September 30, 2009

Overheard (And Overseen) in DC

I've been shredding and packing most of what I've been doing over the last six years which is more than a little depressing. So I'm looking for all the comic relief the world has to offer this week. Luckily, I work in DC.

If you live or work (or both) in DC, you see some pretty weird shit. It's inevitable. DC is a Mecca for the elite, the destitute, the dispossessed, the powerful and the insane. And you can pretty much mix and match any of those qualities for endless fun. On any given day, sitting in traffic in sight of the White House, you can see a Presidential motorcade, Marine One flying overhead, herds of tourists, Crazy Saxophone Guy, flower and fruit vendors, and homeless Vietnam vets.

Or this guy...

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I'm thinking this guy is slightly opposed to Obama's healthcare reform plans.

And then there's the conversation I managed to walk into in our cafeteria. I'm not sure what started it but I sure as hell knew immediately that I did not want to be involved. And by the way, this involved the same guy who ranted about his bird a while back.

Guy 1: So what they did to Obama is not cool.
Guy 2:With the picture?
Guy 3:Yeah, the picture.
Guy 1:It's a lot like Jesus.
Guy 3:Christ, Jesus. What does Jesus have to do with this?
Guy 1:They did the same thing to him as they're doing to Obama?
Guy 2:What, with a picture?
Guy 1:Yeah. They crucified him.
Guy 2:They didn't use a picture. Nails and boards. Not pictures.
Guy 1:You're disrespecting my opinion.
Guy 2:Fuck your opinion.
Guy 3:Fuck the picture.
Guy 2:Fuck Jesus.
Guy 3:Too far.
Guy 2:Yeah. My bad.

And then there's this. And honestly, I don't quite know what to say about this. Frankly, I found it mildly terrifying and most assuredly totally inexplicable.

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I think it begs for your captioning ideas. Or, if you can't come up with something good, at least try to explain this outfit to me. Please? I've been trying to figure it out all night.

Posted by Chris at 6:13 AM | Comments (40)

September 29, 2009

Dick In The Pool

Does anyone have any clue how Dick Cheney feels about swimming? Or, more generally, public pools? I mean, I'd imagine that Cheney dislikes all fun activities, preferring to have people swim through vast lakes of molten lava, enjoying their screams whilst chomping down on a bucket of popcorn and a forty of Schlitz. (For some reason, I see him as a malt liquor drinker.) But that's just me.

Anyway, as I mentioned yesterday, I took Mia for her swimming class on Saturday. While I was sitting in the bleachers, I caught this familiar face out of the corner of my eye, a Caucasian ball of hate and poor hunting skills. I immediately assumed it was Dick Cheney.

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What do you think?

A. Are you crazy? That's not Cheney!
B. Absolutely. No doubt about it. I know Dick when I see it.
C. It could be though he's lacking horns. He's got horns, right?
D. Probably not. I heard Cheney was out chasing puppies with a baseball bat on Sunday morning.

What's your best celebrity run-in?

Posted by Chris at 6:02 AM | Comments (35)

September 28, 2009

Parting Is Such Sweet Sorrow

This weekend was a blast. I worked from home on Friday and despite the temptation to drown the day in a big old vat of fuck it - because of Big Work Failure (formerly Big Work Thing) - I did my job, checked out at five and took the kids to the local high school football game. It was a terrible game if you happened to be rooting for the home team. I kinda was. Mia was just obsessed with the band and Owen wanted only to follow the mascot around so he could shyly avoid high-fiving him (or her, it was unclear). By half time - after the band had performed marginal show and the dance team pulled off the briefest, lamest routine in high school history - it became clear that the kids desperately needed to go to bed. Because they were both incredibly punchy, practically falling asleep standing up and whining about nearly everything. We got them home, got them in bed and vegged out the rest of the evening.

Saturday was rainy and cool, a perfect day to spend inside. Which is precisely what we did. We played in the morning then Beth went out and saw a movie with my mom (Julie and Julia which was reportedly excellent). My dad came over and we watched an episode of Scooby Doo with Mia since I had promised her we would the weekend before. Apparently some kid at school was talking about Scooby Doo and Mia had no clue who or what Scooby Doo was. I felt as though I had deprived her. We waited for Beth to leave the house because she hates Scooby Doo with a passion usually reserved for Nazis and horses. When the movie was over, and the meddling kids were through doing their thing, we procured take-out Indian, said goodbye to my folks and watched some TiVo. (Side note - Grey's Anatomy people, I'm feeling very manipulated and I'm this close to walking away. And you know, having people laugh and cry excessively might actually work if half the people were better actors.)

Sunday proved only marginally nicer weather-wise. I took Mia to her swimming lesson where she swam fearlessly and even jumped off the diving board. First time ever. No fear. She's amazing. And we may or may not have seen Dick Cheney, sitting there in the bleachers watching all the kids swim. Then Mia and I played school and I did everything wrong and she got fake-mad at me which was hilarious and make me absolutely crack up at her with made her real-mad. We had plans to hit a local zoo but they were washed out. Instead, we played with Mia's cousin at our house. Then we had dinner and passed out from a weekend of wonderfulness.

It's Monday. Day One of the Big Work Failure Aftermath in which we now have to teach people how to do the jobs that we will no longer be paid to do in three weeks. So that's kind of a bummer. But hey, it was a good weekend with people who love me. How can you go wrong with that?

What did you do?

Posted by Chris at 6:06 AM | Comments (31)

Haiku For Monday #286

I will not let the
fact that it is Monday get
me down. Well, too much.

Posted by Chris at 6:05 AM

September 25, 2009

The Weeklies #103

The Weekly Emotion. Bummed.

The Weekly Nut Weight. De-Lurking Di came the closest with her guess of 18 lbs, 3 oz. In reality, I have 17 pounds of nuts. Luckily I have a strong nut sack to carry them around in. And yes, I'm 12.

