A Twist Of Fate
"Tramapoline!" - Homer Simpson

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(07/31/09 - 11:02 PM)
Spent the day at Mom's house working on her computer and her deck. I had taken the day off of work some months ago, figuring I could use a long weekend to myself after skydiving.

Instead, I ended up spending 3.5 hours re-installing software, and re-configuring her computer that had only recently been defunct, and subsequently revived, by one of my old computer students-turned-Yoda, Gary.

Gary is a good friend of mine from a long way back. He was one of my groomsmen, and he's the only guy I've ever met who works harder than I do. I taught him everything he knew about computers over a decade ago, and it wasn't too many years before his knowledge surpassed even mine. Anymore, he's light-years ahead of me.

I had no inkling that the software debacle would take so long, and I felt awful because that meant I had less time to work on the deck. Already, I have spent nearly 15 hours working on that nightmare, and the end was nowhere in sight even now.

I got outside at about 1:40 in the afternoon, and began the task of belt sanding where I had left off. This time, I was armed with 50 grit belts, rather than the 80's I was using, in the hopes of removing remaining paint and stain at a normal rate.

The new belts worked a ton better, and I got four whole boards and a number of other areas completed before it was time to leave. I figure another four hours of sanding - give or take - should finish it.

I also removed the old 2 x 4's that had held up the fence partition that was once on the North side of the deck. Then, I cut up said partition with my reciprocating saw so that I could fit it all into my car.

It all fit, after careful measurement and cutting, but just barely.

I finally had to leave at three so I could get all my chores around the house done before Wanda got home. I like to have everything ready for her to be able to just relax - especially on Friday evenings.

I drove through my yard to my fire pit in back, and unloaded the fence sections. After pulling my car around, I set them on fire. It turns out that even though they were only stacked a mere three feet high, their lattice-structure coupled with the prevailing winds created a lovely inferno. I couldn't get within ten feet of the thing for more than a few seconds at a time. The flames climbed higher and higher with each gust of wind, and eventually my grass and trees began to burn.

I honestly should have seen this coming. I went and got my hose, and began spraying a control perimeter but not before a five-foot black halo had formed in the grass around the pit.

It's happened before - it'll happen again, I'm sure.

After about an hour, the whole thing was a smouldering mountain of red-hot coals, and I called it quits on babysitting it.

I went in and took a shower (because I smelled like sweaty ape and smoke), and began my regimine of chores.

Wanda came home, and we watched a few movies together. Then I went to bed tired, but in a good 'I accomplished something today' way.

I still feel like I'm letting my Mom down. I need to just bite the bullet and spend a weekend down there, but work takes so much out of me emotionally, anymore, that I just don't feel like I've recharged if I do that. I realize that this may sound strange or even shallow, but I can't deny the fact that it's nonetheless true.

I think the next few weekends, though somewhat booked with other events already, will have to be that way. I'll just have to bite the bullet and get some things actually COMPLETED down there for her.

I feel awful about things unfinished there. And I don't want to let her down.

(07/30/09 - 10:16 PM)
As many of you are no doubt aware, Wanda and I went skydiving for the first time today.

When we arrived, we were greeted with a sign outside the office that read: "Unattended children will be given a Red Bull and a free puppy." It was pretty funny, actually.

I wasn't scared, believe it or not. Even I find that hard to believe, but it's true. I simply told my brain that it was another challenge that I could not avoid, and that I needed to work through it and eventually it would be rectified. I use this same tactic at work, and I think that my mind is so used to this sort of adversity that it actually believed me.

We arrived and, after a brief tutorial on how not to injure the tandem instructor who would be behind us, were split into three groups.

I wanted to be in the first group, so I could lessen the delaying of the inevitable. Instead, I was placed into the second group. This was better than the third, I supposed.

Everyone got harnessed up, and the plane was fired up on the runway. The first group went on their merry way, as the rest of us watched and waited our turn.

The plane taxied onto the runway, and within moments had disappeared into the now progressively more overcast sky.

The sound of the engines eventually died out, and a stillness ensued. Behind us, in the hangar, the instructors went about their morning as though nothing unusual were happening. They drank their coffee. They chided one another about various things. They tied their shoes and stretched. They made phone calls on their cellular phones.

I thought for a moment how interesting it must be to have a job like that. The more I considered it though, the more I realized that it was simply that - a job. They had to show up every day and talk to a bunch of people they did not know, but who had to put their entire faith in their abilities. They had to put them at ease, and then be intimately close to these strangers for minutes at a time, as they performed what must now be a rote duty with a screaming passenger strapped to their chest.

Apparently, even fun things can be work after all.

The first bunch began to trickle out of the clouds, and we on the ground watched in awe and reverance as they began their slow, spiraling descent back to terra firma.

The cameramen were the first to arrive, as they had wing suits and faster, more maneuverable, parachutes. They swooped in to the closest landing zone, and wasted no time in preparing to greet and film their quarry the moment they too arrived.

The cameramen were an extra expense, if you wanted them, and a goodly portion of the individuals in our group had chosen to utilize their services. The whole first load was predominantly camera-laden, most likely so that they could get all the editing and copying done prior to our groups' departure.

Wanda and I elected not to get the video, as neither of us enjoys having our picture taken, let alone being filmed. I'm still glad that I didn't.

The first group began to land - awkwardly, to say the least - and the plane soon re-appeared from the depths of the stratosphere.

The adrenaline in the first group was palpable, and all seemed to have had a splendid time during their life-changing experience.

