March 31, 2010

What Not To Wear

As I mentioned yesterday, I get a lot of offers to try stuff out then talk about it on my site. Some offers are good. Most are very, very bad. The other day - and coincidentally while trying to come up with some good ideas for Mother's Day presents - I got an interesting tidbit that somehow escaped my spam filter. Relevant bits below, taken verbatim.

Hi There,

With Mother’s Day just around the corner, men of all ages struggle to find the perfect gift. This year—have no fear.

Our newest garment, Slendersize is constructed with built in shape wear to reduce the hassle of having to wear two garments. Slendersize works to smooth and contour and is available in pants and skirts.

Thank you and happy shopping!


Okay, I'm a guy so you'll have to help me here but basically what I just read is that this company is offering a product that makes you appear thinner than you are and wants you to give this fabulous gift to the mother in your life. I'm in no way sexist nor do I believe in stereotypes but I do see an inherent flaw with this sales pitch. There is absolutely no way any man could purchase said garment, give it to said mother, and not be met with the immediate reply so you think I'm fat. You'd be better off giving a gym membership and a can of Slim Fast. Am I correct?

Now, since many of your are moms or have moms of your own, I have to selfishly ask a few questions. With Mother's Day approaching, what's the best Mother's Day present you've ever gotten? And what's the best present you've given?

Posted by Chris at 6:58 AM | Comments (23)

March 30, 2010

Say What You Want To Say

A while back I took offense to the recent(ish) Federal Trade Commission (FTC) requirements that bloggers and damn near anyone else disclose when they receive products and services for review or promotion. Here's how the FTC summarizes it's requirement:

The revised Guides also add new examples to illustrate the long standing principle that “material connections” (sometimes payments or free products) between advertisers and endorsers – connections that consumers would not expect – must be disclosed. These examples address what constitutes an endorsement when the message is conveyed by bloggers or other “word-of-mouth” marketers....Bloggers who make an endorsement must disclose the material connections they share with the seller of the product or service.

And here's what I said about it back in August:
While I respect the end-game - to protect the consumer and encourage full disclosure - I don't want that infringing on my right to express myself and my opinions. It should not impact my writing - either the content or style - and I'm damn well not going to preface everything I say with an exhaustive accounting of why I'm saying it or the factors that could potentially influence my decision. Because that's stupid.

I bring this up again for several reasons. First, it's still bugging the hell out of me. And second, I'm getting constantly bombarded with offers to review stuff that someone somewhere thinks you would be interested in. And regardless of origin, each of these proposals is followed by a near-identical blurb that kindly informs me that the offeror is very concerned about FTC regulations and hopes that I, too, will comply.

Nine-point-nine times out of ten I say no. Why?

Primarily, I'm concerned with maintaining my personal privacy and only reluctantly divulge my last name and mailing address. (Yeah, my last name's not Cactus, I know you're shocked.) Next, whatever it is is probably of little interest to either you or me. And, finally, I don't want to be beholden to anyone for anything. So I lay out these rules:

  1. If I like it, I'll say whatever the hell I want about it.
  2. If I don't like it, I'll say whatever the hell I want about it.
  3. If it's not something I'm personally interested in, don't bother. I mean, why would I want another sex swing since I already have three in my dungeon basement and have neither the space nor structural integrity for another?
  4. If it isn't right for you - the people who read my site - I'll say absolutely nothing about it at all.
  5. If it's something completely and utterly ridiculous - like the recent spate of space pioneer vampire romance novels I've been getting press releases about - I will mercilessly make fun of whatever it is until I realize that it's someone's livelihood then I'll just feel bad.

I'm afraid this is often too much of a gamble for my marketing friends.

All of these things tend to get me out of the hassle of posting my opinions on stuff I've given - the hassle imposed by the FTC and the hassle that requires me to apply the coordinates of someone else's moral compass under the assumption that my own is somehow flawed and I, as a result, have to be told how to express myself.

Most bloggers - those who run personal sites like mine - should be perceived as experts on only one thing. Themselves. Unless they've hit the big time, they're not paid spokespeople or compensated product reviewers. They're just people, like me, with opinions. And I'm not sure we, as a group, need to be told what to write. I carved out this space six or seven years ago as my very own with the intent on saying whatever the hell I wanted to say, however I wanted to say it. I naturally bristle when I feel as though my freedom of self expression is in any way infringed upon. And honestly, I know a lot about books and music and I always give you my honest opinions on everything but if you make a decision to go buy a Camaro only because I drove one for 48 hours and thought it was cool, well, that ain't my fault.

What do you think? Is it really an imposition on self-expression or is it, overall, a good thing for consumers? Where should we draw the line with the concept of full disclosure?

Posted by Chris at 8:17 AM | Comments (16)

March 29, 2010

Help A TiVo Out (Thank You For Being A Friend)

My TiVo is feeling a bit talked down to. My TiVo is perfectly capable of recording and showing more complex, adult programming but instead here is what is on it right now:

- Scooby Doo, Where are You
- The Berenstain Bears
- VH-1 Rock Honors - The Who
- Barney And Friends
- My Friends Tigger and Poo
- The Backyardigans

So you can kinda see where my TiVo is coming from. It's loaded with kid stuff (okay, The Who is mine and I kinda dig Scooby too) and there's virtually nothing for Beth and I.

