Dishes Flow Chart

Sometimes talking to other people is a great way to convey information. But for an engineer this usually isn’t sufficient. An engineer can only carry a conversation so far before getting frustrated at the words getting in the way. Your engineer will then turn to the white board to map out their thoughts for mutual understanding for all.

That’s why my wife appreciates the flow chart I created for how to do the dishes. This chart allows the dish washer to determine the proper action when faced with each dirty dish. Prior to having the chart we would spend 10 minutes over a steaming sink trying to figure out what the heck to do next. Now with this chart laminated over the kitchen’s workhorse, we can easily follow the steps to the proper action. does-it-go-in-the-sink

This chart is great for not only spouses, but also for children, significant others, and even roommates. It’s especially useful for when family comes over for the holidays. You don’t have to yell at grandma anymore when she gingerly places her egg nog glass in the sink. Instead you can just snap your fingers in her face and point at the chart.

Once you’ve printed and hung this chart in your home, come back and leave a comment about how much better your life has become.


Toddler Text Adventure

You’re being held by a familiar man in a hallway. Tears are running down your face because your attempts to eat a rock were thwarted. The floor is made of ceramic tile which you will appreciate when you’re older. There is a doorway to your South leading to a laundry room. The hallway continues East and West. You hear a dog barking.

What do you want to do? 
> Go

Where do you want to go? 
> Go go

I can’t find “Go go”.

What do you want to do? 
> Wave hands

You thrash around wildly. The man seems not to notice.

What do you want to do?

You’re you’re being held in the living room…

Corn Starch Ants

I recently read that cornmeal can kill ants.  Ants think cornmeal is extremely tasty and finding it is a rare treat.  They bring it back to the nest by the truckload where it is enjoyed by all.  Unfortunately they can’t digest it and it makes them really bloated so they can’t escape the ant hole anymore to get real food.  Then they all die. It would be like you finding a large bag of Taco Bell on the sidewalk and bringing it in to the office for all of your coworkers to enjoy.  Sure you’re a temporary hero for bringing in food for the whole office, but productivity quickly drops from the digestion issues and food poisoning from the meat that was sitting in the sun.

Shortly after reading that article I found a colony of ants, precariously close to the house.  I went inside to see if I had cornmeal to try this trick, but I only had corn starch. “Corn is corn!” I said and brought the container of potential poison out to the ants.

I poured a thin line of corn starch in the obvious path of the ants between my house and their home.  Instantly I saw a traffic jam as the ants’ pheromone path was interrupted.  Also, the ants refused to cross over the mound to reach the other side, and began trying to find the long path around the white wall.  They wouldn’t eat the starch, but it certainly screwed up their routine.  When I saw they had connected the two sides I increased the length of the wall, forming the Great Wall of Corn Starch, indefinitely separating haploids from diploids and soldiers from their Queen.

Mildly satisfied with disrupting the colony’s production line, I went to go back inside to look for real poison when the curious neighbor kid came over to see what I was doing.  I explained to him how the pheromone trail worked because the ants can smell which way the food is (in my house).  “Neat!  I wanna smell it!”  He got down on his hands and knees to smell the trail.

“I wanna smell it too!” his brother jumped off of his big wheel and tried to smell the trail.

They both came up coughing, with white corn starch all over their faces.  “I don’t like ant smells!” said the older.  “It smells like burning!” said the younger.

Their mom came out of her garage and noticed her kids bothering me again.  “What are you guys doing over there?” she yelled.

“We’re smelling the ant lines that Dan showed us!” said the older kid, wiping his nose off and getting corn starch on his hands and shirt.

“It makes me feel funny!” the younger said, getting back on his big wheel, which he drove out into the street.

She looked horrified when she got a good look at their faces.  She started yelling at her kids to get away from my house.  That was good old fashioned parenting.  Her son screamed and ran wildly towards the house.  The younger kid was doing donuts in the street.  She walked closer to me and saw the Great Wall of Corn Starch.  I smiled proudly.

