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Inspirational Reads

Turkey Day Redux: Boobs, Birds, and Letting My Joy Out

November 30, 2009

As reported here on these electronic media Saturday, I safely traveled to and returned from the great state of Tennessee, and in case you didn't read it on Saturday, Tennessee truly is a great state. Minus Bruce Pearl. I kid, I kid. Sort of.

Anyway, I have much to tell, much to tell indeed! So, I've broken it up into compartmentalized story form. Because I'm lazy like that. And because otherwise the post would probably be really effing big if I didn't do that.

Let's start with the meal, shall we? Or, the rather spare offerings otherwise mistaken for "Thanksgiving Dinner." While my greatest hopes were achieved in that I could fall asleep in front of watch the Packers game Thursday at noon, I was getting hungry toward the end of the game. Fortunately, in the middle of the fourth quarter, when the game was pretty much finished, anyway, the dinner bell was rung.

I would have happily slept longer watched the rest of the game if it meant having more food.

Being the loving and caring father that I am, I stood up to get my kids their plates first. Knowing that they both love mashed potatoes (because, really, who doesn't love mashed potatoes?), I went straight for the potatoes, expecting to find some massive, heaping amount of deliciously boiled and creamily-whipped spuds. Instead, what I found was a meager pile of gunpowder spuds that had no pepper, no butter, no chives, no milk, no flavor and nothing really to make me think "mashed potatoes". And, considering there were 20 other people who would also want some potato flakes mashed potatoes, I served up a teaspoon of mashed potatoes for my child (I think I had Cookie's plate). Other "side" dishes suffered from a similar paucity. Again, small spoonfuls of everything was served up. With this, it was time to get to the meat of the meal--the meat! All morning, my wife's cousins and my brother-in-law had been manning the turkey fryer, so I was looking forward to some sumptuous turkey as well as the afore-promised Honey-Baked Ham.

Sadly, I got to the meat platters and found that the turkeys (well, the ones that were done, at least) had been carved with the delicacy and precision of an amphetamine-fueled axe-murderer. Picking through and getting some smaller portions that, you know, someone other than T. rex would eat, I turned to the ham.

Have I mentioned how much I love ham? This is a genetic thing, because my children both love ham, too. No, wait. There's no ham-loving gene. We love ham because it's so fucking delicious!!!

As I said to my wife later, when it was just the two of us: "Who the fuck serves a cold ham? We could have gone down the street to the grocer and gotten some cold cuts. Isn't the whole point of having a Honey-Baked Ham is that it is fucking baked???"

Mmmm...butchered bland turkey and cold ham. Two strikes and you're out, right?

I figured I could make up for the lack of everything else with rolls. Unfortunately, someone had planned ahead really well, and cooked 16 rolls. For 21 people. Like so many other aspects of the dinner, it could all be summed up fairly easily: Swing and a miss.

Fall on Me:
Around the "dinner" table, conversations were shared, but mostly about people I didn't know. Being that my wife and her siblings and her sister's husband all went to the same high school, they knew the same people. At one point, we were talking about running, and about how it's difficult for women to run (you know, 'cause they got boobs). Suddenly, the name Erin Hill was brought up (I think that's the name...I got distracted during the telling of the I will recount shortly).

Apparently, Ms. Erin literally hit herself in the face once during gym class. It was at this point that I took my wife's arm in my hands and said, "You have my attention. Do go on." Ms. Erin was not one to do things half-assed, from what I can gather, and when she went through puberty, she really went through puberty, erupting forth with lovely, heavy Double-E cup breasts on her somewhat slight frame.

My sister-in-law then informed everyone that Ms. Erin's large breasts caused her some troubles and really "screwed up her back". My mother-in-law then interjected that, no, her back got messed up when she was in a bus accident and they had to go in and do surgery.

The table fell silent for a moment and I added, just loud enough for everyone to hear, "Well, hell, they probably saved her life!"

Comedy: it's all in the timing.

King of Comedy:
My brother-in-law (my wife's brother), is perhaps the one person in the family most like me in terms of sense of humor (though my mother-in-law does have a very twisted sense of humor...she just feels bad about laughing at poop jokes and Carny folks). Many of my brother-in-law's friends rely strictly on shock value for their jokes. During the "meal", my BIL got a text message from his friend Marcello that my BIL had to read to the family: "Ha, Marcello says that he just clogged up his in-laws' toilet!"

"What the hell," I added to the end. "Doesn't he realize that you have to break up the fleet before jumping to hyperspace?"

People laughed, but as the words were finally sinking into my mother-in-law, she laughed the loudest and the hardest. So, I successfully offered up the two best lines of the entire weekend.

One of the major problems of the entire holiday was that there were 21 people in the house and two dogs. This, in and of itself, should not have been a problem. However, it was a problem when the only seating is a loveseat, a recliner, a rickety rocking chair, two barstools and two other straight-backed chairs.

As such, I spent most of the holiday downstairs, in the basement, on the couch. I sat there. I read there. I worked on the laptop down there. I slept there. Pretty much, by the time Friday afternoon rolled around, I had worked a pretty good ass-groove into the couch. Awesome.

Orange Crush:
I didn't think it was possible to ruin French toast. I mean, it's pretty simple: soak it in an egg-and-milk mixture, sprinkled heavily with cinnamon and nutmeg, cook. Serve with syrup.

My sister-in-law, who enjoys nothing more than making others feel bad, brought a bunch of breakfast casseroles for Thursday and Friday. Thursday was a bunch of quiches, which were tolerable. I'm not a big egg fan, for reasons that I won't broach here (think biochemistry lab, if you must have some form of explanation), but the food was free and I could have a couple of slabs of it to tide me over for the rather sparse offerings for Thursday afternoon.

Friday was this French Toast Casserole thing. And, while I like French Toast, I don't like it with orange zest. Nor do I like it without cinnamon and nutmeg flavorings. I like it even less with caramel sundae sauce spread on top of it. However, since I was trying to be polite, I choked down my initial two pieces. With it, I ate a single piece of bacon and a single sausage patty. Talk about being made a sad panda...

Imagine my distress when my father-in-law loaded two more slabs of French Toast Casserole onto my plate. I suppose his heart was in the right place, but... Since I was severely lacking in the whole breakfast meat department, I went ahead and ate them. They laid in my stomach like rocks. Bland, chewy rocks. Bland, chewy, there's orange flavoring in here where citrus overtones should not be rocks.

Fortunately, I was able to steal a single sausage patty off the plate headed toward the dog's bowl before it got there.

Shiny Happy People:
My sister-in-law is a very religious person.

When, you know, she's not making fun of Mexicans.

I digress. My sister-in-law is a very religious person.

She has foisted the great love of Jesus, Mary, Joseph, the Holy Spirit, Saint Wenceslas, the Holy Sepulcher and transubstantiation onto her oldest child. Well, it's both of her children, but her oldest seems to be the one who suffers has responded to it the most. Pretty much from the moment we got there until we left, it was one long, constant stream of things that are happening in her church. If it wasn't what was happening in the church, it was what her friend Lisa was doing...Lisa, whom she met at the church!

It came to the point where my wife and I are going to make a drinking game out of it the next time we're around her.

Possibly the most annoying thing (other than making her children say prayers when they are being punished...) was that, whenever one of the girls would be angry or frustrated or anything else that might be construed as negative in any way, my sister-in-law would command them to "Let your joy out."

Can't do a cartwheel? Let your joy out. Can't play with a toy because someone else is playing with it? Let your joy out. Not enough mashed potatoes on the buffet table? Joy, it's what's being let out.

So now I'm torn. I don't know what to do. If I'm ever told to "let my joy out", should I drop trou or just bust ass really loudly? I'm leaning toward the latter, and then sighing heavily and saying, "You're right, I do feel better." And then, if I can, to release a little trouser sneeze as a follow up and toss in "Oop, a little more joy for you all."

And then leave the room.

Sweetness Follows:
My fear about the pies was relieved a little bit when my mother-in-law showed up with four pies. That upped the pie:person ratio quite a bit. Unfortunately, there were now two pecan pies floating around the place.

This did not make me want to let my joy out.

However, there was enough pie for everyone. It was the, uh, getting of the pie that was most troublesome.

