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Wednesday, January 31, 2007


It all started last Thursday...

"Gaaack!" I hollered. "Drat!"

"Meow?" came from the other side of the door, followed by the muffled sound of a pair of kitty paws trying to pull the door open. I'm not sure what my little buddy, Fruitloop, would have done to help, he not having opposible thumbs and all. Not that I was in a life-threatening situation, mind you, I was just irritated.

Me in the shower, my glasses in the sink, I'd grabbed the conditioner instead of the shampoo. "Gaaaaah!" I hissed through clenched teeth.

It was Thursday. I could tell without even looking. Thursday mornings are difficult for me. You see, the weekly jam at the Chesterfield is Wednesday night. That means I'm often facing Thursday mornings through a mere five hours of sleep and a slight headache. A person gets to an age eventually where five hours of sleep and a slight headache really sucks.

I rinsed the errant conditioner out of my hair, quietly mumbling near-obscenities though my teeth, and eventually finished my morning carcass-scrubbing routine and managed to dress myself with a minimum of fuss. "The time is now 8:57," said the nice man on the radio. "Drat," I said to Fruitloop, scratching him on the chin. "I'm already an hour late..." Thankfully my bosses are tolerant - they know I'm out late Wednesdays playing bass and taking photos and sipping on the occasional beer - but I still like to get to work by eight if I can. I threw my boots on, grabbed my coat and WHOOM out the door goes the hippie.

Keys in hand I open the car door. Cold! I started the car, groped around in the back seat for the ice scraper, and then back out into the cold to scrape, scrape, scrape the windows. I glance at my phone - 8:58. I might yet make it to work by nine (it's a small town). I turn back to the car and grab the handle to open the door and WHAT THE HECK?

I found myself staring bemusedly at the car door handle in my hand. Yes, it broke off. Hmmm...

"Okay," I thought to myself, "you'll just have to crawl over the back seat or something." No problem. Except that all three other doors were locked. With the keys in the ignition. Engine running.

Well, poop. "Okay," I thought to myself, "you'll just have to call your wife and have her come and unlock the passenger door." No sooner said than done. "Beep beep boop beep," went the phone, my frozen fingers dancing across the numbers. "Ring, ring, ring." No answer. Drat. She must be in a meeting. Now what?

I called work. "Hi," I said. "This is Chris. I've broken the handle off my car door. All the other doors are locked. I'll probably be a bit later than anticipated this morning."

"You're only a few blocks away," the lady at work said. "Why don't you just walk to work and figure this out later?"

"Well," I replied, shivering a bit, "because the car's running. I can't very well leave my car idling in the middle of the street all day..."

"Oh," she said. "You're probably right."

As I pushed the "hang up" button on my cell phone I realized I still had my ice scraper in my other hand. I looked at the car door. You know, it's not ALL the way shut... Not quite knowing what else to do, I started beating my car with a stick, poking at the door, pounding on the roof... Sure enough, the door popped open! Wheee! The joys of driving a rustbucket! (The car's got just under 200,000 miles on this engine - no one quite knows how many miles the poor body's been through.)

I jumped in the now-warm car and off to work I went!

By 9:11 a.m. I was in the office, turning on various computers, printers, scanners, and platemakers, wondering why the other guy hadn't turned 'em all on yet. "Car problems again?" asked my boss as I waited for all the equipment to come on-line. Before I could answer he continued, "The other guy's sick. He's not coming in today. The network is down. The lady in New Jersey FTP'd that post card to us - we need to get it off the server and plated right away."

"How do I get it off the server if our network is down?" I asked.

"I don't care," the boss replied. "Just get it done."

"I'm gonna have to call the IT guy in," I said. "I don't know how to fix the network..." The boss promptly told me that there was no way in blazes he was gonna call in some IT guy and pay him two-hundred bucks just to push a button.

So, there I stood, in the back room, staring at a mound of cables and cords, wondering just where the network actually lived... I grabbed an anonymous-looking box at random and unplugged it. I stood there, wondering how long I should wait before plugging it back in, when the thought struck me, "Why not just unplug EVERYTHING for a few minutes? That should re-boot whatever it is that needs re-booted."

Well, that didn't work, but it sure got everyone's attention.

