April 30, 2010
The Weeklies #130
The Surprisingly Difficult Computer Repair. Space bar replacement. I was able to get online and have a replacement space bar shipped to me for $5 which was all kinds of awesome. But replacing it was another story. I kinda felt like I needed to be shrunk Fantastic Voyage style to do it right but after a few minutes I managed. And man is it nice to have a space bar again.
The Weekly Time Waster. Do you remember what the Internet looked like last decade? Use the Geocities-izer to check out your favorite sites the way they'd have looked fifteen years ago.
The Weekly Read. I generally like Chuck Palahniuk. He writes in such a way that I find myself mentally on the edge of my seat. There's nothing comfortable or relaxing about his books. I managed to get my hands on a galley of Tell-All, his latest, mentally prepared myself for it, dove in head first...and was thoroughly disappointed. I'm beginning to think Chuck is losing it. Snuff wasn't great. I skipped Pygmy because it sounded like a maddening and frustrating read. Tell-All was further evidence of the slide. The book redeemed itself (slightly) at the end with a twist that for some reason I didn't see coming. But in all other respects it was a formulaic, slightly annoying read. Chuck's in a rut. Chuck in a rut isn't good.
The Weekly Gadget. My iPad. I know some of you think I jumped the gun but it was my gift to myself for the promotion. I've already read half a novel on the thing, watched a couple TV shows, read some children's books to the kids and played a slightly maddening game of checkers with Mia. I need to spend a lot more time with it before I render a final opinion but at this point it's pretty damn awesome.
The Weekly Schadenfreude. Remember the chants of drill baby drill during the GOP convention a while back? I'd like to point to the massive Gulf Coast spill now spreading off the coast of Louisiana as Exhibit A in my case against that kind of idiocy. Yeah, offshore drilling is perfectly safe and does not at all threaten the environment. Yeah.
The Weekly Question. What's your favorite euphemism for sex? (And why can't I ever spell euphemism correctly?)
April 29, 2010
Private Eyes (Are Watching You)
When I was in second grade and attending an uptight baptist private school, I met the guy who would, for a significant amount of time, be my best friend. His name was Brent. Brent was hilarious. I mean, absolutely hilarious. And when the two of us got together we could sit in a room, not say a word, and just laugh hysterically.
One day I was over at Brent's spending the night. His neighborhood was magical. He knew everyone and there was a succession of little old ladies who were known by the food they handed out. We'd get on our bikes in the hot Houston summer and take a tour, stopping to see the Cookie Lady, the Candy Lady and the Popcorn Lady. After the tour, we dumped our bikes on his front lawn, sat and watched the neighborhood. And while we were watching, Mr. Z died.
Mr. Z - we never did learn the correct spelling of his last name so we made it up (more later) - lived across the street from Brent. He was out mowing his lawn that day when he fell over and died. Right there. Lawnmower still running, gradually cutting a swath of grass through his yard and, eventually, his neighbor's before it came to rest. Brent and I ran inside his house and called an ambulance. It was too late.
Instead of being something that scarred us for life, it became a mystery. Okay, so we later found out that he'd had a history of heart problems and had had a massive heart attack but our second grader imaginations just couldn't stop there. We suspected a plot. We became private investigators. And our first case was that of the dead Mr. Zzwyyxs (pronounced zuh-wicks-us).
I became John D. Copley, private investigator. Brent transformed into John F. Dickson. We were Copley & Dickson, Private Investigators. As the years (and yes, we did this for years) went by, our backstories were fleshed out quite a bit. Both Copley and Dickson were massively wealthy. We did the PI thing as a hobby. We had a vast empire of physical and business holdings which included an oil company and a vast compound which consisted of skyscrapers, underground tunnels and even underground trains. We moonlighted as musicians, playing covers of popular classic rock tunes (mainly by The Who). As I recall, we were also pretty tight with Charlie and his Angels, Magnum PI and Simon & Simon. The whole lot of us would meet and hand out assignments on the elementary school playground.
Eventually, I convinced my parents to pull me out of the baptist school which was growing slightly racist in addition to being uptight. I switched schools, encountered a whole new group of friends but Copley & Dickson didn't die. They just slowed down. Eventually, though, they took a permanent leave of absence from the PI world.
But not too long ago, my mom handed me a dusty old briefcase, one of my fathers from long ago that I'd taken as my own in elementary school. I opened it up. In it I found the Zzwyyxs file, the Copley & Dickson business cards we'd had made (Copley's were silver, Dickson's were blue) and a fake PI badge.
