May 31, 2010

Memorial Day

I was reading article the other day about some soldier stationed somewhere far afield. I don't have any recollection of the article, where I read it or it's purpose. But I do remember thinking that there were many such soldiers, so very far afield. As well as many who had made the ultimate sacrifice and wouldn't be coming home at all.

My great uncle with whom I spent Saturday evening is part of what's referred to as the Greatest Generation. It's a well-deserved label though I often think it does a disservice to the generations who have fought for our country both before and after. My uncle displays one of the chief traits of the Greatest Generation - a unique and unflappable stoicism.

About flying over the European theater and getting shot at, my uncle just states we did what we had to do. End of story. Full stop. There was no question. It's what they had to do.

Wars and conflicts these days seem to be less binary, less black and white. What we have to do isn't always as clear or well-defined. But while we can bicker over which conflicts are necessary and which aren't, the people that protect and defend us are always worth of our support.

Today is Memorial Day. Its time to remember. And thank.

Posted by Chris at 7:48 AM | Comments (2)

Haiku For Monday #320

My plan for today?
Coffee, kids, sunscreen and pool.
Monday, kiss my ass.

Posted by Chris at 7:47 AM | Comments (1)

May 28, 2010

The Weeklies #134

The Weekly Phenomenon. Lost is over. I'll admit, I'm bummed. Sure, it didn't answer all the questions but dammit the finale was still good. It was a show about faith, hope, love and fate and that's, ultimately, what the last two hours were all about.

The Weekly Milestone. Mia's last day of preschool - EVER - is today. How in the hell did that happen?

The Weekly Read. Fresh off the beach, I was looking for a nice, mindless beach book. I picked up James Patterson's Lifeguard. You know, it didn't suck. It actually wasn't bad at all. Okay, it wasn't fine literature but it was fast-paced entertainment which, frankly, was what I was paying it for.

The Weekly Music. I always liked the concept of the Stone Temple Pilots more than I liked their music. Their debut album was strong however it was their second that blew me out of the water. I still rank it as one of the true great alternative albums of the 90s. But after that, STP started sucking. In a big way. Their third album was garbage and, up until they disbanded, they never really recovered. I can't say I was very hopeful when they reformed. After all, the reformation came out of the ashes of two very good bands - Velvet Revolver (though it's apparently not dead yet) and Army of Anyone. I'm surprised and happy to reveal that their latest, Stone Temple Pilots, is freakishly good. It's chock-full of goodness and more hooks than you can imagine. It's one of those albums you wish you knew all the words to immediately so you could sing along. It's not nearly as heavy as they can get but it's damn good to listen to.

The Weekly Schadenfreude. Oh, Ann Curry. You flub so much on TV who'd have thought you'd have anything left to flub offTV. I underestimated you. According to US News & World Report:

You have to feel for Ann Curry. The Today show anchor made a serious flub in her commencement speech at Wheaton College in Norton, Mass., this past weekend. Curry ran through some names of Wheaton's most famous alumni during one part of her speech. The problem? She named a few grads from the Wheaton College in Illinois. Oops.

The Weekly Question. On Wednesday I revealed via Facebook that I'd forgotten to wear underwear (see what you miss if you don't catch me on Facebook?). How about you? Going commando - something you do never, often or, hey, what's underwear?

Posted by Chris at 7:46 AM | Comments (14)

May 27, 2010

To-Do or Not To-Do

I'm sitting here looking at a list of thirteen things I have to do today. Work things. I know for sure that I'm missing five or six but can't for the life of me remember exactly what they are. I'll probably think of them as I go through my 40 flagged for followup email messages in a little while. This week is really the first time I've felt that promotion I got a last month. I'm looking for ways to clone myself.

I've never been very good at maintaining to-do lists. I have a couple iPhone applications designed to help but they don't. Same with my computer. And plain old low-tech pencil and paper. Whenever I start a to-do list, I fail miserably. My enthusiasm lasts for a day or so but fades when I realize that the to-do list won't magically update itself or add to itself by the ideas jumping out of my mind. In addition to jetpacks and flying cars I want mind-controlled to-do lists.

All this explains my desk. It's covered in square yellow post-it notes, to-dos of-the-day scrawled across them. And at some point I will try to go back, to mark things off, and I will be utterly unable to decipher my own writing. Clearly this approach isn't working.

How do you accomplish what you need to accomplish and remember the things you can't afford to forget? Are you a to-do list person?

