Calendars, calendars, calendars

                 Good gravy! Not another calendar! I had just gotten my email account set up only to find that my new email host had also given me access to yet another free on-line calendar. So, let me see just exactly how many calendars that are available to me. First, there is the one that I have at my day job. I never use it so don’t know that it counts. Second, there is one on my CRM (customer relationship management) software. It is an older version and, though I still keep most of my contacts there, I do not use the calendar.  Of course, my company owned laptop and my home desktop both have calendars. Wait a minute. Both of them have at least two calendars each and there may be even more lurking on the hard drives.  

                My cell phone has a calendar that syncs with my calendar on my home laptop. It also keeps one of my address books. Well, I also have one on-line service that I have never used. There is one in my personal email account and that one I use because it will send reminders to my cell phone though the two won’t sync. I tried to get my on-line calendar to sync with my desktop calendar so it would sync with my cell phone and therein nirvana would result. No such luck.

                My wife keeps a family calendar on paper. I have to sync my calendar with hers every week or there’s the devil to pay.  All three of my kids have their own calendars but they don’t live with us anymore so I (thankfully) don’t have to sync with them too.

                Then there is my trusty old paper planner. I’ve been using this particular paper planner for years. It gets manually synched with my calendar on my personal email account which syncs with my cell phone. It is a little more work but, having never come to completely trust technology, I take comfort in the feel of paper and its control over my life. It has never been known to fail me except when my handwriting is illegible. My paper calendar is my security blanket.

                Ok, how many calendars is that? I don’t know and, furthermore, I don’t feel like counting. Too many is the easy answer. Now I have yet another one with my new email account. I am determined not to use it. Sheesh, these calendar are about as bad as email addresses. I have more email addresses than I do calendars. I just made a quick list of email addresses and came up with five PLUS the ten that I have with the company owned prospect / lead manager. I have never used any of those ten.

                Sure wish they made a paper email.

An accidental restaurant review

                 It was one of those days that I struggled to get anything on this page. I had a nice piece going about shiny penny syndrome. Half way through that, a call came through from a political party looking to relieve me of some of my money (I resisted). That pretty much ruined that train of thought.

                I suppose I could write a review about the restaurant I had dinner at tonight. It was one of those all you can eat places. I have not been to one of these places in years, largely because they remind me of the Army’s mess halls (they are called dining halls now).  I just had to stop everything so I could sneeze my dang fool head off. Back to the restaurant. It was standard cafeteria food and hardly worth mentioning.  As everybody probably knows, the food in all you can eat places is laid out buffet style and one is expected and encouraged to eat any and everything.  That, my friends, explains why America has an obesity problem.

                Negotiating one’s way through the buffet (read trough) is made easy by the fact that each general selection is identified by a large sign overheard. Names like Healthy Salads, Beef Bonanza, Desert Island, and an unnamed section that contains all the stuff that does not fit anywhere else. It is interesting to note that the desert area is by far the largest of all sections. It is also the one that runs out of stuff most often.  Poor vegetables got the raw end of the deal. They do not have a section of their own. They are left to intermingle among the pork and fish. Seems a might unfair to me but I don’t make the rules.

                I had a salad (actually quite good), a pork chop (eh), mashed potatoes and gravy, corn, and something wrapped in bacon. Once I freed whatever the bacon was surrounding, I discovered that it was a piece of beef (I later learned that they called it a London broil though I fail to see how London could be involved:  or how it would want to be). There is now the question of whether it was any good. Back In the Army, there was a simple test as to the quality of one’s meal. If one’s meal (chow as we called it) went down and stayed there, it was good. It was as simple as that. Using this standard, the meal at the all you can eat place passed the test at least as of this writing some two hours after leaving the restaurant. If I live through the night I will consider the meal to have been a success.

