July 30, 2011
The Weekly Kick Ass Music Podcast #1
So it seems as if I'm digging the podcasting thing. I also dig music. Put those two together and you get The Weekly Kick Ass Music Podcast which may or may not be a weekly thing. If you see the player below, feel free to stream it. Otherwise, check the download link and have at it. Sure, it probably sounds a little cheesy but, hey, that's me.
July 29, 2011
The Weeklies #181
The Weekly Option. Read or listen.
The Weekly Beer. Any. It's been a week.
The Weekly Technology Obsession. Have you heard of Spotify? It's about 100 shades of awesome. I've got three invites up for grabs that I'll give out to randomly chosen commenters.
The Weekly Seasoning. Old Bay.
The Weekly Read. Marcus Stakey's The Blade Itself wasn't a novel crime, um, novel. It didn't break any new ground especially if you'd seen the movie The Town. But it was compelling nonetheless. It was quite well-written for an often terribly-written genre. The Silent Land topped Stephen King's top summer reading list and Joyce has always been a favorite of mine. The Silent Land itself wasn't really anything new. It was startlingly like an eerie end-of-times novel King would have written crossed with a few episodes of Lost. If you pay attention, you'll solve the mystery long before the book ends. But that doesn't make the book any less fun to read.
The Weekly Music. I'm a progressive rock geek. I've copped to it before and I'll cop to it again. One of my favorite bands as a kid was Yes. You know them as either 80's pop sensations (Owner of a Lonely Heart) or 70's prog epic-writers (Close To The Edge, I've Seen All Good People). It's been 10 years since they released an album and their revolving door of personnel opened and closed a few more times. But what emerged in the form of Fly From Here is really pretty darn good. It's not the best thing they've released - they haven't released a truly magical album in thirty years - but it's a nice return to creative form.
The Weekly Schadenfreude. I'm tired of talking about the damn debt ceiling.
The Weekly Question. Want a Spotify invite?
July 28, 2011
I Killed Mickey
A few months ago we had the jungle out back - our out of control garden - cleared out. In doing so, we inadvertently invited a family of mice into our basement.
This posed something of a conundrum.
Mice are cute and, generally, I don't like killing things. I'll never be a hunter or an exterminator. I mean, I'm a vegetarian for Christ sake. But mice and my family cannot coexist. This is not a two-species household (with the minor exception of Mia's fish, Glitter).
The exterminators came and put down traps. Glue traps because we refused to have poison in the house. Inevitably, they did their job and we found ourselves with four dead mice stuck to cardboard. And one live one.
Again, a conundrum.
The mouse was gray and furry and incredibly cute. It was obvious he'd recently stumbled into the trap. He was alive and twitching his nose and trying his damndest to get away. I bombarded myself with moral arguments and came to only one conclusion - the right thing to do was to kill it, put it out of its misery.
I grabbed the trap and shoved it in a kitchen garbage bag. The bag had the unfortunate quality of being white and somewhat transparent. So I shoved that bag inside a black trash bag. Then I took the bag to the garage, put it on the ground, grabbed a shovel and gave the bag a smack. Several times. Each swing was heartbreaking. Convinced I'd done what I'd intended to do, I threw the bag into the trash bin and tossed aside the shovel.
I felt exactly the way I knew I'd feel - terrible.
I killed a mouse. And let's face it, unless it's Mickey, the world isn't going to miss a mouse. Killing the mouse was the right thing to do. Otherwise, it would have died a slow, terrible death. But still...I don't like to kill things. I'm not squeamish or weak or cowardly. I just don't like to kill stuff.
July 27, 2011
I'm...something. I guess dismayed is the right word for it.
Many people avoid politics, talking about it, debating it, paying attention to it. I can understand to some extent. It's sometimes pretty tough to see just how actions that the White House or Congress take impact you in a real, individual way.
The debt ceiling issue is dominating headlines. Folks are either passionate about it or dismissive of it. It's divisive. Everyone has opinions about our country's fiscal responsibilities and how we should handle our money. But we're talking about trillions of dollars. That's hard to relate to. So we tune out. But we shouldn't because this is one issue that directly impacts each of us in a real way. And we shouldn't let the politicians use our future as a tool for grandstanding.
