Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Laws of Gravity and Karma

If you don’t know me and you look over at my photo to the left, you’re probably thinking, “Now there is one good looking guy who is probably awesome at sports.” Well you’re half right, but let’s just say that Lois didn’t marry me for my athletic abilities. Considering the sedentary lifestyle I lead and my special diet of trans fats and red meat, I should weigh 400 pounds and ride a Rascal Scooter to commute from the buffet to the soda fountain. But I don’t. The only plausible explanation I can think of is that I must have two metabolisms. It probably happened during a freak lightning storm sometime in the 80’s. You scientists should really look into that.

When the guys want to get together for some basketball, or football, or volcano boarding, I always have an excuse ready. “Sorry, I gave blood today and they took an extra half-pint.” Or, “I was up all last night writing my thesis.” Or, “I’m allergic to magma.” It’s easy to get out of doing things that will make me not be in a sitting position.

But when my buddies Slim and Chaos asked me if I wanted to go biking down the mountain at Sundance, I didn’t even hesitate to say, “Heck yeah!” This, I thought, was the sport for me. You get to ride up on the ski lift and then ride down the mountain on trails. There is beautiful fall weather and scenery, the lift does all the work getting you up, and gravity does all the work getting you down. What could be easier? I shall now pause here while those of you with at least a Payson education laugh at my naïveté (for those of you from Payson, that means I’m dumb).

Slim is in marketing and Chaos is a corporate attorney. These are guys who spend about as much time sitting at their desks as I do. Surely the HR guy (that’s me) should be able to keep up with them and show them a thing or two.

When we get to the top of the mountain Chaos asks Buff Dude, who is working the lift, which trail is the best. We take Buff Dude’s trail and I quickly learn several things: (1) gravity is quite a powerful force; (2) mountains often have cliffs; (3) I am the slow kid in the group; and (4) when you want to know which is the best trail, instead of asking Buff Dude with the No Fear t-shirt, you might be better off with advice from Skinny Girl with the Justin Bieber t-shirt.

Being the slow kid gave me the advantage of not having my spectacular wipe-out witnessed by my companions. I did, however, perform this feat just as the trail went below the ski lift, and was regaled with the applause of my loving audience. I quickly picked up my bike (originally christened “Silver Bullet,” but now affectionately known as “Mule”), took my bows and then proceeded to fight against Gravity once again as he made his vigorous attempt to catch me up to Slim and Chaos.

The three of us had paid for a full half day of “see if you can hurl yourself down a mountain while balancing on a two-wheeled transport without swearing aloud.” A quarter of the way down on the first ride, I felt as though I had already had more than my money’s worth, so I started to contrive reasons of why I should focus my efforts on conquering the gift shop since Slim and Chaos seemed to have the mountain conquering gig pretty well under control. Somehow I was unable to think of any acceptable excuses, so I found myself back on the lift making the slow, scenic trip to the top of the Mountain of Affliction and Agony. And then, inexplicably, again for the third time.

I have no problem admitting that I gleaned quite a lot of satisfaction when I learned that Slim and Chaos also crashed. Too bad I was too far behind to witness their tumbles, but the scrapes and bruises I could see on them were some comfort.

When I arrived back home, I decided that I would act heroic and not show any signs of having been pummeled. But then I realized that acting tough doesn’t really do anything for you when your audience (Lois, in this case) has no idea that you were pummeled in the first place. As far as she knew, a ride down the mountain was like riding around the park a few times, and why did I come home so sweaty?

In retrospect, I should have known I was out of my element when the Sundance clerk wanted us to sign a release of liability. Chaos had said that the release couldn’t stop us from suing if we were injured. This should have been another red flag for me, but I figured it was just another one of those things lawyers are always saying so that we don’t accidentally forget that they’re lawyers. Plus, I had been a little preoccupied trying to figure out why there was a “karma jar” near the register.

So the next time you find yourself doing something that requires you to sign a release of liability, I highly recommend that you don’t forget to put a little something in the karma jar. And take about 2000mg of ibuprofen.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

No Country for Old Rob

Lois and I have been married for just over eleven years now.  We tend to keep to ourselves and spend a lot of time at the house.  It's not that we aren't friendly, it's just that we don't really like people.  Oh, I hope I didn't offend those of you who are people. 

Recently we decided to mix things up a bit and actually got a sitter.  Suddenly the whole world was opened up before us.  We didn't have to worry about selecting a restaurant that offers crayons and a kids meal with sauceless options.  We could choose anything without having to submit a request to Buzz and Rocky. 

It was a difficult decision.  This was luxury we do not often indulge in, so we wanted to make sure we selected the *right* restaurant. I was in the mood for a good steak and Lois was in the mood for non-Shrek themed food, so we settled on Ruby River in South Provo.  We'd been there once or twice early in our marriage and we were pretty sure that it met both of those criteria.

When we arrived we were seated right away, which was a major disappointment because I wanted to eat peanuts in the waiting area.  Luckily the hostess brought a bucket of peanuts to our table, so I was willing to forgive this oversight.  Over the years, I had forgotten about the decor of Ruby River.  As we were being led to our table, the first thing I noticed was all the Country Western paraphernalia.  There were autographed cowboy boots in colors that I didn't know existed.  There were photographs of people with names like Pickler, and Chesnutt [sic], and Rascal Flatts.  I think there was even a rug made from the carcasses of brushpopper shirts. 

The music was a quite surprising, though.  When I go to an Italian restaurant, I want to hear Italian music.  I want my Mexican restaurants to play mariachi music.  And I want my Country Western restaurants to play Def Leppard.  Or U2.  Even Michael Bublé I could tolerate.  But country music?  I cannot abide this.

Here's the thing about music.  Studies have shown that people like music when they can anticipate 51% of the song.  No more and no less.  So smrt people like me find country music boring and stupid.  So if you like country music, well... it's not really your fault that your parents raised you in Payson.  The fact that you still live in Payson might be a little bit your fault. 

I suppose I shouldn't be quite so harsh.  On country music, I mean.  Some of it is rather delightful.  I actually sang "It's Your Love" by Tim McGraw to Lois at our wedding reception.  I got jiggy with it.  I mean, I got twangy with it.  Also, I like "The Joker" by Steve Miller.  And... wait, what?  That's not a country song?  Well, don't some people call him the space cowboy?  Whatever. 

So despite the lack of Counting Crows and the overage of Kenny Rogers (or whoever the popular country singers are these days), Lois and I had a good time.  My steak was done perfectly, with just the right amount of bloodiness, and my cinnamon yam was delicious.  I'm sure the salad or whatever girlie food Lois ordered was good too.  And it's nice to know that no matter where you go, as long as you're with the person you love, you can always count on Dr. Pepper being among the beverage choices.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

No Amount of Coffee

My niece, Makayla, upon graduating from high school in Utah County, spent a couple months working in one of the southern states. I think it was the one whose state flower is the tobacco leaf and the state bird is KFC.  No no, not Kentucky.  It's the one whose state quarter shows Foghorn Leghorn eating a bowl of grits.  

Anyway, while she was there Makayla posted her Facebook status as, "Caramel Crème Frappuccinos."  Now, some of you might have picked up on the fact that I am a Latter-day Saint or Mormon, as well as most of my extended family.  Even if you don't know much about Mormons, you probably know that we don't drink coffee.

So naturally I began to fear for my niece's soul.  Those pagan Southerners have corrupted her!  I figured that Makayla was innocently drinking this carnal beverage, completely unaware of the presence of Beelzebub's roasted beans of degradation.  So I commented on her status and said, "You do realize that's coffee, right?"  She confidently explained, "No it isn't," and I countered with, "Yes it is."  She said, "No, it's made with whole milk."  I was beginning to see that Makayla was more than a match for my debate skills, so I appealed to my good friend, Google, to provide the evidence of Juan Valdez's sinful allurement.  Aha!  Um... it turns out that Starbucks has a line of coffee free "Crème" Frappuccinos.  Makayla's soul was safe after all and I, her favorite uncle, had wrongfully accused her of being a doofus.

