Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Parade

I recently walked in a parade. I was a little nervous, but it was fun, and I didn’t trip.

Our daughter’s in a baton twirling class. The class is composed of 12 girls of varying ability and age, she’s the youngest at four years. The troop was scheduled to walk in a parade. We’d talked about it with her leading up to the event and she sounded excited. But at the pre-parade warm up she said she didn’t want to walk and was discouragingly adamant. Too bad, I was hoping she’d have a chance to show off her ‘tree chop’ maneuver that she’d been performing so well. We even offered to buy her a milk shake if she’d walk. [I admit it, I was hoping for another milk shake miracle.]

With only a few minutes before ‘go time’, and much hopeful cajoling, she was still maintaining that she didn’t want to walk. As a last resort I asked if she’d walk in the parade if I walked with her. She gave a big smile and said ‘Yes.’ I wonder if she was trying to call my bluff. (‘There’s no way daddy would actually walk in this thing’.) Her coach gave us the go-ahead and we took our position.

As the parade progressed up the street we held our position going hand in hand. She was doing her ‘pancaking’ with the baton, so it’s called this baton rotating while in hand. It was nice her bashful expression when I explained how all the crowd and applause were for her and her teammates.

I felt like a goof ball, the only dad walking with the twirlers. Plus, I hoped I was not too much of a distraction taking attention away from the other twirlers. They really did a super job.

(The Boogie in all her smiling glory.)

(Too bad I look like an angry man here.) [Photos removed by Klem on 7/26/2010.]

We ran the gauntlet and enjoyed the experience. This also qualified her for the earlier offer of the milk shake. She chose vanilla.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Klem’s Corporate Corollaries, an excerpt

11) Never say, “I knew it.” Voice your opinion when it counts.

12) Good manners. Everyone deserves them, so treat everyone as though they do.

13) Body language matters.
a. Don’t cross your arms.
b. Be an example of good posture.
c. No scowling in the office. Save it for driving in traffic.

14) When e-mailing, use the Subject line. Do not leave it blank.

15) Start meetings on time. If attendees are late, it’s on them.

16) If you want to be heard, you need only to speak constructively.

17) Stop casting blame. Look for a solution and proceed with its implementation.

18) When talking or listening to someone, look them in the eyeballs.

19) Leadership > Consensus. Do NOT confuse the two as they are mutually exclusive. Consensus means, simply, ‘End of discussion, now let’s move on to the next item.’ Leadership entails actively making a well thought out decision in the best interest of the entity, even if its not popular.

20) ‘The best way to become truly great is to become as accomplished as possible, and then help others through your leadership.’ James Citrin, executive consultant

[Corollaries #1-10 can be found here.]


Friday, May 29, 2009

Grecian Bus Ride

You ever tried stuffing yourself into an overly crowded elevator? No, of course not. The idea of physical contact with strangers is not always a comfortable notion. How about an overly crowded bus? Forcibly stuff yourself in? No, again, it’s just not proper protocol. Now then, how about actually getting your shoulders down low and shoving with all your force against another passenger so that you might board a bus? Here’s my tale.

June 1994

Athens, Greece. I was on vacation with four chums heading for the island of Ios. This necessitated taking a bus ride from the airport to the ferry which would deliver our travel weary carcasses to our Mediterranean isle. We’ll call these chums McGettigans the Elder and Younger, Cousin John, and Taylor.

The bus pulled up. To our dismay the thing was already stuffed tight. Standing room only, in fact. By U.S. standards, you’d wait it out and take the next bus. But not here. Bus stopped, patrons started courteously trying to make room for more bodies. There were five of us plus our duffel bags and many other folks after us hoping to get aboard. Commence loading.

The standing room only slowly made room for entry. The effort to compress the current bus patrons was not significant, or at least not significant enough. My four chums squeezed in, just barely. Now I had no choice but to render myself somehow aboard with my luggage. If I missed the bus, I’d miss the ferry, and be lost in the wake like so much chum.

McGettigan the Younger was immediately in front of me and his back was directly where the door would be closing, if it could close. But the heck if I was about to be separated in a foreign land where I boasted no communication skills, I speak no Grecian.

I started shoving to get myself aboard. Really shoving! With my feet still on the street I got my shoulders down low and started shoving my friend trying to get in. He didn’t mind the shoving, he understood the gravity of the circumstances, he was actually amused that the situation had deteriorated to this. I managed to get my bag in, then worked on getting myself aboard. I’m pushing with everything I’ve got, but making no progress and advise my pals of my conundrum. Becoming aware for the first time of my problem they now begin to explain in incompatible English and politely shove against strangers in an attempt to forcibly annex enough space so that I may actually stand inside the bus.

The bus couldn’t leave until the door closed and it was closing on my shoulder with my arm, shoulder, and a leg still outside. So close, was I. The beginning stage of panic began to set in as a stranger started pulling my arm and barking at me in a foreign tongue trying to pull me off of the bus. If I got pulled out I would be separated from my duffel bag and passport. The four Americans recognizing my peril now worked in unison to beat back the Grecians on board. With one final surge I shook my arm free, slipped inside the bus, door closed, and the driver hit the gas pedal.

I was sweating profusely, my heart racing, and it was hot as all get-out in that crummy bus. Yet, I couldn’t have been happier to be onboard.

We reached the ferry. A round of beers arrived denoting that vacation was now underway.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Life After People

It amuses me the things that grab a kid’s attention. The boy saw an advertisement for ‘Life After People’. This is a television series on the History Channel about what would happen to cities, buildings, and the ‘hardware’ leftover from civilization if mankind were wiped off the face of the earth. [To avoid a morbid theme the program skips over how exactly mankind is eliminated, just that it is.]

We have watched and recorded the first 4 of 10 episodes with new episodes already coming available. Very entertaining, I concede. Well, the guy was smitten hard. So hard, in fact, that he wrote a Life After People book summarizing much of what he saw, plus a few of his own ideas. He told me the other day that he had to get on the computer to do more research on Washington, D.C. to round out one of his chapters.

He wrote the chapters, not robust with verbiage, but he’s got a few sentences per chapter, and added drawings and magazine clippings. Not taking any shortcuts, he also included a table of contents, glossary, and index. Wife Klem pitched in by scanning an advertisement to incorporate as the book’s cover.