I tossed the problem back to the boss. He unplugged the router. He unplugged the modem. He turned off that beige box no one can identify. No luck. He swore. He even told someone else to try it. Nothing. We stood there, wiggling cords.

Three hours later the IT guy showed up... He pushed a button and everything sprang back to life, e-mail mailed, browsers browsed, life was good again.

But... this left me a mere three and a half hours to get my eight hours of work done as well as my absent cohort's eight hours of work (he called in sick, remember). But somehow I managed, headache and all. By five-thirty I was home. By six-thirty I was in bed.

That was last Thursday. Today is Wednesday. I have to admit, I'm dreading tomorrow.

The Politics of Hate

You know, I really don't want to hate anyone. It's not my style. I'm not much good at it. But I want to be patriotic; I love America, so they tell me I have to hate people.

If I don't hate Muslims I'm unpatriotic.

If I don't hate the Mexicans I'm anti-American.

If I don't hate homosexuals I must not care about family values.

I would like to stand up at this point and say, loudly, "BULLPUCKY!" I don't have to hate Muslims to support the fight against terrorism. I don't have to hate Mexicans to understand immigration problems. Homosexuals do not threaten me, my family, or my way of life. I don't have to hate them, either. I am NOT going to start hating my neighbors for being different. I'm just not going to do it.

Hate slithers under our door in unexpected guises, and is hard to recognize at times. Before you hit "Forward" on that joke someone e-mailed you, take another look at it. Is there an undercurrent of hate there? I'd be willing to bet there is, especially if the joke is at all political.

Let me posit this... Jesus taught tolerance and forgiveness. Our nation was founded on the belief that ALL of us are equal. By claiming moral superiority over another human being, don't we go against Christianity AND America? Don't we lose a little bit of our soul every time we denigrate another person, race, heritage?

Don't get me wrong - I'm not soft in the head. I know there are terrorists out there who want to kill us. But I also know there are a LOT of people out there who don't, and don't deserve our hatred.

I've heard a lot of self-righteous chest-thumping about how John Wayne wouldn't stand for being told to "press 1 for English," and there's some validity there -- but racism and hatred isn't the answer. (Where did YOUR grandparents come from? Chances are they came to America in a wave of immigrants, and chances are they were hated and feared by those who had arrived here fifty years earlier. Did you know that the national language is English due to one single vote? Our founding fathers nearly decided to go with German...) Should immigrants learn English? Yes. Should we be compassionate while they learn? Yes. America is growing and changing -- that's a fact that makes a lot of us, myself included, a little uncomfortable. But we need to pull immigrants into our society, not push them away with hate and spite.

I'm not saying we should all gather in a circle and sing "Kum Ba Yah" at each other, but I am saying that I'm not going to hate people simply because it's politically expedient, or to go along with the crowd. It's my way of being American. Please don't hate me for it.

Thank you for your attention.

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Sunday, January 28, 2007


Apologies for not posting lately. I've had plenty to write about, just no time... I'll be back soon, I promise.

I've been working on a few web sites:
Siouxland Sleep Out
Northwest Iowa American Legion Riders
Chesterfield Jam
and of course my poor neglected Radloffs.net site

Check 'em out if you want... I'm gonna go take a nap.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Future Tense, Past Perfect

Why am I doing this?

I found a couple cardboard boxes of old photos a few weeks ago (mostly of me - not 'cause I'm egotistical or anything, but my mother gave all my baby pictures to my wife a while back). Since then I've been pecking away at scanning them all into the computer to join the 15,000+ digital photos I've taken. I kinda figger it'd be nice to have them all in one place...

Here's a nice picture of me and my mother. I'm the younger one.

I've been enjoying the photos and memories, seeing my brother and sister when they were little. And it's fun to see my parents when they were young and wonder what they were like before they had kids.

But today I had a bad thought. I hate those. But they happen occasionally. "Why am I doing this?" I thought to myself. "I don't have kids. In 30 years, who's going to care that I carefully saved all of my baby photos?" The thought depressed me so much I skipped my daily Esperanto lesson. Will anyone look back at my photos and think, "Hmmm... Great uncle Chris looked silly with short hair," or will my archives slowly molder away, gradually becoming as obsolete as all those college papers I saved on a 5.25" floppy?

I'm going to keep scanning, though. There must be a purpose to this.


Wednesday, January 10, 2007

A January Wednesday

Mia nomo estas Chris.

