Monday, May 15, 2017

Owl Dream

Last night I had a dream that there was an owl in the house. If you're like me, you probably have a couple of thoughts when you hear that someone dreamed about an owl.

First, alien abduction. That's just a given. You dream about an owl, that means you had a bunch of jerks from Alpha Centauri messing with you all night and you wake up thinking about an owl because it's a cover memory they left you with instead of letting you remember all their cool space stuff.

Second, I am totally going to die. While that is provably true, I don't think the owl in my dream meant me any harm. Owls, of course, call your name right before you die, which is another owl thing, besides pooping mouse bones and licking tootsie pops. This phenomenon has been well documented in Scooby Doo episodes, so must be true.

But as I get further away from the owl dream, I wonder if the owl wasn't actually the charming Bubo the owl from Clash of the Titans, whom anyone would be pleased to have in their dream, what with the chirping and mechanical head rotation and all.

Also, in the dream I shooed the owl out our back door, and later I saw it hanging out with some blackbirds, although it was unclear whether they were bird friends. Maybe they were networking, although I did not see any finger foods or coffee. And at another point in the dream there was a cat, like a lynx or a bobcat or something. It was basically Wild Kingdom in my dream is what I'm saying.

I hope we all learned a little something here.

Friday, April 21, 2017

The Merge

I am a dad, so I think about certain things a lot. Elvis Costello. Cargo shorts. And merging.

Merging is fraught with peril, as we all know. You're counting on someone to do the right thing, to uphold the social contract. And yet, so often, some filthy youngster breaks that contract--the very thread that holds our fragile society together--and fucks it up for everyone.

But I want to tell you, this morning I had a merge so pleasant, so perfect, that it restored my faith in humans as a species.

All the ingredients were there for disaster: a UPS truck. A minivan with butterfly stickers on the back window. An Uber. You were merging from the right, minivan with butterfly stickers, and I admit it--I doubted you. I was sure that at some point during the merge you would hit the brakes for no apparent reason, or panic and bail out into another lane, screwing everything up. And you, Uber guy--you were inexplicably not on your phone, and did not make alarming feints or attempt to outlast the minivan in a battle of wills.

No! Everyone performed their roles beautifully, and we slid zipperlike into the lane with such nonchalance that I could have sworn I heard--just for a second--a heavenly choir. singing our praises.

And I thought maybe I could stay in this moment forever, appreciating its perfection. But in the end I still had to go to work, and some troglodyte cut me off at the next light.

Friday, April 07, 2017

Better Off

A couple of weeks ago, I went skiing for the first time in a while. Let's be generous here and say 28 years. The last time I had been before that, I was about 16 years old, and I managed to knock myself unconscious and had to be pulled down the mountain on one of those little ski-patrol sleds with a severe concussion. It was not like the movie Hot Dog: The Movie at all. More like that movie Awakenings which I am pretty sure is about Robin Williams annoying coma patients until they break out of their fugue state to tell him to shut up. Too soon? Maybe.

I figured it was time to take my daughter skiing, since she is seven and hopefully still able to zoom down the slopes with zero regard for her own personal safety, as I was wont to do when I was seven. Hopefully she will not follow the same arc that led me to potential brain damage, but I don't want to enforce my world view on her.  So we drove up to a cheapo ski place to enjoy the crazy amount of snow we have gotten here in California this year. Predictably, my daughter was not that interested in skiing, but did follow through with a half-hour lesson and could probably be enticed into further slaloming if it involves candy and/or extra video games.

I spent the first couple of hours at the ski place playing with her and her friend, hurling them around on innertubes, and watching them take lessons, while my wife and our friends were off humiliating themselves on the slopes in their own ski lessons. 

Then it was time for me to join in the EXTREME ACTION of radical downhill! That's what the green circle and nearly-flat slope mean, right?

And surprisingly it all came back to me pretty well. The balance and skiing part I mean, not the traumatic memories of a ski popping off and hitting me under the chin, so I lay prone and lifeless in the snow for an unknown period of time, although those did come back to me as well. I didn't fall off the chair lift--in fact I didn't even fall down once, though as I mentioned the slope I was on was pretty close to flat, so nothing much would have happened anyway.

And I realized I forgot how much I enjoyed it--the skiing part, not the unconsciousness part. I could give the unconsciousness thing a miss, honestly.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Various Weird Things

I've always liked the supernatural. And when things get really terrible, these things become very appealing to me. I'm not talking about those jerks who go wandering around old mental hospitals at night with sweet night vision gear--no I'm talking about happy enclaves of believers like on the Fortean Times forums. I can easily lose several hours in the It Happened to Me forum, reading about such mysteries as a handwritten note that appeared to be in the poster's handwriting... Could it be that some people have very similar handwriting? While that is arguably possible, it is much more likely that someone has invented a time machine and the poster availed himself of said time machine, just to travel back in time and mess with his own head.

