I had some dreams ... they were klowns in my koffee.


(With apologies to Carly Simon)


This is my journey through job transition from a toxic environment to a better life. Join me for a few thoughts and a few laughs along the way.
What are "klowns in my koffee"? They are the factors large and small that make you less than you are. A "klown" can be a grossly incompetent boss,
a short-sighted policy or a moronic coworker. They won't kill you, at least not immediately, but they abrade the soul
as you scrape past them to get through the day. Sometimes it's best to dump them out of the cup.


Saturday

Day 126 - By the Side of the Road

Daily Kup (My Life as a Gainfully Unemployed Person)
Our big project today was getting Attila the Son and Princess Potatohead ready for a week-long visit with Grandma and Grandma at their vacation timeshare in the Wisconsin Dells. As an explanation for non-Midwesterners, the Dells is a homegrown tourist area complete with duckboat rides, mini-golf, and tens of water parks each claiming to be the world's largest. There is a fudge shop about every fifteen feet. In short, it's great fun.

We're kind of worried that, with the kids gone, we'll actually have to talk with each other. This could be challenging but -- hey, who knows? -- it might even catch on.

Odd Little Beans
On the way to the rendezvous point with Grandma, there is an intriguing display. On the west side of Highway 52 just south of the small city of Coates sits a unique sculpture garden on the side yard of a trucking firm. I have passed this site for years and marveled at the strength of the images. At first, it looks like an explosion of rocks and hardware in a strange farmyard. The reward is in the closer examination.


The individual sculptures deserve a closer look. There's something about these hunks of metal that speaks to the twin sides of experience. The materials are rough and rusted, thoroughly grounded in boulders and thick iron bars, but then the metallic projections in the sky are light, airy and fanciful. Many of the pieces are whimsical but some -- like the arm bursting from the safe -- portray a struggle to escape. Some of the metal pieces bear the marks of their former lives as plow blades and farm equipment and yet they have been freed to be the dragons that were lying below the surface.


My old friend, the Internet, let me down. I now know more about the tiny city of Coates than a human being should but can find no mention of the artist/industrial welder who took scrap metal and gave it life and attitude. (Note for the future: The bar called the House of Coates is said to have the best hamburgers in the Twin Cities area. Next time through, maybe I'll stop for a burger and see if a chatty local can give me the background on the small town's third most eye-catching roadside display -- after the restaurant and the bright pink defunct strip club.)

Wherever these sculptures came from, noticing them at the side of the road is like doing the laundry and finding a five dollar bill left in a pocket. There's a wonderful website devoted to these big and little patches of idiosyncrasy and wonder: RoadsideAmerica.com. One of the nicest site features is Map-A-City; enter your location and get a pushpin studded map showing all the attractions in your area. I was surprised and delighted by how many were within reasonable driving distance of my house. Now that I've seen the Big Ball of Twine, the Grain Belt Bottle Cap, and the cherry on the spoon, can Tiny Tim's grave be far behind? (Before you scoff, the first three items mentioned are actually very BIG, so don't pooh-pooh a nine-ton ball of twine. And Tiny Tim died in front of an audience while playing "Tiptoe through the Tulips," so you've got to give him some props for dedication.)

If we could each grant the world a little display of whimsy and creativity along the side of the road, no matter how small or exotic, it would have to be an improvement. Happy driving!

Day 125 - Mommy-Blogging

Daily Kup (My Adventures in the Real World)
The so-called legitimate journalism world is often dismissive of bloggers, even the ones like Matt Drudge who consistently scoop the news services. There's a justification for some of the animosity in the existence of the mommy-bloggers and, even worse, the cat-bloggers. These terms are invective heaped on the fire by trained journalists and there's just enough truth to be painful. I use the 'Next Blog' link in the nav bar to troll through twenty or so new blogs every day for inspiration and tips. It's an interesting game of chance and discovery.

Sometimes I fall into a grouping of blogs that is page after page of the same drooling infant taken from every angle including some best left alone. But, hey, use your free speech for whatever pleases you. The cat people are less forgivable. We have two cats and they are complete members of our weird little family. That being said, there's a woman in the blogosphere who writes her blog as her cat. This wouldn't be all that annoying except that she has hundreds of followers and is peddling the book version of her first few years of posts. Her posts read like this; "I climbed on the granite kitchen counters again even though Mommy yells at me. They feel so delightfully cool on my pads. Well, time for my nap." Some days, she lazes out and posts the same old picture of the cat. It's an elderly cat and may have even died in the RW ("real world") since she's been writing this blog for a few years. In cyberspace, he is immortal. (In space, no one can hear you purr?) In fact, he is going to have to live on or the woman's cash cow cat is at an end.

Despite this build-up, I'm mommy-blogging today. All my children have attended the same preschool and so this relationship has lasted more than twenty years and tens of thousands of dollars. Princess Potatohead will spend the last month before kindergarten at home and so we said a final, tearful good-bye to the school today. She may be ready for kindergarten, but T and I aren't.




Thursday

Day 124 - Child's Play

Daily Kup (My Life as a Gainfully Unemployed Person)
I spent some time on this gorgeous day at the library researching material for the children's book that I am writing with my son. Between last night's meeting with a local published children's author for tips and advice and the results of today's research, it looks like we have potential.

I read a large number of children's books today. This is the sort of thing that could affect your mind if you did it every day.

The following is not an example of the type of book I am writing ... for children.

Wednesday

Day 123 - Of Zeppelins and Physics


Klowns In My Koffee is delighted to feature a warm and humorous essay by frequent commenter and good friend, Corsair09. This work was previously published in his blog, Corsair's Place: Mundane Observations of the Stunningly Banal, and re-published with his permission.



Of Zeppelins and Physics
I find myself thinking about my Dad a lot these days. He died more than ten years ago, but I still feel his presence in my life. This could be due to the fact that my son now sleeps in the room on the family farm where he grew up. Or it could be due to my latent interest in motorcycles and other machinery. But mostly, I feel his watchful gaze on me when I do something really stupid.

You may remember I mentioned in an earlier blog that my father ran a scrap yard. This is a wonderful/terrible place for a kid to spend time. As I relate some of the things I did as a kid to my wife, she is ever more convinced that I should not have survived to adulthood. One such incident was the Zeppelin experiment.

“Steve” was a friend of mine and we shared some similar interests. One day, when we were about ten or eleven years old, we decided to re-enact the crash of the Hindenburg. After school, we went to the local dime store and purchased one of those SUPER-sized balloons that you used to be able to buy. These things were huge. When fully inflated, they were about six feet long and perhaps three feet in diameter. They cost a whole dollar and were worth every penny. We then took the monster balloon to “The Shop,” as my Dad’s junkyard was called, and after a careful look around for unwanted witnesses, began to inflate the balloon with propane from the cutting torch. After several minutes, the balloon began to take shape and was quite a sight to see. We were so excited by the success of this mission that we had not given much thought to the method of detonating our new blimp. After a brief discussion with my co-conspirator, we tied off the now massive balloon and I went to get one of my precious M-80s and a roll of duct tape.

