Tuesday, May 5th, 2015

I can’t tell you how good it feels to be home again. Okay, that’s not entirely accurate, as I’m about to attempt to tell you exactly that.

I just got back from a business trip of nearly seven hundred miles to the northwest corner of our fair state, and I don’t feel it’s an exaggeration to say it felt like a trip to the moon would have been easier. And then I would be able to say that I’d been to the moon instead of Park Falls, Wisconsin. Not that there’s anything wrong with Park Falls. It’s not as exotic a location as the moon, is all.

I should also point out that, while I get along well with all my co-workers, I would challenge anyone to spend ten hours in a car with their dearest friend and see how long that conversation lasts.

I’m really glad to be home again, where I can sleep in my own bed with my favorite girl, is all I’m saying.

billions and billions | 7:40 pm CST
Category: commuting, travel, work
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Friday, June 21st, 2013

Oh My God We're All Gonna Die, Aren't We?Not biking to work today. Woke up to thunder and was greeted by spotty rain drizzling down when I opened the front door to let the chipmunks tease the cats. And there was also a monstrous red blob coming in from the west on the satellite map when I checked the National Weather Service. I don’t mind getting rained on coming home from work, but I try to avoid getting rained on when I’m going to work. That would really torque my crank.

Monstrous red blob means probably rain all weekend. So it’s going to be a stay-inside weekend, then. Oh well. I got some more brewing equipment in the mail yesterday so it was already likely I was going to spend a big part of the weekend in the basement making a mess anyway.

monstrous red blob | 6:08 am CST
Category: commuting, daily drivel, random idiocy, work
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Tuesday, June 18th, 2013

Biking home from work I got stuck behind a guy who was showing off to anyone who would watch by leaning way back in his saddle and riding no-hands down the trail. We all felt so insignificant that we would never been as cool as he was.

I would’ve passed him but, just as I approached, he wagged his butt and his bike waggled back and forth across the trail with him. Not wanting to become part of his wish to crash spectacularly, I avoided passing him until I could more completely assess his intentions.

His intentions were apparently to dare gravity to grab him and dash him to the ground. Not only did he waggle his butt again, but he went on to dance a hoochy-koo in his saddle, shaking his ass so vigorously that his chain slapped a back-beat against the frame of his bike.

I watched and waited for what I thought had to be the inevitable jackknifing that would end with his chin shoveling up dirt, but no joy. He remained defiantly upright until he grabbed his handlebars to turn, something even he was not cool enough to do no-hands.

shake ya ass | 8:00 pm CST
Category: bicycling, commuting, entertainment, hobby, play, work
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Biking to work today, I slowed down at the spot where the bike trail crossed Blount because a Budweiser beer truck was coming up the road. He was moving pretty slow but I’m pretty slow sometimes too and I didn’t want to get smooshed like a bug, so I stopped.

I had to wait a lot longer than I thought I would for him to get to the crossing. Just as he got there, he hit the brakes and waved me a cross.

What I should have done then was shook my head and waved him across. Either that, or moon him. But I was in a hurry, so I went.

I’ll have to file that away in my “Just one more reason not to like Budweiser” scrapbook, I guess.

No, after you | 6:28 pm CST
Category: commuting, daily drivel, random idiocy, work
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Thursday, May 23rd, 2013

It’s raining again. I don’t ride my bike to work in the rain because I bike to work in my work clothes and I want my clothes to be dry when I get there. Therefore, no bike ride today. Bummer.

drizzle drivel | 6:40 am CST
Category: bicycling, commuting, hobby, play, work
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Thursday, May 16th, 2013

Yesterday was the first time this year that I was able to ride my bicycle to work in shirt sleeves, and, it has to be said, they were short sleeves. It was about sixty degrees, a little on the cool side of comfortable for me, but the sun was out and I warmed myself up so that after the first mile I wasn’t worried at all about catching a chill.

After I came home from work, I stretched out on a chair in the back yard with a beer and finished about half the New York Times crossword puzzle. When I couldn’t get any farther I put the crossword down, rested my head on the back of the chair and passed a dreamy ten or fifteen minutes just gazing up at the sky through the bright green leaves of the maple tree that grows over the deck.

