Thursday, December 20, 2007

I got carded!

Just a quick note before we head out. Last night I flew from Saint Loius to Dallas.

I ordered a beer at the Saint Louis airport last night and I got carded! I got freaking carded! Whoo hoo! The cute waitress was apologetic and my first response was to say, are you kidding? It’s the highlight of my week! I caught myself just in time though, lowered my voice and instead said, “No problem baby, I get carded all the time!”

When women roll their eyes that’s a good sign, right?

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

I Believe!

I am heading off on vacation with my son tomorrow so I may not post again before Christmas (depending on wi-fi access in Mexico and how much “fun” we have! :) ) so I wanted to post my Christmas story now.

One year when I was at about that age, eight or nine maybe, as Easter was approaching, I proudly announced to my parents that I no longer believed in the Easter Bunny. Since I was the oldest of the children my father said, “That’s fine son, just don’t spoil it for your little sisters, OK?”
“OK Pop”

So on that Easter Sunday morning when we all got out of bed there were only two Easter baskets in the front room instead of the usual three. Oh! So even then, being the little analyst, as my little sisters were tearing into their Easter baskets and I did not have one, I quickly began to re-think this whole not believing in the Easter bunny thing! :)

Fast forward several years; I was now 13 and it was December and Christmas was in the air. We were all gathered at the dinner table eating when my next youngest sister announced that she no longer believed in Santa Clause. I immediately jumped in and proclaimed, “Oh yes you do! You better believe in Santa Clause! He *is* real!” There was an uncomfortable silence that I did not understand and the topic changed rapidly.

Later that evening my father asked me to sit down with him. I could tell he was very uncomfortable which was unusual for him. He started off with, “You know son, you have, uh, reached, uh, an age where there are, uh, you know, uh, well there are things we need to talk about.”

OH NO! Suddenly it hits me! He is uncomfortable, stuttering, I am 13…OH NO! IT’S THE SEX TALK! I am NOT ready to talk about SEX with my Dad! My tummy curdles up, I start to panic and mentally I am huddled in the corner rocking back and forth muttering, “Oh no, oh no, oh no!”

Even still, Dad’s words continue to penetrate my panicked state, Dad is saying, “and you know, your mom and I are uh, getting worried because uh, frankly you, uh, you know, you are uh, just too old to believe in Santa!”

Huh? Santa? What? What the hell does Santa have to do with SEX? Wait a minute, calm down, replay that tape in your head, what did he say. OH THANK GOD! This is not THE TALK! Mom and Dad are just freaking out because they think I still believe in SANTA! Whew!

Since I was so relieved this was not THE TALK I blurted out, “I don’t believe in Santa Dad!”
“What? Well what was that thing with your sister tonight?”
“Oh... OH! Well, when I told you I did not believe in the Easter Bunny any more you stopped giving me Easter Baskets right?”
“Yes.”
“Well shoot Dad, Christmas is the big time, I was not going to mess with that and I did not want my little sister to miss out on it either!”
OK, so now Dad looks, shocked, guilty and relieved all at the same time. He said, “Oh son, you really had your mother and I very worried, we were really concerned that you were having mental problems still believing so forcefully in Santa at your age! I see what you were thinking now.” I can see the guilt in his face.

So, first off, crises averted! No sex talk! Second, I got what I wanted for Christmas that year, a gun steel blue 10 speed “English Racer” (I rode that bike until I bought my first car!) third, I did not have to pretend to believe in Santa anymore and best of all, the next Easter morning I had an Easter Basket with my sisters again and each Easter thereafter. Yeah baby!

In fact, a few years later I joined the Air Force and my mother continued to send Easter baskets to me at Air Force bases wherever I was stationed. All the guys in the barracks would always razz me about my "Easter basket from Mommy" so I always had to explain to them how important it is to believe!

Upsell?

Since several of you liked the insurance on one tire thing I thought I would quickly share another one along the same lines.

You know how when you get your hair cut and the stylist is always trying to sell you $50 bottles of shampoo or gel or what not and it is all ridiculously priced?

For me it was always a quandary, it does not take a genius IQ to realize you should not annoy the person or cooks your food or cuts your hair so my normal sarcasm super powers are rendered inert in those situations. Yet those stylists could be so darned pushy!

So I finally hit on the perfect solution. When they start trying to push all that pricy stuff on me I just say, "Sure I’ll take it all but I have one question first, do they test any of these products on animals?"

They will almost always feign shock and say, “Oh no! Jeanie Michelle has a very strict animal testing policy! They would never test their products on animals!”

Then with a perfectly straight face I will say, “Well, if their products are not good enough for a dog they certainly are not good enough for me.”

That's the end of the conversation every single time!

(Yes Melek, I really do say that! :) )

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Tire Store Scam

Stephanie over at Stephanie’s Soap Box made a post that reminded me of a story yesterday. She mentioned how she was sick of car shops trying to rip her off because she was a girl.

Now don’t get me wrong, they certainly do that. I remember last winter when our other room mate came home literally in tears because the shop said the noise she was hearing would cost $5,000 to repair and she was crying because she had no idea where she would get $5,000. She only paid $9,000 for the whole car!

Long story short I got involved and it ended up costing her $85. So I know it happens.

Still though, those unscrupulous bastards will try it on any one not just women! Before my now glorious career as a computer nerd ;) I was an aircraft mechanic and machinist. You can hand me most any aircraft part and I can duplicate it, no blueprints needed. Since many airplanes are pretty old there are many parts you just can’t buy anymore. That’s no problem if you have a Rob and a machine shop handy! :)

So, at the time of this story I worked for Braniff Airlines. Anyone remember them? They used to be a pretty big name. I used to volunteer to work the midnight shift since you could escape the Texas heat that way. I got off work at 8:00 AM.
Braniff also provided uniforms, dark blue pants and a light blue shirt with white ovals over each pocket, You know, one oval said “Braniff” and the other oval said “Rob”.

So my car needed new tires. I enjoyed working on airplanes for a living but it did not pay that well so I watched and waited and finally a big name tire store had a good tire sale. 30,000 mile all season radials for a mere 29.99 each! Oh yeah!

So after work early in the morning I am at the tire store just as they open with the sales flyer in hand. Since I just got off work I am in my ‘uniform’ and I am dirty and a little greasy. I mean this getup screams “mechanic” right?

I tell this guy I want these tires in the ad right here.

“Oh you don’t want those 30,000 mile radials what you want are the 80,000 miles radials for $90 each.”
“Well, the old T-bird already has 130,000 miles on her so I think 30,000 miles tires are all I will need.”
“Well, you know the 80,000 mile tires have lots better traction and maneuverability, blah, blah, blah” That was a lie because the harder, longer wearing compound does not grip the road as well as the shorter life tires do. Still I did not want to go down that road with him so I was still polite but I already had him mentally tagged as a liar. “No thanks I want these tires right here”

He just will not give it up! He just keeps trying and trying to get me to buy those higher cost tires. I finally had go, “Dude, NO, this is what I want, these RIGHT HERE”
“Ok, I see you are man who knows what you want, so can I interest you in a road hazard warrantee, only 14.99 per tire.”
“Why would I pay $14.99 insurance on a $30 tire?”
So we went round and round on that until I got fed up and said fine, “I’ll take one.“
“One?”
“Yes, I want to insure one tire.”
“But how will you know which one to insure. “
“It will be for whichever one is flat”
So he decided to drop that topic.

Customers are lined up behind me and they are getting frustrated waiting while I argue with this non stop champion of high pressure BS!
Then he starts in on high tech digital balancing for $10 a tire. It took 5 minutes to get him to give up on that. Then he started trying to sell me these super duper valve stems for like 8 bucks each. On each item he will not take no for an answer! Finally I started getting little anger dots floating before my eyes and I growled, “No, no no! Here, just throw the tires in the trunk and I will get someone else to mount them!”

So he FINALLY gets that I am not going to buy all that extra crap and he drops all the extras and just writes up the basics like I wanted to begin with. Seriously, this all took 10 minutes! People were lined up behind me and this doof took up their time when clearly I was not buying.
So, as I always do when I get new tires I wanted a front end alignment so he added that to the ticket.