So I decided that I'd better try one of these Caramel Crème Frappuccinos and see for myself what all the fuss is about.  It pretty much tasted like someone blended ice with milk and put some caramel in there.  I guess it was okay, but I didn't get excited enough about it to make it my Facebook status.

While I was at Starbucks sitting in a comfy chair, sipping my coffeeless frap-based beverage and listening to the frap-based music, I looked around me and began to feel oddly out of place.  No one told me that you were supposed to wear hemp jewelry and at least one article of tie-dyed clothing when you go to Starbucks.  But the hippies were mostly pleasant and only one of them tried to educate me on the virtues of marijuana. 

So while I may not share Makayla's enthusiasm for caramel flavored ice milk, at least she's not committing a grievous sin while she drinks it.  She wouldn't have been the first Mormon I know to inadvertently drink coffee, though.  Before we were married, my dear wife Lois's favorite drink was Ghiradelli Chocolate Mocha hot cocoa.  If you clicked that link you noticed that coffee beans are pictured clearly on the label.  Lois defended herself by explaining that the one she had was part of a holiday sampler and it didn't have coffee beans pictured.  The fact that the name of the drink contains the word mocha didn't clue her in, apparently.  But it's okay, she's been on the wagon for more than 10 years now. 

I'd like to tell you more things about Lois that would embarrass her, but I'm almost out of Dr. Pepper and if I don't go get some now I don't know how I'm going to stay awake during church tomorrow.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Living In a Quaker State

My sister, Carmela, is participating in something her neighborhood has organized called "No Media July."  It is pretty much as horrific as it sounds.  Willing members of the area actually signed a contract stating that during the month of July they will refrain from any "recreational" electronic media.  This includes TV, internet, email, texting, and music.  With regard to internet use, they made a special point of clarifying "especially Facebook."  They have made allowances for email and internet if needed for work or school, and "uplifting" music is okay.  So Bon Jovi is in, but Midnight Oil is definitely out.  

The great thing about this is that Carmela shouldn't see my blog for at least a month, so I can't get in trouble for making fun of her.  Here's the thing.  I can see how it's all noble and great to cut back on the electronic media that we as a society have developed an unhealthy dependency on, yadda yadda yadda.  But what will abstaining for a month really do?  My brother, Sir Pumpkin Longshanks (I feel compelled to remind you that names have been changed), once gave up desserts for a month.  Then at the conclusion he pigged out on chocodiles, Oreo shakes and moon pies.  As the clock strikes midnight on August 1st, I think there is no question that we will find Carmela and her media-abstaining conspirators plugging in for the most epic bender of Twittering, Facebooking, and Lolcatting ever seen. 

Carmela and the Amish are also having non-media activities throughout the month to help stave off the withdrawal effects.  She invited us to tonight's activity which involves a "bike rodeo" for the kids.  Unfortunately, it starts after Buzz and Rocky's bedtime, so we can't go.  The fact that I will be sitting in front of my TV watching Jack Bauer be awesome has nothing whatsoever to do with us not going. 

I was curious how Carmela would handle her text messages.  Does she have the strength not to read them when they come in?  So I sent her a text that said, "If you are reading this, you are BUSTED."  A few minutes later my phone buzzed and I was all excited to shame her for not being able to last even one day.  Her response said, "Hi! This is an auto reply to let you know i am media free for july.  If you want to talk call me!"  A very clever cover up.  

The media fast was originally scheduled a month earlier until the moms and teenage girls freaked out.  They stormed the activities committee meeting and demanded that it be delayed by a month.  Further investigation showed that the opening of "Eclipse" was scheduled for June 29th. 

So while Carmela is Etch-A-Sketching while driving her horse drawn carriage and somehow perfecting Crack's Theorem to the fourteenth decimal, I will be... well, doing normal stuff. 

Also, "Carmela and the Amish" is going to be the name of my band.  It remains to be seen whether or not the music will be "uplifting." 

Friday, June 25, 2010

Father's Day 4.3 of 4.3

The best part of Thursday was having Lois back home with us.  The boys were delighted with the toy cable cars she brought back from San Francisco, and I was delighted with the macarons from Miette.  I was also delighted with the Taza chocolate covered nibs even though I haven't tried them yet.  That kind of chocolate seems like it should be consumed very carefully and with reverence.  

While the house was not a complete disaster, I was careful to keep it at just the right level of disarray.  At the office, if they ever find out you're good at planning events, you'll get suckered into the party committee.  I believe the same principle applies at home.  Plus, I read somewhere that this would be a good way to show Lois that we really missed her.  By the way, whoever wrote that is an idiot. 

So, maybe I lost a few points there.  But I figured I was rich with the points I scored from taking care of the boys for 4.3 days, so I could afford to squander a few.  Chances are I was already hopelessly in dept, but still.  

So life is pretty much back to normal again.  The prospect of a day without crying, whining and playing juvenile games was really appealing, so I went ahead and took the day off work again today and stayed home.  I'll deal with those issues in the office on Monday. 

There are several things I have learned.  If you burn a hotdog on one side, you can hide it by putting that side down on the bun.  But at some point, you have to know when it's just too black.  Also, kids are pretty good at knowing when you're bluffing.  Buzz now owns my car and my vintage collection of Star Wars action figures.  I'm hoping to at least win Boba Fett back at next week's poker night.  

Another thing I learned is that kids aged 6 and 2 don't get tired of spending time with their dad, even when they're together nonstop for 4.3 days straight.  These were definitely the best Father's Days ever. 

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Father's Days 2-4 of 4.3

One of my readers who also happens to be my brother, Fritz (names have been changed), has been pelting me with text messages to post more content here.  So if it's not funny, blame Fritz for compelling me to write under duress.  

Day 2 included most of the funny stuff.  Days 3 and 4 were pretty tame by comparison.  

I woke Monday morning around 5:45 AM to the cries of Rocky shouting, "Hey Mommy, hey Mommy!" which is the usual wake up call.  Even though Mommy wasn't here, I figured I'd better take the call anyway.  He seemed mildly surprised to see me and I reminded him that Mommy was on vacation. 

After a simple breakfast I decided that I should take care of the weeds in the vegetable garden, so I slathered sunscreen on the boys and myself and we headed outside.  While the boys drew pictures on the driveway with chalk, I proceeded with an attempt at manual labor.  After about 15 minutes, I remembered that there is absolutely nothing remotely interesting about weeds, so I abandoned my hoe and joined the boys.  I discovered that Buzz had drawn a line down the middle of the driveway and was rebuking Rocky for trespassing on his side.  I decided not to meddle in the boundary dispute, and inquired whether they wanted me to push them on the swings.  They did, and we all failed as usual to make our swings go all the way around.  Maybe next time.  

Back in the house, the boys wanted to watch a cartoon on the computer.  For reasons beyond my comprehension, it was agreed upon that we would watch an old episode of "The Smurfs."  While the smurf village was being burned by an angry dragon, Buzz started freaking out.  While I concur that smurfs are freaky and disturbing, I was puzzled by Buzz's reaction.  After a brief investigation I discovered that the freak out was not a smurfy one, but that he had rubbed his eyes and they were now stinging from the sunscreen.

I procured a turkey baster and attempted to flush Buzz's eyes with water.  For some reason, six-year-olds do not like to have water squirted in their eyes, especially when they're already hysterical.  So I get Buzz to strip off his clothes and I put him in the shower.  This seemed like a novelty to Rocky and he wants to get in too.  I recall that Lois did want me to make sure the kids bathed while she was away, so I get Rocky in the shower with Buzz.  After only a few moments, Rocky is now screaming that his eyes are stinging.  Stupid sunscreen.  I'm already getting wet and water is getting on the floor so I get in the shower, fully clothed, to see if I can do anything to help the kids.  Both boys fail to acknowledge my sacrifice, and neither of them appreciate the humor of the situation either.  After forcing them both in turns to put their faces directly into the stream of water, they eventually calm down. 

