February 26, 2010

The Weeklies #121

The Weekly Mood. Spent.

The Weekly Beer. Kona Brewing Longboard Lager.

The Weekly Oddly Compelling Sporting Event. Curling.

The Weekly Read. I've never read much Hemingway. After my Catcher In The Rye adventure, I thought I'd take another spin through the classics, found an old copy of The Old Man In The Sea, and gave it a read. And I don't mind admitting that it's kinda brilliant.

The Weekly Music. It hasn't been released in the States yet (that happens next Tuesday) but I was able to download a copy of Peter Gabriel's latest album Scratch My Back from his site for a nominal fee. It's a pretty unique concept, this album. Gabriel covered songs from artists like Radiohead, Neal Young, Randy Newman, Regina Spektor and Elbow and they, in turn, agreed to cover some of his songs. It was made more interesting by the fact that Gabriel recorded the cover versions without drums, bass or guitars. Instead, it's sparsely and marvelously orchestrated added to only by Gabriel's piano. His voice is the primary focus. The results? Mixed. Gabriel does an excellent job interpreting each song he covers. Particularly effective are David Bowie's Heroes and The Magnetic Fields' Book of Love. In fact Gabriel's version of the latter might be one of the most beautiful songs ever recorded. The majority of the covers are similarly beautifully done. There are some misses. Elbow's Mirrorball is a beautiful song and I was incredibly eager to hear Gabriel's take. Gabriel does an admirable job but his interpretation skips one lone minor note in the hook that, to me, made the song brilliant. These individual songs are brilliant yet taken together and a whole the album is, well, a little boring. The parts are greater than the sum of the whole. Is it worth buying? Absolutely.

The Weekly Schadenfreude. So, Brooke Mueller - wife of Charlie Sheen - decided to enter rehab. And then promptly left fearing her privacy had been invaded. She went to another rehab facility. And then promptly left. Instead, she's going to try rehab at home...so she can be with her kids while she sobers up. 'Cos that's a good idea, a crack addict hanging out with her kids while she tries to get over the rock. You know, I'm pretty sure the kids would be better off being left with grandparents for a few weeks and having a sober mother than a whacked-out detoxing crack addict right now.

The Weekly Hypothetical. What beverage are you?

Posted by Chris at 6:48 AM | Comments (19)

February 25, 2010

Over-hard

The Cactus Bathroom Curse (though is it really a curse?) strikes again.

Yesterday afternoon I was in a stall doing, well, you know...and someone came into the bathroom and entered a nearby but not adjacent stall. And apparently he had no idea I was there.

Stall Dude: Hi honey. I have a problem.
...
Stall Dude: No, not that. You remember, uh, this morning, right?
...
Stall Dude: Yeah. That.
...
Stall Dude: Uh-huh. I had fun too. But about that...
...
Stall Dude: Those ads say they shouldn't last longer than a few hours right?
...
Stall Dude: Uh-huh. It kinda hurts and it's really embarrassing.
...
Stall Dude: How do I explain that to my boss?
...
Stall Dude: I can't tell him that. "Hi sir, excuse me but I have to miss the financial meeting because I have a raging hard-on."
...

A couple lessons here:

1. Do an under-the-stall sweep before you start talking about erections, or, really, anything personal that, if overheard, might make the eavesdropper want to claw out his eardrums with a pencil and pray that he actually doesn't know the poor bastard who is broadcasting whatever it is you don't want to hear.

2. Do not, under any circumstances use the phone whilst in the bathroom. Okay, one exception. If you're in a building that is being attacked by zombies and your only hope for savior is to cower in the corner of a stall and make an emergency call to the army to bring in some zombie-fighting ninjas, so be it. Otherwise? No phone in the can.

3. Morning sex is good. As a matter of fact the only thing better than morning sex is all day sex punctuated by breaks for ice cream and beer. But morning sex can have consequences, especially when aided by modern medicine.

There. Now I think we've all learned something.

Posted by Chris at 7:25 AM | Comments (27)

February 24, 2010

Where Are You?

That question? I don't mean that like it sounds.

See, sometimes I just feel that the DC suburbs aren't me. They're not who I am, how I feel or what I want to be. So then are start thinking about where I am.

One of my favorite places in the world is Wyoming. The mountains just kind of pop out of the earth suddenly and in front of them aren't foothills but sage-filled prairie dotted with clusters of forest surrounding cold, fresh lakes. I could be Wyoming.

I once spent three days floating down the Rio Grande river. The canyons were lined with Indian dwellings, the sun rose high and fast and warmed the day but the nights were cold. And I could see for miles between the red-striped rock formations jutting out of the otherwise unbroken land. I could be West Texas.

I've been watching the Olympics and I've often thought that Seattle or Portland or even Vancouver would be my kind of town, populated by people who still thought flannel was a cool fashion statement, whose Doc Martens don't look like a retro or ironic fashion statement, and where vegetarian restaurants and cosmopolitan hippies were a dime a dozen. I could be Pacific Northwest.

The point is, places are a lot like people. Both have personalities and occasionally a person's personality matches that of a place.

Do you like where you live? And where are you?

Posted by Chris at 6:41 AM | Comments (80)

February 23, 2010

Cheery

Throughout the past week, Beth - a childhood asthma sufferer - had been having a progressively harder time breathing. By Sunday night, we were both concerned. We called my parents to come over and assume childcare responsibilities (a pretty cherry gig what with them already being asleep and all) and headed to the emergency room.