“In about 15 minutes old slick called me back up to the counter. “Uh, Mr. Johnson, we have a little problem with your front end alignment”
I am already leery and weary so I said “Yeah?” with as much skepticism as I could put into the word thinking he may get the hint. Nope.
Oblivious he goes on, “You see, Ford built your car so that the front end was not adjustable. So in order for us to do your alignment we have to replace some parts so that your front end will be adjustable. It will run about $300”
Oh the anger dots are swimming now. Man I hate being lied too!
“Listen Slick, I have 130,000 miles on that car. Do you really think this is the first time the front end has needed alignment?”
Completely unfazed he flows right into anther line of absolute crap.
I finally said LOUDLY so that all the other customers could hear me, “Jeez man, LOOK AT ME! I am dressed in a mechanics uniform! Why don’t you save your clumsy lies for someone who does not understand EXACTLY what a liar you are? Forget the alignment - I will get it done at a reputable shop.” He is still not fazed! I saw him take in a breath to argue some more, can you believe it? Before he could speak again though I said with menace in my voice, "Do not say another word, ENOUGH!" The manager had heard me, (as did everyone else) so he came over and called off his attack dog. I told the manager the same thing, “Look at me! Why would you lie to someone dressed like me? Why? What is wrong with you?”

That was the most stressful money I ever saved.

So Stephanie I can really relate; if you do not know he is a liar that nonstop all encompassing BS must be persuasive, it must get to be overwhelming. If it is that stressful when you know precisely how much he is lying then I can only imagine how much worse it must be when you don’t really know about cars?

Monday, December 17, 2007

10 Things About Me Meme

Whelp, I was tagged by CrazyMama (Julie) to do a 10 random things no one knows about me meme.

I am not sure if some of these have slipped out or not but here goes anyway.

1) I sing or whistle ALL the time. If I can't do it out loud (like in a meeting) it is still going on in my head. Things in life make me think of certain songs so I will start playing them in my head. It’s like my life has a soundtrack.

2) Sometimes I get a little OCD with a particular song. It can get stuck in my head for days or even weeks. I was on a “Music is My Boyfriend” loop for a while (from that damned IPhone commercial!) Then I was seriously stuck on a “Sweep the leg Johnny” loop for about two weeks! At the moment I am currently loop free! (but still loopy!)

3) I don’t talk about it much here on the blog because there are already other online places to feed this obsession but I am crazy about airplanes and aviation.

4) I have insomnia a lot. I tend to think, think, think about things then I forget to sleep.

5) On that note- While I am thinking I tend to design things in my head. I have a full product line of aircraft designs up in my brain from a basic two seat, very low cost “first plane” to a very high performance higher cost aircraft oriented towards business travelers. Airplanes cost too much so most of my design emphases centers on cost reduction. I have created two different construction techniques that I think could radically lower the construction costs of airplanes.

6) Someday I would like to start an aircraft company and turn my designs into reality.

7) I am utterly amazed that people read my blog.

8) Sometimes I feel very, very alone. (this is normal I suppose)

9) I really enjoy my work. Which makes sense because I just played with computers for a few years before I decided to get a degree in them and do it for a living. (I will NEVER forget the thrill of POWER when I ran my first BASIC program on a Commodore 64. The machine bends to MY WILL! Bwuh ha ha ha!)

10) I swing from introvert to extrovert. Sometimes I just HAVE to be alone. Other times I just HAVE to be around other people.

Friday, December 14, 2007

I AM the Alpha Geek!

A company I sub-contract for had a Christmas Banquet last night. This company primarily provides computer support to a state government. In other words, almost everyone there was a computer geek. Furthermore, the male female ratio was insane. Out of roughly 30 people there only four were women and at least two of the women were geeks themselves who brought men with them.

The invitation said to bring a guest so Erika was kind enough to escort me! However, with her insane surgical resident hours she could not get there until late so it turned out she made quite an entrance. Ok, so lesson learned, do NOT bring a beautiful woman to a geek fest! They were all over her like white corpuscles on a bacterium! Like jackals on a dead giraffe! Like flies on a… You know I just can’t think of a pleasant metaphor to describe it but she was in the center of a swirling geek storm!

Poor Erika could barely eat as it was with everyone just gabbing away trying to get her attention so I just sat quietly to her left. The owner of the company hosting the shindig tried to throw a toast but he could not get anyone’s attention at our long table. I mean who cares if he signs our paychecks? Erika was the center of attention!

I am sure that right this instant I am the growing stuff of legends! Right now in computer rooms all across the region people are saying, “You know Rob Johnson? He brought a GIRL to the banquet last night. No man I am serious! Yes she was a REAL live girl, one you don’t have to tie to your ankles to dance with or anything! I swear!”

Ah fame! The interesting part is that Erika had already greatly raised my geek status in the nerd herd with her laser pen gift. (Read about it here) Now she has certainly put me over the top-

I am now the alpha geek!

I hereby vow to wield the ceremonial slide rule of power with wisdom and justice for all.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Mr. Fix-it

I have been renting from Erika for 18 months now. She has a BIG two car garage with a door opener I have been using since day one. With her insane surgical resident hours she was always worried about waking up her room mates opening the garage door at all hours so she has always parked outside. As the weather has gotten cold and icy again I assured Erika that since the garage is on the opposite end of the house as the bedrooms there is no way she would disturb anyone so by all means she should park in the garage and keep her car warmer and ice free.

Now the garage door opener has two light bulb sockets on it but they have never worked. When I first moved in I tried two different compact florescent lights (CFL) in both of the sockets and they did not work and they would both work in other light sockets so clearly it was not a light bulb problem.

Say la vie, no big deal, I have excellent night vision plus walking around in the dark garage is a fun game I like to play. Can I put my hand exactly on the door handle the first try? If I touch any part of my car before the door handle I loose. (yeah, I find fun in this, I'm a nerd, so what's new? Leave me alone!)

Anyway, that was fine for me but now that Erika is parking in there I felt the manly need to solve the problem! I mean we can't let Erika walk around in the dark now can we? No we can not!

So with tool kit in hand and testosterone surging through my bloodstream I started disassembling the garage door opener yesterday. I figured that since garage door openers vibrate a lot it was probably a loose connection somewhere that would be very simple to find and fix. I had to pull some innards out to do it but I traced all the light wires and I could see that everything was connected. Hmmmm.

So I borrowed a multi-meter and put probes on leads. Ok, power comes OUT of the circuit board to excite the relay, good... The relay kicks on and power flows out the relay into the wire, excellent... and at the light bulb end of wire I have power. Huh? So I stick the multi meter probes into the light socket and I have power in the socket!? What?

I screw the CFL bulb in again and no light. A bad bulb? But I checked that before! Well, check it again. So I go to a nearby closet and unscrew the conventional bulb and screw in the CFL and it lights. What? It's not a bad bulb and I have power to the socket, how is this possible? In my highly testosterone charged state this is really starting to piss me off!

So, standing there in the closet in the garage with a conventional bulb in one hand and manly hormones charging through my system, a Zen-like state of oneness with the universe overcomes me and I contemplate the deep mystery of how a bulb that works in the closet won't work in the garage door opener.

Suddenly it dawns on me to try the conventional bulb in the opener.

Yeah, I had to think HARD to come up with THAT brilliant plan! :(

And voila! There is light!

So, I have been parking in the dark for a year and a half, I have the opener all pulled apart, multi meter intently probing circuit boards all because I never thought to try an ordinary bulb in the socket. Suddenly I have the overpowering urge to do my Forest Gump imitation. "I... do... so... know... what... love... is... Jen-ney". I feel so dense that nearby objects are being effected by my growing gravitational field. I feel sure light is beginning to bend around me.

Look at these bulbs.

On the CFL bulb in the foreground look right above the threaded portion that goes into the socket. See how it flares out and gets lots bigger? Now look at the conventional bulbs in the background. See how the area above the threads does not get much wider? On the CFL bulb that wide area hits the outer edge of the garage door opener's unusually deep socket before the end of the threaded portion gets all the way down to the contact.

Oh so simple. DUH.

