Thursday, December 30, 2010

V is for Vasectomy

If you are under the age of 18 or if you are easily offended, read no more.  You have been warned!

This week my wife and I went to an appointment with a Urologist.  I am strongly considering getting a vasectomy.  No, that is not a surgery to remove a vase that you accidentally ate, but is a “long term form of birth control.”  Why did Rebecca go with me?  Did I need the emotional support?  No.  It is require by law in Mississippi that a man’s spouse, if he is married, accompany him to watch a video and to give her consent prior to undergoing the procedure.  More on the video later.

First, if you ever have to go to the urologist for any reason, don’t pee before you get there.  No matter why you are there, they will make you give a urine sample.  One guy came out of the bathroom with his little cup full and told the nurse, “Hey, I am only here to pay my bill.”

The urologist came in looking just like Michael Gross, the TV dad from Family Ties.  He was a little socially awkward, which isn’t terribly surprising considering the man dedicated his entire professional life to the study of urine, and urinary tracts.

The video was awesome.  It was made in the 1970’s and featured Dr. Mohammed Bulbul.  Below is a similar video so you get the idea.

Some of my favorite quotes from the video:

“After the procedure, you are going to need to avoid vigorous activities such as horseback riding, mechanical bulls, mountain biking, kickboxing, etcetera.” – Dr. Bulbul.

“After the procedure, I had some discomfort, not unlike if someone were pinching one of your testicles.” –the patient

“Tell me when I can open my eyes again” – Rebecca, while shielding her face from the segment where they show the doctor cutting the vas deferens, the small tube that connects the testicle to the seminal vesicle.

After the video and talking with the good doctor, I started to feel a little self-conscious, maybe a bit different, a bit eccentric.  I have four kids already.  The patient in the video said, “well, we had two kids already and that’s all we wanted, so the time was right to get sterilized.”  The Doctor told us that just about everyone who comes in has two kids.  According to him, once a couple has a boy and a girl, its a done deal.  Wow.

I am not sure I am comfortable with the word “sterile,” either.  It sounds harsh.  Final.

I asked my boss if it would be ok if I took four days of for “an elective out-patient surgery.”  He probably thinks I am going to get breast augmentation or something.

I have a tentative date set for the procedure.  Time to buy some ice packs and rent some movies.  I hear that it is popular for guys to get the procedure done around March Madness, so they can sit at home and watch the college basketball playoffs with an ice pack under their scrotum.  Good times.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Proud to be an American

About 15 years ago, a good friend of mine, Leonardo Tanda, came to visit me from Milan, Italy.  He wanted to go to New York, so I met him there at JFK airport.  One of the first things he said to me was, “Why are there so many American flags here in America?”  I responded in my characteristic sarcastic way, “what did you expect, Angola flags?”  This was in the days before 9-11, and we got to visit the World Trade Center Towers, and a number of other sites.  There are even more flags in New York City today. 

After considering his question for a few days, it hit me that when I was abroad in a number of different countries living and working, I hadn’t seen very many flags.  I know that the people are quite are patriotic in Argentina (I spent 22 months there), Italy (I spent close to 20 months there), Mexico (I spent many months there, at least 6), Spain (I spent a month there) or any of the other countries I have worked in (The People’s Republic of China, Japan, The Bahamas, The Dominican Republic, Canada, France, Holland, Germany, Austria, Brazil, etc), but there are more flags in the good ole US of A that in those other countries.

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Strangely enough, as I was driving back from a store about five miles away from my house, and I counted no less than 18 American flags: two at churches, one at a school and the rest in neighbors’ yards, either on flagpoles like the one in the photo, or on flag holders on the houses themselves.  I don’t think I have ever seen someone’s yard with a flagpole flying their country’s flag in another country.

Why so many flags?  Well, Patriotism is a key part of our culture.  Being patriotic is cool.  Being unpatriotic is, well, uncool.  There are few things worse than being labeled as unpatriotic.  Being homophobic or even anti-gay is one of those things that is worse than being called unpatriotic.  One of the few things worse than being labeled as a homophobe is being labeled as a Racist, and the only thing worse than being labeled a Racist is being labeled a pedophile.  Homophobic racist pedophiles who are unpatriotic have it bad.  But I digress.

 

Why are millions of Americans so patriotically convinced that the USA is the greatest country on earth?  It is puzzling considering only 1 in 5 Americans owns a passport (and even fewer have actually traveled outside the USA.)  Interestingly enough, far fewer have ever lived outside the USA.  In fact, 40% of Americans have never lived outside the town where they were born!  Don’t get me wrong: America is a very great place to live, and of all the places I have visited, I like the USA the best.  It is just strange to me how convinced people are without even visiting anywhere else.

Patriotism can inspire some strong emotions.  I will tell you that every time I hear Lee Greenwood’s God Bless the USA, I get teary eyed.  Especially at the Lasershow at Stone Mountain Park.

It should come as no surprise that patriotism (Like Jesus) is used  (quite effectively I might add) to sell products.  Buy American, the saying goes.

Full Tank of Freedon

Patriotism is used to sell all kinds of products, from Automobiles to beer to Gasoline to designer clothing.

The funny thing about this photo is that Marathon Oil Company is a global operation, and it imports over 64 million barrels of oil from the Middle East each year.

With globalization running rampant, the world has become a confusing place for patriots.  I mean, should we be concerned about American Flags being made in China?

