Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Ah, Distinctly I Remember...

The month of December was a lot of things to me as a kid, and not just the month that Christmas was in. For one, it was the month with the first real vacation from school, a thing I enjoyed very much. (vacation, not school). It was finally cold, also a thing I enjoyed. I loved the way the freshly fallen snow muffled the sounds, making the world feel somber and peaceful.

I remember being very young, perhaps six, when my mother pointed out the foot prints left in the snow by the pigeons, thinking they looked very alien. From that point on, every divot in the snow became a track of some kind in my mind. Deer prints, elephant prints, etc.

I would take a few slices of bread (don't tell my mother!), a milk crate, a stick and some string, and try to trap pigeons. Thank whatever god you put stock in, that I didn't catch any. I have no idea what I'd have done with one.

I remember sledding down the small hill near our apartment complex that had a host of cast iron cloths line poles in it for some reason. Looking back, I don't recall them being used, or even being arranged in a logical pattern, but perhaps they were, I was very small. I had a great sled, it was blue and shaped like a space ship. It had brakes, and a sticker radar display on the dash, that I thought tracked pigeons.

I remember the first time I realized that when it rained after it snowed, the top inch or two of snow became ice that could be tunneled underneath. I would bust a hole, and dig tunnels under the ice for my matchbox cars to go through. I'm sure I lost more than a few.

I got in trouble frequently for dilly-dallying (if that's how that's spelled!) on the way home from school, because I couldn't pass up a frozen puddle without stepping on it to break the ice. To this day, I still delight in stepping on the whiter areas of a puddle that had frozen over. Something about the crack of the ice just... I dunno. It's fun. Try it.

When I was NOT so young (ten or so), I used to like to pretend that the snow banks that were created by the plows were small alien space stations. I'd pretend that little inch-high aliens built civilizations in the snow banks, because there were little towers and hollowed out areas that could be used as shuttle bays. I'd crush them dead!

When I was even less young (perhaps twelve?) I built a huge hammer in wood shop. I called it the sledge-mallet. I'd go to the huge snow piles left by plows after they cleared out parking areas, and I'd whale on the FOUR-inch alien's habitats. They were a hardier breed than their one-inch brethren. The snow plows would leave behind HUGE snow boulders (snowlders?) that would ice up, and I'd bust the crap outta them. (Rawr.)

December always felt like a cleaning of the slate. Everything returned to zero, and you started again, much like those folks who make New Year's resolutions... Only it wasn't just about people. Trees were don't shedding and waited for the spring. The world sort of stepped aside, took all it's concerns out of the spotlight and let Mother nature show off her talents.

It's a paying of the piper. We enjoy relative comfort for most of the year, but when winter comes we are most inconvenienced  We put on our thicker clothes in layers, we do more laundry, we bundle up, we drive slower, we are delayed... And at the end, we're stronger for it.

Why I liked that December was the beginning of all that crap, I can't explain. One would think a kid would be happier when it was over... Perhaps it was because no matter who you were, not matter how much better you acted than everyone else (cause we had a lot of those kids) it was a reminder that you weren't. You dealt with it, just like everyone else. The punks, the rich kids, the jocks, were just the same as us slobs.

Or, perhaps I was just demented. Maybe both.

What are some of your memories about the winter / snow / December?

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Service Industry

I went out with the wife to do some Black Friday shopping, expecting it to be a dumpster fire. I really don't like shopping much, and I can't stand crowds. Sort of stands to reason that standing in the cold during the wee hours, waiting with a crowd of people to go shopping would be sort of a worst case scenario, right?

Now, don't get me wrong here, it wasn't like heaven on earth or anything, but realistically, it wasn't hell either. 

We hit the Disney store first, they opened at midnight, which wasn't too bad. We got there fairly early, did a quick once-around the store. Once we got about 2/3s of the way through the place, the line for the cash registers had actually grown to about 40 people long, and happened to end right about where I was standing. I stood there, while my wife finished the circuit. 

