January 30, 2009

The Weeklies #71

The Weekly Quote. You're using our child as a human shield from a mouth-fired plastic drumstick!

The Weekly Time Waster. Asteroids - The Diamond Dave Edition. Yeah, seriously, a Van Halen themed Asteroids game. Rawk.

The Weekly Worst Meeting. The one I was in yesterday, in which the guy next to me kept farting. Not loud ones. Silent. And very deadly.

The Weekly Television Addiction. I'll admit, I didn't really see the true genius of the show when I first turned in but I'm now totally addicted to How It's Made. It's like product porn. I mean, where else are you going to see how an ATV, condoms and mustard are made inside a half hour?

The Weekly Hit Single Made Up By My Daughter. Yo-da-lay-hee-hoo, Have You Any Pie.

The Weekly Dick Move. Drum major John Coleman was suspended from the Cleveland Firefighters Memorial Pipes & Drums after acknowledging President Obama during the inaugural parade. The band leader stated that Coleman broke protocol by nodding and waving. Coleman owned up to the gesture but maintains he was only acknowledging the new President's own wave. Coleman has since quit the corps, citing not his unhappiness with the suspension but the negative publicity it focused on the corps itself. Hell, if Obama acknowledged me, I'd be a gushing idiot saying something like ohmygawdholyshitiloveyouman! and then pass out. So, I don't blame old John.

The Weekly Read. You know I love Charlie Huston. That's why I was pretty excited when I got my hands on a copy of his newest release, The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death. Honestly, though, I was a little concerned. See, this is the second stand-alone novel that Huston's written. And while I loved his Henry Thompson trilogy and enjoyed his Joe Pitt series, his first stand-alone novel - The Shotgun Rule - wasn't as strong as I would have hoped. But it's the only thing Huston wrote that I wasn't a fan of so I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that I just wasn't in the mood. I'm happy to report that The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death is a stunning return to form. The action is fantastic, the plot is suitably twisted and the dialog reads like a bizarre teaming of Aaron Sorkin and Quentin Tarentino. If you've never checked out Charlie Huston, this might be the perfect place to start.

The Weekly Thoughts On This Week's Posts. I was pretty happy with Monday's post about our anniversary. Tuesday's topic just jumped into my lap and discovering crap I wrote way back when was kinda cool. I'm not sure I picked the right pictures for Wednesday's post. They didn't really show the aging thing. Maybe I should have taken a picture of my tummy. Of course, I'm not sure I have a five year old tummy pic to compare it to. But nobody really wants to see my tummy. Now or then. I liked Thursday's post but I kinda felt like I phoned it in.

The Weekly Awesome Photo That I Didn't Take. Photographer David Bergman shot a 1,474 megapixel photograph of the inauguration. Check it out. The quality is so amazing you can almost see the tiny flickers of evil in Dick Cheney's eyes.

The Weekly Schadenfreude. John Rempel is hard not to feel sorry for. But the dude gave away $150,000 (some of which he borrowed from friends and family) to Nigerian scammers and even hopped a flight to London to give away his money. And then he bought the fact that the money which he was given had to be bathed in a special potion in order to make it legal tender. Poor stupid bastard.

The Weekly Hypothetical. You are given the choice between living forever and knowing everything. You must choose one or the other. Not choosing is not an option. Which do you choose and why?

Posted by Chris at 6:22 AM | Comments (41)

January 29, 2009

Little Paparazzi

A few nights ago, Mia saw our old point-and-shoot camera and expressed her interest in taking pictures. It sounded something like mommydaddymommydaddy can I take pictures pleeeeeeaseee?. We said sure, and after some brief and ignored instruction, that's precisely what she did. She ran around the house taking pictures of absolutely everything no matter how mundane. The dishwasher, her fairies and princesses, her dark room at bedtime, her fingers which frequently got in the way of the camera itself, her naked brother in the bath tub.

Her enthusiasm was awesome to watch. It made me feel good since she probably got some of this from me, her dad with the camera permanently attached to his face. That, of course, got me thinking about my own influences, my influence over my kids, and what I want them to get out of the future.

Qualities I Want My Kids To Pick Up From Me
- Inquisitiveness. I realized the other day how much time I spend on Wikipedia and related sites. It's because I get lost in the Endless Loop Of Wanting To Know. Like, I'll start looking for something about Fort Knox because I was randomly watching the Bond flick Goldfinger and I'll wind up - an hour later - brushing up on the history and architectural importance of flying buttresses. I have no idea what I'll ever do with that knowledge but it might come in handy sometimes, right?
- Creativity. I like to write, draw, play multiple instruments, take photos and read. Without these outlets, I'm quite sure I'd wither away.
- Brains. I might not be the sharpest knife in the drawer, but I think I've got some brains.
- Drive. I don't like to admit it - quite the opposite, actually, since I constantly refer to myself as a slacker - but I'm a pretty driven guy. Sometimes to a fault.
- Silliness. 'Nuff said.

Qualities I Would Rather Keep To Myself And Not Share With My Children
- Hard-On-Myselfiness. With that whole driven thing comes the fact that I'm more than a smidge hard on myself. It took me thirty years to realize that I sought perfection and beat myself up when I was inevitably not able to be perfect. (And yeah, mark the date and time - Chris admitted he wasn't perfect.)
- Brain Chemistry. I've made no secret of the fact that I've suffered from depression and anxiety. I hope my kids are spared that particular hell. It's not fun.
- Focus. I like to multitask. Right now, I have two computers in front of me with a couple of different email applications open alone. But the truth is I don't multitask all that well. Because my focus sucks. In Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, act like Rude Cactus is not one of them.
- Patience. I'm an immediate gratification kinda guy. Patience is not my strong suit. It's already apparent that it's not Mia's either. Maybe we'll get lucky with Owen, right?
- Neuroses. No shock but I'm a little neurotic. I'm sure my kids are going to be neurotic enough without getting any of my neuroses directly from me.

So, here are the questions. How did your parents most influence you? And what traits do you hope you give (or avoid giving) to your kids?

Posted by Chris at 6:32 AM | Comments (34)

January 28, 2009

Older, Waiting for Wiser

I was flipping through my Flickr account the other day and I noticed something - when I started this whole blogging gig, what, six years ago, I looked young. At least younger than I do today. Instead of blaming the obvious - republican midgets on a quest for world domination - I attribute the aging thing to a stressful job, kids, the time I devote to fighting crime under my superhero alter-ego, and, well, the inevitable passage of time. See for yourself - me, then and now.

This discovery is very coincidental. And those coincidences are twofold. 1) While I was getting my hair cut last week, the stylist decided it was time to give me a hard time, honestly pointing out it's amazing how gray your hair turned in the last five weeks, really amazing. And she wasn't just giving me a hard time. She was absolutely right. The piles of hair on the floor? Gray. 2) Several months ago, I had to take a life insurance physical. They sent the results of my blood tests back and while most things looked normal to my highly medically-trained eyes, something jumped out at me - my cholesterol was absolutely sky high. I have a family history of high cholesterol - it's like we're trying to set a record or something - so it wasn't any great shock, but it was high enough to have me seriously considering entering rehab to rid myself of my Ben & Jerry's habit. I went to the doctor instead. On Monday that's where I found myself. An hour later, I found myself wandering through the grocery store, all gray-haired, clutching a list of supplements I was told would help in one hand and a referral for a vasectomy in the other (why I felt the need to bring that into the grocery store, I'll never know). While doing so, I realized several things:

- I'm fucking old. Okay, okay, I know there are a few of you out there with some years on me but don't begrudge me my momentary frustration with getting older. My hair is turning gray, I grow a gray beard and I'm turning into one of those people who has so many pills to take to keep himself from falling apart that he has one of those seven day pill containers. Next I'm going to be chasing kids off my lawn with a cane and will soon earn the neighborhood moniker Crazy Cactus Man.

