Thursday, May 31, 2007

Chevette Redux

Driving home from work last night, I saw a Chevette going down the road. This is first time in four of five years that I have see a Chevette somewhere other than my dreams. Amazingly the Chevette I saw on the road was a dead ringer for the one I used to drive. For some reason I makes me feel good to know that there is still a Chevette still on the roads. An impressive feat for a car that was ranked as the 5th worst car of the millennium.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

A New Beginning

My wife started teaching at her new school yesterday. She has been planning for a while to work at the middle school that is only a mile from our house, rather than at the one she was working at this year which was 35 miles to southwest of our house. Her new school is in a different school district and their school year ends two weeks after the end of the year in her old district.

Apparently at her new school they were never able to hire a full time science teacher for this school year. So for the entire year the kids have been taught by an ever changing series of substitute teachers. Because of this they gave my wife the chance to come and substitute for the last two weeks of school, in order for her to get a jump on next year.

She love her new school, co-workers, and children. It looks like it will be a much better situation than her last school was. As nice as her new school is, it does one strange peculiarity. Though it has been open since 2004 it is still incomplete. They have been building it in phases. The fact they are phasing is not a particularly unusual, it is the manner in which they have phased things that is unusual. For example the school has had a gym since it opened, however construction on locker rooms for the gym is just now about to be begin. They also have not gotten around to landscaping, the school essentially sits in a giant sandbox.

I guess these quirks are better than the
alternative of over crowded schools. Still it saddens me that they don't have the money to build the school that those kids deserve all once. It is even sadder that because it is so hard to recruit teachers to the this area they were forced to use substitutes to teach science for the entire year.
All this aside I think this is wonderful place for my wife to work. She couldn't be any happier, something that in turn makes me happy.

Monday, May 28, 2007


I recently ran across some pictures from are old house in Louisiana (above). It struck me how radically different of an environment it was than my current home in Arizona. I love living in Arizona, but sometimes I miss the green, just a little bit.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

No Pictures Please

I just found out that there is picture of me dressed in drag in the yearbook of my the school that my wife worked at this year. There is believe it or not there is logical explanation for this.

My department gives you your birthday off, my birthday is near the beginning of the school year, it so happened that my wife was running the back to school assembly that day. I decided to go watch the assembly, to give her some support and so that right afterwards we could go over border and have my birthday dinner in Mexico. One of the topics to be covered in the assembly was the dress code.

Her plan, to make a dry topic a little more entertaining, was to demonstrate the kind of clothing considered to be inappropriate by have a male teacher wear what was to be considered inappropriate female attire and a female teacher wear what was considered inappropriate male attire. However at the last second the male teacher that she had recruited to dress in drag chickened out.

I have a hard time saying no to my wife, which explains how I found my self dressed in what could be best described as "hoochy club ware" in front a couple hundred screaming middle schoolers. This moment was immortalized with a picture in the yearbook. This blog entry has been deliberatly left unillustrated.

Friday, May 25, 2007

The Secret Break Room

Seventh in a Series on My Pre-Professional Jobs

During my Junior year at college I got a part-time seasonal Job at Target. It was only for the holiday seasonal and the job was not all that remarkable, basically my job was shelving things in the back room. It was an almost completely forgettable job. And over the past six years I had largely forgotten it. Then last month I rented Employee of the Month at saw the following scene:

That scene made laugh so hard I almost peed myself, because in back room at the Target I worked at there was a very similar secret break room. It was composed of a pile of bean bags that was surrounded by pallets of dog food upon a shelf twenty feet high. Employees went there when they really didn't feel like working. Somr even went as far as to take a short nap in there, though I never personally had the nerve to nap at work.

Next Job: Working My Way Up From the Bottom, an Internship

Thursday, May 24, 2007

The Hardy Pioneers

I put the first fish into my fish tank. I put in five Zebra Danios I like to think of them as the hardy pioneers of my fish tank. I always start a new fish tank with Zebra Danios, because of two of their outstanding qualities, the are extremely hardy and as well as being the cheapest fish at Petsmart. It not that I consider them to be heartlessly expendale it is just that I have learned the hard way not try to establish an aquarium using expensive fragile fish.

I enjoy how active they are, they are constantly darting around the fish tank, they are one of the most active kind of fish that you can put in an aquarium. Every aquarium needs some fish to dart around and bring some motion to the scene.

