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.


Day 337 - That is the Question

Daily Kup (My Life on the Way to More)
KiMK has a major announcement. Through the machinations of a mirthful, winking God, we are on the waiting list for blog advertising syndicate BlogHer and hope to be added to the stable of 2500+ female bloggers (and male bloggers who write for a female audience) some time this Spring. This will lead to a minuscule flow of advertising revenue and the opportunity to attract more readers — who in turn may add a few drops to the tiny rivulet of cash flow. I'm not taking out flood insurance just yet, but it is rejuvenating to think that my feet may become slightly moist from more than the perspiration of running ahead of invoice due dates. [Extra ten points for stretching the water metaphor to titanic proportions]

Thank you to all the family, friends, and a perplexing myriad of total strangers who have waded through explorations of kidney stones, Cub Scouts, and a cornucopia of oddities to arrive at this point.

An Overdue Bill -- Shakespeare, That is
Some say that William Shakespeare was the greatest writer of the English language who ever lived. His soaring language and themes speak to us still almost 400 years after his death. By changing and modernizing just a few words, it's like he's talking directly to me.

To blog, or not to blog: that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the pocketbook to suffer
The slings and arrows of unintended unemployment,
Or to type posts against a sea of troubles,
And by ad revenue end them?

To blog: to sleep not much;
and by a RIF to say we end
The heart-burn and the thousand
shares of employee stock
That folks would dare to, 'tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish'd.

To blog and then to sleep;
To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the pay stub;
For in that sleep of unemployment what dreams may come
When we have shuffled past this immoral toil,
Must give us pause: there's the respect
That has been missing in so long a job;

For who would bear the whips and scorns of timecards,
The oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contempt,
The pangs of despised lunchmeat, the lowly pay,
The insolence of the office and the spurns
That patient merit of the unworthy takes,
When he himself might his exodus make
With a bare briefcase? who would HR bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,

But that the dread of something after layoff,
The undiscover'd country from whose bourn
No employee returns, puzzles the will
And makes us rather bear those crappy jobs we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?

Thus mortgage does make cowards of us all.


Day 336 - Oh, Yeah?!


Day 335 - Thinking Day

Daily Kup (My Life Thinking Globally)
Princess Potatohead and I, with our Daisy troop, spent the afternoon at a local church at a World Thinking Day art fair. Thinking Day is a Scouting event celebrated in the 144 countries of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS). It traditionally takes place on February 22nd, the joint birthdays of Scout Movement founders Lord Robert and Lady Olave Baden-Powell, an early twenty century British couple who never forgot each other's birthdays. Like so many of my relatives, Robert and Olave got a belated celebration since their birthday did not happen to fall on a weekend this year.

Thinking Day was created in 1926 for the purpose of reminding Scouts and Guides everywhere of their global connection to each other. In later years, WAGGGS established a theme for each year's celebration, most recently based on the UN Millennial Development Goals (MDG).

This year's theme was 'empowering girls to change the world', a monumental goal for the future of humanity but difficult to translate into action for five- and six-year-olds who much prefer balloon animals and face painting.

Thinking Day when I was a Brownie and Junior (when we stuck out feet out the bottom of the car to make it go) consisted of each troop choosing a world country and setting up a booth with a snack or art activity. Forty years later, the observance of Thinking Day consists of each troop choosing a world country and setting up a booth with a snack or art activity.

Brownies on the Ho Chi Minh Trail
When I was a Brownie Scout in about 1966, the only countries in the world that we knew about in Northern New York were in Europe. These were the only countries in our social studies books. Our history books talked about Egypt and Carthage but forgot to mention that these places were in Africa. We were told that there were spices in India but I don't think the topic would have come up except for the mythology about Columbus taking a wrong turn.

My troop leaders must have shown up late for the leader meeting after all the "good countries" (that is, the European countries that we knew something about) were already selected by other troops. We were given a little country that people where starting to hear about on the news -- South Vietnam.

