February 28, 2013

Failing Fathers

If you've been anywhere close to a newspaper, the internet or television in the last several months, you know the word of the day is sequestration. It's an ugly word and its consequences are even uglier, especially if you work for the government or live in the DC area.

What does it mean? That automatic spending cuts go into effect at midnight, drastically reducing spending, furloughing government employees, and crippling certain government functions.

What does it really mean? That congress couldn't get its shit together and act like a group of grownups for a change.

I'm an eternal optimist. I desperately want to believe in the best of people and often do to a fault. But I think it's time that I give up on Congress because they don't get it.

I'm convinced that if our Founding Fathers caught a glimpse of the evening news they'd be horrified. Justifiably so. Instead of serving the people, acting as our representatives, they're more concerned with money, fame, ego and grandstanding. As a result, quite a few people are going to wake up tomorrow morning with an unprecedented degree of uncertainty.

Posted by Chris at 7:16 AM | Comments (8)

February 26, 2013

Connected

When I posted last week about my family being stuck in decades past I deliberately excluded myself because I am, by far, the most wired person in the house. I own and regularly rely on an iPhone, iPad and MacBook for my digital consumption. My newsfeeds are synced, email arrives on each and I can pick up a podcast on one device where I left it on another. My Roku and Apple TV delivers TV and movies, my HD antenna brings me network TV and Vonage and Skype let me talk to people. My home and car stereos let me stream tunes via Bluetooth and my home video library streams anywhere I go.

All that said, I'm not sure I see exactly how this is possible:


If you have a smartphone, you may have felt the embarrassment of sending a private message to the wrong person or having autocorrect fail you at just the wrong time.
But some people experience a different kind of messaging mishap, one they may not even remember doing. And no, they're not drunk-dialing.

They're sleep-texting.

While hard data is lacking on this cultural trend, the anecdotal evidence has been mounting over the past few years. Twitter users regularly recount the loopy messages they've sent with the hashtag #sleeptexting. "There are texts sent from my phone at 5am that I do not recall sending," said one tweet. Another said, "I should stop sleeping next to my phone."

Really? I can barely text before 9:00 AM even with a couple cups of coffee. I have a hard time believe that sleep-texting is a real thing. And if it is, we're way too connected. Yes, even I would call that too connected.

How connected are you?

Posted by Chris at 7:28 AM | Comments (6)

February 25, 2013

BotW: Clown Shoes IPA

Yep, Clown Shoes IPA.Nothing freaks me out quite like clowns. Or spiders. Or clowns juggling spiders which I've really never seen but can only imagine being horrific. Buying a beer named Clown Shoes Miracle IPA was, therefore, a bit of a leap of faith but my daughter made me pick up an oversized bottle based on the fact that my son would undoubtedly like the puppy-clutching superhero on the front.

But was the beer any good?

Yes. I'm an IPA fan so this was right in my wheelhouse. That said, while it was nice and hoppy, it was missing some of the fullness I've come to expect from good IPAs. It was a bit on the light side which makes for a good, refreshing IPA but sacrificed some of the full-bodied goodness I appreciate.

Would I buy it again? Yep.

Posted by Chris at 9:45 PM | Comments (2)

Jesus Was A Point Guard

Mia's first season of basketball ended this weekend. It was sad because she had a great time, her team and coach were fantastic, and the games were fun to watch. She'll miss it. Most of it, anyway.

See, when we signed her up we had no idea that it was a Christian league. Like, half-time devotionals, Sunday-school like lessons during practices, and prayer prior to games*. Like I said, we had no idea and neither did Mia. Mia wasn't impressed but played along and kept her mouth shut and reminded us in the isolation of our own home that she didn't believe in God. And at the end of the day, she had fun.

After every game, each of the kids were given an iron-on star that represented their particular strength in the game - effort, defense, sportsmanship, offense, and the coveted Christ-likeness which I suppose is reasonably self-explanatory. On one of the days Mia was awarded the Christ-likeness star, my father-in-law was present. Now, my father-in-law is a Christian guy, attending church every Sunday, and volunteers for church related activities. So it was doubly hilarious when he turned to me after Mia had been awarded the Christ-likeness star for her defense.

"But Jesus was clearly a point guard," he said.


* Not that there's anything wrong with that, but that's not typically how we roll.

