Monday, March 27, 2017

After dinner last night we all grabbed some dessert and retreated to our screens/chores. The part of the day where we interact with humans had seemingly come to an end. I had my chocolate, Daisy had a couple of chocolate chip cookies, and Hank had whatever sugar-free and dairy-free monstrosity passes for dessert in her head. I think she had air juice (Note: did not contain actual air).

A few minutes later Daisy returned back to the kitchen and calmly announced, "Apparently these cookies have pecans in them."

Oh, shit.

Although Daisy grew out of several of her food allergies a few years back, nuts and sesame seeds still give her a strong reaction. We keep the house stocked with Epi Pens, but we've never had to use one. Any time Daisy accidentally consumed nuts, we've managed to get away with just stuffing her full of Benadryl.

So, we gave her a Benadryl, but her throat was still feeling affected, so we crushed up another Benadryl and had her swirl that around in her mouth and throat. That seemed to do the trick, so we re-retreated to our screens/chores.

An hour later Daisy came back and said that she was feeling worse and was having some difficulty breathing.

We're big fans of breathing in this house. I do it, like, almost every day, so we decided further action was needed. There's an emergency room 5 minutes away from our house, and Daisy was still successfully moving oxygen from the atmosphere into her red blood cells for the time being, so we piled into the car for a Saturday night trip to the hospital.

Long story medium-short, she lived! The docs in the emergency room promptly gave her an IV full of Benadryl and steroids, which simultaneously made her drowsy and jittery, and then monitored her for the next couple hours. All of which means that I sat in a San Francisco emergency room waiting room for several hours on a Saturday night.

If you can only spend one night in an emergency room waiting room in San Francisco, I'd argue that Saturday night is your best entertainment value. Such a good cast of characters!

There was the loud-banging-and-moaning guy in the next room, the weary seen-it-all-before security guard, and the wait-until-my-mother-gets-here disgusted wife of the drunk guy. It's hard to pick who entertained me the most!

Actually, it's not hard at all! It was the security guard! He barreled into the room about thirty minutes into my detention and threw open the door to the restroom.

"Man! You gotta get outta there!" he hollered to someone who had apparently been holed up in the restroom for a loooong time. Bathroom dude shambled out of the bathroom and collapsed into a seat. Thus began the next 2 hours of the cat-and-mouse game played by the dude who had no intention of leaving, and the hospital security guy whose job it was to gently move people to somewhere more healthy for them.

The most entertaining part was that every once in a while someone would go into that bathroom and would immediately bounce back out, repelled by something mysteriously horrific in there, demanding that the hospital staff find them another restroom.

I sat in my chair the entire time, wondering if I dared look into that room. Would it give me nightmares? Would I puke? What WAS in there?

Hank texted me just before midnight saying that Daisy had been discharged. It was now or never!

I cautiously made my way across the waiting room, gingerly opened the bathroom door and found.... a pile of yellow fuzzy stuff! It was not even recognizable as human. It literally looked like couch stuffing but apparently was something obviously vile to everyone else.

I didn't take a picture, but it looked like a yellow version of this (sans sweater or razor):

Any ideas?

Saturday, March 18, 2017

When I transitioned to becoming a manager from being a do-something-actually-useful-er, one of the minuses was that many of the people I had been eating lunch with and hanging out with, now reported to me. I was the boss. That made happy hours a little less happy for all of us.

So, when a new manager, Andrew, transferred to our office, I decided he would be my new friend.

Making a new friend as a male in your forties is not an easy to thing to do, especially when most of your social skills involve typing, but I threw all my charm at the problem, meaning that I mocked Andrew mercilessly and got him drunk regularly. That pretty much did the trick. I was very proud of my new friendship.

One of the things I learned about Andrew early on was that he was working on a collection. He was trying to construct a complete deck of playing cards entirely out of cards he'd find on the ground. This sounded absurd to me. Think about the last time you can across a playing card sitting on the ground somewhere. Was it perhaps never? Sounds about right. Now imagine finding 52 different ones to make a complete deck. Heck, I'll even give you a head start. Imagine you have 51 of them and all you need is the exact right card to complete your deck? How long will that take you? Perhaps forever? Sounds about right.

I couldn't get this out of my head. I imagined he'd probably got so excited each time he stumbled across a card somewhere. I realized it was probably crushing to occasionally realize that he already had that particular card.

This is about when the light bulb went off in my head. 

What if I manipulated this? What if I discreetly left cards for him to find out in the world, but it was always the exact same card, over and over and over. This would drive him nuts! I love friendship!

I scoured our house the next day, digging through all the game drawers, and finding about a dozen old decks of cards: regular decks, Winnie the Pooh decks, corporate-branded decks, etc. I pulled the Two of Clubs out from each deck and tossed the other 51 cards. I smiled fiendishly at my dozen cards and made sure to always have one in my back pocket.