I've been toying around with the idea of learning Esperanto for years. There's something about a language with no nationality that appeals to me...

Esperanto is a "made-up" language, built by a Dr. Zamenhoff over a hundred years ago. It seems to be a very logical language, and they claim it's easier to learn than any other language. (As an example, if you put a "J" at the end of a word [pronounced like a "Y"] it turns that word plural. Logical! If there's an "ino" at the end of a word, it's feminine. Simple!)

La granda virinoj estas varmaj.
The large women are warm.

So, after reading the introduction and part of the first lesson in a "Learn to Speak Esperanto" book, I'm ready to tackle the world... Or at least I'm ready to tackle simple grammar. It's hard, however, to learn a new language in a vacuum, especially when I can only spend fifteen minutes at a shot at the task. I'm hoping that by the time I chew my way through the book I'll be able to find a few people on-line to chat with every now and then. I'm not sure I'll find any real live Esperantists here in Sioux City...

Mi kato estas granda.
My cat is large.

Can you imagine how much money the European Union would save in a year if the diplomats all took six weeks to learn Esperanto rather than insisting that each of the 27 nations' delegates be allowed to speak their own language when in session? The way it stands now, the French delegation to the EU needs a translator for each and every other language in Europe - someone to translate Polish into French, English into French, German into French, Italian into French, etc. Same with all the other delegations. Imagine how much easier it would be for everyone involved if they all learned the same language. Esperanto is perfect for that, as it's not tied to any particular nationality...

Vi odoras kiel krokodilo.
You smell like a crocodile.

But, for the moment, I'm getting tired of playing around with the six words I know, and I'm impatient to learn all the rest of them pesky words. I hate being a neophyte. I want to be proficient. Now.

Plian bieron, mi petas.
Another beer, please.

Speaking of beer...

Tonight's the weekly jam session at the Chesterfield. I do think I'm gonna take my own bass this time... I'm supposed to be the "club photographer" (click HERE to see the photos) but I always end up playing anyway (which is fun!), so I might as well take my own bass so I can be comfortable whilst trying to remember that pesky chorus to that odd AC/DC song I played once twelve years ago... The "Club Bass" they have available for everyone to use is a fine bass guitar indeed, but it always feels like I'm trying on someone else's shoes or something when I play it.

I encourage everyone in and around Sioux City to pop in to the jam session every once in a while. It really is pretty fun! And they sell beer there, too, which is always a bonus! The jam happens most every Wednesday...

Inundation Galore!

"Are you okay?" hollered my little Austrian Chickadee from the other room. "Are you choking on something?"

"No," I answered. "I'm okay. Just checking my e-mail." I stared at the screen, agog.

"Vhat's mit der funny noise you just made?" asked my wife as she put a freshly washed plate in the cupboard.

I got up from the computer and wandered towards the kitchen. "I didn't mean to make a funny noise. I was just surprised is all. Something's wrong with our e-mail."

"Ve hardly ever get any real e-mail," my Snookums replied. "Just junk mail."

"That's the problem. I have over one-thousand three hundred junk mails in my in-box, just from this afternoon." (That number still astonishes me. 1,300. Wow.) I paused for a second. "And none of them are even addressed to me. They're all 'Message Undeliverable' junk messages, sent by someone else, with my e-mail as the return address."

"Thirteen hundred messages? Wow! We need to do something about that," said my wife. She kissed me on the nose, then turned her attention back to the dishes.

Back at the computer I started doing a little poking around. I went to my cPanel and changed my catch-all address to "black hole" messages that aren't addressed specifically to Dagmar or myself (it used to be that if anyone send an e-mail with our domain name in the address it would come to my in-box, no matter what the specific address was). Then I checked the on-line spam catcher. There were another 5,800 bogus e-mails waiting for me there. Over seven thousand spams in one day.

A day or two later it looks like my changes at the cPanel worked, at least for one of my e-mail accounts. Between Dagmar and myself, though, we're still getting over 200 junk mails a day. It makes it VERY difficult to sort through all of it to find the two or three "real" messages we get. I'm afraid we've probably missed a few good e-mails in the past few weeks and deleted 'em along with the bad...

