Category Archives: Humor

I like comedy and humor. Sometimes I try to be funny. Sometimes I succeed. Posts in this category might be funny haha. Or, they might be satire or dark humor. But, if it’s marked humor, keep that in mind. I may also just be discussing humor and comedy in general.

A Christmas Confession

I have a confession to make. What I am about to tell you is a bit shocking and maybe a little disgusting. It may just change the way you look at me. But, I think I can’t go on unless I admit this to someone. That someone is you, dear reader.

I have a thing about Christmas music. It’s almost a sickness. I love Christmas songs.

Now, you may already know this, but I am a music geek. My primary love is hard rock/heavy metal music. But, I do enjoy listening to other genres such as classic rock, alternative rock, electronic, hip hop, jazz, classical, and pop/dance. Mind you, I do not listen to those other genres a lot. But, I will throw on some Kanye West, Nine Inch Nails, Mumford and Sons, Coldplay, or Miles Davis from time to time. Mostly, though, I like rock. Hard rock and metal, especially. I have, um, a pretty big music library. I think it’s somewhere over 80 gigabytes of music on my computer (And, yes, I buy a lot of music. I have, from time to time, “borrowed” from the interwebz. But, many times I turn around I buy the music if I like it or delete it if I don’t.)

With a large library of songs like this, over 10,000 songs, 900+ artists, and so on, I try to keep my iTunes organized. (I realize some people will criticize my use of iTunes and I don’t care. I like the integration with my computer and iPod.) I make sure that individual artists are alphabetized by last name first, for example. I cannot figure out why both iTunes Store and Amazon sell music with the artist’s first name first. For example, if you buy a Neil Diamond album (and you should buy several of the classic, early albums, or at least Hot August Night!) then it will get filed in the “N” section for Neil, which is rediculous. I worked at two different music stores (Kids, a music store was a place you went to buy tapes or CDs or even records. What are those? Forget it.) Neil Diamond should be alphabetized as “Diamond, Neil.” Always. Kanye is under “West.” Nikki is under “Minaj.” Pink Floyd is under “Pink” though. ‘Cause no one is named Pink in that band, ‘kay?

I also keep them organized by genres and like to make sure track names are correct. Nothing drives me crazier than seeing “Track 1,” “Track 2,” etc. I want my tracks to have album art, as well. So, I have gone to some trouble to organize my library.

And, I have a genre called “Christmas.” That’s all that it is, too. Songs for the December holiday. I realize there are other holidays during this time, but I barely observe Christmas, much less Hanukkah or Kwanza. So, I have Christmas and Christmas-related music in that genre. And, once a year, on the day after Thanksgiving, usually, I make room on my iPod for that collection of songs and I only listen to them during the holidays up to January 1st. Then, they’re off the iPod and “mothballed” until next year, just like the lights on my house.

It started about ten years ago. I don’t recall when, exactly, but at some point, I decided to get one of those classic Christmas compilations. I might have downloaded them from some file share, I don’t recall. I know a lot of them were low bitrate and sounded tinny. But, that kicked it off. I amassed a nice little collection over a short period of time. Then, something happened to my computer, like a hard drive crash, or something. Or maybe it was stolen. I’m not sure. But, I didn’t have a backup. I had to pull a lot of songs off my iPod to recover them and it wasn’t Christmas season, so they were gone. I started over.

This was a couple years ago. Amazon has been awesome, selling compilations for pennies a song. I also got a couple CDs from Costco that had nice selections. Two of my favorites have been the Bing Crosby “Voice of Christmas” and Frank Sinatra’s “Holly Jolly Christmas” albums. Such good recordings! The nice thing has been that I have gotten much higher quality files by purchasing them. Go figure. Anyway, I now have just over 700 Christmas songs. So much fun!

Being a music nerd, I decided to make playlists for the Christmas music. There’s one omnibus playlist that has all the Christmas songs in it. Then, I made one for just Jazz Christmas songs. There’s one for Classical Christmas music (i.e. an orchestra playing the songs). I made one called Christmas Modern that is all songs from the 1980’s on through today. But, my favorite by far is the Christmas Classics which is all songs from the 1940’s through 1960’s. That, to me, is the classic era for Christmas music. Bing, Frank, Dean Martin, Eartha Kitt, Mel Torme, Nat King Cole, Perry Como, Andy Williams, Burl Ives, all of those. That is the sound of Christmas as far as I’m concerned. I love the horns and bells in those songs, and sometimes the strings. I love the intersection of big band, jazz, rock, Hollywood musical, and crooners in these songs. There is, I think, an innocence in these songs, too. I don’t necessarily think that the time period is as ideal as it is sometimes made out to be, but I can’t escape the feeling that it was just a different, sweeter time to live. It is at once, classy and corny and all around wonderful.

Wanna know something weird? Okay, weirder? My favorite Christmas song, hands down, is “Carol of the Bells.” I love that song. The melody is dark and yet magical at the same time. “Hark how the bells, sweet silver bells, all seem to say, throw cares away…” Ahhhhh. That’s the stuff right there. I think I have about 8 versions of that song. I like the instrumentals, the acapellas, the electronic versions, all of them. Such a beautiful song, if you ask me.

So, that’s my secret. I love Christmas music and I spend a little too much time thinking about it. But, only for about four weeks a year.



Forty-Eight Miles and a Wedding

Note: that’s not me. In the future, when I get stronger, I’ll be taking my own pictures. But, it is Mt. Baldy Road.

Yesterday, I endeavored to take a longer ride, still in training for my Highlander Century. So, I went out to ride with the Cycling Connection. I left the house late and met up with another rider a few miles out from the meeting place. I drafted off him for bit. He was obviously much stronger than I and we were cruising along around 23 mph. I offered to pull for a little, as it was polite, and did so. But, our pace dropped a couple mph, to 20. We arrived at the coffee house and saw the group had already left. We also met up with another rider at this point. I really need to get a Cycling Connection jersey. Both were wearing one and they seemed to know each other.

