San Diego!

Right now I'm in San Diego, and I love it. It's 72 degrees in the day, 60 at night, and I don't have any yard work to do when I here.

I flew in to give a product demo to some higher-ups in the company. What was supposed to be a simple demo between me, my manager, and the program manager morphed into a major event. Other program managers were invited, then the vice president, and then the president -- all for what I hoped would be a low-key, informal demo. For a relatively green employee, this was a daunting assignment -- to sit in a conference room with ALL your superiors to showcase the product that you've been working on for the past few months. To make it slightly more awkward, it's even a product in which I only reluctantly involved myself initially.

So, here I am, in this darkened conference room cast in gray hues by the projector lamp, giving a spiel to all these people, many of whom are twice my age and twice my experience. Everything seems to be going well as a get started, but about 5 minutes in, I look over and see the President, head on his chest, eyes closed. My heart totally skips a beat, and I stumble a little, but soldier on. Everyone else seems pretty interested, with a lot of questions, and even the president asks a few in his moments of alertness, but every once in a while I notice out of the corner of my eye that he seems to have dozed off again.

When it's all over, everyone seems really pleased and surprised that the product has turned out so well and so far under budget. It's actually quite a coup, but I still have mixed feelings because of my narcoleptic supreme leader. My concerns are assuaged, however, when I run into my manager a few hours later, and he explains that, in fact, the Prez falls asleep in nearly every meeting and product demo they do. My sigh of relief was probably audible when I heard that.

I can handle a over-tired company president. At least he's not Ron Burgundy.

Stay classy, San Diego.


The busy paradox...

I hate being "busy". I hate the sensation of feeling like there's too much to do and not enough time in which to do it. You know what I'm talking about. It's filled with laundry, dry cleaning, vacuuming, dishes, returning phone calls, sitting through meetings -- all the banal activities that seem the hallmark of adult life.

The flip side of that coin, though, is that without any pressure on my time -- if I get to pick and chose what I WANT to do, it seems like I get NOTHING done. The way life seems to go is that I work so hard to unburden my schedule that by the time I get some "free time", I'm tired and all I want to do is relax. So, I end up filling the hard fought non-busy time with stuff that's not particularly important, like catching up on TV shows that aren't that interesting anyway, writing this blog, immersing myself in pointless pop culture, or playing video games.

I'd like to believe that I'm a highly evolved being with fine sensibilities and a greater purpose, but the realities of everyday life seem so utterly pedestrian as to drive out any thoughts of my life being remotely sublime. So in the end, which is better? A day busily spent in unremarkable work, or a relaxing day spent doing nothing in particular? Why can't I seem to do a little of both? In the end, what I'd really like is to be busy doing important things.

Okay, so I'm oversimplifying. There are some things I do everyday that are sublime, I just wish I was doing more of them.

Congratulations Kelly and Bryan!

This weekend I was in the land of 10,000 lakes for my brother's wedding. He is now married to a really sweet gal who is easily twice as good as he his, (and he's a pretty good kid, himself.)

It was a truly eventful weekend, in so many ways. On Thursday, the day before the wedding, the Twin Cities were lashed by a crazy powerful storm. There were tornado warnings, marble sized hail, and torrential rains. As the semi-responsible person selected to pick up my aunt at the airport, I was dropping my folks off at the family dinner about the time the storm really picked up steam. In fact, as they ran into the church where we were having the family dinner, you could hear the dissonant howl of the tornado sirens.

As I navigated the streets by GPS, I had the windshield wipers flapping like the wings of a deranged duck, but I still couldn't see more than 20 feet in front of me. The hail sounded like buckets of pebbles poured onto the roof of the car. Everyone on the interstate was driving at ten miles an hour with their flashers on. Cars were pulled over underneath bridges and against the walls that border the roadway.

In retrospect, I was a complete idiot for thinking they'd let my aunt's plane land in that weather, but I went out to the airport anyway, waited a bit, and then received word that her flight had indeed been diverted to Sioux Falls. So, I worked my way back to the dinner, but traffic was still snarled from the weather. Parts of the city had their power knocked out, and there were branches all over the roads. Only a block or two from the church, I saw a telephone pole that had snapped off at the base and was being held up by the power lines themselves. All told, it took me nearly an hour to make it back to the dinner, by which point, everyone was leaving to go see what had happened at Kelly's house during the storm.

As we drove up, her house was totally obscured from view by a fallen tree. The ancient red oak in their yard had been struck by lighting and split nearly right down the center. Half was still standing, the exposed core blackened and scorched, while the other half of the 50 foot tree engulfed the whole yard. Miraculously, the fallen portion landed entirely into the front yard and did no damage to the house at all. By the time we stopped by the next morning around 10, the power was still out on their street, but ward members and family were hard at work dismantling the tree.

