YDF #1: The Garba Mane

Hi everyone.

Welcome to the first, of what I hope to be not-just-one, You Decide Friday. Today you helped decide the course of the blog by suggesting content through voting and plain-out suggesting. I’m so glad so many of you voted, and am impressed with the suggestions and the clever “gaming” of the system to essentially beat my anti-cheat statements yesterday about the “all of the above” thing. I say “all of the above” is cheating and that I’ll defer to the 2nd most popular by votes, and you up-vote all the others equally… good job.

First, I want to get some logistical clarifications out of the way. In retrospect, I did a poor job explaining how I intended the poll to work: The original topic suggestions entered by me are just a few items off my huge running list of “blog ideas.” By voting on your favorite, I didn’t mean to say that I’d never write about the others – they’ll all get hit eventually (as long as I enjoy writing). So, maybe that’ll help next time around. And, as a technical sidenote: In the end, I decided I don’t like the polling plugin I spent so much time configuring – when I tried to close the poll for voting earlier today, it wouldn’t work, and kept accepting votes. I’ve decided to go with a different, less AJAXy-cool polling plugin the next time around.

Anyway, up until the aforementioned poll-gaming, the results were a tie between “all of the above” and “How Keaton loves the garbage man, just like I used to.” In the end, I decided to go with the latter. Next time, I’ll better frame the poll (once more, the idea being that you’re voting on which post idea you’d most desire me to write about that Friday, but understanding all the ideas are captured and will probably eventually make their way onto the internet). So then, let’s take bull by the horns… shall we?

When I was a young kid, I loved the garbage man; or so my parents tell me. In fact, around the age of four or five, I was apparently quite fond of all-things garbage. Now, my parents, much like all parents, I’m sure, have, over the course of my adult life, latched on to a few “go-to” stories and anecdotes about my childhood, and the refer to them whenever possible. The one about how I used to love the garbage man, and garbage in general, is one of these old standards. The “David, did I ever tell you about how much you loved the garbage man?,” question is one I’ve become intimately familiar with. (“No, pop. I used to love the garbage man?… Get out!,” is a good tongue-in-cheek response, by the way.) Sarcasm aside, my folks seem to take particular delight in regaling me with tales of how I’d wait outside each morning on garbage-collection day so I could wave and smile to the garbage man in his truck (particularly if we’re amongst a gathering of my grown-up buds).

This may sound odd today, but you have to remember how “active” garbage day was in its heyday. Back then, garbage collection was done not by a guy driving a truck with a robotic arm who never has to leave the comfort of his cab, but by a highly-orchestrated “crew” of workers. In these days of yore, a garbage collection “team” consisted of: the guy who drove the truck, and one or two additional guys who actually rode on the back of the truck, clutching to special perches designed specifically for the purpose. When the truck stopped at the curb, which had been conscientiously lined with garbage cans by homeowners the night before, the ridealong men actually jumped off the trucks and used their thick-gloved hands to hoist and dump the trash into the back of the truck. This was something of a choreographed ballet, the principles dressed in overalls, workboots, and grimy baseball caps. As a kid, it must’ve been something to see.

Did I do a good enough job convincing you it wasn’t that odd of a thing to be interested in? No? Well, I guess that’s fine, because there’s more…

In addition to the story about how I loved the garbage man, and garbage collection day, my parents nearly always segue that story into the one about how, when in public places, I used to run from garbage can to garbage can – giving each a big hug. Now, look, I know what you’re thinking… you’re saying to yourself, “Dave, that’s kinda odd… I mean, the thing with the garbage truck and all… boys are often impressed with big machines and stuff so that’s pretty understandable. But… embracing garbage cans?… That’s a little odd.” And yes, I know, I know. But, what’s a guy to do? I can’t go all America’s Most Wanted, put on some weight, change my hair color and shave my beard, move to Fargo and go by Bill Schmidt or anything – I have to stand up to my past, have to greet it with… open arms. So what if I ran between garbage cans hugging them? Odd, yes; certifiable, no.

