Saturday, August 15, 2009

1001 Ways To Tune Up The World, Number Ten

Just because I spent most of the day on a quest to buy comic books doesn't mean I didn't have another great idea about how to tune up the world, and here it is:

10. Have more sidewalk cafes and outdoor

About a month or two ago, I had to meet with a client to discuss a couple of things. "Want to go get a cup of coffee?" he asked, and so we did. We walked a block to a coffee shop and got coffee and sat outside at the tables discussing the matters we had to go over. It was a warm sunny day and we people watched as we talked and enjoyed the feeling of just being outside.

I walk by people at the very few outdoor tables around Capitol Square all the time, and they always seem to be enjoying themselves. Eating outdoors, or just drinking outdoors, does that. It makes you loosen up your tie, stay a little longer, look at the grass and the cars and the walkers.

Any business that serves food or drink should have a place for at least a couple of customers to sit outside and eat or drink the stuff they serve. It's the grown-up equivalent of when, in grade school, the teacher would say "Let's have class outside today" and maybe class ran a little long, but who cared? It was a way of enjoying what you do, and enjoying it a little longer than you would have otherwise.

Prior entries:

9. When you have to give someone a gift, ask them what they want, and then get that thing for them.

8. Never interrupt or finish someone's jokes.

7. Periodically, give up something you like for at least a month.

6. Switch to "E-money."

5. Have each person assigned one phone number, and then add an extension for the various phones and faxes that person might be reached at.

4. Abolish Mondays and Tuesdays.

3. Don't listen to interviews with athletes or comedians.

2. Have "personal cashiers" at the grocery store.

1. Don't earn more than $200,000 per year.


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Friday, August 14, 2009

It's the first anonymous Hunk of The Week! (Sweetie's Hunk of the Week 27)

Sweetie's Hunk of the Week this time is actually her third choice. Her first (ULTRA-SECRET, Super Mysterious) choice being deemed unacceptable by her and her second choice (Aidan Quinn) being deemed unacceptable by me, and then by her, too. So I sent Sweetie back to the drawing board and for her Hunk Of The Week she has chosen: That guy who played Mordor on "Better Off Ted."

Yes, that's exactly what she called him. I then learned she had even tried to Google That Guy Who Played Mordor on "Better off Ted" with no success. So let's learn a little more about...

That Guy Who Played Mordor on "Better Off Ted."

You/Sweetie Know Him As:
"That Guy Who Played Mordor on "Better Off Ted" is best known as "That Guy Who Played Mordor on "Better Off Ted." He was the magician with Veronica as a secret assistant in the episode this week that Sweetie pretended not to be watching... but which she was apparently watching very closely.

I know him as: "That Guy Who Played Mordor on "Better Off Ted" hasn't just played Mordor. He's also That Guy Who Played ESPN Reporter In Herbie Fully Loaded, and, to tie him into last week's hunk, it turns out that he's also That Guy Who Played Dr. Scott Benson on "Ed" in 2000. Which raises the question: how's his abs?

Since he's scheduled to be That Guy Who Played Deimos in God Of War III, I bet they're pretty good. Greek gods always have awesome abs.

Thing That Makes You Go HMMMM about him: Could That Guy Who Played Mordor on "Better Off Ted" actually be the ultimate Hunk of the Week? It appears so, as he also is...

drum roll, please...

as he also is: That Guy Who Played "Hunk" in the 2005 tv show "Hot Properties."

That's right: Hunk of the Week 27 is also the only one so far who actually played a "Hunk" in the movies. I'm sure you remember Hot Properties, that touching-but-still-hilarious 2005 series that examined the lives of four women running a Manhattan real estate office.

I bet there were at least three scenes of women sitting down and taking off their shoes, sighing, and rubbing their toes. TV misses that kind of writing.

Reason I Tell Myself Sweetie Likes Him: By default/magic (tie.) Since I made Sweetie pick him, I assumed she was just grasping at (hunky) straws, but then when I found out she'd spend 98% of her time on Friday googling him, I decided: Sweetie likes magic, which is probably a carryover from the time I taught myself card tricks. That was a good summer.

Actual Reason Sweetie Likes Him: He's sexy!!!! I don't know who he is, but he's sexy! (Note: When Sweetie actually said this, I could hear at least four exclamation points after the first 'sexy'. There may have been more, though.)

Point I'd Like To Make About Sweetie's Reason For Liking Him: That's way too many exclamation points. I am erasing the search history I used to find him to prevent Sweetie (or anyone else) from ever locating information or pictures of The Guy Who Played Mordor on "Better Off Ted." I have to do it, for the sake of my own mental self-image.

So I guess you, and Sweetie, will never find out about those abs.

Although if you can't help yourself, you could click here for a little more information on him.

The Boys' Night Out Edition of 3 Good Things (3 Good Things From 8/14/09)

Actual photo of partying:

Sweetie went to her sister's last night, and The Boy was at football camp, and Middle worked, so it was just me and the Babies!, partying on a Friday night. And party we did -- all 3 of the Good Things are from our night:

1. We began the night by watching an entire episode of The Muppet Show, the one featuring "Mummenschanz" from Season One.

2. Then we went to the park and the water park. Mr F invented a new game at the splash park, taking little wood chips and putting them onto the geysers of water to watch them go shooting up into the air. It was hilarious to watch how excited he got.

