Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Only the Strong Survive in This Harsh Land

As I write, I am looking out across a majestic landscape. In front of me are towering mountains with sheer cliff sides that drop into deep valleys, ancient forests and gently rolling hills. I see a rugged wilderness full of danger into which only the most adventurous traveler would dare trek.

I am describing the wilderness that is my office desk.

Away to the south are stacks of books, folders and reports that reach to the heavens, the Paperwork Rockies. The tops, I’m sure (since the summit cannot be seen from my chair), are covered in snow, and fierce winds scour the surface. I have even heard rumors of the yeti--the abominable snowman--scavenging the mighty slopes. Two years ago, I lost a secretary when she attempted to conquer the alpine stacks but never returned.

To the north, spilling off my desk and onto my bookshelf is the venerable Greeting Card Forest. This is a land time has forgotten. Old greeting cards given on the occasion of birthdays, anniversaries, V-E Day and Jesus’ original birthday stand as silent sentries of an earlier era. Those who wander towards its deepest recesses will discover a place where the canopy is so thick light does not reach the desktop. Fell creatures surely make their homes there in the shadows.

To the west is grand Inbox Canyon, built over countless millennia. Deposits are laid down at regular intervals each day, and are then swept away once every month or so by a torrential downpour of false enthusiasm. The sunsets over this landmark are world-renowned.

Finally, at the eastern fringes of my desk are the gently rolling hills of Work in Progress. In some cases, near the bases of these vast grazing lands, the most recent progress took place at the same time Napoleon raced across Europe. Atop these hills roam the vast herds of Yellow Sticky Notes that the native peoples once hunted for food. Every part of the Sticky Note was used for some purpose, from clothing to shelter to making tools.

This is a harmonious land, practically unchanged for tens of thousands of years. It is a place where human beings are not masters, but simply one more species of animal that must struggle each day to survive.

It is the untamed wilderness. It is my desk.

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Monday, February 26, 2007

Guess Who Is Ranting and Raving Again

There are some days (like today), when I wonder “what in the world am I doing here?” This isn’t a metaphysical question, but a work-related one. What the hell am I doing in this job?

Yes, there are some upsides to the job. Earning money to buy food and thus avoiding starvation comes to mind. Though the pay isn’t particularly good, the benefits are exceptional. I have job security. I am very low on the list with the title “People to Fire When the Going Gets Tough.” Those are all great things to have, especially when the one thing my wife doesn’t have right now is a job.

Some days, however, the downsides seem overwhelming. High on that list is the fact that I work with a pack of slobbering, underachieving lunatics. I feel as if nothing will get done with a high level of precision and quality unless I do it. Some things won’t get done at all. And it is clearly not good for the company if I am doing things like changing light bulbs because the custodian is afraid of heights. (I’m not making that up, folks.)

Part of the reason I work with people who can’t (or won’t) do their jobs is that I am a poor people manager. I don’t particularly like people in the first place, and my attitude toward the employees I supervise is that they should do their damn jobs and leave me alone so I can do mine. Unfortunately, they don’t want to do their own work, and I’m the one that has to ride their butts if they don’t perform.

The best solution would be to fire the biggest idiots and hire other people who will work. The firing part is proving to be a hassle because our human resources advisor wants to be sure we jump through all the right hoops so we won’t get sued. The hiring part is also problematic because we can’t afford to hire good people, just ones who will work for low pay because they are not good enough to get a better job somewhere else.

What to do? I’ve considered jumping out of my office window. That isn’t an effective solution either, because my office is on the ground floor and I’d probably just sprain my ankle.

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Long Anticipated Haircut Photo Arrives

Some of you have suggested that you can't make a final determination on the utter awfulness of my recent haircut until you can see a photo. I am happy to oblige.

Please understand that I wasn't wearing any makeup when the pic was taken, nor had I washed or combed my hair. Also, I'm not wearing any clothes. (I mean I wasn't wearing clothes when the photo was taken. I'm wearing clothes now, for heaven's sake. After all, I'm at work, and I'm not going to make that mistake again.)

Are you ready?