At this point in my narrative, I would like to take a moment and say a few words about explosives. The 1970’s were the last, great golden age for fireworks. In those halcyon days, if a kid had connections, he could amass enough firepower to blast a train tunnel through the Rockies. Today, the children of America are reduced to waving ineffectual sparklers and watching those black carbon “snakes” wiggle their way across driveways of suburbia. This is pitiful. Not to sound like a curmudgeon, but in my day, there was a certain Darwinian elegance about fireworks. A stupid kid would blow himself up, or at the very least lose some fingers early on in his experimentation with explosives, and that would be that. Future potential mates could then tell simply by looking that this kid would not make a good husband and father, because if they can’t get the mechanics of lighting a firecracker down, God help them when it comes time to run a lawn mower or fix a car.

OK. Got that off my chest. Anyway, there we were affixing the method of destruction to the flank of our makeshift Zeppelin. We had visions of the great beast rising majestically into the air and then bursting into flame high over our heads, just like in the old newsreel of the real Hindenburg. In fact, we began to worry about just how high the balloon might rise before exploding. We didn’t want the whole town to see our little experiment, for we felt sure that others just would not understand our particular brand of genius, and might attempt to stop our efforts to expand science. Therefore, we decided that the fuse of the M-80 should be shortened somewhat to reduce the risk of high altitude detonation.

All was ready. The balloon was filled to maximum capacity with propane. M-80 was attached and waiting. I struck a match and lit the fuse and told Steve to, “Let her go!” The great beast wallowed in the freshening breeze, and then…

…began to sink to our feet.

Up to that point, it had never occurred to us that unlike hydrogen, propane was heavier than air. We looked at each other. The same cold look of realization was etched on our young faces. We ran. We ran like no two kids have ever run before. We must have covered a good twenty feet when a loud “BANG-WHUMP” erupted behind us. I felt the wave of heat race up my back. Hairs on the nape of my neck curled. We threw ourselves into the tall grass of the ditch on the far side of the road and covered our heads, expecting a massive fireball to engulf us at any moment. For long seconds, I lay there thinking to myself that I really hadn’t had a bad life, if a bit short, and if I had to die, it was at least in the cause of science. After a time, we realized that we were not bound for the next world and looked over the edge of the ditch. No trace remained of our ill-fated airship. Not even a scorch mark remained to testify to its brief existence. Steve suddenly decided that he was probably needed at home for chores and left the scene as fast as his Schwinn would carry him.

I went to put the torch back in the shop and saw my Dad leaning against the door. He had been watching for some time, I think. Why he let us carry on with our experiment I have no idea. The look he gave me was one of amusement. “That was kinda dumb, don’t you think?” he said. “Yeah, I guess it was.” It was all I could say. He looked down at me. “Are you gonna do that again?” he asked. “No sir,” says I. A few moments pass. “Good,” he says. “Put the torch away and let’s get you home for dinner.”

He has been gone for ten years. I still feel his eyes on me when I do something stupid though. “That was dumb. You gonna do that again?” I seem to hear. And when I do, I smile and whisper to myself, “No sir.”

~~Corsair09

Day 122 - Some Like It Hot

Daily Kup (My Freelance Life)
Today's temperature was described throughout the country at 6 PM by all the guys like Weatherman Chip in Channel 22's Big Backyard ("Your weather eye in the sky") using only three adjectives repeatedly:  sultry, torrid and sweltering.  These are terrific words and they are only used in this situation ... or in movie reviews of Angelina Jolie or the early Kathleen Turner.  I wish one of the weather chipmunks would look directly into the camera, rip off his striped JC Penney tie, and tell us what we know in our souls:  It's freakin' hot out there.

We don't have air conditioning.  That's a simplification, actually.  We have an air conditioning unit and it generates sufficient cold air to cool the house to a comfortable level.  Unfortunately, it dumps cold water on the basement floor at the rate of about a bucket every 15 minutes.  A few years ago, this relieved me of having to figure out what to do with a few thousand dollars' worth of college engineering textbooks.  I'd been holding onto their obsolete little carcasses until life gave me a little nudge  by having them float past me.  Also a nice rug and some clothes for a skinnier me.  "Don't get so attached," the river called to me as I tried to beat the life out of it with a mop.  Until I dig the channel for the swimming pool, I guess we are going to perspire on days like today.

In the early evening, I met some old Porkus friends for a drink.  One of our dwindling group is transferring to another Porkus branch closer to his ancestral home.  This is such a set-up for a line about 'out of the flying pan and into the fire' that even I can't go for the easy laugh.  The devil that sits on one of my shoulders -- really ,,, I'd have it removed except it would leave a scar -- was wringing its hands and screaming, "Run, friend, as far and as fast as you can!"  The angel on the other shoulder was sure that this would all work out really swell in the end.  [The angel is an imbecile who told me the same dog-eared nonsense during the last five soul-sucking years.  Bad baseless optimist.  Bad.  Bad.]

But it was absolute fun in the real sense of the word to see the guys again.  At the end, there was something of that yellow glow as the scene faded and the narrator cut in all grown up to remind us that there will never be another time like that again when you and I and River Phoenix walked down the railroad tracks to see that dead body and came back older and wiser.  And that is truly a fitting end to the Porkus story.

Brewing Fresh Tomorrow
A new chapter for Klowns In My Koffee starts tomorrow.  Of the many, many things that I've learned in the last 122 days of listening and reflecting, one of the most striking is the enormous talent of the people with whom I am lucky enough to share this planet.  Going forward, I will attempt to bring these talented voices into our growing community by featuring their work whenever possible.

Regular readers of this blog will be familiar with Corsair09, a commenter whose wickedly funny and informative entries have added spice, sizzle and a scifi master's touch.  When you read those comments, don't you just want to meet the author?  Corsair09 has generously allowed me access to the original content he produced for his blog, now lapsed from active publishing.  Stop back tomorrow to read a superb essay on fathers, sons, fireworks and lasting lessons called "Of Zeppelins and Physics."  It's so good, you'll swear you can hear Richard Dreyfus as the narrator.

Last Drop
Pop Quiz:
This is a picture of:
A.  Khrome and her Porkus friends at Happy Hour.
B.  "Out, damn'd Klowns! out, I say!" — Artist's rendition of Lady Macbeth's famous pronouncement.  Why else do you think she was up all hours of the night, wandering aro
und the castle and rubbing her hands together?  Too much caffeine!
C.  The whimsical drawing on the new Klowns In My Koffee business card that proves that Khrome needs to find some artist friends
D.  An unfortunate hygiene situation involving the cup-based recon mission to retrieve the little klown bodies.
E.  Some of the above.