I start putting the opener back together. There is no joy, no testosterone, no victory over the inanimate now. I just needed a new light bulb. That's all.

"ICE CREAM LIEUTENANT DAN! ICE CREAM!"

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

High Tech!

I am doing some consulting work for a state government. One recommendation I had made was to switch from pagers to cell phones. Cell phones only cost a little more than pagers and the pagee can return the call immediately instead of having to find one of the always fewer payphones.

A nice extra is that even "freebie" cell phones these days have camera's built in. Many state employee would find cameras extremely useful. For example State Troopers could take photos of suspects, accidents or crime scenes immediately. Health and social workers could take photos' of living conditions or suspected abuse on the spot. No more having to wait for the photographer to show up (The photographers union was not pleased though!)

The cost benefit ratio was very favorable too, for just a little more money they would get a lot more use and functionality from the product.

So they decided to implement my recommendation. They appointed a blue ribbon committee to select the best possible camera phone at the best cost. Here is what the committee came up with...



The good news is they only cost $12,000 per user! I love government committee decisions!

Monday, December 10, 2007

That Dog is Crazy!

I used to have a neighbor that had a crazy dog. I do mean crazy, like hallucinating insane crazy. It would stand out in the yard between our houses, start to growl and crouch, its hair would raise up on it’s back and then it would attack! There was no one out there! It would attack the air, it would attack a chain link fence, it would attack a tree or even a house! Seriously, I watched this dog growling and biting the neighbors HOUSE. This dog had serious issues. I mean it’s not every day you see a dog attacking a house!

It was not a very big dog though, less than knee high but seriously crazy!

So one day I had come home for lunch and as I went to leave I started to open my fence gate and there was Little Cujo lying across my sidewalk just outside my gate. Eeeep! He got out of his fenced in yard somehow. I stepped back, closed the gate and called the cops (smallish town).

The dispatcher was like, ”You are calling us because your neighbor’s dog is loose?”
“You don’t understand, this dog is crazy, if any kids come out to play he WILL bite them.”
I swear I could hear the dispatcher roll his eyes as he said he would send someone over.

In just a couple of minutes a cop pulled up out front. I was still standing inside the gate. This huge brawny cop gets out of the car and strolls over close to the gate, looks at the dog then looks at me and says, “I can not believe a big guy like you is scared of that little dog.”
“Officer, I know this dog and it’s NUTS. I have seen it attack a chain link fence before.”
“That little dog?”, with condescension dripping from his voice.
“Yes sir!”
OF COURSE, the stupid dog is setting there acting perfectly normal and looking like a normal cute and loving little doggie.
“Okaaay, I will call animal control.”
“Any idea how long they will take, I need to get back to work.”
Openly mocking me now he says in lilting baby talk way, “Well after I call Animal Control I will come back and protect you from the big bad doggie while you get in your car, OK?”
I really don’t see how he could protect me but all I can do at this point is try not to look like anymore of a total wimp than I already do so I say, “Ok.”

I used to feel bad for this dog, it clearly had issues, I don’t know if he was not breast fed or if his dad beat him in front of his friends or what but now I truly hate him for sitting there and acting so normal and lovable while this cop thinks I am just a total loser wimp.

The officer turns to go back to his car to call animal control and the instant he turns his back Little Cujo is like a master ninja assassin; silent and deadly little Cujo takes a few steps then lunges and gets the cop by the ankle from behind and starts shaking and growling and just really ripping into the cops ankle. It sounds like a dog fight!

The cop is jumping around on one foot and kicking but the dog has him from behind so he is really at a disadvantage. The cop pepper sprays little Cujo but even in pain the dog will not relent. His whimpers are mixed in with his growls as the pepper spray sets in but he keeps his grip!

The cop finally pulled his nightstick and whacked Little Cujo on the head a couple of times until he let go. Then the mace took over and Cujo Jr. laid there on the ground whimpering and rubbing his face with his paws.

The cop is standing there with his night stick in hand, ankle bleeding, his uniform pants are shredded and he is panting. He looks up at me with his eyes still a little wild from the mortal combat with Ninja Cujo and says to me, “That dog is crazy!”

My first instinct was to say, ”Yeah, no shit Sherlock!”, but an evil little imp whispered the perfect smart ass comeback into my ear. So with a little knot of fear in my belly for being a smart ass to a bleeding, adrenaline soaked cop, I slowly shook my head, put on a dead pan expression and in my best good old boy Texan drawl I said, “Well, hell partner, I just can’t believe a big ‘ol man like you let that itty bitty dog mess you up like that.”

I was able to hold it in for about a three count before we both burst out laughing!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

The Dough Boy

As I have been surfing around this week I have noticed the NaBloPoMo award on several sites. I thought it was odd to use the Pillsbury Doughboy as a blogger award but something caught my (admittedly bizarre) eye. In all of these years I never had noticed it before but now it’s clear to me.

I mean just look at these pictures… look at the scarf, look at the body language and posture, look at how the trim on his hat matches his eyes for goodness sake! The Pillsbury Doughboy is clearly gay! If he had feet you just KNOW he would have some very stylish color coordinated shoes!

Oh, OH! NOW I understand that whole “Poking the doughboy” thing in all the ads! OMG! All this time that whole ad campaign was just a big metaphor! Those brilliant and probably gay copy writers back in the 60’s were able to get all that sub text past the censors! No seriously think about it. We all know women love gay men so what better Icon to appeal to women than a gay doughboy? I mean you can even poke him now and then if you want too and he does not mind. It's all brilliant!

Ok, so you all think I am crazy right? Well here is proof. Here is the Doughboy living the gay lifestyle and trying to hook it up with the Jolly Green Giant. I know what you are thinking, "No way Jolly Green is gay!", right? Heck, just look at Jolly Green's face, clearly he knows the score here. Now look at those pecs and all the leg he is showing in that jungle man getup. Yep, clearly gay! (and don't get distracted by the butch lesbians in the background!) Now you may be wondering what someone would see in a green leafy guy but I have heard some folks say, he may be green but he is giant and sometimes giant is enough!


And here look at this... I know the other men in this picture probably just thought it was a good publicity stunt to pose with this American Icon. The old doughboy is no fool though. Just like Monica everyone wants to get freaky with people of power and the old Doughboy is no exception! Just look at where the Doughboy's hands are heading! My, those hands just have a mind of their own, don't they Doughboy? Rowwrr! Bad Doughboy Bad! {winky-winky}

You know, I don't have any inside information but I think it would be obvious that the Doughboy would be attracted to the Michelin man as well? Don’t you? They were made for each other, am I right?


Anyway, as we all know, sadly, there was a time in this country that you could not be an openly gay man in public life. So like many other great gay men before him Doughboy had to take on a sham wife to provide cover for his real lifestyle. Do you see that look on his face? See where his hands are? Clearly he does not know what to do with her!

Even though it was a sham marriage I can’t help but wonder if she ever caught any yeast infections from him?

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

A Massager Story

Ok, Taj made a hilarious post the other day about some very unusual vibrators. That story popped a link in my mind that I had not thought about in years!

I was maybe 9 or 10 years old when I went over to my grandparent’s house with my mother. I really had no idea what the issue was at the time but I could tell by the very weird and excited way my mother was acting though that something was very wrong and that is why I remembered this story and only years later did it all come together in my mind. No one tells this story around the Thanksgiving table though. (I think I will have to correct that though since I am the only one that was there that is still alive)

My grandfather (paw-paw) was a huge and powerful yet very gentle man, a farmer until he retired. He was also very devoutly Catholic although he never let that stop him from flirting with waitresses a third of his age or cussing like a sailor (but only when there were no women about!) but I can see now how na├»ve he was about some things…

So we walked into the kitchen where my Paw-paw was sitting in his favorite chair drinking coffee (always!) and Grandma was puttering around the stove. (always!) When suddenly my mother said “Dad! What are you doing with that thing?”
“Rubbing my neck. My neck has been hurting lately; I think I slept wro-”
“Dad, you, you can’t rub your neck with THAT! Where did you get that thing?”
Clearly a little confused Paw-paw answered, “I got it at the drug store and I know the box says “facial massager” but it seems to work just fine on my neck anyway”
“Dad, that is NOT a facial massager”
“Sure it is, here, I still have the box, see?” I can still see the picture in my minds eye of the pretty model on the box rubbing the product on her cheek with a very happy look on her face. Even back then I was geek enough I was thinking, so, it’s made for the face but it should vibrate a neck just as well, what’s the deal? Why is mom acting so weird about it?

