August 31, 2007

Schadenfreude Friday: Definitional Issues

The dictionary definition of schadenfreude may be satisfaction or pleasure felt at someone else's misfortune but I think we can all agree that an alternative definition would be the hilarity that ensures when a politician whips it out in an airport bathroom. I doubt Larry Craig, the esteemed and sexually adventurous senator from Idaho, would agree. He was arrested, plead guilty to a minor charge, was put on probation and charged $575 for the offense - "sexual misconduct" which was described as propositioning a policeman (oops). Which was really a shame. I hear that in Minneapolis, you can get yourself a night with twin midget transexuals and a goat for $575.

Of course two of Leona Helmsley's grandkids may argue over that definition. Instead, they'd probably propose something along the lines of the feeling other people have when they see that our dead grandmother loved her dog more than us. That would be accurate too. See, the Queen Of Mean real estate billionaire recently croaked and left $12 million to her dog, Trouble. But two of her grandkids didn't pocket a dime. This lunacy is compounded by the fact that she left her chauffeur a hundred grand. Not to speak ill of the dead...but what a bitch.

Lauren Upton might quibble with that take on schadenfreude. She'd probably define it as having to answer an idiotic question any five year old could answer yet not quite having the three brain cells it takes to get the answer out. When asked a relatively simple question, Ms. Upton - a contestant in the recent Miss Teen USA beauty pageant - got her stupid on. Take a look.

Question: Recent polls have shown a fifth of Americans can't locate the U.S. on a world map. Why do you think this is?

Answer: I personally believe... that U.S. Americans are unable to do so... because...uh... some people out there in our nation don't have maps...and... uh... I believe that our education, like such as in South Africa and... uh... the Iraq, everywhere, like, such as...and I believe that they should...our education over here in the U.S. should help the U.S... uh...or, should help South Africa and should help the Iraq and the Asian we will be able to build up our future... for our children.

Upton landed the third runner-up spot but she's first in my book. As soon as the tiara is made, I'm crowing you Miss Teen Schadenfreude USA, Lauren. Wear it proud!

Posted by Chris at 7:06 AM | Comments (32)

August 30, 2007

One Versus Two

When my dad was a kid, he and his family would take road trips. They'd pack a camper - one of those short, squat things you'd haul behind your car that would open up into a combination bedroom, living room and kitchen when they'd reached wherever it was they were stopping for the day - and drive across the country. On one of those drives, my dad was taunting his sister in the backseat. My grandfather reached over the seat and plucked my dad's teddy bear from his arms, opened the window, and tossed it out into the hot Arizona desert. And refused to go back for it. Now, by all accounts, my grandfather wasn't the warmest guy. But it sure shut my dad up.

I don't have any stories like that, primarily due to two facts - my dad's a nicer guy than his father and I'm an only child.

When Beth and I realized we were pregnant for the second time, I had a hard time understanding where some of my unease was coming from. Some of it's the natural holy shit I'm going to be responsible for another human life thing but another part of it, I realized eventually, was the fact that I didn't have a good frame of reference for the experience that Mia is going to have. I never had a big brother to beat the crap out of me or a little sister to argue with. The thought of having a sibling is totally alien to me. Much like the experience of being an only child is probably completely foreign to Beth who had a little brother to torment.

So I ask you - do you have siblings or are you and only child? And how did that influence the way you grew up? And, finally, what kind of advice do you have for an only child dad of two kids?

Posted by Chris at 6:46 AM | Comments (64)

August 29, 2007

Life - It's A Freakshow

I've said it before and I'll say it again - I'm a freak-magnet. Allow me to illustrate some of the many strange individuals I've run into over the last two days.

1. There's a homeless guy in downtown DC who stands by an exit from one of the bridges that crosses the Potomac. He, like many, carried a sign explaining his plight. Unlike most, he was using a toilet plunger to collect small change. If I were to venture a guess, I bet he doesn't do all that well donation-wise.

2. I was heading back to the parking garage yesterday evening, walking behind a little old guy. He was dressed in a suit and tie - like half the people on the street - but he was a little stooped over, unassuming. Until he got to a newspaper dispenser on the street corner. At that point he upped and started kicking the ever-loving shit out of the machine. Like, full-on ultimate fighting smackdown. The dude has a serious problem with newspapers.

3. Washing my hands in the bathroom, a very large man came in and picked a toilet-seat cover from the dispenser on the wall. He calmly walked over to one of the other faucets, turned the water on, and ran the toilet-seat cover under the water. Then he made his way to one of the stalls, unballing the soaking wet cover while he went. Does anyone have any clue what this was about? Because the only thing I can come up with is the fact that he needs an airtight seal to drop his kids at the pool. Tell me there's some better reason I haven't considered.

4. Another bathroom encounter, because you can never have too many of those - I was, again, washing my hands in the men's room. I found myself standing next to a man in a wheelchair. He smiled and we said hello. I breathed a sigh of relief. Until I was treated to a lecture on the quality of the toilet paper. "Can you believe how bad the toilet paper is in here?" he asked. "Probably the cheapest shit they can get or it's a charity case. You know, made by some group of poor, washed up disabled assholes or something. Get some real fucking toilet paper, I say!" And the whole time I'm thinking huh, bitter-much? and hey, aren't you disabled?. But I couldn't say anything. All I could do was nod.

