29 November 2013

Black Friday

Black Friday. Is there a worse day on the planet? Not if you are trying to make a living in the retail sector in the United States there isn't. Seriously. It's a horror story. On what other day are people routinely shot, assaulted and trampled in an attempt to get more stuff? Anyone? Aside from looting associated with super fun things like riots and natural disasters, nothing else comes to mind. But every year, like lemmings, we Americans flock to the opportunity to assault one of our fellow citizens so that we can save a few bucks on a craptastic item that we genuinely do not need.

I say we, because the Boy and I entered the scrum that is the mall in pursuit of an item for the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML. Bargain hunting was not our goal, but clearly upon arrival at the 7th Ring Of Hell, I mean mall, our goal became survival, nothing more, nothing less. With the laser-like focus of a Navy Seal in pursuit of Osama, we were determined to get what we need and to get out alive. I am pleased to report that we met our objective - survival and a gift in hand.

Truth be told, now that we're home, I'm a little disappointed in myself for going out into the melee today. Call it 'Survivor's Guilt,' but I could have waited a day or two or more to do the shopping that I did today. I don't think the store in which we made our purchase will boost its profits one single cent as a result of our purchase. They won't. And I don't think the sales associate is going to get a bonus because of our purchase either, although they should get hazard pay for working this day.

Do I think our national obsession with this day is going to fade anytime soon? Nope. There's too much cash to burn. Would it be nice to see stores stay closed all day long on Thanksgiving? Yes. Will they ? Nope. Ours is a country that seems to thrive on the possibility of saving even one dollar in the pursuit of something. No matter what that something is.

24 November 2013

On my 747th post

This entry marks my 747th post. As a certified airline / airplane geek, I could not let this occasion pass without mention of my favorite airplane, the Boeing 747. I'll warn you now, my geek flag is going to be flying high so bow out now, if you feel so inclined.

I won't bore you too much, but some things to know about the 747:

  • In the 1960's, Boeing essentially bet the entire company on the development of the 747
  • The late, great Pan American World Airways was the first to order the 747 in April 1966 (not too long before I was born)
  • The first 747 rolled out of the factory in September 1968 and flew for the first time in February 1969
  • Her first commercial flight was in January 1970 from JFK to London. In a none-too-auspicious start, the flight was delayed due to a mechanical. Given that it was an inaugural, the passengers didn't seem to mind as they were mostly half in the bag, thanks to the copious amounts of champagne Pan Am was serving while still on the ground.
  • There have been multiple versions of the airplane, culminating with the latest version the 747-8.
  • The airplane is a renowned symbol of the United States, as it serves as 'Air Force One,' flying the President around the world.
My first flight on a 747 was on a United Airlines flight from San Francisco to Honolulu in my early teens. My first trip to Europe was on a Pan Am 747. My most recent flight on board a 747 was just last year on Korean Air flight from Seoul to Shanghai. I've flown on multiple versions of it and each time I fly her, I am in awe of the fact that the airplane, given its size, manages to take to the skies. She is an amazing aircraft and truly deserves the moniker 'Queen of the Skies.'
Rollout of the 1st 747
What flying in Theater of Cruelty / Coach class used to be like on a 747...seriously

There was a piano back there too...in Coach
And this was life on the upper deck...once upon a time
Gracing the skies today - the 747-8
So to British Airways, Japan Air Lines, Korean Air, Lufthansa, Northwest Airlines, Pan American World Airways (sniff!), and United Airlines, thanks for the memories on each of the types of the great Boeing 747 that I flew as one of your passengers. I'm not done with this airplane yet though. I still need to fly the 747-8 and I will. I'm too much of a committed airline dork to NOT do it.

And one last little known fact...the 747 can take a hit from a small plane, taking out the cockpit crew, and be flown by the lead flight attendant, who does so without getting a hair out of place while the plane barrels through the sky at 400 miles an hour with a gaping hole in the side. No lie...it was all chronicled in one of the most craptastic movies of all times: Airport 1975.

Look for it on your local purveyor of crappy movies - your local cable / satellite provider. It's worth the price of watching just to see the cavalcade of B-listers scream their way through this one. Enjoy!

23 November 2013

Simple things

For whatever reason, we tend to make our lives far more complicated than is necessary (e.g. the government's health insurance website). In doing so, we add layers of complexity that wind up distracting us from the simple things that matter most, like spending time with those closest to us.

I had a near-miss with one of those simple things today. I'd spent (to be clear, by 'spent' I mean paid for after sitting in the waiting room of the garage) a bit of my morning with my BFF/local car mechanic on winterizing the Taurus and delivering some odds and ends to a lady the Boy and I home teach when I got a text from the Boy asking if I could take him to lunch before he worked his afternoon shift at the Old Gravy. Thinking he wanted me to take him to lunch because we didn't take him to dinner the night before (um, it was date night for his mother and me and he was working), I was a little reluctant, but the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML gently said, 'Maybe you should just go and enjoy some father and son time.' Brethren, if you haven't learned already, hear me and learn this now:

A woman's intuition is a powerful thing. Heed it.

