Thursday, December 28, 2006

That's how the game of Uno is played!

Another Christmas has come and gone. This year, I drove up to my brother's house outside of Denton. My dad and sister were also there, so my oldest brother was the only immediate family that couldn't make it.

The drive up was largely uninteresting, except for when the truck in front of me (and one lane over) lost their load and had some mattresses and box springs come flying out of the back. A queen size mattress landed in my lane, but my "race driver" reflexes allowed me to dodge it. I was like a NASCAR driver that could also turn right.

I spent a lot of my time watching football on TV. Ron's cat Dude would sit with me, but he seemed uninterested in the games. We also played Uno with Ron's daughter Shayla. Ron still hasn't learned the ol' "let the kid win" lesson, and when he made her draw 8 cards she threw her cards down crying and quit. (In his defense, he claimed that she doesn't mind drawing cards when it's just the two of them playing.) She did rejoin the game later, and we even let her win a few games (even Ron).

We got Shayla to go to bed early Christmas Eve, and Ron snuck out of the house in the cold rain to ring sleigh bells outside of her window. She ran into the living room very excited because Santa's reindeer were outside her window. She wanted to go outside and see them, but we convinced her to go back to bed. Ron was finally able to come back into the house once we got her back to bed.

The excitement didn't wear off though. She got up at 2:15 Christmas morning to see what Santa had brought her. I was sleeping on the couch in the living room, so I had to get up, too. But I couldn't really complain too much since Ron and I used to set the alarm for 12:15 when we were kids. We wanted to give Santa a minimum of 15 minutes to carry in the heavy stuff.

After a good Christmas lunch, I headed back to Austin. Again, it was a fairly uninteresting trip. I did get passed by a red Mercury Cougar near Austin. The driver was dressed as Santa, and his wife (or girlfriend) was dressed as Mrs. Claus. I guess the reindeer were napping.

All-in-all, it was a good Christmas. I did learn a couple of lessons: 1) don't play Uno with my brother, and 2) when I send Christmas greetings via text messages, I need to sign my name. Otherwise, I just end up getting several phone calls wondering who just sent them a message.

I hope everyone's Christmas was merry. All the best in the coming year.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Goats, clowns, and diverted flights, oh my!

This past Halloween, my friend Laura asked me to come out to Florida to visit her and her family. Her daughter Abby was old enough to go trick-or-treating this year, which meant candy for me, too. And we Youngs never turn down free food. I planned to leave Friday after work and stay until the day after Halloween.

My trip didn't start out well. After parking my car in off-site parking and getting on the shuttle, I realized on the way to the terminal that I had left my cell phone in my car. When I got to the terminal, I learned that my flight had been delayed for 45 minutes, so now I needed my cell to let Laura know I'd be late. On the plus side, I now had plenty of time to catch a shuttle back to my car and pick up my cell.

The flight finally took off an hour late. Naturally, there weren't direct flights to Tampa, so I had a quick stop in Dallas. And of course, the Dallas-to-Tampa flight was delayed as well. Another call was made to Laura.

Since the second leg was longer, I had to make a pit stop during the flight. I found a lavoratory that was marked Vacant and opened the door. Unfortunately, it was already occupied by a man sitting on the toilet. I'm not sure why he didn't lock the freaking door, but there he was. I apologized and started to close the door when I realized he was actually fully dressed. He was just trying to use his cell phone during the flight (which is a no-no), and he was trying to be sneaky and hide in the bathroom. Apparently, he was soooo important that he couldn't wait another hour to use his cell on the ground.

Laura was nice enough to be at the airport when I finally arrived at 2:00 AM Saturday morning. The rest of the night and most of the morning were spent sleeping. Saturday night we all went to a haunted house and out dancing. We ended up at a club that played 80's music, so I was in my element.

On Sunday, we went to a fall festival at Laura's church. Abby dressed in her clown costume (like JoJo from JoJo's Circus) and really enjoyed the pony rides. I got to make a new friend, shown below.

On Monday, Laura's work was moving to a new location. She works for the Deaf and Hearing Connection of Tampa, and they were moving the administrative offices to a new location. I didn't do any heavy lifting (I was on vacation), but I did drive the U-haul.

After Laura and I picked it up, I drove it to the old location so that it could be loaded. When I was in the parking lot, I stopped so that I could back it in. At that time, a car parked in a parking spot to my left decided to back out. He then proceeded to back into the driver-side door and dent it. Yes, I tried honking at him, but since he was deaf, it didn't really do much good.

