August 31, 2005

Hump Day Media Bashing

It's early, I'm tired, and I'm not going to pretend that I can adequately string a series of related, sensical thoughts together. The message I'd like to convey is simple: I'm fucking sick of the American media.

Over the last couple of days, we've had a chance to witness the media at its worst. We've been scared, shown bumpers and graphics meant to get our blood pressure up. Then we've been spoke to as if we're idiots. We've been shown lame graphics because it's assumed we don't understand what being below sea-level means. We've been pelted with sensationalism, like unexpected hail on a hot summer day. Terms like complete devistation, hell on earth, and armageddon have not merely been sprinkled throughout but actually innundated each newscast. Of course, such sensationalism gets in the way of, well, facts.

Reporters looking for their shot have cornered the recently widowed or homeless then turned the cameras on themselves to show the tears streaming down their faces. Dry cameramen, safe in their boats, shoot footage of pedestrians trying to haul all their earthly belongings through waist-high water. Confident they'll rest cool and easy, anchors camp out in the Superdome so they can talk about the stench of so many confined humans. And my favorites - the reporters dressed in their rain gear who stand in the middle of a hurricane then act surprised by the force of the wind. Well, you're standing outside in a hurricane, you idiot.

When I was in high school, I wanted to be a journalist. I even ran the high school newspaper for three years (cough dork cough). I know that there's a fine line between reporting and editorializing. Our media, in most cases, just doesn't care. It's about sensationalism at the cost of real issues, with real importance, caused by and impacting real people. News isn't entertainment. It's, well, news and should be treated as sacred with as much integrity as each reporter, each photographer, each camerman, producer, director and anchor can muster.

I guess the worst part is that we watch this shit. If we didn't, they'd be forced to change how they reported the news.

Out of all this, one message that shouldn't get lost at any cost is that the millions of displaced folks in the Gulf region need help. We pulled together after 9/11. We did the same following the tsunami that devistated parts of Asia. We can do the same now. The list below was prepared by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and represents charities who have agreed to handle direct cash donations and assist the individuals, families and businesses hardest hit in the Gulf Coast region.

American Red Cross
1-800-HELP NOW (435-7669) English,
1-800-257-7575 Spanish

Operation Blessing
1-800-436-6348

Americaís Second Harvest
1-800-344-8070

Adventist Community Services
1-800-381-7171

Catholic Charities, USA
703 549-1390

Christian Disaster Response
941-956-5183 or 941-551-9554

Christian Reformed World Relief Committee
1-800-848-5818

Church World Service
1-800-297-1516

Convoy of Hope
417-823-8998

Lutheran Disaster Response
800-638-3522

Mennonite Disaster Service
717-859-2210

Nazarene Disaster Response
888-256-5886

Presbyterian Disaster Assistance
800-872-3283

Salvation Army
1-800-SAL-ARMY (725-2769)

Southern Baptist Convention -- Disaster Relief
1-800-462-8657, ext. 6440

United Methodist Committee on Relief
1-800-554-8583

Posted by Chris at 08:00 AM | Comments (48)

August 30, 2005

Inappropriate Songs For Children

Sure, Mia's really damn cute most of the time but she, like all of us, has her moments. One thing that helps? Singing. Now, I have, quite literally, tens of thousands of songs at my fingertips. But when it comes to actually remembering the lyrics, without the benefit of hearing the song or the melody, I completely blank. So, I make stuff up. And that ain't pretty. It's even mildly offensive.

Last night, after a bout of screaming, I finally got Mia to settle down while Beth took a shower. When Beth came back downstairs, she found Mia asleep in my arms and me cracking up quietly to myself.

Her: What?
Me: Nothing.
Her: Why are you smiling like that?
Me: It has nothing to do with the completely inappropriate song I just sang to our daughter.
Her: I'm sure.
Me: Well...she can't speak English. Yet.

A few minutes after a handoff, Mia started fussing. I broke out the song once again, this time with Beth present.

The hooker on the corner goes to the whorehouse
Goes to the whorehouse
Goes to the whorehouse
The hooker on the corner goes to the whorehouse
To blow herself a john

Now, sure, I realize that this isn't quite the message we all want to send to our children. But, as a musician, I see an opening here, an untapped market if you will. Educational, un-sugarcoated, real-world songs for kids. Other titles I'm brainstorming include:

The Rich Get Richer While The Poor Sleep In Boxes
Let's Pretend Africa Doesn't Exist
Goodbye Beaches, Hello Global Warming
Rubbers Aren't Just For Rainy Days
Eat A Sandwich: The Ballad of Lindsay Lohan
IEDs Go Boom
If You Need A Tank of Gas, Grab Your Ankles

Posted by Chris at 08:28 AM | Comments (51)

August 29, 2005

When I Got Home




A darkened room...
Beth and Mia...
Resting...

Posted by Chris at 08:00 PM | Comments (29)

Wilfred Brimley, You Have The Right To Remain Silent

I'm all for maintaining a positive outlook on life...looking at the glass as half-full...all that crap. So, it's with a certain amount of reluctant confidence that I admit to you that this week will really and truly suck. At least as far as work goes.

The weekend? One word - reflux. Mia, during an otherwise very good checkup on Friday, was diagnosed with a little reflux. This accounts for the random, eardrum-shattering screaming. We've started giving Grumpy McAcidpants medicine but it hasn't quite kicked in yet. And by the way - what genius decided to make peppermint flavored medicine for infants? Mia pretty much spent the weekend being held by one of us, dancing around the house. I danced around the house so much, I pulled a muscle. Really.

There was sleep. Not much, but some. There was enough sleep on my part to dream that I joined NYC's SVU squad with Bensen and Stabler. We busted Wilfred Brimley. It's unclear why.

The bottom line is that I'm tired and grumpy and, because some shit went down at work on Friday, it will most likely be a confusing and unpleasant week. Let's get this party started...

Posted by Chris at 08:51 AM | Comments (31)

Haiku For Monday #93

I'd almost rather
sacrifice my left nut than
be at work today.

