27 July 2009

#18 -- Be a hypocrite

So, a while ago, I got married. As typically will happen in situations such as this, some kids eventually came along and chaos ensued. Happily, kids start out as babies. Babies are nice. They’re fun and they’re cute, but they’re also frequently messy and require loads of attention. At some point in the growth process, these things start to change. They become difficult, unruly, and at times downright obstinate, but you still can’t help but love em to death. There does, however, come a place in time where most of us parents would rather just hand the reins over to someone else and step aside for a while. For some this stretch of time can shrink to days and in some cases even hours, but for the large majority of the population, I believe that the “endless days of potty-training” are a nemesis that we all wish could be avoided.

We’ve been through three of these times so far, my patient wife and I. Mostly she’s been through them, I’ll agree, but I certainly got my…well, I won’t say fair share, but certainly a bundle of it. The worst part is that every single one of the three experiences has been entirely different. Wouldn’t be “fun”, I guess, if all the kids acted exactly the same.

Our first seemed to do rather well during the transition time, with relatively few accidents (that I remember), and with the proud parents patting themselves on the back at a job well-done. Unfortunately, the fun had only begun, because for some reason our first decided to do a little reverting and slide back into unpottytrainedness. Not only that though. It’s even worse than that. In fact, I distinctly remember walking into the kids room one day to find our oldest without a stitch on, staring up at me and smiling as she let loose the floods onto the carpet.

Now, how exactly is one supposed to respond to such an insult? Do actions like that not just scream impertinence? Ha, ha! You thought you were done with me, but now that I’m peeing on the floor what are you going to do about it? I just don’t understand the drive for children to push boundaries, but they do it nonetheless. They find them, and then they push and they push and they push. The bad part is that if you don’t hold those boundaries firm, then eventually they’ll end up walking all over you and your supposed authority.

So, we introduce punishments.

These can vary across the board, from harsh to wimpy. Everyone has their own special way of doing this. The point is that in order to avoid incorrect behavior there needs to be a consequence when the “rules” are broken.

Such as, no peeing on the carpet. I mean, seriously.

The joys of our second hit that stage. He was a bit behind the curve. Boys usually are, I think you’ll find. They just take a bit longer to figure it out for some reason. This time around, he’d get dressed, go outside to play, and come in fifteen minutes later with wet shorts. Mom would change him, and he’d go back outside, and fifteen minutes later…repeated ad infinitum. Eventually he made it. All praise and hallelujah.

Our third, on the other hand would get dressed in the morning, go out to play with the kids, and just stay out there whether she was wet or not. This meant repeated checking and asking and…man, does this stuff ever end?

Now, all this progression doesn’t really mean that they’re “cured”. Oh no. There’s still copious holding, and grabbing, and crossing of legs, dancing and squatting and any number of whacked-out body positions that will hold things back. We still have the occasional child racing to the bathroom at speeds approaching the proverbial roadrunner. Still, by and large we are through the accident stage.

Why do they do this? Well, I very much remember wagging my backside as I sat on the classroom floor in first grade, needing to use the restroom, but not wanting to miss out on the very wonderful story that my teacher was reading to us. I waited and waited and waited, and finally Mrs. B noticed me and told me to go to the restroom, that she’d wait for me to get back, but not making it. In fact, I didn’t even make it out of the classroom. Good buddy of mine and I were at the nurse’s office shortly thereafter--me, for waiting too long, and him for laughing himself into release. It’s just so much fun to be a kid. Who’d want to spend the time on something as boring as hitting the facilities when you could be out playing with friends, or listening to stories, or a myriad of other grand activities that fill our days.

No one, that’s who. Instead, they’d rather wait until the last minute, dancing and jigging the whole way until they just can’t take it anymore.


A few months ago I was perusing the advertisements for ShopKo and found that once more they had their el cheapo bookshelves on sale. What luck! I thought, for I had recently come upon a barrier in my spatial capacity for shelving books. (I believe that I’ve mentioned before that I’m an addict…) Through some means (I’m actually still not sure which) I talked my lovely wife into letting buy one of these bookshelves.

We all took off for the store, bought the thing, brought it home, assembled it, and then came the fun. I pulled nearly all my books off the shelves, installed the new shelf (right next to my side of the bed, unfortunately. One of the down sides of having a small bedroom, I guess), and set to organizing and categorizing my books.

Removing price tags, fixing torn dust jackets, grouping by author and series, checking that all titles were on my list of books (so I don’t buy multiple copies of the same book). I lost myself in the work. At various points in the process my kids would come in and help out, or mess things up, or try to talk to a very preoccupied me. The time flew by. I couldn’t have told you how long it had been, and to tell the truth I didn’t really care.

Then, as I was nearing completion, I noticed something about myself. I was dancing. No, there was no music playing on the stereo, in my head, or otherwise. Still, I was shifting and turning and sitting in ways that I hadn’t in a LONG time, and I suddenly made the realization that I had to use the restroom. So, what did I do? Continued organizing my books of course. What kind of question is that? It didn’t take very long though until I hit that critical point and had to bail. Afterward, I was able to return to my books and finish the fun.

So these days, I tend not to be too harsh on getting after my kids for dancing a little. Hey, what can I say? Yes, I might be a hypocrite, but I’d still like to think that this experience taught me something about being distracted to ignorance. Plus it gave me a chance to laugh at myself, which can never be a bad thing. Keeps me humble.

03 June 2009

#17 -- Have regrets

This post has been a long time in coming. A long time. It's one that I've been thinking about for forever, and waffling between writing it and not. In the end, I decided that I need to post it. One, to get some of this stuff written down somewhere. Two, because I really want to make people think when they read my blog. Yeah, sometimes I try to be funny. Sometimes I'm writing to prove a point. Mostly though, I want to be able to write the stuff that gets people's gears turning. And I think that this might be one of those.

Unfortunately, I feel like I need to give a disclaimer at the beginning of this one. This stuff has been buried, deep, for a long time. But just because I'm putting this on my blog doesn't mean that I'd love to talk about the specifics associated with this post. In fact, I'd never talk about the particulars of this blog post with anyone. And I mean anyone. I don't care who you are, or what relationship I have with you. I will not talk about it. I don't mean to be rude. I'm just telling you how it is. So please, don't test me on this one. Okay? Thanks.

And now, to the heart of the matter.


Lots of people have them. They're all over the place floating around, getting in the way, popping their heads up at the most inopportune times. If there's one piece of advice that I've heard over and over, it's that we should always live our life so that we won't have any regrets. And right now, as much as I can, I do my best to live by that standard.

But it hasn't always been that way. I've made some pretty stupid decisions along the path that my life has taken. I think that everyone does to some extent. But there's one particular time in my memory that haunts me continually. It never lets go. No matter how hard I try to forget, no matter how badly I want to let go of it...I can't.

Kids are stupid, yes? Now, I'm not talking about that ten year-old neighbor that comes over to your house, takes your kids toys, and then leaves them lying in the street, or in the middle of your driveway, or even in the other neighbor's pool. I'm talking about the grown up kind. The ones that think that they know everything, when in reality they haven't the first clue.

For me, there was one particular time of my life, when I was away from my family and the world that I had grown up in. I was still learning who I was and what I wanted, but was doing my best to be a good person and make good choices. And in the chaos of that period, I became friends with two people in particular. Two people that should have been the closest friends that I had during that time. They should have been the last ones to suffer from my stupidity, from my poor choices, from my selfishness. Yet they did. And worse yet, it seems, even today, as if they were the only ones to be hurt when all was said and done.

