one that told me what I needed to hear. When it's just what you need to hear, that's when it sounds like it's written for you.

    Things are gonna change
    You will be amazed
    Times are gonna change
    You will be amazed

    Nice. Simple. He's the former singer of Pavement (Darlin' don't you go and cut your hair). You should all listen to his music. I should indirectly thank Minnow-man for putting the CD onto my computer.

    Thursday, December 29, 2005

    Keepin It Real for 2006

    We're not losers anymore. My wife's friend invited us to a swanky New Years Eve Party. We're not going... but it's a nice sentiment. We're just not party-people. We don't shout "Hey" nor "Ho." We don't wave our hands in the air. We're too highstrung to wave them like we just don't care.

    The only reason I would consider going to the party is because my wife's friends live in a million dollar house (Pricey for Utah. There's no ocean here.) But the rumor is that they are about to file bancruptcy and lose the house (Have you hugged your gossipy mother lately?). Another empty mansion, what a surprise. Her friends seem to have blasted into space. We like down-to-earth people.

    If you're bottom dwellers like us, drop by on New Years. We'll be hanging around the house. Bring fireworks (preferably from Wyoming).

    Wednesday, December 28, 2005

    Terrible Present

    We bought our kids one of those remote-control dinosaurs that are all the rage. They opened it on Christmas and, of course, half an hour later it was broken.

    We came up with this new model. It is much more life-like and, unlike its predecessor, it can cross from the hardwood floor to the carpet without falling over. At least nine out of ten times.

    Tuesday, December 27, 2005

    More Tips Your Guidance Couselor Will Not Give You

    I was feeling like a caber tosser loading some giant boxes into a truck at work when I decided it was time to share some more wisdom with my readers. By now, you have read the exploits of my wild success (I have my own blog!) and you may be wondering what you can do to get ahead in this mixed up world.

    I'm not saying I do these things, myself, but here are some tips that may give you the edge you need to rise above:

  • Look busy. If my truck is getting slammed at work, occassionally, some dudes will come to my aid by loading all my "odd sized items" on the back of my truck. I noticed they will carry the packages and shuffle toward the trailer. When they arrive they will drop the package like it's made of lead. I used to worry but was relieved to find the boxes were actually quite light. This is one technique used to look like you are working hard and bosses love it. You could also move your fingers rapidly over a keyboard (plugged in or not), you could walk around with a bottle of Windex cleaning whatever, you could even try talking to yourself about work related topics... "I'm trying to remember if I... yeah, I did that right... that's what I thought... I'd better get ahold of our HR manager." ANYTHING. It works in any profession. It would be better to find a little cubby hole and hide rather than let your boss see you doing nothing.

  • Start smoking. Sitting on your butt for an undetermined amount of time doing nothing is unacceptable. Sitting on your butt smoking a cigarette? That's like meditation or something and bosses like it. Smoke instead of eating. Bosses like bony people rather than chunky people, even if their intentions are pure. And think about retirement: If you could cut ten years off your life by smoking, that's like $20,000 per year that you don't have to save for retirement. The sooner you start puffing, the less you need to save. I think Suzy Ormond would agree with me on that.

  • Stop being nice. Is it a coincidence that A-holes are often mistaken as people with "leadership" skills? That means you should start tattling on your peers immediately. Tell your boss "Christmas was fun" but that you really couldn't wait to get back to work. Smile, nod, smile, nod. Be excited! Convince yourself your boss is a god. Good things will come your way.

    You can do it!
  • Saturday, December 24, 2005

    Reaching Out to New Readers

    Derek (NativeMinnow): People keep telling me to date this girl. I like her as a friend but I don't know that it would work out.

    Me: Yeah. A girl can be cool but that doesn't necessarily mean it would be a good match for a relationship. Like that girl Joey... I like her as a co-worker but I probably wouldn't ever want to date her.

    Eleanor (my wife): What? Who's Jodi?

    Me: Arrrghhh. You should really read my blog.

    Eleanor: I'm your wife. I shouldn't have to read your stupid blog to know what's going on in your life. Tell me about Jodi. Why haven't you told me about her?

    Me: This is the first time I've had a chance to talk to you since last weekend.

    Eleanor: Who's Jodi?

    Me: I really wish you would just read my blog.

    (Extended conversation---
    Eleanor: Is she pretty?
    Me: I have no idea. She's probably prettier than I think she is. A bath and a brush through the hair can go a long way.)

    Christmas Crunchtime

    It's Christmas Eve. For those of us planning to have an anti-climactic Christmas, let's get ready with our lines for tomorrow:

  • Is this ALL I got?
  • Who's going to clean up this mess?
  • How many DVDs are we going to watch today?
  • Why is it 4pm and everyone is still in their jammies?
  • Who put DARK chocolate in my stocking? DARK CHOCOLATE? Gross! I eat MILK chocolate. MILK CHOCOLATE.
  • But is it Art?

    Between unemployment, tales of death, and my whining there seems to be a cloudy winter sky over my blog as of late. That's life though. Instead of trying to lead us back to the land of sunshine and honey I've decided to just roll with it.

    With that in mind, I would like to post an image I captured about 3 years ago while my little family was driving to Capitol Reef in central Utah. It has a "ghosty" look to it because grubby 3-yr-old fingers got at the lens. At first, the picture seems flat-out morbid (my wife thought I was crazy for slamming on the brakes and jumping out of the car with the camera). But I believe it has value on several levels.

    It tells the story of a desperate struggle and the tragic outcome. One moment, you're eyeing a distant hill to forage for food and bed down for the night, one bad jump later you're bleeding to death. He probably had days to think about it. Maybe the deer was clumsy and will be featured in "The Darwin Awards for Woodland Creatures" or maybe we have environmental issues to discuss. Is some sagebrush more valuable than other sagebrush to the extent that we need to protect it from cows with barbed-wire fences nationwide?

    I was trying to come up with a good name for the picture. I thought "A Tragic Twist of a Fence" or possibly "Terms of Endeerment." If you have any suggestions, please comment.

    Thursday, December 22, 2005

    Give Me a Treat, I'll Clap My Flippers

    It's official: The big boss said I could stay on permanently loading boxes if I want to. I get compliments on my ability to pack boxes tight like seeds in a sunflower and now I've got the green light to continue making $8 an hour. That's good, right?