Posted by Chris at 6:30 AM | Comments (22)

May 26, 2010

Two Conversations (Or, Vaginas Win)

CONVERSATION ONE

Me:Yay for penises.
Me and Owen: Yay!
Beth: Yay for vaginas!
Beth and Mia: Yay!
Mia: Vaginas win!
Me and Beth: Vaginas always win.

It's true. They do.

CONVERSATION TWO

Me: Hey. Question. Why did you let a lobotomized one-armed monkey on crack cut Owen's hair?
Beth: ...
Me: What's wrong?
Beth: ...
Me: Oh shit. Did you cut Owen's hair yourself?
Beth: Um, yes.
Me: Oh shit. Again. I'm sorry.
Beth: Why, do you think I did a bad job?
Me: Well...
Beth: Well?
Me: Maybe that's the style these days?
Beth: I'm totally fucking with you. Of course I didn't do it?
Me: Okay, then the question stands. Why did you let a lobotomized one-armed monkey on crack cut Owen's hair?
Beth: It's not that bad, is it?
Me: I would have punched that monkey in the face when it was done.

I'm a little sensitive about bad haircuts. The last really bad haircut I had was terrifyingly horrible. It left a bald spot. And, of course, it just so happened to have been done the day before I wrenched my neck and was unable to straighten my head. Which just so happened to have been two days before I started school in a brand new high school, having just moved from Texas, where I knew absolutely no one. That moment in time - amid stares and muted conversations all wondering who the new special kid was - was, perhaps, the most socially horrifying ever.

You've had some bad social moments, right? Care to share?

Posted by Chris at 7:03 AM | Comments (19)

May 25, 2010

BP, As In Big Problem

Can I just take a minute to talk about the oil spill?

I grew up in Houston, arguably the most influential oil town in the US. A couple of times each summer, my family would load up the car and head to Bolivar Peninsula, a sandy stretch of beach just off Galveston. In doing so, we'd find ourselves driving through Texas City. If you don't know, Texas City is where 90% of the refineries are in Texas. When we started to see the refineries - easy since it looked like some really ugly sci-fi mothership had landed - we'd roll up the windows if they were open, turn off the air conditioning if it was on, and close all the vents. Because Texas City was horrendous to drive through. And it was immediately obvious to anyone driving through that the process of harvesting and refining fossil fuels was treacherous, dirty and fucking up the planet.

When the Exxon Valdez ran aground in '89, I'd just gotten my driver's license. Among the many rules my parents laid down - wear your seatbelt, be home by midnight, don't drink and drive - was don't buy your gas from Exxon. So I didn't. And I recall my superior, idealistic 16 year-old self shooting dirty looks at the folks pulling out of the local Exxon stations. But, of course, that kind of boycott - which was, actually, fairly popular back in '89 - did little to impact Exxon or send any kind of message. Why? Exxon and all the other oil companies have a captive audience.

What this all comes down to are the many questions I have rolling around in my brain to which I have no obvious answer. Why, with all the technology we possess, can we be able to drill a well deep into the earth but be absolutely unable to plug is? Why aren't better safeguards in place? Why would we ever think it a good idea to allow the oil companies to police themselves? Would we give Whitney Houston a pile of crack and a pipe and say we expect you not to smoke this but if you do, please drive yourself to rehab immediately and get yourself clean?

We can't abandon fossil fuels entirely. That's whack (thanks Whitney) and we're not anywhere near ready. We're years, even decades, away from finding reliable cost-effective solutions. But I don't think it's a stretch to ask the people who are tasked with finding fossil fuels to please not dramatically fuck up the earth while doing so, to be careful, to stop being a profit-hungry group of asshats.

I ask you -

- What will it take to find some alternatives to fossil fuels?
- What do we do in the short term to let BP and others know this is unacceptable?

Posted by Chris at 6:00 AM | Comments (17)

May 24, 2010

Threat Level: Red

A simple fact of life and often overlooked truth: when you get puked on on a Friday night it's very difficult to tell exactly how the weekend's going to go. It's a dubious start at best.

On Friday night as I was quietly reading to Mia, she threw up. On me. And the repeated the process moments later. Reading time was over. We braced ourselves for the inevitable follow-up but it never really came. Mia slept through the night and, in turn, so did we, then managed to wake up at the uncharacteristic and slightly annoying hour of 5:00 AM so I could - her words - listen to the chorus of birds. The birds did sound pretty and all but they weren't quite worth rolling out of bed in the darkness for. But, you know, still better than getting ralphed on.

