About Me

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I'm a life-long New Englander, father of 4 challenging kids (I know: I'm supposed to say "wonderful", but while that'd be true, technically speaking, it'd also be misleading), and fortunate husband to my favorite wife of more than 20 years. I've got over 20 years experience breaking things as a test engineer, quality engineer, reliability engineer, and most recently (and most enjoyably) a Product Safety / EMC Compliance Engineer. In the photo, I'm on the left.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Messing with the Layout

Hi! I've been messing with my layout a little, as it has looked to me like there's a LOT more space on my monitor than I use. Let me know if my changes make your viewing pleasure less of a pleasure.

Also, thanks for stopping by my little corner of insanity.

Friday, December 30, 2011

I've Never Been So Well Complimented

If you've never seen the Movie "Return to Me", and you like chick-flicks, you should watch it. It's about a man and a woman. The man is played by David Duchovny and near the beginning of the film his wife dies. The woman is played by Minnie Driver, and at the beginning of the film she's in need of a heart transplant.

You can see where that's going, eh?

This is also Carol O'Connor's last film, and he has a great line when he says to Minnie:

"It's the character that's the strongest that God gives the most challenges to. Now you can take that as a compliment."

If you read my post from yesterday, I'll tell you today that this sort of thing is what has been going on in my house for the last decade or more. With the kids, there have been three broken feet, Sever's disease, and a broken elbow in 2010 & 2011 (all three feet just this past fall); the list just continues. I think that I'd like to be less well complimented!

I do get every now and then the question that falls along the lines of 'how does your family get through it', and it's really pretty simple.

It is my understanding that we all have our cross to bear, and so many folks have their lives much worse than we have ours. We've never gone hungry, though there have been many times when we've gotten paid *just* in time for the mortgage. A childhood friend of mine died in his late 30's, leaving a young wife with three young children. There's a child who was in grade school with my daughter who already passed from cancer. There's a kid in our high school with progeria.

As I look about, and everyone *looks* fine, I realize that they have their burdens too, and I might not ever know of them, nor should I expect to, in my thinking. In my house, we're all still here, and able to enjoy each other. We have relative wealth, as there are so many without homes or food. We live in a time where medical technology is such that we can deal with the various incidents and ailments that have descended upon me and mine...there are resources, and there are many people who are willing to help.

Even as there are a myriad of dolts, idiots, and morons who seem hell bent on making easy things hard, there are also allies, friends, and sympathizers who are well bent on making hard things easier.

So, thanks to all the well-wishers who let me know that although I tend to think such, not EVERYone out there is a devolved, heart-shriveled, slack-jawed, slow-thinking, mean-spirited addlepate.


Thanks to my children, who, in spite of their seemingly concerted effort to fray every last neuron that I've got, are actually very good people, and do typically try hard to do the right thing. So long as it doesn't interfere with their plans to do as little as possible.

Thanks to my lawyer, who's going to help me to dope slap a stupid-ass 19 year old kid and a handful of incompetent doctors. I know that he's doing what he's doing out of the kindness of his heart, and not for any expectation of recompense.

Thanks to my youngest brother, who stands out as a helpful hand whenever I need one, and always has...uncomplaining and unbegrudgingly. Over the years I've learned a lot from the wee bug.

Thanks to my boss, who has been as flexible as anyone can expect with the various shenanigans that have visited of late.

Thanks mostly to my wife, who has put me on more than one higher path, and drags me, kicking and screaming to be a better person.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Please Take a Moment to Vote!

At right, you'll see a little poll. I thought I'd play with that, and with my thoughts on sharing quotes that I've collected. Take a moment to vote on the category of quote that I should post on. You never know: it might just be fun!

Happy New Year!

15 People I'd like to Dope Slap with a Mail Armor Gauntlet

Matt Conlon published a really great, thought provoking post yesterday about listing 15 people you'd like to hang out with. Read it HERE.

I thought long and hard on this, but now's not the time for me to develop such a list. Over the last two years my wife and I have been put through a bit of a ringer:

1) 2010 started with me having a tangled up mass of veins removed from my chest...BEFORE they burst or turned all cancerous on me.

2) Shortly thereafter, the wife was hospitalized with a pretty severe asthma episode.

3) A month later, she needed surgery to repair a bad shoulder. DURING that surgery, when they intubated her, they lacerated her pharynx to within a couple of mm (yes: millimeters) of her carotid artery. She ended up in the ICU for something like 14 days, no food or drink for 10 days. Bad stuff.

