Friday, 16 March 2012

Goodbye old Friend

Hello readers. I know I have not posted in a while, and to those regular readers, I do apologize. I have been quite busy with school and work, and a number of other side projects which manage to consume all my free time. Seeing as how you are reading my blog, you have probably gained a little insight into my personal and family life, I thought I would share a little more with you: this week, my family suffered a tragic loss, as our long-time family dog passed away suddenly. We had Simba for close to fourteen years (half my life), and his sudden passing has hit not only us, but all those that knew him well particularly hard (this is actually very hard for me, so please bear with me). A good friend of mine told me that to feel sadness over the loss of a loved one is completely normal, and that instead of internalizing the pain over the loss of my friend, I should rather try and express the joy that he made me, and so many others feel. The following is my open-letter to my dog:

Dear Simba,

Fourteen years. That is one heck of a run for a big old Labrador like you. People told us we were pushing our luck with you when you reached ten years old...well we sure showed them. I still remember the day I brought you home with mom: you were the runt of the litter and you fit inside a shoe box, and we never imagined you would grow to be a 90lbs behemoth...but life has a funny sense of humor like that. You quickly became a sensation around the neighborhood, as the cutest puppy around, and I quickly put that to good use by taking you on long walks to try and meet girls (you always were a good team player).

I was just thinking about the time when mom and dad left a pot of semi-cooked ground  beef out on the porch to cool, and then forgot about it. Well you certainly didn't as you ate about 5lbs of half-cooked beef, and gave yourself indigestion for the next two days. I remember we found you lying in the grass, looking drunk, with a bloated belly...I'm sure it was totally worth it!

It's funny how everyday things have started to remind me of you: sitting at the dinner table will never be the same again, as you always used to peak your snout up from underneath the table to see if there was anything interesting at the table...our canine submarine. I remember how you used to sit with me having breakfast, because I always let you lick the inside of the yogurt containers once I was done. Or how it was always your job to bring in the newspaper, and even if someone had already done it, we would still put it back outside so you could bring it in again.

Remember how you used to be the scourge of dog parks? You used to steal everyone's tennis balls...I remember the time you managed to fit three tennis balls in your mouth, and refused to give them back. You just wanted people to play with you, and got everybody to chase you down.

How many concussions did you almost give us all? Running and pulling too hard on the leash in winter...that was an almost dragged dad into a ravine on Mount-Royal chasing down a squirrel.

Well Simba, I suppose it is time to say goodbye. You died on a Thursday, falling asleep and never waking up again. You left this world just like you lived your life, on your terms. Once you had had enough, you said, that's enough for me, i'm going to go to sleep now. A true testament to your character. You were the most misbehaved dog, but you were our dog. You were a member of the family, and now you are gone. I suppose we will all have to get used to the idea of a life without you...but not too soon I hope.

I know that wherever you are now, you are running wild and free, chasing cats and squirrels, and making friends with everyone you meet. 

Goodbye old friend. You are gone, but never forgotten.

Simba de Janeiro Galve, 1998-2012
Dog, Friend, Companion

Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Television Wars...Episode II...Escalation

Hello readers. I hope you all enjoyed last week's post on my dad and dealing with the was a good laugh and definitely high up there in terms of crazy and ridiculous things my dad has done. Well, that brings me to the topic of this week's post, the continuation of Television Wars, and seeing just how nuts my parents can get when faced with a particularly prickly situation. So where did we leave off last time? Oh right, my parents thought they could get us to stop watching the Simpsons by running around the house changing the time on all the clocks. Well the solution was short-lived, and was about as effective in dealing with our television addiction as trying to plug a crack in a dyke with your finger...there were bigger issues to address here. My parents knew that they could not watch my brother and I every minute of the day, and the second they took their eyes off of us, we would be watching TV...doesn't really matter what was could've been infomercials on exercise equipment (I've actually watched those as a kid) for all we cared...we just liked watching television. Seeing as the television wars were just starting to heat up, and my parents were dealing with an unconventional enemy that could not be reasoned with, they decided to fight fire with fire and escalate the level of crazy. Thus I give you "Television Wars...Episode II...Escalation". 

