Saturday, April 02, 2005

Pope John Paul II died today. I'm not Catholic, but I admired the Pope. He was one of the great men of the last half of the 20th Century.

I tried to watch the news broadcast of the ceremony in Rome. ABC, CBS, and NBC, had their talking heads droning on and on, interviewing several people, and ignoring the story unfolding in St. Peter's Square. The NBC talking head even talked about how the crowds in St. Peter's were having difficulty moving around the city and that the public transport was doing everything it could to keep up. But he studiously ignored the service.

If there's one thing I've learned, if you want to watch a solemn ceremony without droning commentary about how the common man will be affected, watch Fox News. Until the singing started, they showed the ceremony. But even their talking heads couldn't stay quiet forever. So I switched over to Web of Faith. The reception sucked, but at least I could watch the news as it was happening, without someone telling me about the effect this man had.

Last summer, dad strolled by and mentioned that he had okra ready for gumbo. I had told him I would cook some gumbo for him. Anyway, as he strolled back through my room, he mentioned that I needed to make hot sauce, since we had so many peppers.

I made hot sauce before lunch, and after lunch, I tried gumbo.

I used our smallest cast iron skillet. It's about 10 inches, with so much baked onto the sides that it looks like my face in high school. Bumps everywhere!

After getting all the ingredients together, I prepared to make my roux. "Time to start bouncing on the bed!" I announced. (only my brother Rodney and my uncle Donn will get that. And anyone else who has attended the New Orleans Cooking School. If you ever get a chance to visit N'awlins, take the class and say hello to Kevin!)

So I started my roux. As I started stiring the flour and oil, I started wondering why I ever let Rodney make the roux when we make gumbo together. I quickly learned that I make a better gumbo sous chef than a gumbo chef.

As the roux assumed the proper color, all hell broke loose. The pimply outsides of the skillet caught fire!

As I tried to put the outside fire out, I noticed the roux was beginning to burn! Oh! Shit!

With one hand I dumped the veggies into the soup pot, and quickly dumped the rapidly burning roux on top. Then, the inside of the skillet caught on fire. Now the smoke alarm was demanding my attention.

I put the skillet in the sink and splashed water around it, then put the water in it. Congratulating myself for my quick thinking, I stirred my gumbo, and noticed that the brown roux was STILL COOKING itself so I stirred frantically, then, prematurely dumped the stock into the pot, and wisked like my life depended on it.

I spent the next hour scooping out the big black nuggets of charred flour.

Next time gumbo is made in this house, I'm gonna be the sous chef.

When it came time to serve, Dad looked disappointed. He wanted what his mother called Okra Gumbo, Tomatoes and Okra. Even though I don't like okra, I've gotten pretty good at fixing this.

Friday, April 01, 2005

I just bought a new Standing-on-line-in-the-Post-Office-to-buy-stamps book. It’s “War and Peace.” I only read it while at the Post Office. No cheating.

While I was aging in the line with my book recently, I realized that the Postal Service had spent about million bucks to create a larger, more spacious and efficient post office to serve the community, and didn’t spend a penny to hire anyone to man the extra cash registers.

With my stamps in hand, I was fifth from the counter and watched as a tall, white haired man wearing a plaid shirt and jeans hand the clerk a yellow postcard. “This was in my post office box,” he explained. “I have a package.”

“Okay,” the lady nodded as she took the card.

The new building is so labyrinthine, she slipped on a steel helmet with a light attached, flicked a switch and disappeared.

Two chapters of my book later, she reappeared with a medium sized package. A co-worker at the register next to her blinked in surprise, then made a slow circle in the air indicating the first clerk should turn around. To our surprise, her back was covered with tarantulas! The co-worker brushed them off, and they skittered away. The clerk set the package on the counter, turned off the lamp, and took off the helmet. The man grabbed his package, nodded his thanks and left.

The line inched forward.

The co-worker returned to helping an elderly lady who had requested a change of address form. “Are you living there now? When will you be there? The form is over there, under the sign that says ‘Change of Address Forms.’ Next!”