4) I totaled my 1-year-old Tundra, after which *I* needed surgery to repair a bad shoulder. No issues with my surgery though...feeling *much* better. Got a replica of the Tundra too.

5) Less than a month after I returned to work, we were having a large party at our house. The truck delivering the tent hit first a telephone pole on the way into our driveway, and then, on the way out, our 26-foot camper as it sat parked next to our house.

6) 10 days later, we were rear-ended on the stop-and-go highway (we were stopped, and the car behind us played the 'go' role). The wife suffered a concussion, brain bleed, and brain contusion, but the quack farm where the ambulance took her didn't tell her that, even though the evidence of it was in the CAT scan they gave her.

7) She spent 6 months out of work (just recently returned there), but en-route needed to have surgery on a hand damaged in the accident, lots of rest, and neuro-testing. She actually had a migraine that caused her to appear to be having a stroke - the whole right side of her body stopped responding...scary that too.

8) She actually lost her position where she works (which was an enviable job and location) and is now going through having to find new work in the company, and is getting bounced around to less enviable locations, which she worked really hard to get out of some years ago...back to square 1, after a fashion.

SO, my list would look more like 15 people I'd love to dope slap with a mail armor gauntlet (in order of who pissed me off most):

1) The stupid-ass just-turned-19 kid who decided to NOT watch the road and put us through a damn torturous half year and cost my lovely wife a job that she has worked really hard to get and be successful at.

2) The moron cop who showed up at the hospital after that accident but NEVER FILLED OUT AN ACCIDENT REPORT, AND DIDN'T GO TALK TO THE KID WHO HIT US. These things made our work with insurance companies that much more troublesome.

3) The incompetent "doctors" who told the wife (who had a bleeding brain AND a bleeding disorder) to take advil (a blood thinner) and you'll be ok in a week or two INSTEAD of telling her "Our tests indicate that you might have a concussion and some other stuff going on...we're going to keep you and perform extra tests to be sure", which would have to have been followed-up with "You've got some nasty things here...we're going to admit you and you need to lay low for a week or two so you don'g get worse or wake up dead". Can you say 'malpractice'?

4) The jackass who hit our parked camper, and then had the nerve to ask me to help him out by NOT reporting the accident, as that would appear badly on his driving record. He first hit a telephone pole, and then a parked camper...I don't think that he should be driving at all!

5 - 9) Just about everyone involved in insurance claims, as they seem to TRY to give you bad and wrong information, which ends up making it really difficult to file papers in the right place at the right time.

10) Ryan Seacrest, for giving us Kardashians.

11) My idiot son for his $650 speeding ticket (last thing I said to him before getting this ticket: "Keep it under 70 MPH". "Ok, dad.")

12) My OTHER idiot son for 2 suspensions from school in the middle of this other crap.

13 & 14) The two complete miserable assholes who precipitated the second idiot son's suspensions

15) The oblivious moron in his big, white, Cadillac Escalade who ran a stop sign and damn near ran me over yesterday while I was crossing a street.

It's a dangerous business, going out your front door. ~J.R.R. Tolkien (Bilbo Baggins)

Friday, December 23, 2011

A Greater Hand than Mine

I was reading a post that Matt Conlon pointed me at on his blog regarding thoughts of religion. You can see that post here, on his blog from February of this year.

As often seems to happen, Matt's ramblings sparked a thought or two in my feeble mind, and I recollected a quote that I've got stored away (one of my many hobbies is collecting quotes; I kind of think that it might be fun to pull one out every now and then and talk about why this particular quote inspired me to collect it...perhaps I can strive to make it a regular posting). That quote is as follows:

When a man does a piece of work which is admired by all we say that it is wonderful; but when we see the changes of day and night, the sun, the moon, and the stars in the sky, and the changing seasons upon the earth, with their ripening fruits, anyone must realize that it is the work of someone more powerful than man.
~Chased-by-Bears (1843 - 1915) Santee-Yanktonai Sioux

Matt and Chased-by-Bears both speak my mind. I was raised Catholic, but not pious by any means. Being an engineer, I find that I have a deep-seated need to understand things, and there are a lot of things that I don't understand about any religion, even my own. But I have to agree with Chased-by-Bears (I'm sure he finds comfort in my agreement with him) that there's a greater hand that was put to work in the machinations of our world.

One thought that I've had, which I read in Matt's post, is why would I have to haul my wrinkled, hairy ass down to a particular building and stand & kneel in unison with a couple of hundred other folks to demonstrate my relationship with God?

