Friday, January 30, 2009

Growing Up So Fast

I have two daughters, who I tend to refer to as Thing 1 and Thing 2. Thing 1 recently turned 10. Thing 2 just turned 4.

The soccer club in which I coach just added a program for 3 and 4 year olds, starting this spring. Having grown up on a soccer field, watching her sister's games, Thing 2 is desperate to play. So, Santa brought her a size 3 Adidas soccer ball....white and pink.

Today, we took her to a sporting goods store where he got her a pair of shin guards (tiny shin guards too, I can't believe they make them that small), a pair of soccer socks, and her very first pair of Adidas boots (which she insists are sneakers....she doesn't believe me when I tell her that they're called boots). They are white, with pink stripes and pink cleats.

Tonight, we did what any father and daughter would do....we kicked her soccer ball around for 20 minutes inside the house, down the back hallway. She is quite good, for her age, with passing, different kind of traps, and after she saw me make a backwards pass, she had to try it too, very much a Brazilian style.

Thing 1's season starts in 2 weeks. Thing 2's season starts on March 21, so it's going to be a long month of watching Thing 1 play while she sits the sidelines. But, that should give her plenty of time to practice Cruyff turns and bicycle kicks.

An Actual Work Email

My company's Quality Control manager sent me the following email:

QC Mgr: On Thursday Feb. 5th, I am leaving for China for 10 days. At this time, I will have access to my emails but due to the time difference, I will not be able to respond in a timely manner. Can you keep an eye on any service notices that come in, and respond accordingly?

My response (always the team player): Will do. Have fun. Stay out of the brothels.

QC Mgr: Thanks

I never claimed to be "professional." But I am "helpful."

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Breakroom Noises

The dishwasher in the breakroom is running right now, and it's making a noise of a volume and rhythm that I haven't heard since college. Two dishes are in it (because our ops manager constantly uses the breakroom oven to make her sloshy lasagna, and someone's birthday was yesterday, so there are forks and plates in there), and these dishes are clanking together, in a RRR-CLANK-RRR-CLANK-RRR-CLANK-RRR-CLANK rhythmic sound.

It can best be described as what it would likely sound like if two people were having sex for half an hour on top of an airplane drink cart.

The reason it took me back to college was because all of the bedrooms in the fraternity house in which I lived had metal bunk beds (which we called "racks,") and it was very obvious when two people were engaging in marathon-style sex (usually because both were too drunk to be able to finish the drill), because you'd hear the creaking of metal on metal as the top bunk swayed from the motion.

The rooms were also a cinder-block design, and if the bed was close enough to the wall, not only would the bed sway and creak, but it would also clang into the wall, thus making a RRR-CLANK-RRR-CLANK sound. This was even more likely to happen if the couple doing the nasty was on the top bunk, causing it to sway even more. This was the soundtrack to my sophomore year, as the guy living in the next room over would bring his girlfriend to the house, close the door, and the sounds of .38 Special would waft through the walls, followed by RRR-CLANK-RRR-CLANK. Why he always picked .38 Special as his sex music, I'll never know. He never listened to it any other time, so when we heard it, we knew that Scott was gettin' some.

So that was my morning, an odd sound taking me back to my college days of hearing people having sex.

Monday, January 26, 2009

January 26

This is not an entry in honor of Australia Day.

This is an entry to announce that it's been exactly 2 years since my father passed away.

For the last 24 hours, I've been stuck in flashbacks...."it was 2 years since I last talked to my dad." "It was 2 years since my mom called at 3AM (yes, I actually woke up at that time) to say that the hospital called and dad took a turn for the worse and she was going to drive up and see him." "It was 2 years since my brother called to tell me that dad died."

Every one of those minutes I relived. I would stare at the clock, waiting for that exact anniversary to pass, my stomach tightening up.....except for early this morning when something made me wake up and look at the clock, seeing it was 3AM, and collapsing back in a restless sleep.

