Monday, December 31, 2007

The Last Blog of 2007

I should really change my profile photo, but I haven't taken a better picture in the last year. Or the previous 35.

One point of interest though: the night that photo was taken -- December 24th, 2006 -- I flossed a small chunk of filling out of one of my teeth, making it impossible to enjoy the many Christmas treats with both sides of my mouth. And since it happened at the start of the happiest dang holiday on the planet, all the dentists of the world were at home with their families and I had to wait until January 2nd to get it fixed.

And that's how I secured my place among the greats at the Library Table.

[Sporty theme music here]

Happy 2008!

John's Brain

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Christmas, 1972

Here's what I like about this one...

1. The couch and the power outlet have just as much frame space as the Christmas tree
2. Mom's arm in a non-Christmas-y pose
3. Mark's pajamas, the most festive thing in the whole picture
4. The giant gray wall

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Hardees Chronicles, Part VI -- starring dad!!

Years ago dad was in Rochester on business, and he went to a Hardees for a fish sandwich. So he went inside and placed his order, and asked if they could give it to him in a napkin instead of Styrofoam.

When the girl at the counter asked why, he explained that it kills ozone molecules.

Then she went back to ask her manager, who craned his neck like an idiot. Then she came back and said it would be fine. So she gave dad the fish sandwich, wrapped in a napkin, and the battle for the environment was...not won. Because then the fry cook took a Styrofoam container from the stack and tossed it.

Not only did they serve the food in Styrofoam, they also used it to count how many sandwiches they sold each day.


A woman waiting in line behind dad had been listening to the whole conversation. When she placed her order, she asked not to have Styrofoam too.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

At the movies

If you've read Posy's latest blog, you know that we like Netflix. You also know that I ordered Short Circuit. In fact I just finished watching it for the first time since I was 15 years old, the approximate maturity level of every actor in the film. Except the robot.

Even if you haven't seen this movie, if you spent any time in the 80s you can guess where it's going:

1. To be a vehicle for Steve Guttenberg and/or Ally Sheedy
2. To introduce audiences to the concept of a misunderstood robot that could love
3. To turn you, the viewer, into an empathy-retching machine

Here's what I think.

The robot was actually the least-annoying one in the whole movie. First it gets hit by a stray bolt of lightning from a storm passing through some distant mountains and gets a robot soul. From there it wastes no time out-classing all of the people actors by escaping the compound and not swearing every third line of dialog. It also displays an emotional understanding of its situation. It also deflects bullets with a hubcap, and pushes one of its evil twin robots into an outhouse, which then explodes poop everywhere.

Am I asking too much? Is there a story in this? Sure there is. All you do is take away Steve Guttenberg, because he really can't act. Not even poorly. Then you take out his greasy, sweaty-palmed East-Indian colleague who exaggerates his own accent and uses the English language for target practice by saying things like "Well the cat sure dragged in a sight for sore eyes." Then remove Ally Sheedy, who instantly becomes so attracted to the unfamiliar robot that when they cut to the next scene it's morning, and he's making pancakes, and I'm officially worried. (Maybe she's just so repelled by Steve Guttenberg's plappiness, if I might coin a phrase.)

Finally, get rid of the gravy-thick Army guy who wants to blow it up, even though it cost 11 million dollars, along with his scientist boss who nags at him not to. You have now eliminated all of the formulaic characters, and the robot is free to discover life, and I am free to not go looking for a hammer.

I give it two stars -- one for the robot's tolerance of idiots, and one for its laser gun that can blow up tanks. **

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Concordia, 1989

Paul -- any idea why you and dad came up to see me freshman year?

Dad -- is that your shaving kit on my desk?

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Birthday, 1987

I got a new walkman, the kind that could play a cassette tape.

Check out the look on Dave's face.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Return of the White Ludwig

For Paul, who wanted to see the restored set
For Mark, who helped me get it home
For Dave, who might think it's cute compared to the one he has now

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Hardee's Chronicles, Part V

During my first week on the job my manager, the rotund Betty, gave me some sage advice about how to properly wash dishes. She said to me, "Make the water as hot as you can stand it, and then make it even hotter."


