Wednesday, July 30, 2008

is it really better?

This article caught my eye today "10 things you should know about the internet". I enjoy learning about the origin of things; I tend to think it helps me understand the subject better. If it wasn't for the History channel, Discovery channel, Science channel and Military channel I wouldn't know crap.

This caused me reflect back on my first interaction with the internet. Remember pre-internet? Back then if you said "I'll google it" someone would have thought you were going to prepare a dish containing eggs. Or, more likely, they would have thought you were just an idiot.

I lost my internet cherry sometime in August 1991. I recall that date simply because at the time I was living in Okinawa, Japan and needed to look up some information on vehicles before moving back to the states. I can't recall how I got the subscription, but I used CompuServe to try and locate the information I needed. Good thing I was trying it a few months in advance, because it took FOREVER to download simple text and a couple of very tiny images.

I don't think I ever found what I was looking for. But man, I thought that was so cool! It was like tapping into this other world where I was the driver. If I had enough time (again... it was freaking slow!) I could go basically anywhere. I think at the time it would have taken about 3 days to reach the end of the internet with an average of 1 page per hour.

Fast forward 17 years (damn, it’s been that long...) and the internet has been my career for 13 of those years. So much of my life has been shaped by this thing you can't touch or smell that it's impossible to imagine myself without it.

I say this with a little trepidation. As amazing as it is, as much as I believe it has made the world smaller. It’s opened so many windows for me where before only existed walls. But, I wonder if it's actually made us better.

Case in point. I am writing this 10 feet from my wife, whose career is also intertwined with the net. Like most nights after the kids are in bed we sit here working on our respective laptops, clicking away on the keyboard and occasionally saying something to ourselves while some show is on TV in the background. When it gets really pathetic I'll IM her to see if she wants a drink (but only when I want to be a smartass...). I can say I only know 2 out of our 5 nearest neighbors well enough to call them by name.

I wonder what my granddad would say if he was here. My grandfather worked at the stockyards in Oklahoma City for his entire life. He could literally touch and smell his work. I once tried to explain to him what I did. Here is how he wrapped it up:

Him - what do you do if the electricity goes off?
Me - hmmm. I guess I can't work.
Him - then you don't really have a job.

I wonder if the same thing applies to life in the internet age.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

evolution, get off your ass

Something has been on my mind and I think it’s time I share this.

We’ve all been focused on creating alternate energy sources, wind, water, cow flatulence, hydrogen, peat moss, fake fur. These are fine, go forth young energy scientist and develop a way for me to fill up my tank using my water hose and I’ll vote you into office (you have to be better than the two jokers we have to choose from this year). Hell, I’ll put your name on the moon in purple-ass neon and open a tab at your local bar just for you and your geek friends if you solve that.

This is an important issue. However, there is something that on a day-to-day basis troubles me more. Nose hair. That’s right; I said it and I mean it.

Millions of years of evolution and over a hundred years of mechanical and technical development and we still haven’t come close to overcoming this issue without my eyes watering and a look of impending dread crossing my face.

Dear evolution, I do not require nose hair as thick as pencil lead to sit in an office and occasionally eat out at a Mexican food restaurant. Get off your ass, you were doing great with the whole removal of the tail and making us walk upright deal – but then you got cocky after the opposable thumb thing and started slipping. I’m sitting here with nose hair which apparently is attached to my ass because every time I pull it my ass puckers up and I lift myself off my chair. While you are at it, fix this metabolism crap as well. I’m not starving myself, there isn’t a famine, the mastodon didn’t move onto greener pastures – I’m eating less to lose weight! Stop packing on fat cells every time I do this like I’m trying to survive the next ice age. I’m done playing games with you.

Dear mechanical engineer, we put people on the moon and developed the damn cotton-gin. We can build skyscrapers made of recycled cardboard and water bottles. Why the hell is it that all you can produce for this issue is basically a cross between a circular saw and a weed eater? Let’s put our heads together, dust off the drawing board and get to work. One word – lasers.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Plastic Lincoln Logs

I worry about my kids as much as the next guy. I want them to be safe and it rips my heart out when they get hurt.

With that said, I think I worry more about what we learned as kids and what they are missing as a result of all this overprotection crap nowadays.

About an hour ago I walked outside to throw dinner on the grill. I usually make a big deal out of this so that my wife sees it as “cooking” and thinks I’m doing my part. But seriously, I toss it on the grill, close the lid and stare at the sky for a bit, flip and repeat. I love to cook.

Anyway, our two youngest offspring (Shoelessboy and Shirtlessboy) were playing on the swing set. They had some rope and made this contraption that looked like the ‘before’ picture in a kids safety brochure. This particular activity required them to stand on a piece of wood, swing down on the rope and traverse through the swings. There were 12 ways to break an arm just in step 1.

