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  • Adventures in Bitcoining - Awhile back I posted on my fascination with bitcoin. As it turned out, the post was inspired by the all-time high price of bitcoin . . . up to that point. ...
    5 weeks ago

Thursday, January 31, 2008

New Site of the Week - Anecdotage

When you need a story, an intro, an illustration, a joke, an ice breaker . . . an anecdote, http://www.anecdotage.com/ is the place to go. Organized by topic, by person, user favorites, or generated randomly, their catalog includes everything from humorous quips to poignant quotes. If you're giving a speech or . . . I don't know, just trying to impress someone with your funny stories, you have to check out this site. Here's one I like:

Got with the Program? Following a performance of Peter Pan one evening, a small boy who had been given a seat in the author's box was asked which bit he had liked the most. "What I think I liked best," the child replied, "was tearing up the program and dropping the bits on people's
heads!" [This was one of Barrie's favorite stories.]

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

My Friend Eddie

I love deep dish pizza. That makes being in Chicago a very nice and dangerous thing. There's Pizzeria Uno, Due, Giordano's, Gino's, Lou Malnatti's . . . so many good pizza places, and so hard to rate them against one another. But by far, the best pizza experience I ever had came during a divinely appointed visit to Edwardo's.

Back in the college days, I didn't spend too many weekends at Moody Bible Institute. It felt far more freeing to come home. But one weekend I just happened to stay in the city. No plan. I just did. My room mate and I were bored. We decided to go out. We started walking. Nowhere to go and no reason to go there.

Suddenly, we were both hungry. For pizza. I don't remember who said what, but the conversation went like this: "Eduardo's?" "Yeah."

So we went. Got there at 9:50, and the place closed at 10. They locked the door immediately after we entered (in a "no more customers" kind of way, not a "you'll never get out alive" way). From the moment we sat down, I got the sense that all the restaurant staff, rather than begrudging our last-minute arrival, decided they were going to make this one count. There was literally no one else to wait on. No other pizzas to make. No other tables to clean. No other Cokes to refill. It seemed like they were committed to create the perfect dining experience.

And their quest for perfection culminated with a deep dish pepperoni pizza. The crust was golden, seriously, it sparkled a beautiful uniform shade of goldenrod. The red sea of succulent sauce is always bloody good, but it looked as if the tomatoes had been freshly murdered. When our server lifted each of our first slices out of the steaming bed of Italian spiced righteousness, I knew this was something special. The cheese didn't stretch out in the sprawling web of overstringy lactose like it would on a lesser pie. It didn't snap off the way it does with coagulated, refrigerated, microwaved leftover slices. The cheese from the slice delicately parted with that of the rest of the pizza like the hands of two dancers gliding lovingly apart as if only for a moment.

There it sat, waiting expectantly to be eaten, fulfilling its destiny as the best pizza ever. The crust, that sweet and crispy golden crust . . . the cheese that seemed to vanish in my mouth . . . the savory, tangy explosion of sauce . . . every taste bud was tingling. I could taste this pizza in my soul. Its warmth was spreading throughout my existence, healing bad memories and forgiving past offenses. With every bite, I was reborn. The meal was eternal.

The whole time, we didn't say a word. My room mate and I didn't even look at each other. The pizza captured our full attention. We ate all but two pieces, deciding they should be preserved for at least one day of posterity. After we left, we spoke of how perfect it was, but not with too many words. Not like this. We both knew without saying it, we just had the best food ever prepared on this planet. The sheer glory of it carried us back to our dorm room.

The next day at noon I went to the fridge to finish off my final slice. It was gone. My room mate ate them both. And I don't blame him. I was an idiot to leave her in that fridge alone. Did I learn nothing from my very special episodes of Punky Brewster?

Anyway . . . that's pizza at its best. I love pizza. I love deep dish. But that one moment at Eduardo's . . . there are no words. Well, at least there are no more words.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Cat's in the Cradle

"Do you want to play basketball?"

"Not now, I'm busy."

Okay, I'm sure that conversation plays out in one form or another between millions of fathers and sons across the country. But in what tiny fraction of those instances is it the son who is too busy? And on how many occasions is that busy son four years old?

I'm just asking because that exact conversation took place between me and Addison tonight, and I was the one who got blown off. His schedule eventually freed up and we squeezed in a quick pickup game of Nerfoop, but I had a little while to ponder my place in the universe . . . and as far as Addison's concerned, that's somewhere in line behind Pinky Dinky Doo.

P.S.

I was also thinking about my place in the universe earlier today, when in chapel (Yeah, I work at a place where we all can go to chapel on Tuesdays . . . don't judge) they had us read the Heidelberg Catechism. It starts with a question, "What is thy only comfort in life and death?" And then the people respond:


That I with body and soul, both in life and death, am not my own, but belong unto my faithful Savior Jesus Christ; who, with his precious blood, hath fully satisfied for all my sins, and delivered me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me that without the will of my heavenly Father, not a hair can fall from my head; yea, that all things must be subservient to my salvation, and therefore, by his Holy Spirit, he also assures me of eternal life, and makes me sincerely willing and ready, henceforth, to live unto him.



Yeah . . . that sounds nice, but it's a load of bunk. How self centered can we be? I count 11 my's, I's, and me's. My only comfort in life is my own salvation? Forget the fate of the rest of the world, I'm saved, whoopee! All things must be subservient to MY salvation? I guess I'm taking it out of context, a little. But I couldn't read that out loud. I find comfort in a lot more than that. I take comfort in the fact that my own salvation isn't the most important thing in the universe, even though Christ acted as though it was. And I'm seriously uncomfortable with a group of believers obsessed with defining their faith according to their own short-sighted, poorly worded, theologically systematized, pompous creeds.

Why am I arguing with sixteenth-century reformed theologians? Because my Tuesdays are bad enough without self-important crap like this to make it even worse. I've got my own self-important crap to think about.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Stall Tactics

Before you click away in disgust, please stop. I know what you must be thinking. Wait, scratch that. I imagine you could be thinking just about anything at this point. If you've read the word stall and seen the restroom sign, you might be expecting to read some sick brand of bathroom humor. Before your mind starts filling in the blanks on its own, let me assure you that this is a completely sterile brand of bathroom humor. It's not gross. It's not disgusting. It's not vile in the least.

