- Seven boxes of cereal including a village-sized (as in it takes a village to eat it before it expires) Honeycomb box. It's big enough to create the illusion of a solar eclipse when placed too close to the kitchen windows.
- Four open bags of pretzels: thin fat-free, minis, pretzel sticks, and peanut butter sandwich pretzels.
- One open bag of Veggie Booty.
- Two open bags of Goldfish.
- Two partial loaves of bread.
- One open bag of Chex mix.
- Two open bags of cookies.
- One open bag of sugar.
- One open bag of flour.
- One partially eaten Apple Cake.
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Monday, December 29, 2008
Washing machines and I have never really had good relations. This past weekend, our troubled relationship took yet another turn (or spin, depending on which party you ask).
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Monday, December 22, 2008
We have a couple LED flashlight key chains whose sole purposes are to keep the kids entertained on occasion. For example, when the 300+ toys in their playroom aren't enough, a $1 key chain can do the trick. One is a pig and another is a frog. They each emit a twice repeated animal sound and shine a bright blue LED light. The pig's light is emitted through it's nostrils and the frog's through it's mouth.
Friday, December 19, 2008
Monday, December 15, 2008
Saturday, December 13, 2008
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Please accept this letter of apology. During your advertising campaign last summer, I unjustifiably ridiculed your decision to rename the Natick Mall. After your first plan to name the mall simply "Natick", you chose an even more laughable title with "The Natick Collection." According to a local news brief, use of the word Collection to attract upscale stores, sophisticated shoppers, and oblivious tourists is popular in getaway destinations such as Bellevue, WA and Troy, MI. With this, I considered my research on absurdity to be complete.
I scoffed at your suggestion that this name would be more appropriate for the upscale stores. A collection? It sounds like something that might collect dust, no? Besides, it's the Natick Mall. It will always be the Natick Mall. You may have built a new fancy wing with a glass ceiling providing sunlight for your new fancy shoppers, but the "old section" (as it is now called) is still windowless and so 1990s. Feuds between eternal enemies, mall rats and mall walkers, may flare up as they struggle to claim new turf (albeit marble instead of linoleum) in the new expansion wing. That is, if they dare venture into the sunlight.
I laughed even harder the first time I went to the Collection. I discovered that it had actually gone upscale as intended and attracted a few customers that will at least pretend to shop at those high-end stores. They even turned their noses up at my kids who were joyfully playing on your upscale couches. The venue's new image even gave the security guard reason to be a snob, lecturing the kids about how not to touch the water fountain or make fun of his career choice.
We did venture into one of your new stores. The very serious staff at the chocolate store, which has since closed, were far from family-friendly. As we stood in line pondering what $6 piece of $1 chocolate we would split four-ways, our kids started to explore the empty store. They were in fact, extremely well-behaved in that moment. As my daughter approached a comfy chair, the manager ran interference and explained that he didn't want a mess on his furniture. He must have seen my son try to write his name with jam-covered fingers on the leather couch near the Concierge. Is there really a concierge at the mall? I digress. We left annoyed and disappointed that we didn't get to taste rich people chocolate. However, it all worked out in the end because we needed the $6 for the valet tip.
Monday, December 8, 2008
Sunday, December 7, 2008
My car and I were idling in the high school parking lot a few blocks from home. My thighs were sticking to my jeans, and my jeans to the car seat. The sweat on my forehead was serving a dual function as coolant and calming agent. My heart and mind were still racing wildly as if trying to out-pace each other.
I wondered how long I had been sitting there. The large lot was empty and I was parked firmly in the middle and facing the school gymnasium. From this angle, I would see them coming from any angle.
My brain was reprocessing the events leading up to today. When I was 10 years old, my family and I had a summer outing to a nearby water amusement park. We were ambushed by a band of pirates soon after we arrived. Granted, they attacked us with balloons and songs, but I was clearly effected by the incident for I suffered from pirate-phobia ever since that day.
It was a complete surprise when I arrived at her office and she was wearing a cheap Halloween hook on her hand and a contraption that gave her the appearance of being peg-legged. Although I knew that it was irrational, I immediately tensed up and experienced the early signs of a panic attack. We slowly worked through my aversion to the pirate garb. By the end of the session, we had discussed the unlikelihood that I would ever encounter a one-hooked, peg-legged person again. Once I was calm again, she had me walk the plank. The plank was actually a cinder block wall along the office driveway. I didn't actually walk off the plank and I was relieved to know that she couldn't actually find a real plank.
I unclenched my fist damp with anxiety, revealing the note that I had received only moments ago. when delivered to my door by a courier.
"Wear it all day."
I crumpled the note again, lowered the window, and threw it as far as I could.
I could wear it all day, but the pirate's eye patch was still in the delivery box in the garden. The container didn't have a return address. But, yesterday's events had made me cautious. I had carefully pulled out the note, read it's horrible message, and launched the box into the marigolds. As my tires squealed on the driveway as I reversed into the street, I caught a glimpse of the black eye wear which had been partially ejected from the package.
The trees that surrounded the parking lot provided a sense of security. However, the longer I sat in my car the more the parking lot felt like an ocean with yellow lines in a perfect yet broken pattern of waves that seemed to bring the trees closer. The pine trees, with their tall masts and broad leafy sails, were floating towards me.
It was 3:00 in the afternoon and I was getting ready for my job as the evening supervisor at the clinical testing lab at the hospital when the package had arrived.