Posted by Chris at 06:56 AM | Comments (14)

August 28, 2005

Mad, In America



Posted by Chris at 01:20 PM | Comments (12)

August 26, 2005

Guestblogging...

By the way, a bunch of great bloggers (and me, for some reason) are guestblogging over at Jason's place. It appears that someone stole my identity and wrote a post pretending to be me because I certainly wouldn't write anything so terrible and crass. No. Never.

Posted by Chris at 12:06 PM | Comments (10)

Another Friday in PJs

Were you aware that it's Friday? I'm not sure about you but this week has flown for me. Busy at work, busy at home - I guess that'll do it. You want to know what's great about today though? I'm working from home again. It seems to be a regular Friday thing with me. And? I'm still in my PJs.

I guess I should probably put something more appropriate on so Beth, Mia and I can take a nice morning walk. More later...I hope...since, so far, I'm really lame today. Happy Friday, everyone!

Posted by Chris at 09:24 AM | Comments (13)

August 25, 2005

When Classic Literary Figures Throw Down (And Other Search Strings)

I think I've been reasonably creative all week. Which explains why I've got absolutely nothing this morning. Nada. Zip. Zero. You get the picture. But I did do a recent check of my site stats and once again found some very interesting search strings.

Bob Barker dead. It was that last game of Plinko that did it. Come on down, indeed.

Cats peeing on self. How would that work, exactly? Apparently cats can now subvert the laws of physics? I'd like to see this.

Snore Wife and the Several Dwarfs. The long lost Disney sequel that never quite took off.

Grumpy Pants. That's Mr. Grumpy Pants to you. It's early and I haven't had much coffee. What more do you want from me, people?

It puts the lotion on its skin or it gets the hose. Look, I have no clue what this could possibly mean but it sounds like a line from an exceptionally bad prison movie.

Pick me up a magazine Thursday. And tomorrow? Pick me up my dry cleaning Friday on the 2005 Mundane Task-A-Day calendar.

Would a girl care if you had man-boobs? If you have to ask, it's already too late. No woman loves moobs. Lose the man-tits, my friend.

I'm going to die one day. Yes, my friend. We all are. If you beat me to it, say hi to Bob Barker.

Old men in speedo. Is that multiple old men in one Speedo? Or are we lacking proper pluralization skills? Whichever, you're one sick bastard.

I smell dress socks. Ahh, I love the smell of Gold Toes in the morning.

Don't gimme that look you son of a bitch. Hey, its my blog. Fuck off.

Walk the dinosaur. Because if you don't and that thing takes a dump in the house? Damn, you don't want that.

Penis in a hat. I've heard of accessorizing but that seems a little hardcore.

You're not the boss of me, Steinbeck. You don't think so? Just wait till me and Hemingway take your ass out! And don't make me wake up Faulkner. That dude's one wild fucker when he's tired.

Cactus Pete with the fifty feet of hanging meat. This one, well, I think it speaks for itself.

My ass is out of here. Me too.

Posted by Chris at 08:20 AM | Comments (32)

August 24, 2005

Google-Speak

All you Gmail users know about Google's new IM tool, right? The voice messaging is amazing. Wave of the future. Everyone'll be doing it.

Posted by Chris at 10:55 AM | Comments (13)

Rub-A-Dub-Dub

I? Was totally ready for a bath. Mia was just a tad more skeptical.




Baths aren't exactly a huge hit with some - well, one - of us. There was crying. And the occasional scream. And I'm sure having a father who can't resist tummy kissing every 2.5 seconds doesn't help. But after the bath, we relaxed while kicking back with Law & Order. Nothing soothes the savage baby like watching Briscoe and Curtis busting perps. Plus, it's educational. There are some major life lessons that can be learned from Law & Order. For instance:

1. The criminal justice system wraps up cases in around an hour, breaking occasionally for commercials.
2. Du-dunk. If you're ever just walking down the street or sitting at your desk and you hear it, you're going to end up in a world of hurt.
3. District attorneys are crotchety old white guys but their assistants are hot and leggy.
4. You can run but you can never hide from a detective crackin' wise.

Posted by Chris at 07:56 AM | Comments (45)

August 23, 2005

Ignorance is Bliss

For the last couple of days, we've been inundated with the story of Thomas Herrion, the San Francisco 49er backup lineman who died after a game on Saturday night. He was 23 years old. And while this story is tragic - and don't get me wrong since it really is tragic - I'm not exactly sure why I've seen so much of this story. It, in various forms, is repeated over and over again - on the local and national news, on cable news networks, in the papers and all over the Internet. But for some reason, I haven't seen anything about Sgt. Nathan K. Bouchard (age 24), Staff Sgt. Jeremy W. Doyle (age 24), Spc. Ray M. Fuhrmann, II (age 28), or Pfc. Timothy J. Seamans (age 20) who died when an improvised explosive device detonated in Samarra, Iraq on August 18th. Nor have I heard much about Army Sgt. Todd Partridge who was killed on his second tour of Iraq last week. And I've certainly heard absolutely nothing about Army Spc. 4th Class Brian Derks, a 20 year old from Michigan who was killed while patrolling Baghdad. Come to think of it, we really haven't heard a hell of a lot about any of the 1,812 fatalities to date in Iraq much less the 13,877 wounded in action. But we sure have heard about a football player on a team with a payroll in 2004 of $63,033,817 and a median salary of $562,000. With numbers like that, I guess we shouldn't expect to hear about folks who only make, on average, $33,927 a year. Despite the fact that there are more of them (around 1,398,833) and they're fighting (and dying) for our country.

All facts and figures are freely available from the NFL, ESPN and our fearless leaders at the Pentagon who, despite the fact that they seem to have the judgment of a 10 year old hopped up on Twinkies and Ritalin, keep damn fine records.

Posted by Chris at 07:31 AM | Comments (47)

August 22, 2005

Lessons From Dadhood: Episode One

A couple days ago, Beth posted the full story behind Mia's birth. Don't worry - I'm not going to come up with my own. Beth's version was much more eloquent than mine could have ever been. And since I was trying not to pass out a lot of the time, I'm guessing that her version is a tad more reliable than mine.

