Year In Review

I’ve been writing weekly stories for a year now on my website, so I thought now would be a good time to stop and examine what I’ve accomplished over the past year. To achieve this goal, I’ve chosen the standard “situation comedy flashback” idiom. Let the dog out, grab a soda, and get comfortable before the show starts.

The scene: Omar is sitting on the couch of the living room wrapped up in a warm blanket drinking hot chocolate. Behind the couch is a fake window with large quantities of fake snow falling. The television set it tuned to the weather channel.

Television Set: A cold front has moved in and stalled over the state of Colorado. They have already received 6 inches of snow, and the satellite images indicate the situation is only going to get worse. Schools, businesses, and taco stands across the state have all shut down until further notice. The best advise is to stay home and wait for the snow to stop falling. Preferably with a warm beverage.

Omar: Wow, that really sucks. I guess I can’t look for a job today.

Kathleen enters through the front door to mild applause.

Omar: I thought you were going skiing. How come you are back so soon?

Kathleen: They closed the highway because of the blizzard. We had to turn back and… hey, what’s going on here? First of all, we don’t live together. And this doesn’t look anything like your apartment. In fact, it reminds me of a bad UPN sit-com. And where is that clapping sound coming from?

Omar: Yeah, that darned snow. I guess we are stuck here for the night. Sit down on the couch—I’ll go make some more hot chocolate before I start rambling on endlessly about my web site.

Kathleen: What? I don’t want to hear about your stupid web site. I don’t know how I got here, but I want to leave.

Kathleen gets up and tries to open the front door. It won’t budge. She pulls frantically to get it open. Omar looks over from the couch and smiles.

Omar: Of course I’ll put extra marshmallows in your hot chocolate.

Omar walks into the kitchen and Kathleen reluctantly sits on the couch. Omar comes back out with another cup of hot chocolate.

Omar: This should warm you up. You know, this reminds me of the time I wrote about you entering the Kinetics race in the spring. Ah, those were the days.

Kathleen: Umm.. I suppose so. Look Omar, the only time we ever talk to each other is in the parking lot. You make it seem like we are best friends. I think its pretty creepy that you write about me so much on your stupid little web site.

Omar: Actually, its just the powder mix. I’m glad you like it though.

Kathleen: Are you even listening to what I’m saying?

Omar: Hopefully by tomorrow morning, according to the weather channel.

Ertok the Evil Alien Overlord comes walking in through the kitchen door covered in snow and quite irritated.

Omar: What’s the matter Ertok? Did you get snow in your ship’s plasma couplings?

Ertok: Be quiet little Earth mammal. Unless you know anything about cleaning plasma couplings I would suggest you… Wait a minute—how did you know what is wrong with my ship?

Omar: It’s been so long since we have sat down and just talked about things…. Like my web site. By the way, Ertok, this is Kathleen. Kathleen, meet Ertok.

Kathleen: So Ertok, does Omar follow you around writing strange stories about you too? Aren’t there laws against doing stuff like that?

Ertok: If that is all he did I would be damned lucky. Omar made me travel half way across the galaxy for some poorly thought out scheme where I take over the world. As if there is any logical reason for me to take over such a pitiful little planet in the first place. And if that wasn’t bad enough, he hasn’t written about me for the better part of a planetary rotation cycle. So instead of going home to my family back on Barrius 5, I am forced to endlessly orbit the planet waiting for Omar to make up his mind.

Omar: You are right Kathleen—Ertok is one wacky alien overlord. I just never know when he is going to next. It reminds me of the time he tried to take over the world. Ha ha ha.

Ertok: You idiot! You never got around to writing that episode!

Kathleen: Well, Ertok, I’m sorry to hear that Omar dragged you here from so far away. But it is good to know I’m not the only one who is suffering here. Can we do anything to stop all this?

Ertok: For reasons I don’t quite understand, I can only access objects he has written about on his web site. Omar stopped writing about me before he got to anything useful.

Omar: That’s a good question, Ertok. Investigating obscure but unsolved mathematical problems has always been a hobby of mine. I guess I figure one day I’ll wake up and magically come up with a polynomial time solution to the NP-complete set of algorithms. When I go to bed each night I try and convince myself to dream about them.