In some ways, my dad's death brought about some positives. It brought me closer to my aunt, his sister. It certainly made my younger brother and I closer. It made me more aware of the importance of life insurance. It made me more aware of the nighttime sky (he was an astronomer). And it made me aware that I will never get a second chance to experience my childrens' childhood.

Here is my dad in happier, younger times. He's the kid here. Probably in the early to mid 1940's.

And here's my father at his graduation from Pomona College. He's on the far left. Those 4 guys are all recipients of National Defense Education Act scholarships, which was a result of a mad push to increase the number of scientists in the space and defense industries, in order to beat the Soviets. My dad was one of the earliest recipients of this scholarship. What you're looking at is a photo of probably the brightest scientific minds our country could produce in the early 60's. Literally, a group of rocket scientists.

However, with all that knowledge about our universe, the ability to figure out how to mathematically put a missile in space and land it on Moscow (or the moon), my father chose instead to teach his love of Astronomy to 2 generations of college students, and devote countless hours to the field of amateur astronomy. And not only that, my father (the consummate "nerd") learned the sports of baseball and soccer and worked as a volunteer in both sports for decades.

In short, my father was not impressive because of what he knew. He was impressive because of how much he loved teaching others what he knew.

And because of his passion for teaching, I can look anyone in the eye and say that I've never electrocuted myself while installing a light fixture. Everything else he's ever taught me was just gravy (and if you've ever felt the sweet sweet joy of 120 volts coursing through your body, you'd understand the value of such a lesson).

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Raising Daughters

This could be a challenge. I'm not sure if the challenge is to maintain a level head, or to avoid killing a teenage boy and going to jail. I have a few years to worry, but it's coming.

Next door to me is a single dad with a 16(ish) boy (and an 11 year old daughter that normally stays with her mom). Kitty-corner to us is a married couple with a daughter, about 15 or 16.

Apparently, the boy next door has been relentlessly pursuing the neighbor girl, and she wants nothing to do with him. Yet he continues to call, or hit on her at the bus stop. Apparently, his pursuit of her hit a crescendo recently, when he called the girl up and told her, "I'm not feeling that well tonight. Want to come over and give me a blowjob?"

When the mother of this girl relayed the story to us, I tried to imagine what I would do if my daughter was the recipient of such a call. Unfortunately, after "Murder," I pretty much came up with a blank.

When my elder daughter, Thing 1, was born, I was told by a co-worker (who also has two daughters): When you have sons, you only have to worry about one dick. When you have daughters, you have to worry about Every. Dick. On. The. Planet.

Commuter of the Day 1/22/2009: Hard Style

Today' commuter of the day was the guy in a black Dodge Charger who had one of those chain license plate frames (Very 1995 sir! I applaud your sense of style!), with the vanity license plate that said HRDSTYL. Of course, this could only be Hard Style. There are two ways to interpret this:

One, he enjoys documentaries about weightlifters, right down to wearing the MC Hammer pants, and his favorite line of his favorite movie was in "Remember the Titans" whan Bertier and Julius were pounding on each other's shoulders yelling "Strong Side, Left Side, Strong Side, Left Side!"

Two, he is a big fan of British techno music called "Hardstyle," with lots of "untss untss untss untss" going on in the beat.

I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest he's in the first category.

Monday, January 19, 2009


Tonight, while watching the Chicago Blackhawks play the Minnesota Wild (we're talking the National Hockey League, to those who looked at those two team names and stared blankly), and came across the name of one Cal Clutterbuck.

I will not debate this. This is the greatest name in all of sports history. This is better than Anfernee Hardaway, Hakaan Loob, and Misty Hyman put together (note, I'm not including former Major League baseball player Rusty Kuntz, as his name clearly belongs in a separate class).

I will bet anyone any amount of money that his locker room nickname is Clusterfuck. I would be willing to travel to Minneapolis (normally the last place I'd ever want to travel) just to attend a Wild game and, upon seeing him score (which happens rarely), yell out "CAAAAAAL CLUUUUUUUTTERBUUUUUUUUUUCK!" I'm praying that ol' Clusterfuck becomes a 40-goal scorer so that he becomes a household name (as much as a household name that a professional hockey player can become in the United States, of course).

