March 31, 2005

Ugh....

Busy worky-work. If I'm less than vocal today, that's why. Is it Friday yet?

Posted by Chris at 9:12 AM | Comments (19)

March 30, 2005

Housekeeping

I'm putting my blog into sweats and getting it into shape...and I need your help! So, while I'm off being all busy and stuff today - I've got a couple of meetings in DC and a happy hour tonight - there are a few things I'd like you to do...if that's alright with you.

Assignment One:
See that box over there on the right? In my "about" section? Go enter your email address! Two of the following things will happen.

- You'll receive regular updates when I post! That is, when I remember to actually send them out. So don't stop dropping by all willy-nilly.

- One randomly selected person will win a special "cactus compilation" containing a vast array of musical goodness.

-You'll be entered into a drawing to win an all-expenses paid two week trip to lower Uzbekistan, home of vast mineral and gas reserves, the shrinking Aral Sea, contaminated soil from buried nuclear processing materials and the Fergana Valley Water Park And Chemical Testing Fun-Zone.

Assignment Two:
Check out my blogroll...its over there on the right too. Don't see your site? Let me know! Don't see a site that you think I should be reading? Tell me about that too!

Posted by Chris at 7:39 AM | Comments (37)

March 29, 2005

Indications Your Day Is Done

Are you unsure when the productive portion of the day is over and its time to go home? Here are four of the many indications that your day's done:


You overhear someone in the hallway exclaim, "this team needs an enema!" While, from a technical standpoint, you understand such a statement, the implications are unclear. You do, however, know that you don't want to be around should it actually come to fruition.

You've just popped another piece of gum into your mouth. Its the 12th of the day. You begin wondering if there's such a thing as "gum poisoning" but you're pretty sure there's not. You begin to consider it exercise...a jaw workout, if you will. You're going to have the best looking, well-defined jaw on the block.

You've memorized all the headlines on cnn.com. More importantly, you've realized how few of them actually make sense. "Ten players to watch" is hardly specific enough to impart any information. "Thief steals UC-Berkeley laptop" isn't news unless UC-Berkeley only has one laptop in which case what kinda sorry-ass school is that? "Visible storage catches on in museums" isn't ground-breaking either. You've been using visible storage for years, you think. And personally, you always hate running into those stealth filing cabinets so its about damn time!

You're listening to the 96th song in your randomly shuffled iPod playlist. "Less Than You Think" by Wilco, if you're at all curious. As if this weren't enough, and despite your horrible fear of numbers, calculators and that whole thing called "math" you started running the numbers. At four minutes per song (an average), you've listened to 384 minutes of music. According to your laptop, you've been at work for 8 hours and 37 minutes, for a total of 517 minutes. You have, therefore, been listening to music for all but 133 minutes of your stay at work, thus determining your percentage rate for iPod consumption (PRICk) to be 76%.


If you meet any of these four criteria then its time to go home...especially if your PRICk is bigger than mine.

Posted by Chris at 3:51 PM | Comments (20)

Borderline

What do years of being together do to you? They allow for the development of odd psychic powers. Take this weekend, for instance.

Beth and I were walking into the grocery store and our eyes landed on the same woman at the exact same time. We exchanged a quick glance and Beth, almost immediately, uttered the word borderline. No one else would have any clue. Except us.

What Happened In My Head:
Dude, that woman is T-I-N-Y! And we saw a midget little person here yesterday. What are the odds? Maybe there is a Midgetville around here after all. Urban legend? I think not. They're right here under our noses and they're waiting for the high sign from Midget High Command to launch the first wave of attacks. Oh...hello reality, you wicked mistress of truth. She's not really a midget little person though. Almost, but not quite. Kind of an underachieving little person.

What Happened Out Loud:
Beth: Borderline.
Me: Yup.


This morning's random iPoddage...Killing All The Flies (Mogwai), Forever My Friend (Ray LaMontagne), Homecoming King (Guster), Take What You Want (Sense Field), Beetlebum (Blur), Blind Pilots (The Cooper Temple Clause), Stay Away (Rooney), Little Miss More or Less (Magnet), Tear N My Side (Gemma Hayes), and Israel's Song (Built To Spill).

Posted by Chris at 7:53 AM | Comments (19)

March 28, 2005

When Snacks Attack

I was sitting here snacking and checking email, having arrived home in The Greatest Torrential Downfall Since That 40 Day/40 Night Thing...and I lost a Cheez-It. As I was eating it. Seriously. I had a handful of Cheez-Its and was doing that hand-to-mouth maneuver (nothing fancy, 32 years of experience here) when something went haywire and a Cheez-It went astray. Lap? No. Floor? No. Under the desk? No. Time passes. Renegade Cheez-It fails to make an appearance. Until, many minutes later, it falls out of my sleeve. How does one get a Cheez-It up one's sleeve and how does that same person fail to notice it? And why didn't that same person just stay in bed today?

Posted by Chris at 5:44 PM | Comments (20)

Our Easter, In Pictures

More pictures can be found at my Flickr site.

Posted by Chris at 9:02 AM | Comments (30)

Haiku For Monday #73

I wish my Easter
basket came with an extra
weekend day...or two.

Posted by Chris at 7:13 AM | Comments (9)

March 27, 2005

Happy Easter

Happy Easter to all. May your Easter baskets always be full...without too much of that fake grass stuff that seems to end up everywhere.

Posted by Chris at 10:28 AM | Comments (11)

March 26, 2005

Naps and Cactuspeak

Apparently the roadtrip wore me out. I'd like to give a hearty shout-out to Saturday afternoon nappage. I would, however, like to give a bit ol' thumbs-down to the headache I have. Oh, and a nice giant glad you're back to the internetconnectyclickclickgoodness - it was down most of the day hence my quietude. And also? It seems like I'm a fan of made up words tonight so yay for that too. Hope you're all having a great Saturdevening and a wonderful Preaster ;-) Shut up...I just woke up.

Posted by Chris at 7:07 PM | Comments (6)

March 25, 2005

Road Trip To Charm City

OR, FRIDAY'S AFTERNOON POST IN TWO EASY STEPS

Part One
Click play below...

Part Two
Click here but only when instructed.

Posted by Chris at 4:30 PM | Comments (24)

Friday, Books and Tunes

I've been tagged by Casey! Is there a better way to start out a Friday morning than talking about books? I don't think so...unless its not getting out of bed. Here goes...

1. What book would I like to be?
Man, that's harsh. I'm going to go with The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe or actually any of CS Lewis' Narnia books. Such imagination and so many places to visit. How can you go wrong?

2. Have I ever had a crush on a fictional character?
Honestly, I don't think so...what with them being fiction and all. I suppose I've really identified with a character but I'm not sure I've lusted after one.

3. What is the last book I bought?
The last book I bought was The Book of Joe by Johnathan Tropper which I actually read too. Amazing. I'd encourage everyone to read it. It was simply excellent...and hilarious!