So, if I can't find a way to get rid of those last 200 spam messages we get every day, I may resort to whitelisting two of our e-mail addresses. (That means that if you send us a message, you'll get an e-mail back right away asking you if you're a real live human. You have to answer once, then you can e-mail us hassle-free from then on.) I hope that no one will be offended if we go to that system - we're not trying to limit our e-mails from real live people by any means! We're just getting tired of going through so much junk mail all the time...

Oh, man... Another case of the "Gottahaveits."

Apple just announced that they're releasing a new cell phone next June. Normally, the announcement that someone's making a new cell phone wouldn't get my attention, but when Apple does anything, it's exciting. No exception with the iPhone...

The thing's just plain cool... You can poke around and see all the neat features it has on Apple's website (which is worth doing). It's a cell phone, iPod MP3 player, and Blackberry all rolled into one, with no buttons. It has the coolest touch-screen I've ever seen... Just looking at pictures of it makes me happy. Go buy stock in Apple. This is gonna be a big seller.

The problem? The battery only lasts six hours between recharges, and the blessed thing's expected to cost $600. Six-hundred dollars is a lot of money for something I'm gonna carry around in my pocket. I'd be afraid to use it...

But I want one anyway. (I'll get over it, I know. The first thing is to pay my myriad debts. THEN I'll get the toys.)


One small bit of the world just got a bit more sane. About a zillion years ago when I was in National Guard the federal government proclaimed that There Shall Be No Smoking on Government Property. Except, of course, for Congress. They could still smoke... Until today. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi just banned smoking in the Speaker's Lobby.

'Bout time.

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Saturday, January 06, 2007

Photos of the Week

A few pretty pictures...

One of the machines at Record Printing.

The folder's control panel.

Well, it IS open mic night...

Craig and Oscar...

And some nice tea...

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Here Comes the Guv...

The Governor's Visit, Revisited

Well, I did indeed go see Democratic presidential hopeful Tom Vilsack (soon to be former Governor of Iowa) speak at the Elk's club last night. As I suspected, I ended up standing quietly in a corner, not asking questions (I'm shy, you know). But I do have a few observations...

The first thing I noticed is that there were a LOT more people at this event than there were when Senator Joe Biden visited town a few months ago. I kinda thought there would be twenty-five or thirty people there last night, but I'd estimate somewhere between 150 and 175 people were there. Volunteers were taken by surprise, too - there weren't enough chairs (which is why I stood in the back). For the first half-hour I was there I kept myself entertained by watching some poor lad scurrying around trying to find chairs for people, and watching the news people twitch and stare at their watches.

And they had plenty of time to twitch and tap at their watches -- the governor was at least half an hour late. That, coupled with the lack of seating, gave me a bad impression from the start.

Mr. Vilsack was introduced by prominent local politicians, but as there was no sound system I couldn't really hear what they said. But when Mr. Vilsack started his speech I could hear him fairly well. Mr. Vilsack came across as a polished public speaker. He didn't use notes or anything like that, there weren't any "um, er..." moments, and he addressed the audience well.

As I expected, he spoke in generalities and gave an upbeat message. He did have a few specific ideas, mostly in the area of alternative energy. Oddly enough, that topic came up from an oblique source... After a short discussion on environmentalism, a man in the audience asked Mr. Vilsack if America is going to switch from a petroleum-based economy to an ethanol-based economy, how are we going to keep the farmers from planting "from fence to fence." (It's a common joke in this area that the farmers plant their crops with one tractor tire in the ditch, meaning that they use every available scrap of land possible, leaving no habitat for wildlife.) Mr. Vilsack responded by saying he was in favor of using switch grass instead of corn to make ethanol, and he had several nifty facts and figures to back up his proposal. He never did address the man's question, though... As most politicians, Mr. Vilsack was adept at working a question around to an answer he wants to give. In other words, he wanted to talk about switch grass, so the first agricultural question that came his way had switch grass as the answer.

When asked about immigration, Mr. Vilsack's reply was pretty middle-of-the-roadish. "I don't have any five-second sound bite for this," he said. "It's a serious issue." He thinks illegal immigrants should be fined, pay any back taxes they owe, learn English, then they'll be eligible for citizenship.

