What seems to be the problem here?

Today at work we had a problem solving meeting. To demonstrate the approach we should take, the following example was used:

It was noticed that the marble at the Jefferson Memorial was deteriorating much faster than expected. When they looked into it, it was determined that it was because it was being cleaned so often.

Why was it being cleaned so often? Because pigeons apparently think very little of Jefferson. To show their “appreciation” for our forefather, they were literally pooping on his memorial.

Why were the pigeons gathering on the memorial? Aside from their disdain for our democracy, it was because there were large populations of spiders on the monument.

Why were there large populations of spiders at the monument? It is a little known fact that Jefferson was the “Pied Piper” of spiders. Also, there was a large population of moths near the monument.

Why were there a lot of moths at the monument? When I said Jefferson was the Pied Piper of spiders, I meant moths.

This got me thinking. What do spiders do all day? Aside from making webs for me to walk into as penance for posting a picture of a guy with a hipster Jason Voorhees tattoo, that is. I mean, what do they do to pass the time? Go to work? Read Twitter? Watch The Bachelor? Are they just sitting around for a bug (or human) to walk I to their web?

And when do spiders sleep? If they sleep at night, when bugs seem to be the most active, do they get annoyed when a moth gets tangled in the middle of the night? “Ugh. Don’t those idiots realize it’s 2:00 am? I guess I’ll put some pants on and head out to get it. It’s not like I have a lot to do tomorrow…” The spider begrudgingly puts on his pants…one leg at a time, like the rest of us. Only it takes him 4 times as long.

If they sleep during the day, every a person walks into the web, well, I can see why they would make themselves as terrifying as possible. I’m sure it’s as annoying for them as it is for me to walk I to a web.

It has to suck being a spider.

*i know you’re all wondering the cause. The lights at the memorial were turned on at dusk. Moths typically swarm right at dusk. attracting insects like moths to a…light at a monument. They solved the problem by turning the lights on an hour later.

Next problem solving case: More people are walking into the pillars at the Jefferson Memorial.

Some light dinner conversation

The kids were sitting at the dinner table talking about who knows what. By the time I got my food and made it downstairs, they were talking about Hitler. For some reason. I really have no idea. Joining in the conversation, I added, “You have to think, though. As bad as Hitler was, he did kill Hitler.” (Thanks, Twitter for being so timely with this earlier today.)

The conversation continued about Hitler and the holocaust. Which turned to The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. The book. Not the movie. Maggi mentioned that she read the book in seventh grade. I have only seen part of the movie and wanted to ask Maggi about the end. I didn’t, however, want to spoil the end of the book for the two seventh graders sitting at the table. Knowing that Maggi had taken Spanish, but knowing at the same time that there was no chance she would understand what I was saying, I asked, “¿Se mató?” [He was killed?] To which she replied, “My toe.” Laughing, I said, “No. ¿Se…mató?” Again, she said, “My toe?” The more I repeated my question, the more confused she got. [Thinking I was saying, "Say 'my toe.'"] I gave up.

I mentioned that Hitler went to art school. Maggi said she was going to follow in his footsteps. After some probing, she said she just meant she wanted to go to art school. Not all the genocide stuff. (Whew!)

Eventually, the conversation moved on to other, non-Hitler topics. As I was cleaning up my dishes, ready to head upstairs, Maggi mentioned that she was tired. She also said she had too much coffee the day before. I told her she shouldn’t be drinking coffee at her age.

Me: “You know what would do an even better job of making you not tired than coff…”

Her (interrupting me in that parent-mocking voice): “I know. Sleep.”

We discussed that she should go to bed at a reasonable hour, which I said was earlier than her proclaimed “reasonable” 11:00.

Her: “You should take a poll of all the kids at my school and see what time they all go to bed.”

Then I turned into everyone’s dad.

Me: “I don’t care about all the other kids at your school. If I took a poll of all the kids at your school and they all said they were going to jump off a bridge, would you do it?”

Her answer: “Are all the kids going to do it? Then, yes. If that’s what everyone is going to do.”