Posted by Chris at 7:42 AM | Comments (2)

Haiku For Monday #443

I have a hunch this
week is going to be crazy.
Not in a good way.

Posted by Chris at 7:16 AM

February 22, 2013

The Weeklies #247

The Weekly Celebrities I'm Most Sick Of Hearing About. Rihanna and Chris Brown.

The Weekly Word. Sequestration.

The Weekly Imagination Challenge. I'm having a really hard time envisioning Harrison Ford reprising his role as Han Solo, despite the fact that it's apparently happening.

The Weekly Read. Chris Grabenstein is a name you probably haven't heard unless you read my reviews of his two previous books. The third installment in his buddy-cop series - Whack A Mole finds our heroes back in their oceanside resort town solving yet more crimes. And this particular round of crimes is more gruesome than anything they've come up against before. Grabenstein has written a series here that's incredibly fun to read and this is no exception.

The Weekly App. Winston. He's a pretty cool dude. He figures out what you wants updates on and gives you an audio briefing whenever you want it. He's very polite too.

The Weekly Twisted News Story. Oscar Pistorius, the "Blade Runner."

The Weekly Question. What's your favorite thing - movie, album, food, etc. - that most other people would consider terrible?

Posted by Chris at 7:20 AM | Comments (5)

February 21, 2013

Mystery

When you see something like this, where does your mind go?

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I'm thinking it's either a loaded fully automatic Sworovski crystal rabies gun or an atomic-powered titanium and porcelain vibrator. It's a mystery.

Posted by Chris at 7:50 AM | Comments (4)

February 20, 2013

Celebrity Rehab

From CNN:

Mindy McCready is the fifth former cast member of “Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew” to die in the past two years. The 37-year-old country star, who appeared on Season 3 of the VH1 show, where she suffered an on-camera seizure, was found dead on the front porch of her Arkansas home on Sunday. Authorities said she was the victim of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Let's all admit that there is no such thing as reality TV. Because their isn't. At best, it's cheaply produced entertainment that's the television equivalent of popcorn. And popcorn's good. I love it and Survivor, all the staged home shows on HGTV, and what I'm sure are highly-manipulated contests on the Food Network. But popcorn nonetheless. While we're at it, let's all admit that in the world of reality television nothing is completely altruistic.

“One of my hopes was, in bringing ‘Celebrity Rehab’ out, was to teach people how dangerous addiction was. If I was doing a show on cancer, there would not be much surprise when my cancer patient died. In fact, we’d celebrate a few years of good quality life. People don’t understand that addiction has virtually the same prognosis. If you have other mental health issues on top of that, it’s so much worse."

Teaching is a noble goal and treating people with an addiction is a noble calling. But it's incredibly difficult to teach about addiction without sensationalizing the condition or, worse, the victim, in the process. Worse is the fact that the creators and producers of the show are approaching individuals whose careers have withered and crave some sort of attention. They're dangling a carrot in front of people at rock bottom exploiting the unbridled desire for career resurgence. What do they think is going to happen when a magnifying glass held by a million curious rubberneckers is held up to them?

We should all be amazed that only five of these folks have died.

(Yeah, this story kinda pissed me off. Was it obvious?)

Posted by Chris at 7:20 AM | Comments (5)

February 19, 2013

Doing The Time Warp

Last night I sat down to write something. I wasn't sure what because my mind has been pretty fried from long days at work. The kids were in bed so I just sat and listened instead.

Coming from upstairs, I could hear Owen listening to The Beatles. His iPod could hold thousands of songs from more modern bands - and god knows he loves him some rock and roll - but he'd always come back to The Beatles. We Can Work It Out. From Mia's room came the static hiss that accompanies the old 1940s radio version of Superman she listens to every night. She loves them fiercely. A random topic will come up in conversation and Mia will drop some Superman knowledge on us. Like last week when we were talking about racial discrimination and she informed me that Old Mister Haney discriminated against people in his grocery store but Superman put an end to that. Took me a few minutes to figure out that Old Mister Haney was a product of Action Comics and the Mutual Network.

Closer, from the dining room we never use as a dining room came the sound of a sewing machine. Using a sewing machine given to us by my mother in law, Beth was cranking out a pair of pants for one of the kids. This was strange because honestly I didn't know my wife could sew and, even if she could, didn't expect to see my beautiful 30-something wife hunched over a sewing machine. Ever. She made it look hot, though.