As happy as I am with having some fish in the fish tank the cats are ecstatic, in our old homes they were always obsessed with the fishtanks, spending hours staring into them. They love the new set up because for the first time there is a cat sized ledge running along three sides of the tank. Cats now seem to be permanently affixed to these ledges.

Neither the cats nor I can wait until I can add the next fish to the aquarium I think next I will add something a little colorful.

Phone Book Factory

Sixth in a Series about my crappy former jobs

The most mind numbing job that I have ever had was the half summer that I spent working in a phone book factory. After my sweet demolition gig ended the temp agency sent me to work in a phone book factory.

I have never had job that made me feel like such a cog in a machine. My job consisted of standing at the end of printing press, when enough pages had come off, I would push a button and they would be bound into bundle about three feet long. I would then use a pneumatic claw that hung from the ceiling to pick up the bundle and stack it on to a pallet. I would the repeat this process for the next 12 hours.

Prior to this job I had never worked a 12 hour shift before, it was one of the hardest things that I have ever done. Doing the same repetitive thing over and over for thing long simply was mentally one of the hardest things I have done. I have a lot of respect for people who make their living with jobs like this one and no understanding how they do it.

One other thing that I remember clearly was going home at looking up where St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana, having ever heard of it before, after spending days starting a phone books with St. Tammany Parish printed all over them. I remember this clearly because this was the first time I had ever heard of St. Tammany Parrish and within three years I would be buying my first house there. If you had told me then my name would be in latter edition of the phone book I was printing I never would have believed it.

Next Job: The Secret Nap Spot

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

A Shout Out to My Nerdy Past

The end of April and May is very nostalgic time for me. Back in junior high and high school this was the time of the year that state and national Science Olympiad competitions were held. It was an event that I competed in from 7th grade through senior year of high school. What made it special were the friendships it created, nearly all the close friends from high school, that I have maintained friendships with nine years beyond graduation were involved in Science Olympiad with me. Of the people in the picture to the left, taken in 1997 I am still in regular contact with 8 of them, despite the fact them we are now spread out to all corners of the nation.

At the beginning of 7th grade I was lonely nerdly outcast. During this time my family came very close to moving from Colorado to Oregon, I was depressed when didn't. I was that desperate for a fresh start. Thing finally took a turn for the better when my mother pushed me into singing up for science olympiad. Almost immediately I found a place where I fit in.

Finding a like minded group of nerdy people like me was a life changing event. Suddenly I had a place where I belonged. The experienced was enhanced by the winning, every one likes to be a winner. My team finished third in the state competition that year, which felt like a real accomplishment. The next year, 1994, we would greatly exceed this winning the state championship, technically we tied for first, but no matter it still qualified us for the national competition.
That year the national competition was held at the University of Arizona in Tucson, it would be the trip during which I would fall in love with the desert. The true magic of the trip was traveling with a group of close friends, something that really is one of life's greater joys. This trip was also the first time that a can remember flying on a plane, my family preferred to drive. As for the competition we got crushed finishing somewhere in the low 30's out of 50 teams. But that really didn't matter to us.

With a ready made clique the transition to high school was relatively easy one.
We won the state title all three year that I was in high school, in my school district you spent freshman year at the the junior high. In the individual events that composed the greater competition I won 7 state titles. For the national competitions we got to go to Atlanta, Raleigh, and Allendale, MI, finishing third and second in the nation, my Junior and Senior year.

While the winning was fun, it was the social component that made this such a special experience. The same people that are in all these pictures are the same people that are in all my wedding pictures, the same people whose names make up the bulk of the names showing up in my in-box.
My wife is now a Junior High science teacher, she is talking about setting up a Science Olympiad team for her school next year. I hope she does, I would love for more people to have the wonderful experience that I did.
About all the polyester suites in these pictures, it was a team tradition to wear them to the award ceremony.

Monday, May 21, 2007


Fifth in Series on my Crappy Pre-Professional Jobs

The summer after my sophomore year, which would be the last summer that I would go home to my parents, I got off to late start job hunting because I had spend the previous semester abroad in Malta and did not get back to the U.S. until
mid-June. Because of this I had to go the temp agency route again. I wound up working two rather bizarre jobs that summer, this is story of the first one.

The temp agency told me that I would be working with a plumbing company and that the job site was one of the dorms at the local university, ironically it was next to the dorm where I had worked my first job. I showed up to the job site not knowing exactly what to expect. They gave a hard hat, safety goggles, a sledgehammer, and a jackhammer. Awesome, I was going to get to smash things, I love smashing things.