He’s a capitalist, observes this proud dad. He was going to write several books and charge $12.99 each. Wife Klem and I teased him that we’d wait to see if we could get it cheaper on This must have caused him to revise his business plan. Shortly after he asked how he could make it available on Amazon himself.

‘Welcome to Earth. Population: 0.’

(photo of the author holding his book)

(a sneak peek at the contents)
[Photos removed by Klem on 7/26/2010.]

“What are you going to do with the money from your book sales,” I asked.

“Buy books. What else,” he said matter of factly. That puts him way ahead of me at eight years old. I’d put it all toward baseball cards and candy.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Magglio Cervantes, an excerpt

Please humor me here. Imagine that you are immortal and have lived for hundreds of years, yet you are physically as healthy as you were at 25 years old. You have reaped immense amounts of learning and experiences in your time. You’ve spent centuries amassing wealth and it’s been generations since you’ve had to consider living expenditures and the inconvenience of gainful employment.

Through folly or crime your wealth has been lost. You now must seek work amongst the mortals with whom you will now be forced to mingle daily. No more quietly living in sheltered and luxuriously equipped anonymity.

The following excerpt is a piece of fiction I have in progress based on that scenario.

Magglio Cervantes, an excerpt

After so many years of luxurious living where anything and everything could be had or accumulated at the merest fancy, he was now feeling restricted as though by a claustrophobic episode. His finances reduced to a few simple thousands after so long basking in the deepest realms of riches, though by appearance this was not visibly noticeable, had him mentally reeling. ‘How can one survive on such a meager sum,’ thought Magglio knowing full well that it could be done and, in fact, is done by all but 3% of the world’s richest people. To be cast into these circumstances by the doings of a crook, even if it was his own error that practically invited the infiltration, burdened him greatly.

Having gone yet a third night without sleep, encumbered was he by his plight, he clumsily allowed his legs to carry him downstairs where he seated himself upon a tall stool at his kitchen counter. Elbows on the countertop of the finest black granite with his chin resting uncomfortably in his hands.

“What am I, to get a job,” he questioned through pursed lips with motion restricted by his chin in his hands. Surprised and somewhat alarmed was he for even speaking such nonsense aloud. Leaning forward over the counter and reaching into the impeccably undermounted kitchen sink, he acquired a slightly used glass, and filled it halfway with tap water. So distraught with his circumstances, as he’s finally come to accept the depth from which he is now to operate, he thought not to even allow the faucet to run in an effort to get a cool flow of water. Sipped the room temperature liquid and put the glass down on the counter with no thought of a coaster. Early afternoon and noticing just now his three days of beard growth. Thick and as dark as the day he turned 25 was his beard. His finances, too, were now no different than those meager days, he pondered.

Unable to shake these feelings of defeat, he stepped over to the refrigerator where he retrieved a box of frozen chocolate chip Eggo waffles from the freezer, tossed a pair into the toaster, returned the resealed box to the freezer and stared blankly at the toaster watching it do its job. One minute it took to toast and pop. Coincidentally, some semblance of clarity came to Magglio as the waffles burgeoned from their cocoon of heating coils.

A job he will get. Not only that, given his current state of finances, he must rent out his finely equipped abode and lease a cheaper domicile for his own domesticated occupancy. This was sadly necessitated not so much by a concern over expenses but as a means of gaining another income. He could rent something for himself for much less than his current home could fetch on the rental market. In these desperate times the income he could gain would be of much importance.

Eggos in hand. Wallet in pocket. He intended for one last luxury before making a life change for the modest. Three blocks to the Spanish bakery where he purchased a cranberry scone with the sugared lemon peel shavings of which he was so fond, a tall latte with two generous shakes of nutmeg, and a local newspaper. Now occupying one of those seemingly miniature tables fit for no more than one person but most appropriate, it would appear, for nothing more than a telephone and note pad for jotting down messages. Briefly assessing the diminutive surface space at his disposal he placed his latte and scone, minus one hearty bite, on the table and turned his chair sideways extending his legs perpendicularly away from the table. This allowed him to read the newspaper by suspending it in air rather than the more pedestrian manner of lying it flat on a table and hovering over it as is his preference. This preferred style also acted as a crumb catcher what with his biting and chewing taking place over the page.

Opening the paper and getting directly to the Classified Ads, he perused the Help Wanted columns for a line of work for which he might feel a hankering or inclination. Minutes passed.

Popping the final bit of scone into his mouth and draining his now luke warm, though delectable beverage, he folded the paper several times and cleanly placed it into the rubbish bin. He felt not inclined, as it developed, for a job of telemarketing, real estate appraising, contractor of any sort, insurance underwriter, or bank teller. Nor even coxswain or spelunker should such openings exist. His momentary inspiration that drove him out of his kitchen one hour before had evaporated and his gumption quickly waned.

Looking now out the window and across the street he saw Cassidy’s Irish tavern place a Help Wanted sign in the window. Cassidy’s. A comfortable grog shop of which he finds himself traipsing through often. Often enough, anyway, to know that the sink in the Men’s room at the far wall always splashes one’s trousers and that the pinball machine nearest the rear exit tilts to the left. Throwing darts, wrecking a game of billiards, or simply sampling a finely aged pint of hops Cassidy’s confines of leisure appealed to him.

He stood, enjoyed a flamboyant and thorough stretch, and casually brushed a scone crumb from his mouth. With the easy knowing confidence of a professional baseballer participating in a celebrity softball game he proceeded across the street toward his goal.


Sunday, May 24, 2009


Let’s face it, babies’ clothes rule. They’re built for comfort and body heat retention. Why grow up and start wearing silly stuff like trousers, shirts with all those bothersome buttons, belts, and ties. Why not transcend these same considerations for baby clothes into adult theme attire?

Jumpsuits, for example, are great for infants and toddlers. Wrestle the uncooperative legs and arms into the holes and zip it up. Done. Let’s now incorporate the same for corporate America.

Step into an adult size jumpsuit, zit up, grab your brief case and cell phone and you’re ready for the day.

Big meeting at the office? Wear the pinstripe jumpsuit.

