Friday, March 30, 2007

Math on the Bus

I took an earlier bus today, so everyone on it was new to me. At one of the stops, three moms got on with about ten kids on their way to school. One of the boys was probably in first grade and he said to his first-grade friend that his older sister, who looked to be about in sixth grade, didn't know what four times four was. The boy next to me, who was probably in third grade, said, "You don't know it either." The first boy said, "Yes I do. It's eight." The other boy said, "No!" So the first boy said, "Is it in the teens?" The other boy said, "Yes," so the first boy started at seventeen, guessed up to nineteen, then guessed thirteen and ended up at sixteen. Then the other boy said, "Four, eight, twelve, sixteen!" It was pretty entertaining.

Let me tell you what's NOT entertaining in the world of bus-riding: missing your damn bus, like I did on Wednesday. The bastard bus driver went right past the stop when I was only about twenty yards away. It was the first time in over a year that I had missed my bus.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Billion Dollar Business Plan (Patent Pending)

So we went last night to Pizza Street, a buffet pizza place that is SO cheep that you just KNOW a vital sanitary process was skipped, and while we were sitting there, I started looking around at our fellow patrons. I did not like what I saw.

Two families in particular stood out. The one was a family of four that would outweigh any family of eight. The mom looked like she was weeks away from throwing up her hands and saying, "Screw this walking crap," and rocking the fat-person scooter look. The other family was three generations: a raspy leather bag of a grandma, a rapid-fire cervix of a daughter, and a kid in roller skate sneakers who thought the linoleum floor meant it was free skate at the local rink.

I bemoaned my fate as a poor person with not-poor tastes. We eat at Pizza Street because we don't have a lot of money (read: we don't have any money), not because we have lice and meth mouth.

Then I had a brilliant idea: I will open a discount retail store with a buffet restaurant attached. It will be called "Poor But Not Trashy." We will hire bouncers to screen potential customers. You can only get in if you're not trashy. If you're riding a fat-person scooter, or you have a mullet, or you're wearing a Buffalo Bills 1993 AFC Champions shirt, you can't get in. If you smell like a tobacco factory accident, or if you smell like the unbathed animals who share your bed, you can't get in. If the car you get out of has a profane bumper sticker, you can't get in.

I thought about the legal issues of denying service to patrons, but if a bar can hire a doorman to keep out people who aren't cool enough, why can't I hire a doorman to maintain a level of decency in my store? What we save in not replacing worn out merchandise, or in cleaning up after slobs, will more than pay for the doormen.

We can have Trashy Day, where for one day we will be open to trashy people for them to see the wonderful world that awaits them if they just clean up their acts. We will offer a free meal if you come in with a mullet and allow us to cut it off. We will clean up society, one trailer at a time. Because at Poor But Not Trashy, we're modern American heroes.

Retraction

I had to take a test in International Trade the Thursday before Spring Break, and I was absolutely convinced that I failed it. I spent the entire break wondering if I should drop the class and try again next semester.

Back from break, I got my test back yesterday. I got 100 percent. Now I'm worried that my knowledge of international trade is so tenuous that I don't even know that I know it.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Prognostication

I've been out of town for ten days, so even though Kansas lost on Saturday, I haven't talked to anyone from Kansas about it yet. So let me just make this prediction before someone here at work starts talking about it: they will say that Kansas lost because the selection committee put the Jayhawks in the western region, and the final game was played in San Jose, which was much closer to UCLA than it was to KU, so it was like a home game for the Bruins, which is unfair because KU was the higher ranked seed and should have played in Saint Louis, or at least Chicago.

It is so guaranteed that I will hear that that it won't even be exciting when it happens. It's like getting excited about taking a crap after eating a meal.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Foreign Correspondant

So here I am in Virginia, spending my Spring Break not thinking about work or school. I got 64 new counties on the way here, 14 new counties yesterday on my trip to George Washington's birthplace, and I will get about 15 new counties on the way home this weekend.

Here's the thing about the people in Appalachia: they sure do like their garbage. Every ten yards there was another piece of trash along the side of the road. Every house had a garbage dump in the front yard. There were entire bags of McDonald's trash in the middle of the road.