    And toward the end of the night, my direct manager came in and gave me a little square of chocolate. In a werehouse full of semi-trailers and people all wearing grungy gloves, my first instinct was to ask him if he found it on the floor. I resisted. It's good to build the trust. But he stood there and watched me unwrap and eat it and it made me feel like a seal in a circus.

    The job is not so bad. That "Randy Quaid guy" cracks me up. But he's one of those guys. I won't try to explain it, but here's an example of what he said right when he came in lastnight: "What's the difference between Jesus and a picture? It only takes one nail to hang a picture. Heh heh. I'm going to Hell, aren't I? But not for that. It's because of that midget I beat to death last year as a sign to other midgets that I don't like them." Don't judge him too hard. He's just full of hot air. He loads boxes full time on the graveyard shift for $9 an hour. He has bad fits of cussing and stomping around when he gets slammed with work. But he's alright. It's entertaining.

    All the girls that work there are tough. I've only talked to one of them. Her name is Joey. She said this job is just for spending money and that her real job is as a mechanic for jetliners. She said she missed a couple weeks of work because she dropped the wheel to a semi-truck and broke several of her toes. She said they USED TO (in training they told us they were still doing it) give out play money to people who worked extra hard and then you could use it to buy company crap. But they had a bad financial quarter and discontinued it. To which she told her boss, "F*** that!" And he said, "What did you say to me?" She said, "F*** that, you F***. That F***ing sucks!" He punished her by sticking her on the "odd sized package" line until he "figured out what to do" with her and then he got a job at another shipping company. She says that line is the best job in the werehouse. I said, "Well, I hope you learned your lesson."

    (Aside: Why do businesses feel the need to dream up Chuck E. Cheese-style incentives? I did the work of two regular employees this month and they gave me these heart-shaped erasers and some Sweet Tarts. That sure gets me motivated. And they never seem to have a problem going through the actions of being cruel and heartless, but then they try to compensate for it by fabricating ludicrous explanations. Joey said this company likes to rave about how "We would like to pay you all more. You are worth more to us... but the turnover is just so high that it's not worth paying high wages to people who are just going to quit after a week or two." Thanks for passing YOUR hiring problems on to the little guy. But really, it's just not true. If they wanted to keep people they WOULD pay them more. They would have a tougher screening process. All signs point to: They like the high turn over. Nobody gets benefits. Cheap labor. If you don't like it... quit. I would respect them more if they just said it. Say it. The bigwigs always assume they are the only ones with an IQ above 60.)

    Another new guy and I were trying to clean up a cluttered trailer. There was a big line of boxes backed up beyond sight up the slope of a big shoot. I pulled the magic keystone box at the bottom and the whole line of boxes buckled and folded in on itself and we were almost buried alive in an avalanche of cardboard parcels. I said, "Well. At least we can see where the boxes end now." He said, "Way to find that silver lining."

    There are many strange things that get sent. Some things make sense, like contact lenses and I think I've loaded so many cases of "Teachings of Wilford Woodruff" that I must have earned my way into the celestial kingdom several times over. At first I thought it was strange how many bug deflectors get sent but then I remembered we live in a redneck country so I should expect a lot of 4X4 accessories. There are also a lot of curtains. I can't believe how many curtains our nation uses. But food is the worst because I get so hungry. I picked up a box and about ten big bags of chips fell out of the bottom. I thought it was natural to want to eat them but I remembered the training film we watched and how that would be a felony. When I loaded a big crate of Saltine crackers and had fantasies about tearing in and devouring all those crackers, I knew it was time for me to go get something to eat. One little box got smashed and smelled distinctly like grape bubblegum. That sugary teeth-rotting stuff you buy when you're kid and now I want some.

    Some boxes have strange stickers on them that get me wondering. I keep seeing one that says "Pendulum Enclosed." Careful with that, Carter! There's a pendulum in there! Or "Time Sensitive Tabloids." Is "The Enquierer" worried that "The Weekly World News" is going to out-scoop their reporting of Liza Manelli giving birth to bigfoot's baby? Somebody shipped a pogo stick and the box said "The Pogo Master" on it. Even if you were The Pogo Master, who would you brag about that to? Sounds like you need a hobby. No, a REAL hobby.

    I did start to get a little frustrated, just because I'm already working every moment I have available. Even weekends. And I'm still not making nearly enough to live on. And additionally, I'm supposed to find another $25K/year daytime job, too. I did the "corporate whore" thing for almost five years and was able to buy a house, so maybe now that I've quit I'll have to give up the American Dream as well. Someone at work was talking like they were impressed because the managers are required to have college degrees. I'm sorry, first- that is not impressive, second- it is not worth all the trouble of completing college (even with a LAME degree) just to get jobs just above entry level. "Congratulations! You now make $2/hr MORE than all these losers." Guess what. You are still at a crappy job. It's that whole "prison guard" thing. You're not a prisoner but you still spend your life right by their side.

    And me? I'm the Kelly Clarkson of entry level employees. I will challenge any non-science college graduate to a round of Jeapordy, Wheel of Fortune, or Super Techmo Bowl and destroy them. Choose your poison.

    I just have too many responsibilities to be taking $8/hr jobs. It's scary that I can start to justify things I know to be wrong. Basically, if we live in a society that caters to wealthy people and leaves the rest to wither and die and all the "rules" of our society make the rich richer and me poorer, then why would I play by those rules? I think, change the game. But cops shoot people when they try to do that. Especially brown people.

    I know, you say, "Even poor people can become successful. Eye of the Tiger." My dad did that, but I'm not willing to give up what he gave up to achieve it. When I'm driving along the Trinity River and I ask my son, "Do you see the river?" and his response is to smile and then go through the motions of casting an imaginary fishing line into the river and then patiently reel it back in, it's a redeeming moment where even the mistakes I made in my past become right. If this is not a country that caters to the rich then I should not have to fight tooth and nail and go into monstrous debt to obtain an "official" education, competing against kids that play video games in their parents basements half the day.

    I'm just as smart or smarter than the average college graduate. I'm honest, strong, industrious, creative, detail-oriented and I work as hard as I can. Yet, I fail. There's something wrong here. That's my beef.

    Wednesday, December 21, 2005

    Pop: Music Without the Muse is just "ic"

    Here are some excerpts from some popular song called "These Words" by some girl:

    Threw some chords together
    The combination D-E-F
    Is who I am, is what I do
    And I was gonna lay it down for you

    I need some help, some inspiration
    (But it's not coming easily)
    Whoah oh...