Also somewhat unsettling: Paranormal Date. Unclear whether it is possible to date an actual paranormal entity, and I did not go so far as to sign up and find out. While it might sound nice to step out with the ghastly spectral apparition of a Civil War widow who forever haunts the site of the battlefield where her beloved Obediah gave his life, wailing eternally for release from this hell, maybe just try hanging out in the produce section of your local supermarket and meeting a nice living person instead. Not that I'm telling you how to live your life. If you want to date a poltergeist, that is just fine and I support you. But don't think you are bringing it home for the holidays. Not under my roof.

Bonus weird link: I present you with a headline that is either fantastically good news or really terrible news, depending where you are: Testicle Eating Fish May Be Migrating.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Fruit Dystopia

Look, I am not saying genetic engineering is a great idea. I'm not not saying it either--I wouldn't be adverse to a few extra appendages or mystifying superpowers. Of course not.

What I am saying is that there are 21 seeds in this honey tangerine. Twenty-one! It's demonic.

I would be willing to settle for 4, maybe 5 seeds in this delectable citrus treat. 10 is the absolute maximum. But twenty-one?!

Let's get to work, Monsanto.

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Tales of Adventure

Did you think I was gone again? I know, I have disappeared for years at a time in the past, and you wondered Where did he go, this gentle superman? Was he ever here at all--was he in fact just a fever dream I had one day because I ate something unspeakable from the back of the fridge?

But not this time. I return to you after mere weeks away, with tales of adventure.

What happened was I went to London for about ten days. This involves flying on airplanes. And, excitingly, I flew into London on the day of a crazy windstorm, so our plane got to circle Heathrow several times, dipping and rising sickeningly as the winds whipped about us. Very close to reaching-for-the-bag. (and on the return trip, the flight attendant confirmed that there was much barfing on that particular flight.)

Most of my time in London was spent visiting relatives, which was mighty fine. I am of the first generation in my family to be born in America, so pretty much all the family is in England, and I see them only rarely when I can make it over.

And because I traveled only with my two sisters, who returned to California before I did, I got a rare few days of walking around London alone. Well, alone if you don't count the thousands of tourists also walking around. And because I was alone, I could pick anywhere I liked.

I went to Highgate Cemetery, where (among many others) Douglas Adams, Karl Marx, and Malcolm MacLaren are buried. I went to Shepherd's Bush kind of by accident and failed to find Mick Jones's old squat (and got into a QPR-supporters-only pub where I managed not to get beat up.) I went and saw T2 Trainspotting in Leicester Square and told drunken British types to shut up during the film.

Also while I was in England, I managed to get on British radio. I listen to a podcast called Mystery Hour, in which delightfully English people call in with random questions and other delightfully British people call in with answers. And the delightfully British host calls people "prunes" when he feels like disparaging the quality of their questions. My seven year old daughter finds this hilarious.

So I called in with a somewhat dull question (about Scrabble)--but this was only a pretext to get the host to call me a prune, so my daughter could hear the podcast. And to my surprise, not only did I get on the program, but the host did indeed call me a prune.

I played the podcast for my daughter when I returned, and while she agreed I was a prune of the highest order, she also said I was "the best dad" for doing it, and moments like that are pretty good.

If you are interested in hearing my terrible voice, you can get the podcast for free here. It's the March 2nd episode.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Alternator Facts

Update: I did not maim and/or kill myself fixing my dishwasher and now I wander around the house telling my wife about the other things in the house that I could probably fix. Of course, I have no intention of actually doing any of those things, and my success with stunningly simple dishwasher was followed almost immediately by almost setting the house on fire with the toaster.

No, this self-congratulatory preening is simply the price my family must pay in the rare occasions that I fix something correctly, and will soon fade as I fail spectacularly at trying to clear a drain clog or something similarly humiliating.

Also, karma reared its ugly head soon after my dishwasher success and the alternator in my car died. Conveniently, this occurred when both my wife and daughter were in the car and we were a good 60 miles from home. And indeed, the car completely died when were about halfway home in backed-up traffic on Highway 1, that scenic highway favored by car ads, where one might drive along breathtaking ocean vistas when one is not aware that their car might die at any second.

As it happened, the systems in the car started to fail as I approached a huge backup of cars and, knowing the feeling from years of driving shitty cars, I pulled onto the shoulder and willed the car to make it to that turn-off about 500 yards ahead. Somehow it did make it, just as all the power failed, and I pulled the non-powered, quickly locking steering to a remarkably safe spot on the side of a side road.

The rest of the story involves tow trucks, battery-packs, and 800 dollars.*

*And of course, when I told my coworker my tale of alternator woe, he was kind enough to listen politely until the end of the story before pointing out that I could have merely opened up the alternator and replaced the "brushes" for about 50 dollars.

So now my coworker is dead.

Thursday, February 09, 2017

Expert Plans

I just want to warn you, I may be attempting to fix my dishwasher this weekend. It is easy. I have watched one video on YouTube and if a guy who had his thumb over the camera a good 60% of the video's runtime can do it, I can do it, by god!

