Thursday, September 29, 2011

Third Person Thursday: Body Works

Brain watched the twin video monitors intently, taking in the footage from both Left and Right Eye simultaneously, processing them together to calculate depth.  He leaned forward and pressed the button labeled Right Arm on the large control panel in front of him.  This caused several of the buttons to light up at once.

“Right Bicep, extend the entire arm so that the Right Hand Division can get around the back of the pipe,” he said into a speaker.

“Aye, aye, sir,” called back Right Bicep as Brain watched his instructions followed to the letter on the monitor.

Brain hit the Right Arm button again and the lights extinguished.  Right Bicep, Tricep, Forearm, Hand and each of the Fingers worked in unison to loosen the nut from around the drainpipe.  They struggled and strained for a few minutes as Brain watched the water seep from around the gasket.

“This isn’t working,” he mumbled to himself.  Then he snatched the microphone from its stand and made an announcement.  “Attention all body parts.  This is Brain speaking.  We are aborting this project effective immediately.  I will need the assistance of Right and Left Hands and both Eyes in order to conduct some Internet research.  All personnel are hereby instructed to execute the getting up from the floor protocol.  And please be careful.  This ship’s not as young as it used to be.”

Brain placed the all-systems microphone back on its cradle and turned back to the control panel.  He pressed the Right Leg and Left Leg buttons causing another series of buttons to illuminate.

“Both Leg Divisions, this is Brain.  How do you read me?”

“Loud and clear.”

“Good,” Brain said and leaned back in his chair.  “Once the body is upright, we need to navigate to the computer.  Copy?”

“Yes, sir,” several voices called back over the intercom and Brain deactivated the lit buttons immediately afterward.

Suddenly, the entire body lurched.  Brain held onto the armrests of his chair and looked around curiously.  It lurched again.  When Brain looked to the monitor, he was surprised to see the view was still from the floor.

“What the Hell?” muttered Brain and struck the left arm button.  “Are you getting us up off the floor or what?” he asked angrily into the intercom.

“Um, yes sir,” answered Left Forearm.  “The problem is not in our division, sir.”

“Then where is the problem?” asked Brain, short on patience.

Just then the intercom buzzed and the button labeled CNS Admin flashed.  Brain shut down the connection with the Left Arm and acknowledged the CNS Admin button.  “What’s going on?” he asked as soon as the line was open.

“Good evening, sir, this is the Central Nervous System manager speaking,” came a voice.

“I know that!” interrupted Brain.  “Just tell me where the problem is coming from.

“The back, sir,” answered the voice sheepishly before it was hung up on.

Brain was about to hit the Back button, but first he paused.  He sighed.  “What have you done this time, Back,” he whispered to himself.  Finally, he dropped an appendage heavily onto the Back button.

“Back?” he called patronizingly.  “Back, it’s Brain.  Tell me what’s wrong this time.”

This time?” Back’s voice crackled back.  “This time?  Wow, starting right out with the sarcasm, aren’t we?”

“Come on, Back.  Just tell me what’s wrong.”

“Nothing.  Nothing’s wrong.”

Brain sighed again.  “If nothing is wrong, then why are we still on the floor, Back?”

“Oh, that,” quipped Back.  “I didn’t think you needed me for that.”

“How could you think that we didn’t…”

This time it was Brain being interrupted.

“Everyone around here seems to think I’m not important.  Nobody ever asks Ol’ Back for anything.  He’s just expected to do his job and stay quiet.  Who cares that nearly every other system either runs through or next to me?  Everyone takes Back for granted.  I’m sick of it.”

“Back, please, there is so much to do.  Can we get up from the floor and talk about this later?”

“Always later,” said Back.  “Well, this time, I say later.  I’ll help get us off the floor later.  How does that sound?”

“Back, I…” another buzz came from the control panel and the Bladder light flashed.  “Back, hold on just a moment,” said Brain as he hit the hold button then answered the Bladder.  “Brain speaking.”

“Sir, the pressure is building due to the body’s pain levels,” Bladder shouted as Brain could hear an alarm blaring in the background.  “The CNS Administrator is all over me to clear house.  I need to make a release soon.”

“You’ve got to hold on for a few minutes,” Brain shouted back.

“I’m not sure how long I can hold it!”

“Hang in there,” Brain assured him, “I’m working on it.”

"CNS keeps sending alerts sir.  I'm afraid they might kick in the involuntary controls and make the flush themselves if I don't give them an answer soon."

"Look, I'm dealing with something else right now and I can't get us off the floor to do anything about it until this is taken care of," hurried Brain.  "If CNS calls you again, tell them I said to hold off on the involuntary thing."

"I'll do my best, sir, but it won't be the same not coming from you."

"I understand," said Brain.  He hung up with Bladder and took Back off hold.  “Back, I have a lot of other divisions to attend to.  Can we settle this?”

“A lot of divisions, eh?  That reminds me.  How the hell am I just one division?  Back.  Just Back.  Not Lower Back and Upper Back, just Back.  The whole thing is mine to maintain and everyone thinks it’s so easy.”

