My Darling B works with people who sure know how to have a good time.
After picking her up from work at the usual hour we drove just a couple blocks to the Great Dane tavern near the Hilldale Mall to down a few cold beers, maybe eat some greasy food and tell stories. Mostly tell stories. None of which I feel I can repeat here. The stories you tell in the tavern on Friday night ought to stay in the tavern, right?
But I think I can say that we all had a lot of fun telling them right up to the time we hit the road at about eight o’clock, which is about as long as I should be allowed to sit in a tavern drinking and telling stories. Any longer than that and I usually end up enjoying myself just a little too much. As it was, I ended up sawing logs in the recliner at nine o’clock and after waking myself with a particularly loud zawp! shuffled off to hit the sack soon after. Guess I just don’t have the steam for a late night out any longer.
Not that it’s going to stop me from taking My Darling B to the hangar dance tonight …
6:52 am CDT
Category: daily drivel, food & drink, My Darling B, O'Folks, O'Folks friends, play, restaurants
| Tags: Great Dane
I had to go to a class yesterday morning to learn how not to be unemployed. Now that I know, I can get to work on that right away.
In one of those letters “requesting and requiring” my presence, Job Center of Wisconsin asked me to attend a meeting of the newly-unemployed at their classrooms in the pole barn on the north end of town. Roughnecks in hardhats were tearing out the walls and ceiling and otherwise drowning out any useful information I might have gotten while I was there, so I nodded when the speaker appeared to pause for effect. I spent a lot of time pouring over the many brightly-colored handouts they gave us, too, and whenever the PowerPoint slide had the phrase “show of hands” on it anywhere, I raised my hand. Non-participation could mean ineligibility for benefits, so I was one hyper-participating mofo.
The case workers who interviewed me were pleased with my participation, so I must have been doing it right. I’ve successfully nodded my way through plenty of military briefings but applying those lessons to civilian life can sometimes be a little dicey. Civilians are likely to ask a question before they pause, for instance. Nodding makes you look like a great big goober in that case, but that didn’t happen yesterday, thank dog.
My case workers also encouraged me to attend several of the many workshops at the Job Center and, after looking over my resume, suggested applying for several state jobs advertised on their web site and, once again, were pleased when I said I’d already submitted applications for several. Just trying to stay one jump ahead of the game.
I applied for any and every job that I came even close to qualifying for, to make sure it was on the record that I was looking for work, but I’m under no illusions that I’m the only one putting in my resume. I scored particularly well on the last two applications I made but still haven’t been called for an interview. I’m guessing there were a few thousand applicants for those jobs and maybe a couple hundred ahead of me who scored one point better than I did. This becoming re-employed game could take a while.
The class ended with a test. They sat us in front of computers to answer a multiple-choice exam meant to evaluate our abilities to read, do math and solve problems. I may have been a bit too literal on the reading portion because I didn’t score very well, and the math portion pissed me off so bad I gave up at the point when I wanted to give the screen a tap with a sledge hammer. I mean to say, figuring out the volume of a cone is very quantifiable. They gave me a calculator and a cheat sheet with the freaking formula, so why did I come up with a result that was just a little bit off? Not way off. Not a misplaced decimal. Just a teensy bit off. I must’ve done that calculation half a dozen times before I finally gave up, picked “C” and exited the exam.
I did a great job of the problem-solving portion though. Go figure.
Only a Test |
6:54 am CDT
Category: adventures in unemployment, daily drivel, work
Every Saturday morning for at least a month, maybe two, I’ve been picking over the VHS tapes on the shelves of the Saint Vincent de Paul thrift store looking for a copy of The Quiet Man, John Ford’s mash note to Ireland, and every weekend I’ve been disappointed. The shelves are loaded down with hundreds of tapes every time I visit, but mostly with newer movies, and usually crap like Mission: Impossible 7 or whatever the latest sequel is. It takes a lot of picking to find a golden oldie like The Quiet Man and they’re so rare it’s easy to get discouraged, but I keep looking because just about the time I lose heart and start to believe the thrift store tape aisle has finally become sequel hell, I run across a classic.