I learned patriotism from my father.  He served during the Viet Nam war (which, surprisingly enough, is known as “the American War” if you are Vietnamese.)  His father, Smitty, was career military. 

At times I my patriotism has caused me to stand out from the crowd.  Once, for example, I was the only one standing at a graduation ceremony because the program said to remain standing after the National Anthem.  2,000 other folks sat, and I alone stood, and when a person behind me said “why don’t you sit down like the rest of us,” I replied with the only sensible thing that would come to my mind: “why don’t you read the program, you ignorant red neck.”  I guess maybe I was a bit over the top. Another time, at a football game, My boys and I were the only ones to stand and remove our hats as the Colors were presented

But in spite of my feelings, I can’t say that I am at all as patriotic as those who serve our Country in the US military.  Personal sacrifice for our country is the truest sign of patriotism.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Well, this IS my first rodeo.

 

Tonight we took the kids to the Purvis High School rodeo.  Yes, rodeo is a real high school sport.  If you don’t believe me, then go to the Mississippi High School Rodeo Association website.  There is even a National organization, too.

I don’t think I have ever seen more denim-per-capita anywhere else in the world!  The average belt buckle size was at least 8” in diameter, too.

For those of my readers who are tuning in from outside the US, High School is the American term for secondary school.

It will probably come as a shock to you, but they even allow home-schooled kids to compete!  They even will announce the name of the your home school if you give them one so your kids feel more like they go to a real school like everyone else.

Since I often use the phrase, “Well, this ain’t my first rodeo” to convey the point that I have experience in a particular thing, I guess it is good that I have finally gone to a real rodeo, so I can be truthful when  I use the phrase in the future.

I will say this: The rodeo was very cool.  The skill required to ride a horse at full speed, lasso a calf, jump off your horse, flip the calf upside-down, whip out a rope and tie the calf’s legs together in under 10 seconds is incredible.

Another amazing event is called Steer Wrestling.  I almost had my kids convinced that two steers were going to come out and wrestle each other.  What actually happened was even more incredible.  Young high school Freshmen, Sophomores, Juniors and Seniors compete in this event in which a cowboy rides out chasing a steer.  When he gets close enough, he jumps off of his horse tackling the steer by the horns, and then flipping the steer over on its side.  Very cool.  I don’t have a video from the Purvis High School Rodeo, but this one is pretty cool, too.

The Poles event is very cool, too.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Is OCD hereditary?

 

I come in this evening to find my three year old son, Max with my wife’s cotton makeup removal pads (he calls them Fuzzies):

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Nigel has many a time organized shoes, pencils, pens, etc.

While it is true that I am very particular about a lot of things, I don’t technically have OCD.  OCPD, maybe.

Maybe that is why I collect things like coins, pens, knives, watches, guns, rocks, bayonets, tools, etc.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Bizarre Accidents will happen

 

On the way home from church today in Laurel, my son Nigel and I were on I-59 heading south when I noticed a car coming very fast towards me from behind. I swerved onto the shoulder, almost into the median.  The car went between me and the car next to me, and continued at a very fast pace.  I was going almost 80 mph, so the car, a silver Honda, must have been going at least 100 mph.  Soon after that, maybe 10 or 20 seconds later, I saw a cloud of dust, smoke, brake lights and debris flying towards me.  I immediately pulled onto the shoulder and came to a stop.

I told Nigel to stay in the car, and I ran towards the smoke.  When I got to the Honda, it was already on fire.  The driver was out, screaming and crying.  Although it looked like a man, it turned out to be a heavyset black woman in baggy clothes.  She was yelling and fighting with a couple other people who had also stopped to help.  Within a few moments, a couple of the passersby had her pinned to another car with her arms behind her in a double hammer lock.  She was yelling and screaming, “why didn’t I die?!?”

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I walked over to the burning Honda, and started looking through the windows to see if there was anyone else in the vehicle.  The other passersby started yelling, “get back, it could explode,” but I continued to look to make certain no one was still in the car.

The Honda had hit a small Mazda, and the two cars had spun out of control onto the grassy shoulder and they rested some 20 to 50 feet off the roadway.  The Honda was engulfed in flames.  I called 911, and as I was talking to the operator, I asked other motorists for a fire extinguisher.  By the time someone found a fire extinguisher, the Honda was completely engulfed.

Inside the Mazda, a 40-something white woman was laying in the driver’s side seat with the airbag deployed.  She was in pain, but was talking to the other people who had stopped.

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Within minutes the police arrived, followed by three fire trucks.  In the end, the driver of the Honda had hit three or four cars, and the police handcuffed her and put her in the back of the police car.  She was hysterical.

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To make matters more confusing, about half of the witnesses still thought that the woman was a man, which totally confused the police.  They took my driver’s license information and my phone number.  To Nigel’s credit, he stayed put in the car.  He even made a friend by talking to a boy in another car.

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Sunday, October 3, 2010

A tribute to a living legend

 

While driving from Orange Beach, Alabama to Hattiesburg, Mississippi, my wife and I were able to see a number of monuments to those that have gone before us.  There were several civil war memorials, and a beautiful tribute to 9-11 in a small town along the way.  Those are fine, and important, but what I want to recognize in my blog today is an unsung hero, a veritable living legend, a man who is dedicated to preserving a key and important part of our culture.  Yes, that is right, this blog is dedicated to Gene Morris, the greatest living spear hunter in the world.

Colonel Gene Morris, Ret. is a man dedicated to preserving spear hunting, a lost art that once was so crucial to the survival of mankind.  To preserve this art, Col. Morris has built an amazing spear hunting museum in Summerdale, Alabama.

