Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Some crazy garbage called The Blood of the Exploited Working Class

I had my six month job evaluation last night. Here is what my boss said to me almost verbatim:

"I marked you down as 'Consistently meets or exceeds company expectations.' When people ask me what I do for a living, I tell them, 'I babysit grown men.' Nobody has ever said anything bad about you and I don't have to babysit you. Thanks."

I signed a paper and that was the end of the evaluation. Probably the most honest and time efficient evaluation I've ever had.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

No Bigfoots

Here are some pictures from the trip:

It's late in the day so it's kind of hard to see the ocean behind this lumberyard, but rest assured these unused boards will always have a better view from their yard than from yours. It's also nice to know there are thousands of blunt spears stacked on the beach for when a tsunami decides to come to town.

Here is a picture my wife took as we were driving through the redwood tree.

It was low-tide at the beach so we found some cool tidal pools.

Here is an example of a typical house in Mendocino. Sorry for the lack of hot hippies in the photo.

We also went to a beach and discovered two dead seals. When I walked up to this one I came to find out it was still alive.

Some Things Will Never Change

When we go on vacation we have traditions we look forward to. Little things that came about unintentionally, like starting the trip with Snickers bars and Red Vines, or by listening to the Meat Puppets "Too High To Die" CD. On this particular trip my wife told me, "I'm looking forward to doing the crossword puzzle from the Newspaper with you while we drive..."

At first I was like, "Whaaa...?" But then I was like, "Okay." So we did the crossword. In the middle of it, I said, "I think this must be like looking 40 years into our future." Because I can leave a gray hair on my head or watch an episode of The Golden Girls without feeling old but spending a day doing crossword puzzles is only something I would do while bedridden.

Driving across Nevada is comparable to spending a day in bed with a debilitating illness, so we stopped at a gas station and bought a book of crosswords. It only took a couple of randomly selected puzzles to realize that crossword creators totally wimp out and use the same words OVER AND OVER AND OVER.

How many different ways can they find to come up with "PTA, USA, NASA, Mia, Erie," and so on? Every crossword is pretty much the same. The "hard" clues are only hard because they're either lame clues to begin with or because they're vague or obscure. A 1963 Alain Delon film? I don't feel bad for not knowing that or the capital of Qatar off the top of my head.

So I think I will save my crossword adventures exclusively for drives across Nevada.

In a somewhat-related topic, I was talking to my mother and step-father about The Wheel of Fortune game show. I think that I'm pretty good at the game and my stepdad thinks that he is, as well. Over the past several years he has made numerous attempts to earn his spot on the show. Alas, he has failed. He was upset that a friend of his made it onto the show and never won a penny. Why would they choose the sucky guy over a real contender?

After not being chosen for The Wheel a second time and watching another acquaintance of his get on and go nowhere, my stepdad has formed a theory: Pat Sajek is insecure about his short stature and refuses to allow anyone on the show who towers over the humble host. My stepfather is pretty tall. Pat Sajek does not realize that he would be willing to stand in a hole if that's what it takes.

If Pat Sajek insists on being petty then my stepfather understands and he continues to be a fan of the show. My stepfather has moved on and has won a chance to spin the big wheel in the California Lotto.

No hard feelings.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

There should be a big krinkle, assuming this map is right

We started our trip by visiting my mother outside of Reno. Our original plan was to head to Crater Lake but the weather forecast called for snow in that area so we headed for a coastal city in California called Mendocino instead.

We had to take a lot of backroads to get to the coast and we did get a little lost because our map was printed with a lot of inaccuracies. We followed the Feather River through the mountains to a town called Oroville.

I knew that the word "oro" means "gold" in spanish because my uncle had a golden retriever named Oro when we were kids. Where I grew up, nobody is expected to roll their R's until they have successfully completed Spanish II so we all just called the dog Otto instead.

Oroville is near Chico and I think there is a lot of pressure for the town to be a party place in league with the neighboring party college town of Chico. Where else in the world can you walk into a Quiznos to a stereo system pumping out Snoop Dog music?