So, the three of us set out and used a rotating pace line which, embarassingly, needed to be explained to me. I did my best and we actually caught the group by Haven. So, now with the group, we continued the ride. I had decided to do the long ride, which included going up Mt. Baldy Road, to Shinn Road and then down to Mountain Ave. That’s a tough little climb there. My knee didn’t hurt too bad. Mostly, I was riding alone, though. The majority of the group went down Padua. I don’t know if the riders doing the long ride are that much faster than me, or what.

It was a good ride, though. I don’t mind riding alone as I do a lot of it. There were a few times where I felt pretty fast. I past a small group on cruising bikes in Rancho Cucamonga and it was like they were standing still. I caught a couple guys who asked me for directions. They were ridng with the group, but got separated it seems. I caught a kid who was solo. He had a decent bike and seemed to be a rider of some capability, but he was going too slow and I passed him. He either couldn’t or didn’t want to keep up with me as I dropped him immediately.

And, so it goes. I feel strong sometimes and others I can feel my lack of conditioning. Last time, all I did was get stronger and faster. But, this time, I remember what it was like to power up a climb without really caring much about it. I remember climbing Glendora Mountain Ridge Road and enjoying it! But, yesterday, going up both Baldy Road, and the climb up to the top of Day Creek were both exercises in will power.

I have learned at a big part of cycling, both moutain and road, is psychological. My mind will give up long before my body will. My legs can keep going, but my head can’t take the pain signals coming from them. And, that’s the other part of it. Cycling is an edurance sport. How long can you endure the discomfort and/or pain? There’s the pain in your legs, the pain in your butt, the pain on the soles of your feet, the pain in your lower back, the pain in your neck, and sometimes the pain in your hands, too. That’s the thing you have to endure to go cycling.

So, I either needed to distract myself from the pain and just pedal, or find a new mini-goal. It’s a good mental trick. I just need to pedal to the top of that rise. I just need to pedal to the next stop sign. I just need to pedal for one more minute. This is nothing. I’ve done this climb before. It’s nothing. It works, most times.

I was stronger this time than last time. I got back to the Grind but I didn’t see any point in stopping. I had no money on me and I didn’t really know the rest of those guys. The friends I have in the Connection were on a different ride out to Pasadena and back. Some of you might be thinking (ha ha, I’m pretending people read my blog!), “Dude, how are you going to meet people if you don’t talk to them? Well, the thing is, I am a Socially Awkward Penguin.

That is, I just often feel like it’s very difficult to be gregarious with people I don’t know. I have a hard time just walking up and talking to people I haven’t met before. It’s uncomfortable. So, I just kept riding up Day Creek.

I headed down the Pacific Electric Trail, to Etiwanda, up to Banyan, across to Wardman Bullock up to Summit, then to Citrus and home. Forty-eight miles, total. I don’t know how much elevation I climbed, but it seemed like a lot. By the time I got home, my legs were fried.

We had a wedding to go to, so I got ready and we went over to the Mission Inn of Riverside. The ceremony was in the St. Francis chapel and it was nice. I thought it was touching that they wrote their own vows and that the groom even made a vow to be a good step-father to the children. I don’t what it is with me, age, trauma, or just plain sensitivity, but I found myself getting a little emotional as the bride and groom expressed their love and devotion to one another. Maybe it’s just that I know that feel, bro. I adore my wife and feel so lucky to be with her. So, it was a nice ceremony and romantic. The chapel was beautiful. I’d been outside the Mission Inn before, but not inside like this, so it was very interesting.

The reception followed. The meal was pretty darn delicious for hotel food. It wasn’t quite gourmet 5 star fare, but it was delicious nonetheless. The filet mignon was tender and light pink in the middle. The salad was very good and the cake was so good my wife stuck my hand with a fork when I made a move toward hers, for which I don’t blame her at all. Very yummy.

Stairs, however, were not fun. My quads were so tired from the ride that I had to walk slowly down stairs, like an old man. My wife and I danced for a couple of songs when they played a little merengue/disco hybrid. We can never resist Elivs Crespo’s “Suavemente.” But, her back and my legs meant we quit after two more songs. But, it was still fun.

That is just a darn good day, you know? Bike riding, good food, dancing, and spending time with a beautiful woman. Darn good day.

MegaUpdate: Camping at Shaver Lake

For me, nothing says summer like a road trip or camping expedition. So, I have been excitedly planning for a trip up north to Central California and Shaver Lake. This is the second time I’ve been to Shaver Lake and the first time for me to take my Sun and Stars (my favorite woman in the whole world) and, in a way, the first time my children got to go. I took them about four years ago. The boy was about 1 year old and the girl was 3 or so. Both very young, too young to really appreciate it, or remember it.

I both love and hate camping. It is a hell of a lot of work, to begin with. Packing. Planning. Thinking about what you will need. Logistics. Deciding what to take and, in our case, figuring out how to get it there. We wanted to borrow a larger vehicle, or rent one, or buy a trailer, or a roof rack, etc. But, ultimately, since we are watching our budget, none of those options panned out. We asked Dad to take some items up for us (they were camping, too) and put the rest in the Accord. The kids and my Sun and Stars took bags, sleeping bags, pillows and so on with them in the passenger compartment.

So, Saturday we loaded into the car, crammed full. I barely got the trunk closed and, actually, worried about it suddenly popping open due to a bump in the road or something. Luckily, that never happened. So, we hit the road early in the morning. Very little traffic got in the way and the day was brilliant, blue and bright. By about 10 a.m. we arrived in Bakersfield. Per my own personal tradition, we ate at IHOP. It just seems like every time I pass through Bakersfield on one of these trips that I end up having breakfast at an IHOP. That’s not a complaint, per se. The meal was passable, at least, and all of us seemed happy with it. Back into the car and then on to Fresno. Stopped at Target because my Sun and Stars left her pillow at home and went to a gas station to be refueled.