That's because we've run out of stuff to watch.

We regularly record and watch Survivor. We've watched every iteration of the series since it started. We also check out Grey's Anatomy though the series has been dying a horrible death since the season before last (and I now almost universally loathe every character except Arizona, the lesbian pediatric surgeon, and Sloane). CSI - we are purists and watch only the Vegas version - is almost laughably stupid though - joke's on us - we still watch it. I'm a big fan of Chopped, Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations, Bizarre Foods and Iron Chef but new episodes of those aren't exactly keeping TiVo busy The only thing I really look forward to TiVo catching is Lost. And even that is maddening right about now (I want answers, people - now!). And it's getting desperate. On Saturday night, Beth and I found ourselves watching The Golden Girls.

I ask you - what is must see TV in your house? I need some suggestions!

P.S. Just in case you're looking for something for your own viewing pleasure, may I please present what happens when Owen won't eat and we call in the big guns (the big guns being Mia). And yes, she is saying open up, yo. In case you were wondering.

Posted by Chris at 7:14 AM | Comments (69)

Haiku For Monday #312

I've returned to work
having lost half the cold,
kept the jacked-up toe.

Posted by Chris at 7:13 AM

March 26, 2010

The Weeklies #125

The Weekly Health Situation. Cold? Check, still here. Toe? Check, still broken.

The Weekly Beer. Sierra Nevada Torpedo.

The Weekly Browser Change. This week I did something which probably sounds pretty lame but wasn't to me. I switched browsers. I got really tired of Firefox's bloat and took Google Chrome for a spin. So far? It's pretty darn awesome. And much easier on my computer.

The Weekly Read. The Virgin by Erik Barmack was not a good book. The premise - a guy gets himself on a reality show the point of which is, Bachelor-like, to be selected by a virgin to be her first - was silly. The book started off well enough. The problem was that the main character, the one in whom we were supposed to have some interest, was highly unlikeable and it was never clear if this was the author's intent or just a product of poor writing. In fact, the only redeeming part of the book was the way it made me think about the ways in which reality television is so obviously manipulated. But you could probably come up with those yourself. Give the book a pass.

The Weekly Music. On a whim, I picked up Broken Bells' self titled debut. It's a collaboration between Danger Mouse and The Shins' front man James Mercer. It's catchy and endearing the way you'd expect anything from The Shins to be. But the inclusion of Danger Mouse - and his hook-laden electronic flourishes and subtle beats - makes Broken Bells about as irresistible as an Oreo cookie and a cold glass of milk. It's not music that'll change the world but it's good, original, and an absolute pleasure to listen to. Its the perfect spring album.

The Weekly Schadenfreude. Like just about everyone else this week, I'm going to go with Sandra Bullock. Hubby cheated on her with a tattooed white supremacist stripper. And that white supremacist part was probably the only reason Tiger hadn't banged her too.

The Weekly Political Moment. I love crusty old Joe Biden. I really do. I think he's a good guy. A guy who needs to know when to keep his mouth shut, but a good guy. Evidence? This. Yes, on live TV and in reference to the health care bill, Biden told President Obama This is a big fucking deal. Damned if he wasn't right.

The Weekly Opportunity to Pick on a Former President. Bush and Clinton - working together to raise money for Haitian earthquake relief - traveled to Haiti together. There was almost a very nice moment in which the two shook hands with the Haitian people. Then Bush took the hand he'd recently used for shaking and wiped it all over Bill Clinton's shirt. Maybe Kanye was right. Either that or Bush's next charity venture will be for Haitian Cootie relief.

The Weekly Question from Mia. What was your favorite show when you were a kid that didn't have scary parts?

Posted by Chris at 7:02 AM | Comments (40)

March 25, 2010

Some Things Just Are

Andy Warhol - fucked up guy that he was - made 60 films most of which sound incredibly ridiculous. For example, Sleep is a six hour film featuring poet John Giorno sleeping for, well, six hours. Blowjob, while shorter, clocking in at 35 minutes, shows one continuous shot of the face of a guy receiving a blowjob. Empire depicts eight hours of the Empire State Building at dusk while Eat shows a guy eating a single mushroom for 45 minutes. What I suspect Warhol knew - because I'm assuming this wasn't just intended as a diversion from painting soup cans or coming up with cool new ironic hairstyles - was that mundane things happen that people rarely take note of. What I don't think Warhol truly grasped as that no one cares what six hours of footage of a sleeping poet revealed.

This has some translation into everyday life, pop culture and - my point here - parenting and how all of that somehow gets wrapped up in my little site.

You'll never ever see a show, scan a blog, read a book or listen to a speech about mundane parenting. But I have news for you. Parenting isn't always cute or funny or tender or heartbreaking or even hard. Sometimes it just is.

Sometimes your kid shits on the floor. Shit on the floor isn't particularly cute. There's nothing tender or heartwarming about the shit. It doesn't crack a cute quip. It is in no way ironic. It isn't magically shaped like Jesus' face and therefore eligible for as least some sort of karmic repayment via eBay. It's just shit. Like some days are just days. They're neither good nor bad. They just are. Sometimes parenting just is.