These are the days I wait all winter for.

shirt sleeves | 5:43 am CST
Category: commuting, daily drivel, work
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Friday, May 3rd, 2013

I like to ride my bike to work, but I’ve always been a little skittish about it. I’m a fair-weather cyclist. I’ll ride when it’s sunny and warm out, but when the sky’s overcast, or the weatherman’s calling for more than a thirty percent chance of rain, I opt for the dry, warm safety of the O-Mobile.

The thing I’ve noticed on the days I pick the safe option is that, nine times out of ten it ended up not raining that day. I’d feel pretty good about my choice as I was driving in, but on the way home when everyone else was walking around in their shirt sleeves enjoying what turned out to be a beautifully sunny day, I’d be kicking myself. Figuratively speaking, of course. Pretty hard to kick yourself when you’re sitting in a car.

And that’s why I chucked the safest option yesterday morning and rode my bike to work, even though the forecast was calling for rain. I believed the forecast, by the way. The sky was thickly overcast with clouds the color of iron, it was cold and I had no doubt that rain would fall at some time during the day, but I was determined to believe that it would not fall during the crucial hour that I rode to work and the hour after work when I was heading home.

I made it to work just fine. Not even a sprinkle to dampen my clothes. And that’s the most critical thing, really. Could there be a a more effective way than getting soaked through with rain to make office work more miserable than it already is? Somehow, I don’t think so.

I thought I was going to be just fine on the way home, too. I had to pick up a few things, but the bakery and the grocer’s were on the way, and I was less than five minutes in each. By the time I got to Olbrich Park, though, it had started to sprinkle, and not the sprinkle of a passing cloud. More the sprinkle of a cloud that is warning you there is much, much more to come. As indeed there was.

By the time I reached Cottage Grove Road, the clouds had finished their throat-clearing and were belting out a bitchen blues tune that made me wail right along with them. The words to the song are not suitable for mixed company and I don’t remember all of them now that I’m warm and comfortable, but I remember that it was mostly just one word repeated again and again. I stuck a pronoun in occasionally just to emphasize that it was my own situation I was very unhappy with.

There was an especially heavy downpour just after I crossed the line into Monona and started down the home stretch, because when the universe flips you off, it figures Go Big Or Go Home. This was about when the river of ice water that was running down my back and damming up behind my belt finally broke through. Some say the devil rules a land of fire, some say ice. I’ve felt the icy cold hand of the devil reach down the back of my pants and grab my man-parts, so I can confirm that he’s not about fire.

I’d been pedaling so furiously through the rain and the wind that when I finally reached the shelter of Our Humble O’Bode only forty minutes had passed, and that included the two stops I made to pick up dinner. I peeled out of my wringing-wet clothes just inside the front door and left them there in a sodden heap until after I took a hot, hot shower.

Could’ve been worse, as it turned out. B said she went through hail on the way home.

great big cosmic f u | 6:23 am CST
Category: bicycling, commuting, daily drivel, hobby, story time, work
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Saturday, January 26th, 2013

This was how my Friday began:

I drove My Darling B to work yesterday because we were going to meet some friends of hers at Smoky’s Club on the west side. If I had the car and went back to pick her up after work, it would eliminate a lot of driving back and forth.

Her office is on the west side of town and, at that hour, the beltline is the quickest, easiest way to get there. On Friday morning, though, there was a dusting of new snow all across Madison and, when I came down the on-ramp and merged with traffic, I had the luck to fall in behind a county truck and, just as I pulled up behind him, he dropped his spade and wing plow to clear snow from the on-ramp and he started spreading salt. Of course.

I tried to get out from behind him but couldn’t. He slowed down quite a lot to plow and salt the road, and the oncoming traffic in the other lanes was moving too fast to safely merge with it. Also, I was having a lot of trouble seeing: The spray thrown up behind the truck mixed up with the salt he was laying down, which quickly coated the windshield of the O-Mobile in an opaque, white glaze. I tried the windshield washer but nothing squirted out. Tried it again; still nothing.

