Monday, February 28, 2011

That Damn Dog Is Up To No Good ...

There were some interesting dog-related activities over the weekend. And by “interesting,” I mean “frightening and disturbing, to the point where I am afraid to go to sleep.”

She’s long been prone to taking things out to the back yard, for reasons I have yet to determine. She has a liking for plastic food containers, disirregardless of whether or not they actually contain food. She has also made it clear that I am not to have any spatulas with smooth flipping surfaces unmarred by teeth marks. Fine. I can live with that.

Saturday morning, however, I was getting ready to start my day by cooking up some tasty spuds to eat whilst having my ass handed to me by the daily crossword puzzle. I had gone grocery shopping the day prior, and had purchased a 5 lb (2.27 kg) bag of Idaho’s Finest Russets®, and, with cutting board clean and waiting, I stepped toward the table to retrieve them to prepare my meal. “Hmm,” I said out loud. “This is odd. I clearly remember leaving a 5 lb (2.27 kg) bag of Idaho’s Finest Russets® right here on the table; yet now, they seem to be missing.”

I checked the cupboards and the pantry, in the off chance that I had done a little kitchen clean-up during one of my all-too-common sleepwalking episodes, but the taters remained at large. Indy, at this point, having an uncanny knack of sensing when I’m about to discover something she has [knowingly] done wrong, began to quietly, but quickly, make her way back to the bedroom.

Oh, goddamn it …” I said, which sped up her exit, as she’s grown quite accustomed to that phrase, and knows exactly what it means.

I went to the back door and opened it, and sure enough, there was the package of purloined potatoes perched on the porch. I was perplexed – she not only would have had to drag the bag off the table and across the floor, but lift it about 6” (15.2 cm) to get it through her dog-door - a tall order for one without opposible thumbs. And yet there it lay.

And next to it: a steak knife.

And next to that: the remains of a bag of about 30 Charms Blow Pop suckers that I had also bought.

I have no idea what she’s up to. I do know that potatoes can be used as a source of electricity, so I suspect that she’s building some sort of powered device to aid in an escape attempt. I’ve yet to figure out what the Blow Pops could be for - perhaps as some sort of McGuyver-esque adhesive, or to fashion a large balloon out of the gum center. An alternative theory is that she’s planning my demise … I know that potatoes are a source of potassium, which is used to stop a person’s heart during executions, as it interrupts the function of the sodium-potassium cellular pump. Maybe she just wants to have some candy while watching me gasp my last breath. In any case, I haven’t slept in two days.

On an unrelated note: Sweet adorable puppy available, free to good any home.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Time Is Not On My Side

As shocking events continue to occur around the globe (the revolutions in the Middle East, Democratic Senators fleeing Wisconsin to protect the rights of state workers, a woman pitching for the first time to Major League hitters the Cleveland Indians …), I know that one question is at the forefront of everyone’s consciousness: What is a Day In The Life like for The Dead Acorn?

I’ve listed below my normal schedule of events for a weekday morning (weekends usually involve bail bondsmen and/or asking for directions back to the main road):

  • 5:00 am – (alarm sounds) Rise from bed; hit snooze button; return to bed.
  • 5:09 am – (alarm sounds) Rise from bed; hit snooze button; return to bed.
  • 5:18 am – (alarm sounds) Rise from bed; hit snooze button; return to bed.
  • 5:27 am – (alarm sounds) Rise from bed; hit snooze button; return to bed.
  • 5:36 am – (alarm sounds) Rise from bed; hit snooze button; return to bed.
  • 5:45 am – (alarm sounds) Rise from bed; hit snooze button; return to bed.
  • 5:54 am – (alarm sounds) Rise from bed; turn off alarm; return to bed.
  • 6:45 am – Leap from bed in full-blown panic mode, convinced that it's past noon.
  • 6:45:50 am-7:30 am – See that all is not lost; do morning stuff; arrive at “work.”

You probably notice some inefficiency in my timeline, but believe me, I’ve tried to find an alarm clock that has a snooze duration of 54 minutes, and they simply don’t exist. The 5:00 am setting itself is something I can’t seem to bring myself to change, however.