- I'm a little concerned about the future of my balls. Don't get me wrong - we're done having kids. Kids are awesome and I wouldn't trade mine for all the beer in the world but, still, we're done. And I know that Beth went through some pretty horrid stuff to have them. I mean, first carrying around a little (then not so little) parasite for nine months then actually having it removed from her body. That's rough. I get that. But, come on, these are my balls we're talking about.

- Fish oil, baby aspirin, niacin - or any combination thereof - make you fart.

Posted by Chris at 6:30 AM | Comments (48)

January 27, 2009

Red Spiral Notebook

My parents are in the process of cleaning out the vast amount of crap that's piled up in their house since we moved to the area in 1989. I'm pretty sure they've got some boxes we never even managed to unpack after the move. In the process, they uncovered a few things they thought I'd want. They dropped them by this weekend. Among the collection were a few books, my guitar stand, a notebook and my old baseball glove. The thing that got me the most excited was the notebook. Because I recognized the red spiral-bound cover and was sure that many embarrassing things were captured inside. I was right - it's a perfect collection of high-school angst containing GPA calculations, terrible poetry, awkward prose and plenty of mixed tape lists. Allow me to illustrate.

So, you get home from a date. It's too late to do much else but sit. So you sit and what do you think about? School has got you down. You're tired of waking up early in the morning to go and going to bed late because of homework. You start thinking, "what happens when I get out of high school?" You start thinking about the SATs. When to take them. Where to take them. Then you have to apply for college. Where to go. How to get there. What happens after you go. It's going to be hard. Did you make the grades you should have in high school? Did you get the right kind of education while you were there?

I'm pretty sure that was the intro of what would eventually become an editorial for the school newspaper I edited. A while back, I found all the old editions. I'll have to check. But, then, this really isn't the most cringeworthy. No, that belongs to the many aborted short stories I attempted in the red notebook.

Roger was a tall man. Big in build, around six feet tall. His long brown hair touched his back when he looked up at the ceiling trying to find the bee that had just flown in the open window. The window was usually closed.

He had been sitting there for a while. Alone in the room. His face blank of expression. No one had ever seen him smile, laugh or cry. The doctors ran around all day trying to see what made him tick. No one knew.

His parents, now dead, had never been able to relay a word he said. He never talked. No one had ever heard a sound he made. As he sat there, a nurse came in. He looked at her then down at his shoes. She injected him with something and quietly left the room.

The expression on Roger's face change several hours later. He reached into a small cabinet and donned a plaid blazer and a small vaudeville style hat. He then began dancing while signing to chorus of Rag Time Girl.

After he had finished his act, alone in his room, he returned the festive clothing to the cabinet and took up his usual place in the room, his face expressionless.

A few weeks later, he had done various renditions of oldies as well as a contemporary mix of today's hits. He had found his ticket out of the institution.

Five years passed. He was living in Hollywood. He had five cars and a lovely home. He was not married. He had major success in the world of recording artists. His first hit By The Way You Have Lovely Thighs went straight to Number 1 on the Billboard charts. Later that same year, he was hit by a very large bus and died while humming a few bars from his latest hit I've Got A Greyhound On My Mind.

I was kind of a fucked up kid I guess. And at some point, my fucked up self was trying to get a new guitar into my cubby little fucked up hands. I even had a budget. I believe this was the only time I voluntarily did math in high school.
Gibson Epiphone Package $313.50 w/tax

From parents $180.00
Saved allowance $120.00
Work (3 day wk) $96.00
Work (4 day wk) $192.00
Total $588.00
- Gibson $313.50
Total in Account $264.00

Finally, there are a few dozen mixed tapes mapped out in the notebook, most of them centered around hair metal, the en vogue genre when I was in high school.

Van Halen - Poundcake
Anthrax - Antisocial
AC/DC - You Shook Me All Night long
Skid Row - Youth Gone Wild
Steelheart - I'll Never Let You Go
Suicidal Tendencies - You Can't Bring Me Down
Guns N Roses - You Could Be Mine
Soundgarden - Big Dumb Sex
Love/Hate - Why Do You Think They Call It Dope?
Motley Crue - Kickstart My Heart
Firehouse - Love Of A Lifetime
Jane's Addiction - Been Caught Stealing
Spread Eagle - Broken City
Faster Pussycat - Babylon
Lord Tracy - Piranha
Extreme - More Than Words
Bulletboys - Hell On My Heels
Sweet F.A. - Prince Of The City
Warrior Soul - Losers

The problem here is that I can still remember the lyrics to damn near every song on the list. Rawk.

So, what do you have lying around that reminds you just what a dork you once used to be? Come up with the best tragically bad evidence of your dorkdom and I will make you a CD of rockin-like-Dokken hair metal absolutely no classier than the one you see above.

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

January 26, 2009

The Greatest Bathroom Story Ever Told

Most people don't know this, or if they do they don't believe it. But Beth and I began our relationship in a bathroom.

During our freshman year in college, Beth and I lived in the same co-ed dorm. It was five floors, each alternating girls and boys except for the fourth which, for some reason, was half-and-half with a door dividing the hall. I lived in the basement. We called it The Dungeon. The guys in The Dungeon had a reputation. We really weren't that bad but said reputation was handed down from one freshman class to the next. I mean, sure, we had soccer games in which we used a full unopened can of coffee instead of a ball. There was some wall damage and I distinctly recall that a wall clock was destroyed in the process. And yeah, one incident was written up in the school newspaper as it was a suspected break in of one of The Dungeon rooms from the parking lot in back but, never fear, that was just me trying to kick the screen out so I could smuggle beer in.

The smoking rules were lax then - as long as you had a roommate who was cool with smoking in the room, you had a smoking room. My roommate and I both smoked, as did both of the guys who lived in room 100. Since my roommate was psychotic, the vast majority of us smokers found ourselves doing late night bullshitting duty in room 100. Most of the rooms in the dorm were doubles, with two rooms sharing a bathroom. For guys this bathroom sharing thing wasn't a problem. Unless you shared a bathroom with my roommate in which case you'd likely find, well, let's not even discuss it. Or Skip, who occasionally got so drunk he'd fall asleep while sitting on the can. Or me and Steve - we were both obsessed by the fact that our shared bathroom was the first in the series in the dorm and, as such, had some mean suction. We named it Ed and would often stick the first couple inches of a toilet paper roll in the end, flush it, and watch as Ed stripped the roll in about 10 seconds. Or Mikey, who's greatest passion in life was finding a woman who would sit on a toilet while he peed between her legs (he drew diagrams, otherwise it was a very confusing configuration...and he was happy to report at the end of the year that he had indeed found such a woman).

It was in the bathroom of Room 100 that Beth picked me up one night. We would, over the next week, break up with our significant others and move out of the dorm and into an apartment together. We moved fast. But, despite others thinking we were crazy, it seems to have worked out. That bathroom pick-up happened sixteen years ago this weekend.