The Weekly Time Waster. Cheese or Font. (Thanks, Jessica!)

The Weekly Read. When I read my first John D. MacDonald/Travis McGee novel a while back, I wasn't so thrilled. I mean, it wasn't bad but it just didn't live up to the hype, to the blurbs on the back declaring MacDonald and his fictional hero McGee to be the best things since sliced bread. But I picked up Nightmare In Pink last weekend anyway. And it totally changed my mind. It's a damn fine novel and a great mystery. MacDonald's style is unique and his (or, rather, McGee's) musings border of the philosophic. I didn't see the twists coming and thoroughly enjoyed the book from beginning to end. So much so that I ran out and bought the next one and started to devour it as well.

The Weekly Music. I love Pearl Jam and have made no secret of the fact that every subsequent album has fought Ten for my undying love. And no Pearl Jam album has succeeded. I blame the fact that Pearl Jam is a band with multiple personalities. They're rootsy rock and rollers, punk wannabes or angsty grunge practitioners. And I love each of them but they yield some pretty uneven albums. Which is why I was a little worried about Backspacer. I ran right out and bought it anyway, of course. I'm really glad I did. Backspacer might be Pearl Jam's best album since Ten. It's fast, energetic and fun. The band sounds incredible, the music is fist-pumping, and Eddie's vocals are insanely good. Maybe more importantly, the album is consistent. It's loaded with one anthem after another. Even the quieter, more laid back tracks don't sound full of typical Pearl Jam angst. Instead they seem heartfelt and whispy. I've listened to the album at least five times since Wednesday. I might listen to it five more times by the end of the day.

The Weekly Proof That My Mullet Is Famous. Check out this article and see if that guy in the middle picture doesn't look familiar.

The Weekly Schadenfreude. Kirk Cameron - yeah, that guy from Growing Pains - is one fairly fanatical fan of Jesus. His latest crusade is one against Darwinism. In an online video floating around the tubes, Cameron is quoted as saying “Atheism has been on the rise for years now, and the Bible of the atheists is ‘The Origin of Species'. We have a situation in our country where young people are entering college with a belief in God and exiting with that faith being stripped and shredded. What we want to do is have student make an informed, educated decision before they chuck their faith.” Okay, while I believe Darwinism to be fact and creationism to be myth, everyone's entitled to their beliefs. But when he starts comparing Darwin to Hitler, or intimating that evolution and the Holocaust are somehow related, that's when he loses me.

The Weekly Hypothetical. What one quality do you have that, if you noticed it in your child, you'd miraculously rid him or her of?

Posted by Chris at 6:14 AM | Comments (25)

September 24, 2009

My Nightstand

About a year ago, I discussed the literary contents of my nightstand. Now, I will readily admit that I have a book problem. Like, I score books with the same frequency that Charlie Sheen scores hookers. So it's not really a surprise that the on-deck pile of books finally outgrew my night stand. (I would like to note, here, that this is not the only pile of to-read books I have. There are three bookcases of unread books in our basement. It's a sickness. But again, not hookers so it could be worse.) The books, much to Beth's dismay, have now become a permanent fixture on our dresser.

They were, previously, all piled up, willy-nilly but I hit Target and a craft store and went Design Star on their asses, fashioning two very cool (if I do say so myself) bookends. Anyway, here's what's on my nightstand dresser.

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  • The Intruders (Michael Marshall)
  • Promise Me (Harlan Coben)
  • Rant (Chuck Palahniuk)
  • The Lie (Chad Kultgen)
  • Kill Your Friends (John Niven)
  • The Power Of The Dog (Don Winslow)
  • Requiem, Mass. (John Dufresne)
  • The Crime Writer (Greg Hurwitz)
  • The Hunger Games (Susan Collins)
  • Pain Killers (Jerry Stahl)
  • Tsar (Ted Bell)
  • No Survivors (Tom Cain)
  • Revenge Of The Spellmans (Lisa Lutz)
  • Transition (Iain Banks)
  • The Last Child (John Hart)
  • The Increment (David Ignatius)
  • Waiting For Columbus (Thomas Trofimuk)
  • The Angel's Game Carlos Ruiz Zafon)
  • Await Your Reply (Dan Chaon)
  • The Dirt (Motley Crue)
  • Franklin Flyer (Nicholas Christopher)
  • Zeitout (Dave Eggers)
  • Art In America (Ron McLarty)
  • Downtown Owel (Chuck Klosterman)
  • Stuart: A Life Backwards (Alexander Masters)
  • Manhattan Nocturne (Colin Harrison)
  • The Tourist (Jeff Hobbs)
  • The Tipping Point (Malcolm Gladwell)
  • In This Rain (SJ Rozan)
  • The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (Steig Larsson)
  • The Laments (George Hagen)
  • Phantom Prey (John Sandford)
  • Invisible Prey (John Sandford)
  • The Salaryman's Wife (Sujata Massey)
  • Chasing The Dead (Joe Schreiber)
  • Saturn's Children (Charles Stross)
  • The Last Colony (John Scalzi)
  • Zoe's Tale (John Scalzi)
  • The Stolen (Jason Pinter)
  • The Quick Red Fox (John D. MacDonald)
What's on or in your nightstand?
Posted by Chris at 6:41 AM | Comments (40)

September 23, 2009

Gutpunched

Do you remember the metaphor? If you don't, don't worry. It was a long way of describing a competition in which one's success or failure isn't just determined by binary factors - yes or no, black or white, good or bad. Instead, what I was hoping to describe in my long-winded way was the fact that, as in most things, there was an element of subjectivity involved in making the decision whether I won or lost. And that subjectivity made me anxious.

I don't like to talk about work here because you can never be sure when work stuff is going to come back and bite you in the ass. But the metaphor alluded to the success or failure of the Big Work Thing described quite a while back. And that, in turn, is why I asked you guys to keep all sorts of appendages crossed. I learned yesterday that, despite my personal best effort and the karmic powers of the Internet, the Big Work Thing didn't turn out in my favor.

