January 12, 2007

Schadenfreude Friday: The Cactus Outage Edition

Before I jump into the knee-deep pool of schadenfreude I've managed to collect from all flooding of idiocy I've noticed this week, I wanted to let you know that it seems my hosting provider is having some difficulty with the server I'm on. Which means that my site has been down quite frequently. And may be again soon. So, the first real victim of schadenfreude I'd like to mention is me. Having this site down drives me absolutely ape-shit. So have fun watching me squirm.

The Case of the Construction Worker and the Naked Plunge
According to The Washington Post...

A naked construction worker fell about four stories to his death early yesterday at the work site for a new downtown museum, D.C. police and fire officials said. Joseph Oliver, 23, of La Plata was discovered about 6 a.m. in the basement elevator shaft area of the Newseum, which is being built at 555 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, officials said. Authorities said it was unclear why he was naked. "It appears he may have fallen from the fourth floor because there were clothes and personal belongings on that level," said Assistant Fire Chief Larry Schultz.

So, yes, the guy's dead and no matter how many rubber chickens or whoopie cushions you try to throw into that picture, death just isn't funny. But bad reporting is. Check out that last sentence. It appears as if he may have falln from the fourth floor because there were clothes and personal belongings on that level. Am I the only one who read that then mentally pictured a scenario in which an already naked dude stumbled upon some clothes and personal belongings on the floor then, shocked, flung himself off the windowless floor? Probably. I'm strange like that. But so is language.

Habla Dumb-Ass?
From the AP...

A school bus driver let Rachel Armstrong's three children board the bus Monday morning, but he warned them that he wouldn't give them a ride home that afternoon, nor could they ever ride his route again. The problem, according to Armstrong: her 10-year-old twin girls and 8-year-old son speak English. She says school administrators told her the route had been designated for non-English speakers only.

Look, I hate to sound like some countrified, conservative jingoistic idiot but it seems to me, in this country, language should never bar a person from anything. Especially the English language. You know, the one that most of us, to some degree or another, speak?

Habla Dumb-Ass...Redux
From the pages of the Chicago Tribune...

Calling the situation in Iraq "unacceptable," President Bush told a war-weary American public Wednesday night that he is sending an additional 21,500 U.S. troops to Iraq with the hope that Iraqis will take control of their own strife-torn nation's security by November.

Yet the president, while insisting that his controversial increased military commitment is not "open-ended," refused to set any specific timeframe for success in a conflict that has claimed the lives of more than 3,000 Americans and tens of thousands of Iraqis in nearly four years of warfare.

Instead, in a prime-time televised speech from the White House aimed at regaining lost public support, Bush conceded serious mistakes in Iraq. These include a costly underestimation of the military force required to secure Iraq against "a vicious cycle of sectarian violence that continues today" and an insurgency intent on overturning the government elected after the U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.

"The situation in Iraq is unacceptable to the American people—and it is unacceptable to me," Bush said. "Our troops in Iraq have fought bravely. … Where mistakes have been made, the responsibility rests with me."

Finally, for once, I could not agree more with the President. At least as far as that last sentence goes.

Posted by Chris at 07:28 AM | Comments (21) | TrackBack

January 11, 2007

Beat

I'm beat. As I mentioned yesterday, I sat through - and worse, actively participated in - six meetings over a course of eight hours, all with very important clients. In each of those meetings, I was able to identify at least three things that needed to be done by close of business. Of course, those didn't happen so today should be interesting. I need a cup of coffee the size of Peru. Or Bolivia. Whichever one's the biggest.

I know I was punchy last night. The following things actually came out of my mouth. The context is largely unimportant.

You know, I actually turned down a career in banana-peeling. At least, professional banana-peeling. They scouted me and tried to draft me right out of college during my sophomore year but I guess I felt I needed something to fall back on if the professional banana-peeling didn't work out. Or I was injured. At least, that's what I like to tell myself. Honestly, I had dreams of competing in the Olympics. Sure, banana-peeling was only an exhibition sport that year but I had hopes. Then the whole steroid thing came out and my banana-peeling days were over.

