Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Black Funk in the Gulf and an Awkward Oval Office Chat

It’s been a while since you got an update on the always semi-popular, yet mostly-inaccurate, HTF spin on some of the bigger current events of recent days.  Here are of couple that you may have noticed:

  • Clearly the biggest story is the fossil fuel that for millions of years was safely underground under a few miles of ocean in the gulf until we decided to suck it out of there and put it in barrels so we can drive and fly and stuff.  After the oil rig exploded, at which point we obviously blamed the Canadians and/or terrorists from Florida, the black funk (perfect name for a 70s soul band which I probably wouldn’t be invited to join for several immaterial reasons) began spewing at rates ranging from 3 drops a day to 3 bazillion Big Gulps per second into the ocean depending on who was estimating.  The company responsible, BP (which stands for BIG freaking PROBLEMS) quickly took charge of the situation by issuing wordy press releases from London that, somehow failed to plug the hole in spite of their length and earnestness.  So then they had the CEO do commercials in America where his words and slow stride set to instrumental music also somehow failed to stop the leak.  But all these valiant efforts have succeeded in making the BP stock price roughly equivalent to the price of a bean burrito at the Taco Bell.  (I’m suddenly hungry…)  Anyway, the update is that the clean-up is well underway in spite of the mess growing exponentially by the second.  This is roughly equivalent to me trying to floss the kid’s teeth WHILE they are continuously shoving sugary pieces of Hubba Bubba in their mouths and chewing away…
  • The lead US General in Afghanistan, whose last name is McChrystal and first name is General, was pretty much fired last week.  It seems he did an interview with Rolling Stone, which makes, you know, perfect sense.  It’s not like the guy is busy fighting a war or something.  Definitely a winning strategy for all great war heroes on the eve of a major offensive is to get an interview published next to multi-page articles on Lady Gaga’s tattoos and/or underwear preferences.  And in the interview you should totally make offensive remarks about most everyone you work for (although the digs on the French people seemed fairly accurate).  Upon reading the article (the McChrystal one, not the Lady Gaga one…I think…) the President got our good General on a plane back to DC and had what must have been a very warm and fuzzy meeting in the White House, after which we suddenly have a new General in Afghanistan.  Come on, don’t you think reality TV in the White House would be WAY more interesting that at Kate Gosslin’s house?!

That’s all I have time for now, but the lessons here are mccrystal-clear: if you’re going to chew Hubba Bubba while issuing verbose press releases about oil spewage and/or Lady Gaga’s tattoos be sure you get interviewed by a deeply respected, hard-hitting, news magazine like Rolling Stone.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Being Hit Over the Melon by the Soccer Thing

My first soccer memory was at one of my first practices when I was a kid.  One of the “big” kids on the team had kicked the ball pretty hard and I wasn’t paying attention.  The thing hit me in the head so hard that it knocked me to the ground.  I didn’t like that kid – ever.  But I did play soccer for a couple years when I was like 9 or something.  (yes, I was 9 for 2 full years – wrap your mind around that!)  I should’ve stuck with soccer given my body type (that phrase feels really weird to say, but whatever…).  Instead I picked sports ideal for short, smallish guys – basketball and football.  This key decision is the whole reason I’m not a pro athlete today.  Ok, there may be a couple other reasons…

But lately there’s a nice buzz about soccer, and I’m getting into it a bit thanks to the World Cup.  I caught part of the first US games, but the real trigger for me happened last week in Argentina.  I got to watch the Argentina-Korea game with a bunch of CRAZY fans from Argentina.  When the team scored goals it was literally the most energized sports moment I’ve ever been part of.  Absolutely awesome – melee ensued.  Then the other morning I pulled a few of my kids out of bed and watched the US game with them.  (6:30 AM start time in Seattle)  As Donovan scored that wild goal right at the end I, well, turned into an Argentine dude.  I yelped and screamed – two things that I do pretty rarely.  (I also felt pretty pleased when the French team imploded – their worst melt down since WW II)

Anyway, I’m now loving me the World Cup.  But the odds are high that, as most Americans, once we lose I’ll forget that it was even happening.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Charged for having gas – Part dos of adventures in Argentina

Well, I’m headed to the airport in a bit to fly home from Argentina.  It has been awesome – got a lot of work done, but played a bit too.  Here are some of the more recent things that stood out (I preface this by apologizing for the more off-color observations, but those kinda stuck out):