Talk about taking a trip back.
What was your favorite imaginative game when you were a kid? What pop culture games did you play?
April 28, 2010
Yeah, I'm A Geek
I'm a geek. I'm totally unashamed. I rejoice in my geekdom. When I started playing with computers, it was on a cutting edge Apple II+. And a lot has changed since then. Never in my eldest dreams could I have imagined myself sitting here with this magical thing on my lap. This thing that browses the internet, this thing that gets all my email, this thing that plays music and shows me television shows and movies. Yes, I'm sitting here typing this very post from my very own, very new and very cool iPad.
Yes, I took some of your advice and ignored the advice some of you offered (sorry) and went out during lunch yesterday and got myself an iPad. Now I'm only a few hours in and am nowhere close to figuring out exactly what I want to do with this thing but I have to admit it's pretty damn cool. I've already loaded some apps and some books, already surfed around, already set up a shared music library and already configured my way too many email accounts. And so far, so good. Typing on it is pretty easy too.
I'll keep you guys in the loop and let you know how this whole thing works out. But I think that, at the end of the day, I'm going to think this was a pretty good investment. And a pretty cool one to boot.
Do you consider yourself to be a geek? What's your best gadget investment?
April 27, 2010
Why TV Makes Me Sad
I've talked about Hoarders. I've talked about the insufferable Jon and Kate and their little fame sweatshop. (I picture those kids hand-stitching fame and printing hundred dollar bills for their parents much like kids in third world countries piece together soccer balls and running shoes.) I've realized that TV makes me sad.
A couple of weekends ago, MTV was running a marathon of 16 and Pregnant. For some ungodly reason (and the only reason I can think of in retrospect was under duress but I don't recall any masked men with guns forcing us to watch) Beth and I watched a couple hours of it. Here's the premise. MTV finds kids - because they are really kids - who got knocked up and their cameras follow them around throughout their pregnancy. Drama ensues.
In one hour of the show, we were introduced to a West Virginia couple - she was 17 and he was somewhat older though I can't remember exactly how old - who hooked up shortly after meeting each other and, as a result of said hooking up got knocked up. They of course thought they had to be together forever as a result despite the fact that they quite obviously didn't even like each other all that much. We got to see them move from one double-wide to another, try and fail to buy paint for the house because they didn't have enough cash, try and fail to sell their pickup (turns out pickups have no room for a baby seat (who knew?), and, in following all this riveting action, we got to see them driving around quite a bit. And here we get to what bothered me most of all - neither of them ever wore their seatbelts. Not in any scene. I can think of no greater illustration of how ill-prepared these people were for parenthood. And also, what kind of a jackass producer doesn't say something?
Here are a bunch of knocked up kids who have quite literally no idea what they're in for. They're in this situation because they were either unlucky or irresponsible or both. And its a situation which will, without question, change their lives forever. All presented for our entertainment. Don't think that MTV put these kids on as a public service. They're not trying to show others the dangers of doing the horizontal mambo. It's entertainment, pure and simple. And as much as I am not prude in any sense, it's really kind of perverse.
MTV needs to change its name. It's no longer about music. It's about extremes being marketed to American teens. It's about showing stuck-up douchebags bitch about fame and money. It's about heterogeneous groups of fame-seeking post-adolescents artificially thrown together to see the sparks fly. It's about seeing spoiled brats enjoying obscene birthday parties. It's about seeing mildly retarded asshats stable their scrota to two-by-fours. If video killed the radio star then MTV is surely responsible for killing the video star.
Is TV and pop culture depressing you as much as it is me?
April 26, 2010
I had dinner with my cousin last night. And Max. It was an eye-opening meal.
For a very long time Gail worked for a major chemical company. She could never tell her kids exactly what she did because it usually involved a truck full of puppies, some tests, and a truck full of dead puppies. Eventually she quit and went back to school at age 40 to become a pediatric nurse.
Armed with her nursing degree, Gail started traveling to Haiti several years ago, supporting relief agencies tasked with helping the poor and destitute which sadly make up the majority of the country. And then the earthquake hit. And instead of abandoning the cause, worrying about the logistics of travel or the extremely high kidnapping rate for white women, she redoubled her efforts. She doesn't make a lot of money as a nurse, doesn't get a whole lot of vacation time. So she works overtime and accrues as much vacation time as she can so that she can travel to Haiti every four weeks. I asked her what she thought when she went back immediately after the earthquake.