The first clerk sold a couple of money orders, and when the customer started filling them out, she told him to go to the desk in the middle of the room and do it there. “No way,” he replied. “I ain’t standing in that line again!” The guy bore a passing resemblance to Martin Sheen. (“This drivers’ license photo doesn’t look like you.” “It did when I came in here.”)

I recalled that on November 6, 2002, the United States Postal Service announced that due to an accounting error they had over contributed billions (that’s with a “b” and an “s”) to their retirement accounts. Ooops. According to the news story, there won’t be a postage increase for three or four years as a result. Maybe they could use the billions to hire a couple of extra people to man those unused cash registers.

Then, I flashed back to July 2001. Mom, Dad and I went on the Great Western Prison and Post Office Tour. We drove from Fredericksburg to Colorado and back. At the edge of every little town and village, a gleaming new Post Office glittered in the sun. (And about every 200 miles we passed a prison. They must be building the closer to the roads so the escaping prisoners won’t have as far to walk to carjack somebody.) Are they also overused and understaffed?

I recognized the glazed looks on the faces around me. I see them in Wal-Mart and HEB all the time. Did the Postal Service design their clerk stations according to what I call the Wal-Mart principle? Here's how it works: Take the maximum number of parking spaces and divide by 25 to get the number of check-out lanes. Then man four of them and leave the rest empty, and watch the lines swell. Oh, yeah. Make one of the clerks a trainee. That'll brighten anyone’s day!

I stopped my wool gathering and returned to my book. I was half way through it, and completely confused by the intricacies of what was going on—the book was confusing too—when the clerk shouted, “Sir! Next!”

Startled, I looked around and saw she was speaking to me. Drawing glares from the line behind me, I walked up to pay for my stamps. Thoughtfully, I had opened the little package and put stamps on my mail. I handed her the mail, and she asked, “Anything fragile, explosive or dangerous?”

“Just their tempers,” I replied indicating the line behind me.

Thursday, March 31, 2005

I Wonder if This Would Work for Me?

Thanks to the good folks over at I found this picture. It says more about my situation than I could in months of blogging about it.

I might have to change the "3 credit cards" to "6," and the "4x4" to "van." It goes without saying I'd have to change the "petrol" to gas.

Besides the giggle I get from this, I get a shiver down my spine. Here I am making more in a day than many people in other countries make in a year, and I find myself with each week's paycheck already spent before I get it.

I started putting ads on my sites a few months ago, after an episode of the dearly departed "The Screensavers." I put AdSense on, and I joined Commission Junction. I dreamed of the waves of cash that would be rolling in, allowing me to pay off bills and live in a big house on top of a hill overlooking Fredericksburg. This was in September.

I checked my AdSense account the other day. I've earned a whole $10.63. Most of that after I joined Blog Explosion.

My boss asked me to put AdSense on our site (linked above). In 24 hours, they earned $2.67, and are already up to $7.24.

Of course, their site is business oriented, and mine is just a bunch of half funny stories. It's still depressing!

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Over the weekend I was offered a part-time job. the local Miller Brewing Co. rep asked if I wanted to pull up for them on weekends.

I have never understood why beer distributors allowed themselves to be sucked into this little game at the supermarkets. (BTW, pulling up means stocking the shelves.) One company started it to give better service, I guess, and now all distributors hire people to stock supermarket shelves on weekends.

When I worked at HEB as a grocery stocker, the first thing I had to do on Sunday was stock the beer. The last thing I had to do before getting off in the evening was stock the beer.

I'm sure the first distributor that offered the service wanted to make sure their beer was rotated properly. Let me tell you, when you are a grocery clerk and you've got a manager breathing down your neck about stocking the green beans immediatly, the last thing you do is rotate the beer.

When I worked part-time for a local beer distributor, the local HEB had just gone to a computerized receiving system. They required each vendor who brought stuff in through the back door to enter the product into the computer. But the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission decided that beer distributors weren't required to do that, since that provided a service to the retailer. (The TABC has some hangup about beer distributors providing services to retailers - like the whole world will go to Heck in a handbasket if a beer company provided pumps with their kegs.) However, they decided that the retailer saving payroll $$ by not stocking the beer wasn't a service. Go figure that one out. I still can't.

