September 30, 2011

The Weeklies #188

Press play...you know you want to. Or you could download it.


The Weekly Beer. Bell's Pale Ale.

The Weekly Spam. Night before last I got inundated with comment spam for bamboo flooring. Apparently you guys are the targets of a vast renewable flooring strategy. Who knew?

The Weekly Read. Over the past couple of weeks I tackled Michael Connelly's The Black Echo, the first of his famed Harry Bosch novels. I'm not 100% sure why these are so highly regarded. Don't get me wrong - it was a good book with well-drawn characters and a highly involved, well thought-out mystery. But it felt painfully slow to me. Will I read more? Sure. But I'm not going to run to my iPad and download the next one right away.

The Weekly Music. The last two weeks have been absolutely fantastic for music lovers. Quite a few great releases hit the street most of which will sound totally unfamiliar to you. Aside from the Pearl Jam soundtrack I talked about last week, Opeth released Heritage. But Opeth is a death metal band you're saying. And I hear you but they've changed their tune (heh). Instead of dark metal, Opeth churned out brooding, jazzy progressive rock that is truly fantastic. The Tangent also released an album. Who are they? An ever-rotating group of absolutely fantastic musicians. Porcupine Tree singer and guitarist Steven Wilson also released his second album - Grace for Drowning - which is spectacular. And guitarist Steve Hackett - best known for his incredibly unique sound and stint in Genesis (1971-1976) - dropped Beyond The Shrouded Horizon. Finally - though it's not music - my favorite comedian Patton Oswalt released Finest Hour, an insanely awesome performance.

The Weekly Evil Fruit. Cantaloupe.

The Weekly Gadget. The Amazon Fire. No, I don't need another tablet but I'm intrigued.

The Weekly Schadenfreude. I guess it's not really schadenfreude but in October we're all going to get a dose of the oddest and worst music collaborations in quite some time - Lou Reed & Metallica. Yes, you read that right. The first single's hit all the major music download outlets and it is truly awful. I believe the correct word is abysmal. I dare you to listen to it and not want to beat yourself over the head with a copy of Ride The Lightning.

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

September 29, 2011

Brainwashing Starts Early

We live in a fantastic school district. It boasts wonderful teachers, high test scores, and challenging curricula. But its also brainwashing my kid.

Each year there's this series of flaming fundraising hoops kids - and, in turn, parents - are forced to jump through. One week it's popcorn or wrapping paper sales, the next a family fundraising night at the local Pizza Hut. And, sure, these don't seem so bad but there are usually prizes awarded for the most money raised and assemblies in which these contests are hyped compounded with daily morning announcements encouraging every kid to sell as much as they can. It's like Boiler Room with pigtails, small chairs, and safety scissors. ABC...Always be closing!

I guess I'm bothered on two levels. First, the reliance on fundraising is sad in its necessity. Schools are underfunded and they rely on the cuteness of kids and the loyalty of their parents to augment their already meager budgets. Second, it's not appropriate. It's completely inappropriate to corner my kid in an assembly, show her shiny things and tell her she needs to hit up all her neighbors and relatives for a chance to win a piece of plastic crap that'll end up in the back of a closet, forgotten. I'm the one that's supposed to be warping my kid, not the school.

The solution? I'd like to be allowed to write a check at the beginning of the year and opt out of all future fundraising activities. I'm pretty sure that wouldn't fly. Pass the Kool-Aid.

Posted by Chris at 7:09 AM | Comments (30)

September 28, 2011

What Would Xenu Do?

What are your thoughts on Scientology?

I ask not because I'm interested in joining or anything. I ask because I recently finished a really interesting and slightly terrifying book, Inside Scientology by journalist Janet Reitman. (I mentioned it in a Weeklies installment a while back.) Reitman began her quest with an article commissioned by Rolling Stone. It turned into a five year journey, trying to get to the bottom of the secretive religion. What she found was truly fascinating.