We spent the rest of the weekend cautious, afraid to consider the threat neutralized for fear of jinxing ourselves. On the Parental Scale of Domestic Terror an epidemic of puking elevates the threat level to red, if not beyond.

On Saturday it rained. On Sunday it rained some more. And Mia again thought as though she felt icky. Beth felt the same. So we took it easy. Beth napped, the kids and I watched movies (can I say again how awesome Netflix streamed via Wii is?) that Beth would hate, namely Scooby Doo. By afternoon, when the sun came out, we were all ready to get outside and play. We were all equally eager to get in bed as the day ended. Which is why, no, we didn't catch the last episode of Lost. So shhhhhhh!

Now I'm heading to work, praying that no one else gets hit, that we can lower the terror alert without threat of a puking insurgency. I'm not ready to stand on top of my garage and declare Mission Accomplished.

And your weekends? How were they?

Posted by Chris at 6:40 AM | Comments (15)

Haiku For Monday #319

Some days I wish I
was in school and could take the
summer off. No dice.

Posted by Chris at 6:39 AM | Comments (2)

May 21, 2010

The Weeklies #133

The Weekly Best Inventions Ever. DVD players. For the car. My kids don't watch a lot of TV but we break our own rules when it comes to the car. And during our drive to and from the Outer Banks? We broke that rule a lot.

The Weekly Read. A friend hipped me to the Shit My Dad Says Twitter feed. After laughing my ass off, I grew skeptical. I figured it was just a guy with some good one liners, not a real dude in his late 20s who moved back in with his no-nonsense, foul-mouthed dad. Then the book came out. Look, the book is obviously an attempt to cash in on the success of the site, as well as the hype around the William Shatner-starring TV series currently in development. And books like that usually suck. This one didn't. Sure, it's a quick read and uses the now-infamous Twitter feeds as its centerpiece but it is funny and the portrait that emerges of the shit-saying dad is a pretty decent one.

The Weekly Astonishing Fact. Speaking of William Shatner, do you have any clue how much he's made out of being the spokesman for Priceline? During his 10-year tenure, he's earned a whopping $600 million. Yes. You read that right. See, instead of cash, he took stock. And despite the waning economy, Priceline has remained a highly valued favorite.

The Weekly Music. Rock and Roll. Owen loves Rock and Roll. He requests it whenever we're in the car. His jammies with guitars on them? Rock and Roll Jammies. He's even got the devil horns move down...mostly. Ronnie James Dio, may he rest in peace, would be proud.

The Weekly Thing I Couldn't Care Less About. John Travolta announced they're having another kid. Whoop-de-fucking-doo. Am I supposed to care when famous people get knocked up? Now, if Karl Rove and Rush Limbaugh transcended the boundaries of modern medicine and had a kid together, I'd want to know because, well, kill it with fire! Otherwise, I could give a shit.

The Weekly Schadenfreude. Courtney Love just admitted to having a fling with supermodel Kate Moss. The question is, who else has Courtney loved? Or, perhaps a better question is who hasn't she?

The Weekly Question. What's the last book you read? Would you recommend it?

Posted by Chris at 7:00 AM | Comments (30)

May 20, 2010

The Return

If you stopped by on Monday, you might have figured out where I've been the last couple of days. Beth and I packed up the kids, a vast percentage of their stuff, and headed to the beach for a family vacation with my parents and some other family and friends. If you got the clues correctly, you know we went to the Outer Banks (far-flung financial institutions), between the towns of Duck (decoy) and Corolla (Toyota).

Here's a quick run-down of the trip, by the numbers.

Sunny days: 1.5
Cloudy, rainy days: 3
Vicious thunderstorms: 1
Cars left out in vicious thunderstorms: 1
Windows left down in said thunderstorm: 1
Inches of rain in car after vicious thunderstorm: 2
Backs burned: 1
Movies watched: 1
Beers consumed: 10
Crabcakes eaten: 2
iPad demonstrations given to family: 5
iPads I think I sold for Apple: 3 (Steve Jobs, I expect a reacharound)
Hours spent in car: 14
Hours spent on beach: 10
DVD players bought for the car ride: 2
Times we praised the saint who invented portable DVD players: 65 million
Kids who were absolute saints in the car: 2
Games of Chutes & Ladders and Candyland played: 500 minimum
Crossword puzzles completed: 5
Work emails accumulated: 300
Times Owen requested Daddy, let's listen to rock and roll!: 20

There you have it. It was a short trip, more like a long vacation, but despite the abundance or rain, it was damn near perfect.

Anyhoo, I missed you guys. What's up? What did I miss?