“Nobody thinks it’s…”

“You know that picture of Atlas?  Everyone says he has the world on his Shoulders.  His freaking Shoulders.  Sure, it’s technically resting on his Shoulders, but you want to know who is doing all the work there?  His Back, that’s who!  It’s his Back.  His Legs deserve some credit as well, to be honest, but I can’t speak for them.”

Brain let the line fall silent for a while.  As the Bladder light buzzed and flashed again, Brain spoke.  “Back?  You still there?”

“Yes,” Back answered curtly.

“What do you want, Back?  Just tell me and we can try to work something out.”

It was silent for a while longer.  The Bladder light continued to flash.

“I get paid the same as the Pinkie Fingers,” Back complaned.  “I could see maybe the Thumbs.  A lot of gripping going on there.  But the Pinkie Fingers?  Really?”

“You want more pay?” asked Brain, worn.  He glanced over to the Bladder button and noticed it stopped flashing.  That’s not a good sign, Brain thought to himself.

“I want respect,” Back answered finally.  “I just want a little freaking recognition of all the freaking work I do.  Maybe I could be included in a freaking meeting once and a while to see how we could get things running a little more efficiently on my end.  And how about some stretching.  You stretch out the Legs all the freaking time, but never me.  I’m busting my ass down here.  And speaking of the Ass, boy do we need to have a talk about that guy.”

“Okay, enough,” Brain pleaded.  “You’re included on the board as of today.  That puts you in every meeting.  And you and I can talk, let’s say weekly, about how we can make things lighter on you.  I’m open to working with you on ways to make things run more efficiently.  Sound good?”

After a slight pause, Back replied, “It’s a start.”

“Great,” said Brain, “then let’s get off the floor.”

“Welllll,” started Back.

“What now?” asked Brain.

“I was pretty mad,” said Back, quietly now, “and I sort of seized up the controls.  I’ll be running at ten percent capacity for about four days.”

Brain groaned.  “You have got to be kidding me.  Why would you do that?”

“I said I was mad,” Back answered.

Brain was furious.  He punched at the air before collecting himself enough to growl, “Fine,” into the intercom.  “Use whatever you have left to get us up and mobile.  I’ll get the other divisions working on sending you some ibuprofen.”

“Yes, sir,” Back responded.

Brain hung up on him then pressed the Bladder button.  “Am I too late?” he simply asked.

“I’m afraid so, sir,” answered Bladder.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Mind the Poll

The end of September is rapidly approaching.

This may be as hard for you to believe as it is for me.  My kids just started the school year.  They have yet to figure out exactly what they are going to be for Halloween.  It is suddenly getting dark like two hours earlier than it did just yesterday.

There are Halloween decorations that need to be dug out from their storage place.  Candy needs to be bought.  Of course, the candy must be bought soon enough so that the selection is still good.  That way I will enjoy the inevitable leftovers (by which I mean NOT Almond Joy or Mounds).  However, we can't buy it too soon or I will eat it all well before Halloween and there will not be any leftovers at all.  There won't even be candy enough on Halloween night to appease the hoarding, costumed masses that arrive at our door into holding back on their arsenal of eggs and shaving cream at least until they get to the next doorstep.

Then, once Halloween is over, it'll be time for Thanksgiving.  That means preparatory eating needs to begin to expand my stomach enough to gorge myself on as much turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, sweet potatoes,  ham, cheesecake...(you get the picture) as possible.

Then comes the really rough month.  Christmas will be right around the corner.  That's more decorating and a tree to buy and care for.  There will be toys that my kids want, requiring me to elbow my way through the aisles past less well informed parents who stand about, staring at the overwhelming number options before them.  You can recognize these parents by the way they stand slack-jawed and sweating in the toy aisle holding a nearly but not quite identical toy in each hand and glancing back and forth between them trying both to figure out exactly what the difference between the two is and remember which one their kid wanted.

I also need to avoid being distracted.  Too often, I feel sorry for such parents.  Then I break my own momentum and offer help.

"That one talks and shoots plastic missiles, but it doesn't have as many point of articulation.  That other one is more posable and actually a lot cooler as well being twenty bucks cheaper, but it doesn't talk.  Random Helpful Dad, awaaaaaaaaay!"

Then there is the customary grandmother that asks me (the tallest guy in the store) if I could get that extremely large box from the top shelf for her.  If I set down my own shopping spoils to help, someone else might pick up the last God-knows-what that I was trying to get to the register with while I'm not looking.  It might very well be the grandmother who just asked for my help that snatches my booty (don't let you mind go there) and runs off with it.  I need to harden my resolve and not help any fellow shoppers this year.  Spirit of giving my a...

You know what?  I'm pretty sure I'm getting ahead of myself here.  I'm starting to think about the New Year already and it's still September.  It is still September, isn't it?  I wasn't rambling for that long, was I?