We got there. Healthcare was delivered. Slowly, but it was delivered. And everything checked out okay. Whilst there, we made fun of the ER physician who called Beth kiddo and me buddy and when the required pre-xray pregnancy test came back it was, according to him, negatory. I decided to call him Skipper. We also talked about the age of the clothes I was wearing (my belt and jacket were 10 years old and my Doc Martens 17). I consider them vintage instead of old. Of course we talked about the kids, how tired we were, and even derived some great band names from the medical equipment in the cabinets around us (Cleveland, it's Pete Catheter and the Speculums!).

The emergency room is a place with which we have way too much recent familiarity. This marks the third time in the last four months we've walked through it's red neon-lit sliding glass doors. And this at the end of a week in which my grandmother's health has gotten progressively worse and two family acquaintances have suddenly and literally dropped dead.

If the world is trying to tell me something, I get it. Stay healthy...remember you're living not only for yourself but for your family...every day could be your last...carpe diem. Yeah, I get it. Enough with the dying shit.

Our motto for March - No More Hospitals And Do Your Best Not To Drop Dead. I think it's highly doable.

Posted by Chris at 7:00 AM | Comments (23)

February 22, 2010

Thin Ice Of A New Day

When I was a kid I never liked going to birthday parties that required either roller or ice skating. I never enjoyed either and loathed the opportunity to fall on my ass in front of other people. Or look like I generally didn't know what I was doing. Yet, on Saturday, all caught up in Olympic fever, Beth and I took Mia and Owen ice skating.

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Owen hated it. I attempted to anchor myself in such a way that I was able to hold on to Owen with both hands while his feet slid out from under him chaotically. All the while he looked up at me, whimpering and angry seeming to say what the fuck is wrong with my feet, dad? Owen and I lasted about ten minutes. Beth and Mia fared much better, lasting at least an hour. And I'm pretty sure Mia would have stayed on the ice another hour. Instead, we went for Mexican food and the kids got high on chips.

Being a parent is an odd thing. Having kids has allowed me to identify things in myself that I have never before truly recognized and link things together that I wouldn't have linked before.

I've got a lot going on at work. A lot of balls in the air, plates spinning, and other metaphors. One theme lately is an aversion to being put in a position in which I have to prove myself. It's a lot like having to strap on skates at a kids' birthday party. I don't want to be in a position in which I a) could fail and b) have such a failure make a negative impact on whatever it is I'm working on. Mia was a natural on the ice. And I am a natural at some of the stuff I'm most afraid of failing at.

I guess I could learn a lot from my daughter. Despite slipping and sliding and falling down quite a bit and being creamed twice by other skaters, Mia wanted nothing more than to go back and ice skate again on Sunday. Which is precisely what she did.

What fear are you forced to face the most?

Posted by Chris at 7:16 AM | Comments (17)

Haiku For Monday #307

What button do I
push to skip to week's end?
What, there's no button?

Posted by Chris at 7:15 AM | Comments (1)

February 19, 2010

The Weeklies #120

The Weekly Feeling. Anxious.

The Weekly Bonus Feeling. Overwhelmed.

The Weekly Beer. Copper Hook.

The Weekly Time Waster. Play old school Winter Games, Nintendo style.

The Weekly Music. I don't get Vampire Weekend. That makes me feel very old and unhip but I don't quite get them. I picked up Contra this week and gave it a spin. The first question? What am I listening to? You don't have to fit into a genre, as a matter of fact, it's boring if you do. But I'm not sure I understand exactly the sound they were going for. Post-punk indie-emo latino reggae? Who knows. That's not to say the album is bad. In fact, it's decent. I think I've learned, though, that I'm not a huge post-punk indie-emo latino-reggae fan.

The Weekly Book. What? The lengthy post on Catcher In The Rye wasn't enough for you? Well, it was enough for me.

The Weekly Best Word That Isn't Really A Word. An Olympic commentator, while discussing snowboard cross called it snowbocross which I think sounds really cool.

The Weekly Best Band Name. Garbanzo Bean Refraction

The Weekly Schadenfreude. I'm thoroughly terrified to mention any examples of schadenfreude because a) there are so many and b) I always manage to miss one. Like last week when I totally blanked on Sarah Palin writing notes to herself on her hand. Tiger's doing his mea culpa, Charlie Sheen's wife is in rehab, we've still got feet of snow on the ground, the governor of Texas is suing the government over the fact that to him global warming is a mythical issue, and Pamela Anderson just went parading around wearing what looked to me like a sequined slingshot. And then John Mayer has a white supremacist penis and you think that the world has finally spun off its axis. Too. Much. Schadenfreude. What did I leave out?

The Weekly Hypothetical. You have a choice - you can live in guaranteed comfort (the basics taken care of - food, necessities, money) for the rest of your life, you need not worry about day-to-day struggle. But if you do that, you can't ever have sex again. Do you choose sex or the comfortable life?

Posted by Chris at 7:23 AM | Comments (29)

February 18, 2010

A Post Of Extreme Randomness

All that thinking I did for yesterday's post? Pretty much sucked me dry. As a result, you'll find nothing socially redeeming, witty or insightful here today. Instead, I present Shit On My Phone. No, you are not invited to relieve yourself on my phone. Instead, this is a collection of random pictures I have managed to accumulate on my iPhone and have done precisely nothing with. Until now.

[And yes, for those of you rolling your eyes saying damn, this is a lame excuse for a post you're right. But I worked until 9:00 last night and then drank beer so I'm not exactly a font of creativity right now. Some days you get brilliance. Other days you get, well, this.]