Posted by Chris at 6:22 AM | Comments (13)

May 17, 2010

Away

Hi. I'm sorry but I'm unable to come to the blog right now. I took a vacation. Just to make things interesting, I'll throw out a coulple of clues as to where I am. If you come up with the answer, I'll let you in on that mix I offered up a few weeks ago. Here you go:

- far-flung financial institutions
- decoy
- toyota

There you have it. I'll be off doing whatever it is I'm expected to do wherever I am. And I'll get back to you on the winner.

Good luck.

Chris

P.S. Rest in peace Ronnie James Dio. Raise the devil horns to half-mast.

Posted by Chris at 7:13 AM | Comments (27)

May 14, 2010

The Weeklies #132

The Weekly Lost Realization. We're just going to end up with as many questions as we started with, aren't we?

The Weekly Mind Blowing Illusion. Check this out. Seriously. It'll blow your mind.

The Weekly Read. I finished Sam Lipsyte's The Ask last night. It was strange, slightly absurd, manic and entirely fantastic. What most impressed me was Lipsyte's writing. I think I have a pretty good vocabulary but I had to use my handy iPad's dictionary more than once. And I also found myself using the iPad to highlight passages of the novel that just blew me away. Lipsyte is one of those guys who can write extraordinarily and not make the average reader feel stupid in the process.

The Weekly Music. If you were alive during or have any fondness for the 80s, you remember the band Asia. They were a supergroup featuring guys from prog bands such as King Crimson, Yes, and Emerson Lake & Palmer. They turned in two hugely successful bland arena-rock albums before guitarist Steve Howe left. Since then that time there have been as many line-up changes as there have been funky Lady Ga-Ga outfits. A couple years back, though, the original members got back together and recorded an exceedingly dull album, Phoenix (yeah, the rise-from-the-ashes cliche...how original). And now they've done it again with Omega. Why do I keep buying this stuff? Because I love the members' former bands. But when they all get together, it's a snoozefest.

The Weekly Schadenfreude. Apparently, after 20 seasons, NBC has pulled the plug on Law & Order. SVU is safe but the original series is dead. Dude, that just ain't right.

The Weekly Question. Who doesn't have a sex tape? They seem to be popping up everywhere. Do you?

Posted by Chris at 7:02 AM | Comments (18)

May 13, 2010

High Expectations

After yesterday's post, I got a note from my friend Ann. I started to type out an answer then I thought better of it and realized it was something I wanted to talk to you about. She said (and I hope she doesn't mind me sharing this here):

I wonder though how you feel about the pressure on little kids in general. Pre-school almost before they can toddle, dads pushing their boys to be the next all-star when they can hardly hold a bat or when they'd much rather be reading a book. Over scheduling their little lives so they have no time to figure out who they are. We all want the best for our kids and maybe that's the only way to get it but I think we went off track at some point.

Yes.

Oh, you were hoping for more of an opinion. Fine, be that way.

Our preschool just dropped their minimum age and opened up a class which Owen will be attending next year. Beth and I thought long and hard about it. Is he too young? Will he benefit from it? We both agreed that he was ready to go. He'll love it. He watches his sister go to school every day and tries to sneak into the building with her whenever he gets a chance. But don't think I'm not worried about putting too much pressure too soon. Mia starts kindergarten next fall. Full day kindergarten. That's eight solid hours of school. It seems like a lot.

Kids are learning all kinds of things that I never knew at that age. Mia's spelling and reading and doing math. She even convinced me to download a math iPad app which I did and she promptly rocked.

I have a job that I like, that is very satisfying, and that pays the bills. Yet I've often thought we'd be a whole lot more productive if we all worked just a little less, if we adopted some kindergarten practices. Would you feel better - and work better - if you got snacktime in the morning and maybe a nap after lunch? And I know I'd be in better shape physically and mentally if I could go out and play in the early afternoon. But instead of taking a page out of elementary school and trying to force ourselves to strike a better balance between work and life, we're pushing the concepts of work on our kids at earlier ages.

Are people getting smarter? Is our capacity for more growing? Or are the expectations on our children growing disproportionately?

Posted by Chris at 7:10 AM | Comments (28)

May 12, 2010

Ordinary Girls

Dammit, you'd think I'd learn to stay the hell away from television, wouldn't you? In a seemingly never-ending saga of Shit That Makes Me Sad And Angry On TV, I managed to spend an hour with Toddlers and Tiaras over the weekend. It was about 59 minutes and 59 seconds too long. By the end of an hour, I was sad, confused and actually pretty livid.

