September 30, 2007

The Lightbox

You asked, here's my answer - instructions for the lightbox.

What You Need:

  • One classy box, of the moving variety
  • Four sheets of white foam core
  • One sheet of white poster paper
  • Glue
  • Three clip-on lights (though, I've gotten away with two and a left-over lamp)
  • Three flourescent daylight bulbs
  • Exacto knife or razor blade

What You're Going For:

What You Do:

  1. Tape the bottom of the box, just like you would if you were about to shove stuff into it. Which you are.
  2. Measure the sides of the box - don't worry about the bottom.
  3. Cut the foam core to match the height and depth of each of the four sides.
  4. Set the box down so that one of the sides is now resting on the floor.
  5. Cut 10 inch by 10 inch holes in each of the three visible sides of the box (you'll see that I've only cut two in my example above. Instead of a large top hole, I cut one through which the bulb of the lamp could just barely fit).
  6. Cut corresponding holes in the three pieces of foam core for those sides.
  7. Insert each of the four pieces of foam core and glue into place. If the corner seams are an issue, hit your local hardware store and get white masking or duct tape to cover.
  8. Use the piece of white poster paper as a drop curtain over the back (formerly the bottom) of the box. If you like, you can attach this to the piece of foam core that forms the top so it doesn't fall.
  9. Attach each of the lamps so that the lights are placed just inside the holes - this will help you flood the box with as much light as possible. Which is frankly what you're going for, this being a lightbox and all.
  10. Stick something in the box and take lots of pictures of it.

And there you have it. It doesn't look particularly cool or cutting-edge. Actually, it looks more like someone without a clue made it up as they were going. Which is exactly what I did. But hey, it works!

Posted by Chris at 7:58 AM | Comments (11)

September 29, 2007

Wake Up Call

I live close to a high school. Can you tell me what agent of satan thought that kicking off marching band practice at 8:00 this morning was a good idea? Obviously not someone with a kid. Or common sense. Anyhoo, happy Saturday, Internets.

Posted by Chris at 8:48 AM | Comments (20)

September 28, 2007

The Weeklies #4

The Weekly Reads. Several years ago, I "discovered" Harlan Coben. His stand-alone mysteries and thrillers have been compelling enough to be entertaining, well-written enough to be more than trash yet fluffy enough to require much thought. All good things sometimes. Yet, because I'm not a huge sports fan, I never gave Coben's Myron Bolitar series - featuring a sports agent who solves crimes - a chance. I mean, how good could they be for someone like me who could care less about sports? Turns out? Pretty darn good. This week, I took the fourth book in the series - Back Spin out for a spin. It was fantastic. Coben has an insanely fantastic sense of humor and ensures his protagonist does as well. While the crimes are serious and the mysteries hard-boiled, I found myself laughing hysterically on the first page. And I don't ordinarily laugh at books. If you want some good thrillers, check out Coben. And Myron Bolitar, of course.

The Weekly Music. Since it was released earlier this week, I've logged a little time with the Foo Fighters' Echoes Silence Patience Grace. See, I happen to like The Foo. Frontman Dave Grohl is one of the good guys in the music biz and he's a damn talented guy. I'm actually of the relatively unpopular opinion that the Foo Fighters are better than Dave's original band, Nirvana. Anyway, Dave and company have put together something entirely wonderful with their latest release. It's strong - as any Foo release invariably is - and, at the same time, quite heartfelt. The Foos have, in short, pulled off another minor miracle of modern music. Also this week, Pearl Jam released their full show from Lollapalooza. I'm pretty sure its an iTunes only release but I could be wrong. Regardless, if you're a Pearl Jam fan (and I must be since I've talked about them or lead singer Eddie Vedder for the past couple of weeks), I can't recommend this enough. It's one hell of a show with a fantastic setlist. Finally, I'm not sure why David Gilmour - he of Pink Floyd fame - isn't a household name. If pressed, I'd have to admit that he's my favorite guitarist. So, I was happy when he finally released Remember That Night, a live DVD taken from his most recent tour. It combines a live performance of his new, terribly underrated album On An Island (which I wasn't originally thrilled with but grew on me) with classic Floyd material. Gilmour looks a little older than the last time we saw him...but he's never sounded better.

The Weekly Worst Moment. I'd have to say sometime around 8:00 on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday mornings, the time at which I'd made it to Monkeytown, felt like crap, and gazed in awe at the packed calendar before me. Not a good feeling.

The Weekly Best Moment. This morning, almost literally 10 minutes ago. Mia came into bed with us for a few minutes. I was showered with kisses and hugged incessantly. It was a wonderful thing.

The Weekly Schadenfreude. You couldn't have missed the fact that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited NYC this week. He came, he claimed, to open a serious dialog about the relationship between the west and the Middle East. Instead he denied the Holocaust happened, launched into a tirade about the imperialism of the west, and lobbied for the continuation of his country's nuclear program. The best moment, however, came when speaking at Columbia University. Ahmadinejad, whilst speaking about the sociological makeup of his country, insisted that there were no homosexuals in his country. And nearly each audience member simultaneously doubled over laughing.