We made our way out of Fresno and began our ascent into the mountains. For me, there’s something a bit magical going from the flat lands of the Central Valley, to the urban hardscape of Fresno, then into the country and finally seeing the alpine trees and flora. The road twists and turns and dips and dives. The kids in the back seat giggle as we feel gravity lose it’s grip for just a second. Then, they ask, again, how much longer. Something about children hardwires them to constantly need updating on ETAs. I did it. So did you, and my kids do it. I thought telling them we would arrive at 1pm (thanks to the GPS for pinpointing it) that it would keep them from asking. It didn’t. Arrived Shaver Lake by 1 pm as predicted. We unpacked the car and moved into our rented trailer that had been delivered.

Camp Edison is roughing it but only just. Each site has power and a cable TV hookup (no, we didn’t use the cable, but we did use the power). There’s water within about 30 feet of each site. The bathrooms have hot and cold running water and there’s even showers you can pay for. Honestly, it’s kind of luxurious for a camp ground. Each site comes with a fire pit, a picnic table and one of those square barbecues you find in a lot of parks.

Our campsite came with a spectacular view of the lake. And, we rented a little pop-up trailer to stay in. No sleeping on the ground.

I really do love camping, too. I love the outdoors. I love the smell of a campfire, the adventure of building your own fire, and, the romance of cooking your meal outside. I hate washing the dishes by hand afterward, hate the dirt and dust and flies and mosquitos. I love the sounds of the birds calling to one another and the sight of bats at dusk feasting on flying insects, swooping swiftly amid the trees. I hate getting all sweaty and dirty and knowing that there’s no shower on the schedule tonight.

Anyway, my Sun and Stars got her mother to make us some tacos that we barbecued for lunch. I had never had them this way prior to having them with her. But, they are good. Corn tortillas, beans and cheese, folded over and pressed flat. Then, the other type of taco has cheese and chiles. You barbecue each and then make a sandwich of each type. Delicious. The kids were so excited about having a campfire so we decided to get right to it that night. For dinner we had hot dogs roasted over the fire. Each kid got a long skewer and proceeded to roast their dog over the open fire. And by that I mean they managed to smack it against the burning logs, dip it in the ashes and hold it too far away from the fire to actually roast it. So, I cleaned them off and roasted them myself. But, they had fun.

One of the reasons we go to Camp Edison at Shaver Lake is because my uncle worked/works for Edison and he goes up for two weeks. One week he spends with the family and one with his Edison peoples. This year it was my family, my Dad and Stepmother, my stepsister and her twins meeting up with the uncle and aunt. Various factors conspired against my other family members so that they didn’t attend this year. So, we closed out the evening at my uncle’s adjoining campsite by having S’mores around his campfire.

S’mores. If you go camping and don’t have S’mores then I feel bad for you. Truly, they are wonderful. And, most people screw them up. Yes, I said it. S’mores done properly are amazingly delicious. Most people just jam their marshmallow into the fire, catch it alight, and then blow it out, declaring loudly that they “like it that way” to explain that they meant to catch it on fire. Know why they “like it that way”? It’s because properly toasting a marshmallow is not always easy.

I make S’mores properly. First, you have to prepare. Don’t just run over and grab a marshmallow. No, first you get your graham cracker and split it in half along the width. You should now have two squares of graham cracker. Next, break off some milk chocolate and lay it on one of the crackers. Don’t be greedy. But, do break off a whole piece large enough to fit within the area of the cracker, no more. Now, get your marshmallow. I know you probably know this, but, you have to buy the jumbo Jet Puffed marshmallows. DO NOT get the flattened ones that are marketed as being for S’mores. If you’re cheating and doing this at home in the microwave, get those. But, they are not legitimate S’mores, know that.

Okay, now we come to the most crucial step. Get the marshmallow on your skewer, piercing it in the middle through the flat end and so that it is completely, well, skewered. Now approach the fire. If there’s a lot of flames, you do not want that. Find the coals. If you can, find a spot where the coals are visible between logs. Whatever you do, don’t catch the marshmallow on fire and don’t get it in the ashes or char on the logs. Be patient and deliberate. Find a nice hot spot with coals and rotate your marshmallow slowly. Watch carefully. The outside will expand and brown. Brown is good. Get the brown evenly all over the marshmallow. At this point, the marshmallow should be wiggling on the skewer and may even spin freely on the skewer. This is a good sign. It means the interior of the marshmallow is so hot it has become molten. Now, move swiftly but carefully. Go to your crackers and put the marshmallow that is now golden brown and crispy on the outside but molten on the inside on top of of the chocolate and take the other piece of cracker and angle it to slide the marshmallow off of your skewer. Set the skewer aside and slowly press down, squeezing the crackers together. Don’t apply too much pressure, just enough to flatten the marshmallow.

If you did it right, the marshmallow will ooze out the sides, pure white marshmallow cream, and the golden brown skin will complement it. The chocolate will be melting and it will all taste amazing. No charring, no bitterness, just creamy marshmallow, crispy crackers and gooey chocolate. The perfect S’more.

Sunday we just hung around the campsite. The kids went to the beach for a while with my Stepmother and then, we they got back, they climbed the rocks. I was lucky to find a grill that would fit over the fire pit so, we set about making hamburgers for dinner over the campfire. I built the fire and started it with FireSteel. It sounds simple when I say it. But, I’m going to be honest and tell you that I worked and worked and worked to start that fire. I got out my iPad and read about how to do it, then watched a couple YouTube videos about it. Honestly, starting a fire is not easy. I resorted to taking a paper towel and wrapping it around the striker, as I saw on one video, and it worked a charm. The tinder that hitherto had resisted my efforts to light it now crackled with flame. Once the fire settled down I barbecued the burger patties over the fire. We also did corn on the cob wrapped in foil over the fire and topped it off by toasting the buns, too. Delicious. It was one of those perfect moments, eating food I made, tasting the accomplishment of starting the fire without the use of matches or lighter and looking out over a blue lake in the cool dusk. Beautiful.


