Sanit-eye-zed

They tell us to use hand sanitizer religiously. Finedone. But they fail to mention that hand sanitizer can, under the proper circumstances, splash up into our eyes when opening the lid if we aren’t careful, causing sheer agony and momentary blindness. Not a good combination when you’re driving in your car.

Or maybe this is the type of thing that only happens to me…

Irregardless (which is too a word!), it burns like a mo-fo. In case you were wondering.

Yesterday, I made an unexpected trip into the office. I’d been watching the battery level on my work-issued MacBook drop precipitously low…even though it was plugged in. I’d been using the power cord for my personal MacBook Air, but a quick Google search confirmed this was a no-no, because the wattage requirements are different. When I left the office nine days earlier, I hadn’t bothered grabbing the cord, because I’d always just used the one I had at home. Which worked in a pinch (i.e., the few hours or occasional day spent working from home), but this extended WFH period obviously necessitated more juice. By the time I reached 76 percent, I figured action was required.

No big deal. I’d planned on making a trip to Target on my lunch hour anyway, and Ye Olde Media Company is basically on the way. So I pulled up to the building, and the first thing I saw was our office manager diligently disinfecting the door handles. Good for her (us). When I walked inside, there were only four other people there; over half the office was WFH. My boss joked (?) that I shouldn’t be there since I was exposed to the world, but I needed that power cord, man. It was nice to catch up with everybody, and I was able to give my best dog friend Marley a hug. They say she moped for a couple of days in my absence. Aww!

Afterward, I drove to Target. Two observations: I have never seen it so empty…or so clean. It was like a ghost town in there, one with sparkling floors so shiny they nearly blinded me.

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There were only a handful of other people; I’m pretty sure employees outnumbered customers three to one. I found most of what I was looking for (Halo Top ice cream, Spindrift® sparkling water (remind me to write a separate post about my love affair with this product!!), wine, popcorn), but the paper towels and tissues that Tara coveted…not so much.

My next stop was Ichiban for sushi. Like I’ve mentioned, I am trying my damnedest to support local businesses during this crisis. I phoned in an order and it was ready for pick-up when I arrived ten minutes later. I was pleased to see another to-go order alongside mine. I tipped them generously on my way out the door, giving them much more than I would have under normal circumstances.

Got home, ate sushi, knocked out a bunch of work.

For the record, I really like working from home. I’ve always tended toward introverted-ness, so pandemics are right up my alley (weird thing to say; hopefully, you know what I mean).

But I also miss my coworkers and the office dogs.

They say “April is the cruelest month” (they being T.S. Eliot), but it’s always been one of my faves. It’s my birthday month (shout out to April 27!), though it’s looking like this year’s festivities are going to be very low-key. The nice thing about April is, the weather is usually* very pleasing — not too hot, not too cold. There is nothing extreme about April; I think the only other month that can make that claim is September.

*Then again, the normal rules don’t apply to South Dakota…

Because we woke up to this today:

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It started snowing last night, and by the time we went to bed, it was practically a white-out, snow so heavy you could barely see across the yard, and winds gusting to 45 mph. The type of night not fit for man or beast.

Which meant over half a foot of snow on the ground this morning and a windchill of -10º. But on the plus side, I got to use the snowblower for a third time this winter (wait, it’s spring)…third time this season. All told, it took me about an hour, and I had to break my own rule and start work before showering. But at least I don’t have to go out anywhere today.

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By the way, my last post was admittedly different. I wanted to try something new and step way outside my comfort zone, stretch my creativity almost to its breaking point. I make no allusions to being a poet or possessing exceptional literary skills, but it was a fun exercise. One that I may try more often.

Has spring sprung in your neck of the woods yet?

 

You Heard a Rumor

You were naive once [or perhaps delusional] thinking tomorrow was today was yesterday, the only difference an inconsequentially subtle blush. But

Weren’t

we

all?

Myths have been shattered, truths exposed. Linearity was never real, as evidenced by this collective stepping-back.

Structure and order
So perfectly plotted out?
Life is no haiku.

There once was a boy from the earth
Whose only mission since birth
Was embracing change
Which others found strange
But helped him define his self-worth

Poetry: both lie and truth.

