30 December 2006

The reality of perceived truth

Isn’t it interesting that aside from a few basic truths, other facts do not affect us or are not important to us until we become aware of them. Even at the moment we learn of them, it is not the concrete absolutes of their being that affect us, but how we perceive them to be in our minds. Our perception, so far as we are concerned, is identical to the reality of the situation. Since this reality is dependent on and varies from person to person; perception is indeed reality. Consider a woman who believes they have one donut left in the cupboard which they plan to happily devour after lunch. They are infused by a sense of contentment in their perceived donut ownership. However, the fact of the matter is that said donut was eaten earlier by the woman’s husband (whose perceived sense of well-being may decline dramatically after lunch).

Interestingly the facts changed earlier when the woman’s donut account went from one to zero, while her perception – her reality – maintained a one donut balance. Further, after lunch when she realizes that her unwary husband consumed the delectable treat, her reality (or perception thereof) will change from one donut ownership to donut bankrupt causing a discernable and negative change in her sense of contentment and stability, while the reality of the matter (zero donuts to zero donuts) made no change whatsoever in that moment.

If you remain unconvinced of my argument think on the following examples:

  • The moment a person dies vs. the moment in which a loved one learns of the death
  • The moment a person’s vehicle is burnt and destroyed by a freak gasoline fight accident vs. the moment in which they discover the tragedy
  • The moment a person loses their entire family fortune in the stock market vs. the moment in which they try to buy a diamond engagement ring for their potential fiancé and subsequently learn that their purchase is denied due to the fact that they have no money and everything is about to be repossessed down to and including their vintage record copy of “It’s a Small World” personally autographed by the Sherman brothers themselves.

I rest my case.

23 December 2006

Local Area Activities

Pictured above are the winners from last year's Local City Dakrat Hunting Competition -- the prize animal came in at 230.6 grams.

Legal Notice: Local City Dakrat Hunting Competition entrants are not discriminated against based on age, sex, race, religion, political affiliation, or size.

12 December 2006

Frozen Wonderland

While Dakratland may be cold enough to make a snowman wish he could travel South for the Winter, the frigid weather can at times create masterpieces of wonder and beauty as pictured below in the aftermath of freezing fog (pretty to look at, not to drive in).

Aw Bloody...

As a happy return from vacation welcome, we noticed that the wall outlet our freezer was plugged into had also taken a vacation. What clued us in to this fact? Well, the CSI-like blood trail originating from beneath the appliance was a good hint, but there's nothing better to satisfy the question than the smell of fetid meet wafting from the warmed metalic insides of a chest freezer. Yummy. I had to refreeze the items inside just so I could stand the smell long enough to remove the offending articles -- except for the final bits which were stubbornly frozen in the bloody mess (pun intended), and weren't loosened even after pounding on them with a hammer. As a side note, it feels a little evil to pound repeatedly and furiously on a chunk of flesh while small blood flecks spatter your hands and face. Alas, after digging to the bottom of the freezer I realized that it was ruined since I would not be able to clean the blood that had oozed into the fine cracks where the metal met at the bottom and sides.

31 October 2006

Happy Halloween

In the midnight hour of All Hallows Eve,
When the spirits and creatures are stirring,
The piercing howl of the Jack-O-Wolf,
Calls all to terrified silence.

15 October 2006

Of the most pleasant sounds ever heard,
Silence is the one most oft reveared.

"Hello darkness, my old friend,
Ive come to talk with you again,
Because a vision softly creeping,
Left its seeds while I was sleeping,
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Still remains
Within the sound of silence."

11 October 2006

Everyone is a Critic

WARNING: This post contains SPOILERS for the movie THE LAKE HOUSE. Do not read if you have not seen the show and do not wish to have the ending revealed prematurely!

Disclaimer: Yes it is a chick flick, and yes it is a remake (Il Mare is the Korean original).

First, let me say that Keanu Reeves has not ever and will likely never be a good actor. That said, I am inclined to acknowledge that he was slightly more tolerable in this movie than in Sweet November (119 minutes of my life that I will never get back). In order to keep this short, I will ignore the many minor things that annoyed me and rant about the one major issue – the ending.

I was hopeful that at least in the last moments of this film I could walk away with the life lesson that in an ordinary world, even one with possessed mailboxes and a somewhat creepy dog, bad things can happen without a “happily ever after ending.” But no, just when I was filled with dark hope, Mickey Mouse must’ve poked one of the writers in the ribs and said, “He he – hey, you can’t end a movie like that! Look at The Little Mermaid – wow the original sure was depressing. Who would want to see a show like that? You’d better throw in some singing wildlife and dancing flowers or at least let the main characters get together and messily kiss all over each other.” And that is what they did. Bleh. Yes that is my official rating. On a scale of “Get outta my way, I gotta retch” to “I have truly been enlightened and feel I am now able to transcend the bounds of this earthly experience,” I give The Lake House one-and-a-half blehs.

10 October 2006

The Erosion of Irony

I heard a song on the radio today that I couldn’t get out of my head, not because of the catchy tune, rather because of the artist’s choice of lyrics. “Ironic,” a song by Alanis Morrisette, talks about a series of misfortunes which ruin otherwise memorable and/or life-changing events. Such careless use of language is distasteful in general, and as is specifically illustrated in this case has led to the quiet demise of a once strong and literarily gratifying word.