Before I go any further in this story, please rest assured that what you are about to read is 100% accurate and requires no embellishment (although most people think I am making this up upon first hearing it). So now that everybody has been sufficiently warned, and if you have read this far, you are probably wondering what on earth my dad could've thought up to escalate this little conflict: well, I will tell you. My dad actually reverse-engineered his problem to come up with a solution. Allow me to explain: 

Problem: an inability to keep children from turning on television 
Variables: television addicted children 
Desired outcome: keep children from watching too much television 

The problem in obtaining your desired outcome is that you cannot control the variables which are proving quite uncontrollable, in this case the children which you cannot stop from turning on the television. So, my dad being the unconventional thinker that he was, decided to rethink this little problem as follows: 

Problem: an inability to keep children from turning on television 
Variables: television being turned on 
Desired outcome: keep television from being turned on by children 

You see what he did? It’s subtle but effective. He thought that if he could not keep us from turning on the television, he would simply keep the television from being turned on. But you're probably thinking to yourself "Daniel that is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard. How would you do that?" How indeed?! And therein lies the genius of his ridiculous solution, and the bane of my childhood experience. My dad decided to build something that I would later describe as a medieval torture device (no, no, I'm just kidding...nobody was tortured, at least not physically...but I did hate that thing): I guess it can only be described as a locking box in which you would place the television's electrical plug, thus denying the television the ability to turn on, and more importantly keeping my brother and I from watching it. See, I know you don't believe me, so I've provided a little photographic proof, and believe me, this thing is all too real.  

Old "Snappy" getting ready for action

Snappy doing what he does best

Locked and loaded and ready to crush spirits!
Two pieces of scrap wood, two hinges, eight screws, two eye loop screws, one lock, and about an hour's worth of work were all it took to build this little monster and escalate the television wars to a whole new level of crazy. It's gone by many names over the years, but here are some of my favorites: 'Snappy', 'The box', 'The thing', 'The spirit crusher'...okay, I made that last one up, but that is what it felt like. It was a very defeating feeling to see that thing placed on the television plug and not be able to watch your 'good  friend'. My parents watched with glee as the balance of power shifted back in their favor and they regained the initiative. They watched us shake that thing for hours like a bunch of monkeys trying to open a coconut, trying to find some sort of weakness, a flaw that we could exploit, and thought to themselves, "check-mate and goodnight...this game is over...we just went nuclear!" Well, we were pretty defeated for a while, and for a moment there, it looked like my parents had won; but I'll tell you one thing, like our parents, my brother and I are not quitters, and when faced with this completely ridiculous and unconventional problem, we dug in our heels, put our heads together and decided to come up with solutions to get around this thing. Little did we know that this little act of escalation in the television wars was but the first chapter in an adventure that would span over a decade, and provide us with countless laughs and stories to tell, that in the end, it was probably more entertaining than anything that could have been on TV at the time.  

I've actually decided to keep the television box as a little souvenir but also as a source of inspiration:  sometimes the most insurmountable problems in life have the simplest and most ridiculous solutions. Besides, it makes for a really great conversation starter and people usually don't believe me until I show it to them.  

If you like to read my blog, please be sure to follow me on twitter, @Daniel_Galve    
You can also subscribe for regular updates through my blog, or sign up for the RSS feed.  
Don't forget to also check out some of my past blog posts for more great stories on my dad's ridiculous adventures.  

Be sure to read look out for next week's post, "Television Wars...Episode III...The children strike back", as my brother and I set our minds to trying to break the puzzle of "The box" and best our parents.  

Stay tuned for more.   


