Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Picnic At The OK Corral

Guess'm that folks woulda considered it a company picnic. 'Cept for the shootin.' There was quite a bit of that, I reckon.

Don't know whose bright idea it was to haul a wagonload of squirt guns to that park. Just because we all works together doesn't make us country cousins or somethin'.

Now the barbecue was just fine, as were da taters.. So was the sodie pop, though I coulda settled for some sassafrass tea myself. But then them water pistols showed up and all heck broke loose.

I pulled me out one, tho jest fer self defense. Whilst I sat at the table with the lady folk, I kept it cocked and ready. Felt like I was sittin' at the bar at the Long Branch.

Ever once in a while some dirty-nosed punk would sashay up and commence shootin.' Then I'd have to return fire. At first, it tweren't any worse than a Saturday night in Dodge. In fact, it was a mite fun.

Then some smart-thinkin' feller got one of them thar super soakers out of his wagon. Think maybe he was tipped off ahead of time by some varmint that there was gonna be trouble. Good thing there was nobody there in one of them fancy dan suit and ties.

Some didn't take too kindly to being outgunned. So they dug up some old water buckets from one of those newfangled restrooms they build nowadays. I took shelter behind the bosslady, figuring it to be the safest place.

It wasn't. She got it worse than anybody. Bucket of water from the front and another from behind. She was caught in the crossfire. Man, I don't think I would be brave enough to let the boss have it like that.

Then some punk kid, one of those hands they hire just for the summer, had himself two guns and was primed to shoot anything warm that moved nary a whisker. Two men jest had enough of him and set him face first in the water trough. Goes to prove he was still wet behind the ears.

After that, things pretty much simmered down. Don't know if there was any hard feelings, cept for maybe the marm whose fancy schmancy talking telegraph got doused. She shoulda seen it coming when the guns come out.

Maybe next year the company foreman will see fit to bring us some pigs to rassle.' Or some broncs to ride. It'd be safer.

This is Big Dave, in character, to testify that all I've told you is true. But if the boss happens to read this, I swear I was aimin' for that dirty-nosed kid.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Take Back Pluto!

Who should be outraged? Every baby boomer who had to purchase nine balls of styrafoam for their solar system model. Every budding astronomer who memorized phrases like My Very Excellent Mother Just Sent Us Nine Pizzas. And youngsters and oldsters alike who loved the happy-go-lucky attitude of Pluto the dog.

What were these "astronomers" thinking? Pluto IS a planet, always HAS BEEN a planet and to every elementary student who studied our solar system always WILL BE a planet! This is like re-classifying Elvis as a novelty act.

Astronomers now claim Pluto should be considered a dwarf planet, not a real planet. So are we saying then that dwarf or little people aren't really people? Very un-PC. Mercury is roughly the same size as Pluto. Why not pick on Mercury, which unlike Pluto doesn't even have a moon?

I'll tell you why?

A Power Play by the Religious Right--Pluto was the god of the underworld, hell if you will. What god-fearing Bible thumper wants the god of hell listed officially among the heavenly bodies. Also, Pluto is the name of the dog created by Walt Disney. Remember how members of the religious right tried to boycott Disneyworld because gays and lesbians openly planned a yearly get-together there? The boycott wasn't successful, but now they've found a way to take revenge against Disney. Downgrade Pluto.

Capitalist Conspiracy--So why not downgrade Mercury too? Think of it. There is Ford-Lincoln-Mercury. Mercury outboard engines. Since most scientists depend on public AND private dollars to do their work, they certainly were not going to de-list a planet whose name is an icon of industry.

I say we fight back. Boycott Ford-Lincoln-Mercury! Let's start a petition to re-classify astronomy as a pseudoscience along with astrology and numerology. Astrophysiology is the only TRUE science devoted to the study of our skies anyway.

To rattle the Reverend Falwell camp, let's teach our kids to memorize the phrase My Very Erotic Mistress Just Showed Up Naked when they're studying for their fifth grade test on the planets.

Don't worry Pluto. Help is on the way.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Speaking Of Chess

I received an e-mail from an old college chum today. Though I haven't seen Chris in person for at least 20 years, he includes me in a list of friends and relatives to whom he sends out jokes, canonical lists and family updates over the internet.