Making a long story short, or something, it suffices to say that, as tyke, I liked garbagey stuff. And, while I’ve long outgrown this refuse infatuation (aside from the small level of fascination I still have in the whole taking-away-garbage “process”), I fear it seems to be genetic. Keaton, as cute and spotless-clean as she is, seems to also suffer from the garbage-man love (she calls him the “garba mane,” but then, we all have petnames for the things we love).

Every Thursday morning, when she hears the rumble of the garbage truck making its rounds through the still-sleepy neighborhood, she’ll shout, “The garba mane is coming daddy!” “Yes,” Sharaun or I will reply, “You hear the garbage man, don’t you?” “Yeah, I hear a garba mane!,” she’ll say, followed with a, “See him?!” We tend to pull dialog out of her, so we’ll reply with simple questions like, “What does the garbage man do?,” or, “Do you like seeing the garbage man?” “Yeah!,” she’ll reply anxiously, “He dumpa trash, daddy! He dumpa trash inna big truck! W-w-w-w-wan-wan-wanna-wan-wanna wave at the garba man, daddy!” At which point we’ll (actually, it’s typically Sharaun, since I’ve usually already left for work) take her outside and let her watch the garbage truck take away our trash.

She smiles and shouts and waves at the man driving the truck. Originally, he sat there as stone, somehow managing to not acknowledge Keaton, all her brilliant cuteness directed squarely at him. Personally, I think he might have figured her for some kind of cuteness-Medusa, and likely feared that, should he look at her directly, he’d be turned into a fluffy little yellow chick or stuffed Sanrio kitten. Nowadays, though, Sharaun says his hardened heart has grown weak, and he returns Keaton’s smiles and waves as he directs the robot-arm to our trash.

I love that she loves the garbage man. It makes me think that she’s somehow like me, even though I know it’s purely coincidental and all.

Well, that’s it. Hope you enjoyed it. Goodnight.

it’s better than rain

Thursday. Garbage day. Maybe the internet stalkers can puzzle out where I live based on that; I hope not. Today is also your last chance to vote in the You Decide Friday Poll, where you can tell me what to write tomorrow. And, whoever cheated and added the “all of the above” option (which, crappily, is currently winning), I’m totally gonna ignore that and default to whatever’s behind it – all of the above is cheating, sorry. Anyway, let’s get onto this blogging thing…

Was another gorgeous day in Sunny California today. Most of the trees are in bloom now, hastening their way to Spring green. As I drove back to work after lunch, I cut through an airborne swirl of little pink and white dogwood blossoms, whirling and twirling like Springtime snowflakes. I kept waiting for some to flitter in through my open windows or sunroof, maybe land on my shirt or something – but not a one did. I was happy on that drive, not just because of how neat it was to be driving through a haze of blossoms, but because I’d met Sharaun and Keaton for lunch at a park nearby work. We had chicken sandwiches (have to consume that thoughtful rotisserie chicken I so rudely spurned Monday evening), and Kristi and Colton, who also joined us, brought some potato chips and soda. I ate my sandwich sprawled on the grass, then played around with Keaton for an hour or so before reporting back to the sawmill. Was a good lunch, even though I did put $70 of gas into the Ford on the way back… stupid dead dinosaurs… cost so much.

That’s really all I have tonight. It was a late dinner at a friend’s place, a fellow manager at the sawmill to be precise. While we supped, we discussed creative ways to turn the screws at work, discussing our eventual ascent up the pile of overworked bodies to the top of the pecking order. No, not really. In reality, we played with the kids and talked about the trip to Mexico we’re both going on in the near future. I enjoy not being at work with work people, it’s fun sometimes. I’ve really made some good friends through the sawmill.

Well, before I leave you, you’ll get one last chance to vote on the theme for tomorrow’s entry right below. Thanks to those who voted already.

Goodnight everyone, check ya on the flipside.