In 1966, American was not the innocent place that it had been before the assassination of the President three years before, but was still a few years away from the deaths of Bobby and Martin and the protests that would change the public discourse permanently.

My troop leaders dutifully helped us to envision South Vietnam as a terrific place full of rice paddies and Girl Scouts. We could use what we knew about France, a "real" country that was in our social studies books, because we were told that there were French people in Vietnam helping out the Vietnamese. We made conical hats out of butcher paper as our costumes and called them "coolie" hats because that was not yet a derogatory term since it was in our history books in the chapter about building the American railroads. The yellow flag with three closely-spaced horizontal red stripes through the middle took shape from poster paper and tempura paints. We practiced our performance for the presentation: crouching in our pretend rice paddies wearing our hats and being jealous of the troop that got Germany with their fake lederhosen.

Cringe. Good times.

Thinking Day for Adults
Couldn't we all benefit from a true Thinking Day? One dedicated to, well, thinking? Jay Leno, not exactly an intellectual, was nonetheless spot on when he famously asked Hugh Grant, "What the hell were you thinking?"

We each have our own lists of public figures to whom that could just as well be addressed, though I'm betting that Charlie Sheen and Lindsay Lohan appear on 80% of those lists.

In fact, it's probably just what my mother — never one to mince words — said when she saw me in my pointed hat kneeling in the fake rice paddy.


Day 334 - Orchids Make Me Blush

Daily Kup (What I Did on my Reality Vacation)
The day started cold, crisp, and full of luck. For all our cost-consciousness ["Cheap, cheap," said the little chicken] and frugality, one luxury has been retained. OK, one luxury in addition to having an adequately warm place to sleep, enough food and water, the good fortune to have healthy minds and bodies, the love and support of family and friends, and the sensibility to be grateful for all the above. Once you say that, a really good haircut sounds like a pretty stupid extravagance.

Before I dipped my unpedicured toe in the pool of expensive grooming and was carried out to a cosmetic-filled sea, I patronized salons that issue coupons and let you pick a sucker out of a yellow plastic bucket if you've been "good." One family-friendly chain featured brightly-colored canvas sails hung between the stations. For years, I bellowed "Avast, me hearties" and never once did a stylist reply "Aye-aye."

My fancy salon has tea and espresso and pitchers of ice water with floating cucumber slices. Every product is Fair Trade, woven in the Amazon basin, or comes from bees who have a collective bargaining agreement.

The sparse walls are adorned with huge unframed canvases of hand-colored orchid photographs. This seemed chic and trendy and relatively unobtrusive until I noticed that the formation and orientation of all these flowers calls to mind an unholy alliance between Georgia O'Keeffe and Bob Guccione. There is no place where I can look without hearing the words, "This might be a little cold." As I sit and drink my cucumber water surrounded by giant posters that look disturbingly like genitalia, I think, "This is where Freud would come for a trim."

While I was pointedly looking at not-the-walls, I got a great haircut and thought about what I want to be when I grow up. This was not accidental musing since I was preparing to be interviewed this afternoon by a reporter from Patch.com. Being purposefully and pointedly eclectic, I wrestled with how to explain to a new acquaintance who I am and what I do. To a new acquaintance? Heck, to myself.

I left the salon with shiny, 'piecy' hair, a bottle of shampoo expensive enough to hide to keep it from being used for kids' bubble bath, and a heightened awareness of speculum art worthy of Rita Mae Brown.

When the afternoon rolled around, I enjoyed the interview immensely and appreciated the chance to speak with a talented freelance writer.

On some level, it must bug people with degrees in journalism and literature to have untrained amateurs pop out of the bushes and self-publish in this new media landscape. There's a story about a writer who grew weary and resentful of the implication that anyone could write a book if only he or she had the free time. When a doctor said to him, "I've always wanted to write a book. I'm going to do that when I retire," he responded, "And I'm going to be a doctor when I retire."