From then on, every couple weeks, I'd drop a Two of Clubs somewhere I thought he might find it. I dropped them in bars and restaurants we'd attend. I'd leave them occasionally laying around the office, and a few in the neighborhood. I tried to be somewhere else by the time he found them.

Soon, I was buying packs of dozens of decks of used cards from mixed casinos. I'd distress each Two of Clubs in a different way to give it some charm and history, using a combination of folds, markers, rips, and fire. I carried them with me constantly and left them in any place I knew he'd show up soon, including hotel lobbies, Ubers, baseball games, our local haunts, and sometimes right in his jacket pocket. I enlisted my friend, Leonarda, to leave cards in places where I'd never be so that they didn't all have me in common.

I did this for four years. In those four years, I saw him pick up one or two of those cards, but by and large I made myself scarce shortly after dropping the cards. I really had no idea if he was finding any of those cards, or maybe even worse, had already figured out what I was doing.

So when I gave notice at my job, I realized I needed to wrap it up soon. That day I invited him to meet me at our local bar, and on my way there ahead of him, as I had done many times before, I placed a couple of Two of Clubs. One of them I left sticking absurdly ramrod-straight out of the top of an eye-level shrub.

Andrew strolled into the bar about 15 minutes later. He held one of the cards in his hands.

Me: Hey there. What's with the card?
Andrew: I found it on the way over here.
Me: Oh, that's right! You've got that card collection thing!
Andrew: Yeah, and what's weird is that I've found quite a few cards outside this place, and they're always the same card, the two of clubs
Me: What? That's weird. How can that be?
Andrew: I think I figured it out. I think the parking valets from the restaurant are using them for their parking system.
Me: Ohhh, that totally makes sense.

Of course this did not make sense. If you're a parking valet and are trying to keep track of different cars? Would you use identical cards to do so? Answer: you would not.

More importantly, Andrew HAD been finding my cards! And he had no clue that it was me. This was a glorious day. Now I just needed to find a way to bring this to an appropriate close.

The next day I called our mutual friend, Rand, who had been friends with Andrew for over a decade. I needed his help planning the grand finale.

Me: Are you familiar with Andrew's ridiculous card collection?
Rand: Of course!
Me: Ok, I need your help. Here's the scoop. For four years now...

And I laid it all out.

Rand and I batted a few ideas around. We decided an appropriate ending would be to gather our friends, and then utilize Rand's impressive card trick skills. I would buy 50 identical decks and would construct a deck completely of two of clubs. Rand's trick would end with me revealing the deck, showing how I had been surrounding him with twos of clubs.

A week later we made plans to grab a drink after work at our usual bar. Rand, Leonarda, and I were prepared. No one else knew a thing.

After we all had a cocktail in front of us, Rand kicked things off by asking if anyone wanted to see his newest card trick. He pulled out a normal deck, fanned it out for Andrew to see, and then performed some trick that was pretty good. Then, unbeknownst to Andrew, he swapped the deck for our deck consisting of all Two of Clubs, and asked Andrew to pick a card, any card.

Andrew of course chose the Two of Clubs, and chuckled to himself. He placed the card back in the middle of the fake deck, and Rand then magically "found" his two of clubs. Andrew was impressed.

Leonarda followed this up by offering to do a trick of her own, starting with asking Andrew to select a card. He picked, surprise surprise, the Two of Clubs. Leonarda then performed a byzantine set of cuts and swaps while furiously trying to throw cards under the table to Rand. The trick ended with Rand pulling the Two of Clubs out of his shirt pocket. Andrew was impressed again.

I then said I had one more trick and asked Andrew, one more time, to choose a card from the deck. Bafflingly (at least to him and half the people at the table), he chose the Two of Clubs again. There was no sign of recognition in his eyes. I did some lame trick and ended by displaying that I had found his Two of Clubs. And another Two of Clubs, and another. And the whole deck was Two of Clubs.

Andrew stared at me ununderstandly. He knew something was going on, but had no idea what it was.

"Andrew," I said, "For four years now..."

And I laid it all out. Four years of cards in bars, conference rooms, and baseball games, across multiple cities. Four years of Two of Clubs.

His eyes bugged out. 

Andrew: Wait, that card in the hotel lobby in Portland...?
Me: That was me.
Andrew: The card in the Uber?
Me: That was me too. 
Andrew: Did you leave the one in the alley on the way over here? I picked it up and then threw it back down in disgust when I saw it was the two of clubs.
Me: Of course that was me. They were all me, Andrew.

Andrew literally curled up into the fetal position in the booth. He was stunned. He was stunned that even after finding dozens of improbable two of clubs, he had made ridiculous theories to explain them away. Occam was nowhere to be found.

