Category Archives: Rants

Be careful what you wish for

snow-blower---1Last Tuesday I lamented the lack of snow here. Well we got almost 9 inches yesterday. I’m sitting here drinking coffee pondering the task of blowing out the driveway. It’s really not much effort because I have a big ass snowblower. I bought it from a guy who was moving to California. He’d gotten it the year before and never really had the chance to use it. It didn’t really snow much that year. So I got a virtually new snowblower for less than half price.

I used to think shoveling a big pile of snow from my driveway was good exercise. Screw that. If I need exercise, I’ll go to the gym. I wonder what the stats are for people having heart attacks while shoveling. At least if I keel over on the treadmill at the Y, they have defibrillators and presumably people who are trained in first aid. I heard a story about a guy who was delivering papers who, when pulling into a snow covered driveway felt a strange bump, as if he’d run over something. It turned out he’d gone over the snow covered body of the homeowner, who dropped dead shoveling. Not a good way to go.

So I’ve whimped out on shoveling, capitulated to the aging process. Or have I just wised up?

Not that snow blowing is effortless. Sometimes when the snow is deep and heavy and the plow has passed, leaving a compacted berm of dirty snow and ice at the end of the driveway, the wheels of the machine just spin, unable to push through. You really have to lean into it. And there’s also some discomfort. Sometimes you just can’t avoid shooting the snow into to wind. If it’s fine and powdery, it blows back a mist of ice crystals that finds it’s way into the smallest chink in your winter armor, making it’s way to your skin. It also freezes on your face, which makes for some great Old Man Winter looks.

Not to mention the possibility of injury. Think about pairing an accident prone person like me with a set of spinning blades attached to a self propelled platform. I know there’s a deadman’s switch, but if anyone can figure out how to take advantage of a formula for disaster, it’s me.

Wish me luck.

Super Bowl, bah humbug.

footballersIt’s Super Bowl Week. I don’t give a shit. My sports fan quotient has dropped like a rock over the last few years. I think it started when Gary Anderson missed the field goal against the Falcons in ’98. Damn, was it that long ago? That was the kind of crushing disappointment that only the Vikes can dish up. We haven’t had cable TV for awhile now and around here you just can’t watch sports without cable. The Vikings are on broadcast, but football has become an interminable slog for me.

I have a real hard time getting into watching a game if I have no dog in the fight, I’m not a fan of either team. And local teams just haven’t inspired much enthusiasm of late. Being a Minnesota sports fan these days is enough to get you reaching for the SSRI’s. Damn the Gopher Men’s Hockey team is the fifth best college hockey team in the state! Men’s basketball at the U is redefining the word pathetic. The Gopher Women are doing ok, the hockey team is a dynasty, volleyball went to the final four and the basketball team has two of the most dynamic high scoring players they’ve seen.

The Gopher WBB team is the best sports entertainment bargain in town. I get two season tickets for $400 and get to watch sixteen competitive games at Williams Arena. I love the atmosphere at Williams Arena.

Going to a baseball game at Target Field is fun, but expensive.

But football? Watching steroid crazed behemoths stand around for three hours, interspersed with a hundred commercials, is perhaps the very essence of boredom. Oh, there is eleven minutes of actual action going on in that three hours. I guess if you’re a sadist you might get some enjoyment out of the fact that you’re watching young men doom themselves a downward spiral of dementia by repeatedly smashing their heads together it might be entertaining. And of course there are probably some who enjoy the grunting.  But I guess I just don’t get it.

So while almost 200 million folks are watching the Super Bowl on Sunday, we will probably be at Costco avoiding the crowd.


The dreaded Wintry Mix

blizzardVariable precipitation consisting of rain, freezing rain, sleet, or snow.

I can take a nice fluffy snowfall. It’s light and pristine, easy to shovel and get off the roads. It’s not usually hard to drive on.

What I  hate is this. First it rains for an hour and then the rain starts to freeze, and then it turns to sleet, whatever that is, and then heavy, clumpy snow than seems to come down in pellets rather than flakes. If you are driving through this you find that you are getting more miles to the gallon of gas than you are of windshield washing fluid.

And then it turns cold. The layer of sodden slush freezes as hard as a rock. The roads become skating rinks and the commute becomes a destruction derby. If you are unfortunate enough to have left your car outside, it’s covered with heavy snow that, once removed, reveals a layer of ice encasing the entire vehicle. You can’t scrape it, it has to be chipped off. And then if you’re really lucky, your locks are frozen shut, which is a good thing, because now you don’t have to drive in it.

