Wednesday, May 25th, 2016

We had ramen for dinner at the Robin Room, which is a cocktail bar on Johnson Street. Last night, though, they had two local chefs in their kitchen (they have a kitchen, even though they’re mostly about cocktails) whipping up bowls of some of the most delicious ramen I’ve ever eaten.

The were planning to start serving ramen at seven, so we got there at about quarter till and the place was already pretty busy. Still, we managed to snag a couple stools at the bar and only had to wait maybe five or ten minutes for the bartender to get around to taking our drinks orders.

While the bartender was making our drinks, we noticed that the beginnings of a line was starting to form at the back of the bar. I suggested to B that she go get in line so she could pick up her ramen right away, and then I would get in line to get mine.

It didn’t quite work out that way. Just five minutes or so after she got in line, I looked up from my phone to see that there were now at least two dozen people in a line stretching from the kitchen at the back of the bar all the way to the front door. Even if B came back with her ramen right away, I wouldn’t get my bowl for quite some time. In fact, most of the people at the end of the line never got any ramen; they sold out in less than an hour.

B, however, did not leave me high and dry. When she was finally able to place her order, she asked for two bowls of ramen, and I went to get mine as soon as she brought hers back to her stool.

It was some of the most fabulously delicious ramen I’ve ever eaten. The noodles were just right, the broth was rich and buttery, and the pork roll was nice and fatty. I went to bed fat and happy. It all turned out to be a little too rich for me, though. Two hours after turning out the light, I woke up with a bloated belly and the feeling that my heart was somewhere beneath my stomach, thudding away. My constitution has become such a delicate little thing in my old age. I was up most of the night trying to get it to settle down. I will never regret eating that ramen, though.

constitutionally challenged | 3:12 am CDT
Category: food & drink | Tags: ,
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Tuesday, May 24th, 2016

I had an instructor in college who despaired the state of the English language because of the way people misused the word “hopefully.” I understood his argument but I didn’t get where he was coming from because a) I was in the camp of people who felt that English was a language that had been evolving for hundreds of years and would continue to do so, mainly because b) there wasn’t a force on earth that could stop people from misusing “hopefully” or any other word, and besides, c) I grew up using “hopefully” the wrong way, i.e. “Hopefully, people will continue to use words in new and inventive ways.”

Now I’m old and fossilized, and a lot less tolerant of new and inventive adaptations. A single word or phrase will spin me up in a second. While driving home from work today, I heard an NPR correspondent say “hone in on,” a phrase that’s like a hot needle in my ear. Honestly, if you want to ruin my day, maybe even my whole week, all you have to do is say something like, “this really hones in on the the problem,” which probably doesn’t sound wrong to you if you’re under thirty. Everybody says it, and has been saying it for years. It’s practically normal. I should be used to it by now, but it makes me want to grind my teeth right down to the roots because it’s WRONG! WRONG! WRONG!

Or, here’s another phrase that clunks up against my head: “VIN number,” for the same stupid reason that “ATM machine” bothers certain English nerds. “ATM” stands for “automated teller machine,” so when you say “ATM machine,” what you’re literally saying is “automated teller machine machine.” In the same way, what you’re literally saying when you say “VIN number” is “vehicle identification number number.”

And it just so happens that I work for the DMV, and my desk is right next to a call center, so I get to hear the people who pick up the phones ask callers, “can I have the VIN number?” a couple dozen times a day. Right after that they usually say, “Vehicle Identification Number,” because the caller didn’t know what “VIN number” meant. Makes me want to jump up on my desk so everybody can see me over their cubicle walls and shout, “DO YOU SEE WHY THAT IS SO WRONG? DO YOU?” But they wouldn’t, and I’d only be hauled away in a straitjacket, so I stay firmly rooted in my seat, grinding my teeth.

Hopefully, people will stop doing this. They won’t, but I’m hopeful.

hone home hope | 7:00 am CDT
Category: random idiocy
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Monday, May 23rd, 2016

I quite like this one, too.