    Trying to find the magic
    Trying to write a classic

    I know I had some studio time booked
    But I couldn't find a killer hook

    (Chorus)These words are my own
    From my heart flow
    I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you

    That's all I got to say,
    Can't think of a better way,
    And that's all I've got to say,
    I love you, is that okay?

    The answer, of course, is No. It's not okay. If the drum machine is the most creative performer in your getup then you shouldn't even bother. These words are much like that Al Gore doll on The Simpsons where you pull the string and a voice drones out the phrase "You are hearing me talk."

    To summarize the lyrics, "You are hearing me struggle to write a song. I'm not good at it but I want to be famous so here's some drivel. Please play it in all the clubs."

    Apparently she was worried we might have thought a real song writer spun this beautiful yarn. "These words are my own..." I don't think anyone is going to fight you for them. Does anyone have the copyright on saying "I love you" to a faceless audience?

    Tried to Buy Stamps Lately?

    I think it's because they are raising the price of a stamp in January. The postal service must not want to print up anymore $.37-ers. I went to the grocery store for no other reason but to buy stamps. They said the post office would not give them anymore until the first of the year. Target wasn't selling any. The stamp vending machine at the post office was conveniently out-of-order. At the next post office you could only buy them one at a time (up to ten). We still need to get bills sent off regardless of a price increase, postal people. Sheesh.

    Tuesday, December 20, 2005

    Alien Cover-ups on I-80

    For a few years, my sister practically lived in her car as she drove back and forth across the country. She told me Nebraska was the worst state to drive across. I know Wyoming is monotonous as monotonous can be, but most of all I really do not enjoy driving across Nevada.

    On our weekend trip my wife complained, "I want to drive! I hate my job on roadtrips. I'm the butler! The backseat butler!"

    I said, "You're the backseat butt-somethin'." Cause I'm witty like that. I also told her how it was no picnic being the driver on this long, long, straight, long highway. If I lost focus or fell asleep and swerved off the road I was likely to steer us right into a missile testing range or something. Now that's pressure.

    I'm sure a lot of people think about the Vegas strip, slot machines on the way to the gas station bathrooms, or legalized prostitution when they think of Nevada, but I always think about trying to make it from Wendover to Reno on Interstate 80 using one tank of gas. Anything cool that lives in the desert tries to hide itself in a nook or cranny and then protects itself with quills. If you plan to see Nevada from the seat of your car there is little aside from sage brush and lumpy hills. But here are some of the more thought provoking sites:

    For as long as I can remember, I can't pass this plant outside of Reno without thinking the lake is full of robotic fish. You have to pass security check points to even approach the place.
    This house is a few miles outside of Winnemucca. Living in Winnemucca would be bad, but living a-few-miles-outside-of-Winnemucca? I would rather lie to people. We see this house and wonder why it exists and who in their right mind would live there. Meth house? Wayward checkpoint for trafficking kidnapped children? I decided to solve the mystery by going up to the house and speaking with the owner. I expected to find a houseful of massacred bodies but it turns out this residence is simply known as "Area 52" where the government houses tin foil costumes worn by interstellar conquistadors. It's just a houseful of walk-in closets. It isn't as Top Secret as the better-known Area 51, so if you're caught trespassing an old man comes out on the lawn and sprays you with the hose.

    Every time I pass this sign I can't help but imagine a giant rabble of illiterate desciples of George Lucas, dressed as Jedis, enacting some "Battle for Tattoine" out in the desert until they run out of Solarcane or Mountain Dew.

    If these are the highlights of driving across Nevada, just imagine what the rest of the state is like.

    What, Me Worry?

    In our usual style, we did a spur-of-the-moment trip to California. We got to my mother's house, outside of Reno, at about two in the morning. She was already gone for the memorial and we were greeted by a well-hidden thermostat set to 62 degrees and single-ply toilet paper. It's strangely disturbing to see an ornament you made in 5th grade hanging on the Christmas tree or a comb in the bathroom you haven't seen for twenty years. The next day we took the back-country roads past Lake Almanore and picked up my sister at the airport in Redding and headed toward the coast.

    We drove to my aunt Dena's house, where it was agreed we would all meet, but we couldn't find it (it's been a few years). She wasn't home anyway. My sister and I were afraid we would have to venture into the local bars where we were likely to be recognized and interrogated by drunk people who couldn't help us. Soon we bumped into our family on the highway (there's only one). I think my mom and my aunt had a fantasy about having so many of the kids in one house. We tried it for one night. Nobody slept. Even if the kids hadn't woke up before dawn and refused to go back to sleep, my aunt had a pair of high-strung kittens that seemed to be everywhere and could outdo any rodeo star at digging in and hanging on as you flail your legs in an attempt to launch them off your bed.

    We ate breakfast and then headed to the memorial. There seemed to be two types of attendees: Those who wanted to pay respects to grandpa and those who looked for any excuse to party. Some people were both types. My wife seemed distressed when she asked me "Which one of your relatives brought the wheel-barrow full of crab?" I told her it wasn't uncommon in the past for grandpa to show up with a truckload of salmon. It was right about noon but that didn't mean you couldn't show up with an open beer in your hand and a back up in your coat pocket. We tried to categorize my family. They aren't rednecks but there is a blend of "country" and Indian themes going on. The best we could come up with was "loggers," but you can call them lumberjacks if you like.

    My wife was also a little taken aback when she said to my mother, "It's strange to be here with all these people but not grandpa" and my mom said "There he is, right there on the piano" and pointed at a small wooden box. My grandpa's youngest brother talked about my grandpa for a while and then invited other people to say some things. I wasn't particularly close to my grandpa but the things people said all seemed to click with me. Grandpa did seem to be the strong link in his family. He did seem to have a bond with his community and a quiet confidence. I admire the "straight-foward" life he was able to lead: excelling at baseball and boxing, meeting a nice girl, leaving to war before completing high school, returning, finishing school, marrying that nice girl, earning a living by logging trees (growing up on the tail-end of the philosophy that you could cut down as many trees as you wanted without consequence), buying a big plot of land, building a house with your father-in-law, building an identical house for your identical twin closeby and raising your kids together. That type of life does not seem to exist anymore.