Finally, after this ordeal is over, we return to the computer and get to see Hefty Smurf cleverly vanquish the dragon by luring it to the river and getting the other smurfs to open the dam (oh sorry, spoiler alert). 

The next activity we have planned is to make a trip "to town" so that I can pick up a library book I've been waiting for.  After what seems like an unreasonably long time to get the kids to use the bathroom and get their shoes on, I've finally got them both buckled into the van when I remember that I need some spare pants and underwear for Rocky, "just in case."  When I return to the van, Buzz yells that he has a bloody nose.  I look at him accusingly.  "Did you pick it?" I ask.  "No!" is his indignant reply.  I can see that he's telling the truth because there's no blood on any of his fingers.  Stupid dry climate.  I get the kids back in the house, we stop the bleeding, and are finally on our way.  

By the time we've completed our mission at the library and are on our way back home it's right around lunch time and we pass a Wendy's.  Buzz is usually the one to ask whether we can go to a restaurant, but this time it's Rocky.  

Rocky:  Can we go to Wendy's?
Me:  No, not today.
Rocky (in a somewhat aggressive two-year-old voice): Sometimes when the kids say can we go to Wendy's, the mom and dad say yes

Well, he got me with logic there.  But by now Wendy's was well behind us, so I suggested IN-N-OUT instead.  Both boys cheered.  While the food was enjoyable, I have concluded that IN-N-OUT is no longer awesome now that it doesn't require a trip to California.  Stupid trendy burger joints and their market saturation.  

Days 3 and 4 were fun, but not nearly as hectic.  I could just make up some stuff, but the laundry needs doing tonight (did I mention that Rocky is in the midst of potty training?), so I'll fabricate something another time.  Lois returns tomorrow evening, but that leaves plenty of time for more mischief.  I'm tempted to test the effects of caffeine on the boys to give me some writing material, but I don't want them to start bogarting my Dr. Pepper. 

Monday, June 21, 2010

Father's Day 2 of 4.3

Too brain-tired to compose a comprehensive article. 

Perhaps tomorrow I will give a detailed account of the day's doings.  Note that I said perhaps.  Here are a few teasers:

There may or may not have been blood.
I may or may not have jumped into the shower fully clothed.
We may or may not have had lunch at IN-N-OUT because Rocky made me laugh.
Buzz may or may not have started shrieking uncontrollably during an episode of "The Smurfs."  

***Spoiler Alert***
All of the above items happened today. 

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Father's Day 1 of 4.3

The boys and I seem to have survived the first day of Lois's absence.  Church services went about how you'd expect an LDS church service to go on Father's Day, plus the mothers of the ward provided an assortment of pies and other desserts for the fathers.  During "pie time" I got to talking with my across-the-street neighbor, Mr. Turkeypants (names have been changed).  When he learned that I was wifeless for a few days, he invited us to his house for dinner so that I wouldn't have to cook my own Father's Day meal.  The Turkeypantses are one of our favorite families, so I gladly accepted the kind offer.  

Church ended at noon, so after lunch the boys and I had to figure out how to occupy ourselves until our 6:00 appointment across the street.  Luckily, Lois discovered an amazing concept known as "quiet time" back when Buzz first stopped taking afternoon naps.  Every afternoon Buzz is allowed to spend quiet time doing pretty much anything he wants, as long as it can be done from the confines of his bedroom, and as long as it is quiet.  Pure genius.  Buzz is a bookworm, so he actually enjoys quiet time.  

Rocky still takes naps, and as I was putting him down he asked (again) where Mom was.  "She's in San Francisco with Yaya and your aunts," I reminded him.  "Is Mom coming back?" he asked in all seriousness.  "Oh yes, she's only going to be gone for a few days and we're going to have lots of fun," I assured him.  This seemed to be satisfactory. 

I let Buzz out of quiet time early on good behavior and while Rocky continued napping we made videos of Buzz doing some dramatic poetry readings, just to mix things up a bit.  Rocky joined in the fun shortly after.  There's no telling what crazy trouble we'll get into next! 

Finally the time came when we could go across the street to the Turkeypantses.  They have three girls aged 8, 6, and 4, and a baby boy around seven months.  These girls would rather play dinosaurs and pirates than Barbies, so they get along with my boys just fine (the worst insult according to my boys -- and often inflicted by them -- is, "You play with Barbies!").  As we walked in the door we were welcomed by the extremely pleasant aroma of roasting meat.  The roast was one of the best I've ever tasted.  

During the meal, the four-year-old Turkeypants said to her dad, "Daddy, will you help me cut my goat?"  I thought maybe I heard wrong, but I looked to Mrs. Turkeypants and asked, "Is this really goat?"  She laughed kind of sheepishly (sorry, baaad joke), but said that, yes, they had received quite a bit of goat and rabbit meat from Mr. Turkeypants's sister.  "Well, it's really good," was all I could think to say (and it really was).  I then had the following exchange with Rocky:  

Rocky:  Daddy, am I eating goat?
Me:  Yes, you are eating goat.
Rocky:  Are you eating goat?
Me:  Yes.
Rocky:  Is Buzz eating goat?
Me:  Yes.
Rocky:  Is the baby eating goat?
Me:  No, I think he's eating cereal.
Rocky:  Oh.  
Rocky then continued to eat his goat without any complaint. 

I had never had goat before, but I'm really not very squeamish when it comes to things like that.  I even had seconds.  But I assure you that Lois is very, very relieved that she was not there.  

The best thing about having dinner with the Turkeypantses?  I didn't have to do any dishes.

Father's Daze

Today marks the sixth Father's Day that I can rightfully celebrate as one who is being honored.  My dear wife, Lois (names have been changed, if you haven't already figured that out), is always very good about making Father's Day extra special for me.  One year we had grilled steaks topped with an amazing herb butter.  Another year she made brownies with caramel in the middle.  How does she get the caramel in there?  It's a mystery, but I'm telling you now that there is nothing better than those brownies.  If you told me you had perfected time travel, I'd say that these brownies are better.  Then I'd take your time machine and -- what?  I've used that line before?  Well am I the author of this thing or not?  Am I not allowed to plagiarize myself?  Fine, let's just say that Lois is always good about making me feel like a king on Father's Day (and Michelangelo, these brownies are better than you!).  

This year Lois had a great idea.  She, her mom, two sisters, and her brother's wife cooked up a doozie of a plan.  This morning after a hearty Father's Day breakfast, Lois left for the airport and headed out to meet them all in San Francisco for a few days of mother-daughter girlie time, leaving the husbands to their own devices.  And in my case, not only to my own devices, but to those of  two boys, aged 6 and 2.  A two-year-old who is almost, but not quite, potty trained.  I say almost... but not quite.  This year I will truly learn to appreciate what it really means to be a father.  Priceless.  

I'm not like most husbands who would brag about being able to do everything their wife does, and perhaps even do it better.  I harbor no such illusions.  I am fully aware that Buzz and Rocky, allied together, will be my superiors in nearly every way for the 4.3 days their mother will be gone.  Meals will be unbalanced with extra emphasis placed on gummy bears and other gummy-based foods.  Clothing will be left to languish on the floor along with unfinished puzzles, the ruins of building-block cities, and the aftermath of violent and bloody Playmobil wars.  Dishes will be done promptly after every meal (What?  We're not complete barbarians.).  And oh, the potty training, the POTTY TRAINING...I do not wish to think on this just now.  

Okay, perhaps I am exaggerating just a bit.  Violence, tantrums and public urination are not new to me.  I do work in human resources, after all.  

Seriously though, this will be a fun time.  Most fathers will have to settle for their breakfast in bed, Hallmark cards, and phone calls.  Or from the slacker children, text messages.  But as for me, the boys and I have planned all sorts of fun things to do.  Among other things, these plans involve dinosaurs, pirates, dirt, sprinklers, and whipped cream administered aerosol-ily.

