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Giveth and Taketh Away, Or, A Woodworkers Meditation

Here's one of my favorite things to do when I'm working in the garage:

nom nom nom.

nom nom nom.

For some reason, I find sucking up a giant pile of wood shavings and saw dust with my shop vac incredibly therapeutic. Is that weird? Probably.

I feel like there must be other things like this that are strangely satisfying. 

I don't cut hair, but does it feel like this to cut hair? Any hair cutters out there care to comment?

Part of it is playing with the contrasting darkness of the floor and lightness of the wood. Making and changing the shapes and patterns. 

There is also something pleasurable about the finality of the decisions I make. If I suck this up, I can't get it back. I get one chance to make whatever it is that I'm making.

I also like the varying heights of the wood shavings and how the vacuum reshapes them so effortlessly.

I'm a weirdo. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯



randomZak Adams
Hey! I Like Making This! or, I'm Going To Blog Again

Every so often I stop writing. Then I read what I have written in the past, enjoy it quite a bit, and then I decide to start writing again. This is one of those times. I have a brand new website and I'm going to make the most of it.

Sometimes I will write about theology. Sometimes I will write about art. Sometimes I will write about the junk mail I receive. The options are endless really. But I'm going to write. It's good for me. If you read it, it's probably good for you too.

Enjoy! I'm going to.


randomZak Adams
The Emotional Roller Coaster Of Dipping Foods

I really love chips and salsa. I love chips and guac, crackers and hummus, carrots and ranch...but I really love chips and salsa. There's so much joy in having an edible utensil. There's the art of scooping the exact right amount of salsa to compliment the chip. It's different for every various chip brand and variety, as well as the myriad of salsas. But once you find it, you aim for that perfect blend of salty corn texture and vibrant citrus punch.

Chips and salsa bring a lot of control to the eating experience as well. Your hand is closer to the food than with a fork. More precision is required. More concentration. I love the chips and salsa eating experience almost as much as I love eating chips and salsa.

There's also the community aspect. A common bowl of chips, a common bowl of salsa. You know there's a real connection with a person when you can freely double dip. (My wife and daughters in my experience) It just feels good to share such a simple, rich snack with other people.

But then there's the downside. I think I've traced it back to the reality that you're never really done eating chips and salsa. The experience ends, but you're always robbed before you are finished. Either you run out of chips, or you run out of salsa. You never use your last chip to scoop up the last bit of delicious salsa. It just doesn't work that way. You always look down at half a bowl of chips and an empty bowl of salsa, or vice versa. That's what makes me sad. I can eat a steak and some potatoes and a salad, and when my plate is clean, all the food is gone. But not with chips and salsa. There is always a component left over. Taunting me. Mocking me.

I always go back though. I really love chips and salsa.

randomZak AdamsComment
My Healthcare Journey Part Three, Or, Soothe Me With Smalltalk

In part two of my fanciful adventure through the A-for-caring-F-for execution Healthcare Marketplace website, I had appealed the silicon-based quality-of-life-determiner's decision to deny my 7 year old daughter health insurance.  I did this through the certified mail.  Because of this, I knew that my appeal had been received on December 18th.  So I waited.  I waited until after Christmas in fact.  On December 26th I called the Health Insurance Marketplace one more time to see about checking in on this appeal process.  I spoke with a lovely lady who wanted to rehash my entire history with the ACA so that she could better solve my problem.  She put me on hold for awhile and came back with the news that there was no way to check on my appeal and it might take up to 90 days.  This was concerning because my daughter's healthcare is due to end in 5 days.  When I asked her what I should do, she told me that she would like to help me reapply for coverage over the phone.  She was hopeful that the electronic guardians of affordable healthcare would rule in my favor this time.  The process took an hour.  During that time I learned that she was married with children, had friends in the town that I live in, and had a son who always wants to travel to Athol and go to Silverwood.  I also learned that she is unable to put her husband on her work insurance policy because it is too expensive.  There is nothing wrong with that exactly, I just find it ironic. After my hour of pleasant conversation interspersed with social security numbers, birthdates and annual salaries,  the HTML lords of health handed down a new PDF ruling.  My wife is eligible for healthcare on the marketplace, my 1 year old is eligible for CHIP again, and my 7 year old is eligible for nothing.  The process has failed me once again.  My friendly marketplace representative quipped, "Well at least we tried, right?!" Indeed.