  • Last night I walked down to the swanky “Puerto Madera” (literal translation is “Big buildings that were built to extract money from people”) to check things out.  At one point I was standing and looking at the “Casa Rosada,” which I was told was where the President File:Cristina Fern├índez de Kirchner - Foto Oficial 2.jpgof Argentina works, but doesn’t live.  It’s a cool building.  I heard a loud noise above my head and saw this HUGE WHITE HELICOPTER – my first thought was that the Pope was making a surprise visit – but that thing was so loud it sounded more like an invasion.  Turned out that it was the President herself.  So I got to see a bunch of people swarm around.  It made me think that I totally need a white helicopter.
  • I walked around the shopping district and wound up running into a huge group of protesters.  I tried, but I still have no idea what they were protesting, but from the noise they were making I’m quite certain they had a strong anti-silence stance.  They were pounding metal, shooting fireworks into the sky, and shouting things that no one could understand.  It kinda felt like a preschool run amuck.
  • After tons of walking around I picked a restaurant to drop in on.  All the meals here are way later in the day, so I showed up at 8:30 PM and the place was empty – by 10 it was hoppin’.  It was quite a place.  How do I know this you may ask… well – there was an automated breathalyzer installed outside of the bathrooms, assumingly for the patrons to challenge each other on who was the drunkest.  Another bathroom observation – the TP machine gave it out like 2 inches at a time – now that’s conservation.
  • Eating by yourself you kinda get to observe and listen a bit more.  At the table next to me were 9 guys of various ages.  The waiter took their order and most of them ordered carbonated water to drink.  That’s common here.  They ask if your want water “with gas” (with carbonation) or “without gas.”  (that’s the literal translation)  I almost fell out of my chair laughing when the waiter returned and asked, “Ok guys, which of you has gas?”  And like six of ‘em raised their hands without laughing.  I love language stuff.  As I signed my own bill I noticed that my soda was referred to as “gas.”  So I can safely say that I was charged extra for having gas.

I’m off now to not sleep on the plane from Buenos Aires to Atlanta.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Adventures in Argentina – Part One

This week I’m in Buenos Aires, Argentina – even farther south than Florida or Texas, but I think more people here speak English.  Getting here took a lot of airplane time and here are a few things I’ve learned or that happened during my adventure so far:

  • My ability to sleep on 10 hour plan rides is less than my ability to do pretty much anything else.
  • I’ve now seen Invictus twice – and I’ve learned that I’ll probably never be a world-class rugby player (a shock to all of you, I know), but I can quote most of the movie.
  • On the flight from Seattle to Atlanta they had free movies since the credit card thing wasn’t working.  This was very exciting except for the older lady next to me who got so frustrated with the control for the movie thing that she gave up.  I offered to help, but she said it just wasn’t worth it.  I gave her Orbitz Maui Melon gum instead and this seemed to make her incrementally happier.
  • The lady on the other side of me watched The Blind Side on her iPod, but could’ve watched it for free on the “big-ish” screen in front of her for free.  Maybe I’m just being a guy but big screen is ALWAYS better than small screen.
  • If you work in Customs you have to look a little mean and indifferent.
  • My Spanish is still semi-ok, at least I could carry on an hour and half conversation with the driver who took me to the hotel.  He gave me a huge talking-tour of the city and an in-depth, non-bias (I’m sure!) explanation of how screwed up politics are in his country – he seems to think we have it all figured out in the US since we have Obama.  The other point he kept emphasizing  was how 3-4 months after things become popular in the US they arrive in Argentina – stuff like technology, fashion, etc.  This clearly means that Justin Bieber is only days away from taking over down here.  As a parting comment I told him to let me know the next time he was in Seattle – he laughed hard at that one.
  • The power plugs here are different – forgot about that.
  • The first shower I took here was actually kinda scary.  There were SIX nozzles all in front of me along with the shower head above me.  Upon turning on the shower I was pummeled with ice-cold water from all of these different sources.  Then it warmed up a bit and I was fine, but wow – I think people here are somehow cleaner because that’s a lot of water power.
  • Driving here is more like walking through the Walmart on the day after Thanksgiving.  You’ll survive it, but there will be bumps/bruises and you have to be really self-centered brave to go more than 10 feet or so.