4. What is the last book I read?
I finished Down By The River Where The Dead Men Go by George Pelecanos. He's a crime fiction writer in DC and writes about the city with an amazing amount of detail and, sadly, realism. This one, however, wasn't one of his best.

5. What book am I currently reading?
I'm currently reading The Eighth Day by John Case...your typical mass-market thriller but its entertaining and that's pretty much what I'm looking for right about now. I haven't finished it yet, but for those of you who liked The DaVinci Code, this one has the same kind of feel.

6. What five books would I take with me if I was stranded on a desert island?
Without question, The Bridge by Iain Banks. It was so surreal, so loaded with brilliant imagery and skilled writing, I'm convinced I could be stuck on an island with this book alone and find new things every time I flipped a page. I'd also take Jon McGregor's If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things which was so wonderfully written I could entertain myself with many of the perfect sentences over and over again. Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game never gets old, nor does Mary Doria Russel's The Sparrow and its followup, Children of God.

7. What three poor idiots am I tagging with this FUN FUN FUN?
Without naming names, I'm sure there are some others out there who might like to play along. I'll let them make of their minds. But comment here and let me know you're doing it!


The first ten randomly decided songs from Friday's playlist...Under A Mountain (The Black Crowes), Down In A Hole (Alice In Chains), In Hiding (Pearl Jam), Bartender (Dave Matthews Band), See You On Rooftops (Neil Halstead), Heal (Catherine Wheel), Mixtape (Butch Walker), No Excuses (Alice In Chains), Bite Your Tongue (Duncan Sheik), Hand In My Pocket (Alanis Morissette).

Posted by Chris at 7:23 AM | Comments (10)

March 24, 2005

My Day, In Pictures

Posted by Chris at 7:43 PM | Comments (19)

Turning Uncool Doesn't Happen Overnight

I've had some uncool days in my time. Like the time I landed myself in the emergency room because of a freak ice-cream accident. Then that day I was moving a bookshelf and put it right through the bedroom window of the apartment we were renting. Or the time I borrowed my parents car to run out for cigarettes and wrapped the front end around a concrete barrier. I should probably mention that I was 14 at the time and it wasn't so much "borrowing". Oh, and I was actually trying to breakdance in my house the other night. That was pretty uncool. There are more but I don't want to completely embarrass myself and blow all my great uncool stories in one shot. Anyway, that doesn't compare to the uncoolness I felt recently when I bought...a station wagon. That might truly be, The Day I Turned Uncool.

You see, I'll be bidding my old car a fond farewell this afternoon. And I'm fine with that...and I love the new wagon. It's not exactly as though my old Honda Accord screamed "devil-may-care stud" but a wagon, albeit a sleek, finely crafted German wagon, just seems so...responsible!

Anyway, to my point. I've never named a car before. Really. And that should probably change. So, what should I name my new, champagne-colored VW Jetta wagon? It has to be cool.


First 10 from today's playlist...Hey Julie (Fountains of Wayne), First Day of My Life (Bright Eyes), The Answering Machine (Marillion), Stryofoam Plates (Deathcab for Cutie), Border Song (Elton John), Feels Like Home (Chantal Kreviazuk), Sweet Soul Sister (The Cult), Brother (Pearl Jam), First Wave Intact (The Secret Machines), Rest Will Flow (Porcupine Tree)

Posted by Chris at 8:19 AM | Comments (40)

March 23, 2005

Limited Time Only

This week, I'll be writing a check...a check that you made possible. That's right! By picking up some wicked, rad and totally gnarly Rude Cactus merchandise you have essentially written a nice three-figure check to charity. And you've gotten some damn fine swag (if I do say so myself).

Wait! Did I hear a voice in the back? You...yes, you. You say you haven't picked up anything and you don't know how? Why, that's simple, friend. Follow these simple instructions and you'll be well on your way to making a charitable gift, getting some quality Rude Cactus gear and winning that Nobel prize you've been eyeing. Okay, I can't make any promises about that last thing...

1. Step on the information superhighway and set the controls for the Rude Cactus Swagmart!
2. Wander the wide, brightly lit aisles (in the virtual sense, of course) and choose from our wide array of fine merchandise.
3. Buy something. Part with some hard-earned cash for a good cause.
4. Go about your normal life with the knowledge that you've contributed to the greater good and maybe even won a Nobel prize! A member of our fine postal department will have your order to you as soon as possible.

Act now...the popular "Zero Tolerance For Asshats" design will be gone after April 15th! And a sincere thanks to all of you who've already picked something up. I appreciate it and I'm sure the American Red Cross will as well. You, as always, rock!

Posted by Chris at 5:53 PM | Comments (10)

Loose Ends and Randomness

Don't say I didn't warn you that this was entirely random (at best)...

Yesterday, I discussed the previous night's lack of sleep. I'm happy to report the problem didn't stretch into a second night. As a matter of fact, quite the opposite. Of course, that could have something to do with the sore throat and sneezing. Ugh. Is there no happy medium?

In that very same post I discussed the ongoing saga of my tempermental heat. Well, a very kind man came out and fixed it...uh...twice yesterday and now its all good. Of course, the minute the dude left, I realized how nice it was outside so I flung open all the windows. How's that for a bit of irony?

So, I was also poking around the internetwebosphere after my other post and found something so mind-numbingly frightening that I was scared to the very core of my being. Fan fiction. For a cheesy, thirty year-old Saturday morning kids show. *shudder* Hold me.

On a completely different tangent, you'll be happy to know that I've finally managed to get my iPod and iTunes installed on my laptop which means music at work. Top ten songs on today's playlist: Transatlanticism (Deathcab for Cutie), Rock n Roll Singer (Mark Kozelek), Anthem (Phantom Planet), Somewhere A Clock Is Ticking (Snow Patrol), Something In My Eye (Ed Harcourt), Let You Down (Trespassers William), Ten Years Ahead (The Soundtrack of Our Lives), Something (Cary Brothers), Good News (Brad), and The Blower's Daughter (Damien Rice).

Posted by Chris at 8:25 AM | Comments (19)

March 22, 2005

Routine Expedition? I Think Not!

I've just been sitting here working all morning and afternoon. The heat's fixed and I'm still kinda tired but I have stumbled on something that's bothering me quite a bit. Why were Marshall, Will and Holly on a routine expedition? And how do they know it was the greatest earthquake ever known? For that matter, how did they survive the drop? Sheesh!





Come on, I can't be the only person that watched this show, as bad as it was. Can I? And by the way, good luck getting that little ditty out of your head.

Posted by Chris at 2:16 PM | Comments (25)

Snore...Brrrr...

I'm tired and cold. Why tired? Because I couldn't sleep worth a damn last night. And just laying there for eight hours wasn't so much fun. Why cold? Because our heat isn't exactly working correctly. Got any glass you need cut? My nipples are available.