We immediately went up to the drugstore and bought a big vibrator thing that looked like a power sander that went over your hand and took that back to Paw-paw. It was bigger and more powerful so he liked it just fine.

Of course NOW I understand exactly what kind of vibrator it was Paw-paw had been using on his neck. And you know, sure, Mom was a human too but it used to bug me just a little that she *instantly* knew what it was!

Monday, December 3, 2007

Real Life 101

Ok, I was double teamed on this one! I was tagged by both Sauntering Soul and Melek to work out this little exercise.

The Rules are: Devise a list of 5 courses you would take to fix your life. It's more fun to be in classes with friends, so include one class from the person who tagged you that you'd also like to take.

So here we go. BTW: I just finished traveling from Dallas to Springfield today so that may have impacted my course choices just a tad, you be the judge...

Patience with Others - 105.
This course will help you develop coping skills with the 1000 little frustrations others impose up on you. When someone blocks two lanes of traffic then stops, learn how to merely roll your eyes and sigh instead of ranting thereby spraying your own windshield with saliva. Does the person in front of you in the express lane have 20 freaking items? Learn how to smile and forget about it. (Find a happy place!)

As a course addendum; slow learning students can learn how when calming exercises just won’t work, like when that jerk who just can’t get seem to get his car into the parking spot making at least one other spot unusable, EVERY - SINGLE - DAY, learn valuable “suburban guerrilla” techniques such as how to flatten his tires without being noticed. Also learn to nod sympathetically when he is complaining to you about how his tires keep going flat.

Airport Anger Management - 210.
Prerequisite: Patience with Others - 105.

When your plane pulls up to the Jetway and stops, does that guy that jumps up and runs down the isle to the front of the plane the millisecond the seat belt sign goes off raise your blood pressure? (I mean is that two minutes he saved going to make or break him?) Does the guy that carries on enough baggage to start a summer camp make “God’s little anger dots” swim before your eyes? Do people who still try to carry a gallon bottle of shampoo through security make your ears bleed? If so, here are some very useful techniques to help you not beat a man to death with a bottle of shampoo or his own laptop. If all else fails learn how no jury would ever convict you.

How to Speak to Women - 101.
Prerequisite: Melek’s Get Off Your Computer and Go Live Life course.

Does merely being in the presence of an attractive women mean your glands will drop approximately a quart of adrenaline into your bloodstream? Learn how Milt from Office Space was not a good role model for talking to women. Learn how insecurity and inane, endless muttering are, shockingly, not attractive to women! Learn practical techniques to help you NOT attempt to say the four thousand things that are racing though your adrenaline soaked mind simultaneously. In this way women you are trying to converse with will no longer think you are an escaped mental patient or mass murderer as you stutter and mumble on.

Just in case there is anyone else left in the English speaking world who does not know who Milt is, see the video. (42 seconds) Just imagine that office as a restaurant and Bill Lumbergh (the guy standing) as a pretty women and you will see Milt doing a spot on impersonation of me on a date!



Buying non-functional items - 101.
Have you heard rumors that nonfunctional things add something to life somehow? Do you ever lay awake at night wondering just what in the hell a knick-knack is?

If so, this course is for you! In this course learn how to buy crap that has no actually identifiable purpose in life. You know, like a picture that hangs on that wall or maybe a plant in the house? You have seen other people do this stuff now learn why and how! Learn how not everything you purchase has to be airplane, computer or tool related.

Bonus material for advanced students include learning to understand why the fairer sex seems to have an internal algorithm that says that the less functional a consumer item is the more desirable it becomes. E.g. flowers, jewelry and to a lesser degree knick-knacks.

I was tagged for this little meme by Sauntering Soul and Melek. So I would certainly have to attend Sauntering's course “Follow through for Beginners” and as already noted Melek’s “Get Off Your Computer and Go Live Life” is a required pre-req for my “How to Speak to Women” course.

If your last name starts with A through J please go to the left, H through Z please go to the right.

Monday, November 26, 2007

I am Soooooo Mad!

I just really can not post today! I can not believe those bozo's at People Magazine snubbed me yet again! People's Sexiest Men Alive 2007

Now I am glad Matt won it, he has long been one of my favorites and I think we all know how I feel about Matt McConaughey but I did not even make the top 100!

Can you believe this? Have they not seen my finely honed keyboard muscles rippling manfully beneath my forearms as I type? Have they not seen my wrist watch with the slide rule built into the bezel? Have they not seen my uber cool flashlight/laser/stylus pen? (Thanks again Erika!) Have they not seen my guitar!?

What is the world coming too? No way I don't even get mentioned! The fix is in I tell you!

I mean I have not been so mad since "Smokey and the Bandit" was snubbed, SNUBBED I tell you, by the Oscar committee!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Holidays are great!

I went to the gym today and the place was deserted! So first off I got a good parking spot.

I mean a good part of my usual workout is the walk to the entrance from the wilderness parking spots that are left by the time I get there in the evenings. The parking is so far out sometimes I have to throw a live chicken out the truck window to distract the wolves so I can safely get out of the truck and start the hike for the entrance.

Anyway, it was great today! Not only did I not have to wait for any of my usual machines I did not even have to reset them as I rotated through them doing my 3 sets as they were all still set since no one else had used them between my sets. Wow. It was a very fast workout! Hooray for holidays!

Well, I should not say that, New Years is coming soon and then the gym will be packed full of NYPs immediately thereafter. You know, New Years People? (Pronounced NIPS) I mean in January the place looks like an Alaskan stream during salmon spawning season what with all the squirming NYPs flying through the air trying to get to a machine. For the month of January just forget about getting a treadmill let alone a good one.

People really do this?

Holy tamoli! Playing a guitar is HARD.

I broke out my little "Fun with Guitars" book. I like it because it assumes nothing. Here is how you hold a guitar, here is how you hold a pick. This is how you tune the guitar.

Hey, so far so good! The first 6 pages of the book were cake. No problem-o! I am gonna be a rock star in no time! Then suddenly we hit the dreaded page 7, "Our first chord".


I look at the picture, it's simple enough right? Three fingers three strings. What could possibly go wrong? Holy crap! It's like playing "twister" with your fingers! "Right hand Blue, left foot orange" Oh man, with a little stretching I can put the correct three fingers on the correct three strings in the correct three frets and then I strum. One cat howled and the other cat started trying to jump out the closed window so something clearly was not right. Oh, you don't just touch the strings you have to push down on them and do it HARD. Ok, got it, strum, that still does not sound right? Oh, now some fingers are lightly touching some strings I should not be touching making them dead.

I am telling you it is HARD to push down hard enough on the right strings in the right places and NOT touch any of the wrong strings! It takes a good ten minutes to get my fingers juuuuust right to get a clean chord.

So after an hour, with a little concentration I can handle page 7! Page 8 is a little song I can play just by holding that one chord and plucking a single string in the right order. It did not sound like much to me but it must have been a pretty good song because the cats joined in and yowled along. They were also rolling back and forth on the floor while they sang. I guess that is how cats dance?

So after one afternoon of practice I can make a chord with maybe 10 seconds to get my fingers in juuuuuuust the right places. Man those three fingertips are throbbing and there are some muscles in the top of my hand that I never knew existed before that ache but by golly I can kinda play a chord and a pretty bad song composed of one note and one chord. Woot!

So the next day I am ready for page 9.



What? You have GOT to be kidding right? From one side of the fingerboard to the other? Holy crap? What kind of freakish hand do you need to be able to do THIS? At first I just can not do it. I stretch and stretch trying to get my fingers all the way across that board AND push down hard AND not touch any other string. I keep trying though and eventually I can make a G7 chord. My fingertips are throbbing, I have a muscle twitch in a FINGER but by golly I can make a very bad G7!

