Thursday, May 28, 2009

Poetry Thursday

Today, a poem from the magnetic poetry set my brother got us for Christmas.


I sleep and dream
an enormous blue moon
smearing the sky above me
like a mad, sweet, sordid symphony
playing to eternity.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Cast Your Net on the Other Side of the Boat...

This is one of those stories in the Bible that always cracked me up. The boys are out fishing and haven't caught a thing all day. I've had days like that, but my livelihood never depended on it. So, I imagine they're kind of already pissed when this carpenter comes along and says, "Cast your nets on the other side of the boat."
"What did he just say?"
"I think he just said, 'Cast your nets on the other side of the boat.'"
"Yeah. That's what I heard too."
The funny thing is that they actually do it. So, there are no fish all day, then suddenly there are so many fish on the other side of the boat their nets start to break when they haul them in. I always wondered what those guys said as they were hauling those fish in....

Fast forward 2000 years to a home in Central Pennsylvania where an angry man is trying to install door locks on his home. He is not sure who designed these things, but he has an inkling it might have been monkeys pulling levers or Galilean fishermen. He struggles to match up the screws, to get the two sides of the door to connect. Time after time, he is on the failboat. He says words that would have put those fishermen to shame, words that no one should hear, and they don't because it is "round midnight" and all the smart people have gone to bed and are safely tucked away in a place where the worst thing they face is the nightmare that is this man's reality: a project with no end in sight.

The next morning he awakens to the sound of his wife's alarm clock, which was set for 6.30 even though his wife is away from home with a girlfriend and the only one to hear it is this poor, angry man. Bleary-eyed, he goes to face his sick cat who has thrown up on the floor and is now refusing to eat the medicated food he provides, the man desperately trying to fend off the other flabby tabby who insists that all food placed on the floor is fair game, and therefor must be hers and hers alone.

It is now 6.37 am. The door awaits. He makes a cup of coffee and steels himself for the task at hand. In his mind, he is preparing his arsenal of words for a first round bludgeoning assault on the locks with no ears. He dives in with both hands and quickly the dance begins again. An hour-and-a-half later, frustration, desperation, and anger intermingle in a stew that combines the flavors in such a way that it is impossible to tell where one begins and the other ends and it really doesn't matter because the way this stew looks no one would ever even approach it, much less partake. It is rage stew, and it is on the cusp of boiling over.

The man says out loud, "Okay God, I can't do this any more. I just can't. Can you please give me a hand here?"

A calm comes over the man, a calm which has no explanation, and a voice says, "Turn the lock upside-down." It makes no sense really, but he does it. It looks exactly the same as the other way, but he doesn't stop to consider it. He just does it, like casting his net on the other side of the boat and the lock slides gently into place, the screws lining up perfectly and sliding in as easily as if it were sliding into a pile of freshly-caught fish. The second lock goes even more easily than the first.

The man laughs out loud, the laugh of redemption, relief and realization. He connects a 2000 year dot-to-dot timeline and says what he suspects those fishermen said all those years ago. "Okay, God. Now THAT was funny."

Friday, May 22, 2009

Behold: Corgi Thoughts

Funny (some language may be NSFW)...

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Quote of the Day

D: We all have our own ways of dealing with pain.

Me: I drown mine in bacon and other pork products.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

I Think My Next Car Will Be a Hybrid...

...perhaps this little guy, the Toyota FT-HS.

With only 242,000 miles on my Honda, this car might actually be out by the time I need a new one.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

A Day Without Sunshine... like the last month and a half here in Central PA. Seriously. I am going to start building my ark in case it doesn't stop raining, and stock up on locust repellent in case it's just a precursor to the next plague.

Can I get one day of warmth and sunshine. Too much to ask? It seems so.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Sixth Annual Caddyshack Neighbor Dinner

We have a neighborhood tradition that we have had since the year we moved into the neighborhood, six (or is it seven? I can never remember) years ago. When we first moved here, we saw one of our neighbors at a local outdoor-deck-style eatery, The Caddyshack.

The Caddyshack is set on a golf course and offers good hotwings, cold beer and the kind of family menu that is bound to make everyone, including the kids, happy. The one place The Caddyshack has failed, and the reason it is an annual trip instead of a weekly excursion (aside from it being a seasonal place, closed from November to March), is that it has always had terrible service. Always. Like set-your-clock-by-it-because-you-know-it's-coming-again-this-year bad service.

This year, we ordered our drinks. The drinks came and they were all correct. We ordered our food and mentioned we were really hungry. The appetizer came out first, and quickly. Then, the meals came, just as quickly. My drink ran out. It was replaced, as was everyone else's. We finished. We waited...but not for long. Not for the eternity that would have, and in the past, has, ruined our meals. No. The check came out and everything was right.

