Archive for the ‘Personal’ Category

By virtue of a serendipitous Google accident, I ran across an awesome map.  Turns out our friends in Australia have an impressive map of all public access toilets in the country.  You can map all the toilets near you or you can give it your trip start and end points and it will show all the toilets with travel time between them.  It even comes as a mobile app.

ausmapTurns out this map is part of the National Continence Management Strategy which the government of Australia has spent over $50 million on in the last decade and has goals in public education, research, and things like the National Public Toilet Map.  The website includes lots of fact sheets for the public and health care professionals and there is even a hotline and a monthly stipend for some people with continence problems.

At first I was impressed that the Australian government was willing to pitch in for people with such an embarassing and little talked about problem.  The more I thought about it though, the more angry I got.  I really shouldn’t be impressed that a national governement is making life better for its citizens, I should expect it.  I can just imagine the inane comments from the legislature if somebody wanted to do that here in Tennessee.  (Government Out Of Bathrooms)  Pundits would have a field day and the Tea Party would rake in contributions from conservatives who didn’t want the governement helping “people take a leak”.  

This sort of thing does eat away at my sense of exceptionalism as indoctrinated into most Americans at an early age.


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Every election year this unfailingly ends up back in my head. And I unfailingly get just as mad as I did the first time. So in the interests of getting it out of my head I hereby share it with all and sundry.

A few years back the legislature was debating passing a state income tax. This was a huge hot issue and it got a lot of people riled up and honkin’ mad. It got to the point where the block around the legislature’s office building was gridlocked with cars honking their horns for days because some local wanna-be Rush Limbaughs suggested it. A lot of state employees work within a block of that building and the noise was so bad it made it hard to work even 20 floors up so we were all a little tense for those two weeks. (I doubt anyone considered how much money was lost due to low productivity during this taxpayer tantrum, but it was one of the few amusing things about the whole situation.)

One day about half way through this circus I decided to go to lunch and encountered a couple of middle-aged idiots in front of our building yelling and honking an air horn. This was before I had kids and I hadn’t yet developed the ability to selectively ignore loud noises so I asked them to find somewhere else to honk their air horn so I could get some work done. One of these guys yelled ‘Free Speech!’ and honked the air horn in my face. That exact moment was the closest I’ve ever been to being in an actual physical fight with anyone other than my brother. I’ve never been in a fist fight as an adult, but I’m absolutely 100% certain that if I hadn’t been physically stunned by the air horn blast in my face I would have broken my hand on his face. He was saved by being half a block away by the time coherent thought entered my head again. Even then I might have ran after him if I had been anywhere other than right in front of my office where the boss might see.

This happened approximately ten years ago and it still makes me mad to think about it. I think those idiots where a precursor to the Tea Party, and that moment was the genesis of my hatred of pushy “in your face” political activism.

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Wardrobe Malfunction

What’re you’re looking at over there in the picture is a belt buckle. (And the reason I’m not going to be buying any more reversible belts.)

This morning the buckle in question was holding up my pants. As I was doing a little belt tightening this morning, the buckle decided to part ways with the rest of the belt. I’ve lost a fair amount of weight in the last few months and I hope to lose more so rather than buy all new pants I had merely downsized my belt. So the moment the buckle went its own way my over size pants headed for the floor. Did I mention this was when I was 3.5 hours through my 8.5 hour work day? Let’s just say it’s a good thing my chair has roller feet…

It’s been an interesting day. If you saw some guy walking through downtown Nashville clutching his pants with a death grip… Consider yourself lucky that my hand didn’t slip.

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It’s easy to complain about technology.  It’s so integrated into our day to day lives that it’s a real pain when something goes wrong.  When something does break and I have to work on getting it fixed it never fails to surprise how much work and behind the scenes effort goes into making sure even the smallest things work right.  At times like that I end up wondering how so much of our world works as well as it does since there are so many moving parts behind the scenes.

The dog thinks Steve Jobs was a genius.

It’s not all complaints though.  Every now and then, for no apparent reason, I get struck by just how cool and useful some of these little technological details are.  I’m going to try and memorialize some of those little things, so I see this as an intermittent ongoing series of posts.  It’s also a good way to put an exclamation point on how old I suddenly am.

Anyway, today’s ‘Ain’t technology grand?!’ moment is video chatting.  More specifically, Apple’s version of video chat, which is called Facetime.  Video phones have been a sci-fi staple as long as I can remember.  The technology has always seemed easily reachable and teenage and twenty-something me often wondered why they weren’t around yet.  (Thirty-something me figures it’s a social or cultural issue.)

I picked up an iPhone back in October when the newest model came out and my dad and brother both ‘went Mac’ around the same time.  So we quickly realized we can use video chat to let the twins talk to their grandparents and their cousins.  They have a lot more interaction with their cousins than I did at their age because they can see them on the little screen.  We used it so I could sit in on bath time last week even though I was three states away and so the twins could talk to their mama at home when I took them to grammy’s for the weekend.