The Quiet Man has, however, long eluded me.
Until yesterday, when I was walking up State Street and I noticed a Goodwill store that I hadn’t seen there before. It might be a new store or, more probably, it has always been there and I just haven’t been paying attention. A glance through the window told me there was a big bin of VHS tapes on sale, so I stepped inside and got to work shuffling through them. And what do you know: There was a copy of The Quiet Man at the bottom of the last bin. The search was over. I raised a note of thanks to the muse of thrift, then presented myself with my new prize at the checkout.
“They’re two for one,” the cashier told me. “Go ahead and pick out another one.”
I almost told him I was so happy finding this I didn’t really want another one, but I don’t like to refuse hospitality, even in a thrift store, so I went back to the bin and came away with a copy of Ocean’s Eleven, the George Clooney version, not the Dean Martin version.
“Seven ninety-five,” the cashier announced, after totaling it up. I thought that was a bit much, but I’d been looking for this movie for a while so I didn’t argue. After handing me my change the cashier hesitates a moment, pointed to my hat and asked, with a ring of doubt in his voice, “You bought that here, right?”
Most of my hats look like thrift-store bargains, so I could understand why he might’ve thought that. “No,” I answered, “I came in wearing that.”
“Really?” he said, and started fumbling in his pockets, finally bringing out a set of keys that he used to unlock the cash register.
Then the light went on for me. (I’m kind of slow sometimes.) “Did you charge me for the hat?” I chuckled.
“Yeah,” he said. ”I’m really sorry.” He really was, too, acting as if he’d just done something unforgivably rude and was worried I’d make a huge stink about it.
“No worries,” I told him as he handed my money back to me. After voiding the first transaction and ringing it up again the two movies came to a buck fifty, making my beat-up straw hat worth about five and a half bucks at thrift store prices. And now I know that, the next time I get a hat to wear while I’m working in the yard, I should find one at the thrift store, because buying new cost me five times that.
Hats Off! |
12:14 pm CDT
Category: daily drivel
| Tags: movies, my glamourous wardrobe
It’ll be a long time before I forget these protesters chanting, “YOU NEED A HUG! A BIG, GAY HUG!” at the counter-rally on the steps of the capital building where twenty or thirty members of the National Organization for Marriage assembled to tell everyone how scared they were that the Defense of Marriage Act was in danger of repeal.
About twenty or perhaps as many as thirty people turned out to rally in support of the National Organization for Marriage, assembling on the western steps of the capital building this morning. The organization sponsored a whirlwind bus tour across the northeast and midwest U.S.
In response, several hundred people, organized by Fair Wisconsin using Facebook and other social media, marched up State Street to meet them, wave colorful signs and flags, chant “YOU NEED A HUG!” and otherwise give them a big dose of good old Madison hospitality.
I caught up with them as they were marching up State Street. Actually, I found them gathering on Library Mall on the UW campus, but there weren’t very many of them and I figured they weren’t going to amount to much, so I went up the street to one of my favorite book stores. I’d been there about twenty minutes when I heard them chanting as they marched up the street and, sticking my head out the door, I saw that their numbers had swelled to several hundred. I chased them up the street to see what would happen when they got to the capital.
For a little while they hung back, congregating at the foot of the steps and chanting occasionally at the NOM folks from a distance, but they gradually worked their way up the stairs until they were right at the very top, chanting and cheering and making it generally impossible for the speakers to be heard at all. The rally and the counter-rally lasted almost an hour and was quite a lot of fun. There were even kids running around, stopping to led their voices to the chant. If it hadn’t been ninety degrees under a blazing sun I would have enjoyed it even more.
[Link to photo album with more pictures.]
March Against N.O.M. |
12:17 pm CDT
Category: current events
| Tags: festival, politics
Is it just me? Or is “hone in” a phrase that makes you wince and look away, same as you would if you were watching a kid get a sound spanking while you were waiting in the check-out line at the grocery store?