As soon as the plane came to a halt, my instructor pointed me to the plane, as Wanda's instructor joked to himself about all the straps and clasps and things on him, and how scared he was because he wasn't sure about what he was doing, exactly.

I climbed into the plane and my instructor sat himself behind me. Then he re-adjusted the already constraining straps on my harness, as person after person piled in on top of one another.

The instructor in front of me asked if there were any more room, and I told him he might have an inch before I was obligated to ask him if he had been a good boy, and what would he like for Christmas. I thought this was funny, but I don't think anyone heard me.

Wanda was nearly the last in, and she was placed directly next to the clear, roll-up door that we would be exiting a mere seven minutes from now.

This was ironic, because it meant she would be among the first - if not the first - out, coupled with the fact that she had never flown in a plane before - ever. And yet, here she was, not only flying but skydiving as well all in one go, and now she was seated right next to the nearly non-existant door.

The plane put on speed, and was soon airborn. Within moments, the ground began to look smaller and smaller as we climbed higher and higher toward the now impending cloud cover hovering above. With a series of switchbacks, the plane climbed and climbed, until we were among the clouds, and the Earth was a small, forgotten place below.

The plane dipped a few times in the turbulance. Apparently, we had a 35-knot tailwind upon us. I don't precisely know what the ramifications of this are, but I got the impression that it wasn't the most desirable of situations for the pilot, and it was going to make jumping a bit more interesting.

Several times, we felt the plane 'bounce' in the turbulent air. Our stomachs collectively went into our chests, as we got the feeling one obtains riding on a particularly good roller coaster, or going over a poorly engineered hill on a highway at too high a speed. Truth be told, I thought that this was precisely what free-fall would feel like - all 55 seconds of it - and I wondered if I could tolerate the tingling in my loins as my sphincter puckered for that amount of time.

The good news was that I was dead wrong on that count.

Eventually, we hit altitude, and the pilot called for the door to be opened. Immediately we were greeted with a massive suction of cold, damp air. The first individual out was the cameraman in the tail, followed by the individual he was filming and his instructor. The fear on the jumpers' face was abject and real, and moments later he was gone.

As soon as the three had exited, the plane needed to be corrected due to the loss of their weight. You could actually feel the weight shift the moment they left the plane.

My instructor began talking to me now as he latched me on and so forth. I looked up to see my wife up next. My instructor said something, I responded, and looking up once more realized that my wife was now gone.

Holy shit, I thought. She really did it. I'm really doing this.

The plane emptied within a minute, and I was the lone soul left with my instructor. As we approached the door, I had to squat down so that he and I could exit together. The door was very short, and he was 6' 4" to my 6' 3". I ended up on one knee as I tried to support both our weights. A seatbelt had tangled itself around my right foot, so I told him to hang on while I got it off.

As I looked down, I realized that my fear of heights wasn't kicking in. For whatever reason, my brain was sending the 'everything's alright!' signal to the rest of my body. This is strange because as I have gotten older my fear of heights has only grown stronger. It was altogether surreal, but I really couldn't complain. If my body thought everything was fine, who was I to correct it at a time like this?

The moment I had it off, I tried to get back up off the one knee into a squatting position so that he could begin his 1, 2, 3 count to get us out of the plane. Instead, he apparently decided we had a safe window, because the next thing I knew I was tumbling ass-over-teakettle out the door, high above the green patchwork of land below.

What hit me first - second, if you count the wind - was that free-fall was like nothing more than standing in a hurricane-force wind. As we hurtled toward the ground at roughly 127 miles per hour, I felt nothing of a sensation of falling. It was just REALLY windy.

Once the drogue chute was in place, and we were face down again, I positioned myself as they had shown me and rode out the free fall. It really wasn't bad in the least, believe it or not. It also wasn't adrenaline-dump exciting, either. I think my senses were too overloaded to truly appreciate - or perhaps fear - the sitution I now found myself in.

Soon, I felt the pull of the chute opening, and the first of many bruises came to life on my body. I'm not a tiny guy, and I had a sneaking suspicion that this might happen as the chute caught our collective weight. Still, it was bearable. I felt twice as heavy as normal, and it took a moment for my senses to reboot once again.

Now we were soaring. The patchwork ground had become more distinct in those brief seconds of free fall, and I could now hear my instructor once again. When you're in free-fall, you can't hear a damn thing, the wind is so loud. Not even screaming coming from right in front of you, we were told.

The chutes that the instructors were using were designed for tandem jumps, and also posessed a pair of reins for manipulating the direction of movement.

Now, my instructor brought back to mind a comment he had made earlier, on the ground. He had asked me how much I weighed. Of course, I lied so he wouldn't stop me from jumping (I was a little over their weight limit of 250 lbs. - so sue me). When I told him, he looked at one of his co-workers and had said, "Oh, this will be fun."

At the time, I thought he was being a weiner, based on the tone and his co-workers wry smile.

It turns out, he meant it - literally.

"Remember," he now said, "when I said this would be fun? Normally, we don't get to have two people as big as you and I together. But, because we do, we can do something interesting."

At this, he gave me the reins, and told me to pull on the right one.

I did so, but he wanted more. I pulled more, and he wanted still more. I pulled more, and he finally took them in hand and said, "No. Like this."

At this he literally yanked the thing, and we began spinning at a frantic pace. As we spun, I felt myself getting oppressively heavy and I noted that we were getting closer and closer to being horizontal, rather than vertical.