The moment you've been waiting for: The answer to the what embarrassing reference did my wife make that she's really not sure she wants you knowing that she knows contest? Most of you got it - D. She made a brilliant reference to Dilithium Crystals. Apparently she's not proud of that knowledge.

Posted by Chris at 7:03 AM | Comments (23)

August 28, 2007

Name That Useless Knowledge!

My wife is embarrassed about something. In a pre-sleep conversation we had in bed the other night, she referenced something that she wishes she hadn't. By making said reference, she copped to knowing something she wouldn't otherwise readily admit she stored in her gray matter. It's up to you to decide what this thing is. Here are your choices:

a. Richard Marx's Hometown. Name-dropping is cool, unless the name you're dropping is that of Top 40 has-been Richard Marx. The singer who once called the top of the charts his home, hails from Winnetka, Illinois.

b. Holmes' Johnson. John Holmes', uh, little general, measured anywhere from 12 to 15 inches long, depending who you asked. You could, for one, ask Beth. She knows. Or at least seemed to when she made the reference.

c. Groove. In The Heart. It was bizarre. One minute she was lying there, the next she was reciting the complete lyrics from Deee-Lite's Groove Is In The Heart.

d. Logical, Captain. Dilithium Crystals. Yes, she referenced the fictional element which played a key role in the Star Trek universe enabling faster-than-light travel.

e. Cereal Killer. For some strange reason, Beth seems to know all about the major manufacturers of cereal - Post, General Mills and Kellogg's - to include which manufacturers make which popular breakfast cereals. She's like a cereal savant.

So, which one is it? What's Beth embarrassed to have you know that she knows? Uh, what? You know what I mean, right?

Posted by Chris at 6:28 AM | Comments (42)

August 27, 2007

Graceful I Am Not

Unsurprisingly, I spent 95% of the weekend engaged in some sort of home-related activity. In order to keep it interesting, to move away from the mundane, I inadvertently played a little game I'm calling Jackass: The Home-Owning Dad Edition.

It started when Mia requested that, like her, I try a forward roll off of her training potty. (Just typing that out now, I'm wondering what the hell I was thinking. I don't care how athletic or kinky you happen to be - nothing that involves gymnastics and a toilet can work out well. At that point, however, I had the benefit of neither hindsight nor common sense.) I did a forward roll off the toilet. The result was loud and ugly. And painful.

Later in the day, my father-in-law brought over a lawnmower for me to check out. This is the same saint who came over and actually mowed for us the weekend we moved in. So, I tried the lawnmower. And, uh, I promise I'm not gloating or anything but our yard is fucking huge, and it was hot and our grass was thick. It wasn't an easy job. Luckily, I had something to keep my mind off the actual mowing pretty early into the process. Whilst mowing, I realized that the mower was riding too close to the ground (the stalling was the big clue for me, Captain Obvious). Adjusting the height of a lawnmower isn't rocket science. First and foremost, you keep your appendages way the hell away from the hot-ass engine. Again with that hindsight thing. I have a three or four inch burn running length-wise down my forearm. Um, I got a little too close.

Then I dropped a toilet seat on my toe. I don't even want to talk about that.

Other than that, the weekend was great. We got a lot of stuff done and I am sufficiently exhausted. But I've learned that I either need to hire someone to do some work around the house or find myself a stunt double. Or maybe both.

And you guys? Highlights? Lowlights? Just plan meh-lights?

Posted by Chris at 6:15 AM | Comments (32)

Haiku For Monday #182

Like crack you are oh so whack.
Come on - just say no.

Posted by Chris at 6:10 AM | Comments (7)

August 24, 2007

Stupid and Funny: A Story

I'm going to take a little schadenfreude break today. Instead? I'm going to tell you a little story...

The other night, Beth and I were watching MythBusters. I have a fascination with that show that I can't quite explain. Of course, I have a fascination with all kinds of things I can't quite explain. Anyway, they were blowing things up in a campfire. I guess it's pretty easy to understand the appeal there. One of the things they blew up? Aerosol cans. I immediately turned to Beth and told her a story.

I've mentioned my one of my close friends from the past here before. His name is Adam. He and I were inseparable for large parts of high school. To say that he had bad judgment is like saying that Stephen Hawking is a little smart. I believe, at some point during his childhood, he'd been partially lobotomized, having the "good judgment" portion of his brain removed whilst enlarging the general spaz portion. But hell, he was fun to be around.

One summer weekend, we decided to go camping. The Potomac River is dotted with little islands. We packed our stuff in a canoe and headed for one of them. Once there, we set up our tent, built an insanely large camp fire and, once the sun had set, broke open the cooler of beer we'd stolen from our parents and made dinner (MREs, bad choice). Several beers and hours later, we decided it would be a cool idea to see what exactly would burn in the campfire. I don't know what we started with but eventually we got around to an aerosol can.

Adam took the can, shoved it into the fire and we ran as far away from the fire as was humanly possible on that tiny island. A minute later there was a boom that sounded like cannon fire followed by the sounds of shrapnel whizzing through the air. When the noise had died down, we approached the campsite. Total destruction. The hot metal shrapnel swiss-cheesed the nearby tent, rendering it totally useless. Our reaction? Uncontrollable laughing.

Deaf from the explosion, Adam and I loudly discussed the next sacrifice. We agreed that the block of magnesium we'd packed to help start a fire would be great. We chucked it in the fire. Now, if you don't know, magnesium is pretty much the brightest substance known to man when it burns. The intensity of the fire grew gradually but, in the end, it looked as if we had a piece of the sun right there on that island.