It's actually scientific, musical even. Wait, now, there you go again thinking the worst. Stop doing that and trust me for just a moment. I'm going to teach you a simple way to have fun with noises in public bathrooms. Don't snicker! This is serious.

If you've ever studied acoustic resonance, you might already be one step ahead of me. You'll know that at a certain fundamental frequency (and at odd-numbered multiplications of that frequency) sound waves in a tube (or rectangular box as the case may be) open at both ends will feed off the strength of its own sound wave modulations, resulting in a very grand and pure sound. And perhaps the equation pictured herein will look completely familiar to you. If it looks like just about any other mumbo jumbo, fear not. You won't need to memorize it, it won't show up on a quiz, and you won't find it at all useful for engaging in the fun I'm about to describe. I place it here for no other reason than to add academic credibility to the post. Now, on to the fun.

The next time you find yourself in the stall of a public restroom, try this out. If it is the typical enclosure with walls that don't go all the way down to the floor or all the way up to the ceiling, you're sitting in the perfect spot for a real-life science experiment that can drive people a little crazy. All you have to do is hum.

Now, it's important that you hum quietly, inaudibly for anyone but you. Start with the lowest note you can hum. Then slowly work your way through your do re mi scales. Each time through, bring the scale up a half a step. Slowly, carefully, quietly, keep humming. If you're somewhere close to on pitch, eventually the soft tone of one of your hums will resonate loudly and strongly . . . it just might scare you. Fortunately, if it scares you really bad, you're in the right place.

But once you've found that note, you'll find that even the slightest vibration at that pitch will produce a very large, droning, ringing noise that completely fills the room. And since the room is a restroom, the resonance is multiplied by the extremely loud porcelain and marble-laid acoustics typical of such establishments. And no one, except readers of this blog, will know the source of the disturbance. They might think it's the vibration of a remote industrial engine. They may think aliens are invading the building or that a tornado alarm is sounding in the distance. But the sound is unlike anything else one would normally hear in a bathroom.

There. You know my secret. Try it out and perfect it alone. Then use it to frighten your friends and scare off strangers. In a public restroom, the options are endless. Hey, now, don't let your mind go there. I'm talking about resonance here, people!

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Musical Ripoffs . . . the Hulk vs. James Blunt

I've been sitting on this one for a long time. I have no idea if James Blunt has ever acknowledged the true source of his only hit's melody, but I know where he got it.

I submit for your comparing pleasure, "The Lonely Man Theme" from the 1980s television series, The Incredible Hulk and JB's sapfest, "You're Beautiful." Please note, the Hulk theme is a YouTube submission that has some Enya thrown in somewhere in the middle of the homemade montage, but you'll get the idea.

Hulk


James Blunt

Top Ten Signs You've Been Watching Too Much "Scrubs"

10. You start calling your 6 month old, "Newbie."
9. You can't stop singing the barbershop quartet harmonies to the Charles in Charge theme.
8. You tell your 4 year old to get back in his seat, stat.
7. You forget to tell your wife things you've already stated in your inner monologue.
6. Three of the top 10 Google results for "Scrubs" are links to your blog.
5. During sweeps months, actors from "Must See TV" shows make guest appearances in your dreams.
4. You lose sleep wondering what Janitor's real name is.
3. To discuss the birds and the bees, you employ the terms bajingo, delicates, and giblets.
2. You're wearing a WWJDD bracelet.
1. You have an on-again off-again relationship with your television.

After typing #1, I realized it was an almost universally true but nevertheless galactically corny joke. But it's just so corny, I can't find it in me to delete it.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Anti-Sermonite

This probably makes me a bad Christian, but I don't believe in sermons. I've been hearing them all my life. I've heard good ones, bad ones, long ones, and . . . less long ones. But I'm just not convinced they really have any place as a mainstay of the Sunday worship service.

Teaching is important. It is, it really is. But in its present form, I don't see how it qualifies as worship. I know, I know, it looks nice. Spend 40 minutes or so talking about God, that's worshipful, right? Well . . . let's look at what I classify as the three kinds of sermons.

The Topical Sermon
This is the one where the preacher has a message he wants to tell about X subject, and then searches through the Bible for verses that support his ideas on said topic. The pastor will tell you this is worship because he's exhorting his congregation to live worshipful lives. But topical preaching isn't worship. Not really. It's the pastor saying, "God is so great. His Word supports all my theories." Kinda seems to elevate the pastor over God. The whole "I've got something to say, and I'm gonna use God to help me say it" thing is not my idea of worship.

Personal Showcase Sermon
This is the one a lot of televangelist types like to use, but even the most small-time preacher can fall into the trap. In the personal showcase sermon, a preacher basically talks about himself--his life, his funny anecdotes, his kids, his tales of faith and valor and all things holy. Sometimes he'll even reference his spectacular sins, the ones he committed before he was converted in a shaft of sparkling gold light. He'll usually mention God in there, too, but in the casual "God and I are buddies, and we hope you can learn from us and one day join us here on the Mount of Transfiguration . . . but I'm not holding my breath" kind of way. Uh . . . not worship.

Expository Preaching
Bible scholars like this one a lot, but I'm not a fan, even though the idea sounds nice. The biblical text is rich with meaning, so the expository preacher will spend upwards of an hour unpacking all the deep layers of context and meaning and applications found in just a few verses. It's meant to be a testament to their heartfelt love for the Word of God and the infinite truth found therein. That's worship, right? That's helpful teaching, right? Ahem . . . no and no. With few exceptions, pastors that preach from a passage of Scripture tend to lose the forest for the trees. The typical expositional sermon starts with the pastor reading the passage in its entirety. Usually takes about a minute. They then spend the next 45 minutes trying to redefine everyone's understanding of what was just read. I'm sorry, but if I spend a grand total of 90 seconds reading a Bible verse out loud and 45 minutes expositing my observations, interpretations, and applications of what I believe the text means, doesn't it seem like just a bit too much of the focus is placed on my words? The underlying message is, "God, I love your Word. And I'm sure that if you had the time, you would have explained yourself a little more clearly. But don't worry. I'll take it from here."