Thursday, September 06, 2007

Monday, August 27, 2007

Thursday, August 16, 2007

I'm a werewolf.

I once took a personality test to see which character I would be from Harry Potter, and the answer was Professor Lupin. The fact that I'm actually a werewolf had nothing to do with the test. It was that accurate.

My celebrity lookalike is Gary Oldman, who plays Sirius Black.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Area Pet Owner Stunned by Volume of Dog Urine

Dog owner John's Brain was speechless Friday morning after discovering a three-foot-long puddle of dog pee on the kitchen floor of his home.

"Oh my fricking --" he uttered, unable to finish his sentence.

"That fricking...," he began again. In a gesture of apathy, he then raised his arms and allowed them to fall, slapping uselessly against his thighs.

Brain, who was on his way to the family's refrigerator, encountered the yellow pool just minutes before he was scheduled to leave his home, but remained motionless in front of it for some time.

Exposure to the substance may have been responsible for his increasing difficulty to remove the offending agent or form a complete sentence without the use of swear words.

"I wasn't late for work until now," he said, addressing the urine with an armada of paper towels.

The urine, which most likely appeared the previous evening, continued to inch its way toward the wall opposite the side of which it had started.

According to John, the dog's small stature makes it "highly unlikely" for her to generate pee in such quantities, leading him to believe that she had help from another animal, possibly a waterlogged bear.

DNA test results came back negative; nonetheless, he vowed a diligent search to find any accomplices.

He also said he would introduce legislation which would allow the dog to be let out more frequently, particularly during the evening hours, with the stipulation that the family's pet find a position of employment to help defray the cost of paper towels and Handi-wipes.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Hardee's Chronicles, Part IV

My job at Hardee's was at the counter. I never worked the kill floor, or whatever it was they did back there. In those days it was rare to have a guy take your order, so just standing behind a cash register opened up a whole can of stigma.

One day the door swung open and a bunch of tough guys walked in. They looked like beat-up cinder blocks in flannel who just got back from a grease monkey fight, sponsored by oil.

One of the men, who I'm pretty sure had one eye, came up to my till. I just stood there in my cute little outfit, wondering how many seconds were left before the murdering started. I thought, There's nothing to defend myself with except meat. I suppose I could threaten him with high cholesterol but he'll probably order some anyway.

Then, in a crackly rumble that stopped the clock, he said, "Hey, aren't you supposed to be a girl?"

I'm not kidding.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Hardees Chronicles, Part III

I was scheduled to be "host" on my last day of work. That meant you would spend your shift refilling drinks and condiments.

In dress clothes.

It was like being knighted by a store manager. (I'm sure there are scores of others who feel like royalty as they roam from table to table with two pots of coffee -- "Hast thou regular or decaf?!")

Anyway, I left my scarecrow-colored polyester uniform at home and drove down for my last shift.

The only catch was that if someone knew it was your last day, they would dump a bucket of ice water over your head.

Not only that, but college orientation was the next day, so I had to book it three hundred miles that night. There would be no time for this knight to dry off. He would have to ride in wet dress clothes.

Luckily I was a skilled liar, so when the manager approached me to ask if this was indeed my last day, I replied, "Oh, no, that's tomorrow."

It worked.

And I never saw them again, ever. Because now it's a liquor store.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

The eight other most likely faces of me

Not bad, except what the hell is up with Einstein?

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Monday, July 23, 2007

Science Club Trip to Idaho, 1985

Rumor has it that the horse stepped on dad's foot moments before this picture was taken.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Wednesday, June 27, 2007


...and now

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Friday, June 22, 2007


At first I wondered what she was thinking, then I realized I should know better.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Memorial weekend 2007

This is the view from the dock of our lake cabin. The wind sketches across the water in the distance.

Closer to shore

Brother preparing to ski

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Happy Blue Moon

Full moon's twin bathes our
imaginations blue, a
beautiful white lie

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Hardee's Chronicles, Part II

My friend and I were sitting in a booth at Hardee's drinking Coke. We didn't have enough money for anything else. The store manager came up to us with a tray of french fries and asked if we wanted some. Several nanoseconds later we accepted his offer. He set the whole tray down and went back to work.

