Monday, September 29, 2008

Little Miss Mass Murderer

As the father of a 16-year old girl, I’m trying to adapt to new standards of parenting. It used to be so easy, feeding her, changing her diapers and making sure she didn’t swallow a paper clip. Now that she’s grown up, the rules have changed. I can’t watch her all the time, and the dangers she faces are more worrisome. And like most 16-year olds, she thinks she knows everything, and her parents are retarded.

She feeds herself now, and given the choice, she eats junk. OK, I ate junk at that age also, but this isn’t about me, OK?

I never liked all the frilly clothing covered with little pictures of bunny rabbits that babies are forced to wear, but I don’t like the stuff she chooses to wear these days either. Yeah, I wore stuff at that age that I hope nobody has pictures of me wearing, but once again, that’s off the subject.

She’s almost stopped putting paper clips in her mouth, but I’m more worried that she’ll swallow the lines of crap that horny 16-year old boys try to tell her. Boys will say anything, because there are millions of girls out there and sooner or later, one of them will believe it. I can only hope it isn’t her.

So we were joking around the other day, threatening to put her into an all-girls school. She was playing along, reacting in mock horror at the prospect, and then she said, “If you did that, I would go concubine.”

There was a really long, uncomfortable silence.

“Do you mean ‘Columbine?’” I asked, hopefully.

“Yeah,” she replied, “That school in Colorado where those guys shot everybody.”

I explained what a concubine was, and we all had a good laugh about it. But I confess to huge wave of relief washing over me, knowing that my daughter would rather be a mass murderer than some second-class sex toy. These days, it’s about all I can hope for.

Friday, September 19, 2008

The Discard Diet

One thing I’ve always been unable to resist is free food. In my current job, food is always available. As a result, I’ve been putting on some weight.

We’re always hosting meetings of one sort or another, and the office staff orders nice lunches brought in. These can be as simple as pizza or sandwiches, and as complicated as multiple-course meals with appetizers, soup, salads, hot entrees and desserts. The food is never consumed completely. When the meetings are over, the leftovers are placed out in the break room for anyone who wants them.

People in my company travel frequently, and have developed a modest tradition. Someone always brings back candy to share. They always bring back loads of it, and it’s left out in a public area that everyone walks past every day.

I’ve decided to try and ignore these treats, but it’s almost impossible. Yesterday, I discovered a secret that might actually work. I’m calling it “The Discard Diet.”

When I walk past the candy display, I take a piece. Then I throw it in the trash.

Amazingly, it works. It’s not about eating the free candy. It’s about taking the free candy. I know, it seems wasteful, but if I ate the candy it would be gone anyway, right?

If it works with the pizza and sandwiches, I should start losing this weight pretty quickly.

The tricky part is whether I can make it work at home. If my wife makes a nice dinner, I don’t think she’ll be very supportive if I fill my plate and then just throw it in the garbage. This diet may need a little refinement.

Boat Anchor

I’ve written before about my annoying co-worker, who I call “BA” (Boat Anchor), because from a strictly professional perspective, her purpose in life is all about preventing progress. But I can work around her issues, if necessary, so that’s not what bothers me.

My relationship with her seems to consist of an endless series of incomprehensible or annoying interactions. Here’s a list of some of the most notable:

    I had to inform BA of my recent trip to St. Louis, because I would be out of the office for a couple of days. I told her it was a family emergency. Immediately she asked me “Do you need any luggage?”

    “Uh, no I have luggage,” I responded.

    “But do you need any extra luggage?” she insisted.

    “I’m going for four days,” I explained. “I’ll only need a small carry-on bag.”

    “What about your family?” she asked. “Do they need any luggage?”

    “I’m travelling alone,” I was forced to explain. “We don’t need any luggage.”

    Eventually, she backed off. I’m 60 years old. I have luggage.

Crispy Rice Cakes
    BA often eats at her desk, but because she sits behind me, I’m not obligated to witness this spectacle. She keeps snacks around, munching on them throughout the day.

    One day, she had a large bag of cheese-flavored rice cakes, and rather than pour some onto a paper plate, she simply reached into the bag to pull them out individually. This is perfectly fine, similar to drinking out of the milk carton when you know you’re the only person who’s going to drink it. But then, for no apparent reason, she turned to me and thrust the open end of the bag into my face.

    “Want some?” she asked. “They’re really crispy.”

    I should mention that BA’s personal hygiene leaves a lot to be desired. Her dirty yellow fingernails clutched the bag – the same hands that had been rooting around in it moments earlier.

    “No thank you,” I replied.

    “They’re really good,” she insisted. “Crispy!”

    I patted my churning stomach and protested that I absolutely couldn’t eat a single rice cake.

    “You don’t know what you’re missing,” she sighed, returning to her desk. “They’re so crispy.”

Tall Chairs
    We had a meeting in a conference room. The room had a table surrounded by office chairs on wheels. Each chair, like most office chairs, included a series of levers to control height, lumbar support, tilt, etc.

    BA and I were the first to arrive, and she wandered around the room, moving chairs.

    “What are you doing? I asked.

    “Looking for a short chair,” she explained. “These are all too tall for me.”

    Apparently, she had never heard of the height adjustment mechanism, or had never learned to operate it. We had another meeting the following morning, so the night before, I went in and set all the chairs to their maximum height.