You know I'm liberal. I favor the democrats. It won't surprise anyone that I think the Republicans take the majority of the blame. If I'm to be completely honest, though, it's the Democrats too. Hell, it's the system. And in this fight, no group is coming out smelling nicer than another.
In a really well-done piece, Simon Johnson from Slate summarized the issue the best:
The House and Senate Republicans who do not want to raise the debt ceiling are playing with fire. They are advocating a policy that would have dire effects, and that would accomplish the opposite of what they claim to want. A default would immediately make the government more, not less, important. The only law that Congress cannot repeal is the law of unintended consequences.
The question isn't what's wrong? We know the answers to that - money, power, special interests, ego. The question is who can lead us out of this mess?. Obama doesn't seem to have the balls for the job and there's no democrat who could touch him in an election. And the only Republican contenders who have any sort of voice are ultra-right wing nutballs who try to rewrite history with every speech and can't admit when they're wrong.
I am very rarely hopeless. It's not in my nature. But it is impossible for me to be hopeful about politics in America right now. I fucking love this country in the most blue-blooded of ways. I'm thankful that I was born an American. I can't believe my luck. But what's happening now? It just ain't right.
July 26, 2011
It's All About Mia
Yesterday, I hinted that there were quite a few things that kept us busy this (extended) weekend. Here's how it went down.
The Funeral. I've had the unfortunate privilege of attending two funerals at Arlington National Cemetery over the last month. On Thursday, Beth's grandmother and grandfather were honored. A funeral at Arlington is an astounding thing to be a part of. It's a truly humbling place to be. Even when you're wearing a black suit and it's 101 degrees outside. Quite a few members of Beth's family flew in from all over the country. We attended church services in the morning, the services at Arlington, and a reception afterwards. The kids were wonderfully behaved only falling apart towards the end of the reception which, since it was eight hours after we'd started the day was understandable. I was falling apart too.
Swimming. This weekend marked Mia's final swim meet of the entire season. It was the overall league meet and Mia competed in two events - freestyle and backstroke. Mia's backstroke became far and away her best stroke this year. Her freestyle, well, it got kind of funky. As it turned out the reverse was true this weekend. Her backstroke was lackluster but as soon as she hit the water for her freestyle swim, we knew she was up to something. I have no idea what happened but she flew. Absolutely flew. She left the rest of the swimmers in her wake. Given that it was one of seven heats, we figured that she might actually have a chance of placing. We were right though we underestimated. Mia took first in her age group for the entire league. She got a medal and everything. It was amazing.
Mia's Birthday. I took Friday off to hang out with Mia on her actual birthday. We played for a while in the morning then she and I went out on a lunch date. We sat on the same side of a booth which I thought was adorable and I told her all about the day she was born six years earlier. Then we picked up her BFF and all hung out at a local water park. It was 105 degrees out (really) so the whole water part of the park was welcome and necessary. Then we went home, had a special dinner and decorated cupcakes which we then devoured.
Mia's Party. The tricky thing about planning birthday parties in the summer is the fact that so many people are on vacation. Mia's party ended up being all about her and her very best friends as a result and it was about 100 shades of awesome. Thanks to Groupon, we ended up with a moonbounce. We supplied sprinklers, slip-and-slides, drinks, games and cake. It was absolutely perfect...except for the kid who fell and landed our our kid and ended up with a black eye. And when the kids were all gone, we all retreated to separate corners, came back together for dinner, then went to bed.
Owen's Disgruntled. This weekend was clearly all about Mia. Owen is suitably unimpressed and would like to know where all of his presents and parties are.
So, is it any wonder we're exhausted?
July 25, 2011
I'm going to admit it upfront - this could possibly be one of the least compelling and coherent entries I've ever made. I blame the intense weekend and heatstroke. I had a hell of a weekend. Why?
Reason 1 - Thursday. We all attended a funeral for Beth's grandmother and grandfather at Arlington National Cemetery. There were get-togethers with rarely-seen family before and after.
Reason 2 - Friday. Mia's actual birthday. We had a dad-daughter date and spent the afternoon at a local waterpark.
Reason 3 - Saturday. We spent the majority of the day at the final all-league swim meet, the last event of the year.
Reason 4 - Sunday. Mia's birthday party.
I would be remiss if I didn't mention the fact that in the greater Monkeytown area, the temperature averaged somewhere between 99 and 105 degrees throughout the entire weekend.
