July 31, 2008

Sticks and Stones

(You know you've been blogging a long time when you can't remember if you've told a particular story before. I'm not going to let a pesky thing like repetition stop me though...)

When I was a kid growing up in Houston, I lived in a pretty cool neighborhood. It was chock full of kids and most families were the original owners of their houses. My parents bought our house - four bedrooms, three and a half baths - for $28,000 in 1972. People stayed put. Everyone knew their neighbors. Unfortunately, that meant knowing Russel.

Russel was my age and a complete creep. He lived maybe half a dozen houses down the street, almost to the cul-de-sac, past the house owned by the guy who was building an airplane in his garage (Seriously. He ended up flying it too though, to our dismay, he didn't use our street as a runway). Despite his asshatery - which was legendary - kids still played with him though I think that including him in football games was just for an excuse to try and beat the shit out of him. I stayed away from him. He was mean and his little sister was annoying.

One day when I was ten or so, I was hanging out with some other neighborhood kids in the street in front of Russel's house. Russel emerged from his house and made a very long-winded and impassioned argument for the fact that he and his family actually owned the street directly in front of their house and we all had to leave. Even at ten my bullshit detector was finely honed. I told him he was full of shit - or whatever the 10 year old equivalent of the terminology was. Russel begged to differ. I - perched on my bike - decided to exercise my right to traverse the road in front of Russel's house. At full speed.

Unbeknownst to me, Russel had armed himself with an arrow, a long motherfucker his dad probably used to kill baby seals or midgets. I mean, it was clear that whoever raised Russel was a sick, sadistic bastard. As I aimed my bike towards the general direction of Russel's family owned stretch of road and, in turn, Russel produced said arrow, aimed it directly at me and shoved it towards my chest as I passed.

What followed is a blur. I know I swerved. I know brakes were applied. I know that I ended up face down on the road. I know there was blood, lots of it. And I know that, lodged in the cylindrical pad that covered the crossbar which ran between the two handlebars was a very sharp arrow.

Remembering that chain of events has always wigged me out a little because I honestly think its the closest I've come to dying. And I was just a little kid. I think it was probably the closest Russel came to dying (though who knows where he is now) once his midget-hunting father got hold of him. I didn't see him outside for weeks after that. I've long-suspected he was chained to a radiator in his basement though it was Texas - there were no radiators or basements but it was a comforting thought. Regardless, remembering that incident makes me feel a little lucky to be alive.

What's your closest near-death experience or harrowing tale of survival?

Posted by Chris at 6:38 AM | Comments (47)

July 30, 2008

31 Flavors of Stupid

Dear Baskin-Robbins,

You suck. I understand you'll want some specifics but I just had to get that out. You suck.

My beautiful, delicate flower of a daughter celebrated her third birthday recently. We threw her a party. A butterfly extravaganza, to be specific. Now, she's cute and she doesn't ask for much except for a bumble-bee toy that wasn't broken and a night-light that worked which frankly made us feel like complete and total failures as parents but this isn't about us. But she did ask for a butterfly ice cream cake. We turned to your fine establishment what with it's 31 flavors and stunning reputation for keeping stuff frozen. My wife ordered an ice cream cake artistically adorned with a giant butterfly.

The day before the party, I went to your fine establishment to pick up said birthday cake. The sixteen year-old, socially maladjusted waif of an employee greeted me by staring at her shoes which, though I couldn't see them, I'm convinced were probably high-top Chucks with ballpoint Dashboard Confessionals lyrics scrawled on them. Cheer up emo kid. I gave her my name and she sulked into the back to find my cake. And returned empty handed.

Emo Kid: I can't find it.
Me: You can't find it.
Emo Kid: What was the design?
Me: A butterfly.
Emo Kid: I guess I'll check again.
Me: Gee, thanks. But only if it's not too inconvenient.
Emo Kid: {blank stare}

She returned two minutes later, again empty-handed.

Emo Kid: It's not here.
Me: Okey-dokey. So, what am I supposed to do?
Emo Kid: Like, I don't know.
Me: Okay. Why don't you just go back to replaying My Chemical Romance songs in your head and I'll see if I'm at the wrong place.
Emo Kid: Uh-huh.

I turned to leave the store, pulled out my phone and was in the process of dialing my wife to make sure I had the right store and the right location when another employee stopped me. He whispered conspiratorially, "hey, let me check in the back because I don't think she knows what she's talking about." He returned a minute later with the cake. I could have kissed him but a) he's a guy and I don't swing that way and, regardless, b) he wasn't a very attractive man. I happily forked over the $44.00 to get the hell out of there, returned to my car and looked at the cake.

