Saturday, March 31, 2007

Science Can Be Tasty Too!

I just finished reading a story by the GPF news service that I found amazing (and a little tasty). Apparently, a nutritional biologist with a small private University in Skanskoon, Illinois has perfected a new hybrid fruit. Here’s the kicker, the hybrid creation was inspired by a drunken induced night during which the biologist was listening to Jimmy Buffet.

When the scientist awoke the next morning, he found a sketchpad containing his plans for the creation of the new fruit. The story says that he sobered up and began work on the new Mangwi – a mix of the Mango and the Kiwi. He worked on the project in his spare time and with the help of a group of his best students who earned extra credit for their assistance. You know, the stereotypical image of scientists is not that complimentary, but you have to love a biologist who gets inspiration for his work from a combination of alcohol and beach music. I bet his lab coat has an aloha pattern on it, he was educated in the 60s in San Francisco (seriously I mean NO offense to anyone else that this statement applies to) and says ‘dude’ a lot.

According to those who have tasted it, the Mangwi is juicier than an orange with a soft light brown fruit inside. Its taste has an almost floral quality to it and it can easily be recognized by its tan and pink skin and baseball size. One food critic called it the most explosive mix of elements since the creation of the atom bomb in the 1940s. After initially being sold in local Illinois farmer’s markets, the Mangwi was then sold in larger mid-west grocery chains to rave reviews, despite its pricey $1.38 per Mangwi price tag. It has been so popular in fact, that Dole recently announced they are working with the biologist and his team on a Mangwi juice for release later this year. Consumers can expect Mangwi to hit their local store shelves, regardless of where they live, by early fall.

My palette drools at the possibilities and combinations that this biologist may perfect next. I’m almost tempted to write his University with a few requests for his students’ graduate work. First up would be a blend of the coconut and an edible version of the cocoa bean. In my mind, it would create a low-fat natural version of a Mounds Bar. I don’t know that a biologist would really be the right person to do this one, but how about a new Dorito with Nacho flavor on one side and Cool Ranch on the other. Then there are the strictly seasonal hybrids like pumpkins that grow infused with cinnamon spice. Hey, how about a cranberry-apple hybrid. Those flavors are mixed all the time in fruit juices so why not make the process easier and turn it into one single fruit? We could call it the Crapple. Oh wait, never mind. That doesn’t sound too appealing, does it?

There are a lot of freaky things going on in science these days, like cloning and self-cleaning ovens. It would be so easy for the wrong person to harness the power of science for evil or selfish purposes, like cloning Salma Hayek or breeding an angry and aggressive six-foot version of the Meerkat that is able to speak German but sing like Clay Aiken. In these times, it’s good to know that science is also being put to good use with the creation of the Mangwi. Is there a Nobel Prize in science for the development of a tasty tropical hybrid? There sure as heck should be!
Yes, this was my lame attempt at an April Fools Day Post. Sadly, there is not at this time anything called the Mangwi. There is also not a Skanskoon, Illinois. Although if there is, please email me because I’d really like to visit sometime.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Top Ten (And A Half) Things Said Before Or After My Open-Heart Surgery

I post a Top Ten and a Half List every Friday (or in a reasonable proximity to it). Why ten and a half? Because I don’t want to be accused of stealing a great idea, of course…

So, here are the top ten (and a half) things said either before or after my open-heart surgery for valve replacement:

11. That saw isn’t dull, is it?

10. Now, when you cut out the old valve, you’ll wake me up so I can see it, right?

9. Oh, you say you stayed at a Holiday Inn Express last night?

8. Say, did you hear the one about the anesthesiologist and the narcoleptic?

7. When I run from now on, will I make sounds like Lee Majors in the Six Million Dollar Man or is that extra?

6. Doc, you did a great job. Let me buy you a steak. Oh, the cow is sacred to you? How about pulled pork then?

5. Does this new valve make me look fat?

4. Can I go home now? I’m starting to lap the old guys when I take my mandatory walks around the nurse’s station.

3. What do you mean you can’t find one of your surgical clamps?

2. Seriously, no one else hears that ticking sound?

And the number one thing said either before or after my open-heart surgery…

1. You’re working on my heart, so explain to me again why you have to put that tube up my…

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Want A New Xbox? Go To Mexico.

Reuters recently reported a new plan aimed at reducing the number of guns and drug related violence in some of Mexico City’s neighborhoods. The city’s new mayor announced that anyone who turns in a gun will be given Xboxes or computers. I don’t know what the price of an Xbox runs in Mexico, but this sounds like a great deal.

According to the story, handguns will get you an Xbox but larger guns like machine guns will earn you and your family a brand new computer, complete with a copy of ‘Computer Hacking and Virus Creation For Dummies’ and ‘Identity Theft Made Easy.’ I guess that means grenades are worth a PDA and anything larger than a machine gun will get you a new GPS navigation system for your car. Since the program will be run with the strictest of anonymity, I imagine there will be a lot of new Xboxes being handed out. Let’s forget reform and just sit around playing video games all day. I guess scared straight has been replaced with played straight or rewarded straight?

It seems to me that the best way to reduce drug violence is to begin eliminating the actual drugs. I don’t know if Mexico City’s Mayor is taking crime reduction tips, but how about an all-expense paid trip to Disneyland for anyone turning in drugs. The program could be taken a step further to help curb other types of crimes. If you steal a car and turn it into the authorities, you can be given a new Razor scooter. Purse-snatchers who return the purse (and wallet) get new Gucci handbags and anything returned to the home it was stolen from will receive a Best Buy or Home Depot gift certificate. Vandals who volunteer to clean up their graffiti will be rewarded with beginner art sets from JoAnn’s or Michael’s. I guess if you are accused of assault and promise to apologize profusely to the victim, you get a free punching bag. Counterfeiters who agree to destroy their fake money as well as its fabrication equipment will be rewarded with $500 American dollars for every 100 bills destroyed (wait a minute, that doesn’t seem right). You can see the benefits awaiting a career criminal who decides to clean up their act. Why oh why did I never buy a gun?

I have no idea how Microsoft feels about the program since they are the creators of the Xbox and undoubtedly, the computers being given away contain Microsoft Windows. My guess is that the computers will have Vista as their operating system, which is really a nice touch since I believe Vista is Spanish for ‘waste of money, just stick with XP.’ I can see it now when drug lords and dealers start lining up outside of Mexico City police stations demanding their machine guns back when they realize the Vista-loaded computers they were given in return aren’t compatible with their printers, scanners and digital cameras.

You know, I’ve wanted a PlayStation 2 for three years now. Maybe if I anonymously throw a rock through a window and then return the rock to law enforcement I can get one. That seems like fair compensation. I wonder if all the Xboxes being given out will contain any video games. Here’s a tip: ‘Grand Theft Auto’ might be a popular choice.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Why Yes, I Do Chew Wrigley’s Doublemint Gum.

I was all set to celebrate the fact that today is ‘Quirky Country Music Song Titles Day’ but as I sat down to write about it, I couldn’t create any quirky titles I wanted to share with you. The best I could come up with today was ‘I Liked You Better When I Thought You Were A Woman’ or ‘Yes I’m Your Mother-in-Law, But You’re My Stepson.’ I then thought about just writing down the lyrics of Barbara Mandrell’s ‘Sleeping Single In A Double Bed’ but I can’t think of anyone who would actually enjoy that, although it is a great quirky title.

As my mind continued to try and pilfer a writing idea from the news or the workplace, I decided that I would focus on what at times has been my greatest source of laughter and amusement. No, I am not talking about the jealous astronaut in diapers, The Hoff or Oprah’s latest book club pick. I mean being a parent to my identical twin four-year-old daughters, Lucy and Ethel. Of course those aren’t their real names, their real names are Laverne and Shirley. Yes, I’m kidding. We thought that was too cruel so we went with Marcia and Jan. I wanted Ginger and Mary Ann but we feared that Mary Ann might get an inferiority complex. Yes, still kidding.

Seriously, since Natalie from Almost Interesting Musings On Life nominated me for the Thinking Blogger Award (Thank you very much Natalie! I’ll make my 5 nominations as soon as I can), I figured I better compose something semi-literate and quasi-smart today. Whew, who knew it would be so tough. I think I passed out twice trying to write something tonight.

It seems that the world of twindom is all around me. I had twin Uncles, my boss has twin boys, a longtime coworker has twin sons, another coworker just had a family member who gave birth to twins (I realize that sounds like a stretch), good friends of ours who live a few minutes away have twin boys and my wife’s best friend just gave birth to twins. My wife also knows several women with twins around town. Oh wait, that might be due to the fact that she joined a local mother of twins club. At times I fear I’ll suffer from double vision.

