Saturday, May 15, 2010

Knick Knack Facts

Whenever I am a guest in someone’s home or office, I often glance around to see what kind of knick knacks are on the shelves. I know these things may not always be heirlooms, but they often reflect some special memory or family status that makes them worthy of dusting around. I am not a snob. I’ve got these things all over the place too. We have happily acquired them from trips, garage sales, and even made some of the family favorites.

In our case, I know we start out with a theme when we acquire this stuff. My wife likes little animal miniatures. One of her first was a tiny brown bear with a jade salmon in its mouth from Alaska. So now, anytime we travel, we look for a little meaningful memento to remember our trips. Soon enough however, that will extend to bigger things like a glass blown fish, then a ceramic animal plate, then a giant parrot on a stick … well you get the idea. Our once tiny collection of memorabilia, rapidly morphs into a vast array of dust catchers.

I am most reverent to the homemade ‘awards’ and mementos that we keep. These are things like dated lacrosse balls, signed postcards, and a large variety of small fired ceramic pots made by my daughter. We even keep some real mud pots, lids, and recycled art that our kid made when she was young. Bookshelves that were once reserved for great works of literature, are now populated with random pieces of misshapen childhood art and shoebox dioramas. Indeed, such is the conflicted life of being a parent I guess?

So on a recent visit to my folk’s home, I expected to see the treasures of my youth proudly displayed on the bookshelves throughout the house. After all, they have acquired Sterling spoons from tourist places they have never visited, yet hang them prominently on the wall. You would think, their child’s treasured art would find a few spare inches of table space for all the world to see? No, my parents cover their bookshelves with things like a REAL piranha on a stick with scary sharp teeth. Instead of my youthful wood carvings, they have a geodesic paper sculpture, a random carved trinket box and of all things a common toy black rubber knife. Where my photo should be proudly framed, I found a South Pacific war mask with a red forked tongue graphically protruding out of it. What kind of special memory status or meaning does that evil looking devil mask hold in place of their one and only SON'S IMAGE? Hmmm, I wonder … that nasty knick knack 'bad boy' may have more repressed meaning than I thought?

The Tetris pilgrimage

These last couple of weeks are special times for parents all over the world as their college progeny make the trek homeward for summer break. Now if you are VERY fortunate, you are past this stage of your life already. If you are only moderately lucky, your special student ‘s dorm is just across town and though inconvenient, an easy move in only 3 or 4 trips. Now if you are on the fire hydrant side of a dog’s lucky totem pole, your kid’s college is a 1000 miles away like mine, and the pilgrimage home must be contained to a single carload of cargo and occupants.

Now we thought we were really smart when we suggested our daughter should leave her dorm stuff in a storage unit for the summer. This would make the trip home far easier and the return trip next Fall even better. We were thrilled that our kid stepped up and ordered a pod storage unit delivered to the school, packed it herself, and paid 3 months storage in advance. Wow this college thing is really working out – all that responsibility learned in a single year?! To add to her independent experience, we also agreed to meet her in Dallas, about 5 hours north of her school. This would give her an opportunity to drive cross- country on her own for awhile but then let us take over and complete the final 700 miles together back to St. Louis.

Now my daughter’s car is a mid-sized coupe but hardly has any trunk space. My wife and I packed very lightly for a couple days with a small travel case and two laptop computers between us. I advised my daughter as to our flight schedule and where to meet, along with our meager baggage requirements. My wife and I were of course thrilled and proud to see the kid round the airport drive, confidently arriving perfectly on time. Given Dallas traffic, especially after a long car ride of her own – WOW this was prompt precision! I cannot believe THIS COLLEGE RESPONSIBILITY THING is working out so great?!

As the car pulled closer to the curb, we could see my daughter’s head but she was surrounded by things? My first thought was – that’s ok, the trunk will have space, but it was stuffed full. The back seats were occupied too by hard crates and a violin case along with a plethora of plastic bags full of dirty clothes. The car looked like a motorized version of a homeless person’s shopping cart. The front passenger seat had a back-pack, purse, more bags of dirty clothes, a couple of long handled squirt guns and a lacrosse stick. I mean where were WE to sit, much less the baggage that we had brought? Our kid seemed exasperated that we had expected to ride INSIDE the cabin for the next 700 miles? Oh and the dirty clothes – why wash the last couple of weeks when heading for home?

