Life hack

When driving a truckload of gamelan, brake gently.
Also take it easy on the corners.

The secret of happiness: WWASPD?

Part of being happy is doing things that make you happy.

Part of being happy is avoiding doing things that make you unhappy. This second class of things include stupid things.

By definition.

Both of these skills can be helped with the WWASPD method.

Like yesterday. There is this guy. He is driving home and there is a bottleneck where the road from Vienna goes into the Vienna Woods. The road is lined with old homes and goes from two-lane to one-lane for a block. Each end of the bottleneck has an electric sign that lights up red when there is oncoming traffic.

The sign is black so the guy goes. He meets two oncoming cars. Either the sign is not working or they ran the red light.

But since there are several oncoming cars now, he backs up and lets them pass.

The sign is black so he goes.

He meets a big, fat Audi driven by a guy about 60 with a chihuahua. They stop and look at each other. There are no cars behind the Audi, but a line of cars quickly forms behind our guy. Two things are possible: the Audi ran a red or the light is broken.

They wait like this for a couple minutes. Then the Audi begins to honk.

Cars behind our guy honk back.

What Would A Smart Person Do? thinks the guy.

The situation is out of his hands, he realizes. He can relax. The problem will solve itself, somehow.

So he relaxes while the honking goes on. It’s a nice evening and in the distance the Vienna Woods are just beginning to change color.

Eventually the Audi driver gets out of his car. Our guy rolls down his window. The Audi driver yells at him. Our guy doesn’t even try to explain his theory about the light; he just says, I’m kinda boxed in here as you can see. You’ll have to talk to the guys behind me.

The Audi driver goes and yells at the other guys. They all seem to be, as our guy noticed earlier, burly young construction workers, and they yell back. The Audi driver eventually backs up and lets everyone pass.

And they all go on their way, happily, except for maybe the Audi driver.

Careers in science: Helioseismology

She is quiet.


They drive down the road at night, the helioseismologist is tired and his daughter isn’t talking.

She just got off work after a long school day and she is 15, and the helioseismologist understands there are a million reasons why she might not be speaking, and a million more he cannot imagine, never having been a 15 year old girl himself, only fearing them or admiring them from afar.

That’s all you can do with a 15 year old girl, fear or admire her. Or love her, as in this case.

The helioseismologist drives through drizzle and night and freeway traffic, someone always going somewhere and he is thankful like you wouldn’t believe for this girl, and for her sister, and for their mother. He is thankful for his brother and sister, and for his mom and dad, and his uncles and aunts. The helioseismologist is thankful for his grandma, and for his grandpa he never met. And maybe his other grandparents he never met, and all his cousins. And other friends and relatives, past and future.

The helioseismologist is thankful for his painting gear and his music gear, for his writing pads and his yoga mat and his big, big bed. He is thankful writing was invented, and clothing and agriculture, poetry and the Internet.

The helioseismologist is thankful for other people, and the idea of artisinal anything, although he prefers the idea of doing simple things well – making soups or fruit salad, or bread.

The helioseismologist is thankful for meditation and mass production, the scientific method, flowers, sunrises, sunsets, meteorological phenomena in general, and something else he forgot. He is thankful for symbioism, mitosis and meiosis, virii, bacteria and interesting parasites.

He is thankful for singing and crossword puzzles, weight-lifting, and cross-country skis. He is thankful for massage, kissing and cutley.

The helioseismologist is thankful for stars and kangaroos and hedgehogs, normal hogs and olives both black and green, his garden in the back yard and the houses he would build some day if he had the money, the houses that would approximate his beautiful heart.

He is thankful for these and many other things, but he  would still like to talk to this girl, his daughter, the way they used to before they both got so tied and busy and whatever else.

The helioseismologist thinks about patting her on the leg; a love tap, his father called it.

The helioseismologist pats her on the leg.

And you may ask yourself

The driver is on his back in a bed in a hotel on the outskirts of Ljubljana, in a room smelling of cold cigarette smoke, trying to find a comfortable position. He moves very gingerly because his lumbar pain has flared up from driving a Mercedes with diplomatic plates for four hours to deliver two dancers, and then from carrying a bunch of heavy stuff.

Unfortunately, there is no comfortable position.

He does not turn the TV on.

He stares at the ceiling and wonders what the engine light meant, the one that looks like an engine and was on for an hour on the way down.

He is glad he is not Jason Statham, because right about now the shooting would start.

He needs a new prescription for his glasses. They are trifocals, and are off just the right amount that they make him see ghosts when he wears them. He sees ghosts at breakfast a lot before his family gets up.

He sees his father’s ghost in the mirror, grinning at him as if to say, In fact the bad back is my ghost, kiddo.

The next day he drops the shampoo bottle in the shower and leaves it there. He has already washed his hair, and if he bends over to get it he will never straighten back out.

Breakfast is not so fine at this particular hotel. Too many eggs, not enough fruit, and the coffee is not so good.

On the drive back, the engine light does not go on. He is thankful for that. The driver, who is not Jason Statham, is somewhat vexed by the circumstance that the steering wheel is in such a position that it blocks his view of the speedometer. He has to bend his head at a strange angle to see how fast he is driving. Normally the GPS device would tell him roughly how fast he was going, but the battery is low and the cigarette lighter in this particular car does not seem to put out a charge.

He eventually figures out the cruise control and uses that for a while, but gets tired of it because vehicles keep pulling out in front of him and requiring him to change his speed and so on.