The thing I’m most impressed with are the people – they are “fall all over yourself” nice.  Yesterday I was standing in a LONG line at a fast-food place for lunch.  The co-worker I was with in the line is due to have a baby in a few weeks.  One of the crazy-busy fast food workers spotted my pregnant friend, ran up to us, and dragged us to the front of the line to order in front of like 50 other people.  AND THIS IS NORMAL.  So classy.  The moral of the story – the next time you’re in Argentina – bring your pregnant friends.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Sunday Afternoon Slug Stuff

About 11 years ago I saw the first ultrasound (or was it sonogram – I have NO idea what the difference is) of the little baby man inside my wife.  I won’t lie – I was ecstatic that it was a dude in there, but only cuz they make a lot more sense to me.  My obvious reaction was to make two quick purchases:

1. A plush football that said, “My First Football”

2. A Flatbed Scanner – this was to scan the images to e-mail the, uh, proof, that we were having a boy.  In fact I actually edited the picture by drawing a digital circle around the, uh, proof, and inserting an arrow and comment that said, “See, it’s a boy!”  Of course this was all just a big excuse to buy an electronic device that I barely ever used – not the last time this would happen…

My boys do lots of the same stuff that I remember doing – and plenty of things that I probably should remember doing, but have selectively forgotten.  For instance, today my oldest came home from church intent on killing slugs by dumping salt on them.  (As an afterthought - I’d like to know what his church lesson was about.)  My reaction was to ask him why killing slugs made sense and that he had to answer in the form of a written paragraph.  Here’s his response:

“Why killing slugs makes sense:

One reason why killing slugs is a good thing is that slugs eat flowers and plants.  The other reason is there will be less slugs here to kill the plants.  The last reason is that slugs get burned from the salt and it burns off their skin.”

He added an illustration involving the three big S’s (slug, salt, slime), which I shouldn’t describe, but I suspect was fairly accurate.  So even though I found it morally reprehensible, by which I mean I totally would be doing the same thing at 10 years old, I handed him the salt shaker begrudgingly told him he could go.  His female siblings were equal parts fascinated and disgusted at what he was doing.  Boys are pretty weird, no doubt, but we can create a lot of fun out of a salt shaker and/or scanner.

Update:  Here’s the actual “paragraph.”

IMAGE_127

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Rain, Rain… Bring it on!

When I was a kid my friends and I used to lay down in the street gutters while it poured rain and enjoyed the happy wetness.  As I’ve gotten older I guess I’ve become a little more averse to getting drenched that way (also to laying in gutters, but that’s probably for different reasons).  When we moved to Seattle I was hit with lots of comments about enduring deluges of Northwest rain.  The secret that I’ve learned in my almost 2 years living here is, and don’t tell this to anyone, that it really isn’t that bad.  Yeah, it rains a bit, but I really think the stigma is a bit overblown, kinda like how in Kansas you see tornados at least every Tuesday.

We have had a wet streak though recently and it threatened to make the holiday weekend a little less fun, but we (by which I mostly mean Traci) were undeterred.  We had said we were going for a hike and so off we went.  I’d never walked that much in the pouring rain, in the woods, on purpose.  It went surprisingly well.  The kids were gonna complain about hiking anyway, and the rain, in an odd way, made it feel like more of an adventure, so we got very few complaints.  Don’t get me wrong, it was far from ideal and there were more than a few slips on the trail.  Also, people got nice and muddy.  But we didn’t push too hard and tried to pretend like we didn’t notice that we all looked like we had just climbed out of the river.  Of course since misery likes company, we invited another awesome family to go with us on Saturday morning.  They mistakenly accepted and actually seemed to have as much fun as we did.  There were some, uh, shorter legs in the group, so that slowed us down.  But I was thinking – for us “tall” people walking a few miles is one thing, but for kids with legs as long as my forearms, walking a couple miles must feel like a marathon.  The kiddos were troopers.

We did however, rush home to put on dry clothes and sit in front of our space heaters.  Our garage looked like a Payless Shoe Source that had been leveled in a mudslide – at least 400 pairs of mud laden shoes that will never be clean again.  Well, after that experience, what do you think we did…

We went and did the thing again on an equally rainy Monday morning, but instead invited 2  fun families to join in our forced fun on the trails.  Again there was a some good slippage and I actually pulled my innocent white sock out of a shoe that had been sucked into a mud pit for a minute.  The kids led the way though, and I really didn’t see much of them.  I think they got up the mountain so fast they had time to build a make-shift cabin with indoor plumbing and satellite TV.  They descended equally fast.  Yeah, we were drenched and all, but the power of the cheesiness of being with friends/family and having a little nature adventure kinda made the rain feel a little less wet.

So the next time it rains and you see my name on the caller ID – answer at your own risk!

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