That was the end of our experimenting. Later that evening, we laid on top of our sleeping bags under the stars - since our tent had been rendered useless - deaf and blind swatting at the mosquitoes that had decided to descend upon the island and us. We searched for the bug spray but it turned out to be a fruitless search. We'd blown it up.

When the story ended, Beth and I discussed it..

Beth: You guys were stupid.
Me: It was funny.
Beth: It was stupid.
Me: It was funny.
Beth: No, really, it was stupid.
Me: Why do those things have to be mutually exclusive?

Posted by Chris at 7:18 AM | Comments (27)

August 23, 2007

Confessions of a Bibliophile

I love books. This should come as no surprise to any of you. Books are made of paper, glue and ink but they're so much more than the sum of their parts. Each book is mysterious like that. Books, I am convinced, are a dimension in and of themselves. You can open a book - made of that paper, glue and ink - and find yourself lost in an entirely new world, and entirely different time.

While I acknowledge that I am, perhaps, not quite the norm, I was surprised to see the results of a recent poll.

According to the study, somewhere around 25 percent of us haven't cracked a book in the last year. Women average around nine books per year, men around five. Older folks read a little bit more and Democrats also slightly outpace Republicans. Yet despite the general apathy, book sales were up this past a whopping one percent.

Like I said, I'm a lot more hardcore than a lot of other folks. We're all different and some people just don't like reading. I'm cool with that. But not reading at all? I just don't get that.

Over the past year, I've parted covers on 75 different books. And if I didn't have books to read, I'd read magazines, newspapers, candy wrappers and cereal boxes. It's a compulsion but one that's taught me about the war in Iraq, allowed me to solve crimes, taken me to far off lands and places, and informed me just how much manganese I should be eating.

Do you read? If so, what? And what are your favorites?

Posted by Chris at 7:04 AM | Comments (69)

August 22, 2007

Why I Might Be A Terrible Person (Reason #461)

The Reason: I'm twelve. Specifically, my mind continually gets dragged straight into the gutter by...children's books. Really. You're running away now, aren't you?

As my wife admitted not long ago, I really can't get past the part in one of the Amelia Bedelia books in which the author wrote, "before she could get the words out, Mr. Rogers put something in her mouth. It was so good, Mrs. Rogers forgot about being angry." And sure, she was talking about pie but, uh, pie! And there was this other time, when Amelia Bedelia helped out a baseball team - the Grizzlies - well, she played with lots of balls. And Biscuit? Biscuit always wants to play with his balls...or his bone.

And as I've written in the past (and Statia discussed recently, there's no way I can make it through the otherwise touching Guess How Much I Love You without cracking up. See, mentally I change the name Big Nutbrown Hare to Big Brown Nut Hair. Then I giggle. It tends to derail the story.

Then there's Pooh. I mean, right there you've got a million jokes. Add the neighborhood Pooh hangs in and you've got some great material. 100 Acre Wood? That's one well-endowed bear. A.A. Milne, you slay me!

I'm expecting a cease and desist order from those Disney people any minute now.

Posted by Chris at 7:14 AM | Comments (36)

August 21, 2007

Walk The Walk, Talk The Talk

In 1997, a woman named Elvira Arellano arrived in Washington state illegally. She was, eventually, arrested and deported but she returned. She cleaned planes in Chicago. She was again arrested and scheduled to turn herself over to the authorities last August. Instead, she sought refuge at Adalberto United Methodist Church in Los Angeles. Arellano spoke yesterday at a rally for immigration reform. She was arrested immediately afterwards and deported to Tijuana.

She was deported. Her eight year old son - born here and, as a result, a legal United States resident - was not.

I realize that Arellano may not be the most sympathetic of characters. She knowingly broke the law several times and falsified social security numbers so she could work. I get that. What I don't get is how we - as a country and as a society - balance and justify these actions against our continuous assertion that family, specifically our children, are the most important priorities. A government that truly values children and the parents charged with their care doesn't deport the sole caregiver of a dependent child. No matter what.

If I were a more cynical person, I'd say that ninety percent of the time we walk a different walk than the talk we talk. We say we value education but we don't fund education. We say we're all about saving the environment but we drive SUVs. We say we want to help the homeless and the world's disadvantaged but we go out to dinner and spend twenty bucks on entrees large enough to feed a small village. I'm not pointing the finger at anyone in particular, except myself. I do these things too.

At some point we have to say what we mean and follow-through. And while I don't have any good solutions to the immigration issue, I know the answer is not deporting single mothers forcing them to leave their kids behind.

Posted by Chris at 6:25 AM | Comments (26)

August 20, 2007

The List Of Things That Happened This Weekend

Know what I remembered this weekend about being buying a house? Once you've signed your name to thousands of sheets of paper pledging your eternal loyalty to your mortgage company and then moved all your stuff - or paid nice burly men to move your stuff for you - you have to work on it to get it the way you want it. And it's exhausting. I mean, really, really exhausting. Plus, you know, there's other stuff going on too. I give you the List Of Things That Happened This Weekend.

1. We built shelves. Five sets of shelves, in fact. For Mia's playroom. We can now have a moderately normal room that doubles as a playroom thanks to the genius of some Swedish carpenters (thanks, Ikea) and doors (so, thanks to whoever invented doors...I'm guessing it was either Jesus or that British dude who's always talking up stuff on infomercials).

