Saturday, November 30, 2013

A Crappy Subject

Feces.  Scat.  Droppings.  Little presents.  Caca.  Doody.  Special Raisinettes from the Easter Bunny.  However you say's never fun to find that a rodent has visited your cupboard.  And since they are not the cleanest animals in the world, the evidence that you have been invaded is their leavings.  Although there was a very civilized family in Westchester who installed tiny little commodes for the little vermin and only knew that they were having a rodent problem when the dirty little buggers forgot to put the lids down...Savages!

After several moments of imaginary research I have concluded that every house in the United States has been, at one time or another, a home to an unwanted guest.  (the number of feet these guests walk on depends on your personal boundaries)  I generally assign no blame to having the occasional squeaker running around in your pantry.  They want food, you have food, you keep the food on the inside, they will work to get inside.  Occasionally they succeed.  If, however, you cannot tell whether or not that fuzzy lump on the floor is a leftover moldy hand towel or a deceased woodland creature, you may want to straighten up a bit...or call TLC to have them feature you on their next Hoarders expose.

I will admit it.  Our house, our castle, our home away from vacation, has at one time been graced with the presence of roof rats.  I can assure you that you do not want this particular species to come set up residence.  They are noisy.  They are destructive.  They are hungry.  They are hard to eliminate.  And they are big!  They may not be mistaken for a small dog, big...but they are sizable.  Our particular infestation happened when I was a teen.  (I grew up in this house)  We had interesting things happen.  The plastic garbage can where we kept the dog food had a hole chewed threw the bottom.  There were wires whose insulation was gnawed off.  There were strange scratching sounds at night.  They left above averaged sized droppings all over the garage and attic.  The worst was the nightly bowling tournament that happened overhead.  As a kid I was embarrassed and didn't want people to know...I'm over it now.  I thought I would share this with a million of my closest friends.

According to the exterminator, the reasons we got them were: a) we had a dog and dog food.  b) we had tiny holes next to the wires coming into the house that were pencil sized. (apparently that is a superhighway for a rodent) and c) we lived in a house.  We had already tried poison from the store.  We had tried to patch any holes.  We donned camouflage jumpsuits and patrolled the house with rifles and night-vision glasses. (not far as you know)  Nothing seemed to work.  Then the exterminator came to my dad and basically said, "Psst...Buddy...I can get rid of those things...for sure.  You willing to go the extra mile?"  Since we had fought and fought these battles and were continually losing the war, he agreed.  The exterminator donned his most protective gear, climbed up into the attic, and spread what looked like a fine powder all around.  When he came down, he said we wouldn't have any problems after that.  I don't know what that stuff was but he was right.  Almost immediately the bowling alley closed.  The way he described our particular rats were too smart to eat the normal bait.  This "special poison" they walked on and when they licked their paws clean...(insert funeral march here).  My theory was that he used an illicit drug and the rats all ended up hanging around the Seven Eleven late at night and got picked up by police.  No matter...they were gone.

Now I told you that story so I could tell you this one.  In true American homeowner fashion, my mom has been 'blessed' with critters eating their way into her pantry.  One problem is that her association owned garage is connected to four others so the burden of trying to keep them out by patching holes is multiplied.  She discovered that she was having a problem when she picked up a box of granola and found that there was a hole chewed in the bottom.  "Drat!"  (Sorry for going all street talk on you...trying to keep it real)  Then she looked into the pantry to see what else had been snacked on.  When she looked in she saw a group of very large black things lying in a pile.  Since she was there in the roof rat invasion of the early 80's she is familiar with large sized leavings.  These were way bigger than that!  She thought she had been invaded by granola munching caribou!  Then she inspected further.  As it turns out she was indeed playing host to a tiny little rodent.  What she thought were world record sized pellets turned out to be the extra large raisins from the granola that the mouse had chosen not to eat, but left in a neat little pile as if to say, "I'm not fond of these but there's no use throwing them away.  We can share."

All of this leaves me wondering two things.  What kind of rodent is so cultured that it will leave things in a neat little pile like that.  And, what the heck is so wrong with the organic granola raisins that even mice won't eat them!?

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

I Ship That

"It's a narrow mind that assigns only one meaning to a word!" ~ My Family

This is actually a variation on a saying that my family uses whenever it mispels, miss spells, misppells, doesn't write a word correctly.  Then the narrow mind is attributed to spelling only one way.  But this is not the forum, and I am really not the guy, to host a spelling blog.  Making fun of new ways that the English language is massaged (read massacred) by teenagers?  I'm your man!

