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Let’s Talk About Math…


There are not a lot of restaurants close to where I live so I often find myself going to the same Subway for dinner. Over the years, I have seen multiple employees come and go but most of the current employees now recognize my face enough to feel comfortable engaging me in trivial banter while they make my sub. I almost always order the same exact sandwich which leaves more time for them to ask about my day or chat about the weather while they prepare my sub.

Today Ryan was working. He’s a junior in high school and based on that I’m guessing that he’s probably 16 or 17 years old.  This is also his first job. We’ve chatted a few times before and he seems like a pretty good kid. He’s working to save up money to buy a car. He recognized me as soon as I walked in and asked me if I was going to get my usual Spicy B.M.T.

“No, actually I was planning on getting a Pizza Sub since that’s normally what I get.” I replied.

“Do we sell those?” Ryan inquired.

“Yeah, it’s right up there on the menu under ‘Local Favorites.'” as I pointed to the entry on the menu behind him.

“Oh, I don’t know how to make one of those yet.”

“No worries. I can walk you through it. I get them pretty often so I know how they’re made.”

“Cool. What kind of bread would you like?”

“A foot-long Italian please.”

So far things were going along pretty well although I did feel bad for him because just two weeks ago he had to explain to me that he didn’t know how to add points to my Subway card since they hadn’t trained him on it yet. Apparently the “training” they provided him was minimal at best.

“So first you put a couple of small ladles of marinara sauce on both sides of the bread. It’s over there by the vegetables in the bin with the lid on it.” I helpfully pointed out.

“Like this?” Ryan asked as he dutifully spooned out the sauce and then smeared it around the bread.

“Yep, that’s right. Now normally a Pizza Sub gets 12 pieces of pepperoni but I would like double meat so that’s 24 pieces all told.”

“Um, actually you should only get 18 pieces of pepperoni for double meat.” Ryan interjected.

“What?” I asked thinking that I misheard him.

“Well my manager explained to me that for double meat, you should add half the original amount of meat so half of 12 is 6. So it should get 18 pieces of pepperoni total.”

“That doesn’t make any sense. Why would they call it ‘double meat’ if you only get 50% more meat?”

“I’m not sure. But that’s just how my manager explained it to me. I was confused about it at first too.” Ryan helpfully offered.

“I mean if it’s called ‘double meat’ that would mean you get twice the amount of meat than a normal sub right?”

Something was obviously not registering with him. Now I know he is new, but this seemed like a pretty fundamental concept that I’m sure he will encounter more than once in life and it seemed unkind to not help him understand the math of doubling something.

“So if you were to have a hundred dollars and I told you that you could invest it with me and I would double your money- how much money should you expect to get back?” I asked.

“Two hundred dollars?” he responded weakly.

“Exactly right. So how many pieces of pepperoni should I get if it normally comes with 12 and I want ‘double meat?'”

“Yeah, I see what you’re saying but that was just the way I was trained. But tell you what- since you’re a loyal customer, I’ll put 24 pieces of pepperoni on it.”

“Cool. Thanks.” I had reached the end of my explanation and I could tell that he still thought he was doing me a favor by giving me an extra 6 pieces of pepperoni.

So after all that conversation, the rest of the process of making the sub went fairly quickly. He added the shredded mozzarella cheese on top of the pepperoni and then popped it in the oven for a minute to heat it up.

“Any vegetables?”

“No, I’m good. If I could just get a little bit of oregano on top that would be perfect.” He added the oregano and then finished wrapping up my sandwich and took off his gloves as he moved to the register to ring me up.

“That will be $5.38.” he said.

“Um, I think you forgot to charge me for the ‘double meat.'” I said.

“Oh yeah, sorry about that.” He then proceeded to fiddle with the register and added a charge for extra bacon and “double meat.”

“I don’t think that is quite right either. Now you got a charge for bacon on there.”

“Oops. Sorry about that.” Ryan pressed a few more buttons on the register and finally it totaled the right amount.

“And I’m also adding points to my Subway card this time.” I advised him.

“Cool. I know how to do that now.” Ryan seemed positively happy that he had at least one function of the register down.

I inserted my card into the reader and waited while it was approved. But something still bothered me. “So can I ask you a question?”

“Sure.”

“On your menu behind you, there is a section about extras and there are two separate lines that seem confusing. One reads ‘Double Meat’ and the other says ‘Deluxe (50% More Meat)’ and it’s cheaper than the ‘Double Meat’ option. Do you think that maybe your manager got confused when they were training you?”

“You know, it’s a possibility, but he seemed pretty certain when he was explaining it to me.”

