Tuesday, March 7th, 2017

We have a great big shiny new parking ramp next to our office building, and we got to park in it for the first time yesterday. The ramp is so new that it’s literally shiny. The cement has that slick new look to it, the floors have a fresh coat of what might be a preservative dope or paint, and all the metal fittings like the stairs and the elevators have the gleam of new steel. And it’s roughly as big as the moon because a whole lot more people will work in the great big shiny new office building that goes along with it.

We have to pay a pretty penny to park in it, although that’s nothing new: we had to pay to park in the surface lot, too, but the fee to part in the ramp is quite a bit higher. We tell ourselves that at least we have the benefit of covered parking now, so maybe that’ll make it worth the added cost. Funnily enough, our assigned parking spot is so far up near the top that My Darling B thought at first we might end up parking in one of the slots that are exposed to the elements, and was working up an indignant huff to complain to the management until I found our slot, just inside the covered area.

Three guys in reflective vests were standing by the gated entry on Monday morning, presumably ready to help in case our key cards didn’t open the gate or some other malfunction kept us from getting in. I heard that others had some trouble but we didn’t, so all they had to do for us was say good morning and wave us through. Three more guys with flags were just inside the main entrance. They didn’t flag us or say good morning, so I couldn’t tell what they were there for. This morning there was just one guy. When I waved my card key at the reader and the gate went up, he said, “Amazing! It worked!” as if he thought there might still be some doubt.

ramped up | 5:44 pm CDT
Category: work
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Monday, March 6th, 2017

There was a meat raffle at the Robin Room yesterday evening, so we made sure our heinies were perched on a couple of their bar stools at about quarter to five, stacked a pile of singles on the bar and prepared to win some fine cuts of fresh pork.

Here’s how it worked: A dollar or two would buy each of us a number painted on a wooden paddle. There was a big number wheel hanging behind the bar, and when they spin it, you try to get it to stop on your number by tapping your paddle against the edge of the bar. It never worked for me, but I can’t tell you why. Many other people got it to work for them, and they weren’t doing weren’t doing it any differently that I could tell. B couldn’t get it to work for her, either, and we both left empty-handed after about an hour and a half. Still, great fun.

raffled | 9:57 pm CDT
Category: daily drivel
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Sunday, March 5th, 2017

If memory serves, I bought my first copy of The Caine Mutiny at a used book store in Lincoln, England, in 1999 or 2000. It was a pretty beat-up, water-damaged Penguin paperback edition and I read it as though I was possessed by it, all in one week. (400 pages in a week is pretty good for me.) Full disclosure: I didn’t read every word. The first time I read it I was put off by the love story, so I skipped over all that and only read the parts that had to do with MEN AT WAR, because that’s the kind of guy I was then. I’ve since read the novel from cover to cover many times and so far I appreciate it more every time (if I didn’t, I probably wouldn’t keep picking it up to re-read it).

Just in case you’re confused: The novel does, in fact, pivot around a mutiny aboard a naval vessel during the war in the Pacific, but the story is about the main character of the novel, who is not Humphrey Bogart, in spite of the movie you might have seen. (I kind of wish I’d never seen that movie. I still hear Bogart’s voice when I read the novel, and although Bogart did a fine job of playing Queeg, it’s the wrong voice for Queeg. John Fiedler’s voice would have been perfect; he may have been a better casting choice, too. But I digress.)

The book opens and closes on Willie Keith, who enters the story as a spoiled mama’s boy with little sense of direction but ends up as a confident, strong-willed young man who’s going places. The story is not told from Keith’s point of view, but he is present in almost every scene; events turn around him and their importance is impressed on him, building his character piece by piece. That I ever thought his story was boring enough to skip over should show you what I lack in the way of appreciation for good writing.

The Caine Mutiny is also amazing for being semi-autobiographical. Author Herman Wouk served as an officer aboard two destroyer minesweepers (one of them named the Zane) during the Pacific war. One of Wouk’s duties was as the ship’s communications officer, same as Keith and Thomas Keefer. Keefer was also an aspiring author who spent much of his off-time (and a bit more besides) writing a novel. It’s impossible to read the novel without imaging that many, if not most of the episodes in it are anecdotes from Wouk’s experience aboard ship during the war.

I still have that first Penguin paperback; it’s parked in a place of honor on the top shelf of my bedside bookcase and I’ve read it cover-to-cover at least three times, but still take it out now and again to read my favorite passages at bedtime when I’m not sure what to read. (The speech by Barney Greenwald at the end is one of the best.) I’ve since bought at least two hardbacked copies. I found the first one at a resale shop in Madison and read it several times before giving it away to a coworker who seemed interested in it, but I’m pretty sure he never read it. I went looking for the second copy at Powell’s bookstore while on vacation in Portland OR and found a first edition in its original dust jacket (squee!). This is the second or third time I’ve read it. I’ve read a couple other Herman Wouk novels (Winds Of War and War And Remembrance spring to mind), but haven’t enjoyed any of them more than The Caine Mutiny.