Even when I was a teenager I thought that people did not do enough to utilize this fine language of ours.  I never liked when people would assign words new meanings, and worse, assign new parts of speech.  The big one when I was in school was "party."  In my narrow-minded brain party was a noun.  It was something you went to...not something you did.  During high school, somehow, the dictionary got jumbled and the "n." next to the word party magically turned into a "v."  People were partying all over the place.  Not me.  I refused to join in the butchering of the English language.  (Being a socially awkward geek didn't have anything to do with it...I was standing up for my principles!)

In my humble opinion there are ways of saying things in the English language that escape translation in other languages.  The nuance afforded the careful speaker is nearly unlimited.  And how do some people choose to speak?

"Mm Hmm."
"Peace out."

I believe it was Shakespeare who coined the term, "Chill Yo?"

Don't get me wrong.  I am not above learning a new skill.  I have been able to learn new words and even use them in the proper context.  I explained to the high school group at church that their new clothes, skateboards, skills, were "beast" (beyond great)!  Everything that used to be cool is now epic.  And I definitely know what the Fox says.  (Ki Ki Ki Ki case you want to know.)  I can get behind most everything that comes my way.  I admit that I have a little trouble still when the new fad is to simply shorten the word.  One that comes to mind is crazy.  Nothing is crazy is "cray cray".  As in, "OH when he jumped off the wall and did a flip!  It was cray cray!"  Allow me a moment to break down my thinking.  Was it crazy?  Certainly.  Did it call for someone pointing it out?  Most definitely.  Did you shorten the amount of syllables that you needed to say for expediency?  Nope.  Crazy = 2 syllables.  Cray Cray = also two.  Then why do it?  That one in particular is like fingernails on a chalkboard...but I choose not to say anything unless everything in the vicinity is "cray cray".

Now, I told you all of that so I could tell you this.  I heard a new one...and it floored me.  It wasn't that it was beyond amazing in a clever and poignant way.  No, I was left slack-jawed and wide-eyed because I had no idea what the connection was.  In the kitchen, as we were talking about kids that we knew, two names came up and we heard, "Yeah!  I ship that!"

Sylvia and I looked at each other like someone had suddenly turned off the teenager to English translator we had installed in the house.  We looked over at Krisi, who was happily calculating the number of times that she had thoroughly confused us.  I said, "You ship that?"
"Yeah, I ship that."
"And what exactly does that mean?"
"It's hard to explain...It means that it is good."
"That person is good?"
"NO!  Dad!  It means that two things are good."  (Like I was supposed to magically figure that out.)
So I, in typical Dad overcompensating, went the extra mile.  "Is it like saying, I am Jeff Garrett and I approve of this couple?"
That is when my name turned into several syllables..."DaAaAad!"  But after closer inspection, I think I nailed it.

Later that night, when we were invaded by teenagers, I was 'shipping' everything.  (You know, to fit in)
"Can I have some apple cider?"
"Yeah, I ship that."
"Where's the bathroom?"
"Second door on the right...and I ship that."
I saw someone with a leather jacket.  "Hey, I ship that jacket.  And you with the water bottle, I ship that water bottle."

Of course I was being obnoxious and silly and using my new-found word in the completely wrong way...but nearly everyone at the party new about this new way to use a relatively benign word.  And they all thought I was funny.  That's good.  They all think that I am rutabaga!  It's a new word.  It means extra awesome in a cool old guy sort of way.  I just made it up.  Think it will catch on?

Monday, November 25, 2013

It's Not Just Me!

If you are new to the blog...Sylvia and I have two teenage kids.  They are wonderful, charming, helpful, and several other adjectives that would look great on anyone's resume.  They are also not "allowed" to admit that their old man is funny.  After years of deflecting comments stating that I was funny I have finally gotten to a place where I can say, "OK, in certain instances...with the right people...between a certain longitude and latitude...between the hours of 8:12 A.M. and 6:43 P.M....under the proper barometric conditions (I'm writing this at 7:48 is that clears anything up), I can be humorous."  Unless I'm talking to my kids...then I'm FUN-NY!  The problem arises when their friends say that I am funny.  It is met with a new and emphatic "NO!  He thinks he is!"  I naively thought this was about me.  Turns out I was wrong.

Last Friday the kids participated in a progressive dinner/scavenger hunt.  The teams go from place to place eating a different course of the meal as they searched for objects to gather and pictures to take.  There were about 25 teenagers that gathered into 5 cars.  They all had a list of clues, a list of hidden locations, and a stopwatch.  Each team left the starting point at a staggered time so they wouldn't encounter each other as they raced (drove responsibly in a safe case any Fremont police are reading this) around town.  Sylvia has been the driver numerous times but this year, to change things up, we elected to be one of the houses.  This meant that we provided one of the courses for the meal.  We opted for hors d'oeurves. (please don't make me spell that again)  The nice thing about being in charge of the hors d'oeurves (D'Oh!) is that we were first.  We didn't have to wait until late in the night, we didn't have too much to prepare food-wise, and we didn't have to worry about having every teen in the house at the same time since there was little possibility of them catching up to each other right away.  I was naive about this too.