Look, I know that blanket generalizations are wrong and perpetuating stereotypes is something I shouldn't do but I can't help but paint with a pretty broad brush here. I'm convinced that the moms on this show - and pageant moms like this in general - are useless, damaged women forcing their children into situations so that they, the mothers, may gather self-esteem and senses of accomplishment. They're puppetmasters completely willing to emotionally scar their children in the process. At one point I became so incensed while watching that I actually asked Beth for permission to drop the C-bomb, then I did, shouting it at the television after which I felt guilty that I'd allowed my inner-monologue to escape. Not that it wasn't absolutely correct. I see no way - absolutely none - in which these women and the men in their lives (they're no less blameless) aren't subjecting their daughters to some form of abuse.

This is not how little girls live or are treated in an ordinary world.

In an ordinary world, five year old girls don't spend hours in beauty salons. They don't own $1,000 dresses. They don't wear hair extensions and don't get spray-on tans. They don't bat fake eyelashes, suggestively wiggle their hips or slap their own bottoms in front of audiences. They don't participate in bikini contests. They don't work with pageant coaches four hours a day or diet or starve themselves. And if you tell me that what I was watching is indeed the ordinary world, I'm moving my family to a remote tropical island.

The world is a scary place and that's a reality that we all have to face as we get older and mature. I'm not sure I understand why we'd want children to come to that realization any earlier than necessary. Dressing them up, making them compete for a crown, a trophy or a paltry check simply because of their looks is pathetic to me. And it sets the expectation for each of those children than their success or failure is almost totally dependent on their looks. That, too, is pathetic. Hasn't physical appearance been the cause of enough division in the world?

If I've managed to offend any pageant-pushing moms out there, to drive them away from my site, I offer this. Don't let the virtual door hit you in the ass on the way out.

Posted by Chris at 6:28 AM | Comments (34)

May 11, 2010

Fore, Revisited

You're probably wondering about that golf game, aren't you?

The truth of the matter is that I had a great time. From the 17th green, I texted Beth and described it this way: extreme suckage with moments of occasional brilliance. I was not good. I was considerably worse than I thought I was going to be. And to use the word brilliance as I did was overstating quite severely. I have no business using that word to describe my golf game. But I'd never played the game before so what did I (or anyone) expect?

I arrived at the course about a half an hour early, met up with the folks I was going to play with, bought the obligatory bag of beer, picked up my rented clubs and found a cart. I paired up with a great dude and reasonably good golfer allowing the two of us to balance out and perform in fairly mediocre fashion. Okay, really, I dragged his ass down with me but he was cool about it.

The moment of truth really occurred when I teed off. I'd like to say that it was a thing of beauty, that I exceeded my own expectations, that the ball was lost in the high clouds that shaded an otherwise beautiful day. But the fucking ball went about ten feet.

By the end of the day, the six golf balls I'd taken were long gone and I was resorted to borrowing balls on the back nine. I lost several to forest, more to water, and by the end I just couldn't be bothered to look for them anymore. There's a very real possibility that I took out a cyclist as well. I used a driver when an iron was clearly called for, overshot the green, saw two cyclists swerve and one go down. Circumstantial evidence would lead even the worst detective in the world to think I played some role in that. I also came close to hitting a goose but that was all the goose's fault - it lives there, knows the dangers of the game, wasn't wearing a helmet and looked at me funny.

We played eighteen holes in approximately seven hours during which I went through three beers, ten balls, 325 mulligans and an infinite amount of patience. But I had a good time and, frankly, that's all we were there for.

In retrospect, I think it's pretty good to get out of your comfort zone every once in a while, to do something you're not good at, to try something new. It felt good and was, at the same time, humbling. When was the last time you did something outside your comfort zone?

Posted by Chris at 6:50 AM | Comments (10)

May 10, 2010

Moms Kick Ass

I feel like a hypocritical asshat. For a really long time I've chalked Mother's Day up to a Hallmark Holiday. Something designed to sell greeting cards, flowers and candy. And sure, that's part of it. I'm cynical but I bought flowers and cards. But hey, moms totally rock.

Motherhood is hard. I've never been knocked up, never had a parasite get me fat to the point at which I can't see my feet and want nothing more than pineapple and olives. I've never been required to push a pot roast through a bodily orifice nor have I been physically required to nurse said pot roast at all hours of the day and night, caving to it's every sadistic whim. I'm a guy. We get to pee standing up, fuck without physical consequences and fake-snore while we let the lady with the breasts field the midnight cries. Guys have it easy. You moms? Do not.

