Who Knew There Was Actually a Third Verse?

This was the first Christmas that I have ever had to spend away from home.  Most of you know that I travel a lot so home has come to mean wherever my camper is parked and my wife is staying.  A number of the guys that have worked for me over the years would have called it missing Christmas, but to be perfectly fair, I didn’t miss Christmas, Christmas happened here just like it did all over the world; and because of a timely lesson and a generous family it was a good Christmas.  I was extremely blessed to have been invited to partake in a Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve, because while I did not get to spend Christmas with my family I still got to spend it with family. This was all the more a blessing because of the lesson God gave me on Monday.

Monday, during my prayer time God reminded me that I should desire the things that He desires.  This was nothing new to me, just a reminder; what was new was the connection I made between that and the fact that I am still here in Brazil.  It’s pretty clear that it is by God’s design that I am here, if it is by God’s design then it is His desire that I be here, that means I need to desire to be here.  Whoa!  Those were hard words to pray and it’s an even more difficult concept to live.  It’s not enough to simply have a good attitude about being here; I need to desire to be here.  My desire to be here shouldn’t be based on whether or not my family is here, or whether or not I get to eat my favorite foods or spend time with anyone special.  My desire to be here should be solely based on the fact that God wants me to be here; meaning if God desires me to be here, then I desire to be here.  Talk about learning whether or not I truly believe “My grace is enough.”

On Christmas Eve I attended a candlelight service at church and when I drove from Ipanema to Barra Tijuca on a Tuesday evening in 35 minutes I was shocked, that should have been an hour and a half drive!  The service was nice; we sang several Christmas carols interspersed with reading of the Scripture.  I was amused at how obvious my Baptist roots were since I only knew the first, second, and fourth verses of the four verse carols and only the first and third of the three verse carols.  I wasn’t aware that there were people in the world who actually sang those missing verses.

This week I happened across what is possibly one of the most cruel and sadistic things on the face of the planet: unpoppable bubble wrap.  Seriously.  It was designed in such a fashion that in a single row all the bubbles were connected, meaning that when you squeezed one bubble all of the air was forced into the adjacent chambers.  It is practically impossible to forcefully eject the air from the bubble groups leaving only stabbing it with a knife and burning it as viable alternatives and I tend to get in trouble for burning things.  It’s like this stuff was created for one specific purpose, pushing those who are bordering the edge of sanity right over the cliff; and we’re not talking about a gentle push, we’re talking like loading up the trebuchet and launching them into the abyss of insanity and paranoia.

I was reading a book this past week that used Rio de Janeiro as a stage for one of its scenes.  I was simultaneously impressed with the mention and mostly accurate description of the small and relatively unheard of suburbs and disappointed with the use of places that, for the most part, do not exist in Rio, like pool halls and internet cafes (to be clear, it’s not that these kinds of places are entirely unheard of, rather, they simply do not exist as described in the novel).  I was also miffed at the time frame given between getting off the plane and picking up the rental car; the whole time I kept thinking, seriously, have you ever tried to rent a car in Rio before?  All in all it left me a little disillusioned with one of my favorite authors because it would appear that his research is not as thorough as it always seemed before.

Underage Engineers

So Leslie gave me a gift before I left the States, this gift was comprised of one package containing two extremely large Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, to the tune of a half a pound each.  I am kind of conflicted about the fact that they made it through security when my tub of peanut butter did not.  The peanut butter filling in the center of these Reese’s Cups was probably equal to the quantity of “spreadable materials” found in a single tub of peanut butter so, did the TSA just miss it or have I been lied to my entire life by the fact that it’s not really peanut butter in the center of a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup?

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Is this real life?  Is this just fantasy?  Caught in a [peanut butter] mudslide.  [It’s my] escape from reality.

I’ll be honest, I look at this picture and it looks Photoshopped; it’s not, I promise.  Nor is it any kind of trick photography; that is a real life, honest-to-goodness Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup that happens to weigh half a pound.  Call it the Godzilla of Peanut Butter Cups.  And before you ask, no, I did not stick it in the toaster that happens to be in the bottom right hand corner of the picture, it wouldn’t fit.