No one cut the pies.

Instead, I was handed a pie server and told to hack off a piece of whatever I wanted. I wish I was lying. It was so that you could sample all of the pies. Personally, I don't see why I couldn't just take a pie back to the corner that I was standing in (remember, seating was very limited) and just go to town.

My joy would have been released then.

Instead, there was a mad rush and a fight for the serving utensils. Pies were carved up in any manner which suited the last person at the pie pan. My OCD tendencies were not amused by this ignorance of proper pie protocol. Hysteria rocked the masses. The sun looked as though sackcloth had been drawn across it and the moon was the color of blood! A dragon with thirteen heads appeared! Lightning! Thunder! Office supplies! The Apocalypse!!!

I will say, though, that my wife's pie was the tastiest. So was the sweet potato/marshmallow cream pie that she made.


November 28, 2009

I got back from my Thanksgiving travels last night late. My feet hurt. My ass was kind of numb. And I was probably a bit punch drunk from being in the car for however many hours it took me to get from Knoxville to Durham, with detours through Morganton, NC and Hickory, NC. A fellow's got to eat, after all. Plus, his wife and kids, too, I suppose.

I must say, though, I really like Tennessee. This was my second real visit to the Volunteer State (I've driven through several times before). There's a different sort of atmosphere there. It might actually be a bit more friendly. I'm not sure.

One thing I do know, though: The price of premium grade gasoline in Tennessee was cheaper than the price of regular grade gasoline in North Carolina. And yet, they still talk about raising our gas taxes here in the Old North State, mostly to cover up the millions of dollars the last governor stole from the cookie jar while he was in office.

The other thing about Tennessee: There's a lot of orange. It's a combination thing, though. There's the clay-enriched soils of the southeast that are very, very orange. That, coupled with the University of Tennessee's home colors, orange and white, make for a state that's really, really effing orange. This is not to say that I dislike the University of Tennessee; I'm just not a fan of their colors is all. It' orange. While this wouldn't normally be an issue, orange is perhaps my least favorite color.

However, unlike North Carolina, there wasn't an abundance of cones and barrels left sitting alongside the roads as a testament to half-abandoned road work projects. Here in North Carolina, our road construction motto is "Yeah, we'll get to that later." Annoying.

I don't know if any of you live in Tennessee, but if you do, here's to kissing your state's ass. I love it. If the commute wasn't hell, I'd live there, but six hours is a little much to ask a fellow to drive, no matter how much he enjoys his job.

I just wish it wasn't so orange...

Friday Morning Latin Lesson, Vol. L

November 27, 2009

If there's a silver lining to the holiday spent with my in-laws, it's that I won't be fooled into going to one of those stupid door-buster sales where I get up before the sun decides to rise and stand in line with a hundred other people only to find that what I've come for is already sold out.

Yes. I've been there before. I won't say that I won't be there again, because I'm kind of dumb like that.

So, last year, I went to Best Buy, to pick up a laptop for my wife.

Never go to Best Buy. Always look in the box, Perry the Platypus, and never go to Best Buy for a door-buster sale.

Last year, some Eaters of Cock decided to camp out the night before Best Buy opened the door for their fantastic deals. Best Buy, in their infinite wisdom, hands out these papers to the first thirty people in line. These papers are vouchers so that you may go into the store and purchase whatever it is that's on that piece of paper.

Aye, but there's a rub. The first thirty people will take all the vouchers, go into the store, and then sell the vouchers to some stupid fuck--like me--for $20. Cash. When the day gets late, then the price drops to $10. I know this, because I saw the laws of supply-and-demand work themselves out while waiting for the privilege to actually get ahold of the computer and laptop that I decided to buy.

I realize it's probably a terrible thing to think, but I can only assume that these folks were all in the same gang. I can only assume that because they all wore the same clothes. And they all reported to some Eastern European guy who got really upset when the manager decided to check his enormous shopping cart filled with electronics that he tried to wheel out of the building against his receipt. Whoa, buddy, how awful that she didn't want you to rob the store blind and then resell the shit on eBay to fund whatever evil cartel you're running.

Anyway, I ended up with a happy little laptop for my wife and I got the computer on which I have composed this lovely Latin lesson.

However, not again. Not this year. And, if this shit happens to you, where you've got your eyes on something you really want and someone steals the last one out from under you, fire this off in their direction:

Aut recede canicula, aut te caedam!

Pronounced: "Oat ray-cay-day cahn-ick-yoo-lah, oat tay kie-dahm!"

Hovertext translations on sale until 11:00 am, today only!

My advice? Stay in, sleep off the meal(s) from yesterday, watch some football. If you're a particularly sadistic sonuvabitch, Stanford and Notre Dame ought to be a lovely blood-letting. And, it could be a certain Decided Schematic Tactician's last time on the sidelines for the University of Our Lady of the Lake. Double blood-sport! Woo!

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

November 26, 2009

Normally, on Thursdays, you'd show up here, prepared to be disgusted by some story involving inappropriate-for-polite company emissions of bodily fluids and/or eructations. However, since most of you won't be around today, I'm skipping the TMI Thursday thing. Besides, TMI Thursday was yesterday. On a Wednesday. What has this crazy world come to? TMI Thursdays on a Wednesday? Me willingly going to spend time with my in-laws? How long before the Whore of Babylon is sipping blood from a goblet perched atop a nine-headed dragon? Lilo, I'm looking at you.

Also, since it's a holiday, you'd come around this place expecting some sort of story about the first Thanksgiving, or a tale of the historic aspects of Thanksgiving and harvest feasts in western culture. Yeah, fuck that, it seems too much like work.

Instead, I'm going to tell you about Tuesday night.

Let me just say...if you want to kill your appetite for two days prior to Thanksgiving, you should clean out your refrigerator. Honest. Shall I tell you what I found in the refrigerator? Sure. Why not?

Did you know that chicken breast can go so far beyond rotten that it actually turns green? True story. Apparently tupperware isn't the magical storage box that we all assumed. I found a jar of pickles that had no pickles. Just brine. I found a tipped over jar of Maraschino cherries, all the juice dribbled out. It pooled in the back of the fridge. Preserved in the middle of the Maraschino juice tar pit was a bag of lettuce. Well, it once used to be lettuce. It was now a greenish-brown pulpy liquid trapped in plastic, sealed within a La Brea-esque cocoon of red goo. I also found a pack of carrots that were withered on one end, liquid on the other. Perhaps the crown jewel was a potato I had peeled for a stew, stuck in a ziploc bag, and set in the fridge for some other use. Did you know that a peeled potato will turn so brown that it appears to have regrown its skin? Oh, yeah, and it gets really fucking soft, too.

Now, if you'll pardon me, I have to go vomit.

Oh, much better. Reliving that was actually worse than when I stuck my hand in the back of the fridge, feeling around for anything that might be old or out of place or trapped in Maraschino tar pits.

Anyway, I'm hoping that you're having--or had--one hellaciously kickass Thanksgiving. Maybe you're reading this in the midst of a tryptophan-inspired torpor. Perhaps you're escaping in-laws (hi!). Perhaps you're not American at all and you have all of your wits about you and are here for entertainment purposes. If that's the case, I'm sorry to have ruined your afternoon.

My main hope is that your day is better than my Thanksgiving in 1989. I remember it because I was in the eighth grade. We had Thanksgiving at my aunt and uncle's house (Napoleon's mom and dad). You know that moment that everyone waits for on Thanksgiving day? When you've sat down, murmured some words of benediction to some distant deity, and the turkey is about to be sliced into? Well, when the tip of the knife entered that delicious brown breast, the skin crackled deliciously and then a gout of blood spurt into the air, the turkey gobbled, got up, and ran out the front door. That is to say, the turkey was a touch underdone.

I know this because the turkey on my plate was pink. And not the good kind of pink that you get when you smoke a turkey. This was more like raw poultry pink. Mmmmm...tasty!

I took one bite and the meat was cool and rubbery. The only time this is acceptable is when you're making out with your inflatable girlfriend. Suffice it to say, my appetite disappeared like I had just walked in on my mom blowing Hitler. Instantly, the gears in my mind started grinding, and--despite the fact that the Simpsons weren't really a thing yet--I wondered What Would Homer Simpson Do?

