I can’t be trusted to dress myself any longer. When I do, chaos ensues.

After my morning shower, I threw on a pair of pants — just pulled them up to my hips and only buttoned the waist to keep them from falling down because I had already begun to hunt for a shirt.

When I found a shirt, I shrugged into it without buttoning it or tucking it in because I had already gone looking for socks next.

Found socks, sat down on the sofa to put them on, stuffed my feet into shoes and tied them up, then immediately went to pack my bags to go to work — fully intending to do up the rest of the buttons and belts and zips and whatever else I’d left open.

Guess what I looked like when I got to work?

a) an unbuttoned, untucked, unzupped ragamuffin

b) a guy closing in on retirement without a single fuck to give

c) an absent-minded professor

d) a raving lunatic

e) all of the above

favorite restaurant

Daily writing prompt
What is your favorite restaurant?

I was posted to Misawa Air Base as my last duty assignment in the Air Force. It was simultaneously the worst and the best assignment I had in my 21 years of service. On the very first day, for instance, I was on a charter flight with my wife and kids over the Arctic Circle on September 11th, 2001, when the captain announced that he’d been ordered to return to Fairbanks, but he didn’t tell us why until we were on the ground. When we finally got to Misawa three days later, the whole base turned out to meet us.

What’s this got to do with my favorite restaurant? When we arrived, one of the first people to meet us was my sponsor, a person in my unit who was given the responsibility of making sure I went to all the right places and spoke to the right people to complete my change of station, a sequence of events we called “inprocessing.” After a long day of inprocessing, he took us to a restaurant just outside the front gate called Noodle House Marumiya but known to practically all the Americans as Cheese Roll Noodle.

It was a tiny shop, just a counter with maybe half a dozen chairs, and five or six small tables along the wall. Everyone in the kitchen called out “Irasshaimase!” as we walked in. We followed my sponsor to the biggest table in the back of the room.

“Order whatever you like,” he told us as we sat down. “Dinner’s on me.”

“What’s good here?” I asked.

He smiled. “Everything’s good here.”

He wasn’t kidding. I don’t recall what I had that first night, but I do remember that in the five years I was stationed at Misawa, we went back to Marumiya over and over again. Not only did they serve delicious food, it was also a cozy, familiar place to visit. It quickly became our favorite place to go for every special occasion, or for when we craved comfort food, or when we couldn’t think of another place for dinner.

In all that time I can confidently say I ate everything on their menu. Nothing they served ever disappointed me. I relished every meal, but I had a special fondness for their ramen bowl with shrimp. It was a big bellyful of warmth and tasty goodness. I nearly always ordered a side of pork gyoza to go with it, crispy on the outside, savory on the inside. It was honestly the most satisfying food I have every enjoyed.

old school

Photo of the author wearing the olive-drab fatigue jacket he was issued when he joined the Air Force in 1984.

I snapped a photo of the BDU jacket in the background that’s draped over the dining room chair, because I noticed the handle of a hammer I had been searching for, and posted the photo to the group chat my coworkers use with the comment, “I looked everywhere for that hammer.”

My coworker Sandra, who had more recently been in the Air Force too, responded: “Wow, look at the old-school field jacket!”

Okay, wow. I bought that camouflage field jacket when camouflage field jackets were new to the Air Force, many years after I first enlisted. If she thought it was ‘old school,’ she must have enlisted much later than I thought.

So I took a photo of me in the field jacket I was originally issued when I joined up in 1984 and posted it to the group chat, to see what they thought of my REAL ‘old-school’ fatigue jacket. They responded with a photo of Alan Alda playing the role of Hawkeye Pierce in the television series M*A*S*H, a great show but the Korean War was a little before my time.


When I first joined a virtual meeting this morning, I could hear everyone in the room, and everyone could hear me. Then something went kablooey and I couldn’t hear anything. “Hello?” called. “Can anybody hear me? Hello?” But got no response at all. Then I tried sending a message to the meeting organizer through chat. Still nothing. I even tried logging out of the meeting, then logging back in, but I still couldn’t hear a thing.

“What the hell’s wrong with this?” I grumbled as I checked all the settings to make sure I hadn’t accidentally switched something off. I continued to kvetch, “I can’t hear a goddamn thing,” and so on as I pulled down every option menu. “Piece of crap.”

Then the meeting organizer sent me a DM: “Dave. We can hear you.”

I stopped kvetching. “You can hear me?” I asked.

