Overheard at Work

A few years back my employer held an all-hands meeting to discuss, …um, I can’t remember. Probably some corporate crud. One of the few things I remember from it was our store manager asking all employees to write down names of people who make work fun. I was one of three lucky winners. It felt pretty cool to be recognized by my peers, even if only for my overall goofiness. However, I’ve come to the realization that most people aren’t really entertained by me, but instead by listening to me talk on the phone to my family. I do this almost every day at work on my lunch break, and lately lots of co-workers have mentioned the enjoyment they get out of this. So, below is not exactly what people have heard any particular time at work, but I’d say a fair approximation of what it’s like to listen to me on the phone with the family.

(Eight-year-old answers phone)

“Hi, kiddo. How are you?”

“Awesome. Are you doing all of your schoolwork?”

“Well, make sure you get it all done. What else is going on today?”

“Sure, Red (imaginary friend) can come over to play.”

“Oh, I’m sorry Oh-No (imaginary husband) is in California, you must miss him.”

“Sure, Casper (imaginary friendly ghost) can sleep over. I love you.”

(Puts thirteen-year-old sister on phone)

“Hi, sweets. How’s it going?”

“I get off work at (insert clock-out time here). I should be home soon after unless I have to go shopping.”

“No, I’m not getting you a croissant today. How about we look up some croissant recipes, you’re a great cook.”

“I know you like the store-bought kind, but I can’t buy one every time. Maybe if you ate your vegetables I’d get them more often.”

“Yeah, I was a picky eater, too. I love you and I’ll see you soon.”

(Hands phone off to seventeen-year-old sister)

“Hey, boo. How’s school?”

“I get off work at (insert clock-out time here). I should be home soon afterwards unless I go shopping.”

“I already have your tomato sauce in the cabinet.”

“We just made mac-n-cheese, I’ll get more cheddar next week.”

“No, I can’t bring Corey (Fogelmanis), he’s not here.”

“That meet-and-greet is six states away, but if he comes to town I’ll try to take you there.”

“No I can’t take off work and drive you there to see Corey. It costs money and you don’t have it.”

“Okay, I love you. Hold the phone up to your brother’s ear and let me say hi.”

(Holds phone up to seventeen-month-old)

“Hi, big boy. How are you? Daddy loves you. Can you say, ‘Daddy’?”

“No, not covfefe, Daddy!”

“I love you.”

(Big sister gets back on.)

“Okay, put the little girl on. I love you.”

(Four-year-old takes the phone.)

“Hi jewels, I love you.”

“You’re so sweet. Are you doing school?”

“Awesome. I’m very proud of you.”

“No, I’m not buying a cat.”

“Mommy’s allergic to cats.”

“You don’t want Mommy to sneeze, do you?”

“Well, I don’t want Mommy to sneeze!”

“Just play with your toy cats. Play with Marie and Scatts.”

“I love you, too, big girl.”

(Mommy takes the phone.)

“Hi, sweetie. How are you holding up?”

“I get off at (insert clock-out time here). I’ll call before I leave in case you need me to buy anything.”

“Hang in there, sweetie. I love you.”

There, that – in a nutshell – is what it’s like to listen in on one of my break time phone calls to the family. I hope I’ve offered you as much entertainment as my co-workers.

Magnificent Seven: Game of Thrones edition

I’m a big fan of George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire – the source material for HBO’s Game of Thrones series. Of course you already knew that as a GoT fan. And if you’re not a GoT fan, you didn’t even click in to read this post. So why the heck am I writing this???

Anywho, I’ve also enjoyed much of the HBO series apart from the over-the-top sex scenes. It has been an amazing show to watch over the years and I decided to dedicate this entry to the show, especially considering I haven’t posted a Magnificent Seven list on any blogs for quite some time. Please keep in mind I’ve only seen the first four seasons in their entirety, but have largely kept up with the series as a whole during seasons five and six thanks to YouTube.

But before we get to the actual list of seven questions that must be answered in the remaining two seasons, let’s check out the honorable mentions (which have a couples theme): Will Tormund and Brienne get together? He’s clearly interested even though she is obviously less so. However, the possible end of the world is approaching from the north, such a situation may foster a relationship. How about Jamie and Brienne? Yes, this seems more likely. Sure, the physical attraction may not be there but there is definitely something brewing that is much deeper and more meaningful than a physical relationship between these two warriors. Will Missandea and Grey Worm get together? How would that work, mechanically speaking? I’d hate to think of the special effects necessary to portray that scene! And who shall be the Queen in the North? Lady Mormont? I can’t think of a fiercer queen for Jon Snow other than a wildling, and with Ygritte dead Jon has no one right now.

Okay, enough of that…on to the list:

7.) Will Gendry make a return?