So I look at the bottom of page 9. It's the same song from page 8 but now it has two chords. What? I am supposed to do two different chords in the same song? It takes me a long time to get my fingers positioned right to make one chord, how in the hell am I supposed to change chords between strums? Impossible. Human fingers simply can not do this stuff.

I have always admired musicians. Now I stand in awe of them. How can you possibly push that hard that precisely and change your finger positions that fast?

So after two afternoons my fingers tips hurt enough I can't use the remote with my left hand and I can barely make two chords. I am pretty depressed. I am thinking I should have bought drums instead. At least they are big. "Ugh, Rob can hit big circle. Circle go bang! Bang good! Rob like go bang!" Yeah, that may be about my speed!

Then I remember back when I bought my first PC and how I had to hunt and peck and it took a long time to type one sentence. Then I look at my fingers fly over the keyboard now. It took a while but I learned the keyboard. Of course with a keyboard you only have to push one key at a time but you can't hit two and the keys are actually the size of your fingers instead of little threads. So I realised that while this will be much harder than learning to type that I can learn.

The biggest question at this point is how much will the kitties have to suffer before I learn?

Friday, November 23, 2007

I wanna do what?

I love music and I have ALWAYS wanted to play a musical instrument. I seem to have zero aptitude for it though. My fourth grade music teacher was the last one NOT to throw her hands up in exasperation trying to teach me to play.

Well for about the last year or so I kept getting the itch to learn guitar. I kept thinking about how much I have done with my hands over the years. I used to do very precise work in aircraft parts fabrication. I built my own plane from scratch, I learned to type at a better than average level so by golly I should be able to learn to play a guitar, right?

So Wednesday night I got the impulse and I went to a local music store and bought a guitar! I was not sure how this latest experiment in music was going to work out so I did not want to plunk down the big bucks right off. The salesman was a little deaf to that showed me a $5,000 guitar first. I was like, oh no, no! So then he showed me a $2,400 guitar and I laughed at him and said, "Dude, you are not getting this! I am buying a first car for a teenager and you keep showing me Ferrari's. Where in the heck are the beat up old Hyundai's? How about a rusted out Pinto? That is what I am looking for here."

Once got the idea we had to go into the back area of the store! :)

They had three guitars under $200 back there. The one for $199 was a good name brand and the wood was very pretty. I liked it. The second one was a Mexican flag guitar and I was like no, not my style amigo. He laughed and said "Oh hey, I forgot, we have a American flag one here too."

So he dug out this "Buck Owens" special and I kinda chuckled but he said this flag one was $99 and it includes a strap that is a heck of a deal. He went ahead and played it a little. He was surprised, he said it had a really good sound quality and he was really surprised that such a cheap guitar sounded so good.

I said I liked like the $200 one better and handed it to him. So he started playing it. He was really amazed now because the name brand one did not sound nearly as good as the tacky one. He switched guitars a few times I could hear the difference too. So I figured, man I am a nerdy redneck, when did I start caring about how things look? Performance is what counts and this tacky thing performs better at half the price. Hell we were made for each other.



Man is that tacky or what? Even the strap is red white and blue! It is hard on the eyes. It's like the old batman series though, it's so schlocky it is starting to grow on me.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Picture Tagged!

Andie over at "Sweet. Southern. Spirited." put up some pictures of her self from high school.

She challenged me to do the same so here we go. The only catch is I only have three pictures of me on my laptop. I was 19 in the first two so that is almost high school, right?



This is my wedding picture with the other half cropped out.

(any picture can be clicked for a larger version but I don't recommend it on this one,it was scanned in from an 8 X 10. The other two are snapshots and are more manageable)



Never fear though, here is a picture with me and the former Mrs. My oh my, she sure was a knockout wasn't she? Oh and how I LOVED that 80's hair- big and layered just like Farrah Faucet! It's a shame she was just so mean and angry all the time (I seem to have that effect on women :) ) Also be sure to notice that even though we have been married for a very short time in this photo that I have already assumed the proper head down, eyes averted posture in her presence! I'm a quick learner ya know! ;)



This one was taken when I was 24 maybe 25 on a great motorcycle camping trip in the Ouachita (wash-i-ta) mountains. This is the first picture I know of where I have a moustache. I still have the caterpillar but I have been thinking about getting rid of the facial fur lately. Change is hard though.

There ya go Andie, didn't think I had the guts huh? :)

Now... who do I tag in return? Hmmmmm.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Bureaucracy

On a pilot’s forum a friend of mine, Judy P. was really having a hard time understanding some of the federal regulations and why she had to do certain useless paperwork. Even though this particular exchange is about the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) in particular it really does apply to all government  bureaucracies.

In her exasperation she ended one of her posts with the following line:

“I'm sorry but my PhD is doing me no good understanding this.”

My answer:

Judy, Judy, Judy,

That is to be expected. Unless your PhD is in "Liberal Arts" there was probably some extended stream of logical thought required to receive it.

A bureaucracy abhors logical thought. Logic is the anathema of bureaucratic design. Logic is an abomination before the gods of bureaucracy.

A bureau is where people incapable of logical thought end up when they can't get a job anywhere else and the welfare runs out. Thus we achieve a fully equalitarian society where the least capable members of a society suddenly get to make the rules thereby achieving a society of perfectly equal inefficiency.

If for some odd reason you really want to understand the process may I recommend large doses of LSD? About the time the curtains start to melt and drip and you are wondering if Martha Stewart knows how to get curtain stain out of the carpet you can achieve a moment of infinite clarity where the inner workings of government agencies will suddenly snap into focus! (This is also a good time to look at your income tax return. Suddenly Schedule C makes perfect sense! Far out man!)

Now if harsh mind altering chemicals are not your style I understand. Please be aware that similar results can be obtained in a purely organic, environmentally friendly way by suspending yourself in the air by ropes attached to hooks inserted under the skin of your back. If you can get some friends to sit around and play bongos I understand that helps too. After about 12 hours or so of dangling by your skin you will be able to ask the spirits to explain the inner workings of modern government to you.

I personally prefer the time tested methodology of simply muttering "freaking gummint morons" under my breath and filling out my forms like a good little sheep. Yes, it is the coward’s way and I'm not proud but I do maintain a semblance of sanity that way. One must pick one's battles.

No, I'm not bitter. Why do you ask?

Monday, November 19, 2007

Random Thoughts...

1) I drive a hybrid. It had a recall on a little electrical component. That component is under the battery though so the dealership is having a hard time figuring out how to get the 450 pound (204 kg) battery with no handles out. In the meantime I have a loaner. It's funny, I sorta forgot you have to turn the key and HOLD it until the engine starts in a "normal" car. In mine I just turn the key real quick and let go just to tell the car "I'm ready to drive now" then it starts and stops the engine whenever it feels like it.

On a related note, when I first bought the hybrid every time the engine would shut down I would cuss and throw it into neutral. That was long habit from years of driving clunkers where the engine would die all the time and had to be restarted in neutral.

2) I cheated on my diet this weekend. I had hash browns with breakfast. :(

I have not had any potato since July. I rediscovered the fact that a potato is the most astounding and wonderful of foods! Oh and when you shred it up and fry it in butter it is the very nectar of the gods! Mmmmm, crunchy on the outside, warm and gooey on the inside and just brimming with starchy goodness! Now I feel like a heroin junkie jonesing for another fix! I keep flashing back to that golden brown crispy succulence.

Oh look! There is my dog Toby! He died when I was in 6th grade! It's good to see you boy! What? Charlize Theron called, she has read my blog and can't wait to marry me? Wow! Sandra Bullock is going to fight her for me? Oh man this is so cool! That must be why I am so sweaty and shaking?

Oh crap, the potato withdrawal hallucinations have already started!

Friday, November 16, 2007

What was I thinking?

How in the heck did I think my camera was a perfect example of the conflict between my inner nerd and my inner redneck? Granted it was a good example but perfect?

Melek telling the tale of her car held together with primer made me think of the true perfect example of how my high tech and redneck halves conflict.

