Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Tales from the Attic

I am a manly man. How do I know this? I kill bugs. I mow the grass. I am completely in charge of the exterior of my home. If a snake is in the back yard, it is my domain to convict the snake of being a snake and administer swift justice.

These are all common traits of a manly man.

In addition, I am the court of last resort for both my wife and children. My children appeal to me the seemingly arbitrary decisions of my wife. My wife appeals to me to let her sell the children to wandering minstrels. As Uncle Ben said in Spiderman, with great power comes great responsibility. I wield this power cautiously taking my cues from Jor-El from "Smallville" and Jean-Luc Piccard. Yes, I know it would be more impressive to list Thomas Hobbes and Confucius but I am what I am.

Let me digress a bit. When did Uncle Ben have the time to create his delicious rice and who inherited the fortune when Peter set out to be a wall crawling superhero? I'm curious. While we're digressing, I was out at a neighborhood picnic over the weekend and turned around to grab a pen to sign in one of my neighbors and get her a gift bag. One would think that would be a pretty harmless activity, but I ended up cutting the bejeebers out of my finger. I sought no medical attention for the cut and now it looks a bit red. Is it infected? What should I look out for? Could there be fiberglass in there? But Mark, why would there be fiberglass?? Funny you should ask.

Ok, so I have dominion over the exterior of the home and my wife holds sway over the interior. We're a veritable Heat Miser and Snow Miser with our territorial boundaries. And yet, there is the attic.

To whom does the attic belong? It is a conundrum. I maintain that it is inside the house. On this point, there can be no disagreement. (When saying the previous line, channel Kevin Bacon's smug marine lawyer performance from 'A Few Good Men' for greater effect. Got it? Great.) Nevertheless, my wife would argue (I suppose, I really never asked her but I'll make it up anyway) that since the attic is only accessible by ladder, it is a manly area.

And so, the attic goes unclaimed. Unloved. Unattended.

Until yesterday that is.

For an unacceptable period of time my air conditioning was an epic FAIL as far as keeping my daughter's room cool. For example:

Rest of house: 72

Girl's room: 80

How do I know this? I placed the outdoor probe of our indoor outdoor thermometer in the girls room to keep track of how hot it was in there for my poor babies. Well, the difference was so pronounced that the thermometer kept predicting that thunderstorms were on the way.

If only.

I had two companies out to service the A/C unit. After fleecing me for services not covered by my service contract (deep duct massage, hot rock condenser therapy, swedish freon blast) they performed recharging and cleaning and tons of other things that would certainly fix the problem.

"Yep. She's blowin' cold air now!" they would proudly pronounce.

Two things about that:

1) Why is my HVAC unit a she? Is this a ship at sea? Just curious.

2) I know damn well it's blowing cold air. It was blowing cold air when you got here. I can hang meat in the basement. It's the girl's room that's the problem.

Well, I got some well meaning ideas. You see, it's the positive pressure that builds up in the room because the door is closed for naps. If I'd just cut a nice hole in my perfectly good door and put in a grate, then the air would surely circulate better. Ok. That's an idea.

Nope. It's not the pressure. It's the insulation on those windows. you see, the girl's room has two windows which both face Southeast. You need to replace those windows or at least do a better job insulating them. That will cool it off.

No, no, no. It's the sunlight. Put up blackout shades. Keep the room completely dark all day. That will do it.

I contemplated this. I put up shades so dark that a family of bats moved in. Still, it was slightly cooler than a George Foreman grill in there.

Yesterday my wife informed me that my two year old would not nap because she was clearly too hot. With no end in sight, I mentally snapped. Surely we're not meant to live like sweating savages in 2010. I mean, God bless people who live in bedouin tribes and sleep on the sands of the Kalahari, but I live in the good ol' USA. For goodness sakes, I'm going up into the attic.

I know. This seems like a drastic step. But my primal instincts kicked in. What would I find in the attic? Bees? Aliens? Christmas decorations from previous owners of this home? Who knew, but I was going up there.