My gut reaction of course was to use my dad voice and put a halt to their building project. My mouth was open, I had positioned my body in the “dad” position (hands on hips, head tilted forward and to the side a bit) and instead I let them go for it. There were times while I watched that made me cringe. A foot wrapped around a swing chain here, a leg hanging over the trapeze there. Yet, I fought the urge and just watched.

They did fine, no open fractures, not even a rope burn. And to top it off they were quite proud of what they did.

When I was a kid we didn’t have nets around a trampoline. You fell off, you learned a lesson. You learned that concrete over the speed of 1 mph was not your friend. I learned many, many lessons (some took me more than once to finally understand). I swear the first time I saw a seatbelt was in driver’s education. I thought it was something you could use for leverage to take corners faster.

Here’s my point. You have to screw up a few times to learn. I’d rather raise the next generation with a few bumps and bruises and some level of common sense than to raise them to believe the world is a safe, pillow wrapped place where I’m there to protect them.

The minute they come out with plastic Lincoln logs for safety, I’m freaking outta here.

Now, go hit your brother with this broom stick.

Friday, July 25, 2008

wipe my bobo, wipe it

Like anyone else who needs an occasional change of scenery, we enjoy taking the kids out to dinner from time-to-time.

'Enjoy' may be a strong word. Let's just say we have to take them with us because we have sharp objects and permanent pens at home.

We usually patron a chicken wing place near our home, mainly because they have the 4 requirements needed for any successful family outing:

1) Mac & Cheese
2) Games for the kids to drop quarters into
3) Large assortment of TV screens with a wide variety of sports
4) Trivia games and adult refreshments

The kids feel quite comfortable there, to the point where I believe they think they own the place. Our son even bussed his own plate one day all the way to the kitchen. The waitress was quite impressed.

But, I’m not sure they were impressed with what happened next.

MomtheGirl and I were in the middle of our normal trivia battle (she is WAY to good at it. I have to cheat to win). Our youngest son, Shoelessboy, in a mad dash from where the games are, runs past our table and we catch “…Potty...” as he runs by. Normal stuff, his body language indicates this mad dash is indeed required (since he’s holding himself and sorta bouncing while he’s running).

No problem. We are right across the little room divider from the restrooms and the place isn’t packed.

Nobody walks into the bathroom, but a few minutes later I notice two older guys standing near the bathroom door looking down, then looking at each other, then looking down again. Hmmm... odd.

As I look up over the divider to see what they are doing, I see our son. He’s completely naked, bent over and holding a piece of toilet paper.


As I run towards them I hear our son saying “wipe my bobo, wipe it!”.

We left a larger than normal tip.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

and they call it butt paste

For those of us familiar with the medical miracles related to the prevention and treatment of diaper rash – you will recognize the name “Boudreaux's Butt Paste”. According to Wikipedia this treatment for irritated hind-ends was developed in the 1970’s by “Pappy” Talbot (yes, I actually researched this….). As a side note, “Pappy” sold his pharmacy and traveled to trade shows in an RV he dubbed the “Butt Mobile”. I have a friend who had a van he dubbed the butt mobile – but that’s another story.

I can’t make this crap up. Ok, I made up the friend part… It was actually a green 1978 Thunderbird that smelled like Polo. He thought the chicks dug it when he pulled up next to them with that 8ft long hood with plush velvety seats and those little rear windows. If it was his desire to embarrass the shit out of me... it worked.

Ok, back to the subject at hand. I provide this historical reference to say this – I’m sure at no time in its development did “Pappy” Talbot consider the application of the product in other areas… let’s say… oh, I don’t know… the head.

This was until shoelessboy discovered that in the early morning hours a tub of butt paste can be liberally applied to the head until the ENTIRE tub has been emptied. This can be hours of fun and if you happen to have diaper rash on your head…

Yep. 7am on a Saturday morning all we see over the foot of our bed is a glowing white head walking through the door towards us and the overwhelming smell of butt paste.

Turns out, one of the great benefits of butt paste is it’s ability to shed water – wonderful water-proofing capabilities. Stick him in the shower… nada. Pour dish soap on this head… nada.

Apparently, the only way to remove it is to put the poor kid in a headlock and rub his head raw with a towel. I’m sure he will be discussing this in therapy at some point.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

I accept my assimilation

Like some strung-out crack addict I’ve been in denial for years. Today, I accept my fate.

“Hi, my name is Dad-TheDude and I’ve become my dad.”

Now that that’s done, allow me to explain.