Expecting warm weather? Better get out that baby blue short sleeve jumpsuit.

Looking for a wild Friday night? Sport your colorful jumpsuit decorated with funky images or designs.

Want to capitalize on first impressions? The classic jumpsuit with feet.

Want to play the part of goofball? Jumpsuit with button-down back flap.

Why trouble oneself with a wardrobe of so many individual pieces and their infinite number of possible combinations? Stop wasting brain power wading through proper color matches between your shirts and trousers. Pick a jumpsuit off the hanger and you’re ready to take on the world in a matter of minutes. Plus the comfort of the body heat retention.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Dirt Storm

Have you ever experienced a sand storm? I had the pleasure of a very mild one in Palm Springs which I took in from the comfortable confines of a company car. Being a company car I worried little about windshield pitting. The thought of walking around outside my vehicle at the time would have been a tremendously sub par experience.

Also had the pleasure of a mild dirt storm. I saw something during the storm that horrified me. To this day I reflect back on it periodically and cringe.


I live in southern California where you may have seen news footage of our annual wildfires. The soil, after a fire, is very light and, of course, full of ash. There seems very little in the way of cohesive forces to keep the post-fire dirt molecules piled together into large heavier dirt molecules or clumps. This lack of cohesive forces allows gusts of wind to blow vast amounts of dirt and soil a considerable distance.

A wildfire had recently delivered its wrath to a neighboring community near the foothills of the Angeles National Forest. Much brush, native vegetation, and homes had been burned to the ground. The wind was strong and dirt and ash had buoyantly filled the air.

It was not fear of the dirt storm that bothered me, like one would fear a hurricane, but the discomfort that is often experienced with airborne dirt. I wear contact lenses, dirt in there puts me in sour spirits.

I had a location to visit in the name of work. This necessitated that I abandon the clean work place and expose myself to the dirt storm outside. Standing by the door looking out at the brown sky, I did my mental preparation and visualization technique planning how to minimize my exposure by streamlining my every motion. The car was fifty feet away. With car keys in hand, eyeballs already puckered into a protective squint to keep out the dirt, took a deep breath, held it, opened the door and exited the office. Proceeding at a quick hustling pace I attained safety inside the vehicle without incident.

As I brought the vehicle around from the rear of the building, I spied the vision before me that remains unfortunately ingrained. I saw a man on the sidewalk. He was walking. Bummer being relegated to walk in that misery. But wait, there’s more. With dirt swirling all around I saw him raise something to his mouth. He was eating! Eating while casually walking in a dirt storm as if it were just any other normal day! A burger partially concealed in a fast food wrapper in mid-consumption. Wow! ‘Dude, have some burger with your dirt,’ I thought to myself.

I have been bothered with the thought of how much dirt he was taking in with each bite. How much dirt was getting onto his exposed partially wrapped burger? You know that crunching feeling when you get a grain of sand in your mouth? Imagine the crunching that must have been going on in his mouth with each bite.

I paused at the driveway before hitting the street allowing this lost soul to walk right in front of me. Like a self inflicted wound, he took another bite and trudged on.

Thursday, May 21, 2009


We had an earthquake Sunday night here in southern California. A 4.7 magnitude. It was minor, though stronger than most, and lasted less than ten seconds, though longer than most. Having spent my whole life in California I have long ago accepted earthquakes as part of my life.

February 1971

The Sylmar Earthquake of 1971 was the first earthquake I remember. I was just a little guy of four and got to experience a 6.6 magnitude on the Richter scale! That correlates to a BIG one. I remember my dad hustling about the house looking for all the kids; there were four of us then. He told me and my older brother to stand in the door frame of the hallway, a strong point in case of earthquake-induced structural collapse.

I thought the earthquake was kind of fun, although I found out many years later this quake caused much property damage. With that as my first earthquake experience, and thinking it was fun, I had never really been bothered or upset by them and have been lucky enough to not be harmed, physically or financially, by one to date.

January 1994

My good natured acceptance of earthquakes changed with the Northridge Earthquake! The force of this 6.7 magnitude and the sound it produced was VERY scary.

Most earthquakes are so minor and short lived that I usually merely pause from what I’m doing for a few seconds during the actual shaking without bolting for safety. But Northridge was different. I lived then 20 miles away from the epicenter, the center of the quake, and the jolt scared me so much that I immediately went for the door frame. It occurred at 4:30 am. I tumbled to the ground trying to get out of bed. Across the hall was one of my roommates standing in his door frame. Twenty seconds it lasted! That is an amazingly long time for an Earthquake to shake. A 6.7 magnitude shaking for 20 seconds does catastrophic damage!

Wife Klem and I strive to help our kids overcome Earthquake fear. Convey an understanding of what to do so that they are not immobilized from fear. We’re native Californians and plan to remain Californians, so living in fear of earthquakes would be a real bummer.

“I’m scared,” said our daughter after Sunday’s shaker.

“No you weren’t. That was like a ride at Disneyland,” smiling back to her. She laughed at the mention of Disneyland and lay back in bed.

We’ll follow up with a conversation to review Earthquake protocol. The Northridge one, though, that was no Disney ride. That was a perspective changer.

[p.s. I understand that standing in a door frame is now outdated procedure. Current Life / Safety procedure for earthquakes now suggests that a person is to get under something sturdy, like a firm table or desk. And stay away from windows and potentially heavy falling objects.]

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Things Kids Say

July 2004

We went to the Wild Animal Park in San Diego. Interesting the stuff a guy can learn at such a place. Did you know that the difference between the Ape family and Monkey family is that monkeys have tails? It’s true.

Equipped with this knowledge I asked my three year old son, “Do you have a tail?”

“No. I have a butt,” he responded.

So true, thought this proud daddy.

December 2006

Every parent wants to believe that their little girls are perfect little ladies. Well, that desired imagery does not emerge unscathed here.

My girl had been picking her nose lately. She’s only two, so I guess that’s gonna happen. As a precautionary measure I've advised her, "Don't eat your boogers."

She came to me today with a booger on her finger. "Don't eat it," she said offering it to me with a smile. She then waited for me to peel it off her finger and dispose of it. Either that or she wanted to make sure that I’m also trained up on the ‘no eating’ rule.