The real fun happens when the temperature drops fast and deep, into single digits or less, before the plows can get all of the muck removed. The surface of the roads are like a skating rink on the surface of the moon. Deep ruts and sharp ridges cause you wheels to spin and your car to bounce like a bizarre carnival ride.

If you’re really lucky, the temperature stays below freezing for a couple of months, just to extend the fun. If you happen to get a dusting of snow on top of that ice, it becomes almost impossible to move. Any Minnesotan is familiar with the scream of spinning wheels as frustrated drivers race their engines while going nowhere.

We haven’t had a really good wintry mix disaster yet this year, but cheer up, there’s lots of winter left.

Snow time like the present

snow - 1 (1)
Not much snow

The East Coast got nailed by a huge snow storm this week and the internet is saturated with pictures and stories of white disaster. It’s snowing here, just a few flakes, nothing special. It’s been snowing lightly since late yesterday. I can sympathize with the easterners, nobody likes to be completely buried in it, and they aren’t as prepared as we are to deal with it. It sucks to be snowed in. I just would like to see some balance. Minnesota in the winter without snow is no fun, send some our way.

We have snow, but not much. And it’s come in tiny doses. I’ve only had to use my snow blower once. In the morning I go out and look at the driveway and it’s covered with snow, but only thin coating, less than an inch. I just can’t justify firing up the beast for that. It would be a declaration of weakness that even I couldn’t tolerate. But it takes longer to shovel a dusting that it does to clear off six inches. (I originally wrote “blow six inches,” but I that would make Rache just a little too gleeful.) There are also hazards involved in shovelling, besides the classics like slipped disks and heart attacks, I’ve had fluke accidents with unpleasant consequences.

There are cracks in my driveway that can be invisible after a light snowfall. When the snow is fluffy I use a wide shovel with a long handle that’s designed to push the snow and not really scoop it up and throw it. I get kind of nonchalant when I’m in that shoveling mode, holding the handle low and moving fast. More than once I’ve hit a crack in the concrete, bringing the shovel to a sudden stop while my body keeps going. There have been times when the position of the handle results in it being driven into that most sensitive area of a man’s anatomy.

So really, if it’s going to snow, at least give me enough to fire up the beast.

Fable has it that the Eskimos (that’s probably not the PC term anymore) have fifty, or however many, words for snow. We have “wintery mix.” Tomorrow I’m going to talk about that kind of snowstorm and why it’s the worst.



I have Crohn’s disease. I take pills. Twelve a day. Really expensive pills. Thank God for insurance. Specifically, I take Asacol, which is Mesalamine wrapped up in a plastic tablet that’s designed to keep it from releasing the good stuff before it gets to the target area in my poop pipe. It works, kind of. I have long periods of remission punctuated by some very long periods of, let’s just say, discomfort. When that happens I get to take a course of Prednisone , which is similar to making a pact with the devil. Fortunately I’ve been in a fairly long period of remission (knock wood) I think partially due to some diet changes and some supplements that my doctor probably would view as the product of witchcraft, but that’s another story.

Continue reading Pills


It’s a beautiful sunny day. Clear and sunny and 3 degrees. Yes, it’s Minnesota where hell does freeze over. I know you hearty folks who love to get out and snowmobile and ski and snowshoe and winter camp and ice fish and all those other forms of winter insanity will say that it’s a fabulous winter, plenty of snow to play in, but to me it’s just COLD. Yesterday I think Rebecca got the paper and brought in the mail so I didn’t even go outside all day. Someone said that April is the cruelest month. For that honor, I’ll give my vote to February.

Continue reading February

Some Randomness

On Saturday night we attended the annual Mardi Gras Party at the Beckers. Any party at the Beckers is a great party and the Mardi Gras Party is the greatest of the great. I could have gotten the award for the lamest costume, Becky found me a sport coat that had a pattern of target logos all over it. The novelty of the fabric was one thing, but I wasn’t actually costumed as anything. Multi-targeted warhead? The host’s two older daughters pulled an good prank. They’re not twins, but they do look somewhat alike. One was dressed in a ball gown and the other had a wedding dress on, one was wearing flats and the other really tall heels. I noticed that they had done their hair exactly the same, but thought nothing of it. Midway through the party they switched costumes and I’m not sure anyone noticed.  The youngest daughter’s husband entertained on the piano, including accompanying her on some of  her songs that she’s preparing for her role in Guys and Dolls.

