Random adventures through my life... in all their glory and splendor.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Look ma, no luggage!

Ok, well, the problem with writing a blog while you are ON the plane is that the experience isn't technically over until you get checked into the hotel... with all your luggage.

Note the profound lack of baggage
Ok, ok, it wasn't that bad. The bad news is, one of our bags is MIA. The good news is that it was the 'equipment' bag filled of masks and fins and NOT underwear, socks and passports (travel necessities listed in order of importance.) The airport said that it might be coming on the next flight from Atlanta and that it would 'just be 10 minutes' but it turns out there was even less luggage (and more irate people) on that flight. Trying to get that bag cost us another 2 hours at the airport which meant we got to the Marriott about 6:30 local. (btw, it's pronounced 'Mario' down here, which is just different enough to make you question if the cabbie really knows where to take you) So yeah, that made for a long day of travel. Especially since I didn't get any sleep the night before. Did I mention I had a great time at karaoke? jk...

Anyway, I've come to the conclusion that being dead tired while flying isn't such a bad thing. Unless of course you're the pilot, but I won't go there. Anyway, airports are more bearable. You aren't as aware/concerned about how much everything flipping costs. Time is no longer linear. The lists of perks goes on and on... Now admittedly, someone had to be in charge otherwise I'd still be sitting at the airport trying to convert dollars to euros (another long story, but the punch line is that they don't use Euros here anyway...) But I was not labled 'El Hefe' (The Chief) and therefore free to pass in and out of consciousness at my leisure. It's a good thing too because I was going to do it anyway.

Getting close to the white rabbit. I has his carrot.

Who needs fashionable iPod accessories? When I've got an audio splitter and a twist tie, I'm always stylin'

So anyway, rumor has it that internet access is $8 a minute on the boat so this is most likely the last time I'll be posting until after the cruise. Sorry but you'll have to wait for the new year to get burnt whiteboy pic's. But really, I'm sure these lovely airport shots are going to be the highlight. Chris is out getting actual pictures of Santo Domingo now. For those of you not adventuring this holiday, S.D. is the poorest nation we're visiting and I just found out Chris and my folks have to cross an (armed) food line to get to the cultural center. Hope she comes back with some great pictures!

Or, you know... just comes back...

What do these # have in common: 37, 42, 81...

Those would be the temperatures today in Chicago, Atlanta, and Santo Domingo respectively.
So yeah, we're off, and as I'm typing this, we're in the air to Santo (or as I like to call it, 'santa') Domingo. It is nearly Christmas after all.

This is my dead sexy plane face. I call it "The Delta"

Anyway, we survived the usual airport rigors. Nothing terribly out of the ordinary and were able to make our connecting flight. Our flight out of Midway was at 6am. Which meant meeting up with my sister and folks at 3:30am, which meant leaving the house at 2:30am. Which meant I was left with the decision to either sleep for a couple hours and get up at 1:30, or stay up and play with my other late night Friday friends. Chris went to bed at 7 and actually got about 6 hours of sleep.

So anyway, last night at Karaoke...

Matt and I decided that last night was our best bet for getting a decent group of folks together (not to be confused with a group of decent folks...) for a night of singin' and general frivolity. And I gotta tell you, in that, we succeeded. I believe saying that the evening was 'off the hook' is an understatement. 'Off the hook' doesn't require therapy afterwards.

In recent weeks I've been acused of being... oh what's the word they used... "Addicted" to karaoke. This is total garbage, and I assure you I can quit any time I want. Besides, the first sign of having a serious problem is that your friends notice a change in your behavior. And I swear to you that whatever you've heard about me hasn't come from any of my REAL friends. Pack of lies. Anyway, I'm always glad when I can share the joys of my... um... dependency with others.

But I don't have a problem. I can talk about other things. I mean, I could tell you about how I'm typing this with my arms pinned to my sides and the screen folded nearly in half because I'm squished into the T-Rex position on this plane. I'm getting the full flavor of this flight... 3 hours and somehow the guy in front of me has managed to lower his chair completely into my lap. My laptop sitting on his sleeping face as I type.

So anyway, this one time at karaoke...
What I love about this karaoke bar is that noone sings half-assed. Sure, there are those that use their whole ass, but in those cases you celebrate the effort, or the amusement factor, or maybe the opportunity for improvement... whatever, as long as everyone's having fun.

Oh, wait, I was talking about the flight wasn't I? So Chris and my sister are sitting next to me planning the week out. Calculating what we can do, where we can go, how we're going to get there, what time, etc, etc, etc... Don't get me wrong, I'm glad they're getting a grip on the trip. I mean somebody's got to do it, otherwise we'd just sit on the boat and like, I don't know, hang out on a big flippin boat.

So anyway, back at Karaoke, I heard the raunchiest version of "Summer Loving" I've ever heard. And an impressive rendition of Manilow's "I write the songs." But my personal highlight was when I started singing a song by Bush and 3 folks came up and airguitar'd, airbass'd and airdrum'd behind me. I had a full air-band rocking out behind me, but the whole experience was nearly eclipsed out of my memory when Matt came running up and lifted his shirt. It's not like I threw beads at him or anything, he just did it. (Remember the part about needing therapy?) Yeah, well I'm scarred.

As it turns out, there are some unwritten rules to karaoke. I didn't really realize this until they were broken, of course... But for instance, it's never appropriate to flash the singer if you're a guy. Teh funny is not directly proportional to the damage. The other rule we figured out was that if you are actually IN a band, karaoke'ing to a song your band covers is cheating. It just is. Part of karaoke is singing stuff you don't normally perform. Listen, I don't make the rules, I just point them out when they're violated.

Don't you judge me. I don't have a problem.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Home Owner Aptitude, I has it.

Chris and I haven't paid rent for almost 10 years now. Along the way I've learned a few things about home repair, and was reminded of these simple principles as I installed a light fixture this weekend.
1) The right equipment is the difference between a 10 minute fix and a 3 day job. For this particular repair I needed a screwdriver, wire strippers/cutters, electrical tape, 10 foot ladder, electric drill, 2 machine screws, extra electrical wire, mounting plate, Janis, and wire caps. All of which would need to be used simultaneously at the top of the ladder. Piece of cake. "2 Ball cap nuts" are also in the equipment list but I doubt they're really needed. I think somebody just threw them in to make grown men giggle.
2) Safety first. I can't stress this enough, especially when you're doing electrical work in the dark on a ladder on a staircase. At least wait until you've got some daylight.
3) Follow the instructions, but be ready to improvise. No matter how thorough the directions are, there's no way some dude in China could account for (and describe in English) every situation you might run into. For instance, I don't have a 10 foot ladder, but I do have one of those sectional ladders that's 12 feet. Fully extended, the ladder wouldn't fit, so I folded one of the sections to make a nine foot ladder. Then it was still a little low, so I put it on a stair instead of the landing. Then it was a little too far from the wall so I extended the one folded section out until it touched. Remember kids, Safety first! Other than that, you can see from the following picture that I was able to follow the rest of the instructions to the letter.

Couple things to note about the picture on the left. You'll notice that I did not use Duct Tape to harness the lamp to the ceiling. This is an electrical project, therefore I used electrical tape. Also, Yes, the fixture is temporarily lashed to the ladder using spare wire. Yes, the ladder is aluminum. Boy Scouts and Navy Seals have been using this technique for centuries, take it up with them. Lastly, I did not photoshop this picture. The heavenly glow is confirmation that God approves.

15 hours, 3 blown fuses, and 9 lightbulbs later you'll get something that looks like this on the right:

Ta-da! It's just that easy.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Yet another relaxing Saturday

So I had one thing on my list today, to install a light fixture over the back staircase. Here's a photo of my current progress:

Watch your step.

You know, I kind of enjoy doing electrical stuff around the house. It kind of validates my existence in the household when I can actually get a light switch to work. But the thing is that it takes me about 6 hours to do even basic wiring. Double that if I'm on a ladder. So in these days where I have precisely 38 minutes of daylight to work with, well, keep a flashlight handy or you'll end up in the basement a little faster than you were planning.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Did you say Dork-Boxing or Kick-Borking?

Sorry JC, next time stay out of roundhouse range.

So I put my body through another exercise in pain yesterday. Actually, I blame Chris. She caught me at a weak moment and decided to exploit the opportunity. We were at the gym last night and I had been going pretty strong on the treadmill for 20 minutes when she taps me on the shoulder. "Your presence is requested in the other room," she says. Now, mind you, we're at the gym. There's only one other room and that's the aerobic studio. So I'm thinking that like the CD player is on the top shelf and she can't reach it or something, but she's smiling at me so I know something ain't right. I walk in there looking for the big hairy cockroach that needs crushing or whatever and the door slams behind me. At this point I realize I have just been abducted and metaphorically thrown in the trunk of Chris's Jazzersize class. Ok, ok, I think she said it was "Cardio Kickboxing" but what I heard was "Pain in Spandex, twelve o'clock!" Keep in mind that I've already run close to 2 miles, which I made abundantly clear to the instructor.