You busy yourself watching winter bleed into spring, the only way seasons know how to change on the Great Plains: two competing armies battling for dominance. Today’s victory (progress measured in inches, always) followed by tomorrow’s defeat. Tuesday’s sunshine is Wednesday’s snow. Attack and retreat.

Too hostile an analogy? Try “the ebb and flow of the tides” on for size instead. Does that feel more comfortable? Good. Be romanced by the moon. It is, after all, stubbornly, indiscriminately, aimlessly, reassuringly predictable.

You heard a rumor of pasqueflowers…

It felt too good to be true. Too soon. Too incongruous. Too too. But for all your flaws, optimism was always your best trait, so you put on your shoes. Cinched the laces tight. Slogged your way uphill [metaphor for humanity in these troubling times] over, around, and—when it could not be avoided—through mud, hell-bent on a promise. Not even a promise: a mere possibility.

(An unlikely one, at that.)

You inadvertently took a wrong turn, finding yourself on a foreign path far from your destination.

And then, a glimpse of purple and yellow, a stark contrast to the brown undergrowth of the forest floor.

could
it
be…?

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Wordsworth’s heart leapt when he looked up to the sky. Yours lurched by looking down at the ground.

They say a man, lost in the Andean jungle, malaria-stricken, feverish and on the verge of dehydration, stopped to drink from a puddle of bitter-tasting water. Remarkably, his symptoms abated. He had veered off course and ended up slaking his thirst from a pool of water at the base of the quina-quina tree. He accidentally discovered quinine, one of the most powerful anti-malarial drugs in use today.

Eventually, you righted your course. Found the path you were seeking originally. And…

Came up
(     )

Ten minutes earlier, the emptiness, the lack of color, the monochromatic void might have brought you to your knees. But you didn’t despair, did you?

Instead, you rejoiced.

You didn’t need to see a flower there, you realized.

You needed to not see a flower there.

Its absence taught you lessons that day:

  • Even when you find yourself on an unexpected path, the outcome can be beautiful.
  • Hang on to that optimism with every fiber of your being. It hasn’t steered you wrong yet.
  • Tuesday’s sunshine may be Wednesday’s snow, but Wednesday’s snow is Thursday’s sunshine. Bouncing back is the way of the world…

…and bounce back we shall.

Sounds Like Disco

I survived my first week WFH with all my mental faculties intact. I’ll consider that a win.

And actually, I was quite productive, though I always seem to get more done at home versus the office. I’ve gotten really good at tuning out the distractions and focusing on assignments when working from home, whereas at Ye Olde Media Company there’s often a dog in my face or a popcorn machine beckoning or social banter taking place. Don’t get me wrong, these are all good things—but they slow me down. I think, when this is all over, I’m going to try to do this regularly, maybe once or twice a week.

I’m also proud of the fact that I’ve gotten dressed to go to “work.” Hey, when your commute is measured in steps rather than miles, it’s tempting to lounge around in a smoking jacket all day.

OK, fine. The only reason I haven’t done so is because I don’t own a smoking jacket. If I did, though…

smokingjacket

Ahh, dare to dream.

Tomorrow, I was supposed to be going into the office for a couple of hours to co-host a webinar about working from home. Which is kind of ironic when you think about it. But then my supervisor had an idea to do a split-screen format where I’m home instead, which does lend more of an air of authenticity to the whole thing. Looks like we’ll be heading in that direction instead.

Really wish I had that smoking jacket now, ha!

I’m not crazy about video conferencing, though. I mean, up until two weeks ago, I had never even heard of Zoom. Now, Zoom is all I ever hear about (other than social distancing, shelter-in-place, stay at home, and all these other buzzwords that, quite frankly, I hope to never hear again once this crisis is over). I feel a bit self-conscious knowing that millions of people all over the world are tuning in live and hanging onto my every word.

OK, it’s more like a few dozen in the immediate Rapid City area. But still! It’s slightly intimidating (though less so than if I were in the office, I suppose).

Link-Happy Positivity

I’ve got to say, I like the way Ye Olde Media Company is responding to the crisis. We are trying to focus on the positives while providing useful information to others struggling to get through these trying times.

If you’re interested in some of the “serious” articles I’ve written (as opposed to the usual fluff here on my blog), feel free to click on any of the links below. The topics are self-explanatory based on the titles.