Okay, I’m focusing a bit more on the books here, but the show certainly hinted at the developing relationship between Robert Baratheon’s bastard and Arya during their time with the Brotherhood. Book-wise, Brienne came across Gendry with the Brotherhood and recognized him as the son of the former king. You have to figure someone else in the Brotherhood must see it as some of them came with Lord Beric from the court at King’s Landing. I’m hoping for Gendry to return and perhaps show he’s inherited some of Robert’s prowess on the field.

6.) Will Jamie turn from Kingslayer to Queenslayer?

This one seems like a bit of a stretch. Then again, Jamie killed the Mad King to prevent the burning of the city. Cersei has shown she’s more than capable of making the decision to order mass destruction for her own ends. Given that Jamie’s character arc in both the show and books has been what I consider the most complex, the internal conflict will be great drama on a show known for precisely that.

5.) Will Clegane-bowl occur?

This is a fan favorite. The old theory was that Gregor would serve as Cersei’s champion while The Hound would serve as the Faith’s champion. Now that Cersei has dispatched the High Sparrow that won’t be the way this dysfunctional family affair plays out. But I think the Clegane brothers will absolutely cross paths, especially since Sandor was last seen with the Brotherhood, whose leader on the show was sent specifically to apprehend The Mountain.

4.) Will Sam become a wizard?

Sam’s ultimate wish is to become a wizard, he said so himself. Although most maesters from the Citadel don’t believe in the idea of magic, some clearly do, such as Qyburn. Will he find what he needs in that vast repository of knowledge? As we know from Maester Luwin it is possible to study magic at the Citadel. Just because countless other maesters couldn’t make it work for them doesn’t mean Sam cannot.

3.) Will Arya and Nymeria be reunited?

In the books, Catelyn Stark’s reanimated corpse is know as Lady Stoneheart and leads the Brotherhood in a vendetta against all who wronged her and her family, picking them off one at a time. Arya is clearly taking over this role in the HBO show. She’s proven capable of assassination on her own, but with a direwolf at her side she’d be an even more formidable opponent. Don’t forget, she was last seen in the Riverlands, precisely where she had to release Nymeria in season one. It would make for a fantastic reunion.

2.) Will the Wall collapse?

The whole series, book or show, began with the return of the White Walkers/the Others. This is truly the primary conflict of the story. Regardless of all the political intrigue throughout the show, which has been spectacular, it will all come down to the final battle between the people of Westeros and the undead legions of the White Walkers. As of now, only the wall stands in the way. But for how much longer?

And, that brings us to the number one question which MUST be answered before the show is done…

What did happen when Tyrion brought the jackass and the honeycomb into a brothel?

A New Nickname Needed

I really like some of the nicknames of the states here in the good old USA. Virginia’s Old Dominion just sounds cool; as does Alaska’s The Last Frontier. It sure is the last frontier; and I’d love to visit Alaska some day. I also like names which reflect historical or cultural influences; such as The Golden State of California or Alabama’s The Heart of Dixie. Even names which are less dynamic are still fitting, take Arizona’s The Grand Canyon State for example.

Then there are those which are head-scratchers. Why is Michigan The Great Lake State? Sure, it has one of five of the great lakes named after it, but those lakes border a total of eight states. Why does Michigan get to lay claim to all of them? Why is Missouri The Show Me State? Shouldn’t that be Las Vegas with all the showgirls showing everything? Why is Oklahoma The Sooner State? It wasn’t one of the thirteen original colonies, it came much later! And let’s not forget Oregon, The Beaver State. Okay, I won’t go there.

But worst of all is West Virginia, The Mountain State. First of all, the Appalachians, which I love, are much smaller mountains than the Rockies out west. If any state is going to take that title it should be a western state. However, even if an eastern state were to earn that title, why West Virginia? Mount Mitchell and Mount Craig, the two highest points east of the Mississippi, both reside in North Carolina. Not only that, let’s look just beyond North Carolina’s borders. Mount Rogers, the highest point in Virginia, is perhaps five miles from NC. Brasstown Bald in Georgia, I believe less than ten miles. Sassafras Mountain, South Carolina and Clingmans Dome, Tennessee are practically right on the border. Tally up their distances from NC and it would probably be less than 20 total miles. So why isn’t North Carolina “The Mountain State?”

Then again, I lived briefly in North Carolina and have traveled across the state. Mounts Mitchell and Craig are both on the western side of Interstate 77. The vast majority of land in NC is east of I-77 as is the bulk of the population. Charlotte, Greensboro, and the Raleigh areas all have some rolling hills and varied topography, but they’re not exactly mountainous regions. From Fayetteville to the coast, part of which includes the Sand Hills region, is relatively flat. So maybe NC, although a good candidate as far as the western part of the state is concerned, may not be the east’s mountain state. I guess it can stay The Tar Heel State, although Birthplace of Lung Cancer may work, too.