Easy: feed that shit to the dog.

Problem, though, is that even the dog doesn't like raw turkey.

Time to hide that shit in a napkin, excuse myself, and go to the bathroom. Oh hell. This isn't flushing down the toilet. Flush again. Maybe one more time. Wow, that water's getting high. Oh hell! Oho, this is what I get for likening my disgust to my mother performing oral pleasures on Hitler. Very sly, God. You really can see into the future. What to do now? Grab the plunger!!!

Ten minutes later, I return to the table and fill myself up on sides. bean casserole, I love thee! Pile on some more dressing. Turkey? No thanks. These yams are too fucking delicious!

A few hours later, and my family and I were gathering our stuff up and getting ready to go. My grandfather lived next door to my aunt and uncle, and he came over to bid us adieu. He thumped his chest, and my mom said, "You know what's wrong, right?"

"Turkey," he belched.

Two months later, my grandfather died sitting in his recliner at home. We can't really prove it, but we do kid about how the uncooked turkey killed him. Nothing like a little raw, dark humor. Get it? Raw?

Anyway. Happy Thanksgiving, everybody. Be sure to cook the turkey until that little timer thing pops up. You never know when you might inadvertently have your toilet clogged by an unwitting fool take down a beloved patriarch.


November 25, 2009

Chances are, as you're reading this (especially if you're reading this after 10:00 am), I'm on the road. That's right, my friends. As we speak (or whatever it is we do here), I am joining millions of other Americans by taking to the open road and driving to a far-off destination in order to eat myself into a stupor on Thursday afternoon. Hopefully, since I'm now in the land of the woebegone Panthers, Thanksgiving dinner won't cut into the Packers/Lions game too much. I would like to watch the one football team I pull for that has some semblance of a clue on the gridiron.

Anyway, I told you about how much I despise pumpkins. That big, evil fucker has scarred my childhood psyche beyond repair. Some of you assumed, then, that I dislike pumpkin pie. Really? Do I look like a guy who doesn't like pumpkin pie?

Of course I like pumpkin pie, you silly geese! Pumpkin pie is like the ultimate victory over those vile orange gourds! I mean, we've ripped them from their vines, cut them up, boiled them, mashed them into orange paste, sugared and spiced them, and then for good measure we baked their candied asses in a pastry shell. And if that wasn't enough injustice to crush their already fragile psyches, then we squirt whipped cream on top of the pie and devour it. And then, as one final insult, we turn them into poo. I'd say that we're the winners in that battle, my friends. Yes, I love pumpkin pie!

How do you eat your pie? Settle down, perverts. I know the answer to that already, which is why the Comely and Buxom Boudicca has that smile on her face all the time. Hmmm...perhaps I've said too much. Anyway, how do you eat your pie, perverts? I go crust first. The baked part of the crust is my least favorite part. It's dry and crumbly. I don't do dry and crumbly too well. Sorry, that's just me. So, I eat the crust first, usually cutting it off the slice of pie with my fork and sweeping it through either the pie filling or the whipped cream. After I've polished off that little appetizer, I go right for the wedge, eating from the smaller vertex of the wedge of pie first and working my way down the warm and delicious triangle. That's lip-licking good!

It's tough to pick a favorite kind of pie. Like I tell my kids, there's really only one flavor of pie: delicious! This isn't true, because some people frankly can't cook. Plus, I've only ever had mince meat pie once. I think I liked it but...*shrugs helplessly*

A few of my other favorite pies are blueberry, old-fashioned cream, and my wife makes this fabulous lemon chess pie. And, of course, there's the old stand-by and standard for delicious, apple pie. I love you, apple pie, and I love you, America.

My least favorite pie? Hands down, pecan pie. I hate the shit. Growing up, when Thanksgiving rolled around, I thought there were only two kinds of pie to eat: pumpkin and pecan pie. The pumpkin would get slopped down first, and then there'd be this brown gooey mass sitting there, unappetizing and foul. I'd sigh and go without any more pie. Damn, I hate pecan pie. My brother loves the shit, though. He can have my share, and often he does. According to some reports, he ate 4/5 of a pecan pie last year at Thanksgiving.

I also hate peach pie, but that's more because I hate peaches. Even cobbler can't save their squishy, fuzzy asses when it comes to dessert time. Again, I'll opt for the apple when it comes to cobbler time.

Anyway, chances are, if you're reading this between 10 am and 6 pm, I'll be on the road. Pieless. And heading to a place where the pie to person ratio is going to be woefully unbalanced in the direction of the person. Seriously. It's like five pies to 19 people. That's nearly a 1:4 ratio. And one of those pies is pecan. Plus, my in-laws, they enjoy their pie, too.

I have a bad feeling that I'm going to go for pie and discover one tiny wedge of disgusting pecan pie.


Anyone know if they make a pumpkin-pie flavored rum?

Totally Blowing Shit Up Tuesdays: Mmmm...Turkey!

November 24, 2009

God bless whoever realized, "Hey, turkey is delicious. Deep-fried foods are delicious." A pause for some brooding contemplation. Suddenly, "I wonder what happens when you deep fry turkey?!?!?!?!?"

Clearly, expressed in equation form, this is what you'd get:

Turkey + hot oil ------> DELICIOUS!!!!!

My first experience with fried turkey was at Notre Dame. One of the maintenance guys, a gregarious fellow of middling years with a pervert's moustache named Ross, threw some ass-kicking good tailgaters. Every year, for the last football game (you know the game, the one where Charlie Weis loses the game, honoring the seniors the only way he knows how) he'd get a half dozen turkeys and deep fry them. Since I was usually busy drinking myself into a stupor (Bob Davie was the coach...need I say more?), I wouldn't get to Ross' tailgate until all that was left of the turkeys were some well-picked-over carcasses. I will say that whatever meat I could pry from the ransacked remains of the birds was pretty effing delicious. Clearly, this is enough scientific data to support the above equation.

However, as with all good things in this world (nuclear weapons, running with sharp objects, the comedy of Emo Phillips), fried turkey has a dark side--and I'm not just talking about the legs. That's what's known as ham-fisted comedy, my friends.

No, the problem with fried turkey is that, typically, idiots are doing the frying. And when you have idiots, you have the potential for disaster.

Yes, whose drunk ass idea was that? For, I would like to salute you, Mr. Drunk Ass Genius!

Anyway, yes, I know that this was a contrived video. The people set it up so that they could send flames spewing forth into the night. My only wish is that the camera hadn't been on its side, though that angle does help with the perspective of just how effing big the fireball was. Yahtzee! That's a spicy meatball! And any other lame catchphrases you can think to insert here. BAM!

There's three main reasons for the fryer to go all napalm on you like this, and all are avoidable.

The first is fairly obvious: don't overfill the fryer with oil. But, is it that obvious? No, I don't think that it is, otherwise shit like this wouldn't happen all the time. The problem that most people overlook is that when oil is heated, it expands, thereby taking up a greater volume than what you originally put in. So, while it looks like the initial amount of oil that you added to the fryer won't cover the bird, you're probably wrong. Be sure to follow the fill line, kids. The people making the fryers actually know what they're doing.

The second biggest problem is dunking a turkey too fast. While it's true that some things are better when done fast and hard and hot and faster and harder and harder and oh God yes, yes, yes--ahem. Sorry. Got sidetracked. While it's true that doing some things faster--like driving--are really satisfying, take your time inserting the turkey into the fryer. It's not going to cook any faster if you throw that shit in there rather than slowly inserting it. Remember what Aesop and his tortoise taught us in kindergarten: slow and steady wins the race, you cocksure hare.

Now, the third problem is entirely scientific. If you put a partially-frozen or frozen bird into the fryer, you're asking for trouble. And by trouble, I mean you're going to go all Johnny Storm, without the benefits of yelling "flame on" first (and also without the benefits of diddling Alicia Masters...rowr). We'll assume, based on some of the recipes I've seen round these here innernets, that the oil bath you're dunking your turkey into is 350 degrees F. Water boils at a paltry 212 degrees F. This means that when you're frying up captain frozen poultry, you're taking ice and inserting it into an environment which is already above the temperature of its boiling point. This causes the ice to rapidly melt and form steam, which expands. Hot steam likes to rise up, and so it goes out the top of your fryer--violently--splashing oil down onto the open flames below. Oil + fire = Chinese buffet and bandages. Despite how delicious it is, no one really wants crab rangoon on Thanksgiving.