A blind, mildly retarded monkey on acid could have done a better job decorating a cake. It was seriously the single worst attempt at drawing a butterfly I'd ever seen. My first thought was that Emo Kid had been turned loose with a Betty Crocker cake decorating kit. I mean, the butterfly was black. How totally goth. Now, I don't think I'm overstating or exaggerating but see for yourself. Here's the craptastic butterfly we pried off the cake:


Knowing that I couldn't fight the concentrated power of idiocy back in the store, I went home, defeated and deflated. I showed my wife. She agreed with the retarded monkey thing. But she quickly worked out a way whereby this butterfly-gone-wrong could be removed and substituted with something that wouldn't break my daughter's little heart.

To recap, I'd like to share several important lessons and suggestions:
  1. You suck.
  2. Your cakes are overpriced, really badly decorated and they don't even taste that good.
  3. Please revise your hiring practices so as to properly weed out the blind retarded monkeys on acid at least in customer-facing positions. They're infiltrating the job market. You can never be too careful. Beware.
  4. Avoid the temptation to outsource any cake decorating jobs to blind, retarded monkeys on acid. They're artistically unreliable. Need someone to handle spent nuclear fuel or be president of the United States, fine. But no cake decorating for them.
  5. You suck. I'm repeating myself. Sorry. I thought it was worth mentioning again.

Yours in Christ,
Chris Cactus

Posted by Chris at 8:00 AM | Comments (81)

July 29, 2008

For The Record

When I was a kid, I spent an inordinate amount of time in Sound Warehouse, the big chain record store in Houston at the time. I'd go out to dinner with my parents then make them take me. After we moved to DC and I got my driver's license, I'd spend even more time at my local Tower (RIP). I knew everyone who worked there by name. Pathetic, really.

When I was 12, I discovered Genesis. Totally uncool, though not at the time, but they were single-handedly responsible for the musician and music lover I am today. The best time in my life as a music fan was the brief period after I'd seen them live for the first time. I scoured record stores, my dad as chauffeur, trying to find all their albums. I didn't really have a complete list of their albums to choose from. A couple were out of print, adding to the mystery and intrigue. Eventually, though, I had them all.

The reason this was such a cool time was because of the mystery and the discovery. Remember, these were the days before the internet. I could see the dates on the albums but, liner notes on cassette tapes being virtually non-existent at the time, I knew very little about the albums. I poured through guide books and album catalogs learning more. Most importantly, I listened to the albums straight through, absorbing each song and how they fit into the larger whole.

When music was available on vinyl or cassette - I'm dating myself here - albums were digested whole. Musicians, engineers and producers slave for months - even years (or decades if you're Axl Rose working on Chinese Democracy) - trying to make the perfect album, not slapping together ten or twelve songs and hanging a title on it. With records and tapes it was too much of a pain in the ass to skip songs so, at least on the first few listens, we listened to albums in their entirety and processed them as 45-minute long pieces of music. Starting with the CD, it became convenient to jump around, to play producer, to abandon songs without giving them more than a cursory listen.

The internet is now my reference. There isn't an album I can't find information about. There's no band whose history I can't read up on. Nearly any song by any band is available to me without leaving my home. If not, I can order it from anywhere in the world with only slightly more effort. I can pick and choose what songs I want and skip the ones I don't like with the click of a mouse. And the increased pace of our lives has had a impacted the way we listen to music. Music is available in easily digestible chunks. Albums can be navigated in seconds. The album as a concept, while not completely dead, needs some substantial life support. And the mystery is gone.

I'm not complaining. Well, not too much. But I do miss being a kid, trying desperately to find music, absorbing it, being in awe of it. Part of what made it enjoyable was the suspense and the effort it took to find it. Now most of that is gone. But hey, it's easy to find.

How has technology changed the way you listen to music? Or, impacted you the most? And what experience do you think technology has ruined?

Posted by Chris at 6:34 AM | Comments (39)

July 28, 2008

The Party

I am thrilled to report that the birthday part - the one I was so worried about and got progressively more worried about as the week progressed - was a complete and utter success.

While the Official Mia Birthday Party Theme of 2008 was butterflies, it's clear that the unofficial theme was heavy on princesses. Cinderella, specifically. The vast majority of her gifts were princess-related. She was in absolute heaven.


The weather for the party was fantastic - not too warm and, thankfully, no rain. The kids hung out in the sandbox, played in the wading pool, ran around the yard and frolicked in the bubbles being shot out by the bubble machines. The adults played and most of us actually got a chance to talk to one another for a while. Good thing since two fantastic blogging buddies - Sarah of Goon Squad Fame and Jodi - were there with their families and I haven't seen either in quite a while.

When the butterfly cake was unveiled (and on that topic, please remind me to revisit the issue of the cake and let you know how fucking pathetic Baskin Robbins actually is) and everyone broke into song, Mia looked like it was the single best moment in her life. Like, in her head she was saying, "holy crap, all these people are singing for me...this is awesome!" It showed on her face.


All the kids left with little buckets of favors and most of the adults left with bags of meat (hey, we're vegetarians, we weren't going to eat it...and what better party favor is there than meat?), we opened the rest of the presents and somehow got Mia down off her cake high to take a nap. Beth and I could have used one too. But parents don't get to rest. At least for 18 years or so.