Anyway, the original point of this post, nearly lost in the gaping void of my tangents, was to remind everyone to vote in our monthly poll.  It is in the left hand column and could use some more activity.  While I see that a lot of people are stopping by daily, very few, percentage wise, vote on the poll.  So please, if you haven't done so already, take a second to pick an answer.

This may be your last chance to influence what the monthly image is going to be.  If you miss such an opportunity, you may never forgive yourself.  Or go ahead and blow it.  They're your regret-filled sleepless nights, not mine.

Thanks all and have a great day.  I'm going to set up my tent out in front of Toys R Us now just to be safe.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Nerd for Hire

My job has been mentioned several times before on this blog.  While I have made it clear that I am very appreciative for the money it generates for my family and the life it allows us to live, one with food, shelter, an education for my children and health insurance, it has never been referenced in a positive light.  

My profession is one in which most days are routine.  Nine (if not more) times out of ten my night at work will be simple, though often slightly annoying.  However, the days that are not routine appear unpredictably and when they do appear, they tend to be extremely stressful and even downright dangerous.

Thus, while the safe bet on any given night is that little will happen, the creeping suspicion of the shift from hell is constantly looming in the shadows.  One never completely lets their guard down under such circumstances.  It would, in fact, be unwise to do so as I need to be prepared for the worst at any given moment.  Relaxation or coasting while at work is nearly impossible.

The slow nights can only be deemed slow in hindsight, after the fact that little has happened has been confirmed.  A slow night could become one of those stressful nights in an instant.

Last night was one of those particular nights.  The stress involved was less of a physical kind and more of a psychological and emotional one, but was draining and sobering nonetheless.  I returned home in a bad mood, wishing I had been somewhere far away for the previous ten hours.

I do not mention this to illicit sympathy.  I don't write of it even as a stress release, hoping that seeing my own lament in printed form will prove cathartic and liberating.

Rather, I write about this in hope that an opportunity for a new career might arise.

Are you afraid to do geeky things in the presence of your normal social circle?  Fear no more.  I can provide you with a one man social circle of nerdy, nonjudgmental support so that you can go see that movie that none of your friends want to see without going alone.  Then you'll even have someone to complain to afterwards about all the ways they changed the story from the book.

Need somebody you can call at the drop of a hat to see whether or not a certain toy is suitable for your kids or yourself?  I'm your man.

Have a problem recalling that one word is that means precisely what you're trying to get say?  The word is minutiae.  You're welcome.  I could be whispering suck words to you over your shoulder whenever you need them for the right price.

Companies!  Looking to see if you have a corner on the nerd market.  Let me take a look at your product and I can tell you whether or not I like it.  That's the opinion of at least one nerd under your belt.  It's one more than you already had.

I am hereby offering my services as a professional nerd to anyone willing to pay.  I can't fix your computer.  I can't tutor your high school student in physics.  However, there are plenty of invaluable services I can offer, including...
  • video gaming partner,
  • intellectual discussion moderator and/or participant,
  • Lego set builder,
  • sci-fi movie date (platonic),
  • movie/toy/product reviews,
  • custom short story writer,
  • beer drinking buddy,
  • in-depth Star Wars analysis and detailed explanation of how a particular scene is totally like what just happened to you the other day,
  • costumed sidekick (costume must be pre-approved)
...and much, much more!

The possibilities are endless.  So, if you are in need of a geek's opinion, a nerdy pal to play video games and watch zombie movies with, someone who will get all your Star Wars references during casual conversation and politely laugh at them or a marginally talented fiction writer (see our Third Person Thursday posts for examples) then drop me an email and we can discuss the rates.

I hope to be the first of my kind.  Professional nerd, at your service.

Monday, September 26, 2011

My (Lack of) Fashion Sense Has Lasted the Test of Time

My sons once pointed out to me that all the seventh and eighth graders at school wear North Face jackets.  On the surface, it was merely an observational statement on their part, but the tone in their voices suggested that they had already assigned some sort of mystical qualities to the brand name of North Face.  Their minds seemed to jump to the conclusion that the older kids had been endowed with their powers of coolness via their donning of these garments.

My stance is that they are definitely too young to be worried about the brand names of their clothing, especially seeing as they will grow out of whatever it is we buy them within a span of eighteen days, but I wasn’t too worried.  I figured that it is just a natural phase that kids go through during social development.  They identify other (usually older) kids as ideal social role models and try to emulate them.  The most obvious way to do this is to wear similar clothing.

I thought back to my youth and tried to remember moments when I had thought the same way.  However, as I thought, I couldn’t remember any times like that.

On the contrary, my recollection is that I never bought in to any of the myriad fashion trends of my youth.  I never owned an I.O.U. sweatshirt.  I hated the entire look of Z. Cavaricci pants.  Rolled down socks repulsed me.  Nothing was done to my hair to make it looked styled other than…well, nothing was ever done to my hair that wasn’t done by my pillow the night before.