Did I ever tell you I almost buckled professionally? I was on the buckling team in high school but I ended going to a school with a particularly strong banana peeling program.

Well that brings us to something I like to call "girth."

Finally (in this long, punch-drunk rambling of a post) I must admit that, while it was perhaps the most serious and sober he's ever appeared, I wasn't thrilled by Dubya's speech last night. Apparently his idea of a new way forward is taking two steps back. Yet another Presidential Hail Mary in the seemingly endless Haliburton Bowl. Am I alone on this one?

Posted by Chris at 07:23 AM | Comments (24) | TrackBack

January 10, 2007

Hump Day Threefold Post

It's early. I'm headed to a client for meetings starting at 8:00 this morning and ending (hopefully) at 3:00 this afternoon. So, forgive me if I don't provide any stunning insights this morning. Yet, here's a post. And the post is threefold.

Fold One
I started the day yesterday morning with car trouble. Picture this. I arrive at the office, park in the parking garage. It's nice and early. Primo parking space. All is well...until I turn off my car and try to remove the key from the ignition. It wouldn't budge. I jiggled the wheel, pushed down on the brake, changed gears, turned the car on, turned the car off, turned the car on again, reversed, drove around the parking garage, found a smidge of religion and prayed, and then, when all else failed, I cursed. I cursed like a sailor. Like two sailors. I cursed with a ferocity never before seen so early in the morning and my foul-mouthed shouts echoed throughout the empty parking garage. And then I cursed some more. Then gave up. I took my car key off the ring and left it there, stuck in the ignition. I took my laptop into the office, booted up, got a cup of coffee then searched the net. I Googled "VW Jetta ignition key stuck fucked" and found I wasn't alone. I returned to my car, tried something and seconds later the key was free. Overall, not a great way to start the day. But still a hell of a lot better than having a key eternally stuck in the ignition. Plus I got to blow off a little steam early in the morning.

Fold Two
Did you know it's De-Lurking Week? Neither did I. So, uh, delurk and comment. Or, if you're around here all the time, just comment.

Fold Three
My wife, over on her official ClubMom site is launching something awesome today. I know all you awesomely cool people would want to know. You should drop by, check it out and let her know what you think. And, if you can, help.

So, to recap, three things:
1. Fuck...then ahhhh.
2. I'm a whore. Comment.
3. Visit Beth and do some good.

Posted by Chris at 06:26 AM | Comments (77) | TrackBack

January 09, 2007

The Many Books of 2006 (And A Sneak Peak at My Nightstand)

You guys know I like to read. So, in the absence of a weekend recap full of wit and hilarity (because, it was mostly a nice weekend but Beth was under the weather and I'm a little beat so frankly a lot of it ran together), I figured I'd show you what was on by bedside stand.



Top to bottom, left to right
  1. Grifter's Game (Lawrence Block...part of a series of books under the Hard Case Crime imprint, a line of new and vintage noir and pulp fiction. They're fantastic!)
  2. Witness To Myself (Seymour Shubin...another Hard Case)
  3. Branded Woman (Wade Miller...Hard Case, again)
  4. Death Instinct (Bentley Miller...3/4 of the stuff he writes is crap but that other 1/4 is pretty good)
  5. Mortal Fear (Greg Iles)
  6. The Devil of Nanking (Mo Hayder)
  7. Hawke (Ted Bell)
  8. Black Maps (Peter Spiegelman)
  9. Miss Misery (Andy Greenwald)
  10. The Book of Lost Things (John Connolly)
  11. Citizen Vince (Jess Walter)
  12. The Dirt (Lee, Neil, Sixx, Mars...yeah, Motley Crue. I'm curious.)
  13. The Iraq Study Group Report (Baker, Hamilton...halfway through, pretty dry)
  14. The Hunt Club (John Lescroart...just finished, not bad)

While I'm at it, I also know that some of you might be interested in hearing about what I read in 2006. You can see the list after the jump. Long story short, it's clear I don't have as much time as I used to to read. I think I'm down 26 books from last year. But hey, the trade off is a great one.