That is, if I could figure out how.

This wasn't exactly planned out. In fact I was in the middle of changing out of my work attire when I finally decided to go up there. So aside from the other things I'm about to convey to you, imagine me wearing a green t-shirt, grey boxer briefs with no pants and brown dress socks I'd yet to remove. I should probably change into jeans and throw on some work boots and proper socks since there will be fiberglass insulation up there. But that would only take up a lot of needless time. Instead, I will stop and put my dress shoes back on, sans the pants (cause it's hot after all).

Yep. This is how manly men dress to get things done.

Next issue...actually getting up there.

You see, since we've moved into this home, I have truly never been into the attic. And I do not have an indoor ladder except a two step thingy that you use to dust the top of the fridge. At least, I suppose you could use it for that. You'd have to ask my wife.

But dammit, I was gonna go up into the attic, so I took the little step stool and set it up in the bathroom on the third floor and went to open the panel in the ceiling.

It was then that I figured out that I could not reach the panel.

Now most people would have stopped there and borrowed a ladder. But I am not most people. Instead, I grabbed one of my wife's folding tables from scrap booking. As I easily hauled it up to the bathroom, she asked me where I was going. "None of your concern, woman.", I said in my mind. Out loud I said, "To the bathroom."

"You're not going to try to stand on that, are you?"


"It will only hold 20 pounds."

"Yeah? How do you know that?"

"Because on the bottom it says 'Maximum load: 20 lbs'"

"Where? I can't see that."

"Well, maybe it was on the box."

"I bet it would hold at LEAST 50 lbs."

Ok...the hilarious part is that we're debating whether the table will hold a max of 20 or 50 pounds before collapsing. As if that has any bearing at all to whether or not it will hold a 200lb man.

"Fine" I say. I am angry at her for pointing out the flimsiness of the table. If not for her, I would surely be in the attic right now, doing manly things and fixing problems.

I venture into the basement again and come back with an old table my father gave me. It's a sturdy one. I know they used to use it for bingo at the church hall or something like that. Will it hold me? We're gonna find out. I place the table in the bathroom. The table takes up nearly the entire floor space. I climb the table using the shower curtain rod as leverage.

(Note to self: Don't forget to stop at Lowes for a new shower curtain rod)

I find that the table is still not tall enough for me to climb into the attic. No problem. I will put the step stool on top of the table. At this time my wife tells me she cannot watch anymore because she is afraid for my safety. I chastise her and tell her she cannot leave the floor because if I fall, I need someone to call 911 and describe what happens. It does occur to me that if you are engaging in an activity where you feel the need to position someone to call 911, you might want to re-think doing that activity. Yet, I move onward. And upward.

I open the attic hatch. I feel like John Locke on an episode of "LOST".

I poke my head up into the attic. It an attic. I expect it to be really hot, but it's not so bad. Not so surprising considering that the duct for the girls' room is completely disconnected at the main distribution point. My attic is practically a winter wonderland. I am enraged that I have not figured this out sooner. I am elated that I know what the problem is and I don't have to cut a hole in a door or buy new windows or relieve positive pressure. I am curious as to how in the hell I am going to get the extra three feet I need to reach the point where the duct is disconnected.

I beckon to my wife for three things: duct tape, scissors and something to give me 2-3 more feet of height. She brings me the first two but comes up empty on the second.


I hop down off of my perch. (Ok, it took me about 10 minutes to get out of the bathroom. After putting up the table I basically blocked myself into the room. I couldn't crawl under it because the legs blocked me. But I'd be damned if I was gonna break down the table to get out. I'd sooner tunnel through the walls. Eventually I did a sort of pretzel move where I was, at one point, doing sort of a spin move with one leg hanging off the table and the other foot in the sink.)

After hopping down, I looked and looked for things to stand on. Phone books? Too unstable. Plus, who actually has them anymore? That's definitely a downside to the internet. You can't stand on it.