"Good" she says, "Then you're warmed up."


Dude, I was thinking more cool down at that point... Anyway, you know all those things people say about aerobics instructors? About how they're masochistic little women who need the sweat of others to survive? Yeah, well they're all true. Sure they look all nice and smiley, but that's just to lure you into the room. My sister used to be an aerobics instructor and boy howdy, she can be pure evil. She actually advanced to Yoga instruction, which is like aerobics but you have to convince people to strain themselves slowly instead of working them into a frenzy. It's far more sinister, but I digress...

I was expecting to be humiliated by my, shall we say, "limited range of motion." I even figured weird things were going to hurt the next day. But I was not expecting to have to learn a new language. Sure, it kinda starts out sounding like English, but then words are more barked than spoken and they don't really make sense to anyone with an education anyway. Most of the class was a blur (literally from the sweat in my eyes) but I remember it going something like this:

"Ok, we're going to stretch our arms now so raise your hands over your head, palms facing up, and reach toward the ceiling."

I'm thinking to myself, "Alright, I can handle this..."

"Now roll your shoulders forward keeping your back straight. You should feel it in your lats and delts. Keep your core tight."

Wait, what? Something hurts, is that my lat? How did I lose my Court-ite, already???

(Music starts: Booka-booka-booka-booka...)

"Ok right tiger paw left, front knee down, and PUNCH and up, and PUNCH and up... Watch your face! Punch like you mean it! Your knee doesn't touch! Don't hyperextend! Guard up! I said PUNCH LIKE YOU MEAN IT!"

Whoa whoa whoa... Lady, you lost me at 'tiger paw.'

"And 8 more... HUH... 6 more... HUH-HUH-and 4... 3,... HUH, 2... 1 and AGAIN!"

Ummm, is 'huh' supposed to be a number because you're kinda using it like it's a number, but either way, your counting isn't consistent. I'm just saying that it's hard to follow someone counting backwards in some non-uniform numbering system...

"Time for front kicks. Alright, aim for groin height but if you can't get there, aim for the knee. And 8! ..."

Groin height? At this point, I'm barely reaching ankle height, lady. How about a viscious foot stomp? I could probably manage a couple of those.

"Ok, now lie face down. Center yourself, and bring your belly to your backbone."


Well, since I'm writing this, you can tell I survived. I did what any man would do when faced with an impossible situation, I flailed around like a squirrel on acid for about an hour then dropped to my knees begging for mercy. You know.

Chris looked over at me and said, "Wait till you find out what hurts tomorrow. You've been using muscles you never even knew you had." At that point I tried giving her the finger but since I couldn't feel anything past my elbow, I'm really not sure if I was successful or not.

On a completely different note, for those of you that need a little more VanDammage, have some Wallpaper from some guy with wa-haaay too much time on his hands.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Advanced Parenting: How to outlive your children

A while back, Chris decided to scrapbook my childhood. So a couple weeks ago, she and my sister were digging through the 'Lee box' they got from my mom. Needless to say there were some gems in there, some of which I've put into a slideshow in the sidebar. But then we came across this picture from 1976:That would be my Grandma with my sister and my Dad holding me in his arm. I'm such a narcissistic little dope that initially this picture went into the pile for my sister to sort through, because lets face it, it's not a particularly noteworthy picture of me. But I here's the thing, in general, I see myself as being built like my father. In this picture he is one year younger than I am currently... and it's pretty clear to me that genetically, I have not been invited to the Gardner Gun show.

As the possibility of parenthood becomes more likely, I've been trying to come to grips with some of my adulthood realities, one of which is that I tend to tell people what I want to say, not necessarily what they need to hear. If you watch Scrubs, Dr. Cox is my antithesis. But sometimes you need to tell people things so they'll do the right thing, whether it's the absolute truth or not. That's not a skill I've got fine tuned.

Dad, however, figured it out. Here are two examples from my childhood...
One of the things that my father told me was that real math started at Calculus, and it was just expected in the Gardner house that you would learn Algebra, Trig, etc so that you would have a solid foundation when you got up to real math. Most people live their lives just fine without Calculus, but in this case, I am my father's son. Calculus lets you figure out things that don't go in a straight line. And since the world isn't flat, that's pretty much everything. When someone brings up having difficulty with high school level math, I still fight the urge to say, "Wait till you get to Calc," as if it's a requirement.

The other example is that I was told that Running (cross country or track) is a sport where a person without a lot of innate athletic ability can still be very successful through a lot of hard work. Mind you, this is coming from a guy who could still wear a tanktop in public into his mid-thirties... So I believed through most of high school that if I just kept pushing on, I would eventually obtain this success that has been set aside for those of us who persevere. The point is, although I don't personally believe that "anybody can run if you have the heart" anymore, I was told what I needed to hear at the time. I do, however, have tremendous respect for the sport, and maybe that was ultimately the lesson I was supposed to learn.

This picture has in some ways re-motivated me to at least try to get in some kind of shape. I found out that there's a rock climbing wall on the cruise ship we'll be taking over Christmas. Oh, did I mention we're going on a cruise? ;-) So my immediate goal is to get in good enough physical condition to not feel like a total fool when I try rock climbing. I've never done it before, on real rocks or otherwise, and frankly I suspect I'll hate it. But that's not the point. I want to know for sure.

So to that end I've been doing a lot of upper body stuff at the gym lately. Well, a lot for me anyway and let me tell you ladies, I am super sexy dangling and quivering from the chin-up bar. But I'm reminded of what I like to call "The sticky-lid factor." You can be in great shape and still get owned by a new jar of mayonnaise. I think there's something about my center of gravity, or my natural arm strength (which I apparently got from my mother...) or cosmic justice or whatnot that I will just never get to the point where pullups are easy.

The insult to injury (or my unopenable jar of mayo, if you will) is the fact that even most of my geeky friends have the upper hand when it comes to PE. Granted, I hang out with a 6 foot Korean and an ex-football player, but one of my other friends has a benchpress in his basement and I thought I'd be cool and casually sit down and do a couple reps one night at a LAN party. For the record, when I die, I do not want, "It didn't LOOK that heavy" on my tombstone. But suffice it to say that it took pretty much everything I had plus public humiliation to heave that barbell back on the rack and not just let it drop into my chest cavity. You know, those things would be easier to lift iff'n you just removed some of them weights. I'm just saying...

Stay tuned next time for my latest attempt at killing myself through self-improvement.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Of church mice and bar flies

The other first of this weekend, was that I had never gone out to sing karaoke solo, I've always had a wingman. But it was Friday night and for the past couple Saturdays I had woken up with the desire to sing my heart out and no place to do it. So about quarter to 11, I threw on my coat and trudged out to the Karaoke bar about 3 blocks from my house. I brought some paper and a pen so if any lyrical inspiration hit, I'd be good to go. It also gave me something to do with my hands so I wouldn't feel like a total loser. It's either that or take up smoking which might tarnish my oh-so choirboy image. ;-) Anyway, as it turns out, I had a good time even if my immediate fan base was unavailable. The locals that were there were encouraging, and of course, Jeti entertainment was fantastic.

I think I've mentioned this before, but I still find the similarities between bars and churches intriguing. They both have to offer a service that is valuable enough that people will go out (and sometimes pay for) instead of doing in their own home. I've heard variations on the argument that since God is everywhere you don't need to go to church to gain insight on Universal Truth. So why go? And for that matter, why would I go to a bar and buy a drink when I could get the same thing for half the price at the grocery store, drink it in my favorite chair, and have total control of the TV while doing it? And yet many churches and many bars are very successful. What do they offer? What makes them worth the drive?

1) They make you feel welcome immediately. The motivation may be different, but the result is the same. If, as a newcomer, you catch any whiff of hostility you'll never go back. And keep in mind that shyness and snobbishness often look the same at first glance. The 'Norm!' factor is really true. People like to be where they're liked.

2) They provide a forum for social networking. People with common goals or interests will gravitate toward each other. People go to both bars and churches as much for the fellowship as they do for anything else.

3) They don't waste your time. They must provide a service that's valuable to you. Whether that's pitchers and a big screen game, or new insight into The Holy, the bottom line is that what folks experience at your establishment has to be 'worth it' or they'll walk.