Then she started using cuss words at me, which was not very neighborly.  When she was done cussing, I told her that I was just experimenting when her kids came over and started asking questions.  I also told her how disappointed I was that her kids didn’t know about pheromone trails because I learned that when I was 6-year-old from Reading Rainbow.  She stared at me as if she had no idea what I was talking about, so I started to sing “Butterfly in the sky.”  I gestured for her to jump in when she recalled the words, “I can fly twice as high…”  Suddenly she punched me in the face.

That’s the last thing I remembered before waking up to a number of police cars and ambulances.  There was a lot of explaining to do.

Whiskey Stones

Whiskey StonesThis Christmas everyone in my family got Whiskey Stones. No, it’s not a contagious, alcohol induced, second cousin to kidney stones. Whiskey Stones are a good thing.

Whiskey stones are an elegant substitute for ice. Since the invention of soap, people have been avoiding mixing rocks and dirt with their foods. Whiskey Stones bring back a man’s primal urges to mix his libations with cold hard minerals and get the earth closer to his mouth.

A few frozen Whiskey Stones can be added to lowball drinks to keep them cold.  Since they are made out of rocks, they will not melt like their inferior competitor, ice. Whiskey Stones can also be microwaved for 30 seconds giving them lasting drink heating power for coffee or tea. The high heat capacity of soapstone gives both hot and cold modes a lasting effect, perfect for slower drinkers and children.

There are rules to using Whiskey Stones:

  1. You never touch Whiskey Stones
  2. You never touch Whiskey Stones!

Learned from experience, microwaved Whiskey Stones reach and sustain a temperature rivaling lava or the sun. Whiskey Stones should only be picked up with welder’s gloves or plutonium tongs after microwaving.  Also, if your frail human body contains over 75% water, do not touch frozen Whiskey Stones or risk making them a permanent member of your phalanges.  I would have 911 at the ready if you’re thinking about putting a frozen Whiskey Stone on your tongue.

Whiskey Stones work as advertised, with subtle effects.  They don’t make drinks as cold as ice, but the fact that they don’t melt means your liquor taste doesn’t change over time.  Wine can also be chilled with the stones.  Only an uncivilized neanderthal would put ice in his wine.  The soficitated gentleman chills his wine with a handful of rocks.

They also do a decent job keeping coffee and tea hot for a longer amount of time. I’m afraid to place frozen stones into a hot drink for fear they’ll shatter, but I’m guessing they would be a suitable, non-water substitute for cooling down your oatmeal or hot chocolate. The only drawback to Whiskey Stones is that you have to wash and dry them before putting them away, which is difficult to do with ice.  However, they win over ice in the fact that there is no practical way to use microwaved ice in a drink.

Whiskey Stones are also environmentally friendly since you don’t have to waste water (save it for the whales).  You’ll realize these savings in about 4000 years.

Available from Sparq or wait until the next time they appear on Woot!

Fat Ducks

Every time it rains the ducks come to my house.  The utility easement floods a little and makes kind of a pond that attracts the ducks.  There are two ducks that fly into my backyard for a bath, but more importantly to feast on the seeds thrown out of the feeder by the smaller birds. Ducks’ webbed feed can’t wrap around the little sticks on the feeder.

Ducks also can’t fit on the feeder because they are too fat.  Ducks are too fat because they eat too much.  The female duck that lands at my house is fat because she won’t stop eating.  Her weak-kneed husband’s will is no match for his wife’s insatiable desire to feed.

The husband duck stands sentry while his mess-of-a-wife gobbles down duck bill after duck bill of seed, mulch, fertilizer, and bugs.  The male duck never eats anything.  He patiently waits until they hear a noise or the neighbor dog starts to chase them.  He’s a good man, but needs to stand up for himself.  They usually get a good 30 minutes of uninterrupted feeding.  Sometimes the male sounds the alarm only to realize the noise is his wife banging her head against the feeder pole in order to dispense more food.