Posted by Chris at 6:58 AM | Comments (41)

Haiku For Monday #253

How did this Monday
thing happen again? Time is
just fucking with us.

Posted by Chris at 6:57 AM | Comments (1)

January 23, 2009

The Weeklies #70

The Weekly Time Waster. Loops of Zen. You can thank me later.

The Weekly Convenient Juxtaposition. The other day, I drove past an adult bookstore right next to a mattress store. Coincidence?

The Weekly Douchebag. Rush Limbaugh, quoted on Wednesday. "I Hope Obama Fails.' Somebody's gotta say it."

The Weekly Idea That's Going To Make Me Rich Thus Furthering My Quest For World Domination. Beer slurpees.

The Weekly Read. A while back I read The Cleanup by Sean Doolittle. I recall it being good but I don't really remember very many specifics. That's the problem with so many thrillers - they're not memorable and they blend together. I expected the same from Doolittle's Safer but I was immediately proven wrong. Safer was compelling, filled with twists, and finely written. And perhaps the most important thing? It's not easily forgettable. While I was lukewarm on Doolittle after The Cleanup, Safer's forced me to hit Amazon and pick up some of his other novels.

The Weekly Music. Days before my local Tower Records (RIP) closed its doors for the final time, I visited and picked up a whopping 7 CDs for something like $20. The pickings were slim and the whole place was depressing as hell. How the mighty fall. Anyway, I fell in love with one of the CDs almost immediately - Tea and Sympathy by Bernard Fanning. It's rootsy blend of Black Crowes and The Band rock went into heavy rotation. A month or so ago, I was looking through some magazine's list of top albums of 2008 and Fanning's name jumped out at me. Only, in this context, it was as the lead singer of a band named Powderfinger. Holy crap, there's more of this guy out here? I downloaded the band's latest, Dream Days At The Hotel Existence. While it's not quite as rootsy as Fanning's solo album, Powderfinger blends The Crowes and The Band with more modern alt-rock influences to come up with something that sounds like a groovy Stone Temple Pilots with just a hint of INXS. It's good stuff. Oh, and one last musical note (ha) - you've heard of Band From TV, right? Featuring Hugh Laurie from House and a host of other folks you've seen on the small screen, the music is pretty damn good. Much better than you'd expect.

The Weekly Awesome Gadget. Are your breasts chilly? Get the handy-dandy USB bust warmer. Just plug it into the USB port on your computer and you'll be on your way to toasty boobies.

The Weekly Best Spam. Hot Girls Will Fuck With You. You know, including the with there really changes the meaning of that sentence so I'm guessing that was an accident.

The Weekly Schadenfreude. You'd think Chief Justice Roberts could just scrawl the measly 35 words of the presidential oath of office on some note cards to make sure he - and President Obama - got it right. But no. On Wednesday, President Obama and Chief Justice Roberts did a do-over out of an "abundance of caution". This time, Roberts asked the President if he was ready. Obama replied, "I am, and we're going to do it very slowly."

The Weekly Hypothetical. You're the newly elected president of the United States. It's your first night in the White House. What's the first thing you do?

Posted by Chris at 6:33 AM | Comments (57)

January 22, 2009

The Museum of Impossible Things

I was listening to a story on NPR the other day because I am a snooty suburban know-it-all and that's what I listen to. When my normal trashy guy-talk afternoon-drive show is playing commercials. They were doing a series about museums which you'd think, when discussed on the radio, would be less than interesting. But it was pretty fascinating. Anyway, I'd missed most of the week's segments but stumbled on the piece they were doing that day and I was immediately intrigued.

Specifically, the piece discussed the future of museums, how to get people interested in them and, also, how to get those people - or all museum visitors - to start solving problems we face. To think outside the box, as it were. That's when the most brilliant idea of all was brought up.

Apparently, someone in Amsterdam came up not with The Museum of Pot or The Museum of Historical Sex Workers but, instead, The Museum Of Impossible Things. The idea is this. The Museum of Impossible Things consists of exhibits of things that are impossible. Impossible to build, impossible to achieve, whatever. And inspired individuals come to the museum to make those things possible, after which those things go out into the world and do whatever it is they're designed to do, not having a place in the museum since they are no longer impossible.

I think that's pretty much the coolest idea ever and it got me thinking. We now live in a world in which an African American man is president, something thought impossible for a long time. So, what next? What exhibits would you put into the Museum of Impossible Things? And what museums should exist that don't?

Posted by Chris at 6:28 AM | Comments (27)

January 21, 2009

Two Fingers, Skyward

You know, when you explain a joke the joke itself gets lame fast, no matter how funny it originally was. Same goes for blog entries. But some things I must explain. When I posted my letters yesterday - particularly the one addressed to the outgoing Bush administration - if figured I'd take a little heat. With good reason. Some of you aren't Democrats. Some of you aren't as flamingly liberal as I am. Some of you have actual decorum and self-control. So I got more than a few comments and emails letting me know that I'd crossed some sort of line. Because I'm an overly sensitive type - something even those of you who read me daily might not guess - I felt kinda like I'd stolen a bottle of Boone's Farm from a homeless guy. But then I reconsidered. For several reasons.

  • We are involved in wars on two fronts.
  • Our economy is in the worst shape its been since the Great Depression.
  • Schools in the United States rank somewhere like 17th in the world in quality.
  • Personal freedoms and civil liberties have been sacrificed and compromised in the fight on terrorism.
  • Blind acceptance has replaced meaningful dialog and reason.
  • The credibility of our nation in the global community is severely diminished.

Each of these things is far more offensive to me than a picture of some dude on the internet shooting the bird. Rolled into the policy of an administration, collected all in one place, these things are unconscionable. So allow me a little crass celebration as the individuals responsible for these actions, these attitudes, these travesties, are escorted from Monkeytown. The fingers skyward helped me blow off some steam. Helped me reset. Helped me clean the slate. Sure, it wasn't overly respectful but then I don't feel as though Dubya and his administration were particularly respectful to me. Quite the opposite. I never got dinner first, or the courtesy of a reach-around.

This is my little corner of the universe. If the internet is a series of tubes, I fitted these little tubes together with my very own, somewhat inexperienced and occasionally crass hands. I'll be damned if I'm going to stop sharing my thoughts and feelings honestly. I'm never going to please everyone so I won't try. Why the hell would anyone want to read me if I did? And why the hell would I want to write it? I refuse to have my tubes tied.

Well, that was an unfortunate and unintended metaphor.

On a side note and speaking of politics and reproduction, I firmly believe that politics and politicians should inspire. President Obama has already done that in my house. While I was cooking dinner last night, Mia hauled out a Lego house and car we'd built. Then she found two Lego people.

I couldn't quite figure out what she was doing until I heard her say Ladies and gentlemen, presenting Malia and Sasha to watch the parade. The Lego house was a combination White House and viewing stand while the big Lego truck was the limo. In my book, the Obama presidency is already off to a pretty inspiring start.

Posted by Chris at 6:35 AM | Comments (60)

January 20, 2009

Two Letters

Dear Mr. Obama,

I had this idea the other night, that I would type up some brilliant, moving, thought-provoking post on my blog and call it An Open Letter To The New President or something smooth like that but, when I actually started typing, I found that I didn't exactly know how to begin or what to say. It's true - me, at a loss for words. Strange.