What's wrong with the dishwasher is that a whole lot of water comes out of the airgap. I only know it is called an airgap because my sister told me about a dishwasher repair guy who wants to make money selling seasonal airgap covers, like for instance a Santa airgap cover. That, frankly, sounds a little disturbing because if your airgap is leaking like mine is, you're going to see a tiny Santa basically urinating all over your countertop.

Our airgap has been leaking for approximately 7 years. The bottom of our under-sink cabinet and the floor under that cabinet are water-damaged and buckling. It is a good thing I have sprung into action so quickly. The damage is at that level where I am somewhere between "we should probably have a look at how bad that is" and "I really don't want to know how bad that is because it is probably really expensive to fix and will make me have to face some harsh truths about myself." I was washing dishes the other day and idly wondered if I would just fall through the floor into our garage (which would not have been terrible because I was eyeing a Le Creuset thing with baked on meat stuff on it and I really did not want to clean it.)

So I watched a video which, as I mentioned, was very professionally shot, and in which a friendly person shows how to take your dishwasher apart and clean the filters. (Also, guy making video, why did you wait to do your dishwasher repair video until both racks were full of dirty dishes?)

My thought process as I watch a video like this is "ok... ok... I can do that... I uh.... maybe I can do that?" and kind of mentally picturing how I will screw it up. Losing all the screws, that's one thing. Bending and/or breaking sensitive parts, that's another. Electrocution? Doesn't seem likely, but would not be surprising given my past home repair efforts. Fingers/hair/entire head/genitals caught in food grinder thing? Again, unlikely, but still possible.

But I am going to do this. And if I do not return, know that I loved you.

Wednesday, February 01, 2017


Sometimes I question my career choice.

Then, of course, I remember I didn't really choose it at all. It just kind of happened. When you have a degree in something spectacularly useful, like my Modern Literature degree, you can pretty much pick your path to financial success--it's true. But somehow I just found myself as a technical writer some twenty-five years ago, despite the fact that I didn't know much about computers really at all. But I knew some engineer types, I could fog a mirror, and I could use Microsoft Word to edit some hardware specifications, so I was in. I think they also asked me if I was proficient in AutoCAD 10, a query to which I nodded and smiled knowingly, despite a sneaking suspicion that AutoCAD was one of those robot taxis from Total Recall.

And then I was off and running. Filing things. Folding D-size papers origami-like into something that would fit in a letter-size drawer. Distributing Engineering Change Orders in bulging manila folders that the responsible parties would ignore. I was happy there in my first office job, taking innumerable cigarette breaks and playing minesweeper while no-one was watching. Hanging out with my Bulgarian co-workers who also seemed never to do any work. And then one day the place went under. Possibly due to some shady goings-on with the CEO. Or possibly because no-one did any work. Never was quite sure.

And somehow, all these years later, my skills are a rainbow of XML, structured authoring, training video creation, Git source management. The Cloud. I find myself reading discussion boards about serif vs sans serif fonts in user manuals. Two spaces or one after a full stop. I have opinions about those things, which no-one should really care about.

Did I have a point here? Not sure. Maybe a cautionary tale.

I do miss the Minesweeper though.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Terrible Food Day

So, I thought it would be a good idea to have Terrible Food Day for my daughter (and, by extension, me). My wife is always buying these healthy things with buckwheat and chia and tiny rocks, and while I appreciate her earnest healthward leanings, I recognize that when you are seven years old, tofu and gravelly grain is not the most appealing.

I started talking about TV dinners to my daughter. The cobbler! You put a TV dinner in the oven and if you wanted the (arguable) meat to be hot, that cobbler was going to be fused like magma. Pirate Picnic--that was my favorite when I was a kid. Games on the box! Nestle's Quik mix included! This is what life was like before Atari.

The excitement was palpable.

So we ventured forth to our local grocery store. I was anticipating a rich array of choices. But the only real TV dinners I could find were Hungry Mans. And I don't think a 50 pound person needs 2 pounds of food. (Incidentally, while we were discussing what terrible food choice we would make, a hungry man approached the Hungry Mans and changed his mind when he heard us. Sorry, Swanson.)

Apart from that there were some Banquet choices, only one of which had a dessert in it, and that one looked pretty terrible. In the end she opted for a kind-of TV dinner featuring chicken nuggets and some macaroni and cheese that was frankly unholy and did not taste even a little like cheese.

I myself opted for the Stouffer's turkey tetrazzini, a foodstuff I consumed throughout high school and college at a truly alarming rate. And I tell you it hasn't changed. In fact the particular box I purchased may have been from 1992--how could you tell?

I also tried to flesh out Terrible Food Day with Chikn-in-a-Biskit crackers. My daughter ate one and sputtered "aaaagh! salty!" I assured her that the chemical reaction taking place in her insides was not just salt--it was Nature's Perfect Food: MSG! And lots of it! But no matter how I tried to explain the wonders of Flavor Enhancer, she would not be swayed.

So anyway, I may have affected her eating habits in a good way by making her eat stuff that tastes even worse than quinoa. She liked the orange soda though.


Blog Archive