How to Work from Home Productively

Why Tone is Important in Times of Crisis

Stress Will Make You Sick

I realize that linking to professional articles renders the whole Ye Olde Media Company alias unnecessary, but hey, I like it. YOMC. Sounds like a disco song.

Taking a Time Out(side)

When Tara arrived home Friday evening, she texted me to ask for help unloading a few things from the truck. So I slipped on a pair of shoes and went out the front door to meet her.

“Oh, my god!” I exclaimed, arms outstretched, gazing around in wide-eyed wonder as I took in the fresh air. It was all quite theatrical, like the hills-are-alive scene in The Sound of Music. “I’ve forgotten what the Great Outdoors feels like!”

the_hills_are_alive

It was then that I realized I hadn’t set foot outside in two and a half days and vowed to remedy that situation. Saturday morning, since the weather was delightful, I drove the few miles to Hanson-Larsen Memorial Park for a bit of hiking. The park, called M Hill by locals (probably because there’s a giant M painted on the side of the hill or somethin’), has a network of some 50 or so hiking and biking trails totaling over 20 miles. Obviously I didn’t do them all, but I did manage to knock out four miles and got to enjoy some great scenery while doing so.

There were other people out and about. Not a lot, and the few times I crossed paths with somebody, we gave each other the CDC-recommended six-foot-wide berth. It was just nice to not be surrounded by four walls for once.

I’d make a crappy prisoner, I guess.

Note to self: don’t break any laws.

 

187

187.

That’s the number of meatballs I made last night for my homemade Italian wedding soup.

This is one of our favorite meals, and the recipe I cook most often. We have it at least once a month (probably two or three times, if you count the leftovers). If 187 meatballs seems excessive to you, consider that they are no bigger in size than large marbles, and those leftovers are really, really good. It’s why I triple the recipe.

italian_wedding_soup
Not mine, but close. I was too busy eating it to take a photo.

One time at work, a female coworker was sick and talking about how she couldn’t wait to have chicken soup for dinner to help with her cold. A male coworker then chimed in with an interesting comment of his own; he said that would never work for him because “men don’t eat soup.”

This was news to me, because…

  • I’m a man, and
  • I eat soup.

And I don’t just eat it for dinner. I had a bowl of soup for breakfast today. I have gotten into heated arguments over that practice, so don’t even get me started!

I’d never heard anybody make that claim before. Quiche, sure (though I eat that, too). But is it really unusual that I eat soup, or was he just being ridiculous? For the record, this exchange took place at a previous job, so any current coworkers who happen to be reading this don’t have to walk around wondering who the madman in the office is.

We already know it’s Mike.

But seriously, his comment begs the question: do men eat soup?! I know they did on Seinfeld, and became quite upset when told there was no soup for them, but Jerry, George, and Kramer are hardly representative of the typical male. Is it in our genes to prefer something hearty and filling and dripping with blood after we kill it with our bare hands? Probably none of my caveman ancestors would have chosen cream of mushroom over mastodon.

What’s better than a steaming hot bowl of soup on a cold and blustery winter’s night? I guess I’m supposed to say “a nice, juicy steak,” but I just can’t bring myself to do it. SOUP is the answer! The answer is SOUP!!

Concerned that I might erroneously be doing my gender a grave injustice by consuming soup, I turned to the almighty (Google, not God) and posed the question, What foods don’t men eat? A list was spat back at me, and it included the following:

  1. Quinoa. Men might not know how to pronounce it, but trust me, they eat it. At least I do. (Keen-wah, by the way.)
  2. Veggie Burgers. A few years ago I’d have agreed wholeheartedly, but then I discovered Morningstar Farms’ Spicy Black Bean burgers. Granted, nine times out of ten I will still choose a nice, juicy, traditional burger made from Midwest-raised beef…but once in a while, I’m Team VB.
  3. Pudding. Wait, what?! That’s insane. Who doesn’t enjoy a bowl of creamy, delicious pudding? I don’t care if you’re a guy, girl, or bug-eyed alien, pudding is awesome. Next…
  4. Finger sandwiches. Finally, we agree on something.
  5. Fruit. Tell that to the apple I just scarfed down. And the oranges and bananas in the kitchen. The canned pineapple in my pantry. Reassure my dormant-at-the-moment raspberry bushes that their fruit won’t find its way on waffles and ice cream and in cocktails and sauces all summer long. And while you’re at it, would you like to buy a bridge I’m selling?
  6. Bon-Bons. Duh. I’m neither a post-breakup nor pre-menopausal woman sitting on the couch wearing fluffy socks and watching soap operas. Give me ice cream that you can’t pick up with your fingers any old day.
bundys
The one on the left eats Bon-Bons. The one on the right does not.