More to come on these as the week progresses. Right now I don't have it in me. I'm just going to sit here, comatose, sipping coffee and hoping that the caffeine will kick in by 10:00 when I have my first meeting of the day.
How was your weekend?
Haiku For Monday #376
Holy shit. Monday.
Now just how did that happen?
I need more sleep. Word.
July 22, 2011
Six. Oh my god, how did that happen?
Six years ago, Mia was brought into the world, not without a little bit of a struggle. She was breach, with the umbilical cord wrapped three times around her neck. Her legs shot up around her head as soon as she tasted air and she refused the care of anyone other than her mom, even nurses.
Six years later, Mia is this talented, smart person who swims, draws, reads, writes poetry, does cartwheels, makes friends wherever she goes and is oh-so-proud of her long hair. She is a miracle. Words cannot even begin to describe how much I love her.
I love you, Bean. Happy Birthday.
July 21, 2011
With the exception of one final meet, swim season is over. I am sad. I'm not sad about the evening set-ups or the after-meet take-downs. Or the early Saturday morning meets. Or the Wednesday evening after-work rush to a meet, packing a change of clothes in my car in case I'm late then wondering for a week where my flip-flops are only to find them in the backseat. But I'll miss the neighbors and the kids, the smell of chlorine, the sound of the buzzer that invariably rings in my head each Saturday morning even when there isn't a meet, and eating pizza for breakfast at 10:30 in the morning.
Last night was the end-of-year party. It capped an incredible season for Mia. She took home a trophy, an award for most laps in the swim-a-thon (39 in 45 minutes) and a prize for the most team fundraising. Last year she struggled to get out of last place. This year she averaged third-place ribbons even winning a coveted blue first-place ribbon last week.
But swim season really isn't about winning or technique. It's about hanging out with your friends, eating snow cones at 9:00 on Saturday morning, and shaking your competitors' hands whether you won or lost.
July 20, 2011
I used to have a ritual. Every Friday, I'd try to leave the office a couple minutes early and I'd head to my local Borders and browse. Those days are gone.
Borders Group will liquidate its remaining assets after efforts to find a buyer fell through, the bookstore chain announced Monday. The nation's second largest book seller, which filed for bankruptcy protection earlier this year, currently operates 399 stores and employs approximately 10,700 workers.
Mike Edwards, president of Borders Group, said in a written statement that he was saddened by the development and that the decision came despite "the best efforts" of all parties. "We were all working hard towards a different outcome, but the headwinds we have been facing for quite some time, including the rapidly changing book industry, eReader revolution, and turbulent economy, have brought us to where we are now," Edwards said.
It's sad. Not surprising, but sad.
Lots of things have changed over the last few years. eBooks gained steam and made a significant dent in book retail. They're convenient and cheap and even if you have no interest in ebooks, it's hard to argue with online shopping. Borders screwed up because it didn't embrace a new pricing model (their retail shops sold most of their books at full retail price) to compete with Amazon. And they never fully embraced ebooks, launching a partnership with Kobo devices way too late in the game. There's no way they could compete.
I'm pretty sure that bookstores are headed the way of record stores. When's the last time you saw a brick and mortar record store? Even the supply of DVDs and CDs in big box and warehouse stores is shrinking giving way to ways of getting content to you in the comfort of your own home - set-top boxes, tablets, smart phones, e-readers and laptops.
While I love the convenience and instant gratification, a little piece of me misses endless browsing through CD bins and record stores. And another piece of me wonders what's next?
July 19, 2011
The End of an Era
We've been in our house for three years next month. Most of it is just the way we want it though there are some things we want to change. Like gutting the kitchen. But there are a couple of things we'd like to do that don't involve demolishing half our downstairs area and eating dinner in the garage for three months. One of them is a basement office for me.
More and more, I find myself working from home. While I have an office area secluded from the house in the basement, it's a far cry from a real office with dedicated working space, lighting and, well, a door. So my music room is becoming an office and since I've managed to rip every CD I own, all but my most precious CDs are going into boxes.
This is slightly traumatic.