Monday

Day 121 - Kool, Kalm, and Kollected

Daily Kup (Literally, this time)
The blessed people at Caribou Coffee sell a medium cup of their Coffee of the Day for $1 on Mondays. This makes Monday a wonderful day for those of us who are cheap, caffeine-deficient, and behind schedule on their projects.

I have two large projects looming: the siding repair/external painting of my house and a garage sale planned to remove ephemera while creating profit. Neither project is chunking along as planned and both need a ton of work, inspiration and luck. And a great big cup of coffee.

Beans and Hot Water
Yesterday, we found an archived voicemail that brought back memories of an unusual and unfortunately still open chapter in our family's checkered history. My husband thought that I had blogged this long ago. He doesn't read the blog regularly and harbors a suspicion that I follow him around to document any ineptitude on his part. Yes, that's my reason for being. Please don't tell.

Five-year-old Princess Potatohead (or Potatoehead to you, Dan Quayle) has thrown a panicked screaming fit each and every time that a faucet has been turned on for the last year. This is 20% of her life and is starting to feel like a significant portion of mine as well. There is only one person in the house who is now allowed to run the bath water. It is a sacred mantle that I wear with pride. Like a Japanese tea ceremony, there are elaborate nuances. The water pourer's eyes must never leave the incoming flow. If one attempts something silly like stepping out of the room for a moment, the Princess attaches herself to the doorframe like a psychotic spider monkey while yelling at the top of her lungs and barring all passage. Water must never go higher than the top of the knee of a child seated in the tub with outstretched legs.

How did this all start? Almost exactly one year ago, my husband decided to tighten the knob on a bathtub faucet that spun annoyingly with minimal purchase while the showerer crouched in frustration below, attempting to get the correct temperature through force of will. Later, he would explain that it was a simple enough task that it was unnecessary to turn off the water supply. Later than that, it would become clear that this was a convenient excuse. But I digress.

I was at work at the time of the great restaging of Genesis. Reconstruction and witness accounts imply that while chanting "Righty-Tighty, Lefty-Loosey," my husband may have nudged the valve outward one rotation too far. The valve retaliated by launching itself directly and forcefully into his face. The impact threw him backward in a tub made even more slippery by the gush of water coming out of the wall. One's natural inclination is to try to stem the flow by sticking a hand over it. This sent water spraying over every surface of the tiny bathroom, floor to ceiling.

My husband is a good man. But in a stressful situation, James Bond he is not. He was both shaken and stirred. A natural tenor, when upset his voice moves to a pitch heard by neighborhood dogs. He started screaming. The children started screaming. He started yelling at the children to stop screaming. Abandoning the Little Dutch Boy strategy, he made his sodden way to the basement to attempt to find the cut-off as water poured from and into the wall. There are all kinds of knobs in our utility room between the city water supply, water heater, the pump for our well, and an unused water conditioner. Some of them don't do anything unless they are turned in the correct order. There is a similar puzzle in Myst.

Sloshing back to the now soggy bathroom, my husband called me from his cell phone and left a message. And, oh, what a message. Someday, archaeologists will find it and wonder about the society that produced it. And then they will file it with the one left by a T Rex that said in dino-speak, "Sheesh, that asteroid is getting really REALLY close ..."

When I played the voicemail at work, I thought it was a joke. We'd get the occasional crank call and the only surprising element was that we didn't get more. Some of you former co-workers may have heard it before. I had a habit of playing the recording when situations were really, really bad because few jewels of nature capture the essence of disaster so well.

I should mention that he found the shut-off before I heard the message so all ended relatively well if not a bit watery.

Without further ado, here is the reason for my daughter's water trauma. Others more clever than I have described this audio as the sound of someone backing a car over Mrs. Doubtfire. Judge for yourselves.

The Great Flood: The Sequel

Sunday

Day 120 - Kazakhstan Part 8

Every Sunday, this blog will describe our life-changing trip to Kazakhstan in 2005 to adopt our two youngest children. While some of our friends and family have seen a few of the pictures, we've never put it all together in an organized format. One of the reasons is that I hesitate to subject others to a 21st century version of the endless slideshow of vacation photos harking to some relative's visit and a lost evening of my childhood. Still, the story must be told before details are lost since this is my children's unique birthright. When we get to the end of the story, I'll edit the posts together into an extended and separate blog page and then have it printed by one of the blog-to-book(let) services for my kids. For people with less interest, these posts will be easy to identify and avoid. ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
Morning came with the bumps of luggage and slashes of staccato conversation in the hallways of the statuesque Hotel Kazakhstan. We were exhausted from round-the-clock travel and yet hunger and a general sense of being jangled kept us from sleeping later.

Our schedule gave us one day in the city of Almaty at the beginning of our trip and the promise of maybe a week right before leaving the country at a time that seemed impossibly far away. Stepping over the suitcases that had been thrown on the floor at 4 AM, we explored the small room and then hurriedly dressed to take advantage of the complementary breakfast buffet being served on the top floor.

The clientele of the Hotel Kazakhstan are international business travelers; in this part of the world, that means mostly Middle Eastern oil executives and Asian businessmen. The buffet items were chosen for that audience -- rice, pickled cabbage, various colorful and pungent dishes. I found some fruit and some kind of yogurt pudding that was really good. As it was the end of service, the dining room was nearly empty. We wandered from window to window to absorb the incomparable panorama. Unfortunately, this is the only picture that came out and it doesn't do justice to the ridge of snow capped mountains to the south. The exotic landscape was a reminder that we were not all that far from the mythical Shangri-La.

We made our way back to the room to wait for Anya's call. Terry stretched out to read a magazine and I flitted here and there. It can't be seen from the photographs, but the room was triangular. It was roomy enough and yet a touch claustrophobic even after spending all that time wedged into an airplane seat. I love to read any tourist documentation that hotels leave in the rooms and was soon learning more about the city of Almaty.

Humans inhabited the area whre Almaty now stands as early as the Bronze Age. The city was part of the famed Silk Road during the Middle Ages. The Russians built a fortress on the site of the current city in the 1850's and the surrounding settlement grew very quickly. The population swelled and a large number of buildings were constructed to contain the burgeoning city. In 1887, an earthquake destroyed the majority of the buildings in twelve minutes and caused massive casualties. The city was rebuilt in time and much of it has a heavy, squat, functional look with which we tend to associate the Soviet era when additional development occurred. Almaty has had a variety of names, most recently Alma Ata, translated as 'Father of Apples.' There were apples in Kazakhstan wherever we went and botanists theorize based the extent of the genetic diversity that apples originated here.

Anya called and then dropped by the hotel to pick up money to buy plane tickets for the next day's flight to Uralsk. That done, we were free to look around the city for the rest of the day. Because we had been delayed by the storm and problems at the airport, the agency had not arranged for any trips for us to see the sights. In 20/20 hindsight, I wish I had known to be more insistent with them.