The Patch reporter was extremely engaging and patient with me and my aspirations. On Monday, we will meet for photographs of me blogging ("Is this blogging or merely an incredible simulation?") and of Attila the Son and Princess Potatohead being themselves as unruly offspring of an addled blogger mom.

Six weeks ago I made an appointment to get a great haircut today. I said the day was full of luck.

What Not To Say or Do When Asked, "Tell Me A Little Bit About Yourself"
● Don't start from conception -- yours or anyone else's.
● "Grand High Wizard is more of an honorary title ..."
● Drawings are probably not necessary.
● "I was so sad when I had to leave my parents back on Krypton."
● Do not let your ventriloquist dummy field this for you.
● "Does this look infected to you?"
Do use the job hunting elevator speech that you have practiced. Unless it's "Third floor, please."
● Creative flair is fine as long as you are scrupulously truthful. If you express your creativity through interpretive dance or origami, hold off answering in those forms until at least the fourth question.

Can I Have Some Hummus With My Lefse?
We experienced a cordial and uplifting event last night by attending our local school's Multicultural Dinner. This new tradition, now in its second year, features a potluck of foods representing the cultural range of the school population. Literally breaking bread together engages the power of community!


Day 333 - Run, Tree, Run!

Daily Kup (My Life in the Shade)
People talk of a 'morning routine' as if the shock to the system that is Morning could ever become routine. Despite my growing dependence on and increased appreciation for that drug called sleep, the transition from dreamlife to 'life as a dream' comes by degrees.

Unemployed people, particularly women, find themselves taking on more and more household responsibilities until they have an even higher load of unpaid employment then they did when employed outside the home. So says the New York Times anyway, though the 2009 article is based on sociologist Scott Coltrane's 2000 data on gender division of housework so let's assume some more equality has evolved in this recession. (Oh, what a little optimist!) I'm guessing that this stems from a need to demonstrate that one is productive and useful and as a bargaining chip to counter spousal questions of "When are you going to be employed?" with "You don't have to iron your shirts anymore."

Out of fear that this would become a permanent accommodation -- and who has ever picked up an extra responsibility 'temporarily' in paid employment and been able to get rid of it without surgery? -- I've been trying to train my children to do more things for themselves. I call this 'streamlining' with the full understanding of the self-serving nature of the term. Mr. T, a generally jovial and agreeable man, is also determined to be untrainable so we hit the end of that road pretty quickly.

One benefit of the streamlining process has been that the children get up when awakened, dress themselves, somewhat pick up their room, and present themselves for breakfast without the constant hectoring that marked the 'routine employment' era.

As they walk to the bus stop, I watch their backpacks retreat down the block to the corner and sit at my desk checking my email until I see from the corner of the front window the school bus arrive and depart.

This morning, a convoy of trucks blocked the view. They pulled up the street with military precision and parked in a configuration centered on my neighbor's tall, stately tree.

"Look, Mom, a chipper on a truck and one of those big lift things!"

"Walk on this side of the street to the bus stop and watch very carefully to stay out of the way of the trucks."

As the backpacks marched, I took a closer look through the window at the tree. Due to my extensive knowledge of horticulture, I pronounced it "not a maple." I think it has yellow, fuzzy things in the Spring.

For all the world, it looked like the tree was quaking ... and not just with the wind.

"Run, yellow fuzzy tree, run!"

But it stood there, rooted in the earth.

Later, I was pleased to see that the army of arborists had only given the tree a post-storm trim and selective limb removal.

When We Should Have Run
Have you ever stayed when you should have quit? Staying the course is, well, downright American. That's what we do. We persevere.

When I look back over the episodic freight train that is my life, now growing car by car longer until the caboose is somewhere far down the tracks, it's the things that I have made myself quit that are some of my proudest moments.

Small things like hobbies that I didn't really enjoy but where an investment had been made.

Big things like a bad marriage or an ill-fitting job where an even bigger investment had been made.