As a side note, since I've been doing the Church thing my whole life, I know I've been viewing the Karaoke scene through, like, Jesus-goggles or something. Church is my measuring stick, and I find it fascinating how people treat each other when you take the overt social pressure to be on your best behavior out of it. Sometimes things go really well, other times, not so much. Granted, going down to the local tavern isn't like bartering in a Somalian market or anything, but it's still an interesting study in social dynamics.

Anyway, a friend of mine has been finding himself in more religious circles than he's used to lately. He was telling me about his frustration with navigating conversations and trying to get the lingo down. He gave examples of awkward conversations and how even ending a discussion politely wasn't easy when you don't know the rules of engagement. If you aren't a 'church-type' and you walk into a church, people generally are going to be talking about 'church-stuff' which is boring if you're not 'church-y.' What I found most interesting is that I've felt exactly the same way in bar situations. I don't care what you're drinking, let alone want to talk about it. I don't know proper subject matter or how to start or stop a conversation. I don't know the appropriate length time to make eye contact, or shake hands. I have to take all my social cues from people around me.

This is probably why we go to Baptisms and Karaoke Bars together. I guess sometimes you need a hunting dog AND the Ouija board. (Sorry, couldn't resist the reference, 4th quote down)

What's in YOUR washer?

Janis about to show this washing machine how she feels about pickpockets.

I had a couple of firsts this weekend...
In the last 30+ years I have never put my wallet in the washer until now. Usually I'm very good about not leaving anything in my jeans before throwing them into the wash; it's part of my routine. But this time I was trying to be 'proactive' and surprise Chris, thereby breaking my 'system.' Of course the agony was that I figured out where it was during the rinse cycle, but since our washer is a front loader, there wasn't a thing I could do about it except wait, watch, and sigh heavily. So as I watched my pants do cartwheels, I took mental inventory of what I thought the damages might be. *Most* of my cards are laminated so the question is, what isn't. Well, I knew I had a couple business cards and a $30 gift certificate that were probably lost, but other than that, I couldn't think of anything. Which is when that sinking feeling kicks in. Surely I'm forgetting something ridiculously important. Safe Deposit Box numbers, insurance policy info, something...

So before throwing the rest of the load in the dryer, I assess the damages. I pulled out my dripping wallet and started pealing cards apart and laying anything that survived on the ironing board. There were a few casualties of war (a couple of folded post-it notes, my business cards, and a half-punched card for a Free Blizzard) but for the most part, nothing tragically irreplaceable. I came back upstairs and Chris asked how it went. "Well, the good news is that I'm not as important as I thought. I can destroy half the stuff in my wallet and not really lose anything of value," I replied. She laughed, "I could have told you that without even looking in your wallet."

(Ok, ok, she didn't really say that... but I could tell she was thinking it.)


By popular demand, Janis on an ironing board showing off her business end.
Hands off gentlemen, she's all mine.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Winter SMARTS!

Ok, the thing about changing seasons is that it really tests your long term memory and quite possibly, as in the case of winter, your survival skills. This week was our first decent snow, precluded by some freezing rain about 3 days prior.

Lessons learned last year:
-Park the car more than a shovel's width away from the house.
-It takes less than a half inch of ice to seal the bottom of the gate that separates the house from the garage and driveway. Best case scenario is to swing open the gate a couple times during inclement weather so snow/slush won't build up and the make the door stick. Plan B, just leave the gate open or you'll be walking around from the front door for the next 3 months.
-Do not put every ice scraper you own in your car. Keep a spare one OUTSIDE your car so that you can get INTO your car after an ice storm.
-Never assume that snow/sleet/meteorites will melt before the next round or weather hits, take action immediately.

How this year has played out so far:
When the ice hit on Saturday, I was actually out in it running some errands which, from a survival point of view is good because if your car is warm when the rain starts turning, then you get less ice build up and it's easier to keep clean. This also forces me to work the gate on my way back into the house, so I figured I'm covered.

Sunday comes and I realize that in my haste on Saturday, I had only opened the gate the width of my body, which created a nice door jam on the other side. Knowing that if I don't take care of this now, chances are good I'll be shimmying through the gate until April, I start kicking the ice dam flat. The whole time I'm congratulating myself on my forward thinking and at the same time glowering because if I hadn't opened the door half-assed in the first place, I wouldn't have this problem. I'm also reminded that now, instead of one solid (breakable) sheet of ice on my car, I have thousands of ice barnacles staking their claim on my windshield. Fantastic. I can, however, still get into my car and whip out my scraper so I didn't have to use the backup one in the garage.

Monday I casually noted that I could no longer see through the gap that is traditionally under the garage door on account of snow had drifted in front of it. I look over at my neighbors garage and see that his is wide open so I deduce that surely it wouldn't be that tough to open mine. I give the handle *one* ineffective tug and figure that A) it's going to melt away by the time I get back from work, and B) I don't need anything in the garage anyway. Both of which, as it turns out, were incorrect.

Tuesday morning, Colorado gets sacked and all the forecasters say 6 inches of snow are coming our way. Fine. Whatever. Nothing starts coming down for us until late afternoon, so I'm driving home from work thinking that it would be a good idea to clean up some of the ice on the driveway before it gets a layer of snow on top. How very proactive of me! And then it hits... and this is pretty much the exact conversation I had with myself:

"The shovel is in the garage. Crap. If I can't get into the garage, I can't shovel snow. Ok, don't panic... what else can I use? Pitchfork? Also in the garage. Spade? Garage. Chainsaw? Hoe? Hedge clippers? Garage. Garage. Garage. Ok ok ok deep breath... reapproach the issue. What do I have in the house that could be used to chip ice? The only thing we've got with a handle in there is a broom. Son of a *CENSORED* I'm going to be out there with a BEEPING hair dryer on a BEEPING extension cord freezing my BEEPS trying to open my BEEPING garage in the dark because I'm a BEEPING lame BEEP-Head."

So I get home Tuesday afternoon convinced that I'm going to be out there in the snow chipping ice on my knees with a screwdriver. And out of desperation, I check the basement one more time. Well, you know that tool your dad has that's probably 40 years old but looks like it was recovered from a Civil War battle site? The one that you know has only been used for it's actual intended purpose, like twice, but is your dad's 'Go To' tool. You know the one. You tried buying him a brand new one for $18 last Christmas from Menards in hopes that he'd get rid of the old one, but that didn't work. He won't give it up, won't let you borrow it, and refers to it as 'SHE' while using phrases that should only be used toward your mother like, "They just don't make them like her anymore," or "She ain't much to look at, but she's always been there for me."

For my dad, it's this hammer that looks like a prop from the movie Hostile. He tries to explain how it's balanced just perfectly and the grip is just right and blah blah blah, but really... there's no need to explain. Really. I understand.

Anyway, so let me just say I now have a 12 inch prybar that will be buried with me. Hey, We've been through some rough times, but we've stuck together and come out stronger. I guess I've come to understand my father, and my own manhood a little better.

So me and the Prybar are out there hacking at the permafrost lining the bottom of the garage door, which has now had 2 days to settle in, and not to brag, but Janis is making short work of the whole thing. We make a heck of a team. That is, until we get to the corner of the garage door closest to the back gate. Back on Sunday, I had the forethought to make sure the gate fully opened, but I did it by sweeping all the snow into a pile against the garage door. Genius. So now instead of 2 inches of ice, I'm picking through closer to 4.

Yes, I did eventually get into the garage, which was probably a good thing not just because I could get the shovel and give Janis a break, but because we could now get to Chris's car as well. Huh. I was wondering where we left that...

Lesson to remember for next winter:
-If it's snowing, keep your hood up or just expect snow down your back when you do finally decide to wear it.
-Don't tell the internet what a dope you are.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Vote for Rico

How much you wanna make a bet I can throw a football over them mountains?

War is out. Rico is in, and it only took us a month to work that one out. We may do something silly with the spelling, but for now it's Rico as in Puerto Rico, as opposed to Ricoh like the copier, or Reiko like an anime character. It meets our basic cat name requirements. It doesn't have anything to do directly with his coloration, and it makes us smile whenever we call out for him (not that he cares yet.) I was hoping for more of a Japanese sounding name and ended up with a thoroughly Mexican one. Chris calls him Uncle Rico, I think Rico is humorous on it's own because he has really short legs and definitely rides lower than our other cats. (If you think I'm poking at a Mexican stereotype, you're missing the WAR reference... Get it?!?!1?)

So why is it so hard to just name a flippin' cat? Well, the way I see it, there were three things working against us, and bear with me, I've been meaning to bring this up for a while...

