Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Y2K With a Native Flare

Do you remember Y2K?

Computer systems with internal calendars programmed to treat the two-digit year double-zero as 1900 would not know how to process the impending change to the year 2000. All hell would break loose as financial systems collapsed, airplanes fell from the sky, governments across the globe gradually fell into anarchy with each passing hour, and Ted Nugent basked in the bunkered glory of being hailed the smartest man in America.

Fortunately, those things didn't happen all at the same time. Financial systems have collapsed, only certain governments have fallen into anarchy, and fewer airplanes have fallen from the sky than expected. Ted Nugent? Well, it's reassuring to know some things don't change.

For my part, I spent the majority of 1999 nursing the fears of the health system for which I worked. Because I knew how to format a newsletter and create fancy Excel spreadsheets, somehow that qualified me to research every last bit of technology the company owned to determine whether or not we should expect our medical equipment to suddenly stop working on January 1st. Halfway through the year, when the horrid individuals to whom I reported completely lost their tenuous hold on reality, it became necessary for me to contact the manufacturers of all electrical equipment to request letters assuring us Y2K would not affect their functioning.

Pulse oximeters, hospital beds, heart monitors, scales, wheelchairs, telephones, pagers, calculators -- nothing was too insignificant to be overlooked. Lamps, for God's sake... Lamps!!! Simply because they plugged into outlets, I had to catalog every lamp at all of our facilities and document the fact these devices that are only one step more technologically complex than a potted plant would not erupt in flames at midnight on December 31st, 1999.

I hoped at the very least for something somewhere at some point to fizzle and pop. Nothing life threatening, just enough to help justify months of work. But all was calm and quiet, and all those efforts were for naught.

Abbreviated translation:
"Holy crap! The world is ending!!"
And here we are again, facing yet another pending cataclysm thanks to an administrative-level Mayan who got a hand cramp when he reached the end of 2012 while carving out the calendar. Judging by the success of the Maya Empire, he could have saved himself time and quit somewhere in the 10th century.

Regardless of the fact the Maya people did not actually predict the end of the world, sales of bunker building supplies is at an all-time high and millions of people all over the world reportedly are working themselves into a frothy state of apocalyptic apoplexy. If these poor slobs are going to put so much stock in old calendars left lying about, then I have an old desktop calendar from 2007 that should scare the bejeezus out of them. According that thing thing we should all have been raptured nearly five years ago.

Plus, even if the Maya culture did make an end-of-the-world prediction, whose to say they weren't completely wacked out of their minds? Jules Verne predicted the invention of the taser, videoconferencing, solar sails, electric submarines, and news podcasts. The Mayans couldn't predict a 200-year drought or being conquered by the Spanish. Even Mitt Romney isn't that bad at predicting the future.

So, I don't know about you, but this Friday night I plan to enjoy time with friends and not sweat out the doom and gloom sooth-saying of a long-deceased civilization. Besides, Jersey Shore was just cancelled and we haven't heard a peep out of Ted Nugent in months. How bad off can the world be?

© 2012 Mark Feggeler

Monday, December 17, 2012

Exercise Shmexercise...

Some people go the gym looking like they have no need for it. I see those frustratingly healthy folks five mornings a week without an ounce of fat on their bodies and I want to smack the crap out of them.

Other people go to the gym looking like they accidentally stumbled into the place while trying to find the nearest all-night bakery. I fall into this latter category. Four mornings of 500-calorie-burning, 22-mile-distance-covering RPM classes in the indoor cycling room, plus one morning on the treadmill, and I still rival the Pillsbury Doughboy for body shape and muscle tone.

I know what you're going to say:

   "Cut out the carbs!"

   "Count your calories!"

   "Stop eating 27 ounces of dark chocolate every day!"

Now that you've got that out of your system, let's start the return trip from LaLa Land with acceptance of the fact I will never, never, ever, never cut carbs out of my diet.

Bread, for example, is awesomely delicious and last I checked, most breads are made of carbs. And not just regular old white bread used to make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, carbs can be found in many different varieties of bread. Bagels, banana bread, challa, ciabatta, dinkelbrot, doughnuts, hushpuppies, hoecakes, monkey bread, matzah, pretzels and pumpernickel all are wonderfully effective methods for delivering carbs to my belly. If bread is delicious, and bread is made of carbs, ipso facto carbs are delicious.

It's not as though I haven't made the effort in the past to scale back. I've tried wraps but they aren't satisfying. I've eaten vegetarian burgers without the bun, but every time I do I end up wondering why I did it. And not to go all religious on you, but Jesus didn't tell the disciples he was the gluten-free, sugar-free, rice-flour, non-cross-contaminated specialty diet loaf of life. He said he was the bread of life. How much more of a product testimonial do you need than that?

Maybe making better fashion choices would help my self-esteem.

Just the other day, not long after cycling like a maniac for 50 minutes and feeling really good about myself, there I was walking the dog down the street wearing white socks, black sandals, gray shorts, bright red sweatshirt, and a sweat-stained black baseball cap, with my hand shoved down my pants to free a fistful of leg hairs from the deathgrip my cycling underwear had on them. It's difficult at times like that not to suddenly experience an overwhelming self-awareness. All I needed to complete the ensemble was to drool a little and urinate on myself.