So, what's next? A letter to my congressman, Raul Labrador, and my senator, Mike Crapo.  Let's see if this representative democracy thing works.

randomZak AdamsComment
My Healthcare Journey Part Two, or, You're Right, That Doesn't Seem Fair!

Last time we got together, I had just been told for the second time by our automated health-conscious overlords that my 7 year old is not eligible for health insurance.  I was slightly disturbed by this, as was my 7 year old.  (I really need to stop talking about these things with my wife when she is within earshot.) So, it's December 6th at this point, and I gave the Health Insurance Marketplace a call.  Before I relaunch into my tirade of continual disappointment with this system, I have to say, every single person I talked to at the Health Insurance Marketplace has been lovely.  I have also been in contact with representatives of The Internal Revenue Service this fall (that's a different blog post) and they could definitely take a few pointers from the Health Insurance Marketplace call center staff.  Everyone I have talked to there has been kind, empathetic and engaging.  In fact, only occasionally did I get a hint of the fact that they all get yelled at constantly and hate their jobs.

At first I spoke with a young man (I assume) with a nice thick southern accent.  I told him my problem and read him the Eligibility letter that I had received informing me that my 7 year old daughter was not eligible for health insurance while the rest of my small family was.  He asked if he could put me on hold while he looked into that.  I said yes.  He came back on the line a few minutes later having pulled up my file.  He then read me the Eligibility letter that I had already read to him.  I have to admit I enjoyed it more with the accent.  He then exclaimed, "That doesn't seem fair at all!"  It was at this point that he ran out of helpful ideas.  I asked him why the robo-insurance system might have made that determination.  He did not know.  I asked to talk to his supervisor.  He assured me that his supervisor would not know either.  I insisted.  He obliged me with a slight downturn in his mood.  I can only assume that a customer asking to be transferred to a supervisor reflects poorly on his performance record.  If you're reading this Health Insurance Marketplace Call Center frontline southern kid, I'm sorry.

I was transferred to his supervisor.  If I had to guess, I would say mid-twenties, young father, maybe a California vibe. (Actually, he told me the young father part)  He was very nice.  He too reread my Eligibility notice back to me.  I reminded him that I was actually the first person to read that notice, hence my call.  He also remarked that this set of circumstances was "unfair" and "weird."  He had a solution though!  He was going to reapply for me over the phone.  I thought, hey, maybe that's a great idea. Maybe.

We were about 15% of the way through the application when I realized that he was just filling in the fields on the website that I had already filled in.  At this point my hopes fell slightly, but I thought "at least we can rule out operator error on my part."  So we did it.

"Is your wife a woman?"


"Does your 7 year old have a job?"


I almost threw him when he asked the question about anyone in the household needing assistance dressing themselves, going to the bathroom or eating.  I told him that my 1 year old was still working through some of those things, but he decided that my situation probably didn't apply to the question the way our cybernetic medical benefactors intended.

We finally finished the application and he remarked "40 minutes for a family of four is a really good time!"  I sincerely hope he will get recognized for that achievement.  And then....drum roll please...

I'm eligible for insurance on the marketplace, my wife is eligible for insurance on the marketplace, my 1 year old is still eligible for medicaid and my 7 year old is NOT ELIGIBLE FOR ANYTHING!

My friendly application record breaking Health Insurance Marketplace supervisor said, "huh."  Then he said, "I'm really sorry man.  I've never seen anything like that."

I asked him what I should do now.  He said I should appeal the decision.  He said there was a form and I could download it and mail it in to the Department of Health and Human Services (what exactly does "Human Services" encompass anyway?)  So I did that.  I mailed it certified mail.

Tune in to part 3 of my tale to hear what happened next...

randomZak AdamsComment
My Healthcare Journey Part One, or, Our System Is Down Right Now

In this series of posts it's my intention to detail my journey through the Affordable Care Act. While I am fairly Libertarian in my political views I'm not in principle against the idea of the ACA, however my experience with the website has been incredibly frustrating. My tale begins back in October when the website first came online.  I enrolled in order to look into insurance options for my family.  I am covered very well by my employer but to add the family to my plan would be unaffordable.  They currently have an individual plan.  It took several attempts to create a login at, but I finally succeeded.  After creating my login however, it was 2 weeks before the system would let me create an application for health insurance.  At first I just got blank pages.  These were followed by error messages with the "error id" listed as "unknown error."   Finally though, I got an application submitted for my family.