First, we can't use the same name as anyone else's pet we've ever known. This is my way of saying, you people with clever pet names have made things extremely inconvenient for us. Jeeves, Noko, Red, yeah, I'm talking to you. And that leads me to my next point...

I read somewhere (maybe Freakonomics?) about how my generation defines itself by it's individuality, not necessarily by traditional rights of passage. So for example, if you take a modern day wedding, there's generally more emphasis on how you're going to make it unique and memorable than how you're going to accommodate a rich history of marriage traditions. I believe the same is true for even fairly mundane things, like naming a pet. Giving an animal a traditional name implies that we weren't up to the challenge, even though Felix would have been a perfectly acceptable name for a black and white cat.

Lastly, names based on what an animal looks like are completely unacceptable. I call this the Obvious Rule. I know I'm going to offend somebody here, but really, Boots, Socks, Shadow, Marshmallow, etc, etc, blah blah blah are just insulting. What if you went to the zoo and all the zookeeper said, "Please don't feed Stripes the Tiger..." That really inspires the imagination, doesn't it? Don't you want to know more about this Tiger? The only time it's ok to give a pet a name a four year old could have thought of, is well, if you let your four year old name it. I met a cat named 'Moo' once, who was named by the resident two year old, and I'm fine with that. Ok, ok, there's ONE exception to the rule, and that's irony. If you want to call your fat dog 'slimjim,' or your black cat 'cue ball' you go right ahead. That's comedy gold. But otherwise, please have at least one degree of separation between an animals looks and it's name. If you want to name your golden retriever 'Brittany' because they're both blonds, that's minimally acceptable. 'Golden Grams,' however, is not. There is an Irish Setter clause though... you can name them pretty much any name from Guiness to Bono and it's cool. Thus sayeth the Lee.

As an addendum though, nicknames for pets are exempt from the Obvious Rule. We've occasionally called Rico ShortRound, which is technically is an 80's reference, but it's also extremely obvious. Murray is often referred to as Chucky or Ralph when he throws up. MooseCat or Sheds is always Sibbie. Oh, like you've never done it...

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Hey, you! Yeah, you with the fuzzy butt!

I can has name yet?

So this is, like, week 4 of having a cat tooling around the house without a name. He has a couple of working titles, but nothing official. We should probably just stick with War, because as it turns out, naming a cat through the process of elimination is not particularly efficient. It's kinda like American Idol and feels like it's going to take about as long to find a winner. Anyway, today we learned that his name is not Kyle; however, we added Heathrow, Chester, and Kubla to the list of possibilities. In true cat fashion though, he's been equally unresponsive to every name we've tried.

Stay tuned for more gripping details as this crisis unfolds!

Why I don't cook

Here's a little recipe I cooked up that's sure to make you popular at your next family gathering:

Prep time: About 3 hours
-1 pint of Ben and Jerry's
-1 serving of an alcoholic beverage, your choice
-2 high fiber granola bars
Directions: 3 hours prior to engagement, consume all ingredients. Add alcohol to taste. 'Brew' for 2+ hours or until you explode. Revel in your impending infamy.
Caution: Do NOT share this recipe with other family members! Do NOT share the glory.

Also great for family vacations or long road trips!

Now, I tried this out the day before all the festivities this year, but I can assure you that had I indulged in this concoction and then headed out for a full day with the extended family, the results would have been... legendary. Bon Apetite!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Turkey Ops

Mmmm, Turkey....

This Thanksgiving Day worked out kind of interestingly for us this year. My side meets tomorrow in Elgin, and we didn't get our act together soon enough to make it out to Michigan. So... what do you do when you don't have plans for Turkey Day? Well, for the last 2 years Chris and I have been hearing stories from a couple of our friends about how *wonderful* their Thanksgiving meals are, and how *exotic* the ingredients are, and how much time and energy the cook puts into it, and on and ON and ON... And knowing these folks pretty well, we knew it was certainly within the realm of possibility that all this stuff was true. So we thought, what better way to avoid the stress of the season, than to leech onto someone else's family for a holiday, right? Genius! So about mid-June we started conspiring on how we could get ourselves invited into somebody else's home. After some recon and a couple well placed, pathetic, and not-so-subtle hints, we did indeed get the invite. Our friends were even kind enough not to roll their eyes on our arrival. But I gotta tell you, they delivered. The food was amazing. I've forgotten how magical buttermilk, sour cream, and bacon are. They can make anything taste better, and these folks take no prisoners which is probably why we had to sign a medical waiver on the way in.
As a total side note, Chris and I discussed later how it seems that having a couple of stragglers/strays/freeloaders around for the holidays might help put the family on better behavior. Stories that are told over and over now have a fresh audience and I think people tend to think twice before flinging dirt when it's no longer 'just' the family.
Anyway, kudos to our hosts and thanks for letting us take the soup home. It was just as good the second time around. (And the 3rd! -chris)

Friday, November 16, 2007

Et tu, iPod?

I know people have various opinions about Apple and it's relationship with good and/or evil, but I'm here to tell you that my iPod nearly killed me this week. No, not because I had it too loud as I walked blissfully ignorant across railroad tracks, or because a sudden gust of wind just happened to try strangling me with the cord of the earbud. Oh, no... this was chillingly premeditated. Below I've reconstructed the steps and how it nearly got away with murder.

1) It lulled me into a false sense of security. Seriously, I didn't see it coming at all. It's been extremely reliable and 'the perfect companion' since it was purchased.
2) It gained my trust. No battery problems or accidental music library blow outs... it's been great. I pretty much exclusively listen on random, because whatever pattern it uses, I haven't figured it out (which my last 2 MP3 players were much more annoyingly predictable)
3) It tactically pinpointed my weaknesses. It learned that I'm most vulnerable to it's influence while driving or in the gym.
4) It waited for an opportune moment... at the bench press.
5) It went for the kill. After 2 sets, my iPod "Randomly" went from an upbeat Violent Femmes tune to "All out of Love" by AirSupply.

I have no idea where that song came from. Actually... I know where it came from, I just don't know how it got on my iPod. It was put on a mixCD I got as a joke, but that's a lesser point. Anyway, by the grace of God I was able to wrestle the whole 18 pounds I was lifting back onto the bar rest before my will to live was completely sucked dry.

Curse you bad-bad iPod and your evil, back-stabbing ways.

For your bad behavior, you have to wear an ugly sweater until you can play nice.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

On the Drink of Disaster

True story.
The problem with doing karaoke in a bar, is that generally you're expected to order something. Now, contrary to popular belief, I'm not much of a drinker. Steady yourself. I know, gentle reader, the shocking truth is that most of the stupid stuff I do, I do completely sober. So when I do go to a bar, I try to surround myself with other light-weight girly men for camouflage. But eventually, like zebras pacing the watering hole, one of us has to go up and order something. Last time, there were only two of us and it was my turn to test the waters for crocodiles. My buddy says, "Get me a Miller Lite." Great. No hiding out on the savanna. So I go up to the bar and order a manly Miller Lite and an equally masculine Mike's HARD lemonade. Oh yeah, feel that testosterone pumping. The bartender has obviously been trained well and remains stoic, but my spindly legs are poised and ready to bolt at as soon as the glass hits the counter. That's when one of the local lions lifted his large head and groggily starts to shake off his stupor. His eyes scan the surroundings and his nose goes up. He smells fear nearby, but he hasn't honed in on it yet. The bartender comes around with my drinks which tell every predator around that I won't put up much of a fight, and just as he reaches me, the lion's pupils widen and snap into focus.

"Excuse me..." he says with lazy calm. "Don't take this the wrong way, but one of those drinks is for a girl, right?"
"No," I say, exposing myself as the prey that I am. It's not like I can run at this point anyway.
"Oh, Jeez dude, I'm sorry. I just read somewhere that Mike's is one of the most popular drinks among women." The lion recklessly and effectively swats his large paws in my direction.
"That's mine." I look back at my herd longingly as this guy verbally chews my limbs off.
"Really? No offense man, really. I just assumed that one of those HAD to be for a girl." His head goes back down. The kill complete. I drag my bloodied carcass back to our table and explain to my friend how it was his stupid Miller Lite that made me look like a lady.
We did get the last laugh though. The lion was really bad at karaoke, but we told him he was good. Take THAT! You may be King of the jungle, but your roar sounds like crap.

Meanwhile, from the 'Becoming what you detest' department:
Up until last Saturday, I had been in a Starbucks exactly once in my life. I was carpooling and was not the driver. I had no choice, I don't even remember if I ordered anything. But in the last week, I have gone to Starbucks *4* times. What's wrong with me? I feel dirty. And on top of it all, I liked it. That's right, you heard me. I LIKED IT! I'm a Chai tea chump and apparently will pay over 3 dollars for a 'tall.' I hate myself.