I'm working from home today, waiting for the heat dudes to show and warm me up. Ewww...get your minds out of the gutter, people!

Posted by Chris at 7:47 AM | Comments (29)

March 21, 2005

Sometimes There's Nothing Civil About Rights

"I think that every American in this country should also be outraged that this government is trampling all over a personal family matter that has been adjudicated in the courts for seven years." - Michael Schiavo

On Wednesday I started typing, got frustrated and quit. I tried the same thing on Thursday followed quickly by another attempt on Friday. This weekend I honestly thought about it but situations kept changing and I kept getting angrier and angrier. It'll be unpopular and I'll alienate some people but screw it. The feeding tube should be removed...and the federal government should stay the hell out of it.

This morning, President Bush signed legislation that essentially gives the Federal justice system a swipe at the Schiavo case. Why? Because he, prominent Republicans and some Democrats simply didn't like the decisions to which medical and legal experts at the state level had come. When I was four and did this - bounced from parent to parent in the hopes of getting what I wanted - my parents just told me to get over it and stop acting like a spoiled brat.

Since I'm sure some of you are already throwing things at your monitors, lets side-step the medical and ethical issues here for a second. Let's throw out Terri's wishes and how they were or were not conveyed. Let's throw out the suffering of all the family members involved and her husband's supposed philandering. This, and cases like it, highlight the fact that this administration is completely and utterly unwilling to tolerate any supposed moral decision with which it does not agree. They didn't like the answers that came out of Florida so they hijacked the case and elevated it to a federal level. For the last couple hundred years, decisions like this have been made by the states. That's where this one should have stayed. Because - and this is the important part - even if you happen to agree with how the government handled this one, will you see eye to eye with them when they do it again? About something else? Its a bad precedent.

I'm a human being, of sound mind and a citizen of the United States of America. Its been determined that I have some inalienable rights, free-will and self determination. Should I decide to stand on the highest mountain and read from Green Eggs and Ham, I can, as long as I'm not infringing on anyone else's rights. If I wanted to have a Marx, Karl or Groucho, tattooed on my forehead or travel the country with my acoustic guitar extolling the virtues of an all-fruit diet, well, I can do that. And I should be allowed to end my life.

I have a living will but I'm going to say something here for the record in case some idiot Texan president of the future decides that maybe I didn't express myself clearly enough for him. Should I find myself in a "persistent vegetative state" I'd like for you all - yes, all however many hundred of you - to come and pull the plug. See, that way if the Justice Department or esteemed Executive Branch decides that my wishes weren't clear enough, well, they'll sure as hell have a problem prosecuting so many people.

I'm not asking for much...only that the government stop trying to make value judgments and moral decisions for me. I'm a reasonably bright guy and I like to think I'm perfectly capable of making such decisions for myself. So, dear Bush administration, as far as I'm concerned, just fuck off.

Posted by Chris at 8:05 AM | Comments (73)

Haiku For Monday #72

Nothing screams Monday
like getting yourself stuck in
the elevator...

Posted by Chris at 6:48 AM | Comments (10)

March 20, 2005

Cat...Bag...Make Your Own Joke

The cats are going to be so happy when we finally have a kid to take a picture of...



(P.S. - new entry's up over at the Beanette's site.)

Posted by Chris at 5:25 PM | Comments (14)

March 19, 2005

Spring, Ducks, Frogs...Oh My!

What? No posting today? Well, no, sorry about that. You see, it actually felt like spring outside. So I was, well, outside! Oh! And shopping. We fell victim to more cute baby clothes with little ducks and frogs on them. How can you not buy something with cute little ducks and frogs? The design of baby clothes is clearly geared towards parents, not kids. Anyway, no doubt winter will sneak back in overnight, the bastard, but it was nice to get a peek at spring.

Posted by Chris at 5:10 PM | Comments (13)

March 18, 2005

Review: When Doves Cry

Album: Some Cities
Artist: Doves
Album Type: Outperformer

Have any of you read anything by Steinbeck? It really doesn’t matter if you have or not but I want to start with an analogy. Grapes of Wrath was an epic novel, grand in scope and deeply layered and textured. It was detailed, providing depth and granularity. Almost equally effective was Of Mice and Men despite the fact that its about a fifth the length. It is precise, economical, yet packs no less of an emotional punch. What I'm saying is that in most situations, size really doesn't matter. Its how you use whatcha got. The same could be said for Dove's recent release, Some Cities.

Doves have always been adventurous – that much was evident when they released their debut, Lost Souls. The songs on that album alternated between complex, artistic rock and more immediate sounding Brit-pop. Their sophomore effort, The Last Broadcast, showed an even more arty, progressive side. Songs were longer, a bit more complex yet no less emotionally satisfying. And I’m sure its for this reason that ardent fans are scratching their heads a little bit while listening to Some Cities.

Some Cities finds the band crafting shorter, straightforward songs with addictive beats. Its more immediate, in-your-face than previous efforts. It’s their Of Mice and Men And as with their previous efforts, there still exists a sense of adventure, unique style and unwillingness to sound like every other band. Take, for instance, a raw Joshua Tree-era U2. Combine it with a small dose of early 70s Pink Floyd and sprinkle in liberal amounts of British pop. Stir well. Chill. Some Cities has the intensity of mid to late 80s U2 (although Doves has a better guitarist), the experimental tendencies of early Floyd and the overall pop/rock sensibilities of British bands, from the Beatles to Snow Patrol and Elbow.

Upon first play, the album didn’t feel comfortable. The crunchy title track opens the album and its heavy-handed beat is reinforced by the first single, Black and White Town. Its only a third of the way through the album that things get interesting and it begins to sink in that this is really a fine album. Rich arrangements and lush orchestration pepper exemplary tracks such as Snowden and Walk In Fire, while the reverb from their strategically used harmonica seems to stretch for miles in places. The only true disappointment is the lack of a powerful song to close the album. But that's just a very minor problem that doesn't detract from the overall excellence of the album.

Doves and Mercury Rev, another excellent and underappreciated band, will be hitting the road this spring.

I also feel obligated to pimp...
-Doves: The Last Broadcast
-Doves: Lost Souls
-Mercury Rev: All Is Dream
-Elbow: Cast of Thousands

Posted by Chris at 1:02 PM | Comments (11)

Hugged Your Weebles Today?

The other night as I was getting ready to climb into bed, I almost fell down while taking my sweatshirt off. Grace is not my middle name, which is good because that sounds girly. Anyway, I almost lost the battle to the sweatshirt and succumbed to the ever-present force of gravity. Somehow, however, I saved myself and remained upright.