    In my very first blog entry, I talked about pieces of people being handed down through generations through their personal traits and gestures. We were looking at pictures found that my sister and aunt Dena make similar faces. When our families handy-man, Kenny, talked about grandpa, he said, "He (grandpa) wired that shop out there. It was ready to burn down but he'd taken what he had and made it work. He was intelligent and resourceful." And I pictured myself putting new wiring in my own basement. I don't know building code or anything like that, but I ripped out the old crap and I know the stuff I replaced it with is a lot better. When people were talking, I was thinking Grandpa isn't gone. He had five grandchildren in that room and has even more great-grandchildren and those little details that people think of as grandpa are locked away in our bodies waiting until they're needed. Then they will come out with quiet confidence. I'm not worried about what the world is missing by his absence and I don't think he would be either. Somebody talked about how grandpa was mopey towards the end and a recent visit to the doctor. The doctor said, "So you have all these wonderful friends and family members coming over to check on you all the time and you still aren't happy." Grandpa said, "No." The doctor asked, "Why not?" Grandpa said, "You obviously don't know how much fun I've had in my life." He didn't want to end it all withering away in the hospital. He would rather finish it in the house he had built and raised his family in.

    After the talking and eating, it was clear the party would end as a "drunkfest" (my sister's words), so my little family headed for the coast. We chose a hotel that was oozing Christmas from every pore. They assigned us a room but it only had a standup shower. We asked for a room with a tub so we could wash our kids and got a free bump up to a business suite with a kitchenette, CD/DVD player and video library, bathrobes, computer station, and the Sunday paper delivered to the door. The world loves a crybaby.

    In the morning we went to a place called "Moonstone Beach." Where a river emptied into the ocean. We played with the tide and ruined our shoes. Then we drove through neighborhoods, dreaming of building a house and leading a straightforward life.

    Sliver of Hope

    This is the Sundial Bridge, recently constructed in Redding, California. If taxpayer money is doomed to be squandered by politicians, it should be squandered on cool crap like this. It's more modern than classical, along the lines of a 747 or a skyscraper. In addition to being a sculpture it actually functions as an illuminated walking bridge and, in a bind, a time piece. The spire functions as fulcrum for the suspension cables so no supports are needed between the banks.

    City of Redding, go ahead and give yourself a pat on the back.

    As a comparison, below is posted a picture of "The Tree of Utah" which is located out in the middle of the Salt Flats along I-80 and does not seem to serve any purpose aside from warning visitors to the state "You should be at least this disoriented to enjoy Utah." I almost guessed that desert-bound Utahns have just forgotten what trees look like and this was the best their memories could drum up, but people here don't play enough tennis or croquet for that to be the case. Did the tree hatch out of that concrete, chained eggshell? File under "art even the artist didn't understand."

    Thursday, December 15, 2005

    Here to Valhalla

    We're leaving today to California for my grandpa's memorial. When I brought this up to my trainer at work he said one of his close relatives just passed away as well. You can also read "Nativeminnow's" blog about his mother-in-law just being diagnosed with advanced cancer. And last night we found one of our rabbits was dead in it's hutch. Deadly December.

    I have to figure out what to do with Topaz's little body before we hit the road. I told you yesterday about someone's attempts to dig with a big ol' backhoe. Is it illegal to do a mini-viking funeral in the Great Salt Lake?

    Anyway, smell you all later.

    Wednesday, December 14, 2005

    Wacky Shack

    We've been having earthquakes in our house all morning. There was an old house on a big lot directly behind us. The old man who lived there got put in a home and the house went into a shambles and became uninhabitable. Last spring, the cops came by to ask if we'd heard anything suspicious. He said there was a suicide in the house, but other neighbors said the gunshot was issued in the house while the body was found out in the yard.

    At any rate, they completely bulldozed the house soon after. Now they plan on building four houses where the one used to stand. We've had two or three weeks of steady, below-freezing temperatures so I guess it seemed like a good time to start digging basements. Theres a giant bucket loader back there slamming its shovel into the frozen terrain, over and over. Slam, slam, slam. Windows rattle. Waves travel through the kids' Gatorade but I have not seen them bring up a single scoop of dirt.

    I'm willing to give people, in general, the benefit of the doubt. We are not a society of complete morons. So my question is, why do these particular morons have access to heavy machinery?

    Catching Up with Prehistoric Life

    My kids love dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures. However, people who exploit this genre don't seem to keep up with the research. Here are some points that everyone should make note of, especially toy and film makers:

    Tyrannosaurus Rex has TWO FINGERS. Other theropods may have three or more but T-Rex has TWO. He also has a horizontal body, not the verticle, upright posture of some dude in a rubber Godzilla suit.

    Brontosaurus has been removed from the world of dinosaurs. What paleantologists thought was Brontosaurus was the body of one dinosaur with the skull of another. The corrected version is now called APOTOSAURUS. From now on, if you are thinking brontosaurus, say apotosaurus instead.

    Dimetrodon was not a dinosaur. He was a precursor to dinosaurs and is just considered a prehistoric reptile with legs out to the sides of his body (Dinosaurs have straight up and down legs).

    There are NO Sabre Tooth TIGERS. The are known as Sabre Tooth CATS. Stop saying "tiger."

    The consistency has to start somewhere. Please feel free to correct me if I'm wrong on any points.

    The Redzone

    Here are my goals. They may seem simple but, thus far, I can only achieve two out of three at any given time:

  • Make enough money to cover the expense of bills, food and shelter.
  • See my wife and kids for more than two hours a day while maintaining over five hours of sleep per night.
  • Not put my kids in daycare. Perhaps YOU like pink-eye, bitemarks and disconnected toddlers, but I don't. "Ex-Con Playcare" is just a funny name, right?

    In an effort to keep things realistic, I kept the following conditions off the list. I mean, I don't want to be greedy. These would be luxuries:

  • Not have to work two jobs.
  • Not have to be a gape-mouthed blow-up doll for a corporate beauracracy.
  • Not have to accrue debt in amounts of money that I will never physically see in my lifetime to accommodate daily needs.
  • Come up with several hours of freetime and thousands more dollars per year to study and finish my degree.
  • Have time to enjoy hobbies and friends or even just read a book.

