You Drive Too Slow

My kids know it all too well, I drive too slow. When they were younger, they never complained about it. To them, I drove just perfectly.

It’s no secret to my wife, as well. Once, we arranged a weekend vacation to a holiday cottage together with some friends. “I’ll drive!” said she. “We don’t have all day to get there, and you don’t know how to put the pedal to the metal!” I’m not sure who that woman was/is? She looks vaguely familiar, but she doesn’t act the same as before. She (the one I remember) used to enjoy my driving.

Heck, I drove us across the USA in 1991. 12 weeks on the road visiting everything from National Parks to Graceland in Tennessee. I drove from California to Maryland, without one complaint.

My son now sees a lot of “Real Life Police Shows” on TV. He know how much it’ll cost me if I break the speed limit, fail to signal when turning, really anything involving traffic violations in Denmark – he knows everything about it. “How fast are you driving?”, he asks, “80 Kilometers an hour”, I reply, “And what is the speed limit here?”, he asks, ” 80 Kilometers an hour”, I reply. Silence now reigns from the backseat.

My daughter appears indifferent to everything that occurs. Except when we start off. “Turn on the radio”, she yells from the back. “Louder, I can’t hear anything from back here”. Then after a while, “Listen to whatever you like, I’m putting music in my ears”.

The kilometers roll on. I know if I’m lucky, on the way home I’ll have the car radio to myself. One by one they fall asleep. I now turn the radio to MW, which is sort of like AM radio in the States. 1269 is the frequency for Deutschland Funk – Radio in German. I won’t admit to understanding everything they say, but I find it just as relaxing as those Radio Preachers I used to listen to in the USA at night. Now I’m the one who gets to decide. Occasionally my wife wakes up. “Sorry, I just couldn’t keep my eyes open”. “It’s OK, I’ll wake you when we get closer to home”. My peace and quiet lasts until we enter the tunnel under the Limfjord Canal. Bright lights illuminate the tunnel, waking up the family. “Ow, are we home yet?” asks my son. “No, not yet, but it won’t be long”. Silence again from the backseat.

I sometimes think about driving through Los Angeles on Interstate 5. There were so many cars and equally as many turnoffs. I’m not sure if I could listen to Deutschland Funk in LA? My concentration levels would be taxed as it were, dodging in and out of those 5-lanes of traffic. Once my wife and I took my nieces to Disneyland. It had been a long haul, driving from Placerville to Los Angeles, 9 hours of sitting in a hot car. Temperatures reached easily into the 100s on an August day, and my car never had air-conditioning. I used to console the kids by playing games about upcoming fast food restaurants. In the distance we could see a group of signs, “Who’ll be the first to see…..?” We played that game all the way down the Central Valley. Finally around the Ridge route, we stopped at a rest area. Just a few hours to go and we’ll hit Los Angeles. “How long after that?” asked my niece. “At least another hour to Grandpa’s house”. Silence reigned from the backseat. Everyone fell into their own thoughts. Radio stations had a hard time staying put, driving over the Ridge route, they often disappeared off the dial.

Barren hills greeted us with nary a bush or tree in sight. I knew the route well, as I had often driven those 9 hours to and from LA. I used to take a cassette player with me, hooked into the cigarette lighter. Tapes filled the front of my pick-up among the junk food packages, and soft drink containers. Music or TV shows filled up those hours. I then would tune into the many Country-Western radio stations located in the valley. The Bakersfield ones were in the South, Fresno in the middle, then Sacramento in the North. I used to think about the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range, located somewhere off to the right concealed in the haze of the Central Valley.

Another highway with more character than I-5 ran almost parallel to it, just on the Eastern side of the Valley. Highway 99 ran through all the major cities and towns, unlike its newer and more barren brother, I-5. I remember it to be bumpy, narrow and extremely boring, but then most highways are like that wherever you might be. Nobody complained about my driving back then. Yes, it was hot and long, but that wasn’t my fault. Don’t shoot me I’m only the piano player.

My daughter got a ride with some older kids. She didn’t like it at all. “They drove way too fast, not like you Dad”. “I didn’t like it”. I might not be the sharpest tool in the shed, but I interpret that as, “She likes my driving”. Now if I could only convince that woman, who resembles my wife of long ago, that I do a good job of driving in Denmark.

Only not too fast.