Friday, December 5, 2008
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
Besides, electronics are out. Tolls are in. Friends don't let friends pay tolls with cash, especially when they can be idling hands-free in the adjacent lane. The days of chucking coins into a tiny basket with one-eye closed as you barrel through a narrow toll booth are gone. Instead of digging around for change under floor mats, spend your time people watching or reading the toll plaza sponsorship ads such as "These once-living and now carbon-monoxide infused flowers were donated by Scrub-and-ScrubSomeMore Car Wash."
To my friends who were initially planning to pay off my heating bill for Christmas:
I thought paying a loved one's bills was the ultimate gift until I discovered the EZ-Gift. In fact, I purchased $30 turnpike gift cards for each of you this year. Unfortunately, I will need to borrow them back to pay the Turnpike Authority for the $25 bounced check fees. I would have made a deposit at the bank sooner, but I haven't been travelling much since I burned through the Mobil Gas Gift Cards you gave me last year (didn't you see the gas prices last summer??). I expect that you will be upset about this, but you will have $5 remaining on your FastLane account. Please come visit me on Exit 13 and we can discuss.
Monday, December 1, 2008
I hope to write everyday, but finding the time is difficult. My blog started as a template for my creative writing. I found that I enjoy writing about everyday events in story form. However, this had always prevented me from sharing it because I only wanted to produce "completed" pieces. However, in finding humor all around me, I can't help but want to simply write about it and not worry about completeness. I worry that I write more casually, fewer stories will result. Will it still be good? It's still unclear.
But, I am often told by my better half that I am too extreme in my decision making process. Why does it have to be one or the other? She makes a great point. I can try to do both and see where it leads. Perhaps these two seemingly different styles will merge into one.
I have also wondered if my blog would be more interesting if I posted photographs of some things that make me laugh out loud each day. Please give me feedback here. With that, here are a few.
Tonight when I got home from work, I found the following Globe magazine and Tweeter circular together, just as shown. 60% off everything at Tweeter is a dream come true, but what more can a nun wish for than a discounted subwoofer?
Sunday, November 30, 2008
Tonight, after my wife made most of the lunch without me, I was handed a smaller list on a separate paper that read:
Pancakes with Jam
Macaroni and Cheese
I was now working with a list from a list. Apparently, I need simplification so as to minimize the number of questions. So, before she left the room I asked:
"Hummus for each of them? Separate containers? How much? The new stuff with the chopped garlic on top or the smooth kind?"
"How much jam? Strawberry or Rasberry? How many pancakes? As mini sandwiches or free agents? In baggies or tupperware?"
"Kraft or Annie's? Macaroni, Pokemon, or Bunnies?"
Therefore, I conclude that a book describing the people that evoke the road rage in each of us is in my future. In the meantime, I will describe one driving phenotype demonstrated by someone I drive with often: my wife.
While driving home from the mall yesterday, I noticed a car in front of us swing their car to the right just before turning left. At the top of the bad driver classification hierarchy, one of the first divisions is between "intentional" and "oblivious." The "Swing Out Sister" behavior is in the latter category. This maddens me, because it makes absolutely no sense why you would need to do this. I actually have a theory (perhaps detailed in one of the aforementioned journal articles) that sometimes drivers just mimic other drivers. Unless the turn is an acute angle (read: "hard right" or "hard left") or you are attempting to pass the lead car in Indianapolis, you don't need to steer your car in one direction to cut hard in another. This act is dangerous, especially for those of us that typically try to pass you on the swing side.
While complaining about this in the car, my wife confessed that she is one of those drivers. For once, a wish had come true. I could barely contain myself when I realized that I had a rare opportunity to talk to one of "them" and to finally get an explanation. When prompted, she claimed that she didn't know why she did it. Mimicking behavior, I thought.
After more questioning, she admitted that she swings out left to turn right because she doesn't want to cross the yellow line. Don't want to cross the yellow line? While turning left? From the right side of the road? In a 2-ton vehicle for which you are legally permitted to drive? On the road? I can't even make sense of this.
I'm at a loss for words in the moment. But my book, to be published soon, will have all names removed.
Friday, November 14, 2008
I was quite impressed by the ample parking. This is certainly only one of many benefits to being located at an industrial park in a building that was most likely a lead paint plant at one time. The other advantage is that teachers could take them for a stroll through the BJ's parking lot or past the plastic recycling center. Look kids! That's where your bottles will go if you misbehave.
We went inside and were greeted by "the administration." We were greeted by several administrative assistants before the most experienced, 24 year old Jenny, introduced herself as the "Toddler Coordinator." She toured us through a few toddler rooms where the teachers were disheveled and the kids looked miserable. As we asked how the teachers handled sick children, we watched as toddler after toddler had their noses wiped. There was one room where the kids noses were running like fountains, but only because the teacher was cleaning up the leaky faucet on her own face.
Our guide discussed how they use a variety of methods to creatively develop the children's interpersonal and language skills. She explained how they use stuffed animals to represent different emotions so that the children would have another way to articulate how they are feeling. As she started to explain how Sid the Snake represented Sad, she got frustrated when she couldn't find the fluffy critter to demonstrate her point. When I suggested that perhaps Sid was Sad because he was Stolen, she got more frustrated. Sensing her anxiety and hoping to evoke a smile instead, I suggested that she look for Fred the Frustrated Fox. She didn't laugh but instead ushered us out of the room.