Wednesday, 22 February 2012

My dad on dealing with the bank...and his views on the financial crisis

Hello readers. I hope you all had a pleasant Valentine's Day, filled with gifts, flowers and lots of love...and if you didn't, well you probably just haven't found anybody good enough for you yet, and Valentine's Day is for chumps anyways. My Valentine's Day was somewhat less then enjoyable, as it involved flowers not being delivered to a very disappointed girlfriend, and a lengthy battle with customer service agents to get satisfaction. Well, long story short, the floral company (let's not name any names here, but let's just say their initials could stand for "Failure To Deliver") finally made it up to me, but not after a number of nasty facebook posts, abrasive tweets, and countless emails to customer service. However through all this insanity and frustration, I found the inspiration for this week's post, as I decided to take a little lesson out of my dad's hand-book on dealing with large corporations and their customer service departments, and get creative in my approach.  

For some thrill seeking people, blood sport involves hunting, bare-knuckle boxing, or some other form of primal combat: but for my dad, those things are pass-times for boys, and real sport involves going one-on-one with customer service departments. I actually dread having to call customer service help-lines, come on, it's a drag...but my dad...well, he not only enjoys it...he relishes in the challenge of dealing with countless layers of customer support, and seeing how far he can escalate his call. Some of you are probably thinking, "this man is crazy...who in their right mind enjoys calling customer service, and wasting their time?". Rightfully so. And you're not alone...I think the same thing on a regular basis when my dad tells me his latest plans for a renewed offensive against the satellite television provider. And that's the thing, most large companies figure that if they make their customer service departments big enough, with sufficient layers of escalation, they can discourage most callers into giving the actual benefit vs time lost on the phone is so insignificant that nobody in their right mind would continue playing this little game (they say the average person begins to lose patience on the phone after 7 minutes, will hang up after 9 minutes, and most calls are answered after an average wait time of 12 minutes...pretty sneaky right?). Well, they did not count on going up against my dad, a man who once spent over three hours on the phone with the same customer service agent, and when questioned by said customer service agent as to why he had wasted so much of his time on the phone, my dad simply replied: "because I am semi-retired, and have all the time in the world...besides, I like talking to you." You see what we are dealing with here? This is a man who lives for this sort of crazy thing, and is not governed by the same rules of logic as you or I. 

I suppose that is enough background information on my dad's favorite pass-time of tormenting customer service agents, so let's get on to the main event, how my dad dealt with the bank, and his views on the global financial crisis. This story goes back about three years, as the global economic crisis was in full effect, and financial institutions were shutting the flow of credit to their clients, and increasing interest rates on loans to try and cover their losses. One thing you should know about my dad: he is a very loyal guy. If he likes you, he'll give you all his business, and will stick with you through thick and thin. But if you try and cheat him, he'll make you pay for it tenfold, and will never forgive you. That's just the way he is...he's old-school like that. Well one day, as the global credit crunch was in full force, my dad got a kindly-worded letter from his bank telling him that due to the worsening global situation, the interest rate on his line of credit would be increasing by 2%. As you can imagine, and unwarranted increase on his line of credit interest rate was not the sort of thing that would put my dad in a good mood. To add insult to injury, the letter concluded by saying the following: "in these difficult times, we ask all of our valued clients to make sacrifices. Please be assured that we value your business". Well, if he wasn't mad before, he sure was now. And I can't blame him. I would be fuming at this point. Now this is where the story gets fun: after ranting for over two hours on how all banks were thieves and that they had no right to raise the interest rate on a "valued customer" such as himself (they did after all refer to him as one in their letter), I eventually found out that my dad did not even use his line of credit. Well, I tried to reason with him and tell him that it was not worth getting into a fight over, but true to his nature, he felt it was a matter of principle and that he was being unfairly treated (perhaps even being taken advantage of - according to him, people are more likely to try and take advantage of him because he is an immigrant and speaks with an me, it's true...but that's a story for another time). There was no reasoning with him, and he was inconsolable: he wanted his old interest rate back, on his line of credit he never try reasoning with that.  

When you think about it, my dad was right to be angry, as big corporations pull this sort of thing all the time on unsuspecting clients...and most of time, people can't be bothered to do something about it. Well my dad did something about it, and believe me, this is the sort of thing that either borders on crazy, or decide. 