And I felt like I got punched in the stomach.

I feel angry and disappointed and sad. Really sad. Partially because it was a big deal, because I poured a hell of a lot of myself into it, because it wasn't just a Big Work Thing but something that I gave a damn about, something that was a little bigger than just winning or losing. And because I don't think - as objectively as I can think - that the decision that was made was ultimately the right one. It is, in short, the second largest disappointment of my professional career, coming in behind getting laid off when the tech bubble burst seven or eight years back.

Yesterday was not a good day. Today has to be better. Right?

Thanks for all the good vibes. I'm sorry it didn't pan out. But I'm sure it wasn't you. I think I'll just chalk it up to the fact that the world is occasionally unfair. Which, hello, kinda bites.

Posted by Chris at 6:23 AM | Comments (49)

September 22, 2009

My Nuts

These are my nuts.

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Like so many of the world's nuts, my nuts are found in a hairy sack which, when opened, reveals smooth, moist, nutty perfection.

These fine specimens are chestnuts. Sweet chestnuts, specifically. Our yard contains several chestnut trees which are without a doubt the loveliest, greenest and leafiest trees we've ever had. They are also without question the dirtiest. About this time of year the, um, nut sacks begin dropping from the tree, peppering our yard with nuts and husks. This delights the squirrels, the population of which is easily ten times its normal size. But us? Well, we're not so thrilled. See, the nut sacks are heavy and end up absolutely everywhere. Literally. We've got the only chestnut trees within a mile radius but take a walk in our neighborhood and the nut sacks are everywhere. The husks cover every available surface of our yard if we'd let them. Covered in spikes like some bizarre medieval instruments of war or torture, the little fuckers hurt. They're not easily removed or disposed of. Typical nut sack removal requires the use of thick plastic trash cans, heavy leather gloves, a rake and a snow shovel. The fact that they're heavy and drop from the sky yielding to breeze or gravity or both makes them hazardous too. Getting clocked in the head with a nut sack is a painful prospect. I can hear them fall in the middle of the night, a rustling of leaves followed by a thunk as they hit the ground.

In short, my nuts are a menace.

This is the third Season Of The Chestnut we've had since living in our house. The two previous years we adopted a take-no-prisoners approach to our nuts, breakout out the gloves and snow shovels and disposing of the nuts and their sacks while silently (though sometimes aloud) cursing the trees. This year, however, we did a little research. Things You Can Do With Chestnuts. Turns out, the list is rather long, primarily focused on roasting and baking. So, on Sunday, Mia and I spent the vast majority of the day tracking down chestnuts, liberating them from their sacks.

And now we have a sack of nut-sack liberated nuts (huh?). My question to you - in pounds and ounces - how much do my nuts weigh?

Posted by Chris at 6:20 AM | Comments (30)

September 21, 2009

My Bizarro Weekend

Nearly everything about this weekend was strange. It started strange, ended strange and the liquid weekend center was strange. Not strange in a bad way. As a matter of fact it was a very good weekend. But a little odd.

I worked from home on Friday. Not strange as I try to pull that off a few times a month. I was waiting for something work-focused to happen which didn't happen and that was slightly disappointing (in a way) but other than that, the day was rather ho-hum. Then dinner rolled around and Mia ate pizza. Okay, I know most kids love pizza and a kid eating pizza isn't exactly a revelation. But Mia gave up pizza (for some unknown reason) about two years ago. Then suddenly - she eats half a pizza on Friday night. Odd.

Saturday was, perhaps, the point at which we entered some sort of parallel universe. We went to a birthday party for one of Mia's friends which was lovely and 100% normal. We returned home, got the kids stuff packed and, after Owen had caught a nap, we took the kids and half their stuff to my in-laws to spend the night. Without us. On a side note, Mia cracked me up as she was packing up her stuff. She packed most of what she owned. She said she didn't want it to be lonely. Anyway, on the drive over we passed a headless deer on the side of the road and a roving tuba player. Seriously. The deer was lying there (dead, that should go without saying), completely headless. You have to wonder how that happens and just where the head went. The tuba player was even more surreal. Just an older guy - maybe 50 - wearing a t-shirt and shorts wandering the streets playing a very large, somewhat shabby tuba. We dropped the kids off without too many tears (theirs and ours), went out for a nice dinner at which we saw no headless creatures or rogue horn players, then went to the store for ice cream and wine. There we saw a man wearing horns. We chose not to ask. We came home and watched The Big Lebowski which we had criminally never seen. It was an odd movie and very fitting considering the way the evening had gone.

Sunday was less surreal. By this point we were clearly on the highway out of Surrealtown. Beth headed over to pick up the kids. Mia had a swimming lesson. I did yard work. We all sat down for dinner together. All very normal.

Having a 16 hour chunk of time without kids was nice. When we got home from dinner on Saturday night, we immediately flung open all the child-proof gates, opened all the cabinets wide, and un-bungee corded the chairs around the kitchen table. It was, for a moment, freeing. But then it just felt wrong so we put everything back. But being home without kids was odd. Beth and I both woke up over and over wondering why we weren't hearing anyone tossing and turning, whining or sniffling. The whole place just didn't feel right. And neither did I. So we were both a little relieved when it was the four of us. Again. Laughing, playing, sniffling, tossing and turning.

Posted by Chris at 6:13 AM | Comments (15)

Haiku For Monday #285

Dear alarm clock. You
are the worst small appliance
I own. Bite me, bitch.

Posted by Chris at 6:11 AM

September 18, 2009

The Weeklies #102

The Weekly Really Terribly Food Product. Soy Joy bars? Taste like baked feet.

The Weekly Strange Site That Cracked My Ass Up. Animals With Lightsabers. (Thanks, Oakley.)