It’s the kind of car where the wipers come on when you try to squirt the wiper fluid. Sweeping back and forth across the windshield, they smeared the road spray and salt all over the glass, leaving about three inches at the very bottom for me to peek through. I had to drive the rest of the beltline hunched down in my seat. My head was lower than the top of the steering wheel.

After dropping B off at work I pulled into the first gas station I could find on University Ave, a small Mobil station. There was a rack of one-gallon bottles of wiper fluid right next to the door; I grabbed a gallon on the way in, set it on the counter and dug my wallet out of my pocket. And waited. There was no one at the counter. There didn’t appear to be anyone in the service bay, either. I shuffled around a bit, making noise, but nobody came out of the bathroom or whatever hidey hole they were in. I could have shoplifted the cash register.

I was standing there about five minutes when an older guy came out of a back room behind the service bay. “Can I help you?” Yeah, that’d be nice, thanks.

Back at the car, I popped the hood and filled up the wiper fluid reservoir, started the engine and yanked on the wiper stem. The wipers swept back and forth, but nothing squirted out. I yanked again, because, you know, that fixes it, right? Only it didn’t fix it, and I didn’t have time to figure out what the problem might be. I was already late for work, so I just poured wiper fluid straight from the bottle onto the windshield, then reached inside the car and yanked the on the wiper stem. The wipers swept across the windshield, squeegeeing the wiper fluid off the glass and slopping almost all of it onto my pants. Of course.

This was how my Friday ended:

We’ve driven past Smoky’s Club I don’t know how many times, and every time we drove past, one of us said, “You know, we really have to visit there some time.”

Well, we finally stopped in at Smoky’s yesterday. They were taking part in Madison Magazine’s Restaurant Week, so for the last night we decided to finish off with a steak dinner at Smoky’s. And just to make it as much fun as possible, we met a couple that B knows from work and passed several happy hours swapping stories while we enjoyed dinner and some drinks. So, as bad as the day started, it ended about as well as it could have.

my friday | 7:56 am CST
Category: booze, commuting, daily drivel, festivals, food & drink, Madison Restaurant Week, My Darling B, O'Folks, O'Folks friends, play, restaurants, work
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Thursday, December 20th, 2012

Let me tell you about the woman I almost killed while I was trying to get to work this morning.

Driving to work in the snowstorm we have been experiencing on this fine pre-apocalyptic day was a challenge. The O-Mobile is a fine car, but in anything more than two inches of snow it steers like a cow and can’t find any traction. I hate the idea of shopping for a car so much, however, that we won’t be replacing our trusty steed any time soon. I’ll probably go shopping for tire chains the next time I get the chance and call it done.

I shoveled the driveway first thing in the morning, but realized before I got to the end that the O-Mobile wouldn’t be going anywhere until the city’s snow plows cleared the street. I didn’t even shovel all the way to the street until they came by and did that thing where they pile up a snowbank as high as an elephant’s eye right at the end of all the driveways, then speed away, cackling maniacally. That happened at about a quarter past seven, right after Tim came over to help dig out. All alone, it would’ve taken me at least twenty or even thirty minutes to chip away at that pile of snow, but together we murdered that snowbank in about ten minutes.

After a long, steamy shower to get all the snow-shoveling sweat off me and soothe my aching shoulders, I finished off a cup of coffee and headed out. The roads were a horror story. Our street, freshly plowed, was not so bad, but the main road through town was covered in slush, as were the roads further on. I wasn’t steering the car so much as suggesting which way it should go by ruddering the front wheels in what looked like the direction least likely to result in an accident. The O-Mobile decided to go in that direction or in another, apparently random direction, but the process it used to make that decision remained unknown to me.

This resulted in a more or less safe trip right up to the point I arrived at the office building where I work. The six-lane road it’s on, Washington Avenue, is one of the main traffic arteries right through the middle of the city and had been recently plowed, resulting in the aforementioned elephant-eye-high snowbank across the side street I would have to turn into to get to the parking lot. To get a good look at the street I cruised right past it, driving further down Washington to double back on Johnson, where I got stuck in a snowbank. The irony was not lost on me.

