Friday, February 29, 2008

Alcohol - a Rant

Drinking is a huge part of our culture. We drink when we celebrate, we drink when we relax, we drink when we socialize and we drink when we grieve. Alcoholics crave it, abolitionists demonize it, and governments regulate and tax it.

Like many Americans, I first tasted booze before I was legally old enough to drink. I didn't like the taste but enjoyed the way it made me feel... until the next morning. The first time I experienced intoxication also brought on the pain of my first hangover. This quickly helped me learn the importance of moderation... a lesson that has carried over into many aspects of my life.

When I was a teenager, the legal drinking age in my state was 19. I remember the Federal Government's de facto establishment of a national drinking age of 21 by threatening to withhold federal highway funds from states with lower drinking ages. I recall when my state raised the drinking age to 21. I don't remember the exact time, but I remember it happening.

Not too long after that, I joined the Marine Corps. I was allowed to consume alcoholic beverages at my first duty station because that state permitted people under 21 to drink if they were active duty military. I was also allowed to drink on base at other duty stations.

Shortly after I turned 21, the Federal Government increased the pressure and the military abolished under-21 drinking even on base, and states closed the loophole. I disagreed then and I disagree now. I object even more now, since many of our military personnel currently serving are below the legal drinking age. We can order them to kill another human being, but will not allow them to consume spirits. Disgusting.

This brings me to my point for today's story. According to this article, there is a "nascent movement" to consider lowering the drinking age from 21 in some circumstances, and I support this change. I don't like the government telling my fellow citizens that they are responsible enough to drive a vehicle, elect a president, and fight in a war but not responsible enough to consume alcohol. An 18-year-old is expected to differentiate between right and wrong and can be executed for murder, but they are not allowed to decide for themselves whether or not to consume spirits.

I suspect that some M.A.D.D. mother will throw statistics my way about how traffic fatalities have decreased since the laws changed, but statistics do not consider causation. And even if they did, it's still the inconsistency of this "quasi-adulthood" to which I so strenuously object. It's time to revisit the current drinking age.

Monday, February 25, 2008

That's Efficient

It's finals week at my older daughter's school and I was helping her study for her science exam. She's really struggling, so the task was pretty daunting for both of us. She was trying to cram months worth of knowledge into a few hours, and I was attempting to teach her things she should really already know.

I asked her how to determine the efficiency of a simple machine... the formula is efficiency equals input work divided by output work. She was having a difficult time grasping the concept and I was having an attack of flatulence. As I let one rip, she exclaimed "That's gross!"

"Yeah, but it was efficient," I retorted.

"How do you figure?"

"Well, there wasn't a lot of input work, but there sure was a lot of output."

Over the course of the evening, every time something slipped, I wryly said "That was efficient."

I think the kid knows the formula for determining efficiency now.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

New Role

I was helping my older kid with her homework yesterday. After a few minutes, she asked "Dad, can you check my answers?"

"No," I answered, "I need to pick your sister up from school. I'll check them when I get back."

On my way out the door, she said "Dad, you're a housewife now, aren't you." (It was a statement, not a question.)

I looked at her, grinned and said "Yeah, I guess I am." I've got to admit, I'm having fun holding down the fort during my job search. Cleaning house, cooking, doing laundry and taking the kids to school is actually pretty rewarding.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

What an Adventure!

There's nothing like an adventurous weekend getaway to clear your mind.

Back in November, we planned a journey to the Wisconsin Dells with our neighbors. For a moment, I had considered postponing the trip but the Mrs. thought it would be best for the kids if we try to keep things as normal as possible during the job search. Now that the weekend is over, I'm glad she talked me into going because it was an eventful weekend... one we'll be talking about for a long time to come. And it definitely distracted me from my current employment situation.

The trip up was relatively quiet. The only unexpected event was that we ran across a woman whose car had broken down a few miles out of town, and we gave her a ride to her destination. That was fortunate for her, because it was cold, the wind was blowing, and she would have had a long, cold walk. As we dropped her off, the kids said "Well, that was an adventure." I think that was a little bit of foreshadowing on their part.

We arrived in the Dells after about four hours on the road. Our neighbors had taken care of the reservations, so I wasn't quite sure what to expect. They said it was a condo, so I envisioned a couple of small bedrooms, a kitchenette and a living room. The accomodations far exceeded my expectations, with three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a full kitchen, a living room and a jacuzzi in a four-season porch. After a quick beer run, we settled in for the evening.