After an initial round of telephone calls to the bank's customer service department, and getting unsatisfactory answers, my dad really started to lose patience, and my mom suggested that perhaps he should simply give up. Yeah, that wasn't going to happen. You see he was already in too deep, and it was now a matter of pride. In his mind, he was standing up for the little guy who gets pushed it what you want, I just think he was bored that day. Anyways, after having vented his frustrations on a fourth level of customer service, and not getting anywhere, my dad decided to pull out his favorite weapon in the arsenal...a personal letter to the bank: "lovingly" dictated by my dad, and diligently transcribed and 'edited' by my mom (by edited, I mean removing all the profanities, and making the letter appropriate to read). Well my mom does not like writing these sorts of letters, but she had to bite the bullet on this one, because dad was on the war-path, and there was no changing his mind. Below are extracts from the letter he sent to the Canadian Vice-President of credit services from his bank. 

Dear Mr. so and so, 

I would like to thank you for your kind letter […] informing me of my status as a valued customer with your bank. It is so nice to receive this sort of validation after close to twenty years of loyal business. […] I was quite distressed to learn that you had unilaterally decided to raise the interest rate on my line of credit. I am all the more saddened by the fact that you did not contact me prior to this unwarranted increase, as I may have been amenable to a slight increase, after all I am a shareholder in your bank, and I too believe that we must all make sacrifices in these trying times. […] It is this point of sacrifice that I would like to stress to you: you try and rationalize this interest rate increase to me by saying that the economic crisis is worsening and that sacrifices must be made. I agree. Sacrifices must be made, and someone must pay. But I believe it is immoral, and frankly criminal to force everyday people, such as myself, who are suffering from this global crisis to pay for a problem that was created by the irresponsible practices of financial institutions such as yours. I do not believe that I should be made to pay for a problem that is not of my own making: seeing as how this is a problem of your creation, I suggest you put your brightest financial minds to work and try to repair this situation, instead of trying to gauge honest hard working people. 

Please rest assured that I value being your customer. 

Sure enough, guess what came in the mail a week later? That's right, a personal letter from the VP himself apologizing for the situation, with an adjustment and reduction in the interest rate. The VP was even kind enough to personally call my dad for a quick chat and reassure my dad that they really did value his business: my dad reassured him that he was satisfied and even offered up some advice on how to resolve the financial crisis.  

Well, my dad still has that letter. I think he even framed it. He still uses that letter for inspiration whenever he feels like he's been cheated, and needs to pick another fight with a large corporation (that happens a lot). 

I don't know if there is any real philosophical life lesson in all this...but it's one funny story, and just goes to show you, that if you don't ask, you don't matter how ridiculously you ask. 

If you like to read my blog, please be sure to follow me on twitter, @Daniel_Galve   
You can also subscribe for regular updates through my blog, or sign up for the RSS feed. 
Don't forget to also check out some of my past blog posts for more great stories on my dad's ridiculous adventures. 

Be sure to look out for next week's post, "Television Wars...Episode II...Escalation", as things start to get a little nuts in our family.

Stay tuned for more.  


Friday, 17 February 2012

Valentine's Day lessons and upcoming attractions

Hello readers. I thought I would give you all a little update about what has been going with in my life lately. It's been a pretty action-packed week as I tried to study for my mid-term and prepare for Valentine's Day. Well I think the midterm went well, but I unfortunately cannot say the same for my Valentine's Day. For those of you who have been following my facebook and twitter updates, you will know that I am in a little ongoing saga with a certain flower delivery company. Well, long story short, they made it right, but unfortunately the damage was done, and a certain special someone in my life did not get flowers delivered to their office on Valentine's Day. But there is a little silver lining to this whole story: the sound advice of Professors T and G, helped me gain satisfaction in this matter. You see sometimes, simply calling customer service to complain does not work, and you have to get a little creative in your thinking, much like my dad in next week's post. What I had to do in this case was employ a very aggressive social media campaign to make the floral company understand that what they had done was unacceptable and that I wanted to be compensated. 