I believe this transformation to be environmentally induced – after years of hearing the following:

1) Damn, whoever designed this dumbass thing was an idiot. All they had to do was flip this over to here, put a strap over that and bolt through that hole. But no, they had to produce the cheapest piece of crap they could. Damn it to hell, I hate (insert brand name here).

2) One day, I’m going to use that.

3) Where the hell are my tools? I bet you damn kids left them somewhere again.

4) That’s it; we are cleaning out the garage – TODAY! Where is your brother?

5) I’m not calling “the guy”, I can do this. (Usually followed by 3 additional attempts and 4 choruses of number 1 above)

6) They were on sale; I saved $30 on those 300 packages of hot dogs. Now eat your damn weenie stew or… honey, look what your kids are doing.

7) Damn political bullshit – that’s why this country is going to hell.

8) I don’t need a recipe; get out of the kitchen…. I’m making eggplant spaghetti and you kids are going to eat it.

9) Credit cards are a damn government conspiracy to control the population.

10) I can make the same thing for half that price (see number 2).

Somehow, maybe through osmosis, this dribble has come into contact with my brain and slowly altered it.

Case in point:

Over the past couple of days I’ve been working on my mower (see “I got snake bait”). Today, after many valiant attempts and a few series of “who designed this stupid thing” and “where the hell are my tools” and “I can do this” and “see, that’s all it needed – DAMN… ok, I think I got it now - DAMN” – I finally got the kitchen pass I was looking for when my wife said to me those magic words:

“Well, how much is a new mower…”

Finer words have never been spoken. However, that is when the altered part of my brain kicked in again. In order to accomplish the act of buying a new mower I had to accept the fact that indeed, the mower I had was built by stupid-ass monkeys and I did not have the aptitude to correct their faulty engineering work. I also had to come to terms with the price of a new mower and the possibility that I was rewarding the mower industry for continuing to build piece-of-shit mowers.

That’s when it hit me. It was time to come to terms with the fact that indeed the transformation was complete. My brain has been saturated and morphed.

I had only one small act of rebellion left. Instead of keeping the old mower “for parts” and “I’ll use this someday” – Which my brain was screaming at me to do - I put it on the curb with a “FREE” sign on it.

Take that dad brain!

In the time it took to write this post someone has already picked up the mower from the curb. Thank god because I was seriously about to run out there and pull it back into the garage.
Time for a beer - cheers!

I need another beer, my brain is still screaming at me. I could have made a go cart with the engine or something. AGGHHHH. I need help. Maybe there's a group I could join.
In case you happen to see the story about the idiot that shot his lawn mower with a shotgun, this wasn't me. I would have used something more practical like an antitank weapon.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

I got snake bait

Kids have an incredible knack for being over-the-top literal.

A kid once told me in grade school that he would hit me so hard I would bounce off the sky. For years I thought you could actually hit someone so hard they would bounce off the sky… scared the hell outta me, I recall him being one of those overgrown bullies who wore husky’s in the first grade (my guess is that he’s now wearing a day-glow orange jumpsuit and his meals are provided by the state).

In 1972 I was at the impressionable age of 6 (the peak of literal thinking) when members of “Black September” attacked the Munich Olympics. I have vivid memories of watching a small black and white TV with my dad as members of the group walked around the terrace of the hotel where they held the athletes hostage. Dad explained to this wide-eyed kid that gorillas were holding them captive. Considering the dark shape, with what I now know was a black hood, walking around the terrace with a machine gun… oh crap! As far as I was concerned there was a possibility that groups of gorillas could be so pissed off they would hold you captive with machine guns and start making demands. The zoo didn’t hold the same fascination with me from that point. To this day when I see those images I still think of them literally as gorillas.

Today, shirtlessboy announced that snakes were in the backyard. This got my immediate attention. I thought it may be the relatives of a small garden snake we found dead in the front-yard last week but this is Texas, so who knows. 5 foot rattlesnakes would be rare considering where we live… but maybe not impossible.

I spent some time walking around on the deck (I’m not about to step into the grass – I would defend this by saying I was simply holding the higher ground). Finally I asked him to show me.

Some time back we went on a Cub Scout campout at a large scout ranch in central Texas. Boys being boys, tromping through the brush is considered high adventure. Apparently, I made the comment that snakes love tall grass. I said this more to avoid the 10,000 stickers we would be removing from his socks and shoelaces and to keep him away from the poison ivy.

That simple comment took root. Since we’ve been out-of-town for the last week and right before we left a wheel fell off my mower, the grass in the backyard has taken on a life of its own. Guess where snakes live?