On Monday we got up early and headed down to the Marina so we could rent a pontoon boat complete with a barbecue to look for a waterfall and let the kids fish.  We motored across the nearly glassy lake in the cool morning air, feeling a million miles from the furnace heat of the Inland Empire.  We found the waterfall and it was pretty.  Not Yosemite’s waterfalls pretty, but a wonderful little cascade of hydrogen dioxide.  I somehow managed to get all three kids poles ready and got them fishing.  They were so excited… for about ten minutes.  Then they pretty much decided that fishing was for suckers and monks.  People either so patient they can wait or too foolish to do something else.  So, they didn’t catch anything.

We came back and made a simple lunch.  My Sun and Stars (whom I think secretly wishes she was a grade school teacher sometimes) had brought along some craft supplies.  So, the kids and she set about making turtles from paper bowls complete with little feet and googly eyes.  Then, as the turtles dried they wove “God’s Eyes (example pictured left).  I could be wrong, but I got the feeling that My Sun and Stars enjoyed the crafts more than the kids did.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that at all.  But, somehow, that’s how camping always seems to go, doesn’t it?  Lots of things in life, really.  You think it’s super cool and when you share it with the kids they appear to be completely unimpressed.  Then they go play in the dirt.

For dinner that evening the three families met for a potluck.  Our contribution was bacon-wrapped shrimp that we grilled over the open campfire.  It was as delicious as it sounds.  There was also spaghetti, garlic bread and salad to be had.  And, we finished off the evening with S’mores.  Because we could; because we were camping.  When you’re camping, you get to have S’mores.

Tuesday we got into the cars and drove about 45 minutes deeper into the forest to visit Big Creek.  You seek, much of the area up here is owned by Southern California Edison and was the site of a major hydroelectric system.  Basically, they used dams and penstock valves to make the waters in the area generate electricity.  Several of the lakes, including Shaver, are part of this system.  The water is passed through multiple generating areas as it makes it way to the Central Valley.  As they put it, it is the hardest working water in the world.  The tour takes you down to the power station and you get to walk past the turbines.  You’re not allowed to take pictures of them.  But, we did get to look at them and then visit a small museum upstairs.  All of it was very impressive and interesting.  You don’t really think about where the electricity comes from so it was neat to see it.

We visited the little town and had homemade ice cream at Big Creek General Store. Yum.  Then heading back, we took the scenic route to camp and circumnavigated Huntington Lake.   That evening we cooked dinner over the campfire.  We had potatoes baked in the cooked in the coals, and grilled, bacon-wrapped steaks. Yes, bacon again.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  If you think so, I believe you may be un-American, or possibly Jewish.  Nothing wrong with that either.  Ended the evening with S’mores at my Dad’s camp.  Again, because we could.

Wednesday we went to Dinkey Creek.  I guess it’s Dinkey, but since we got so much snow fall in the Sierras there was more water than usual.  The area was quite beautiful.  Huge pieces of granite worn smooth by the millions upon millions of gallons of water rushing over them.  It would have been the perfect place to cavort in the afternoon sun…

However, the water was cold.  Super cold.  So cold that your feet hurt when you put them in.  So, you wait and and you get used to and it’s okay.  But, then, it’s way too cold to put your legs in.  So, you do and you get used to it and then you’re not so foolish to put your torso in.  So, you don’t.


The kids had fun anyway and the daughter was brave enough to go tubing a little.  The water was very swift in places so we found a sheltered area for her to play in.  She did it once and realize that granite isn’t really all that smooth on your butt as it seemed at first.  So, that game ended.  The son and I splashed each other a little.  Good times.  In a pool we could see trout schooling.  Nature.  You don’t see that every day.  Or, I don’t because I live in the city.

We had ice cream in town on the way back and then got dinner together back at the campsite.  Hamburgers, spaghetti (from us) and tri-tip (from Dad).  I believe we had S’mores again.  What.  I noticed I picked up a couple of mosquito bites.  I’m okay with that because I want my immunity to West Nile Virus kept current, thank you very much.  I think we also had showers this night and Tuesday night.  Showers are wonderful when you’re camping.  Brief, fleeting moments of cleanliness.  Then, the dust and the smoke settle upon you again.  Did I mention that I hate some parts of camping?

Thursday we did a lot of nothing. I sat around the campsite reading.  My Sun and Stars went to the laundromat and washed clothes.   I had finished “A Feast for Crows” the other day (Hence, I guess, calling my favorite woman in the whole world “My Sun and Stars”; she likes it, so there.) and got back to reading “Ghost Rider” by Neil Peart.  I really like that book, but it’s kind of a bummer to read sometimes.  Hard to understand how you make your way through so much sorrow.  I guess that’s why he rode for so long.  If that ever happened to me, I feel like I would have to do something similar.  So, I read some of that, some fantasy football stuff, looked up my classes online to see if I recognize any names (I did).  I made spaghetti for lunch and we made carne asada for dinner to go with the tacos that my Stepmother made. The kids spent their time making goofy videos on their iPods and playing with the Popsicle stick figures they made. (Stella counts down “In 5, 4, 3…” just like on iCarly!) Lucas spent some time on top of the rock “shuffling” (a kind of dance) to a song on his iPod. He’s actually getting kind of good at it.

