Friday, July 31, 2009

Klem's Book of Observations, excerpt vi

A beard without a moustache bothers me. No intended offense to Abe Lincoln.

Surface area. It’s underrated.

The sound of pure innocence? An infant laughing.

A new tub of Play-Doh. Is there a better smell?

To concern yourself with what others think of you is a sure route to losing track of your priorities.


Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Too Cold To Walk

I Have mentioned that my collegiate years were spent at U.C. Santa Barbara. It’s a lovely campus matched by scenic coastal beauty and wonderful weather. The weather, at its coldest, can reach the 40s-F, however. Sure that’s a long way from frostbite, but cold presents a nuisance for students prepared to go the length of the year with an abbreviated roster of jeans, plaid shorts, t-shirts, and a flannel shirt.

A large student community lived immediately adjacent to campus in overstuffed sub par overpriced apartments. The students, naturally, want to be close enough to campus so that they may walk, bike, or skateboard to class. This creates a strong gravitational pull to the rental dominated community described above. Isla Vista.

With such a large collection of pedestrian related personnel, Friday and Saturday night socializing often entailed walking the streets looking for parties denoted by people spilling out of an apartment and loud music blaring. A keg was often at hand. A smile, self-introduction, and a smattering of decent manners yielded access with surprising success.

Q1 1989

It was very late and very cold on a Saturday night. Parties had concluded and stragglers could be seen in the streets making their way back to their apartment units on foot. A friend and I were amongst this straggling classification. We’ll call this friend McGettigan the Elder. Our hands were tucked in deeply into our jeans pockets and we were shivering. The sound of footsteps quickly approached from behind, a jogger passed.

“Jogging at this hour,” McGettigan asked loudly with no intended mockery of the running man.

“No. It’s just too cold to walk,” replied the jogging stranger with his body swiveled slightly toward us to project his voice before continuing on his way.

“Good point,” McGettigan said to me.

We were a block away from our apartment. We were neighbors in the same apartment building. We jogged it.

The weather would return to its gentler temperature range within weeks. In the meantime we did occasionally jog when motivated by cold. Though infrequent, those impromptu jogging fits, we enjoyed a sophomoric chuckle as one of us was bound to say, “It’s too cold to walk.”

Monday, July 27, 2009

Don't Talk To Strangers

This past Friday Night Movie Night Wife Klem and I watched Taken (2008) starring Liam Neeson. It’s a good movie. Without giving the story away, the guy’s 17-year old daughter travels to Europe with a girlfriend and they get into grave trouble. Can dad come to the rescue?

It reminded me of a vacation tale a friend shared with me during a solo stint he was carrying out in Europe. We’ll call this friend Lee. It wasn’t grave trouble as in Taken, but an alarming experience when you’re in a foreign land alone.


He was in a western European town taking in the historical sights and beautiful architecture. It was possibly the backpack or map that cast him as the obvious tourist, but two locals approached and engaged him in conversation.

“Where are you visiting from,” asked one knave.

“Have you seen any good sights,” was a follow up.

After sizing up their prey, they went for the hit. “Hey, we’re going to a pub. Want to join us?” He said yes, and off they went.

The experience was going swimmingly for over an hour and they were enjoying lively conversation. The table was littered with bottles, glasses, and plates when my pal got a sinking feeling, ‘Who’s gonna pay for all this?’ The owner of the establishment apparently shared the same concern. He came to the table and broached that subject.

Turned out the two locals had no money. Zip. They were empty and had been looking for a free night in a pub getting fat off someone else’s wallet. My buddy didn’t have enough to cover the evening’s tab, but he had some money. The owner liberated him of his cash and kicked out all three under a flurry of harsh foreign-tongued remarks.

They parted ways. One group happy with themselves for pulling off success. The other feeling low with embarrassment but wiser in the ways of ‘Don’t talk to strangers.’

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Ant-Laden Chocolate Wafers

I’m not a guy who feels compelled to make eating an exciting activity. An event, even, thank you, no. Delicious and ample are adjectives that I find desirable when thinking of a preferred meal. Exciting, however, not so. Having said that, Wife Klem and I had a snack today that is clearly outside my comfortable food parameters.

We ate four ant-laden white chocolate wafers. Truth. No, they were not yard ants captured in the wild, those miniscule pests that scurry about in a seeming complete absence of the need for sleep. These ants, that are currently in our bellies, were an actual intended ingredient in the wafers. They were of the large ‘farm raised’ variety. Yes, farm-raised ants, raised for the purpose of consumption.

“How so this came to be, Klem, you eating ant wafers,” you legitimately ask.

My cousin married recently. That delightful occasion was mentioned briefly here. Her husband is a learned entomologist. Bugs are a passion of his and this package of chocolate ant wafers were amongst the party favors.