The Weekly Read. So, I went all sci-fi geeky again and read John Scalzi's The Ghost Brigades, the follow up to Old Man's War that I wrote about last month. There must be some rule among sci-fi authors - sequels have to be weirder than the originals and if there are more books in the series, they have to get even weirder. At least that's what I've always noticed. Luckily Scalzi broke the rule. The Ghost Brigades was brilliant.

The Weekly Music. One of my favorite bands is Porcupine Tree. You might have never heard of them but you definitely should. Their latest - The Incident - further proves their brilliance. If nothing else, they're ballsy. The Incident is a sprawling album spread over two CDs. The sound? Think of Pink Floyd combined with Tool. If you're in the mood for something a little heavy, a little unique and a lot original, give The Incident a spin.

The Weekly Time Waster (That Might Make Your Head Explode). Remember those stereogram 3-D images that you'd stare at for hours trying to find a picture of a whale? If you thought that made your brain hurt, you should try Stereogram Tetris.

The Weekly Politician With Mad Map Skillz. Al Franken. At a Minnesota state fair the entertainer-turned-Senator was able to, for memory, draw a map of all fifty states. Don't believe that it's tough? You try it! Check the video.

The Weekly Schadenfreude. Jonathan Kyte is a Denver man who is very confused and very sad. See, he dropped $30,000 renovating his condo. Only to find out that, well, he had the wrong condo. Turns out he doesn't actually own the condo he remodeled. He owns the one next door. Um, oops.

The Weekly Favor. This isn't a huge deal but if you'd think some positive thoughts and keep your fingers crossed for me until further notice, I'd really appreciate it.

The Weekly Hypothetical. You are Super-___________ [Insert Your Name]. You can either fly or be invisible. Which do you choose and why? What other superpowers would you have?

Posted by Chris at 7:08 AM | Comments (22)

September 17, 2009

People Behaving Badly

I tend not to tolerate stupid people all that well. Or people with bad manners. Like people who don't signal when they change lanes, people who interrupt, people who can't for the life of them listen when someone else is talking, people who feel entitled to damn near everything under the sun. And it seems like there's been an explosion of idiots lately.

Kanye West. Kanye is a loud-mouthed asshat, plain and simple. It started with his inappropriately placed claim during a Katrina relief broadcast that George Bush hated black people. Now, Dubya was an idiot but I don't think he's a racist. Over the weekend at MTV's VMAs, he stole the mic from Taylor Swift, crashing her acceptance speech, to mouth off why Beyonce should have won. If I was Taylor Swift, I'd have kicked Kanye in the nuts. Hey, President Obama described him more accurately than anything I've read - jackass.

Joe Wilson. I hate to sound all conservative Republican and shit but Joe Wilson should stop apologizing as he's claimed he's going to do. Look, I don't like the fact that within a few days of his random you lie! outburst his reelection campaign raked in $200,000. But the man apologized to the President and the President accepted. For Democrats (of which I am one) to draw this out, to formally censure him, keeps Wilson in the spotlight and severely detracts from the actual debate we should be having over healthcare reform. Wilson is a self-important, inappropriate dickhead who couldn't keep his mouth shut. End of story. Move on.

Serena Williams. First off, John McEnroe is the master of the on-court rave-out. No one holds a candle to him. Including Serena. After a foot-fault last weekend, Serena staged a first-class freak out, verbally abusing a line judge and threatening her with her racquet. Okay, I was slightly amused by the line judge scurrying away, like her feet couldn't carry her fast enough. And I don't blame her. Serena could totally kick my ass and I'm not even a little Asian lady.

Everyone In Front of Me In Traffic. I know school is back in session. There are more folks on the road. And I know we've all got places we need to be. But it took me an hour and a half to drive 26.4 miles. Seriously. I Google Mapped it. This? Is insane. Get out of my way.

Who are your asshats of the week? And where did manners go?

Posted by Chris at 6:22 AM | Comments (17)

September 16, 2009

Dear Mia

Dear Mia,

No, it's not a birthday or an anniversary. You didn't just graduate from college or something, no matter how old you may seem. Just a note to tell you how proud of you I am.

DSC_4716copysm.jpgLast week you started your second year of preschool. I'll admit to being more than slightly nervous. When you started school this time last year, we weren't sure if you'd ever enjoy it. You were nervous and cried whenever your mom took you to school. Though I think you knew she'd be back to pick you up, you didn't want her to leave. And while you eventually embraced school, threw yourself into it and relished each moment, we were worried that it would take you a while to warm up to it this year. Turns out your parents are silly. But that's nothing new to you. On the very first day, you ran to school, charged into the building, right into your class and even forgot to give your mom a hug and kiss goodbye. And you haven't looked back since.

Your maturity is astounding. Your insight is mind-boggling. And your observations, while sometimes uncomfortable, are impressive. Last Friday you asked why the neighbors had hung an American flag (or, as you call it, the pledge of allegiance flag) in their window.

Me: Eight years ago on September 11th, something pretty bad happened.
Mia: Bad? Like what?
Me: Well, it was a really bad accident.
Mia: Like an accident with cars?
Me: It was really an accident with buildings.
Mia: Oh. But why are the neighbors flying a flag?
Me: It's to remember that accident and all the people who helped after the accident.
Mia: What happened to the buildings? Did they fall?
Me: Yes, sweetheart. The buildings fell.

One day I'm sure I'll have to explain terrorism to you. Why people do bad things. But in the mean time, thank you for adding perspective to my world, for being an ever-present bright spot of wonder and joy that can't be tarnished by bad people doing bad things.

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More and more I've noticed how like me you are in certain respects. Like me, you dislike change. Like me you'd rather make up your own song than sing the songs of others. Like me you're hard-headed and rarely give up. And like me, anticipation of things - even good things - fills you with a nervous energy and tinge of dread. Before school started, you didn't sleep very well. You woke most nights, came into our room and woke me up so you and I could cuddle. Thank you for trusting me with your nervousness. More importantly, thank you for being stubborn, independent, and not allowing that anticipation to ruin these wonderful experiences.