“Huh. Okay, well have a good night.” I said.

“You too.” Ryan replied as I walked out the door.

Is there a lesson to be learned from all this? Maybe our schools are doing a terrible job of educating our children. Maybe there is a stifling of independent thought at fast food restaurants. All I really know is that I can now understand why they call themselves “Sandwich Artists” and not “Sandwich Professors.” Artists don’t usually have to be good at math.

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Some Thoughts on Thanksgiving: Part 3


Friends

I can count on one hand the number of people that I would consider my closest friends. So it is with particular enthusiasm that I look forward to when I get to spend time with them. This year, our schedules happened to align just right so that one of the couples that my wife and I are closest to were able to spend time with us over the Thanksgiving weekend.

Working out even better than expected, they arrived just as most of our other guests were getting ready to leave and it provided a convenient excuse to usher out the stragglers. Plus there were heaps of leftovers so we didn’t have any great reason to leave the house which in turn left plenty of time for what I can only call “hanging out.”

Usually this entails the women talking about kids and the newest trends in fashion and decor while the other husband and I progressively get drunk and occasionally play video games. There are no pressing concerns, no particular rush to do anything really. The only real obligation is ensuring that their child doesn’t hurt himself and also goes to bed at a semi-reasonable hour. Other than that, plans are fluid.

So how do we spend our time? Mostly we talk, catching up on each other’s lives and recounting stories of the old days. It is this time that I think is the actual highlight of Thanksgiving for me. A time to relax with close friends after preparing for- and then hosting Thanksgiving dinner. While spending time with family can be fun, there is a certain relief when your relatives have gone back to their homes and you can truly just enjoy the time off from work in the company of good friends.

Another friend of mine is often fond of saying “just guys being dudes” when remarking on hanging out and while I generally question his wisdom in most other affairs of life, I do think this phase encapsulates something profound- even if he just invokes the phase when he’s about to say something particularly sexist or offensive.

There is a lot of happiness to be found in being able to talk about literally any topic with someone of the same gender that shares most of your views about the world. Need someone to vent to about your wife’s constant nagging about not cleaning the house enough? Check. Want to complain about your neighbor’s dog shitting in your yard again? Feel like grumbling about your job and how you think you’re being under-valued? Want to discuss the existence of God or maybe just the latest Marvel movie? Check. Check. Check. A good friend can fulfill all those roles and more.

They can also be honest with you and tell you when you’re off-base or getting too fat or generally being less than your best. That is the true value of a good friendship I think.

None of us live in this world in complete isolation. We all have areas where we can do better, be a better husband, wife, brother, sister, daughter, son- or maybe just a better person in general. A good friend helps knock off the rough edges that we all carry throughout life and bolster the good that’s already in you. They’re not afraid to tell you that you’re being unreasonable or completely agree with you that soccer is a totally ridiculous sport.

So “Cheers” to friends and friendship in general… I would pour a beer out but that would be a complete waste. Instead, I’ll drink the beer and think up of a strategy to finally beat said friend in Call of Duty. Now that would be something that I would truly be thankful for.

Some Thoughts on Thanksgiving: Part 2.5


As promised, when I last left off, we were just getting to the fun parts of having family over for Thanksgiving. So in no particular order, here are a few of the many reasons that Thanksgiving will always be interesting when family is involved:

  1. Someone in your family will show up late. In my family, it used to be my sister. But now that we have extended family from both my and my wife’s family, it’s a toss up to see who is going to arrive the latest. My dad and I have started to take bets on when the last person or family is going to show up. Usually the time ranges from just a few minutes late to “we’re already seated at the table before we hear the doorbell ring for the last time.”
  2. Someone in your family will inevitably will start a conversation about guns or politics. This will leave the rest of the family in a conundrum as to whether they should engage said family member in what everyone initially hopes will be a productive, civilized discussion or whether they should ignore the bait and hope that someone else will artfully steer the conversation towards less polarizing discussions like maybe the mashed potatoes needing more salt.
  3. Someone will probably make a “semi-racist” or homophobic comment. The handling of that comment largely depends on whether it might have been a thinly veiled attempt at humor or actually is a racist or homophobic comment. Either way, it will definitely make other people uncomfortable.
  4. Someone totally misunderstands an argument or mishears a snippet of conversation and then unleashes a whole diatribe on why that person’s viewpoint is incorrect. Only after some heated discussion, is it ascertained that, in fact, both parties agree and there is no philosophical difference.
  5. If your family is anything like mine, at some point someone will bring up sad memories of dead relatives who are no longer with us and will comment how the dinner is just not the same since Aunt Tillie passed and took her secret recipe of sweet potato casserole to the grave with her.
  6. Usually someone will comment upon another guest’s dish or food offering and claim that when another relative used to make it, it tasted different. Not “bad” mind you, but “different.” This will lead to a whole discussion of recipes and ingredients and preparation methods that ultimately leads to one relative stating that maybe the secret ingredient was simply “love.”
  7. Regardless of clearly set boundaries, someone will predictably be found in the normally off-limits rooms of your house. I’ll go upstairs to use my bathroom, only to find that the guest bedroom doors are now all mysteriously open. Or I’ll go downstairs to the basement to get some ice from the chest freezer only to discover several nieces and nephews going through every box in the place.
  8. Normally, there will also be at least one instance where another adult will discipline or scold a child that is not their own for bad behavior only to be second-guessed by the child’s parents. Even if the offense was something pretty straightforward like running with a knife or trying to use scissors to cut the place mat, the offended parent will say that their child doesn’t normally do that and is probably just learning this behavior from one of their older cousins.
  9. Someone will have done inexplicable things to your bathroom. Whether it be odd toothpaste stains on the mirror, or floating bits in the toilet bowl, often you will find yourself asking “what exactly were they doing in here?” Why would someone need to have partially eaten a granola bar in the bathroom and then casually toss the remains in the trash? Why are there 3 used hand towels now on the floor? All good mysteries.
  10. And finally, what would family be without bringing up embarrassing memories of each other and airing them out for the rest of the family to be entertained? “Remember that time that you got drunk and pissed on Bobby’s motorcycle?” Or “that used to be our favorite game remember? We would dress you up and then put make-up on you and make you watch My Little Pony” Thanks Sis. I could have lived with not remembering that one.

Some Thoughts on Thanksgiving: Part 2


Here is the second post in my series about Thanksgiving (Yes, I know it’s now past Christmas, but things have been hectic.)

Family

As the saying goes, “You can pick your friends, but you can’t pick your family.” Never is this more abundantly apparent than on Thanksgiving- or any other major holiday for that matter. In our family, we have hosted Thanksgiving dinner for the last 4 or 5 years or so and while my wife and I have enjoyed hosting, it does give some interesting perspective on things.

First, the whole process of hosting starts well before that Thursday. Namely, there is the annual shopping trip to the grocery store to buy all the ingredients and food that is going to be served. Conversations need to be had to determine the exact menu and who will be cooking what casseroles, etc. Then an accurate headcount is needed to know how big of a turkey we should buy to ensure there is enough food for the traditional meal as well as the all-important leftovers.

In our family, this is usually where the confusion starts. “So exactly how many people will you be bringing to dinner?” I ask my sister.

“Well, that depends. We could have as many as 4 extra or they may not come at all. I’ll let you know soon though.”

Normally, this wouldn’t be a problem, but it does make a difference in terms of planning when I have to figure out if we need chairs and table space for 13 or perhaps up to 17 people. Then I start asking my wife about how many of her family are planning on attending. This leads to another whole conversation.

“So my brother and his family are coming. Actually, just his family since he has to work, but his wife and kids will be here. And my mom and dad and my other brother will be here as well- so that makes 6 from my side.”

Okay, so the attendance situation is mostly figured out. Now back to the menu. Since my wife is from Ethiopia, we can’t get by on just making the traditional Thanksgiving meal of turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, stuffing and deserts. No, in addition to all the American fare, we also have to have traditional Ethiopian dishes available as well. This itself is another whole process.

Luckily, I have been deemed unfit to cook any Ethiopian food by both my wife and mother-in-law. However, this does mean that starting a few days before Thanksgiving, my kitchen will be taken over so that they can start preparing their favorite Ethiopian cuisines. Did I say kitchen? I also meant my garage- since while my wife loves to make her ethnic food, apparently some of it is too pungent to cook in the house. So I get the additional job of setting up an electric burner in the garage so they can work their culinary magic.

So finally, the big day actually arrives. My dad, who came down a few days early and is staying with us, gets up around 6 AM and plants himself in front of the television. I get up at a more reasonable 8 AM to start preparing the turkey for cooking. My dad, politely offers to help. I flatly refuse. Mostly this is because his idea of cooking is that anything can be cooked and should be cooked using the microwave.

“Can’t you just put the turkey in the microwave on high for about an hour?” he asks.

“Um… no, I don’t think so.” I reply.

Now with everything prepared and as “ready” as it can be before family starts arriving, it’s the waiting game. And then finally, after what seems like eons, the doorbell rings and family and friends start to arrive. Time to kick things into high gear.