                A word about ambience: there isn’t any unless crying babies and teenagers in a feeding frenzy counts as atmosphere. The place is meant to feed large herds of families and it does so in factory precision. Please note that one is expected to pay when one walks in the door and before a close examination of the evening’s offerings can be made. After they have your money, you are pretty much on your own. If you go, please take one precaution: make sure you do not block a male teenager’s path to any food stands at anytime. Salad is exempt.

The neatest thing since sliced bread

                This quote has been circulating through the English language ever since Otto Frederick Rohwedder of Davenport, Iowa made the first commercial bread slicing machine in 1928. He actually had one built in 1912 but it was destroyed in a fire (probably the result of a clandestine operation by anti-sliced bread guerillas). The federal government banned the machine in 1943 as a cost saving move in support of the war effort that the world was engaged in at the time. Legions of housewives of the day swarmed to Capital Hill in Washington D.C. and the ban was quickly lifted that same year. Lucky thing for the government.  Hell hath no wrath like a legion of women deprived of sliced bread. It’s true.  A letter to the editor was found where a housewife of the day had written that she had to slice up to twenty slices of bread each morning to get her brood out and about. She simply did not have the time to do all this and get her husband off to work and kids to school in a timely manner.

                The more interesting question to ponder is what was the neatest thing BEFORE sliced bread? What did they say before 1928 to express something that was just the neatest thing around? It would indeed be a fortunate thing if the internet could deal with issues such as this but, it cannot. The World Wide Web serves only to allow many thousands to lay claim (unjustifiably at that) to the title neatest thing since sliced bread. There are those who claim this distinction for everything from pre-made freezable dinners to neon signs to the hubcap of a 1966 Buick Wildcat. There is even a company that claims that a contraption designed to catch and rid one’s yard of sparrows is the neatest thing since sliced bread (doubtful – a .22 rifle has been at that job for ages and is far neater than any oddly shaped contraption). For either better or worse, there is not a federal or state commission that can decide these questions and so put to rest this issue of such great import. No, society is left to fend for itself. So, exactly what was the neatest thing before sliced bread?

                Considerable thought has been devoted to this age-old question. An internet poll was even commissioned to gauge public opinion. The results were, sadly, less than desirable. Everything from indoor plumbing, the wheel, fire, and cars were nominated. One person actually nominated toothpaste in a tube not once, but twice! So what is the answer?

                Toothpaste in a tube held this august title beginning in 1892 when Dr. Washington Sheffield first introduced the world to the convenience of toothpaste in a tube. He, of course, lost the title to Mr. Rohwedder’s sliced bread in 1912 or 1928 depending on who is counting. “Neatest thing since toothpaste in a tube.” Pretty catchy, isn’t it?

                Now you know.

Fixing the drain Part 2

I am chagrined to report that I had to make the universally required three trips to the hardware store to fix the drain mentioned in my previous narrative. The first trip to get the required part resulted in no parts at all. I decided that because the particular store that I went to had the part only as part of a larger assembly that I did not require. The second stop was at a store that had no such part in any shape or form. It was at the third stop that I found the part that I needed only to get it home and discover  it was too long to fit in my sink. That is, of course, why God made hacksaws and that resulted in a successful repair job.

The three trip rules remains unbroken.

Fixing the drain?

                “My bathroom sink is stopped up,” my bride said over dinner. “Can you fix it tonight?” Always one to give my best to my wife of thirty two plus years, I quickly said yes. That was a week ago. Now at dinner once again, she reminded me of the clogged drain that has gotten progressively worse since we last discussed it over dinner A WEEK AGO. I assured her that, as certain as God Himself made little green apples, I would unclog her drain this very night and, she would once again enjoy a properly functioning sink that she so very much deserves. Feeling very good about myself, I even went so far as to clean up the dinner dishes afterwards (there are only two of us around the house now). Cleaning up the dishes is one of the best delaying tactics around. Take it from me fellas, do a little clean up (not much mind you, just enough) after dinner, and your wife will feel so good about this wonderful guy she married that she’ll  forget about any promises you may or may not have made over dinner. It works every time. Well, almost every time.

