Oh yeah, I’m still around.

Keep starting blog entries and then dropping them because they’re not going the way I want them to and I can’t seem to fix them. So here’s a funny picture that sums up the burden of having a beard:

funny-beard-Duck-Dynasty-questionsYeah, it can be tough being me at times.


I am (probably) not the Les Jenkins you’re looking for.

funny-quote-nice-person-meetI don’t know about you guys, but I tend to think of my name as being somewhat unique. The truth is that it really isn’t. Well, in its full form it’s somewhat unique, but I don’t tend to use that form much opting for the briefer “Les Jenkins” that you’ve all come to adore. On one level I know that it’s really not that unique, but I still tend to think it is because sometimes my brain is stupid.

So when I suddenly get emails like the following:

Good Morning,

Thank you for your offer on 309 Mignon Ave.  The seller has chosen to go with anther offer.

Thank you for your consideration.

A Random Person

It’s a little confusing. What offer? I don’t remember making an offer. I’m glad they went with a different offer because I’d hate to have bought something I don’t recall making an offer on. Just where the hell is 309 Mignon Ave anyway and what is there that I made an offer on? Did I try to buy a crackhouse in my sleep or something?

It’s at this point that I remind myself that, as much as I’d love it to be so, I’m not the only Les Jenkins in the world. So I send a reply saying something like: Dear Random Person. I don’t recall making an offer on anything. Are you sure you have the right Les Jenkins? Sincerely, A Les Jenkins. 

When I did that today I got a reply back letting me know it was for a house somewhere in Alabama that someone had submitted a bid for on my behalf and it included scans of the documents and of a check written for the sale. The documents revealed that this other Les Jenkins has an email address of LesJenkins32 and he happens to be a real estate agent down in Alabama. Yeah, that’s definitely not me. I’m not that young or attractive anymore. (As an aside, it’s very weird to stare into the face of someone else with your name.) I replied once more to let Random Person know that there’s no 32 in my email address. Because I’ve been on the Internet for a helluva long time and am often an early adopter of new services, I managed to net plain old les.jenkins as my gmail account name.

Needless to say, this isn’t the first time I’ve gotten email meant for some other Les Jenkins. A couple months back, I’m not sure if it was the same email address or not, but I suddenly found myself in the middle of a conversation about someone’s funeral arrangements. Someone was trying to contact that Les Jenkins, whoever he/she was, to let them know about a family member’s death. That’s an awkward thing to be accidentally included on. Considering the importance of the situation I replied as respectfully as I could that I wasn’t the Les Jenkins they had intended to contact.

There are a lot of us out there including a trombonist with the same name who was a part of Tommy Dorsey’s Orchestra, an affiliate marketing guy, a “Goal-Setting and Achievement Guru” out of Colorado (who, coincidentally, is originally from Detroit), and a seemingly infinite array of others including a surprising number of rednecks.

So, yeah, my name isn’t all that unique. Kind of a bummer, but I’m sure I’ll forget that fact in a short while. At least until the next email for one of those other imposters shows up in my inbox.

Stupid things I sometimes do.

wereadultsI’m supposedly a mature adult with mature adult responsibilities, but at times I catch myself doing things that are, to put it simply, stupid. Things that put the lie to the idea that I am a mature and responsible anything.

Things like:

  1. Trying to sing the catchy instrumental parts of songs. I’ll be singing along to some song on the radio (like you do) and it’ll get to that awesome guitar solo and, rather than shut up like any normal person, I’ll attempt to sing along with gibberish noises that my inner five-year-old would like to believe sound exactly like the instrument I’m mimicking, but that actually sound like the death squeals of a cat caught in a taffy puller. Neener-neeeener-NA-NA-NA-NA-NA-neener-NAAAAAAAAAAAAA! It’s even worse when it’s a drum solo or, heaven forbid, an oboe.
  2. Beatbox. I’ve done this one for years only I didn’t know it was called beatboxing until it became the hot shit thing to do on YouTube a few years back. I always called it “making stupid noises with my mouth.” In spite of my many decades of doing this I have nowhere near the talent of the people on YouTube. This is in part due to the fact that I don’t do it in an attempt to recreate the sounds of a drum kit producing a recognizable tune. It’s more of a way to disperse nervous energy in an annoyingly audible way that is almost always embarrassing when I get caught doing it. Which happens often because I don’t usually realize I’m doing it at the time. It’s like my mouth gets bored with not having anything to do and just starts spitting out random noises in an attempt to feel like it’s contributing to the task at hand. My wife catches me at it more than most. Usually prompting the question: “What the hell are you doing?”
  3. Talk back to the radio. Not because I’m angry, but because it amuses me. I often listen to NPR on the way into work and just before the break at the end of the hour both the hosts of Morning Edition as well as the local station will announce their names. I’m Steve Inskeep. And I’m Renee Montagne. And I’m Christina Shockley. To which I will always shout out “And I’m Les Jenkins” as if they could hear — or even give a damn — that I was there. Note that I’m the only person in the car when I do this so it’s not like I’m amusing anyone else.
  4. Announce my name to the waitperson at restaurants. Every time the waitperson walks up and says “Hi! My name is Laura McWaitress and I’ll be your waitress tonight.” I always say “Hi! My name is Les Jenkins and I’ll be your customer tonight.” It’s stupid and yet I do it all the time. It’s a testament to my wife’s patience that she’s gotten used to me doing this. Every. Damned. Time.
  5. Call a gyro (the food) a gyro (short for gyroscope). Granted there are a lot of people who make this mistake, but I’m doing it intentionally all so I can follow it up with a very stupid joke: “You know, the well-balanced meal?” This actually goes over pretty well in a college town like Ann Arbor. I’ve even had one waitress tell me she was going to use it on her Greek sister-in-law who was an engineer. It’s still a stupid thing to say.

There are other stupid things I sometimes do, but I can’t recall them at the moment. All of them are pretty much habits I’ve never been able to resist. Most folks who witness them smile at me weakly and make a mental note to avoid the weirdo if at all possible.

It’s really pretty simple.

What foods are so good that you always end up burning your mouth on them?

Yeah, it kind of feels like that.

The impetus for this question came to me while brushing my teeth this morning and being reminded that I had burned the roof of my mouth on the left side the night before by digging into my wife’s homemade chicken noodle soup before giving it time to cool. I do this every damned time she makes CNS because it’s just so damned tasty that I can’t wait to start in on it.

I always think to myself: Remember, you burned your mouth last time so give it time to cool. And inevitably I still start too soon and end up with a singed gum line someplace in my mouth.  What the hell is wrong with me that I can’t give it a good five or ten minutes to let thermodynamics do its thing and make it safe to eat? It’s not like it’s going to jump off the table and run away or that I have any pressing engagements to worry about.

So I’m curious: Do you guys have any foods that you find so delicious that you end up burning your mouth trying to eat them too soon or am I the only dumbass who does this sort of thing?

I sometimes think I suffer from Anti-Social Media personality disorder.

I am terrible at updating my social media statuses over the weekends. I blame this on not having a smart phone. During the week I’m sitting at a computer most of the time so I can spout off when I think about it without too much effort, but during the weekend there are actually large portions of time when I’m not at my PC. Yes, there are also large portions of time where I am at my PC, but then I’m usually playing a video game and it’s hard to make much use of Twitter/Facebook/Google+ when you’re busy shooting Nazi zombies in the face or taking down the dragon that’s been threatening Stormwind.

It’s also true that my blogging suffers over the weekend and for the same reasons. This is exacerbated when the weekends are longer than usual, such as this one. I make use of my weekends to forget that I have responsibilities such as jobs and schedules and crap-I’ve-got-to-do. Even after nearly 10 years, blogging doesn’t feel like a chore per se (at least not most of the time), but I tend to ignore what’s going on in the world over the weekend which tends to leave one with a dearth of things to blog about. Unless I’m suddenly struck with a thought such as this one.

According to Twitter I have 372 followers and they must be astonished at what a boring life I lead. My last tweet, some 24 hours ago, consisted of the following bit of wisdom:

How could humanity survive without such vital information?