My task was to start up on the 12th floor and work my through each bathroom, destroying everything. Showers, tile, toilets, sink, and some walls, it all had to go. Having just spent a year living in dorm, and enduring the horrors of a dorm bathroom, I greatly enjoyed bringing the doom to dorm bathroom after dorm bathroom.

Growing up one of my favorite games for the original Nintendo was Rampage. The premise of this game was simple, you were a monster whose objective was to destroy cities. The game beautiful in its simplicity, each level was composed of a city, once you destroyed everything on screen you got to move on to the next level. I loved that game, and with this job I felt like I was living it, destroy one bathroom then move on to the next.

This job only lasted about a month, which probably a good thing, because I am sure after that point it would have ceased being so fun. But as it was, I had a lovely month indulging my destructive tendencies. The next place that temp agency sent me would not be nearly so fun.

Next Crappy Job: The Phone Book Factory

Something Fishy

This weekend I decided to dive back into something that used to be a favorite hobby of mine. I dug out my 40 gallon aquarium from the dusty depths of my garage. I use to love having an aquarium, then a debacle a few years ago seriously soured me on the whole thing.

When we moved down to Louisiana I decided that I would try my hand at setting up a salt water aquarium, because I had done freshwater aquariums for a number of years and I wanted to try something different, besides salt water aquariums look so much cooler than freshwater ones.

So I went a head and took the plunge into saltwater aquariums. The learning curve was steep. I killed a lot of fish, which were not terribly cheap. But after a few months I started to get the hang of it, and my aquarium started to look real good. Then disaster struck.

I woke up one morning to a smell that strongly resembled the one found at one of those seafood boils that people in Louisiana were so fond of. Examination of my aquarium revealed the source of this smell. The heater had malfunctioned, not shutting off once it reached the preset temperature. For unknown number of hours it has been going full blast, and by the time I noticed the problem the water in the aquarium was at very toasty 97 degrees.

Most fish have only a narrow band of temperatures in which they can survive; 97 degrees well outside this band, everything in the tank was dead. Not only were they dead they died with their mouths frozen open in position that it made it look like they were screaming in agony. This made feel terrible. I certainly didn’t share the same kind of bond with my fish that I do with my other pets, but still they are living things under my care, and have them die so horribly made me feel bad.

This experience pretty much soured me on aquariums; when we moved to Arizona the aquarium went onto a shelf in the garage where it has been gather dust for two years. Lately though I have been getting itch to set it up again, so this weekend I decided to go ahead and set it back up. I am going to go with freshwater this time because it is cheaper, I am good at, and the nearest place to get stuff for a saltwater aquarium is 2 ½ hours away in San Diego.

So far it’s looking good. It is taking forever to fill because my reverse osmosis water system only puts out about two gallons an hour. I am starting to remember why I orginaly started doing this, I am having a blast. I can’t wait until I start putting fish in it latter this week.

Friday, May 18, 2007

The Summer of the Cement Boogers

Fourth in Series about my crappy pre-professional jobs
The summer after my freshman year of college I worked the most physically grueling job that I have ever worked. After a typical day of working at this job, I would go out with my friends, and usually within an hour I would be asleep on the floor of where ever we had gone. I acquired a deep respect for those who make their living though hard physical labor that summer.

I got the job, working at a cement factory, through a temp agency. Primarily my job consisted of shoveling rock and cement powder into a wheel barrow all day long. Because making cement is basically just roasting limestone, extreme heat was a common part of the working environment. Certain places that I worked were ridiculously hot, hot enough to cause the soles of my work boots to begin to melt.

In a job that was largely composed of very nasty tasks, one was particularly nasty, when we were forced to work in one particular building. The environment of this building was as close of an approximation to the classical view of what hell is like that I have ever experienced. Because it received output directly from the kiln, the temperature inside this building held constant at about 120 degrees. It was light with sodium vapor lights which cast everything in a hellish orange glow. Machinery caused the floors to vibrate and pulse, while other machinery periodically emitted loud shrieks and howls. The final touch that made this the perfect hellscape was the thick clouds of sulfurous dust that filled building.

