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January 28, 2011

Of snow-scrapers and vandalism

scraper.jpgI have a thing about snow-scrapers. For whatever reason my kids periodically decide to take the snow-scrapers out of my vehicles. I can't explain why, they just do. Never having to drive they probably think they are toys, or silly poles with brushes on them. So, they throw them out. Of course, as soon as they do we get a huge snow or ice storm and I am forced to scrape my windows with a credit card. It has happened so often that now I freak out if I find out my vehicle doesn't have its snow-scraper. My kids know they will feel my wrath if the car or minivan I get into doesn't have its resident snow-scraper. Even in the summer.

A couple of months ago my two boys and I went to a Boy Scout lock-in. We had a great time. We went swimming, we played basketball, and we watched movies until 4:00 AM. I was in charge of the food for around 30 attendees. I bought like 15 bags of popcorn (cheesy popcorn was the preferred flavor), 15 liters of Sprite and root beer, 2 gallons of ice cream (for root beer floats), and 12 large pizzas. It was incredible. When it was time to eat that pizza I opened the boxes and it was like wolves descending on a moose. I literally had to get out of the way or I would have been trampled. I don't think the pizza lasted more than 5 minutes.

Anyway, after the event was over (thank goodness for 5-hour energy ... that stuff is the real deal) we packed up and started to walk out to the minivan.

I noticed it had snowed during the night so I turned to my son and said, "Alex, there had better be a snow-scraper in our minivan or I am going to flip."

Tentatively he replied, "I'm pretty sure there is a snow-scraper in the van, Dad. Don't worry about it."

"You're the one that is going to have to worry if my van is snow-scraperless," I said. Alex sighed and just kept walking.

Out of the corner of my eye I saw the van but I noticed there was something odd with the driver side window. It looked like it was rolled down, but also full of jagged ice. I thought that was weird and I quickened my pace.

brokenwindow.jpgAs I got closer the window looked stranger and stranger until I realized that it had been smashed open! Little chunks of glass were still hanging from the door frame and glass was everywhere in the van. The van had been unlocked and obviously the perpetrator(s) had gone through it looking for valuables. The glove box had been left open.

Stunned, I started to go through the car to see if anything had been stolen. My CDs were still there. My son's Sunday school Bible was left untouched. Really, there was nothing of value to steal. Thankful, I told my boys to get in and I prepared to get the ice off the windshield. That is when I realized that one important thing had been stolen.

"They stole my snow-scraper!" I yelled angrily.

Alex just laughed.

Posted by snackeru at 8:26 AM

January 24, 2011

Pet-peeves

diving.jpg I have a lot of pet-peeves. I think we all do. For example, I have a problem with people touching my feet. For whatever reason it is like nails on a chalkboard to me. Strange, I know, but it is what it is. Other examples include people eating with their mouths open, my kids leaving the lights on all over the house, Packer fans in general, etc, etc... You get the picture.

Another pet-peeve I have is the "I can't hear you" technique people will use to get a crowd to cheer louder. Drives me crazy. This is especially true of the shows at the State Fair.

Last year at the Fair we saw the 3rd Lair skate show, and the Extreme Team diving show. My kids, especially my middle child, really liked both shows. The skate show featured skate boarding and in-line skating and I was more impressed than I thought I would be. And the dive show, while a little hokey, definitely had me squirming in my seat. I don't know how anyone can climb so high and then jump. I could barely watch.