Yesterday I went by myself to go see George Washington's birthplace. While I was in the area, I was going to cross the Potomac and get three new counties in Maryland. All the maps I had (and I have a lot of maps) showed the bridge as being toll-free, but it wasn't until I was crossing the bridge that I could see the toll booths for coming back into Virginia. I stopped at the welcome center and asked how much the toll was going to be and the lady said it was three dollars. Three dollars?! To drive across a bridge that looks like it's in the process of falling down?

I went through all the change in the car and I had $2.73. I was 27 cents short, and I would be stuck in Maryland forever. I stopped at McDonald's to buy some food with my ATM card and get cashback, but they had it set up to automatically run as a credit transaction. So then I had to go to Food Lion and buy a box of Goldfish crackers. I got cash back and freed myself from Maryland.

I didn't expect so many Amish people in southern Maryland. That place was lousy with them! I thought southern Maryland was the vacation area for Washington, what Lake of the Ozarks is for Saint Louis. Most vacation areas are full of rich people, not Amish. Persephone was a little upset because she had wanted to see the Amish in western Virginia while we were driving through, but then I saw about a million of them in Maryland when I was by myself.

So if I am going to buy a new computer, what are your recommendations? Desktop, laptop? PC, Mac? I don't need it to do much in the way of entertainment crap. Just word processing and running a mapping program.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Bracket Buster!

Well, my office NIT bracket pool just became more interesting, thanks to the worthlessness of the University of Vermont Catamounts and the Missouri State University Bears. Seriously, people! I've got a lot of money riding on this!

Well, okay, not really. I put in fifty cents and so did the other guy. Now normally I don't "gamble" because it's "wrong," but this wasn't "gambling" so much as it was "following through on a joke." We thought it would be funny to have an NIT pool, and you can't have a pool without money, and so now here we are. Don't worry: if I win the pool I won't pay any tithing on the twenty-five cents of filthy lucre it will bring me.

But things are still looking my way. Three of my four "final four" teams are still in it, and the other guy's championship team lost in the first round.

So Erik has a bunch of books for me to read, and most of them actually sound interesting. I don't think I will be able to get to anything before May, but I will give it a shot in May.

Secondly, Erik talked about a budgeting meeting with his wife. Persephone and I have no budget meetings because my soul is crushed enough as it is. When we moved to Kansas I tried to formulate a budget, but my calculations showed that we did not make enough money to buy any groceries every month, so I stopped paying attention. Here we are, a year and a half later, and we haven't gone bankrupt yet. I don't want to look too closely into why that's the case.

At five o'clock this evening, I start my Spring Break trip. Yea!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

I'd Be Willing to Take an Ice Pick to My Nuts If It Made It So I Could Go Home Early

To say I hate my job is to say War and Peace is a hastily written pamphlet. The word has not yet been invented which can articulate how much I hate this place. But they know they've got me forever because I've got kids to feed and rent to pay.

There's something to be said for Jean-Jacques Rousseau's crazy statement that women are responsible for all the horrible aspects of society. JJ says people lived the happy lives of wild animals until the first woman got the first man to provide for her. Then it was all downhill from there.

As much as I think JJ was a total whack-job, I know that if I wasn't married and bechildrened, I'd be driving a truck and having a nice time visiting counties all over America. Just think of all the crap you have to put up with in your life because you've got a family and family men have to be responsible. There's not a single day that I don't wish I could quit my job, but I don't because I know the first thing I'd have to do would be to go home and explain it to my wife.

What is the point to my life? Working for other people and buying things that are supposed to alleviate my angst? Have a hard day at work and then treat yourself to a new book or a dinner out. Then, of course, go back to work the next day to earn the money for that book or dinner.

I don't blame my wife and kids. It's not their fault. I think we all know Who's to blame here, but blaming Him earns you a one-way ticket to hell. But I didn't even want to get married. I knew that marriage and a family would do nothing but multiply the number of people who go to bed at night disappointed with what I'd done that day. Why not try to keep the number as close to 1 as possible? But He told me to get married, so here I am. Now there are four people I disappoint every day, and maybe even more on the way.

Persephone went out with her friends last night and they were talking about how their husbands were freaking out about their spending money on baby clothes (the one friend just delivered and the other is knocked up with twins). I said to Persephone, "You people just don't get it. We are supposed to provide for our families and we can't earn enough money to get the things our families need, and then you say, 'Why can't we get that?' and what are we supposed to say? 'Because I'm a failure'?"