So, to review: 1) don't overfill your fryer; 2) don't dunk the turkey like an Oreo into milk; 3) don't try to fry a frozen turkey. And, just to be safe, make sure the fryer, heater and propane tank are away from any structure you feel particularly attached to.

Also, while I have your attention...please stop saying "boiling oil". Oil doesn't boil. Boiling means that you go from liquid to gaseous form. Most cooking oils (and rendered animal fats used to dissuade besieging armies) burst into flame well before they reach boiling temperatures. Thank you. I'll end my rant now.

Pruny Fingers Do Not Fond Memories Make

November 23, 2009

So, this is the week in which Americans, living up to our cultural stereotypes, begin to prepare for days of celebrating the largesse of our agricultural endeavors in a manner most gluttonous: by eating until we want to puke, laying on a couch, putting a hand in our pants Al Bundy style, and falling asleep in front of a football game.

As much as I like to eat, you'd think that Thanksgiving would be one of my favorite holidays. This is not so. I don't hate Thanksgiving, but it's about my fifth favorite holiday, ranking behind Easter but above Memorial Day.

I realize this is about as Unamerican as you can get. Since I'm a simple creature (boobs, bacon, good!), the reason I dislike the holiday is pretty simple, as well. I fucking hate doing dishes.

Now, I'm sure I'm not the only one who did this growing up, but we would pull a multi-meal Thanksgiving. It wasn't just the Thursday that my family worked their way toward the third ring of Hell, but we took in the entire weekend to celebrate the harvest. Thanksgiving wasn't just a day to celebrate the goodness that God or whatever the hell deity was tied in with Samhain in my house. No, it was a motherfucking experience. An extravaganza of culinary delights, if you will.

On Thursday, we'd go to my grandmother's house. This would be my paternal grandmother. Now, my father suffered mightily from middle-child syndrome, and as such he was the consummate dutiful child. Since I was his oldest son, this meant that, by some sick and twisted application of the associative property, I was the dutiful grandson. Never mind that I wasn't the oldest--though I certainly was the wisest and handsomest--I was still the one roped into standing there with my father washing up the dishes from our holiday repast. *shudder* I've seen things done with gravy that are unfit to discuss in polite company.

It wasn't just the rinsing and drying and stacking and putting away of dishes that got to me. No, since my father needed to impress, I was also elected to help scrub the kitchen down. If it wasn't clean and dry enough, my father was whipped up into a Drill Sergeant-like furor. The towel would crack against my ass and I'd be back down on the floor, hands-and-knees aching, using the toothbrush to scrub up every last drop of wayward gravy.

Where was my mother during all this? In the other end of the house, discussing how awful the dinner was with my aunt. My uncle was passed out in a recliner, football flickering on the television. My cousins and brother were in the back of the house, playing board games (one thing grandma definitely had was an abundance of board games to entertain us). So, it was just me and dad, working KP.

Friday would roll around, which meant that we would have our second Thanksgiving meal, at home. After my maternal grandmother had died, we invited my grandfather to come eat with us, which he was all too happy to do. Usually, somehow, my aunt and uncle would also show up. Again, we'd sup and fill our guts full to bursting. And, after everyone was finished eating, while they were sitting around the table, still licking the sauces from their fingers and smacking their lips in fully congratulatory style, celebrating that they were, in fact, better than the potatoes and dressing that they had just devoured, my father would begin gathering up the dishes. Since I was the oldest child, I got drafted into helping. *sigh*

My mother and my aunt would retire to the living room, where they would sit and talk about how great the dinner was. My grandfather would join them. My uncle would pass out in a recliner, football on the television, another hapless victim of tryptophan's vicious soporific effects. My brother and cousin were off playing video games.

This left me and my father to do the dishes. Our kitchen was tiny, and so we had no dishwasher. And, after all, we were gracious hosts. Make some coffee, pour some wine, and clean these dishes up. While everyone else celebrated and enjoyed themselves, I stood in the kitchen, a damp towel over my shoulder, my fingers slowly absorbing the scalding hot water which I used to rinse the soapy dishes. I'd stack them in the drying rack until it was full, and then I'd wipe them off and put them away. My father still scraping and scrubbing the dishes clean in the sink to my right, I would look out the window and wonder just what part of the holiday was supposed to be happy.

You better damned well believe that, when my wife and I were looking for places to live, we found one with a dishwasher. That way I could load it up after the dinner was finished and go pass out in front of the television while football flickered at me, fully reveling in the over-indulgence of the day. More importantly, my fingers weren't all pruned up. Now, that's a happy holiday in my book.

Time to Move On

November 21, 2009

I did something today that I haven't done in...a really long time. In fact, upon racking my brain for all of fifteen seconds, I couldn't think of the last time when I did this.

I didn't try to watch the beginning of the Notre Dame game.

I just couldn't bring myself to it. I worked in the yard early this afternoon, and then I went to get some food for the abbreviated week. On the ride home, I turned the radio on and discovered that ND kicked at 2:30 instead of 3:30 like I thought (you know, like they've done all season). And then when I got home, I put away the groceries and went back outside with the kids. I cleaned up my mess, swept off the driveway, and then we cooked some chicken. Finally, the chicken was done and it was too cold to stay outside, so we came in, about halfway through the third quarter.

I then sat down and watched the rest of what was the perfect topper for this farce of a season. I wish I could say I was upset at the outcome (Connecticut won in double overtime, 33-27), but instead I sat there and watched the final drive with quiet resignation. A season that had me so geeked and excited has turned to sadness and the quiet acceptance of yet another underpreformance. Pretty much the hallmark of Charlie Weis' tenure as the head coach of Notre Dame football.


I did a good deed today. I only say this because it's a bit unusual for me. I went to Target to get the groceries (as I mentioned earlier) and when I loaded them and the kids into the car, a woman approached me and asked if I could give her a ride to the north side of town. She gave me some sad story about having to buy a shirt and that she didn't have money for bus fare and she didn't want to walk.

And as my mind churned over all the excuses I could give her as to why I couldn't give her a ride, in my mind's eye I saw her walking up the rather busy road that takes you to Duke's stadia (football and basketball). And then I thought of my wife's friend Eric who was killed a month and a half ago trying to cross a busy road, and all I could see was this young woman lying in the middle of one of the roads with her life cut tragically, violently short as well. My heart broke and I relented.

Well, she was very nice. She talked to my kids, she told me I had a very nice car, that I seemed like a very nice person, that she wouldn't have asked but she knew I was a good person because of the way I acted with my kids. It all made me feel a Becky the Usurper sort of way. I took her to her place of work and let her out and wished her a Happy Thanksgiving. She smiled and thanked me and wished me the same.

I won't lie. It was probably a very irresponsible thing to do, and I was a little nervous to do it. But, when she got to work safely and, more importantly, my kids and I left the parking lot, I felt a lot better.

And then I kind of hated myself for assuming she was going to slit my throat while we were driving.

Oh well. I'm alive and she's alive and my conscience is a whole lot lighter because I actually helped someone out who was in need of some assistance. It's a far cry from Batman, but then I'm also not the head of a mutli-billion dollar industry.

Now, on to more important issues: anyone know if the tuna up there can coach football?

Friday Morning Latin Lesson, Vol. IL

November 20, 2009

Dammit, the week before a holiday vacation stretches on forever, doesn't it? Especially after you've spent all day in a quarterly meeting at the beginning of the week, which makes it worse, because the four days prior to a holiday vacation stretch on forever! I can only imagine how long the first two days of next week are going to be. Ugh! Iupiter, omnes servas nos!*

So, how many of you are kicking it with the family for Thanksgiving this year? Raise your hands! Notice me? Yep. Mine's up, too. Come next Wednesday, I'll be heading west (young man) to the vast wilds of Tennessee, where my wife's aunt and uncle will be hosting pretty much the entire wing of my wife's family for dinner. Yep. Nineteen people. Two dogs. One tiny house. Helluva a time to no longer drink, eh?