The Weekly Picture. Have you seen my hairy nut sack?


Posted by Chris at 7:11 AM | Comments (21)

September 27, 2007

Putting The "P" in "Phone"

So, while I was down at the Monkeytown office yesterday morning, I walked into the bathroom...

(Oh, come on. Didn't you see this coming? Can I go a week without a bathroom story? Not these days. Where was I?)

...and standing before me, there was a six and a half foot tall, shirtless African-American man laughing hysterically. I don't know what within me forced me to continue forward. In retrospect, I should have turned right the hell around and found another restroom. My fight-or-flight bathroom instincts, despite plenty of opportunities to practice, aren't very well honed. But I had to pee. I soldiered on.

After re-entering the atmosphere of Crazy Bathroom Planet, I assessed the situation. It actually became less clear. Like I said, large African-American dude, laughing hysterically, with, I now saw, a dress shirt slung over one of the bathroom stall walls, the sleeves totally wet. He was clutching something wrapped in a paper towel. The heart of his last victim?

"Man," he said with great effort between bellowing laughs, "I dropped my phone. Like, in there, you know what I mean?" And there it was. The situation.

The odd thing - okay, the most odd thing - was the way this guy kept laughing. He could barely string a sentence together. I think it was more out of embarrassment. Here he was, shirtless and wet, having dropped his cell phone in the toilet under who knows what kind of conditions - frankly, even the least terrible conditions under which that phone could have entered that state would be bad - and he got busted. By me. It was odd, but I found myself laughing hysterically with this half-dressed stranger.

"Know what really sucks?" he asked. "This is my work phone." And we both busted a gut.

Then, miraculously, as if angels from on-high parted their wings and reflected the sunbeams emanating from the most merciful of cell-phone deities, the phone began to ring. I told him I thought that was a pretty damn good sign then I finished my business (yes, I had to pee and I didn't let this situation stop me), zipped up and went on my merry way. As the door closed behind me, I heard the sound of a ringing phone and the hysterical laughter of a half-dressed black man.

Posted by Chris at 7:20 AM | Comments (29)

September 26, 2007

What's In A Name?

My last name is long. It's under the 10-letter mark but only just. While the whole thing is pronounced pretty much the way it looks, people inexplicably throw in extra consonants like n and g. It has a couple of syllables that seem like they were thrown in as a joke and earned me almost endless ridicule in elementary school.

Over the years - all thirty-four of them that I've been dealing with this name - I've learned to ignore the mispronunciations. I've gotten used to nodding when people throw in those extra letters. I've even resorted to cutting off an extra syllable for ease of use. I don't dislike my name but sometimes I wish it was just a tad easier...on me and the people who have to use it.

I am apparently alone on that. Or so I learned with the arrival of news that we were having a boy.

One of the first things my paternal grandfather made clear to Beth after she and I got married was that she was to bring into this world a boy to carry on the family name. See, I'm an only child. I'm pretty much the last hope for this albatross of a name. So, gee, thanks grandpa. No pressure. I figured that pressure died along with him a couple of years ago. I was wrong. When I called my grandmother, she was absolutely thrilled beyond all reason. The first thing she did was call my great aunt to let her know that the dream hadn't died, that the name would live on.

And that got me thinking...

This name that I was saddled with completely and utterly against my will is something that I'm actually quite proud of. Sure, people have as much trouble pronouncing my name as they do with the capital of Cambodia and the lady I worked with a couple of jobs ago who put my name to shame because her name was, I swear, Probiskolipolibis. But that makes it unique. And while none of us actually did anything to earn the name, except get born, it's taken on the sum total of experiences that we, the unpronounceable clan has. We've struggled in foreign lands, emigrated from Germany, fought in the Pacific and European theaters in world wars, run corporations and, in my case, found a host of freaks in bathrooms across the greater Washington metropolitan area.

I feel a little bit guilty about passing this name off to my kids. They're going to have to suffer through the same jokes I did on the school playground and listen to the same lame attempts at pronouncing what really is a fairly easy name. But, behind that name, there's a long line of good people. And that's pretty cool.

Posted by Chris at 6:30 AM | Comments (53)

September 25, 2007

Perspective

I had a shitty day yesterday. I knew it was going to be a shitty day when, just moments after posting yesterday morning, I set the alarm system off on my way out then locked myself out of the house. Other than that, nothing catastrophic happened. Just a string of mildly crappy moments which, strung together, made a pretty unpleasant day. And I felt like shit. The mysterious crud that's going around hit me. I realized it when I was talking and couldn't hear myself. So, that sucks.

Yet, it's not terrible.

As I was walking through D.C. to the garage in which I park everyday when I'm in Monkeytown, several fellow pedestrians and I were waiting on a street corner for a light to change. One stepped off the corner, an oncoming car headed straight for him. I wasn't immediately hip to what was going on but luckily one of the others noticed...and spoke up.