The first, a girl, I'll call M. The second, a guy, I'll name R. Foremost, for anonymity, but also because when it comes to this subject, I find that I'm still a coward.

I became friends with R and M at about the same time. There were a bundle of us that would all hang out and enjoy one another's company. We'd eat together, and go to the movies, and watch tv; play sports, stay up late, and stare up at the nighttime sky. I think that we all became good friends during that time, but R and M rose to the top of the pile for me.

I considered R to be one of the best guy friends that I had at that point. He was really bright, spontaneous, contagiously funny, and just all around a great guy. I like to think that he thought similar things about me.

I dated M for a while, if you could call it that. I never really did all that much to be considered a boyfriend, but I suppose that for a while we were an item. I was pretty new to the scene, with very little experience behind me and no idea what I wanted out of a relationship with someone. Just that I liked what I was seeing. But my problem, which I can see now but couldn't then, was that I didn't know who I was. I was too worried about what the guy in the next booth was thinking about me. Too worried about someone else's opinion that shouldn't have mattered a lick. But like I said, I couldn't see it. So, things with her kind of fizzled as my time counted down.
Down to the day when I had to move away.

The days were full and fun and crazy. But then in that last week, I made a decision that made R completely turn away from me. I can still remember that point, the very second, when I realized just how directly he had been impacted by this decision I'd made. I still get a hollow feeling in my chest when I think about it. I can't help it. He didn't talk to me the next day. Or any day afterward, for that matter. Moving day came and went, and I had to move on.

Time away from M was odd. I ended up writing to her a handful of times while we lived in different states. I'd like to say that our relationship grew during that time. I don't really know if it did. I know that I opened up to her in those letters more than I had to anyone else in my entire life. And maybe it was all just stupid stuff, but I don't ever remember her laughing at anything she shouldn't have. Just the stuff that I really wanted her to. I thought for a while during those months that I might have some future with this girl that had chosen me where there were so many other options. But it wasn't to be. Why? Because I was stupid.

A few years later, I tried to contact her. I sent a quick email, asking her how she was doing, what she was up to. Her response was short, but cordial. I emailed back, commenting on some worry I had that she might not want to talk to me. Again, she responded, this time questioningly and still short. I remember thinking, when I read that last email of hers, "Wow, I don't think she understood me." The next time I responded, I found that her account had been deleted. A short time later, I went back and read those emails again, and after reading that last one of hers for the second time, I thought, "Wow, I didn't understand myself."

I hadn't realized until that point just how deep my regret had gone, how far down it had buried its head. I realized that I wanted her to hate me. Why? Because I hated myself. I hated what I had done, what I had decided, where things had ended. How they had ended. My two emails were dripping with that expectation. Every word seemed to point to the fact that I had hoped that she'd just rip into me with claws bared.

As I've been thinking about my experiences in relation to this, I've found that I have that same hatred of myself for driving away my friend R as well. I want him to hate me. I expect him to. And if I saw him on the street? I'd fully expect him to pummel me until my body was black and blue, till I couldn't stand upright any long, until I finally blacked out and he could finally bring himself to walk away from me. And would I do anything to stop him? No. I don't think I'd raise a finger to stop it. Again, why? Because I expect it. Because I think I deserve it.

The problem with my expectation in each case is that R and M are good people. They've probably completely forgotten all aout this mess. Moved past it at least. I doubt they think about me at all any more. Why would they? But I can't say that it's the same for me. I think about those two all too often. I have good days and bad ones. Okay, being truthful, sometimes I have bad weeks. But I get through them.

Now, I don't want you to get me wrong. I don't regret where I am in life right now. On the contrary, I'm very happy with my life. But I just wish that I had done things differently in connection with these two. More than anything, I do. Is that too much to want?

This post really isn't for me. I'm not writing this with any sense that sharing this somehow absolves me of my fault in the matter. And it's not for R and M. I'm not looking for them to somehow stumble across my blog through a random twist of fate and see just how sorry I am (or even how completely tormented I am about it). Yeah, I'd love to patch things up with them if I could. If I'd let myself. But this post isn't for that either.

This post is for you. For the readers. In reading this, I hope that you can take away the message that I hope to convey. That you really do need to live your life so that you don't have any regrets. Use that noggin of yours. Don't make choices that will hurt yourself. Don't hurt the ones you love. Why? Because you'll hate yourself for it. Now and for a long time afterwards, you'll hate yourself for it. So love them. And stay happy.

Live to have no regrets.

15 April 2009

#16 -- Forget the power of the wind

So, I was going to call this one:

Learn about aerodynamics...the hard way,

but decided that it just didn't accurately describe what this post was about. I mean, I've already learned about aerodynamics in school. I've taken classes on fluid flow, and compressible flow & shock waves, and turbulence. I actually understand the basics of aerodynamics. I've learned why wingtips on airplanes are bent upward, and how lift is created by the flow of air over the wing's shape (called a foil). I've learned about what turbulence really is (not the jittery motion of the plane) and even how the shape of the internal foils within a jet turbine engine change the pressure of the air inside the turbine and ultimately make the airplanes move. Not to mention the fact that I didn't really learn this lesson the hard way either. I almost did. Let me assure you. I'm getting ahead of myself though.

So, those who know me know that I suffer from frequent headaches. It's a problem that I've always had for as far back as I can remember. Headaches and me -- we're a pair. Anyhow, recently I went through a rash of "remedies", searching for the one that was going to free me of this monkey and let me live a normal life. After several tries, I resorted to one possibility that I swore I'd never try: a chiropractor.

Now, don't get me wrong. I know that chiropractors do a lot of good for a lot of people. They have ways of manipulating bones and such that solve loads of problems for those that are in pain. I just have a difficult time believing that they REALLY know EXACTLY what they are doing when they start popping people's bodies in all those funky ways.

Anyhow, I went to this chiropractor who did gave me his song and dance, cracked my bones a few times, and did a decent job of helping to alleviate some of the pain that I've associated with the pre-headache regime. Unfortunately, he did something to my middle-lower back along the way that really screwed things up.

Suffice it to say, I stopped going to see the guy, and the problem with my back persisted. I'd wake up with horrible backaches. Mostly muscular pain. It was limiting the amount of time that I could lay down on anything, and ultimately resulted in me throwing my kids foam mattress onto the floor and sleeping on it to avoid the regular pain of the morning.

This lasted for less than a week before my wife said we were going to buy a new mattress.

We did need one. Really we did. Had this first one for nearly nine years. It was time for something new. And hopefully (I was crossing my fingers at this point) a new mattress would help to solve my issues with morning back pain.

Furious shopping ensued.

We ended up getting the $600 mattress at the local store instead of the $1500 Seely for obvious financial reasons. I am still a poor college student. I have told myself that money from my first advance for my first book will go toward two thing: buying a REAL mattress, which I will love, and a trip to Hawaii for my wife and I. But I digress.

So, we found the mattress that we wanted after some deliberation. Then, one dark and not-yet-stormy night, I set out for the mattress store with my American Express in hand. We'd been to the same store earlier that day and had been told that they had a California King-sized version of the mattress that we wanted and could get it that day. So, imagine my surprise when I'm sitting at their desk, after they've swiped my card, and they say that they don't have the mattress there at that store, but that it's in their warehouse, about 20 miles away.


So, they guy says that they can deliver the mattress tomorrow, or I could go and pick it up at their warehouse.

Now, that's not exactly the choice that I heard when they said those words. Because, you see, I'd taken our old mattress and dropped it off at DI (believe I've mentioned that second-hand store in previous posts) on my way to the mattress store. So what I heard was:

Either you can go and pick up the new mattress at our warehouse, 20 miles away, or you and your wife can sleep on the floor tonight.