Now, I've told you before that the Roman calendar was littered with holidays and other various reasons to skip out of work, laze around on the river bank, watch prostitutes strip, or toss beans at evil spirits while banging a gong. Curiously, there was no holiday set aside for gorging oneself in order to celebrate the harvest, which is what Thanksgiving is supposed to be. Don't get me wrong: the Romans still loved a good celebration and took it upon themselves to do as such whenever they could. However, instead of having one big feast after the end of the harvest, they had several smaller celebrations in order to pay homage to deities such as Opis (or Ops), the goddess of abundance, Consus, Ops' consort and also known as "the seeder", and Ceres, the goddess of grains. Opis was thanked for the harvest, Consus was asked to protect the harvest, and Ceres was invoked to help the crops grow (Opis and Consus was also invoked when planting the seeds come sowing time, usually in December...remember, the Roman year ended with February).

There was also the Liberalia, which was a spring festival to celebrate the boys of Rome growing into men (and coming to the end of the road, presumably), but this involved priestesses wearing crowns of ivy and a giant phallus being carried around the countryside in order to bring fertility to the land. In a way, it was a primitive, very dirty Macy's parade balloon.

All of this has little to do with our celebration of Thanksgiving, which, of course, was a way of thanking the Natives of North America for helping the colonists through the first few years of life, thus allowing them a foothold on this distant shore and making it far easier to usurp their land. Thanks for teaching us that bury-the-dead-fish-next-to-the-corn-plant trick, Squanto. Here's a blanket encrusted with small pox! Now, how many of these brightly colored beads would you like for that island over there?

I guess what this blog (and this post) does provide is some fodder for when strange old Uncle Joe awkwardly tries to make small talk before hitting you up for fifty bucks to cover his gambling debts. I'm a giver like that.

Also, Thanksgiving can be a curious time, especially if people are bringing their own "specialty" dishes to share with the family during the big feast. Sometimes, you don't know exactly what something on the table is, and you're either too polite or too embarrassed to ask. Or, sometimes, the dishes don't taste quite right. If that's the case, I'm here to save you a few moments embarrassment by offering you these phrases to utter in our favorite dead language, so as to not offend.

Qualis fundus felis sapit, talis pavo sapit.

Pronounced: "Kwah-lis foon-doose fay-lees sah-pit, tah-lis pah-woe sah-pit."

Delicious translation in the hovertext.

This is also a time when fine china is trotted out and people set out all of their fanciest of dishes in order to impress those people who are about to gorge themselves stupid on the spread of comfort food. Unfortunately, this means there's a lot of extra plates, forks, spoons and cups sitting around. Confusion abounds, especially when there's some extraneous piece of dinnerware between me and a second helping of sweet potato casserole. You're lucky you don't get a fork in your forearm, grandma.

Anyway, if you're confused as to purpose of all these extra pieces of crockery and flatware, here's a pair to whisper to your confidant in order to clear up all that messy confusion. After all, the faster you finish the main course, the faster you get to pie:

Hacine furcilla uti decet? Hocine bibo aut in eum digitos insero?

Pronounced: "Hah-keen-ey foor-keel-ah oo-tee day-kate? Hoh-keen-aye bee-boh oat in aye-oom dee-gee-tohs in-sair-oh?"

Clarification in the hovertext!

Someone let grandpa cut the turkey already! He's about to go rogue with that carving knife!

If you're traveling this weekend for an extended stay with the extended fam, I wish you good travels. And if you're furiously cleaning this weekend in preparation for an extended visit from the extended fam, then I also wish you luck. And if you're not going anywhere, well, I guess, remember to at least change your underwear.

And if you won't be back here next week, Happy Thanksgiving.

* "Jupiter save us!" Remember, the Romans didn't have a letter J (it's the bastard child of the I).

TMI Thursday: What, I'm Three Again?

November 19, 2009

If this does not sate your thirst for awesome TMI stories, then check out all the other glorious tales of things we probably shouldn't tell at LiLu's home for the staunchy raunchy, TMI Thursdays!

You might have heard me mention that I did my graduate studies at the University of Notre Dame. Heard of it? It's a little Catholic institution situated in the midst of the Great Lakes basin. I hear they've won a football game or two? Something like that. Anyway, the coach is involved in some sort of imbroglio here of late, involving something about inept defenses or something. I don't know of these things.

Anyway, whilst a fresh-faced chemist, still hellbent on making the world a better place, one sp3-hybridized orbital at a time, I met an equally fresh-faced (and large-breasted) redheaded lass hellbent on making the world a better place, one Latin declension at a time. We met for some coffee and a little talk, sipped the coffe on the bench outside her dorm, and then parted ways. A few nights later, we met again for some scintillating discussion of middle Gaelic, a lecture which captivated my attention like no other, causing me to cling to the edge of my seat, wondering how that man was going to roll his r's and elide his l's this time. I was so captivated, I believe I snored.

A few months later, we married. A few months after that, she burst forth with child. Roughly a year after that, she left to live with her mother and father while I worked diligently on the final few reactions and molecules and the requisite characterizations of these compounds. Oh, how I adored the HPLC then, my friends.

But this isn't a tale of love between a man and a highly-efficient purification machine. No, this is a story about a trip.

So, my wife and daughter, when she was 11 months old, moved to Charlotte, NC with my mother- and father-in-law. As the days continued to drag on and on, and I was busy throwing beautiful samples of my highly-unstable and difficult-to-purify aldehyde on the floor of the NMR room, depression set in. I was living with my friend, Dr. Assy (who was just Candidate Assy at that time), and despite the fact that we would get a coffee every morning, he didn't much care for spooning. Nor for me gently cupping a breast during a chilly autumn evening.

This caused me to, one weekend, decide that, dammit, I wanted some sex I should go see my family. So, I loaded myself into my car (a Ford Contour, the Pantie-Liner of Sedans) shortly after noon and jumped onto the interstate that runs just north of Notre Dame's campus. On the way to the on-ramp, I fueled up at the world's slowest gas pump, which caused me to wander into the store to buy chocolaty comestibles. As I was wandering toward the counter to pay up for my provisioning, I thought I'd buy a bottle of water and a diet cola to slake my thirst while I drove. It was, after all, a ten-hour least. Since it was a long trip, I decided to buy the 32 ounce bottle of water. Makes sense, right? Sort of.

So, I paid for my food and I paid for my gas and I paid for my drinks. I got in my car and I got onto the Indiana Toll Road and I headed east. Four and a half hours later, I was in Cleveland, turning south onto I-77, which would take me to Charlotte. I had made this drive a few times, so I knew where my favorite places to stop were: New Philadelphia, OH (the home of legendary Ohio State football coach, Woody Hayes!) and Fancy Gap, VA (Smack in the middle of Frank Beamer Country...And Don't You Fucking Forget It!).

New Philadelphia is a fantastic little burgh clinging to the interstate in eastern Ohio where I could fuel up fairly cheaply, and right next door to the gas station was a Taco Bell, so I could gas up there, too. And then right across from the Taco Bell was a store promising to service all of my adult needs. In my book, that's a win-win-win situation.

So, as usual, I got off at New Philadelphia (heh) and I gassed up at the BP and then I gassed up again at the Taco Bell and then I somehow managed to avoid the Sirens' song offered by the lovely ladies of New Philadelphia, OH. How I did it without pouring wax into my ears, I'll never know. But, I managed to get back onto the interstate and continue to hurtle myself south toward West Virginia at break neck speed (I assume 75 mph to be break neck speed).

Did I mention that I got a large Mountain Dew at Taco Bell in New Philadelphia? Yes. I figured I could use the caffeine to stay awake and, thusly, alive while I drove through the Virginias. Hi-oh! This train wasn't stopping until Fancy Gap. Punch in the coordinates for light speed and we're off, Chewy.

A few hours later, and I was beginning to feel the unmistakable sensation of my bladder filling up. You know the feeling. The one that tells your brain "Hey, gotta take a piss." Yes, well, I ignored it. I was in West Virginia when the urge first hit and, well, West Virginia is a beautiful state. I wouldn't want to sully it with my urine. So, onward I pressed.

The urge began to grow more pressing the further south I went. It didn't help that the lap belt was stretched across that area just north of my Howdoyoudo, applying extra pressure on my rapidly filling bladder. You know what else didn't help? I kept drinking the fucking 32 ounce bottle of water.