Good news, my wife and both my kids are eligible to purchase insurance on the marketplace!  Great! Where do we sign up?

This question was answered by over a month straight of "Select a health plan for: null" messages.  I chatted and called the Marketplace call center several times and was always told that there are bugs in the system and to try back at a time that was less busy.  Finally I spoke to a call center employee who thought I might just want to delete my application and try again.  So I did that.

I then proceeded to reapply for coverage for my family.  I told the system all the important things it needed to know for the second time.  I told it that my wife was a woman. I told it that my 7 year old hasn't been employed in the past six months. I told it that my 1 year old doesn't have any alimony to report on her taxes.  All the important stuff.  My application went through, but this time, something was different.  While my wife was still eligible for insurance through the marketplace, my 1 year old was eligible for Idaho CHIP (Children Health Insurance Plan) and my 7 year old was not eligible for any coverage whatsoever.  The friendly government-issued pdf document said, and I quote:

Based on your application, you don’t qualify to purchase health coverage through the Marketplace. In addition, you don’t qualify for a tax credit, cost-sharing reductions, Medicaid, or Idaho CHIP.You still might be able to get health care at a lower cost. The health care law has expanded funding to community health centers, which provide primary care for millions of Americans. These centers provide services on a sliding scale based on your income. Learn more about getting care at a community health center on

Sorry small child, you don't qualify for mandatory insurance that we will fine you for not having.  Good news though, if you can find a "community health center" they might cut you a deal, as long as your income is low enough.

At this point, I knew something must be wrong. So, I deleted that application and started over.  I had the same family for this application, same wife (still a woman), same children, but the soothing blue and green prompts asked me slightly different questions this time. (Does my 1 year old need help paying off the last six  Huh.  That application was successfully submitted and my wife is still eligible for health care.  My 1 year old is now eligible for Medicaid, not CHIP and my 7 year old is still ineligible for anything.

Stay tuned for the next installment in this series where I call the Health Insurance Marketplace and hilarity ensues...

randomZak AdamsComment
Facebook Dinner, or, Scaling The Wall With My Peas

So, the last time we went out of town, back when we adopted our daughter Nora, we had some friends house sit for us. One of these friends must have left a Banquet TV dinner in the freezer (because my wife would never buy one nor let me buy one.) Last night for second dinner I thought I'd give it a go. The following will constitute my review.

There were a lot of flashy words, some in English, all over the box. It was however easy to find the picture of the microwave and the clock. The nearby directions told me to remove the plastic covering from the potato cell of the dinner and microwave the dinner for 3 minutes. After 3 minutes I was instructed to stir the potatoes and heat in the microwave for three minutes more. After this came a rest period of 2 minutes and a thermometer test to ensure that the product was 165 degrees. As I was doing dishes at the time, the 8 minutes went by rather quickly. Had I not been otherwise engaged, 8 minutes would have been a rather long time to wait for the satisfaction of eating. At least in the mood I would assume I would need to be in to be satisfied by eating a Banquet TV dinner. However, that is neither here nor there. The 8 minutes expired and my meal was ready. I'm not sure if the typical TV dinner diner has a food grade thermometer to ensure that his or her meal is outside of the temperature danger zone when consumed, but we have one just for these sort of occasions. I was in possession of one hot rectangle of food products.

I carried the dinner underneath a paper towel (to protect my hand from scalding) to my desk upstairs. I made sure to bring a fork along. The footprint of the black plastic service container fit nicely on my desk, with plenty of room to spare for a glass of water and possibly a 2nd or 3rd place bowling trophy, had one been available. The meal was organized thusly: the aforementioned potatoes had slightly less than 1/4 of the area. The nearby, equally sized compartment held green peas.  The major area, and star of the meal, was the chicken, or possibly turkey sitting atop stuffing with gravy.