Well, I really didn't feel like I had much of a choice on that one.

So, it was off to the warehouse. I got there in one piece, with the sky threatening to begin raining on me, and after only a few shennanigans found myself loading the plastic-enveloped mattress onto the top of my minivan. I pulled out a shank of rope from the back, and started to.

And then this awful thought popped into my head:

You know (I said with a grin) this could become another blog post for me. I could call it:

Lose a mattress on the freeway.

I should have stopped right there. I know I should have. Especially after the incident with having to dig my car out of the snow bank. But I didn't. I kept right on tying the thing down, blithely skipping along the path of emminent destruction with a grin the size of Texas on my face. That would never happen, after all. I'm good with knots. I was a Boy Scout.

Ramp to the freeway.

Things looking good.

Spedometer at 35.

Things still wonderful.

Spedometer at 45.

Everything fine and dandy here.

Suddenly it sounds as if the world's biggest zipper races down the top of the van and I look out and up. The front of the mattress is about three feet off the top of the car. Well, okay, so I didn't pull out my measuring tape and make sure it was exactly three feet, but it sure did look like it from that vantage point. I'm all freaking out, cursing myself for even mentioning the blog only minutes before. On go the hazard lights and I get down to about 40 MPH as other cars are whizzing past me with driver's heads cocked awry, each trying to see what idiot has attempted the Car-Top Mattress on the Freeway routine this time.

Luckily I got to the next exit in one piece with the mattress still tied to the top of my car, and proceeded to take surface streets back to my house, never once exceeding the critical speed of 40 MPH.

That was a close one, let me tell you. And $600 never felt like so much as it did when I saw that mattress up in the air threatening to take leave of me with nary a care for what I wanted it to do.

But I learned from this experience, let me tell you. I did. I learned that next time I'm doing something, no matter what it is, that if I have any particular thoughts along the lines of:

You know, this could make a great blog entry. I could call it...

that I should turn and run from said circumstances.

Case in point:

Less than two weeks following the aforementioned circus, I found myself at church playing basketball one Saturday and needing to take a moment to visit the commode. I entered said facilities with my keys in my hand (for some inexplicable reason) and made for the nearest stall. I needed to put my keys somewhere and thought for one brief second that the top of the toilet tank looked like a likely resting place for them. I laid them there carefully and had a thought come to mind.

You know, I said to myself, this could make for another interesting blog post. I could call it:

Have my key ring fall into a toilet full of...

Well, you get the point. Suffice it to say, I removed my keys from the top of the tank and placed them on the floor. After taking care of things, I retrieved my keys and returned to play some more ball.

You see, I do learn. Sometimes, it just takes a while to sink in.

07 January 2009

#15 -- Break another one

So, I've decided that I should just stay off of toilet lids. They just weren't made with people like me in mind. They need to make 'em out of stainless steel or something. Anyone know where I could get one like that?

#14 -- Have to dig myself out

This is a story about fate or karma or whatever you want to call it. It's that overlying power that seems to resonate throughout the world and will quite frequently turn to bite you in the butt. In this respect more than any other, it reminds me, not so fondly, of my toilet seat.

So, first let me say that I'm an Arizona boy, through and through. I've been living in Utah now for more than a decade, and still I feel like if it's going to snow that it'd be better if the stuff just fell on the grass and roofs, and stayed off of things like streets, and parking lots, and most definitely the sidewalks. As such, I don't think that I've fully gained the proper respect for what a good snowstorm's capacity for annoyance could be. That is, I didn't have one until tonight.

For some reason when I got in my minivan, preparing to make a quick run to the public library and to our favorite super-mega store, I thought how funny a blog entry named "Have to dig myself out" might be. But I didn't have to worry. I mean, I don't live in Wisconsin or Montana or anything like that. We just don't get that much snow here.

Enter karma. Insert butt. Copious pain to follow.

You know, I don't think I have much of a proper respect for the power of karma either.

Anyhow, yesterday it snowed a bundle. Something like a foot. For me, a desert-raised city boy now living in Utah, that was quite a bit, but nothing that might cause annoyance. So when, a second storm decided to ride in on the tail-wind of the first and dump another foot or so on us, I didn't think much of it either. Even when I started noticing piles of snow that were taller than me, found my leg sinking to the knee as I tromped across what should have been the lawn, and noticed that the level of the snow around my car came clear up to the bumper, it still didn't much phase me so much.

Eh, no big deal, I thought, as I climbed into said minivan and shifted into reverse. I'll just drive right out and make it to the library before it closes. Boy that blog entry sure would have been a good one.

Over the next ten minutes or so I proceeded to get myself royally stuck. The tires spun, the car rocked, we made it eighteen inches back, and then came forward once more. I was sure that if I just turned the wheel the right way, that I'd be able to climb right out of the depression I'd made in the snow. Out of the car I came, repeatedly, in an attempt to clear the way with my car-window scraper, slapping at the piled snow like a kid pulling a toothpick through a sponge cake. Back in, rock the car, spin the tires. Into the snow to dig some more, chunk up the ice I was making through friction.

Before too long, I had worked up a good sweat. In fact, it had started dripping down my face and neck and really got quite annoying. Why was I so blasted hot? I wondered. Looking around, I noticed for the first time that the heat inside the car was blowing full-bore into my face, and was quite warm due to all the engine revving that I had been doing. Not so hot then, just the snow melting from within my bird's nest of hair. That problem was solved easily. With the heat off, I realized that the radio too was blaring. How had I missed that? Radio off, and suddenly I could really hear the engine whine. Bonus. I'd be out in two seconds now.

Back to work I went. Rock, rock. Forward, back, repeat. After a few attempts, I noticed that my tires were now up over the curb and I was tearing the grass out from underneath the nice pack of snow we had. Oops. It was only a few more minutes before I had really gotten myself stuck good. So good in fact, that I couldn't move the car at all.

And the snow just kept on coming. Ah, the lovely snow.

It took me another ten minutes to get myself unstuck (with much luck), and the car back to it's original position. Well, almost it's original position. As it ended up, I had shifted it in the passenger's direction about a foot, up onto the grass. Well, I decided that I had to do something, or the manager of the complex would string me up by my toes the next day for ruining his grass.

Enter shovel.

Another ten minutes of back-breaking labor, and the way was clear. Then I got my wife out to steer as I pushed on the front bumper, and to my great wonder and amazement the car was free to leave. And it had only taken me forty-five minutes to do it. My but what fun this stuff can be.

Never let it be said that I don't learn from a lesson so forcefully stuffed into my face. I immeditely added "Ice Melt" to my list of groceries, and said good-bye to my wife for the second time that trip.

Well, there was no Ice Melt at the store. Yeah. Guess everyone got there before I did. Wonderful. So, I decided that good old non-iodized salt would take care of the problem just as well, and bought two cans of it. It's all the same right? Actually, I have no idea what Ice Melt salt actually is, so don't quote me on that. It went on pretty easy though. We'll see how it worked tomorrow morning.

As I was finally coming back into the house from this wonderful adventure, a recent conversation I had with a friend of mine came to mind. He said that his father (a very wise man) had a very good reason for living in Arizona: you don't have to shovel sunshine.

And after this experience, I only have one thing to say: A-men.

28 June 2008

#13 -- Wait to shop

Been trying to get people to play softball on Saturdays for the last few weeks, but just haven't been having a lot of luck at getting anyone out to play. Sat at the field this morning for about a half-an-hour before giving up and heading over to the local supermarket to pick up a few groceries. When I got out, I noticed that it was about five minutes to ten and there was a store right across the road that I wanted to visit. They happened to open at ten o'clock and so I made my way across the street and parked my car.