3. Sweetie brought me a McDonald's cheeseburger as a late-night snack!

1001 Ways To Tune Up The World, Number Nine

I owe this one to Sweetie, who really gave me the idea for it long ago...

9. When you have to give someone a gift, ask them what they want, and then get that thing for them.

About 5 years ago, I asked Sweetie to make me a list of things she might want for her birthday. "Why bother?" she asked. "You never get me anything off the list, anyway." That started a discussion about lists and why I didn't get her things off of them (I wanted to be creative and have fun with it) and why it would be better to get things off a list (she wanted to get gifts she actually wanted.)

Since then, at gift-giving time, I have people give me lists of things they'd like for a gift, and I go off the list and get them one of those things. If I want to surprise them, I have them give me a long list. If I want to get creative, I get them something off the list and something fun or interesting.

Remember, you're giving them a present because you want to show you appreciate or love them -- why not make sure it's something they want?

Prior entries:

8. Never interrupt or finish someone's jokes.

7. Periodically, give up something you like for at least a month.

6. Switch to "E-money."

5. Have each person assigned one phone number, and then add an extension for the various phones and faxes that person might be reached at.

4. Abolish Mondays and Tuesdays.

3. Don't listen to interviews with athletes or comedians.

2. Have "personal cashiers" at the grocery store.

1. Don't earn more than $200,000 per year.


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Not yet on my ipod, but too good to pass up (Down... To Go Song X)

I wasn't kidding about having my Pandora set to show tunes. I put it on "Springtime for Hitler" and have been enjoying Broadway hits all morning, and then this song came on:

"O My Cherry" by Pas/Cal. As happens so often,

I went from zero to desperately wanting this music in no time flat. That song is incredible. So I immediately re-set Pandora to "Pas/Cal" and now I'm going to Indie my way into the weekend.

I disagree with the song's hypothesis, but it's a toe-tapping good song. (3 Good Things From 8/13/09)

It's Friday, and I've not only set my Pandora station to Broadway Show Tunes, but I've got my 3 Good Things from yesterday to keep me happy today:

1. I got my money back from Costco! Without even a fight!

2. I came up with a brand new legal theory to sue mortgage companies... and it's a good one. (See? Sometimes I work.)

3. There was a double feature of "Better Off Ted" waiting on the DVR when I got the Babies! to bed.

Here's your own show tune:

I'm not just sad; I'm also a little creeped out because maybe it got into the house? (First Thoughts)

Every morning, just after feeding Stormy, I turn on the computer and go get the paper.

The each day this week, when I walked outside, I saw, just outside our door and just to the left of our front walk, a huge spider web with a big spider smack in the middle.

I hate spiders. Hate them. So on Monday, I was going to knock the web down and kill the spider, but then I thought: That web looks kind of neat, and it was big, and the spider wasn't doing any harm, so I left it.

Each morning, then, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, I saw the web and saw how the spider was doing (it had tons of bugs caught in the web. It was, as I said to Sweetie, like "an Old Country Buffet for spiders.) And each day, I was a little proud of myself that I'd let this spider be and was co-existing with nature.

This morning, the web and spider were gone.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

1001 Ways To Tune Up The World, Number Eight

Another one that requires you to do something. Or in this case, not do something.

8. Never interrupt or finish someone's jokes.

There's a lot of ways a little forbearance and courtesy can make the world a better place. I chose to begin with this one, because it's easy.

When someone tells a joke you know, or a riddle, or a limerick, just let them tell it. What do you get out of saying Oh, yeah, I know -- the cat stole the car! or otherwise taking away their moment of glory? What's it take, a minute out of your life? Just listen and laugh and nod. Don't even say I heard that one before or anything. Just listen and laugh and nod. They'll get a good feeling-- I made someone laugh! -- and you'll get a good feeling, because you'll laugh, and everyone will move on, feeling a little happier.

Prior entries:

7. Periodically, give up something you like for at least a month.

6. Switch to "E-money."

5. Have each person assigned one phone number, and then add an extension for the various phones and faxes that person might be reached at.

4. Abolish Mondays and Tuesdays.

3. Don't listen to interviews with athletes or comedians.

2. Have "personal cashiers" at the grocery store.

1. Don't earn more than $200,000 per year.

It's not the actual song. It's better. I wish I had THIS song on my iPod. (85 Down, 9,881 to Go)

Don't think I'm a sissy or anything, but I've got a confession to make.

Song 85 is "President Garfield's Hornpipe." I downloaded this song approximately 1 million years ago, and I don't know where I got it from or who recorded it or anything. It just sits on my iPod waiting for me, with its jaunty little tune full of accordions and stuff.

The song came on this morning while I was driving in to work admiring the view of the Monona Terrace, and I decided to make it today's "Down... To Go."

Only I couldn't find the version that I have, on my iPod, anywhere on Youtube. ( What's up with you, Internet? Why do you, 0.1% of the time, fail to satisfy my every whim? I hate you!)(I'm sorry, Internet. I didn't mean that. I'm just emotional right now.)

I'm emotional because while looking for my version of Song 85, I found this version:

"President Garfield's Hornpipe" performed by Peggy Carter

And I listened to that and it was so beautiful it actually brought a little lump to my throat. Which, officially, I'm going to just claim was a bit of yogurt from my lunch.

A beautiful, emotional, bit of yogurt from my lunch.

DC31 will soon mean something to you.

If there's one thing I can count on, it's that we're going to have to get a new vacuum cleaner about every three months. I've become accustomed to it, and that's why I need DC31.