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Klem’s Book of Observations, excerpt iv

Be at peace, but not at rest.

It’s not always what you’re obligated to do that’s most important. Oftentimes it’s what you don’t have to do but care enough to do it anyway.

One-upmanship. Don’t do it. Gracefully allow someone else the spotlight.

Killer bees. That’s much more acceptable to me thank killer ants.

Musical medleys? No, thank you.


Monday, May 18, 2009

Klem’s Corporate Corollaries, an excerpt

1) Don’t use foul language. You’ll look like a buffoon.

2) Shake hands like you mean it.

3) Sarcasm. Not in the office. A handful of the cohorts with whom you work won’t get it.

4) Remain calm under all circumstances. It’ll elevate your status in the eyes of others. Plus, the opposition finds it intimidating.

5) Dress code. Don’t dress down to the lowest threshold just to comply. The dress code outlines the minimum standard. If a pull over polo shirt and Sketchers don’t fit your own self image, then don’t fulfill it.

6) Control your temper and emotion in the office. As Albert Camus wrote in The Fall, ‘Being master of one’s moods is the privilege of the larger animals.’ Be a larger animal.

7) It’s OK to call in sick once in a while if you’re an ailing bag of bones. A runny nose, insatiable cough, and baggy eyes cut not the image of a corporate power. Go home and take a nap.

8) Communication. Learn to write well and speak effectively. Anyone can perform poorly in this area. Don’t be just anyone.

9) Walk with purpose, even if it’s feigned. Nobody can tell the difference.

10) Enter a room with confidence, even if it’s false bravado. Nobody can tell the difference on this one either.


Friday, May 15, 2009

The Water Park, season passes

We live in close proximity to a popular water park. Having a pair of kids we frequent the place with our season passes. We can leave the house and be inside the park within 12 minutes. We’re so close, in fact, that we’ll often go for as little as 1.5 hours after dinner. Makes for a fast paced evening; dinner, water park, baths, snack and a video, and the kids are in bed by 8:00. Nice to see the kids excited at the prospect of going and it really enhances the delight of the hot summer eves.

I’m not a fiscal freewheeler, so when we purchase our season passes there is consideration as to the break-even point. We challenge ourselves to see how many visits we can make between the park’s May opening and the early September close dates. Our personal record is 21 park visits set in that fabled summer of 2005! Good times.

We have fallen well shy of our personal record these last few summers. But this year, we’re looking to push 20! The park’s opening day was today. Game on.

A Tar Pit Scuffle

The La Brea Tar Pits is a Los Angeles County Museum. The museum is located on the exact site where a whole mess of fossils of predators and plant eaters have turned up after being buried in tar for thousands of years.

I had gone to this museum several times when I was a youngster. It’s fun now going with my own son. I had wondered as a little guy how so many animals had become stuck in the tar . . .

A Tar Pit Scuffle

It was 30,000 years ago, the Paleolithic Period or Stone Age. Several Pronghorn antelope (Antilocapra americana) were grazing on the land and enjoying the bounty of a recent rainfall. One of them saw a batch of bright red berries on a bush and went to fill its belly.

The ground was soft and marshy, but the antelope continued. Reaching the plant it started eating the berries, and they were plentiful. The animal called back to its pals who left the bland offerings of the tall grass they had been eating. Their hooves sank deeply into the soil. But the berries were good and with some effort they continued through the thickly viscous mud.

There were four of them. The first antelope had been eating for several minutes without any movement. Seeing another clutch of berries on the neighboring plant he tried raising its hooves. To no avail. It’s mood quickly descended to panic, much like a human having a claustrophobic attack, and wildly contorted its body in attempt to lift its legs. Still nothing. With an effort to leap straight up into the air it merely lost its balance and flopped over. One limb was now free, but the animal could not regain an upright position. It was not mud or quick sand, as it turned out. It was tar! And it quickly enveloped this early mammal.

With one limb flailing wildly it called out in a high pitched bleating. The panic was vocally evident. Two other antelope had already sunk in nearly to their furry white belly. They were stuck and now commenced their own life struggle. The fourth, though stained with tar, managed to regain firm ground.

The loud panicked calls were sure to bring predators. Dire wolves (Canis dirus) were abundant in the region. In fact, there were several already underway following the cries of compromised prey. The single free antelope bolted at top speed. The wolves saw it running away, but were not interested. That one would require too much work.

At full speed two wolves jumped and landed on an antelope and tumbled over into the tar. The two battled each other over the meal until they were fully exhausted. One wolf had no fight left. Too tired, it lay on its belly in tar with its large paws buried in the thick black substance. The other wolf, with one paw free, clawed at the antelope puncturing its hide and causing blood to flow. Skin was torn, but little more. The wolf had little energy left after the brawl, and no leverage with which to sink teeth. These wolves were down, now. The culmination would follow in the next day or two.

A third wolf stood on top of another antelope and tore into it while it was still alive. Ravenous and unaware, the wolf. The extra weight of the wolf pushed the antelope under the tar by nightfall, but it had expired hours before.

The third antelope was stuck and sinking. It lay with its back to the commotion not knowing why the predators had not yet attacked it. The antelope could see nothing of what was happening behind it. In terror, it slowly sank thinking that at any moment it would be torn into by the vicious predators. But no. Late the next afternoon struggling for a final gasp of air of which it could not achieve. The pressure of the tar compressing around its torso was making breathing difficult. It lost consciousness.


Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Errors in Toiletering Protocol

Generally accepted protocol for a public or semipublic (i.e., workplace) bathroom is pretty basic. Ingrained almost. Get in, do what you gotta do, and get out. Infractions are terribly unfortunate and awkward. A couple real life examples follow. I’ll try to keep it clean.

Example 1: A recent visit to the workplace restroom found someone on the phone! He was on the phone while in the restroom. But wait there’s more, the guy was seated on a locomotive! Yes, he was in a stall talking on a cell phone! Come on now. This is the kind of thing that can cause you to lose faith in humanity.

Protocol review:
1) Don’t take your phone into the restroom.
2) But if you neglect rule 1 above and your phone rings while you’re in the restroom, don’t answer it.
3) Under no circumstances do you engage in a phone conversation while in a stall! Heck, any conversation for that matter, phone or otherwise.