"See," he said, "because we weigh so much collectively, we can gain alot of centrifugal force and spin this thing alot more than others can. Isn't that cool!"

It was cool, but the extra weight pressure was causing me more pain than fun at the moment (I still have a pair of hideous black and purple bruises, coupled with popped blood vessles all along my belly-button gut line to prove how 'fun' it was. These bruises are the likes of which I have never seen before, and hope to never experience again.)

I was ever so glad when he stopped. He had to twirl us a few more times at random, but this was only to keep us on course to land where we were supposed to, and not in farmer Brown's field amongst the Holsteins.

The sense of flying was interesting, to say the least. Had I not been so disoriented, in sensory overload, and pain to boot, I might have enjoyed it a wee bit more.

As we got closer to the ground, you truly gained a sense of how fast we were really moving, even then. The airstrip finally made itself visible amongst all the other structures and shapes below.

With a final 180° turn, we began our final descent. I was told to lift my legs up, as we had been shown, and I landed on my ass just like a pro.

My whole body hurt. My knee was scraped up pretty good from dragging across the planes' carpeting when I got tossed out. The back of my calves were scratched because I was wearing shorts, and having landed on my butt, as instructed, they were the second thing to hit ground after the heels of my shoes and before my hiney. It turned out that we hit a slightly pea-gravelly bit of the landing area, and so it was a bit like sliding into second base on a softball diamond. Something that myself and my right, lower knee area know a great deal about.

I got up, and we were hustled back to the hangar.

My whole sense of self was in disarray. Then it hit me, all at once: My wife and I just jumped out of a plane up there only moments ago.

How insane.

My wife was, believe it or not, ready to go again. I had secretly hoped that she would do it once, get it out of her system, and never really want to go again. I knew that I had about an 80% chance that this would be the case, and I was relatively sure that this was the way it would go.

I was wrong.

She's already ready to go again, at the drop of a hat. I would go again, without a great deal of anxiety, under two conditions:

I would like to go on a sunnier, clearer day so that I could enjoy it more, and I would like to lose some weight so I could feel like a normal person doing it.

Maybe next year.

I do have to say a big thank you to Maribeth for inviting us, and turning us on to this experience. She's my brothers' wifes' sister (try saying THAT three times fast) and without her, we might never have gone. I would have been alright with that at the time, but now I can honestly say that I'm glad that I did.

And I know Wanda was, because she wants to go again. Did I mention that? I'm pretty sure that I did...

(07/26/09 - 11:04 AM)
Wanda and I watched "An American Haunting" last night. We waited and waited as the movie progressed for the 'ah-ha!' moment to come.

It never came.

Instead, it ended in a convoluted mess that was hard to parse out, and left one feeling hopelessly wondering what in the hell happened, and why it was necessary to precurse the movie with a 'present-day' scene.

Avoid this one.

(07/25/09 - 7:58 PM)
Just got home from a pool party hosted by one of the attorneys in my wifes' law office.

In blatant contrast to the last party we went to with her former employer, this one was much more comfortable.

Gone were the waiters, chi-chi/la-la foods, suits and gowns, and all the trimmings that made no one comfortable in the stifling out-of-doors heat.

Instead you had a group of honest to goodness, down to Earth folks who were simply nice to be around. Our host was extremely nice, and I am happy to know that Wanda is working with such a genuine bunch of good people.

I did get to have a polite debate with one of the attorneys. This is something that I usually avoid, as I am not smart enough to make an argument compelling enough to sway them to even acknowledge my opinions. My brother is an attorney, so trust me on this one.

At any rate, we began talking about punctuality. Her take was that, in their business, it was perfectly okay for someone to be late without any prior notice - repeatedly, or once - because people in her industry did what it took to get the job done at the end of the day. That was their give and take.

Oh, wow, did I disagree.

So, I did the unthinkable: I engaged her in polite debate.

I took the stance that when an employee has a set start time it is disruptive and disrespectful to unilaterally deviate from it, regardless of ones' intentions later in the day. I reasoned that this causes other individuals within the system to have to cover for this absence, while allowing their own work to slip due specifically to this.

In essence, the absent parties' work may get done, while the present parties' work suffers.

I then went on to reason that it was logistically difficult to work in a business when individuals were missing and unaccounted for, specifically because it makes it difficult to plan around unknown quantities.

In the end, she elected to disagree with me, which was something of a surprise as I had made the most compelling arguments possible to the contrary.

This, dear readers, is why I could never be an attorney: I can't win a debate with them, because my arguments never seem to sway them.

(07/24/09 - 4:12 PM)
How bad could someone want a bagel?

Enough to go to the fridge and make one? Sure!

Enough to pop over to the store on an idle afternoon and pick some up when you realize that the fridge is bereft of them? Possibly...

Enough to finish your shopping trip at the store, go out to your car, and while the rear hatch is open, tear open the bag while you and your husband and daughter put the groceries in back? And then to stick the whole thing - raw - into your maw, take a monster bite, and then ask your daughter if she would like one? And when she answers in the affirmative, to once more stick your germ-infested, virus-laden, hands into the bag and retrieve one?

This, dear friends, is what I witnessed this afternoon as I loaded my groceries into the rear of my vehicle. I almost went over and asked the woman... well, about a hundred things went through my mind, in truth.

How can someone be so desperate for - of all things - a bagel?

(07/23/09 - 10:58 PM)
We are to attend a pool party at one of the attorneys' homes who Wanda works for this weekend. One of the invitees is a young girl who is very, very pregnant.

