Monday, October 19, 2009

Getting Away From Julia

"Dad, can you make me a shelf or something... so I can put my Lego sets on it?"

It was the exact phrase that I had been wanting to hear from him for years. Enough years that I had forgotten I wanted to hear it.

I loved Legos when I was a kid. I would ride my bike to the old Black Sheep next to Davis Donuts on 4th Street, and spend every penny of my paper route money on new sets. Once home, I would put them together, take them apart, and put them back together again. I would do it so many times, I wouldn't even need the instructions anymore. In fact, I hardly remember even playing with them once they were together. I was more fascinated by how they were built, and looking at them on the shelf.

From the time my son was born, I started buying him Legos. I wanted him to put them together, and cherish them as I did. Much to my dismay, toddlers are more into destruction than construction. Over time, the sets ended up taken apart in a storage bin, mixed up with all the sets from my childhood. We moved. He grew up a little, but still wasn't ready. We moved again. Not ready. His Mom and I got divorced. The Lego bin went into a storage unit, where it stayed for a year. I finally bought my own house, and the Legos surfaced once again. By this time, I had given up (or just plain forgotten) the notion of building the sets to display. Besides, after everything... I doubted the pieces would even all be there.

Before I knew it, my son turned eight. For his birthday, he ended up getting several Lego sets. After putting them together, he decided he didn't want them thrown back in the bin. It was a huge milestone for me. I immediately got him some under-his-bed storage bins, where he could keep the sets together.

This last summer, he got into watching Lego "stop-motion" videos on Youtube. It's the type of thing I would have loved doing as a kid... a way of bringing your Legos to life. One day, he asked if I would set up a camera for him so he could try it out. Here's what he put together, completely on his own:





I was amazed. And super excited. While he was at his Mom's house, I decided to sort out that huge bin of Legos, so that he'd have all the sets to use for making more movies. I don't know how many hours I spent sorting those pieces out, but to be honest... it was really fun for me. Much to my surprise, even my old sets were still in intact. When he came over next, I loved the look on his face when he saw all those sets... new and old... assembled and ready, props to be used for whatever movie he wanted to make.

We worked together on the next one. Starting out, we really didn't have a story in mind. We just played together, and his five year-old sister helped out as well. Once together, we decided on a plot, and recorded the dialogue. Here's how it came out:



There's always a part of us that wants our kids to do the same things we did. Sadly, often times you see parents trying to force their kids into doing the same things they did. I've realized the best thing I can do for my kids is to expose them to as many things as possible, and encourage them in whatever they're interested in. But I will say that it sure is fun when our childhood worlds collide. :)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Spokefest!

Riding a bicycle for 21 miles used to seem like a long way. I remember riding my bike around the neighborhood, and thinking "Phew! What a workout!"

Times have changed.

A couple weeks ago, Mavis' buddy asked if we'd ride Spokefest with her. After all the riding I've been doing with my new bike, it sounded like a great idea. I also just got a new helmet "action cam" that I figured I'd try out.

The morning of the event was a little hectic, so I ended up attaching the camera at the last minute. Unfortunately, the mount had a bit of wobble to it, and the footage came out a little shaky. Actually, we were having such a great time, I didn't really give much thought to the camera... just as it should be. :)




Here's me a little before Doomsday Hill. You can see the camera under my left hand:


Here's Mavis in the same spot... after getting up at 5:30 A.M., driving to Spokane, playing a tennis match, driving back to Post Falls, getting me, driving back to Spokane, parking, and riding to Riverfront Park by 9:30 A.M.:

She thinks I'm hardcore for biking down hills and off rocks. To me, that seems easy compared to getting up at 5:30 A.M. :)

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Peace Out, Bank of America

I heard that Bank of America is trying to pay back some of the money they received from the bailouts, because they don't want to be under the governments "watchful" eye. Predominately, they still want to be able to pay out-of-touch salaries to executives (read about it here). Hmmm... where are they getting the cash to cover all of this?

I made a few online transfers from my savings into my checking this month. Fairly common occurrence, I would think... and probably doesn't take a whole lot of effort on their part, if any. Today, I check my savings statement, and what do you know:

08/31/09 EXCESSIVE ACTIVITY SERVICE CHARGE -$1.00

Several $1.00 "excessive activity" service charges. For transferring money online.

I know several people who have dumped Bank of America, for various reasons. I think I just found mine.

09/03/09 (EXCESSIVE) EXCESSIVE ACTIVITY SERVICE CHARGE -$ONE LESS CUSTOMER.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Crush the Castle!

Every once in awhile, you come across an incredibly stupid, senseless, waste-of-time online game... that you just can't stop playing. I feel like putting a link to it on my blog is comparable to offering young kids cigarettes. And there's no patches or gum to cure this addiction. :) I tried embedding the actual game, but the size was all messed up.


Friday, August 28, 2009

Interest # 127

Like my motto says, I don't really excel at anything... but I'm kinda okay at a lot of things.

I'm adding mountain biking to that list.