I’ve been obsessing about painting in Photoshop. I’m trying to upgrade my skill level with the Wacom, I’ve been drawing heads and figures and trying to color them, without much success. I’ve had some success scanning some of my pencil drawings and giving them simple color treatments, which is what I was most interested in doing with the tablet, so I can use them to get a little more visual interest here at HA. After all, as long as I have an published editorial illustrator in the office I might as well throw him some work. That, along with the drawing at left segues nicely into the next random topic.

I’ve been working out at the gym pretty consistently since I bolted the 9 to 5. I worked my way to the point that I think I’m in better condition than before the knee disaster. Motivation is a challenge for most of us who try to keep to a workout schedule and we have to find it where we can. One the things that brings me back to the gym is the people watching. I know it’s mean spirited to make fun of people, and God knows that I probably look as goofy as the next, but there are some folks who’s appearance is so odd that I just have to share it. If you recognize yourself here, I apologize. On the other hand if you don’t want people to make fun of you, try not to be so frickin’ weird.

I’ll start with the guy pictured. Older gent, probably around my age. Long stringy hair that doesn’t look like it’s been washed this century, held in place by a headband that probably was white in the Twentieth Century. He looks trim and fit, it seems like he’s there working out most times I am. Other than the hair, from the knees up he looks pretty normal, in an 80’s kind of way. But the thing that puts him over the top in the weirdness category is the fact that he always wears knee high brown dress socks and brown street shoes. I have to look away every time I see him to keep from laughing out loud.

Another guy, much younger, isn’t so much weird as he is scary. He’s always there, working the free weights. His arms are bigger than my thighs. I guess that’s not saying much, so much bigger is a better description. Yesterday while I was pumping some paltry weight on a machine, I watched as he strapped what had to be 50 pounds to his waste and knocked off about 20 pull-ups. I don’t think I can do one pull-up, even if I was in moon gravity.

Then there’s a guy who looks a little bit like John Belushi. He has shoulder length hair that he usually has tied up on top of his head some way. But this week I saw him with it down. He had it in a classic flip, like every girl in my ’67 high school year book. Think pretty hair on a jowly, pasty complected, five o’clock shadowed, scowling, hairy man. Another case where I have to practice smirk avoidance.

There is another man who it would be cruel to make fun of since he’s obviously overcoming some real challenges. But, being the mean bastard that I am… He has a hugely developed upper body, just massive. This barrel is supported by extremely short legs for it’s size. And one of those legs doesn’t work very well, he walks with a cane and it looks painful. He was wearing one of those wrestling style sleeveless t-shirts. One of his very hairy breasts had popped out, which was a disturbing sight. He passed me in the weight room as I was climbing into the crunch machine for my final set for the day. He sat down on the Cybex arm press machine and as he began to lift he let out a sound that I can only compare to the roar of  lions and tigers at the zoo, moaning at their captivity. Or maybe it was like the sounds I made while trying to take my first dump after surgery and a week of powerful narcotics. Whatever you compare it to, it was really loud and really frightening.

I don’t feel bad at all about ridiculing this last victim, because frankly he’s one of those guys that makes you dislike them almost at first glance. He’s about my age, very fit, very trim and has a silvery brush cut, like a sergeant in a comic book. When he’s in the weight room he speeds from machine to machine, lifting heavy weights too fast, looking gruff and impatient with anyone who gets in the way of his routine. He might as well have a sign that says “compulsive narcissistic asshole.” That’s opposed to me, I’m a compulsive narcissistic nice guy. He always wears one of those jerseys that you used to see in the eighties, the sleeves cut off and the jersey itself cut off, exposing his belly. And maybe I’d do the same thing if I had a six-pack at sixty. But I noticed last week that protruding from the front and back of his shorts are the edges of what looks like some kind of absorbent pad. I’m sorry but please don’t share things like that with the public. When I look away from him, it’s not to keep from laughing.

No business like snow business

OK, I want to know what it is I did to piss off the snowplow driver. I had my driveway and Dean the handyman’s driveway all blown out yesterday by early afternoon. Now granted, it snowed pretty much all night, but the blowing and drifting didn’t seem to occur and there was only a couple of inches of fine powder on the driveway in the morning. But the berm that the snowplow left across the entrance to my driveway was at least three feet high!

In Minnesota you’re a fool if you don’t beseech your chosen higher power to protect and bless the plow drivers, they work crazy hours to keep the roads passable when the weather gets like this. But I’ve watched them plow and I know they have a little dealie that they trip that diverts the snow a little when they pass a driveway opening. That simple courtesy probably cuts down the incidence of heart attacks in the city by 20%. The crap that they do pile up is ten times more dense and crustier than the original snow and it’s a bitch to shovel. So when I went outside to start my snow clearing for the day, I almost cried when I saw the mountain ridge that separated me from the street.