Ertok: Wait a minute, that gives me an idea.

Kathleen: What, about the “Traveling Salesman” problem?

Ertok: You amuse me, Earth female. That math problem is a trivial homework assignment for young offspring on my home planet. I was actually thinking about the XR-2300 neural interface.

Kathleen: Isn’t that muffler bracket for a 79 pinto?

Ertok: Silence! This is no time to steal jokes from “Airplane 2.” Besides, it wasn’t even very funny the first time around. If I remember correctly, I might be able to make Omar’s head explode.

Omar: I have to agree with you there Kathleen—a lot of people think I am just too funny. But the “toofunny.com” domain name was already registered. How can I make so many jokes when millions of children in the world don’t even know how to make a simple “Three’s Company” joke about Chrissy being pregnant, much less understand the political and sociological ramifications? Which reminds me of episode 49 of “The A Team” where Murdoch and Face go on about….

Kathleen: The sooner Omar’s head explodes, the better.

Ertok: I found the remote detonation device. Lets see if it works.

Ertok presses the button. Omar’s head blows up leaving blood and brain matter all over the room. The lights slowly fade out and polite clapping can be heard along with the theme music.

Olympic Adventures: Part 2

Throughout the journey I could not keep myself from thinking how very odd it was that Kristin kept several restaurant quality meat cleavers in the sun visor of her automobile. Comments such as “you have no idea how badly I need a second spare ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ CD” did little to calm my nerves. Despite all of this, I managed to survive my Olympic adventure with my body and Pink Floyd collection completely intact.

Feb 15, 2002 6:30 PM

Kristin and I climbed into her car and headed out of Boulder. I love taking road trips because there is just so much time for me to explain my views on life to all the passengers of the vehicle without being forced to remove any of the countless tangents of my thought process. For example, I spent a large percentage of the drive to Cheyenne, Wyoming explaining how the turn signal lever in Kristin’s Geo Prizm is functionally superior to the one in my Saturn. In a more conventional social situation I would have gotten to the main points such as lever shape, blinker noise, and the force required to change signal states. As we moved north along I-25 I was able to cover all these topics while still having plenty of time to consider the optimal turn signal blinking rate (which remains unresolved) and how many times the turn signal should blink when changing lanes on the highway (I prefer 5 blinks myself).

Feb 15, 2002 8:30 PM

We arrive in Cheyenne, Wyoming to meet up with two of Kristin’s friends who started their trip in central Illinois. The plan was to meet at the local Denny’s. Before leaving, I had gone on the Internet and printed out a map along with directions for getting to the restaurant. This really helped out the situation since neither of us was terribly familiar with the town. The fact that the Denny’s had recently gone out of business did not help the situation. After contemplating our options, we decided to set up camp at the local Village Inn and wait for Robi and Troy to arrive.

A bacon cheese burger and a cell phone call later we were all at the same place at the same time. Kristin and Robi have been best friends since the beginning of time. Troy is Robi’s landlord and good friend. Out of the four of us, Troy is by far the biggest hockey fan.

Feb 16, 2002 4:45 AM

After driving all night long through Wyoming and Utah we arrived in Salt Lake City. Our plan was to sleep on the living room floor of some Kristin’s friends who lived in town. The fact that her friends had recently gone out of business did not help the situation. Oh, wait, I’m getting confused with the last journal entry. Walking into a strangers house at four in the morning and crawling into a mattress set up on the floor is a feeling I think I’ll never be completely comfortable with.

Having a three year old running around the place four hours after we got to sleep was not exactly normal for me either. Except for waking us up so early I have to say Tanner was a lot of fun. I’m pretty good at managing children I can physically pick up with one hand. He also had a lot of cool toys which meant I was willing to hang out with him whenever we were at the house.

Feb 17, 2002 9:00 PM

All of the planning, traveling, and playing with Tanner have finally paid off. We didn’t know until the night before that our tickets to the Women’s Hockey semi-finals would pit Germany against—yes, you guessed it—Kazakstan. Despite all of our cheering, the Kazak ladies were no match for the Germans and their blitzkrieg approach to ice hockey. The game ended with the German team winning by a score of 4-0. The German women advanced to the next round and the Kazakstanians face a long plane ride home to their homeland of funny hats and vodka enhanced “they actually let us play in the Olympics” Mamushka celebrations. My proposition to go console members of the losing team at a local drinking establishment was not well received by some of the other people in the group.

