Seasoned Stories of Sailing Ships and Swirling Seas

As he boarded his venerable longship, the mighty Viking warrior, Rudolph the Red, readied his sturdy craft to sail the turbulent waters of the North Sea. Once again, the fierce leader and his men would reign terror over the poor, unsuspecting villagers of the British Isles as the Vikings pillaged their way through farms and fields of Scotland and England.

As the crew completed their final preparations for the perilous voyage, the rugged chieftain leaned over the bulwark of his vessel to kiss his wife goodbye, and he said to her, "Tomorrow, we shall be victorious in battle. But today, we sail forth into a storm."

As she cast her gaze toward the sun as it slowly rose above a clear horizon, she asked her husband, "How can you be so sure?"

"Because," he replied, "Rudolph the Red knows rain, dear."

rudolph-the-red


POSTSCRIPT:

I will admit that I saw the punch line from this brief bit of humor several years ago, and I chuckled when I read it. However, I couldn't find the source of the original pun, so I decided to write my own story, albeit with some AI-generated artwork. This illustration of Rudolph the Red was generated by the application at http://bing.com/images/create, where I asked it to create "a 3d image of a viking with red hair on a ship that is sailing through the rain." I think the image fit my story rather well.

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What You Least Expect

No one expects the Muppet Inquisition! Amongst their weaponry are such elements as surprise, farce, ruthless puerility, and an almost fanatical devotion to Jim Henson!

No One Expects the Muppet Inquisition

Power Tip for Remote Workers

Always remember to double-check that your microphone is muted before you start brushing your teeth during a meeting.

middle-aged-computer-geek-brushing-teeth

Cursing by Keyboard in the Early Morning

If, like me, you were ever forced to read Robert Frost's "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening," here is my 21st-century homage to his most-famous work:

Cursing by Keyboard in the Early Morning

It's half past two, I'm still awake,
Typing madly, cursing mistakes.
Myriad tasks my ire rouse,
No end in sight, and my head aches.

Emphatic din of keys and mouse,
Resound throughout the tiny house.
Word just crashed with hard drive errors.
I scream in silence. (Can't wake my spouse.)

Word's "auto-save" denies my prayers;
Four thousand words beyond repair.
No cloud drive clone, I could just weep.
I start again, fraught with despair.

I long for blankets warm and deep,
But I have my deadlines to keep,
And hours to work before I sleep,
And hours to work before I sleep.


POSTSCRIPT:

While I admire Frost's usage of iambic tetrameter throughout this poem, I thoroughly dislike the rhyming scheme that he employed. Nevertheless, my trifle of a poetic offering is more or less a form of parody, so I tried my best to stay true to Frost's pattern.

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When in Rome

Let me tell you a funny story that I heard about the train station in Rome:

Once upon a time, there were two travelers in the Roma Termini who were on their way back from a long day in Pompeii, and they were changing from the cross-country trains to the metro. They had passed through that same station earlier that day, and one of the travelers noticed that the path they took through the station seemed unnecessarily long. However, he also noticed that there was another path they could take through the station, which seemed as though it would reduce their walking distance by hundreds of meters. When this first traveler suggested that they take a different route through the station, the second traveler said she didn't want to take the risk that an alternate path might take them too far out of their way. The first traveler said that he was 99% sure that his suggested route was shorter, but he couldn't guarantee his suggestion with 100% certainty, so the second traveler wouldn't yield.

Unbeknownst to the first traveler, the second traveler had an ulterior motive for her unwavering skepticism: they had been traveling all day in the hot sun, and she needed to use the little traveler's room, so she didn't want to waste a bunch of time wandering through a train station if the first traveler was mistaken. However, the second traveler didn't say that she needed to use the little traveler's room, so the second traveler seemed to the first traveler like she was being overly difficult for no discernible reason, while the first traveler probably seemed to the second traveler like he was being an insensitive schmuck.

With a not-so-subtle tone of exasperation, the second traveler told the first traveler something like, "You can do whatever you want, but I'm going to follow the route that we used earlier." The first traveler took the second traveler's statement as a challenge, so he left to pursue his shorter path through the station - which worked out exactly as he had expected - and because he was also more than a little exasperated with the second traveler, he boarded the metro without the second traveler.