Her: Hold on! The light hasn't changed.
Him: I couldn't tell.
Her: The left-hand turn signal was on.
Him: I just figured someone had run the light.
Her: I'll give you the all-clear.

The man was, of course, blind. Had someone not said something, who knows what would have happened. But luckily, someone did.

It put my day in perspective.

I could be blind. I could start every day, take every step, with the uncertainty that comes with the inability to see. Worse, I could have been born in Iraq or Afghanistan or one of the nameless, faceless countries in which poverty is the rule and happiness is an exception. But I wasn't. I was born with the ability to see, to hear, to learn. And I was born in a country in which opportunities to grow physically and mentally were available to me. I have a beautiful wife, the best daughter in the world, a good job with decent pay and, in general - despite the days that just plain blow a donkey - I'm pretty darn happy.

Apologies for the long rambling thoughts. I've got to head back to Monkeytown and I'm not exactly looking forward to it. But what helps is the knowledge that I'm not in it alone, that there are folks to warn me about oncoming traffic.

On a side note, I'm reading a book that also lends a certain amount of perspective to life (The World Without Us). It begs some interesting questions. I've personalized one of those questions - what one thing or accomplishment would you like to see outlast you? And hey, as great an answer as your children are, let's call that a given.

Posted by Chris at 6:20 AM | Comments (22)

September 24, 2007

It's Only 6:30 And I'm Already Burned Out

It is most definitely early and I'm acutely aware of the fact that it's Monday. Can't say I'm real pleased about that either. I'm a true believer in the power of positive thinking and doing the best you can but I anticipate a maddening week, largely due to the fact that there are a couple big things going on at work that I'm somewhat responsible for yet are truly up to other people. And while I'm a team player, I was also the guy who dropped college classes because too large a portion of final grades were determined by group projects. I'd rather control my own destiny, thank you. So, all aboard Maddening Monday Station, next stop Aggravation Station. Woo-woo!

The weekend, however, was quite wonderful. Thanks, in large part, to the existence of date night.

On Saturday night, Beth and I went out on the town. While we didn't exactly paint it red, we gave it a nice coat of primer. We hit a new Indian place which wasn't half bad (although I expected a little more from a restaurant that got a pretty darn good review by the impossible-to-please Washington Post restaurant reviewer) and actually made it to a movie. I'll remind you, the last movie we saw? Borat ("very nice!"). It'd been a while. We saw The Bourne Ultimatum: The Good Will Hunting Guy Kicks More Ass and laughed in the face of senseless violence. Ahhhh, it feels good to be an adult sometimes! Then we returned home to find all four of our parents (we'd only asked my in-laws to babysit but they decided to make a dinner party out of the experience which we were all for) awake and alive and our daughter sacked out in her bed. So, success!

Sunday found us watching a little Rocket and hitting the book store to feed Mia's ever-growing love of trains and books about trains. This brings me to a question - why do kids fall so madly, head over heels in love with trains, a form of transportation the rest of this country fell out of love with about 50 years ago?

Now I'm about to jump in the car and head to Monkeytown and work for 8 or 10 hours. If you have some time today, would you wish me patience and remind me again that I shouldn't take this work thing too seriously?

Posted by Chris at 6:35 AM | Comments (27)

Haiku For Monday #186

Is it too early
to be bitching about the
fact it's not Friday?

Posted by Chris at 6:25 AM | Comments (5)

September 22, 2007

Check Out My Nuts*

I built a lightbox last weekend. This is my first shot. Mia collected the nuts and I snapped them.

*Yes, I'm 12.

Posted by Chris at 1:44 PM | Comments (30)

September 21, 2007

The Weeklies #3

The Weekly Reads. When I started showing an interest in reading novels, my dad handed me two stacks of books - one consisting of books by Isaac Asimov, the other by Clive Cussler. I fell in love with both. In fact, at one point, I even wrote Cussler a letter. He responded with a very kind hand-written letter of his own. This week, I picked up one of the newer Cussler novels, the works of old Clive having been absent from my reading life for more than a decade. Golden Buddha, in short, sucked. It was drivel, utterly mindless and devoid of appreciable talent. I do have to say, though, that the inner 14 year old in me was kinda entertained. But really, it sucked. For swashbuckling adventure, instead of latter-day Cussler, I'd recommend Ted Bell's Alex Hawke series or Robert Girardi's criminally overlooked Pirate's Daughter. I'll still give Cussler the benefit of the doubt since he wrote me that note. But I'll only spot him so much.

The Weekly Music. Once upon a time there was a band no one ever heard of named Indio. They recorded an album called Big Harvest in 1989. I bought it an instantly fell in love with the song Hard Sun. I played it over and over because it was, and still is, insanely great. Eddie Vedder just released the Into The Wild soundtrack album. I downloaded it earlier this week. And on it, I found a cover of Hard Sun. If possible, his version kicks more ass than the original. And the original was damn good. Vedder's album is brief, composed of short songs but Hard Sun isn't the only jewel. This week also finds me spinning Jeremy Enigk tracks. The former singer of Sunny Day Real Estate and The Fire Theft has a strange yet genuine voice that I truly love. His recent effort World Waits is an emotional, beautiful album. His follow-up, The Missing Link is fantastic as well. In the weird voice category, I've also been listening to Robyn Hitchcock a lot this week. He's strange (I mean, really strange) and whimsical but I do love the man's music. For the more accessible side, check out Ole! Tarantula recorded with his side-project, The Venus 3 (a band featuring Peter Buck of REM fame).