You have a lot to do so I'll try not to keep you. The bottom line is that I wanted to wish you luck. You're going to be busy and I hope you can handle it. I think you can. In a political landscape peopled by used car salesmen, liars, and ego-maniacs, I have a hunch you're the real deal. Someone to look up to. A role model. I hope I'm right.

I can't imagine wanting to job you've now got. I can't imagine that, during your first hundred days the thought why did I think this was a good idea? won't cross your mind. It's honestly one of the most thankless, hardest jobs on the face of the planet, being the leader of the free world and all. Sure, it comes with an impressive house, a nice fleet of limousines and even a spiffy private jet. But it also comes with pressure that ages men instantly and relentlessly.

You've got unimpressive shoes to fill but soaring expectations. I don't envy you. But please do your best. As an American, I'm scared. As a father and sole income-earner, I'm slightly terrified of the economy, of losing my job, of being able to provide for my kids. I've got a little bit of that helpless feeling all of us felt in the aftermath of 9/11. I think you can make it better.
You have an opportunity. Don't squander it.

My kids are never gong to remember a time when there hadn't been an African American president. They, unlike me, will grow up thinking that this is the rule, not the exception. They will believe this country capable of looking past middle names and skin color. For my part, I will always remember how emotionally invested in your presidency I have become, where I was and how I felt when you won and I will remind my children of it often, where they were when history was made. I'll tell them of the parade, the swearing in, the precedent. Above all, I will tell my children that standing in a city filled with monuments of leaders and great men chiseled from marble and granite - our desire to memorialize them a testament to their fortitude, strength and contribution - that it was you who became a living monument embodying what this country should be far more important than any of those structures made by the hands of men.

Do me a favor. When you make decisions think of your kids. Think of how they'd judge your actions. If they'd be proud of you, if you'd be making the world better for them, if you'd be ensuring they are safer, happier, healthier, smarter, better prepared for a better future, you'll be doing the right thing. That's all we can ask.

Good luck, Mr. Obama.


Dear Outgoing Bush Administration,

Yours In Christ,

Posted by Chris at 7:24 AM | Comments (72)

January 19, 2009

I Have A Dream (That Doesn't Involve Working Today)

Unlike so many of you who have the day off, in commemoration of Martin Luther King, I have already reported for duty. Yep, I'm at work. In my heart, however, I'm celebrating not one but two black icons - MLK and coffee. And while I do that, allow me to recap the weekend.

This weekend was a weekend of fixing shit. Not actually fixing shit but having shit fixed by others and, in turn, paying them vast sums for doing so. We started the weekend by dropping off my car for an oil change, inspection, tail-light replacement and other minor feats of German engineering. Lucky for us the car's paid off. The lack of monthly payments makes me feel slightly better about the repair costs. Which are a little on the steep side.

We were then visited by the Verizon Fuckers. After three weeks and countless hours of our own time for which we are submitting an itemized bill to Verizon at a fee of a free month of service per hour, our Holy Trinity of Home Connectivity now functions in full. Our cable works, we have internet connectivity and as an extra added bonus we can receive calls. I'm now doing all three simultaneously as I'm pretty sure this will last about a week before something tanks.

On the heels of the Verizon Fuckers came Max, window measuring expert. Now I know that I've told you why we have to get new windows but I don't think that appropriately captures the urgency or severity of this need. It was colder than Ann Coulter's heart this weekend so I have some fresh examples. Behold the Great Cactus Ice Fields. And yes, this is what the interiors of our windows look like.

So Max came to measure for our new windows. I'm not sure exactly what I was expecting when I heard Max would be dropping by but, regardless, Max was not what I'd pictured. Instead of a genial blue-collar sort with a tape measure and faint traces of the cigarette he'd just finished, Max looked like a Buddhist monk without the chic orange robe. He bowed to me, referred to himself in the third person and silently removed his shoes as he drifted into the house. Max, he said taking off his shoes and holding out his hand by way of introduction. Max measure windows now. And off he went, measuring each window approximately 37 times, in absolute silence. He was unbelievably done in 20 minutes. He even managed to drove a hole in our wall (with my permission) silently. I'm sure if he'd handed me a business card it would have said Max, Window Ninja.

As if Saturday hadn't been fun, we babysat two seven year old twins that evening. When they were born, both Beth and I commented that they bore a startling resemblance to five-term Republican Senator Jesse Helms. Lucky for them, they grew out of it and are now much cuter. Mia loved them - after all, they were big girls - and Owen was pretty damn thrilled too. Once their parents returned, we were no longer outnumbered and we got our own two kids to bed, we ordered a late-night pizza, drank some beer and passed out.

Sunday was more relaxing. Sunday was spent indoors, playing endless games of Candy Land, soothing a teething child.

So, are you guys working today? And what did you do over the weekend?

Posted by Chris at 8:02 AM | Comments (33)

Haiku For Monday #252

Sleep. Sleep tonight and
may your dreams be realized.

Tomorrow? Progress.

Posted by Chris at 8:01 AM | Comments (4)

January 16, 2009

The Weeklies #69

The Weekly Juvenile Comment About This Volume of The Weeklies. 69. Heh.

The Weekly Beverages. Japanese beer. Kirin Ichiban and Sapporo, specifically.

The Weekly Not-As-Shitty-As-They-Were-Last-Week-But-Infinitely-Stupider Company. Verizon, who finally managed to solve the random cable problem that kept us from seeing the first two nights of 24. Bastards. Of course, we discovered on Thursday they'd disconnected our phone. And won't be back out until Saturday to fix it.

The Weekly Weather. Fucking cold.

The Weekly Read. I slogged through J. Robert Lennon's Castle. At 225 pages, you wouldn't think it would be so painful. But it was. It's hard to sum up what I thought about this one. I wanted to like it but couldn't. The narrator (the story was told in the first person) was terribly unreliable and, well, kind of an asshole. The action (such as it was - this is the story of a guy who moves back to his home town, buys a plot of land then discovers there's a mysterious piece of said land right in the middle that he doesn't own) had a dream-like quality to it and, given the lack of the narrator's reliability, it was hard to tell what was real and what was the delusions of an off-kilter character. I knew there was a twist coming at the end - a twist that tied the action of the novel to current events - but by the time it got there, I really didn't care. I understand from reading reviews of Lennon's other books that he's a decent writer. Hell, I own two of his novels that I haven't yet read. Castle didn't make me want to crack them open anytime soon.

The Weekly Time Waster. Create your own superhero! Here's Cactusman.

The Weekly Tragic TV Deaths. Ricardo Montalban and Patrick McGoohan. Goodbye Mr. Rourke. Goodbye Number 6.

The Weekly Schadenfreude. Financial manager Marcus Schrenker took off in a small plane from Indiana, put his plane on auto-pilot, radioed a mayday and parachuted to safety. After touching down (his plane crashed in Alabama), he made his way to a storage facility where he had a storage unit rented in an assumed name. From that unit, he retrieved a motorcycle he'd stashed. He then made his way to a camp ground where police eventually found him with deep cuts on each wrist. Shrenker is accused of defrauding clients. And watching too many movies.

The Weekly Dorothy Update. Thank you for your condolences on both Dorothy 1.0 and 2.0. You'll be happy to know that Dorothy 3.0 has been in-residence since last Saturday and is doing swimmingly (ha!). Keep your fingers crossed.