The Caine Mutiny | 12:58 pm CDT
Category: books, entertainment, play | Tags: , ,
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Saturday, March 4th, 2017

First, let’s get the dream out of the way.

I was piloting a needle-nosed jet plane. My Darling B was in the passenger seat beside me and I think somebody was in the back seat, too, but I’m a little fuzzy about that. I was on final approach, meaning the plane was pointed at the runway, the wheels were down, the engine was throttled all the way back and we were minutes from landing. When we passed over the end of the runway and were about to touch down the air traffic controller asked me to go around, so I opened the throttle and, as the plane surged forward on the increased thrust from the engines, I pulled up and started into the air again.

We were landing at a pretty big airport, big enough for it to have two runways side by side. I was landing on the right-hand runway. Just as we lifted off again, I recognized the shape of a space shuttle in the distance, coming towards us. It came on so very fast that it landed on the left-hand runway before we even passed over the other end of our runway. All I wanted to do was geek out over seeing a space shuttle land next to me, but I had to concentrate all my attention on flying the plane. That dream’s been bugging me all morning.

geeking out | 5:44 am CDT
Category: dreams
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Tuesday, February 28th, 2017

I picked up a copy of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John Le Carre the last time I was at the resale store. I’ve wanted to read it since I watched the recently-made movie with Gary Oldman, and I have to say I could follow the plot of the movie a lot more easily than the book, which is not surprising. A movies about two hours long, while the book is something like four hundred pages and took me a week and a half to read. I couldn’t have lost the thread of the movie if I’d tried, but there was so much going on in the book that I kept turning back the pages to figure out who the characters were talking about. So I didn’t enjoy it as much as I would have liked. And I’ve never read spy fiction before; I thought it would take to it easily, but that wasn’t the case. Maybe it’s an acquired taste.

spy world | 9:25 pm CDT
Category: books, entertainment
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Monday, February 27th, 2017

I ate a whole package of Oreos once, just to see if I could. Which was silly. Of course I could. Anybody could. The question is, should you? And the answer is, not unless you like feeling sick as a dog for the rest of the day.

I don’t, but it’s not like that’s the only time I’ve done something like that, sad to say. Do you remember those malted milk balls that came in a quart-sized milk carton? I don’t remember how much that thing weight, but I ate a whole carton of those once. I think that was before the Oreos incident. I ate the Oreos when I was on my first tour of duty in the Air Force. The malted milk balls were much earlier, probably when I was still in high school. I ate a lot of junk in high school. Everybody did, right?

And once I drank a six-pack of Mountain Dew in one afternoon, again just for the experience. I lived in a very small town. There wasn’t a lot to do. I remember finishing that first can and thinking, “Hey, I could go for another one.” And when I finished the second can I thought, “I could have one more.” After the third can, I couldn’t tell you what I was thinking, other than maybe, “I feel stupid enough to drink the rest.” I can tell you that the buzz I got from drinking six cans of Mountain Dew is not something I ever want to experience again.

The stomach ache, though, apparently was something I wanted to experience over and over, because the malted milk balls and the Oreos came after. I haven’t repeated either of those experiences, but I was thinking about this today because I recently discovered that a nearby grocery store sells dark chocolate malted milk balls in the bulk aisle, and they are sooo good! I have to be careful to buy only a small handful at a time, because once I start eating them, I don’t stop until my stomach hurts, which is probably not the most healthy thing for me, or anybody else, for that matter.

insanity | 7:21 pm CDT
Category: food & drink, random idiocy, story time
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Sunday, February 26th, 2017

My Darling B and I went on a cruise about this time last year that went to the Bahamas from Florida. We had such a great time; it was the perfect time of year to get out of the frozen north for a week and relax in the sun on a cruise ship with a fruity drink. We’re really missing that now, partly because it’s been a year since we’ve had time off from work and the office has been a little crazy lately, but mostly because it’s a themed cruise that takes place every year, and they’re all headed off to San Diego right now. We know this because we joined their Facebook group last year, and we’re seeing all their posts as they get packed up, meet their planes and fly off to meet at the port. I think I have a pretty good idea now how the cats feel when I dangle a treat over their heads.

Coincidentally, that same themed cruise started taking reservations yesterday for next year’s cruise. My Darling B saw the announcement on Facebook at about the same time and sent it to me with the message, “We’ve got to talk about this tonight.”