Shirtlessboy and shoelessboy had been walking around on the deck (because holding the high ground is genetic) looking for snakes and yelling at the dogs to get out of the grass.

Since I was born in Oklahoma I've inherited the innate ability to fix anything with some bailing wire and a roll of duct tape (up north they call this being a cheap-ass). The mower is no longer a tricycle, the snakes have only hours to live.

My first update turned out to be bullshit. See my next post.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

hmmm... a truck

So, have you ever been driving and find yourself in the next lane passing a huge truck and the only thing is.... you don't remember pulling into that lane or that a truck was in front of you to begin with?

Odd, huh?

You know you're awake, because after this experience you 'test' yourself for the next 5 miles to ensure you're not in a time warp or something. These tests can vary depending on: (a) is anyone else in the car with you? and (b) if the first answer is yes, are they awake and looking at you kinda odd?

If so, preform the following steps:

1) Turn up the radio and bob your head to the beat (song selection is not critical for this step, anything will do).

2) Adjust your grip on the steering wheel. Maybe switch hands.

3) Look in each mirror in order - left, rearview, right then repeat. Stare intently in the mirrors at the truck you just passed. This will help solidify in your mind that it really exists while appearing as if you are being overly safe.

4) Say something to your passengers. Something like "this is a narrow road, huh" works pretty well for this purpose.

There you go, upon completion of the 4 steps you have successfully erased the fact that you didn't recall a 40 ton, 110 ft long 18-wheeled vehicle being in your general vicinity.

If you are alone in the car, this is a much simpler task. Simply look at the truck next to you and say "shit, where the hell did you come from?".

I liken this to the same phenomenon that occurs when you forget if you locked your car. Like when you finally find a suitable seat in the movie theater and it hits you "did I hear it beep? did I...... crap.....". I admit that I must drive my neighbors nuts by checking for the "beep" every few minutes after I go to bed.

If you happen to be reading this and were just in a vehicle with me for 18 hours, I was just being overly safe by staring at those trucks in the mirror.

Narrow road, huh?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

i need a genie

On our way back from our cross-country trip, only 450 more miles for me to get that cruise control down to a fine art. We have one of those steering wheels with volume control and today I found myself turning the radio up and down thinking I was using the cruise control... oopps.

I happen to know it's 450 more miles because:

a) Thats what both of the GPS units in the car says it is and they both can't be wrong. Our's is one of those units that you can talk to - love to have the 5 year old (shoelessboy) in the backseat yelling "agellan" trying to get it to talk back. Cute.

b) because I counted down every mile starting at around 758 miles left.

c) the boys have filled up a total of 3 cups due to the "I gotta go RIGHT NOW" syndrome and we have a standing 4 cup rule, so we gotta be close.

How the hell did some of these little towns get their name (passed through Hicks Station, Arkansas - can't make that stuff up if I wanted to). Each time I pass one of those I hear "Hee Haw salutes my hometown, Cooter, Missouri....".

If you happen to know the crop duster in the yellow bi-plane that was dusting a field near Cottonwood Corner, Arkansas along I-55 - tell him I have his landing gear on top of the minivan if he wants it back. Those guys are seriously nuts!

By the way, whoever built I-55 didn't know how to make a curve.

Gotta say, by about mile 1,400 of this trip I started wishing I had genie in the car to snap her head and put my happy ass in the driveway!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

and the wheels go round and round

We just completed an unplanned cross-country road trip (it is still cross-country if you went diagonal instead of across?). I travel a fair amount, but it’s usually at 32K feet and I only get to see airport – hotel - conference room – hotel - airport.

Top 10 observations:

1) This is an incredibly beautiful country once you escape the suburbs, fast-food joints and strip malls. It’s easy to get locked into the day-to-day grind and forget just how pretty and varied this country really is. At points I found myself driving through virtual postcards, if you could Photoshop out the 4 lane highway. Seriously – we live in a beautiful country.

2) Gas prices haven’t cut back on the number of vehicles on the road all that much. Simply based on the number of people at the rest stops (the statistical epicenter of all travelers) I would say it’s down maybe 5-7%.

Related: Stumbled into gas somewhere in Arkansas for $3.84 and realized it was pathetic that I thought it was such a great deal. A year ago I would have pushed the minivan to another station. We need to invade a country with a bunch of oil….. damnit.

3) The average speed on any major freeway is no less than 80mph. Go less than that and be prepared to be a speed bump.

Related: Seemed to be many who’s gas saving strategy has been borrowed from NASCAR – drafting 3ft off your bumper, it’s not just for the 1.3 mile track anymore.

4) Whoever is maintaining the freeways in Tennessee gets a gold star. I think it’s because they still have prison chain gangs guarded by guys on horses with shotguns on their hips and a toothpick. If that’s the case, keep doing that.