Don't get me wrong - its a fantastically wonderful thing and there's usually at least one thing in every day that makes you feel like wow, this parenting thing is really incredible. The other night, for instance, after I'd been working from home, feeling like crap because my son had the nerve to give me his cold after I gave him life - not fair - I was putting my daughter to bed. She wrapped her arms around me and despite what I thought of as my horrible attitude and short temper, said I love you daddy you're my favorite boy in the whole world. And promptly fell asleep. This was cute and funny and tender and mildly heartbreaking (but in a good way) but it was also nice since I didn't have to arm her with five suggestions as to how she could possibly spend her time until she fell asleep and, instead, I could go take some cold medicine, drink some beer and try to find something crappy on television to watch until the hallucinations started thereby negating the need for any sort of external entertainment.

I tend to view the future through a lens which focuses on major stuff - birthdays, vacations, major work due dates, those kinds of things. I'm pretty sure we all do this to some extent. And we do it because the things in between are ordinary. Some days work is neither bad nor good, parenting isn't overly challenging. Those days just are. So we set our sights towards the anomalies and wait. And I think by doing that, we're doing ourselves a disservice. I think miss taking pleasure in the mundane and I suspect that when we're all much older, we'll look back at those seemingly mundane times with a certain mixture of fondness and regret.

Posted by Chris at 7:12 AM | Comments (14)

March 24, 2010

My Semi-Secret Neurotic Achilles Heel

Nearly every semester in high school - without fail - an intrepid English teacher would decide to tackle a play of some sort, usually Shakespeare. And instead of asking us to go home and read the plays ourselves, take notes and discuss it in a week (because that wouldn't burn class time), the prevailing wisdom at the time was to assign parts and read the play during class. So whenever the words this week we're going to read the play... were uttered, my gut reaction was to:

1. Hide behind whoever happened to be in front of me when the long, important parts were assigned.

2. Be absent the day parts were handed out and hope against all hope that all the parts would be covered by the time I made my triumphant return after a day of feigning illness and watching The Price Is Right and I Dream Of Jeanie reruns

3. Quickly skim the text, locate the smallest most insignificant part, and proactively volunteer for it in the hope that it would allow me to sidestep any of the longer parts

4. Suck it up and and roll with it.

I usually went with the final two options because I'm not a complete coward. But I loathed this whole process. Why? Because if there's one thing I dread beyond all else - with the exception of spiders, Britney Spears, or spiders that look like Britney Spears - is reading out loud in front of people. I have no clue as to why. When I read aloud, I feel completely and utterly incompetent and about as smart as, well, Britney Spears. I profoundly lack confidence. And it's odd because I'm a decent public speaker though when I do speak publicly, I want to know what I have to say cold so I never have to read it. But to read in public? Not my thing.

Reading out loud, my semi-secret neurotic achilles heel. What's yours?

Posted by Chris at 7:23 AM | Comments (18)

March 23, 2010

Karma - It's A Bitch

I've established that I have a cold-turned-sinus infection courtesy of Owen's cold-turned-ear infection. The boys of the Cactus clan are in bad shape this week. So bad that, after I'd had to stop eating Chinese takeout because my throat hurt so bad and I'd accidentally kicked an Ottoman and interpreting these as signs from the universe, I figured it was time to bite the bullet and go to the doctor.

Mia was up during the night so whilst Beth battled Owen in our room, I took Mia into the guest room with me and we collapsed, tossing and turning together. When she and I awoke, Beth and Owen were on their way to the doctor. I called and booked my appointment, got Mia dressed and fed, and welcomed Owen and his new-found ear infection home.

And then I went to the doctor.

My initial diagnosis was pretty straightforward. I had a bad, bad cold and the beginnings of a sinus infection easily headed off with antibiotics. And then I opened my mouth and while I'm here, my toe really hurts so could you take a look at it came out of my mouth. What's wrong with it was the question posed in response. I kicked an ottoman last night by accident and it's kinda purple and hurts. She took a seat and began squeezing various parts of my foot. Does this hurt she asked to which I said fuck! to which she said so I'll take that as a yes to which I replied uh, yeah, sorry. She responded with a laugh that let me and my bad language off the hook then said your toe is totally broken, you need some tape and an x-ray. You're kidding I said. She wasn't.

I feel like Lloyd Dobler with boombox except instead of hoisting said boombox to win the affection of Diane Court, I'm trying to appeal to the universe. World, way to kick a guy when he's down. I have no idea but if what goes around does actually come around, then whatever it was I did has certainly come back to bite me in the ass this week. I'd like to publicly call a truce, a cease-fire in this rather public and painful airing of grievances. I will limp, sneezing and coughing into my corner, if you agree to enter yours. I realize such a detente can't last forever but I'd like to give it a shot.

In the spirit of a glass is half full mentality, I would like to think that I accomplished something. I reached the age of 37 before breaking a bone. And I guess I should feel pretty okay with the fact that it was just my toe.

Ever broken a bone? How old were you?

Posted by Chris at 8:00 AM | Comments (54)

March 22, 2010

Sick Day

Dear Internets,

Please excuse Chris from his blog today. Trust me, he's not happy about it. He's sick and he'd rather be here than hacking up a lung and trying to figure out exactly who set his throat on fire (and who knew throats were flammable?). But alas he is doing his very best not to swallow a fire extinguisher and is in no shape to type after an evening filled with beer and NyQuil.