The store is called Deseret Industries, and I love to visit it. It's a store that is pretty much (I think) only here in Utah. Not sure if the LDS church owns the store, or just sponsors it but it's pretty big here. Really, it's just a second-hand/thrift store. People can drop off stuff whenever they want, and it's not very often that I drive by and don't see a car or two dropping off some stuff. I love going there because they have a pretty big book section where I can buy hardbacks for $3-$4 and paperbacks for less than a buck. Just makes my day to be able to walk into the place and find a great buy. Of course, I'm quickly running out of room at home to store any more books and my wife keeps "softly suggesting" that I not buy any more books. It's just so dang hard not to. Yup. I have a habit. At least I'll admit to it. :)

Anyhow, as I drove into the parking lot of DI, I noticed that a large number of people were milling about on the sidewalk near the front doors of the store. Now, I've seen the commercials about Mervyn's that has the lady sitting in front of the glass window repeating, "Open. Open. Open," as she blinks her hands open and shut, and I've even arrived at a Border's bookstore a few minutes before opening a time or two and waited with the other one or two people for the store proprietors to unlock the doors before we could go in. But seriously, there were probably thirty or forty people standing at the doors, waiting for the starting bell.

I sat in my car for those few minutes, listening to some great music (Load, by Metallica), and at the top of the hour got out of my car and headed towards the waiting mob of people. I was about halfway there, when the glass doors slid open, and said mob started funneling through the opening. As I walked, I looked around and noticed that there were probably about a dozen more people weaving their way through the parking lot, along with me, towards the storefront.

I came up to the doors and noticed that there was a semi-offical looking guy standing behind them finishing his job of flipping all the locks. He glanced over at me with a somewhat flustered look and I asked him if he had that many people standing outside the doors everyday. He responded that he did, but that usually they ran into the store after he unlocked the first door. I chuckled a bit at that, but he said that he was quite serious. They actually ran into the store. I'm guessing this is so they can find the best deals first and get out before someone else snags 'em from them. Eh. People.

I wandered through the outdoors section, looking for a used bike seat for my youngest kid. No luck. Then I mosied on over to the furniture section, hoping to find a decent chair for my kitchen table. Again, for the youngest. Decided that the high-chair just wasn't good enough. Actually had some luck there. One of the employees asked me if I wanted to buy one particular chair that I was looking at. He said that he only had two of them. I told him that I only wanted one. So, he slapped a pricetag on it that said $5, and I threw it over my shoulder. Hoping that this great find would soothe any possible confrontations after I got home, I headed towards the back of the store to find some books.

Truthfully, I was pleasantly surprised to find what I did: a hardback copy of Stephen King's Duma Key for $4; The fourth Temeraire book by Naomi Novik (also hardback) for $4; a christmas CD of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and the Orchestra at Temple Square, $4; and the biggest surprise: all ten books in L. Ron Hubbard's Mission Earth Series in paperback. All ten.

Despite the fact that I found the kitchen chair AND the Christmas CD (which my wife was really quite happy about), I still got blistered when I got home for all the books I had bought. Luckily, I had stacked one of my shelves with paperbacks in a very uneconomical way, and so after a little reorganization was able to find places for all the new books. Phew!

And at the end of the trip, I couldn't help but be pleased with the things that I had found by heading into DI at opening time. Usually, I only make it in some time after work, after everything has been picked over by everyone's greedly little fingers for the entire day. So, maybe it'd be worth it to make a weekly stop at DI on Saturday mornings. Maybe I should show up those ten minutes before opening time each week, and wait with bated breath for the click of the doors, and the whoosh of others feet as we all scramble in to find the great deals. Maybe it'd all be worth it?

Nah. Waiting to shop just isn't for me.

18 June 2008

#12 -- Laugh at another's dilemma

So I had just gotten to school today when the power in the building went out. At that point, I had to assume that it had gone out for the whole building, and not just my office. Everything was completely dark. With the understanding that I'm an engineer, and as any good/typical engineer I work in a small brick room with no windows at a cubicle with nary a bit more than just my computer and a few papers atop the desk, I'm sure you can appreciate just HOW dark it was. Took me a good three minutes to get out of the room and into the hall that was partially, but poorly lit. I tell ya, you never know just how long three minutes actually is until you're wandering around in the dark for the entire time.

Because the power was out and I therefore had nothing feasibly able to accomplish, I decided to head down to the small convenience shop here on campus and get a drink. After working out this morning with a friend, I was completely smashed and really hoped that a Vitamin Water (genius drinks, people--go out and try one) would help perk me up. Well, unfortunately the power was out there too. Apparently, it was out over the entire campus, and it didn't take long before the sounds of fire engines and ambulances came along one of the nearby roads.

To pass a little time, I sat down on one of the outside benches (people were being herded out of all the buildings at an alarming rate and we were all told to stay out until the power came back on) and tried to do some reading. Really not enjoying this most recent book, but getting through it nonetheless. Fifteen minutes later, the convenience store was still not open, and so I decided to return to my office. Power on. No network access. Nuts. Back again.

By the time I returned to the convenience store this third time, they were re-opening their doors and so I waltzed in, hoping to find my self-promised drink.

As I was passing the registers and the flurry of activity surrounding them, I couldn't help but notice a guy approaching said registers with an energy bar and a drink in his hand. He plopped the bar down on the counter and took a long pull from the previously opened drink container.

Now, I need to take a moment to admit to a tiny pet peeve. I find it EXTREMELY annoying for someone to start consuming any food/beverage before they've paid for it. I don't know, it's just something that's always bugged me. I just can't see that any item that I'd like to buy is really mine until AFTER I've paid for it. Once, I even asked a clerk at Wal-mart if this practice bugged her. She said that it didn't for the most part, but once she had had a customer come through her line with the empty peel of a banana that she had already eaten. And, in case you might have forgotten, bananas are sold by WEIGHT. Uh-huh. Yeah. So, anyhow, I saw this guy, rolled my eyes in his general direction, and turned to walk on past.

Then my ear caught one of the clerks behind the counter saying to this guy, "Sorry, our registers are still down, and I don't have any way of charging you for that stuff right now."

I turned and saw him roll his eyes and give out a big sigh.

I just had to laugh. HA! And not a thing there was that he could do about it but sit and wait for their networks to come back up because he had already opened the stupid can and taken a drink.

Serves him right.

As a side note, I might mention that I returned approximately fifteen minutes later (after another boring dip into the aforementioned book), pulled my choice of tasty beverage from the cooler, promptly paid for it, and walked out a happy customer.

27 May 2008

#11 -- Think I wasn't an Engineer

It's been a long time since I came to the conclusion that I was definitely an engineer. Back in high school, things were a bit hazy. Didn't really know what I wanted to do or be when I grew up. My chemistry teacher (regular and AP...yes, I was in AP chemistry...geek) suggested that because I "liked" chemistry and math I should be a Chemical Engineer. So, when my college apps came around, I signed on as such and never looked back once.

Today, we had a visiting lecturer at school, and so I went to his seminar; part to listen, part to show my face, and part for the donuts afterwards. the lecturer graduated from my school a few years ago with his MS in ChemEng, has done some industry work, and is now, apparently, a possible candidate for one of the open faculty positions here. Anyhow, I just got back from the lecture, and I'm still a little dazed. Not from the presentation; that was fine, nothing very "over-my-head" there. The oddity came with two comments that were made. One by the presenter, and the other by another guy in the crowd.