Whenever there was a spill of rock in this building, which was often, we were sent with wheelbarrows and shovels to clean it up. The sulfurous dust that filled building would combine with sweat form a weak solution of sulfuric acid. For this reason when working in there, we had wear full Tyvek suits, which are essentially giant plastic bags that you wear. I can think of few things as warm as shoveling rock in 120 degree heat while wear a giant plastic bag, I have never sweat so much in my life.

Working at this job drove how cheap my labor was. There was a set of six machines that fed ash into a hopper. Something was wrong with these machines so that when ever it got humid they would jam up. Instead of fixing them so they worked properly, management came up with a cheaper solution. They sent me out there with a large metal rod, I would monitor the machines and whenever they became jammed, I would beat them with the metal rod until they started flowing freely again. This is all I would do for entire eight hour shift.

Not shockingly the air at cement plant is full cement dust, for this reason I wore a dust mask all day long. None the less some cement dust would inevitably find its way through the mask and into my moist nose. The combination of cement dust and moisture would form cement boogers. By the end of the day my nose would of full hardened cement. The whole way home I would pick hard little cement boulders out of my nose.

Next Job - The Claw

Thursday, May 17, 2007


As I mentioned in a previous blog entry, the area in which I live is served by a private fire department. One perk for fire service subscribers is that it comes with free poisonous snake removal. Basically if you find a snake on your property you can call the fire department and they will come and remove the snake for you. I have never had use this service, so I have never give it much thought, particularly to question of what they do with the snakes once they catch them, at least I didn't until last night when I saw a fire truck parked directly behind my house.

As can be seen from the picture, across the road from my backyard is open desert. This is where the fire truck was parked, about 30 feet from my pool. When I went to see what they were doing back there, I saw them letting a cage full of rattlers loose. So apprenty the field that the dogs and I like to run in is a rattle snake dumping ground. Lovely.

Good Dog

This morning Zack has earned the title "The Best Dog in the World." Last night he saved us from thousands of dollars of water damage.

For about a week our water heater has had a slight leak in it, the bottom has rusted out. It however was a manageable leak, I was able to collect a the water that leaked out in a five gallon bucket. We had called a plumber and scheduled the replacement of the water heater for this morning.

Last night, just after midnight, after we had gone to sleep, the problem got much worse. The rusted bottom totally gave way, unleashing an unending torrent of water into the garage. Asleep in bed I had no way of knowing that something was amiss. Fortunately for us Zack is ever vigilant for strange noises.

I woke up to Zack barking up a storm, I got up muttering curses about him forgetting to go pee before he went to bed. However when I got to the other side of the house, where he was barking, I was able to hearing the sound of rushing of water coming from the garage.

When I went to investigate I found an inch of water on the floor of the garage with the water rapidly rising. I shut the water off and opened the garage door to let the water out. Fortunately I had caught it in time to prevent any serious damage. If the water had kept running for another six hours when my alarm clock was set to go off, the damage could have been quite substantial.

Lucky for us Zack was on top of things. What was our other dog Berkeley doing during this entire drama? Snoring loudly in bed.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007


Third in a series about the bizarre series of pre-professional job that I had

Of all the pre-professional jobs that I ahve had, the one I worked in the summers after my junior and senior years of high school was by the most enjoyable fulfilling. A friend of mine’s family owned an upholstery shop, and through that connection I got a job working there.

On an average couch, the fabric is held onto the frame with thousands upon thousand of staples. It was my job to remove each and everyone of those staples, using the tool pictured to the left. It would take about eight hours to strip an entire couch. It was satisfying in a mindless sort of way, to systematically pull something apart.

The thing that truly made this a satisfying job was that it consisted of more than just mindless repetitive tasks. My duties went beyond simply striping down furniture, over the course of the two summers that I worked their the owners of the shop began to teach the art of upholstering. I never learned to upholster complex pieces like sofas, but by the end of my last summer working thereI was quite adept reupholstering simples things, i.e. footstools and the like.
This learning process is one of the major reason that I enjoyed this job despite the menial and mindlessness nature of the bulk of my daily tasks, namley pulling staple after staple. I felt like I was learning a skill, acquiring a trade, rather than simply serving as a mindless automaton as I did all my other pre-professional jobs. Plus there is pride you get when you build or create something with your hands, you don't get this with most scutwork jobs.

Another thing that made this a good job was the people owned the shop were good people who treated their employees well. One of the best perks of this job was the all you could eat Otter Pops that were provided. They did this because the building had no air conditioning, unlike Arizona getting all you could eat Otter Pops instead of air conditioning is not such a bad deal, in Colorado. On average day I consumed about 20 Otter Pops.