My daughter stacked, stuffed and somehow made room for us in her cargo coupe’s summer pilgrimage. We had stuff behind or heads, under our knees, and on our laps. I was at a loss to imagine what the inside of that storage pod looked like. How could one kid build up all this stuff in only 9 months? Yeah, maybe the kid’s planning and thinking ahead skills still need some work, but I’m sure that the fancy college education has already paid off. With our daughter’s now proven superior spatial perception, she surely has a bright and lucrative future career stacking boxes or playing Tetris!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Learning to READ people

Even in my youth I always enjoyed watching people at school, in the lunchroom, or moving to and from class. I never was particularly aware of status or current trends, but I would routinely try and see if I could learn something unique about strangers just for the fun of it. My interest was never particularly to judge or profile others positively or negatively as much as it was to judge my own ability to interpret nuance and hone my people reading skills.

Learning to read’people can be an important ability for fun or at work. Like any super power, it can be both used as a force for good or for evil. Though most of my life as an adult, I have tried to read people and situations to quell problems and provide comfort, but when I was younger however, I was not as kind. Particularly in third grade I remember some kid in class had caught my eye as being unusually insecure for reasons unknown. From my preferred perch in the back of the room, his head out of a sea of others seemed my best’prospect for distraction from a boring filmstrip in class that day.

The amazing part was before the lights went out, this kid ALSO knew that he had been marked by my evil intent. I sensed his paranoia as he looked back furtively to see if somebody was watching him. Remember we did not know each other at all, yet when he turned around the first time I was indeed casually looking at him. The second time he glanced back, I had begun to stare at him with more intensity and I could see him squirm more in his seat with discomfort. By the third look back, and almost the beginning of the film, when the kid turned around, I had widened my eyes into a demonic glare. I was absolutely in comic shock when the kid SCREAMED out, "That kid is staring at me!"”The teacher liked me fine. However, being aware of my past transgressions, she immediately took the side of the whiney kid pointing at me and without confirming evidence. I was told to SIMPLY mind my own business and stop staring. Why did these teachers never understand that this was NOT so simple for me?

Once the room went dark and the teacher became pre-occupied with the film strip machine, undeterred, I resumed my ocular fixation on the kid. Hey it's a free country I wasn't touching him or hurting anyone right? What's the difference if I stare at him or the projection screen I have to look at something? For a few moments the kid watched the film as did I, but from my vantage point, I could see his every twitch or squirm. If he even made a glance back to check on me, I would open my eyes wide and look in his direction. Through the dark, I’m sure my glowing eyes from the reflection of the bright screen haunted him until again he cut the blackness with another blood-curdling scream! The teacher turned on the lights and tried to console the kid from my "special" attention. Since I had not heeded her warning, I was told to sit outside the classroom and miss’the rest of the filmstrip. I did not lie to avoid my sentence, as punishments went,this was not bad for a people watcher like myself. Now I had the light of day and MORE potential 'subjects'to wander by the room. Thanks to school and that teacher, that's where I really learned to love Reading!

The Trouble with Alcohol

I have never been overly interested in alcohol even as a teen. I was aware that it was around and adults drank it at parties and special events but it held no allure for me. My parents and close friends probably had something to do with that too as they did not drink for sport either. In essence, my peers and family, and MY BRAIN loved me for who I already was - not what I could become. Fortunately I was lucky and made it to adulthood without the dependency,expense,or TROUBLE with alcohol

I was too busy and broke in 'pre and post' college to get wrapped up with alcohol. I remember that I always had to be somewhere else no matter where I was at the time. Life flew by and I was mostly a ghost at school social events. I did agree to drive to a party or two since I would stay sober, but even that was fairly tame alcohol exposure by today's standards.