Early on, we realized we were into something different and unique with this twin thing. A routine trip to the grocery store became a major social event as all the elderly ladies around us realized we were hauling around twins. I can remember it now, ‘oh, are they twins? They look so cute. You know my niece Susie has twins, but they’re boys.” We would also get to hear ‘Are they identical? They look so alike.’ I found the best response to this one was ‘Um. yeah, sure. I’ve never really looked before.’ This usually appalled the biddies enough to let me get back to the red meat aisle to finish my drooling…I mean shopping. I can remember the pride I felt the first time I took them out by myself to meet the wife at our friends’ home. I clothed them, prepped them and transported them safely to their destination. Of course at that destination, I was greeted with ‘you dressed them in that? They look like boys and their shoes are on backwards.’ It was my finest moment.

For some reason, around the 21/2-year mark, the cute novelty of having twins wore off with the general public. I then found myself looking longingly at blue haired ladies waiting for them to comment on my cute offspring, but it just didn’t happen as much anymore. Around the 4-year mark the interest in them picked up again. Though some may argue it’s because Lucy and Ethel are now capable of saying things like ‘Daddy, that’s just not funny’ or ‘what stinks? Is that you Daddy’ while we are out together, I think it’s because they are so cute. For the record, I don’t think there is anything funny about a 33 year old being corrected by a 4 year old.

I can’t imagine what it would have been like to have only had one child. Lucy and Ethel are each other’s constant playmates which allows me the important time to unwind at the end of the day by doing things like blogging, watching sports, drinking water and even breathing. From sun up to sun down our home is filled with the delightful sounds of giggling at made up words only the two of them can comprehend, the humor of adding the word ‘booty’ to the end of any sentence or song and the general glee of two companions who have never known life without the other. Of course, there is also the double whining about bedtime, arguments over who picked the last movie they got to watch, whose stuffed animal is browner, who hit who first and the real causes of global warming. Ethel contends it’s Al Gore’s house, but that’s beside the point.

Oh, the number of nights that I have fallen asleep listening to arguments over whose pillow is fatter or the correct lyrics to Disney classics such as ‘The Bear Necessities,’ which apparently is pronounced ‘The Bear Nesesames.’ We are treated daily to philosophical discussions about fish death, why kitty keeps vomiting, Mickey Mouse, what colors combine to make pink and how green tea tastes like Apple Juice. It seems like I woke up one morning as the father to two 45 year olds. I swear if I let them, Lucy and Ethel could stomp grapes into wine. While that might sound like a biblical reference, believe me it is not.

If you haven’t been able to tell, I love being the father to Lucy and Ethel. I would not have it any other way than getting to raise two little mirror images. My heart delights at the things I get to look forward to over the next several years. Here come 2 first dates, 2 Junior Proms, 2 first cars, 2 Senior Proms, 2 college tuitions and possibly 2 weddings. Wait a minute, now I am seeing double. Where did I put the Vicodin and Vitameatavegemin?

Monday, March 26, 2007

The Best Holiday Ever!

If you thought last week’s National Goof Off Day was special, get a load of this. Unfortunately for all of my readers, I found a website that lists every holiday under the sun (I can’t wait to celebrate tomorrow’s holiday, but more about that tomorrow). Are you sitting down? Do you need a break? Have you been longing to celebrate a holiday that you don’t believe exists? Well, have I got good news for you! Today, March 26th, is ‘National Make Up Your Own Holiday Day.’ I can’t find any restrictions or limitations for celebrating the day, so have at it.

I realize that bearing the responsibility for creating your very own holiday can be an awesome and overwhelming experience so I’ll give you some ideas for possible holidays to make up. The most obvious idea for your own holiday would be one that honors you. It would require that all who come into contact with you be required to bow in your presence or possibly not even make eye contact with you unless invited to do so. Cakes with your likeness would be made, there would be a parade in your honor and the Biography Channel would air your life story. Of course if everyone chose to have themselves honored today, your biography would probably air at 2AM, but you could always TiVo it and thereby save it for posterity.

If humility suits you better than exaltation does, then how about a holiday honoring something you enjoy but feel has long been neglected? Is ‘Barney Miller’ your favorite cop show? Why not make today ‘National Barney Miller Should No Longer Be Unappreciated Day.’ You could host a Fish look-alike contest or a vocal contest to see who can best recreate the ‘Barney Miller’ theme song. Since this will obviously never merit its own holiday, I think today is the now or never moment for ‘National Barney Miller Should No Longer Be Unappreciated Day.’ Good luck finding a card for it though.

For the more serious minded (which if that is the case, I doubt you read this blog anyway) you could devote today to more worthy causes. Although what fun would that be. A possible positive use for ‘National Make Up Your Own Holiday Day’ is to use it to raise awareness of something important like a debilitating disease. Such maladies could include a day about rectal inflammation, chronic acne, stut-stut-stuttering, pathological lying (which reminds me to tell you later about how my father invented the microwave after accidentally being struck by lightening while holding a chunk of meatloaf wrapped in a sheet of aluminum foil) or morbid stupidity. I think you will agree that all of these illnesses are important and certainly lacking more focused public attention.

I myself suffer from morbid stupidity, although mine is the lesser-known form that affects my speaking. It causes me to get in trouble with my wife and say things that alienate me from my coworkers. My vocal morbid stupidity also causes me to tell things to my daughters that while I might find funny, when repeated usually get me into hot water with my parents, my wife, my in-laws and certain branches of law enforcement. There has yet to be adequate medical research for my illness, but it is believed to be linked to a faulty connection between the brain and the mouth. It is also known in certain medical circles as the ‘Speak First, Realize Later’ disease.

You may be wondering what holiday I would choose to make today. That is a very good question and it’s very hard for me to narrow it down to just one topic. So many possibilities…‘National BBQ Tasting Day,’ ‘National Speak Like Fonzie Day,’ ‘National Really Bad Crooners Like Englebert Humperdink, Wayne Newton and David Hassellhoff Day,’ ‘National Live Like Jimmy Buffett Day,’ and ‘National Why Can’t Husbands Be Right For Just One 24 Hour Period Day.’ Despite all those legitimate topics that could easily justify their own spot on our calendars, I have chosen to make today ‘National Free Of Walls, Fences And Other Cheap Dividers Day.’ It is the one holiday where I can tie in my pursuit of the abolishment of cubicle walls, my never-ending initiative to rename Monday with Funday and my general interest in making even the worst or most boring desk job more fun.

My only concern now is how I’m going to get my cubicle’s walls reassembled before the start of business tomorrow. I knew I should have paid more attention while I was taking them down. I also realized that with my walls down I don’t really appreciate everyone staring at me. Maybe I should have stuck with ‘National Leave Me The Heck Alone Day’ or ‘National If I Wanted To Talk To You I Would Have Initiated A Conversation Day.’ Oh well, there’s always next March 26th…

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Goofin’ Around

The morning DJ on the radio station I frequent proclaimed that today, March 22, is National Goof Off Day. A quick search on the internet seemed to lend credibility to the claim, so without further ado, I can say that I’m pretty sure today is National Goof Off Day. It seems that the day is intended for relaxing and doing things that you don’t normally get to do today. I’ll admit that’s kind of an ambiguous statement so I am contemplating scheduling a prostate exam since that is most certainly not something I would normally do today.

Judging by the amount of traffic on the way in to work this morning, I feel almost certain that National Goof Off Day is not sanctioned by the vast majority of Southern California employers. It obviously wasn’t being celebrated by the workforce, either. How is it that I can buy a calendar at the beginning of the year which lists every single foreign holiday that I will never get to take paid time off for but neglects including important American holidays like ‘Talk Like A Pirate Day,’ which we already observed, or National Goof Off Day? While we’re at it, today is William Shatner’s 76th birthday and I didn’t see that on any calendar. Believe me, before anyone got into work this morning I checked everyone’s calendars in the office and there were no mentions of today being a holiday.

It smacks of conspiracy. National Goof Off Day is being kept from us hard working Americans because if we knew about it, we would demand celebration of this holiday. By being kept from us, we all showed up at work today, and well, worked and went about our normal routines completely oblivious to the fact that we could have done nothing or anything else we wanted to today. The holiday is called National Goof Off Day, which gives the day official meaning and celebratory status. Had today been called Local Goof Off Day, County Goof Off Day, Municipal Goof Off Day or Goof Off Day That Can Only Be Celebrated In States That Start With Vowels, then we may not have a legal right to celebrate. However, that National tag means it’s real.