Feb 18, 2002 1:30 PM

We left the Olympics behind and headed back home to Colorado. Since we are traveling during the day this time around we got to see all the scenery of southern Wyoming with the benefit of generous quantities of sunlight. In all honesty it doesn’t really improve the situation. Perhaps the part of the country is best viewed in the infrared or ultraviolet wavelengths.

Feb 18, 2002 10:30 PM

After many, many hours in the car, we finally got back to my apartment in Boulder, Colorado. I really believe it was worth all the effort to see the game. Given my current financial situation, it will be a long time before I get to see anything like that again. Unless, of course, I can find someone to come with me on a road trip to Kazakstan.

Olympic Adventures: Part 1

Given certain lighting conditions I can appear to be a very busy man. The rest of the time the truth of my productivity is quite obvious. Yes, I’m part of the population who gives late night infomercials about space aged automobile engine lubricants their coveted 0.002 Nelson rating. Despite my incredibly hectic schedule, I have managed to violate the known laws of physics by tearing a hole in the space time continuum large enough to permit a brief trip to the upcoming Olympics. And I managed to do so with a surprisingly small quantity of after market engine lubricants.

While I’ve had enough negative experiences with the opposite sex to start my own television show (stay tuned on Fox for Cops, followed by another two episodes of Cops, followed by the brand new series “When Dates Go Bad”), every now and then something good happens when I’m out on a date. Kristin and I started things out by seeing the movie “Brotherhood of the Wolf.” The story centers around a dangerous monster roaming the French countryside. An extensive search of the area turned up little more than an unshaven and slightly hung over Andre the Giant sleeping rather peacefully in a remote ravine.

I must have done something right because shortly after our first date Kristin invited me to go with her and some friends to attend the Olympic women’s hockey event. After asking a few standard questions anyone put in this situation would politely bring up, I learned that one of Kristin’s friends in Utah changed her mind about going to the game. I quickly accepted the offer. It will keep me out of trouble for a while and I’ll achieve my life long dream of being an official Olympic alternate.

After consulting the Internet for driving instructions, we plotted our road trip to Atlanta, Georgia. After a little more research, it turns out they decided to move the Olympics to the state of Utah. Go figure. While it seems like a whole lot of effort, it actually works out better for us since we will be driving with the rotation of the Earth instead of against it. Once again we asked the Internet how to get to our destination. After thinking about it for a few seconds, a route appeared on the screen that takes us through northern Colorado, southern Wyoming, Idaho, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, and finally Utah. Once we enter our destination state, we will drive around in increasingly smaller concentric circles until our car runs into some lake. I’m not sure what the “vortex” option on the travel web site was talking about, but I really don’t have time to go back and investigate the matter in more detail.

Quite a bit of attention has been paid to the extravagant nature of the Olympics. None of this will be lost on me. Especially as I’m sleeping on a futon in an unfamiliar house full of people I have yet to meet in a state I’ve never seen in person. Or as I’m screaming across the complete mountain time zone in a late model Geo Prism. But I made it quite clear to Kristin that I sing along to the radio unless someone’s ears start to bleed (in which case I merely hum along to the music).

One of the biggest stories in the news involves the increased security surrounding all official Olympic events. Given the recent terrorist events this seems like a fairly reasonable course of action. While the Secret Service and FBI are reluctant to give out information regarding specific details of possible threats, the general concern involves an unplanned visit by a high profile Afghan resident who goes by the name Geraldo.

Is going on a road trip with someone I just met a very good idea? Are the Olympics as exciting as everyone makes them out to be? Should I leave my favorite CDs at home in case Kristin is really a homicidal maniac who plans on killing me and occasionally casually throwing bits of my chopped up body out the car window along I-80? There is only one way to know for sure. Stay tuned for next week’s story which will either be titled “Olympic Adventures” or “Sure I’m being chopped up into little pieces, but at least my Pink Floyd collection is safe at home.”