SHOWTIME! | 7:58 pm CDT
Category: daily drivel, music, play | Tags:
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If America should decide to elect me to the presidency instead of Trump (I’m not saying it’s likely, but it’s not impossible), I promise to eliminate lawn mowers from every state in the Union. And leaf blowers. Especially leaf blowers. The mere possession of an operable leaf blower for anything other than display purposes would be a class A felony. Those things pack more evil than the atomic bomb, weaponized smallpox, solitary confinement, and Stalin all rolled together.

On my first day in office, I will create a Department of Yards and Lawns whose mandate will be: 1) round up all the lawn mowers, and 2) mow every lawn. The ultimate goal will be to free Americans everywhere from the drudgery of yard work, giving them more time to read their Facebook posts or whatever they consider fun. If they consider yard work fun, they will be given a lobotomy because that kind of mental illness just can’t be dealt with in a way that’s less drastic.

In the first weeks of my presidency, teams of DOY&L personnel would fan out across neighborhoods all across America, knocking on doors and offering tens of thousands of dollars to every household that gives up every lawn mower, leaf blower, weed eater, lawn edger, hedge clipper, in fact every implement of lawn care and yard work.

The DOY&L would use these tools (except for the leaf blowers, which would be packed onto container ships and sent to America’s worst enemies) when they come to your house once a week to cut your lawn. Every other day if you’re retired. Retired people seem to need to have their lawns look newly-mowed all the time. The DOY&L will also trim your shrubs and hedges and remove dead limbs from trees, throwing the branches into those awesome wood chippers that go MEOOWWW as they shoot sawdust into the back of a truck.

Gardens are cool. You can plant all the veggies you want.

department of lawns | 5:31 am CDT
Category: daily drivel, yard work
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Sunday, May 22nd, 2016

I just can’t get enough of this video.

WORK! | 1:09 pm CDT
Category: daily drivel, music | Tags:
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I got to move to a different desk on Friday morning. Jim retired the middle of last month, and a couple days after he announced it, I asked Susan if anyone else had called dibs on his desk. Jim worked in a smaller cubicle but it had a raised desk top that he could work at while standing. I would much rather stand than sit all day.

When Susan said nobody had asked to switch desks with Jim, I allowed as to how I would like to switch, if it was okay with her. Turned out she was just fine with that. She had to make some arrangements with the IT department to move my computer and my phone, and in the end they messed up the phone move which now won’t happen until some time next week, but Friday morning there was an IT person at my desk when I went in bright and early, and about an hour later I’d finished moving all my files, bound manuals, pen cup, stapler, tape dispener et cetera, and cleaning up after myself.

It turned out to be as good a move as I thought it would. Standing is much better than sitting all day. I’ve been sitting behind a desk for nearly all my life, but for a little more than ten years now I’ve been much less active outside work. The Air Force had ways to motivate me to stay in shape, but after I retired from the military I had to come up with my own ways, and at this I have been sorely lacking.

And I mean sorely. Every evening for the past ten years when I got up from my office chair I felt a little worse than the day before. I could almost feel myself falling apart, but it’s not as if I had nothing to do with it. Sitting all day is bad, no question about that, but after work I would feel so exhausted that when I got home, the temptation to drop into a comfortable chair and sit all night was all but irresistible. I did not resist.

B and I got a membership at a local gym last fall and promised each other that we would go at least once a week at first, working up to twice a week through the winter. We had nothing but the best intentions. We even went to an introductory lesson, in which one of the personal trainers at the gym showed us how to use the machines that concentrated on building up core muscles. I’ve never before been in the presence of any personal fitness instructor who was more disinterested in our physical fitness. Usually they’re such hoo-rah cheerleaders that you can hardly stand them, but this guy excreted lack of enthusiasm from every pore in his body. We never went back, and I think neither one of us ever sincerely intended to go back even though we didn’t cancel our memberships for several months. Guilt is a crazy thing.