Chris hopes to be back on his feet tomorrow. In the mean time if you really need something to talk about, he received this message in his fortune cookie last night: a clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory. Discuss.

Yours in Christ,
The Management

Posted by Chris at 7:42 AM | Comments (15)

Haiku For Monday #311

Adding insult to
injury is having a cold
then breaking a toe.

Posted by Chris at 7:40 AM | Comments (1)

March 18, 2010

The Weeklies #124

The Weekly Physical Condition. I gave my son life and he gave me his cold. It hardly seems right. Good thing he's cute since Mia's the only one of us who's slept the past four days.

The Weekly Awesome Video. One guy, one duet, a bazillion television theme songs. Check it out.

The Weekly Time Waster. Lateral (Thanks Dawn!)

The Weekly Worst Television Idea Ever. Animal Planet has made the wise decision to give Mike Tyson his own television show. What's it about? Pigeon racing, of course. Yeah, that'll be a hit.

The Weekly Read. I just finished No Survivors by Tom Cain. His first - The Accident Man - was just so damn entertaining, I was really looking forward to reading the second. Cain writes about Samuel Carver, a guy who makes accidents happen to bad people. Of course, while doing all this bad stuff to others, bad stuff happened to him. And No Survivors is all about Carver getting out of trouble. It wasn't as strong as the first but it was still a very well-written, fast paced and terribly addicting thriller.

The Weekly Schadenfreude. Apparently Sandra Bullock's husband is screwing around on her. So she left. Yeah, that sucks. But as I was reading the story on People's site, I skipped down to the comments section and found something that sucked worse - a comment from someone named Rosemary. She wrote: It's the same situation as Halle Berry, Hilary Swank, Reese Witherspoon and Kate Winslet. The women win the Academy Award then they split from their husbands.Why? I think for 2 reasons: The men feel upstaged by their more successful wives or the men want or need a wife, not an equal partner, primary breadwinner or Super Woman/FemiNazi. We live in the 21st century but when it comes to family, tradition still rules (thank GOD). Women may need or want to work. But if they put work ahead of family - when they choose a golden statue over family, there is a very good chance those families may be torn apart. Call it right or wrong - it's just how it is. When you marry, you must decide what's more important - your career or your spouse and family. And if Jesse was unfaithful to Sandra, then ponder this: Maybe Sandra wasn't home enough. Maybe he's a pig - I don't know; I wasn't there. But he was unfaithful and another family is ripped - because of a woman's career. She's a FOOL.

The Weekly Question From Mia. What color door do you have?*

* On Tuesday night, I sat down and read her all the answers you guys gave last Friday. She loved it.

Posted by Chris at 7:20 AM | Comments (56)

Growing Pains

I heard a news story the other day about obesity and diabetes that was pretty scary. So I started digging around the internetwebosphere to find more information. Here's what I found.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention undertakes a regular study to pulse-check the health habits of adults in the US. The most recent results pertaining to obesity and the contributing factors to obesity are pretty startling.

- One in five adults smokes.
- 61% of adults report that they're current drinkers. In fact 75% of educated adults - those with bachelor's degrees and higher - indicate they drink.
- Two-thirds of adults are overweight.
- 12% of children between 2-5 are obese.
- The population of children between 6 and 11 finds a 17% obesity rate.
- 17.6% of kids between 7 and 19 are considered obese.
- 80% of kids who were overweight between the ages of 10-15 were obese at age 25.

Over the last three decades the total number of newly diagnosed cases of diabetes in the United States alone tripled to nearly 1.5 million. Of the diagnosed individuals, 83.5% were overweight or obese. Type 2 diabetes occurs rarely in children, however the emerging cases over the last decade are staggering. Most studies attribute this outbreak to two primary factors - exercise (or lack thereof) and diet.

Americans consume about 12 teaspoons of high fructose corn syrup per day; kids and teenagers generally exceed that average by 80%. In fact, of school-age kids, nearly one-third of their caloric intake comes from sugar (while the national average is around 10%).

The average American kid spends three hours a day in front of the TV, and nearly five and a half in front of anything with a screen. And while we can all have arguments over what constitutes excessive TV watching, the simple fact is that these things - entertainment and exercise - don't have to be mutually exclusive. Most recommendations simply call for one to two hours of physical activity a day. Yet that hour or two is being traded for sedentary activities.

The Federal government shells out somewhere around $100 billion per year to pay for or offset obesity-related medical expenses. The individual states add anywhere from $85 million to $7.5 billion to support individuals with obesity-related healthcare expenses or provide related care. For those who are concerned about the government getting involved in health care, I have news for you - they already are. And we're forcing them to.

I threw out a lot of information, a lot of facts. I don't really have any answers nor do I have an argument. I can't complain nor can I judge. But what I want to know is this - what can be done to curb the problem? Or are we just in a downward spiral of cheap food and sedentary lifestyles?