Are you sure?

I mean, really ready?

'Cause it ain't pretty.

Here goes...


Thursday, February 22, 2007

At Least It Isn't a Mullet

So I got my hair cut yesterday.

When I go to the sterile chain hair salon where all the ladies look like they are on Death Row, I get my hair cut so short it looks as if the Marines are about ready to take me in. Then I can put off getting my hair cut for an ungodly amount of time until I look like the lost member of the Grateful Dead. I do this for two reasons: I am cheap, and I am lazy.

My wife always warns me ahead of time, “Don’t let them cut it too short.” I say “yes, dear” and then go out and tell Prison Lady to chop it all off.

I arrived home and asked my wife how it looked. “It’s long in the front and short in the back.”



I essentially ignored this comment because 1) I don’t really care what my hair looks like and 2) my wife is always exaggerating about things like that. But this morning, after my shower, I was combing my hair, and guess what? My hair is Alice Cooper in the front and Drill Sergeant in the back. I look like one of those half man, half woman carnival freaks, except I’m split front-to-back.

Is this my worst haircut ever? Probably not, but it’s close. (I quite literally had the bowl cut from Mom several times when I was a kid.) There was one time when the lady cut one of my sideburns short and not the other. That wasn’t good. I had to cut the long sideburn myself at home, had to keep evening it out until I had only a Mohawk left.

Have you ever had any bad haircuts?

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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Actually, There's Nothing Weird about Me

Sizzle gave me some work to do: list six strange, wacky or weird things about myself.

  1. When I park my truck, I always set the radio station to the same station, turn it to the same volume setting and then turn the radio off before I turn off the engine.
  2. I eat only one item on my dinner plate at a time. When that one item is finished, then I move on to the next. I usually start with the vegetables and end with the main dish.
  3. In the morning, after I shave and brush my teeth, if there is extra time, I will occasionally go back to bed and finish getting ready for work later.
  4. When I leave the office on the last day of the month, I change all the calendars to the next month so that the correct month will be showing at midnight on the 1st.
  5. I look exactly like the guy on the bottle of Tapatio hot sauce--except for the moustache and the hat.
  6. There is always a two-foot stack (sometimes two or three stacks) of books by my bed because I’m always reading something.

Technically, I’m supposed to tag six more, but the buck stops here.

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Sunday, February 18, 2007

Oh Shitzu

My phone rang at about 10 on Friday morning. It was my wife, she was on her way home.

“You aren’t feeling well enough to stay at work?”

“I quit my job.”

At the conclusion of our argument on Thursday, she left the room saying “And I’m quitting my job, too.” Later, after things had cooled down, she said, “You know, I was serious about quitting.”

“Okay,” I said. “Will you please wait until you find another job first?”

“Okay,” she said.

I guess by “okay,” she meant “hell no.”

I am angry. I am tired of feeling like the only adult in the family who will keep it together and do what’s right. I’d go drink myself into a stupor, but then, where would that leave us?

Friday, February 16, 2007

The Devil in Mr. Rogers

Since yesterday was pay day, it was also pay-the-bills day. That means that there was a fight at my house. (And yes, thank you, the swelling is going down nicely. I should regain full sight in my eye by the end of the weekend.)

I’ve written before about my wife’s style of argument, also known as Blitzkrieg. To sum up, my approach to disagreement resembles Mr. Rogers, only a much gentler, milder and more reasonable Mr. Rogers.

My wife, however, prefers the conversational stylings of the master vampire from Blade: Trinity. Only she’s not so calm.
So I will definitely have to rant about our argument to decompress. That, and a gallon of coffee, will get me back on my feet. But I also need to be fair to my wife. As I’ve written before, she is a great woman, and I love her very much.

In order to be fair and balanced, I’ll give you a list of my own faults now, and then in another post, I’ll write about the argument. I know you’ll all disagree with my list. “No, no,” you’ll think, “that can’t be true. Lefty is the model of perfection.” But it is true. I am not perfect.