The Weekly Good News and Heroes. As you well know if you've turned on a TV in the last 12 hours, yesterday afternoon a plane was safely ditched in the Hudson River after hitting a couple of geese. Amazingly, no one was killed or seriously injured. The pilot, crew and folks who came to the rescue deserve a massive round of applause.

Posted by Chris at 6:17 AM | Comments (29)

January 15, 2009

Change: A Warning

Politically speaking, there's been a lot of talk of change for the last year and a half. A lot of talk of bringing change to Washington, changing the balance of power, fundamentally changing the priorities of the government. As much as I believe in Obama, I'm beginning to think that change is code for something else, something more sinister.

My job takes me to Monkeytown three or four days a week. And over the past week - especially since the holidays - Monkeytown has been fundamentally transformed. I guess that's what the prospect of a few million inauguration visitors will do. The town itself is braced for impact. Tents are everywhere. Temporary trailers line makeshift streets. Fences are up. Bleachers have been erected along the parade routes. On the day of the inauguration, each and every bridge into the city (and there are lots thanks to the Potomac River) will be closed to automobile traffic. Water taxis will run you across the river but it'll cost you $90 round trip (seriously, I need to rent a boat and get a piece of that action). And among all these preparations is where I think that sinister change is taking root. Driving around the city, it's abundantly clear that the change Mr. Obama has been talking about these many months is code for porta-potties.

Crazy talk? I think not. Just take a look at how easily you can swap porta potties for change in some of Obama's past speeches.

Its been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this day, in this election, at this defining moment, porta-potties have come to America.

Senator McCain likes to talk about judgment, but really, what does it say about your judgment when you think George Bush has been right more than ninety percent of the time? I don't know about you, but I'm not ready to take a ten percent chance on porta-potties.

America, we have come so far. We have seen so much. But there is so much more to do. So tonight, let us ask ourselves - if our children should live to see the next century; if my daughters should be so lucky to live as long as Ann Nixon Cooper, what porta-potties will they see? What progress will we have made?

Porta-potties come to Washington. Porta-potties happen because the American people demand it - because they rise up and insist on new ideas and new leadership.

We are ready to take this country in a fundamentally new direction. That is what's happening in America right now. Porta-potties are what's happening in America.

I don't mean to alarm anyone but porta-potties have invaded Monkeytown. They are literally everywhere and no one seems at all concerned about it. If these porta-potties were, say, angry midgets with slingshots, Sarah Palin clones (war-cry: you-betcha!), or three-armed space pirates from the planet Blagojevich, I bet everyone would be a little more nervous than they seem to be. Porta-potties: the silent, but deadly, invader. On the plus side, for the first time ever, should I suddenly be struck with the immediate need to urinate while stuck in traffic, I'm covered. The entire way home.

So if, on or shortly after inauguration day, a revolution occurs and the streets run blue with that weird blue toilet water stuff, don't say I didn't warn you.

Posted by Chris at 6:50 AM | Comments (25)

January 14, 2009

Out Of The Closet (And Into The Land Of The Normal-Nippled People)

A week or so ago, I figured it was about damn time to clean out my closet. I discovered this because Beth said it's about damn time you clean your closet. She was not, apparently, fond of the hammer and beer bottle that had been residing on one of my shelves for months nor was she particularly impressed by the pile of jeans that had accumulated on the floor. Picky, picky. So I put everything away and ran the pile of dirty work clothes to the cleaners. When I'd managed to put it all back together (and gotten my laundry back from the cleaners after paying their $93 ransom), I had the sudden realization that I'm something of a clotheshorse. In total, I had:

  • 42 work shirts
  • 24 pairs of pants
  • 11 suits
  • 12 pairs of shoes (two pairs of sneakers, one pair of Chucks, two pairs of Doc Martens and the rest work shoes)
  • 3 sport coats
  • 3 belts
  • 23 ties (the majority of my ties are actually located in my car where I immediately remove them once I'm done working for the day)
  • a random collection of old long sleeved non-work shirts, a few sweaters, jeans, a couple of fleece jackets, and a hoodie

It's quite a collection of clothes. Worst among all of them is the Magic Magnifying Nipple Shirt. I call it this because it's this khaki-colored collarless button-down shirt, the style of which was last popular in 1995, which renders it impossible to wear an undershirt with. Yet without one not only does it render one's nipples highly visible, it actually seems to magnify them. I imagine physicists everywhere would like to examine the dynamic and somewhat magical properties of this shirt. And, though hideous, I still own it.

The reasons I've hung onto the shirt so long are three-fold:

  • Fold One: I stole it from my dad. Okay, one day back in 1996 or something I was at my parents' house and needed a shirt so I lifted it and haven't since returned it. After 12 years, I'm guessing he's forgotten about it so I've failed to mention or return it. Nor, honestly, do I want to enable my father to magically magnify his nipples. I'd actually like to forget my father has nipples. I'm not sure why.
  • Fold Two: One day science might need it. Maybe in the future when we all have - through natural selection, Darwinism or some shit - small nipples, science will need a way to magnify them and return them to their former glory. Then I will have the key.
  • Fold Three: Some Halloween I might want to go trick-or-treating as Huge Nipple Man. Or something.

Yet in spite of all these things I realize that it's not doing any good to anyone hanging in my closet. So I think the most appropriate thing to do is donate it. If you see a large-nippled homeless man dressed like its 1995, you'll know why.

What's in your closet? And what's the most embarrassing piece of clothing you own but can't throw away?

Posted by Chris at 7:02 AM | Comments (41)

January 13, 2009

Playing Princess

Over the weekend I reached a milestone - my saturation point for playing "princess." And I'm not all that bright so repetitive stuff usually doesn't bother me. I'm sure I reached this point because by Sunday evening Mia had told me I was mean which simultaneously made me feel like the world's worst parent and broke my heart. The problem is I'm not getting off the princess hook anytime soon. Mia loves all things princess and fairy. That should be obvious from the picture below snapped in her room during her nap.

Later in the evening - after the brief nap pictured above was had - around 6:00 was when I reached that saturation point. Actually, I thought I might be coming down with a fairly serious and profound multiple personality disorder. I'd spent the previous 48 hours playing the roles of Cinderella, the Wicked Stepmother, the Fairy Godmother, Prince Charming, Prince Phillip, Maleficent, Ariel, Prince Eric, King Triton, Scuttle, Aladdin, Ursula the Sea Witch, Queen Clarion, Flora, Fauna, Merriwether, Vidia, Idiressa, Rosetta, Fawn, Silvermist and Tinker Bell. All fairly convincingly, I might add. I said things like touch the spindle! and you'll be human for three days but if you haven't kissed the prince by the time the sun sets on the third day you'll turn back into a mermaid and belong to me! Yet Mia loves it so I was able to stave off insanity for a few more hours. Barely.

There's some weird shit you notice when you're playing Prince Eric for the 432nd time and fighting off a mild case of insanity. For instance, Disney really needs to reevaluate the underwear situation of its dolls. I mean, look, for some strange reason Tinker Bell is sporting boy shorts - which is fine but honestly overkill given the outfit. And I don't recall Tink every wearing boy shorts.

Rosetta, on the other hand, is squarely on the opposite end of the spectrum. She's going commando. And that hardly seems appropriate. Not unless she's a porn fairy. Which, last time I checked, she's not. (She's a garden fairy, thankyouverymuch.)