After a good Samaritan helped dig and push the O-Mobile out of the snowbank, I circled around the block and was coming down Washington for a second pass when I saw that someone had already turned into the side street and left two deep grooves in the snow. With some careful maneuvering and a little bit of luck, I thought, I should be able to make this turn if I can manage to get my wheels in those grooves.

Luck seemed to be with me. There were no cars behind me and none beside me, so I had the luxury of swinging the car into the middle lane and setting my speed just where I wanted it so that when, at the critical moment, I began a wide, sweeping turn into the side street, everything looked exactly right. But luck, she is a bitch sometimes. Just as I came to the corner of the building and could see around the snowbank, a woman on a bicycle appeared, riding out of the side street toward Washington in one of the tire tracks I was aiming for!

She jumped off her bike. Whether she was jumping off in reaction to the appearance of a 2005 Toyota Camry suddenly careening in her direction, or because she was tired of trying to pedal through slushy snow, I can’t say. I was kind of focused on trying not to turn her into road kill. Swerving to one side, I ran the O-Mobile into the snowbank. Momentum carried the car through the snow as it fishtailed back and forth, and I sailed past her, up the street and into the parking lot in the space of about five heartbeats. Five resting heartbeats. I squeezed about fifty heartbeats in the same amount of time. How I didn’t have to pick the broken remains of the woman on the bike out of the grille of my car, I can’t explain.

The storm continued pouring down snow all around the city and even got worse as the day went on, so I punched out at noon and made my way home ever so slowly along roads that were freshly-plowed on the Madison side of town. Further around the lake, though, the roads didn’t appear to have been plowed since I drove in four hours earlier. As the O-Mobile wallowed and swam along the slush-covered roads through Schenk’s Corners, another bicyclist appeared through the murk, riding right down the middle of the road. I smooshed him. He was asking for it.

kill death murder horror | 8:33 pm CST
Category: commuting, daily drivel, work | Tags: ,
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Wednesday, August 29th, 2012

Rode my bike to work yesterday. The weather was flawless and perfect in every way, so I had to ride my bike. I would’ve hated myself all day if I hadn’t.

Rode it to work again today. The weather tricked me this time. It was nice this morning, but on the way home I was sweating so hard it looked like cartoon sweating where those golf ball-sized drops go shooting off in all directions.

About halfway home I got a text from My Darling B: “Where are you? Want to meet me at Stalzy’s Deli?” I’d gotten as far as Olbrich Gardens, about five blocks down from Stalzy’s, but a sandwich and a cold beer sounded so good just then that I doubled back right after I texted a great big “YES!” at her.

I can’t recommend the Brooklyn Breakfast enough. (Stalzy’s serves breakfast all day.) And, if you’re a beer-drinker, it goes well with Ale Asylum’s Hopalicious.

Brooklyn Breakfast | 9:45 pm CST
Category: beer, bicycling, commuting, daily drivel, food & drink, hobby, play, restaurants, work | Tags:
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Thursday, June 14th, 2012

Not sure there was anything going on today worth talking about. Work was the same as always. Biked to work, so that was good. Biked home, too. That was a little buggy. And the Banzo cart was parked in the lot at the East Side Club, so we brought home a couple orders of falafels and wolfed them down. They’re so good, that’s the only way you can eat them: wolfing them down.

ssdd | 9:22 pm CST
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Wednesday, June 13th, 2012

What a gorgeous day! I think I’ll get the bike out of the garage and take a long, slow ride through the early morning coolness as the sun slowly rises until I get to an office building that’s hermetically sealed off from fresh air and sunshine and I’ll sit in a little room for nine hours while I shuffle papers and answer phone calls. Yeah, that sounds like the perfect way to experience this beautiful, beautiful day. I can’t wait to get started!

gorgeous | 5:48 am CST
Category: commuting, daily drivel, work, yet another rant | Tags:
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Thursday, May 24th, 2012

I drove in to work today instead of riding my bike. The weather forecast called for high winds this afternoon and evening, and I hate biking against a headwind more than I hate biking through the rain, so I gave it a miss. Still left work at four-thirty, though.