Indeed, the concept of irony has been so diluted over the years that a recent edition of one dictionary lists its third definition as: “coincidental; unexpected.” (In an effort to maintain the dignity of said publication for those who may esteem it as one worthy of such, I refrain from naming it here.) My dear friends and readers, events, however ill-timed they may be, do not merit the label of such a grand word as ironic. Irony is in fact not coincidence, but “the use of words to express something different from and often opposite to their literal meaning;” or in experience, an “incongruity between what might be expected and what actually occurs.” (see The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition). This is not to be confused with sarcasm which lacks the wit and subtlety of irony.

Rain on your wedding day is not ironic – disappointing perhaps, but not ironic. A ninety-eight year old winning the lottery and dying the next day is not ironic. Honestly, it would be more surprising to learn the old man’s heart had survived the shock and that he lived. Alanis should be ashamed of what she has done here. An entire generation of school children will now grow into adulthood without a proper understanding of or respect for the irony in their lives. She has cheapened a precious commodity and sold it to the world as a thing of naught. For shame, Alanis. For shame!

However, Alanis may not be solely to blame. Indeed, her parents should share the burden of having instilled in her a misunderstood preoccupation with irony. You see, the very name “Alanis” is a form of Alana which is the feminine form of Alan, the meaning of which is not known for certain, though it possibly means either “little rock” or “handsome” in Breton. Hey, anyone might be confused if they tried to figure out why their parents thought they were a handsome, yet feminine little rock. Or maybe just a feminine little rock, or a girly sort of handsome…

03 October 2006

A Bedtime Story

Hungry and unable to find a good block of wood to chew on at home, a termite walked down to his local hardware store where he could usually find a wide selection of fine woods on which to dine. However, upon arriving at the store he discovered the lumber section had been eliminated to make room for a new line of aluminum siding and pink flamingo lawn ornaments. Disappointed, but undeterred he continued down the street to a large bookstore. Although unfinished wood was his preference, in times of desperation like this in the past he had been known to nibble on a bookshelf or even take a bite or two out of any blank pages he could find in a book. (He was always careful to avoid the inked pages because they left a simply intolerable aftertaste.)

Much to his dismay, the wooden bookshelves he remembered were gone and long rows of unpalatable metal shelving now stood in their place. Maybe his plan-B snacking hadn’t been quite so infrequent after all. By this time the termite was downright starving and desperate enough to eat that fake pressed wood stuff sold at discount stores if he had to. Fortunately, the shelves still held good old-fashioned books. Relieved that at least these had not been replaced with books on tape or CD or some such other indigestible nonsense, he picked a promising looking antique book (paper products always tasted better aged) and began to wriggle his way inside.

It was dark and cozy inside, and although the air was heavy with the scent of ink, he soon found an acceptably clean page and settled himself down for a much needed snack. But just as he was about to take his first bite, he heard a voice say, “Hello there lad. Now just what might you be doing here?” Mouth still half open, the termite slowly looked around to see who was talking to him. Near the bind of the book, he noticed a large set of eyes blinking at him questioningly.

“Um, hello,” replied the termite nervously. “Who are you?”

“I, dear boy, am a bookworm. And more to the point, I like my reading material kept intact.”

The termite didn’t know what to do. Obviously this bookworm fellow already knew he was up to no good. Well, the termite hesitated, perhaps he could just leave this book and find a different one that was unoccupied. Or he could just stay and chat, acting like he had never intended to do anything else. But no, he decided; he was far too hungry to go searching for anything else to eat and was resolved to stay and munch regardless of what this second-class caterpillar wanted. He said as much to the bookworm, who it turned out was not the scrawny scholarly type he had imagined, but the very large, fit type. In the end, the battle of wits turned into a shoving contest in which the termite was unceremoniously ejected from the book by his much larger competitor.

Stomach grumbling with hunger and cheeks red with anger, the termite was just about to launch himself back into the book for round two when a rather obese gentleman picked up said book and walked away with in the direction of the checkout counter. Upon reaching the clerk the man inquired as to how much the book cost (of course this came across to the bookworm as unintelligible babble as he was quite snugly closed between the third and fourth pages, and the termite hadn’t the slightest idea what was being said because he had never bothered to learn any of the peculiar human languages).

The clerk responded with what must have been some obscene amount of money, as it caused the man holding the book to gasp and clutch his chest in pain. Apparently, the oft-named “sticker shock” was just too much for the man’s overworked heart which finally gave up, sending him into a decidedly lethal case of cardiac arrest. In the course of struggling for his last seconds of life, the man forgot quite entirely about the pricey commodity in his hand and carelessly allowed it to fall to the slightly dirty floor beneath his feet.

Now it was neither the fall, nor the unsanitary condition of his landing that particularly worried the bookworm. Rather, it was the very recently deceased human whose body was moving toward him with increasing speed that caused him a spot of indigestion. Fortunately, his concern didn’t have time to take hold (which might have caused him the discomfort of an ulcer or at the very least bad gas for the rest of the evening); since in another instant there was a solid whump and pages three and four (as well as a few on either side) became quite thoroughly ruined by what would later be described by one insect reporter as, “the most horrific and disturbing end he had seen in all his thirty-two days.”

Needless to say, the termite was unsettled by the turn of events, but at the same time relieved that he had narrowly escaped sharing the same fate. In fact, he realized he had learned a valuable life lesson that day. Indeed, he now knew without a doubt that it is better to have shoved and lost than never to have shoved at all.