It was bad. So much worse than I thought it would be and I was familiar with the country. When I got there the first time they were still pulling bodies out of buildings. Kids. There were crushed skulls and limbs everywhere. Kids. And those that were still alive were living in tents, no infrastructure because there had never really been one to begin with. Max's family of sixteen was living in a tent made for six people. I'm going back I ten days with fifty pounds of clothes - they only let you bring in fifty pounds - since his family is still wearing the same clothes they were wearing when the earthquake happened.
Max came to live with Gail and her family before the quake. He's 17, has only been speaking English for a year, has a fifth grade education, loves bicycles and was awesome with my children. I have to admit I felt a little silly, a little selfish and more than a little lucky in front of Max. I just got a promotion and will likely make more money this year than max's family has ever seen (that's not to brag about my income - I have the feeling most of us drawing salaries in so-called first world nations could say the same). I felt odd strapping my healthy children into their expensive carseats in my moderately priced SUV when Max and his family have little to no assurances of safety and far fewer possessions. And I have no choice but to be humbled in front of Gail. Not only is she a nurse doing wonderful things but she's a mom to three kids - two of whom are in college - while managing to help hundreds of kids half a world away despite living in the horribly economically depressed state of Michigan.
It's really hard to leave a family dinner like that and not feel like you could be doing more. For kids like Max.
At one point in the evening Max told the story of the three little pigs. He told it in Creole because he wanted us to hear how beautiful the language is. Even in a different language the wolf huffed and puffed and blew the house down. But that's just a story. The reality is that the world huffed and puffed and blew Haiti down. And we could all probably do a better job helping build the island back, not in sticks or tents but with bricks.
Haiku For Monday #316
I think I need a
weekend to recover from
my weekend. Coffee!
April 23, 2010
The Weeklies #129
The Weekly Beer. Magic Hat Lucky Kat (thanks Scott!)
The Weekly Read. Since I'm rapidly running out of John Sandford's Prey books, I've been trying to budget wisely. Two a year, no more. I finally got tired of eying Invisible Prey on my nightstand so I picked it up. I've got to admit, it wasn't my favorite Sandford novel. The plot seemed a bit contrived, a bit of a mess early on. It eventually picked up. But there's no doubt that the man can write and despite the slightly off plot, Sandford's dialog and characters remained wonderful. Even with a marginal book - that's still better than half the crap on bookstore shelves - I'm still a fan.
The Weekly Music. I'm slightly obsessed with the cast recording of Green Day's American Idiot.
The Weekly Movie. Last weekend - and wow, I really didn't get a chance to talk about last weekend all that much - Beth and I went out on a date. After a nice dinner, we hit the movie theater. There was nothing we were absolutely dying to see but hey, we were out. We ended up catching Alice In Wonderland in 3-D. There was pretty much no aspect of the movie that didn't suck. Instead of telling the story, the movie picked up 10 years after the original story had ended. Bad idea since it required a great deal of explanation and, in the process, totally muddied the plot. The acting, with the exception of the woman who played Alice, was terrible. And the patented Tim Burton visuals seemed half-assed and were made worse by the half-assed 3-D. And people, if 3-D is the wave of the future and all, it's got to start looking better than what we saw on Saturday night. I love the Alice In Wonderland story. I'm even a huge fan of the Disney animated flick. This, though...this just blew donkey scroat.
The Weekly Schadenfreude. Oh no. Kate got voted off Dancing With The Stars. Stars being a term used very loosely. Do you think that there's any chance she'll just fade into oblivion never to be heard from again? No, I don't think we're that lucky.
The Weekly Question. Should I buy an iPad? (Note, I reserve the right to do it anyway if I don't like your answer.)
April 22, 2010
The Dating Game
Every couple of weeks, Mia and I have a date. I'm pretty sure Mia and I have more dates than Beth and I do. We should probably do something about that. Mia and I invariably end up at The Chip Restaurant (Chipotle). Its one of the few places we can take Mia at which she will actually stuff herself. I like it because it's nice to see Mia eat for a change. Oh, and the burritos.
Over the last few months, dates with Mia have evolved to the point at which there is some expectation that the date itself will not be confined only to lunch. We'll usually hit someplace before or after. A few weeks ago, we went to the bookstore. Mia picked a few books and so did I. And, most recently, we went to Michael's in search of stickers.
This weekend, Mia and I will have another date. And I'm hard-pressed to come up with a place to go. This is complicated by the fact that I've realized our previous outings have been about consuming - we bought books, we bought stickers. I don't want Mia to think that a) my real name is Mr. Moneybags (because it isn't) and b) spending quality time with one another must always involve spending money or buying things.