The fuzzy yellow tree was rooted and couldn't run when people with saws came. We have more options.

Quit something you hate today. You'll be blooming elsewhere before you know it.

Day 327 - The Wrath of Yarn

Daily Kup (My Life on the Bridge)
A special day with nothing on the calendar. Life continues in my own private Walden Pond; that's much like My Own Private Idaho without the falling down on roads. I do endeavor to retain the Shakespearean pretenses, however. When in disgrace with Fortune and men's eyes ...

Warp Drive or Merely Warped?
You must see this. You truly must.
Crocheted Starship Enterprise

Transport Back to Teenaged Land
Playing with my Pong game and listening to Dr. Demento on Saturday night radio. Yes, Dr. D, the man who saved Weird Al Yankovic from being just another geeky architect and who also popularized one of the best of the roughly three million Star Trek parody songs. Enjoy.


Day 326 - Death by Cubicle

Daily Kup (My Life in the Thaw)
The lawn chairs that I should have stored in the garage in November are starting to peak out from the snow. There's a constant drip-drip-drip from the eaves. Rivulets are forming below the gutters, flowing down the driveway into the street, and then rushing to our downhill neighbor's soggy backyard to form what we lovingly call "Lake Pickerell" in honor of the people who have done everything short of sandbags and magic crystals to prevent this from happening every year.

Princess Potatohead, in the optimistic style of one who has not seen a half-century of winters, has declared the arrival of Spring. "Mom," she says. "You can start gardening. I will look for butterflies."
Attila the Son, to whom opposition is an orientation and not a lifestyle choice, responds to any mention of going outside with, "I don't need a coat!" As the temperature is 40 degrees -- not balmy in any locations except Antarctica and Mars -- moms insist on coats, only to know that outer garments flap unzipped and later get stuffed into backpacks as soon as the corner is turned.

Will there be more snow? Of course. Mid-February is not the end of winter's grasp in the Upper Midwest. But it's that whisper of Spring as children's bulky snow boots stomp through the fragile ice shell of puddles that awakens the little part of our hearts that remembers a green leaf and a soft breeze.

Where are those seed catalogs?

At Least She Doesn't Have to Answer the Email Backlog
I don't want to die in a cubicle. Last Saturday, a security guard found a middle-aged Los Angeles county compliance auditor slumped in her cubicle. She'd been dead for a day.

Doesn't this really touch on the greatest fears of anyone who has every had a cubicle-based job? It could only be worse if co-workers had pinned notes on the body or if she had been munched on by the cafeteria mouse overnight.
Some people are probably OK with dying at work -- martyrs, gigolos, and George Mallory come to mind.

It's not hard to imagine that an artist might want to be found in front of a glorious piece of original art or that an orchestra conductor might want to draw a last breath while being churlish to a violinist. But none of these professions work in cubicles.

For a few years, my office was a cubicle on the edge of the Sales Department. Their little Sales heads would pop up and over as their tiny paws gripped the top edge of the short divider walls. The phone would ring and down they went into their tunnels.

The man sitting in the cube next to mine was so shy and detached that he would email me if he had something to say. I sat within six feet of him for three years, rarely physically saw him, and never knew if the clicking sounds all day were him clipping his nails or if he had a Geiger counter.

'I don't want to die in my cubicle' is second only to 'I don't want to die all alone and be eaten by my cats' as the mantra of our culture of separation and isolation. And yet we have never been more connected through our media.

Wouldn't it be sad and disturbing if this woman's absence was noticed more on Facebook than when she didn't go home?


Day 322 - Shades of Green

Daily Kup (My Life in the Community)
The 'old me' liked to sleep in on Saturdays and would gladly sleep until 2 PM. In all honesty, the 'new me' would like to do that, too, if there were some way to restrain Attila the Son and Princess Potatohead from sectarian violence and a TV orgy of iCarly and SpongeBob Squarepants. Since monitoring their mornings to ensure that they wear clothing and eat actual food will be required for the next eight or so years, we can just kiss that sleeping really late thing good-bye unless I can feign an illness bad enough to elicit pity and not so bad that a doctor's visit is needed. Cough, cough.