The Worst:
I read plenty of mediocre stuff, preferring cheap escapism over anything too challenging this past year. But two books really stood out for their sheer crapitude. Matthew Reilly's Contest was the worst. First, the entire book was a case of bait and switch. The back of the book described one very cool 24-like story while the novel itself told a different one. Maybe that turned me off. Or maybe it was the insanely stupid plot coupled with writing that very well might have been turned out by a third grader (and I'm sure many third graders would find that statement insulting). It was, without a doubt, pure unadulterated drivel. Also worthy of a conversion to toilet paper was Scott Smith's The Ruins. Favorably (an understatement) reviewed by Stephen King, I was intrigued. I'm still intrigued...intrigued about the version of the book King read. I must have gotten a bum copy because mine sucked sweaty gorilla nuts. Really big sweaty gorilla nuts. If you have copies of either book, return them if you can. Otherwise, find some matches.

The Best:
I didn't experience any shortage of good books this year. Charlie Huston's A Dangerous Man might have been the best. Huston is insanely talented and has a unique voice which is edgy, violent and hard as nails. Yet, somehow, you care about the people he creates. A Dangerous Man is the final novel in a trilogy; I highly recommend you pick up copies of Caught Stealing, Six Bad Things then A Dangerous Man and settle in for a nice cold winter weekend of fantastic reading. I sincerely doubt you'll be disappointed. The Ha-Ha by Dave King was also fantastic, as I believe I mentioned here right after I finished it. Greg Galloway's As Simple as Snow was wonderful as well. Man-Booker Prize finalist M.H. Hyland's How The Light Gets In was stunning as was Douglas Coupland's Eleanor Rigby. Finally, perhaps the most pleasant surprise was Greg Iles' Turning Angel. Iles writes thrillers and rarely does a simple mass-market thriller suck me in the way Turning Angel did. Iles' characters are brilliantly developed, he pulls no punches with his plot and he paints a setting you feel at home in. I found myself trying to slow down the pace of my reading and genuinely distraught when I realized I'd turned the last page. Pretty good indications of a good book.

Want the full list? After the jump...