How should we celebrate today? Well, if you still happen to be at work while reading this, leave. Ok, finish reading this, leave a nice compliment that will give me the positive reinforcement to continue writing every day, save your work, lock your desk drawer with all of the candy in it, and then leave. If you are unfortunate enough (as I am) to be wearing a tie, take it off and put it around your head and run out of your workplace ala the opening credits of The Drew Carey Show while singing Eric Burden and The Animals’ ‘We Gotta Get Out Of This Place.’ I realize it’s not the most upbeat ditty for National Goof Off Day, but it does establish the appropriate attitude. Yes, you could also sing Johnny Paycheck’s ‘Take This Job And Shove It,’ (which I still want to make my cell phone ring tone, by the way) but it seems that so many people still resist country music. Once you are out of work you can pretty much do whatever you want. I have to admit that I can’t help thinking of Ferris Bueller while writing about all of this. Perhaps I should spend the remainder of the day singing ‘Twist and Shout or ‘Danke Schoen,’ though that might have a negative impact on my reputation in the office. Yeah, like that’s the only reason my co-workers have to be upset with me.

Ironically, half of my coworkers were nowhere to be found today. I even got in to work early (and by early, of course, I mean on time) but spent a lot of the morning alone since no one else came in early and half the staff was missing. That leads me to believe that someone in my office knew about National Goof Off Day, but as I already mentioned, I cannot find proof of that on anyone’s calendar. I’m fairly certain that I can rule out the horrible flu bug that is making its way through the office as a culprit though. Clearly, my coworkers are goofing off and no one took the time to tell me. Fortunately, my local radio personality alerted me to this important day. I am now left to wonder why I seem to have been excluded from my work mates’ National Goof Off Day festivities. Maybe I should stop blogging about them…

**This will be my last post until Saturday as I will be out of town celebrating National Goof Off Day. OK, the vacation had already been scheduled, but it feels so appropriate tying it in with this glorious holiday.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Well That’s New

In my never-ending quest to provide the few folks who come by this blog both entertainment and education (and I wanted to avoid mentioning Dancing With The Stars, which of course I just did, dangit), I wanted to share with you something that I learned this weekend. It was certainly new to me and I figure there might be a good chance that this will be new to you too.

It happened while I was at the super huge/inside a warehouse/buy at least 35 pounds worth and save more store. That is where I discovered something called fruit. It is pronounced f-r-u-u-t. I don’t know why I had never seen it before. My wife informs me that there are entire sections in the grocery stores devoted to this stuff. I have no idea how I never saw it while walking to the meat and ice cream areas. Supposedly, there are specialty stores that sell nothing but fruit. Did you know that? It was certainly a revelation to me!

This fruit stuff is pretty tasty. Who knew there was more to life than meat, chocolate and cheese. It’s sweet and most of it has its own juice that is just as tasty. I know what you’re thinking, but here’s the kicker – it is actually good for you! No seriously, it is. I am just so appreciative of the super large warehouse store for having out tasty samples of fruit while I was there. Sure, the warehouse store is good for a free lunch of appetizers that can be microwaved, but it seems they also sell a large variety of fruit. Among the many different types I tried were pineapples, grapes and oranges, which it turns out I had seen before. Although then I just figured it was an incredibly ugly bulbous flower sitting on the branch of a tree. I finally now understand why people are trying to sell the same ugly flower in roadside stands. It also explains why I was cussed at and flipped off once when I pulled up to one of those stands asking if they were selling a map to John Travolta’s house.

Don’t misunderstand me; I’m not a complete idiot since it seems that some of the things I have known about for quite some time actually turned out to be this fruit stuff. I have heard of coconut before, it is my favorite scent and I believe that is a fruit. I have also heard of cherry and lime because that is the name of the syrup they put in Diet Coke so that you can swallow it without gagging and I have now learned that they too are fruits. I never knew why they called it a carmel apple since I always ate the carmel and candy toppings and threw the rest away. Heck, I just figured that white stuff underneath was packing material but it is the apple part of the carmel apple. It seems that fruit is fairly prevalent in our lives. I wonder where they make it.

I had been struggling for so long with why the Fruit of the Loom underwear and shirt company kept using men dressed in those crazy costumes (which I now know to be fruit) to advertise their products. In hindsight, I suspect the root cause for this was my unfamiliarity with both fruit and looms. I had sent Fruit of the Loom several nasty letters with better suggestions for spokespeople (such as trusted familiar personalities like Bob Newhart or former Surgeon General C. Everett Coop) and better names for their company (like The Cotton T-shirt and Undergarment Manufacturing Company), but none were used. I guess when I explain the cause of my confusion to them in my next letter; they might consider lifting their cease and desist order against me.

The discovery of fruit may well change my life. Given the opportunity to eat a bar of chocolate or slice of pineapple, I’ll probably now choose the pineapple. Although, the same chocolate bar melted on the pineapple might be pretty good too. My wife said that if this new fruit stuff impresses me then she has something called vegetables she wants me to try. I think one new foodstuff will do for now. I hate taking things too fast.

Monday, March 19, 2007

I’m Dying To Fly With You

Every now and then, I come across ‘real’ news that makes me jealous that I could not have thought up something so unimaginable. I guess that’s why they call it unimaginable though. Reuters posted a story this morning of a man who woke up in a first class airline seat next to a corpse. Apparently, a woman in economy passed away after take-off and they could not keep her body from shifting and falling out of her chair because of turbulence. The recently deceased and her distraught daughter were upgraded for the remainder of the flight, which of course is the absolute least that the airline could have done for the lady and the body of her mother. Reports that British Airways is considering changing its name to R.I.P. Airlines are inaccurate. This all brings new meaning to the term departure, doesn’t it? I know this is a story I should leave alone, but I can’t. Hey, I’ll be dead one day too and I invite people to make as many jokes at my expense as they want.

One can only imagine the sight of a corpse slipping out of its chair onto the floor repeatedly during this flight. That reminds me, the long awaited sequel to ‘Weekend at Bernie’s’ called ‘Bernie’s Final Flight’ should be released this summer. One passenger was quoted as saying that the body had to be propped up with pillows to keep it from moving. This incident does make me wonder why the flight from Delhi to London was not turned back around so that the body could be dealt with and treated with the proper respect that the deceased deserved.

I’ll admit that if it had been me waking up next to the departed, things might have gone a little differently. I try to be congenial wherever I am (although I can also be extremely dense) and am sure I would wake up, discover someone seated next to me and try to strike up a conversation with them. I’d probably start by making Delhi/Deli jokes like, “you know, I imagined that Delhi would have a much better collection of cold cuts than they did.” Since that’s not really funny, I would try another approach like, “I wouldn’t be caught dead in economy class.” Then realizing that I got no response, I would pay a little more attention to my row mate and notice that she appeared lifeless. In light of now realizing that she was deceased and I had just made a dead joke, I would begin trembling and do a spit take, thus sending my diet soda spraying across the back of my seat as well as the graying and balding head of the CEO in front of me. The CEO would turn around enraged and I would whisper in a very high pitch while pointing at the dead woman, “she’s dead. I’m sitting next to a corpse.” The CEO would scream, I would scream and then the flight attendants would hustle down the aisle to see what the commotion was about.

When the flight attendants arrive, they would apologize with something lame like, “sorry sir, she passed away last night and we didn’t want to wake you. Here are a few complimentary drink tickets.” While completely insufficient given the circumstance, I would accept the coupons since I don’t like confrontation and then ask, “Well, since she isn’t going to be hungry, may I have her meal, too?”

Given a choice, I would rather pass away on a boat instead of a flight. If I died at sea, they might just dump my body overboard during a tasteful sea burial. If some obscure maritime law prohibited the dumping of bodies in international waters, then I’m sure I could be shoved into the boiler room or propped next to the shuffleboard sticks. No matter how you look at it though, the situation would be awkward for everyone involved.

Can you imagine the decisions that the captain and attendant crew had to make? You have to figure that they would be criticized for whatever decision they made. If they turned the flight around, they would be blamed for causing delays at the airport. However, by flying on to their destination they created a very creepy situation and probably violated some health code that deals with transporting corpses on international commercial flights. If they had announced to the passengers what happened when the death was discovered it would freak everyone out and if they dragged the body up to first class, it would be disrespectful to the deceased as well as the passengers. If the crew had decided to quietly move the body to the front of the plane while the majority of passengers slept, they could be accused of being deceitful. It’s a no-win situation. I just hope they refunded the ticket price for the deceased’s daughter, the deceased and anyone else inconvenienced by the event.

While it may cause a black eye publicly for British Airways, at least they got a new marketing slogan out of the unfortunate situation. “British Airways – our service is heart stopping.”

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Repost Sunday: The Greatest Game You’ve Never Played

I rerun some of my older posts on Sundays as a way to highlight stories that you may have missed. Just think of it as 'thought recycling' and a day off, or that I am incredibly, incredibly lazy.

Karaoke might just be the grown up’s equivalent of the bounce house. Actually I’m convinced of it. It’s the perfect party time killer and attraction. It’s this generation’s fondue party or our version of every couple putting their car keys in a bowl. Oh, that’s what ‘swinger’ means? Ewwwww. Well anyway, I think Karaoke as a must-have party item is here to stay and I was recently introduced to a slight twist on the amateur singing way of life.