So, um, help! Ideas?
April 21, 2010
...And It Worked
Damn you guys are awesome. I mean really and truly awesome. And apparently very effective though I'd like to think I had something to do with it as well. See, yesterday, I got a promotion. Not the kind of promotion where someone tacks on another Roman numeral to your title and pats you on the back. No, this is really a pretty big one. Like, seriously big. See, I just became one of the people Iooked up to, regarded as the ultimate authority, when I first started this job eight years ago. It's pretty amazing. All I can say is...
...and, of course, thank you for all the positive thoughts. I want to take you all out for a beer. What time's good for you?
April 20, 2010
I don't ask for much. Only your undying love, readership and comments when you feel moved to make them. But today I want something from you. Luck.
I promise that I'm not holding onto what I think is a lucky lottery ticket. And I don't have a test. I'm not going to get a potential brain tumor checked out. I need to perform no feats of strength or mental acuity. Beth and the kids are fine and healthy and happy though probably somewhat tired of having an uptight husband/dad.
I'm not ready to share what's going on so you'll just have to trust me. But send me some good luck whenever you happen to read this, okay?
April 19, 2010
Coincidence is a funny thing.
Twenty years ago, Scott and I hung out together almost obsessively. We listened to music, cruised the backroads of Northern Virginia illicitly smoking cigarettes, watched Iron Maiden concert videos and even formed a band - The Spookies (we were terrible but then that was the point).
Even longer ago than that, five year olds Beth and Julie became fast friends.
Ten years ago worlds collided when Scott and Julie met at a wedding. Our wedding. They've been together ever since. And we've all remained friends despite the fact that we haven't always lived in the same state...or the same country. Even more amazing is the fact that our kids have become friends.
Two generations of friends.
I read a book a few years ago, I Thought My Father Was God. Since it was a a collection of essays solicited through NPR's National Story Project, the quality of writing was a mixed bag but there was something striking about it. An overwhelming percentage of the stories involved coincidences, happy accidents. I thought it was strange, out of proportion. But happy accidents are everywhere.
What's your happiest accident?
Haiku For Monday #315
Exhausted. That's the
word that best describes us now.
The weekend? Awesome.
April 16, 2010
The Weekly Kick-Ass Innovation. If you happen to be a Netflix subscriber and are also armed with a Wii, did you know that you can get movies and stuff streamed directly to you? Early this week, Netflix began sending Wii users their discs. And you know what? It's a little piece of awesome right there in your living room.
The Weekly Time-Waster. Give I Don't Even Game a spin. Guaranteed timewaster.
The Weekly Read. The House Of Tomorrow by Peter Bognanni was a strange yet wonderful piece of fiction. It somehow combined a naive kid living in a geodesic dome, inventor Buckminister Fuller, and a heart-transplant patient hell-bent on starting a punk rock band. I didn't have high expectations going into it but I left very satisfied. Bognanni is a great writer and his off-kilter premise was wholly original and very compelling.
The Weekly Viral Video And Sure Sign That Someone Has Way Too Much Time On Their Hands. Check out the Great American Horn Machine.
The Weekly Schadenfreude. Oh Larry King. After five or so marriages, why do even bother? Yes, marriage number eight is over for Larry. Apparently he was banging his wife's sister. What I want to know is this - how does Larry keep scoring chicks? It's the suspenders isn't it?
The Weekly Question. If you were forced into plastic surgery, what would you have done?
April 15, 2010
I was driving home from a work happy hour last night, scanning my iPod for something to listen to since NPR was, frankly, boring. I ran across a few things and realized that, no matter how many times I transfer music, replenish my supply, load new music and delete stuff I'm no longer interested in, there are some songs and albums that are just always there. They're staples. Then - because I was stuck in traffic which was not moving at all - I started thinking about exactly what those albums were. For good or bad - embarrassing or cool - here's the top
ten fifteen I came up with:
- Genesis - The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway
- Genesis - Duke
- Spock's Beard - V
- Temple Of The Dog - Temple Of The Dog
- Stone Temple Pilots - Purple
- Pearl Jam - Ten
- Joe Satriani - The Extremist
- Porcupine Tree - In Absentia
- Peter Gabriel - So
- Pink Floyd - Wish You Were Here
- Robert Plant - Dreamland
- Satchel - Family
- The Fire Theft - The Fire Theft
- Transatlantic - Bridge Across Forever
- Aimee Mann - Lost In Space
It's not that they're the best albums I own (though some of them are). It's that they're just so damn interesting to listen to and, no matter how many times I hear them, they still have something to offer on each listen.