I wound up concocting an interesting and surprisingly delicious drink this week.  I purchased two types juices earlier in the week when I went to the grocery store, orange and pineapple.  Brazilian orange juice tends to be a bit tart so I planned to mix the two whenever I drank them in order to cut the tartness of the OJ with the sweetness of the pineapple juice.  Wednesday, when I poured my first glass of orange juice I was surprised by its odd color, it looked like milk with an odd yellowish tinge.  The pineapple juice was even worse; it had the color of skim milk.  Disturbed by the color of these juices I took a closer look at the boxes; turns out I had purchased soy products.  Don’t ask me how you can have soy orange juice and soy pineapple juice.  Oh well, bottoms up.  I was quite pleased with the result.

I realized a couple of weeks ago that I had hit the one year mark on this newsletter and it is hard to believe everything that has changed over the past year.  I’m used to packing up all my stuff and moving once if not twice a year.  Finding new churches, making new friends, none of that is new to me, so for me to be amazed at the amount that has changed is really saying something.  To go from simply expecting to work in a foreign country, to having a pregnant wife and going to work in a foreign country is huge!  Now I have a son that is nearly 3 months old… and I’m still working in a foreign country.

I’m not one who will typically comment on someone’s youth especially in the workplace, mostly because I myself was hired into my current position at a very young age.  At one point I had a TA that refused to believe I was the site manager when I was introduced to him, he was convinced that someone was playing a practical joke on him.  Having met only one other person younger than myself in the entire industry, and no one within 8 years of me in my role, I thought I had become somewhat immune to being surprised by youth in the workplace.  I was disabused of that notion this week.  I have two TAs reporting to me from a company in China, and while I have not asked their age I’m not entirely certain they are even old enough to work inside the US.  The rest of my techs all refer to them affectionately as “the kids.”  As in, “who are the kids riding with to work today?” or “the kids did not seem very pleased that when I picked them up from school I was singing Bohemian Rhapsody at the top of my lungs.”

Other than my encounter with underage engineers and my creation of a new juice this week has been a fairly tame week… you know, at least it has been if you discount the fact that our customer is trying to cram 2 months’ worth of work into the final two weeks of the year, trying to hit project deadlines and all.  Personally I think it would be a lot more compelling if they weren’t taking off two days from Christmas, two days for New Years, and probably both weekends.

Parenting, The Ultimate Competition

It is frequently amazing to me when something noteworthy happens on Friday or Saturday (after  publish my newsletter) and then the following week when it comes time to write my newsletter I have the tendency to not include the event because it seems like it happened so long ago and “Surely I made reference to it last week.”  Anyway, last Saturday a lot of my extended family came down to visit Leslie and I and to put on Thanksgiving 2.0.  Okay, to be completely fair most of them came down to see Jack, whom they had not met as of yet.  Either way, the end result was that I got to enjoy a deep fried turkey, a slice of pumpkin pie, and the nearly world famous Christmas punch.

On Wednesday, Leslie and I had dinner with a couple that we met during one of her birthing/parenting preparation classes.  They’re a good fit for us because their son was born less than 24 hours after Jack and they seem to have shared a number of our own struggles.  As we talked about how their son (and ours) was progressing I came to the realization that this whole parenting thing takes my competitive nature to a whole new level.  “Oh, your son weighed 13.1lbs on Friday?  That’s cute, Jack hit 14 a couple of weeks ago.”  I’m starting to wonder how many parenting stories I’ve heard were actually just fish stories, i.e. “he was this big,” you know, where “this big” gets a little bigger every time you tell the story.   I swear, my son was 37lbs and nearly four feet fall when he was six months old.  Yeeeaaaah… I might have to keep an eye on that.

My flight back to Brazil was Thursday night and everything went pretty much as planned up until the point where my cab was supposed to pick me up at the house; it was all pretty much downhill after that.  I had called the cab company that morning and requested they send someone to be at the by 1900.  I began calling the cab company again at 1901 and really started getting worried when they put me on hold indefinitely after I gave them my number/address (it happened three times).  By 1920 I had Leslie and Jack packed into the truck and we were on our way to the airport.  Knowing that the McDonald’s in the airport did not serve sweet tea I had originally planned on swinging by Chick Fila for dinner to get my last fix… of course leaving 20 minutes late kind of threw that plan out the window.