What about Maine, The Pine Tree State? Sure, Maine’s forests are famous for pine and spruce trees, but it sure seems to have a more overall mountainous topography throughout its entire land mass than does North Carolina. Mount Katahdin at almost one mile high is taller than West Virginia’s Spruce Knob by almost four hundred feet! Not only that, but Katahdin lies in Baxter State Park, which features Center Mountain (2902 ft), North Turner Mountain (3329 ft), and North Brother (4143 ft.). Head south southeast and you go down to Trout Mountain (1499 ft.), which is not far from the taller Jo-Mary Mountain (2904 ft.), which isn’t far from White Cap Mountain (3644 ft.). Head back south southeast from Trout and you find Mattamiscontis Mountain (1212 ft.), Passadumkeag Mountain (1463 ft.), Eagle Mountain (1079ft.) then higher to Lead Mountain (1475 ft.). Heck, Mount Desert Island, an island of Maine in the Atlantic and home to Acadia National Park, features peaks as varied as Cadillac Mountain (1528 ft.), Sargent Mountain (1379 ft.) Acadia Mountain (680 ft.) and Bernard Mountain (1000 ft.) to name a few. I think you get my point. Just look at a topographical map of Maine and you can see it really is one of the most elevation-diverse states you’ll find, especially in a relatively small land area.

So, I’m sorry, West Virginia, but I think it’s time to strip you of the title The Mountain State. Looking at the data, you just haven’t earned it. The Date Your Cousin State may work, but I’m open to alternatives.

Epitome of Random – vol. 21

  • I was playing with my kids’ oversized Lego pieces and built a dinosaur. I called it the Duplodocus.
  • We sell a cereal at our store called Love Grown. Gee, replace that second word with its homophone and you get something you wouldn’t expect to find in a grocery store…at least not in the cereal aisle.
  • Speaking of work, I was packaging cookies the other day when an employee from the deli walked past and said, “Be careful. You could get mugged for those.” He didn’t know that happened years ago. I recall the police report fairly well…”What did your attacker look like?” “He was blue, furry and had these crazy ping-pong ball eyes!” “Did he say anything?” “Yeah, he said, ‘Nom-nom-nom-nom-nom, COOKIEEEEEEEEE!’.”
  • I find it a little disturbing that my store sells a product called Justin’s Nut Butter. I find it more disturbing that it’s sold in a squeeze pack.
  • The other day some co-workers were trying to clean a hard to reach area but spraying air into them from those cannisters you can purchase at some stores. However, someone informed them, “There’s no air in those cans.” To which I replied, “Try feeding them some beans!”
  • The same day a lady was shopping our meat counter, down where we sell the sausages. She said, “I’ll take and Irish banger.” A man came up to her and said, “Top o’ the mornin’ to you, lassie. The name’s Charlie O’Charley, whatcha doin’ after?”

I Made a New Friend

The other day I took the car to the mechanic due to the largely-useless and often annoying check engine light coming on. You know, the one which lights up for any number of problems, the most of which garages are more than happy to just reset for you as they are no big deal to the safe operation of the vehicle. This time was one of the let’s-go-ahead-and-fix-that times so I got to sit in the waiting room for over two hours.

There were others waiting as well, including a woman with two of her children; one boy and one girl. The kids were very well-behaved and mom brought some simple electronic distractions. Not only that, but said electronic distractions were not noisy at all. They had a little breakfast from McDonald’s to start off their wait time then proceeded to entertain themselves. The most “distracting” thing the little knee-chompers did was, after a while, get off the couch and stretch out on their bellies on the carpet while enjoying their gadgets.

Then, after about 45 minutes, the little boy was up and stretching his legs. He stood right in front of me, but his hand on my knee, then leaned in and gave me a hug. It was too cute. I patted him on the back and said, “Hi there!” We shared a few moments, a fist-bump, a high-five and some polite conversation. I turns out his name is Billy and he is three-years-old. His sister is two. Billy and his sister have at least one other sibling; a ten-year-old brother who is this tall. Billy asked me if he’ll be this tall when he’s ten; I told him I think he’d be this tall. (Wait, you can’t see my hands. Okay, forget that part.) All-in-all, Billy was a very friendly and very cool kid. His sister briefly spoke with me, but I didn’t get any hugs from her (I guess the second one from Billy was for his sister).

As a father of five myself I certainly enjoy talking with kids. They are, after all, my intellectual equals (or superiors). And I was especially impressed with their mother. My wife and I do teach our kids about stranger-danger, and they don’t get much stranger than me, but I do like when our children can socialize and be themselves with people when mom and dad are around. I don’t want them so cautious of others that they become fearful. I applaud this mother for letting her son be himself. Perhaps if we were all a little more sociable with our fellow man our world would be a better place. And this coming from a very shy non-talker.