And as a total non-sequitor, let me tell you why I think this seemingly innocuous picture makes me laugh. It's a shot from our living room, and granted not one of the most flattering. Study it carefully. Note the pile of dirty dishes and half finished knitting project. This my friends, is exactly what my living room would look like if my wife were suddenly vaporized. Well, except the lid wouldn't be on the peanut butter, but otherwise it's dead on. Don't worry folks, it's just a simulation. Chris is JUST FINE.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Bright Lights, Big Idiot.

aka: Gomer goes to Town

And now for another episode of, "Why I hate traveling."
Pretty much, I have no travel skills. I can't blame it on my parents, they tried. I just got nuthin in the travel-intuition department and it makes me feel like the last 35 years have counted for absolutely nothing. If I can't even get from point A to point B, why worry about the shortest route, or how long it's going to take, or whether I packed enough snackies? Fortunately, I try to compensate by "Being Prepared." Unfortunately, that translates to "Carry a lot of cash in case something goes wrong" which admittedly isn't the most practical philosophy, but it's fairly effective as far as defense mechanisms go.
So this week I have to go into downtown Chicago for two days of training. And let me make this perfectly clear, I HAYAATE traveling to/in/from/through/around Chicago. Maybe if I was the only one there it would be better, but then I suspect I'd be running for my life from zombies or something...
Anyway, today was day one of this training. Class starts at 9am, so Chris and I are out the door at 6am, to get to the Elgin train station by 7. So far things are going smoothly, and I actually make it onto the train. Mind you, the station itself isn't open yet, so you just jump on the train and get your ticket later. It's not like they don't know where you're going. So I'm there with 9000 commuters and I'm the only one without a monthly pass. No worries though... I have CASH! So after we get through Bartlett, the conductor comes around. After quickly checking the passes for everyone in the front half of the car, he gets to me. I hold out a $20 (because that's what the ATM deemed me worthy of) and he squints. "Which stop?" he asks. Now you would think that a college grad wouldn't have any problem answering that. I stare. I have one choice. "Union Station" I say. His eyes roll. "No, which stop did you get on." Yeah... you see he doesn't know how much my ticket costs until he knows where I started. I stare...blankly. Where did I start? He wants Point A, not Point B. I can NOT remember the name of the station. Nothing. Time passes. People with actual tickets start to wonder what the hold up is. I've got nothing. Then my brain starts to trickle into my mouth... "Big, err Elgin, no, egh... TIMBER! Big Timber!" The conductor puts his head down. Punches a ticket, looks back at me and slowly says, "That'll be $5.15, sir." At least, that's what his mouth said. His eyes said, "Sigh... now I have to dig out $14.85 in change for this dope who can't remember where he was 15 minutes ago."
When we finally got to Union Station, I opted to walk 2 miles to class instead of trying to negotiate a cab or the busline by myself. Happy ending though, I did actually make it to class on time.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

All Saints Day

In my church's tradition, the first Sunday of November is All Saints Day. It's a time of reflection and remembrance for those who have died in the past year. Candles are lit and a powerpoint is shown as we're reminded to celebrate their earthly and eternal lives. I've always found it to be kind of a weird juxtaposition with modern day Halloween, but I suspect at one point it there was a more natural transition between the two holidays. Now, after a month of sugar and hype, I am challenged with trying to find joy in death. Real death, not movie death or funny or ironic death. Not the Halloween, costumed, candy-coated death. And it's difficult.

This year brought it's own unique frustration. About 20 people from my church died in the past year, and I didn't know any of them. I only even recognized one last name, but didn't recognize her face. Does that make this a good year? Am I lucky or am I a big jerk for not being involved enough? So while I'm stewing over that, my brain starts listing Christian death hymns. Amazing Grace. I've always been drawn to them. Partly because of my inner-goth-child, but also I think Bono (love him or hate him) summed up my feelings on the matter. Take My Hand, Precious Lord. He said that Christians generally don't like conflict, especially in their music, and yet most of the great songs revolve around some conflict. All My Tears Be Washed Away. You can't have a good song or story without a problem. I'll Fly Away. Throwing death in the mix inherently adds conflict.

And then the chorus of O Come and Mourn with Me Awhile poured into my head:

Oh love of God, Oh sin of man, in this dread act Your strength is tried.
And victory remains in Love. Jesus our Lord is crucified.

Talk about a rollercoaster. Love... sin... dread act...victory... crucified. From the chorus it's kinda hard to tell who's really winning. Sure, It's really a Good Friday/Easter hymn but I was struck by the parallel, though I couldn't verbalize it at the time. In six months I'll go through this again in reverse. Life to death, death to life. Celebration to mourning, mourning to celebration.

At this point, Chris looked over at me in the pew and whispered, "Do you need a Kleenex?" Needless to say, I'm all like, "No, I can handle it." Later in the car I fessed up that apparently I'm dealing with some stuff that's bubbling through to the surface. "It's ok, deal with it as it comes. At least you're feeling something," she said. And she's right... again.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Karaoke Evangelist

Slowly but surely I'm figuring out what makes for a good night of karaoke, and what makes for an agonizing and humiliating one. Basically, if you end up feeling like this guy when you're singing, you're doing right. So here are my observations:

-Find a good karaoke place. I would define "good" as somewhere that's encouraging and welcoming, not necessarily a hub of high quality singers. For instance, my favorite place has this fantastic KJ (I think that's what Karaoke DJ's are called) who remembers your name, tells you that you are picking excellent songs, and who will even sing with you if you need that extra support. I also appreciate the fact that he cares what you sound like. He adjusts your volume, reverb, etc so you sound 'right' even if you don't sound 'good.' Jeti Entertainment rocks. I took all this for granted until a couple weeks ago when we went to some other joint assuming that all KJ's were equal. Suffice it to say, they're not.

-Pick songs you've listened to in the past 10 years. This may sound obvious, but it's really easy to get all nostalgic about some song that's aged well in your imagination. When you're up there singing, you want to be focusing on the music and the moment, not "Gee, I thought this song was much cooler" or "Huh, this song really is about homosexuality" or even worse, "Man, this is a LOT higher than I remember it."

-Don't pick long songs. If you've followed the above rule, this should help you find music you like in the 3 to 5 minute range. Believe me, the difference between a 5 minute song and a 7 minute song is staggering. Just because "Paradise by the Dashboard Lights" is in the songbook, doesn't mean you should sing it.

-Go with a Buddy. It doesn't have to be someone who's going to objectively critique your singing, in fact it's probably better if they aren't. Matt (my friend in the picture) is the best Karaoke buddy ever. He's like the person riding shotgun who calls everyone driving slower than you an idiot, and everyone going faster a lunatic. In Karaoke that translates to rolling his eyes at someone who sings really well, and a slight head shake and knowing smile when someone sings like poo.

-Bring your own fan club. I just learned the value of this last night. Hearing applause from strangers is rewarding, but if you bring friends, you'll be sure to have an attentive audience. It also helps time go by quicker in between songs when you have more folks to chat with.

-Allow yourself to suck. Laugh off whatever goes wrong. Part of the fun of Karaoke is learning what works and what doesn't. You'll find these things out quicker and have more fun doing it if you take risks. This of course, is where a good buddly/fan club comes in.
I've had several conversations like this:
"So, How'd I do?"
"Dude, you rocked. I'm totally inspired. Now I'm going to try a song by Journey?"

Or the opposite:
"So, did it sound as bad out here as it did up there?"
"Man, Let's just say that I don't think this is really a crowd that appreciates the Spice Girls like you do. But at least now you've inspired me to try 'Faithfully.' At this point, what do we have to lose? "
And the cycle continues...

Lastly, Matt and I have had a couple discussions about this. Matt is much more careful about picking songs that he thinks the crowd will enjoy, even if he's not a 100% comfortable singing them. I was under the impression that a song, of any style, done well would be appreciated. Experience is showing that choosing songs the crowd wants to hear is generally received well regardless of how good you sing it, and that singing a song with technical accuracy isn't particularly valued. Maybe that's a no brainer given that we aren't competing for cash or anything, but it took me a while to figure it out.

So in conclusion. Don't stop... belieeevin'. Hold on to that feeeeeeelin'.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Meeting Leeroy Jenkins

Yesterday I found out who Leeroy Jenkins is. Apparently he's an older (by internet standards) meme that I totally missed out on. But it meets my personal criteria for comedy-gold which is, when you watch the video that started it all, it just isn't that funny. You ask yourself, "What is the big deal here?" Your inner voice gives you about 30 reasons why it isn't amusing and what would have really made it funny. But then suddenly that same voice turns on you and you can't get it out of your head. I've been belting out, "LEEEROY JEEENKINS" all day with the full knowledge that nobody I blurted to would get it... and yet I couldn't stop.