    You would think a society would be more supportive of those of us who are couragous enough to extend the human race into the future, but no. We're third class. In recent news, there has been a focus on the "Destruction of the Middle Class." Meaning some people are being elevated to upperclass while many more are being taken down a peg. They don't seem to say much about the poor, who suffer from the cuts to financial aid, the welfare program, the new bancruptcy laws (Got medical bills and no insurance? Please hand us the shirt on your back) and new credit standards and punishments authored by investor lobbiests (Late paying your utility bills? Your credit card interest has just gone up to 12% above prime rate, which has also just gone up). But hey, maybe I'll win the lottery (after a drive to Idaho). This IS the land of opportunity.
  • Monday, December 12, 2005

    The Fuzzy Image

    As my close friends know, I am somewhat of a business prodigy. I can capitalize on anything. I just obtained some patents on a few items I have been developing for years to sell at those overpriced knick-knack stores in the malls:
    Wildberry Essence Charm Necklace: $149.99
    That's right. It's a smell and look fit for a princess.
    Golden Ice Glove: $99.99
    Has a more practical glove ever been produced in our history? I think not. Expect to see these being handed out on "fan appreciation day" at Yankee Stadium next season.
    Drippy-Clips: $29.99
    No more wiping the snot across your arm when these angelsoft tissues are riding your belt.

    These items are currently available by mail order and can be rushed to you in time for Christmas. Act now.

    Amazing Xmas

    Christmas is just not complete without a visit from the Sugar Plum Fairy and, of course, Batman. May the spirit of the holidays surge into your heart like an unfettered wave of vigilante justice.

    Mortality and Heaven's Doggy Door

    Last night my mother called me. First, we talked about my brother's hectic life but, towards the end, she told me my grandpa was moping around, saying he wasn't happy with life and that he was ready to "give up." I said, "That seems to have been his attitude for the past several years. He's probably just bored." He often made the poor joke that everyone should be shot at the age of 70. She called me this morning and told me he did not wake up today. He died in his sleep.

    I hoped my mother wouldn't be so disappointed that I didn't break down into tears. It's just not the way I react to things. I'll miss him. I wish he would have held on for summer, because I plan on moving back to California. Then my kids could have visited him some more. But it was clear he wasn't happy for the last stretch. I didn't know him as well as probably most kids know their grandparents but he was the only grandpa I knew. I hope he's happy now in heaven or nirvana or whatever it takes.

    The most disturbing aspect of the whole thing is: At what point in life do the proverbial good times get to roll. Is it all "blink of an eye" flashes that don't seem real in the first place? Like kissing someone for the first time and then finding out they want to kiss you again? Being old and retired does not appear to be any sanctuary. Even my wife's grandmother of 92 years, she seems happy but her son (and caretaker; a very nice guy) loses patience with her quickly and rolls his eyes at her slow walking and her pausing to enjoy the company of a grandchild. Her husband was a chemist who later retired and started a farm of exotic birds. He died in his seventies when he crashed his van, hauling birds to a show. What a surreal accident that must have been. How does one make a graceful exit?

    I can quickly tell you everything I know about my grandpa: He and his twin brother served on an aircraft carrier during World War II. They both spent their lives logging old-growth forests (a family trade). He liked attending VFW pancake breakfasts. He liked peanuts on vanilla ice cream. His favorite expressions were "Oh, hah" and "I s'pose." He smiled a lot, at least around his family. Toward his final years, after a long court case, he was finally officially declared an "Indian," though his twin brother and children were not. When I introduced my fiance, he wore his favorite outfit: a pair of jeans. Those war tattoos and scars from heart surgery were part of who he was. You should know that if you're joining the family.

    My brother was living with some drug-dealing, chainsaw-bear carving, folksinging "Whos" down in Whoville. The business was busted and they moved up the coast. My brother broke his neck trying to catch his girlfriend as she fell over the side of the deck on the house my grandpa built with the help of his father-in-law. It was the house my mother and her brothers and sister grew up in. Coincidentally, my brother's girlfriend had shown up there with the intention of breaking up with him. For a long time I had played with the idea of calling my grandpa and immortalizing his life journey in a small book for our family. But when my grandpa was bedridden and my brother was bedridden there beside him, my brother asked him "So how did you and grandma meet?" my grandpa just said, "I don't know. That was a long time ago." I didn't expect I would have any better luck.

    My brother and his girlfriend stayed together for awhile after that, but she didn't seem to want to be associated with him. She would hit on other guys in front of him. She made strange new friends and started getting into harder drugs. My brother was in one of those tall, hard neck braces and had limited mobility. When his girlfriend accused him of abusing her and tried to convince her druggie friends to beat his crippled ass, I dropped everything, got in trouble at work and drove 13 hours to get him. I stayed at the house my grandpa built with grandpa and his youngest child. When I woke up in the morning, I went into the living room where grandpa sat in a recliner watching "Freddy Versus Jason." The lady who cared for him in the mornings showed up and asked, "Didn't you just watch this last night?" There was a legendary "playhouse" that my uncle Frank had built for uncle Tom when they were kids so they wouldn't have to share a room. It stood for a great many decades and then one year, grandpa decided it would be a productive thing to run the house over with his truck (and leave the pile of broken wood where it lay). There were ramshackle tool racks hanging from trees in the yard that grandpa recently put together. Grandpa had prided himself in life that "he would walk on anything he built."

    That morning I talked to him about how I bought a house and re-did the plumbing. Me and grandpa have never been good at chit chat. Me and my brother rented a U-Haul trailer and meant to gather all of his belongings (which were essentially everything in the house) from their rented house on the beach in Crescent City and steal away into the night. Grandpa walked all the way down the gravel driveway and checked out our method of connecting the trailer to the truck. He stood there quietly. His puppy dog eyes attested his desire to be part of the project. But he had sent me $300 by mail because he did not feel comfortable traveling to my wedding. He turned down my cousin John's request to take a car ride with him just so they could have a quality talk. We had to awkwardly climb into the truck, say goodbye and drive away with him standing there silently in the road, watching us. That is my final memory of the man.

    The youngest people come and the oldest people go and only those closest to them seem to notice. Everyone else just swarms around.

    Sunday, December 11, 2005

    John Henry was a Steel Drivin' Man

    I've started working part-time for a "major shipping company" loading boxes onto their trucks. It's sort of like a four hour mixture of working out and playing Tetris. Two things I would probably do anyway, if I had endless amounts of time. It doesn't pay a whole lot but night jobs are slim. I have had friends and family members tell me that they do not envy me, but I can think of a million and one things that I would not want to be before I concerned myself with what others find enviable about my life.