What are your top album staples that you've always got to have close at hand?
April 14, 2010
I have just received perhaps the biggest and most ominous sign that I am both a full-fledged adult and have a full-fledged adult job. Next month I'm supposed to attend a business-meeting-slash-golf-game. This terrifies me. Because this is what I know about golf:
1. The point of the game is to hit a little white ball across what looks like a gigantic well-manicured lawn in a mad attempt to get said ball into a tiny hole within a certain predetermined number of attempts.
2. Par is the number of attempts you get.
3. Hooks and sandtraps are as bad as they intuitively sound. One must avoid these.
4. Grown men seem to lose all sense of fashion when dressing for golf games.
5. Driving around in golf carts is kinda fun.
6. The only thing more boring than watching golf is watching someone watch golf.
7. Tiger Woods banged a lot of women, most of whom were hookers or strippers or porn stars.
And that is the extent of my golf knowledge. You see why I might be in trouble.
I need help and opinions.
1. Your opinion: golf - silly game or 18 holes of outdoor party?
2. Do I need to run out and buy a pair of silly pants?
3. What the hell do I need to know about golf?
4. The fact that I am about to attend a golf-focused business function makes me irreparably uncool, doesn't it?
5. I'm fucked aren't I?
April 13, 2010
PC or Mac?
Are you a Mac or PC person? Here's the reason I ask.
My very first computer was an Apple II+. It was intended as a Christmas present but I discovered it early - probably around November - in a guest room closet. So my dad hooked it up early. I basked in the glow of the green monochrome display and leaned how to do two things very early on - use a word processor and play games. The work processor - the bare-bones AppleWriter - was pathetic by modern standards. It was only okay then. If I recall correctly, the only real way to see what you'd typed up and formatted was to print the document out on a cutting-edge dot-matrix printer. The games were just about as primitive but still a good deal smarter than the ones I was used to on my Atari 2600. I played endless rounds of Gorgon but I was most intrigued by the Infocom text adventure games. I spent hours on those things.
After the Apple II+ died, we got a Mac. After that, another. Eventually I went off to college with a Mac notebook which eventually died and was replaced by a PC. And I've never looked back.
I bought a laptop shortly after Owen was born. And it's starting to remind me of my VW that I talked about yesterday. The DVD/CDR drive no longer works. The keyboard is falling apart (this post has, in fact, been very difficult to type since neither the space bar nor the M are working quite as reliably as I'd like). It's having some difficulty findings the network storage devices I keep all my photos and music on. And it's slow - it's Windows Vista heart just can't seem to keep up with its processing brains. It's frustrating since I'm an IT guy and I know how to keep computers running. Since my primary uses all revolve around music and photography and site development, I keep coming back to Macs.
So I ask again - are you a PC or a Mac person?
April 12, 2010
The Minivan Dilemma
Several facts in evidence before we begin:
1. Before we bought our house a couple years ago, we paid off our cars. The significance? We have no car payments.
2. My wife - who is lovely - is stubborn.
3. My credibility with money must always be questioned. Beth's should not be.
My car is becoming quirky. In the car-owning world quirky is a nice way of saying unreliable. Like all Volkswagens, it's plagued with electronic problems. In my Jetta, these have manifested themselves in my stereo. For whatever reason, the stereo often stops working and can only be restarted after going over a particularly bad bump. Or kicking the crap out of the center console. If you ever see a guy driving a Jetta around town swerving radically, that's me. I'm not drunk, I'm just trying to get my stereo working again. The other issue? The Volkswagen was kind of a Hitler thing and, while I don't really begrudge anyone else driving a VW, that fact bugs me just a teesy bit.
So there's that.
There's also the fact that my wife drives a smaller-style SUV. It's prefect for two kids but it presupposes the fact that your children will be antisocial and never have friends. For, if they did, there would never be anywhere for them to ride. Our car's full at four. If anyone else wants to hitch a ride, they're getting strapped to the roof.
Now, I realize this is un-hip and un-cool to just about the greatest degree possible but I want a minivan. I want to ditch my unreliable third-reichmobile, swap cars with Beth and buy her a minivan.
Christ, I can't believe I typed that. I should be forced to give up my guitars, my Led Zeppelin and Coldplay albums, my membership card in the Cool Guys Club and, quite possibly, my penis.