The female coworker of mine (who has often been my muse) was telling me about a game that she and her family often play. It’s a karaoke game for the Play Station 2. Apparently it is a lot of fun and keeps score, so you get to sing and compete. The game is sophisticated enough to alert you when you need to raise or lower your pitch as well as play sound effects of a crowd cheering you on or booing you off stage, whichever is most appropriate. Perhaps it’s not a good idea for the little ones to participate though. Especially since getting booed by a fake computer generated audience while singing is exactly the type of negative reinforcement a child doesn’t need. Can you imagine having to go to a psychiatrist when you are older only to be told that your horribly low self-esteem is due to the Play Station’s logarithms determining that you weren’t a good singer at ten years of age? Hey, you might actually have a valid reason to seek punitive damages in court. You just didn’t hear it from me.

At any rate, the Play Station’s Karaoke game sounds like a lot of fun and would surely beat Monopoly or Pictionary at your next game night. Of course not everyone can draw well, but it’s a lot funnier when someone doesn’t sing well. I should know because I’ve dipped my feet into the deep, cold dark waters that is karaoke a few times. I don’t know that the phrase golden throat would apply to me, but it hasn’t been for lack of trying.

I hit the karaoke circuit a few times back in college. Fortunately since I will probably never meet my blog friends, I can share the details of my karaoke past with you. I will begin by admitting that a good friend and I often performed Barry Manilow’s ‘Copacabana’ and yes, we actually had choreography, especially for the climatic ‘who shot who’ verse. Sadly, the audience wasn’t entertained by our telling of Rico and Lola’s passionate disco romance, or something like that. The only award I ever won for performing was thanks to a karaoke rendition of Alan Jackson’s ‘Chattahoochee.’ Of course when I tell you that I won, I should also tell you that it was only a free pizza and half of our performing ‘group’ were of Asian descent. Yes, I do think our victory was certainly helped by the curiosity factor of performers and choice of country song, but I can also tell you that on that particular night, free pizza never tasted so good.

I almost had the Clay Aiken beat out of me one night (whatever the heck that means) for singing George Strait’s ‘All My Exes Live In Texas.’ Every Saturday night, the same cowboy would lumber up on stage and do that song. I wasn’t thinking one night and got up there before he did to sing the same song. About 3 words into the second verse was when I saw him and realized what I was doing. Needless to say, it wasn’t a very inspired performance and we got out of there pretty quickly. In a strange way, it was kind of like the Blue Brothers escaping from the honky tonk after singing ‘Rawhide.’ I’ve always felt that my best karaoke performance was with a friend on a duet of ‘To All The Girls I’ve Loved Before.’ That duet is not to be mistaken for the time rather recently when I was driving to visit a client with a work buddy of mine while listening to classic country on the radio. Let me assure you that it’s a very sobering moment when you realize that you and another man have been singing Barbara Mandrell’s ‘Sleeping Single In A Double Bed’ at the same time without either one of you being aware of it. Although I don’t think I have to tell you this, I will say that it was most definitely a very quiet several minutes before either one of us spoke again. We got to our client, went to lunch and forbade each other from ever bringing it up again. But please let me get back to the ‘To All The Girls I’ve Loved Before’ duet. I got to sing Julio’s part. Ahh the memories… A flock of dying geese never did sound so sweet. Yes, I know how confusing that last statement is.

Like a former high school athlete that whishes to lace ‘em up and get into a pickup game past his prime, this new Play Station 2 game has me intrigued and itching to belt one out for the crowd again. My vocal chords are a little out of shape, but maybe with a lot of practice I can karaoke in Play Station competition. The fire still burns inside but I hope the flesh is able. Yes, I think it’s time to grab that old Michael Jackson sequined glove, my copy of Frank Sinatra doing Simon and Garfunkel’s ‘Mrs. Robinson’ and my Wayne Newton mix tape. Danke Schoen baby, Danke Schoen!

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Things I Learned This Week: 3/17/07

Because I want to spare you from experiencing some of the things I endured over the last few days, I post “Things I Learned This Week” each Saturday. It’s educational, sometimes insightful and for some reason, always makes me look pathetic. I hope that knowing about at least one item on this list will make your upcoming week much easier. So here are the “Things I Learned This Week” for the week of 3/12/07-3/17/07.

! I learned that when I have some one on one time with my boss, it’s best not to tell him in passing that I’ve been looking around and have had quite a few positive inquiries.

! I learned that there is no sense having a garage sale to get rid of our old junk when all we do is go down to our neighbor’s garage sale and buy their old junk.

! I learned that when a coworker asks about the address for my blog because she has heard so many good things about it that it can be taken the wrong way when I tell her I can’t gave her the web address because I have said many, many bad things about her. Although I was only joking, the rest of the office seemed to side with her.

! I learned that when we are half way into a family walk and Ethel alerts us that she has to use the facilities, she really does have to use the facilities. Unfortunately, Lucy then convinces herself that she does too.

! I learned that telling Lucy and Ethel that I might pay them for doing chores when they get older has left them with the impression that they can ask for a penny after everything they do. It could be worse, at least they don’t know what a quarter is.

! I learned that Hawaiian shirt day at work apparently did not entitle me to wearing a floral shirt with a somewhat disrobed island girl on it. I swear it was tasteful.

And lastly,

! I learned that when someone asks why I’m not wearing green on St. Patrick’s Day, I should not respond, “I didn’t need to. I’ve got this really bad infection that turned green on my elbow. Here, want to see?”

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Still Crazy After All These Years

I think I figured out why my medical provider authorized my heart valve replacement almost two years ago. They created a patient for life. I have to have my blood checked every two weeks and need to be on medication, like blood thinners (which actually minimizes my risk for ‘work clots,’ unfortunately) for the rest of my life. In fact, I got to do a little medical housekeeping today.

In one morning, I had an appointment, blood test and had to buy more meds. I felt like I was at a geriatric mall. The waiting room I was assigned to today also was where patients who had psychiatric appointments waited. It provided me with a few interesting moments that no writer could resist committing to paper. And of course by paper I mean blog. It’s amazing what goes through your head when you realize you are sitting near the psychiatric department. Suddenly you begin to look around and wonder who is seeing which type of doctor and why. A few minutes into my wait a doctor came out of the psychiatric door and said a woman’s and man’s name. Next thing you know a couple who were sitting three chairs apart (in an empty row, mind you) got up separately and left with the doctor. A nice old man next to me began laughing and commented how they had not been sitting anywhere near each other. I responded by saying, “gee, it’s almost like they didn’t want to be together.” The man and I then looked at each other silently acknowledging that their therapy probably would not work. I think we were also sizing each other up at the same time, too. I thought he was being seen because he had an overly obnoxious personality and he thought I was being seen for a sports injury.

I began watching to see if people had certain actions that they kept having to obsessively repeat or looking for signs of uncontrollable anger or fits of crying (which is about my limit of understanding when it comes to psychiatric problems). I then wondered if the woman next to me was addicted to anything. On the offhand that it might be a sexual addiction, my guilt made me scoot two chairs away. Hopefully she won’t be offended and will just think that I thought she smelled bad, like garlic and sweat on a hot and humid day. I hope no one noticed I was staring at them trying to figure out if their clinical visit was mental, heart related, if they had ‘girly problems,’ etc. If they did know I was staring at them they would probably feel like I do every time I see my cardiologist and have to sit down among all the 65-85 year olds (I am 33). I honestly feel they look at me with hatred or the desire to steal my youthful soul. But then again, I think it’s shocking TV when Barney yells ‘Nip it in the bud’ on the Andy Griffith show.

As my wait grew longer, I toyed with the idea of developing a facial tick or incessant scratching just to throw everyone off. I so badly wanted to tell the lady who was now two chairs away that we never landed on the moon or that eating cheddar cheese can lead to jaundice, but better judgment kept me in check. I wanted to have a conversation with myself or do something really shocking like pull out my cell phone and make a call. Then I realized that the guy sitting under the ‘please turn your cell phone off’ sign was already using his.