When Laura was talking to him (via sign language), he told her that since the sun was in his eyes at the time and he couldn't see me, he decided it wasn't his fault. Apparently, the noon-time sun prevented him from seeing a big orange truck. The police had to be called so that a report could be filled out naming him as the one responsible for the accident.

Since that was so much fun, I didn't go to work with Laura on Tuesday. Instead, I spent the day in my PJ's sick. I felt better later that afternoon, and Abby and I got to play in the back yard.

That evening we took Abby trick-or-treating, mainly to all her relatives on her dad's side of the family. They were nice enough to offer me some candy, and I was nice enough to take it.

The next morning, I had my flight from Tampa to Dallas, and then from Dallas to Austin. During the flight to Dallas, the pilot announced that the weather was bad in Dallas and there was a "line" to land, so planes were having to circle around waiting for their turn. Since we didn't have enough fuel to circle that long, our flight was being diverted so that it could refuel and continue on to Dallas. As luck would have it, we were being diverted to Austin.

Since Austin was my final destination, they asked if I wanted to get off when we refueled or did I want to continue on to Dallas. I believe my response was, "Duh!" I had checked one bag, so I was going to have to come back to the airport later that night to pick up my bag, but that was a small price to pay for getting home a couple of hours early.

We didn't have a gate, so I actually got to de-plane down the rear steps. I tried to get them to let me slide down one of the emergency landing slides, but they didn't go for it.

Maybe next time.

Monday, September 25, 2006

He probably thinks I'm an idiot

According to Wikipedia, passive-aggressive behaviour refers to passive, sometimes obstructionist resistance to authoritative instructions in interpersonal or occupational situations. Someone who engages in passive-aggressive behavior will typically not confront others directly about problems. But, in some cases it can also be fun!

For example, when I was in high school, my incredibly handsome twin brother and I shared a car, a 1985 black IROC Z-28 (shown here). At the time, that car was awesome. During my senior year, I asked a young lady to the movies. Naturally, she said yes. (Ok, her exact words were, "I guess.")

The day of the date, a friend told me that another friend told her that my date had told the friend of a friend that the only reason she was going on the date was so that she could ride in the car. And I thought it was because of my sparkling personality. I thought about canceling the date, but I didn't want to stoop to her level. And I didn't know for sure if she actually said that.

So I went on the date. I just took my sister's car instead. My sister had a very nice Buick Regal, so it's not like I showed up in a Ford Pinto, but when I picked her up for the date, she said, "Uh, where's your car?"

See, that was fun.

Another example happened in college. I was in a large political science class, and I was doing OK in the class. I did well on the first test, and I took pretty good notes. Before the final, a classmate asked if he could copy my notes because he had missed a few classes, and he knew that I hadn't. So I let him borrow them, he made his copies, and he returned them that same day.

A few minutes before the final, he sits in the seat directly behind me. He leans forward and says, "Hey, when you take your final, could you keep your test on the right side of the desk? I got really wasted last night and didn't get a chance to study. Don't worry, I only need to make a 60 to pass the class."

I was pissed that he expected me to help him pass the class just because he couldn't take the time to study. But, I'm not a snitch so I let him copy off my test. I put a little dot under each answer that I thought was correct, and then I purposely circled a different answer on every single question. When he got up to turn in his test, I went back and changed all of my answers.

I got an 'A' on the test and in the class, but I imagine he didn't make the 60 he needed to pass. When he got his grades, he probably saw his failing grade in political science and thought to himself, "That guy I cheated off of was an idiot!"

Saturday, September 09, 2006

I hope he's the assistant coach

I didn't sleep well Friday night. The soccer team I coach had their first game of the fall season Saturday morning, and I was nervous about how well the kids would do. Yes, it's "just" recreational soccer, and yes, it's not about the winning or losing so long as the kids have fun. Well, in my opinion it's not much fun if the other team beats the holy heck out of you.

Why was I worried? First, we just moved up to U12 (Under 12) this season. At the U12 level, we play with a full complement of players, 11 vs. 11. And since I didn't play soccer growing up, I had my concerns about my ability to decide on a formation and where to play the kids.

Second, I was worried about the number of new kids I had on the team and the number who hadn't played soccer before. Several years ago, the U7 team I coached had eight kids on the team, five of whom were new and had never played soccer before. We lost every game that season, and we never scored a goal in any of our games. Granted, they did improve over the season, but losing the first game 13-0 certainly sucked.

Third, I was worried about playing older kids. There is no U11 age bracket, so the kids play in the U12 bracket for 2 years before they move up to the next one. All of the kids on my team just moved up to U12, and we were playing a team that was comprised mostly (if not completely) of kids who were in their second year of playing U12.