2. I wrestled snakes. Seriously, I'm the heir apparent to the Crocodile Hunter throne. Okay, not really. But we did find a snake in our pond hunting fish and frogs. I'd like to say that I donned my safari hat, picked up my handy machete and offed the sucker but I didn't. I went out, saw what it was, looked it up online and, upon realizing that it was pretty much harmless, I let it do its thing. Then it went away. Luckily it did so before Mia fell into the pond. Had to happen sometime, I guess.

3. I visited Home Depot...a lot. I was in Home Depot five times this weekend. And I think I spent a billion dollars. Medicine cabinets are expensive. So are bathroom faucets. Which leads to...

4. I replaced two bathroom faucets. It was perhaps the most disgusting home improvement job I've ever done. After pulling out the drains, I found 20 years of sludge. It was as if Satan himself had concentrated evil into a fluid and injected it into our pipes. It was wrong. It was wronger than wrong. It was foul. But it's gone and nice new shiny fixtures have replaced Satan's faucets.

5. We bought stuff. Not only did we spend way too much time buying stuff at Home Depot, as mentioned, but we visited Target twice, ordered blinds, arranged for new carpet to be installed in the basement, and got a contractor to do some work on our doors. And we ordered takeout for pretty much every meal. My credit card actually, at one point, had smoke coming off of it. So, my bank account is hurting. Time to set up a pyramid scheme or something. Who wants in?

6. Studied for my Mia language exams. Mia's vocabulary is huge and the way she says certain things cracks me up. Like, did you know that things can happen today, tomorrow or tonow? She cracks me up. I don't always understand her, but she cracks me up.

So, what did you guys do?

Posted by Chris at 6:20 AM | Comments (35)

Haiku For Monday #181

When I say Monday
I say it like Seinfeld says
Newman. With hatred.

Posted by Chris at 6:18 AM | Comments (9)

August 17, 2007

Schadenfreude Friday: Rovespawn, The Hoff and Starbucks

Let's see - miners are still trapped in Utah, a hurricane hit Hawaii, another flooded my hometown of Houston, the toy company boss accused of using lead paint in his Chinese factories on toys shipped to the US resulting in a massive recall killed himself, the stock market has fallen faster than Britney's career, and a recent report shows an increase in suicides in the Army due to war stress. Not a great week for amusing displays of schadenfreude. But there are some rays of hope out there.

Isn't the fact that Karl Rove resigned cause for celebration? Yes, the Republican puppetmaster thought to have his hand directly up George Bush's ass has left the building. In this case, the White House. Let's all shake our booties and get jiggy with our bad selves. This, my friends, is cause for shaking your groove things. Of course, Jenna Bush - first daughter who happens to be in possession of a great porn name - is getting hitched to a former White House aide who previously worked with Rove. The thought of the right-wing babies they'll produce scares the ever loving shit of me. Do you think this is, perhaps, part of some emerging Republican breeding strategy? *shudder*

My favorite schadenfreude of the week is delivered courtesy of The Hoff. See, Dave is seeking a divorce from his wife Pamela Bach but he's getting aggravated about the whole spousal support thing. I guess singing for vast dozens of Germans isn't quite as lucrative as we've been lead to believe. Anyway, he's posed an interesting question - what is Pamela Bach capable of doing to support herself. The answer? Well, he's trying to force her to take some vocational tests to see. "Hi, insult. Meet injury."

And then there's Starbucks...and this one's personal. I moved away from my regular morning Dunkin Donuts stop. Sadness. This morning, I stopped at Starbucks for a cup of coffee and a couple of scones. When they told me how much I owed their fine establishment, I felt as if a large man named Bubba had bent me over and begun sodomizing me. And I don't swing that way. Seriously, if someone's going to screw me like that - no matter how good their coffee is - they should at least buy me breakfast afterward. Not charge me for it.

Posted by Chris at 6:47 AM | Comments (24)

August 16, 2007

This Is What Backyards Are For

This my friends, this is what summer and backyards are all about.

Yesterday was my last day of freedom from work. I'm back in the saddle this morning. So, we decided to have a little fun yesterday. We started the day by wandering through Ikea and outfitting our new pad with some Swedish furniture. See, one of our giant couches didn't quite fit into the basement. The attempt was interesting to watch - four guys standing around trying to figure out how best to subvert the laws of physics. They weren't quite able to. And I have some holes in the walls to fix as evidence. Anyhoo, I honestly believe that Ikea is really the best store on the planet. Where else could Mia find a perfect helmet? It wasn't really a helmet but a nice plastic colander she fell in love with and wore around the store and all the way home. Once we made it home, there was napping, a few errands to run and then some hardcore sprinkler-running fun.
The house is coming together pretty well. The first floor is now livable. I haven't even taken shots of the basement or the second floor bedrooms. They're much less, uh, refined.

The place is a blank slate - almost all the walls are white and the fixtures are generic. Now, it's just a matter of finding the time to do everything we want. And of course, we have to spend a lot of time doing the important stuff like running through the sprinkler.