Me: Oops. Damn gravity.
Her: Weebles wobble but they don't fall down.
Me: But they do melt.
Her: Huh?
Me: Weebles. They don't fall down but the do melt.
Her: You know this from first-hand experience?
Me Sure do.
Her: Can I ask how or do I not want to know?
Me: Sure. Its funny because I was thinking about not long ago.
Her: Weebles?
Me: Yeah.
Her: Bizarre.
Me: I know. See, when my parents and I would drive to Wyoming or California or Montana, I'd have toys and stuff in the car when I was little. One afternoon we pulled into a motel and I accidentally left my Weebles in the car. And they melted.
Her: They melted? In the car?
Me: Texas is hot.
Her: Did you get in trouble?
Me: Of course not. But I had melted Weebles.
Her: How did they melt? What did they look like?
Me: Well, you see, the construction of a Weeble is an unusual thing. The structural integrity of the Weeble was intact but there's this little layer of plastic on the inside of the Weeble where the faces and bodies are painted? That shrunk and melted and distorted.
Her: So, you had carnival-freak Weebles?
Me: Pretty much. Yet, they still wobbled and wouldn't fall down.

Posted by Chris at 7:40 AM | Comments (29)

March 17, 2005

I Bib You Good Evening

Do you want to know how much of a sucker I'm going to be for this kid? Beth bought a bib for her the other day...and after I got through trying not to cry like, well, a baby, I decided it needed to stay close...




...like a good luck charm or something. Okay, it makes total sense in my head.

Posted by Chris at 6:08 PM | Comments (27)

Obligatory Political Rant

If I may just get political on your asses for a second...I really fought the urge to post this last night but I'm afraid I just can't restrain myself any longer.

Wolfowitz Tapped For World Bank. Fucker. Dear Wolfy has been partially responsible for a Department of Defense that's tripped over its own feet at a constant clip for the last five years. The only shock and awe they've been able to deliver is that over their own inability to do anything correctly. So, by all means, Wolfy should run the World Bank. Good choice, George. How bout naming one or two of those Abu Ghraib guards to homeland security or attorney general posts?

Senate Votes on ANWR Oil Drilling. Fuckers. Maybe we should all start driving fuel-efficient cars...maybe the government could light a fire under the collective ass of the automotive industry to invest in hybrid technology...maybe we could get used to higher gas prices as ours are among the lowest in the world. How bout we try some of those common sense approaches before we start ripping apart Alaska?

Bright Eyes, wunderkind Conor Oberst's sonic vehicle and one of the more talented bands making music these days, released a song via iTunes not long ago. Thought I'd share the lyrics with you. Sure, its a bit extreme but he makes some good points.

When the President talks to God,
are the conversations brief or long?
Does he ask to rape our womens rights,
and send poor farm kids off to die?
Does God suggest an oil hike,
when the President talks to God?

When the President talks to God,
are the consonants all hard or soft?
Is he resolute all down the line?
Is every issue black or white?
Does what God say ever change his mind,
when the President talks to God?

When the President talks to God,
does he fake that drawl or merely nod?
Agree which convicts should be killed?
Where prisons should be built and filled?
Which voter fraud must be concealed,
when the President talks to God?

When the President talks to God,
I wonder which one plays the better cop.
"We should find some jobs, the ghetto's broke,"
"No, they're lazy, George, I say we don't;
just give 'em more liqour stores and dirty coke!"
That's what God recommends.

When the President talks to God,
do they drink near beer and go play golf
while they pick which countries to invade,
which Muslim souls still can be saved?
I guess God just calls a spade a spade
when the President talks to God.

When the President talks to God,
does he ever think that maybe he's not?
That that voice is just inside his head,
when he kneels next to the presidential bed?
Does he ever smell his own bullshit?
When the President talks to God?
I doubt it...I doubt it.

Posted by Chris at 7:41 AM | Comments (22)

March 16, 2005

Volunteers Needed!

Late last year, I set up a book club. Does anyone remember that? Yeah, I only have a vague recollection myself. We read a couple of books, discussed them and a good time was had by all (remember that one time with the strippers and the car giveaways?). But then the whole thing fell of my radar. I was just in there and its dusty, some of the lights are broken and its really creepy. Yet, I want to resurrect it...but only with your help. I'm looking for a few good readers to help run the site and moderate the forums. When my slack-ass, well, slacks, I won't bring the whole thing to a grinding halt.

Make sense? Okay...who's willing?

Posted by Chris at 4:10 PM | Comments (25)

Hump Day Memos

Dear Bed,

Don't be upset that I left so abruptly this morning. You were still doing a good job. Its just that I've got things to do, meetings and the like. I know, I know, its no excuse for leaving the way I did. But we've got a good thing going. You're comfy and warm. Maybe tonight I'll drop by a little bit early. Promise you're not mad?




Dear Clock,

Six words - bite me bite me bite me! You're not the boss of me, you with your loud, annoying whine. I tell you to shut up but ten minutes later you start in with the nagging again. If I had it my way, I'd take you out into a cold, secluded field on a dark night and Office Space your ass. You've been warned. You're on my list.




Dear Head,

First, what's up with the weird dreams? Flashbacks to my high school gym are bad enough without people punting condiment-drenched fruit at the basketball hoops. Perhaps more twisted is the fact that, in the dream, I recall wearing half of a massive cantaloupe on my head. What's up with that, brain? Oh, and yes, I know - Stacy's mom's got it going on. Enough already!

Posted by Chris at 7:36 AM | Comments (33)

March 15, 2005

Doubt, Rockage, and Pictures

I've said it before and I'll for damn sure say it again - you guys really and truly rock.

Here's what happens with life...as I know it. I spin and I throw. Plates and balls. I keep as many plates spinning and as many balls in the air as I know how. We all do. This is life. This is how its played. But, while I'm busy spinning and bouncing and catching and balancing, maybe one of the plates gets away from me. Or one of the balls hits the ground and rolls away. Or maybe not. What matters is the fear that its happened. Paranoia that we're letting something go. Like that fear you have when you think, just for an instant, you might have locked yourself out of the house. Like I'm forgetting something. Like I've lost the thread to a very important conversation, one of many but still very important. And when we do this - we, because I don't believe its just me - we prove our worst fears. We prove that we're not always able to simulatenously deal with each of the thousands of facets of the real world (not the show...we all know that they all sleep together except for one of the whiny gay guys who gets on everyone's nerves).

Blogging is odd. I have and always will maintain that I blog for me. But to say I blog only for me would be a terrible lie. I'd be bummed if no one dropped by. I'd still do it, but it would kinda suck. There's a certain amount of validation I get - and would assume others get - from sharing my thoughts and pieces of my life here and getting feedback from others. Its that, combined with the opportunity to meet some wonderful people, that appeal to me most. So, its like a relationship. And every relationship needs a bit of reassurance. I think that's what I was going for.

I'm a father-to-be, a husband, a worker drone and a regular guy. Each of these things comes with a requisite yet wholly disproportionate amount of self-doubt, headaches and challenges. And each comes with great rewards. Occasionally the balances between good and bad get out of whack, some plates shatter and balls roll away. But with the right people around you, you can generally always get things spinning again. So thank you.