Apparently, her grandmother (who works with Wanda) was talking about how much her granddaughter was looking forward to using the hot tub.

Wanda inquired as to whether that were a good idea, as it was her understanding that pregnant women were not to indulge in such things.

Her reply?

"Well, I knew they weren't supposed to take hot baths, or hot showers. But I don't remmeber hearing anything about that including hot tubs."


(07/22/09 - 10:06 PM)
Greetings, all! Plinky the House Elf, here.

Mistress Wanda discovered me indulging in one of my favorite pastimes today. I was riding around and around and around blissfully in the large, silver, water machine in the basement when the Mistress stopped it prematurely and yanked me out bodily.

She explained to me that what I thought was a ride for my amusement was, in fact, something called a 'washing machine'. Apparently it is used to wet clothing when dirty. Then, it is dried in the machine next door.

What seemed strange to me, as she continued her explaination, was that humans first intentionally wet their clothing, specifically so that they may then dry it. My question was, Why wet it in the first place?

I just don't get humans.

At any rate, thwarted from my tiny moment of personal enjoyment, I decided to do some research on this amazing machine that I had enjoyed so much. Here is what I found:

I began with my old standby for reasearch; something that has never let me down: The Lifetime Network.

It took some time, but I discovered that men purchase these items for women, and then expect them to have their shirts clean precisely when they need them. If they do not, the man yells as the woman cowers and then proceeds to leave and sleep with his secretary.

This line of exploration led me nowhere further than this, so I then got on the computing machine. Here I had some better luck.

The first patent was issued in 1691. A drawing of an early washing machine appeared in the January 1752 issue of "The Gentlemen's Magazine", a British publication. This seems strange to me, as Lifetime would have me believe that this term is code for, 'Naked chicks with silicone hooters from here to ya-ya'. So, I can only assume that the men of the time enjoyed seeing women with said hooters doing laundry.

Humans have such odd fetishes.

Louis Goldenberg of New Brunswick, New Jersey, invented the electric washing machine in the late 1800's. I presume he did this after his successful invention of the Bowling ball, and the landfill. He worked for the Ford Motor Co. at the time, and I believe he lobbied unsuccessfully to integrate the washing machine under the hood of the Model A and Model T's of the time.

Henry, this was a brilliant idea! Why didn't you run with it?!

Alva J. Fisher tried to take the credit, but he was foiled in the end. He, I think, would have made a good Lifetime villain.

In 1937, Bendix introduced the first electric washing machine. I tried to find out how they got their name, but after a fruitless search, I can only surmise that some naked man was trying to figure out how to use the wringing unit and... well... I'll let you imagine the rest. It was so powerful that if it was not bolted to the floor it would walk away and try to escape. In fact, this is where the idea for the screenplay for "The Day The Earth Stood Still" 's GORT came from. At least, I'm pretty sure it was. Which, in hindsight is ironic, because while the Earth was standing still, GORT - and the washing machines he led in the battle of transistor hill - were not.

Washing machines come in both top loading and front loading. Personally, I would prefer the front loading kind. It seems as though they would be much easier to enter and exit, especially after nearly an hour of spinning and spinning. To be fair, I have not tried the top-loading style, so I can only surmise. Perhaps they have some attraction of their own as well.

So there you have it! The glorious history of the washing machine.

Until next time, dear readers!

(07/21/09 - 11:13 PM)
My wife told me about this photo today, so I just had to find it.

We don't like your kind here. Plus, you might eat us!

(07/20/09 - 11:05 PM)
Today was a good day. I received my two, brand-spankin' new, 1.5Tb Seagate external hard drives. I now have enough space for all my music AND my movies AND my television.

So, tonight, I began the thankless task of ripping all my DVD's to iPod format for portability. I look forward to having these babies for a long, long time. And I hope that they're big enough so that I don't have to buy another pair for a decade or so.

(07/19/09 - 10:26 PM)
We were watching television in the downstairs living room tonight. I came up to get something to drink from the kitchen when something caught my eye on our sliding patio door.

It turned out to be a tree frog.

Now, we know we have a couple kinds of toads, and we've seen the traditional, electric-lime green tree frogs on several occasions about the place, so that would not have been too shocking.

This one, however, was nearly three times the size (about the size of an Eisenhower Dollar, versus a Washington Quarter) of the standard-issue tree frog that we're used to. More interesting still was that this one was covered in a bark-like camouflage.

As my wife and I cautiously approached it, something truly interesting happened. Apparently, the little guy had a thing for lightening bugs because after about a minute, his entire stomach pulsed a luminous yellow. It was eerie. And the second time it happened it was brighter still.

It was kind of cool on the whole. But I felt a bit bad for the poor lightning bugs in the frogs' gullet who were slowly meeting their maker.

And then he hopped away, obviously having had enough of the two bipedal-monsters gawking at it while it was trying to have a nice, al fresco meal.

(07/18/09 - 10:06 PM)
Went to Mom's today with a second pressure washer to try and tackle some more of the deck. This time I had my Dad's 2000 Psi, gas powered model rather than my 1800 Psi electric one.

It did make a difference, but it ate gasoline at an alarming pace.

In the end, I called it quits with the pressure washers, and moved on to phase two: sanding. After re-pounding in every nail, I began using a belt sander to remove the remnants of the latex stain, as well as to smooth the deck, I began on what will eventually be a 12-14 hour journey across the great wooden divide.