Beyond Tom Cruise and John Travolta is a truly odd belief system rooted in the belief that extra terrestrials sprinkled their knowledge and life force throughout the universe allowing humans to pick them up after they'd achieved a certain amount of enlightenment through techniques such as auditing with special electronic devices called E-meters. And what kind of commitment is required from the subject? Money. Sheer volumes of cash. In fact progress in the religion is accelerated based on the amount of money you put into it.

Now, admittedly I'm not a huge fan or organized religions. And Scientology certainly seems more suspicious to me than most. That said, Scientology - while quirky and a bit scary - isn't all that different from many religions. A guy finds himself with a calling to help mankind and follows it.

So, what do you know about Scientology?

Posted by Chris at 7:14 AM | Comments (9)

September 27, 2011

Home Work

I work from home a couple days a week. When there's absolutely no compelling reason for me to be in the office - and to fight the insane amount of traffic in the Greater Monkeytown area to get there - I skip the whole process, throw shorts and a t-shirt on and roll into the basement with a cup of coffee to get a jump on the day. I'm a little more sane that way. Plus, I get to drop upstairs and see the kids when they're around. But I've learned that there are some hardships, challenges, and lessons learned.

- My daughter's operatic renditions of Christmas carols (in September?!) occasionally travel various paths through ductwork and meet in my office interrupting conference calls. Good thing I'm quick with the mute button.

- Using a giant yoga ball as an office chair is both cheaper and healthier. But you can't sit criss-cross-applesauce without some good, solid pre-planning and even then things can go bad in a hurry.

- After you've fallen on your ass during a conference call, don't cop to it unless you're a) in friendly company and b) you're willing to take some crap.

- I sometimes forget to shower. This fact is brought home quickly and effectively when I catch a whiff of myself then sprint upstairs to fix the problem. When I ask my wife about this, she's critical of my absentmindedness. ("Did you know I smelled that bad?" "Yes, the better question is how didn't you?")

- I eat like a toddler when I work from home. When it's 1:30 and I panic because I realize I've had nothing to eat, I'll run upstairs, grab a cheese stick, tiny thing of applesauce, a little package of cookies and a juice box.

- I have no interesting bathroom conversations to overhear so I'm forced to make up my own then eavesdrop on myself. This is strange behavior.

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

September 26, 2011

Busy

I am exhausted. Granted, it's Monday and that's pretty much par for the course but I feel I've got good reason this time. Or, rather, several good reasons.

T-ball. Saturday morning brought Mia's second t-ball game. It's awesome. No one wins, no one looses, everyone gets to bat and gets to keep doing so until they hit something, the last kid batting automatically hits a homer, and there's pretty much the worst fielding you'd see outside a Nationals' game. I'm pretty sure the kids are there only because of the promise of snacks at the end. That and the cool hats. Mia did great, hitting off the coach instead of the tee. Owen got to be the bat boy.

The circus. Earlier in the week we managed to score tickets to the circus for Saturday afternoon. No, this isn't one of the elephant abusing, indentured midget servitude circuses. It's target is young kids and the wildest it gets are jugglers and acrobats. Every year Beth and I say "that was cheesy" to each other afterwards and every year the kids love it. It doesn't hurt that there was plenty of popcorn and cotton candy. (And to the people sitting behind us, I don't really like to judge other people's parenting skills but I saw enough that it was obvious to me that you suck.)

Late dinner out. We took the kids out to dinner after the circus. Sure, it was well past their bed times but we had to eat. We hit the spicy noodle restaurant which is what my kids call a local Burmese place. Oddly, my kids - who are not exactly adventurous eaters - love Burmese food. It's like this place has some exemption from reality when it comes to what they'll eat. We made it home, dumped them in bed and they passed out almost instantly.

Apple picking. Sunday was a gray, misty day but we didn't want our apple picking plans to get derailed. Nearly every year we plan to go apple picking in the fall but we never made it. We did this year. After breakfast we headed to a somewhat-nearby orchard and got three great big buckets of apples. The orchard was run by an old hippie couple, the female member of which was rapidly circling the loony-drain yet despite the odd vibe, we had a great time. We headed to a local town for a great lunch then to the grocery store to get everything we needed for...