In the end, I got two things out of this little adventure: firstly I got a lovely compensation bouquet and gift card, both free of charge, and secondly, the inspiration for next week's post, "My dad on dealing with the bank's customer service, and his views on the financial crisis". Believe me, even if you think you have my dad figured out, this upcoming story will change all that. If you thought you were good with customer service agents, this will make you look like an amateur. Trust me, I didn't even believe it until I saw the proof.

So there you have it, a little teaser about next week's post and a look into my personal life. For those of you who are wondering about my series on "Television Wars", don't worry, "Episode II, Escalation" is in the works and should be posted soon. 

If you like to read my blog, please be sure to follow me on twitter, @Daniel_Galve  
You can also subscribe for regular updates through my blog, or sign up for the RSS feed.

Stay tuned for more. 


Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Television Wars...Episode I...First Blood is drawn

Hello readers. It's been a pretty busy week for me: I've been trying to balance a number of school, work and personal projects, all the while trying to find the time to write my blog posts. Fortunately, my mom and dad are a constant source of inspiration and I never really have to worry about what to write. This week's post is one that promises to be particularly entertaining, as everyone who hears this story thinks it is the most ridiculous/hilarious thing they have ever heard. Considering this tale takes place over several years, and is too long to tell in one sitting, I thought I would break it down into a series entitled "Television Wars".  So without further ado, I give you "Television Wars...Episode I...First Blood is drawn": so raise your seat backs, stow your folding tables, buckle your seats belt, and get ready for a ride on the crazy express that has been my childhood experience.  

The inspiration for this little trip down memory lane came to me last weekend as I was trying to sleep-in and as my dad was trying to ruin my weekend: you see my dad has the very unpleasant habit of calling me when I am half asleep, and then proceed to berate me because I don't answer the phone properly (quite ironic when you consider he did not even say hello and just proceeded to verbally abuse me). As I was saying, the reason for this particular phone call was that he wanted me to record a documentary for him on my PVR (personal video recorder) that coming Sunday night. Well, being as quick witted as possible, given the lack of sleep and absence of caffeine in my system, I managed to formulate the following response, "why?". Naturally his response was just as clever, "because I want to watch it genius!". Okay, now there is too much going on for my brain to process, and I decide that I will not be getting back to bed. I then proceed to tell my dad that he has a television at home, and being semi-retired, he now has the freedom to watch television whenever he wants. And that's when it hits me! I had my inspiration...the freedom to watch television when you wanted (it will all make sense later). He then went on a long-winded tirade about my education, and how my mom always undermines tell you the truth, I was not really listening, as I was busy taking notes for this week's post on the epic television wars of my youth. You see, some people say that conflict defines society: it demands technological development, and requires thinkers to develop new tactics and strategies. Well I don't know how useful armed conflict is to society, but I do know that this ridiculous little conflict sure got out of hand quickly and taught my brother and I a thing or two about how to overcome insurmountable obstacles in life.  

So here's a little background information about my brother and I: we love television...a lot! It doesn't matter what's on TV, we just feel the need to watch it. It's not that we have addictive personalities, it's just that we think television is the greatest thing in the world. Well, as I'm sure you've guessed, we used to watch a lot of television as kids: so much so that my mom and dad had to begin thinking of ways to keep us from watching it. Well for every television-blocking effort my parent enabled, my brother and I thought up of an effective counter-measure. Thus begins the tale of Television Wars.

You see, simply telling us that we could not watch television was not a suitable solution: we just wouldn’t listen. Our favorite tactic was the lookout: we would take turns watching TV, whilst the other served as lookout...crude, but effective. So, conventional discipline really did not work with us, and I don't think my parents had the patience to be watching a bunch of troublemaking children every second of every day. They say that necessity is the mother of all innovation, and in this case, my parents had a big need to keep us from watching television, and their solution was quite innovative (parents take note here). It was the late 80's, and my brother and I were absolutely addicted to watching the Simpsons (now that I think about it, not the best thing to be watching at such a young age...but anyways). My mom and dad hated the Simpsons...and when I say hate...I mean really hate. They thought it was a terrible influence...and you know what? It probably was. So as I was saying, just telling us that we could not watch, was not sufficient, and so my parents would have to start thinking creatively here. Remember how creative my dad got when it came to resolving a dispute withhis neighbor? Well that should serve as a little indicator of what came next on the crazy scale.  