Personally, I find God in the forests. After all, God didn't make that church where I attend mass. The church that God made is the natural world. That's where the peace, tranquility, harmony, and REAL power is. You can feel it, if you want to. Either that, or I'm a lot more on towards senility than I was hoping.

Such are the thoughts that Matt sparked in my mind.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Pendulum Swings

So today is the first day of winter. The solstice was yesterday, and that means that the days are about to start getting longer again. *sigh*. The pendulum swings.

I know that this has probably been spoken about and folks are no doubt weary of the conversation, but I'd like to put my thoughts down...

In ancient days, as I understand them ("ancient" meaning well before when I was born), the length of the day was very important to man, whether the society in question was hunter / gatherer or agrarian based. Short days typically meant less time in which to hunt, gather, or...agrary? hehe. It meant less time to get or make food, especially in a northern climate. Bad news, that.

Naturally, that point in the year when the days start to get longer was a big deal at that time, much more so than it is today. So, there was a big festival honoring the solstice.

Ah, but the rub is that in ancient days, they couldn't just look at a calendar and declare: "Yep...ta-dayze th' solstice...git plates on the table, so's I c'n eat...I'mma havin' a beeah".

Ancient astronomers were not able to tell that the days were getting longer until the days actually started to get longer, which was three days or so after the solstice. Where does that land us? The 24th of December. Give them a day to collect and prepare the food and festivities...

Thus, a yule celebration. And, I'll conjecture, as the pine tree was one that would weather the winter days that were to come, ancient cultures looked at it as a symbol that they too, could survive until the spring thaw. That tree is with us today ('cause, as we all know, that pagan yule celebration was shanghaied into Christmas).

Merry Yule!

Saturday, December 17, 2011


So I spent some time recently trying to convince a coworker that Adam and Eve were obviously the world's first Irish. I argued that the fruit of knowledge can only have been a potato: you see, what knowledge-gathering device has ever been better than the eye? And potatoes are chock-full of eyes.

As I drive along the highways, I like to keep my eyes peeled for hawks sitting up in the trees, or flying along on a zephyr. If I see them, I will say "Good morning" or "Good evening". Out loud.

When I was a wee lad, I mis-heard my father talking about the sound barrier. I heard him say "sound burier". For years I pictured an old fellow up in the clouds who would bury any sound that made it up that high. When he told me that the sound burier was broken, I felt bad for the old bloke.

Years ago, when the Mrs. and I were still dating (I was then still lulling her into my inescapable web...gotta love the Pope), we were babysitting for the neighbors, who had a young girl and a young boy. The girl asked me to check her closet for monsters before she went to bed. I did this, set her up in her bed, and on the way out the door said as casually as possible, "Everybody knows that monsters live under the bed anyway."

Later, when we were preggos with our eldest, we were at the OB's office "checking things out". I walked into the exam room while the doctor's assistant was amidst the privates. She asked me if I was the father. My response: "Well, I'm her husband at any rate".

Do you suppose that you get heavier when you fart?

How about when you burp?

I wonder if Weight Watchers has a point value for burps and farts. Is it a negative value?

Have you ever been standing up, riding in a bus when the driver had to jam on the breaks? You know how everyone in the bus lurches forward at that moment? Very dangerous thing, that. That's what really happened to the dinosaurs. When the meteor hit, the earth stopped it's ~1,000 MPH rotation, and all the dinosaurs were hurled forward, relative to the earth, at that speed. Most of them died when they crashed into hills, mountains, or each other. Some small flying ones died because they were hurled into space, others because they became beached, having been thrown up out of the water and still others drown because they were land-dwellers that were hurled into the oceans. Many recovered, and upon standing up to see what the hell just happened, the earth suddenly lurched back into its normal rotation and the surviving dinos were all thrown BACKwards at ~1,000 MPH. Most of the survivors of the stop died when the earth started up again. This left those very few that remained bereft of sufficient members of the opposite sex of their own species, and in-breeding began to devolve them back into fish.

What happened to all the pet rocks? Did they die or something? I haven't seen them in decades.

How hungry was the first person who ate a lobster?

How many people had to die eating blowfish before the safe preparation of them was determined?
"Nope, Hiroshi died."
"Huh...well, I did this one differently, feed to to Keiko."
"Keiko's dead."

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Formula for success of a project

I do a lot of DIY projects around the house. Seems to me that if you're even remotely mechanically inclined you would end up doing some, and if you're a cheap old fart like me, you'd end up doing that many more.