Then it happened. A young mother walked up to the front counter with her young son. He kept punching her in the rear and she kept politely asking him to stop. He’d do it again and she’d ask him to stop. He began running around and she could not keep control of him. I hoped that she was checking in to see a behavioral specialist instead of the pediatrician. They went off to sit in a corner but the poor mother never got control of her little man. A few minutes later the psychiatric door opened and the nurse asked for someone named Maximus. Can you guess who got up to follow her? I then made a mental note right there that if I ever have a son, I will name him something that sounds subservient. A boy named Sue might be too extreme, but Pat is quickly growing on me.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

One Half Is Better Than No Half At All

I just finished reading a Reuters story about a truly bitter divorce in Berlin, Germany that proved separate can be equal. As the divorce approached, the man sawed his house in half, loaded it onto a forklift and drove it away. I’m assuming here that it wasn’t much of a house to begin with if it could be cut completely in two so easily. If it wasn’t a modular before, it most certainly is now. I’m also assuming that without having the second half of the home that this man likes natural lighting and plenty of open windows, but maybe that’s just me. I was going to wonder aloud about why he thought it was appropriate to cut off and take his part of the house, but maybe after living in Berlin his whole life he found it perfectly normal to cut something right down the middle. After all, that’s how Berlin was from the 60s through 80s. Heck, after WWII, the city was actually split three ways! “Ich bin ein Divorcee,” I guess. Wasn’t it Abraham Lincoln who said, “A house cut in two will not stand?” Yeah you’re right, he didn’t…

I have never been divorced and God willing I never will, but doesn’t this man’s way of solving this thing seem so much cleaner? It’s perfect conflict resolution, I say. Each person takes half and that is that. It works so well that it’s been done on sitcoms for years, which of course as we all know is the measure of something’s validity. Isn’t that what Willis and Arnold did on ‘Different Strokes’ and the Bradys on ‘The Brady Brunch?’ Next time Lucy and Ethel argue about who gets to play with a piece of fake food or any other toy, I’m getting out the saw. Last time I saw it in the garage it was pretty rusty and dull so it might shred the heck out of it, but it’s better than buying a second toy or having to make a decision about who actually deserves to play with it or who had it first. Some aspects of parenting can be so taxing.

The only problem I foresee with this type of divorce settlement here in Southern California is the transportation of a half house (not a half way house, that is obviously different). I’m not sure you can get a permit to drive a forklift down a public road with a sawed off house hanging from the front of it. I guess any furniture or other family belongings located around the midway-cut point could be a tricky issue too. Can you sell half a recliner on E-bay? Did this particular couple have a pool, lawn furniture, BBQ, rusted old car or fire pit? Who got that stuff? Now that I think about it, the man who took half the house is probably losing out on the deal (aside from the obvious international embarrassment about what he did and certain prosecution or criminal charges). He only took half of a house while the soon to be ‘ex’ gets half a house and all of the property it was on, plus whatever was left behind on the land? Maybe “Ich bin ein oops,” is more like it!

I think I’m going to try this method of resolution out for the next week at work. Next time I hear two co-workers having an argument or disagreement, I am just going to barge in on them and solve it. If the problem concerns a report, I will rip it in half and walk away dramatically. If it is about who drank the office’s last soda, I am going to get a knife from the kitchen, cut it in two and leave while it drips everywhere. If they are fighting over a certain parking space, well guess what, I’m dividing it in two and if they can’t fit their cars into it, that’s what they get! I had better not catch anyone fighting over office space.

See, this solution should work pretty well across the board. Although I have to admit that I’m very glad the divorcing couple in Germany had no dogs, cats, kids or explosive devices.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Yep, Your Job Can Kill You

After reading an AFP story out of Australia, I can officially say that studies have proven that your job can kill you. A professor for the Medical Research Institute in Wellington observed that 1/3 of patients sent to the hospital for deep vein blood clots were office workers. It is believed that sitting at a desk for an extended period can lead to the formation of these clots that can eventually kill you (and to weight gain which can kill you too, but we’ll leave that for later).

I don’t want you to be frightened by these results, I’d rather you look upon this as an opportunity for change and improvement in your working conditions, as I have chosen to do. If we now have medical proof that your job can be harmful to your health, even if it is just one small study, don’t we owe it to ourselves to make things better? After all, everyone knows what we did to Big Tobacco and we knew that was killing us for years. Of course, each of us was not getting paid for smoking as we are for working so I realize there could be a little push back. Let me ask you this though, if you could choose how you wanted to die, would a blood clot caused by sitting at your office computer really be that high up there? Probably not as high as being killed by drowning when the huge aquarium window you are standing in front of shatters pouring thousands of gallons of seawater and sea life on you instantly. At least then, your surviving family could enjoy the lifetime Sea World passes given to them so they won’t sue.

I thought about taking my new work demands immediately to my coworkers and then my boss, but they were all busy doing real work today while I was plotting my strategy to avoid death from clotting. Heck, some of them did not get up from their desks for almost an hour, which is surely inviting ‘Desk Death.’ The only exception to that was Mr. Socially Oblivious who wouldn’t leave me alone. To give myself some breathing space I finally yelled, “leave me alone man, can’t you see that I’m trying to save your life?” This only agitated him and drew the curiosity of the rest of our staff. When I attempted to warn them that their work could kill them, I received only blank or dirty stares. Telling them that they would be sorry really didn’t help my cause either. Those fools!

Though it’s early in my plan, I want to share with you all certain tips and strategies we can try to help avoid getting a ‘Work Clot.’ I believe that each workday one member of the office should be assigned to the ‘The Whistle.’ It is ‘The Whistler’s’ duty to blow their whistle every 15 minutes. When everyone hears the sound (preferably a duck call but that can be decided my majority rule of the office), they have to get up, go outside and run or walk quickly around the building three times. See what I’m doing here? The mandatory ‘Clot Break’ can also be used as exercise thereby keeping us all a little more fit. While I am no doctor, I suppose there is also the chance that running will throw any existing clots all throughout your body, but as I said, I am not a doctor and therefore will choose to ignore that potentially harmful side effect of what I believe to be a great plan. This plan will work hand in hand with not sitting at our desks too long snacking on junk food (or whatever our coworker keeps baking and bringing into the office) and drinking sugary beverages while those nasty clots are forming. Since we will be up and moving quite often through the workday, we can change the ‘Clot Breaks’ up a bit. We can have short limbo contests, long distance jumping contests, sack races, leapfrog or maybe even completely inappropriate-get ready to call HR-Twister sessions. I know it sounds like recess, but it’s helping us stay alive people, and it’s fun as well. You can thank me later.

Next, rising desks should be installed like they have in call centers and dispatch facilities. The desks allow you to lift them up so that you can work while standing or sitting. I had explored using a combination of raising desks, laptops and either Lay-Z-Boy recliners or reclining beach chairs, but sadly, most cubicles are not big enough to accommodate this life saving measure. That’s OK though because having the option of standing and taking ‘Clot Breaks’ every 15 minutes should provide a decent enough start to combating the blood clots.

So there you have it. Yes, we finally have scientific proof that our jobs can kill us, but we have also found a solution. It has been pointed out to me that office productivity will decline sharply, but continued living is worth it. I’m sure the workday will be extended to 11 or so hours, but I’ll find a way out of that eventually. Whoa, I gotta go blow the duck call again. I think we’ll play Dodge Ball for this ‘Clot Break.’ Hopefully I won’t be picked last again…

Wonderful World Of Nothing Worthwhile’s Useless Trivia Of The Day: It was this day in 1781 that Sir William Hershel discovered Uranus. Well not yours…oh, forget it!

Monday, March 12, 2007

Carnivorous Confessions

Don’t let the title fool you; you’ll see what I mean shortly. I have often desired meat. You might think that desire is a strong word for a foodstuff other than chocolate. To me, desire belongs in novels I would be too embarrassed to read and that U2 song where Bono likes to emphasize the ‘I’ in desire (sing it to yourself and you’ll figure out what part of the song I’m singing about). Truth is, I was at a party just this weekend and when the dessert tray was presented and I was questioned as to why I only had one sugary thing on my plate, I had to answer that if they had just brought out a tray full of little cubes of meat, I would have been much happier.

That all being said, I have to confess that I have experimented in my past. It all started the summer after I left high school. I was watching the house of our good friends while they were away on vacation. Hey, wait a minute, that’s not where this is heading. One of my chores was to look after their dog. The dog got fed twice a day and got to have beef jerky snacks during his mid-day meal. Maybe it was because I hadn’t eaten for several hours or the fact that the jerky looked like it had just been taken out of a bag made for human consumption, but I found myself having desirous urges to taste it. The first day I was able to resist. The next day, I just couldn’t take it any longer. I pulled out a slice of jerky for the dog and another for myself. While the passing years have muted my memories of the first time I crossed over into the realm of non-human meat byproduct K-9 treats, I remember emphatically not liking the flavor to the point that I spent the rest of the day rubbing my tongue with Altoids. My first taste of experimenting had not gone well and it was easy to stick to real meat carved from the cow for the next several years.

I did just fine until Lucy and Ethel were about 1 ½. It’s funny to me that this next ‘incident’ occurred within days of an embarrassing visit to a client of mine. As we were in my client’s back outdoor area, I found myself admiring the most warm and comforting baked smell I may have ever experienced (ok, I’m not counting the fake bake smell they pump out onto Main Street at Disneyland). Everyone laughed rather heartily as my client explained that the aroma I was fawning over was actually the smell of the dog biscuit manufacturer next door. A few days later, we discovered that Ethel was chewing on a dog biscuit I had taken out and forgotten to give our dog. This worked out perfectly for me as I grabbed it from Ethel’s hand (like taking dog biscuits from a baby, I say) and took a bite. My wife was beside herself until I told her that I felt as a good father I should taste exactly what Ethel tasted and would experience whatever side affects she might encounter after eating it. My wife bought it until I continued chewing long after Ethel had attempted to spit it out, which of course is what toddlers do with all food. It wasn’t too bad but I vowed next time I would put a little cream cheese on top of it.