I've always loved my CD collection. It started in junior high school (though admittedly, I started feeding my habit with cassettes) and continued to grow throughout high school, college and beyond. Now most of my purchases are digital and downloaded and my entire collection sits on a regularly backed up hard drive about the size of a small hardback book. Time marches on, I suppose, but I do miss flipping though album artwork, reading the liner notes, seeing who played on the album. That said, they're bulky and really don't fit well anywhere. The 21 beer boxes I've filled with CDs attest to that...as well as the fact that I might drink too much beer.
July 18, 2011
Let's just say - theoretically, mind you - there's a guy out in the world who wants nothing more than to take his wife out for a wonderful evening. He hatches a plan. First he decides to take her to see the new Winnie The Pooh movie because it was her favorite set of children's stories when she was a child and she expressed on more than one occasion "I actually want to see that without the kids." He makes reservations later in the evening at a swanky restaurant. In between, he wants to take his wife to your fine establishment to buy the earrings which match the necklace he bought his wife for Mother's Day.
If this guy hatched this clever plan, you'd better be fucking open.
I'll admit, theoretically, that it should have been part if this guy's due diligence to check the store hours but never in his wildest dreams would he expect your store to close at 6:00 on a Saturday. He was - hypothetically - trying to be a hero. You're senior citizen hours didn't help. One damn bit.
Still, you'll be happy to know that this guy and his wife had a nice evening. The movie was silly, dinner was wonderful, ice cream afterwards was perfect. The only thing that would have made it better? Heroic, silver earrings. I'm just sayin'.
Yours in Christ,
Haiku For Monday #375
Need to find a way
to make hanging out at the
July 15, 2011
The Weeklies #180
The Weekly Option. Read or listen.
The Weekly Beer. 400 Pound Monkey.
The Weekly Technology Obsession. As I mentioned a while back, I bought a Mac. It's taken some time but I think I'm over the learning curve. And I love it. It's actually ruined me for all computers including the slow, bloated work laptop I have to use everyday.
The Weekly New Technology. I really have no earthly idea what I should do with Google+. That's not going to stop me from using it though.
The Weekly Read. James Patterson is undeniably the world's most prolific writer, churning out thriller after thriller, sometimes flying solo, occasionally teaming with other authors. I've read a lot of his books none ever blew me away. They're entertaining - like an action flick or a Train album - but they're not deep or particularly thought provoking. Until now, that is. Kill Me If You Can, due August 29th, is a solid, brilliantly plotted and well-executed thriller. Of course, it helps that it was co-authored by Marshall Karp who is not only one of my favorite writers but also a friend. But when I try to be completely unbiased, the book holds up well. It's a much different book than what you expect from Marshall if you've read his Lomax & Biggs books. This difference, however, makes it abundantly clear just how good an author he is. Kill Me If You Can reinforces the fact that Marshall doesn't have to rely on one-liners and witty cop banter to craft a good, solid story. This is, without doubt, the best Patterson book I've read. The difference? Marshall Karp.
The Weekly Music. I've always been a big Gomez fan so I was pretty pleased when I heard they had a new one coming out. But when I listened to it - Whatever's On Your Mind - I couldn't help being a little disappointed. Why? Well, when I bought the first Gomez album many years ago, I thought man, these guys would be great if they put a little more polish on their albums. Since they've become more mainstream they've done just that, producing slick, polished albums that retain just enough roughness to sound authentically Gomez. But Whatever's On Your Mind goes too far. It's not bad, it's just too mainstream, too slick. Gone is some of the band's personality which is a shame because they certainly have a big one.
The Weekly Schadenfreude. I'm a little concerned about the debt ceiling. Granted, I'm not totally sure what the debt ceiling is but I have the feeling we're all going to suffer for it.
The Weekly Question. What's the best thing you're listening to right now?
(The Weekly Song, for those of you not listening to the podcast, is Without Love by Satchel featuring one of my favorite vocalists of all time, Shawn Smith who has a voice that wraps you in a warm blanket and makes you love music all over again.)
July 13, 2011
On this day in '03 things were a little different. Beth and I lived in a small yellow house. We didn't have kids so god knows what we did with our time. We had cats but they weren't exactly tough to keep up with. I weighed ten pounds less and had a pronounced absence of gray hair. I was working a junior-level position at my company. I owned one suit, read two books a week, vegged in front of my Playstation, and had precisely one blog entry. I have no idea what that blog entry said because it was quickly wiped out in the Great Blog Crash of 2003 that nearly ended by foray into blogging before it officially began. But I didn't let that stop me. I reloaded and redesigned the blog and backed it up relentlessly. It was reborn in August.