I've never had a nice bike. "Nice", as in... anything that cost over about 100 bucks. When I first got together with Mavis, she had a nice bike. I rode it around a bit, and realized something: you get what you pay for. It was light, easy to maneuver, and had gearing that was functional. She was determined that I needed a nice bike, too. Next thing you know, I'm at REI, where they actually measure you for proper bike "fit". I was torn between a road cruiser and mountain bike, so I thought I'd get something somewhat in between. I wanted to be able to cruise with Mavis, but I also have several buddies that are into mountain biking. I ended up getting a Marin Alpine Trail 29er, the 29er meaning it has larger 29 inch wheels (26 inch is standard). It fits my large frame, has super-cool disc brakes, and best of all... feels incredible to ride. Mavis and I have already gone on several bike rides (including the Hiawatha Trail), and are planning on being part of the upcoming Spokefest in Spokane.

Meanwhile, I've been hitting Beacon Hill in Spokane, which is a very well-known mountain biking destination. This week, I talked Mavis into coming with me so she could shoot some video. So, I now present...

Otis G's third time riding Beacon Hill. Otis G's third time mountain biking, actually. :)

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Afraid of Living in Fear

I'm a fairly optimistic person. But somedays, you've just had enough.

Our government just bailed out huge corporations (ultimately keeping the general population in debt), while several good, hardworking people I know are dealing with unemployment, foreclosure, and/or bankruptcy.

People who could afford to buy huge SUV's a few years ago are now being rewarded with brand new cars... while I continue to drive my '87 beater car because it gets good gas mileage. With the knowledge that anyday, it will die on me... forcing me to probably get a loan for a new car.

Our elected officials continue to debate on the best way to NOT provide healthcare. (Check out this hilarious parody at The Onion.)

So what are we left with? Travel! To get away from it all.

I dropped Mavis off at the Spokane airport this morning. Her flight was at 7:15, so of course we had to get up at buttcrack to get her there in time for all the security checks. She had a small carry-on bag, and a book bag. Unfortunately, the carry-on contained several bottles of potentially harmful liquids (shampoo, lotions, etc.)... so she had to check it to avoid throwing it all away. Turns out, the airlines now charge $20 to check a bag in. Which was a substantial portion of the money she had for the entire trip. All to deter terrorists, who if they're determined... will find a way to do what they want anyway. Hell, the current restrictions would have done nothing to stop the guys who instigated 9/11.

So, we continue to live in fear. People have been saying this for quite some time... but I'm finally starting to believe it, too.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Learning to Let Go

I couldn't wait for the day that my son was old enough to try riding his bike without training wheels. To me, it seemed like one of those "father-son" moments that's imperative to our relationship.

One day, I went to pick him up from daycare, and there he was... riding a bike around the playground - without training wheels. Shocked, I asked his teacher, "When did he learn to do that?" She replied, "Oh! He's been doing that for a couple months now!"

I was devastated. Not only did I miss out on that moment, I also felt like a horrible father for not knowing that he was ready for it. At that moment, I pledged to myself that I wouldn't let that happen again with my daughter.

A couple weeks ago, we all went camping at Farragut State Park... the perfect place to try such a thing. As I watched her cruise up and down the road with her training wheels, I figured she probably wasn't ready. I reluctantly asked her if she wanted to try it, and she excitedly said yes. I wrenched those suckers off, and we were ready to go.

I immediately realized why the bike-riding ritual was so important to me; it's representative of a child's entire life.

I wanted so badly for her to grow up (just a little), but knew I was going to miss seeing my little girl with her training wheels. We started off slow, and made a few passes while I held onto her seat. I could feel her leaning, and sensed that she wasn't ready. At one point, as I will do throughout our lives, I realized what I had to do.

I let go.

And was prepared for her to crash and burn.

When she realized I wasn't there to stop her leaning, she righted herself. Next thing you know, she was riding along... all by herself. I ran alongside, wanting so badly to grab her and make sure she was safe... but I kept a distance, hoping I was close enough to scoop her up if she crashed. She never did. I was so incredibly proud of her...

And at the same time, sad.

I know I will have many such moments with both of my kids, for years to come. All I can do is hope that I will know when they are ready, but most importantly...

Know that sometimes, the best thing you can do for your kids... is to let go. :)


video

Monday, June 29, 2009

Introducing... The Athletic Wimp.

I've never been much of an athlete.

As a youngen, my parents signed me up for t-ball. My first time at bat, I hit the ball... and ran to the pitcher's mound. Then to 2nd base. Then to 1st, across to 3rd... and then home.

A couple games later, I really had to pee... but the restrooms were locked. While playing right field, I couldn't hold it any longer and soaked my pants. After the last out, I ran to the dugout and desperately said "Coach! A sprinkler turned on, and got my pants all wet!" He looked me over and said, "Whatever. You peed your pants!" I sat out the rest of the game in the dugout, wishing I wasn't such a wimp. I only played one season.

In flag football, I got the ball for the first time... and ran to the wrong endzone. I wished I wasn't such a wimp, and only played one season.

In middle school gym class, I was usually the last one picked for dodgeball teams. I was tall, lanky, and not exactly aggressive. I was always terrified of getting hit in the face. So, of course, it happened. I woke up flat on my back, with my glasses nowhere in sight. The gym teacher whisked me off to safety, while looking bewildered at how someone could be such a wimp.

In high school, I played the tuba in band. The closest I got to a sporting event was playing the school fight song in the bleachers. I'd watch the guys playing football and/or basketball, the girls oogling over them, and wished so badly I could be them... instead of a wimp.