We all toasted and celebrated the long con. It remains one of my favorite times.

I got an email from Andrew the next day. He explained that when you're a kid, sometimes there are events that surprise you so much, they open your eyes and rewrite your understanding of the world, like when you find out about the tooth fairy. He said those things never happen as an adult, but that I had brought back that childlike wonder to him for an evening.

I like that a lot. Sure sounds a lot more lofty than what I thought I was doing.

I hope he completes that deck. It really is an amazing collection.

Friday, March 17, 2017

I grabbed the leftover chili out of the fridge and slid it into the microwave. I set it for 90 seconds and let 'er rip. The microwave made the god-awful noise it always makes, indicating that it's busy exciting water molecules, for about 10 seconds, and then went ominously silent. That's like my 3rd least favorite kind of silent after "deathly" and "everyone-is-expecting-me-to-say-something-smart-now-ly".

Lo, our microwave had died.

With me being the unemployed member of the household, it was my to-do item to get that bad boy replaced. I'm the go-to guy for all appliance-buying, chauffering, appointments, and chores, basically anything that doesn't require skill, knowledge, strength, or savoir faire.

I wasn't actually sure that I wanted to replace the microwave. It seems like the sort of out-dated device that we should have grown out of by the teens of the 21st century. Having a microwave feels like having a laserdisc player or compact fluorescent lightbulbs. Even the name is terrible. I'm sure it was futuristic sounding when they invented it, but now the microwave sounds as modern as stereophonic headphones. Plus, they're goddamn loud! Still a pretty fast way to re-heat chili though.

So, off to Best Buy I went, to acquire a new mic-ro-wave. Knowing that our kitchen counter space is a precious commodity, I carefully measured the old microwave to ensure that I got one that was no bigger. There weren't many models at Best Buy that were the right size, so I grabbed the most powerful one out of those few and brought it home. I don't have a lot of complex requirements for a microwave, so I knew this would be fine.

And I was completely wrong.

Somehow, in spite of being the most powerful microwave of its size, this new one was 200 watts less powerful than our old one. How did microwave technology evolve to get less powerful?

Also, there was no way to microwave something for less than 30 seconds. If you hit '20' on the keypad and then 'Start', it would launch into an ear-rattling 20 minutes of chili pulverizing.

Finally, despite being the same size on the outside as our old microwave, it was substantially smaller on the inside! What? Is this an optical illusion? Did I buy this at the Santa Cruz Mystery Spot? Was it made by Escher? Was it a blivetwave? Baffling!

This microwave was crappier than my old microwave in literally all 4 dimensions, including the time I'd have to wait for something to get unevenly warmed.

I sat back and marveled at how things really do just get worse over time. This is what the old people have been complaining about for generations, and they're right. The old microwaves were better!

Hank took all this in. I believe she used it exactly once before going to Amazon, searching for microwaves, clicking a few search options, and finding the annoyingly perfect model. It arrived 48 hours later.

I'm still go-to guy for chores though!

Sunday, March 12, 2017

First, sorry.

Second, hi!

Third, ok, let me catch you up.

You (by which I now only mean 'me') may have noticed that I've been a very bad blogger for nearly six years. I've decided to restart, but here's a quick recap on what you've (I've) missed:

When last I left my anti-hero, he was wrestling with transitioning from being a computer programmer to being a manager. I've basically been doing that ever since. I went from managing one team, to two, to various teams and other managers. My most recent gig was being the Chief Technical Officer for a small startup. All that was the primary reason I stopped blogging. Almost all of my good blogging material consisted of either making fun of people who reported to me, or ridiculing my nonexistent managerial skills. Blogging about the former seemed more mean than funny, and blogging about the latter seemed career limiting if my blog ever got found. So, that (plus a stupidly long commute, plus laziness) put a big ol' pause on blogging.

Otherwise, life is pretty much unchanged. I'm still living in San Francisco with Hank and Daisy. Daisy is a senior in high school with college looming and Hank is still awesomely Hankish. I still run, and play Scrabble, and delight in arguing over inconsequential preferences.

Oh, and I quit my job just over a month ago. So, look who has time for blogging now! (Spoiler: me)

So, again, sorry and hi. It's nice to be back. I really missed having this be part of my life and I look forward to rebuilding this muscle.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Today at work the Human Resources department hosted a two-hour meeting to teach us all about sexual harassment (more of a "Don't" than a "How To").

I sat down in an empty chair next to our corporate lawyer, Thomas, and asked for a favor.

"Thomas!" I whispered, "I have ONE GOAL for this session and that's to keep my mouth shut the whole time.  Don't let me say ANYTHING.  If you see me even begin to look like I'm thinking about uttering syllables, just elbow me, ok?"