I have remodeled my bathroom (as in down to the studs, big hole in an exterior wall, no floor...THAT kind of remodel), my kitchen (same as above), laid hardwood flooring, pergo (which is an awesome product, really), and many other DIY projects. Having grown up in apartments my whole life (until I bought this house with my young wife and burgeoning family...then only 1 ½ children), my DIY skills have been a learn-as-you-go education.

Over the years, I have concluded that the success of any project can be boiled down to an equation (as an engineer, I like equations). I don't know what that equation is, exactly, but I know the variables, and I know that some of those variables are more important than others.

First, the variables, of which there are four:
I = Information
Ti = Time
To = Tools
Ta = Talent

Information is just that: information. When embarking on a DIY project, you should have a lot of this on hand. Things like 'how do I ensure that my shingles line up tight to each other?' Or 'how do I cut melamine without it chipping like a tortilla'? 'What sort of support is needed for the over-hang on this granite-top that is going to hang in mid-air for two feet?' In some cases, this might become "Can they really sew that back on? Will it work again?"

Research can be performed on the internet (youtube is a surprisingly helpful ally in this area), reading, asking questions of friends, family, or the fellow at the huge home improvement store. I like to ask a large number of people who I think should know the answer. Over the years, I've developed a few favorite folks, as is natural. As I ask a number of people, I figure that if I get the same answer repeatedly, that must be the right answer (or is more likely the right answer). Mind you: not all the experts will have the same answers. Keep asking, look for duplicated advice, and use what's right for you.

Time, I think, if fairly self explanatory: if you want a better result, you have to take your time and do it right. Rushing a project is a certain way to destroy the end result. Or at least, the end result will not be as good as it might have been had you taken the time. You also have to spend some time in getting information, from above. There is a point of diminishing returns, of course; you take too much time, and the job will never get done! I do that all to frequently...there are lots of jobs that I'm still working on.

Tools is an interesting subject (and the subject of another blog: “When to buy that tool”). Having the right tool can sometimes make a job a lot easier, and can sometimes make the job possible. That is, there are some jobs for which you absolutely need to have a specific tool or two.

In the simplest form, this can look like 'you can't drive a nail without a hammer'. Or, similarly, 'you can't drive a screw without a screwdriver'. Ok, you can do both of these things sometimes, but if you're going to be driving nails, get a hammer; if you're going to be driving screws, get a screwdriver.

Having the right tool for a job isn't always necessary. There are many times when you'll be able to get the job done with a close stand-in (for instance, I'm often tempted to, instead of tromping down to the tool chest, use my straight-blade screwdriver as a stand-in chisel when I need to trim out a small piece of wood that's going to be covered up anyway), but it'll nearly always save you time and will very likely get you a better end result. Also, with the right tool a rank amateur can get some things done that they couldn't without that tool.

Talent is actually a two-dimensional facet here. I lump skill in with talent, and I differentiate between the two (else, no need for lumping). To me, talent is some ability that a person is born with: they just know how to draw or sing, or they are really good with numbers, for instance. Skill is something that's learned through study of some sort, whether that be formal training under a teacher / instructor, or whether it be self-learning through trial-and-error.

At the end of the day, for the purposes of this equation, Talent and Skill are put together.

Having a talent for DIY projects can make up for a lot of things. For instance, a person who's got talent can get things done faster than a person without talent; the talented DIYer can make do with not-quite-the-right tool. They also might not have to do a lot of research into how to do a certain project: they just know how to go about doing it.

As a “for instance” to this, when cutting certain acute angles on baseboard, your compound miter saw might not be able to get a small enough angle, but the talented DIYer knows that if you reorient that work piece and change the saw's angle to one that's complimentary to the one that you're after, you can get there. That talented fellow can see this. I, on the other hand, have researched this point, have played with getting it to work, have drawn it out, have measured it, have applied a fair amount of trigonometry to understand it, and I just don't get it. I'm a bit of a talentless hack.

By the way, I've learned to try to NOT get information from a talented individual. I'd rather get it from a skilled individual. This is because, I think, the talented individual has an expectation that everyone can see things the way that they can see them. They tend to answer in not-quite-complete sentences, and expect you to know what they're talking about; they often come across as derisive, apparently appalled at your lack of know-how. Talented people tend to not know how they know what they know, and therefore don't know how to communicate what they know (especially to me: an over-analytical square-peg engineer).

So putting this all together, I've got an equation wherein:
Talent is the most important factor; probably an exponential factor here.
Time is critical...anyone can screw up a project by rushing it.
Information is probably the next most important variable.
Tools are important, but there are usually ways to get around not having quite the right tool.