After graduating, I joined the Marines. I was 6'4" tall, and weighed 143 pounds. Underweight, as it turned out. I was put on "double rations" to bulk up, which meant I had to eat twice as much as everyone else. Of course, this put me in great graces with the fat kids who had to eat cottage cheese... for every meal. One night, while standing in our underwear for hygiene check, the Drill Instructor looked me over. He paused a moment with a confused look on his face, and belted "What the hell, Recruit? What did you think this was... the Peace Corps?!?" I was probably one the few wimps to successfully become a United States Marine, and I was proud.

Recently, Mavis signed us up at a health club. She wanted me to play racquetball with her, clueless to the fact that I would in no way challenge her. Mavis is very athletic, and plays a lot of tennis and basketball. I reluctantly agreed... being a little weary of her finding out what a wimp I am. At first, she went very easy on me (without me knowing) so I wouldn't get overly frustrated. Eventually, I even "won" a couple matches. Over time, I found myself improving to the point that she was actually getting a workout. I really started feeling confident when I could finally return her "signature" serve, that she masterfully hits into the corner right where I can't get it:


video

Last week, a miracle happened. We hit the court after not having played for awhile, because Mavis was in Arizona visiting her Dad.

Match 1: Mavis won, as usual.
Match 2: I won, by a surprising margin.
Match 3: I narrowly won.
Match 4: Otis G takes it again.
Match 5: Somehow... I won.

I squarely beat her 4 out of 5 matches. I never thought it would be possible, and for the first time I kinda felt like...

An athlete.

I needed my own signature move, and quick. This is all I could come up with.

video

I still think she's probably holding back a bit. But as long as I win once in awhile, I don't mind.

In the "serve" video, you'll notice how I politely ask her to "not hit me". Some things never change. :)

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Neighbors... Being Neighborly?!?

I came home to find this flyer tucked in my front door:


Holy crap! This is the sort of thing neighbors did back in the... like... 1950's! I hope they have a great party, and as far as I'm concerned... if anybody DOES call the cops, THEY'RE the obnoxious ones. :)

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Hiawatha Trail, Back in Action

Anybody who knows me knows that I have many varied and somewhat eccentric interests.

Occasionally, they slam into each other.

Everytime I drive up the St. Joe River from St. Maries, I try to find hints of the old Milwaukee Road roadbed. A couple weeks ago, I came across this book in the Avery fly fishing shop. It's a guidebook on where to find old Milwaukee Road roadbeds throughout Idaho. Part of this route is now the Hiawatha bike trail, that many know of as an extremely popular all-purpose recreation trail on the Idaho/Montana border. I've ridden it a few times now, and I was initially amazed by the fact that anyone had the gumption to build a railroad there in the first place. Now, it's amazing to me how something so spectacular could suddenly cease to exist... almost to the point of oblivion. This book was an incredible find to me; it not only describes how and why the railroad was built... but describes how to get to everything that's left. Amazing.

Of course, the more I read into the Milwaukee Road... the more I wonder what it was actually like seeing trains carve through the Bitterroots. Today, out of nowhere, I stumbled across this video on YouTube. Some german guy made a computer simulation of a Milwaukee Road train traveling between Avery and St. Paul Pass. It's set to electronic music, of course... those germans just gotta have it. Anyone who's ridden the Hiawatha bike trail will recognize the terrain; I think it's incredibly accurate.




And as if that isn't cool enough, he's also made a version showing the Northern Pacific's route over Lookout Pass. I've always wondered whether or not a railroad went over that pass... and if it did, exactly how. Here it is! I think it's especially interesting at 3:28, where it's traveling through Taft, MT (where you get off I-90 to access the Hiawatha Trail). Up in the distance, you can see the Milwaukee Road roadbed veering into the mountains towards St. Paul Pass. Cool.



Railroad modeling, the St. Joe River, and techno music. Who knew? :) That "german guy" has a MySpace page, with even more virtual tours of the Milwaukee Road and other stuff.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Otis G's Guide to Stopped Freeway Traffic


No need to memorize; it happens automatically.
  1. Wonder why semi trucks are driving slowly with their flashers on. Assume that they're confused, and speed around to pass.

  2. Nearly slam into the stopped vehicle in front of you.

  3. Watch vehicles scatter to avoid any possible delay. This includes SUV's and trucks scaling on (and off) ramps and cars crossing the median to turn around. Some just pull over in instant defeat.

  4. Merge into the left lane, because everybody else is.

  5. Get irritated by the people flying by in the right lane, while wishing you were doing the same thing.

  6. Get even more irritated at the people who let them in.

  7. Let someone in from the right lane.

  8. Realize there really was no reason to get in the left lane.

  9. Watch emergency vehicles speed down the shoulder, and wish you could do the same thing.

  10. Feel like the other lane is moving faster, regardless of which lane you're in.

  11. Consider taking an exit. Decide not to, and then immediately wish you had. Repeat at the next exit.

  12. Listen to people honking, and wonder what they possibly hope to accomplish in doing so.

  13. Get extremely agitated when you realize the accident is on the other side of the freeway, and the only reason your side is backed up is from people gawking.

  14. Gawk.

  15. Speed away.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Craving Chaos, In Search of Silence

The radio in my beater commuter car sucks.