The rooms and hallways were a mess. The classrooms and offices were cluttered. One room served dual purposes as a staff office and a children's reading room. The most organized part of that particular room was the inside of the vending machine stocked with snacks for staff members. But the desks around it were full of unorganized papers and office supplies. As long as the Skittles and Cheetos are lined up for perfect viewing and selection, who needs to find this week's preschool curriculum? Where's that list of kids that are allergic to peanuts? It's here somewhere....Oh never mind. Do you have a quarter I can borrow for that Snickers bar in Row H3?
When we looked at the ghost town that was the outdoor playground, I noticed a variety of toys half buried in wood chips and soon to be forgotten for the winter. In several months, children will look outside to see what Spring has sprung and be disappointed to find Fisher Price toys emerging from the melting snow. Parents all over town will be explaining why their yards don't grow toys. Perhaps this is where many of those same parents will invoke their right to also explain that money doesn't grow on trees.
We left quite disappointed and wondered if we will ever be satisfied with the childcare options. At the particular center that we chose to visit today, we were able to confirm that "Corporate" doesn't (we hope) really know what's going on at Germ Fest 2008. We will need to keep looking. In the meantime, I have updated my resume to reflect my part-time responsibilities as "Toddler Coordinator" and "Fred the Frustrated Fox" which are apparently synonyms.
Monday, November 10, 2008
With a specific item in mind, I wandered the aisles on the ground floor before my search led me to the basement level. When I couldn't find it there either, I approached the cashier, a disheveled college-aged male staring at his hands until he noticed me.
"Do you sell stickers? For kids?" I asked.
The young man laughed and promptly produced a sheet of stickers from behind the counter. The sheet had purple cats on it. "They're free. It's a promotion."
I wasn't sure how to respond appropriately. "Are you advertising that you have a large surplus of purple cats for sale?"
"Nope. Just a large surplus of purple cat stickers. We're trying to get rid of them."
"So, you are promoting them by giving them away?"
"Yep. Pretty creative marketing strategy, huh?"
I was losing patience.
"I'm looking for letter stickers."
"Do you mean stamps?"
"No, not that kind of letter. The alphabet. They're a reward for potty training."
He stared at me blankly without saying anything.
"For my son," I explained, attempting to refocus him. "He's potty training and it's an incentive that works for him."
Illustrating size with exaggerated hand gestures, he asked "Do you want small letter stickers? Or large ones?"
"I want purple cat sized ones."
"I'm sorry, but we don't sell letter stickers."
"Then why did you ask me what size?"
"I dunno. Just curious."
I rode the elevator back up to the ground floor. As I neared the exit, I discovered a gift section that I didn't notice earlier. I quickly found refrigerator magnets with the alphabet. They stick. They have letters on them. Sold.
I paid for the magnets at the nearest register. I was happy to have an interaction with a different customer service representative. By choice, we barely spoke and I was on my way in a few moments.
When I got home this evening, my wife asked me about the sticker hunt.
"No luck with the alphabet stickers. Only magnets," I declared as I tossed the bag onto the kitchen island.
She peeked inside and smiled.
"You bought purple cat stickers?"
Realizing that the cashier must have tossed them into the bag with the receipt, I could do nothing but tell the truth.
"It was a promotion."
Monday, November 3, 2008
When I'm not thinking about hand blisters or how much I underestimated the number of bags needed, I consider better ways to clean up the yard. The mind-numbing sound of gas-powered leaf blowers typically drives my thoughts towards the opposite end of the spectrum of eco-friendliness.
A couple years ago, I received a quote for $500 to receive a "Fall Yard Cleanup" from a local landscaping company. It occurred to me that, at 50 cents per biodegradable leaf bag, I could buy 1000 of them for the same price. With a 1000 leaf bags in hand, I would simply open them all up and stand them next to each other in the yard. I would have enough to cover every inch of the would-be leaf-covered areas of they yard. The leaves would simply fall into the bags. Once all of the leaves have fallen, I would close up the bags and take them to the city dump. Which reminds me; do you have a truck large enough to hold 1000 leaf bags that I can borrow? For your troubles, I'll give you an equal number of empty leaf bags.
Friday, October 24, 2008
First, I saw a very funny bumper sticker that said "Visualize Whirled Peas." Very clever.
Second, I saw a truck promoting their service: "Fresh Frozen Pet Food Delivery." I wondered if the kids will someday ask for a Frozen Pet? If so, I know how to get fresh food.
Finally, an all-service laundry facility adorned a sign that read:
It had never occurred to me that a tailor's personal hygiene was worth advertising.
Thursday, October 23, 2008
This interest of hers was prompted by the frightened response by our children as they walked by the Halloween store at the mall. She hurried the kids past the zombies and goblins at the same pace I typically rush past the occasional Spencer's gift store. Or past the frequent "Can I ask you a question?" from beauty product kiosk vendors to whom I always respond with finality, "You just did."
Over dinner the other night, she explained that kids should not wear scary costumes. I asked her for an example of a more positive yet interesting costume. She promptly responded, "A Rubik's Cube." I now felt obligated to explain that one of the reasons that masks were historically worn at Halloween festivals was to scare away evil spirits. This was typically done at Harvest time, or in modern days, before eating candy harvested from strangers in costumes.
I explained that the Rubik's cube wasn't scary enough. But, then I hesitated. I realized that when I was of trick-or-treating age, I would have been terrified of a Rubik's cube. Especially, if the puzzle were to surprise ambush me in a cul-de-sac, screaming "Solve Me! Solve Me!" I definitely would have run home.