Our mutual interest in chess brought us together as freshmen. We played dozens of games during our next four years of college at Central Michigan. After graduation, when we were footloose and unencumbered with responsibility, we occasionally challenged the patzers in Michigan's Upper Peninsula at chess tourneys there.

Eventually, we went our own ways. For a little while, we played correspondence chess by U.S. mail. Computers back then were dinosaurs compared to today. And chess-playing programs were crude and played poorly. When computer chess-playing programs improved, we stopped playing by mail. Cheating would be too tempting, I think.

I still have the second chess-playing computer game I bought. The packaging brags that it carried a United States Chess Federation of 1771, roughly where Chris and I were at (over 1800 is a Class A player, over 2000 is an expert, over 2200 is a master, over 2600 is a grandmaster, etc.)

Not that long after I bought that, somebody gave me a free shareware program simply called Ed’s Chess that performed even better. In fact, I had an extremely difficult time trying to beat it. That was when I started losing interest. Who wants to play a game where machines dominate?

My friend also has not played seriously in 25 years, he says. But recently he installed the Chessmaster 9000 on his computer. Here are his comments:

"I played 3 or 4 games in which I started out okay, but somewhere around the middle of each game things started to get challenging and then in a rush I would find myself having my ass handed to me. I then took a moment to look at the instructions and see what I could do about various settings and so on, and discovered the computer opponent I had been playing against was set for a 2879 rating level."

A 2879 rating level is roughly the equivalent of an international grandmaster in chess. It would be like an ordinary golfer taking on Tiger Woods, or an everyday tennis player suddenly finding himself playing against Roger Federer.

Shows you how far computers and artificial intelligence has come since we played in college. Remember movie "Searching for Bobby Fischer", which describes the a quest to find the next champion caliber chess player in the United States? Who would have thought to search in the computer games section of the local Best Buy.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

What Doesn't Kill Us . . .

What doesn’t kill us only makes us stronger. I’ve never put too much stock into flavor-of-the-month inspirational books that build on adages like this one. For one, they never seem to work in the sports world. Well, okay maybe it did for Lance Armstrong, who overcame cancer to win a series of tour de France bicycle races. But that’s an anomaly.

I don’t think it’s going to work for me. Not after last night. My older son Greg signed up for a three-on-three soccer tournament. He hasn’t played competitive soccer in almost ten years. And he signed up his younger brother Scott who only played soccer for fun, also many years ago. Then they talked their younger nephew into playing. His playing career ended in something like the second grade.

Greg’s worst mistake was filling out his four-man roster with your’s truly. Besides being 53, I’m not athletic. The closest I’ve ever come to winning an athletic competition was a chess tournament. Oh, and the water balloon toss at the office picnic. Sure, I coached kids’ soccer but only in the those-who-can’t-do-teach school of sports.

Nevertheless, I figured it would be fun. Greg hoped my age would place us in a bracket of weekend athletes like ourselves, rookies out for a little exercise and entertainment. My boss did worry me with the comment, "Maybe they’ll figure you must be the Pele of Ann Arbor playing at your age."

Oh, well. I told Greg I would only trot onto the field if somebody was injured, or during the final minute of the game when players would be so winded from their efforts that I might be able to keep up. Afterall, the open adult division was for ages 18 and up. But then my nephew begged off, saying he had other commitments. Oh, oh.

More oh-ohs when we arrived at the fields and saw the other players "Oh my god. They have uniforms. With NUMBERS on them," my wife Wendy said. My sons and I just made sure we had the same color t-shirts on.

And my boss’s words were prophetic. We were placed in the more competitive division. When I heard a player on another team say his college soccer squad had just finished their two-a-day practices, I thought to myself, "This can’t be good."

And it wasn’t. David would have had better luck with Goliath WITHOUT the slingshot. Custer was more successful at The Little Big Horn. We played against the team with numbered uniforms, then against the team with the college player (he wasn’t even the best on his team). After the games, I asked Wendy the score and she said she lost track. Thank god there was no mercy rule.

Only my sons’ grit and determination made us competitive. Greg actually scored two goals, one each against the above teams and we were only losing 1-0 at halftime during our third and final game. I tried. My legs ached afterwards and I’m sure I’m going to lose the toenail off my bloody big toe.

But I did come out achieving one of my goals. I did NOT have a heart attack. I had warned my boss that was a possibility. Well, maybe in that respect, that which didn’t kill me made me stronger. My heart muscle anyway.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Scribbles And Bits

Observations and comments . . .