I'll be cruising down the highway, singing along with a song, when wham!... it goes dead like it was thrown in a bathtub. It's always temporary, sometimes it comes back on later that day... sometimes it takes a couple days.

I live in Post Falls, my kids go to school in Spirit Lake, and I work in the Spokane Valley. Four times a month I pickup/drop off my kids in Spirit Lake, which ends up being about an hour and a half commute each time. That doesn't include any additional trips to attend baseball games, dance recitals, and everything else parents want to be a part of.

As a result, I do a lot of driving. When my radio first started crapping out, it drove me insane to drive in silence. It felt very disconcerting. Over time, however, I realized what was starting to happen: I was forced to think about things. Sometimes, I'd even find myself talking out loud... as if I was discussing the things I was thinking about, with the person whom it was regarding.

Every time I caught myself doing it, I immediately stopped. In our society, when we think of people talking to themselves, we instantly view them as crazy. I'm fairly confident that I'm not crazy, and even if I am... I don't care. It was highly therapeutic, and helped me work out a lot of stress that I was going through. We all know that writing thoughts down can help get it out of our head... so why wouldn't saying it out loud have the same effect?

It did for me.

All of this brings me to a thought on basic human behavior: Everyday, we are surrounded by chaos. Hectic work places. Busy schedules. Negative news. And... we all hate it. About the only thing that gets us through is the idea that someday, somehow, we'll find a way to "get away from it all". Spend an afternoon at the ocean, hike to a secluded mountain lake, or hang out in the backyard for a lazy weekend.

So... if peace and quiet is what we're longing for... then why do we surround ourselves with chaos? We even do it when we have the occasional opportunity for peace. Many people leave their TV on all the time, for the noise. We crank the music in our cars, to keep our brains occupied. We schedule out every spare second of our lives.

Why? To keep from actually thinking about, or dealing with anything?

We surround ourselves in chaos, while searching for silence.

Now, I find myself enjoying my peaceful commutes. I've also found that with the radio off, I'm more apt to have conversations with whoever is in the car. Something else people tend to try and avoid.

And yeah, okay... I'll admit it. I still wish I had a car radio that works. :)

Monday, June 1, 2009

Who Needs the Month of May?

I just realized I didn't post a single thing in May. Oops. I've got a lot of stuff coming up, bear with me... including some new tunes from the latest 40 ounce J lineup. Wait till you hear Mavis sing our punk rock version of the song "Angel of the Morning"...

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Gotta Love Facebook

I got a new friend request today, with the attached message:

"Hey you! This is (so-and-so)! Remember me? We went to high school together. We were friends... I think."

I confirmed the request, of course. I'm excited to reminisce about all the old memories...

If we have any.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

She Wore a Pearl Necklace

Following my recent teaching experience, I still have one part of the ordeal stuck in my head:

When did kids become so rotten?

I was assured that the class I taught is a "fun" class, so kids aren't always on their best behavior. Still, I don't remember kids being that obnoxious in school... even in "fun" classes. I'm stopping short of saying "When I was your age..."

Then we take it back a few MORE years... let's say... to 1962!

I was perusing my Dad's high school yearbook the other day, and got a few laughs out of it. It was a time when picture day was a big deal, and every girl is wearing a dark dress with a pearl necklace. Every guy is wearing a coat and tie. What a bunch of squares! These people still knew how to shake things up, though. Check out the antics of 'ol Patrica Ann:


Yeah, you definitely wouldn't see the student's home address in the yearbook nowadays. And who can forget good 'ol Fred:



And what did these people do for a swingin' good time, you might ask? Well, I think Dianne had a great pastime:

This guy had a promising yearbook caption:

Golly! I hope he turned out all right. And the man who planted the seed for this post:

What a strapping young fellow. We better throw in my Momma for good measure (from an entirely different geographic location):


Her outfit is a little spicy compared to the chicks at my Dad's school. It's no wonder he held out for her.

Ah... yes. The glory days of 1962. And to top it all off, school violence was unheard of.
Oops. Never mind.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Living Green Isn't Just For Hippies

O'Malley never ceases to amaze me.

He's the epitome of what we term Green. And I don't mean he just recycles cans. He lives his life, everyday, wondering what else he can do to protect the environment. I jokingly call him a "hippy" (which he doesn't appreciate very much, I just think it's fun), but he says living Green really has nothing to do with being a hippy. A few months ago, he took it to a new level... and decided to start a new Green business.

It's a franchise called Clean Air Lawncare, with humble beginnings in Fort Collins, Colorado. Apparently, someone over there decided that gas-powered lawnmowers are a major source of pollution (and noise). They started a new lawn service, using electric mowers and organic fertilizers. The thing took off, and now there are several franchises around the country. O'Malley realized noone had laid claim to the Spokane area yet, and decided to jump onboard. He made a business plan, went to Colorado for training, and a couple weeks ago picked up his first company rig out of Portland. I saw it for the first time today, and immediately noticed the solar panels mounted on the roof. They serve as chargers for the mowers, so the environmental impact is practically zero. Very cool. And... the idea of not having to listen to noisy lawnmowers is quite appealing, too.

