May 31, 2012

Jesus Yogurt

I feel like there's a lot I'm going to have to answer for and a lot of things that could be taken the wrong way only because I lack sufficient skills to properly explain myself. But here goes...

In my recent travels I ran across Jesus yogurt. Specifically, a frozen yogurt store called Sweet Frog. It sounds innocent and straightforward enough but if you enter the store you're immediately informed that you've entered a business with a mission. For, frog is actually an acronym for fully rely on God. I don't know why but it surprised me. I respect the company for putting it's faith out in the open but another part of me thinks it's unusual. Not unusual in a bad way but really just not usual. Because you rarely see business and religious philosophy tied together in so public a manner.

I'm not Christian or religious in any way. But I certainly don't judge those who are. Beliefs, however, impact how I spend my money. I don't go to Chik-Fil-A not because of its strong Christian leadership and ties. I don't go because aside from waffle fries and fresh lemonade there's nothing for me - a vegetarian - to eat. But I won't order from Dominos because the company president's extreme religious views. Frankly, I don't my money paying for his vision of the world. I won't buy any of Orson Scott Card's books because, despite the fact that he's a great writer who wrote one of my favorite books ever - Ender's Game - he's a homophobic religious nut.

In short, I think its unfair to hold religion against an individual or business but I'm okay not doing business with institutions that do harm in the name of religion.

Do the beliefs of businesses influence whether or not you buy from them?

Update: It was early when I posted this and somehow in my caffeine-deprived haze I managed to close comments. They're open now. Tell me what you think.

Posted by Chris at 6:47 AM | Comments (6)

May 30, 2012

The Force

I finally figured out a way to explain illness to my four year old. The same four year old who threw up all over my car yesterday around 4:00. Last night as I was tucking him into bed, situating towels and a trashcan close to the bed, he asked me why he was sick and why I gave him Tylenol.

Okay, you know about germs, right? Think of the germs as battle droids. And the good guys, well, obviously they're the Jedis. The Jedis and the battle droids fight inside your body and, well, that heats you up. We gave you medicine to give the guys with The Force a little extra power. They'll win but you just need to rest and let them do battle.

So, that's pretty much been my day. How are you?

Posted by Chris at 7:04 AM | Comments (5)

May 29, 2012

What I Did On My Summer Vacation (Or, Why I'm Exhausted)

The past week was, perhaps, one of the best I've ever had. It began a week ago Sunday as we packed up our stuff and kids and headed to the beach. It ended last night when we tucked in two exhausted children followed closely by ourselves. In between there were long beach walks, beer, way too much good food, puzzles, board games, oddly circular versions of God Bless America, a Memorial Day cookout, over 13 hours logged at the neighborhood pool, and, most importantly, a whole lot of family.

Last Wednesday evening an amazing thing happened. Or, rather, a series of mundane things came together to make an amazing night. Beth, Mia, Owen and I went on a beach walk with my dad and aunt. Owen ran two solid miles. We all took turns chasing him, my aunt leading the way. During those two miles a number of activities occurred - Mia strolled out into the ocean, I investigated washed up sea life and gathered shells, Owen and my dad chased each other through shallow waves. We all ended up back at the beach in front out our house as the sun set and the clouds turned pink and orange and purple and painted wispy brushstrokes through the blue sky. Pelicans danced overhead, the beaches cleared of people, and the waves calmed.

Perfect moments are usually recognized in retrospect. Monday morning quarterbacking. But this was different. I knew what was happening as it unfolded. I chased everyone down the beach, snapping as many photos as I could knowing that no photograph could ever capture the magic that existed for those fleeting minutes. But I knew that it was as perfect a moment - or collection of moments - as I could hope to be a part of.

And that, my friends, is a perfect vacation.

Posted by Chris at 7:05 AM | Comments (5)

May 22, 2012


Oh, hi. I'm afraid I neglected to tell you that I would be on vacation this week. Instead of working or writing or yard work or doing anything else that might resemble your normal responsible adult behavior, I'm looking out on the Atlantic Ocean right now, drinking coffee and thinking about our nice long day of doing absolutely nothing of any importance.

Don't worry. I'll be back.

Posted by Chris at 8:25 AM | Comments (5)

May 18, 2012

The Weeklies #214

The Weekly Bold Restaurant Move. I went to a restaurant last week that has an all-bacon menu. Even bacon-flavored beer. For a second I regretted my vegetarian ways but then I realized they had regular beer. I felt better.