This being Thursday, it’s customary for us to stop at our favorite pub, Alchemy, for dinner, not to mention hoist a beer or two. I don’t know how they manage to fit so much talent into such a little kitchen, but their food has never disappointed either of us, and we’ve eaten out in quite a lot of places in this crazy town. The beer’s never disappointed us, either, come to that.

So on the way to work, I suggested to B that, if it wasn’t pouring down rain when she left the office, she should just plan on meeting me at Alchemy. She was very agreeable to the idea, and it wasn’t raining after work, so I quit promptly at four-thirty and hoofed it on over, Alchemy being just five or six blocks from the office where I work.

The place was pretty quiet when I got there, not unusual as it was still early. Justin was at the bar and came right on over when I sat down to see what I wanted. There was an ESB on tap from Left Hand Brewing out of Longmont, CO, that sounded pretty good, and darned if it wasn’t just what I needed after a very long day of shuffling papers and answering phones.

I was almost halfway to the bottom of my glass by the time B showed up. I’d snagged our usual table by then, so she knew just where to find me. Not that it’s a very big place. Still, don’t want to make it any harder than it has to be.

The special tonight was NY strip sirloin marinated in bourbon, served on mashed potatoes and sour cream, with a side of radishes baked in butter. Doesn’t that make you drool like an idiot? Me, too. We goth ordered it, and we both loved it. To go with hers, B ordered an oatmeal stout and let me have a sip. It was so perfect with the steak that I ordered a glass myself, so we had to stay long enough for me to finish it off. Since we were staying anyway, I finished off our visit with a slice of double chocolate cake. What decadence.

decadence | 8:28 pm CST
Category: beer, commuting, entertainment, food & drink, Guy Night, My Darling B, O'Folks, play, restaurants, work | Tags:
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Friday, May 18th, 2012

image of meToday was bike to work week. I biked to work. I biked to work every day this week except Thursday, when I took the car to work only because I had to go to a medical appointment later in the day.


image of meI still didn’t get a t-shirt.

So, nuts to you, bike to work week.


nuts | 8:15 pm CST
Category: bicycling, commuting, daily drivel, entertainment, hobby, play, work
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Tuesday, May 15th, 2012

It rained this afternoon. Not all afternoon, just for the fifteen minutes or so right in the middle of my thirty-minute bike ride home. Right. Square. In. The Middle.

I thought I was going to miss the worst of it when I was about halfway home. I could plainly see the storm brewing way out across the lake and thought, “That’s miles away! It’ll never get way over her before I’m home and dry!” Then it came rampaging across the lake, throwing up whitecaps where the winds tore at the water. Because I was pedaling past Olin Park at the time, I had an unobstructed view of the monster. Made me pedal faster. And then faster still. And even faster than before. Pretty soon, I was really hauling ass.

To no avail. It started raining cats and dogs as I reached the north side of Monona. I hid out under the eaves of a shop, hoping the worst of it would blow over. When it looked like it did I made a dash for it, and five minutes later I was slogging through sheets of rain that didn’t let up until I was just a hundred yards or so from my front door.

Fifteen minutes after I peeled out of my sticky clothes, the sun was out and the birdies were singing again. Damn.

middle | 5:42 pm CST
Category: commuting, work
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Tuesday, September 6th, 2011

I snorfled up a great big bug on the bike ride home today. At least he felt really big. I guess any bug would feel really big when it’s jerking spasmodically, trying to get untangled from the hairs just inside the opening of your left nostril.

Naturally it happened while I was crossing the street, per Hutchinson’s Law: If a situation requires your undivided attention, it will occur simultaneously with a compelling distraction. Nothing more compelling than getting a live animal stuck in an orifice of your body. I tried to use an air hankie to get it out but no joy, so as soon as I got across the street I reached into my pocket for the real hankie I always keep there … until today. The one day I really need a hankie. I wonder if anyone’s coined a law for that situation?