In my falsely humble opinion, the sermon is the undoing of the modern Christian mind. Rather than encouraging people to read and study the Bible under the influence of the Holy Spirit, pastors are unwittingly training their listeners to stop thinking for themselves. Regardless of the method, I think most sermons wind up being the reproduction of a preacher's personal Bible study. The study was helpful for the pastor, but it can be harmful for the person who now thinks "There's no need to study the passage because it's just been done for me!" On top of that, the big-picture messages of the Bible get lost in the details. The simple truths get lost in complex extractions. The calls to humility get lost in our pride. The prophecies become obscured by small-minded agendas.

So what do I recommend pastors do? Cut your sermon time in half. Double the time you spend reading the Word of God aloud, free of commentary. Give your congregation a little credit. Trust the Holy Spirit.

. . . he said, longwindedly.

For a more reliable discussion on the topic, go here.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Food, Glorious Food



For as much as I love it, I should probably talk about food on this blog at least once a week. I could easily do that every day . . . I would gladly repeat certain dishes. Carson's pork chops. Eduardo's deep dish pizza. Ben. Jerry.

And that's the topic I'll start off describing: ice cream. And not just any ice cream . . . no, wait. Any ice cream. I'm not super picky about what ice cream I'm eating. Chocolate. Cookies 'n' Cream. Vanilla. Neopolitan. Cookie Dough. All that with Hershey's syrup. Baskin Robbins. Dairy Queen. Ben. Hag. Jerry. Das. So many flavors and brands to choose from.

But the important thing is this: it's gotta be all the time. I. Need. Ice. Cream. Each. And. Every. Day. Not exactly the advice of a physician, per se, but what do they know? There's just something about wrapping up a day with a big heaping bowl of silky, chocolatey, chilly, creamy, slow-churned, gently frozen goodness. Makes whatever happened that day bearable. Doesn't hurt to be eating it next to my beautiful, ice-cream loving wife, either. We're co-dependent ice cream addict enablers with no regrets.

And it can't ever be too sweet. I don't believe in that. Saying an ice cream is too sweet is like saying a saint is too holy. Just ain't possible. Here's to you, ice cream. I heart you, even if you're killing me softly. I scream for you. You complete me and then some.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Adventures of Frog, Toad, and Addison


Day 1

When we came home from pre-school, the first thing Frog, Toad, and I did was to go for a ride on my monster truck. Frog was driving on the couch, and Toad was riding; he was scared. After that, we ate lunch.

After lunch, we went downstairs, and Frog and Toad played slot car racing. Frog won the race; he was controlling the red car, Lightning McQueen. Toad and Doc Hudson came in second. Then, Frog and Toad watched me play on the computer. Then Mommy came home. She was amazed to meet Frog and Toad. Then I asked if we could go to Chuck E. Cheese’s, and Daddy and Mommy said, “Yes,” that I could go to Chuck E. Cheese’s.

When we got there, we were at Chuck E. Cheese’s. We watched a video, played in a puppet show, then I played some games. Frog and Toad played the motorcycle game. While I was playing games (the scariest one of all was the one with the wooden track) Frog and Toad snuck into the kitchen of Chuck E. Cheese’s. They made a fly pie pizza. Their tummies were full. They didn’t eat the whole thing of pizza. They had one dragonfly for Toad and one for Frog. Then we went back to the table and ate some more pizza. And then we played some more games. Then we left to go home.

At home, we played Duck, Duck, Goose with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Then we went to bed. Frog slept on my left, and Toad slept on my right.

Day 2

We woke up and it was snowing out. We went outside and shoveled snow, but not Frog and Toad. They just watched from my window. They played Duck, Duck, Goose by themselves. They didn’t go outside, but they did get into a little trouble. They got cookies out of the pantry, and they set them on the table. They didn’t eat them all, but they got crumbs on the floor and got pretty dirty. But when we got inside, I was surprised when we got upstairs. I ate one cookie, and Mommy was so glad that I ate a cookie. That was my first snack, and I had no snacks for the rest of the day.

I wasn’t in trouble, but we could have no sugar for the rest of the day, just goldfish. Toad took a nap in the morning. We played some games. We played Elefun, Later, Frog and Toad played pirates, and then basketball, and then I drew a picture of all of us on the chalkboard.

We had so much fun, then it was bedtime. I loved having them with me. The End.

--Addison

New Site of the Week


Here's a site I found during my daily random search for trivia questions. It's called wronganswers.com. The site is "dedicated to the proof of the proper role of WWW in research," and it does a fair job of fulfilling said mission.

It isn't the most professional site in cyberspace, but the concept is clever. Users provide made-up facts, which eliminates the need for verification of any kind. I suppose if the answers were dependably wrong, such consistency would undermine the site's integrity as an unreliable source. Information proven untrue can at least be helpful. Uncertain veracity is far more dangerous, and I think that's the whole point.

Anyway, my favorite wrong answer so far is under the Law & Politics section. One user defined Habeas Corpus as Latin for "She got a body on her!" They're not all that funny, but I laughed out loud on that one.

P.S. The site also has a string of relatively funny fake banner ads. I'm sure they're done by some other third party, but one new site at a time.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Frog and Toad's Wild Ride

Addison's pre-school has a fun assignment for which each kid gets to bring home their friends Frog and Toad for adventures real and fictitious. I hardly think those two things are mutually exclusive, but nevertheless, those adventures are underway. They've already raced slot cars, helped Addison navigate his regimen of educational Web sites, and ridden on a monster truck (not pictured). They were also trapped inside Colin's room during nap time, but we ran a successful reconnaissance mission without waking baby.