The Weekly Beer. I'll pretty much go for anything made by the Devil's Backbone folks. Because how can you not enjoy something with that kind of name?

The Weekly Read. I loved Hugh Howey's Wool series a great deal. I was thrilled to learn that he'd embarked on a prequel series which begins with the just-released First Shift - Legacy. Of course, I bought it and devoured it. It's rare that a prequel - much less a sequel - is as compelling as the book or books it succeeds. But then Howey's a rare talent and was perfectly able to pull it off. It's brilliant.

The Weekly Obscure Observation. Richard Marx - you know, the singer? - has a gigantic head. I saw a picture of him recently and without long hair, the man's got an obscenely large head. I don't know how he doesn't fall over more. Maybe he does.

The Weekly News Item That Shocked The Hell Out Of Me. The headline said it all - Al Gore Has A Girlfriend and I'm thinking how am I just now hearing about this my mind wandering to Gore getting it with a WASP album on the turn table in spite of a loving marriage to PMRC-loving Tipper. Then I kept reading. They're separated. Seriously? I didn't know this. At all. And apparently it happened two years ago.

The Weekly Offer I Can Refuse. Publicists (yes, plural) keep offering me the soundtrack from What To Expect When You're Expecting which is apparently a hilarious adaptation of a pregnancy guidebook. It's got to be brilliant following in the footsteps of so many other hilarious guidebook adaptations like...

The Weekly Loss. Donna Summer. She worked hard for the money.

The Weekly Question. THC was found in Trayvon Martin's system. Evidence shows that George Zimmerman's nose was broken and Martin's knuckles were scraped. Do these factors change the way you think about the case?

Posted by Chris at 7:27 AM | Comments (12)

May 17, 2012


Beth and I have owned a home for about eight years now. Our first house was an adorable little town house with a giant magnolia tree out front. We loved that house but when we learned Owen was on the way all the rooms suddenly seemed much, much smaller. We've been in our current house for four years and we're planning to stay for a good long while.

Until now if you'd asked me about the hardships involved in owning a home I'd probably have laughed and said something like hey, if you can't stand replacing the guts of a toilet now and then you should rent. But now I've changed my tune.

Two months ago we had our siding replaced. Two weeks ago we repainted all the trim, replaced rotten wood, and picked a brand new color for the shutters. Then we embarked on a long, arduous journey though the nine circles of landscaping hell which involved pitchforks, wheelbarrows, new outdoor lighting, a ton of grass seed and enough mulch to cover Rhode Island. And all this is in advance of the impending Kitchen Destruction Of 2012 which we're guesstimating will happen in August since we ordered appliances two weeks ago and cabinets yesterday afternoon.

As a result of these improvements I actually physically ache. But it's so absolutely worth it. That said, I've changed my tune. Owning a home is hard work.

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

May 16, 2012


I grew up reading. My parents read, my grandparents read, and everyone read to me. When I was a kid I loved books of all kinds though I was partial to the Wizard Of Oz books, the Narnia series and A Wrinkle In Time. At some point I found the Choose Your Own Adventure books then my dad handed me a stack of sci-fi books and my fate was sealed. Now, I read everything.

As much as we think things change so drastically over the generations, they really don't. Mia and Beth just finished the entire Little House series. She loves the Oz books, some of the Narnia series and I recently discovered that the Choose Your Own Adventure books are now in e-book form.

While the classics are good, I have to admit that I absolutely love one particular series of more contemporary books. Clementine.

I was introduced to Clementine by some good friends who happen to have a daughter named Clementine (no relation) and gave the book to Mia for her birthday. Clementine is a smart, hilarious kid who lives in an apartment building in New York where her dad is the superintendent. Her mom's an artist and her brother - whose name I forget because Clementine rotates amongst all of the vegetables since she, herself has to deal with a fruit name - is a rather pleasant bother.

I was reading the latest Clementine book to Mia last night when a particular line struck me as brilliant:

Fair doesn't mean that everyone gets the same thing. Fair means that everyone gets what they need.

And that's when I realized what I like about these books. They tell the truth. Yes, they're funny but they're honest, they're smart, and they don't talk down to kids. And to be honest? It's rare that a kid's book makes me stop reading aloud because I'm laughing so hard.

What were your favorite books as a kid? And if you've got kids, what are they're favorite books?