One last night in the camper.  It smelled like dirty socks in there.  Three dirty kids and two dirty adults will do that to you.  We went to sleep and in the morning, awoke before 7 a.m.  I made coffee and we got to packing.  We crammed as much into the Accord as we could, shuttled some over to my Dad so he could get it home for us and we headed out.

I often say that camping is like a palette cleanser for life.  Camping refreshes me for what life throws at me.  And, by camping and doing without, say, a daily shower, the convenience of a kitchen, air conditioning, a comfortable bed,  and big screen TV, I remind myself how good I have it.  So, in all, I really love camping.  And, we had a good time.  Now, ideally, I will get back to blogging more regularly.  Lucky you!

Vacation Starts!

My summer vacation just started. As I said the other day, I have a few goals and a Honey Do list from my Honey. So, I have been estudiando mis español and yesterday I installed a ceiling fan in the master bedroom.
Okay, so here’s why I am NOT a handyman. This is, I think, also a great example of Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences, which basically says that everyone is smart about something. In this case, I clearly do not possess the kind of intelligence that makes working around the house easy. But, I am, at least, smart enough to get the job done. Eventually. More or less.
How long do you think it should take to install a ceiling fan? A couple hours, right? So, here’s how that went for me.
10:00 a.m.: Carry the box upstairs to the room. Begin unboxing. I carefully check the parts and start looking at the instructions, getting an idea for how to put the thing together. It appears to make sense. I start paying special attention to the mount and how to attach it to the ceiling. I also begin surveying the ceiling in earnest. We want it to go over the bed.
11:00 a.m.: I have my tools and my ladder upstairs. I go up to the attic and look around. By attic I mean a ridiculously small crawlspace at the top of the house. Seriously, it’s not an attic that I’m familiar with. It’s useless to use a way to wire things like, say, ceiling fans. The builders didn’t think having overhead lights, or power in the ceiling for that matter, was important. In any of the rooms.
12:00 p.m.: I have given up on the idea of bringing power from the ceiling. It’s just not going to happen. I mean, it could happen if I wanted to do all kinds of cutting and patching of wallboard, which I don’t. So, I move the bed over, get up on the ladder and use my trusty stud finder to find a stud. There’s a sprinkler system installed in the ceiling which could complicate things. Usually those are installed next to a stud. That’s kind of helpful. The ceiling in my bedroom is peaked and follows the actual roofline of the house. I’m guessing that there’s a foot to six inches clearance, and insulation, between the ceiling wallboard and our roof. I find that there are trusses running east to west in the room. But, neither of the ones closest to center are, well, centered.
This sucks. I need it in the center. My Honey seriously needs it the center. She’s not gonna be happy if it’s not centered. So, can I find a stud that goes crossways? No.
Sigh. My stud finder indicates a stud that doesn’t exist that leaves me with a hole in my ceiling (an inch square) to patch. Finally, I consult with my Honey and we decide that an off-center ceiling fan is acceptable and we rationalize that it adds character.
1:00 p.m. I go to Home Depot. I need to get something to bring power from the outlet on the wall to the fan. I have decided to use some cable and just plug it in. I considered trying to tie in to the outlet and run power up the wall and through the ceiling and decided that was as bad as what I was thinking two hours earlier. So, I buy a lamp cord that is 15′ long. I’ve measured and the fan is five feet from the wall and the ceiling is eight feet high there. That should leave me with 2 feet to spare. So, lamp cord. Simple, right? Yeah, but first I spend about 15 minutes in the electrical aisle looking at cable, looking for a prong plug you can attach (didn’t find it) walking over to the ceiling fan aisle, getting the lamp cord, back over to the electrical aisle again and looking again and finally deciding the lamp cord is what I’m going to go with.
Now I need something that will make the cord not look like a yellow lamp cord. I find some cable conduit/channel and begin the process of figuring out how much I need and which kind. Plastic? Well, it’s light. But, it attaches with tape. That will never stick to my uneven wall surface. That’s a recipe for me being completely pissed off when it falls, hits the blades and ruins everything. No go. Metal. Hmm, sturdy, a bit more industrial than I wanted. Paintable? Not sure. But, wait, a middle ground! A plastic channel that uses drywall anchors and screws to attach to the wall. It’s paintable and might just work. Having decided, I go about choosing the parts I need including anchors, a right angle inside corner, some things that hide the joints, and the channels themselves. Done.
Wait, now I need something to cut the channels. I know that I have a hacksaw and a Dremel. But, what if I had snips? That might make this easier (and given that I might be doing a similar job in other rooms, I think the snips a wise investment) to cut cleanly. Okay, so off to the tool area. Good God, there’s a lot of snips!!! Shop shears, aviation snips, all purpose snips. Great. I spend 15 minutes reading the packages and settle on a small pair of snips.
Fortunately it doesn’t take me near as long to buy a pair of work gloves. I need gloves because I’m a city boy with weak hands and the gloves allow me to do more since they protect me from bleeding. Bleeding is usually a prerequisite to finishing any job like this, but since I started using gloves I have been able to leave that part of the ritual out.
Okay, I have my lamp cord, channels, snips, and gloves. That only took an hour.
2:00 p.m.: I eat lunch.
3:00 p.m.: I pick up my kids from their mother’s house. I get home, go back to work. The mount gets attached to the ceiling and then I have to wire the thing. I spend the next 20 minutes reading the internet about polarized plugs and which is the hot side. The hot side is the narrow prong, by the way. You’re welcome. I check the wire carefully. It’s got little tiny writing on the wide plug side. That’s the common side. Got it. Finally, I wire the power cord to the fan, I wire up the remote receiver. I wire up the light. All done.
4:00 p.m.: The fan goes up. We get screws tightened. Then, put together the blades, screw them up to the fan engine. Oh, I patched the holes in the ceiling, too. All blades on, removed screws from balancing system, done. Attach light and canopy. Done.
5:00 p.m. Working on the cable. I have to get it straight. Use a laser pointer thing for making straight lines. install drywall anchors, screw bottom of channel to ceiling, use clips to hold cable in. Snip shorter piece to complete distance to wall. Now, down the wall. Keep it straight. Anchors, screws, cable. Snip another shorter piece to complete the distance to plug. Plug in the fan. It’s turning.
How long did all of that take? Two hours. Yes. Two.
I finished the whole job, cleaned up, vacuumed the drywall and insulation on the floor. Threw away the trash, put away my tools and ladder by 7pm. And, I was beat.