09 September 2006

Lost zzzzzz's

Sleep deprived – everything is blurry.
My headache hurts my head.
Too tired to wipe the drool;
Not enough energy to close my mouth.

Deprived of sleep – cannot seem to function.
My eyelids won’t obey.
Drunken with the desire to rest;
Mind numb from lack of it.

This isn’t a haiku – it’s not a poem.
Brain has to work to rhyme.
This might not even make sense;
I won’t remember it anyway.

30 August 2006

The Power of Priceless Junk

It’s just what you never knew you needed but must have because it’s such a great deal. It speaks to you at a level no one else can truly understand. “Youuu need me,” it says in that suave foreign accent you can’t quite place but reminds you of somewhere sunny with an ocean view where everyone is wealthy and trim. Why do you need the three-slotted thingamajigger with optional whingding-a-ma-bopper? You finally purged the last item from your home, which could have been this one’s long lost twin, at your latest garage sale escapade. (You were asking for a dollar, but ultimately threw it in as a freebee to close the deal on a $2 sale of bird-watching binoculars you bought at a second-hand store a decade ago just in case you might ever need to use them… which you never did.) Well, you certainly didn’t set off to buy this item when you went shopping this morning, but this price is just too good to pass up.

You might conceivably need this sometime in the future, and it definitely won’t be this inexpensive then. No, most certainly not. If you don’t buy it now you will have to pay double or triple later. What if you can’t afford it then? What if aliens invade town tomorrow and take your favorite pet gerbil hostage, demanding one thingamajigger with optional whingding-a-ma-bopper for his safe return? What then, huh? Yes, you’ll be sorry you didn’t buy it today. Who knows, the item might even be sold out by then. If that’s the case, you may as well just kiss the little furry critter goodbye. Come on, isn’t the life of your rodent friend worth more than the meager price being asked for this one-of-a-kind item? “But of course I am,” injects the thingamajigger into your thoughts. “I am invaluable to you. You cannot resist me. Buy me.”

So you buy the thingamajigger with optional whingding-a-ma-bopper. No, you buy two (in case one gets lost or broken and you won’t be able to replace it later for this cheap). Sadly, you have succumbed to the wooing of the worthless soon-to-be-clutter. No one was there to remind you of the following facts: It’s on clearance for a reason – no one in their right mind would buy it. It’s at a rock-bottom price for a reason – no one in their right mind would buy it. It’s still sitting on the shelf even after being on rock-bottom-clearance price for a reason – no one in their right mind would buy it. Oh ye of muddled brain. Now you have to go buy the whatchamacallit container (on sale today only) to store your new stuff until that far-off imaginary day when it will suddenly and magically become useful.

"I will live with you forever... under your bed, in your closet, in the back of a drawer; invading wherever and whatever I wish. There is nothing you can do to stop me. You are under my power. You are mine. Do not even try to escape me. Resistance is futile. After all, you paid good money for me. Mu hu ha ha ha!"

20 August 2006

Modern Education

Lately my two-year-old daughter (G.) has decided that it is perfectly acceptable to scale her gate at night and tumble, flop, or otherwise awkwardly land on the outside in order to escape bedtime. You see bedtime lives only in her room, and once free of this unforgiving taskmaster that demands all her time she can run, play, giggle, and harass siblings as she sees fit.

Well tonight, after thinking I had the girl well on her way to sleepyland, I was lying next to my four-year-old son (Pookie) when the otherwise pacified boy suddenly said, “come on in, G.” And yes, there she was standing at his gate (having made an apparently uneventful and silent dismount from her gate). At this point I returned her to her bedroom, and sensing a long night of “musical rooms” ahead for me, I went downstairs to enlist the help of my caring wife. She was busy with something at the moment so we talked and it was five or ten minutes before she ascended the stairs to assist with the situation. Very shortly thereafter, she thumped for me to come to her.

You see, like the cave-men of old, we use a rudimentary thumping system in our home to signal each other when it would be ineffective or inopportune to call out. It consists of pounding on the floor or wall with a knuckle, fist, foot or some other relatively solid bony appendage in a rhythmic pattern – thump, thump thump thump thump; thump thump. I interpreted this particular thumping to be somewhere above the lazily thumped, “hey, come on up when you have a minute sometime in the near future;” but well below the heart-stopping and wall rumbling thumps of, “get your sorry *** up here NOW before I have to punish you in a way that the mere memory of which will cause you to wake up at night in a cold sweat and panic for weeks to come.” But I digress, back to the story.

When I located my wife at the epicenter of the thumpage, she was standing outside Ethan’s room looking in with a mixture of mild exasperation and poorly-hid amusement. When I inquired as to why I had been summoned, she simply pointed to the far end of the room and turned on the overhead light to facilitate my viewing of the intended area. There, against the wall looking not at all ashamed sat G. and Pookie to either side of a two-foot by two-foot section of wall which had been cleanly stripped of all paint, roughly forming the shape of an imperial storm trooper’s helmet. At first I stared in disbelief, unsure that my eyes weren’t playing tricks on me this late at night. Then I was surprised to discover that I wasn’t even mad, just curious as to how in the world they had managed to accomplish such a task.

