Sunday, January 31, 2016

Hunting Season

I was on my way to Portland when I stopped at a cafe in Lava Hot Springs Idaho for lunch. I sat down at the counter next to a guy who turned out to be a park ranger. He told me it was the middle of Elk Hunting season in that area and the California hunters were a constant source of amusement.

He said that in the past, the forest service kept a bunch of mules for packing into remote areas of the park. When they were no longer needed, the mules were just turned loose. It seemed that at least once a year some hunter would shoot one of those mules.

He said his exposure to California hunters came during his first stint manning the hunter check station. Hunters that shot an elk had to have it checked to verify that it matched what they had a license to shoot.

He said, "A hunter from California checked in with what he had tagged as a cow elk. I took one look and saw that he had actually shot one of those mules. I went into the check station and asked the veteran ranger in there what I should do." The old ranger said. "Let him go. Every time he stops on his way to California he's going to brag about the cow elk he shot. Eventually someone is going to point out that he actually shot a mule. Let's not spoil that guy's fun."  

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The Restauranteur

Downtown Omaha had what is euphemistically called a residence hotel. Its $25 per week rooms were home to winos, derelicts, and over-the-hill barflies. It was also home to my friend, Stan. Stan was a big gruff guy around the age of 50 who had a very low tolerance for posers and bullshitters. He lived in the hotel by choice. According to him, "It was one place where there weren't any phonies."

Omaha had a horse track called Ak-Sar-Ben that was so notoriously crooked that the sports books in Vegas wouldn't take bets on its races. Stan spent a lot of time there during the racing season.

One evening Stan and I were having dinner in the hotel's restaurant. He explained to me how he had figured out the pattern to the crooked track. It seems that they were rotating the wins through the various stables. In less than a month he had used this knowledge to make over $10,000 which was real money 40 years ago.

While we were sitting at the table, the owner of the restaurant came over and sat down with us. He launched into a long rant about what he didn't like about running the restaurant. After about 15 minutes of this, Stan had enough. He said, "Either stop whining or sell me the goddamn restaurant."

The guy said, "Give me $3,000 and it's yours." Stan went up to his room, came back to the table, and slapped down $3,000 in cash. The guy got up, gave Stan his apron, picked up the money, and said, "You've got it!"

Stan spent the next couple of days cleaning up the place and he got rid of the menus. He was making enough money off of the track that he didn't really care if the restaurant made money or not. He decided to only cook what he liked and what he liked was steak.

His new menu consisted of steak, baked potatoes, french fries, and salad. As a sop to the weenies who couldn't handle steak, he included hamburger on the menu. He located a source of top quality beef for his steaks and hamburgers and ground the beef for the hamburgers himself.

Stan hired a couple of the resident barflies to help out as waitresses and he was in business.

Stan had a real knack for grilling steaks and his were outrageously good. The hotel was only a couple of blocks from Omaha's financial center and it wasn't long before word got out. The financial center crowd was soon making the trek to his restaurant for lunch.

You could order your steak cooked any way you liked, but what you would get would be medium rare because that's the way Stan liked it. If anyone complained, he would kick them out of the restaurant and give their steak to one of his friends in the hotel bar.

Stan would also kick anyone out of the restaurant that he didn't like. It got to be like one of those trendy clubs where people try to get past the bouncer at the door. At that time it was the style for men to wear pastel colored suits. He derisively referred to them as the ice cream suit morons.

I tried to stop in there at lunch time whenever I was in town. I could enjoy a great steak while watching the pathetic ice cream suit morons trying to get the best of Stan.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Hug Monster

We've had a family tradition since the grandkids were toddlers. I would chase them around as the Hug Monster and when I caught them, I would pick them up and give them a big hug. It was something they all thoroughly enjoyed.

When our grandson, Steven, was in the first grade, I was working nights so I had time to pick him up after school. I would wait outside the classroom door with the other parents until the bell rang.

When the bell rang, Steven would take off running and I would chase him down saying, "The Hug Monster is going to get you." When I caught him, I would pick him up and give him the big hug he was expecting.

This went on every day for a couple of weeks. One day after chasing and catching Steven, I looked back and saw a half-dozen little 6 year old boys lined up by the classroom door waiting for their turn to get "Hug Monstered".

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Tale of Woe

The engineering group I worked with at Cisco used some very expensive Unix-based software for chip design, circuit board design, and testing. My friend, Billy, was responsible for keeping all of this up to date and working.

To run properly, each of these programs required specific settings. Billy created individual wrapper scripts that would set program requirements and then run the executable. It was an elegant and well documented solution.

Just before Billy was to move to a completely different group, an engineer came to his office with a problem. This guy had cobbled together some hacks of his own rather than using the provided wrapper scripts. The unsurprising result was that he couldn't run the programs.

Billy listened patiently as the engineer told his tale of self-inflicted woe. When he had finally wound down a bit, Billy leaned forward and said in an almost conspiratorial tone, "It must really suck to be you."