Comedy Gold.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The True Spirit of Halloween

(This is not my cat, but I wish I had thought of it...)

Let me tell you why I like Halloween. It's a purely sadistic reason. Chris doesn't *think* she likes Halloween so I take it upon myself every year to convince her otherwise. We have our own Halloween ritual that goes something like this...

"I hate Halloween, gah..."
"I know honey... I'm not really excited about it either. Should I get some candy anyway?"
"Ugh. Why? So a bunch of teenagers who don't even bother to put on a costume can pander at our house? You can if you want, but you have to watch the door."
"Ok... I'll take care of it."

(four bags of candy later)

"Murf urf turf"

"Whoa aren't you spooky! Here's some candy."
"Why is that kid dressed in the Scream mask? He can't be older than seven. Did his mother actually let him watch that movie? What's wrong with these people?"
"I don't know baby. That movie's older than he is, I suspect those masks are cheap these days."
"This holiday is ridiculous."

"Twick or tweet"

"Aw... Here ya go little ninja. Hey Chris, you just missed the cutest little assassin."
"Sigh... you're just perpetuating the problem. If we don't feed them, they'll quit coming."
"Then I wouldn't get to watch this tiny unicorn with baggy legs wobble around!"
"Yeah, if you hurry you can see her try to climb our stairs"
"Oh! Hee-hee! Look! Here comes a little bumblebee!"

That's when I know I've got her. At least for a little while.

But also, just as importantly, if we hadn't been giving out candy, we wouldn't have met our neighbors right across the street (who we've just been watching with a condescending eye from behind our curtains for the last 6 months.) With one of the kids dressed in a Star Trek uniform, we probably should have known that we had things in common. Then the mom says, "Have you guys seen Babylon5? My husband loves that show," and it was like the heavens opened up for my wife. "I'm watching it right now in the other room!" Chris replied.

So yeah, if it turns out she knits, I'll probably never see my wife again, but at least I'll know where to find her.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

American History GenY

So I'm at our local movie rental place the other night looking for something "We both can watch" and I see two of my favorite teenage stereotypes; thin crazy haired boy and darkling lip-pierced girl. Yes, you know them. They looked exactly as you are picturing them in your head. Anyway, I'm at the checkout counter with 1408 (you know, because Stephen King is a fun-for-the-whole-family kind of guy) And I'm listening to this girl build her case for why she should be allowed to rent an R-rated movie without any of the following:
a) A card or account at the store
b) Being 18
c) Consent from anyone over 18 with an account

After the old "I've looked everywhere" line and the "I turn 18 in 2 weeks" argument, she fesses up that the movie she's been dying to see is American History X

Now this was honestly disturbing to me. Partially because I had totally blocked out how rattling that movie was, and it had completely fallen off any of my Top10 movie lists. For me, it was a powerful and effective movie, but it's a movie you shouldn't get excited about seeing. If you haven't seen it, the 2 cent summary is it's a Neo-Nazi movie about hate and redemption. But if you're anticipating ENJOYING American History X, then you aren't old enough to watch it. There. I've said it. I guess I'm old now. Back in my day, the cool kids had all seen Clockwork Orange against our parents wishes. But we were also reading it in English class... And if this girl, in all of her black eyeliner glory had been trying to charm out a Shindler's List DVD, I would have had the same reaction.

The other thing that bothered me was that I knew there was nothing I could say that would convince her otherwise. It's a heavy movie. Any form of "Wait" would have only strengthened her resolve. The girl behind the counter said No, and the situation was never really in my hands, but I couldn't think of anything I would have said other than, "No because I said so." That frustrates me. There should be a more convincing logic than that (not that "I'm the adult and ultimately I'm responsible" isn't a logical argument.)

So GothGirl, if you're reading, Go rent BoonDock Saints, or The Shining, or Fight Club or something else fun and naughty on your 18th birthday (whenever that may actually be.) Save AHX, Platoon, Memento, and Saving Private Ryan until picking up the DVD doesn't make you all giddy.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

My little Pestilence...

If you're a reader of Chris's blog, you're probably familiar with the 4 kittens we 'acquired' (read: found in our backyard) early this spring. The Kittens of the Apocalypse, (that would be Famine, Pestilence, War and Death,) have become a constant source of reward and frustration. As much as we enjoy the little fleabags, taking care of them comes with some sacrifice. For one, our backyard has become a big green, private litterbox, which isn't surprising given how much they eat. Also, I noticed that we don't have any birds this year, go figure. But lastly, Chris and I have done our best to stay emotionally distant from these strays. We know we can't take them in, and yet we also know that they won't make it through the winter without our help. So for the past 4 months we've gone back and forth about how much we were going to take care of these cats. To feed or not to feed? Do we get them neutered so we don't have 800 cats next year? What are we going to do in the winter?

So last Sunday, Chris and I get in the car to head to church and find that Pestilence had been hit by a car the night before. Let me just preface this with the fact that I had absolutely no intention of getting attached to this cat. It's an outdoor cat. Outdoor cats starve, freeze, or get hit by cars. Logically I know this, and I've seen her dart in front of my car in the driveway. I have even given myself the, "We'll take care of these cats as long as we can..." speech several times. But here's what makes Pestilences death so frustrating... of the 4 kittens, she was the one that we had nurtured the most. Over the summer months she went from staying 3 yards away to walking over my feet to get to the food. During her brief stay in our basement after being spade, she'd nuzzle and let us pet her. Oh, and we haven't even gotten that Visa bill yet either. Sigh... Twist that tiny dagger...

So this is the part where I learned more about myself than I want. I don't know where I thought death-coping skills came from, but I was reminded that I don't have any. I am apparently a sensitive sentimental dope who grieves uncontrollably for feral animals. So I buried this cat, in hopes of some form of closure and that maybe it'll be easier next time around.

I find it interesting to see how people react when you tell them that you're grieving, probably because I'm really self-conscious about how I react to other people's tragedies. One of my cat-hating friends gave me a genuine, "That sux, I'm sorry" which I appreciate on many levels. He could have joked or laughed. He didn't, that was a gift. I think one of my other friends, who also recently lost an outdoor cat, summed it up as, "No more cats for us, too much heartbreak."


(Really when else would I get to use this picture?)

So, in case you're wondering, we're batting a thousand on ironic names. War is the friendliest, Death is still alive, Famine is always the first to the food dish, and Pestilence never got sick.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Turning 35

Here's pretty much how my day went today...

-"End of the World as We Know It" by REM was the first song I heard on the radio
-Slogged through work... being the Friday of a three day weekend, it was a pretty low energy day. I had some good fixes, just didn't do much to get ahead.
-Got a card from Brian at lunch that contained a "gift certificate" that expired 2 years ago. Thanks B... wasn't really planning on cashing that one in anyway.
-Got to be 'the voice of the district' today as I was asked to voice over about 5 sentences for the automated phone system. If you call and want to know more information about the District Truancy Policy, I'll tell you!
-Got a voice mail of my sister singing Happy Birthday, complete with cha-cha-cha's.
-Fought the holiday traffic all the way home, so I called Megan at school to let her know that NickleBack was on the radio (it's an inside joke of ours that NickleBack is ALWAYS playing on the radio somewhere in the Rockford area.)
-Played my first open mike night at The Brick cafe, with Matt and Mark. Jim couldn't make it :-( Matt sang and played solo for the first time (amplified.) Mark brought harmonicas so he played along with MTA and Cows with Guns, then we did Million Dollars together. Mark also did accoustic versions of "Hit Me Baby One More Time," and REO Speedwagon. Totally forgot to sing my one birthday song, but I did do Proper Cup of Coffee.
-After that, Matt and I went straight across the street to a bar and Kareoke'd for 2 hours. We both got carded, which always makes us codgers feel young again. We were then told by the bartender that if you get THAT excited about getting ID'd, it's a dead giveaway that you're not underage. It's the first time I've done Kareoke and it was great because pretty much all the regulars were at the On The Waterfront Festival, so we had the place to ourselves and could try anything we wanted. And really... what better way to celebrate than to sing songs poorly to strangers?
-Save Tonight (Eagle Eye Cherry)
-Tainted Love (Soft Cell)
-Over Now (Cause and Effect)
-Glycerine (Bush)
-Hemmorhage (Fuel)
-With or Without You (U2)
Note that this list is in chronological order as well as "songs in my vocal range" in descending order. All facts considering, Hemmorhage went pretty well. I got to use my rockstar voice! :-) U2, however, I probably should have left for Bono.
Matt did really well too. Of course he's not stuck in the 80's/90's like me, so he sang Johnny Cash, The Who, Floyd, Queen, and Chuck Berry. He too tried his hand at a U2 song but was smart enough to sing it an octave lower (and earlier in the night...) but loose enough to do the Johnny B Goode dance.
-Lastly I got a, "Happy F-ing, Birthday" from some woman wearing way too much pink on our way out.
-Home by 12:30 because I'm an animal.