This is my phone's wallpaper. I shot it the day I got the phone when Beth and I were in NYC for our tenth anniversary. You remember, the time when Beth and I had a lot of fun then returned home and spent three days in the hospital with Mia? Yeah, that trip. It's actually a shot of the pillows and headboard in our hotel room.

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This is a picture of a forest that I drew while excessively bored. I can't take credit for the trees. They came with the app. But those clouds? Yeah, I'm proud of those.

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This is my parents' Christmas tree. No, it's not you. It was indeed leaning at about a 45 degree angle. They accidentally bought an off-kilter tree. Since they are a little off-kilter themselves, they decorated it this way.

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This is a panoramic shot of our local community center pool. I cobbled it together during one of Mia's swimming lessons.

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Mia has learned how to draw and then save things on my iPhone. She draws stuff for me all the time. This is my favorite. It says I Love You.

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This is another drawing of Mia's. It is a self-portrait. But you knew that just by looking at it, right?

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This is reason #1 why I should not be allowed near my children's toys after a long day at work.

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This is reason #2.

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Posted by Chris at 6:43 AM | Comments (10)

February 17, 2010

Catcher, Revisited

Back in the ninth grade, my English teacher took a box from a cabinet, hauled it around and from it removed a slim, yellow-covered paperback book, placing one on each of our desks. The title was Catcher In The Rye. Because I really had no concept of what rye was, I just figured it was about baseball which was okay as far as reading assignments go but why couldn't it have been about hair metal? I later learned that it was not about baseball, that it wasn't even really about rye (I figured that out eventually) and I was one of millions of kids to be handed the book and forced to read it. Unlike 99% of the other stuff I was forced to read in school, Catcher used real language and came up with a main character I could at least partially identify with. And of course all of us tittered when, in the book's home stretch we saw fuck you right there in black and white.

When Salinger died a few weeks ago, I figured it was about time to re-read Catcher. Instead of the cheap, yellow paperback, I picked up the reissued hardback I bought for Beth a few years ago (she loves Salinger). And I figured out why it's still such a well thought of book and a staple in high school classrooms across the country: it's a good book.

What makes Catcher compelling more than half a century later? I can't be 100% sure but I suppose it has something to do with the fact that, while the language has become dated as has the portrait of New York City, the story itself is very much current. It is at its core the story of a kid on the cusp of maturity who has no idea what to think about the world, who is obviously dealing (or not dealing) with the tragic loss of his brother and is trying to sort out exactly who he his with mixed results. The novel is possibly best summarized by the following from the wise yet creepy Mr. Antolini:

This fall I think you're riding for - it's a special kind of fall, a horrible kind. The man falling isn't permitted to feel or hear himself hit bottom. He just keeps falling and falling. The whole arrangement's designed for men who, at some time or other in their lives, were looking for something their own environment simply couldn't supply them with. Or they thought their own environment couldn't supply them with. So they gave up looking. They gave it up before they ever really even got started.

Catcher also plays right into English teachers' hands. It's got boatloads of symbolism, little mysteries that, if figured out, enhance the story and give you a slightly better understanding of Holden. The narrator is unreliable. Action significant to the character happens just outside the scope of the narration, just offstage. Combined with Salinger's eventual hermitdom and his reluctance to fully explain Holden and Catcher, English teachers salivated to fill the gap.

I liked Catcher then and I like it now. What my 37 year old self sees, though, is vastly different than what my 15 year old self read. Instead of an anti-hero, I see an immature jerk, too quick to lump everyone into the same bucket of phonies, unwilling to take responsibility for himself, and unable to see true good in anyone other than his little sister. And instead of a coming of age tale, I see a story in which our hero learns precisely nothing; we leave him as we met him. At the story's conclusion, Holden hasn't learned a thing.

There's a paragraph, again from Mr. Antolini a page after the quote above that I think sums up Salinger quite nicely. And I'd like to think that Salinger wasn't just writing from Mr. Antolini's point of view or Holden's but his own.

Among other things you'll find that you're not the first person who was ever confused and frightened and even sickened by human behavior. You're by no means alone on that score, you'll be excited and stimulated to know. Many, many men have been just as troubled morally and spiritually as you are right now. Happily, some kept records of their troubles. You'll learn from them - if you want to. Just as someday, if you have something to offer, someone will learn something from you. It's a beautiful reciprocal arrangement. And it isn't education. It's history. It's poetry.

I'm not sure I see exactly what causes people smarter than I to call it one of the greatest books ever written. Those lists are usually comprised of fifty year old novels and fail to recognize some more recent examples of literary showmanship. In that respect, I think it's a bit overrated. But Catcher endures.

In your opinion what books deserve to be classics but aren't? And which classics do you just not get?

Posted by Chris at 6:39 AM | Comments (19)

February 16, 2010

Gold Mettle

I love the Olympics. Absolutely love them. It is one event about which I refuse to be even slightly cynical. I think the concept is great and turn into the biggest sports fan when they're on, whether they be of the summer or winter variety. And I'm bound and determined to make sure my kids have every opportunity to catch the Olympic fever. And they're bound and determined to drive me nuts while watching it.