                Two hours later and the wife found me relaxing in my chair perusing a magazine. It was late enough so that I was starting to think about going to bed. I was reminded of my promise to unclog the sink on this very night and was further asked if I would please do it before going to bed. I appealed that, being as how I had done the dinner dishes that I was released from my promise at least for that day. The wife took issue and assured me in no uncertain terms that my promise given at the dinner table would have no expiration date at all and could not be postponed. In deference to the fact that she feeds me, I condescended to do as she asked.

                Now, every man knows that any given repair job on a house requires three trips to a hardware store. First to get the parts, the second to take the parts from the first trip back because they were the wrong ones, and a third trip to get a part to fix the part that broke putting the second set of parts on.  The problem with this particular job was it was almost 9:00 at night and I was not in the mood to make those three trips at that hour. So…I resolved I would break this universal principle with no trips to the hardware store.

                What I had to do was removed the “s” tube under the sink and clean it out. That accomplished nothing so I decided I would have to remove the mechanism that opens and closes the sink. I did that to discover that there was a mass of unholy goo stuck at that point. This slime came out rather easy and I thought all was well and I had prevented the making of those three trips. Right. The knob on top of the apparatus broke. No problem, I said to myself. I’ll glue it back on and re-install it in the morning. I went to bed that night in the smug knowledge that I would repair this sink with not a single trip to the hardware store.

                The next morning, I installed the now repaired drain tube but now could not connect it to the drain plug itself. I took it all apart (again) only to find it had rusted away and, yes, I would have to make a trip to the hardware store. That’s only one trip so I will beat the odds.

                I have not made that first trip yet. I will do so tomorrow in the full confidence that I will break the rules and get this job done successfully with only one trip to the hardware store.  I’ll let you know how that goes.

Augie and me

               I ran into Augie the other day. Augie and I go way back. Augie, by the way, is short for Augustus Matthews Buford Fuller. How he got that name is another entirely different story. We were in the Army together way back in the early 70’s and we’ve stayed in touch ever since. Nowadays, he lives back up in the woods (you know, so far back they have to pump sunshine in and moonshine out) so he does not get into town very often.  When he does come to town, he calls me and we meet at the coffee shop and visit for awhile. Augie is not the sharpest knife in the drawer but he’s a good fella. He works hard and never takes a dime he hasn’t earned.  

                Well, we were having coffee the other Saturday and Augie was telling old Army stories. He was joking that he knew enough never to get on the bad side of the company clerk, the cook, or the mail clerk. He thought of that because of the time he got sideways with our cook. See, Augie was a mechanic in the Army and a good one. He could fix near anything. Well, the cook got hold of Augie one day because the mess truck was broke. It’s kind of hard to feed soldiers if the truck’s broke. Augie was busy but told the cook he would be over as soon as he could. That turned into three hours and that made everybody mad. Supper was late for the whole battery and that made Augie very unpopular.

                Well, on this particular training exercise, lunch each day was C-rations. That’s the food the Army used to hand out in a small box. It contained dark green cans of various things that were rumored to be edible. That’s the claim though I think it might be disputed by many a veteran.  Anyway, the cook would take out all the meat cans and put them in a steel trash can full of water that had a heater in it. He would heat these cans up and soldiers would line up whereupon the cook would grab one out with tongs and pass them out. A lucky draw would result in a can of spaghetti and meat balls or beans and weenies. If one got on the cook’s bad side, the draw would be something called ham and chicken loaf. It’s kind of hard to describe ham and chicken loaf. Try to imagine the stuff they reject at a dog food factory. That does not begin to paint a picture of how bad this stuff looked and tasted. Many a soldier went without a meal to avoid the gastronomical disaster that awaited anybody who ate this stuff. Well, Augie’s punishment for his tardiness in fixing the mess truck was ham and chicken loaf for SEVEN straight days.

                I asked him what he had learned from those seven days of culinary abuse. He thought about that for a long time. Finally, he said, “Well, I reckon I ought to take care of them that take care of me.”