Aaand, roll credits.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Hardee's Chronicles, Part I

In 1985 a Hardee's opened in my hometown of about 4,000 people. I didn't bother telling mom and dad I wanted to go. It was a forgone conclusion. A sign that popular in a town that small would eventually attract everybody. The bright orange sign might as well have said "This way to the outside world." It was a status symbol, at least in that little corner of the US. I would be able to say that I saw people I knew, eating at a Hardees.

And our store was unique. It boasted a train theme, in honor of the town's origin. There were train pictures, train memorabilia, and a wall border with an old-fashioned train design.

At first I was awestruck at having a nationally familiar store in our town.

Hardee's sold plastic goblets that could hold a quart of the new Cherry Coke, and twisty cones with spiralling towers of ice cream that could feed three and were served with a tiny sheet of wax paper wrapped around the little cone, increasing the chance that it would slip from your hand.

Behind the counter, unapologetically big burgers accented with lettuce and buns slid down metal chutes like cattle fodder, boxed in styrofoam that would puff up big sacks of garbage scented with ketchup and cigarettes.

Salads were condiments.

There were padded wooden booths and greasy brass handrails. Tinfoil ashtrays, some already full, were on half of the tables in the store. The floor seemed slippery, like someone had washed it with oil.

Employees in orange and brown polyester would walk around with water bottles and swipe wet rags across tables. They always looked too oily to be cleaning something else.

The drive-thru had only one window, where one employee would talk to one customer, into a microphone, mounted to the cash register.

There was no nutritional information.

There was no fruit.

I never heard anyone question anything.

Those were the real days of fast food.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

My phone conversation with Poppy

Here is my first phone call from Poppy, as she and mommy were driving home. I had just walked in the door.

Me: Hello? (silence) ...hello?
Poppy: Hi.
Me: Who's this?
Poppy: Poppy.
Me: Oh, hi! How's it going?
Poppy: I'm gonna get the orange bike.
Me: Oh, ok.
Poppy: The one with bees and butterflies.
Me: Well that's good...
Poppy: Are you at home right now?
Me: Yes.
Poppy: Did you beat us?
Me: Well, I thought you'd be here. I wasn't racing you...
Poppy: Why did you do that?
Me: Uh, I don't know. Sorry. Where are you?
Poppy (pointing to house): Right there. (sound of garage door opening)

Our talk continued even as she came in the door and stood right in front of me.

I'll probably miss this when she's a teenager.

Monday, April 23, 2007


Here's a photo of the play I'm in, called Nurse Jane Goes to Hawaii. The story is about Vivien, a romance novelist whose next opus is created around the events unfolding before her. And trust me, that's the easiest explanation there is.

And now, the cast of characters.

From top left:

Bill: married to Betty; had a daughter with Doris
Doris: married to Edgar
Edgar (me): married to Doris; had a son with Betty
Betty: married to Bill; Vivien's editor

From bottom left:

Peggy: Bill and Doris' daughter
Peter: Edgar and Betty's son
Vivien: romance novelist


Monday, April 16, 2007

Area man kicks chair, wall

Editor's Note: For those of you who do not know me, the following story is an exaggeration of the truth. Not the fortune cookie, though. That actually happened.

Area man John's Brain, distraught by a shortened lunch hour and a poor selection of dining options, turned and kicked a nearby chair earlier today when he became disillusioned by a fortune cookie which contained no fortune.

Although details are sketchy, it is alleged that the kicked-upon objects also included a nearby wall.

"Oh, this is rich," Brain said. "I'm loving this."

The day up to that point, Brain recalled, had sucked. "I was already in a bad mood when this crapload of work came in," he began, "and we decided to cut our lunch hour in half. Of course I didn't bring mine, so I had to go running off like a lunchless moron."

"I just wanted some soup," he continued. Then, wagging a finger and shaking his head, he explained, "But they always have to make it difficult, don't they."

It was unclear if Brain was actually asking a question.

Although he reported finding several places in the vicinity which offered soup, the only choices available were split pea or a "nauseating cajun broth that smelled like a decomposing forest."

"I mean come on, don't try so hard," he exclaimed, motioning to nothing in particular. "I had to book it three blocks to the next cafeteria, and guess what?" After a short pause for effect, he added slowly, "Split puke and wood rot."