Eventually I find my stainless steel waste basket with a nice flat lid. Thin, about 30 inches tall. I take it to my step stool. It fits like a glove.

I now ascend back into the attic. I'm standing on a folding table, an aluminum step stool and a waste paper basket while carrying scissors, a flashlight and duct tape. What could possibly go wrong? I assure my wife that I'm perfectly safe since if the table gives way I can just grab a hold of one of the joists in the attic and hang there until help arrives.

Yeah. I'm sure I'd do that and not at all fall to my death impaling myself on the scissors.

I ask my wife, "Have the Darwin Awards come out for this year yet?"

We both laugh.

Thirty minutes later there is cool air flowing to the girls room. I am having a "Silkwood" shower trying to remove the fiberglass from my skin. I couldn't have felt more manly if I had just fought off a black bear, landed a 500lb marlin or driven lost for several hours declining to stop and ask for directions.

It was a good day.

Friday, June 11, 2010

I don't recall Ferris being sick nine times.


1) If you've ever seen the movie Blazing Saddles you know where the phrase "dazzling urbanite" comes from. If you haven't seen the movie, take out your credit card right now, join Netflix. Watch the movie on Instant View. Don't worry. I'll wait.

2) Ok. Is everyone back? Fabulous.

3) So, as I am a dazzling urbanite who works on a regular basis in a major metropolitan area, I have reason to park my trusty steed in an underground garage maintained by my employer. So, I've been parking in this garage for years, but only today did the sign on the wall grab my attention.

"Maximum Speed: 5mph"

Really? You've got to be joking.

Five miles a hour? Have any of you ever driven 5 miles an hour? I go faster than that over speed bumps. Think of going through that school zone when the light is flashing and you slow down to 15 mph. Ok, got that feeling? Now imagine that you are traveling three times faster than the legal limit in my garage.

So, as my mind is want to do, I wandered into what, if any, thought went into this speed limit posting. My first thought is that I could casually walk faster than five miles per hour. But then, I wondered if that was actually true.

I only run if chased so I have no idea how fast I can actually go. But for the sake of comparison, I started at the top.

Usain Bolt, largely considered to be the world's fastest man can run at roughly 21 miles per hour. Ok, fine. But that's a quick burst. What about longer distances you say? (You didn't say? Well...I'm saying, so deal. I'm making a point here.)

Haile Gebrselassie set the men's marathon world record at the 2008 Berlin marathon. He ran the 26.2 mile distance in 2 hours 3 minutes 59 seconds. His average running speed for this distance was 5.67 meters/second or 12.7 miles/hour. Now, forget the fact that he should have been disqualified for having such a ridiculous name. This dude would have finished the marathon nearly three hours quicker than my 2001 Pontiac Sunfire traveling 5 miles an hour.

To get an idea of human speeds sustainable for even longer distances, look at the results of the Western States 100. This endurance race is a 100.2 mile run in the Sierra mountains of California. Runners battle cold, heat, mountains, and distance to complete this race.

Scott Jurec set the men's record in 2004 by running the 100.2 miles in 15 hours 36 minutes 27 seconds. Ann Trason set the women's record with a time of 17 hours 37 minutes 51 seconds in 1994. Jurek's average speed was 6.4 miles/hour and Trason's was 5.7 miles/hour.

So now we're getting somewhere. My company wants me to troll along at 5 miles per hour, yet a woman, racing in incredibly stressful weather, going up and down mountains for 100 miles on foot would still kick my cars ass by three hours.

So much for the theoretical. I decided to do some practical tests, as I am a scientist. I let my car idle in the aisle and then slipped it from "neutral" to "drive". It started slowly forward. As I got to the end of the row, I made a right turn and looked down at the speedometer. It was at 4 mph. I hit a fairly long straightaway and the needle passed 5mph all the way up to 7mph. Not wanting to be pulled over and asked for my license and registration, I hammered the brakes. You can imagine the stress on the glass, steel and rubber of the car not to mention the strain on my seat belt.