The Weekly Worst Moment. Does it get worse than my terrible bathroom luck? I thought not.

The Weekly Best Moment. Seeing my son.

The Weekly Schadenfreude. O.J. is almost too obvious at this point. but sometimes I'm all about the obvious. Then there's The View chick who didn't know if the world was round or flat (thanks for the tip, Ross). Not to mention the stupid couple who wants to sue because they wanted one kid, not two, the dude who's suing god, and the blind guy who died driving (thanks Corinne). It was a busy week at the old schadenfreude farm.

The Weekly Picture. I think it's easy to see why this is my favorite of the week.


Posted by Chris at 7:17 AM | Comments (33)

September 20, 2007

Vice Grip

When we moved in mid-August, I found myself face-to-face with one of my single greatest fears - there was no handy-dandy Dunkin Donuts on my route to work. You'll recall, it was my morning stop for years. Well, gone are the days in which donuts figured prominently in my life. This development triggered some part of my brain that was previously blocked by vanilla cream or lemon filling - the will to be healthy.

I'm not fat. I'm not even heavy. For years, everyone told me that I could stand to put on a few pounds. Over the past couple of years, I've done just that for any number of reasons - age, lack of exercise, and, of course, the damn donuts.

Once I completed the 12-step Donut Anonymous program, embraced a higher dietary power and begged the forgiveness of others for my culinary transgressions, I did something amazing - I decided to change my diet.

Each morning, I eat a high-protein breakfast or, at the least, a protein bar, and a radically downsized cup of coffee. Instead of eating nothing for lunch, I eat a salad. Dinner has always been the one meal I've done right but the after dinner hours - the Fat and Sugar Zone of Terror - have changed quite a bit. Gone are the pints of Ben & Jerry's. Instead, a bottle of Vitamin Water and a cookie, piece of chocolate or some of Mia's applesauce hit the spot.

It's kind of a struggle. And I have my off-the-rails moments. Yesterday, I hit the grocery store for a load of bread. I exited with four chocolate bars, some jelly beans, cookies, and pita chips in addition to the bread. Yet, to be fair, the chocolate was (mostly) for Beth and the only thing I ate yesterday evening was half a bag of the pita chips. So, that's something, right?

My vices keep disappearing. Any suggestions on new, less destructive ones I should pick up? What are your vices?

Posted by Chris at 7:09 AM | Comments (41)

September 19, 2007

Dude Pees Like a Lady

I have, as you clearly understand by now, a sort of strange bathroom magnetism which attracts freaks and terrible bathroom behavior. Lest anyone be mystified by that sentence, I'll clarify now - this is not the type of encounter made popular of late by pervy senators or former lead singers of the popular 80's band Wham. Instead of being the freak, I'm the freakee. As such, I've developed a few rules, the Rude Cactus Rules of Bathroom Etiquette, if you will.

Rule #1 - No talking. Honestly, no one wants to exchange pleasantries when they're draining the lizard or dropping the kids off at the pool. No good can come of that.
Rule #2 - No eating and drinking. Seriously, I can't fathom why someone would want to bring foodstuffs into the bathroom. That ain't right.
Rule #3 - Pants on hips. Dropping trou is an expression, not something that should be taken literally. Think of what's been on that floor.
Rule #4 - Brushing of teeth and other primping activities should be done independent of the normal processes associated with the restroom (i.e., numbers one and two). Multitasking is admirable in the real world. The bathroom is not the real world.
Rule #5 - Receptacles have been designated for each major bathroom function. These are not interchangeable nor should they be completely ignored. Use your imaginations elsewhere. The bathroom is not the place for creativity.

Yesterday, I was, I promise, following each of the aforementioned rules whilst using the restroom (number one, in case you really need me to paint the complete picture). I was finished, zipping up and heading to the restroom, when the stall next to the urinal at which I'd been taking care of business opened up. I collided with its former occupant. I was shocked when I managed to process that said occupant was indeed a six foot tall gentleman wearing a wig and a powder-blue dress.

My reaction? I exclaimed, "of course!"

While I'm sure he/she of the powder blue dress was puzzled by this reaction, really, if you think about it, this was the logical course for my strange bathroom encounters to take. I should have seen it coming, been boy-scout like, prepared. The scary thing? What could possibly be next? Stick around - I'm sure we'll find out soon enough.

Rule #6 - Beware crossdressers wearing powder blue outfits.