Naturally, it was my duty as a responsible father to explain to my wayward children why such an act was unwelcome and should not be repeated in the future. During the course of my impromptu lecture, I asked them why they had stripped the wall of its green paint, leaving an unsightly white void in the middle of his wall. In response, Pookie turned to me and said simply, “I taught G. how to do it. Daddy, I’m a teacher.” I wasn’t sure weather to be upset about the vandalism, frustrated that he didn’t feel sorry at all, or just pleased that he was filling his role as big brother and passing useful bits of knowledge on to his little sister. However, I think all that matters in the end is that my kids are finally sleeping. Ah, the incomparable joy of sleeping children.

06 August 2006

The Inevitable is an Unstoppable Force

November is not far off now. October is even closer.

Cold days await us. Overly cold nights will haunt us. Dakratland days are short in Winter. Dakratland nights overshadow the world of day. Everything is frozen in place. No, not the missileers. They must work to keep our country safe.


Nothing is of value except that which is worth something.
On every deserted island lives no man.
Contemporary is relative to one's perspective only.
Other than nothing everything else sure is something.
Many men have suffered in pain.
Munchies are useful for those times when your tongue is hungry but your stomach isn't.
Every dog has his day; but then again they can't tell anyone about it, so what's the point?
Never spit into the wind - you're likely to insult it.
Ten 'till, but not fifty past... why?


No One Can Overlook Many Moldy Eggs Near Them.


How long did it take you to figure out the word puzzle... or are you still trying?

30 July 2006

Weird Words

1. Nonsensical, incoherent, or meaningless talk.
2. A hybrid language or dialect; a pidgin.
3. The specialized or technical language of a trade, profession, or similar group.
4. Speech or writing having unusual or pretentious vocabulary, convoluted phrasing, and vague meaning.

What an odd concept jargon is. It refers both to highly specialized speech used within a narrow field (such as legal jargon) and absolutely meaningless babble. That’s like having only one word to mean overly stuffed and starving. But think about the similarities for a moment.

If “muncheed” meant either you were starving and needed something to munch, or you were completely stuffed and all munched out, no one would know what you were trying to communicate. Isn’t the same true for jargon? Start using the elitist technical jargon of lawyerese and people will have the same reaction. They won’t know if you are trying to wow them with your depth of knowledge or are experiencing a psychomotor seizure, which can cause staring, mental confusion, uncoordinated and random movement, incoherent speech and behavior outbursts (hmmm… still kind of sounds like some lawyers, doesn’t it?).

Okay, maybe jargon is aptly named describing two opposite ends of the speech spectrum, but why do we need five different words for any one thing anyway? Maybe those guys who make the big bucks off of writing, publishing, and selling thesauruses are responsible for this phenomenon. Whenever the royalties start to slow they come up with a bunch of new words to mean old things and publish them in the word power section of Reader’s Digest. All the unwary subscribers who subsequently score 3 out of 10 and are ashamed at the lack of their word prowess and decide to purchase the latest edition of Roget’s Thesaurus.

Or perhaps prideful but intellectually challenged citizens are to blame. Whenever they cannot think of something sufficiently proper sounding or intellectual they just make something up and it catches on until it is eventually incorporated into the English language. (And before you ask, yes politicians are included in this category… and most men who at one time or another in their life tried to impress a woman with their insightful theory on the hot topic of the day which they know absolutely nothing about.)

The most likely culprit, however are those literary folks like novelists and poets. I can see it now – the poet is up against a deadline and it is two o’clock in the morning. He must find something that goes well with presumptuous and means beautiful. Let’s see – pretty? No. Beautiful? No, all wrong. Argh! There just isn’t a word that works. Unless… Hmmm, what about pulchritudinous? Ah yes, perfect!

And so another useless word is born.

25 July 2006

Deep Thoughts from a Shallow Mind

If you had to describe water to someone who had never experienced the sensation of “wet,” how would you describe it?

Why are oranges called oranges and apples aren’t called reds? What a silly question. You may as well ask why an orange isn’t called a round, or why we drive on parkways and park on driveways or how babies are made or why all good dogs go to heaven but nothing is mentioned about cats who were once worshiped as gods or why… Wait – I’ve lost my train of thought. And why is it a train of thought anyway and not a convoy or…

Desk Job

Paperwork is like baby poop. It always stinks. You can’t just ignore it and hope it will go away on its own. There’s often too much to handle without making a mess of it. And it usually shows up at the most inopportune time. Finally, even when it’s taken care of properly, you aren’t rewarded with a sense of completion, fulfillment, or even relief. All you get is that sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach that you will have to deal with it again soon… very soon.

24 June 2006

The No Way Win In or Out

Have you ever noticed how some people phrase a request so that your only two options are accepting the request, or looking incompetent and lazy? It doesn’t seem quite that way at first, but upon momentary reflection you realize that the superficial compliment they used to get your attention was no more than the proverbial bait snaring you into a choice between frying pan and fire. When the package is considered as a whole it must be given the grudging respect due a masterful piece of malicious, deceitful and entrapping art.

Confused? Consider the following example:

Larry: “Bob, I just wanted to let you know that you are the smartest, most helpful person that I know.”