Dad: We can't keep them from watching the Simpsons...they won't listen. 
Mom: So what do we do? 
Dad: Well we can't take the show off the air...and they always know when it's on. 
Mom: What if we make sure they never know when it's on?
Dad: How so?
Mom: You'll see.

What happened next is nothing short of genius. My parents had the brilliant/stupidly simple idea (remember the necessity to innovation relationship?) of running around the house changing all the clocks, and making them an hour slow every week before the Simpsons. Now because we knew the Simpsons were always on at eight o'clock, sure enough, we would look at the kitchen clock and run over to the TV to watch our show. The problem was that it was actually nine o'clock, and we had missed our show. Not understanding why, we would look in the TV listings trying to figure it out. My parents, looking quite satisfied with themselves, would just look at us and say "Sorry, I guess they cancelled it". Yeah right! We didn't believe that for a second, but we just couldn't understand what was happening, or how they had managed to outsmart us. My dad would then try to attribute the radical shifts in the duration of days to daylight-savings time which occurred once a week, not twice a year. I guess it made sense to a six year old, but something was still not right here. 

Well my brother and I eventually caught on to their little ploy when they accidentally missed one clock in the house, and the whole time-paradox/daylight-savings time scheme fell apart. My brother and I learnt a valuable lesson that day: we quickly learnt how to read time on a standard clock, and we both made sure we always wore a watch. Needless to say, the first shots in the television wars had been fired, a conflict that would span ten years, and teach me skills as diverse as picking a lock, using extremely large power tools, and concealing a television in a closet. In this war of attrition that would pit parents against children, there was no looking back, and surrender was not an option. First blood had been drawn, and this thing was about to get out of hand...way out of hand...because all my parents could do was escalate to some new ridiculous extreme, and all we could do was respond in kind.  

So, buckle's about to get all sorts of crazy around here as we move into the escalation phase of Television Wars, and my parents go nuclear. 

If you like to read my blog, please be sure to follow me on twitter, @Daniel_Galve  
You can also subscribe for regular updates through my blog, or sign up for the RSS feed. (Please, nobody tell my dad what an RSS feed is...I can't deal with another migraine) 

Stay tuned for more. 


Thursday, 9 February 2012

Coming attractions...and a few corrections

Hello everyone. I thought I would give all a little preview of some of the stories I have coming up. But before I get into that, I feel a small correction is in order. I must admit, that having gotten caught in retelling my father's adventures, I may have forgotten to mention a few people. You see this particular omission pertains to my post on how my dad deals with conflict resolution, and moving mountains: this past Sunday, whilst watching the Super Bowl at my brother's house, a good friend of mine, Jules (who defines his line of work as waste management) came up to me and said "hey, nice blog. But where the hell am I in all this?!?!" It's true, it's my fault, because you see Jules is a pretty huge guy, and has an equally big heart. He is the kind of friend who has no problem dropping everything at a moment's notice to help you out...even if helping you involves moving forty tons of earth. And when I mentioned this accidental omission to my parents, they agreed, and my father even commented, "I actually like Jules more than you...he doesn't complain as much!" Thanks mom and dad, really feeling the love here. But it's true. I am sorry that I forgot to mention my good friend Jules. But I feel this is an appropriate introduction to that big old ox, as he will be a central character in a number of upcoming stories, involving my dad and unsolicited home renovations/demolitions. Those upcoming stories will also serve as the perfect backdrop to introduce another important person in my life, my good friend and sister-in-law, and how she deals with stress.