It has, however, been a little over a month since Mia was born and I've been doing a lot of thinking about the event. I've come to realize that there are a lot of things that no one ever managed to tell me about.

Lesson One: You're Probably Not Going To Pass Out
I spent a good long time worrying about my state of consciousness. There were lots of scenarios playing out in my head, scenarios of how things would go in the operating or delivery room. The most frequent one went something like this. I'm in the delivery room and the baby is on the way. I pass out. In doing so, on my quick trip from vertical to horizontal, I crack my head on a gurney or some miscellaneous medical equipment. Beth, the baby and I spend the next three days in the same hospital room, one of us recovering from birth, the other concussed.

Needless to say, this didn't happen. Sure, while I was sitting in that stool up by Beth's head, I looked around and scoped all the possible trajectories in which I might be able to fall without hurting myself too badly. For a second, I thought I might have talked myself into it. But I didn't. All was well. I, happily, never lost consciousness.

Lesson Two: Epiphanies Aren't For Everyone
Lots of people - hell, everyone - told me that, as soon as I saw the baby, my entire life would change and I'd be filled with a feeling of such delight, glee, and good-natured confusion that I'd be convinced my stomach was filled with rainbows and dancing puppies. The heavens would open up and the beams of Truth and Happiness would shine down from above while angels played a mix of classics and today's hits on their harps. Joy would radiate from my pores and my heart would be filled with a singular love that might cause me to pull a Jennifer Beals and break into a flashdance right here in the OR. So, naturally, when that didn't happen I started thinking something along the lines of what the fuck is wrong with you, you heartless bastard? You'll never connect with this child and she will learn to hate your coldness...or something. The truth is, when Mia was plucked from Beth and plopped down on the warming table, I looked over and said something incredibly profound like "Oh wow." There's nothing like that moment - the moment in which your eyes meet your baby's. But there was no chorus of hallelujahs, no marching band, no rainbows, no puppies. Sure, I was happy but hey, it was a baby. This wasn't a surprise. As a matter of fact, we'd been expecting it for, oh, around 9 months. We'd even prepared a whole room and everything. How's that for foresight?

My point is this. Everyone deals with highly-charged emotional situations differently. And while what others told me was true to a certain extent, I felt a little self-conscious that I wasn't having this tear-filled, fall on your knees emotional reaction I'd been led to believe was par for the course. Instead I sad "oh wow." And, because I hadn't had this reaction, I felt a little inadequate. I felt like I'd missed something or, more accurately, like I was missing something. Of course, I know this is not true. But only after a lot of soul-searching and more than a little feeling of inadequacy on my part.

Lesson Three: It's Natural To Feel Selfish
Selfishness gets a bad rap. No one bothers to tell you that, in almost all courses of life, it's pretty darn natural to wonder about yourself and how whatever it is is going to effect you. Babies are no different.

Beth, Mia and I were in the hospital four days and three nights. During the days, I took advantage of the newly crowned grandparents and drove the 10 minutes home to get a shower and change clothes. This was a wonderful break but it also created something of a dilemma. I essentially had two separate worlds going on - one in the hospital where Beth and by brand-spankin' new daughter were hanging out and another that really represented our life before. There was a house uncluttered by baby things. There were cats. There were CDs and books and guitars. There were photographs of two people, of Beth and I, our own little family unit. I liked both of these concepts but I wondered how combining them was going to impact us and, more selfishly, impact me.

The first day I came home, Saturday, I felt like hell. I tried to eat and couldn't. I had a splitting headache and felt like death. I realize now it was the stress of the future combined with relief of the past. Beth was fine. Mia was fine. The thing we'd been focused on most for the past nine months was accomplished. What the hell did we do now? So, I posted to the site. And almost immediately I started receiving comments of congratulations. It was, in a word, completely and utterly heartwarming. This, this outside opinion, made me feel better and helped me reach some internal bottom line.

Selfishness is natural. Don't get fooled into thinking its not okay to think of yourself, especially in light of life changing events.

Lesson Four: No Rest For the Weary...Even In The Hospital
There are many professions I respect because of the fine and thankless work they do. Teachers, garbage men, cops and nurses, are just a few. For the most part, the nurses in the hospital were great but the whole system could really use an overhaul. See, I mistakenly thought that patients in the hospital were supposed to have a chance to recover and recuperate. In retrospect, that seems silly. I guess I was naive.

When you're in the hospital with a newborn baby, you have several factors competing for your attention that must all align perfectly should you receive the opportunity to rest. First, the baby must cooperate. This isn't easy. She's new to the world and its a change from what she's used to. Take a goldfish out of an aquarium and see what happens. The only advantage the baby has is that she can breathe. Second, you have the nurses. They're trying to be helpful yet they have some bizarre sixth-sense that alerts them whenever one of their patients is just on the verge of actually resting. Sensing this, they swoop in to take the patient's blood pressure or force pills down her throat. Whatever the reason, by the time they've left, the ability to rest and relax is gone.

The sum total of this is one tired patient and, in some cases, a very worn out significant other who prays for a quick and timely discharge so that all parties can get the hell out of the hospital and actually rest. The ability to get rest in the hospital is a great urban myth that I can tell you, first hand, is completely and utterly false.

Lesson Five: There Is An Untold Amount of Kindness In An Often Scary, Cruel World
Two days after Mia was born, that Sunday, I came home again to catch a shower, feed the cats and get something to eat. I thought more about the impending collision of worlds and it scared me. When would I get to read? When would I get to listen to all this music? When would Beth and I get to be our old selves? And why am I only thinking about me? Why am I such a selfish bastard? I posted again and then started reading through the comments from the previous post. It was then that all the tension, all the anxiety and doubt, came loose. I cried, appropriately enough, like a baby. I can't stress to you the magnitude of the crying. The cats were staring at me, having never seen me do this. They looked poised to run away quickly in case my head exploded (it didn't but I could see where they'd get that idea). I cried because of the fear. I cried because of the selfishness and because, while I was excited about the life ahead, I was also mourning the life Beth and I had that was now forever changed. Perhaps most poignant, I cried because of the kindness of others. Here were literally hundreds of people expressing excitement and love for some little person they'd never met. As cliche as it may sound, my faith in humanity and my personal belief that I could raise a child, increased a hundred-fold.