So, there you go. Some of these I agree with, others I don’t, but I would be remiss in pointing out the fact that soup is nowhere on this list. Ha! Take that, woefully-misinformed-stereotype-loving stupid ex-coworker! Continue to avoid soup in order to preserve your antiquated ideals of what constitutes your own precious manhood.

Just means more soup me!

Joining the WFH Club

Shit got real today.

Or, at the very least, it felt like the bubble we’ve been living in burst. Consider this: South Dakota is the fourth-least populated state in the country, but the 16th largest. We joke that we’re behind the curve when it comes to a lot of things (we still had a video rental store up until last year); we’re often the last to be affected by things, and the fallout is usually less extreme. This leaves us well-positioned during, oh, I don’t know…worldwide pandemics, just to choose a random example. But suddenly, our mayor is calling for a 60-day shutdown of businesses such as restaurants, coffee shops, bars, breweries, wineries, distilleries (all the good “-ies” in other words!), cafes, swimming pools, health clubs, theaters, arcades, bowling alleys…the list goes on and on, despite the lack of a single confirmed case in Pennington County. I get it: better to be proactive and help flatten the curve, but it stings.

The ordinance isn’t even official yet, but already, so many places have shuttered. I feel very strongly about shopping local and supporting small businesses during this crisis, but it’s impossible to do that when they’re closing down. Friday, we ordered pizza from one of our favorite downtown restaurants. By Saturday, they had closed. Today, I walked down to Black Hills Vinyl to buy a gift card to help them out, but they too are now closed indefinitely. It’s all awfully depressing.

And I am now working from home for the foreseeable future. I’d already been given the okay to work from home three days a week, but by mid-morning, my supervisor told me I could take my stuff home when I left for lunch and not come back. Normally those are the last words you hope to hear from your employer, but in this case, they actually do want me to come back when this all blows over. Whew! So I packed up the essentials: my laptop, monitor, Post-It® notes, Daily Dad Joke calendar (told you I wouldn’t leave that behind!) and brought them home.

Fortunately, I sort-of anticipated this might happen over the weekend and prepared for it. Instead of rocking and rolling to Foreigner in Deadwood as we’d planned on Saturday, we organized the garage and hauled a filing cabinet up to the spare bedroom. On Sunday, I ventured out to Office Depot to buy a nice office chair. Funny story there: the first chair I wanted was out of stock, so I had to settle for another (naturally, more expensive) one. Apparently, with so many people suddenly being forced to work from home, there has been a massive run on office chairs and monitors and even basic copy paper, according to the cashier. The rest of my day was spent purging 25 years’ worth of paperwork that had accumulated in the filing cabinet. Like, I had instruction manuals for products that I tossed long ago. A Garmin GPS, an old digital camera, even a freakin’ CD player. Oh, good news, though: found a coupon from Audrey for “a free living room vacuuming” scribbled in crayon. Can’t wait to collect on that from my adult daughter the next time she visits.

It was all worth it, though: now I’ve got an official home office, where it looks like I’ll be camped for quite a while.

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Not a bad setup, if I do say so myself.
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Can’t beat the view from my home office!

I’m trying to look at the bright side, though. There are positives to working remotely (and obviously, I’m a bit of a pro at it already). I can get up an hour later and go for an outdoor walk on my lunch instead of hitting the treadmill while half-awake. I can wear sweats. I can take petting-the-cat breaks. And this new chair is pretty damn comfortable, I have to admit. It had better be, for what I paid.

How are you all coping?