The Boy and I had less than 30 minutes for lunch. It was enough for a good burger and even better conversation. The content of the discussion does not matter. It was simple, but powerful. I continue to be awed by the depth of understanding the Boy is gaining as he matures. He's beginning to understand the place he can have in this world and what it may take to secure that place. He's recognizing so many things and I am so humbled that he feels he can talk to his mother and me. It terrifies me, as it did and still does with my daughters, that I am going to give them insufficient, or worse, wrong guidance. I strive to keep it simple. Out of simple things comes great things, right?

To date, during this Thanksgiving month, I've avoided formal declarations of gratitude, but today, I am thankful for simple things, for...by small and simple things are great things brought to pass. I am grateful for the intuition of an amazing wife. I am grateful for a good conversation with the Boy today. I am thankful. 

16 November 2013

What happens in Vegas

As the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML and I prepare to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary at the end of next month, we've heard the siren call of nostalgia and it's led us to a dusty box of bulky VHS video tapes. Those tapes documented  the highlights of the early years of our marriage and what we did with Our Lady of Awesome, CAL, and The Boy. One of the videos we watched captured a family trip that included a stopover in Las Vegas.

That's right a family trip to Las Vegas. In the mid 90's, Las Vegas was being buffeted by a really bad economy and some marketing genius decided that the way to capture back tourists was to promote Las Vegas as a family-friendly destination. Suffice to say, it was a failure with a capital "F." The castles of the Excalibur were a low-rent substitute for the castle owned by a Mouse (I dare not mention them by name for fear of severe repercussions). The New York New York was not even a good fake of the real thing and the rides at Sewer Sewer Circus Circus were straight out of a bankrupt traveling carnival (for fun, ask CAL about riding one of the rides there ~ she's emotionally scarred to this day). Still, that didn't stop us from stopping in the city for a couple of nights on our way to Zion's National Park.

On the second morning of our stay, the mighty fine SML and our friend that was traveling with us had gotten up very early to go to the LDS Temple in Las Vegas. Since the kids were all under seven, we couldn't leave them alone (well, it was Vegas, so we probably could have...), I stayed in bed. We had two connecting rooms and the girls were in the other room and I had the Boy with me. I heard the door to our room swing open, but I hadn't heard the key clunk like you do in hotels, which seemed odd. Being blind as a bat without my contacts in or glasses on and from the bed, I couldn't see the door anyway, I thought the mighty fine SML had come back for something. Turns out not so much. There was the sound of someone scraping against the wall, which seemed odd, so I put on my glasses as the room filled with the smell of, well, a rough night in one too many bars. Suffice to say, it was not my wife. It was some guy. Some drunk guy. He continued his path into the room and saw my clothes from the day before slung over a chair. He got to the chair and started to pull off his shirt. At this point, I jumped from the bed and said, 'Dude, you're in the wrong room.' This phased him not a whit. He then picked up my pants and it was at this point, I took him by the shoulders and said again, 'Dude,seriously, you are in the wrong room!' The girls were up at this point, and staring wide-eyed in disbelief from the adjacent room. Still holding our new drunken friend by the shoulders, I led him out of the room and into the hallway, where he continued bouncing from wall to wall, like a blip in a Pong game, towards the other side of the hotel.

As I closed the door, I made sure it was locked, calmed down my freaked out daughters, and rang the hotel's crack security team. Given all the other shenanigans that they deal with, I'm quite certain my tale of a drunk coming into our room and trying to put on my pants was, well, mild. They were non-plussed by my story. It didn't take long to surmise what happened. He was looking for his room, and not knowing what room, let alone what floor he was on, he was just bouncing into doors, seeing which one would open. We figure that when the mighty fine SML and our friend had left that morning, they thought they had pulled the heavy door shut, but hadn't, hence the surprise visit. No harm, no foul, right?

Moral of the story - always make sure your hotel room is really closed and don't leave your clothes out for the random drunk to try on. All you need is for said drunk to get upset when he realizes you don't have anything in his size.

11 November 2013

On Veteran's Day

Today is Veterans Day, a day set aside to honor all those who served in the armed forces on our nation's behalf. To each of them, I say a heartfelt thank you.
Thank you

Thank you
Inscription at the World War II Memorial
According to a report I heard on NPR this afternoon, each day 600 more World War II veterans die. As noted in the inscription above, we do have a solemn obligation to them, as well as every other veteran and active military person. We owe them our freedom, we owe them our highest regard. We owe them our thanks.

Go watch "Band of Brothers" or "Taking Chance." Read "Final Salute" by Jim Sheeler. Thank that active duty soldier you see this week. Pay for his or her meal. Tell them thank you.

10 November 2013

Inside Voice

Wise counsel
If you've spent any time here in the Den, or any time with me for that matter, you know that it is my wont to to say what's on my mind, because apparently I'm opinionated. I may say something that you know every one else is thinking, but just won't say it. This annoyance quirk was particularly vexing to my late father. He used words beautifully and with great effect and he had a wonderful talent to measure what he said. Suffice to say, this is a trait that I did not get from him.