Me: “And that is how the Nazis came to power!”

Boom! That, my friends, is how you bring a conversation full circle, win an argument, and dad.

* Footnote: I just found out they are learning about Hitler and World War II in History.

Time Travel Obsession


The other day, I heard the song “Obsession.” I think it was playing on the “oldies” station. While listening to the song, I had a flashback. I was in 4th grade. I can vividly remember the house we lived in at the time, despite the fact that we only lived there for a year. I was lying on my bed, looking out the window. I remember that, while I would sing along, I didn’t quite get the song. But it was on the radio all the time. And it had a catchy beat. I believe I was thinking about how I didn’t quite get the song.

I read somewhere that when you remember something, you’re not actually remembering the event. You’re remembering the last time you remembered the event. I don’t quite get that either. It has to do with the way the brain forms, reforms, and changes the connections between the synapses. Each time you “remember” something, you are making a new connection to the place where that memory is stored. Each time you “remember” something, it is going through this new connection, which allows for new triggers to the memory.

I decided I would try an experiment. I forced myself to have vivid visions about the future while listening to the song. Not anything exciting, like when I finally get my superpowers or anything useful like that. Realistic visions. Like when the kids are old and grown and stuff like that. Normal, every day, boring stuff.

Since I was doing this while Obsession was playing, when I remember myself remembering the last time I remembered listening to Obsession, it will be going through these new synaptic connections of me having my future visions. Which, by then, will be real-time visions. That I remember from my past. That I forced myself to have. It will be taking déjà vu to the next level.

My mind is going to be so blown in like 30 years.


By the power of Hair Clog…

He Man ooze

Due to the previous owner of our home, we have redone just about every room in our house. Most just involved new paint. Some more extensive. In fact, some rooms have recently received a second updating. Most of these were due to “updates” the previous owner had made. Some of his fantastic updates including wallpapering over a ceiling, due to it being completely water damaged, to the point of being mushy. Or painting the old appliances white. Or painting the grout between the tiles on the kitchen floor grey. Or painting the grout in the family between the tiles on the family room floor grey. You get the idea.

The one room that we have yet to touch is the bathroom in the master bedroom. It will entail ripping the room down to the studs and joists and, essentially, rebuilding the bathroom from scratch. Most importantly, I will have to find a way to extract what has become a “writing wall,” where we have scrawled notes to each other over the past 5 years. The plan is to save this for posterity. Or something. It’s a journal of our lives in the house. I don’t have the energy to tackle this project yet. The only thing that has been done to this bathroom is to replace the toilet. (The “author’s chair” for the writing wall, if you will.) Everything else in the bathroom is original.

Living with a bunch of females, you get a lot of hair in the drain. (If you share a bathroom with females, you know what I’m talking about.) I don’t know how they shed so much. But they do. And when it gets in your sink, it can completely clog it up. Such was the case in our master bathroom.

It had been slow for a while. It became almost completely clogged the other day. Due to other projects I had been working on, I had not yet gotten around to taking care of this issue. With a lull in the action, it was now time.

I poured the clumpy remains of an old drain cleaner bottle into the sink. The hair clog simply laughed at the impotent liquid. After this defeat, I removed the remaining clumps, presumably, the active ingredient, and went to bed.

Yesterday after work, I decided to finally take care of the issue. I dismantled the drain under the sink. I pulled a small amount of hair from the drain. Much less than expected. Nonetheless, it produced the same gagging, near vomiting experience one has with a large clump of hair in the drain. I wasn’t sure how this small amount of hair was causing such a problem. I put everything back together and turned on the water. The sink filled up. “You win this battle,” I said to the clog. “But you will not win the war.”

He Man oozeLast night, I went to the store to properly arm myself. Liquid Plumr Hair Clog Eliminator. (They save money on packaging by not paying to properly spell “plumber.”) The battle begins. I poured the contents of the bottle into the sink. Do you remember the He-Man slime playset thing? It was a little stone looking toy, with a skull at the top. You would put the slime in the skull and pour it down on He-Man. Or Skeletor. Or just squish it and marvel at its wonderful aroma. That is the consistency of this stuff.