In conclusion, there should never be a sign posted that says 5mph, ever. Instead the sign should say "STOP". I mean, just park your car and push it to where you want it to go. It would serve the same purpose.

All that said...tonight, when nobody is around, I'm gonna get a nice run down the main aisle and hit the ramp at 500% of the posted speed limit, or the equivalent of 330mph on the interstate. I'm going to be the Chuck Yeager of the parking garage.

4) Last night I hit home runs from both sides of the plate for the Kansas City Royals.

5) This just in, somewhere a World Cup game is 0-0.

6) Your underrated movie of the week is "Crazy Beautiful". Women, if you like to watch well built swarthy men with their shirts off, you'll enjoy this movie even with the sound turned down. Men...Kirsten Dunst is sort of hot. It's a sneaky good movie about love, mental illness and how difficult it is to choose one single priority in life.

7) See "The Messenger". Just do it. Rent it. Watch it. Come back here to thank me.

The Messenger Trailer Online

8) How would you know about #4? Did anyone really watch the Royals last night?

9) Every morning I get annoyed that my children get up with the chickens. Why won't they sleep? Just because the sun comes up at 5:21am now (P.S. I hate the Summer Solstice) doesn't mean you have to get up. I swear, I'm putting these kids on the treadmill until they fall from exhaustion. That exersaucer? Not nearly enough exercise being had. Let's get some barbells on there, maybe a toddler spin class...

10) Yesterday those damn kids slept until 8am and I was late for work. I was torqued because I never set my alarm anymore. I suppose the kids can't really win, can they? In a related note, I am going to see my Mom and Dad tonight and I will start with about 15 minutes of apologies for having been 4 years old at one point in time.

11) My buddy Steve was the only one who guessed at the Powerball numbers from yesterday's post. Because he's a great guy, I let him pick his own prize. All he wants is a picture of a bottle of Zazz so he can imagine what the object of my hydration/torture looks like. Of course, I'm a slacker so don't hold your breath Steve.

12) I simply cannot get into "The Bachelorette" this season. Make of that what you will.


Thursday, June 10, 2010

Is it a typo if you're using a chisel?


1) My Philadelphia Flyers lost a valiant battle for the Stanley Cup last night. I could be depressed about it, but then I think about all the joy that Justin Bieber brings and I'm floating on air.

2) I'm actually fairly proud that I had to google "justin" to see how to spell his last name. That said, I still might have butchered it, but I refuse to check again. Like he's gonna read this.

3)"Your name is Michael Bolton? Wow. I've always been a fan but you must really love his stuff."

"Um. Yeah. He's...he's ok."

"I celebrate his entire catalog."

4) I want to meet the writer who came up with "I celebrate his entire catalog." That's pure genius. If I'd come up with that the world would never have known because I'd have died of asphyxiation before getting it on paper.

5) I'm spelling and I have no idea if I'm doing it correctly. Yet, I refuse to spell check. I'm a rebel on a train to nowhere and I haven't even paid my fare!

6) Some people have issues with drinking or drugs. Some struggle with food. I battle every day with homonyms.

7) I'm looking at a pop up article about interior design. It encourages me to "See how your solution compares to the pros!"

Well, I can answer that for you right now. My solution would suck compared to the pros. The last designing I did involved stolen milk crates, concrete blocks and a large wooden spool as a coffee table. I'm happy if my socks match for goodness sakes. And now that I'm a parent, I have three little people who will point out that my socks don't match.

8) I only drink water. far as YOU know, I only drink water. But I don't drink tap water because I hate tap water. A conundrum for many people, but for only $.89 I can drink carbonated water from a 2 liter bottle. I even have mild brand loyalty. I prefer Zazz from Giant. So if you're thinking ahead to my birthday (less than two months away) you can get off pretty darn easy by sending me an 89 cent gift card to Giant.

Yeah, that's all well and good. Who cares Mark? Get to the point Mark.