Mia: Did he win the gold medal?
Me: No. He's in ninth place.
Mia: Why?
Me: Because he's eight people behind the leader.
Mia: Why?
Me: Because eight other people have jumped farther than him.
Mia: Why?
Me: I have no idea.
Mia: Will he win the brass medal?
Me: There is no brass medal.
Mia: Why?
Me: Because there isn't.
Mia: Why?
Me: Because the International Olympic Committee isn't as smart as you.
Mia: Why?
Me: I can't say that I have even one tiny clue.
Mia: Where is he from?
Me: He's from our country. America.
Mia: Why?
Me: Mia, that's not a why question.
Mia: Why?

As parents Beth and I are pretty averse to turning on the TV. But when the Olympics are on, all bets are off. Mia and I spent a lot of quality time a couple summers back watching the Olympics. The four of us spent some similar quality time watching the first weekend of Winter Olympic coverage. On Sunday night we TiVoed figure skating. Last night, Mia and I curled up on the couch and watched it. She was amazed. And I have the feeling we're going to be hitting the local skating rink this weekend.

The whole thing is pretty amazing. Just think about it. You're this young athlete and you've decided to spend the better part of your youth or even your life chasing after one thing, being the best at whatever sport it is you've chosen. So you give up a little of your youth, work a few jobs to afford equipment, and you train every spare moment of every day in the hope of performing in front of the world with only a small shot at being recognized with a medal.

Are you watching the Olympics? And on a completely different topic, what did you do for Valentine's day? Are you V-day people or not?

Posted by Chris at 6:51 AM | Comments (28)

February 15, 2010

Celebrations, Cupcakes, and Snow

Oh sweet baby jesus, I'm tired. The most obvious reason? After a snowed-in week of working from home, I'm back at work. And I can't figure out if it feels good or bad. Regardless, it's fact. Second, we had Owen's second birthday party yesterday.

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Now, granted, it was a nice low-key event but it was still, without doubt, quite a day. Owen popped up around six in the morning, eager to get the party started. Which he did, dragging two rather sleepy parents along with him. Mia woke up soon after and we got ourselves in gear, took care of all the last-minute preparations then, around eleven, the family came over.

Owen was thrilled beyond all possible belief. All these people were there for him. And they had presents. And they didn't really care how many M&Ms he ate or whether he was covered with cupcake icing.

When everyone left, Owen was wiped out but it was way too late in the day for naps to be had. We worked on valentines for each other and when all else failed, Owen was handed a box of Scooby-Doo band-aids which he attacked with wild abandon. By 6:30, Owen was asleep and Mia was not far behind him. Beth and I were not far behind with the wine and beer.

Anyway, here I am, a week of snowy weather and a rather successful birthday party behind me. And I've got a tough week ahead. I don't think I can let you in on the reason but suffice it to say that I've got some career advancement to take care of. So wish me luck.

Oh, and it's supposed to snow today. Yeah, that's what we need. Snow.

Posted by Chris at 6:54 AM | Comments (11)

Haiku For Monday #306

I'm pretty sure kids
won't go back to school until
probably July.

Posted by Chris at 6:51 AM | Comments (1)

February 12, 2010

The Weeklies #119

The Weekly Statement on My Mental Heath. I don't condone his behavior but being snowbound I think I might finally understand Jack Nicholson's character in The Shining.

The Weekly Work Location. With the exception of my brief five hour stretch in my actual office, I've been working from home for a week. Surprisingly, I've gotten quite a bit done. In my jammies.

The Weekly Time Waster. It's not a game but the Human Clock is fascinating.

The Weekly Reads. John O'Farrell's The Best A Man Can Get is the closest thing to a Nick Hornby book you can get without it actually being a book written by Nick Hornby. And given that Hornby's recent output hasn't been all that strong, well, that's not a bad thing. The basic premise (and I'm not revealing anything that isn't spelled out on the back of the book) is this - a married guy with two kids maintains a bachelor pad his wife doesn't know about; hilarity ensues. Sure, it sounds contrived and you can see exactly where the novel is headed before you even make it past the first page but it's surprisingly not bad. The novel's funny and it's well worth the brief amount of time it'll take you to conquer it's 250+ pages.

The Weekly Music. Podcasts! Okay, I realize that podcasts are rarely music-focused but I've been listening to a lot of them lately. See, my favorite radio show got the axe a few months ago but the Mike O'Meara Show is back, online. I've also become a Keith And The Girl and Court And Fatboy. Daily entertainment free of charge. Pretty cool.

The Weekly Music Video. Now, because I feel like I owe you some music, you must check out the video for This Too Shall Pass, from the band OK Go. Really. You won't be sorry.

The Weekly Product. Pajama Jeans!

The Weekly Schadenfreude. It's got to be Toyota, right?

The Weekly Not-So-Hypothetical. What one book have you read multiple times (twice or more)? Or what book have you read that you can envision yourself reading again?

Posted by Chris at 6:43 AM | Comments (37)

February 11, 2010

Revisiting The Talking Heads (And Breakfast)

I don't like to go back and talk about past posts. To me it's a little like explaining a joke or watching a rerun of a lame sit-com. It wasn't all that good to begin with but its even less appealing with all the shiny novelty worn off. But I got a lot of email and comments about the Talking Heads post a couple days back. I'm not sure I explained my points of view all that well.

The truth is, agree or disagree with their motivations and philosophies, most of the folks I mentioned are damn good at what they do. And they're well qualified to do it because they have a true gift for communicating. It's not easy for me to say anything positive about Rush Limbaugh but you have to admire what he's done, going from a rock and roll radio DJ to one of the single most influential conservative political figures in the country in a matter of a few decades. Its easy to see why - he's eloquent and thought provoking.