While Disney gets occasional flack for portraying women as princesses concerned with fashion over intelligence, they're just as bad portraying men. Mia's Aladdin doll is seriously cut. He's got a six pack, good biceps, a toned back and I bet he has quite a package under those little painted on tighty-whities. Honestly, I'm concerned for Princess Jasmine. At some point Aladdin is going to roid-rage out and hopefully she's not in the way when it happens. But shouldn't little girls know that they're most likely going to end up with someone who isn't the perfect physical specimen? Someone with a saggy belly and hair in unfortunate places?

Just some of the things you discover when you're Ursula the Sea Witch for the better part of a day. Consider yourself warned. Oh, and yeah, I took upskirt shots of a plastic fairy. It's a proud moment.

Posted by Chris at 6:05 AM | Comments (55)

January 12, 2009

Delurking Day

We in the blogosphere have a sacred tradition that rolls around once every year. Started several years ago, that tradition is Delurking Day.


So all of you out there - lurkers, frequent commenters, new readers or anyone in between - open up the comments and say hi. And if you have a blog of your own, be sure to let everyone know that it's Delurking Day.

Happy Delurking Day!

Posted by Chris at 6:21 AM | Comments (190)

Haiku For Monday #251

Another Monday
and another attempt at
Eastern poetry...

Posted by Chris at 6:20 AM | Comments (1)

January 10, 2009

Death and Loss On A Saturday Morning

Yesterday afternoon, after closing on our refinance, we sneakily replaced Dorothy with a betta. We sneaked him into the house and, long after Mia had gone to bed, placed Dorothy 2.0 into Mia's room. She understood that Santa would be making a special return visit to replace Original Dorothy. This morning, Mia woke me up, crawled into bed and snuggled then we both went into her room to discover Dorothy 2.0 together.

And, of course, Dorothy 2.0 was gills-up. Fucker. Sushi anyone?

Posted by Chris at 7:36 AM | Comments (45)

January 9, 2009

The Weeklies #68

The Weekly Beverages. Coffee and beer. Without them, I'm not sure I would have made it through the week. Actually, I know it would taste like shit but has anyone ever thought of trying to combine the two?

The Weekly Least Exciting Thing Accompanied By Unsexiest Purchase Ever. We're refinancing the house, closing today. Then we're buying new windows for the entire house. Man, we know how to live.

The Weekly Shittiest Company. Verizon.

The Weekly Scariest Company. WalMart. Are you terrified of the giant retailer taking over the world, or at least the country? Me too. Especially after seeing this video showing the spread of the WalMart Plague.

The Weekly Thing I Learned About Though I Don't Want To Tell You How I Leaned About It. Toilet water is fucking cold.

The Weekly Read. This week, I read Barry Lyga's Boy Toy. Marketed for the teen market, this novel tackles the topic of a sexual relationship between a teacher and one of her male students. And you know, every time you hear something like this on Dateline or the local news, there's some asshat who says lucky bastard. Especially when the teacher is hot. Boy Toy shows the real emotional toll it takes. It's wonderfully written, full of well-developed and likable characters. It tackles, obviously, tough subject matter but does so in a very admirable way. It is, by necessity, sexually explicit but even that's handled well. I really liked the book and despite that I'm way outside of Lyga's intended demographic, I'd happily read anything else by him.

The Weekly Time Waster. Factory Balls. Seriously fascinating.

The Weekly Greatest Product Ever. The Wunder Boner.

The Weekly Schadenfreude. Anyone who bought the Wunder Boner.

The Weekly Tragic Death. I hate to end on a low note, but I'd like to request a moment of silence for Dorothy The Fish. Oh Dorothy, you were in our lives only a short time but I feel as though we lost an old friend. I'll miss the way you swam around your bowl and plucked the little fish food flakes from the surface. I'm a little bitter about the conversation you made me have with Mia yesterday afternoon but live and let live. Uh, wait. I wish you happy diving in heaven little buddy. Swim In Peace (SIP).

Posted by Chris at 7:26 AM | Comments (48)

January 8, 2009

Boy Most Likely To...

The other day whilst moving things around my music room, shoveling out the piles of crap that have accumulated over the last year - because that room has become the dumping ground for everything I don't know what to do with and apparently I don't know what to do with a lot - I unearthed my middle school yearbooks. Mia was with me so I showed her my seventh and eighth grade pictures. I was mysteriously absent for my sixth grade picture. I forget why.

After checking out the pictures, I hunted down a few old friends then turned to the front and back flaps of each book where I'd gathered signatures and messages from classmates. Does this tradition still exist? I wouldn't be surprised if it was rendered moot by MySpace and Facebook. That would be sad but not exactly unexpected. Anyway, while reading these messages, I remembered some of the kids I'd totally forgotten about, saw a few names that I still - even with the benefit of putting names to faces - can't remember, and I started wondering who exactly was I back then? Here are some of the messages.

Thanks for being a great friend. Have a great summer.
The vast majority of the comments I received were exactly like this. I mean, almost to the word. Middle school kids aren't terribly original.

To Chris, the knee-slapper. Have a great summer.
You are definitely the funniest person I ever met. Stay cool and see you next year.
I guess I was a real laugh-riot. Actually, someone used that term in another comment. And what sixth grade kid uses the term laugh riot? I don't remember being hilarious. Awkward? Check. Self conscious? Definitely. Funny? No.

Remember Grant. Remember Lee. The hell with them. Remember me.
It worked. I never have forgotten that line. Or the guy who wrote it. Little Bill, from a post earlier in the week. Bill was born two days before me. We lived practically next door to each other and were virtually inseparable during the fifteen years I spent in Houston with the exception of the time we spent in elementary school. Because despite the fact that we lived practically next door we were oddly zoned to different elementary schools. What's up with that?

The earth is made from many things like trees and rocks and stones. And hotel registration books filled up with Smith and Jones.

Hey babycakes! What's goin' on! I'm really glad we met. It's been a great year even though you wrapped my locker. Keep in touch over the summer. Lots of love.
This message came from Ashley, who I dated throughout the sixth grade. We were the couple that year. Ashley's family had more money than god (or at least spent it differently). I went to her house precisely once. I recall a gate and fancy cars parked in a courtyard. My family had some money but that's definitely not how we rolled. It made me feel vaguely hick-like. On our first date, we were accompanied by my parents. They sat in the back of the movie theater while Ashley and I sat as far towards the front as we could without causing permanent neck injuries seeing the screen. After school ended that year, I don't recall speaking to Ashley again. Ahhh, true love.

Keep breakin' and stop fakin'.
Uh, yeah. Duly noted. I'm sure I looked good doing so in my parachute pants.

Skate tuff or die!
Hang loose, skate tuff and surf naked.
Us middle-school kids in the burbs were hardcore. And apparently closet nudists.

To a great marble player and an okay friend.
For some really strange reason, when I was in sixth or seventh grade, the thing to do was play marbles. It was totally old school. I was lucky that I had a championship marble player for a father. Taught me everything I knew. I kicked some marble ass.