Ta-DAH! And now I'm 35. HOO-WEE!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

I'll take "Things I don't want to discuss in the dentist chair" for $100, Alex.

Last week I found myself being talked at by the new girl at the dentist's office. I'm not exactly sure what her position is, or what she's aspiring to be, but I do know that it was too early for me to discuss much of anything with anybody. So I'm sitting in the chair, she's fiddling with things that are supposed to be sterile, and she starts making conversation.

"Is it hot out there yet?"
"No, it's still pretty cool" (it's 8:15 in the morning)
"Did you see gas prices today?"
"No, I bought gas yesterday"
"How much was it then?"
"That's what it is today! It's rediculous."
"I hear it's going up to 3.50"
"Hmm," I muttered as I start looking around the room for something I can shove in my mouth so I can just grunt non-committal responses for the rest of this discussion.
Now, you've probably read the above conversation one of two ways. Either you're thinking that it's pleasant and superficial, or you're saying to yourself that after I made two "No..." statements, she should have figured out that small talk was not a service I required. I fall into the latter category because I'm sure I didn't accidentally say no... twice.
I hear some drawers open and close behind me while I try to settle into the chair. And then the talking picks up again.
"You know the holocaust? Are you familiar with that term?"


"Uh-huh" I choke out, trying not to sound as shocked and horrified as I really was.
"Ever since I was a kid, I thought that I would live to see another one."

I'm absolutely speechless. So I do the only thing I can. I wait to see if that was a definitive statement or if she's expecting me to somehow respond. The awkwardness doesn't last long, she breaks the silence with, "Yeah, it's getting so bad, it won't be long before people can't afford bread anymore."

Ok, So here's what I figured out...
1) She was still talking about gas prices
2) I AM familiar with The Holocaust. I am also familiar with The Depression.
3) If there's a chance you might confuse the two, don't bring either of them up in conversation. Frankly, it's offensive.

I've never been so happy to see the Dentist walk through the door in all my life.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Welcome to Michigan, We're too damn big!

Ok, so Chris and I spent Memorial Day weekend visiting her side of the family in the Traverse City area. Let me start by saying that yes, Michigan is absolutely beautiful, pretty much any time of the year. This weekend everything was green green green. I think for the 36 hours we were up, the lens cap was on Chris's camera for about 6 seconds. A good time was had by all, so let me make it clear that I have no argument with the asthetic value of Michigan. What I have a problem with, is that it's a deceptively flippin huge state. I swear we somehow spend about 6 hours more in the car than I'm expecting, and this trip was no exception. I've noticed this on our yearly trips to Grand Rapids, and I have a theory about that... Here's a couple of simple math problems to illustrate what I like to call "Michigan Time Dilation Theory": If Chris's parents live in Grand Rapids, and her Aunt and Uncle live in Grand Rapids, how long does it take to get from her parents to her uncle's house? Those of us in the Chicago area would probably say something like "20 minutes in bad traffic" to get from one side of a suburb to another, but the correct Michigan answer is 45 minutes. So take a second to wrap your mind around that. If your brain drew a picture of a city and put Chris's parent's in one extreme corner, and her uncle's house in the other, you'd be correct. So, just to see how city-mouse savvy you are answer this, "What is the fastest way to get from one house to the other, taking the bypass around Grand Rapids, or cutting straight through the center of town?" If you answered "Neither, they both take 45 minutes" you'd be correct. Now somehow, that makes sense to me if the houses are in opposite corners, but I just thought I'd point that out. So lets add another variable, Question: "Chris's cousin also lives in Grand Rapids. How long does it take to get from Chris's parents house to her cousins?" Solution: 45 minutes. Fine, so logically the cousins house is somewhere in the vacinity of her uncle's, right?. So given that answer, deduce how long it take to get from Chris's Uncle's house to her cousins house?" 5 minutes? 15 minutes max? Wrong. 45 minutes. With the introduction of the cousin's house, it basically proves that a random point between her parents and her uncles house will also take the same amount of time to reach. Now I know what you're thinking... you're saying to yourself, "You're full of crap. I took geometry, if points A, B, and C are equidistant, it's not a conspiracy, it's a flippin triangle." And you might think that, until you look at a map of Grand Rapids. It's roughly square, and as you can see, this is about where normal Euclidian arithmetic starts to break down. We've already shown that taking the bypass around town takes the same amount of time as cutting diagonally through it, so apparently Pythagoras and that theorem of his never made it this far north. Taking that one step further, any point on a path between two end points will take the same amount of time to reach as it would to go straight from A to B. What do you call that? I'd call it a rip in the fabric of the time-space continuum. You might call it Grand Rapids, Michigan.
I've witnessed this phenomena around Grand Rapids many times. Sometimes it's amusing, often, it's just frustrating. Think about it, what if everytime you got in the car, it was going to take you 45 minutes to reach your destination? How do people live there? What I didn't realize is that apparently similiar anomalies happen throughout the state. Take for instance this weekend. Chris and I drove up through Wisconsin up to Manitowoc (just south of GreenBay) and took the ferry directly across Lake Michigan to Luddington, MI. On the map, Traverse City is "just north" of Luddington, so how long did it take us to get from Luddington to Traverse City? 2 hours. How long would it have taken us to go from Manitowoc "just north" to GreenBay? 45 minutes. Fine, and here's the other kicker. Our actual destination was Mancelona, which is "just outside" Traverse City. And THAT took another hour. I'm no cartographer, but I suspect that no matter which direction Mancelona is from Traverse City, it would have taken us an additional hour to get there. So I submit to you two things: The farther north you go in Michigan, the further apart everything is, and this continues indefinitely. Also, my wife has told me on several occasions, Grand Rapids is indeed the center of the universe. I don't know if that's true, but I can prove that it certainly doesn't play by the same rules as the rest of us.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

I am tourist, hear me whine

I can't believe it's been nearly a year since I really blogged...
Well, right now I'm on a 3 hour flight to Salt Lake City with the better part of a laptop battery and a fully charged iPod, and nuthin to do but get a little caught up... So here I am and you're my captive audience.
This is my first solo flight. I'm usually the brave one left to guard the homestead, not the one boldly going. Catching the bus was simple, and getting through security was a dream, once the MAN confiscated my Dr. Pepper. (Guess I forgot that a 12oz can is greater than 3oz...) Anyway, I'm sure it goes without saying that my flight was at gate 17 out of 18 and therefore at the far end of the terminal. What surprised me though, is that Gate 17 is actually FARTHER than 18. Thank you OHare. Anyway, I digress... So their I am, at my gate, a solid hour before boarding, and then I have to start making decisions. Flight is at 6pm which means there's no meal. I can deal with that. But now I have to decide which cleverly disguised 'restaurant' at the airport has food with the least amount of evil in it. You can pretty much kiss any actual nutrients goodbye. I've accepted that too. But that doesn't mean that I can't make an intelligent choice. After all, I have close to an hour, I should be able to find something so I start looking, full baggage en tow, because you know, I wouldn't want some loon to load up my carry-on with c4 while I'm not looking. First up, Starbucks. I asked myself one question, Do I want to have to pee in the next 3 hours? No Starbucks, QED. Next, McDonalds. Again, Do I want the runs while belted into an airplane seat? Then, after passing about 4 'bookstores' (i.e really expensive magazine racks) I came to pretty much the gates of nutrition hell, the OHare concourse food court. I believe Obi Wan said it best when he said, "No where in the galaxy will you find a more whetched hive of scum and villany than at an airport food court." So this is kind of like your average mall food court except it's totally evil. They know that if you're there, you're desperate. I'm pretty much convinced that their intention is not to feed, but to mock. Why else would you have a chinese fast food joint at the gateway of flight? Oh please, let ME sit next to the guy that's all MSG'ed up and quivering. That'd be fantastic. Otherwise you can pretty much choose from sugar, fat, or fatty sugar. And then I see Satan wrapped in a tortilla. Burritoville. Now come ON! Only the devil himself would offer a weary traveller a burrito before catching a connecting flight.
So at this point I panic, which is exactly what they want. They want you to rely on your fallback foods... so I step up to the counter of some Pseudo-Americana Grill, which btw, "Grill" is pronounced "boiled" at OHare. And before I realize what I've done, I've ordered the CornBeef. Yes, I wanted a meal that wouldn't leave me gassy, bloated, or uncomfortable for my flight so deftly avoided the burritos only to land face first into a Reuben. I've become what I detest.
So far though, my seatmates haven't keeled over, but I'll keep you posted as the situation "develops."