There were no startling statements about Iraq, either. He wants to pull the majority of the troops out, leaving a force in northern Iraq. He feels there's a "culture of dependency" in Iraq, meaning that the Iraqi people are depending too much on America to pull their cookies out of the fire, and that the Iraqis should be pulling their own cookies out. (I'm not sure how much I agree with that... We did, after all, toss those cookies into the fire to begin with. Granted, we've been teaching cookie extraction to the Iraqis for the past four years or so, but...)

All in all, Mr. Vilsack handled himself well, but he didn't really offer any new ideas. I was hoping to hear him say, "The problem with Iraq is that there's no clearly defined goal. If elected President, I would state our goal and aim in Iraq, then let the military handle it as they're trained to do." But he didn't. He said the war was a mistake. We know that already... He said the war is costing us money. We know, we know. He said a lot of things that we already know, and he got applause for saying those things. (A man asked Mr. Vilsack why we can't take a percentage of Iraqi oil sales in return for the nearly $1 trillion we've spent on the region thus far. Mr. Vilsack said that he'd be in favor of looking into finding out where our money has gone. Well, other than the Bush administration, who isn't in favor of finding out where our money has gone?)

The audience seemed to have a lot more questions, but I guess Mr. Vilsack had to get to his next engagement and cut the meeting a bit short.

When the meeting broke up, I did a once-through of the parking lot. The only vehicle from Polk County was a big honkin' Chevy Equinox SUV. I looked it up - it gets 21 miles per gallon. I was really hoping to see Mr. Vilsack get into a hybrid or E85 car. To his credit, though, I read an article saying he recently got rid of his 13 mpg GMC Yukon.

My overall impression? Not bad... I didn't leave the meeting feeling particularly inspired or hopeful, though. Hopefully I haven't misquoted or misrepresented anything Mr. Vilsack said. If anyone who was at the meeting has other impressions, I'd be happy to hear 'em!

Has Mr. Bush Learned Anything?

Oh my... I just heard that United States President George W. Bush has just announced that the government now has the right to open anyone's mail at any time with no warrant. Did he not hear us when we voted last November? Does he not know that we're a little tired of him taking our freedoms away, bit by bit, in the name of security? I don't like this. I don't like this one bit.

Even though our military leaders are against it, President Bush's advisers are against it, the public is against it, and the soldiers themselves are against it, Mr. Bush is going ahead with his "troop surge" in Iraq. Instead of letting the military run the war, Mr. Bush is going to put more of our troops in harm's way in spite of the generals' protests. Not enough troops to make a difference, in my opinion, just enough to make us a bigger target.


Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Vilsack to Visit

Iowa Governor and presidential hopeful Tom Vilsack will speak in Sioux City Wednesday afternoon. I'm hoping to go see him... I've got a few questions to ask. (I don't mean for this post to sound mean-spirited or negative -- I actually like Mr.Vilsack's philosophies quite a bit, and he seems like a nice guy. But I do want some answers.)

I'm wondering how Mr. Vilsack's programs will help my neighborhood if he's elected President in 2008. I'm thinking of bringing him a few photos like this one of my neighbor's garage (which has since been painted). I envision myself asking him why he allowed this sort of poverty and decay to happen in Iowa while he was Governor, and how it'll be different when he's President. I'd like to ask him why there are so many homeless people in town. John Edwards' work to end poverty resonates very loudly in my neighborhood; what can Mr.Vilsack offer? Mr. Vilsack was elected in 1998, back when the minimum wage was $5.15 an hour. Eight years later, why is minimum wage still $5.15 an hour?

I've heard people grumbling that they elected Mr. Vilsack in 2002 to be Governor of Iowa for a four-year term and have only gotten three and a half years out of him, since he's been concentrating on his presidential campaign for the past few months. I'm curious how Mr. Vilsack counters that particular bit of criticism. (If he says something akin to "It's common practice," or "It's how the game is played," I'll have to wonder if, once elected President, he'll bow to special interest groups or cater to Big Oil, as "that's how the game is played." I'm hoping that Mr. Vilsack is a man who will Do the Right Thing, regardless of what others around him do.)

I'd also like to ask him when he was in Sioux City last. Did he spend much time here? The meeting Wednesday is scheduled to start at 5:15. I noticed on his web site that he's scheduled to be in Council Bluffs, a good hour down the road, at 7:45. That means that at most he can be in Sioux City for an hour and a half... Is that enough time to find out what our needs are? This section of the state is very conservative; I'm curious why Mr.Vilsack hasn't spent more time in these parts. We need Democratic leadership to show an honest interest in us.