I also got her touch-up painting done in her upstairs hallway and bathroom, finished painting her gas line pipe, and did a few other odds and ends while I was there.

Then I went back home to get the work van. I dropped her computer off for service on the way, and took Dad's pressure washer back. Then I had to stop and get gas for my now empty gas can, as well as for my car because - hey - I was there, right?

Then, Wanda and I went to the local orange box store to purchase all the lumber for her deck railings and stairs, as well as get the stain. All the while, we fended off suitor after suitor, as the guys and gals alike swooned over the awesome blue abomination we were cruising around in.

Okay, that was sarcasm...

By the time we were done, it was 6:00 and I was once more wiped out. I feel bad that I still don't have all her projects done, but I'm only one guy and I can only do so much. And with my recent bout of fatigue and sleeplessness, I have zero energy on the best of days. It just takes alot more out of me than it ever used to, and alot quicker too.

We came home and crashed hard, neither of us having the energy to even blink.

(07/17/09 - 10:18 PM)
A frantic Friday to cap off a frantic week, to say the least.

My assistant and my Expediter have been gone, so my shipping/receiving manager and I have been picking up a great deal of slack. Worse still, a project that would normally go to my boss came in, but he asked me to do it because he didn't have the time.

We also managed to put out six days worth of product in three days. So, it was an interesting week.

Went to the groceteria, and then came home. Got some things done here, but the rain started to hit hard just as I was arriving - so no lawn tonight.

This will bother me all weekend now, I am certain.

(07/16/09 - 11:02 PM)

Do I divide, or multiply?

(07/15/09 - 11:26 PM)
First, I want to wish a happy birthday to my little brother, Nick. I called him, but he was at work, so we didn't get to talk much. And now, for something completely different...

Our welder at work is a part-time contractor who is on call for welding projects on an as-needed basis. He has a full-time job with another company, and so he only comes in in the afternoons.

This afternoon, he came in with a fantastical story.

Before I re-iterate the story, I have to say that there is probably alot more to this, but I haven't availed myself of the news feeds to elaborate. So, you're getting the facts as I have them at the time of the telling. Ready?

Apparently, a guy robbed an elderly couple. In the process of robbing them, he beat them to death with a baseball bat.


The police were chasing him. He entered the business where our welder works full-time (a contract machining firm) and hid in the bathroom. From here, he got up into the ceiling, because the owner would not let him out.

The police entered the business, and attempted to find said culprit.

Moments later, he fell out of the ceiling onto the desk of the elderly receptionist - who was sitting at said desk. Within moments, he was apprehended.

It's not a very long story, but it's at least marginally interesting. It'll better when he's off the streets for good.

(07/14/09 - 11:13 PM)

What? You weren't using it!
"What? You weren't using it!"

(07/13/09 - 11:12 PM)
Tuesday's edition of 'Heath Tries To Be Funny' is brought to you by the National Council on Fudge Packing: 'When your fudge simply has to be packed, call upon us to make sure it is packed right. Serving the greater San Francisco and Madison areas since 1973!'

Q: What kind of car does a porn star drive?
A: A dick-shift

And now, for the 'funny' one...

A man finds himself in Heaven after being hit by a bus. He find himself in a large concourse with a number of other puzzled-looking individuals.

Within moments, he is grabbed by the arm and hustled over to one of the hundreds of waiting taxis. As he is placed inside, the Angel who placed him here said to the driver, "St. Peter for this one."

At that, he tapped the roof of the car twice, and ran.

The taxi screamed to life, and began tearing down the golden roads of Heaven at a frantic pace. The driver was weaving around all other traffic and pedestrians, and the man in the back seat found himself to be very uneasy.

The driver finally slowed, and made a left turn. Then another, and finally another. The man in back noticed that they were now heading down a road that they had only moments ago passed by. He tried to ask the driver what was going on, but the noise of the engine was far too loud, and the driver was far too focused.

This went on for some time: the driver turning in strange configurations and weaving in and out of traffic.

Finally, they arrived outside a golden cathedral, and the door opened on its own. The man got out, and before he could inquire with the driver further, the car squealed its pristine white tires and sped off.

A robed man with a halo appeared at the door of the cathedral and beckoned the man in.

"Hello!" he said, "I am St. Peter. And let me be the first to welcome you to Heaven! How have you enjoyed it so far?"

The man, still in a state of shock replied, "It's uh... amazing, actually. But that cab driver nearly killed me again!"

"Ah," said St. Peter, "Yes, that was Earnhardt, one of our newer arrivals. He, uh, still hasn't quite gotten accustomed to the whole taxi gig just yet. Shall we go?"

(07/12/09 - 10:56 PM)
Joe Abercrombie's newest installment is titled "Best Served Cold" and, mercifully, it takes place in the outlying region of Styria. This is good, beacuse it means he has not strayed from the mesmerizing universe that he has created for his readers. Better still is the fact that this book follows the same timeline as the previous three, and even incorporates some characters from the prior works, while merely mentioning others for the sake of continuity.

This seems to point to future works in this same vein, and personally I think this is an excellent decision. When you have created a fantasy realm with as much depth, realism, and political leanings as this one, don't abandon it too soon.

This book is a must for anyone who enjoyed the first three. I will say that while it could stand on its own, it won't make near as much sense if you haven't followed the full thread of the series. In fact, I believe that you would be doing yourself a serious disservice if you read this book first.

But definately read it - and the series.