Fortunately, as I was going through security the ever vigilant and watchful TSA was able to save the lives of myself and my fellow passengers when they prevented my “concealed” tub of potentially lethal peanut butter from getting through in my carryon bags.  I am aware that there are fairly strict regulations on what is allowed for liquids but apparently those regulations extend to “spreadable substances.”  Good thing to, I was terrified that the terrorists were going to take over my plane with a PB&J sandwich.  Well, there goes my hope of having peanut butter and waffles for my Christmas dinner.  UPDATE: I had dinner with an expat family who, upon hearing my plight, gave me a gigantic tub of peanut butter.  Christmas is back on!

An interesting side note about dinner Friday evening, I almost didn’t make it.  I’m staying at a different hotel than I usually do (whenever I stay in downtown Rio) and it was quite a bit further from their house.  Fortunately it was pretty easy directions, I simply had to walk a quarter of a block north then take a right and go another 20 blocks or so. When I left the hotel I started walking south!  Fortunately, I hadn’t gone very far before I realized my mistake and turned around, however my problems did not end there.  About halfway to their home I hit a patch of construction that I couldn’t walk around so I had to cut up the street a couple of blocks, this meant that the landmarks I had originally used to orient myself (when looking at the map).  As I formed the map in my head I was able to reorient those landmarks and continue on my path while trying to minimize any back and forth I would have to do.  Turns out I didn’t do such a good job on that, I overshot my last turn by about 3 blocks.  Guess that’s what I get for calling this section of Rio a checkerboard layout when that’s not an entirely accurate description.  Those side streets located at half block intervals (don’t argue with me about the concept of a “half block”) and roads that cut diagonal across the grid are killer!

DCIM100GOPRO

Saturday morning I had the opportunity to go hang gliding and it was incredible.  I’m sure part of it was the build up to the moment; I’ve actually been trying to go since late August but every time I have tried the wind, weather, or some other unfortunate occurrence has prevented me from doing so.  Saturday I had great wind and great weather for it and I had a blast.  For those of you who were concerned about my safety and well-being during this encounter, you can relax; I made it back to the ground in one piece and without sustaining any injuries to my person.

Injury Code PB0967XD, Choking on a Spoonful of Peanut Butter, Subsequent Encounter

As I sit here and type this I have realized my son may have inherited the best of two worlds, it would appear that while he shares my own taste in music he has fortunately taken after my wife’s sense of rhythm.  Those of you who know me understand why this is important, namely because I couldn’t carry a beat even if it was handed to me in a large bucket with a spill proof lid.

I included the picture below to demonstrate that ad placement matters, so few people understand this concept, when you don’t then you wind up with something like what can be seen below.

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Upon the day of my arrival I was again treated to the opportunity of seeing my son during a bowel movement.  One would think that eventually the humor behind this would dull, but my peals of laughter would seem to indicate otherwise; if anything it’s gotten even funnier.  It would appear that the law of diminishing returns does not apply to toilet humor, for a multitude of reasons, but primarily two; number one and number two.  I find it hilarious to see my wife running around the house carrying a child whose diaper is overflowing with a thick green paste roughly the same texture and color as military face paint.  After a certain point you realize that you don’t really have any option but to just throw him in the bath; there weren’t enough wet wipes in the world to cover Monday’s “incident.”  We still haven’t told L we used her green shower gloves as a containment barrier in the bath tub.

I’ve often been asked why I seem to avoid the political arena despite the wealth of humor it can provide, notwithstanding who is in office.  The answer is a relatively simple one; I firmly believe that everyone is entitled to their own opinion, regardless of how wrong yours may be.  But seriously, politics fascinate me because of the people.  It took me awhile to realize that some people are simply wired differently than I am, it’s not a matter of me being any smarter than they are; when they look at a problem they see it differently than I do.  This is interesting to me because it challenges the idea that common sense and “logic” are universal.  How is it that a perfectly reasonable and rational adult* can come to a completely different conclusion than I when presented with the same set of facts?  The only reasonable conclusion that I can come up with is that our minds work in completely different manners, i.e. we are wired differently, and that is fascinating to me.

