Monday, December 31, 2007

On the Seventh Day...

Enjoy your New Year's Eve!
Remember to be safe - it's amateur night


December 31, 1972

John: What's with you and these freaking birds? Seven swimming swans? What kind of damn joke is this? There's bird poop all over the house and the noise never stops. I can't sleep at night and I'm a nervous wreck. It's not funny. Stop with the friggin birds.

Sincerely, Agnes

Sunday, December 30, 2007

On the Sixth Day...

Sorry I'm late folks. We had my mother here for Christmas and yesterday we took her to my brother's for the holiday handoff. We visited and didn't get home until late last night.


December 30, 1972

Dear John: When I opened the door today there were actually six geese laying on my front steps. So you're back to the birds again, huh? These geese are huge. Where will I ever keep them? The neighbors are complaining and I can't sleep through the racket. Please stop.

Cordially, Agnes

Saturday, December 29, 2007

On the Fifth Day...

I interrupt the latest instalment of our 12 Days saga to report on the latest violence in the Middle East.

Rival priests brawl inside Bethlehem church (what better way to celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace - at his birthplace?)

Groups of Greek Orthodox and Armenian priests attacked each other with brooms and stones inside the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. The church houses the site believed by most Christians to be the birthplace of Jesus. The incident occurred during an annual cleaning ceremony which precedes the Armenian and Orthodox Christmas in January.

The altercation seems to have been the result of a long-standing feud between the two rival gangs who, along with the Roman Catholic gang, run the turf contained inside the Basilica under a truce between the three groups. The unholy, er, uneasy alliance allows the three hostile factions dominion over their own church turf however encroachment into a rival gang's church territory is not taken lightly and retribution is often swift and violent.

Palestinian police separated the groups and restored order. Associated Press photographers were ordered out of the church but not before capturing the events leading to the incident on the following video.

We now return you to our previously scheduled blog post.
December 29, 1972

Dearest John: What a surprise!!! Today the postman delivered five golden rings - one for every finger! You're just impossible, but I love it. Frankly, all those birds squawking were beginning to get on my nerves.

All my love, Agnes

Friday, December 28, 2007

On the Fourth Day...

December 28, 1972

Dear John: Today the postman delivered four calling birds. Now really, they are beautiful, but don't you think enough is enough? You are being too romantic.

Affectionately, Agnes

Thursday, December 27, 2007

On the Third Day of...

December 27, 1972

Dear John: Oh! Aren't you the extravagant one! Now I must protest. I don't deserve such generosity. Three French hens! They are just darling, but I must insist, you've been too kind.

All my love, Agnes

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

On the Second Day...

Happy Boxing Day Everyone!

I hope everyone had a fantastic day yesterday.

December 26, 1972

Dearest John: Today the postman brought your very sweet gift. Just imagine: two turtle doves. I'm just delighted at your very thoughtful gift. They are just adorable.

All My Love, Agnes

Is this what you had in mind Col.?

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

The Twelve Days of Christmas - Playboy Style

A Very Merry Christmas and a Happy Yule to All

Back in the early 70's when I was all of about 12 I discovered my brother's hidden stash of Playboy magazines (a distinct advantage of being the youngest). Believe it or not after very carefully studying the pictures I really did read the articles. One that stands out in my mind to this day was a parody of "The Twelve Days of Christmas". Through the miracle that is the internet I have found it and will, over the next twelve days, share it with you. As I said, it was first published in Playboy magazine around 1972. I have seen a couple of references that said it had been written by Jean Shepard who wrote the source material for (as well as narrated) the movie "A Christmas Story". He did write quite a lot for Playboy back then but I haven't found any confirmation that he actually wrote this.

An educational note. It is a common misconception that the 12 days of Christmas precede Christmas. They do not. The first day of Christmas is Christmas day. The twelve days lead up to January 6th which is the day the church established as the Epiphany, the observance of the arrival of the Magi in Bethlehem. In fact, at one point it was common to give gifts on that day, not December 25.


December 25, 1972

My Dearest Darling John: Who ever in the whole wide world would dream of getting a real partridge perched beautifully in a lovely pear tree for Christmas? How can I ever express my pleasure? Thank you a hundred times for thinking of me this way.

My Love Always, Agnes

Monday, December 24, 2007

Tis the Season and All

I've been absent lately. Sorry about that but with the holidays and all it's been kinda busy. I'll be in and out sporadically over the next few days.

In the meantime I'll leave you with this festive holiday story:

Rampaging Santas strike New Zealand cinema

Ho Ho Ho.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Bye Bye Bulb

Thank you Thomas Edison. For over 129 years your invention has kept us out of the dark and will continue to do so for about another four years. Thanks to the energy bill that congress passed the incandescent light bulb will be phased out in the United States by 2012. Please observe a moment of darkness.

Our replacement options at the moment, while much more energy efficient, are limited. Looks like we'll all be using those curly-topped Compact Fluorescent Lamp (CFL) for a while. Of course, who knows what will be available by 2012. We may not even have electricity any more by then. We may be back in the stone age, or at least medieval times.

In any case, since I'm a safety guy, I would be remiss if I didn't use this opportunity to pass along some safety info. As you may or may not know those CFL's contain Mercury which is toxic (in spite of the fact that we all at one time or another played with it as a kid). Breaking one of those CFL's is not really a good thing and since we all know we've broken a light bulb ot two, here are some guidelines for cleaning up one of these Mercury laden babies without having to resort to calling an environmental cleanup contractor. These come to you from the State of Maine Department of Environmental Protection.

The most important thing to remember is to never use a vacuum . A standard vacuum will spread mercury containing dust throughout the area as well as potentially contaminating the vacuum. What you should do is:

Keep people and pets away from the breakage area so that the mercury in the powder inside the bulb is not accidentally tracked into other areas.

Ventilate the area by opening windows.

Wear appropriate personal protective equipment, such as rubber gloves, safety glasses, old clothing or coveralls, and a dust mask (if you have one) to keep bulb dust and glass from being inhaled.

Carefully remove the larger pieces and place them in a secure closed container, preferably a glass container with a metal screw top and gasket seal like a canning jar.

Next, begin collecting the smaller pieces and dust. You can use a disposable broom and dustpan or two stiff pieces of paper to scoop up pieces.

Put all material into the glass container. Pat the area with the sticky side of duct, packing or masking tape. Wipe the area with a damp cloth or paper towels to pick up fine particles.
Put all waste and materials used to clean up the bulb in the glass container and label it “Universal Waste - broken lamp”.

Take the container for recycling as universal waste. To determine where your town has made arrangements for recycling of this type of waste, call your town office.

So there you have it. We save energy but we have to put down a drop cloth and don protective gear to change a light bulb. I guess everybody has to do their part.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Student Discount

Okay, so our youngest daughter was in her middle school production of "A Christmas Carol" this past Friday night. She played young Ebenezer's fiancee in Christmas past and she was wonderful. Our oldest had just gotten home from college that morning and brought along her boyfriend to visit for a few days. The whole family was there. I was proud of my baby and fun was had by all.

After the show we decided we all wanted to go to the movies to see "I Am Legend" because we wouldn't have been able to sleep at night without helping Wil Smith break a huge box office record for the weekend. We had some time to kill so we grabbed a quick dinner then headed to the theater.

There we are at the ticket window. My wife, me, our three kids and my daughter's boyfriend. The oldest and her boyfriend are college students. The other two kids are in high school and middle school respectively. The sign has a regular, full price and a STUDENT price. So my wife asks for two adults and four students.

The troll hiding behind bullet-proof glass (for a reason) in the booth says she needs to see student ID's. The two 19 year olds produce college ID's. The 16 year old produces a high school ID. The 11 year old (because they don't issue ID's in middle school) gets busted for trying to buy popcorn without a license.

Troll: "You're going to have to pay full price for her."

Wife: "So, the two college students and the high school student can get the student price but the 11 year old can't?"

Troll: "Sorry." (At least it sounded like sorry, I wasn't totally sure because of the raw goat leg she was gnawing on).

Wife: "You're really not going to give her the student price just because she doesn't have an ID?"

Troll (lips curled in an angry sneer, fangs dripping with goat blood): No, I'm not and it won't do you any good to argue about it."