The bottle said to wait 15 minutes for it to work. I didn’t know if that was from the time you started pouring or from the time the last of it finally made its way down the drain. Then I waited. And waited. And waited. I hadn’t stood around to watch the slime slowly ooze into the drain, so I gave it about 20 minutes.

I turned on the hot water and let it run, as per the directions. Success! The water did not back up in the sink. Instead, if flowed quickly down the drain. I yelled to my wife in the other room:

“I have some good news. Some bad news. And some worse news. The good news is the sink works. The bad news is the idiot painted the sink. The worse news is the Liquid Plumr ate away some of the paint.”

Now I am stuck with a dilemma. Do I pour the hair clog remover over the whole sink and let it eat the rest of the paint off? Do I use a more appropriate method to remove the paint? Do I finally replace the vanity? If so, do I bite the bullet and redo the whole bathroom? Do I leave it as is for now?

I think we all know which option I’m choosing.

Why, how do you do it?


My 14-year-old daughter got some new nail polish a while ago. She said it smells like pineapple when it dries. I asked if it was only when it was dry. She said yeah, only when it’s dry. I guess when it is still wet, it smells like nail polish. Which, I guess, makes sense. In some weird universe. I don’t know. Kids are weird these days.

Anyway, I had completely forgotten about this conversation.

We were in the car tonight. Out of nowhere, she says, “Smell my thumb?”

Me: “No. Why?”
Her: “Just smell it!”
Me: “Ummm. No.”
Her: “It smells like pineapple.”
Me: “All I smell is thumb.”
Her: “How?”
Me: “With my nose.”
Her: “I…shut up.”


It’s an ambush! Run!

Ants on a sucker

Our yard is covered with very mature trees. Approximately 20, if I recall correctly. (I only remember from counting when I had to meet with the tree commission years ago about how “we are all going to die” if I didn’t replace the two dead pine trees I removed from the end of my driveway. Because, as we all know, dead trees produce the oxygen we breathe. Without these dead trees, the oxygen levels in our town would reach critical levels, wiping out the entire population.) As such, we are prime real estate for carpenter ant colonies.

We had issues with a minor invasion right after we moved into the house. An exterminator was called, who dealt with the very large nest right outside our door. After he was attacked by several battalions trying to fight him off, they were vanquished. We have seen one or two foraging in the house occasionally. Outside of that, they have not made any appearances.

This morning, I was awakened by my wife, who was in the kitchen. It was 10 minutes before my alarm was set to go off, so the timing was perfect. She said there were about a hundred ants swarming in the kitchen. I came downstairs expecting to see about 10. Unfortunately, she was not exaggerating.

The 4-year-old’s grandma likes to spoil her. This means getting her all kinds of little treats. Miniscule toys that a grown adult would have trouble keeping track of. Yet, somehow, she manages to know where every one of these microscopic toys is at all times, directing you to their exact location, should one be left behind at bedtime. Books. And candy. A rock candy sucker was the culprit behind this morning’s insurgence.

There were probably 30 or so ants inside the package the sucker was in. The other 70-ish ants were meandering about the counter. Keep in mind, these aren’t the little tiny ants most people probably imagine. These are carpenter ants. Some were almost as large as the 4-year-old’s tiny toys she takes to bed.

How does that sucker taste without oxygen?

How does that sucker taste without oxygen?

My wife grabbed a chip clip and sealed off the plastic bag containing the sucker and the main detachment. “I’ll suffocate the little f-ers!” she said, with vengeance. (She probably didn’t actually say that. But I’m sure it was something as badass as yelling “Something cool!” as you throw a grenade into a helicopter. Side note: Can you suffocate ants? My initial thought was no, but now I’m not so sure. Side side note: I didn’t actually read any of the results in that search. If you happen to, please let me know.)