I immediately went to talk to her about it.

“What’s there to talk about,” I asked, “besides how much we put in the piggy bank every month?” After a few quick calculations based on the amount of money we spent last year, we decided we could save enough to pay for the cruise, airfare and whatnot if we started saving up right now.

That’s if we could get a reservation. The cruise has become hugely popular. What started out as a couple hundred people turned into a group so large that this year they took over an entire cruise ship, the MV Westerdam, with room enough for 1,900 people to cruise in style. Next year they’re going to book the MV Oosterdam, a sister ship to the Westerdam, so I can only assume the cruise is as popular as ever.

Lucky for us, we’re on their mailing list, so we got invited as soon as their website was up and ready to accept reservations. I just happened to be sitting at my laptop, searching the website for any crumbs of information about next year’s cruise, when I got the email, which even came with a helpful link to the reservation page. Even so, the least expensive rooms were all gone when I got there. We got a reservation for a next-to-cheapest room, so come this time next year we’ll be off to San Diego!

booked | 7:47 am CDT
Category: vacation | Tags:
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We’re back to sub-freezing temperatures and snow after a week and a half of temps in the high sixties that melted all the snow and ice and made the little birdies come out and sing. They must be so pissed right now. I’m not liking it much, either, to be brutally frank, but then I was never under the delusion that the February heat wave was going to persist. Maybe in fifty years, but not yet.

The transition from spring-like weather back to standard February winter weather was a rough one. Sunny skies gave way to mean-looking iron-colored clouds that started to rain Thursday evening. I woke with a start in the very early morning Friday to the sound of what I thought at first had to be a natural gas explosion and laid there wide-eyed, wondering whose house was just blown to matchsticks. While I was waiting for my heart to slow down, there was a flash and another bang.

“Holy shit, that was close!” I thought. “I hope our house isn’t next.”

After the third flash and bang I started to wonder: Is that lightning and thunder? Turned out it was, or at least I think it had to be, because I didn’t hear any reports in the news the next day of dozens of houses or anything else spontaneously exploding. It was the most bizarre thunder I’ve ever heard. There was no rumbling before or after, just a hard, loud bang, like the fireworks that make noise but no sparklies.

artillery | 7:00 am CDT
Category: daily drivel
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Saturday, February 25th, 2017

What’s the word for that irrational feeling that nobody should use the toilet for at least 15 minutes after you finish cleaning it? And is it the same word for the urge to kick the cat when he shits in the cat box right after you rake it? There’s got to be a word for that. Besides “crazy.” That’s too easy.

what is word | 10:16 am CDT
Category: random idiocy
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My eyeglasses are the best cat toy our kitten has ever played with. If I’m sitting anywhere in the living room, I can’t set them down for a minute and he’s there, swatting them to the floor so he can chase them around.

I spent ten minutes looking for my glasses the other day before the light bulb went on and I got down on my knees so I could look under the sofa. There they were, way back against the wall all tangled up with the dust bunnies.

And it’s only my eyeglasses. My Darling B can leave her glasses lying around any old place. He won’t touch hers. Tell me how that’s fair.

cat toy | 5:25 am CDT
Category: daily drivel
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Friday, February 24th, 2017

I’m going to miss my smoothie this morning. We were all out of vanilla soy milk, one of the ingredients we really can’t do without. This happened last Friday, too. There was maybe half a cup of soy milk left, so I stretched it with water. The results were, ah, not good, so I didn’t even go there today. We’ll have to lay in a more generous supply of soy milk when we go shopping this weekend because without my morning smoothie, I’m not a very happy camper. I’m not, say, suicidally depressed about the loss, it’s just that I could feel better about the world, and all it would take is a smoothie. Not much to ask. It’s vitally important not to overlook very small tweaks to achieving happiness.

anguishing loss | 5:54 am CDT
Category: daily drivel
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I dreamed that we came home from work and found that our little red house had been moved so that it now sat shoulder-to-shoulder, as it were, with the house next door. “Didn’t there used to be a lot more room between our houses?” I asked My Darling B, possibly the stupidest thing I’ve ever dreamed of myself saying because obviously there was a lot more than a finger’s width between the houses when we left for work that morning. Also, the spot where our house used to be was now a slab of concrete.

When I went to city hall to ask what happened to our house, they said they had to move it because of a plan, and that’s about as far as they could explain it. “What did you do with all of the stuff that was in our basement?” I asked, and the nice lady told me, “Oh, it’s all still down there.” She didn’t offer to get it out of its subterranean tomb.

slab | 5:47 am CDT
Category: dreams
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