Sylvia and I went shopping for our little corner of the feast and we foolishly kept saying things like, "Maybe that's enough." and "We've never needed more than that."  The actual event occurred in somewhat of a blur. Sylvia got an entire crock pot full of nacho cheese cooking.  We organized the kitchen to fit the maximum amount of people.  There were supposed to be five or six at a time.   Then we sat back and waited.  The six o'clock start time came and went.  Then it was six fifteen.  We kept hearing cars slow down...then drive away.  Finally at about six thirty we got the first carload.  Then six thirty one the next.  Then six thirty five, then six forty, then six forty two.  They were all under the instructions that they needed to wait at each house for twenty minutes before opening the next clue and going on their way.  We had all the kids and all the drivers at the same time.

There was commotion.  There was noise.  There was a crowd big enough to make an introvert like myself want to desperately check Facebook statuses in another room!  But I mustered enough intestinal fortitude to go out into my own kitchen and stand there hoping that there wouldn't be a lot of small talk.  I flunked small talk in high school.  I was standing there minding my own business when my phone went off.  It didn't ring.  It signaled that I got a text.  Since I tend to try to stay on the cutting edge of technology (ha!) I had recently found an alert message from the minions in Despicable Me.  It's really kind of cute.  It goes "Ooh Hoo!  Text Message!" in the sing-songy way high-pitched way that they talk.  There were many people here but since I am deaf to all things phone-like I almost always have it turned up to the maximum.  One of the kids heard the message and made an assumption.  It went something like this.

"Mom!  How could you?!"
"That ring tone!  Oh My Goodness!"  (obviously embarrassed by her lack of decorum while being surrounded by nacho eating locusts)
"What ring tone?" (She is obviously worse than me in the phone hearing department)

Then my phone got another message and the kid zeroed in on the sound coming from my pocket.  As soon as it wasn't his mom, the conversation changed.


Then it struck may just be a proximity thing.  This guy is near his mom most of the time.  Mom's cannot be cool.  Therefore anything close to his mom is not cool.  I barely see him maybe once a year.  I am allowed to be partially cool (for an old guy).  My kids are close to me.  Dad's are also not cool.  So everything I touch, see, say, or am involved in may not be cool in their eyes.  This is strictly a mathematical formula!  Coolness is inversely affected by proximity.  D X 1/P = C cubed.  Phew!  Because my kids weren't laughing at me I was going to dig my rubber chicken and fake vomit out of the garage.  Guess I can save myself the trouble.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013


"There were 22 steps up to our apartment in Iowa."

I met someone for the first time today and in the course of our conversation she said, "there were 22 steps up to our apartment in Iowa."  For some reason this statement struck me as odd.  Not so much that it would come up in a conversation, especially a conversation with me, but rather...Why would someone know how many steps there were leading up to their apartment?  Do most people know this definitively how many steps are in their houses?  It got me thinking...Do I know how many steps lead up to my house?  Of course I do!  Don't I?  It's six.  Definitely six.  Or maybe it's five.  Definitely five. Well I'm sure, without a doubt, that it is most likely five or six.  How is it that some people just KNOW without a shadow of a doubt how many steps lead up to their apartments and I, having lived here most of my life since 1972, have to go out and count to make sure.  I was the is five or six...unless you count the last one that leads into the front door.  Then it's seven.

Being a junior scientist (2nd degree) I decided to try an experiment.  I asked the other people in the house at the time just how many steps they thought were here.  I got a wider range of answers.  One person even guessed four.  I knew it wasn't four...for goodness' sakes!  Then it hit me.  How many people know?  I'm gonna call some people.  OK, I'm gonna call one person...maybe two.

I got on the phone and called my sister and asked about this house.  "Let me, It's either six or seven."  Hah!  You don't know either!  Then in the course of the rest of our conversation it came out that she was talking about six without the step into the house and seven if you count it.  I think I have to give her this one.  I'll let her be right this time.  My mother also got a phone call.  She didn't sign the release form so I cannot quote her here...but let me just say that she was not as accurate as my sister.  Then I remembered that she had a second floor in her house. I had her guess.  She underestimated by two!  Then she exclaimed something to the effect of this is why her hip was hurting so much!  So many darn steps.  (Really mom this would be a lot easier if you would just sign the release form.