                Augie’s a pretty smart ole fella.  We’ll talk to Augie again soon I hope.

The exploding can


                           We had food (such was the claim) that was called “C-rations” to eat while in the field during my Army days. The Army would say they developed this alleged 3,700 calorie meal prior to World War II. I would respectfully dispute that claim as I distinctly recall in 1974 having a C-ration meal that had a pack date of 1467. Some of the items were actually palatable though I would not care to try any of them today in deference to my aging digestive tract. 

                            Now, a lot of times there was no way to heat this stuff. There is no experience like living in a tent (GP-medium for you vets out there) without heat in sub-zero temps and having to consume something called “Ham and Lima Beans” that was packed in a tin can and looking remarkably like the contents of a can of dog food. The further indignity involved eating this stuff cold. Being the inventive G.I. that I was (all G.I.’s, by necessity, are inventive), I searched and found a way to heat this poor excuse for sustenance. I would wedge a can of whatever that needed warmed up into the exhaust manifold of one of the trucks. Ten to fifteen minutes of engine idle time and I could at least have whatever it was at some temperature above frozen. It worked out pretty well most of the time. 

                            I don’t remember his name. He was a fairly new arrival to our Artillery Battery (Vets: it was Svc Btry, 1/36th FA based in Augsburg, Germany). He had been lucky to get a can of spaghetti and meat balls in his c-rations. As a side note: spaghetti and meat balls were the best C-ration meal one could get back then. Anyway, being a new guy, he did not have the extensive “wisdom” that the old soldiers like me (I was 20 – maybe) so he asked a couple of us how to heat his dinner. He was instructed how and where to wedge his can in the exhaust manifold of a nearby 5-ton truck. What he was not told apparently, was of the need to put a few vent holes in the can. Have you ever seen what happens to a can of spaghetti and meat balls that has been heated without benefit of a vent hole or two? The can exploded with the hood of the truck down. An entire can of spaghetti and meat balls was splattered all over the engine compartment, helped along in its destructive path by a still running engine.  

                          Now, heating one’s c-ration in an engine compartment was strictly forbidden by the powers that be. We had no clue where he got the idea to do that. None of us told him and, of course, we would never do that ourselves. 

                           Sure took him a long time to clean that engine.

Army stories I will never tell

I retired from the Army quite awhile ago. It was a great twenty one plus years and I have a lot of fond memories of my time in uniform. There are a lot of great stories that will eventually bubble up to the surface of my memory. There are others, however, that will never see the light of day;

  • There was the night I spent in a phone booth at the train station in Buchloe, Germany. Nope, not telling that one.
  • Then there was the time when I fell off a fence I was climbing over and cracked a rib or two. That story will never be told.
  • There was the girl I met at the American Hotel in Augsburg, Germany in 1975. I can state unequivocally that THAT story will never be told.
  • I swiped a canvas door off of an Army Jeep one morning. The statute of limitations may still be in force so that event will not be recorded.
  • There was that assault charge. Uh. No, nyet, nein. No story there.
  • There was the time that I was on radio watch one night and swore loudly into an open mike for the entire world to hear. The aftermath is the story that I will not tell.
  • I SHOULD tell the story about a buddy that got picked up by the German police for an incident at a house of dubious distinction. Maybe I will someday but, today is not that day.
  • There was a time when I bought a plane ticket home and the ticket agent did not tell me about the fifteen hour layover in Houston. I did manage to stay out of trouble then. It was not easy and was only successful because I had no money.
  • I stayed up all night once and drove a tour bus the next morning. Nobody died and I did not wreck the bus but I’m still not telling that story.
  • On a dare, I stuck my face into a plate of two burning caps of CS gas and took a deep breath. The suffering on my part was legendary and maybe I will tell that tale one of these days. That was sooo dumb.
  • I spent a whole day looking for a non-existent part for an Army truck, all the while, my boss and buddies were laughing their tails off (wait, I think I did tell that story).
  • Finally, the evening I and my roommate spent serenading my future bride outside her window. Not telling that story either. She tells it better than me anyway.