Many of her points are valid. Minivans aren't awesome or trendy or hip. They're not cheap either. And the fact that we don't have any car payments as it is just makes the prospect seem that much worse. But I'd argue that the end justifies the means. Even if the end means that my seventeen year old self would laugh mercilessly at my 37 year-old self.
So, I'm not asking you to pick sides, but, really...who's right?
(Okay, yeah, I am asking you to pick sides.)
Haiku For Monday #314
Why is it that kids
get a spring break and adults
don't. Not fair dammit.
April 9, 2010
The Weeklies #127
The Weekly Terrible Fast Food Idea. KFC is trying to kill you. They just introduced a new burger-like thing they call it the Double Down. It's filled with cheese, bacon and mayo and, instead of bread, two big slabs of fried chicken.
The Weekly Product Death. Hurry! Hurry! There are only 2,200 unsold Hummers left in the world. That's right - GM gave up the Hummer brand and, to date, no one's bought the line. And, uh, honestly is that supposed to be a bad thing?
The Weekly Time Waster. Be a ninja with Shuriken Showdown.
The Weekly Read. I'll admit to having a tiny crush on Lisa Lutz. Her novels about the dysfunctional, private-investigating Spellman family are all kinds of awesome. Revenge of the Spellmans is certainly no exception. As a matter of fact, the only criticism of the book I can possible come up with is that it's so funny and so fast-paced that it was over way too soon. Reading this is like having your funniest, most sarcastic best friend tell you a story.
The Weekly Photo.
The Weekly Schadenfreude. Our throwback freakshow governor just declared this month Confederate History Month. Of course, he made no mention of slavery in doing so. I'm all for commemorating history and educating people on the significant events that have unfolded in our country. But can't we just call it Civil War Remembrance Month and be done with it?
The Weekly Question from Owen. Owen tinkle potty! (Editors Note: I realize that's not a question but he's two.)
My Weekly Question. What's your favorite song right now?
April 8, 2010
Crap On My Phone (Metaphorically Speaking)
Either most of you are on spring break (in which case I'm jealous) or I am boring the shit out of you (in which case I'm sorry but, well, deal with it). I do not believe this post will do anything improve the week for those of you who are bored. I apologize in advance. But the simple fact is, I often break out my phone and snap a picture thinking, in the back of my mind, "I should really show this to the internetwebosphere." And then I forget, because, well, because my memory is absolutely terrible. So here's the roundup of the latest I meant to show the internet pictures.
Owen got a haircut earlier in the day. Apparently he only cried for a few minutes. Mia decided it was necessary to repeat the process later that evening so she got a towel, armed Owen with Elmo, and grabbed a pan. What she was going to do with the pan was a little unclear but I got a little worried when, as she was standing over him with it she said, "okay, now its time to cry."
This is Owen looking cute and vaguely British.
This is Owen brushing his teeth and looking vaguely girly.
This is Owen eating tofu with chopsticks. No, really. You didn't imagine any part of that sentence. Owen was eating tofu. With chopsticks.
Oddly enough this is where I ate lunch the other day. Yeah, it's a truck but it's a truck with a kitchen. One dude works the register up front (which is a gigantic Mac) while another dude cooks up quite a spread in back. Adding to the intrigue is the fact that you never know where they're going to be one day to the next. They Tweet their location every morning. Amazingly, the food was awesome.
Best. Action. Figure. Ever.
April 7, 2010
This, from Reuters:
In the sprawling military base at Kandahar, the fast food outlets facing the axe include Burger King, Pizza Hut, and the U.S. chain restaurant T.G.I. Friday's that features a bar with alcohol-free margaritas and other drinks -- all set along the bustling "Boardwalk" area of the base.
On any given day, the giant square-shaped walkway features the surreal sight of soldiers sipping gourmet coffee and eating chocolate pastries with guns slung across their shoulders, while Canadians play ice hockey at a nearby rink and fighter jets thunder overhead.
The U.S. military says its beef with the burger joints is that they take up valuable resources like water, power, flight and convoy space and that cutting back on non-essentials is key to running an efficient military operation.
"This is a war zone -- not an amusement park," Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Hall wrote in a blog earlier this year.
"Supplying nonessential luxuries to big bases like Bagram and Kandahar makes it harder to get essential items to combat outposts and forward operating bases, where troops who are in the fight each day need resupply with ammunition, food and water."
When I first heard this story, I had conflicting thoughts and reactions. And then I didn't.