I wish him the best, although if the thing takes off... I'll possibly lose my best cubicle friend. But then again, when you have a desk job... mowing lawns sounds pretty good sometimes. I guess I better stop calling him a hippy. :)

He did get me back recently, and found this photo somewhere:


Strange... you'd think I'd remember being at Woodstock. But then again, I don't know if many do. :)

If you think this all sounds good, and live in the Spokane area, shoot O'Malley an email at tavis@cleanairlawncare.com.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

It's Just Not Right.

While I'm waking up to 3 inches of new snow (during our alleged "Spring Break"), Mavis sends me a picture of herself on the Brooklyn Bridge in New York this morning:

The dude behind her in a t-shirt just adds insult to injury. :)

Thursday, March 19, 2009

That's My Boy.

I was missing my kids last night, so I gave them a call. My 7 year-old son got on, and was very excited to tell me something.

"Guess what, Dad? I get to be student of the week at school!"

"Wow, that's cool, guy. Did you do something special to earn that?"

"No, the teacher picked my name out of a hat. I get to pick two other kids to have lunch with me in the classroom next week!"

"That'll be fun! Are you going to pick your friend (so-and-so)?"

"He's not in my class, Dad."

"Oh. How about your friend (so-and-so)?"

"Naw. He's kinda crazy."

"I see. Who are you going to pick then?"

"I think... I'll pick... (so-and-so) and (so-and-so)."

"Well, I've never heard you talk about them before. Are they your friends?"

"No, not really."

"Oh. Then why are you picking them?"

"Because they never get picked by anyone else."




I really can't imagine anything that he could say or do that would make me more proud. :)

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Just Call Me the "Teach"

You never know where I may turn up.

 My girl, Mavis, is a teacher at Lewis & Clark High School in downtown Spokane. She teaches English, video production, and produces the school news program. They had been using Pinnacle software for video editing, but recently switched over to Adobe Premiere. Mavis wasn’t exactly Premiere savvy, but coincidentally… it’s the same software I use to edit all of my video. She asked if I’d be interested in being a guest teacher for a day, and talk to the students about the basics of using Premiere.

 As always, I’m easily talked into doing things.

 Actually, I was kinda excited about it. I hadn’t really stepped foot in a high school since… well… high school.

I reported to the office of the school, and let them know that I was there to be a guest speaker for Mavis. They seemed a little suspicious of me, probably due to the fact that I was holding a huge vase of flowers (it was Valentine’s day, and I was multi-tasking.) Regardless, I got my Visitor Pass, and found my way to the classroom. Mavis seemed a little surprised that I actually showed up. I think she figured I’d chicken out. Maybe she was surprised by the flowers. She probably figured I’d chicken out.

We wandered the halls a bit, and shot some footage to use for the classes. It was lunchtime, and there were kids sprawled out everywhere… talking on their phones, texting, and listening to iPods. You know, important skills to learn as a youngster, to use as an adult in grocery store checkout lines. It felt a little odd to be randomly videotaping, but Mavis assured me it was perfectly normal. I guess being under constant surveillance is something else kids get used to at an early age these days.

Back in the classroom, Mavis got me setup on the “teacher” computer. Students started filing in, and didn’t seem overly surprised that I was there. I watched as one kid tried to mutilate his iPod headphones in the paper chopper.  Mavis was too busy arguing with another kid about his crappy grade to notice.

The bell-replicating device rang, and class started. Mavis introduced me, and I was feeling confident… until a girl chimed out “is he your BOYFRIEND?!?” Mavis reluctantly said yes, and the entire class resounded “Awwww…. “ A girl in the front row remarked “You’re such a cute couple!” I was a little nervous about where this discussion might lead, so I quickly changed the subject. “Okay, go ahead and turn on your computers, and start up Adobe Premiere.”

Surprisingly, everybody did.

For three classes, I exposed several kids to an hours’ worth of the Otis G Experience. After the last student bailed out of the classroom, Mavis assured me that I did a great job.

Of course, that’s what you say to your boyfriend… whether they did or not. I think I did okay, but I can tell you one thing that’s for certain…

Teachers are incredibly underpaid. I was seriously exhausted after doing only three classes. It takes a lot of energy to hold the attention of a room full of teenagers.

The only awkward moment: I was showing the kids how to make a music video, and one of them requested a song that I just happened to have. I grabbed some random footage to go with it, and hit play. The song went “let the bodies hit the floor”… over a shot of all the teachers eating lunch.

Yeah. Not too cool. But entirely unintentional.

Mavis, after realizing we made it through the day... and that I won't be in a classroom again anytime soon.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Not the Prettiest Drag Queen

I'm easily talked into things.

Some of my buddies at work had something special planned for an upcoming Mardi Gras fundraiser. Someone had bailed out on the deal, so I was asked if I was interested in helping out. As always, I threw myself onto the wagon.

The first sign of trouble was when my daughter wondered why her Daddy would be looking for a dress at Value Village. She kept peeking under the dressing room door, with a giggly confusion. I also found it's pretty hard to find size 12 high heels, and ended up settling on some chunky brown sandals.

At the big event, I decided to give it my all. I would be dancing to "If I Could Turn Back Time", by Cher. I wanted to be sexy and sultry.

I ended up looking boxy, clumsy, and masculine. I never realized how broad my shoulders are, until I saw myself in an evening gown.