**At this point you are simply a dim-witted fish staring at a juicy worm dangling in the water right in front of your face. How did it get there? Why isn’t it sinking or rising? What is that sharp metallic object protruding from its middle? You don’t know. You don’t care. You just aren’t that nimble in the noggin. You, my soon-to be fried friend are just a dumb fish. SWIM FOR YOUR LIFE NOW OR YOU ARE DEAD! Alas, your school of fish flunked out of English and mind reading. Come to think of it you flunked out of every subject but swimming and swallowing anything that looked edible (too bad recess and lunch period weren’t graded).**

Bob: “Gee thanks Larry.”

Bob has just made a fatal mistake. A thoroughly barbed hook now protrudes from his unwary upper lip. You see, by accepting the compliment, Bob has just confirmed that he is indeed very smart and helpful – an admission that Larry will prey on momentarily. Unfortunately, had Bob been astute enough to recognize the trap and denied the compliment, he would have appeared quarrelsome, ungrateful, and even unkind. Ultimately, this would lead him to feel guilty and that he “owes one” to Larry. He will subsequently ask what he can do to make it up to him. Aha! Hook line and sinker. Dead fish stink Bob. Dead fish stink.

Indeed, Bob’s only hope for escape, however small that chance might be, would have been to feign a sudden fit of projectile vomiting and explosive diarrhea, run to the bathroom to freshen up while dragging a branch to conceal his tracks and wading upstream through any rivers he happens to come across along the way, and finally entering the witness protection program and moving to Vancouver where he will spend the rest of his life as a little-known actor who is only cast in small theatrical productions where he plays a manic-depressive eunuch.

However, Bob did accept the compliment, so our tragic tale continues. Larry now has complete power over Bob, having engineered a situation in which Bob (factually or not) is admittedly smarter than poor little Larry (who of course sees himself as far too incompetent to perform such an important – and grueling – task as that which he will now pawn off on Bob). Further, Bob is also reportedly kind, meaning that he couldn’t possibly turn down his friend in his time of dire need. Larry moves in for the killing blow.

Larry: “Hey, Bob, come to think of it since you’re here I sure could use your help with something…” [Detestable, tiring, or time-consuming task is inserted here and sugar-coated with puppy-dog eyes and an innocent smile (practiced to perfection)]

Why, you might ask, can Larry get away with this con time and time again to one person after another? The answer is simple, my friend. Dead fish tell no tales.

01 May 2006

Thorns without Roses

Due to recent warm weather, I have had a chance to get out and work in my yard. One particular target of interest was a set of thorn bushes under my kitchen window. Now I understand planting rose bushes which just happen to also produce thorns, or falling victim to vagabond weeds that are thorny in nature; but why would anyone in their right mind intentionally plant a bush that produces just thorns? Was it to keep away small neighborhood children? Were they having a problem with people standing at the kitchen window making doe-eyes and salivating or weirdoes doing those obnoxious open-mouth puff faces against the glass? Perhaps they were just masochists and enjoyed getting torn to shreds whenever they turned on the outside water faucet. Whatever the case, I cared little for previous owners’ desire to grow the thorny monstrosities and/or apathy in removing them.

Unfortunately, as I live on base, any changes to landscaping must be approved by the housing office. Additionally, I have heard from numerous sources that removing bushes, trees, etc. from your yard is never authorized. However, I also realized that dead vegetation could and should be removed. Further, I was privy to the fact that that the housing office kept no record of what shrubbery does or does not exist on any given property. Since it was early in the season and the thorn bushes still appeared lifeless (they were dead to me already), I decided to act swiftly. I pulled on a pair of heavy-duty work gloves and retrieved a finely honed shovel from the dark recesses of my garage. I contemplated wearing a hooded jacket and sunglasses to disguise my identity, but ultimately decided against it doing any good since my name is prominently displayed next to the front door.

So, with instrument of destruction in hand, I dug, chopped and hacked the beasts (all the while hearing faint eeeet eeet eeet eeet sounds reminiscent of Psycho in my head). In the end, I came out of the encounter with multiple scratches and three imbedded thorns which required a needle to remove. My nemeses however lay roots-up on the curb waiting for the garbage man to take them to that great big compost pile in the sky (or the other place that I feel has been set aside especially for demon thorn bushes). I had won the battle and the war. Now once I heal my victory will be complete.

05 April 2006

Road Trip

I recently traveled from my Dakratland home to visit family in Utah. Instead of spending a night or two in hotels along the way, my wife and I decided to drive straight through, stopping only occasionally for restroom breaks and to switch drivers. As a veteran stay-awaker, I feel it my duty to share some lessons learned with those who plan to embark on similar trips in the future. Hence, this post.

The following are some techniques for staying awake while at the wheel: (no, not you – the guy in the car next to you who is laughing his head off while you struggle futilely with your leaded eyelids and perma-yawn.)

The Smackdown – While keeping one hand firmly on the wheel in the 11 or 1 o’clock position (depending on which hand is on the wheel), raise your free hand in the air and rapidly swing it back and forth in a fishtail motion ensuring that each pass slaps smartly against alternating cheeks producing an audible smacking sound. If it doesn’t hurt, you’re not doing it right.

The Bladder Bust – Drink any combination of non-alcoholic beverages in large quantities until you begin to feel a faint strain within your bladder region. Now tighten your lap belt until it is completely impossible to ignore the urge to relieve yourself. Hold this position until your eyeballs are floating and you begin to sweat urine. Once the inevitable cramping becomes unbearable, find a restroom, tree, bush, or empty soda bottle (this option not recommended for drivers of the female persuasion) and appropriately drain and dispose of your excess liquid storage. Now find a new drink (no, not the once empty soda bottle!) and begin again at the first step.