So I used my t-shirt. Not the one I was wearing, but the one in my saddle bag. I blew my nose until it felt like I’d blown my brains out and it still felt like that little bugger was in there. It still feels like he’s in there right now. I suppose he’ll haunt my nose for a few days, or until I forget about the whole thing.

bug | 6:35 pm CST
Category: commuting, work
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Wednesday, August 31st, 2011

Sometimes during the commute to work we can drive for twenty minutes without saying more that three or four words to each other, and sometimes we can talk non-stop all the way. And sometimes, even though we talk a lot, it all comes down to one or two words. This morning was a two-word morning.

We were motoring up Atwood Avenue, approaching the Barrymore Theater, when a guy in a beat-up old Chevy P.O.C. nosed his car out into the traffic lane, looked right at me and decided that he might be able to squeak out ahead of me, even though I wasn’t any more than fifty feet away going thirty miles an hour. But second thoughts came to nag him even as he was goosing the gas pedal and, as his car jumped out from the intersection he immediately danced over to the brake pedal, stomping it to the floor. His car nosed over as the wheels locked, then rocked back and forth, back and forth.

He tried to appear very cool and collected even though his car was jiggling like Jell-O and My Darling B, who is usually off in a daydream for at least half of the commute, was pointing at him and yelling, “What the hell was that?” Her magic pointing finger can usually freeze even the largest marauding dump truck in its tracks but its magic didn’t work on this derp, and she didn’t quite know how to take it. “You butt-shit!” she yelled at him as we drove away.

I curse a lot at other drivers myself, but I favor old standards like “dickhead” and everybody’s favorite, “asshole,” because, in the excitement of the moment, I’ve rarely had the presence of mind to coin my own. Her inventiveness at this high-stress moment really impressed me.

“Butt-shit?” I asked her.

“I was going to call him butthead,” she explained, chuckling, “but that didn’t seem harsh enough. It’s almost an endearment, really. But I already got most of it out by the time I changed my mind so I tried to think of a better ending.”

And that’s how a new addition to my driving vocabulary was coined.

coined | 9:02 pm CST
Category: commuting, My Darling B, O'Folks, work
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Monday, May 23rd, 2011

Driving to work this morning I slowed down for what I thought was a dog in the road. When I got closer I could see that it was a deer, not a dog, and that it was trying to get out of the road but was having a very hard time of it because at least two of its legs were broken. Someone must have hit it only a minute or two before we got there.

I came to a stop in the outside lane and put my flashers on so traffic would divert around us, while B called the police to tell them. During all this, the deer managed to drag itself as far as the gutter but the effort had cost it the last of its strength and it couldn’t get over the curb. It appeared to be having a lot of trouble breathing and was probably all broken up inside.

When B finally got hold of the police they told her that the driver who hit the deer had already called it in. By that time the deer was so absolutely still as to appear to be dead. I didn’t know what else to do. The rush-hour traffic was getting so much heavier that it was becoming dangerous to stay parked in the traffic lane any longer, so we drove on.

Not a great way to start a work week.

deer | 5:49 pm CST
Category: commuting, work
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Monday, April 25th, 2011

Thoughts that went through my head at 4:30 a.m. after the cat woke me up from a sound sleep by dancing across the bed several times:

Obviously, the first thought was, Aww, dammit! What time is it? Feeling around the top of my bedside bookstand, my fingers found the flap that covers the bright green clock face, lifted it up and read the time, which led to the next thought:

Angel of God, prithee smite mine cat with thy rod and thy staff, repeatedly, until she pesters me no more, amen. In the absence of any smiting I got out of bed to confirm that the robot feeding dishes were full, because nothing’s going to stop Boo from keeping me awake if she doesn’t have her morning kibble. And a good thing I got up, because the tiny little mind of the robot feeding dish thought it was supposed to feed the cat at five o’clock instead of four, the time I originally programmed it to burp up more food. I gave it a manual burp and made a mental note to figure that one out later.