Spear Hunting Museum Sign

Not only does this museum have an LED sign, it also has some of the trophies that the self-named spear chunker (he calls himself this in spite of the fact that it is actually a racial slur) has claimed using nothing but a spear. 

 

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In case you don’t get a chance to go there in person, I have attached a few photos.  The museum has two artist-quality murals of the man himself.

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In this mural, you can see the ferocity and the dedication of the greatest living spear hunter in the world.  If I were one of his prey, I would be stunned into submission by his leering gaze alone.

Leering

If you are lucky, you might get the spear-hunting icon to give you a demonstration from his custom-built spear hunting platform which is out back behind the museum.

DSC_5034For the amazingly inexpensive price of $3.00 US, you can get a self-guided tour of the museum.  For a paltry five dollars more, you can get a guided tour.  Children under 5 years of age are free, which is due to the fact that they don’t have the intellectual capacity to understand the greatness of the living legend’s abilities with a spear, nor are they capable of retaining any of the pearls of wisdom that an older person would gain from touring the museum.

Also, it is an added plus that the famed spear-hunter looks a lot like Gene Hackman.

Gene2Gene Hackman  

    Gene Morris is happy.                     Gene Hackman is not.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Rediscovering my loves

 

This weekend I took off of work on Friday, and my beautiful wife, Rebecca, and I drove to the Gulf coast for a weekend without the kids.  It was like being newlyweds again!  What I realized, in very short order, was that while I have been working like a demon for the last several years I have forgotten some key things that I love.  In some cases, I forgot them entirely; in others, I have forgotten how much I love them.  Here are some of them:

1.  I love Rebecca.  Wildly, madly, deeply and thoroughly.  She is the coolest person on the planet, and I love spending time alone with her.  I love it when she smiles at me, when she laughs at my dumb jokes, when she has a cool new insightful thought, when she teases me, and when I catch her watching me when I am intent on something else.  Time away alone without the kids is an amazing aphrodisiac, and it is true what Rebecca says: “Physical intimacy is the reward for being an adult.”  I feel incredibly rewarded this weekend.

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2.  I love to read.  Novels, mostly, but I love to read all kinds of books.  I think it is very cool that books over 100 years old are now free on the Kindle.  This weekend, I read an interesting Sci-Fi book, I am number four.

3. I love the ocean, especially my favorite ocean in the whole world, the Gulf of Mexico.  I love swimming in the ocean, seeing the fish, the gulls overhead, the waves, the sand on the beach, the shells, the blue-green water touching the blue sky, the lovely breeze and everything that comes with the Gulf of Mexico.

4. I love my Omega Seamaster Chronograph.

Omega and Frog crop

5. I love exploring new places.  I have been very fortunate in my life to have visited Argentina, Mexico, Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, the Bahamas, Canada, Italy, Spain, France, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Holland, Japan and China.  I have been to 39 states.  I absolutely love to travel to new places, and to see new things.

6. I love working out.  This is one I had definitely forgotten about.  I feel charged about getting back in the habit of working out!

 

 

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Everything I ever needed to know I learned from the Dukes of Hazzard

 

When I was a kid, I loved the show, Dukes of Hazzard.  As I was driving to work today, I noticed a 6’ loading ramp at a local shop that repairs industrial equipment, and the first thought that came to mind was, “wow.  I would love to take my car at about 60 mph and go off that sweet jump!”  Then it hit me how crazy an idea it was, and I couldn’t help but wonder where it came from.  After pondering this for a few minutes, it hit me that it was that show from the 70’s that put those crazy ideas in my head that have been in there for over 30 years, but still surface from time to time. 

I then wondered how else that show has influenced me, and here are some key lessons:

1. In life, no matter how hopeless things seem, there is always a way out.  Usually it involves a dirt road, a fast car, some loyal friends and, if you are lucky, a jump over a creek.

2. Attractive people can get away with stuff normal folks like me can’t.  If you don’t believe me, ask Deputy Cletus Hogg.

Daisy and Cletus

3. There really are a lot of greedy, power-hungry people out there like Boss Hogg.

dukes_boss01 Bernie_Madoff_assault

4. Even if you are an actor who plays a dirty, wild and crazy, red-neck mechanic named Cooter, you still probably have a future in national politics

5. Everybody needs an Uncle Jesse in their life to bail them out of trouble every now and then.

6. Sometimes, you really need to thing creatively to solve a problem.  Like attaching dynamite to arrows, and using a compound bow to launch them.

7. Don’t make a big deal about life’s little inconveniences, like having your doors welded shut.

8. A few colorful euphemisms can make an otherwise boring story or speech into something very entertaining.  Here are some of my favorite sayings from the narrator, Waylon Jennings:

- “They’re hotter’n a pair of blue tick hounds on their first hunt.”

-“Them two boys was fighting like the second and third monkey on the gang-plank of Noah’s Ark!”

-“They were stickin’ out like a bourbon bottle at a country revival”

-“Ever had one of those days you couldn’t hit the ground with your hat?”

-“Stood out like a watermelon in a bowl full of chickpeas”

-“He’d meet a grizzly bear if it had a wallet”

-“He could smell the ink on a dollar like a bird dog huntin’ quail”

-“He’s slicker than a bald-tired semi on a mile of wet asphalt”

-“He was mad enough to chew nails and spit horseshoes!”