We start mashing the potatoes, finish cooking the stuffing and warm up the gravy. Then with a little fanfare and flourish, all the food is set out in serving dishes on the tables.  Having won the plastic vs. real plates battle this year with my wife, we set out the “real” plates in a stack and heap the forks and knives into a pile next to them. Then after the Thanksgiving blessing has been said. It’s finally time to eat.

In our family, the order always starts with the oldest male. After that, it’s a toss-up between next eldest male or women with young children that need plates made up for them. Either way, I usually end up somewhere in the middle of the pack. I slowly make my way around the tables, taking reasonable sized portions of most the food laid out. I do admit that I often skip some of the Ethiopian dishes because they rarely agree with my stomach but I make an effort to get a representative sampling of both cultures’ cuisine.

Then when everyone finally finds a seat and most of the children are safely regulated to the kid’s table, the conversations begin. If your family is anything like mine, this is when things begin to get really interesting. So interesting in fact, that I’ll decided to include that part of Thanksgiving in a future post. Until then, I hope each and every one of you had a great Christmas and have a safe and Happy New Year!

Some Things Happening in the News that I Found Interesting


I decided that I would break with my normal routine today and write a non-sequential blog about some things that are happening around the world that I think are interesting and noteworthy that all loosely deal with space. Don’t worry, I’ll still finish up my Thanksgiving series before Christmas- probably.

  1. The United States is precipitously close to an all-out war with North Korea because two megalomaniacs have decided to have a pissing contest. Some experts theorize that North Korea has missiles that could possibly hit Hawaii in 20 minutes or even possibly strike the U.S. mainland itself. We should be a lot more concerned about this political situation than we are.
  2. Some dude is attempting to launch himself 1800 feet into the sky on a homemade steam-powered rocket that he built out of spare parts to prove that the Earth is actually flat. I love the description of one of the photos that states Mike Hughes is a “daredevil and limousine driver“. Just imagine the conversations that you could have with that guy as he’s driving you around downtown in a fancy limo. And you thought Uber drivers were interesting people to talk to.
  3. A startup company in Japan is trying to create artificial meteors- mostly for entertainment. The basic premise is to launch a satellite into orbit that will be able to launch pellets made of different metals into the lower atmosphere where they will burn up from fiction and create dazzling artificial multicolored shooting stars. Sure, there are some drawbacks, like it has the potential to cause a chain-reaction of collisions in space which could probably wipe out GPS and communication satellites, but you would have one hell of a party to remember.
  4. Lastly, we are in the midst of some unique lunar events. Namely, starting today, we have the opportunity to witness a “supermoon trilogy” over the next couple of months. Basically the full moons for the next three months will look slightly bigger and be slightly brighter. Not like huge and super bright, but a little bit of a difference “that is barely perceptible to the human eye.” So news flash: It doesn’t really look that different. But take some time over the next couple of months and check out the moon anyways. It’s still kind of cool- even if it is over-hyped.

Some Thoughts on Thanksgiving: Part 1


So another Thanksgiving Day is over. All your relatives and friends from out of town are safely on their way to their respective homes and the last of the leftovers are almost gone. Now it’s time to relax for one more day or maybe gear yourself up for another week of work. Oh well. The time off from work was nice while it lasted and I hope that your Thanksgiving Day was as good as mine. This post will be the first of a three-part series.

My dad has a saying that life’s all about the 3 F’s: “faith, family, and friends” so I thought what better way than to organize these posts into those 3 categories?

Faith

I’ll just come right out and say that I think I’m agnostic. While I was raised as a devout Baptist, recently I have been having some pretty serious doubts that the Bible is the inerrant, inspired “Word of God”.

For example, all those stories of Moses and the Israelites trekking through the wilderness led by a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night just seem made-up. If the stories aren’t made-up, God would be still doing all that magical stuff to convince people that he actually exists today.

I mean if those tricks worked before to convince a whole people group to follow him, I would think that in our day if some supernatural skywriting that said “God Exists” inexplicably appeared in the sky every day for a year in different colors, God could gain a lot more converts than his current method of recruitment.

All that to say, I’m coming into a transitional phase in my life where I have to really start questioning if religion is going to be a large component of my life or not. So far I’ve worked out an agreement with my wife that I’ll go every other week to church and I mostly honor my side of the bargain, but around the holidays it feels especially amazing to be able to just sleep in on a Sunday and not have to worry about setting an alarm to wake you up.

What does this have to do with Thanksgiving you ask? Well for one, it’s awkward when every year you are volunteered to pray for the meal. What should I say- “I’m actually in between religious schools of thought at the moment, is there anyone else that would like to say the blessing?”