Thomas laughed nervously.  He doesn't really get me.

"Seriously, Thomas, you don't know how tough it's going to be for me not to make smartass comments during this!"

Just then another coworker, David, sat down.

"Oooh! I want to sit by Mike during this.  Should liven things up!" he said gleefully.

I explained to David that I was going to be silent for the next two hours.  No puns, no repartee, no smart-alecry.  No sexual comments.  No masturbatory gestures.  No "that's what she said"

Just then the VP of Human Resources stood up.

"Thank you all for coming!" she announced.

I clamped my mouth shut.  Two hours to go.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

After our last 4-digit repair bill our mechanic suggested that it was probably time to stop investing money in our 13 year-old VW Passat.   When your mechanic tells you that, it probably means two things:

  • You have a very good mechanic.
  • A great mechanic probably would have told you this a couple of repairs ago.

So, Hank and I prepared to buy a new car.  We did a ton of research online and visited many dealerships to test-drive certain models.  Mostly what I learned from this experience is that being a salesman on a car lot is probably way more annoying today than it was the last time I bought a car (back in the 20th century).

People don't buy cars the way they used to.  I can sit at home in my bathrobe, look up invoice prices, compare features, email dealerships asking for price quotes, and not leave my house unless I either need to see a car in person, or am actually ready to buy a car at a pre-agreed-upon price.  What's left for the guy on the lot to do?  Narrate my test-drive and hope that the next customer is less annoying.

For example, we strolled into the Hyundai dealership and asked to test-drive an Elantra one afternoon.  The salesman was super knowledgeable about the car, telling me about the various buttons while simultaneously announcing haughtily that he didn't care for the look of the new Porsche.  I interrupted him early on in the test-drive and explained that we only had a few minutes available for the drive.

"Oh... ok, "he said disappointedly.  "Well, I definitely want to let you see how the car handles, so we'll check out the turning radius, go up some steep slopes, and drive down the REAL curviest street in San Francisco."

Sounded good to me, so we took off.  After about 60 seconds, the salesman said, "Uh... do you always... um... drive this way?"

Given that I was driving exactly the way I always do, which is pretty damn reasonable, I said that I was.  We continued the obstacle course of a test-drive he had planned out, and then I reminded him that my time was about up.  

He suggested the best route back to the dealership and then as soon as I changed lanes to get into a shorter red-light line, he said, "Wow, um... you know, you are NOT going to get the stated gas mileage if you drive THIS way."

I didn't end up rejecting the Hyundai BECAUSE this guy criticized my driving, but I would have liked to.

Meanwhile, the Acura salesman made no such faux pas.  By this time, we had narrowed down our choice to two cars, the Mazda 3, and the new Acura ILX.  I explained to the Acura salesman that we recognized that his car was nicer than the Mazda, but there was a large price gap between the two.  We had not had any luck pre-negotiating a price online with this car due to its newness.

"How much flexibility do you have on the price?" I asked.

"Zero.  I have no flexibility on the price," he stated firmly while simultaneously making a zero symbol with his thumb and forefinger.

"Zero?" I repeated, "You can't move the price at all?"

"Nope," and he crossed his arms across his chest.

"Well," I said, looking over at Hank.  "I guess we need to to figure out exactly how much more this car is worth to us over the Mazda 3.  It costs about $7,000 more, so let's see if it's worth it to us."

Hank agreed and we launched into our calculations in front of the salesman.

"It's got a fairly quiet ride," I started, since I knew that was a plus for Hank.  "That's probably worth about... $1,500?"

Hank agreed while the salesman watched.

"And alloy wheels!" the salesman added.

"That's worth zero." I replied.

"Alloy wheels are worth zero?!?!" he asked, stunned.

"Look, I don't care how much they cost to make.  They're not worth anything TO US.  This calculation is  about how much more this car is worth to us."

"Alloy wheels improve your braking distance!" he insisted.

"Ok, but this car is hundreds of pounds heavier than the Mazda 3, so it could very well have worse overall braking.  Unless you can show me that the braking is better, alloy wheels are worth zero to me."

The salesman shook his head in disbelief as Hank and I continued our calculations.

"Oh!  Remember that you noticed that dome light in the car is further from the front?" I noted to Hank. "So when Daisy turns it on to read in the backseat, it won't bother us as much!  How much is that worth?"

"That's worth about $300," Hank replied.

"What??" the salesman sputtered, "A dome light is worth MORE than alloy wheels?!?!"

"Yes, worth more to US," I explained again.

We continued down this path, adding in arbitrary amounts for incalculable things like "overall niceness" and "ipod integration".  By the end of the process, we had made up about $3,500 of the $7,000 difference between the two cars.