Sadly even dry’college campuses now are a haven for binge drinking. I personally think this is a really a dangerous sub-culture of society now. I am not a kill-joy, nor do I have any religious objections to a drop of the drink. I have just seen how destructive it can be with people who work for me or that I have worked for. These people routinely lose their money, dignity, and ultimately their health. The truly amazing thing is that they WILLINGLY PAY to do all those negative things to themselves.

The real trouble with alcohol is that nobody likes to acknowledge that it REALLY is trouble. Society has built up a tolerance that altering’ones mental faculties is normal or accepted behavior. In regular society, alcohol has gone from being reserved for special occasions to now the drug of choice for everyday escape. Regardless of your current situation, the one thing in life that always rings true is change. Even when my life is not going as perfectly to plan, I personally want my WHOLE brain capable of seeing and calculating the risk/rewards as new situations reveal themselves. I cannot do that if I allow myself to build up a dependency on drugs, alcohol and escaping my feelings. Life IS hard sometimes, but don't allow yourself or loved ones to make it harder by abusing alcohol. Your family, friends, society at large, and especially your wallet will thank you ... and oh yeah, I almost forgot, your brain sends its love too!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Cabbie Adventures

Most of the time when I travel to a new place I end up renting a car. Unless there is a huge event in the city or a major tourist destination, rental cars for a whole day cost about as much as a couple of 15 minute cab rides. Yeah I have experienced the dirty cab and the cab that has an air conditioning or heater that doesn't work. However, unlike the jokes of late night TV or popular movie images of wacky insane cab drivers, my experiences have been almost ALWAYS engaging and luckily even rather pleasant at times.

On a trip last year I experienced my first cab ride in a Toyota Prius hybrid. Not only was that noteworthy enough in a business where the biggest of big, environmentally care-free cars reign king, but the cabbie was a violinist as well. And not a violinist in name only, he had his actual violin and flute right there in the front seat of the car. It seemed like a like a smart use of time to be able to play at stoplights or practice your love of music while waiting for your next fare. That guy would have been GREAT as a gondolier in Venice!

More recently, I met a cab driver who was military trained in radio electronics. He also seemed unusually interested in natural phenomena and excitedly talked about “ball” lightning, volcanoes, rainbows, and his interest in astronomy. I enjoyed the conversation but my only preference would have been that he didn't talk with his hands. Every time he would gesticulate to show how big or spaced out something was, he would take his hands off the steering wheel. He was a smart guy and I only wished I had some kind of new research engineering project to hire him away from the cab business. He already seemed very happy though and it was a mentally stimulating ride to the airport for me, so I tipped big for a change.

Now it is true I have had the occasional stereotypical crazy cabbie who has made me fear for my life. In London, though I was in no particular hurry, my cab driver would literally bump other cabs and shoehorn our cab through traffic. To make matters worse, he would open the window and scream at the other drivers for not yielding fast enough to his aggression. I sheepishly hunkered down in back, trying not to make eye contact with any of my driver’s victims. In New York I experienced the excitement of the ‘foreign’ cabbie who barely spoke English. He understood enough though to know that we were late to a show and piloted his cab like a rocket ship. Apparently this guy had a strict diet of TV cop shows, because I have never had such ride in my life aside from Disneyland. Yes while weaving in and out of traffic and bracing myself with the door strap, I truly wondered if this WAS the last cab ride of my life? I tipped ‘big’ that time too -– but I thought of it as more of a Tithe to thank the GODS I was alive!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


I was pondering motivation recently and what had driven me to think about the topic. Yes I meant that purposely to be ironic but it does make a point. I, like most people are motivated based on curiosity, guilt, pride, others expectation, and anticipated results. I guess when I was younger I might have been motivated by fear too, but thankfully as I have gotten older, I try not to irritate people needlessly.

In my case, I recently wrote a post on hot dogs after I visited a random hot dog shop here in town. Amazingly that meager little post generated more email than almost any topic I have explored, save political commentary. People leave anonymous comments all the time, but to send me private notes with their memories and hot dog favs - well I thought that was special. Most of the time, I tend to write in a vacuum, not worried about what particularly connects with readers as long as my posts work for me. Well apparently people are passionate about their favorite dogs and HAD to tell somebody.