I went to the garage to grab the “Home Defense” container of ant killer/repellant. As I returned to the counter with the gallon sized jug of liquid death, the ants scattered. I opened fire. As the poison hit the ants, they scurried in vain. “It’s a trap!”

Many made it to the edge of the counter. Most did not stop there. They leapt to the floor. These ants were so large that you could hear a dull “thud” as they landed on the floor. And it came at rapid fire pace as they all scrambled to escape the inevitable.

I watched as they ran away, many dragging useless hind legs, trying to find their entry path. For some reason, most of them headed towards the living room. This would be the longest path for them to take to get to the kitchen, considering the sliding door mere inches from the counter. I continued spraying. They slowed down. Those that were more persistent were rewarded with the sole of the shoe sitting next to the table.

The next several minutes were spent wiping up the pools of ant napalm and carcasses. I went through an astonishing amount. We washed off the sprayed areas to make sure we didn’t leave any residue. As we cleaned up, I kept my eyes open for any stragglers, still hoping to find from whence they came.

As we finished, my wife said, “There’s one on the wall there,” pointing to the wall above the counter. I looked up to see one lone ant crawling down the wall, headed toward the scene of the carnage.

He had a look on his face as if to say, “Hey, where is everyone?” Then I smashed him.

Who is this?

At work, I have a fairly casual relationship with our business partners. We keep things pretty loose. Luckily, it fits my personality.

The other day, one of them called my desk phone. His first comment was, “Next time I call, I want you to answer, ‘What’s up, son?'” We laughed. I agreed.

Today, I’m working from home. He sent me a message asking me to call him. Since I’m working from home, I had to call him from my cell phone. The thing is, he knows my desk phone number when I call. My cell, not so much. The call went a little something like this:

*phone rings*

Him: “Hello.”

Me: “What’s up, son?”

Him: dead silence

This is where I had a moment of complete panic. He had no idea who was calling him, and had apparently forgotten the conversation from 2 days ago. To make matters worse, I realized he had me on speakerphone as soon as the words were coming out of my mouth. It was too late to turn back, though.

As we sat in silence for what felt like a full minute, I debated saying something like, “This is Dwayne,” or something to let him off the hook. Since he had me on speaker, and I had no way of knowing who else might be in the room, I didn’t want to out myself. So we sat there. Neither saying a word.

I swear I could hear the click in his mind as he finally made the connection and started laughing. My heart started beating again. For one brief moment, my entire career future hung in the balance. If he didn’t remember the conversation, how would things have gone.

He told me I made his day. But at what cost?

The hunt

The fun thing about your kids getting older is the you can do more elaborate things with them. In this case, it is hiding Easter eggs. The 4-year-old still needs them just strewn about the ground. Easy to find. With the older kids, you can make them hard to find. Damn near impossible, in some cases. The fact that I hadn’t yet mowed my backyard since last fall makes it easier to hide the eggs. Tossing them here and there in the yard isn’t as simple as one would think.

One lesson I have learned over the years is always do an egg count before you hide them. This way, you know when all of them have been found. It also helps to make a mental note of where they are hidden. Especially if there are more valuable eggs (read: they contain cash.) you will inevitably make these harder to find, so it’s good to know where they are, in case the kids don’t find them. With 121 eggs, and 3 people hiding, you will never know where they all are. It’s impossible.

As the kids were hunting, I was keeping track of which ones were still in play. I would wander around occasionally to double-check. Once they had been searching and found all they could, we did an egg count.


Wait a sec. That’s not right. I went out and searched the yard again. Not an easy feat with grass that is 8″ tall in some spots. I found nothing.

There are 2 possibilities. The kids counted the eggs wrong. And I didn’t bother to recount. Or I hid then so well that I couldn’t find them myself. Or I can’t count and there weren’t 121 to begin with.

After the festivities ended, I decided it was time to mow. The backyard really needs it. But, my real motivation was the possibility of 2 lone Rolos, lost in the wilderness. Left to suffer, cold and alone.