Posted by Chris at 7:14 AM | Comments (28)

March 17, 2010

Siblings

The house I grew up in was pretty much a normal, everyday colonial deep in the heart of Texas. The master bedroom was downstairs, my room up. Across from my room was a TV room that I used to sneak into in the middle of the night and, on weekends - since these were the days of four channels - turn on PBS and watch Dr. Who. Down the hall was my own bathroom and across from that was a giant closet that, when I was younger, I'd call my office. Further down the hall was the "computer room" which had a big desk with an Apple II+ on it. Before that, it had been the "sewing room" and had a big desk with a sewing machine on it. Each room had big walk-in closets. I had the run of the place. I was - and am - an only child.

There are pluses and minuses to being an only child. I became very independent at a fairly young age. And though my parents were always around and we had a good relationship, I learned to entertain myself early on. I think I'm a more imaginative and independent adult as a result. I can go for long stretches without speaking a word. I am comfortable being alone. I relish time locked in a room with a book. On the flip side, I can go long stretches without saying a word and that drives Beth crazy. And I never really learned to share. When Beth and I moved in together seventeen years ago (sheesh!), it was the first time I'd really ever shared my living space and my stuff. I am, by the very fact that I was an only child, probably a bit more spoiled and selfish.

All this is a long way of saying that I can't quite relate to the relationship Mia and Owen have. I can't put myself in their shoes. I never had to punch anyone in the head to get a book back. I never had to wait my turn. I never had to put up with being interrupted when I was trying to make myself a sandwich. No one ever tried to steal my pants while I was peeing. And I never had to share my parents' love and affection. So sometimes I feel like I'm operating at a disadvantage as a parent. Unlike Beth - who has a younger brother - I don't have any lessons-learned to work from or wise words to share.

Do you have siblings or are you an only child? And how do you think that impacted the way you turned out as an adult?

Posted by Chris at 7:17 AM | Comments (42)

March 16, 2010

Lessons From Dadhood #5931-5940

I have learned many lessons being a dad but it seems like the last few weeks have been packed with learning opportunities. Here's my latest batch of lessons learned.

#5931 - When your son looks exactly like your dad, it's nice. But strange. Especially when you see your mini-dad picking his nose or peeing on the floor. Most of us don't get to see our dads do that.

#5932 - When you fart really loud in your kids room in the middle of the night, your wife can hear you. Especially when you don't turn off the baby monitors.

#5933 - You will always lose at Chutes and Ladders and Candyland. Always. Even if you cheat. Which you don't because you're not an asshat. Really.

#5934 - Kids are master manipulators. In fact, we should send four year olds to negotiate arms treaties and middle-east peace. They'd get the job done and probably end up with a showing of Cinderella, a new Barbie and a cookie to boot.

#5935 - A single M&M can buy you an unbelievable amount of time.

#5936 - Children find it hilarious when you cluck like a chicken to the tune of Smoke On The Water. We won't talk about how this was discovered.

#5937 - At Target, the average two year old is able to pick up approximately 5.5 items from every 1.4 linear feet of shelf space. These tend to be the most colorful yet inappropriate items such as mouthwash, a six pack of hot pink granny panties, dog biscuits and tampons.

#5938 - Children have no respect for testicles and the fragility thereof.

#5939 - When you watch How It's Made with your four and a half year old daughter, you damn well better know how an engine works or the temperature at which steel melts. Or every possible use for ball-bearings. You will be asked and there will be hell to pay if you don't have an answer.

#5940 - Despite the fact that you installed their buttons, kids know how to push yours more effectively.

You parents got any additions to make?

Posted by Chris at 7:29 AM | Comments (15)

March 15, 2010

Tiny Dancer

This weekend, Mia blew me away. Saturday marked her debut stage performance and she was beautiful, composed, and awesome.

miaballet%20copy_sm.jpg

My daughter is amazing. I know I'm obligated to say that. I'm her dad. But I really, truly mean it. Mia started ballet for the sole purpose of hanging out with her BFF. We weren't sure how much she was going to enjoy it or how much she was actually learning. But when she heard that there was going to be a performance, she needed to be a part of it. On Saturday, she got on stage, without a hint of anxiety and not only nailed the performance but obviously had a visibly blissful time doing it. Her entire family was there in the audience clapping like mad and taking pictures. She was inundated with flowers afterwards and rushed home for a post-performance party.

My tiny dancer isn't so tiny. She's a little person with her own set of likes and dislikes, who colors outside the lines because to color within them would be predictable and boring, who memorizes lyrics to musicals, who makes her own dinners of reverse peanut butter sandwiches in which the peanut butter is on the outside of the sandwich not the inside, who loves her brother and often proves it by trying to teach him to cartwheel or taking him down with a flying tackle, who makes up vast worlds inside her head, and who knows how to spell nearly everything so long as you're not expecting vowels. And who, as of this weekend, took the stage with the confidence of someone three times her age and quite obviously loved every single minute of it, and did it without her parents.

I can't look at the hundreds of pictures I took without seeing how old she is. And how very, very beautiful.

Posted by Chris at 8:18 AM | Comments (37)

Haiku For Monday #310

It's only early
but I'm convinced I should have
taken the day off

Posted by Chris at 8:17 AM | Comments (1)

March 12, 2010

The Weeklies #123

The Weekly Beer. Smuttynose IPA

The Weekly Non-Alcoholic Beverage. Vitamin Water Connected

The Weekly Time Waster. Factory Balls 3

The Weekly Read. The Serialist is David Gordon's first novel. It's one of the more unusual, striking books I've read in a very long time. I can't quite put my finger on exactly what it is - it's part thriller, part mystery, and part meditation on literature and writing. I know it sounds like an odd combination and it really was. But it was amazingly refreshing and my first two thoughts upon turning the final page were damn, its over and wow. So, while I can't really tell you what The Serialist was, I can certainly tell you it was fantastic and very worthwhile.