Fine. I will. It seems the mob of short people who roam my house wanting food, entertainment and a quiet place to defecate have become convinced that they are my support crew in some sort of battle against thirst. As such, they will bring me two liter bottles of Zazz no matter where I am and no matter what I am doing. In addition, they are competitive with each other and once one has done the deed and gotten the requisite thanks from Daddy, the other two must find more water and bring it to me. Someday when I'm drinking beer this will become quite handy I suppose. For now though, I'd prefer not to have a 3 year old opening the shower stall door, giggling, and handing me a two liter bottle of water. And of course, I accept it and stack it next to the other four bottles I have in there.

The really frustrating part is that at 10pm when I want some water, the cupboard is completely empty and it's a scavenger hunt around the house to get some of the good stuff. I amazed and delighted my wife the other day when I thought I was going to have to go to the store to get more water until I took a quick look in the kids playroom and pulled out a pristine bottle from underneath the comfy chair. And there were two more behind it.

9) I played the Powerball yesterday for the 28 million dollar jackpot. I did not win.

10) Was it really necessary to mention that I didn't win? If I did, I would certainly be awash in champagne while blasting Vanilla Ice at "11" (oh yes I would) and dancing in my underwear and mismatched socks.

11) I wonder if there's any champagne under the comfy chair?

12) For kicks, feel free to pick five numbers from 1-60 and the Powerball. I will give a prize to anyone who can match more than two numbers OR the Powerball on my tickets. I have six tickets. Offer void in Wisconsin or if you are my wife.

13) Gary Coleman's crazy wife plans to scatter his ashes on train tracks. Lovely. Can't she be arrested for something? They refuse to put Lindsay Lohan in jail no matter what she does, so can't we lock up Coleman's wife instead? Either that or send her on a little trip to Cabo and give her Joran Van der Sloot as a roomie. This is why I should have my own show: "Unusual Justice"

14) I just coughed and it hurt my back. This never happened in my 20s.

15) I know you're all waiting for my opinion about USA Soccer and the World Cup. Yeah, well...keep waiting.

16) I do think that the Olympics should add the following: Kickball, Whiffle Ball, Freeze Tag, Red Rover, and a new sport called "The Bra Trick" where women from around the world remove their bras without taking off their shirts.

17) Seriously, that ability amazes and teases us at the same time. Do you get taught that in school on the same day they indoctrinate you on asserting that natural position of the toilet seat is down?

18) I feel bad for the girl who was trying to circumnavigate the globe and is now lost at sea. She is only sixteen so it's a big deal. I think I'm going to try for the record of oldest, least experienced sailor ever to circumnavigate the globe. I'll make a website and plot out the course of my trip. Of course, since I'm a clueless sailor the dotted line planning my route will go into the Mediterranean sea and then double back out of it after several attempts to sail across Turkey. Being a man I would never stop and ask for directions and I don't speak Turkish anyway. I'll plan this and get tons of press (or at least get a lot of twitter posts with #thisguyisgonnadrown). Then I'll head up to the Chesapeake Bay, rent a boat, sail out about 20 feet and then send out a distress call to the Coast Guard. Kevin Costner or somebody like him can heroically fish me out of the water and I'll return as the mighty adventurer.

19) If I really did attempt to sail anywhere, the boat would probably sink under the weight of the 400 bottles of Zazz my well meaning children had hidden below deck.

20) I decline beer and soda in front of my kids from time to time. They began to ask why. Eventually I brought it to the preschool level and said that I wanted to feel better by drinking the water. Well, that didn't work because they're kids and they always feel better. So I told them, "Listen, daddy drinks the water so that his tummy won't get too big."

Well, they bought into that rationale. So much so that my daughter will announce at a restaurant to "only bring my daddy water because he wants his tummy to stay small!" Once I was drinking a Coke Zero and they descended on me like a Kindergarten intervention, nearly crying, claiming that my tummy might explode.

21) I'll be setting sail shortly. Enjoy your day.