Post #1683

Thursday and I knew this weather couldn’t last.

The little weatherbar at the bottom of my FireFox window says there’ll be rain tomorrow, and today was cool and cloudy. Something in me must’ve known, because, even though I pulled the cover off the barbecue, I didn’t pull out the patio set umbrella, seat cushions, or hammock. But, I won’t be daunted. I still fired up the grill tonight to cook some tri-tip for the Lost crew (yes, we get together to watch Lost… we’re some kinda nerdy).

The tri-tip ended up a tad overdone, and Sharaun ended up mad at me for cutting her good pan (or something), being a lecherous drunk, and breaking one of our good wine glasses. I conceded two out of the three and apologized, but I thought I had a defensible position on the third and I stood my ground. Anyway, it was a good night, and I had a good time with our friends. Let’s do this blog thing now.

Today on the blog, I wanted to debut something new I wanted to try. In an effort to battle bloggers-block, which is something I’ve been known to suffer from at times, although not lately I think, I sat down the other day and tried to come up with ideas for new content. And, while I didn’t come up with anything Earth-shattering as a deep well of new and exciting material, other than the standards I draw on now, I did think of a what might be a novel concept for driving content. The idea is something I want to try calling “You Decide Friday.” What this means is, occasionally, I will try posting a poll at the end my regular entry. In the poll will be a few topic ideas I’ve pre-populated, and users will be able to add their own ideas (I think, we’ll see how that works out). The idea being that I leave the poll open for a couple days and let folks vote on what they’d like me to write about the coming Friday.

I dunno, I think it could be fun… if I can get participation. Regardless, since it’s just a thought I can scrap it if I’m unhappy. So, that being said, today I’d like to present the first “You Decide Friday” poll. Use the voting options below to tell me what you’d like me to write about. You can choose from my already-populated ideas, or suggest your own (everyone will be able to see and vote on your suggestions). To add your own suggestion, click the “Add an Answer” link, type away, then press “Vote.” And, for those wondering, yes – you can indeed cheat by deleting your pharaohweb.com cookies (I didn’t enable the fancier anti-cheat IP logging because it’s kinda crappy for folks who share IPs – all the people I work with). But, don’t cheat, OK? Thanks.

What are you waiting for, start telling me what to do around here:

Changing subjects: Today I woke up feeling like Beatles, and decided to blast Sgt. Pepper on the way into work. With the windows rolled down, the drive was chilly… but it was worth it to let the world know that I 1) have amazing taste in music and 2) am not skittish about sharing that taste with them , you know, philanthropically, as a way to culture them a bit. As the familiar songs threatened to burst my eardrums, I couldn’t help but smile. When “Getting Better” came on, those initial guitar stabs nearly brought tears to my eyes. See, once upon a time, something happened to me in the backseat of a car while that song played, and I’ve never been able to get the memory and the song disassociated from one another. It’s not a bad thing, really, the feelings that swell up when I hear those first strains of rock and roll are nothing less than joy and ecstasy. Look, I’ve even written about this before… some four years ago. Wonder how long I’ll be able to almost perfectly call up those feeling and emotions when I hear that song… is that a lifetime thing?

Well, that’s it for tonight friends. Be sure to enjoy your weekends, I’m gonna do my best with mine. Until Monday, goodnight – and don’t forget to vote.

forgive me the fortnight

Hi. Come on in.

Here, go ahead and have a seat. We had a meeting last night, me and the guys upstairs. We were wrestling with a lot of difficult topics, and your name came up. We all decided, unanimously, that you deserve to know what was discussed.

Basically, what we did was an evaluation… a kind of cradle-to-grave retrospective of our entire engagement thus far. No, no, this wasn’t motivated by anything specific, no performance issues or concerns or anything like that – it’s just a practical thing to do to evaluate the health of a project as you go along, so that’s what we did. All the top experts will tell you it’s just something you should do, it’s good business.