What I explicitly stated day before yesterday was that few of these talking heads have formal political experience on which their opinions are based. I agree that degrees aren't everything. I have a history degree which in no way prepared me for a career in information technology. But I've since gone to great lengths and accumulated certifications and practical on-the-job experience to make me as knowledgeable in the field as anyone with an IT degree. So, throwing the higher education argument out for a second, how many of these people have worked in politics and gotten that on-the-job training? None. This in no way precludes them from having an opinion nor should it prevent them from sharing it or broadcasting it all over the world. I never said it should.

We're all consumers. We all consume food, whether we're vegetarians or carnivores. We all consume liquids, be it juice or water or beer. We consume things to keep us healthy and looking good - vitamins, prescription medications, hair gel, deodorant (which I can never spell correctly) and makeup. We consume books, music, art - things that stimulate our brains. But more than anything else, we consume information. Information is everywhere. Some might argue that there's just too much of it since we're bombarded with it from televisions, newspapers, radio, our computer screens and the devices we stick in our pockets and take with us everywhere we go. That's why we need to choose our sources carefully.

The talking heads I mentioned are fonts of information. They've got it - and hand it out - in spades. But what is that information based on? That's what I was trying to talk about. The simple fact is most of these folks are entertainers. Some, like Beck and Stewart, readily admit that. Others might just want you to believe that they're something more than that. Regardless, whether your information is coming from Stewart, O'Reilly or the President himself, we all need to investigate the facts for ourselves and come up with what we think to be right.

The fact that I mentioned folks in the post doesn't mean I don't like them. I absolutely loathe Limbaugh (that shouldn't be a shock) and I think Beck is less-than-reliable and a bit too drama-prone. But I consider John Stewart to be one of the most brilliant people on television, have a great deal of respect for Rachel Maddow and I would give my left nut for Olberman's ranting skills.

That's what I meant.

On a completely different note, what do you eat for breakfast? I can't seem to find one thing I can eat consistently that's quick, satisfies me and doesn't make me fat and clog my arteries. Help!

Posted by Chris at 7:54 AM | Comments (34)

February 10, 2010

Owen, Age Two

Dear Owen,

Today you are two. How did this happen? I know that minutes flowed into hours which were carried by a swift tide into days and, in turn, years but these two years seem to have flown much too quickly.

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You were born in an operating room after ten hours of labor. You came into the world to the pseudo-Mowtown strains of Phil Collins singing You Can't Hurry Love which was a true enough statement but really pissed your mother off because Phil Collins happens to be one of her least favorite performers in the history of the known universe. I like Phil Collins so I just took it as some sort of sign from the universe. After you were born, I got to hug you and kiss you first. You and I took our first trip together to the waiting room to meet your grandparents who were eagerly awaiting your arrival, desperate to learn your name (they loved it) and see if you had the same shock of black hair your sister was born with (you didn't). Your bright blue eyes were an extra-added bonus for everyone. We all wondered if they'd stay so blue (they did).

You spent the first few nights of your life in the hospital. You were quiet, so quiet that I moved you as close to me as possible so I could wake up in the middle of the night and watch you breathe. I visited your sister during the day, went home and made peanut butter sandwiches and told her all about you. When she came to visit, I'm pretty sure that was the moment at which you made up your mind to worship her.

Now you are no longer a baby. You are, instead, a little boy who walks and runs and talks and repeats everything and pulls his sister's hair. You love your sister with the passion of a thousand fiery suns. That doesn't stop you from abusing her but when push comes to shove (there's a lot of both pushing and shoving), you adore her. You want nothing more than to be with her, even if that means invading her room like a miniature viking. You want to kiss her when she cries, pat her head, play with her dolls and wear her headbands.

You are the kindest child I've ever seen. You grow concerned when someone cries. You hug random people. You pat my head when I don't look happy and say poor dada. I know without doubt that your heart is huge.

Sleeping through the night, though, that isn't really your thing. But I'd be lying if I said that I didn't enjoy waking up with your arms wrapped around my neck, nuzzling your head against my shoulder, being awakened with a shower of kisses. I'd appreciate it if you'd sleep a little later than 6:00 and, maybe, not turn on my bedside lamp when you think it's time for me to wake up (that's rude). But you're cute so you can get away with it.

Owen, I was terrified to be your father. Despite the fact that I'd already done it once, I was scared. Two years later I know that was silly. You are adorable, special, smart and funny and I am proud to be your father. I love you Monkey Boy.

Dad

Posted by Chris at 7:27 AM | Comments (35)

February 9, 2010

Talking Heads

I've never been shy about the fact that I'm a liberal. Some of you who are not liberal don't hold that against me and read me anyway (thank you). But while this might start out sounding like an overtly political post, it's not. See, I'm annoyed. Specifically, I'm annoyed by Rush Limbaugh but hey, what else is new? Being annoyed by Rush Limbaugh motivated me to read a little more about Rush which led me to read up on other supposed political experts. What I found on both sides of the aisle was interesting.

Rush Limbaugh. Rush Limbaugh holds himself up as an authority on politics, specifically conservative politics. Do you know what he is, by trade? A DJ. In fact, Limbaugh sacrificed a college career to become a DJ. In fact about his academic talent, his mother commented, "he flunked everything, he just didn't seem interested in anything except radio."