Of course, don't think Owen got ignored all weekend. He managed to get in on the fun too.



So what about you? What's your best birthday memory? And what's your worst?

Posted by Chris at 6:30 AM | Comments (38)

Haiku For Monday #228

The party's over.
Both weekend and birthday kinds.
Nose, back to grindstone.

Posted by Chris at 6:29 AM

July 25, 2008

The Weeklies #46

The Weekly Thing I Don't Understand: Really terrible street musicians with elaborate setups. There are two guys who play, separately at different times, close to a subway station I pass walking to work. One has this elaborate setup involving pre-recorded tracks, a massive sound system, and a fully-miked saxophone. The other has this double-keyboard setup, another massive sound system and even a little tiny midi program terminal. The thing is, they both really, really suck.

The Weekly Produce Explosion: Our single tomato plant has 38 tomatoes growing on it.

The Weekly Read: When I was a kid, I remember my parents devouring John D. McDonald's Travis McGee novels. A friend who I've been trading pulp fiction noir paperbacks with for a while convinced me I should give them a shot. I picked up the first McGee novel, The Deep Blue Good-By. I guess I'm a little surprised. Instead of the light, fluffy, fast read I thought I'd get, I learned that McDonald can really write. And while there's a certain pulp-noir feel to the novel, it's not light. I've already picked up the next book in the series if that's any indication of how I felt.

The Weekly TV Addiction: I'm hopelessly addicted to HGTV's Design Star.

The Weekly Schadenfreude: Conservative Asshat Robert Novak hit a pedestrian here in DC yesterday and just kept on driving. Apparently he didn't know that he'd struck the guy - who ended up in the hospital - despite the fact that, according to eyewitnesses, the dude was sprawled across Novak's windshield. This comes a few years after Novak gave an interview in which he declared his deep and abiding hatred of jaywalkers.

The Weekly Plug for Crossed Fingers: Please cross your fingers, toes and any other appendages that it's a nice day tomorrow. It's Mia's birthday party. And if we have to do it inside, I'm likely to lose my mind.

The Weekly Hypothetical: You must choose one song that epitomizes you. What song is it? And why?

Posted by Chris at 6:29 AM | Comments (42)

July 24, 2008

Stuff Our Dreams Are Made Of

I don't really like to think of myself as a thing person. You know, one of those people ritualistically obsessed with all things materialistic, new and shiny. I'd like to be one of those people who can shove a book in a bag and be happy on a desert island somewhere. And man does that sound nice right now. But I'm afraid I'm not. I need my stuff.

What surprises me is how early that stuff-needing starts. When we got back from vacation a couple weeks ago, Mia walked into the house and found all her coolest stuff. After an hour, dolls, books and toys were everywhere. And we don't generally encourage a love of things. She has less crap than a lot of kids her age and she's generally happy to make up games, read books and play with milk cartons (though that last one makes me feel like a failure as a parent.) When I was growing up, my parents were the same way. One day when I was four or five, I walked into the living room with a coffee can on a string. I thought it was cool but my dad instantly swooped me up and took me to the toy store. I guess the lesson there is that kids don't care as much as parents. Regardless, most of us become people who are interested in stuff and accumulate it at an alarming rate. Which, considering how cool stuff is getting, isn't really all that wrong of us.

Within easy reach, standing in my kitchen getting ready to post this - the laptop I'm using, my work laptop, Beth's laptop, a nice TV, a DVD burner/VCR combo, an iPod Touch, an iPod boombox, and my BlackJack II smart phone. That doesn't include the 3,500 CDs in the basement, the ton of DVDs, the thousands of books in shelves stationed throughout the house. Not to mention Mia's stuff, the desktop computer downstairs, the external hard drives, printers, scanners. Nor does it include the even bigger external hard drive I want to buy. Or the 3G iPhone I was convinced I wouldn't want but now find myself craving despite the fact that aforementioned smart phone is actually pretty cool. So, yeah, I'm definitely not that guy who can shove a book in a bag and be happy on a deserted island.

What stuff can't you live without? And what stuff do you most want?

Posted by Chris at 6:36 AM | Comments (46)

July 23, 2008

Something Princess This Way Comes

I'm no Biblical scholar but I'm pretty sure that when the Book of Revelations was originally drafted it mentioned that the Apocalypse would be preceded by explosions of pink, the appearance of legions of princesses bedecked in taffeta and, quite possibly, the hosting of a three year old's birthday party in your backyard during the summer. And whichever of those Bible guys wrote it (John, right?), he rethought the content on the second draft and changed it up a bit. You know, trumpets, the beast and his number, four horsemen, zombies. To-MAY-to, to-MAH-to. If John was right, though, the end is neigh.

