Sunday, March 04, 2012


A shot I took at the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, DC.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Illicit Gelatin Trade

The folks down the street are allegedly engaged in an undocumented entrepreneurial venture. They might even be indoor farmers ... and while they never tend to the lawn outside, I am certain that there is a great amount of care provided to any vegetation that may exist inside.

I usually avoid going near their property, but since my daughter left an item of value on top of a car, and since that item was not still on the car when she arrived at her destination, and since that item of value was not on the street when I came home, I had to check with the neighbors to see if anyone found anything.

Unfortunately, nobody in any other house had.


As I was walking towards their house, a car pulled up and a guy jumped out of the passenger seat and ran up to the door. He was inside for a bit, but when I rang their bell he was on his way out. He seemed awfully surprised to see someone standing on the landing.

"Hi," I said in my best don't-worry-I-don't-have-a-warrant tone.

His eyes were somewhat wide and he seemed to be about as uncomfortable as I was at that moment. He was holding two small dark plastic bags in his hand and he kept that hand turned away from me, but he glanced in their direction.

"Umm ..." he stammered, "I don't live here. Let me get them." He darted back into the house to summon the owners, then came back to the door. The bags were still in his hand. "They'll be here in a second," he assured me.

At this point I could not not look at the bags in his hand. He glanced at me, then at the bags, then back at me. He was nervous. That split-second of silence was apparently too much for him to bear.

"I just came by to pick up some ..." he started.

His eyes darted back to the bags again. He now realized that he just committed himself to describing the contents of the bags. This was clearly more thought than he could muster at that moment.


With that he darted past me and to the safety of the waiting car.

All this time I suspected their home business involved the buying and selling recreational pharmaceutical products. Who would of guessed that they are merely dessert distributors!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Where does the Nth star go?

Maybe we could just combine North Dakota and South Dakota. I mean, do we really need two Dakotas?

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Fly the flabby skies

Hey @SouthwestAir! Look how fat I am on your plane! Quick! Th... on Twitpic
Kevin Smith, Fatso

Director and actor Kevin Smith got booted from Southwest because of a "safety concern". The problem, they said he couldn't fit in the seat. Southwest policy is that you must be able to get both armrests down. He showed them that he could. They still kicked him off the flight!

Southwest tried a feeble apology, but in it they lied about the situation.

Here's the big fat ugly truth.

Warning: this link contains offensive material. Mainly Southwest's actions, but Kevin has a few potty words as well. (BTW, Southwest threatened to charge one of his fellow passengers for the exact same extra seat that they made him pay for.)

On landing, Mr. Smith tweeted the following:

Hey @SouthwestAir! I've landed in Burbank. Don't worry: wall of the plane was opened & I was airlifted out while Richard Simmons supervised.

Southwest screwed up on this one. Bad. So bad that Toyota's PR people must be ecstatic that they don't work for Southwest.

The airline is clearly unashamed that they have reduced seat sizes to cram more people in, then set up a policy in which people who haven't reduced accordingly pay extra. Before you get all high and mighty about how people shouldn't overflow into your space, try this little experiment. Put your heels together, then turn your feet outward so that they make a straight line. If you are an average sized person, your toes are now outside of Southwest airline's allotment of personal space.

There is a lesson to be learned from this. Parents, if your kids aren't slender, don't let them fly Southwest. The humiliation that the airline is willing to put them through is unbelievable.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Hats off to winter!

Shoveling out from this past snowfall, I took a trip down memory lane. Fortunately, I didn't have to shovel that, too.

Whenever my grandfather would come up to Alaska to visit us in the winter, he would always get on my case about going outside without a hat on. "75% of body heat escapes through the top of your head," he would say. "You'll catch pneumonia."

This was the only time he would not seem notice my thick mass of long hair.

I sported quite the mullet in those days. My nose was my hairstyle landmark; if my hair reached the tip of my nose it was time for a haircut. I would have them cut it back up to the top of my nose and then use that as a guide how short(?) to trim the rest - except for the back, of course. My hair was so thick that they had to go back over again with the thinning scissors. At the end of the cut, I left enough hair on the floor that I could walk out the door without stepping on a single tile.

Grandpa would always notice my hair when we were indoors or when it was warm outside. Especially when I had the long hair in the back pulled into a tail. Boy, howdy, did he ever notice it then.

When you think about it, a hat is really just a pile of hair clippings that's been reassembled in a new way. What Grandpa never realized while we were standing out in the Alaska cold is that I was already wearing a hat.