Wife: "I'm not arguing, I'm expressing disbelief over how ridiculous it is that the older students can get in but she can't even though she is clearly a school age girl. Don't you think that's just a little ridiculous?"

Troll: "No."

At this point we had the tickets (three student, three full price) and everyone just wanted to go see the movie. But I, not being happy with the level of aggravation to which the troll had been aroused entered the fray.

Me: "What are you saying? Are you saying that you don't believe we send our children to school? She's clearly school aged. So, if she's not a student then you must be saying that we don't send her to school."

Troll (who had now resorted to using the microphone instead of just snarling through the glass): I could have enforced our rule that "student" only applies to COLLEGE students but I didn't. I didn't have to discount the other girl."

Me (matching her volume without the microphone): "Oh so that interaction you just had with my wife was you being NICE? And what do you mean "student" only means "college student"? Where does it say that on the sign? SHOW ME WHERE IT SAYS THAT ON THE SIGN!"

The last was said as I was being dragged away from the ticket booth. Likely a good thing since the next words out of my mouth were going be something along the lines of "I can see why they keep you in that cage you fucking primate!" Then I would've missed the movie.

Once inside the theater.

Perky blonde taking tickets (with big smile and in a very friendly voice): Hello and welcome. Thank you for coming. May I take your ticket please?"

Me: Wow. You're MUCH more friendly and pleasant than the hag out in the ticket booth."

Perky blonde taking tickets: Yeah. I get that a lot.

I hate officious idiotic pricks with a little power.

Friday, December 14, 2007

My Wife...And a Dead Guy in a Pear Tree

I know I've mentioned the fact that I'm married before. And that we have a great relationship and I'm an extraordinarily lucky man. I'm extraordinarily lucky for reasons too numerous to list. Today I shall list one. My wife is...are you ready?...A Writer. A writer as in a professional, published writer. But it gets better. To be more specific my wife is a Romance Writer. That is to say, she writes romance novels for a living. She's a multi-published, award winning, real-life romance novelist. And she's all mine. Cool huh?

I though I'd mention this today as an introduction to the fact that I want to give her a little promotional consideration. As it happens, now through the end of the month you have the opportunity to sample some of her work absolutely free. Harlequin, her publisher, is featuring one of her complete stories as their daily online read at their website eHarlequin. It will be posted one chapter each weekday through the end of the month. It started this past Monday so there are already five chapters available. It's called "And a Dead Guy in a Pear Tree" and yes, it's Christmas themed. Can't you tell?

Her next book "One Wild Wedding Night" will be released next month.

You can read a description and an excerpt on her website. Then you can go buy it. Then look for all the books on her backlist. And buy them too. Hey, we have a kid in college and two more behind her. And I want to retire into the lap of luxury. But besides that she's a great writer and you'll love her. She's my favorite author and I couldn't be more proud of her.

I told you I was a lucky guy.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Stupid Is As Stupid Does

I've mentioned before that I'm a safety professional. I think I've also mentioned that after seeing some of the really dumb-ass things people have done to hurt themselves I'm beginning to believe I'm doing humanity a disservice and that maybe we should practicing the "natural selection" approach to safety sciences. You know, remove the safeguards and allow the, uh, slowest members of the herd to fall where they may. If we could just guarantee they'd whack themselves BEFORE they reproduce.

For instance:

He was changing planes in an airport in Germany when he was told by security that the TWO pints of Vodka he was carrying exceeded the allowable amount of liquid. Seems he REALLY did not want to give it up. So he chugged it. Then immediately went into a staggering stupor which proceeded quickly to alcohol poisoning. With the possible exception of Tequila Mockingbird I know of few who would not suffer from alcohol poisoning after chugging a liter of vodka. He did recover however since he is 64 years old he probably already has reproduced therefore there is little net effect on the gene pool.

Of course we all know there is one safeguard that will never be removed from our lives. It is a safeguard that is in place not because of sincere concerns that someone will get hurt, not because of moral or ethical responsibilities, not because of a desire to save mankind and make the world a better place. No, these safe guards are in place because corporations are scared to death of losing their asses in product liability lawsuits. I am of course talking about Warning Signs and Labels.

The reason I'm bringing this up is that I discovered a new website this morning. The Michigan Lawsuit Abuse Watch, M-LAW, holds an annual contest to find the wackiest warning sign or label. This year's winner: "Danger! Avoid Death."

The list of finalists with photos can be found at My personal favorite is the one on the baby stroller. Just when you thought it was safe...

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Reading Is Fundamental (ist)

Sorry I've been missing in action for the last few days. The weekend was...well, the weekend. And Monday was my day off and I had better things to do (no offense). Yesterday...I had nothin'. I'm trying to sort out another writing project (that has been laying dormant for far too long) in my head and get it from outline form into something resembling a proposal, so my mind was elsewhere.

Interesting article yesterday on Yahoo. Historian: First English Bible Fueled First Fundamentalists. James Simpson, a professor of English at Harvard University believes that once the bible was translated into colloquial English by William Tyndale in 1525, newly literate Englishmen were terrified by the frightening moral code and began following it "to the letter" in order to avoid misinterpreting it.

Mr. Tyndale didn't help matters when he included this prologue in his bible translation:

If you fail to read it properly, then you begin your just damnation. If you are unresponsive … God will scourge you, and everything will fail you until you are at utter defiance with your flesh."

DEN dan dah (dramatic music) BWAAAHAHAHAHA! (menacing, maniacal laughter).

Sounds like a real gotta-read-it-from-cover-to-cover page turner doesn't it? Can you see the publishing industry using that approach with today's popular fiction? Warning! If you fail to read this book "PROPERLY" you will be covered with festering boils and wracked with agonizing pain before spontaneously bursting into flame. Be sure to watch for the sequel due out in July '08!

Simpson, author of "Burning to Read: English Fundamentalism and its Reformation Opponents", said (and I love this quote) "Reading became a tightrope of terror across an abyss of predestination. It was destructive for [Protestants], because it did not invite freedom but rather fear of misinterpretation and damnation".

He adds that it is a phenomenon of "newly literate people claiming that the sacred text speaks for itself, and legitimates violence and repression." Interesting Mr. Simpson, but where is the relevance to today's world? Hmmm?

Friday, December 7, 2007

Pretend to be a Time Traveler Day

Before getting to the blog I'd like to take a moment to recognize today December 7th, Pearl Harbor Day in honor of all those of that generation who served in World War II.


I thought the subject of this blog was rather timely since lately we've all been traveling back through time to visit our 13 year old selves.

I was surfing around a couple of months ago for a reason that I've since forgotten and somehow stumbled on a discussion forum. To this day I don't know what the forum is or even if it has a specific purpose but I happened on a thread that cracked me up. A bunch of (presumably) geeky kids have proposed and are attempting to organize "Pretend to be a Time Traveler day". The comments on the thread are pretty amusing to read. Don't ask me why but I love this idea. Maybe it appeals to the 45% abnormal part of me that I discoverd I had thanks to Kitty's quiz. The date is set for tomorrow - Saturday December 8th. Here are some guidelines from the originator of the idea:

You must spend the entire day in costume and character. The only rule is that you cannot actually tell anyone that you are a time traveler. Other than that, anything's game.

There are three possible options:

1) Utopian/cliché Future - "If the Future did a documentary of the last fifty years, this is how badly the reenactors would dress." Think Star Trek: TNG or the Time Travelers from Hob. Ever see how the society in Futurama sees the 20th century? Run with it. Your job is to dress with moderately anachronistic clothing and speak in slang from varying decades. Here are some good starters:

- Greet people by referring to things that don't yet exist or haven't existed for a long time. Example: "Have you penetrated the atmosphere lately?" "What spectrum will today's broadcast be in?" and "Your king must be a kindly soul!"

- Show extreme ignorance in operating regular technology. Pay phones should be a complete mystery (try placing the receiver in odd places). Chuckle knowingly at cell phones.