Mia's birthday was wonderful. We prodded her awake - so I could see her before I left for work - by singing and revealed to her the new playhouse Beth and I had built for her the previous evening. The reveal was in true Price Is Right fashion with the curtain and everything and she was thrilled. I'm not sure how or if Beth got her out of the thing during the day but I'm pretty sure the torrential rain storm which hit our area in the morning got her back inside for at least a few minutes. The house aside, though, the day was really owned by princesses.


I'm surrounded by Ariel, Belle, Aurora, Snow White, Jasmine and Cinderella. Yesterday Mia ate breakfast (donuts) on her new princess placement, donned a Cinderella dress and glass slippers and, thanks to the magic of Disney, Cinderella even called Mia last night to wish her a happy birthday. I think Mia almost passed out. I'm only moderately horrified. I mean, the way Disney portrays princesses doesn't exactly make them look like rocket scientists. They're weepy, fall in love at the drop of a hat and climb on any random sheik's - uh-herm - magic carpet. It's like their entire celluloid existences are geared entirely towards landing a prince. And that's not right.

In spite of bad stereotypes and near-lethal amounts of sugar, Mia's birthday was a gigantic success. Just keep your fingers crossed that we have the same luck on Saturday...when friends, family and kids descend upon our house for the party. Send good vibes. And if you don't hear from me by Monday, send help.

What's the key to making it through a three year old's birthday party?


Posted by Chris at 6:59 AM | Comments (63)

July 22, 2008

Three

Three years ago - at 9:52 AM if you want to be precise - the world changed. Mine at least. Mia was born and the world was instantly a better place to be.

I really have no idea how these past three years flew by. Despite the promise I made to myself that I'd somehow develop a photographic memory and freeze all the important memories and moments inside my brain so I could remember them forever, it's all a blur. That mental camera is somehow faulty and what I've got is a grossly inadequate time lapse sequence in which she goes from a baby blob incapable of sitting up to a little girl who can spell her name and the duration of this film passes in the split second it takes for a hummingbird to flap its wings.

We started three years ago with a little baby. A helpless, cranky little thing who wouldn't sleep or eat. When she wasn't swaddled, her legs shot up so her feet covered her ears. Her shock of black hair - which never fell out, merely lightened - surprised us. As did her lungs. Her entry into the world was miraculous though we didn't know it until she tasted air for the first time. Her umbilical cord was wrapped around her neck three times. Three short years later, we find her no less miraculous but altogether different. She's this hilarious, independent person who dresses herself, tells off and not altogether successful knock-knock jokes*, and wants to be a paleontologist-astronaut when she grows up.

Of course, life as I knew it changed but so did I. Things reprioritized themselves. What was important before, wasn't any longer. And the opposite. After she was born, I wrote this:

Being a parent lets you add "parent" to the list of things you are. And it becomes the most important thing on the list. I was in the local drug store picking up some stuff for Mia. Behind me was a guy buying simply a case of Bud and a fly swatter. Now, call me crazy, but I'm so much happier having a child and wife who need me to run home to instead of a roomful of insects and bad beer buzz.

And it's true. I was a husband, an IT geek, a wannabe musician, an avid reader, a music lover and, while I remained those things, I was instantly and above all other roles, a father. But I have learned that a good beer buzz helps.

I could spend hours speaking in euphemisms and idioms describing the ways in which time flies but instead I'll just wallow in the challenge that is parenting and the beauty that is my daughter. And try not to fuck either of them up.

Dearest Mia Bean - Miasaurus, Bean, Squizzle - I love you more than you will ever fully comprehend. I could say that repeatedly until I'm blue in the face but it'll make more sense when you grow up and have kids of your own. But don't do that anytime soon. The time just goes too fast. In the mean time, you'll just have to trust me. Sure, I might tell you that princesses like banana yogurt so you'll eat it but I'm not skirting the truth about how wonderful I think you are. I love you, Bean.


* Knock knock.
Who's there?
Pink.
Pink who?
Pink nose.
(I don't get it either but she claims it kills in Albany.)

Posted by Chris at 7:09 AM | Comments (49)

July 21, 2008

Happy Birthday, Rude Cactus (By The Numbers)

Five years ago, give or take, I started Rude Cactus. Having never successfully kept a paper journal for more than five minutes, I figured it would last about a week. Turns out, I was wrong. Especially considering that the entire site crashed and burned due to technical difficulties less than three weeks after I started it (which is why the archive starts in August). Five years later, here I am.

  • Total posts: 2.559
  • Comments received: 59,124
  • Haiku Mondays: 227
  • Times I've written aborted entries that started with the sentence "I have no fucking idea what to say": 1,395
  • Number of people who've stopped by: 1.26 million
  • Hits: 8.9 million
  • Bandwidth used: 314 GB
  • Kids had: 2
  • Odd bathroom encounters: 782
  • Photos posted (to flickr): 2,746
  • Cats died: 2
  • Cups of coffee: 5,475
  • Schadenfreude victims: 174
  • Search strings that scare he hell out of me: 1,278
  • Times I've said "fuck it": 372
  • Times I've reconsidered: 373
So, what do you like about the site? And what do you hate? More importantly, should I try for another five years?