I must briefly turn my attention to the chicken/turkey. While the packaging indicated a rather large piece of chicken, likely a breast, the actual meal contained what amounted to 2 half circles of thick deli sliced sandwich meat. One slice was white and the other was dark. Choices. The stuffing was a crouton-like material soaked in gravy. And by gravy I mean gelatinous brown salt product. It was really tasty. (By the by, I really struggled to start that one sentence back there with the word "and." I wouldn't have done it, but I got a nice letter from the Vice President and General Manager of AT&T Pacific Northwest and Alaska today offering me $100 off any tablet with a new 2 year service agreement as a holiday gift and he did it, so I thought I could probably get away with it.)

Now for the sides. I immediately recognized the potatoes as instant. Instant potatoes are translucent. The peas however, were remarkable. The problem with peas is that I grew up being asked to eat canned peas. I despise canned peas. They are chalky, and sweeter than they should be. They don't taste like food from the garden. They taste like food from the basement. Only mushrooms can taste like food from the basement. These peas though were frozen peas. They were great. It was at this point (when I was enjoying the peas) that I realized the major positive in the TV dinner model for me as a child is a major negative for me as an adult. I very badly wanted my peas and my potatoes and my chicken/turkey crouton salt gravy to blend together and combine their flavor powers on my fork prior to entering my mouth. The barriers between the food products were just too high and too slippery to make this an enjoyable task. I had to fight my way over the wall with my peas like a band of little round green Orcs at Helms Deep. Just as many fell down into the rainy abyss as lept over into the elf-like translucent potatoes on the other side. It was a lot of work.

I was successful in the end though. I finished my TV dinner. Not in front of the TV, but while surfing facebook. Eating and browsing the internet is much easier than eating and watching TV. One can pause for a bite and pull one's gaze away from the screen without the fear of missing something important. Status updates don't happen that quickly. If I had to give my Facebook Dinner a rating, I would say 3.5 out of 5 stars. 8 minutes is far to long to wait for a good meal and I must be able to mix my food. Points off for those things.  However, the flavor packed chicken/turkey section of my meal really hit the spot.


randomZak AdamsComment
Vanity Plates, or, I Can Say Something Better With 7 Characters Than You Can

I just realized another way that I arrogantly judge people. I'm seldom shocked when this happens, but it's still amazing to me that these kind of attitudes are buried inside my heart. I was driving today behind a van with a license plate that said "PINAPLE." I immediately thought, "That would make more sense if it said, 'PINAPPL.'" I then realized that I do that every time I see a vanity plate. I try to figure out what it says and then I check to make sure that there isn't a better way to have spelled it. Then I judge the person as somehow intellectually deprived if I can think of a better way to communicate that "I'm a sexy grandma" (SXYGRMA) or "This family is made up of 3 cats and a woman" (3KTNLAD).

I never consider than maybe the best vanity plate spelling was taken and they had to settle for second best. I just judge.

To Love And Have Lost Is Better Than To Have Not Loved At All, or, I Miss My iPhone

I have been without an iPhone for several months. I got rid of my iPhone so that I could save money. That sort of back-fired though. Here's that story:

"$30 a month is a lot," I thought. "My contract is up. I will use my free upgrade for a new dumb-phone, sell my iPhone on craigslist, and have an extra $30 a month." Unfortunately, in resigning my contract, I had to accept the new terms of AT&T texting plans. My old plan was defunct. All new plans were more texts and more expensive. I went with a family plan sized texting plan which ended up costing $25. I lost my iPhone for $5 a month.

Why do I miss my iPhone? Here's a partial list.

  • Instant directions.
  • Cataloging my life through pictures and twitter updates.
  • My guitar tuner/metronome app.
  • My voice memo app. (for recording song ideas)
  • It doubles as a flashlight.
  • A really solid alarm clock (with a custom playlist to wake up to)
  • HD video.
  • Not having everyone that calls me go "hey, let me call you back. There is a weird echo on the phone." (granted, that's more of a anti-current phone thing than a pro-iPhone thing, but still)
  • Calendar access.
  • Instant information. About anything.

Granted, that's just a partial list, but it's a start. Hopefully I will get another iPhone someday. Maybe.

A Short Story, or, The Last Pound Cake

Trips to Walmart are always exciting for me. It's part Star Wars style pod race, part mission impossible theme song driven time trial, all kinds of exciting. At least when I go alone. I don't like shopping with others. Anyway, my Walmart story today begins last night at 8pm. I breezed through the store, strategically choosing my route based on where my predetermined items were located. I arrived at the express line within minutes. The following people were in front of me.