DC31 is a blog that provides price comparisons on the DC31 vacuum cleaner -- and only that. No extraneous information or posts about 3 things that are good or quotes of the day or fixing up the world or whatever it is other crazy bloggers are writing about. DC31 just provides information on prices about the Dyson DC31, and I need that, because around our house, vacuums don't last. The Babies! are messy, and are always spilling stuff and dropping macaroni, and toys, and shoes, and whatnot -- and the older kids, charged with cleaning up after dinner, do not take the time to, say, bend down and pick up the sandals and Mr Potato Heads off the floor. Instead, they run the vacuum over them, and keep on doing so until the thing gets sucked up, or the vacuum starts whining and steaming. Or both, which is what usually happens.

Which is when I head over to DC31 and find out how much our budget will take a hit NOW.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

1001 Ways To Tune Up The World, Number Seven

Maybe you thought this was all government-level stuff. Well, you was wrong!

7. Periodically, give up something you like for at least a month.

It could be anything -- a favorite snack, a favorite band, a favorite TV show, a favorite website, even the route to work that you like or that restaurant you always stop at. It doesn't have to be your favorite thing in the world; just something you like and do, eat, see, listen to, or think about a lot. Whatever it is, give it up for 30 days.

That'll force you to think of something new that you like, or to try something different. Maybe you'll listen to Primal Scream instead of Juice Newton. Maybe you'll realize that you like the view of the Monona Terrace as you drive into work. Maybe you'll find out you can start the day without coffee.

Then, when you've finished that 30 day period, give up something else. You'll never get stuck in a rut.

Prior entries:

6. Switch to "E-money."
5. Have each person assigned one phone number, and then add an extension for the various phones and faxes that person might be reached at.
4. Abolish Mondays and Tuesdays.
3. Don't listen to interviews with athletes or comedians.
2. Have "personal cashiers" at the grocery store.
1. Don't earn more than $200,000 per year.

Actual Things I Thought While On My Way To Milwaukee For A Deposition And Also Listening To Regina Spektor's New Album For The First Time

Song ONE: Boy. Only three notes into this CD and I already like it.


When did I turn off cruise control? Is that why I'm slowing down?


There's a lot of WOOOOS in this song. I wonder if she just couldn't think how to end it and kind of made up sounds at the end. I wonder if she's British. The British are always good at putting nonsense words into songs. I could never do that. I'm too self-conscious to write a song that just has nonsense words. Although If I Was Paul McCartney did have a whistle part.


SONG 2: Whenever a slow song comes on after a fast song, I always imagine a DJ saying "We're gonna slow it down for you."


I guess this song isn't slow after all. Fooled me.


I always get kind of a scared feeling when I see the sign for "Wales." In my mind, I can still hear my mom saying "If you don't behave, you're going to Wales."


I miss the Happy Barn.


SONG THREE: I already like this song, too. I wonder if this could be my next Graceland. Graceland was the only album I ever liked all of. Weird, after all this time and all this music that I never liked another album in its entirety. The Violent Femmes came close on their first album, though. I should get their album Hallowed Ground. I never heard that whole album. I wonder if the witch lady whose house was featured on the cover of that album is still around. She was creepy. That whole house was creepy.


SONG FOUR: Peppy. So far, so Graceland.


"I got a perfect body/'cause my eyelashes catch my sweat." I'd like to use that in conversation.


I probably shouldn't be writing + driving.


What's that billboard say? "Crystal Farms?" I don't like that. It sounds too science-y for a farm. The company should be called something more homey. Like Kristen's Farms. Or Kiki's Farms. Or Coco's Farms.


SONG FIVE: The pressure's really on me to like this, now. Do I? I don't know, yet.


I wonder if we'll ever have personalized billboards and ads like that Tom Cruise movie. Not Mission Impossible. The other one. The one about the future. This song probably made me think of that with that line "The future. It's here."


SONG SIX: I like this one. I'm still not sure about that last one, though.


I wonder if my gas gauge is working. It was almost on E but then it rose up to nearly 1/4, and now it's almost on E again. I wouldn't really know if it was broken until I ran out of gas, would I? No, that's not right. I could go fill up the gas tank and see if it works, then, and even if it didn't I'd know I had 12 gallons of gas.


Song SEVEN: I like this one, too. But the fact that the rest of them are so good is just making Song Five seem more iffy.


I don't know if I want to like the whole album, anyway. Now that I think about it, it's kind of cool that in my whole entire life, only one album has ever been so good that I liked every single song on it, a record that's never been broken. Then again, it might be neat to have a second Graceland.


"A record that's never been broken." Back when Graceland came out, that would have been a pun. But would anyone get it, now?


SONG EIGHT: started off good. I think there's a tuba in this song.


Driving into it, Milwaukee is an ugly city. People should give some thought to what you see entering a city. Madison is an ugly city to drive into, too, from all but one way.


What'd that billboard say? "Howdy?" With a Pepsi logo in the O? What's that supposed to be about? Isn't Howdy a cowboy thing? Why is that in Milwaukee? And is it the Pepsi Logo?


SONG NINE: Catchy.


Whoa. Since when is this exit on the left?


I lived in Milwaukee for five years and I still navigate randomly around the city, hoping to stumble onto the street I need. Then again, that's how I get around Madison, too, and I've lived there for 14 years.


Why isn't our lane moving?