Annoying Janet

This week Brian’s girlfriend Janet got added to the “People I Annoy” list. Having known each other for a couple of years now, Janet and I get along reasonably well. She has yet to invite me over to a slumber party where everyone stays up all night to eat microwave popcorn, drink diet Pepsi, and watch Brad Pitt movies, but we are also not to the stage where I would find it necessary to hold her hostage in my garage in a convoluted scheme to help Brian discover his long lost true love like in the movie “Saving Silverman.” Mostly because that would make me the character who realizes he is gay and goes on to marry his ex-con militaristic homosexual football coach on stage at a Neil Diamond concert. Like I need to go through that again.

The whole situation started at the train station in France named “Paris Nord”. No, it’s not a typo, it’s French. Translated into English it means “the last stop before Eurodisney.” OK, maybe my French skills aren’t as finely honed as, say, anyone in Europe who hasn’t lost their tongue, but I’m not making up the Eurodisney part. I planned to “rendezvous” (once again, that’s French) with Brian and Janet at the station after their plane landed in Paris earlier that day. As much as they love French train stations, Brian’s parents trusted our navigational skills enough to remain back at the hotel.

By the time I got into town and settled into my hotel room, it was really too late to go out and do anything. I sat down on the bed and did little more than contemplate paying 400 units of the local currency for an 8 ounce water bottle from the “courtesy” bar. (Another French term meaning “we know you are too lazy, scared, or stupid to walk to the store.”)

The next day we toured the city and learned quite a bit about the history of Paris. In the morning we saw the factory where they make French people snooty. Later on in the afternoon we saw the building where all the tacky models of the Eiffel Tower are put together. This assembly process takes place in the very same factory that manufactured the metal beams for the original tower. That was until the 1980’s when the plant ran out of space and had to be relocated in the nice pristine rolling hills of Southern Asia. We finished off the day with a classy dinner. By then it was about nine o’clock at night. Everyone in our “entourage” except Brian and I decided to call it a night. We left the hotel after casually telling Janet “We’re going to hang out for a while.”

Before I go any further with the story, I should point out that Brian and I had not seen each other for the better part of five months. We talked on the phone and exchanged emails, but that doesn’t compare to hanging out in person. Up to that point in our friendship I don’t think we had ever been apart for longer than two or three weeks at a time. We had quite a bit of catching up to do. And to be honest, I really like to gossip about everything– as evidenced by the fact I spent large quantities of time writing about every minute aspect of my life, posting it on the Internet, and then begging the world to read it all.

After leaving the hotel we aimlessly walked around the city. We eventually found our way to the “Louvre” (yet another French word—this means “huge art museum with strange pyramid in the courtyard.) We sat down and talked about random aspects of our lives for “a while.” (I know that’s not French. The quotes are employed as a foreshadowing device. When I tell the story in person I make the “finger quotation mark” gesture.) Eventually the conversation started to focus around our observation that it was no longer dark. This quickly led to a “have we really been out here for seven and a half hours?” discussion.

Anyone who eats a traditional French dinner and then sits outside all night will eventually feel the need to evacuate his or her bladder. Now I’m not saying we peed “on” one of the most famous museums in the world, but I’m not going to say we didn’t pee “in the general vicinity” of said structure. After our immediate biological needs were addressed we headed back to the hotel. I commented to Brian that he wouldn’t even have to wake up Janet in the middle of the night when he got back.

This was completely true, but made largely irrelevant by the fact Janet fell asleep when we left and woke up a few hours (less than, say, seven and a half) later to notice a lack of her significant other in the room. Deciding that we had been out longer than “a while” she became very concerned about our well being. She called Brian’s parent’s hotel room. Brian’s mom was not at all concerned with our being out all night in a foreign country with no explanation of our agenda. She did what she could to put Janet at ease by explaining this is completely consistent with our past behavior.

Despite these reassurances, Janet stayed up the rest of the night envisioning our lifeless corpses floating down the river in the heart of Paris possibly to be violated in some unnatural way by a medieval sewer dwelling monster. In reality I was busy explaining to Brian all the things I saw in Amsterdam floating around in the canal water. And to this day, I can’t quite put into words exactly how that smells.