I love you, Bean. And I don't plan on letting you forget that.

Dad

Posted by Chris at 6:24 AM | Comments (25)

September 15, 2009

Why Healthcare Reform Matters

Unless you've been living under a rock or whiling away the summer on some tropical island beach Corona in hand (and if you have been crashing on a beach for three months, please let me know how you pulled that off), you've probably been subjected to the debate over healthcare. You've been bombarded with all kinds of messages, purported facts and politically-driven imagery all trying to help you make up your mind how you should feel. I don't have the magic bullet, the perfect bi-partisan plan that will make everyone feel good about their political careers and the health of their constituents. But something has to be done. Because what I know is this - a country is only as good as the care it renders to its most disadvantaged. And in that respect, the US is woefully inadequate.

Here's what makes me say that. And keep in mind these are cold hard facts, not influenced at all by political bias, though I most certainly have one.

  • During 2007 and 2008 87 million people were uninsured at some point - a week, a month, a year.
  • Nearly 32% of working-age adults and the families they support had a gap in insurance coverage for at least a month between 2006 and 2007.
  • 85% of the individuals who lost coverage during that time were uninsured for at least a month.
  • 17% of you will lose your employer-based coverage during the next two years.
  • Under current policies, an estimated 66 million Americans will have no coverage by 2019.
  • 15% of young adults have one or more chronic condition which will, most likely, be considered a pre-existing condition for which they may be denied coverage.
  • 68% of uninsured individuals receive no medical care when sick, receive no testing of any sort or take necessary prescription drugs.
  • 45 states allow insurance companies to discriminate against individuals based on pre-existing conditions.
  • 12.6 million people - not including the elderly - were denied coverage based on pre-existing conditions over the last three years.
  • Your health care costs are, on average, $341 higher annually to support delivery of healthcare to the uninsured.
  • For every $12 insured individuals spend on healthcare, $1 supports the uninsured.
Whenever I discuss a remotely social or political problem some emails me or comments essentially saying you've talked about the problem but where's your solution? To head those comments off, I'll say this - I'm not a healthcare expert or policy wonk. You don't want me deciding this. Or if you did, you'd pay me more. So, while I have a good handle on the problem, I'm short on solutions. What I do know, I'll reiterate - we're only as good as the care we render to our most disadvantaged.

What's the answer? Is it a government-regulated and managed health plan? We're the only advanced democracy that doesn't manage the health of it's citizens. Or do we subsidize the states or the individuals? Or do we do nothing?

Posted by Chris at 6:06 AM | Comments (26)

September 14, 2009

Buffalo, Big Ass Cows, and Chickens...Oh My!

This weekend was a busy one. Why? Let's see...

On Friday evening I solo parented. Beth went to a baby shower and the kids and I bonded over a princess movie (what Mia calls Aurora but Disney calls Sleeping Beauty) and pizza. And beer for me. Though Owen has a fascination with my beer. He actually utters the word beer at such an alarming frequency that I'm slightly worried someone is going to call children's services. By 9:00, both kids were in bed. By 9:05 Beth was home. By 9:20 I was seriously considering passing out. I didn't. I waited until 10:00 to do that. I feel so fucking old sometimes.

On Saturday we hit the zoo. Not the big-ass zoo in DC but a relatively small local one that's nevertheless pretty darn cool. We've taken Mia a couple of times, the last time last year. She calls it the loud zoo because of the noise made by the rather greedy goats and sheep that demand to be fed. But we figured a) Mia would be over that by now and b) Owen would love it. We were mostly right. Mia loved the animals in all their noisy, slobbery glory and Owen did too. Though he preferred them from a slight distance. He was enthusiastic, hauling ass towards a sheep, bubbling over with laughter and enthusiasm but the second he'd hear a baaahh, he'd yell no! and run in the opposite direction. But we ended up seeing all kinds of awesome animals, like African antelopes and cows with gigantic horns, good old American buffalo and a some ostriches of indeterminate origin.

After the zoo had managed to exhaust everyone - including the grownups - Beth and I got dressed up, handed off don't set the house on fire or impale each other with the broom duties to my parents and went on an actual date. Miracle of miracles. We went to a Lebanese food place and ate lots of yummy things primarily made from chickpeas. We stopped and got a cup of coffee then headed home to rescue my parents. Everyone was still sane when we got there.

Sunday was gorgeous which was apparently some sort of divine sign that I was supposed to do yard work. Which I did. I mowed the grass, cleaned up the yard and took down a gigantic tree. So that was fun.

Anyway, I guess what I'm trying to say in a roundabout, long-winded way is that it's Monday and here I am, sitting at a desk trying to suck down enough coffee to keep me awake for a reasonable amount of time. This week is going to be a tough one. I can't say I'm thrilled.

To recap, here are the numbers:

Yards mowed: 1
Trees cut down: 1
Cuts and bruises resulting from tree: 543
Times Owen said no: 305,244
Dates with wife had: 1
Pictures taken: 300
Pictures edited and posted: 0
Books read: 0.25
Crayons Owen ate: 2
Tubes of Chapstick Owen ate: 1
Songs from Sound Of Music Mia serenaded us with: all
Times both kids played in our cars: 7
Times I thought damn, my wife is hot: 5,700

And what did you do?


Posted by Chris at 6:41 AM | Comments (21)

Haiku For Monday #284

Thrilling Monday. I'm
going to audition for So
You Think You Can Type.

Posted by Chris at 6:40 AM

September 11, 2009

The Weeklies #101

The Weekly Odd Pop Culture Choice. Ellen. As a judge on American Idol. Either it'll be the best decision ever made in the history of television or it'll backfire terribly.