The Weekly Music. A few weeks ago, I pointed you to OK Go's This Too Shall Pass marching band video. I can't believe that they managed to top it but they did. Check out OK Go's latest This Too Shall Pass video and prepare to be amazed. I'll admit it - I don't think it's the greatest song in the world but I'd buy the album on the strength of this video and the sense of humor the band shows alone.

The Weekly Opposite of that Last Video. This is stupidly awesome.

The Weekly Most Awesomely Pointless Site. Shatner's Toupee, an exhaustive study of William Shatner's hair.

The Weekly Schadenfreude. Lindsay Lohan is suing E-Trade over their "milkaholic" baby commercial. See, the baby in question - the one referred to in the ad as a "milkaholic" is named Lindsay. And Lindsay contents that she is on par with Prince, Madonna and Cher in the single-name recognition department and, as a result, demands compensation. And I agree. I say if she's also willing to acknowledge that her name is also synonymous with no-talent hack, hot mess and skank, she should be fairly compensated.

The Weekly Question From Mia*. What color is your best tiara and how long is your hair?


* Seriously, I've been asking her what questions she'd like to ask you guys and this is what she's coming up with.

Posted by Chris at 6:58 AM | Comments (43)

March 11, 2010

A Confession

Internets, I have a bit of a guilty conscience and have had for some time. I think I have to come clean.

I wrote at least once last week about the hours - or lack thereof - available to me in the day. I think we all came to the collective conclusion that more hours wouldn't necessarily be a goo thing since we're all busy enough and those additional hours would only get filled up with the boring and tedious crap we need a break from.

The one thing I really didn't address in that list of stuff I talked about was blogging.

I make time to write my posts and respond to the comments that I get. Both are really important to me and things that I feel like I have to do daily. There's no gun to my head except the gun in my head that I mentally point at my head. That didn't make sense but I think you probably know what I'm trying to say. But the piece of the great blogging trifecta that's missing is reading all the awesome stuff many of you write each and every day. The simple and awful truth is that that I haven't commented on your sites in at least a month and I haven't cracked open my newsreader in just about that long. I fear this makes me a horrible person and an even worse blogger.

Reciprocation is important to me. You all take time out of your days to drop by and read and even comment on whatever I've managed to cobble together that day. And I'm concerned that you don't know what that means to me. Because it means a lot and I am extremely grateful for it.

There. That's my confession. You all hate me now, right?

Posted by Chris at 6:48 AM | Comments (40)

March 10, 2010

Help, Internets!

All parents think their children are brilliant. I'm no exception. I'm obliged to think it and say it but I truly believe my daughter is pretty damn smart. I say this, in part, because she's flying through books and the ones that interest her are way out of her target demographic. We've reached the point at which Mia will tolerate being read only the Oz books. We've read each one of them at least a dozen times. We've just begun Alice In Wonderland. We're tempted to start Harry Potter.

I'm pretty well convinced that people who may eventually become parents should be injected with some innate knowledge upon birth. Like, how to change a diaper, what to do for fever and how that differs from treating a puking kid, and what kids should be reading and at what age. I was born without that knowledge so I need you. Seriously. Help. Or else I'm going to be reading her the latest Harlan Coben or John Sanford thrillers that are sitting on my nightstand. And nothing good would come of that.

What books did you love growing up? And, if you're a parent, what books do your kids love now?

Posted by Chris at 7:00 AM | Comments (99)

March 9, 2010

Hope, Change, Yadda Yadda Yadda

Though it often seems much longer ago, a little over a year has passed since Barack Obama took the oath of office after riding a tidal wave of buzzwords like hope and change into Washington. I personally hoped he'd be able to deliver but, objectively speaking, it's impossible to tell since the political gridlock in Washington has made it virtually impossible to get anything done.

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I used to think there was something noble about politics, something very Mr. Smith Goes To Washington in this town. Maybe it's just because I'm older or the system is wearing me down, but I'm beginning to think that where politics might have been a noble, admirable profession, it's now only driven by money and ego. I know, I'm 37 and should have come to this conclusion much sooner but I'm a hopeless optimist. This realization really bums me out.

I'm not even going to point fingers here. There's more than enough blame to go around. Republicans are falling all over themselves to block anything from being changed at all, even if it somehow benefits the people of the United States, while the Democrats can't seem to get organized enough to take their collective thumbs out of their collective asses and make a persuasive enough argument to the American people about why things should change. And instead of trying to sort out what's best for the people who put them in office, all any of them seem to be able to do is argue like a bunch of five year olds on a playground. Though they have a very large playground and their arguments are featured on the 6:00 news.

I'm sick of the bitching. I'm sick of the fighting. I'm sick of the ego-centrism. And, most of all, I'm sick of the fact that these people - the people we have elected to go to Washington and do a good job on our behalf because all of us wouldn't fit in Washington and if we all tried my commute would be a bitch - lose sight of the fact that they're elected public servants on, like, day two they're in the District.