It’s an artifact from a bygone time, a time when I would spring out of bed and marvel at the pale glow beyond the hills, trembling with anticipation at what the day might bring … a time when breakfast was ever-changing, yet always palate-pleasing, lingered over and loved … a time when goals, and hopes, and dreams still burned within and consumed me … when dreams filled my imagination and ambition drove my every thought, when aspirations still existed and the thought of lying in bed wasting time was unimaginable, when visions of what the future might hold were so strong that I would rise from my slumber and leap to the window, throwing back the curtains and crying “YES!” to the new day, “YES!” to the first rays of the sun …

Granted, that bygone time only lasted about a week, and now I’m back to rushing through a bowl of cold cereal while trying to put my clothes on and brushing my hair reading the few comics that I can get through so that I’m not more than fifteen minutes late to "work," but for some reason, I just can’t bring myself to reset that damn alarm to a more sensible time.

So there you have (at least part of) a Day In The Life Of The Dead Acorn. A Night In The Life Of The Dead Acorn, by the way, has, as its final item, this:
  • 4:30 am – wake up on couch; drink full warm beer foolishly opened the night before; turn on alarm; go to bed.

Livin’ the dream, baby.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Hit The Showers, Kid

I like to think of myself as being somewhat eco-friendly. I could certainly do more, of course, as could we all, but I think I try to minimize the magnitude of my negative effects on the planet. I usually remember to take my own bags when I shop; I try to ride my bike when I don’t need to drive; things like that.

One area into which I’ve really put a lot of work is the adjustment of the temperature setting on my water heater. It’s just silly to have 200° F (366.33° K) water sitting around in a tank that you have to cool down in order to use, right? Right. Astoundingly, it’s been estimated* that the median U.S. houseowner wastes $23,500 dollars annually by keeping their water unnecessarily hot.

To this end, I spent the first several years after purchasing my house getting the heater dialed in to the ideal setting. To understand my definition of “ideal” in this context, a brief primer on thermostatically-regulated di-hydrogen oxide temperature control is warranted:

There’s, umm … some little sensor thingy in there that turns some fire on when it gets too cold and turns the fire off when it gets too hot.

I’m pretty sure that’s how it works. Maybe. I think.

Anyway, the water temperature cycles up and down within some range according to how you’ve set the thermostat. The ideal setting is such that at its coldest, your perfect shower won’t require any cold water mixed in at all.

And so it was that from 2004 to 2007, the primary focus of my very existence was temperature adjustment (which may have contributed to a number of failed relationships, but hey, whaddya gonna do?), and having succeeded in my efforts, I have enjoyed perfect showers since then, while minimizing my consumption of natural gas, and thereby helping to save polar bears.

Until yesterday.

Yesterday, the goddamned water was too goddamned cold.

Being of an inquisitive mind, and having taken Research Methods 101 (twice!), I quickly formulated several hypotheses that could potentially explain the earth-shattering change, which I present graphically below:

Above: Comic Sans MS font was used in order to undermine any chance in hell of being taken seriously by the scientific community.

The pink sinusoidal line represents the temperature cycle prior to yesterday, and the red horizontal line represents the temperature required for the Ideal Shower (the concept of Ideal Shower, for the present discussion, does not take into account the presence of (or lack thereof) 1) beer, or 2) company). As you can see, at its coldest, the water was just slightly warmer than what I required for showeric nirvana.

My first instinct was that something had happened to the water heater itself. The green sinusoid represents an expansion of the temperature range that the water cycles through; that is, it gets hotter before the little sensor thingy turns the fire off, and colder before the little sensor thingy turns the fire back on. The purple sinusoid represents an alternative explanation, in which the range of temperatures has shifted downward. Either occurrence results in the minimum of the cycle being below the Ideal Shower Temperature (IST).

I’ve begun sampling the tank temperature every 10 minutes in order to compare those data to the cyclic pattern that I had previously established and provide support for one hypothesis or the other. I hope and pray that one of them remains a viable candidate, because a third explanation is represented by the blue horizontal line, indicating that my IST has actually shifted upward, no doubt due to a metabolic shift within my body, signaling a rapid deterioration of my physical functioning and being a harbinger of my imminent and certain demise.

Please keep me in your thoughts, because that last one would kind of suck. At least for me.

* Estimated by me, based on no data whatsoever.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Now Sammy ... There's A Great Seal!