But now with so many hot dog opinions out there, I suddenly have become MOTIVATED to set out on a quest to try some of YOUR favorite hot dog places myself. Now it may take awhile depending on the city or STATE, but I think this is a goal my wallet and GUT can handle - with enough tasty toppings to spare. I will have to gather up a few stories of my dogged adventures and report back with delicious details and Matlock's passion for the best deals on the topic.

So I guess my wife will have the blogosphere to thank when I beg out of a fancy dinner in some new town that we visit. No, it is not the price of those steaks - you know I would eat 'em if I could. But I am dedicated and driven by expectation and principle. I have a loyal following of hot dog aficionados who need cold hard facts on top hot dogs - not stupid steaks! I'm truly moved by my readers to do more hot dog research. Unfortunately, if I eat too many of the really greasy ones,I may be moved a little bit more than I'd like to admit! I'll keep you informed on my progress ... uh - on the hot dog places and NOTHING else.

Explosive Education

I heard today that a University of Texas had an explosion in a student’s lab. I felt for the school and the kids as I remembered my own fiery past. No I am not another Uni-embalmer (Now that would be an interesting modus operandi) or mole. I was just an amazingly unlucky and dumb kid with fire and electricity growing up.

For some odd reason adults trusted me when I was young? Most of the time I was genuinely trying to be helpful, it is just that good intentions do not always fix the havoc that I would cause. Twice I blew out the school circuit breakers in two consecutive years when I was in 7th and 8th grade. The first time was innocent enough. While other kids were doing what they were supposed to be doing, I noticed an in-ground electrical outlet box that was ajar. Naturally knowing better, but prepared to do the wrong thing anyway, I picked up the box and immediately it sparked and spat and shot flames out into the class. Kid’s screamed and shouted and of course the power and flames went out almost immediately. I can honestly say I was startled but not in a panic. At the time I had remembered seeing a fire extinguisher around the room but I could not remember where – it was right behind me at the doorway.

The second incident was when I was actually working on an experiment of which my 8th grade science teacher was aware. She was very gruff to all kids but a great teacher. She however, made a mistake and gave me free reign of the lab. Of course I proceeded to short circuit some equipment and blow out the electricity in her classroom wing with more than a puff of smoke. Her room never smelled the same after that, and I swear she would glare at me over those chained horn-rimmed bi-focals during tests. I assume she had gotten an earful from the principal and probably a reminder of why I was not to be left alone with electronic equipment. Oddly that same year while working away from school on an oscilloscope, I was digging around inside the powered beast and working in a metal chair. I crossed a couple of wires and instantly ended up on my back with my hands in tightly clenched fists. I was fine but it brought back early childhood memories of a paperclip and an outlet. I was determined to find out why electricity did not like me.

I have had a few encounters with fire too. I once tried to connect in 100 feet of coiled wire to fog lights on my truck. Of course the resistance from that coil proceeded to melt through my floor mat and start to smolder nasty plastic and carpet smoke. As a youngster I was playing at a neighbor kid’s garage when visiting my Grandparent’s house and somehow I ended up igniting a large patch of yard with gasoline fumes. It instantly browned the lawn and probably my Grandparent’s hopes of being liked by any neighbor while I was visiting. Still my Grandmother thought I was just such a good kid and could not understand why nobody was allowed to play with me. So you can see why I feel a tad more kinship with the Texas students who blew up their lab. Despite my frequent run-ins with rockets, fuel, fireworks, gunpowder, and electricity, I happily still have all my fingers and toes. Friends usually know how to find me – just follow the wake of acrid smoke and stench of the burning hair and flannel.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Inventory control

We deal with quite a few different charity groups. It is enjoyable work and the friends and the generous people we have met, make it all worthwhile. Depending on the group, we have recurring activities which may happen every month or two (like a potluck) all the way to large scale events that happen yearly. Each event or project usually involves some type of consumable, publication, give-away, tool, sign, or paper. All of these things obviously require counting, storage, expiration control and inventory access.