---A sign of our health-conscious world today: My wife Wendy reported a young father grocery shopping with his daughter told her to "pick out something green" when they hit the vegetable aisle. Gee, when I went shopping with mother my treat was picking out cereal and cookies.

---My home computer is infected with adware that produces occasional pop-up ads. Usually, I ignore the on-line, off-shore casino and quick-and-easy loan offers, but one ad captured my attention. It was for a clinic that performed bariatric surgery.

This surgery involves stomach stapling or removing much of the stomach altogether in order to effect weight loss. It is only performed on the morbidly obese and is a procedure fraught with risk. So . . . would you be tempted to pick a surgeon for this based on their pop-up ad?

---The ice cream vendor in our neighborhood drives a truck that blares children's songs over a loudspeaker. Children wave him down from their perch on the curb when they want a frozen treat. Wendy wondered what the price of his ice cream treats must be with the jump in gasoline prices. I reminisced about the days in my old neighborhood, when the ice cream vendors were teenaged boys who pushed three-wheeled carts, bells jangling as they plodded down the middle of the street.

Wendy says she doesn't remember any such thing and, along with my remembering "freak shows" at the county fair, is starting to believe I'm older than I claim to be.

---My internet access is slowly shrinking. My free internet hook-up at home is going away, as my work is deeming it an unnecessary expense. That leaves the local library as the only local free hook-up.

I wonder if I might be losing my welcome there as I'm a heavy handed typist who has heard more than one sigh coming from the internet surfer in the next carrel after I've typed a lengthy comment.

My son Greg and his girlfriend Lindsay were completing some on-line forms at the library computer when they heard the machine gun staccato of somebody typing wildly on a computer opposite the partition.

Lindsay parodied the keyboardist in the style of a crazed ragtime pianist. Greg said, "My dad types like that." Then he took a peek around the corner. "It IS my dad."

What can I say. I'm at the age where it's difficult if not impossible to moderate my behavior. What you see is what you get. Er, hear rather.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Real Women Wear Tattoos

My father sent me an e-mail that said he was getting in shape by walking the local fairgrounds at the county fair this week. I'm not sure the fair today is as exciting as it was when I was a kid. Anyone remember the carnival sideshow? I was entranced by the sideshow that occasionally showed up at the local county fair.

The barker stood in front of a tent, plying us bystanders with tales of what we could see inside. Meanwhile, next to him stood a fire eater just to whet our appetites. Awesome! Sometimes he promised to bring out more of the acts, maybe even the woman with the "yellow elastic skin."

So I stood there and watched, waiting for that woman who the barker promised would "throw off her robe to display her body of yellow, elastic skin." That sounded enticing for a number of reasons to a young lad such as myself. But she never came out. Only a woman whose face and arms sported a number of tattoos. In my view, the tattooed lady was a poor substitute for the woman with the yellow elastic skin.

The sideshow was often hassled by the local authorities and sometimes sent packing, if I recall. Of course, in today's politically correct environment, you don't see them at the local county fair anymore.

But I don't have to look far to see tattooed ladies. Both my sons' current girlfriends sport tattoos. Not a big deal anymore? I wonder how many young twenty-something ladies out there are similarly tattooed.

My son Scott's girlfriend has a tattoo on her foot that says "carpe diem." That's Latin for "seize the day." Is that what the professor who coined that term had in mind? Seize the day, go out and get a tattoo?

Maybe times are changing with regards to tattoos. My sitemeter tells me that at least a couple folks have arrived to my blog searching for "Big Dave's Tattoo." I don't have one. But I thought, what the heck. So I got one of those five-day press-on tattoos and transfered the image of an eagle to the top of my foot.

Then I showed it to my son Greg's girlfriend, demonstrating that I could be hip too.

"Nerd," she said (I get that a lot from her).

Apparently, there is a big difference between a "real tattoo" as she called it, and the temporary one I proudly displayed.

*sigh* I miss those days at the county fair.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Hooked On Horrors

If E-harmony, the on-line matchmaking service, were ever to do a personality profile on my wife Wendy and me, I'm not sure they'd find us all that compatible when it comes to musical taste.

Wendy has become a big fan of country, often watching videos on The Great American Country cable channel. I'm not a big fan of country. My musical preferences are more, shall I say, eclectic.