Now my gas light is on. So I guess the gauge is working, because it says E.


SONG TEN: This one's good, too. I might have to re-listen to song five. But I didn't have to do that for Graceland. Those songs just all won me over right away.


"Under African Skies," on reflection, wasn't all that great a song. I mean, it was okay, but not great.


I hate driving through parking garages. Why is visitor parking not until the sixth floor?


SONG ELEVEN: Not bad, I guess. But I'm here now. I'll have to finish it later. I thought I'd have enough time to listen to the whole CD on the way here.


3 hours, 37 minutes later:


I wonder what the people on the elevator would've said if when the tall guy who got on first hit "2" and then the mean lady who got on second hit "5" and then I hit "6", if after all that, I'd looked at them and said "I win."


I thought I left off on Song 11, but it's song 12 now. What happened? Should I go back?


That is a nice car. I wonder if people who park convertibles with the tops down spend the entire day worrying that someone's going to spit in their car. I would.


SONG THIRTEEN: If this one turns out good, then it's all up to Song Five.


Good beginning.


Nice crescendo. I like it.


Sweeping and melodramatic. It sounds kind of like she worked in a bit of Moonlight Sonata. Can she do that?


What, it's over? That was abrupt.


The Boy will love Green Lantern! I'm sure of it.

Do you watch movies?

LIAR! You totally do and you know it. Why bother trying to cover it up? It's not a big deal. You watch movies and you want to watch more -- so you want to know where to download movies, cool movies and recent movies, movies in HD and movies for your iPod or other mobile device.

Well, if you'd just been honest with me and admitted you watch movies, I'd have told you about the iwatchfilm movie library, where you can download movies and TV shows online in almost any format you want.

I found this site looking for Green Lantern stuff, and learned I could get a divx or iPod version of "Green Lantern: First Flight" for as low as $1.99 -- and, best of all, you can burn the downloaded movies onto a DVD, which is excellent, because sometimes I don't want to watch them on my iPod; sometimes I want to watch them on the big TV and make my whole family love them as much as I do.

So let's be honest here. You watch movies. So watch more, with

The picture, as usual, doesn't relate to the post. (3 Good Things From 8/11/09)

You know what's great? A life where coming up with 3 Good Things from the day before isn't even kind of hard...

1. I love the way Mr F runs up to me when I get home from work -- he comes jogging over and then jumps up and down until I tousle his hair.

2. Mr Bunches got his haircut yesterday, and despite Sweetie saying it was no good, it looked cute.

3. We managed to find the long-sought-after Jungle Book DVD, something we've been trying to get the Babies! for over a year now.

Let me be an adult here, for a moment, and talk about PK24.

There's no reason that aging or childbirth has to interfere with a woman enjoying... can I put this delicately, so as not to upset those more-genteel souls who read my blog? ...

There's no reason that aging or childbirth has to interfere with a woman enjoying those special moments with her significant other.

Oh, heck. I'll just say it: sex. There. It's out in the open and let's just talk about it. Ladies, if you're getting older, or have had some kids or otherwise want to ensure that you're getting the most out of doing it, maybe you should try pk24, a solution to the everyday problem of vaginal relaxation. It's okay to use it everyday, and it helps fight off the natural relaxation that aging and childbirth can cause -- and fighting that off means that women get more feeling and sensation, which in turn leads to better sex.

PK24 has been clinically tested and proven to increase satisfaction, using its proprietary blend of plant extracts that provide extra hydration and create a tightening effect. It can even enhance your partner's pleasure, too -- and better sex can in turn can help provide women with a renewed sense of enjoyment and confidence -- so the benefits keep on ...

I'm not going to finish that sentence. Let's just say there are benefits.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

1001 Ways To Tune Up The World, Number Six:

Progress marches on, spurred on by the things I think about while driving into work listening to New Pornographers.

6. Switch to "E-money."

Why still use paper and metal money? There's no point to it anymore. Tangible money costs a lot to make, costs a lot to destroy, and costs a lot to store, all for no reason whatsoever. And, the existence of tangible money creates confusion over whether or not stores accept debit cards or credit cards or the like, and allows for things like me dropping the change the other night at the drive-through at McDonald's. There's a dime I'll never see again.

Switching to e-money avoids all of that, and also avoids exchange rates: Everyone in the world can use the exact same currency. I suggest calling it the i, and using that as the symbol. (It can't be the E because that's already used for a euro, and a backwards E, my other thought, looked like a trident or pitchfork, which means that the conspiracy theorists would continue have something to discuss once the dollar's pyramid is gone.)

Switching to the i, too, will allow prices to be even longer -- things can be priced at i 1.9999, instead of $2.00, or $1.99, increasing retailers' sales by i 0.0099, which doesn't sound like much, but if you have 200 sales a week, over the course of a year that's an extra $102.96 for doing nothing more than tacking on a couple of numbers.

As for people who don't have debit cards or bank accounts, there's already a bunch of servicers who are setting up to provide debit cards to the unaccounted, and I'm certain that retailers would step in to set up things like a reloadable Wal-card account that's usable everywhere but which gives discounts when used at Wal-locations.

Added bonus: The symbol I've chosen is also the mathematical symbol for the square root of negative one -- an imaginary number. That makes our money cool and theoretical, and if you spend too much, you can always say "Oh, well, it's all imaginary anyway."