What does the equation look like? I'm not sure, but I think that I have a handle on the variables and their relative importance. As I've mentioned, I'm a bit of a talentless hack: I take lots and lots of time, I ask upwards of 20 folks the same questions, I look online for information, and I almost always ensure that I've got the right tools.

I also happen to think that DIY projects are very similar to craft projects in general.

So I'm wondering if anyone else has thoughts of how they get through their projects? Where do you go for information, or are you one of those folks who just knows how to do what you're trying to do?

Monday, December 12, 2011

I don't *think* I'm Prejudiced

Just to be clear: I do like a good joke. I don't get offended easily, and I enjoy humor of all tenors, be it religious, ethnic, sexual...whatever. I really don't consider myself to be a prejudiced person. Every element of humanity drives me nuts. Equally.

However, I DO live in America. I hate that there is so much outsourcing of the service industry, and when I have a problem, I end up talking to someone who I can't understand at all.

I can't understand them because of a few reasons that convene against me. Namely, (1) they don't speak English (or American: I kind of like to think that there's a difference, but I'll muddle through on English) well enough for (2) my old ears to hear "loudly", or (3) my mumble-hearing ears to discern (you mumble, I can't understand you...speak clearly, and we'll be fine).

I think that telemarketers in France ought to speak French. Telemarketers in Italy ought to speak Italian. It follows that telemarketers in America ought to speak American (or English, if they must). If you're going to call me to ask me a bunch of questions, you bloody well better speak either English or American.

Why the hell do credit card companies hire the unintelligible to call prospective customers?

>phone rings<
Against my better judgement, knowing that there's no one on the other side of the phone that I want to talk to,  as it is neither my wife nor is it me on the other side, I answer the phone.

"Halloe? Mumble mumble, heavy accent, mumble?"
"Oh, saorrie.  Mumble mumble, heavy accent, mumble?"
"Get the hell off of my phone, remove the marbles from your mouth, and don't bother calling back."

I've had non-English speaking folks call up looking to speak with "Rhina Carlone".

"I'm sorry, there's no one here by that name."

Speaking more slowly and carefully: "There's no Rita Carlson there?"

"Well, there is, but that's not what you said the first time."

"Well, I'm sure that I'm not the only one to make such a mistake."

"You damn well are, dipstick. That's not a 'mistake', it's a different friggin' name. Get the hell off of my phone."

I am continually irritated by the fact that we here in the glorious US of A bend over backwards to teach our yutes Spanish, so that they can communicate with Spanish-speaking folks more easily.

What the frick is that?!?! How about teaching folks who move here English (or again: American)?!? I'm kind of thinking that if I were to move to Spain, I should have to learn Spanish. If I move to Germany, I should have to learn German. Why the hell should I have to learn the language of folks moving into America?

I've heard people suggest that it's about keeping a culture alive. That culture is still alive where you came from; go back there and live in it. OR, come here and live in THIS culture. Learn our customs, and our blasted LANGUAGE.

My lovely wife is an RN. She reiterated to me a story where she had a Spanish-speaking patient once when she was on the labor and delivery floor. This woman was having a baby, and she had a bunch of punk-ass kids (like early 20's) there with her, and not one of them spoke English. She had a bit of a hard time communicating with the young lady to try to assess her status and get her the medical attention that she and her baby needed.

I call them punk-ass kids, because my wife knows a tiny bit of Spanish. Enough to know that all those punk-ass kids spoke perfect, fluent English, but they were getting a ton of fun out of seeing the crazy gringo nurse having trouble communicating with the patient. It was a game to them, and they were laughing at her.

I wonder how funny it'd have been to them if the mother or baby had died because of a lack of communication? I hate stupid people. Playing games when people's lives are on the line. Assholes.

In our high school, the kids can choose between Spanish, French, and American Sign Language (which I think is very different from English Sign Language). To hell with Spanish or French. How's about offering Latin? That's a language worth learning. Thinking on it, I bet it'd be easier to find out what language any given kid wants to learn, and buy them Rosetta Stone in that language. I bet it'd be more cost effective too.

My message of the night:

  • Learn the language of the land in which you live (when in Rome...);
  • When I call the bank, I DON'T want an automated message asking me to hit "numero dos para Espaniol"; I'M IN AMERICA...I WANT IT IN ENGLISH (or, you know, American);
  • If you're a company manning customer service phones, direct calls to folks who are native speakers of the language of the callers (call comes from Poland: rout to a Polish-speaking rep);
I traveled to Toronto once on business, and you can sure bet that I spent time learning to speak Canadian. Eh?

Am I being unfair here?

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Tiny, Little Playlists

So for a while now I've wondered why it is that radio stations seem to severely limit the songs that they play.