-“He was itchier than a hound dog at a flea circus”

-“When you have to sell pigs to buy pig feed, you ain't apt to be in the pig business very long.”

-“Tanglin’ with Daisy is like tryin’ to put socks on a rooster.”

-“As nervous as an alligator in a hand bag factory.”

-“Havin' more trouble than two stray hefers in a pasture full of bulls.”

-“Now from where I sit this whole thing smells like its downwind from a cow barn on a hot June day.”

-“Just about as rare as a buck-toothed rooster.:

9. At the end of the day, it’s important to be able to sit down with your sworn enemy to drink a cold one together in the boar’s nest, listening to a band play that Roscoe P. Coltrain caught in a speed trap.

 

Friday, September 3, 2010

Customer Service

I will do my best to focus in this particular post, because in America, the level of customer service at most locations is very discouraging.  Finding someone to help you at Walmart, Lowes or Home Depot to help you find something you need to buy is more difficult than finding someone with a full set of teeth at a Lynyrd Skynyrd concert.  I could write books about bad customer service experiences, but I will try to stick with just one.

Although the customer service is pretty poor at most drive thru fast-food joints, I had a particularly frustrating experience this evening with my two older boys at a national fast food chain that will remain anonymous.

We were returning from a birthday party and the boys wanted root beer floats, and I wanted a Diet Coke (to help me sleep.)  At the menu board, I noticed that they had root beer and ice cream cones on the menu, so I asked for two root beer floats.

“We don’t have root beer floats”, the voice stated in a very matter-of-fact tone of voice.

“Are you out of root beer or ice cream?” I asked.

“No.” came the reply.

“So can you make me a root beer float?  It is just root beer and ice cream.”

“I can’t” came the reply.

Then my sarcastic side kicked in.

“Well, I can explain it to you.  You take a cup, put some root beer in it and leave some room at the top.  Then you put in some ice cream.”  I said, in a slow, deliberate tone.

“I’m sorry sir, but I can’t do that,” came the voice.

“Are you disabled?  Maybe someone else there has the necessary motor skills to do it for you.”

“Sir, are you going to order, or what?”

So, I ordered two cups of root beer, no ice, two ice cream cones, and my large Diet Coke and I pulled around to the window.

As the cashier took my money, Nigel, my 8-year old son said, “Excuse me, sir.”

The cashier stopped and looked at him.

“I can show you how to make a root beer float.  It is easy.  You just mix the ice cream with the root beer.  If you want it creamy, you can blend it, but you don’t have to.”  Nigel said in a sincere, helpful tone and with a smile.  The kid at the window looked like he was maybe 18, and he just stared at him.

“Of course I know how to make a root beer float,” he said.  “I am not allowed to.”

The look on Nigel’s face was priceless.  He couldn’t fathom why someone would not be allowed to mix ice cream and root beer.

I took the ice cream cones, and the cups of root beer one at a time.  They added ice in spite of my request to not put ice, so I had to fish the ice out, and then I dumped the ice cream from the cone in the root beer, and drove off.

Apparently finding someone who really cares about the customer in a fast food restaurant drive thru is harder than finding someone at a Star-Trek convention who doesn’t have acne.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Are there snakes in Mississippi?

My wife is terrified of snakes.  Absolutely, completely and irrationally terrified.

Before we moved to Southern Mississippi, my wife had a traumatic experience with a non-venomous snake that bitten off more than it could chew in our driveway in Kentucky.  One bright, warm morning my wife walked out to the car to do her errands when she noticed a small snake in the process of swallowing a toad.  When the snake saw her, he (or she) slithered backwards into a crack in our driveway, disappearing until only the head with the legs of the toad still protruding was visible.  My wife was never the same since.  That night when I returned home, my lovely wife recounted the horror of that experience.  It was then that I casually told her, “Don’t worry, Love.  We are moving to Mississippi where there are no snakes.”  In her emotionally fragile state, she believed me.

I am not sure why most women have an abhorrence for legless reptiles.  Perhaps it is related to the first encounter humankind had with a snake.

In any case, my wife now realizes the folly of believing someone so prone to leg-pulling such as myself, even if she really wanted it to be true.  Recently our next door neighbors found a nest of small snakes living under their driveway, which has my wife in an veritable panic.

I tried to calm her fears by explaining that she was far more likely to get attacked by a rabid raccoon than bitten by a venomous snake.  Although Mississippi is home to 40 species of snake, only nine are venomous, and being bitten by venomous snake is rare with death even rarer In fact, about 8,000 people a year in the US are bitten by venomous snakes, with only 12 fatalities.  This means that your chance of dying by venomous is about one in 200,000.  You are three times more likely to die being struck by lightening than by a venomous snake.

You are roughly 1,000 times more likely to die in a car accident than by a snake, which is why I am really thankful that my wife didn’t see this:

Snake in a truck

Yes, that is a LIVE SNAKE riding with that guy.  A moment earlier, the snake was sticking its head outside the window, enjoying the breeze and the warm sun.  My wife would have gone into hysterics if she had seen this.  I know that Dogs love trucks, but I didn’t realize that Snakes did too.

 

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Toilet Paper – A million and one uses

 

There are things here in America that we often take for granted: Freedom of speech, a reasonably stable economy, Baseball, Apple Pie, our Interstate Highway System, the Bachelorette Reality TV Series and even toilet paper.  Why toilet paper?  Well, I have lived or worked in 14 different countries, and have traveled to another 5 or 6 and have to confess

that the American backside has it good.