...of course, some days you just wind up with a produce sticker on your face. For those of you who wanted pictures, I've started organizing everything from the old galleries using Flickr. Go check out what I've got so far...

Little Bit of Doubt

Hiya, Internets. I don't know if you've noticed but lately I've felt a bit, well, unfocused. Maybe that's the best way to describe it. Stressed too. And when I get unfocused and stressed I start doubting myself and that never ends well. I feel kinda like I'm flailing wildly at life and not really making much in the way of progress. And the thoughts that run through my head? Usually sound something like oh shit everyone hates me and I'm going to get fired from my job and I'm a horrible husband and what kind of father will I be because I'm sure even the Internet hates me because I've totally derailed my site and I have, finally, jumped the shark and none of those thoughts are ever pleasant.

The other day I went back to some of my older entries. I pulled up the comments and noticed that the majority of people reading me a year ago are still dropping by. And, in addition to all those wonderful people, there are new people poking their heads in everyday! So, while all of this is running through that dangerous place I like to call my brain, let me ask you a few things (and please keep in mind that I'm not fishing for compliments or comments). Consider it a customer satisfaction survey...or something.

- What in the world keeps you coming back here?
- What's missing? What's not here that you'd like to see? What would you like to see more of?

Posted by Chris at 8:22 AM | Comments (81)

March 14, 2005

Pimpin' My Kid

Beth and I unleashed our new site to the world over the weekend in the hopes that we could work some of the kinks out early. Kinks? Consider them worked out. For my part, I'll be posting unique stuff over there that you won't see here. If you're so inclined, drop by and have a look.

Yes, my fetus has a blog of her very own. We're so 21st century its kuhrayyzee!

Posted by Chris at 2:01 PM | Comments (10)

Keeping My Dumbassness To Myself

OR, NAME THAT PREGNANT WOMAN

Beth and I logged some time at a friend's baby shower on Saturday. Not only did it provide a preview of things to come for us but it also showcased my stunning ability to be, well, stupid. Unusually, I was stupid in silence. So I give you my inner dialogue:


Okay. There's Fred. Shake hands and don't forget to ask how life in Illinois is treating him. Ahhh...funny comment about ball and chain. What witty repartee...such bullshit macho manly stuff. Gah. Oh, and there's Ethel. She's a little underdressed for the occasion but she's pregnant. My is she pregnant! I don't quite remember her being that cute though. Go Fred! Clearly the pregnancy thing is treating her well. Shake more hands. Yes, yes, we're pregnant too...thank you very much...20 weeks...July 31st. More hands...more congratulations. Food! Mmmm...pasta! Why is it that I don't drink again? And there's Ethel again sitting in the corner. I keep smiling at her but I'm getting nothing! Hopefully she doesn't teach her kid to be as stuck up as she is. Main attraction - time to open the presents. Hey, what's that heavy girl doing up there with Fred opening presents? Oh shit...that's Ethel. I'm such a dumbass.

You see, while I've known Fred for a while, I'd only met Ethel once. And while I usually remember names and faces pretty well, clearly this one didn't stick. Thank god I kept my mouth shut. Unusual for me.

Posted by Chris at 8:48 AM | Comments (10)

Haiku For Monday #71

Quick guessing game - guess
who's at work. Guess who's not thrilled
about it. Give up?

Posted by Chris at 7:00 AM | Comments (11)

March 13, 2005

Prom Night?

In our local mall, there's this place that just opened up. Its one of those temporary stores. You know the kind. They've just moved into a space thats been left vacant and they sell seasonal kinds of things so they put up a cheap sign and do very little in the way of decorating. The store seems to sell nothing but prom dresses.

Here's the plan - by May when all the local proms are going down, we're headed out to look for dresses. Beth and I are constantly told we look like we're 14 so no one should bat an eye. They should, however, find the fact that Beth will be seven months pregnant and showing nicely kinda interesting.

Is it so wrong that occasionally we just like to screw with people?

Posted by Chris at 8:00 AM | Comments (28)

March 12, 2005

Adventures of the CactusFish

What kind of blogging parents would we be if we didn't have a blog for the Beanette? I don't want to find out the answer to that question so you should just head over to Adventures of the CactusFish and check things out for yourselves.

Posted by Chris at 9:43 AM | Comments (17)

March 11, 2005

Sign Here, Please

Its Friday. Which is a good thing because boy is my wrist tired. Hey. Don’t jump to conclusions, people. You see, we refinanced our house last night. Any of you who’ve purchased a house or refinanced one know that the process requires putting your John Hancock on approximately 348,201 documents, most of which are written in lawyerly talkyspeak that essentially say “give us cash or we’ll do bad shit.”

Aside #1: Its common here but do you think the John Hancock idiom is universal? Like, maybe there’s some Japanese financial analyst who’s asking clients for their John Hancocks? Or Bollywood stars being asked for their John Hancocks in little autograph books? Do you think they know who John Hancock is? Do you know who John Hancock is?

The amount of paper we had to sign was astonishing. There’s a forest missing in the West somewhere because we decided to refinance. Had we decided to read absolutely every word of every document, we’d still be there. But we tried – the side-effect of being married to a woman who used to work for a lawyer. Still, I’m afraid to go through the documents again. There’s an off-chance I might have agreed to give up a kidney, forfeit my house to a group of neo-Nazi midgets or commit to being a session musician on Michael Bolton’s next album. Maybe ignorance is bliss.

Aside #2: While its true that he did have a vaguely dirty sounding name in a very junior high school way, John Hancock was actually a swell guy. Ok, that’s not true. According to all reports, the guy was a prick. But he was a patriotic prick. Hancock was born on January 12, 1737 in the small, unfortunately named Massachusetts town of Braintree. Years later and after the astonishing success of the television show starring TV legend Jack Klugman, the town’s name was changed to Quincy. Hancock, the Massachusetts representative to the Continental Congress, played a large role in state and Colonial politics beginning in 1766. This relentless activity continued until his death in 1793. He died while serving as the state’s governor. His signature on the Declaration of Independence is the largest and most easily recognizable.

Posted by Chris at 7:25 AM | Comments (31)

March 10, 2005

Letting it Ride

That last post (you know, the one down there)? Well, I've got a busy day and its still how I'm feeling. I'm going to let it ride today. If I haven't been around to visit you this week, I apologize. I'll get right on it soon. Between impending fatherhood, work and all kinds of other grownup stuff, I haven't had a heck of a lot of time. I'll fix that soon.

Posted by Chris at 7:38 AM | Comments (14)

March 9, 2005

Little Hands, Stolen Heart

Until today, the whole child thing has been largely theoretical. I'm sure its different for Beth - she's had to deal with the physical ramifications of getting knocked up while all I've had to do is say things like "no, you're not fat, you're pregnant" or humor her by ordering pineapple on a pizza. But for me? The child has been more conceptual than tangible. Until today, that is. Today, I got to see my baby.