So at the end of this guy's presentation (which was about modeling efforts and their applicability to controlling industrial processes) he mentioned that his brother had put together a contest for his family. The brother lives in Utah, and he built an eight-foot snowman in his front yard near the beginning of the year, and had everyone in the family guess how long it would last before it became just a scattering of coal/carrot/sticks upon the grassy ground.

When the proposed contest was announced, this guy said to himself (paraphrased), "Okay, I'm an engineer. I have some basic understanding of the principles at work here and a bunch of school/work books. I should be able to come up with a quasi-accurate model and predict how long this process will take with a decent degree of precision. (Convection, radiation, historical temperature cycles, etc) " So, he broke out the books, stayed up late for a few hours, and put together a semi-coherent model that he felt would give a good approximation of "Frosty's" demise time. His answer: June 6th.

Well to say the least, it's not even June 6th yet, and as part of his presentation, he had posted already a picture of the scattered remains of the snowman in question. The winner was apparently the brother that made up the challenge. He guessed March 13th and was spot on. Now, the guess isn't the thing that got me. What got me was the fact that this guy actually spent a number of hours working up an engineering model to predict the time to melt a snowman. Not really something that I'd do. At that time, I shrugged it off as just one of the oddities, and not something that would come up again any time soon.

I mean, I had heard a number of people mention things like this before. One guy that I had some undergraduate classes with had a dad that would make his own lip balm. By hand. Then there's that whole Project Euler thing on the internet. They're all over, sure. I know that there are definitely people out there that like to do things like this on their free time. I just never thought that I'd personally come across two of them in the same month, let alone the same hour.

So, after a few questions and meandering answers, this guy in the audience raises his hands and makes a comment about said "snowman competition" and how it reminded him of something he had done once. He said that he watched a "Mythbusters" episode (which is a great show that I'd recommend heartily to just about anyone, almost as much as I'd recommend "Dirty Jobs", which is probably the best show on cable tv nowadays) where they set out to prove that you couldn't light a Christmas tree on fire using only strings of Christmas tree lights. He said that they came to the conclusion that someone couldn't light a tree on fire with only a string of lights.

Well, this guy didn't like their conclusion obviously (he'd been told that Christmas trees do this more often than zero times in a trillion) and so what does he do? He busts out his engineering books and builds a model to try and disprove Mythbusters. Numerous hours of tedium ensue.

Now, like I said earlier, I've considered myself to be an engineer for some time now. I enjoy the process of solving problems, I've enjoyed math and science since I was a kid, I grew up considering myself to be part of the "geek" crowd. So why not? Why not, you say? Well, let me tell you why not. I don't think that I'd ever in a million years decide to break out my old engineering books and try to build a model of anything during my spare time. There's too much else that I'd rather be doing. And so, for the first time in a LONG while, I found myself wondering:

Am I really an engineer?

I don't know if I've answered it yet.

23 May 2008

#10 -- See my "geek genes" in action

Okay, so, I'm a geek. I will freely admit to it. I'm studying chemical engineering, working on a doctorate degree in fact in the field of rocket propellant combustion. Yeah, uber-geek. I love science-fiction and fantasy. There are very few times when I'm in public that I don't have my nose stuck in a book; I even take my book to the grocery store to read whilst I would otherwise be "wasting" time standing in line. I enjoy video games (despite the fact that they are probably rotting my brain...), loved the LotR movies, and even wore glasses for most of my up and coming years as a child.

And yet, I think, that there are also parts of me that belie my apparent nerdiness. For instance, I love to participate in sports; I sincerely enjoy being in the kitchen, slaving away at some culinary masterpiece (anyone that watches food network can vouch for the fact that geniuses like Emeril Legasse and Alton Brown are anything but nerds...okay, well maybe Alton Brown is, but he sure is fun to watch); I'm fairly outspoken (when I choose to be) and take on responsibility with a decent amount of competence.

So, I'm not all geek.

Just mostly. :)

And that's why the most recent trip my family took to the library was so impactful for me. My wife had told me at dinner that the library had a few books on hold she needed to pick up. We needed to drop off a few movies that the kids had gotten a while before anyhow, and so after finishing with the grub, we piled the kids into the car and took off for the Provo City Library.

The trip was much the same as many others have been. After my wife grabbed her two books, we proceeded to chase the kids around the Library trying to keep them from screeching too loudly, or from pulling "too many" books from the shelves. I wandered the aisles with my boy and we found a few pirate books that he seemed interested in at the time. Getting more movies for the kids was a fiasco, with our youngest grabbing one movie after another and throwing them onto the carpeting behind her. We explained to our two oldest for the umpteenth time, that the library only allows two entertainment dvds and two educational dvds to go home with us, and that each of them could take one a piece. Lots going on; near parental overload.

Along the way, whilst my wife was looking for a small chapter book for our oldest daughter, our youngest daughter wandered off. I asked my wife where she had gone and she responded that she had just gone around the corner. Being the incredibly paranoid parent that I am, I immediately went looking for her. Down the main aisle, one...two...three...boy, I could have sworn that my wife had said "just" stepped around the corner. Maybe she had gone the other direction? Four...five...by this time I was nearing the end of possible rows of books, when lo and behold said lost child toddles around the corner of the last row of books (yeah, she's going to run track in high school) with a book and a large grin.

I chuckle because she's obviously having fun, and she turns away giggling with her book. I grabbed her and then took the book that she was holding, turning to the shelves to find where she had taken it from. As I did so, I happened to notice the title of the book:

Star Wars: Jedi Order

:) Ah, could a parent be any more proud.

On the flip side, this revelation will probably worry my wife to no end. Sorry, babes. But, what can we do?

Just love em. Just love em.

15 May 2008

#9 -- Put glue on my nose

Well, at least on purpose. I guess I've had lots of opportunity to have glue on my nose in the past: all the way from playing with those nasty honey-looking glue bottles as a kindergartner, all the way up to accidental transfer when trying to seal the cracks in the foundation of my condo with Liquid Nails. But no, this time I actually, purposefully, gleefully, put glue on my nose. It was the traditional white kind, what most people call Elmer's glue.

You remember that stuff don't you? In third grade the kids used to put it on their hands and rub it around, then let it dry and peel it off like dead skin. They all thought it was so cool. And our teachers, obviously, thought that it was a complete waste of school resources. Plenty of my friends got after-school detention for wasting the good-old Elmer's glue in that fashion.

I don't think that my third grade teachers would have been any more impressed by my use of the glue in this case.

So, a few weeks ago, my wife told me that she read on the internet that if you put Elmer's glue on your nose and let it dry that it would act like a Biore strip and pull the black heads out of your skin. Don't think that this was the first time that I had heard of this substitution, but I thought, great! My nose is the one part of my body that totally grosses me out because of the sheer capacity of volume that it contains for housing blackheads. She did the whole glue-on-the-nose thing for a couple of nights, and so I figured that I might as well try it out as well.

Thus, I found myself rubbing a generous portion of white Elmer's glue onto my nose and then sitting down to watch a new episode of Lost. That hour flew by, and afterwards I got up and retired to the bathroom to pull the dried glue "skin" off of my nose and see the results.

Well, I have to say that it looked like the glue-facial did do something. I couldn't tell though if it actually pulled any blackheads out of the skin or if it just pulled all of the hair out. It definitely DID do the latter, but the former was never clear. I think that in order to make an actual determination I'd have to repeat the experiment.

As such, during my last visit to Wal-mart I picked up a small box of Biore strips. I figured it was all in the way of science, so dishing out nearly seven dollars for the eight (six--with two for free!!) strips was somewhat justified despite my continuing status as a "poor college student." I was definitely not disappointed with the real deal.