Posted by Chris at 7:05 AM | Comments (13)

May 15, 2012

Behind The Curtain

In the evening - after work is over and the kids have gone to bed - I write the things that get spewed out here the next day. If I had to guess I'd say I spend 20 minutes a day writing. This accounts for the poorly edited and often badly conceived things I concoct for your reading pleasure. In the hours before, during the vast majority of the day, I try to think of something at least marginally compelling. There are three conclusions this effort comes to:

- I come up with something startlingly brilliant that I am sure will win whatever is the blogging equivalent of a Pulitzer. Or at least snag me a comment or two.
- I try my best to develop a lame, half-assed idea into something tolerable and somewhat amusing.
- I find myself unable to think of anything and pray for the baby jesus to give me a sign or at least allow a celebrity sex tape leak at which point I can act indignant and pretend I didn't watch it.

On any given day I've got an equal chance of these three options playing out. But when the third thing happens, I consult my notes. I have an extensive supply of lame ideas that I write down and forget about precisely because they're lame. I hunt them down when I'm desperate and hope to wring some brilliance from their excessive crappyness. (Aside: My spell check apparently has no clue how to spell crappyness so this is not the fault of the panic-stricken, hurried author.) Last night was one of those times. When I looked, however, the well was pretty much dry except for one hastily scrawled note.


For those of you who can't read my writing - poison microwave birds. I have no idea what this means. Absolutely none. I think it could refer to the birds that live outside our house where the microwave is vented. But it's equally possible that I'm a brainwashed Jason Bourne type person who's memory of a burned out African village will return and these three words will somehow save humanity. Or its a shitty band name I came up with after a few beers and a couple hours of VH1's Behind The Music.

Any ideas?

Posted by Chris at 7:01 AM | Comments (7)

May 14, 2012

Word...To Your Mother

Let's skip past the biologically obvious fact that without moms we'd all be, well, not so much here. That fact notwithstanding, I'd still argue the fact that moms pretty much make the world go 'round. There are elite teams of men trained to brave the elements and take out enemies that would cringe at what moms have to put up with on a daily basis.

It's obvious that moms past and present have a special place in our consciousness. Yesterday I happened to drive by a cemetery. It was filled with people leaving flowers, standing, heads downward, remembering. I'm assuming that most of the graves visited were moms. Of course, there was also a rather odd looking group of people one of which was shoveling dirt away from a grave which, frankly, is taking the concept of visiting with the dead just a bit too far.

Regardless, all this is a very long-winded way of saying that all you moms rock. Us dads are pretty damn great too if I do say so myself but it's you, moms that do the heaviest of heavy lifting. So, thanks. And a belated Happy Mother's Day.

How did you celebrate Mother's Day?

Posted by Chris at 8:07 AM | Comments (6)

Haiku For Monday #413

Mother's Day was a
great big 'ol success. Monday,
however, just blows.

Posted by Chris at 7:58 AM | Comments (2)

May 11, 2012

The Weeklies #213

The Weekly Greatest Newspaper Slip-up OR Best Band Name. Cummerbund Bandersnatch.

The Weekly Bold Political Move. President Obama finally clued us in to his thoughts on gay marriage. I'm starting to remember why we elected this guy.

The Weekly Read. Rogue Island by Bruce DeSilva was a great surprise. I found an ebook version for a couple of bucks and forgot about it until last week. What I got was this great little mystery in which the state of Rhode Island with its relatively checkered past was both location and character. It's a gritty little mystery about arson, corruption, and the death of the newspaper industry. And it was a whole lot of fun to read.

The Weekly Short Film. I dare you to watch this and not somehow be impacted.

The Weekly Beer. Evolution No. 3 IPA.

The Weekly Greatest Ad. If you havent' seen it already you must - MUST - check out the ad posted on Craigslist for a 1995 Pontiac Grand Am. Frankly I'll get behind any product with an ad that begins Jesus Tap-Dancing Christ

The Weekly Loss. Maurice Sendak

The Weekly Question. What are you doing this weekend?

Posted by Chris at 8:06 AM | Comments (9)

May 10, 2012


I don't like the Beastie Boys much at all. Since I don't like rap, this shouldn't be much of a surprise. But I did my due diligence yesterday, reaffirming my stance, when I spun through a few of their albums.