I'm not at all a reactionary but when they're up for re-election I say we fire them all. And let's reopen the conversation about term limits. Except we can't leave it up to Congress. That's kind of like trusting Tiger Woods to keep his putter to himself when he walks by a cocktail waitress. Instead of electing people with flashy campaigns, Aaron Sorkin-like speeches and buzzwords aplenty (I'm not necessarily talking about Obama - I voted for him and would do it again), lets find some people who value the country over themselves, our paychecks over their own, our jobs more than theirs.

I ask you - is the country and the world better off than it was last year? How about your personally?

Posted by Chris at 7:31 AM | Comments (22)

March 8, 2010

Four Days, Two Dates, Three Rings

I worked an insane schedule over the past two weeks - including a weekend - and that totally threw me and the family for a loop. Everything felt off-kilter. So I took Thursday and Friday off to see what I could do about re-kiltering everything. My goal? Decompress and have an awesome time with Mia and Owen. The verdict? Mission accomplished (but not in that dweeby presidential flight suit-wearing misleading the American people clusterfuck kinda way).

On Thursday, I surprised The Bean by picking her up from school and taking her on a lunch date. When I pulled up and she saw that it was just me in the car she screamed daddy!. She was thrilled. It was awesome. My heart did giant somersaults. We went to Chipotle (or, as Mia says the chip restaurant) - her favorite restaurant on the face of the earth since we haven't yet found a place that serves exclusively chips, fries, milkshakes and noodles. We mingled with the lunch-hour crowd, had some burritos, quesadillas and chips (all of which Mia ordered by herself) then went on a requested trip to the bookstore and a cookie-acquiring mission at the next-door Starbucks. The whole day was a big hit.

Friday was similar. While Mia was at school, Owen and I went shopping at Target. I'm pretty sure he picked up one of nearly everything they had and put it in the basket. We almost left with dog food (we don't have a dog), five pairs of headphones (we only have three iPods in the house), year's supply of mouthwash (I think he liked the colors) and there was a cute little two year old girl that Owen has his eye on though I'm sure she wouldn't have fit in the basket with all that mouthwash. He did managed to find a copy of Wall-e which he had to own. I was game so we paid for our stuff and headed home to watch the movie together, just the two of us. He loved it, spent the entire time asking about Wall-e, discussing the relative merits of robots and inquiring what dat? After the movie, I picked Mia up from school again for a repeat lunch date. We hit a different place, had fries and milkshakes and she insisted on going to another book store. Which we did. Then we went home and chilled out for the rest of the afternoon.

We went to the circus on Saturday. It was Mia's third year in a row, Owen's very first. I can't tell you how absolutely, consistently perfect the Big Apple Circus is. It's low-key, lots of fun, and wonderfully old-school. It's fantastic for kids in the single-digits. By the end of the day, both kids were exhausted (so were their parents) so we picked up take-out Indian (at a new place, it was meh), got the kids to bed and crapped out ourselves after finally catching up on our Olympic backlog of shows - Grey's Anatomy (dude, this show has gotten sucky), Survivor (rocks, as always) and Lost (WTF?).

And on Sunday we rested. If resting is constituted by trips to Costco, the beer store, cleaning out the garage, going on a long bike ride and walk through the neighborhood and watching a repeat showing of Wall-e. Mia was happy on her bike, Owen was thrilled to follow her, and we were all happy to feel the taste of spring Sunday offered.


Posted by Chris at 6:54 AM | Comments (16)

Haiku For Monday #309

After four days off
I can safely say that I
could use 'bout a month.

Posted by Chris at 6:53 AM

March 5, 2010

The Weeklies #122

The Weekly Computer Application That Drove Me Crazy. Microsoft Word.

The Weekly Time Waster. Contrapunctus

The Weekly Read. This week - in between working and working and working - I took on David Ignatius' The Increment. The verdict? Not half bad. I was expecting a hard-boiled international spy novel. But what I got was kind of International Intrigue Lite. It wasn't bad - I saw all the twists and turns coming from miles away - but it was well-written and it presented a very well-illustrated portrait of Iran.

The Weekly Television Show I Want To Simultaneously Last Forever And Come To A Hurried Conclusion. Lost. It's driving me nuts. I want answers, people.

The Weekly Week. In case you didn't know, it's National Procrastination Week. I would have told you earlier but, well, I didn't get around to it.

The Weekly Schadenfreude. I'm going with the fine people of New York state who cannot for the life of them seem to find a governor who isn't sleeping with a high-priced hooker or surrounding himself with criminals. Bet Schwarzenegger doesn't look so bad now, does he?

The Weekly Question from My Daughter. What's your middle name?

Posted by Chris at 6:57 AM | Comments (54)

March 4, 2010

Counting The Seconds

The other night around 10:30, I walked out of my office and thought huh, despite the fact that I just worked a 14 hour day, the day sure as hell seemed short. And now I know why:

The massive earthquake that struck Chile on Saturday may have shifted the Earth's axis and created shorter days, scientists at NASA say. The change is negligible, but permanent: Each day should be 1.26 microseconds shorter, according to preliminary calculations. A microsecond is one-millionth of a second. A large quake shifts massive amounts of rock and alters the distribution of mass on the planet. When that distribution changes, it changes the rate at which the planet rotates. And the rotation rate determines the length of a day.