The upside to this downside is that there are plenty of things worth getting up and doing. We have a busy weekend of community activities planned.

This weekend's challenge: Fill Saturday and Sunday with free and fun community activities to try as many new things as possible.

Life Transition Insight: (Posted before, but a frequent whack-to-the-head epiphany) Almost every community is bristling with low-cost or free activities for those willing to try something new.

Activity #1a: Volunteer at Girl Scout Recruiting Event. With Princess Potatohead in tow, we arranged to help out at a local community center hosting activity booths for potential new Girl Scouts. I can now check 'running the bean bag toss' off my Bucket List. In addition, the Princess got to make some crafts, practice as a tiny spokesperson for her Daisy troop, and run around like a lunatic with a gang of other screaming little girls. The coordinator gave me a very nice Girl Scout lanyard with a built-in flash drive in appreciation for my time and efforts.

Activity #1b: While some of us were singing camp songs, Mr. T took Attila the Son to the local junior high school for a free kids' baseball clinic run by one of the community Little League groups. Not only did our budding sports superstar work off some of his hyperactivity, he also demonstrated enough targeted skills to complete the requirements for his Cub Scout baseball pin. We'll plan on attending the second free clinic on February 26.

Activity #2: The family regathered at home for a quick lunch and then on to an Irish dance party and lesson at our children's dance emporium of choice, Deanne's Dance Studio, for what was billed as a Sweetheart Céilí. (Céilí is a Gaelic word for a traditional social gathering usually featuring music and dancing.)

Life Transition Insight: Once you let go of the fear of making a fool of yourself, life gets to be more fun.

I defy anyone to remain cranky while listening to traditional Irish dance music. I've been told that right/left confusion is a sign of great intelligence; if so, my family must be on the verge of implementing cold fusion. Still, keeping insight #2 in mind, we had a lot of fun and we weren't the only ones going in the wrong direction.

One by one, we got confused or tired. When we all had retreated to sitting on the folding chairs to watch people to whom 'grapevine' was not merely a horticultural item, we knew it was time to go.

Activity #3: Invigorated by the dancing and uplifted by the melting snow, we piled into the yellow bus and headed for a vigorous city neighborhood near Minneapolis' beautiful string of urban lakes. KiMK's good friend and fellow blogger, Baroness Color, was displaying her unique hand-dyed apparel and household items at Handmade Arts from the Heart, a benefit for Barton Open School. Reveling in so many vendors with unique handmade items, Mr. T and I were able to pick out a shared Valentine's Day gift for our home that is unusual and will be treasured (until the kids break it).

Art glass, wall hanging or pickle tray? This intriguing item has a new home on our end table. The artist, Red Wine Design, has a line of striking ansd colorful fused glass jewelry. She says that her choice of materials has caused an odd kind of reverse vandalism in her neighborhood; someone is coming to her porch when she's out and leaving piles of empty wine bottles.

One day down and we seem to be winning the challenge for the cheap, fun and new experience. Can we keep up the pace tomorrow? We drag our dancing feet home.

A Green Tip - "The Bathtub Capacitor"

Since we accepted the challenge to reduce our energy usage by 20% or more, we've exhausted the low hanging fruit and are now exploring the easy but exotic. Long, hot showers -- one of the greatest pleasures known to humanity -- were one of our conservation downfalls. Our hot showers were heating the plumbing all the way to the street while our rooms are winter dry and quite cold due to the lowered thermostat.

One way to offset this loss is plug the drain and let the water stay in the tub and radiate heat until it achieves room temperature after an hour or two. The warm water heats the body of the tub and functions as energy storage and gradual dissipation into the atmosphere. If this were an electrical circuit, the tub would be capacitor holding charge but eventually allowing it to bleed off.