The Eye Popper – Open your eyes as wide as possible while stretching your face in an elongated fashion to pull the skin downward more effectively. Once you have reached maximum openness, place a hand over your mouth to stifle the inevitable yawn. Note: once the yawn is complete, your hand will be in perfect position for transition to The Smackdown.

The Sing-Song Shout – Disclaimer: this method is best used when traveling alone as prolonged or sudden use may trigger other vehicle occupants to complain, scream in terror or agony, lose their lunch, or throw feces. This technique is most effective when the “singer” selects a song to which he or she knows only a few of the lyrics and cannot sing on key. The art is simple enough in that one must draw an unnecessarily large amount of air into the lungs and expel it in a forceful fashion while intoning something faintly resembling the last song they heard on the radio… only louder. Much louder.

The Passenger Assault – This method may be employed in various manners. I will list two of the most common. First, upon realizing that you are nodding off, very slightly swerve back and forth once within your lane of traffic. This is the secret code for the passenger riding shotgun to flutter their eyes open and ask, “Are you all right? Do you need me to drive?” In the thirty seconds or so that it takes to assure them that you feel fine you will wake up enough to continue driving safely for at least another sixty or seventy seconds. Repeat process as often as necessary.

The second version is to be used only under more dire circumstances and only if the driver is CPR certified. (This requirement may be waved if your vehicle is equipped with an AED device. Check with your vehicle manufacturer and health professional for details.) As with the first technique, you begin with the swerve, only this time pass one set of wheels over the uneven road surface just outside your lane of traffic. This will produce a vibration which can be felt by all occupants as well as a satisfying bvvrrroooom sound. Anyone of driving age in the vehicle will simultaneously scream and flail about for something to grasp in a white knuckled grip; and if the passenger riding shotgun is female and the driver male, she will initiate a version of the Smackdown technique on him which will trigger a small dose of awakening adrenalin in his system. If the driver survives the ensuing onslaught, and successfully retains his or her position, it is not recommended that they attempt this a second time within a three hour period of time. Multiple doses within too short a time span may result in shortness of breath, profuse sweating, heart arrhythmia, grey hair, emotional or physical scarring, death threats, and/or divorce.


Stay tuned for posts on how to deal with three small children strapped in the back of your van for twenty-six hours (without duct tape or bloodshed), and how to tell the difference between the pretzel you just dropped in the dark and the unidentified and frankly unsanitary object you retrieved to pop in your mouth.

22 March 2006

Did I just say that out loud?

Have you ever had one of those moments when you were thinking something less than pleasant and realize the person next to you is giving you a funny look? Generally when you query them as to whether or not you had just said aloud what you were thinking, they respond in the affirmative. Oops. I had a similar experience today. Maybe it was the headache or the sleep depravation or the frustration of dealing via email with finicky professors who are never satisfied or the stress of trying to learn a new massive additional duty at work, or a combination of everything… whatever the reason – I slipped.

My wife and I had been trying to troubleshoot our five month old Lexmark printer for two days because it wasn’t printing in black. The automatic ink level indicator indicated that I still had 80% of the cartridge left – as well it should since we had used it very little and this was the second ink cartridge and was practically new. Consequently, lack of ink as a problem didn’t cross my mind. However, after exhausting all other possibilities I pulled out the cartridge and shook it a bit. There was a liquid sloshing around inside which I naively assumed to be ink. After examining my hand though I saw small water droplets and found they had come from the cartridge (I didn’t know they did that sort of a thing…). Anyway, the ink was gone.

That was it – I’d had it with this company. The first cartridge ran out within weeks of getting the printer and now this one too. Sure, I would understand if we typed in white lettering on a black background and printed in triplicate every time, but this was not the case at all. It was venting time. Lexmark was stealing customers’ money, and they needed to know someone had caught on to their evil plan. To this end, I sent them the email below; including my name, address, email address, etc.

Disclaimer: For those of you who know me, I am not usually this vehement when I feel wronged… or at least I do not express myself quite so bluntly. Anyway, I sent it off to cyberspace never land en route to Lexmark customer service. Only after reading what I had sent a while later did I start to feel a twinge of guilt. Oh well – I’m over it now.

Email to Lexmark customer service

I have owned a Lexmark X4270 for about five months now, and have noticed a very disturbing trend. I have no qualms with the printer per se, but the ink. Specifically, the black ink runs out well before I think it should. My printer has already gone through two ink cartridges and is now working on a third. I doubt that I’ve printed even 100 pages in the time I have owned the printer, and those were nothing but text – no ink guzzling graphics or anything. I am extremely dissatisfied with Lexmark. The price you charge for so little ink is outrageous. I feel like I’ve been sold a bottle of snake oil claiming to cure cancer, but only making me sick to my stomach.

It’s unfortunate to see that such a well known brand name as Lexmark would stoop to making money in this shady manner at the expense of their customers. I’m sorry to say that I used to think well of your company and even recommended your products to many people while working for a major computer company. Now I know better and will advise anyone in the market to stay away from the Lexmark money pit. I feel it is my moral obligation to do so. Maybe someday you will realize what a mistake it is you have made and attempt to better serve those who might become loyal customers. Until that day, I can only hope most people are smarter than I was to get entangled in your web of deceit for profit.


...Did I just say that out loud?