2) Dystopian Future - This one offers a little more flexibility. It can be any kind of future from Terminator to Freejack. The important thing to remember is dress like a crazy person with armor. Black spray painted football pads, high tech visors, torn up trenchcoats and maybe even some dirt here or there. Remember, dystopian future travelers are very startled that they've gone back in time. Some starters:

- If you go the "prisoner who's escaped the future" try shaving your head and putting a barcode on the back of your neck. Then stagger around and stare at the sky, as if you've never seen it before.

- Walk up to random people and say "WHAT YEAR IS THIS?" and when they tell you, get quiet and then say "Then there's still time!" and run off.

- Stand in front of a statue (any statue, really), fall to your knees, and yell "NOOOOOOOOO" - Stare at newspaper headlines and look astonished.

- Take some trinket with you (it can be anything really), hand it to some stranger, along with a phone number and say "In thirty years dial this number. You'll know what to do after that." Then slip away.

3) The Past - This one is more for beginners. Basically dress in period clothing (preferably Victorian era) and stagger around amazed at everything. Since the culture's set in place already, you have more of a template to work off of. Some pointers:

- Airplanes are terrifying. Also, carry on conversations with televisions for a while.

- Discover and become obsessed with one trivial aspect of technology, like automatic grocery doors. Stay there for hours playing with it.

- Be generally terrified of people who are dressed immodestly compared to your era. Tattoos and shorts on women are especially scary.

And that's it. Remember, the only real rule is staying in character and try to fit in. Never directly admit you're a time traveler, and make really, really bad attempts at keeping a low profile.

Flaunt your abnormality! Get out there and act crazy - these days who the hell will notice? And try not to get arrested. Have a great weekend.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

My Letter Across Time

I was tagged earlier this week by my buddy Mike over at Tongue In Check to do a Meme created by Malach. The rules are:

Link back to the person who tagged you.

Send a letter back in time to your 13 year old self.

Tag 5 more people to do this meme.

Dear Bruce,

This is a letter from you – 35 years in the future. The year for you is 1972 and you’re 13 years old. For me (well, you really) it’s 2007 and I’m 48. Yeah I know, you think that’s really OLD but trust me you’ll rethink that when you get here. You’re experiencing some disbelief but just go with it. I know that out of anyone in your family you’ll be able to accept this.

Some background on you so hopefully you’ll know I’m telling you the truth. You’re the youngest of four brothers. The older three are all close in age but there’s an 11 year gap between you and the next oldest. You’re “the baby”. You hate that but you might as well accept it, it won’t stop. It’ll always be that way and you’ll hate it even more by the time you get to where I am. You live with your parents, brothers and your grandparents in an extended family. You father is Irish but everyone else is either all or half Italian and they’re volatile. It’s loud and the general form of communicating is yelling. You sometimes feel like you were adopted. You were not. You have big spaghetti dinners every Sunday and you love to sneak in the kitchen to steal a freshly made meatball or dip a piece of bread in the sauce pot when you think your grandmother isn’t looking. She is and she knows. When you were little you loved riding around with your grandfather (even though you usually got car sick before the end of the driveway, see, I know) when he ran errands for his business. You’ll never forget when you were around ten and he took you to lunch in a restaurant called “The Boat House”. He led you to a back booth, ordered two roast beef sandwiches and two beers and told you to enjoy. He knew long before you did that you were too sheltered and more than a little bit spoiled by your mother and that it needed to change.

That memory makes it hard for me to tell you what I’m about to say. Your grandfather is sick and in the hospital, you know that. What you don’t know is that he will never come home. Even though no one has told you the truth, he’s very sick and I’m sorry to say that he’ll be gone in less than a month. Because you have again been sheltered you will never be taken to the hospital to see him. Insist on going. Your family has good intentions but that seldom makes them right. You should have the chance to say goodbye. I’m sorry.

With the exception of 4th grade (that teacher was a witch, just forget about it) school so far hasn’t been bad. You’re about to enter 7th grade in Junior High School and I’m very sorry to tell you that it will be the worst year you’ll have in school. You are in a very difficult transitional period in life and there are others who will add greatly to that difficulty. An evil demon from hell in the human form of a girl with the initials SS (you know her) will continue to enjoy using you as a target and she will only get worse. It’s never cool to hit a girl no matter how badly you want to but take solace in the fact that Karma is real and she’ll be just as miserable an adult as she is a kid. If it makes you feel better, spit on her when no one’s looking. Also, there’s a guy named Ron. Please remember that fighting never solved anything, should be avoided and that you shouldn’t be the one to start a fight. Except in this case. On the first day you meet him, punch him in the face as hard as you can. Drop him like a fucking bad habit. Trust me it will save you a lot of problems down the road and it certainly won’t hurt your relationship with him. The good news is that you’ll have some good teachers to talk to, the year will end, and you’ll be a stronger person for the experience. After that it starts getting better and you’ll actually begin to enjoy yourself.

Your brother is about to start his own trash removal business. You’re going to start working for him on weekends and summer vacations. It will be exactly what you need for a while. It’ll keep you busy, put some money in your pocket, and the physical labor will have you in great shape by the time you’re in high school. You’ll come out of that transitional phase that I mentioned just fine.

Now’s the time that you should start working on being a better student. You’re not stupid, in fact, you’re pretty smart (if I do say so myself) but you are lazy and unmotivated. That will be made worse by the dread of going to school every day this coming year. You don’t want to form habits that will last into the following years so you need to make a special effort whether you want to or not. It will be worth it. You have a pretty curious mind and you like to learn about a wide variety of subjects and figure out how things work. That will never change. What you do need to try to change is your follow-through. There’s nothing wrong with sampling a lot of different things but once in a while stick with something long enough to be good at it. It doesn’t happen overnight. For instance, you know those guitar lessons you took? I really wish you would’ve kept at it. You’re not terribly musically inclined but you’ll always wish that you were so practice. By the way, while we’re talking about music. Do you remember when you were in Cub Scouts and your dad was troop leader and they brought in some music teacher to organize you to sing Christmas carols to the people at the old folk’s home? And the guy said you couldn’t sing and made you take a speaking part? That shit still bothers you/me. Who the hell tells a kid that he can’t sing Christmas carols to old deaf people in an old folks home? Fuck him! If you ever get the chance, take singing lessons. You’ll never be a great singer, you’ll probably never be a good singer but at least you won’t be afraid to sing Happy Birthday out loud to your kids.

After high school you will go to college at a small school in Maryland. It will be a fantastic experience for you. It will open the door for you to things that you never knew existed and will provide a much needed opportunity to grow and mature. It’s a liberal arts school and despite its religious affiliation and the presence of that influence, you’ll never feel that anything is being shoved down your throat. You’ll learn how to think, not what to think. That’s more valuable than you know. You’re not going to be a doctor but that’s okay, you never really wanted to be anyway. A few years after school you’ll fall into a profession and although you’ll never be particularly passionate, you’ll do well. There will be a few bumps along the way with work, mainly due to the fact that you just don’t fit in well with the corporate world and their bullshit – you’re too independent (deep down, you don’t care much for authority, in particular, the abuse of authority). All in all you’ll do okay.

I’m sure you find this all very interesting but I know you well my friend and what you really want to know about is girls. Before I go into that let me say this. You have and will continue to have a passing interest in astrology (not the “the stars rule my life” kind of interest, more like the “what’s the weather going to be like this week?” kind). You’re a Pisces and the classic description of a Pisces fits you to a tee. You’re romantic, creative, imaginative, a dreamer, and you’re sensitive. You’re sensitive to others that you care about BUT you also get your feelings hurt easily. Less so as you get older but still, it’s there. Also, you love to be in the company of girls. That’s been true ever since you discovered them in kindergarten. Those two facts about you taken together will prove to be a blessing and a curse for a long time…but in the end it will work out splendidly. In the first grade you fell in love with Juanita and risked ridicule from other boys by playing hopscotch with her at recess. That more or less set a precedent. In a few years when you’re looking at extra-curricular activities, I’ve got one word for you. Theater. Think about it. In sports you’ve got a bunch of smelly, sweaty guys rolling around on the grass with each other and taking showers together. In theater you’ve got a bunch of attractive, talented, creative girls; a bunch of gay (in 1972 that would be queer, but we don’t say that anymore, it’s offensive) guys; and YOU. Do the math. Besides, it comes into play later.