Finally, just south of Wytheville, VA, I'm really feeling it. You know, that urge to piss so badly that you think your bladder is about to pop like a child's balloon or that dream bubble in which you're having hot monkey sex with Melissa Joan Hart? Yes, well, that's the feelings my bladder was sending to my brain.

Actually, it was telling me, "Listen, asshole, either empty me or I'm gonna 'splode all over your insides. Do you really want piss on your intestines? No? Then pull the fuck over!" My bladder tends to have a piss-poor attitude when it's rapidly filling.

It's not as shitty as my colon when I get backed up, though.

God, I'm punny.

"Hold on, Little Buddy," I kept telling my bladder as I read the mile markers, "It's only 23 more miles and then I'll empty you out."

It got to the point where I was shifting back and forth in my seat to relieve the pressure on my distended bladder. Finally--blessedly!--the sign telling me Fancy Gap was a mere mile away hove into view. Relief was a scant five thousand, two hundred and eight feet away!

I exit at the fanciest gap in all of Virginia and make my way over to the BP, a glowing green-and-gold oasis offering me the promise of gasoline, flushable toilets, a rather surly-looking attendant behind the counter wearing a faded Virginia Tech hat, and more chocolaty goodness for the last 100 miles of my journey. I pull up to the station, arching my back because I have to pee so badly and I think that this particular way of holding my body will offer the most relief.

Now, when it comes to using public facilities, I'm one of those people who hates using their somewhat clean toilets without offering a little restitution. So, I get out of the car, stretch, feel the cool night air upon my flesh, and simply soak in the fact that I'm not crammed into the pilot's seat of a Ford Contour (the Pantie-Liner of Sedans). I decide that my first purchase shall be approximately ten and a half gallons of gasoline. I slide my card into the reader, insert the nozzle into the gas tank, and pull the lever. A rush of gasoline cascades into the car's interior tanks.

At this point, I'm doing a little shuffle back-and-forth from one leg to the other, the whole time clenching those muscles in my groin that both make my dick dance back and forth and also keep me from pissing. I'm about halfway done filling my tank when the inevitable happens.

My bladder rebels. The muscles used to clench my urethra closed fail. And once the seal has been broken, the diet soda, the Mountain Dew, and the water all come rushing out. At once. While I'm still filling my car up.

Yes, like a three-year-old learning to use the potty, I had an accident.

You know, kind of like if the Hoover Dam suddenly, catastrophically fails, you could call that an "accident".

Of course, I wasn't wearing jeans or something dark colored that could hide my shame. No, as I stood there in my piss-soaked shorts, the faded green khaki color turned a very noticeable forest green. And I pissed so much and so hard that it soaked through my boxer-briefs and shorts and actually made a cascade onto the concrete.

Finished, and with as much dignity as I could muster, I replaced the hose for the gas line. I put the gas cap back in the tank. I closed the cover over the gas cap. I went to the trunk and pulled out a pair of fresh boxer-briefs and shorts and, holding them so that they hovered over my soiled crotch, I made my way into the BP. Thank whatever deity you believe in, the BP at Fancy Gap, VA is not nearly as swinging a joint as you might imagine at 10 pm on a Friday night. Only the surly-looking attendant at the counter and someone talking to him about bass boats saw me. They barely acknowledged me as I went back to the restroom, relieved whatever else had built up in my bladder after shaming myself at the pump station, and dropped my pants onto the floor. I changed quickly, rolling the soiled shorts and underwear up, and made my way back out to the car. I threw them in the trunk. I tried my best to forget the whole thing ever happened.

Then here's a curious thing: I went back into the service station and bought another drink!!! And, of course, some more chocolaty goodness for the ride down to Charlotte. I told you I'm one of those people who feels compelled to purchase something when I piss in someone's parking lot public restroom.

The rest of the trip to Charlotte was without urinary incident. I found my way to my in-law's house and my wife was very happy to see me. She met me at the door, and hugged me, and was very happy to have me back in her possession for a couple of days. I then went back out to the car to get my things. I gathered up my bag and some writing material and...I left the piss-soaked clothing in the car. I figured it better not to bring that up in the presence of my in-laws.

And then, as I was walking back into the house, the dog from up the street mauled me.

Fucking asshole dog.

Fluffy and the Rabbit

November 18, 2009

Damn, guys. I didn't mean to make everyone cry over my dead dog. Look, if it makes it any easier, she was an old dog. It was her time to go. She was well past the point where you could teach her new tricks. Plus, I'll admit it: she had picked up that old dog smell. You know what I'm talking about. The one where you pet her and then the smell of dog permeates your palms and sticks with you wherever you go. You can be driving back to school and be like "When did I leave molding, rotten socks under the heater?" and then you realize that the smell isn't gym socks gone wild, but rather it's the stink of the dog you patted on your way out the door still clinging tenaciously to your flesh. Yeah, that's what she had adopted. Nice dog. But she stunk.

Better? All those tears dried up? No? Fine.

Let me tell you about my cat. Everyone loves a little pussy story.

Oh, and by the way. I believe it was Adrienzgirl who said she liked me because I'm a dog person. Well, sorry, but I'm not. Don't get me wrong. I like dogs. I love dogs. In fact, here, let me give you another stupid dog story.

I was walking out to my car a few months back in the early spring when I heard some sort of jangling sound off my port side. I looked up and saw a fat beagle waddling toward me in that stupid way that only hounds can pull off and yet they still look adorable. Being that I've been around dogs all my life (well, most of it, anyway), I knew to offer my hand to Stupid Dog so that he could see I'm not a threat. The only problem is, when dogs sniff my hand to see if I'm friendly or not, they don't smell "good guy, might have spare sausage, should make him friend," they in fact smell "sucker". That's what Stupid Dog did. He sniffed my hand and immediately rolled over onto his back to show me his belly. Dawwwwwww! How can you deny this? So, I reach down and pet him. And he's a fantastic, fat beagle and he's all like "Look at me, I'm a fantastic, fat beagle. Don't you love me? Don't you want to shower me with sausages?" And I got done petting him and I said, "Well, Stupid Dog, it's time for me to go. I've got an appointment to keep." And Stupid Dog looked up at me with eyes that said "Where's the fucking sausages?" And I looked back at him and saw his tag. So, I looked at the tag. It was from someone in my neighborhood.

Since they were on the way, I loaded Stupid Dog into my car and I drove his fat, worthless ass home. Because I'm a sucker like that. To top it off, I rolled down the fucking window so that he could hang his head out of it and sniff the breeze. Most likely in search of sausages. Finally, I took him home, but instead of just dumping him out, I carried his fat ass to the door, rang the bell, and returned Stupid Dog to his rightful owners. He was so happy to be home, and his family was happy to have him back. He gave me one last look that said, "Thanks, but next time, don't forget the sausages."

See, I'm a sucker.

The thing is, I like cats, too. As much as I love the dopey companionship of a dog, I love the fuck-you-I'll-slit-your-fucking-throat attitude of cats. I like it when they stare at me from the windowsill, visually giving me the finger. I like the way that they climb up onto the bed and get in your face and purr loudly and say "The sun is up, Asshole, and you are, too! I'm going to sleep all day today, but you sure as fuck aren't going to sleep in on my watch. Now, up and at 'em. And open a can of tuna, Ebeneezer. I deserve a treat."

Yep. I sure do like cats.

Anyway, my first cat was Katy. My mom, um, liberated her from her hair dresser as a kitten. Her hair dresser had about ten thousand kittens running around the farm, and she just sort of shoved one of them into her purse on the way back to the car, figuring that Lisa would never miss one out of ten thousand cats, right? Turns out, Lisa didn't. And so I had my first true pet. I named her for a character in a book I had checked out from the library that very same day! Clearly, fate and the gods were telling me that I was going to be the proud owner of a cat. For about a week.

The dog from up the street killed her while we were away one weekend at the Lake. I came home to find her little body there in the driveway where she had been mauled. Fucking asshole dog.