Most of my clothing choices were based entirely on comfort.  If I liked a particular pair of jeans I wore them until the holes were too large for them to be considered proper clothing any longer.  My favorite t-shirts were usually thrown away only after the picture or saying upon them had long faded and even then only after much wailing and gnashing of teeth.

My wife still has to sneak my old t-shirts out in the dead of night and burn them in order to keep me from stating, “This shirt is still good,” as I attempt to venture out into public in a shirt that my nipples can easily be seen through.  And I’m talking on a perfectly warm day.

I can remember the first time I ever even singled out a piece of clothing and decided I wanted it to call my own.  I was in first grade and as I walked through J.C. Penney with my father on the way to an entirely different store I noticed a Masters of the Universe t-shirt, with a large, stiff, iron-on decal on the front and red short sleeves attached to the white trunk of the shirt.  It was the only item of clothing I can recall specifically wanting for the first twelve years of my life and I wore it beneath my school uniform as often as possible.  It wasn’t until I could barely fit it over my growing head a year or two later that I finally gave up trying to drape it over my torso.

It’s no wonder then that I roll my eyes at my sons’ fashion-consciousness.  I didn’t understand it in my peers at their age.  I suppose I will have to defer to my wife on this topic.  I will be no help to my kids as they try to dress cool seeing as, while I write this, I am wearing a worn our pair of jeans and a bright green t-shirt featuring Spider-Man, Wolverine, Thor and the Silver Surfer.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.  I like to think of my look as classic geek chic.

Money Doesn't Grow on Your Grandparents

Credit is due to my parents.

Sure, I have given them credit previously for all sorts of things like my easy-going demeanor, work ethic, intelligence, good looks and rapier wit to name a few.  But recently, my mother and father, or more to the point, my sons’ paternal grandparents, have displayed a level of restraint that deserves acknowledgement.

Over my years of parenthood, I have come to the realization that any lesson that is to be taught to my boys must have their grandparents on board. My sons have become aware that a different set of rules exists depending on who is watching them.

This has its pros and cons.  After a weekend at my parents’ house, my sons may return home to expect dessert after every meal, including breakfast.  However, when they find out grandma and grandpa are coming over to watch them after school, homework is done immediately so as not to have to do it under the ever-watchful, demanding, penmanship-scrutinizing eye of my mother.

“Can’t I finish this later?” asks my oldest as he struggles to keep his attention span intact long enough to write his twenty spelling words four times each.  “I want to go play Wii a little.”

“Sure,” I casually say.  “You can finish it with grandma when she gets here.”

This is inevitably met with silence and continued work.

My wife and I struggle to teach my sons the value of money.  We try to make them understand why we simply cannot buy them that new toy they so badly want so put it back where you found it right this instant or so help me God.  I was afraid that, meanwhile, my parents would adopt their undermining my life lessons persona more so than the task master persona.  I imagined my kids getting punished for whining about not getting a toy then returning home to find that my parents had bought them the item in question to get them to stop crying.

So it happened that one day I decided to test the waters.  My parents were set to watch my sons and I had been promising them a trip to Target with the whopping eight dollars a piece they had earned by helping me at our garage sale that was obviously burning a hole in their pockets.  I told them their grandparents might be willing to take them to there if they asked nicely.  They asked nicely and my folks agreed.

Now came the tough part.  I told my father that my boys were to pay them back for their toy purchases with their own hard-earned money.  It was not a conscious decision to choose to tell my father over my mother, but I do believe it may have been an unconscious one for even though my dad will instantly forget things I’ve asked of him (like a request to put my mother on the phone, which is sometimes followed by the sound of him watching television while the receiver lies forgotten on a chair somewhere) he is also the one who has thanked the heavens out loud that we did not have a girl simply because he feared all his and my mother’s money would have long been spent on cutesy outfits.

I was absolutely convinced that my request would be ignore and that my sons would tell me that they gave grandma and grandpa their money with flared nostrils and tight mouths, the telltale signs that they were lying.  I would then be faced with the uncomfortable task of explaining to my parents that they were making things difficult on me, a task that I say is uncomfortable but that the insubordinate teenager inside of me secretly relishes because the tables have been turned.  Now who is the irresponsible one?

To my surprise, the boys showed me the Hex Bugs they had purchased the next morning and guarded them like they were made of solid gold.  This was because they had been forced to cough up their beloved cash to my parents, which I think surprised even them.  They were used to getting one over on the grandparents and this time, they sided with their old man.

Cheers, mom and dad.  You did me a solid on this one.  This has gone a long way toward convincing my sons that the entire world is not to be bought by their parents.  If they want the world, it’s going to require selling a lot more lemonade than usual.  Like twice as much.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Burden of Social Meh-dia

I'm not a recluse, I swear it.  If those of you who do not know me personally were to meet me, you would consider me rather extroverted, in fact.  I hide my insecurities rather well around others.  Essentially, I perform.

Despite my level of comfort in social settings, it is limited to real social settings.  By this, I mean ones where the person you are speaking with is actually present right in front of you.