In high school you’re in great shape, you’re not bad looking, you start to get noticed and have fun but not much really happens. College is where it takes off. You have a series of relationships with high highs, low lows and you will get hurt. But I’m not going to warn you off of any of them. You will learn from them but more importantly in some weird fated way each one leads you to the next one until eventually you arrive at the ONLY one. At the end of your senior year you’ll meet someone from outside school. You’ll move in with her and stay in Maryland after graduation. She’s NOT the one. In the fall of 1981 when you’re 22 you’ll go to see her in a theater production. You won’t know it but there you’ll catch your first glimpse of the right one. Three years and a lot of life experience for both of you passes before you’ll see her again. This time you’ll both be in a theater production. She’s beautiful, smart, talented, and funny and she looks amazing in a sweater. You become friends and a lot of flirting takes place. The show ends and you part company but you think about her a lot. Be patient. In the spring you stage manage the next production. One Sunday night you walk into the rehearsal studio and see her across the room. She’ll be wearing a white dress with a red belt and red high-heeled shoes. Fasten your seatbelt. Take that first step towards her and do not look back. I’ve given you more information here than I probably should have but I do not want you to fuck this up. Honestly I believe that it's meant to happen and it will no matter what you do, so be patient and let it. I can’t stress how important this is. She will be your life and is mine and everything meaningful for you from that point on will come through being with her. We’ve been together for 22 years, we have three beautiful daughters that fill us with joy and pride and I promise you…life is good. It all starts when you realize that you cannot let her get away, so don’t.

That’s not to say that there will be no bad. I wrestled with warning you about some painful things that will happen along the way but in the end I can’t for fear of changing what comes after. If I had assurances that nothing in my present would change I would give you much more information but no such assurances exist so I'm forced to let life happen. I’m sorry. More sorry than I can tell you. Sometimes bad things happen to good people but life moves forward. Don’t take anyone or anything for granted.

Remember to close your mouth and open your mind and that life is a journey that ends with the destination of death. You'll never know how long the journey will be, only how long it was. Enjoy the ride and don’t be in a rush to reach the destination. It’s all about the ride. You’re doing fine - you will do fine - and as I said, life really is good.

Oh, two more things.

1) The first Saturday in May 2005. The Kentucky Derby. Bet the #10, #18, # 12, and #17 horse on the Superfecta. A $2 ticket will win a record $1.7 million.

2) Powerball lottery drawing for Wednesday August 22, 2007, numbers 12, 37, 40, 48, 50 and powerball 37. There was no winner for that drawing and it rolls over to $340 million. You can get a ticket in Pennsylvania. Don’t forget.

As far as who to tag...This meme has been circulating all week and I'm late getting it done so most everybody I know has already been tagged. So I will nominate:
1. Crashed Site
2. Spirit Uncensored
3. Three players to be named later or anyone that hasn't been tagged that wants to take a crack at it.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Snakes on a Plane? NO! Saints on a Cell Phone!

Our world obviously doesn't have enough serious problems in it these days. People just have too much time on their hands. A particular group of people that have too much time on their hands are the members of the world's organized revealed religions. These are the people who have a direct line to God right? I would think given the state of things here on good old Earth that these folks would be on their knees lighting up the night sky with a celestial phone bank on a heavenly telethon asking God to fix things toot sweet. Even if they aren't fully occupied doing that you'd think with all the time they spend telling the rest of us what we'll be damned for and trying to get laws passed to force us to be moral that there just wouldn't be enough time left in the day. But alas and alack.

First we have a nation arresting an elementary school teacher for letting her class name a teddy bear after their prophet (never mind the fact that half the kids in her class either have the name themselves or have relatives who do) because, you know, that is a much more serious affront to God than say, the little problem in DARFUR!!!. And don't worry, I won't print the teddy bear's name here. I live in fear of a suicide blogger (of course it would be okay if HE had that name).

Now I read this:

Saints on cellphones spark controversy in Italy

Catholics there are up in arms over a company that sells electronic pictures of your favorite patron saint that you can download to your cell phone. I grew up in an Italian household and the little saint pictures (called santino - little saint) were all over the place. They're like...Catholic baseball cards. All the relatives carried them. I even had some. My mother gave me one when I went to college to keep on my desk - St. Jude, the patron saint of hopeless cases. I don't know what the hell she was trying to tell me but it wasn't very inspirational. This cell phone thing strikes me as a normal step into the electronic age and certainly isn't any less reverent than folding up the picture, putting it in your wallet and sitting on it. And yet the critics find it disrespectful.

"This is in really bad taste," Bishop Lucio Soravito De Franceschi, a member of the Italian bishops conference committee for doctrinal matters, told the Turin newspaper La Stampa.
"It is a distortion of sacred things ... selling 'santini' for cell phones is horrifying," he said.

Horrifying! Oh my. Thank goodness the church is on top of stopping things that are horrifying. My word, I can't think of a single thing more horrifying than having an electronic picture of some dead guy that the church declared holier than the rest of us on your cell phone! Truly horrifying...and in bad taste. Clearly we should be more tasteful and honor these holy servants of God as the church does.

Throughout it's history the church SO revered these Saints that they opened their tombs in order to conduct a "translation of relics". That's a tasteful way of saying removing their remains and placing them in reliquaries to be "venerated" and later divided up and distributed as Holy Relics of the Church. In many cases the head or entire limbs of the saint were displayed. Of course it was declared illegal to sell such relics but only after a roaring cottage industry sprung up selling fakes thus cutting into their action. At one point Europe had a dozen or more holy foreskins of Jesus vying for the title of the one and true foreskin of the savior. In fact one town in, yes, Italy had the last of those foreskins on record in a jewel-encrusted reliquary that was paraded through the streets on the (and I can't type this without laughing) Feast of the Circumcision (seriously, look it up) as late as 1983. Unfortunately it was stolen by thieves presumably for the jewels but you never know.

I would like to propose that those filthy infidels...wait, wrong group...I mean heretics that would dare engage in the HORRIFYING practice of having a picture of a saint on their cell phone be stoned like it says in the bible. No, no, not harsh enough. They should be tortured into admitting their sin like they were during the Inquisition. Nope, not nearly horrible enough. They should be slaughtered out of existence by invading armies of explorers, ah no, that won't do! They should be BURNED ALIVE!!! Dammit! CRAP! I just can't think of a punishment HORRIBLE enough for this blatant demonstration of bad taste. I pray that someone from the Holy See is inspired to come up with something suitable. After all they have plenty of time on their hands what with nothing more important going on in the world.

While I wait for word from the church I'm gonna try to get my hands on that Teddy Bear. I'm cuttin' that sonofabitch up and sellin' his ass on Ebay! Praise the Lord!

Monday, December 3, 2007

Animated Ailments

In my attempt to combat the annoying cough and cold that I can't seem to shake I've been forced to resort to over the counter medication. I turned to NyQuil because, well because it has alcohol in it and it has been known to render me unconscious and unaware of whether I'm coughing or not. This time around it hasn't worked quite as well as it has in the past and my wife suggested I try an OTC med that she had been using. Mucinex. It's a cough suppressant in pill form and while it seems to work pretty well it has one of the worst names in marketing history. It reminds me of Mueslix, the cereal.

Which in turn reminds me, for some strange reason, of Moose Lips.

Which aren't something I'd want to put in my mouth either for breakfast or to stop coughing.

In any case, what I really began to think about was advertising campaigns for drugs. I don't know about the rest of you but I don't send my 12 year old out to buy medicine for me. So could someone please tell me why the hell all of our physical ailments have to be portrayed by cartoons on the commercials? I don't want to think about a lungful of mucus having a dance party in my chest. It's bad enough it's making me cough without thinking about what it's doing with Mrs. Mucus down there.

Are we supposed to run out and buy Nasonex because the Bee has a sexy Antonio Banderas accent? Christ, if you're not paying attention you could end up thinking that Honey Nut Cheerios can cure allergy symptoms.

What the hell are these blobby things on the Zoloft commercial supposed to be anyway? So Zoloft turns you from a sad blob into a happy blob? Welcome to America.

Don't even get me started about Toenail Fungus!