The Weekly Beer. Red Hook India Pale Ale

The Weekly Winner. No one guessed the first noun in Wednesday's contest. And since it's probably TMI, I'm going to keep it that way. While there were a lot of great creative guesses, Lisa was the first to guess that the guitar pedal was in the toilet. See, I was playing so damn well that the thing just burned up. That or I plugged it in using the wrong adapter and it kinda blew up and the only place I knew it might not burn the house down was in the toilet. Congratulations Lisa!

The Weekly Time Waster. Stick War

The Weekly Read. I'm neither a runner nor a novelist which makes it odd that I decided to pick up Haruki Murakami's What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, a relatively brief non-fiction piece in which the surrealist author ruminates on his love of running and how that impacts his writing. Now, I'm predisposed to like this because I like Murakami's writing. And as I dove into the book, I felt like I could appreciate his fiction better. I also learned that he and I have very similar personalities which I thought was interesting. If you like Murakami, enjoy running, or just want a nice brief piece of non-fiction to ponder, you really can't go wrong here.

The Weekly Dumbass. Jon. As in Kate's soon-to-be-former-other-half. The dude used to command some sympathy being married to a shrew with an unfortunate 'do and all. But now he can't seem to stop talking. This week, he's piped up again, telling the world that he "despises" Kate and loves his new flame - the barely legal Hailey Glassman - more than he did Kate. Classy. You know, Jon, one day your kids are going to see this and they're going to realize just how big a douchebag their father is.

The Weekly Bonus Time Waster. Equanimity.

The Weekly Schadenfreude. South Carolina Representative Joe Wilson has a big mouth. Which he unfortunately opened during the President's speech before a joint session of Congress on Wednesday night. During the President's pledge that health care would not be funded for illegal immigrants, Wilson shouted "you lie!" Look, I thought Dubya was an ignorant asshat but even I had respect for the office and his position in it. And yelling at the President is just something you don't do.

The Weekly Hypothetical. If you were a pirate, what would you pillage?

The Weekly P.S.. I know we talked about it yesterday but please don't ever forget the significance of this day.

Posted by Chris at 5:42 AM | Comments (21)

September 10, 2009

2,974

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The thing I always say - and always will say - about that day is that the sky was a bright blue, possibly the bluest I'd ever seen to that point in my life and I have certainly not seen a bluer or more vibrant sky since.

Things that were built - mined, refined, shaped, crafted and constructed - by man and machines were reduced to chaotic scraps of rubble. The streets were wastelands, emergency workers covered in dust and ash looking like survivors from some sort of science-fiction holocaust. And it was that thought - look how easily and how quickly everything we've built can be destroyed - that humbled me and left me feeling helpless.

Planes were grounded and that blue sky remained untouched. A silence descended over everything. A lone helicopter flew over our neighborhood and everyone came out into yards and onto balconies. We looked like Katrina victims staring up at the sky for rescue. Of course, Katrina hadn't happened yet. Foreshadowing.

Watching TV was like putting all the information in the world into a gigantic flour sifter. After you shook it for 24 hours, you'd wind up with large nuggets of truth while the grains of rumor and misinformation drifted to the floor waiting for someone to sweep them up. The Department of Commerce bombed, the Gannett news building on fire, bridges in and out of DC and New York brought down. None of it true but we didn't know that at the time.

I think it's important that we remember the blue sky. Important that we remember what we were doing, where we were, what thoughts streamed through our minds. Important that we remember the 102 minutes in which the towers fell, the 200 people who assessed their chances of survival and jumped, the 2,974 people who died.

What do you remember?

Posted by Chris at 5:53 AM | Comments (54)

September 9, 2009

Mad Libs Of The Insane

Beth and I often have strange conversations due, in large part, to the fact that we've been together so long. Combined with the fact that we're both a little off, of course. Taken out of context, those conversations make us sound like lunatics.

I've taken a small sample from a conversation we had on Monday. Fill in the blanks with the most accurate or creative combination of answers and you'll be in the running for a $10 Amazon or iTunes gift certificate (I'm totally avoiding mix CDs this time around since I never seem able to follow through).

"Oh, by the way, I realize that there's a giant [NOUN] in the basement bathroom cabinet but there's an honest reason it's there. Oh, and, yeah, there's a guitar pedal in the [NOUN] but there's an explanation for that too."

Go ahead. Guess. You know you wanna.

Posted by Chris at 7:02 AM | Comments (32)

September 8, 2009

A Metaphor

I've got a certain amount of job-related stress these days. And by certain I mean a metric fucking ton. Right on my shoulders, or at least that's how it feels. I don't want to bore you with work-speak but here's a metaphor that might help me illustrate what I'm dealing with.

Imagine this. You're a cyclist. You have trained and competed for years. As a result, you're quite successful. As a matter of fact, you're successful. You've won many races, had many experiences, come out at the very top of your field and delivered wins that impresses your fans and your sponsors. You consider yourself good at what you do. Your success has led you to win the coveted Insanely Hard Olympic Bike Challenge. And since the Olympics don't happen each year, you've done your very best to win all the victories - though minor by comparison - in between. But now, once again, it's time for the Olympics.

In preparation, you train and you train and you train. You pour every last ounce of effort into these preparations. And then the starting gun goes off and you race. Even while you're doing it, you know you should win. There is no doubt. Looking around at your competition, there's no question whatsoever.

Yet, for some reason this year, the Insanely Hard Olympic Bike Challenge isn't based only on who crosses the finish line first. No, there's an element of style to it. Like your riding style, sportsmanship, how good your ass looks in those tight bike pants. Instead of the first guy taking home the medal, there's a frustrating element of subjectivity to it. And unfortunately, you're the only one who knows deep down inside that you nailed it. You just have to hope you showed everyone else the same. And didn't piss off the Russian judge.

And then in the eleventh hour, just before the medal is awarded, when you're poised to take your place on the podium if indeed you did win first, second or third place, the competition starts lobbing rumors and innuendo. Performance enhancing drugs. Doping. These rumors are, of course, completely untrue but they plague you and you fear that they just might influence that subjective element.