Of course I didn't think that. I thought hey, I'm outside and not working, how new and different is that? But still, when I saw the article it got me thinking - would I add more minutes to the day if I could?

Over the past two weeks I've juggled more than I ever thought I could. I conducted assessments on the staff who work for me, I completed a major project, I led a team developing a proposal for new work, I was a dad, I finished one book and started another, I wrote ten entries, answered somewhere around 1,000 emails and somehow managed to sleep. And I wished for more hours in the day.

On Wednesday afternoon the whole gigantic work project was complete. I worked the rest of the day from home. And promptly fell down half a flight of stairs. As I was lying there, the kids asking if I was okay, I started to think do I really want a longer day? The answer was no. Because I'd just manage to fill it up with things to do, more balls to juggle, more plates to keep in the air. Eventually, I answered the children, I was okay (though really I was pretty banged up). And I hugged them both.

Do you need more hours in a day? Do you want more hours?

Posted by Chris at 7:26 AM | Comments (20)

March 3, 2010

Papercuts

I was reading the other day and I got a papercut. Hurt like a sonofabitch but then I realized that if technology keeps marching on, the days of book-caused papercuts could be nearing an end. Unless people start strapping machetes to their Kindles or something.

I'm a reader. Duh. I love to read. It's an escape for me, a little window through which I can crawl each and every day and enter a new universe. And I have shelves and shelves of read and unread universes scattered throughout our house. I might be able to build and actual universe out of the books I own. Long way of saying that I'm more than a little invested in books - physical, paper books. Which is why I haven't jumped on-board the whole e-book bandwagon yet. You know, the Nook, the Kindle, the soon-to-be-released iPad bandwagon.

It's sort of strange given how I've sacrificed physical CDs for music downloads. It's been months since I bought an actual CD. I've even gone so far as to rip my entire CD collection to a virtual format (man, that was a pain in the ass). I do miss the art. I miss being able to pull the CD cover out, read the lyrics, see who did the cover design, check out who played on the album. But I've realized that, most of all, I really care about the music. And I can get that more inexpensively and conveniently online. (I realize this also makes me lazy and cheap.)

I think I'd miss physical books more than I miss physical CDs. I'd miss the feel in my hands, turning the pages, dog-earing a page to mark my place.

What about you? Have you jumped on the e-book bandwagon? And do you think books are fading into obscurity?

Posted by Chris at 7:56 AM | Comments (57)

March 2, 2010

Dark On

As I mentioned yesterday, I've been working my ass off on any number of things which has made me overly sensitive to the fact that my kids want to hang out with me and, what with the working, haven't really been able to. Like Sunday afternoon, when I was on the phone with a colleague. When I'm on the phone, I like to be standing up so I can roam. I was on the call for about ten minutes. And Owen followed me the entire time, a maximum of two feet away from me.

Owen is in the phase in which he likes to do everything himself. Owen do it is his rallying cry and the phrase he utters most often (followed closely by apple juice! and sorry Mia). One of the things he loves doing himself is turning the lights in his room on and off, especially around bedtime. Dark on or dark off, he says, which is a pretty different way of looking at it.

Last night, after being in bed for a while, he suddenly popped up and wanted to turn the lights - that were already low to nonexistent - off. I took this as a stall tactic.

Owen: Dark on.
Me: No. It's bedtime. Lie down.
Owen: Dark on!
Me: Come on, Owen. It's time to sleep.
Owen: DARK ON!
Me: Under the covers, head on your pillow.
Owen: DARK ON!!!
Me: Okay. I'm going to leave until you can calm down.

And that's exactly what I did. I left and he howled and then he got very quiet which concerns me because that usually means that he's up to absolutely no good whatsoever. So I went back in, expecting to find him climbing his dresser or parasailing. And there he sat, tears rolling down his cheeks, a smile on his face, holding a sock in each hand. He wasn't saying dark on at all.

Owen: Socks on.
Me: Oh Owen I'm so sorry.

Then he shot me a look which could mean only one thing. Daddy, you're a dumbass. Father of the year. Right here.

Posted by Chris at 7:17 AM | Comments (18)

March 1, 2010

48 Hours

Let's see...this weekend was, by definition, 48 hours long. And of those 48 hours, I spent approximately 20 of them working. This thrilled me to no end (and left me just ever-so-slightly sarcastic). Since I've been dealing with spreadsheets all weekend, it only makes sense that I'd breakdown my weekend in Excel format.

Exhibit 1. I Worked Way The Fuck Too
Much And Also Did Some Other Shit

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As you can see I was able to occupy myself in a number of ways this weekend however the primary activity was, sadly, working. So you'll excuse me if I don't have any brilliant witticisms or nuggets of profound enlightenment to share with you this morning. I'm honestly just trying to keep my head out of my coffee cup (not that my head is actually small enough to wind up in my coffee cup...you know what I mean) and power through to the end of this project, the finish line of which is scheduled for hump day and my what a wonderful hump it will be.

How'd you spend your weekend?

Posted by Chris at 7:06 AM | Comments (14)

Haiku for Monday #308

Like the Olympics
The weekend is over. Who
extinguished the torch?

Posted by Chris at 7:05 AM | Comments (1)


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