We needed to take a side road out of Oroville but we were having a hard time finding it. We ended up driving back and forth to the south of town with no success and we finally tried to get directions at a senior citizen RV park / golf course that had dubbed itself "Dingerville."

Oroville had several signs posted reading, "Oroville: City of Gold." When we received absolutely no help from the residents of the fogey golf course, I asked my wife, "If Oroville is the City of Gold then what does that make Dingerville?"

We ended up guessing for the right road and made it where we wanted to go but it was a stressful situation at the time. Mendocino is a cool town but its kind of like the pretty girl who KNOWS she's pretty.

Still, in my perspective it's sort of like MY Beverly Hills. The REAL Beverly Hills is such a ridiculous place that money and possessions become pointless. But Mendocino just has nice looking beach houses in an open community. They don't try to wall each other out and create a paradise inside. There are nice cars but they don't try to outdo each other with Ferraris and stuff. Mendocino has nice beaches below dramatic cliffs and thick forests growing along rivers and streams. It's a place where you can take a walk on a beach or hike through the woods. When you ride your bike you have to put up with distractions like whales waving their flippers at you from the water. All the hottest hippies hang out in Mendocino.

Something I noticed about northern California is that lumber companies have the sweet hookup on real estate. There are miles and miles of ocean front properties devoted entirely to stack after stack of old 2X4's. It's kind of funny when big hotels have their perfect views tarnished with barbed wire fences and woodpiles that called first dibs on hanging out on those beaches.

We drove our minivan through a redwood tree today. It was cool.

Anyhow, I told my dad I'd help him plant a garden tomorrow so I'll write more later.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Broken Bough

I finished fixing the fence today. I won't go so far as to say that it looks good, but the sections of fence that I repaired now look just like the rest of the fence: like its been there for 40 years.

When we went outside today, we discovered the door to the rabbit cage was open and the bunny was gone. My money is on the punk ass kid. Hopefully, the fence will make a difference.

When I cut down that tree last year and pruned some huge branches off the rest of our trees to appease the insurance thugs I just threw all of the branches in a big pile beside our house. We found the bunny hiding in the stick pile. She has had a million chances to run free but she never goes far. This coming week is the city cleanup day so I spent the entire day chopping up sticks and stacking them along the curb. It was a lot of work and its a HUGE pile.

When I went out early this morning (early meaning about 9:30) I looked up at our peach tree and noticed that one of the prettiest branches on the tree is one of the broken ones. It makes me glad I haven't got around to cutting it off yet (You may be able to tell that the city already hacked up the tree to get it away from the power lines). It's a cool concept but it doesn't mean I think all of the branches on the tree should be broken.

We are going out of town for a week, so I may not be able to write for a while. Don't do anything fun until I get back.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Border Patrol

Both the houses I have owned came with crappy fences. At the last house, it took some work but I made the fences respectable. Our yard is much bigger now and I'm not sure if I can make the fences respectable by doing anything aside from completely replacing them.

Both houses I have owned came with a corner where the fence builder gave up on building a fence and just kind of nailed up whatever pieces of wood he happened to have. At the last house, the ugly corner included a telephone pole AND a former telephone pole right next to it that had been cut off about seven feet from the ground. I tried digging the superfluous pole out of the ground but I found they put those things in pretty deep. Since I didn't own a chainsaw, I climbed into the hole with a handsaw and cut the giant Lincoln Log off below ground level. It was quite a work out.

At our current house, the ugly corner is behind most of our fruit trees and I've been meaning to fix the corner for some time. Remember how I told you about a neighbor named "Bull" who liked to work on cars? Well, he's gone and about 50 mexicans moved into his old apartment. They like to play soccer right by our fence and they are constantly kicking the ball into our yard. Sometimes we get it but we also find they are constantly coming into the yard.

There are a bunch of kids over there and you can't tell which ones are brothers and sisters or who or how many parents there may be, but one day the kids started talking to our kids and my wife invited them to come over and play. At which point, they all seemed to decide that our yard was officially part of their territory.