And the other team was a lot bigger. They had 2 or 3 players that were bigger than the biggest kid on my team. (I think they might have been bigger than our other coach.) While we were warming up, one of my smaller kids looked down the field at the other team and remarked, "I hope #17 is the assistant coach!"

But as we all have learned, sometimes we worry about nothing.

We won the game 2-0.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Could you use four bags, please?

In another chapter of my exciting life, I made a trip to the grocery store yesterday. It was a quick trip because I only needed some basic necessities, like milk and peanut butter. Oh, and dishwasher detergent. I even left the empty bottle on my kitchen counter as a reminder to buy some more on my next trip to the grocery store.

Hey, guess what I forgot to buy yesterday?

So, this morning I made a return trip to the grocery store to buy the memorable dishwasher detergent. And since I hate buying just one item (and I like fresh breath), I also bought three packs of gum. After paying for my items, I reached for my plastic bag of groceries when I noticed it was actually plastic bags of groceries. My four items, three of which were the size of thick credit cards, had been placed in two bags.

Was that really necessary? Did the bagger think that adding the packs of gum to the bag with the dishwasher detergent would cause the bag to explode from the stress? If the bags are that fragile, perhaps he should have bagged each of the packs of gum separately as well, just to be safe.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Hope springs eternal

There's been an update to the story I wrote back in 2003: There's always hope. The story was about my friend Laura and her mom's ELEVENTH marriage. Well, that one ended long ago, but this month Laura's mom got married yet again! Her husband count remains at nine because she remarried the same guy from marriage #11.

Laura wanted to have a betting pool on how long this one would last, so she asked me to write something for her. I created a simple website where you could guess the length of this marriage (in months) and also choose the over/under of 6 months: Marriage Pool. Her mom's marriages have lasted between two weeks and ten years, but I guessed it would last at least a month so you can choose between 1 and 60 months. (I'd be surprised if it lasted longer than that.) Please only bet once per person.

There is no cost to bet because there's no prize for winning. Ok, maybe the lucky winner will get to be the next spouse, even the ladies. Who knows, maybe by then she'll have decided she's been married to every guy in existence and will have moved on to the ladies.


Sunday, June 25, 2006

Try the ones with the chocolate sprinkles

Many, many years ago, the woman I was dating at that time, Lecia, used to have a cookie exchange party between Thanksgiving and Christmas every year. A few of her coworkers would come over to the house with cookies or candy, and they would sample the goods (so to speak) and exchange the recipes. And for some reason, there was always one person who would make the super secret Neiman Marcus chocolate chip cookies, but that's a different story.

So one year, Lecia decided that I should make Rice Krispies treats for this party. I have no idea why I was being roped into this, but there are better battles to waste my time on, so I went along for the ride. Bear in mind, this is before Kelloggs started selling Rice Krispies treats pre-made, so I actually had to turn on the stove and stuff.

So I started by melting the required amount of butter over low heat. I added the marshmallows and began stirring them, waiting for them to melt as well. I was briefly distracted from the stove during the melting process (I swear it was less than 5 seconds), at which time the marshmallows burned and started smoking. Again, I swear it was less than 5 seconds. I salvaged what I could by scraping the remaining unburned marshmallows into another saucepan, but there was still a few flakes of ash in what was left. They actually looked like little sprinkles of chocolate.

Using the remaining marshmallows, I finished making the treats. After they had cooled, I sampled one of my creations. It tasted horrible. When Lecia got home later that day, she sampled a little as well, and she thought they were horrible. They tasted so bad, I didn't think it was entirely due to the marshmallows burning.

So I walked through the cooking process with Lecia. I told her I started by taking the stick of butter out of the butter tray in the refrigerator, cutting off the required amount (which was so conveniently labeled on the side), and melting it in the saucepan.

Lecia asked, "Which sticks of butter?"

"The ones in the butter tray," I replied.

"Those aren't sticks of butter. Those are sticks of Crisco."

Ah, there was my error. I had made a mistake in assuming that the butter tray would have butter in it. Instead, I had cooked with vegetable shortening, and the results were inedible. More than likely, it was also the reason the marshmallows had burned in the first place.

So what should we do with the treats I had made? We didn't think they should be shared at the cookie exchange party, but we didn't want to waste food by throwing them out either. So Lecia took them to work with her to share with her clients and coworkers.

Surprisingly, they all commented on how good they were. They especially liked the little chocolate sprinkles.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

It was just as if everyone had swelled.