Posted by Chris at 6:45 AM | Comments (40)

September 18, 2007

Busy Days In Monkeytown

You have to be partially braindead if you can't find a good way to spend the day in D.C. We've got museums (free museums), restaurants from every culture in the known universe, theater, music and culture that soaks in through your pores. Drive a half an hour and you can find yourself in a whole different world full of lakes and hiking trails and wild animals. And if all else fails, I hear we have some of the best hookers in the mid-Atlantic region. Of course, that's just what I hear. I could be wrong. Anyway, back to the point - this past weekend, we spent a wonderful time in Monkeytown.

(For those of you scratching your heads wondering what the hell I'm talking about, Monkeytown is what Mia calls Washington. Both Beth and I are at a loss to explain the terminology. But, as with most things involving a toddler, sometimes you just have to shrug your shoulders and go with it.)


...more pics from Monkeytown at flickr...

On Saturday, capitalizing on the brilliant weather, we took a stroll through the United States Botanic Garden. Afterwards, we hiked across the Mall and wandered through the National Gallery of Art followed by lunch. Sunday was less adventurous - we hit Ikea, bought a new bed frame to match our new king-sized wonder-mattress and put it together. I'm sure we did other things too but that was the biggie.

Of course, throughout all our journeys - to Monkeytown and beyond - we discussed the baby with Mia. And made a solemn vow to get out as much as we can during the next five months. Who knows when we're ever going to get out of the house again?

Posted by Chris at 6:30 AM | Comments (21)

September 17, 2007

The Answer

So I've kept you in the dark long enough, huh? In February, Beth, Mia and I will be welcoming a little boy into our family.

We took the weekend to talk with Mia about this development. The three of us had a lot of conversations about the new baby, where he is and when he would be stopping by to see us. We have a lot to work on, conceptually, but we've got some time.

I'll admit to being a little freaked out. See, I have the girl thing down. I mean, I've by no means mastered it but I have a couple of years of experience being a dad to a girl under my belt. And now, apparently, I'm going to have to learn some more. Plus, you know, I'm not a typical guy's guy. It this kid wants me to, well, throw a 50 yard pass or go ogle chicks at the local Hooters, well, first those are really weird requests from an infant and second, that's not me. But I guess I, too, have some time to work this stuff out.

Last night, just after dinner, Mia made her way over to Beth's chair, asked Beth to lift her shirt over her stomach, and began to sing to the baby. It was, perhaps, the sweetest thing I've ever seen. I knew then that we'd all be all right. If we can come up with a name. You guys have any good suggestions for boys' names? We're terrible at coming up with boy's names.

Posted by Chris at 6:31 AM | Comments (120)

Haiku For Monday #185

"Hello, weekend? Where
the hell did you go? Why the
rush? Something I said?"

Posted by Chris at 6:30 AM | Comments (1)

September 14, 2007

The News...

The news you've been waiting for? Hang in there until Monday. All is well. Have a fantastic weekend.

(Yes, I'm a tease. Any of you reconsidering your answers?)

Posted by Chris at 9:06 PM | Comments (13)

The Weeklies #2

The Weekly Reads. Since last we spoke of books, I've managed to polish off two. The first was David Rosen's I Just Want My Pants Back, a decently-written, amusing and witty take of a guy who, well, just wants his pants back. Despite the fact that the book plays to the typical 20-something pot-smoking yet bright slacker stereotype, it's moderately original and is, overall, worth a read. Next up? The Keep by Jennifer Egan. The Keep was an odd book and I'm not entirely sure what to make of it. It tells three separate tales, all of which are intertwined and compelling. Honestly, it's a bit of a mindfuck. And I like a good mindfuck which is why I totally fell for this book. Odd, unusual, unpredictable but highly involving and worth reading through its 250 pages.

The Weekly Music. For some strange reason, almost everything I've been listening to this week has been live. It started off with receipt of a soundboard recording for the first show of Peter Gabriel's latest tour (you can get CDs of any or all of the shows from The Music). A favorite of mine since the early 80's, Gabriel unleashed a wonderful and bizarre set list for this tour comprised of material throughout his career. The setlists contain songs he hasn't performed in decades including brilliant tracks from his first four solo albums (all named, helpfully, Peter Gabriel). Also from the same source is the tour kick off for the reunited Genesis. It's pretty darn good as well. Pearl Jam recently released Live At The Gorge, a seven disc, nearly eight-hour collection of three shows performed at the famous venue in 2005 and 2006. Why should you own it? Because it's insanely cool. The band has never sounded better and their selection of material (100 tracks overall) is beyond cool. If you love Pearl Jam? Buy it. If your faith in the band was shaken in recent years, this will bring you back to the light.

The Weekly Worst Moment. When I made the proclamation on Monday morning that "I'm sure glad I don't have any quick turn-around work to handle" and was promptly rewarded with two very high-visibility projects which required immediate completion. Yay.

The Weekly Best Moment. Beth and I, for some reason, found ourselves licking our daughter after dinner one night this week. She broke down in a fit of laughter that made my heart come closer to exploding than it ever had before.