For some unescapable reason the other day I was worried about coming off like a hipster douchebag. Now I know that can't happen. First, I think I'm too old to be a hipster douchebag. I'm only elegible for plain old douchebaggery. Second, I don't like skinny jeans and ironic sweater vests. Third, and most importantly, my family and I apparently live in another time. Owen, the sixties. Mia, the mid-40s. Beth somewhere around 1974. And me, well, who the hell knows?

Posted by Chris at 7:41 AM | Comments (6)

February 18, 2013

Presidents' Day

While the rest of the country gets Presidents' Day off, guess who doesn't. This guy. I'm only mildly bitter but I will take a pass on offering anything insightful today. It's been a long weekend. I'm a little crispy.

Posted by Chris at 7:31 AM | Comments (3)

February 15, 2013

The Weeklies #246

The Weekly Best Videogame. Beercade, the video game that rewards high scores with beer.

The Weekly Read. Robin Sloan wrote one of the most compellingly wonderful geekfests with Mr. Penumbra's 24 Hour Bookstore. When I saw he had an earlier novella out - Annabel Scheme, I bought it immediately and plowed through it. The verdict? It's odd and quirky yet compelling. Not nearly as compelling as Mr. Penumbra, but still a good read. It also proved that Sloan is obsessed with Google. While not calling them out by name as he did in Mr. Penumbra, his fascination is obvious.

The Weekly Quote. Overheard while Owen took a shower: "Yep, my armpits are clean...now to clean my nipples."

The Weekly TV. House Of Cards. The Netflix-original series is masterful. Kevin Spacey is brilliant and while we're only four episodes in, I can't wait to see how this all turns out. Also, if government is really like this we're incredibly fucked.

The Weekly Lesson Learned. Having a sneezing fit with a face full of shaving cream is highly not fun.

The Weekly Gadget Purchase. To replace a pair of old Apple earbuds, I picked up a pair of their new earpods. See, I have a really nice pair of high-end earbuds which are great but they almost block too much external noise when I'm at work. I wanted something a little less high-end. As it turns out, the new Apple buds are pretty damn nice, incredibly comfortable, and sound incredible next to their older siblings.

The Weekly Sex Toy. The Crave Duet. It's a vibrator that has a detachable thumb drive that can store 16 GB of data. Because, you know, naturally you'll want to page through family photos or edit some important work docs after you get done...you know...

The Weekly Question. When will I possibly find time to shower today?

Posted by Chris at 7:15 AM | Comments (3)

February 14, 2013

Redskins

Living in Washington is weird. National news is our local news and our local news outlets are mediocre at best as a result. Jim Vance is one of the most trusted, well-respected news guys around, though. So when he once again questioned the appropriateness of our beloved football franchise's name, people listened.

My revulsion was borne of a source perhaps different than many others. You see, back in the day, when I wasn’t scanning the paper to see what Roy Campanella or Buddy Young had done, I was watching Lash LaRue, and Tim Holt, and I loved me some Randolph Scott. And it was in those Westerns and so many more – all of ‘em – that I NEVER, not once, EVER, heard of a Redskin referred to respectfully. A Redskin was always dirty – ‘dirty Redskins’ – bloody – ‘bloody Redskins.’ Savage Redskins, inhuman Redskins. Unhuman. You name it.

Back in the day, if you really wanted to insult a black man and attack a Jew, an Irishman, and probably start a fight, you threw out certain words. You know what they are. They were and they are pejoratives of the first order, the worst order, specifically intended to injure. In my view, ‘Redskin’ was, and is, in that same category.

A few years back, I decided to stop using the name on the air. Went at it for almost a year. George Michael bet me nobody would even notice. I had to pay up. We got not a single question or complaint. People just assumed I must have used the word. It is that much a part of the D.C. culture.

That notwithstanding, the name sucks. We need to get rid of it.

I'm no fan of political correctness for the sake of political correctness. It seems like we've taken political correctness to nearly competitive levels in this country. I think it's how we as a society feel better about being so rude and apathetic. It would probably be easier just to be nice. I'm also not a huge football fan. This is, perhaps, the first time in the ten year history of Rude Cactus that I've written about the NFL. Taken together, this is a pretty unusual post.