Apple pie baking. It was all hands on deck. The kids peeled, Beth cut, Mia cinnamoned, Owen nutmeged. Then the oven did its thing and we ended up with one damn fine apple pie.

Like I said, I'm exhausted. But it was totally worth it.

Posted by Chris at 8:10 AM | Comments (7)

Haiku For Monday #384

Monday, an onion:
the more layers you peel back
stinkier it gets.

Posted by Chris at 8:08 AM

September 23, 2011

The Weeklies #187

Yep, you can listen to it...or download it.

The Weekly Beer. Headwaters Pale Ale

The Weekly Music. It's Pearl Jam's 20th anniversary. To commemorate the event, they've made a movie which I honestly can't wait to see. It's soundtrack was released earlier this week. And what an odd collection it is. Instead of a standard best of collection, the soundtrack is chock full of oddities - audience-recorded early performances, demos, acoustic appearances, and instrumentals that would eventually become full-fledged songs. It wasn't what I was expecting; it was better - an insightful look at a great band.

The Weekly Musical Shocker. REM broke up. I'm not really sure why this was such a shock to everyone. I think I own almost every REM album but I don't consider myself a huge fan. I always felt as if I should like or respect REM but never really understood why. Sure, they made some great music and released some iconic songs. But will I really miss them? Probably not.

The Weekly Read. I'm a bad reader. I'm halfway through a murder mystery but seem to be falling asleep every night having read only a page...or maybe two if I'm lucky.

The Weekly Schadenfreude. Did you see that Netflix - after raising prices - divided itself in half? They're keeping the Netflix name for their streaming service and calling their DVD rental business Quikster, which sounds like...well...I don't know but it doesn't sound good. It's a bizarre business move. The best business move, however, is by the owner of the Quikster Twitter handle. He's offering up the handle to the company which they better take him up on. Especially since Quikster's current avatar is a pot-smoking Elmo (seriously).

The Weekly Question. What's your favorite thing about fall? Besides drunk naked apple picking. (Come on, you know you've tried it.)

Posted by Chris at 7:04 AM | Comments (11)

September 22, 2011

Magical Times

I spent a while last night talking to the kids about ye olden days. You know, the days of black and white movies, ice boxes that were actually boxes with ice inside to keep your food fresh, a decided lack of electricity and indoor plumbing. They were apprehensive. Their faces reflected an odd mix of horror and curiosity. It was like I was gutting Elmo with a steak knife (horror) but they wanted to know what was inside (curiosity).

Oh, if our forefathers could see us now - cars that can practically drive themselves (and, cars in general), computers that think for us, movies that travel with us anywhere in the palms of our hands, refrigerators capable of holding the average annual consumption of a Somali child. Think about it. On my phone alone, I can catch a movie, call anyone anywhere in the world, take pictures, listen to almost any song imaginable, respond to and send email, video conference, and so much more. And half of these things weren't even concepts a century ago.

I bitch about stuff - insane politicians, celebrities, social welfare, bad books and stupid people - because it makes me feel better. But I fully realize we live in magical times. Could we do more, better things with all this magic? Absolutely. But it's magic nonetheless.

Posted by Chris at 7:59 AM | Comments (4)

September 21, 2011

TXT ME

Would you rather be texted, emailed or called?

The reason I ask is that while I'm a great emailer (not to many of you fine readers lately, sorry) and a half decent texter (I can't keep up with 13 year old girls but who can), I'm a lousy phone conversationalist. I know I come off like a decent communicator here. I can be witty and fun and poignant and humorously inappropriate. In person I'm more of a dork but I can definitely hold up my end of a conversation, awkward pauses aside. But talking to me on the phone is like trying to have a conversation with Ronald Reagan. In his current state.

I'm not sure why.

I realize that email is a vastly inferior form of communication. Sure, it's fast and efficient but easily misunderstood and misinterpreted. Texting is worse. But send me an email or text message any day. Trust me. It's best for both of us.

So, text, email or call? Which will it be?