But, last night, man, it was nice being under that fan. I might be smart about some things. But, do it yourself stuff around the house? Not so much.
The garbage disposal replacement only took about an hour and a half. That was easier. Later, I’m replacing a bathroom faucet. Then, we reorganize the closet.
Vacation rocks!

In Which I Has Me Some Back Spasms

I love going to the doctor and hearing, “That’s stress induced.” Isn’t it always? Headaches are my number one stress induced ailment. And, lately, back and neck spasms. I get this muscle right beneath my shoulder blade, either one that just clenches right the heck up and radiates pain down my arm and up my neck.

Yay! Fun!

I’m trying to relax, honest, ma. But, it’s tough, lately, as you can imagine. But, it will be over soon, I guess. I never got this kind of stuff before. Teaching is hard, yes, but these high profile events, like graduation, tend to bring the pain.

Yesterday I had an assembly with the Seniors. We practiced graduation and got ready for the big day. Me and 500 high school seniors. True, I had some administrators popping in and out from time to time, but mostly, it was me. Friday, I had a brief assembly with them, too. Nobody in there but me. No teachers, no security. Just me.

I don’t like “tooting my own horn” but I gotta say, it’s not luck that the Seniors sit, listen, follow directions with just me. It’s a learned skill, born of four years doing this, plus 6 more years of drama work and I have to believe that my training as a writer/director from film school helps, too.

So, today, in the stadium, I ran graduation practice again. No administrators. No teachers. One security guard who lurked way down on the end and then, near the end of practice, another CSO showed up to help. I’m grateful, no doubt, but I wasn’t having behavior problems. The kids got in the stands, took their panoramic picture, then followed directions and got in their rows.

Did I mention that the microphone for the stadium sound system wasn’t working and my bullhorn decided to take a siesta? No? Oh, that’s what happened. So, there’s me, 5’7″ me, with no sound amplification, giving directions to 500 giddy seniors. And, they listened and followed them.

Not only that, but we practiced the procession. The seniors walked in single file as instructed and simulated processing into the arena for commencement. And, it was just me and some Junior Honor Attendants acting as traffic cones on the field.

I wonder where the back spasms came from? Could it be the stress and pressure of producing one last good graduation? Maybe. Yeah, that could be it.

Honestly, I don’t want to care. But, it’s not the kids’ fault that I’m being replaced. I guess it’s mine for being me. So, I don’t want the kids to have to suffer a poor graduation as a result of me being demoralized after having bled black and green for four years, being told, “This is your school” when clearly it is not. If it were my school, I would have kept me.

I’m a big fan of my work, as you can imagine.

So, it’s rest, muscle relaxers and ibuprofen to get my back right for the big day. Graduation will be fine. There will be some nice plants on stage, that I arranged to get there (you’re welcome FUSD). In appreciation of my efforts I’m being given some time off and some Junior English classes.

I’m just gonna say, maybe my replacement is awesome. But, if not, then they are gonna need tons of help. ‘Cause next year, if they throw some first year Activities Director out there on the field with no teachers and no administrators to help them rehearse their first ever graduation that they’ve never planned before… well, I’m guessing someone else will have some stress induced ailments too.

Pink nail polish

I’m so grateful we live in such a wonderful country that pink nail polish on a little boy merits national discussion. We’re wringing our hands and gnashing our teeth in despair.

Meanwhile, Japan is glowing in the dark with a disaster of Chernobyl proportions.

So awesome. And, you know why this is an outrage, right? Because that pink nail polish might make him gay, or at least a transvestite. Icky!!!

Let me just say, I don’t remember choosing to be straight. I can’t recall when I did it. I don’t even remember choosing not to be gay, for that matter. Even more to the point, I don’t remember ever choosing to fall in love with one person or the other. I never thought, “She would be a good person to be in love with because of her many good qualities and level-headedness in financial matters.”

Know why? I think it’s because I didn’t choose. And neither did anyone else. Nobody chooses who to be attracted to or who to fall in love with. Nobody chooses to be straight and nobody chooses to be gay. But, because we live in this closed-minded society, some gays have to choose to seem straight. They have to adopt a lifestyle opposite to their own feelings.

So, I don’t really think that nail polish is gonna make some kid queer. Just saying.

This article from Smithsonian Magazine says that one of America’s greatest president’s wore a dress until he was 6. His parents must have messed him up, big time! No wonder he was a Democrat!!!

What’s that? You say that all boys wore dresses until their first haircut in the 1800’s? Hmm. Okay, so they were all weird. Must have been a lot more confused boys back then. I’m shocked our species didn’t die out with so many boys almost becoming gay. In fact, according to WiseGeek, pink was considered a pretty masculine color prior to the 1950’s.

I almost hesitate to write this knowing that someone who reads this might actually think someone is gay if they wear pink. I might be embarrassing them right now. But, then, I thought, good. I hope so. Personally, I don’t understand being gay. I’ve never felt gay (except that one time when I was choosing wall colors for my daughter’s room and, um, I liked it.). I never caught myself wanting to hold hands with another guy. So, I don’t get when two guys dig each other. But, just because I don’t understand it doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with it.

You know, I’ve seen guys sit there and talk about their girl as being so beautiful and she’s not. She’s plain. I’ve seen guys get all wound up over some girls that just weren’t good looking at all. That doesn’t make those guys perverts because they like girls with big noses and unibrows. Should we look into their childhood to see if their mothers wore Groucho Marx glasses or something to give them this fetish?