I understand the logic but, since I've never been in the military, I can't claim to understand what it's like to be deployed. My liberal pro gun-control ass has been properly FBI-trained to shoot a wide variety of handguns. But I can't imagine what it's like to shoot at a person. I can't imagine what it's like to be dropped in the middle of the desert with my family thousands of miles away to get shot at. I can't imagine what it's like to have the very real possibility of getting blown up by a roadside bomb each and every day. I think I know enough to understand that it's a tough, high-stress job.
The time of debating whether or not we should be there is over. We're there. It's time to debate how we take care of our troops. And shouldn't they be entitled to a burger? To have a drink at at TGIFridays? It seems like - literally - the least they're entitled to. Hell, they should be given caviar, champagne and handjobs (and, for the ladies, whatever the corresponding, appropriate sexual act may be). Yes, water and supplies and the myriad of other logistics and supply chain considerations are vital and should in no way be interrupted. But we should be able to spot the troops a burger.
There's no possible way they wake up in the morning, look at the desert sprawling in front of them and, for any length of time, forget the fact that they're not in an amusement park.
Am I off base? Which side of the argument do you come down on?
April 6, 2010
I do not realistically believe we should keep our kids from information unless it's going to be somehow detrimental or just too much. There are some things some kids can't understand but I don't think we give most kids enough credit and trust them with the information they can handle. I also think we tend to we introduce our own bias when talking about a subject and will naturally shy away from topics we're not comfortable with or that make us, as adults, feel embarrassed. This is, perhaps, why Mia, Beth and I had elaborate conversations about the meaning and examples of rhetorical questions this weekend. We've talked with Mia about politics, homosexuality and gay marriage, vegetarianism and free speech not because we wanted her to think like we do or pop some childhood bubble but because she asked.
I do understand that there's a point at which an almost-five year old just can't comprehend. I'm not going to talk about serial killers or the death penalty or even why Michael Jordan's return to basketball in DC was a tragic misstep in an otherwise brilliant career. She won't get those things. I default to my Poltergeist Rule. When I was 10 my mom took me to see Poltergeist. I was way too young, something that we both realized a half hour into the movie but neither of us were willing to admit. I've never really recovered. I love scary movies now but will never again watch that film. And I'm a little leery of anything starring Craig T. Nelson. Even Coach.
We have a small pond in our backyard. Right around this time of year it starts to become it's own fascinating little ecosystem. The fish that hibernated under a layer of ice all winter swim to the top and are joined by newly hatched fish. The lillypads bloom. Other eggs turn into tadpoles which turn into frogs. It's fascinating to me so I can only imagine how cool it is for the kids. Now, we have a lot of fucking frogs. I don't mean that in a damn, we sure have a hell of a lot of frogs in the pond sense. I mean we have a lot of frogs and they all appear to be fucking. And those fuckers (literal and metaphorical meanings intended) are loud when they're trying to get laid. On Saturday, Mia joined me as I watched the live amphibian sex show.
Mia: Look at all of the frogs swimming around and jumping!
Me: Pretty cool now that the frogs are back, isn't it?
Mia: Yes! And their throats get all puffy and they make that loud noise. Why do they do that?
Me: They're just talking to each other.
[The truth? It's the frog equivalent of saying what's a nice frog like you doing in a pond like this?]
Mia: Oooh, and look! They're playing tag and jumping on each other's backs.
[They were doing more than just playing tag. They were fucking. Furiously, orgy-like.]
Me: Yeah. Funny.
Mia: What are they doing that for?
Me: They're just playing.
[I lied. I worried about having The Conversation and played it safe. Then I called bullshit on myself.]
Me: Sweetheart, they're not just playing tag. They're actually making frog babies.
Mia: Really? How?
Me: The girl frog has eggs which she lets out of her body. The boy frog on top of her has a special job because he's responsible for fertilizing them. And the eggs have to be fertilized for them to turn into tadpoles one day.
Mia: Oh. That's cool. Wanna go play Little Mermaid? You can be Ursula?
Me: Sure, Bean.
Here, for your consideration, is frog porn. You can't really see 'em, but they sure are loud.
I'm sure Mia and I will have more awkward conversations but I'm proud to have a kid who is so curious about the world that it forces me to learn more about it, and share more about it, myself.
What truths did you learn too early? Too late?
April 5, 2010
You know, I had a lot that I was going to say about Easter. About the multiple (3!) egg hunts, the family dinners, the plans for my Friday off that inevitably went awry because Mia had a massive allergy attack and looked like she'd been hit with a stalk of ragweed. But then I realize that Easter brings out the snazzy dresser in all of us. So I thought I'd introduce you to my beautiful family instead.