Posted by Chris at 7:41 AM | Comments (32)

September 20, 2011

The Lanes

Mia went to a birthday party over the weekend. Despite the fact that it was a drop-off party, Beth, Owen and I decided to stay and bowl. Oddly, this was the same bowling alley that I frequented when I was in high school.

I was something of a mystery in high school. I didn't really fit into any social clique or category. Or, rather, I somehow fit into all of them. I dated a cheerleader but didn't play football; I hung out with the stoners but never smoked pot (nor did they, to be completely honest). I was a smart kid without an honor society to cling to and a school newspaper editor with a hot girlfriend. And I bowled. I even belonged to a league. We were basically a bunch of hair metal wannabes with long hair who somehow woke up early every Saturday morning and bowled three games. I did it for a couple of years. I'd wake up, hit the 7-11 for coffee and a pack of cigarettes, and meet the four guys on my team. We'd practice for 15 minutes then roll for real. We were actually pretty good. In between frames, we'd smoke, talk about the latest album by Faster Pussycat or Skid Row and shout hello from the gutter (an Overkill song) whenever someone flubbed a throw.

One of Mia's friend's dads dropped by to pick up his daughter. He was in the first class to go through what is now Mia's elementary school and now his daughter (and mine) goes. As it turns out, we both used to hang out here though he hung out a few years earlier.

Me: This place really hasn't changed a hell of a lot.
Him: No, it hasn't. What's amazing is that it still smells like cigarette smoke in here.
Me: Yeah, it's been, what, 10 years since you could smoke in here. Sadly, I think I contributed to a lot of that.
Him: Me too. Strange.

Mia had a great time at the party. Owen loved bowling. Beth hadn't bowled for years and neither had I. Of course, I only scored a 143 on my best game. A far cry from my 200+ high school games.

Some things change. Others don't.

Posted by Chris at 7:25 AM | Comments (5)

September 19, 2011

Drama Queen

She got the part!

Maybe I should back up a little.

A while ago Mia had a friend who somehow ended up in a local community theater production. She was a little jealous but most of all curious how she, too, could do the same thing. Now, this didn't surprise her mother and I. She's always had a flair for the dramatic. This is, after all, the girl who got up and did a whole number built around I Cain't Say No from Oklahoma two Christmases ago. We did our homework, looked into the process and, on Saturday, Beth and Mia both auditioned for the next production.

On Saturday night they called. They both made it. Rehearsals start this week.

We appreciate our privacy so I won't comment on the production but the I can say that the call was shocking because of the part they offered Mia. It's not a large part but it is incredibly pivotal.

I know what this sounds like and I promise you we are as far from being stage parents as Michele Bachman is from an IQ score greater than her shoe size. This was Mia's call from the beginning. And it completely fits with her personality. She's going to knock 'em dead and be back for more. And we're going to sit in the audience adoringly.

Posted by Chris at 9:09 AM | Comments (12)

Haiku For Monday #383

The weather's colder
and I could have slept forever.
But The Man awaits.

Posted by Chris at 9:08 AM | Comments (1)

September 16, 2011

The Weeklies #186

The Weekly Fact. It should have been Friday, like, three days ago, right?

The Weekly Thing That Costs Way More Than It Should. Cereal.

The Weekly Read. I recently finished a really interesting and slightly terrifying book, Inside Scientology by journalist Janet Reitman. Reitman began her quest with an article commissioned by Rolling Stone. It turned into a five year journey, trying to get to the bottom of the secretive religion. What she found was truly fascinating. Beyond Tom Cruise and John Travolta is a truly odd belief system rooted in the belief that extra terrestrials sprinkled their knowledge and life force throughout the universe allowing humans to pick them up after they'd achieved a certain amount of enlightenment through techniques such as auditing with special electronic devices called E-meters. And what kind of commitment is required from the subject? Money. Sheer volumes of cash. In fact progress in the religion is accelerated based on the amount of money you put into it.

The Weekly Awesomeness in Literature. My buddy Marshall is now a New York Times #1 Bestselling Author.