I can only imagine their daily conversations go like this:

Male: Such a wonderful day for flying.  With the wind beneath our wings we can go anywhere our hearts desire.


Male: Uh, why we just ate moments ago.


Male: My dear, have you already digested the salamander I spent so much time –


Male: Uhg.

I didn’t know that ducks ate bird seeds.  I found out that birds are omnivorous which means they really prefer people food.  Now, when I see the ducks come, I search the fridge for the things that they really want to eat.  They get steaks, chicken wings, dinner rolls and butter, loaded baked potatoes, cheese dip, nachos, tacos, and french fries.  A real American meal.  I even take the time to set souffle cups of ranch dressing (fat girl ketchup) for dipping the fries and wings.  It’s so funny to watch the duck dip its little bill into the ranch dressing with a hunk of chicken wing hanging out of her mouth, buffalo sauce covering her cheeks.

Oh yeah, the male still won’t eat any of the “omnivore” food.  I’m starting to think that the male duck isn’t a real man.  I went out and tried to high five him and I threw a football to him but he ran away like a girl!  We (the female duck and I) convinced him to throw the football back but he couldn’t even throw a spiral.  What a sissy!  The female duck and I just laughed at him while he hung his head in shame.  She told him to wait in the utility easement pond while she finished feeding.  What a lame duck.

Grocery Savers Sucks

Granny was bored in retirement so she started cutting coupons.  She was saving a lot of money!  She started telling everyone at church how much money she was saving with her scissors.  “I saved 30 cents on my oxygen masks last week!” she would exclaim in the middle of Sunday Service.

After getting tired of hearing about all the savings, her daughters came over for their yearly Easter visit to find out why old mom wouldn’t stop talking about coupons.  Granny regaled them with hours of savvy savings stories. Her daughters were shocked by the sheer volume of coupons, meticulously stacked like endless towers in her kitchen, living room, bedroom, solarium, and her motor vehicle.

“Mother!  How did you get so many coupons?” one daughter asked.

“I shall show you… but let us enjoy this Easter Sunday in peace.” She paused to rock in her chair.  “Arrive at my home next Sunday morning at 3:00AM sharp and you shall learn the way.”  Then she clicked her teeth together noise and everyone left.

Next Sunday, the girls found themselves outside in the dark, shivering in the bushes of a suburban house down the road from Granny’s home.  Headlights turned and shone down the street of their hiding place.  “There!” whispered Granny. She pointed at the oncoming car.  “Stay hidden.  Don’t make a sound.”

Granny emerged from the bushes and approached the sidewalk.  A man stopped the car, got out, and reached into his popped trunk.  Holding something, he turned and was shocked to see an old woman standing there.  “Whoa!” he said, “You scared me!” and he smiled and moved to place the stack of newspapers on the curb, bending over slightly.

Without saying a word Granny lunged at the man and sunk her dentures deeply into the man’s throat. She pulled back and spit out of mouthful of flesh.

The girls gasped and stood frozen in the shadow of the house. “Well! Come on girls!” Granny crowed.  “Just like old times.”  So the girls ran to the man and feasted on his flesh. With her blood soaked face, Granny looked skyward and howled at the moon.

Then they stole the man’s car full of newspapers.  They carefully removed and kept the Sunday ads from each paper.  They loaded the worthless newspaper into the car and set it on fire.  Some of the girls wheeled the burning car into the river and celebrated with a high five!

This was the day that was born!

Grocery Savers is a website that sells coupons (but only if you are bad at math)!  For only $99.95 a year, Granny and her girls cut out coupons from stolen newspapers and send them to you in the mail.  You’ll be saving so much money that you won’t even notice the $100 up front cost.