About two years ago we started going to yoga classes at the local community center. Yoga is supposed to be about getting your mind, body and spirit in shape. We weren’t necessarily thinking about mind and spirit, but getting out a couple times a week to a little light physical exercise didn’t hurt us at all, and surprisingly enough it relieved a lot of stress I was suffering from. I’d just started my current job at the DMV, investigating fraud, and was having more than a little trouble getting along with my supervisor. Somehow, I don’t know how, the practice of always taking deep, regular breaths eliminates quite a lot of stress from my life.

The poses seem to do me some good, too. I always feel more limber and relaxed after an hour of yoga, but I’d hesitate to call it exercise. The people who are really good at yoga obviously spend a lot of time doing what I would consider real exercise at a gym with weights and treadmills and such, and as I noted already I have issues with motivating myself to go to the gym. But even if the poses do nothing else, they taught me that I’m getting a pot belly because I let my core muscles get flabby. There’s a thickening layer of fat there, too, no denying it, but there’s also no denying that whenever I’m on my feet, I slouch and tend to lean on things because I’m literally out of practice when it comes to standing for any length of time greater than five minutes.

So I’m grateful, and I say this without one iota of sarcasm, to have the opportunity to slave away at my desk while standing. I stood almost all day long. I tried variations by standing on one leg or the other. I stood in tree pose, which is that yoga thing where you put the sole of your foot against the side of your calf and crank your knee around so it sticks out to one side. I did deep-knee bends. I did leg lifts. And occasionally I sat, just to give my knees a rest, which are not happy with my newfound enthusiasm for standing.

There are two downsides to my new location, though: the cubicle is located at the entrance to our section, so I’m the first person anybody sees when they walk in. When Jim worked there, he was answering questions from everyone who wandered in. The other downside is that the cubicle is right across from the break room, so every time someone toasts a couple of Pop Tarts or warms up some curry in the microwave, my stomach growls.

the moves | 7:30 am CDT
Category: daily drivel, office work, work
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Saturday, May 21st, 2016

N-cat stabbed me in the face when I picked him up off the table Thursday morning. More specifically, he stabbed me in the base of the nose. Score one for him, but no bonus points. It’s a big target.

The little bastard’s got claws that are sharp as needles. He tagged me pretty good, too, so the claw that got me went deep enough to draw blood, and quite a lot of it. I just dabbed at it in the beginning, thinking it would stop soon, but the flow got heavier instead of lighter until I had to put substantial pressure on it to keep from dribbling blood all over the house.

And this happened just as we were getting ready to leave for work. Rather than try to drive while holding a compress against my nose, I volunteered My Darling B to take the wheel, a task she agreed to do only reluctantly. She hates to drive, which is why I usually end up doing it. I hate to drive, too. Funny how that works.

She did just fine, though. So well, in fact, that I volunteered her to do it every other day. She countered with every other week, and called dibs on vacations and weeks with holidays.

Stabbed | 11:16 am CDT
Category: daily drivel
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Friday, May 20th, 2016

I have this vague memory of sleeping until five o’clock in the morning. I know it happens every once in a great while. I think it may have happened as recently as last week, or maybe it was two weeks ago, but for the life of me I just can’t remember what it was like. Odd.

I went to bed at ten last night after a very good dinner and an evening spent singing along with songs from the musical Hamilton. I was in bed by ten, willed myself to stay awake long enough to read a few pages of Bill Bryson’s latest book before my eyelids started slamming shut, then turned the lights out and settled into blissful sleep. That lasted all of for hours when the n-cat began to stir.

All he did at first was rearrange himself, and My Darling B managed to shush him for a little while, but soon he wanted to groom, and he wanted to do it right next to my head. When I signaled I’d had enough of that by poking him in his side with my elbow, he inched down a bit toward my hip, then resumed bathing himself. This went on for fucking ever, seemingly.

I ended that by getting up to go to the bathroom and making sure that, when I came back, I gave him a good, solid butt-shove. He got the message, dismounted the bed and left the room.

Next up, The Boo, who waited just long enough for me to get relaxed again before horking up a hairball. Bowing to the inevitable, I tramped to the kitchen to fetch the roll of paper towels and the spray bottle of vinegar to clean up her mess. And stepped in a bit of it when I came back, trying to navigate through the darkness by the light from my phone.