Check back here for updates describing our daily adventures.  I'm certain there will be plenty of hi-jinks, shenanigans, and maybe even a lark or two.  Wish me luck.  

Oh, and Dad, I am dedicating this blog post to you in honor of Father's Day.  This is in lieu of my usual text message, acknowledging your contribution to my existence.  Thanks for those 23 chromosomes you gave me.  Especially that Y one.  Happy Father's Day!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Frosting covered guilty pleasures (shameless product placement)

We all have guilty pleasures.   For some, it’s Danielle Steele novels.   For others, it’s Jefferson Starship.   For me, it’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer.   I mean sweets!   Sweets are my guilty pleasure [can we fix this in editing, please?].   Ah yes, sweets.   Now, I like ice cream, Oreos, and cake as much as the next guy.   But there is nothing better than my sister Carmela’s cinnamon rolls.   If you told me that you had perfected time travel, I would say that Carmela’s cinnamon rolls are better.   Then I would take your time machine, go back to the Renaissance, and tell Michelangelo to his face that these cinnamon rolls are better than him.  

Carmela claims that the cinnamon rolls are very easy to make.   She uses a recipe and technique she learned from the “bread lady” of Pantry Secrets.   All I know is that whenever Carmela takes them out of the oven, it’s all we can do to wait for them to be frosted.   But it is well worth the wait.   When you peel apart the soft, perfect dessert, you’ll gently inhale the sweet scent of cinnamon mingled with fresh bread.   You’ll lick the frosting from your fingers and drink in a brief moment of rapture.   Then you’ll break off a piece and savor it as it virtually melts on your tongue.   Before you know it, you’ll wonder where it went and you’ll be pushing your niece out of the way for more.    

Carmela assures me that anyone can make these rolls.   One thing is certain; our family get-togethers are not quite the same when we don't have them.   If I were on Prozac, I could easily replace the prescription with the “bread lady’s” recipe.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

A Drier Dryer - Part 2

Originally written on June 1, 2010

So I was out working in the garden on Saturday and noticed a starling flying up to the vent and poking its beak inside. These birds did not get a clear message the first time their belongings were forcefully removed from their dwelling. But why wasn't the bird going inside this time? I've watched enough nature programs to know what was going on. While the mother bird is laying or sitting on eggs, she won't leave the nest until the eggs hatch (with one exception, which will unfold shortly). The father bird brings her food during this time.

So once again I go through the process of uttering curse words in my mind (if you were in my mind you would have noticed that it was somewhat louder this time), getting the extension ladder and wire hook, and climbing up to evict these tenants. This time I knew that the mother bird would be in there, and I knew that she was going to freak the bejeebers out of me. I remove the flaps and insert my hook and stir it around. Sure enough, this gives the mother enough incentive to abandon her unhatched eggs, and she flies out and freaks the bejeebers out of me. I was braced for this and did not fall from the ladder. After a few tries, I successfully hook the nest and carefully pull it out along with its contents.

Did you know that starlings lay blue eggs like a robin? Neither did I, until Saturday.

This time I taped the vent shut, hoping that no one would need to do laundry for a few days. Now I have a cage thingy that I get to screw over the vent to keep the birds out. And if that doesn't work, you might find yourself reading a story describing whether or not birds are flammable.

A Drier Dryer

Originally written on May 25, 2010

Recently our dryer started taking forever to dry clothes. This might sound like a petty complaint, but that's pretty much the machine's only job after all, and it has been slacking. This is unacceptable, Dryer. You need to do your job, and in less than 3 hours.

Lois started consulting the troubleshooting guide to see what could be making the dryer so inefficient, and came up with a few ideas. But then one day as I was arriving home from work, I saw a bird (I think it was a starling) fly INTO THE AIR VENT!! The vent has little flaps that are supposed to keep things out (like birds, for example), but this little starling deftly flew up, nosed the middle flap up, and crawled inside.

At this point, it seemed like the thing for me to do would be to get out of my car, and gaze up at the air vent. So that is what I did. The washer and dryer are on the top floor, so the air vent is probably about 12 feet up. So there I am, gazing, now knowing that there is a nest in the air duct and why the dryer is unable to perform its basic, and only, function.

After I gazed for a while, I decided that the next thing to do would be to go into the house and ignore the situation for a period of time. So that is what I did.

Well, as I feared, the problem failed to fix itself without some intervention on my part. The next time I gazed up at the vent, I could hear mad chirping coming from it. I was sure that the nest was right inside the entrance, so I got an extension ladder, extended it to its fullest extent, and began the assent to the vent.

There is still mad chirping. I lift the middle flap (that somehow seemed like the correct one to lift since it's the one the mother bird always used), and peered inside. It's dark in there. I lift the top flap. Still dark. Well, might as well lift the bottom flap. Yep, still dark. I poke my fingers in. That doesn't do anything. While these flaps fail at keeping birds out, they do an exceptional job of keeping me out. Hey, these flaps are plastic and quite flexible. I remove the flaps. By this time the chirping has stopped. I don't see a nest, but there is a feather, some weed twigs, and bird poop. I clear this out. I carefully reach my hand in a little ways. Nothing. I put my arm in clear up to my armpit. I can barely reach a few twigs. I use curse words in my mind that I would never utter aloud. I climb back down the ladder.

I momentarily consider going back into the house and doing the thing I first did after my initial gazing. But no, that won't do. I obtain a stiff wire that is hooked on the end. I take this tool with me back up the ladder. I reach my hook as far in as I can. This time I am able to hook out quite a bit of nest. I let this refuse fall to the ground. I repeat a few more times. Finally, as I withdraw my hook, I can feel that it has found something a little more substantial. The bulk of the nest comes with it, along with four naked, ugly, quiet, baby birds. This is the time the gravity of the situation sinks in. I always knew that I would be exterminating these squatters, but now that I get a look at the pink little blobs, I start to feel bad. I gingerly place the nest with the babies in my right hand and make my way down the ladder.

Just before I reach the bottom, one of the babies squirms. Well, this freaks me right the heck out and I drop the nest, babies and all. They seem to be relatively unharmed at the moment, despite their fall. In order to avoid getting freaked out again by live, squirming blobs, I go get an empty plant pot and put the nest and its occupants in it.

Now is the time to decide what to do. The fact that the birds are doomed is already a given. There is no question of the mother returning to a new location to care for her babies. So, do I find one of the neighborhood cats, thereby allowing the birds to somewhat fulfill the measure of their creation? I decide against this for many reasons, but mainly because hunting down a willing cat would be more of a challenge than I was prepared to invest in. No, a swift end to their suffering is all there is to it. So I take them to the field behind the house and quickly send them to what I'm sure is a far better home than a dryer vent. If it's any consolation, the piece of wood I used was a very efficient instrument of death. Not only did all four go at the same swift instant, but it gave me a small cut on the palm of my hand in retribution.

And now, the dryer is happily able to once again fulfill the measure of its creation. So, I guess it's a win-win situation. Well, except for the blobs. They didn't really win very much.

This Day in History

Originally written on November 18, 2009

I used to play an online "This Day in History Challenge" fairly regularly, but now I hardly ever do. For one thing, it's really slow to load. For another thing, they have questions like this (from today's challenge):

Nathaniel Palmer was the first American to sight which continent on this day in 1820?


First of all, who the heck is Nathaniel Palmer? He was a seal hunter, and I guess he discovered stuff and had peninsulas named after him. But more importantly, why are Greenland and Hawaii possible answers to this question? Did the guy who wrote the question think they are continents? Or did he simply think that the people answering the question would be silly enough to think they are? Well, 14% of respondants thought Greenland was a continent, and 6% thought Hawaii was. Considering that there were probably only a dozen people who responded, maybe that's not so bad.

