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...