As an added benefit, the ardent shower aficionado will be reminded to cut it a little shorter by the very tangible evidence of how much water is being used. The water in the tub heats the room and increases humidity instead of taking its heat down the pipe. When the water is at room temp, simply open the drain.

For safety reasons, households with small children or pets should not try this.


Day 321 - Barbie Gaga

Daily Kup (My Life as the Snow Melts)
A bit of warmth refreshes the landscape. With warmer temperatures predicted for this weekend, there's hope that the icicle forming a pillar on the northeast corner of my house may fall without impaling anyone. And perhaps without taking off a section of the roof. Oh, what a dreamer.

Climbing on roofs to shovel has become a kind of competitive sport in Minnesota this winter. Every third house has grown a ladder that seems to be permanently positioned from the walkway to the lowest roof access point. With ice dams that seem Zamboni-ready, our house could use a little shoveling. Unlike the summer house painting adventure, at least the prospect of falling off into the snow sounds like a softer landing. Unless I fall under the killer icicle.

Bad Romance with Ken

Oh, like YOU haven't ever started the weekend by dressing a Barbie in pickle-pimento loaf.


Day 320 - Plastic Tears in Heaven

Daily Kup (My Life on Expert Mode)
It's -10 degrees, but who's counting? I've been feeling a bit pudgy lately. I wonder if it's due to the three shirts, long underwear, heavy jeans, and a blanket that I'm wearing.

While My Plastic Guitar Gently Weeps
Let's have a moment of silence for Guitar Hero. Activision today announced the end of the division that produced the Guitar Hero franchise and its spin-offs. Sales had declined for the game series in recent years.

While scoffers chide the game genre for causing legions of wannabe rockers to spend hours practicing with controllers shaped like faux musical instruments instead of learning to play the real thing, the argument is never extended to other games where players spend hours shooting animated zombies with plastic controls when there are so many real zombies out there to dispatch.

It seems obvious that these killjoys with no rock-and-roll in their souls have never experienced their avatars hoisted into the night sky on a pillar of rock while Through the Fire and Flames wells up.

And I can play a real piano, guitar, drums and a few other instruments just as badly as I play their plastic counterparts. So there.

While this seems to be the end of the arc for rhythm-replication music games, sales for games that simulate killing people continue to show growth.


Good to the Last Drop
The BBC announced that 1,000 hours of children's programming will be eliminated from Radio 4's spin-off station for children's programming, Radio 7, after it was discovered that the average age of listeners was 48.

Radio 4 cancelled its only children's series in 2009 after finding that its average audience was aged over 50. Ironically, it seems that Radio 7 was successful in its goal of attracting a younger group of listeners than its predecessor.

The BBC plans to replace the axed programs with those aimed at older children and their parents. This should pretty much guarantee a new audience of 70-year-olds.


Day 319 - Serve with a Meatball and Grape Jam

Daily Kup (My Life before Fully Waking)
Another chilly day. I glance down at the temperature icon in the system tray and it says -10. I momentarily hate my system tray in acknowledgement that the phrase "Don't kill the messenger" came about because so many people want to kill the messenger.

At yesterday's writing class, the instructor talked about the importance of writing on a regular schedule whether you feel like it or not. She writes between 10 PM and midnight every day. Some writers have a word quota rather than a time limit. Hemingway wrote 350 words a day; Stephen King writes 2000. This variation is not surprising when you consider that you can read The Old Man and the Sea during a bathroom break while completing The Stand takes longer than crocheting a Buick from steel wool.

One of the instructor's suggestions is to write soon after you wake up when the brain is closer to the dream state and farther from imposing artificial brakes on the creative process. I tried this today and was able to draft a 32 page children's book in about 45 minutes. Granted, there are not a lot of words on the pages of picture books so I may not have mad e Hemingway's quota. Also, the book is supposed to be from my son's perspective and I don't know what that is since he has spent the last few days in perpetual snit. Maybe I should take advantage of that and take my laptop over to the bench in the principal's office to conduct an interview where he seems to spend so much of his free time.