In the movie Grosse Pointe Blank Martin Blank, played by John Cusack, is a professional assassin who is sent on a mission to a small Detroit suburb, Grosse Pointe. By coincidence, his ten-year high school reunion is taking place there at the same time. His secretary/admin Marcella is trying to convince him to go, and when he asks if she went to hers, she replies, "Yes I did. It was just as if everyone had swelled."

That quote always reminds me of high school reunions in general, and the movie itself reminds me of MY high school reunions. Not because any of my classmates are professional assassins (as far as I know), but because the Martin Blank character graduated in 1986, as I did.

Plus, I was thinking of that movie this past weekend at my twenty-year high school reunion. Yes, some people had "swelled". But some were thinner than they were at the ten-year. Some looked the same as high school, while others were almost unrecognizable. Some were still married to their high school sweethearts, while others ... uh ... well, others weren't. Some were still living in town, while others hadn't been back since graduation.

I tried to talk to everyone in attendance, but I have been known to ramble (yes, really) so I just ran out of time. While catching up, here are the three most common questions I heard:
  1. Where's your brother? My incredibly handsome twin brother was in the Dominican Republic for work, so he and his family were unable to attend. I didn't think anything of it since we haven't lived in the same town for almost fifteen years, but I guess my classmates were used to seeing us together. I thought about changing shirts periodically so that I could pretend both of us were there, and I thought about being a jerk to everybody while I was "Ron". But that seemed like too much work.

  2. How's your dad? My old man was a vocal fixture at our football practices and games, as well as our basketball games. Plus, he was a little league baseball coach for three years for me and several classmates. For the record, he's doing fine and is still as vocal as ever (as noted here).

  3. So you're not married? (or a variation of that) Nope, still not. I hear it's because I'm kind of a jerk. :)
All-in-all, it was lot of fun. I look forward to the next one.

August Update: Here are a small subset of the photos from the reunion. And by subset, I mean "ones with me in them."

My classmate Mark's wife Lonie, me, and my classmate Dawna. Even I can look studly if you surround me with beautiful women.

Dawna, Scott, Scott's wife Lori, Cindy, me, and Mark. I'm really enjoying my $2 cup of coke.

Me at the reunion picnic. I was on my way to go play in the bouncy room behind me ... uh, I mean I was on my way to supervise the kids.

Monday, May 22, 2006

When did you turn four?

This past weekend my soccer team had their end-of-season party. One of the parents opened up their home to a rowdy bunch of 10 year olds (and their coach). There was food, drinks, basketball, pool (the billiards kind), pinball, and one of those bouncy moon-walk things.

Early in the festivities, I was in the bouncy moon-walk thing doing bouncy, moon-walk things. I took a break from trying to double-bounce the kids high into the air and leaned against the mesh wall. It was at this point that I realized the structure wasn't aired up enough to support me leaning against the wall, and I proceeded to slowing fall over backwards to the ground, pulling the ceiling down in the process. Once I got back up, the ceiling popped back up. However, the kids realized that if they did the same thing, one kid could hold onto the ceiling and be pulled into the air once the rest of them stopped leaning against the wall. I got out before any of it could be blamed on me.

Some of the younger siblings of the players also attended. One such youngster, Noah, was asked how old he was. He responded, "I'm four." One of the parents asked him, "When did you turn four?" First, Noah looked at the person like it was the dumbest question he's ever heard (a look I'm all too familiar with) and then responded, "On my birthday."

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Do we really need any more sports channels?

I remember how it used to be, back when we had ABC Wide World of Sports and the "agony of defeat", a few college football games on Saturday, a few NFL games on Sunday, and Monday Night Football. Now, we have ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN U, ESPN Classic, ESPNews, FOX Sports Net, The Golf Channel, MLB Extra Innings, NBA TV, NFL Network, and others. We have Monday Night Football on Mondays AND Thursdays. You can watch an entire season of NASCAR races (right turns not included). Baseball, cycling, hockey, moto-cross, skateboarding, and surfing are all televised.

Do I like all the sports channels? Of course, but I think we're running out of sports to televise. ESPN is broadcasting their own movies. ESPN Classic shows old sports movies. And for some reason, you can watch fat, sweaty guys playing poker. Well, unless it's celebrity poker, and then you can watch thinner B-list celebrities playing poker. Badly.

I was prompted to ask whether or not we needed more sports channels when I was channel surfing last week. First, I stumbled across the National Paintball Championship. I've played paintball before, and I'll be the first to admit that it's fun, but I sure wouldn't watch my game on TV. I imagine it would be like watching paint dry. Literally.