We had been advised to dress in dark clothes like the Kazakhs to avoid standing out too much. We ventured outside and saw a lot of black clothing on the passersby. I had my camera but felt distinctly odd in taking pictures as though it were something I shouldn't be doing. Maybe it was too many of those Cold War-era movies. We walked up and down the streets and looked around. Discovering an Internet cafe, we rented access for an hour for the equivalent of a dollar or two and emailed home that we had arrived safely. Surrounded by Kazakh teenagers playing familiar video games brought the realization that technology is the world's most common language.

Emboldened by our success in using the Internet cafe where no English was spoken and buying beverages from a stand though a ballet of pointing and grunting that would soon be second nature, I took pictures of the buildings that looked interesting and didn't have armed soldiers.











The picture on the left shows a statue of a Kazakh poet, singer and composer named Zhambyl.
This one of the most famous places in Almaty, though we didn't know it at the time. This is Abai Square located in front of the Republic Palace. The statue honors Abai Kunanbaev, a Kazakh poet, philosopher and nationalist revered as a folk hero.
This is an Almaty bus stop enclosure. Isn't it beautiful and stately?

Our need for outside contact satisfied, we walked back to the hotel for a nap. Since the Hotel Kazakhstan is one of the tallest buildings in the city, it was an easy process to find our way back.

We awoke in the late afternoon and took off on foot to find some dinner. The sidewalks started to become overgrown with grass and darkness fell quickly. Taking a right off the main street on a hunch and following a sign with English writing, we walked in the side door of Mad Murphy's, Almaty's Irish pub and home to rowdy expats. We devoured overpriced hamburgers and beer in a smoky corner of the wood-lined pub and talked with the English-speaking waitress and bar tender. It was just delightful.

Saturday

Day 119 - Oh, for a TARDIS with a view ...

We stayed up too late on this perfect summer evening enjoying the temperature and the company. A gentle breeze stirred the curtains. Once again, the Doctor saved history and returned to his time machine to fight another day. Oh, to be Amy Pond ...

Conversation progressed to the iconic, fanciful items that we would like to possess. The order is debatable. Mouse over any item for an explanatory link.

12. A flux capacitor
11. Ruby slippers
10. The 'blinky thing' to erase memory
9. Ewoks
8. Excalibur7. A talking sponge
6. A chakram
5. Babel fish
4. Room of Requirement
3. A sonic screwdriver
2. The Holodeck1. A TARDIS

No discussion of what you want is complete without considering what you don't want:

12. Tribbles11. Vogon poetry
10. A nasty little brother named Edmund to conspire with the White Witch9. Flying monkeys
8. Daleks
7. Ice-96. Kryptonite5. Frank N. Furter's Sonic transducer
4. Orcs3. Riker playing the trombone
2. One Ring To Rule Them All1. Wesley Crusher

What famous science fiction or fantasy icons do you want in your personal collection?

Friday

Day 118 - Mein Karma

Daily Kup ('Let's Call It A Weekend' edition)
Thanks to a generous person named Christy B who was moving and didn't have room for a 32" TV, I now have a HUGE television. My husband is overjoyed. I saw him pat it tenderly when he thought I wasn't looking.

The massive box o'black is easily the most noticeable object in the room and nearly the heaviest. All the other furniture has turned toward it as if to worship. Every time my husband walks through the room, he says as if for the first time, "That's BIG."

After being one-half of the carrying team up and down stairways, I can corroborate the fact that it is indeed big and also has pointy pieces of plastic exactly where one needs to hold onto the bottom of the case.

This wonderful and unexpected act of karma came from idly perusing the FreeCycle site and swiftly responding to an offer ad that had just been entered. To comply with the 'pay it forward' underpinnings of FreeCycling, I'll pick something destined for my garage sale in August and offer it to someone in the FreeCycle community who may need it. Given the adoring looks that my husband is giving the new TV, maybe he should deliver up the karmic object from his trove of unnecessary items.

Great sites for giving or receiving excess functional items:

http://minneapolis.craigslist.org/ [Sign up for the associated site in your region] Free section under For Sale

Strange Brew

I don't know what you call these metal things from the tops of barns, but I like them. Steeples? There is a farm near Annandale with this iconic collection on the lawn near the highway.


























Thursday

Day 117 - Koming Attractions

Porkus Productions is proud to announce this summer biggest blockbluster:


M. Night Shyamalan's latest film continues the arc of his career progression from brilliant new writer/director to 'some Indian guy.' In an attempt to restore earlier glory, Shyamalan went one step beyond other struggling directors who plunder old sitcoms and children's cartoons to explore the ultimate alternative universe -- Porkus Computer Systems. CGI could not do it justice.


Synopsis

Four nations (and two religious cults) are tied by destiny. Who will end this brutal war that has devastated mankind? The Last Truthbender discovers that he is the sole remaining Abeytar who can master the four elements: Hot Air, Fertilizer, Firing People, and Watering Down Quality. Can he save this war torn world ... or merely his butt?


Starring some other Indian guy as a bald little boy with an arrow on his head.


Coming soon directly to the discount bin at Blockbuster.

Wednesday

Day 116 - Strikes, Spares, and an Open Frame of Mind

Daily Kup (Mind in the 20's, body in the 50's, temperature in the high 80's)
A truly good day and the first consistent glimmers that I can break my son of a series of negative behaviors and reveal the sweet little man inside. The tantrums are becoming less frequent and blow over with less effort and fanfare. And that's just my tantrums.

If you've ever been involved with the training of any animal with a pack social order, you've probably seen the exercises where the trainer kindly but conclusively places the trainee in a submissive physical position to communicate that the trainer is the lead dog. The same principle works in human beings, though opportunities to pin the trainee's shoulders and head to the ground are fortunately rare. Especially in business meetings. But I digress.

Most of the time, sheer will and some measure of experience/sneakiness will accomplish the same aim in people. Initially, this wasn't an area where I was doing well as a parent, but I'm getting traction now.

Our volunteer gig weeding the school garden went by with nary a complaint and we were able to keep up the winning streak with back-to-school shopping at the thrift store, chores, school subject review, and a bowling trip for reward. Other than a snit this morning when both kids decided to cover each other with toothpaste (minty fresh clothes!), one thrown pencil followed by swift punishment was the extent of it. I like people who test boundaries, just not mine.

Either the weeds are blooming or my head has decided to take on water on the starboard side. The sneezing has been so strong that my pedicure is starting to crack off. Now I have my precious, my darling, my generic off-brand Benadryl. I cradle the little bright pink pills in my hands and know that I must finish this post quickly in the twenty minutes left before I plummet face first into the keyboard and awake with a loose T embedded in my forehead.


A Trophy is Just Another Cup (My mind was in the gutter so I took my body along)
I took Attila the Son bowling today. Once again, I got the defective bowling ball -- the one that is attracted to the strong magnet in the left gutter. Still, I managed to maintain my longtime average of 75.

The alley was populated by about a dozen eight- through ten-year-olds and me. The kid on the right lane, evidently a creative soul, started to explore the endless varieties of approaching the foul line. He attempted through the legs, a two-handed shotput, back toward the pins and through the legs, and -- almost lethally -- with eyes shut. He still had a higher score than I did.