My second cat I found in an old shed out behind the house of an old lady who lived two houses behind me. She was a black-and-white long-haired cat. I loved her immediately. I named her Fluffy. Because she was. She was really fluffy. Her hair was so long and so thick and so unruly that, in the winter when her coat got thicker, she would get these massive hairballs around her neck from where she would turn her head and such that I couldn't brush out--no matter how hard I tried--so that we had to wait until the spring when she started shedding for them to fall off. The only problem was, they would be so massive and they'd lay there in the grass and get all wet with dew and rain that you'd be walking along and think that you had just happened upon an aborted kitten. I'd always sort of shriek and step back and then realize "Oh, it's just one of Fluffy's hairballs". And then I'd throw it away.

Fluffy lived a pretty luxurious life. For about six months. And then the dog up the street mauled her. Fucking asshole dog. Except, this time, he didn't kill my cat. He just broke her leg. And, well, my parents, being the kind-hearted souls that they are, decided to shell out the money to have her leg fixed. Hooray! A happy ending. For once.

Fluffy was a pretty good cat, too. She was an accomplished hunter. Only problem is, she'd bring me her trophies. I can't remember the number of times I would be out in the driveway, shooting free throws, and here would come Fluffy with some dead bundle of something-or-other in her mouth, a big dumb grin on her face, and then she would lay it at my feet. The free throw stripe in the driveway became some sort of sick and twisted trophy room for the cat, or a mausoleum for various rodents, birds and lagomorphs from the yard. It all depends on your point of view.

Not knowing what to do, I'd pet her, tell her what a good kitty she was, and then I'd scoot the dead little thing over out of my way and continue on practicing. She'd finally take the morsel and go sit on top of my dad's car and eat it. "That goddamned cat's on my car again!" he'd scream as he came running out the back door, shooing her off.

I loved that cat.

She apparently had a taste for rabbit. One spring while I was in high school, a rabbit was hanging out in our side yard. My mom would watch it frolic and play in the early evening light. Then, one day, while she was sitting on the front porch, doing her duty and diligently watching the neighbors, she saw Fluffy coming through the yard, dragging something huge. Turns out, it was the rabbit. But, the rabbit was SO big, she had a hard time moving the body. Plus, she had only mortally wounded it and was apparently looking for me to show me the kill. I went out there and she was like "Look at me. I'm so proud of myself." And the rabbit said "I'm not dead yet." Okay, sorry. Tasteless, I know. So, I yelled for my dad, because I knew she would need help getting the rabbit up onto his car, so I figured he could help her.

"Oh no," my dad said, and then he did the unthinkable: He took the rabbit away from her.

Oh fuck, was she pissed. Have you ever seen a cat stomp off mad in a huff? She actually managed to do it. She stomped around the yard for a good thirty minutes, meowing loudly. And not a pretty meow. She meowed in that pissed off way. And it was constant. And, apparently, she could hold a grudge because, after she initially quieted down, she would sound off again whenever someone turned on a light inside the house. She was not happy and she was going to let everyone know about it.

Evidently, this was the final straw (the first straw being the arrival of Meg, whom she detested, because Meg thought that cats were subservient, and in case you haven't noticed, cats serve no masters). I could almost hear her little voice, amidst all the meowing that night, saying, "I bust my ass to bring you all the finest dead small animals that I can find in the yard, lay them at your feet, and then when I rid the yard of the evil leporine menace, and this is how you thank me? With a yappy by taking away the prize I worked so hard to ambush and kill. Well, fuck you very much. I'm going to go find an old lady to live with."

And so she did. She moved out. Took her ball and went home. a different home. She went and lived with an old woman up the hill. Every so often, she would show up on the front sidewalk. She'd look in, see that we still had the dog, and then mosey on her way with a sassy flick of the tail and the best feline cold shoulder she could offer.

So, there you have it. I'm not a dog person. I'm not a cat person. I love both dogs and cats. I'm like a paradox wrapped up in an enigma with an outer coating of contradiction and punctuated with a question mark.

And yet, despite all that, I still smell like a sucker.

Totally Blowing Shit Up: Car Wars

November 17, 2009

With a tip of the hat to my good friend, Scope, I bring you this week's version of blowing shit up. Except...well...I'm not blowing shit up. But, I am ripping holes in things with cascades of molten metal.

A couple of weeks ago, back when I showed the pumpkin and the thermite reaction, Mr. C asked the question "It said it [thermite] could burn through the hood of a car, the engine block, and concrete. True?"

I could simply tell you the answer. But if Seymour Skinner has taught me anything about the conservation of angular momentum, it's that people learn better when you show them rather than explain to them. So, I humbly offer the video below.

Heh. They destroyed that car because it was French.

And, yeah, I know. There was no concrete under the car, so I didn't technically answer Mr. C's question. However, I can assure you that, with enough thermite, it will destroy the concrete underneath the car's engine block and bonnet. Remember, as they point out in the above clip, thermite burns at around two and a half thousand degrees Celsius. That's quite warm.

But, thermite's not just good for destroying the engine block of a car. And, frankly, I'd be doing you, my friends, a disservice if I didn't show you that thermite can also be used for the entire, wanton destruction of the entire car.

Don't believe me? Well, then you don't watch enough Mythbusters...

Sorry about the shitty quality of the film. It's the best I could find.

Okay, so Jamie said that thermite burns at 4500 degrees. That was in degrees Fahrenheit. Still, it's damned hot, as evidenced by the smoldering lump of bubbly steel left in the wake of Adam and Jamie's little "experiment."

So, if this is an experiment, then what is the reaction? Well, a "thermite" reaction is simply a metal oxide and another metal mixed together and, when heated, the oxide is transferred and a lot of extra heat is released during the course of the single-replacement reaction. For what we've seen twice above, this is the balanced chemical equation:

Fe2O3 + 2Al → 2Fe + Al2O3 + heat

I say the oxide is "transferred", but that may not be entirely true. The oxygen could, conceivably, come from the atmosphere. I don't know if anyone has done isotopic studies to make sure taht the oxide from the iron is ending up on the aluminum. Also, I don't know if 18O (O-eighteen) is stable at two and a half thousand degrees.

That's just one type of thermite, though. Another common form, used in welding (especially in the rail industry), uses copper instead of iron:

3CuO + 2Al → 3Cu + Al2O3 + heat

Anyway, the net product is one bitching hot reaction and, as Jamie says in the second video, it's really, really satisfying. Fortunately, the tires blew up during the course of the melting of the car with thermite. Hooray thermite! Hooray explosions!


November 16, 2009

I'm not really here today, True Believers. I'm spending the day in a small room with twenty-four other people as we hold our quarterly meeting with our client. They are feeding me, but let's not forget what Milton Friedman held near and dear: There's no such thing as a free lunch. So, I probably won't be getting around to your blogs today. I'd apologize, but I'll be too busy spending the evening massaging my poor, sore buttocks. The chairs in the main conference room ain't so comfy, if you know what I'm saying. And if you don't, well, they make my ass hurt.

In lieu of telling you more about my backside, I thought maybe I'd tell you about my dog.

When I was in the fifth grade, we adopted a shelter puppy. She was pure mutt, a mixture of Yorkshire and Scottish terriers. From the moment my mom picked her up out of the kennel at the animal shelter, she loved our family. My mom named her Megan. She named her litter mate Mandy and my aunt adopted her.

While Meg was a pure, loving dog from the moment she came home, she also eight pounds of crazy stuffed into a two pound sack. She was a good kind of crazy, though, except when it came to not being on a leash or a chain. Then she'd go batshit and run as far and as fast as she could, not caring about me huffing after her. We always found her. Except for that one time. However, when we woke up the next morning, she was in the garage--wet, muddy, exhausted...and still batshit crazy. We were glad to see her and pissed that she took off, all at the same time.

It was this batshit crazy streak that led us to call her Nutmeg from time to time.

Obviously, she loved to run, and she was fast. I'll give her that. Her true talent, however, was in her leaping ability. Whenever someone came home, she would dance on her back legs and paw at you with her front. However, whenever someone from the extended family--my aunt, my cousins, my grandfather--came to visit, Meg would leap out of her skin. She'd jump shoulder height because she'd be so excited to see you. This amused my grandfather to no end. "Leapinist damned dog I've ever seen," he'd chuckle.