Lying in a darkened room, my wife was gelled up and given what had to be the most thorough ultrasound ever. The ultrasoundologist sonogramopher lady with the ultrasound thingy seemed like a woman at the controls of a spaceship...and slowly Beth and I got our bearings for a trip around her uterus. And as we got accustomed to this view, we started to see arms and legs and fingers and toes and a beating heart and giant head.

I wanted to run around the room laughing hysterically and shouting with some combination of glee and freakedoutitude. I felt like, at the precise moment I saw the little toes and little fingers, I'd been hit with a weight of responsibility heavier than I ever knew existed. I wanted to cry. I wanted to throw up. And due to a lot of coffee, I also really needed to pee.

I can only imagine how I'm going to feel when this kid is born - I'll just be laughing, shouting, crying, freaking out, puking and peeing all over the hospital. But I'll be a parent. To a child I already love so much with a passion I was worried I didn't think I'd have. I'll be a father. To a lovely little girl who stole my heart on a cold March morning.

Posted by Chris at 8:41 PM | Comments (98)

I'm Not Trying to be Obnoxious

Okay, okay...I know you're all waiting for the news but we've got a few folks (family for instance) to tell before we spill the beans. I know you're immediate gratification people like me so I promise not to keep you waiting long.

Posted by Chris at 4:30 PM | Comments (15)

Conventional Wisdom

As of 8:00 this morning, around 55% of you seemed to think we'll be having a girl. In a few hours, I should be able to tell you who's right. In the mean time, happy hump day to all.

Posted by Chris at 7:55 AM | Comments (26)

March 8, 2005

Next? The Bearded Lady

Wow. Your responses so far to this morning's question? Overwhelming! Also overwhelming? The lady with the big-ass mustache I just saw when I was grabbing something to drink. I'm not talking about a few stray hairs or something waxable. I'm talking full-on, big, thick, bushy Magnum PI-lookin' mustache. And it wasn't the same color as her hair or anything. No, it was cleverly dyed to be stealthy (well done on that, by the way).

I'm done. I am tremendously busy today...and marginally productive! I just had to share that. Back to your baby guesses.

Posted by Chris at 4:03 PM | Comments (15)

What's It Gonna Be?

Tomorrow morning, Beth and I have an appointment to see a guy about a baby. Or a girl. Who knows? See, we're having a sonogram done which means, if all goes well and the view is right, we should know if we're having a boy or a girl.

Now, Beth and I have a hunch as to what we think it is but how bout you guys? Completely unscientific poll: What are we going to have? And what makes you think that? Come on...everyone come out of hiding and let me know what you think.

Posted by Chris at 8:20 AM | Comments (70)

March 7, 2005

Review: Snide Comments

Album: End of Love
Artist: Clem Snide
Album Type: Outperformer

Before I started a review here, I decided to do a little research. It became apparent that people are divided about this album. One group says "this is some good stuff...its meaningful, insightful and its just plain fun" while the other camp thinks it blows. While it would be more fun to write about an album that sucks, I can't say that about Clem Snide's latest, End of Love. It is simply a fantastic album.

Clem Snide (a band, not a person, although there are people only they're gathered together which makes it a band, capiche?) is considered alt-country. I'm sure the fact that I don't like country isn't lost on you. But I'm starting to lean that alt-country isn't necessarily a bad thing. There's twang, and I'm not a big twang fan (not that there's anything wrong with that) but here it works. This is honest music. Its not flashy. There's no showing off. Its just a straightforward collection of songs played on acoustic and electric guitars, some drums, a bass and a few keys. The singer isn't particularly great. He sounds like an emo guy who's trying to sound country, in fact. But the lyrics he sings are intensely clever, yet not too clever for their own good. The band maintains a sense of humor without ever becoming irrelevant or crossing the line into novelty act territory.

The album opens, appropriately, with the title track. It, like the rest of the album, mourns the loss and nature of love in offbeat ways.


you're so sophisticated
you're minds been liberated
you're the first to notice that the movement's come and gone
maybe you should just release the doves
'cos no one will survive the end of love

The Sound of German Hip-Hop, God Answers Back, When We Become and even the unlikely Jews For Jesus Blues all meditate on the same themes - love, life passing a little too quickly for our own comfort, and what it feels like to be an outsider looking in. Perhaps the most utterly devastating song, however, is Made For TV Movie. It literally stopped me in my tracks when I first hear it and it still does (I mean, really, I just got through listening to it). Maybe the band actually describes themselves and their music best in their closing song:


you tell me you're different
you tell me you're strange
you tell me that there is something wrong with your brain
so your mother found god
and your dad likes to drink
you're not as weird as you'd like me to think

You're all smart people...and if you're anything like me you're a little tired of having the same old crap shoved down your throats by record companies. This is different, smart and refreshing. Join me in cleansing your musical pores. This is where we start.

Posted by Chris at 6:40 PM | Comments (6)

Your Dose of Monday Randomness

Happy Monday morning everyone! Wait. Backup. Did I actually say "Happy Monday morning?" Hmmm...clearly I'm not awake yet. It is Monday morning but I'm not even a little bit happy about it. If I could just sit around, bitch about it for a while then slowly get into the day, I'd be okay but I don't have that kinda time. No, I'm heavily scheduled this week. In fact, I'm about to start penciling bathroom breaks in on my calendar just in case. And? My head still hurts from shutting it in the car door this weekend.

How were your weekends? Overall, mine was good. I vegged out on Friday night while Beth went to a dinner thingy for a friend who's getting married. We slept uber-late on Saturday then did a little shopping (and I think I showed great self-restraint by not injuring stupid weekend Costco shoppers), went out for a nice dinner with the in-laws then came home and watched a movie (Out of Time...a pointless, generic thriller/mystery). Aside from catching another movie yesterday (Wonderland...a heartwarming tale of porn, drugs, and murder) we caught up on a little house work and cooked a nice dinner.

We did get to have the fun baby name conversation with the in-laws. I realize that I'm an awful human being for doing this, but I take pleasure in freaking my mother-in-law out (and I think Beth does too) because she can't always tell when I'm joking.

MIL: So...names.
Beth: We've got a few.
Me: But we're waiting till we find out what it is. That'll help.
MIL: But what are you thinking so far.
Me: Well, I like the idea of a name with "The" in it.
Beth: Like "The Hulk"
Me: Exactly.
Beth: There are a few others we've come up with too.
MIL: The??
Me: We've thought of naming it The Passion. So, it would be, like, The Passion of the Chris.
Beth: Yeah, I like that one.
Me: But my personal favorite is La-D'wayyne.
MIL: La-what?
Me: L-A hyphen D apostrophe W-A-Y-Y-N-E. Unique, huh?
MIL: Is that for a boy or a girl?
Beth: Either. Both! That's the beauty of it.
Me: We've also thought of a middle name in parenthesis.
Beth: Or quotes.
Me: Or...a silent middle name.