July 2003 marks my entry into the blogosphere. Happy blogaversary to me!
It's been eight years and a lot has changed. We moved out of that small yellow house. Mia and Owen came along and the cats sadly died. I gained a few pounds, bought a few suits, grew quite a bit of gray hair and worked myself into a senior management position at work. I read less now, maybe a book a week if I'm lucky. The Playstation is sitting in the basement replaced by a Wii and an iPad. But the blog is still going...looking exactly the way it did in 2003.
And in those eight years, I've written 11,296 entries and received 250,391 comments.
What's amazing to me - aside from the fact that I've been doing this eight years and thought that it would last about a week - is that so many of you still read. And there are quite a few of you who started reading on day one and never stopped.
Blogs are on their way out. This is obvious. There are fewer and fewer and while bloggers remain an influential presence on the internet, we're not what we used to be. But I've never been in it for fame and fortune. I just wanted to share myself and my life. And I think I've done that. I've thought about slowing down or even stopping. Frankly, this post-a-day thing can feel like a job and the expectation that I'm going to chime in at 7:00 in the morning and say something hilarious, witty or insightful can be a bit overwhelming. But I'm still here, trudging along, writing about my life.
So here's to another 11,296 posts and another 250,391 comments. But most importantly, here's to you for sharing your lives with me and stopping by to read what I have to say.
Mia is attending vacation bible school. No one was more surprised than Beth and I. We're both atheists however we think our kids should make up their own minds rather than have us dictate beliefs. Of course, the VBS she's going to is next to our neighborhood, chock-full of neighborhood and school kids she knows and loves, and is free.
Before heading over to a cookout on Sunday, Mia, Owen and I went to the church to register her. After, the three of us had an interesting conversation.
Mia: Is God really everywhere?
Me: Depends on who you ask and what they believe. Some people believe there are many gods. Others believe there are none. Christians, like the ones at camp, believe there's one god and that he's powerful and everywhere.
Mia: Oh, okay. That's not really what I believe.
Me: That's okay. You don't have to. But the most important thing is to respect what other people believe even if you don't believe those things yourself.
Owen: Will God be at the cookout?
We have a ways to go with Owen.
Religion, for us, is like our diet. Beth and I are vegetarian but we don't expect our kids to be. Yes, we're creating a certain bias towards our own choices because children are incredibly influenced by their parents but the decision is ultimately up to them. We try to be as objective as possible explaining things like religion to them. But we do share our own beliefs because their most common question is "what do you believe?"
We believe in being totally honest with our kids and telling them what they want to know, tailored, of course, by what they're ready to hear. I think they'll be better, smarter and more independent people for it.
Do you believe what your parents believed? How did they shape how you think now?
July 12, 2011
I have a lot of shit going through my head.
July is turning out to be a crazy month. As a result, I've got a lot of shit going through my head. It's the height and also the end of the swim team season - tons of meets and events to break away from work for. Mia's birthday is later this month and we have another funeral at Arlington Cemetery - along with family flying in from out of town - to attend. At work, my boss and mentor resigned and I'm trying to hire folks to take some of the pressure off of me. On top of all of this I seem to have been put in charge of something big and it's something that fits into a particular category of work that I've never really been all that self-confident about.
What I'm trying to say is that I'm stressed and distracted. I know I can focus on quite a few things at once but I'm starting to feel that I can't focus on any of them well. Balls in the air...plates spinning...whatever your metaphor of choice, I've got a few of them.
I seek solace in my lawnmower.
Well, not in. I like to mow. We have a decent sized yard and it's turning out that there's nothing quite so therapeutic in my week than popping in the earbuds, cranking on the lawnmower, and cutting straight, neat lines in the grass.
Most of us have white collar jobs. As a result, I think most of us are deprived of the benefits of blue-collar work, mainly starting a job, finishing it, and being able to point at something and say I did that. We- at least I - could use more of that. So mowing is my therapy.
How do you cope with stress?
July 11, 2011
While Beth got a much needed break from home and the kids, I did some death-defying solo parenting this weekend. And it was a wild weekend. On Saturday alone, we had a half-day swim meet, a birthday party and a dinner out. As a result I'm a little brain dead. It's actually a miracle I've strung this many sentences together without benefit of coffee. To keep tying is to tempt fate so I'll just leave it here before it all goes wrong.