The Weekly Music. This will probably appeal to three of you. This week I downloaded and listened to the new Dream Theater album A Dramatic Turn Of Events. Sure I own all their albums but I was really interested in how they'd sound on their fist album since the departure of founding member and insanely awesome drummer Mike Portnoy (who I saw earlier this summer drumming for Neal Morse). With incredible drummer Mike Mangini on board after a well-publicized search, the band honestly sounds better than ever. Yes, the vocals are dated and sure the lyrics are often cheesy but the music is technically perfect.

The Weekly Joke. "They told me that my password had to be eight characters long. So I made it Snow White And The Seven Dwarves."

The Weekly Schadenfreude. Michaele Salahi - she of White House crasher and D.C. Housewives fame - got all kidnaped this week. Except it really wasn't a case of kidnapping. No, Michaele ran off with Journey guitarist Neal Schon. Really. You can't make this stuff up.

The Weekly Question. Speaking of Journey, what's your guiltiest musical pleasure?

Posted by Chris at 7:18 AM | Comments (14)

September 15, 2011

Celebrity Rehab

There's a level of superstar that I don't understand...or condone. You know the people, the ones who have riders in their contracts that demand five pounds of M&Ms in a crystal bowl with all the blue ones removed. And ten bottles of $500/bottle champagne chilled to 41.3 degrees at all times. The latest to blow her cover and prove that she's an asshole is Madonna. Apparently when she premiered her new film at the Toronto International Film Festival she wouldn't allow any of the great unwashed (a.k.a., the volunteers working the festival) to gaze at her.

eight of the volunteers were asked to turn their faces to a wall so that they would not look at the pop-star-turned-movie-director as she made her way to her press conference about the film. One volunteer told the Globe they all dutifully stood with their backs to her as she passed.

What's up with that?

I think it's that celebrities over time become so divorced from reality, so shielded from how people live and how people should behave that they virtually have no clue. So I propose Celebrity Rehabilitation Camps For The Stuck Up. In camp, they have to do things like the rest of us - wear clothes from Target, drink tap water, cook their own meals, drive compact cars and fly coach when they need to.

Regardless, Madonna's still an asshole.

Posted by Chris at 7:56 AM | Comments (17)

September 14, 2011

Giant Balls

I'm not as active as I should be. I know I should exercise or at least join a gym and say I exercise but there aren't enough hours in the day. Over the last couple of years, I've dramatically changed my eating habits. As it turns out being a vegetarian is healthy but augmenting a vegetarian diet with a pint of Ben and Jerry's a day is not. Caffeine (two cups of coffee, max) and beer (typically more than two) are my only daily vices. But its not like I sit around all day. I have kids. They wouldn't let that happen. I do, however, have a desk job so there's little that can be done about eight or ten hours of the day. I've become convinced that working behind a desk is seriously bad for your health.

A few months back I started to notice that I was waking up sore every morning. Sore legs. Unless I was sleep-sprinting, there was no good excuse. Then I realized that I'd get up from my desk every so often and hobble around for a couple of minutes until my legs stretched out and didn't feel stabby. This process makes me feel approximately 103 years old and it looks cool too. Yet when we went to the beach a few weeks ago I had no pain in my legs at all. Hmmm. I concluded it was all the sitting.

I redid my home office - new desk, new paint on the walls, but no new chair. No, I decided that instead of paying a bazillion dollars for some space age, complicated chair, I'd buy a giant fucking yoga ball. It's huge. It's easily three feet in diameter. It's supposed to help my posture, keep me from being so sore, and strengthen my core (whatever the fuck that is). And so far it's awesome. Except for yesterday when I was on a conference call, forgot that I was sitting on a ball, lifted my feet up and fell down, then made the excuse "just my ball" to everyone on the call. Now my legs don't hurt. Just my pride.

Posted by Chris at 7:47 AM | Comments (15)

September 13, 2011

Reactions

I don't talk very specifically about work but sometimes I have to. On Friday two interesting and not altogether pleasant things happend that highlighted to me my own emotional failings.