And second, after switching off of the riveting paintball match, I ended up watching the World Dart Championship. There were player bios, the exciting dart-cam (where you could see the shot from just behind the dart in super slo-mo), and actual fans in attendance. I imagine most were family and friends, but who knows, maybe there are dart groupies out there.

Right now, I'm trying to negotiate a contract with ESPN 8 (The Ocho) to televise my church-league softball games, but they're balking at my stipulation that they only show games in which I play well.

They've determined that only amounts to one game every three years.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

The physics of weed-eaters

A couple of weeks ago, after I mowed both the front yard and back yard, I wanted to run the weed-eater around the driveway, the sidewalk, the house, and the fence. Unfortunately, I couldn't get it started. Since this was the first time this spring that I had used my gas-powered weed-eater, I figured it might need a new spark plug. After all, it was three years old, and a bad spark plug would explain why it wouldn't turn over.

So this evening when it finally cooled down, I mowed the front. I decided to try the weed-eater again, because I didn't think I would have enough time to mow the back before it got dark. But after 20 minutes, I still couldn't get it started. I took a look at the spark plug, but it looked OK to my untrained eye.

At that point, I realized it was out of gas. I guess that would explain the whole "not starting" thing.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Crisis Averted

My icemaker no longer worked. Actually, it stopped working a several weeks ago, but since the warranty had expired long ago, I didn't want to spend the money to get it fixed. Within a week of it breaking, I got a card in the mail from Sears (where I had bought the refrigerator) asking if I wanted to purchase the extended warranty at a cost that was probably cheaper than a service call. Of course I did.

I didn't want to make it too obvious that the broken icemaker was a preexisting condition, so I waited a few weeks before I called to schedule the repair job. The nice people at Sears gave me a small 8:00am to 5:00pm service window for yesterday, so I planned on spending the day waiting for the repair guy to show up. Fortunately, he showed up in the morning, fixed the icemaker, and was out the door within an hour.

After the repair, an unrelated crisis occurred. While getting ready for work, I was taking off my shirt to put on a clean one, and I got it caught on one of my earrings, sending it flying across the closet. I know what you're thinking: why do bad things happen to good people?

Since I had already wasted the morning waiting for the repair guy, I couldn't spend time looking for it. Instead, I trudged into work, feeling slightly naked. After work, I had soccer practice so it wasn't until late last night that I was able to resume the search.

But this story has a happy ending. After several minutes spent searching CSI-style using a flashlight with the lights out, I did find my earring. America's long nightmare was over. Thank you and good night.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Mama's Big Fat Non-Greek Birthday

This past weekend my grandmother, Mama Vada, celebrated her 90th birthday. Since this event doesn't happen very often, the entire family gathered in West Virginia for the party. All of her children and all but two of her grandkids were in attendance for the momentous occasion.

On Friday, I flew from Austin to Charleston via Atlanta, and a couple of things stood out. First, on the flight to Atlanta, a man a few rows in front of me was playing Spider Solitaire on his laptop. He played the same game for over 45 minutes and never finished it. I wanted to smack him upside the head, take his laptop, and finish his game for him.

Second, on the Atlanta to Charleston leg, I noticed a woman checking me out in the airport and on the flight. Ok, so maybe I imagined it, a point driven home by the fact that her boyfriend was waiting to pick her up. Oh well, at least I didn't have a dryer sheet stuck to my butt like last time. (See I Thought I Still Had It for details).

The party itself was on Saturday, and it was attended by well over 50 people, several of whom I didn't know. One older woman came up to me and Ron and asked if we remembered her. We told her we didn't, and she replied, "Oh, I haven't seen you two since you were in diapers." I responded, "Well, that's probably why we don't remember you." :)

At the party, gifts were opened, cake was eaten, and pictures were taken. Although this picture of me, Mama, and Ron caught Mama with her eyes closed, she still looks mighty good for a nonagenarian.

On Sunday, I flew back to Austin via Cincinnati. And although I didn't suffer any delusions of women checking me out, the flight did endure some roller coaster-like turbulence for almost 30 minutes. Fortunately, I was in the very last row next to the lavatory, so if I was going to get sick, I didn't have far to go. And on the plus side, I got to reach over and open the lavatory door for a couple of people because they couldn't figure out how to pull the handle that said "Pull" on it.

I have one final note. Apparently, giving directions isn't a forte for some of the residents. I (or my brother) called a restaurant and a department store asking for directions since we weren't from the area. On both occasions, we told the person that we were coming from the airport area, which is where our hotel was. And on both occasions, the directions were wrong. Maybe they just don't know where their airport is.