Boot Scootin’ in the Apocalypse

Here are two facts about me. I’d call them “fun” but that seems a stretch:

  1. I never go dancing.
  2. I don’t like country music.

But for some reason, I have long had a fascination with line dancing…which pretty much requires country music. I can’t see line dancing to AC/DC or Elton John, but Brooks & Dunn or Brooks, Garth? That’s another story. Rapid City has a free concert series every Thursday during the summer called Summer Nights. They block off one of the main streets downtown, set up a stage, and sell food and drinks. It’s always a great way to enjoy good music, people watch, and get a little buzzed.

Frequently, the performers are country bands, and just as frequently, people in the crowd start line dancing in the street. I love watching them! One time last summer, three Cheladas in, I told Tara, “We should take line dancing lessons!” She nodded her head and said “sure,” which was slightly less placating than a pat on the back.

When those words came out of my mouth I looked around, wondering who had spoken them. Surely not me. I don’t dance. Some people “trip the light fantastic” but I am more likely to “trip, under the light, spastic” if I even attempt a move. People who stumble their way across the dance floor are described as having two left feet. I am so clumsy and lacking in rhythm, I have at least three feet, I swear.

line_dancing

And yet, last Sunday, I found myself line dancing in the living room. Granted, there was no line because it was just me, but you gotta start somewhere, right? (That’s the best part about line dancing—seeing the crowd move together in syncopated rhythm.) They say the secret to learning how to dance is to watch the performers’ feet. Easier said than done in some cases, ’cause I sure as hell am not looking at a bellydancer’s feet. But in line dancing, this makes sense. So, over the weekend, I found a short six-minute YouTube video that provided instruction on a basic line dance routine called the cowboy hustle. Watched it over and over again for an hour, practicing the moves until I mastered them. Which, given my three point seven left feet (this is what I have settled on), was surprisingly easy. And then I switched to music…actual country music (who the hell am I?!)…and practiced some more.

eastern_fire_belly_dance
See? She doesn’t even have feet!

I swear, only a pandemic would persuade me to teach myself line dancing. I’m now wondering what other skills I can learn on YouTube while everything is closed, postponed, or cancelled and there is nothing else to do. Maybe I can learn how to build a birdhouse or cook a cheese soufflé.

Or maybe I’ll take a crack at some great unsolved math problem, like the Birch and Swinnerton-Dyer conjecture, which has stumped the world’s greatest thinkers for 20 years. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you, but just in case, it’s that old chestnut that describes the set of rational solutions to equations defining an elliptic curve.

conjecture

Easy-peasy, right? The Clay Mathematics Institute is offering a $1,000,000 prize for the first correct proof. I could stimulate the hell out of the economy with that kind of dough, so why not?

Then again, I “passed” basic geometry with a D, and only because the curve was so steep it makes the Rambo ski run at Crested Butte Mountain Resort in Colorado, with its 55-degree pitch and eight-foot vertical jump turns, look like a walk in the part.

mountain-view-rambo

On second thought, I think I’ll stick to boot scootin’ boogiein’.

Which Bear is Most Condescending? A Pan-Duh!

For years, I have had a daily desk calendar, the kind where you tear off a page every day to reveal something new. The calendars are always different…and entertaining. One year I had a Bushisms calendar that consisted of the 43rd president’s unconventional statements, phrases, pronunciations, malapropisms, and semantic or linguistic errors in public speaking (and no, I did not copy that verbatim from Wikipedia! I changed a word or two, thank you very much). A few examples:

  • “There’s an old saying in Tennessee—I know it’s in Texas, probably in Tennessee—that says, ‘Fool me once, shame on…shame on you. Fool me—you can’t get fooled again.'”
  • “Rarely is the question asked: Is our children learning?”
  • “Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we.”

At the time, I believed George W. was hands down the worst leader this country had ever seen. In the light of the past three years, I know better and actually miss the guy. But that’s neither here nor there.

Side note: if something is ‘neither here nor there,’ where the hell is it…?!

Another year I had a Word of the Day calendar. This was a fun way to expand my vocabulary by introducing me to words like “jerkwater” (remote and unimportant; trivial) and “interrobang” (a punctuation mark designed for use especially at the end of an exclamatory rhetorical question). If you’re wondering, WTF is an interrobang?! – that’s exactly right. It’s the combination question mark/exclamation point.

interrobang

This year, Tara got me a Dad Joke calendar. Which…if you know me at all…is perfect. A dad joke is defined as a generally inoffensive pun, stereotypically told by fathers, either with sincere humorous intent or to provoke a negative reaction to its overly-simplistic humor.