So I mowed. Nothing appeared in the grass. Except for that stone that I think bent my mower blade. However, while moving the trampoline to an already mowed area, I saw one egg hiding in the padding of the trampoline. My plan worked, Sort of.

This means that there is still a Rolo filled egg in the yard. Watching waiting. To provide me with an unexpected midsummer chocolatey caramel treat. I’m sure there is little chance it will have turned into a melty, disgusting, goopy mess, or become overridden by bugs by the time I find it.

I will find you, rogue Rolo. You will be mine.

The road does funny things to a man

tunnel escape

Another Spring Break has come and gone. Time flies by too quickly. After apparently botching our Spring Break plans (Sorry, sis. I’m dumb.), we ended up at my brothers and a day trip that was moderately successful. I say moderately successful because the kids had a good time. Who knew in a touristy beach town it would be so difficult to find towels? I mean, really.

This all added up to a lot of windshield time for me. So much driving. I don’t mind driving. It gives me time to think and reflect on things. Mostly finding ways to entertain myself as everyone else sleeps. A good deal of what I do probably isn’t all that entertaining in real life. But in that moment, that precious moment that keeps me from drifting off to sleep and off the road, it is the most entertaining thing ever. Many times, it culminates in me yelling out random letters in the “Alphabet Game,” which no one is playing except for me.

tunnelMost of driving to my brother’s house is going up and down mountains. Over and over again. The brief respite, aside from those annoying 2 lane roads where I inevitably get stuck behind a semi not quite going the speed limit, thus killing my time in an attempt to beat the GPS “Estimated Arrival Time,” are the tunnels that cut through the bottom of 2 mountains. (I’m assuming some engineer said, “F it. I’m tired of drawing these winding roads up and down the mountains. Let’s just cut through the middle of the s.o.b.”)

Every time I drive through the tunnels I have one of two similar movie-inspired images in my head. In the first, the tunnel is collapsing and I have to zip through traffic to escape before the mountain collapses on me.

The second is almost identical, but more exciting. There is an explosion behind me in the tunnel. The flames chasing me, licking the back of the car as I speed through the tunnel, escaping at the last second, the force of the final explosion shooting me out the mouth of the tunnel as everything is engulfed.

It goes a little something like this:

tunnel escape

The force will be with you…always.

Not as easy as it seems

"I'm Brian, the Smiley-Mustachioed Canadian, eh."

I’m a fairly mechanically inclined person. Or so I like to think. Our Pilot has been making some noise for a while. It seems to be the wheel bearings. Or so it has been diagnosed by me and my non-mechanic friend. After looking up replacing the wheel bearings online, we determined that it was a job we could tackle.

"I'm Brian, the Smiley-Mustachioed Canadian, eh."

“I’m Brian, the Smiley-Mustachioed Canadian, eh.”

Unfortunately, on the day I was planning to do said repair, my friend was otherwise engaged. No worries. I had found a YouTube video that was both informative and entertaining. It looks like a piece of cake. Plus, the guy had a smiley mustache. And was Canadian. If he says it’s easy, I believe him.

I went to the auto parts store and picked up the parts I needed. Luckily, they also have “free” tool rental. It is free in the sense that you pay for the tools and get the money back when you return them. Much like what a lot of people actually do, only this is sanctioned by the store. I took my part and tools (not euphemisms) and went home to tackle the task.

The tire came off easily, of course. The brakes, too. The drum/rotor/wheelie thing that the brake pads hit came off with a little coaxing. By coaxing, I mean the two screws that hold it on that I didn’t realize were there at first.

Finally, I was down to the hub. The core, or hub, if you will, of where my repairs would happen. According to my Canadian, smiley-mustachioed friend, the hub comes out relatively easily. There is a large nut you have to take off. It is tapped in, so it doesn’t spin off. No worries.  “You just knock it up, eh. Don’t get it pregnant, though. That could be horribly embarrassing for some people.” I knocked it up with a screwdriver. (Don’t worry, I used protection.) Easy peasy, as my 4-year-old would say.