But Jim Vance is right. The name sucks. It needs to change.

Posted by Chris at 7:56 AM | Comments (5)

February 13, 2013

The Original iPad

The inventor of the Etch-A-Sketch died. Which is sad. Especially since my kids only just discovered his invention.

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Of course they had no idea what to do with it. They ignored the knobs and immediately tried to use what looked very much like a touchscreen. Which, of course, it was not. It was, in fact, the lamest iPad every made. Yet they loved it. I felt an odd mixture of pride at my technically advanced children and guilt for having not previously exposed them to such a classic toy*.

* Full disclosure. While I acknowledge that the Etch-A-Sketch is indeed a classic, I actually loathed the Etch-A-Sketch as a child. I mean, how hard should it be to draw a freaking curve?

Posted by Chris at 7:17 AM | Comments (1)

February 12, 2013

Big Sis

Mia is an awesome big sister. Sure, she and Owen do their fair share of approximating a mixed martial arts competition in our living room. Every one of his visits to her room ends quickly and abruptly with a get out and he's taken quite a few unwarranted swings at her. But her true colors show on weekend like this past one, tough since Owen was king of the world for his birthday.

Months ago Mia emptied a drawer in her dresser where she was determined to keep everything she was going to make for Owen for his birthday. True to her word, she decorated her wrapped gift with hand-made stickers and cards and even boxed up a superhero cape she'd made herself. More impressive was the cake she baked.

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This was two layers of chocolate cake goodness with two types of frosting - chocolate in the middle and vanilla all around - that she researched herself, noted all the ingredients, went shopping for (she did everything but drive and pay) and made. Actually, made twice because of a somewhat catastrophic cake disaster which necessitated baking two more layers. She colored the frosting blue - Owen's favorite color - and decorated it with his favorite candy. Since Sunday evening, Owen's gone out of his way to compliment Mia on her cake.

If they're going to continue beating the crap out of each other, it's nice to know they do really love each other.

Posted by Chris at 7:32 AM | Comments (4)

February 11, 2013

Owen, Age Five

Before we had Mia, my biggest concern was that I wouldn't love her instantly like you hear all other parents saying they did. When she arrived, I knew that wasn't going to be a concern. I loved her instantly and unconditionally at first sight. With Owen, I was even more confused. I mean, I already had all this love for Mia. How would I share that? How would I not have a favorite? Of course, this also turned out to be a silly concern. I loved him immediately, right there, standing in the OR. It hit me like the bullet from a gun and forced tears to my eyes. I can't really put into words the difference between being a father of one and of two. But it's not what I thought - the dad stuff inside me wasn't split into two. Instead, it doubled. And frankly I never knew I had quite this much space inside.

I wrote that on February 15th, five days after Owen was born. What's wonderful about it isn't the sleep-deprived writing style but the fact that it's still fantastically true...five years later.

I have a really hard time believing that five years have elapsed, especially when I look at this boy who stands in front of me with blond hair and long legs, who wants nothing more than to listen to rock and roll, bounce around the house, and eat meat.

We celebrated yesterday devoting the entire day to doing whatever Owen wanted. It was exhausting but wonderful. Owen remembers absolutely everything (really, it's scary); I hope he'll remember the day he turned five forever just as I'll always remember the day he came into our lives.

Posted by Chris at 7:18 AM | Comments (6)

Haiku For Monday #442

I'm convinced Monday
is a cruel joke. Not funny,
calendar people.

Posted by Chris at 7:05 AM

February 8, 2013

The Weeklies #245

The Weekly Mental State. Exhaustion.

The Weekly Weather. If terrified newscasters are any indication...MONSTER BLIZZARD!

The Weekly Insult. It's a toss-up between ass-waffle and jerk-store.

The Weekly Read. I love James Bond. Always have. But I've also always had something of a love/hate relationship with the Ian Flemming novels that inspired the movies. They're good, don't get me wrong. They're often much different than the movies so if feels like you're getting a bonus story out of the deal. Sometimes they're very, very slow. Such is the case with Moonraker. If you recall the movie, it was - how to put it - a steaming pile of crap. It was made during those cheesy Roger Moore years and filmed to compete with the rise of popular science fiction movies. The basic story, though, was decent. Moonraker (the book) is much more grounded in reality. And if Flemming hadn't spent the first third of the book discussing bridge (as in the card game), it would have been a hell of a lot better. It's a somewhat slow 200+ pages, largely dragged down by detailed accounts of card playing but it does pick up after Flemming's fascination wanes.