This calendar is extremely hit-or-miss. Some days are really funny:

  • What does a thesaurus eat for breakfast? A synonym roll.
  • What do you do with a dead chemist? You barium.
  • How do you know the moon is going broke? It’s down to its last quarter.
  • I used to be a bartender for the mob. It was whiskey business.
  • I hate negative numbers and I will stop at nothing to avoid them.

Others are groan-worthy.

  • Why did no one take the bus to school? It wouldn’t fit through the door.
  • To what dog do other dogs tell their problems? A complaint bernard.
  • “Dad, you put your shoes on the wrong feet!” “But they’re the only feet I have.”

Good or bad, I have to admit, I always look forward to tearing off a new page every morning. It’s the first thing I do when I get to work.

dad_jokes

And yes, we’re still going to work. Which feels almost quaint when so many of my friends and family—most of them, actually—are on lockdown and working from home (if they haven’t been temporarily laid off). It almost makes me want to, I don’t know…apologize?! (Nice interrobang, huh?).

What can I say. Things are different here. There is caution (and various precautions) but no panic. My boss gave us the option to work from home if we are uncomfortable being here, but we’re a small office (13 total when everybody is here, which is rare). I am fine coming in everyday, though I fully expect we’ll postpone the two onsite events we have planned the beginning of April.

We are currently beginning work on the summer issue of our parenting magazine, which always entails me going out and interviewing people. I am giving everybody the option of doing phone interviews instead. It’ll be interesting to see how many decide to go this route.

By the way, if we do end up quarantined, don’t let me forget to grab my Dad Joke calendar off my desk, okay?

71,000 Acres of Social Distancing

Last week was rough. Tuesday’s post making fun of people hoarding toilet paper seemed innocent enough at the time, but turned into a self-fulfilling prophecy when the shelves here in town were picked clean of TP and Tara announced we were kinda, sorta running low ourselves. Suddenly, the situation was a lot less amusing. And the dominoes kept falling: South Dakota reported its first cases of coronavirus, every sporting event is cancelled, schools are shutting down, and events are being postponed indefinitely. We are now officially “victims” ourselves as the Foreigner concert we were looking forward to next weekend in Deadwood is no longer happening.

I know I shouldn’t complain about such an insignificant thing in the overall context of what so many others are going through. I have friends who are being forced to cancel dream vacations and once-in-a-lifetime outings, so: perspective. It’s annoying and frustrating, but not the end of the world (yet, at least). We have a hotel room booked next Saturday in Lead because we’d planned on making a weekend of the concert, and unless we’re all quarantined or on lockdown or all the businesses are closed (knock on wood), we’re still going. Maybe we can find “Jukebox Hero” on an actual jukebox or something. It’s good that everybody is taking precautions, but my parents and in-laws both live in Washington state, and they aren’t about to start donning protective suits every time they leave the house. “Still gotta live. Still gotta enjoy life,” my MIL posted on Instagram yesterday from their local cineplex. Man, I echo that sentiment.

A few people have commented on the fact that we can still go out to museums and aren’t being forced to work from home. Yet. (Let’s just make “yet” the understood caveat here so I don’t have to keep typing it.) Living in a sparsely populated state has its advantages in times of crisis. We are much less affected than many others. If we still lived in Washington, we’d be in quarantine right now, because two employees with the company I worked for inadvertently exposed the whole office. It feels like we’ve dodged so many bullets since moving out here in 2018. That’s probably a good topic for a future post.

My stress level reached a climax on Friday. I’m in charge of maintaining our local events calendars at work, and so many things have been cancelled or postponed, I was struggling to keep up. I’d update one thing, and by the time I finished, two more needed editing. And then we ventured out in a snowstorm for sushi and grocery shopping, but when we got to Safeway, they weren’t just out of toilet paper: half the shelves were bare. No milk. No bread. No meat. No potato chips even. Everything was in disarray, cans and boxes knocked over while vacant-eyed shoppers pushed mostly-empty carts down the aisles mechanically as if in search of not only essential household items, but meaning to the madness. As with the grocery staples, this was a futile pursuit. The cashier looked like a zombie himself and said, “I’m not going to lie…I’m not having a great day.” I left the store kinda freaked out. The whole experience felt surreal, a scene I never thought I’d witness in my lifetime. I felt like a character in one of those post-apocalyptic dystopian novels I am so fond of reading.