Whether I've taken home the gold or not, well, the jury's still out on that one. Frustratingly out. In the mean time, I just have to home that I didn't piss off the Russian judge. And that my ass looks great in bike shorts. You know, metaphorically.

Posted by Chris at 6:08 AM | Comments (22)

September 7, 2009

Labor Day 2009

In 1947, Stuart Lithgreen - an Icelandic blacksmith by trade but amateur cyclist by passion who moved to the United States to join the Army- penned a letter which he then sent to Illinois state senator Joseph Freer. In this letter he wrote:

Over the last twenty years, this country has been besieged by hunger, poverty, desolation and war. Never has the work ethic of our countrymen been tested so thoroughly and so profoundly. It is with that in mind and as a testament to our country's spirit of hard, honest work, and specifically those who rescued this land from the brink of disaster, that I encourage you to set aside a day each year to honor the labor of all Americans. I know not the inner workings of the American democratic system but implore you to work whatever legislative magic you must to dedicate a day to celebrate this labor.

Freer - a career politician - saw the political capital in this idea and steered the legislation through the proper channels. A year later, in 1948, Labor Day was born.

Okay, all of that was complete bullshit that I just made up. This is my way of getting out of a serious post. Because - Stuart Lithgreen or no Stuart Lithgreen - this is Labor Day in these here United States and also the unofficial end of summer. So you'll excuse me if I head out and attempt to soak up every last minute of it, won't you?

Did the summer fly by for you too? What was the best moment?

Posted by Chris at 9:16 AM | Comments (10)

Haiku For Monday #283

Ha, Monday! You're beat!
It's a holiday. I'm not
working! So suck it.

Posted by Chris at 9:15 AM | Comments (1)

September 4, 2009

The Weeklies #100

The Weekly Milestone. This is the hundredth appearance of The Weeklies. Surely that deserves some sort of blow out. Be on the lookout for booze, strippers and pinatas headed your way this afternoon.

The Weekly Climate. Cool. Its starting to feel like fall. How, exactly, did that happen?

The Weekly Time-Waster. This Is The Only Level.

The Weekly Read. Despite enjoying Garth Stein's How Evan Broke His Head... I wasn't really in the mood for the heartwarming Marley & Me vibe I was getting from the back cover of The Art Of Racing In The Rain. It seemed a little too greeting card to me. But I picked it up, started reading, and I was hooked. Now, I love reading but the more and more I read, the less and less emotionally invested I seem to get in stories unless they're really powerful. And this book? Fucking made me cry. I'm not ashamed to admit it. The Art Of Racing In The Rain is truly one of the finest things I've read in a very long time. The story is unforgettable and I know I will think of it often. I sincerely recommend that you drop whatever you're doing right now - unless you're driving in which case you really shouldn't be reading this - head to your local book store, and pick up a copy. I can almost guarantee that you won't regret it.

The Weekly Schadenfreude (Or, More Accurately, The Weekly Asshat). Dan Snyder is a short, short man who, I'm guessing, has a very small penis. He also happens to be the owner of the Washington Redskins. Since buying the team, the organization has overcharged their fans and generally treated them like shit. Case in point. The Washington Post just revealed that the Redskins sued (and won) a 72 year old woman who had defaulted on her season tickets. She was forced to pay a judgment of $66,000 which forced her to declare bankruptcy. The Post also revealed that the team regularly sells tickets to brokers despite the season ticket waiting list of 160,000 people. Dan Snyder, don't punish fans or old ladies because you're short and have a tiny wang.

The Weekly Hypothetical. One long weekend - no work, no obligations - and an unlimited amount of money. What do you do?

Posted by Chris at 7:03 AM | Comments (24)

September 3, 2009

Overheard

I love DC. Especially in the summer. Sure, it's hot. The tourists drive me crazy, along with the buses they ride into town on. The Potomac River stinks in the heat as it winds through the city. But all that aside, it's fun. Early in the morning, as I walk from where I park to where I work, there are vendors selling everything from fruit to bed sheets. There's live music, usually in the form of a sax player with a drum machine who should have given up music after high-school band. And there's conversation. I love watching people. I like overhearing them even more. Here's what I've heard in the last week.

The homeless man, sitting on the bus stop bench.
Bless you, bless you. Change please? Bless you bless you. As our savior said unto his people, we're going to rock down to electric avenue and then we'll take it higher. And it was good and the people did bust a move. Change please?

Two guys, in suits, squiggly things from their suit collars to their ears.
And then Biden walks in, Joe, and the President is all "Joe, come sit down" and pours him a cup of coffee.

A flower vendor, selling flowers outside a local subway stop, who was momentarily side-tracked by a pretty woman walking by.
Flowers. Come on, give them a smell. They won't bite. But damn, I'd like to get my face between whatever's under that skirt.

A large, African American man was standing in line for breakfast at a local cafeteria. He'd just been asked how he was doing.
Man, I'm good. It's Friday and I got my fucking bird. Yeah, I'm back living in my old house and my bird is there. It's this little fucking bird in this nest and he's got this cute little family. Every morning they're all up in there singing and shit. Man, it's nice. I rented the place out for a year or so. Told the guy renting the place from me if you cut down that fucking tree or in any way fuck with that little bird, your ass is going to be out on the street with no fucking notice, you hear me? I'll move your ass out myself, pack up all your boxes of shit. But now I'm back and those birds are singing so you asked me how it was going, I'll just say it's all good as long as I've got my birds and they're singing.

What have you overheard lately? What's the best conversation you've ever overheard?

Posted by Chris at 7:12 AM | Comments (24)

September 2, 2009

Notes For Mormon Missionaries Preaching To The Heathen Suburban Masses

I was paid a visit by Mormon missionaries on Monday evening. I took notes and have suggestions.