Take Rush Limbaugh for instance. Here's a big loudmouthed guy who tries to convince everyone he's an authority on politics. Do you know what he is by trade? A DJ. In fact, Limbaugh sacrificed a college career to become a DJ. About his academic talent, his mother commented, "he flunked everything, he just didn't seem interested in radio." Or Glen Beck. Beck never had a political career, never spent any time in the hallowed halls of power. Never spent any time in college either. Like Limbaugh, he was a radio DJ, spinning records before attaining fame as an opinionated talking head. Of all the outspoken, obnoxious and opinionated conservative commentators, Bill O'Reilly (this hurts me to say this) is perhaps the most qualified, aside from a brief stint as a semi-professional baseball player. O'Reilly has a masters degree in Public Administration from Harvard. This doesn't make him any less annoying but at least his opinions are based on something other than asshattery.

The other side of the aisle is only slightly better. Keith Olberman went to school, a good one - Cornell. He graduated with a degree in communications which has served him well since he spends his days communicating. But his expertise is really in sports. And all sports/politics analogies aside, doing play-by-play in high school, acting as sports director for your college radio station and spending a decade as host of ESPN's SportCenter doesn't exactly give the the warm fuzzies about his political experience. Rachel Maddow is smart. She earned her degree in public policy from Stanford, received her doctorate from Oxford and was the first openly gay American to be awarded a Rhodes scholarship. Sure, the public policy degree is helpful but how does working morning radio shows and helming her own hour on Air America qualify her as a political expert? Jon Stewart's fantastic but his credentials are no more impressive than the rest. He received his psychology degree from William and Mary, played on the men's soccer team and claimed he was "miserable" during college.

I'm not saying you have to have a college degree to have a political opinion. I'm not saying you have to have a long, storied career in politics in order to weigh in on hot button political issues. What I am saying is that if you're going to hold yourself up as an expert - or if your network is going to - if you're going to speak authoritatively to schools and conferences, if you're going to publish multiple volumes of political tirades, you should have more experience than just being pissed off about abortion or healthcare or the current administration. The bottom line? These people are entertainers. We can't forget that.

Taking advice from these so-called experts is like being a woman and going to Larry Flint for a breast augmentation consultant. He likes big tits so chances are that's what he's going to urge you to do. But of course he doesn't have a single clue or practical experience how to actually do anything about the problem.

What I'm trying to say in a very long-winded sort of way is know where your information is coming from, especially the information on which important decisions are based.

Posted by Chris at 6:41 AM | Comments (24)

February 8, 2010

Snowpocalypse!

We survived the Snowpocalypse of 2010. It was a near thing but we survived.

Between Friday afternoon and Saturday night, we accumulated somewhere between two and three feet of snow. Getting an exact amount was tricky since the wind picked up late Friday night bringing with it near-blizzard conditions. Snow drifts were nipple-height. Exact measurement was tough. I'll go with one cubit dickload.

Nearly every time I've ventured outside, I've tried to take pictures of the snow. But they all look exactly the same. White. None of them actually show the significance of the snow we got. Roads, sidewalks, mailboxes, even cars disappeared. The surface of our backyard is three feet higher than it once was. Half of the play set is under snow. Trees collapsed.

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I spent Saturday taking two separate passes at the driveway, me, my iPod and a shovel. It took hours. Sunday was spent clearing fallen trees - our trees - that wound up blocking the neighbors' driveway. We probably lost four or five trees altogether. Luckier than my parents who estimate that they lost close to forty, some across their driveway making it impossible for them to leave, even now. Beth and Owen staged a daring humanitarian effort, venturing out on Sunday to take them wine.

The rest of the time was spent inside with the kids. We played games, enacted elaborate performances, competed on the Wii, read books and let them watch much more TV than they're accustomed to.

And that is how we survived the Snowpocalypse. How did you survive the weekend?

Posted by Chris at 7:33 AM | Comments (27)

Haiku For Monday #305

The Super Bowl - as
a general rule - is just
damn underwhelming.

Posted by Chris at 7:26 AM | Comments (5)

February 5, 2010

The Weeklies #118

The Weekly Weather. Snow! Since just before Christmas, my yard has seen 34 inches of snow. And apparently there's more on the way tonight and tomorrow. Like, two feet.

The Weekly Time Waster. Gravit-eye.

The Weekly Read. In a lot of my replies to the comments on my vegetarian post, I've mentioned reading Jonathan Safran Foer's Eating Animals. Foer, author of Everything Is Illuminated and the astonishing Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, took it upon himself to research the animal farming and production industry in this country when his son was born. What he found he recorded in this book. And what he found isn't pretty. It's far from a rant against meat eaters or the industry they support. Foer's classification of his own diet barely enters the picture. Instead, it's a well-researched, very insightful look at, like the title says, eating animals. It is, in parts, a little disorganized but its not a long book and Foer brings all his thoughts and research together nicely.

The Weekly Schadenfreude. John Edwards used to be a likable guy. He was young, smart, motivated and reasonably good looking (due in no small part to the expensive haircuts I'm sure). But now we're finding out a little more about Edwards. Sure, we knew that he had an affair. And he finally copped to the fact that his mistress' child was his. Like we didn't already know that. But apparently not Edwards has a sex tape, with that visibly pregnant mistress. Worse, it's now being revealed that he beat his cancer-stricken wife. Asshat doesn't begin to describe this guy.

The Weekly Oops. Toyota accidentally pioneered cars that drive themselves. Too bad they couldn't stop themselves too.

The Weekly Oops, Part Two. At their New York headquarters yesterday, NBC served fried chicken in honor of Black History Month. I wish I was making that up. I'm not. Hasn't NBC met their quota of bad decisions for the year already?