So, we're the proud owners of a Mazda 3.  Can't wait to do this again in a dozen years.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

I messaged my buddy, Scott, when I got home:

Me: Well, that was an unpleasant doctor's visit!
Scott: What did you have done?  Did they rotate the tires or check the oil?

I stared at his messages for a moment, trying to decide how to cleverly convert his car-maintenance quips into the analog of what was done to me during my check-up.  It soon dawned on me that he had already done that.

Me: Oh... uh... I DID have the oil checked!
Scott:  Ewwww!
Me: Hell, I had the tires rotated too!

I guess I was a timing-belt change short of a full 90,000 mile tune-up! Anyway, the point is that I had one of THOSE check-ups last week.  You know, the kind that men start to have in their 40s?  The kind that would be called sex had I been in a relationship with my doctor?

I sat in the examining room, ready to recite my list of aches and ailments I had accumulated since my last trip to the doctor three years earlier. Just like last time, the doctor came in, gave me a quick look up and down and pronounced me healthy.

"A young healthy guy like you doesn't need much of a check-up!" my doctor announced, seemingly trying to convince us both of that fact.  "We'll just talk about a few things and then the physical exam will be VERY minimal."

She said this as though I was sitting there begging her to put her hand up my butt and I needed to be talked out of it.  It was very apparent that she intended to keep herself as far away from my butt as possible.  That's probably a generally wise strategy for non-dog mammals.

So, we chatted about my family's medical history and the fact that my mother's doctor-avoidance strategy now consists mainly of her saying, "I'm sure I'll feel better tomorrow."

"Anything else you'd like to discuss?" the doc asked.

I then launched into my list of injuries and health concerns from head (nose) to toe (foot tendons).  After hearing the full list, the doc let out a defeated, "Oh... ok", asked me to get undressed, and slowly shuffled out of the room to get a large tube of lube.

She came back a few moments later and explained very clinically how she was going to examine my testicles.  (This would be the "tire rotation" part of the metaphor).  I can't recall exactly what she said because I was mostly wondering whether I was going to get an erection during this procedure.  As it turns out, the specter of the upcoming "oil check", made all the more prominent by the industrial-sized tube of lube on the counter, pretty much killed the mood.  It was a boner-free examination.

After my testicles were given the sexy all-clear, the doc asked me to get up on the examining table.

"Please hop up there, lay on your side, and curl up facing away from me," she suggested gently.

"Really?" I asked, "We do this with me in the fetal position?"

"Well, it seemed more humane than just asking you to bend over."

The humane part of the examination ended exactly right then.  At that point, a woman, with whom I have spent roughly 25 minutes over my entire life, stuck her hand up my ass.  Jesus Sphincter-clenching Christ, that was odd.

The good news is that my prostate is smooooooth and healthy.  The bad news is that I'm still having flashbacks.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

My manager sent me a warning email last night.  She explained that she's being interviewed by a news program and they were going to be in the office this week.  The interviewers wanted to be present during one of her team meetings so that they could see how she was one of the few females in our male-dominated technical organization.

I told this story to my daughter, Daisy, during dinner tonight.

Me: So, basically, my boss needs me to be my manly self during our team meeting for this interview.
Daisy:  Oh, so it's a pants role.

My hearing has never been particularly good, but it seems to have gotten worse the last few years. Plus, Daisy doesn't always enunciate perfectly well.

Me:  What?  Did you say, "pants role"?
Daisy:  Yeah.  Pants role.
Me:  What's a pants role? A man thing where I wear pants? I got that covered.
Daisy:  No, "pants role" is a theater expression. It's where a woman plays a role written for a man.

Dang.  That's a pretty good zing.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

When I came to work the Monday after breaking my nose, and repeatedly told my tale, I occasionally followed it up with, "and that was the second worst thing that happened to me this weekend."

Here's the first.

Daisy, who is in the 7th grade, has had a tough time at school this year. She has one good friend there, and a few other kids she likes, but there's always been a group of kids that gave her a hard time. This year things got stepped up a notch or two.

Daisy increasingly found herself the recipient of taunting.  She's got a few quirks and the other kids were pretty relentless about pushing her buttons. Any one incident could easily be regarded as kids-being-kids, but as a whole Daisy began to feel increasingly isolated at school.  Nighttime stomachaches became commonplace and she'd dread school days where she knew she'd have to interact with these kids.

Hank and I brought this to the attention of the principal, pointing out that Daisy was being bullied, and they dutifully called some kids into the principal's office and admonished them, but then things just seemed to get worse.  Although casual bullies laid off, the more serious ones were incensed that Daisy had told on them.  She began to routinely have her things stolen and was verbally confronted on a regular basis.