In the end, though, the wedding went off as planned, and that's the thing that really struck me about the whole experience: real love isn't deterred. The weather, the tree, the power outage, and all the other little things that might not have gone as planned simply didn't matter. Congratulations Kelly and Bryan!

And, in case you were wondering, the theme song for this trip was Carl Douglas' "Kung Fu Fighting"


Murder Mystery

This weekend was another first. I played a part in a murder mystery dinner. A friend had a friend planning the evening and expressed a need for more male participants. I was feeling adventurous, so I said yes. I guess I'm not surprised that guys are a little gun shy of events like this, because they involve dressing up being downright silly. It's a lot like corporate America sans 401k.

I don't know why it is, but a lot of guys are hesitant to ham it up. Everyone likes to be the life of the party, but they don't want to look a fool doing it. At least, that's the only reason I can think of as to why I would be voted as giving the best male performance out of the 20 or other males in attendance -- I was the only one without shame. I know it wasn't the 30 dollar Walmart costume that won over the masses.

Of course, it probably helped that my character was quintessential deranged anachronism. I played a Bolivian, who, as a child, saved his village from marauders, and then went on to play Hercules on TV to the point that he became convinced he was Hercules. So, with this persona, I, and a gaggle of others with similarly odd characters, went from house to house, acting out the different parts of this murder mystery, revealing clues about how things unfolded so that someone in our part met there untimely demise.

And, it was a surprisingly good time. I got to wander around all night in armor, with a battle ax, saying things like, "The valet never knows how to park my chariot" and "Oh, that chakra ... I think left it in my other tunic."

"Blessed are they who can laugh at themselves, for they shall never cease to be amused."


Office High Jinks

Have I mentioned that I really do love my job? We have a great, low stress atmosphere, but are still quite productive.

Case in point: today was salsa day. We cleared the conference table off and then filled it with bowls of everyone's different homemade salsas. We sat around sampling the salsa and joking about the Patriots getting fined for spying.

The office is also very family friendly, which is something from which I hope I'll eventually benefit. Right now, a coworker has his four year old in the office as his wife runs some errands. She was running around with long strips of tape on her fingers. In her exuberance, she tripped on the carpet and hurt her ankle, starting to cry. Unconcerned, my coworker starts to talk to her. This is how the conversation went:

Dad: What happened?

Child: Ow! I hurt my ankle! [howls a little]

Dad: Well, are you going to die?

Child: [sniffles] Naw, I guess not.

Dad: Besides, you can't cry in here, people are trying to work.

Child: Oh, okay...

It's amazing that you can have such a logical conversation with someone that still sounds like a chipmunk.


Girls are Weird...

Is there a formal body of research on why girls are so weird? Of course, that premise implies that men are the non-weird ones, which I don't think I could ever argue.

The thing that is weird about women, if there is anything, is the effect that they have on men, whether they are conscious of it or not. With a flick of the hair, a slight touch on the shoulder, a lingering glance, and all of man's rationality and sense will simply evaporate. Perhaps men have the same effect of women, but it seems to me that that they are at least moderately aware of what is happening to them -- and have at least the option to resist. Men, however, seem the hapless pawns of biology and chemistry.

Men wouldn't mind their kryptonite so much if the members of the fairer sex didn't seem so fickle, irrational, and, at times, downright crazy. But when it comes down to it, I surmise that when a woman acts crazy, it's because a man is driving her nuts. Gentlemen, you know how truly asinine we can be. Can you imagine what it's like for someone without a Y chromosome to help interpret our moronic behavior?

Since I barely understand my own mind, it makes perfect sense that women would remain an enigma. Who can fathom the feminine mind? Not I. And it's not particularly relevant anyway, since I hold the same opinion as Hobbes: "I like 'em anyway."


I miss Calvin & Hobbes

I miss Calvin and Hobbes. I credit them with getting me to read the paper at all when I was younger. Bill Watterson drew C&H from 1985 to 1995, and I figure I read it religiously for those last five years. C&H was the perfect mix of honesty, juvenile humor, and social commentary. It was never heavy handed, overtly political, or partisan. In short, it was genuine and beautifully whimsical.

I have to say that I've hardly read a newspaper cartoon since then (even Dilbert, which is a homage to my profession.) And this, I think, is a very telling commentary on the fall of the newspaper and print journalism in general, but that's a topic for another time. What I'm about to do is probably a violation of various copyright laws, but I'm going to post some of my most favorite strips. (Click on the images to blow them up.)