There's an untold amount of kindness in the world that you can never understand until you have the chance to witness it for yourself.

Posted by Chris at 09:21 AM | Comments (48)

Haiku For Monday #92

Gorgeous day, window
office won't suffice. Who can
arrange an escape?

Posted by Chris at 08:16 AM | Comments (4)

August 21, 2005

Tales From The Bouncy Chair



We (and by "we" I mean "Mia") are not too sure about the bouncy chair, the low-to-the-floor chair that vibrates and bounces up and down. The cats, however, totally dig it. Our largest, Pixel, the 20 pound beast, resides in it much of the day. Although we've learned that he's just a tad confused by the vibrate feature. The only thing Mia seems to really like about the bouncy chair is the green hippo-thingy. Its biological origins are unclear.



Posted by Chris at 11:14 AM | Comments (22)

August 19, 2005

Two Years, 1,421 Entries Later

I had intended to bring you a freakishly brilliant post that I'd almost completely finished earlier this morning. It would have seriously knocked your socks (and quite possibly your undies) off. Then, in a bizarre yet increasingly frequent triumph of technology over common sense, my browser locked up and I had to kill the whole thing without saving a word of what I'd written. Why the hype? Well, it dawned on me last night that, while Rude Cactus was officially launched in June of 2003, it wasn't until August that I started providing hardcore, man-on-journal blogging action. So, yes, its my blogiversary!

In this aforementioned now-lost entry, I summarized the high points from the last two years. But, despite the fact that I'm working from home today and really don't have all that much on my plate, I don't have the time to do all that again. Plus the process of going back and reading some of my own stuff was a little embarrassing. I wrote some terribly inane shit, people. It's amazing you stuck with me as long as many of you have.

Regardless of how long you've been reading my humble little site, I thank you. You've put up with a lot. And I want you to know that, as cathartic as its been to put whatever it is I've written out there, the best part is the people I've met along the way.

Two years, in the grand scheme of things, doesn't seem all that long. Yet two years ago, I don't think I'd have been able to imagine life as it is today. I'm one lucky bastard. Thanks for sharing the journey with me.

Posted by Chris at 08:10 AM | Comments (55)

August 18, 2005

Reflections

Last night was odd, at least as far as the whole lucid-dreaming thing goes. For some reason, I ended up on a walking tour of my old neighborhood with my closest childhood friend. It's early enough that I'm still trying to snap out of it.




Reflection #1: The chlorine smell of the local neighborhood pool. For me it will be forever associated with salty potato chips and grease. I once jumped from the edge and caught my chin on the lip of the pool. My chin split right open. My parents and godparents drove me to the hospital and gave me a bag of potato chips to keep me distracted. I don't remember getting the five stitches but I sure do remember the potato chips. And the smell of chlorine.

Reflection #2: The cul-de-sac at the end of my street. The center was planted with one single, large tree surrounded by bushes. For some reason, it was always assumed to be haunted by all the neighborhood kids. Yet, it made a great place to hide...if you were brave enough to try.

Reflection #3: Waking up to an unsually cool morning for Texas, in the early spring, looking out the window and noticing the surreal sight of hundreds of hot air balloons floating over my neighborhood. My bed used to sit right up against the wall with a window right at head-level. I loved to be able to roll over and look out at the neighborhood. I slept with my stereo on, cassette tapes rolling with the auto-reverse turned on. Yes' Yours Is No Disgrace was playing in the background.

Reflection #4: The mysteries of the bayou. The Buffalo Bayou was a ten minute bike ride away from my house. It was surrounded by woods and seemed so mysterious. There were abandoned structures, uncharted paths and a general sense of mystery that was probably more attributable to our ages than the bayou itself.

And you? What stands out in your memories when you think about your childhood and the place you grew up?

Posted by Chris at 08:22 AM | Comments (39)

August 17, 2005

Moobs and Evolutionary Theory: A Study

Folks, Iím frustrated with my breasts. Those measly, nubby and completely non-functional man-boobs. Moobs. The past three and a half weeks, since Miaís arrival, have highlighted just how insanely ridiculous moobs are. Mine, at least, serve no purpose except to grow a tiny amount of hair and get all pointy when its cold. Iím not sure how other men put theirs to use. And Iím not sure I want to.

Moobs and Darwinian Concepts In Action
Charles ďSlappyĒ Darwin developed complex evolutionary theories, including the concept of natural selection, when he was riding the Beagle around the Galapagos Islands. The beagle was a boat, not an actual dog. Had it been a dog, Darwin would have been one sick bastard. Instead, he was a brilliant scientist also know for his amazing card tricks and delivering renditions of popular show tunes of the time wearing only a top hat. One of the theories Darwin developed during this admittedly cloudy, debauchery-filled trip around the Galapagos was natural selection. Allow me to illustrate using a recent example observed first-hand.

Dad: Subject seems content with the father for approximately 3.5 seconds after which her dispositions seems to shift radically. Itís entirely conceivable from her expression as well as her loud utterances that she believes her father to be an emissary of Satan sent to do his bidding. Using the Universal Baby Translator (UBT), we were able to decipher the following: God damnit, I wanted boob. With milk. And unless momís dried up and turned into a 12 year old prepubescent girl, this isnít going to work. Donít get me wrong Ė my fatherís a nice, attractive guy but this is completely unacceptable. Break out the real tits. Now, damnit.Ē To the untrained ear, this message sounds like a high pitched wail capable of shattering glass and lobotomizing small animals. Several members of the scientific team were hospitalized immediately following this experiment.

Mom: Subject seems immediately at ease, relaxing even more at the sight of the actual female breast. Subject seems to have forgotten all about the Father of Evil and his mission from Satan.

There you have it Ė natural selection.