Believe it or not, her head did not explode. But I'm still not 100% sure she knew I was kidding. Or was I??

Posted by Chris at 9:59 AM | Comments (33)

Haiku For Monday #70

Monday, my crafty
nemesis. We meet again!
Let us do battle!

Posted by Chris at 7:10 AM | Comments (4)

March 6, 2005

For My Next Trick...

I probably shouldn't be typing this. I mean, I'll likely sprain a finger or two. Or, the chair could collapse and leave me sprawled on the floor. Or I'll spill the big cup of coffee in my lap. Or something. You see, I seem to be suffering from a condition known as Sympathy Pregnancy Clumsiness (SPC). It started yesterday when I closed my head in my car door. Yes, my head. In my car door. I have a bump the size of a small, third world autocracy to prove it. Then, in a rather impressive gravity-defying moment, I fell up the stairs. As I was strolling through the living room later last evening, I dropped the magazine I was reading on the cat (it was Entertainment Weekly, thus lightened by fluff and not dangerous to small animals). Finally, mere minutes ago, I cracked my elbow on the kitchen table. Not lightly either.

I hope everyone's having an enjoyable weekend. I'll be sitting quietly, attempting to avoid further harm to myself and others, for the duration of the day.

Not to say there isn't an upside. After all, there is the Lima Bean. Want proof? Here's the heartbeat :-) Give it a second...you'll know it when you hear it.


Posted by Chris at 9:45 AM | Comments (29)

March 4, 2005

Never Scratch A Butterfly

When I was a kid, I took everything apart. Nothing was safe. There was this old-school Smith Corona that would probably be worth a mint today. It took me two days to separate every moving part from one another. While I’m not clear on what eventually happened to all of it, years later I still found random letter keys from time to time. An old reel-to-reel tape deck wasn’t safe either. Yet, somehow after I’d eviscerated it, I managed to cobble it together again. And after I did, I discovered a tape. On that tape was the voice of my grandfather who died before I was even born. It played magically and was the first time I'd ever heard him speak.

When I was a kid, I called myself Dissider Bows. I’m not completely sure about that myself, but in retrospect, it sounds like my first and last names run together by a two year old without a firm grasp on the English language.

When I was a kid, I built a toilet in the attic. That’s all I’m going to say about that.

When I was a kid I used to love the long fall weekend afternoons. Just after I’d been outside, playing football with the neighbors and just before eating dinner, I’d lie down on the couch and nod off to Star Trek. It was always Star Trek. Or maybe that only happened once and it was a really good nap.

When I was a kid, my parents used to pack us all up and drive northwest for a few weeks every summer. We’d drive from Texas to Wyoming and Montana, sometimes by way of North or South Dakota. It took a day and a half just to get out of Texas. Whether it was in a boat-like Buick La Sabre or a tiny Mazda 626 with terrible air-conditioning, I saw a lot of the country out of the backseat of the family car. Just me and my parents.

When I was a kid, my friends and I would run around the bayou that cut through our section of town. It was heavily wooded and sunken, forming what looked to our small bodies like cliffs. There were caves and trails and abandoned sheds and it seemed to us like the most mysterious magical place ever. Now, I'm sure it would look small and unimpressive in reality but that's not the way it will ever seem in my head.

When I was a kid, I used to read aloud. Since this predated my ability to read, I’d sit on a rocking chair with a book, making stories up as I spoke. One day, while reading, I came up with words of wisdom, the importance of which I may never again equal. “Never, ever scratch a butterfly,” I said. I couldn’t tell you for sure what I meant, but it has to be true, doesn’t it?

When I was a kid, I used to love to sing. I still do. Here’s a song – don’t worry, its not me. Enjoy it and have a safe, wonderful evening.


On The Banks by Shawn Smith
Posted by Chris at 8:31 PM | Comments (18)

August Lovers

Okay, okay...so maybe I struck a nerve when I accidentally forgot August yesterday. But, it wasn't like I had personal feelings against August. Not like August cornered and pantsed me on the playground or stuck my hand in a tub of warm water during a sleepover. I just forgot. So for all of you who have birthdays in August, I'm so happy that you were born. Remember, I'm expecting a new member of the family in August myself. I guess what I'm trying to say is my bad. That'll teach me to talk shit about months of the year.

That said, happy Friday everyone! Please begin doing the Friday Dance now. Go ahead. You know you wanna.

Posted by Chris at 7:15 AM | Comments (27)

March 3, 2005

Me And My Stupid Brain

I was just doing the budget for a big 'ol project I'm running and I couldn't, for the life of me, get any of the numbers to add up right. I was sitting here adding stuff up and I couldn't get to my target. Words are my friends. Numbers aren't. My lack of mathematical prowess in this exercise wasn't surprising but after 3.2 trillion tries I knew there was an issue. So, I started looking through all the monthly budget forecasts. February, March, April, May, June, July, September, October... Just as my brain was about to explode in a stunning, frustration-fuelled aneurism, I figured it out - August.

I'm not clear why, but my brain never remembers August. You'd think I'd block out a less-pleasant month like January or February. But noooooo, I mentally ditch a good chunk of summer. Stupid brain.

Posted by Chris at 1:08 PM | Comments (25)

Thursday Brain Dump

I've managed to collect then accidentally forget some thoughts I meant to put down here this week. Here's my brain dump for the day.

I have XXX rated salad dressing. Or maybe its just NC-17. Okay, okay...its more like PG but still, isn't that pushing the envelope as far as salad dressing goes? Its usually - and please correct me if I'm wrong - a pretty tame condiment. When I read through the little vignette on the flip side of my Newman's Own balsamic vinaigrette (vinaigrette vignette - hah!) I discovered a character named "Bitch" along with some rampant fanny-patting. Now, I'm no prude but I think I prefer my salad dressing to have a more refined set of moral values.

There's one last thing about the neighbors from hell. When I was describing their last altercation, I omitted an essential part. The part where the wife threw herself, battering ram style, at the front door after her husband had closed it on her. She's not a small woman and, when she connected, it sounded like someone had lobbed a grenade at the door (as if I had any grenade experience). I couldn't confirm the amount of damage until yesterday. When the husband came home from work. With a brand new front door from Home Depot in the back of his truck. Its my humble opinion that these people really need to commit to something. Go ahead, buy the trailer and be full-fledged white trash if that's what you're shooting for. Dare to dream.

Finally, did everyone watch Lost last night? I kinda feel like its all starting to come together...and that was truly one of the best episodes yet. So, what do you think is going on?

Posted by Chris at 7:40 AM | Comments (27)

March 2, 2005

We Got The Beat

What, you didn't believe me when I said we used the doppler heartbeat thingy on the cat?




Silly. Of course we did!

Posted by Chris at 5:43 PM | Comments (21)

Of F-Bombs and Pimp Hats

Last night over dinner...