Prior entries:

5. Have each person assigned one phone number, and then add an extension for the various phones and faxes that person might be reached at.
4. Abolish Mondays and Tuesdays.
3. Don't listen to interviews with athletes or comedians.
2. Have "personal cashiers" at the grocery store.
1. Don't earn more than $200,000 per year.

Quote of the Day, 35.

I like to use Quotes of the Day to highlight something someone said that was funny, or witty, or smart, or which made a point about my life, good or bad. But sometimes, there is a quote of the day that encapsulates my life perfectly, and that quote is today's Quote of the Day, which was actually uttered by The Boy on Saturday.

Sweetie and I were relaxing in our room watching TV and reading on Saturday afternoon. The Boy came home from work and hopped in the shower -- now that he knows some girls, he showers without being told -- and after a long time, we heard the door open. Then close. Then open again. Then water was running. Then the door opened and closed again. Then more water. Then more doors and footsteps and opening and closing and water until I said:

"What's going on out there?"

To which The Boy responded by shouting Quote of the Day 35 from the hallway just outside the door:

"Don't come out. I need more towels."

Luckily for me, my mind kicked in before I could picture anything that might be caused by The Boy and be so bad that it needed piles and piles of towels and couldn't be viewed by me. That is a tense 10 minutes, sitting in my room deciding whether I wanted to get up and see, or needed to get up and see, and also waiting to see whether I'll hear some kind of crash as the bathtub falls through the floor, or a scream or something.

I finally opted not to go look until he said it was okay to do so, and so I never did see the bathroom before he got it cleaned up, and I never fully understood what happened because the explanation, when it finally came (and we were allowed out of our room) involved numerous wet patches on the carpet, a bathroom full of steam, and something about shaving his neck.

I just stopped him there. I didn't need to hear any more than that.

I'd program it to make velociraptors, then I'd point out to them that they were never real. (3 Good Things From 8/10/09)

1. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em: I got to play the Babies!' game with them last night in our yard when I took them out to play after dinner. I spent 10 minutes trying to interest them in playing ball, or tag, or anything, but eventually gave up and joined them in their game, which was "throwing stuff in the mucky water of the wading pool." My job was to gather the stuff to throw -- hickory nuts, old toys, sticks -- and hand it to them for the actual throwing.

2. I almost figured out the entire mystery on The Closer before the show revealed the secret. I correctly guessed why the cops were mailing coolers to the suspects -- but had the wrong suspect pegged. Still, being close counts as a good thing for me, since I usually suspect the very first person the cops interview. (And, in fact, that was what I did here.)(But I was close.)

3. This. I want to live in the future, and it's closer every day.

A Jug of Wine, a Spyder Paintball Gun, And Thou...

Sweetie and I have decided to sign up for a cooking class as a couples-y, romance-y thing to do. That wasn't my first choice -- my first choice was to hook us up each with a spyder paintball gun and head to a Paintball competition.

What could be more romantic than arming ourselves with paramilitary gear and then engaging in war games for a day, I wondered -- and I learned that, to Sweetie, cooking is more romantic than shooting at each other. Live and learn.

I even had the perfect spot to get our gear:, a site that offers the best prices on the best paintball guns and gear, gear ranging from beginner stuff like Sweetie and I would want, to tournament-level equipment for speedball paintball competitions.

And I know, I know, Sweetie maybe has a point that "Fine Italian Cooking" Classes will be romantic and all, but it's almost certain the classes won't include stuff like this:

And while "Italian Dinners" say romance, you can also spell romance "p-a-i-n-t-b-a-l-l s-n-i-p-e-r r-i-f-l-e", can't you? You can in my book.

So I didn't win this round of the romance activity choice, but I'm going to keep lobbying for paintball for the next time around. Because with the kind of stuff I can get at, and the customer service they offer, and the best prices, and all the help they can give, it just makes too much sense not to spend a romantic day running through the woods with camouflage gear on shooting paintballs at Sweetie.


Monday, August 10, 2009

1001 Ways To Tune Up The World, Number Five:

We all live in it... but only I'm fixing it, one day and one solution at a time.

5. Have each person assigned one phone number, and then add an extension for the various phones and faxes that person might be reached at.

Every day, it seems, we run out of phone numbers and have to add area codes or break up area codes or otherwise go through numerical gymnastics, all for nothing.

It can't be too difficult to simply assign a phone number to each person in the world. There are, as of right now, 6,776,773,194 people in the world. (According to this.) All we have to do is assign each a number (and assign a phone number to each newborn baby), and that number is their phone number and the person can designate a phone that number goes to. Add a cell phone, and no new number is generated -- instead, we simply tack on an extra digit at the end.

So if my number is 367-6392, and I get a cell phone, then my cell number is 367-6392-1. Add a home phone, and that's 367-6392-2.

That way, once you know someone's number, you can reach them wherever they are and on whatever they want to be reached.

Businesses could be assigned a number, too. And before you say that's impossible, there's no way to keep track of that or assign them or avoid duplication, think about this:

We already do just this with internet addresses.

Prior entries:

4. Abolish Mondays and Tuesdays.
3. Don't listen to interviews with athletes or comedians.
2. Have "personal cashiers" at the grocery store.
1. Don't earn more than $200,000 per year.

The Paperboy, Part 3 (Jobs v. Life, 3)

Life is what happens when you're not working... and this is part 3 of my ongoing attempt to explain my life by the work I've done. Click here for the Table of Contents.