When living in Argentina in the early 90’s, the expatriates living there referred to the local toilet paper as “60 grit” (a reference to a coarse grade of sandpaper).  When available, the toilet paper there was waxy and coarse.  At times, due in part to periods of hyperinflation, it was more comfortable to use 100 Austral bills in a public restroom than the toilet paper provided.

Since its first use in the sixth century AD, many improvements have been made to toilet paper.  Here in the good old US of A, we have two-ply, three-ply, quilted, scented, and even colorfast.  You can get hypoallergenic and dermatologist approved tissue, or even tissue infused with lotion, or aloe vera extracts.

On a side note, one distinct benefit to living in Argentina, however was the prevalence in bidets.  If you haven’t used a bidet, I highly recommend that you try one out.  No, they are not used to clean your shoes as was referenced in the first Crocodile Dundee movie.  One word of advice from personal experience: Thoroughly familiarize yourself with the operation prior to using the bidet, especially the controls for hot and cold water and the height of the spray.  Failure to do so could cause a burned back.

In addition to the obvious, there is another ingenious use for toilet paper in America: Rolling houses.

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Basically you take the toilet paper and after starting to unwind the roll, you toss it high into trees with a spin.  The paper gets caught in the trees, and unravels as it falls to the ground.  It is amazingly difficult to clean up due to the fact that it is perforated.  Pulling on it simply causes it to break off high into the tree. 

Having had to clean up a lot of toilet paper in my yard during my high school years, I have learned an invaluable technique to getting it out of the trees: Light it on fire.  The fire burns from one end up to the top of the tree, and goes out at the peak.

Growing up, my father used to ration the toilet paper in the house.  In order to reduce expenses, he also limited the number of our friends that could come in to use the bathroom.  He was convinced that our friends were using more than the maximum “Four Squares Per Wipe” allowed, and that was why the toilet paper was being consumed at such a high rate.  Truth is, my youngest sister was secretly pilfering and hoarding a roll at a time in order to go out at night with her girlfriends to decorate other people’s yards.

In the end, we Americans are getting blamed for damaging the economy through our need to take care of our backsides.  Soft tissue paper apparently isn’t so soft on the environment.  Is it eco-awareness on the part of the British, or is it Toilet paper envy?

Friday, July 30, 2010

Dogs Love Trucks

 

There is nothing more ubiquitous and American than the pickup truck.  First, for those of you who are somehow unfamiliar with a pickup truck, it goes by other names in other English-speaking countries: Ute (short for Utility) in Australia and New Zealand, Bakkie in South Africa, Half-truck in Egypt, Slipper in Romania, Tender in Israel, and in England they are sometimes referred to as “Yank Tanks” due to, in many cases, their huge size compared to European vehicles.0718101234 For many years, the only real pickup truck was one made in the good old US of A, but lately even the Japanese carmakers have brought mammoth pickups to the American Market, and even Hyundai, the Korean automaker that is new to the American car market is rumored to be considering a full-size pickup truck offering.  In fact, import trucks make up roughly 40% of sales in the US.

How much do Americans love trucks?  In the last 12 months (July 2009 through June 2010) Americans bought over 5.3 million new pickup trucks!  The amazing thing is that through the same period,  Americans bought only 5.8 million new cars!  Trucks are almost more popular than cars.  The two top selling light vehicles in June were both pickup trucks.

Why do we love Trucks?  Well, for starters they can carry stuff.  A lot of stuff!

Overloadedoverloaded_pick_up

  Also, you can tow stuff:

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I talked to this guy at the local gas station.  He had welded a crane hook to his bumper on his Toyota 4x4 (4x4 means that there are four wheels, and all four can be powered).  Whey I asked him what he tows with that big hook, he responded with a huge grin, “about anything I want to tow!”

We love trucks because they can go places most cars can’t go.  You have to check out this video of some folks who live near me in southern Louisiana.  After watching the video it will be obvious why you want big tires on your truck, and why you need the axles high off the ground!

If you want a truck but don’t need to haul stuff, you can get an SUV!  It can still be cool and rough around the edges, even if it is a Lexus:

Lexus SUV

If you want to make it harder for people to see your truck, you can paint it (or apply a huge, truck-sized decal!)

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Remember, your truck isn’t high enough unless it takes a ladder to climb up in there:

DSC00232Notice the tread on the sidewall of the tire on this truck.  It improves traction in the mud (see the video above!) 

Maybe someday I can trade in my little red and white car for a big truck.

Among trucks

Friday, June 18, 2010

Eufaula – The next Vegas?

 

Rebecca and I had a friend and his lovely newlywed wife over for dinner last night.  They are both a little older, and each already has three older kids from before, and when I asked them what they did for their wedding, I was surprised to hear them tell me that, because they wanted to have a quiet, low-key wedding, they decided to go to the thriving metropolis of Eufaula, Alabama, population 14,502. 

Why Eufaula?  Well, there is an interesting story there.  My friend, Mike is a bass fishing fanatic, and Lake Eufaula (whose real name is Walter F. George Lake) is known as “the bass fishing capital of the world.” 

“Why not bring your two great loves together for your honeymoon?” you might ask yourself.  I can picture my wife’s reaction had I tried that maneuver on her, and the image involves her giving me the ring back.  Mike, however, is a great salesman, and an all-around great guy so he was able to talk her into it.

“Did you catch some big Bass, Mike?” I asked.