Sadly, most "social" interaction these days is conducted in a far different manner.  The word friend is most often a verb.  Our statements need to be kept within certain character restrictions.  We check in on what our acquaintances are doing without them even knowing that we just checked in on them.

I think I was one of the last people in my age bracket to sign up for Facebook.  I did so only because of pressure from my brother to stay connected.  I found myself getting in touch then with a lot of people I hadn't seen in a long time.  While it took me a while to get comfortable with my Facebook persona, I eventually embraced it.  I felt like my presence in the realm of social networking was satisfactory.

I was wrong.

My wife encouraged me to begin a LinkedIn profile.  She filled out a few things on my behalf and it now sits there, collecting virtual cobwebs.

Soon, Twitter came along to show everyone that doing the same thing on Facebook, just with unlimited characters, took too long.  Eventually, I realized it would be prudent to start a Twitter account.  For the past several months now, I have been struggling to try and understand the purpose of hashtags and how to give someone a mention in a way that that is effective yet not desperate.

I was quickly overwhelmed by the social media landscape.  I wanted to get the word out about my blog, but found myself drowning in tweets, follows, mentions and likes.  I keep getting requests for people to join my Google network and I don't even remember signing up for that!  Still, I forge ahead.

Yesterday, despite my growing discomfort and sneaking suspicion that someone is tracking my every movement through social media, I started a Flickr account.  I didn't really want to but realized that the best way to share the images from my blog with the millions...ok, dozens...of readers who would like to have access to them is to post them on the popular photo sharing site.

I hope you all appreciate what I have done.  Rather than remove myself from the social media mire, I have plunged head first into the Great Abyss of Sharing (that is my new name for the entirety of social media as a single entity, patent pending) and committed myself to joining as many ridiculous networks as necessary in order to provide you with the highest quality blogging known to man.

So, please take a look at the Transformer Generation Dad photostream on Flickr, which we will be updating regularly, by using the link in the right hand column.  While you are at it, please follow TGD on Twitter,on Google Friend Connect and "like" or "friend" (or whatever the hell they are calling it these days) us on Facebook.  You can then be entertained at a moments notice by all the random nonsense oozing from my brain.  Then, if you feel so bold, click on one of the myriad of other buttons to follow our RSS stream or vote for TGD on the Bloggers' Choice Awards.  Otherwise, all this stress on my part will have been for nothing.

I swear, if the right hand column had any more buttons added, it's going to start looking like Napoleon's jacket.

Hurry-Up Features

Here I sit, furiously typing away at my computer in order to produce this week's features during halftime of the Bears-Packers game.  Since that didn't happen, I will instead be running back and forth from television to desktop as the second half has already begun.

So in the interest of time, this week's top five list is songs I regret downloading on iTunes:

5. Against All Odds by Phil Collins - How is it I downloaded this but not In the Air Tonight?  I am truly ashamed.

4. Life in a Northern Town by The Dream Academy - This is one of those songs you haven't heard in forever then you have to have because you randomly heard it on the radio.  I should have just waited a few more years to hear it again on the radio.

3. Shots by LMFAO - Terrible.

2. Tik Tok by Ke$ha - I downloaded this at my wife's request.  I should have made her do it herself out of principle.

1. Say by John Mayer - Again a song my wife asked me to download.  Lame.

This week's cool-ass thing you will never own is the all-seeing Eye of Agamotto.  Doctor Strange's medallion, which endowed him with the powers of the Sorcerer Supreme can see through all manners of disguise, lies and trickery.  Could come in handy when buying a new car.

This week's sign you are a nerd is that you are the administrator of more than one Facebook group chastising Facebook for changing its format.  Each time they make an update, you form a new group and circulate virtual petitions to turn back the clock to the old version.  Keep fighting the good fight you rebel you.

This week's nemesis is school drop-off double parkers.  So your kid getting out of the car immediately in front of the doors is worth making every car in line behind you wait, huh?  Just pull over in the first available space and let your kids walk a few extra feet.  I have a bed to get back to at home.

This week's lesson learned is to pose the question of what everyone would like for dinner to your kids in multiple choice form.  List only the locations you are willing to get food from or McDonald's will inevitably be the write in selection every damn time.  How many McNuggets can one kid possibly eat?

This week's equation is...

The number of times you will step on Lego bricks per day (T) is determined by taking the square root of the total number of bricks owned (b) and multiplying that by the product of your shoes size (s) divided by the area in square feet of the room in question (a) and the product of the number of kids you have (k) divided by the average age in years of said kids (y).

This week's Star Wars quote is, "You make it so difficult sometimes."

That's all for now.  Back to the game.  Go Bears!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The End of an Era. Hurry Up, New Era.

Our decision to upgrade from the Paleozoic cell phones we had previously owned to the iPhone a few years back, shortly after the arrival of the 3GS, seemed like a no brainer, but there was some trepidation.  The iPhone’s screen was at once a major advantage over any other smart phone and a major concern.