“Hone in” is one of those English-language mashups that I don’t think I’ll ever be able to get used to. I know that a changing language is a vibrant language, and I’m all for that. I’ve got bookshelves that groan under the weight of entertaining books filled with entertaining portmanteaus (mashups) and malapropisms (sound-alikes) but, for whatever reason, “hone in” belongs to that very special subset of mashups that drives me all the way up a rubber wall.
“Home in” is the phrase you want if you’re trying to find something, such as the professional photographer profiled in a story I ran across on NPR’s web site. He received a gift of the last roll of Kodachrome film and wanted each shot to be perfect, so he used a digital camera to home in on the perfect exposure. Only they didn’t write “home in”, they wrote “hone in.” I thought maybe it was a transcriber’s error until I listened to the podcast and found the phrase “hone in” was only in the print story. They didn’t say it on the air.
“Hone” means to sharpen. For most of my life I hardly ever heard anyone use the word “hone” even when they knew what it meant. It’s pretty old-fashioned, like saying “whet,” which also means “to sharpen” and, like “hone”, has survived mostly in folk songs like There’s A Hole In The Bucket, Dear Liza, Dear Liza, and in phrases like “whet your appetite.” Outside of quirks like that, nobody says “whet” any more.
And then, in the last five or ten years, everybody started to say “hone in” I can’t figure out why. Before this started happening, the only time I ever heard anyone say “hone” was in worn-out phrases like “hone your skills.” It was a word as archaic as thou” or “twas”, yet now everybody’s using it. But they’re using it wrong.
There’s a special ring in hell for grammar nerds who correct other people for goof-ups like this. Misspellings I take a pass on; I can’t spell for love nor money, and I don’t expect others to know the spelling of every English word by heart. I’m passionate about the use of apostrophes, but comma placement is a mystery to me. I admit there are depths to the English language that I’ll never understand.
But “home in” seems so simple to me. You go home, you don’t go hone. It’s insignificant, I suppose, just one of those changes I should bow to and stop obsessing over, but I still wince whenever I hear it, and die a little bit when a writer uses it in print. I can’t look away while a perfectly good word takes a beating.
[Exposed: The Last Roll of Kodachrome by Brad Horn and Claire O’Neill on NPR]
Go Hone |
12:43 pm CDT
Category: current events
| Tags: language
Lots of planes fly over our house. When the wind is right they cruise past, low and slow as if they’re going to land right in the middle of our street, on the way to the airport north of town. I’ve gotten used to the sound of jet planes, which often sound oddly like prop planes, and the sound of prop planes that sound like lawn mowers, but the sound of four nine-cylinder radial Wright “Cyclone” engines is not a sound we hear very often, and it’s not easily mistaken for anything else. I really have to look up when I hear it.
“Holy shit!” I sputtered, shading my eyes to catch sight of the World War Two bomber flying just five hundred feet or so above our house, “that’s a freaking B-17!” It puttered along, serene as a glider but one hell of a lot nosier, gear down, until it disappeared over the trees.
I had just finished up an afternoon’s work in the basement and was just about to jump in the shower anyway. As soon as I was cleaned up and presentable to the general public, I grabbed my camera, jumped in the car and motored out to the airport to see if I could catch sight of it somewhere on the tarmac. I figured it shouldn’t be too hard to spot.
And it wasn’t. I caught sight of it through the windows of the terminal and drove around the perimeter road until I found a spot close enough to the fence to snap a pretty good photo of the plane from the rear quarter. I’m not sure why it stopped over in Madison. The most plausible explanation is that it was on the way to the annual EAA air show in Oshkosh where you’ll find old birds like this on display from now through the end of the week.
Flying Fort |
12:47 pm CDT
Category: daily drivel, play
| Tags: anachrophilia
This, my friend, is possibly the most overbuilt cabinet carcase on the face of the planet. That’s three-quarter inch plywood you’re looking at. Orson Welles, were he still walking this green, effective earth, could perch on that, after it’s put together of course, and it wouldn’t give a fraction of an inch in any direction. We’ll be able to take shelter from tornadoes in it. This will be an indestructible cabinet.