Having inventory always makes me happy though most businesses and accountants hate the stuff. I know somebody has to count it all, maintain insurance and reasonable care to ensure its safety and it is a hassle to move around. Many times that task falls upon me because I want to do it. I feel a little more ahead of the game when we can save and re-use stock rather than always buying new – as long as we can find the stuff. To help with that chore we keep lists of each organization’s assets and box their stuff all together. In between the rafters in the garage attic, I have labeled each open space with a location number. Whenever we box up goodies, they get assigned a space and hopefully even when I soon forget what and where I have, the inventory control list will not fail me.

We don’t have a large enough family to consume food at a rate to completely rotate stocks. So while I do not maintain months of food stores, I do try to always have more than one of just about anything I might need. It will frustrate me greatly if I am missing condensed milk or something like that. The next time I go to the store I will buy two of the missing item even if I do not use it very often. The real danger in business as well at home is when you start hoarding TOO much stuff ‘just in case’. The more goods you store, the more stuff you lose physically or due to expiration, so it is a balancing act on what is an appropriate amount of anything you stock.

Except for food we try to keep inventory based on its expected useful life. Even if one of our non-profits has a box of tape in reserve but they have not used it in 5 years, it may be subject to disposal. New tape should be budgeted for on the next project even if we HAVE inventory. The reason for this is when stock is not used, such as adhesives, paper, plastics etc. – they will all degrade in performance over time. As for food, you should always use First in First out (FIFO) for safety and best flavor quality.

You can even apply these methods to used stock, or garage items. Date or color code when you purchase any consumable thing. Fertilizer and seeds might be noted as having a 6 month shelf life. Gasoline and glue may be a year. Other chemicals, tape, and paint may be good for 3 years or so. A couple of times a year check your inventory for ‘useful’ life. If an item is due for disposal and you haven’t used it, you can either, throw it away, give it away, or sell it at a yard sale. Obviously you can always re-tag it if you feel it has additional useful life. But from my experience, if you are not using fresh stock regularly it will go bad when you DO need it. Often it is far better to just NOT stock short shelf life products at all and buy them new for the next project. See that’s not so hard. Now go count your FRIENDS instead of all that stuff piling up in your garage; but never ask them their expiration date – that’s RUDE!

Prime 9 arrogant Celebs

Wow I know I am crossing into dangerous territory here criticizing some of your most favorite Hollywood types. I’m sorry as it is nothing personal, I just wanted to explore my automatic revulsion to certain stars, regardless of their fame or public reverence. I don’t know what it is about these people that bugs me so much. But even when I am at the library and movies are FREE, I still skip over their work even if they are blockbusters.

Actually I do know what I don’t like about these folks - it is their arrogance. Yeah they have sold millions of dollars in entertainment sales and they are famous but so what? There are lots of other stars that are not so full of themselves. Generally when an arrogant actor starts believing their own publicity then I lose interest in them, their press, and their projects. I’m sure you have your own unkind list, but for now you can mull over my prime nine least favorite, arrogant celebrities. I’m going to go enjoy a Spencer Tracy or Bing Crosby classic flick. Ooops – I’ve heard those guys were arrogant jerks off camera too!

1) Tom Cruise – Since he was young he thinks he is
‘oh so cool’ in a pair of sunglasses

2) Angelina Jolie – Honestly she just seems manufactured, hard and emotionally distant

3) Richard Gere – Even in comedic roles, I just want to cut off his mop of perfect hair

4) Ashton Kutcher – I just can’t get past his recreational drug user persona in serious roles

5) Rosie O’Donnell – Giant mouth that talks and talks but is incapable of listening

6) George Clooney – Committed only to himself – reminds me of a wooden totem

7) Sharon Stone – Hard edged and still thinks she ranks though she never did.

8) Kate Gosselin – ‘Wanna be’ to the extreme. Emotionally calculating and DULL

9) Sean Penn – Chavez and Castro as buds? Can’t respect someone this dumb

Monday, May 10, 2010

New and improved

Those three words ‘new and improved’ almost never REALLY mean that. In fact when I see that on a package, my stress level goes up because I know I am in store for a lot of work ahead. This is primarily because manufacturers often like to mess with packaging by making product physically bigger or fatter, but in the end, they put less of the thing in the package so the total quantity goes down. I want to use products that I know because I do not have to keep going back and recalculating price to product ratios.