Don't get me wrong. I fought for my right to party as much as the next guy. I remember when License To Ill hit the shelves. No one had ever heard anything quite like it. Almost everyone went ape-shit over it. Pretty amazing. White rappers and Guess jeans. Quite a combo.

What gets me about MCA's death isn't the inevitable loss of a band and the music they created and would probably create if he was still alive. Instead it's the loss of such a strong cultural and popular influence who, with a couple of friends, carved out a piece of the music industry, shaped it, and made it his own. And ended up doing so much good with the influence he achieved.

That and the fact that he was so damn young.

Posted by Chris at 7:48 AM

May 9, 2012

My TiVo Needs Your Help

My TiVo is sad. Last night it told me it was only 22% full. And that's not because we flip it on and push play constantly. No, we neglect it...because we don't watch anything. It feels like it's missing something. It also feels ganged up on by Neflix and Hulu which deliver half of what we watch. Here's the low down and dirty on our viewing habits:

- Grey's Anatomy (shut up)
- CSI: Cheers
- The Daily Show
- The Colbert Report
- Community (that's all me)
- No Reservations
- Breaking Bad
- Chopped (though we delete more episodes than we watch)
- Survivor
- Sons of Anarchy (oddly, that's all Beth)
- The Walking Dead

And that's pretty much it. You can see why TiVo is unhappy. And since I'm running out of Breaking Bad and Community, and Walking Dead will be back in, like, 2015, I'm pretty desperate to find the next unturnoffable show.


Posted by Chris at 7:17 AM | Comments (23)

May 8, 2012

Flying Bullhorns and Air Squid

Into every life a little rain must fall. Or a really annoying bird must sing. Okay, you probably haven't heard that second one. It's a little more obscure but incredibly true.

It's been a beautiful spring here in the outskirts of Monkeytown. The days haven't been overly hot and the nights have been breezy and cool. Our windows remain open around the clock. And that explains why we're awoken each morning at precisely 4:28 by the loudest, most annoying and purely evil bird that has ever flown the skies above this earth.

The devil crafted this bird himself out of feathers, attitude and bullhorns. I've never seen it but judging by the noise it makes, I can only assume that it's got an eight-foot wingspan and devours small children for nutrients. It's call is a four syllable mixture of pain and orgasmic delight cranked up to 11 Nigel Tufnel style. It sounds, vaguely, like wake the fuck up...wake the fuck up. And we do. In the absence of an actual name, I'm calling it the Northern Virginia Red-Throated Douche Bird.

I'm a vegetarian. While I fully believe that everyone should consume whatever they want to consume, I choose not to eat anything with a face. That said, I would gladly kill this bird, spit-roast it and put it in my tummy if it would mean sleeping past 4:28. Or introduce a horrifically destructive species into the environment, whatever natural predator would consume an incredibly annoying eight foot bird. Like a flying fire-breathing air squid. And if that air squid torched every tree in the neighborhood and made off with a few of the smaller, yappier dogs, it would be well worth it because we'd be able to sleep until a more godly hour.

The problem is I'd break my neck if I climbed the tree in our front yard this thing lives in. And air squid aren't real. I guess I'm going to have to deal with it.

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

May 7, 2012

My Robot

This fine Monday morning I'll share with you an original story written by Mia. She was pretty excited that I was going to share it with you, though she had reservations about sharing it on Facebook (don't share it on Facebook, that would be rude). So here's your exclusive.

My Robot by Mia

Hello, my name is Pirely. I am a dessert robot. I pick up trash cause it's my job to scoop scoop and suck. Lalalalalalalala. Oh I forgot to menchin I can swim. Ahhh! Acshely, it's no big dell. I love trash! And I also forgot to menshine this story takes place July 20th, 2020.

This is my friend Jake. Hi. I am a flying robot. My talent is when a plain crashes I save the day.

Bom bom bom bom Jake the robot saves the day again!

We love to go on walks in the forest together. I mean we love, love, love, love, love to. Good bye. I have to do my job.

After I tucked her into bed and we discussed what it meant to be published on the internet, she gave me the four-finger Vulcan salute and said live long and prosper. She's destined to be a geek. And I'm totally okay with that.

Posted by Chris at 7:48 AM | Comments (4)

Haiku For Monday #412

I have to teach a
class today. You can call me
Professor Cactus.

Posted by Chris at 7:44 AM

May 4, 2012


In the wee hours of the morning yesterday, my grandmother died.