Both shows also aggravated me because, in their attempts to get the crowds to cheer louder, both shows constantly used the old "I can't hear you" method to get us to yell and scream. You know what I am talking about:

Announcer: Do you want to see some diving?!?!
Crowd: Yaaaaay! Woooo! Yes! We would like to see some diving, thanks for asking!
Announcer: Oh, come on! I could barely even hear you. Now, do you want to see some diving?!?!?!?
Crowd: YEEEESSSS!!! Please dive for us! Woooo!!!! We are being louder!!
Announcer: I still can't hear you! I swear, we will just pack up and leave if we don't hear some REAL cheers this time! One more time, DO YOU WANT TO SEE SOME DIVING!?!?!?!?
Crowd: WOOOOOO!!!! CLAP, CLAP, CLAP!!!!! FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY, PLEASE LET US SEE SOME DIVING!!!! YOU HAVE WORKED US INTO A FRENZY THAT CAN ONLY BE SATISFIED BY PEOPLE JUMPING FROM OBSCENCE HEIGHTS INTO A SMALL POOL OF WATER!!!! YAAAAY!!!!!!

You get the picture. I have come to a point in my life where I find this tactic to be extremely annoying. I might do it once a show, but both the skate show and the dive show went through this cycle at least three times. I just had to stop cheering. That's right, I came to a point where I would risk not "seeing some diving" because I refused to play their little game anymore! So, if any would be announcers are out there reading this please spare your crowds this method of forcing cheers. We can probably handle it once, but three times is a little excessive.

That is all.

Posted by snackeru at 7:35 AM

January 22, 2011

Women and makeup

lipstick.jpgWhat, I ask you, is the purpose of putting makeup on? In other words, why do women wear makeup? Anyone? Yes, I think it can be agreed that women put makeup on to make themselves look better. In fact, I would wager that after a woman puts makeup on she says to herself, "There. I look better." Does anyone want to dispute this?

So, a while ago my friend Curt and I were at the Mall of America with our wives. After a couple of hours walking through the mall, we decided to meet up again at Nordstroms, where Curt and I were stunned that people could live with themselves after charging $90 for a belt. And it was on sale! Simply stunning.

Anywho, our wives come up and inform us that they had just had some makeup applied at the cosmetic counter by a trained professional.

"How do we look?" they asked us.

Curt immediately answered, "Angelic!" While my response was:

"Vast improvement."

Now, much to my amazement, my answer was for some reason not the right thing to say. In fact, that would be an understatement. While they both agreed Curt's compliment was an adequate response to their question, my response was deemed grounds for divorce. Honestly, I will never understand women!

I ask you again: why do women put makeup on? To reiterate, it is my opinion that women put makeup on to make themselves look better. You would think then that the compliment of "vast improvement" would make my wife happy since I am telling her that her goal of looking better has been met. In fact, one could argue that the compliment "vast improvement" signifies that she has exceeded expectations. That she now looks phenomenal! Am I wrong?

Apparently I am. Anyway, I don't write this to argue the point. I write this as a word of warning to all the men out there: "vast improvement" is not a good compliment for your significant other.

Thanks for your time.

Posted by snackeru at 10:35 AM

January 21, 2011

Humble thyself!

So, a while ago I put a cat door in my basement laundry room door. This allows our cats easy access to the litter box, and makes it so we won't have to smell it from the family room. Now, you've all probably heard the saying, "Measure twice, cut once," but that is not the school of thought that I work from. Oh no. I use the "eyeball it" methodology. I find that just eyeballing things allows me to get things done faster, and it adds a bit of excitement to the proceedings. Needless to say, my efforts with the cat door were no exception.

I began by removing the door from its hinges and bringing it outside to work my magic. I laid the door on my picnic table and penciled in the hole that I would jigsaw out. My wife came out and said, "You better measure that."

"Pffft!" I answered confidently. "How hard is it to cut a hole in a door? Be gone woman and let me work!"

Anyway, I cut a hole in the door and installed the cat door. All in all it took me about 15 minutes. I thought to myself, "This couldn't have gone any better! I'm like the Bob Vila of cat doors!" Then I took the door downstairs to put it back into place. Well at least I tried to.

This is a picture of the second cat door I installed. Pretty nice huh?

catdoor1.jpg

Thats right ... the second cat door I installed. Here is what my laundry room door looks like now:

catdoor2.jpg

If you still need me to spell it out for you, I cut the original cat door hole at the top of the door! What the heck is my problem? Why didn't I just take the time to make sure I was cutting at the right end? Believe me, this caused me a great deal of anger. Then acceptance. Then laughter. You don't need to tell me what an idiot I am. I know.