With a touch of success under my belt, I will certainly try the early morning writing experiment again. The outcome only corroborates a feeling that I've always had: No good has ever come from fully waking up.

But What If You Put the Whole Thing on a Bagel?

The little recipes contained in product packaging can sometimes save time or expand the customer's appreciation of the varied uses of a product.

But sometimes they go too far. I found the instructions for this questionable concoction printed on the inside surface of THE brand of cream cheese to which all other brands aspire.

Spaghetti with cream cheese sauce?

There is a word for this.

That word is "no."


Day 318 - The Tenth of Never

Daily Kup (My Life in Wind Chill)
Meeting breezes face on at a wind chill of -16 degrees makes me feel like the Joker from Batman, greeting the world with a frozen, contorted grimace as my cheeks try to hide in my ears for warmth.

A few minutes before, I had felt only too warm as a police car followed me for blocks. It was a low speed chase as I formed justifications in my head for why the registration tabs were on my kitchen table and not on my license plates. I practiced an innocent look while citing the dropdead date for tab display, "It's not the tenth of the month yet, is it?" The squad car followed me into the parking lot and turned when I turned. And kept on going.

Whew! A sense of guilt is apparently independent of whether I'm actually doing something wrong or not.

Since I was driving to the building that houses the District Court, Motor Vehicle Bureau, and a Regional Library, I suppose it's not surprising that a police officer would be headed there also. It just seems to take very long to get there at 28 miles per hour.

The library was the scene of another terrific writing class sponsored in cooperation with Minnesota literary gem, The Loft. This time the topic was capturing life-changing experiences. Going in, I felt that I could stand my life-changing experiences toe-to-toe with a lot of people and at least emerge with a draw, so this seemed the class for me. Then I met a woman at the class who was thinking of chronicling her battle with multiple sclerosis as it was progressively ripping away her life, so I realized that the hubris that I expressed in the previous sentence was absolute crap. That epiphany in itself made the class time priceless.

Klowns in the News
Is there some kind of bank where they save this stuff up and release it at once so that the first items you read one morning all seem bizarre? Each of these stories is sad and pathetic and more 'funny odd' than 'funny ha-ha.'

Armed Rooster Kills California Man

A man attending an illegal cockfight (is there any other kind?) was stabbed by a rooster with a knife strapped to its leg in the confusion that arose when the cops arrived. This is justice as doled out by Rod Serling. If only chihuahuas carrying machetes could stalk Michael Vick.

Low IQ Man Banned From Having Sex

Odd. In my experience, it's usually the very bright that have difficulty in this area.

A different way to interpret this headline: Husband Does Another Stupid Thing

Facebook Founder Stalked on Facebook

I didn't know what a 'petard' was, but if there was ever a situation to be 'hoist on one's own,' this is it. Check the link to learn that the word petard has its source in the Middle French word for expelling intestinal gas. Oh, those French make everything sound better.

Catholic Church Launches Confession iPhone App

What seems particularly appealing about this $1.99 application are the games. Is heaven in the clouds or in The Cloud?

Woman Who Mailed Puppy Will Not Get It Back

This woman should also probably be banned from having sex.


Day 317 - Signs of the Times

Daily Kup (My Life Until Further Notice)
My son is demoralized in this post-Packers Super Bowl world. At almost nine years old, Attila the Son has chosen a position in life that is diametrically opposed to whatever the prevailing attitude is surrounding him on any subject. He is, to steal a description once lobbed at a college colleague who was almost magically obtuse and befuddled, "skew to the universe." Only at an engineering college could the allegation of being perpendicular to any known plane be "fightin' words."