The hole in the crappy fence corner gets bigger and bigger as more kids push through and we've come home a few times to find them all playing in the yard when we weren't home. I asked them not to play in our yard if our kids weren't out there playing with them.

And there is a little punk kid. He always tells me, "I go to school with your son" like it is some kind of free pass to do whatever he wants. He comes in our yard and takes the kids into our dog run and takes our rabbits out of their cages. I saw him messing with the animals so I told him to get out and stay out of the animal area. He assured me he wasn't bothering the animals. I said, "It doesn't matter. Stay out of there." To which he asked a long series of questions: "I can't just come in here like this? I can't just pet the animals like this? I can't...?"

I said, "NO! You cannot be in here. AT ALL."

"Not even with your son?"


"Why not?"

He obviously doesn't listen, especially to answers he doesn't want to hear, so I gave him the jerky grown up answer instead of a chain of reasoning, "Because it's my house and my yard and my animals and I said stay out."

About five minutes later I saw him climbing high in our peach tree. I went out and told him to get out of the peach tree. "Why?" I said, "Look at all the branches that have broken up there. It's not safe and I don't want you breaking any branches." He said, "No, it's strong." I said, "I don't care. If you'd like to stay in my yard you will follow the rules. Leave the animals alone and stay out of the trees." It takes too much time and patience not to be a dick. Sorry, World.

Ethan told me the kid is kind of a bully at school so I don't mind making him feel unwelcome around here. I saw other kids in their herd breaking bottles and throwing metal pipes around in the parking lot of their duplexes WHILE BEING SUPERVISED. They don't care.

The other night we got home about 11pm and I had our 1-yr-old sleeping on my shoulder and two hombres were trying to call me over to the fence to talk to them. It was a bad time to choose to get to know me. I ignored them and went inside.

I'm working on the fence in those precious just-before-work minutes. It's practically fixed already.

Too bad it can't block out that crappy oom-pah-pah oom-pah-pah circus music. They probably think my music sucks, too, but the difference is that I'm not blasting it through the neighborhood.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Sometimes hard-boiled, sometimes runny

For Show and Tell, today, I brought these Easter eggs that my kids made. Despite only having three kids, we actually have seven of these but you guys only get to see these two. Olivia's is the one with the horse in it. Ethan put dinosaurs in his. The rest have bunnies and geese in them.

If you'd like to make these, first go to the store and buy a bunch of sugar. Then go to work for ten hours while your wife takes your kids to her mother's house.

Presto! When you get home from work the eggs will be finished and looking fabulous. Try it for yourself.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Cult of Persons Fallacies

Here's a little story I've got to tell about historical figures you know so well. It started way back in history with Edgar Burroughs, George W., and an English King.

I was just thinking about Paul Revere and I wonder why he gets such recognition for his Midnight Ride. Sure, it was important to the colonists who wanted to revolt against English rule but is it a better tale than other events like those people on Flight 93 who prevented a plane from crashing into our monuments in Washington D.C.? I say it isn't. But when I went to read about Paul Revere Wikipedia says that nobody made a big deal about his ride until 40 years after it happened (and for the record, there were two other people involved in alerting the revolutionary forces who did not gain the notoriety that Revere did).

It was Henry Wadsworth Longfellow who wrote a poem called "Paul Revere's Ride" that glamourized the event with historical inaccurracies. I would say, primarily the one where Revere rides through town yelling "The British are coming!" as if English people had glowing red eyes and dripping fangs. He actually rode through towns telling key people, not shouting for British troops and loyalists to hear. But that poem was taught in schools for a long time so people think of the event differently.

I've talked about Columbus being a jackass before and his story was glamourized by the writer Washington Irving. Get that ray of sunshine into the schools! The same thing happened for George Washington. He was glamourized by a writer named Parson Weems who fabricated such stories as the cutting down of the cherry tree and being much too honest to lie about it. But we teach those stories in school, too (at least when I was a kid). It's a little difficult to imagine that someone could be involved in a revolution without pulling deceptions on your fellow man:

"Are you loyal to the British Crown, sir?"
"You bet! I'm a Tory to the very tips of my powdered wig!"
"Very well, sir. Carry on."