Note to self: stop reading post-apocalyptic dystopian novels.

After such a rough week, we needed to do something fun yesterday. So we got up super early and hit the road for Custer State Park not long after sunrise. Not that there was a sun in the sky we could even see; we’d gotten 6″ of snow overnight and it was still falling when we left. The whole day was gloomy: foggy, with flurries and drizzle, and temps in the mid-20s. We got to the park, which is essentially a 71,000-acre wildlife reserve, and pretty much had the whole thing to ourselves. We spent two hours driving the Wildlife Loop. In that whole time we saw one snowplow, two other cars, and countless antelope and bison. I’d say we earned an A+ in social distancing on Saturday!

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I’m not going to devote this entire blog to COVID-19. There’s plenty of media saturation already and I’m sure everybody is growing weary of the topic. Plus, we need lighthearted distractions. I’ll keep you updated on what’s going on out here, but I’ll also try to bring da funny.

Or at least plenty of pics.

Stay safe and stay sane, folks!

Walking CliffsNotes

I think I might be working too hard or something, because my professional life is beginning to seep into my personal life. It’s like a crossover episode where characters from two different television shows mingle, like they did on Happy Days and Mork & Mindy (or Family Guy and The Simpsons if my first reference went over your head, you Millennial, you).

happy_mork

Case in point: last week I wrote a series of articles about this big construction project in Rapid City. Then, over the weekend, Tara and I drove past the job site and I launched into this long discourse about how the contractor took a 3,000-foot hose, filled it with glycol, heated it to 180 degrees, and covered it with blankets to act as a ground warmer and prevent frost when the dirt contractor was ready to come in and backfill, and by the way, they’re using 6,000 tons of engineered fill to aid in compaction so the sub-grade, concrete, and steel won’t settle.

Her eyes began to glass over. Hell, mine did, too. I know diddly-squat about construction, yet there I was, riffing on grade beams and pile caps like a seasoned foreman who grew up around backhoes and excavators. My only prior experience involved Tonka trucks, so you could say my knowledge has increased in spades (tools comprised of a long handle and blade, primarily used for digging).

See what I mean?

I’m like a walking encyclopedia these days, albeit an extremely abridged version. More like a walking CliffsNotes. I know a little bit about a lot of things, but I’m an expert on very few. And it’s mostly useless knowledge when you think about it. I can’t imagine a real-life scenario in which my limited understanding of engineered fill will ever impress anybody or come in handy.

The same thing happened when I worked for my previous employer, the medical consulting company in Washington that I still freelance for. I acquired all this knowledge about audiology, yet only once did I use it for practical purposes: I faked being a doctor at a meet-up event and gave the mom of a newborn tips about protecting her baby’s ears from noise at high school football games. Don’t worry, it was legit advice! I kept up the charade for a solid 90 minutes and everybody left fully believing I was an audiologist. Luckily, they didn’t follow me into the parking lot; the jig would have been up once they saw me climbing behind the wheel of a Hyundai instead of a Mercedes.

I suppose I might be halfway decent at trivia, but only if the topics are very narrow and focus on things like soils testing and auditory canals.

And crossover episodes of ’70s sitcoms.


I am fortunate to be within walking distance of the Dahl Arts Center, a free gallery with rotating displays. Quite literally, as evidenced by one of the current exhibits called 51 Spheres/51 Years, a collection of Termespheres® created by local Spearfish artist Dick Termes over the past…you guessed it…five decades.

Termespheres are essentially paintings that function as optical illusions; his website describes them as “an inside-out view of the total physical world around you on the outside surface of a hanging and rotating sphere. If you were on the inside of this sphere, this painted image around you would seem normal, but it is read from the outside. From any point when you look at the spherical paintings, the image reads correctly. Termespheres capture the up, down and all around visual world from one revolving point in space.” They’re really cool and each one is unique. My company recently published a profile of the artist and his creations. It’s pretty interesting reading.