Here are the details:

Pick out 48 of your favorite coupons.  Out of those coupons, Granny will pick which ones she thinks you really need.  “He doesn’t need new socks!  I just got him new socks last year!  Here is a coupon for beet flavored denture cream and another one for beets.”

Your coupon savings may add up to around $20.  Since Granny still needs to buy stamps so you’ll pay $2 (10%) for each order (on top of the $100 you already paid).  But Granny and her kind, black heart will nullify that $2 fee by sending you an extra $2 worth of coupons.  That’s a total of $22 worth of coupons for only $2!

You wait by the mailbox for up to 10 days for the coupons to arrive. When finally get your coupons you are disappointed to see that they only sent 22 coupons out of the 48 you selected.  They are coupons you didn’t even order and they are all for Bath Crystals for “$1-off when you buy 20 or more”.

They count this $1 savings as a part of your $20 total. So even though you need to buy 440 jars of bath crystals for the savings $1 savings per lot, they still count that as saving you $22, thus justifying your $2 purchase. After all, you were probably going to buy all of those bath crystals anyway.

Confused? That’s how Granny wants you.  Easier to sink her teeth into a confused person.  Since you already paid $100 you’re compelled to keep getting screwed like this $2 at a time, again and again for the rest of the year.

Lucky for us, we tried a free mail-in trial under a fake name without a credit card.  (Always try things that seem to be a scam with a fake name.)  We told them we wanted to cancel the service but Granny was became irate and wouldn’t have it.  She said we just didn’t understand the service and should try again.  Then she made a biting noise in the phone.

Somewhere Granny is cackling and howling at the moon when she and her daughters go around killing defenseless Sunday morning paper delivery people so you can get your dumb coupons that you didn’t even want.  Remember your $100 yearly pledge is the only thing funding Granny’s plane tickets and denture sharpening tools. Will she be in your town next?

My First Book Burning

I’ve read a lot of books but I’ve never burned one.  I was excited about the book burning party that a priest was going to hold in Florida. It’s not often that these world wide events occur with a do-it-yourself option.  Attendance is usually required and that makes me sleepy to think about joining.  Anyone can burn a humdrum book anytime, but a book burning party has to be carefully crafted and planned.  You can’t send a Facebook invite to all of your friends on Thursday and expect them to have a book all picked out and ready to burn by Saturday.

I wanted to being a part of something bigger than my self and book burning sounded like something I might enjoy. I didn’t have any religious books that I wanted to burn but I really wanted to participate in the event anyway.  I could have checked one out at the library but I stopped myself because I imagine the fine would be pretty steep for trying to return a pile of ashes. Instead I looked through my own library for a book to burn.

Which book do I smite?  The Home Workout Bible?  Did the book we chose for the burning have to be religious?  It is not a religious book anyway (unless you worship your biceps) but I haven’t read it yet so lets find something I have already read.  Calculus?  Too frat party… Cell by Stephen King?  This one deserves it.  Oh does Cell deserve to be burned, but it just wasn’t doing it for me.

More like bor-xis...

Then I came across Axis by Robert Charles Wilson.  This is the sequel to Spin, one of the most fascinating books I have read.  It’s not that Axis was particularly terrible, but that it was a huge letdown compared to the predecessor.  The potential difference between these two books is planetary… Robert Charles Wilson, thanks for taking such a great idea and turning it into a terrible book about sand monsters.  Your sequel has earned the book burning torch. I even had it in hard cover so I am doubly owed this honor.

With my selection made, I leaped out the door like it was the first day of summer, book and lighter in tow, and set out to make a fire.  The burning would take place at a major intersection for maximum exposure.  In a book burning it is the size of the fire and the amount of people you can get yelling that matters.

Then I had to laugh at myself.  I realized I had no idea what time the burning was to begin. I slapped my forehead and took out my phone.