“Yes,” he DM’d, then added. “We’re trying to figure out what’s wrong.”

Pro tip: Always assume the mic is open and the camera is on.


There’s one day of the week when it’s socially acceptable to gripe about how much I hate to be at work, so that’s one good thing about Mondays.


One of the things I do for my day job (I don’t know why I call it that; I don’t do anything else for pay) is a routine audit of the daily reports of customers who have logged in to the Wisconsin DOT web site to order ID cards or driver’s licenses. I’m looking for “red flags” which might indicate that an impostor might have logged in using a victim’s personal information. Thousands of IDs and DLs are ordered every day, so reviewing them is a very laborious process.

To make it a bit easier on myself, I use a spread sheet to automate the process as much as possible. I know a few tricks, just filters and searches, really elementary stuff, which helps, but lately I’ve been reviewing a year’s worth of reports at a time to see if I can spot trends. My simple tricks don’t work well on a spread sheet with 250,000 lines because my laptop bogs down whenever I ask it to crunch that much data.

Last weekend I told my son Tim about the problems I was having because I knew he was very good at writing macros in MS Excel and I hoped he would be able to give me a few tips that were simple enough for even me to understand so I could attack this problem. “Let me think about it,” he said, went home, did a little research, called me to talk it over again so he was sure he understood what I wanted to do, and then a day or two later I got an email message from him with an Excel spread sheet attached. I couldn’t figure out how to make it work. When it comes to Excel, I know just enough to be a danger to myself.

I didn’t want to break it, so I just held on to it until he came over for supper yesterday. He showed me all the bells and whistles and even fine-tuned it a bit so it did just what I wanted it to do. And it did it very, very quickly. I knew our kid was smart but wow. It was like he revealed his superpower to me.


I was assigned to RAF Digby in 1999 and worked there for two years with a couple dozen British people and maybe eight or nine Americans. I can’t tell you what I did there for the Air Force but I can tell you I drank a lot of tea on the job. That’s not a cliched stereotype; the British really do drink a lot of tea. We had tea first thing when we arrived, took a mid-morning break to drink tea, had another break in the afternoon when we drank tea, and I think we usually shoehorned at least one or two more cups in while we were working. Someone would come around with a tray to ask if you wanted any; all you had to do was give them your cup and your order, and ten minutes later they’d be back with a steaming hot cuppa.

When we took a proper break it was usually to stand around chatting while we sipped our tea. One of the blokes I worked with, Sean, did not sip his tea. He’d stand there, happily chatting away with his cup in his hand for the entire fifteen-minute break until, in the last ten seconds or so when other people downed the last drops of tea and began to make their way back to their work stations, he would say something like, “Well, suppose we’d better get back to it,” and suddenly upend his entire cup of now-tepid tea down his throat. That’s just how he liked it.

big log

I don’t know if this is the weirdest thing I’ve ever done, but many years ago while a medical doctor was trying to diagnose a little trouble I was having with my gastrointestinal tract, she asked me to keep a diary of what I ate and each time I pooped. She also wanted to know what kind of dump I had, i.e. was it firm, loose, runny, explosive, etc.

I did just what she told me. I got a pocket-sized spiral-bound notebook, kept it in the breast pocket of my BDU blouse, and each time I sat down to eat I got the notebook out and jotted down a list of each item I was about to consume. I had a very simple appetite and was a picky eater back then, so the list was usually short and easy to make. AND ALSO after each visit to the men’s room I would make a quick note of the visit and the ‘character’ of the expelled dookie. I did this for at least a couple weeks. I think it might have been a whole month.

On my next visit to the doctor I handed over the notebook, saying something like, “You wanted me to write down everything I ate and every time I pooped.” She acted puzzled as she flipped through the pages. “Wow, you really did it,” she said. It seemed to me this was the first time anyone had actually followed her directions. Weirdly, she hardly read the diary. She mostly just flipped through it, pausing to read two or maybe three pages before handing it back to me.

cleared out

Wish I’d taken a ‘before’ photo when it was chock full.

Not the most exciting news in my life, but I finally set aside an hour to go through the pile of paperwork that built up on the shelves of my cubicle at work. The goal was not to clear it out entirely, the goal was only to make a dent in it.

I made such a satisfying dent in it that I set aside another hour in the afternoon to go through the rest, and it turned out that what remained was mostly old printed-out email messages and copies of power point presentations from more than five years ago. Practically all of it went in the trash. So satisfying.