  1. A 50ish year old man of African descent. Big hair, big smile, short shorts. He was purchasing a chocolate pound cake. How do I know? "Have you ever had a chocolate pound cake?" he asked. "They are delicious!" Apparently he had called ahead to check on said cake's availability at the store and was told that they were all out. Undeterred, he made the trip anyway (forgoing proper footwear in his haste) and snatched the last one, hidden from the bakery attendant's eye. He had just enough milk left at home for one piece before bed.
  2. Behind him was someone's grandfather. He had had something of a beer belly, but the sheer force of age had worn most of it down to his former, lanky figure. He too had a big smile and enjoyed his brief cake-related words with the man in front of him. He had 4 large bags of pre-popped white cheddar popcorn...and 5 apples. I can only assume it was movie night and his wife was watching her calorie intake.
  3. Next in line was the portly gentleman. Shirt tucked in, slacks, burnt orange mustache. He was on a mission, just like me. He didn't care about the cake, the popcorn, or the apples. He was bothered to even be standing in line. He had work to do. There was a 1/2 gallon of vanilla and a 1/2 gallon of strawberry in his hands, and two packs of dark fabric iron-ons for inkjet printers. Yes, his evening consisted of making custom logo'd t-shirts and eating ice cream.

The cashier's name was River. He had the earrings of a 22 year old and the mustache of a 14 year old. I paid with cash. He placed my goods in the bag on the opposite side of the carousel from me. I waited. He just stared into the bag. Finally, after a thoughtful pause, he picked it up and handed it to me. It was 8:20pm.

I walked out of the store with my jar of caraway seeds and my can of tomatoes and drove home.

This Is For Jamie B., or, I'm Running On A Double Pay For Lifeguards Platform

The Kroc Center is hiring a new business director. Our current business director is moving on to become an officer in The Salvation Army. (Congrats Elaine!) The whole process is very formal and business-like, but I have been told that there are several candidates (all current employees in other positions) and that interviews with a crack team of interviewing professionals and directors will be held next week. That's great. The office is all abuzz with who the candidates are and other miscellaneous gossip.

It got me thinking though, what if upper level positions at work were elected instead of appointed? What if the candidates for business director had to campaign, and the rest of the staff got to vote? A friend mentioned that this idea should be a blog post, so, the following list contains several possible circumstances that would occur:

  1. There are more employees in the Aquatics department than any other. They are a powerful voting block, yet most high level candidates are likely completely out of touch with the average lifeguard and their needs. I assume this is a perfect storm for pandering and hollow promises designed to get the votes of lifeguards.
  2. The marketing department is one of the smallest in the building, but the one who wins the favor of the marketing department automatically gets great signage. The marketing director also has veto power on anything that gets hung up throughout the building. I'm not sure she has power in the break room, but she could definitely prevent candidates that she didn't support from having signage throughout the rest of the building.
  3. Our audio/video team, much like the marketing department controls much in the way of media. A candidate backed by both constituencies puts forward a powerful campaign.
  4. Politicians are all about kissing babies. That makes the Child Watch Department a good asset and worth pleasing.
  5. I work for the ministry department. We are about 20 strong, but we have easy access to 80 volunteers. For this reason, ministry is a heavy hitter. We are also arguably the most fun department. For an exercise that's likely to degenerate into a High School popularity contest, fun is a huge benefit for your campaign.
  6. One positive effect of this would be the necessity to let the lower echelons into some of the more important policy decisions in our somewhat large organization. While it's not reasonable to have everyone making important decisions, it would be necessary for candidates to explain business processes and policy decisions to their constituencies if they wanted to continue in their offices over time. I think this would be a good thing.

So, there it is. Likely outcomes from switching to a democratic hiring system. I'm guessing it's too ahead of its time to be taken seriously. Oh well.

Marital Conflict, or, "I'm Going To Be A Doctor of Fossilosophy!"

My wife and I got into a fight yesterday. For some reason, the family was gathered around watching The Muppet Babies, and Jo said that she remembered them being better when she was little. She also remarked that maybe an episode of My Little Pony or Chip N' Dale would be better. She nearly had to sleep on the couch. Honestly though, this is a great cartoon. It's full of pop culture references, goofy humor, and Gonzo. Lots of Gonzo.