What makes it weirder is that my dad always loudly declares that I should say the blessing because I’m the “most holy.” I’m pretty sure that is his way of making sure that he doesn’t get chosen to say it. My alternative theory is that my dad just wants to get his money’s worth after paying for me to go to 4 years of college to only end-up with a bible degree.

I don’t want to make a big deal about saying the prayer though or cause a scene so I dutifully have everyone gather around the table and then have them hold hands while we bow our heads. Then I rattle off a perfunctory prayer that goes like this:

“Dear Heavenly Father. I thank you for this food and the hands that prepared it. I thank you that we can spend time together with family and friends. I thank you for your son Jesus Christ. Amen.”

Most people seem genuinely relieved when I’m done that I haven’t recited a decidedly long prayer or gotten super spiritual either. Although next year if I’m picked again, I might just start messing with people by praying for an excessively long time complete with long silent pauses or include as many big fancy ridiculous words as I can. Either that, or maybe see how many times I can work “meow” into the blessing like in Super Troopers.

I don’t want you to leave you with the impression that I am some type of anti-religious zealot now or that I’m ungrateful though. On the contrary, I have a great life and truly can’t number the amount things that I am thankful for.

But here’s a few: I have a beautiful wife that loves me unconditionally. I have a decent job that lets me pay our bills and own a house that I can be proud of. I never have to worry about where my next meal is going to come from. I am surrounded by friends and family that care deeply about me.

So overall, as much as I may not like it, I guess I’ll continue to make an exception once or twice a year to give the traditional holiday blessings. In my mind, I’ll just take those few moments to stop and think about how truly great and blessed my life really is.

Some Reasons I Hate (Or Sometimes Secretly Admire) Millennials


So I begin by saying that I myself am right at the cusp of being a Millennial. And actually depending upon which source you reference, I might be a Millennial. What I can say definitively is that there are certain characteristics of this Millennial generation that I hate. So at the risk of jumping on my soapbox, here are some of the reasons that I hate (or secretly envy) Millennials.

  1. They seem so fucking cool. Whether it’s the newest local pizza place or the coolest style of shoes, they intuitively know what is the hippest, trendiest “thing” and live for the moments when they can showcase this knowledge to those around them by casually introducing whatever the newest thing is into conversation. “You mean you haven’t heard of eel skin wallets? They are way more durable than leather and feel so much smoother.”
  2. They understand credit card reward points and know how to use them. “You should really get the Bank of America Sapphire Preferred Platinum Freedom Unlimited Card” they say as they take the card out of their wallets to pay for their meal. “You get triple points if you use it at the race track or Target AND you can redeem your points for travel and free lap dances” they continue as they tap their metal credit card on the table for extra emphasis.
  3. Millennials have a strange compulsion to give everyone nicknames- often nicknames that have only the faintest trail of logic. “Frank” becomes “Hotdog” which then becomes “Weiner” which in turn is changed into “Weines” which evolves into simply “W” which is then finally shortened into “Dubs.”
  4. They live and breathe memes. Not a day goes by that they don’t try to introduce you to the hottest meme or internet video. Whether the meme has anything to do with the current conversation or you protest that you’re really not interested in seeing a cute kitten with a sock stuck on its head doesn’t matter. You will still be subjected to it anyways.
  5. They claim they want to be fiscally independent but are all still on their parents’ cell phone plans. If you question why this is the case, they will inevitably tell you that it’s “more of a trade” since they pay for the family’s Netflix account.
  6. Millennials as a rule are some of the most politically correct people that I meet- except when they’re making a joke to troll each other. Then all bets are off and some of the most sexist, racist and stereotypical comments can all be made as long as you say it ironically.
  7. They are comfortable with paying an outrageous amount of rent for apartments in the hippest neighborhoods. Sure, you pay an extra $250 for parking a month and your friends have to pay to park in a garage when they visit, but at least there are 12 different bars in walking distance.
  8. Conversely, when buying a house, Millennials love to refer to it as an investment property and spend months searching for a house “where the numbers work.” Sure the neighborhood might look like urban Detroit, but they are positive that the neighborhood is on the rise and that their return on investment is guaranteed.
  9. Millennials are surprising cavalier about their romantic relationships. Whether they are dating for a few weeks or a few years, the relationship can always be broken off with minimal fuss and someone new can be found through Tinder or some other dating app.
  10. And finally- and perhaps most annoying of all, Millennials are so damn optimistic. No matter what situation they are currently in, they earnestly believe that it will get better. They will get the promotion. They will achieve their dreams. They all believe that the world is their proverbial oyster. Ah, the uncrushable and enviable spirit of the young.