As a teacher, I have seen too many gay students have to hide it, or worse, face condemnation by family or friends or peers because of who they were. And, then, we have the gay marriage thing. My favorite reason for being against gay marriage? “When gays marry it devalues straight marriages.”

Um, no, Newt Gingrich and Rush Limbaugh getting divorces and then marrying three times devalues straight marriages. Look, if you’re serious about protecting marriage then you need to pass a law that outlaws divorce. But, you won’t hear that on the Excellence in Broadcasting network.

People are dying in the Middle East for freedom from oppression, civil protestors being shot for wanting to have a say in their government. The situation in Japan keeps getting worse. We are cutting education throughout the Federal budget. Teachers are getting lay off notices and school budgets are being eviscerated. Corporations are reaping record profits in the middle of a recession thanks to favorable tax loopholes. The banks that caused the recession are handing out bonuses.

And people are outraged over pink nail polish.

Guest Post: Don’t Make Me Do This To You

By John Boehner

My fellow Americans, I’m happy to be invited to be a guest blogger for The Gurp Files. First, I have to say, I’m a little bit giddy to be blogging. I’ve never done this before. I feel so technomalogical!

It’s with a heavy heart, however, that I have to say, don’t make me do this to you. And by me, I mean, us, the Republicans, or really, the government. Don’t make us shut down.

You don’t really want us to shut down the ENTIRE government, do you? But, that’s what we will have to do if we don’t get our way. And, that’s good because our way is really super awesome. If the government shuts down then you will really regret it. Really.

Remember a couple years ago when the whole financial market was melting down because the Democrats were so awful about things and they caused it? Well, remember when they had the bailouts? We had to do that because you don’t want those banks to fail. That would have been bad. Very bad. This would be bad, too. Imagine if there wasn’t a federal government! First of all, the IRS people can’t go to work. Now, many of you are trying to negotiate payment plans and settlements on outstanding taxes. That will take even longer without the IRS working. Plus, if you’re late, you’ll have to pay interest, so you better not let the government shut down so that you can still pay your taxes.

With no federal government, our military can’t function. Do you want us to have to pull out of the three different wars we’re fighting in the Middle East? What would you watch on CNN? Plus, all those soldiers would just come back here and want jobs. And we don’t have jobs now!

This is why we need to reduce spending. We need to cut the hell out of Medicaid and Medicare. This will stimulate job growth! It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that the reason so many companies aren’t hiring is because they think that senior citizens will continue getting a free ride from the government. We also need to cut some other welfare programs that are weighing down our economy and get Americans back to work.

And, since a lot of teachers are reading this blog, I – uh, what? Oh. I thought you said – No? Okay. Well, The Gurp Files guy just told me that it’s not really a lot of teachers. Probably 12 or so, but still. My point remains, teachers, I want you to really get those kids ready for those standardized tests! We need some high scores! If your school hasn’t continued improving toward the goal of having all of your students at or above proficient and all of the subgroups at or above proficient and you aren’t making adequate yearly progress toward that target academic percentile whatsit. I mean, wait, um, okay, look, just teach those kids. That’s all we’re asking. Teach the kids or we’ll shut down your school and take it over.

Don’t make me do this to you.

Top Ten Ways April Fool’s Day Gets On My Nerves

1. Most people are unqualified to be making jokes.
Comedy and being funny is hard. Trust me. I try on a regular basis, daily even, to be funny. The only sure way is to hurt yourself in front of people. Not in a fatal way. Leaping off of ten story buildings is not comedy. Leaping off the roof of your one story house into your backyard pool and missing the water just might be. Shooting yourself in the head? Not funny. Shooting yourself in the foot? Possibly.

2. You have to be on guard all day long.
Every story you read, especially on the internet, is suspect. News stories? Watch it. Oh and you have to open doors carefully, not take anyone seriously, watch your back. It’s just exhausting maintaining that level of vigilance all day.

3. It’s arbitrary.
Why should we limit joking and pranks to one day a year? Like Christmas, I don’t understand why the spirt of the holiday has to be limited to a single day. Jokes and pranks should be a year round practice.

4. Too much pressure.
It’s like it’s expected that you will try to mess with people and prank them all day. Have you planned ahead? Are you sure your prank is going to be epic? If not, why are you wasting the day of all prank days to do it? Look, go hard or go home. If your prank isn’t clever, well thought out and devastatingly funny, just don’t bother. That’s a lot of pressure.

5. “Is that ironic?”
Why do people always want to know? Why can’t they figure it out on their own? As a trained English teacher and writer, everyone wants me to tell them if it’s ironic. Kinda like when you run into a doctor and then have to, I mean, just have to tell them about that pain you get when you do that. It puts them on the spot. Look, I don’t know if it’s ironic. I don’t, okay? I have no clue if it’s ironic when that guy dies from whatever after he just did that thing. Okay? I don’t know.*

6. It’s like St. Patrick’s Day but without the alcohol.
Just like all kinds of non-Irish people get all worked up about St. Patrick’s Day and wear their ridiculous four-leafed clover lapel pins, we get all these non-funny motherscratchers running around and trying to be funny. And, the next day, they’re back to normal like it never happened. And you can’t even at least be smugly happy that they’re hungover. But, about St. Patrick’s Day: stop pinching me. I didn’t wear great because it’s dumb, okay? I’m not Irish and I’m busy having a life and stuff so I didn’t wear green because I have real things to think about and deal with. If you pinch me again I’m going to qualify for an assault charge.