Between rounds of naked Twister and Pin The Tail On The Sphensicus Mendiculus, Darwin also pioneered the concept of a physiological obsolescence. One such example is the human appendix. No oneís ever been able to nail down its function other than causing irritation and minor surgery. According to this theory, several thousand years down the road, we very well might not have an appendix to worry about. Same goes for the spleen, the pinky toe and, I sincerely hope, moobs. And yet, since men still have moobs, one (me, in fact) must theorize that they once had their place in contemporary society.

Were there, in fact, stone-age Hooters located in caves where cave women went to check out the racks on busty cavemen and chow down on bland, overpriced mastodon wings? Were inspired cave painters dispatched to beaches during spring break to gather images for Neanderthals Gone Wild, featuring large breasted, yet quite hairy men exposing themselves for necklaces of quartz and chicken bones? If not, moobs have never really served a purpose and its time for them to go. We can either wait for nature to catch up or get moobectomies for everyone.

In closing, let me say that female breasts are great. Their ability to both feed the young and drive men to do stupid things is a testament to their power. Moobs, on the other hand? Not so much.

Posted by Chris at 08:05 AM | Comments (36)

August 16, 2005

Grudges




In 1964, just after my parents got married, my maternal grandmother and her four brothers became bitterly embroiled in a legal battle over money from an inheritance. A relative had died, leaving behind a little money to which they all felt entitled. Yet, my grandmother was what could only be described as a rampant and enthusiastic alcoholic. Her brothers' well-founded fear was that the influx of cash would be used solely to finance liver failure. My parents got involved, they all went to court and my grandmother eventually prevailed. And stopped drinking for good. But she refused to speak to her brothers again. Likewise, they wanted nothing to do with her.

Forty years later, only two of them are left - my grandmother and my great uncle Dick. Several years ago, my mother finally broke the ice and got in touch with my great uncle. He was reluctant at first but, after a little warm up time, we've spent every holiday together and get together for no apparent reason every couple of months. And yet my he and my grandmother refuse to talk despite the fact that they're both getting older and have a total of 182 years between them.

There are, however, baby steps. Several weeks ago, my mom was in California visiting my grandmother. Knowing Dick's birthday was coming up, she gave my mom a present for him. You see, when they were both relatively young, their parents died and their grandparents took them in and cared for them. Dick has never been able to find a picture of his grandfather, a man who he's admired all of his 89 years. My grandmother had one. And it was her gift to him.

Until Saturday, Dick had never held a baby. Pictures of us rectifying that situation are online at Flickr.

Posted by Chris at 07:59 AM | Comments (33)

August 15, 2005

Breaking News!

I'm just sitting here watching the local news and, in reference to the Greek plane crash, they reported (and I'm not making this up here, I swear)...

"To update you on the tragic plane crash in Greece that killed everyone aboard, there are several theories emerging about the causes of the crash. One theory is that there was a problem on the plane."

Ya think?

Posted by Chris at 06:15 PM | Comments (27)

Peeling Back The Layers...Like An Onion, Baby!

The lovely and talented Bluepoppy tagged me. My task, should I choose to accept it (which, apparently, I have)? Write about five idiosyncrasies. My immediate reaction? Just five? How can I possibly choose five from the many hundreds of thousands of quirks I've got? But I soldiered on and came up with these.

1. My Weird Food Thing. I'll eat pretty much everything, except for anything that might conceivably put up a fight should I decide to try and catch it. This rules out animals and unusually spirted bunches of broccoli. I've unwittingly consumed the nether regions of pigs and the genetalia of cows. I'm one of the rare people who says they like caviar and actually means it. And yet, leave something in the fridge for more than a week and I'm pretty convinced it'll kill me. I'm rigid in my enforcement of sell-by dates and as suspicious of left-overs as McCarthy was the Reds.

2. You're talking about me, aren't you? I'm kinda paranoid. But not for the usual reasons. I'm a successful guy. I've got a fantastic wife, a lovely daughter, a new window office, a job requiring a lot of responsibility that everyone seems to think I'm good at. I can play a guitar, snap a good picture, construct a decent sentence, deconstruct a novel, speak in public, entertain myself in private...and yet I'm constantly convinced that I am, in fact, a miserable failure. When I kick back and think about it - logically and rationally - I know its not the case. But still.

3. What do I write on that "pay to the order of" line again? I manage large projects with big budgets and yet I can barely pay bills and balance a checkbook. This stems from the fact that I suck at math. You see, I went to a very private, very religious elementary school. It was all god, all the time. And apparently god didn't care about math because there was certainly none of that. I was eventually able to convey to my parents how terrible the school was and, during fourth grade, they pulled me out and sent me to the local public school. The second day there, our teacher stood in front of the class and said today, we're going to learn more about fractions, a comment which prompted me to raise my hand and ask what are fractions? I graduated high school with a 3.0 GPA in spite of the fact that I failed algebra...twice. So, yes, I blame god for not being good with money or math. Well, god and the fact that I just spend money like its going out of style.

4. I'm not superstitious...knock on wood. I listen to the same radio show on the way home everyday. I have to listen to the traffic report. If I get home and they're just starting with the traffic report, I have to sit there and listen to it. When I unlock my car using the remote entry thingy, I must hit the unlock button four times. Not three or five. Four. The shower sequence is very important as well - you have to wash your hair first, then your body or else all the soapy glop from the hair ends up all over you and you have to rise off again. Oh, and toilet paper should go over the top, not dangle down from the back of the roll. Shut up. I'm sure you have weird stuff too.

5. I cannot tell a lie. I've been told that I'm a well-spoken guy and I like to think that's true (except for occasional onsets of #2 - uh, #2 here not that#2...you guys are just sick). But I can't lie to save my life - my face just gives it all away. I'd make a lousy poker player. I suck at keeping secrets. Surprises aren't easy to hide and I'm terrible at deception. And yet, sometimes, I still try which invariably backfires. Although, I did convince a coworker a while back that I was actually from China (I was trying to make a point after he made a slur against someone we work with who he didn't think was "Indian enough"). I even rattled off sentences in completely made up Chinese. I'm still proud of myself for that one.