We got some good deals and left. Our next stop wasn't going to be open until 5am, so we had some time to kill. We walked around the mall, just to see what was what. By the time we'd come full circle, the line for the Disney store check out stretch out of the store and into the corridor of the mall. 

We left the mall and went to sit in the car outside of Kmart, which opened at 5. We killed time watching a Netflix movie on my phone. A line began to form outside of the doors at around 4am, so we joined them in standing in the icy New England air. 

The temperature aside, it wasn't unpleasant. There were some nice people with whom we talked and shared stories. When the store opened, everyone headed to the electronics area, while my wife and I went to the clothes. We were done there fairly quickly, but the line for layaway took about an hour to get through. 

This is where I get to the mail point of this post. I don't recall who exactly, but someone who was working there was complaining to someone else who was also working there, about people calling to find out if there was a particular item. "'Nope, we're out, I told them.' If you're too lazy to get out here and get in line like everyone else, then I'm just going to tell you we don't have it." 

I have posted about it before here, if you're too miserable to do your job, get a new bloody job! This is your JOB. You are PAID to do this. It's CUSTOMER SERVICE. Service the damned customers! You're a representative of the place you work for! Not only do you not just tell someone you don't have what they're looking for without looking, you don't freaking brag about it in front of three dozen customers!!

Ok, I just went looking for the old post about this sort of thing, so that I could hyper-link it in the paragraph above, and can't find it... I dunno what happened, I probably deleted it by accident or something brilliant like that. So here's the deal...

I was shopping with my wife some years ago, and as we were leaving we decided we'd hit the "Subway" on the way out and have something to eat. I ordered my sub, and asked for a "small soda". "We don't have small, only medium and large" the girl said.

In my original post, I went into some detail about the smug satisfaction the little High School cheerleader tart wore on her face when she said it, and how I told her that if there was no small, then the one that wasn't large WAS the small, and all that. It was very entertaining.

Anyway, I hope everyone is having better luck than the poor folks being told they couldn't have a small or that their items were sold out are!

Have you had run ins with poor customer service folks like that?

An Old Curmudgeon Speaks

Just wanted to say, I recommend following the Sarcastic Test Guy. If you find the crap I say remotely amusing, chances are, you'll enjoy his blog as well.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


Hello all! Just wanted to stop and say Happy Thanksgiving!

I'll be back after the turkey digests. :)

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Boys: Charlie and Bruno

We have cats. Anyone who lives in the woods knows you either have cats, or you have mice. Years ago, it started with two kittens that we'd gotten from a neighbor, and brought to my in-laws. Some time later, we ended up moving in with my in-laws, and since then, we've had a lot of cats.

Originally, the two we brought were mostly indoor cats who went outside now and then. As the generations came and went, the brood sort of transitioned from indoors, to out. They now prefer to be outside, and come in only once in a while for short periods of time. They are without question more feral than anything else at this point.

During the cold months, they camp out in the garage where there's some old furniture they can cozy up on.

We've considered taking them to shelters (with the exception of one or two) but the shelters are so over burdened around here, they'd have to put them down. At least right now they're enjoying themselves for the most part. More often than not, they end up leaving. We see some now and then from long ago in neighboor's yards.

I'd watched a documentary once about the most ruthless killer animals (which didn't include humans, by the way. People always seem to forget that Humans are animals!). The list included lions, tigers, bears, hyenas, crocadiles, etc... All the usual suspects. However, the most surprising was the domestic house cat, which came in at number 1.

Out of all the animals that kill proficiently, only the house cat DOESN'T actually NEED to. Take a domestic cat who gets fed regularly; that cat will still kill birds and mice, etc. If not to eat, then why? Because they can?