I particularly hate messing with paper products. It seems like every day toilet paper and paper towels have discovered a new and better way to absorb water or … uh whatever. REALLY? I mean how many ways are there really to suck up liquid. What’s next, each paper towel comes with its own straw and you sit there and suck up the spills yourself? Yeah why not – It’s certainly new and should work just fine. You know if you hear the code words ‘super soft’ or ‘thick and absorbent’, - it may be technically true, but you are only going to get about 10 tissues out of the puffy box with flowers on it and have to take out a loan to pay for it.

Canned goods seem most often to leave quantities alone and just raise the price when they need to. That’s probably because kids are not walking the aisles of supermarkets demanding spinach or cans of white northern beans for energy snacks. No they want the brightly colored cookie and cereal packaging with Elves, Fairies and all kinds of characters with hats, happily eating sugar and flour products. Kid’s do not care if Chips Ahoy secretly went from 20 ounce packages to 18 ounces at the same shelf price. All they know is that the bright blue package LOOKS exactly the same and they NEED IT NOW!

So be on guard when you see any package that the manufacturer have updated. Sometimes if you’re lucky, the company may indeed have a promotion going on and will offer you an extra foot or two of duct tape if you buy a dozen rolls. Heck if you need to bind hostages (or kids) regularly and like the stuff, why not even stock up a little? As for me, my blood pressure will increase and I will start to feel the sweat on my brow when I turn to the supermarket paper aisle. Yes I don’t need eagle vision to see that annoying yellow star on the paper towels from a mile away. It reads “NOW SUPER ABSORBENT” – oh god, I hope these towels don’t make ME suck up my own sweat … at least not at THAT PRICE!!!

Top Dog

The much maligned hot dog has always intrigued me. I think they taste fine, but most of the time I buy the cheapest packs that are on sale so I do not have a lot to compare to. I believe that I prefer all beef hot dogs, but again due to my thriftiness it is the chicken, pork, and beef variety that I usually get to eat. Let’s face it, the hot dog is not really the main event for most of us anyway. It is all that goop and the add-ons that we slather on top of the dogs which makes ‘em special.

You could have a hunk of an old suitcase on a bun and I would eat it if prepared with onions, mustard, relish, hot peppers, and maybe a touch of cheese. So like the Space Shuttle, the hot dog itself is merely the BOOSTER and delivery system for all the ‘important stuff’ (on the inside of your refrigerator door) . That means that I DO need the dog to be there to fulfill the mission, but I really do not want to know anything else about it once it’s there. I do not want to know what it is made of or how bad it is for me. I do not want it to have a “skin” which resists slightly before ‘popping’ as I break through to the meat. I do not want hard chunks or unprocessed bits of ANY KIND inside the dog itself.

Now on the outside, I think anything goes. In fact the more gaudy and colorful the pallet of sauces, relish, and chunky toppings the better. Today we ate at a local place called ‘Surf Dogs’. They’ll put on full sized sport peppers and lime green relish on their Chicago dogs. We bought a sampler to try 4 miniature versions of any of their specialty dogs. They have a program where they will put your picture up if you can eat 10 of their hot dogs in 30 minutes or less. Amazingly I noticed that 4 out of 5 of the people pictured on the board were FAT! My wife analyzed the board statistics of a sample of 35 patrons who had eaten at least 10 DIFFERENT dogs at this place. It looked like Chicago dogs were king as the favorite of 20%, with Chili a close second at 15%. It was a fun place.

To this day I still love the Sam’s / Costco quarter pound hot dogs for under $1.75 with a soda. I remember in California that SAME deal was about a $1.50 nearly 20 years ago at the first warehouse club stores named the Price Club. In Las Vegas, I have seen a huge foot long half pounder dog for $2 at Slots o’ Fun near Circus Circus. I would have tried one but did not want to wait in line. Pink’s in Hollywood has world famous dogs and I believe now Planet Hollywood has franchised a unit in Vegas as well? So it’s clear I do not have any ‘beef’ with a top hot dog joint or their tubular specialties. My only problem is how I can eat 10 hot dogs in 30 minutes and get on Surf Dog’s restaurant list without adding a 5th FAT person picture to their board!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Vicarious Macho Racer

You know I have never been a big fan of most kinds of ultra touch and macho racing. It is not just that I am perpetually slow or my machines are just as sluggish too. I have never quite figured out what the attraction is to the noise, cost, and risk. I even forced myself to watch a NASCAR race all the way through to see if I could get caught up in the moment. I did find myself oddly attracted to the driver cameras and fancy TV production graphics, so technology thumbs up but the race – not so much.