Sounds much more likely than something like:

"Are you loyal to the British Crown, sir?"
"I cannot tell a lie. I plan to kneel down in prayer next to my horse and cross the Delaware in a way most inspiring so as people will overthrow the rule of you English bed-wetting types."
"Just for that, King Arthur is going to come here personally and kick you in the knickers."

So it seems strange to me that we have taken it upon ourselves to teach our children Inaccurate Ideas rather than History. The pilgrims teach us that we Americans are patriots of Heaven, not religious kooks trying to hide out in the woods, even though most of the people in the early colonies were not actually Puritans. Washington teaches that Americans are infallibly honest and couragous in our leadership.

But I assert again that this country was not built by brave cowboys. It is more accurate to say that it was built on murder, theft, slavery, tobacco and such. But we don't teach are kids that until its been all polished up in a forgettable way.

And if we are going to teach Ideas instead of History then why not do away completely with wars and focus on more romantic things like Tarzan: The story of an English baby (the name meaning, "white skin") left orphaned and alone in the wild jungles of Africa, who grows up more intelligent and more adept to jungle life than anyone who has ever lived on that great continent. Because if you leave a white baby out in the woods, he still grows up completely "civilized" and creates his own language and becomes King of the Jungle and Lord of the Apes.

Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote about an English Jungle Man but he actually grew up American in a Sundown Town in Illinois. Click it to see Americas bare midriff.

Tevas Versus Chacos

I bought my first pair of Teva sandals when I was in high school and I've been loyal and satisfied with the brand. I've had four pairs of Tevas over thirteen years with little to complain about. The other day I took off my sandals after an afternoon of working in the yard and my wife said, "Your feet are black. You're getting new sandals." I said, "These Tevas still have one summer left in them." She said, "No. You're getting new ones."

All of my friends keep raving about Chaco sandals. I've considered trying Chacos but they are usually substantially more expensive than Tevas. And they are strappy. Too strappy. When I wear them it looks like someone wrapped up a hobbit foot in birthday ribbon.

I bought a pair of Chacos the other day to see if they will live up to the hype. I paid $20 extra to get the black, rather than the swampy green ribbon ones, but REI had a good sale going on so it offset the cost.

These were the first Chacos I've seen with decent traction. They usually have wimpy traction like a worn out car tire. The Chacos do not seem to have the arch support or cushiness (I don't know if that's a word but let's just use it) that my Tevas have had. However, the Chacos are easier to strap on (and VERY secure) and I'm willing to bet the pull-strap holds up better than the Velcro straps that Teva uses.

It sounds like a strange thing to point out but I would much rather step on a nail in the Chacos than in Tevas. For some reason I've noticed I step on a lot of nails that sink right into my shoes over the past few years and in 1998 I was hiking through a cow field along a river wearing my Tevas and a big rusty chunk of barbed wire went right up through the bottom of my foot. It was a good day for a tetanus shot (every 10 years, people).

Those are my observations so far. The Chacos have 3 years to win me over starting right... now.

Sell the kids for food

If I don't focus on summer then summer has a tendency of passing me by. I wanted to plan one trip out of town before Easter but I've been too busy.

One aspect of summer that I like is the food, like corn on the cob. Our yard has a bunch of fruit trees and I planted two kinds of raspberries. We bought angel food cake, strawberries and whipped cream. This morning I cut up a canteloupe. There was an awful lot of green in the bowl when I finished so I'm not sure I did a good job. But I really don't like to waste the good stuff by not cutting it close enough to the rind. And watermelon throws me off because I think watermelon is too drippy and mushy in the middle so I like the stuff by the rind the best. I think that is why I cut the canteloupe that way.

One time I went to a concert in Steamboat Springs, Colorado with Sculpin and his fiance. When we woke up in his family's cabin, the first thing his soon-to-be-wife said was, "Do you like canteloupe, Emmett? Because I had a dream that you didn't like it." And she waited for an answer and I got the feeling that if I said I DIDN'T like canteloupe then things would never be the same between us again. Luckily, I like canteloupe a lot.