If you think you have a better name (other than those that belong in the Rusty Kuntz class, of course), let's hear them. Especially from you Rugby and Cricket fans.

A Visit From the Corporate Masters

Today, the CEO, VP of Operations, VP of Sales, and 2 other people with "titles" after their names on their business cards are coming into our branch office, undoubtedly to make the operations manager of this branch stutter and shake even more than she normally does.

On Friday, we were sent an email telling us that lunch will be served in today, so no need to bring a lunch or go out for lunch (assuming we wanted a free lunch...we are welcome to go out and pay for it if we so choose).

I see that today, the break room fridge is full of a pan of lasagna, a large bowl of salad, and there is homemade bread on a sideboard table in the breakroom. I'm not sure if this is extreme "kissing up" to the bosses, by making lunch, or extreme "cost savings" by not having a large deli platter being brought in. Either way, I'm thinking back to November when she brought in a lasagna for a visitor from the Houston office, and she (the ops manager) described it as "sloshy" when inviting us to have some. Nothing says "bon apetite" like sloshy lasagna.

Of course, I had to call my boss in New Jersey (due to the division I'm in, I work for him, not the local ops manager) and told him what we're having for lunch. His wife is Italian, so he had a good laugh over this. He also told me he's taking these same corporate folks (who are visiting him tomorrow) to a very nice restaurant tomorrow night, and bringing in a large tray from a local deli tomorrow for lunch.

And we get free sloshy lasagna.


Saturday, January 17, 2009

A Milestone

I did something I've never done before today.

I gave blood.

So, as you can see, I haven't had sex with a prostitute, a man, been in Africa, or Great Britain since 1980. Although, I'm now unbelievably curious why they would add Great Britain to that list. Did they have some sketchy blood inspection procedures throughout the 80's and 90's?

Anyway, today, I helped ensure there is at least one more pint of whatever my blood type is.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Commuter of the Day 1/16/2009

I have a fixation with vanity license plates. I try to evaluate the character of the driver based on the license plate. If it looks like a well thought out message or nickname, the driver is more or less decent. If the license plate is merely a way to tell us what model the car is (HUMMRRR, as I once saw), obviously the driver is a douchebag.

Today, I saw the queen mother of all douchebag vanity plates. It was on a newish Mustang, and the plate said:


Now, I'm guessing the owner meant to tell the world that this was "Mom's Mustang (Mom's 'Stang)". But, as noted, the appropriate way to say that would be MOMSTANG. MOMSTANG is Mom's Mustang. MOMTANG, on the other hand, is something very different. It may as well have said Mom's Box.

Think about what you want to put on a vanity plate, or some smartass such as myself will be right there behind you, taking notes.

Fritz the Bootlegger

In honor of today being the 90th anniversary of the one and only time the US Constitution has been amended to remove rights from US citizens, I would like to start this blog off with a story of my great grandfather, who fought the Volstead Act in a way that only a German gentleman like him would.

My great-grandfather, Fritz (actually, he was Dr. Jakob Friedrich, but everyone called him fact, his headstone says Dr. Fritz), came to this country with my great-grandmother, Helene, in March 1907. About 9 months later, my grandfather Rolf was born (as best I can figure, Fritz and Helene used their cabin on the ship to its fullest potential...if this cabin's rockin', don't come-a-knockin').

Fritz had the title of Doctor of Chemistry. A very industrious man, Fritz used his talents for good, never for evil. For example, as a hobby, Fritz had a still in the basement of the family home. It should be noted that this home was in Newark NJ, which was an urban area even then, albeit a much nicer one. These days, that house is probably in some crack neighborhood, but back then it was a nice area. Kind of like the meth lab that used to be in my neighborhood. Except Fritz's still never ran the risk of exploding.

Because Fritz was a well-educated chemist, he did not distill bathtub gin. On the contrary, Fritz, made fine cognac and brandy....the REALLY good stuff. And it gets crazier...he did not do this for profit. Fritz was quite generous with his friends, and would actually make cognac and give it away to friends and neighbors as gifts, or in return for favors.