Without further ado, here are ten of my faults (in no particular order):
  1. I am as insensitive as a stone. I am not aware of, nor do I anticipate, other people’s feelings very well.
  2. I am regular in and uncompromising about my personal routine. It drives some people in this house nuts.
  3. I sometimes snap quickly and say things in anger. Fortunately, my anger rarely lasts for long.
  4. I can be very, very lazy.
  5. I am much more sexually needy than my wife, and sometimes push her too hard.
  6. I enjoy argument for the sake of argument and will persist even if I am sensing that the other person is not enjoying the argument so much.
  7. I nitpick constantly. I do this with myself and others. It made my ex-wife batty. My wife hates it even more. I’m working on it.
  8. When I believe I am right, I can become extremely unyielding and self-righteous.
  9. I try too hard to be funny. It covers up my fear that people won’t like me.
  10. I put off doing some things that are important.

Yes, it’s true that I am not perfect, but the sun will come out tomorrow.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

A Word about Cats, Part 1

While at Sizzle’s place, I jokingly made the comment that she’d be much happier if she got rid of her cats. It is true that housecats are not my favorites. Someone, however, took my comment to mean that I do not like animals, and that for me to suggest to Sizzle she get rid of her cats must indicate a character defect.

So, first of all, yes, I have about a thousand serious character defects.

Second, it isn’t exactly true that I don’t like cats, to say nothing of other animals. It is true that cats and I don’t always get along. The reasons for that have more to do with the owners of the cats, rather than the cats themselves.

Before I moved to my current location, I lived in a rural area. Our only neighbor, whose house was only about a hundred feet from ours, was the stereotypical crazy cat lady. She owned at least a dozen and fed any other feral cats that would come around. And if you feed them, they will come. They came in droves. She even went to town and fed the cats at several locations in town.

I would look out to the back yard, and there would be 6-8 cats lounging around like a pride of lions. They would dig up my freshly-planted garden to use as a litter box. My patio furniture provided perfect scratching posts. If I actually wanted to use a patio chair for sitting, I had to shovel off several inches of accumulated cat hair first.

I also enjoyed watching the birds and lizards in my yard. You can imagine what a pack of cats does to birds and lizards. No environment needs an artificially high population of predators running around. (They did, I admit, get some rats, too, which also play havoc on bird populations.)

So, you see, it was not so much the cats, but the behavior of the owner/feeder that irked me. Cats will be cats, and there is no use being angry at them for doing what they are programmed to do. Our neighbor, however, was irresponsible in the way she kept and attracted cats. The whole experience turned "cat" into a four-letter word around my house.

The American Bird Conservancy (ABC) estimates that outdoor cats--both pets and feral ones--kill hundreds of millions of birds every year. This *.pdf factsheet says that University of Wisconsin researchers estimated that cats kill 217 million wild birds annually in that state alone. The sheet further indicates that cats have been primarily responsible for the extinction of at least eight different island bird species.

The ABC says the only solution is to keep cats indoors since even well fed cats kill birds and other animals. Yet, are cats really indoor animals? Can they thrive in a life lived completely indoors? It isn't fair to the cat. Would you like to live a life stuck in the house all the time?

We human beings really make a mess of things sometimes, don’t we? What's the solution?

(To be continued.)

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Night at the Hospital

I’ve just come back from spending five hours with my wife at the hospital. She’s not in bad shape, just in there overnight for observation.

She called me from work as I was preparing to leave the house this morning and said she was in the Emergency Room. Her blood pressure was really high, and her boss didn’t want to take any chances.

The inconvenient fact (other than the obvious), is that her work is an hour away from home during good traffic, and three hours during bad traffic. It was good traffic this afternoon as I took middle daughter down to see her.

I wasn’t ever worried. She goes in to Emergency about four to six times every year, and this is the first time in our six years of marriage they’ve kept her overnight. She has lots of strange aches and pains—some she says are severe—that seem to be related to stress and anxiety. The frustrating thing is that the doctors can’t ever tell us what’s wrong.