    One thing I do like about the job: There are NO lazy people there. You can't be. My first hands-on "training" was on the hardest truck in the fleet. The one shipping to Los Angeles. The guy I was helping reminded me of that actor, Randy Quaid (if he was in his mid-twenties). He was just telling me how to do a good job but he was cracking me up with his character. I've heard it before and now I've seen it first-hand: Do NOT write the word "Fragile" on your packages, just make sure and pack them well. Even the good "handlers" will throw your parcel down harder than necessary if they see that despicable word. In training they told us it was policy to "treat each package as if it was your own" but I have not seen that practiced, unless everything these guys own is in a state of disrepair.

    All the guys I've talked to seem to be at odds with their bosses. Basically because they work their butts off and then are always told its not good enough. But all the loaders seem to be very friendly. Happy. Even on the nights I was just there for orientation, regular workers would walk by and smile and say hello. Just because they WANTED TO. Bizarre.

    It's tough. One guy said his friend lost forty pounds in his first month. I'm six feet tall and 150 pounds. I can't afford to lose any weight so I'm eating like crazy. It's kind of like a pay-cut because I have to scarf down ten dollars worth food after each shift. But if John Henry is going to be a steel driving man then he's gonna have to pack on some bulk. It's a lot better then being a 150 pd marshmellow sitting at a computer year after year. It's given me my appetite back as well.

    For a second I thought my trainer was being lazy by making me load all the ladders and basketball hoops onto the truck for him, but I saw him throwing them up above his head and I knew I got the easy end of the deal. You would load about ten 60 pd ladders in quick succession, every so often. Maybe only two or three 80 pd basketball hoops. The most difficult part was navigating the awkward boxes around in tight quarters. I saw my trainers shirt had a hole ripped in it to expose his belt-buckle. I wondered if it was a fashion statement, but when I slid a large basketball hoop down the front of my body to rest it in the truck and the keys in my front pocket were pushed down hard enough to burst through the material and come rolling out of my pant-leg, I knew it was just part of the job.

    There was a big wooden crate that said "141 pds." I asked my trainer what he wanted me to do with it. He said "leave it." Two minutes later he hops down and practically throws the thing into the truck. I said, "Hey, I'm here to help you." He said, "Naw, that's alright." I told him he was nuts. He told me how he picked up a cannister one day thinking "THIS is heavy." He took it and weighed it. It was over 260 pds. That's great, but I don't think I'll be doing regardless of how strong I get.

    I was most happy to know that I worked my butt off and I wasn't sore the next day. I'm eating everything in sight and feeling colossal.

    Thursday, December 08, 2005

    Hello, Hello? Is This Thing On?

    Hey. I posted another short story, please click and read. It's about raunchy teenage boys, so be ready. It would be nice to get some feedback from you readers.

    Nancy Drew and the Phantom Bleeps

    I was getting up and going for the day. Ethan was at kindergarten and Olivia was strolling around the house, practically naked. Everywhere I went I kept hearing mysterious bleeping. I asked Olivia what the sound was several times. She would just put her hands in the air, "Daddy, I don't know."

    It was really starting to irritate me, as mysterious noises often do, but I tried to ignore it and continue with my errands. Then I grabbed Olivia to get her ready. When I pulled her diaper open, a small electronic game (from a cereal box) came flying out. She had slept with it down the front of her puffy, plastic pants.

    It could have been worse: It could have been in her stool or even in her stomach. I threw it away. She kept asking me where it was. I told her if it had been in her diaper it didn't matter where it was and never would again. I thought my days of having housemates who randomly stuffed things down their pants ended when I stopped going to college.

    Tuesday, December 06, 2005

    Flip, Fudge, Fetch!

    While we're talking about BAD words. I would like to voice that there is no such thing. That is also what I tell my kids. There is only intent. Across the ocean, our worst words are meaningless. BAD words from across the ocean seem laughable to us, like a word in Sri Lanka that translates to "you descend from lizards."

    If someone is trying to offend you, they will likely succeed with or without the four letter words. Those words only have as much power as YOU give them. It's all in your head. I tell my kids those words offend a lot of people and they should consider that if they choose to say them. You know... manners.

    They don't offend me at all. My wife and all of her brothers and sister were raised mormon and they have the most peculiar reactions, primarily to the "F" word. My wife says the "S" word only under unbearably stressful circumstances, like if she drops her fork at lunch or if she's at her family Christmas party, in a church, striking out notes to popular Christmas songs on lengths of metal tubes and she hits her note at the wrong moment. Yeah, she'll spit out the poo poo word right in front of her grandparents. If I didn't tell you that story, her parents would at their first opportunity.

    Her brothers are even funnier. We were driving a couple weeks ago and her brother acted all surprised, "Oh, you guys listen to Ben Folds? I love him."

    It was everything I could do not to say, "Yeah, remember about 3 years ago I was giving you a ride and I played that Ben Fold's song 'Army' and it says the 'F' word and right at that moment you and your other brother both looked at me like I would go to hell if I didn't immediately grab the CD and chuck it out of the window, then repeated move the car back and forth over the foul thing?"

    Another funny sibling-in-law thing is the whole "refusal to watch R-rated movies." They have a mental library of every movie that is rated R so they can quickly agree or decline to watch any movie you mention. On Halloween night I took that Tim Burton's "Sleepy Hollow" movie over to their house. Before then, I never gave any thought to the rating on it. I may as well have showed up with a case of beer. I said it wasn't that bad and that I thought it was strange they automatically refused to watch any R movie.

    I said it should be the content that mattered. They looked at the box and read the warning "violence, gore and a scene of sensuality." I didn't want to start a big debate but I was thinking they see ten times the amount of decapitations in one turn at Ninja Gaiden on their X-box and that there was more sex and nudity in "The Notebook" (which is one of my sister-in-law's favorites), but it's PG-13 so you can feel good about watching that with Jesus. My brother-in-law finalized things with the statement "you're not missing anything by not watching R-rated movies." To that I say, "Yes, I am. A lot of my favorite movies are rated R."

    Connecticut Can Cram It With Walnuts

    ... not necessarily the citizens or the landscape, but the cops and school officials who are issuing $100 fines to kids who swear in school.