Brain ultimately decided on chicken stir fry, accompanied with a free fortune cookie. "I figured 'What the hell, if the gods are going to mock me, I might as well know the joke,'" he mused.

The resulting irony of being denied even a false fortune led to the kicking incident. When asked to comment further, Brain suddenly appeared to grow disinterested with the interview before slumping into his chair to resume his duties.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

This afternoon we went to Herbergers, where I spent $90 on a $90 pair of shoes that cost $90. The shoes, which cost me $90, were not on sale. I went to the cashier, told her I would like to buy these shoes for $90, and was charged the full $90 retail price for the shoes.

The price of the shoes -- which was $90 -- was paid in full. I agreed to pay the whole amount of the non-negotiable price advertised for the shoes.

The shoes which cost $90.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Friday, April 06, 2007

Reasons to have lunch on Saturn

1. Rings make the most awesome park bench ever

2. I'm 800,000,000 miles from the nearest office appliance

3. View of Jupiter beats the crap out of looking at photos in break room

4. 56 freakin' moons!

5. Estimated time of return, via car at 60 mph: 7,607 AD

6. Skip stones across atmosphere

7. Moon the Cassini orbiter and then blame Titan

8. Finally a reason to walk around in a space suit

9. No pollen allergies

10. Can't hear people's annoying ring tones

11. No elevator crowded with people also going to Saturn for lunch

Feel free to add your own reasons!

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

I recently read about a scientific discovery that claims our brains are plastic. Not the kind of plastic that dad complains about, but neuroplastic.

Traditional thinking asserts that our brains become wired when we're young and all the neurons and synapses and dendrites set like cement, eventually turning us all into stiff, angry, old people.

The idea itself is not that new. There are books out there that tell you how to train your brain and keep it active and all that, but the book I saw -- I can't remember the title at the moment -- says our brains can be physically altered by how we choose to think well into our adult lives. We can change it.

I've always suspected it, but of course I'm a genius.

A few weeks before I read about it, I was at work. It was a slow day and I was thinking how cool it would be if ninjas came cartwheeling down the hall and I heroically saved everyone I liked, while a select few got a Chinese throwing star to the forehead. The reason it's safe to think that is because ninjas will never have a reason to infiltrate a work area that touts paper cuts as its number one hazard.

Long story short, I decided to try an experiment. Every time I felt the boredom coming on I would tell myself that I was happy by thinking of good memories. Soon I was flooding my brain every five minutes with surges of happy neurons. (Yes, the job is that boring. Not every ten minutes. Every five.)

So in conclusion, our brains are plastic and you can make them happy if you want. Isn't that the best news ever? Now everyone go flood your brains.

To help you with ideas, here is a short list of memories John used in his experiment

1. On the road to Spicer in the Nature Wagon in July with no air conditioner
2. Trip to South Dakota in the Nature Wagon in July with no air conditioner
3. Looking for agates at Camp Cuyuna
4. Eating ice cream and watching Friday Night Videos
5. Making home movies with a gigantic video camera

Happy wiring!

Monday, March 26, 2007

Husband forgets which film he just saw

Area man and movie enthusiast John's Brain announced Saturday that he had completely forgotten which epic movie he had just finished viewing after coming upstairs at his family's home.

"He has no idea," said Posy, his wife of 12 years. "We've seen so many epics. We can't tell them apart anymore. "

The clearly agitated Brain remained adamant about recalling the event. "It might have been Star Wars," he said, nursing a large mug of coffee. "I don't know. It's going to bug me all day if I don't figure this out."

The couple began citing possible films but ultimately could not decide on which one he had actually seen.

"There's this poor farm boy in it," Brain said, "and someone gives him something and he doesn't really want it. It's a sword or a ring or an egg or something. Something magic and maybe evil. Either way, he's a farm boy."

"Is it Lord of the Rings?" asked Posy, attempting to help.

"No," countered Brain, "I think Harrison Ford was in it. He was fighting all these people. I think they were Nazis or maybe stormtroopers. Was Darth Vader a Nazi?"

Debate also focused on the differences between Ewoks and Hobbits.