That done, I went back to bed. Three to five minutes later, Boo came back to bed, too, and sat down heavily right between my shoulder blades. Angel of God …

That was at about four-forty. My clock starts bleeping at five. I don’t know what you’re like, but I can’t get much sleeping done in twenty minutes, so I start thinking about stuff, like:

I wonder if it’s raining this morning? I was thinking of biking to work if it wasn’t raining. There was rain in the forecast, but only in the afternoon or evening. I’m only worried about the morning. If it rains on the way home, no big deal, but if it rains on the way to work, I have to sit in soggy clothes all day. Bleh.

I don’t hear water running through the downspout. It could be frozen. It’s not likely, but this is Wisconsin, after all. The guy who announces the weather on the radio in the mornings is still using the word “snow” in his forecast. I think he’s even enjoying it now. He pauses, just for half a beat, to get the right dramatic effect before he says “snow” and there’s a little frisson of glee in his voice as he says it, usually with an exclamation point, like a little kid looking out the window at Christmas. Most other announcers would say it with dread, but not him.

I could stop at the coffee shop if I rode in. Of all the things on your desk first thing in the morning, Is there anything better than a great big thermos full of steaming coffee? Of course there isn’t, don’t even bother to answer that. How do coffee shops make coffee so chocolaty good? I’ve tried all the recommended ways to make good coffee, grinding whole beans, brewing it with a drip cone, and I still can’t make coffee as deliciously yummy as they can at a coffee shop. I suppose that’s why there are coffee shops.

Random | 6:11 am CST
Category: Boo, coffee, commuting, daily drivel, food & drink, O'Folks, play, sleeplessness, work
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Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

After a full day at the Department of Administration I am well and truly oriented, I can tell you! Is it just me, or does Department of Administration sound redundant to you, too? Or maybe it just sounds backwards, like it ought to be Administration of Departments. Okay, that went nowhere, didn’t it?

I came home with a backpack stuffed full to bursting with handbooks, leaflets and maps, and a thick stack of forms that I must fill out and return or suffer torture on the rack. I swear I didn’t have to fill out that much paperwork in twenty-one years of military service.

Speaking of coming home, I realized as I walked out of the last orientation meeting that I would have to wait hours for My Darling B to come pick me up, because President Obama came to visit Madison again. Not that I don’t just love President Obama to pieces, but he drops in about once a month to say hello and stop all the traffic. B would never be able to get across town in less than two hours through streets thronged with Obama-worshippers, and after a whole day of sitting on my ass I was not in the mood to park my butt in a coffee shop or even a tavern and wait that long, so I said to hell with it and started hoofing it up Willy Street.

An hour later I’d made it as far as Schenk-Atwood and was starting to wonder if I’d make it all the way home before I saw My Darling B again. Also, my feet hurt and I needed to pee. As luck would have it, at that point I was only a block away from The Victory, a new cafe on Atwood Avenue, so I stopped in to order an espresso. “Getting ready for the rush-hour crowd?” I asked the owner as he worked the various levers of his infernal machine.

“You are the rush-hour crowd,” he answered. “This is the first day we’ve stayed open past four.” Then he opened the display case and offered me a pastry on the house. Caffeine and sugar, just what I needed.

My cell phone bleeped as I was finishing the last of the scone. B was still trying to pick her way through all the roadblocks in downtown Madison and wouldn’t be meeting me any time soon. Maybe I really would be seeing her back at home. I hit the pavement with a spring in my step, thanks to the espresso, and made it all the way to Olbrich Park before B phoned me again to tell me she’d just left the Willy Street co-op and was headed my way. Our paths finally crossed at the East Side Club and I gratefully accepted a ride home.

Hoofing it | 10:55 pm CST
Category: coffee, commuting, food & drink, office work, play, work
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Thursday, September 9th, 2010

image of blue skies

Yesterday I got the phone call I’ve been hoping for: A manager at the Department of Regulation and Licensing called to offer me the job I applied for in her section. When I interviewed for it a week and a half ago she told me they’d make a decision some time this week, so I’ve sitting on tenterhooks since Monday. I told her I’d be happy to take it. I start on September 27th.