Next Job: The Summer of the Cement Boogers

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Wrath of Cosmo

Cosmo, a big fat black cat, is our oldest pet and the first pet that we got as a couple. As of this summer we will have had him for seven years. He is a great cat, his personality can best described as the "Jolly Fat Man." However if he gets pissed off another side of his personality comes out, he has developed a very unique an effective way of expressing his wrath.

Ironically for a cat who will eat almost anything, Cosmo could not be any finickier about the cat litter that he does his business in, he has his favorite brand, and woe onto us if we dare use anything else.

Last week by mistake we pick of the wrong kind of cat litter, making matters far worse the litter that we bought was not clay, like his preferred brand, but rather some sort of new biodegradable wood based product. Cosmo was not pleased, and would soon show us displeased he truly was.

Saturday we arrived home late after going out to dinner. Tired I striped off the shorts that I was wearing and dropped them in hall and headed for the bathroom. My wife who was behind watched Cosmo saunter up to my shorts and use his paws to move them around a little. He then made direct eye contact with my wife, and the proceed to urinate into the front pocket of my shorts, right onto my wallet, which I had neglected to remove.

This is the standard penalty for the high crime of providing him with the wrong type of litter. If you don't give his favorite kind of cat litter, he will make it a point to pee on something you care about. He now has his favorite brand back and is once again the jolly fat man.

Monday, May 14, 2007


Second in series about my crappy former jobs

The summer when I was 16/17, I worked, with a good friend of mine at an all you can eat buffet. I worked two positions there, carving meat and as a salad bar attendant. It was yet another crappy low paying job, but it did have some hilarious moments, I got to be a witness of gluttony on an unprecedented scale.

One night I was working at the meat carving station. I had ten pound slab of roast beef and giant slab of turkey breast, and heavyset middle age man came up and when I asked what he wanted he pointed to the slab of turkey meat, which was probably about five pounds, and said “All of that.”

I thought he was joking, lots of people liked to make inane jokes like that. So I gave him a polite charity laugh and asked him what he really wanted.

At this point his face got really red and he began to berate me “I was not joking. You have some nerve to laugh at me like that. If you don’t give me the turkey that I asked for I am going involve your manager. Just give me the god damn turkey.”

Not wanting any trouble and just not caring about the company’s bottom line, I gave his five pounds of turkey meat and he contently waddle off. To this day I wonder if he actually ate all of that turkey or if he was just trying to see how far the all you can eat policy actually went.

Another memorable customer was the guy who came nearly everyday right before the breakfast buffet ended, the breakfast buffet was a couple of dollars cheaper. He would then sit at his table until about 4:00 pm, eating three meals. To pass the time he would tell the same story, about how the government of Malaysia stole three million dollars from him, to anyone that he could corner.

This particular restaurant was particularly filthy, there are two incidents that I remember clearly that illustrate this point. The first happened when on slow day my boss asked to clean underneath the salad bar. It quickly became apparent that this task had not been done in great while. I pulled out an object that I had trouble identify at first. It was dried and brown, it and vaguely the size and shape of dried chili pepper. Then I turned it over and saw the blue Chiquita sticker on it. I wonder how long a banana must sit out to become completely desiccated.

Then there was the jello incident. One afternoon I was getting a large tray of Jello out to place it on the salad bar. For some reason I dropped it, spilling it all over the filthy floor. It just so happened that the manager was standing right there. He told to hold on and not to clean it up until he got back. He then returned with a large squeegee mounted on broom handle that was used to clean the restroom floors and proceeded to squeegee the jello back into the pan. Once that was accomplished he calmly placed it onto the salad. Over the next couple of hours I had a hard time keeping a straight face as people consumed the floor jello.

Next Job: Something a little less soul crushing

Something New

One of the things that I like best about my job is that I am constantly getting to do new and interesting things. The latest thing that I have been tasked with is conducting a needs and feasibility study of establishing a fire protection district in the area of the county in whicg I live.

Unbelievably fire protection in the unincorporated portions of the county is provided by a private for profit for company. In order to receive fire protection residents must pay a yearly subscription fee. The for profit fire department will put out a fire for non-subscribers as well, however non-subscribers are then forced to pay the full bill for fighting the fire. Apparently it starts at about two grand just for a fire truck just to show up, and goes up in price from there.