At one point Posy suggested Dirty Harry but, Brain reminded her, that was fellow aging actor Clint Eastwood, not Ford. That series, which follows the story of a hardball San Francisco detective, was also dismissed due to its lack of wookies.

"If Dirty Harry was a wizard," Brain added, "the case would have been solved in ten minutes. And besides, who ever heard of a wizard named 'Harry'?"

Brain then removed his glasses and pinched the upper bridge of his nose. "Was it Star Wars? Because there was this poor farm boy."

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Giveth up thy what now?

On the bus ride home from work, I read the following message on our church's sign out front:

Give up your fear of dying

A week later it said:

Give up your fear of living

The week after that it said:

Give up your guilt and misery

Come on, this is the Midwest. By Easter we'll all be dead from boredom.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

And he was never taken seriously again.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Mystery Radio Theater Presents

The name's Brain. I'm a detective. I dig around in peoples' lives and pull out the stuff they don't want but can't get rid of by themselves. Why? Guess I think it'll make 'em feel better. Never saw a guilty man die happy.

Tonight's episode: The Case of The Missing Dagger

It was early. I was stuffing the last bit of oatmeal in my mouth when I read the headline on the box:

Five Times More Omega 3's Than Regular Oatmeal!

I didn't really know what all the excitement was about. I was never good at math or Greek. I don't know why all those extra 3's are five times better at the end, but it's more than I could say for regular oatmeal.

Then I saw the little dagger symbol.

In my business that means someone has more to say but they don't want you to know what it is. So they make a footnote and stick it somewhere else, thinking you either won't care or won't have enough time to go snooping around.

I've seen a lot of daggers in my day, I even used a couple myself once. But I never saw anyone tag one on that didn't lead somewhere else. Whatever else this guy had to say, he thought he could bury it on a simple 6-sided box.

Not with me on the case. He'd have a better chance of winning the lottery with a parking ticket.

I pulled the box closer and felt the adrenaline hit me as I snooped around, weaving in and out of eye-popping graphics and exclamation points, I could smell that footnote, it was close. But every time the lead got hot I'd stumble over a nutrition label or a drawing of a heart with wheat coming out of it.

This guy was good, a real pro. It took a full minute for me to realize that I'd been staring at a sign that said "Enhanced with barley and ground flaxseed." What the hell does that even mean?

By now I knew I'd be late for the number ten downtown, so I dropped the box and hoofed it down the street.

The distance seemed to make it worse. I spent the whole day stirring it over in my head. They always say not to dwell on things, but I'm already a snooper, and snoopers can't not be dwellers.

By the time I got back home my curiosity was higher than a cat on nip, I couldn't wait to get back to the chase. I picked up the box, found the headline...

Then it hit me. I was looking right at it.

That was the footnote.

The dagger was at the beginning of the headline, not the end.

The adrenaline burned off like a match under a faucet. I felt like a two-cent stamp on a trash bag.

They say that losing is like winning, it just doesn't feel like it yet. I don't know what that means, but if it's true, then I'd just won the lousiest game against the best loser of all time, but somehow I'd feel better about it later.

It doesn't matter. I'll never meet him anyway. And tomorrow I'll be hungry all over again.

The name's Brain. I'm a detective...

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Ok, I'm back now.

And now for some local news.

Weary customer uses shopping cart to rest top half of body; solace sought

In an attempt to stave off a "mental wall," area man John's Brain was seen slumped over his shopping cart during a trip to Target last evening. He was waiting for his wife, Posy, to return from a trip to the restroom with their daughter, who allegedly had to "go potty."

"I just want to go home," Brain said. "I came here to get yogurt and meat, and that was an hour ago."

Although there was no prior indication that he was suffering from fatigue, Brain suggested that the sugar rush from his hot cider drink was wearing off.

"If I'm here much longer," he said into his coat sleeve, "I just know I'll walk out with the third season of The Simpsons. It's on sale and I'm right here and I've wanted it for like a month."

Brain then fell silent and began rocking the cart back and forth with one leg.

Witnesses reported seeing a woman emerge from the restroom a few minutes later with a young girl who, when asked to comment, replied, "I went potty!"

The family then proceeded to the checkout, where they completed their transactions and left the store.