I haven't been bowling in a long time. Bowling shoes have velcro closures now. I can honestly say that the bowling shoes looked better than 80% of the crocs, flip-flops and mud-encrusted sneakers that people wore in. I was tempted to call it an even trade and head on home in my light blue number sixes.

The little boys were careful to swallow the occasional curse around me and I returned the favor by using foul language only under my breath and at the foul line. I believe in truth in advertising.

Almost every kid lofted the ball. It sounded like a reenactment of Gettysburg ... if there had been pink and green swirly cannonballs.

When I bowl, I stretch out my right arm after releasing the ball , back away from the foul line in a crouch and then twist the outstretched arm as I psychically control the ball's trajectory. If I didn't, I'm sure that I wouldn't achieve the exceptional average of 75.

Since to the blind, the one-eyed man is king, my 70's awed my son from his vantage point of 55 and 39. My son, bearer of innate physical gifts, is quickly catching onto the sport. I may have to use bumpers soon.

Has everyone read about laid-off General Motors worker Tom Smallwood who used his unemployment as an opportunity to fulfill a life-long dream become a professional bowler? http://abcnews.go.com/WN/unemployed-general-motors-worker-bowling-champion-tom-smallwood/story?id=9469068

I have now evaluated this option and feel that one more career door has slammed shut.

Demitasse
Received a Freecycle offer with an unusual subject line -- "Wanted: Dog crates for new family members" Imagine Thanksgiving dinner at their house!





Tuesday

Day 115 - Katching Up

Reheated
Here are some updates on recent posts.

From Day 85 - Orange Kounty:

Attila the Son has been checking the mailbox every day in rabid expectation. The object of his affection appeared today in all its glory. Yes, an autographed poster of Paul Teutel Jr, reality TV star, motorcycle designer and difficult son of an impossible father.















From Day 114 - Klown Support Vehicle:

Here were some other interesting floats. The giant Holstein represents Kwik Trip because they, of course, are the company we think of first when considering healthy beverages for children. (This means that there is a dairy some place with an enormous slurpee...)















The ladies in turquoise comprise the Bev's Club. The writing on their shirts indicates that they are all named Bev. They throw Mardi Gras beads to the onlookers. (I tried several jokes here but I leave it to your own twisted minds to think up the best one.)

The Bevs remind me of an early Porkus employee named Mike Johnson. Unlike most of my other Porkus references, this was his actual name which I am using without modification for reasons that will become clear shortly. Mike was frustrating to some since he had an ability to focus reminiscent of Ozzie Osbourne in recent years. I generally tolerated him, though he lobbied me at least weekly to intercede with management to implement his pet project, an Internet employee chat room. Each week, he seemed to have completely misplaced the reasons why I thought this was a terrible idea and would appear hanging over my cubicle wall to announce that he'd just had a wonderful "new" idea -- an Internet employee chat room. One week, he was uncharacteristically silent about his obsession but bubbly about the latest website discovery where he was spending hours of each workday. It was a club for the tens of thousands of men named Michael Johnson. They were going to have a big party and wanted to get (wait for it) Michael Johnson to perform.

The Bevs at least built a float.

Last Drop
Overheard at the parade: One elderly gentleman greets another -- "You're lookin' pretty good for the way you look."

Monday

Day 114 - Klown Support Vehicle

Daily Kup (Talk about life imitating (pseudo-)art...)
Saturday night I got a chance to drive my car in the Rushford (MN) Homecoming Grande Parade to represent the Winona Clown Club. The clowns needed a water car to carry bottles of water to prevent dehydration on that 90+ degree day. Candy doesn't just throw itself at children, you know!

I've always been slightly embarrassed at the overlap between the klowns that sometimes inhabit this blog and the fine work done by the volunteers who entertain the public at local parades and charitable gatherings. My in-laws are the latter. My five-year-old understands the difference; she said, "So the klowns in your blog are bad clowns like your boss?"

Today is about the good clowns.

These are the clowns who wear heavy costumes and march miles in 90 degree weather. And those who carry balloons in their pockets ready to be made into inflated friends for delighted children. And those, like the Winona Clown Club, who donate a portion of their income to charities like The Smile Train that provide surgical reconstruction for children born with facial deformities.

Some of my favorite clowns, Sparkles and Stripes (pictured with those clowns that I live with).








Every wonder what a parade looks like from the vehicle? Just like this!















My waving hand is recovering. I don't know how the Corn Queen does this every weekend.

Sunday

Day 113 - Kazakhstan Part 7

Every Sunday, this blog will describe our life-changing trip to Kazakhstan in 2005 to adopt our two youngest children. While some of our friends and family have seen a few of the pictures, we've never put it all together in an organized format. One of the reasons is that I hesitate to subject others to a 21st century version of the endless slideshow of vacation photos harking to some relative's visit and a lost evening of my childhood. Still, the story must be told before details are lost since this is my children's unique birthright. When we get to the end of the story, I'll edit the posts together into an extended and separate blog page and then have it printed by one of the blog-to-book(let) services for my kids. For people with less interest, these posts will be easy to identify and avoid. ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The plane shook and shuddered. It felt as though someone were bowling and we were the pins. The plane muscled forward and then would be knocked suddenly to the right or left. The sun had set and left us in blackness, a cat toy on a spring being slapped by an unseen paw.

The announcement came in multiple languages that the weather was forcing plane to divert to Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan. Tashkent sits close to the borders of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgystan, and Tajikistan. It was not a great time in history for Americans to be stranded in Moslem countries.

From the position of the lights, the runway seemed very short in comparison to the huge plane with its 350 passengers. We braced for landing. From the squealing and shuddering that rippled through the plane, it seemed that the pilot was standing on the flap controls and brakes all the way down. We rolled to a stop by the last row of lights.

How long would we be there? No one could say. Could we leave the plane? Probably not.

It was dark. We sat on the runway. And sat. They brought us water and a snack. We sat and tried to sleep.

A few hours passed and we were cleared for take-off. We'd been on a plane or between planes for a solid one and one-half days with only the amount of sleep that one can get with your spine reclined 15 degrees from vertical and between the elbows of strangers. We had mentally checked out and our bodies were merely along for the ride.

We landed in Almaty, the largest city and former capital of Kazakhstan, at about 3:30 in the morning on November 2. Blessedly, our luggage did as well.

We flowed out of the plane and into the terminal as part of the weary river of travelers, gathered our luggage caravan and made our way to Customs. There were armed soldiers and official-looking people everywhere. Most were slight Asian men and a few women in starched, intricate uniforms. The most striking aspect of the uniforms, other than the automatic weapons, was the outsized headgear. These were big hats. I mean pope's mitre big, Yosemite Sam's ten-gallon hat big. Picture an admiral's brimmed hat, only made to the same scale as the giant sunglasses from a novelty store. They worn their enormous hats with pride, like living chess pieces with no sense of humor and a gun that indicated, "Don't laugh at my funny hat." I have no pictures of this since the general tone was as far from humor as looking into a coffin.