I guess I don't make a very sexy girl. But I've also been told that's not necessarily a bad thing. I may not be the prettiest drag queen... but I apparently got the "sympathy vote" from someone. While changing backstage, I realized somebody had stuck a $20 bill in my cleavage. :)

If you don't want to watch the whole thing, check it out at 3:10, and the ending. Regulars here will also recognize another otisGexperience guest appearance by my cubicle neighbor, O'Malley (he got the "cutest" vote). And all the others? Let's just say they're mostly government employees from the greater Spokane area.


Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Telstar, Joe Meek, and joltinjoe

This last Christmas, I received a very thoughtful present. It's the book "Singles, Six Decades of Hot Hits & Classic Cuts", by Johnny Black. It's basically an overview of all the music singles that topped the charts for the last 50 years. It's fun for me to, for example, look up 1962 and see what music was popular during that year. Since popular music somewhat reflects the sentiment of the period, I think it's one of the best ways to get a feel for the era... without having lived it. Obviously, most of the songs from before the 70's I've never heard of, so it's fun to get on Google or YouTube and look 'em up. It's amazing to me that some of the songs were even hits.

While reading it last night, I came across a full page spread for "Telstar", by the Tornadoes. It was the first British instrumental single to top the charts in America, so I figured it would be an amazing song. Here's the Tornadoes performing it:



Okay, first impressions: Weird song. Somewhat catchy melody, but doesn't exactly seem "mass-media" exciting to me. What interested me much more than the song, was the story on the facing page... about the guy who wrote it.

Joe Meek. (Check him out on Wikipedia here.) Talk about a weird, but fascinating guy. The dude didn't even play any instruments, but wrote hundreds of singles... many of which were chart toppers. He was a closet homosexual ( since it was illegal in Britain at the time), and pioneered many advances in recording techniques. He was also convinced that he could speak with dead rock stars (like Buddy Holly), and would set up recording devices in cemetaries to try and capture voices. It all ended in 1967 when he shot his landlady, and then shot himself... at the age of 37. Apparently, I'm not the only one who finds him interesting, as his life is currently being made into a film. I'll definitely be checking that one out.

While searching "Telstar" on YouTube, I came across this cute little montage video that "joltinjack" made here. What really struck me, though, was the kids description for the video:

I dedicate this video to my Dad. He inspired me to pursue mathematics and science, while at the same time, to appreciate the arts. He is a great father.

Exactly what I hope my kids say about me someday. :)

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Everyone Hearts the 80's?!?

During house parties of the past, I've always thought it would be cool (and funny) to have random 80's music videos playing in the background. I once tried compiling YouTube videos (using SaveTube), but it was always too much work for something so cheesy. I have seen 80's music video DVD's at the store, but they never quite had the "random" selection I was hoping for.

My friends, today I made an incredible discovery.

Check out thegreat80s.com. You will find 80's culture, TV shows, and even classic video games that you can actually play.

Of course, there's also the crown jewel...

The random 80's music video player. This thing could keep you entertained throughout the workday! (Uhhh... I mean weekend.)

Rest easy, comrades. I've got you covered.


Otis G (on the right), circa late 80's, with Gary Coleman and my little brother! We were awesome. You can kinda see the "Limpies" logo on my hat, which was my trademark symbol throughout the 80's... seein' as how I didn't get laid until the 90's. :)

Here it is again, in my senior picture, circa 1992!

And speaking of my little brother, this one's for you:


Yeah, I know. I tend to get off track sometimes.

Let Them Eat Cake, While I Eat Cheesecake!

Last summer, my friend's friend had a tree blow over during a windstorm. It kinda sucked, cause my friend's friend was out of town on vacation when it happened. Not only did it knock out her power, but my friend was worried about her having to deal with the mess when she came back. So, she asked if I could go over with a chainsaw to cut the thing up, and I was happy to do so.

My friend's friend was so appreciate when she came back, she ended up giving me a couple gift cards. One of them was for $50 at The Cheesecake Factory, which was kinda cool since I hadn't been to the new one in Coeur d'Alene. Unfortunately, unbeknowst to me, it had already closed down. Come to find out, the one in Spokane was gone as well. Not really knowing what else to do with it, I threw the gift card in a box with several others... and forgot about it.

Tonight, as I was paying some bills, I came across it again. I glanced at the back of it, and realized I could use it online. I was hoping that they maybe had some cool kitchen stuff, but quickly found that your only option... is to buy cheesecake! (Hmmm.) What the hell, I figured. Nothing like some fancy cheesecake to go with my Tuna Helper.

When the "shopping" screen came up, I was shocked to find that most of them were $40 to $50 apiece. Seemed pretty pricey, but whatever (didn't exactly have a lot of options). I picked out this delicious-looking chocolate number, and proceeded to the checkout screen. Little did I know, it costs around $25 to ship a cheesake. Grand total? Around $75. Yeah, no thanks.

I browsed a bit more, and found a smaller banana cheesecake for the bargain price of... $23. With shipping, it came to a measley $49.90.

So, in a couple days, I'll hopefully be getting the thing in the mail. And while the rest of the population is losing their jobs and wondering how to pay their bills, I'll be chowing down on $50 banana cheesecake.

Feel free to stop by for a piece, population. :)

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Digg Reel!