And why do they use cartoons for some and not others? Why not cartoon critters for a cure for crabs, jock itch, or yeast infections? They would all seem to lend themselves to the use of animated creatures crawling around your body crevasses. Wait, I know I know, they could get Bob the Builder to be spokesman for Viagra or Levitra and have this little cartoon construction team with a crane working in the background. Whadaya think?

Friday, November 30, 2007

Coughing Through My Ears and Sexual Harrassment

I've been absent for a couple of days. Honestly I've been in kind of a fog. I've had a cold coming on for about the last week. Not a full blown cold but one of those annoying little ones that gives you just enough congestion to cause post nasal drip. You don't notice it so much during the day but when you lay down at night you start to cough. And cough. And cough.

I told you before that I have apnea and sleep with an embryonic Alien face-hugger strapped to my face but what I didn't tell you was that I also tape my mouth shut. Yes. Tape across the lips. Voluntarily. And no, my wife doesn't have anything to do with it. I started having problems with the air leaking out of my mouth during the night and when that happens the therapy goes right out with it. Now no doctor or therapist in his right mind will tell you to tape your mouth shut but when you're struggling with this goofy therapy you try whatever it takes to get some sleep so I started using paper medical tape and it actually worked pretty well. Until this week when I got a cold.

I think you see what's coming. There I am all strapped in and taped up and settling down for the night when it starts. A tiny little tickle in the back of my throat. Maybe it'll go away. cough. That wasn't so bad. Okay tickle's gone. Ah. cough cough. Damn. Alright, I can control this. I'll cough will myself cough cough to not



Have you ever tried coughing with air blowing up your nose and your mouth taped shut? I don't recommend it. Not unless you're really desperate to see what the three smallest bones in the human body look like - you know - the ones in your middle ear. Holy crap.

Needless to say, I haven't been sleeping well the last few nights. I tried to remedy that by buying a big bottle of NyQuil and doing a double shot before bed. It has helped. I did get some sleep. Unfortunately it also has left me (as I said in the beginning) a bit foggy in the morning.

That's one reason I haven't been here to write. The other is that I spent all day Thursday and will spend all day today in training at work. Employment Law for Federal Managers taught by a couple of government lawyers. Now isn't that the perfect topic for a sleep deprived guy with a NyQuil hangover? Most of today was spent covering performance improvement plans and sexual harassment.

Um. Those two subjects weren't directly related, though it might've livened up the class a bit. Can't wait to see what we get into today.

Quick question. Does anybody else think this headline is stupid?

Gee, maybe they could do a story titled "Does the Pope display religious tendencies?".

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Can I Hear An Amen!

Now here is a church that I can really get behind. So to speak.

Baptists. Who knew?

Monday, November 26, 2007

What's Your Sign...Was It Good For You?

After Sex Comments by Astrological Sun Sign:

Aries: "Okay, let's do it again!"

Taurus: "I'm hungry--pass the pizza."

Gemini: "Have you seen the remote?"

Cancer: "When are we getting married?"

Leo: "Wasn't I fantastic?"

Virgo: "I need to wash the sheets."

Libra: "I liked it if you liked it."

Scorpio: "Perhaps I should untie you."

Sagittarius: "Don't call me--I'll call you."

Capricorn: "Do you have a business card?"

Aquarius: "Now let's try it with our clothes off!"

Pisces: "What did you say your name was again?"

Friday, November 23, 2007

Thanksgiving: The Day After

Thanksgiving unfolded just as I said it would. There were copious amounts of food, fun, food, music, food, family, food, drink, food, games, food, laughs, food, love, and did forget to say food?

Dinner and clean-up was followed by a sudden onset of post-prandial narcoleptic seizures. In this damn digital age someone always has a camera at the ready and they caught me unawares.

I did manage to avoid the vulgar and thoroughly gluttonous action of unfastening my pants after dinner in order to make more room. I though ahead. I didn't bother wearing a belt.

After a sound night's sleep I'm feeling much more svelte and agile and I'm up and ready to face the world.

An aside.
Middle daughter was scheduled to work today but does not yet have her license thus requires a ride. It's now 11 AM. Conversation ensues.

Dad: "When are you scheduled?"

Daughter: "12 to 4. I think. But I'm not sure. They haven't called me so I'm not late"

Dad: "Reasonable assumption, but perhaps you're not getting all the data. Wouldn't it be nice to know that you're not actually scheduled LATER before I drive you up there?"

Daughter: "mumble, mumble."

Fast forward a half hour as daughter comes down dressed for work. Dad, his mind clouded by the overindulgence of mind altering chemicals disguised as turkey dinner, fails to ask if she actually called and assumes she's scheduled for Noon. We depart.

We enter the parking area of the Retail Outlet Mall where she works. I spot a 75% off sale sign in the window of a clothing store that I like and decide to park and check it out rather than just drop her off like I normally would. We say fare thee well and part company. I enter store. Approximately three minutes later look up to see aforementioned daughter standing in front of me.

Daughter: "I didn't have to work at 12."

Dad: "What time do you have to work?"

Daughter: "4:00."

Dad: "Uh Huh. Good thing you didn't waste your time calling. You couldn't possibly have gotten that information over the phone...before we left."

Driving her to work...and back: 20 minutes.

Gas used: $3.00

Getting to see the look on her face when she realizes I WAS RIGHT!!!!: PRICELESS.

Ahh, small pleasures.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

I would like to wish everyone a safe, wonderful and very happy Thanksgiving.

I won't be checking in today as there will be lots and lots of family time, fun and food. Today is the "official" start of the holiday season in our house. Even though retail seems to be making progress on their insidious plot to move Christmas closer and closer to July I insist on celebrating holidays in their proper order. I use as my standard for signaling the start of the season a tradition that was started by, ironically enough, the retail giant Macy's. That's right. The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

My wife will be up performing miracles in the kitchen and I will be rolling the girls out of bed early to watch the parade with me. We've done it every year since they were little just like my dad did with me.

At just before noon as the parade is coming to a close Santa Claus appears in his sleigh and I declare a loud and joyous "Merry Christmas!" as I start our household's official first Christmas CD and the voices of Frank, Bing, and Nat fill the air and mingle with the aroma of turkey dinner.

Holiday memories and traditions. I have many things to be thankful for but none more important than my family.
Have a great holiday.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Miscellaneous Beautiful, Blonde, Bugs

Just a few random articles that got my attention.

Beauty Is Hardwired in the Brain
Italian researchers showed test subjects both normal and slightly distorted images of sculptures and measured brain activity. What I found interesting was that the images considered to be more appealing were the unaltered ones which were in proportion to the Golden Ratio, 1.618 (followed by a long string of numbers), which was determined geometrically by Euclid but turns up everywhere in nature, art and architecture from ancient times to the present. Everything from the spirals of hurricanes and mollusk shells to the pyramids (in Egypt and Central America) and the Parthenon to the human face and body to the seed arrangement on a sunflower exhibit geometric proportions that equal this number. Fascinating stuff.

Men Act Dumber Around Blond Women
Well duh. While I doubt there's anyone that would question this finding I do disagree with their explanation. They seem to think the cause is due to, for lack of a better term, prejudice. That men have been conditioned to buy into the image of the "dumb blond" and that they therefore act dumber in the presence of a blond. Personally I think it's physiological. The guy becomes dumber because his brain isn't functioning at peak efficiency due to decreased blood flow. Blood is being diverted from the big head to the little head and that's where the "thinking" is taking place. The researchers unfortunately did not design the experiment to measure the correlation between dumbness and erectile activity. That's another study all together. In any case, my wife is a beautiful and extremely intelligent blond (support for MY hypothesis) and in light of the findings of this research I'd like to say in my defense...See honey, it's not my fault!

Biggest Bug Ever
Of the three Indiana Jones movies I could easily do the snake scene from the first and the rat scene from the third. The bug scene in the second however has an extraordinarily high squirm factor for me. I don't particularly care for bugs and I really, really hate BIG bugs. You know, the ones that are big enough to look in their eyes. Those are big enough but this prehistoric scorpion was EIGHT FEET LONG!!! Holy shit. You'd have to buy Raid by the tanker load.

Monday, November 19, 2007

'Ello, My Name Is Bruce and I Am a Hose Head

'Ello Bruce...