Every day when I come to work, I'd rather be any place else, doing anything else. But I get to look forward to probably fifty more years of this, and then I'll get to have a stroke on the toilet or fall down a flight of stairs. Yeah, I'm sure that's why I signed up for this gig. "Please, let me go spend 80 years making the same mistakes over and over again." That sounds like an entertaining way to spend a life.

NIT Office Betting Pool

Things are going my way in the NIT office betting pool. Mainly because the pool consists of two people, me and Jack, and Jack picked Oklahoma State to win it all, and Okie State just lost in the first round to something called "Marist." Is that even a school or just someone who likes mares? So that fifty-cent buy-in is about to pay off handsomely in the way of a 75-cent pay-out. I've got Air Force beating North Carolina State in the final. Easy Street, here I come!

Monday, March 12, 2007

I'm a Little Magellan!

So I didn't write anything for my blog on Friday because I wasn't at work on Friday. I was driving across northern Kansas and southern Nebraska. Yeah!

Because I had racked up so many work hours on Sunday and Monday with my trip to New Mexico, I didn't have to work Friday. We went to Homestead National Monument outside Beatrice (be-AT-triss), Nebraska, to the Czech Capital of Nebraska in Wilber (because my kids and I are Czech), and to the Nebraska State Capitol. More importantly, I got five new counties (Marshall KS, Washington KS, Gage NE, Jefferson NE, and Saline NE). I'm now at 741. My wife is now over 400, my daughter now over 300, and my son now over 200.

This weekend we're going to Richmond, Virginia for spring break, and instead of taking 64, we're driving across southern Kentucky on the parkways. By the time we get back, we'll all have about 100 additional counties.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

When I'm Bored, I Write Long Blog Posts

So I went to New Mexico again. And the client I was supposed to meet didn't come in to work that day. But I got to go to Bandelier National Monument and climb 140 feet of wooden ladders. And I got to stamp a piece of paper to put in my National Park Passport book. Nearly every stamp I have is on a separate piece of paper that I've stuck in the book because I keep forgetting to bring it with me. In my defense, though, I did not know I'd be going to a national monument when I left home.

As I'm writing this, I'm sitting in the Albuquerque airport listening to a man yell out his telephone conversations. I have headphones on (right now I'm listening to the Dazz Band's "Let It Whip," and before that was Cheap Trick's "Surrender") and I can still hear him. He has the Kansas City Star as a new client and his father is stressed out working on his taxes.

Last night in the Kansas City airport I overheard another conversation. A man was talking to a woman named Caroline, and he was telling her he loved her and she evidently was expressing disbelief because he then swore he loved her with all his heart, and then he said he really did, and that as soon as he had finished something he was going to take her someplace they could get away. I don't think she wanted to go.

I felt bad for the guy. He wasn't trying to be loud and overheard. He was just caught having an intimate telephone conversation in a crowded airport. (New song: Death Cab for Cutie's "Marching Bands of Manhattan.") First I felt bad for him that he was in a relationship that, from the sounds of it, had some serious problems, and I also felt bad that he had to let everyone at the airport hear it. (Although if I truly felt bad about it, I wouldn't be writing about it on the Internet, using the lady's real name, even.)

I have had bad luck in my life with witnessing the ending of relationships. Once when I worked for the lawyer who would become my brother-in-law I had to go to the county courthouse to get a document. When I got there I had a question for him, and since this was in the days before cell phones (I know--I'm a dinosaur) I had to call him on the payphone.

There was one payphone and there was a man on it calling his wife to tell her that he had filed for divorce. (New song: Jimi Hendrix's "Red House.") His home wrecker was there with him and she was smiling and rubbing his back while he said things like, "No, we've tried. It just isn't working." After a few minutes she turned to me and said in the most self-congratulatory tone, "We're going to be a while."