5) Travel isn’t what it used to be. We had several people in the minivan – no less than 14 electronic devices including 2 GPS units, satellite radio, laptops, blackberry’s, cell phones, portable game systems, iPods, DVD player and a game boy hooked up to a AC/DC converter. Good thing both legs of the trip were during the day or the van would have glowed like a public bus in Chernobyl.

6) The environmental top-of-mind movement over the past couple of years is having some effect. Virtually no trash along any road (notable exceptions were the carcasses of truck tires every few miles, part of a couch; followed by the rest of the couch .5 miles after that and a bag of onions that appeared to have made a high speed landing).

7) Never considered the career choice of being an oversized load pilot (those cars and trucks ahead of and behind oversized loads with the flashing lights). Three questions there – 1) is there a course I have to take for that? 2) If you are the lead car and you have to pull over to pee does the whole caravan follow you? 3) I noticed one caravan (unsure of the ‘official’ term) with 2 pilot cars following it. Was that part of the training program? “You just follow us for 600 miles and do what we do… “

8) Kentucky has an above average number of military convoys on its freeways. Something new here were the American flags flying on the lead vehicle which I appreciated and thought was a nice touch. God bless and thank you all! Women - If you are hot and you happen to pass these convoys please consider it a patriotic duty to flash them as you go by. I for one would have appreciated that when I was in.

9) Why do all the ‘odd’ people stay in roadside hotels? You know the type… I’m sure there’s a story behind each one that would blow your mind.

10) Traveling across the country is good for the soul. There are no red/blue states; regardless of where we live we are basically cut from the same cloth. When you are on a road trip there are no political battle lines, no racism, no bigotry, no Al-Qaeda, no gang violence or idiot bosses. It’s just miles and miles to remind you how lucky you are to be living in the greatest country on earth.

Friday, July 11, 2008

How did I get here?

And you may find yourself living in a shotgun shack
And you may find yourself in another part of the world
And you may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile
And you may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful Wife
And you may ask did I get here

-- Talking heads - 1980

Two things I don't get:

1) What the hell the chorus of that song actually means
2) Really, how the hell did I get here?

I know I'm not alone in this, the face I see in the mirror everyday is asking the same question as everyone else’s face I see – “WTF happened?” Wasn’t it like yesterday that I was tricking out my BMX bike with yet another awesome set of wheels and wondering why they would name a band ‘Queen’? How did I get from there to here and how come when that same kid, who’s still in there, looks in the mirror it’s some old dude looking back?

Granted, I’m not ~really~ old. Forty is the new 30 after all… but lets face it when my parents were this age they were already drinking fiber and pretending they enjoyed the taste of liver & onions (don’t know what your missing… try it, you’ll love it…). They were OLD.

Think about it, deep inside didn’t they also have a little toe-headed freckled face kid inside of them wondering what the hell happened? I don’t doubt that they did. Actually I’m quite sure of it.

You know that feeling you have right before a big 3-day weekend when you have all these plans and places to go? The weekend is the great unknown and full of so much potential when it’s Friday. You can’t wait to get where you're going and you can’t wait for the friends who are going to be there with you to arrive. Then comes Saturday, you maybe partied a little too hard on Friday night and some of the plans don’t seem as important now but after a quick nap you can get right back to it.

If life was a 3-day weekend, I feel like I'm at Saturday afternoon and it’s around 3 p.m. The weekends still young, we still have another full day before we have to start cleaning up and getting ready to go home. But still, sometimes I wish it was Friday again.

Ps.- there is water at the bottom of the ocean. Same as it ever was, same as it ever was.

What is "Dad - thedude"?

Kids these days... you gotta love 'em (it's the law).

Somehow our 7 yr old son (shirtlessboy) has taken to calling any male version of the species "dude", this is especially true with his friends whom in most cases he has known his entire life and apparently they have all forgotten who they are, so they simply go by the collective - "dude".

It's not that this is any big deal, I know it's nothing compared to what they will call each other 8 years from now. It's that at times when his brain has come off the track, he refers to me as "dude".


"Dude, when are you going to work?"
"Dude, check this out. It's still bleeding"
"Dude, put on some pants"


Since when did evolution transform the 7 yr old brain into a rice krispy treat? The thought of calling my dad "dude" never entered my mind. I googled it and this is refered to as 'self preservation'.

Of course, I make the necessary corrections every time. But to be honest there is a part of it that I like; so much so that I find it appropriate that this blogs title is “Dad – thedude”. Cause lets face it, at some point it’ll be “Dad – thedumbass”.