I thought, “There is no way I’m not going to shatter that thing within the first week,” but a case that included a protective cover over the screen that I could still navigate the touch screen through quelled my concerns.  My anxiety was wrapped in a blanket of assurance much the way my iPhone was surround by a bulky, hard, clear, plastic shell and I wielded my protected mobile device with reckless abandon.  Within a matter of days, I was absolutely addicted and wondered how I had ever survived without an iPhone and, more importantly, the ability to instantly play an online word games against complete strangers.

The tables had been turned.  All those who had made me wait for service were left waiting for me to finish my round of Angry Birds.  I felt empowered, invincible even.  I was the kid who stays next to glue during the game of tag and constantly taunts “it” just to leap back to nearby safety.  I felt nothing could hurt me.

This annoying (to everyone else, I’m sure) sense of security went on for a few years.  I was the first to whip my phone from my pocket to look up the answer to the most meaningless trivia questions as if no one else possessed the handheld Google-accessing database I so relied upon.  My fingers typed furiously, devoid of the fear of dropping my lifeline to the barroom floor and breaking it.  I would thrust the screen into my friends’ faces so they could see the answer I had triumphantly Wikipedia-ed (new verb, I call dibs) for themselves.

My nights of sleep were amazingly more fulfilling as I never let my head hit the pillow without the definitive answer to who it was that had played that one role in that 80s movie.

The answer is James Spader.  Uninterrupted sleep, here I come.

I had only two problems with my case.  First, I needed to remove it to place the iPhone on my favorite dock/speaker unit.  Not a big deal as this is the case with most cases.  The second and far more disturbing problem was the proclivity my iPhone case had for collecting flecks of dead skin beneath its screen cover, particularly in the area where the small slit existed for the earpiece.

One should never be made to realize at how rapid a rate their skin naturally replenishes itself.  It’s gross.  It was the first time I had been so concerned with how often I was exfoliating.

One day, after having removed the case and docked my phone in order to play music while showering, I hesitated to place the case back onto the phone, having noticed a few too many skin particles.  I decided, fatefully, that I could go a few days without the case and that I would replace it later after having thoroughly cleaned and disinfected it.

A few days became two weeks as I cringed at the grotesque display of my natural body functions before me on the bathroom counter.  My wife apparently had a similar reaction as she banished the horrifically ashy plastic case to a drawer where it was soon forgotten (Note: that was the part where I passive-aggressively blame her for the terrible events that are to come).

Weeks became months and the new, sleeker iPhone I now kept tucked away in my pocket was preferred to the old one with the bulky, gross, skin-collecting case around it.  I still felt invincible, like Han Solo, certain he was about to out-maneuver the Imperial Star Destroyers immediately prior to realizing he was unable to make the jump to light speed.

And then it happened.  While multitasking (meaning tucking the iPhone between my shoulder and the side of my face so that I didn’t have to put down my beer) my phone slipped from its place and landed, caseless, on the concrete floor of my garage.  When I picked it up to console it, the upper third of the screen had shattered into a spider web of cracked glass.

My sons stopped playing in the yard and took note of all the words I spewed whose meanings they would have to try and look up later.  I was furious with myself and, completely unjustifiably, with my wife for having dared to call me on the phone when she should have known I would need to keep my hands free. 

Within minutes, the old case was dug out from the drawer, cleaned off and placed back on the phone.  This time, however, it was to keep the cracked glass in place.  I now walk about the polar opposite of my old self.  I hesitate to pull out my iPhone and allow anyone to see its sad state of disrepair.

The moral of the story?  Pay more attention to the release dates on new Apple products.  I thought the iPhone 5’s release was imminent and was eager to trump my wife’s iPhone 4, using the exact same method she did for having her older version replaced, dropping and breaking her 3GS.  Now I have to walk around with a cracked screen until Apple gets off its ass.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Third Person Thursday: Ripped Van Winkle

The place: a hospital not unlike the last one you might have been in.

The time: one hundred years in the future.

(Come to think of it, since this story takes place one hundred years in the future, the hospital doesn’t look much like the last one you were in after all.  It probably looks very different, meaning it has cooler lighting effects, floating beds, robot nurses and stuff like that.  Moving on…)

The man: nobody is sure just yet and neither is he.  All he knows is that he has a killer headache and woke up wishing the hospital he found himself in didn’t have so many cool lighting effects.

“Movement detected,” came the synthesized voice from his bedside.  “Alert doctor.  Alert doctor.”

As he turned his head in the voice’s direction, he felt a hard object clamp around his wrist.  As his vision began to focus slowly, he realized some sort of machine had grabbed him.  The top portion of it, which vaguely resembled a head turned what he thought to be its face in his direction.

Too weak to actually jump out of surprise, he sneered slightly in repulsion as the human doctor walked into the room.

“You’re awake,” he proclaimed and strode to the man’s bedside.  Then asked the machine, “Vitals?”

“Body Temperature: thirty-eight point three degrees Celsius. Heart rate: fifty beats per minute.  Blood pressure: ninety over sixty.  Respiration: normal.”