Over the summer we went spelunking.  (Beginning to see why a conversation might steer toward steps?...or rubber chickens?...or how the banana got its name?...or anything really.)  As we got ready to go on the tour (That's the only way this guy is crawling around in a cave) they announced that there were going to be 534 steps on the tour.  If you have a heart condition, high blood pressure, or are just a major whiner...please do not go on this tour.  Well that got us to thinking.  Why would they count them?  We also thought, "We gotta check."  So there we are walking around underground going 333, 334, 335, ouch, 336...and so on.  I bumped my head pretty good because I was looking down at a time when I should have been looking straight ahead.  The bottom line, they were wrong!  By a lot!  There were about a hundred extra steps from their fact.  We counted every rise or fall in elevation as a step.  We started at the mouth and ended at the exit.  We didn't cheat and we had three people coordinating their answers so we may have been wrong by a few...but we all certainly didn't over count by a hundred!  I see no reason to lie in this situation.  They could have just said, "There are a boat-load of steps!  Including one that is really close to the ceiling so watch your head."  That would have been fine.  But to underestimate so's not fair.  Just imagine if there was someone who thought they could make 534 and maybe even push it to 550 steps.  What do you think would happen if they got to 579 and their legs just gave out?!  I suppose we could have eaten them and saved ourselves, but that really wouldn't be a pleasant picture for the brochures.

And this all leads me to a challenge.  There is no prize other than my undying esteem:
HOW MANY STEPS ARE IN YOUR HOUSE OR WORK?  (The place you go most days.)
Really, I want to know.  Is this a worldwide phenomenon that people know the correct number of stairs?
Message me your guesses.  Tell everyone how you did.  I am dying of curiosity.

Good Luck!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

This Blog Counts For Both My Birthday,,,and Thanksgiving!

It's my birthday soon. I'm not telling you this to elicit mounds of praises and loads of presents...(although, since our truck has been rendered non-operational by a crack in the head gasket, I will take what we can get). No, the real reason I am telling you this is to talk about birthdays. Specifically about birthdays that are on famous dates.

I used to work with a girl who told me her birthday was on December 25th. I was immediately struck with empathy for this poor girl. I said things like, "This present counts for both." and "Honey, nobody can come to your birthday party...they are all away on vacation." She pulled her mouth straight back into sort of a flat smile and nodded. I understood. From then on I would try to contact her on her birthday and make no mention of that other holiday that just so happens to be on that date.

I know another long-time friend whose birthday is the day after Groundhog Day. This birthday is considerably less problematic than a birthday which lands on the King Daddy of all birthdays, but I suppose there are still occasionally people who can't come to your parties since they have made a pilgrimage to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania  to see Phil in all of his shadow spotting splendor. (interesting note...if you type the name of this city into this computer it will autocorrect it to say "subcutaneous") The first principal that I worked for was born on February second...I think she made the trip more than a few times. (I think she was secretly hoping to see Bill Murray...but that is just a rumor)

There are other birthdays that may be unique. If you are born on St. Patrick's Day, for instance, you had better like green beer. If you were born on Halloween, all of your birthday parties will be costumed. If you were born on the Fourth Of July, you had better get used to fireworks...and Tom Cruise in long hair and a wheelchair. If your birthday lands on Easter, I suppose your parents could have you search for presents along with your eggs. If you were born on Arbor Day...well I guess nobody really knows what Arbor Day is about. That wouldn't be such a bad day to be born on...especially if you enjoy those white flower covered archway things at weddings.  (just kidding...I know it's really about kissing trees)

These are all well and good...I suppose each birthday has its challenges and/or benefits...but mine is a little weird.  I was born at the end of November.  Since my birthday is always at least near Thanksgiving, I get to tease my students by telling them that the reason they get a week off from school is to celebrate my birthday! As birthdays go, it's OK.  My mom has this thing where she announces every year that she knew I was going to be kind because I was supposed to be born before Thanksgiving...and I "waited" and allowed her to eat with the family before deciding to be born.  Yup, that's me.  Mr. Thoughtful.  I prefer to think that I wasn't about to be fed a turkey leg if I was only three days old.  So I figured out a way to get it...and then I wrung my hands together and laughed sinisterly.  On a side note, in the days before ultrasound, the doctors thought I was going to be twins because I was so big...I think it was all the turkey.