I was happy to make my new friend, Billy. He sure brightened my time in that waiting room, and I hope he continues to brighten others’ days as well. Maybe I should try harder to as well.

Turning the Page

Another new year is upon us. I’m not going to reflect on the many successes and failures of 2016; although I’d be remiss if I neglected to mention that our biggest highlight was the birth of our son! (With four older sisters, good luck, boy.) Nor will I mention my resolutions for the new year (second attempt at one, btw). Instead I’m just going to mention my hope for something that I have no control over other than to pray for it to come to fruition.

I’m talking about the opportunity for my best friend from high school to get out of jail. I’ve written about him before, so just click here if you haven’t read that entry. Much like Winston Churchill I will never give up on the hope that he will some day rejoin the free world, but some days are harder than others to maintain the hope. However, I learned of a law proposal in Pennsylvania which may help him out.

Please read about House Bill Number 2135. This may be his ticket to freedom. I certainly hope it becomes so, if no other legal alternative presents itself. (The above link is to the state website, I recommend clicking on the memo forĀ  a brief explanation and your choice of either HTML, pdf or Word version for the bill.)

I used to be a pretty staunch “law-and-order” kind of guy. I was pro-death penalty; pro-life imprisonment and the like. Time has changed me. So has my faith. Although the Catholic faith does permit the use of the death penalty in the most extreme circumstances (and my friend was never in threat of the death penalty due to well-written and thought out Pennsylvania statutes), the Church does frown upon its use and prefers mercy. And, no, not the kind of mercy in Joffrey Baratheon’s mindset. But even in looking at the history of the Church, and the whole Judeo-Christian history, those who kill can become instruments of God. Just look at Moses – who in this day and age would easily be convicted of involuntary manslaughter, worse if his attorney was less talented than the DA. Clearly Moses had a purpose which, had he been punished with death or a life sentence without parole, he would have never attained.

There’s a Catholic saint, Saint Maria Goretti, who was murdered while resisting an attempted rape. Her killer reformed himself while in prison and was actually present at her Canonization. Sure, quick “justice” or being “tough on crime” may seem more appropriate to many, but this is a beautiful end to a terrible story. Without mercy and the chance to repent, those languishing in our criminal justice system will never repent.

Not only that, but those in prison for life without parole (as is Brandon), will only ever be a burden on the taxpayers. By keeping the life without parole sentence (i.e. death by incarceration) we aren’t making those who commit crime pay, we are paying ourselves. Give them the chance to reform, return, and offer true restitution through their contribution to our society.

Yes, there are some truly wicked men and women who will never repent, and will always be a threat to society, or even just a small fraction of society. But give the parole boards a chance to hear them out and make the best decision on whether or not to let reformed criminals return to society and become contributors. Shouldn’t that be part of the Department of Corrections – returning them to society to act as correct citizens?

Perhaps this is all falling on deaf ears. So be it. Like I said, all I can do is pray. Then again, if anyone in Pennsylvania reads this and gets others on board, perhaps there really is more I can do.

Epitome of Random – vol. 20

  • I’m thinking of starting a restaurant which caters to the white supremecists: I’ll call it Cracker Ass Cracker Barrel.
  • My seven-year-old was looking at the shadows cast on the wall next to our coats the other day. “Look, Daddy, this one looks like a bunny, and this one looks like, um, something else.” Good observation, sprout of my loins; good observation.
  • As I mentioned in a previous post we recently potty-trained the three-year-old. We had a near set-back as she was holding in her poops and getting constipated. The other day we told her she could only watch some YouTube clips if she pooped. While we were in the middle of praying our nightly Rosary she called from the bathroom, “It’s tricky to go poop!” Needless to say, it was impossible to maintain reverence for a few seconds after that.
  • I don’t like cleaning spider webs off the front porch because I want the little fellas to catch bugs and I find intricate webs to be beautiful. The other day I saw a leaf stuck in a web and immediately thought, “Hmmm, a vegetarian spider. Cool.”
  • From the keeping-it-in-context department: The other day I was trying to get my squirming son dressed. My wife told my seventeen-year-old, “Go help Daddy put his pants on.” My daughter and I just looked at each other and she began to shake her head. Yup, she’s inherited my sense of humor.
  • I’ve been losing a little weight. Add to that the fact that my canvas belt is old and no longer holds too well I’m often hiking up my britches throughout the day. So, regardless of the excessive cloud cover in my region, many of my co-workers had a great view of the Super Moon.
  • Another good potty-related story involving my three-year-old: She once again was holding in her poops. So my wife thought offering oatmeal for breakfast would help keep the pipes clear. She asked, “Would you like a bowl of poo? I mean, oatmeal?” Hey, I can’t blame her; we were only one week away from the election and poo was all over.