It kills me to think that my family could've been the German version of the Kennedy's, making our money off of illegal hootch. I feel that I was robbed of the lifestyle that Jack Kennedy Jr enjoyed until his untimely demise.

In 1919, the Volstead Act was enacted, which created Prohibition. But being the stubborn German (you can always tell a German, but you can't tell him much), Fritz felt that this law did not apply to him. After all, Fritz had to escape Germany in 1914, while visiting family, or he would've been conscripted into the army as an officer, so adversity did not bother him. He was just a little more careful. But one day, on a weekend, Fritz was called into the office for an emergency (what kind of emergency a metallurgical lab could've had, who knows). Unfortunately, he had just started a batch of cognac, and the only person around to watch the still was my 12 or 13 year old grandfather, Rolf.

In desperation, he showed Rolf how to monitor the still. If this temperature gauge gets too hot, the still will blow up (much like a meth lab today), so cool the fire down. If it gets too cold, it won't distill properly, so heat it up a bit. Make sure the coils are cool, and make sure it drips out the far end into the container that was set up. If it's not dripping, there might be a clog, so check the line for clogs, otherwise there will be other problems. Fritz then ran off to the shop, entrusting his precious goods with Rolf.

So Rolf did as he was told. He checked the gauge, the fire, the coils, and the dripping product. He'd then repeat the process. He was not about to slack off, or his very German father would have a word or 20 with him. So very studiously, he'd inspect the unit. Gauge, check, fire, check, coils, check, cognac, check. After a while, there was enough cognac in the container, he would actually take a sniff of it, adding that to the list. Gauge, fire, coils, product, sniff. Gauge, fire, coils, product, sniff.

I should point out, at this time, that there is a reason brandy and cognac glasses are tulip-shaped, the way they are. You only put about a shot of liqueur into the glass, and the fumes fill up the rest of the bowl. To drink it, you swirl the glass slightly, activating the fumes, and you sniff them first, then drink, to get the full taste of the flavor (aroma is very important, much the same way a steak tastes different when you have a cold). The end result being, you can get drunk just from sniffing liqueur fumes. Can you see where this is going? Cause Rolf sure as hell couldn't.

Hours later, Fritz came back from the office, and immediately checked on his still. What he found instead was probably the one thing his entire life that truly made this dour, stern German laugh like there was no tomorrow. There lay Rolf, piss drunk on the floor of the basement in front of the still, like a college student after an all-night binge. The still was working fine, the container was filling, and Rolf had spent the afternoon killing brain cells on the finest home-made cognac in North America. Fritz was always a strict, proper person, but he nearly wet himself laughing at the site of his one and only son passed out. Helene, on the other hand, was not as amused. Mad as a wet hen would've been a better way to describe it, as most parents would've been.

Fritz kept up this hobby, and the complete lack of profit from it (obviously, this short-sited Kraut had no idea his great-grandson would've LOVED to have had a Porsche), throughout Prohibition. When Rolf started Princeton around 1925 or so, whenever he got on the train to return to school, he had a few bottles of Fritz's cognac with him, to give as gifts to friends at college, but Rolf never drank any of it himself. He had his vices...smoking (he was a huge smoker until his late 50's, especially pipes), and occasionally wine, but he never allowed alcohol to control him. But, since it was Prohibition, it was well-received by others, and probably won Rolf a few favors, so he happily carried his contraband back to Princeton each term.

Fritz died in 1943, as did his cognac and brandy recipes. Rolf never took up the family craft, although in 1983 or so, when I was doing a report on Arkansas, Rolf did draw a perfect diagram/schematic for a working still to include with the report (I totally got an A), but otherwise he had no part in distilling, and when he died in 2000, so did that part of our history, left to be told years later by his grandkids. With ancestors like this, whenever I'm asked which 5 people, living or dead, I'd like to have dinner with, I never stray from the family tree.