I once again got through the next few years with only the minor tinge of envy as I would watch our dog Mabel gnaw on a rawhide bone. Although I secretly wished for a human version of her bone (the label did say that chewing on a bone is nirvana for dogs and we can all use more nirvana), I knew it was not for me. Then came Friday night out in the garage as I filled up Mabel’s food dispenser with her new dog food. Like all good dog foods, the label promised meat, corn, vegetables and other ingredients meant to increase her sheen, energy, digestion and vitality. Then suddenly, a piece fell onto the floor and as I cursed the fact that it must be a necessity for all dog food to be as greasy as a frying pan in a downtown diner, I realized it was a bright red. Yes, the same bright red of a great cut of meat in my grocer’s freezer. Hmmmm, could this be the meat portion of the dog food?

There was only one way to find out so I bit into it with my left hand extended in anticipation of needing to spit it out. The texture was much softer than I imagined and was a palatable mixture of corn and beef flavor. The first chomp down wasn’t too bad so I figured the second chomp down would require the spit take. I was wrong. It was actually not that bad. I contemplated having a second morsel but then realized it would officially label me as someone who has a problem. I sealed up the dog food, fed Mabel and got into bed vowing to never speak of it again. Then came tonight as I found myself having nothing to blog about and fondly remembering the BBQ joint my office went to for lunch today. My dog has given me weird looks before as I stood at the window watching her chew her bones outside. I think she also knows what I did Friday night but as any good dog should, she’s not letting on.

I am embarrassed about my past eating habits and believe that sharing my experience will help me cope and overcome - at least that’s what female coworker told me after she quit smoking. Everyone at work today kept complimenting me on the body and shine of my hair. I just chalked it up to accidentally using my wife’s shampoo, although it was nice being able to jump higher and digest my lunch easier today. Does that mean I had an overdose of vitamin K-9 complex? Perhaps I’m barking up the wrong tree. Why again did I feel the need to share all of this? It was doggone stupid of me!

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Things I Learned This Week: 3/11/07

Because I want to spare you from experiencing some of the things I endured over the last few days, I post “Things I Learned This Week” each Saturday (except for today, which I am choosing to chalk up to the early Daylight Savings Time this year). It’s educational, sometimes insightful and for some reason, always makes me look pathetic. I hope that knowing about at least one item on this list will make your upcoming week much easier. So here are the “Things I Learned This Week” for the week of 3/4/07-3/11/07.

! I learned that when one of the older fish in our tank appears to have difficulty swimming that I need to keep a close eye on it for the next several days so that I find it floating upside down before Lucy and Ethel do and start asking questions.

! I learned that I should make sure I charged Lucy and Ethel’s motorized trikes before getting them all excited about riding them outside.

! I learned that Toys R Us is the equivalent of a parental meat market. Though it was fun laughing at the parents who actually brought their children, which I believe qualifies as a form of masochism in certain cultures.

! I learned that it’s not a good idea to show up last (and late) to a big division wide staff meeting, especially when I forgot my suit coat and I live the closest to the main office.

! I learned that when the neighbors across the street are throwing a party catered by a professional BBQ company with a grill mounted to a trailer that is longer than my truck and I am not invited, it’s better to go our for the night than to be seduced by the smell of the smoke from the 4-5 hickory trees they must have been burning to cook the meat on.

! I learned that when female coworker offers to buy us lunch, it’s best to make fun of her after she has paid. This is especially true when I ordered the large ‘lunch’ steak special.

And lastly,

! I learned that when at a fancy fundraising event for Lucy and Ethel’s preschool that I should not appear so eager to take food off of the appetizer plates as they are offered to me. I also learned that while the free gourmet coffee bar was a neat idea, having 5 cups late at night when we are about to lose an hour to Daylight Savings Time isn’t such a smart thing to do. It sure was a pretty sunrise this morning though!

Friday, March 09, 2007

Top Ten (And A Half) Reasons Why I Couldn’t Blog Tonight

I have decided to post a Top Ten and a Half List every Friday. Why ten and a half? Because I don’t want to be accused of stealing a great idea, of course…

So, here are the top ten (and a half) reasons why I couldn't blog tonight:

11. I didn’t believe the expiration date on the can of whip cream and learned my lesson the hard way.

10. I had to watch the new 2 DVD Peter Pan Special Edition…again…and yet again.

9. It was hard to walk away from the TV when there was 5 straight hours of NASCAR coverage on tonight.

8. I thought I would start the weekend watching another LA Clippers loss.

7. I accidentally turned my clock ahead one hour last night and haven’t been able to recover all day.

6. There was a voice in my head all day warning me that bad things would happen if I blog tonight and that the voice sees dead people and Rosebud was the sleigh.

5. I left the computer off tonight to make up for all the extra electricity that Al Gore seems to be consuming.

4. I was too busy stocking my old Y2K bunker in anticipation of the worldwide calamity that only I seem to expect when we prematurely move our clocks one hour ahead tomorrow night instead of in mid-April as the gods decree.

3. My twins Lucy and Ethel warned me that their bags were packed and if I even thought about getting on the computer tonight they were going to move in with the three year old twins boys down the street.

2. I tried to shave my head and then spent the rest of the evening calling local rehab centers to see if they had any vacancies.

And the number one reason why I couldn’t blog tonight is:

1. I was digging in the backyard and found this really old…

Thursday, March 08, 2007

We’re Springing Forward Already?

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t believe it’s spring yet and the calendar says that we should forward our clocks one hour this coming Saturday night. Did I miss a memo or something? We should have at least a month more of premature darkness. I don’t mind Daylight Savings Time at all, it’s just that it’s a little early this year. Was a law passed or something?

For about a month now I’ve been reading about how the early DST will wreak havoc with many of our electronic devices. The warnings don’t pose the dire threat that the Y2K concern did, but I’m leaving nothing to chance and plan on sleeping with the family Saturday night in our abandoned Y2K shelter that I only recently abandoned. In fact, I just got back from the store where I stocked up on SPAM, powdered milk, water, cans of soup, etc. You know, just the essentials – like Twinkies. I also rigged up the satellite connection so I can watch the NASCAR race Sunday morning…assuming there is one. I figure that if the space/time continuum has been ruined by our altering of time, I’ll be safe in my bunker. As Y2K proved, the bunker can sustain us for at least 6…years.

If we survive Saturday night, there is a good side and a bad side to this early clock turning. Let’s focus on the good first. Instead of the usual week or so that you can milk being late for work and blaming it on your clocks not springing forward, now you get about five weeks! There are the four weeks because the change came early and the normal one-week grace period after the change. That’s certainly a positive, don’t you think. It also provides us with an extra month of still getting home while the sun is out. Getting home at six at night when it’s pitch black outside always makes the workday seem much longer than it actually is. Of course, sitting in a cubicle does the same thing, but I think I’ve pretty well documented that in my posts over the last 9 months. I definitely plan on taking advantage of having all of this extra daylight when I get home. It may not seem like a big deal, but I’ll enjoy the simple things like playing catch with Lucy and Ethel, using the old charcoal BBQ, walking the dog and whacking the ground with a shovel in my three-year mission to rid my yard of gophers. Yes my friends, a sun-ripened evening is a fine, fine time.

Enough of the bliss brought on by the early Daylight Savings Time, there is the downside that I feel I should caution you about. Experts believe that many of our simpler time keeping devices will not be able to cope with the early time change. Some of these devices are VCRs, DVD players and TiVo. TiVo? Well great! Now how am I going to record my 25 season pass programs like Barney Miller reruns and Rachael Ray’s seven different Food Network series? I guess I can just record the show before and after the one I want and extend the before and after recording time for each? That should about cover it, although I can see myself fast forwarding or rewinding through a lot of stuff I didn’t intend on recording. Well now that I think about it, that’s not convenient at all!