Example 2: A guy came into the restroom at work mid-conversation on his cell phone and bellied up to a urinal. Dude, stand outside the restroom, finish the call, then proceed to the restroom. The two activities should be mutually exclusive. Mutually exclusive like driving a car and watching tv. Two things that are never to happen at the same time.

Example 3: November 2008. Disneyworld in Orlando, Florida. Animal Kingdom

Restroom break. I was at the sink washing my hands and couldn’t help but notice that the guy at the urinal was simultaneously scrolling the screen of his Blackberry wireless communication device. That guy’s got a problem!

Please refer to ‘Mutually exclusive’ in Example 2.

I cringe at the thought that there are some folks amongst us freely operating outside the parameters of these acceptable behaviors.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Dog Attack!

I was on summer break from college. My summer job had me employed as a locker repairman, high school lockers and locker rooms. The bulk of the job entailed oiling the hinges, changing the lock combinations, replacing parts, and unbending bent doors. The repair crew consisted of six guys, all college age, and most of us skateboarded.

Summer 1988

It was the end of a work day and several of us stayed for a while in an adjacent parking lot skateboarding. This was an industrial neighborhood and we had apparently disturbed a dog, guard or stray possibly, or had unknowingly intruded upon its territory.

From fifty feet away it barked, growled, and then charged showing lots of teeth. I’m no body language expert, but this wasn’t going to be good. Sadly, I was the nearest interloper so I was the target for its angst release. I’ve made prior blog admittances of my friendly affinity toward dogs [blog entry from 5/5/2009]. But self preservation ranks more highly than dogs on the list of things that I like.

I wasn’t pleased with what the immediate future held for me. No chance of outrunning the beast, so I didn’t even try. There were only seconds remaining until the anticipated moment of impact. Without thinking, like a 3rd baseman reacting to a line drive down the line to make a diving snatch, I picked up my skateboard and held it like a baseball bat. Nice instinctive move, I surprised myself. I was ready to swing at the dog, but hoped it would not have to be. Recognizing, I guess, that I had a weapon in my hand, the dog took a few more steps and stopped. Perhaps it didn’t like my body language. Could it not read my desperation and fright? It turned around and retreated at a jog.

Dog attack thwarted! My friends, having witnessed what could very well have been my canine administered destruction, obliged my request that we call it a day.


Monday, May 11, 2009

Foul Mouth

April 1992

Spring Break. Capitola, a town along the northern California coast. A batch of friends and I had been toiling away the evening at a club. A dance club and bar, not a nudy joint (just to clarify in case Mom Klem is still reading this tripe). I was making my way through the crowd to reengage a pair of friends. We’ll call them McGettigan the Elder and McGettigan the Younger. Brothers they are by blood, not the kind made so by theological study.

From my vantage point I saw them talking to someone. The guy doing all the talking, a chap I knew not, was very animated. They were 25 feet away from where I stood and the club was loud, I couldn’t hear at all what was being discussed. As I got up close I saw that the talker was actually cursing, and doing so loudly. The man’s ire was being brusquely directed at these McGettigans. They were both facing the fellow listening but not yet showing any physical signs of being fired up or riled.

Upon my arrival I exhibited poor etiquette by shoehorning myself into the fray.

“Settle down, foul mouth,” I said now standing between the brothers. My build, we’ll say, is slight, though not waifish. Regardless, I didn’t seem to inject any noticeable intimidating effect into the unknown prospective aggressor.

“Foul mouth! Foul mouth! I’m foul mouth? That’s it. That’s it,” said the guy now stepping back to take off his back pack. I don’t know why he was wearing a back pack in a social club when there’s dancing and socializing afoot, but he must have felt it would impair his next move. Thus, taking it off.

Anticipating fisticuffs a couple of bouncers intervened at the moment and kicked me and McGettigan the Younger out of the club.

I don’t know the instigating event that got this whole brouhaha underway, but we spent a good deal of that night outside the walls listening to the sounds of a buoyant social evening that was transpiring within.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Klem’s Top 99 Movies

I’ve made prior mention of Team Klem's Friday Night Movie Night routine. We enjoy movies, Wife Klem and I.

The American Film Institute (AFI) put out a list of America’s 100 Greatest Movies. This list was brought to my attention a number of years ago by my pal McGettigan the Elder. I won’t burden you with that list, though you may peruse it here if you so desire; AFI’s America’s 100 Greatest Movies [scroll down to 'List of 100 Winning Movies']. I completed my viewing of all 100 movies a few years ago and they left me largely disappointed.

Many of those ‘Greatest Movies’ seem to have been included for the wrong reasons. The Birth of a Nation (1915) was the first motion picture, I think it was, but a film speaking favorably of the KKK’s origins, as this one does, seems out of place. Then there’s An American in Paris (1951) starring Gene Kelly. Sure it’s fun watching his legs move around when he dances, but a whole movie of that? Come on. The Jazz Singer (1927) starring Al Jolson wearing black face. This is one of the first movies to combine audio with the visual, I understand. Incidentally, the audio occurs only during singing and is otherwise a silent film. My beef with this selection is that we’re supposed to be talking the Greatest Movies, not most novel.

It also seems that many movies were included on the list because of popular actors, directors, or combinations of the two that came together on a film. Great or popular talents do not necessarily make for a great movie. Look at Bringing Up Baby (1938) starring Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant. Debacle. Baby is a leopard named Baby. [The film is not deserving of a spoiler alert.]

Certainly the list is sprinkled with a few good movies; The Godfather (1972), Gone With the Wind (1939), the Graduate (1967), and Clockwork Orange (1971). But a mere sprinkling of good ones after building it up as ‘America’s 100 Greatest Movies’ left this guy feeling a bit punk about the whole thing.

As an exercise of mental remediation, I eventually set about compiling a list of 99 Good movies. My own list follows below.