Posted by Chris at 6:31 AM | Comments (78)

Haiku For Monday #227

Monday once again.
Just how in the hell did that
happen? Coffee. Now!

Posted by Chris at 6:30 AM

July 18, 2008

The Weeklies #45

The Weekly Popular Sleeping Location. The floor in Mia's room. Mia's been under the weather and prone to waking up in the middle of the night. On Wednesday night she volunteered to go to bed at 4:30. Unheard of. When she woke up at 3:00 in the morning, she didn't want me to crawl into bed with her. So I got a comforter from the guest room next door and camped out on the floor. I woke up later to her lying next to me. She's been sleeping on the floor since. And, as she continues to wake up and want her dad, so do I. I've realized I'm too old to sleep on a floor. Ouch.

The Best Talk Show Get of The Year. Rush on The Colbert Report.

The Weekly Reads. It's been a long time since I read anything quite so perfect as Don Winslow's The Dawn Patrol. At least, since the last book by him that I read. Winslow's got a unique voice and a true gift for creating fiction that transcends labels like mystery or thriller. If you haven't discovered this guy, The Dawn Patrol is the perfect place to start. Books just don't get much better than this.

The Weekly Music. I've got this massive playlist I call - mysteriously - Massive. It's got 953 songs and would run more than three days if played continuously. I've been listening to it most of the week. One recent run I particularly liked: Speed of Sound (Coldplay), Take A Picture (Filter), Alive (Pearl Jam), Hollywood Nights (Bob Seeger), Won't Get Fooled Again (The Who), Take Me To The River (Talking Heads), Live and Let Die (Guns N Roses), All The Young Dudes (Mott The Hoople), Black Star (Radiohead), Wise Up (Aimee Mann), Secret For A Song (Mercury Rev), The Rover (Led Zeppelin), In The Cage (Genesis), Blow Up The Outside World (Soundgarden), Angels/Losing/Sleep (Our Lady Peace), The World Spins Madly On (The Weepies), You're All I Have (Snow Patrol), Can't Find My Way Home (Blind Faith), Have a Cigar (Pink Floyd), Army (Ben Folds Five), Hornets! Hornets! (The Hold Steady), Getting Better (Gomez).

The Weekly Picture.

The Weekly Schadenfreude. Remember Andy Dick? Yeah, that NewsRadio guy? The 42 year old actor, father of three, and miserable pathetic drunk was arrested for sexually assaulting a 17 year old girl in the parking lot of a Buffalo wing place. You know what I'm thinking? Andy Dick and Amy Winehouse = match made in heaven.

The Weekly Hypothetical Question. If you could go back and right any wrong in history - historic or personal - without having to worry about any of that Star Trek past changing the future paradox shit, what wrong would you right?

Posted by Chris at 6:41 AM | Comments (35)

July 17, 2008

Why Toddlers Are Like Magic 8 Balls

Talking to a toddler is a wonderful thing. Here's a kid who's finally mastering the English language, capable of independent thought and full of all kinds of interesting ideas and a unique way of looking at life. Having conversations with Mia is absolutely astounding. But frequently maddening. This is because talking to toddlers is a lot like trying to have a meaningful conversation with a Magic 8 Ball. You're talking but it's never clear what kind of response you're going to get in return. More interesting, the answers frequently don't really reflect the questions you originally asked. And most of the answers beg yet more questions. To illustrate, I give you several recent examples of exchanges between me and my Magic 8 Ball Daughter.


In order to head off any questions you may have, I'd like to assure you that she really does call me "silly old daddy". Beth swears she had nothing to do with this. I'm not sure I buy it. I also don't want you to get the wrong impression and think that I don't like these conversations with Mia. They're puzzling, yes, but they're wonderful. Especially in light of what's in store for me in another, say, 12 years.


What kind of kid were you? A rebel, a jock, a straight-A student, a band geek?

Posted by Chris at 6:47 AM | Comments (39)

July 16, 2008

Hi Ho Hi Ho

Uncomfortable button down shirt? Check!
Stiff work shoes? Check!
Tie? Check!
Suit? Check!

It's early and, for the first time since July 3rd, I'm heading to work. Yeah, I know - you're breaking out the world's smallest violin in my honor. But hey, I've gotten used to the vacation thing. For the past week and a half, I haven't worn anything more formal than a t-shirt and shorts. I wore actual pants twice. I wore flip flops most of the time. And Crocs. Yeah, I bought a cheap pair of fake Crocs to wear while I worked in the yard. I've always been anti-Croc. Beth still is. She told me she wouldn't be seen in public with me. I'm planning to attempt to seduce her by wearing nothing but Crocs tonight.

But the art of seduction while wearing unattractive footwear is not my point.

The point is that, in a few minutes, I'll be getting in my car and heading to Monkeytown. I'll spend the majority of the day in two ways - catching up, figuring what's gone on without me and missing my family. Even the screaming, the crying, the battles about poop and eating and the palpable tension around bedtime.