Baby, by the way, is getting a bit too long. Too long, in fact, for his car seat. He's past the 26-inch limit by nearly two inches. So I had to switch out the old, convenient, carrier seat in favor of the new, cumbersome, "pull the kid out of the car no matter how badly you'd like for him to continue sleeping" model. He has also moved into a new diaper class, the big Stage 3. This means that his trips to Deuceland only slightly wander beyond the boundaries of Diaperville instead of marching full speed ahead into Dirty Knee County and along Another Changed Onesie Blvd. It's fantastic.

Ah, well, the Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle have concluded, so I must be on my way. The first significant Frog and Toad adventure is coming soon: we're going to Chuck E. Cheese's. You know, where a kid can be a kid, and an adult can have an aneurysm.

Please pray.
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Sunday, January 20, 2008

Abbreviated

Who would have thought that a Scientology video would remind me of something I love to do? Well, it did. For some odd reason, I find strange satisfaction in coming up with abbreviations for phrases that would never be used frequently enough to actually require abbreviations. Here are some of my favorites (and most of them come from work):

SCO. So-Called Office. My office mate and I have shared the same workspace for nine years. It's always been the kind of office where people congregate. People come to see me. People come to see Elena. People come to see both of us. People come to see the people who come to see either of us. If your eyes didn't tell you otherwise, you'd swear there was no door. No one knocks. No one does a fake "knock knock." And we like it that way. But there was one particular day when there were five people (other than the two of us) in our office, and none of them were talking to either of us. At that moment, I looked at Elena and said, "This isn't an office. People call it an office, but it's not an office." And there it became, the SCO.

HWOPIN. Hand-Written On a Post-It Note. This one is pronounced as a single word (HWO-pin). It just became easier than saying, "Yeah, just make note of it on a post-it." Now it's just, "Put it on a HWOPIN." See how much easier that is?

S of a B. This one's self-explanatory. Not the nicest, but it sounds super nice in a dorky way when you abbreviate it.

UA. Unnecessary abbreviation. I don't really use this one. It kind of seems frivolous to double up. Giving the abbreviation process its own abbreviation feels like bureaucracy.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Tasteless Torture

I was feeding Colin last night . . . sweet potatoes and rice cereal. I don't like sweet potatoes, but it's a normal enough food. Rice products are usually just fine. Seems like a perfectly humane meal. But then Colin grabbed the spoon and flicked it like a slingshot. Not a ton of food went flying, but some got on my hand, enough to taste. I just licked it off instinctively. The next few moments are a blur. All I can really remember is my tongue recoiling in shock.

It's just not right, what we do to our kids. If we are to trust the experts, our kids' taste buds aren't fully developed. Okay, A) I never trust the experts. Just on principle. B) How would they know if a kid's taste buds are developed? Is it the same criteria as a typical parent applies? "Look, he's not screaming! He loves it!" Do they give babies horribly putrid mush just to see if they'll react. "10:30 a.m. Subject ate spoiled tofu laced with garlic and topped with strawberry cream cheese blended with vinegar to reach proper consistency. Subject made funny face, but ate everything. Taste bud development . . . negative." And C) Just because a kid can't taste like we can, does that justify spooning swill into his mouth?

Sure, the food is good for a baby, but what I tasted has no business sliding across the surface of a human tongue. Those foods are ingredients at best. Eating them alone is like chewing on baking soda or sipping raw egg whites. Maybe that's a bit of an exaggeration, and maybe that's a bit of an understatement. But it was gross, and it seems wrong.

Colin won't remember that I fed him this stuff. In his mind, there's no need to forgive me. In my mind . . . I don't know if I can forgive myself.

Course, on second thought . . . if this is my worst offense against my children, I'll die a happy man.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Something Meaningful

Okay, here's the plan. Play a song, write whatever comes to my head and hope that it comes from my heart. The song: Drive On, Driver. The artist: Magnetic Fields. And I've decided, as the song changes, so will the writing. This song is only three minutes long, so I better get going.

I wonder what life would be like if all the anologies were true. What if our lives really did have a steering wheel? And what if we really were able to let someone else take the wheel? Jesus, if you're Carrie Underwood. The Holy Spirit, if you're Paul. Let Go and Let God, if you're a bumper sticker. That question came up in my head today. To what degree does the Spirit control us if we yield to Him? And to what degree do we control ourselves if we don't?

God designed us a certain way, but that design is contaminated now. We're sinners, driven by sin. So do I ever really have control over what I'm doing? No, I don't think I do. There is a fatalism in anything I do that comes naturally. If I want my life to change, I need to change. And without God's influence, I'm a closed system. A clock set in motion by a clockmaker who knows I'm a million minutes slow. So I can make choices. Big deal. God designed us with the ability to make choices, it hardly makes us sovereign over ourselves. (Crying Over by Patty Griffin just ended. Now Ray LaMontagne is telling me I'm Crazy if I think I'm in control. Hilarious.)

But now that I have the Holy Spirit living in me, does that make it even crazier to think He's in control? And, by the way, it really is nuts to think that a divine being is inside you controlling the way you think, speak, feel, and act. So . . . how does it work? I guess I think it's less like the car anology, and more like the clock anology. I'm not passed out in the back seat while Jesus drives me home. I feel like it's more along the lines of . . . the clockmaker has me cracked open and is fixing me. A lot.

And you know how sometimes people will be working with an inanimate object that "doesn't want" to cooperate? These shoelaces don't want to stay tied. (While Andrew Bird sings about Tables and Chairs.) This tablecloth doesn't want to stay down. This spot doesn't want to come out. In the clock analogy, I'm a clock that sometimes doesn't want to be fixed. Probably ticks God off, please forgive the pun and the flip reference to deified anger. Sometimes I want to be fixed, and He sets things straight, and I work a little bit more closely to His original design. Of course, at some point He just says, "I've gotta take this thing back into the shop."

But as long as my clock is still on the wall, (thanks, Patty, for chiming in with "Time Will Do the Talking," and again forgive the terrible clock puns) I have to keep going. Man, I love this song. Patty has a way of stopping me where I stand. Where was I? Oh, yeah . . . I want to be fixed. That's all. I can't know where I'm going. I can't ever realistically expect to be in control of my life, and that's okay. I just want to be fixed. Once I'm working how God intended, I think everything will go a lot better.