On Friday we were scheduled to go to Monkeytown and have lunch with the grandfathers. They both work downtown and the kids were dying to see their offices...and them. Unfortunately, Mia got hit with allergies. Bad. She was a sad sight to see. I'd planned to take the day off so instead of heading into Monkeytown, I took her to the doctor. He and I came to the conclusion that our primary course of action was to keep her out of the hospital. Armed with a couple of extra prescriptions, we left and headed to the carwash which Mia dearly loves for no explicable reason. After my car was clean, we went to Michael's which is one of Mia's favorite places. We had a goal in mind - clear string to hang yet more stuff from Mia's bedroom ceiling - but wandered the aisles looking at all the cool stuff. Or, rather, she looked and I told her the many reasons why we didn't need whatever cool thing she'd found. It was a little like a craft intervention. The she and I went to The Chip Restaurant (what the rest of the world calls Chipotle) and she devoured two quesadillas and a metric ton of chips. The girls had an outing planned for the afternoon so Owen and I hung out for a while. By the end of the day, Mia was wiped up. So were the rest of us.
Despite the sneezing and coughing and overall drama that comes with Mia being sick, the weekend was a fantastic one. We attended a massive egg hunt on Saturday morning after which I tackled the yard. On Sunday, we staged yet another egg hunt in our own yard then headed to the in-laws for a family-wide Easter dinner. And might I say, Owen certainly looked dapper.
All-in-all, the weekend was a massive success and a wonderful first taste of spring. So, what were you up to this weekend?
Haiku For Monday #313
Is it wrong that I
have a strong urge to dunk a
peep in strong coffee?
April 2, 2010
The Weeklies #126
The Weekly Beer. Smuttynose Pale Ale.
The Weekly Technological Development. The iPad. It hits stores tomorrow. Panic shall ensue.
The Weekly Read. I think yesterday's discussion of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo was quite sufficient, don't you?
The Weekly Music. I'm sure I've talked about him before but Robyn Hitchcock is truly a quirky, eccentric musical genius. He's often said that whenever he records an album with a band, it turns into a Beatles album. And it's true. But that's not at all a bad thing. Goodnight Oslo is a perfect example. Recorded with his band The Venus 3 (consisting of REM members), the album is so much fun to listen to that it is almost instantly addictive. And of course Hitchcock's odd delivery and eccentric lyrics only add to the fun.
The Weekly Time Waster. Jetpack Jackass.
The Weekly Schadenfreude. Why is it that when anyone gets busted for doing anything deviant, they go to rehab. Jesse James is the latest. He banged so many people whilst married, he went into rehab for sex addiction. I'm not defending him. He's a jackass. But can't someone have no moral compass and a love of fucking? Must we develop a label and diagnosis for everything?
The Weekly Question From Mia. If you had to get turned into an animal by magic, what animal would you want to be?
April 1, 2010
Eating My Words
I'm afraid that it's time again for me to eat my words. Every once in a while I say something I have to take back, put a stake in the ground I have to reclaim, draw a line in the sand I have to smooth over with my shoe. This is one of those times.
I am something of a literary lemming. I just finished reading The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. I picked it up primarily because the book seems to be everywhere - everyone is talking about it, everyone is reading it and everyone is praising it. No, if everyone jumped off a bridge, I wouldn't follow them but I'm more curious about books than I am plummeting to my death. What I got was 500 pages of awesome. It was one of the finest crafted, most compelling mysteries I've read. It was almost instantly enveloping. It sucked me in with the first few paragraphs and never really let go.
Now, a while ago, I ranted about books, particularly e-books and how I'd never become comfortable with them and never saw myself abandoning the physical book. It was surprising to me, therefore, that I read at least 65% of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo on my iPhone Kindle app. See, Owen was sick. Then I was sick. And I we were spending a lot of time being sick together which really involved him holding on to me all night long while I tried, and failed, to sleep myself. I scored the book itself cheap and then noticed, one night surfing my iPhone for something to do while Owen snored on my chest, that the Kindle version was darn cheap too. I bought it and read. I shifted back and forth between formats the whole time but found that I was using the iPhone more than the physical book.
I'm not going to pretend that an iPhone is the perfect medium for a book. But it was convenient and hand and I can definitely see why this whole e-book thing is catching on. And that sentence just made me sound 90, didn't it?
The bottom line - The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo? One damn fine book. E-books? Kinda handy. Now, pass the salt. The consonants are okay but the vowels have no flavor at all.
On a related note, Apple's iPad drops on Saturday. Is it a must-buy for you? Are you merely curious? Or could you care less?