I look back at it now and I wonder just who the hell I thought would give a shit that the wife and I were going to eat at a major chain restaurant? The tweet prior to that was even less informative:

Someone alert Ted Koppel! I don't care if he's retired!

Whoa, stop the friggin’ presses! He’s up early AND he’s going to play a video game? WHO COULD’VE GUESSED THAT?!?!

I think part of the problem is the character limit on Twitter. I tend to be rather verbose and Twitter just doesn’t lend itself to that sort of thing. My updates on Google+ tend to be a bit more interesting because, like Facebook, there’s no apparent limit on update length. It’s a bit more like a mico-blogging service and it makes sharing content pretty easy. However I find it somewhat ironic that my updates on reshared content tend to be concise enough that Twitter would have no problem with the length. I find that I’m using Google+ more and more as time goes on and the fact that I spend a lot of time in Google Reader where I can see when I have a G+ notification is probably why. So if you want to follow me on one of the services and not be bored to tears by my pathetic content then Google+ is probably where you should do it. You don’t even have to have a Google+ account to follow me as most of my updates are public, but if you want to sign up just click here and one of the 150 invitations I have can be yours. I imagine those will go pretty quick so don’t hesitate if you want one.

Truth is that even my updates there are probably less than revelatory, but they’re the most interesting of the major social media services.

Am I the only person…

Pic of coffee with a creamer nebula.

Coffee and Cream Nebula by Flick'r user kchbrown.

… who often finds beauty in entropy? There’s a small bit of entropy that occurs for me every morning when I get my first cup of coffee. I’m one of those wussies who can’t drink it black so I keep a supply of flavored creamer handy in the fridge here at work. When I grab a mug full of java I head over to the fridge and put the cup down on a shelf inside to make sure it’s steady when I pour the creamer in.

The combination of a hot fluid in a cold environment and the addition of chilled cream results in some amazing patterns of light and dark in the coffee. Sometimes it’s full of swirls and eddies that look like a storm front or approaching hurricane. Other times it looks like explosions or smoke or even celestial bodies. It’s different every time and it’s always interesting to witness.

The chaos only lasts a short while and is easily erased when I stir up the coffee, but seeing those random patterns first thing in the morning always makes me pause to reflect at the incredible amount of action that takes place in a simple coffee cup.  There are whole books full of mathematical models that describe the processes that are playing out in front of me. Math that I’d never in a hundred years be able to wrap my head around, and yet the universe carries it out without hesitation hundreds of billions of times everywhere that hot and cold liquids interact. It’s like a small cosmic ballet that if you blink or aren’t paying attention can be easily missed.

On those days when I stop to watch the drama unfolding in the swirls and cascades I can’t help but smile. There’s something reassuring about the idea that the universe keeps on doing what it does regardless of whatever else is going on within it.

SEB Random Thought of the Moment.

Here’s something to stretch your noodle with: When you go to bed tonight, assuming you sleep for a full 8 hours, you will have traveled roughly 536,496 miles through space. That’s how far the Earth moves in its orbit around the Sun in a mere night’s rest. In case you’re curious that’s roughly 67,062 miles per hour. I say roughly because the Earth actually speeds up and slows down depending on how close to the Sun it is at the time.

Pic of spinning stars.

And you think you never get to go anywhere...

If you want to take into account the speed of the Earth’s rotation, which would also technically result in your having traveled while dozing, then it gets a bit tricker as the speed varies depending where you are on the surface. At the equator it’s roughly 1070 miles an hour, but here in Ann Arbor, Michigan it’s a mere 771.1 miles per hour. When I wake up in the morning I will have traveled some 6,168.8 miles or so. Over half a million miles in the course of one night and yet I’m still in the same bed when morning comes.

Now if you really want to make your brain hurt, figure out how many miles per year that adds up to.

Nothing so yummy as a heaping helping of Textured Vegetable Protein Product!