This vacation was tough. Taking two kids anywhere is just plain difficult no matter how well planned you happen to be. If they get sick, forget about it. I need a vacation from my vacation but the kids desperately need me to be back at work so they can get back on their schedules.

You know how you can repeat an ordinary word in your head over and over and over again and eventually it starts sounding strange? Like, your mind is breaking the word down into the individual sounds and piecing it back together again and the whole it comes up with is oddly foreign despite the fact that its a word you use every day? Life is kinda like that. I was sitting down yesterday having this long conversation with Mia. Or, rather, she was going through a long explanation about something bouncing from tree to tree to tree (I'm a little unclear what the point was). Mentally, I took a step back from the situation, looked at this little girl standing there talking about trees, and became amazed that this was my kid. And that I had another one somewhere sleeping off a milk buzz. Like repeating a familiar word over and over, I saw my life as not so much strange (though it is, I'm sure) but as it must appear to an outsider. It's pretty cool yet surprising. I'm not sure how I got here nor am I sure how I got this old and responsible. But life is good.

Now, anyone have any ideas how I could become independently wealthy, move the family to the beach and spend every day with my kids? Seriously.

What's the very first thing you'd do if you found yourself suddenly independently wealthy?

Posted by Chris at 6:48 AM | Comments (43)

July 15, 2008

Spamalot

I love spam. Seriously. I love the stuff primarily because it's so absolutely terrible and inadvertently hilarious.

I typically get three categories of spam, if you go by the subject lines. The first category consists of messages that are apparently designed to sell something but are insulting or are targeted to illicit some sort of personal reaction. The second are those messages that contain information that is patently and obviously untrue or seeks to get you to open said message because of some sensationalized event (real or not). The third and final category revolves around penis enlargement. Allow me to illustrate.

Insulting or Oddly Personal:


  • You look stupid rudecactus. Fuck you.
  • You are nominated for an MBA, Rude Cactus.
  • We caught you naked in the shower, Rude Cactus. Dammit! The one time I take a shower with my clothes off, I get busted.

Headline News!


  • 2008 Olympic games will possible not take place.
  • Osama Bin Laden caught finally. Look, pigs are flying too.
  • Saddam Hussein found dead. Uh, not so much.
  • Dan Brown's latest novel.
  • Summer is here - stay tuned. Thanks for the breaking news, chief.
  • Terrible earthquake devastated Beijing. Again, not so much.

All About The Weiner:


  • Warlock, victory is yours when its big. By the power of Grayskull!
  • Power in your pants! Get 'er done!
  • 1 month, 1 inch. I thought the goal was enhancement, not shrinkage.
  • Obtain a perfect genuine erection. As opposed to all those fake erections I usually get.
  • Bragging rights in your pants. Yeah. That's what I'd brag about.
  • Turn your rod into a monster. Growwwl, get a load of my penisaurus.
  • Engorge your organ speedily today. I can just see someone sitting at their desk with a computer and a thesaurus coming up with this one.
  • Update your penis. Penis 2.0 is coming.
  • Stew the love into the soup. What the fuck does that even mean?
  • Enlarge your power and realm of influence. This is either an ad for male enhancement products or the United Nations.
  • Penetrate deeper with longer pole. And thusly another spammer has mastered the laws of physics.
  • Be your own gladiator. I won't even pretend I understand that.
  • If you build it they will cum. Word.

So, what do you do about spam - do you trash it, ignore it or read it and laugh? What's your best one?

Posted by Chris at 8:00 AM | Comments (38)

July 14, 2008

The Week By The Numbers: Beach Edition

As I have frequently lamented over the past few days, we're indeed back from the beach. Instead of boring you all with every little detail of the trip, here's The Week In Numbers Beach Edition...and some pictures.

Sick kids we took to the beach: 0
Sick kids we brought back from the beach: 2
Generations of family at the beach: 3
Snowcones consumed: 4
Pounds of french fries eaten: 298
Ice cream cones bought: 3
Bad sunburns gotten: 0
Times we got in the car while at the beach: 0
Times my mom got really drunk and amused us all: 2
Beers consumed: 5 (sad, really)
Rides ridden by Mia at Funland: 6,203 (you think I'm exaggerating)
Books read: 1.75
Laps around the boardwalk: 27
Eastern Europeans seemingly employed in the coastal service industry: 1.4 million
Current events paid attention to: 0
Times I've wished I was back at the beach: 433
Days off before retuning to the reality of work: 2 (including today)

What are your numbers?

Posted by Chris at 8:19 AM | Comments (32)

Haiku For Monday #226

I'm clutching to my
vacation for two more days.
Then, reality.

Posted by Chris at 8:18 AM | Comments (3)

July 11, 2008

The Weeklies #44

The Weekly Current Location: Home

The Weekly Location Up Until Yesterday: The beach, baby!