Here and there, if you look hard, you'll find evidence that your parents were smart and looking out for you. I'm not just talking about the kind of smarts that told your parents to make sure you had a place to live and food to eat, either, but about the kind of smarts that save you a walk up a giant hill for no real profit.

Although not walking up that hill still leaves me feeling a little guilty and sad, years later, about my friend Jim and the things I didn't tell him.

I've always heard that when you go back home everything will seem smaller than you remember it. That's not true. I've gone back to Hartridge, where I grew up and my paper route was, probably 3 or 4 times in the past 15 years, and nothing's smaller at all. The same stuff is still mostly there -- although Hasslinger's pond has been filled in and houses are being built on it, and The Swamp and Kill Hill are likewise part of a condo-and-housing project, and the path along the ridge by The Canyon is now paved. The Pine Tree is still there, though, and the Canyon.

Those are, by the way, the actual names of features that were located in the field and forest behind our house. (I've mentioned before that we were not very creative with names as a kid.)

The things that are still there, though, are still there and are still as big as they ever were: The hill at the end of the street where I camped out for two days the time I ran away from home is just as tall -- and just as obviously awkward and out-of-place as it ever was. The Canyon is still as deep and The Pine Tree is still as tall.

And the hills on our paper route and in the subdivision as just as steep as they ever were. I thought maybe my memory had made the hills steeper and longer, but it didn't, and I suppose that's because my mind couldn't embellish on those memories of riding up those hills (and not riding up others) because I'd done it so often, it was engraved directly into my brain, hard-wired into it the way my phone number (367-6392) was also hard-wired into my brain.

I have a near-perfect memory of things like that, like the size and slope of the hills I had to ride up to deliver papers and my phone number. Those are the things that helped form me, I guess: my phone number and those hills being the building blocks for what would eventually become my "character," such as it is. Things are no longer written into my mind so clearly. A few years back, I had to give my ZIP code at a store as we bought some DVDs.

"ZIP code?" the cashier asked.

"53925," I said, immediately and without thinking at all.

"That's not our ZIP code," Sweetie said, immediately and without thinking at all -- she's probably come to expect that kind of thing from me, after all these years.

"It's not?" I asked, because as quickly as I'd said 5-3-9-2-5, I'd become convinced it was, in fact, our ZIP Code and could not, now, think of what our real ZIP code was.

Sweetie gave the cashier our real ZIP code and we moved on and bought other stuff that day, but I bet she's never forgotten and I bet if you cal her right now and ask if I know our ZIP code, she'll say "I doubt it" and tell you that story.

Despite my inability to remember basic facts of my existence now, I have a clear recollection of most aspects of my paper route, and those hills are chief among them. Our route had only three streets on it, with a few associated courts/circles.

I always, when I was a kid, wanted to live in a court, those little circular cul-de-sacs that are for some reason a part of a subdivision. I don't know why they get put in, as they serve no functions that I can figure out. It must have something to do with the lay of the land, or land-use regulations, or something else boring that I don't really care to know. But I didn't care about that, back then; I just wanted to live in a court, because it seemed neat -- no traffic, and the yards were unusually shaped, sort of wedge-y. I also, though, as a kid, got the impression from my parents that courts were lower-class, too. I don't know why I got that impression, but I did, through osmosis, maybe, the way I gathered lots of pseudo-information that I thought my parents were passing on to me, information gathered in half-bits and overheard conversations, inferences I made from silences to some questions and nonanswers to others, and one of those inferences was that there was something wrong with living in a court, that it was undesirable, that it marked you as kind of lower-down on the ladder.

I got that impression, too, about carpeting in the kitchen, something I've only seen once in my life, at the Sommerfeldts' house the time we went there for a Superbowl party when I was a kid -- going there at a time when I didn't care about football and wasn't especially friends with the Sommerfeldt kids, so it wasn't an especially fun night for me. The highlight of the night, as I recall, was my discovering that the Sommerfeldts had carpet in their kitchen, and that made such an impact on me that to this day I can recall the texture and pattern of the carpet: It was brown and made to look like sidewalk or patio bricks, carpet with a brick-imprint on it which worked so perfectly that when I first walked into the kitchen I was surprised to feel the springy, spongy quality of the floor, and couldn't stop walking on it and being amazed not just at how soft it was but that they had carpeting in their kitchen period.

Later on, I heard my mom and dad talking about how stupid that was. I recall one or the other of them saying "What if somebody spills?" So carpeting, like living in a court and having blinking lights on a Christmas tree, was out.

Our paper route had Hartwood Lane, which was the street we lived on. It then had a portion of Oxford Drive, the street our street crossed into, and then Penbrook Way. That doesn't sound like much, but Hartwood Lane was the shortest of the three streets and it had probably 30 houses on it. Oxford Drive ran the width of our subdivision, Hartridge, and was superlong, but we only had about two blocks of that street to deliver papers on, and then we'd take a right onto Penbrook Way, the hilly portion of the route, and take that about 4 blocks or maybe 5, to where it ended.

That all added up to about 70 customers, daily, and 100 or so on Sundays. At the start of the paper route days, when I joined Bill on it, Bill divided up the jobs this way: I would deliver the papers, and he would do the collecting. Not knowing much about paper routes and how hard the various tasks were, I agreed. Bill sold that idea to me by pointing out that I'd get to ride my bike and use my newspaper bag -- an actual paperboy bag in yellow that said Milwaukee Journal on the side in green, and had padding on the shoulder. I was the only one of the three boys that ever had that bag; sometimes, to deliver the papers we'd just balance them on the handlebars of our bike (especially when they were thin, as they always were on Tuesdays and Saturdays. The Saturday paper sometimes didn't even need to be subbed, sometimes.) But more often, I'd load them into my bag and deliver them that way, learning to ride my bike by leaning slightly to the right to counterbalance the papers pulling me to the left.