Tag time. I hereby pass this off to anyone who wants to take a shot. But specifically, I'd like to see what Laura, Kate, Jodi, and Carrster come up with!

Posted by Chris at 07:34 AM | Comments (22)

Haiku For Monday #91

Missing: One weekend.
Two days tall, travels quickly.
Reward for return.

Posted by Chris at 07:00 AM | Comments (4)

August 13, 2005

Generations




There are four generations represented in this picture - Mia, my mom, myself and my great uncle (and I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Mary-Louise, Dick's wife). My great uncle Dick who turned 89 today and had never before held a baby. His thoughts upon doing so? "Why, that's just amazing." I couldn't agree more.

Photo by Beth...editing by me

Posted by Chris at 09:28 PM | Comments (25)

August 12, 2005

The Only Thing Worse Would Be "The Golden Girls On Ice"

Every once in a while, you see something in the newspaper that chills you to the very core of your being. Tonight was my turn.



Posted by Chris at 07:20 PM | Comments (30)

Three Glorious Words

There are three glorious words relevant to today: Working, from, and home. This allows me to spend less time with people who annoy me and more time with this.




Of course, during a break in working this morning, I was put on song duty so Beth could get dressed and eat breakfast like a normal person. This morning's song went something like this:

Hello, Mia...
I hope you like this song even though you don't speak English and don't know what I'm talking about.
Hello, Mia...
You sure do have a good grip on my armpit hair.
Hello, Mia...
Let's go back over here and make sure no one from work is IMing me.
Hello, Mia...
Oh shit, sorry, didn't mean to trip over the cat like that.

You get the drift. I can play a guitar but I never said anything about being a good songwriter. Anyway, despite the fact that I was up and working by 6 so I could review something that was due a half hour ago, I had a little time to update Flickr so, go check out the updated Mia set as well as all my favorites I pulled aside this morning.

Posted by Chris at 09:24 AM | Comments (30)

August 11, 2005

The Toilet

Okay, okay. I get the message. You want to know about the homemade toilet, eh?

When I was a kid, I loved figuring out how stuff worked. I mean, its amazing I didn't become an engineer or something. One way that I noodled all this engineering stuff through was taking stuff apart. Honestly, nothing was safe when I was on summer vacation. Remember please that I went through this phase between, like seven and ten years old. Otherwise, I'd be sounding like a complete and utter dork right now (although it's likely that I still do).

I think I shared my Smith Corona story some months ago. That old-school typewriter didn't stand a chance. I was still finding keys ten years later. In the wake of the massive typewriter destruction, I pulled apart then reconstructed an old reel-to-reel tape player after which I found and successfully played a tape of my grandfather who died when my mother was 19. It was the first and only time I've heard his voice. And as heartwarming and Hallmark-Hall-Of-Fame-ish as that story is, it inevitably leads to the creation of my own master suite including, yes, a toilet.

Aside: It's fair to say I think toilets are genius and really one of the most amusing pieces of plumbing ever invented. When I was in college, for instance, we had a toilet in our dorm suite we named Ed. Ed was so powerful, you could feed the end of a new roll of toilet paper into the tank, flush and the rest of the roll would fly off the roll in mere seconds. Never dismiss the amusement a toilet can provide when you're a drunk college student.

I had a kick-ass room as a kid but the only thing it was missing was a bathroom. It had a huge walk-in closet and in that closet was a seven-year-old-sized door that lead to a portion of the attic over the garage. I saw an opportunity. If you build it, they will pee.

My building materials were simple - I had several buckets and cardboard barrels along with cardboard toilet paper and paper towel tubes I'd hoarded for quite some time. This became my toilet.

Now, as brilliant as my previous feats of engineering had been, for some reason I managed to mentally block the fact that liquids of any variety and cardboard don't exactly work well together. But, blinded by some engineering euphoria and the determination to build my own toilet, I persevered. In a day, it was complete. There were two main components joined by cardboard tubing. The top piece collected the, uh, stuff. There was a hole in the top for water to be introduced thus washing, well you know, down the tube to the main "collection tank", the bottom piece.

I'm sure I don't need to tell you that I actually used it. I'm sure I don't need to tell you that I only used it once. And that, after that use, well, the cardboard didn't hold up all that well. And maybe, just maybe, the whole thing fell apart and kinda leaked. And there's an off-chance I spent the rest of the day trying to cut out the piece of pink insulation that was, uh, sullied. And that I made the discovery that a good combination of your dad's cheap cologne and some deodorant really does cover the pee smell in said insulation.

(P.S. - Its occurred to me in writing this how terribly embarrassing this story is. Do you see how much I love you guys? Just how many people are going to tell you about building their own toilets? Or is it possible that I'm the only person in the history of the universe that I'm the only kid who had cardboard and a dream?)

Posted by Chris at 08:14 AM | Comments (36)