This past weekend we headed up to my parents' cottage on Hubbard Lake near Alpena, a good four-hour one-way drive from Ann Arbor. I try to claim 'driver's privilege' on what music we listen to, but we compromise instead.

That means a golden oldies or classic rock channel, since that's something we can agree on--so long as they don't play many Motown melodies. I hear enough of those living as close to Detroit as I do. Radio stations here play them all the time, I think because the royalties they pay to play them must be cheap.

Once in a while I get to play one of my personally produced CDs featuring mariachi bands, polka favorites, Spike Jones, Mundy, Don Ho and other artists less familiar. But I don't play one of my very favorite CDs--the original cast recording of The Little Shop of Horrors.

When I put this CD on my Christmas wish list last year, Wendy threatened bodily harm against anyone who might consider buying this for me. So I didn't get it then. But I included the CD again when I made out my birthday list in May. And one of my sons bought it for me this time.

Heading home in our Saturn Vue, I finally asked if I could play Horrors. I complained that the golden oldies channel was playing too many Motown songs.

"What did they play? Leaving on a Jet Plane is not Motown," Wendy said.

No fair invoking a memory test for someone over 50. I know they're playing too many Motowns, I repeated.

"If they play another one, you can play your CD," Wendy relented.

Almost as if on cue, the DJ broke in. "Now, another Motown song on our back-to-back Motown-soul double shot weekend." Aha!! Sometimes I win one. Give me that CD . . .

Little shop, little shoppa horrors.
Little shop, little shoppa terror.
Call a cop. Little shoppa horrors.
No, oh, oh, oh no-oh!

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Backyard Alone, By Doogie

I was asked to do a guest post here. The family dog, that's me. I said okay, so long as they included a head and shoulders portrait shot, the type of earthy black-and-white pic that classy magazines like Playboy use to showcase their authors. So that's me here, Doogie. Just imagine me wearing an ascot and smoking a pipe.

The tale I tell is anything but fiction, however. It is fact. All told in frighteningly horrid detail. Before I start, remember, I'm a small pooch. A house dog--that's H-O-U-S-E. Anytime I go outside, I'm at the bottom of the food chain. That Jack London book Call of the Wild is nightmare fiction to me. Just give me my spot on the bed, some treats and an occasional hug.

A couple weeks ago, my family decided to try a new out-of-town restaurant. They included the in-laws on this caravan, so I was taken to my cousin's house. My cousin is Peanut, a pekapoo, half Pekinese and half poodle. Short guy but built like a tank. Very exuberant. Think Chris Farley to my David Spade.

Anyway, the idea was for the two of us to keep eachother company as we both suffer separation anxiety when our masters are away. No problem. I love Peanut's backyard, a jungle of interesting sights and smells among all the trees and bushes.

So I'm out in the fenced-in backyard. Peanut's inside. After awhile, I'm bored. Ready to come inside, I scratch at the back door. No response. I scratch again, harder. Again, no response. After a few minutes of scratching I realize, I'm in the yard alone.

They forgot about me and left? Yikes! I'm 13-years-old. It's like leaving your 100-year-old grandpa at the park with just a bowl of tepid water for refreshment. A half hour passed. Then an hour. Then two! Peanut was probably inside chilling out with a chew toy and a bowl of Pedigree Dog Food.

I climbed to the top of the picnic table and stood on top. Standing on top of a table where my family usually prepares or serves food has always been a sure way to bring down the wrath of man upon me. Not this time. Nobody came to scold or swat me down.

Meanwhile, I'm out here in the wilds. After three hours had passed, I began to prepare for the worst. There's wildlife in those trees. Creatures of the night. I smell 'em. Even the cat next door is looking at me, licking his chops. At dusk, over the fence he comes I'll bet.

Daylight is waning. I hear a rustle now and then in the trees above. And it's not the wind. Could it be a hungry raccoon? Or maybe even a bear--oh, there are bears in Washtenaw County. I'm still atop the picnic table. This is where I would make my stand come nightfall.

Then I heard a car door slam. And voices. A minute later my brother Scott came around back, with a look of surprise upon seeing me. He gathered me up and took me back around front, where he showed me to Big Dave, wife Wendy and my other brother Greg, all just as surprised as Scott to see me.

"He's shivering," I heard Wendy say.

She's just lucky I can't report her to PETA.