The Weekly Random Narrative That Explains What's Been Up While Still Conforming to "The Weeklies" Format: We've been at the beach. It was wonderful but now, sadly, we're home. Which is actually a good thing considering we wound up with two sick kids. Both had a great time but seem delighted to be home. Beth and I, well, we need a nap. About three days long.

The Weekly Read: Whilst at the beach I only managed to get through one book. I attribute this to the fact that I was chasing after kids the entire time. Apparently people frown on just throwing kids into the ocean. Anyway, I read John Lange's Zero Cool. It's the perfect beach book and requires absolutely no thought whatsoever. John Lange is also a pseudonym of the early Michael Crichton. So it's pretty well written too.

The Weekly Kick Ass Thing About Being In A Small Beach Town On Vacation: You can walk everywhere. We didn't get in the car once.

The Weekly Kick Ass Thing About Being Home: My own bed.

The Weekly Schadenfreude. See that whole Karl Rove thing? He refuses to testify but a judge has a different opinion. However this works out, I hope we get to see Rove in a prison jumpsuit. Squeal like a pig, puppetmaster.

The Weekly Non-Hypothetical Question: What did I miss? Seriously, I've been out of the loop for a week!

Posted by Chris at 9:30 AM | Comments (22)

July 9, 2008

Scenes From The Beach Volume III

My wardrobe this week at the beach consists of:

- a stack of t-shirts
- a bathing suit
- underwear (sometimes but not always worn)
- my "morning shorts" which are marginally dirty and most likely smelly but I don't care because I'm at the beach and no one's going to come up and smell me and if they do, serves them right to get a whiff of salty shorts
- my "evening shorts" which are only worn between the hours of 5 and whenever so as to preserve their cleanliness because I'm not doing laundry
- flip flops

Now, please give me a reason why we shouldn't sell the house, buy a little place in this small, wonderful beach town and wear smelly shorts for the rest of our days. Seriously, got any good reasons?

Posted by Chris at 8:18 AM | Comments (29)

July 8, 2008

Scenes From The Beach Volume II

Posted by Chris at 9:09 AM | Comments (16)

July 7, 2008

Scenes From The Beach

Posted by Chris at 10:00 AM | Comments (9)

Haiku For Monday #225

I'm at the beach.
Please feel free to be jealous.
It's a blog day off.

So over to you.
Open comments and 'ku like
there's no tomorrow.

Yep, that's right - an old
school haiku smackdown, bitches.
Now 'ku like the wind.

Posted by Chris at 8:45 AM | Comments (15)

July 4, 2008

The Weeklies #43: The Happy 4th Of July Edition

The Weekly Best Spam Subject Line. "Stew the love into the soup" What the fuck does that mean?

The Weekly Most Addictive Show. So You Think You Can Dance.

The Weekly Reads. This week, I read Anthony Swofford's debut novel, Exit A. Swofford is more famous for his non-fiction, mainly the book Jarhead. His foray into fiction was pretty successful in my mind. The book itself provides another good lesson in not trusting the plot summary printed on its back. The story is far more wide-ranging than what the summary would lead you to believe. We're immediately presented with the tale of two teenage lovers set on an American Air Force base in Japan. Their lives spiral out of control and they spiral away from each other. We're given glimpses into their future and, ultimately, the resolution of their stories. It's a unique story, told very well.

The Weekly Music. When he started Real World Studios, Peter Gabriel started a tradition in which any and all musicians recording in the studios that week would get together and jam. Out of these sessions came songs and recordings which Gabriel began calling Big Blue Ball. Nearly 15 years after the start of this tradition, Big Blue Ball was finally packaged and released. Like a lot of projects like this, there are both strong and weak points. But the highs far outweigh the lows. Gabriel himself has vocal duties on over half the tracks and the musicanship is strong - as you'd expect for anything coming out of Real World. If you're at all into Peter Gabriel or world music (or both), give it a spin.

The Weekly Schadenfreude. Have you been following Christie Brinkley's divorce case? So, her soon-to-be ex husband spends like $3000 per month on porn and also paid a teenager he'd been doing somewhere in the neighborhood of $300,000 to keep quiet about their affair. Classy.

The Weekly Notice That Things May Be Different Around Here for A Bit. I'm taking a little vacation time next week. So, if things are a little quieter than usual around here, don't be surprised. Of course, I'm all Brokeback Internet ("I can't quit you!") so I'll be posting. But I can't promise vaguely intelligent posts at oh-dark-thirty.

For those of you in the good old U.S. of A., have a happy and safe 4th of July.

Posted by Chris at 7:33 AM | Comments (21)

July 3, 2008

Rain of Pears

Last night I discovered a great stress reliever. Pear tossing. I know that probably needs some explanation. Let me back up.