We continued to inform the school administration about these things, and the bullying just seemed to escalate.  The Friday before I broke my nose, Daisy came home with a note she had found in her locker (which she keeps locked with a typical combination lock).  The note said something to the effect of, "You're a bitch and everyone hates you.  If you tell on us again, we'll kill you!"


Although I was pretty damn sure that 7th graders weren't going to murder my daughter, this was an alarming development.  Given that every time we talked to the principal, the bullies stepped up their mistreatment of my daughter, what was the next level after a death threat?  Plus, now my daughter was scared to go to school.  Plus, Hank was pretty emphatic that we were not going to send her back to that school ever again.

So, we yanked her out of her school that weekend.  We had been eying a private school as a possible location for next year, but we fired off a bunch of emails that day, asking if Daisy could begin the following Monday.  Thankfully, they had space, and their admission policy seemed to center around accepting a tuition check.

Placing Daisy in a school we knew little about, in the middle of the school year, seemed pretty terrifying to me, but leaving her where she was seemed worse.  So we held our breath and pulled the trigger.

Daisy has been there for over a month now, and I have to say that it was a fantastic decision. The kids there accepted her literally with open arms, and the performing-arts based curriculum is right up Daisy's alley. She's made more friends there in a month than she had after 8 years at her previous school.  She gets dance class and choir multiple times a week and just kicked some butt in her first multi-school speech contest.

Having gone to public schools for my entire education, it was a little hard for me to swallow sending my kid to private school, but, man, this has been great.  Such a freaking relief.

(This has been just one of many things keeping me occupied and stressed while not blogging over the last several months.  Just catching up here.)

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

One Saturday, about seven weeks ago, I headed out for a 10.5 mile run.  At roughly the 3.6 mile mark, heading downhill, I looked down at my GPS-enabled watch to see how far I had gone.  As I began to work through the usual arithmetic I do on a run, estimating how long it would take me to sheepishly turn around and walk home, not paying attention to any potential tripping hazards, I found myself plummeting towards the gravelly sidewalk face-first.  I stuck out my emaciated computer-programmer arms and grazed my hands on the ground as my face stuck the landing.  I have a vivid memory of uttering the sound, "Nuuuuummmmmfffff"

I laid there for a moment, in the gravelly dirt, lamenting my lack of grace.  I've tripped many times in my years of running, but I've never landed face-first before.  I got up, slowly, and wiped my face which I discovered was covered with blood and dirt.  I stood there for a moment, embarrassed, considering whether to turn around or soldier through the next 7 miles.  Meanwhile, my nose and forehead dripped blood onto my shirt.  I staunched the nosebleed but acknowledged that perhaps this was a sign that I should abort the run.

What I lack in grace, I make up for in preparation.  I had grabbed a $20 bill before leaving the house that day, as I often do on a long run just in case I need to take a cab home.  Unfortunately, I was in a part of town with no cabs, no nearby houses, and no open businesses.  I trudged up the hill, towards a large apartment complex, figuring that someone would be on staff and could call me a cab.

What I discovered on that walk is that if you are bleeding from three separate wounds on your face, and are literally covered in blood from your forehead to your chest, it will not go unnoticed by the good people of San Francisco.

The first person I saw on the street, a nice man with his small child in tow, stopped and asked if I needed some help.

"I'm not sure," I replied.  "I think I'm ok, but it's hard to tell."

His kid stared at me, open-mouthed and wide-eyed.

"You dont... uh.... would you like me to take a picture of you with my phone and show you what you look like?" the man asked

"Sure!" I answered, delighted to use an iPhone to diagnose my condition.  Turns out, the only thing I diagnosed is that the iPhone 3GS is completely incapable of taking a adequate picture in direct sunlight.

The man asked if he could call someone to come and pick me up, and remembering the $20 in my pocket, I asked him to call me a cab.  Two minutes later, he was on his way, with his child's mouth still agape.

I sat down on the curb, waiting for the cab.  Cars drove past, slowly and horrifiedly.  Many stopped and asked if I needed help.  One woman thrust out a pile of napkins and asked if I needed them.  I accepted them and spent the next few minutes dabbing at my face.

Another woman stopped and asked if I needed some wet-wipes.  This seemed like an obvious upgrade over dry napkins, so I took those too.  She grabbed a box, started at it, calculating for a moment how many wet wipes I might need, and then handed me the entire box, telling me to keep it.

I waited for the cab for around 40 minutes.  It never showed up.  Another woman approached me and asked if she could help me.  I explained that I didn't think I was very injured and was waiting for a cab.

"Your nose is broken," she said, staring at me with concern.  "I think you need to go to an emergency room.  I'm calling you an ambulance."