Isn't it true that you are nothing but a low-down, two-faced, dirty, sneaky weirdo?

This is classic TV people. Classic.

Hey, Internet, Validate Me! or, Rather Beneficial Distribute.

I am conflicted by my blog's spam filter. You see, when I get a comment on a blog post, the spam filter automatically decides whether or not it is spam and puts it in a special "delete me" folder. It doesn't even bother me with it (typically I get an email asking me to approve comments). My inner turmoil comes from the fact that I 1) don't want spam comments and 2) want more comments. Comments are an indication that people are reading your blog. Now, not everyone who reads a blog comments (I rarely comment on the blogs I read) but, statistically, I would assume that the more people that comment, the more readers you have. So, I want comments for my own self-worth's sake.*

However, I don't want spam. Spam comments are not real readers. They are just robots that scour the web for places to unload their ridiculous advertising information. Here are a few of my recent favorites:

You know it and I know it… Facebook is off the charts. Well, I found a way to harness all that power. It’s a 3 in 1 software package that leverages the power of Facebook and integrates with Amazon, Ebay & Clickbank. Amazingly, it works even if you don’t have a product to sell or even a website. This is something that you just have to see to believe. Take a look…[link removed]

He's right, I know it. Totally off the charts. I use Facebook's power to heat my house.

Rather beneficial distribute. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to claim that I have really enjoyed looking at your blog content. Any way I will be subscribing to your own feed and i also hope you post again quickly.

You are the first to claim this. Thank you. Also, "anyway" is one word.

Hey, just discover your blog by means of Google, and located that it’s genuinely informative. I’m gonna watch out for brussels. We are grateful in case you continue this in future. Other people will likely to end up benefited from your current writing. All the best!

Location: Genuinely Informative. And hey kids, watch out for those brussels, they'll bite off your legs. All the best to you too!

I realize a good amount of people today have had various things to say about this publish, and a few of them are doing a good point, but I do recognize the way you watch it. Very good sharing.

Isn't "I do recognize the way you watch it" a lyric from a Beyoncé song? Maybe not.

See, I don't really want comments like this on my blog, but it still makes me a little sad that when I check my spam filter, I don't find that it has made any mistakes. Just once I'd like to be able to rescue a genuine comment from an interwebs passerby that mistakenly got caught. Not today folks. Not today.


*Only sort of not true.

What I Do For Cookies, or, Wow, You Must Hate Your Job

A couple days ago my friend and co-worker April offered to bake me cookies in exchange for fixing up her grandfather's new computer. What was wrong with it? It was brand new and chock full of terrible OEM HP software. REE-DIK-YOO-LUSS. To help explain the crazy here, I have decided to list what the strategy of HP OEM software would look like at a car dealership.

  1. Every car comes free with all the options that any particular person ever may or may not want, except they are all cheap, poorly designed rip-offs of the real thing designed, built and installed by the dealer. Would you like a GPS? How about Dave Smith In-Car Navigation? DVD player? Sure, straight from Knudtsen Electronics and Hi-Fi. There are even really advanced options like the Robideaux Fryer Grease to Diesel Fuel Conversion Kit, just in case you're into that.
  2. In case you didn't know that your car comes with all these features, they all automatically activate their singular function whenever you turn on the ignition, and you have to reach under the frame, next to the oil pan, to turn them off, individually.
  3. They are all ridiculously branded and designed to match the dealership's awful website color scheme so that you know they were made by the dealer and that while they aren't the real thing, the dealer really cares about your convenience.
  4. There is just a little something funny about each one, like the guy that designed the custom child safety seat that came with the car has never actually seen a baby. It's close, but it's still something you'd never use.
  5. As soon as you drive out of the dealer's parking lot, all the warning lights on your instrument panel light up saying that all these features are due for scheduled maintenance.
  6. If you don't like all these extra features, the easiest way to remove them is to simply gut the car to its frame and start over with the features that you want.