Therefore, I have successfully defeated the PoCO Halloween with at least one example of how a seemingly positive costume is always a disguise for something more evil and sometimes unexplainable. With a renewed excitement for the holiday, I will be making new costumes for my kids. Watch out residents of Framingham, because this year on All Hallow's Eve, you will meet Ms. Calculus and Mr. Driver That Always Blocks Intersections.
Saturday, October 18, 2008
Monday, October 13, 2008
I was the second person to sign my life away, which meant that I had to climb to the far back into the last row of three. Unfortunately, the middle row was three seats wide preventing proper access to the third row. I believe now that somewhere at a Ford plant in the midwest where they make these people-movers, there is a job opening.
"Someone must have put a three-seater in the two-seater pile when I wasn't looking," he must have said at his exit interview.
I climbed under an extended seat belt safely securing an invisible passenger in the first row. I tumbled over the second row of seats into the back. As I straightened myself out and started searching for my seat belt in the middle seat, another passenger hurled himself into our row. Once settled, the three of us looked at each other with disgust and fear for the unknown.
With eight of us packed into every available seat, the driver climbed in and started the engine. While the van idled, we all sat there quietly for a minute. The driver stared straight ahead, perhaps considering how he might kill us and steal our frequent flyer miles as part of his plan to start a new life. My new best friends and I nervously looked at each other, searching for an explanation as to why we were still there. One passenger spoke up, his voice cracking.
"I don't think anyone else is coming." His observation was returned with silence.
A couple minutes later and without warning the driver yelled, "WE GO!" He must have slammed his foot on the gas pedal, because we sped out of the parking lane faster than you could say "Refund Please."
With the grace and speed of an Andretti, our chauffeur cut off a dozen other drivers including another van from his own company. I hope this comes up at his annual performance review, as in the following: "The employee does not work well with others. In fact, he tries to kill them on the highway." I also wondered if shuttle drivers ever respond anonymously to a "How's my driving?" bumper sticker when it's in response to a coworker. It might be a competitive field after all.
Now in the passing lane with open road ahead of us, it was somewhat smooth sailing at 80mph. As we all sat there speechless and facing forward, I felt like one of those Fisher Price Little People. If I were to raise my arms straight out to my sides and put a frog in my pocket, I could have completed the imitation. The wheels on the bus go round and round.
Besides the simple-minded fellow in the front row chuckling at the text message alert he received on his phone to inform him that his flight had just landed, my co-passengers were non-verbal. Unwilling to die lonely, I chose to make friends with the woman to my right. She was staring out the window, perhaps praying for her safety.
"Are you from San Francisco?" I asked cheerily.
"No," my new friend said deeply, finishing the conversation without looking at me.
The man to my right was now sleeping through all of this. I decided to focus more on what was happening outside the van. I marveled at the houses on the Peninsula that were built on the sides of very large hills. It just doesn't seem like a great place to live. The views might be great, but is it really worth it to risk sliding down the mountain and onto the highway?
We entered San Francisco and the driver stopped every 5 minutes to unload each passenger at their final destination. As we entered one low income neighborhood, my chipper friend reconsidered our rocky start and said in a heavy Russian accent, "This city looks like a slum."
"This does look like a bad part, but it truly is a beautiful city. I've been here once before," I said to the back of her head.
A few minutes later she concluded, "It doesn't look like the slum; it is the slum."
Still staring out the window, she then confessed, "This is my stop." The vehicle came to a halt and I moved aside so that she could roll over the seats in front of us and out the van door.
On the road again, I was the only victim remaining. As we sped up and down the 'Frisco hills, I wondered if the weight of all the other passengers had previously prevented us from tipping over. This concerned me as I bumped up and down in my seat with every trolley track we crossed.
At one intersection, we drove through a red light cutting off traffic to cross three lanes to make a left. This might have been more successful had we not tried to accomplish this in less than 10 feet.
Finally, we pulled into my hotel driveway nearly hitting the unsuspecting valet. As the driver pulled my luggage from the back of the van the valet walked by and with sarcasm said, "Nice driving."
As always, I experienced tip fear (the fear of confrontation that might result from not tipping enough or at all). I gave him $17 per standard rate and another $5 for getting me there alive after all. With a wave and a "thank you," he was on his way back to the airport to do it all again.
When the hotel offered a Lincoln Town Car for the return trip to the airport, I didn't hesitate to make a reservation. In fact, I think I said out loud and very enthusiastically, "WE GO!"
Saturday, September 27, 2008
The muscle spasm is not continuous, but it is uncontrollable and occurs frequently throughout the day. It's making me quite irritable actually. It is embarrassing to be at the beach or town common and talking to someone when my eyelid suddenly decides to do the jig. These scenarios require very quick thinking.
Do I draw attention to it and hope that we can move past it with a polite laugh? This option might highlight the facial fandango that perhaps they hadn't noticed yet and hopefully never will.
Or do I ignore the twitch and distract the would-be gawker with another part of my body? I could just stamp my foot very loudly and exuberantly. This might work, but feels like a lose-lose situation.
Instead I would choose the safest option and blink both of my eyes repeatedly, commenting on how great my friend looks. "So great that I can't believe my eyes!" This attention deflection will only seem awkward for the minute or two it takes to wrap up the now doomed conversation.