Apart from the obvious age thing, my grandfather and I had some notable differences. He exercised for an hour every morning, I considered eating potato chips a hobby; he was always up doing something while I was always sitting around doing nothing. My hair color was brown, his was freckled with some age spots, except for a few gray patches where the hair actually protruded out from the skin.

Grandpa had good reason to wear hats; he had almost no body fat and very little hair. I, on the other hand, had plenty of thermal protection all over my body. Blubber has great insulation properties, which is one of the reasons you'll never see a walrus in a parka. On top of that, I had a mop-top mullet that was rated to -23 degrees.

Grandpa never seemed to get that for us bigger folk, letting body heat escape is a good thing. Some of us break a sweat from eating. Frigid air comes as quite a relief - especially when you don't have to find a restaurant with a walk-in freezer to get it.

I did finally cut my hair short before moving to the East Coast. Not coincidentally, nowadays I do keep hats around and use hoods as well. Grandpa would be proud.

Sort of.

See, while my past-times involve much less caloric intake, I am still a big guy. As such, I still do not adhere to Grandpa's standards for body-heat retention. I can only imagine what he'd say about me outside during a blizzard shoveling snow in shorts.

It's partly the Alaskan in me, but more so all the cheeseburgers and pizza in me.

Goo, goo, goo joob.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Liquor Store Snowman

Looks like the kids kept busy while mom and dad went grocery shopping ...

Someone save Baby Jesus!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

With great power comes great washability

Hi ... my name is Kevin ... and I ... am ... a power-washer renter.

There's something about a power washer. There's something about hooking your regular garden hose up to a wheeled contraption, pulling the crank on that noisy little motor, aiming the nozzle at something dirty, and blasting the grime away with a 1,500 PSI stream of water.

Washing is not normally an exciting activity. Soap, scrub, rinse, repeat. Nothing thrilling in that. Washing, generally speaking, is a chore.

But power washing ... that is a different story. The words are in that order for a purpose. The washing comes second; the power comes first.

When you pull that trigger you feel the force of the water pushing back at you. Loose objects get tossed aside like Brussels sprouts on a five-year-old's dinner plate. Power wash a dirty surface you feel like you're spray painting the clean on it. The before-after picture is right in front of you and the differences are stark.

There are six types of jobs that get done when you get a power washer, and they come in a natural progression. It starts with the job for which you got the power washer.

We rented a power washer yesterday to clean up the siding on the north side of our house. Dampness plus nature minus sunshine equals yuck, and it was showing. We knew it was starting to look bad, but it wasn't until that jet of water flushed away all the much that we realized how bad it was. Yet a lot of problems can be resolved at 1,500 PSI and we quickly cleaned up the siding.

After you've finished your original chore, you realize that you're not ready to give up the power. Fortunately, you've inevitably hit something else with the spray which left a bright streak of clean on that something. This is the second type of power washer job - the collateral benefit, if you will. In our case, we had some streaks on the driveway that had to be cleaned up. Again, though, that ended too soon.

The third type of power-washing job is the one you weren't planning on doing, but you decide to do anyways because a) you've got the washer and b) you're not ready to put it away just yet. We cleaned our deck, our sidewalks, the already clean sides of the house ... everything in need of cleaning.

When nothing else needs to be cleaned, you encounter the fourth type of power-washing job ... the creative application. By this point you've already seen what the power washer does to loose debris - leaves, twigs, and the like - and it has been ruminating in your brain for a little while. Now you actively look for nuisances to blast away. Those irritating squirrels? Gone. Weeding is much more amusing at 1,500 PSI. And what lawn is complete without your autograph etched into it, right?

At this point, you discover the fifth use of the power washer ... re-washing the stuff you washed previously but then muddied up again by trying something stupid like weeding with a power washer. And it is during this series of tasks that the thrill of the power wash begins to subside. Now that you're cleaning up what you have to clean up, it starts to become a chore again. This is a good thing, because if you're like most people you rented the washer and it needs to go back. Besides, in your zeal for washing, you've set yourself up for the sixth and final type of job that comes from using a power washer: repairing the stuff you damaged.

Next week, after it has had time to dry, we are repainting our deck. For some reason the paint is missing in little strips.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Meeting History

We met history this morning.

Last night my kids and I joined my son's Boy Scout pack on an overnight encampment on the battleship USS New Jersey. It was a lot of fun. We got special tours of the ship, got served dinner and breakfast in the mess hall, got to explore areas of the ship normally closed off to the public, took lots ...

... and lots ...

... and lots ....

... of pictures, and got to sleep in the enlisted berthing areas!