I like that game. I'll just enjoy the glow while I listen to Brett Dennen's admonition not to fear what I don't already know.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

I'm It

I've been blog-tagged, or memed (which I pronounce maimed with mee-meed as my second favorite "don't bother to google it" possibility . . . actually, I did google it earlier, but I can't remember seeing a pronunciation guide, but I digress . . . pretty much for a living) by Steph, and I think it looks like a fun one.

Five to ten courses you would take to fix your life, including one class suggested by the person who maimed you (yeah, I'm just going to change the spelling in a passive-aggressive attempt to make you pronounce the word my way).

I would definitely at least audit Steph's Sleep: It's Really More Important Than Blogging, Even Though You Beg To Differ.

Then I'd enroll in How to Stop Parenthesizing (Because It Really Is a Problem {although not your most pressing one}).

I suppose I could use a refresher in Telecommuting Negotiation: How to Effectively Broker a Work-from-Home Deal With Your Employer.

Advanced Bud-Nipping: Preventing Your Worst Behaviors from Manifesting Themselves in Your Four Year Old could come in real handy right about now.

Maybe the most urgent, if not the most important, class for me would be Putting on Your Blinders: The Lost Art of Preventing Memories of 1980s Saturday Morning Cartoons from Distracting You on the Way to Get Coffee And Endless Other Sidetracking Pitfalls. Really. I have a problem.

One I'd hate, but I need . . . Put Putting Off Until Later Until Later: How to Hit Deadlines Simply by Rescheduling Procrastination for Another Time.

Aaaand . . . Seriously: How to Make It Through an Entire Conversation or Meeting Without Cracking a Joke. I would so fail.

Alright, and I suppose I'll tag people this time . . . here goes nothing. If you don't want to be tagged, forgive me, and please don't tell me. I still haven't taken Social Anxiety 101: Everyone Doesn't Hate You, and Even If They Did, They Wouldn't Tell You . . . Isn't That Good Enough?

Bare
CoCo
A-Ron
Toddled Dredge

Overheard . . . at McDonald's

Addison:
"Compromise is not a game."

What prompted it? What does it mean? I have no idea. I refuse to let it go until I can figure out some life application from those words.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Clumsy

I have Fergie on my playlist because the song makes Addison dance. And when Addison dances, all is right with the world. The other day he broke into the robot. The ROBOT. It was beautiful. Just precious. He dances kind of like how Phoebe runs on Friends. He leads with his elbows, shakes his hips, lifts his knees, breaks down on the floor, and smiles super big. The dance pictured here was from a spontaneous dance off he had with another kid at Ed's in Chicago. His style of dance is dance as it should be. It's not an art form, it's a bodily function. Amen, Addison. Amen.
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New Site of the Week


I've decided to start a new feature, referring you all* to a new Web site that I think adds something valuable-ish to the Web in all its World Wideness. This week's feature: Rules of Thumb. It's kind of a fun assortment of reader-submitted tips to live by. A lot of them are not so great. Some of them are helpful. And still others are interesting even if they are irrelevant. I've never been all that in love with relevance, so I appreciate this one:


If the high-frequency letters ETOANIRSH occur very often, in this order, you can assume that you are dealing with a transposition cipher in which the letters remain the same but are rearranged in a new pattern. On the other hand, the repeated appearance of low-frequency letters indicates that a message has been written in a substitution code.

There are plenty of rules you can use, at least one for every thumb. So please, browse, enjoy, and tell me what you think.

*Or you both, as the case may be.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

AI

I generally don't have a lot of pity for American Idol contestants. They know, or should know, what's coming to them. They fall into these categories:

Crazy
These folks are certifiably cuckoo. I feel genuinely bad for them, because they really have something chemically, medically, or deeply spiritually wrong with them. Basically, I don't think they can help it. I don't know how much control they have over even showing up to the audition. Unfortunately, they are always good for a laugh.

Serious Issues
These people function on some level within the confines of normal human existence. They make decisions for themselves. They have no long-term memory loss. They are probably not aware of the fact that people are making fun of them right to their faces. Not great at picking up sarcasm, but bottom line . . . they really should know better . . . but most of the time they don't. I feel a little bit bad for them, because, more than likely, no one ever tells them the truth about themselves. But still . . . I don't think they want to know the truth. Discarded and humiliated as they may be, there is still so much pride there. And I find myself laughing at them and feeling bad afterward.

Intentionally Clueless
These are normal people who can't sing. They think they're really good. Saddest of all, they're sometimes surrounded by family and friends who refuse to tell them how bad they stink. They think everyone else is awful, sure they'll win the entire competition. Sorry. They deserve the ridicule.

Sincere But Awful
These are the ones that really rip my heart out. They are nice, sweet, endearing people. The good folks at American Idol take extra time to tell us their stories. Unassuming little gems you hope will succeed. And then they sing, and it's just horrendous. They've probably never sung in front of any sort of audience ever. And AI squeezes every tear they can out of them as reality shatters their innocent little bubbles. Sometimes they take it well. Sometimes they're heartbroken. Even though they should know better, the heartbreak was entirely avoidable. These people should never make it as far as Randy, Paula, and Simon. They shouldn't have their hearts broken on national TV.

Attention Starved Goofs
The people who know they stink, but try to stink bad enough to get on TV should be turned away at the door. These guys don't think they can sing any more than a streaker believes he can play football. Just like the streaker, the cameras should turn away.

The Talented
These people have it the worst. They aren't willing to actually work at it, and almost all of them will lose miserably. They're so excited to go to Hollywood. But they're not good enough to ever make a cent singing professionally.

So . . . is it wrong for American Idol to parade these people before millions of eager viewers? Is it wrong for me to watch? I don't know. Today, I felt mean. Did I just change my own mind? Oh, crap, I hate when that happens.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Musical Ripoffs Pt. 2

I think I should preface this post by saying, I like musical ripoffs. I like when you can follow the melody, rhythm, spirit of a song from one artist's rendering to the next. I believe imitation really is the sincerest form of flattery. Of course, if you imitate only yourself (yes, I'm talking about you, Third Eye Blind) that's another story.