“Excellent,” the doctor said to no one in particular.  “Sir, do you remember anything?”

The man opened his mouth to speak.  He intended to explain what he had been doing before ending up in the hospital but realized he had no answer.  Instead of saying no, he simply shook his head.

“Well, you have been asleep for a very long time,” he continued, “and the fact that you seem to be in fine physical shape is nothing short of amazing.”

“How did I get here?” He asked.

The doctor paused, looked at the man on the bed and sighed.  He turned to the machine standing next to him, said, “Dismissed,” and it rolled quickly from the room.  Then he rubbed his forehead and began to explain what he knew to his patient.

“You were found beneath some ruble.  The manner in which the debris fell around you created a sort of cave.  You had a scar on your head, which has been theorized to be from a piece that had struck you and knocked you unconscious.  Beyond that, you were nearly perfectly preserved and alive in a state of hibernation.  We have no full explanation for what happened and hoped that you would wake up one day and be able to shed some light on the subject.”

“But I don’t remember anything,” the man apologized.

“That’s alright,” said the doctor.  “We’ll have specialists meeting with you soon who might be able to help with that.”

“How long was I asleep,” he asked the doctor.

The doctor sighed again then answered, “About one hundred years.”

In the shock of realization, he nodded to the doctor as if this all sounded very normal to him.  The doctor, in turn, thought to himself that this man must have a very firm grasp on the importance of his even still being alive in order to be able to handle such news so gracefully and promptly left the room.

Over the next few days, what seemed like hundreds of people met with the man.  Most of them were annoyingly condescending, speaking slowly and loudly.  He wanted to grab them by their collars and explain he could not remember his past but that he was still able to hear just fine.

Some of them showed him flash cards, then marveled at the fact that a silhouetted image of an igloo did nothing to jar his memory.  Others looked into his ears for what seemed hours on end.  Still others told him stories about what had been happening in the nineteen-seventies then just sat back and stared at him as if waiting for the miracle.

None of it did a thing.  He still could not remember who he was, how he had arrived in the hospital or what he had been doing the last time he had been awake for this long.

One hundred years, he thought.  Things must have changed so dramatically since he was buried.  He even felt as if his surroundings were very foreign, yet he could not point out a single detail that was different.  He simply could not remember.

The last “specialist” to visit with him was different.  He seemed more down to Earth.  He was definitely more honest.  He told the man things he had not been told by the others.  It was revealed to him that he had actually been in the hospital for forty years when he was recovered form the pile of ruble and had been hidden beneath it for approximately sixty years.

Apparently there had been an accident in the city where he presumably lived, which they were referring to as “Old Toledo.”  A scientist at a nearby lab had been conducting some experiments and caused a massive explosion.  It had leveled the entire city.  Rescue workers had given up hope of any finding any survivors any closer to the blasts epicenter than where the man was found.  It wasn’t until many years later as the city was slowly rebuilt and the area where he was found deemed clear of dangerous chemicals that construction workers found him.

“It was impossible to determine exactly what manner of structure it was you were found in,” the latest specialist told him, “but it has been assumed to be your home.”

The man nodded and he continued.

“It is my hope that if you can see the very few items around you that were found around you it might provide you with some clues to spark your memory.”

While the specialist was concerned, the man agreed.  He remembered nothing and found that this caused him to fear very little.  It was a rather carefree existence in a way that he was tempted to maintain.  In the end, however, he figured the questions would one day become too many and he would want to know more.

So it was that the man was lead through the brightly illuminated hospital hallways, traveled in multiple elevators and ended up outside of a door that his visitor hesitated to open.  After a few words of encouragement and reassurance that he would be cared for if he fainted from the overwhelming shock of it all, the door was swung open with a flourish and the man stared at the room’s contents.

In a sterile white room sat what looked to be a strangely shaped collection of brown cushions with a few items scattered around them on the floor.  As the man stepped into the room and inspected the cushions closer, it became clear that it was really a chair.  It was a big, comfy chair.  Next to the chair sat nearly two dozen silver cylinders.

“The incident knocked down hundreds of buildings, but a, area was formed around you.  Afterwards, flash fires quickly spread over the area which seem to only have served further to seal you into a protected dome of sorts,” explained the specialist.

“May I?” the unnamed man asked his companion and waited for a nod before sitting down on the chair.

He settled into it.  It conformed around him backside perfectly.  It felt like an old friend.  It was comfortable.  It felt like home.

“My garage,” the man said.

“What?” asked the specialist, scrambling to remove his electronic pad from his pocket.  It was obvious a breakthrough had occurred.

“I was in my garage,” the man repeated and pulled the level on the side of the chair.  His legs were suddenly supported by the extending metal bars of the old recliner, much to the specialist’s surprise.  “I was drinking and watching old movies in my garage.”  He picked up one of the metal cylinders from beside the chair.  “Pabst Blue Ribbon.”

“This is amazing,” the specialist muttered.  “Is there anything else you can remember?”