The Weekly Proof that Sarah Palin is Either An Idiot or Surprisingly Brilliant. Palin's political action committee dropped nearly $63,000 on Palin's own book. Thus inflating sales and giving them something good to hand out to supporters. It would be the perfect money laundering scheme if she was taking royalties on her book. What it really is, though, is kinda pathetic. Think about what $63,000 could do in Haiti or the native Alaskan population in her home state that lives perpetually below the poverty line.

The Weekly Not-So Hypothetical. What is your favorite song right now?

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

February 4, 2010

There's An App For That

Before I had my iPhone I used my cell phone for calls (though I tend to try and avoid talking on the phone, ironic I know), checking my email and texting. I've had my iPhone for three months and I've somehow found - literally - 99 uses for it. Here's what's on my phone:

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News. CNN pretty much rocks the news app but running a close second is NPR's contribution. The news headlines themselves aren't anything special but the ability to click a button and hear the latest newscast is pretty nice. Time is okay but I'm strangely addicted to the Huffington Post, especially when their pictures fail to match their stories so it looks like John Kerry wrote a story about Britney Spears' side-boob. TUAW, Switched and Engadget keep me up to speed technologically speaking.

Shopping. I love the Amazon app. You can search the entire store but it's browsing function isn't that hot. Rather, it's non-existent. Target is okay but nothing special. The Starbucks app lets me find the closest cup of coffee while the Starbucks Mobile Card let's me shell out $4.00 for a venti white chocolate mocha (extortion!). I can scan bar codes and fine competitive prices with Red Laser or, better yet, snap a picture of any product's label and get information using SnapTell. Buy4Equity lets me see what products are made equitably while GoodGuide helps me find evil products to avoid.

Food. I use Urbanspoon to find good local restaurants and OpenTable to make the reservations. YumYum sends some decent vegetarian recipes my way and iVegetarian points me to local veggie restaurants.

Books. I never thought I'd be comfortable reading books on a cell phone but the Kindle app makes it easy and incredibly convenient, especially on those nights I'm up at 3:00 in the morning with a crabby kid. IndieBound hips me to books I'd probably never otherwise run across.

Music. Guitar Tuner lets me tune my guitar while GuitarChords keeps me honest when it comes to finding the right chords. See, I don't remember chords for the life of me. I have a couple keyboards (Virtuoso and NLog) and annoy people everywhere with my virtual drum sets (Drum Meister and DigiDrummer). And when I don't recognize a song - on the radio, in the store, on TV - I open up Shazam and magically it tells me what I'm listening to.

Photography. The iPhone camera isn't the greatest but there are lots of handy apps to make the pictures you take better. Or at least more fun. Photoshop is a great app and much more intuitive than its computer-based cousin. PanoLab allows you to stitch photos together to make panoramic shots. Mill Colour provides some basic editing and recoloring tools while QuadCamera takes up to four shots in a quick burst.

Games. I'm now thoroughly addicted to Toobz. And UnblockMe is still at the top of my rather extensive how to absolutely kill time list. I promise you that Peekaboo Barn and Peekaboo Wild are for the kids. Sadly I can't say the same about Mr. Ahhh which is stupid yet strangely compelling and to which both Mia and I are addicted.

So that's my phone. And after writing about it for a few minutes, I think it's pretty odd that the thing I use my phone for the least is, well, phoning.

Is your phone a constant companion or something you just tolerate having? Or both? Do you use your phone for more than calls?

Posted by Chris at 6:32 AM | Comments (33)

February 3, 2010

What Parenting Is

We put Mia to bed which was a challenge since her breathing treatments, antibiotics and steroids give her the shakes and make her manic. An hour later we went into her room, hooked up her nebulizer and delivered her next treatment while she slept. We repeated this at 1:00 in the morning. And again at 5:00.

This is what parenting is.

Yesterday, Owen wore his Thomas the Tank Engine button-down pajama top most of the day. Even when he went out. Last night he wore his gorilla jammies. He loves his gorilla jammies. He couldn't decide between the two gorilla shirts so he insisted on both. And because he loves his monkey socks and we can only find one monkey sock, he wore the monkey sock along with a hippo sock.

This is what parenting is.

I stopped at the grocery store on the way home from work. On the little conveyor belt: ice cream, two bottles of wine, a six pack of beer, and Pop Tarts. I'm pretty sure it was a shopping trip that screamed dad of two sick kids.

This is what parenting is.

Over the weekend I sat at home watching Owen sleep while his sister and mother sat in a hospital room trying to breathe. I felt absolutely helpless. And scared. I walked past Mia's room, turned on the lights, and cleaned up her room despite the fact that I knew she wouldn't be home that night. I toyed with the idea of turning down her bed but that seemed too desperate. I didn't like going to bed without Mia in the house. I said as much out loud to myself and anyone else who'd listen.

This is what parenting is.

When I pull into the garage after a long day at work, I usually end up sitting in my car for a few seconds. I just kind of mentally prepare myself for what's going to happen, kind of like a diver surfacing slowly to avoid the bends. Before I even crack my car door, I can hear the future. I hear two voices screaming and they're screaming daddy! daddy! daddy! so I grab my backpack, sling it over my shoulder, close the car door and open the back door. I am swarmed and cheered and sometimes nearly physically taken down before I make it into the kitchen because I am daddy and I am home. I am a high point of someone's day.

This is what parenting is. And it is hard, and completely not glamorous and most assuredly exhausting. And I love it.