So we celebrated our asses off.

Owen and I woke up early and let Beth sleep for a while. Mia, giving us a preview of what it'll be like when she's 15, slept in and I finally had to get her up since I'd promised her we'd both make breakfast for Beth. She dragged her ass out of bed and we made French toast, scrambled eggs, strawberries and (fake) sausage. We lazed around the rest of the morning. Mia, Owen and I eventually changed out of jammies and headed to the store to get things for Mother's Day dinner. It was something of a nightmare. There was hitting, staunch opposition to sharing, inappropriate product grabbing (Owen did not need tampons - that kid loves tampons) and some more hitting. We got our asses out of there as quickly as we possibly could, headed home, and made lunch. Then all four of us went outside, enjoyed the day and flew a kite. Mia and I then made Beth's all-time favorite dinner - insalata caprese and fettucini alfredo. Mia is an awesome cook. I'm not so bad either (and apparently, between eggs, French toast, and noodles bathed in heavy cream and butter, I'm trying to end up with a fat wife).

I respect and appreciate doctors and policemen and firemen and soldiers and teachers but the people I most respect in this world are (or are also) moms. I love moms. Not in a MILF sort of way though maybe that too. Without moms the world would truly come to a crushing halt. Moms are the bravest, most dedicated kick-ass people who walk among us. To all you moms, thank you for being awesome.

How did you celebrate Mother's Day?

Posted by Chris at 7:05 AM | Comments (22)

Haiku For Monday #318

Dear Monday. As a
token of my love, please have
this Cleveland Steamer.

(I totally had to look up what a Cleveland Steamer is. And? Ew.)

Posted by Chris at 7:00 AM | Comments (5)

May 7, 2010

The Weeklies #131

The Weekly Challenge. Remember that golf game I mentioned a couple weeks ago? That's going down today. Wish me luck.

The Weekly Time Waster. What happens when baby seals get sick of being clubbed and start to fight back? Well, check out Clubby The Seal.

The Weekly Read. I plowed through Linwood Barclay's Never Look Away and I'm growing convinced that Barclay and Harlan Coben are actually the same person. Okay, not really. Coben's a little better. But their stories are insanely similar, tend to revolve around a family, a member of that family disappearing or somehow not being who everyone else thought they were. While I read them all, I really can't tell any of Coben's stand-along thrillers apart and Barclay's input is almost indistinguishable. That said, the stunning lack of originality doesn't translate into a bad book. It's a fast-paced thriller. There were plenty of twists and turns though I saw most of them coming a mile away. It was well-written and entertaining.

The Weekly Music. I've given The Hold Steady's Heaven Is Whenever a couple of spins since buying it Tuesday night. The Hold Steady may be one of the best bands of the century so far. Heaven Is Whenever doesn't do anything to change that. Is it their best? No. But it's good. Craig Finn's lyrics are brilliant as always and there's a raucous bar-band feel to the music. It's guitar-driven and wonderfully bombastic. When I first got into The Hold Steady, the first hurdle I encountered were Craig Finn's vocals. They were more loudly spoken word than singing. Over time he's worked on his voice and he sings more often than not. And as much as that spoken word stuff threw me off, I miss it now. There's an exuberance that's missing now. That said, Heaven Is Whenever is a kick-ass, not-to-be-missed album.

The Weekly Ridiculous Product. Fart in bed? There's a blanket for that.

The Weekly Schadenfreude. There once was a British gentleman who wasn't very bright but owned a boat. He, therefore, decided he would sail along England's coast. During his voyage, he ran out of fuel and had to be rescued. And it turned out that during the entirety of his journey, he'd been circling the same small island in the Themes River. Poor, dumb bastard.

The Weekly Question. What strategy should I use to make it through my golf game. This question is for all of you even if you know nothing about golf. I don't tee off until 1:30 and I'm going to have my phone with me. I expect some brilliant strategies whereby I won't look like an ass.

Posted by Chris at 7:21 AM | Comments (20)

May 6, 2010

Ripped

I just finished what evolved into a three year-long project. The project? Ripping all my CDs. It was maddening, a major time suck, and slightly expensive since I burned out two CD drives in the process. But now it's done and it's pretty and shiny and nice and all my music - even the crap I will never listen to ever again - is all in one place.

The grand total? According to iTunes I have 3,830 albums which translates into 280 gigs or 135 days worth of music.

I realized a few things during this process.