The second time was just over a year ago. I was a ward missionary (I got released last week! Freedom!) and I had to go on splits with the elders. One of them went with me to a little town north of Lawrence called Winchester. We were there to see a non-active member. When we knocked on the door, he asked us to come back in ten minutes. So we went and sat in our car. Some people came out and got in a car and left. We thought he had just brazenly dogged us while we were watching. (New song: Judy Collins's "Send in the Clowns.") We went back up and knocked on the door. He answered and let us in. His wife had just left him while we sat in the car. They were having their breakup argument when we knocked the first time. We talked to him for a while. Just when we got to thinking we had performed some valuable service, his girlfriend came over. Let this be an important lesson: missionary work is nearly always a wasted effort.

Early today I thought of a great topic for my next column for the UDK. Now I can't remember it at all. Which is just as well, since my columns suck. (New song: The Killers' "Sam's Town.") Oh! I remember something I wanted to say! It wasn't the subject of a column, but I thought it would be funny to write on my blog for no one to read. When we were driving up to Bandelier National Monument today, we drove past a road sign that warned of falling rocks by showing some sizable boulders falling next to a car. Then we passed another sign, but this one showed rocks falling more widely. One was landing next to the car, one was about to land on the roof, and one was coming through the passenger window. Why would they make two different highway signs? Why would they distribute them this way? Are they trying to say, "We're serious, people; these rocks will mess you up!"?

The guy next to me has stopped yelling his telephone conversations. (New song: La Mosca's "Todo Pasa.") Now he is eating a salad like it is his last meal. Maybe he is just one of those guys who puts his entire heart into everything he does. When he talks, he yells. When he eats, he devours. People like that are said, admiringly, to "wear their hearts on their sleeves." I hate people like that. Learn some restraint. What are you, five years old? The salad's not going to run away from you.

I keep writing because my flight keeps taking forever to start boarding. I think we're all in the A group, though (Southwest flight), so we don't have to go stand in line like idiots. We are all going to get our own rows. If mine is next to the guy on the phone, I am going to stab him in the neck with a spork. (New song: LaVern Baker's "Saved.") Well, I've said about enough.

Shame

In answer to Cristin's question: um, yes, that would be correct.

But in my defense, I am not a sacrilegious guy. (Well, mostly not.) They made us wait in that closet for a long time. And I was recently married. And my wife is smoking hot. (Notice how that last verb is present-tense. Because I'm an awesome husband, that's why.)

I wish I had some sort of incriminating evidence regarding you guys, but I've got nothing. All my interaction with you guys has been me doing the embarrassing thing. Like when someone jumped off someone else's moving bike, and the bike ran into something and bent the front wheel's axle, and the bike's owner's dad got all mad at the other kid? Yeah, that was me riding Erik's bike.

The only thing I have on you two: Erik showed up at my "surprise" birthday party and was the only kid there (because I was grossly unpopular--still am) and my mom tried to play it off like Erik just came over to play, but Erik said, "So are no other kids coming?" (It was not the only birthday party in my life that had one person show up.)

Cristin was on the Dating Game. But she was the bachelorette doing the selecting, so it's not too embarrassing. Although she did have to start a question by saying, "Bachelor Number One...." (You should call Erik "Bachelor Number One" sometimes.)

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Everything's Out of Order Now

I wrote a post in New Mexico but haven't actually posted it yet. So this one is going to appear first, even though it was second. This might matter if someone were reading these, but as it is, it's no matter at all.

I ate at a restaurant in New Mexico (Angelina's in Espanola--eat the lamb fajitas instead of the lamb burrito) and their seating chart had two areas: non-smoking and x-moking. So I asked the waiter what that meant. He said, "We used to have a smoking area, but now we don't, but we still call it the ex-smoking area." But the chart was evidently made by someone who had only ever heard the word "ex-smoking" and did not actually know how to write it.

FOLLOW-UP: Erik admitted to checking out my wife at our wedding reception, but at least he didn't kiss her, like her friend's father did. He asked me if he could kiss the bride and I said, "Sure," figuring he meant a kiss on the cheek, but he gave her one on the lips. I didn't get too upset, though, because I had already gotten to second base earlier that day. And when Persephone writes an angry response to this post, you'll know I'm not making that up.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Spicy Phad Thai Stops the Rumbly in My Tumbly

Two things have coincided to end my Jimmy John's addiction. Firstly, they raised their prices by twenty-six cents. Secondly, I feel guilty when I don't eat at the Thai restaurant around the corner from my work that is owned by people in our ward. So today I had some phad thai.