I’m not an engineer, and I don’t build a lot of cabinets, so I wasn’t sure what to use for the carcase. Half-inch plywood seemed too flimsy, and I certainly didn’t want flimsy, because this is going to be a permanent part of our house, so I went up a notch to three-quarter inch plywood to make sure it would be sturdy enough that anybody could sit on it, or jump on it, or set a life-size statue of the Buddha cast in pure, solid lead on it.
It’s meant to be a window seat, you see, a perch to lure the casual visitor, a place to rest, a corner for quiet repose. It’s fairly small, just over three feet wide and about two feet tall, and I can tell already it’s ridiculously overbuilt. I probably could’ve gotten away with using quarter-inch plywood, tacking it together with cleats to stiffen it just enough to bear the weight of a seat cushion, because I doubt anyone will ever sit on it. All we’ll be storing in it is blankets and quilts for the guest bed. And yet I built a bunker we could easily stick two rabid wombats in and let them fight to the death without a care in the world that they’d ever get free to menace either of us.
Now, for the book cases that’ll flank it on either side … I’m thinking steel plate.
11:05 am CDT
Category: Our Humble O'Bode
| Tags: books, woodworking
Okay, I admit it: I’m getting restless. I’ve been unemployed for three weeks now and it’s making me antsy, BUT IT’S NOT BECAUSE I DON’T WANT TO STAY AT HOME READING BOOKS, PETTING THE CAT AND WRITING DRIVEL ALL DAY. I hope we’re straight on that.
I’ve always said I don’t understand people who say they could never retire because they wouldn’t know what to do with themselves all day. That’s just sad. I can think of a gojillion things I’d rather do that go to work. Got that? A gojillion!
When my position was eliminated my employer sent me to a job-hunting seminar and one of the featured speakers at this seminar began her talk by pointing at me and asking, by way of trying to be motivational, “If you didn’t have to go to work, what would you do with yourself?”
I made a huge mistake answering her. Never having to work ever again would be my dream, so I laughed, which I realized later sounded a lot like a dismissive guffaw, and I said, “I wouldn’t do anything!”
She rocked back on her heels and barked, “Huh!” heavily inflecting her canine reply with enough disdain to wilt a lesser man than I. “Well, you’ve got to do something! You can’t do nothing forever!”
First, she’s wrong. I could do nothing for quite a long time. Twenty-one years in the military have trained me well in the ways of inertia. It makes my head fuzzy and I feel like a lump of mud, and if I kept it up for more than a week I’d be just as disgusted with myself as she was, but I could do it.
Second, what I meant was that I certainly wouldn’t end up biting my nails, wondering what to do with myself. I would instead happily spend the rest of my days reading & cat-petting & otherwise puttering, but I think she took it as a personal rebuke. I wanted to explain that and offer my apologies, until she doinked me a couple more times for by repeating the “You can’t just do nothing” meme throughout her talk. By the time she was done I was telegraphing death threats to her in Morse code by blinking my eyes.
So long as we understand that I would be able to cope rather well with not having to go to work, when “work” is defined as reporting to a cubicle daily to bang away at a pile of somebody else’s paperwork that never seems to get any smaller, I’ll continue my original thought: I’m getting a little restless about being out of work. It’s making me antsy because My Darling B shouldn’t have to venture into cubicle hell alone every day to bring home a paycheck.
I had these lofty dreams of becoming a writer, and she very graciously agreed to give me time to look for job vacancies that would let me pursue that dream. Isn’t she the perfect wife? She is, take my word for it. She’s also spoken for. You can’t have her. Just cry in your coffee and get over it.
But my dreams are not going to be enough to get me a job as a writer. Employers would like to see examples of your work, product, but the only things I’ve written in the past twenty-five years are performance appraisals, award write-ups and training manuals. They were damn good appraisals and write-ups, but I’m beginning to get the idea that, without the backup of some night classes in technical writing, they’re not going to win over a potential employer.