I am also irritated by my eyelid's antics because it's uncomfortable. It feels droopy yet quivers as it unsuccessfully attempts to hold itself in place. (By the way, it's probably helpful in times like these that I no longer believe that the eyelid's primary responsibility is to prevent my eyeball from falling out when I'm tired. This surely would cause more anxiety). The quivering is rapid and chaotic, unlike normal eyelid behavior. I'm certain that we all experience a little muscle spasm occasionally, but it rarely lasts more than a minute. Imagine watching an entire news program contemplating the meaning of 'Eyewitness' as your face flips out.
This recent experience with my left eye reminds me of my late and beloved cat, Hoolie. My wife and I would laugh and joke when she was mad, because she would appear to be really agitated and repeatedly blink her left eye. This was typically followed by an unwarranted attack on my shoe, The Swiffer, or another cat. She was normally a sweet and gentle 25 pound Maine Coon cat, but once the blinking started it was all over. It was rarely obvious what had this cool kitty all worked up and what led to the eye blinking, but we laughed anyways (inappropriate).
These memories of my cat have definitely made me feel guilty about the teasing. So, please don't judge me too quickly. I always apologized and worked collaboratively with her to identify a likely source of frustration and explore other possible and safer outcomes. This approach was often unsuccessful and only resulted in more eye blinking and 'catattacks'.
But more than the feelings of guilt, these memories have made me realize that perhaps it was a muscle spasm that resulted in Hoolie's irritation and not the converse. I also now wonder if the blinking of her left eye was an attempt to conceal a twitching eyelid. I probably would have noticed had she not been stamping her paw so loudly and exuberantly.
Friday, September 26, 2008
In the meantime....
Razor USA issued a recall for approximately 100,000 scooters this week. The reason? These particular Razors cut. This is not necessarily funny, because there have apparently been a dozen reports of injuries by Razor riders. Apparently, the vehicle has sharp edges that may result in lacerations. Some of those injured required surgery due to damaged Achilles tendons.
Speaking of the Achilles, is this what Razor's competitors were hoping for? Razors that cut? Isn't this what Razor engineers undoubtedly asked by executives to avoid? There certainly must have been a big sign in the lunchroom that said "We cannot, we repeat cannot, live up to our name. Do not design or manufacture parts that may cause Razor sharp cuts. Bodily injury is bad for the company image. And it's too late to change our company name to Really Dull Blade."
Since you are asking me, I will agree that the company's name is unfortunate in light of these recalls. I do not ride a scooter, but the name just seems terribly misplaced. I can only guess that the Razor name is intended to conjure up an image of a scooter cutting through the air or through traffic. However, I think that if scooters were designed to do anything but scoot they would have received a better name from the start. That said, I always thought that 'Skedaddle' was a more appropriate name.
Scooters scoot. Razors cut.
We ride scooters. We cut with razors.
I didn't get up in the morning and remove stubble with a scooter before jumping on my razor to cut through traffic on my way to work.
Anyways, you get my point. Of course there was a recall. These three and four wheel motorized skateboards were bound to injure someone with successful branding like that.
If Razor USA wants to regain their footing in the scooter market, I recommend that they change their corporate name to Skedaddle. I gaurantee that they will never get customers reporting that their Achilles heel was skedaddled on their scooter while cutting through traffic.
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
What kind of effect? Let me explain. In at least one city in Israel, DNA testing is being used to match dog poop with it's 'source'. Fines will be applied to any dog owner whose dog's feces are found on the ground in public areas. This is truly a small victory for the field of genetic testing.
Dog owners in that particular city are required to have their dogs' cheeks' swabbed by a city-appointed veterinarian. I would love to see a dog cheek swabbing event, but that will have to wait until the poop review comes to my town.
Canine landmines found around town that violate city ordinances will also be tested. Hopefully, there is a match and the dogowner receives a ticket with a fine in the mail.
This is brilliant! I plan to write a letter to my town government in Framingham and ask that they seriously consider this approach. I have polled my non-dogowner neighbors and they unanimously agree and have promised to cheer louder than official town laughter and town official laughter when I presnt this at the next town meeting.
But, I am not only determined to eliminate one particular Dalmation from fertilizing my yard. This dog tracking technique also has benefits for crime fighting. For example, let's imagine that my house was burglarized. I already don't like where this is going, so please stop imagining that now. Instead, let's pretend that my neighbor's house was robbed. He wasn't home and there aren't any known witnesses. However, a diligent CSI discovers Dalmation dog feces in my front yard.
Were the Dalmation's poop databased and analyzed for estimated time of "delivery", they might have themselves a witness. By the way, please don't be surprised if "poop databasing" is a household phrase someday because my work in the genetics field will have that kind of impact, I promise.
If the dog happened to do his business during or close to the time of the burglary, the police could ask the dogowner if they saw anything suspicious. The perfect scenario would be one in which the dogowner explained that he did see something suspicious, which is why he did not see the crime scene evidence planted by his best friend. Regardless of the outcome, you would have a complete "chain of custody" as follows:
Burglar --> Neighbor's House --> My House --> Feces --> Dog --> Dog owner (Witness)
A town that adopts "poop databasing" will not only help crime fighting but their efforts might also result in crime prevention. Would-be criminals would literally have to watch their step and beware of dogs everywhere. I hesitate to state the obvious, but sneakers can also be swabbed providing an additional opportunity for complete traceability in the chain.