I mentioned last week that had to strap a CPAP contraption on my head before I went to sleep and I promised I'd explain.

I have Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). Sleep apnea in general is defined as a condition characterized by episodes of stopped breathing during sleep. Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the soft tissues in your throat relax and close off your airway. Sounds like a lot of fun doesn't it? It's a shame I'm asleep and missing it.

It all started out with snoring. It was occasional (I think) and not terribly loud. Then it progressively got worse. I wasn't quite keeping my wife from falling asleep but if she woke up for some reason and I was sawing wood, well, let's say she had a hard time going back to sleep. Then it got to the point where she started wearing earplugs to bed. Eventually she told me she was (sort of) getting used to the snoring but it was the absence of snoring that was really starting to bother her. WHAT? I can't win. She explained that I'd be snoring along for a while then all of a sudden I would stop breathing. There would be silence for a long time then I'd gasp for air and start breathing again. I told her maybe she should stop holding that pillow over my face. She wasn't amused. I asked how long she waited and watched before I started breathing and if she considered maybe, I don't know, shaking me or something. She was even less amused. I had a medical appoint scheduled for another issue and I promised I would bring it up.

I mentioned the situation to the doctor and he gave me a referral to a sleep specialist. The sleep specialist had me go for a sleep study. For those of you that don't know what a sleep study is, it's when you go to a strange place where strange people you've never met show you to a strange room and tell you to change into a hospital gown. Then they take you to a room and glue electrodes all over your head, chest and legs, they stick a couple probes up your nose, wrap a band around your chest, and clip a pulse-ox meter to your finger. Then they take you back to the room where they hook all the electrodes and wires to a box on the wall. They tell you to get into bed, which is about the time you notice the video camera on the wall pointing at the bed, and they say "make yourself comfortable and have a good night's sleep, I'll be in around 5:30 AM to wake you up". Then you spend the rest of the night tangled in wires feeling like Frodo after Shelob got him in the spiderweb.

The sleep study found that I had moderate sleep apnea. I stopped breathing an average of 23 times an hour. The doctor discussed treatment options and we decided on using CPAP which stands for Continuous Positive Airway Pressure. Then he sent me for another sleep study. Oh for Chrissakes! This time the study is called a Titration. It's when they determine the optimal flow rate of air that will keep your airway open. I don't know how it was possible but the second time was far worse than the first. The results of the study indicated that I slept three hours out of the eight that I was there but somehow they managed to get enough data. Then I got to take the doctor's prescription to a Durable Medical Equipment (DME) supplier to get my CPAP equipment and instructions for use.

I was fitted for a CPAP interface, more commonly referred to as a mask, that is strapped to my head and connected by a hose to the CPAP machine which supplies air to the mask.

Here's my machine being modeled by little Mikey:

Here's the interface I've been using since I started therapy six months ago as modeled by Wayne:

And this is what it felt like during the first couple of weeks of treatment:

Eventually, I did begin to get used to it and really did start to sleep more or less normally. Some nights are better than others but I have started to feel better during the day. It's not a dramatic difference but I really noticed on the mornings after the one or two times I slept without the CPAP. I woke up feeling hungover - and I hadn't been drinking. The hardest part is getting used to it because you spend your whole life just going to bed. Now you have to get all this crap ready and don your gear before you can settle in. It sort of kills spontaneity and it makes you look really really sexy. It's also rather daunting to think that this is a condition that's not going away and that the CPAP is a treatment, not a cure. There are mornings, like today, when you get up after a particularly bad night and think that you just can't do this another night. But you do. It's not the best treatment to have to live with, in fact I frequently think that it involves smoke and mirrors and black magic. The whole education, patient information, doctor, DME, and insurance situation is more often than not extremely frustrating and is set up to prevent the patient from having control over their own treatment. Right now, it's the best thing available.

Talking to others that are dealing with this condition really helps and there is a discussion forum that has been particularly supportive. The people at CPAPTALK.COM have been absolutely amazing and I honestly don't know that I would still be doing this without them. All joking aside, Sleep Apnea is a very serious condition that can lead to high blood pressure and other cardiovascular disease such as stroke and heart attack, memory problems, weight gain, impotency, and headaches as well as job impairment and motor vehicle crashes.

Information can be found at the American Sleep Apnea Association and by search the internet. I'd also be happy to answer questions if I can.

Friday, November 16, 2007

A Glimmer of Hope?

Hearing and reading the ludicrous stories I talked about yesterday made me seriously question our future and wonder whether we should all just jump off a bridge. I consider myself to be neither an optimist nor a pessimist but I do try to be a realist. I believe in cyclical existence and that the wheel keeps turning. My father summed it up simply - "what comes around, goes around". Hopefully we can influence some things to go and others to come, more quickly.

There are probably many messages to be found in this picture but for some reason it gives me just a tiny little bit of hope.

Happy Friday and have a great weekend!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

It Seems I Woke Up in the Twilight Zone

In spite of being in a delightful state of mind when I went to bed last night I had a horrible night's sleep. I have sleep apnea and go to bed every night with a CPAP contraption strapped to my head (explanatory blog post to come). Some nights are better than others and last night sucked. So right out of the box the morning was looking none too sunny. Then I peeked outside and found that it was literally none too sunny. In fact it's raining. Ya'll know how I feel about my morning commute and rain (actually weather, doesn't really matter what flavor) just makes it worse.

So, on the TWO HOUR ride into work this morning I started flipping around the radio dial and ended up on NPR listening to Morning Edition. Congress...blah, blah, blah. Debates...blah, blah, blah. War funding, President Bush, Primaries...blah, blah, blah. A teenager in Europe is arrested and charged with the theft of $58,000 worth of virtual furniture that doesn't exist...blah, blah...WHAT?! WTF did he just say? Yeah, I heard it right. A teen in Europe who plays, lives, games, whatever, in one of those virtual online communities where you buy credits to spend in your fake little world apparently "stole" $58,000 worth of imaginary furniture and gave it to his imaginary online friends. He was then arrested by the real police and placed in a real jail. You can go to jail for stealing something that doesn't exist. Who knew? Hopefully he can imagine himself and his virtual friends in a more pleasant virtual place when his new actual friend Sven offers to establish a new broadband connection for him in the actual shower.

So after the commute to work (did I mention it was TWO HOURS?) I get some coffee, fire up the computer and start my routine. When what to my wondering eyes should appear but this fucking ridiculous story about Santa Claus! Santas Warned 'ho ho ho' Offensive to Women. Oh you read it right. This is going on in Sydney, Australia BUT, the recruitment firm that is hiring the army of Santas - Westaff - is from the US. Unfortunately, since we seem to be the world leaders in idiocy, that probably explains it.

I'm seriously considering going home and going back to bed. Sheesh.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Daddy's Rules for Dating My Daughter

I got a comment on an old post yesterday from a fellow father of daughters. For some reason it reminded me of these rules so I went and dug them up. I didn't write them and if I could credit the person who did I would but I have no idea who he is. I think they've been around since the days when jokes circulated through the office via Xerox rather than email. For fathers of daughters they are timeless.

Rule One:
If you pull into my driveway and honk you'd better be delivering a package, because you're sure not picking anything up.

Rule Two:
You do not touch my daughter in front of me. You may glance at her, so long as you do not peer at anything below her neck. If you cannot keep your eyes or hands off of my daughter's body, I will remove them.

Rule Three:
I am aware that it is considered fashionable for boys of your age to wear their trousers so loosely that they appear to be falling off their hips. Please don't take this as an insult, but you and all of your friends are complete idiots. Still, I want to be fair and open minded about this issue, so I propose this compromise: You may come to the door with your underwear showing and your pants ten sizes too big, and I will not object. However, in order to ensure that your clothes do no, in fact come off during the course of your date with my daughter, I will take my electric nail gun and fasten your trousers securely in place to your waist.

Rule Four:
I'm sure you've been told that in today's world, sex without utilizing a "Barrier method" of some kind can kill you. Let me elaborate, when it comes to sex, I am the barrier, and I will kill you.

Rule Five:
It is usually understood that in order for us to get to know each other, we should talk about sports, politics, and other issues of the day. Please do not do this. The only information I require from you is an indication of when you expect to have my daughter safely back at my house, and the only word I need from you on this subject is: "early."