So anyway, I hope I haven’t got you sweating or anything… I’ve actually got a really positive message for you. You see, we all agreed last night, sitting around that table, that you are by far the best thing that’s ever happened to the organization. Your skillset meshes with our culture seamlessly, and, even going back to the awkward formative stages of our relationship – your contributions provided positive guidance in shaping our ultimate direction. Not even trying, the board was able to recall several specific instances where your unwavering dedication and support have generated outcomes we would’ve otherwise likely missed in your absence. I’m not going to go into them all here, I mean, you probably remember them as well or better than we did, but I do feel it’s worth mentioning a few just to reiterate to you how much we truly do value what you’ve done for us.

Take for example the way you steered the organization out of the weeds, so to speak, so very early on. I’m sure you’ll recall that, at that point in time, our mission statement and goals as an organization were fairly undefined. In fact, we were pretty much all over the map. Just the notion that you were able to see the underlying nobility in our muddled intentions is impressive, but even more so is the way your simple presence helped untie those knots and focus us on where we wanted to go. You truly did impart your virtue to the firm in those first months and years, and in small part we owe to you the nature of the corporation we’ve become. Your rational urgings and positive influence really raised our stock, focused us less on our then mentality of immediate gratification and profit-taking and more on a business model that’s long-term viable and less personally taxing. Had your oversight not directed us in those days, we might still be off knee-deep in those weeds, searching for a direction or creed to ally with – the best of our intentions lost to our own indecisiveness and greed. It’s this “righting of the ship” we wanted to specifically recognize today as part of this discussion.

And furthermore, we wanted to pointedly call out and give a little praise for the level-headed steadfastness you offered during the whole (now miserably embarrassing) failed “acquisitions phase” we went through. I know we’ve post-mortemed that period to death, but we wanted to again thank you for sticking by us through the growing pains there. In the end, your metered criticisms managed to refocus us on our core business, and you managed to do it without personal compromise, which is impressive. As a relatively junior member of the team, you showed a heck of a lot of foresight maintaining a belief in the long-term prospects of the firm rather than jumping ship. We recognize that must have been a difficult professional decision on your part, and we’re pretty much eternally grateful you decided to continue your contributions. And the board, we’ve long now been vocal about the mistakes we made as we tried to over-posture the scope of the business at that time – we’re just glad it’s all water under the bridge.

Well, I said I wasn’t going to run down your resume here, but I look to be getting off track just a bit on that. You’ll have to forgive me, but I feel like I have to make a couple more points to really communicate the nature of the discussion we had last night – it’s all positive, so it should at least be easy to listen to. And, I know we reviewed some of those previous accomplishments already when you (rightfully) made partner some eight years ago, but it seemed appropriate to at least revisit them quickly today to frame the message. So, again apologies for the long-windedness here, I’ll try and pick up the pace.

Finally, and this is really the bottom line here, is what our talk last night settled on, I want to talk briefly about your latest project. Honestly, candidly, the launch of that project just a couple years ago, and the tremendous amount of fruit it’s been able to bear since, have been the crown jewel in this company’s short history. I know the near year of solid effort you put into getting this thing off the ground was no small task, and the other members of the board certainly agree. What’s more, the dedication you’ve shown to the new businesses you’ve grown since is simply outstanding.

We hope, as a company, we’ve been able to assist you where we can – but we realize that this thing is by and large your doing. Never before have we been able to truly sit back and look on with amazement at such a thriving development, it’s a first in company history. And, quite frankly, we hope to see it happen again. With the skill and determination you’ve shown us in expertly crafting and now shepherding it to continued success of its own, you’ve created a near-organic perpetual-motion snowball of success – and we honestly think you can offer a repeat performance, we have that much faith in your ability. I can’t begin to describe in enough detail how much the addition of that project to this company’s portfolio has changed our entire paradigm for the better. We’re a stronger company, we practically self-generate revenue, and we’ve never been aimed higher.