Thank God my buddies neighbor moved to California right after he bought a big ass 7.5 horse Snapper snow blower. He sold it to me for about half price, I don’t think he’d used it more than once. If I would have had to shovel that mess it would be an all day project. And I’m still sore from yesterday’s work. But Big Red ate that mound of ice chunks up and spit it out. And I’m not feeling the least bit guilty about increasing my carbon footprint.

Weak Link

In my last post I promised that, in the near future, I would cogitate on planned obsolescence, or why the manufacturers of my garage door opener chose to put in a plastic drive gear that would certainly wear out long before the other components of the machine. First of all “cogitate” is not, as you might think, defined as the mental ramblings of a codger. But in this case they may be analogous.

When I was informed by Dean, the neighborhood handyman, that it was a worn out nylon gear drive that had rendered my garage door opener non-functional, my first conclusion was that this was a design flaw. It seems that this part is the weak link in the operating system of this machine. Dean knew right where to look for the problem. He said he’d already replaced them for most of the neighborhood.

What do you think would have happened if I’d called a garage door repair specialist? Would he have replaced the gear or sold me a new opener? I’m thinking new opener. Was there some design requirement that mandated the use of a nylon gear? Like functioning under specific conditions. Or did Sears specify the use of the gear so the opener would fail after 10 years instead of 20, so they could sell more units over time? Or would a more reliable (metal?) part add enough cost so that the Craftsman 1/2 hp unit couldn’t compete in the market with similar products?

You might think that I’m going to answer those questions. I’m not. I’m hoping you can. I will observe that this kind of design is part of the price we pay in the world of mass production and part of why we’ve turned into a throw away society.

What do you think?


Baby, it’s cold  outside. It was -17 when I woke up this morning. It hovered there for a long time and now it’s up to -11. That’s Fahrenheit baby. 43 long degrees below freezing. And that’s not wind chill, thats the actual temp, although I don’t see any movement in the trees outside this morning. Of course cold is a relative thing. Those wimps over at BlueNC think are bitching about it being 25, that’s a positive number. I can guarantee you that the next time it hits 25 around here, people will be out walking around shirtless and in shorts. In our old neighborhood there was a guy who used to wash his car shirtless when it was in the 20s. Actually, somewhere, probably on a college campus, there probably is someone out walking around in shorts. I just hope that they have more sober friends that pull them inside before they lose body parts.

There are all kinds of ways of dealing with this kind of cold. One of the best is a trip to Mexico. Another is staying inside. I personally haven’t been outside for almost 36 hours. If those methods fail and you must venture outside, dress in layers, wear a hat that covers your ears, and a scarf or turtle neck to keep all that body heat from escaping out of your collar. Thinsulate, down, fleece, and wool are excellent at protecting you from the frosty elements, but you must lose any vanity you might have. It’s hard to look sexy in a down parka.

It’s also important to deal with the cold psychologically. Bone crushing, dick shriveling cold can have deleterious effects on you mind. You can spiral into a vortex of self doubt, characterized by thoughts like, “Why the hell did I choose to live in this God forsaken state?” Agoraphobia, as previously mentioned,  you might find yourself housebound for days simply because you can’t think of any reason worth that icy smack in the face you know awaits. This of course leads to Minnesota’s second most common psychological malady, right behind pathological self deprecation, cabin fever. Sleep disorders, all you want to do is sleep in front of the fireplace under four or five down comforters. Yes, extreme cold over long periods of time (it sometime stays below zero for weeks here) can cause all kinds of profound nastiness in one’s mindset.

But there is hope! I have found the trick to fending off  the “it’s too f**king cold syndrome.” And the trick my friends is so simple you won’t believe it. And for a small fee I will reveal my secret… Never mind I’m feeling generous so I’m going to let  you in on it for free. All you have to do is remember this one thing, DON’T FLINCH! You know what I mean, you step out into the deep freeze and right away you tense up, your shoulders hunch, you try to pull your head in like a turtle, every muscle contracts, you convulse with shivers. Relax people! It’s only cold. Stand up straight, throw your shoulders back, shake off the tension, be brave. You will immediately find yourself thinking, “This isn’t so bad.” If you can just adopt this simple technique, it will go a long way towards banishing your cold weather blues.

I wonder how long I can manage to stay inside this weekend?