We have three pear trees in our backyard. They're so loaded with pears, each of them is on the verge of collapsing. Unfortunately for us, the pears are inedible. They're like little green wood balls masquerading as pears. So, last night while Mia and I were hanging out in the backyard, I started to pick pears and throw them as high, hard and far as I could. They disappeared into the woods behind our house. It was cathartic. I kept throwing. Of course, after a while my arm hurt and I was apparently not suffering alone as I heard a couple of guys on the track at the high school behind us complaining as well. This is why I don't run.

Mia asked for a few pears and she tossed them a few feet while I continued to lob them as far as I could. Then I heard a loud conversation coming, again, from the track.

Guy 1: Jesus! Fuck!
Guy 2: What, more?
Guy 1: Yeah, something hit me in the head again.
Guy 2: What the hell's going on?
Guy 1: What the fuck is this, a pear?
Guy 2: Yeah, there are, like, pears falling from the sky.

Apparently I have a really good arm because a) I was letting loose a volley of rock-hard pears on an unsuspecting group of runners and b) that track isn't all that close. So, uh, pear throwing - cathartic for some, painful for others. Oops.

What do you do to unwind?

Posted by Chris at 6:43 AM | Comments (52)

July 2, 2008

Hidden Talents

As my mom used to say (constantly - what was up with that?), you can't judge a book by its cover. There are lots of things you just can't guess about a person by seeing them walk across the street or sit in their office. Everyone has secrets. And secret talents. Like me for instance. I bet you didn't know that:


  • I can recite the vast majority of the dialog from The Three Amigos. I'm not proud of it...except I kinda am.
  • I - the guy who seemingly spends half his life in a suit - can bust out some mean Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden guitar riffs.
  • I was a nationally-ranked tennis player when I was a kid.
  • I can curl my tongue.
  • Despite my liberal-leaning political ways, I'm a bad-ass shot with a pistol.
  • I can connect any two random bands you throw at me. For example, Iron Maiden and Genesis. Iron Maiden's Jannick Gers did the guitar work for the first solo album by Fish, the former lead singer of Marillion. Fish did a few stints as a guest vocalist on Tony Banks' solo albums. Banks is the keyboardist for Genesis. Lest you think this is a fluke, let's try Jane's Addition and Michael Jackson. Jane's Addiction lead singer Perry Farrell's latest project was called Satellite Party. The band's guitarist was Nuno Bettencourt. Nuno was originally in the hair metal band Extreme. Gary Cherone from Extreme went on to become the third (and shortest-lived) lead singer for Van Halen. Eddie Van Halen performed on Michael Jackson's mega-hit Thriller.
  • I can do a startlingly accurate impression of Alvin, Simon and Theodore (The Chipmunks) without the aid of modern recording technology.

See, I bet you didn't know any of that stuff about me. And now, thinking about all that, I'm curious. What don't I know about you? And what are your hidden talents?

Posted by Chris at 6:37 AM | Comments (55)

July 1, 2008

Conversations With The Bean

I feel so insanely uninspired. I have no idea why except the wait for the holiday weekend and, with it, the vacation that will follow. Did I mention the vacation? We're taking one. There's a beach involved. And I'm sure beer. And most importantly? No work. Luckily, on days like today when I'm feeling insanely uninspired, I can fall back on the fact that my kid says some insane stuff.

Conversation 1: The Ground Beneath Her Feet

Me: We've got a whole lot of ground to cover.
Mia: Let's cover the ground!
Me: No, that's an expression.
Mia: What?
Me: An expression. When I say "we've got ground to cover" I mean that we have a long way we still have to walk.
Mia: But what are we going to cover the ground with?
Me: Uh, our feet!
Mia: No. I don't want to cover the ground with our feet. I want to cover the ground with something real.
Me: Our feet aren't real?
Mia: No. We need something real.

Conversation 2: Love and Marriage

Mia: Who's that a picture of?
Me: That's a picture of mommy and Uncle E when Uncle E got married to LaLa.
Mia: I got married once.
Me: Oh you did?
Mia: Yes.
Me: What happened?
Mia: It didn't work out. So I have to get married again some day.

Conversation 3: Ni!

Me: Okay, I want you to say something.
Mia: Okay.
Me: Say, "We are now no longer..."
Mia: We are now no longer
Me: "...the Knights who say Ni."
Mia: The Knights who say Ni.
Me: Great. "We are now the knights who say Ekki ekki ekki ekki ooooo-ptang zoom boing." You try.
Mia: What?
Me: We are now the knights who say...
Mia: Ni!
Me: No. Ekki ekki ekki ekki oooo-ptang zoom boing.
Mia: And Ni!
Me: Okay. Try this. "You must cut down the mightiest oak in the forest with...a herring!"
Mia: You must cut down the mightiest oak with...a carrot!
Me: A herring. Try it again.
Mia: You must cut down the mightiest oak with...a baby!
Me: Can you cut down an oak tree with a baby?
Mia: No. A herring!
Me: Yes, everyone knows you should cut down trees with herring.
Mia: Ni!

What's the oddest conversation you've had recently? And where's your vacation destination this summer?

Posted by Chris at 6:35 AM | Comments (39)


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