I’ve been a bit negligent in my blogorial duties as of late (I believe the street term for a person in such a state is “blog slacker;” however, since is blocked at my place of employment, I can’t say with certainty). My lack of productivity has not been due to any sort of reticence, but rather to an issue that has consumed me over the past week.

I am not a big fan of braggadocio … I see no need to make loud boasts and trumpet one's qualities (be they real or imagined) when those qualities are evidenced by their very existence. (In addition to seeing no need for it, I, personally, lack cause for any boasting, so I luckily am without temptation to do so.)

As to the object of my obsession:

Above: The seal creator was a little full of herself, no?

This is the official Seal of the State of Idaho (actually, with respect to Magritte, I should say it’s an image of the official Seal of the State of Idaho). Note that it’s not the “Seal Of The Great State Of Idaho,” which would be a proper and honest allusion to the reverence in which we hold our home. Apparently, Miss Emma Sarah Etine Edwards, the designer of the Fair-To-Middling-At-Best Great Seal thought so highly of her work that felt the need to label it as such. Gee, Miss Edwards, it’s a miracle that DaVinci has remained famous after failing to title his masterpiece “The Great Mona Lisa.”

As you can see, it shows a woman and a man looking away from each other, obviously not speaking (she seems to be thinking “Fine. Go ahead and wear your god-awful neckerchief … it doesn’t mean I have to look at it.) Also present is our State Motto, “Esta Perpetua,” which is Latin for “Wasted Forever,” and which remains strikingly appropriate even 120 years later, especially for the North End hipsters in Boise. I have no idea why there’s a deer wearing a ridiculously huge badge in the middle – no doubt Miss Edwards was living up to the motto when she drew this.

I’m more partial to the Seal Of The Territory Of Idaho, which was used from 1866-1890:

Above: Awesome without needing to point it out explicitly.

This shows a couple of women just hangin’ out, chillin’, as if they had just sidled up to the bar for a drink. The absence of a male, along with the Star Of David at the bottom, has led some scholars to theorize that Idaho was once a sanctuary for Jewish lesbians. The presence of the wacky badge-wearing deer and the word “Salve,” which is Latin for “Ointment,” which is fun to say when baked (so I hear), suggests that Idahoans were Wasted Forever even before the official adoption of the motto.

It occurred to me that perhaps I should start an effort to change our Official Seal, but we’d likely end up with a couple of rednecks and the words “Votus Republicanus Perpetua” on it. Sometimes the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t.

Friday, February 11, 2011

In Which I Discover My Inner Vegecidal Demons

Well, another Friday, another self-shattering realization of the sick blackness that lies within me.

A short while ago, I was congratulating myself for saving a bunch of celery that I had purchased last night, but had somehow forgotten to properly refrigerate upon arriving home. (I had stopped at the pub briefly after shopping, and unfortunately, once I get a couple of beers down my gullet, my sense of responsibility with respect to proper vegetable care goes out the window. It’s not something I’m proud of ... quit judging me.) I was reminded of my negligence this morning, when I opened my backpack to the sad sight of spiritless stalks, lying limp and listless, languishing in what, for harvested greens, must be the climatal (I’m not sure of the adjective form of “climate”) climatory* equivalence of the very fires of hell.

After a brief moment of panic, I regained my composure, and calmly recalled the USDA-approved protocol prescribed in such situations, which, in its entirety, reads: “Put celery in water.” I accomplished this with great alacrity, and complimented myself on my ability to keep my wits about me under such dire circumstances. “Truly,” I spoke aloud, firmly and proudly. “I am no less than a Life Giving God, a Savior unto the simple stalks, a Benevolent and Righteous Rejuvenator.”

And with a strong sense of self and worth, I donned my coat and gloves, and headed off to work. The end.

Except it wasn’t the end … the ride into work, while not long, is quite peaceful, and lends itself to the sort of self-reflection not otherwise attainable in the hustle and bustle of everyday life. It was on the ride that I began to ponder what it was that made me forget that the celery was in my backpack in the first place. After all, there were no earth-shaking events occurring in my life that would distract me, no thoughts so important as to monopolize my attention to the point of vegetative neglect. What, then? What?