Being born at the end of November means that occasionally your birthday will fall on Thanksgiving.  For me...that means seven times in my life.  Yes, I went back and checked.  The one change that happens when my birthday is on Thanksgiving is that there was no discussion about where I want to go out to eat on my big day.  In 1863 Lincoln declared that the fourth Thursday of November should be a day of Thanks.  He did not say, "In future times, when comes a time that a man celebrate the day of his birth on this day, he shall be allowed to go forth and eat at the restaurant known as "Fridays" and celebrate this grand adventure of thanks on the next day."  So I think I won't go against President Lincoln.

To be fair, this is only the third time it has happened while Sylvia and I have been married.  And she asks, every time, if I would rather go out to eat instead of having turkey.  I don't know, for some reason I think that I am not the guy to thwart a tradition like that.  I've never been much of a thwarter.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

My Wife...and a Pot Of Rice

They say that the way to a man's stomach is through his heart.  That's not it...the way to a man's duodenum is through his ear canal?  The way to a man's pituitary gland is through his spleen?  No, no...I'll get it.  The way to a man's esophagus is through his mouth?  Almost there...(But Coach junior high science teacher would be proud that I remembered that)  Of course I know, the way to a man's heart is through his wife and her wonderful and giving spirit...while she makes wonderful food!

I love my wife, all the time, and still there are times when love turns into a great big giant incapacitating hug on the inside that warms me from my soles of my feet up to the roots of my hair.  I believe the technical term for this is Goo Goo.  Yes, the other night I went Goo Goo for my wife.  (I'll now pause so that the diabetics in the audience can go increase their insulin due to all this sweetness)

Goo Goo, or Ga Ga in the southern states and portions of Los Angeles, happens to me most of the time when there seems to be no external reason.  She just walks by, BAM!  I gotta hug her, weak in the knees, take my breath away, hug her.  She smiles, WHAM!  She looks at me like I am crazy and doesn't know what she is going to do with me and my weird sense of humor, SMACKO!  (actually that last one is the one that happens most often)  It is usually accompanied with her saying, "What?!  Stop looking at me that way!" But what're you gonna do.  I can't help it!

Now, to shift subjects, I really really like comfort food.  You can see evidence of this hanging in the labels of my clothes and on the display screen of my very sarcastic scale.  For the purposes of this blog, and to explain to my ever growing overseas readers, I describe comfort food as hearty, unhealthy, dense, stick-to-your-ribs delicious.  Some examples might be mashed potatoes, meatloaf, or macaroni and cheese.  While visiting Germany this last summer I reacquainted myself with the European version...Schnitzel!  It is yummy, it is satisfying, it is not terribly good for you.  I'll have that.

Comfort food has made its way into Casa Garrett and most times I will be greeted by a delicious aroma when walking up the steps to the front door after work.  Other times I might be greeted by a harried spouse with a "I have had quite a DAY!  Dinner is waiting for you to pick it up as soon as you decide where you are picking it up from." look on her face.

Now allow me to tie this all together.  The other evening I plowed headfirst into a smell that made me wonder why there weren't neighbors with plates lined up to try to get some.  It was Stroganoff night!  If you aren't's a creamy meaty concoction whose recipe was handed down from Heaven above.  (or possibly Russia)  The way my family makes it is dangerous.  If some spilled on the floor I would fight the dogs over who would get to lick it up.  Rest assured, nobody is that careless with this ambrosia!  This meal is traditionally served over noodles but there have been people, my mother included, who have served it over rice.  I made it with rice once for our family.  Everyone preferred noodles...rice go bye bye.  No problem.  Majority rules.  Pass the Stroganoff.

So I walked in, commented on the wonderful dinner we were about to have, kissed Sylvia hello, and then I saw it.  There was the rice cooker steaming away.  I was surprised, we were a noodle family after all.  I could tell by the plates on the table, both kids in the kitchen, (and the line of neighbors forming out the front door) that dinner was almost ready.  I said, "Rice?  I thought you all preferred noodles."  Sylvia said, "Yes, we prefer noodles...but you prefer rice. Why didn't you tell me?"  I surveyed the scene. There on the stove was a big pot of noodles to complement my individual portion of rice.  (actually it was a gigantic portion of rice that would have fed three hungry lumberjacks but since I'm the one writing, I get to make up the details to make myself look good.)  I had mentioned something about rice a while back and she picked it up and ran with it.  That was all it took.  Getting pampered by your very thoughtful wife, as soon as you walk in the door, and with comfort food no less!  I was in full blown GOO GOO mode!  I grabbed her and hugged her tight.  I participated in a public display of affection that made the teenagers run from the room (but the puppy jumped up on us because he doesn't like to be left out) and then I sat down to enjoy a wonderful meal with my family...and a bowl of rice.

I Love You Sylvia.  Thank You!