That is, by listening to the radio, you would think that Elton John wrote only four or five songs. Why don't they play more (or any) of the other songs?

Jethro Tull is one of my favorite bands, but listen to the radio, and you'll hear Aqualung (Ian Anderson's LEAST favorite song, so I heard him say in an interview), Locomotive Breath, the occasional Bouree or Thick as a Brick. Meanwhile, the best album that Jethro Tull produced (in my opinion) is The Broadsword and the Beast...I have never, ever heard one track from that album on the radio. My next favorite is Minstrel in the Gallery; once, years ago, I heard a track from that on the radio. Dot Com: nothing on the radio. Songs from the Wood? Nope. Just the three or four standards.

Do the radio stations have to cut an individual check to an artist for each song they play? Are they hell bent on driving me nuts? And if they are, how did they know that this is the way to do it? What crazy, malicious bugger decides which songs to use for this nefarious scheme?

What brings this to mind just now is that there's a LOT of Christmas music on the radio. Why the hell is it that I hear Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas is You" about a dozen times every day (which means that after the third note I jab the button to change the channel on my radio a dozen times a day...she's historically easy on the eyes, but hard on the ears), but I so rarely hear the few Mannheim Steamroller songs that they'll play (but that are pretty awesome...I am going to see what other seasonal songs they've made)?

Have you heard Straight no Chaser's "12 Days of Christmas"? It's awesome; one of the best Christmas songs I've ever heard. Listen here (see what I figured out how to do all by myself...I only *look* stupid):

I've heard this on the radio twice this season.

So I'd like to become a bit less ignorant: can anyone tell me why radio stations won't play more songs of any given artist? Why is it that I never hear "Behind Blue Eyes" as played by Roger Daltrey  in cahoots with the Chieftains?

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Don't Ask, Just Tell

So I read pretty recently to never ask your significant other what she would like for a gift (I know, gifting again, right...this one evolves into something different, but it starts here).

The last time that I didn't ask, I thought that I did an awesome job in assessing the sorts of things that would benefit my wife: things that would make her a good deal more comfortable and happy. Of the four gifts that i was most happy with, all four got returned.

I did also once get her (among the jewelry) a Black & Decker cordless screwdriver, as she was continually stealing mine. I got months of crap (ribbing, really) for that, although she uses is pretty regularly and has for years.

One answer is usually clothes. My bit of wisdom: never, never, never, ever get clothes. If the article of clothing isn't the wrong size (which is a horrid sin), it's the wrong color, the wrong style, there's nothing that "goes with it"...the list of likely issues seems endless.

"Goes with it": Strike 1: I'm a guy. Strike 2: I'm an engineer. Strike 3: I grew up with all guys in the house.

This means, of course, that I've got no fashion sense whatever. I don't know what "goes" with what else.

Size in fashion is the most screwy thing in the world.

"What size are you?"


"On what?"

"What's the piece of clothing?"

"Oh, a top."


"On what?"

"Who made it."

Wha??? Why can't designers across the world standardize their sizes so that a size 10 is a size 10 is a size 10, no matter who designed it, no matter who makes it. Shoes are the same. Nike "runs small", but Adidas "runs large". How is it that you can be a 9 in one manufacturer and 9 1/2 in another? Can't these idiots get together and decide that there are so many millimeters per size increment? Or better yet: why not just size them in millimeters? My shoes might be 254mm X 120mm. Or, we might have measurements for across the heel, across the arch area, and across the ball of your foot as well. Nice, specific, and most importantly: the same for every dumb-ass manufacturer.

Of course I understand for tops or pants that it can't be just about height and weight. People are different sizes. Me, for instance: I have a big fat head and a narrow ass, which makes it all the more odd how I'm so frequently looking out at the world through my belly button.

But be that as it may, modern man should be able to figure out how to assign a few different parameters to an article of clothing so that someone looking at it (not wearing it), and knowing what their numbers are can say: "This will fit me." It really shouldn't be that hard.

It's so damn hard and arcane that a person can't even tell me definitively that a particular number will fit themselves. You have to go and try it on and see how it fits.

We were out looking for pants for me recently. Should be easy; I've been pretty much the same size for over a decade. Take a look at what I'm wearing, and get that, right? Nope. Those jeans might have stretched, but I actually got smaller recently. It doesn't seem like I got any shorter, but those damn number changed nonetheless. I'll bet they would have been different had I been at a different store.

It seems like we can put numbers on everything under the sky EXCEPT for clothing. My advice: never, ever, ever buy clothes for folks.