(07/11/09 - 10:03 PM)
Worked out in the yard today doing all the cursory things that I do every month or so: I mowed the hill in its entirety, I weed-whacked around the entire yard and all the trees, burned, etc.

Later in the afternoon, we went to Wanda's sister's house to collectively celebrate birthdays. It was a nice day for it, and it was a nice distraction. Zach, Wanda's brother-in-law, played chef and cooked up some keen grub, and Dena, Wanda's sister, played gracious hostess.

The highlight of the afternoon was when Wanda's little nephew was goofing around, and kicked an 18" diameter, rubber ball.

The ball went fast, and hit Wanda's neice's plate from below. This, in turn, sent all of her food catapulting above her head, and a goodly amount of the remainder went directly onto her face - including her ranch dressing.

Imagine an old black-and-white film where a cream pie is involved, and you pretty much get the picture.

After the initial shock wore off (and you could see the shock in her neice's eyes) her neice took it all in stride and laughed. She's a better person than I, because I probably would have chased Wanda's nephew around with a blunt object for a little while in a threatening manner until I either caught him or collapsed, winded and wheezing.

I'm amazed at how old the kids are getting. This, in turn, makes ME feel old.

(07/10/09 - 11:04 PM)
It was an exceptionally busy Friday. Work was busy, I had a lot to do, and nothing seemed to align in a manner that allowed me to do what I needed, when I needed.

I got sent to a customers' place that I had never been to. This might not have been so bad, if the customer had a sign or an address on their business. They had neither.

I finally got there, as my week expired (I'm only supposed to work a finite number of hours due to the economic downturn) and ended up working with them for about an hour.

I got back to work, and prepared to clock out. Then my computer went all stupid for Lord knows what reason, and I had to work on that.

Rush jobs that were supposed to be gone were still in the works, and I didn't know how I could get them off and delivered as everyone but the guys running them were already gone.

After getting that all worked out, I went to the closest store, only to find that they didn't have what I needed. This forced me to go to another store, wasting still more time.

By the time I got around to mowing the lawn, it was already a quarter to five. I got everything finished just after Wanda arrived home, but it still felt hectic.

(07/09/09 - 11:18 PM)
On Monday, my VMC operator at work told me a story about how his father - a former contractor - had a large contractors trailer at his home that he always keeps locked up. He lives on a busy street, and is an extremely cautious man.

On Saturday afternoon, at about 2:00 and in the full sunshine, two trucks pulled up to his home while he had run to the store. One truck turned around in his driveway, and the other hooked up the trailer and left.

By the time the police got there, the only thing the neighbors knew for sure were the facts stated above, and that one of the trucks was a white extended cab.

The trailer was worth somewhere in the neighborhood of thousands of dollars, but the insurance payout on it was only a single G.

So, all the reports were filed, and everyone at work was dumbfounded by the audacity of a criminal such as this, especially because trailers have to be registered in Illinois. But not in Wisconsin.

We all figured it was long gone and in Podunk, Wisconsin at that point, and my VMC operator's Dad was kicking himself for not locking it up just that one time.

Imagine my surprise when my VMC operator came in to work today, and let me know that the trailer had returned on its own. Here's how it happened:

His Dad was in his yard working with a buddy of his, when he looked up and said, "That white truck driving down the road has a trailer on it just like mine... HEY! That IS mine!"

The truck slowed, passed his drive, and then began to back the trailer back into place.

His father was fit to be tied, and he went out to give the driver what-for.

"What the hell do you think you're doing with my trailer? Who said you could just take it?"

The driver looked a bit puzzled, but answered in earnest, "The owner said I could borrow it for a few days."

"Well," came his reply, "I am the owner, and I never said any such thing. Do you realize that this thing was reported stolen earlier this week? Who the hell told you - specifically - that you could borrow it?"

Now the driver looked scared, "I don't understand!"

Here's what had happened:

Driver had gotten permission to use a trailer from the owner of the construction company that he worked for. It turns out that the owner of said company lives 15 houses from the corner, while my VMC operators' father lives a mere five. Upon seeing the same exact trailer five houses down, the driver assumed that he had his instructions a bit incorrect and took what he thought was his Boss' trailer.

So, his Dad and the driver went down the road a ways and - sure enough - there was an identical trailer a mere ten houses away complete with the resident mentioned in the story before.

How weird is that?

(07/08/09 - 11:13 PM)
This week, I came up with two more Michael Jackson funnies, as well as hearing one. The one I heard was:

"Michael Jackson dies of food poisoning: they found eight year old weiners in his butt."

A bit uncivilized, I'll admit.

Here's the two I came up with. They're T-shirts that Mr. Jackson might have worn:

A black t-shirt with a line below the breast. The text above the line reads: "You must be at least this short to ride"

A second t-shirt that has an arrow pointing to the weiner-region saying: "Ages 8: And Up!"

Crude, I'll admit. I didn't say I was proud. But my sense of humor has no boundaries when it comes to taste.

(07/07/09 - 11:06 PM)
I heard a story on the radio today. I was only half listneing, so a lot of the specifics are lost. But all the funny bits are intact, I assure you.

A woman had gone to collect her social security check at a corwded Social Security office in a large metropolitan area. She was informed by the teller that she could not receive her check, as the check was for a female. And she was clearly not a female.

The security guard (who has a security guard at the Social Security Office?) eventually intervened between the arguing patron and the teller.

He demenaded identification, which the patron provided. After reviewing several forms of identification, the Security Guard advised the patron to leave before the authorities were called due to the patrons' attempt to commit fraud.