I don’t know exactly what happened when Brian got back to his room. I, on the other hand, went back to my hotel room occupied only by the bottle of outrageously expensive water I was flirting with the night before. The next morning (45 minutes later) we all met for breakfast. Janet made a point of saying she wasn’t mad at us. While I’m admittedly not an expert on this matter, I’m pretty sure that when a woman specifically says she isn’t mad that implies on some level she isn’t exactly happy either.

After all was said and done, I’m not sure Brian and I really did anything wrong. But we both feel bad Janet stayed up all night worrying about our welfare. Fortunately it didn’t ruin the whole trip. I think I did a decent job of patching things up with her a few days later when I assisted Janet in the fine art of getting drunk on plum wine at a Japanese restaurant in Amsterdam. But that’s another story.

Annoying Sleeping Habits

I’m just not the type of person who gets sick very often. While I can only provide anecdotal evidence on this matter, I firmly believe my good health is due to the fact I religiously adhere to the “doughnut pyramid” philosophy of nutrition. (NOTE TO SELF: eat two more chocolate eclairs before bed to fulfill the recommended daily allowance of vanilla goo). Despite my impeccable eating habits, some sort of evil invaders made their way into my body. And, no, I’m not talking about the Spanish Inquisition. My symptoms included coughing, sneezing, fever, chills, cold sweats, runny nose, headache, abnormally high levels of drool (while awake), irritability, disorientation, high cholesterol, itchy facial hair, consecutive bad hair days, and an unexplained tolerance of “Gilligan’s Island” reruns.

Being a single male, I have exactly two approaches to getting better. The first is to just ignore the situation. Which most of the time is really the best thing to do. After a few days of specifically doing nothing, it became quite obvious my situation was not improving. Which meant I had to switch to my alternate form of treatment– I called my mom.

I explained the situation to my mom and she drove up to Boulder one night to see what kind of medical attention the situation warranted. Even when I am perfectly healthy I don’t always know what day it is, but having a high fever did nothing to help the situation. But I do remember watching professional football, which meant it was a Sunday. Unless it was Monday. Or possibly Thursday or Saturday. I was honestly more concerned with the idea of my head exploding after doing something silly like trying to sit up.

My mom arrived and had me swallow various pills and liquids to improve my condition. Exhausted from this sudden flurry of activity, I could do little more than lay back on the couch and fall asleep. I can only imagine my mom’s concern as she watched me sleep restlessly as my fevered body tried to recover from this illness. And that was BEFORE I started rambling incoherently.

While I’m sure I had my reasons for babbling on in my sleep to my mom that we needed to go to the local grocery store to buy birthday cakes that other people ordered, I seem unable to recall them now. I think that was when my mom started entertaining the idea of taking me to a hospital. Fortunately, witnessing my wildly erratic sleeping habits is nothing new for my mom.

My bad sleeping habits can be traced back to my early teens. One of the most common dreams, besides being stuck sitting between Newt Gingrich and Rush Limbaugh on a crowded bus heading to Istanbul, is to have an uncontrolled falling sensation. The normal reaction is to wake up, realize it was a dream, and then go back to sleep. My routine, on the other hand, contained the additional step of waking up in the morning to realize that I had pulled the curtains near my bed out of the wall.

In addition to my nocturnal redecorating efforts, I have also been known to walk and talk in my sleep. My parents didn’t really know what to do when I was wandering in the hallway at three in the morning explaining how random objects were flying out of my television set. One time I walked into my parents bedroom and sat on the corner of their bed in the middle of the night. I didn’t say or do anything—I just sat there. I don’t think this scenario is covered in any of those “how to raise your teenager” books.

I consider myself to have fairly average verbal debating skills when I am awake and coherent. When I am sleeping, however, I have yet to lose an argument. I suspect this is because A) I use facts that are only available to me, such as “there are dragons coming in the windows” or “time is moving backwards, and I have to fix it” and B) I refuse to accept the claims of other people that I am incoherent and speaking gibberish. Coincidentally, this is the same strategy employed by the Republican party.

Given my history with odd sleeping patterns, my recent experience on my couch was really no cause for alarm. I don’t really know why I sleepwalk, but I can remember everything I say and do when I wake up. Maybe my life would be easier if I actually stopped dreaming before I start moving around and talking, but I have been unable to locate my brain’s instruction manual. Until I find it, I’m stuck like this.