Posted by Chris at 6:57 AM | Comments (31)

August 15, 2007

It's Like Coming Home Though I Never Really Lived Here

You know those stories in which a guy graduates from high school, goes to college then heads out into the world only to, eventually, return to his hometown to take care of his ailing parents or attend a random high school reunion at which he stumbles into the love of his life and the romance is instantly rekindled? Life is kinda like that right now except none of that is going on.

See, we moved into a neighborhood very close to my old high school. We're so close, I can hear the marching band practicing and coaches' whistles floating over the evening air when I'm out back doing my best to keep the grass green. My nostalgia for high school is, however, inversely proportionate to my love of high school at the time.

In high school, I wasn't a geek, a jock, a stoner, a punk, or an honor roll student. I was just, well, me. Academically, I was bored 90% of the time. Socially, I got along with everyone. I was one of those people who jumped between cliques. I had a good time but I haven't spent the last 15 years pining to get those years back or move next door. Strangely, that's exactly what's happened.

Even though it's stuck in a great big metro area, for some strange reason, I take a lot of pride in being back in this little town. Even though I never really lived here but merely visited eight hours a day in a time when bells told me where I had to be and when.

Today's my last day of "vacation" before heading back to work. I'll be taking some pictures of the new place and hopefully getting them online for you soon. Until then, happy humping (because it's Wednesday...I don't have any bizarre inside knowledge of what you may be in for today...).

Posted by Chris at 7:41 AM | Comments (16)

August 14, 2007

Losing It

First and foremost, two very kind men answered the Cactus-Fish distress signal and fixed our air conditioning yesterday afternoon. I have a new lease on life. I no longer need to be an asshole, for I am cool. I like to think in the literal and metaphorical sense.

Yesterday Beth had quite a few irons in the fire. She had to run a few errands and spend some time at the Old House (TM, still) getting it ready to be turned over to the new owners. Mia and I spent most of the day hanging out together. We did all kind of things - we played, we arranged her toy room, we cleaned, we vacuumed, we had some lunch, took a nap and read a few books. It was fantastic. You just can't beat a day with your kid. This was, however, in stark contrast to the previous evening.

On Sunday evening, the three of us headed to a local Mexican place for dinner. Afterwards, we decided to stop at Target. Mia wasn't as enthusiastic as Beth and I. She didn't want to go. Or, rather, she wanted to go so long as she was allowed to push her stroller. In a crowded store, we thought this was unacceptable. Mia wasn't happy with that call. Actually, she was pretty pissed. We made it into the store for a whopping 30 seconds before we had to pull out. She totally lost her shit. It was as if she was reacting to the horror of some 911-like apocalypse only, instead of the Twin Towers, she was witnessing the collapse of the Disney castle resting atop every single Toys R Us store known to man stacked one on top of the other. It was spectacularly bad. And there was not a damn thing I could do.

This is the first time Mia has lost her shit in public. And one of the first times she's really totally gone balls-out shit-losing with me along for the ride. She got over it. Me? That might take a little longer. The thing is, she's two. These things happen. And will happen in the future. I guess, if I'm allowed to lose my shit over the air conditioning, she's allowed to flip out over her stroller. Fair's fair

Posted by Chris at 7:04 AM | Comments (27)

August 13, 2007

Bust A Move

Well, ladies and gentlemen, I'm happy to inform you that the Great Move of '07 is officially over. We've lived to tell the tale. Although on several occasions, it was a near thing.

Beth and I awoke Friday morning to sign our names more times than Wilt Chamberlin had sexual conquests. In other words? A lot. After closing on the house, we scoped out the new Cactus-Fish pad and moved some stuff from the Old House (TM) to the New House (TM, too). Mia hung out with my parents. My mother exhausts me. No shock, she was wiped out when she came home. Our last night in the house was marginally traumatic although it paled in comparison with the truly apocalyptic previous night. Meltdown City, population three. Then came Moving Day, the day in which we paid four dudes cash to break their backs, load our shit into a giant truck, drive five miles and repeat in reverse. Long story short? It went okay. One minor wrinkle though.

Sometime Saturday afternoon, I noticed that cold air was no longer being delivered courtesy of the New House's air conditioner. So, we've been unpacking and we've been slightly, uh, warm. Welcome to our house-slash-Native-American-sweat-lodge. Now we're faced with the unpacking. The hot unpacking. And not hot like topless thong-wearing hot. Old-fashioned hot. And that's all I have to say about that.

But, even though I was an asshole about the AC most of the damn weekend because, well, I'm just an asshole sometimes, it was totally worth it. Because this is our backyard.

Posted by Chris at 7:51 AM | Comments (51)

Haiku For Monday #180

A day off today.
Don't be envious, okay?
I'll be unpacking.

Posted by Chris at 7:40 AM | Comments (4)

August 10, 2007

Schadenfreude Friday: Vote For Pedro

A tearful Cindy Sheehan cited her son, killed in Iraq, as her inspiration as she announced her candidacy Thursday for the U.S. House against Rep. Nancy Pelosi.

Sheehan last month said she intended to run against Pelosi, the House speaker, if the San Francisco congresswoman didn't move to impeach President Bush by July 23.

Sheehan said Thursday that Pelosi had "protected the status quo" of the corporate elite and had lost touch with people in her district, most of whom, she asserted, want American troops out of Iraq.

Nadeam Elshami, a spokesman for Pelosi, would not comment on Sheehan's candidacy but said the speaker has always opposed the war in Iraq and has focused on bringing troops home "safely and soon."