After I cut the canteloupe this morning, my daughter kept asking for more and more. I told her, "You'd better slow down. If you eat too much fruit it will give you diarreah." She said, "You're teasing me. Stop teasing me." I said, "No, I'm serious, it's not April Fools Day anymore. If you eat too much fruit it can give you diarreah. That's just what happens." She doesn't want to believe me because how could such a horrible thing be true?

Aside: When we woke up on April 1, my wife and I went to our oldest son and told him, "Get up! Get dressed! All kids have to go to school on April Fools Day!" He was tired and he almost started crying, "But it's SUNDAY. I don't want to go to school."

Then I told him that April Fools Day is the day that you go around lying to everyone and as soon as you're done lying you just say, "April Fools!" He caught on pretty fast. It was only a few minutes before he went up to his mother and said, "Mom, you have a big fat butt!" And before her face could completely fall as though her heart had just been diced like so much canteloupe, he yelled, "April Fools!"

I guess I don't really have too much more to say about food, but once the squash grows and our salsa garden is productive we will invite everyone over for a barbecue.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

You say Tomato, I say Tornado

When I was at the farmer's market buying our new rabbit this older country boy rushed up to the counter and said, "I need something with a lot of turkey crap in it."

The clerk smiled at him and said, "That would be our Nutra-Mulch."

Laugh, laugh. It's funny. Laugh!

Lately I've been feeling like George Castanza at work; leaving on a high note with my coworkers.

The other night we were playing basketball and The-instant-winner-in-waiting was playing. Some of the guys on the sidelines were trying to think of nicknames for everyone. The-instant-winner-in-waiting was assigned to change all the batteries for the whole warehouse that night, so I said, "He doesn't need a nickname. He IS the Battery Changer." And right when I said that, he drove in through a group of mofos and made an easy layup. I yelled, "Oooh. Sheldon just got his battery changed!" in the same context that you would say, "Sheldon just got owned" or "Sheldon just got his ass handed to him." It was a riot. People were laughing hard and lastnight at work one of the mofos came up to me and asked if I had heard that someone had said those things. It probably doesn't read funny but the mofos loved it.

Lastnight I went to get some dinner with some cool nerds and when we got back to the warehouse I said, "We could go over there and eat on the grass." And one of the guys said, "Why would we eat on the grass." I said, "Mostly so we don't have to eat in your car," and then I quickly switched gears and said, "I thought we could eat on the grass and listen to the birds sing. We could lay out a blanket..."

Lastnight I was helping to load the last of the furniture on the last truck we had to finish. We were passing stuff down a line of mofos and tossing it into the empty spaces near the ceiling of the trailer. It was weird stuff made of sheet metal. I think they were flower vases or something. One of the mofos was tired and annoyed and he asked in a serious way, "Why the hell do people spend their money on crap like this?"

I answered, "It's probably either this or heroin." Pow! They all stopped and looked at me in a dumbstruck way. I don't think that what I said actually disturbed them, it just took them by surprise. But it was cool that I could get a reaction like that out of them because they usually act so callous and numb.

A little later, we were talking about how easy it is to accidentally stay up till morning after we get off of work. I was saying, "It seems like you walk in the door and take your shoes off and an hour has already gone by. It takes a while just to eat something really fast and if you turn on the TV, you're screwed."

Then I said, "I got home lastnight and I was hungry so I made a sandwich and ate it in the dark... then I woke up this morning and the first thing my wife said to me was 'Look how moldy this bread is.'" That one brought the house down. I was just glad I didn't get sick from it.

When we ran out of work, one of the new guys was riding around on loading dolly like a scooter. I said, "That was the original design for those Seguey scooters. It's the man-powered prototype." He played along and said, "I know. It's worth a lot of money." Then he just rode into the distance.

Harder than it looks

It's a cheap posting but I wanted to make sure you were all familiar with people I think are funny. It seems important. This isn't their BEST stuff but it's what was available on the Tube:

Jerk killed himself with drugs.