Could it be that some hideous aspect of my subconscious caused me to intentionally leave it out overnight, thereby creating the opportunity for my morning heroics? Do I so need that affirmation that I would do harm to innocent food just so that I could then save it? Am I suffering from some strange variant of M√ľnchausen Syndrome by Proxy? What kind of sick monster am I?

And so has my day gone**, bringing yet another discovery of the malignance that resides in my soul. Perhaps this recognition will be a step toward redemption, but who knows? I want to be good … I want to do the right thing, but I'm so afraid of what I might really be, deep down at my very core. I’m out of radishes and cucumbers, too … maybe shopping tonight will be the first leg of a journey toward recovery. Give me strength.

* Thanks Niamh B!
** I also forgot to get milk last night, so I had to have my Cheerios dry this morning. Bad day all around.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Lesson Learned!

I realize that as we wander through our pointless little existences, we should probably occasionally pay attention and try to learn the lessons that life seems to be trying to teach us, but sometimes I get a little confused.

I recently stopped drinking beer for a few weeks, for a couple of reasons, not the least of which was that I seemed to be getting a little soft around the waistline. I am by no means what anyone would call athletic, but I don’t want to have to buy a bunch of new clothes, either, so it seemed like losing a few pounds was in order.

After days of exhaustive research, I discovered a plethora of methods for achieving my goal; unfortunately, most were cost-prohibitive, as my obviously-insufficient health insurance carrier refused to cover liposuction, gastrointestinal bypass, stomach stapling, or any of the other logical (and only mildly intrusive) choices. That left either increasing my level of exercise or changing my dietary habits, and those of you who know me are familiar with my aversion to physical activity – the former was clearly not an option.

So beer-cation it was! Three and a half goddamn weeks without those empty calories, three and a half goddamn weeks of weighing myself every morning, and … nothing. Not one goddamn pound lost. I was understandably confused, and certainly disappointed, but I recognize a lost cause when I see it*, and as wiser men than I have said, “Fool me once, shame on you … continue to not enjoy frosty cold adult beverages when there are no discernable benefits, shame on me.”

And so on Friday, and throughout the just-passed weekend, I had myself a beer or three, resigning myself to a future of doughboyish softness, and trying to maintain something of a good attitude by telling myself that at least my smokin-hot ass was holding its shape (though all the while avoiding full-length mirrors, of course).

Monday finally arrived, and just for kicks, I walked down to the basement at my place of employment where the scale is kept. Three pounds gone. Three pounds gone! It was a Christmas National Fettucini Alfredo Day Miracle! Furthermore, those three pounds took me below a certain integer multiple of 100 pounds, which, while entirely arbitrary, was still something of a convenient benchmark and all the more rewarding.

So back to my original thesis of learning life’s lessons and all that: What the hell am I supposed to take away from all of this? Drinking = good = skinny? Being a data-driven objectivist, I know that the numbers don’t lie, so I guess I’ll just have to accept that, as much as it pains me.

It's tough being so rational sometimes.

* No, I don’t. I really, really don’t.

Friday, February 4, 2011

You're Not The Boss Of Me!

Well, today is my last day. My last day running amok at work; answering to no one, heeding no directives, hearing no admonishments. Showing up late, drunk, and wearing footie kangaroo jammies … cranking Pantera and doing breakfast shots in the office while the still-nameless girls from the previous night's party do lines on my desk … making book and running odds for the local lowlifes and doing the occasional “trash disposal” contract job, all on the taxpayer dime … it all comes to an abrupt end as of 4:00 pm this afternoon.

I’ve been sans supervisor at my place of employment since last April, when my (then) boss retired. Oh, sure, his boss was still there, but she didn’t wander over my way very often, and I was mostly left to my own devices. In fact, she left the organization about a month ago, so I’ve had a brief window where I’ve been completely off the grid (to be honest, it was only during this time that I did the aforementioned “contract work,” but hey, 200 large in four weeks ain’t chump change, and I’m not the greedy sort anyway).

Actually, I did have one encounter with the person who the Powers That Be temporarily put in her position (I’ll call him Pat because that’s his name):

Pat: Hey, Dead Acorn, you got a minute?

Dead Acorn: (pushes midget little person clowns down behind desk, prays they don’t start giggling again) umm … yeah, Pat, sure. 'Sup?

Pat: This is a little awkward, but the Department is updating background checks on everyone, and something came up in yours from about a year and a half ago. An incident with local Law Enforcement of some sort.