The fourth quarter had Attila storming and stomping with whatever energy he had left after sledding at Scout Camp most of the day. If he ever gets a tattoo, I suspect it will say, "I've been robbed" -- his third favorite phrase after "It's not fair" and "This is the worst family ever." The latter has been uttered often enough that I'm thinking of incorporating it in Latin on the family crest right below shield with the smoking computer:

Ego sum inimicus proprius pessimus meus

This actually means "I am my own worst enemy" but I could get away with the improper translation for years before anyone noticed.

As for me, the aftermath from the weekend of birthday party #1, birthday party #2, day camping trip, and Super Bowl party has nearly been cleaned up. Words of wisdom from the Narcissistic Fortune Cookie Company (NFCC - our motto = "So annoying you'll just want to eat the paper"): One is never so thirsty as when there is not one clean glass in the house.

Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Sign
I snapped this little bit of officiousness at a local high school where I attended a meeting. Aren't they missing a phrase like, "While school is in session"?

Perhaps while everyone is quarantined, they can ponder the unnecessary capitalization and the absence of the comma.


Day 314 - Princess Potatohead Turns Six

Daily Kup (My Life While I Was Sleeping)
And, you may ask, how did the experiment involving getting the recommended amount of sleep go? All the data is in and it seems that reasonable sleeping patterns are counterproductive to the generation of timely blog posts.

Also, all the newfound energy and positive feelings of self-worth that were inculcated from being rested caused me to launch a whirlwind of attending social functions and going out for drinks with old friends.

My system, not used to contact with the wider range of homo sapiens, promptly caught a monumental case of the flu that caused even more sleeping and less writing.

So that's why I disappeared for a while.

My dog(tiredness) ate my blog.

Completely contrary to the way that blogs are supposed to work, the missed days will be backfilled with all the wacky and offbeat material that was developed but not delivered during my sojourn in the rarefied ether of the healthy.

Well-restedness is Not All It's Cracked Up to Be

Life is something that happens when you can't get to sleep.
~Fran Lebowitz

There is a time for many words, and there is also a time for sleep.
~Homer, The Odyssey

Early to bed and early to rise probably indicates unskilled labor.
~John Ciardi

I love sleep. My life has a tendency to fall apart when I'm awake, you know?
~Ernest Hemingway

Piece of Cake (or How I Wilted with Wilton)
Princess Potatohead, last week on the cusp of age six, requested a strawberry cake in the likeness of a mermaid for her birthday. "How hard could it be to make one from scratch? " I said, all stoked on adequate sleep and flu medicine.

Clasping my 40% off coupon in one parsimonious hand, I went to the local pipe-cleaner-and-silk-foliage emporium to relieve them of one cake pan in the form of said creature. The hunt was successful and I emerged, humming that pernicious "Under the Sea" ditty, with an aluminum representation of a cartoon swimster.

With the encouragement and assistance of my wonderful mother-in-law, we were able to do things with buttercream frosting that should make any half-fish proud. The further one moved away from it, the better it looked. And tasted good up close.

OK, it's looks like the outcome of the combined genetic materials of Lucille Ball and the Thing from the Fantastic Four, Ben Grimm. With some Elephant Man.

Attila the Son has a birthday in four weeks. How do you think that a cake baked in the same mold would look decorated as ... a zombie?

No points if you thought, "Just the same as it does now."


Day 312 - Chi-Town Lowdown

Daily Kup (My Life with Less Snow Than You)
Minnesota is neither colder nor has more snow than usual as most of the rest of the nation is stalled by yet another in a series of epic blizzards.

Snow News is Not Good News

KiMK's Chicago correspondent, the great, the intrepid, the downright smooth Jack Daniels sent this picture of a gentle Chicago area neighborhood as it fills up with snow.

In a completely unrelated event, this reporter was also able to catch a glimpse of the rarely seen Yeti, aka the Abominable Snowman, on the trail of his favorite prey animal, the gas-guzzling SUV.

Thanks, Jack, for this timely on-the-scene report. Now go inside and drink whatever beverage that you may have handy to keep yourself warm.