I talked her into just letting me use her cellphone instead, and I called my wife, who was downtown at an appointment, asking her to find some way to get me home.  She called me an Uber Cab, which is an upscale cab company with great service.  They arrived soon thereafter, with bottled water and towels.  I had them bring me home so I could grab my wallet and phone, and then drive me to the emergency room in their fancy town car.

I finally got to see a nurse in the emergency room who asked me insightful questions like, "Are you the victim of domestic violence?" and "Do you have suicidal thoughts?" (cleverly hypothesizing that I may have been trying to kill myself by face-planting into gravel).  Meanwhile, some kid walked past me, caught a glimpse of my face and could not help himself from exclaiming, "WHOA!".  His mother shushed him.

Another nurse picked the gravel out of my face and wiped the remaining blood off me.  As I waited for the doctor, I took this picture of myself:

I spent about 5 hours in the emergency room, but as it turns out, there's really not much you can do for a broken nose unless you get to someone very quickly who is capable of setting noses.   No such luck.  They did a cat scan and determined that my brain was still intact despite its inability to convince my hands to break my fall.  They also urged me to see a nose doctor once the swelling had gone down.

I sheepishly went to work two days later, with several band-aids on my face.  EVERYONE asked what happened.  I rotated through a few different stories:

- I asked the barber for just A LITTLE off the top....

- So, I went in for my monthly Botox and....

- The staff meeting did not go well this morning.

Turns out, none of those stories are remotely as funny as the image of a programmer tripping, failing to break his fall with his hands, and face-planting into the ground.  THAT is good comedy.  Somehow, however, despite the simultaneous laughter and sympathy generated by my face, I managed to get through the work days.  I interviewed people, conducted employee reviews, and performed all manner of tasks best executed by people engendering respect and not pity.

The following week I had an appointment with an ear, nose, and throat doctor.  (Amusingly, despite the fact that my injury was obviously the giant wound in the middle of my face, the dude still shined a light in my ear and looked at my throat.  I guess if you've got 3 hammers...).  The doc examined me and then described in graphic detail what the operation was going to be like to fix my nose.

When I asked him if getting my nose fixed was medically necessary, he stared at me, completely stunned.

"Oh, uh, well... I mean, I just assumed you'd want to get THAT fixed," he stammered.  "Is it medically necessary, well, you're still getting oxygen to your brain, but... well, I would never recommend that someone get vanity surgery!"

"But that's what this would be, right?  If it's not medically necessary, then it's vanity surgery that we're discussing here?"

The doctor stared at me again, flummoxed that I would even consider not getting THAT fixed.

"I would not consider it vanity to want to get the nose back that you had for the first 43 years of your life," he answered.

That was a pretty good way to spin the issue, but I wasn't convinced, and I'm still not.  It's been about 7 weeks, and things look better, but I still need to figure out if I want to get things fixed up.  My nose, with its semitic origins, was never pretty, but it it used to be more symmetrical and generally less wounded.  I might be snoring a bit more, but it's hard to say.

My wife, with polished tact, states that she doesn't care if I get it fixed or not.

My father, who sees himself as my nose's manufacturer, claims that I have violated the terms of service on my nose and unceasingly demands that I return it back to its original specifications.

My daughter, who is nearly a teenager, wants to know if we can go to Hawaii for vacation this summer.

I'm undecided.

Saturday, February 04, 2012

No, this blog has not been abandoned.

Yes, I am a terrible blogger.

These days it seems as though the things that are worthy of blogging would be inappropriate or unwise to post. Hopefully that will change sometime soon.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Jesus, I suck at this.  Here's all I got.

The day before Thanksgiving break, I chatted with a few co-workers about their Thanksgiving plans.  When they asked about my plans, I shared with them that I'd be taking Wednesday afternoon off from work so that I could clean up after Hank and Daisy's epic pie-making effort, which would undoubtedly cover the entire kitchen with flour.  I phrased it unfortunately.

Me:  Well, I think I'll be spending the afternoon deflouring the countertops.

Confused Coworker:  Deflowering your countertops?  Uhhhhhhh, I don't think you know what that word means.

Me:  What?.... Oh, no!  Jesus, I am NOT going to be having sex with the countertops!

I am not respected at my job.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Not long after the recent tsunami in Japan, which subsequently caused the Fukushima nuclear plant to leak radiation, I was contemplating the practice of renaming city streets after famous people.  Renaming a street causes all sorts of logistical havoc, so I was wondering what other ways we honor accomplished individuals.  This eventually led to a family discussion where we named all the rooms in our house after famous people who are in some way related to the activities in that room.

The kitchen?  The Alton Brown Kitchen

Upstairs bathroom?  The Albert Pujols Bathroom

Master bedroom?  The John Scalzi and Nina Totenberg Room

And because the toilet in the downstairs bathroom has a penchant for overflowing (which caused the great Poonami of 2011), we named that room Fukushima.  Obviously we need a new toilet, which is why I found Hank browsing toilet web pages yesterday, which led to this perfectly normal conversation.