08 March 2006


If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it -- if duct tape can’t fix it, it ain’t broke.

Paper cuts are a tree’s way of getting the last laugh.

Sharing your opinion is often a losing proposition -- You’re asked to give your two cents worth, but only get a penny for your thoughts. It just doesn’t make cents.

You don't know what you have until you've got it.

Chocolate chip cookies ARE the silver lining.

Why isn’t the “wrong side of the bed to wake up on” removed at the factory? You’d think at the very least that sort of thing would come with a warning label.

Some things just shouldn’t be considered lucky. The rabbit that lost his foot wasn’t lucky, so why is his appendage? The horse that threw a shoe wasn’t lucky, so why is the hunk of metal? And a four-leaf clover… well, come on -- it’s a mutant. We don’t go around looking for six fingered people and say, “hey, gimme six my lucky man!”

Reality shows are to television programming as dregs are to hot chocolate.

AOL is a virus and must be dealt with as such.

If it’s really true that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, I wish Bill Gates would sue me for all I’m worth… and win.

If you find the grass looks greener on the other side of the fence, check your sprinkler system.

The man who first said, “Well, if you don’t know, I’m not going to tell you,” was likely the same guy who first picked up a rabbit’s bloody stump and thought, “hey, it’s my lucky day!” I find it comforting to think that he probably didn’t live long enough to propagate.

It’s not a question of whether the glass is half full or half empty -- it’s a matter of whether or not the contents are potable.

If you are what you eat, why doesn’t feeding lots of sugar to kids improve their temperament?

And lastly, if you remember nothing else, maybe you have amnesia.

23 February 2006

"I was late because... my dog ate my homework?"

I was sitting in a pre-pre-departure briefing (that’s the briefing I have to attend just before the pre-departure briefing which I have before I depart) a couple of days ago in preparation to dispatch out to the field (pull alert). My squadron commander was in the room giving us sound pieces of advice when his phone rang. He promptly answered it, and to pass the time, the rest of us began quiet chit-chat about what alert had in store for us and gave each other a hard time about anything that came to mind (one of a missileer’s primary duties is to find creative new ways to poke fun at fellow missileers).

My squadron commander was only on the phone a couple of minutes when, in closing, I overheard him say, “I’ll send him home now.” I didn’t think much of this comment until he turned to me and said, “Dan, go home.” Now, a squadron commander doesn’t just turn to a missileer going on alert that day and tell him or her to go home unless something dire has happened, such as noticing in passing that the person has developed a sudden case of profuse bleeding from all major arteries in the body and there aren’t enough tourniquets at hand to stem the flow at least until they can get back from alert. Since I felt altogether rather well that particular morning, I was a bit stunned by what my commander had just said, and responded, “ah…yes sir.” Was I in some kind of major trouble? Was I getting kicked out of the Air Force? Obviously this was connected to the phone call – had someone discovered my deepest darkest secret that was so well hidden I didn’t even know about it, and had just now tipped off the authorities?

By this time my squadron commander felt it appropriate to expound on his reasoning (and you thought dramatic pauses only happen in the movies). In a rather monotone voice, he said, “It’s something about your wife and breathing. If she isn’t at home, look for the ambulance.” Oh. Okay. So, no blood? That’s good I guess. Well, off I go then – good bye folks. I’m off to see whether or not my wife is dead. You all have a good day now.

To make a long story short, when I arrived at home and parked a safe distance from the police car, ambulance, and rescue fire truck (all with lights flashing); I learned that, although she had eaten it many times before, my wife had apparently developed a sudden and severe allergy to kiwi; which upon ingestion attempted to close her airway and finish her off as a parting gift for being so rudely peeled, sliced, and munched. After a few injections, some oxygen, and an ambulance ride to the ER, I was assured that she would be fine so long as she didn’t bother the little green fruit again.

Now I just have to deal with my coworkers who kid me about having their wives call 911 so they too can get out of alert.

17 February 2006

A Theory on Time Travel

For those of you out there who are skeptics of time travel, carefully consider the following. If I count out loud at exact one second intervals, I am able to propel time forward by one second for every number I count. For example, if I count to three in this manner, I have successfully transported myself into the future three full seconds from the time I began.

If then I have this power over forward motion, it stands to reason that I hold this same power over reverse motion. Hence, all that is required to travel into the past is to count aloud backward at exact one second intervals. If one wishes to go back in time a full minute, he or she must simply begin at a count of sixty and count backward until reaching one, and voila – one minute into the past.

Although the theory is perfectly sound, practical tests have been less than convincing. The problem lies in the fact that as one begins the count backward, at the exact moment he or she reaches the next number down (one second having elapsed), the subject is transported in time back exactly one second and arrives right where he or she began; thus negating both the forward second and the backward, resulting in a net time of zero. Since in that zero moment, the test subject had not yet begun, it is impossible to continue the downward sequence (after all that would be skipping numbers). The only thing he or she can do is begin at the start (note that I do not say begin again because in the zero moment they had never started before).

This is further complicated by the fact that the individual has no memory of having started (again, because they have not done so), and therefore may become stuck in this loop until they ultimately decide not to begin at all. There is no real way to record how long a person has been stuck in a loop like this, since time is for all intensive purposes paused, but energy is nonetheless expended at a rate equal to the effort it takes to count one number. Consequently, one can hypothesize that whenever you feel suddenly tired or exhausted for no apparent reason, it is most likely because you have tried to transport yourself into the past and became stuck in one of these space-time loops for an indefinite period of time. This also explains why people die at times without any apparent cause. I believe it also explains phenomenon such as the depletion of the ozone layer and the existence of Chihuahuas.