Finally, I will recommend that the town not give up too easily on the dog owner traceability method and it's range of potential benefits. If the system is implemented and feces in my yard does not match a local dog or crime, I will politely ask at the next town committee meeting: "Can you please do a cheek swab on old man Rogers three doors down?"
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Monday, September 22, 2008
However, my brain did tune in long enough to hear one particular phrase designed to fill the airways where the broadcaster had nothing else to say. There was repeated use of the phrase "Precision Traffic" to refer to their update on the Boston area roadways.
Precision Traffic. They have decided to call it by this name, because there is one statement that they can say with repeatability and reproducibility: "There is traffic."
The Precision Traffic team does their best with the helicopters and speed-dialing "alert listeners," but I'm often surprised at the accident that was not reported or the one that I never saw. There is traffic, but it will be very different by the time I get there. There is always traffic, hence the precision statement and the overly confident voice-over artist.
As a scientist and engineer, I reserve the right to briefly explain the difference between precision and accuracy without getting harassed by friends or strangers or strange friends. Actually, I'll make everyone happy and simply cut and paste an explanation from Wikipedia instead.
"Accuracy is the degree of closeness of a measured or calculated quantity to its actual (true) value. Accuracy is closely related to precision, also called reproducibility or repeatability, the degree to which further measurements or calculations show the same or similar results." Got that? Good.
Therefore, I want Accurate Traffic. I want someone to tell me exactly where and when things will get better or worse for me. Perhaps this is selfish and unrealistic. But if a radio station really wants to boost it's ratings, they should listen to this particular customer. Traffic reports should sound like this:
"Accurate Traffic on the 3's!
Tyler from Framingham - you left WAY too late. Now, you will have to sit behind a huge line at the toll plaza with a thousand other sleepyheads that couldn't get it together on time. Had you gotten up earlier, you would have also missed the four car accident that is about to happen in about 5 minutes and approximately 10 cars in front of you. If you drive a lot faster, you might miss it! But, there's a sweet spot that you don't want to be in! Your zipper's down, you have Cheerios stuck to your elbow, and there are two pacifiers in your pocket. Good luck explaining to your boss why you're late for your annual performance review, slacker. Another Accurate Traffic update in 10 minutes!"
Saturday, September 20, 2008
For example, we recently considered cancelling the newspaper. We realized that this was costing us the equivalent of 7 cups of coffee per month. However, the savings at the grocery store that would result from coupons retrieved from the paper should equal or exceed that for it to be a justified expense. For example, last week alone I cut coupons worth at least 20 cups of coffee. I had to eat a lot of cereal and frozen dinners this week to cash in on those savings.
Gas prices these days, huh? The recent increase and subsequent fall of gasoline prices is killing me. From a cup and half up to two cups and back down again is not good for the blood pressure. Now that the gas prices are down again, I'm driving more. To the coffeeshop.
There's a line in our budget that converts savings to coffee cups. This makes it significantly easier to find coffee cups each month. More specifically, I recently cut out all personal hygiene products. You won't complain too much when that latte is on me, will you?
Friday, September 19, 2008
1. Boil 3 broccoli crowns for 60 minutes until water is green.
2. Place a strainer over a large pot.
3. Pour the broccoli and green water into the strainer, collecting the green water in the pot and the broccoli in the strainer.
4. Eat the green mush that was once broccoli.
5. Resist the temptation to ask yourself why you are doing this or why I wrote this. The answers will leave you feeling empty despite the aforementioned snacking on green mush.
6. Return the pot with green broccoli water to the stove and turn to High heat.
7. Boil until all water has evaporated, leaving green broccoli film on the bottom of the pot.
8. Remove from heat.
9. Pour 1 quart of whole milk into the pot, and stir to re-suspend broccoli film.
10. Pour into several glasses and chill.
Thursday, September 18, 2008
Sharing with others is a skill that children will apply throughout their lifetime.
Fortunately, most of us mature with age and compromise does not always result in a tantrum. Although sharing can at times still be difficult, we learn to control our emotions. But, let's imagine for a moment that we don't develop self-control. That last donut in the lunchroom could result in a midlife meldown by hungry colleagues. The good seats at a work seminar could be the cause of a major crying fit by managers and employees alike.
My home is not immune to the challenges in teaching kids to share with each other. Naturally, my son had a difficult time adjusting to the arrival of his baby sister. But, the easiest way for him to manage this was to simply ignore her. This lasted only several weeks until he most likely realized that we didn't get her at the library with the Bob the Builder DVDs nor would she be returned in the dropbox. Sharing then became much more difficult, as sibling rivalry should. Naturally, toys are one of the first objects that children must learn to share.
My wife and I have learned to apply Standard Operating Procedures to our family's sharing protocol. When a toddler scuffle erupts over a toy, we calmly explain that the toys are to be shared and they are expected to take turns with the toy that is most coveted in that particular moment. This interaction occurs often, because typically my daughter wants anything that my son possesses at any given time. Therefore, the following conversation can be heard often in our house.
Cian: "AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHH. No baby Shea!"
Me: "What happened?"
Cian: "I want the Compeetateeter. Baby Shea has daddy's phone," clinging to a toy computer and pointing at my previously lost cell phone.
Me: "We share our toys. Shea, play with my phone for another minute. Cian, you have another minute with the computer before you give it to your sister."
Cian and Shea in unison: "Ok."