Evidence of their ruthless efficiency is always readily available in the yard. Living on the lake as we do, their scope is pretty wide.
It's tough to tell the relative size of these, except by the nail heads in the deck. They're on 2x6 planks, so I'd say they're around 4 to 5 inches long.
I took this picture, and then realized the poor bugger was still alive.
Same frog from the picture above. I threw the glove in there to give some perspective to the size, and then the killer "Sunny" came along to check on her kill.
A couple of months ago, while the world was watching hurricane Irene, one of our cats, Abigale, had a few kittens. A few days later, she passed away, leaving three small kittens behind.

My daughter found Abby in the neighbors yard, and she and I buried her. My daughter was remarkably stoic about it, taking it all as a matter of fact. I don't think she cried at all at the time.

Today, my daughter was out on her swing set. Twenty minutes or so later, she came in crying because she missed Abby. I guess it hits kids like that sometimes.

The kittens she left behind were still too small to even walk, so we had to bottle feed them. Unfortunately one, the female died.

The first thing you realize when you're faced with raising orphaned kittens is that you'll need to feed them. The LAST thing you realize is that you'll not only have to clean them, but when they're that young, they need to be helped to go to the bathroom.

You have to get a warm cloth, and wipe their backsides to stimulate going, otherwise they can get blockages.

Me and the boys, post bath. See the little bottle? Notice also the towel. I think that was my third shirt of the day.

They needed frequent baths, because in the beginning they are not very careful where they go to the bathroom. Remember that when you're cuddling with them. Be willing to change your shirt a lot.
As cute as they may be, they're always sort of ugly-cute when wet.
They love being snuggled, and love being together.
This is "Charlie" on the left giving some attitude to "Murray" on the right. Murray is not overly fond of the kittens, but he tollerates them. He's one of the outdoor cats who frequently comes home with battle damage from fighting with god knows what out there. 

That's my giant head on the left, Bruno in the middle and Charlie on the right. Bruno is a snuggler, always happen to sit and fall asleep. Charlie likes to explore and run around a bit before calling it a day.
I produce a lot of heat, especially in my very over-sized bathrobe. Bruno: left, Charlie: right.
Bruno doesn't like the light when he's lounging.

Bruno lounging in the crook of my arm just this morning. Have you ever seen a more content looking kitten?
The attachment I have on these kittens is one that I haven't had on a critter in a long time. As a father of two girls, it's nice to be able to say I have boys too. :)

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Things People Say

Exaggeration is a powerful tool when used correctly. When making a point a little exaggeration can get your point across with a touch of humor and can really make the point memorable.

Some exaggerations I'll never forget:

"Sorry I'm late, I was stuck behind someone at the ATM who was balancing the national debt." - spoken by my brother John, some years ago.

My father to me a month or two before I finished 8th grade - "Pick some electives that'll mean something to colleges, not basket weaving and pothole digging cause it's an easy a."

"Jesus, this asshole's driving right up my ass..." - spoken almost daily by either my wife or myself. That's how we roll this close to Boston.

I have a healthy appreciation for exaggeration. I enjoy them, as I do the English language in general. However, the attention that I unconsciously pay to things like exaggerations doesn't stop there... It's present at all times, so I pick up things like exaggerations even when people don't really realize they're using them.

I don't know why it bothers me, and honestly, I kinda wish it didn't... Perhaps it's some kind of psychological problem my pain-in-the-ass mind interprets the unconscious use as a disregard for something I enjoy, or something like that... Who knows. I'm a pain in the ass. It is what it is. I can' explain it. Fortunately, this is my blog, so I don't have to. ;)

Anyway, there's a commercial for where some guy says "There's nothing worse than going to the post office and waiting in line!" ...C'mon. I can think of SKILLIONS of things that are worse than that. How about going to the post office and and accidentally mailing yourself somewhere inconvenient. That'd suck, right? I'd rather stand in line.

Another one is when someone says "I could care less." ...soooo... You mean you care then?

"The LAST thing you want is to..." sorta goes along with the first example.

Double negatives used to bother me a lot, but I have worked on it... English is one of the only languages that doesn't allow double negatives like "I aint got none." Technically in English, that means you got some.

So what bugs you about the misuse of the English (or any other) language?