So I also promised you some upcoming attractions: next week's post will actually be the first in a series of many, entitled "Television Wars". You see this particular tale on my dad's crazy/visionary out of the box thinking (you'd be surprised how often those two go hand-in-hand...maybe my dad is right, and he is one of the great minds of our time...and maybe my mom is right, and he simply likes the sound of his own voice...time will tell I suppose) is spread out over many years and too long to tell in a single post. So sit down buckle up, and get ready for a ride on the crazy express. Trust me, I could not be making this stuff up.

Be sure to follow me on twitter @Daniel_Galve

Please leave feedback and commentary. My dad is very excited by the prospect of imparting his wisdom onto the world.

Stay tuned.


Tuesday, 7 February 2012

My dad on my education...and how he discovered the syphon system

Hello readers. It occured to me that before I dive into this week's post, I suppose I should give you a little introduction to the people that are the inspiration for this blog, my family. You see, although this blog is named after my dad and all the ridiculous things he says and does, it is equally dedicated to my mother and brother, who have proved an invaluable source of inspiration in this little endeavour of mine, and can relate to all these ridiculous stories.  

You see, the story begins in Montreal in the mid 1970s: Mom came over from Mexico for the 1976 summer Olympics, and Dad quite literally stepped off a boat. Now I know what you are thinking, but it's not in the way you might imagine: he was actually working on a cruise ship at the time, and he and some friends thought Montreal during the Olympics would be a fun place to meet some girls. Well I guess I'll save the story of how they met for another time (believe me it's a really great story, and one my mom will surely be glad to contribute to), but moving things on a little bit, they were soon thereafter married, and my brother and I quickly followed to 'brighten' up their lives. Or as my dad so eloquently puts it, uselessly waste his money, steal his stuff, and slowly kill him by leaving the refrigerator door open. But for anybody who knows him well enough, and as my mom will tell you, these are simply terms of endearment (very important to know, as my dad sometimes expresses his feelings in less then orthodox ways). 

From left to right, myself, dad, mom, and my brother Carlos, circa 1984 

So remember last week's post? It's the one on how my dad deals with conflict resolution, and moving mountains. Well if you haven'tread it yet, it's a really great story on how creative/crazy my dad can get when it comes to resolving conflicts. Anyways, back to my original point: the way in which my father dealt with the yearly floods that devastated our backyard, was to employ a fairly simple but extremely effective syphon system to drain the flood waters. For those of you who don't know, a syphon is a tube in an inverted U shape which causes a liquid to flow uphill, above the surface of the reservoir, without pumps, powered by the fall of the liquid as it flows down the tube under the pull of gravity, and is discharged at a level lower than the surface of the reservoir. Sounds pretty technical right? Well it's actually ridiculously simple. In fact so simple that one day a few years back when I was curious about the whole process, and asked my dad how the drainage system worked, he proceeded to berate me for his perceived view of my general lack of knowledge. You see, when my dad is frustrated with my brother and I, he'll usually yell at us for a while, and then engage himself in conversation, asking why oh why he spent so much of his hard earned money on two ignoramus sons who don't know anything about anything. Now you see, it doesn't take much to be on the receiving end of my dad's humorous tirades on education, and this can range from cracking a joke at the dinner table that he does not understand, to not replacing an empty carton of milk in the's like some sort of lottery where nobody wins and everybody just never know! So what was I talking about again? Oh right. I had just made the mistake of asking my dad how the syphon system worked. So after a particularly good rant about how I wasn't learning anything useful in university, and that maybe a good hammer to the head might knock something useful into my brain (you see, strangely, for some reason, my dad thinks hammers solve all problems), he proceeded to tell me how when he was a boy back in his village in Spain, he only went to school until the age of twelve, and would learn everything he knew, and in this case, the fluid dynamics of a syphon system, through shear life experience.  