A number of area residents find this situation to be intolerable and have begun to agitate for change. As result I am now conducting a study on the establishment of a public fire protection district. I find this to be fascinating and fun because I get to dive headfirst into a topic that I have not previously had much exposure to. I would be miserable if had job the was solely composed of the same shit, day after day after day.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

My First Job

First of a Series

The week marks the second anniversary of first professional level job. In honor of that I have decided to look back on all of the crap jobs that proceeded it. Low paying crap, I got my social security statement in the mail yesterday, which lists out what I have made in every year I worked. I made more in 2006 than I did in 1994 to 2005 combined.

When I tuned 14 back in 1994 my mother deiced that it would be a valuable life lesson if I got a small part time job. In Colorado the only entity that can hire people hire people under the age of 16 is the State. So I got a job at Colorado State University working in the dorm kitchens washing dishes, in the summer the dorms were rented out by youth conferences.

I would ride my bike over to campus and for two or three hours a day I would unload dishes from the end of conveyor-belt style dishwasher. For my efforts that summer I made the princely sum of $700, which at the time actually seemed like a lot. In the summer of 1995 I once again worked the same job, this time with my brother.

One of things that sticks most in my mind about this job was the site of food being prepared in bulk. Later on when I was in school eating in cafeteria the memory of food being prepared in bulk would be unsettling. Eggs did not come from eggshells but rather from half gallon cartons labeled "Frozen Egg Product With Citric Acid." Food just is not pretty when prepared in bulk.

The other thing that sticks out in my mind is obsession that they had with trash can cleanliness. So great was the concern with this issue that there was a special machine whose sole function was clean and sterilize trash cans. They were quite insistent that every trash can was sanitized everyday. In regards to hand washing, management, adopted a much more laissez faire attitude.

Next Job: The Golden Corral-A Study in Gluttony

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Lucky in Love

Every once and while I like to google my name just to see what kind of stuff pops up. Today I came across this gem about my wife and I. It from the campus newspaper from our last year at Bradley. It was from a Valentines Day article on campus couples. Real names redacted

Published: February 14, 2003

Lucky in love
Campus couples discuss the ups and downs of college relationships

This is the real thing!

So can campus couples really end up together forever? They can in the case of senior K. P. and Bradley graduate A. F. The two are engaged to be married June 21, and the spark started at a fraternity party.

“I was looking for a friend and I asked A where I could find him, when I looked up I was like, ‘Hey, wait, I know this guy, he’s cute!’” P said.

The stayed up talking until 7 a.m., and both knew there was something special right away.

The relationship grew from there.

Yet the couple was immediately put under tremendous pressure. Soon after they began dating, F departed for a semester in Malta.

“Phone bills were expensive, and the emotional stress huge, but we both learned that it made us stronger,” P said.

Being from California and Colorado — two unusual places for Bradley students — P believes their relationship was destined from the get-go.

“It was an odd choice of schools for both of us,” P said.

The couple will wed on a riverboat in New Orleans, then plan to move to Louisiana where F will attend graduate school.

“Love is where you least expect it,” P said. “Neither of us expected we’d meet one another at the most cliched place — a fraternity party!”

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Happy Birthday, Nate

Happy birthday little brother. You would have been 26 today. Hard for me to say anything other than I miss you terribly.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Car Chase

I stumbled across an online discussion on the list of things that people would like to do before they died. It made think of something that use to always on my list of things to do before I died, one that I got to do and found it to be not at all what I hoped it would be.

Growing up I had always loved the car chase scenes in movies. They always looked like so much fun. I though abstractly that it could be a lot fun to be in car chase some day, but since I was not planning being a cop or running from the cops, I never really though that I would get participate in one. This in not how things turned out

Back when I was a graduate assistant in New Orleans, two years ago, I was tasked with taking pictures of all the abandoned properties in the now infamous Lower 9th Ward (which before Katrina wiped it out was probably one of the most destitute neighborhoods in the nation). It should been a big red flag when my advisor told me that it would be a very bad idea to get out the van to take the pictures and that we should do it just after sunrise when the junkies were most likely to be asleep. But, I was bright eyed eager new grad student and took on the project with vigor.

For the first couple of months the project went fine, it was an eye opening experience on the depths of poverty in urban America. Then one morning we noticed that we were being tailed by a late model Lexus SUV, with completely tinted windows. We didn't think much of until noticed the driver making angry gestures and honking at us. This seemed like a good time to go back to campus, so we decided to end the day early.