Before I started writing, I figured I'd better do my research and make sure that Greenland and Hawaii didn't become continents without my knowledge. The first Google result for "What are the continents of the world" takes you to a website that tells you this:

"Depending on how you count them, there are anywhere from 4 to 7 continents. The difference of opinion arises because some people consider Europe and Asia to be one continent, some people consider North and South America to be one continent, and a few people even consider Europe, Asia, and Africa to be one huge continent called Eurafrasia."

Eurafrasia? Really? People actually argue that there should be a continent with that name? Thank you countriesandcities.com for that nugget. I will mercilessly make fun of anyone who tries to argue that. Unless he (or she) is bigger than I am.

My iGoogle page has a "This Day in History" gadget hosted by thefreedictionary.com. Today the headline is, "Pope Boniface VIII Issues Unam Sanctam (1302)." Okay, now be honest. How many of you right now are either wondering what Unam Sanctam is or thinking about Unam Sanctam at all? Now, how many of you reacted like I did and thought, "Boniface? Boney-face? Hee hee hee." How could this pope possibly have had any credibility at all? Surely the cardinals would mock him behind his back and pass each other caricatures of him drawn on the backs of their mini-scrolls. I imagine that this pope's feud with "Philip the Fair of France" had nothing to do with taxes, but rather had everything to do with the two of them making fun of each other's names.

Philip: Hey, what's up Boney?
Boniface: I believe I have repeatedly asked you to address me as "Your Grace", Philip the Fair(y).
Philip: I heard that! Boney-face, Boney-face!
Boniface: Philip the Fairy! Philip the Fairy! France's pretty Fairy Philip!

And you can easily imagine how it must have gone from there. Of course Philip would have Jean Quidort issue a refutation to Unam Sanctam just to get back at Boney, and then Boniface would retaliate by excommunicating Philip. Then Philip would call an assembly and accuse Boney of infidelity, heresy, simony, idolatry, magic, loss of the Holy Land, and the death of Celestine V. Then after Boniface looks in his dictionary to see what simony is, he denounces the charges, but it's already too late because five archbishops and twenty-one regular bishops have sided with Philip just so they don't have to listen to any more of Boney's tiresome "Fairy Limericks" and so that Philip would just shut up about not really being a fairy.

Nothing else funny has happened on November 18th, so I guess I'll just stop writing. Right. Now. Okay.....now.

Light bulbs and PhDs

On March 3, 2009, my dad (a retired BYU chemistry professor who is very proud of his PhD) wrote of an experience he had with Lights of America's customer service department. He said that he emailed them inquiring about a contradiction in their instructions for a particular light bulb on 10/24/2007 and received a reply from them on 3/23/2009.

Their email said, "We normally respond to emails within 1-3 business days. Should you need to contact us, kindly reply to this email or phone us at [number]. We are open Monday through Friday from 8 am to 5 pm pacific standard time."

He and I then had the following exchange:

I wrote (disregarding the fact that it took the company almost a year and a half to reply):
Dad, you were trying to download an instruction sheet for a lightbulb? Seriously? I know it seems magic that light actually comes out of a piece of glass instead of having to light a fire like you're used to, but really they're not that complicated to operate.

Dad replies:
OK, Rob, answer this. How many Dads does it take to change a light bulb? [Only one if he has the instruction sheet.] So, that's why I needed it. And I was curious to see what information a light bulb instruction sheet contained. After all, they claimed to offer one. And I bet you think cfl (see link in my message to them) stands for Capacitated Facility Location, don't you? Ha!

My reply:
I was actually thinking of the question in terms of, "How many PhD scholars does it take to screw in a lightbulb?" Only one, but he must first read the instructions through completely, then he must consider the problem and try to make sense of it. Then he must form a conjecture and deduce a prediction from that explanation, assume that his conjecture is true and determine the consequences that will follow. Then he must look for the opposite of each consequence and try to disprove his original conjecture.

Everyone knows that cfl stands for Canadian Football League. Why they are so peculiar in their choice of light bulbs and why they need instruction sheets for them is explained by the fact that they are Canadian, and football players. Why a PhD scholar is peculiar about his choice of light bulbs and needs an instruction sheet is similarly explained.

I don't think Dad liked that very much.

Happy Birthday, Periodic Table

Originally written on March 6, 2009

As many of you are undoubtedly aware, today is the anniversary of the birth of the Periodic Table, developed by Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleev, and presented on this day, March 6, 140 years ago.

There's a lot of interesting stuff about the Periodic Table, if you happen to be interested in that sort of thing, which I mildly am, but it makes for boring reading. So instead I will write about Mendeleev's role in formulating the standards for the production of vodka.

In 1893, Mendeleev was appointed Director of the Bureau of Weights and Measures. Mendeleev's fascination with molecular weights led him to conclude that to be in perfect molecular balance, vodka should be produced in the ratio of one molecule of ethyl alcohol diluted with two molecules of water. It is nice to know that Russians have been getting drunk in the proper ratio for the last century.

Also, the Mendeleev crater on the Moon was named after Dmitri Mendeleev. I do not know why.

So, happy birthday, Periodic Table, with your elements and your atomic masses, and your predictability of elements yet to be discovered. And to you, Dmitri Ivanovich Mendeleev, Ваше здоровье (pronounced "vashe zdorovie." Here's to your health). You've been dead for 102 years, but that's the only Russian toast I know.

Five Guys Burgers and Fries: I will give you your opinion

Originally written on October 23, 2009

About a month ago my brother, Buck, asked me to write a review of Five Guys Burgers and Fries. He said that he and his wife, Betty, went there and, "We enjoyed your review of Stumpy's so much that Betty asked me to e-mail you and see if you would review this place as well. She says that she won't trust anyone else's opinion."

I had two nearly simultaneous reactions to this. One was that I was flattered. The other was confusion. Betty wants me to review this place because she won't trust anyone else's opinion. But she's already been there. I had no idea that my simple keystrokes were so powerful. And now I feel bad that it has been more than a month and I have yet to write anything that will tell poor Betty whether or not she liked the food she ate.

Wait no longer Betty...

Five Guys Burgers and Fries: A pretentious, yet delicious alternative.

When you first walk into a 5G restaurant, you'll wonder why half the tables are covered with huge bags of farm feed. Then you'll realize that it's not farm feed, it's potatoes. Then you'll go, "Oh I get it, they only use *fresh* potatoes and they want to make sure we know that when we're trying to find a place to sit." Well, one thing is for sure -- pretentious or not, 5G fries are freaking tasty.

5G also has huge boxes of peanuts for the customers. I hope this trend catches on at other burger joints. It's nice to be able to munch on peanuts while you wait for your order. However, you probably won't have a chance to crack more than a dozen or so before your 5G order is ready. Even less if you have to wait for a sack of potatoes to scooch over so you can sit down.

The burger menu is fairly simple. You choose regular (two patties) or little (one patty). Despite the claim on the menu that "All Toppings [are] Free," cheese and bacon cost extra. "Cheese and bacon are not toppings," they will explain. "They are different kinds of burgers." Okay, fine. The topping choices are many (sixteen), but the wrong combination can make a disaster. But if you don't like your grilled mushroom, jalapeno pepper, and A-1 sauce combo, you really have no one to blame but yourself. The bread is fresh and delicious.

Your beverage choices include Coke products. Now, when one of my faithful readers requested this review, I was faced with a dilemma. Soda is taboo for me for three months, but I felt that I had a duty to visit Five Guys again before I could write a suitable review. And the burger/fries/peanuts experience is greatly enhanced by the consumption of soda. Luckily for me, when I went on my research mission I discovered that the Coke fountain included lemonade. The label also clearly advertises 0% juice, so I knew there was no danger of my getting anything nutritious. But still, it's not soda. By the way, Coke's lemonade is gross.

A fun fact that is listed on the Five Guys website is that there are over 250,000 ways to order a burger at Five Guys. I've tried 2 so far. Next time, I'm going to try the one where you stand on one foot and place your order with a Brooklyn accent.