7. Racist jokes.
All of a sudden we get the closet racists rolling out offensive jokes and wiping it all away with an “April Fools! Aha! Got you!” Look, unless that racist joke is really funny, then just keep it to yourself. Right? Unless it’s like the one where the Japanese guy, the Mexican, the White Guy and the Native American were on a plane when the pilot announced that they had to bail out as the plane was going to crash. But, unfortunately there were only three parachutes. So, the Japanese guy, being the smartest, grabbed the first parachute and jumped out of the plane yelling, “Banzai!” Next, the Mexican guy leapt up and grabbed the second parachute and jumped out of the plane yelling, “Si, se puede!” Finally, White Guy and the Native American looked at each other. There was a tense moment until the Native American pushed the White Guy out of the plane and said, “You never thanked us for the corn.” See, that’s funny.

8. Isn’t the news a big enough joke?
Just to keep it real; isn’t it enough of a joke that we have a Democratic president giving tax breaks to the rich and getting all up in another Middle Eastern country’s war. We have corporations and banks posting billion dollar profits and not paying any income taxes meanwhile the Republicans want you to believe it’s the greedy teachers and other public workers on $50K a year salaries that are the problem. We have a third straight year of cuts to public education and a greater emphasis on standardized testing scores. Oh and Charlie Sheen.

9. There is no tenth.
April Fools!

See? Don’t you hate April Fool’s Day?

*It’s ironic when a teacher with an English credential and a degree in writing doesn’t recognize irony. Dang! Why do I always have to explain this!

The danger of the tweet. – What evil lurks in the tweets of teachers?

Virginia Board of Education Urges Policy on Social Networks as Teaching Tools

At first I thought this was going to be an article about how this School Board of Ed was going to look at ways to integrate Twitter into the curriculum. The first couple of paragraphs look like that. I was very disturbed.

What a horrible idea.

First off, when was the last time anything good happened because of Twitter? I think there are a few Middle Eastern rulers and former rulers that would have something to say about the danger that Twitter poses. Look, we have to realize that China, one of the largest, most populous countries in the world, doesn’t even use Twitter! Think about that! There’s something like a hundred billion Chinese people and none of them tweet! You don’t hear anything bad coming out of China; just great gymnasts, amazing and inexpensive technology, and good food. Right? Am I right? So, when I read further that the Board was actually going to craft policy to keep teachers from interacting with students on Twitter I was very relieved.

This is a step in the right direction.

But, I think we have to take it further. I think it’s great that our Educational leaders are following in the footsteps of a demonstrably great country. For example, look around you. I bet that most of the stuff within reach was made in China. Go ahead, look at it. I’m right, aren’t I? Can a country that has such a huge capacity to produce so many goods and consumables be wrong? Also, China isn’t having terrorists attack them. China isn’t involved in three different wars and it sure isn’t nosing around in Japan’s business right now while they try to recover from disaster. China knows how to mind it’s own business. It doesn’t even get involved with other countries. So, if China bans social networks, don’t you think we should too?

Social networks are dangerous. Proof? Well, the article cites a very clear example where a teacher was convicted of molesting a student. He was sending messages to many students through Facebook, another great evil descending on the world. Obviously, you can’t have teachers messaging students through any social networks! Let’s just call a fact a fact. How else would this teacher have gotten the opportunity to molest a student if he couldn’t message them through Facebook? It seems like every time some teacher gets caught acting inappropriately with students there was some kind of digital messaging going on. Obviously the only safe contact between a teacher and student is face to face. The internet is far too tempting and dangerous; it is like the One Ring in the Lord of the Rings. The One Ring had great power and potential in the hands of its wielder, but it was evil. It bent even good people to its will and twisted them until they committed heinous and treacherous acts. That’s what the internet does with its smut and porn. Any decent communication has potential to fly off the rails and get nasty in digital form. If a teacher wants to speak with a student they should only do it in real life, analog style.

It’s the only safe thing to do.

Further, interacting with students via Facebook or Twitter means that teachers will possibly see the horrible things kids do online. You didn’t know about that? Well, consider yourself lucky. It used to be that if a student wanted to say something filthy to another student they had to pass it across the class like prisoners passing illicit drugs from one cell to another (I saw that in a movie!). This way a teacher had the opportunity to intercept the message and punish them. But, nowadays, students can text each other, instant message, or email. Well, students don’t use email. But, you know what I mean. Those digital messages go floating away and there’s no way to use them to punish the offenders. We can’t have that. Students need discipline and they need to write on paper like we always have. If they are going to write disgusting things to each other they will use ink, just like I did. That is not to say that I wrote disgusting things to anyone because I didn’t. Moving on.

We can’t have teachers interacting with students on social networks. It would be better to just let the parents deal with it. Let the parents catch kids sexting (I heard about this on the news – it’s where kids combine sex and texting, which I can’t really imagine but, then, I’m not as young as I used to be.). Parents give kids the birds and the bees talk so we should let them give the turds and the tweets talk, too. Students are much more apt to listen to their parents in this matter, as they always have.

I actually heard someone suggest that teachers could teach students safe and appropriate ways to use social networks. Laugh out loud! Okay, after I finished administering the Heimlich maneuver on myself with the corner of the table and got that bit of bagel out of my throat, I had to just laugh. Seriously? You think a teacher can figure out how to use Twitter or Facebook in an appropriate manner, first of all, and then teach it to kids, second of all? It’s just silly. We all know that students barely listen to teachers on regular stuff. But, can you see kids listening to us old people on how to tweet?

And, besides all that, who is going to teach the teachers to use Twitter? What good would it do? Do we really want teachers all over Twittter, tweeting about, “Oh, my goodness, there’s so many tests to grade!” or, “I’m sorry but you spell it ‘your’ not UR.” or, “So excited to introduce photosynthesis to 3rd period!”

Ugh. It’s sickening. Nobody wants to see all that. We all know that the only reason to use Twitter is to tweet inane nonsense about what you’re doing now. Or, tweeting inappropriately with students.

And that’s the danger of the tweet.