The first traveler pouted all the way back to his hotel, where he arrived around a half hour before the second traveler. However, the reason why the second traveler arrived later wasn't because she needed to use the little traveler's room; she boarded a different metro car because she had the first traveler's metro pass, and she spent that half hour unsuccessfully searching the metro station in a desperate attempt to find the first traveler, which delayed her departure. However, unbeknownst to the second traveler, the first traveler had put aside his sulking long enough to buy a one-way ticket on the metro to get back to their hotel.

The moral of this little tale? Don't be so secretive when you need something, and don't act like an insensitive schmuck when your traveling companion doesn't agree with you.

Nothing in that story has anything to do with my wife's and my recent journey to Rome, of course. We always made it safely back to our hotel. Perhaps we arrived together. Perhaps we didn't. Perhaps one of us arrived a half-hour after the other, but that doesn't mean anything, does it?

Open-mouthed smile

The Joys [sic] of Aging

I often tell people that I could have cut an arm off in my childhood and a new one would have grown back without so much as a scratch.

These days I cut myself shaving and think, "Wow - that's gonna leave a mark..."

Winking smile

More 511th Stories: Frustration and Flame Throwers Do Not Mix

A couple years ago I wrote about my memories of border duty on a cold winter's day, and earlier today I was thinking about a story that was related to those experiences. During my first trips to the former East German border during the winter months of the late 1980s, I'd drive my wife's and my vehicle on post when I got an alert call at zero-dark-thirty, and our car would remain in the parking lot at the 511th MI Company until I returned to garrison. However, being stranded in a tiny German village without a vehicle was less than ideal for a mother with two small children, so for a while my wife and I would wake up our daughters and pack them into the car, then the four of us would drive to the 511th, whereupon I would head off to the border while my wife drove home and put the girls back to bed.

This type of early hours lifestyle was hard on my wife and the kids, so as time progressed, my spouse and some of the other wives from either our church or the 511th worked out a plan to shuttle any stranded spouses on post to pick up their abandoned vehicles. When husbands returned to garrison, they'd call their wives to pick them up, and the couples/families would head home together.

I remember getting a "Lariat Advance" call on a dark, winter morning, and my wife rose to start her day as I was about to walk out the door. I said that I'd drive to post like we'd been doing in previous deployments, and my wife said that she'd arrange with someone to pick up our car in a day or two. I was on the border for a couple weeks, and when I returned to the 511th, I called my spouse to come fetch me. However, she said that the roads had been covered in snow for the duration of my absence and she'd never been able to pick up the car, so it was somewhere in the 511th MI CO's parking lot.

Of course, I was the one who had parked the car, so you'd think that I'd remember where I left it, but I didn't, and every car in the parking lot was buried under six to twelve inches of snow. After a half hour of searching, I finally located our vehicle, but then I was greeted by another rude discovery: the snow had melted at some point, and the resultant water had frozen into an inch of ice that was hiding underneath the snow. This meant that the car's windows and doors - and more importantly the locks - were frozen solid.

By this time it was evening, and darkness had already descended on the 511th. What I probably should have done was ask someone if I could crash in an empty bed in the barracks for the night, but I was tired from two weeks in the field, and I was cold, and I was hungry. All I wanted from life at that moment was a warm shower, a hot meal, and to sleep in my own bed. The only obstacle that was preventing me from achieving those reasonable requests was a frozen car door lock, which I was determined to fix.

I headed into the barracks and explained my predicament to a couple friends, and together we hatched a few schemes to try and rectify my situation. At first we chiseled the ice away from the lock, only to discover that ice had fully penetrated the lock's gears, so at the most basic level I couldn't put a key into the lock. I headed back to the barracks and grabbed a mop bucket from a maintenance closet, which I filled with hot water from someone's room in the barracks, then I hauled the bucket out to the parking lot and poured the hot water down the door. This didn't work, but I repeated the action several times hoping that each successive attempt would free up the gears a little more, but the lock refused to yield.

I should explain that the longer I stood in the cold trying to open the stupid car door, I grew angrier at my spouse for not having followed our plan to pick up the car sooner. However, if she had followed through, our car probably would have been sitting in our driveway with an inch of ice and six to twelve inches of snow piled on top of it, and my wife would have had to explain why there was no way for her to come get me.