Klem’s Top 99 Films

1 Fight Club - (1999) Brad Pitt, Ed Norton
2 Saving Private Ryan - (1998) Tom Hanks
3 Good, Bad, and the Ugly - (1966) Clint Eastwood
4 Gladiator - (2000) Russell Crowe
5 Heat - (1995) Al Pacino, Robert Deniro
6 Magnolia - (1999) Tom Cruise
7 Good Will Hunting - (1997) Matt Damon, Ben Affleck
8 Toy Story - (1995)
9 Seven - (1995) Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Spacey
10 Ferris Bueller’s Day Off - (1986) Mathew Broderick

Rocky - (1976) Sylvester Stallone
the Big Lebowski - (1998) Jeff Bridges
Rocky II - (1979) Sylvester Stallone
Gattaca - (1997) Ethan Hawke, Uma Thurman
the Graduate - (1967) Dustin Hoffman
Jerry Maguire - (1996) Tom Cruise
the Godfather - (1972) Marlon Brando
Pulp Fiction - (1994) John Travolta, Uma Thurman
American Psycho - (2000) Christian Bale
the Prestige - (2006) Christian Bale, Hugh Jackman

the Shawshenk Redemption - (1994) Tim Robbins, Morgan Freeman
Toy Story II - (1999)
Bad Influence - (1990) Rob Lowe, James Spader
the Matador - (2005) Pierce Brosnan
Punch Drunk Love - (2002) Adam Sandler
Memento - (2000) Guy Pearce
Princess Bride - (1987) Cary Elwes
Mad Max - (1979) Mel Gibson
Star Wars - (1977) Harrison Ford
All Quiet On the Western Front - (1930)

Return of the Jedi - (1983) Harrison Ford
the Royal Tannenbaums - (2001) Gene Hackman, Owen Wilson
the Game - (1997) Michael Douglas
the World According To Garp - (1982) Robin Williams
the Freshman - (1990) Mathew Broderick, Marlon Brando
Clockwork Orange - (1971)
Boogie Nights - (1997) Mark Wahlberg
U-Turn - (1997) Sean Penn, Nick Nolte, Jennifer Lopez
Quest For Fire - (1981)
the Longest Day - (1962) John Wayne, Henry Fonda

True Romance - (1993) Christian Slater
Braveheart - (1995) Mel Gibson
Requiem For a Dream - (2000) Jared Leto, Jennifer Connelly
A Perfect World - (1993) Kevin Costner, Clint Eastwood
the Talented Mr. Ripley - (1999) Matt Damon, Jude Law
the Spanish Prisoner - (1997) Steve Martin
What Dreams May Come - (1998) Robin Williams
Catch 22 - (1970) Alan Arkin
Flatliners - (1990) Keifer Sutherland
Catch Me If You Can - (2002) Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hanks

Dead Man - (1995) Johnny Depp
the Silence of the Lambs - (1991) Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins
Twelve Monkeys - (1995) Bruce Willis, Brad Pitt
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid - (1969) Redford, Newman
the Dirty Dozen - (1967) Lee Marvin, Charles Bronson, E. Borgnine
the Truman Show - (1998) Jim Carey, Ed Harris
Raiders of the Lost Ark - (1981) Harrison Ford
the In-Laws - (1979) Alan Arkin, Peter Foulk
Dances with Wolves - (1990) Kevin Costner
Indecent Proposal - (1993) Demi Moore, Robert Redford

Kelly’s Heroes - (1970) Clint Eastwood
the Rules of Attraction - (2002) James Van Der Beek
She’s the One - (1996) Ed Burns
the Sixth Sense - (1999) Bruce Willis
Reservoir Dogs - (1992) Harvey Keitel, Michael Madsen, Tim Roth
My Own Private Idaho - (1991) Keanu Reeves, River Phoenix
Cast Away - (2000) Tom Hanks
Interview With the Vampire - (1994) Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt
the Big Red One - (1980) Lee Marvin
O Brother, Where Art Thou? - (2000) George Clooney

the Incredibles - (2004)
the Great Escape - (1963) Steve McQueen
the Pianist - (2002) Adrien Brody
Point Break - (1991) Keanu Reeves
A Midnight Clear - (1992)
the Swimmer - (1968) Burt Lancaster
Das Boot - (1981)
Six Degrees of Separation - (1993) Will Smith
Animal House - (1978) John Belushi
Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels - (1998)

Trainspotting - (1996)
Highlander - (1986) Christopher Lambert
Mutiny On the Bounty - (1935) Clark Gable
Rushmore - (1998) Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman
Traffic - (2000) Benicio Del Toro, Michael Douglas
American Beauty - (1999) Kevin Spacey
the Train - (1964) Burt Lancaster
Snatch - (2000) Brad Pitt
the Terminator - (1984) Arnold Schwartzeneggar
Fast Times at Ridgemont High - (1982) Sean Penn

Patton - (1970) George C. Scott
the Beast - (1988 or 1989; about a tank in the Afghan desert)
Dirty, Rotten, Scoundrels - (1988) Steve Martin, Michael Caine
Papillon - (1973) Steve McQueen, Dustin Hoffman
Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner - (1967) Sidney Poitier, K. Hepburn
It’s a Wonderful Life - (1946) Jimmy Stewart
the Outsiders - (1983) Matt Dillon, Rob Lowe, Tom Cruise, K. Bacon
Pearl Harbor - (2001) Ben Affleck
the Wild Bunch - (1969) Ernest Borgnine, William Holden

Let me know if you feel I've neglected to mention a great one.

The Adventures of Jackie - Monster Morph

I’ve mentioned that our daughter likes monsters. I was reading a book to her the other night, the book had monsters naturally, and she pointed to a few that she liked.

“I wish I could be a monster,” she said.

That got me thinking, ‘Hmmm, what would that be like . . .’

The Adventures of Jackie - Monster Morph

It was just before midnight. Before going to bed Jackie’s parents always checked on her and her older brother, Tedesco.

She was asleep on her belly with her head turned to the side. Her long hair was in disarray covering her face and pillow. She’d had a restless sleep and the blanket had been almost completely discarded. Her mom and dad smiled to each other, whispered some nice calm words into her ears, and pulled the blankets up to her shoulders. She was a good girl, even if she didn’t eat as much as her parents would like.