I realize Facetime isn’t really the same thing as a videophone.  It does require an internet connection.  It’s just another version of Skype and the other types of internet video chat that have been around for awhile.  I was never a great believer in those because I didn’t want to be tethered to my desktop or carry a laptop around.  Now that it has slimmed down to the point it can be used in a truly mobile application it’s going to really become common.

You may want to use Facetime with family and close friends though.  The iPhone front facing camera is guaranteed to make into a troglodyte (with the exception of dogs and small children, obviously).

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I usually hate when a blogger posts excuses for not blogging, but I’m going to do it now just so no one thinks it’s a repeat of the unannounced lengthy sabbatical I took from the old blog.

I’ve been off attending the annual conference of the American Water Resources Association (TN Section) which is held in a remote location surrounded by very nice water resources (and somewhat LACKING in cell service).  When I got back from that I ran afoul of the mountain of paperwork required to file income taxes for my wife’s photography business.  (Curses upon thou foul Schedule C.)  Never fear, my imaginary readers, the conference provided lots of inspiration for new and amazing posts and I just hit the ‘send’ button on my taxes so I’ll be back as soon as I can look at the computer again without going cross-eyed and clutching at my wallet.

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Some days people just make me tired.  Maybe I’m just old and cranky, but it seems like there is someone (if not an entire group) dedicated to criticizing a decision someone else made.  Believe it or not, I’m not even referring to this years elections.

The ice cream man seems to be another flashpoint in the war of everyone versus everyone else.  I posted a comment I intended to be funny on Facebook about the ‘free music van’.  Most of the responses were agreement or funny, but there were a couple that weren’t so nice including one ‘shame on you’.  I know these people fairly well so I was willing to give the benefit of the doubt on their intentions.  Then I ran across a controversy in Brooklyn.  Apparently a parenting group is calling for a ban on ice cream vendors in the local park, and others vehemently disagree.  It’s your typical locally brewed controversy, but the vitriol of some of the opinions surprised me and made me take my own nay-sayers a little more seriously.

From the original NY Post article:

a nanny who also took her charges to Harmony recently, wishes the worked-up moms and dads would just get a life.

“They’re obnoxious,” she said. “There’s no harm in this.”

Then we have “Brooklyn Parents Hate the Ice Cream Man, Want Someone Else to Do Their Jobs.  Again.” and “The Ice Cream Man Isn’t Raising Your Kids, You Are”.  It’s hard to take either post seriously when the judgement is built right into the title.

I’m not trying to overblow my own experience.  It’s just knowing that you can be shamed, told to get a life, and have your parenting called into question over an opinion on ice cream.  It makes me weary.

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Alternate title for today’s post: Why ice cream makes me contemplate mortality.

I love me some ice cream, but I much prefer to fetch my own these days.  I’m referring to the portable purveyor of frozen goodness that comes wrapped in the shrillest, loudest, most annoying music possible.  And my objections are personal and professional, young AND old.

When I was a kid my family lived in a fairly rural area with a decent amount of space between houses.  The ice cream truck didn’t come by all that often, and when he did you had to be on top of your game to get him to stop.  We lived on the side of a steep hill and traffic came over it dangerously fast.  It was dangerous to go slow on our road so we never heard the music until it was on top of us.  (As a professional Designer Of Roads, it makes me shudder to remember how dangerous it was to stop a van full of ice cream in that road.  Those guys should have known better than to cruise our neighborhood.)

My brother and I had to develop a pretty robust strategy to get our ice cream.  It involved a bunch of fainting goats, a mini-tramp, and……….  (Sorry, different caper.)  One of us rushed in for money while the other prepared to flag the guy down and filibuster until the money man showed up.  It was one of the few times we actually worked together (the other being when we watched R rated movies on the VCR in my brothers room) and we were successful about 50% of the time.  Even when we the plan came together and we were successful I always worried about some car flattening us while we dickered over chocolate or strawberry.  Nothing ever happened, but to this day ice cream and vehicular mayhem are directly linked in my mind.

Now that I’m an adult, I live in a subdivision with 1/3 acre lots.  Population is fairly dense thanks to the smallish lots and there are lots of families.  Most people just think of it as the suburbs, but apparently it’s a target rich environment if you drive a van crammed full of icey goodness and a speaker on top blaring loud  music.  We’ve lived in this particular neighborhood for almost four years and about this time every year we start getting multiple daily drive bys from those purveyors of fine frozen treats.  By the end of June I’m usually contemplating calling in a noise complaint to the local police every time I hear that shrill music coming and I’ve threatened worse (in the privacy of my own mind) when they have the nerve to slow down and honk the horn on our block.

Since they cruise our neighborhood twice a day EVERY day we’ve actually had to resort to telling the twins that it’s just a ‘free music van’.  That seems so much easier than explaining to an unhinged toddler why we can’t have ice cream every day twice a day.  Sadly, they’re sharp little buggers now that they’re four and I think the jig is going to be up very soon.  Fortunately, they’re also old enough to understand ‘No’ even if they don’t like it.

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