  1. Inside Out (Nick Mason)
  2. The Town That Forgot How To Breathe (Kenneth Harvey)
  3. The Society of Others (William Nicholson)
  4. Zen Attitude (Sujata Massey)
  5. Hope (Mark Clapham)
  6. Blue Limbo (Terrance Green)
  7. Hard Rain (Barry Eisler)
  8. Cell (Stephen King)
  9. Mortal Prey (John Sandford)
  10. Utterly Monkey (Nick Laird)
  11. The Floating Girl (Sujata Massey)
  12. The Wind Singer (William Nicholson)
  13. Wrong About Japan (Peter Carey)
  14. Foreign Bodies (Stephen Dedman)
  15. Already Dead (Charlie Huston)
  16. As Simple As Snow (Gregory Galloway)
  17. The Broker (John Grisham)
  18. Rain Storm (Barry Eisler)
  19. Past Mortem (Ben Elton)
  20. American Purgatorio (John Haskell)
  21. In The Company of Liars (David Ellis)
  22. How The Light Gets In (M.J. Hyland)
  23. Blood Father (Peter Craig)
  24. Under the Banner of Heaven (Jon Krakauer)
  25. The Ha-Ha (Dave King)
  26. Contest (Matthew Reilly)
  27. The Underminer (Mike Albo)
  28. Bad Twin (Gary Troup)
  29. Drama City (George Pelecanos)
  30. The Geographer's Library (John Fasman)
  31. The Hard Way (Lee Child)
  32. Love And Other Near Death Experiences (Mil Millington)
  33. Eleanor Rigby (Douglas Coupland)
  34. Velocity (Dean Koontz)
  35. Assassination Vacation (Sarah Vowell)
  36. Midnight Cab (James Nichol)
  37. The Stolen Child (Keith Donohue)
  38. Eats Shoots & Leaves (Lynne Truss)
  39. Pirate (Ted Bell)
  40. Caves of Steel (Isaac Asimov)
  41. Adverbs (Daniel Handler)
  42. No Country for Old Men (Cormac McCarthy)
  43. Lost Lake (Phillip Margolin)
  44. Dear Zoe (Philip Beard)
  45. Naked Prey (John Sandford)
  46. The Ruins (Scott Smith)
  47. 18 Seconds (George Schuman)
  48. A Clean Kill (Mike Stewart)
  49. Dead Watch (John Sandford)
  50. Dispatches from the Edge (Anderson Cooper)
  51. Grab On To Me Tightly As If I Knew The Way (Bryan Charles)
  52. The Trudeau Vector (Juris Jurjevics)
  53. The Burning (Bentley Little)
  54. The Book of Fate (Brad Meltzer)
  55. A Dangerous Man (Charlie Huston)
  56. Three Days To Never (Tim Powers)
  57. IV (Chuck Klosterman)
  58. Bust (Ken Bruen & Jason Starr)
  59. The Gun Seller (Hugh Laurie)
  60. World War Z (Max Brooks)
  61. Creepers (David Morrell)
  62. Panic (Jeff Abbott)
  63. Turning Angel (Greg Isles)
  64. Plunder of the Sun (David Dodge)
  65. Goodbye Lemon (Adam Davies)
  66. A Simple Plan (Scott Smith)
  67. Grave Descend (John Lange)
  68. The Camel Club (David Baldacci)
  69. Little Girl Lost (Richard Aleas)
  70. The Confession (Dominic Stansberry)
    Posted by Chris at 07:17 AM | Comments (37) | TrackBack

January 08, 2007

A Weekend Recap...Kinda

Did someone break the laws of physics and accelerate time again? How is it possible that it's already Monday morning? It was just Friday...and I was just sitting here behind my desk. Right?



If you're expecting an exciting recap, well, you're shit outta luck. Don't get me wrong - we had some fun. But Beth was pretty significantly under the weather most of the weekend and the ways in which the weekend was passed are pretty much a blur at this point. I recall lots of playing (including a stretch during which Mia roamed the house with Beth's panties over her head - I have pictures and I'm not afraid to use them), a visit from the grandparents, and some playground fun during the beautiful Saturday. But I also recall being awake the vast majority of the weekend...including nights.

I do have a question - where the hell is winter? It was 70 degrees and beautiful on Saturday. People were outside, walking around in shorts! I know this because Mia found them all and pointed out their knees (yes, her knee fetish continues). Oh, and while I'm at it, there's another weather-related issue I don't get. Since the days are getting short and shorter, the nights should be getting longer, right? So why is the moon rising later and later? The reason I ask is that Mia, in addition to knees, is now obsessed with the moon. And asks me where it is constantly. The other night, I lost it. She wasn't happy and I thought I was losing my mind. Maybe I am. But why's the moon taking its sweet time coming up? Mia's waiting and she's not amused.

Yep. I'm boring this morning. I'm sorry. Yet I'm happy to report that I'm donut free. If one can be happy about such a thing.

How were your weekends?

Posted by Chris at 07:22 AM | Comments (51) | TrackBack

Haiku For Monday #152

Must have coffee. Now.
If not, my brain shall implode.
And that can't be good.

Posted by Chris at 07:15 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

January 05, 2007

Schadenfreude Friday: Good At Home

Before anyone starts throwing things at their monitors, let me first say that I think this story is, basically, good. Just, maybe, a little misdirected.

Talk show host Oprah Winfrey opened a school Tuesday for disadvantaged girls, fulfilling a promise she made to former president Nelson Mandela six years ago.

"I wanted to give this opportunity to girls who had a light so bright that not even poverty could dim that light," Winfrey said at a news conference. Initially, 152 girls will attend the $40 million Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls.