We spent the next full day at the water park, which was almost exactly as I pictured it. Lots of slides and rides, lots of chlorine and lots of people. There's a lot of outdoor activity, even in the winter. In order to get outside, all you had to do was swim under a weather barrier. Though it was cold and snowing, the water was circulated with the indoor water, leaving it quite comfortable despite the fact that wet hair would begin freezing in a matter of minutes.

After returning to the condo for some dinner (spaghetti a la me) and cocktails for the adults, we played several rounds of tag in the hotel. This went on for an hour or two, and was probably the kids' favorite activity. I enjoyed it tremendously as well, but it was really about the kids.

As we retired from our game of tag, we watched the weather and found out that we were in for some rough weather. We figured that the best course of action was to wait and see if the blizzard actually came to be before making plans.

We woke up the next morning to find that everything outside was white, and more snow was falling. Since we were on vacation, we procrastinated a bit more and went back to the water park for more chlorinated fun. Four hours later, it was still snowing heavily, but we decided to brave the elements and try to get home so that nobody would miss work or school. We covered a little over 50 miles over three hours, when we finally got stuck going up a hill.

We were about 2/3 of the way to the hilltop when we lost traction and couldn't go forward any further. Mother nature said enough's enough and we couldn't argue with her. The adventure was ratcheted up another notch or two when the kids started panicking and screamed about how they wanted out of the car. They panicked even more when the adults decided that the only course of action was to slowly coast back down the hill -- in reverse, since there wasn't enough space to turn around.

We made it safely to the bottom of the hill, where we turned the van around and returned to the nearest town... a village with a population of about 1400, and three Bates Motels. We chose the one that advertised a pool and had indoor corridors, but quickly found out that the pool was drained for repairs. Fortunately there was a pool table, so we shot a few games of stick.

We all went to Subway for dinner, except for sexy wife, who figured that she'd microwave one of our leftover pizzas. After eating about half of it, she began making frequent trips to the restroom; she eventually told us that she thought she had food poisoning, because the pizza was coming back up. Fortunately, we had adjoining rooms and three adults who weren't sick, and three kids who were content to quietly watch TV. The Mrs. wasn't exactly comfortable, but I think we accommodated her to the best of our ability.

The snow finally stopped the next morning, and we jumped back on the road. The wind was still blowing, the snow was still drifting and the roads were still slick, but we took it slow and made it home in about four hours, passing several abandoned cars on our trek... including one semi and two vehicles that had flipped.

The weekend gave me a great opportunity to get my mind off of life's little stresses, and has put me in a much better place. It's amazing what a weekend away can do for the soul. I'll be putting up some pictures soon, and if you'd like I could do a full review of the Wisconsin Dells.

Friday, February 15, 2008

A Little Break, Please?

I make no bones about my love of politics, but look, it is possible to have too much of a good thing. Can we take a few days off of the punditry? After all, nothing's really going to change in the next couple of hours, except maybe the specific wording of a specific article.

Speaking of articles...
It looks like my election predictions were a little off.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Thanks, Baby

As you can imagine, I've been more stressed over the last few days than I've been in a long time. I've tried to focus on the positives, but there's a lot of anxiety and sometimes I'm consumed by the apprehension. When the family picks up on this, the tension increases even more and a couple of times I've wondered how much more I can take.

During this time, my wife has been my rock, which is one of the many reasons that I love her so. I know that she's stressed and worried too, but she's been nothing short of wonderful. Thanks for your support, baby. I love you, and there's nobody I'd rather have by my side... now and forever.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Bitter Pill

As I look at my situation, I can't help but wonder what the hell I'm going to do now and how we're going to make it... how I'm going to make it. Part of me wants to become a victim and blame my former employer and my co-workers. Another piece of me wonders if it's all my fault. In the end I always remember that the truth is somewhere in the middle.

When I interviewed at my last job, I was given the impression that I was joining a family, not simply changing jobs. But the longer I worked there, the more I realized that I wasn't marrying into a family. I was a step-child who was grudgingly adopted. I was greeted with mistrust and skepticism and was never able to overcome this feeling. It's difficult to commit yourself to a family that doesn't welcome you.

Losing this job is not horribly different from a divorce. There is a little pain, a little anger, and a little relief. I could play the part of the jilted lover and express anger or plot revenge, but that wouldn't help anyone. It wouldn't help me.