No need for me to worry today, and I didn’t. But I did surprise myself. When it was time to leave my wife at the hospital a long way from home, I felt more angst at parting than I expected. We’ve been apart before, but never because she’s been in the hospital. I consider myself a tough guy, not prone to emotion, but tonight…

Since she’ll still be there for part of the day tomorrow, including a stress test, I’ll try to do something to make the latter part of her Valentine’s Day special. I’m thinking I’ll get her beer. What do you think?

Monday, February 12, 2007

Not-so-interesting Fact #12

I have never been inside a bar or a club. (Am I really that lame? Or just cheap?)

Friday, February 09, 2007

My House: Conniption Fit Central

It bugs the hell out of me when my kids leave lights on all over the house. So, like every other curmudgeonly father in history, I spend my time at home running around flipping switches because it’s easier than calling out every 8 seconds, “Turn that light off!”

These children—and I wish I knew who raised the buggers so poorly—will turn on the hall light when walking from the kitchen to the bedroom, and the bedroom door is directly across the hall from the kitchen. Three feet. And they need a light.

Recently, I watched my daughter walk down the hall to the family room, look inside to see that no one was in there, turn on the light, and then immediately walk away. What, the television needs the light on?!


Thursday, February 08, 2007

Dad without a Clue

Some of you know that a consistent theme in my life is guilt, particularly for my role in the end of my first marriage and the divorce’s effect on my son. A commenter on the blog suggested I talk to my son about things. Maybe it would help us both.

I mostly agree. Usually, talking about things is much healthier than leaving things to fester below the surface unexamined. When I had the chance to talk with my son, though, I didn’t. I chickened out.

One of my thoughts was that perhaps he’s in a comfortable place of denial for a 12-year-old, and he isn’t ready to talk about the end of his parents’ marriage. Could I possibly be opening up a wound he doesn’t need disturbed right now?

Another reason I bailed is that I don’t like the awful feelings I get when I think about the things my son has gone through because of my choices in life. Talking to him might bring those feelings to the surface.

Also, I have never seen my son become angry toward his mother or me because of the divorce. Am I afraid of that just as I am afraid of his sorrow? He doesn’t know many of the details, and some of them he never needs to know, but he could still be angry at us simply for breaking up his world.

But then...

Maybe talking about this is exactly what he needs to do. Maybe that would make all the difference in the world for him right now. How do I know?

Sometimes I feel like a first-class jerk. Sometimes I am.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Bow Down to My Psychic Powers, Earthlings

I didn’t know I had it in me.

I drove to work this morning with two (yes, two) ceramic mugs of coffee in the cup holders. (I just hate to waste fresh coffee.) There is a corner near my office that has several giant potholes from a break in the water line a few months back.

Of course, as I bounced through the potholes, coffee spilled everywhere. (So much for not wasting fresh coffee.) I was, let’s say, more happy than if someone had kicked me in the balls, but less pleased than if I would have arrived at work with two full cups of coffee.

I thought, as I pulled into my spot at work, that I should call someone to get those damn holes fixed. I did nothing, of course, but drink what was left of my coffee and spend my working hours goofing off.

Then I went to lunch.

When I was driving back to the office after lunch, what did I discover but...the holes had been neatly patched up! You know what this means, don’t you? I have ESP. My thoughts caused someone else to fix the potholes.

Only one question remains: why doesn’t anyone else do what I’m thinking they ought to do?

I'm a Sick, Sick Man (Where's the Bathroom?)

I have come to realize I am slightly or moderately obsessive. Or is it compulsive? Maybe both. I am not sure of the cause, but it is certainly not my fault.

Let me explain.

I have a plastic bowl filled with candy on my desk. It is assorted leftover candy from God-knows-where, things like generic M&Ms (regular and peanut), a ton of white-chocolate-covered raisins, milk chocolate pieces, gummy worms, and even a few jelly beans.

The fact that it is 1) left over, 2) bulk candy and not wrapped and 3) I don’t know where it came from, grosses me out a little. Nevertheless, I have been eating the stuff like my last meal was Thanksgiving. I can’t stop. Yesterday, I got a little sick to my stomach. Couldn’t stop. Today, I’m feeling a little ill. Can’t stop. The only reason there is still candy on my desk is that I can’t eat any faster.