As a side note, Theresa's Bizarro twin is on this flight. Pretty much T's features, all just a little more pronounced and angular. She even has lighter hair layered over dark, which I believe is opposite Theresa's. Like I said, Bizzaro. But lest you think I only have eyes for T, I've seen about 45 guys that all match my general desciption. Brown short hair, meduim build, glasses... your basic throughbread Midwestern geek archtype. Yeah, this plane is full of us. It's like we're all going to the same convention or something. I swear, someday I'm going to rob a bank and make the police question about 75% of the Mississippi Valley, just to prove my point... there's too many nerdy white guys around here. Somebody's going to figure that out one of these days and start thinning our herd. How hard would it be to put up a sign that says "Magic: the Gathering tournament This Way" in front of a bear trap? Seriously, most of us are either too nearsighted to focus in on a large pointy object at our feet, or we would be too engrossed in tweaking our Decks to notice. Open season, dog. Open season.

Farewell to thee Mine Cheetos, I shall miss thee most of all.

So, I made the mistake a couple weeks ago of sitting down at one of those blood pressure machines for the first time since high school. You know the one's I'm talking about, that machine innocently sitting in front of a pharmacy that calls to you and says, "Hey big boy, let me sqeeze your arm for a minute... unless you aren't man enough." Bear in mind that in high school, I ran crosscountry and could get my heart rate down to 48 bpm. So I did what any real man would do when taunted by a chair, I took the bait and insisted my wife check her blood pressure. "I'm always low," she says rolling up her sleave. "Yeah, me too." I said casually, not to be outdone, because you know, 15 years ago I was... So 45 seconds later, happy little green numbers popup and Chris is putting on her coat. "See, I'm always low." she quips. So now it's my turn, and I ever so smoothly do a little circular dance as I try to get my left arm out of my coat. Then I somehow manage to wedge into the seat with my winter coat lodged somewhere between my right arm and my spine. While trying to convince myself that I'm comfortable in the happy white chair suddenly, the life is getting wrung out of me one limb at a time I realize the absurdity of the situation. I have now willingly shackled myself to a chair in a public setting in the hopes of somehow out-bloodpressuring my wife. I know full well, that the trick to getting a good score is to relax. So while all the blood that wants to be in my arm stays in my torso, and my vision goes purple, I'm trying to tell myself that this is perfectly normal. Finally the deathgrip releases and my pale left arm flushes red, I open my eyes and see alarmed orange numbers BLINKING on high alert. As if to say, "By the gods man! Orange is one step away from RED!" Or more accurately, "I WILL CONTINUE TO BLINK THESE NUMBERS UNTIL YOUR WIFE COMMENTS."

"Borderline Hypertension, huh? Didn't see that coming" she says.

The chair smirks and with satisfaction, stops blinking.

So I've pretty much decided that knowing you have high bloodpressure is the worst thing possible for ever trying to lower it. So I do what all geeks do when they panic, I hightail it to the internet. For those of you who have never had the pleasure of looking for medical advice on the worlds largest hypochodriac network, let me tell you... Theories about hypertension range from "totally expected as individuals get older" to "You will be dead by the time you finish reading this senten... GAK!" Would you care to guess what the perscribed remedy is? Yep, you got it, diet, exercise, and keep your sodium intake in check. I'm pretty sure that's clinic-ese for "It's your own damn fault, deal with it" but whatever, I'll play your sick little game, stupid chair. So I did some more research. Do you have any idea how many things have soduim in them? Holy crap it's everywhere! I'm pretty sure if my iPod had nutitional information listed, it'd show soduim content. Finding out that all of my favorite foods cause hypertension was NOT helping the cause. But the kicker was Cheetos. The little 1 oz bags that are pretty much what you suck off your fingers when you polish off a real bag, contain 25% of your daily Sodium allowance. That means you could literally inhale a quarter of your days sodium just by walking next to someone with an open bag. Unbelieveable. It's like secondhand Sodium. Next time remind me how much I enjoy staying ignorant and tense.

Random Quote of the day from Brainshare, "If you fantasize about putting users in a blender, Get help. They're heavy."

Thursday, January 11, 2007

The good, the Band, and the Ugly

Aw crap... there was a bunch of stuff I've been thinking about all day, and now I can't remember any of it...
Coupla things... I'll be playing at the Elgin EVFree Church coffee house this Friday, so that's cool. Molly won't be around, but at least the Dean's will be there and possibly some Belvidere folk lookin' for an evening on the cheap. :)
Also, Pam talked to me about playing for the Cancer WalkAThon again... I'm the first "musician" asked (at least that's what she told me... she knows how to play on my ego...) which means theoretically I get my choice of time slots. I'm kinda torn. There's something magical about whatever shift I had last year (Midnight to 2?) It was kinda cool knowing that even if I was really bad and annoying, at least I was keeping people awake... which was really what I was there to do. On the other hand, more people might come if I take an earlier shift... On the other hand some other band might not be willing to take a later slot... Maybe Jim will join me? Carp. Decisions...x3

Meanwhile... I know what I was thinking... Friend of mine mentioned how exhausting it is to 'hang out' when you're with the wrong people... the ones who turn hanging out into hanging on... Boy Howdy. I'd like to say that it goes away as you get older and wiser and as your friends get cooler, but the truth is that the right person at the wrong time is often just as bad as the wrong person (regardless of timing.)
Back in the paleolithic era, when I was in the band, we were up in front 5 days a week and usually twice on Sunday. Then at night we were guests in somebodies house who we didn't know. Point is, the only time we didn't have to be "on" was when we were travelling, so needless to say, alot of emotion was released on the other band folk. But every once and a while we'd end up back in a town we had already toured, and sometimes even with the same host family. Even more rarely, they'd be cool and say something like, "Don't worry about entertaining us, whatever you need to do, do it. If you need to go in your room, put on your walkman and veg that's cool, we understand." Occasionally we'd believe them and it was wonderful, but for the most part you thanked them for the offer and hung out and watched whatever they were watching on TV and tried to be nice to whatever animal was sniffing your groin and made the best of it. You know, for the most part, it was great but sometimes it didn't matter who you were with, it was just the wrong time. And you excused yourself with a, "It's not you, it's me" look on your face. Sometimes you just had to assess the situation and realize that either you were the one in the worst shape or that the situation wasn't 'fixable' so there was no point in banging your head against some issue you could do nothing about.
The two main lessons were 1) You can't be 'ON' 24/7 and that you don't have to expect yourself to be. And 2) When you go 'OFF' it can be done gracefully or you can do it ugly. Trust is a big factor in the latter. If you can look the closest 'target' and say, "Listen, I'm done. If I say or do something inappropriate, it's not your fault and I apologize in advance." Just having someone that you can say that to tends to help reduce your likelihood of doing something you regret later.
Gotta remember that the next time I'm asked for marital/dating advice...
Alright, enough ... whatever you call this... I'm sure there's something more important I should have written about.

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Creationism vs. VeggOutism

Well, today was pretty amazing after spending most of the working day being generally irritated and feeling overlooked and under paid, I had an amazing evening getting seriously Guitarded with Matt and Jim. It was perfect because Jim had already written a song and we had lyrics w/o a tune to another so we were able to just dive right in and start playing and trying to work up a melody. It was a blast and a great kick off for our non-existant band which we lovingly refer to as, "Five Taco Special" or "Them Taco" or whatever as long as 'Taco' is in the name.
A word about the word Taco: no slander intended, it's just a funny word, and thus has worked its way into just about every creative outburst I've had since Matt came back to the district. From 'The Sound of Tacos' to 'Revenge of the Taco Vendor Soundtrack' Tacos have been a persistant theme in my 'repetiore.' Fortunately, now that the BAND is called 5TS or whatever, we've been released from the bondage of singing about Tacos... although we still do sing about them on occasion, we don't have to. Incidentally, if we ever actually get 5 people in the band, we'll have to rename it... it would just make things way to literal.
Anyway, it was great to do something creative... it feels like it's been eons since I've allowed music to be created and really flow out. I like the computer stuff, but I've been really unbalanced for quite a while and this was really refreshing.

And since I'm feeling like giving a vocabulary lesson, here's one I fear: ChairAss