It is not immediately obvious why I - a self-described bleeding heart liberal - would include Sheehan on my roster of weekly schadenfreude. Sheehan has been lauded on these pages in the past. So why bash her now? The answer is really quite simple.

Sheehan stood for a true pacifist movement. She gained a foothold in the American psyche by standing up for families of soldiers killed in what the majority of Americans are realizing is an unjust, poorly waged war. Who would refuse to embrace a mother whose son was killed fighting a war that never needed to be started. Yes, she alienated a few of the die-hards who would never think or at least admit that mistakes had been made. But she had a prime opportunity to influence public opinion and make the cause greater than that of herself or her son. But she didn't. Instead, she allowed herself to become the story, allowed her personality to eclipse the ideal for which she was fighting. And now, unable to achieve any sort of victory against her true target - George W - she's aimed lower and set her sights on someone who may actually be in a position to slow if not stop the flow of flag-covered caskets back to our shores. And by doing so she again makes herself the story instead of our soldiers.

Cindy, if you want to do something positive, throw your support behind those with the influence to change minds and lives. Fly to Washington. Spend time at Walter Reed. Take care of those whose lives have been forever altered by war. Hell, camp out at the ranch in Texas some more. Just don't make the story about you. Make it about the men and women who have pledged their lives to fight on our behalf.

As an aside, someone who's been reading for a while wrote to let me know that she's safe and well and turning some folks into Rude Cactus converts in Afghanistan. There's no way to adequately express how proud that made me feel. To all of you fighting the good fight, thanks. Keep reading but more importantly, take care of yourselves!

Posted by Chris at 7:12 AM | Comments (11)

August 9, 2007

Sleepless in Virginia

I am a morning person. Beth is not. By any stretch of the imagination. This can cause frequent conflict, especially now that Mia and I have ganged up on her. Mia's a morning person too. Last night, neither of us slept worth a damn. We were thinking about the new house. And whenever we did finally fall asleep, Mia, with a new set of molars making themselves known, started crying. Then, this morning, I couldn't find my shoes.

Me: Good morning
Her: Merhsushushs
Me: No sleep?
Her: No.
Me: Me either. I thought about the new house all night.
Her: Me too.
Me: Have a good day. I love you.
Her: I love you too.

...five minutes later I returned to the darkened bedroom...

Her: What's wrong?
Me: I can't find my shoes.
Her: If you put them away, this wouldn't happen.
Me: You'd have been helpful the day after the Hindenburg disaster - Hydrogen? Not such a good idea dudes!
Her: I'm asleep you know.
Me: Bye.

...five minutes later I returned to the darkened bedroom...again...

Her: Back again?
Me: I can't find my fucking shoes!
Her: Try downstairs. Or somewhere else. Please.
Me: Okay. I love you hot ass.
Her: Hot ass?
Me: Yeah, that's what I'm going to call you from now on.
Her: I'll legally change my name. When I'm awake and not trying to sleep!
Me: It should be your rap name.
Her: Because I rap so much.
Me: You should. You'd be good.
Her: Would you please go find your damn shoes and go to work?
Me: Okay. I love you Hot Ass.

And here I am. At work. Tired and ingesting coffee and what I'm sure is a lethal rate.

Posted by Chris at 7:04 AM | Comments (36)

August 8, 2007

Things I Don't Understand

There exists a surprisingly long list of things I don't completely understand, stuff I just don't get. I've added several things today.

The heat. Those who say global warming doesn't exist can kiss my sweaty butt. It was Africa-hot today. I pretty sure I actually saw some kid burst into flames before my very eyes. One minute he was standing there listening to some tunes, the next - poof! Just a little puddle of sweat and scorched iPod headphones where he once stood.

Pens and lighters. While cleaning out everything in the house, I've learned that we have more pens than there are words in the entire English language. Approximately three of them actually work. And despite the fact that I haven't smoked in years, I own 27 lighters.

The White Stripes. Seriously, could someone explain them to me? I'll admit that Jack White's a pretty decent musician but Meg couldn't drum her way out of a paper bag. I always feel shortchanged when I listen to them. Like, hello, I'd like some bass guitar please. It seems to me that their most popular song - Seven Nation Army - is just simple, repetitive recycled blues anchored by totally inaccurate, pitchy pseudo slide-guitar solos.

Phone numbers. Why can you take your cell phone number with you when you change carriers but you can't take your home phone number with you when you move ten miles?

Time. Over the weekend, I was sorting through the pile of crap contained in one of our desk drawers. I stumbled on some old photos. I wish I hadn't packed them or I would have posted a few. Some were the obligatory cat pictures (double RIP, Callie and Pixel) and some were the even more obligatory apartment shots from previous lives. But a few were gems - pictures of Beth and I between 1994 and 2003. We looked like infants. Like toddlers shacking up together.

As you go through life, you move through a series of first - first drinks, first votes, first cars, first loves and lovers, first (and hopefully last) marriages, first houses, first kids. To some, these seem like hurdles, others embraces. The rest of your life is there, laid out in front of you like a movie-set sun setting in the West. It's yours to walk into because that's what you're supposed to do, that's what you're happy doing. But as you look over your shoulder, it's kinda sad to see those firsts behind you.