“Only one.” he replied.  I asked my friend, a very accomplished bass fisherman who has won tournaments, why, after a whole week fishing, he had only managed to catch one solitary fish.  Here is his reply:

The plan was to arrive Monday morning, head on over to the Justice of the Peace, say their vows, sign the paperwork, head to a romantic cabin, carry her over the threshold, and start out the next morning bright and early angling for some nice bass.  His plan was to then fish every day the rest of the week.  Even the best laid plans can go awry.

On Monday, Mike and his lovely bride-to-be got a later than expected start.  He told us he was driving 80 while towing his 22’ fishing boat.  When they got to Eufaula, it was late, and the courthouse was already closed.  Not to mention the fact that the office was also closed due to Thomas Jefferson’s birthday.

That was OK with Mike, because he had an idea in mind.  They checked into the cabin, and since it was in the upper 90’s, he turned the AC down as low as it would go, and then they headed out to grab some dinner.

When they got back, the room was very cold.  Mike’s fiancĂ©e asked about the temperature, but Mike told her not to worry: He had a plan. 

The plan was to move the king-size bed’s mattress from one of the rooms into the main room in the cabin, and then to light a fire in the fireplace!

Mike said that the next day he got some strange looks from the other folks who were also renting, since his was the only cabin with the AC running full blast and with smoke coming from the chimney.

Tuesday came, and the second trip to the courthouse was also fruitless: The Justice of the Peace had left to go to another courthouse.  Mike said he could have sworn he heard someone whistling the theme to the Andy Griffin show as he left.  No fishing on Tuesday.

Wednesday came, and the trip to the courthouse was finally successful.  Mike wouldn’t fish that day, either.

Thursday, Mike eagerly got the boat out on the lake, but he broke the fuel priming bulb when trying to start the engine.  No fishing that day either, but he did get the boat fixed.

Friday was a hot, but beautiful day.  The boat started fine, but a short while into the trip, his lovely wife started feeling a bit seasick.  Back to the cold cabin with the warm fire.

“Sorry you only caught one fish,” I said.

With a twinkle in his eye and a huge smile on his face, he looked at his wife and replied to me, “It was the best fishing trip yet.”

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Secrets of Seduction after 10 years of marriage

When I was young, in a time of my life that I like to call, BK (Before Kids), I thought I had a pretty good idea on what it would take to keep the spark in my marriage, and to keep the romance alive.  My ideas were formed from watching movies, TV, and an occasional Cosmo magazine (when I was getting my hair cut and it was the only thing to read.), and they included soft music, scented candles, a fresh bouquet of flowers, chocolates, dinner at a nice restaurant, crackling fire in the fireplace, etcetera.  Turns out, none of that stuff really works.  I will share with you my top 10 techniques, all learned from years of research, and validated using the scientific method (only with my wife, though!)

10. Clean the garage so that she can park the minivan in there again.  Without her asking you to.

9. Clean, fold and put away the laundry.

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A word of caution, however: For this technique to work, you have to put all the clothes away, in the right places, with the kids’ clothes sorted correctly, without ruining any of the clothes.  There is no partial credit for this one; it is all or nothing.

8. Bring home a gift in a little blue box.

7. Cook a real dinner, AND clean the kitchen afterwards.  Foods to avoid: Chili, Pork Ribs, Grilled Hamburgers or hot dogs, pork and beans, microwave burritos, potato salad.

6. Give her a gift certificate to the spa, and keep the kids while she is gone.

5. Bring her home her favorite flavor Sonic Blast, put the kids to bed so that she can watch the season finale of Lost.  Don’t interrupt to ask what exactly the Black Smoke is.

4. Vacuum out the minivan.  This one works as well as Buck Lure in deer season.  Clean the bathroom and empty the litterbox while you are at it.

3. After the kids are asleep, make some popcorn, and watch Nicholas Sparks’ The Notebook together while snuggling on the couch.  Pride and Prejudice usually works, too.  No matter what, don’t imitate Mr. Darcy’s accent.

2. Get up with the kids on Saturday and let her sleep in.  As long as she wants.

1. Arrange for each one of the kids to spend the night at someone else’s house (and make it a surprise.)  Hide all the kids’ toys, clothes, etc so that there is no evidence that they exist.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

What’s in a name?

Recently I had the pleasure and honor of presenting scholarships to two graduating senior high school students on behalf of the company I work for.  These two outstanding scholars were certainly deserving, and one was the Salutatorian of her graduating class.  As I sat on the stage and listened to other awards being presented, I couldn’t help but notice a very high percentage of non-traditional given names of the students.  My favorite was Toshiba.  She reminded me of one of my first laptops.

Other interesting names of people getting awards included Shenequa, Woodrow, Laquita, Tyshanna, Ta’drien, Devontay and I could go on.

Similarly, I have noticed that my children’s friends have some odd names as well: Gage, Briggs, Kennedy, Breck, Destrey, Kenzington, Garren, Kyler, Draven and I could go on.  And on.

Not to mention some teens and twenty-somethings we know: Skyler, Starling, Utahana, Amberly, Caitlyn, Clayn, Hyacinth, Janny, Leleza and I could go on.

Don’t get me started on alternative spellings.  I know a Hailee, Hailey and a Haley, not to mention a Destiny and a Destinee.

Maybe I know so many people with strange names because I am Mormon.  For some reason Mormons, and especially Utah Mormons seem to pick strange names.