Monday, December 5, 2011

The awesome gifts you would like. Please?

So I was requested to put up an article about what sorts of gifts I would like. This being the holiday season, this is the sort of question that's on people's minds, mine included, and I have to admit that it pisses me off more than a little.

I understand the question; really, I do. And I also know that it comes from the heart. I myself ask it from the heart, but the underlying attitude that it poses from many folks (kids especially, though you can't blame them readily: they just don't understand and it'd be wrong of me to expect them too as they've never known anything else) is just...well, it pisses me off.

The commercialism that Christmas has come to sickens me this year more than it has ever before. Perhaps it's just that times are tight all over the country, perhaps it's that times are very tight in my personal household this particular year due to a car accident that's had my beautiful wife out of work for months with no end in sight. Perhaps I'm feeling old and curmudgeonly.

To paraphrase Jim Carrey's Grinch: "That's what it's all about, isn't it? That's what it's always been *about*. Gifts, gifts... gifts, gifts, gifts, gifts, gifts. And the avarice...the avarice never ends! "I want golf clubs. I want diamonds. I want a pony so I can ride it twice, get bored and sell it to make glue."

For several years now I've longed for time to be able spend *making* gifts for people. I'd have to "skill up" a little, and I think that I'd buy myself a mini lathe to help the process out, but to spend time in my wood shop (which is actually a very, very poor excuse for a wood shop) to make for folks special pen & pencil sets out of wood that I found in what I like to call "my forest". Or small highly polished cedar boxes and chests. Creative clocks, for instance. All sorts of things, and I'd like to think that I'd derive great pleasure and relaxation in the making too. Everybody wins. I'm hoping that my future holds such echoes for me.

I felt a little bad that when the girl (my favorite (only) daughter) sidled up to me last week and asked whether I'd like a gift card from a certain store, or perhaps from this other place, I told her to save her money. I'm very proud of her, as she is thinking of spending her hard-earned money on mom and dad for Christmas, but I need to also let her know that she can do better, and get better bang for her buck.

That conversation expanded some days later, as she was still having trouble with gifting me. We talked about what *I* think the season is supposed to be about as opposed to what *I* think it has become.

'Tis better to give than to receive. Problem: Too many people would rather receive, and for those kind-hearted souls that want to give, there's a subtle insinuation that the giving MUST be done, and it must be done in a non-cheap fashion. 'I have to give *this* much, as that is what they are likely to give to me'. Or the notion that you can't give a not-too-expensive gift for fear of being viewed as a cheap-skate.

Isn't it supposed to be about letting people know we care? About letting people know that we appreciate the positive messages that whisper in my ear when I think on you? Does a new cordless drill say that? Does a sweater? How about an X-Box? And in any event, if I find that there's something that I really want, or that I actually need, I'll go and buy it, so long as I can justify it. And if I can't justify it, you can't afford it. :)

I told her that the very best thing that I could get is Peace and Quiet. That, of course, is not likely to show up, as there are so many of us in the house, and so many of those of us who are there are not quite mature and  are as yet prone to squabbling. So, where do we go? Make me a cake: one of those cinnamon streusel cakes, and put some apples in it. Those are a life-long favorite indulgences of mine, and the effort would be appreciated.

The better idea, for her tastes, was to suggest that she write a poem for me and get it framed. That'd be nice.

Is it just me, or have we lost our way a little?

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Gender Wars

This post is dedicated to Matt Conlon, in response to HIS post, written earlier today. I had written this years ago when I was ranting in the same fashion that Matt did just today at www.mattconlon.com

Echoes, sir: echoes...

It may be just me, but my perception is that there are a lot of messages bombarded at us every day that spout how difficult it is to be a woman today. To be a mom is touted as one of the most onerous professions in the world. The husband is usually positioned as just another one of the kids: useless and down-right counter productive.

You hear all the time how difficult it is to find Mr. Right. Ever tried looking for Ms. Right? Is just as hard. Well, at least I think it’s just as hard. I found my Ms. Right in college; she was my first girlfriend, and she is my soul mate.

We have plenty of comedy in our lives without either one of us having to look like the dolt. My life is every bit as difficult to me as hers is for her. We share most of the house work, and we share raising the kids. Believe it or not, she has actually gone away for a weekend here and there, leaving me to take care of all four kids for several days, and no one has died. I can cook, do laundry, help with homework, clean dishes, wash the floor, vacuum, and bath kids (although I really don’t like doing that).