The project that created a 28-building campus with computer and science laboratories, a library, a theater and a wellness center began with a $10 million donation from Winfrey in 2002.

On Tuesday, Winfrey rejected suggestions that the school was elitist and unnecessarily luxurious. "If you are surrounded by beautiful things and wonderful teachers who inspire you, that beauty brings out the beauty in you," she said.

Singers Tina Turner, Mary J. Blige and Mariah Carey, actors Sidney Poitier and Chris Tucker, and director Spike Lee also attended the opening.

I'll admit this is good. I'll admit that someone should do this a million times over, across the continent of Africa and around the globe, wherever the poor, disadvantaged and disenfranchised struggle with issues of health, social welfare and education. I believe we, as (primarily) occupants of the richest nations in the world have an absolute obligation to better the lives of our fellow man regardless of borders and distance. But I also believe that it is our duty to take care of our own first.

In Chicago - the city Oprah calls home - 19% of the adult population lives below the poverty line. That's an income of about $15,700 or less per year for a family with two kids. 2004 census data reveals that this translates to somewhere around 165,000 families within the city of Chicago itself. Statistics further show that educational opportunities and the quality of education is, overall, severely decreased in economically depressed areas. Perhaps more importantly, in 2000 (the most recent year for which I can find data), $6,911 was spent per student on average. The price of building the school itself would pay for the education of roughly 6,000 kids. Yet the school, as you saw, is currently only open for 152 students. Were the kids of Chicago just not pathetic enough?

I fully realize that Oprah had a number of different motivations for doing what she did. And that her philanthropic ties to Chicago are strong. She does a lot of good. But Africa is fast becoming a photo-op and I'm tired of people doing good - and supporting those who do good things - only when there are cameras around.

Good is, well, good. It doesn't matter if you're at the top of the billionaires list or on the lowest rung of the socio-economic ladder. It doesn't matter if you stand in front of a camera while you're doing it. In fact, it might be more powerful if you don't. But, I'd argue that everyone has an obligation to do good in their own neighborhoods, that the investment you make in your own backyard pays dividends you can see, that strengthens the fabric of the community in which you live preparing it to receive future generations who will, hopefully, continue to do good.

I secretly (well, not now) like Oprah. She does some pretty cool stuff. I just wish, sometimes, she and people like her would focus a little more attention at home. There are plenty of kids who need a break here too.

The Feel Good: First Muslim congressman Keith Ellison used a copy of the Koran that once belonged to Virginia's most prominent resident, Thomas Jefferson. This after Virginia representative Virgil Goode argued that only the Bible should be used for such ceremonies.

So Schadenfreude It's Painful: Have you seen the latest McDonald's ad? Be on the lookout for a rather familiar (although slightly older) dude providing five seconds of almost-anonymous enthusiasm. Turns out, he's Jeremy Miller, former brat Ben from Growing Pains. Mmmmm, I'm loving it.

A Schadenfreude Question: How many of you have watched the video of the Saddam hanging? I'm curious. For the record, I haven't.

Posted by Chris at 07:11 AM | Comments (75) | TrackBack

January 04, 2007

My Non-Resolution Resolution For 2007

For the past several years, I've avoided making resolutions. Because I invariably fail at them. Like the promise I made to myself to join a gym a few years back? Lunacy. I joined. I forked over a nice big chunk of my paycheck. But did I ever go? Nope. Apparently you have to visit the gym to realize the full health benefits. Then there was the year I made a resolution to have a new experience everyday. When I found myself satisfied that channel surfing backwards was, indeed, a new experience, I realized that I'd lost sight of the bigger picture.

Some of it has to do with willpower. Or a lack thereof. The only things that I do on a regular basis that take any sort of mind over matter mastery are showing up for work (which is a no-brainer since I don't want my family to live in a box under a freeway overpass), blogging (which I didn't originally expect to last more than a week), and not smoking. There's also the bit about avoiding going off on a full scale rampage attacking stupid people with a ball-peen hammer (why does one need to hammer ball-peens and what exactly are they), but I keep that impulse in check. As a result of this, what I'm getting at here is that one of the things I don't do very well is keep myself healthy.