I called the angry priest’s church and there was a message on his church phone that said the book burning was canceled!  I was crestfallen and confused.  How can such a well conceived and thought out event like this be canceled?  Phone in one hand, book in the other, I made a quite a show of how upset I was to passing motorists.

However, I had already invested so many minutes in this and was not about to walk home without burning something.  With new found vigor, I hopped atop a utility box and boldly exclaimed my intent.

I waited until the cars nearby had stopped at the red light and began, “Robert Charles Wilson! You captured my imagination with Spin.  You reeled me in and spit me out into a boring planet of dust monsters and long car rides.  Axis went the wrong direction and with this flame I announce my sincere dissatisfaction!”

I clicked the grill torch underneath my copy of Axis.  I aimed the flame at the dust jacket hoping that it would catch first.  I held the flame for a moment but the wind blew it out.  A lady in her van was looking at me appearing quite vexed. She may have been confused since the flame went out and only thought I was standing on a telephone box holding a book for no good reason.

With some effort, I got the dust jacket to glow slightly but no flame would catch.  I clicked the lighter again and again but it kept getting blown out.  It was as if God was telling me something…

Like a sign from heaven, the sun shone in an aura around the Marathon gas station sign which coincidentally occupied my corner of choice. Of course!  God was telling me that I needed higher octane fuel.

I walked over to the nearest gas pump.  Luckily it was not pre-pay only so I didn’t have to pay.  Just so you know, political-statement-gasoline is free of charge.  I squirted a few drops of gas on the book (which I had placed firmly on the ground as to prevent static sparking).  Then I remembered how mad I was after reading Axis and doused the book with a gallon and a half of fuel, flipping pages to maximize absorption.

I dropped the hose and triumphantly ran back to my perch.  I held the book aloft and set it to flame.

The flame took with an instant brilliant burst.  At last I was making a statement!  I held the book and chanted for all of the passersby to know that I was making a statement about the disappointingly bland novel.

But the book started getting hot very quickly.  I threw it on the ground and satisfyingly watched it burn.  But my hand was still hot.  My whole arm was getting hot!  My shirt was on fire!  My face felt burny! I began screaming uncontrollably and tried to pat down my arms with my other hand but that hand started burning too!

I ran to a lady at the gas station filling up her Mercedes.  I screamed for her help but she ran away, leaving her pump unattended!  Not only did she leave without helping but she left me with a moral dilemma.  Do I selfishly search out for more help or do I chivalrously attend to the fueling automobile?  It would have looked bad if on such a day of moral authority that I think only of myself, so I dashed over to watch the pump to make sure it did not spill during the rest of the fueling process.

She had tripped the lever on the pump so I could stand there, arms a fire, and watch without having to touch the handle and get her germs on me.  I tapped my foot, arms at my side, and watched the numbers roll on the pump and began to wonder how big her gas tank was.  I couldn’t call to her because she was already across the street running towards Target.  There must have been a sale.

I saw the man at the neighboring pump jump across his passenger seat into the driver’s seat.  He tore out of the gas station without taking the nozzle out of the car.  I waved to him but it was too late and the hose broke and started flapped around the parking spot spraying gas everywhere.  It sounded cool when my flaming arms cut through the air.

It was at this time that I realized my book burning was getting out of control.  All of the maps, travel brochures, and coffee were also going to become victims of this day if the gas caught on fire.  That was not my intention.  I wanted to run in and save as many gummy peach rings as I could.

I made my way towards the gas station doors and I began to become very sleepy so I took at nap at the step of the store.  At this point I don’t remember what happened. I woke up in the hospital.

Sorry Robert Charles Wilson for burning your book.  I now know that book burning is not a good idea and have learned an important lesson.  I think you’re a good writer, but I wish you had gone a different direction with Axis.  I don’t like monsters made out of ash or sand or whatever it was.  It was like a year ago when I read it.  I wish it had been more like Spin.  Lets agree to disagree and not blow up any more gas stations.  Deal?

Also please don’t make Vortex suck.