So, in summary, and I’m hoping you understand that gravity of what we’re trying to get across here – we just wanted to thank you for your time, and let you know we intend to continue to live up to what you deserve as the primary contributor you are. We wouldn’t be what or where we are today without you, it just couldn’t have happened better than it has. From the perspective of the directors, you’ve molded us, helped to define us, and pushed us when we needed pushing. We are sure that, with a continued level of teamwork consistent with our relationship thus far, there’s no place we can’t take this business. Our shareholders deserve the best, and together we know we can continue to impress and deliver.

Thanks for everything you’ve done, and we can’t wait to see what the future holds for the firm. Our deepest respect and gratitude to you.

laundry coup aside

Tuesday night and my wife and daughter are still not home.

Sharaun came down with the dreaded influenza on what was to be her last day in Florida, and she was knocked onto the couch as her parents traded days off work to help take care of baby Keaton. Luckily, her flight was a free voucher-based one, allowing her to essentially infinitely push it back until she’s feeling up to the long solo flight with the baby on her lap. Well, I say infinitely, but in actuality she’ll have to make it home shortly before midnight tomorrow night, when Keaton officially turns two and goes from a free lap-child to a paying passenger.

That’s the other bit of sadness on my part for wife and child not being here as planned: I’ll be missing most of her actual birthday. Not a big deal, but still stinks that I can’t wake up and tell her “happy birthday!” (Guess I could do that Thursday, she’d really never know.)

My head is sleepy-thick right now, I had a tiring day at work and wanted nothing more than to take a quick hour-ish nap before the Democratic debate started. Unfortunately it didn’t work out, and I at best got a few closed-eyed moments while a familiar episode of Andy Griffith played quietly in the background. The only other noise was the whirring of the washing machine, an appliance I had to reacquaint myself with this afternoon, lest I be forced to realize the nightmare of going into work not wearing pants. Honestly, and somewhat shamefully, it’s been a good amount of time since I’ve actually done laundry. Not that it’s all that hard, or difficult to recall in terms of methodology, but it’s just something I’m rusty at – and realizing that made me remember how it used to be living alone. I decided I’m much happier now as a married man.

Not solely for the laundry or anything, but, y’know… whatever…

Although I must admit, as a guy who hardly ever does laundry, I still seem to do it a lot more efficiently than our family’s primary laundry-doer. Heck I did the whole overflowing bin’s worth tonight, and managed to fold and put it away. Maybe I should take over the role? Execute a laundry coup, perhaps, a hostile takeover of that noisy little room. I don’t mind the task at all.

Anyway, folding Keaton’s little socks and shirts and jeans makes me miss her so much. And, laundry coup aside, I these little socks sure do wont for some little feet to fill them up and run around the house with them on… don’t they? She calls it “La-la-lee-la.” Boo!

Oh, and before I go, something interesting: Sharaun says Keaton’s recent st-st-st-stuttering stint has all but disappeared since they’ve been in Florida.


Hi internet friends (and real life friends interacting with me through the internet at the moment). Feeling a bit on the mend today, I managed to bang out a few hundred words on the computer in between sleeping and going through the sweating/freezing cycles. Kind of a patchy entry today, with an iPod-only bit that I wrote split out and posted randomly yesterday between then and now (scroll down if you think you might be interested). Splitting that out is part of my new plan to optimize some parts of content for search results, I’ll talk more about that sometime later if I remember. Let’s do this.

I’ve told you guys here before about Sharaun’s recent involvement in this “teen moms” program. She volunteers one night a week to get a bunch of women together to cook dinner for young teen mothers. During the dinner, the moms get to drop their kids off with provided childcare, and then get a chance to visit with the older women – where they presumably teach them basic life-management skills like balancing a checkbook or getting whites their whitest (or, for you feminists, snaking a drain, changing the oil, or negotiating a hostile takeover). As I commented last time around, I see this as quite an admirable donation of time and effort, and I’m glad she’s the kind of person who wants to help like that (Lord knows it’s not my bag, at least not as a full-time thing).