The Weekly Schadenfreude. There's no way it's not Britney this week. And MTV. See, I'm pretty convinced that, while Britney is a complete and utter trainwreck, MTV used her trainwrecktitude to pull in some massive ratings. Sure, she sucked but when did anyone start expecting the VMAs to be good? I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the President's suck-ass speech. How sad is it that I'd rather have seen Britney in the Oval Office and Dubya shaking his ass on the VMAs?

The Weekly Picture. This is all I got. Good morning. It's been a long, tiring week. But it's Friday!

Posted by Chris at 6:27 AM | Comments (20)

September 13, 2007

How To Make Friends and Influence Pregnant Wives

I'm a pregnancy veteran. Not in the sense that I've carried a child in my uterus, for I have no uterus. But I am experienced in the ways of pregnant women. Wait, that doesn't sound right. That sounds dirty. What I'm trying to say is that I learned many lessons the first time around when I found myself dealing with my pregnant wife. And unlike my behavior in most other situations, I actually took something from that experience the first time around.

Example? Yesterday I came home with the following items:

  • shortbread cookies
  • two bars of dark chocolate
  • lemonade
  • roses

In other pregnancy-related news, we got our new bed. It's a king-sized bed. At various points of the evening, I actually lost Beth. I had to look for her. The hugeness of the bed was slightly disconcerting. But it was comfy. Although I think I was off by five on my sleep number.

Finally, tomorrow morning we learn the sex of our little fetus (and doesn't Our Little Fetus sound like a really disturbing idea for a line of kids' toys?). What do you think it'll be? Come on, give it a shot. There are only two possible answers. You've got a fifty-fifty shot.

Posted by Chris at 7:12 AM | Comments (72)

September 12, 2007

Hump Day Hypothetical

I was reading my current book last night when something I read made me inadvertently think of an interesting hypothetical.

There's some sort of impending disaster - a meltdown at a nearby nuclear power plant, toxic train derailment, a slow-moving and very predictable hurricane, the release of Britney Spears' comeback album - and you're forced to leave your home. You've got fifteen minutes, and two duffel bags to fill, one reserved for clothes, the other reserved for anything else. You are armed with the knowledge and certainty that everyone (family, house guests, pets, etc) will be just fine so you needn't try and pack your kid in that second bag. Food and supplies will not be a problem. So, what do you pack?

Me? Well, I'd dart to the basement and pull all my hard drives to salvage all the music and pictures I could. I'd throw in our wedding album. And my camera. And the card Beth gave me once that shows too kids in raincoats holding hands and lunchboxes and, inside, says, "We'll always be fine as long as we're together and have snacks" because that, my friends, is the absolute, 100% unadulterated truth.

Posted by Chris at 7:03 AM | Comments (53)

September 11, 2007

9-11

I will always remember driving over the hill that overlooked the District and seeing the smoke rising from the explosion at the Pentagon. I will always remember the bright blue day, a day unrivaled in beauty since. I will always remember walking through the door to our apartment, seeing Beth glued to the television showing the first tower fall. I will always remember my first words - "Jesus Christ. They have video of this? I don't know why it never occurred to me that they'd have video of this." I'll always remember watching the first tower fall - it had fallen an hour before but I hadn't heard it had gone down. I will always remember watching the specs of debris fall from the towers and, later, learning that the debris were people. I will always remember asking, "how bad must it have been up there to make jumping 110 stories seem like the better alternative?"

I will always remember these things because they were indelibly etched into my mind and woven into the fabric of our country...and the world. I will always remember these things because, while I could never shake these memories from my consciousness if I tried, it's my duty to remember. Actively. Forgetting means dishonoring those who died six years ago and those who risked their lives - some of whom paid the ultimate price - to save those in need of rescue. And that day, we all needed rescue.

Posted by Chris at 6:26 AM | Comments (28)

September 10, 2007

No Sombreros Required

Now, I'm sure you can find a lot of adjectives to describe the Cactus-Fishes - funny, talented, sexy and hott immediately come to mind as suggestions - but I think you'll agree after hearing what we did with the weekend that we're either brave or certifiably insane. Or both. Why? We had a party for 40 people here on Saturday night. Allow me to remind you that we've been in our house less than a month.

Contained within the first two weeks of September are my in-laws' birthdays. This time around, both hit the big six-oh. We wanted to do something nice, something they'd remember. And we did. We - Beth, Beth's brother, his wife and I - threw a groovy shindig. A Mexican shindig. Some would say fiesta.

Friday evening was spent cleaning. Saturday - more of the same along with three hours spent on the lawn. I installed outdoor lighting - 18 lights in all - and prayed for good weather. On Saturday evening, we got it. Good weather, good food (catered by a local Mexican place) and plenty of adult refreshments (a rented margarita machine and stocked plenty of Corona) and a soundtrack arranged by yours truly rounded out the night and I'm happy to report that a good time was had by all.