It was the next morning and the household was awkward by a very frightful shriek! It was Tedesco. He was seven years old and afraid of roller coasters, but screaming in fear at home was certainly out of place. He ran into his parent's room and exclaimed that something was wrong with Jackie. He sometimes went to his sister’s room in the morning and would wake her up, the rascal. This morning, however, he got more than he expected.

“Mom, dad, you have to look at Jackie! Something’s wrong,” said Tedesco clearly very shaken.

Mommy went and sat next to Jackie who was now sitting up in bed complaining that Tedesco was making too much noise. She didn’t know yet that she had changed in appearance. She had morphed into a monster!

“What’s going on in there,” dad called from the bathroom.

“Your daughter turned into a monster,” was mommy’s retort.

“You mean she’s a crabapple like the moods she gets in sometimes when we’re on vacation? Or a monster,” dad called back.

“She’s a monster,” mom returned.

“A good one or a bad one,” he sought to further clarify. Jackie had liked monsters since she was very little. She classified them as either good monsters or bad. The bad monsters, of course, are the ones that have sharp teeth and behave under the general rule of ‘gnash and destroy’. The good monsters are just monsters that like to cuddle, not so much the gnash and destroy business.

“I don’t know yet. Good, I think,” yelling back to daddy.

“Boogie, how do you feel,” pretty mommy asked Jackie.

“I feel funny. Why are my hands green and I have a tail,” she asked.

“Oh, honey, you turned into a monster,” she said empathizing with her daughter. “Do you feel OK? Do you still want to go to school today? Or do you want to stay home?”

“A monster,” said Jackie giving a wide smile. She jumped out of bed and ran to the mirror. She resembled a three-foot tall salamander, green, with short legs and arms, and a bright purple mane like a horse. She was pleased with what she saw. “I want to go to school! Can I, please,” very excited and happy.

“Wow, look at her,” said daddy entering his daughter’s room. “I always thought you were a little monkey, but you were a monster the whole time. And what a beautiful green. Look at that great purple mane like a little pony. You sure are a pretty monster,” he cooed.

Tedesco still looked uncertain. “Boo,” said Jackie loudly and her big brother yelled in fright and ran downstairs.

They all sat down for breakfast. Tedesco was making a mess spilling milk and spoonfuls of cereal on the table because he kept getting scared from her purposefully sudden moves and growls.

“Jackie, please don’t scare your brother or I’ll take you to the doctor to try to turn you back into a little girl again,” said mommy trying to keep the peace. The little monster quickly straightened herself up.

It was time to go to preschool. Jackie brushed her teeth, the teeth of an omnivore monster, not those of a predatory meat-eater. She liked wearing skirts, or at least she did when she was a girl, so her mommy got a few clips and bobby pins and synched one up to fit her new body more appropriately. Her tail was long and thick making it clumsy for her to walk. It stuck out from under her dress and moved from side to side as she walked.

Her doggy, Kira, was very happy to have a monster in the house. Kira’s tail wagged vigorously and she was constantly being told to stop licking Jackie, but really, how could she resist?

At school things were proving to be a very unusual day. In the parking lot many parents were walking their little monsters to class. They’d all been transformed and every color under the rainbow was represented. There were monster children with two legs, four, even one three-legged monster. Some had hair, others with fur, and a couple with scales. What a fun day this was going to be.

The parents were asked to put name tags on their child before they dropped them off because nobody could recognize the kids otherwise.

The kids all had a great time at recess in their monster bodies. They were running around, either on two legs or four, or scuttling along on three, and playing with their monster friends.

When Jackie and Tedesco got home from school they had a snack, as per usual routine. Jackie, the silly monster, told Tedesco that he would have to give up half his snacks to her or she’d scare him some more. “Don’t be a bad monster, Jackie,” secretly smiling at her baby trying to take advantage of her big brother.

After dinner it was bath time. Staying true to protocol, Jackie got in the bath first relegating Tedesco to bathe in her dirty monster water.

The water was hot, almost too hot, and Jackie lay down flat as the water kept flowing from the faucet. Daddy turned away to grab the towels and a pair of pajamas best set to accommodate a monster of these dimensions.

To his relief, and mock disappointment, when he came back it was Jackie lying in the tub with her skin all pink from the hot water. She’d changed back to a little girl!

“Hey, where’s my monster,” said dad.

“Daddy, it was just me,” scrunching her nose and laughing. “Can I be a different monster tomorrow?”

“Wouldn’t you rather be a monkey,” her daddy asked starting to wash her hair.

“No, but maybe a kitty,” thought Jackie out loud.


Two other Adventures of Jackie can be found here: A Monster Tea Party and The Perfect Day.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Compiled Quotes

“Courage is being scared to death and saddling up anyway.” John Wayne, actor [1907 - 1979]

“The first step to getting the things you want out of life is this: Decide what you want.” Ben Stein, writer [1944]

“Charity is injurious unless it helps one to become independent of it.” John D. Rockefeller, industrialist and philanthropist [1839 - 1937]

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Dogs > Cats

I’m not a cat guy. One might even say that I’m anti-cat. Dogs, though, count me in.

‘What’s my beef with cats,’ you ask. They come and go as they please and do not respond to their name when called. They act as if under their own executive authority whether or not to respond.

‘Well, you’d like my cat. It’s just like a dog,’ some cat owners may be apt to say.

No, not really. A cat is a cat. In making such a statement they’d be trying to justify its existence under the guise that the cat is actually more behaviorally aligned with the more desirable beast, the canine, while pretending that it only looks like the less desirable breed of animal, feline.

You’ll never hear a dog owner say, ‘You’d like my dog. It behaves just like a cat.’ Of course not, because a dog behaving like a cat would be universally viewed as a defective dog. Not one that is above average as the counterpoint commonly taken by cat owners.

Look, dogs are unique beasts. Let’s say there’s a spooky sound or unauthorized personnel in the back yard. Most animals would run away and hide putting self preservation as the highest priority. Now, consider the canine. Something’s awry in the back yard, a possible intruder. The dog thinks to itself, ‘Something’s not correct. I’m going to investigate.’ It then proceeds to walk straight into the source of the disturbance or disruption. That, my friend, is a unique beast. When most revert to self-preservation mode the dog goes to ‘protect my people’ mode.