#1. I'm a bit compulsive when it comes to buying music. I own a lot of physical CDs, so many that they have their own room in my house. And it's a thorough collection. Pearl Jam's Ten for instance. Sure, I own the original but I also had to get my hands on the remastered version when it was released last year. And the remixed version when it was released. And the original Japanese release which contained a cover of the Beatles' I've Got A Feeling in which Eddie riffs about the death of Andrew Wood and recording the Temple of the Dog album. Oh, and then all Ten's CD singles. Followed by the mint-condition, limited edition numbered CD single box set. I'm something of a collector. And maybe slightly obsessed.

#2. I spent way too much money trying to replace old cassettes with CDs many years back. I imported a lot of music from Europe and Japan. Those same albums - and damn, so many of them are hair metal - are now available electronically from iTunes or Amazon for about $5. I'm a little bitter about that. Not bitter enough to throw myself in front of a Whitesnake tour bus. But bitter.

#3. I own some really great albums. Yeah, I've got your standard fantastic albums - the entire back catalogs of Led Zeppelin, U2, Peter Gabriel, Pink Floyd, The Police, The Beatles, The Hold Steady - but I've also got some pretty out-of-the-way stuff. Like Travis' cover of ...Baby One More Time. Or Coldplay's version of the James Bond theme You Only Live Twice. Or the very limited Sting live album recorded with legendary jazz pianist Gil Evans. Or Aimee Mann and Ani Difranco's live cover version of When Doves Cry.

#4. I own some really shitty albums. The William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy albums come to mind. Or the absolute piece of shit recorded by the otherwise-decent jazz guitarist Pat Metheny. It's called Zero Tolerance for Silence and I have zero tolerance for it. It's three separate pieces of guitar feedback each lasting between 15 and 20 minutes. Or Air Supply's greatest hits. Come on, Air Supply has no redeeming qualities.

I ask you: What are the best and worst albums you own?

Tell me and I'll randomly choose ten of you to receive the Rude Cactus Download Volume One, a hip, ultra-cool mix CD. Now, I know I have a checkered past when it comes to delivering these things but I've changed how I do it. The mixed CD will be available online to ten of you then it will go the way of the dinosaur, Liberace, and Lindsay Lohan's career, back in the vault Disney-style. The best thing? It's done. It's online. It's been waiting for you. Come and knock on it's door.

Posted by Chris at 6:54 AM | Comments (59)

May 5, 2010

Recall

About three weeks ago Beth went out to the grocery store. We were running low on a few things including some meds for the kids. An hour and two stores later, she texted me asking if we had enough to get the kids through the next few days. She couldn't find any. Anywhere. And she never did. The first thing I did after checking to see if we did in fact have enough to coast a while was to start surfing the web looking for recalls. There were none.

Imagine my shock three weeks later when we saw on CNN that not only the allergy medication Mia is on was recalled but so was nearly every other medication commonly used to treat fevers and sniffles.

I don't think the government is totally responsible or looking after my welfare as well as the health and well-being of my kids. That's my job as an individual and as a parent. And if I was unwilling to take on such duties, I should have thought twice before using my penis. But our government has organizations in place tasked with consumer protection and the safety of the medication we take and give to our children. If they're there, I expect them to do their jobs. But they're not. The FDA had this to say about the recall:

"Our thought was because these over-the-counter products are so widely used and because it hit such vulnerable populations with infants and children, that we really needed to get the word out there to at least give consumers a heads' up before we had all the specifics."

That's admirable but where was the FDA when the products mysteriously disappeared from store shelves? And did the manufacturer think we were all so stupid that we wouldn't notice? What's worse is that while the products were gone from store shelves, they were still sitting in medicine cabinets in millions of homes, dispensed to millions of kids, mine included.

A few weeks ago, I took Mia to the doctor. He recommended all kinds of prescriptions as well as some over the counter medications. Why? He and I shared a simple goal. "Let's keep Mia out of the hospital this summer." She regularly took one of those recalled medications to help do just that. I get that Beth and I have to be our kids' best and biggest advocate. I get that the world isn't orbiting the sun with the sole purpose of making sure my kids are fine and taken care of. And I get that there are kids who don't have food much less medication. But I'll admit to feeling a little betrayed by a company and a system who were in the business of making people better. Especially when the company pulls supply three weeks before disclosing that there's a problem. Especially when they've had to recall similar products four times in the last seven months.

Some of us have kids who've been in the hospital. Some of us have goals for the summer that are as simple and desperate as keep my daughter out of the hospital.

What do you think is the government's role here? Are they doing their job? How about the manufacturers?

(Sorry. I got a little carried away there. Obviously this just pisses me off.)