*It is understood and acknowledged that there are vast quantities of people out there who partake in politics and are irrational and unreasonable, that encompasses those who share my beliefs and those whose beliefs are diametrically opposed to my own.  There are also numerous people who are simply ignorant or apathetic.  For the sake of discussion I will ignore all of these.

Now, having said all that I feel compelled to mention an interesting little tidbit I encountered earlier this year while perusing the list of new injury codes introduced by the ICD-10.  The ICD (International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems) is a medical classification system published by the WHO that allows doctors to provide a universal classification to an injury or illness.  This can be very useful in situations where a German doctor who doesn’t speak any English treats an American patient who will be travelling back to the US and continue being treated by an American doctor who doesn’t speak any German.  The German doctor, when filling out all the appropriate records will simply make a notation of the injury code that applies to the American patient, then any other doctor in the world and look up that code and instantly get a good picture of what the problem is.  Of course, I have greatly simplified matters here, but for the sake of understanding this is basically what happens.

As you can imagine, in order for this to be very useful it also has to be very extensive, after all, what good is a universal classification system that doesn’t provide an adequate description of your injury or illness?  However, after a certain point it starts to get a little ridiculous, we wind up with codes like W5922XD, the code for “struck by turtle, subsequent encounter” (this is not to be confused with having been bitten by a turtle, there is a separate code for that) or V9540XD, the code for an “unspecified spacecraft accident injuring the occupant, subsequent encounter.”  Both of these are real codes… statistically speaking you are more likely choke to death on a spoonful of peanut butter after having tripped over the living room rug.  There isn’t a code for that, I looked.

To tie this rabbit trail back into the topic of politics, as of October of 2014 doctors and insurance companies will be required by federal law to transition to ICD-10 from ICD-9.  This means that whatever your injury or illness, they’ve got you covered… unless you happen to be choking to death on a spoonful of peanut butter, then you might have to wait another 30 years until ICD-11 is adopted.

The 151st Psalm

I think I may have had what probably qualifies as the oddest Thanksgiving ever.  Originally I had planned on having a traditional Thanksgiving meal consisting of turkey, stuffing, sweet potato pie, and a nice glass of cold eggnog.  Of course, by turkey I mean waffles, by stuffing I mean peanut butter, by sweet potato pie I mean syrup, and by eggnog I mean chocolate milk.  Perfectly normal.  Instead I ended up at a Chinese restaurant down the street with all of my coworkers; the Brazilian version of Chinese food for Thanksgiving, nothing strange about that.  Off course, I probably should not neglect to mention that our orders consisted of almost entirely Japanese dishes, sushi and such… again, nothing strange about that.

Freezer

When we ordered dessert I made sure to specify that I wanted 3 scoops of ice cream with my chocolate lava cake.  This was a necessary precaution because in Brazil most restaurants have the tendency to place a single teeny tiny scoop of ice cream on what would, otherwise be a perfectly acceptable dessert dish.  It’s really kind of strange; I would think that most people would be able to see that such a small scoop of ice cream is clearly insufficient for a dessert of such chocolate magnitude.  Anyway, I had my back to the kitchen so when the waitress brought out the desserts one of my coworkers said, “Oh Derrik, you’re going to like this.”  I’m not quite certain what he meant by that, or why he said it.  I’m sure it wasn’t because she brought out a dish with three large scoops of ice cream, each larger than the single serving of lava cake place on the plate; and I highly doubt it was due to the fact that I polish off a pint of Haagen Dazs after lunch every day, not to mention that our freezer at work kind of looks like the picture above.  The funny thing is I haven’t even told this guy about the FRSSSICC scale.  Well, after dinner, as we were walking back to the hotel, another one of my coworkers asked if I considered myself an expert in the field of ice cream.  I snorted and simply replied, “You could say that.”

In honor of the Thanksgiving holiday I have rewritten the 23rd Psalm.  Please feel free to stand clear of me when you read this, I’ve heard that lightning never strikes the same place twice.