Today's ripoff comes to us from "Say," John Mayer's contribution to The Bucket List soundtrack. It sounds remarkably like Steve Winwood's "Back in the High Life Again." As was the case with the Matchbox 20 ripoff, there's a symmetry between the messages of each song. The Modern English song whispered hopefully, "I've seen the future, and it's getting better all the time," while Rob Thomas bemoaned, "I believe the world is coming to an end." In this pair, Steve Winwood is the voice of hope promising that "all the doors I closed one time will open up again." John Mayer counters with the warning to "say what you need to say," while there is still time to say it.

I like both messages. I like the idea of reclaiming a broken past and enjoying life to the fullest. But I also appreciate the warning not to take any days for granted. It's good to be hopeful for tomorrow. And it's good to express your feelings as if tomorrow might not happen.





And now I just can't get around adding this one.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

I Caved

It had been since before Memorial Day that I had a pop. I won't go into the full explanation as to why I gave up all things carbonated, but I'll sum up. I was drinking too much Coke, and when I wasn't drinking Coke I'd down other variously sweetened sodas of both diet and regular denominations. At a certain point, I realized I didn't even like what I was drinking as a replacement, so I just stopped cold turkey. No more pop.

Then a week or so ago I couldn't resist the urge to grab a can of relatively cold diet root beer. It was unsatisfactory. But I was happy knowing I had made the right decision. Substituting diet for the sweet sparkling sustinence that is Coca-Cola Classic is a travesty of taste. And high fructose corn syrup is just bad for you. So . . . I carried on in my Coke-free existence.

Today it ended. We had friends over for lunch, broke out a two-liter of Pepsi, and I didn't partake. Heather said they should just take the bottle home with them, since no one in this house would be drinking it. They didn't take it home. And Heather was wrong.

There I was. All alone in the living room. I picked up the two-liter bottle. Still cold. I twisted open the bottle cap and immediately smelled a mixture of caramel and indulgence. The wait was over. Sure, it was Pepsi, which meant the payoff was just a bit too sweet, but sweet nonetheless. The dark cool waves of sin danced across my tongue and cascaded down my tingling throat. It was wonderful. What made the transgression even more gratifying was the fact that I was chugging out of a big ol' two-liter. It was just wrong for all the right reasons.

I'm not worried about going back. I know I'm not going back. I still don't drink pop, and I'm committed to that. It was just a necessary reminder that I didn't just give up on diet, bubbly, mineral-tasting pop. I gave up the good stuff. Kidding myself into thinking I don't really like pop is a joke. I love Coke. And if I can go through life without drinking that, there's no limit towhat I cannot do.

Still . . . yummy.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Musical Ripoffs

Today Addison was doing one of the odd things that drive me crazy. Nothing bad, just . . . he sings songs, and I can't tell if he made them up or he heard them somewhere. The song tonight went like this: "SOMEDAY, I'll be a firefighter. SOMEDAY, I'll be a man." The tune was kind of catchy. It sounded real enough. But when I asked him where he heard it, he said he didn't know. When I asked him if he made it up, he said he didn't know. So neither of us know, but it bothers me alone.

But that got me thinking of a musical clone I noticed on the radio recently. The Mix 101.9 had Modern English and Matchbox 20 in their daily 15-song rotation, and the station was on all day in our house. But I had trouble distinguishing these two songs. Check 'em out.





What do you think? Similar enough to be a ripoff? Or did Rob Thomas and pals make it up on their own? I smell a ripoff.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Top Ten Things Colin Does Best

10. Drool. Seriously, he has two saliva glands: the Pacific and the Atlantic.
9. Roll over. All of a sudden he's rotating on his axis.
8. Poop beyond the confines of his diaper.
7. Bounce. In his bouncy seat, in his jumperoo . . . probably not if you drop him, although Addison's always ready to test that one.
6. Laugh. He's a ticklish one.
5. Splash in the tub. He actually starts doing it as soon as the bathwater starts running and he's in the next room.
4. Godzilla impression. It's killer. Grabs stuff, puts it in his mouth, makes indiscernable noises.
3. Burp. Earth-shaking resonance, sustained volume, good follow through.
2. Smile. Aw, man, he smiles on command.
1. Make me smile. Yeah, I had to add a cheesy heartfelt one to wrap it up. I was gonna go with "Increase my tax refund" as an emotionless copout, but, I'll stick with make me smile. He's the bomb.
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Wednesday, January 09, 2008

The Hills Are on Life Support


We used to live in a Rodgers & Hammerstein world where people spontaneously burst into song. Now it's a Scorsese and Tarantino world where people spontaneously burst into flame.

I'm not one to overrate the good ol' days. I don't believe society is getting progressively worse. I believe people, created in God's image as we are, have always been good at being depraved. We have our moments, but people are real bad by nature.

I understand that. It isn't our nature that has changed, but our outlook. To quote Jerry Maguire, "We live in a cynical world. A cynical . . . world." We do. See, it used to be okay for a movie to be unapologetically happy. The hills are alive with the sound of music? That's really happy. Little rich Austrian kids running around singing "Do Re Mi" in lederhausen made out of drapes? That's Jack McFarland happy. But when The Sound of Music came out, it was par for the course. It was culturally acceptable to make movies that just made people happy. Heck, that's what people wanted. Musicals were cool. Gene Kelly singing and dancing . . . cool. Fred Astaire dancing and singing . . . cool. We didn't ask our entertainment to artfully, painfully reproduce the darkness of the human heart. We just wanted a little cheering up, and it worked. Didn't cure the alcoholism, materialism, rage, lust, and selfishness, but it worked wonders on cynicism.

You couldn't get away with that now. If you're gonna be that happy, it's gotta be because you're Jack McFarland. Or just ridiculously sarcastic. Yesterday's happy is today's cheesy. What used to pass as a happy ending is now dismissed as predictable. Show a complex chronology, a bloody betrayal, and a few thousand f-bombs, and you're a cinematic genius. Resolve the conflict and let the lovebird leads live happily ever after? You're a sellout studio popcorn commercialized joke. I hate that.