And then there is the tendency for some families to concentrate on a single initial character, like several families we know (for example: Aaron and Autumn had four kids, Andrea, Audry, Anna and Adam.  My Aunt VelDean and Uncle Roy had Jaimee, Jessica, Janelle and Julie).  One family we are friends with named all their kids with the same first two letters (Brock, Breandan, Britt, Brailey).  I have a hard enough time with calling my own kids by their right names without swapping them and their names don’t even sound like one another!  If my kids were named Brock, Breandan, Britt and Brailey I would never be able to call them by the right name.

Even though we both agreed that we would use more traditional names for our children, my wife and I had more than one argument about what we would name each of our children.  Our oldest we named after me, as I am named for my father, his father, and so on.  Our next son, Nigel is named for my best friend.  Emmaline is probably the most non-traditional name (named for a minor character in Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Anne of Windy Poplars), but her middle name is Eileen, named for my mother.  Our youngest child, Maxwell is named for a well respected religious leader and author, the late Neal A. Maxwell.

I have often wondered how much our name shapes who we become.  If I had been named Demetrius, for example, would I behave any different?  Since my given name is Ernest (the 655th most popular boys name in 2005), would I have been any less truthful if my parents had named me Mendacious?  Will my son, Nigel (which means, “dark and swarthy”) become more tan with age?

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Maxwell (Left) and Nigel (right)

I came across an interesting website that you can use to see what historically have been the most popular names in the US: http://names.mongabay.com/baby_names/boys250.html.  You might find it interesting to learn that for the last 10 years, Jacob has been the most common boy name each year, while Michael was the most common name each year in the previous 35 years.  Since 2000, the Name Emily has been the most popular each year, while for the prior 15 years it was Jessica.  From 1880 through 1960, the name Mary was the top picked girl’s name each year while that honor rotated between John(1880 through 1920), Robert (1921-1939), James (1940-1954),  and from there Michael and David took turns.

My wife, Rebecca has joked that I should get her name tattooed over my heart.  I told her that doing so would be tempting fate for us to break up (Remember Angeline and Billy Bob’s tattoos?)  If that did happen, I could try to hook up with another Rebecca, just so I wouldn’t have to have it removed.  While the name Rebecca is only the 34th most common female name in 2005, there were over 600,000 women with the name Rebecca in the 1990 census, and there is roughly 130,000 women named Rebecca that are within the ages of 26 and 40 (which is the target age range!).

Maybe I’ll get that tattoo after all!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Caprice Classic

 

For some reason, Americans feel the need to customize their car more than any other country on the planet.  What about Japan, you might ask?  I’ve been there, and they don’t come close to our need to modify, upgrade, customize, tweak, soup-up, pimp and “detail” our rides.  The word “detail” by the way, is a fancy way of saying that you will have someone else wash your car for you.

For some reason, most Americans feel that their car just isn’t good enough the way the design engineers designed it, and the factory assembled it.  This is a phenomenon that transcends race, gender, socio-economic status, geography, education level and income level.  If you don’t believe me that old-money, upper class millionaires don’t do this, then check this out: Forbes list of top cars chosen by Billionaires

Around where I live, the Caprice Classic, manufactured by GM is a fave. 

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Whoever Bootwal is, he dropped some serious bank on this 1996 caprice Classic.  Check out the custom upholstery:

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I am not sure what “Ant Walker” means, but the red and white are very catchy colors.

Let’s say you are a tall fellow, and that you hate bending down to get in your car.  Certainly a large pickup truck would be an option, but if you really loved the Caprice (or the Pontiac version, the Bonneville), and didn’t want to compromise, this is what you would end up with:

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If you have kids, though, you better get a stepladder.

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I saw this car at a local lot and was amazed that it was going for only $8,000.  The wheels alone (26” chrome rims) probably cost the owner more than that.

Speaking of kids, if you are really into your kids, and love toy stores, you should go for this look:

Toys-R-Us

Again, stepladder will be needed for your kids to actually get in your car.  Maybe this guy has a rope ladder that unrolls every time he opens the back door so that his kids can climb up.  Sorry for the poor photo quality as I only had my camera phone when I saw these two gems.

People around town call this car the Skittles Car.  Not sure why, but the colors sure do make me hungry for some skittles.

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I know that this isn’t a Caprice (it is a Mercury Grand Marquis), but the colors sure look tasty.

And suppose you are a guy who loves both guacamole and station wagons, well you have options, too.

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It is a shame that GM discontinued the Caprice in the US back in 1996.  GM will be importing a current-production police version that is currently being produced in Australia in 2011.  I doubt those will be sporting any of the fine mods you see here on my blog, though.  Pity.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Brick and Mortar

In B-school (that’s Business School for those of you who aren’t familiar with the term) we learned about how the Internet has changed forever the business landscape (although there are some folks out there who still think the Internet is just a fad), and also about the concept of “virtual stores” as an alternative to the traditional “Brick and Mortar” stores. 

The concept that was discussed was that for certain goods like electronics, music, videos, etc the consumer doesn’t need to touch, feel, try on the product, and therefore there is little need for actual physical retail locations.  Eliminating the retail outlet saves on all sorts of overhead (rent, utilities, certain liability insurance, etc)

Although it is true that the Internet has killed off a number of traditional “brick and mortar” businesses, I have been pondering other low-cost, non-traditional approaches to selling products other than the internet.  Here are some interesting other alternative, low-tech approaches I have seen lately:

Pet store

Instead of leasing space for a pet store, why not squat in the Walmart parking lot to sell pets?