Right as I was in the middle of dealing with senior folks and clients and a person I mentor, an email bomb dropped, one of those messages that when it pops into your inbox makes you cringe and when you read makes you say fuck really, really loud.

My reaction was two-fold: I have to take action and solve the problems immediately and I have to do it myself. The problem? Neither of these things are true. Sure, each of these events necessitated some response. But not a response at 4:00 on a Friday afternoon. And not a response that consisted only of my own actions and own opinions.

So I did something odd. I didn't react immediately. Sure, I freaked out a little bit. Then I reached out to a colleague and set up time to talk through a couple of issues yesterday and tried my best not to obsess about it over the weekend.

And you know what happened? I dealt with it swiftly, professionally, and, if I can be so bold, well yesterday. It took the whole damn day but I did it.

Hey, look at me...I'm getting mature and shit.

What's your biggest emotional failing?

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

September 12, 2011

Parenting Fail #498

Beth and I don't eat meat. We stopped eating meat ten years ago not because we objected to meat (though both of us do now) but because we weren't big fans. As a result we don't eat much fake meat either. But two exceptions are fake breakfast sausage and fake chicken nuggets. Both of the kids love them. (And before you start saying that we're depriving them in some way, we always give them the option of eating meat and Owen's something of a regular at our local Chik-Fil-A.)

On Saturday morning Mia woke up and wanted sausage. We were out. So she asked for a nugget. Not exactly morning food but hey, what the hell. I popped one in the microwave and handed it off.

"It's too crunch. And it's spicy," she said. Now, Mia isn't always very enthusiastic about food. We hear both of these excuses quite a bit. We don't fall for them anymore.

"Just eat them. Mommy's getting donuts and you can have one after you eat some protein." And she did and again she complained. But she'd let them sit too long. They tend to get a little tough when you let them sit. "Do you want me to make you another one?" I offered.

"Yes, please." I did and that second serving was met with the same complaints. Then Beth came home with the promised donuts, a rare special treat.

"Why are you giving Mia those spicy fake Buffalo wings?"

"What are you talking about? I gave her nuggets."

"No, you gave her the spicy Buffalo wings, the ones I bought for myself to put on salads at lunch."

"Oh shit."

It was then that I realized that, indeed, I had been trying to guilt Mia into eating spicy Buffalo wings. And that she'd been largely compliant given the fact that they must have tasted so horrible to her. I was immediately and profusely apologetic. All day long. I felt - and still feel - horrible.

A note to the Morningstar Farms folks - when you make two very different products and put them in the exact same box with the same colors and virtually the same picture on the front - there's going to be trouble. Especially when you're dealing with a dad who's only managed to consume one cup of coffee.

Posted by Chris at 7:11 AM | Comments (6)

Haiku For Monday #382

Dark nights, dark mornings.
Leaves changing, chestnuts falling.
But Mondays still suck.

Posted by Chris at 7:10 AM | Comments (1)

September 9, 2011

I Heard The News Today, Oh Boy

I was standing in my office on a phone call when, out of the unoccupied ear I heard that a small plane crashed into a building in New York. I was on my way to my psychiatrist when I saw the smoke rising from the Pentagon. I was pulling into the parking lot when the reports came that - if you believed them all - every building in New York and Washington was on fire. I told my psychiatrist what happened. She fell apart. I thought I might have the wrong psychiatrist. I got back in my car and headed home. The 15 mile trip took two hours. I arrived at home, opened the door and found Beth watching the news. I found myself staring at pictures of this horrible thing that I'd only, to that point, heard about and tried not to picture in my mind. It, for whatever reason, had not occurred to me that cameras could have captured horror of this magnitude.

We lived close to an airport. All flights were grounded. The silence was eerie. We sat in the silence glued to the couch emerging only when a helicopter flew overhead. Everyone came out of their homes and looked up to the sky. It was as if we were refugees. In a sense we were.

In the hours and days that followed I watched the endless coverage and surfed the news sites, reading first hand accounts and looking at pictures of decimated buildings and soot-covered people. Some part of me couldn't sit idly by while so many other suffered so profoundly. I had to suffer a little bit myself.