During much of Mr. Vilsack's tenure as Iowa Governor he was working with a hostile state government, led until the midterm elections by Sioux City's own ├╝ber-conservative Chris Rants. It sure seemed to me that Mr. Rants, who was Iowa's House Majority Leader at the time, set the agenda and made the state government dance to his tune. I'd like to ask Mr.Vilsack why he didn't work harder to overcome the conservative Iowa House, and how he'd handle a similar situation if he were President.

I'd also like to ask him why the state's fleet of automobiles aren't all E85 hybrid vehicles. Mr. Vilsack is a strong proponent of alternative fuels; why isn't Iowa doing more in that area? If elected President, what would Mr. Vilsack do about our current crisis? I imagine he'll say the same things most candidates say. "We need to promote wind power. I'm all for expanding ethanol usage. We need to conserve." I'm interested in HOW he plans to do that. Will he fund it via a gas tax? But I'm even more interested in trying to find out if he's actually serious about it, or if he just gives lip service. Is he familiar with Brazil's success in that area? One indication will be in what kind of vehicle he drives away. If he gets into an SUV to drive the hundred miles to Council Bluffs I'll be disappointed.

I'd like to ask him where he was when the National Guard unit in LeMars returned from Iraq. And where he was the day they left, for that matter. It seems to me that someone who's trying to get elected Commander in Chief of our armed forces, and who has been in charge of his state's National Guard for eight years, might want to be seen rubbing elbows with soldiers from Iowa when they return from war.

I'd love to know if Mr. Vilsack is in the campaign to be President, or is he hoping to get on the ticket as someone else's Vice President. But even if I asked that question, I wouldn't trust the answer, though. Of course he'd say he was in it for all the marbles. Any other answer would be political suicide.

These questions and thoughts are all off the top of my head. Does anyone else have anything to add?

Again, I didn't mean for this post to sound negative towards Mr. Vilsack, but I do have concerns about these issues... And I know that once I get to the meeting my natural shyness will kick in and I'll stand in a corner in the back with a pocket full of photos, keeping my mouth shut, only to kick myself later for not speaking up.

The meeting is at the Elk's Club, 1001 Tri-View Avenue, at 5:15 Wednesday, January 3 if anyone wants to attend. It's open to the public as far as I know.


Monday, January 01, 2007

A few odd stories...

The Great Garbage Saga

"We can only fit three garbage bags in our can," I told my beloved Austrian Snickerdoodle. "What do you think we should do with the other twenty-seven bags?" We stood, looking at the thirty bags of trash on our porch.

"I don't know," came the reply. "I called the garbage people. Dey von't take it, even if we put those little yellow tags on the bags. Dey said ve have to take them to the dump ourselves. Dat costs twenty-eight dollars." In unison we looked at our poor little car. "Ve could get it done in, oh, fifteen trips or so..."

Spring cleaning shouldn't be so difficult, even if you delay it until December... Dagmar had gone through our house from top to bottom, taking the week between Christmas and New Years off work. Our motto was "if we forgot we had it, we don't need it," coupled with the mantra of "if we haven't used it, worn it, played it, or seen it in a year, toss it out." She hauled bags of clothes to the Gospel Mission (I'm not getting any smaller, you know -- I'm never gonna get into those pants again). We took stuff to the Goodwill. She emptied closets. But what to do with those thirty bags of trash?

"Ve could call the dumpster people, maybe, and have them bring a dumpster over like they did for dat house up the street," suggested the lovely Dagmar with a sigh. "I don't know how much dat costs. That way we could just put our garbage in it und be done."

I pondered that thought for a minute. "I have an idea," I said. "Instead of giving the money to some big nameless company, why don't we keep it in the neighborhood?" My wife cocked an eyebrow at me. I continued, "The neighbor guy over there has a big truck, and doesn't seem to have a job... Maybe we could just give him some money to haul our stuff to the dump?"

"Dat's a vunderful idea!" my wife cried, hugging me fiercely. "You're a vunderful man to think of such an idea!" I glowed with pleasure.