At the end of his trip, he is parking the car and the transmission goes *CLUNK* right when he’s angling it into a driveway. He sits there for a minute, at a 45-degree angle, blocking a sidewalk but fortunately not the street, making stirring motions with the gear-shift lever and trying to figure out exactly what just happened and as it dawns on him, thanking the powers that be that this happened here and not on some road in Slovenia or elsewhere.

Some henchmen are sent over and they help him push the car into a proper parking position.

He helps push despite his back. The driver has that much Jason Statham in him.

Then he goes home and looks for useful pills, but he’s out of them.

Hello, green grasshopper

We had a big green grasshopper in the living room a couple nights ago. Naturally it kept jumping on Gamma, who currently has what I imagine is a temporary case of acridophobia, the fear of having big green grasshoppers jumping on you. I caught him with a dish and a  newspaper (directions: while grasshopper is distracted reading the paper, put the dish over him) and put him into the hanging basket outside.

The following day, I was going to the kids’ apartment in Vienna after work to pick up Gamma to give her a ride home when I noticed a green grasshopper on the dashboard. It was a different one, I think. It looked smaller.

Hello, green grasshopper, I said.

I hoped it wouldn’t jump into my face while I drove and cause an accident.

I decided I would catch it when I got to the apartment and put it in a plant.

But it was so quiet I forgot it was there. Also I distracted myself thinking about how, in the 1980s, my first decade of adulthood, I thought everyone was crazy who bought the idea that deregulating anything was a good idea and how the past 30 years have proven me right and regulations were put in place for a reason and why not just take mean dogs off their leashes and take off their muzzles and say, go for it, dogs? Time to put a little more trickle in the trickle down.

So my mind was not on grasshoppers when I got where I was going.

Also I was thinking about how blogging is dead, personal blogging like this, I mean, now that everyone is on facebook, only you can’t write the way I write here on facebook, at least I can’t.

I got Gamma and we were driving along and something green flew past and Gamma was all, eek! And I was all, what? And she was all, IT’S ON YOU! and I was all, what? And she was all, green! Green grasshopper! And I was all, oh, right.

It was on my shoulder so I rolled down the window and threw it out (we were at a light) and it flew into some trees.

In the direction of the trees, at least. Up, for example.

Little green grasshopper.

Fourth rule is, eat kosher salamis

The SWAT crisis negotiator stands out on the balcony having a smoke, thinking, someday somebody’s going to figure things out and replace me with a 14 year old girl.

He imagines a situation, fouled-up robbery, perps holding a couple dozen sobbing hostages inside a bank, surrounded by marksmen, talking tough until the 14 year old girl shows up. Then they’re all, Johnny, dey brought the goil! And Johnny’s all, not dat fast, Eddie, dey wouldn’t do dat. Not da kid! And Eddie’s all, sure looks like dat goil Slugger was tellin me about in da joint. And Johnny’s all, close the goddamn blinds, Eddie! Let me think!

And out front, someone hands the girl a megaphone and she’s all, Do you know who this is? Come out with your hands up! And my allowance is way too low and no way am I cleaning my room today, god, don’t be so old and boring, I’ll do it some other time! Would you like some pizza? I sure would. How about you call out for some?

Eventually they surrender, like always.

That’s what the SWAT negotiator imagines.

The SWAT negotiator is feeling pretty good, all in all, now that the hot weather is over. Boy, was it hot. Also, he now takes the back way into work, and home again. Windy little streets through wooded hills, so it won’t work in winter, but for now, it’s funner, and faster, than the freeway. No traffic jams, although there are a lot of cyclists you sometimes get stuck behind.

Life throws you a cookie now and then, he thinks.

5 More Things Not to Let the Kids Bring into the Car

Recalling my goal of landing some free-lance writing work I have decided to get in a little practice doing some more serious (or at least more commercial) writing here and learning from your comments. Pam mentioned this article in a recent tweet. Apparently some guy wrote it and Wired bought it. I found the article humorous yet incomplete. Only five things? I could think of at least five more. Then it occurred to me, in view of the above-mentioned, that I could always write my list and post it here.

So here it is: Five More Things Not to Let the Kids Bring into the Car

snspecial11. A Saturday Night Special

Not the band, and not the gun.

Especially not the gun. A Saturday night special is dangerous only at close range. Inaccurate at any distance greater than five feet, it is useless in a road rage situation, and eventually the kids will get the drop on you and you’ll end up driving to the mall everytime you get in the car. Or wherever it is kids like to drive to nowadays.

bape12. A Barbary ape




amatter13. Antimatter

Everyone wants to get their kids interested in science, and to support this interest wherever they can. Antimatter, however, has no place in traffic.

According to the current Wikipedia article on antimatter, “… mixing matter and antimatter would lead to the annihilation of both in the same way that mixing antiparticles and particles does, thus giving rise to high-energy photons (gamma rays) or other particle–antiparticle pairs.

Few things are more distracting when driving than high-energy photons.

wnest14. A nest of wasps

We all know how distracting (and dangerous!) a single wasp can be. Well, imagine having an entire nest of wasps in your car!

Barbary apes are nothing next to a nest of wasps.

If you had a nest of wasps in your car, you’d be wishing for a Barbary ape instead.

Or a Saturday night special.

Or even antimatter, depending on the amount.

wshatner15. William Shatner

William Shatner’s rendition of the Beatles’ “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” is epic, I just heard it on the radio. I was going to include a link here, but just do a search, I don’t know what is legal anymore and what isn’t.

Likewise, his readings of Sarah Palin’s beat poetry were also genius.

At first. But, you know. We get it, Mr. Shatner.

Can you imagine trying to drive while he’s reading Sarah Palin’s Facebook status updates or something?