I’m going to agree that, other than some biological functions, there is nothing in being a man that makes man superior to woman. I will submit a notion that I think has gone far too long unspoken, and that is that there is nothing in being a woman that makes woman superior to man either.

But let’s take a look at modern American media. From the picture that is painted by the television (both shows and ads) magazines, books, and conventional wisdom, the casual observer will take away an image that I think is not only flat-out wrong, but is one-sided.

Sickness: Men become babies when they are sick and women keep trudging along, because (I suppose) they are biologically superior to men.

TV: Men are just plain stupid and inept.

Commercials: Why is it that on nearly every commercial these days you see the woman always knows more than the man (no matter the subject – it could be that they are talking about carburetors, power tools, or athletic support devices)?

Here’s one: the man is on the telephone calling dealers for the SUV of his dreams. You get the impression that this is his sixth or seventh call, and that he’s not getting the information that he needs. The woman, sitting at the computer, finds exactly what the man is looking for in about half-a-minute.

The latest commercial on this slant these days is where the wife finds the husband in the back yard, setting up the power washer to clean the place. "Washing the house?" She asks. "Not washing," says he, "power washing." He slaps his safety glasses over his eyes, and the next thing you know the power washer is going crazy, ruining the nicely set patio table, because the husband is unable to control the power washer. Naturally, the woman has to fix this too.

Or this:
Cosby, According to Jim, Everybody Loves Raymond, Home Improvement, Listen Up, Still Standing, The Family Guy, The Simpsons.

Why is it that TV wives are always smarter than their husbands? Where did Archie Bunker go? Maybe this is why the sit-com is all but a thing of the past? Is this why “Reality TV” has become so popular? Because the scripting on the sit-coms has been so predictable?

Today's sit-coms that follow this formula include Rules of Engagement (one of my favorites, actually), Mike and Molly (to a lesser degree, but the same still), and Last Man Standing.

I do agree that the basic formula is sound, but why is it that every time the MAN is the idiot? How about both of them being idiots in their own way?

I'm not saying men are superior or smarter; we're all stupid in our own right. I'm just saying let's spread the wealth and not be so one-sided.

I'm here for you, Matt. :)

Thursday, December 1, 2011

A Long Drive with a Large Cup of Coffee and a Lollipop

I must admit: I'm not feeling it tonight; haven't been for the last few days. I'm just plain tired of so many different things, I haven't found the gumption to laugh for days.

Ah, well.

During a meeting at work today, one of the upper managers opened what was apparently a carbonated beverage that had been a bit shaken, if not stirred. That's always fun. Reminded me of a recent drive I took with my wife: our weekend away. It should be noted that on trips like this, my wife drives, as she hates the way that I drive (which, in her words, is like an old man), and she's a bit of a control freak.

As we drove our truck northerly, penetrating that much further along the Maine coast, the wife was licking on a lollipop. Not just any pop, this was a barley pop - one of those heavy lollipops that look like thick sea glass mounted to a wooden (not cardboard) holding stick; this one was a blue light house. At some point, she decided that she no longer wanted it, but where to put a half-eaten glob of now-semi-hard sugar?

Well, fortunately, she also had recently had a cup of coffee, now cold, stale, and half-gone. The half-filled Styrofoam cup was sitting derelict in this little cup holder that popped out of the truck's dash. In went the unwanted confectionery, though the largish wooden ball on the end of the lollipop holder caused the coffee cup's lid to not sit properly. It seemed obvious to me that the lid, which had coffee on it still, would fall off of the cup and get coffee spots in my beautiful truck. This, of course, would not do at all.

It occurred to me that if I could push that wooden ball through the cup lid's sipping hole, then the cover would sit properly and NOT get coffee everywhere. A grand idea. Except I didn't think forward the half-minute to where the wooden stick might poke through the bottom of the cup, filling the cup holder with old coffee. Ugh.
And worse: the cup holder holds two cups of coffee, and in the second holder is an upside-down iPhone.

Now, what to do with a leaking cup of coffee? There's really only one answer: out the window with the coffee (not the cup). But this is an operation that must be done quickly, not only to save the iPhone, but also: as the coffee will continue to drip out of the bottom of the cup as I try to move it from the cup holder to the window.

Step 1: hit the button to open the truck's window;
Step 2: pull the iPhone from the growing pool of coffee;
Step 3: grab the cup of coffee, being very careful to put a finger over the hole in the bottom of the cup (to keep that coffee from leaking from the cup);
Step 4: quickly get the coffee out of the window;
Step 5: WISH that when I had hit the button to open that window, that the window actually opened.

And that's the story of how I took a coffee shower while riding in my truck.