I have a scratch across the knuckle of the middle finger on my right hand. I don't even remember exactly how it happened. What I do remember is that 10 minutes after I changed the lawnmower blade and was subsequently criss-crossing the lawn, the crease of my knuckle was stained dark red. The wound is inconsequential. It's almost magical how quickly it is healing.

Sometimes, when I look at the shrinking sore, I marvel at the rest of my hand, turning it from side to side, alternatively clenching a fist or inspecting the creases in my palm. I wonder about the story that each fold tells, and what my hands say about me. It seems that a man's hands seem to encapsulate the history of his life's work.

Thank may sound odd coming from a software developer, but I'm not talking about what I do at "at work." When I look at my hands, I don't see the countless lines of computer code that they've typed, but I see them covered in dirt from planting my first garden or coated in grease from changing the spark plugs in the 85 Benz. I think of shaking hands with Bishops, investigators, and home teaching families. I remember hands that smelled like garlic and tomatoes from making lasagne for friends, and tired, sore hands after picking rocks from a farmer's field to pay for scout camp.

Fortunately, my hands are still young, and they have lots of mileage left: pages to turn, things to fix and build, food to prepare, and hugs to give.


To shave or not to shave...

I'm conducting an informal and very unscientific poll regarding my facial hair. About 3 months ago on a camping trip, I let my beard grow unabated and grew accustomed to the persistent itching. Since then, I've trimmed it once a week, and enjoyed the little bit of notoriety that comes with changing looks. Some people have responded positively, while others seem indifferent. So, I'm interested to hear what the world thinks.

Here are three pictures of myself with varying amounts of facial hair. They are shown in chronological order. After the mission, I grew out the goatee and kept it for several years because I thought it helped me look older (I was concerned that my ample cheeks would give me an overly youthful appearance.) I then went back to shaving for several years, which started largely due to a relationship. (She seemed impressed that I was willing to shave off the goatee. I'm not really sure why, since it would only take a week to get back...) And that brings us to now; my first attempts at a full blown beard. The bearded picture below shows the hair in it's recently trimmed state -- it ends up being a little fuller and darker than that at nominal length.

On the right of the page, you should see the poll. Vote for which look you think suits me and my 28 year old self best! (Mom, you only get one vote.)


Dating, Love, and Furniture

Every day when I get home from work and look around my house, I think to myself that I should get some nice decorations and perhaps some better furniture. But, then, I remind myself that I'm single, and I'm sure that everything I own and anything I would buy is probably be unsuitable in the eyes of a woman. So, I've resigned myself to a nice house with mediocre furnishings -- everything I have is DI ready.

In the mean time, enjoy some of these insights into the mystery of love:

I've literally, in my entire life, had two guys come up to me and ask me out. Other than that I have had to go and try to spend time with them, or sort of start the conversation, basically spell it out in a Sharpie, like, you know?

- Jennifer Love Hewitt

Many a man who falls in love with a dimple make the mistake of marrying the whole girl.
- Evan Esar

Money can't buy love, but it improves your bargaining position.
- Christoper Marlow

All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn't hurt.
- Charles M. Schulz

Put your hand on a hot stove for a minute, and it seems like an hour. Sit with a pretty girl for an hour, and it seems like a minute. That's relativity.
- Albert Einstein

Men are from Earth. Women are from Earth. Deal with it.
- George Carlin

The bravest thing that men do is love women.
- Mort Sahl

Love makes time pass; time makes love pass.
-French Proverb


Here Fishy, Fishy, Fishy

I spent the weekend up at a friend's ranch. 6000 acres of sagebrush, ragweed, and whatever else decided to assault my sinuses. I hate fall sometimes, but it was a good time. Besides the ATV riding, the trap shooting, the sleeping under the stars, and the canoing, the highlight was probably the fishing.

I found myself on a pontoon boat in the middle of a pond stocked with feisty rainbow trout. My companions on the boat were three novice fisherwomen. The results, frankly, were hilarious. Not much thought had been given to what to do with the fish once they were reeled onto the boat. The first catch of the day brought this oversight to light. I removed the hook from the fish's mouth and asked, "Well, do you want to eat him?" (All fish are considered male, in case you were wondering.) She seem convinced that yes, she did want to eat the fish, so I said, "Well, you're going to have to kill him then." (This is why all fish are male, because it's easier to dispatch a male fish.) I will happily tie lines, bait hooks, and help with a cast, but I only kill my own fish.

She seemed less than thrilled about the prospect, but proceeded to grasp the trout in both hands firmly by the tail and went to swing it against the aluminum railing. It went like this:







"I think he's dead..."

There's nothing quite like the sound of squishy clang of a fish's ahead against a metal bar.

I also wonder, does helping a girl clean her fish count as an act of chivalry?