Rule Six:
I have no doubt you are a popular fellow, with many opportunities to date other girls. This is fine with me as long as it is okay with my daughter. Otherwise, once you have gone out with my little girl, you will continue to date no one but her until she is finished with you. If you make her cry, I will make you cry.

Rule Seven:
As you stand in my front hallway, waiting for my daughter to appear, and more than an hour goes by, do not sigh and fidget. If you want to be on time for the movie, you should not be dating. My daughter is putting on her makeup, a process than can take longer than painting the Golden Gate Bridge. Instead of just standing there, why don't you do something useful, like changing the oil in my car?

Rule Eight:
The following places are not appropriate for a date with my daughter: Places where there are beds, sofas, or anything softer than a wooden stool. Places where there is darkness. Places where there is dancing, holding hands, or happiness. Places where the ambient temperature is warm enough to induce my daughter to wear shorts, tank tops, midriff T-shirts, or anything other than overalls, a sweater, and a goose down parka - zipped up to her throat. Movies with a strong romantic or sexual theme are to be avoided; movies which features chain saws are okay. Hockey games are okay. Old folks homes are better.

Rule Nine:
Do not lie to me. I may appear to be a potbellied, balding, middle-aged, dimwitted has-been. But on issues relating to my daughter, I am the all-knowing, merciless god of your universe. If I ask you where you are going and with whom, you have one chance to tell me the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. I have a shotgun, a shovel, and five acres behind the house. Do not trifle with me.

Rule Ten:
Be afraid. Be very afraid. It takes very little for me to mistake the sound of your car in the driveway for a chopper coming in over a rice paddy near Hanoi. When my Agent Orange starts acting up, the voices in my head frequently tell me to clean the guns as I wait for you to bring my daughter home. As soon as you pull into the driveway you should exit the car with both hands in plain sight. Speak the perimeter password, announce in a clear voice that you have brought my daughter home safely and early, then return to your car - there is no need for you to come inside. The camouflaged face at the window is mine.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Ahh, Days Off

Okay, I'm a slug. And I'm an employee of the US government. I suppose some would say I was being redundant. In any case, yesterday was a federal holiday and I had the day off. The majority of our federal holidays are on Mondays. In fact when they first went to that system I remember my dad being pissed off because he was born on Washington's Birthday and he like getting his birthday off on the actual day.

The federal government also utilizes something called Alternate Work Schedules which allow more flexibility to its employees. There are several variations but the one I work is called a 5-4-9 schedule. In a two week pay period I work eight 9-hour days, one eight hour day and I get one day off. My day off is a Monday so I get every other Monday off. That in and of itself is very nice. It gets better however when we have a federal holiday on a Monday that I'm supposed to have off - like yesterday. In that case, the Monday is still my day off AND I get Tuesday as the holiday and no matter how you add that up it's a FOUR DAY WEEKEND.

My point in tell you this? Well:

Four day weekend + Me being a slug = slacking on the old blog

Get it? Fact is, I just got out of bed so like it or not this is it.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Veterans Day

The official date of Veterans Day is November 11th no matter what day of the week that falls on. That was yesterday. Since I didn't blog yesterday and since today is a government holiday I thought I'd honor it today.

If you're interested in the history of Veterans Day you can read about it on the Department of Veterans Affairs website.

The purpose of the observance is to thank Veterans for their service to this country. Regardless of politics or leadership these men and women have, at great personal cost, done what was asked of them. They deserve thanks and respect. We all know somebody who has served. Thank them.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Keep to the Code

We've all heard about "honor among thieves" and about bad guys and villains with their own sense of right and wrong but all that always seemed to be more of a romanticized creation of Hollywood than actually reality. Finally we have proof.

Mafia '10 Commandments' Found

I absolutely love this. I'm half Italian and my grandfather came over from Sicily, so maybe that's why this story appealed to me. Italian police finally located and arrested Salvatore Lo Piccolo after 14 years on the run. He was positioning himself to be the Don of Dons in the Sicilian Mafia. When they searched the country house in Palermo where he was arrested they found administrative documents of Cosa Nostra (even they can't escape paperwork) which contained among other things, THE CODE. Who would've believed that the Mafia had a written code of ethics? The list begins with a simple preamble that states "I swear to be faithful to Cosa Nostra. Should I betray, my flesh will burn."

The Ten 'Mafiosi' Commandments are:

1. No one can present himself directly to another of our friends. There must be a third person to do it.
2. Never look at the wives of friends.
3. Never be seen with cops.
4. Don't go to pubs and clubs.
5. Always being available for Cosa Nostra is a duty - even if your wife's about to give birth.
6. Appointments must absolutely be respected.
7. Wives must be treated with respect.
8. When asked for any information, the answer must be the truth.
9. Money cannot be appropriated if it belongs to others or to other families.
10. People who can't be part of Cosa Nostra: anyone who has a close relative in the police, anyone with a two-timing relative in the family, anyone who behaves badly and doesn't hold to moral values.

I don't know whether knowing that almost all of our politicians couldn't be in the Mafia comforts or frightens me. Holy crap! The Mafia has a higher moral standard than Congress! I'll make you an offer you can't refuse. Let's adopt this list as a new oath of office - along with the same punishments if the oath is broken. In some sort of twisted way it seems...I don't know...more honest.

Have a great weekend and remember, "leave the gun, take the cannoli".

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Sassy Bruce

Almost two years ago while I was clicking through a news website I came across an article that saddened me. It reported the closing of the Winchester Repeating Arms Co. (technically the U.S. Repeating Arms Co., the Winchester name is licensed) manufacturing plant in New Haven, CT. The plant where Winchester rifles and shotguns had been made for over 150 years and production of the Model 1892 Winchester, probably THE most recognizable rifle in history was to cease. Anybody who has ever seen a John Wayne movie or any other Western knows what a 1892 Winchester lever-action rifle looks like even without the picture I posted above. It's been used in just about every Western movie ever made, even the ones that historically take place long before 1892 (which curiously is when the Model 1892 was introduced). This rather nostalgic article from (of all places) The Washington Post sums up what I was feeling when I heard the news of the demise of this unique American icon.

My dad was a huge fan of Westerns and I sat by his side watching and loving them too. Right up until a couple of years ago, whenever he came to visit he demonstrated a unique ability to find obscure channels on cable that played continuous reruns of old Western TV shows. As a kid I played cowboy complete with capguns and hat. Hell, I even had a real pony (mean little bastard named Cocoa) My family, like a lot of families back then, had a real Winchester. It was my Grandfather's and I think my uncle ended up with it but I learned to shoot it at an early age and took to it very well. I wasn't much into sports but man I loved target shooting. I was good at it.

When I read the news about the plant closure I decided I was going to look into getting one of those rifles before they became scarce and too expensive to buy. So I started Googling to try to gauge price and availability. During my search I accidentally came across a website for a shooting sport that I had never heard of. Cowboy Action Shooting. The website belonged to the national organization that oversees the sport. The Single Action Shooting Society more commonly known as SASS.

Can you imagine? A sport that involved using an alias, dressing like a cowboy and target shooting with real cowboy-style guns in a competitive setting. SIGN ME UP! I read the summary of the sport and all the other information available then I checked the locations of their affiliated clubs. There were three all within a hour of me. I went to watch the first match I could get to and started asking questions. As it turned out you need two pistols, a rifle and a shotgun plus all the other accessories so it took me a while to get everything together. It's not a cheap activity but they're not real sticklers on a lot of things other than safety when you're just starting out. I finally got myself fully equipped and officially shot in my first match last March. I was a bundle of nerves so my goal was just getting through the stages safely and getting a feel for the whole thing. I didn't set out to win anything and I wasn't disappointed but man was it ever fun. It's not an age or gender limited sport by any stretch of the imagination. There were whole families there - all shooting. Quite a few ladies and children, all of whom out shot me. The summer was insanely busy and got away from me so I didn't get back to another match as planned year I intend to dive into it.

A local TV station in California did a story called "High Noon in Fresno" this week on the sport and the local club. It's pretty well done and provides a good introduction.