I've never read anything about death that adequately captured the range of emotion it encapsulated. It would be silly to think that on this morning I'd be the one to crack the code.

I can only tell you that my grandmother was a pretty special person. She taught me how to play gin rummy. She taught me that I liked radishes pulled straight from the ground. And peas. Though not from the ground because those would be weird peas. Her basement smelled amazing and I've not smelled another room like it since. She loved birds, including the male cardinal who flew into her kitchen window every morning. And flowers. She loved gardens and what they grew.

My grandmother was the very definition of stoic in the best, mid-western sense of the word. She took her life and death in stride. Perhaps the first and last time we talked about the possibility of her death - about three months ago - she told me, if the good lord decides to take me now, I'd be happy with the life I've had. I lived a long and good live. And I'd like to see your grandfather.

That, my friends, is all any of us can hope for.

The dead are always looking down on us, they say.
while we are putting on our shoes or making a sandwich,
they are looking down through the glass bottom boats of heaven
as they row themselves slowly through eternity.

They watch the tops of our heads moving below on earth,
and when we lie down in a field or on a couch,
drugged perhaps by the hum of a long afternoon,
they think we are looking back at them,
which makes them lift their oars and fall silent
and wait, like parents, for us to close our eyes.

- Billy Collins

Posted by Chris at 7:50 AM | Comments (34)

May 3, 2012

Shit I Thought Of Just Now On The Treadmill That I'm Passing Off As A Real Post

- This sucks!
- Never thought I'd see Chevy Chase in a gimp suit.
- I need to cancel my haircut appointment.
- It would be cool if you could will your hair to stop growing and start again when you wanted it longer.
- I wonder what Barry Manilow is doing right this instant.
- All day meeting tomorrow. Ugh.
- Shit! I forgot to pick up my shirts from the cleaners.
- I'm sweating my ass off and I've only burned 131 calories? That's not even a beer.
- Keep going! You can do it!
- Who the hell are you, Richard Simmons?
- Laughing and treadmills don't go well together.
- I might be hallucinating.
- Some people need to take less of that Five Hour Energy stuff and take more Five Hour Shut The Hell Up.
- Oh sweet baby jesus, the hour is over. And I'm calling two commercial-free episodes of Community an hour. Got a problem with that? I didn't think so.

Posted by Chris at 7:25 AM | Comments (4)

May 2, 2012

Froggy Bottom

I love the way my kids say stuff, use kid words. You know, the words that sound pretty much like real words but are just a little bit off. Beth and I mourn a little bit each time one of those words is lost to its more accurate, mature counterpart.

My favorite of Mia's was ofange. She couldn't quite bring herself to pronounce orange correctly. The day she got it right we tried our best to talk her into reverting. She'd have none of it.

My favorite of Owen's is smooky. As in, Look! Scooby Doo and Shaggy are about to run into the smooky ghost. The other day he said it correctly. Sadness filled the land.

But all is not lost. When talking about old, long-departed cat Callie - who purred 24 hours a day, seven days a week (seriously) - Mia referred to her as a purring mantis. And after returning from a subway trip to and from Monkeytown, Owen informed me that the train had stopped at the Froggy Bottom metro station.

Me: Froggy Bottom?
Owen: Yep. Froggy Bottom.
Beth: Don't you dare fix that. Let me have it.

Posted by Chris at 7:40 AM | Comments (21)

May 1, 2012

Invisible Houseguests

It's busy this week at the Cactus-Fish house. We have thirteen guests staying with us this week.

Sally's visiting. Along with her eleven children. That woman's a machine. Most notable among her children is Jill who just graduated from medical school. We had a party last night to celebrate. Amazingly, all twelve of them are crammed into our guest room. Frankly, I didn't think it was going to be big enough. Then there's Jack. Jack is 99 years old and sleeps on the pull-out couch in the playroom. Poor guy has to hobble through piles of Legos in the dark just to make it to the bathroom. Thankfully Jack's spry.

Normally having so many visitors in the house would cramp our style...and be a bit tiresome. Lucky for us they're all invisible.

My kids have fantastically active imaginations. Sally's been with Mia for four years. Jack's a new invention of Owen's. They're all awesome.

I don't think I ever had invisible friends. I was an imaginary detective named John Copley for a stretch of time in the late 70s - that has to count for something - but I never had an imaginary friend. Did you?

Posted by Chris at 8:03 AM | Comments (12)