Anyway, she told me a “funny” story about her last session. Apparently, two new teen moms showed up for the evening, and she was directing them to where they drop off the babies prior to dinner. I guess some of the young mothers sometimes bring nothing but their kids, meaning no bottles, no diapers, no nothing. Just a baby and themselves. These girls, however, had both brought diaper bags and left them with the nursery workers, mentioning that there were snacks inside for the two and three year-old kids should they get hungry. When Sharaun heard that, she said she gave some silent applause in her head for a couple younger moms who were thinking ahead and prepared, unlike some of the others. Turns out though, that she later learned that the “snacks” the moms brought were a bag of Cheetos and a baby bottle full of soda. Yeah, that’s right. Cheetos and soda. Oh dear lord, it almost made me wanna cry. Hopefully this support group reviews the FDA pyramid at some point…

Gonna be a topic-jumper tonight, here we go.

I hate the unpredictability of male urination. What happens 95% of the time when I pee isn’t necessarily what will happen the other 5% at all. Most of the time everything goes OK. But, there’s the element of the unknown that you’re always up against. Will something, seen or unseen, somehow deflect your flow? If so, will your compensation fail when that same something, seen or unseen, disappears mid-act, returning your flow to it’s normal trajectory? God forbid that some something, again seen or again unseen, actually bifurcates your flow into multiple sub-flows, each one as unmanageable as the other and no one safe place to aim the distribution. Women seem to have this a lot easier, sitting down, apparatus entirely contained… Maybe it’s the Lord’s way of making up for the whole childbearing thing. Wouldn’t want to have to do that…

And now I’m done. But…

Before I go, I wanted to pass along a couple links I stumbled on while infirmed on the sickbed in our living room. First, remember my old fascination with the “pizza bomber” case? Well, I’d heard there was some break and that the whole thing would be tied up nice and tight soon, but this MSNBC article whet my appetite for those closing details. I’m sure someone like 48 Hours or Dateline has their episode dedicated to this bizarre crime all written and shot but for the ending. C’mon March. Next, and last, this list of humorous children’s science fair projects had Sharaun and I laughing today. Funny stuff.

Well, I’m spent. Time to hit the hay and hope for better feelings in the morning, because I’ve got to go to work one way or another. Goodnight.

the way to a man’s heart is through…

… that little 3ft x 3ft tile-floored, three-walled vestibule area just inside the front door.

Well, at least to this man’s heart, on this night, it is.

Keaton had a friend drop by for a few hours this evening. At one point, he was pulling around Chicken Dance Elmo in the little wagon while Keaton followed close on his heels wheeling her baby doll in the stroller. They’d circle their little procession around the living room room a few times and then head for the front room. On their way Keaton would shout, “Going to our house!,” and her friend would echo, “Our house!”

Their house, such as it was, was that little 3ft x 3ft tile-floored, three-walled vestibule area just inside the front door. They’d both cram in there with the wagon and stroller and baby doll and Chicken Dance Elmo, and be “home.” At first, Sharaun and I thought it was a fluke. But, after they did it several times, we decided they were really playing house. It was the coolest thing to watch. Where the heck do kids get this stuff?

Now I will tell a short story.

In fifth grade, our class went on a field trip to the town’s public pool. Somehow, a friend and I convinced one of the girls in our class to sneak a camera, which we provided, into the girls locker room. Her instructions, once inside, were to snap dirty pictures of a certain other girl in our class. I have no idea why she agreed to this, maybe she didn’t like the other girl. The boys and girls split and went to their respective rooms to change into swimsuits, and we were jumpy with anticipation. When she finally did return the camera, we hung on her every word. “Yeah, I took some,” she said passively, as if this weren’t the successful culmination of every fifth-grade boy’s best-laid plans. I don’t remember how we got the film developed without involving the folks, but we did. In the end, our mole only managed to take a single picture, which was extremely tame and unsatisfying, but which I still have to this day. Sorry Kristina, I was in fifth-grade-love with you, it’s what we did.