I remember many things from that day but above all I remember the bright blue sky. In ten years I don't believe I've seen such a beautiful day.

Week and months after 9-11, my greatest fear wasn't getting blown up in a building or inhaling anthrax. My biggest fear was that we'd forget - we'd forget what a wonderful country we were, how people from all walks of life came together, how we all flew American flags, and, most importantly, how many people were lost as a result of sheer hatred. I'm still afraid of that.

Posted by Chris at 7:32 AM | Comments (7)

September 8, 2011

Church and State

Earlier this week I got an email the subject of which was "Raising the Right." I knew it would either be innocuous or deeply offensive. It was, in fact, the latter. It began a little something like this:

The U.S. has one of the lowest birth success rates in the world, schools are testing four-day class weeks, and liberals want to take “one nation under God” out of the pledge of allegiance. What is happening to our country?

Ahhh, the old what is happening to our country ploy. It got better since it was, after all, an email promoting a Christian artist and apparent patriot.
Patriotic artist, Bob McBoberson*, created a painting representing his fear, sorrow and hope for this nation titled, “One Nation Under God.” He painted it in the hopes to awaken Americans and the government to return to the principles of freedom under the Constitution and recognize God as the source of these blessings. With over 60 figures and symbols in Bob’s painting, Jesus is holding the Constitution while the founding fathers and other symbolic individuals from the past stand directly behind him. This is to show the belief that God & Country should be united. To the left side of the painting are the strong Americans who hold the country together while on the other side are those who are weakening it.

And I swear Abraham Lincoln is on the right hand side, along with "those who are weakening" our country. Which include a scientist holding The Origin of the Species, a reporter, a pregnant woman clutching her swollen belly, a lawyer counting money, and a man "on his cell phone not paying attention." I wish I was making this up.

I'm an atheist, liberal (who doesn't think liberal is a bad word), Fox News loathing, evolution believing, women's rights supporting, pro-choice championing, separation of church and state upholding kind of guy. And I found this deeply disturbing.

I don't foist my beliefs on anyone else. They're mine and mine alone. Everyone has every right to believe whatever they want to believe because that's precisely the thing that makes this country great. The problem with this example of extremism is that it both laughs in the face of separation of church and state doctrine while clearly excluding the other religions and cultures that went (and still go) into making this country so fantastic.

Am I wrong? Isn't there enough division in this country as it is? Shouldn't we be trying to find compromises instead of differences?


* Not his real name. I refuse to give this guy publicity.

Posted by Chris at 7:04 AM | Comments (13)

September 7, 2011

The Office

I spend an increasing amount of time working from home. And that means working in a lightless basement. Not that I'm complaining. It's great. I have a fantastic commute, get to see the kids and can wear jeans...or forego pants altogether if I want to.

The guy that owned the house before us did a fantastic job with the basement. He finished it himself and hand-crafted a built in desk and set of cabinets into the main room. I used that area as my office for the past few years. But unfortunately it was the main traffic route between me and the washing machines and storage areas. It got a little busy. Plus it was right in the main room.

So I did a very uncharacteristically adult (and some would say stupid) thing - I converted my music room into an office. Yes, I admitted rockstar defeat and caved to The Man.

Yes, I have three computers...and yes I need all of them.

When we got back from the beach - and were bracing for hurricane Irene - we got a couple gallons of paint and painted the walls what the paint people call Elephant Gray. Last weekend we went to Ikea and got a desk and lighting. On Sunday I moved everything from one office to another. Yesterday I christened my office. (I wore pants.)

I still need a few things - art on the walls and maybe a nice rug. But so far I'm digging it. It's like my own little man cave. But for work. So, a The Man cave.

Posted by Chris at 7:39 AM | Comments (6)

September 6, 2011

Reopens On Memorial Day...

I'm always a tiny bit sad when the neighborhood pool closes. It looks so empty, all the chair and tables and umbrellas gone, the lifeguard chair empty, not a soul in sight. At 5:00 yesterday, the four of us went to the pool to say goodbye to the lifeguards we saw nearly every day.