Don't get me wrong, I like a good dark movie. I love Pulp Fiction. Big fan of Se7en. But at least those movies, disturbing and revealing as they are, still offered a slim ray of hope . . . in my eyes, anyway. But movies like Mystic River, The Departed . . . I just don't see it. If you like them, fine. But I just hate the mindset of taking a grim satisfaction in feeling awful about the depravity of human existence, especially when it's coupled with an intolerance for unadulterated glee.

Because the intolerance makes its way to more than just media. I think it affects the way we look at people in general. Perkiness is an unpardonable sin in some municipalities. Jadedness is required. I'm a serious offender myself. I think I'm afraid of dancing in public because it would make me seem too happy. Same with smiling in photographs. It just feels unnatural. Yeah, I'm griping against myself, and I'm blaming the media.

Maybe it's time I sit down for a couple of High School Musical sessions and cheer myself up. Ah, that's what I love about blogging. I feel absolutely no pressure to make a lucid point. Thank you, Al Gore, for inventing this crazy place. Now that makes me happy.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Top Ten Reasons I Shouldn't Jump Over My Brother

This one is entirely from Addison after a couple of jumps over Colin, lying helplessly on the floor. I told him to give me ten reasons why he shouldn't jump over his brother. They came surprisingly quickly. No one was hurt in the making of this list . . . this time.

10. He could die.
9. He could get hurt.
8. He could get a bandage put on him.
7. He could cry.
6. He could get put in the river.
5. You don't need to.
4. Because you don't, because.
3. You don't want to.
2. Mommy and Daddy said not to.
1. Mommy and Daddy will be mad at you.
Other random Addisonisms from this evening:
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are "Jaminja Turtles."
  • He picked up the phone tonight and said, "What's Grandma's number? I wanna call and see how Grandpa's doing."
  • He calls his pirate bath toy, "Ben Wallace." This picture should explain everything:

Toy Pirate

Ben Wallace

Fear

Fear does different things to all of us. Some of us like the comfort of drama. We exaggerate the fear, making small things into movies of the week, and large things into swoons of near catatonic panic. By overreacting, we construct a built-in excuse for actually dealing with the situation. We imagine the pain, the threat, the consequences to be just a bit more than we can handle--thereby appeasing our guilt with the consolation that there was simply nothing we could do. Example: I see a bear. I react as though I'm being eaten by a bear, screaming and wailing and looking upward for the bright lights accepting my soul into glory. If I actually do get eaten, I'm prepared. If the bear was actually behind a cage or, you know, just walking by, I at least have a story of how I survived a bear attack. Either way, my fate is determined for me. I'm not really one of those people.

Other people get defensive. We see the threat. We fear the worst, and we take matters into our own hands, no questions asked. We manipulate, we run, we fight, we protect ourselves, caring little if we cause harm to the perceived threat. We accept the collateral damage because it is inflicted according to our own terms. Example: I see a bear. I'm afraid that if he gets too close, it will ruin our friendship. So I start dating a hyena, just to make it unmistakably clear that I don't like the bear that way. Sure, it puts me in a bad relationship with a handsy hyena who doesn't really care about my feelings, but at least things don't get weird between me and the bear. I, on occasion, deal with fear like that.

Other people take action. We cure fear with knowledge. Good, sound knowledge. We ask questions, and we think. We understand that everything in life worth experiencing comes with some amount of risk, calculated or otherwise, and we go for it. Sometimes we get hurt. But we learn. Other times we succeed, and we experience the sustinence of life and the vitality of real friendship and love. Example: I see a bear. I walk up to a bear. I see that it's growling because there's a thorn in his paw. I take out the thorn. We grab a beer. We watch football. We talk about fathers and work and our dreams. Yeah. I'm not exactly one of those, either.

No, I'm in the other class of fear, the Hamlet realm. Paralysis is my medium. We see a problem and analyze it to death. We think of ways we could overreact and laugh it all off as an idiot's fancy. We see ways we could defend ourselves, but the prospect is so boring, we don't bother. We even think sensibly enough to come up with a worthy solution to our problems. But when it comes right down to it, we're not sure we have what it takes to make it work. We wait. And then we wait. And then . . . That sentence never gets finished. Example: I see a bear. He's picking bits of me out of his teeth, and he's saying, "Dude, you think too much. Overthinkers are tasty."

So here we are. The overreacters get their way, even if it makes everyone miserable. The defenders keep us where they want us, but with mixed results. The assertive folk try to help, but they eventually find better things to do than wait for us to make a decision. This is the life of an overthinker. A world where fear keeps anything meaningful from ever changing.

P.S. Of course, there's the Cobra Kai dojo, where fear does not exist. I forgot them.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Tag?

So I got tagged by Steph. I'm supposed to list Seven Things You Don't Already Know About Me. Here goes nothing:

1. This is, if I'm not mistaken, the first time I've ever been tagged via blog. I've been tagged in various other ways. Freeze. Cartoon. Lazer. But never blog. Til now, that is.

2. I just got Colin to go to sleep by whistling "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." Apparently he loves whistling.

3. I got prescribed an allergy medicine after I told my doctor I don't have any allergies. But the really stupid thing is, I didn't ask why.

4. I hate turtlenecks.

5. I love American Gladiators.

6. Sometimes I get the jingle to the "My Buddy" commercial stuck in my head, and I have no idea why.

7. For the fear that you, dear reader, won't know what the heck "My Buddy" is, I feel compelled to include the lyrics:
My Buddy
My Buddy
Wherever I go, he's gonna go.
My Buddy
My Buddy
My Buddy and me!


I feel strangely better after that. Thanks, Steph. I'm assuming there are no tag-backs, so I'll just switch to hide and seek. 1-2-3, NOT IT!

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Rocking in the Cradle

This is Colin looking about as bad as he is capable of. Not very, I know. The boy is not bad to the bone. He's downright jovial. He's wearing a "Rocking in the Cradle" outfit from Colleen, and then a fire hat courtesy of Addison. He's just so funny. He's usually smiling. He laughs at anything, especially anything Addison does. Colin James . . . he's got a lot of fun ahead of him.