The minor members of Team Klem opted to forgo the wafer consumption. This put Wife Klem and me in a bind. Being advocates for avoiding waste, we had to stomach the entire task so that the kids could be spared the burden.

The treats were delicious, this fella tasted only the chocolate. The ants were undetectable with not even a leg or antennae presenting itself as a troubling misalprobe during mastication.

Should you have any curiosity as to the wares of an entomology merchant, please click on the link for or an entertaining and colorful review of possibilities available from Insect populated dioramas and colorful butterflies abound.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

A Word From Woodward

We have all met people along the way that make life interesting, trying, amusing, and grating. With that preface, I refer to a certain friend of mine. He’s a different kind of animal who often bears a unique, though often faulty, perspective, so says I. I mentioned him previously here. We’ll continue to call him Woodward.

In what manner does he rankle, you ask? Two opposing positions can be discussed in a conversation. At a later date, when he finds that he was, indeed, incorrect, he’ll conveniently reverse possession of the two positions so that he was ‘correct’ all along.

After a lengthy Cost-Benefit Analysis it remains to be seen whether or not this Woodward makes the world a better place. But more entertaining? I say yes, so long as you maintain a safe distance from him.

We had a phone conversation last weekend. He thinks he has taken legitimate steps toward attaining business success. I’m feeling oddly out of synch on his business prospects. In the bulk of his prior professional decisions I’ve played the devil’s advocate. He thinks he’s on the right track this time, and I feel myself standing on unstable ground because I actually agree with him!

“I’ve always been a jackass and money’s not gonna change me,” was his amusing revelation to me over the phone. Yes, he referred to himself as a jackass and I was plenty prepared not to talk him out of it.

The downside, should his action plan come to fruition and he experience success, would be that I’ll have to hear about it. Me and the other handful of friends he claims to have, and hear about it in very pompous and obnoxious tones. But he’s my pal and I’ll keep him. Though in only small intermittent doses.

I do hope you find business success, Woodward. Enjoy yourself jackassing it up.

Monday, July 20, 2009

A Regrettable Spanish Conversation in France

A friend of mine during our college years met, dated and, ultimately, married a woman who hailed from France. During their courtship years friends of each party became chummy. A second pal of mine, by the time the wedding had come around, was dating a friend of the bride. We’ll call this friend of mine McGettigan the Elder. She was living at the time in the U.S., but hailed originally from France and her parents lived there still.

July 1996

The wedding, for the first couple mentioned above, was in France, Toulouse, and a number of college chums were to be in attendance. This McGettigan the Elder was to meet the parents of his French girlfriend for the first time. He and I were actually to be overnight guests at their abode. There was a hitch, however. The parents spoke no English, the two of us spoke no French, and the daughter was not yet to be present as a go-between by the time we were meeting her parents. This first impression was to be formulated over a two hour period where verbal communication could not be achieved. Tough going.

The mom, as it turned out, spoke a minimal amount of Spanish and I had taken three years of Spanish in high school. But, sadly, I’d never really put much focus on learning the language. These meager bits of an auxiliary tongue was the only linguistic overlap until relief arrived. The awkwardness reigned.

McGettigan had comfortably, and smartly as it turned out, decided to make due with generous amounts of smiling, head nods, and polite behavior. To the contrary, at the height of awkwardness I tried making conversation with the mom implementing my poor Spanish skills. Regrettable. I recalled some family and clothing related Spanish vocabulary high school class and clumsily put it to use. In what probably equated to a first or second grade-level chit chat, I made an effort to communicate. I feebly asked the mom about her family to which she amusingly tried to respond. After a subsequent awkward silence I mentioned that my shoes were for playing basketball ‘but that I could not slam dunk.’ I was wearing high top basketball shoes.

We were at the airport in Nice, France awaiting the daughter’s arrival. It was delayed! With no relief in sight the father, seeming to have lost patience with the Gong Show proceedings, suggested we go for a walk.

The airport was in a nice coastal area. Walking we passed numerous souvenir shops along a boardwalk abutting the Mediterranean coast. I tried to indicate that I wanted to buy a Scuba diving sticker (i.e., ‘I dove in Nice’) but couldn’t find one. I tried to ask and somehow mimicked a Scuba diving motion. The horror I experience now just recounting the episode bothers me still.

Based on my reading of his gesticulating, the dad thought I wanted to Scuba dive, rather than simply buy a sticker. There wasn’t enough time for a scuba break as his daughter’s flight would be arriving within the hour, but he didn’t want to be a dud. The parents seemed to have begrudgingly given in to this perceived request as I tried to explain that there was a misunderstanding. Meanwhile, the dad became gung ho asking shop owners about scuba rentals. I tried explaining ‘sticker only’ in English.