So if you don't mind paying more than average for your burger meal, you won't be disappointed in the fries, and if you don't try to get too creative with your toppings, you'll enjoy a good burger, too. And I gawta tell ya, they ain't nuttin' bettah than da peanuts. Fah-ged aboud it, capiche? I musta ate toidy soivins.

Stumpy Burger: A place for people who like that sort of thing

Originally written on August 17, 2009.
Sadly, Stumpy's has since gone out of business, which is really too bad since I only had one punch left on my Stumpy card.

I am a sucker for good hamburgers with good fries, and soda that I can refill myself. This is why I have put several Burgers Supreme employees through college. The fries are essential. I don't care how awesome the burger is, if the fries are wilty, too skinny, too curly (Hellooo, Arby’s, I'm looking at YOU!), then that’s a deal breaker, ladies.

Two words: Stumpy Burger

More words:
On Center Street in Provo (255 West Center to be exact), you'll find a quaint little establishment that not only meets all of my expectations, but gets quite a few bonus points as well. I have only tried their basic "Bandit" burger, which consists of a toasted bun, high quality beef patty with cheese, red onions which can be grilled or raw (grilled in my case - it's worth the extra .25), crispy pickles, and a special sauce. Strangely, tomatoes and lettuce are not an option, but that matters to me not at all. The "Bandit Combo" includes the aforementioned burger, medium sized soda, and fries.

Now, let’s talk about the dining room. On every table you will find a basketful of peanuts, and another basket for the shells. No throwing the shells on the floor, though. That makes Stumpy a little cranky (and it’s not a good idea to make fictional restaurant names cranky). Some of the tables have computer consoles that will allow you to play video games, which is cool if you’re into that sort of thing (I’m not, but I won’t judge you if you are. Geek).

Stumpy’s has this whole raccoon theme going on. They sell stuffed raccoons (the toy kind, not road kill), and the employees all wear raccoon tails (the real kind, which may or may not have been obtained from road kill). These aren’t Davy Crocket hats, either. The Stumpy team proudly wears their tails right where you’d expect a tail to go. Is that weird? Yes, very. But so far it doesn’t seem to have affected the quality of food or service, so you won’t hear me complain.

Now, onto the fries. Stumpy fries are the perfect thickness, which is about the same as my index finger. And my fingers are averagely man-sized, so shut it. If my continued patronage to Stumpy Burger changes the girth of my fingers, then I’ll just start saying about half an inch. The thing that really makes the fries, though, is the sauce. You’ll get a bottle of your regular Utah-style fry sauce (mayo and ketchup and various secret ingredients. Pickle by-product?). But you’re missing out if you don’t try the special Stumpy sauce, which consists of mayo, horse radish, and cayenne pepper. Somehow this combo adds the perfect touch to spuds dunked in boiling fat.

The soda fountain is located on the customer side of the counter, which means I don’t have to sheepishly ask a worker every time I want a refill and wonder if they’re keeping track. They offer Pepsi products, which means that I can have Mountain Dew if I want. But their fountain has this nifty little contraption that will add flavor shots to your soda. These include vanilla, lime, cherry, and something else that doesn’t matter because vanilla is the only one I use anyway. If you have never had a Dr. Pepper with three shots of vanilla flavoring, well then, you simply don’t like to enjoy life. Either that or you don’t want to drink caffeine, which I totally respect, or you don’t want to ingest that much sugar, which I suppose I can also respect. Oh, Stumpy’s also serves water, which I am told consists of the perfect ratio of hydrogen and oxygen atoms.

There are a number of desserts on the menu as well. From the words written on the big wall behind the counter, I assume that they are all very scrumptious. Their shake machine arrived last week, which means you can’t get a shake if you go last week. But maybe you can this week.
So the next time you find yourself near Center Street in Provo, don’t just complain about having to find yourself in Provo. Stop in to Stumpy’s and introduce yourself to a Bandit Combo. And if the employees look at you funny for introducing yourself to food, just remind them that they have a raccoon tail where their upper bum should be.

New Strides in Water Conservation

Originally written on October 28, 2008

Back in July, the Wall Street Journal reported that Sanyo has invented a washing machine that will clean clothes without a single drop of water.

"The process of "ozonation" -- which disinfects bacteria on contact -- can air-wash clothes, removing about 80% of biodegradable stains without using any water at all, says Ryo Hagiwara, Sanyo's spokesman."

The only problem I see is that you can't very well take dry clothes out of your washing machine and then put them in the dryer. That could ruin the dryer! So those who use this new invention must keep a bucket of water to douse their clothes before putting them in to dry.

Nevertheless, this is really incredible. I've also heard of "waterfree urinals" which sounds kind of icky, but really, more than half of the times I have had the occasion to use a urinal, I've found that the last person to use it apparently assumed that it was waterfree anyway. I must conclude that reasonably intelligent human beings only failed to flush because they are concerned for the environment.

The city of Eagle Mountain is also making efforts to conserve water. They recently installed artificial turf in front of the eagle monument at the turnoff to Eagle Mountain Blvd. It looks like real grass! If you don't look too closely.

So this got me thinking, and I want each of you to be the first to have a glimpse of my own waterfree inventions before they hit the market.

Waterfree mouthwash: This is a powder which has a very strong sour lemon flavor, in order to stimulate salivation. You put a quantity of powder on your tongue and allow your mouth to fill with saliva. Once you have enough liquid in your mouth, you swish and spit as usual. Don't swallow the powder though, unless you want a waterfree ulcer.

Waterfree dishwasher: I call this the K9. Coincidentally, saliva plays an integral part of this device as well.

Waterfree waterpolo: Because of the redundancy, I just call this polo. Instead of being in a swimming pool, the players sit on horses.

Waterfree goldfish: I think this one is pretty self-explanatory.

Waterfree water pollution: This involves a process which will put the pollution directly into the air, thus conserving millions of gallons of water.

Waterfree Michael Phelps: This is a guy who works at my company named Ed. He's an accountant!

The next project still has some kinks to work out: Waterfree fire hydrants. The test subjects were dissatisfied with the prototype on this one.

I am my father's son: Gas down to $2.979/gal

Originally written on October 23, 2008

I filled my car yesterday at the Costco in Lehi for $2.979 per gallon. This is the lowest it has been since March of this year (hopefully it will continue to go lower). The highest I paid was $4.109 in July. I think it is disturbing that I am actually excited to be paying less than $3.00. I figured that it takes about two gallons of gas for me to make the round-trip to work and back home. So instead of costing me $8 per day, I'm down to about $6 per day for gas.

Some of you might be wondering how I can possibly remember that this is the lowest since March, and that July was where it seemed to have peaked before it started coming down again. Well, I got it from Dad, actually. I don't mean that I called Dad on the phone and asked him about the statistics on gas prices. I inherited Dad's habit of recording the date, mileage, price per gallon, number of gallons, and location every time I fill up the car. It has actually been quite useful.

Do any of you do that? I imagine that it will be even more useful in 11 years so I can see how much driving Buzz does. But I think instead of charging him a certain amount per mile like Dad did, maybe I'll let him earn miles.

16 year-old Buzz: Dad, can I use the car to go to the mall in Provo?
Rob: Let's see, that's about 66 miles if you drive straight there and straight back. Are you making any other stops?
Buzz: Yeah, I need to get Mike and drop him off afterwards.
Rob: So that will be another 2 miles each way, so 70 total.
Buzz: Keep it at 66, he can walk the 2 miles and meet me at the exit.
Rob: Alright, 66 it is. You have 24 in your bank. Did you clean the garage?
Buzz: Yep
Rob: Did you feed the chickens?
Buzz: Yep
Rob: Collect the eggs?
Buzz: Yep
Rob: Even from Big Bertha?
Buzz: Yep
Rob: Okay, put some fresh straw in the cow shed and spread some manure on the garden and that will get you up to 87 miles in your bank.
Buzz: Awesome! Thanks, Dad, you're the best!
Rob: Take Rocky with you and I'll add on another 20.
Buzz: Sweet!