As a disclaimer, I warn the wary reader – Do not to try this at home.

16 February 2006

Two cowboys walk into a bar...

Recently my wife and I were traveling with our kids back from a town about two hours away from where we live when our son expressed a sincere and urgent desire to use the bathroom. As he is only four years old, and “accidents happen” we took his plea with the utmost sincerity. Unfortunately, we were still about fifteen minutes from home and the only place we could find to stop was a gas station/convenience store/bar/lounge/café. My wife offered to take him in while I waited in the vehicle with our other two children. However, I had certain reservations about entering such an establishment in what my wife referred to as a “podunk trailer town.” When I suggested that our squirming child could possibly hold out for a little longer, my wife intuited that the gist of my argument lay in the establishment itself rather than simply wanting to continue on home. Her quirky reply before she left the van with my eldest son: “What? Are you afraid I’ll come out with three more kids, a dog, and a country song?” I had no recourse left but to laugh.

31 January 2006

The Lady and the Fly

Okay, let me start by saying I have nothing against FlyLady. In fact, I fully support the ideals she attempts to instill in all who will listen. However, I simply cannot go one more day without asking the question that burns in the heart of every DH out there... why that name? Yes, I understand that FLY stands for Finally Loving Yourself, but couldn’t you find some other acronym, like FABULOUS (Faithfully Addicted Babysteppers Unconditionally Loving Ourselves & Unsoiled Sinks)?

Surely being Fabulous Lady (or Fab Lady for short) would be much better than an insect that is, “harmful either as carriers of disease or as destroyers of crops.” Unfortunately though, it gets worse. What are her followers called? FlyBabies. All right, just come out and admit it, you’re larva! The infant state of a fly, “which occupy a wide variety of ecological niches, typically require a moist environment such as rotting flesh, decaying fruit, or the internal organs of other animals.” Um, yuck. Beyond the obvious, have you ever associated a fly with something to which one ought to aspire? Doesn’t anyone remember The Fly? If you missed it, I think they even made a sequel. Nothing visually pleasing or spiritually stimulating, I assure you. Even Lord of the Flies, you know, the king of them all, the best of the best, is closer to a Greek Tragedy than an episode of Leave it to Beaver.

Whew, glad to get that off my chest and out in the open. Now I just hope it doesn’t buzz around and bite me in the…

13 January 2006

If you give a woman a ricecake...

If you give a woman a rice cake, she will probably ask for peanut butter and a plate.
When you spread creamy peanut butter on her rice cake she will sigh and say she really wanted crunchy.
Since she is hungry she will eat it now and let you go to the store for crunchy later.
After a few bites she will tell you she needs a glass of milk to help the rice cake go down.
When you bring her a glass of milk she will say it is too full, but will drink it anyway.
She will then hand you the empty plate and ask you to take it to the sink.
When you come back she will hand you the glass to take upstairs and ask you to wash it and the plate while you are in the kitchen.
When you come back down she will tell you that she might like just a little more milk.
After drinking the milk she will tell you she drank too much and feels sick.
Thinking about her sick stomach will make her wonder if the sleeping kids are okay.
She will ask you to go upstairs and make sure that they are still safe and breathing.
Since you will already be upstairs, she will ask you to bring down some chocolate for her because that will help her feel better.
When you bring her M&Ms it will remind her of her mom and she will ask you to go back upstairs to get the phone so she can call her.
When you tiptoe back downstairs with the phone so you don't wake the kids, you will probably startle her and she will scream because she was checking her email and didn't hear you coming.
When she screams at least one of the kids will stir and she will give you a dirty look for waking them.
The dirty look will remind her she is still upset for you scaring her and she will send you upstairs to calm the child.
When you come back downstairs she will be talking to her mom on the phone.
Talking to her mom will remind her that she is so far away.
Thinking about things that are far away will remind her that the crunchy peanut butter is far away at the store.
After she gestures madly and mouths some incomprehensible words, you will finally understand that she wants you to go to the store and buy crunchy peanut butter.
When you come home from the store she will ask to see the peanut butter to make sure you bought the right kind.
Seeing the peanut butter will make her hungry, and she will probably ask you for a rice cake to put it on.

01 January 2006

Feliz Año Nuevo

I stayed up past 2 a.m. last night (this morning) after Nikki, my wife, insisted on playing "just one more game" of Cities and Knights of Catan. Several times I caught myself staring blankly at one of my cards depicting a green-tinted sheep. Whenever a coherent thought did enter my head it had something to do with the sickly fellow and his friends jumping over a fence.

My kids woke me up several times during the night, and as I woke up early this morning for church with a severe case of impending brain implosion and mild body tremors, I was reminded of a new year tradition from Colombia where I served my mission.

In the days before January 1st, families will get together and construct a person from old clothes and such, then stuff him full of any kind of firework or explosive they can get their hand on for the occasion. They call this guy Año Viejo (Old Year) and parade him around on a donkey, if they have one available, for everyone to see. At the fateful moment, they douse the unlucky chap with gasoline then light a match and run. Anyway, I think I felt something like he must have the morning after the festivities. Happy New Year!


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