The two "free" strips that I found in the box were Mandarin-something scented and so I grabbed one of those, followed the instructions, and slapped it onto my nose. Unfortunately, I guess my nose is somewhat longer than the average nose because the strip only extended part of the way down to the tip. A minor annoyance in that the tip of my nose could be construed as being the biggest collector of blackheads. Ah well. Despite this fact, after applying the strip, I sat down at the table and transfered all of the story ideas that I had gotten over the past week (written on random pieces of paper and shoved into the pockets of my shorts up until that time) to my official "Story-idea Notebook." I was very proud of my work, and afterward removed the Biore strip from my nose, which didn't come off as easy as the glue, let me tell you. Ouch.

The strip took even more of the hair from my nose (miniscule, white, and nearly invisible unless they are sticking out from a hardened Biore strip), hair which I didn't even know that I had up until that point. BUT, it also took out an amazing amount of the smaller blackheads that had before been littering my nose with their general existence. This was quite obvious. Ha, ha! Alas, the big ones remained. I figure I'll try a few more strips and see if any difference is made with repetition.

In the end, I think that I decided that the glue-on-the-nose thing doesn't really work except as a cheap "wax-job." The real Biore strips seem to do a decent job. And yet, after all of this, I'm still left with the big, ugly, blackhead riddled nose of my yesterdays. Now, my wife has bought some fancy exfoliating skin treatment stuff from Mary Kay and has suggested that I try that. I don't know if I'd go so far as to actually put Mary Kay stuff on my face. I am a man after all. And I might just get laughed out of the Man Club for thinking such a thing. Blackheads it is then.

Edit(10 Aug 2010): I noted today--with some hilarity--this comic and realized that I wasn't alone. http://xkcd.com/777/

30 April 2008

#8 -- Get hemorrhoids

Avoid these, every kind, at all cost. 'Nuff said.

23 April 2008

#7 -- Let a girl pay

I remember the first time that I saw her. She was short and fit with dirty blonde hair, bent over the disaster of her bike and the load of school books that had scattered across the black top of the parking lot. The bike looked like it must have been twenty years old; it even had one of those old book clamps that sat just above the back tire. She didn't look like she was having such a great day.

I had just gotten finished with the application process for entrance into a local community college near where I lived in Phoenix. (For some reason, still totally unbeknownst to me, I had decided to stay home for a semester instead of returning back to real college life at BYU.) So, I did the only thing any single male of comparable age would do when presented with a beautiful girl in a distressing situation: played the knight in shining armor.

The bike fit easily into the space behind the rear seat of my parent's faded red Ford Aerostar minivan. Real beater of a car by that time, but hey it was transportation. She only lived a few miles away from the school and gave good directions.

Her name was Shauna. We talked for a bit about random things--I can't remember any of the details now; just small talk though. After about ten minutes, I pulled up in front of her house and helped get her bike out of the back of the van. She carried her stack of books, and I left thinking that I would never see or think of her again.


As things would have it, the plans that I had made that night to take my little sister out to dinner fell through and I was left with nothing to do. So, I decided to do what any completely insane nobody would do and drove my red minivan back to her house, knocked on the door, and asked her if she had plans for that night. As it happened, she did. But she gladly changed them so that we could get together instead.

We hung out a few more times, and during one of these "dates" I decided to drag her to the grocery store and buy some ice cream and the makings for hot fudge. Sounded like a good idea at the time. The closest store was an Albertson's so we jumped in the go-mobile and jetted over. Once there, we grabbed the things that we needed, and as I made a guess as to how much everything would cost, I came to the uncomfortable conclusion that I might not have enough money to cover it. It was only like seven bucks. I fretted over the issue though over until we were nearly next in line, and then quickly asked Shauna if she had any money on her. She did--three dollars--which she casually handed to me.

As it ended up, I had enough money to cover it. Made it under the total by something like seventeen cents (my worries hadn't been unwarranted after all). Anyhow, as I picked up the sack of groceries and we were walking away from the register, she said, "You're not like other boys." "How's that," I asked. "You let girls pay for stuff."

At that point my chest nearly caved in completely. I felt like the biggest heel. Something about being practical (I had just gotten home from an LDS mission, had--prior to visiting the store--seven dollars to my name, and hadn't yet found a job) tumbled out of my mouth, and I felt even worse at having made up some stupid excuse to cover my inability to provide. At that point, giving her the three dollars back just seemed like it'd be a travesty of some sort or other, and so I kept them. I never did ask her what she meant when she said what she did. I mean, was she saying that I was some sort of goober for making her pay for anything, or was she glad that she had been able to contribute to the date? Mabye she had been forced into keeping her wallet in her pocket by an overbearing boyfriend in the past. Who knows? I certainly don't.

When I got home, I put the three dollars in my wallet and tried to foget about them. But I couldn't. The next day, I pullled the three bills out, folded them in half once and then again, and slid them into one of the inner pockets of my wallet (ie, not in the billfold section).

There have been many times since then that I have pulled out those three dollars and thought about them and what they represent. Yeah, I still have 'em. And every time that I come across them, whether I'm cleaning out the massive tornado that I call a wallet or I'm just looking for something I think I stuck in there sometime before, I remember Shauna and the decision that I made to let her pay for something on that date so long ago.

But did she really pay for anything? You know, I think that she did; because those three dollars have made a larger impact on my life, than any carton of ice cream or pile of hot fudge ever could have. They bought a part of me.

22 April 2008

#6 -- Love my toilet seat

Yes, yes. I love my toilet seat. Like I've said before, this will be a blog about anything and everything that I never thought I do. And this is definitely one thing that I never thought would come to pass. Here's the story:

A while ago, I decided that my toilet could use a new seat. The old one's rubber bumpers on the bottom had broken off, and it would slide around underneath me when I'd sit down on it, and was pretty much falling apart in general. So, I visited my friendly neighborhood all-in-on-super-mega store (you should all know which store I'm referring to...) and bought myself a new toilet seat. Of course, it was one of the cheap ones; I am still a college student after all and about as rich as one of those instant mock-cheesecake pies you can buy at said mega-store. Anyhow, got the thing and brought it home and installed it. Like a charm. And everything was grand.

That is, until the following day.

I noticed as I sat down on my new toilet seat that evening, that the little twist nuts that had been supplied with the seat to hold it to the porcelain base had come loose. As I was only slightly annoyed at this, I bent down under the toilet rim and tightened the screws once more.

The next day, they were loose again.

This pattern didn't have to repeat itself very many times before I became supremely frustrated with the setup and decided that I'd fix it. Stupid toilet seat wants to get the best of me does it. Well, I'll just show it what kind of engineer it had chosen as an opponent. At my earliest convenience, (read: the following Saturday, as I never have any free time available to me that is not contained within the hours of a Saturday) I ran down to the local hardware store and bought a pair of wonderful little things called lock-nuts. Ha-ha!

They went on wonderfully (a quarter turn at a time with a hex-wrench. (If you've never attempted to tighten lock-nuts on the underside of a toilet seat before I would suggest avoiding it) after just shy of an hour had passed. With my frustration now gone (no more nuts coming loose!) and lots of reason to gloat over my victory, I stepped away from the toilet with the understanding that I wouldn't have problems with that seat any time soon.

Any time soon ended up being about two weeks.