Yup, those were great years but there are just some things best left alone.

The joys of coffee?

                  It is Saturday morning and I am ensconced in front of my computer with a cup of coffee. (I’m not sure that one can actually be “ensconced” in front of a computer – maybe in front of a roaring fire but not a computer. Oh well, it’s there and I am not going to change it). My trusty cell phone (which, like my computer, does not lie) informs me that it is twelve degrees (that’s 12°) outside. I have made a decision that I will remain here with my coffee as long as I can get away with it.  It will not be long as the matriarch of the house is up and about. She will no doubt spot my immobility and dig out the proverbial “honey do” list. No, but for the time I do have to me, I will endeavor to enjoy it with my coffee.

                  Coffee has a special place in my heart. It kept me warm and awake on many a cold, dark night in the Army. The Army that I remember made their “field coffee” in ten gallon pots over an open fire stove (called an M-2 burner in those days). Most of the time, the grounds were dumped directly into the water. One was left to sift the grounds out with one’s teeth or take the risk of internal havoc and swallow it. Enterprising cooks of the day would fill Army-issue wool socks (new ones, I think!) with grounds and set them in the water.  That procedure had nothing to do with making life a little easier for the soldier. They just did not want to have to clean all those grounds out of the pot and so create what we would now call a hazardous waste. Regardless of how they made their field coffee, it was never very good. It may eventually be found that entire legions of soldiers were permanently scarred, physically and mentally, by this evil mixture. The truth is that the value of that coffee came when we filled our canteen cups with the more than likely toxic concoction. The canteen cup was metal so conducted heat pretty well. Soldiers back then filled the cup to the brim and, most of the time, never took a drink. The only function of coffee for many soldiers back then was heat for his/her hands. The ones (including me) who took the risk of actually drinking did so out of lack of sleep more than anything else.

                 So, as I sit here with my coffee and remember those cold nights, I do so with some degree of nostalgia and one burning question that I will never know the answer to. Did our cook “really” use new socks or am I bald for reasons other than heredity?

On “man bags”

I was at the bank the other day and the subject of man bags came up. Leslie the teller made the outrageous prediction that they are here to stay. She went on further to claim that their universal use was inevitable. It was a preposterous claim and I said so. Nichole (the other teller) joined Leslie in agreement on this position. I assured them that, at no time would I ever be observed carrying anything resembling what is commonly called a European man bag. In fact, I opined, man bags in America will go down as a complete and utter flop. I added that I would structure my Last Will and Testament to insure that my offspring and, indeed, all of my future male descendants would adhere to my prohibition against such an article. Leslie and Nichole uniformly dismissed my arguments.  In fear of having zeros deducted from my account, I left.

Since then, I have given considerable thought to my anti man-bag policy. I remain adamant in my opposition and here’s why. Think for a minute what the purpose of a man bag is. It is supposed to carry all the stuff that a guy would need through the course of a day. Let me state that those bags whose designed purpose is to carry a laptop and/ or equipment to do one’s job does not meet the qualifications of a man bag.  A man bag has a strap that allows the “gentleman” to carry said bag as a woman would a purse. In fact, these abominable creations look very much like a woman’s purse.  They probably are women’s purses that have been re-marketed for men. Bah!

So, I ask this question. Besides a laptop computer, what could a man possible have to carry that requires such an article? On my daily rounds, I carry a cell phone, wallet, keys, and enough money for coffee and a donut. All that stuff will fit neatly in my pockets so please tell me, where and how would I have use of a man bag? Is it possible that the new generation of men will be expected to carry things of which I am unaware? In my wildest imaginations, I cannot think of needing anything beyond what I have already stated.  I do not know any man personally who carries and uses make-up for example. It’s possible that there is somebody out there but I don’t know them nor do I wish to.

No, my dear Leslie and Nichole, man-bags are not inevitable as you claim. Time will show that I am right.