August 10, 2005

Pay No Attention To The Blogger Behind the Curtain

Me: Okay, so, you've had this long string of what you think are lame entries. What's floating around in the old noggin today that you can pour out onto virtual paper?
Me 2: No freaking clue. I'm tapped. And I'm not yet caffeinated enough to be even marginally brilliant.
Me: Hey, you just finished a book. You could talk about that.
Me 2: Why yes. What book was that again?
Me: Created in Darkness by Troubled Americans!
Me 2: Ahh, yes. Edited by Dave Eggers, right?
Me: That's the one. And it wasn't bad, I have to say.
Me 2: I guess the main question is this - would you recommend it to others?
Me: Most definitely. It's silly, but I highly recommend it.
Me 2: Is that it for the book review? Two measly sentences? You could have milked it a little more than that. What else?
Me: You could try your hand at a little self-deprecating humor and talk about how you hung up on a client three times yesterday due to your stunning inability to operate a phone.
Me 2: Do I really want people to know I'm that stupid?
Me: I guess not. Forget I said anything.
Me 2: Deal. Oh, wait. I think they're watching.
Me: Shit! I forgot about them. Damn. Sorry dude.
Me 2: No sweat. I don't think they'll be shocked. I mean, they've hung with me for a couple of years so I doubt anything I say could surprise them.
Me: Like the fact that, for the second time in as many weeks, you walked around with your PJs inside out last night?
Me 2: That's not exactly juicy. It's not like anyone cares.
Me: That's why we should change it up a bit and substitute crotchless leather chaps for PJs.
Me 2: I don't want people to think I'm the bastard child of one of the Village People! I'll stick with inside-out PJs, thankyouverymuch. And aren't chaps inherently crotchless?
Me: Fine. Suit yourself. I'm just trying to keep it interesting.
Me 2: There's a fine line between interesting and scary.
Me: Story of my life.
Me 2: I know what you could do! Post some rambling, internal conversation with yourself.
Me: Come on. That would be completely and utterly lame.
Me 2: Sheesh. You're not going with any of my ideas. If you don't come up with some shock-and-blogging-awe soon, I'm just going to have to spill something interesting. Like the time when you were 7 years old and built a toilet in the attic of your house.
Me: Dude. Shut up!
Me 2: And used it.
Me: I said shut up, you asshat! That's it. I'm leaving. This conversation is over.

Posted by Chris at 07:17 AM | Comments (35)

August 09, 2005

Tiaras and Diapers

As you know, I returned to work (also known as "the real world") yesterday. I made myself comfortable in my new office, managed to clean up most of the crap (figurative, not literal) - and by "clean up" I mean "shove into an overhead cabinet and forget about it for another three years." Then I tried to figure out what I'd missed. As it turned out, not much. Nine hours later, I headed home.

Since we've grown close over the years, I have to admit something to you that I'm not particularly proud of (one of, I'm sure, a particularly long list that I won't get into in its entirety here). Last night, I watched the Miss Teen USA pageant. In my defense, there was absolutely nothing else on television and I was somewhat brain-dead. Still, I'm not proud. I'm also not proud of the fact that I was able to accurately call four of the five finalists before they were announced. Or that I named the runner-up and the winner seconds before the seal on that fateful envelope was opened. I'm not proud that I watched Aaron Carter's lame performance, a performance for which I levied the insightful critical commentary "this is gay." There was a pretty big payoff though - I really enjoyed hearing one of the contestants thank her parents, stating that "they're the best parents I've ever had."

On the flip side, I think I redeemed myself by trying to give Mia a bath. I adopted a hands-on technique which somehow required me to end up in the tub in my boxers with a screaming baby. I also stared into the face (again, figurative, not literal) of one of the worst diapers yet and laughed. Well, it was more of a nervous "holy christ has our daughter been eating burritos?" kind of laugh, the kind that might come out of your mouth involuntarily when staring at the business end of a loaded weapon or getting stuck in an elevator with Michael Jackson. I believe I described the poop as "vast and adventurous" as it "slipped the surly bonds of diaper to touch the face of the pack and play."

Anyway, I'm here again. Work that is. Let's get this mutha started all over again. But preferably with naptime.

Posted by Chris at 07:38 AM | Comments (34)

August 08, 2005

Back At Work: 10 Observations

Well, I'm back at work.

The Good:
1. I won't be required to do a lot of laundry here at work.
2. Today's my first day in my shiny new window office.
3. I've dealt with a whiny baby. I should be able to handle whiny co-workers. 4. As long as I don't have to change their diapers.
5. My coworkers won't spit up on me...hopefully.

The Bad:
1. Well, come on - it's work. They call it that for a reason.
2. People are going to expect me to know what I'm talking about.
3. I haven't yet been able to locate the HR form on the company's intranet which allows me to stay at home, completely forget about work yet still get paid.
4. My shiny, new window office? Piled high with my completely unorganized shit.
5. Neither Beth nor Mia are here.

Posted by Chris at 08:53 AM | Comments (37)

Haiku For Monday #90

I'm back at work guys.
In a new window office.
My shit's everywhere.

Posted by Chris at 07:18 AM | Comments (4)

August 07, 2005

Me and Mia, Sunday Morning



...more at flickr...

Posted by Chris at 11:35 AM | Comments (31)

August 06, 2005

Remakemania

I have, over the past couple of weeks, spent a great deal of time at the grocery store. It has been my prime destination, second only to Babies R Us, the staff of which knows me well enough to know that no, Iím not shopping off a registry because what kind of lame-ass friend buys someone a package of diapers and a pacifier? The other day, whilst shopping for something in the grocery store, I was invaded by this feeling that something wasnít quite right. You know the feeling. Maybe you walk into a room and a couch has been moved a few inches off-center. Maybe you realize that the cat sleeping on your bed isnít your cat. Maybe you donít even have a cat.

Anyway, Iím walking through the grocery store with the not-quite-right-feeling and it suddenly dawns on me. Itís the music. Sure, itís the standard collection of grocery store fare Ė a collection of lite (not light), easy-listening numbers that would be too mellow for even the most lame, subdued listen-at-work station. But the songs? Theyíre all wrong. More accurately, theyíre mostly right with subtle differences. The arrangements are off just a tad, and the vocalists, well, theyíre not the originals. This, my friends, is counterfeit music.

You claim that you built this city, you built this city of rock and roll but who exactly are you? You sing of a groovy kind of love but youíre not the same person who told me that I canít hurry love. You say youíre on top of the world looking down on creation but whoís creation is this? Do that to you one more time because once is never enough? I donít even know who you are anymore! The leader of the band? Which band?

What, exactly, do you think happened to necessitate the production of near-lite rock? Or are there really riches, piles of diamondoids and electro-plated gold doubloons, in the reworking of soulless, vapid music into fresh soulless, vapid music? I guess itís better than toying with the good stuff. If I hear Smoke On The Water or Sweet Child Oí Mine in four-part harmony with a string section and an accordion solo, I'll be in the seafood section drowning myself in the lobster tank.