    Lame. I know school is about busy work and baby sitting and kids being seen but not heard but if we're a country that pushes the glory of "freedom of speech" and intelligent conversation then our actions should support that. If you are thinking kids swearing in school is not "intelligent conversation," consider why they are there in the first place. To learn. Teach them "reasoning" before you chastise them for not having it. If they have become frustrated with school, is the BEST solution to bring in a cop who acts like a prick and mails an unexpected bill to the child's family? It's another quick fix that doesn't actually fix anything, aside from ensuring the cop's paycheck will clear.

    I've been meaning to write about children being 2nd class citizens. It hurts me when I'm pushing a cart through the grocery store and someone's kid is in the middle of the aisle, the parent suddenly realizes the kid is blocking the way and practically rips the kid's arm out of its socket so I can pass. You don't need to do that. Worse is when my kid is blocking the aisle and someone comes along and gives me a stare like "Why aren't you ripping his arm out of its socket so I can pass?" My kids may be three feet tall but guess what? They are still people. Even my two-year-old is familiar with the phrase "Excuse me." I know they are intimidating with all that promise in their eyes and pudgy little limbs but it's your chance to be the bigger person and acknowledge that they have the human right to occupy a minimal amount of space (I was going to go on about parents being 3rd class peoples but I'll save that for another time).

    Things aren't going to work until all groups of people are treated AS people (even kids). I know we are a lazy society that always looks for the path of least resistence but that route always leads to the sewer, not a utopia. Treat them like people in the first place and maybe they won't get in your face that way. Until then, we're all just bricks in the wall.

    She's Gonna Go Praying Mantis on Me

    Last night we were at Kmart buying gifts that were sold out at other vendors. On our way out of the store we noticed a bin of "bargain" DVDs. They all appeared to be Canadian films but had many well-known US actors.

    One of the DVDs was called "Killing Emmett Young." My name is Emmett. We laughed for a moment but my wife seemed to form a quick fascination with the movie. Soon saying it looked really good and then insisting that we buy it. My first clue that she is trying to off me should have been that she was so adamant that I stay at my last job.

    Generation Xbox

    Ethan said to me, "Dad, I want to watch a race."

    I said, "A car race? A horse race? A dog race?"

    Ethan said, "A race where people run."

    We flipped through the channels and found a women's, college-level, cross-country race. Ethan and his younger sister, Olivia, watched with keen interest. After a minute or two of watching the girls running like gazelles, Olivia turned to me and asked, "Why aren't they punching each other?"

    For the record, the last video game system I bought was a Playstation 1.

    Tips for Gift Givers

    1. Don't be a sheep shopper. Just because I stop to look at something in a store doesn't mean you and four of your friends have to look at the exact same thing at the exact same moment.

    2. If a store is running out of items you would like to purchase, just remember: Nobody shops at Kmart. There is a good chance they might have it.

    3. Avoid kiosks in the malls. Scam city.

    Gift Wrapping tips to impress your significant luvah:

    1. Use ONE pattern of wrapping paper per gift.

    2. Use "clear" tape (as opposed to duct or electrical tape), preferably in strips shorter than 3 inches.

    3. Use scissors. Even if you consider yourself to have a gift for ripping paper by hand. And, if your gift is one inch tall and you have an excess of six inches of paper hanging off the edge of the gift, don't just roll it up into a crumpled flap. Use those scissors to trim it down a little before you fold it up.

    4. Crease the paper on the corners.

    5. Consider putting a bow on it. Ooohh, you could get fancy ribbon. You could spray paint the wrapped present an awesome color. You could roll up a short piece of that cheap garland they sell for trees and tape it on like a glistening "kush ball." You could hand-draw a cardinal or dove holding an olive branch or holly sprig and attach it to the bow with a springy piece of wire. That would be fabulous.

    In your face, Martha Stewart.

    Ethan Presents: The Water Cycle

    Ethan spreads his little form across the floor.

    "Dad! I'm snow. Build me!"

    You kneel down and roll him into three successively smaller snowballs. You place the head on top and mime working a carrot into the center of his face. He holds his crooked twig arms out to his sides.

    "It's a sunny day," He says. His arms sag. His body slumps towards the floor. He melts like the Wicked Witch of the West.

    "Where do you go, water? Into a creek?" Ethan wiggles like flowing water in a meek stream.

    "How about a river?" He spreads a little more and continues to wiggle.

    "The ocean?" He lays out.

    "Now you're a big fluffy cloud. Fly across the sky." He huddles in a lump like a toad.

    "Fly." He moves to another spot and huddles like a toad.

    "You get to the cold air in the mountains." He spreads out on the floor.

    "Dad. I'm snow. Build me."

    O Tannenbaum

    When I got home from the ski slopes, like most parents, my wife wanted to sleep for a while. After that we went out to choose our Christmas tree. I always have mixed feeling about Christmas trees. I wish you could have one without killing it every time. I know they are farmed and everything, but still, you get all excited because it looks like there's a mini-forest full of carnies on every city corner, you select your special Noble Fir and some dude straps it to the roof of your car. You drive home and get a faceful of needles as you grab the icy trunk and carry it into the house. It's "beat the clock" to get it in water, you spin it around in tiny increments for about three rotations trying to find the best side to display and get it straight. Then you bind it with lights and garlands and burden it with ornaments. Caress it a few times while it is soft and fragrant before the rigor mortis sets in and it becomes a crispy Christmas Eve fire hazard.

    The first lot we visited had reindeer and a Santa Claus who explained to our kids how none of the reindeer could fly until he fed them their "Christmas Corn." It turns out Rudolph is allergic to the Christmas Corn. He eats a little and his nose turns red. He eats a lot and it glows like a blinkin' beacon. Maybe we should have turned Santa in to PETA, but it's Christmas so instead I put a dollar in his tip jar. They didn't have the tree for us so we went elsewhere.

    When we found the right one, our two-year-old decided to test the tree by seeing how many ornaments she could hang in one place. It looks plain in the pics but we hung some stockings and got a poinsettia. It's coming together.

    Monday, December 05, 2005

    Coming Down the Mountain

    We've been getting a lot of snow in Utah over the last two weeks so I had to head up to Snowbird on Saturday morning. Mineral Basin was closed. Only about a third of their runs were accessible but the resort was good enough to charge everyone full price anyway. I have a couple pictures. It was really cold and my face was numb but I tried to look as attractive as possible. The second picture was me and my board taking a break on the bad side of a huge snow bank. For future reference, marching uphill through waist-deep snow should never be considered as a "short cut" to your car.