On Sunday, god-like, we rested. And it was good. Though all too brief as these things usually are. But I did pick up a few nuggets of knowledge along the way:

  • When you meet people for the first time, you should really try and remember their names lest you be required to introduce them to others.
  • Margarita machines are insanely heavy and obnoxiously loud.
  • Tequila smells like ass. And you can get a damn good contact high from the stuff. Especially while pouring a gallon and a half of the stuff into a margarita machine.
  • You can not eat a dozen fried jalapeƱos without seriously feeling it later in the evening.
  • Accidentally copying a Patton Oswalt comedy bit about rough sex into the iPod playlist you've created for the party can be somewhat embarrassing.
  • When you've created a playlist for a party, either double-check said playlist very carefully or stand really close to your iPod.
  • My backyard is AWESOME.

Posted by Chris at 6:38 AM | Comments (33)

Haiku For Monday #184

Holy crap! Monday?
I must have entered a time
warp sometime Friday.

Posted by Chris at 6:30 AM | Comments (2)

September 7, 2007

The Weeklies #1

The Weekly Reads. There are few authors I stalk, like, run out and buy their latest as soon as it hits the shelves. Charlie Huston is one of them. His five previous novels have been insanely good. So, when The Shotgun Rule came out, I sprinted to the bookstore, picked up a copy and plunked down $20.00. The verdict? Meh. It's good but not great. He's better than this book would lead you to believe. Better is Strange Skies by Matt Marinovich, another book I polished off this week. It starts like your typical Nick Hornby-like novel but finishes like nothing else I've ever read. It's fantastic.

The Weekly Music
. I'm still grooving on Velvet Revolver's Libertad. It's not magically brilliant or anything but it's strong, and damn catchy. The ultimate find, though, has to be Compass Rose Bouquet, the latest by The Great Lakes Myth Society. Imagine The Decembrists with fewer sea shanties and a little more roots rock. These guys are phenomenal. Like punch yourself in the face because you so regret not discovering them sooner good.

The Weekly Worst Moment. When I realized on Thursday morning that, beginning at 8:30 and continuing until 4:30 I had exactly one half hour in which I was not in a meeting.

The Weekly Best Moment. When Mia said, un-coached and apropos of nothing, "I love you" to me.

The Weekly Schadenfreude. Apple released the brand-spankin' new iPod Touch - pretty much just like the iPhone only without the whole phone thing. Kewl. Only the largest model? 16 GB. Not worth dropping the $400. In another bonehead move, Apple dropped the cost of iPhones by $100 thus alienating those who jumped on the bandwagon early. Several hours later? News of $100 credits to those who already owned the pricey phone. Look - I point and laugh because I secretly envy. I gots to get me a touch-screen iPod even if I can only load 5% of my music collection on the damn thing. At least Steve Jobs had the good common sense to drop the lawsuit against makers of iPod-powered sex toys. Because, you know, we all need those.

The Weekly Picture. Because Mia told me she wanted me to take a picture of her armpit. Hey, sometimes you don't ask questions, you just follow instructions.

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The Weekly Question. Obviously, I'm trying something new this Friday. What do you think?

Posted by Chris at 6:58 AM | Comments (48)

September 6, 2007

Search String Madness: Mimes, Mipples and What Happens In Aruba Stays In Aruba

It's been a while since I took a stroll through the old search logs. I'm reminded why - sometimes they scare me. Bad. But of course all the freaky people out there in the internetwebworld came through in providing a few amusing tidbits. See for yourself.

  • Pahara dunes beach. Dude. Learn how to spell.
  • I hate plumbing. Amen, my friend. I'm no lover of the pipe either these days.
  • Mowing Cactus. Since we've gotten this new yard, that is, actually, my official new name.
  • Excuses to get out of a meeting. Leprosy, raging case of herpes, stuck on the can all day, currently on fire. Take your pick.
  • Did Simon Cowell invent the Teletubbies. Whether he invented them or not, I don't know. But he was responsible for getting them on television. You always knew he had a dark side, didn't you?
  • Nutritional information big island donkey balls. 100% of your daily recommended allowance of island donkey balls. And no transfat!
  • 2007 Aruba trip fuck sister in law husband drunk not go afraid to fly. That's an awfully specific search. I have no idea what you're talking about but it's suspiciously specific. What exactly happened in Aruba, dude?
  • Where Miss Doxie. Right here, actually.
  • Eat Crayons see a rainbow. You'd think. But really, all you do is poop wax.
  • Excuses to leave earlier. Leprosy, raging case of herpes, stuck on the can all day, currently on fire...this sounds familiar.
  • Came home to find my glove compartment open and the lite on. Why do you have a glove compartment in your house?
  • Long mipples. You're the same bastard who was looking for "pahara dunes beach" aren't you? Spell-check anyone?
  • Confessions of a dangerous mime. I'm sorry - this just cracked me up. As you probably know, the book and movie were called Confessions of a Dangerous Mind. But I can see the plot of this one - Confessions of a Dangerous Mime - He's a mime...and a stealthy killing machine!
  • Asinine in a sentence. This search is asinine.
  • Picture Ron Jeremy penis. Sweet lord of all that is good and holy, why in the name of Henry Winkler would you want to see that?
  • Things i don't understand in life. People who want to see Ron Jeremy's junk, the Rolling Stones, dressing up like a woman when you're obviously a man and can't even be bothered to shave, why I get 500 channels and there's nothing to watch...
  • Are Ikea mattresses good? For the first month. After that, a mattress of broken glass and used syringes would be more comfortable.
  • Petite sex pics. Now, are these small pictures of people having sex, pictures of small people having sex, or pictures of normal sized people having small amounts of sex? Because there's a difference.