Me: So, how was your day?
Her:Fucking annoying!
Me: Well, that certainly doesn't sound good.
Her:It wasn't too bad. I've just decided to use the word 'fuck' as much as possible before, you know, we have a kid and can't.
Me: Makes sense. This salad? Its fucking great, by the way.
Her:Of course, supposedly the baby can hear now.
Me: So, we should stop dropping the f-bomb?
Her:No, on second thought I hope the kid picks it up. I want a fucking prodigy.
Me: You might really want to watch how you phrase that.

We are so ready to have kids, can't you tell? Don't even get me started on the recent discussion in which we determined one of our cats would make the perfect pimp hat, tail sticking straight up in the air, purring all the way. Or the fact that, later that same night, we used the doppler heartbeat thingy to see if we could hear her purring. Really. I have pictures. Our kid's going to be a total spazzzzz.

Posted by Chris at 7:19 AM | Comments (30)

March 1, 2005

On Books: February

Once again, its the start of a new month...and time to check the list of stuff I've read to tell you if any of it was good. Might as well jump right in, no?

George Pelecanos doesn't deserve to be thrown into generic, mass market paperback territory. He's got such incredible talent, a flair for dialogue and an urban grittiness that seems to seep into every pore of the reader. Sadly, Shoedog wasn't his greatest novel. Actually it was one of the worst. Start elsewhere - Nick's Trip for instance. Mike Stewart's A Perfect Life did fit the generic mystery bill just fine with an over-used plot, average writing, limp characters and very little in the way of intrigue. Skip it. The Coffin Dancer was my third mass market paperback mystery of the month. Jeffrey Deaver is a great writer and his novels always satisfy. This is no exception.

Moving on, I realize I'm pretty much the last person on the planet to finish America: The Book by Jon Stewart. I like Stewart and I enjoyed the book. There's one joke but its pretty clever and the punch line is delivered well throughout.

Zoe Heller's What Was She Thinking [Notes on a Scandal] was recommended by Nick Hornby in a column I recently read. If you're in the US, you've probably heard the Mary Kay Laterno story. Teacher gets hot-and-bothered over student. Teacher allows hot-and-botherage to overcome her. Teacher does student. Teacher gets caught. Shame. You know, the age old love story. In this novel, Heller creates a similar story except its the motives of the narrator you need to be hip to.

After reading his first memoir, Running With Scissors, there's no clear explanation how Augusten Burroughs managed to become a functional member of society. The fact that he made it this long is amazing. Dry provides us with further jaw-dropping details written with awe-inspiring deftness, especially since he didn't make it past elementary school.

I saved the best for last, as I always do. Probably the best thing I've read so far this year is The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. Witness the opening paragraph:


"I still remember the day my father took me to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books for the first time. It was the early summer of 1945, and we walked through the streets of a Barcelona trapped beneath ashen skies as dawn poured over Rambla de Santa Monica in a wreath of liquid copper."

How do you not fall instantly in love with a book that opens in such a way? Its hard to summarize the story, to discuss everything its about. Its a family saga, a mystery, a gothic novel and story of growing up. Somehow, all these things combine to form one of the single best novels I've read in a long, long time. Read it. Really. Get your keys, put your jacket on and go out right now. I'll be here when you get back.

Posted by Chris at 5:49 PM | Comments (13)

Suspension of Belief

If you start noodling simple, everyday things through, do you realize how scary life is? We talk about the concept of suspension of disbelief when reading a book or watching a movie. But in real life, I think its often the suspension of belief that keeps us all going. If, for instance, you're driving down the road and actually let the thought hey, that dude in the two ton SUV is shaving and reading the Wall Street Journal while doing seventy and he could swerve and - whoops - that's the end of me you'd go nuts. If you actually thought I'm a small cog in a small wheel of many small, possibly inconsequential mechanisms that make this whole blue ball go around you'd be unable to function, right? Suspension of belief, folks. That's the ticket.

Last week something unpleasant happened. Maybe you read about it on Beth's site. Maybe not. Before I continue, I'll say that the unpleasant thing has been pleasantly resolved.

You see, Beth had some blood taken for what's called a quad screen.


The purpose of the triple check or quad screen test is to identify those who would benefit from further testing for certain fetal problems. Some practices use three biochemical markers, called the triple check, others have added a fourth marker, and have renamed the testing quad screen. Either test can be used to help detect problems with chromosomes (such as Down Syndrome), and problems where there has been incomplete closure of a body cavity (such as spina-bifida).
- Marjorie Greenfield, DrSpock.com


The results that came back were discouraging. No, check that. Terrifying.

Doctors are quick to tell you that the quad screen has a very high accuracy rate in predicting defects or problems. Of course, what they don't tell you is that there's an astonishingly high false positive rate. They'll say, for instance, that 99.4% of Down syndrome births were accurately predicted by the test. What they'll ignore, however, is that they might have told 70% of women taking the test that they were at significantly higher risk. Its like a weatherman predicting that it will snow in the winter. Sure, he'll be right a couple of times but he'll leave a bunch of other people freaked out, running to by salt, shovels, bread and milk.

To be fair, we knew what we were getting into. We were aware of the high false positive rate. But how do you realistically prepare yourself to hear that your child has a significantly high likelihood of being born with Down syndrome? The answer? You don't. What you do is freak out. You cry a little then start to think about what one in fifty-six really means. You think of all the kids with Down syndrome that you know, that you grew up with because your mom was a special education teacher and these were the kids you grew up knowing, realizing they were different and possibly somewhat shortchanged but also happy. As wonderful as they were, however, you really don't want that for your kid. And yet you catch yourself saying that, thinking that and it sounds selfish but you really don't care. No, you want the best...nothing less...and not out of some sort of egotistical, foolish pride that screams "look what I created!" No, you just want the best for your child. You, trying not to project, want the kid to win the Nobel Peace Prize, the Pulitzer and the National Book Award. You want your child to be an 87-time Jeopardy champ leaving Ken Jennings in the dust. You want your child to find the cure for cancer, AIDS, world hunger and Middle-East peace. You want the kid to strap on a guitar and be a rockstar. But, failing all the grandiose notions you may have, you'll settle for a kid who has a chance at being happy and leading a long, healthy life. That's what goes through your head.

As it turned out, we needn't have worried. Some lab technician somewhere entered the wrong due date and that, of course, through the entire formula out of whack. The test results were thrown out, run again and all is well. The Lima Bean will be fine.

Here's the real lesson. As a potential parent and, certainly as a full-fledged member of the parenting club, the ability to suspend that suspension of belief falters. As much as you'd like to live in a world padded by your own innocence or ignorance of the things that could happen, of the inevitabilities, you can't escape the very real fear that something will happen to your child. Its a tough concept to deal with but its certainly worthwhile. We talk about childhood innocence, the ignorance we all shared of the world around us when we were young. I'd argue that there's an adulthood innocence too. And such innocence is shed by having kids and looking at the world as a parent...or a parent to be.

Posted by Chris at 9:02 AM | Comments (32)


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