Our visas good for 90 days were glued inside our passports and stamped by an angry-looking woman in a gray metal and glass box.

We stood in a large open room with a gate on one end and some office cubes in the middle. There was a form indicating that we would need to declare items being brought into the country including large sums of cash. Scratching at the currency still taped to my side, I started to fill out the form. A group of four Big Hats was circling our luggage and seemed particularly interested in the contents. Other adoptive parents had recounted horror stories of having their laptops and other personal possessions seized by corrupt airport officials and having to pay a ransom to get them back. Terry was taller than any of them, even with their super-sombreros and formed a human shield. I kept trying to fill out the stupid form in a dogged pursuit of trying to follow the rules of a country where a lot of people seemed to have guns. I looked through the gate to see a tall Russian man and a petite Asian woman with a sign with our last name on it. They waved with a strong "Come here right now" motion. We grabbed the luggage, moved out of line, and walked as casually as possible around the office cubes and straight through the gate in the fence.

Sasha the driver grabbed the luggage and led us forcefully through the crowd. The coordinator, whose name was something like Anya, pushed from behind until we found ourselves in the back seat of a small Russian car with our luggage stuffed in the boot. I kept asking about the Customs Declaration form throughout the exodus since the adoption agency had been clear on the need for this process. I got answers that seemed to mean, "Don't worry about it. It's just a rule." A few weeks later, I would understand exactly what this type of answer meant but right then I was concerned.

Sasha's car had no discernible shock absorbers. The vibration of the floor boards made it seem like we were riding about six inches above the ground. I kept one hand wound around the handles from the suitcases, afraid that they would fly out of the open back of the vehicle as Sacha careened madly through the streets. Ironically, this was more harrowing than the airborne storm. We caught glimpses of the city with a large building here and some interesting lighting there. Sasha and Anya debated where to take us since we had been expected many hours sooner. We stopped in front of a tall building, the Hotel Kazakhstan. Anya led us in while Sacha dumped the luggage onto a cart. Anya talked with the lone night clerk in Kazakh or Russian, I don't know which. He gave us a room key card and gestured to the elevator.

Anya, switching back to textbook English, told us to get some sleep and that she would call the room in the early afternoon to make arrangements for our flight to Uralsk in the next morning. We dragged the cart into the elevator, made our way to our floor and then to our door, shoved the luggage into the small room and collapsed on the bed.

Saturday

Day 112 - Try the Brats! They're the Best!

Daily Kup (Traveling Version)
We spent the night with my husband's parents in Houston, Minnesota. They are terrific and the kids are always delighted to spend time with their grandparents. I am delighted to get out of the car after three hours of children taunting each other. We put "Mary Poppins" on the DVD and it creates an alphabet soup of cheeriness and sibling poking and elbowing and parental threats.

"Chim Chiminy, Chim chiminy, Stop touching me!, Watch your movie and stop bothering each other! Don't make me stop this car, Chim Chim Cheroo!"

Wisconsion Brew
We had a lovely time at the reunion and are glad that we went. Here are pictures that show how the newcomer can easily identify Wisconsin from visual cues.
1. All the cars are American.











2. So are the motorcycles.














3. This mysterious logo appears on most surfaces.















I think many people have seen variations of this over the years, but it always makes me laugh. I'd cite the author if I knew who it was.

YOU KNOW YOU ARE A TRUE WISCONSINITE WHEN:

1. Your idea of a traffic jam is ten cars waiting to pass a tractor on the highway.

2 'Vacation' means going up north past Hwy 8 for the weekend.

3. You measure distance in hours.

4. You know several people who have hit deer more than once.

5. You often switch from 'heat' to 'A/C' in the same day and back again.

6. Your whole family wears Packer Green to church on Sunday.

7. You can drive 65 mph through 2 feet of snow during a raging blizzard, without flinching.

8. You see people wearing camouflage at social events (including weddings and funerals.)

9. You install security lights on your house and garage and leave both unlocked.

10. You think of the major food groups as beer, fish, and venison.

11. You carry jumper cables in your car and your wife or girlfriend knows how to use them.

12. There are 7 empty cars running in the parking lot at Mill's Fleet Farm at any given time.

13. You design your kid's Halloween costume to fit over a snowsuit.

14. Driving is better in the winter because the potholes are filled with snow.

15. You refer to the Packers as 'we.'

16. You know all 4 seasons: almost winter, winter, still winter and road construction.

17. You can identify a southern or eastern accent.

18. You have no problem pronouncing Lac Du Flambeau.

19. You consider Minneapolis exotic.

20. You know how to polka.

21. Your idea of creative landscaping is a statue of a deer next to your blue spruce.

22. You were unaware that there is a legal drinking age.

23. Down South to you means Illinois.

24. A brat is something you eat.

25. Your neighbor throws a party to celebrate his new pole shed.

26. You go out to a fish fry every Friday.

27. Your 4th of July picnic was moved indoors due to frost.

28. You have more miles on your snow blower than your car.

29. You find minus twenty degrees 'a little chilly.'

30. You actually understand these jokes, and you forward them to all your Wisconsin friends.

Friday

Day 111 - Thinking WisKonsin

Daily Kup (My Life as a Gainfully Unemployed Person)
Packing for a reunion of my husband's relatives in West Salem, Wisconsin. We made three large pans of brownies to bring along. With the oven on, it was about 90 degrees in the house. If this were a spa, people would be paying big bucks to perspire like this. ("Horses sweat, men perspire, ladies 'glisten' ")

A Splash to Warm the Cup
While we are thinking Wisconsin (as opposed to 'Feeling Minnesota', a quirky favorite of Keanu-philes -- best classified as an inept crime drama with comic lines or a comedy with unnecessary killing -- where you can recognize some local landmarks), here's an interesting tidbit from the University of Wisconsin, Green Bay. Thought oil was an expensive commodity at approximately $75 per barrel? Based on cartridge prices, printer ink is about $10,000 per gallon.

The Green Bay campus switched its default email font from Arial to Century Gothic to save printing costs.
The typical household computer user might save up to 31% of printing costs or $20 per year in cash terms.

I'm trying to go a step farther and use the Ecofont Vera Sans font. The Ecofont people have downloadable software that makes little holes in your standard fonts to use less ink without the difference being overly perceivable. Since my first course of action is rarely to buy anything that I don't have to, I downloaded their free Ecofont Vera Sans and installed that in my Fonts folder.

I wouldn't use it for a resume or anything that needed to be "nice" but all my little forms and lists have gone Eco/draft print settings and they are still very usable, just a little less sharp. And that shouldn't be a big deal.

On to Wisconsin!