Posted by Chris at 7:08 AM | Comments (16)

September 5, 2007

Contentment

(written last night)

It's night, pitch black outside. I'm sitting in the new kitchen, at our new kitchen table with my back to the bay window that overlooks our backyard. A few minutes ago, I turned left to look towards the living room. Something white moving outside caught my eye. It was one of the half-dozen frogs living in our pond. It was scooting across the bottom edge of the window. He inched his way across the window and positioned himself behind my right shoulder. Then he closed his eyes and drifted off to sleep, dreaming about what ever it is frogs dream about. I know he's alive. The puffy white area below his little mouth is pulsing. He has his four-suckered right hand against the window. He looks...content. Or at least, I'd imagine this is what a content frog looks like, not having any first-hand experience or special insight into frog emotions.

I don't know why this situations means so much to me but it does.

Mia is upstairs sleeping. Beth is downstairs, typing a post for one of her sites. Inside her, a baby grows. All of this - sleeping, typing, growing, odd amphibian-spawned introspection - happens within the walls of our new house. Outside fish swim, crickets hum, grasshoppers hop and dragonflies do whatever it is they do at 8:39 on a Tuesday night. And frogs curl up and sleep behind me.

Yet, maybe I've just solved one of the many mysteries of the universe. Stick with me here.

The other morning, I asked Mia what lived in our yard. We've seen so many things on our explorations. She immediately came up with fish and frogs then remembered the snake we saw a few weeks ago. Then dragonflies, crickets and grasshoppers. Followed by the moon. I was about to protest but then I remembered we'd seen it hanging over our backyard each morning this weekend. It made perfect sense. For Mia, the universe is her parents, this new house and the yard and things that populate it. My universe used to be like that too. For years and years that universe expands for us all. But eventually, at some mysterious point, it begins to contract. Sure, the knowledge and experiences continue to grow but the things most important to you - your family, your home, your friends - shape the universe as you know it.

This is the center of my universe. A place populated by the ones I love, a few fish, some rather loud crickets, a moon, and a frog sleeping over my shoulder. And I, like the frog, am content.

Posted by Chris at 7:09 AM | Comments (38)

September 4, 2007

The 1,296 Things We Did This Weekend

This fine long weekend was a busy one. A very labor-intensive one. So much so that I feel as though I've been kicked around by a group of angry donkeys. Now, I don't really know exactly what that entails but, loosely translated, it means not good. Here's a partial list (because I can't remember everything) of the crap we did:


  1. The usual stuff (breathing, peeing, eating breakfast, drinking coffee...)
  2. Went to Home Depot (lawnmower)
  3. Went to Home Depot (plumbing supplies)
  4. Went to Home Depot (more plumbing supplies)
  5. Mowed and landscaped all 4,392 acres of yard (okay, slight exaggeration but that's how it felt)
  6. Replaced two bathroom faucets
  7. Invented hitherto unknown combinations of foul language to address said faucets
  8. Replaced two bathroom light fixtures
  9. Installed new medicine cabinet
  10. Bought new bed (king-size Select Comfort, because we're getting old and creaky and we both feel as though we've been involved in a literal train wreck every time we get out of bed)
  11. Read a book (Charlie Huston's The Shotgun Rule)
  12. Honed final details for in-laws' 60th birthday party to be held at our house next weekend (there's a word for people like us - it's either brave or stupid)
  13. Finished unpacking books and CDs
  14. Built new bookcase/cabinet for Mia's room
  15. Found good new Chinese place
  16. Did a photo shoot with Mia and niece
  17. Edited photos (and out of the 125 I took, there were only four good ones in my critical view)
  18. Visited parents for Labor Day cookout
  19. Sang ABCs (about one billion times)
  20. Played trains
  21. Watched Rocket (a.k.a. Little Einsteins)
  22. Slept

To all you out there in the interspherenetoweb, I bid you good morning. Now, excuse me if I pass out right... Fuck! Head in coffee! Head in coffee!

Posted by Chris at 6:17 AM | Comments (23)

September 3, 2007

Please Excuse Chris From Blogging

Today's a holiday. I hope you'll excuse me if I just go out and play (well, and do things around the house like replace leaky faucets and hang medicine cabinets and build bookcases but that doesn't sound nearly as fun as going out and playing).


I'll be back tomorrow, as normal. Meanwhile, I hope you all have happy Mondays.

Posted by Chris at 8:14 AM | Comments (7)

Haiku For Monday #183

Monday? Labor Day.
Which means that I'm not working.
Going back to bed...

Posted by Chris at 8:10 AM | Comments (3)


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