Now, like many of you out there, I do find myself occassionally perusing YouTube videos. Sometimes, though, I get tired of watching a bunch of crappy videos to find the good ones. I always thought it would be cool if there was a "America's Funniest Home Videos" show, specifically for internet videos. Without the lame host, of course.

My prayers have been answered. For anyone who hasn't heard of this yet, I proudly present... The Digg Reel.



Check out the latest episodes here.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Wow. Fun.

My daughter is a puzzle fanatic. She'll do the same "Hello Kitty" puzzle 5 times, in one sitting. I decided she could use a new one, so I took her to the game/puzzle store in the Valley mall yesterday. While she perused the Disney princess and Tinkerbell section, I considered buying a big-kid one for myself.

I found a three-dimensional globe puzzle, that was super cool. The $45 price tag was not incredibly cool. I looked at the 1000-2000 piece puzzles... and decided I was looking for an evening of fun, not 6 months of dedication. Then... I came across The Beatles album cover collection. Now, that could be kinda fun... until you realize... they put out this obscure little record called The White Album.

I can imagine the infomercial for this sucker:

"Just what you've been waiting for... The Beatles White Album... as a puzzle! Most puzzles have distinct colors, shapes, and lines, that are a joy to try and fit together. Not this one! Imagine the hours of family fun you'll have while you pluck completely white pieces out of a box full of completely white pieces, and wonder if you'll EVER find any that fit together!"


"Act now, supplies are limited. And... if you call in the next 5 minutes, we'll throw in the perfect compliment... Metallica's Black Album puzzle. You only have to pay the $6.95 shipping and handling!"


Of course, now, if I ever put out an album, I'll keep in mind it's future puzzle marketing potential. Maybe I'll make it completely blue...

Yeah, I know, Weezer already did that. But mine will be very innovative... COMPLETELY blue. :)

Side note: I was just looking at the White Album puzzle photo, and realized it says "100-piece double sided". Does that mean the backs of the pieces are white, too? Phew. Wouldn't want it to be TOO easy.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Sometime Around Midnight

Sometimes, you hear a song that pierces your soul.

A couple weeks ago, I heard just such a song. After hearing it on the radio several times, I just had to find out who it was by. There's some websites where you can try to find a song just by typing in some lyrics (like lyrster), but I really had a hard time remembering how they went. The singer has kind of a rambling, mumbly voice... somewhat like my own. Maybe that's what drew me to it. Eventually, it came on at a time when I could really pay attention and write some down.

It's starts off with a dark, tormented strings line... that fades into a beautiful, hopeful guitar line. And then the singer somewhat "talks" the lyrics, and it gradually builds into a frustrated rant at the end. Another thing I like about it is that there is no repeated chorus, which defies standard songwriting.

The song is "Sometime Around Midnight", by The Airborne Toxic Event. Check it out.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Supreme Chancellor of Typing!

I was a total geek in high school. I played the tuba. I was in advanced math classes. I was too afraid to go to dances. But, besides ALL that...

I was proud to be the fastest typer in keyboarding class.

It was slightly old school, we actually used electric typewriters. I think it was about the time that schools were trying to figure out how to integrate this new-fangled computer thing.

Ever since, I would occasionally find myself looking at a roadside sign, and typing it out in my head. I felt stupid for doing so.

Recently, during lunchtime at work, some co-workers were having a typing contest. Someone found a website that "tests" you on words per minute, and number of mistakes. They wanted me to give it a shot, and I reluctantly sat down. I do a fair amount of typing at work, but I didn't have very high expectations.

Much to my surprise, I got 80 WPM, with 3 mistakes. Yeah. Turns out, I'm the office typing champ.

I actually felt like I could have done better. Today I tried it again, and got 93 WPM, with no mistakes. Awesome.

Yup, I'm still a geek. Click below to try it for yourself. And I would add that I'm more of a "sprint" typist, not sure how I would fare in a typing "marathon"... :)

93 words

Monday, January 19, 2009

American History, Generation X

Today is January 19th, my 35th birthday. I joke with people to enjoy their day off, due to my birthday being a national holiday.

Everybody knows better.

I’m nobody special. I’m a white, working-class, thirty-something suburbanite, just like almost everybody else. Regardless, I’ve spent my life trying to be someone special, using every medium my generation has embraced. I write blog posts. I make YouTube videos. I write and play music. All with the hopes of leaving some mark on the world.

Just like almost everybody else.

I grew up in North Idaho, a million miles away from the Mexican border, the south, and the culture of the east and west coast. The only culture I experienced was what was spewed from MTV and evening cop dramas. Apparently, “culture” meant gangster rappers and drug-dealing Mexicans. If that was it, I was glad to be tucked safely away among my fellow white people in the mountains of the Northwest.

Unfortunately, it also made a convenient hideaway for a little group of haters, called the Aryan Nations.

They would occasionally have parades through downtown Coeur d’Alene, sporting swastikas and young children. It was a confusing time for a white community, who knew that hatred for different cultures was wrong… but had never really personally experienced exactly why. So, they whole-heartedly tried to ignore the escapade, but wanted the world to know it was being ignored… which ultimately resulted in the national media focusing on “those racist bastards” who dominated North Idaho.

It never really made sense to me. You might as well parade around the desert, and tell a herd of cattle how much you hate dolphins. The Aryan Nations eventually went away, but their stigma stained North Idaho for years to come.