Interrupting people - actually holding up your hands and stopping them - when they're doing laborious outdoor chores such as mowing their yards will not endear you to the suburban population. Plus, lawnmowers, specifically their blades, are not immune from becoming the tools of Satan when wielded by disgruntled heathen suburbanites on a mission to finish mowing their yards by sundown.

Don't touch kids. Look, you're already dressed alike, riding around neighborhoods wearing matching helmets, clutching the Book Of Mormon while wearing name tags. While your intent may be innocent, the whole package starts to turn creepy when you reach out and touch the kids that belong to the parents you're so desperately trying to convert. It probably sends the wrong message.

When a potential convert, taking a child for a walk in a stroller, says that he's going for a walk with his son, the absolute incorrect response is well, I'll walk with you. By virtue of existing in the same socio-economic plane, we're all committed to the same social contract. In short, this social contract requires that when the target politely attempts to dodge the missionary, the missionary should respond by politely excusing himself. To avoid following this social contract puts everyone in a bad position. A missionary position, if you will.

Understand your audience and roll with the times. Your speech about finding a personal savior and the need to pray especially in tough economic times is admirable. But dwelling on the history of the church might not be the best way to talk suburbanites into embracing religion. Instead, maybe, focus on the economy, focus on war, focus on harnessing the strength of religion to transcend the bad things in the world. Context is everything.

If someone says they're a Quaker - specifically says I'm a Quaker, like that oats guy - you should really believe them, not give them a suspicious, quizzical look. Sure they're lying but where's your faith?

Know more about your subject than suburban heathens. Know, for instance, that Joseph Smith published the Book Of Mormon in 1830, not 1820. Know that the church was organized in New York, not Utah. An opinionated, apparently Quaker suburban heathen might correct you and that will embarrass you, for how do they know more about your religion than you do?

I admire faith. I am truly in awe of it. Especially a faith that gets kids - because, let's face it, these are fresh-faced kids who could be cooking meth or sexting high-school cheerleaders - patrolling neighborhoods, enthusiastically talking about their faith despite being faced with unfamiliar neighborhoods and hours of rejection. I don't share that faith but I'm in awe of it. But when I see them coming, I can't help wanting to run the other way. And I can't help but feel defensive, as though I am somehow seen as inferior in their eyes. Which, I suppose, I am. Being a heathen and all. And in no way a Quaker.

My gut instinct when approached is to say yes, I have accepted Jesus Christ as my personal savior and believe Joseph Smith to be the true modern day prophet of the Lord and I also really enjoy Big Love on the TV. But I'm afraid I'd be asked for proof, to show off my special Mormon underwear, to publicly sacrifice a perfectly good cup of fully-caffeinated Starbucks house brew, or provide some secret code to authenticate my membership in their little club to which I'd have to respond oh, you know, I was getting hitched to my fourth child bride the day they covered that in god school. And then I'll be revealed to be a dumb, suburban heathen Quaker wannabe. Who needs salvation even more.

Posted by Chris at 7:18 AM | Comments (47)

September 1, 2009

Beginning of a Beautiful Friendship

On Saturday night, Beth and I found ourselves feeding Mia movie lines to recite. I have no idea why. But it was fun. Beth would come up with a line, whisper it in Mia's ear, and Mia would act it out knowing, of course, nothing about it's source. And it turns out that Beth and I know quite a few movie quotes. Here's what I can remember.

  • Keymaster, you must chill.
  • Strange things are afoot at the Circle-K.
  • Life is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you're gonna get.
  • Play it again, Sam.
  • Frankly, my dear, I don't give a toot.
  • Go ahead, make my day.
  • We are the Knights who say... NI.
  • You had me at hello.
  • Here's looking at you kid.
  • May the force be with you.
  • You talkin' to me? You talkin' to me?
  • You think I'm licked. You all think I'm licked. Well, I'm not licked.
  • I'll be back.
  • Luke, I'm your father.
  • Stella!
  • Hasta la vista, baby.
  • They're here.
  • Sew, very old one! Sew like the wind!
  • Go and boil your bottoms, you sons of silly persons!
  • We are now the Knights who say... ”Ekki-Ekki-Ekki-Ekki-PTANG. Zoom-Boing. Z'nourrwringmm.
  • Toto, I've got a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore.
  • I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
  • That's some bad hat, Harry.
  • Joe. She's written 65 songs... 65. They're all about you. They're all about pain.
  • Show me the money.
  • I don't want to sell anything, buy anything, or process anything as a career. I don't want to sell anything bought or processed, or buy anything sold or processed, or process anything sold, bought, or processed, or repair anything sold, bought, or processed. You know, as a career, I don't want to do that.
  • Awww... this is one of those days that the pages of history teach us are best spent lying in bed.
  • You must cut down the mightiest tree in the forest... WITH... A HERRING!
  • Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, she walks into mine.
  • You can't handle the truth.
  • In the world of advertising, there's no such thing as a lie. There's only expedient exaggeration.
  • Rosebud.
  • Adrian!
  • Wherever there is injustice, you will find us. Wherever there is suffering, we'll be there. Wherever liberty is threatened, you will find...The Three Amigos!
  • I love the smell of napalm in the morning.
  • He says he will sell you a blind camel. He says he also knows of a camel with a crippled leg and no teeth. Would you like a dead camel?

So, clearly, Beth and I have a basic familiarity with classic movies - you know, the standards like North By Northwest, Philadelphia Story, Rocky, Citizen Kane. And we noticed a definite trend towards your typical teen angst type of flicks - anything directed by John Hughes or containing Peter Gabriel on the soundtrack. Then, of course, there's my ridiculous since of humor as evidenced by The Three Amigos, Monty Python flicks and the under-appreciated Ishtar. I honestly couldn't get my kid to utter the phrase smell the glove. I don't know why.

What are your go-to movies? And your favorite movie quotes?

Posted by Chris at 6:32 AM | Comments (46)


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