Thursday

Day 110 - InKognito

Daily Kup (It's Not a Midlife Crisis If You Never Intend to Die)
I have very elaborate dreams. Some of them have commercials, original songs, and convoluted plots. The most interesting are episodic, picking up where the last chapter left off weeks or months before. I had the perfect anti-nightmare last night.

In this dream, I was a college student. I went to my dorm room, had an appropriate key to unlock the door, and did not find strangers living there. My roommates recognized me and were not surprised that I was alive. I went to class, knew the location of my assigned seat, and found myself fully clothed. There was not a surprise test and I had not forgotten to go to class all quarter. It was not the last day of class. Neither had I forgotten to drop a class so that I would not graduate. I had my written class schedule, knew where the rooms were, and had remembered to register and pay tuition. My mother was visiting; I took her to my locker -- I knew where it was and the combination, the interior was clean and organized, and there were no dead bodies or unfortunate surprises inside. I did not suddenly lurch into the sky and find myself flapping frantically to remain airborne to avoid smacking the treetops. Everyone was friendly and supportive and seemed to know my name. I was not being stalked and did not run endlessly down the halls to be trapped in a stairwell. No roads ended abruptly in a cliff with an eroding edge. I was not sucked into the television.

The only vestige of dream stereotypes was my character's acknowledgement of missing some classes at the beginning of the quarter in that I-forgot-to-go-to-class-and-now-it's-the-test kind of way. In this dream, there are whole two weeks before finals and I've made up everything except missing gym classes. I decide to schedule an appointment with the instructor and go to fill-in classes to make up the absences. While I'm at it, I decide to meet with each of my instructors to review my current progress, fix any discrepancies or missing assignments, and attend tutoring sessions before finals.

I awoke feeling that all had been resolved. I suspect that this was the final chapter of that story arc and that I'll never have the college dream again.

I hope I can still fly because I've gotten good at the barrel rolls.

Old Grounds
A wonderful story in the news: A carload of partygoers dressed as zombies was in a rollover accident in Portland. Rescue workers overestimated the extent of injuries from the appearance of the victims. http://blogs.findlaw.com/legally_weird/2010/07/zombie-car-crash-creates-rescue-confusion.html

In a slightly less undead fashion, I had a similar experience when I was playing a nun in a local theater production of The Sound of Music in high school. I tore my black stockings on the way to rehearsal. These were not black stockings as in Folies Bergère, but more like armor-plated, mildly-stretchable felt. After wearing them on a humid summer day, I understand wanting to hit someone with a ruler. I dashed out of rehearsal in my costume during one of the endless Von Trapp childrens' scenes ("Doe a deer, give me a beer ...") and hit the drugstore down on the Square. The clerk regarded me warily and addressed me with averted eyes.

As a teenager, I was used to being followed around stores on the theory that anyone unattended under eighteen was busy shoveling loose objects into pockets; the clerk's sudden deference was an interesting development. She rang me out and I was surprised to get back change. Glancing at the receipt, I noticed that she hadn't charged any sales tax. (Clothing is taxable in New York.) I struggled to catch the clerk's downward glance and pointed out the error. The flustered clerk stammered, "But you know that priests and nuns don't have to pay sales tax on clothing ..., Sister?." She paused and ventured haltingly, "Are you ... new?" I blessed her and left the store.

Day 109 - Klingons!

My search for the weirdest job opportunity continues. Ladies and gentlemen, I think we may have a winner!
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Auditions - A Klingon Christmas Carol
Commedia Beauregard will hold auditions for "A Klingon Christmas Carol" on August 1 & 2 at the Black Bear Crossings in Saint Paul. For the fourth year, Commedia Beauregard will present this remarkable translation of the Dickens holiday classic in "tlhIngan Hol", the language of Klingons in the Star Trek universe. Over the last three years, the production has been featured heavily in the press both locally and nationally.

This show has become a holiday tradition in the Twin Cities, and is now going to be bigger and better than ever before. Four new scenes have been added, as well as four new characters.

Director Christopher O. Kidder is looking for 16 actors (10m, 6f). All Klingon-speaking parts are available (including Scrooge). You must be willing to learn to perform in the Klingon Language (don't worry, we have a system down for the show, you need not learn the entire language).

So here's the audition info:
* Dress for Movement
* Teresa Lhotka will be fight choreographer, and she will be present to take us through some exercises at the auditions.
* There will be readings from the script (in English), no monologues required.
* Water, lozenges, and napkins will be provided (Klingon can involve spitting).
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++



+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

I'm strangely tempted by this one. I have the forehead for it (furrowed by years at Porkus) and can Qapla' with the best of them.

Tuesday

Day 108 - Kamp

Daily Kup (How I Spent My Reality Vacation)
It was one of those crazy, active days where I did weird projects. I was hoping to hear about a short-term service job that I'd applied for but the deadline passed without a call. As Scarlett said, "Tomorrow is another day."

The garage now has switched overhead lighting, thanks to extra screws, a little ingenuity in putting three things together that weren't designed for it, and a willful disregard for the electrical code, though not for safety principles. Tomorrow, I may add another outlet for the fluorescent fixture over where the workbench will be.

Campfire Koffee
The enterprising Cub Scout was put to work today recreating one of his favorite summer experiences. Here is a corner of our backyard reborn as a family campground. T had a bit of a heavy hand with the old Roundup last month in our quest to remove the burdocks that grow seemingly overnight. The large bare patches really do remind me of Camp Trefoil in Harrisville, NY, where I spent a week of camping each year of two or three summers when I was in elementary school. I learned a lot of dirty words, an unusual explanation of sex and that lakes are cold early in the morning and slimy all the time. It was great fun and an opportunity to try out a different personality for a week. Kind of like now, really.


The terrible twosome wanted to sleep out there tonight. That lasted about a half-hour.

A Sip of Optimism
Got a few minutes to save the world? Check out this link for Create the Good. The site is sponsored by AARP but there are no age or membership restrictions. Enter your zip code and find volunteer activities for any level of commitment. A number of them, like helping out at the upcoming Wings of the North AirExpo, sound like a lot of fun in addition to being good for the community.

Monday

Day 107 - 401Klown

Day Kup (What I Did On My Reality Vacation)
I spent a few hours this morning in the office of my financial advisor. They have done a terrific job consolidating my 401K's. Unfortunately, there is an idiot transfer company holding a stock certificate of mine hostage. This is round three of the battle and they may be starting to weaken, thanks to the amiable and appropriately sharp-tongued woman at Edward Jones. I'm owed a call back from my original 401K company by Thursday so they can explain why they had their supplier put my stock in my broker's name and in a type of account that I can't do anything with without tax issues. That company truly invokes the 'klown' epithet. Talking with them is like a random response generator.

Me: "I need your help in resolving this problem and successfully rolling my stock over." Them: "Brussels sprouts." Me: (eyes dart in confusion, forehead furrows)

I've gotten better answers from a Magic 8 ball.