It was by this time about the o’clock and I was a profoundly unhappy camper, but I figured I had nothing to lose by going back to bed, so I did. Laid there about ten minutes before my nose stayed to bleed. It’s an old injury from that time I was abducted by aliens that comes back to haunt me from time to time. When I could tell it was a pretty heavy bleed that wasn’t going to be sniffed into submission, I rolled out of bed for the umpteenth time and toddled of to the bathroom to stuff some tissues up my nose.

I did not go back to bed after that. What would be the point? Needless to say, the coffee maker is going to be my best friend today.

Sleepless once again | 5:57 am CDT
Category: sleeplessness
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Monday, May 9th, 2016

High speed Internet has finally come to our little red house. We had been making do with DSL over the phone line, which the tech had to tear out with hammer and tongs before replacing it with sleek, modern CAT 4 cable. AT&T don’t even use telephone line any more. If you want a land line in your house, they install computer cable and run the phone through that.

But we didn’t get high speed Internet for the phone. We got it so the smart TV finally does what it was advertised to do. The DSL connection was so clunky that the only way we could watch video on it before was to stream it through our phones and get the TV to mirror them. And that wasn’t a very good fix; it was always low-def and the sound was off. Dialog didn’t come out of anybody’s mouth when it should have.

Now, though, I can punch up any video on YouTube and watch it at any quality. It’s like I lived with 20/300 vision until middle age, then got lasik surgery. I watched a dozen videos by The Slow Mo Guys in HD just because I could. Not that I wouldn’t have watched them on my phone. Those guys are great.

Shiny | 9:14 pm CDT
Category: daily drivel
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Sunday, May 8th, 2016

We called MG&E on Saturday because we came home from the store and smelled burnt matches. “That’s not gas, though, right?” I asked them. “It’s supposed to smell like rotten eggs, isn’t it?” They said yes, but just to be safe they sent a technician who used a hand-held gadget to sniff for gas around the meter and all around the house. He found nothing, but admitted he could smell burnt matches, too.

B looked it up on line and found that the number one answer to the question “why does my house smell like burnt matches?” was: ghosts. Google is usually a big help for these things, but this was almost worse than no answer at all because, sorry to state the obvious here, there is no such thing as ghosts, so that eliminates 99% of the answers. All the other answers seemed more unlikely than the best answer that we could come up with on our own, which was that the cat had been playing with matches.

burnt matches | 5:00 am CDT
Category: daily drivel
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Saturday, May 7th, 2016

For the first time in six years (seven?), B and I will not be going to the Great Taste of the Midwest. We got up early, got dressed, got in the car and, after several fuckups, got underway, but we were only a block from home when B thought to ask herself, out loud, whether the Great Taste feel on the same weekend as the Shakesperience, a three-day event in August we signed up for last week. A quick Google search proceed that it was, and that ea the end of our trip to buy tickets last weekend.

It wasn’t a snap decision. In fact, we drove all the way to Cork & Barrel, the liquor store where the tickets were sold, as we debated whether or not to go ahead and buy the tickets anyway. In the end, we knew that the Great Taste wouldn’t be much different this year than it was last year, that it would be there next year, and that there would be so many other beer fests going on this summer that we would not want for craft beer in an outdoor setting, if we should develop a sudden jonesing for one.

Just for yucks, we drove past Cork & Barrel and Star Liquor to see how long the lines were. The line to Cork & Barrel wrapped around the front of the block this year, instead of going around the back, so we were momentarily gobsmacked when we drove up and saw no line where we expected to see dozens and dozens of people. And oh, did they look miserable. A few had tents or umbrellas or some kind of cover, but quite a few only had blankets. It wasn’t raining hard, but it had been raining all night and temps were in the forties, so they all had to be chilled to the bone.

bailing out | 12:40 pm CDT
Category: festivals, Great Taste of the Midwest
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Monday, April 25th, 2016

I’m pretty damned tired after the first full weekend of physical labor that I’ve done since last fall (or maybe even last summer). Five to six months of doing nothing but sitting on my butt all day in an office, then going home and laying on my back all night have reduced me to a mere ghost of my once gloriously vigorous self, or what somehow passed for vigorous and glorious, anyway.