Don't get me wrong, the lock-nuts worked like a charm. Unfortunately, they worked too well. For I was cleaning the bathroom one day, standing on the closed toilet seat, wiping the walls down with bleach-water to avoid any unwanted growths (I really need to install that bathroom fan...) when the seat shifted and let out a mighty crack. Upon inspection, it became quite apparent that the seat (the donut-shaped portion, which is the necessary portion of the seat, of course) had broken.

I hung my head in defeat...and ignored the problem.

Not the smart thing to do.

It wasn't more than a few days later that, while "resting" upon said broken toilet seat, I got my first chance at understanding just what it feels like to have a cow take a great big bite out of my backside. Oh! Luckily, the jaws of the mighty beast opened just wide enough for me after a scant few seconds and allowed me to extricate my throbbing posterior from its grasp.

Alas, I was not the only one to succumb to the bite of this rabid beast, and to say the least we all learned very quickly to lay a small section of layered toilet paper over the hungry fissure before resting any portion of our anatomy upon it.

I am ashamed to say that the replacement of this toilet seat took much longer than it should have. My parents bought us a new toilet seat for Christmas (ha, ha, thank you very much), but it was a wooden one. So, we had to exchange it, again at the local hardware store. My wife finally broke down and did that, and even installed it for me this past week. (Love you babes!) How nice was that?

So, now we have a brand new toilet seat once more.

One that doesn't bite.


17 April 2008

#5 -- Take the scenic route

This past weekend I drove myself and my family down to Phoenix for the weekend to spend a little time at my parents house. All my brothers and sisters came. Anyhow, normally this trip consists of traveling from Provo to Nephi on I-15, from there to Salina across the back roads, and then down 89 all the way to Flagstaff. From there on I-17 down to the loop 101 and then west to my parents home. A few weeks ago, however, a good friend of mine suggested that we take the scenic route of 89 (called 89A of all things) that stretches from Kanab, UT down to just south of Page, AZ. My wife and I had talked about taking that path before, but had never done it because it would just add more time to an already long day/trip, not to mention the application of my base engineering instincts that tell me to make everything as simple as humanly possible. My friend though, said that the view off the rim was absolutely amazing and that we should really just take it so that we could see the view. And it'd only add about twenty minutes to the drive. Not bad, I said to myself. And if the view was as good as he said it was, the slight detour might just be worth it.

Little did my friend know who he was talking to. My wife's family grew up taking the scenic route. They would go on trip after trip after trip, driving across long distances like water flows under a bridge (continually). And my father-in-law LIVED for the scenic route; the monument, the lookout point, or any other excuse he could find to stop the car and enjoy nature, our nation's history, or just life in general. He just loved it up. But from the way that my wife and her siblings talk about it, it's surprising that they ever made it anywhere after setting out for a particular destination. Always another sight to see along the path of life (read, roadway--no detour is too long for the experience). A favorite memory that is frequently brought up while they sit around the dining room table, or a low-buring campfire, is my sister-in-laws comment in a moment of frustration, "I don't see what the big deal is! If you've seen one tree, you've seen them all!" Lovin' it.

So, we hit Kanab, and instead of turning to stay on 89, I rolled on forward and took 89A by the horns. We hit Fredonia fairly quickly without much to see. More of the same as far as scenery goes. Then the road started winding upwards, back and forth, left and right, higher and higher towards the upper echelons of the atmosphere, towards Jacob Lake. About this time the kids movie got over. Well, the movie my son was watching got over, and the one my oldest girl was watching suddenly became very unappealing to her. Who knows why, but it did. So, my wife had the pleasant job of trading out their movies. And, of course, there were complications. The dvd players didn't want to work right: finicky, annoying, frustrating. And then the remote stopped working. Low batteries or some such, we figured. Anyhow, this made for lots more joy in her involvement with the movies. By the time she was done, lunch (or just possibly...age?) had done her in with car sickness and she was about ready to puke as we made our way down out past the tree line.

The vista spread before us was truly amazing. Jaw-dropping, in fact. But, unfortunately, I was the only one to be able to enjoy it in the slightest. The kids were zoned-out on Cinderella and Diego, the baby was asleep (really debatable as to whether or not she could really enjoy the view), and my wife was getting ready to redecorate the inside of the car with the contents of her stomach. And so it was, amidst trying to keep the car on the twisty, curvy, tilted roadway that wound down the side of the rock rim, I saw the view. But the view was great.

And it only took an additional twenty minutes.

05 April 2008

#4 -- Appreciate my brakes...

as much as I did one day this last week. Man. Okay, so background. The master cyllinder on my car has been leaking for a while now. I know that's a bad thing to have go on your car if you're still prone to drive it around every once in a while. Anyhow, it leaks really fast if I fill the brake fluid reservoir up to the top until a certain point (at which point the brakes really do still work, they're just not very tight) when the leak ratchets down to something very small. About a month ago, my brake fluid was so low that I had to press the brake pedal all the way to the ground to slow my car at all. So, one day this past week, I got into my car and on the way out of our condo complex, I tested my brakes to see that they were still in working order. Only for some reason, I was having difficulty thinking, or maybe it was because my car was having trouble going so slow without my right foot continuously on the gas pedal. To make a long story even longer, I decided to test the brake pedal with my left foot. (My driver's ed teacher would have killed me if he saw me doing this. Brake pedals pushed with the left foot are truly a big "no no", and none of you should learn to try this. Don't learn to drive with a leaky master cylinder either for that matter) So, my left foot found the pedal by touch and pressed it all the way to the floor without so much as even a hint that it was going to stop my car. My heart immediately plummeted into a bottomless pit, leaving my chest feel as if it was housing the world's largest hot air ballon -- completely empty. Now, even though I've never been barrelling down the side of a steep mountain in said car before--complete with Grand Canyon sized drop-off rapidly approaching--I think that I can say with some authority (some now, only some) that the feeling would have scarcely been different than that which was running rampantly through my being at the time. Yes, I know, the blacktop I was driving over was perfectly horizontal, but try to tell that to my rapidly-beating heart (I could hear its echoes from deep within the bottomless pit in which it sat). My mind immediately began whirling, trying to grasp onto possible ways to stop my car that wouldn't result in it gaining a nice "Totalled" stamp across its deed. (The car is nearly 24 years old after all..) Cars were parked on both sides, no one coming from in front of or behind me, but there was this rather nice hill that was coming up... All this and more; through my head all at once. Then, after what seemed an eternity, but in all reality was probably only a scant few seconds, realization came to me that my left foot was not on the brake pedal, but had in fact pressed down upon the clutch pedal. Ha. Silly me. The clutch won't stop the car. Well, not without totally runing the transmission. (Throw it into reverse and ta-da! Stopped car. Complete with fewer running parts.) Naturally, I picked my foot up off of the clutch pedal and placed it down upon the correct one, and I felt a level of deceleration sufficient enough to calm my beating heart. Ludicrous, you say. Why not just fix the car? Well, there are 200 good reasons right now why I shouldn't fix it. And besides, why would I want to fix the car and miss out on all of the excitement?

29 March 2008

#3 -- Visit a real Boulangerie

So, first I must apologize for probable mistakes in capitalization for the next few...well, for a long time more than likely. I do most of my blogging from my new laptop. Because it's new, all of my kids like to play with it; including my one year old. Unfortunately, the only thing that she really does with it is rip the keys off of the keyboard. Her little fingers fit just perfectly between the adjacent edges of each of the keys, and POP! off they come. Currently, her record for getting keys off of the board before her mother notices her doing it is five. Anyhow, as luck would have it her enjoyment has cost me my shift keys. Yes, both of them. None of the others have broken yet; just those two. Ah, the life of a parent.