I must face the fact I will never be the trim, wavy-haired, strutting-around-the-locker-room-naked-because-he's-totally-comfortable-with-his-body kind of guy. I will forever be the pudgy, balding, one-towel-to-cover-my-fat-ass-and-a-second-towel-to-drape-over-my-shoulders-to-hide-my-moobs kind of guy. I will always leave the gym after a strenuous workout looking like a dishevled, crazy, homeless man who just ran five city blocks to outrun the cops.

© 2012 Mark Feggeler

Monday, December 10, 2012

Knife-Wielding Children

It was declared the other night by My Lovely Wife while dining at Vito's that the boys could cut their own food from here on out.

To be fair, it isn't as though the boys squawk like baby birds for us to cut up their food into bite-size portions, and we're not intentionally trying to pamper them. It comes down to a matter of efficiency. We are efficient cutters of food, they are not. We have the ability to cut hot pizza with a knife without sending bits of it flying across a restaurant and blinding fellow diners with scalding tomato sauce. Their level of proficiency at this same task is questionable.

I suppose history will show one of our great failings as parents is not having taught our children to properly use knives. When I see the boys attempting to cut anything from steak to potatoes, I can't help thinking they'd experience greater success bashing their food with sticks and rocks in order to break off easily digestible pieces. Even Our Daughter, who recently started driving, looks as though her hand-eye coordination suffers a seven-second delay whenever she tries to use a knife.

When the children were very young, it made perfect sense not to place serated steak knives next to their plates. After all, when your diet consists primarily of fish sticks, chicken tenders, applesauce and string cheese, there really isn't much call for cutlery. But, as they have grown and their diets become slightly more sophisticated (no more fish sticks), we find we can't leave them weaponless and have them lifting large chunks of grilled meat to their mouths and tearing at it with their teeth. They need the right tools and the training to apply them correctly to the task at hand.

The Italian will welcome this change, I expect. He is passively-aggressively independent and always eager to prove his self-sufficiency. I believe the German, however, secretly enjoys our taking the reins and managing the food-cutting, if for no other reason than it allows him to keep his hands clean. He is a fastidious little bugger at the best of times. One night, several years ago, we were dining at Olive Garden when he decided to survey the table.

"Who had a breadstick?" the German asked.

We each raised a greasy-fingered hand in the air.

"Then you all need to wash your hands," he ordered.

So, now begins a new chapter of our lives as parents, a chapter in which we move away from plastic knives and safety scissors, pack away the Disney character plates and bowls, and treat our children as dining equals capable of cutting their own food.

Maybe we should plan on serving soup for the next few months...

© 2012 Mark Feggeler

Happy Anniversary!

Not a proper post, I realize, but a great way to say Happy Anniversary to My Lovely Wife and thank her for 18 years of wedded bliss!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Skinny Pants

Pants are tricky things.

You can't even purchase identically marked pairs from the same manufacturer with any assurance each will fit you as well as the other. Hanging in my closet at this very moment are two pairs of Levi's, both marked thirty-six (shut up) by thirty-two and aquired on the very same day at the very same store, yet one pair fits perfectly and the other pair causes any of a variety of medical conditions, including diminished circulation, acid reflux, diarrhea, loss of appetite, and depression.

My prime time for wearing skin tight jeans was a brief window that lasted from 9:57am to 3:42pm on March 12, 1986. When that window closed, and increasingly so as the years have progressed, it became morally irresponsible of me to don tight-fitting pants. The more my natural form is left to the imagination, the better a place the world becomes. Therefore, the slimmer of the supposedly identical pants remains hidden away in the closet to be saved for those days on which I can button them without experiencing light-headedness.

The Italian does not subscribe to this theory when it comes to his own form. After all, being in the fifth grade, he has the luxury of existing primarily in a world of oblivious 11-year-olds. The girls have not yet transformed into the style-conscious butterflies middle school will make of them, and the boys are more focused on ultra cool things like dirt and origami ninja stars than they are on what clothes their friends are wearing. This creates an awareness vacuum in which children are able to wear their favorite clothes, regardless of how bizarre or poorly fitting they are, with little fear of mockery.

Which is why the Italian frequently must be rescued, against his will, from certain articles of clothing in his wardrobe. Being a typical American child, his closet is stocked with far too many choices for him to wear, even if he decided to wear a different outfit each day of the year. Despite the expansive selection available to him, he regularly chooses the same shirts over and over again. One shirt, in particular, has survived several recent purges led by My Lovely Wife. It is a gray t-shirt with a screenprint image of a drum set. If he could, he would glue the shirt to his body.

One recent wardrobe casualty was a pair of jeans that had hung around a few months longer than necessary. To label them "flood pants" would be an insult to flood pants, but showing off his ankles was not their biggest failing.

The Italian, you must understand, is a bone-skinny kid. He's so skinny, zombies wouldn't waste time trying to eat him if they ran him down during the apocalypse. If anything, they'd probably offer him a spare limb to eat. Because he is so darned skinny, not only do we need to buy slim-cut pants for his emaciated frame, the pants also need to have elastic built into the waistline so he can draw them to fit his five-and-a-half-inch circumference.

But skinny pants are not outgrown gradually. One day they fit perfectly, the next day the Italian looks like he's been shrink-wrapped in too little denim.

He vocally protested the expulsion of the skinny pants and made several futile efforts to model them for us in the hope we would change our minds and agree they did not make him look like a disco-era reject or a Christmas ornament with blue pipe cleaners for legs. His argument fell on deaf ears and the pants were added to the donation pile in the basement.

On a positive note, it does seem like his appetite has improved now that he's wearing pants that allow food to settle into his digestive system.

© 2012 Mark Feggeler