Now, I realize that most people spell it "pad thai," but "phad thai" is also an acceptable spelling, and that is how it appears on their menu. So in summation, suck it.

The thing about feeling guilty about not eating their food is that these people have no idea who I am. The husbands are not in Elders Quorum very often (i.e. almost never) and the wives have never really met me. I ordered food from them last Saturday night and they screwed up our order, which led to Crazy Jane crying in the bathroom for ten minutes because she was really excited about getting crab Rangoon.

So I wouldn't classify these folks as friends of ours, but that's probably not their fault. Persephone and I aren't that friendly of people. And we have a pretty low threshold for friend satisfaction. We have each other as best friends, and that's about it.

I just don't see how people have time for friends. I have so many things I have to do that adding friends to the mix would just screw up my entire life. When we lived in California there were guys who would talk in the foyer (instead of going to the Sunday School class I taught) about how they had played 72 holes of golf the day before with their "buddies." I couldn't do that. I already feel like a horrible dad because I only see my kids for an hour or two a day; leaving home all day Saturday just seems irresponsible. Why not just finalize the divorce and move on with your life?

But we have had some friends. It's just that, soon after becoming their friends, one of the couples moves. Erik Lassen and his wife moved to Camarillo right before we moved out. Rachel Barlow (McKay's wife, not his sister) was becoming friends with my wife when we left. Then we got to Kansas and became friends with the Tuckers, but they moved to New Mexico.

Sometimes friends get you in trouble. My brother-in-law's brother-in-law missed his own first wedding anniversary because his friend said, "What are you doing tonight?" and he said, "Nothing," and his friend said, "We should go to a movie," so they did.

Finding friends is hard, too, especially when you're married, because there are four times as many relationships involved. Do the guy and I like each other? Do his wife and I like each other? Do my wife and I like each other? Do the guy and his wife like each other? That's just too many parameters to work with.

And now to make this worthless blog posting about friendship complete, I'll compose a horrible poem about friends, and tell you to send it to everyone in your address book and something fortuitous will befall you.

A FRIEND IS
A friend is one who shares your heart
and in whose presence you can fart.
A friend will raise you from your funk
and cover for you when you're drunk.
When you need to get cash fast
or bury a body, no questions asked,
a friend will help you to the end
because E-N-D is the end of friend
and that might be coincidence
but in all your trying incidents
a friend is there no matter what.
Sure, he might look at your wife's butt,
or tell you of his kid's conception
in the back of your wedding reception,
give your sisters hugs that linger,
or teach your kids to "pull his finger,"
but with a friend you can't be beat
(because your friend will help you cheat.)

Forward this to everyone you know every day for seven days and by the end of the week you will need a whole new set of friends.

Disaster!

Afraid of a disaster Miss Clavel ran fast and faster.

Well, Miss Clavel is a little late around here. We just had somebody quit, our eleventh separation in just over a year (over a third of all employees).

While we're talking about disasters, I came in today to find that my supervisor had e-mailed around the link to my UDK article yesterday, and then there was a follow-up e-mail from the president of the company. Why won't these people allow me to have something in my life they don't ruin with their involvement?

And since we're on the subject of disasters, any day now I'll have news of a bunk bed disaster at my house, since my freaking children don't understand how to sleep in a bed without trying to make it fall down on you. Last night I was reading books to them in their room for over and hour, and I had to stop at least ten times to tell them to either stop playing on the ladder, stop leaning over the edge, stop throwing things down from the top, or stop standing up on the top bunk. And, after the tenth time, Crazy Jane stood on the ladder's top rung and used both hands to brush her hair away from her face.

Two nights ago I had to go in their and tell them to stop misbehaving when they were supposed to be asleep and Crazy Jane told me that the way I say "stop" hurts her feelings. So yesterday I called her from work to apologize for hurting her feelings and she blew me off. A girl in the making, that one is.

When Persephone is not home and I put them to bed, they allow me to close their door and they fall asleep, but when she is home Articulate Joe insists that their door remain open and Persephone bring him toys and books. So we started telling them that Persephone goes to the store after we all say our prayers. Then she goes and reads in our bedroom and I put the kids to bed and they let me close the door. I should probably feel bad for lying to my children, but isn't it really their fault for believing the unbelievable crap I tell them?