Like any true dog, she was a good companion. Whenever I would come home from college, she'd be there to greet me. She'd always climb up onto my lap when I'd sit down and hunker up next to me in bed when I'd finally crawl in it at night. I'm not sure, though, if it was true canine love, or if she just wanted a nice warm ass to snuggle up against at night. See, my mom and dad had a waterbed while I was young, and my mom would yell at Meg when she would get up on the bed and walk around while my mother was trying to nap. So, Meg became adept at scooting herself around to get up right next to you, to maximize the amount of warmth she'd siphon off your body.

One night, I came home from grad school for no particular reason other than I needed to escape South Bend for a few hours. I was having one of those tough nights where I was struggling to get over the Ex-, and booze and porn just weren't cutting it. This was a long drive through the night with the windows down and a mix tape of emotionally dark music from the 90s kind of night. Around two am, I found myself on familiar roads and, with fatigue setting in, I made a couple of turns and I was soon creeping down the tree-line avenue that my parents' house rested on. I still had a key to the house, so I crept inside as quiet as possible and decided I'd sleep on the spare bed downstairs.

Meg was there to greet me, her tail wagging more slowly than usual, her old bones creaking as she followed me to the pallet. I took off my shoes and helped her up onto the bed, fearing that she was too old to make the jump. I pulled a blanket up over myself, curled up, and felt Meg take her usual position right behind my legs and under my ass. She hated it when you farted on her--again, much to my grandfather's amusement--and yet this was her preferred sleeping position for the night.

As much as she hated you breaking wind on her, she loathed water. She hated bath time, she hated to be left in the rain, and she hated being squirted with the hose, which was her usual punishment for crapping on the floor. Outside and squirted with the hose. When I was in high school, we got a pool, and Meg wouldn't go near it. Except, she liked to sleep on the deck beside the pool in the sun. Unfortunately, this is where she met her end.

I don't remember how old she was when she died. She was about thirteen or fourteen, but like I mentioned, she was slower, didn't jump so well. She had grown a bit surly in her older days. She didn't like kids nearly as much as she had when she was younger. When we brought my daughter down to her grandparents house, Meg pissed on the floor where her jumper was and Cookie's socks became soaked in dog piss. I wasn't exactly happy, but I also wasn't going to beat the dog nor squirt her with the hose. I thought of it as a canine equivalent of an old man bitching about you playing on his lawn.

Anyway, my mom threw the dog outside because she was going nuts over squirrels in the yard--her hatred of squirrels in the yard was only surpassed by her hatred of cats in the yard. So, Meg went up onto the deck to sleep in the full midday sun. However, when my mom went to get her later, the dog wouldn't come, and she couldn't be seen. My mom feared the worst. My dad came home that night and looked around the pool area for her, and couldn't find her. They figured she had run off, but feared the worst...

Since it was early summer, the thermal cover was on the pool, obscuring the water. I won't drag it out, but Meg probably climbed up onto the deck, had a heart attack, and fell into the pool. It was, without a doubt, the most ignominious way in which my dog could shuffle off this mortal coil. My mom, ever the lady, made my dad go out and pull back the solar cover, and there she floated upon her watery grave. My dad rescued her and buried her out behind the garage, in the same area where my first cat Katy was returning to that dust of which she was originally formed.

The other day, when I was having a particularly rough afternoon, I laid down to take a nap when my wife came home from work. As I pulled the afghan up over myself, I began to drift off to sleep and, for the first time in years, I had a sort of waking dream about nutty old Meg. I dreamed that she was there, beside the couch, looking up at me with her liquid brown eyes, waiting for me to fold my legs up so that she could take up her position under my ass. It was kind of odd, but in a happy sort of way. I patted my hip once--the sign to welcome her up with me--and then fell into that blissful couch sleep that I coveted so much.

Oh, and I never swam in that pool ever again.


November 15, 2009

My only question is this? When filing for unemployment, will his enormous ego also be qualified to collect benefits?

Friday Morning Latin Lesson, Vol XLVIII

November 13, 2009

Salvete, mei amici! First off, I must apologize to my friend, Bev, because I was planning on playing along with her little "Show me your home office/desk" game, but for some reason my computer and my camera aren't speaking. So, I will not be able to take care of that this morning. Sorry, Bev.

Today is a special day for two reasons. Three if you count it as being payday (for those of us with the twice-a-month paycheck thing)! Mmm...sweet pecunia!

First, in case you didn't know it, today is the First Birthday of the Friday Morning Latin Lesson. Yep, it was a year ago that we all learned about bananas in our ears. It's kind of funny how something that started out silly turned into a weekly event. Thanks to Candy's suggestion, it did just that.

The whole Friday Morning Latin Lesson occurred because my supervisor wrote the line Te audire non possum... on his white board in his office, and I stared at it for a while kind of trying to figure out what it meant. From my cursory knowledge of Latin (at the time), I was able to figure out "It is not possible to hear you", and for that I felt proud.

Now? I can read simple stories in Latin and translate them. I can also fire off some short, quick translations without needing to double check my accuracy. For instance, yesterday morning, I was reading about how M. Savage's cat died, and I was able to pull feles regia (Queen Cat) up quickly. In fact, the other day, after asking my wife to clarify something, she told me that I really didn't need her any more to check my translations. I tried not to show it, but I was pretty fucking proud. I can't translate The Aeneid or anything, but I can sure tell you how to set a bag of shit on fire and leave it on someone's front porch. And what's more important than that?

Oh, and in case you were wondering (after clicking the above link, naturally), "Musa sapientum" is the Latin name for the banana tree.

The other important event for today is that this is my 600th post! For reals. It worked out really well. And, in order to keep the whole "Latin lesson" thing alive, do you know how to write 500 in Roman numerals? You do? Eff off, I'm going to show you anyway: DC, where D is 500 and the C after it adds 100 to the total for a combined 600.

This got me to thinking about other famous DCs. I came up with District of Columbia and Detective Comics. And Dick Clark, who was born about the same year Rome was sacked by the Vandals (476 AD). Admittedly, I didn't think too hard on this subject. I also thought about famous 600s, and being that I'm in North By God Carolina, I thought of the Coca-Cola 600, which is a stock car race usually held on Memorial Day weekend at Lowes Motor Speedway in Concord, NC. I also realized that I could defend Thermopylae Pass from the Persians--twice!

Also, since I'm currently sitting at 142 followers (unless something has changed by the time you read this, thus fucking up my math), that means I've written 4.22 posts for each of you. Hurry up and claim yours, otherwise you'll get stuck with some of that boring shit I wrote at the blog's inception.

Oh, and before you go saying something like "I've got a lot of reading to do!", don't. I'll admit that the early posts on here sucked, and then I went through a spate of just posting about football and basketball. So, save yourself some time and avoid those. But, if you really must read something older, start at the gall bladder surgery posts and move forward.

So, it seems that we should celebrate both of these remarkable feats with a little bit of Latin. Makes sense, being that this is the Friday Morning Latin Lesson and whatnot.

Quidquid latine dictum sit viditur altum

Pronounced: "kwid-kwid lah-teen-ay deek-toom sit weed-eat-oor awl-toom"

Translation in the hovertext!

If you think about it, that picture's pretty fucking profound. You don't agree? Well, fine.

Next, we should seriously have a party to celebrate six hundred posts. And we all know what a party needs: booze and strippers!

Demum, veniunt meretrices! Nunc, omnes inebrimur!

Pronounced: "Day-moom, way-nee-oont mair-ate-ree-case! Noonk, ohm-nays een-abe-ree-moor!"

What? I like soccer girls.

And, one more thing before I let you go for the weekend...a couple of weeks ago, when I was talking about Elvis' birthday and whatnot, I posted this in tribute to the King. At the end of the lesson, I did a little break down about how to translate the Latin phrase. Since there's been some questions tossed out about various words in the past, I thought I'd open it up to you guys: do you want me to put a little addendum at the end explaining how the phrase is translated? Check the link to the Elvis translation if you need a reference point.

In case you needed to know, meretrices means "whores". It's derived from the verb "to earn (a living)", and is related to the word "emeritus".

Edit: The Bad Yogi pointed out that I should probably not write these things at 12:30 at night, as I tend to skip over some important verbs...that allow the sentences to actually make sense. I fixed that above and wrote them in bold-face, to point out the errors of my ways.