We didn't have the kind of paper route delivery that let us just toss the papers onto the lawn, so I suppose that my paper route was the very first job that would ever let me look at something on TV or in the movies and declare it fake, something I do to this day: I can't watch lawyer-oriented shows, for the most part, because I constantly decry them as fake or oversimplified or just wrong. I'll see Sam Waterston and a defense attorney and a judge walking on the courthouse steps discussing constitutional issues that have arisen in a case and the judge will make a decision and they all move on with their lives, and all I can do is say That's not how the law works? Where's the Court Reporter? There's no record of that.

I'm a lot of fun to watch TV with.

That kind of behavior may well have started back when I started delivering papers. Movies, TV shows, Dennis The Menace comic strips and the like always depict a paperboy tossing the papers as he rides by, throwing them in bushes and onto the roof and through windows. I don't recall deriding that as fake when I was 12 or 13 or 14, but I do recall wondering why I couldn't do that.

We had to, instead, put our papers into the paperbox that almost everyone had hanging from their mailbox post, allowing me to begin judging subdivision residents not just by their lawns (as we all did) but also by their paperbox and how it was affixed to the mailbox, and even whether they had one at all.

Some people didn't have a paperbox, and I didn't like them much, period -- because it slowed me down. After time, I got good enough that I could fold the paper with one hand and slide it into the paperbox as I went by, speeding up my delivery and, as a side effect, making me feel cool -- not the last time I would feel a sense of cool from something that probably nobody else in the world would ever even remotely think was cool, but that's the kind of kid I was. I'd ride along, folding the paper in my left hand, then pulling it from the bag and transferring it to my right hand -- as I rode, then effortlessly sliding the paper into the paperbox, without ever slowing down, and I'd think to myself: That's worth something. In my mind were half-formed images of someone higher up in the Milwaukee Journal company (Mr. Ferris, maybe) seeing me do that and marking me as a kid with promise, a kid that they could use to show other paperboys how it was done.

Maybe there would be some sort of meeting, like when they had the annual spring and fall subscription drives, and Mr Ferris (who, so far as I knew, was the highest-up in the Journal company, aside from the circulation manager I'd meet later) would gather all the paperboys and say Briane, show them how you deliver the paper, and I'd have to do a demonstration, and all the other paperboys would start using that technique, too, and it would be the Briane method.

That never happened.

But I was pretty good at it, and so I resented people who were so low class and inferior that they had paperboxes that hung down towards the street, or which were loosely affixed and hard to get the paper into, causing me to stop and put the paper in and lose valuable time and valuable momentum (as a fat kid, I liked coasting on my bike, whenever possible, and used my inertia to my benefit.)

Worse yet were the people who hadn't yet put up their paperboxes. Once or twice, someone would get a new paper box and leave it sitting, upright, next to their mailbox for sometimes as long as a month or two, which I didn't get -- why not bring it in until you hang it?-- but others never put the box up at all, so I had to open up their mailbox and put the paper in, something that was time-consuming and annoying, especially if the mail had already come. Sometimes the doors of the mailboxes were loose or would jam, and I worried that I'd break it and get blamed for it.

We also had two people on our route who didn't want the paper put in their box at all -- I had to bring the paper up to their door and put it on their mat, which was the worst of all. I hated those people. I don't know, looking back, what they thought their deal was, and I don't know, looking back, why I did that, and why my Dad agreed that we would do that for the one of those people who had Sunday only delivery.

I don't like to think of myself as one of those types of people who simply goes along with what the other type of people says, but obviously I have a streak of that in me. There are people in life who tell you to bring their paper to their door and put it on their doormat instead of in their paperbox the way everybody else gets it, and there are people in life who will do that, and who will also follow your directives that, if the weather is bad, you're to put it just inside the screen door, between the screen door and the main door, and if the weather is windy you're to put it under the mat, a little, so that the mat will keep the paper from blowing away.

While I was out delivering papers, Bill was "collecting," something that in my mind I thought must be equal to the effort I was putting in, riding up and down Penbrook Way and around Oxford Drive and all. Bill would go door-to-door and get the weekly or monthly money from our customers, and then, each Sunday, we'd divide up the money, setting aside the part we had to pay to the Journal for our papers that week, and then taking the rest as profit. Each week, Bill would count the money, sort it out, pile the dollar bills, mark things in the little "route book," -- a collection of index cards held together by a ring -- and then hand me my half of the profits, which each week amounted to about $5.00. Some weeks, there were no profits -- people hadn't paid or hadn't paid enough or something -- and so Bill would break it to me that we'd made nothing that week.

My dad's rule was that a paper route could be begun around 12 or so, and continued only until we were 16; at 16, we had to "grow up" and "get a real job" to earn our money. Bill was about 14 or so when I began. For two years, I worked as Bill's low-paid (and sometimes no-paid) junior assistant on the paper route, for an average of what probably worked out to $3 per week -- $3 earned by an hour-plus per day of biking (or walking, in the winter) around the route delivering 70+ papers in heat, rain, blizzards, and more.