How were your weekends?
July 8, 2011
The Weeklies - The Audio Edition
Once upon a time I gave audioblogging a shot. And then I stopped. Why? Well, there was the inevitable time commitment but that was pretty minor. What really stopped me was two-fold.
Fold 1 - I sound like a dork.
Fold 2 - I'm not all that funny when I don't have the benefit of hiding behind a keyboard and some heavy editing.
But I've put all these things aside at least for this week. I give you The Weeklies Podcast.
Now pardon me while I go cringe.
(If you don't see the little Flash player above, feel free to download the file.)
July 7, 2011
When she was three, Mia and I got into the habit of going on dates. A Saturday or a Sunday would roll around, we'd pick a restaurant or an activity or both, and we'd go out and have fun. Just the two of us. The last six or so months have been busy - school, work, weekend activities - and we fell out of the habit. On Saturday we dusted it off.
It started with lunch. She wanted to go to the spicy noodle restaurant which is what our kids call a local Burmese place. Yes, amazingly our daughter who thinks that mac and cheese is exotic wanted Burmese. So we went. I watched, mouth open wide, as she ate two samosas (made, I must remind you, of carrots, potatoes and peas, three things she claims she loathes) which she topped with Thai chili sauce. She's always been a fan of noodles so when they came I was only slightly surprised to see her dig in. They were seasoned with saffron and curry after all.
Most amazing about the lunch was the fact that we just talked. She sat across from me and we talked. About all kinds of stuff. This girl sitting across the table from me wasn't the bent-legged little baby who wanted nothing to do with me for the first six months of life. Instead there was a girl with her own thoughts, her own likes and dislikes and her own understanding of the world she so desperately wanted to share. So she did.
After lunch we went and got ice cream. Then we got a new fish. Because - did I forget to mention - Dorothy IV croaked on Friday night, only a month after we lost Dorothy III. So, yes, we bought a new fish and she isn't dead yet. Fingers crossed.
I write this now not necessarily for you out there enjoying it with your morning coffee or evening glass of wine. No, this one is for me. Saturday was a perfect little day and I'd like to remind my future self who will inevitably scroll through all these entries at some distant point in time that it really was perfect. It's not a matter of time making it all seem more perfect than it was. It was wonderful in the present.
July 6, 2011
I have to admit that, beyond the headlines, I paid no attention whatsoever to the Casey Anthony trial. I know nothing about the evidence, the testimony, the lawyers, the judge or, well, anything. But I did know something yesterday when I saw the verdict - it was going to evoke some strong reactions.
What do you think? Was justice served or was it a miscarriage of justice? Or do you just not give a damn?
July 5, 2011
The Fourth, By The Numbers
I'm exhausted. In fact, I woke up yesterday morning exhausted so this morning's definitely no prize. That got my thinking, just what the hell did I do that wore me out?
Beers consumed: 12
Cups of coffee mainlined: 6
Cookouts hosted: 1
Hours of sleep achieved: 12
Hours spent on the yard: 3 1/2
Temperature and humidity while working on yard: 95/98%
Movies seen: 1 (Mr. Popper's Penguins)
Games of imaginary Star Wars played: 502
Lego ships built: 32
Lego American flags assembled: 1 (see yesterday's post)
Yard sales participated in: 1 (loosely)
Dollars scored from yard sale: $120
Fireworks set off: 12
Books read: 1
Albums bought and listened to: 3
Freaked out kids because of fireworks: 1 (Owen)
Work emails responded to: 0
So as it turns out I have pretty good reason to be a little tired. I'm going to go make some coffee and head to my basement office to work. Can't beat the one-story commute.
What were your numbers for the weekend? What did you guys do?
July 4, 2011
July 1, 2011
I started off typing a standard Weeklies entry. I realized halfway though I really only had a crappy book to slam, a political talking head to point and laugh at, and something only slightly witty to say about fireworks. Yeah...it was thin. Why? The only day I didn't work a 10 hour day this week was the day I worked a 12 hour day.
So with that, I'm going to take the day off, wrap up my week early, and enjoy the holiday weekend. I hope you all have a wonderful, long weekend. What are your plans?