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To B-12 or Not B-12

I think it's hilarious that there's a public debate between Roger Clemens and his former trainer about what exactly the latter injected into the former's posterior. It's my absolute favorite he-said, he-said of the year. It's loaded with fun.

Roger Clemens is trying to save his own backside by clarifying what exactly went into it. Rocket says he was injected with vitamin B-12 (an energy boosting shot to the bum) and a form of pain killer (an anti-pain in the butt, if you will). And there's just nothing wrong with letting another man load your tooshie with pain killers and vitamins. But his trainer is saying he gave him human growth hormone to the hiney, and that's a violation that could hold the legendary ace out of the Hall of Fame.

So who do we believe? There are plenty of reasons to doubt Clemens, but I think the most important question is this: who knows more about what's going on, the guy wielding the hypodermic needle, or the wincing guy with his his rear end hanging out? The injecter is more informed than the injectee. Basic rule of needle sharing.

Sorry Roger, you're guilty. No if's, and's, or butts.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

This One's for Jim

Don't give up, Jim, Dad, Grandpa. We love you!

The Show Must Go On


Someone asked me what I thought of the writers' strike in Hollywood. And the truth was, I hadn't thought much about it. That surprised me, because I do think of myself as a writer. I tiptoe around that word as much as I can, because I hold the craft of writing in the highest esteem.


I understand that the writing industry is a multi-tiered fraternity that includes first-graders and Shakespeare, Howard Stern and Clive Staples Lewis, junk mail copywriters and Pulitzer Prize winners. When people hear the word writer, they often assume a certain requisite quality in the work of the craftsman bearing the name. Let me be clear about writing: to be called a writer, you don't need to write well; you need only possess the bravery (or the brazen indifference to the effect your words will have upon your audience) to write at all. With tiny scraps of the former, and an unfortunately healthy dose of the parenthesized latter, I forge ahead and dare to write. So I call myself a writer.

Maybe that should make me biased in favor of the writers in this dispute, but it doesn't really. I'm no expert in the nature of Labor Unions, other than to know that fear of their cumulative power drives me to capitalize the term. But strikes are, in general, very bad for business. I think parties on both sides need a good "snap out of it" slap across the face from Cher. Their inability to broker a deal is doing harm to them and them alone.

I believe Hollywood is positioning itself for a wake up call to a reality they don't want to admit exists. People don't need entertainment. Even if they did, they wouldn't need to get it from the town of Hollywood. This strike comes at the worst possible time for writers, and the best possible time for an entertainment-starved country. Reality TV, a bulging sports industry, a pathetically easy-to-plunder music industry, and the exponentially exploding You Tube phenomenon all threaten to steal the admiration of the masses.

Give America a few more weeks, and we might just discover that we didn't need TV as much as we thought we did.

There's a reason for "The show must go on" axiom in showbiz. If there's no show, there's no biz. And even though the writer in me secretly loves to think that nothing in this world can be accomplished without writers, pride is little solace for the people who are without work.

As for the rest of us who are surviving on reruns, syndication, and alternate forms of amusement, we're doing just fine, I think. Strike all you want. I'll find something better to do. . . .

But please, please, don't cancel Lost. Or The Office. Or 24. Or Boston Legal. And finish the last season of Scrubs. Other than that, I don't need you. Oh, and House. How could I forget House? I am a tower of fortitude. Yes.

Who am I kidding? Please come back!

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Top Ten Answers

10. 116 years
9. Mickey Spillane
8. King Kong
7. Flush
6. No
5. Kermit the Frog
4. 108
3. 2
2. Kristin Shepard
1. Bobby Riggs

And no, I don't remember the answers without looking them up. Stupid hundred years war gets me every time.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Trivial Pursuits


I love trivia. I know I've loved it at least as long as the godfather of trivia board games, Trivial Pursuit, first made an appearance on the Kellogg dining room table. The funny thing about that particular game was we bought it as a gift for our friend-who-is-practically-family. And since she was and is practically family, we had no qualms about giving her game a permanent home in our game closet.


But, you see, this is the nature of my love affair with trivia. I love to remember all the little facts that shouldn't matter but do. I don't care as much about the year we first played Trivial Pursuit. I care about the fact that during said year we in effect bought someone else a Christmas present for ourselves, one that I enjoyed immensely for the better part of two decades. That's trivia at its best: Which member of the Kellogg family was the rightful owner of the Kellogg Trivial Pursuit game? Cynthia Sawyer.


Or last night, when we were watching The Bourne Ultimatum, and Heather was asking if I thought this CIA agent was really a bad guy, I said, "I don't know," but I was thinking, "No, he's not bad, he's Eddie Cicotte from Eight Men Out." It's not that I can't follow the plot, I'm just more into the sub-sub-subplots.


And that's why every day (every weekday) I send out a trivia question. It started out as a work email, but it expanded a little bit. Anyway, trivia is my other blog. Feel free to check it out.


Okay, I'll end with this, my Top Ten favorite questions from the original Trivial Pursuit, Genus Edition:

10. How long was the One Hundred Years War?

9. Who created Detective Mike Hammer?

8. What was Adolf Hitler's favorite movie?

7. What's the lowest hand that beats a straight?

6. Was Humpty Dumpty pushed?

5. Who married Miss Piggy?

4. How many stitches are in a baseball?

3. How many grooves are in a standard vinyl LP?

2. Who shot J.R.?

1. Who lost the Battle of the Sexes?


Boy Meets Tractor



A strange internal struggle ensues when you walk in a room and witness a bad idea brewing.

1. You want to prevent sibling rivalry from killing one or both of the siblings involved. I mean, you never know, Cain could have been four years old when he took out Abel.
2. You kind of want to see if cartoon physics go into effect when critical cuteness is acheived. Maybe Colin will be flattened by Addison's tractor, only to be restored via thumb inflation.
3. You want to take pictures either way.

This two-boy life is going to get interesting, I think.
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