Now, on to the goodies. Back in high school, I had a few teachers that really impacted me in a positive way. One of these few was Mrs. Boulanger. For all you non-frenchies out there that's "boo-lawn-zjay". She was my Sophomore English teacher, and was probably the best English teacher that I ever had. I remember that she used to use some of the most interesting ways of getting us to learn. Most of them included group acitivities and tended to not focus so much on individual reports and such. Our big project that year was to put on a play of Julius Caesar. Everyone in the class had lots of fun, and really learned a lot, I think, about the play itself as we did everything. My most memorable moment of the play was the truly horrifying moment when, while we were watching the recorded version of our play (post-processed and edited by one of the kids in the class), it came to the time of Caesar's death, and I--playing one of the death dealers--grabbed my cardboard sword and plunged it into Caesar while my tongue waggled from an open mouth. In fact, it was much worse than that, because as part of the editing, that classmate of mine ran a slow-motion triple-plus repetition of that tongue waggling event. But we all had a good laugh. Probably the thing I remember most about Mrs. Boulanger was her tact and simple encouragement for me when, after stuggling to write the first lines of a poem (as an assignment) I came up with a Haiku about zits. Despite the stupidity of the topic I had chosen, she helped me along and gently pointed me in the right direction. And despite this, the school board tried to fire her that year for not following cirriculum. Shame on them.

I've thought about her and the help she has given me a number of times since leaving her class. Most of them have come while I was writing something and having a dfficult go of it; not sure where to go or not confident in how things were coming out. So, when I finally decided to go into the new local Boulangerie, I couldn't help but think about her again. I've been wanting to for some time, had heard about it from a few friends of mine, and only today decided to make a visit. I had my two oldest with me, so it wasn't exactly what I'd call a relaxing visit, but I do have to say that I was incredibly impressed with it. Loaves and baguettes of bread lined one wall. Glass display cases were filled with croissants and pastries, cheesecake and other delicasies. I only ended up buying an "apple croissant" and a "pain du chocolate" (chocolate croissant-looking thing), that both tasted great. And the people behind the counters even looked/talked like they were French. It's legit. With the plethora of businesses that pop up and fizzle out in our city, I really hope that this one is able to keep its head above water and will stick around for a while. Not only will it allow me the chance to endulge in some fine French pastry every once in a while, but it'll also help me to remember more often that one English teacher of mine that made such a significant impact on me. Granted, I'll never forget her, but it sure is nice to be reminded occasionally that there are people like her out there ready to help, ready to teach, ready to share. I can only hope that when my kids get into high school, that they can have someone as good as Mrs. Boulanger be there to help them along the way.

27 March 2008

#2 -- Learn to talk to birds

Now, please notice that I said talk to birds, but not necessarily understand what was being said. I had a memory come to mind this morning while I was still in my bed. My wife had given me our youngest to watch over whilst she drank her first bottle of the day. The memory was of another morning that I spent in Phoenix, which is where I grew up. On normal days during the school year, I would be up at o'dark-thirty to go to early-morning seminary before heading off to another day of high school. On this particular morning (like many others, I'm frequently ashamed to admit) I had slept in and missed my carpool ride to the church. After getting ready for the day I went out to the kitchen to see what had happened for breakfast, but found the kitchen empty. And so, without anything better to do, I stepped out into the backyard for who knows what reason. (What reasons do teenagers have for anything? None, it sometimes seems.) I sat down on the bench of our picnic table, and hadn't been there long before a small bird flew up and landed on the fence between our yard and the golf course. It seemed no different from many of the other birds that I had seen before and proceeded to start whistling, most likely trying to find company (a guess on my part). For some reason still not at all clear to me, I decided to whistle back at the bird, trying to duplicate it's chirps and trills as best I could. Time passed quickly while the two of us sat and "talked" to each other. Truly, I don't know what I said to that poor, lonely bird, but it seemed to enjoy the company and stayed on the fence clear up until the time I decided to go back into the house, nearly a half-hour later. (Recently, I have wondered if in fact that bird had been a wood-pecker and that I had unwittingly invited it to stay at my house for vacation. My father has been complaining as of late about a very tenacious variety of this brand of nuisance and is doing his best to get rid of it. If this is the case, I apologize father.)

I think that the reason this memory came to the forefront of my thoughts was because of the gurgling and gooing of my daughter after her bottle. We were laying there for something like 15 minutes while my wife was getting ready. I burbled and gaga'd right back at her the entire time. And even though I had no idea what I was saying, I hope that the important part got across: that I love her. As I love all three of my kids. Being a father is nothing like being a teenager. But, I like to think that taking the time to love your kids is something important that all fathers need to do. True, most times we don't know what we're really saying to them (or rather, what they're hearing) when we try our best to converse, but I really think that it's the time that matters, and not necessarily what we're saying. Its kind of like talking to the birds.

23 March 2008

#1 -- Write a blog

Kind of an odd thing to say, I know, but it really is the truth. I've tried twice now to post things to a blog on a regular basis, and after just a few weeks (both times) everything just kind of fizzled. I had, therefore, come to the conclusion that blogging just might not be for me. Then, last night I woke up about 4am after having had an interesting dream and said to myself, "I need to have a blog." I even knew what I'd call it. And because I know you're all just dying to know what kind of stupidity must have been swirling through my mind at 4am on a Sunday morning--when any rational individual should be sawing logs instead of thinking about blogs--that would have influenced me to try this for a third time (third times a charm?), I'll include it here in its entirety for your enjoyment/torture/benefit.

A woman that I go to church with (in my waking life...) had just exited the building where she works as I was passing. It was dark and she was scared of getting mugged, so she asked if she might walk with me as I went home. I told her that would be fine. Here, she mentioned that she needed to visit a friend of hers and would that be okay with me if we were to stop there along the way. Certainly. Why not? For somre reason it did not occur to me that she was walking with me and not the either way around. Thus, I followed her to an apartment where I found that her "friend" happened to be a guy that used to work in my research department up at school. What a coincidence! She entered the apartment and he came out to talk to me (no idea what she was doing inside). Quite soon, a set of bright lights broke through the darkness of the night behind him. They belonged to a big tractor/trailer rig setup that came up right behind this past co-worker of mine, screeched to a halt, and then started rolling backwards down a hill. Suddenly, it was noon (lots of bright sunshine about) and the rig was heading towards what I knew was a large canal, full of water. My research compatriate and I, ran towards the truck and watched as the entire thing was pulled into the rushing waters within the concrete canal. (I'm grew up in Arizona, and the whole canal thing must have come from my time there. I'm not completely mad. Just partially so.) We swung to follow the truck as it was swept downstream. As I approached, I could tell that the truck had sunk far enough below the water to nearly cover the entire windshield, and I became worried that the person driving it might be drowning. At once I decided that I could be a hero and save this guy from a most certainly unfortunate watery grave. The air instantly became as thick as molasses. It felt as if I was running in slow motion. My mind, however, continued on at breakneck speed. Frustration built up in me at my pace. And then from nowhere, came the idea that I should write a blog! As is, no one else would know what I had done, being a hero and all. I decided that I could call it: 101 things that I never thought I'd do; and number one on the list could be: save a trucker from drowning inside his own cab. What a concept!

Unfortunately, I didn't get much further in this development before my body jerked awake. I came to with the unreasonable urge to start a blog; this one. In honor of my dream, I kept with the title, but decided against the topic of the first post. Yes, granted, I am a writer of fictional stories. Still, I think that I'd like to keep to truth in my posts on this blog, and steer clear of anything that isn't completely true to see just how interesting life can be.

So, that's where I'm starting. And we'll see where it all goes. Cheers.