I don't eat meat. Figurative brownie points for sure but a little cow never killed anyone. Vegetables? Check. But also sugar. And ice cream. And I stop at Dunkin Donuts five mornings a week. There's no way that can be good, right? During the day yesterday, and not inclusive of the vegetable-filled dinner I consumed last night which was wholesome and tasty, I ingested the following crap:

  • 2 glazed donuts (the nice old Chinese DD lady, who is actually a psycho based on the bumper stickers on her car, actually gave me three donuts but I used my discretion and gave away the third. I'm positive she's a Chinese assassin sent here to kill off American capitalist heathens with donut overconsumption. In which case, she's a very patient Chinese assassin.)
  • 1 20-ounce cup of coffee (this is non-negotiable...you take away my coffee and I'll cut you)
  • 1 2-ounce bag pretzels
  • 1 20-ounce Sprite
  • 1 1.74-ounce bag peanut M&Ms

How do I not weigh 3,296 pounds? How am I not the circus freak The Amazing Chris - Blogger Big Enough To Have His Own Gravitational Field? How am I still upright? These and other mysteries (Jimmy Hoffa, the Bermuda Triangle, the exact rules of cricket, countries in which midget tossing is legal) have yet to be solved. I do know this - I need to get my shit together, health-wise at least.

To that end I share with you the following non-resolution resolutions that I will try to follow in 2007:

  • Dunkin Donuts will see me every morning, but only for coffee.
  • I will, despite my great fear that results will be met with a diagnosis consisting of the words "oh fuck", make an appointment for a physical, even through turning my head and coughing will most definitely be involved.
  • I will do my damnedest to find some sort of physical activity which neither puts me in the hospital nor bores me out of my gourd.

So, uh, help. Suggestions? I need guidance, people. And a snack. You don't happen to have a donut on you, do you?

Posted by Chris at 07:13 AM | Comments (60)

January 03, 2007

Full-Contact Parenting

Her: Be careful there. You know, someday we might decide we want a little brother or sister for Mia.
Me: Well then, I need a pair of stunt-nuts.
Her: Stunt-nuts implies you've got a nut-double. Which you don't.
Me: I'm painfully aware of that.




And then Mia spent the evening kissing my knees. And giving them drinks. Because she's obsessed with them. Kids are weird. Of course, some of their parents are too.

Photos courtesy of Beth. No blogger was seriously injured during the development of this post. Professional driver on a closed course. Results not typical. Individual ball-pain may vary.

Posted by Chris at 07:14 AM | Comments (34)

January 02, 2007

Coffee, Chug, Rinse, Repeat




Well, here I sit. Behind my desk. Back at work. I'm not 100% sure what I can say about that except, possibly, fuck. That sums it up quite adequately.

Unless you've managed to maintain a total blog blackout over the holidays, you've probably already taken note that not everything went as planned for us this year. Actually, nothing went as planned. That's parenthood for you. I am happy to report that when Saturday dawned, it was clear that Mia, like Stella, got her groove back. Back was my happy, funny girl making me realize how much I'd missed her while she was feeling so low. So the long weekend was spent making up for lost time. We even staged Christmas Redux to include the entire, healthy family.

The past week has been educational too. I've been exposed to two staples of parenthood and I'm pretty sure I'll be getting my permanent father's union card in the mail any day now. See, I got to watch a few hours of Elmo and log a little time at Chuckee Cheese's. Neither experience was particularly bad, but I've come to the conclusion that Elmo in large doses can actually drive one to insanity. And Chuckee Cheese's? That place where a kid can be a kid? I swear there were hookers working the room when we were there. Either that or there are some uber-slutty moms trying to distract their kids with ski-ball.

There's no delaying it. I'm going to chug the last chilly bit of coffee and try to jump back into the swing of things. Let's see if I can get my work groove back. Wish me luck.

Posted by Chris at 07:00 AM | Comments (37)