Even more interesting is seeing the Termespheres in person.

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If you’re thinking about checking the exhibit out yourself, you’d better hurry: tomorrow is the last day.

But also, tomorrow might not be the best travel day. After a two-week stretch of warm springlike weather that finally melted every last trace of snow in town, winter is coming back with a vengeance tonight. They’re predicting anywhere from 3-7″ of snow in Rapid City and more in the Black Hills.

We’re planning a trip to Custer State Park, but I guess we’ll see how bad the roads are before venturing out.

Sweet Dreams are Made of Cheese

A Portland friend messaged me this morning. How nice is it to live in a state with no known cases of coronavirus? I bet you can still find toilet paper in the stores there. The crazy thing is, she wasn’t exaggerating. Costco and other stores are reporting their shelves have been wiped clean in the U.S., Canada, and overseas. If you’re looking for toilet paper in many parts of the world, you’re shit out of luck. Even single-ply rolls are being hoarded, the clearest case yet that the world is on the brink of mass panic and desperation.

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I’m having trouble understanding the logic here. There are certain items that make sense stocking up on, whether you’re worried about COVID-19 or the zombie apocalypse or, scariest of all, another four years of Trump. Like wine. While everybody else is making a beeline for the TP, I will happily choose chardonnay over Charmin. (Actually, I pine for Pinot Noir and savor Sauvignon Blanc, but I was aiming for alliteration.) If I were to end up quarantined, I’d make damn sure at least some of my hours were happy.

Look, toilet paper is important; I’m not suggesting otherwise. But if we’re being honest, isn’t it really just a luxury? There are plenty of alternatives in a pinch. If the shit really hits the fan, you’re going to need canned goods and bottled water. Medicine and first-aid supplies. Candles and batteries. Not Angel Soft or Quilted Northern.

People sure are funny when the end is nigh.  


Tara recently made herself an omelette for breakfast and I couldn’t help but notice a gloriously crispy cheese skirt on her plate. “Is that a grizzly bear in the backyard?!” I asked in an attempt to distract her so I could grab it for myself, but my wife is onto my tricks and rarely falls for them anymore. In retrospect, I probably should have kept it simple and claimed to spot a deer or squirrel instead of a bear. At least those creatures have actually appeared in our yard and might have warranted a glance on her part.

If you’re unfamiliar with the culinary delicacy that is a cheese skirt, it’s the crispy, golden-brown cheese that you find on the edge of a pan when you’re making lasagna or enchiladas or baked macaroni ‘n cheese, i.e., the very best part. I don’t have any actual statistics to back this up, but I’m pretty sure the top three reasons people go to war are for economic or territorial gain; nationalism; and an unwillingness to cede the cheese skirt to other diners.

Thinking about this after Tara swatted my hand away from her plate, I had a revelation. “We should open a restaurant that specializes in cheese skirts!” I said excitedly. After all, there was a Seinfeld episode about a business called Top of the Muffin to You! that sold only the top part of the muffin, i.e., the very best part. Genius idea, Elaine! Imagine going out to eat and finding cheese skirts on the menu.

There’s already a restaurant in California that specializes in cheese skirt burgers. If people are already flocking there for the cheese skirt, let’s just eliminate the superfluous items like the burger patty and bun. I picture appetizers made with different cheeses like cheddar, gouda, and pepper jack. Just a big ol’ plate of cheese skirts! (Maybe I’d offer a marinara dipping sauce. Maybe.) And we’d serve cheese-based entrees like the aforementioned lasagna, complete with their own impressive cheese skirts. Maybe we’ll reinvent some classics, like the Philly cheese skirt steak. How about a decadent slice of New York cheese skirt cake for dessert? Or maybe we do it on a smaller scale. Buy a food truck and serve piping hot bags of cheese skirts. Chips are ubiquitous, french fries are obvious, and popcorn is boring. But cheese skirts…now, there’s a unique (and delicious) idea! Am I right or am I right?

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Living in the heartland, I can tell you that cheese curds are wildly popular here. I see no reason why cheese skirts can’t be just as big.

Whaddaya say? Anybody care to invest in my get-rich-quick scheme, or should I aim for Shark Tank instead?

(I’m only signing a deal with Lori Greiner, though.)