I remembered a technique that I used to use when I was a teenager to kill spiders: you can use a can of Lysol spray and a lighter to create a low-tech flame thrower. I headed back to the maintenance closet in the barracks and grabbed a can of Lysol, then I borrowed a friend's lighter and headed outside to try out my latest scheme. As expected, the combination of Lysol and lighter made a perfect flame thrower, and I aimed the resultant flames at the frozen lock on the driver's-side door with the intention of finally melting away the ice. This didn't work, so I circled around to the passenger-side door and repeated my approach.

However, much to my horror, something entirely unexpected happened: the tiny plastic washer that was nestled between the lock and the car door caught fire; to be honest, I'd never noticed that plastic washer before. Adding insult to injury, even though I had immediately ceased my flame thrower activity, the fire from the burning plastic washer had already traveled inside the door, whereupon it quickly melted every bit of plastic that held the door handle in place, and the handle fell to the snow-covered ground with a discouraging and disgusting "clunk."

I stood motionless for a moment, then I'm sure that I uttered something profane as I realized what I had just done. To put things in perspective, the time was fast approaching 10pm, and I was still cold, tired, and hungry. My car was still encased in a cocoon of ice and snow - and I had just destroyed one of the two car door locks that were necessary for opening the vehicle. Once again, what I should have done was find somewhere to sleep in the barracks for the night, but I was determined to open the remaining @#$% car door, so I returned to the driver's side of the vehicle with my flame thrower, though I was careful only to heat the door and not the lock on this attempt.

My actions eventually achieved the desired effect, and I was finally able to open the driver's-side door. However, I had to let the car sit and idle with the heater and defogger running at full blast for several minutes in order to melt away enough ice and snow for me to see well enough to make the long drive home to our tiny German village. I was still unjustly irritated with my spouse upon my arrival at our apartment, but after a warm shower and a hot meal and a night in my own bed, I realized that my wife would have been just as stranded as I had been the night before, but with less options to rectify the situation.

That being said, she probably wouldn't have caught one of our car's door handles on fire, either.

Communication Is One Thing

Someone I know recently shared the following image on Social Media, and I think I understand the gist of what the writer was trying to say:

Communication-Is-One-Thing
"Communication is one thing
but your tone while communicating
With someone is everything ."

The general thought that is being expressed is fine, I guess - but... holy cow! What's up with the grammar? Let's see, the "W" in "With" on the third line is capitalized, but not the "b" in "But" on the second line, which makes it seem like an entirely different thought. And where's the comma after the first line? And why is there a visible space before the period? Who wrote this? 1,000,000 monkeys with typewriters? Surprised smile

With that in mind, perhaps what this statement could have said was:

"Communication is one thing,
but your tone while communicating
with someone is everything."

Of course, the redundancy for "communication" on the first and second lines is kind of amateurish; perhaps another word would have been better in either the first or second line? But then again, I believe the thought that the writer was trying to express is that "tone" is part of "communication," so it makes no sense to begin the with the word "communication" since it can't be both "part" and "everything" at the same time, though we can infer by context that the writer meant "speaking" when he or she wrote "communication" in the first line. In a like manner, "tone" isn't "everything" because "speaking" is still part of "communication." In other words, "communication" is "everything," of which "tone" and "speaking" are both parts.

Taking all of that into account, perhaps this statement would have been better?

"The spoken word is one thing,
but the tone of your voice when speaking to someone
often says more than your words."

Hmm... have I overthought this enough yet? Winking smile

The Fastest Manmade Object

I just read the following article: The Fastest Speed Ever Reached by a Manmade Object?, and I have to disagree with their assessment.

The fastest speed ever reached by a manmade object was the back of my mom's hand, which broke the sound barrier several times over while spinning around from the front seat of a 1965 Plymouth Barracuda when I tried backtalking from the rear seat...

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I Wonder If History Was Like This

I love studying history, and I must admit that the majority of books I typically read are on that subject. That said, I recently stumbled across the following video from Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie, which an amusing look at the signing of the Treaty of Westphalia. Even though I know this video is meant humorously, there are times when I wonder how historically accurate events like this might have been.

Winking smile