Another thing I got from Dad is reading in the bathroom. And it seems that this has already passed on even one generation farther. The other day Buzz was playing in the living room and had to go. Now remember that Buzz is five and when he has to go, he has to go right now. And for some reason he will only use the upstairs bathroom for, um..., the kind that takes longer. This is the situation Buzz was in at the time in this story. So he runs upstairs, but upon reaching the bathroom he finds that there is no reading material in there. So he makes a mad dash back downstairs. "I need a book!" he gasps. Then Lois and I are saying, "Hurry! Hurry!" He locates a "Calvin and Hobbes" book, seizes it, and runs back upstairs and all is well.

So what weird things do you guys do that you learned from your Dad?

What is a meniscus?

Originally written on October 13, 2008

Main Entry: me·nis·cus
Pronunciation: \m?-'nis-k?s\
Function: noun
Inflected Form(s): plural me·nis·ci \-'ni-?ski, -?ske, -?si\ also me·nis·cus·es
Etymology: New Latin, from Greek meniskos, from diminutive of mene moon, crescent — more at moon
Date: 1685
1 : a crescent or crescent-shaped body
2 : a concavo-convex lens
3 : the curved upper surface of a column of liquid
4 : ***The thing in my knee that I tore on September 26th***, AKA, a fibrous cartilage within a joint especially of the knee

How did I do it, you ask? Well, you know the game foosball? Now, imagine that I am one of the little men attached to the rod, only instead of a rod, it's a long piece of PVC pipe, and instead of being attached to it, I am simply holding on to it, along with a couple other players. This is what they call "human foosball" and that is what I was playing for a "team building activity" at a company "offsite" at a place called "Canyon Glen."

It actually was a lot of fun until I went for the ball and in process twisted my left knee much farther than the manufacturer's recommendation. Surprisingly, it wasn't really very painful, but I was pretty sure that my left knee wasn't always so much fatter than my right, and if I moved it in certain ways, THEN it became painful. So I decided I'd better have it looked at and went to the ER. That is where I learned that I most likely tore my meniscus, and they gave me an ace wrap, an ice pack, and a referral to a sports medicine doctor to follow up with in a week. The week passed, somewhat painfully, but not completely unbearably. I went to see the sports medicine doctor, who gave me a knee brace in lieu of the ace wrap and said I stretched some tendons, but didn't tear my meniscus. Then I went to physical therapy where the therapist said I stretched some tendons and that I did tear my meniscus a little bit.

Buzz has been good about not doing things to me that are painful to the knee, like wrestling, climbing on me, or kicking me. Rocky, however, simply smiles and giggles maniacally whenever I ask him whether it would be too much trouble for him to stop using his "little people" as hammers on my knee. Lois has been very kind to mow the lawn, bring in many loads of firewood, and limit the necessity for me to use the stairs whenever possible. I am still going to physical therapy 3 times a week, and I'm not sure how long that will continue. I rarely feel any pain in my knee now and I am back to most of my normal activities, which includes a lot of sitting anyway, so...

The good news is that since it occurred at a work function, Workman's Comp pays for all of the treatments. So really you, the taxpayers, paid for my treatments. Suckas!

Irrespective of any point whatsoever

Originally written on October 17, 2008

I was having a conversation with someone and they kept using the word "irregardless," and I was wondering whether I could make fun of them for using such a stupid word (answer: yes).

When Mirriam-Webster actually has to include in the definition, "yes, this really is a word," that provides further evidence to me that it is ridiculous.

You know what is an awesome word, though? It is "defenestration," which means "a throwing of a person or thing out of a window." What a delightfully unnecessary craft of the English language!

Dude 1: Dude, how did you break your leg?
Dude 2: Aw, man, I was defenestrated!
Dude 1: Woah! Wait, what did you say?
Dude 2: I was defenestrated, dude!
Dude 1: What the heck are you talking about?
Dude 2: It means thrown out of a window, man, look it up!
Dude 1: Well why didn't you just say you were thrown out of a window?
Dude 2: That would be a rather pedestrian way of putting it.

So it begs the question, were a lot of people and things being thrown out of windows back in 1620 when the word originated, or was it simply a slow day at ye olde linguists office?

Brewster: Hey Winslow, you know how every once in a while, some guy gets hisself thrown out the window of that pub down the road?
Winslow: Yeah, I guess. I think that happened to Edward Tilly a few times.
Brewster: Right. We should have a word for that.
Winslow: Okay, how about "Getting the Tilly?"
Brewster: Well, that's not so much a word, but more of a phrase, I think.
Winslow: Ah yes, quite right. What about "panethrustification?"
Brewster: Better, but I think perhaps we ought to go back to the Latin.
Winslow: Oh, very well. Let's see here...the Latin word for window is "fenestra." Let's go with "fenestratillied."
Brewster: Very good, Winslow. You've done it again. Let's call Noah Webster.
Winslow: Hey Noah!!

Okay, so Noah Webster wasn't born until 1758, but if I had said "Robert Cawley" you'd be thinking, "Hmm, Robert Cawley did write the first English alphabetical dictionary in 1604, but since he was born in 1538, surely he would have been dead by 1620. Why, that joke makes no sense at all!" And then I'd be like, "Yeah, I'm just a hack." So I went with Webster and called it good.

Resolutions - not just for New Years anymore

This was originally written on January 2, 2008

2007 was a great and interesting year. Many happenings happened, which may be good content for another post, but not this one. This one will contain some of the happenings which happened on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day of 2008.

We had a fun New Year's Eve, in which we planned very little, but the fates worked in such a way to make it a very fun eve indeed. We were pretty much tired of most of the DVDs we owned or had access to, so while we were attempting to decide which "four-year-old friendly" one would bother us the least,  my sister Carmela called and asked if she and her daughter, Neytiri might come by and hang out for a while. We were delighted and spent a charming evening in front of the fire eating popcorn, watching Buzz and Neytiri play together with toys and one of the most exciting rounds of Candyland ever played. The kids were then treated with readings of Beatrix Potter's "Johnny Town-mouse" and "The Pie and the Patty Pan." Buzz was allowed to stay up past his bed time, but luckily he did go to sleep while it was still 2007.

Buzz was very excited on the morning of the new year to go see a movie as we had promised. We were going to go see either "Enchanted" which is still in the first run theaters at $5.00 a ticket, or "Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium" which was playing at the dollar theater where tickets are 75 cents on Tuesdays. Dustin Hoffman and Natalie Portman are easily worth $0.75, but I wasn't so sure that Amy Adams, whoever she is (apparently an Oscar nominee), would be worth $5.00. Plus, in Magorium, you get to see a magical sock monkey, so that pretty much sealed the deal.

We all enjoyed the movie, except for Rocky, who conveniently slept through most of it. Afterward we went to Borders where we spent nearly 2 hours browsing and choosing what to get for Rocky and Buzz with their store credit. I am so glad to see how much Buzz loves books. He would find a book with lots of pictures, choose a spot on the floor, and turn through each of the pages, presumably making up a story to go with the pictures since he can't read yet. Then he would choose another book and repeat the process, or look at the kids' DVDs and toys with Lois and me.

After dinner at home, Buzz played with his new Toy Story action figures while Lois and I cleaned up. When we finished, Buzz looked up at me from his playing and asked, "Do you want to play with me?" This simple, yet fervent and sincere question is asked many, many times every day, and I wish I could say that it was always answered in the affirmative whenever possible. But on this happy occasion Buzz was not disappointed. Lois and Rocky joined us and we all had quite the lark.