And you know what, those few years of school, coupled with a lifetime of real-world education have made him one of the cleverest and quickest people I know (don't believe me? Ask the good people at Bell ExpressVu Television customer service...he's on their abusive client list, and usually gets what he wants on the first call). But don't tell him that, because it will go straight to his head, and we'll never hear the end of it. See I know what you are're are probably saying to yourself, "but Daniel, he can just read your blog, and he'll know all these wonderful things you are saying about him". Fair assumption, but I thought of that too. I actually hid the link to my blog on my parent's web browser in my mom's tai chi favorites folder. I should be safe for a while.  

So as I was saying (I seem to get sidetracked a lot lately...reminds me of Sunday night dinner, where one topic of conversation usually spins off into seven completely unrelated, independent and simultaneous conversations...) the story of how my dad discovered how the syphon system works is a great one. Let's take a little trip through space and time back to Spain in the late 1950's. My dad grew up in one of those typical mountain villages you read about in books, with picturesque views and two lovely places of worship, the church, and the local tavern. Well from a young age, my dad was not a church going man, but he sure liked that tavern: you see back in those days, taverns in small villages were the place to see your friends, to close deals, socialize, play cards, and generally have a good time. Being a natural troublemaker and a gifted story teller, my dad usually found an audience to entertain at the local watering hole, and he and his friends could always be found there. But as entertaining as my dad was to the local patrons, the owner of the bar was less then pleased to have a bunch of thirteen year old boys hanging around. It also didn't help that the village priest and some of the local women threatened the barkeep with bodily harm if he did not expel the children from his establishment. So as the story goes, my father and all the local children were promptly kicked out of the bar and left without a place to meet. Well one day, my dad, his friend Sergio, and his younger cousin Paco, were wandering the streets bored, looking for something to do, when they came upon the rear courtyard of the local bar. What they found would be an alcoholic's dream: cases upon cases of liquor and enormous one hundred gallon barrels of red wine. Well you try telling a bunch of troublemaking teenagers not to play with a limitless supply of's like telling the sun not to can try, but it's just not going to happen. So, my dad being the leader of the group, decided a nice way to start their little party would be to drink some red wine. He made quick work of climbing to the top of the barrel (which was over six feet tall) and rigged a rubber hose into the opening and passed it down to Sergio and Paco. You see the reasoning was sound: think of the barrel as a giant glass, and the hose as a giant drinking straw. Well my dad took the first drink, and was quite pleased with the result. He then passed it on to Sergio, who also proceed to take a drink. Now remember when I explained to you how the syphon system worked? Well what happened next was that very principle in action with about one hundred gallons of force streaming through a rubber hose heading right for the mouth of an unsuspecting twelve year old Paco. After the initial gush of wine in the face, and realizing that they could not stop the flow rushing through the hose, Paco decided to be brave and tried to drink as much wine as he could in order to stop the flow. I don't know about you, but a twelve year old against one hundred gallons of wine...I'm putting my money on the wine. After a few attempts to drink off the incoming tide, the boys panicked, and ran off with a severely intoxicated Paco in tow, leaving the syphon principle to take effect and subsequently drain the entire barrel into the courtyard. Well the boys never broke their code of silence and denied any involvement in the incident, but almost everyone in the village knew they had done it: you see dropping off your extremely drunk twelve year old cousin at his mother's door does not exactly scream innocence. In the end, failing to be able to officially blame someone for the wasted wine, my dad says that the owner of the bar eventually blamed it all on a group of travelling gypsies, but knowing full well who was responsible. To this day, every time my dad goes back to his village and runs into the now elderly barkeep, he still denies any involvement in the incident. The old man usually just laughs and offers him a a glass this time.  

Although my dad did not go to school for long, or get any diplomas from prestigious institutions, he'll proudly tell you that a lot of the knowledge that's taught to engineers in university today, he learnt at the tender age of thirteen with a giant barrel of wine, a hose, and by giving his cousin one hangover he'll never forget.  

So you know what? As crazy and ridiculous as my dad's advice usually sounds, it's always pretty sound and comes from a sure place. As he once told me: someone can tell you that drinking too much will give you a hangover, but it's only by actually drinking that you will know how painful it can be! 

That's my dad for you. 

Stay tuned for more.