Any way, pulling up for to company requires that you got to the supermarkets and restock the beer three times a day on Saturday and Sunday, usually at 6 am, noon, and 6 pm. Since I work one Saturday a month already, I can't do it all the time, so I told him I would be interested in filling in. If nothing else, it earns beer money.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

My Austin Apartments Part 2

After a year of living in South Austin and driving to work in North Austin, I decided Austin's rush hours sucked. So I moved closer to our office in Wells Branch. I learned my lesson about upper floor apartments, though. My apartment was on the ground floor.

This was a pretty new complex as well. The Wells Branch area had just opened and there were large open spaces here and there. I drove through it a year or so ago, and was astounded. The place was fully developed from Mopac to I-35.

A couple of my co-workers lived in the complex, so it was nice to have friends around. I had lived in South Austin to be close to my friend Junior, who lived in a different complex on William Cannon. Shortly after I moved, he got transferred to a store in North Austin, so he and his family moved up into Wells Branch.

There were two flaws with my apartment, It was next to the pool, and I had a team of basketball playing elephants above me. During the summer, and especially on weekends, the pool was party central, with music going late into the night. During one particularly wild party, one couple had sex in the hot tub, forcing management to close it for a week.

The basketball team upstairs practiced daily. About 7 pm, while sitting in my chair and watching TV, I'd hear THUMP - THUMp - THUmp - THump - Thump - thump - Thump - THump - THUmp - THUMp - THUMP - THUMp - THUmp - THump - Thump - thump - Thump - THump - THUmp - THUMp - THUMP - THUMp - THUmp - THump - Thump - thump - Thump - THump - THUmp - THUMp - THUMP - THUMp - THUmp - THump - Thump - thump - Thump - THump - THUmp - THUMp. This went on for two freakin' years!

One night, I had invited a girl over for dinner and a movie. One of my co-workers, who played in a band and always knew where to find a good show, stopped by to see if I wanted to go with him. I'll never forget how big his eyes got when he say my date in a loose t-shirt and shorts. He made quick excuses and left.

Later, I started dating The-Bitch-From-Austin-Do-I-Sound-Bitter? And she spent a few nights over.

But, I had begun working as a sales rep and, naturally, my territory was in South Austin. So I had to move again!

This complex was a bit easier to move in and out of. Basically, there were eight apartments on each floor. All the windows raced out, and all the doors were on the inside of the square, in wide hallways. I moved in in January, and toted stuff in through the gate of the pool and into my door. When I moved out it was July. It was too hard to negotiate the revelers at the pool, so I backed my van up to my window, took off the window screens, and moved out through the window. Clever, huh?

Monday, March 28, 2005

I wasn't going to mention the Terri Schiavo case, and I won't tell you what I think. I'm sure you've read enough of peoples' opinions already. I just have a comment: Religious fundamentalist the world over use children to acheive their ends. In the Middle East, they strap bombs on 'em and send off on a bus ride. In the US, they take 'em to demonstrations, hand 'em a glass of water and try to sneak past the police line.

Like I said, I'm not going to give you my opinion, mainly 'cause I don't know what to think. I've been on both sides of the issue since the Iraq War ended. It hasn't ended? You mean the media focused on the Shiavo case and ignored other news?

Sunday, March 27, 2005

I ran across an article that scares the heck out of me.

The inventor of a Fox News blocker, who has blocked the chanel with his remote control, says this isn't about Free Speech, but about sending a message. Yet, he still watches Fox News when he needs a giggle.

I think the Fox News blocker in unnecessary. Freedom of Speech does not equate to a Right to be Heard. If I don't like what someone is saying, I know how to operate the remote. Apparently, Mr. Inventor beleives people are so stupid that they will beleive anything they hear, and are incapable of changing the channel.

I hope no one watched the Dragon show on Animal Planet last night. Otherwise we'll be inundated with folks who want to protect the dragon population.