The patron continued to become more irate, and finally the Security Guard laid it all out:

"Look," he said, "You're clearly NOT this woman - nor a woman at all. So please leave. NOW."

At this, the patron did the first thing that came to mind. She dropped her pants, right in the middle of the whole office - patrons, employees, Security Guard and God.

And lo and behold - she was all woman. Ugly, perhaps. But woman, nonetheless.

Good for her, I say.

(07/06/09 - 11:18 PM)
So, we're relaxing our evening to a close tonight - I downstairs, and Wanda upstairs - when at 10:57 the doorbell rings.

Curious, I cautiously skulked up the stairs to my living room to find a perplexed and skittish Wanda, wondering what had just happened.

Cautiously, I approached the door, and looked out the peephole. I expected to find nothing, thinking perhaps an earwig had tried to take up residence in the doorbell housing, only to meet his maker and short the circuit for a brief moment. That, or possibly a neighbor or friend in distress.

Instead, I saw a strange man of about thirty-five staring back at me with a glowing cigarette dangling from his lower lip. He looked a bit worse for wear. His eyes were hazy slits, and his head was oscillating in a way not indicative of a narcotic-and/or-alcohol free system. On his back was a small backpack, and on my sidewalk lay a ten-speed bicycle.

Suffice it to say, I did not open the door. And he left fairly quickly. What was odd, was that within moments he had disappeared. I tried to get to a window to see where he was going. Specifically, so see if he were going door to door, or if I was somehow his door of choice.

In the time it took me to get to a window - a matter of seconds - he was gone to who knows where. What I can say for certain was that he did not elect to molest any of my immediate neighbors.

I can't for the life of me imagine what he was thinking, or what he wanted.

It did bring to mind a time when I was driving up a highway and I saw that the car in the opposing lane in front of me had their entire set of keys dangling from their trunk lock. Being the nice guy that I am, I hastily pulled up next to the old couple in the nice grandpa-sled and began honking and gesturing.

The woman in the passenger seat sat ignoring me, hoping that the crazy lad next to her would just disappear.

When it became clear that I would not, she finally looked my way with blatant fear evident in her eyes. Eventually I smiled enough, and gestured vociferously enough to convince her to crack her window. Once I finally screamed out that her keys were in the trunk - and she actually registered what I was saying - you could see the relief visible in her eyes as a smile FINALLY bloomed.

The moral? I hoped that this guy wasn't trying to tell me that my house was on fire, or that a crazed axe murderer was lurking under my deck. Somehow, I doubted this, though.

But you never can tell...

(07/05/09 - 10:43 AM)
Okay, so I've been slacking this week. I haven't felt well at all, and I (yes - ME) finally went to the doctor. He had me poked, and now I'm waiting on my results to find out if it's psychosomatic (i.e. - all in my head) or something legitimate, or just bad timing on several of my bodies' systems' parts.

Who knows.

Interesting aside, the young lady who took my blood had a hard time finding a vein in my left arm, and eventually went to my right. She took one look at the abundant, large, vein-age there and said, "These are much better. You're definately right-handed."

Um... "No," I replied, "Actually, I'm not."

"Really?!?" came her surprised reply, "That's very unusual."

Hooray! I'm 'unusual'!

I've been working around the house, but with nothing spectacular to report. On Thursday afternoon, I gave the shrubs a haircut once more to make them look respectable (like Eddie Haskell - they might look respectable - but they're not).

Went to the grocery store - nothing happened. Didn't have to mow my lawn this week, which was nice.

On Friday, I went to Mom's to work on the 'Sonny-Do' list. Got the caulk re-done in her upstairs bathroom, fixed the woodwork on the landing and then began pressure washing the deck. It's a little, 10' x 12' deck, so I figured two hours tops.

Not even close.

I spent nearly seven hours working on that alone, and only got about 80% done. What I thought was heavy stain on the deck turned out to be a very well-done paint. It was adhered better than a gold-digging wife at one of Donald Trump's parties.

About one hour in I knew I needed sunscreen, and Mom snuck off and bought some because she had none of note. I put it on everywhere that I should have, and even wore a hat. When everything was said and done, it appeared that I had survived unscathed with the exception being the upper-calf area. No biggie.

I got home, took a shower, and then put on some socks. Ten minutes later it felt like my feet were going to explode, and they itched in a way I had not personally ever experienced before. I pulled off my socks, and the sight that met my eyes threw me for a loop.

Where once my pasty-white, size 15, feet had been were two large, purple, swollen hams - complete with camoflauge spotting. For, you see, I had had my shoes and socks off during all but the first 15 minutes of my powerwashing escapade. And I had neglected to put sunscreen on them, as they were soaked constantly and covered in deck schmutz (hence, the neat camouflage effect!)

I went to get up, and realized that I was in trouble. I spent the next day and all this morning putting lotion on them every hour or two in the hopes of healing them in time to go to work at the very least on Monday. As of this writing, I still cannot walk without intense pain.

No good deed goes unpunished. Lesson learned, anyway.

We now interrupt this super-long blog entry for an important message brought to you by DenaCorp.

DenaCorp : 'Serving all of your flamingo-related needs since 2001!'

Greetings! It is I, Pinky the House Elf! Mistress Dena has asked that this blog entry be interrupted to give you the following important score update:

Master Heath's current top-five Bejeweled scores are:

                * 155,870
                * 153,900
                * 152,390
                * 151,270
                * 143,160

We now return you to your regularly scheduled blog entry, already in progress.