There are also several instructional videos posted on Expert Village that give an overview of the sport, equipment, and shooting categories.

I never did get that Winchester but I did end up with two Colt reproduction pistols, a Winchester reproduction and a double barrel shotgun. Oh, and an alias. You can call me Tiberius Wolf pardner. My kids however like to call me "Sassy Bruce".

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Bubble-Wrapped Kids

Okay I did the whole thing on hugs and political correctness and declining social contact yesterday. I was planning to move on today. I really was. But then I got my coffee, opened my browser, started to check the morning news...and got hit with this:

Megan Coulter (ironically I mentioned Ann Coulter yesterday in one of my comments - to my knowledge they are not related) put her arm around the shoulders of two girlfriends to say goodbye for the weekend and she got slapped with two days of detention, one for each girl hugged.

Here is the actual wording of the policy from their student handbook:

“Displays of affection should not occur on the school campus at any time. It is in poor taste, reflects poor judgment, and brings discredit to the school and to the persons involved.”

Displays of affection are in poor taste...and brings the person involved. Yep. That's the road we're heading down.

School District Superintendent Sam McGowen thinks the policy and the penalty is fair. What's the matter Sam, mom didn't hug you when you were a kid? Haven't worked that out in your therapy yet? Okay, group hug for Sam everybody.

Look, don't get me wrong. I'm a father. I'm not advocating that middle school students should be allowed to grope and make out in the hallways (or anywhere else for that matter), but putting your arm around a friend's shoulder? This blind, mindless, unquestioning adherence to these zero-tolerance policies has got to stop. What message are we sending the kids? We're certainly not doing them any favors by isolating and enfeebling them. We're going to end up with a crop of socially awkward, emotionally stunted adults unable to cope with real-life situations and interactions. They won't be able to converse with someone but boy howdy, will they ever be able to pass standardized tests for math & science. And unthinking, uncaring blind adherence and zero-tolerance is not just in our schools. Can anyone say "Homeland Security"? I've always known that common sense isn't common but when did this country stop thinking altogether? When did it stop feeling? 9/11 was a terrible life-altering event that frightened us and put us into shock. Instead of recovering from that shock we've allowed ourselves to slip into a coma. The time to wake up is long overdue. It's time to start practicing some zero-tolerance on the ridiculous, asinine, insane, arrogant, illegal, unconstitutional, and reprehensible acts that are taking place here everyday.

In "The Time Machine" H.G.Wells wrote about a future where mankind evolved into two classes. One the pastoral, innocent, docile Eloi who frolicked and played and didn't have to think for themselves. The other class was the aggressive, violent but intelligent Morlocks who bred the Eloi as livestock...AND ATE THEM. I've never felt comfortable being part of a flock.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

How 'Bout a Cuddle Love?

This BBC video reports that "Texting" along with one of my favorite subjects (can you detect heavy sarcasm?) "Political Correctness" are among reasons being blamed for people not getting enough cuddles. "Cuddles" is their word (it's the BBC and it sounds kinda cute with the accent) but if you're more comfortable we can call them hugs.

I hope everyone can see the irony in using an impersonal electronic medium to deliver the message about impersonal electronic media contributing to the decline of actual and desperately needed human contact. Together with rampant over-reactionism and rising puritanism this will have us self-flagellating in stone cells, donning hair-shirts and communicating by scribing 21st century hieroglyphic emoticons on plasma screens with papyrus backgrounds. The only live human contact will be with the UPS guy delivering food that you bought from

Hugging is an underrated and under appreciated form of expression and contact. In perusing the internet I found dozens of stories covering the health benefits of hugging. There was even one on the terminally uncuddly Fox News (I guess it was part of that "fair and balanced" thing). There are also dozens of stories about the increasing trend in schools to ban ALL physical contact between students, including hugging. I can understand the concern over inappropriate contact but I'm not sure banning all forms of touching and suspending elementary school students for hugging classmates is the way to go. Something about a baby and bathwater?

I'm half Italian and I'm demonstrative. In general I like hugging but like everything else it can be good or bad. My wife got home yesterday from being out of town. When I walked through the door after work and hugged her for the first time in four days it felt wonderful indeed and I didn't want to let her go. On the other hand a hug at the wrong time and/or from the wrong person and there can be some serious squirming. I had a manager a few years back that insisted on hugging every one of her employees when she handed them their paycheck. If I had liked her I wouldn't have minded so much. But she was the kind of person that made me worry that there would be a knife going between my shoulder blades during the hug so it made me just a skosh uncomfortable. Well, that plus the fact that she bought her perfume in five-gallon buckets and doused herself with it everyday so after the hug you walked away smelling like a old syphilitic french whore, but I digress.

Since this is an electronic message I could be tempted to give you all a great big CYBER HUG {{{{{{}}}}}} and tell you to pass it on. But fuck that. Step away from the computer and go give somebody a real one.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Water, Flame, Wine, Music...Peace

For the third or fourth weekend in a row I've been in the garage (which I suppose is better that being in the doghouse) constructing gruesome artifacts. If you read my Halloween posts then you know that I spent the weeks leading up to the big event building zombies, electric chairs, cemeteries, autopsy bodies and other assorted (and sordid) props and decorations. You would think it would be time for a breather. Not hardly.

My middle daughter is playing Van Helsing (hey, shortage of guys, her good fortune) in her high school production of Dracula next weekend. I told the theater teacher months ago that I would help out. With Halloween over and production week starting, the time has come to pay up. Soooo. After clearing the lawn and figuring out where to put all the decorations (I pity anybody that decides to go in the attic above my garage, it looks like the scene in Aliens where the creatures are coming through the ceiling space...only it's zombies), then yet another trip to Home Depot, I spent the weekend building a coffin. Not just a rectangular box, but one of those really cool old fashioned shaped numbers (I plan to keep it and add it to the decoration lineup). Then I had to figure out how to rig up an effect where half of a bloody stake can stick out of Dracula's chest at the end of the play when he's killed. And at the last minute the director told me she'd really like to have a bat fly from the stage up into the lighting catwalk. It's Sunday night, the stake is done, the coffin is not as far along as I'd hoped, and I can tell you where I'd like to make a bat fly for the director. I'll get it finished. But I was stressin' today.

In my commuting blog a couple of weeks ago I explained how much I value my weekends and the limited time I have with my family. I absolutely love Halloween but as I said, this was my third or fourth weekend either in the garage, Home Depot, or the front yard. It's starting to feel like a job. On top of that my wife wasn't here this weekend. She had a family obligation in Florida and yes, I'm not ashamed to say that I miss her. Badly. The high point of the weekend was without question spending time with my two daughters, that and the kick-ass broccoli-potato-ham-cheddar soup that I made for dinner.

Like I said, I was stressin'. So, as I stood there watching the girls clean up after dinner, and I glanced into the garage at the partially finished coffin and the piles of scrap wood and sawdust, I did what any red-blooded American man would do. I poured myself my third glass of Cab Sav, ascended the stairs, lit a few candles, turned on some Native American flute music, and took a long, hot, bubbly, bath. I sat there listening to the haunting sounds, stared at the candle flame, emptied my mind, and soaked until I pruned. After enjoying a totally empty mind for a while I allowed myself to drift to a Caribbean beach which is where I would desperately love to be for real...for a week, a month...a year. Then I got out, dried off, threw on some sweats and did a Tai Chi routine. Now I feel like a limp dishrag, and I couldn't care less what's happening in the garage. I don't care whether or not Dracula has a place to sleep for the night or whether or not a bat rises out of the mist, whistles the finale from Les Miz and flies up the teacher's ass. I'll think about that tomorrow. After all...tomorrow is another day.

Baths. Christ, what a simple pleasure.

Friday, November 2, 2007

I Are Smart

Okay, I didn't really have anything to blog about today so I stole something from a fellow blogger. Biscuit, I have to give credit. Thank you for giving me something to do while I was putzing around the internet at 11:00 last night.

Here's a quiz to tell you what percentage of the population you are smarter than. Or dumber than, depending on your point of view.

How smart are you? - The Dumb Test

I will warn you that before it gives you the results you will have to go through about 478 pages of advertisements. I think that's the real quiz. Have a great weekend. I'll be busy putting away Halloween decorations.