That’s a load off my mind. I haven’t been looking for a job nearly as long as some people, but it’s been nine weeks since my position was eliminated, and when I listen to the news it’s mostly bad: unemployment claims are up, jobs are down and the economy gets worse each day. On top of that, I’m nearly fifty years old and my professional skill set is geared toward office work. I can type eighty words a minute, I’m pretty good at ginning up a spread sheet and I can sift columns of data for eight hours without going blind. Trouble is, the office environment is glutted with college grads looking for work. Confident as I am in my abilities, the trick was to get potential employers to feel confident about hiring a fifty year old geezer instead of a freshly-minted twenty-one year old.

And somehow I managed to do it. Yay, me.

For my next trick, I’ll have to figure out how to get to work. My new day job starts at seven forty-five in the morning, same time My Darling B puts her nose to the grindstone, and, as it turns out, quitting time will be the same for both of us as well. To do that, one of us will have to get to work at least twenty minutes early, then look for something more stimulating that picking his or her nose for twenty minutes while waiting for a ride home.

Buying another car to get around this little kink would be a waste of money, as far as I’m concerned, unless I can convince somebody to part with his Volkswagen Beetle for a thousand bucks or less. I managed to do that once before in my life, and I used up a lot of my charm convincing my new employer to hire me, so it’s hard to imagine haggling a Beetle owner down to practically nothing again. But you never know until you try. Winter has typically been the hardest season in which to sell a Volkswagen, and the snow’s going to start flying in just a few weeks around here. Perhaps I still have a little haggle left in me after all.

Just for giggles, I rode my bike from Our Humble O’Bode to the offices of the Department of Regulation and Licensing, just to see how long it would take me and how hard the route was. The good news: The route’s easy, and it takes only forty minutes even in my decrepit state of physical fitness. The bad news: Remember what I wrote a paragraph before about snow? There are quite a few commuters around her hearty enough to bicycle to work on the bleakest sub-zero days. I’ve seen them pedaling to work when temps dip as low as twenty below zero. I’ve never tried that, but I feel I can say without benefit of experience that I’m not made of that kind of stuff. I might ride my bike to work for a little while yet this year, but by the end of November or the beginning of December I’ll have to find another way to get there, no question.

The only other thing I really need to know about finally accepting a new job is, do I get to keep on receiving unemployment benefits from now until September 27th? What I can find on the state’s web site is that I have to look for work, which seems redundant now that I’ve found a job. I called the state office that handles unemployment benefits claims but, after navigating the phone tree options, a recorded voice informs me that they’re getting more calls than their automated system can handle. Then the line goes dead. No help there today; I’ll have to try again tomorrow.

Employable after all | 11:27 am CST
Category: adventures in unemployment, commuting, daily drivel, shopping, work | Tags: ,
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Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

Banging away at my office keyboard yesterday morning, I was distracted by an Outlook pop-up reminding me I had a very important meeting that afternoon. I’ve got Outlook set up to give me these things all the time. I can hardly remember to feed myself without them.

Trouble is, they’re only as good as the lead time you build into them. The one that pops up to tell me I should generate the morning reports doesn’t need any lead time. Just click on “OK” and do it. For the one that tells me I’ve got a meeting with Michael in his office, just down the hall, I give myself enough time to visit the bathroom, then grab my notebook.

As for the pop-up that reminded me to drive to the very important meeting on the other side of freaking town, I should have given myself at least twelve hours of lead time so it would have reminded me the night before. I should have, but I didn’t, so I didn’t remember to drive B to work and keep the car. Curse you, Outlook! Do what I want you to do, not what I tell you to do!

Lucky for me someone else in the department was going to the same meeting, a presentation by a job placement service, and agreed to give me a ride after I groveled shamelessly. I’m not sure the groveling was necessary, but I figure it never hurts.

I never thought much about using a job placement service before, but it’s provided free of charge by the company so why wouldn’t I? And even if they can’t find me a job, at the very least I should be able to pick up some pointers. As a bonus, it turns out they’re going to write a resume for me at the next meeting. I’ve got that one marked on my old-fashioned desk calendar in big, red letters.

pop-up | 5:55 am CST
Category: adventures in unemployment, commuting, office work, work
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