I will say this though. I spent the majority of my time there as a burned out employee. I tried to fit in, but there comes a point where you simply try to make it through the day. For a long time I told myself that I was happy there... that I was making a difference. But I knew better.

Friday, February 8, 2008


Today, I joined the ranks of the unemployed and I had a car accident on the way home from my former job. No injuries, no major damage and I'm not destitute, but ugh, rough day nonetheless.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

To Quote My Daughter...

... this is a little awkward.

The Mrs. called me at work this morning, informing me that she got a call from someone in the ex-wife's family. My ex-father-in-law is terminally ill, and my phone was the only number they had. I told the ex, who called me back in short order and told me that her dad has about two weeks to live, because of an inoperable brain tumor.

I felt bad for the ex's step-mom and baby sister. The baby sister is about the same age as my older girl, and she's losing her dad. The ex was bawling in the phone as she asked me to keep the kids for the next two weeks while she flies out to see her dad, and what am I thinking?

-Hmmm... I've got a lot of work to do. How do I keep this short?

-I wonder if she expects me to respond.

-I don't get why she's bawling about her dad. They're obviously not close... his family didn't even know how to get in touch with her.

It may sound heartless, but it's tough to feel sympathy for someone who's as reckless, self-absorbed and self-destructive as my ex. I do feel for the family though.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

The Speed of Life

Anyone who's seen Spaceballs is familiar with Ludicrous Speed. I'm starting to think that life in general travels at Ludicrous Speed. Life's pace starts out slow, but continually accelerates as you get older, with the occasional wrinkles where time speeds up or slows down for no real apparent reason. Yep, life travels at ludicrous speed.

Okay, but what's making me say this? I'm glad you asked. You've probably noticed that my posts are more sporadic and schizophrenic lately. That's because work and home have become increasingly busy, leaving me less time to write (my favorite form of therapy), and a more scattered, wide-ranging array of topics to write about once I get around to it. Hence my infrequent, but long and rambling posts.


It's snowing again this morning. One of those light, steady snows that will leave just a little bit of accumulation. I'm pretty sure that I've mentioned it already, but we've had more snow this year than we've had in a long time. I like the scenery, and I like driving around in the snow, but I don't particularly like the cold, or the work of shoveling my driveway, and I riding my motorcycle. Part of me wants to say that I can't wait 'til spring, but since I like living in the moment, I really can. I'd rather put up with a little more cold weather and enjoy the present than look forward to the future and miss the now.


My older daughter has taken to saying "Oh your god," a line from Futurama, but when IMs with her friends, she still says "OMG." I noticed this one day and said "Hey kid, you should start typing OYG instead of OMG."

She looked at me with that deer-in-the-headlights expression for a second, then I saw it click as she grinned and started laughing. "Oooooooh, I get it. Oh your god!!"


The kids and I are still playing a lot of Halo 3 online, though we do it for completely different reasons. The kids are primarily into the social aspect and the game is secondary. I'm in it for the game play and frequently mute the loudmouthed, smacktard children who don't know when or how to STFU. Since we share an online account, all of our friends are on the same list, so I get their friends hitting me up to play when I'm online and vice-versa.

Our friends are learning this, but I've got to admit that it bugs me when I come home and hear them talking shit online, because they're talking trash in my name.

But what I really don't like is my younger daughter's friends from school. (My wife got tired of me saying this all the time around the house, so I've got to say it here.) They're loud-mouthed, disrespectful little control freak bullies. Whenever they get together with the kids, they demand to be the party leaders, insist on playing their maps and games and talk shit incessantly. Since they're playing their maps and rules, they know all of the sweet hiding spots and weapons caches, and use this knowledge mercilessly to slaughter my girls.


My home PC is getting a little long in the tooth. I bought it in November of 1999. Don't get me wrong, back then it was a hot-rod and it's served its use well, but I'm ready to upgrade. Unfortunately, it's not quite time. The thing is, we keep acquiring all of these USB devices, and my PC is only running USB 1. Earlier this week, my younger daughter brought home a web cam (even though my camcorder is perfectly suited for that task, but that's another story). The thing is, I'm already crawling under the desk to swap out USB cables for other devices, and like I said, the USB 1 isn't quite adequate. I guess this means I'm going to have to bite the bullet and purchase a USB 2 card today. This will completely max out my poor old PC, but what the hell, it'll extend its life for a few more months.