I built a plane a few years ago. It was a very futuristic swept wing "backwards" airplane with uber cool gull wing doors. All it really lacked was a cool DANGER emblem!



(Click any picture for a larger version)

It had a 540 cubic inch (8.85 liter) fuel injected engine with a custom throttle body and forced air induction system I had designed and built myself. This was driving a very high tech carbon fiber composite propeller I had ordered from Germany.



I had all these great plans about all leather bucket seats, suede headliners, excellent carpeting and the coolest paint job around.

Then I ran out of money and patientce, so I ended up flying for a year with the barest of essentials. I covered the seat frames with foam then bought four slip over seat covers from Wal-mart, you know, the ones intended to hide the tattered original covering on your seats? I was not hiding the covering that WAS the covering! :)



The interior was just bare ugly fiberglass and the outside was all in primer! But just look at that cool 16 channel digital engine monitor. Mmmmmmm.



Look at that glorious white primer! Hey, I did splurge on epoxy based white primer instead of the normal one part grey primer! Unlike the former Melek-mobile water would not hurt the epoxy based primer so maybe, just maybe I am not such a big redneck after all?

What the heck am I saying?!

If I could have thought of a way to use red rags for gas caps without them blowing off on the take off run I would have done it just for the effect!

Hey, as long as you are doing 200 mph (322 kph) who the heck cares what it looks like? Nothing epitomizes "redneck" more than that concept! Hmmmmm, in fact, as I think about it, on this project nerdyness was only a means by which to achieve perfect redneckedness.

Whoa, that's totaly deep! Suddenly I feel the need to meditate. Hey, rednecks can meditate!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

New Product Idea!

In my laser pen post I mentioned that the most horrible of all presents from a male perspective is underwear.

I also mentioned that a DANGER sticker could make even the lamest of gifts very cool from the male perspective. So continuing that line of thought I decided that a brilliant new product should be male under wear with big DANGER emblems! Yeah, that would be cool!



For boys underwear the DANGER emblem could be in the back. "Ah, isn't that cute?"

For men's underwear the emblem would be in the front. "Oooo la la!" I tell you, no male ego could possibly resist! (Hmmmm, upon further review the mans size could go either way, eh?)

So now those oh so serious people who just insist on giving lame but practical gifts can do so and the males in your life will still think you are cool and funny! It's win-win I tell you. Oooooo, I am gonna make a million off of this one! :)

Now a question for the audience; Did this idea come from my nerdy half or my redneck half? What do you think?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Veteran's day weekend.

Well, being a geek I am normally vaugly uncomfortable with strangers in the house.

The mother and aunt of my room mate Erika came to visit for the long weekend. However, I hit it off with them right off and had a wonderful time!

Since they (and the roomie) are from Toronto I did have to work on my Canadian-American translation skills. This weekend I discovered that a serviette (sp?) is Canadian for Napkin and a Carburetor has nothing to do with a car, its a garbage disposal! Veteran's day is Remembrance day up north and they had Thanksgiving a month ago!

In Canada they buy little cloth flowers from veterans for Remembrance day and pin them to their clothing. I have blanked on the name of the little flowers right now. I like that tradition though, I would like to see that one spread here.

Erika has been living in America long enough now to have shaken off most of her accent but her visiting family had the most delightful accents and they threw in plenty of the requisite "eh?'s" at the end of sentences! To me the accent sounded like a blend of Massachusetts and Wisconsin accents. That soft A sound of Mass. with some of the Wisconsin Scandinavian overtones. It was wonderful! There is a melody, a rhythm to the speech that is really fun to behold as well.

If they had any thoughts on my Texas accent they did not share them but it had to sound odd to them?

(BTW, if an American is from America shouldn't a Canadian be from Canadia?)

Anyway, as much as I dread having strangers in the house and having my normal routine broken on Monday morning when Erika was back at work and her relatives were gone I was a little sad. I had grown used to chatter and the light hearted liveliness that had prevailed in the house over the weekend. The contrast made the returning silence in the house that much louder.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

It's Nerd-a-riffic!

It is even geektastic!

My house mate gave me the most awesomely geeky gift! (after Michelle's devastating critique of men with room mates I have adapted the more man-friendly term house mate! Domestic partnership is actually the most accurately descriptive term but that one seems to give people funny ideas)

I have scored mondo geek points at work with my new gift. I am once again rising to alpha-geek status in the nerdy herd (sadly, no mating privileges are attached to this type of alpha status)

Check it out! She gave me a PEN.



Oh not just any old any old pen. This is a pen Sean Connery would be proud to own! Note the two buttons on the upper right side. We will get to that in a minute.

With this pen when you the twist the shank one way you get a normal old ink pen...



However, if you twist the tip the OTHER way you get a PDA stylus! No more fumbling around looking for the stupid plastic pen that is SUPPOSED to be attached to the PDA, it's right in your pocket! In a perfect world, while in a meeting, your arch rival geek seeking to score points would see you about to write on your PDA with a 'normal' pen and would say aloud, "Hey, you can't use a pen on your PDA!" Then you could casually demonstrate your nerdy superiority with your pen stylus! Mmmmmmm, can you feel the nerdy juices starting to flow yet?



But wait there is more!! Remember those two buttons? Well one of them is a flashlight! There is flash photography involved here so it does not look like much of a light but I used it to fetch the trash cans from the curb and it will nicely light the area in front of you while are walking! Ohhh yeah! {shudder} That's the stuff!




Oh but it just keeps getting better! Then we have the laser pointer. Oh NOTHING scores nerdy points like having your OWN laser pointer when you want to oh so coolly point out the mistakes of your arch rival during HIS presentation! Mmmmmmmm that's good stuff.

Again, the flash does dim things but this one has range. After my recent special forces operation to laser designate the trash cans out by the curb allowing Jack Bower's strike team to home in on them I was actually able to lase things up to 75 meters away and I am sure it will go further.



But now, for the piece de resistance! Oooooooo, the STICKER! Folks, it is that gift buying time of year again and if you are buying something for ANY male remember this little gift of insight I am about to bestow on you...



Anything that has a red DANGER sticker on it is wayyyyyy cool! Folks, you could take a Beany Baby or a cute little dolly and put a big red DANGER sticker on it and it instantly scores mondo man points!

You could even give that most dreaded of male presents, clothing (ick!) up to and including the absolute worst man present EVER, mens underwear but if you put the word DANGER on them then everything is suddenly very cool!

You simply can not go wrong with anything that says DANGER!

Do I have the coolest house mate or what?

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

The real truth!

Hey guys my nerdy half has been way over represented here and the redneck half is becoming very petulant. Nobody and I mean NOBODY wants a petulant redneck around! So here is a post from him…

Have any of you heard of the 911 Truth group? They contend that all the events of 911 were really all just part of a government plot. The government flew automated but empty airliners into buildings that were already pre-rigged with explosives so that they would come down in a controlled detonation. Those people must REALLY be onto something because one of the greatest intellectuals of our time, Rosie O'Donnell believes it too.

The theory is the government did all this so they could start a war with Iraq and get cheap oil. (So, how is that "cheap oil" thing working out anyway?)

So as my mind was stunned by the incredibly evil genius of the all powerful US Government plans I began to wonder, what other major events in history were started with staged events?

I mean the Spanish-American war started because one of our best battleships, The USS Maine , mysteriously blew up in Havana Harbor (then a Spanish colony) Could that have been faked too just so we could "liberate" the Philippines from Spain and get cheap bananas, rubber and later on cheap hookers for US Sailors at Subic bay? Hmmmmmm?

Maybe, but there was no video back then so it's hard to say now what caused the USS Maine to explode then.

However, I think I have just discovered that WWII was all started under false pretenses!

Exactly 13 months (number 13! Huh? Huh?!) to the DAY before WWII started the Tacoma Narrows bridge collapsed. It was a very new and large steel suspension bridge. They said the wind did it but c'mon, we all know the wind does not just blow down steel bridges! Resonance my beat red butt! How stupid do they think we are!

Look at this video. If you are too bored you can skip ahead to the 3:00 minute mark.



Did you see those little puffs of smoke just before it collapsed? Those were the explosive devices! I swear, look again!!