We're moving away from our first house, the house we brought Mia home to, the house that truly defined home for us for so long. And we're bringing a second child into the world. These aren't at all sad things but they do signal that time marches on. Sometimes it sprints. Sometimes it passes faster than light, faster than you ever though possible. Sometimes I'm just surprised that I'm not 15 anymore. But then I realize that the life I have now is wonderful. And while I march through time, I do it with the ones that I love beside me.

I will still, however, never understand all those damn pens.

Posted by Chris at 7:13 AM | Comments (32)

August 7, 2007

Baby No. 2: Just The FAQs

I realize that I was a little light on the details when I broke the news about baby number two yesterday. So, in an attempt to enlighten you and answer as many questions in as proactive manner possible, I present to you the Baby Number Two FAQ.

  1. How'd it happen? The usual way. Beth and I got frisky, knocked boots, bumped uglies, did the horizontal mambo, got it on, made sweet sweet love.
  2. What did you say when Beth told you? Whatchyou talkin' 'bout Willis? And then I soiled myself.
  3. No, really, what did you say? Wuh-huh? And then, possibly, holy fuck. But I meant it in a very sentiment, caring way.
  4. When's the baby due? February 6th. Give or take.
  5. How does Beth feel? Queasy, not puking, but queasy. And tired.
  6. How do you feel? Queasy, not puking, but queasy. And tired.
  7. Are you going to find out the sex? We had the sex. Aren't you paying attention? Oh, the baby's sex? Yep, we'll find out but not for a little while.
  8. Boy or girl - what do you want? I want a second kid, one that's healthy, happy, with all twenty fingers and toes. Beyond that, I'm easy. Although we sure do have a lot of girly clothes we could put to good use. It's either have another girl or train a legion of female circus chimps. Which could be a good source of extra cash, I guess.
  9. Have you thought of any names? Not knowing the sex makes it a little more of a challenge. The only one we've come up with is Nofe (with an accent on the e, of course). Mia dumped her alphabet puzzle and those four letters lined themselves up. Call it fate, call it serendipity - I think you'll agree that it's a pretty bitchin' name that would work out great for a boy or a girl.
  10. What does Mia think of the idea? We're working though the whole new house thing at the moment. Once we get that in the rear-view, we'll deal with the whole big sister concept. Baby steps, so to speak.
  11. So, this is why there was such a rush for the new house? Nope. The two had absolutely nothing to do with each other. We caught the house bug before the whole reproductive process kicked in. It was just a rather fortuitous coincidence.
  12. How do you feel about the whole thing? I'm excited, nervous, terrified and still moderately bewildered by the entire thing. And I'm trying to stock up on sleep. Because I'm sure I'll never sleep again.

Thanks to all you guys for your kind words and good wishes. I hope you stay tuned for the ride to come. I trust it'll be interesting.

Posted by Chris at 6:14 AM | Comments (53)

August 6, 2007

Addition And Subtlety

I don't want to start some great big internetwebosphere controversy but I've got to get your opinion on something. Beth's eating anything in which lemons are a prominent ingredient. And, frankly, she's getting kinda fat. And she keeps dressing Mia in this strange shirt with a cryptic message. What can it all mean?

For those of you who're throwing things at your monitors and vowing never to read me again, I'll have you know that, when I mentioned the idea for this post - the fat thing - Beth cracked up. It was posted with consent and encouragement.

Posted by Chris at 6:27 AM | Comments (154)

Haiku For Monday #179

T-minus five days
Until we move all our shit.
Time flies when you're nuts.

Posted by Chris at 6:14 AM | Comments (4)

August 3, 2007

Schadenfreude Friday: Bears, Midgets and Ted Turner (Oh My!)

Little Person, Big Problem

Matthew Roloff of TLC's "Little People, Big World" was arrested for Driving Under the Influence of Intoxicants last month in Washington County, Oregon. "Mr. Roloff allegedly failed the field sobriety test and was arrested for DUII. Mr. Roloff was transported to the Washington County Jail where he was cited for DUII, refusing the breath test, and failure to drive within the lane."

Look, I don't really have any good smartass comments but I'm all over midgets in the news. All of them. All one of 'em.

The Butler Did It

Pulitzer prize-winning author Robert Olen Butler sent out an e-mail yesterday announcing that his wife had dumped him for billionaire Ted Turner. "Put down your cup of coffee or you might spill it," Butler, 62, wrote to his graduate students and fellow professors at Florida State University in Tallahassee. "Elizabeth is leaving me for Ted Turner."

Elizabeth is Butler's wife of 12 years, Elizabeth Dewberry, 44, an author in her own right, who might be attracted to Turner, 68, because the media mogul resembles the grandfather who molested her as a child, Butler writes in the shocking e-mail.

How does one, exactly, arrive at the conclusion that an e-mail distributed to the world is the best way to deal with a situation such as this? Oh, and, burnnnn!

Grin and Bear It

On another occasion in California’s Sierra Nevada mountains where he was filmed biting off the head of a snake for breakfast and struggling for survival “with just a water bottle, a cup and a flint for making fire”, he actually slept some nights with the crew in a lodge fitted with television and internet access. The Pines Resort at Bass Lake is advertised as “a cosy getaway for families” with blueberry pancakes for breakfast.

In one episode Grylls, son of the late Tory MP Sir Michael Grylls, was shown apparently building a Polynesian-style raft using only materials around him, including bamboo, hibiscus twine and palm leaves for a sail.

But according to Mark Weinert, an Oregon-based survival consultant brought in for the job, it was he who led the team that built the raft. It was then dismantled so that Grylls could be shown building it on camera.