When I joined the Marines at age 19, I looked forward to leaving North Idaho, and meeting people of varied cultures. I wanted to find out for myself if what I grew up watching on TV was true. At that point in my life, I had never even met a person who wasn’t white. I stepped on a plane and bid farewell to my white safety, at least for awhile. On the plane, I sat next to someone who was flying back to California. He asked me where I was from, and I proudly stated that I was from North Idaho. His response? “Oh, nice. At least you don’t have to worry about niggers up there.”

I was speechless. I realized that being from Idaho, I was going to be perceived as racist. I was also saddened to realize not all “haters” wore swastikas, but sometimes sported briefcases and business suits.

In boot camp, I was excited to be placed in a culturally diverse platoon. Although, it made me nervous. I wasn’t sure how to act. If I asked innocent questions, like “if your skin is black, can you still get sun burnt?”, would I get my teeth knocked out? In the end, it didn’t really matter. Boot camp wasn’t exactly conducive to dinnertime conversation. We were lucky to have time to polish our boots. And besides, Marine Corps boot camp was not the place to examine equality. We were all treated equally worthless, regardless of race.

After graduating, I was shipped to Ft. Sill, Oklahoma for artillery school. Once again, I was glad to see several African-American Marines. And here, I thought I would have time to maybe get to know some of them. I never had the chance.

As soon as we arrived, they all segregated themselves to the corner of the room. It was deemed “the ghetto”, and unfortunately for the rest of us… was located right at the entrance to the head (bathroom). Any white guy who had the misfortune of needing to go to the bathroom, had to weave through the taunts and insults of the ghetto. To make it worse, while the rest of us cleaned the barracks to get the weekend off, the ghetto was busy wrestling around, trashing the place. One time, we didn’t get the weekend off. Because of the ghetto.

I started to wonder if what I saw on TV as a kid was, in fact, a true reality. I went back to the white safety of Idaho, and several years went by.

I lived in Portland for awhile, in the predominately caucasion suburb of Beaverton. One night, I drove through the “black” part of downtown, out of curiosity. I was later told if I wanted to live, I better stay the hell out of there. I did. I once again returned to the white safety of Idaho, and several years went by.

A few years ago, I went to visit my aunt in St. Louis. I was excited to visit the University district, after hearing it was culturally diverse. I found my way there, and for the first time in my life, experienced what I had always wondered possible.

There were Muslims. Latinos. African Americans. Everything I’d never seen in Idaho. They were all shopping, walking among each other, and surprisingly… talking to each other. And the best part?

Nobody seemed to really think anything of it. Just the naïve white guy from Idaho.

I felt hope for America. At the same time, I also wondered why this wasn’t the norm for America. I returned to the boring, white safety of Idaho. Several years went by.

Before Obama, I had never voted for a President. Ever. I was committed to holding out for someone who inspired me, who I thought would change the world for the better. Obama did that to me. He seemed like an inspiring leader, a refreshing new way of thinking. Honestly, the fact that he’s black wasn’t really a factor. I wanted to focus on the man, not the origin. But you know what?

I’m proud to say that the first man to excite me enough to vote is, in fact, black.

It’s about damn time.

Last night, I saw Clint Eastwood’s new movie, “Gran Torino”. He plays an old war vet, whose neighborhood is overrun with foreigners. The same people he was raised to hate, and ordered to kill as a soldier. From the beginning of the movie, he calls them every horrible, derogatory slang term you can imagine… and the audience laughed. Initially, I cringed, and was reminded that I was still in my naïve, white Idaho.

Eventually, I found myself laughing, too. Most of the terms he uses are so old-fashioned, so ridiculous. And I realized that with the election of a black President, we are that much closer to those words being exactly what they should be - laughable ignorance. It was an incredible movie, that everyone should see. I won’t give it away, but in the end… you’re blown away by what Clint Eastwood does to protect the very people he was bred to hate.

Today, I watched another fitting Martin Luther King Day movie, “Crash”. Another great example of people wanting so bad to hate , while continuously “crashing” into each other lives. And finally realizing they all depend on each other.

Tomorrow, we’ll have a new President.

Best of luck to you, President Obama. Make jobs. Fix the economy. Figure out what’s supposed to happen in Iraq.

And make this white, working-class, thirty-something nobody from North Idaho feel like he left a mark on the world… by voting for you.

Embrace this opportunity, America. Remember why it’s a big deal, and think about why it shouldn’t be.

Friday, January 9, 2009

High Heels... For Boys!

Men don't understand women's obsession with shoes.

They always seem to have 1,378 pairs. High heels, boots, tennis shoes... and other assorted "foot coverings". Like most guys, I probably have around 5 pair. In years past, I've had 2. We just don't get excited about such things. So I wondered, what is it that guys get excited about?

T-shirts.

I have probably 30 t-shirts hanging in my closet. Some of them I've never worn. Some of them were bought purely on a whim. Some of them I paid too much for, while others were absolute bargains. And granted, some of them should have been retired years ago.

Sound familiar, ladies?

This is all coming about because I was at the Hot Topic in the Valley Mall a couple days ago, and picked up this gem:


Straight from the clearance pile, for $7.00. Awesome. :) For now, it's displayed proudly in my work cubicle, for all to see.