Meanwhile, my friend was enjoying a very hearty laugh at the misunderstanding. Dad looking for a Scuba merchant, me explaining ‘no thank you’ and hoping he wouldn’t find one, and McGettigan laughing at my plight, “How are you gonna get out of this?”

Thankfully, daughter’s flight arrived with no further delay and my Spanish skills were solidly locked away from further usage. My time in Nice ended without the purchase of a Scuba sticker.

Friday, July 17, 2009

College Orientation Weekend

He had finished high school just two months ago and was on his way to college. The university offered an Orientation program which entailed incoming freshman students making a two-day overnight visit to become acquainted with the campus. He accepted.

It was Saturday night of the Orientation program and a movie had been scheduled. His interest in the film had waned and was soon extinguished. He wanted time away from the hundreds of other incoming students to clear his thoughts on the rapidly approaching adventure that would be college. He grabbed his skateboard and walked away from the congregation and into the night.

He wasn’t familiar with the campus, where he was going or in what direction, but he strode forth. With little concern he skated, occasionally weaving in and out and around obstacles. After some time he eventually came to the 30-foot wide break. A line of demarcation, if you will. No buildings or trees for this 30-foot wide concrete path. He would months later recognize this as a major bicycle thoroughfare at the northern perimeter of campus where students trafficked to and away from classes.

Looking beyond, he saw apartments lining both sides of the street. He paused, then picked up his skateboard and started to walk on the path perpendicular to the residential neighborhood. He noticed two ladies nearby and they him. They were his senior by perhaps two years, maybe three. The three of them got to talking and walked along the path. Both ladies had large beverage cups from a fast food franchise in hand.

“It’s beer. You want a sip,” asked one.

“Please,” taking a pull of the warm unpleasant alcohol and handing it back. “I’m here for an Orientation program,” he explained.

The ladies were students returning for another year of schooling. As they walked they came across a gentleman passed out on the path. The guy was face down, gone to the world. Not beaten unconscious, just hooch-induced. Clutched firmly in one hand was a plastic ring. Attached to the ring were the remaining five beer cans from a six-pack. One could only guess how many six-packs had preceded this partially consumed one.

The erstwhile high school kid reached down and pulled two beer cans from the ring and handed one to each lady. They accepted and issued amused ‘Thank yous'. The slumbering inebriant was unfazed.

With that he initiated good byes. He hopped back on his skateboard and took a leisurely skate back to Orientation. He looked very much forward to starting college two weeks later.

[This was my introduction to college. Q3 1985]

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Compiled Quotes, vii

“When you do the right thing, good stuff has a way of happening.” Randy Pausch, professor Carnegie Mellon University [1960 - 2008]

‘when he was asked last week to name his first love, he replied, without hesitation, “Cartoons.” forgotten

“When evil men plot, good men plan.” Martin Luther King, civil rights leader [1929 - 1968]

Monday, July 13, 2009

Ooops. Sorry, Amigo.

Team Klem had been on the road this past weekend. My lovely cousin married a fellow of whom we’re quite fans.

We stayed at a hotel, nice accommodations, with a complimentary breakfast. Saturday morning found the dining area to be tight, the upper reaches of capacity were at hand. We managed to secure a table but we were one chair shy. There was a guy sitting next to us, he was alone. I sought to politely plunder his chair.

“May I take this chair, please,” I asked the solo diner.

An affirmative head nod was issued.

“Thank you,” I said with a smile dragging it away.

Two minutes passed. His wife and daughter arrived, said something in Spanish, and he set about rustling chairs for his own team. I felt bad. I had asked him for the chair in my own native tongue, but I am to surmise now that he probably did not understand my question. The head nod may have simply been body language for ‘I don’t know what you’re asking me. Please be gone.’

I kept his chair even after I became aware of his plight. I guess that makes me crummy.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Klem’s Corollaries on Life, an excerpt

(1) Say ‘Please’ and ‘Thank you’.

(2) The way you speak of others tell others about you.

(3) In carpentry a person is taught to measure twice and cut once. Same premise applies to speaking. Think twice, speak once.

(4) Admitting errors or folly is Step 1 toward self improvement.

(5) Doubt is to be expected, but not obeyed. Kevin Carroll, author of The Rules of the Red Rubber Ball.

(6) Don’t write in ALL caps. It takes longer to read and makes the author look like a pompous clown.

(7) Fertilize your lawn. Easier to keep it healthy than to heal it or replace it.

(8) Eat fruit.

(9) Teach your kids to swim.

(10) Teach your kids when and how to dial 9 1 1.


Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Nickel! Nickel!

Video games please me, they do. I have a weakness in this area that is immune to almost any degree of strength that I might muster up for resistance. Given that, you can imagine my glee when a friend proposed a jaunt to the video arcade last week! That friend we’ll call Cassidy.

Would you believe that a place exists where a guy can play a video game for a nickel? Would you believe that some games could even be played for free? Of course not. Foolishness to let one’s mind get lost in such bacchanalian thought. But it does exist, this place!

The name of the arcade is Nickel! Nickel! There was an entrance fee which got me off to a skeptical start. Skeptical, but not yet jaded, was I. When I was advised the fee was a meager $1.95 per person, I withheld the skepticism until further cause. Next step was coinage with which one was to feed the machines. It was here I noticed the bags of nickels behind the counter. The games actually worked on nickels! And with that, my fear that I’d been roped in under embellished promises slipped away like hunger at an all you can eat pizza deal. Admittedly, some games required the insertion of as many as four nickels! The horror. But most of the games that I wanted to play were entirely free! Truly free.

The games from my youth, apparently, get very little foot traffic as these games were the freebies. Centipede, Galaga, Tetris, Ms. Pac-Man (Pac Man was not present) and others were available at no charge. The majority of the games were newer video games, or at least from the 1990s and more recent. Would’ve been nice if the video gaming availability from my era were better represented (i.e., Joust, Berzerk, Asteroids, Bosconian). But legend has it another Nickel! Nickel! video arcade exists. Per’aps also this desired vintage representation.

To stand in the arcade and experience the relentless drumming ambient noise resonating from each machine no longer has the enticing embrace I experienced over two decades ago during my gaming era. More like a headache inducing throb to my older self of today. It took over two hours before I was sated and able to make a safe means of egress.

Nickel! Nickel! I hope to be seeing you again soon.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Root Beer Floats

A new Klem family tradition is upon us. The boy, eight years old, made a bid for root beer floats on the 4th of July. Actually, he wants that this be done every July 4th.

The guy’s been a picky eater, but he’s been open to negotiation over the past year. It’s his sweet tooth that Wife Klem and I tug to entice a meal of ‘strong’ food down his gullet. A hot dog today qualified him for the float. His little sister qualified as well!

Root beer float Year 1 is in the bag!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Cap-And-Trade, a look at farcical legislation

The House of Representatives passed a Cap and Trade bill last week. The bill seeks to address climate change concerns and how the United States produces and uses energy. The bill sets limits, caps, on emissions of heat-trapping gasses (i.e., carbon dioxide) while some industries, such as energy production, will be allowed to trade pollution permits or allowances among themselves. If passed by the Senate it could be in effect in 2012.

The idea behind Cap and Trade is to steer business toward less ‘greenhouse gases.’ It’s a nice utopian idea to encourage alternative energies, but the steps implemented to achieve this end are faulty. The harmful business and economic hurdles created by the bill would yield an end contrary to the stated goals.

The presumption is that as costs of energy production and use increase over the years, from fees and costs created by the bill, companies will be motivated to find cleaner ways of making and using energy. It won’t work because it only applies to U.S. companies, these are not worldwide emission standards. The bill burdens U.S. companies with the built in disadvantage of additional production costs. This would result in U.S. companies producing less energy because of these costs.

‘OK,’ an advocate will say, ‘the company produces less heat-trapping gases, so the climate change concern is successfully addressed.’

‘Not so,’ is my retort. The Cap and Trade regulations will push U.S. energy companies to produce less, even close plants, and seek to make up demand by increasing their imports. The non-U.S. companies produce the same product, but under less restrictive pollution and emission regulation. So the end result is actually more heat-trapping gases or greenhouse gases, the very thing the bill is hoping to reduce!

Energy companies based outside the U.S. would also be operating at an advantage; (1) it costs less for them to produce and refine than U.S. companies and (2) they would have increased demand because there is less supply being produced by their U.S. competitors. In addition, this increased import demand has the unfortunate result of making the U.S. even more dependent on foreign oil.

I offer a better idea than penalizing the energy producers to reach a desired goal. Just create a reward. If you want green energy, incentivize the desired behavior.

Example: Give tax breaks or incentives to reward the desired behavior of researching and developing alternative energy. For tax purposes, treat these clean energy or renewable energy producing companies as nonprofit organizations during their Research & Development stage. Once a product is ready for market, decrease or phase out these tax incentives.

A rewards-based incentive plan would have the illuminating effect of putting the U.S. alternative energy producing companies at a global advantage!

Cap and Trade does not do this. It attempts to penalize into submission. Here’s one kid that hopes Cap and Trade meets defeat in the Senate.