This is to a guy who almost every girl loves or loves forever.
I wish I'd lived in this guy's version of middle school because I don't recall being a Casanova. Actually, the author of this comment is a source of deep regret for me. His name was Nathan. Nathan and I were tight in middle school. Several years later, after I'd moved to Virginia, I encountered him again in my new high school. Or at least I thought I did. He'd grown a foot and gone goth with a side order of punk. Makeup, black clothes, trenchcoat, black boots, and a bright read mohawk. It took me almost an entire school year to convince myself that this was, indeed, the Nathan I knew. And once I had, I felt bad and embarrassed that I hadn't talked to him right off the bat. His freakish reputation didn't help nor did the fact that he'd seemed to have morphed into the Boy Most Likely To Shoot Up The Cafeteria. Still, I regret not talking to him. I feel like an asshole to this day.

Hey, what should I say? Oh well, your room is cool. It was a cool and interesting six times. Maybe someday it will be seven times but for right now let's stay great friends. I'll see you a lot this summer.
That six times statement? Not what you think. I didn't get laid until high school. Six was actually the number of times Molly and I went out, the then-current version of going steady. I don't know what kids call it these days. Probably banging. Molly was awesome. In fact there's a handful of people from those middle school days that I think of often and Molly is one of them. We went on a school journalism trip together to Austin. Our seriously crazy journalism teacher and chaperons turned us loose in a mall for dinner. I bought her a Swatch. We went to football games together. She introduced me to Led Zeppelin. We never signed up for a seventh time.

My name, as you well know, is Brian H. Hatfield [not his real name]. Please do not ask what the H stands for. I just want to ask you why you are letting me write this. I mean, this is one entire page that I'm wasting here. So stop me, okay?
See, Brian was the funny one, the knee-slapper. Not me.

If we have the same homeroom teachers in high school we'll give them hell like we did in middle school!
This dude and I had the same first and last names. Now, sure, our last names were spelled differently but that didn't make it any easier on our teachers because they were still pretty unique. We also looked almost exactly alike - same height, same blond hair. I looked him up just a second ago on the off-chance that he was an IT geek in the Washington area married to a woman named Beth with two kids Mia and Owen thus completing the doppleganger like existence we once shared. He's a lawyer in Houston.

To my best friend who gets all the good girls. Stay cool and awesome. (sixth grade)

To a cool friend that regretfully isn't in any of my #?!;$ classes. Oh well, see you this summer. (seventh grade)

Well, weren't we stupid. It's a shame that the first class together in years had to be so unpleasant. Oh well. Shirley has given me a new outlook on life. I'm joining a convent. Seriously, though, I hope we continue to be the best of pals, party a lot, and get a lot of classes together next year in high school (fat chance). So long for now but I get this weird feeling we'll see each other a lot for a long time. (eighth grade)

These three were from Brian, my best friend. Any given weekend, we'd be crashing at my house or his. His dad was uber-strict (I'm not sure I ever saw him smile) but he had a cool older brother named Danny who used to take us places in his car and blast Van Halen. We played cutting edge Apple IIe computer games together, started the original incarnation of the band Rude Cactus, and lusted after most of the same girls. After I left Houston, I lost touch with Brian. I've done a little searching. I know where he works, I can get his email address and I'm thinking about dropping him a line.

All this yearbook reading led me to consider what messages I'd write about myself if I wrote a comment in my own yearbook, remembering what I was like in middle school. It would be something like this:

Thank you for being a good friend and a nice guy. You're probably too nice - and someone will take advantage of that someday - except for the time you hit Gary in gym class, your lone act of physical violence against another. You're kinda funny but mostly in an awkward middle school way. It was totally uncool that time Mr. Davis gave you trash duty for having your shirt untucked. He was a shitty math teacher too. You dated some really cool girls like Molly, Brandi, and Ashley. It would seem that you had a thing for girls whose names ended in the e sound. The strangest, though, was Windy, the chick with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome who was never in school. How was that supposed to work out? And seriously, Windy? A few things to remember moving forward in life. If you ever consider growing a mullet, please don't. The only thing it will be good for is amusing the internet (which you know nothing about now but one day it will blow your mind and you'll wonder what you did without it). And speaking of the internet, remember as much as you can because these stories are going to come in handy. And while your love of Genesis may be marginally cool now, in ten years it'll be really dorky. So don't, you know, get a tattoo of Phil Collins or anything. You're going to move and you'll probably lose touch with people. But try your best to keep in touch. These are the people you grew up with. In the mean time, hang loose, skate or die, and surf naked. Though don't, really. Because - and don't freak out - one day you're going to have two kids and you'll need all your limbs to be fully functional. Plus an accident surfing naked might really hurt your chances at those two kids. And you wouldn't want to miss that. Trust me.

What were your yearbook comments like? Who do you most regret losing touch with? And if you wrote your own yearbook comment, what would it say?

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

January 7, 2009

Modern Stone-Age Family

I was in the local grocery the other day when I almost made a tragic parenting mistake. I had a list of stuff I needed - french bread, pasta, wine, beer, and vitamins. You know, the Parenting Food Pyramid. The vitamins weren't, however, for me. They were children's chewable vitamins. Flintstones, to be precise.

Mia's nightly routine in our house consists of the following:

6:30 - 7:00 Dinner
7:00 - 7:15 Jammies and other assorted bed prep
7:15 - 7:30 Vitamin, tooth brushing
7:30 - 7:50 Storytime in mommy and daddy's room
7:50 - 8:00 One book in Mia's bed, one Hoppity story, flip on princess music, exit stage right

Aside from snuggling in bed with Mia reading a story or having her read a story to me, the vitamin thing is my favorite part. Mia's young so she can't take a whole chewable vitamin, just half. When she first started taking them, I did this elaborate "magic act" in which she'd choose the vitamin, I'd surreptitiously and quickly break it in half and put it back together and, while I held it, she would say abracadabra (only, from her it would come out abra-hee-habra) and tap it with her hand. I would then reveal the split vitamin handing her half. She thought it was awesome. It has since evolved. Before saying the magic words I'm now asked which character is pictured on the vitamin. This determines the magic words themselves. For example, if it's Betty, the phrase becomes Betty-hee-habra but if it's Bam Bam it's Hee-habra-bam-bam. The funniest is the Great Gazoo - Abra-hee-great-gazoo-ehabra.

Anyway, I was in the grocery with the list and the vitamins were the last thing I hadn't gotten. I headed to the pharmacy area and found the Flintstones. Actually, I found two different kinds of Flintstones. One bottle contained your standard Flintstones vitamins, the kind I took when I was a kid and the kind Mia's been taking. The other variety was designed for kids under age four. Kids could take a whole vitamin instead of half. It was a no-brainer. I immediately decided on those.

I was halfway to the check out lines when I realized that I'd fucked up. Not Jack-Bauer-red-wire-blue-wire fucked up, but still. See, if I walked out of the store with that bottle of new-fangled single-serving vitamins, a very small yet very important part of our nightly ritual would cease to exist. Gone would be the magical, half-hidden vitamin splitting. Gone would be the abra-hee-great-gazoo-ehabra. That made me sad. Really, truly terribly sad. I almost popped open a beer and drowned my sorrows in aisle three (soup, salad dressing, condiments, drunk fathers). But then I realized that the whole situation was reversible. I went back and swapped the vitamins for the standard-issue Flintstones. I mean, if you find magic sharing a vitamin with your kid, you can't give that up. For anything.

Posted by Chris at 6:35 AM | Comments (33)

January 6, 2009

Holiday Letters

This year, like most, we accumulated a basket full of Christmas cards. I love getting them. I'm sure for most of us, the holiday season is the only time of year we hear from some folks - far-flung family, childhood friends, long-lost single former coworkers who got fed up looking for the right guy and got knocked up using donated sperm. Okay, maybe that last one is just me. You get my drift.