The next step is to remove the hub, itself. Again, according to my Canadian friend, this part is easy. You just give it a “tap-tap-tap” with a hammer. I gave it a tap-tap-tap. The hub wouldn’t budge. I turned the hub and gave it another tap-tap-tap. Still wouldn’t budge. I continued turning and tap-tap-tapping. The hub refused to succumb to my tapping. Maybe I was missing something. Maybe I was too gentle. This time, I gave the hub a whack-whack-whack with the hammer. Nothing.

Ok, maybe I’m just not pulling hard enough. Sure, Smiley Mustache said you just had to push in the middle with your thumb. But, he’s obviously got superhuman strength. He is Canadian, eh. I am but a weak American. I started yanking on the hub. Hard. The truck started rocking back and forth on the jack, but the hub would not loosen it’s grip.

At this point, there was some mild swearing. I’m not Canadian, after all.

“Eff it,” I said, resigning to the fact that this wasn’t going to happen today. (I didn’t say “eff it.” I said the actual “F word.” Multiple times, possibly.) “Whatever, a-hole,” I said to the truck. (I didn’t say “A-hole.” I said the actual word. Multiple times, possibly.)

I gave the hub a tap-tap-tap to knock it back into place. You know, just in case I had actually moved it a fraction of a millimeter. (I really don’t think I had.) I put the nut back on and knocked it up again. (Don’t worry, I used protection.)

Then I went to put the drum/rotor/wheelie thing that the brake pads hit back on the assembly. It wouldn’t fit. There was a spring mechanism attached to this round arm thing that was in the way. It looked like it should close further than it was. So I tried pushing it closed. Nothing. I gave it a tap-tap-tap. Nothing. WTF is this stupid ring and why can I not get the stupid drum back over it? It slid off easy enough. It should slide back on.

Somehow, don’t ask me how, I was about at my wit’s end and swearing like a sailor at this point, but I figured out this ring was the parking brake. The parking brake I had put on to keep the hub from spinning as I was yanking loose the knocked up nut. I released the parking brake and the ring closed. Back to putting the drum on.

It still wouldn’t fit! I tried working it on from one side and trying to squeeze the other side of the drum on. Nothing. I tried forcing the top on. Nothing. I gave it a tap-tap-tap. Nothing. I gave it a whack-whack-whack. Nothing. Sliding it back and forth. Nothing. Calling it a no-good-piece-of-stuff-mother-loving-son-of-a-boat-go-to-freezing-hell-ash-hole. Nothing.

I may have been freaking out a little bit at this point. I took a short break.

Back to work. I tried all the above methods again, including the swearing. It was just as effective as before. In that it wasn’t helpful at all. I was at the point of just pushing the stupid truck sideways off the jack and leaving it lie there in the garage to think about what it had done.

My hands were battered and  bloody from the battle. I opted to use my “Phone a Friend” lifeline. (Is that still a relevant reference?) I had sent a picture to my non-mechanic friend who was going to help. I think he was going to stop by to help put the mess back together when he was done with his stuff. Nothing was confirmed, though.

I also sent a pic to my brother. He has done similar type repairs before. I figured he was one of my best chances at getting this mess cleaned up before I called a tow truck and spent way more money than what I was trying to save by doing it myself. Plus, he tends to have similar luck to me, so if anyone had found themselves in this situation before, it would be him.

He called back and was all, “There’s usually a little thing you can hit to make it shrink back down to…” As he was talking, I went back out to the garage. Something in my brain clicked as he said this. I don’t know why. I don’t know how. But something inside me knew exactly what the problem was. There is a little pin-thing that is on the bottom part of the parking brake assembly. As he was talking, I took my knocking up screwdriver and tapped the pin-thing. Click! That was probably the sweetest sound I have ever heard. The assembly snapped down to its normal size. The drum slid right on. “Hah! You stupid mother lover!” (Again, not my actual words.)

In short, I’m no further ahead in my repairs than I was before. On the positive side, I’m no further behind on my repairs, either. Plus, I gained a little bit of knowledge:

Don’t trust Smiley-Mustachioed Canadians.