After that, Attila the Son and I journeyed to the mecca of Home Depot to gather a bounty of paint swatches. Overcoming inertia and T's interest in house exterior colors usually reserved for model railroad villages, we settled on Harvest Brown (which just edged out Koala Bear despite the cutesy name), trim color Painter's White (less blue than White white but not a cream), and accent color Morocco Red (a deep red with brown and orange undertones).

Catering to suspicions that I'm channeling my late grandmother, I baked a loaf of wheat bread. Then, remembering that I am me, I took the breadmaker all apart to figure out what was wrong with the drive belt.

Good to the Last Drop
Another surreal Craigslist ad:
Could you use a fake flat screen TV (about 48-50")? Use it to stage a house, in a theater production, as a practical joke. It comes in a metal frame and stands up by itself. It came with an entertainment center on accident. Please save it from the dumpster.

Sunday

Day 106 - Kazakhstan - Part 6

Every Sunday, this blog will describe our life-changing trip to Kazakhstan in 2005 to adopt our two youngest children. While some of our friends and family have seen a few of the pictures, we've never put it all together in an organized format. One of the reasons is that I hesitate to subject others to a 21st century version of the endless slideshow of vacation photos harking to some relative's visit and a lost evening of my childhood. Still, the story must be told before details are lost since this is my children's unique birthright. When we get to the end of the story, I'll edit the posts together into an extended and separate blog page and then have it printed by one of the blog-to-book(let) services for my kids. For people with less interest, these posts will be easy to identify and avoid. ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Frankfort airport was dizzying and perplexing and we were dragging what seemed to be a Volkswagen-sized pile of luggage along the polished floors. Terry has the rare gift of pulling it together sometimes when you least think he'd have the presence of mind. He's been known for getting lost in areas where he's lived for years, but when he said, "Follow me!" and charged toward a stairway, I followed less from confidence than from simply being glad to be handed a direction, any direction. I don't know what sign he saw but we went down a level and were dragging the luggage through corridors that were increasingly narrow and dingy.

"This can't be right ... this can't possibly be right," was running around inside my head. We turned a corner and came to a short line of people standing in front of what looked like a glassed-in booth where someone in a military uniform and a severe expression sat. We stood in line, knowing only that the booth barred further progress down the corridor. When we arrived at the front of the line, we saw that there was a small slit in the glass through which we could hear the grim-faced attendant. He said something to us in German. We shoved passports and any paperwork we had from the airline through the slit. He looked at us with some combination of boredom and distaste, dug through the papers with nary a glance, stamped the passports, and shoved it all back through the slit in the glass. He hit some hidden button and the gate swung open. He gestured with his head for us to move on through.

This narrow corridor spilled into a large room filled with travelers and airline counters. We gratefully found the line for the Lufthansa counter and dragged our rolling suitcase mountain to the front. Shoving piles of paper at strangers and allowing them to sort through for what they need was a practice that we resorted to many times in Kazakhstan and this trip was where we first learned it. The counter attendant was able to extract the right papers to issue boarding passes and check the burdensome luggage. Now feeling almost lighter than air with a mere two small, though overstuffed, bags per person. we quickly found the gate and sat as close to the front as possible for fear of falling asleep and missing the plane.

It seemed like they were already in the middle of boarding. We couldn't understand where we were in the sequence and decided to simply get in the line and plead ignorance if asked; this was not far from the truth. As it turns out, it seems that at least some of the rest of the world expects boorish or befuddled behavior from Americans. It's a 'get out of jail free' card served with a dish of attitude, but it was a meal that we could choke down about then. The attendant looked at us, glanced at the boarding pass, and waved in the direction of the hallway to the plane in a haphazard way.

Later, wedged in the middle of a huge plane between two Middle-Eastern gentlemen, we were on our way to Almaty. We hoped our luggage was, too.

Saturday

Day 105 - Kasota Kronicles

Daily Kup (What I Did On My Reality Vacation)
We went to a workshop at the local Home Depot this morning on how to paint the house. They had advertised the workshop and I had registered for it. When we showed up, they really had no idea of what to do and seemingly had made few plans.

The story has a happy ending, however, due to the initiative of one employee named Michael. He gathered samples of products and explained the differences. He let us paint a piece of wood using different grades of brushes so that we could see which tools work best. We followed him from aisle to aisle as he explained the competing products and detailed the advantages and drawbacks of each. We came away with a lot of notes, a paint manufacturer's crib sheet, and a personal appreciation for a knowledgeable and kind-hearted person who changed a problem into an opportunity. All companies should be so lucky. And those companies who do (or did) have employees like that should appreciate them.

First meal at a restaurant in months. We took the kids to our favorite local cheap and not terribly authentic Chinese buffet, New King's Wok. You'll find restaurant reviews of the place posted elsewhere with the tags 'crappy' and 'stripmall,' but happiness in life seems to be about adjusting your expectations when you choose a place to eat that is located between an auto parts store and Goodwill. We were happy and full. I will not need additional sodium until 2011.

Slow Drip
This blog is committed to bringing the readership the latest in breaking scientific news of significance to the Porkus refugee community.

BREAKING NEWS>>>BREAKING NEWS>>>BREAKING NEWS

An archaeologist excavating the remains of a civilization located along the railroad tracks near the intersection of Kasota/Energy Parkway and Highway 280 made an astounding discovery. In the corner of an ancient office in the area known to the inhabitants as a "Business Park", researchers unearthed a receptacle labeled with the strange hieroglyphs "Diet Coke" and filled with rolls of computer paper. The papers were festooned with writing in a heretofore unknown language interspersed with primitive flowcharts and the occasional picture of a little face with glasses sticking her head in a noose. Scientists have christened the artifacts "The Dead She Scrolls" as a tribute to the unknown and evidently frustrated author.

A team of linguists has been working day and night to translate the scroll's contents into modern language. A specialist from the British Museum is now en route; upon arrival, he will examine the disintegrating documents in an attempt to decipher the text beneath the strange brown rings that cover every surface, thought to be residue from some prehistoric brewed substance that must have been a fuel source, at least before noon.

Only a few scraps have been translated at this time, giving us a fragmentary insight into the culture that spawned them.

Psalm 67
Management wants change.
Shall we improve the product?
Make the website blue!

Psalm 666
Inhuman resource.
Pointy heels stab the carpet.
Someone get a net.

Based on other ancient manuscripts, such as the so-called "Yellow Pages," scientists believe that the original inhabitants were the Porkans, an elusive, cult-based society who practiced cannibalism. Soil samples and carbon dating suggest that the area was occupied until one day in August when the tribe suddenly abandoned the site. Why did the inhabitants abruptly flee? One theory holds that they were overrun by a race of cabinet-builders with superior capital investment. The research team hopes that translation of the rest of the documents will fill in the blanks, helping us understand the lost Porkan civilization and the lessons that it can teach us today to avoid their timely fate.

BREAKING NEWS>>>BREAKING NEWS>>>BREAKING NEWS

Further developments are expected on this story. When the news hits, you'll read it here first!