Posted by Chris at 6:35 AM | Comments (14)

May 4, 2010

Um...Shit.

Yesterday I went to a place - literally and in my head - that scared the crap out of me. It was a land of painted walls, giant buses and tiny chairs. I went to Mia's elementary school orientation. At which time I promptly realized...

...MY BABY IS GOING TO ELEMENTARY SCHOOL WHICH IS FUCKING IMPOSSIBLE BECAUSE, SERIOUSLY, IT WAS JUST, LIKE, YESTERDAY, THAT SHE EMERGED FROM THE WOMB AND SHE'S MY PERFECT LITTLE GIRL AND I'M WORRIED THAT THE WORLD WILL TOTALLY FUCK HER UP...

...or something along those lines.

I'm pretty sure I didn't actually say that out loud while I was sitting there. No one looked at me funny and Beth didn't hit me. But that's sure as hell how I felt.

I don't want Mia to grow up in a bubble, shielded from all the bad stuff. Because to do that would also keep her from all the really great stuff. And, yeah, I'm a cynical guy but I'm also oddly enough very inherently optimistic so much so that I believe there's more good stuff than bad. But there's a part of me that totally rejects that reasonable, rational argument and doesn't care because she's my baby. I doubt that will change whether she's five or twenty-five.

Last night I tucked her into bed and we talked about the day.

Mia: Can you believe I'm going to elementary school?
Me (in my head): No, fuck that. We're staying home and playing princess until you're, oh, about 25 after which we can talk about you leaving the house for longer than four hours when not under our direct supervision.
Me (for real): That's fantastic sweetheart!

There's a certain portion of parenting that revolves around setting rules, correcting mistakes, healing boo-boos, reading books, and keeping the goblins away at night. There's another part that's all about denial and grinning and bearing it. Sometimes its hard to say which is the bigger part.

Oh, the other thing I learned? Moms, please don't go to elementary school orientations in pants that you had to sew yourself into, lucite stripper heels and a bluetooth headset. Kinda makes you look like you're a hooker waiting for a "date".

Posted by Chris at 6:55 AM | Comments (35)

May 3, 2010

New Big Wong and the 1,000 Boobies

This weekend, Beth and I escaped.

Specifically, on Saturday Beth arranged for her parents to come over and spend the night with the kids while she and I fled to Monkeytown to have a wonderful dinner and spend the night in a nice hotel. And that's exactly what we did. Around 5:00 on Saturday, we checked in to the Hotel Monaco in DC. It's a pretty cool boutique hotel which also happens to be a historic site, since it was DC's general post office built in 1839. Now it's smack-dab in the heart of Chinatown. We found our room, changed, and headed out to walk around the neighborhood and caught a pre-dinner drink. Then we hit Oyamel for dinner. Authentic Mexican tapas. Or, rather, really incredible authentic Mexican tapas. Who'd have thought fries smothered in a poblano chile and chocolate sauce would be any good? Turns out, it was. We passed on the grasshopper tacos though, being vegetarian and all. Though we were stuffed, we hit a cupcake place and found something for ourselves as well as a little something to take back to Mia and Owen.

Then, though it was merely 10:00, we went to bed. And we got an astonishing nine hours of uninterrupted sleep. No one cried in another room. No one fell out of bed. No short people pushed their adult, parental counterparts who outweigh them threefold out of bed. No one stuck their fingers in my ears at 4:00 in the morning for no apparent reason. I awoke with no one sitting on my head. It was kind of awesome. After lounging around in bed not because we were tired or lazy but because we could, we got moving around 8:00 and hit Poste for breakfast.

And then we kissed our weekend of freedom goodbye and returned to the kids who were overjoyed to have us home. And we were overjoyed to be back. We had an awesome afternoon with them. We laughed the entire day.

It's funny - I'm purposefully not the kind of father who talks shit about their kids in a they're weighing me down sense. I've talked with a lot of fathers who do. I find it annoying. So while I don't and won't do that, this weekend has helped me realize that sometimes as a parent you just need a break, that a break will make a world of difference.

Having a hot, kick-ass woman like Beth made it all kinds of awesome too.

Where's your favorite place to go to get away from it all?

P.S. - It did occur to me that the title of the post is meaningless unless you were tailing us this weekend. I thought about spelling it out for you but then I figured that would ruin all the fun.

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

Haiku For Monday #317

My commute was great
this morning. Two flights of stairs,
no tolls, no asshats.

Posted by Chris at 7:00 AM | Comments (1)


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