“My name is Paul Winkler and I had a bad day,” he said, the smile spreading across his face.  “I had just been laid off.  My wife had left me and had gone to stay at her mother’s house.  She was probably in California already.  I was having my own Star Wars marathon and getting drunk.  Drank more than I ever had before in my life.”

“I have to tell the others,” the specialist said aloud.  “We should go back to your room now so I can call your doctors.”

“If you don’t mind,” Paul said as he leaned the recliner backward and shut his eyes, “I’m just going to sit here for awhile and get back to business.  See if you can find me a television and some beer while you’re gone.”

The specialist rushed form the room.  He had discovered how their mysterious subject had remained perfectly preserved for so long.  He touched the communicator on his eye as he raced down the halls.

“Yes, sir, he remembers,” he spoke into it.  “We have our answer.  He was pickled.”

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

If My Home is My Castle, My Garage is My Secret Lair

Sometimes the least expected results of a given task may be the most enjoyable.  This is certainly the case with my recent garage sale.

I knew that we would pick up a little extra spending cash.  I also knew that unused “treasures” would be removed from my home, leaving a great deal of space.  I hadn’t considered what I would do with said space.

The answer became resoundingly clear as I rearranged items that were to be kept and stored properly.  Instead of just shoving all of it into recesses, out of sight and out of mind, I took the more useful things and…well, decided to put them to use.

My old component stereo from my college years was hooked up, at first just to determine whether or not it was in working condition.  It was.  And since it was, I decided to leave it hooked up.  In fact, I decided to even bring the unused DVD player out and hook it up to the stereo and old Commodore monitor.

Next, the miniature Pirates of the Caribbean pinball table was plugged in.  Then the ping-pong table was unfolded into a suitable area, the heavy bag was hung from its hook on the ceiling and the dusty recliner was brushed off and dragged into the open floor space.

Add to these new features the fact that I already keep a decent supply of beer in the fridge and I suddenly found myself in possession of an area that I had never planned on assembling.  I was the proud, unsuspecting owner of a man cave.

The temperature is perfect right now as I sit in the giant cozy recliner, The Empire Strikes Back booming over my speakers with an ironically smaller screen displaying its picture.  My sons and their friends buzz around playing ping-pong, pinball and taking turns punching the heavy bag.

“Your garage is like a cool place to hang out all of a sudden,” one of them commented and I couldn’t help but think to myself, “Yes, yes it is.”

All I need is space heater for the winter months and I can already see myself escaping out into my garage.  A constant mix of The Beatles, Springsteen and Kings of Leon will be kept in the 5 disc CD changer while more and more DVDs will find their way out to the shelves.  There will, no doubt, be one hand stuck in the front of my pants and another wrapped around a cold beer as my brain slowly atrophies.

I was even able to shift the numerous woodworking tools that I acquired over the years, asking for them as gifts when there wasn’t a particularly cool Lego set I wanted, into the open so that I might be able to undertake some projects.  I promised my sons a better lemonade stand and could use some shelving in one of the storage rooms inside my home.  Then maybe I could start building some furniture.

All that open space is just begging to be filled up with new crap.

What's in a Number? Definitive, Quantifiable Statistics, That's What.

Transformer Generation Dad is proud to present to you our 500th post!

It's been more than a year and a half since this blog began. While you might say, "Big deal, you sit down and type the drivel that leaks from your brain almost every day," let me inform you that I have looked at many other quality blogs that have been in existence for twice as long (if not longer) as TGD and they have nowhere near 500 posts.

When you think about it, 500 is a very large number.  Perhaps you don't realize the effort it has taken to type out 500 posts worth of drivel.  Maybe you don't understand the level of pageantry that should be exercised to celebrate such an achievement.

Allow me to put things into perspective:

- It takes me at least an hour to write each post, usually more.  By a conservative estimate, I have spent 500 hours writing this blog.  That would span 20.8 days end to end.

- 500 years ago the globe had yet to be circumvented, Michelangelo's Statue of David was only seven years old, people still pooped into buckets and the Pilgrims' landing at Plymouth Rock was still 109 years away.

- Driving 500 miles could take you clear across the width of 94% of the states.

- It would take nearly two of the towns I fish in every summer to reach a population of 500.

- With 500 dollars, you could buy a new iPad 2.  (The simplest version, but nothing to sneeze at.)

- 500 bottles of beer would last me approximately two six months. (My mom is probably reading this.)

- With 500 Lego pieces, you could build the majority of the lego Slave I. (It requires 569 pieces to be exact but if you left out the minor accessories like the retractable rockets and hidden canister you could get there.)

- 500 zombies would easily surround and devour you before you could possibly chop off enough of their heads to stand a fighting chance.

As you should be able to see by now, 500 of anything is a lot.  When it comes down to it, I'm just asking for a pat on the back.  Only one, not 500 of them.  That isn't so hard, is it?

I suppose I also want to thank all of you for reading for so many posts.  I'm surprised you haven't gotten sick of all this nonsense yet.