It’s Not Greasy
    I take medication that dries out my hands for some reason. So I have to use hand lotion occasionally. One day, I was in the break room with BA, and I noticed a bottle of hand lotion. I squirted a large dollop onto my hands. As I stood there rubbing my hands together, BA insisted that I follow her back to her desk.

    “I have some really good hand lotion,” she told me. “It’s not greasy at all.” She lifted the bottle and held it out, finger on the plunger.

    “I have some on my hands already,” I told her, still rubbing my hands together to disperse the lotion I had just used.

    “This isn’t greasy,” she said.

    “Thanks, but I don’t need it,” I replied, displaying my slimy hands. “I just put lotion on my hands.”

    “Try it, you’ll really like it because it’s not greasy,” she declared, and squirted a big glop of her non-greasy hand lotion onto my palm.

    I returned to my desk, my glistening, slug-like hands now useless for anything but obscene gestures.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Long Way Around

I like Google Maps, but I’ve found there are a few minor problems when you ask it to calculate the best driving route between two points. Usually, they’re peculiar little errors, such as this one:


Why does Google Maps send me all the way around Lake Emma, when I could just turn left onto Primera Blvd.? Primera isn't a one-way street. It’s a bug, but it got me thinking about circuitous routes.

I started to wonder if I could find other painful driving routes using Google Maps. They wouldn’t have to be errors, just unavoidable. For example, the distance from Terrace Bay, Ontario to Calumet, Michigan is only 230 miles as the crow flies. But to drive from one to the other sends you all the way around Lake Superior, for a total distance of 576 miles. In other words, it’s 250% farther away by road.


Pagosa Springs, Colorado is only about 32 miles from Jasper, Colorado as the crow flies. But thanks to the formidable Rocky Mountains, the driving distance is 95.4 miles – a 298% difference.


And Grand Canyon City, Arizona is a little more than 66 miles from Fredonia, Arizona, but if you have to make the drive around the Grand Canyon, it’s 200 miles – a 300% difference.


I tried some other, obvious physical boundaries, like the Sea of Cortez in Mexico, the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf, but Google Maps is unable to calculate driving directions for the countries involved. Some cities on opposite sides of large bodies of water have already become fed up with the long drive, and have created ferry routes or bridges, and Google Maps happily takes advantage of these conveniences.

So the question is, can you beat my best score of 300%? Remember, it’s not the total distance, it’s the difference between the straight-line distance and the actual driving distance.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Is This a Chick Thing?

It seems that in my house, the female members of my family don’t understand the concept of watching a movie. They will sit watching, absorbed in the drama just like me. But at some point, one of them will turn to the other and have a brief discussion about some unrelated topic.

When they finish their discussion, some amount of time in the movie will have passed, and one of them will ask me what’s going on, because they weren’t paying attention. I am forced to abandon the film long enough to give them a quick synopsis, during which time nobody is paying attention to the movie.

When I finish the synopsis, we all return to the movie, and one of them will ask me what’s going on. Of course, I don’t know.

So the women, who have lost track of the movie, engage in a brief discussion about some unrelated topic, while I struggle to catch up. Eventually, they finish their discussion and one of them will ask me what’s going on. Repeat until the credits roll.

OK, is this a chick thing? Or is it just in my house?

Friday, September 5, 2008


People in my office are always bringing in food of one sort or another. Cookies, fruit, doughnuts, even a box of homegrown avocadoes.

The other day, someone brought in a 9 x 12 loaf of some kind. It was covered with white stuff (possibly frosting, maybe cream cheese, but it could have been mashed potatoes or turnips), sprinkled with what appeared to be grated cheddar cheese, and festooned with unidentifiable gelatinous green blobs. For hours, nobody would touch it, because it was so mysterious.

Finally, the person who donated the cake placed a sign on it that said, “Carrot Cake – Orange stuff is Coconut.”


That solved the mystery, and people helped themselves. However, I wasn’t satisfied. I tracked down the owner of the cake to ask what the green blobs were. She told me that they were maraschino cherries, which for some reason are available in green.

So of course, I had to ask why dye the coconut orange? Her reply was, “My mother always dyed the coconut.”

And why use green maraschino cherries? “Because they look better with orange coconut.”

This is one of my major gripes with organized religion. Some things that start out as harmless or primitive traditions over time build one ridiculous element on top of another. Eventually, they take on characteristics that deviate so far from the original message of the faith, they cannot be associated with religion by dispassionate outside observers. Examples? Kosher and Halal. Celibacy of clergy. Easter eggs. Burquas.

My personal favorite is tithing. In the good old days, people used to burn offerings to appease or curry favors directly from their gods. At some point, religious leaders convinced everyone to burn their offerings at specific places, and they built temples for that purpose. Over the years, they managed to “phase out” the burning, convincing their flocks to just leave the offerings at the door, and they’d be disposed of in a proper ritual (eating) by the religious leaders. Then, a few centuries later, they convinced their followers that money works just as well as a fatted calf. So here we are in the 21st century, where the faithful give 10% of their earnings to the ultimate middleman, who takes a 100% commission.

Common sense tells us not to eat things we can’t identify. If only we could apply the same common sense to our religious practices, and stop doing things we can’t explain.