About that time, whilst still glowing, we saw a couple homeless guys heading up the street towards the can redemption center, a bag of cans hanging on the back of the one guy's wheelchair. "One bag down," cried my wife. She ran into the house, reappearing seconds later with a large bag of empty soda cans. "Five years I've been saving our cans in the back porch," she said, handing the bag to me. "Let's give them to those guys." Without waiting for an answer she ran up the street to stop the two can collectors. I grabbed the bag and followed. By the time I caught up with them Dagmar had explained to the guys that since it was the day after Christmas we were giving our cans away and that they could have them all. "Man, we really appreciate it," said one guy. "Thank you! We can really use this money!" The guy in the wheelchair started reciting poetry to my wife for some reason. It looked like it was going to be a rather longish poem, so I went over to knock on "truck neighbor's" door to see if he'd be interested.

Sadly enough, they didn't even have a doorknob on their door - the door was tied shut with twine.

No one answered, and it looked like the poem in the street was winding down, so I rejoined my wife. We watched the guys carry the cans up the street to the redemption center, a rosy glow settling over us. "Did you talk to truck man?" asked my vife. I shook my head. "No one answered." We started walking back to our house. "I have to go to work now," I said. "I'm late already..."

"Oh, okay," said Dagmar. "You go to verk. I'll talk to the neighbor about the truck. It costs nearly thirty dollars to take the stuff to the dump. Do you think ve should give him forty dollars for himself? That's seventy, total." I nodded agreeably. It seemed like a lot of money just to get rid of garbage, but it's for a good cause. I'm sure the neighbor needed the money.

Twenty minutes later I was at work pecking morosely at my keyboard wondering just when my job started sucking audibly when my cell phone rang. "De guy says he can do it," said my vife. "He'll pick all the bags up tomorrow at eight in the morning and take them to the dump." (My buddy Drew at work [see photo] looked up when my cell rang. When I was done talking to Dagmar, he asked, "Why's she calling at this time of day?" I explained that she had the entire week off work and was staying home. "Oh," he said. "So you'll be in and out all week, then, too." He was right.)

At seven-fifty the next morning, Dagmar and I were up and scrubbed and clothed and ready to face the day. "I vant you to follow him to the dump," said my Austrian Snowflake. "I have a bad feeling that he might just dump our garbage under the bridge or something."

"That's silly," I said. "We have to trust the man. We're giving him money to take our stuff to the dump, he'll take our stuff to the dump. We can't go through life mistrusting people all the time... Besides, I have to be at work."

"I have a bad feeling about this," my wife repeated. About that time we saw the guy with the truck pull up in front of our house. Within ten minutes we had his truck loaded with garbage bags, he had his seventy dollars, and Dagmar had repeated the instructions to the man several times.

"Well," I said, watching the man in the truck drive away, "I'm off to work." I kissed my beloved on the nose and scuttled off to face the pain of hourly wage-earning. By eight-thirty I was once again pecking morosely at my keyboard, wondering when I made this particular career choice and why.

At nine my cell phone tweedled. Dagmar. "Hello, Honey-Bee," I said. "What's up."

"I VANT YOU TO FIX THIS MESS!" hissed my normally sane wife.

"What mess?" I asked, irritated to be bothered at work.

"That MAN you hired took OUR garbage und dumped it in the dumpster up the street!"

"Okayyyy..." I said. "So, he didn't go to the dump?"

"NO HE DID NOT GO TO THE DUMP! I told you this morning I had a bad feeling about this, but NOOOO, you said 'we have to trust people.' Und so now OUR garbage is out there where just anyone can see it, und this is YOUR FAULT! That man took our money and dumped our garbage illegally."

"How do you know it's our garbage in the dumpster?" I mumbled into the phone, trying to avoid eye contact with my boss, who was peeking curiously through the door at me. "After all, black plastic garbage bags all look the same, pretty much, more or less."

"I drove by that dumpster this morning und it vas empty," my wife wailed. "But now there are about thirty black garbage bags in there. It's our garbage, I know it is! Now, COME HOME UND FIX THIS MESS!"

"But Snickerdoodle," I whined. "I'm at work."


I clicked my phone shut, looked at my buddy Drew, and said, "It was my wife. I have to go home now." He gave me a knowing look. "Good luck, man."

On the way out the door, I paused to look up the phone number of the dumpster people. I called 'em. "Hi," I said. "My name is Chris, and I have a problem..."