This works almost always. However, recently the concept of sharing has reached a new level. A few months ago, Shea started to dance to music with her brother. Cian felt that dancing was not to be shared and promptly said so. "My dancing, Shea!" Although we briefly discuss how the dancing is to be shared, Shea (not surprisingly) becomes less interested in her dance partner and finds a new activity. She still dances with her brother, but only when he's in the mood to share.
Last weekend, we entered completely new territory with regards to sharing protocol. As a family, we have a ritual of saying "Yay!" when we are driving and pull into the driveway upon returning home. On this particular occasion after the celebratory cheer, Cian firmly stated:
"No, Baby Shea. My Yay!"
My wife and I looked at each other, uncertain of how things could have evolved this far. My daughter copies and my son copyrights. The conversation could have gone like this:
Me: "What happened?"
Cian: "I want the Yay. Baby Shea has Hooray," clinging to the Yay and pointing at my previously lost Hooray.
Me: "We share our cheers. Shea, play with my Hooray for another minute. Cian, you have another minute with the Yay before you give it to your sister."
Cian and Shea in unison: "Ok."
But, instead we had a brief discussion about it before we all shared the "Yay."
On the nightly news, the women confidently stated their intentions. They will stay tied to the tree through breakfast, lunch, and dinner (which starts at 4:00). They will only leave the tree to sleep.
I am surprised that this even made the news. I am not supporting the removal of the tree but if I were a city authority that did, I would plan my day like this:
Morning: Sharpen chainsaw blades.
Early Afternoon: Respond to questions to the media.
Late Afternoon: Say goodnight to three nice ladies.
Evening: Chop. Chop.
But, instead I will make a proposal to these wildlife warriors. Instead, attach yourselves to the dumpster. Also, make bold statements about preserving the natural environment of trash receptacles and the imbalance that may occur if the dumpster is moved. That would be news.
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
I highly recommend that you fire the advertising firm assigned to your Chevrolet brand. Granted, over the years they have produced memorable jingles. A Google search informed me that you had great success in the 1950s with a radio song called "See the USA in Your Chevrolet" sung as a duet on a musical variety show. This was last century so I would like to instead draw attention to a personal favorite from more recent years, "Have you driven a Chevy-y-y-y lately?" In the spirit of full disclosure, I regretfully admit that when this commercial was popular I bought a Ford instead. Sorry.
Despite your ad team's continued success at branding through radio advertisements, I am disappointed in their recent oversight displayed in a commercial for your new electric car, the Chevy Volt. It begins with an announcer saying "Ok, Listen." This request is followed by an extended moment of silence. The first time I heard the commercial, I didn't realize that it was silence and thought that I was missing something. However, the second time I listened to the commercial I followed your suggestion and listened to the silence and confirmed that it was in fact silence.
The announcer then returns to say, "That, my friend, is the sound of the future." This is where disappointment sets in. A proper Internet search would have revealed that silence is not the sound of the future. The future will be noisy and you need to know this now. A legislative committee in CA is currently working on recommendations for how to make hybrid and electric cars noisier so as to be heard by the blind. A noble cause indeed, but with potentially interesting results. For more information and very objective commentary, please see my recent post on this topic: http://cafuffle.blogspot.com/2008/08/noisy-cars.html.
Once you have fired your advertising team, please consider re-hiring some of your recently laid-off engineers from one your SUV divisions to make your new electric cars noisier. I recommend an external speaker system that produces a gass-guzzling sound. Guzzling certainly does make a sound, right? The law enforcement officials hired to enforce this new legislation will not be suspicious, I'm sure. For this project, I recommend someone from your Suburban line. However if your budgets require something with less development costs, you could try baseball cards in the wheel spokes. That, my friend, is the sound of the future.
Disappointed in Framingham
Sunday, September 14, 2008
I'm sure that you have seen the commercials. My favorite advertisement is the one in which the inventor of these midnight miracles discusses the history of the strips. He shows earlier attempts at nasal aperture enlargement, including a tubular-shaped implement of torture that looks like a piece of the Ted Williams Tunnel. Designed to go inside the nostrils, the side effects surely must have included unexpected glimpses of the brain by anyone standing within a few feet.
This product is sold in two sizes: Small/Medium and Large. Technically, that's three sizes but apparently the small noses simply need to adapt. However, I learned that this is not easily done when I accidentally purchased the Large strips. If they were any larger, I would have started hearing better too.
The product is also sold in two colors: Clear and Tan. The tan strips are skin-colored so that one isn't too embarrassed when they happen to run into someone while they're sleeping. The clear ones are made from different materials and designed for sensitive skin. I once made the wrong decision with regards to color too. I balked at the idea that I had sensitive skin, until I nearly ripped my nose off of my face with the tan ones. After a few days, I was checking the adhesive side for parts of me. Although my search and rescue efforts always came up empty, my nose was starting to bleed a little. It was time to donate the tan ones to someone with leather skin and purchase the clear ones.
There are a couple possible reasons for why I need these devices to sleep better. I will now frustrate at least half of my readers by explaining that the first reason is unknown. In fact, I can only speculate that I may have been born with a deviated septum or smaller-than-average nostrils. Growing up as a child, I was a mouth breather. My parents and teachers would ask me to close my mouth and breathe through my nose so as not to catch flies. While this sounded like a perfectly great idea to anyone listening, I simply could not do it without feeling like I was slowly suffocating. Therefore, I breathed with my mouth open and perfected my bug dodging skills.