Posted by Chris at 05:28 PM | Comments (15)

August 05, 2005

Big Yawn

It's Friday, Mia's second-week birthday and the last normal work day I'll be spending at home. It's also doctor day. Beth has her two week appointment as does Mia. So yeah, just a little busy and a lot tired.



Posted by Chris at 09:50 AM | Comments (33)

August 04, 2005

It's Not All Staring At the Baby




It's been almost two weeks since Mia came into the world. Two weeks of haning around, staring at her (she's going to develop a complex, I know) and taking care of Beth. I've done somewhere around 3,491 loads of laundry, seemingly cleaned the house from top to bottom a dozen times a day and spent more time than anyone actually should at Babies R Us.

Aside: I was in Babies R Us the other day and saw a kid that absolutely freaked my ass out. He couldn't have been older than a year, yet he looked like a fully grown 30 year-old human. He had this stare, which he aimed at me, that looked positively psychopathic. It was odd. Very odd.

Anyway, I have been doing some other things, aside from staring at the baby and doing housework, largely entertaining myself through books and music.

I finally managed to finish Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. No, keep reading. There won't be any spoilers. While most people seemed to have been shocked by the ending, I really wasn't. I was expecting something like it. Did I like it? Yeah. It wasn't as strong as the last two but it was still good. There didn't seem to me to be quite as much substance to it as the last few books but it was still decent. I continued down the path to utter brainlessness (not that Harry Potter was a stepping stone) and picked up James Rollins' Sandstorm. I know, I know...I was a little surprised too, since I reamed him and one of his earlier novels last month. This one was decent, especially if you're just looking for entertainment and don't want to use more than 20% of your intellectual capacity. Which I didn't. I'm sleep-deprived, people.

Now, music. I'm currently loving the mellow, laid back Shangri-La by Mark Knopfler. To me, there's no better guitarist out there than Pink Floyd's Dave Gilmour. Mark Knopfler runs a close second. His guitar work is terribly understated and sometimes you just wish he'd break out a loud solo. But he doesn't. What he gives is subtle yet gorgeous. Two Conversations from The Appleseed Cast has also been high on the playlist. Alternative? Indie? Emo? Check. All of the above. But also unique. Give them a try if you're out for something different. And, if you want something completely different, I've been totally unable to get The Widow by Mars Volta (from the album Frances the Mute) out of my head. Same goes for Imogen Heap's (singer for Garden State soundtrack break-out artist Frou Frou) latest single Hide and Seek. Sadly it looks as though its only available in the States via iTunes. Definitely check it out.

Now that I've hopefully shared a little insight with you, can someone please let me know how an 8 pound infant somehow generates 4.5 cubic tons of laundry a day?

Posted by Chris at 11:07 AM | Comments (45)

August 03, 2005

Sleep (Or Lack Of), Coffee and Running

Hi. So, yeah, its 6:15 and I've already been up for two hours. Don't look at me like that. It wasn't my choice. This one is all Mia. The early morning hours went something like put baby in basinet...fall asleep for approximately 3.19 minutes...awake to screaming baby...pick up baby...lather, rinse, repeat. So, Mia and I are here. Where are you?

In other news, you should know by now that I have the willpower of Robert Downey Jr. in a crackhouse. So its all the more surprising that I, hater of all exercise, bought a pair of running shoes yesterday. I mean, I'm the guy who belonged to an expensive gym for a year and went four times. I guess that means I actually have to get off my ass, strap those babies on and do some running. I'm cool with that but is it totally wrong to take a bottle of coffee with me instead of water?

Must. Get. Coffee. Good morning to you all. I hope you got more sleep than I.

Posted by Chris at 06:26 AM | Comments (45)

August 02, 2005

Infant: The Home Game

Got an infant? Play the Bodily Function Home Game!

Step One: Check the contents of the diaper.
Don any necessary protective gear and gently open the diaper. Please note: peeking first might give you certain insight into the diaper contents but this is generally not recommended and may diffuse any diaper changing motivation unless infant is screaming like a minion of satan.

Step One Scoring: Give yourself...
-One point for a pee-laden diaper;
-Two points for a poopy diaper; or
-Three points for a pee-poop combination.

Step Two: Change the diaper.
If my experience is as widely applicable as I suspect it is, your infant will most likely take this opportunity to do one of several things, including but not limited to additional peeing, pooping or spitting up. Of course, this is done while diapers and other pee or poop-proof materials are just out of reach.

Step Two Scoring: Give yourself...
-Four points for diaperless peeing;
-Five points for diaperless pooping; and
-Six bonus points for spitting up.

The lowest possible value for each round of play is one. The highest, 18 for a full diaper and the deadly pee/poop/spit-up trifecta. Normal game-play ends when the replacement diaper is secured. Repeat 8-10 times per day or as needed. Total your scores at the end of the day.

Posted by Chris at 08:42 AM | Comments (37)

August 01, 2005

At Least The Spam is Amusing

I know I've mentioned this before but it never fails to crack my ass up. And I say this with the full knowledge that it might be funny only to me. Because, well, I discovered not long ago that I was sitting here in PJs that were inside out. I might not be the wittiest, most reliable, shapest pencil in the drawer right about now. Anyway, I was combing through my spam box this morning and the names absolutely slay me. Shilling D. Shanghaii wants me to see some "seksy firsttimers" while Bacterial J. Gatepost just has some plain old generic information. Esteeming K. Mistrusts one ups Gatepost by providing "new information" - take that! Brunettes Q. Outspokenly wants to provide some alert function and Implementations B. Narrator has all kinds of good Windows software for me really darn cheap! He's in stiff competition with Mutilation M. Hullabaloo, Unclothing U. Della and Bibliographer I. Libertarians though...so I have options. And if all that stresses me out, well, there's Sonja Harding (relative of Tonya's perhaps?) who's offering me a proven party solution, whatever that is.

All-in-all, I guess I shouldn't talk. I mean, I am a guy writing under the name Rude Cactus after all...

Posted by Chris at 12:14 PM | Comments (14)

Haiku For Monday #89

Another Monday
and another week to spend
at home with Mia.

Posted by Chris at 09:40 AM | Comments (6)