I think the person I feel the worst for is the poor software designer in charge of all these sad little programs that I and every other reasonable computer user are deleting. He must hate his job. Oh well, at least I get cookies.

randomZak AdamsComment
Loose Leaves Sink Ships, or, Serve It Whole, It's "Fancy"

I don't like loose leaf spinach. I really don't like it at all. I don't think there is ever a time when, if given the choice, I would eat loose leaf spinach. Unfortunately, that's what my wife buys. She loves loose leaf spinach. Don't get me wrong, I eat it, but I would much rather eat iceberg lettuce, or romaine, but loose leaf spinach is the salad green of choice at my house. A long time ago, I didn't like the way it tasted. It's got a bitterness to it that is missing from my other favorite salad greens. I got over that. I sort of like how it tastes now.

Then I thought it was the texture. I still don't like the texture. It's too thin. A good lettuce is ripply, like a potato chip, and crunches. It is also packed full of water in its inner structures. I like this about lettuce. It's refreshing. Not so with loose leaf spinach. It's like eating paper, and not in a good way.

A couple days ago I think I had an epiphany. I think I now know why I really don't like loose leaf spinach. It's too big. The leaves, at least in the containers we get from Costco, are around two to three inches long and the stems extend from them at least another inch. That's too big for the salad bowl, too big for my fork and too big for my mouth. If I had a nice head of romaine or iceberg, I could cut it into reasonable, bite-sized pieces. Not so with loose leaf spinach. It comes pre-configured in its loose leaf shapes. Shapes that are too big.

The size problem is further compounded in a salad. I can manage to get one piece of loose leaf spinach into my mouth just fine, but a half dozen on a fork, covered with salad dressing and possibly accompanied by a tomato, mushroom, or piece of grilled chicken, is too overwhelmingly large to make it through my lips without getting ranch on my face. I don't like getting ranch on my face.

For the foreseeable future we will likely stock our fridge with loose leaf spinach. Can I chop it before we make a salad? Is that allowed? I think I will attempt it next time. There's probably a rule against that. I am not afraid.

Sacred Spaces, or, Is there a special electrical code for that?

You know what's a terrible idea? TVs in showers. If there is a spiritual discipline that I am most attracted to, it's silence and solitude. Unfortunately, it's hard to get. I try to make time, at least once a year, to go out in the woods or something for at least half a day and spend time listening to God in the quiet. The closest thing I get to silence and solitude on a regular basis is the shower.

There is very little to do in the shower. Some soap, a little body wash, maybe shampoo, but little else. Wash, wash, wash. A nice relaxing shower is really only at most 25% getting stuff done. The other 75% is just hot water and thinking. I do some of my best thinking in the shower. There is no internet, no other people, no books, no music, no paperwork, nothing but me and my cleaning solutions. I have yet to really be distracted by the list of chemicals in my shampoo.

What could possibly ruin all that? Putting in a TV. That is a huge waste of silence and solitude. TV is the absolute non-thinking, non-listening-to-God device. It's not bad per say, but it's definitely something that takes over your mind while it's on.

So, value silence and solitude, spend some time alone, and don't ruin the experience with a TV in your shower.

Anthropomorphisms, or, F Major's A Lovely Lady

Do you ever give genders and personalities to inanimate objects or concepts? Throughout history, ships and cars have been designated as "ladies." There are probably many other examples of common things that we think of as being male or female and give human characteristics to. Here is an example. I don't know why, but for as long as I can remember, I have assigned gender and personality to notes in the musical scale. I have never really identified a correlation between my anthropomorphisms and the way the notes sound, but there might be a link.

C Major is male. He is unassuming, but confident. He can be passionate and lively, in the right situation, but he can also function equally well as the wallflower at the party. He has a couple good friends, F and G.

D, who is a close friend with G but can't stand F and doesn't get along with C, is also male. He is sweet, charming, a little boyish and silly. He catches the eyes of the ladies more so than C, but he's not as nuanced and interesting once you get to know him. G is a close friend, as well as A.

E is somewhat of a pompous jerk. If he drove a car, it would be a fast one. If he had a house, it would be a big one. He makes up for lack of depth and character with the sheer awesomeness of his presence. He runs around with a lady on each arm: A and B.

F is classy. She is a full figured woman, with all the right kinds of tastes. She appreciates the calm confidence of C. She has a temper, but it is shaped by wisdom and poise. She can't stand B though, and does everything in her power to wreck her day.

G is warm and gentle. He is equally at home at a party or in a reading room. C and D are his two best friends.