When Bill moved on from the paper route at 16 and I took over as Senior Paperboy, with Matt joining up as the new Junior Assistant (these are titles I just invented today), I learned that the paper route brought in as much as forty bucks a week, if not more. Matt and I divided the route up differently, after Bill left: we each took half the route and did the deliveries and collections for that half, then split the money evenly. Matt had Hartwood and Oxford; I had the other half of Hartwood and Penbrook Way. I took Penbrook Way because I kind of liked it, in spite of having to go uphill all that way, and it was all that way -- each time I've gone back, I've marveled at how steep the hills are, still. Not embellished at all.

Instantly, we were rolling in money, especially for 14- and 12-year olds. We were getting $20 per week, and this was 1983. That was a lot of money, then, and I think it's still a lot of money, now.

I don't have any specific recollection of ever confronting Bill with the realization that he'd been cheating me for two years. I'm sure that I did -- no offense ever went unconfronted among the Pagel Boys, and our fights could blow up, like a tropical storm, from absolutely nothing, so a fight about something would be a certainty, but at this point, unlike the hills and the phone number, the fights have blurred into a hazy montage of swinging golf clubs, punches in the chest, thrown shoes, chases around the house that as a fat kid I always lost, doors slammed in faces, more thrown shoes, and picking up the copper lid to a decoration and using it as a shield against the metal bar the other person had grabbed (the metal bar being the bar that was used as a lock of sorts, lain in the tracks of the patio door to keep that from serving as an entryway for serial killers.) I would, over the years, confront Bill about almost everything, but at this point the only thing I can recall confronting him about for certain is the time he took all the inserts and labels from all my cassette tapes and threw them all out because he thought the cases looked better without the album covers in them.

When I pointed out that he'd made it impossible, almost, to tell what cassette tape was what, because they were all just cassettes in clear plastic cases now, so I couldn't tell where my Psychedelic Furs cassette tape was without pulling out each and every one of them to read the cassette itself, he said: "You should be thanking me."

As steep as Penbrook Way was, I was spared the even steeper climb up a street that went off of Penbrook Way, a street called "Canterbury Circle," which sloped up and to the left off of Penbrook Way, and which would lead up to the second-highest point in Hartridge, a point so high that you could see Holy Hill, a church about 15 miles away, from the top of it. I didn't have to climb up that, and I didn't have to go into Windsor Circle, the other street that came off of Penbrook Way. Windsor Circle was flat, though, and I don't know why Dad negotiated that out of the route, but he did. When he got us the paper route, I remember seeing him talk to Mr. Ferris about it, and agreeing that we'd do the paper route but that we'd only do that route if Mr. Ferris reassigned Canterbury Circle and Windor Circle to another paper route, which Mr. Ferris agreed to do.

That might have been where I got the idea that circles, and courts, and cul de sacs, were lower-class, and undesirable. That might have been where I first began to deduce, by inference, that those were not to be sought after, because my Dad had negotiated them out of our route.

I always admired my dad as a kid, being enthralled by the way he could throw a football, negotiate with Mr. Ferris, and drive his huge Coca-Cola truck right up in front of our house and let us sit in the driver's seat, something he did a lot of times on Fridays, when he'd drop off his "breaker case" of soda, the case of soda that he'd get for free because drivers were allowed so many broken cases of soda per week, and if he didn't break one he'd bring a free case of soda home...

...and, looking back, now, I wonder if the actual rule wasn't "If you break a case here and there, you won't be charged for that." I always assumed that the Breaker Case rule meant that Coca-Cola said if no cases were broken, the drivers could take one or two home, but that doesn't make any sense, because it would be guaranteeing them that they'd lose 1 or 2 cases per week, minimum, either through breakage or taking-home-age. So I'm guessing, now, that maybe the actual rule was "If you break a case you won't be charged," and my Dad, I'm hypothesizing, was careful enough not to break a case, so he'd bring one home, and tell his boss that it had been broken.

... Which, as I think about it, was probably why he drove his truck to our house. He couldn't very well drive the truck back to the bottling plant and then unload a non-broken case and take it to his car, could he? So he'd have had to drive to our house from wherever he was, and then unload the Breaker Case, and then go back to work.

That's an awful lot of trouble to go to just to get a couple of free cases of soda a week.

I could have gathered that courts and cul de sacs were undesirable from the fact that my dad negotiated them away, and that kind of deduction would have been exactly what I would have come up with because, as you've just seen, my deductive skills are such that it took me 30 years to crack The Case Of The Breaker Cases. (I'm no Encyclopedia Brown, I guess.)

Such an inference -- that courts were, per se, undesirable, if based on my dad negotiating away Canterbury Circle and Windsor Circle, would have been incorrect, anyway. I know that now because of what I learned later on -- that one of those courts was eliminated because it was too steep and had too few customers to warrant going up and down it year round (even though one of those customers would be my future girlfriend-for-two-months.)

And also what I learned later on: that the other of those courts was home to a man who'd once asked my mom to marry him.

That's not why I feel guilty about not delivering to those courts, though. I feel guilty because I felt, later on, that maybe in some way my not delivering to those courts made it harder for my the-best-friend Jim to deliver to them from his own paper route, because he had to come to those courts to deliver, going way out of his way. And I felt, later on, that maybe the fact that it was harder for Jim to deliver to them contributed in some way to Jim's committing suicide.