Hank: What makes this difficult is the Americans with Disabilities Act.  The ADA compliant toilets are taller and I've talked to too many people who remodeled their bathroom, put in one of these ADA toilets and then ended up with various bowel issues and hemorrhoids.  It's just not natural for the body to poop while sitting so high up,  right?  So that limits which toilets...

Mike: Wait.  You have discussions with lots of people where they tell you have they hemorrhoids?

Hank: Uh..., sure.  It comes up.  So, the number of toilets which will...

Mike:  Talking about hemorrhoids "comes up"?  I don't think I have EVER discussed hemorrhoids with someone and you've had many people mention it?

Hank:  Yes, well, women talk about more things than men.

Mike:  Like hemorrhoids.

Hank:  Yes.

Mike:  Ok, so these many people who talk about their bowel issues like hemorrhoids, then they all follow up with, "and it's because of those damn ADA toilets"  This is a Thing?

Hank:  Well, they don't say that in so many words, but I piece it together.

Mike:  So, it goes like this.  They say, "Hi, Hank, I have hemorrhoids" and then you say, "Cool.  Hey, totally unrelated, have you recently remodeled part of your home and installed a toilet compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act?"

Hank:  Sort of, yes.

Mike:  Wow.  I have learned something very unusual about you and your hemorrhoidy friends.

Hank:  Oh, you'd be surprised at the conspiracy theories I have.

It's kind of nice to have a little crazy in the marriage.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

After a long run one Saturday morning about two months ago, I noticed that my foot was aching.  I rested it for a few days and then tried to run on it again.  No dice.  I pounded Advil for a few days, and rested for a week and tried to run again.  No dice.   Three more weeks passed and I tried to run again.  Nope, still hurt.

So, after two months of not being able to run across the street without feeling pain, I finally visited a podiatrist.

Before I tell you about that visit, may I first ask why someone would become a podiatrist?  Who wants to spend their whole life looking at damaged and diseased feet?  Podiatry school takes four years, which is the same length as medical school.  So, with three or four years of graduate school one could become a doctor, or a lawyer or.... a podiatrist?  Crikey, if I'm going to spend that long in school I had better come out of it with a degree in astronautology or maybe richguyicine instead of a being a foot doctor.  Is it that podiatrists want to help people but only if it doesn't involve creepy body parts like elbows or ears?  Just bizarre.

Anyway, two things were interesting about my visit.  First was that we chatted about my foot pain for a few minutes and the doc said, "Ok, I think I know what's going on, but let's take a look at how you walk first." Before I hopped out of the chair, I mentioned the fact that my foot hurt quite a bit first thing in the morning.

"Oh, right after you wake up?  That's quite significant!" he said, looking at me and nodding.

Seriously?  This fact that I barely remembered to mention was key to the diagnosis?  Were you about to diagnose foot cancer and recommend amputation when all of a sudden I rocked your world with this morning fact?  Maybe you could have asked?

I often mock the term "computer science" as being completely unscientific, but moments like this make me want to retract the science term from "medical science" too.

The second interesting thing about my visit was what happened after I showed the "doc" how I walked.  He was stunned, flummoxed even.  It was as though the field of podiatry had not yet invented the vocabulary to describe how I walked.

"Wow, your gait is very.... uh.... well... " and then he kind of trailed off, mumbling something about "rotational" and "pronate" but ultimately rallied with a conclusion of, "Your gait is atypical!"

This is not the first time I've heard this.  When I went to a high-end running shoe store a few years ago and showed them how I run, the employee was stumped.  He ultimately concluded that I had several opposing flaws in my gait and that no modern shoe could address them all, so it was best to just buy something comfy.  Similarly, when my running club held a biomechanics clinic, my coach all but forbid me from attending, explaining that it was only for people with fixable problems.

So the phrase "atypical gait" was what the doc kept returning to.  "Well, it was just a matter of time with that atypical gait" and "You're lucky that you didn't suffer more injuries with that atypical gait" were what he kept saying over and over.  At the end, when he was writing out my prescription for an anti-inflammatory (because tendonitis appears to be what was actually causing my pain), he had to pause for a moment, chuckle to himself, and say, "And, of course, there's your atypical gait."  It was as though he was anticipating being the center of attention at the bar that night while describing my walking style to all his podiatrist buddies.   Oh to be a fly on the wall at that gathering.

Well, it appears that the streets of San Francisco are safe from the sight of my unseemly running style for a few more weeks yet.  Enjoy while you can, fellow San Franciscans, for I well terrorize you with my atypical gait soon enough!