Oh how you people have been blinded by the governments lies!

Did you know there were no Jews on the bridge that day?! Uh huh! You heard me! The Israeli Government warned them all to stay home that day! Yeah, yeah, I know, Israel did not even exist in 1940. That's the official story but we all know better right?

In a rare collaboration of those ancient evil organizations, The Tri-Lateral commission and the Stone Masons, the secret Israeli Council of Elders had already been created. The covert government was hidden beneath the reflecting pool in Washington DC.

Oh and now you are going to tell me that the secret hidden Israeli government could not effectively communicate with all Jews any where on Earth at any time to warn them away from the doomed bridge, yeah right! The Washington Monument is not just a big phallic symbol! Nope, it is also a really big antennae for their global communications system communicating directly into the chips implanted in each Jew while being circumcised! (thus leading to the common belief that men think with their thing)

That poor dog in that car was actually the governments patsy that set off the explosives! FDR was holding her puppies hostage and was going to kill them unless she did the job! That is why she refused to be rescued! She sacrificed herself in a fit of motherly devotion! A very sad tale.

All of this scheming by the government was just a pretext to start an illegal and immoral war to get cheap cars and cheap electronics from Japan. Google it!

There *was* a book detailing exactly how the government pulled all this off but the government forced Amazon to take it off their website! Evil bastards!

Roosevelt, you sick puppy killing genius you! Why, you were so twisted and sick I would not even be surprised to find out you were really confined to a wheel chair and you just FAKED being able to walk!

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Flying and talking.

Oh yeah, that reminds me!

On the very first flying trip I took with the family after I got my pilots license it turns out I said something stupid again.

Summer time in Texas makes for a lot of thermal activity. Flying through rising and sinking air can make for a rough ride. Another thing that can make a rough ride is the wind. Just like moving water hitting rocks in a stream and making white water, moving air hitting buildings and trees, etc make for turbulent rough air.

For our first trip as a family we were going to my in-laws. It is an 8+ hour drive and in my first plane it’s a 3 hour flight (I have a faster plane now and its only two hours now) My wife was terrified of flying. Her only incentive to get into this plane was to cut 6 hours off the trip to see her family. Of course, my then 10 year old son can not WAIT to get into the plane. He thought this was going to be way cool!

So we left at 6:00 Am on Saturday morning. It was cool and the wind was dead calm. As we departed the ride was like a canoe on a glassy pond or like a Cadillac on new asphalt; Smooooooth. My ex was digging it! The ride was so smooth she wondered what she was ever afraid of.

The plan was to do the same thing Sunday morning, leave by at least 9:00 am so we would get back to Dallas before it got too hot and the winds started kicking up.

But oh no! The in-laws made a breakfast spread fit for two kings and the coffee and the talk, talk, talk went on and on. I kept saying, "Honey we got to go, it's going to get hot and rough, I don't mind but you wont like it at all!"
"Just one more cup of coffee dear", and the gab-fest continued.

We did not get off the ground until 1:00 PM. That put us in Dallas at 4:00, the hottest time of the day. It was like 109 degrees and the wind was HOWLING at 25+ plus miles per hour. In the very small plane I had then the ride was comparable to off roading or white water rafting. It was ROUGH.

Predictably, the ex is terrified, she is sitting in the center of the back seat holding the grab handles above each door for dear life. Here eyes were closed and occasionally she would even whimper in fear. Meanwhile, my son, up in the front seat with me, is having a pretty good time. "Weeeee! Hit another bump Dad!"

We finally arrive at the home airport, it's almost over! I lined up with the runway and started descending to the runway for landing. I hit an updraft. A big mass of rising hot air. I am trying to go down and this is lifting me up. It's a glider pilots dream but I want down! I put in all the flaps (air brakes for all intents and purposes) and brought the engine back to complete idle but I still am not going down and the runway is getting closer. I am going to be too high and too close to make a landing.

This is where pilot training kind of bit me. Again, in training we are always talking out loud. If my instructor was sitting beside me he can see we are too high and too close and he is wondering if I know it. So I would say it when I realize it so he knows that I know.

This is a pretty standard situation. It happens all the time, you just put the power back in circle around and set up to land again- its called a "go around". As pilots we are told over and over again to never push a bad set up, just go around and set up again.

Anyone remember that Southwest Airlines flight that ran off the end of the runway in Chicago a few years ago? This was exactly the situation they were in. Too high and too close but instead of going around they pushed it and then they were going to fast to stop before the end of the runway.

So, as I am looking down seeing that we are too high and too close I decided that we were not going to make a landing on this setup. So talking to my "instructor" I said out loud, "We are not going to make it." and got ready to go around. Which I dreaded because everyone including me was ready to end this rough ride.

Maybe ten seconds go by and my inner self says to me, "Hey stupid, what words did you just say out loud? Did you just tell your terrified wife "We are not going to make it"?"
"Uh", I replied to myself, "Well yes, I did say those words but it should be obvious what I meant. Besides, they probably did not even hear me."
"Oh really? Why don't you take a look and see?"

So I looked over at my then 10 year old son in the seat next to me and I will never forget his big blue eyes looking up at me in complete terror! Oh, yeah, he heard me. So if the one who has not been scared is now terrified because of my big mouth what does the already terrified one in the back seat look like?

I look back and she had one arm looped though the handhold, both feet are braced against the back seats and she has one hand over her eyes. She may even be making peace with her God. I'm not sure.

OK Rob, pull your foot out of you mouth now! "No, no, no guys! That is not what I meant! We are fine, we are safe, we are just not going to make a landing this time around! It's OK I swear!"
And we did make a nice easy landing after all.

On the bright side, on all future trips, we always got out before it got hot! I never ever heard "Just one more cup of coffee" again.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Driving and talking.

Well, when one of my “meat” friends first saw my blog he said I should tell the story of when I totaled my truck in 2001.

Then reading Swishy's post about her cell phone/driving adventures today was the second sign from the Gods that the story should be told. So with two separate signs I decided I simply must tell y’all this story or risk angering the Gods. I do enough things to anger most self-respecting Gods so telling this story seems like a real gimme in the God appeasement category.

In 2001 I had a contract with IBM in Saint Louis Missouri so I traveled back and forth regularly. My airplane was broken down (never buy a German propeller, trust me on this, or as a pilot friend of mine says, "Friends don't let friends buy MT Propellers") and even before 911 and the so-called "security" we have now, I simply despised the airlines on so many levels that I could not make my self do it so I just drove to Saint Louis.

I was on I-44 about half way between Tulsa and Oklahoma City heading home to Dallas. I-44 through Oklahoma is GREAT since the speed limit is 75 mph. That makes it well worth $13 to cross half the state of Oklahoma on it. I generally run 7 mph over the speed limit so I had the cruise control set at 82 mph.

The sky was very ugly. It is going to rain but it had not started yet.



My wife calls me for a position report and we were still chatting when I came over the top of a hill and whoosh! It had been raining like crazy on top of this hill and the highway was covered in standing water. I immediately started to hydro-plane. I felt the rear wheels break loose first. I dropped the phone first thing, killed the cruise control and tried to get the truck back under control. It was like I was on a sheet of ice, nothing I did really had an effect on what the truck did. I was fishtailing back and forth slowly at first but on every cycle I would get just a little more sideways. On every cycle I also said out loud, “Oh shit!” The further sideways I turned the more emphasis that was added to the “oh shit”. In just a few seconds I was sliding nearly sideways down I-44 at about 80 mph. I think I might have said ”Oh shit!” A few more times!

Suddenly the tires decided to grab. That would normally be a good thing but since I was almost side ways pointing at a concrete median barrier at 80 mph traction was not a good thing at that particular moment. The wheels grabbed and WHAM- I hit the concrete lane divider, spun around a couple of times and came to a stop facing into oncoming traffic in a pouring rain with a seriously bent truck.

Now something you have to understand about me. I do talk to myself. I will use pilot training as an excuse. During pilot training and testing they always tell you to voice your thoughts out loud so that the instructor or examiner knows what you are thinking and why. For example, you could flunk an exam for being off course by a few degrees but if you say out loud, “I am off course but I am correcting to the left to get back on course” then you get a pass. No one is perfect so they are looking to see if you realize your error and correct it or if you just obliviously fly on into the imaginary mountain.