Or, another option is to partner with an existing business and sell your products in an existing location.  This is particularly beneficial if you have complementary products or services, like putting a car-rental agency counter in an airport, putting a bank in a grocery store, or selling tobacco products in an insurance agency:

Insurance tobacco

Or possibly heavy machinery and furniture:

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Anyone need a good diesel engine to go with your loveseat?

Another low-overhead approach is to build a micro-building (essentially a kiosk):

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This approach isn’t just for sno-cones:

Dominoes

Another low overhead approach is to use only the most essential equipment materials. Who needs refrigeration, for example?

Seafood

River cat fillets anyone?

 

Thursday, April 22, 2010

I have a dream… of a double-wide

In the USA we have a type of pre-fabricated housing that is factory-built on wheels and shipped to it’s semi-permanent location via tractor-trailer.  We call them “trailers,” and a neighborhood that is composed of many of these “trailers”  is called a trailer park.  Sometimes these trailers are built in two halves that are each just wide enough to transport on the normal road system and then at their destination they are put back together.  We call these “double-wides.”

When my father was 15 or so, his father retired from 20+ years in the US Navy; his last assignment was in Washington State, on the northwestern tip of the continental US, but he announced to the family, much to their chagrin that they were moving to the Atlanta area where a friend was holding a job as a security guard with Lockheed.  My grandfather thought it was the perfect plan; the rest of the family wanted to stay in the Pacific Northwest.

My grandfather packed up his wife, three kids and the family’s possessions (which included a small motorboat on a boat trailer – see the picture below) and headed south-east for the 2,700 mile (4,200 km) trip to Marietta, Georgia.  On the trip down, Smitty (as he was known to his friends and grandchildren) talked incessantly about how he was going to buy a trailer across the street from the VFW where he would spend his free time drinking himself into oblivion.  In case you don’t know what a VFW is, it is a place where you can buy and consume large quantities of cheap beer.  Smitty wanted to be within walking distance to avoid DUIs.

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My sister, Christine, my cousin Clair, Smitty and Me circa 1974

My father, being the oldest son begged Smitty to reconsider, and to buy a normal house that would be big enough for two adults, two teenagers and a pre-teen son.  The other family members joined in trying to convince Smitty to buy a real house.  For some reason Smitty had it in his head that he wanted to live in a double-wide.  Apparently years earlier he had stayed in Marietta in an old Navy buddy’s mobile home when he was in town for training.

In the end reason won out, and my grandfather’s dream was put on hold for a few years.  Instead of the trailer, Smitty bought a house and a service station (which happened to be in front of a bar where Smitty would retire to after my dad got home from school and could relieve him of his duties pumping gas, changing tires and other sundry repairs to customers’ vehicles).  That same service station is where my dad learned how to work on cars, a skill that he taught me and a skill that I plan on passing down to my children.

Several years later, however, Smitty and my grandmother, Barbara (more on her later) split up and my grandfather met Val.  (More on Val in another blog.)  Smitty and Val packed up, and moved to Panama City (also known colloquially as “the Redneck Riviera”) where he finally achieved his dream:  Smitty bought a single-wide trailer that was no more than 60 yards from a VFW post.  He found himself a job working as a security guard and parked the little motorboat in back of the trailer beside the above-ground propane tank.  After a couple years, he talked my dad into coming down and helping him add on to the trailer to make it more like a double-wide.

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Val and Smitty

We would visit as children in the summer.  The little trailer was right down the road from one of the nicest beaches in the world.  When we would visit, my grandfather Smitty and Val were gracious hosts, but since my grandfather had given up drinking the two of them smoked incessantly.  In fact they had such a phobia of not having a lit cigarette available at any given moment they would light up another cigarette before the last one had finished.  At times there were four or more cigarettes going at one time.  It was like they had installed a permanent fog machine from a nightclub in their front room.  If I ever end up with lung cancer, I will know why.

Eventually Smitty went to that great trailer-park in the sky (kidney failure), and Val followed a few years later.

Strangely enough, my father had different dreams.  He now lives in a gorgeous brick house that is roughly nine times the size of Smitty’s “quaint” trailer.  It sits on an acre lot in a lovely neighborhood with a pool and tennis club.

At least I know that my family has a history of achieving their dreams.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Silly Bandz – The New Global Currency

My kids are going crazy over a new fad that is sweeping our area called Silly Bandz.  Basically, they are rubber bands that have been shaped into all sorts of fun shapes,  including animals, vehicles, letters and other things.  For some reason my kids are nuts for them, and although they are incredibly cheap, they fight over them like they were gold.

Strangely enough, kids at elementary school trade for them, and use them as a currency of sorts.  My son Nigel, who is seven is a shrewd trader.  I call him Johnny Lingo because he can seem to have the ability to trade anyone out of their favorite silly bands.

DSC_7174 Nigel (Right) proudly displays his collection of silly bands

Nigel basically determines which bands a particular kid really wants, and then makes the kid pay two or three to one to get it.  He then goes to other kids and convinces them that they really, really want one that he has.  His collection continues to grow.

Unfortunately, his older brother, Ernie (in the photo above, on the left side) has fallen prey to Nigel’s predatory tactics, and has seen his collection dwindle lately.  Then, Nigel leveraging Ernie’s emotional response to having fewer silly bandz than him talks Ernie into trading away other toys like a $23 transformer.

I am convinced that Nigel has a future in Investment Banking.  I hope he remembers me when he is a billionaire.