I started on Friday by pruning the lowest branches off the maple tree that sprouted as a volunteer many years ago and has finally grown into what I would tell other people is a tree without worrying that they’re going to snicker at it. It’s a much more slow-growing maple than the others in the yard, so for all but the last one or two years it resembled nothing as much as a tall, skinny twig with lots of leaves on it. Last year, though, its branches were just thick enough and so fully-fledged that anybody would say it’s a tree instead of a mere sapling. The lowest branches, though, were making it impossible for me to comfortably get underneath them in order to mow the grass, so I lopped off five or six. We’ll see how that goes.

There’s another maple by the front door that sprouted four or five years ago and I let it keep growing even though it’s probably too close to the house to keep much longer, but I like the shade it throws across the door, so I think it gets to stay for at least another year or two. There was one branch growing askew of the main trunk and right across the path to the door, however, that had to go.

And while I was feeling all lumberjacky, I cut down the soft maple that sprouted in the far corner of the front yard, between the house and the telephone pole. It was just a skinny sapling for many years, but in the last year or two it got crazy big, and it was right on the lot line so it was going to encroach on the neighbor’s yard soon enough. In another year or two it would be too big for me to drop by myself, so I set myself down at the base of the trunk with a bow saw and started to work cutting a notch in the near side to get the tree to fall into our yard instead of into the neighbor’s yard or the street.

Soft as the wood was, it took me a good twenty to thirty minutes to cut that notch with my little saw, and I may have mentioned taht I’m not used to that kind of sustained physical labor, so once I got the notch cut out I retreated to the house to suck down a glass of orange juice, then chase it with a glass or two of water while I munched on snacks to give me strength enough to get through the next hour or so.

I dropped the tree almost exactly where I wanted it to go, right across the middle of our yard and pointing slightly away from the hard maple in the middle of the yard. After it was down, I wheeled the wood chipper out of the shed, spun it up and started feeding branches into it that I cut off the soft maple as I went. It took the better part of three hours but I managed to reduce all but the branches that were too thick to feed into the chipper to mulch, a pile that filled a 30-gallon garbage can and one bushel basket.

That was about all I had the time and the strength to do on Friday. On Saturday morning, I cut the trunk of the soft maple into chunks small enough to handle with a circular saw, probably not the best tool for the job but no way was I going to give up a couple hours of my life to do it with a hand saw. The circular saw was the only power tool I had that was portable and would cut through wood that thick. I guess technically my table saw is portable, but I didn’t want to mess it up my abusing it that way.

Then I mowed the grass in the front yard before stacking the wood from the tree by the curb for pick-up later next week. Finally, I dragged the chipper into the back yard and chipped a pile of branches that I’d left there last fall. They went through the chipper a lot more easily now they were dry than they did last year when they were green, not that I take any credit for planning it that way. I just got lazy and left it until now.

And that’s why I’ve been sore as hell all over and feeling as though I’ve been drained of my life force. I took a ride to Farm & Fleet in the morning with B, who wanted to pick up a flamethrower and a few other sundries she used later to combat the dandelions that were threatening to take over her garden. Yes, a flamethrower, although it doesn’t spew jellied gasoline all over the yard so I guess it’s technically not a flamethrower. It’s more like a high-powered torch, made specifically to blast weeds all to hell. This is an actual gardening tool. I picked the wrong hobby.

I went along to find a latch for the doors in the basement because without it, Scooter would find out sooner or later that he could opened them at any time with a gentle push. I found just what I needed and installed it later in the afternoon. And I got the hoses down from the attic in the garage because although she was having lots of fun with her new toy, she was a little worried that she might set fire to the neighborhood. No worries about that now that the hoses are connected and she can soak the ground after she scorches it.

wore out | 7:00 am CDT
Category: daily drivel
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