Posted by Chris at 6:50 AM | Comments (36)

February 2, 2010

An Interview With Myself

I've been thinking about blogging a lot lately. I'm not sure why. But the other day I found myself in the shower answering my own questions about the process. That was kinda whacked out, me talking about blogging to myself in the shower. But I figured, hey, might as well write it down and get some mileage out of it.

Me: Hello there. You're looking rather good today. Have you been working out?
Myself: Hey, thanks. Nice of you to notice. In fact, I have been running a little bit.
Me: I thought so. Looking good!
Myself: You're too kind. Hey, you want to go out for a drink later or something?
Me: Sure. That sounds like a plan. Maybe a beer?
Myself: Beer! My favorite. How did you know?
Me: Just call it a hunch.
Myself: Anyway...on with this, right?
Me: If we must.

Me: What confuses you most about blogging.
Myself: I don't understand why people react to posts the way they do. Six, maybe seven years of doing this and I still haven't figured it out. I'll write a post that I think is the most brilliant or hilarious thing I've ever come up with and the reception is lukewarm. On the flip side, posts that are slapped together at the very last minute that I've written off as inconsistent and poorly written are oddly embraced. I don't get it. Clearly I haven't yet figured out my audience. That or I haven't figured out my own writing. Or both. Which is vaguely terrifying.

Me: What about blogging are you most surprised by?
Myself: That I'm still doing it. I've been able to commit three long-term things - marriage, being a dad, and blogging. This is remarkable since I'd been previously able to commit only to things with an expected duration of five or ten minutes. I have a supreme lack of will power surrounding things that take long-term commitment. When I started the blogging gig, I figured I'd do it for about a week. That was seven years ago.

Me: What's the biggest lie you've ever told about blogging?
Myself: I'd say it's probably the bullshit about the fact that I'd do it even if no one was out there reading it. I mean, I hope I'd write all this stuff down somewhere so twenty years from now I could remember what Mia looked like when she made the devil horns and started singing Smoke On The Water. But it wouldn't look like this. No, the fact that people read this enables me to keep writing and I would not write some things if people were not, in fact, out there reading. So that I do it for me explanation is only partially true.

Me: What's the hardest thing about it?
Myself: I've been doing it for seven years and I've been pretty consistent about style and frequency for the last four or so. So there's the expectation that I'm going to write something insightful or witty each and every day. I don't want anyone feeling sorry for me but those are some weighty expectations sometimes. And some days it feels more like a job than it should.

Me: What's your process like?
Myself: It varies day to day, week to week. Sometimes I have this long laundry list of crap that I want to get off my chest. Other weeks I have absolutely nothing. Zip. Zero. Nada. That's when I get a little frightened. But something invariably comes to me (I've just jinxed myself, haven't it?). Anyway, whenever I have time throughout the day, I start sketching it out. A sentence here, a sentence there. I fill in the gaps and end up with something that hopefully doesn't suck. And even when I'm convinced it doesn't, I'll keep working on it until first thing in the morning. When I hit publish and let it loose into the world.

Me: Have you ever thought about giving it up?
Myself: Yeah. About once every couple of weeks.

Me: And what do you do with that thought?
Myself: I push it into the back of my brain where I keep the knowledge that my parents have sex and the desire to see Lindsay Lohan naked. Hopefully none of these thoughts see the light of day very often.

Me: Hey, what do you say about that drink now?
Myself: Isn't it a little early?
Me: When are you posting this?
Myself: Like, 7:00 in the morning.
Me: Oh. Coffee?
Myself: Sure. Coffee it is.

What is the appeal of blogging (reading or writing) for you? And what do you see here that you like or dislike?

Posted by Chris at 7:38 AM | Comments (37)

February 1, 2010

Breathless

The weekend was busy. A lot of things happened at nearly the same time, an odd collision of random events some of which were good, some not. First, I passed my test. I aced it. I made it my bitch. Second, Mia ended up in the hospital. Again.

On Friday evening, she started struggling to breathe, much like she did back in October except not nearly so severe. But we were, and are, gun-shy. Beth and Mia headed right to the emergency room while I stayed with Owen. A few hours later, she was admitted. She responded very well.

Beth dropped me a text at noon on Saturday to report that, after waiting for a doctor the better part of the morning, they'd been discharged and were on their way. Then snow started falling. Quiet descended.

Mia did well at home. Her parents tried their best to hold it together but they were worried too. We're delivering breathing treatments every four hours around the clock but in between Mia can't help but sing and dance around the house and chase her little brother and demand to be chased by him. So we suspect that everything is as it should be. And we're hoping that we don't see the inside of the hospital anytime soon. Mia agrees and reports that she's doing fine, though a little manic.

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Lots of people claim to understand terror. They sell it to you as a Stephen King book, as a roller-coaster, a horror movie. Parents know what true terror is. It's seeing their kids in pain. Even when their kids take it in stride.

When we told her she had to go to the hospital, she didn't argue at all. Instead she quite literally said okay, let me get a few things to take with me. And she was brave throughout the whole experience. Mia amazes me. This little girl who calls me daddy much to my wild surprise every time. This little girl who is so bright, so kind, so very intelligent it is scary. This little girl who is - though I know I am somewhat biased - the most gorgeous little creature upon whom I have ever laid eyes. She amazes me.

Posted by Chris at 6:52 AM | Comments (30)

Haiku For Monday #304

Dorothy Gale got
one minor fact very wrong.
"There's no place like bed."

Posted by Chris at 6:50 AM


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