So, with that excuse firmly in place, I talk to myself. Immediately after the accident the cab of my truck is FULL of white smoke. I can barely see the passenger seat through all the smoke. So I say, in a loud, manly and incredibly brave voice, ”Oh shit! I'm on fire!!” The door handle is broken so I rolled the window down to reach the outside handle. The door unlatches but because of the crash damage it only opens an inch or so. Keeping my imaginary flight examiner in the loop I say out loud, “The door is jammed! I can’t get out!” I hit it with my shoulder a few times trying to force it open, it creaks and opens a little more but not much.

However, with the window open all the smoke clears out and I can see there is no fire, it was just the air bags! Well duh. I had never seen them go off before. (or since) They make a LOT of smoke!

Now that I can see I realize I am facing head on into a line of traffic that is trying desperately to stop before hitting me on the very same stretch of incredibly slick road that just took me out.

I now know *exactly* how that poor bunny in the middle of the highway feels.

I look down, the truck is still in gear and the engine is still running! So I decided to see if it would move. The front tires are rubbing the fenders very hard and I had to really gun the engine to get that truck to move against all the resistance. There was all kinds of grinding and popping noises as I forced that very broken truck to move over onto the shoulder. It was shedding pieces as it went.

Once off on the shoulder I shut the truck down and took a few moments to just breathe and shake a little (in a very manly way, of course ) .

So after that sanity break I decided I had better call the Highway Patrol. Phone, where in the heck is my phone? I start digging around and I find it on the far side of the truck under a pile of crap that used to be under the seats.

When I find it I can see the call timer is still ticking. Oh yeah, that's right, I was talking to my wife when it all hit the fan. Is she still on phone? I held it up to my ear and said “Honey?”

She was crying and hysterical which really confused me since I was the one that had hit that median. Once she pulled it together enough to explain it to me though I got it.

From her perspective the phone call went like:

“Yeah honey, I should be home around 7:00 so we should be able to… oh shit... oh shit!... oh SHIT! OH SHIT!!” Squeeeeeeel. BANG! Crash, clangity-clang.

Then my voice, "Oh shit! I'm on fire!!”

“The door is jammed! I can’t get out!”

Bam, bam, bam, bam.

(pause)

Grrrr, GRRRRR, squeeeeeeeee, bang, pop, pop, pop-pop, grrrrrrrr, swish.

Then silence.

She thought all the sound effects of me moving the badly broken truck off the road were the sounds of a truck becoming an inferno, crackling, popping and roaring as it was consumed by flame. She was convinced she had just heard me burn to death.

So, don’t talk on the cell phone while driving Swishy, we don’t want your mom to hear you crash now do we? :)


(EDIT: Why can't I tell a short story?)

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Former Pop Star Gunned Down

AFGHANISTAN- Today, a great pop music star of the 60’s was killed on the eastern border of Afghanistan.

Al-Walnutti, who before converting to Islam and changing his name was the one time front man for the super group “Alvin and the Chipmunks”, was gunned down today while trying to sneak into the country. His long voiced hatred of America and, in his words, the Satan inspired music industry to which he once belonged were well known.



Therefore it was readily assumed by CIA analysts that Al-Walnutti was trying to sneak into Afghanistan to aid the regrouping Taliban.

However, close friends assert that CIA Intelligence has it all wrong. Far from aiding the Taliban, Al-Walnutti was on a mission of vengeance against them. The love of his life, one time lead of the Chipmunks backup singers “The Chipettes” was publicly stoned to death in 2001 in a football stadium for the crime of removing her facial hair which in that region is considered to be a sin against God and a disgrace to the women’s family requiring an honor killing.

After publicly voicing support for their leader’s decision to remove her whiskers, the other two Chippettes were shown mercy and merely had their left paws removed.

Al-Walnutti had sworn his vengeance against the killers of his love and his friends maintain that he was killed while attempting extract his vengeance.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Am I that guy?

Ok, I admit it. I am one of THOSE people. I am the guy that will strike up a conversation with perfect strangers while in line or on a plane or something.

I mean just standing in line is pretty boring right? So lets have a chat and make the time go by. In fact, I have had some truly wonderful conversations on airliners with complete strangers.

So last night I stopped for groceries on the way home from work. This fella in line behind me starts off with an innocent, "Heh, look at that, pumpkin flavored Peep's for Halloween. You know I just don't care for pumpkin."


In life there are "cusp" moments where your life can go one way or the other and the decision you make in that second could impact you for the rest of your life. The shitty thing about cusp moments is you never know it's a cusp moment when you are actually living it. It's only when you look back and reflect that you can say AH HA! Right there, at that moment if I had just done this instead of that my life would be markedly different right now

Looking back now, I can see that the next sentence from my mouth was a horrible, awful mistake. A true cusp moment. O lord how I wish I could relive that cusp moment and say NOTHING. The words that doomed me? I replied, "Yeah, I'm not that crazy about pumpkin myself."

Oh…….My……..Gawd! That was a major mistake! What possessed me to say something like that? To utter such words of power? Because those simple words empowered my new line buddy with free license to ramble on non-stop from one topic to the next, slowly spiraling down into the depths of insanity for the next 20 minutes. I swear, this guy has mastered the art of inhaling while talking because not once in the next twenty minutes did he stop talking long enough to take a breath. Amazing. If only he could use his powers for good.

He started off innocently enough on the genetic composition of Peeps and why they don't taste so good. Which led directly into an in-depth discussion of food coloring which then led to an example of how the most evil of the dark cabal of food colors are actually of red dyes #2 and #5 and how they are made from crushed tropical insects which eventually led to the vast conspiracy of the food moguls in general who deliberately fed us these particular insects so that we will crave more of their food and thus enrich them to the point that they can complete their dark plans against humanity. Thank God the checker got me bagged and cleared before I could learn about that master plan.

By summing up his diatribe in three sentences I am sparing you the dear reader from the interminable detail that the oral presentation of his masters thesis in conspiratology entailed.

I heard it, now I can't un-hear it! Oooooo, please make it stop.

So I had to wonder, am I that guy? Am I the guy that starts talking in line then just won't…..SHUT…..UP? Uhhhhh, maybe. :(

Now as a nerd, I am often deaf to subtle hints that most humans pick up on. At least on a plane if you have reading material I will get out my book and shut up to let you read yours. Lines are a different story though. People rarely brings books to lines. So, are my line companions silently screaming at me to shut the hell up? I don't know but after Satan's little conga line at the grocery store last night I will be more attuned to my vict, er, companions in the future.

So how about you? Do you enjoy a line conversation (assuming it is somewhat sane of course) or would you rather stand and contemplate the universe in silence?

Rob

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Origin of Species

You see, I am this odd combination of redneck hillbilly, professional computer geek, mechanical engineer, history buff, amateur aircraft builder, science fiction fan, amateur chef and pilot. I also have this odd desire to add bad musician and perhaps horrible poet to my list.

As you can see I have two distinct and conflicting sides, I am the geek that no one gets (Hey, *I* think I am hilarious!) but then I do have a nice wide swath of good old fashioned farmer redneck embedded in my DNA. The opposing twin aspects of my personality are always at war to see who will be dominant. Like the wobbly balance of power between neighboring third world states it is often best if neither personalty becomes dominate.

Sadly, no matter which personality is on top today, neither of them attract women.

So I could think of no better title for my new little swirling vortex of lost productivity than "The Nerdy Redneck". It fits me well. Far too well.

As a perfect illustration of my inner conflict, as a computer geek I am right on top of the latest technology in my area of computing. The redneck in me however is a bit distrustful of this here world wide interweb thing-a-ma-bob. I mean dem gub'ment types are monitoring yer keystrokes and such, right?

So the result of this conflict is that I am just right on top of this whole blogging thing! On the cusp of a new concept, Yep, on the leading edge of new ideas. Surfing at the bleeding edge at the speed of light slowing passing those pokey electrons as they go about their business.

So welcome to my little experiment.