As we began to leave the neighborhood the Lexus speed up began following us inches from our back bumper. All the while he contoured to honk and flip us off. Then we hit a red light, which allowed him to box us in. At which point the driver, a dishelved man with bloodshot eyes, who looked like he should be pushing a shopping cart under an overpass somewhere, and not be behind the wheel of Lexus, jumped out and ran up to driverside door. He than began to scream at us, his words so slurred that he was barley understandable.

At first, he just screaming over and over “why you taking a picture of my house, why you taking a picture of my house.” Before we could it word edgewise to offer an explanation he began to threatening to kill us, stating that he would hunt us down and that we could not get away from him. At this point I was as terrified as I have ever been, I hald expected him to pull a gun at any minute

Fortunately at this point the car in front of moved so, so my partner hit the gas to get us out of there. The crazy dude jumped back in his Lexus and began to chase us. We got onto the interstate and he continued to follow. Unfortunately a 1990 Astro Van is the best vehicle to have in car chase, especially when the other party is driving a late model Lexus. As we speed down the interstate he would pull along side us and then suddenly and violently swerve at us in an effort to force us off the interstate. This continued for several miles.

While this going on we are on the phone with 911 trying to get some police help, but none came. Finaly as we came to the edge of New Orleans and he gave up the chase. Needless to say this incident ended the project uncompleted. Which ultimately didn’t matter when a year latter Katrina wiped these neighborhoods literally off the map.

Still I got to cross something of my to do list, ultimately car chases are better off left to Hollywood.

Monday, May 7, 2007


I am sick today, I have a over a months worth of sick leave accumulated. Yet here I am at work. I want to go home, yet I will not. Guilt over using sick hours when I am actually sick keeps me shackled to my desk.

It is not is if I am a workaholic that has a hard time taking time off. I make good use of my vacation time and any comp that I accumulated. But for some reason admitting that I am physically too sick work is nearly impossible. It feels like a terrible admission of weakness, I know it is irrational, but I can not escape from it. If can mange to sit upright in a desk chair, I feel obligated to go to work.

I am sure that part of this insane attitude was passed down to me from my parents. I am descended from farmers and shop keepers in rural Iowa and Minnesota, not exactly the kind of culture that looks kindly on the sick day. My parents did not forbid my brother and I from taking sick days, if we were sick and asked they always let us take the day off. Rather I think I am prisoner of the example they set, I can not remember them taking a sick day other than the times when they were too sick to actually get out of bed. It is not as if they were workaholics either, my dad towards the end of his career stoped going to work on Fridays because he didn't feel like it, and he hundreds of hours of vaction time.

Likely I bigger part of my reluctance to take sick time when I feel sick is a strange outgrowth of my marathon running hobby. After ten marathons I have come to believe that success in running a marathon can boiled down to one simple thing, taking the next step, when taking the next step seems like the hardest most painful thing to do in the world. While this is a great attitude for running a marathon, it is not always so wonderful when it spills over into other parts of my life. It seems to have combined with my inherited antipathy of taking sick days to form some sort of weird mutant hybrid attiude that keeps from taking sick time.

On the plus side at least when it comes time for me to take paternity leave in the next couple of years I will have a metric butt load of sick time to draw from. I will feel no guilt for using sick time for that purpose.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Cuba is Not in the North China Sea

I came across this entry in one of my favorite blogs and was totally able to related to this sentiment.

For Betsy Land of The Enquirer-Journal team, getting ousted on the word "sacalait," which is a small, delectable fish from the crappie family, came with a chuckle."It has a beautiful irony," said Land, whose former job with ESPN centered around fishing and fish enthusiasts.

Back in 1993 when I was in the 7th grade I participated in the National Geogaphic Geography Bee. For the third year in row I had qualified for the state championship competition. Unlike in previous years I did exceptionally well in the early rounds. By late afternoon the competition had been winnowed down from 100 to 2 competitors, and I was one of the two left standing. I quickly took the lead in the final round, and finally got to the point where I was just one question away from becoming state champion.

The prize package that one got for being state champion was impressive, you got a free week long trip to compete in the national competition, in Washington D.C., a four year half ride scholarship to the University of Denver which was worth well into the five figure, plus an assortment of other goodies. So not too surprisingly my excitement level was through the roof as the moderator read out the potential state title clinching question.