Leaning Up Against My Dog

My daughter wanted a dog. We’ve had a rabbit who died, and canaries who flew the coop. A dog was something else. The house was a shambles due to a major re-haul. The tradesmen made the room-addition, while I did the deed on the rest of the house.

“When do we get that dog?”, asked my daughter. I replied, “When we’re finished with the house”. From January to December my leisure time turned into house-time. My vacation was non-existent, as was my patience. As we approached the end of the year, my daughter could see an end to our project.

“Is it now?” she asked. Yes, it was now. We searched the Internet for a suitable race. I even took a test which would determine the best dog for our lifestyle. “How much time, will you allow for walking the dog?”. It seemed that no matter, which answer I selected, no dog would be suitable for us. The choice finally came down to a St Charles or a Poodle. The Poodle won out.

Our dog was not a big dog, but as with babies, we could console ourselves with the thought that he would grow bigger with time. Three (3) kilos. That is his weight. 3 kilos and after 7 years, that will be his adult weight.

My daughter asked a new question, “When Otto dies, I want a larger dog!” It was her choice to get a smaller dog, as she didn’t care for dogs who jumped up and almost knocked her down. Well, it seems that toy poodles have an average lifespan of 15 years!

Larger dogs are just that, larger. When a larger dog jumps onto the sofa or bed, you know that it is there. When Otto jumps up in bed, there is a smaller “puff” as he curls up at our feet. I’ve seen people lean up against their “larger” dogs, sometimes without moving the dog at all. I’m afraid, if I did that with Otto, my daughter might get her wish before Otto reached his 15th year.

That’s why our dog is not a leaner!DSC00419

Right Triangles and Spaceships to Pluto

Mathematics and I have been strange bedfellows. I seem to recall that I started out good, then turned lousy, and in the end I was neither the one or the other. I yearned deep down to master the subject, but lacking in the belief that I could, held me back from achieving greatness. i could theoretically have designed a spaceship to Pluto, but then not even my wildest fantasies would allow such a thought. At one of the many Universities/Junior College/State College in California I’ve attended, I was required to take a number of courses in increasingly difficult Mathematics. I was pretty good at convincing myself that I would never every be good at Math, just like I would never be able to learn another language. Famous last words…

I was bothered by the fact that Mathematics needed to be proven, before continuing to the next level. One of my teachers in Trigonometry used a whole class hour showing us how he would be able to transport a long pipe, down a hall, and round the corner using numbers and symbols. He did, however, run into a number of problems with the “Proof” and  had to take the problem home with him. The next time we attended his class, he triumphantly revealed what had stymied him, and showed us how applied mathematics could/would work!

My troubles were far from being solved when I needed to re-take a class no less than 3 times in order to pass the course. I felt, at that point in time that my course of study was useless and chose to drop out for a while. My last attempt at “Higher Education” was in 1983 when, after struggling with falling grades and rising costs, I finally threw in the towel, as it were, with Math.

A lifetime later, I found myself in Denmark working at a building store. I find the work to be pleasant enough, and have now been employed at the same store for the last 17 years. Mathematics have though followed me here as well. in my line of work I need to calculate square footage (measured in meters) and the like. Applied math in the real world does work, but it was about to take a turn for the worse.

I constructed a patio in my backyard with a plastic roof. I measured and I constructed with all going rather well, that is until I needed to mount the roof. The roof panels being long rectangles just wouldn’t fit to the shape of the roof. Either they were too long, or too short. I ended up explaining my dilemma to a trained carpenter at the building store. “Didn’t you use a right triangle, also known as a 3x4x5 right triangle.” “No, I did not”, as i believed that my building techniques were satisfactory, but unfortunately, my lack of right triangles had finally caught up with me.

My lack of having a 3x4x5 roof was not the end of the world. I might, though, have become the laughing stock of the world, if my Pluto spacecraft failed to flyby its destination, because I had failed a Trigonometry class in my past. I still believe that we learn best by our failures. I have repeated my experiences many times to others, so we at least can have a good laugh when things go wrong. Now everyone can learn by my mistakes.

If I hadn’t failed at Math those many years ago, I would never have been able to draw parallels from the past to the present. I still wish I could have “aced” Mathematics those many years ago. My life could have taken another direction, with other goals, other people and other destinations than Denmark. I might never have moved here, started a family, been married for 27 years, never had a 3 kg poodle! I might never have had the crazy idea to write this blog, which means that you wouldn’t be reading it right now.

All of that due to Spaceships to Pluto and Right Triangles…