Admittedly, I have worked on this (no, really, I have) and I think I'm far better at measuring what I say than I was when I was, for instance, a teenager. For those of you who knew me then, once again, I'm sorry. Seriously.

That said, even today, there are times when I like to think I'm saying something using my inside, or inner, voice, rather than my outside voice. Far too often, I may have thought I was using my inside voice, when in fact I've used that pesky outside voice. You know that feeling, or maybe you don't (and if you don't, good for you), when you realize you just said OUT LOUD what you were thinking. That very scenario played out for me today in our adult Sunday School class. A comment was made about the NSA already knowing everything we were doing and out of nowhere I made a comment that 1) I don't even remember specifically now and B) I thought I was using my inside voice about the Church and the NSA. Based on the immediate groans, shaking heads and fairly robust nervous laughter around me from the class, it was clear I'd used my outside voice. And that's what I essentially said as a follow up, "Wait...did I use my outside voice?" Yes, yes I did. Ouch. A member of the class afterwards said to me I could have said much worse. She had a point, but then again she and I share the same feelings (none of which are good) about Fox News and its ilk. See, there I go again.

Clearly, I've got a way to go as I make my way through this learning we call life. I'm just grateful, eternally so, that each day each one of us is presented with an opportunity to try again. Each day is an opportunity to be better than the day before. There is so much comfort in that knowledge for me. I'll take every day I can get to strive to be a better person because I'm going to need them.

05 November 2013

"Go see if the temp is dead."

Earlier today at work there was a minor kerfuffle in the women's restroom. The restrooms have shower rooms attached and one of my co-workers grew panicky after the showers been running for a couple of hours. She was convinced someone had died in there but refused to check for fear someone really was dead. Turns out no one was dead. It was just someone who felt compelled to leave all the showers running.

This reminded me of another work incident involving the restroom. Several years ago, while working in the greatest city in America, Chicago, I was in an office whose facilities were, well, less than desirable. The bathrooms were hideous. I've been in Port Authority cans that were more appealing than what we faced each and every work day. And you'd be disturbed, even repulsed, by what went on in there in addition to the normal things...like washing lettuce for salads, haircuts, and warming slow cookers. And sleeping off benders. Wait...what?

I was at my desk one afternoon when one of my colleagues burst into to my luxurious and semi-private cube and tersely intoned, "Dude, go see if the temp is dead!" He told me he'd just left the men's room and he was insistent that our mail room temp who was in the bathroom was dead. I was the only other male manager and he was adamant that I go see if said temp was dead. Hesitantly I made my way to a place that could normally be described as a crime scene to see if it now actually was one.

I walked in and could hear the muffled sounds of rap music coming from the handicapped stall. I'd been told that's where the temp could be found. The door to the stall was slightly ajar and with more than a little trepidation, I pushed it open. What greeted me haunts me even today. There he was - our temp, sitting on the 'throne,' pants around his ankles, splayed out for the world to see, with the sounds of gangsta' rap oozing from his earbuds. He was out cold. The very soft snoring was proof enough for me that he wasn't dead. With more than a little relief, I left Sleeping Beauty on his perch and backed out of his 'sanctuary.'

I'm not sure when he came to but he did. He repeated this napping activity a few days later and he was then invited to find work elsewhere. I'm not sure what became of him but I can only hope he found a better place to rest. I give him props for taking the word 'restroom' literally. Also, I've never been more disturbed in all my life. Thanks, temp.

03 November 2013


despair.com nails it every time
Fall is a beautiful time of year but it is not without its dangers. The biggest is that Fall is the gateway to the trifecta of American consumerism - Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmukahwanzaa (that's Christmas, Hannukah, and Kwanzaa, for the uninitiated). These three events are responsible for more drama than just one afternoon with the Skanks of the Apocalypse, the Family (and I use that word loosely) Kardashian.

There are lots of reasons for all the drama and much of that comes from the traditions associated with these big events. At their core, traditions are not a bad thing, as they are something, whether a belief, custom, or practice, that are handed down generation to generation. Unless your family tradition is to re-enact the marriage ceremony between Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Presley at family reunions or wearing matching 'heartwarming' holiday sweaters as a couple to the family holiday party is seen as awesome, I'm not going to quibble with your traditions. Probably.

With Halloween just passed, I've been giving the traditions in our family some thought. Both of my daughters, Our Lady of Awesome and CAL, honored their mother, the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML, by invoking some of the traditions they grew up. Like many other families, Halloween for us meant a big pot of chili, cornbread, and some kind of pumpkin goodness for dessert. This year, thousands of miles away from us, both girls did their version of our family tradition. The Awesomes had family over and enjoyed white bean chili. CAL cooked up chili, cornbread, and pumpkin dessert for her roommates and friends. It was, dare I say it, touching to see my girls, grown up and living their lives, calling on the traditions they had grown up with and rolling them out in their lives. Chili and cornbread on Halloween is a simple thing and a tradition in our house, but aren't the life's greatest pleasures the simplest ones?

Yeah, give me the simple traditions and simple things of life, please. I'm looking forward to watching how our traditions play out as our children continue to make life their own.