Anyone who has spent any amount of time barely making ends meet, like me and my wife currently are, knows that sometimes when shopping for food you have no choice but to go with the cheap stuff. Which is how I came to be eating a can of Southgate Beef Stew this evening. That’s a brand I hadn’t even heard of previously and I’m not even sure where we got it from. I normally would be reluctant to even try it, but when you end up with weeks like this one where the bank account is literally at $0 available until Friday you start looking at the stuff that’s been in the cupboard for awhile.

So I grabbed the can opener and dumped the contents into a bowl and slapped it into the microwave which is right about the time I took a close look at the label on the can. This is what I saw:

Pic of Southgate Beef Stew label.

Just like what Grandma used to heat up!

Yeah, that just rolls right off the tongue suggesting a savoriness of a unique and special kind. I always get a little nervous when something on the label sounds as generic as possible or includes the word PRODUCT in it. Just what the fuck is TEXTURED VEGETABLE PROTEIN PRODUCT anyway?

Turns out it’s pretend meat:

TVP is made from a mixture of proteins extracted primarily from soybeans, but also cotton seeds, wheat and oats. It is extruded into various shapes (chunks, flakes, nuggets, grains, and strips) and sizes, exiting the nozzle while still hot and expanding as it does so. The defatted thermoplastic proteins are heated to 150-200°C, which denatures them into a fibrous, insoluble, porous network that can soak up as much as three times its weight in liquids. As the pressurized molten protein mixture exits the extruder, the sudden drop in pressure causes rapid expansion into a puffy solid that is then dried. As much as 50% protein when dry, TVP can be rehydrated at a 2:1 ratio, which drops the percentage of protein to an approximation of ground meat at 16%. High quality TVP can be mixed with ground meat to a ratio of up to 1:3 (rehydrated TVP to meat) without reducing the quality of the final product, sometimes improving it if the meat used is poor. TVP is primarily used as a meat substitute due to its very low cost at less than a third the price of ground beef, and when cooked together will help retain more weight from the meat by absorbing juices normally lost.

It’s commonly used in “Vegan” versions of foods normally made with ground beef. Or, as in this case, in cheap foods to lower the cost. The clinical nature of its name makes it sound somewhat suspect, but it’s actually used in a lot of stuff. You can buy it in bulk and there are lots of sites on the web with recipes for it. All things considered it’s probably the last thing in that stew I should’ve been concerned about.

As for the stew itself, well, it tasted like cheap stew. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t anything that I’d develop cravings for either. It did the job of Food-as-Fuel that I needed it to do this evening ensuring that I’ll survive long enough to see better days with more flavorful foods.

Damn, is it August already?

Not only is it already August but I’m 4 days into it without having posted anything. So here’s a traditional random crap post to fill the gap until I’m inspired to write something substantial.

The good news is that starting next week I will be employed. The bad news is that it’ll be for a total of 2 months — if I’m lucky — and the pay is probably a low-point in my 22 year career. I’ve been hired by a company in Florida to do PC refreshes (moving users from older hardware to newer) for a chain of banks which I had never heard of before, but which is suddenly advertising on local television. I don’t know how long the chain has been in Michigan, but now I’m hyper-aware of it.

It’s always weird how you can be oblivious to something for years and then once you’ve heard of it you see it everywhere from that point on. The town of Metamora here in Michigan is another example. I first heard of it when I dated a girl who was originally from that town in High School. I thought it was someplace on the other side of the state, but it was actually not that far from where I was living at the time. I’d been through it a number of times without it ever registering in my head and seen signs for it without ever thinking about it. After being told about it I realized just how often I’d been exposed to it previously without ever realizing it. Another example is a moving company called Tantara which I first learned about during the Y2K job I did for General Motors/GMAC back in late ’98/early ’99. Saw their trucks everywhere once I was aware of them.

As for the new job it turns out I could have turned it down because the pay is less than 70% of what I was making at my previous job, but I decided to take it anyway for two reasons. First, it’ll still pay more than what I’m getting on unemployment and it’ll allow me to use the unclaimed weeks later. Second, it shows that I’m willing to work even if it’s not my ideal job.

Of course I’d rather just win the lotto and not work at all, but barring that happening anytime soon I’ll just keep my head in the job listings and hope someone will give me a chance to prove my abilities.