The nice lady at the dumpster company said, "I'm sorry to hear that you have a problem. You do know that we're garbage people, not doctors...?"

"I know," I said. "I have a garbage problem. We gave our neighbor guy seventy bucks to haul our garbage to the dump, but he dumped it in our other neighbor's dumpster instead. Is that legal?"

"No," the nice lady said. "Someone's gonna have to get the garbage out of the dumpster..." By that time I was pulling into my driveway (I live a whole five blocks from work). I thanked the nice lady and hung up. My wife had her heavy coat on and was busily stomping her way up the sidewalk towards the neighbor's house. I got out of the car and fell in line behind her.

"What are we going to do?" I wheezed, struggling to keep up with her.

"We are going to do nothing," she replied. "YOU are going to fix this mess. I vant you to get that man to get our garbage out of that dumpster and take it to the dump, und I vant you to follow him this time like I said before!" She grabbed my arm and dragged me up the street. As we approached Truck Man's house, the door opened and his wife and daughter came out.

"Vhere is your husband?" asked my wife. "Ve gave him good money to take our stuff to the dump and all he did was throw it in this other guy's dumpster. Vhere is he?"

"I didn't have nothin' to do with it," the lady said. "He's at the bar."

My wife turned and made a beeline for the bar (see photo), two houses down the street, steam coming out her nostrils. "I'll get him," she growled.

My beloved, gentle wife then proceeded to go into the bar (at nine-thirty in the morning), holler at this guy in front of everyone, then pretty much grabbed him by the ear and dragged him out into the street, hollering at him the whole way. "Ve gave you good money to do this job," she said, "und you threw all our garbage right here where all sorts of people can paw through it und you kept the thirty dollars for the man at the dump -- you should be ashamed!" She cast me a venomous glance, fire shooting out of her eyes. "Und YOU -- quit giggling!" I quit.

Within fifteen seconds, Truck Man had his truck backed up to the dumpster and was climbing around in the garbage, pulling our bags out and tossing them into the truck. Dagmar was headed back to our house to get our car so we could follow him to the dump. I was standing there, feeling kind of silly... I wanted to help the guy, but I didn't want to get hollered at. Dagmar pulled up with the car, so I got in. I could see in the rear-view mirror that the guy was almost done.

"Okay, I think that's it," said Truck Man, leaning over so he could talk through my wife's window. "I've got all the garbage back in my truck. You guys can go now."

"Oh, no," said my wife. "We're going to watch you take it to the dump!"

Truck Man sighed, then went back to his truck and started fumbling around with a tarp. Once he got the tarp on, he gave us a cheerful wave and started walking towards his house.

"Vhat are you doing?" my wife yelled out the car window. "You have to go to the dump!"

"Oh," the man replied. "You wanted to follow me to the dump NOW? I see..." He got into his truck, and off we went. Half an hour later, Dagmar and I peered through the windshield as Truck Man disappeared off into the City Dump with our garbage.

So... My brilliant idea of "keeping the money in the neighborhood" cost me seventy bucks AND three hours of lost work. Go figger. But the garbage is now gone and my wife is again happy. I am sad, though, that Sioux City's garbage collectors will only take one single garbage can's worth of garbage, and there's no alternative way of getting trash out of your house other than hiring someone to take it to the dump, which is, I thought, what we were paying the garbage collectors to do in the first place... Seems there ought to be a way you can pay the city ten bucks or something to have them haul away a few more bags of trash.

New Years Eve

When did I get old? We were going to go to the Legion Club in LeMars for their steak fry on New Years Eve, but the weather was kinda icky, so we stayed pretty close to home. We had a good time at our friend's house, then we had a good time watching a band play at the local bowling alley, then we went home. New Years Eve, I was home by 11:30.

How sad.

So, to celebrate the new year, I fried up a couple small steaks. Dagmar danced barefoot in the snow at midnight while her mother sang The Viennese Waltz to her over the phone. Really, she did. I took a picture. You can click on it and see a larger version.

We ate our steaks, watched a re-run of Hee-Haw, and went to bed.

You know, I kinda liked it that way... For the last ten or fifteen years I've always been IN the band that's playing on New Years Eve. It's rare that I get to be on the other side of things - able to leave when I want to leave, go where I want to go.

Too bad I wanted to leave soon and go home. Oh well.

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