Since Daylight Savings Time was started earlier and extended longer, it will forever change one of childhood’s favorite holidays. No, I’m not talking about Columbus Day, I mean Halloween. Daylight Savings will now end the first weekend of November instead of the last weekend in October. I guess that means gone forever are the spooky nights and eerie darkness where the poorly lit streets are overrun with ghouls, ghosts, goblins and Barney the dinosaur. It’ll be like someone turned on the lights in the Haunted House or Pirates of the Caribbean rides at Disneyland (well actually, that might be pretty cool). We will save money on flashlight batteries and little votive candles for our pumpkins though. Oh yeah, I suppose it’s safer for kids out on the streets that night too. Whatever…

So, there you have it. I hope I have prepared your for our early Daylight Savings Time conversion. If everything goes well Saturday night, you can expect me at work around 10:30 Monday morning. If it doesn’t, feel free to swing by ‘the bunker.” I’ll make sure we have enough SPAM on the grill and plenty of reruns of Gilligan’s Island loaded into the clock-less Betamax VCR. If that doesn’t work, I guess we can always perform skits…

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

The Art Of Laying Low

I have a coworker who has made the practice of laying low an art form. He seeks to avoid having his name brought up in meetings, phone conversations and with upper management. As I have been examining his style, I’ve come to realize that laying low is the perfect way to get through your career (or marriage for that matter) without ruffling feathers or bringing too much attention upon yourself. Actually, Lay Low is one of my favorite Eric Clapton songs….what, really? I guess I’ve been singing it wrong all this time. You’d think someone would have corrected me by now but singing it your way does make a lot more sense. I am right about that song “In the Garden of Eden” by Iron Butterfly though, right? Really? But In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida doesn’t even make sense!

I am going to start trying to lay lower in many of my work duties and functions. This will be hard for me as the tendency to speak before thinking plagues me disturbingly often. Upon retrospection, there have been many more times where I should have just nodded or remained motionless instead of yelling something like “what, are you all idiots, that’s completely wrong!” Surely you can see why this may cause the light of managerial attention to be cast in my direction. Being blessed with ears that can hear a pin drop on a mattress in a soundproof room has made lying low harder. Throughout the day, I will hear something said in the office that I have to respond or make a joke about. I shout it out then realize I was trying to get through the afternoon without being disturbed or without anyone discovering how late I really got into the office.

Let’s take this past Monday for example. I was trying to get out of the office early so I tried to not bother anyone and just get my work done as quickly as possible. Then all of a sudden, we heard a screeching sound coming out of the copy machine down the hall. Before I could stop myself, I had yelled out “just engage the clutch!” Well, that did it. Within two minutes, I had everyone in my office asking for help with something or walking in and ranting about something else. If I had just laid low, I could have completed my chores, I mean tasks, and been on my way home in time for reruns of The Andy Griffith Show. I have found it’s also hard to lay low as there is not enough space under my desk to hide comfortably, but then again, maybe I’m taking this thing too far.

Mr. Lay Low has encountered a few bumps along the way though. He went to our headquarters a few weeks ago around noon to pick up supplies. Although he mentioned that he was hoping to get in, keep his head down, speak with no one above the administrative assistant level and then leave, I neglected to tell him not to walk through the cafeteria when he go to our HQ. When he got back, he was visibly agitated and recounted how he got to our headquarters and promptly walked through the cafeteria where he was greeted by virtually every member of our upper management. All I could say was, “um, yeah, I meant to warn you about that.” I don’t think it helped erase the feeling of being ‘discovered’ that Mr. Lay Low felt.

In our large division staff meeting today, we had time to kill when management realized they had forgotten to call our other states to initiate their conference call. While that was going on, one upper manager singled out Mr. Lay Low to ask him what he thought about the company since he joined us. Mr. Lay Low became a shade of red only reserved for really bad sunburns and politely answered the question. I of course asked him how that laying low thing was working for him and did not get an answer. Finally, after our meeting we were wandering through the cafeteria keeping to ourselves as I studied his every lay low move. I watched for body language, where he maintained his field of vision and the speed of his gait. When we did look up, we realized we were just feet from our VP. Following his lead, we immediately veered to the right. Mr. Lay Low then realized that in our haste to escape we had almost backed into the rest of our management team having their daily lunch gathering. What happened next is all a blur. Before I knew it we had driven 35 miles back to our office and didn’t speak about it the rest of the day. In our lay low minds, it was obviously a close call.

While I and those around me would consider me an extrovert, I have to admit that I like Mr. Lay Low’s style. It’s efficient, quiet and he even manages to leave an air of mystery in his wake. The only problem is that I can’t tell Mr. Lay Low that I am studying his style or he will start avoiding me because I’m sure that in his mind, having his technique studied is in direct violation of his lay low policy. I can hardly wait to put the lay low techniques I have learned into practice, although I will have to buy some quieter shoes first. Now I wish I hadn’t told all of my coworkers about my blog…definitely not a lay low move.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

The Swiss-Liech War

With the end of the cold war, a large-scale European war seems to be more remote than ever, until late last week, according to the AP. The Swiss Army is noted for a lot of things; well OK at least two things that I’m aware of: the Swiss Army Knife and Swiss Army Watch. Apparently both of those items do not come with a compass or GPS device because part of the Swiss Army got lost during maneuvers and ended up in Liechtenstein last week. When they realized they were lost, they crossed back into Switzerland with no apparent harm done. Perhaps it was a reconnaissance mission?

This is the type of thing that might have alarmed the Super Powers during the Cold War but now just seems like a really good late night comedy punch line or sketch. How many Swiss Army officials does it take to read a map anyway? Or perhaps the map they were using had more holes than a slice of Swiss cheese? Gee, I Swiss they wouldn’t invade their neighbors anymore…you get the point.

Although they were neutral as their neighbor Germany waged war in WWII (see, I did a little research for once), fear is mounting that Liechtenstein may retaliate this time and invade Switzerland’s famous Matterhorn as well as try to confiscate the millions of dollars located in Swiss bank accounts throughout the alpine country. Mountain climbers and evil super-villains with large stashes of money in Swiss banks are on edge.

“Our military objective is quite clear after this intrusive and hostile action taken by zee Swiss,” said Liechtenstein’s military commander, Wilhem Von Luchenbacherhelmenstein. “Virst Ve Vill attack zer banks and zen ve vill use dat money to turn zer beloved Matterhorn Mountain into ze rollercoaster like ze Disneylandia.”

Reports have confirmed that the Swiss have offered chocolate and watches to appease Liechtenstein, but have yet to receive a response. I won’t say that the world is holding their collective breath on the outcome of this incursion into Liechtenstein, because, well, we’re not, especially with the controversy surrounding Britney Spears’ rehab stint and the fact that David Hassellhoff is appearing in The Producers in Vegas. However, this action appears to have sparked the aggressive tendencies of several smaller nations hoping to invade and plunder their neighbors.

Throughout Friday, countries were announcing their plans to declare war on their rivals and geographic neighbors. Cuba wants to attack Florida, France wants to attack Italy, Nevada wants to attack Southern California tribal casinos, Texas wants to conquer all of New England, Kobe wants to invade Shaq, Hillary plans on overthrowing Bill, UCLA hopes to declare war on USC and Ann Coulter wants to attack John Edwards (oh wait, never mind, that already happened). Reports earlier in the day that the United States House of Representatives had been overrun by the United States Senate have apparently proven false. I am hearing rumors though that NBC has invaded CNN, but I think they call that a takeover.

Who knows what the repercussions will be after this invasion that was innocently sparked by an accident. It reminds me of the time in high school when my friend and I ‘accidentally’ ended up right behind the court during a Lakers game. Only then, we were able to use the excuse that we got lost trying to find the men’s restroom. Maybe that’s what the Swiss should have said…

Monday, March 05, 2007

Who Wrote That?

At work today, I had to turn my radio down. That’s nothing unusual as I am frequently asked by a coworker to turn it down. This time, however, I turned it down on my own as I was overcome with embarrassment at the music coming out of the oldies radio station I was listening to. I know that working up ‘worst song ever’ lists is nothing new, but it got me thinking about some of my least favorite oldies tunes. So, without further delay, here are the oldies I hate. Keep in mind this is my list so if you take exception to any of the songs I’ve listed (although I doubt you will), I apologize, if I have to, I guess…whatever. They are:

Puff the Magic Dragon (Peter, Paul and Mary) - I used to confuse this dragon with Elliot, who was Pete’s Dragon. Then I remembered the easy way to tell them apart: Elliot wasn’t stoned!

Hang On Sloopy (The McCoys) – This was actually a number one hit – in our country! Wikipedia says it’s the official rock song of Ohio (All I can find for California is “I Love You California,” go figure). If you’re nickname is Sloopy, then you deserve to live on the very bad part of town with everybody trying to bring you down.

Down in the Boondocks (Billy Joe Royal) – The chorus is catchy, but not catchy enough. It’s just a fancy way of saying the sticks and didn’t John Denver take care of that with “Thank God I’m A Country Boy?”

Incense and Peppermint (The Strawberry Alarm Clock) – Have you ever seen a strawberry alarm clock? I mean when awake and sober? That should have been our first hint. Tell me again why this song isn’t a Christmas tune…

Alone Again Naturally (Gilbert O’Sullivan) – Ahh, the anthem of suicidal manic-depressives the world over. WARNING: If you are not in a good place mentally, skip this ditty. Actual lyrics: ‘I promise myself to treat myself and visit a nearby towerand climbing to the top will throw myself off…’ I’m guessing that if you consider jumping off a tall structure a treat (like maybe the rest of us consider ice cream to be a treat), you will naturally find yourself alone, again. I’m not sure who wrote this song but chances are after it was released they were put on an extended psychiatric watch.