Dead Acorn: Yeah, that’s kind of a funny story. What about it? I’m kind of busy here …

Pat: ummm … okay, nevermind (sheepishly shuffles out).
But as I said, the show is over. As of Monday morning, I’ll have a new boss. I’ve met her a few times, and I’m sure she’ll be great, in that establishmentarian kind of way, you know, that traditional “explicit goals and expectations” way of thinking, where employees are judged on their “output and performance” and their “objectively measured competence” and all the rest of the crapola that goes along with Everyday Life In Normaltown, USA.

Well, I’ll do it, Little Missy New-Boss … I’ll put on the suit and tie, and I’ll show up and shuffle my papers around, and act like a good little puppet, my arms and legs flailing about in grotesque disjunction as you tug the strings afforded you by your State Given Superiority, yes, yes, I’ll dance whatever steps you call, and appear the proper and subservient lackey, and grant you the illusory position of power for which you so yearn.

After work, though, I’m going bowling, and then to nekkid karaoke, and you know what? Huh? You know what?

There’s not a damn thing in the world you can do about it.

Note: The part about Pat having to ask me about an incident that came up in a background check, and the fact that it was his only work-related encounter with me in his short-lived position as my nominal supervisor, is absolutely true.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

I'll Soon Be A Roads Scholar

My name is The Dead Acorn, and it’s been 13 days since I’ve had to have my car towed while returning from the Outback after attending a rally of enraged anti-government rebels.

I’ve been a member of Triple-A for well nigh over a decade now (I may have conflated several “A-abbreviated ” organizations in the first sentence – I’m referring to the American Automobile Association, not Alcoholics Anonymous or the Australian Association of Apoplectic Anarchists, to neither of which I can claim membership, being 1) something of a supporter of law-and-order in society, and 2) far from anonymous in my over-indulgence.)

Given my long history of driving less-than-fully-reliable cars, membership in AAA has been a wise decision, I think, even though I’ve paid in far more than I would have spent in towing charges over the years – the peace of mind that comes with knowing that when the inevitable finally happens, when my ride ups and dies in the dead cold of winter, potentially blocks ... blocks! from the nearest tavern, I’ll just need to make a single phone call rather than have to deal with stressful details about what to do is well worth the expense. It’s not unlike the fact that during times when I happen to have a significant other, I keep a bottle of Maker’s Mark and a CD of Songs Of Love Gone Wrong at the ready for The Night I Screw Things Up™ (an event no less certain to occur than a cracked distributor cap 22 miles down FSR 212 in central Idaho, believe you me!). Think ahead, my friends ... the fewer details you have to think about in stressful situations, the better off you’ll be.

Still, it is a bit of money, and yesterday, it occurred to me that I’ve been remiss in not taking advantage of AAA’s sweetest amenity: FREE MAPS! I was extremely excited as I drove to their office; understandably so, I think, since, while I’m frequently told by friends and strangers alike, and in no uncertain terms, where I should go, Triple-A goes one step further and provides actual directions!*

Though the number of available maps must surely have been several score, I showed a little self-restraint and only requested the Idaho map (as a bonus, it also shows Montana, so if I ever get a hankerin’ to head to the Testicle Festival in Clinton, Mt, I’ll know exactly how to get there!), though Anna, the courteous and helpful employee, seemed to think that I needed a Boise City map as well, and was quite insistent that I not leave without one (I think I might project an "I Get Lost Quite Easily!" sort of aura). Maybe I’ll use that to plot the most efficient bike routes to all the bars in town … I’d like to think that Anna would approve of that.

So tonight, I’m going to while away the hours poring over the backroads of the Gem State, planning some quick one-night camping trips for the spring, and maybe a few longer excursions during the summer, to be spent immersed in the natural beauty that we, as Idahoans, are blessed with, the kind of beauty so awe-inspiring that, when in its midst, we can't help but become the better for experiencing it, moving just a bit closer toward what we can be, if we just let ourselves, and perhaps even finding answers to questions we didn’t even know were being asked, que ...

Oh, fergawdsake ... all the fancy-schmancy faux philosophy in the world ain’t gonna change the fact that I’m going to spend my night alone looking at a goddamned map. I have got to get a life.

* Damn, I loves me some commas!