My wife is preparing to co-pilot a plane in the all women’s ‘Air Race Classic’ in June (43 days away). It was dubbed the Powder Puff Derby in 1929 when it was began by Amelia Earhart and other pioneer women aviators. She will be flying for and sponsored by the Wings of Hope charity. Air races like this fly thousands of miles over many states and are judged more on efficiency than speed. But like any race, the planes are numbered and have to follow strict rules on their equipment, procedures, and adherence to safety.

So over the last few weeks we have been getting the plane ready with upgraded avionics, back-up equipment, and the racing fan favorite – those giant RACING NUMBERS. That is more of a chore than you might imagine. I was amazed at how many type of numbers and racing graphics are out there for homegrown racers beyond the NASCAR set. There are midget car racers, stock cars, bombers, Baja Bug, and even tractor numbers. Some have outlines, shadows, ovals, flames – you name it, you can get numbers in any color and in any font.

So I suddenly see what folks REALLY like about racing. It has nothing to do with the determined drive to win. Nobody truly cares about machines driven with gloved expertise or the labored whine of highly tuned motors pushed to the limit. No it is all about the machismo of the fancy decorations, high profile sponsors, and bold numbered decals plastered all over the vehicle. Maybe I can convince my wife to vicariously live an airplane racer’s speed dream? I can’t wait to put those ‘flame’ decals pouring out of the enormous and manly 135 horsepower motor. I’ll add some crossed checkered flags, a couple of American flags, and oh yeah – those big gaudy, PINK flamingo colored, numbers on the side!

PERFECT Mother’s Day Gift

Mother’s day is probably the most meaningful of the yearly ‘un-holidays’. I call them that mostly because they are ‘acknowledgement’ or ‘thank you’ greeting card days. That is not meant to disrespect the mothers, fathers, administrative professionals, or named benefactors of similar holidays. It is just that, while perfect presents are nice, these days also should really carry a hefty bag full of thanks and reflection, along with the Ex-Gratia and swag.

Now whether I am close or far away from the mothers in my life, I usually send some type of note or little gift even if I cannot always visit. I have been late in calling my Mom or Mother-in-law before, but like most Mom’s they always seem to understand and don’t spank me (usually) – it must be something in their DNA? I knew immediately though, I was in for other Mother trouble when my daughter was born however. That event magically transformed my wife into an instant Mother too. My kid was supposed to wait about three weeks before entering this world – long after Mother’s Day would have passed. Well just to spite me, the kid was born literally JUST HOURS before Mother’s Day. I was in a panic.

Not only was being a new Dad cause for fear enough, I was now on the verge of missing my wife’s VERY FIRST Mother’s Day. My mind was reeling. I had to leave the hospital and go shopping for a card and something – ANYTHING, that a new mother might want or need. I knew the day was coming – NEXT YEAR, but I never imagined that I would not have at least 11 months to prepare. Eventually I settled on a couple of baby ‘wake up / sleep time’ music CD’s from Disney. I don’t think we ever used them much, but at the time, they truly were ALMOST the perfect gift for a new Mom.

In fact though, I have since learned, that the first gift I gave to my wife that day, was not really all that important. The CD’s were nice and she knew that I appreciated her obvious physical sacrifice and truly honored her new status as a Mom. But indeed, FOREVER, there was no gift that I could ever give to match the one that my kid had already given her. Amazingly, my own mother, her mother, and generation upon generations before – they all universally have felt the same way. They already had received a precious, valuable, irreplaceable, and most PERFECT gift – the title of ‘MOM’.

Happy Mother’s Day!