If I had gone there first yesterday, I might have bet a 50-1 horse in the Derby. No matter, it's surely a sign of the Apocalypse and very soon money won't matter.

First Dance...

I took Little Fish to her first dance on Friday. She is in fifth grade and it was the school's annual Middle School dance. I really wasn't sure how I felt about the whole thing, being a Dad and all that.

On the way over I asked how she was feeling and "excited" was the mode. She had decided to go with a bunch of her girlfriends. I drove up to the school and she got out of the car with an aloof wave of the hand over her shoulder and said, "Bye Dad." The unspoken dual messages of confidence and please-don't-embarrass-me-please-or-I-will-shrivel-up-and-die-on-the-spot were left hanging in the air. I drove off.

I went to pick her up and was unsure about what the pickup arrangement was. There were a bunch of parents in the parking lot, parked and trying not to look awkward or worried. I suspected they looked just like I did. I decided to walk into the school and there was another bunch of parents I knew and we started talking. Little Fish appeared at my side in moments and said, "Can we go?"
We walked to the car. I was attempting to be nonchalant, or rather to act that way, as being would have been impossible. "How was the dance?"
"Did you dance a lot?"
"Oh yeah."
"How were the boys?" I tried to sneak the question in with an easy-breezy lightness.
"The boys are idiots."

Still my Little Fish.

Friday, May 01, 2009

The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry: Love, Laughter, and Tears in Paris at the World's Most Famous Cooking School by Kathleen Flinn

"Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all."
---Harriet Van Horne

Kathleen Flinn was a big-time American executive for a travel-focused publishing firm in London. She was living the life and the corporate world was her oyster. One day, it all came to an abrupt halt when she arrived at the office to learn she had been fired. Unsure of what to do next, her boyfriend suggests she pursues a childhood dream she once confided to him: to go through the hallowed halls of Le Cordon Bleu, Paris' premiere cooking school, the one that gave us Julia Child and become a classically trained French Chef.

Flinn applies and is miraculously accepted. What follows is the subject The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry: Love, Laughter, and Tears in Paris at the World's Most Famous Cooking School of a slice of adventure that follows her trials and tribulations, burning, slicing, frying and exploding meals, crying and laughing with friends and falling in love. I didn't like this book when I first started it, but decided to stick with it for a bit, and I am very glad I did. Her style settles in, and I really came to like the characters she fleshes out, most notably the chefs.

When Flinn begins at Le Cordon Bleu, she is assured by the chefs that she is wasting her time, and they cannot fathom why she is there. But, she stays with it, learning, growing and fighting for that little space at the kitchen prep table that becomes hers. Flinn uses strong storytelling to mix life and cooking, and like any memorable meal, the two become intertwined in a way that makes them inseparable, like the meals we share with friends and family around the kitchen with a glass of wine.

Moreover, in this age of people being laid off, rightsized, downsized and otherwise pulled away from what we thought was our birthright (work hard and The Company will reward you, right?) while realizing it was never more than smoke and mirrors; in a time when we're finding out that The Wizard is one slick lever-pull away from relieving us all of our own American Dreams, Flinn reminds us that before THAT dream, we had another one: our childhood dream.

And more importantly, that there is still time to follow it....

"The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes -- And Why" by Amanda Ripley

What would you do if you suddenly found yourself in the midst of a disaster? A shooting on campus, a plane going down in an icy river, a hurricane making landfall, or the ultimate terror of a plane crashing into your building? That's what Amanda Ripley set out to answer in her book The Unthinkable, examining eyewitness and first-person accounts of people who survived disasters.

Ripley takes a look at our responses, from freezing and remaining completely immobile, to going back to collect things and calm interactions (after terrorists flew into the World Trade Centers, people went to their desks to get a few things, then helped each other down the stairs with an "after you" attitude) to the completely inexplicable acts of heroism. She looks at things from a societal and biological perspective and offers insights into human behavior with a critical and scientific eye.

I am still not sure how much I "enjoyed" this book, but it certainly was eye-opening. Further, The Unthinkable offers insights that enable readers to gauge their own possible responses in a disaster. One of the key findings is that people who survive such moments, and who act well in them are those who have actually considered what they might do in a given situation, how they might escape it, and even how they might help others survive.

I'd suggest paging through this book. And pay attention the next time you're on a plane and the stewards are going over the safety instructions and pointing out exits. It's one of the biggest determinants of who lives and dies in an air disaster. You're welcome.