I don't care what the calendar says. Summer is over.

I used to consider myself equitable where the seasons were concerned. I didn't have particularly strong feelings about any of them with the exception of winter which I was not fond of after 1996 left us shoveling our cars out of ice and snow for weeks. Now I'm pretty sure that - while I still don't hold anything against spring or fall - summer is my absolute favorite.

Mia starts first grade this morning. On Wednesday, Owen starts preschool. It's buckle-down time. Time for sensible bedtimes, good night sleeps, backpacks and lunchboxes. I will miss summer, particularly this one. I will miss Mia riding her two wheel bike, swimming like there's no tomorrow, becoming so independent, reading until all hours of the night. I will miss Owen - a.k.a. Captain America or Anakin Skywalker or Superman - showing us his muscles while fighting crime, taunting his sister, and bleaching his already-white hair in the summer sun.

It was a beautiful summer but, unlike the movie, certainly and unfortunately not an endless one.

And, like I said, I'm a little sad about that.

Posted by Chris at 7:23 AM | Comments (6)

September 4, 2011

The Weekly Kick Ass Music Podcast #3

Time for The Weekly Kick Ass Music Podcast! Enjoy!

Download now

Posted by Chris at 1:05 PM | Comments (1)

September 2, 2011

The Weeklies #185

Whoomp, here it is! Take your pick - listen, read or download to listen later.

The Weekly Natural Disasters. Hurricanes and earthquakes.

The Weekly Read. Whilst on vacation I tackled A Small Fortune by Audrey Braun. It's a debut novel and was offered pretty darn cheap on Amazon so I picked it up. The result? Pretty darn good. It was a definite page turner that revolved around exotic destinations, kidnapping and money. Highly recommended if you need a late-summer beach read.

The Weekly Music. Every time I listen to the Beatles I realize just a little more how brilliant they were. I came home this week and Beth was playing the kids some Beatles tunes. Abby Road, to be exact. I've never been a huge Beatles fan but the older I get the more I realize how insanely good their music is.

The Weekly Book Release. You know Marshall Karp's new collaboration with James Patterson is out, right? What are you waiting for? Go grab a copy!

The Weekly Great Michelle Bachmann Quote. “I don’t know how much God has to do to get the attention of the politicians. We’ve had an earthquake; we’ve had a hurricane. He said, ‘Are you going to start listening to me here?’ Listen to the American people because the American people are roaring right now. They know government is on a morbid obesity diet and we’ve got to rein in the spending.” Then she said it was a joke. Right.

The Weekly Schadenfreude. Does everyone remember last year before the iPhone 4 was revealed that a rare prototype was left in a bar? You'd think they'd learn. Apparently not because it happened again. An iPhone 5 prototype was left in a bar and immediately sold on Craigslist.

Posted by Chris at 7:43 AM | Comments (2)

September 1, 2011

Trouble

Mia's room is a source of some frustration. We like Mia's room to be nice and orderly so she can find stuff and we don't have to hunt for it. She likes it, well, looking like Libya does right about now. We've made her allowance contingent on a clean room but she's got some very strong opinions of who to keep it clean. We frequently disagree.

Me: I really think it would be a lot easier if you cleaned up your room a little at the beginning or the end of every day. Then at the end of the week, it wouldn't be so bad.
Mia: I have an alternative theory. I think I should just wait until the end of the week, then clean up once. So I'm saving time.
Me: You should try it my way. Just once.
Mia: I'm not very motivated to do that.

We agreed to disagree but that's not what's remarkable about the conversation. No. What's remarkable is that Mia sat right on her bed next to me, turned and uttered the phrase I have an alternative theory. Not no, you're wrong or stupid old guy. I have an alternative theory.

I don't know many six year olds who talk like that. Hell, I don't know many 38 year olds who talk like that. But it fits.

I'm not trying to brag about my kid and her vocabulary. I'm just terrified. I mean, if she's like this at six what's she going to be like at sixteen? Flying a plane? Doing advanced calculus? Dating?

Posted by Chris at 8:07 AM | Comments (15)


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