A is a lot like G, but she would never admit it. She loves the reckless confidence of E and the crazy antics of D. She is light and airy and is always brightening rooms and turning heads.

B is brazen, unforgiving and conceited. She is condescending and outright mean at times. There is nothing that can stand in the way of her getting whatever she wants, and she has the means to live her life as she pleases. She keeps E around for laughs, but she doesn't really care about anyone but herself.

There you go. I promise, since I was a little boy, I have thought of the notes on the piano is just those terms. If you know anything about music, it's apparent that the notes hang out with one another based on their relationships as tonic, dominant and sub-dominant chords in the scale. The notes don't get along when one key sharps or flats another. For example, B is so self-centered because in her key, all the notes but E are sharped. I don't know why my mind interprets that as relational strife, but it does. I'm sure this has to do with learning to play in the key of B on the piano. It's one of the hardest ones for a young student to master. This kind of thinking is so ingrained in my mind that I always have a brief second thought whenever I play a song in B. I don't like B. She's a jerk.

So, is it just me? Am I alone in my crazy anthropomorphisms? I think not.

Yes, We Have No Roast Beef, or This Job Would Be A Lot Easier Without All You Customers

Sunday afternoon the family and I were driving home from a great 4 days in Seattle visiting family and hanging out. It was lunch time and we were in Ellensburg, Washington so we stopped at Arby's for some sandwiches. I've always felt like Arby's was just a little higher on the fast food chain than some of the burger options. I'm sure at some point I felt like eating there would be a healthier option than Burger King. I don't think that anymore, but I am still attracted to Arby's when I want something just a little fancier than a cheap burger or taco. Irrational reasoning or not, we drove up to Arby's and went inside. There was quite a line. Lots of Arby's folk in the back making food, and one lone girl at the register. She was trying to make the best of it, but, at that moment on that day, her world sucked. You see, Arby's had run out of roast beef. At least, they had run out of prepared roast beef. As I neared the front of the line, someone was frantically pulling chunks of hot meat out from some hot meat maker in the back and throwing them on an automatic meat slicer where another someone was just as frantically pulling them off piece by piece, weighing them and make sandwiches as fast as the slicer would let him.

The hard thing for April (that was the girl at the register) is that she was being told, pretty regularly, that she needed to let all the customers know that any beef product would be a ten minute wait. I think this was supposed to disuade the customers from ordering beef products. It wasn't working. Why wasn't it working? Because all of these shenanigans were taking place at Arby's. The roast beef sandwich place. April was making the best of it though. She asked the customer in front of me what name to put on the order. "Connie." "That's the name of my car," she said. "What?"  "Yeah, I have a Lincoln Continental. I call her Connie."

I ordered my roast beef sandwiches, much to April's chagrin, and went to the side to stand and watch. Each customer heard the same warning that the customer before them did: "Any beef sandwiches will be a 10 minute wait." No one changed their resolve for beef. At one point, the manager, or at least the girl in charge of the shift, after continuing to see beef sandwich orders appear on the monitors around the kitchen, came up, again, to make sure that April was telling her patrons that there would be a long wait for beef. April assured her that she was informing each one of the perils.

As I put in my 10 minutes, it was fascinating how frustrated the staff was about the beef. Now, I'm sure they were frustrated about there not being beef: whose fault was it that there was no beef right at lunch, is there anyway to bypass some steps in order to get beef faster, etc., but the way that their frustrations kept coming out was: why do you people keep ordering beef?

It's funny how we misdirect legitimate frustrations toward those totally not responsible for our problems. The way we see a solution, but it doesn't involve hard work, an apology and possibly personal loss, but instead a scapegoat that we can blame. The right thing to do would have been to suck it up, apologize profusely and give everyone free sodas (that's not even a statistically significant personal loss but it would have gone a long way) but instead the staff decided to blame all those pesky customers for their problems. If only we had gone to Taco Bell on Sunday, Arby's would have never run out of beef.

I only stayed long enough to get my 'Shroom and Swiss Roast Beef, Regular Roast Beef, Jr. Roast Beef and Large curly fry, but as I was walking out the door it became clear that the staff of the Ellensburg Arby's was going to get their wish: the shift leader announced that instead of just being behind on beef slicing, the restaurant had actually run out of beef. I'm sure the line subsided shortly thereafter.