    Powder weekends and holidays are bad times at the resorts because a lot of the people who show up don't know how to ski. The snobby kids scream in fear when you pass them, there's a crowd of wussies loitering at the top of every hill and middle aged men think it looks tough to be hauled down the hill in a tobogan when their legs start to hurt. Surprisingly, nobody hangs out on the bunny hill.

    The first few hours are fun but once the soft snow has been chewed up it starts to feel like you've water skied over a hundred miles worth of railroad ties. I went home early. Any day of snowboarding is still a good day.

    Conformist Loser Gets Whipped, er, Wed

    The best way to ruin your "anti-establishment shock goth" image
    is to take the vows of holy matrimony. The News said they wore designer gowns and had A-list guests like Madonna. Satan must be rolling in his grave. At least he seems to have thrown record sales to the wind. How do you type that whip-crack sound. Wapish, wapish!

    My Payolla

    When I started my last job I still considered myself a young man with all my future before more. So naturally, I expected to start at the bottom, being crapped on regularly, and work up from there. I still feel young but I feel like I am passing through the door, so to speak. Not quite as young and I have higher needs. I don't expect riches but I would like to keep a shred of self-dignity.

    You can be naive and view the world through that honey glaze of self-delusion but I would like to call it what it is, but that would take too many four letter words. So if you can't beat them, why not join them? Honesty and Integrity are terms that can be stretched and kneaded into any necessary shape these days. If you check the Help Wanted ads in the newspaper, over half of them are glorified pyramid schemes where the "employer" is looking for stooges to do his dirty work. Here's a tip: if the salary is given in weekly terms and you call to find they want to set up an immediate interview without any knowledge of your work history then IT IS A WASTE OF TIME.

    In the meantime, I will go online and buy a couple of those PhDs and get "certification" as a minister and a Notary Public. Get my resume all lit up like a Christmas tree. I'm saying, if you are in an authoritative position as a city official or something, and you can land me a lucrative contract doing something like snow removal, spying on my neighbors, rigging elections, evicting people on Christmas, you know... the contemporary "honest, go get'em" jobs then I would be happy to "contribute" an envelope full of luandered money to your "campaign." God bless us, everyone.

    I'm ready to get things done. Lead, follow or get out of the way. Let's get to work, America.


    Sorry I haven't posted for a little bit. They didn't shut our power off or anything, it's just the holidays, end of semester, everyone is busy, busy, busy.

    Back To School

    Friday morning I volunteered to help in Ethan's kindergarten class. The assignment for the entire day was to make a green and red paper chain with 24 links to count down the days until Christmas. They also had groups of three kids constantly heading to computers to put on headphones and learn some ABCs. Funny how they don't make any attempt to tell the kids who have been on the computers what they missed.

    When Ethan went to the computer he started singing with gusto. I had to lift his headphone and tell him, "Don't sing so loud." His teacher laughed.

    Only a few kids finished their paper chains. Many ended with about ten links. I was worried Ethan would finish with five because he was on the computer. I purposely stayed away from his table so he could do his own thing and I was pleasantly surprised that he had nineteen links done at the end of the day. Most the kids did alright. Some kids had problems. One kid in particular was a handful. I think I served the teacher well just by keeping him on track all day.

    There was one girl who was making a pink and white chain. After about five links she went and sat in the corner. I tried to get her to go back to the table but she wouldn't even talk to me. I mentioned it to the teacher and she just said, "Well, she's Jehova's Witness, so... " she just trailed off and showed little concern for the girl in the corner, staring out at the rain.

    Apparently the school makes accomdations not to ostracize the kids but they have no qualms about letting kids ostracize themselves. I mentioned this to my wife and she said the same little girl had refused to color a picture of cornucopia (around Thanksgiving) when she had volunteered. I don't view a cornucopia as a religious symbol, nor Thanksgiving as a religious holiday. It mostly makes me wonder what words of advice the girl's parents are filling her head with. Stay away from the art projects or the devil will surely getcha? It starts with Crayolas and ends with pagan sacrifice *gobble gobble*? If birthday parties and having the corner of a pillowcase filled with candy by your neighbors is viewed as some kind of social gluttony than daily life must be impossible for these people. I would like to point out that two of the coolest people I've met in my life are Jehova's Witness.

    Painting for the Nobles

    After kindergarten, I headed out into a heavy flurry of snow to paint with my in-laws. I drove to a gated community with street names plucked right from the brains of six year old girls and meant for ponies: Windsong, Snowstar, etc.. When I entered the front door I found that both floors of my house could easily fit inside the "grand room" that appeared before me. We were also painting four bedrooms and a couple baths upstairs. We were painting the stairwell descending from the grand room to a bar and the "projection room" and another office. We shot some hoops in the half-court gym and checked out the "all original" '65 Mach 1 Mustang in the garage where we would be setting up a "spray booth" for painting doors. Yes, it didn't take long for envy to turn to disgust.

    From the grand room, you could see a scrubby valley surrounded by McMansions. One of the biggest houses in the state of Utah was just across from us. Eleanor's brother has been painting houses in this area for over ten years. He says the enormous house across the way is empty. The "castle" just below it was one of the first constructed on the bench and has yet to be completed. The house were were painting is not owned by a person. It is owned by a Trust company and used as office space. Eleanor's brother said the head of the trust talked about buying the two giant houses across the way (so he could resell at a profit). The house we were painting had sat empty for three years before the trust bought it up. Wealthy people seem to realize the luxury is also impractical. Maybe that is the appeal. It's just lame that nice real estate is reserved for excessive houses with 50,000 sq ft floorplans and nobody lives there.

    Dining Out

    When I got home from painting, Eleanor wanted to go out to eat. I have my opinions about eating out:

    1. Any restaurant that charges $10 or more for an entre should just include a salad. C'mon... $2.50 for some lettuce scraps on a little plate? Additionally, any hamburger costing over $.90 should include the cost of cheese.

    2. To my wife's chagrine, I only put CLOTH napkins on my lap. You use paper? You are not fine dining. Have you ever had someone suggest a "nice" restaurant that only turns out to have high prices and paper placemats?

    3. What is with the $2 fountain drinks? Isn't it the same stuff they sell for a dollar per gallon at the 7-Eleven? Are you putting some kind of futuristic elecrolyte in there, Marie Calender? How do you justify this?

    4. Even if the server sucks, you should tip them. They make like $2/hr here in Utah.