The moderator read out the question "Russia, China and which neighboring Communist nation are attempting form a free trade block?" Tragically in my excitement I did not hear that oh so key word, neighboring. Not hearing that key qualifer I blurted out the first communist country that came to mind, Cuba. Obviously only in sense that they are located on the planet Earth are Cuba, China, and Russia all neighbors, the correct answer was North Korea.

With this I fell into a tie breakers which I, being totally deflated, promptly lost. Ironically the next year I would again come with one question of winning the state title, but at least I missed that question because I honestly did not know what island Chian Kai-shek was most strongly associated with, Taiwan.

I miss the geography bee, such as shame they have nothing like this for adults.

Thursday, May 3, 2007


During my senior year of my undergraduate education I had to give a presentation in class, whose name and subject totally escape me. I would probably not remember that presentation either, if it had not gone spectacularly wrong. I do not even remember the topic, but I do remember that it was an end of the semester 15 minute presentation. At the time public speaking was something that terrified me, I was a wretched public speaker. However this day I would drop a particularly large bomb.

I got up to speak and was quickly drenched in flop sweat. I began to mumble through my prepared speech, sounding like my mouth was stuffed with a fistful of marbles. Not once during the the enitre presentation did I look up at the audience, keeping my eyes firmly locked on my writen speech. I kept loosing my place, as I stumbled over words, causing me to frequently lose my place and forcing me to backtrack. Because I had pulled an all nighter preparing the accompanying written report I had ingested prodigious amounts of coffee, enough to the point where it made me twitchy.

After the class had mercifully ended the professor discreetly pulled me aside, put his hand and asked me earnestly "Are you OK? Are you on drugs?" How humiliating, apparently my quality of my speaking was so poor that the only explanation that professor could think of was that I was under the influence of something. That moment was definitely a nadir, in my academic career. I resolved to turn my self in good public speaker.

I now have a job that involves lots of public speaking, I present to the public, the Board of Supervisors, and the Planning & Zoning Commission, several times a month. Taking this job the public speaking part was the only part that scared me. I had become somewhat of a better speaker during grad school, but it was still a very awkward and uncomfortable thing for me to do.

The first time I had present to the County Board of Supervisors it was terrifying, not only was I presenting to elected officials, who were my employers, the meeting were televised, granted it is just on the crappy government channel that no one watches, but still someone could be flicking through the channels and get stuck on the county channel when the remote batteries die. But, I got through it, it was not great oratory but no one asked me to pee in a cup.

Over the next two years my public speaking skills, and my confidence in them improved. This really struck me last night, when I was hosting a neighborhood meeting. For two and half hours I was in front a large room full of people leading the meeting. Most gratifying was that I felt natural doing it, there was no terror. To me it was even more amazing that I did whole thing almost entirely done ad hoc. Though I have been growing more comfortable with public meetings for a while now, last night was the first time that it explicitly struck me that public speaking does not bother me anymore. What a nice feeling it is conqueror a fear like that.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

The Car That Haunts My Dreams

My first car was a 1980 Chevrolet Chevette. It had been one of the family cars for as long as I could remember and when I started to drive it was handed down to me. It was a horribly made car that was on its last legs, if you accelerated to fast it would backfire and shoot flames out the tailpipe, it other defects to numerous to mention, and I only drove it for a year. Despite all of this, it is car that I have a reoccurring dream about.

In this dream I discover that I did not actually get rid of the Chevette, but instead have been keeping it in storage. When I discover that I still have it a sense of relief and happiness washes over me. I hop into the Chevette and drive happily off into the sunset.

It does not take a degree in psychology to interpret what this dream means, doubtlessly it has to do with the events going on in my life around the time that I disposed of the car. A few weeks before getting rid of the car my younger my brother committed suicide.

His lifespan convinced almost exactly with the period of time that m family owned that car, so it pretty obvious as to what the car represents in my dream, my brother and the life I had before his death. God, how I wish that like in my dream that it was not actually gone, but rather stashed away somewhere waiting to be found. I wake up from this dream feeling wistfully sad.

It is dream that I have with increased frequency around certain anniversaries. Which mean that I will be having this dream much more often in the next few months. About a week from now will be what would have been his 26th birthday, and then in July the 1oth anniversary of his suicide, an event I look forward to with great trepidation, will occur.

Looks like I will behind the wheel of 1980 Chevette a lot more in the near future, sadly it will be only in my dreams.