Flash back to grad school. A friend and I bought a bag of candy corns to take to class. After about 10 minutes, he’d had enough. So had I, but I kept eating until the bag was empty. Of course, I was sick.

At night, before I go to bed, I go to every window in the house to make sure it is locked and the blinds are closed. I check every door. I turn out every light. Then again, in the morning before I leave for work, I do the same thing. No, I’m not safety conscious. In fact, I hope someone will come in and take some of the crap I own.

It takes me way too long to floss and brush my teeth. I’ve got to do it perfectly, to overdo it. Same thing with the bathroom. It takes me hours to clean (which is one reason I clean it so rarely).

Am I sick? Normal?

I hate this candy! But I’ve got to eat it.

Bring Out the Party Hats

This is my 43rd post.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Suddenly Sarah

I’ve always had quite a crush on Sarah Silverman from the first time I saw her on Saturday Night Live. I always thought she was underutilized on that show. I mean, sure, Chris Farley was one sexy dude, but he was never any Sarah Silverman.

Once I married and became a dad, I didn’t have much time left over for frivolous things such as television or taking a shower. Therefore, I sort of lost track of Sarah and every other entertainer on the planet. If it happened after 1989, I knew nothing about it.

Now that my kids are older and have learned to despise their father, I have a lot more time to myself. I saw previews for the new Sarah Silverman Show on Comedy Central, and I was so happy I peed my pants. (Did I mention that I no longer have time for frivolous things such as getting up off the couch to use the bathroom?)

Unfortunately, I don’t think there will be too many episodes of that show for me to drool over. Sarah is still damn funny and she’s got a good cast, but the episode I saw just didn’t have what it takes. And that’s too bad.

Fortunately for Sarah, my judgments aren’t always sound. For example, I thought that the Oakland Raiders would win the Super Bowl this year, and I was absolutely certain that we’d be greeted as liberators in Iraq and then Iran would beg to be invaded. So maybe there’s hope yet.

In any event, I’ll keep tuning in to get my Sarah Silverman fix. I also learned, in my local newspaper, that her Jesus Is Magic is a big hit. That should keep me busy between the time her first show goes off the air until she returns with a new show called simply The Silverman Show, featuring her life as an obstetrician mother married to a lawyer and the crazy misadventures of her kids who just won’t leave the nest.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Nostradamus I'm Not

That big fight I thought I’d have with my wife last night? Didn’t happen.

I sent her the e-mail during the day regarding our finances that would, if past events are any indication, send her through the roof. When I came home from work, she said nothing about it, as if she didn’t see the e-mail, though I know she did.

The worst case scenario is that she’s saving it up and will let me have it over the weekend. The best scenario is that she agreed with me, or decided I was correct, even if she didn’t like what I had to say, or perhaps my exceptional tact and writing skills and good looks did the trick.

She was quite pleasant, too. There were no undercurrents of discontent or resentment.

So today, which is my day off, I will eat, drink and be merry. Maybe tonight I’ll be murdered in my sleep.

Thursday, February 01, 2007


There’s gonna be trouble tonight.

My wife and I have to have a serious discussion about a very touchy subject: money. We have a terrible history with personal finances during our marriage. So, in preparation for what I expect will be a long, ranting blog entry tomorrow about my wife’s complete irresponsibility and inability to see the truth as I present it, I will give you a list today of some of the reasons I love my wife.

+she has a very big heart; she cannot pass by someone in trouble and not help
+she is gorgeous
+she is intelligent
+she doesn’t do anything half way, whether it is her job, her school or her marriage
+when she comes out of the shower, her hair is all poofy and outrageously curly
+she makes it a point to know me well so she can love me even better
+she is soooo sexy
+she will drink coffee with me
+she thinks I’m funny (or at least she used to! I think she wonders if I’m not too serious these days)
+she has the most beautiful brown eyes; you should see her eyes

Unfortunately, despite all these things, there’s gonna be trouble tonight. If I’m still alive tomorrow, I’ll write all about it.