I like dogs. I conclude my diatribe.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Bull Fights

August 1996

Madrid, Spain. It was Sunday and I was going to the bull fights! For 900 peseta, $7, I bought a seat in the sun three decks above the arena, one deck below the real cheap guys. The seats are more expensive in the shade! I saw five bulls get killed dead. It’s a pretty awesome spectacle and a little disturbing. Sure, I know, bummer about the death and all that.

It began with a few minutes of pompous horse riding in the dirt arena, followed by a moment of silence (don’t know why), two horses walk backwards a few paces (that was curious), and then everyone cleared out of the arena. Now the good stuff.

Three sub-matadors (not their technical job title - these are the set up guys for the main matador) entered the arena and stood immediately next to their hiding barricades along the arena’s perimeter wall. A bull came running into the arena, stopped, looked around the arena very confused with a dagger in it’s back (it was jabbed in prior to getting into the ring). It looked back at the entrance, now closed, then noticed the capes being waved by the sub-matadors; one side of the cape is pink, other side is yellow, no red like we see in all the pictures and cartoons. They toy with the bull for a few minutes, staying right near their barricades, the bull charges from one submatador to the other until it begins to tire.

Now the main matador enters, this guy’s got the red cape. He screws around for a while, away from safety of the barricades, not really getting the bull riled up or engaging it. He leaves the arena. A horse and rider come into the ring, the horse is blindfolded and heavily padded. The bull bum rushes the padded horse several times and makes good contact, but the horse never tumbled. The horse rider has a javelin-like deal which he drives repeatedly into the bull’s back behind it’s skull and digs it in each time the bull charges the horse. Horse and rider leave the arena. A couple of sub-matadors reenter the ring and confuse the bull further by yelling at it and getting it to chase capes, this continues wearing the bull down. As the bull charges them they jam their swords in its back. By now, there’s five or six swords stuck in the bull’s back (some have fallen out), huge visible area of blood flowing down its back and side. Finally, the main matador comes back with his cape and a sword, gets the bull to charge and miss while driving his sword into the bull’s back. Eventually, its front legs begin to fail him, he tumbles a few times until it finally stops, falls, and no longer gets up. It’s horns are hooked with rope, a team of three horses comes into the arena and drags the bull from the ring.

Two minutes between the bull getting dragged out of the ring and a new bull entering. The crowd is loudly in favor of the matador and yell ‘ole’ when the guy really has the bull riled up.

There were boos from the crowd during the second bull because it was stumbling before it reached the stage of the program where the three guys jam swords in its back. This lagging bull was removed from the ring before its death. I guess he wasn’t worth the hassle. There was also another bull that lacked gusto. Some cows were ushered into the ring with that bull to humiliate it (i.e., ‘Hey, bull, you are no more fierce than these cows’). I don’t think the bull minded.

From the point of curiosity, Wow, what a sight to see, bullfights. Otherwise, didn’t seem very sportsmanlike.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Midnight Laundromat

There’s never a convenient time for the task of doing laundry, what with the carving time out of one’s day to wash, dry, hang, and fold. When I was in college, another hurdle was added to the inconvenience, the lack of available machines.

For the thousands of students living on campus at U.C. Santa Barbara, the number of clothes washers and dryers was sub par, to say the least. Mom and Dad Klem lived 103 miles away. As long as I went home every few weeks, I was good, as clean clothes go. Otherwise, let the hunt for machines commence.

At some point, a guy couldn’t keep picking stuff up off the floor or out of his dirty clothes rucksack and wearing them. Eventually, defeat would be conceded and doing laundry was the only viable option.

In my early college days I made laundry attempts in the morning, afternoon, evening, and even late at night. Maddening was the laundry traffic through that on campus coin-op laundromat. Even if you did find a machine or two you’d still need to wait for someone else to finish their load because you needed at least three machines. An abundant load of dirty laundry ensues when laundry is done only when the clean, or wearable, stuff is zeroed out. This complete wardrobe depletion necessitated multiple machines to restore.


The clothes washing process was easily stretched into three hours because start times were staggered as washing machines became available. Crummy. At least until my roommates and I devised an ingenious plan.

We went at 2:00 am and took the laundromat by storm. Under this new protocol the laundromat on campus near the dorms was typically empty of patrons at this hour. We’d descend upon the 20 washers and dryers occupying most of the machines, have plenty of room in there, and get out in under two hours!

Go home, take a nap, and you’d be ready to start the day with an entirely clean roster of clothes to run through.

Reflecting back on this time in my life, quarters were seen more as laundry tokens than currency. It wasn’t until Wife Klem and I became homeowners in 1998 that quarters regained their status as actual currency.

Friday, May 1, 2009



My older brother and I ran away from home one lazy Saturday afternoon. We were seven and six years old, respectively. We were horsing around the house and in an effort to mix in some excitement, I guess, he casually said to Mom Klem, “I’m running away from home.”

Looking admiringly at my big brother and then to mom, I added, “Me too.”

Mom Klem, not to be outdone by our bravado responded, “Wait. I’ll make you sandwiches for the road.”

As the sandwiches were being prepared for the aspiring vagabonds, we grabbed our money jars, containing upwards of $1 each, and a popsicle from the freezer. Sandwiches completed with the crusts sliced off and handed over to us. Friendly good byes and we walked out the door.

Popsicle ingestion was completed shortly thereafter and the sticks were placed in a slowly moving rivulet of water flowing in the street adjacent to the curb. Somebody’s sprinkler system was clearly outdoing itself and creating this wasteful flow. Watching our popsicle sticks navigate the gentle current around leaves, miniature-scale dirt sandbars, and occasional litter we walked at an appropriately slow rate to prevent outpacing the floaters.

Sandwiches, peanut butter and strawberry jelly, were initiated and quickly consumed. Having become bored with the sticks and this running away from home business, the sticks were allowed to flow down a drain.

We turned around and walked the three blocks back home to the one story Spanish-style home and entered through the back door. Standing on a kitchen chair my older brother stretched and placed our money jars back to their place in the cupboard next to the refrigerator above the kitchen passthrough.

Mom Klem was in the next room and heard the sequence of activities. Smiling, she was happy to have her young erstwhile vagrants again under her care, custody, and control.

No further runaway attempts were made.