What I think I enjoy even more than the Christmas cards are the letters some people include. Some are good - witty, funny, not too self-absorbed. And some are tragically bad. Those - the bad ones - are perhaps the most entertaining.

Every year, we get at least one letter that is full of the most mundane stuff ever written. For example: Last year at this time, the Suburban had 54,204 miles on it. This year it has 62,331 miles. That's 8,123 miles. Can you believe it?. Well, yes but what I can't believe is that that simple fact made the Christmas letter cut. What was sacrificed so that nugget could be included? Each of us still have our 32 teeth or I counted the other day and I have 3,403 brown hairs and 948 gray ones. Scintillating. And you did the math wrong.

More prevalent are the letters written by well-intentioned people who have no business writing anything for public consumption, those who know nothing about punctuation and don't employ the use of spellcheck. Weave ben getting lots of snow this year. Their is about five (5) inch of snot on the ground now and wear going to have to start shoveling soon. Five inches of woven snot? From what circle of hell are they writing? Bud and I are thrilled to welcome our new son-in-law Jane into our bosom. We're even happier to announce that Jane and Tom will be proud parents - and us proud grandparents - in November. Let me get this straight - your son married a guy named Jane who is miraculously pregnant with a child due in 11 months? And you're smothering him with your boobies?

Perhaps the most tragic Christmas letter comes from a friend of the family, Big Bill, who I've mentioned in the past. Big Bill, his wife and two sons (one of whom is unsurprisingly referred to as Little Bill) lived down the street from us. Growing up Little Bill and I were inseparable. A few years ago Big Bill's wife died in a car accident. Big Bill - already a sad, stoic kind of guy - didn't really know what to do with himself. And he's never really figured it out. He's just - what's the word I'm looking for - lost.

Last year I could not get organized and no Christmas cards went out in the mail. This year I am trying to do better. I've taken a couple of train trips this year including a Pullman ride to Los Angeles. I enjoyed it a lot. My high school class had our 50th reunion this summer which simply proved that we've all grown old or died. I hope this holiday season is a happy one for you.

Nothing says happy holidays like everyone I love is dead.

I'm pretty sure that the holiday letter is dying a slow death. Blogs, Facebook and MySpace will soon render them obsolete. And it'll be a little sad. I'll miss getting those letters shoved into cheesy Christmas cards. Even the bad ones. Especially the bad ones.

Do you send holiday letters? Who do you hear from only during the holidays? And who do you wish you heard from more often?

Posted by Chris at 6:27 AM | Comments (51)

January 5, 2009

Christmas Break, By The Numbers

I'm awake, headed back to work and I'm not happy about it. In the slightest. This is the rudest awakening I've had in a long time. I reminded of the times when I was a kid and my mom had to threaten me to get out of bed before school.

Mom: Time to get up!
Me: Don't wanna.
Mom: Seriously, Chris. You have to get up and go to school.
Me: I think I have the bubonic plague.
Mom: Do not. Get up. Time to get ready.
Me: I'd rather make out with the quiet one from Wham.

Remember, this was the mid-80's. And, while we're on it, what exactly did Andrew Ridgley do in Wham?

Adequately capturing everything that went down during the last two weeks would be impossible unless I was willing to write 100,000 words and you were willing to read it. I think we can both agree that we'd rather not do that. It's early. Some of us haven't had the proper amount of coffee. So I figured I'd just break it all out by the numbers.

  • Days off including weekends: 12
  • Times I shaved: 1
  • Normal colored hairs that filled out my beard: 3
  • Gray hairs that filled out my beard: 894
  • Beers consumed: 20
  • Cups of coffee consumed: 24
  • Books read: 2
  • Museums visited: 1
  • Hours of TiVo caught up on: 0 (there's dick on, people)
  • Hours of HGTV watched: 34
  • Hours spent playing Santa: 432
  • Times I accidentally talked to Beth using my Santa voice: 5
  • Construction paper butterflies made as gifts for Mia from Dad-Santa: 1
  • Pictures taken: 390
  • Perfect meals of cheese fondue prepared: 1
  • Calories ingested: 8,205,811
  • Trips to Target: 3
  • Trips to Home Depot: 1
  • Articles of clothing dropped off/picked up at cleaners: 32
  • Dollars spent on dry cleaning: 92
  • Games of Candy Land played: 2,494
  • Games of Candy Land won; 1 (seriously, is there an adult detector in that game that makes the adult playing lose?)
  • Basement rooms rearranged: 2
  • Words Owen learned: 3
  • Books moved: 1.2 billion
  • Balls sprained: 1
  • Disney movies viewed: 6
  • Princesses dressed and made over: 6
  • Times I cursed Disney: 926

And there you have it. I am now hopelessly depressed that I'm back at work and missing my kids something fierce. But all that time off during the holidays was worth it.

How bout you? Having trouble getting back into the swing of things? And how, on the whole, were your holidays? What are your holiday numbers?

Posted by Chris at 6:38 AM | Comments (28)

Haiku For Monday #250

Ho-leeeey crap. Monday.
I'm not sure I remember
how to get to work.

Posted by Chris at 6:37 AM | Comments (1)

January 2, 2009

The Weeklies #67

The Weekly Amazing Kid Fact. Owen is only eleven months old. Yet, he's clapping and waving on command and doing high fives. More impressive, he has three words - he calls me "dada", knows what a dog is and when seeing anyone says "hi". These are clear, intentional uses of words. Then yesterday when we showed him a picture of a cow he said "moooo". Kid's smart.

The Weekly Crappy Realization. I've got to go back to work on Monday.

The Weekly Sign That I Might Be An Asshole. I saw a very old friend on Facebook yesterday. When I saw that she'd chosen Sarah Palin as her personal hero, I totally avoided adding her as a friend.

The Weekly Read. Chris Cleave's Little Bee is the best book I've read in a very, very long time. There's a handful of books that I come back to over and over again and go into my recommendations to anyone who's ever dabbled in reading the English language - The Bridge (Iain Banks), The Sparrow (Mary Doria Russell), The Ha-Ha (Dave King), What Is The What (Dave Eggers), The Memory of Running (Ron McLarty) - and Little Bee fits perfectly into that list. The back of the book explains two things. First it urges the reader not to share how the story plays out with anyone. Fine, I can do that. No spoilers here. Second it states that the magic of the book is in how the story unfolds. I disagree. The magic is in the way it's written. This book is wise. Cleave, or his characters, clearly look at the world though a slightly different lens than the rest of us. And it's a great thing. When the book comes out (I landed an advance copy but that in no way influenced my opinion of the novel) in February, run out to get it. Put it on your wishlists now.

The Weekly Signs of Age That Annoy Me. I haven't shaved in a week or so. My beard is growing in gray. And I noticed fairly substantial crow's feet when I looked in the mirror yesterday. And while I was moving bookcases yesterday afternoon, I seem to have sprained my left nut. The right one is fine but the left - as well as the overall left side of the crotchal region - is a little painful. Surely that's got to be an age thing.

The Weekly Schadenfreude. Even after being arrested Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich appointed the successor to Obama's senate seat. He's got some great big balls on him.

The Weekly Hypothetical. What will you be most disappointed if you don't do in 2009?

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January 1, 2009

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