There is another possible reason, one that I am not proud of, for why Breathe-Right strips make their way to my shopping cart each week. I have always enjoyed making people laugh and until recently, I could not do this with words alone. Therefore, a few neighborhood kids could barely contain their laughter when I proved to them that I could make myself sneeze by hitting myself squarely and forcefully on the bridge of the nose. Unfortunately this performance, along with telling classmates that colored paper had flavor, did not make me more popular or smarter. In fact, I'm sure that a sore nose and a belly full of rainbow-colored construction paper did exactly the opposite.
But for the purpose of keeping my reputation as an intellectual, we will agree that I was born with a physical limitation that requires me to implement the 'I'. Now, there are few things that bother my wife more than the following statement spoken early one recent morning: "I lost the Breathe-Right strip." I'm not sure if she's worried about the adhesive or what the adhesive took with it, but she feels that it's a personal hygiene item that should be properly inventoried at all times. To be honest, I was also concerned that the strip had disappeared without warning. I looked on the pillow, under the pillow, on the sheets, under the sheets, on the floor, under the bed, on the wall, on the end table, on the wall again, and on the alarm clock. The strip was nowhere to be found. I ran to the mirror to confirm that the strip had not attached itself to some other part of my face or upper body. Check.
A couple days passed, and even with the help of a 3 year old alphabet detective and a very determined spouse, we were unable to find the strip until this morning. While in the produce section at the grocery store, I sensed my foot sticking to my sandal. Unable to ignore it, I leaned against the apple display and reached into my shoe to discover the strip stuck to the bottom of my foot. With fingers pinching it tightly, so as not to let it escape again, I walked briskly to the men's room where I promptly flushed it goodbye.
After washing my hands, I returned to shopping in the vegetable section. A few moments later, it occurred to me that perhaps the strip was not mine after all. Although this was a disgusting thought, I dismissed it and called my wife.
"I found the strip," I said.
"So did I," she replied.
Friday, September 12, 2008
"You only think they are pink because I have biased y-" He interrupted again.
"Dude. Pink." In this case, Dude meant "Shut up while I'm being honest with you" and pink meant "pink." I trusted that my friend, a chemistry professor, knew his colors.
Earlier that day, I ran out of the apartment in my usual flurry of alarm-ignoring, coffee-making, email-reading, cat-feeding, coffee-drinking, bagel-eating, shower-singing, clothes-rummaging, teeth-brushing activity. I skipped down two flights of stairs and into the morning sunlight as I started my ten minute walk to the subway.
Given the speed at which I got ready for work that morning, I wasn't convinced that I had dressed properly for work. A quick self-examination revealed a red button-down shirt, khakis with slightly frayed pant legs and perma-crease from countless meetings with an iron, not-quite-khaki-enough brown socks, and scuffed up Timberlands. I stopped at the street corner.
Are my khakis pink?
They're pink. Or I am overdue for an eye exam? Or is the sunlight reflecting off of my red shirt, creating a pink illusion?
It's an illusion. A pink specter. On my pants.
Ten minutes later as I sat on the subway car, I started obsessing again. I called my girlfriend at the time.
"Did you wash my pants when you were visiting?" I asked.
"Yes, I hope you don't mind," she said cautiously.
I didn't mind, yet. "Did you wash it with anything red?"
"Maybe. After the first wash, it doesn't matter anyways," she said confidently.
"It does?" she queried, now in a tone less confident.
It was about 20 minutes later that I realized how much it mattered as I listened to my friend plainly state "Dude. Pink." It was a phrase that I said to myself all day as I worked in the lab, gave tours of the Center, and walked around the college campus where I worked.
I didn't realize how pertinent this experience was until many years later when the same girlfriend (now my wife) and I had our second child, a daughter. Her birth marked the beginning of an era that I fondly call "The Pink Invasion." Who knew there was enough pink dyes and fabrics in the world to make so many pink onesies, bonnets, and dollies?
Never again will I wear pink khakis, which is why there are now three laundry categories in my house: Whites, Colors, and Pinks. Occasionally, I will unload the washing machine to discover that a pink sock or red shirt had been smuggled in with the khakis. Fortunately, this has never again resulted in an unexpected khaki color transformation.
Please don't get me wrong: I do not mind the color pink and I do not color-discriminate. It's the ambush that causes me anxiety. I feel strongly that I should be able to grab a pair of pants from my dresser drawer and be confident that they are the same color that they were yesterday. But what I fear more than any surprise color change in my wardrobe is the sincerity yet finality of one particular phrase: "Dude. Pink."
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
"Want to try coffee in high def'?"
"High def'?" I asked.
"Not deaf, as in not hearing," she replied with a giggle.
"Thanks for the clarification."
"It's the best coffee you will ever taste. And it's a single cup brew, so it's extremely hot. Please try it."
I held the small dixie cup, half full of scalding hot coffee from "The Clover." After a few minutes, I tried it. It was good coffee, that's for sure. Is it worth the extra dollar or so? Definitely not. Granted, I didn't take the time to lighten and sweeten as I typically do with my coffee. Therefore, I will probably try it again and most likely pay for it with a gift card.
In the meantime, I will pay less for my version of "basic" coffee while I wait for the HD version to come down in price. Hopefully that will happen before I start to see commercials warning the general public that "basic" coffee will soon be unavailable. Perhaps it will show a countdown in days, minutes, and seconds along with a doomsday picture of cafe patrons looking puzzled as the contents of their coffee cups unexpectedly disappear. "Don't be caught without high def."