Buzz had a little bit of trouble going to bed, so I sat with him for a little while and asked him what his favorite part of the day was. He said, "Playing with you." This was very touching to me, but I thought perhaps he only said that because it was the most recent activity, and maybe he forgot about the movie and the bookstore. "Was that more fun than the movie?" I asked. "Yep." "More fun than looking at books and movies at Borders?" Again, the reply was "Yep," with an enthusiastic nod of the head.

Now, I have long believed that New Year's resolutions were silly. If I need to resolve to do something, why not do it at the time it occurs to me, or more realistically, much later than the time it occurs to me but at a time when it is painfully evident that action is needed? If I make a New Year's resolution, when I break it on January 20th, I might be apt to abandon it altogether until the next new year. Now, it happens that January 1, 2008 was the date it became evident that I must resolve to play more with Buzz. Not necessarily spend more time with him... I am certain the quantity of time I spend with Buzz is appropriate. But not enough of that time is spent playing with toys. When Buzz asks, "Will you play with me," I resolve to find fewer excuses to avoid it, and more excuses to avoid doing whatever would prevent me from playing. And should I relapse into former habits, I can immediately resolve again even if it is March 19th.

Happy New Year, everyone!

Book Recommendations

Originally written on August 3, 2007

You ever notice how, when you're with a group of people discussing a popular TV show, there always seems to be someone who will smugly announce, "Oh, I don't watch television." Yeah, like they're soooo much better than the rest of us losers who have nothing better to do than watch reruns of Seinfeld. Like they're spending nights poring over their latest experiment on a cure for cancer or something. Those people make me so angry I'd like to crack them over the head with their Nobel Prize trophy. (Do they even have trophies? 'Cause if they do, I'm totally going to do that one of these days.)

So anyway, since there's nothing on TV during the summer and I'm nearly finished watching Mom's DVDs of Monk seasons 1 through 4 (again), I've been doing a lot of reading. Like the rest of the world, I finished the 7th and final installment of the Harry Potter series two days after it was released. I won't spoil anything for those who may not have read it yet, but I thought it was arguably the best in the series.

Even though there are a number of classics I've been wanting to read, upon finishing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, I found myself craving more fantasy fiction. A friend recommended Fablehaven and Fablehaven: Rise of the Evening Star, by Brandon Mull.

Our local library in Eagle Mountain has both books, but the first was checked out and I did not care to wait for it to be turned in. Luckily, I work very close to a Borders bookstore, so I spent several lunch breaks there reading a copy in one of their comfy chairs without ever having to buy it. By the time I was finished with it, I was able to get the second Fablehaven book from the library. I'm almost finished with it.

Every bit as gripping as Harry Potter, the Fablehaven series has not disappointed me so far. In Rise of the Evening Star, you learn that they have a prison called Zzyzx for evil mystical creatures. If you have ever traveled on I-15 through San Bernadino County, CA, you know where Mull got that name. I've been waiting to see if he somehow incorporates the giant thermometer in Baker, CA. Which, incidentally, what's the big deal about that thermometer anyway? It's really not "the world's largest thermometer." It's just a giant sign that displays the temperature. The actual thermometer that reads the temp is probably just regular sized. They probably bought it at Radio Shack. I'm just sayin'.

Where were we? Ah yes, fantasy fiction. Brandon Mull is, interestingly enough, an LDS BYU graduate. Speaking of LDS BYU grad authors, Stephenie Meyers' series about a highschool girl in love with a non-evil vampire is pretty good. Don't let my brief cheesy description discourage you from reading Twighlight, New Moon, and Eclipse which will be released on August 7th. If you're thinking of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, rest assured that these novels are totally different. Myers claims to have never seen an episode of Buffy. She doesn't want it to influence her writing.

In between books, I've been half-heartedly reading Brad Meltzer's Book of Fate. I'd give it a good solid "meh."

Speaking of meh, what's with those people who spend hours and hours playing video games? Don't they have anything better to do? They make me so angry I'd like to crack them in the head with my Nobel Prize trophy, if only I had one. Maybe I'll get to that right after I finish translating Homer from the original Greek. Oh, and after I finish watching this one really good episode of Buffy.

Rob and Lois and Buzz are moving

Originally written on Dec. 5, 2006

As you may recall, Lois and I were fortunate to live in the apartment at Mom and Dad's old Orem house for the first two years we were married. Then we were able to take advantage of the affordable housing in Eagle Mountain (motto: It's not THAT far) and build a house there, where we have been for the last five and a half years.

Well, the time has come for us to move again. The house on Clover Street has a lot of memories for us. Like the cobweb at the very peak of the vaulted ceiling that would not go away, no matter how hard I wished it would. Over time I became fond of the little guy (I like to call him Cobbie). Oh, what larks we had, where I would take a swipe at Cobbie with the broom while standing atop a bar stool, boosted further by other precarious objects, and he would waft upwards just out of reach and I would tumble down, nearly cracking open my skull. Unfortunately, Cobbie met with an untimely demise when Lois somehow managed to suck him up with the vacuum.

There are other memories, too. I think some of them involved Buzz.

So, where are we moving, you ask? Well, I'll tell you if you will stop interrupting. We are moving to a little place about a mile away at [address]. Isn't that Mom and Dad's house, you say? Yes, yes, I was getting to that, sheesh. As I was saying, Mom and Dad have kindly offered to let us move back in with them. BUT ROB, ISN'T THAT A STEP BACKWARD FOR YOU????? you ask, which is a fair question. Though I don't know why you use that kind of punctuation. We will live with Mom and Dad for a few months and then they plan to go on a mission, during which time we will continue to live in the house so that Cobbie's relatives won't try to take squatters' rights. Oh, and so the cats might get fed once in a while, too.

I'm sure you are dying to ask when we will be moving, but are politely waiting for an appropriate opportunity (thank you). We have not yet listed our house. I was thinking that we would be ready to list in about a week. However, the cracks in our stucco believe otherwise, and they insist upon being repaired by the same man who clearly did such an excellent job originally, that of course we want to pay him several hundred dollars to do it again. So anyway, once the cracks go away and stop complaining, then we should be able to list our house. Many houses in our area have sold in 3-4 weeks or less after listing. Will our house sell that quickly? I think you meant that as a rhetorical question, since it is obvious that I do not posses the ability to tell the future.

Carmela and Tony have kindly lent us some furniture for our living room and dining room area, and Mom and Dad have kindly lent us some furniture for the bedroom, to help the house show better. People don't want to buy a house when they know that the people living there had a green couch with a poorly fitting blue slip cover on it. Seriously? A green couch? With a blue slip cover? What were you thinking?? Shut it.

PS. Here's a good way to remember why you have to paint some or all of your house before you sell it:

Take about a quarter teaspoon of cayenne pepper (or cajun spice if you have it)
Now snort it up your nose
There you go

Oh, you want me to explain the parallel? Well, it is painful and it makes you cry, but someone told you that you have to do it.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

The very first ever Roblog

I’ve been serving up electronic snark to my family for several years. My mom likes to compare me to Dave Barry, which I’m pretty sure is supposed to be a compliment. Occasionally a family member will say that I should write for a wider audience. I have always dismissed this, but I finally decided to give this blog thing a try, since it’s what the cool kids are doing these days. And really, there’s just not enough people putting random musings on the internet anyway, so I’m just helping to eliminate that shortage.

Whenever I write about a family member or friend, I will use an alias in order to preserve some anonymity. If I know you and you want to choose your alias, send me an email at rob@robfromreality.com. I guarantee that I may or may not use it, and I also guarantee that I may or may not ever write about you. If you are one of my enemies or a famous person, I’ll probably just use your real name. Unless you are Josh Groban, in which case you are both my enemy and a famous person, then I will just call you Jerkface.

I might use aliases for locations as well, if I am concerned that revealing the location will compromise anonymity. For example, I might say that I served an LDS mission in Schmentucky, home of the Colonel's famous Schmentucky Fried Schmicken.

I'm using some of my old stuff that I wrote previously to beef up the content a little. Then I'll post new, fresh stuff when I feel like it.