In another episode viewers watched as Grylls tried to coax an apparently wild mustang into a lasso in the Sierra Nevada. “I’m in luck,” he told viewers, apparently coming across four wild horses grazing in a meadow. “A chance to use an old native American mode of transport comes my way. This is one of the few places in the whole of the US where horses still roam wild.”

In fact, Weinert said, the horses were not wild but were brought in by trailer from a nearby trekking station for the “choreographed” feature.

So, a fake reality show? Fake reality? I just can't believe it. Surely reality television would be above such things. The next time Bear is out in the wilderness, he should really watch out. If he's, for instance, being sodomized by an actual, real life yeti and calls to his crew for help, they'll probably just think he's off for a wild romp in the woods with a distressingly ugly hooker and do nothing. He's the reality star who cried wolf, or bear, or yeti.

Now, if you'll excuse me, it's been a long week and I need a weekend.

Posted by Chris at 7:02 AM | Comments (25)

August 2, 2007

Bullet Point Thursday: The Burned Out Edition

  • I'm worn out. This week? Insanely stressful. Even my spleen's tired of doing, well, whatever it is my spleen does.
  • I finally finished Harry Potter and the Million Pages of Fiction. I wasn't digging it when I first started. Honestly, I just felt like I had to read it since it was the final one and I'd read all its predecessors. But on I trudged. And it was totally worth it.
  • I hate myself for the fact that I can't turn away from America's Got Talent one of the truly great television clusterfucks of all time. I blame it on the mystic powers of The Hoff. Apparently the Germans are even more susceptible. Kinda like the French and Jerry Lewis.
  • I almost literally can't stop listening to the new Velvet Revolver album. I'm not sure why. I mean, it's good but it's not great. Slash's guitar prowess is there but it's not truly showcased. The songs are more laid back than their first effort and the band, instead of sounding like a true marriage of Guns N Roses and Stone Temple Pilots lands definitively on the Purple-era STP side of the fence. But the hooks are fucking brilliant and the entire album has earwormed its way into my head and I can't shake it loose.
  • I'm getting the shakes. I've packed all my CDs and all but a handful of books. If I disappear without explanation I'm off getting my fix in a bookstore somewhere.
  • Similarity between me and the guy you see on the street dressed in a mismatched suit, combat boots, seven coats, shuffling along singing Doors' tunes backwards and pushing a shopping cart full of mannequin heads and a stuffed cat he calls Molly who tells him that wombats will soon rise up and assume control of the universe? We're both homeless. Well, kinda. For the first time in a few years - and for a limited time only - I don't own a house. Kinda freaky.
Posted by Chris at 7:13 AM | Comments (15)

August 1, 2007

It's What's For Dinner

A couple of weeks ago my buddy Brad at Almost Lucid dropped me a line asking how Beth and I survived without eating meat. Then, just last night, ::c:: asked a pretty similar question. Sniff...sniff...I smell post!

About six or seven years ago, Beth and I realized that we didn't eat a heck of a lot of meat. Throughout college and after, we rarely cooked meat for ourselves. We only ordered it when we went out to dinner. We didn't hate it but it just wasn't a staple. The leap into meatlessness wasn't a tough one to make. We weren't all Brokeback Meat - "I can't quit you!" Nor was the leap moral. Me not eating meat saves, like, three or four cows and a handful of chickens over time. I'm not saving a herd. Or whatever you call a group of chickens. But as I remain a vegetarian, the less and less I like the idea of eating something with a face.

Now, vegetarianism is much more common than it was ten years ago but this doesn't stop people from, when I inform them that I don't eat meat, gazing at me sympathetically like I've just informed them that I lost my left testicle in a gardening accident. I assure you, it's not hard. Take a look at some of the meals we've prepared over the last couple weeks:

  • Minestrone Soup. Beans, veggies and pasta from scratch in about 20 minutes. Perfect with a nice loaf of bread.
  • Black Bean Tostadas. Tostada shells topped with a thick black bean sauce. Put some shredded cheddar, lettuce, onions, tomatoes and salsa on top and serve with a side of Spanish rice and you're set.
  • Spaghetti. Nothing can beat spaghetti. Make the sauce from scratch or buy a jar of your favorite (Newman's Own makes a great one), add veggies and spices and serve over the noddles of your choice. Oh, and don't forget bread.
  • Veggie Burgers. Fake meat can be creepy. If I wanted to eat meat, I'd eat meat. But Morningstar Farms makes some great stuff, including their spicy black bean burgers.
  • Wild Mushroom Risotto. Risotto can be tricky but once you get the hang of it, it's seriously one of the best things you've ever put in your mouth. Let me know if you ant a recipe.
  • Pizza. Make one, don't buy one. Store-bought crust and fresh veggies make all the difference.
  • Breakfast! Seriously, breakfast for dinner rocks.

My point here is this - you won't go hungry. Even if you don't want to get stuck eating weird soy products or subsist on oats, you'll be fine. If you're contemplating vegetarianism and you're concerned about what there is to eat, check out Carol Gelles' 1,000 Vegetarian Recipes. It's our go-to, well worth the $25 and a fantastic cookbook you can use even if you fall off the vegetarian wagon.

Oh, and by the way, we sold our house yesterday. Eek.

Posted by Chris at 6:56 AM | Comments (58)