I Started a Joke (The Bee Gees) – I remember starting a joke a few years back. It revolved around the lyrics to ‘Stayin’ Alive’ and the death of one of the Gibb twins. Oh but I didn’t see that the joke was on me.

Quinn the Eskimo (Manfred Mann) – Really all I can say is that I don’t think the world was (or ever will be) ready for a Pop Eskimo ballad. This one is better buried out back behind the igloo to rest in peace. That reminds me, I’m craving some Baked Alaska…

In the Summertime (Mungo Jerry) – Mungo, seriously? This may have been the debut of that making sounds in your fists Beat Box thing. No matter what, it’s possibly the worst summertime song ever, unless you consider that Itsy Bitsy Bikini song a summertime tune. On the other hand, it does feature a nice motor boat engine revving in the background and way too few pop tunes have that element.

If I Had a Hammer (Triny Lopez) – Yes, it’s quite catchy, so catchy that I find myself singing it at times. Is the updated version “If I Had a Semi-Automatic?” I’d shoot it in the morning…Did I mention how catchy it is? Really, I’m singing it now. It sounds like this one should be in my ‘like’ category, but I do turn it down when it gets radio airplay. I mean when there are others around me.

Space Oddity (David Bowie) – Hey, ground control and Major Tom, I still haven’t figured this one out! To quote David Spade, I liked this one better when it was called…Rocket Man. You can only assume that Bing Crosby had never heard this before he sang Drummer Boy with Bowie.

Of all of these ‘songs’ though, without a shadow of a doubt, the one that fills me with the most vile hatred is…

In the Year 2525 (Zager and Evans) - Folks, this too was a number one hit! I don’t even know where to begin. As a child, this song scared the Playdough out of me. Well, that year isn’t too far off now and it looks like man will still be alive and woman can indeed survive.

There are a couple of songs that I used to make fun of, but fortunately I matured just enough to fully appreciate them for the classic gems that they are. Those songs are:

Midnight Train to Georgia (Gladys Knight) – I dare you to listen to that song and not pretend to pull the horn during the chorus’ “woo hoos.” I guess you would call that playing the air train whistle.

You’re So Vain (Carly Simon) – Perhaps one of the best songs ever recorded. To this day, I cannot watch someone sneak a peak in the mirror as they pass by one without singing the chorus to them. Mick Jagger sings backup and the longtime rumor is that it’s about either him or Warren Beatty. Which is it Carly? Some of us need to know!

Brandy (The Looking Glass) – As a young stupid kid, I could never understand why they were singing about a glass of Brandy and referring to it as a girl, much less a fine one. Then I got older and realized I had been mistaken. After The Looking Glasses’ description, what a good wife she would be!

I am sure there will be more songs that occur to me or that you may point out. Because of their supreme status, I left out Octopuses Garden by The Beatles, several songs by The Doors and “Love Child” by The Supremes (how many other rock and roll songs can you think of that feature the phrase “tenement slum?”). Perhaps I’ll update this list again some day. Does anyone remember Chuck Berry’s “My Ding-A-Ling?” Boy did we think we were being naughty in school while singing that one!

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Repost Sunday: R-E-S-P-E-C-T – That’s What Work Means To Me

I rerun some of my older posts on Sundays as a way to highlight stories that you may have missed. Just think of it as 'thought recycling' and a day off, or that I am incredibly, incredibly lazy.

As you may remember, I wrote a week or so ago about my caring employer’s tips on how to avoid getting sick. Unfortunately, they didn’t tip me off on how to avoid getting sick of work, only getting sick at work. Oh well, they’ve moved on (although it’s obvious I haven’t) and are now concerned about me and my coworkers having a respectful, discrimination and insult free workplace. Woo Hoo! As all my coworkers know, we never have enough work to do and thus are always gathering in small groups to figure out how to make our workplace friendlier.

Truth be told, we’re a pretty rough and sarcastic group and nothing is free from harassment or teasing. If you don’t believe me, read any of my ‘Things I Learned This Week’ stories. I just finished the online ‘Respect’ course and let’s say it’s a good thing our HR folks don’t spend much time in our field office. I was going to get major kudos for actually taking notes, until I responded, “Oh man, oh man, oh man, this is great blogging material. I can’t wait to get home!” Unfortunately, whether it was because I became distracted by my copious note taking, or because I am often inappropriate at my workplace, I got every question wrong. Let’s just say every answer was to consult with someone in HR if you have a problem with a coworker. And I mean every answer (you’d think I would have caught on after the 10th question).

However, from pain comes wisdom because I ended up learning a few things. I didn’t know that we should go to our HR department for our workplace respect concerns, I just thought I was supposed to keep it bottled inside until I have a breakdown or do the exact opposite and tell all of my coworkers through a detailed and personal email while cc’ing everyone I can think of. Nope! I didn’t realize that nicknames were not appropriate in the workplace either. It’s a shame too, because we have developed so many of them. We have names like Super Sensitive Guy, The New Guy, Natural Gas Powered Car Guy, Go Fly A Kit Guy, Smokey, etc. Besides, all of our real names are posted outside of our cubicles, so it’s not like there’s any confusion as to who is who. The way I see it, the nicknames just break up the day-to-day monotony of it all.

Then I continued with the course only to discover that teasing, tickling and pinching are considered out of line. Really? Since when has tickling every hurt anyone, especially when we’re all together, like in a staff meeting? Supposedly saying things like babe, chick and hunk are now out of the question too. The online course didn’t specifically mention dude, super babe, moron or jackass so they are presumably still in play. Unless those are considered nicknames and fall under the no nickname rule? I’m not sure; maybe I’ll try them out tomorrow and see how it goes. I was #!@$#!@ shocked and appalled to learn that profanity is not encouraged, well actually kinda forbidden, in the workplace. That could be a problem since I have yet to hear anyone in my office utter “Golly Gee Willickers” or “Dang Gummit” when they become frustrated.

For me personally, there was one item in the course that will lead to a complete philosophical change. My employer has advised that the determination of whether or not a joke is funny should be made by the person receiving the joke and not by the person telling it. Well that’s just not fair! We can’t help it if there are people in our office or who may come into our office who don’t possess the genetic coding required to have a sense of humor. If someone tells a joke in an office and no one laughs, is it still funny? Heck yeah, that’s why someone told it in the first place! Will we have to begin every joke we tell from now on with a disclaimer revealing the punch line so that the joke’s recipient can determine whether it’s funny before we tell it? I don’t know, but since I have a question about it, I’ve already learned (10 times to be exact) that I’ll have to go consult someone in HR.

Well, there’s the low down on my employer’s online ‘Respect in the Workplace’ course. That’s 12 minutes and 43 seconds I’ll never get back. I couldn’t help but think of Michael Scott on NBC’s “The Office” while taking this course. When we all have our required meeting to discuss the course’s content (and presumably make fun of the course itself while tickling and teasing each other), hopefully an episode of “The Office” will be required viewing as a how-not-to-do video. We have a motto in our office: Think about what Michael Scott would do and then do the exact opposite.

The best part of all of this though was the fact that I did not see the word ‘blog’ anywhere throughout the course. That means my employer values me enough to give me goofy ideas on how to avoid getting sick, how not to offend those I work with and what to do to make a respectful office environment AND I get to blog about it. Boy this company sure is great! Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go ask 1970s Sport Coat Guy a quick question.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Things I Learned This Week: 3/3/07

Because I want to spare you from experiencing some of the things I endured over the last few days, I post “Things I Learned This Week” each Saturday. It’s educational, sometimes insightful and for some reason, always makes me look pathetic. I hope that knowing about at least one item on this list will make your upcoming week much easier. So here are the “Things I Learned This Week” for the week of 2/26/07-3/3/07.

! I learned to be mindful of where the extension cord is at all times when using the grass edger.

! I learned that when I give Lucy and Ethel cookies before bedtime with the understanding that it’s a secret, I will always be ratted out by them.

! I learned that a $5 soda at the speedway really does taste better than the $1.99 one at the fast food chain. Of course, I had been sitting out in the sun all day.

! I learned that I should avoid slicing my hand open when on blood thinners. Now I know the difference between coagulation and anti-coagulation.

! I learned that just because they sell a whole rack of ribs does not mean they intend for you to eat it all at one sitting.

! I learned that I should not complain when asked to fill out 50 DHL overnight packing slips at work because I’m getting paid a heck of a lot more to do it now compared to when I was an intern.

And lastly,

! I learned that when female coworker drives me to lunch, I should comment on how poorly we all think she drives after she has driven us back to work. Otherwise, it is a long walk from the hot dog place to the office.