So, I hauled the door back outside, cut another hole, and installed the cat door at the right end. But now I have a hole at the top of the door too.

Moron

Anyway, it has occurred to me that I have a unique opportunity to do something special with the hole at the top of my door. Should I put in a little peep hole door? You know, put some hinges on another smaller door up there that would allow me to look into the laundry room without opening the main door? Or should I just cover the hole with a poster or something?

If any of you have any good ideas, let me know. Eventually I plan on getting a new door, but for now I want to do something. Like I said, it can be a pretty different kind of idea since I'm not sure I know anyone that has a big hole at the top of their laundry room door. So, if you think you've got a good idea lay it on me.

Also, if you've got any of your own home improvement projects and you need some advice, you know who to call. Especially if you need your projects to have a little more pizazz than usual. That's it for now. Have a good one!

Posted by snackeru at 8:10 AM

January 20, 2011

Keeping cool

On a cold day like today let's talk about air conditioning ...

gatesmansion.jpg

Recognize this house? Frankly, I would be surprised if you did given that this house was torn down in 1956. This house was known as the "Gates Castle" and was located at 2501 East Lake of the Isles Boulevard in Minneapolis. According to the July 11, 1957 edition of the Star Tribune, the mansion had 40 bedrooms, gold doorknobs, parquet floors, and huge crystal chandeliers, all for the cost of $1 million. You can see more of this amazing residence through the Minnesota History Center Visual Resource Database.

What makes this mansion especially amazing, though, is that is was the first home in America to have air conditioning.

Built by Charles Gates in 1914 to entertain guests in "Italian Renaissance grandeur" the house also boasted an absolutely enormous "climate control unit" designed by Willis Carrier of Syracuse, NY. When completed, the first home air conditioner was almost 7 feet high, 6 feet wide, and 20 feet long, and it used ammonia as the coolant. And even more amazing (and probably luckily for the would-be residents of the home given the use of ammonia as the coolant), it is unknown if this air conditioner was ever used.

Before Charles Gates and his new bride were set to move into the mansion, Gates died. It is unknown how much his widow stayed in the mansion after his death, but in 1916 she remarried and moved east. The house was then sold to a man from St. Paul, but apparently he never lived there either. Again, the home was then demolished in 1956.

What a tragedy, heh? Like many people, though, I find it fascinating that a home in Minnesota, a state known mostly for its brutal winters, is the location for the first home air conditioning unit in the world. We do have some pretty hot and humid summers too, but the first home air conditioner? Here? You gotta admit that is somewhat unexpected.

Of course, today we take air conditioning and much of its history for granted. Personally I find the history and social ramifications of air conditioning fascinating. For example, air conditioning has drastically changed the culture of the South. Some argue that that the heat and humidity of the South gave the region some of its distinctive flair and unique architecture, but air conditioning has caused the South to be a more indoor culture. It has also made the region a more livable place for northerners to move in and bring their own cultural differences with them.

Some people also blame air conditioning for the rise of malls (going to indoor shopping areas rather than downtown), childhood obesity (kids play indoors way more today), the size of government (more comfortable office spaces has meant more "servants of the people"), or even the demise of trains and the rise of the automobile for long trips across the country. Could our reliance on foreign oil be pinned, in part, on the majestic air conditioner?

Personally, I think air conditioning has had a profound impact on a lot aspects of our lives, both good and bad, and that we haven't given this impact very much thought. If I was a smart person I would put together a book discussing the social ramifications of air conditioning. The stories, anecdotes, data, evidence ... it all seems to be there just waiting for someone to put it together in an accessible, entertaining, and thought provoking way.

Maybe I'll be that someone. Or maybe I'll keep being lazy. Stay tuned.