The Weekly TV. Archer.

The Weekly Music. I'm 40 years old and a music lover but I've never given Bruce Springsteen a fair shake. Until now. Last weekend, lying in bed early on Saturday morning I uncharacteristically downloaded his most recent, Wrecking Ball. I listened then proceeded to buy Darkness On The Edge Of Town and Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J.. And after all this listening I have to admit that I feel like an idiot for having waited 40 years to make this discovery.

The Weekly Question. In your mind who's the most underrated, under-appreciated musician or band? And the most overrated

Posted by Chris at 7:06 AM | Comments (9)

February 6, 2013

Owen's Meat Delivery System

Ever curious what happens when you take a carnivorous kid in a vegetarian family, give him a pizza and arm him with pepperoni? Wonder no more.

What you're seeing is essentially a giant stack of pepperoni mounted on an edible plate that just so happens to be made of pizza. Owen was very pleased. At one point he even asked for a couple slices of turkey, folded the extra pepperoni inside, and ate a sandwich made entirely of meat. It was a sight to behold.

Posted by Chris at 7:12 AM | Comments (3)

February 5, 2013

We Bought A Fucking Minivan

The title about sums it up.

Wait, you want more?

Until last week Beth drove a wonderfully reliable 10 year old Honda CRV. It was a fabulous car with one significant flaw. As our family got bigger, it got smaller. We considered asking our kids to stop growing and yelling at all their friends so we'd never get stuck with extra passengers but we reconsidered. We came to the conclusion that it was time to buy a new car.

(To be honest, I came to that conclusion about a year ago. Beth finally caught up with me about a month back.)

With the exception of a school bus, Beth drove nearly everything that came with a third row of seats. Except a minivan. Because to drive a minivan is to admit that you're old, uncool, and maybe kind of a douchebag. What she found were little cars that tried to beb big and TARDIS-like on the inside but failed miserably. And giant cars that measured fuel efficiency in gallons-per-mile and made Al Gore weep uncontrollably. So the other day I got an unexpected text message.

Beth: I'm just about to test drive a minivan.
Me: Have fun :)
...20 minutes pass...
Beth: FUCK!
Me: Like it, huh?
Beth: Yeah.

We bought it the next day. It is glorious. So much space. So many options and configurations. So many cup holders.

Lots of things in this world cease to exist in the name of convenience - books, brick and mortar stores, CDs, the post office - and I guess I'm okay sacrificing my coolness too.

Posted by Chris at 7:35 AM | Comments (19)

February 4, 2013

The Big Game

I've lived in two cities during my life - Houston and Washington. As a result, the closest I've seen to a Super Bowl victory is the Oilers in the early 80's and the Redskins victory in 1991 which was only a year after I moved here so it's hard to take credit. So, when it was my turn to pick my favorite last night, I decided to pull for the Ravens. Baltimore's only 45 minutes north so it's almost like a home team with the added bonus of not having a short, tyrannical owner. Here's how we lined up:

Mia: Ravens
Owen: 49ers
Beth: 49ers
Me: Ravens
Anderson: Undecided

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So, two of us were happy. For once, though, the game was actually a little better than the commercials.

Did you watch?

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

Haiku For Monday #441

A late night and a
day trip to West Virginia.
Not the best combo.

Posted by Chris at 6:36 AM

February 1, 2013

The Weeklies #244

The Weekly Find. Jeans that fit. Perfectly.

The Weekly App. Feedly. My Google Reader news feed presented nicely, everywhere.

The Weekly Great Geek News. JJ Abrams directing the new Star Wars? I'm in.

The Weekly Read. Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore (Robin Sloan) is hands down the best thing I've read in 2013. I know that isn't saying much but I have a sneaking suspicion it'll stay towards the top of that list as the year goes on. It is pretty much the ultimate book to geek out with, especially if you like books, bookstores, technology, Google, typography or all of the above. It was one of those books that I was truly sorry to see end.

The Weekly TV. I'm still hopelessly stuck on BBC crime dramas, primarily Sherlock and MI5.

The Weekly Question. Who wins the Superbowl?

Posted by Chris at 7:07 AM | Comments (9)


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