OK, that last part wasn't nearly as fun.

My daughter asked why they called them the berthing areas, what with the lack of anybody actually being born there. After trying to squeeze my hefty frame into a less-than-hefty-sized bunk, I have a hypothesis of my own. For a person like me, the berthing area was about as roomy as your standard-issue womb. And when I emerged from the bunk, it did resemble birthing.


With my shoulders squeezed tightly between the mattress and the ceiling and my head turned in a position last seen in The Exorcist, I woke up at 0300 with a massive headache and Quasimodo-like posture. I yanked my sleeping bag and pillow off the bunk and set up new quarters on the linoleum floor. I slept like a baby for the rest of the night - albeit a neglected baby - and woke up this morning straight-backed and headache-free.

After our hearty breakfast (my son wound up on KP), we meandered around the ship for a while. One of the volunteers reminded us parents that the brig was open. "Get pictures of your kids in there now," the guide said, "while it's still funny. Ten years from now, if they're in a cell won't be nearly as humorous."

While we were up by the bridge, we got into a discussion with one of the veteran volunteers about the history of the ship. Being that she was designed for battleship-to-battleship contact - the heavyweight bouts of the naval warfare world - and she saw combat service in WWII, Korea, Vietnam, and the Middle East over her many decades of service, I asked the obvious question. Did the New Jersey take any direct hits? The volunteer confirmed that yes, she had taken a hit from a 5" gun on shore. The volunteer also brought up a tale of a non-combat casualty in which a sailor was killed when he and a turret wound up occupying the same space.

After about 15 hours aboard, we packed up our gear and finally left the ship. We made a quick stop at the gift shop for the obligatory tchotchkes (a Yiddish word for trinkets that the Blogger spell-check wants to replace with "crotchless"), then headed towards the car.

An old guy and his two middle-age sons were walking towards the ship. Looking at our gear, the old guy asked if we slept aboard the ship. I told him we did. "Do they still have the metal bunks" he asked.

It turns out this guy served on the New Jersey in the fifties in Korea. With the tour information fresh in mind I asked "wasn't the ship hit in Korea?"

"Yes," he replied. "I was in the turret when it happened."

The turrets are protected by nine inches of armor on the sides. The five-inch shell did not penetrate. "It mainly scratched the paint," he said. My daughter then brought up the story of the guy who was killed by the turret. The old man was silent for a moment, then said "that was Bob. He was a friend of mine."

(The man did say Bob's last name, but unfortunately I don't remember it.)

It was one thing to walk around this storied battleship, but it was quite another to meet a someone who experienced some of the most memorable moments first-hand. And to think if I had done my normal routine of hurrying the kids past the gift-shop we would have missed that opportunity. It was something special.

My daughter made the moment. I thanked the old man for sharing his experiences with us. Then my daughter added, "thank you for your service."

As he was heading off to re-visit the ship on which he lived and served over fifty-five years ago, you could see in his eye that he appreciated that thank-you.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

SPOILER ALERT ... or not

I ha an amusing email exchange with author and poet A F Harrold on a book he is authing, The Curious Education of Epitome Quirkstandard.

Mr. Harrold released an early version online as an audiobook at, which I have been enjoying tremendously. Every so often I'll send him an email to compliment him on an episode. This was taken from our latest volley.

He wrote:

When you finish it - which is getting near - I'll warn you in the latest (final?) draft the ending is different in one detail - I'll see if you can guess what it is when you get there...

To which I replied:

Oh, this isn't going to be one of those cliche endings where aliens show up and use their photon plasma recombobulator ray guns to reanimate Elvis Presley in a futile attempt to take over the world, only to find out that they wound up in a book that not only doesn't take place before Elvis died, he wasn't even born yet, and since their plan is thwarted they leave Earth, but not before using their advance technologies to turn Simone into a cyborg and Winston Churchill - who, they are happy to find out after quickly re-reading the book up to this point, is actually alive in this era - sober, which, unfortunately, makes him realize that he doesn't like politics and instead becomes a dancer, which then means he is not there to save England a few decades later, which then means the Nazis take over and make everybody wear silly hats, which, in the a moment of complete irony, leads to the downfall of the Third Reich when the dancing Churchill throws his hat into the audience after a show in London attended by Hitler, who has to duck to avoid getting hit and winds up choking to death on his chips, and in the ensuing chaos a now very elderly Epitome finally discovers how to dress himself, is it?
I hope not. I hate those endings.

To which he replied:

Um, not quite.
Hitler chokes to death on his popcorn.