Posted by snackeru at 7:32 AM

January 19, 2011

I'm getting stupider

I can't deny it. It is just a fact of life. As I get older I know I am getting stupider. Denser. Unable to understand words larger than two syllables. I can already feel a general malaise settling over my intelligence, a brain cloud, if you will, taking residence in my once impressive mind. What is happening? I swear in the past couple of weeks I have been able to do little more than walk around and stop every once in a while to notice a flower or some piece of nonsense that catches my attention. "Oh look, there is something shiny on the ground! I like shiny things. Shiny things are pretty!" Gah! Where is the vibrancy of my youth? Where is my creativity?

Well, I may have found an answer. I can blame my wife and kids. According to a study published in the Journal of Research in Personality marriage and children kill creativity in men. The research, spearheaded by Dr Satoshi Kanazawa, suggests that the quality of scientific creativity and discovery is usually dictated by a man's age and marital staus. I know, it is almost too much to be believed, but check out this snippet:

His study was based on the analysis of a biographical database of 280 scientists considered 'great' by their colleagues, noting their age at the time when they did their greatest work. He found the data remarkably concurs with the observation made by Albert Einstein in 1942: "A person who has not made his great contribution to science before the age of 30 will never do so."

"Scientific productivity indeed fades with age," Kanazawa said. "Two-thirds [of all scientists] will have made their most significant contributions before their mid-30s."

So, here we have the age factor. Einstein himself made his most important discoveries in his mid 20s. I am in my late 30s. Sadly, it seems, my "great" achievements are all behind me. Excuse me while I take a moment to weep ... And it gets worse:

But, regardless of age, the great minds who married virtually kissed goodbye to making any further glorious additions to their CV. Within five years of making their nuptial vows, nearly a quarter of married scientists had made their last significant contribution to knowledge.

"Scientists rather quickly desist [from their careers] after their marriage, while unmarried scientists continue to make great scientific contributions later in their lives," said Kanazawa.

Ah! The scourge of women strikes again! Not only do they torment us with their incessant talking, honey-do lists, and demands for "quality time together" but they also nefariously sap our creativity without us even noticing! Will their treachery never cease? Why do they have this effect on us? Kanazawa has a theory:

Kanazawa suggests "a single psychological mechanism" is responsible for this: the competitive edge among young men to fight for glory and gain the attention of women. That craving drives the all-important male hormone, testosterone.

After a man settles down, the testosterone level falls, as does his creative output ...

Of course! Getting married is a virtual siphon hose on a man's testosterone! It is all coming together now. What can we as men do to get our testosterone back? How can we fight back against this evil nemesis of marriage and reclaim our most important hormone?

Polygamy. I think it is the only way. The ability to have multiple wives would mean that we would always be trying to attain glory for new women. Trying to attain more and more glory would mean more testosterone and more creativity. Problem solved. I am a genius.

Posted by snackeru at 1:04 PM

January 18, 2011

Memories

There once was a little girl. On her way to Grandma's house, she found a baby turtle struggling to cross the street. Concerned that the turtle wouldn't make it across the busy road, her dad picked it up and decided to help it out.

The turtle was small in the little girl's hands.

turtle1.jpg

The girl and her dad took the turtle to the local nature center to talk with someone about what they should do. The naturalist at the center said the turtle was probably only a day old. She told the little girl she had three options. She could put the turtle in the lake, she could keep the turtle as a pet, or she could let the nature center put the turtle in an aquarium.

The little girl said she wanted to put the turtle in the lake. So, the little girl and her dad walked to a dock on the lake.

turtle2.jpg

The little girl bent over on the dock until her fingers could touch the water.

turtle3.jpg

And she let the turtle go.

turtle4.jpg

And they watched the turtle swim away.

turtle5.jpg

The little girl was very proud of her decision. "The turtle will be happier in the lake than he would be in a cage," she said.

Her dad was proud of the little girl, too, and he doubts the little girl will ever forget the time when they put the baby turtle in the lake.

It was a beautiful and memorable day.

Posted by snackeru at 12:42 PM

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