Shortly after my previous employer eliminated my position I got a call from the HR department inviting me to apply for a job as an admin assistant. In fact, it was the same job they hired me for five years ago. “Thanks for the years of dedicated service! Want your entry-level job back?” I’m sure they were trying to help, but it still felt like salt in the wound.
Yet now here I am, looking at entry-level jobs. The Great Wheel of Life has turned full circle in just a few years. I’d like to take those night classes but I don’t see how we’ll be able to afford them, or anything else, if I’m not bringing home a paycheck that’s a bit sturdier than the unemployment benefits crutch we’re leaning on now.
Great Wheel |
11:06 am CDT
Category: adventures in unemployment, daily drivel, My Darling B, O'Folks, work
I passed a couple of quiet hours yesterday afternoon pursuing our never-ending attempt to repaint the house. You read that right: I said painting the house. We started the enterprise almost two years ago after inquiring of several professional painters how much they would charge us for them to paint our house instead of us, and blanched when they informed us we would have to fork over a sum in the neighborhood of eight grand.
Isn’t “blanched” a great word? All it means is that the color went out of our faces, but it sounds so much worse, even onomatopoeic, suggesting the splash made by projectile vomiting. And even better, when you say it the word contorts your face into the most disgusted expression. You don’t get that combination of color, sound and facial expression in just any word. It’s a nearly perfect word, really, and deserves a lot more use than it gets.
Two years later both My Darling B and I are now thinking that eight grand would probably have been well worth paying to have somebody else paint the house, first and foremost because it would’ve been done two years ago! Half a dozen guys would’ve shown up at our house, scraped, taped and painted for about a week, and then tah-daaahhhh! Painted house!
In painfully marked contrast, the only free time B and I get to grab a brush and slap on some paint is weekends and holidays during the summer, which is exactly the same free time that My Darling B uses to tend her garden and the same time I’m usually up to my elbows in plumbing emergencies and other fun projects. Ugly as it has made our house look for two years running, we’ve had to put off painting because it always ended up with a pretty low position on the priority totem pole of do-it-yourself home-improvements.
Two years of piled-up embarrassment and good old-fashioned guilt will go a long way to raise the priority of any project, though, so there I was, brush in one hand, paint can in the other, halfway up a ladder slapping a first coat of Cottage Red on the rear of Our Humble O’Bode. I was hoping to cover everything from the bedroom window over to the dining room window, but painting always takes longer than you think it will. I was lucky to get this far before I had to put all the tools away, seal up the paint and jump in the shower so I wouldn’t stink up the car during the drive to the other side of town to pick up My Darling B from work.
I thought I would be outside painting again today, even hoped to get as far as the back door, nearly all the way around to the garage, but instead I spent the morning cowering inside the house as rain came down as heavy and dark as fudge on an ice cream sundae. Ever heard rain described metaphorically as dessert before? Just couldn’t help myself, sorry.
Paint Guilt |
4:47 pm CDT
Category: ch-ch-changes, Our Humble O'Bode, painting
Now that Sean has gone back to Denver, and My Darling B has gone back to work, I’ll have to go back to the fun of keeping up with the yard work and the housekeeping. Oh, and I suppose I’ll have to look for work, too.
We put Sean on a plane to Denver last night. Whenever his flight’s been delayed in the past, he’s called us to while away the time waiting to board but, since we didn’t get a call last night, I’m assuming he actually departed on time, arrived in Denver when he expected he would and was so bushed from traveling that he went straight to bed after getting home, promising himself that he would call us in the morning. Yeah, that’s what happened.
B returned to work reluctantly, as we all do if we’ve managed to snag a full week away from the office to visit beautifully lush gardens, host a big party here at Our Humble O’Bode, paddle a kayak across Mud Lake and otherwise spend lots of quality time with family. She desperately wanted to play hookie today but fully realized she’d only have to deal with the same inclination tomorrow, so she packed up her lunch bag and soldiered on. She’s such a trooper.
Cheeseburger for lunch! Same as yesterday, and again tomorrow.
Back To Unemployment |
4:49 pm CDT
Category: daily drivel, My Darling B, O'Folks, office work, Seanster, T-Dawg, work