I spent a good deal of yesterday working on the music archive once more. You'd think it was a part-time job at this point. It takes far more effort than even I imagined to keep that much music organized precisely, more so when you're adding to it each week with the free offerings from web sites and new music that you've purchased. Compounding the issue is my triple redundancy (two at home, and one at work) which requires all changes to be shotgunned across the board.

All of this takes time. Alot of it. But it's worth it to have a pristine archive. Some day, when I've cleaned up and organized retroactively all of the stuff I had from ten years ago, it will all go more smoothly. As it stands now, I work on pockets of it at random or when I come across an artist whose files are not in the state that I now require for all new editions - even New Edition. Plus, I'm trying to rate as I go along to further be able to break apart the collection in more intuitive ways. Time, time, time.

I bought Lego Star Wars for the Wii for Wanda the other day because it was on clearance, it was a fun game, and it got high ratings. It was the kind of game she likes.

She played it, and we discovered that it has a standard two-player co-op mode, so I was hooked too. It's a simple yet subtly complex game for all ages, and it's painfully addictive. We've been playing that here and there, which is good because it takes my mind off the excruciating pain that my feet are providing 24-7.

Work has been slow, more so this week. Alot of places close down for this week for 'company-wide' vacations, and alot of our customers and buyers take the week off as well. The result is that I have little to do, as nearly no one is available to send quotes or orders. Further, a great many of my employees have taken time off this week as well, which means that they don't need to ask me questions, order tooling, or have parts for me to inspect.

I stopped by my Dad's house to get his higher-powered pressure washer for Mom's deck, but he is still up North and the washer was in his second garage, which I have no Earthly idea how to access.

As I pulled into his cul-de-sac, I saw my lathe operator and my VMC operator playing basketball in the driveway across the street. It turns out that my lathe operator, who moved last weekend (and borrowed my appliance dolly, which took two of his teeth almost completely out) had bought the house directly across from my Father's.

So, I said my hellos', and left my Dad a message on his machine letting him know that he had a keen new neighbor, and to go and say hello when he returned.

I bought Wanda flowers on Thursday as well. About seven times a year I send her flowers at random, just because she's amazing and I want her to know how much I think so. When I called the florist, they were short on flowers, as they were closed over the long weekend and didn't want them unsold in their refrigeration units. I could not purchase dendrobium orchids, and the other stuff she offered I didn't really want. I settled for casablanca lilies, and told her what I wanted to spend (about $75.00.) She said that they were $6.50 a stem, and we went about our transaction. As we talked, she remembered me, and mentioned that I called frequently. She asked what the occasion was this time, and I explained to her about just sending flowers because my wife is amazing.

When Wanda got home with the flowers, there were 22 stems in a HUGE vase, with greens. It was massive and gorgeous. I started to do the math in my head, and realized that the florist had apparently given me a heavy bonus for ordering late in the afternoon the day before they were closing for a long weekend. The result? I received a $180.00 bouquet for $84.00 and some change.

Woo-hoo! Repeat patronage finally pays off!

On the whole, it was a tough week. I've been feeling so awful that it was all just a blur. I hope it's nothing serious, but who knows. I doubt that it is though: My family is genetically similar to Clydesdales, so I should get off easy.

This week also marked the end of the "Noein" anime series for us. This series was fairly interesting all the way through, and was heavily influenced by physics, mathematics, and quantum theory (woo-hoo! from the geek crowd). It was solidly written, excellently animated, and certainly held our attention. I'd recommend it highly, as the high-caliber theories are well explained, and would make sense even to the layperson. It calls upon theories from minds such as Stephen Hawking, Albert Einstein, Richard Fenyman, and even presents the Schroedinger's Cat paradox (a second woo-hoo! from the geek crowd!)

Loved it.

Sorry about the entry-whiplash but: When I was getting my blood drawn, I found that the tech knew how to draw blood, but knew nothing of the coding systems used in hospital billing. As I got to talking to her about this, she mentioned that that sort of thing was an entirely different aspect of the arcana that is medicine, and that it was something that took some time to learn and comprehend. This got me thinking, and as we talked, I learned that there is a demand for medical billers and the like. I am interested, because when I was 18, I worked for an insurance company in Major-Medical claims. I was the top producer of output, and also worked the most difficult plans.

Further, I was the only one in the group who was allowed to cut checks from 10k-25k (the standard was 10k or less).

Further still, I was the only one to transfer out of MMC, and into customer service for said claims. As such, I retained my ablilty to process claims, and I was the only one in the 40+ person department (supervisors included) who could process claims while on the phone with the customers. This was win-win for everyone, because it saved alot of time and energy.

When I worked for this firm, I learned Clinical Physicians Terminology (CPT) coding, ICD-9 (now ICD-10) diagnostic coding, HCPCS durable medical equipment coding, UB-82 & UB-92, HCFA-1500 and Superbill form analysis, and on and on. I also completed accredited Medical Terminology courses - twice, and underwent 14 weeks of all-day, intensive training.

So, now the seed has been planted, and with the economy being the way it is, I might just see if I can find a part-time job doing this somewhere to keep me busy on things that don't involve my home and costing money.

It sounds like I'm being an asshole, as I re-read the above. I only mention the above as background information, not to self-aggrandize. I don't need to impress anyone but me, so forgive my ramblings-to-self, please.

At any rate, I'm sorry to anyone who's disappointed with the single-entry for the week. I just got lazy, and this is the result.

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