1The turkey is my main course,
I shall not want any more.
It makes me lie down on the couch;
It leads me to the stuffing.
It restores my soul;
It guides me in the paths of fullness
For it is deep fried.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of heartburn,
I will  fear no acid reflux, for Zantac 75 is with me;
Your box and your pill, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my family;
You have anointed my plate with sweet potato pie;
My cup runs over with punch.
Surely pumpkin pie and whipped cream will follow all the meals of my holiday,
And I will dwell in the house of my in-laws through the 30th.*

*Note: The last line originally read a little differently but I had a strange feeling my father-in-law might not appreciate the humor behind “And I will dwell in the house of my in-laws forever.” 

Have you ever had one of those times where you have said or written something incredibly funny but no one else seems to think you are quite as funny as you know you are?  Yea, me neither, but I have this friend…  But seriously, sometimes I think people must be seriously ill not to laugh at the stuff I come up with, perhaps they have a humorglobin deficiency in their blood.  HA!  Get it?  That’s funny because… oh forget it, you’re hopeless.

It is worth mentioning that I finally got my blog up and running.  It took a bit of fine tuning but I eventually got it to the point where I am comfortable using it as an additional platform for my newsletter distribution.  At this point I do not plan on stopping the usage of the PDF version as a few of my readers have mentioned that they prefer this method more, however I will start including the link to each new post every week in my email.  Feel free to share the link below with any of your friends or family.  Those of you who are more technically literate will realize that WordPress allows you to “Follow” my blog via email, meaning you will receive an email from WordPress every time I post a new entry.  I would encourage you to do so as eventually I will probably phase out the email from my own address.  In the meantime, if you do not wish to receive duplicate emails let me know and I will remove you from my distribution list.

2013 Archives (Pre Blog)

1-4-13 Newsletter – Assuming the Mantle

1-11-13 Newsletter – Illness or Something Like That

1-18-13 Newsletter – You Had One Job, Phil

1-25-13 Newsletter – Of Mice and (Lego)Men

2-1-13-Newsletter – Grow Up Already

2-8-13 Newsletter – What About President McCain

2-22-13 Newsletter – All Kinds of Weird Things

3-1-13 Newsletter – Well That..

3-8-13 Newsletter – Peanut Butter, ‘Nuff Said

3-15-13 Newsletter – Are You John Connor

3-22-13 Newsletter – Everyone Needs a Little Whoopi

3-29-13 Newsletter – Well That Was New

4-5-13 Newsletter – The Only Snow Flakes You’ll Ever See In Rio

4-12-13 Newsletter – French Fries and Mirror Fragments

4-19-13 Newsletter – That Would Be an Unpleasant Surprise

4-26-13 Newsletter – Avoid Dark Alleys and Clothing Shops with Creepy Mannequins

5-3-13 Newsletter – May the Fourth Be With You

5-10-13 Newsletter – What’s the Portuguese Word for Strike

5-17-13 Newsletter – Crazy Crepes

5-24-13 Newsletter – An Introduction to FRSSSICC

5-31-13 Newsletter – I was THIS Close

6-14-13 Newsletter – Wait, How Did I Get Stuck with That Name

6-28-13 Newsletter – Could I Interest You in a Hot Towel

7-5-13 Newsletter – The Hardest Part of These Newsletters is the Title

7-12-13 – Newsletter – Dorm Life Revisted

7-19-13 Newsletter – Part of a Completely Balanced Breakfast

7-26-13 Newsletter – Fatty Beef, Or So He Thought

8-2-13 Newsletter – My New Best Friend

8-9-13 Newsletter – Such a Good Influence

8-16-13 Newsletter – No Batman, You’re Not Allowed

8-23-13 Newsletter – More Poop Jokes

8-30-13 Newsletter – RKT Withdrawals

9-2-13 Newsletter – Nothin’ Much

9-13-13 Newsletter – Old Age and an Engineering Degree

9-20-13 Newsletter – Frogs in Space

9-27-13 Newsletter – Child Supply Agreement dated as of September 23, 2013

10-4-13 Newsletter – Containment Level Green, Change Protocol Delta

10-11-13 Newsletter – Pros and Cons

10-18-13 Newsletter – Could It All Be Over

10-25-13 Newsletter – Time Travel

11-1-13 Newsletter – A Smile and a Nod

11-8-13 Newsletter – Rated M for Mature, But Not Really, It Was Just a Catchy Title

11-15-13 Newsletter – My Life as a Minivan Mom

11-22-13 Newsletter – Your Dangling Participles Are Showing